Summer of Anime 2017? You Decide!

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Nine days before the 2017 Summer of Anime officially opens, I’ve decided to let the floodgates open.

I want you, the reader of this post, to tell me what I should watch.

Now, this is a bit of a risky move, because I have no idea how many people will actually choose to participate in this and there’s no control over what I could be watching in the end! I could just watch 25 Shounen titles and cry myself to sleep every night!

In all seriousness, there are a few stipulations I’d like to put in place before I give people the key to my anime summer.

  • Limit of three titles per person! I want to fill up my slots, but I don’t want to have to be super choosy by experiment’s end. If it does end up that people recommend me more than 25 slots allotted for the SoA, I’ll pick and choose to my own discretion, but will keep some noted in case I drop anything throughout the event. If you don’t want to recommend three, you’re more than welcome to just recommend one or two!
  • I will be open to rewatching titles! These titles also don’t have to be things I’ve watched from previous SoA’s, they can be anything! If people want me to rewatch Koi Koi 7 or One Punch Man, that’s fair game. I’ll leave a link to MyAnimeList for those who wish to see what I have and haven’t watched before making a recommendation.
  • Rules of previous Summer of Anime’s still apply, so please don’t recommend anything shorter than six episodes of standard-length runtime! Alternatively, please don’t recommend anything with episodes spanning triple-digits! I’m not going to spend my entire Summer marathoning Naruto, Bleach, and Fairy Tail. Also, no currently-airing anime, OVA’s, specials or films!
  • Note that when you’re recommending a series to me, I will watch every season of said show! If you’re going to recommend my rewatching of Zero no Tsukaima, I’m going to watch every season of it. For the sake of clarification, if you want to spare me want me to only watch a certain season of an anime, note in within the recommendation. Otherwise, I’m marathoning the whole series.

As an added touch, I’ll note whoever recommended me a certain anime at the beginning of each post dedicated to their choice. The public should know whoever loves me enough to put me through human torture. Teehee!

I’ll leave this post open for the next nine days for anyone to comment below with recommendations. In that time, I’ll jot down whatever titles I receive and eventually add them to the Summer of Anime Archive in whatever order I choose. Until then, thanks in advance to all who give me something to watch, and have a great summer!

Quick Thoughts on Koe no Katachi (Film)

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I decided to make this post quick because upon further consideration, there really isn’t much to say about it, despite how unlikely that seems with this film’s tremendous popularity.

To be blunt, this film is the perfect encapsulation of THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! The patience required to finally see this film subbed was one that I don’t normally experience with any specific anime film, but the super-high average rating for this piece on MAL had me very curious. To my non-surprise, it’s highly rated because it involves the most humanistic qualities of altruism I’ve seen outside of anime directed at children. It also deals with subject matter such as bullying, suicide, and putting on a brave front, so it’s probably dubbed “deep” and “relatable” along with its heavy reliance on viewer empathy. With myself isolated from the crowd, I found the film to be a good attempt at trying to tell the story of a boy’s redemption from his cruel past. And like most stories along this concept, its execution was horribly overdramatic and at times inconsistent.

One of my biggest qualms with this film without spoiling anything specific is how long it takes for things to actually begin to tear down for the inevitable, overdramatic climax. I was surprised to see that, after the time skip, the bully and the bullied were “comfortable” being around each other despite the past, and one even has some inborn fondness for the other. What kind of strange case of Stockholm Syndrome is this? It makes the middle portions of the film feel incredibly empty of any real content, seeing as its deliberately setting itself up for some dramatic explosion and that’s the only purpose it serves. This is doubled when a myriad of characters are introduced that serve their role and nothing more. One character serves to support, another to cause friction, and another to be an inside source of information for the male lead. Not many characters feel more than just keys to the major plot.

Even so, these grievances are the only things I found truly wrong with the film, as the rest are either tolerable absurdities or likable strengths. Nothing stands out, except perhaps design and animation, which was nice throughout. I found the relationship between the leads to be strong after the initial confusion with why they were so comfortable with one another before the inevitable climax pushes them apart. More than anything, I suppose, is that it evoked a lot of sympathy from me and pushed its frivolity of life onto my cold soul enough for me to enjoy it. One could say that on a storied structure, it teeters upon mediocrity, but makes up for it somewhat on the basis of pure entertainment. Kind of like, I don’t know, Kimi no Na wa.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Top 10 Best Original Anime

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A lot of the time when we think of our favorite anime, more likely than not, they weren’t originally anime. Now-a-days it seems like more and more anime are adapted from a source material, whether it be manga, light novel, or even visual novel. While anime isn’t by any means the only medium to do this, its rise in popularity over the last twenty years or so has demanded that more and more series be created to compensate for the demand, causing an influx of new stories being adapted into TV form. While the term “Original” can also relate to the freshness of ideas presented within a work, the emphasis here is simply the best anime series that weren’t adapted from other works. Put literally, the best original anime ideas.

As always, note that this is a list of my own favorites that I feel are the best from what I consider objectively (or subjectively) qualified. I would recommend the series that make this list on the basis that I think they’re good-quality works and are remarkably strong in most departments, but I would be lying if enjoyment didn’t play a role in their placement, as well. This list is also not all-inclusive, as I have not seen every original anime ever. Based on the three-hundred-something series under my belt, these are the ten best original anime within that swamp of completed anime.

#10: Mawaru Penguindrum

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(My full thoughts.)

This is the third time I’ve spoken about Mawaru Penguindrum at length, so I’ll keep this spot relatively short.

More notable for his involvement in Revolutionary Girl UtenaMawaru Penguindrum is Kunihiko Ikuhara’s second full-fledged project, exhibiting a lot of the symbolic whimsy that the former series made famous. It’s expressive, colorful, and jam-packed with dark subject matter that make the series a little unhinged, resulting in some tensely thematic situations. It manages to capture the imagination of the viewer’s expectations and molds it into an, albeit somewhat confusing, adventure of magnanimous proportions.

There’s some repugnant aura of overexertion that somewhat overshadows the series’s efforts, though this ultimately lies on the individual’s tastes. Characters play within the plot beautifully, and with enough flair to keep even the most confused individual paying attention, many may not even care that the entire series flew over their head. It’s a riveting specimen of Ikuhara’s strengths as a storyteller and director, one that shouldn’t be ignored by anyone who adored Utena.

#9: Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica

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(My full thoughts.)

Going from one colorful series laden with ultra-dark subject matter to another. Irony at work.

Unlike the last series, I probably won’t need to convince many to give this one a shot, as anyone who was interested has already watched it. The popularity behind this series is astounding, with over 310,000 users interacting with this series in some way on MyAnimeList. People seem to really enjoy two things: magical girls and the reversal of expectations.

This popularity should also be indicative of its quality, as while I found the characters somewhat dull, the story is something intriguing in and of itself. Pacing and mood are two tremendous factors to this series’s psychologically-twisting nature. It takes an established trope surrounding the magical girl genre and turns it into something far more sinister, something a young girl couldn’t possibly manage to combat on her own. It speaks to the true manner of responsibility and pressure one within a position of power undertakes to keep an entire world safe from harm.

This alone makes this series a recommended watch, even if only for the sake of watching something truly unique within the medium. Not only is the series popular, but it’s nearly universally acclaimed. Its thought-provoking message and ability to capture the spirit of the magical girl and turn it into a new light speaks volumes for the commitment of the series to its quality. Now if only the characters didn’t feel so dispensable…

#8: Neon Genesis Evangelion

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(My full thoughts.)

* * * CLASSIC ALERT * * *

Neon Genesis Evangelion is the greatest series of all time and it’s non-negotiable. Any opposing opinions can click the [x] tab on their browser, for they are wrong and should feel ashamed. This is why this series is listed at #8.

Almost in the same dimension as Madoka MagicaNeon Genesis Evangelion is credited for adding some psychological mindfuckery to the Mecha genre, imposing dark subject matter and the weight of world-threatening conflicts upon three young teenagers. This torrid mix of trying to handle traumatic experiences while also trying to mature into their own identities gives this series a multilayered take on the Mecha genre. It handles these themes with precision and clarity, though struggle at times to convey them due to the low budget this series had towards animation cost.

There’s an air of mystery to this series due slightly to what had to be muddled down to stay within the budget, resulting in an ultra-confusing last two episodes. It made the resulting sequel movies all the more essential in realizing what the hell even happened. Some noted it as trying to be “Too deep for you,” though I feel it’s more just the series being conservative and open-ended for the sake of conserving their reserves. Plus, it certainly becomes all the more memorable when the series ends on an acid trip dream sequence that seemingly makes zero sense.

Even if animation is somewhat of a struggle to sit through, and individual plotpoints somewhat repeat for the sake of establishing the monotony of responsibility, it remains an all time great series, original or not. Its impact on Japan is evident enough of its popularity.

#7: Cowboy Bebop

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(My full thoughts.)

It has style, it has pizzazz, it has the atmosphere; Cowboy Bebop was the gateway to anime for many young enthusiasts. Full of memorable misadventures, subtle character development, and a rambunctious crew of lovable kooks, the series is a classic in every sense of the word. Popularity is one thing, its impact is something that I’ve even noticed in my lifetime. Whenever I think of Cowboy Bebop, I think of Toonami. The two seem inseparable to me.

The series sticks out with its style of storytelling, using an episodic approach to bring the crew together and give them further depth as their pasts come back to haunt them. Or hungry killer leftovers try to digest everything. If this doesn’t seem cool enough, add in some future-setting environments and a number of small hints as to the foundation of the galaxies that they explore and the people along the way. In a sense, Cowboy Bebop is a series about surviving in life, however one can see fit. There will be good and bad times aplenty, with enough spice to keep things interesting, so long as one keeps an adventurous attitude.

While I don’t consider the series a classic, I can appreciate what this series did in dispelling negative stereotypes associated with anime for a good while. It’s a good enough series on its own, but it came out at a time when anime wasn’t quite as “mainstream” as it is now, a time when anime was simply seen as something a little different. Cowboy Bebop proved that anime is different, and it could assimilate into something that can be universally accepted. Most of all, it is super quotable.

See you, space cowboy.

#6: Tsuritama

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(My full thoughts.)

This is where my artsy-fartsy side comes out.

What is Tsuritama? An anime about fishing? Ducks? Secret agents? Aliens? What does it all mean? Why is this even an anime, and why is it on this list above Evangelion? Because it’s great, that’s why. With all the fuss about showing what anime truly is, Tsuritama is a nice, laid-back series about swimming through life at one’s preferred speed, while getting past the anxieties that hamper one along the way. It’s just told in the most bizarre way possible.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t Evangelion’s ending incarnate cranked up to 11/10. It’s a silly little series full of eccentric characters and light on seriousness. Drama is involved, but not to the extent that would make this tiring to watch. It’s fairly easy-going, with a clear moral message hidden behind some articulate symbolic messaging. Tsuritama is pretty tame compared to the rest of the entries on here, and that’s part of what I like so much about it. It doesn’t try to do more than it has to.

There’s a groove to it that really speaks to me, and I’m sure it’d speak to others, too. With animation taking center stage, it shows a good amount of sunshine in a compressed attempt to convey that the world is better when you express yourself. Friendship, family, and independent reliability. Keys to a better life.

#5: Kyousou Giga

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(My full thoughts.)

Speaking of artsy-fartsy, this is probably the worst offender outside Mawaru Penguindrum. Much like the previous spot, and others before that, Kyousou Giga is pretty efficiently stylized in its own universe. More than anything else, Kyousou Giga is an anime that has an astoundingly creative world to explore.

I feel I’m going to get redundant the more I go on like this, so I’ll try and keep my perspective on similar strengths fresh. The focus of this anime specifically is family, the bond of being wanted and wanting to help your loved ones in times of need. This helping of emotional depth, combined with the vividness of the world and animation present, keeps Kyousou Giga incredibly engaging through each episode, as the audience finds out more about the family dynamic of the female lead.

This may seem somewhat troubling, but the series packs so much punch that I can’t even remember a lot of what happened within. There’s just so much to take in and try and memorize that it ultimately slips out in spurts. On the bright side, all the more reason to rewatch the show, and relive the moments that made watching it the first time all the more invigorating. For the longest time, a single shot of this anime’s background was my Twitter banner. That was no mistake.

#4: Kill la Kill

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(My old review.)

Studio Trigger’s response to Gainax’s Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. It makes it all the more special seeing as both series were spearheaded by Studio Trigger’s founder: Hiroyuki Imaishi.

I won’t go and say this series surpassed its predecessor (Hint, hint), but it did a damn good job of holding its own as an anime classic. My love for Kill la Kill runs deep, with the same type of enthusiasm Imaishi is known for putting into his works. Its clear, concise, and bursting with emotional outbursts and proclamations. Sheer insanity awaits whoever watches this series. And that’s what makes it so tremendously entertaining.

Every aspect of this series checks out, whether character, story, animation, and even humor. Kill la Kill has a knack of incorporating both serious and non-serious into a unique blend of a product for all viewers. Violently chaotic, sexually stimulating, rambunctiously humorous; Kill la Kill seems to embody the spirit of adventure and outright emotional “badassery.” It pumps you up, it drags you down, it punches a hole through your stomach and insults your weak intestinal fortitude. The series is an absolute treat and the pinnacle of Studio Trigger’s madness.

#3: Shirobako

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(My full thoughts.)

And next we have a series that’s not like that at all!

What makes Shirobako exciting, worth caring for, and altogether great is how grounded in reality it is, rather than through animated theatrics. They say truth is stranger than fiction, and in this case, the truth can be a wonderful outlet for emotional feedback.

The making of anime as an anime is probably among the most meta premises ever. Shirobako is more than that, however, as it highlights the feelings of motivation and ambition and finding one’s place in this crazy world. It’s a coming-of-age story for the more adult crowd, as the concept is usually aimed at kids transitioning into teenagers. For that, it’s a fresh perspective that doesn’t sugarcoat the drive one needs to have in order to survive in the real world, especially in a cutthroat industry such as television.

It doesn’t have the sort of hook that many others try to embellish early on. Slow-going and constantly building, the world of Shirobako becomes more splendid as time rolls on. Characters get more depth, and their experiences are shown to us on a day-to-day basis as we grow with them. It’s very easy to empathize seeing as I’m twenty-three and still huddled within my own fruitless ambitions, so anyone else fascinated with a slice of life on the more modern and adult spectrum, Shirobako is sure to please, assuming one isn’t expecting all the tropes that come with the standard anime crop.

#2: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

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(My full thoughts.)

Remember that “(Hint, hint)”? Did you get it? Good job!

This is a nostalgia pick. This is a serious pick. This is a pick that will drill me straight to the heavens. To make this entry incredibly frank, just copy/paste what I said about Kill la Kill and place it here, except magnify it all by five.

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is the magnum opus of Imaishi’s career. Just go watch it, for Kamina’s sake.

#1: Dennou Coil

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(My “full” thoughts.)

Among my five favorite anime, this is the only one that wasn’t adapted from something else. Dennou Coil is completely original, and damn did they hit it out of the park here. The sense of exploration, a world slightly adapted from our current technological limitations; there’s a magic here at work. Almost in the way Studio Ghibli makes most feel at ease and completely within the world it creates, Dennou Coil does the same with me. Except it’s not Studio Ghibli.

In terms of my body’s ability to tell me of true objective quality, all of the notes were struck by this series’s tune.

  • Kept me wanting more (Marathoning wasn’t a chore).
  • Allowed genuine emotional investment (Almost cried).
  • Destroyed me by the end (Left a gaping hole of relief upon finish).

It excels in every category. It keeps itself relatively free of clichés. It transcends the expectations of what an anime series can do. It’s the best case of an original anime story I’ve ever seen, and I’m glad I was able to see it.

Honorable mentions: Michiko to Hatchin, Hanasaku Iroha, Code Geass (S1)

Thoughts on Shinsekai yori (Spoilers)

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(All images were obtained via Google search.)

I had heard many good things about this series, but the full impact of just how good it was didn’t hit until I actually looked into my friends’ ratings for it. Three people, whose opinions I respect tremendously, gave this a 9, 10, and 10, with two placing it among their favorites. Some time after I started the series, the one who gave it a 9 confided in me and admitted that she didn’t know why she doesn’t just bump it up to a 10 and put it on her favorites. With that in mind, all three essentially gave the series a perfect score. As a curious critic, this is something I cannot ignore. So, after finishing my recent rewatch of Ano Natsu de Matteru, I placed this series as a first-priority watch.

It’s really quite ironic that I viewed this so soon after posting a piece on the phrase “It gets better,” because Shinsekai yori is a perfect specimen of its concept. Along with the vague “good things” I had heard about the series, I had also heard that it doesn’t “get good” until about episode 12 or so. Conveniently enough, this is true, as the first half of this series is muddled in inconsistent handling of both matters of intrigue and emotional empathy. Truth be told, I almost dropped this series around the ninth episode, as I felt all that they had shown felt forced and immensely abrasive, with little to show any sort of reasoning behind it. It’s a series that remains fairly intriguing throughout, but all the technical talk and fantastic mumbo-jumbo makes it a chore to take all of it in if there’s nothing worth truly listening for.

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One of the things argued in the linked piece above is that the payoff to spending so much time building up to something has to be worth it, or else one would feel let down by the time wasted. Shinsekai yori not only makes up for the time wasted, but by series’ end, it completely envelops any and all expectations it had set up for itself and unveils the portrait of a cunning and beautiful mosaic of creativity. Indeed, the first half of the series can be a difficult hurdle to jump across, as the foreshadowing and intricate lacing of seemingly meaningless ideas come up empty for long periods. Should one do that and persevere, they’ll manage to find that not only is the payoff wonderful, but the realization that every minute detail from before was absolutely, 100% necessary for the impending emotional climax of the series. Again, as said in the linked article, a series worth the wait needs to show that the wait isn’t something they set up to provide filler; Shinsekai yori is a powerful series because of the wait, and not in spite of it.

Oh, how captivating this series truly is! Ambitious isn’t even close to the type of praise this series deserves. Not only does it shy away from 99% of the clichés that make up modern anime, but it feels as though it creates every facet of its world and characters, leaving no detail untouched, no history underdeveloped. Almost similarly to A Monster Calls, its almost mechanical ability to control every twist and turn of the story and its characters reaction to them is like that of watching a mathematician write complex calculations in front of a whole country with speed and precision. Unlike the former, Shinsekai yori manages to remain almost entirely human (in the second half) due to an established understanding of how to sculpt the characters to appear predominantly genuine.

Characters are, however, one of the tricky aspects of the series. It was because of these characters that I almost dropped the series in the first place. One of the things I typically criticize of Gen Urobuchi’s writing (who wasn’t involved with this series) is that his characters better serve the plot than distinguish their independence through their personality. Series such as Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero are anime with near-universal praise, but are series I find severely flawed due to a lack of organic characters. Shinsekai yori faces this issue as well, especially within the episodes where they’re shown as teenagers. The prevalence of homosexual relations in the series is a topic that’s been debated to death ever since the series first aired, but it’s something I feel should be taken seriously. Not because it’s homosexual, but because it feels incredibly out of nowhere. The pairing of Satoru and Shun specifically is one I find to be incredibly random. Saki and Maria, fine. They seemed to be fairly close from the beginning, but Satoru seemed a much closer match for Saki, seeing as he went through the first queerat campaign with her and makes a good opposite of her serious hesitation. Seeing this all play out upon the eighth episode almost gave me an excuse to save myself the effort of going any further. The few episodes afterwards gave even more opportunity, as as controversial as this may seem, I was never a huge fan of Shun’s character.

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Shun is not a bad character, though he is the probably the worst character among the five in “Group 1.” His only purpose throughout the series seemed to serve as Saki’s main love interest. And when he eventually disappears from the group, his only appearances return via nightmares and psychotic visions, only to go full Jedi Master and is able to speak to Saki near the end. While I praise a good portion of the actions that are taken from a psychological viewpoint, Shun’s sudden appearance near the end is among the most illogical aspects of the anime. The one thing in my mind that could be considered a cheap deus ex machina. It is also my one true criticism of the series’s story, as while the subjective monotony felt during the build-up scenes is calculated into my overall impressions, it is ultimately justified.

One of the most enjoyable spans in this series was simply the first few episodes. Seeing the cast as children—playing, laughing, interacting, showing off their quirks—was great in establishing who they were and where their place was in the story. They felt like real kids and real people. Once the queerats became involved around episode six or so, it adjusted to this tense, darkened view that typically accompanies grittier popular Netflix shows. To see the characters react so readily prepared, hardly scared, and so stiffly wooden made it boring to watch. Satoru in particular felt he went from 12 to 24 in an instant, despite his laid-back, adventurous nature. This continued through until episode eleven or so, as characters simply filled in the blanks of what characters in their situation would do in general. It lacked so much dramatic tension outside of what the story was kneading in wait that I watched with the idea that betters things were to come, even if I had to suffer within the present. It wasn’t until the appearance of Tomiko, Satoru’s grandmother, that I began to see the series as something of a pleasant viewing.

And then I became horribly addicted around episode sixteen.

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It may be naive to even suggest this comparison, seeing as the series are so fundamentally different, but Shinsekai yori almost reminds me of Suzanne Collin’s Gregor the Overlander series. Both deal with political structure within a certain society, one dealing with more than just humankind. Both portray the humans to be absurdly cautious in their customs, and vain in their outlook of superiority to other species. Both teeter the lines between portraying humankind as a symbol of purity and a symbol of selfish hostility. Both have different species refer to humans as murderers (“Killers” in Gregor; “Death Gods” in Shinsekai). Both (at some point) deal with an opposing force combating humankind with a sort of “Messiah-like” instrument of destruction (“The Fiend” in Shinsekai; “The Bane” in Gregor). Death is a prevalent part of both series. And both deal with prophecies or visions of an untimely future. The Underland Chronicles is technically (I wonder sometimes) for kids, so it doesn’t have the same privilege of pushing the boundaries as far as Shinsekai yori does. Still, there’s a lot of intriguing similarities between the two, and whether that’s more of an insult to Shinsekai yori or a compliment to Gregor the Overlander, I’m unsure. I enjoy both immensely.

Looking at Shinsekai yori through the lens of a cautionary tale, the presence of the queerats and humanity’s treatment of them is so excellently handled that, despite everything that happened, I ended up siding with the queerats. Squealer is among my favorite characters in the series simply for being so astute and forthcoming in his ideals. He makes for a very intriguing antagonist, and a very convincing protagonist. His ability to command and speak his way through trouble is one of the most powerful aspects of the series, as it highlights the irony of where it implies he gathers most of his knowledge from and how strongly humanity ignores it. Even more so, it’s implied from his first meeting with Satoru and Saki that he had his own agenda, betraying them for the sake of his people, only to quickly apologize later and get back on their good side to give himself more chances in the future. The social commentary involved with his high intellect speaks volumes for the comparison between him and all of humanity, as many different people would be willing to side with either one, giving meaning to queerats and humans being one in the same.

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In a short note, animation was incredibly appealing and artistically fascinating, with a wide array of different psychological sequences and elaborate interpretations to keep the series more intriguingly compact. Fluidity, however, was somewhat of an issue. I saw a number of different scenes where characters’ movements were rushed and static, along with some overall bizarre physical manipulation. These were in normal scenes, mind you, not when the series can get away with being absurd within the context of the series’s fantasy genre. It made the opening episodes feel a little more off-brand, and that the crusade of creativity was only in terms of writing than visual splendor.

In conclusion… watch the series. Much in the way that I would actively and immediately recommend anime such as Katanagatari, Toradora!, Dennou Coil, and Spice & Wolf, Shinsekai yori has become a must-watch placement in my carefully structured and 100% objectively accurate chart of great anime. It beautifully blends both mental fascination and emotional stimulation in a way many others could only dream of doing, with every finer detail being used to pursue the conquest of complete quality. Shinsekai yori is as gripping an investment for me since Dennou Coil, a series I watched nearly a year ago. There is no reason not to watch it, so do yourself a favor and watch what may become your next favorite anime.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Quick Thoughts on Oshiete! Galko-chan (OVA)

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(I know this is the same image I used with the parent series, but the OVA didn’t have any new cover to provide.)

Truth be told, I watched this some time ago; been nearly a month according to MyAnimeList. To some, a month wouldn’t necessarily be that great a span in order to retain all that they had seen from a one-off OVA episode. For me, I remember next to nothing from this special. Before you close the tab, let me assure you that that says a lot more about this OVA than it does about my memory. If I’m able to remember 80% of my elementary school classmates’ names, I’m more than capable of remembering an OVA for a series I actually had a soft fondness for.

One of the things I really enjoyed about the parent (short) series was the sort of blunt openness of teenage women’s issues and sexual curiosity. Not often do you see anime openly discussing tampons and periods and such, at least without some sort of humorous melancholy attached to it. Per this special, the series decided to shy away from the more “vulgar” topics in exchange for some light-hearted, everyday antics, which essentially takes away a lot of what made the series stand out. That’s not to say one can’t enjoy the series without the constant spouting of the size and color of a woman’s nipples, but the series didn’t give much of a chance to develop these characters in a way that would suit them for a slice-of-life perspective.

Throwing the characters out of their comfort zone is exactly what makes this OVA so forgettable. There’s little indication that I was watching something from the parent series if not for the characters themselves, who only act normally in normal situations, with small bits of “Oh, gee, haha” inconveniences spread around. Without the stipulation of highlighting the struggles of female youth and such, the special converges into an aimless path with little idea of where to go. It’s nearly thirty minutes long, but half of it feels like one’s staring at an incomplete storyboard.

I gave it a shot because I genuinely enjoyed the parent series—how it turned out left me disappointed, which can only mean these feelings of affection inside myself are real. That makes it much harder to say that the OVA is worthless, despite being the length of nearly four episodes of the parent series. It didn’t follow the course of what made the core series so refreshing, and with so much time dedicated to one OVA, it’s disheartening to see all that potential wasted.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Tekkon Kinkreet Review

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Something to admit outright concerning Tekkon Kinkreet is that its approach to storytelling is incredibly straightforward and uninspired. Its manner of trying to encourage the viewer to pay close attention to detail flashes signs of other films that came before it, especially within the last fifteen years or so. To some extent, it almost feels American, which becomes more apparent when one knows that the director behind this film is, in fact, American. While some are more than willing to excuse this, others won’t have the ability to fully empathize with the outcome because of it.

What makes it a little more than meets the eye is its (usually) stunning animation. Many times throughout the first few scenes within the setting of Treasure Town I was enthralled by how fluid, how realistic everything dazzled on-screen. It felt like a true and blue film, with the perks of having full control over the project’s structure. Stylistic choices are fairly divisive as they are, with characters appearing more human and fairly rigid in their anatomy, a far-cry from the typical anime style of large eyes and pretty women. It’s a gritty, yet magical attempt at creating a world both like and unlike our own, with a touch of fantasy to a cruelly realistic environment that shines brightly in its darkness.

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There’s something wonderfully human about this film that fascinates one’s curiosity, with a lot of attention going into human ordeals. Despite the tepid display of sci-fi and extraordinary elements, the real spectacle is one that underlies it all to contain the basic necessities of the human condition. Images of fire, aliens, flying children, and vivid daydreams persist, only to be struck down in importance by the idea that all life should find happiness in their own way, whether through positive or negative activities. If only Tekkon Kinkreet had the focus to make the film more than just another one-dimensional story.

Indeed, there is a lot to like in terms of storytelling through animation and character introspection. What makes this frustrating is that that’s all there really is to the film. Characters’ situations can be empathetic, but not so much that one is crying from their pain, cheering for their accomplishments, and riveted with their onscreen presence. They all, in some degree of affirmation, suit a single role they’re meant to play; the old nostalgic, the changing man, the light, the dark, the sin of everything before. All of these things add up into a single message of good intentions in addition to a number of one-hit symbolic jabs. Its value doesn’t quite hit the spot of emotional tranquility it tries to pursue with each passing line, lines which hold the key to understanding the images that accompany them.

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Fortunately, it has everything one could possibly need to follow comfortably: a decent major cast, intriguing visuals, and a lovely story. Containing heart may be all that’s necessary for this film, as the structure and flow come off as somewhat artificial. Not to mention, the imagery and its presentation within the darkest scenes make up somewhat for the semi-dull ordinary sequence of events. Fascinating how the symbolic make-up presents itself with the chaotic whimsy of the film’s dark-ish tone. Even with this, it only eats up a good fifteen minutes of runtime, so while the ending is intriguing, it takes quite a bit of time to build up to it.

One other condition of Tekkon Kinkreet is its inconsistency, both in terms of story and animation. Some scenes have wonderful, immensely fluid animation, while others are shaky at best. At points it almost seemed as though I was watching another ordinary scene from a 2006 romcom, without the destruction of skipped frames. Not to mention, some of the symbolic presentation is either not fully explained or explained to thoroughly. The contrast between Kuro and Shiro (Black and White) together is fairly straightforward, but apart, things that are hinted at with a single line or so become full-blown conflicts of major importance. And when not that, the images of what people are supposed to represent are flashed onto the screen as if to taunt the viewer—”Think! Think, so that you may better appreciate our efforts!” A shakiness illuminates the light of factored quality in one of two ways: fitting two into one, or cutting the two into three and placing the remains among the already loaded one. In layman’s terms, biting off more than one can chew.

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It’s more than a decent film, though I’d hesitate to call it a good one. I was swooned by its messages of good-heartedness and the complacency of its chaotic circus show. My only regret is that I could not try to interpret what may have been left behind by a less-than-proper level of enthusiasm. When I was done, it was done, and the fabric of all that was shown whisked into the chamber of forgotten ideas placed within my moistened brain. Perhaps that may be the most insulting adjective to be held by something so dearly crafted. Tekkon Kinkreet has enthusiasm, but nothing truly worth remembering outside a few key details.

Final Score: 6.5/10

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

‘It Gets Better’ Is Not Always Better

tenor

A few nights ago, I watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for the first time in my life. My thoughts on it are not great—in my own words, I described the first hour as “rubbing my face against a boulder.” However, one thing I can appreciate about the film is that it gets better, as the second half of the film provides a lot of the dumb action fluff the first film does to near perfection, which helped alleviate the pain of the first half’s ruefully irritating shenanigans. Even with this, I gave the film a painfully low score of 3/10, as the first half’s lows overtook the limited enjoyment I felt for the second half’s revival, mostly because the end didn’t justify the means in a way that allowed me to give a damn about any of it. It got me thinking of the times when people would recommend various TV shows and anime with the discretion that it “gets better over time.” The more I think about it, the more I believe it’s a nice way of saying, “This series’s highs are better than its lows.”

As a watcher of most things visual media, particularly of the Asian variety, the discretion of “It gets better” is something I’ve come across a number of times, whether directly addressed to me or to others. I’m sure I’ve said the phrase a few times myself, though recently I’ve tried to shy away from it. With the combination of my own belief that anime almost never gets better and the added expectations placed when throwing that phrase around, it creates a conundrum that’s better left for an uncommon few.

katanagatari quote

In a more realistic manner, things are supposed to get better over time. To say that a certain series “gets better” is almost redundant, as characters, story, animation, etc. are never fully developed through the first couple of episodes. If a series were to not get better, whether by an objectivist’s sake or a structural sake, then the phrase would make more of a compliment. With as vague as the three-word combo is, this could mean any number of things, including the development of a number of different aspects. From my own experience, it’s usually meant to imply that characters become developed and their actions worth caring for, thus improving the mood and the overall entertainment value. Still, what’s to say it can’t mean anything?

Among the most common type of shows this phrase gets attributed to are the long-running popular shows a la The Walking DeadGame of Thrones, or any of the popular anime adaptations of Shounen Jump manga. True as it may be to insinuate that longer-running shows get better as they go on, the important thing to note is when. When does the series starting getting “good”? How long is a person willing to sit through mediocre or dull slop before pacing themselves for the good to come through? Is the recommendation of One Piece really a recommendation if it doesn’t start getting good until episode 207? Is Naruto a good recommendation if “It gets better” in Shippuden? Time is valuable to certain people, and if the “good” doesn’t compensate for the “bad,” then they’ll leave feeling disappointed, especially if they watched 206 episodes to get to that point. I’d rather not place unneeded expectations on a series when it could backfire harder than it could reward.

I trusted you!

As stated in the first paragraph, there’s a fine line between good and bad, with the balance of the two being the difference between being disappointed and being relieved. For me, The Temple of Doom had far too much bad to make up for it with some trivial good in the end. Allison to Lillia is a series I felt similarly about, except reversed; the first thirteen episodes were charming, if not illogically defined, while the last thirteen episodes undermined all of it and sank it into the depths of mediocrity. The reasons for the two examples are different, but mirror each other with a sudden dip/rise in quality. To say “It gets better,” one should be aware of what the recommendee considers good or bad, what they value, and whether one is confident enough in the show’s good qualities in overshadowing the bad. I also read a blog post recently describing how one show’s good was essentially ruined with one epitomizing episode of pure bad.

In one last argument against it, “It gets better” can be construed as parts of a series being blatantly mediocre. One can understand that a series needs time to develop upon the things it wants to convey, especially those within the genres of drama or psychological thriller, but if it gets better, that might just be saying the genre works, not that the entire product is worth watching. It creates a one-dimensional mentality that if it succeeds in one aspect, the rest can be ignored as non-important. I realize this idea can be far-fetched, but better to cover everything than skim. Perfect Blue is an example of something that I would say “gets better,” as its structure dictates that every detail matters in displaying its messages and intrigue. This doesn’t mean I feel the entire product is perfect, just that it succeeds very well in one thing in particular, and only because the other integral aspects are done well enough to make said one thing succeed. Code Geass’s first season also “gets better,” and unlike Perfect Blue, it’s in spite of its earlier meandering and not because of it.

cut it out

People have the freedom to say what they want when they’re recommending things, even if those things don’t necessarily help the recommendation. For me, to say “It gets better” is nothing more than an empty proclamation without the details to ensure its legitimacy. There’s too much at stake with the time available to those who pursue the art of binge watching. Whether it ends up planting the seeds of disappointment or undermining the show’s ability to pace itself, saying “It gets better” is not always better.