Posted in Anime

Shirobako (The Anime about Anime)

Synopsis- Shirobako begins with the five members of the Kaminoyama High School animation club all making a pledge to work hard on their very first amateur production and make it into a success. After showing it to an audience at a culture festival, that pledge turned into a huge dream—to move to Tokyo, get jobs in the anime industry and one day join hands to create something amazing.

Fast forward two and a half years and two of those members, Aoi Miyamori and Ema Yasuhara, have made their dreams into reality by landing jobs at a famous production company called Musashino Animation. Everything seems perfect at first. However, as the girls slowly discover, the animation industry is a bit tougher than they had imagined. Who said making your dream come true was easy? – Directly from MAL

Produced by P.A. Works, the fall anime of 2014, Shirobako, is a rose coloured window to the world of animation. A somewhat romantic view of the anime industry, while Shirobako might oversimplify and ignore some truths, it is an educational view on how anime is truly made.

The best word to describe Shirobako  would be…busy. Much like how work is at an anime studio, the characters in Shirobako are always running from here to there in an attempt to meet ends. I think watching Shirobako developed in me a huge appreciation for the process of animation.

The anime itself has a clean, clear cut character design, with an overall lovely art style. With three opening and four endings, they all fit the theme of the anime perfectly.

Shirobako’s true  strength, surprisingly however, is its giant cast of characters. While it claims to have five main characters, side characters often seem to overshadow them a bit. Every character is Shirobako is done well, with their own thoughts and personalities, and while their isn’t exactly much scope for character growth, it is a delight to get a look inside their head amidst all the hustle bustle.

If  you went to watch Shirobako expecting some deep moving plot, you would be disappointed. However, if you are looking for more information into the anime industry or just simply enjoy watching a office anime with busy lives, Shirobako is for you.

 

Posted in Anime, Manga

Skip Beat; Or Why You Should Definitely Read It

I’ve never been one for romance. Books, manga, anime, it doesn’t matter. The leads were destined to be together, the heroine is always  a klutz and has a habit of chasing guys who aren’t interested, until he is.

Which is why, after dropping the series over and over again after the first chapter, I picked it up one summer afternoon, and then I couldn’t find it in me to put it down. Despite the agony of waiting for a whole month for a new chapter, the pain of reading a series that never ends, Skip Beat’s hold on me turned out to be stronger than I could ever imagine.

From the start, Skip Beat is the type of series you either love or hate. Though, the hatred probably has more to do with slow pacing than any problem with the character or storyline.

Currently at 38 Volumes, Skip Beat is probably one of the longest running shoujo manga out there and for good reasons. Skip Beat! follows the journey of one Kyoko Mogami as she tries to make her way in the Show Biz industry after being jilted by her childhood friend turned musician Sho Fuwa. Brutally used by Sho as a maid, and thirsting for revenge, Kyouko decides to beat Sho at his own game by joining LME(where Sho’s rival actor Ren Tsuruga works) , with the sole dream of having Sho begging at her feet.

From the synopsis, Skip Beat sounds surprisingly simple. In fact, Kyoko sounds like another stupid girl, which is one of the reasons I couldn’t look past the first chapter. Kyoko was every other hard working girl whose sole purpose is to uplift the man in her life and while it is perfectly fine to do that out of a well informed choice, it is stupid to waste your time on someone who doesn’t appreciate it.

I first started reading Skip Beat! when I was thirteen, and I think it shaped a lot of how I view the world, or should I say it reinforced my belief on how relationship works. While it doesn’t portray Sho as an absolute bad guy, Skip Beat! makes it abundantly clear it is not nice to treat someone like trash. Even if it is a guy pulling the hair of a girl he likes, abuse is abuse, and Skip Beat! doesn’t try to glorify it like a lot of Shoujo does.

Romantic progress on the other hand is frustratingly slow. A male lead like Ren Tsuruga, and a female lead like Kyoko, fast romance is a far fetched dream . However, what little progress we have got, is the kind where you are certainly going to start screaming, doesn’t matter whether you are male or female.

The romantic aspect is also quite realistic, as it is understood that while it is easy for Ren to fall in love, someone with a broken heart like Kyoko is bound to take a longer to time.

Ah, but romance isn’t everything. What Skip Beat is about its characters and acting. Skip Beat is about Kyoko. You could probably remove all the characters from Skip Beat and just have fun watching Kyoko enjoy acting, doing crazy things, and try new things to understand herself- which isn’t to say the side characters aren’t fun, they are lovely. Kyoko is smart, crazy, funny, hardworking, and a little bit broken. She is emotionally as strong as she vulnerable, which makes it a delight to watch her grow as a character.

Then, we have Ren. Ren who loves Kyoko, Ren who is the biggest star in the Skip Beat world and after the initial misunderstanding is removed – guess what- isn’t a big jerk to Kyoko. Ren is a character who believes in doing nice things for the person he loves, who for the most part respects others boundaries and is the slightest beat childish. This isn’t to say Ren is perfect, he has his flows, is somewhat broken himself, a master manipulator and quick to anger. Ren is human and we love him for it.

The side characters are well developed people themselves, with their own ambition and goals. Kotonami Kanae, who in most series with her character design would have been a villain, is Kyoko’s best friend, and is probably the most lovely Tsundere out there.

Oh, and did I mention how funny it is?

At its heart, Skip Beat is a story about love. A story about learning to love yourself.

I think everyone, especially teenagers should give Skip Beat a try. There is also an anime of the same name which you could check out, however, it is way behind from the story right now.

Posted in Anime

Kuzu No Honkai 5

When Kuzu No Honkai started, I found it absolutely fascinating. However, episode five seems to add nothing new.

Sure, we get Mugi’s perspective on his feelings for Akane, which, as predicted, is as self destructive as it can be. Mugi knows what kind of person Akane is, and for some reason, falls in love with her anyway. Strictly speaking, a calculating person and a bit lonely person like Akane is his type.

Hanabi and Mugi have perfected this dance, where they chase the person they love and when they can’t, they chase each other out of sheer loneliness, and even that seems to fall apart easily. It’s hard to tell Mugi and Hanabi’s complicated  relationship, the small peak of jealousy and fear, arises from  almost sleeping with each other or if they do possess some degree of romantic affection towards each other.They have developed this understanding, but like Hanabi said, either they are too close or too far apart.

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Scum’s Wishes thrives on portraying how terrible it’s characters are, and while it is true, the constant reminder is  becoming redundant.

There isn’t anything else going on, except Narumi falling further into Akane’s trap. Narumi must be the only sincere character in the entire anime.

I hope Kuzu No Honkai comes back with a better episode next week.

Posted in Anime

Mononke

The “Medicine Seller” is a deadly and mysterious master of the occult who travels across feudal Japan in search of malevolent spirits called “mononoke” to slay. When he locates one of these spirits, he cannot simply kill it; he must first learn its Form, its Truth, and its Reason in order to wield the mighty Exorcism Sword and fight against it. He must begin his strange exorcisms with intense psychological analysis and careful investigative work—an extremely dangerous step, as he must first confront and learn about the mononoke before he even has the means to defeat it.

For years, I’ve been used to a certain style of animation, that is , where the characters are actually animated. Mononoke with its exuberant art style, and little to no animation threw me off the first time, and sadly I couldn’t even finish the first episode.

Recently, I tried watching it again, and yes, the animation is still clunky at the beginning, but the art style- God, it is beautiful. So, beautiful.A twelve, episode series, Mononoke is broken into five arcs. The art style for each arc is slightly different, while the animation continues to improve throughout the series.

Despite its horror tag, I found it impossible to be terrified of a series where everything was so pretty. However, Mononoke touches on some very dark concept and in those concepts, those visual imagery’s, combined with appropriate background sound and the terrible aspect of human nature, the horror really shines through.

Mononoke makes use of a lot of visual storytelling, and sometimes leaves it to the audience to figure out the order of things.

Since Mononoke delves into the hideous part of human nature, I would say it does a good job of assembling all sorts of character, their dreams and wishes and actions. The only reoccurring character being the “Medicine seller” or “Kusuriuri”, he is an enigmatic and sarcastic one, which is quite appropriate for this type of setting. A cool as a cucumber person, while it is his duty to hunt down Mononoke, it’s obvious he enjoys his work too.

All in all, once you get used to the art style, Mononoke is certainly one of the most enjoyable anime out there.

Posted in Anime

ACCA – Episode 4&5

ACCA  continues to follow its slow pattern of throwing information here and there, keeping us guessing about something which is brewing underneath the peaceful front of the country.

Episode four detracts from episode three, going back to Jean’s original work of inspecting the departments. Nothing of note happens here, except a greater analysis into what peace really is for this country.

And then we have the latest, episode five. The story seems to have settled into a lighter format, content to let events unfold at its own pace. I love how amidst all the confusion, the characters are all concerned about food, always. That’s real life, right there.

Well, joke aside, I didn’t expect a confrontation between Jean and Nino this soon. It’s clear Jean does feel betrayed for a moment, and that Nino cares for Jean- his actions of stalking him kept aside. Their friendship is truly strong for Jean and Nino to just pick up where they left off.

 

Huh, so Nino isn’t following Jean only as an obligation to ACCA but he has his own separate motivation. Nino, also clearly believes Jean’s got no involvement in the coup d’teat.

This episode hit home the fact Jean, indeed, is a hard character to get a read on. Even as other characters continue to approve and disapprove Jean’s  position in the coup d’teat, the audience is still uncertain where he truly stands.

Personally, after this episode I don’t think  Jean and Glossular are the culprit. In Nino’s words, Jean is someone who gets caught up in things, though he does have some sort of role to play and something else he is involved in.

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Jean Otus is clearly more smart and cunning than he appears and equally laid back, though his implicit trust on Nino seems to be the place where he is vulnerable.  For a character hard to understand, Nino is amazing at pushing the right buttons.

I love the voice actors for this anime, they always seem so on point. Jean’s slightly dazed persona is so well portrayed by his VA.

The anime is great on the comedy front too and Magie and his bread affection were funny, indeed. However, I did not see any particular point to the whole scene, except the fact there is something about where Lotta and Jean lives.

Here’s to hoping for another great episode form ACCA.

 

Posted in Anime

Usagi Drop- Review

Daikichi Kawachi is a 30-year-old bachelor working a respectable job but otherwise wandering aimlessly through life. When his grandfather suddenly passes away, he returns to the family home to pay his respects. Upon arriving at the house, he meets a mysterious young girl named Rin who, to Daikichi’s astonishment, is his grandfather’s illegitimate daughter!

The shy and unapproachable girl is deemed an embarrassment to the family, and finds herself ostracized by her father’s relatives, all of them refusing to take care of her in the wake of his death. Daikichi, angered by their coldness towards Rin, announces that he will take her in—despite the fact that he is a young, single man with no prior childcare experience.

Usagi Drop is the story of Daikichi’s journey through fatherhood as he raises Rin with his gentle and affectionate nature, as well as an exploration of the warmth and interdependence that are at the heart of a happy, close-knit family.

 

Based on Unita Yumi’s Manga of the same name,  there is something absolutely heartwarming about the premise of Usagi Drop in itself.

A single parent, and adopted child and their journey of maneuvering their life around each other. On that note, I read the manga spoilers and it disturbed me, but whatever, we’re here to talk about the anime.

To tell the truth, I never expected Usagi Drop to turn out to be as good as it did. At its heart, it’s a pretty simple slice of life,  mainly revolving around the interaction between Rin and Daikichi. It works because Rin and Daikichi, both got great characters, and even the side characters had some substance to them.

Usagi doesn’t rely on heavy philosophical dialogues or  cheap comedy. It’s realistic to the core. The characters’ concerns, their actions, they all make sense.

Daikichi, the protagonist through which the story is told, is a kind man. He is patient, quiet and seemed to do things at his own pace. A ten to five worker and an unmarried thirty year old. The addition of Rin to his family changes Daikichi’s life a lot, as shown by the constant adjustment he makes to incorporate Rin into his life.

Rin, on the other hand, is very much a child,  precocious, innocent and a tad aloof. Rin starts out as this cautious child, and slowly changes into a more open and happy one as her interaction with Daikichi grows.

Usagi Drop does an amazing job of showing day to day life of a parent and child, the perils of being a single parent and the compromises one has to make  to make sure their children have a healthy childhood. It also shows how a child can bloom under the right guidance.

The character design and art style were simple but suited the series just fine. Both the opening and ending songs were cute-  that’s the word for it.

Usagi Drop, is the kind of anime anyone of any age group could enjoy and would always be on the top of my favourite animelist.

Posted in Anime

Kuzu No Honkai Episode 3-4

So, we go into the thick of things.

While Kuzu No Honaki does change its perspective from time to time, it is safe to say that the story is mainly from Hanabi’s point of view. Hanabi, who is human, Hanabi , who doesn’t understand. She, who is so in love with her teacher that she would do anything to forget it. Hanabi, who hates anyone who is a reflection of her pathetic side, and yet finds her pitiful self reflected in her best friend.

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It is the same story of unrequited love all over again Ebato-Sanae or Ecchan.   A love Hanabi isn’t equipped to deal with. Her own love life and her relation with Mugi, is as messy as it can get, so it was expected when she went on to confront the one person who is responsible for all this. The person she hates the most right now-   a sort of mirror to her soul- Akane Minagawa.

This is where Scum’s Wish succeeds the most.  Akane Minagawa, the supposedly graceful female teacher who for all purpose appears to be the sweetest person to ever work this earth, a complete opposite of Hanabi on the exterior, turns out to be a- wait for it- sociopath.

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At least, that’s the impression Akane gave me. Of course, there is always the chance that one day she would just turn out to be a misguided soul but right now, her evil side is delicious. Right now, this woman revels in the power over others and we could only watch and anticipate the day it would come back to bite her in the back.

Both Akane and Ecchan’s feelings are the sides of Hanabi she hates the most, and this episode gave her the push she needed to become someone else. Maybe she would really become a scum or maybe, she would metamorphosis into a better person, all we could do is watch.

Scum’s Wish is certainly at  the top of its game right now, and hopefully, this trend will continue.

Posted in Anime

AnoHana (AKA The anime rumoured to have made everyone cry)

Jinta Yadomi is peacefully living as a recluse, spending his days away from school and playing video games at home instead. One hot summer day, his childhood friend, Meiko “Menma” Honma, appears and pesters him to grant a forgotten wish. He pays her no mind, which annoys her, but he doesn’t really care. After all, Menma already died years ago.

At first, Jinta thinks that he is merely hallucinating due to the summer heat, but he is later on convinced that what he sees truly is the ghost of Menma. Jinta and his group of childhood friends grew apart after her untimely death, but they are drawn together once more as they try to lay Menma’s spirit to rest. Re-living their pain and guilt, will they be able to find the strength to help not only Menma move on—but themselves as well?

At this point, I think everyone has seen Anohana on the top of the sad anime starter pack lists.  I will start with this, tragedies aren’t my thing. Tragedies happening because of a certain goal? Sure. But an anime all about the death of a single person or about a person who is inevitably about to die? No, Thank You.

Yet, Anohana came so highly recommended, especially when it was by a close buddy of mine, I felt I should at least try it.

Anime’s like this are character driven more than anything. So, I think it is safe to say for someone to feel connected to this anime, to actually produce the tears that was kept in mind while creating it, one needs good characters. Characters the audience can connect to and they might not understand them, but can empathize with.

For a series that’s definitely dependent on its characters, Anohana lacked character development to a huge degree. By the time we made some progress even with one of the characters, their actions and sometimes disgusting behavior had already left a bitter taste in my mouth. The main character- Menma- the person around whom the story revolves, can be excused from this, since she might be roaming around in the body of an adult(a thing that is never explained) but mentally she never got the chance to grow up.

It doesn’t excuse the other characters and their significant failure at learning to grow up. I could sum up all the characters in one word- sad. They are gloomy, and have stopped living since the day Menma died, coupled with a few character traits to set them apart. Honestly, if it weren’t for those one or two traits, they would all have been the same person at their core, incredibly sad people.

It was only at the end, that I managed to feel something, and the last episode actually made me cry but it was more because of the act of parting from your loved ones than any actual empathy for the characters.

Anohana does have a beautiful sound track and animation though, but anything other than that wasn’t really enjoyable for me. There is the issue of too many plot holes too.

Maybe it’s the type of story that suits other people, people who are more sympathetic than me, but Anohana just wasn’t for me and if it wasn’t for the last episode, I would have absolutely hated it.

Posted in Anime

Serial Experiments Lain- Review

Lain Iwakura, an awkward and introverted fourteen-year-old, is one of the many girls from her school to receive a disturbing email from her classmate Chisa Yomoda—the very same Chisa who recently committed suicide. Lain has neither the desire nor the experience to handle even basic technology; yet, when the technophobe opens the email, it leads her straight into the Wired, a virtual world of communication networks similar to what we know as the internet. Lain’s life is turned upside down as she begins to encounter cryptic mysteries one after another. Strange men called the Men in Black begin to appear wherever she goes, asking her questions and somehow knowing more about her than even she herself knows. With the boundaries between reality and cyberspace rapidly blurring, Lain is plunged into more surreal and bizarre events where identity, consciousness, and perception are concepts that take on new meanings.

When I sat down to review one of the most critically acclaimed anime, I found out it was difficult to describe the surreal experience. I watched Lain a long time ago, but it is still clear in mind as ever. It’s hard to ignore an anime like this, whether you hated it or loved it.

Old school art style, a dark atmosphere and a proper use of music- I loved the opening theme on that note- whatever area Serial Experiments could have failed on, execution wasn’t it.  It makes you want to sit and watch the anime, even if you don’t understand half of what is happening at first or don’t find the plot interesting. Serial Experiments Lain is intriguing, if not anything else.

In short, Serial Experiments Lain touches on the concept of existentialism. It’s not something we haven’t heard before or know about, though it might be one of the few anime out there that actually dares tread the waters. The ideas portrayed in Lain isn’t groundbreaking in anyway,  at this point most people have pondered over the subject and come up with their own negative or positive view of it. Serial Experiments asks a lot of question which though it character’s, which is interesting to watch, but it fails to provide any concrete answers.

It is incredibly slow paced, a point which might be negative or positive depending on the audience. For me, it was just fine, though I did wish for it to fasten up a bit towards the end.

Which brings me to the characters, Serial Experiments filters in and out from Lain’s perspective.  From Lain’s point of view, it is detached, lonely and maybe a bit bothersome. From others characters’ view, everything that happens is mysterious and scary. There wasn’t really any scope for character development when it came to side characters, because in the big scheme of things, they were just plot points, emphasizing on the change in Lain.

Lain, herself, went though massive development. What first appears to be Dissociative identity disorder is slowly explained as the anime progresses. Let’s just say, Lain went from an awkward girl to someone with a clear view of things.  The voice acting, both in the dub and sub, did a good job bringing out the nuances in her changing emotions.  Dialogue was extremely parse throughout the anime but whatever there was, had its purpose.

Overall, Serial Experiments Lain might not be for everyone. However, it might be better to at least watch and form your own perspective on it.

 

Posted in Anime

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu Second Season 1-4

Ex-convict turned Rakugo apprentice Yotarou has finally taken the name of Yurakutei Sukeroku III, and with his master Yakumo’s permission has attained the lofty rank of shin’uchi. He assumes the name at a critical time for Rakugo, with audiences fewer than ever. At the same time he has started acting as a husband to Konatsu, who is now a single mother. Yotarou thus begins the struggle to fill the role of Sukeroku, both as the future of Rakugo and as a part of Yakumo’s and Konatsu’s lives.

If you haven’t watched the first season, my review probably wouldn’t make any sense. Better do that first.

It’s got to be one of the rarest anime to have a successful second season as the first. Shouwa Genroku manages to maintain its style of storytelling and an equally interesting story as the first. What had originally attracted to me its predecessor was its use of Rakugo- a craft I had no idea about- and how they portrayed what was so special about it.  I fell in love with the characters along the way.

Shouwa Genroku is a story told through the ages.  The first generations’ pain and mistakes mingling with the second and the consequences. It looks as if they are going down the same path, committing the same mistakes and yet, their lives are so different.

Yotaro gives us hope that maybe, just maybe this time they would all have the closure they deserve. On the other hand, the presence of Yakumo and his ideals, his constant conflict between the Rakugo he wants to take away with him and the Rakugo he wants to save is a special story on its own.

Yotaro and Yakumo’s relationship is one of the biggest plus points of the anime. On the surface, it appears as it Yakumo really couldn’t care less, but if you look close enough, all he is ever doing is asking for help. From the start, Yataro was Yakumo’s salvation, his one chance at righting the wrong, and so he took it and left it all in Yotaro’s hand, and hopefully, Yataro will save him. Yotaro’s characterization is a clever choice.  An ex convict who probably has more reason to be a jaded man than Kikuhiko or  Konatsu, and yet, he is the sunshine of the family.

I love the female characters in this anime. Konatsu and her mother, Miyokichi or the mistress, they are all unconventional characters. It’s unusually to see females in anime who aren’t heroine or villain, instead they are simply human.  Konatsu’s worries of turning out to be like her mother, and the realization that she wasn’t her mother, they are all as real as they could get.

We now have the addition of a child, who has all the charm of his father and mother. He is adorable, smart and refreshingly free from  the dark past that has plagued his family.

The pacing of the show is another thing I love about it. It isn’t some story where characters end up doing all sorts of stupid stuff in the span of one year. It is a story of action and consequences, their accumulation over the years.

The opening song is certainly dark and feels you with a sense of foreboding. I can only hope another tragedy isn’t waiting for us.

There isn’t any doubt in my mind  second season is going to be great just like the first one.