Rediscovering Shonen Jump anime

Watching anime, I go through peaks and troughs.

The start of the year was a peak, but throughout February, I’ve been in a bit of a trough trying to find something new to watch and fall in love with.

At some point, I remembered that there’s a whole bunch of Shonen Jump anime that I should get back in to. I mean, I never finished Naruto Shippūden. Naruto is the reason I became an anime fan in the first place, my gateway drug. Apparently I’ve seen 573 episodes of One Piece too. I used to love One Piece and somehow it’s still going, with my last count showing 826 episodes and rising. Bloody hell, that’s a lot.

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Anime Rocks: Ergo Proxy’s opening

I thought I would write about my favourite anime openings and endings, but where to start? I trawled through some recent anime, but if I’m honest, they weren’t doing it for me. I love all different types of music, but in my heart of hearts, I’m a rock fan, and it feels like most recent anime is skewing towards Jpop. I’m not feeling it. I needed to go further back, to the winter of 2006 and a certain dystopian science fiction anime called Ergo Proxy.

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Great romantic fools: The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl

In 2017, Masaaki Yuasa directed The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl, which is a film set in the same fictional universe as his 2010 series The Tatami Galaxy. I really liked The Tatami Galaxy. I remember thinking that it was a more conventional (and therefore more accessible) anime than his other works at the time (Mind Game, Kemonozume and Kaiba) but it was still unmistakably his anime: raw, hyperactive and cathartic. At that same time, I didn’t know anything about its author, a certain Tomihiko Morimi, who I’ve later realised has a signature style all of his own. He wrote The Eccentric Family too.

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Girls’ Last Tour

Tall grass and open skies
That’s where we’ll be
Tall grass and open skies
That’s where we’ll be
Tall grass and open skies
That’s where we’ll be
That’s where we’ll meet
(Yvette Young – A map a string a light)

In Girls’ Last Tour, Earth has been ravaged. Life has been all but extinguished. A permanent winter. All that’s left are cities. Concrete jungles powered by technologies long since abandoned. In that world travel two of the last people, Yuuri and Chito, on their trusty old motorcycle. From skyscraper to subway they move, searching for food and supplies amidst the lost civilization, trying to make sense of the symbols and artifacts left behind by their parents and grandparents generation. What to us are graves, factories, transistor radios and songs, are to them a mystery. Strange, magical things.

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A bright shining future

I can’t speak for Japan, but right now in England, young adults are having a hard time. Money seems harder to come by than ever for many who are working all hours to afford their month’s rent, let alone buying a home without a mortgage that’s loaded with high interest rates. It’s a scary, often bewildering time, struggling to keep your head above water in the town or city that you grew up in and trust deeply, a place that’s now indifferent to your pain.

That alienation and desperation is captured by the street rappers’ in Devilman Crybaby. They may be my favourite part of the series.

Don’t give up!

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For good anime

Through preference as much as necessity, the way I’m consuming anime today is different to how I used to, say, 10 years ago. Back then, I relied on downloading fansubs and watching anime as it aired in Japan, one episode per week. I was in deep. Today, I hardly rely on fansubs at all, because it’s easier to stream something from Crunchyroll, or Netflix, or where-ever, than to get a torrent file. Of course, I’m paying for subscriptions at those sites too, which alludes to a big difference from back then: I have a full-time job, the upside of which is that I can afford nice things, the downside is that I have (much) less time to enjoy them.

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Pure Anime

Hey guys. I know, I know. It’s been nearly 2 years. Putting pen to paper hasn’t been easy. I’ve been a bit jaded and distracted, but still, I think about writing. Every time I walk away, something brings me back. It’s because I love writing. I honestly miss it. This year I put down some resolutions, and one of those was to write again for this blog. I’m rusty, though. I’ve been thinking about where to start, but every time I think I’ve got something, the inspiration drifts. There are so many voices, so many opinions, so much noise, it’s hard not to feel small, or like a drop in an ocean. The more I think, the less confident I feel, but I still remember, I like myself when I write. I will keep going.

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Perhaps there is a part of me that wants to see more

After a long absence, it is time for me to officially step away from writing here (just me, not the site’s other writers). As a parting post, I would like to share my thoughts on anime that stand the test of time. Even older titles that were created with a Japanese audience in mind can still be relevant today. I was reminded of this recently when the real world seemed to imitate one of my favorite movies, Mamoru Oshii’s Patlabor 2.

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The unbearable lightness of Tamako Love Story

I had a little crush, recently. He was handsome and urbane, tall and well dressed. We talked late at night over a bottle of whisky. It felt out of control. It felt silly. I let myself be swept away by daydreams. And why not? Is there anything more uncomfortable and enlivening than the feeling of a new love?

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The older I get the more I realise the less I know

Well, this is weird. This is the first time I’ve sat down to write something for a really long time, too long for a blog that inexplicably still has some readers. For that, I thank you. Whenever I hear from one of you, it truly boosts my spirits.

Over the years of writing for this place, I’ve tried to make sure that the writing is future proof. Even still, whenever someone links an old post, especially one that’s been collecting dust over the years, I’ll flinch in embarrassment. I mean, god, there are posts from 2006! That young me and my opinions! Because I’m so much wiser now, right?!

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The first rule of Bento Fight Club is: You do not talk about Bento Fight Club

(Bateszi reviewed this back in November of 2011, I’m revisiting it in light of Funimation’s upcoming February release of the show)

A strong signal that a series is great is that you can easily summarize the concept and get someone to watch it based on that short description. Ben-To is just that kind of show. All you need to know is that it’s about fights for discount bento boxes. If you don’t get excited about fights for discount bento, I don’t want to be friends with you.

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As long as we stay here in this world all that’s awaiting us is death

On the blu-ray packaging, Funimation trumpets the Eureka Seven television series as “The Greatest Love Story Ever Animated.” Where that series is centered around love, the movie re-imagination, Eureka Seven: Good Night, Sleep Tight, Young Lovers, is all about death. In particular, it is about the fear of death. Even the crew of the Gekko, an alternate universe version of the TV show crew, spends much of the film running from death using any means possible. Renton and Eureka are the only characters who aren’t defined by their fear of death and instead, focus on love.

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The Paranoid Reader and the Nonsexual in No. 6

(In my attempt to procrastinate a Haikyuu!! post I’ve been meaning to write for months, I present to you an excerpt from a final paper I wrote for one of my literary theory classes last year. Yeah, I’m that girl who always finds a way to connect her assignments to anime. No shame.)

In the anime and manga world, there have been countless debates on whether, No.6, a series by Atsuko Asano, is considered to be BL. BL, or boys love, is a genre of stories that depict romantic and sexual relationships between men. But although No.6’s main characters are both male, and they engage in acts that may be considered homosexual, Asano adamantly refuses the BL label. In her attempt to pull the series away from the charged label BL, Asano opens up the possibility of seeing it as queer. No.6 is a queer text because of its rejection of paranoid reading and exploration of nonsexual romance between men.

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Ghost in the Shell: The College Years

Ghost in the Shell: Arise marks Production IG’s attempt to reboot the classic franchise.  With multiple successful superhero and anime reboots out in the wild, it’s only a matter of time before others (certainly Dragonball) get remade. Movie and television producers reboot well loved shows to appeal to modern audiences. The story, the characters, and the special effects all get updated to how the show would have looked if it was made for the first time today. With Ghost in the Shell, a show already set in the future and one that has aged well visually, this standard formula wasn’t really necessary.

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Band Spotlight: White Ash

I was first introduced to this wonderful band through “Crowds”, the OP of Gatchaman Crowds (which I still haven’t finished) and instantly fell in love with the edgy, deep voice of the female vocalist. But after looking for the song on YouTube, I discovered that the vocalist is actually a male, a very geeky looking one, at that.

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The best decoy ever

Is this the era of the sports anime? Without doing the research, it really feels like it, more so than at any other point in recent history, and what’s more, most of it’s really quite good! I’ve already written about Ping Pong the Animation, but in short, I love(d) it. Then again, I always knew I would, but Haikyuu!! was a different case. In the past year alone, I’ve watched Ping Pong the Animation, Hajime no Ippo: Rising, Yowamushi Pedal and Kuroko’s Basketball (both seasons,) so you could say that I’m primed for a sports anime burn out. I keep waiting for a show to push me into that abyss and thought that Haikyuu!! would be the one, but spoiler: it wasn’t. Haikyuu!! is really flipping good.

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Durarara!! Isn’t an Escape

“The kind of scene you see every day. But sometimes, for no reason at all, you can see the hint of another reality…a crack, suddenly appearing in your peaceful, everyday life, throws you off guard, making you rethink things.”

My desire for the next season of Durarara!! has pushed me to revisit the first season quite a few times. And every time I do, my brain picks at a new detail that further enriches the series. Durarara!! (geez, that name gets old quickly) is a bit confusing at times but that is just a side effect of the multitude of layers Ryohgo Narita is playing with. One particular concept that caught my attention from the get-go is that of reality. I, for one, am an escapist, so the concept of reality and pondering whether an anime series is “looking out into the word” isn’t something that I often concern myself with. But Durarara!!, an anime brimming with folklore and myth, ironically brought my own reality into the foreground of my thoughts. Wow, who would have known; anime can actually teach relevant lessons.

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I Can’t Think of a Cool Nickname

“Hey, hey! Shizu-chan’s definitely in love with Izaya. Two guys… Like BL!”

Wow, writing an introductory post is extremely difficult. I’m quite the talkative person but things like this make me a bit shy.

Hello! My name is Kiara. I am a junior in college and am double majoring in Japanese and English. You could say I am the baby in this wonderful group of bloggers. I have been an anime/manga fan since 7th grade and I am currently on a long journey to becoming a manga editor. Although I have a wide range of interests (J-rock, step dance, jazz, fashion, etc.), anime/manga occupy 70% of my free time.

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Blood tastes like iron

Even when there’s a guy like Masaaki Yuasa handling the adaptation of one of your favourite stories, there’s always a small worry that something won’t click. In Ping Pong‘s case especially, pairing Yuasa with mangaka Taiyou Matsumoto was almost too perfect, because as any one who has read Matsumoto’s other works will know (Tekkonkinkreet and Sunny amongst them,) his drawing style is really unique, favouring jagged and uneven lines, an aesthetic that’s also much like Yuasa’s own for Mind Game, Kemonozume and Kick Heart.

Visually then, these two guys go against the grain, but that in itself is just a superficial thing and not reason enough to care. They also happen to be masters of their respective crafts. Kaiba, The Tatami Galaxy, Tekkonkinkreet, Ping Pong and Sunny. These two are amongst the best working in animanga today, so when the Ping Pong anime was announced, it felt too perfect; too much like a dream; something had to go wrong, right?!

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Just Communication; Rewatching Gundam Wing

Let’s be honest, here: I rewatched Gundam Wing these past couple of weeks because A Day Without Me was posting hilarious screencaps on twitter, and listening to Just Communication a grand total of once convinced me it was a good idea. When Gundam Wing aired on Canadian TV, in the early 00’s, I paid it no more than passing attention. I was, after all, starting a decade-long love affair with Inuyasha; I was a busy girl. All I knew from its original North American run is that you were supposed to ship Heero/Duo and that Relena was the worst and no one in their right minds would like her. And for 15 years, this is how I remembered Gundam Wing.

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Unspeakably beautiful

A belated new year’s resolution for me is to publish more posts this year than last, but rather than try to come up with a bunch of boring editorials, I went through MyAnimeList and picked out twelve anime that I want to try and write about, bringing me first to Devilman (both The Birth (1987) and The Demon Bird (1990) episodes,) the closest that anime has come to replicating the feel of an H.P. Lovecraft story, that of aeons-old demons and lost civilisations.

Like one of Lovecraft’s most famous stories, it even begins with an ill-fated scientific expedition into a distant mountain range. The children of those scientists, Akira and (the totally insane) Ryou, are the protagonists, with Ryou leading Akira towards his fate as Devilman, mankind’s only opposition to the hordes of demons hell-bent on reclaiming Earth for their own. There’s nothing remarkable about that premise and there are dozens of other stories just like it, but Devilman has some fascinating, deeper hues to it than most.

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Anime blogging 2015

Over the last four or five months, I’ve written half a dozen new articles for this blog that haven’t made it through to being published. I don’t know why I’m now dithering so much, but as its now been two months since I last published anything new, I just wanted to say that I’m still here and won’t be giving up any time soon. Just to emphasise that fact, in December I renewed this website’s address for another two years, so you’ll be stuck with us until late 2015, at the very least!

When I started anime blogging in 2006 (ignoring some obscure attempts in 2005) it was such a new and shiny mode of communication and felt like being on the crest of a wave of something special. And it was, just look at Anime News Network today in comparison to 2005. Blogging has completely changed the world of publishing, for better and for worse, but if 2006 was the Spring of anime blogging, what we’re in now is the Autumn.

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Kill la Kill and (my) great expectations

Kill la Kill defies comparison. It’s from the writer and director duo that brought us the beloved Gurren Lagann and it reads a lot like the classic Revolutionary Girl Utena but come into Kill la Kill expecting a series like those two and you’ll be disappointed. It’s its own animal, albeit with a twist of parental DNA from Hiroyuki Imaishi, but even still, part of the fun is in starting each episode thinking I know what’s coming, only to have all of those expectations shoved back down my throat.

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All ends with beginnings; Naruto’s swansong

Naruto is making me cry with each chapter it releases. The rebloggables are suddenly through the charts on my tumblr dashboard. Open Facebook or Twitter on a Jump release date, and there are people there to commiserate with. It’s the ending we always dreamed of, quietly gripping our rubber prop kunai, gleefully purchased as preteens at our first anime conventions.

General spoilers for the manga; but very little in the way of specifics.  

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Rin’s labyrinth

“If you were stronger, I don’t know how this would have ended. But I know one thing. That woman would be dead. Those who gain power must pay a price, something in exchange. If you seek to be stronger than others you may have to lose what you value above all else. Remember this well.” –Giichi, Blade of the Immortal

In Blade of the Immortal, being strong means everything. When Rin loses her parents, looking on as they are humiliated and butchered right in front of her, she vows to avenge them, but talk is cheap. When your enemy’s strong, you’ll need to be that much stronger, but what does it mean to be strong, anyway? If it weren’t for what happened to Rin’s parents, she’d have just been another normal kid. Timid, likes sweets, curious about boys. Instead, she’s now walking this dangerous road with Manji.

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Still warm

In another life, I may have been a vegetarian, but in this day and age of supermarkets and their aisles of prepared meat, it’s hard to imagine something as generic as a chicken breast once belonging to a living animal. Don’t get me wrong, I’m well aware that it does, but having been divorced from the source of my food for the whole of my lifetime, eating meat is something that I do because I’m hungry and it’s food. There’s no moral quandary for me because, for the most part, I never think to question where any of it came from. If it tastes alright, I’m fine with it.

At the same time, I’m an animal lover. I have a cat (bad-boy Boris) and a dog (wimpy Splash) and to see them in pain is akin to injuring myself. It’s not just pets either, because if I can avoid stepping on something as tiny as an ant, I will.

As the summer season waxes and wanes, Silver Spoon (Gin no Saji) is one of the two new anime (the other being Sunday without God,) that I’ve managed to keep up with. Created by Hiromu Arakawa (Fullmetal Alchemist,) it’s the story of Hachiken’s tentative entry into the world of Japanese agriculture. Fresh from his suburban school life but desperate to escape the claustrophobia of conventional academia, he enrols at a farming college far and away from his old school and like me, has something of a sheltered exposure to food production in-tow.

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Kickstartering the future of anime

This article is my third attempt at writing a piece about crowd funding and anime, each time I’ve tried to do so another development forced me to re-write it, illustrating just how quickly crowdsourcing is reshaping the anime industry. Kick-Heart, the anime kickstarter by Production IG, was the first big crowd funding success. It proved the crowdfunding concept, where anyone can pledge from $1 to thousands of dollars to a project, generally in exchange for some type of reward, was workable for an anime project. Not only was it an effective means of funding anime, but it was something traditionally conservative Japanese companies could embrace under the right circumstances. Kick-Heart was followed by Pied Piper’s Time of Eve and Studio Trigger’s Little Witch Academia 2 projects, both of which met and exceeded their goals. Even Animesols, a crowdfunding site mostly for older anime, has found success, first with a campaign to make a DVD set of the magical girl show Creamy Mami and now hopefully (if enough of you  pledge in the next day or so) with a campaign to release a DVD of the first season of Black Jack TV.  Does that mean that the revolution has succeeded and the age of crowdfunding is nigh? Hardly. But with the success of the Kick-Heart, Time of Eve and Little Witch projects, it’s looking like crowdfunding is one of the best and most rewarding ways to get anime today.

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And Punpun is just fine, today.

I spent two days reading up to the latest releases of Oyasumi Punpun. I spent two days kicking myself for not reading Inio Asano’s longest-running work sooner; assuming it would be inferior to the tight, refined narratives of his one shots. I spent two days crying over the fact that no-one picked up the English-language publishing licenses when Tokyopop folded (goddamnit, just take my money, I’m begging you!)

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Death to the fantasy

Of all the new anime that I’ve seen this season, it’s probably WataMote that has left me with the strongest impression, to the point where I went ahead and started reading the manga straight after watching it. With its English title of No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Unpopular! you can guess what it’s about, but to summarise, it’s the story of the unpopular high-school girl Tomoko and her titanic struggle to be not so.

That may sound like the beginning of any given high-school anime (which is, let’s face it, almost every anime,) but the twist to WataMote is that there’s no external salvation for her. No-one notices her, she doesn’t join the light music club, she’s not infatuated with her brother, she’s a dedicated fujoshi, but for all of her hundreds of hours of “training” through dating sims, in the end no real boy so much as looks her way. As the title alludes, her problem isn’t that she’s unpopular, but that she’s blaming everyone else for it, and therein lies the harsh truth that under pins this series. Tomoko’s so clearly denying reality. No one has bullied her to make her this way, she’s just an introverted, really shy girl, and her unpopularity is of her own making.

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In the Mouth of Madness: Aku no Hana

There’s a beautiful scene at the end of episode seven of Aku no Hana (Flowers of Evil.) Finally overcome with the guilt of stealing Saeki’s gym clothes, Kasuga asks Nakamura to help him confess and in the dead of night they head to their classroom to do just that. She forces him to write his confession on the blackboard but along the way something snaps in them both and they fucking trash the classroom instead. Paint and chalk goes everywhere, desks are overturned and they lay there in the middle of it all, exhausted and happy. It’s a moment of total anarchy, like a flash of lightning, equal parts beautiful and scary, and the anime captures it wonderfully.

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Ghosts in their own ghost stories: Shokuzai

“If it cannot break out of its shell, the chick will die without ever being born. We are the chick-The world is our egg. If we don’t crack the world’s shell, we will die without ever truly being born. Smash the world’s shell. FOR THE REVOLUTION OF THE WORLD!”
–Revolutionary Girl Utena

Shokuzai (Penance) is a story of people dying without ever being born. Exposed to a tragedy at a young age, it’s like they were frozen in time and encased within a shell of adolescence as they grew into adulthood. They were five girls in their school’s playground when one of them was abducted right in front of their eyes and murdered. 15 years later, we return to their lives and find them still struggling to come to terms with what happened. Stunted, empty, cursed; they could never break out of their shells. Thus began the 5 episode series Shokuzai, a 2012 Japanese TV drama directed by the horror maestro Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Cure, Pulse, Tokyo Sonata.)

When I began investigating Japanese film in 2008, Kurosawa fast became a favourite of mine. Like a Japanese Tarkovsky, his style is calm and atmospheric, using background noise and image to convey a strong feeling of alienation and disquiet. If you’ve ever seen anything from the anime directors Ryutaro Nakamura (Serial Experiments Lain, Ghost Hound) or Hiroshi Hamasaki (Texhnolyze, Shigurui,) you’ll know what to expect. Kurosawa’s made a lot of horror, but in a genre renowned for its visceral qualities, his films are unusually meditative and artful nightmares that play with the strange and surreal to emphasise an ugly and desperate reality. When even Martin Scorsese is a fan (the excellent Shutter Island owes a lot to Kurosawa,) you realise this is a filmmaker worthy of note.

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Majestic Prince

Every season has its dark horses and this one is no different. I’ve been excited about Flowers of Evil, Attack on Titan and Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet since the offset, but I ignored Majestic Prince, which I figured would be as cliché as it looked. I don’t know if it’s just Hisashi Hirai’s dated character designs or the general vibe of nostalgia that permeates its whole production, but Majestic Prince feels old. For example, I’ll always remember Hirai’s drawing style for his work on 1999’s Infinite Ryvius (and later, 2002’s Gundam SEED,) but there’s other points of reference, too, like how it has an ending theme by Chiaki Ishikawa of Bokurano’s great Uninstall OP. It all just feeds into that datedness that has seen many dismiss it with barely a second glance. Like I did, sadly. It has a score of 6.77 (from 3001 users) on MyAnimeList, which is notably low for what’s fast becoming a very decent series, but is also revealing in how far out of sync it seems to be with the fans of today.

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