Traveling Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Zora’s Domain)

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A few disclaimers before we move forward:

  • Traveling Thoughts is a means of putting down my thoughts in a bit-by-bit process that will eventually lead up to a formal review of the overall subject. These posts will be more personal than objective, though one should expect a good amount of both as is my personality of habit.
  • These posts will absolutely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

I would also like to state before continuing that this post will not cover the Divine Beast or the things pertaining to its conditions for entrance. I will dedicate an article to the Divine Beasts in general at some point in the future.

My first time playing Breath of the Wild, I stumbled upon the trigger to Zora’s Domain by accident. Playing around in the wilderness, killing Bokoblins and hunting for goodies, I saw a shrine in the distance. Naturally, I darted for it, and after completing it, I wandered the area when I came across a bridge, glowing with a pristine silver blue. Stepping on a certain spot, a cutscene occurred, introducing me to the first of four major characters that act as the catalyst to Link appearing before the Divine Beasts. Sidon, prince of the Zoras, flashed that overconfident grin and I immediately became hesitant of his character. As it continued, though, I became smitten with the prince, slowly melting the assumptions made about up-and-coming royalty with his sense of bravado and cheesy sense of justice.

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The path traveled just getting to Zora’s Domain was a journey in and of itself, as I had little experience with what was to come; most notably, the future was to become shocking. A pleasure it was to cruise through a winding path that gave a variety of different platforms. Rivers, Lizalfos camps, bridges, mountains, and ruins. Every five minutes, the layout seems to change just enough to provide a sense of variety for the player to acclimate themselves to. Not to mention, aside from Lizalfos, the enemy variety is also fairly astute. Basically everything is present at some point or another, including a lone Wizzrobe. This sense of building was, once again, a nice transition from simply playing the game to being immersed in its environment. Like being in the tranquility of Kakariko Village, the path leading to Zora’s Domain gave a world-building experience worthy of its challenge.

Being perfectly biased, Zora’s Domain is essentially my dream world’s perfect aesthetic. Glamorously shiny, structures adorned with the same glowing silver blue that various parts of the preceding path had, and almost Atlantic-like in appearance. Water seeps in from all directions from rivers, streams, and large waterfalls. And, flashing some light on my preferences, the sky is fairly dark and gloomy, allowing the ebbing translucence of the domain to stand out even further. Sweeping corridors without roofs meet in the middle to a main living space which houses the King of the Zora. When first arriving, I was bewitched by the visual spectacle. Even coming back to it, after seeing everything else the game has to offer, I still feel a little in awe.

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What’s interesting about the Zora is that they have incredibly long life spans. So long, in fact, that despite the fact that Link has been asleep for over a hundred years, many of the Zora present upon his arrival recognize him almost immediately. Whether old or semi-old, many will greet Link with statements such as “Link! It’s been so long! Do you remember me?!” This allows the player, despite not knowing any of these characters, to see Link as a different entity, as a character of his own with his own perspective. These Zora have a history with him, and the familiarity immediately makes the place inviting to explore, if only to see who else recognizes him and how they’d react. Even without calming the Divine Beast, there is a reason to be invested with the world present in front of the player. Creating a legacy from scratch is fine and dandy, but interacting with those who knew the character from before the amnesia provides a lot of intriguing possibilities to the character’s growth and behavior. If only Link actually had a personality…

Even the King of the Zora recognizes Link, who laments that he does not recall anything of his past, including his late daughter, Mipha. Mipha, in all respect to her character, is one of four token “spiritual guides” that appear once Link has ventured inside a Divine Beast, but more on that later. It is revealed that the Divine Beast’s wrath has caused an overflow of rain to plague Zora’s Domain, causing massive bouts of floods that, in all honesty, don’t look too alarming. It is up to Link to appease the Beast and stop the rainfall that it seems to be causing. But first, he needs to talk some sense into some old asshole who holds a grudge against him because he believes Link let Mipha die. Mipha, you see, was apparently the belle of the ball in the Zora’s land, and every boy had the hots for her. Seeing as she was one of defenders of Hyrule against Ganon, she went off to try and fight him alongside the other defenders, Link, and Zelda, only to fail, and die. Clearly, it’s Link’s fault.

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On the very edge of breaking my own word, to appease the Divine Beast in this region, it is recommended that the player collects a load of shock arrows, most prevalently found at the top of one of the mountains surrounding Zora’s Domain. It is here where the player, assuming they haven’t explored much of the world, faces off against their first Lynel. And boy, was it a huge bitch for me the first time around. Their behavior patterns are a little tricky to pinpoint, and they have a massive amount of HP. You can’t even cheese it and shoot them from a distance, as they’ll pull out a bow and arrows and shoot you right back! It ended up becoming one of the more memorable situations while within Zora’s Domain, with the promise of fighting more had me uttering grievances under my breath.

Without going any further, Zora’s Domain ended up becoming the first of four areas where Divine Beasts raged wild that I inadvertently chose to pacify, and during my second playthrough, ended up being the last. Fun fact: if you arrive at Zora’s Domain without triggering the cutscene where one meets Sidon at the bridge, the cutscene won’t ever play, and the game will carry on with Sidon having no idea who you are. Which, in hindsight, is kind of a letdown, as Sidon’s charm is a better improvement of the experience of Zora’s Domain. With aesthetic details to die for, a reason for Link to care about those present (if not for his current mindset), and a likable cast of characters, Zora’s Domain is a high point in the game in both gameplay and narrative gusto. I really do think it would be a great starting point for any beginning player.

(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of, once again, MKIceAndFire.)

Traveling Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Hateno Village)

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A few disclaimers before we move forward:

  • Traveling Thoughts is a means of putting down my thoughts in a bit-by-bit process that will eventually lead up to a formal review of the overall subject. These posts will be more personal than objective, though one should expect a good amount of both as is my personality of habit.
  • These posts will absolutely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

I could have added this bit to the disclaimer, but I felt it too much for one bullet point. Since my last post on this subject, I have switched to the Switch version of this game and have gotten farther in the game than with the Wii U version. Needless to say, that means I have played over these oncoming events twice over, so the stories and situations I share will become muddled with oversaturation. While there’s no real need to distinguish the two playthroughs, know that I’m a lot more experienced with the game than I was since starting this collection of Traveling Thoughts.

Though I still haven’t beaten the game. Trying to find all those shrines. I’ll likely have them all by the time I write the next entry.

Now then, on the journey from Kakariko to Hateno, the range of area to explore rivals that of when one leaves the Isolated Plateau. Link is tasked with finding a Sheikah researcher named Purah, who is capable of repairing the Sheikah Slate to its full potential. (A device I never mentioned once until now, despite it being the first item the player receives in the game. Oops.) Essentially, the Sheikah Slate is the tool to end all tools, capable of allowing Link to use runes (another thing I neglected to mention once; supernatural abilities spanning from bombs to a time-freezer), look at a map of Hyrule, collect info from shrines and towers, take pictures (no selfies included), warp to established shrines and towers, and pinpoint specific locations for future perusing. Really, the more area that’s explored, the more of a Godsend the Slate becomes. At its state upon leaving Kakariko, however, there are still functions missing (such as the camera). Purah is the only person for the job.

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One little note to make is that while this becomes the main objective, it doesn’t technically have to be. After visiting Impa, Link is told of the Divine Beasts originally created to combat Ganon—and their current rampage upon Hyrule—whom then become objects targeted for the main quest. If the player chooses to go calm them, they’re free to do so without going to Hateno. In hindsight, going to Hateno isn’t drastically important, as the upgrades provided are more for extra security than anything else. For the purpose of consistency, as both times I went (relatively) straight there, I’ll continue the path that way.

Along the way, I recall in my first playthrough finding the first of many Stable areas placed throughout Hyrule. One can register their horse there (if they choose to tame one), collect side quests and info on the land, and collect essential goodies from the area. As stated previously, I felt a certain sense of joy discovering even more humanity present within the land, though this was far less impactful. A few quips here and there, and characters that will eventually become standard when visiting more stables, it was a cozy, albeit short break from the wild. I also discovered that every Stable has a shrine next to it, presumably to ease players into having a horse at all times.

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Contrasting from Kakariko Village’s serene and traditional atmosphere, Hateno Village is more cozy and homeland-feeling. Kids run around, people work on their farms, architecture looks more Western, and the musical score is cheery and almost child-like. The people are more outspoken and varied, almost as though they come from a number of different places. Some of them are even mean. And socially awkward. And fedora-tippers. I-Is this a statement of some sort? Certainly more pleasant in tone, but something was missing. Perhaps the emotions felt by Kakariko made my expectations too high for other places, as Hateno felt a little more “sideshow” than “main event.” Despite this, Hateno Village ends up becoming one of the more frequented areas in the game, even now. Whether it be praying to the Goddess Statue for extra hearts or stamina, dyeing my attire different colors, or showing a kid weapons I spend hours trying to find so he can give me the American equivalent of ten bucks, it’s a nice home base.

To make up for the lack of personality with Impa, Purah is a delightful little ball of energy that I can’t help but wonder was affected by her latest experiment. The situation goes that Purah is over a hundred years old, yet looks like a big-headed child. Some nasty side effects from an experiment caused her to reverse her aging to the point where she looks (and acts?) like a kid. Better than nothing, I suppose, as her voice (no talking, just grunts) is cute and her dialogue is all the more. While getting somewhat tedious after a bit, her background information is present in a diary at the top level of her research laboratory, which highlights a lot of the details left out by conversation, something I’d recommend reading.

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What’s a little disappointing is that, adding to the “sideshow” feel of the whole village, Purah is only important for this one time, as all future visits are the same old dialogue with nothing new. Link can ask her assistant for an optional side quest, but that’s the bulk of the priority for them. Once the Sheikah Slate is repaired, she has no use. Not as a person or a partner. She’s just there. I suppose with Impa, there’s a little more to her place in the game thanks to the multiple amounts of times Link can speak with her that provides new dialogue. Purah, in compensation for her enthusiasm, is almost like a one-track record. I really wish she were implemented more into the story.

As a little cubbyhole in the gargantuan mass of Breath of the Wild’s scope, Hateno Village is little more than an escape from nature. Its usefulness and simplicity provides a place to come back to when all’s said and done—the player can even buy a house there! There’s just not much more to it than that. Lots of side quests, along with shrine quests for areas yonder, but nothing that really makes it feel as though it’s a people-driven environment. Most won’t have a problem with this, but after experiencing the loveliness of Kakariko Village, I’m left emotionally unperturbed. I can be glad the town isn’t full of annoying main quest dribble, thankfully.

(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of, once again, MKIceAndFire.)

Traveling Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Kakariko Village)

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A few disclaimers before we move forward:

  • Traveling Thoughts is a means of putting down my thoughts in a bit-by-bit process that will eventually lead up to a formal review of the overall subject. These posts will be more personal than objective, though one should expect a good amount of both as is my personality of habit.
  • These posts will absolutely contain spoilers. Read at your own risk.

It’s been some time since my last post on this subject, but don’t let that imply that I’ve run out of motivation to write about it. I just forget it even exists! …Is that worse?

After acquiring the paraglider, the player is allowed to explore wherever they want. This is where the game finally becomes so engrossing to play, as the feeling of exploration finally kicks in. As stated in the last post, the Isolated Plateau didn’t really feel all that adventurous because it was so limited and restrictive, coming off as an obligatory “Trial Sequence.” I didn’t have a lot of fun with it and began to wonder if the game would even be worth it. After some poor voice acting from the Old Man-turned-King of Hyrule, I was given instructions to find Impa, who conveniently rests within a small, mountainous region called Kakariko Village. My map popped up and showed a shiny yellow dot about 100,000 miles away from me (which made me udder a “Ho-ly…”) as to where I was supposed to go. Naturally, I ignored this for a good while and explored the now completely open world.

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I remember quite vividly exploring a body of water with some small islands scattered within right next to a giant bridge. It was here I found myself face-to-face with Lizalfos for the first time, and to my horror, they were capable of one-shotting me. Now being careful, and exploiting the use of BOMB SPAMMING, I killed all of the Lizalfos around the island, collected their loot, and found a hidden Shrine within the biggest island. I even discovered a wandering Zora as I found myself examining the look of the species in this game. Nothing really came of this, but I remember it for being the first thing I really did outside the main objective.

After some more meaningless exploration, I set out for Kakariko, hitting all the open Shrines and Towers along the way. Something humorous to look back on, I didn’t approach the village by conventional means. I’d assume most would take the straight path that curves around and leads upward, meeting the Korok that expands your inventory along the way. For me, I took a back route and CLIMBED A TON OF MOUNTAINS to get there. Essentially, I arrived backwards, taking the most difficult path possible for absolutely no reason at all, completely out of ignorance. I wasted a lot of time fighting off hordes of Bokoblins, exploring forests, and cooking foodstuff to even notice that there should’ve been a much easier way to reach the village. By the time I got there, I left the village the way I probably should’ve arrived there.

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As for the village itself, Kakariko is something of a special segment for me per my enjoyment of the game. It was the first time I was surrounded by a stable amount of civilization. There were people to talk to, buy from, and do sidequests for. It was also the first time I really paid attention to the soundtrack of the game, as for the most part, it was just calm and atmospheric. Kakariko Village’s themes, both day and night, bring me to a distinctively different place, something that really rubbed off on me and gave me an impression of the culture of the village. One could see it from the villagers and their actions throughout the day, but the music drives it home. It’s nothing short of beautiful, really. This was the place in Breath of the Wild where I felt that sense of wonder others likely felt upon coming out of the Chamber in the beginning. Kakariko Village was where I realized that this game was really something else.

This placement of priority says a lot about what I find important in games and the like. Seeing the vast landscape and scope of what’s to be uncovered? Meh. Battling against a number of different dangers with sticks and rocks and clubs? Meh. Being a part of a small society where characters can express themselves and shape the culture they’re a part of with perfect accompanying music and imagery? I’m oozing. I enjoy characters, character interaction, character quirkiness (to an extent), and the impact they can have on an otherwise bland and typical story and premise (see: Undertale, Custom Robo, Katawa Shoujo). Breath of the Wild, in my mind, is at its best when I can interact with the people within those small pockets of civilization. Exploring and discovering secrets and various environments is nice, but it’s nicer when I have a reason to care about any of it.

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Still, Kakariko Village is somewhat hampered by its commitment to the major plot, which comes off as boring and overexplanatory. Impa herself is rather chatty, though integral within the world as one of few people to live through the calamity that occurred 100 years prior. Her connection to Link is a figment of his uncalled past, causing a disconnect for her character as nothing but… just somebody that you used to know. Aside from that, she has no personality. Her role is to provide information and give Link stuff, and point him in the direction of other people. Her granddaughter is a lot more charming than she is (I may have become infatuated with her). This is more noticeable when I began to fall in love with most of all of the other characters within the village, including her granddaughter, a little girl named Koko, and a recently divorced male villager who is obsessed with his cuckoos. For a long while, I never left the village because I wanted to find out more and more about these characters’ lives and behavior.

The first village is noteworthy for being the first in a long line of places Link must explore throughout his journey. It was also the first time playing the game where I had three hours pass and thought to myself, “I can’t wait to play this again!” I was excited to see what other places had in store for me, and if they would all feel as open and alive as Kakariko did. Spoilers: They don’t. I was more determined than ever to get to the next village and explore even more of the vast world that awaited me. All because one little pocket of civilization made me care about the world I was preparing to save from the ultimate evil.

(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of, once again, MKIceAndFire.)

Traveling Thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (The Isolated Plateau)

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When it came time to start a new Traveling Thoughts subject, I was stuck on what to do. What is something that I could play through that could take up a large portion of my time, interests me, and can be split up into various parts for further exploration?

Then, I looked down at the controller in my hands, looked up, and saw the remains of a Lizalfos camp up in Gerudo Highlands. Duh.

So we have the first edition of Traveling Thoughts with our current subject: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (for Wii U. Felt that should be pointed out). This first post will include the ins-and-outs of the first area of the game: The Isolated Plateau. What it contains, my own experience with it, and my criticism and thoughts regarding its entirety. As always, by the end of this chain of posts, I will write a review for the game, hopefully giving me more clarity by that point. Two quick notes of clarification; as of my writing this, I am not yet complete with the game. I still have one more Divine Beast to conquer, and I’ve found myself exploring and Shrine-seeking more than anything. The other thing is that, as always with these posts, there will be spoilers.

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The story begins with you waking up in an illuminated cave. A female voice is calling out to you. It gives you directions as to how to proceed and that you’re the hero the world needs and all of that “Been there, done that” jargon of Zelda lore. Immediately after leaving the cave, Breath of the Wild reminds you that it is big, with a full view of exactly how much the player is free to explore (and more to come). This sense of freedom is one that has been welcome to fans of Zelda in most games, however this entry gives them the liberty to search anywhere they want at any time, regardless of how difficult the zone… after going through the trials of the Isolated Plateau.

Something I wasn’t expecting with this game (though I really should have) is that it doesn’t just throw you into the wild for you to explore and learn at your leisure. Its first area serves as a trial basis for what to expect from the rest of the game—teaching the player about the base necessities of survival and the ultimate goal of the adventure. With every new weapon, item, or maneuver received, the game will instruct you on what buttons to press and useful tips as to what they can be used for. In addition, the entirety of the Isolated Plateau is essentially cut off from the rest of the world, hence the name Isolated Plateau. One cannot get off of it without death, so the player is trapped there until they can manage to do all that they’re required to do.

While I acknowledge that this is simply a stepping stone for players to get accustomed to the game, it also defeats a lot of the purpose of the game’s selling point: freedom. Once again, the game bogs you down with (subtle) tutorials and constant messages and pop-ups about various things. It gives you the freedom to explore the Plateau, but there isn’t much there to behold, mostly the remains of a ruined civilization and some foreshadowing of what’s to come. Not to mention, the Old Man who accompanies you throughout this first step process is basically a teleporting tutor, jabbering on about things to know and the importance of your survival. It makes the opening shot to the rest of the world feel like a cocktease, knowing full well you’ll need to spend an hour or two tumbling around the Plateau before you can get to that. And due to this, I was kind of bored with the opening sequence. It didn’t really grip me as much as it could have. My pleasure with playing this game didn’t come until after I flew the coop, but more on that for future entries.

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Of course, many would see this as nitpicking, as its simply the start of the game and the creators didn’t want the players becoming so lost that they die continually until they get somewhat decent. For me, the beginning of a game is important—it serves as the hook, the gateway into what the player will be looking forward to doing. And though I openly state that the game becomes far more fun afterwards, does that mean I can disregard how “Meh” I felt while on the Plateau? Some would say so, though I can’t quite overlook it. A lot of that “Meh” feeling for me came in the form of the Old Man.

He serves as a handholder. Fine. He supplies you with the items you need to make the game more accessible. Fine. He tells you about how Calamity Ganon destroyed the world and that you’re struck with amnesia (Initial reaction: Ughhhhhhhh). Fine. What caught me off-guard was how long he would go on for, how trivial the story was, and how terrible the voice-acting is. If the Old Man were cut from the Plateau altogether, I’d likely have a better time with it. I didn’t mind him so much guiding me around and giving me tasks, but once push came to shove and he revealed he was actually the long-passed King of Hyrule and Zelda’s father, accompanied by a horrendous vocal performance, I zoned out. It’s one thing to have a boring story told to you, but to have a boring story told to you by a boring (and borderline cringey) voice is next to torture.

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Negatives aside, my experiences within the Plateau were generally positive (and frustrating). I found myself awakening Stone Talus within the woods, only to die against it about six times because I don’t know how to quit. After finally taking it down and realizing it only provides me with various ores, I became incredibly disappointed, because I saw no use in ores at that time. “A lot of effort for some rocks. Thanks, game,” I thought to myself. If only I knew. As sad as it may sound, I literally had to be told how to cook things. I didn’t think “Hold” was something that would eventually lead me into cooking. It took me a while to get the hang of the Option menu, too. One of the other major changes from the Zelda formula is how frequent the player has to go in and out of the Pause menus. Checking the map, organizing items, recovering hearts and adding stat boosts; cooking, changing weapons, clothing, and shields. It was something of a disruptive change, but I found the comfort of perusing items and doohickeys to be rather accessible and non-intrusive. I never even received the Warm Doublet, or cooked the recipe the Old Man wanted. I just cooked up some Spicy Peppers and blazed my way through the icy mountains naked (Okay, not naked, but may as well have been).

Something else of note is the change in combat procedure. There are only two variations of weapons: one-handed and two-handed. There are also elemental rods, but I’ll get into those later. One-handed weapons are quick and allow Link to use his shield in combat, but are generally weaker. Two-handed weapons are stronger, but are slower and don’t let Link use his shield in combat. One’s best means of attack is spamming the attack button, because there’s little else to really do with it, aside from holding down the attack button or throwing it. This little variation in combat is disheartening, though it’s never really bothered me. I find the variation between primary weapon, bow and arrow, and SPAMMING THE SHIT OUT OF BOMBS to be enough to hold me over. Combat also isn’t something that comes across too often—not like in past Zelda titles. Enemies (up to a certain point) don’t feel like nuisances, but rather something one has to strategize for in order to defeat them as effectively as possible, which is a huge plus. What Breath of the Wild lacks in intricacy it makes up for with effective simplicity and making the enemies genuine threats to your safety. The Isolated Plateau serves as a great starting point for taking down red Bokoblins with basically sticks and clubs as weapons.

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One annoying thing is weapon durability, which I’ll get a little more into in later posts. Many of the weapons will break upon defeating three or four enemies in combat, assuming one only uses their primary weapon. I understand the logic of wooden weapons and rocks not being too durable, but to some extent it gets irritating to always have to switch out other weapons in the middle of a fight. And the constant fear of running out of ammo, which is better suited for early segments of the game, only becomes a drag in harder zones.

Looking back, this post is a little unorganized, and I started criticizing things that don’t necessarily correlate to the Isolated Plateau. Nevertheless, I hope I managed to clarify that the Plateau is the “Obligatory Training Section” of the game, and that the best things are yet to come. Overall, if not for the Old Man, I would have no major issue with it, despite feeling like a rat in a cage. It wasn’t until after flying from the Plateau that I eventually stumbled upon… well, in due time.

(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of MKIceAndFire.)

The (Near) Perfection of Metroid Prime’s Opening Sequence

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There are very few experiences quite like Metroid Prime; not even with other games within its franchise. The game overall is a riveting, fine-tuned, and detailed adventure full of intrigue and atmosphere the likes Nintendo has yet to recapture since. One of the most important aspects of a story is with what people refer to as “The hook,” something to grab the reader right away and decrease the chance they’ll drop the story altogether. While many games take the time to lay out a basic tutorial section prior to any of the more extreme gameplay, Metroid Prime manages to do this and more with a perfect combination of context and world building. The execution of Metroid Prime’s hook, along with a dreary visual style and flawless handling, make it one of the most memorable and beloved opening sequences in video game history. Almost.

Samus Aran has received an unidentified distress beacon from a small space vessel and has taken it upon herself to track it down. Upon arrival, she is met with basic security measures, but the vessel seems all but abandoned. Should this opening scenario ring familiar for fans of the franchise, I deduce that this is an homage to Super Metroid, whose opening sequence is very similar. However, during the era of the Super Nintendo, the hardware could only capture so much of the presence set by that entrance, resulting in only a few, darkened rooms before meeting a harrowing conflict. In Metroid Prime, the scale has been done far beyond the capabilities of what its predecessor set. Room after room of decrepit, broken shambles of scientific activity. Samus can do little but take in the sights of the aftermath of a specific event that doomed the vessel and its passengers.

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Though not required, it is heavily recommended that one use Samus’s Scan Visor as much as possible during this sequence. While some may complain that it breaks the flow of the game, there’s an endless amount of information present to fill the void of narrative context along the way. What happened to this vessel? What are all of these holding units and specimens being used for? How did it get reduced to this miserable state? All of these questions being answered by logs found within and the remains of what turns out to be Space Pirates build a world and an atmosphere that only Metroid can properly manage to maintain. Scanning each and every area of the frigate brings froth a terrifying tone of foreboding that Samus is soon to discover.

Playing Metroid Prime for the first time, Samus knows only as much as the player does, embodying the eyes and ears of the player through the first-person perspective. While Super Metroid’s side-scrolling perspective does well enough from a narrative aspect, Metroid Prime’s decision to go first-person marked a turning point in the level of immersion present in the game’s ever-changing galaxies. Many of the sights become your own, with the dangers lurking becoming all the more intimate and frightening. It is you finding these things, fighting these creatures, and making your way deeper into what could be your inevitable demise.

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Even at 2002 and on a console not known for being high-powered, Metroid Prime’s visual style and sound quality are still top-notch even by today’s standards. With a crashed frigate in the middle of space, drifting aimlessly unmanned, there is a distinct lack in music and a higher emphasis on sound. The horrid coo’s of disgusting creatures known as Parasites, feasting upon the remains of deceased Space Pirates and interfering with the technical aspects of the vessel. The dying groans of what remains of the Space Pirate army. All that accompanies the trek only serves to accentuate the uneasy tension that grows with each room passed. The make-up of the environment is masterfully designed, portraying a ship that experienced a horrific accident, one which almost completely demolished its structure. Fire, debris, corpses, low-lighting, and the necessity to activate certain electronic access points are but some of what lies in wait. As the situation adjusts to meet the events to come, the music changes to suit every situation without fail. Little breaths of air, such as finding hidden trinkets and pathways leading to goodies, are met with a lapse of importance, done by the Metroid franchise’s signature jingle.

Technically, one could argue that this opening sequence is just a tutorial experience for the rest of the game. I would definitely agree, but what makes this so great is the context of the story that doesn’t make it seem so. The only thing that makes this stick out as one are the occasional messages that appear onscreen to aid the player with controls and useful tips. Excluding that, the opening sequence is one that begins the story of Samus’s descent to Tallon IV, the major setting of the game. It also introduces a major antagonist to combat later on in Meta Ridley. A chance to familiarize oneself with the control scheme and handling of the game while also fitting within what makes the Metroid franchise so remarkably eerie.

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Most of this post has been a lot of subjective praising of atmosphere and narrative context, but for those wanting something easy to grasp, Metroid Prime controls beautifully. The beam weapon shoots at fast as the player can press the button, the movement is fluid and realistic, input is responsive and never faulty. The game is so well-tuned that even glitching the game is a meticulous process of taking advantage of the game’s intense programming. The only recurring issue I have on occasion is with the Grapple Points, but those are used only once in the opening sequence, so it’s hardly worth noting. Such precision makes battling at tip-top shape efficient and immensely gratifying. One will truly feel as though they’re the universe’s greatest bounty hunter.

The building of tension, the looming darkness behind every door; this foreshadowing leading up to the first boss of the game, and the source of the vessel’s destruction, makes the slow entrance to her domain all the more chilling. Prior to the fight, one can choose to scan a pile of Space Pirate corpses directly before the central core of the frigate, with it describing the bodies as not “. . .[having] been here for long.” This chilling threat makes the lead-up to the battle all the more impactful, even if the boss fight itself isn’t too tough.

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What would a Metroid title be without a self-destruct sequence? It at the very least doesn’t feel random this time, as defeating the Parasite Queen has her fall into the reactor core, effectively overheating the power running through the frigate. Again, the music changes from that of nervous anticipation to stressful panic as the player is given seven minutes to escape the time bomb of a space vessel. This change of pace gives the “tutorial” feel of the process feel far behind, pushing the player to think on their toes and traverse what they’ve already experienced back to the entrance. No longer is the slow pace of scanning everything and finding out all that took place, all Samus is focused on is survival, taking advantage of every tool in her arsenal and the disintegrating foundation of the ship. This energy and pace is made all the more memorable by the length and size of the ship altogether, a vast difference from the station in Super Metroid. All the more memorable, for all the wrong reasons, is what occurs during the escape.

At one point, Samus must scan an electrical output to give power to an elevator. Upon doing so, the game will cut to a cinematic scene where Samus quickly turns and faces an oncoming collection of explosions, with the shockwave hurling her hard into the wall of the elevator. Struggling to regain her balance, the suit begins to spark and malfunction, breaking apart into a lesser version of her Varia Suit, simply referred to as the Power Suit. With this, she loses a large assortment of her weapons and utensils, including the Missile Launcher, Morph Ball, and Grapple Beam.

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This entire scenario is completely garbage for a number of reasons. While I understand the need to remove items only to find them later on to pad the game, the manner at which it happens is highly illogical. Samus has time and again been shown to withstand a number of strikes and attacks from a variety of different powerful creatures. All of a sudden, the shockwave from a few (visually benign) explosions is enough to knock her back so hard against the wall that it not only destroys her current suit, but flings her other accessories onto the planet below? Lazy is all I can describe it as. Lazy and ridiculous. Why not have Meta Ridley launch a surprise attack against Samus and take her items and scatter them across the surface of Tallon IV? That would make a hell of a lot more sense in hindsight. It’s the one noteworthy thing about the opening sequence that makes it less than flawless.

Nintendo has a high collection of games throughout the years that have had a huge emotional impact on millions of people around the world. For me personally, Metroid Prime is one of those few undeniable experiences that keeps me intrigued and immersed no matter how many times I play through it. It may even be my favorite game of all time, but that’s for another time. One thing’s for sure, though, Metroid Prime has one of greatest opening scenes in the history of Nintendo and video games in general, with a great blend of atmospheric transitions and top-notch technical design and gameplay. It beautifully attains the level of intergalactic space drama that the series used to be known for, without the need for heavy bouts of dialogue and emotional monologues. Everything the player needs to know is shown through the nuances of the game’s environmental storytelling and the optional inclusion of detail through scanning the trinkets that make it up. Even when nothing is said, it says a whole lot more than spoken words could ever manage.

Top 10 Worst Anime I Viewed in 2016

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Please note that this is notTop 10 Worst Anime of 2016 list. I haven’t even watched enough anime from this year to meet the criteria for this list! Rather, this is a list of the worst anime I watched in 2016, as in it doesn’t have to have aired in 2016 to make it, only that I had to have finished (a majority of) it in 2016.

While the number of anime I watched this year had gone up tremendously from last year, there were still quite a few anime that marked a bad omen. Anime that hover within my subconscious and make me question why I still even put up with the medium. This list is comprised of the absolute worst I saw this year, and like my list of Best Anime, all of these picks will be anime I’ve already covered on the blog. That being the case, I will link my full thoughts to every pick, along with a structured rambling as to why, in general, the pick is so haunting to me.

#10: Kyou no 5 no 2 (TV)

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My score: 4/10
My full thoughts.

Sometimes, optimistic expectations can lead you into a situation that ultimately isn’t worth your time. Such is the case with me and Kyou no 5 no 2, an anime I thought would be a carefree, psychological look at the maturation of male and female students residing in the same class. Of course, this took a turn for the worst, and I wound up being treated to middle schoolers providing far more fan service than any sort of insightful development.

That’s not to say the series was entirely so, as it dedicated a few scenes of the same amount of episodes to showing some sweet moments between characters. Some of the disaster of the anime was based on missed opportunity, as it had the makings in place for something along the lines of what I was expecting. Characters were occasionally sentimental to their peers, though the formula of the show derided any sort of lasting impression.

Show a weirdly sexual act disguised as an ordinary action. Make the male lead be an idiot. Have the classmates make fun of him for it. Rinse and repeat until the end of the series. It ends up as one-dimensional as can be, without a single serious attempt at fleshing out the characters to be anything than the role they’re given. It’s disappointing, but that’s what gives it a spot on the list.

#9: Kiznaiver

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My score: 4/10
My full thoughts.

I know of a few people who will disagree with this pick. However, I feel this series is a rather convoluted attempt at embellishing THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!

I certainly had high hopes for the show, as it is yet another original story from Trigger, who developed the infamous Kill la Kill. I felt the ambition present to provide a story with so many drastic opposites to be admirable; if only they had the time to do it skillfully. More than anything about Kiznaiver, the story is a mess of plotholes, bad pacing, and borderline angsty teenage drama that tries to do far too much without proper development from the cast. It comes across as pretentious and entirely ridiculous, especially the last episode.

It had a promising start, with a number of characters and their interactions being humorous and spontaneously witty. As the plot began to take hold of that same energy, unfortunately, it turned it into a far too serious, disingenuous waste of the title’s potential. I genuinely believe the title would’ve been far better had it been given more time to develop the characters and their relationships with one another rather than giving little, vague clues as to the weight of the experiment taking place and the corporation lurking in the shadows. There’s a lot to like here, but everything gets dragged down by the rushed ending and the overly dark mood of the second half.

#8: ReLIFE

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My score: 4/10
My full thoughts.

There’s a large debate upon the quality of “Escapism” in anime. For those unaware, the type of “Escapism” being discussed is the manner of the main character being a down on their luck loser who conveniently is put into a position where they can use their relatively useless “skills” to their advantage. Notable examples of this include Sword Art OnlineNo Game No Life, and now ReLIFE. Some argue that this type of narrative too conveniently makes the title character “OP,” while other characters fall at their feet at the strength of their “OP-ness.” I’m more among this group of people, though I acknowledge the sort of enjoyment one could get out of this premise. ReLIFE is yet another example of escapism of, what I would argue, a very large kind.

Typically, the prospect of “fanfiction” in my posts is a negative connotation. I feel escapism too easily necessitates the main character in a positive light unnecessarily, deriding a lot of the development from conflict they could be receiving. In any case, ReLIFE has a lot of the negative aspects of escapism that I don’t care for, and when it plays out like any typical story in anime, it becomes less tolerable. The anime is actually highly rated on most ani-databases, which both confuses me and doesn’t surprise me. Escapism leads to a lot of juicy “what if” moments that a lot of viewers clamor for. For me, though, the shortcuts taken to get to those moments makes them feel hollow.

This blurb has said next to nothing about ReLIFE at all. I apologize. The show is slightly nonsensical and entirely within the clichés set by anime laced with escapism. The characters range from one-dimensionally cute to irritatingly angsty (Kariu). There’s a lot left on the table in terms of logic, and the main character is picture-perfect model for escapism lead. And unlike the leads from Sword Art Online or No Game No Life, he exudes nothing that would show him to be any sort of loser in his past life, or winner in his new one. He essentially adds nothing to the plot while events happen around him because he’s the lightning rod for dramatic events. It’s horribly frustrating and I was elated to be done with the series when it ended. I didn’t have to wait long, though, as the entire season released in a single day. How convenient!

#7: Dragon Ball

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My score: 3/10
My full thoughts.

It almost pains me to put this here, but it must be done. Dragon Ball has far, far too much bad to not be included on this list.

It is the anime that launched the legendary career of Akira Toriyama. It is the precursor to one of the most influential anime of all time, inspiring a number of different artists to fulfill their dreams. The spirit of adventure and creativity is definitely present, but not much else really makes the series worth watching in its entirety.

A large number of nagging complaints make this series nearly painful to watch—most notably the ferocious amount of filler and inconsequential events due to Goku’s overwhelming strength. The series very rarely ever becomes “good,” and once it reaches that point, one is already halfway through the series. Sifting through an ocean of bad isn’t normally worth a deserted island of decency. There are a number of things here that I loathe about shounen series, things that have inspired a lot of other shounen series to do things similarly. Thanks, Toriyama.

Despite the score, there’s a strange appreciation I have for the series that keeps it from being placed any lower on the list. Maybe it’s nostalgia or my innate love for creativity, but whatever it is, I can’t hold Dragon Ball to such contempt for long. It’s bad, absolutely, but it makes up for (some of) it with a lengthy amount of charm and flair. Cliché or not, they’re riveting to watch… normally.

#6: Gatchaman Crowds: Insight

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My score: 3/10
Mu full thoughts (on both seasons).

The second season specifically, though the first season isn’t that great, either. Gatchaman Crowds: Insight is a bunch of interesting ideas spewed out in the most inopportune of ways. It’s intriguing with what it tries to do, but at the sake of the characters’ charm and any logical sense. While the first season essentially parades around the female lead like the second coming of Christ, the second sets her aside for an up-and-coming apprentice type… who is uninteresting.

The entire show feels unnecessary by the end. There isn’t really much of a point, as the vague interpretations of critical thinking is made kaput by slanting the argument one way. The main characters aren’t really important, slipping aside to let the side characters cause conflict. The arguments being made are simplistic in execution. Everything about the series, even the weirdly abstract visuals of their super forms, feel so lifeless that it hardly matters. It’s entirely unnecessary, while at the same time forcibly abrupt.

I’ve run out of things to say because it had that little impact on me. It’s forgettable.

#5: Oda Nobuna no Yabou

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My score: 3/10
My full thoughts.

I mean, c’mon. What even is this?

A retelling of the famous Oda Nobunaga, except all important figures (fictional and otherwise) are hot, teenage girls. The reason I even decided to watch this is because it’s been something I’ve been curious about since the first Summer of Anime back in 2012. In hindsight, I should’ve known from the premise right away that the series is nothing but fan service fodder.

Not necessarily fan service in the form of skinship (though it is present), but the fact that all of the figures have to be attractive females, surrounding an oblivious male lead (who surprisingly chooses a girl). What even is the point? Not that I think an all-female cast in this type of setting is bad, but it smells too much like big businesses appealing to a certain demographic. It would be forgiven if the series were any good. Surprising some (but not myself), it isn’t.

Clichés abound and characters (all females) behaving in the most one-dimensional, archetypal ways. The tsundere, dandere, cute loli, kuudere, etc. Not to mention some characters have superpowers at their fingertips, making anything vaguely realistic feel stupid. The drama, the intrigue; all for naught thanks to the series bending reality to its own whim. I suppose one who complains about “realism” in a dimension where Oda Nobunaga is a cutie patootie is a lost cause, right?

Despite the arguments I may receive, I feel the series is plainly cliché and hampered by its obscene desire to flaunt the female body in every light. The sad part is, I actually enjoyed a few scenes from this anime, and felt had they continued that trend of showing the depth of the characters, it wouldn’t be so bad. They didn’t, so it is. Very much so.

#4: Nagasarete Airantou

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My score: 2.5/10
My “full” thoughts.

I didn’t say a lot about this one when I covered it during the last Summer of Anime, but everything about the premise gives you exactly what you need to know. A boy gets stranded on an island that’s completely devoid of males. Only females. Mostly young and attractive. Wonder how this was conceived? Hmm.

As is typical of the medium, the male lead is surrounded by a bunch of attractive women conveniently his age. He then spends about two-cours goofing around with them in a variety of different antics. Also note that the island gives birth to magical creatures and events, such as giant animals, ghosts, deep-sea dragons, among others. All of this in mind, is the show going to be to any degree serious? No? Good work. You know anime.

Except it is serious during the last few episodes, but we know as an audience that nothing will come of it because the power of sunshine, happiness, and rainbows devours all who think otherwise. It’s a stupid, stupid series with a number of different cutesy scenarios designed to entertain and slightly arouse the male demographic. The cast of females are all archetypes, and the male lead is, GET THIS, oblivious and pure-hearted. It’s almost like an accumulation of everything anime is negatively stereotyped for all wrapped up in a two-cour package of benign absurdity. The manga for this anime is still going to this day, and has been going for nearly fifteen years. Amazing, isn’t it?

#3: Campione!

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My score: 2/10
My full thoughts.

God, this anime is disgusting.

It disgraces ancient mythology. It disgraces foreigners. It disgraces THE POWER OF EMOTIONS! It disgraces anime, period. Such a rushed, unguided mess of a story that has no idea what it wants to accomplish. Y’know, aside from sexual fan service.

All women fall for the guy because lol. The guy can unleash the powers of God because lol. The guy gets to make out with most female characters to “””collect information.””” Everything is so sneakily designed to cater to the horny male demographic that it genuinely disgusts me. It’s sickening, something so vapid and uninspired.

Please, just read my entry on the anime. I really don’t want to think more upon how little good this anime provides. I’m getting a headache just from looking at that gif out of the corners of my eyes.

#2: Akikan!

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My score: 1/10
My full “thoughts.”

Hobbies are often a great way of meeting new people, but how could Kakeru Diachi, who collects rare juice cans, have ever suspected that he’d meet a fascinating new girl when he attempted to DRINK her? Naming her Melon, because she’s got great melon… soda, Kakeru quickly learns that she’s an Akikan—a beautiful girl who’s also a special can created to fight other Akikans in a strange experiment to determine what kind of container is better: steel or aluminum!

Will becoming involved in this ridiculously twisted research project gone amuck complicate Kakeru’s life incredibly? Of course it will, but because Melon’s steel body needs carbon dioxide to breathe, he’s now stuck with her since she’s too CO2 dependent! And when his wealthy, attractive, best childhood friend Najimi gets HER own aluminum Akikan, the trouble really begins!”

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#1: Eiken: Eikenbu yori Ai wo Komete

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My score: 1/10
My “full” thoughts.

Forget what I said about Campione!This is a disgrace to anime.

Now, I’m sure some of you might be wondering, “Kapodaco, why put yourself through this when you obviously know it’s atrocious?” Glad you asked, because it’s dear time spent with my brother. Watching terrible anime and laughing at it. Quite cruel of us, I know, but it’s a hobby.

The pure, unabashed enthusiasm of sexual fan service in anime. Eiken has everything from boobs to butts to more boobs and boobs. Every situation has ’em. Every situation uses ’em. Females get naked. Have their boobies bounce and jiggle. Get squirted on by white liquids and chocolate and what-not. Eat bananas and other sorts of long, hard things. Constantly swim and sunbathe and participate in events that require less clothing. Hell, some women get naked for no reason! The passion for nudity is definitely one I can dig. Right, guys?

I mean, there’s no redeeming qualities at all. It’s Mars of Destruction levels of hilariously bad. Helter Skelter levels of hilariously bad. A two-episode OVA showing the standard of quality only anime is known for. It’s perfect. Everyone should watch it. In fact, disregard my full thoughts of it. It’s no longer part of this list. It’s better than Toradora!. Just watch it alone, or with someone who will appreciate the female body. It’s pretty bountiful, if you know what I mean.

The rating for these titles and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Top 10 Best Anime I Viewed in 2016

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Please note that this is notTop 10 Best Anime of 2016 list. I haven’t even watched enough anime from this year to meet the criteria for this list! Rather, this is a list of the best anime I watched in 2016, as in it doesn’t have to have aired in 2016 to make it, only that I had to have finished (a majority of) it in 2016.

2016 was a bit of an anime renaissance for me, as since 2012, I had been watching less and less total anime yearly up until now. With a little over sixty different titles firmly planted within my brain, I decided to pick out ten of the ones I felt topped all others in terms of objective quality and subjective enjoyment. While I include both criteria, this isn’t necessarily a be-all, know-all in terms of what I consider to be the best of the best, as this list is a personal one. Also note that every pick on this list will be anime I’ve already covered on my blog, so I will link my thoughts/reviews along with them.

#10: Michiko to Hatchin

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My score: 7/10
My full thoughts.

Looking back on the anime I viewed this year, I was slightly surprised as to how much I actually like this anime compared to most. If one were to ask me if Michiko to Hatchin would’ve made this list before last week, I probably would’ve said “No.” Turns out, I’ve seen a lot of mediocre titles this year, so Michiko to Hatchin makes it based on process of elimination. Don’t get me wrong, though. The anime is a good one.

While the premise of two polar opposites traveling together to a mutual goal isn’t far-fetched, the degree of chemistry between the main characters more than makes up for the story’s lack of originality. Not only that, but I really enjoyed the steady progression and the pacing of the journey they set upon, which feels like they’ve traveled a long way for a long time. The feeling of time passing and the two growing into their ending states is genuine and relatable, even in the most inopportune of times. I also really enjoyed the hostility and the cruelty of the outside world that suits the hard-nosed Michiko and proves difficult to manage for the young Hatchin. This kind of atmosphere makes for a creatively unfamiliar anime setting.

One of the few flaws here is the excess of side characters that appear only to cause empathy and drive random, one-episode plots that the characters have to go through as observers. Should the anime have focused less on these aspects, it probably would’ve fared better on this list. As it is now, however, is still a decent watch and definitely recommended for those looking for anime with a different cultural setting.

#9: Umi Monogatari: Anata ga Ite Kureta Koto

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My score: 7/10
My full thoughts.

I genuinely don’t understand the flak that this anime receives on most ani-databases. I went into this anime expecting cringey fun, but I left in a confused state of bliss. I liked the anime. A lot. A lot more than most, even. This anime is ranked within the 4,000’s on MyAnimeList!

For whatever reason, the aspects that most anime within the same genre try to incorporate into their stories—magical girls, the power of friendship and family, the perspective of good and evil—works tremendously well in Umi Monogatari. One could say that this title is good at meeting the standards set by typical storytelling basics, which is amazing because most anime flub up on one or two aspects, at least.  It isn’t anything spectacular, but it does everything it tries to do in such a charming way that I can’t help but give it a decent score. It helps when I like the characters, too.

Clichés hamper the story quite a bit here, as would be expected from those going into it. I also didn’t care for the male love interest, who did all of absolutely nothing to earn any reason to be the object of affection for the female lead. I’m not sure he gets more than a few lines of dialogue the entire show. Somehow, Umi Monogatari manages to make these clichés tolerable at best, and even incorporates a smidgen of creativity within those clichés, which I thoroughly enjoyed. While the enveloping doubt of whether this anime is any good or not wreaks havoc in my mind, take it from me now, as of typing this at 11:49 A.M. Central U.S. Time on December 26th, 2016, that this anime is pretty good, and well worth the watch.

#8: Code Geass: Hangyaku no Lelouch (Season One)

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My Score: 7/10
My full thoughts.

Fun fact: for the longest time, I refused to see this out of spite, due to a self-perceived imbalance of hype and quality regarding it. Ah, such is youth. I’ve learned since then that the passion of others shouldn’t drive you away from such things, but rather encourage you to check the subject out and craft your own opinion on it. Such is the case of Code Geass, one of a few beloved anime series I’ve had the pleasure of watching this year.

I do not think this series is perfect by any means, however the amount of dedication to concocting a formulated and efficient story of strategy and character drama is a tremendous draw to someone looking for something with a little more meat to chew on. I suppose the incorporation of the characters being in high school was a means of helping the audience ease into the political conflict. Still, the atmosphere and the pacing of the show was slow and unforgiving during this point, and a lot of characters here prove rather dull in the grand scheme of things.

Once the series starts rolling, it;s hard to take your eyes away. The final half of this series is pretty heavy-handed with all it tries to flesh out, providing a lot of different things to consider. I genuinely enjoy the effort to cover plotholes with every aspect of the story, whether it be Lelouch’s powers or C.C.’s origins. It makes it feel as though the story wants to be remembered as clean and stable. Of course, this could all be trampled within the second season, which I have yet to see. Pessimistic foretelling aside, Code Geass is a good view for anybody looking for something with a tad more thought behind the actions of its characters and ideals.

#7: Mawaru Penguindrum

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My score: 7.5/10
My full thoughts.

There’s creativity in anime, and then there’s literal mindfucks. Ikuhara is a colorful madman and his stories are all the more entertaining for it. There are times when I feel he oversteps his bounds, but the fact that he’s willing to put so much enthusiasm and symbolism in his works at all shows how pretentious dedicated to his job he is, which is incredibly appreciated as a viewer.

Mawaru Penguindrum has a lot of what Ikuhara likes to do in his works, while also establishing things in a manner straightforward enough for most to understand. Keep in mind the “most,” as some are more than likely going to be lost at some point or another in this series. I certainly was, which was why I had to restart this anime from the beginning a few years after putting it on-hold sixteen episodes in. It’s unlike many other anime out there, aside from those already within Ikuhara’s library.

I definitely wouldn’t recommend this anime to starting weebs, as it throws far too much at them. This is geared more towards, for lack of a better term, elitists who can appreciate the differences from standard anime and the symbolism of many different scenes shown within. It’s distinctive, absolutely, but whether or not it all makes any sense is up to you to decide. For me, it’s definitely enjoyable, but I wonder if everything’s really all there.

#6: Hanada Shounen-shi

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My score: 7.5/10
My full thoughts.

I’m willing to admit outright that I don’t have a lot of older anime titles under my belt. Even so, I can definitely tell that Hanada Shounen-shi was going for the carefree, simplistic lifestyle and direction of older titles. More than that, though, the episodic nature of the show gives a sense of every day being an adventure, especially for the young hero Hanada, who has the ability to see spirits due to an accident prior to the show’s debut episode.

I really miss brats as main characters in stories. There’s something really charming about the main character being immature and learning from the different experiences happening around him. I love that sense of maturity and growth from those who obviously can’t handle the concept over a steady progression. In Hanada’s case, he’s a good-hearted kid, just stubborn and easily irritable, much like any kid. He holds the keys to how the story goes, and he rarely disappoints.

There’s a really great emphasis on acceptance in this anime, typically in the form of loss. Hanada Shounen-shi is usually a feel-good story within story arcs, with the occasional developmental episode focusing on those outside of the spirit realm. What I appreciate most about this series is how everyone feels alive, human, and entirely within their roles in society. Do you hate how goodie-goodie everyone is in anime now-a-days? I am. This anime has a good portion of people being snarky assholes and jokesters who enjoy beer, babes, and the material pleasures of life. Because a majority of people totally aren’t like that, right? And because they’re not, they’re automatically good people, yeah? More than anything, despite the fantasy elements attached, Hanada Shounen-shi feels real, which makes it a hell of a lot easier to empathize with.

#5: NHK ni Youkoso!

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My score: 8/10
My full thoughts.

Much like Hanada Shounen-shi, the protagonist to NHK ni Youkoso! is not your typical oblivious high school student. This anime focuses on NEET culture, and all that it entails. A wide variety of emotions exude from the situations that arise from this anime that it’s hard not to find the story so charming. Charmingly pitiful.

When one thinks of morals in anime, usually the trends are along the lines of “Don’t do bad. Believe in yourself. Friendship is good. Don’t ever choose a girl,” and the like. NHK ni Youkoso! offers a darker moral compass, as it shows the struggles that one deals with when they’ve become so wrapped up in their own deluded fantasies that they’ve become programmed to deny reality as they see fit. Such is the more extreme cases of NEEThood that the anime likes to embellish. The horrifying truth is that thousands, if not more suffer from this kind of lethargic, sometimes insane mindset that riddles them with a mix of guilt and self-loathing.

It’s dramatic, humorous, and somewhat sentimental. There’s a lot to love with this series and a lot more thought put forth to the nature of those with the mindset of our title character. At the end of the day, the viewer can make the experience all the more fulfilling by trying to place themselves within the lead’s shoes. While the show on its own is good enough, those fantastical fantasies give a sizzle to the metaphorical steak.

#4: Tsuritama

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My score: 8/10
My full thoughts.

Why, yes. An anime about fishing and friendship. What makes you think this wouldn’t be within the Top 10?

While Ikuhara tries to hammer in every aesthetic mark of symbolism as humanly possible, Tsuritama has just enough to make this series feel both whimsically random and calculatingly intriguing. On the surface, a lot of what happens in the story makes zero sense and doesn’t manage to do anything for those looking for anything serious. Within the navy depths, crowded with fish and underwater specimens, there’s a story taking place here, one of traditional moral value and a little off-kilter humor to go along with it. A boy isn’t confident in himself, especially after moving from place to place all his life. What he needs is an alien to accompany him on a quest to catch fish. What?

I loved the creativity with visual cues and the absurdity of the progression of the plot. Sometimes it didn’t make sense while other times it didn’t seem warranted, but overall, the entertainment value for this show is sky-high. It has such a weird display of animation and running gags that I can’t help but find this anime adorable. Granted, the ending episodes strayed somewhat from this and became more of a typical “End it with a dramatic bang!” sort of deal, which is disappointing. Even so, the diversity of characters, situations, events, and an underlying structure to all of it makes Tsuritama both memorable and fantastic.

#3: Hyouge Mono

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My score: 8.5/10
My full thoughts.

Now we’re getting into the good stuff. Prepare yourself, kids.

Hyouge Mono is immensely likable, different, and incredibly unpredictable. Before last summer, I had never heard of it, nor have I ever seen or heard anyone make one mention of it. Ever. It was something that was completely new and unknown to me. It is also one of those rare “three-cours” that are spoken of only in myth. Truly, this was something that was going to take a lot of courage to go through with. I was feeling confident in myself, as I wanted something of a challenge during my Summer. I went in a man and came out an aestheticist.

It’s beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. It’s slow at first. Very slow. It takes a while for things to kick in. When they do, though, the anime is an absolute blast to watch. It’s silly and fun, but serious in its political themes and wartime strategy. It has a lot of different themes going for it, whether character drama, political powers clashing, battles over land, honor and respect, and most importantly, aesthetics. The focus on aesthetics is a fascinating turn for the industry, and the humor that arises because of it is so ridiculous that it’s charming. A character will lay on their bed, dying of a wound to the chest, vocalizing their will and testament, only to have their most precious item be a wonderfully crafted, slightly torn old bowl that is practically useless. And when they speak of how wonderful it is, as the light shining from the window blankets the bowl’s craftsmanship, the eyes of the men in the room grow to the size of tennis rackets. Their lips quiver, their hands tighten, their faces cave into themselves. God help me, this is so stupid.

The amazing thing about this anime is that it perfectly blends that stupidity with genuinely likable and respectable characters, making the inevitability of death all the more heartbreaking. The triumphs of man for material pleasure is in full force here, and the changes made to structures and the value of various things changing from those who reside in power are interesting to keep note of. Hyouge Mono is also very good at poking fun at the recent trend of bigotry of humankind. Don’t agree with my political beliefs? Screw you. Don’t agree that black is the best color for this little bowl in the corner of my room? Screw you. It’s so strange how funny this is to me, but it is. The whole series is so whimsical in its approach to every aspect that it becomes all the more memorable for it. If only it was a little better paced when it started, or else this may have reached “Favorite” status.

#2: Shirobako

shirobako 1

My score: 9/10
My full thoughts.

What better way to appreciate anime than to watch an anime about making anime? Sounds riveting, don’t it? Luckily, it is. It’s absolutely vibrant in its execution, and not just in the way the anime is made, but with a sense of camaraderie with those who are employed to make that anime come to life. A quintessential love letter to the industry, in good times and bad, Shirobako is a wonderfully meta excuse to draw anime drawing anime.

The biggest strength here is character, as each of them has a specific role and personality partially due to it. The development of said characters is wonderful to watch from beginning to end, though admittedly not all receive equal treatment. Aside from this, characters are also uniquely written to be realistic in their situations, while retaining the entertainment required to be “characters” in a comedy/drama-ish kind of monstrosity. They have brains, heart, and girth the size of my Mt. Everest.

Something that is shown so prevalently in anime is passion; passion for whatever the situation calls for, though normally strength or determination. It’s become so widespread that this sense of passion has become second-nature to viewers, in that it may not feel as strong as it intends. Shirobako never has this problem, as the passion is brought forth at the most absolute precise of times. Rarely and surely, the motivation and upbeat charisma of the cast makes the show all the easier to cheer on, but only because they aren’t constantly throwing it in your face. One can’t be passionate all the time; it feels more special in small doses. Shirobako has all the right doses, like a good doctor. My heart is excited, but comfortable.

Much like the process of anime-making, Shirobako is a carefully crafted process of hard work and genuine love for the industry. I would tell anyone to go see this, but at this point, do I even need to?

#1: Dennou Coil

dennou coil 1

My score: 9.5/10
My “full” thoughts.

It takes a lot, it really does, to land on my “Favorite” list. Somehow, without any expectations, Dennou Coil managed to do just that without even trying.

In the spirit of remaining consistent, I still won’t say much about this anime, as infuriating as that may be to some. My only advice is to watch it. Immediately. There is a spirit of adventure, the charm of the characters, the trials of what life puts you through and the maturity to accept it that makes this series more than a simple “coming of age” story. It’s a magical, wonderful anime that is nearly flawless in my eyes, if not for a meandering couple of episodes near the halfway point. Any anime that can have me nearly in tears deserves as much praise as it can get from me subjectively.

I would definitely put this up there with any anime out there, whether it be movies from Studio Ghibli or top-rated anime such as Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood or Steins;Gate. It’s an accumulation of everything I want to find in a story (aside from a strong romance) and a good indication that the industry is still capable of making wonderful original stories. It’s without a doubt the best anime I saw this year and will likely hold its ground against competitors in the near future. Until then, Dennou Coil is a qualified masterpiece.

The rating for these titles and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.