Thoughts on Ame no Marginal (Rain Marginal)

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From the creator of the ultra-depressing Narcissu comes Ame no Marginal (Rain Marginal), a story that’s nearly as depressing but now with fantasy elements. Life-shortening diseases aren’t good enough? How about alternate dimensions where people never age? Ame no Marginal is an “ambitious” step in the right direction for someone passionate in the art of “feelsy” visual novel creation.

Notice the quotes around key words in the last paragraph. “Feelsy” is a term some may not be familiar with, but one that can be understood without much effort. Essentially, writing with the intention of making you cry. Feel pity. Think Clannad or AnoHana. Such is the niche in mind. “Ambitious” is a somewhat sarcastic choice of term, yet with the context of knowing the production values of Narcissu, it’s understandable. In Narcissu, there was barely anything; some pictures here and there, a few music tracks, and lots of textAme no Marginal takes the necessary steps for a (non)sequel game and provides more for the reader to absorb.

Such comes in the form of more pictures, more music, and (minimal) voice acting. Characters are actually given proper appearances and designs, as well as distinct voices, while background music is noticeably more varied. There still remains lots of text with unmoving images, yet the execution is a lot easier to digest with occasional spurts of variety to go with the walls of words. In a technical sense, Ame no Marginal is by no means marginally better than Narcissu; it’s head and shoulders above it.

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The name of the game of visual novels, however, is storytelling. Faring against thousands of different titles, even with the leniency of its limited capabilities, Ame no Marginal falls between “interestingly dull” and “painfully standard.” Perhaps it is the lack of a distinct focus, as the game has the player weave between two different stories in a single playthrough. Perhaps it is the fantasy aspect which, while its rules are well regarded, seeps into fulfilling the “feelsy” nature of the game just a tad too strongly. Whatever it may be, its narrative felt fairly unimpactful, and left less of an emotional “oomph” with me than its spiritual predecessor. Let me explain it this way: it feels more like reading a harrowing story out of a newspaper than feeding into a tragic novel… with a tragic novel’s level of detail.

Pleasant in-game, the soundtrack isn’t anything special outside of it. Explained dramatically, the pieces of Ame no Marginal’s armor are well-suited for the battle at hand, improving its chances at lasting. Outside of that specific battle, it is useless, only capable of fending off attacks from a specific source. Call it “Fire-resistant armor,” or in this case, “Negative-emotion-stimulating armor.” Harboring the necessities of (hopefully) influencing the tear duct, its choice in music can range from naive peppiness to lamenting life’s cruelty. Some parts catchy, some parts gloomy; while never truly invigorating. This is made up for somewhat by the art direction, which is pleasant for its production value. Cute little girls actually look cute this time around. Even more than that, the alternative dimension has such a wondrous isolation vibe that it makes it intriguing almost by default.

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Yes, the characters. Not only accentuated by text this time around. By its end, most characters were at least likable, though lacking in total development. The POV character, whose name escapes me (if he even had one), began as a very edgy depressed young man with little will to live (it literally starts with him contemplating jumping off a tall building). Afterwards, he’s teleported to a dimension where time stands still and meets a little girl, who explains his current situation. After that… he’s just kind of normal. He starts to care for the girl and feels sorry for her, but that’s pretty much it. I would think someone who starts the game contemplating suicide would be a little more somber throughout. As the player progresses, the little girl ends up becoming the star of the game, as she receives far more backstory into her character than the POV character. This, in turn, makes her the most developed character in the game, and the fact that another story is told along the way feels a little too unfocused to provide that proper “oomph.”

All in all, certainly worth the “Free” tag on Steam. A nice read for anyone who enjoys the “feelsy” nature of certain visual novels, and isn’t scared by a lot of text without any choices.

The ending is bullshit, though.

The rating for this title and more can be found on MyVideoGameList.

What I Learned from the 2017 Summer of Anime

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Now that it’s come and gone, I find myself pondering the process, the execution, and the things I could change about this year’s Summer of Anime. What better way to collect my thoughts than to share a post to the world about my overall impressions from the torture experiences I had to face since June 1st, as well as some tidbits that could prove interesting to onlookers and newcomers alike. I could very well title this post “Thoughts on …,” but for the sake of variety, I’ll make this particular entry a little more academic.

1. YOU ALL HAVE SHIT TASTE

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Just kidding.

Still, it’s astounding to see all the average to below-average series rated for this year’s batch of anime titles. Out of thirty completed anime, only nine have a “B-” or higher in either score category. That’s not even a third of the list. Initially, I thought this was incredibly alarming… until I looked back on previous years and discovered that I haven’t fared much better picking my own titles. While this year is technically a low point for anime, my Summer of Manga back in 2015 produced the same results: only nine of thirty manga received a “B-” or higher in either score category. Really, we all have pretty shit taste, don’t we?

2. Anime over Two-Cour Are a Death Sentence

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I did not do well with big chunks.

NANA and the ‘Aria’ series. Those are the only two series recommended to me that are longer than two-cour that did not have a negative impression left by either a tough, uphill battle or time constraints. Strangely enough, they’re also two of the better series I watched this year! The rest festered within the restraints that I placed upon them (and myself), with finishes ranging between decent (Code Geass) and horrid (Fate/kaleid), if they weren’t dropped outright.

Blood+ (50 episodes), Hikaru no Go (75 episodes), and Ghost in the Shell (52 episodes) were all dropped due to time constraints. Eureka Seven (50 episodes) started out alright, but eventually feel prey to its own undoing, making the last fifteen episodes or so a complete drag; dropping it would mean having to face another longer series, so I put up with it. Code Geass (50 episodes) and Fate/kaleid (42 episodes) were both fairly early on, so the rush for time wasn’t as prevalent, though their quality didn’t make them a breeze to go through, either.

If I ever do this again, two-cour will be the limit.

3. (Most) Anime Within the Top 100 Were Enjoyable

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Out of the thirty anime recommended, six (and a not-quite seventh) anime are ranked within the top 100 on MyAnimeList. Out of those six, five got a rating of “B-” or higher in the “Personal Score” category. The lone loser? Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso. Everything else is recommendable (to whatever extent).

Why is this important? For the sake of formulating theories.

Back in 2014, I intentionally ended that year’s Summer with five titles from MyAnimeList’s top 100. Sure enough, four out of five got a Personal Score of “B-” or higher, and the fifth got a “C+.” The message on display is that while a number of anime are overhyped, it’s really to what extent, as many anime I’ve seen ranked within the top 100 are, at the least, decent shows. It was no different this year, as five of the six anime qualified are anime I would recommend most from this Summer—most specifically NANASamurai Champloo, and the ‘Aria’ series.

So, when looking for a new series to watch, if you really want a bang for your buck, it’s probably better to go with a series with an overall rank of 200 than 2,000. Don’t take that to heart, though.

4. I’m Never Exceeding Twenty-Five Anime Again

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I’ll admit outright that I did not expect to receive so many recommendations for this year’s special condition (I brought this slightly on myself). Not wanting to let anyone down, I pushed the envelope further and further until everyone’s picks got equal chance to be included, to the point where I was pushing myself past my limits. At first, I was ready to take on the extra load. By Eureka Seven, I was looking quite a bit like Oreki up there.

This year was rough. By the end, I was crawling to the finish line, resorting to ashamedly sprinting through the path that took the least amount of effort (strategic drops). I certainly had enough motivation to do thirty series in the beginning, though with all garbage I had to wade through, my tolerance wore thin quickly. Of the last ten anime I watched, only two had a “B-” or higher in either score category. Six of them had a “C-” or lower.

For any future event similar to this, two things will be set in stone: only two recommendations per person and the total count is twenty-five. I’m not sure I could do this again without resorting to dirty tactics (which, admittedly, I did near the end of this year).

5. I Had Fun

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Yeah, sure, by the end I was praying for sweet death and cursing myself for being so hardheaded, but despite it all, it was a worthwhile Summer. For the first time, I was doing the Summer not just for myself, but for the people who continue to read and support my blog. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for taking part this year. This is both my most and least favorite year so far.

I’m glad I got such a diverse selection of titles to sink my teeth into, as well as opportunities to watch things I had been putting off for years. These fun concepts wouldn’t be possible without the help of you readers, so thank you, again. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I only hope next time I won’t have to show my cynicism by smashing everyone’s choices.

Until next year!

Commencing ‘Summer of Anime 2017’

It’s that time of year.

First off, a huge thank you to everyone who participated in recommending me anime to watch! You all will aid my Summer in being as diverse and long as possible! This year will be a tad different, so I’ll go over a few things.

In case you weren’t aware, I raised the roof from 25 entries to 30 entries, while also increasing my drop count from 5 to 10. This was because so many people recommended me anime. I underestimated your potential, dear reader! Since this was the case, I threw in some extra loopholes to make the event more memorable.

First of all, the total anime count I received via recommendations was stopped at 39 anime titles. This was because I wanted to introduce a concept that will probably end up not being used. I call it the “Get Out of Jail Free” pick. Basically, with 39 of 40 possible entries, I decided my final anime within my 10 reserved drop list will end up being my own choice. My very last drop will be something I get to choose, as a last resort, as something to look forward to before knowing I can no longer drop any more titles. Again, it’s not likely it’ll get to this point, but who knows?

That being said, all 39 anime titles are accounted for, but only 30 of them will go onto the official Summer of Anime 2017 list. The last nine will go onto a reserve list, which will serve as my go-to list in the case I ever drop any anime from the main list. If I drop, say, Steins;Gate from my main list, I will have to watch the first anime in my reserve list. Once I finish that, I go back to what then proceeded Steins;Gate on the list. If I drop a reserve title, I go on to the next reserve title, and so on and so forth.

The deadline was left somewhat ambiguous in past years, but the deadline for this year (especially due to the giant increase in episode count) will be my birthday, August 20th. Scores will be based upon an A-F rating scale for both personal and critical attributes, and I will give a shout out at the beginning of each post to the person who recommended me the anime of the post.

I am also allowed to watch ongoing anime, as well as OVA’s, films, and specials, during the Summer. For titles that may take me a while to finish, I will prepare various, likely unrelated posts to ensure this blog doesn’t get lonely. For example, I will have a post on Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water tomorrow ready to go before the first entry on the SoA list. I will start first thing tomorrow morning, June 1st.

The full list will be available to see momentarily within my Summer of Anime Archive. With that said, here’s to a successful Summer!

Summer of Anime 2017? You Decide! [Closed]

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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!

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)

‘It Gets Better’ Is Not Always Better

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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.

Thoughts on NHK’s Top 100 Anime List

nhk top 100

The Top 100 listing can be seen (in English) here.

I’m not normally one to comment on various lists by Japanese publications, but this one stuck out by sheer size and influence—showing the differences in priorities and taste Japanese audiences have from (mostly) Western audiences. To commemorate one-hundred years of anime, NHK, Japan’s public broadcasting station, asked audiences to vote upon their favorite anime that spanned from humble beginnings all the way up until September of 2016 (Sorry, Kemono Friends). According to the poster of the article in the link above, roughly 600,000 people voted for this list, so I feel that’s enough of a sample size to legitimize the impact certain anime have on Japanese audiences. Though what made me jump at the chance to dissect this list is just how bizarre it is compared to what’s typically regarded as popular in Western culture. Lots of popular titles appear within the top 100 list, but their placement is incredibly varied.

To make this post more painful to read embellished with my insight, instead of voicing my opinion on the full picture, I will jot down particular “highlights” of the list that evoke intrigue. See it as a highlight video of an hour-long stream, displaying the best moments in a clickbait fashion.

Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei at #100

Despite being close to within the top 50 on MyAnimeList’s database and similarly in others, it just cracks the top 100 here. In the grand scope of things, I suppose it makes sense that an artistic and symbolically intrinsic series isn’t among the series the general masses champion. Not to mention, it doesn’t necessarily follow trends or take advantage of the “most profitable” demographic. Still, nice to see it even make waves with its semi-somber message.

Dennou Coil at #95

Sometimes Japan has good taste.

Inuyasha at #93

And sometimes it doesn’t.

Jokes aside, I’m not surprised to see this on the list, especially with how long both the manga and the anime ran. I would’ve probably guessed it’d be higher, however.

Pokémon at #85

Nostalgia runs deep, absolutely. Still, is it really that great of an anime? The games are definitely solid in their structure and quality, but should that seep into the opinion of an anime that not only contradicts the games on multiple occasions, but features a repetitive approach that quickly grows old after a single cour or so? Definitely nostalgia. I’m also internally screaming that this was ranked above Dennou Coil.

AnoHana at #83

This was the first entry that forced a double-take from me. AnoHana? That absurdly popular anime that’s ripe with emotional angst and deals with fantasy elements and regret? With over 300,000 user scores on MAL ranking it within the top 70 of the site, I was genuinely surprised this wasn’t ranked somewhere within the top 50. It seems like something any culture, not just Western ones, would eat up. Making this list is already indicative of that, but this low? Very interesting.

K at #81

K? K??? Ranked above AnoHana, Dennou Coil, and Inuyasha? K????? Granted, I’ve seen nothing but a single episode of the series (and dropped it), so perhaps it’s actually a grand masterpiece and I don’t know… but seriously, K?!?!?!?

Mushishi at #78

Another surprise at such a low ranking. This is ranked within the top 35 on MAL and seems like the most Japanese-esque thing ever. Spirits, nature, calm atmosphere; it all screams traditional Eastern values. Of course, it’s also pretty stoic and lacks a lot of, say, pandering. Perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising.

Shounen Hollywood: Holly Stage for 49 at #74

wat

One Piece at #72

One of “The Big Three” is as low as #72. Holy fuck. Maybe it’s annoyingly popular because of Western audiences.

Fullmetal Alchemist at #71

Once again, incredibly popular Shounen series ranked much lower than I would’ve expected.

Mob Psycho 100 at #69

The only reason I’m noting this is because One Punch Man didn’t make the list. Goes to show that Western audiences are more enamored with meme faces and unbridled special effects/animation than Japan is. I’m going to witness twenty Marvel movies a year until I’m dead.

Gochuumon (Season Two) at #68

Never, ever, ever, ever underestimate the power of moe.

The iDOLM@STER at #66

So it’s not a myth that Japanese audiences are addicted to the concept of idols… Seeing as this is ranked above fucking One Piece

Free!: Eternal Summer at #62

Female fan service is ranked higher than one of “The Big Three,” Mushishi, and AnoHana. What is this god damn list?

Kimi no Na wa. at #57

One of the most influential, highest rated, and profitable anime films in the last decade is ranked at #57. Does not even crack the top 50. This is probably the most surprising placement on the entire list. W-o-w.

Uta no Prince-sama Maji Love 1000% at #56

THIS IS RANKED ONE SPOT ABOVE KIMI NO NA WA. OH, MY FUCKING GOD.

Pokémon: Giratina and the Sky Warrior at #53

I… I… I can’t even begin to gather why this is above Kimi no Na wa or any other crazy-popular titles mentioned before.

Shirobako at #52

This is something I was surprised to see so high. It’s a great series that I would absolutely recommend, but I wouldn’t expect something so grounded in reality to be heralded to this degree in Japan. Then again, it’s about making anime, so is it really that surprising?

Girls und Panzer (Film) at #49

Cute girls + Tanks = $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Free! at #48

There you have it. Cracking the top 50 of the greatest anime of all time is Free!. This is ranked higher than all that was listed before it. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever doubt the power of… women?

Mirai Shounen Conan at #39

Fun fact: this is the highest-ranked Studio Ghibli product on this list. Spirited Away, Mononoke Hime, My Neighbor, Totoro; Kiki’s Delivery Service, and countless other film classics didn’t make the list.

Natsume Yuujinchou at #36

Natsume Yuujinchou Mushishi confirmed? It’s probably the abundance of follow-up seasons.

Love Live! Sunshine!! at #33

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever doubt the power of idols.

Bungou Stray Dogs at #31

NO.

Shoujo Kakumei Utena at #30

It’s almost redundant to say so, but I’m really surprised at how high this is compared to One PieceFullmetal Alchemist, and Kimi no Na wa. I suppose if this is any indication, Japan likes girls. Particularly girls with feminine-colored hair. And sex symbolism.

Shingeki no Kyojin at #28

Remember that episode of How I Met Your Mother when Barney proposed the “rule” that anything newer was better?

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood at #27

I remember.

Hyouka at #25

Hyouka? Hyouka?! Either aloof, standoffish male leads are more popular than I thought or Eru is the most moe thing KyoAni has ever created. This is rated higher than Haruhi!

Girls und Panzer at #22

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever underestimate the power of moe and tanks.

Sword Art Online at #20

I’m not even going to bother with this low-hanging fruit.

Psycho-Pass at #19

So Gen Urobuchi is kind of popular, huh?

Digimon Adventure at #18

Get pwned, Pokémon.

Why does “pwned” not have a red squiggle under it? What the fuck?

Gochuumon (Season One) at #16

What in the name of…? This high? This high? Fuck, the moe is strong with this one.

Neon Genesis Evangelion at #14

Japan loves its mechas. And this is among the most influential mechas of all time, aside from the Gundam series. I’m both surprised and not surprised it’s ranked this high, considering a lot of Western viewers are kind of meh towards it.

Joker Game at #12

I take it back. This is the most surprising placement on the entire list. What the fuck is this mediocre slop (Haven’t seen, just assuming) doing so close to the top 10 of the greatest anime of all time? Can anyone who knows anything about this series fill me in as to why it’s so god damn popular? Niches? Fetishes? Moe? What?

Osomatsu-san at #10

Memes are contagious, too. Holy fuck this is more popular than I expected.

Cardcaptor Sakura at #8

Oh, my God! I knew it was popular, but #8 all time popular? Jesus, Japanese anime fans. Nostalgia, moe, idols, and magical girls all wrapped into one was a no-brainer for you, huh?

Love Live! School Idol Project (First & Second Season) at #4 and #5

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, underestimate the power of idols.

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica at #3

Gen Urobuchi + Magical girls = $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Tiger & Bunny at #1

Tiger & Bunny? #1? Tiger & Bunny?

giphy

Tiger & Bunny is the greatest anime of all time according to 600,000 voters? Tiger & Bunny? I mean… it’s a mecha anime… so… it’s… justifiable? W-Wha…? Huh?

This is like pitching a volleyball during baseball. It technically works, but it’s just… off. It doesn’t feel right. This is so out of left field that I can’t even fathom where all of this popularity came from. It’s practically nonexistent in the West, at least from what I’ve experienced. I’ve never seen Tiger & Bunny on collective Top 10 lists among my peers or even recommended titles for mecha fans. It’s just such a random pick to me that I can’t even feel mad. Just… lost.

Overall, what I learned from this list is that Japan loves three things: girls, mechs, and moe. Exaggerations aside, it’s an incredibly appealing research project as to what’s “in” on the other side of the ocean and what’s important to those within that culture. I had one hell of a time looking over it for the first time, and hopefully my comments weren’t so off-kilter that it would alienate readers.

Notable omissions: Toradora!, Katanagatari, Ookami to Koushinryou.

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck you, Japan!