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Anime fans fornever

Shadow of the Colossus

Unless you count my yearly flings with Football Manager, I’ve never been much of a gamer. Even still, I bought myself a Playstation 3 in December.

Stepping into today’s world of consoles is intimidating at first. I’d been divorced from the culture for nearly a decade and knowing how deeply some are into it, it’s easy to get cold feet.

I had to try, though. I wanted to play Shadow of the Colossus.

After stumbling over a review of it one day at work, I made the impulsive (and, obviously, expensive) decision there and then to buy the game so as to have a proper look.

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Am I looking at the sky, or the sea?

Though it borrows from the mythos of the (very real) city of Venice, there’s something pleasantly unreal about Aria. Rather, not unreal so much as there is a disregard for the idea and constraints of reality. Perhaps Aria seeks not to undermine reality as we know it, but in its ‘New Venice’, create its own sense of reality.

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The heavens are angered

The Twelve Kingdoms feels very much like a shoujo anime, but it’s more akin to Utena and Toward the Terra than Escaflowne, and by that what I mean to say is, while there are no melodramatic love triangles here, The Twelve Kingdoms is all about exploring and externalising the feelings of its characters; that’s girly stuff, right?

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The candy-colored afterlife

Occult Academy, you’ve made a fan out of me.

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Gren’s eternal smile

If I had to condense my love for anime into one single moment, I’d choose the scene when `Space Lion` begins playing in the 13th episode of Cowboy Bebop (Jupiter Jazz.) It is one of the first times I can remember feeling a pang of bitter-sweetness whilst watching anime: the sadness of Gren’s passing tempered by Spike’s and Faye’s return to the Bebop; that Jet can’t really hide the fact that he truly gives a shit about them but, like a grumpy Dad, is too up-tight to admit it, and Gren’s death-wish to be cut adrift amongst the stars and sent drifting towards Titan. Alone.

“I see. You are Spike. Julia was always talking about you… That your two eyes were of different colours… That’s what she said… That you get a strange feeling when you look into his eyes.” — Gren

A strange romance springs forth from the snow-capped streets and cold, gray clouds, and from the elegant, softly-voiced Gren himself, an angelic hermaphrodite in love with Vicious, yet broken by the betrayal of their friendship. His sad, tired eyes and knowing smile are captured and carried beautifully by `Space Lion`’s warm tone of resignation. It’s a spine-tingling moment.

When all that’s left is dust

Boogiepop Phantom

When I think about Boogiepop Phantom, I’m also reminded of other recent Madhouse anime, like Shigurui and Casshern Sins. Each has a strange aesthetic; seductive yet tinged by an under-lying sense of sadness and desolation.

It would be easy to categorise them as dark and depressing, but they are more complex than that. It’s not horror merely for the sake of mindless chills; it’s horror to serve a purpose, to weave a spell. Boogiepop Phantom is disorientating, Shigurui is grotesque and Casshern Sins is desolate, but each conjures an atmosphere potent enough to provoke difficult questions.

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Naruto Shippuuden episode 82 is a masterpiece

After all these years, I still love watching Naruto. I’ll place it on hiatus every now and then, but it still is, and always will be, one of my biggest favourites. This past weekend marked the end of my latest break from Shippuuden, but already, here I am again; writing away. I couldn’t let this feeling pass without trying to convey it, this sense of being an anime fan and seeing something so great it can’t be contained by just me alone; I have to share it with you.

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Casshern Sins: I wanted to leave my color on my city

Margo

Knowing that some day you will die is not a prospect that one’s thoughts tend to dwell on, but in Casshern Sins, when death is everywhere and the land is ravaged with decay, that your life will some day end is impossible to ignore. It’s a feeling that I often get from this show, but far from ever seeming hopeless, each episode has an ephemeral, poetic warmth; refusing to linger in depression, it cherishes life, with color, and beauty, and sound. It is a joy to watch.

Flowing in this vein of hope, Margo’s own obscure achievements in episode 12 are typical of that irreplaceable essence of life. Just like any other robot in Casshern’s world, elegant Margo is slowly dying of the ruin, but instead of quietly accepting his fate, he keeps on going. In the throes of death, his elegiac last words reveal his heart’s truest motivation, “I wanted to leave my colour on my city”. It’s inspiring to think that he just wanted to be remembered, to leave a mark that proves that he was alive.

This was such a heartfelt parting sentiment, that honestly chimes with my heart, and exactly the kind of pathos that has me convinced that Casshern Sins is great.

Casshern Sins: You looked as if you were dancing

It’s hard to explain how I feel about Casshern Sins. It’s way beyond anything else I’ve seen this year. More than just another good anime series, more than just entertainment, I find it is engaging, evocative and inspiring, perched somewhere in-between the surreal, fable-like quality of Kino’s Journey and the philosophical melancholy of Mushishi. After every episode, I’m excited, my mind is filled with possibilities and ideas, and I really feel like I’ve just seen something wonderful. I can only hope that I’m capable of relaying those feelings to you. For over two years I’ve been writing on this anime blog, all for anime like Casshern Sins.

Thoughts after: Episode 6

Venturing deeper into the dystopian, decaying depression of Casshern’s strange situation, those that surround him are petrified of dying, but without knowing death, can one ever feel truly alive? Just like how a flower so pretty can only be that way in comparison to an ugly weed, one can only grasp the value of his life after realizing that, some day, he will die. After all, without death, life has no meaning, thus, regardless of Luna’s end, and whether or not it was against her will at all, by dying, she has seemingly graced her people with a gift so precious, mortality. Suddenly, the immortal feel a thirst for life and a desperation to live, and this, I think, is the point of Casshern Sins. It can be so sombre and nostalgic, but it’s hard to deny that the end of the world has rarely looked as beautiful. Ironic, really.

Episode 7

Somewhere in-between this endless expanse of desert and open blue sky is a place without rules and purpose, it is where we find the woman of the tall tower. She wants to think that in this place, in this dying world, her aimless life is still worth living. She rings her bell, where the view is wonderful and the Earth is really pretty, and it resounds with her will to live, as if screaming, “Look at me! I am alive!” Like an artist, she has built this expression of her spirit on the horizon, it’s her tower, the proof of her existence for all to see, and it’s wonderful that people may finally understand that feeling, that this dying world is still beautiful.

Episode 8

When life is tough, to hope and dream can be the hardest thing, yet all it takes is a passage of writing, an episode of anime or a two-minute song; such a tiny moment in our lives, so fleeting, yet it can unleash such a potent feeling. Do we all have a reason to live? And a dream to follow? Like a theatrical performer, Casshern elegantly runs, jumps and dives through an army of hopeless fiends, inspired to protect someone precious, the singer Janis. People wait in the music hall to be inspired, for just a few minutes, to escape into imagination and to dream of an exciting future. Her performance is art at its most vital, more than mere entertainment, to be inspired is to find nothing less than a reason to live.