Aug 31, 2012Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shi... (Anime) add
11 of 11 episodes seen
Now, bear with me for a moment as I delve into some very pesky semantics.
AnoHana is a melodrama. It is very, very much a melodrama, and I doubt you will find anyone who denies this. But what many overlook is the fact that "melodrama" does not always have to have a negative connotation. The word is often used interchangeably with the ever popular yet poorly defined "forced drama," but going by my definition, they aren't quite the same. My definition? Well, let's get the proper definition of melodrama out of the way first. What is melodrama, if not "forced drama?" It is, quite simply, drama intended to evoke a reaction from the audience. Upon hearing this, words like "overwrought" and "contrived" will spring to the foreground of most people's minds. These could very well be associated with the term, but they don't always go hand in hand. Now, "forced drama," on the other hand, will almost always have such words following it around. However. Me, personally, I am not a fan of the term "forced drama," simply because it isn't quite clear enough as to what exactly it means. I prefer something along the lines of "artificial drama." Why artificial? Because I feel that such a word much better describes the phenomenon people are referring to when they use terms like "forced drama." Artificial. Fake. Shallow. The kind of throw away "tragedy" that pops up out of nowhere to wring a few hollow tears out of the emotionally immature, before vanishing into thin air as if nothing ever happened. In other words, your typical Jun Maeda work.
Now we reach the ultimate question: how does all this babbling tie into AnoHana? Well, as previously stated, AnoHana is unquestionably melodramatic. And you know what? It can be very overwrought, contrived, and so on at times. But artificial...is not a word I feel can be justly applied to this show. Things in this show, they happen for a reason. It may be a silly reason, but it's certainly better than "her parents died and then she was kidnapped by bad men who killed her puppy and then forced her to fight in a war. Oh and she was raped. A lot. Did we mention she had a puppy? That DIED? They KILLED her PUPPY! Oh and now she seems to be borderline retarded, not because of the severe mental trauma such events would cause but because it's MOEEEEEEE~"...I'm sorry, I got a bit carried away there. What I'm trying to say is, things just felt reasonably natural in AnoHana. All the crying and screaming and bickering was...unpleasant. But the emotions that they were trying to get through to me, did. Perhaps this is just a bad case of overacting more than anything.
But it is not these moments of awkward "tension" that made me enjoy AnoHana. No, they were the moments that had me turned off for for long. Much of the real hardhitters lie in between the chaotic messes of teen angst. The quiet moments, the moments that consist of a few whispered words, or a few words that went sadly unsaid. I must admit that I was quite impressed by how the writers chose to word a few things. Certain moments were elevated far beyond what you would expect by just how *simple* the things said were. The words carry such innocence and whimsy that you have a hard time believing they came from anywhere but the bottom of a child's heart.
The concept of simplicity is something I value very much when it comes to storytelling, and I'm happy to say that AnoHana did quite a good job capturing this kind of simplicity. At it's core, that is. See, one of the problems AnoHana has is it tends to get sidetracked a bit. This is supposed to be a bittersweet coming of age drama about friendship and forgiveness. Much of the time, it manages to be just that, and does a pretty damn good job at it. Unfortunately, there are times where it forgets what it's supposed to be doing, and gets caught up in its own mess of teenage romantic drama. I don't view this show as a romance in the same way I don't view Honey and Clover as a romance. They both have romantic elements, yes, but what they were really trying to portray were things far more universal and far more relevant to life. Growing up. Moving on. Things like that. And while it's no Honey and Clover, AnoHana did quite a good job at portraying these things. If only it didn't lose track of itself so often. Thing is, there are just some moments which feel completely contrived and unnecessary to the point where I can barely hold back my tears-of laughter. A certain incident involving crossdressing comes to mind. Like, honestly, that was dumb. There's not much else to say.
Now, let us take a moment to address the *boring* aspects of anime, i.e. the production values. AnoHana is quite well done in the art and animation departments. Being a slice of life-ish show rather than some action movie, there is understandably more effort to be put into the former rather than the rather. And it does show, as AnoHana boasts some very crisp and lovely artwork depicting a summer in a small town. There are also some little touches thrown in that are much appreciated by someone like me who is always on the look out for such things. Fortunately, this attention to detail is not just limited to the art but extends to the animation as well. Just because it's not some action flick doesn't mean it has to be a bunch of still frames, right? The animation style is, shall we say, loose, in that small things such as strands of hair tend to flutter about freely, giving the whole anime a more fluid and realistic feel.
As for the music, much of it is what you'd come to expect from a drama anime. You know, lots of pianos, some violins thrown in for those serious moments. What made me bump this up to a 9, however, was the ending song. I have to say that this is one of the finest ending songs I've heard, not only as a stand alone piece but as a compliment to the show itself as well. Honestly, the damn thing brought me to tears entirely out of context, and when coupled with the show it just reaches a whole new level. I dare say the song captures the feelings of longing and nostalgia better than the show itself at some points. There is also the voice acting. I mentioned overacting in an earlier paragraph, but truthfully I'm not sure if that is a valid complaint, or at least one that could be pinned on the voice actors. It's entirely possible that cultural differences come into play here, with what seems to me horribly overwrought having a whole new meaning in the context of ultra-reserved Japanese society. Either way, it's more of a scripting problem than anything, and the actors do deserve praise for their emotionally charged performances.
I suppose the most important factor that raised AnoHana a few bars above your average anime drama is that it felt *plausible*. Barring the fact that the plot largely revolves around a ghost, things felt real to me. Or perhaps I should say the *people* felt real to me. These characters and their lives, they made *sense*. Their actions, while usually highly exaggerated and dramatized, were understandable. And most importantly, the characters felt organic. What do I mean by that? Well, think of them as food. You could go get a cheap burger from Burger King, and hey, it tastes fine, it's easy to get, and it's cheap, right? Right, but we all know that beyond the decent-enough flavor lies nothing but a bunch of artificial ingredients tainted by hormones and pesticides and god knows what else thrown together in a few minutes. It's just not truly satisfying, and if you eat too many of these psuedoburgers, you'll end up spoiled and unhealthy. So why not make your own burger? Gather the meat from your old farmer uncle down in Kentucky. Get some home grown vegetables from the nice old lady down the block. See where I'm going with this? Such a process will undoubtedly require more time and effort, but when you finally sink your teeth into that burger, not only will you be satiated, but your subconscious longing for a truly wonderful burger, a burger that understands you and moves you from the bottom of your soon to be clogged arteries, will be fulfilled as well. That is, of course, assuming you are unlike me and can actually cook worth a damn.
...I seem to have gotten carried away once again. My point was, the characters in AnoHana are constructed and developed quite naturally; rather than throwing a bunch of generic sob story cliches together to form their backstories, rather than throwing together a bunch of "cute" or "cool" traits to form their personalities, it seems a bit of thought went into them. This is largely what made me like the show, but as we all know perfection can never truly be attained, so there's a few kinks that were never worked out. Character behavior can be inconsistent sometimes, and some characters never get the development they deserve. The biggest problem I had with the characterization, however, was the fact that far too much of it was done through characters yelling their feelings at each other. You know the saying, "show, don't tell"? AnoHana largely ignores this. I was just pleased that the characters were all given realistic flaws in an attempt to flesh them out, something that many anime writers are seemingly incapable of.
So when it's all said and done, AnoHana isn't going to be that life changing burger, because whoever made it went way overboard with the ketchup. But if you're able to ignore the heapings upon heapings of ketchup, there's still a really good burger underneath. Okay, enough with the food analogies. AnoHana is a potentially astounding anime brought down to the level of merely good by several ridiculously overblown moments. It's up to you to look past those moments to see where the true genius lies. It is, despite everything, a touching and heartfelt tale with much to offer. read more
25 of 25 episodes seen
The plot is decent enough to be considered passable but not good enough to be considered notable in any way. It bears a lot of similarities to the original Macross, and also many references. However, you’d still be able to jump right into it without missing much, but then again, you could just not watch the show and not be missing much. What you have is a fairly average space opera story dragged down by clunky teen drama and some pretty bad dialogue. Now, romance has always been a staple of Macross, so I’m not complaining about its presence, I’m complaining about just how poorly it was done. But I’ll address that further in the character section. As for the dialogue, allow me to elaborate a bit; there were many, many instances where I found my face buried in the palm of my hand due to what was being said in this show. So many lines were just unbearably corny and just plain annoying. But that’s a fairly minor complaint.
Macross Frontier employs innumerable cliches throughout it’s run (or should I say stumble?), which isn’t necessarily a bad thing on its own, but the problem is it’s pretty much one long string of cliches one after another. There’s no variation on any of them, I could find barely an ounce of creativity in this show. But…
…I enjoyed it. Frontier offers some pretty low brow entertainment, but even I’m not snobby enough to deny an offer of something as flashy and stupidly fun as this. The episodes following Alto, Ranka, and Sheryl’s personal life were a complete drag for the most part, but the fights were great fun. Really, the plot isn’t the issue here. If it just had a better cast of characters, it could have been a considerably better show.
Frontier’s enjoyment factor was helped by its technical polish. The art is vibrant and beautiful, and the animation during the action segments was very good. There’s a lot of CGI, but this is actually one of the few anime I can think of where the CGI didn’t look completely out of place and ugly. The only complaint I have in this area is the character designs; when your male lead is prettier than your female leads half the time, you know you have a problem.
The music is composed by Yoko Kanno, so naturally you can expect it to be above average. And, well, it is as far as anime in general goes, but for a Kanno work it was pretty lackluster. None of the BGM really stood out to me, but it did its job. More notable are the insert songs, which are somewhat above average j-pop songs, but even the most average j-pop songs can be fun to listen to, so I can say that the songs are pretty good. Nothing compared to some of Kanno’s earlier work, but considering they were meant to be sung by pop idols I think that’s forgivable. Megumi Nakajima and May’n have done a good job; neither of them are spectacular, but they’re more than good enough here.
And so, we arrive at my biggest beef with the show: the characters. The biggest and most immediate problem would be Alto, the protagonist. When you’ve got a protagonist this bad, there’s really not much hope for the rest of the show. He’s a prissy, whiny asshole, which wouldn’t be so bad if he actually grew out of it, but here’s the thing - he doesn’t. I can tell they tried to flesh him out, but they just completely fell flat on their faces. The attempts to explore his motivations were perhaps the worst; every time someone said “Why do you fly?” or something to that extent I just wanted to punch the screen. He flies because…he wants to fly? That’s really the only reason. There’s some bullshit about his dad which was completely irrelevant, everything was so clumsy that I couldn’t even tell what they were trying to get across with his character. The best compliment I can give him is he looks good in drag.
And then there’s Ranka. The most polarizing character on the show (because no one likes Alto), she incites storms of rage in many hearts, but also has a fair share of fans. As for me, I disliked her a fair bit, but I wouldn’t say I outright hated her. She’s very bland, but not really infuriating. She’s just your typical moeblob who gets saved by the hero time after time. I can’t really tell if she developed at all or not because by the second half of the show she was pretty much a plot device. Her romance with Alto was terrible and the source of most of the aforementioned facepalm moments. I don’t understand why she, or Sheryl for that matter, even fell for him in the first place. One has to wonder why they didn’t just hook up with each other, they seemed to like each other enough.
And with two thirds of the triangle down, we’re left with Sheryl. Sheryl, the great goddess descended from the heavens to save this wreck of a show. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Sheryl’s not an amazing character as far as anime goes, you can find much better. But, she really is the show stealer here. Not the most deep or complex character, but she is a charismatic and likable presence who goes through more development than the rest of the cast combined. It’s not an astounding, moving development, but it was enough to place her among my favorites. What can I say, she’s just my kinda gal. Starting off as your typical haughty pop star, she eventually softens up while still maintaining that spunk and sass that made her stand out amongst today’s flood of helpless moeblobs. Honestly, although Ranka was clearly intended to be the moe character of the show, I found Sheryl to be far more endearing. She shows those signs of vulnerability and moments of sweetness that contrast with her normal, confident personality, rather than just being vulnerable and sweet all the time. It’s that balance of traits that makes her so likable.
There were also a few side characters that I felt were worth mentioning, namely Michael and Klan. Somehow, despite getting much, much less screentime, their romance was far more satisfying than that of the main characters, and what is probably the most emotional part of the series revolves around this pair.
So basically, Macross Frontier is a fine example of a guilty pleasure. I am completely aware of how stupid most of it was, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it a good portion of the time. It’s one of those shows where half the fun comes from cracking jokes at how silly what just happened was. It is also not without some redeeming qualities. Overall, I do not regret watching it, but I certainly wouldn’t call it a good show. Just a fun show.
24 of 24 episodes seen
The story spans a much greater time period than most romance anime, and this is one of its strengths. Picking up at the end of the first season, After Story follows Nagisa and Tomoya’s romance as it evolves from a highschool crush to a mature, adult relationship. They go through things most anime couples don’t since for some reason writers love to cut off as soon as they have their first kiss. They experience the small joys of living as a couple in the adult world, as well as the small struggles. Of course, since this is a KEY work, things won’t be so easy for long.
The story soon takes a turn for the dramatic, and Maeda breaks out his old tricks for making the audience cry. The difference is that this time, they play an important part in the story. For the most part, they work. They can be somewhat contrived, but the tragic happenings aren’t really the real meat of the show, rather than the aftermath of them. The story is highly character driven, it focuses on Tomoya’s struggles with the world around him, and this is one of the biggest things that sets After Story apart from other KEY anime. It’s not about a cardboard protagonist saving a bunch of cardboard girls, it’s about a very rich cast of characters saving a very rich protagonist.
It is a story about loss, but more importantly, it is a story about love and coping with loss. It isn’t easy to love when you’ve been stripped of everything you loved in the first place. It is a story about the changing world, and how hard it can be to deal with these changes. And most importantly, it is about a love that stands the test of time and fate. The romance in After Story is distinct from other anime romances in just how much it means to the characters in question. The feelings Nagisa and Tomoya hold for each other are almost tangible, they drive not only the story, but the characters’ will to live. It is that powerful. But it is surprisingly not overly romanticized, the sugar isn’t laid on too thick, if it’s even laid on at all. Sometimes people do really love each other that much, and After Story captures this with such ease that it is truly remarkable.
If you get into this series, then you will probably cry at one point. But you may be surprised to see that what makes you cry are not the moments of severe loss, but the moments of profound gain. Rekindled relationships, memories of times past, these are the true standout moments in After Story. This is an anime about many things, but to put it simply, it is about life, and every part of it.
As mentioned, After Story is different from other KEY works and most visual novels in general in that it’s fully about the protagonist, Tomoya. And Tomoya is an excellent protagonist. He starts out the first season as a cynical and indifferent teenager, but he learns with others’ help that there really are things in life that make it worth living. But what happens when all those things you once loved so dearly disappear? It’s not easy, and Tomoya eventually falls into a deep depression. But he eventually finds new beauties in life, and is able to move towards the future while still treasuring the past. Nagisa, while not as fleshed out as Tomoya, is still a very good character in her own right. Starting out as the paragon of moe, she eventually gains a sense of quiet inner strength that sets her apart from other characters of that type. She embodies the Japanese concept of yamato nadeshiko, but in a good way. She is a good woman, a good wife, but does not lack a will of her own. She’s a beautiful soul, and Tomoya is aware of this. She is everything to Tomoya, the light of his life. His cynical outlook on the world is lifted by her sheer brightness and love of everything. They play off of each other extremely well and have great chemistry.
Tomoya meets various other characters on his journey through life, and for the most part, they are very good. He learns something very important from each of them, and they all help him get back up on his feet. He can’t do this alone, he comes to realize, and begins to open up to others once again, and is greatly rewarded.
After Story is not flawless, but it is leaps and bounds above everything else Maeda has written that I’ve seen so far. It has the same flavor of melodrama that is ever present in his work, but it makes up for this with solid characters and a meaningful story. If you’re a fan of romance, it’s a must see. If you’re a fan of drama, you could do better, but I still suggest watching it. It is a wonderful story about life and all of its many nuances, from small encounters that blossom into unbreakable bonds, from tragedies that lead into a new era of life, and everything in between. read more
24 of 24 episodes seen
The plot is crazy and convoluted, and this is both what lends the series its charm and what makes it less than outstanding. It’s basically a series of bizarre happenings one after another, it’s hard to make sense out of it no matter hard you try. And I suppose that was my biggest issue with the series. No matter how hard I thought about it, I could not derive any meaning form this show. At times it felt like it was trying to be meaningful, but if meaning was truly there then it was completely lost on me. Now, not everything has to be some deep work of art, but since everyone else is doing it I subconsciously compared the whole thing to Utena. Utena was just as bizarre as Penguindrum, but it made me think, it made me feel, it left me in awe when it was all over. I didn’t get any of this from Penguindrum. I don’t want to call it shallow, because it’s definitely more creative than most anime this year. But I question whether this creativity is genuine or just an acid trip disguised as innovation.
What is this series about? I haven’t the slightest clue, honestly. It doesn’t seem to have a focus, the plot jumps around in completely unexpected ways which starts out as very entertaining but eventually become tiring. It seems to have some sort of ADD; by the end, it has forgotten what it was doing in the first place. But what was it doing in the first place? Ikuhara clearly tried to make something surreal, and he succeeded in that, but he might have succeeded too much. He sacrificed meaning in order to make something overly dense that doesn’t make a lick a sense from any angle, rather than something with hidden depth that only comes out from certain perspectives.
Despite all this criticism, I have to say Penguindrum kept me on the edge of my seat for most of its run. Like I said, its nonsensicality is both a blessing and a curse. It’s pure fun to watch, due to it’s unpredictability and complete disregard for storytelling standards. It just could have been better, I suppose.
Art wise, Penguindrum is very good, if a little inconsistent. It really resembles a Shaft show, although it may be more accurate to say that Shaft shows resemble Ikuhara shows. The backgrounds are very bright and colorful, and occasionally take a step or two towards the surreal. There isn’t a whole lot of animation going on, as a good portion of the show is talking heads. Despite this, there are clearly some episodes that they poured a lot of their budget into, and some where they really slacked off. The directing style also resembles Shinbo’s signature style, but again, it’s probably more accurate to say the reverse. The art and direction give the show a sense of liveliness that compliments the strangeness of what goes on on the screen.
I can’t say I paid particular attention to the music, but it sounded really good in the show. It made certain scenes come off as really dramatic, and others come off as completely crazy (Rock Over Japan, anyone?). I need to give it a listen outside the show sometime.
The characters were really a mixed bag. There were some I liked, and some I didn’t really care about. Unfortunately, the ones I didn’t care so much for were the main characters. The situation surrounding the Takakura siblings became increasingly melodramatic and convoluted as episodes went by. None of them were particularly interesting on their own, either. On the other hand, I quite liked Ringo, her strange obsession with fate was pretty interesting from a psychological standpoint. I also liked how it contrasted so starkly with Shouma’s distaste for the concept. She was a nice girl with mental problems, and who doesn’t love those? Other characters I liked include Yuri and Tabuki, whose own problems and backstories were fascinating in their own right. I liked the whole Momaka/Ringo subplot they had going on, and was sad when it seemed to fade in favor of…something else. And finally, there’s Masako, whose tragic, almost martyr like role was pretty well executed, though not as well as her spiritual predecessor Juri’s was. So really, the characters were a mixed bag, and somewhat messily handled, much like the plot. Some were interesting case studies in psychology, some were just okay. In the end though, I can’t say I felt particularly strongly for any of them.
So, to sum this whole thing up, I’d say Penguindrum is certainly worth watching if you want something different and entertaining. But I think if you go into it expecting to come to some profound revelation about the meaning of life or whatever, you’ll be disappointed. But who really watches anime for that? Unfortunately, even in the realm of anime it falls short in some areas. It lacked meaning, any sort of coherency (meaning either on the surface of deeper into it), and emotional power. But a show really doesn’t need these things when it’s just so fun to watch.
12 of 12 episodes seen
The plot of Kamichu is a perfect balance of the fantastic and the mundane. On the fantastic side, we have strange and colorful worlds and creatures reminiscent of Spirited Away. On the mundane side, we have the sweet but not sugar-coated trials of a middle school girl. The show’s charm comes from the interplay of both sides: young Yurie becomes a god and does godly things, but she’s still just a young girl. Being a god is more like a side job to her, as she struggles with school, plays with her friends, and builds up the courage to confess to her crush.
The scenes regarding Yurie’s godly encounters and duties are a joy to watch; handled with the whimsy of any Ghibli film, they draw you in to a world unlike ours. And yet, the show would still be very good without this element due to how well the ordinary scenes are handled. Cute and sweet, yet not jaw-achingly so; heartwarming but not overly sentimental. The greatest satisfaction I drew from this series was watching Yurie overcome her shyness and confess to her crush. The other characters’ stories are also memorable, in particular one episode revolving around the Saegusa sisters was very touching. As the show goes on the fantastic elements begin to fade, and it becomes more apparent that the real focus of the show is Yurie the schoolgirl, not Yurie the god.
The art and animation is of extremely high quality in Kamichu, drawing another comparison to Studio Ghibli’s works. The backgrounds are very lush and colorful. Also worth noting is the beautifully imagined realm of the gods, just as surreal as you’d expect it to be, yet warm and inviting beyond it’s mysterious exterior. The animation is very smooth, you won’t see many off model frames here. The character designs are simple and clean, and very effective.
The music is also very good; lush orchestras to match the scenery and accompany the more grandiose moments, simple piano pieces to accompany the more relaxed moments, and cheery, upbeat tunes to go along with the various playful antics the girls get up to. It’s a very relaxing soundtrack overall, performed with various acoustic instruments, and it fits every moment to a tee.
The characters of Kamichu are perhaps its most memorable aspect. None of them are exaggerated yet they are all memorable. Yurie herself may as well be the embodiment of moe, but not in an annoying, superficial way. She’s an innocent, shy, and clumsy girl, but she goes through subtle and genuine growth throughout the series. Her friends are endearing in the same way yet very distinct, the proactive Matsuri and the down to earth Mitsue are equally likable and have their own vibrant - but not too vibrant - personalities. That right there is one of my favorite things about Kamichu: every character is bursting with personality, but in a subdued way not found in most slice of life anime. Even the side characters, such as Kenji, Yashima, and Yurie’s family are memorable and lovable. The greatest joy to be derived from this series comes from these ordinary but wonderful people; the most memorable moments come from watching them overcome their various trials and tribulations.
Really, I think what sets Kamichu apart from most slice of life anime is that genuineness. It’s never over the top, it’s always believable even when it has actual fantastic elements to it. It’s cute, but not in a mass-produced way intended to pander to certain audiences. It is a show anyone can enjoy, and an absolute must-watch for anyone who considers themselves a fan of slice of life.
25 of 25 episodes seen
It doesn’t take an anime expert to know that there is an abundance (overabundance even, some would argue) of shows centered around a group of cute and quirky girls doing…not much of anything. For most of its run, Idolmaster is basically one of those shows, but with much higher production values and a bit more focus than most. It follows a (rather large) group of girls aspiring to be idols, an as such we get a glimpse into the lifestyle of an idol (how accurate this portrayal is anyone’s guess, well except an actual idol). But like I said before, being an idol isn’t the most noble of professions out there, and a show based around it would have a tough time being anything notably substantial. And while Idolmaster doesn’t quite fit that bill, it does have something to offer beyond a variety of cute girls, starting from episode 20.
For the first 19 episodes, it’s almost completely episodic. The episodes are loosely stringed together by the idol plotline, but for the most part each episode serves to flesh out one of the girls. There is also the tension with 961, which I honestly didn’t like much as it felt kind of ham-fisted at times, but I digress. Then episode 20 comes along.
From this point on, it manages to become a relatively poignant drama while not going overboard and still maintaining the feel of the earlier episodes. Throughout the entire show, we watch the bonds of the girls grow, and these later episodes put those bonds to the test. The theme of the show is not at all an original one, but it’s one that’s hard for me to get tired of: friendship. It’s executed well; sentimental perhaps, but is it really possible to have a story about friendship that isn’t sentimental?
As mentioned earlier, the production values for this show are very good. The movements are fluid and detailed, even the smallest ones, and especially the concert scenes. The backgrounds are bright and colorful, and detailed as well. The art used for the characters is a bit generic and has a major case of sameface going on, but it works for this type of show.
In a show about idols, you’d expect some music, right? Well, you got it, but I really hope no one is so uneducated in the world of idol singers that they would expect hard rock or deep, poetic lyrics. It’s all sugar-coated j-pop here, with lyrics that will rot your teeth. Well, for the most part, anyway. Some songs stood out as more powerful, namely the ones sung by Asami Imai (Chihaya’s seiyuu), whose lovely voice provided some of the most memorable songs. Fitting, since Chihaya is one of the most memorable characters.
And on that note, the characters. All of them have their own personalities defined from the get-go, and they each get an episode to flesh them out a bit more. They’re all likable in their own way, and it’s easy to pick favorites based on their personality quirks. Despite this, there are two characters that without a doubt stood out in the depth and development departments.
The first being the protagonist, Amami Haruka. For most of the show, it’s not really clear that she’s the protagonist, and she didn’t stand out to me at all, in fact she was one of my least favorites. However, the last few episodes finally make it clear that she is the main character of this story, and make her that much more likable. Starting out as a generic good-hearted, energetic girl, the importance of these traits of hers comes to shine from episode 20 onwards. She serves as a guiding light, a hand reached out, particularly for Chihaya. She’s also the chain that bonds the group together. As 756 Pro begins to drift apart, poor Haruka here bares the blunt of it. Her perpetually positive outlook is put to the test, and she becomes more and more aware of what is happening, and thus becoming more depressed. Her hope prevails in the end though, as she inspires the group to recuperate their friendship.
The other stand out character, is, as mentioned, Chihaya. She’s probably the most complex out of the bunch, which isn’t really saying much, but my point still stands. A much bigger emphasis is placed on her past than the rest of the idols, as well as her motivations and struggles. Throughout the show she comes off as rather depressed, and this reaches its high point by episode 20. This episode is without a doubt the best of the series and one of the best of the year even, if you ask me. It’s a genuinely moving episode that serves as the catalyst for Chihaya’s development, as well as for the development of the show itself.
Like mentioned in Haruka’s paragraph, her and Chihaya’s bond is without a doubt the strongest in the show, which is a show all about bonds. They remain the closest during the period of separation, and it is their bond that eventually brings the group back together again. Most of the characters develop briefly independently and continually as a group, but these two are really what made the show a recommendable one, rather than just another slice of life show.
Idolmaster doesn’t win any big awards in my book or anyone’s book probably, but it was a highly enjoyable and eventually affecting journey that I do not regret watching one bit. Like I said though, it’s pretty a sentimental show so those without mushy hearts, stay away. The mushy hearted among us though will definitely enjoy the last few episodes, and any fan of cute girls doing cute things will enjoy the previous episodes as well. Luckily, I happen to possess both those qualities, so Idolmaster is unexpectedly one of my favorite shows of the year.
12 of 12 episodes seen
What made Madoka so popular is it’s uniquely dark take on the magical girl genre, and for that it definitely deserves praise. It questions the ethics and consequences behind the concept of employing young girls as heroes, as well as the motivation of the magical girls themselves. These girls don’t just become magical girls because it sounds fun or they want to help people, they have a goal in mind, that being their respective wishes. At first. Once they realize the harsh reality of their new job, their goals change, and in some cases fall apart.
Madoka raises the question of whether there is truly a selfless wish, and explores the difference as well as the overlap of selfishness and selflessness. It shows us four girls that could be called heroes from one perspective, and not from another perspective, and all in different ways. What makes a hero anyway? Their motivation, their will, even their hopefulness? Each girl explores a different facet of the concept of a hero, and, by extension, a magical girl.
I’ve said all this without addressing the actual plot, which is quite well done. It is not the most original, but it’s well done and entertaining. I couldn’t see any real plot holes, and while I didn’t like the ending at first, it provided some extra food for thought in the end. Although, I couldn’t help but feel it was something of a rip off of another series (saying which would spoil it). The plot, if you so choose, will make you think about the nature of time, cause-and-effect, and probably other things too. But it stands as a well thought out and entertaining tale on it’s own.
The creators of this show really went through a lot of effort creating every aspect of the story. It is a parallel to the story of Faust yet at the same time an entertaining thriller. Symbolism and imagery are abound, whether it’s meaningful or not is up to the viewer. Philosophical ideas are well woven into the story, and the break down of the magical girl genre is intelligently done. One thing I didn’t like so much, however, was some of Kyuubey’s dialogue. He’s lectures on the morality of his actions could have been done better, I think. As it stands it seemed kind heavy handed to me.
Aesthetically, Madoka is a very pleasing show to look at. The color pallete is appealing and the backgrounds are, when they need to be, stunning. There’s also the surreal design of the witches and their world, which on one level just looks cool, on another it provides even more food for thought. This world is just a blink of an eye away, and yet it is so different from ours, and this witches appear to be such a contrast to the magical girls at first, but a reveal along the way reveals something even more horrifying that the witches themselves.
Shinbo’s directing style is present here as always, and hasn’t changed much from his other shows. At times it works, others it comes off as somewhat corny. But when it works, it really works. Some scenes, and even episodes are amazingly cinematic, the choreography of music and visuals being integrated flawlessly to create something downright visceral.
And on that note, there’s the music. Ah, the music. Composed by the lovely Yuki Kajiura, Madoka’s score proves to be one of her most dynamic yet. As always, it does a fantastic job at setting the atmosphere, be it epic or tragic or melancholy. While her trademark style is there, I believe she applies some of her usual gimmicks in new and interesting ways. The orchestras and chanting can create scenes of great grandeur, as in Surgam indetidem and Symposium magarum, but there’s also pianos, violins and even flutes, to evoke more tender emotions, as in Decretum and Sagitta Luminis. There’s also the mystic theme of Kyuubey and the Puella Magi, which is in a league of it’s own. It really sets the mood for the whole show. Overall, a fantastic score, integral to the mood of the show.
The characters are probably the weakest aspect of the show, but they are by no means bad. They could have been developed more, but given the length of the show the were given a decent amount of depth. I believe in the end though that they serve more as reflections on facets of a hero than actual characters. They are all doing the same thing, but at the same time they are all constructed differently on the inside. I also found it interesting how they all play off of each other. There’s Homura and Madoka, which represent interplay of hope. Homura fights for Madoka, who provides hope for her. And yet Homura is what eventually brings Madoka to her final decision, her wish. There’s also Sayaka and Kyouko, who represent conflicting morals at first, but are eventually revealed to be not as different as they thought. The relationships between these pairs run deep, and you could see yuri undertones there if you wanted, but I saw it as purely platonic for the both of them. There’s also Sayaka and Madoka, who represent hope and despair, downfall and success, based on the same factor: their youth. The maturity, strength, and motivations differ for each girl, creating interesting clashes of morality, and stark contrasts in character. So in summary I’d say the characters on their own are interesting and believable not quite characters rather than representations of ideas. When compared to each other however, there’s a lot more to consider, though both on their own and in groups or pairs they made me think.
I suppose I should put emphasis on the me there. What you get out of this series is up to you. To support this idea I will say that at first I did not like this series very much at all, but once I rewatched it certain ideas came to mind and now I can write practically a thesis on it. I could analyze each character, each relationship, each question, idea, scene, even each piece of music, but this is a review, so I will abstain from that. It is rich in content, but not flawless. It’s still an intelligent and rewarding watch though, whether you choose to think about it or not. It’s all about, like another reviewer put it, perspective. At the very least, I thank it for giving me so much to write about.
35 of 35 chapters read
The story in Koi Kaze is amazing for several reason, but the most important one is probably how it handles the topic of incest. When you hear the words “anime/manga” and “incest” you probably think of otaku fetish-pandering. Koi Kaze is one of the few and certainly the best exception to this. It is treated tastefully and realistically throughout the manga, and can be somewhat uncomfortable to read at times due to this, even those those who have a fetish for incest. It makes a statement about society while at the same time not making a statement about the morality of incest. It simply shows you two people in love, and silently asks you, can you really judge these people? It doesn’t say if incest is right or wrong or whatever, it just makes us question whether we are really the ones to decide on such things. As mentioned, this could be applied to many things, both love related and not.
Aside from the moral questions this manga poses, there is a very realistic and satisfying romance. These two people, Nanoka and Koushiro, love each other as anyone else would. And yet there are many obstacles imposed by their familial link. These make the romance more compelling than your typical one. It covers the emotional and psychological struggles of both Nanoka and Koushiro that result from their feelings for each other. It is far, far, more intense and mature than any anime/manga romance I’ve encountered, and far more affecting as well.
I hate to say it in the midst of all this praise but the art in Koi Kaze isn’t that great. The characters often look off and the style comes off as a bit odd sometimes. There’s not a while lot of detail either. Still, there were a few pages that I found to stand out as rather beautiful, and I can see some improvement in the art as the manga went on.
The two main characters, Nanoka and Koushiro, are just as believable as everything else in Koi Kaze. We get to see the story from both of their point of views, and the way they cope with their feelings makes them very believable and interesting characters. As individuals they are also realistic. Koushiro, being the adult, is a lot more concerned about his feelings than the innocent Nanoka. Now, I feel that I should clarify that when I say innocent I don’t mean in a disgustingly cute way, she behaves like a girl her age would. She’s simply not as aware of the complications her feelings will bring about, and the resentment they will evoke from society, not at first at least. Koushiro goes through a stage of denial of his feelings, while Nanoka goes through more of a stage of confusion. For a while she’s not quite sure or the nature of what she feels toward her brother, but she comes to the realization at a natural pace. She is, as mentioned, somewhat unaware of the tension surrounding incestuous relationships, and just wants to be with her big brother. She is confused when he lashes out at an distances himself from her. And, regarding those actions, Koushiro’s not just being an asshole towards Nanoka; the lashing out is a result of the idea that he’s been given by society that their eventual relationship is wrong, and the distancing himself from Nanoka is really for her own good. He wants to be with her too, but he knows it could bring her unhappiness and even harm in the end. If you discount these factors he seems kind of like an unusual tsundere, but factor them in and you have a very complex and human character.
As in the moral piece of the story, Koi Kaze is somewhat in the grey area in regards to the future of their relationship. It implies that their love may end tragically, but they’re happy now, and isn’t that enough? Really, that could sum up whole manga. They’re happy, and they’re not hurting anyone, so why bother them? Could it be that the real problem is our own selfish, judgmental mindset? It asks us such questions in a subtle and understated way, as any good commentary should. It won’t force you to change you opinion on whether incest is right or wrong, it just encourages you to accept it when it does occur, for who are we to tell people their love is wrong? Who are we to judge anyone, really? read more
140 of 142 chapters read
What does the passage of time feel like to something that never ages? This is just one question that Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou explores. YKK is an observation of days passing by through the eyes of a character that is at once both innocent and wise. In this story, the world is ending, and yet this is perhaps the most peaceful manga in existence. This surprising contrast lends much beauty to the story. You won’t find another post-apocalyptic story like this one. While most of them are about chaos and despair, YKK is about calm acceptance of the world’s fate, and learning to enjoy the small beauties that remain in a disappearing world. You still have time left, so why make yourself suffer? Another question this manga asks. It emphasizes the importance of enjoying the small things in life, because there won’t always be big things to take advantage of. It is truly amazing how each chapter of this manga is simply an observation of everyday life, and yet there is so much substance lying behind the simplicity. No, that may not be the right wording, since it implies substance and simplicity are mutually exclusive. The simplicity is what makes YKK so amazing; I can not think of a single piece of fiction that says so much with so little. Nothing is shoved in your face or hammered into your head, it requires you to think a bit. This manga handles philosophy better than most books, let alone other manga. Each chapter has something to say, something that will only register if you sit back and take in what you just read. Since the dialogue is very sparse you may think this is just a quick read that you can skim through, but if you do that then you will not experience it as you should. It is a meditation in the literary sense, and should be read as a meditation in the mental sense; slow and contemplatively.
The art in Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is just as amazing as the story, and in fact plays a big part in the delivery of the story. The characters’ designs cute but not cutesy, and are full of, well, character. But the real beauty lies in the scenery. There are many, many pages of beautiful sketches of lush fields, forests, etc, and the quality never once lets up. Another reviewer said she was moved to tears by some of the drawings in this manga, and I am not ashamed to admit the same. To see such beauty in a world that coming to an end is deeply moving, and is just one layer of depth YKK possesses. Speaking of which, I should mention that the world is still recognizably apocalyptic, albeit in a very mild way. Bustling cities and highways are no more, all that remains are some few and far between towns and miles and miles of dirt roads and fields in between. Again, the sparsity is what makes the art stand out.
The story is told through the eyes of a robot named Hatsuseno Alpha, whom I referred to in the first paragraph. She is, as mentioned, innocent, but not in the way a typical moeblob is. She is childlike, not childish, in that she is amazed by the simplest things and can find beauty in anything. And yet it is this same trait that makes her wise, for is that not an admirable attitude to have in the face of a crumbling world? Alpha is a robot, so she does not age, and will probably be with the world for a much longer time than a human would, and she accepts this peacefully. Due to her disposition she is not distressed by the idea of near immortality, and how lucky we are for that, for it allows her to narrate the story in a completely unique way. Her observations on her encounters and experiences are what makes YKK so wonderful, as they make you sit back and think about many things, including your own life and how you live it.
As for the rest of the characters, they possess the same laid back acceptance of the world’s fate as Alpha, though it’s a bit different for them since they are (with a few exceptions, such as Kokone) human. They are all written extremely well, in that they feel like very real people, like they were your own acquaintances. They all teach Alpha something along the way, but still stand as individuals. They possess pure hearts and good natures, but in a believable way; man will die out soon on it’s own, so why bother with cruelty? But the manga still encourages kindness even in the midst of a flourishing world. I think, if some of the more ill-natured people of the world read this manga, or maybe the depressed, or the spoiled, I think they would all learn something from the way these characters go about their lives.
YKK is wholly slice of life, so naturally there will be some who will find it boring. But it is different from many slice of lifes, so much so that people who aren’t normally fans of the genre will enjoy it. You simply have to be able to tolerate the languid pace and the lack of any huge events, and you will find that this manga says so, so much more than most slife of lifes, and most fiction period. It is a poignant reflection on how humans live, told in a beautifully simple way. I think this goes without saying at this point, but Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is an unparalleled masterpiece on the world of manga and anime. A must read if you want to witness the true potential of the medium. read more
26 of 26 episodes seen
Most people would say K-ON!! has no story. Perhaps by their definition of story they’d be right, but not by my definition. There’s no big plot twists or revelations and much of the show is devoted to the girls just goofing around. But underneath this silliness lies a simple but sweet tale of 5 girls going through highs cool. I know this doesn’t sound like much but it is executed with such grace and heart that it is truly touching. The story is driven completely by the characters, which is a turn off for some but a huge turn on for me. To appreciate K-ON’s story you need to be in a certain state of mind. It would be easy to pass it off as pure cheese, but if you look at it from an innocent, youthful point of view it becomes something else. These five girls are going through a journey, one that doesn’t contain and robots or monsters or anything, but a journey none the less. The concept of how young girls maturing into adults handle the changes that go along with it is dealt with very well. It is, essentially, a coming of age story. Many people complain about how this supposed anime about music wasn’t about music, but it was never trying to be. Music is what brings the girls together, but is not what drives the story. What drives the story is the development of the girls themselves. The show was never supposed to be about them making it big as musicians, but rather just them dealing with growing up, with music as a sort of backdrop.
KyoAni are no rookies when it comes to animation, and it shows here. There’s not a whole lot of movement, being a slice of life, but what movement there is is very fluid. The character designs are fittingly cute but at the same time not quite so generic as other anime of this variety; they are instantly recognizable. The backgrounds are very detailed, and the concert scenes are beautifully rendered, with much attention paid to the instruments being played.
Since music is a theme of the show, you’d expect some good songs to come out of it, and, if you don’t mind cheery pop-rock, K-ON!! doesn’t disappoint. The OPs are sung my Yui, and reflect her cheerful and carefree personality. The EDs, on the other hand, sung by Mio, are much closer to the “rock” in pop-rock. Personally, I liked them a lot better than the OPs, especially No, Thank You, which may be my favorite song from the series. As for the insert songs, they’re few and far between, but those that are there are what you’d expect of a band made up of high school girls; light, catchy and somewhat silly. One interesting thing I want to point out though is how later on in the series music becomes more of a way for the girls to express their feelings, rather than just a hobby. I am referring to U&I and Tenshi ni Fureta yo!, the latter of which will certainly tug at your heartstrings if you’re into the show. This is a nice element that is very true to real life, as many musicians will attest to.
As for the characters, they are without a doubt based on common archetypes, but they do have a little more to them. They’re personalities are very well fleshed out, even the tiniest line adding to their character. They DO develop, contrary to what some will say, though it’s very subtle. They mostly develop as a group, as they deal with the unfamiliar (to them) fear of being separated. Their friendship has grown a lot since the beginning of the series, going from just a club to a tight-knit group of girlfriends with strong emotional bonds. These bonds are made very clear by the girls outward emotions, especially Azusa’s, who has to deal with being left behind at the end of it all. All of their fears and feelings are very understandable if you take into consideration the kind of girls they are. Speaking of which, many will say that they are idealized to appeal to otaku and that I can’t deny completely. But, I think the way their personalities are fleshed out and the emotions they show are very realistic, and girls like them do exist. I can see them as a club in real life, with the way they interact with each other, sometimes bickering, sometimes slacking off, and things like that. It’s the little things, really.
It’s the little things, really.
That pretty much sums up the whole show. It makes no grand statements, presents no huge dilemmas, it’s just a simple story about 5 girls. But unlike many shows of this type, and has a point, a story to tell. When you take in all the small developments of the girls and all the small things they go through, you get a story that is poignant without being too emotionally taxing, and that is commendable and refreshing. Obviously, K-ON!! isn’t for everyone. But I think those who can appreciate these kinds of stories will like it a lot. And as for those who can’t, quiet down a little, please. read more