Anime, as a medium, does not leave me all that satisfied when it comes to the comedy genre. I can count around 4-5 comedy series that managed to get some enjoyment out of me. Two examples would be Cromartie High School and Nichijou. The former, except of being a top-notch comedy series with many bizarre happenings and wacky moments, is also an excellent parody of immeasurable things, including capitalism, gangs, the toll that technology takes on us people, and many many more. The latter is more of an incredible comedy with its fair share of wacky moments on the one hand, exquisite art on the ... other, also working as a successful parody of moe (K-on, Lucky Star, etc. You do know the deal, I bet).
Checking last season's line-up, quite the amount of series spiked my interest. I stumbled across this entry called "Saiki Kusuo no Ψ-nan" (I am fortunate because I am Greek, otherwise I would have to use "Psi"). What I got out of a first taste of the thingy was:
>5 minutes per episode
I backed away immediately when I read the two factors above. A short, and a comedy at that? All I got was an intuition that it would definitely fail. However, my prejudice got proved wrong. After pushes from several people, I decided to give its first episode a try. What I found out is that I could not stop pressing the "next episode" button. That's the moment when I said to myself that yup, Saiki Kusuo no Ψ-nan might have been able to measure up to the several anime comedies that I loved. It truly did, I presume. It even managed to refer to my given examples pricelessly.
The series is about your dude named Saiki Kusuo, who has a lot of psychic powers on his hands, ranging from telekinisis to reading minds to changing sceneries and perceptions of other people. This might sound awesome to some, but our man does not agree. He thinks that harboring all those powers is a hassle most of the times. Letting alone that he does not care about almost anyone, he just wants to lead a calm life, not get into the center of attention that would have been possible hadn't he been who he was, and not get involved with many kinds of people in a more personal manner. Unfortunately for him, that ain't gonna be the case, because he makes many encounters on the way.
There is not a specific plot we could speak about, because the series is strictly episodic, except in some cases where few-episode arcs are evident. The pacing is very fast, as expected from a short and wacky comedy at that, but not in a way that it might feel unnatural in a way. The series itself is quite random of course, but it manages to be satisfying when it comes to pacing and transitions. Especially the transitions, which fit incredibly well with the main point of the series, its all-around pleasing spontaneousness. In contrast with that, it usually takes place at Saiki's home and/or the school he attends.
In addition, Saiki-Kusuo no Ψ-nan manages to bring about a great sense of how cliches should be handled. The dude who wants to lead a peaceful life, the narcissistic girl, the eighth year syndrome pupil, the hyped and hyperkinetic youth, the perverted pal who also has psychic powers, the lad who can not think, moms and dads that fight a lot yet love each other. The whole run is plagued with anime cliches, something that usually does not work well. With Saiki Kusuo though, it was more than triumphant.
Consequently, we strive towards the character section. The whole cast is, for the lack of a better term, hilarious. Not as much the cliches they represent, but the interactions in between, and the situations they are orchestrated to follow. Whether it be slapstick, or wackiness, or long monologues that our main character tends to have, the show relies heavily on its characters. One or two jokes might be able to slip out of my line of perception, but other than that, the humor hits home. That is one thing that this series should not be missed for.
Even if it was not one of its main intentions to develop characters of course, some change between the starting and ending episodes can be detected in the long run. Still managing to representing cliches in a really pleasing way, Saiki Kusuo no Ψ-nan manages to make our tremendously fun cast to evolve, especially the main character. This change, as I would name it, is mostly evident towards the series' end. Along with this partial development come the emotional scenes, which work surprisingly well.
The art and animation are digestible for a short. There is this short episode which explains as of why all the characters have weird hair styles and harbor strange accessories and clothes in many of the circumstances, and how Saiki changed those things. (And then you might think about why he has those strange game machine-like thingies on his head.) Just thinking about that makes me laugh further more. The backgrounds are nice, though not something I would bother talking a lot about. Character designs, in general, are a joy to bestow, because of the factors mentioned above.
Soundtrack-wise, the opening is full of wack and a nice way to prepare for the short heaven that one single four minute episode might be. The tracks included are not all that memorable to me, to be completely honest, because I was way too busy noticing other things. There is no ending to speak of.
No doubts about it, I managed to enjoy Saiki-Kusuo no Ψ-nan to the fullest. Revealing one more counterpart of Saiki's life per second episode was really fun. The hilarious interactions were quite the sight. The humor, as in overall, smelled success, and some of the supernatural elements were interesting to say the least. I am more than glad to have watched this anime, especially when it did not take all that much of my time in the first place.
In conclusion, I am going to thank J.C.Staff for brightening my days with this piece. Following it for one season made it seem like it was something that was important for the anime industry. A really funny short that can bring many kinds of inventions to the table. Definitely one of the best series of 2016, along with JoJo, Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, Mob Psycho 100 etc.
Thanks for reading this review, feedback shall always be appreciated. I am bound to upload more!
Sep 23, 2016
Iyashikei is a sub-genre of slice of life that I've started being aware of after reading the critically acclaimed manga series named "Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou", one that I still love and consider not only one of the best additions into the respective sub-genre, but of the slice of life genre itself in general. A great female character, a really interesting take on the future landscape of Japan and AIs, episodic stories that are no less than charming and a very powerful ending make it one of the most fascinating experiences that come to mind when it comes to this industry. Following that, I had the ... pleasure of coming across the all famous Aria, which is one that I really liked, taking place on planet Aqua (Mars after colonization and inhabitation), with a main character from Manhome (former Earth), that travels to Neo Venezia in order to become a successful Undine, making new encounters and experiencing happiness all over. Getting progressively better while focusing on both characters and worldbuilding in the first and second entries and finally unleashing all of its emotional prowess in the Origination, the whole franchise was nothing less than a ride. Home to powerful themes, both of the aforementioned series are optimistic in nature, and are very enjoyable at that. However, what I would consider their stupid little sister comes in. That stupid little sister definitely is not as good as the big ones, as implied, but definitely managed to be as fun, and of course, has a lot of room to improve. And maybe become better than the other two.
Amanchu! is yet another anime project adapted from the manga of the same name, written by Amano Kozue of Aria fame, and directed by Satou Junichi, the master of the sub-genre. The latter has directed many works that I consider some of the best, including Princess Tutu and Tamayura, another underrated iyashikei gem. It takes place in a rural area very close to the sea somewhere in Japan and is about a girl named Ooki Futaba aka Teko, that came to live there from a city. A girl full of worries and anxieties, Teko does not know what to do and where the path named "life" will lead here. That's until she meets Kohinata Hikari aka Pikari, a very energetic, fired up and all gung-ho girl, who happens to be a scuba diving enthusiast, maniac even. The latter drags the former around and into the world of scuba diving. Teko experiences many new things that take a toll on her coming of age, meets new people including her homeroom teacher, an indecisive upperclassman named Ninomiya Ai, and her quiet brother, Ninomiya Makoto. All of them together dive into the sea of happiness and fun and learn how important these two things are. After all, this is exactly what this anime series is about.
As previously implied, the plot itself is very simple. In fact, there is no definite plot to speak of, as the series take the episodic approach and is about random happenings in the characters' lives, as well as others that emphasize Teko's development mostly. On another hand, Amanchu takes advantage of its simplicity and gives it yet another touch, that makes it even more fun than what normal iyashikei seems to me. That touch can be found in several scenes, such as the one in which Pikari chases after the teacher, as well as the easily recognisable yet sometimes overused chibi faces that are quite enjoyable to bestow. Another positive point is that, despite it being a series that takes a really optimistic point of view in life, it does not completely discard the sadness, worries, and implications that a person might experience in life, something that can be seen through Teko's face. Her development is significant and another really important plot point that reinforces the amount of good things Amanchu has, also coming into perfect contrast with Pikari, who might get lost sometimes, but indeed does think positively all the time.
Nevertheless, as people say, there always is the positive and the negative side of things. To say the truth, more scuba diving would be plausible. Sure, the basics were introduced eloquently at the start, sure, Teko did not know how to swim and learnt how to later on, but I was not able to fully take a taste of this beautiful world of scuba diving. This is not as much a negative, as a personal complaint of mine, but I felt like expressing it. Now to truly start with them, Amanchu sometimes might seem to stick its arse into repeating the same messages over and over. In different ways most of the times, but the fact that it does repeat them still is there and is one that can not be ejected. Unfortunately, a second shortcoming is the pacing which sometimes strikes me off as inconsistent. The transition between the scenes might seem random in some cases as well. However, as repeatedly indicated throughout its length, Amanchu has this message of positive perspective, which might make us look at negative things as a double-edged sword. The way it portrays everyday things such as "fun" and "entertainment" is subject to savour, something that can not make me fully well dislike it. Even as I am writing this review, specific scenes come to mind, ones that made me happy helped me full well realize that yup, having fun is very important for a person, especially when he or her is undergoing peer pressure.
In addition to the simple yet charming plot, Amanchu hits home with a vibrant cast of characters, that all are different yet share some of their worries. From Teko to Pikari to the teacher to Pikari's grandma, all of them seem to worry about life, because they are humans. What I truly loved about the section though, is that every single character seems to be true to themselves. What is meant by that is Pikari will always be the energetic person, Teko will always be the worrywart, Onee-chan will always hit Outoto-kun and Outoto-kun will consistently worry about her. How Amanchu handles archetypes, whilst managing to be consistently pleasant, is something I could appreciate to the fullest. Letting alone that those characters are always involved in wacky and unforgettable scenes, I was finding myself caring about them, and especially Teko, whom the spotlight will shine onto for a seperate percentage of this review.
Teko is your everyday shy high school girl who does not stand out and does not have many friends. Her inside is full of worries and questions, about what to long for. Her encounters truly make her a character of wonder. This sense of empirism that always is present in the series manages to flesh her out exceptionally well. From her grade school days to her high school ones, the concept of changing is always evident when it comes to her character. She herself realised that she is the one that does not look at things positively enough, she is the one that realised that she can not appreciate things to the fullest, and finally she is the one that understood that both her past and present meetings are ones that belong to her and ones that only her can treasure. In the end, she had a lot of fun and so did I. Her coming of age, which will continue till the end of the whole story I presume, is something that is a sight to not miss. It is simple, it is fun, coupled off by the wacky adventures of our whole cast of course, it is easy to relate to, and it is something that does not try to be more than it is. What a great character Teko is. She also is super cute, with her chibi face and stuff. Her relationship with Pikari is a really enjoyable aspect of Amanchu, them being polar opposites and fitting the deal ideally.
To get on with the other characters, Pikari, Ai, Makoto and Sensei and her worries about the weather which should be mentioned, all get seperate episodes throughout the series' length, but are characters that I feel like need more introduction, after me loving Teko all that much. Even if they do not get developed more, I would not mind it, that being exactly one of the main characteristics of iyashikei itself, but I would definitely count it as a positive. The chibi faces each and every of our significant characters have are mottos and work as additions to their character and, most of the times, are really cute. Advisor Cha/Aria deserves a special mention because he is the best character in the whole series after Teko. Teko is a masterpiece herself.
The art section is, for the lack of a better term, beautiful. The character designs are highly detailed and aesthetically spot-on, the landscape and sceneries are intricate and a really pleasant sight, the character designs are charming, especially the girl's bodies and uniforms which are given enough attention to detail, and the expressions are no less than wondrous. The chibi faces are sometimes annoying, other times work perfectly, but the characters' facial expressions when things get emotional is when shit hits the fan. The animation, as expected of JC Staff and its animators, is smooth, with some exceptions of lower budget that could as well be passed by unnoticed.
The soundtrack is a really strong counterpart of Amanchu, the exact same going for its predecessor, Aria. The music pieces create an atmosphere of wonder that fits the setting, with its calm and healing songs for the longest run, and ones that share a more playful tone when it comes to the wackier scenes. The opening piece is sung by Maaya Sakamoto, voice actor of Shinobu from the Monogatari Series. With her calm and soothing voice, and the lyrics that befit the series quite well, the song itself made me look forward to watching the content that followed it even more. The ending song is quite cute, though one that I did not give that much attention to.
I wholeheartedly enjoyed Amanchu, in a way that it almost made me forget about all of its shortcomings. To be taken in such a fun ride of both style and substance, one that is definitely not something that deep, but really relatable was my pleasure. I feel like I am way too biased, especially towards Teko and all the things surrounding her, but I do not care as much about it, because the series managed to take me on a trip, a small one, of conviviality.
To conclude, Amanchu brings all mundane aspects of life together and, along with the interesting setting and its vibrant cast of characters, manages to become one of the most fun anime journeys that come to mind. It has its fair share of shortcomings, I am aware of that, but as long as I was left satisfied, I am content with it. The final episode was easily the best one out of the bunch, but I work by the phrase "The journey always is more important than the destination" and I can assure you, this particular one is worth it. Anime of the Season.
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Sep 1, 2016
Up until lately, I have been out of anime to watch. Much to my surprise, being a very big fan of this medium, I thought to myself that, maybe, it was time to quit. With my national exams coming, it would have been easier for me to focus on them. Few days later, I found out that I still needed my daily dose of anniemays and mangoes and manhwuoes and whatever, had it become a habit to watch much coming from this medium. Much to my serendipity, I was able to find a masterpiece that was able to bring me back to this medium. That ... being a masterpiece in both directorial and emotional prowess, Cipher.
This ineffable experience managed to bring many fortunities about. On the one hand, a music video of only 40 minutes, on another one that managed to utilize airing time to its fullest. The directing being incredibly digestible, I was wondering about whether gods really exist in this world, ones that makes such perfect works to bestow us pitiful humans with. The close-ups, the further-aways, the camera shots in general were captured with elegance and eloquence, supporting the credibility of old shows. An episode that should be up there with Legend of the Galactic Heroes and Rose of Versailles, in the hall of fame, in the avant-garde collection of meaningful canvasses that this industry has produced in its quite early years.
Of course, I would not be able to skip on talking about the soundtrack, which is the main merit of this ephemeral journey. All the songs, I mean it, all of them, are tremendously well-done, Phil Collins included in the palette. Holy mother of god was the transition between them magnificent as well. I am left with no words, as the sound section triggers a sonorous sound into my soul, one that is truly admirable.
The art section is yet another great addition to this work of art, incredibly clean and definitely not boring to look at, with detailed character designs that surpass the likes of Yoshitoshi ABe. The animation is so fluent and so addictive, and it hurts my soul, because it manages to throw sand on the faces of Gunbuster, Akira, Ghost in the Shell and Area 88. Undoubtedly a galore of colourful, vibrant artistic means, including the so sentimental looks that our characters' eyes have.
Additionally, our characters manage to shine throughout the series, all of them, even the side characters, being equally important. Home to impeccable dialogue and narrative, including that all around spectacular scene where our main character speaks with a man of old age about many difficulties of life, Cipher manages to strike my heart chords with subtlety. The moments between the two brothers are touching and full of meaning as well.
I will be looking forward to the hit manga series that is homage to this incredible short watch, which as I've been informed, is even greater than it. There is a comment I found in a YouTube section that indicates so:
"Actually: IT'S FREAKIN AMAZING AND BEAUTIFUL MANGA. And another one: YOU SHOULD READ IT, IF YOU DON''T WANT TO WASTE YOUR LIFE. Seriously. One of the best manga I've ever read, talking about love, hate, lonliness, drugs, envy, betrayal, death and the most of all: forgiveness. Beggining is happy and kinda childlish. Then very sad and mature for a certain time, but at the end it's really touching and heart-warming story about life. Simply masterpiece for me. Oh, and you better Google it to look how beautiful it is. Old mangas ftw~
Now read it. GO! It's your next quest!"
I was moved by how dedicated this person is towards this incredible work! Such detail with such a succinc manner! It definitely will be my next quest, in this long yet tiring yet full of credit journey that this medium has given me! I am pat patting for it!
Check out this masterpiece please. It should not be missed by anyone. Cipher will be performed as an opera on the holodecks of the ships that disperse us into the heavens! We were really just clothed monkeys until it allowed us to transcend our animalism! I shall sing its praises to all that shall come forth and be enlightened!
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Jul 3, 2016
Imagine a food that does not make you an impression, any food that does not interest you and that does not seem like that worth eating, nevertheless trying it though out of pure curiosity. Imagine that food giving you the taste of something that is not necessarily great or special, but something that you never expected, something that is fine for what it is. That was how ReLife worked for me, and it was surprising, because it is one of these series that you must savor and then judge. What I got was nothing short of a really satisfying watch, especially in terms of ... enjoyment and connection with the common, flawed, human beings that it manages to present. I expected this season to be sub-par compared to the last one, and this series, that did not interest me to the least, managed to show me some kind of light, which might make me strive to changing my opinion.
ReLife revolves around your 27-year-old half-NEET man named Kaizaki Arata, who had quit his job in a company only after 3 months after entering, being fed up with his work environment and how cold-hearted and unaware of their surroundings his co-workers were. Following his resignation, he fell into a slump, not being able to fit into society as one of its active members, only working in part-time jobs, and receiving money from his parents to only slightly cover his life expenses. Having a difficult time, hiding the fact that he did not have a stable work environment from his friends, and receiving a phone call from his family saying that they will not send any money from then on, Arata was lucky enough to encounter a mysterious person named Yoake Ryou in the street in front of his house in a calm yet messed-up, for him, night, the latter declaring that he works for an experiment, ReLife, which gives the subjects a chance to re-live a part of their highschool lives leaving their mentality untouched and just looking like highschool students, change themselves, develop, and not regret the choices they make in the process. Arata, at first, does not know what to do, but after a while decides to undergo the experiment, taking the pill in order for him to look younger, like a highschool pupil does, and starts going to highschool in a daily manner, changing not only himself, but his close people as well.
A draw-back in the story department is that the plot development itself is based on a plot convenience, that being the pill and the experiment in general. I usually am not a fan of plot conveniences, as they are used as detritments to the value of the whole plot. What was successful, however, was the execution of the series. Despite featuring characters that you can see every day, they are handled in a slow-paced, caring way that can drag sometimes, that contains malodrama in heavy situations, but however serves as sheer connection between the audience and the characters. ReLife being a slow, arc-based show for most of its running, it takes advantage of its slow pacing as well as the rather big cast of characters and manages to develop it thoroughly. That might as well turn some people off, as focus on the main character is lowered consequently, but ReLife manages to somehow equal quality and quantity, develop even the most side of characters, something that I never expected from coming from such a series, and make them relatable.
On another hand, ReLife is a show that is based on drama, but also contains some amount of comedy, mostly coming from the interactions between the characters, it being sparse yet working out quite fine. There is also an amount of chibi faces included, which is by no means good, as it ruins the mood, but most of the times the transitions between drama and the comedy work out fine, if not well enough. As a matter of fact, the characters themselves helped quite much in the plot development, and both the drama and comedy being hits, as despite them being quite common and their reasoning quite cheesy (school setting, teens, you know), they are different from each other, and as a whole cast it works out quite well. Coming into terms with and realizing their goals and, most importantly, their own-self with well-handled execution, the conclusion is obvious. The ending was not conclusive in a literal manner, but was in a sentimental one, because I felt that all things that needed to be dealt with did. As a whole, although the story was being something that never made me go "wow", it worked out fine for what it was, and that is what is important.
Character-wise, as described earlier, ReLife works out well enough for me to consider it something that is way better than just average. What is likable in it are not the personalities of their characters, not nearly as much as how they execute them and develop them. Their interactions involving comedy being funny, but these including drama being a bit dragged and melodramatic, is not something that is of huge importance. What is important in ReLife is how each character is handled and fleshed-out individually, something that other series do not manage to do, putting the minor complaints into shame really. Explanations will be given below, as I am gonna view each character as a different individual and then draw conclusions on them as a whole, successful cast.
Kaizaki Arata is a very sociable, caring and understanding person, that is until his confidence is stepped on, after several happenings including his senior in work and his other co-workers, quitting his job and trying a different approach in life, including trying to find a new job through applications and, after failing on that, just working part-time in convenience stores. As an obvious consequence, he realizes that he has not grown up enough, that his social skills were rendered useless and that life is not going to treat him any kinder that he thought it would. After him being given the chance to relive one high school year through the experiments, he develops as a person, comes into terms with himself, does not get further involved into other people's situations, and winds up becoming a person that still has his doubts, but is way more mature than he already was. Kaizaki having such a personality is subject to self-insert, creating a character that is so relatable that you will find yourself caring about him all the way through. Except of that, he also is quite the funny dude, and the comparisons between adult life and highschool life he makes in his mind, such as the fact that the former are mostly ridden by logic and the latter by emotion is nothing short of realistic.
Hishiro Chizuru is that kind of girl, who never was particularly close with people, that being due to her transferring schools very frequently in her early years. In the process of growing up till the story takes place, she gradually lost her interest in other people, started not caring about her surroundings, that being partially because of her inability to be close to other people. She always showed doubts about her understanding of things and her hurting people, although she is a great student, and started wanting to change that and obtain social skills and friends, especially after meeting up with Arata. She slowly yet decisively starts showing interest on other people and becomes an all around better person, along with leaving her already good aspects unscathed. After several happenings, it is clear to the viewers and almost all the main characters, excluding one until a certain episode, that she is trying hard to improve.
Kariu Rena's personality is not to my liking, because she is that example of the stubborn girl who is jealous of people because she can not reach them despite trying hard. She sometimes reminds me of a cookie cutter character and is definitely one that is not plausible. She admittedly is a good character though, because she shows many kinds of development as well. She does not get rid of her inferiority complex, but somehow tones it down and starts understanding her close friends, them being Chizuru and Honoka, more. She is full of ill-fated desires, and a very jealous person, but after some events, including her fight with Honoka and her discussion with Chizuru, she starts being more relatable. That can also be supported with the fact that they spend quite some time on her character and that they did not want her to be left as just a character that had a complex.
Tamarai Honoka is the exact opposite of Rena, a person that screams unreachable when it comes to sports and one that is afraid of getting close to people because she does not want to be denied by them. Both Honoka and Chizuru serve as plot devices to Rena's development, but they themselves are developed, and that is another positive thing for the series. They used a big arc for just these 3 characters, which indicates that airing time was used effectively and decisively, making them fleshed out in a proportional manner. As mentioned earlier, their engagements might feel a bit cheesy and melodramatic, but that is not of much importance, as the journey and the conclusion, as a whole, are satisfying.
Yoake Ryou and Onoya An are people who work for the ReLife experiment project, and a whole episode is spent on their flashback, including their relationship with Subject 001, and their interest into Subject 002, that being Arata himself. Worries and implications about their work are depicted in a solid manner. There are other side characters as well, but getting into them is not worth it, because their involvement into the series do not mean many things. Overall, if you take these characters, which are nothing short of common and cliche, and combine them, you create a cast that is good enough for a coming-of-age anime series that ReLife is, that of course supported with respective execution.
The production values of ReLife remind me of my expectations pre starting watching it. Nothing special and something that does not interest me. The character designs were generic and reminded me of quite many slice of life series that I had watched, including Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, the animation was inconsistent sometimes yet worked out, and the backgrounds were quite good. I really have not much to say about the art and animation sections, just that the chibi faces were as annoying as ever. The soundtrack was repetitive, only consisting of few piano songs, and most of the times did not fit the concept of the story. The opening theme was quite good on the other hand, and had lyrics that reminded me of what the characters were going through. The ending songs were many, not as much memorable as someone would think they would be, but a nice change to the "one ending per one cour" archetype. Overall, I think that both the animation and the sound departments could have been better, and that they would grab another point of two had they been a bit more memorable.
The best part about ReLife would undeniably be the enjoyment part. I enjoyed the struggles, the development of each and every character, the interactions, the relationships, the starting and ending episodes, and despite some episodes being weaker than others, I considerably enjoyed the middle episodes as well. It being a surprising watch, ReLife managed to drag me into the story, and make me involved in the difference between the adult and the adolescence world.
ReLife really was a big surprise for me, and I am gonna remember it for quite a long while. It was cliche, it was generic, but it was fine for what it was. It never tried to be more, and it never tried to be less than what it is. And that is what matters. It is a series that does not take itself overly seriously or overly lightly, and managed to create a plausible enough conclusion. It is a coming-of-age tale for people that just want to relax, enjoy, relate with, and have fun with. Ignoring the shortcomings would be something that would make the series even more likable, and for such an experience like ReLife, it would be worth it.
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Jul 1, 2016
Beware, spoiler-ish review.
It is a given that choices are very important for all of us, for just a minute of thought or two can change the outcome of many things in our lives, that be a relationship, that be a friendship, that be our well-being, anything I dare say. Before going to sleep, I personally reminisce of my actions, coming from my choices, which in turn come from my thoughts, and make a conclusion as of whether these actions were the right thing to do for myself. Ever thought of how much of a toll a choice can take in your life? Additionally, have you ... ever thought of something depicting that matter of fact in a way that is both gripping, personal and goosebumps-inducing? That is what The Tatami Galaxy did to me. It touched me so much, I could relate to it in such a manner, that I now consider it my favorite anime series of all time, something that is irreplaceable for me. Coming from the hands of an insanely experienced director in Japanimation, who specialises in style over substance shows, Masaaki Yuasa, Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei is an expectional coming-of-age show like no other, which takes such an everyday, simple, common concept that everyone of us has given a glimpse of thought on, and unravels it through some of the most ingenious executions I have ever encountered in any work of fiction.
The Tatami Galaxy is about a college student without a name (shall be referred to as Watashi from now on), who is lonely and considers himself as one of the most unlucky people in the world. As he eats in a ramen stand named Neko Ramen, he stumbles upon a self-proclaimed god of martimony, who decides the pairings between men and women during the Kannazuki Festival in Izumo, his name being Higuchi Seitarou (or Kamotaketsunominokamo duh). Through a conversation he has with him, Watashi starts reminiscing of his past two years in college, through his misadventures with his only friend Ozu, with whom he spends time trying to break up couples in the college in the first episode, because he has nothing else to do, blaming Ozu for coming close to him and for ruining his life. By the way, Ozu looks like a ghoul, and that is of importance. Amongst the chaos, a love interest of Watashi's appears, Akashi, who is cold and introverted, yet shows some interest when it comes to Watashi. He tries confessing to her quite a lot of times throughout the series, all of them failing because of reasons. Other side characters are present as well, including an english-loving perverted dentist, a dude who has a doll fetish, the doll itself, a god of martimony as said earlier, the leader of the Secret Society Chinese Restaurant, the Cleanup Corps, a girl that Watashi exchanges letter with, etc. After Watashi fails on doing something, or even when he himself thinks that he did not leave up to his own expectations (due to not himself as he says, but due to other people and mainly Ozu), he goes back to the start of his college years, that indicated with the backdrop of a clock or, well, many clocks, and starts his college years with a different club, interchangeable events yet mostly the same people and him remembering some things from the other timelines as he experiences them in the timeline he is in, kinda like deja-vu.
Before moving on, I would like to clarify something. Please do not take the time travel plot device literally and in a realistic manner, because it is meant to be played with. Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei is after all a surrealistic unorthodox anime series, so the plot device exists for a different reason than expected, and that is to present a really important message. Consequently, each episode serves as a piece of the puzzle, all of them creating an allegory which is one of a kind. Yes, the entirety of The Tatami Galaxy serves as an allegory through the different timelines, which I would call metaphors, each of them including some basic and easy to understand symbols, examples being the mochiguman and the moths, which are utilized to the fullest. All that to answer a very simple concept, the one of life choices and their outcome. That is what this anime series does perfectly, it plays with its devices and creates a two-episode wrap up which is nothing short of a miracle for me personally, really. Simple metaphors, simple allegory, perfect everything.
To get on with the characters, Watashi shall be first. Watashi is that dude who has many expectations of his life and is very optimistic, him being the embodiment of before-coming-of-age idealism, and once he finds out that life is not that rose-coloured and that raven-haired maidens will not swarm before him, he starts blaming others and does not accept that he himself is looking too far ahead and that the world is not full of butterflies and flowers. It takes him quite some time to understand that he is the one at fault, and that he does not grab opportunities in order to be single-handedly happy. The most interesting part of Watashi would be his name indeed. Why is his name Watashi, which means "I"? That is because Watashi is open for self-insert. He is a character that us watchers can relate with really easily, not for just what he lives through, not by just understanding him and his flaws, but by adding ourselves in the story, with our own flaws, with our own character, with our own problems. After all, Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei is not a story itself, it tells a story, a story of Watashi and his coming-of-age, so why not adding yourself in turn and making it more relatable, productive and interesting?
Ozu is undoubtedly the most enigmatic figure of the whole series, presented as a black cupid, as the character who's connected with Watashi through the black thread of fate, as a curse in Watashi's eyes, as a ghoul. He indeed is a clever and troublesome creature, but he is one who admittedly would accept Watashi and who would always be close to him and help him, making his life adventurous in turn. Ozu is the person that Watashi must accept in order for him to come to terms with himself and try out a different approach in life, completely different from what he was trying to do all the time. An interesting thing about Ozu is his face. Why is he like a ghoul? The reasons might be plenty, but I somehow narrowed it out. Ozu might like that because that is how Watashi perceives him to be. Watashi believes that Ozu has an ugly soul, that he is a bad person that wants to make him suffer just to have fun, though of course that is not the case. To put it bluntly, Ozu's face is a personification of how Watashi feels about him in the start. That can be justified due to them swapping faces in the last seconds of the series, meaning that Ozu viewed Watashi as a black cupid then.
Akashi is yet another interesting character in the Tatami Galaxy. She has a cold demeanor and does not express herself most of the times, but she seems more open when it comes to Watashi. Another reason is the thing that she is Watashi's love interest. Despite not appearing a lot in the series, as it mostly revolves around Watashi, it can be observed that she does care about him, and quite a lot at that. She is the observant type, and takes action in episode 8 as well, where she is asked to be the one Watashi exchanges letters with. Therefore, she is one that wants Watashi to develop and understand more things about what a happy life is and where it might lead. It is heavily hinted that by the end, Akashi ends up with Watashi, them going to Neko Ramen as he had promised in previous episodes, and him returning the Mochiguman to her.
The side characters by all means defy certain archetypes, as they all are quite unique to say the least. A fellow with a doll fetish is always fun to watch, the three episode arc with Watashi and the three women being the most hilarious thing I have ever watched in animated form. The side characters mostly serve as means for Watashi to develop, as well as comedic elements, and successful ones at that. After all, Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei has a large portion of dark comedy through Watashi's fast-paced monologues, which also serve as great social commentary and which, for the lack of a better term, are funny as heck. Many kinds of comedy are included in the story, including slapstick, which is successful as well, despite slapstick not working out in other series and being a complete miss. Johnny's usage throughout some episodes is also of significance as well, him being a metaphor to Watashi's sexual urges and worries. The scenes including Johnny teh Cowboi and his horse always were really funny, to the point of finding myself bursting out laughing without second notice.
In each different timeline, Watashi joins different clubs. In some others, the series does not focus on the clubs he has entered, but on his romance anxieties and interests. In episodes 1-3, he enters the Tennis, Film and Cycling associations, episode 4 is about the proxy wars and Watashi and Ozu's place in them, episode 5 goes back to the way episodes 1-3 were done with a Softball circle, and episodes 6-8 are about him joining some circles, but mostly about him and the three love interests of his, apart from Akashi (though Akashi is one of them in disguise but that is another matter). Episode 9 is about the mysterious Chinese Restaurant circle, and episodes 10-11 serve as the wrap-up of each and every episode of the series, Watashi coming into conclusions and realizations and completing his development and coming-of-age. With that being the case, you might think that the first 9 episodes are pointless, but that is in no way true. Letting alone that each and every episode has underlying and self-sufficient themes, examples being unrequited love, consumerism and the use of personality masks, what the first 9 episodes manage to do is building raw connection between the viewer and the main character, as well as something really fun and wacky to follow. It is a matter of fact that it is the journey that matters and that leads things into a conclusion which is not of as much importance as the journey itself after all. Trials and tribulations are made, but the conclusion is happy plus cathartic plus ambitious.
The production values work greatly, in a way that I can not imagine the series working out in another way when it comes to how it looks. The artstyle is really unique, really unorthodox, changes depending on the moods, is extremely detailed, vibrant and variable. It also adds to the comedy, because of the dumb faces and the funny reactions of our main character because of what he is going through. It is natural that it might turn someone off by its start, because it is an artstyle that is not that dominant in the medium, especially for the newcomers, but it is easy to get used to after one or two episodes, and it is even easier to realise how unique it is in a great way afterwards. The animation is also detailed, includes live-action shots and scenes to add to the realism of the concept, the movements feel natural and it is generally something great to watch and behold.
The soundtrack is really strong as well, and about my favorite part in all the show is included here, that being the opening. The opening is so fun to listen to, it has some of the greatest background music I have ever set my ears on and, most importantly, the lyrics are godly. And they spoil the whole show. Such connection with lyrics of a song have I never shown aside from the Tatami Galaxy's opening. Its title is "Maigoinu no Ame to Beat", a title that fits incredibly well to the theme of the series, by Asian Kung-fu Generation, who never disappoint me with their work in opening songs. Their songs also include Boku Dake ga Inai Machi's opening, Re:Re:, which is the best part of the whole show. The ending song of Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei is tremendously good as well, sang by one of my favorite and most unique singers in the japanimation medium, Etsuko Yakushimaru, who also sang the first opening of Mawaru Penguindrum, which is also godly. Fun and unique to listen to, her songs always impress. The OST is, by all means, goosebumps-inducing. I am amazed at how each song fits the scene it represents, and also going to give a round of applause to sound director plus the creator of the OST of the series, for making it as strongly present as it is throughout the series.
Undoubtedly did I enjoy The Tatami Galaxy to the fullest. Having watched it many times, it is the piece that I feel is the one that was meant for me, it is like fate had its hand into my connection between me and the series, a masterpiece. It is nothing short of a masterpiece in my opinion. I laughed a lot, I cried a whole lot, I felt a connection I have never felt in any other kind of series, in any other kind of medium, it is nothing short of a miracle for me, this series. Thank you Yuasa, thank you for bestowing the anime industry and especially myself with such a present. Amazing, spectacular, cathartic, ambitious, goosebumps-inducing, emotional, hilarious, genuine.
Letting my bias aside, The Tatami Galaxy is a series that everyone should check out. Right off the bat, I am gonna decline it being called "deep". What is deep is the execution, not the anime itself in heart. On the inside, the Tatami Galaxy is human, it is so true that it hurts, it is so simple that everyone can understand it if he or her focuses on it just a bit. Simple yet complex. Over-the-top yet down-to-the-earth in its true form. That is what the Tatami Galaxy is. And it is nothing short of a work that should be considered a masterpiece.
Note: Sorry for being biased. This review comes from the bottom of my heart, I hope you will understand where I am coming from. Thanks a lot for reading, it means much.
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Jun 30, 2016
Survival is a theme that is touched upon quite a lot, and not only when it comes to the anime medium. Most of these kinds of series tend to engage this rather generic theme with interesting and good-looking fights, completely ignoring the plot's development and the characters' growth on the audience, instead adding a lot of gore which apparently triggers the "feels" of ignorant masses because, you know, losing someone precious is hard. There are many ways to strike a certain series despite the generic concept, instead of doing that you might as well develop some characters hence making it feel not as retarded. Kabaneri ... does not do that, and it also is full of the "retarded adults syndrome", it being apparent in the whole anime, despite the main characters themselves being idiotic. Consequently, all it manages to be is a copy of Attack on Titan, if not even worse than that, and yup, that ain't good at all.
Koutetsujou no Kabaneri takes place in a post-apocalyptic Earth, in the face of an industrial revolution, where unknown creatures named Kabane have appeared, them eating flesh and drinking human blood, hence becoming humanity's natural enemy. Once a Kabane bites a human, that human becomes a Kabane and so on. Post apocalyptic Japan has been colonized into train stations, which themselves are cities and are surrounded by walls, with trains travelling between them for many reasons, including provisions and soldier transfers. Interesting huh? Well, despite some of the points of the concept being indeed interesting, such as combining a steampunk setting with survival in a world that has been destroyed were, not really, because there was nothing left in order for the concept to be supported, therefore the execution being extremely weak. Letting alone that the dialogue was really cringy and reminded me of SAO, everything else except the production values was, likewise. After all, trains can not save anything.
The havoc has wreaked, and then there is our main character, Ikoma, who is an overenthusiastic fellow. Guess what, he wants to kill the Kabane in order to avenge his sister who was bitten by them. He develops a weapon which can kill Kabane in an easier manner, and boards Koutetsujou because the city is not to be inhabited anymore with several other people, to whom I will get into later, him broadening his horizons and deciding that it's not fair that only strong people have to survive or whatnot. The moods of the main character change quickly depending on the situation, so he sometimes is extremely badass whilst in others you wanna hit him in his head with a screwdriver because of how retarded his actions are. Another bad thing about him is that he actually is the most likable character in Kabaneri. Unfortunately.
Enter Mumei, our second main character, who is your generic fare of courageous on the outside, feelsy yet manipulated in her childhood on the inside. Not that it matters, but it is the revelations about her that are extremely lazy, leaving me with a hand scratching my head. She is the one to inherit the standard "strong people survive, weak people die". The portrayal of that ideal is really bad, as it is played with and goes round and round to reveal that, in the end, Mumei should not become like her mum who was killed by the Kabane, and that she should remain strong and get experimented in order for her to become her "brother's" puppet, becoming a Kabaneri and wandering around like an idiot not knowing what to do with her life.
Mumei's symbol of admiration, Biba, whom she calls her brother, is the most interesting character in the whole series, appearing relatively later in the series, only for the audience to learn that he is the leader of the Kabane extermination troops in order to satisfy his egoistical means, adding yet another idiotic character to the cast. By the end of the series, he has become your common villain with only a flashback to be supported with, following the quote "in the face of our supposedly enemies, he is the one that should be exterminated because of his evil means". Apart from these three, there are other side characters which are cookie cutter like our mains, including your Ayame-sama, her knight who is always by her side, Ikoma's friend who dies for the sake of melodrama and many many more, including the retarded adults whose IQ is minus 150. Bad writing is all over the place, there are no explanations given about what the hell the Kabane are, and true, some but few characters might have gotten some development, but that was done with some of the lamest, laziest and most boring excuses aka. Plot devices I've ever encountered in my life. Along with an ending that obviously was not the best, after the trainwrecks all the other episodes were, the outcome most surely is not that noteworthy.
What Koutetsujou no Kabaneri lacks in every other department, somehow wins when it comes to the art and animation sections, because you might as well make something bad at least look good. The backgrounds are great, them being the best point of the whole series, the sceneries being fresh and given a good amount of lighting. The choreography of the so-judged significant battles, especially the ones in episode 8, is pretty detailed and make up for some shortcomings incoming with the drop of budget in the middle episodes, although it looks a whole lot like Attack on Titan's 3D Maneuver Gear. The character designs are as a matter of fact not bad-looking, but they somehow are unappealing in certain moments, especially when it comes to the character's faces. Mumei's face is a huge representative example, as when included in light-hearted moments, like those where she plays with the kids, where her face looks extremely moe-ish and unfitting to the whole thing (her armpits and legs make up for it though). A character design that I personally liked is that of Horobi, which is quite detailed and looks great in a certain battle scene. A plus, amongst others, would also be the costumes of each and every significant character, which are cool enough and remind me a lot of a crossover between the cheap clothes used by people back in the industrial revolution along with some style to support the steampunk setting. Overall, despite the animation quality drop in some episodes, the section as a whole smelled success, over how bad other things in the series were per say.
Soundtrack-wise, Koutetsujou no Kabaneri is fine. It comes down to each person to how much they will like edgy music or not after all, and in Kabaneri's case, the opening and ending songs have fitting music and lyrics to the series' concept. The OST was misused some times, a good example being Mumei's flashback where a happy-toned song was used in a scene which was downright sad. The voice acting was quite okay, though forgettable most of the times, the exception being Ikoma's, which was both exaggerated and unforgettable in a whole bad way. He sounded like someone who was getting laid off at the time and place he spoke in. Consequently, the soundtrack was above average despite myself not being a fan of Sawano-esque music because it is repetitive as heck.
To say the truth, I somehow enjoyed Koutetsujou no Kabaneri quite much, with both its goods and its of significant amount bads. I enjoyed the fights and their choreography, the sceneries and the backgrounds and I laughed at how tarded the characters were. Noticing how much of a "Nothing happened: The Animation" it was, was incredibly fun as well. It literally went round and round and achieved nothing but nothingness, void, darkness. And even if it did achieve something, it was by default pointless, because in the end, nothing happened. Only edgy teens trying to survive in a post apocalyptic world full of blood-drinking creatures, generic and undeveloped villains and retarded adults, with the whole meaning of the word. I would have enjoyed it way more, hadn't it tried to be as supposedly serious as it was in the first place.
In conclusion, Koutetsujou no Kabaneri is just another one show of the kind which includes overhyped Attack on Titan-esque shows like Black Bullet. If you expect a show with relatable characters, a realistic depiction of survival and interesting yet explained lore, avoid it like the plague it is. However, if you just need a show to cool off with and do not care about any kind of flaw and shortcoming, engage Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress like the ephemeral and cathartic journey it is. To finish with a bang, I am going to quote a friend: "It will be performed as an opera on the holodecks of the ships that disperse us into the heavens. We were really just clothed monkeys until it allowed us to transcend our animalism. I shall sing its praises to all that shall come forth and be enlightened. If it was not Clannad After Story that could make you cry, try Kabaneri, that is how amazing it is".
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