Thoughts on Sekine-kun no Koi (Spoilers)

sekine-kun 4

Sekine, according to most synopses for this manga, is a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. This is not even close to the truth. He is an ace-of-all-trades. Every opportunity to embellish the fact that Sekine is an incredibly talented, yet flawed human being is taken all the way to the bank. He’s amazing at ping pong, amazing at knitting, amazing at his job, amazing at unintentionally luring women to his side, and amazing in his own density. What the synopsis may imply is that Sekine cannot find love due to his mid-tier ability at everything, while in reality, his ability to do everything without much practice is what allows the story to further develop his empty inner shell.

What may be obvious from other stories that have received a lot of praise from me, Sekine-kun does a good job of creating an atmosphere of self-conflict and relating to what drives that inner turmoil. It’d be easy to make this series just another romcom about a good-looking guy who’s perfect at everything meet a girl who’s resistant to his charms. Instead, Sekine-kun takes a somewhat rare approach to the perfect male lead. While in, say, a harem fantasy, a male lead who is essentially perfect uses that for the sake of being all and pure and loving towards everyone, Sekine is a much different case. Without sounding entirely biased, his character is fairly relatable on an emotional level, one who dislikes uncomfortable atmospheres and does the bidding of others on the basis of simply avoiding that tension. This “eagerness” to allow people to do what they want with him has given him a history of intertwining events that make up how little he feels for anything in general.

sekine-kun 3

If this seems a little too extravagant, look at it this way: Sekine has been sucked dry of any passion. His constant willingness to suit the mood has left his own self unwilling. Almost like Pavlov’s dog in the sense that he’s learned to lie down and wait for things to be over with whenever someone pushes him.

Sekine is the sole reason this manga differs from most others and he is essentially the only thing that makes this story interesting. His behavior and inability to break through his shallow self-loathing makes for a refreshing lead character, one who actually feels like a human being as opposed to a walking harem machine. Unfortunately, he is not a perfect lead by any stretch of the imagination.

While introspective, depressing, and justifiably lost, his inability to function like a normal person when confronting pressure is quite amazing. Many times throughout the manga, a lot of the common tropes that come with the struggling budding of a romantic relationship is taken advantage of by his stuttering mindset. His character is perfect for emotional filibusters. As time grew on and later chapters began becoming shorter and shorter, one can feel the effects of a slowly-staling character quirk come to pass. There’s only so much one can do to with such an oddball introvert, who secludes himself from the public and can count his friends on one hand, when it comes to pursuing romance. Criticize himself for past mistakes, bury himself in the only hobby he has, dream and fantasize about the woman he adores; none of this becomes as interesting when he’s spent the last twelve chapters or so doing it. And without any true supporting characters to take the weight off of his spotlight, his once-intriguing persona becomes as monotonous as this story’s ending.

sekine-kun 1

Note I said “true” supporting characters. Supporting characters definitely exist, and a lot of them receive some attention throughout. The only issue with this is that they’re all pieces of a much larger puzzle. Sekine is obviously a developed character. The female lead? Not quite on his level, but well enough to remain consistently likable. Anyone else is what makes the manga somewhat harder to defend upon further reflection. Sekine has a friend from work and his wife, whom he never even realized he had feelings for (Okay…). There’s another character who’s introduced to serve as a sort of rival lover for Sekine, but is only a scapegoat as his intentions were only vaguely pointed in that direction. Even he doesn’t seem to serve any real point in the end, despite some segments dedicated to his fascination with a kinda-sorta-but-not-really family member. Then there’s the female lead’s grandfather, who acts as the catalyst for Sekine’s eventual pursuit of his granddaughter and in confronting his own feelings of contempt. One would think that would mean he would play a role in unlocking Sekine’s future happiness… but disappears off-and-on for a good portion of the story and serves little real impact.

What may be the biggest punch to the gut is the aspect of romance. Almost on the level of my thoughts on the main couple of Yuri!!! On Ice, Sekine and Sara, the female lead, don’t really feel like a couple. Sekine obviously loves her, as his devotion to her is borderline stalker-levels. It’s Sara that becomes so perplexing as the chapters roll by. She never really has a reason to develop feelings for Sekine, aside from obvious comments about how good-looking and gentlemanly he is. I always pictured her looking at Sekine like a pet project, and as heartless as that sounds, he’s proven how broken he really is. Perhaps it was due to that desire to help him that she began to feel closer to him in the long run, as it’s even stated in dialogue from others that Sekine triggers women’s “maternal instincts.” Still, I can’t help but question whether Sara truly had a reason to look at him as a life partner or if the story bribed her with some teddy bears to go along with it.

sekine-kun 2

While I have no stake in the matter as a heterosexual, what exactly makes Sekine so attractive? His appearance isn’t too bishie-fied and while he’s tall, slender, and has sharp eyes, he simply looks plain to me. The art style of Sekine-kun did little to showcase what exactly made him so physically attractive. What is noteworthy is how Shoujo-ish Sara looks, along with most other female characters. Big, perfectly-symmetrical eyes and chubby cheeks. It makes me wonder if the mangaka is accustomed to writing Shoujo (or even BL) manga. I liked the random little symbolic showing of inner feelings and the like, but there were far too few! A constant showing of threads and unwinding is the only thing that always sticks out, and by the time it actually makes sense, it feels overdone. A dream sequence could’ve been really neat. No overall complaints, though I wish the mangaka incorporated more elaborate psychological imagery.

I blazed through this manga due to Sekine and his gloomy nature. By series’s end, it almost seemed like a facade, due in part by how standard the resolution to it all ensued. Sekine-kun is both cliché and non-cliché, it only depends on what aspect of the manga one holds with more importance. Characters feel real and interesting (notably the leads), though the story could’ve been handled with a little more creative finesse (and provided more of an impactful ending). In the first ten chapters, I was ready to give the series a gold star and recommend it to everyone. Now, it feels almost wasted in its own darkened drivel.

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

Quick Thoughts on Koe no Katachi (Film)

a silent voice 1

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

giphy1

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

penguindrum 1

(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

madoka magica

(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

evangelion

(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

cowboy bebop

(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

tsuritama 1

(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

Kyousou Giga 5

(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

kill la kill

(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

shirobako 1

(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

gurren lagann

(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

dennou coil 1

(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)

Indiana Jones and the Archives of Inconsistency

indy 1

I’ve seen ’em all. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, Last Crusade, and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The amount of fan adoration this franchise receives is unlike many in modern Hollywood, rivaling that of the Star Wars franchise or many of Disney’s animated classics. Because of this, many are subject to a very heavy bias when looking at this franchise through an objective lens. While I was made aware of various scenes from Jones’s adventures through parodies and references in other media, never have I actually sat down and watched the films until about a month ago, so there’s no nostalgic bias to be found here (for once). With the occasion of finishing the franchise (until 2020), I felt it’d be interesting to share a fresh perspective as to the weight of these (mostly) ’80s classics. And as the title implies, the theme here is inconsistency.

Referenced somewhat recently here, I did not care much for Temple of Doom. While user ratings for the film are fairly divided, with the more general perspective being positive, I found it to be a fairly insipid viewing. The inclusion of Short Round and Willie completely tampered any potential the film may have had if it didn’t focus so keenly on gross-out humor and silly popcorn theatrics. They ultimately had no place in the film, provided little chemistry with Jones himself, and had as much depth to their personality as characters from Sesame Street. This harshness towards these two characters specifically is due to their influence on the film’s tone, providing more of a comedic approach instead of a serious one. This would be excusable if the comedy was at all funny, but it’s not.

indy 2

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull gets a lot more backlash from fans for “ruining” the franchise. Critics gave it decent marks, but user score is typically fairly low, and it was even desecrated on an episode of South Park. Once again, this bunny with no nostalgic bias watched the film with an open mind, and while I think the film is bad, I thought Temple of Doom was worse overall. I thought Temple of Doom’s second act was better than Crystal Skull, but its first act was so horribly misguided that it nearly destroyed the whole experience for me. Crystal Skull has a sort of quality that almost hides behind the greatness of its prequels while trying to be so over-the-top that no one would ever accuse it of being so similar. It’s this absurdness that brings its quality down for many trying to take the film seriously, which it does a decent job at in the first half. Still, with enough references to fill a house, it can’t quite shake the foundations of a soft reboot, catering to newcomers while titillating fans of the franchise.

In my mind, two of the films in a four-film franchise are bad. Two out of four; that’s half the franchise. Not only that, but they’re the second and fourth films, respectively, causing a wave-like effect of turbulent highs and lethargic lows. One is good, one is bad, one is good, one is bad. Without the perspective of a diehard fan that grew up on the films proclaiming Crystal Skull to be the black sheep of the franchise, one can say that the series has always been flawed to some degree, and its consistency is seriously questionable, both in terms of overall quality and the pace of such within each individual film.

indy 3

What made the Indiana Jones films so enjoyable was the constant focus of thrilling action, the wonders of adventure and mystery, and the human drama that came with the characters along the way. This is fairly common knowledge to many, but pulling this off effectively is no easy feat. Raiders of the Lost Ark and Last Crusade have a good number of things in common, including the factors mentioned above. With lots of semi-realistic action, lovable character interaction, and a nose for gritty attitude, they both accomplished a mixed tone of light and dark that boded well for characters to behave as well as they did, with a lot of focus on memorable scenes and noticeable, subtle development. Not to mention, the bond between characters in both pictures, specifically Jones and Marion, as well as Jones and his father, almost single-handedly carry the torch for emotional appeal, seeing as both pairs have some friction between them. There’s a potent humanistic element that makes the adventures feel real and all the more grand for it.

Any more on Temple of Doom would be ad nauseam. Crystal Skull harbors a little character enthusiasm, though struggles to find any balance with the realistic qualms of Jones’s antics. Surviving a nuke by sitting in a fridge. Killer ants with a penchant for human flesh. Aliens. It goes above and beyond to entertain, however, it becomes more of a chore to take any of it to heart when it feels so jadedly superficial. The Indiana Jones movies were always somewhat silly, but Crystal Skull takes it to such levels of ridiculousness that Kali-Ma! seems like a morning stroll in the park. Everything about each scene feels so forced, so maniacally enthusiastic about being able to appeal to everyone that it loses some of its identity. In this sense, I can understand how the latest entry “ruined” the franchise to many. For me, the franchise couldn’t be ruined because it was never a stable library of greatness in the first place.

indy 4

Wrapping up, there is an indistinguishable charm that the Indiana Jones franchise manages to capture half the time. Even in the worst of times, there’s enough of a semblance of good merriment to hold over any person not so sternly idolizing of the whole product. I suppose the point of this post made into simplest of explanations is that the franchise isn’t perfect prior to a certain point. It’s important to look at things as single products, then add the outside context later on. How much this context influences one’s opinion is dependent on the individual, but one shouldn’t disregard one or the other entirely. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull isn’t great, but neither was Temple of Doom, and some didn’t even care for Last Crusade. Whatever shoots the sword-slinger is for anyone to decide. Just don’t be so picky.

Thoughts on Shinsekai yori (Spoilers)

shinsekai yori 5

(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.

shinsekai yori 1

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.

shinsekai yori 3

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.

shinsekai yori 4

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.

shinsekai yori 2

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)

oshiete-galko-chan-1

(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

tekkon kinkreet 5

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.

tekkon kinkreet 1

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.

tekkon kinkreet 2

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.

tekkon kinkreet 4

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.