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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?!
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Mamoru Oshii doesn’t make forgettable anime. Be it Ghost in the Shell or Patlabor 2, the man injects so much personality into his films that it’s impossible not to recognise his touch. There is, of course, his famous basset hound, but there’s also a poetic side that transports this viewer into the ether. I can’t tell if it’s just that his films are ageing like fine wine, or if I’m now of an age where I’m better able to appreciate what he’s trying to say, but whatever the case, he’s now one of my favourite film directors.
I watched The Sky Crawlers for the first time last night. With Kenji Kawai and Production IG alongside him, it’s a film as thoughtful as it is beautiful. Set on an alternate Earth, the ageless Kildren (“kill-dolls”) are fighter pilots forever clashing amidst the clouds in a war that is at best extremely vague and at worst totally pointless. The story exists in a place that’s like Neverland gone bad, where the children’s only escape from the endless cycles of war is heavy drinking, sex and suicide: the sheer monotony of their lives is reflected in the film’s subdued colour palette, everything is so hazy and drained: an apt worldview for a doll. A doll isn’t alive. A doll doesn’t have memories. A doll is content with its place in the world because it knows no better.
All these years, I wanted K-On! to prove me right. I wanted it to be a shitty anime about cute girls doing cute things. I wanted to hold myself above it and I wanted you all to point and look and say “Look at those folks over at Bateszi Anime Blog, they have such good fucking taste, they’d never blog about K-On! because it’s moe-moe shit!”
This season, I’ve found myself in the fun position of having two of my favourite manga series adapted into anime. We already know how things went with Flowers of Evil, but there’s still the case of Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) to consider. Produced at Wit Studio and directed by Tetsurō Araki (of Death Note and Kurozuka, amongst others,) it’s the adaptation I was hoping for back in 2011. So, is it any good? Going by this first episode: hell yes.
Before you decide to watch Flowers of Evil (Aku no Hana,) please ask yourself these questions: do I purely want bishounen, or bishoujo, characters in my anime? Am I always looking for attractive characters? Should anime always look the same? If you’ve answered in the affirmative to any of these questions, forget about Flowers of Evil and watch something else. The sheer amount of invective aimed at its first episode is evidence enough that many aren’t able to see this series as anything other than ugly. I didn’t realise there was an objective example of ugliness, but apparently, Flowers of Evil is it. Thanks, anime fans.
One wouldn’t think it to look at them, but Shin Sekai Yori and Psycho-Pass were like two peas in a pod. Both deal in dystopian futures, social commentary and rebellion, both attempt to obfuscate their commentary by presenting it through morally-questionable speakers, and both refuse to end with everything neatly resolved. Suffice to say, I really enjoyed both series, but I’ve already had my say on Shin Sekai Yori. Now it’s time to write about Psycho-Pass, too.
Fractale premiered in January of 2011 as part of the noitaminA animation block on FujiTV. The series’ inclusion in noitaminA led to high expectations. The block, putting aside its lame name (animation spelled backwards), has a reputation for interesting and innovative shows, including Honey and Clover, Eden of the East, and House of Five Leaves. Fractale looked like it would fit that mold, as an original fantasy story with beautiful visuals. Unfortunately, while Fractale is set in an interesting world that is well animated, it doesn’t successfully address the interesting and timely problems posed by a world reliant on technology.
The end of a season is a bittersweet time for anime fans, as the joy of seeing a series reach its climax is undercut by the knowledge that this is the last hurrah for a story we’ve grown attached to over time. Such is the case with Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World,) a series that had me under its spell from the first episode on. Unpredictable, challenging and artistic are but three ways to describe the experience of watching it. Indeed, it has all the things that critics like me love to see in anime, but more importantly, this isn’t merely a cold essay on human nature, it’s emotive, and ends beautifully, with a trademark mix of the horrifying and hopeful.
Back in 2011, I wrote two posts about the manga series Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) and since then, it’s only grown in popularity, and in addition to a live-action movie, now has an anime series starting in April, too. I can’t wait to see how it turns out, but in the meantime, I figured I’d catch up with the latest chapters, and, man, is it still good or what? But there’s something else I have to note too, in that by beginning to explain many of its mysteries, Attack on Titan is shrinking.
Her hand bloodied and blistered, she bandages it up, ties it to her racket and keeps going. Giving up isn’t an option. This is her moment! Her chance! Her dream! This is Aim for the Ace!.
Hiromi Oka has spent her youth idolising Reika Ryūzaki, known otherwise as the beautiful Madame Butterfly (Ochōfujin,) a formidable, undefeated tennis player. But Hiromi has trained hard for this match, sacrificed her love, even, to reach this point, and now she’s here, a little bit of blood and pain isn’t like to stop her.
By all means, Oniisama E, translating as Dear Brother, is unassuming in its premise. However, pegging Oniisama E as anything other than a landmark production would be short-sighted. Ikeda Rioyko’s original manga was penned in the 1970s, and yet the series moves through triggering subjects like terminal illness, suicide, incest, homosexuality, and drug use without batting an eyelid.
The last time I wrote a list like this was back in 2007. Can you believe it’s been 5 years since then? 5 years since Gurren Lagann? I don’t know how I’ve lasted this long. The pace of my blogging has slowed since then, too. In 2007, I made 82 posts; in 2012, this will make it 24. I’ve often thought about stopping, but, in the end, something always drags me back, and when it does, I’m glad I’ve made my home here. Here, more than 6 years in the making. This is an anime blog filled with contradiction, error and inconsistency. Maybe you’ve been reading us for that long, maybe this is your first time? But whatever the case, welcome! This review of 2012 begins now.
Being an anime fan at the moment is fun. The Autumn season has really upped the ante, with two series in Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World) and Psycho-Pass proving fascinating in different ways.
I’ve already written about Shin Sekai Yori. It’s a series that stole my heart almost as soon as it appeared, through its dark narrative and shifting visuals. A few years ago, I wrote a couple of emotive posts about Casshern Sins: the director of that series, Shigeyasu Yamauchi, has a very distinctive and surreal style, and he’s now directing episodes (5 & 10) of Shin Sekai Yori. While many may have been disappointed by his efforts, personally, I love them.
First, imagine an alternate version of FLCL, where Naoto hooks up with the loose-canon Mamimi and revels in her pyromania, falling ever deeper into her psychosis, burning away their boring world together. This is The Flowers of Evil (Aku no Hana,) a manga series (and soon to be anime) that begins like any of the other thousands of stories written about teenagers. Bored, disillusioned and harbouring a secret crush, our main character is the whimpering Kasuga, the archetypal, spineless harem lead without a shred of pride. When he steals his crush’s gym clothes, a vortex opens through which the trouble-making Nakamura steps. She spied him stealing the clothes and blackmails him into becoming her slave.
Rightstuf is on a streak of licensing critically-acclaimed, but undervalued, shows. They released Utena in 2011 and announced the future release of Rose of Versailles. My favorite recent Rightstuf release remains Nadesico. Unlike Utena, Nadesico has always been available used at an affordable price even after the ADV release went out of print, so I was surprised that Rightstuf chose to re-release it. I think it speaks to how relevant it remains, particularly with the resurgence of another giant robot show, Evangelion. Still, even standing alone, Nadesico remains an entertaining show because of its blend of comedy, science fiction and drama.
Many of us are optimists and like to think there’s an innate sense of goodness within us all, but given a God’s power, how would we react? Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World) answers that question within its first 3 minutes: upon the discovery of psychokinesis, civilisation regresses into a thousand year-long dark age, where Man is subjugated by an immense, supernatural power.
One such power, the Emperor of Great Joy, marks his coronation by burning to death the first 500 people to stop clapping. It’s said they clapped for 3 days and nights.