1 of 1 episodes seen
The story is quite simple. Our young protagonist Hinata is an elementary school student with quite the overactive imagination, is very skilled in drawing, and is incredibly socially awkward. He befriends his classmate Shigure, and they slowly open up to each other in their fondness for birds. But of course, Shigure has to move away soon due to her father's work, and our bumbling hero Hinata goes on an epic quest to the train station to tell her how he feels before she leaves.
Pretty standard romantic fare right? It would be, if it wasn't for the vibrant world "Hinata no Aoshigure" shows off. Playing on Hinata's vivid imagination and skill in drawing, the movie constantly switches from boring everyday life to the same scene re-imagined in Hinata's wondrous painted worlds. Hinata enjoys placing himself in fantastical situations with Shigure, such as turning their short exchanges into adventures in a wildlife sanctuary for birds. The most incredible imagery comes from Hinata's attempts to chase after the taxi Shigure is in, his bicycle turned into a flying bird and the taxi chase replaced with him soaring through the skies.
One of the biggest highlights of this movie is the gorgeous visuals. The whole movie looks like it came straight out of a children's picture book. Lines are very crisp and there's a watercolor-like quality to the animation and colors used. Speaking of which, the use of color in this movie is stunning. Color contrast is bold and noticeable, bright greens when Hinata is happy to deep shades of blue when the crushing realization that Shigure would be moving away is just one of the many examples found. The taxi chase scene is particularly noteworthy, and all sorts of color just seem to burst from Hinata's imagination.
The overall movie gave me a very Disney or Pixar sort of feel. It's hard to describe, but this movie could easily have been one of those short animation projects shown before the main feature, something to wet your appetite beforehand. Oddly enough, this movie also reminded me a lot of "5 Centimeters per Second," anime's quintessential romance movie. Both share in the protagonists's earnest journey to confess their feelings, and both movies have made me afraid of trains. They even share a similar message right at the train station, but while the future in "5 Centimeters per Second" was a lot less cheery, I'd like to think Hinata and Shigure would meet again happily in the future.
"Hinata no Aoshigure" is whimsical, clever and definitely packs into it a lot of love. It's a magical, colorful journey and it's easy to see a lot of care went into crafting this story. Clocking in at a little under 18 minutes, it's definitely worth a try. I feel like watching this made me feel just like an earnest little kid again, and that's a feeling that many full length series can't capture as well as this charming gem of a movie.
And with that, it's time to leave. Trains don't wait for every little thing. The train doors are closing, and I bid you "Good luck!"
22 of 22 episodes seen
Yes, I firmly believe this is one of the best shows to come out in recent memory, and it's going to stay that way with me for a very long time. The emotional roller coaster I rode on throughout the show, which brilliantly depicted a young musician fighting his inner demons is one that brought me to peaks of goofy laughter to hollow emptiness. This is a story about growing up through suffering. It isn't afraid to throw in heavy exposition and amazingly tragic situations. Let me remind you that these are middle school students. Music is only a medium for the characters to grow, and as the series progresses it becomes more like a background character rather than the original main focus of the show, which was to bring our protgonist Arima Kousei out of his fear of his own piano playing.
Even though the journey Kousei takes is inherently filled with heart wrenching moments, it isn't all bad. Kousei's time with Miyazono Kaori, the female protagonist, is filled with wonderfully sweet moments, like candy, and they do in fact do other things than play music. They laugh at ridiculous things, engage in mischief, go shopping, eat too many sweets, and live their adolescent life to the fullest. The world in "Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso" is so brilliantly filled with color. The color palette used is gorgeous tones of soft, light colors. To the protagonists, who really are opening their eyes to a new world around them, every little thing has some inherent value to them and they treasure these silly times that they spend together. Each memory is a little puzzle piece that together forms a complete picture of our young protagonists' youthful journey to discover the magic the world of music can bring.
Just like how visually colorful the world is, in "Shigatsu" music has an extremely strong presence in everyone's life. Every character feature has some connection to music, even the typical best friends of the characters, and it has a lasting impact on almost every decision made in the show. To some, music is a way to prove that you are better than everyone else and getting more awards. To others, it's about the very idea of performing on stage, where people have come to listen to you, and expressing all those feelings unable to be put into words. Both perspectives are touched upon in the series, mainly in a competition setting, and the most memorable scenes from "Shigatsu" are during the greatly romanticized musical performances.
The show had a very good repertoire of music selected, ranging from Classical to Romantic. The show brilliantly changes along with Kousei's journey to become a musician not in the shadow of his mother. He goes from playing very high difficulty, technical pieces gradually to much more free, interpretive choices of music. Him, along with all of the musicians in the show featured, express to viewers their own little story with their piece selected. Kousei's rival pianists are quite enjoyable to watch as well, and we get glimpses of what being a musician means to them through their desire to overcome Kousei, who they admire greatly. "Shigatsu" also makes use of quite lovely insert songs, such as "My Truth," and the soundtrack is breathtaking. It adds such a nice finishing touch on the emotional stories being told.
The dialogue in this show is very...poetic. Almost too poetic. While all of the monologues are certainly well written, sometimes it is a bit too much. It comes off really, really strong. A college setting, or even high school setting would have worked better, but most people probably would quickly realize no one in their right mind talks that eloquently to anyone. Everything the protagonists describe, they describe in the most outlandish way possible, using metaphors and thought provoking language. It's easy to make fun of the show for its heavy reliance on these Shakespearean-like monologues, but I found them quite endearing and beautiful to listen to. Not everything has to be grounded in reality, and "Shigatsu" clearly has many magical moments most people would probably scoff at if it actually happened to them. But, why be stuck in the real world all the time? Let "Shigatsu" take you to another, more fantastical world where everything seems to be just a bit more beautiful and colorful.
All in all, I honestly loved "Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso" probably more than I should have. Yes, it has flaws, just like any of our favorite shows. Yes, it's heavy-handed and over dramatic. Yes, the plot sounds like it comes from a South Korean drama, complete with the cliches we know and love. Yes, the characters talk in a ridiculous fashion, a little similar to how I usually write my reviews funnily enough. Yes, the music eventually takes a backseat for the more tragic events in the anime.
This show has all of these flaws and more, yet I loved it more than any show in recent memory. It won me over with the beautifully crafted story of a young musician fighting his inner demons and ultimately learning a lifelong lesson and making unforgettable memories. Everything in "Shigatsu" seems to be a little brighter, more vibrant, more profound than anything you might find in reality. My Thursdays are going to be a whole less cheery from now on, that's for sure. But why listen to me? Go out there and give this wonderful show a try! I'm sure something in it will resonate with you, just like it did for me.
And with that, April is coming soon. The spring the characters love to talk about is coming soon. It's March 21st right now, and you bet I'll be looking forward to watching this show again to find out just what made me love it so much in the first place.
1 of 1 episodes seen
No, not really. That plot synopsis is pretty close though.
After falling into a pit that her village declared a danger zone, young Patema is plunged into a bizarre new world where everything is inverted. Suddenly, literally falling into the endless sky becomes a very real possibility. She meets an inhabitant of the land, Age, and they quickly connect with each other. Patema clings to Age very closely, as he is the only thing that stands between her and being "eaten" by the sky. Despite her fear of the sky, Patema discovers the amazing new world that she had been told stories of as a child, living her dreams of seeing the world for what it really is.
The world that Age lives in is classically isolated and under absolute rule, complete with a 1-dimensional dictator that crosses his hands in a way that screams "excellent work, my minions." Looking into the sky is forbidden, and Age has already suffered for his curiosity. With Patema, however, he learns that there is more to the world than what he has been taught, and seeks to live his own dreams of flying in the sky as well.
The characters are connected in this visually stunning film, literally to stop them from falling but also to emphasize the message that people of different backgrounds can coexist and live peacefully. It's a time tested story that we are no doubt familiar with, but the way the film uses the inverted gravity to bring the main characters together and to build the legends and myths surrounding the world is remarkable.
The fact that everything in the film is reversed depending on your perspective is a unique aspect that plays with what is real and not. For example, you could turn your screen upside down and still watch essentially the same film, because the film itself frequently turns itself around so that we can see the same thing from either Patema or Age's perspective. What is normal ground to Age is a ceiling to Patema, with nothing but the vast sky beneath her feet, and vice versa.
The story is thought provoking and with so many inversions of the screen, we begin to feel just like one of the characters, confused at the sudden shift of gravity and afraid of what is beneath us. Through this adventure, Patema and Age encounter new worlds themselves, thinking to themselves "This is what was really out here?" They see beautiful things, like the stars in a swirling galaxy, and they see the abandoned, like the wasteland their ancestors forgot about. Even when everything comes together, there are still mysteries left unanswered. Why not try figuring them out?
The artwork and animation for the film are top notch. Particular detail is made to the sky, because for all the characters, it is such a mysterious place. Clouds swirl in streaks of white and gray, the stars peek out from the night sky, and the sun illuminates in soft streaks of orange and yellow. There is a scene in the middle of the film that is particularly stunning, where Patema and Age finally found out what links their world and the truth of the past. The color palette between Patema and Age's world is very distinct, and its use of color is no doubt excellent.
Along with the visually pleasant film is a soundtrack that captures the mood perfectly. Sometimes it is like "space" music, and at other times it is a sweeping orchestral piece to go along with the sense of adventure in the film. The ending song is "Patema Inverse" by Estelle Michaeu, which is a nice listen that emphasizes the connection between two different worlds.
It's been a long time of waiting for this film, but it was well worth it. It was an enjoyable, romantic adventure that took the familiar story of acceptance between 2 different worlds and spun it literally around with gravity inversion, a result of a failed experiment from a long, long time ago. At the heart of the film is a realization that people need each other to survive, and to discover our common features is truly a wonderful thing.
Don't be afraid to look up at the sky! Likewise, don't always look down at the ground! There is a much bigger, more fantastical world out there than what school and books tell you. All it takes is a little push. read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
As part of this new world, the sea people have a special ability called "Ena," which allows them to live and breathe underwater. Their dwindling population and their distrust towards the surface world are the main sources of conflict that take sometimes drastic turns to overcome. Much of the story focuses on the tension between the two peoples and the character's actions in the larger scale of things. The "Ofunehiki," a type of festival to honor the Sea God, plays a central role in the story, tying together the myths and legends that will inevitably affect both the sea and land.
There is a certain mysteriousness to the series, much like the sea is vast and sometimes difficult to understand. Though the school lives of the characters are fun and lighthearted, dealing with things like first loves and crushes, there is a darkness that is added to the story drop by drop. Hints at the true extent of the dire situation the sea and land people find themselves in are revealed piece by piece, until the legend of the "Ofunehiki" finally ties it all together. Through the friends' struggle with maintaining the status quo among themselves and trying to help their dying community, they realize just how powerful change can affect both themselves and the world around them.
Tying in with the aquatic theme of the series, the artwork and setting is quite simply, stunning. Everything in this world revolves around the ocean. The sleepy seaside town on the surface is beautifully drawn and animated, with details radiating just as bright as the sun reflecting on the ocean. The water sparkles and illuminates patterns of swirling color and a certain clearness that looks very refreshing.
The real treat however, is the scenes underwater. Taking advantage of the setting completely, fantastical lights and water bathe the underwater village Shioshishio in a beautiful light. Look closely enough and images of the sun will appear, schools of fish will swim by and saltflake snow will fall from the surface. Certain scenes left me amazed. The water is manipulated in whatever way the mood demands, whether it is used to reflect the sun peacefully or surround us in a violent prison of crystal and lights.
I honestly cannot fully describe the setting perfectly with only words; it's that beautiful. Look at a few screenshots yourself and see just how much attention and detail are put into the animation and setting! The Ofunehiki was one of the most visually stunning scenes I've seen in a long time.
Even the music is centered around the ocean. The opening themes are "lull ~Soshite Bokura wa~" and "ebb and flow" both by Ray, and the endings themes are "Aqua Terrarium" and "Mitsuba no Musubime" both by Yanagi Nagi. All of the songs have a certain aquatic sound to them that reminds one of the ocean. I really enjoy "Aqua Terrarium" the most out of the songs. Hearing this song at the end of every episode, with its brilliant buildup and vocals gave a very satisfying end to another amazing visual and end revelation.
"Nagi no Asukara" is an amazing series that has a lot of ambition to go along with it. It is a story of learning to deal with change and accepting our differences. Just like the wave of the tide, the ebb and flow of change can sweep us underneath it and overwhelm us. Other times it will peacefully pass by us without a care in the world. We see how each character deals with their confused thoughts of love and friendship as the world around them starts to collapse.
When it all begins to be too much to bear, whisper your secrets to a red bellied slug and let your worries drift away like the shifting ocean tides.
1 of 1 episodes seen
Using various things left behind in that small button shop Kurumi lives in as clues, Hal does his best to simulate the former Hal as best as he can. Photo albums and short messages written on Rubik's cubes are his main ways of connecting to the now reclusive Kurumi. With each short exchange, they start to open up to one another, sharing in their pains of loss and memories of a once happy life. With each side of the Rubik's cube solved, each bearing a different message and a different color, everything culminates in a beautiful ending of growing closer to one another, no matter what the source.
"Hal" is a short film that packs into it a myriad of emotions of love and loss that gives viewers glimpses of the lives of Hal and Kurumi before and after the plane crash. After shutting herself in her room, Kurumi seems to spend much of her time trying to fix a broken red video camera that taped moments of her and Hal's lives, some memories flattering and others painful. Seeing the past shows us that things were not rose colored and perfect, but sometimes troubled. Overcoming these obstacles and growing closer is the heart of this film.
The story is like a puzzle, leaving us as confused as Hal at first. Through those disjointed recordings of the past, and as Kurumi fixes the video camera, these scenes become more complete and raise certain questions. Loose points and fuzzy details rise that do not seem to make much sense, but every little detail comes together brilliantly in a dazzling conclusion that reveals much about the story behind the story. It is like how the characters love solving Rubik's cubes, how with each completed face of the puzzle the overall picture becomes clearer, another message is revealed, and another beloved memory is remembered once more. It is a game of puzzles that leaves viewers playing the game with Hal all the way until the very end.
However, not everything is fleshed out and not everything is made clear. There is a much darker side to "Hal's" world that the film hints at but never really goes into depth with. The only clue is Hal's hated memories of being poor and his experiences as a child. Given more time, the film could have created another aspect of the future world the characters live in to bring up more points about the conflict that robots bring. In fact, the robot aspect plays such a minor part that much of the film would be unchanged if they were suddenly taken out. Even so, this is a way for the story to bring in the interesting aspect of questioning what would happen if a loved one was suddenly replaced by a robot that looks exactly like them.
The film is a visually pleasing swirl of colors and reflections, light and dark, old and new. The setting is gorgeous, with the sun shining and entering the lonely button shop that Kurumi lives in. Even though this story takes place in the near future, there are still traditional buildings, customs, and a festival parading through the modern town. The water illuminates, the trees shade the light, and everything seems to flow. The film looks very crisp and colorful. The most stunning scene, where everything ties together, is a wonderful display of fantastical light and reflecting waters.
Accompanying the film is a pleasant soundtrack that accents the mood the film creates, that of hope and comfort, of regaining the past. The voice cast is excellent, with some of my favorites playing the characters. The ending song is Owaranai Uta by Yoko Hikasa, who plays Kurumi. It is a wonderfully bittersweet song that adds a sense of completeness to the film. All the way until the last note, viewers are still playing the game with Hal.
"Hal" is an enjoyable, romantic story of finding the past and growing closer to one another. Accepting our flaws and less savory parts is another step towards love and understanding. It can end abruptly, it can end violently, it can end unfairly, but learning to move on afterwards and taking comfort in fond memories is our way to cope with the ever painful reality of loss.
Just like solving a puzzle, solving each part and filling in the blanks, this story completes a picture of memories, both good and bad, of the precious time that we spend with our loved ones.
4 of 4 chapters read
"The speed at which cherry blossoms fall.
It's 5 centimeters per second."
(This is a review of the novel that also makes comparisons to the film and manga versions. Think of it as my feelings for all 3 versions.)
I began reading the novelized version of "5 Centimeters per Second" in order to have a different experience of one of my most loved stories in anime. Having already watched the film numerous times and reading the manga once, I already had a rough expectation of what to feel while reading this story. This expectation, however, prepared me little in what I ultimately felt while I read, invoking something much sadder, and much more genuine.
All versions of "5 Centimeters per Second" follow the same basic pattern divided into 3 distinct sections, detailing the life of the protagonist, Takaki Tohno. They are: "Cherry Blossoms," "Cosmonaut," and "5 Centimeters per Second." The novel however, has an extra story, called "The Sky Outside the Window." Something interesting I learned about the creation during this reading of "5 Centimeters per Second" was that Makoto Shinkai had roughly 10 stories he had written for his fledgling work, before ultimately picking 3 stories to represent the film version (which is the original version, the manga and novel came later.)
Briefly, "The Sky Outside the Window" is a very short story of a girl named Miyuki Ogawa, who is staying at home from school due to the blowing typhoon. Like many of the characters in this work, she is unsure of what she wants to do with herself. She has a novel started but is not entirely sure what she is going to do with this novel. After being inspired by the sight of the dazzling world during the eye of the typhoon, she begins to be a little more hopeful in leaving a little trace of herself in history. Interestingly, I remember watching a video of Shinkai talking about his early career, how he spent many hours creating "Voices of a Distant Star," and how he wanted to leave a little something for people to remember him by. Whether this is a coincidence or not is entirely up to interpretation.
Watching the film and reading the story is an entirely different experience. What the film could describe using its stunning visuals, the novelized version had to rely on words and the imagination to produce a similar effect. I feel, that by both watching the film and reading the story, viewers can certainly understand the story, but in very different ways. To see the beauty firsthand and using words to imagine it are ways that enhance the appreciation of this work.
The overarching theme of this work is that distance creates conflict. Physical distances and emotional distances, whatever kind of distance that puts us at odds with others is a central focus of this work. For Tohno, he is physically separated from his first love, Akari Shinohara, and in the later stages of his life, he is emotionally separated from the many people he comes into contact to. How people deal with this distance is of profound importance in this work. For Tohno, time does not appear to have moved at all after his final night with Akari. For Kanae Sumida, she tries to hide her feelings behind surfing and her unrequited love for Tohno. And finally, for Akari, she seems to have simply moved on. When faced with this decision in life, the choice to move on or stay in the past will have great significance and lasting effects.
The novel invoked the feelings and mood of Tohno's life very interestingly, by making the prose less...beautiful as the novel progresses. His childhood is written in the perspective of him as an adult, after the events had happened, and perhaps a little after the ending of the novel. His childhood is written with many beautiful images of cherry blossoms and the pseudo-philosophical monologues about his life, his love for Akari, and the overwhelming sense of happiness and loneliness he feels when he is together with her. His high school years, written in the perspective of his classmate, Kanae, is also characterized by his seeming lack of attachment to nothing. He is certainly kind, but it is in a more distant and nonchalant way than what most people would be comfortable with.
The biggest changes, however, takes place during the final stages of the novel, the appropriately named "5 Centimeters per Second." Here is where the film, manga, and novel diverge greatly. Up until this point, all versions told basically the same story in varying degrees of detail. The manga, for example, adds extra scenes and fleshes out some of the characters, even including an extended epilogue after the original ending of the film. The novel does not include this scene, however. It ends in the same place as the film. What the novel does better than both the film and manga is detailing the final stage of the 3 stories that make up this work.
In the novel's final section, we learn a great deal of Tohno's life after high school. While this section of the story is the shortest in the film, it is the longest in the novel. Many new details surface about him, including his university days, various relationships, and job careers. The most important revelation, I believe, is that Tohno works for a mobile phone software company, ironically enough. The novel details his initial excitement with work and his droning life as a programmer. Tohno feels that programming is almost mythical, in that he can control a program that can hold all the secrets in the world. Secrets that he wishes he could tell and things that he wish he could hear again. Also in greater detail in the novel is his different relationships with women, all, surprisingly, ending in separation of the two. Risa Mizuno, who is only briefly mentioned in the film and a little more so in the manga, plays a much more important role in the novel. We can understand much more about her, her being one of the few people Tohno can say he cares about.
Finally, between all 3 versions, this is the most clear in what he wants to do with himself after he sees something he links to a miracle. I felt sad all throughout, but something about the simplicity and genuineness of his final words made me feel a little more hopeful about the story. In the film, it ends with a bittersweet collage set to "One More Time, One More Chance," and reading the final few words left an impression on me much like that song did when I first saw this movie quite a while ago.
I feel that the ending can mean a lot to different kinds of people. It all depends on what we have been though up until that point. Whether or not we choose to stay, look back, or simply move on can say a lot about our experiences and opinions of others. "5 Centimeters per Second" gives one such interpretation through the eyes of Tohno, someone who is still living 15 years in the past.
This story has become one of my most beloved stories ever told. I greatly enjoyed reading the novel thoroughly and picking up all the new details that I learned through reading a novelized version of the story. Whether reading it or watching it, I feel the magic and bittersweet feelings of the story can reach out to audiences. It will mean something different to all kinds of people, and that is why I think this story is so brilliantly crafted.
It leaves an impression, a kind of imprint on audiences, to remind them of how distance is so ever prevalent, how memories are ever so painful and joyful, and how things will change with time.
However, even after all that, "I'm sure you'll be alright!" read more
10 of 10 episodes seen
"Miyakawa-ke no Kuufuku" details the struggles of the Miyakawa sisters as they battle one of history's most famous, most heart wrenching social problems: poverty. Cruel, heartless poverty. The sisters Hinata and Hikage live a life filled with unflattering things, like tofu substituted meat, skim milk, skim milk, and convenience store dinners. This show is a glimpse at sections of their life, filling the viewers with a sense of overwhelming pity.
For Hikage, the younger sister, she is an endearing elementary school student who puts up with her sister's wasteful spending, using precious dollars on unneeded things like light novels with ridiculously long titles and promotional items. Her cries of dissatisfaction are drowned out by the sounds of her growling stomach, giving her the unpleasant reminder that another day of meatless dinner awaits her. She goes to school, where she lives a relatively normal elementary school life, where her dear friends offer a respite to the battlefields of the supermarket. Her teacher, Kirito-sensei, being the sporting guy he is, attempts to help Hikage, as long as it has nothing to do with financial problems. However, the ever wise Hikage denies his advice, citing "love problems." This Kirito-sensei seems nowhere near as successful with women as his alternate world counterpart is.
Hikage's sister, Hinata, works in a book store to rake in meager allowances to sustain both herself and her sister. She is caring, but her impulsive buying habits are in direct confrontation with her family's dire financial situation. Seeing Hikage in distress upsets her however, and always tries to make it up to her, offering enticing things like sharing her limited edition goods, and sweet words to make her forget her growling stomach.
The ending song is tragically cut short for many of the episodes, given the studio's dire financial situation. The Miyakawa sisters sing their hearts out about their lone struggles, but alas, funding is little and the song cannot be complete...until near the end! The song is a cry for help to viewers, detailing their shambled lives, citing the delicious foods they want to eat and the poor substitutes they have instead. Like tofu steaks and skim milk. A given rule to people is to avoid skim milk, but in the most desperate of situations, rules are only "guidelines." Hearing the full song tugs at those heart strings alright.
"Miyakawa-ke no Kuufuku" chronicles short adventures of the Miyakawa sisters, showing their heroic inner fighting spirits and absolute refusal to give up in the face of overwhelming odds. It is a tale worthy of your viewing and sympathies. Struggle along with the sisters as they battle a foe all too familiar to people: empty wallets and empty stomachs.
Let Hikage's shining, innocent face be a reminder of the important things in life. Like bacon. And steak.
25 of 25 episodes seen
never seen the red that is the
-Poem 17 of the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu
The poem now most well known to viewers of Chihayafuru was written by Ariwara no Narihira, detailing his unsuccessful relationship with Fujiwara no Takaiko. After falling madly in love with each other, the two would be lovers attempt to run away from the palace. Naturally, given the rather wispy and nostalgic tone of the poem, this attempt failed in a spectacular fashion. Despite this, Ariwara no Narihira became well respected much later on and was most likely the basis for the nameless hero of "The Tales of Ise." His name, along with other famous poets, such as Ono no Komachi and Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, were later included in the Thirty Six Immortals of Poetry.
History lesson aside, the poem invokes an impression of a deep crimson color, both literally and figuratively. The literal reflection of the water and the red of passion and emotion. The second season of the sleeper hit "Chihayafuru" certainly adds to the overall experience of the series, building on the budding character relationships and the surprisingly intense matches of karuta. Virtually unknown to most before watching "Chihayafuru," I can say with confidence that the game of karuta depicted in the series is as action packed as a card game based around classical Japanese poems can get. "Chihayafuru 2" builds largely on what made the first season successful, but seems to crank up the intensity to sweltering levels.
Of course, if you happen to be reading this review and have not yet seen the first season of "Chihayafuru," do yourself a favor and watch the first season before naturally going on to the second season.
The story continues the adventures of karuta-obsessed high school girl Chihaya Ayase and the Mizusawa High School Karuta Club, as they reach greater heights, challenging themselves and the swarms of intense competition around them. Highlights of their karuta careers involve the high school and national tournaments, events that are a central focus to the members of the karuta club. The first and second season differ in that the second season focuses much more attention on the tournaments and the individual mindsets of the characters. Character development takes place during the fierce matches everyone plays and the interactions during down time. Karuta, despite the rather simple premise of matching one half of a poem to another, takes a surprising amount of stamina, speed, and strategy. Chihaya comically seems to immediately fall asleep at the conclusion of her matches, a cute way of relating the tremendous physical and mental endurance needed to play competitively.
A popular dilemma for club based shows are the disturbingly small amount of members becoming a major problem for school administration, and of course, the club will be disbanded if they don't find new members. Chihaya and the team manage to find two freshman to fill the empty spots, managing to find two people with very different reasons for joining the club. The two new members, Sumire Hanano and Akihiro Tsukuba, are honestly overshadowed by the beloved returning members, but their presence gives interesting contrast to the veterans of the team. For Sumire, who joined only to get closer to the club president, Taichi Mashima, and for Tsukuba, who joined to learn the mainland version of karuta, their growth and development towards their love of the sport and the team is a wonderful journey.
While karuta remains the main focus of the show, another major focal point of the show is the love triangle between Chihaya, Taichi, and Arata Wataya. The first season introduced this romantic subplot and highlighted mostly Arata's struggle to come to grips with his grandfather's death and the return of his old friends and Taichi's exasperated attempted to get his dense childhood friend to notice his sincere feelings for her. As Chihaya's love for the game of karuta grows, she begins dedicating more and more of herself to becoming the best she can be, coming to terms with her current relationships and her shortcomings as both a karuta player and as a normal person. Romance is definitely in the air, with looks of longing from Taichi, Chihaya's fascination with Arata, and Arata's desire to reunite with his old friends. There are some very beautiful scenes involving bringing the poetry to life and trying to understand what the poet was trying to convey, using images of summer days long past and flowers adorning the trees. Romance amidst classical poems can only add to the flowery nature of this series' romance and the passion for both others and the game itself.
In regards to animation quality, it is still excellent and crisp. Set in everyday places like school and classrooms give little room for diversity, but the artwork for "Chihayafuru 2" is vibrant and rich with color and light. Sparkles of sunlight bask the rooms of competitors and drops of rain accent the storm outside. Some of the most beautiful scenes concern explaining the meaning of the poems, invoking rich metaphors of ancient Japan, with calligraphy, flowers, and the gradual changing of seasons. Flashes of red, mountain ridges, the ever expansive sea and falling snow are just some of the images portrayed. It adds a more literary and poetic beauty to a show set in modern times.
A familiar soundtrack accompanies the show, and adds to the mood of the show. The opening theme is "STAR" by 99RadioService, who also did the first season's opening, and the ending theme is "Akane Sora" by Asami Seto. Regarding the ending theme, it is played in different fragments at the end of the episode, and eventually the whole song can be heard if you string together the related parts. It was a fun way to get a glimpse of the wonderful full song, and the sweet, emotional music was a great way to end another intense day of karuta.
"Chihayafuru 2" is my personal winner for this season of anime, and I am sad to see it go. Remembering my thoughts all the way back to the first season, I am surprised that a show with such a niche game could engross me so much. I looked forward to this show every week, and my Fridays are going to be a little less cheery with "Chihayafuru 2's" absence. Shows like these invoke emotion and transport viewers to the heated world of sports and makes the characters so much more likable, so much so that we will be cheering for their victories and feeling down at their defeats. This sequel builds on the world of karuta so expertly built in the first season and adds another layer of intensity and beauty, sometimes even exceeding the success of the first.
1 of 1 episodes seen
Blending elements of time travel, psychic awareness and philosophy, "Nerawareta Gakuen" (Psychic School Wars) focuses on a group of students who get caught up in a time traveler's attempts to change the bleak future that seems to await humanity. Through loosely connected sequences, the film poses questions about when to express your actual feelings and the morality of whether or not to change something that inevitably will happen. Set in a vibrant world of color, the film uses two interlinked love stories to tackle these questions, linking the stories with the overarching theme of the difficulty of forming connections.
Using psychic powers and time travel as a medium, the film wants to challenge the notion of what it means to stay connected. The psychic powers here are mostly telepathy and psychic awareness, as opposed to things like psychokinesis and pyrokinesis. It is a complex plot with many things to take into consideration, and it will take creative thinking to piece together the loosely connected sequences into a single, overarching story that has many, many layers. Peel a layer back and another more complex one replaces it. It is smart and refreshing, and linking the themes to the story gives a wistful interpretation of staying in contact with one another. For the time traveler, who lives in a hopeless future, and for the psychic, who lives in relative peace, their interpretations of personal relationships and ideas of love are considerably different.
One of the most striking features of the film is the beautiful animation and diverse color palette. Shades of red, blue, and green dominate the scenery, and the characters make references to fairy tales and plays, almost giving a self appreciating kind of awareness. With the animation quality rivaling other films known for this, such as "Kotonoha no Niwa" and "Byousoku 5 Centimeter", both directed by Makoto Shinkai, "Nerawareta Gakuen" is definitely one of the best looking anime films. The sky in particular looks beautiful, with many different colors used. Watching the film almost feels like a dream, with one fantastic background moving to another fantastic background. Colors flow and blend easily, immersing the characters in a vibrant world. Lighting is also a high point of the film, mimicking the sun's rays and emphasizing the contrast between light and dark.
One of the most common staples in anime is cherry blossoms blowing in the wind, or falling from the trees. The beginning of the film in particular has cherry blossoms scattered everywhere, from train tracks to the path leading to school, almost saturating the film with the flowers. It is toned down significantly as the film progresses, but their presence is a common reminder of the passing of seasons and fading beauty.
The film's soundtrack consists of soothing instrumental pieces and piano themes. The transfer student in particular likes "Clair de Lune" by Claude Debussy, a fitting piece for him given the character's background. It's placement is smart and is a major point in one of the central love stories, bringing the two characters to a common love of piano playing. The opening theme is "Giniro Hikousen" by supercell, and the ending theme is "Sayonara no Hashi by Mayu Watanabe, one of the voice actresses. The soundtrack captured the mood of the film perfectly, with breathtaking, dreamy scenes accompanied by a resonating soundtrack.
The characters talk about fairy tales, dreams, and acting, and that's almost precisely what this film is, a modern interpretation of a fairy tale. Its moments of blending reality and fantasy is visually and emotionally spectacular, and something that will bring with it many questions. Common to fairy tales, there is a lesson to be learned, but I think I will leave that lesson to be learned up to you. Interpretations, after all, are the most important thing when watching a film of this complex nature. It's re-watch value is very high, and a second or third viewing will lead to new interpretations and new insight to the time traveler's and the psychic's journey. While difficult to digest, I believe "Nerawareta Gakuen" is a worthwhile experience that will leave a positive, if bittersweet impression on the viewer.
After all, even in the hustle and bustle of increasing technology, and even when fantastical elements are introduced, simply reaching out to someone else can make all the difference, affecting the present and the uncertain future.
1 of 1 episodes seen
A faint clap of thunder,
Perhaps rain will come?
If so, will you stay here with me?"
Makoto Shinkai's latest film, "Garden of Words" (Kotonoha no Niwa), tells the story of a boy captivated by the mysteriousness of a woman he meets on a rainy morning, meeting again and again during the rainy days, where they both enjoy musing about the lazy flow of time the rain seems to bring with it. Through a few short encounters, starting off as strangers and gradually opening up to friend and companion, they soon start to wish every morning was greeted by rainfall.
Primarily told through the eyes of Takao, a high school student, viewers get a glimpse of his thoughts as he admires the simplistic beauty of the rainy days, his ambitions of becoming a shoemaker, and his captivation by the woman he meets by chance, who ended their first encounter with a poem from classical verse. Interestingly enough, both Takao's name and the woman's name, Yukino, are hardly every mentioned, and Takao at least, realizes this simple fact. They both happily chat and share meals, but Takao realizes he hardly knows anything about her, not even her name. This ambiguity and lack of concrete information plays an important part in both of their developments as characters and adds to the uncertainty of their budding friendship.
Characteristic of Shinkai's work, the film itself is incredibly beautiful and a visual wonder. Like falling cherry blossoms, or an infinitely reaching tower, all of Shinkai's films are notable for their exceeding beauty, photographic elements, and rich use of color. For example, "Garden of Words" is bathed in a deep, verdurous green, accented by the lightly blue rain and the faint traces of sunlight peeking out from the rainy clouds. It was very visually appealing and the animation quality was nothing short of astounding. It is as if you could jump into the garden yourself, and immerse yourself in its world of color.
The soundtrack of the film is a simple piano motif that varies with the mood, from frantic and quick meetings to more mellow moments. Indeed, if it isn't clear, one of my favorite scenes is still when Yukino recites her short poem to Takao, leaving him dazed. The piano motif accents the mellow, slightly sad poem, beginning the first of many encounters. The ending theme is, fittingly enough, "Rain" covered by Motohiro Hata. It was a nice listen, and while probably not as memorable as say, "One More Time, One More Chance" from "5 Centimeters per Second," it gave a fitting close to the story. The voices of the main characters are Miyu Irnio and Kana Hanazawa (HanaKana), two very proficient and talented voice actors, and gave a great and emotionally charged performance.
While elements like sound, animation and visual quality for this film are undoubtedly really high, the most conflicted I feel with rating this film higher is actually in the story in itself. While I watched it, I couldn't get a clear impression of whether this was a wonderful tale of unusual love and personal hopes and fears, or if this was about a guy who gets a little too involved with a stranger he knows nothing about. Some of the plot points regarding Yukino weren't as fleshed out as much as I would have liked, and both of their growing affections for each other is somewhat misplaced and unclear, I felt. The short duration of the film works against it, leaving some things not elaborated, but in the reverse it means we can watch a sweet love story unfold in a relatively short period of time.
I would be lying if I said that I wasn't greatly excited for seeing this film, given that I love Shinkai's work and close to everything he does. "5 Centimeters per Second" remains my favorite film by him, and I don't think that's ever going to change. For "Garden of Words," the trailers were amazing, the visual quality was undeniable, and the piano music was soothing to listen to. The first 5 minutes being released early on made me want even more. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised when I had the opportunity to see the full movie earlier than I expected. While it probably doesn't succeed as much as his other films, Shinkai's "Garden of Words" is a lovely addition to the tales of love grounded in reality and worlds of beauty that Shinkai creates and shares for everyone to immerse themselves in.
It's a story of unusual love and growing hopes and expectations, and being true to your own feelings. It's your choice whether or not you want to enter the Garden of Words for yourself and see what words of comfort and mystery it can offer you.