In general, yuri has had a rather mixed history, and a myriad of series that don’t take themselves seriously and/or suffer from poorly-written characters and narratives have made the rounds in the past few years. Thankfully, Yagate Kimi ni Naru (Bloom into You) avoids these issues, placing well-written characters into an engaging and thoughtfully crafted narrative to create a moving coming-of-age story.
Story (10/10): YagaKimi presents a believable and well-paced narrative that takes readers on an emotional journey of self-discovery as an unlikely friendship blooms into love, while exploring socially important issues such as loss, loneliness, gender roles, and the meaning of love itself. No event
ever feels out of place or rushed, and each one feels relevant to the overall story. The last few chapters provide a satisfying conclusion.
Art (10/10): The artwork is very well-done overall. Characters are expressive and have unique designs, backgrounds have an appropriate level of detail, and everything is drawn in a very consistent manner. It's a pleasure to look at.
Characters (10/10): YagaKimi's cast, especially its two protagonists, are by far its strongest aspect. Everyone is treated with respect and interactions between them are powerfully and realistically written.
We are initially introduced to Yuu Koito as an average first-year who isn't sure of her life ambitions or what she wants in a relationship, and to Touko Nanami as the ideal student council president who falls in love with her kouhai. However, over time it becomes clear that there are many more layers to both protagonists than is initially apparent. Their desires, backgrounds, and mental states are thoroughly developed and examined over the course of the story, and this allows their interactions to transform from something rather standard into a truly special and unique relationship. These reveals are highly engaging and moving. Because its protagonists’ goals and ideals change as they learn more about what they want from themselves and each other, YagaKimi feels more like a coming-of-age series than a romance at times, and this is more than welcome.
Overall (10/10): YagaKimi is a masterpiece that all fans of romance and coming-of-age series, regardless of their opinion on yuri, should read. Its well-developed characters and narrative provide an emotionally rich experience that respectfully depicts lesbian youth in a way few prior series have managed to accomplish. An equally good anime adaptation of the first half has already been produced and I sincerely hope a second season will be made to cover the rest of the story. This is easily the best manga I have ever read, and it is not to be missed.
Apr 6, 2019
Rom-coms are a dime a dozen these days, and many of them stumble with predictable soap-opera narratives, thinly written characters, or other issues that bore or irritate viewers. Refreshingly enough, this is not the case with Kaguya-sama: Love is War, which avoids these pratfalls and combines a humorous and cleverly written script with a likable cast of characters to provide consistently engaging and amusing scenarios.
The cast of characters is small, but likable and very well-developed. Our protagonists, Kaguya Shinomiya and Miyuki Shirogane, are presidents of the student council at an elite academy. The series’ premise is that both of them have crushes on each other, ... but of course, neither wants to be the one to confess first, and they resort to playing mind games with one another around simple things, trying to convince the other to reveal their crush. On occasion, supporting council members Chika Fujiwara and Yu Ishigami inadvertently foil their strategies.
As is standard with many comedy series, episodes are divided into three sections, and each features a sketch that usually involves Kaguya or Shirogane devising a plan to get the other to do something. The variety of absurd ways they manipulate each other are consistently funny and well-paced, and nothing ever feels repetitive. The series’ sketch-based structure allows the series to remain interesting and fresh while giving the viewer a look into the inner workings of the way our main characters view each other, and every situation develops them as characters by revealing a handful of their strengths, weaknesses, and traits.
The animation is vivid, featuring colorful and well-defined characters and backgrounds, and the voice actors give excellent performances, allowing the characters to be relatable and expressive. The soundtrack was of good quality, and I especially liked the opening theme, “Love Dramatic.”
Overall, Kaguya-sama is a truly outstanding series. By circumventing tired romantic clichés in favor of perfectly paced comedy with a psychological twist, it provides a refreshing take on the genre that comes highly recommended to anyone looking for amusing and well-written entertainment.
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Mar 10, 2019
I have looked forward to Non Non Biyori: Vacation for quite some time, and I am pleased to report that it stacks up very well against the original series. Continuing from the season 1 OVA, it follows the Asahigaoka group as they travel to tropical Okinawa for a summer vacation.
Story and Character (7/10):
NNB has never held a large focus on narrative, and neither does Vacation, but this is by no means to its detriment. Instead, an essentially anecdotal story is told as the girls explore Okinawa and enjoy themselves. The new setting does not bring any changes to the series’ established structure, and its pacing ... provides the same mood, ensuring that a few brief laughs are had and that everything remains calming and enjoyable.
Renge, Natsumi, and all other main characters from the original series return, and it’s great to see more of them. Additionally, Aoi, the daughter of an Okinawa hotel owner, joins the group as a newcomer. Her interactions with the group were fun to watch, and I especially liked her friendship with Natsumi. Hopefully she will reappear in any future material.
Coming in, the film does expect viewers to know who the characters are, and they are not introduced individually. Given its short runtime, this is not unexpected, but watching NNB’s first season before jumping into Vacation so that you are familiar with the group definitely enhances the experience.
This is where Vacation truly shines. The original series’ art was impressive enough, but the film’s increased production values have provided truly spectacular landscapes that accentuate its relaxing aesthetic. From the streets of Okinawa, to the forest rivers, and to the beach, everything is finely detailed, colorful, and a pleasure to look at. Background objects such as waterfalls feature more vibrant animation, which helps to increase realism.
Side note: if you’re in the market for some new scenery-based desktop backgrounds, look no further than this film.
There isn’t much to discuss in the sound department, as it’s perfectly serviceable. The OP and ED are upbeat, and the soundtrack itself is well-composed and fits NNB’s laid-back nature, but ultimately none of it was too memorable. The seiyuu gave excellent performances as always.
Non Non Biyori: Vacation is an relaxing visual treat that all fans of the original series will enjoy. It likely won’t win over viewers who aren’t already fans of aesthetic-based slice-of-life anime or CGDCT shows, but for those of you who do enjoy the genre, it’s a short and sweet adventure that’s definitely worth 70 minutes of your time.
Final Score: 8.5/10
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Sep 24, 2018
Yama no Susume: Season 3 continues the story and aesthetics of the previous two seasons, following Aoi Yukimura, Hinata Kuraue, and their friends as they go hiking and enjoy life together. It does not manage to reach the heights of the supremely well-done Season Two, but still manages to be an enjoyable slice-of-life.
Story and Character (7/10): The story is largely episodic and follows a similar structure to previous seasons, but has a rather different tone and focus. While Seasons 1 and 2 focused largely on hiking with some minor character development on the side, Season 3 switches these and focuses more on character interactions. Some ... episodes involve Aoi overcoming personal struggles, while many others reveal how she and Hinata question their friendship and worry about what they think of each other. These events do provide some interesting developments and are occasionally heartwarming, but the drama can get irritating at times and the relative lack of hiking compared to S1 and S2 was disappointing. I would have liked to see a better balance between these elements, as was found in Season Two.
Without spoiling anything, it is worth noting that the story does not fully conclude at the end, instead leaving itself open for future seasons. This is unfortunate, but considering the show’s length, it is not unexpected.
The cast of supporting characters was serviceable but mostly pushed to the side. Kokona and Kaede both return relatively unchanged, but Kokona did not make any major contributions to the story and Kaede in particular was notably absent for a large majority of the series. However, Honoka (who was introduced in Season Two) did have a good presence in several episodes.
Art and Sound (7/10): There isn’t much to discuss here. Backgrounds and scenery are still very pretty and well-drawn, but character design is much simpler than in previous seasons. Faces are sometimes only illustrated with simple lines and dots from a distance, which is noticeably low-quality.
The soundtrack isn’t very memorable aside from the opening and closing, which are both catchy and a pleasure to listen to. I especially liked “Chiheisen Stride”, the opening.
Overall (7): Yama no Susume: Season 3 was an enjoyable but decidedly different series when compared to the seasons before it. Its relative lack of climbing, unfinished story, and inclusion of drama make it a weaker overall piece, but for those who enjoyed previous seasons, it is still worth a watch.
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