It’s been almost one and a half years of university life. With all its ups and downs, the university lifestyle has sure been one hell of a doozy: Assignments, quizzes, exams, class participation marks, and the will to cheat in all four if your moral compass was forged by Anti-Plagiarism Man himself. Suffice to say, it’s been like a survival horror video game but with the zombies replaced by faster zombies that are capable of speech. Thanks to all the aforementioned commitments, though, I’ve been swamped and haven’t had the time to write except for outside of the obligatory course essays – as is evidenced by my last post.
Anyways, with my current hectic situation, I also haven’t been able to watch much anime. I like to binge at least 8 or 10 episodes a night. That’s quite impossible to do unless if I’m keen on flushing thousands of dollars down the hostel toilet. Quite a number of students have done that what with Netflix circumventing the torrent-block on campus. And so, I mostly read manga in my lone spare time.
Fast-forwarding to about a week ago, I’d asked a friend for manga recommendations. He told me to check out Yugami-kun ni wa Tomodachi ga Inai (Yugami-kun Has No Friends). I was skeptical at first considering the tried and tested naming convention and MyAnimeList’s bipolarity when it comes to quality. Fortunately for me, my friend proved once again that he is indeed a man of culture. I haven’t had this much fun with a slice-of-life series since Bokura wa Minna Kawai-sou (The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior) but, unlike Kawai, I actually learnt to appreciate some things with Yugami. You’ll find out how ironic that is soon enough.
To get started, I’ll have to say that the title pretty much says it all. Yugami Yuuji is a high-school student quite set in his ways. His defining motto in life is, to paraphrase, that friends are for losers and one should be reliant on themselves. To his peers, this statement comes across as very negatively charged, and they deem him to be this aloof troublemaker who lives life with complete disregard for those not directly related to him. Actually, scratch that. Considering all the shade he throws his grandmother; I’d say Yugami is more or less a twisted, almost anti-hero, version of Sakamoto from Sakamoto Desu ga?(Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto). If you’re a big fan of comedy, your interest may have already been piqued with this claim.
Nevertheless, despite the title, the manga isn’t only about the strange Yugami interacting with even stranger side-characters, a la Sakamoto. It’s actually about Yugami trying to avoid all unnecessary human interactions in order to maximize the time he can spend on himself and the activities that he enjoys – as contrasted adequately by the dynamic formed between him and the transfer student Watanuki Chihiro, whose goal is to make some friends because her family has been hopping cities much like the Discrete Mathematics professor has been hopping the responsibility of holding proper quiz contestations. In an effort to rack up good boy points for his daily quota, Yugami inadvertently helps Watanuki settle into high-school life using his cost-efficient and results-ensuring methods. As their dynamic starts to rub off on the both of them, you get a distinct sense of wonder trying to determine the end for this non-edgy, non-romantic Oregairu retelling.
Yugami tries to be a man of little words unless the topics include rakugo, turtles, and baseball. Conversely, Watanuki’s anxiety and, sometimes, comfy-nature driven monologues drive home the subtle discussion on what it means to be friends. Also, yes, you read that right. Yugami is the ace pitcher of the baseball club. As the only other competent player on the baseball team is the probable schizophrenic catcher, Kadota Haruki, Yugami is left to fend for his skills (and his unpopularity) with his defiant attitude being the primary catalyst for the lack of team cooperation in the first place.
That is not to say that Yugami is the only one going around handing out shits and fans, even though he’s the one encouraging most of the flinging. Many well-written side characters go off on their separate tangents of “Wow, I wonder if I was that stupid/complacent in high-school.” (Yes, I was.). You’ve got Kuzumi Wakana, the baseball club manager who serves as the polar opposite of the cute manager-I-want-to-strike-for in most volleyball anime. You’ve got Hayashiyama Masaki, the rival school ace tent-pitcher, who considers Yugami to be his number one enemy, yet Yugami doesn’t even think about him. You’ve got Kaori Momose, who changes colors faster than she can even realize that she is changing colors in the first place. Then there’s also Yugami’s happy-go-lucky cousin who is partly responsible for Yugami adopting the ‘look of disdain’ straight from the album of ‘Anime Girls Looking At You In Disgust.’ These are the sort of characters that really shouldn’t be meshing well in a semi-serious story. Still, they bounce greatly off each other thanks to Jun Sakura’s wonderful use of comedic timing and a very interesting self-cherishing viewpoint of life.
Speaking of cherishing things, that’s the main thing that Yugami has really got together during the run of the series. It is, quite honestly, a quality lacking in many folks, especially when they go about trying to make friends. To truly cherish bonds you have with another, you must first learn to acknowledge and respect the finer things in life and accept that you should be the one most important to you. This wake-up call for a healthy outlook is much in today’s media consumed by wanton hedonism, rampant nihilism, and ever-springing imaginary ism-isms. Enjoy your talents. Enjoy your hard work. Enjoy your hobbies. Enjoy your food. And lastly, enjoy yourself. These points are gradually brought home like a lost puppy during the beat of a midsummer rain. The atmosphere is that of safety and new hope, but with slight tensions still hanging here and there as the assortment of characters learn new things from each other about themselves and truly develop as something more than placeholders for stoic humor.
If you’re feeling down in the dumps or are looking for a comfortable read with a lot of laughs, then I wholeheartedly recommend giving Yugami and his not-friends a chance. You’ll probably end up cherishing it much more than Yugami’s love for rakugo. And, of course, himself.
Globalisation has been a topic of much debate in the last two decades. The exponential increase in the rate of exchange of information has led to not only the breaking down of economic barriers, but the large-scale acceptance of relatively unique cultures as well (“When did globalisation start?”). At the forefront of this cultural and economic interchange, ironically, has been the xenophobic country of Japan located at the far-Eastern edge of the world (Alix “The Influences of Japanese”). Despite its xenophobic nature, which has been recently deemed to be an inevitable shift towards nationalism (Karube “The Illusion of”), two interrelated Japanese mediums have caught the world by storm. These mediums are “anime”, the short-form for animation in Japanese, and “manga”, a blanket term for comics or any scene drawn in a panel accompanied by speech bubbles or sound effects (“What are manga and anime?”). Anime and manga have had humble beginnings in their native country and even more so in the Western world. Unfortunately, though, both the rise of consumption of the two mediums and the effects they have had on the South Asian, particularly Pakistani, consumer and intellectual environment have not been well documented. Therefore, the aim of this text is to carry out this broad task – while keeping the limitations of both the research and analysis of primary data in mind. Thus, it has been reasonably concluded that anime and manga had taken root in Pakistan due to the relatively more meaningful and mature themes, such as coming-to-age, involved which both children and adults seemed to be more interested in. This interest then later served as a gateway into the depths of Internet culture that surrounded the two mediums and, as such, prompted them to remain a part of the largely contradictory Pakistani context. But before this essay can discuss the relationship between the two artistic mediums and Pakistan, a brief overview of the native origins and the Western adoption must be touched upon first. This overview will prove useful later as a foundation when considering the cultural impact on Pakistan. As such, this essay will be divided into two sections: The first section will deal with the international discussion while the second will look at the local sphere.
THE INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT
Of the two mediums, manga came first. Manga were mainly a Japanese folk product for local consumption (“What are manga and anime?”). Around the end of the First World War, the cross-cultural exchange of gunfire and ideas had brought a vast interest in the art of animation in Japan. This led to the production of the very first Japanese animation in February of 1917 called Dekobo Shingacho – Meian no Shippai (Dekobo’s New Picture Book – Failure of a Great Plan). Twenty other such animated shorts, by classic mangaka (artists) such as Oten Shimokawa and Junichi Kouchi, had also been released in the same year (Cooper “The History Of Anime”). One would realize that while the art styles and animation practices were different at the time, the content was still very much the same as today’s seasonal offerings. These and other animated films that followed for the next fifteen years were art-house projects helmed by small-time film studios with extremely limited budgets (Cooper “The History Of Anime”). Major additions came to the anime production movement in the 1930s when Kenzo Masaoka created the first anime film with pre-recorded voices called Chikara to Onna no Yo no Naka (Within the World of Power and Women). Right after the release of this scandalous film came his second offering titled Chagama Ondo (The Dance of the Chagamas) which was the first anime made using cels, transparent sheets used for traditional animation – a technique still in use today (“Kenzō Masaoka”). Again, these were very important in a local sphere, akin to how Walt Disney was making ripples in a large pond with his smooth Mickey Mouse cartoons (Polsson), but not as much as globally. That is, until the debut of Osamu Tezuka.
To highlight Tezuka’s importance in bringing anime to the global stage, the role of the company that had first hired him needs to be appreciated. The Japan Animated Films was founded in 1948, right after the Second World War, and was then bought by Toei, a film studio, to become its animated division in 1956. Two years later, the very first Japanese animated full color feature-length film, titled Hakujaden (The Tale of the White Serpent), was created. Almost three years later, this became the very first film to be screened officially across the Pacific in the United States of America. Around this time, Osamu Tezuka proved himself as the “god of manga”. He became so influential that he managed to coerce Toei’s major animation figures to join him and found his new studio Mushi Productions. With the advent of television, his studio began producing Tetsuwan Atom (Astro Boy) which captured not only the hearts of the Japanese but many others all over the world as well. Mushi Production’s arduous endeavor was proclaimed to be doomed to fail by critics but Tezuka’s genius formed many techniques under the name of “limited animation”, reducing the number of frames per second and putting different parts of a character on different layers of cels so that only the part of the body moving needed to be animated in each scene, which drastically streamlined the animation process and made weekly shows both possible and profitable (Cooper “The History Of Anime”). Then came the controversial, in hindsight, Kimba the White Lion from Mushi Productions in 1965, commissioned by the American NBC. Kimba the White Lion was such a huge success that petitions and letters regarding plagiarism were being sent left and right around the globe after the release of Disney’s The Lion King in 1994 (Bradley “Was ‘The Lion King’ Copied”). This is it for the classical origins of anime. This counts for manga as well since many of the anime produced until the 1970s were based on their respective manga counterparts or created by renowned mangaka. The discussion will now move onto the golden age of anime and manga and how this cemented the two mediums as a major force of entertainment in the West and their increasing importance as art and literature.
To continue, the golden age is the time when anime and manga began to be more widely accepted in the West (Kelts “Defining the Heisei Era”). This was the period of the 1980s when the talented and the revolutionary were given the chance to elevate the status of the mediums to that of literature: Academia began taking an interest in the unintentional export of the Japanese context which, due to many reasons, clicked with both the native and the Western audiences. This is evidenced by the former Japanese literature professor at the University of Texas, Susan J. Napier, whose reaction to Katsuhiro Otomo’s coming-of-age body-transformation epic Akira was, and is still, shared by many others: “I walked out of the theater completely blown away. I knew that it was a cartoon like nothing that I had ever seen before – visceral, intense, heady, and grotesque. I almost had to hide under my seat during the last 20 minutes” (Napier). Then there were also American film critic Robert Ebert’s comments on Takahata Isao’s depressing Hotaru no Haka (Grave of the Fireflies), “[A]n emotional experience so powerful that it forces a rethinking of animation,” and “[O]ne of the greatest war films ever made” (Kelts “Defining the Heisei Era”). With Japanese animators and comic artists refusing to be shaped by wartime and post-war propaganda productions, unlike the American purging in the 1950s of “extreme content” from comics and animated features due to moral revulsion (Hoffman “Taking anime”), the mediums saw a natural progression of thought in Japan which strengthened their hold on Japanese adults.
Although the adults of the West were enjoying their share of whimsical Disney animated movies and the weekly Saturday morning cartoons, at the same time, they were starving for something more mature. Something that would make them think, that would deeply connect with them, and that would make their consumption of animation to be taken more seriously. Even before the advent of the unforeseen boom in the West during the 80s and 90s, film aficionados and hobbyists were importing reels, tapes, and comics (Cooper “The History Of Anime”). The acceptance of anime and manga was not even because people wanted to be open to Japan’s realization of the rising global popularity of anime and manga, that is, the banner of “Cool Japan” (Brienza), but because the acceptance allowed them to discuss important issues without being obscured by regional specifics which is the approach Western media had mostly adopted at the time (González 275). Making good use of her Ph.D. in anthropology gained from the University of Chicago, Anne Allison noted succinctly in her 2006 book Millennial Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination that:
[F]or American youth, it is not so much Japan itself as a compelling culture, power, or place that is signified (despite the fact that this [is] precisely what the Japanese government tries to capitalize on in all the rhetoric and attention given to Japan’s new ‘soft power’ in the globalization of J-pop). Rather ‘Japan’ operates more as a signifier for a particular brand and blend of fantasy-ware: goods that inspire an imaginary space at once foreign and familiar and a subjectivity of continual flux and global mobility, forever moving into and out of new planes/powers/terrains/relations. (Allison & Cross 277)
This astute observation had been noticed earlier by Gloria Goodale, of The Christian Science Monitor, who stated that anime and manga have managed to accomplish what many other forms of cultural expressions have failed: To “become widespread enough to challenge America’s stranglehold on entertainment” (Goodale “Anime-ted Japan”). In the same year as Allison, Jean-Marie Bouissou, French Japanologist, was quoted to have said that growing appreciation for anime and manga was “new for Japan, and all the more surprising, as its culture was traditionally seen, even by the Japanese themselves, as being very specific” (Cooper-Chen 44). Following from this, one can safely assume that the situation should be, at the very least, slightly similar to the rise of the two mediums in Pakistan: A country whose identity was until recently held, and probably dictated, by Hollywood and Bollywood blockbusters (Jawaid “The Dilemmas of Pakistani Cinema”).
THE LOCAL CONTEXT
As stated above, there have been aficionados and antiquarians in Pakistan who were well acquainted with anime and manga due to very much the same reasons as the Western audience. Financial stability, decent access to technology, international traveling and or connections, and a keen curiosity for the comparatively strange caused these certain Pakistani citizens to come across anime and manga. Unfortunately, though, these factors were not present for much of the Pakistani population. Coupling that fact with the stigma attached to animation as being only for children, one can easily guess why the first generation of anime and manga fans mainly kept to themselves in corners of the Internet until early 2004.
In April of 2004, Cartoon Network Pakistan, created by Turner Broadcasting, started airing animated programs in Pakistan. The channel mainly broadcasted classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons such as Looney Tunes and Tom & Jerry alongside other contemporary shows such as Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy and Courage the Cowardly Dog during most of the day. A single programming block named Toonami was dedicated to airing anime series for two hours. The block’s schedule included Pokemon, Digimon, Beyblade, and the gateway-anime for most of the population (Appendix), Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball Z (“Cartoon Network (Pakistan)”). Toonami resulted in the second generation of anime and manga fans in Pakistan – most of whom are now aged between 18 to 25 years old (Appendix). As the years went by, Nickelodeon India, Hungama TV, Disney Channel India, and POGO started broadcasting Hindi dubbed anime such as Hagemaru (“Tsurupika Hagemaru”), Ninja Hattori (“Ninja Hattori-kun in South Asia”), and the ever-controversial Doraemon (“Doraemon in India”). Some cable providers would illegally allow the broadcasting of these Indian channels and this resulted in those Pakistani children who were weak at English to be entranced by the tad mature and sexual themes presented in these children’s anime. It is to be noted that very few children, and even adults, knew that the series were of Japanese origin until Internet usage became commonplace in the country. Moreover, with the rise of the Internet, a reasonably decent amount of these children grew up to explore Japan’s animation and comic offerings more. As is shown by Google’s search trends in the Appendix, an interest was also then developed for manga which was what most of the popular anime at the time based on. This then leads to the question: Just how important was the Internet in making Pakistanis more familiar with Japanese content? As can be seen by the five-year-old petition on Change.org to launch a Pakistani version of the Indian-only anime broadcasting channel called Animax (“Sign the Petition”), the answer is, “Very much so.”
Since the late 1990s, Pakistan has been dominated by the visuals of American and Indian narratives, so without access to the Internet it was, and somewhat still is, very hard to broaden your horizons. The devoted and net-savvy made good use of the Internet join forums and image boards where they could gain knowledge of and gain access to the content of many countries. Granted, almost 99 percent of this access to such content was illegal but, with a country rife with piracy, that was of little issue. It still is not much of a problem since most Pakistani fans still pirate anime and manga today. Though, since the last three years or so, there has been a noticeable increase in Pakistanis buying, and wanting to buy, anime and manga related merchandise. This is evidenced by a survey conducted in numerous Pakistani geek-media related groups on Facebook, via Google Forms as shown in Appendix, which showed that 18.8 percent of 146 participants (mostly aged between 14 and 26) have had subscribed to anime-streaming and manga-library service Crunchyroll. In a follow-up question, it was revealed that 37.7 percent of the same number of participants own anime and manga related merchandise. Although the percentages presented may seem small, they are actually quite large when one is presented with the fact that Pakistan’s average piracy levels from 1999 to 2002 were above 70 percent for music and movies (Proserpio et al. 41). To give contrast, USA and Japan’s music and movie average piracy levels were below 6 percent. Even today the piracy rate in Pakistan is still very high (Proserpio et al. 41). When people are trying to illegally view American Netflix content in Pakistan using Virtual Private Networks (Tajammul “‘Why use Netflix Pakistan?'”) then it is no wonder Sanjay Raina, general manager and senior vice-president of Fox, stated in an interview that piracy in Pakistan “will never go away” (Clowes “Piracy will never be defeated”). Disregarding the issue of piracy for now, it should be made clear that piracy helped not only Pakistanis but most of the world to get untampered anime and manga.
It is thanks to piracy that the world now has unfiltered access to Japanese content. When Western publishers and licensors first started commercially importing anime and manga, they tended to change the content to suit the local bubble. As a result, you would have cases such as discontinuity in the plot in series like Mushi Production’s Kimba the White Lion, which NBC tried to make more child-friendly (Cooper “The History Of Anime”), and the modern day example of injecting Western social and political issues into dialogue in Hajimete no Gal (My First Girlfriend is a Gal) (D. “Funimation Responds”). To counter this, “fansubbing” began taking place wherein netizens rendezvoused in chat channels and forums to create amateur translations which are, most of the time, more accurate than official subtitles offered by companies. The process of fansubbing and distribution has been streamlined with the passage of time and is now currently seen by corporations to be a major source of piracy while fans deem it to be the final bastion against misrepresentation of cultural and universal ideas for commercial greed (González 275). For Pakistanis, though, fansub and scanlation (amateur translating of manga) groups were the major source of anime and manga acquisition via BitTorrent networks and cloud storage services (Cooper-Chen 44).
The consumption of anime and manga increased as the years went by and, with it, its impact on Pakistani culture. The biggest influence it had on Pakistanis was creating self-awareness amongst children and teens towards physical intimacy and the thin line between that and sexual open-ness. The Japanese are very polite and have a high regard for personal space and yet, they become very physical when it comes to camaraderie and sexual situations (Evason “Japanese Culture – Core Concepts”). This is the exact opposite for Pakistanis who barely have any concept of personal space and to whom, despite the love for Hollywood and Bollywood soft-core smut, the open discussion of sexual intimacy is considered taboo. So much that a political party had to recently impose a ban on the widely popular children’s anime Doraemon (“PTI wants Japanese”). The non-sexual presentation of children’s bodies is considered normal in Japan as, well, children are children (Hu “Japanese ‘Naked’ Festivals”). Also, Japanese children’s anime and manga are not afraid to mention puberty, the changes associated with this biological process, and the psychological effects it can have in an easy to understand way so that children can relate (Napier). This is commonplace in coming-of-age stories. Nobita’s antics whenever his muse, Shizuka, appeared on screen were considered by the Pakistani political party to be harmful to children whereas the children themselves related hard with Nobita’s curiosity and puberty induced awkwardness (Khan “Doraemon vs Doraemon”). Whether the decision was right or wrong is a matter for another paper, though.
Additionally, there have been other, more direct influences as well. In recent years, there have been several conventions, or cons, held in Pakistan to appeal to the geek fanbase and to serve as an outlet for them to socialize (Kazim “Fans dress up”). These conventions have seen a decent attendance by both fans and curious onlookers who marveled at the attendees dressed up as characters from their favorite series (Qamar “Looking kawaii in Karachi”). This has all been thanks to a non-governmental organization promoting Japanese culture called Metal Seinen that began operating in 2006 (“Metal Seinen is bringing”). Their efforts have been fruitful as there have been at least three cons held in 2016 alone. Then there is the effect that anime and manga have had on content produced in Pakistan. Minako OóHagan, currently an Associate Professor at the School of Cultures Languages and Linguistics (CLL), reckoned the extent to which anime and manga served as inspirations for Western productions; Hollywood films such as The Matrix and Kill Bill, adapting Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet “into a contemporary story set in Japan”, and the birth of “Amerimanga and Euromanga” which is basically the “adoption of [the] manga form” by Western artists (Oóhagan 242). Extrapolating her observations, one can see the same happening in Pakistan with the creation of Aaron Haroon Rashid’s television series Burka Avenger in 2014, which is Pakistan’s first directly anime-inspired animated superhero series (Zaidi “Burka Avenger'”), and Azcorp Entertainment’s heavily manga-influenced comic series Team Muhafiz in 2015, which is seeing relative success as a good tool to raise awareness on social issues amongst Pakistani teenagers (Anis “Team Muhafiz”). Perhaps the biggest cultural influence of anime and manga on Pakistani media, at the time of writing, is the christening of Sheesha-Ghar (The Glassworker) by Usman Riaz’s team Mano Animation Studios on the fundraising platform Kickstarter. Due to its crisp and fluid animation and its art style serving as a tribute to beloved pioneer Japanese animation company, Studio Ghibli, it garnered international attention in 2016 when its prologue was shown on the studio’s website after successful collection of funds (Salahuddin “From paper sketches”). Just as “Japan’s cartoon arts have made inroads overseas because of their odorless, un-Japanese look” (Cooper-Chen 48), Riaz said in interview that he wanted to apply the same to his own film as “people both in Pakistan and around the world will have their eyes and ears opened in some small way to the riches of [Pakistani] culture and language – just as [Riaz’s] eyes were opened and [his] curiosity sparked of faraway cultures as a child” (Hasan “I want to show”).
It can be argued that this essay tried to bite off more than it could chew given the word count limitation and that the introduction to anime and manga in the beginning may have been somewhat long-winded. Both are, to be honest, fair points. The detailed history of anime and manga in Japan could have gotten even more in-depth but was not done so as to properly address the situation of the lack of formal research into the subject in the Pakistani context and its related inquiries. This essay’s author hopes that, in the future, one would capitalize on the secondary research gone into penning this essay and also overcome the shortcomings brought forward by the constraints of the primary data to delve even further into the impact anime and manga may have had on Pakistani culture, society, and how our media is slowly transforming into a delicate yet progressive mixture of highly different cultural sentiments. Just as Japan had hoisted the banner of “Cool Japan”, it may soon be the time for “Cool Pakistan” if the advantages gained by anime and manga influences are capitalized on to form the fusion of our rising animation talent, popular musical avenues, and reviving interest in Urdu literature.
A survey was conducted via Facebook in many geek groups (such as ACCP).
Out of 149 participants:
85.9% was male while 12.1% was female. The age range of the participants was between 16 and 24. 97.3% of participants had watched anime on television (for example, Pokemon, Beyblade, etc on Cartoon Network) when they were children.
Out of these 146 participants:
The responses of 145 participants were analyzed to reveal that most find Dragon Ball Z, with Pokemon coming to a close second, the anime they remember the most from childhood. 97.3% of 146 participants revealed that they still watch anime. Of 143 participants, 27.3% downloaded, 20.3% streamed, and 52.4% did both when acquiring anime series and films from the Internet. 18.8% of 146 participants were, or are still, subscribed to online content services such as Crunchyroll. 37.7% of the same number of participants used to own, or still own, anime and manga related merchandise.
Brienza, Casey. “Did Manga Conquer America? Implications for the Cultural Policy of ‘Cool Japan.’” International Journal of Cultural Policy, vol. 20, no. 4, 2013, pp. 383–398., doi:10.1080/10286632.2013.856893.
“Cartoon Network (Pakistan).” The Cartoon Network Wiki, cartoonnetwork.fandom.com/wiki/Cartoon_Network_(Pakistan). Accessed 8 May 2019.
Clowes, Ed. “Piracy Will Never Be Defeated, TV Executive Says.” Gulf News – No.1 in UAE and Dubai for Breaking News, Opinion and Lifestyle, Gulf News, 22 Mar. 2017, gulfnews.com/technology/media/piracy-will-never-be-defeated-tv-executive-says-1.1998624. Accessed 8 May 2019.
“Doraemon in India.” Doraemon Wiki, doraemon.fandom.com/wiki/Doraemon_in_India. Accessed 8 May 2019.
Evason, Nina. “Japanese Culture – Core Concepts.” Cultural Atlas, 2016, culturalatlas.sbs.com.au/japanese-culture/japanese-culture-core-concepts#japanese-culture-core-concepts. Accessed 8 May 2019.
González, Luis Pérez. “Fansubbing Anime: Insights Into The ‘Butterfly Effect’ Of Globalisation On Audiovisual Translation.” Perspectives: Studies in Translatology, vol. 14, no. 4, 5 Jan. 2009, pp. 260–277., doi:10.1080/09076760708669043.
“Metal Seinen Is Bringing Global Pop Culture to Pakistan.” The Express Tribune, 7 Oct. 2016, tribune.com.pk/story/1195143/metal-seinen-bringing-global-pop-culture-pakistan/. Accessed 8 May 2019.
Napier, Susan Jolliffe. Animé From Akira to Howls Moving Castle: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation. Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
“Ninja Hattori-Kun in South Asia.” Ninja Hattori Wiki, ninjahattori.fandom.com/wiki/Ninja_Hattori-kun_in_South_Asia. Accessed 8 May 2019.
Oóhagan, Minako. “Manga, Anime And Video Games: Globalizing Japanese Cultural Production.” Perspectives: Studies in Translatology, vol. 14, no. 4, 2007, pp. 242–247., doi:10.1080/09076760708669041.
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Proserpio, Luigi, et al. “Entertainment Pirates: Determinants of Piracy in the Software, Music and Movie Industries.” International Journal of Arts Management, vol. 8, no. 1, 2005, pp. 33–47. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/41064861.
How long has it been? How long ago had I last seen an anime of such class and depth that I could not help myself be swayed by anything else until I saw through the journey to its end? It has been a while. Yes, quite a number of moons have passed since the last anime I wholeheartedly gave a perfect score to.
Bluntness is required for an anime like ‘Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu’. The reason for this being that just reading the synopsis of the show is, sadly, not enough to garner an interest. Most people have watched this show out of boredom and being recommended it by the very same folks who gave it a chance. I reckon very few people actually read the synopsis and went, “This is pretty damn interesting. I should watch it!” As saddened as I am when I say this but the Japanese animation industry is not known for the kind of maturity ‘ShouJuu’ displays. Instead, it goes for unnecessary eroticism and heavily relies on telling the same story with a slightly different coat of paint. The main reason I go for anime and manga as my main source of entertainment these days is that despite these factors, and many others, they are still one of the most risk-taking outlets of visual presentation. It’s a double edged candy sword dipped in lemon juice. Ahhhhhhhhh! So that is why I’ll try to keep my obvious bias towards the show in check and go purely for selling it to you as objectively as I can.
Before I begin, let it be known that I’m reviewing both seasons together. The seasons, by themselves, still stand proudly as high tier works but it is best to watch both seasons in one go as that is how they truly reach another level altogether.
The first season starts off with a 47 minutes pilot that introduces us to recently released ex-con, soon named Yotaro, and his new found love for the art of stage storytelling called ‘rakugo’. He forces a master of the art, Yurakutei Yakumo (eight generation), to take him on as an apprentice. A while passes until Yotaro commits a huge blunder and is expelled until he begs the master for another chance. Thus, Yakumo launches into a tale of his past that spans the rest of the season. The second season then deals with the aftermath of that tale and how Yotaro uses the personal history lesson, of hope and inevitable tragedy, to become a master of a dying art in the modern world of television and radio.
As I just mentioned, the first season deals mostly with Yakumo’s past. The second episode begins with him, called Bon at the time, being abandoned by his mother, a geisha, into the hands of the seventh generation Yakumo. He is joined by Shin, a street rat, whose talent for rakugo makes him get accepted into apprenticeship alongside Bon. Bon and Shin are then renamed to Kikuhiko and Hastuta respectively. As time goes by and Hatsuta becomes popular, he changes his name to Sukeroku. From this point on, I will refer to these two leads as Kikuhiko and Sukeroku to avoid confusion.
As expected, the plot of ShouJuu is straightforward. What was surprising was the subtle depth to this story. The drama is not your usual run-of-the-mill stuff. It has layers to it that is usually left to the viewer to cut into. The confrontations and conflicts aren’t of the cheap sort where they could be simply resolved with a sidelining girlish giggle and pat on the back. No, the characters are written so well that instead of ending up as mere roles in a narrative, you see actual live human beings with complex emotions going about their lives of struggle and rivalry in the cut-throat world of stage performance.
Kikuhiko, unlike Sukeroku, wasn’t very good at rakugo for around half a decade. He also had his leg injury and school life to look after. Feelings of envy towards Sukeroku keep piling up even after Kikuhiko comes into form. The back and forth between the rivalry between these two both a treat and suspense to watch. You never know exactly what might happen considering the quality of the characters in the show. Then comes along the romantic interest for Kikuhiko in the form of an extremely flawed yet headstrong geisha known as Miyokichi. She serves as the main source of inner conflict for Kikuhiko. Many interesting questions pop up on our screens. Will Kikuhiko go for the woman or is the stage more important to him? What about Sukeroku and his wildness that constantly upsets the Rakugo Association? How will rakugo survive? And many more.
This outline of the first season that I’ve laid out is quite heavy on the art of rakugo itself as well. Many stories are told and you may even recognize some yourself if you have watched enough anime – Assassination Classroom saw class 3-E doing a hybrid performance. It’s great to see that a show about storytelling tells its own story in a masterful way. Failing to do so would have been very ironic indeed. This is precisely why ShouJuu is such a damn good show. It respects both the subject material and the audience by giving clear explanations and also refraining from needless exposition. Unlike many anime, we don’t get a couple of obvious frames that a character is scheming or depressed: we get seamlessly interwoven scenes that lightly tap our noggins using behavior and thoughtful dialogue to tell us that maybe a character is feeling blue. It’s like your gossiping friend with the power to possess people telling you about their lives for his own amusement. This is actually quite hard to pull off.
Now we move onto the second season. The second season starts off its train with Yotaro being one rank away from a master. It deals with him finding ‘meaning’ for his own rakugo, the future of the art itself, and answering the questions brought up by the past that haunts Kikuhiko. There’s a stark contrast between the two seasons in terms of both tone and the force that drives the narrative. Season one is basically about love for rakugo and its history while dealing with the rivalry of the leads who link to the second season. Season two is a cordial battle between two hearts on how they define rakugo and the relations it forms. Kikuhiko wants to burn the stage for the art he so dearly loves and take it to the grave with him. Everyone else, from the daughter of late Sukeroku to a prolific writer who wants to write new works for rakugo (an art that has been much too cautious when it comes to straying from its classics), is heavily against this. Yotaro takes the lead for them all in this pursuit. Yotaro prefers Kikuhiko’s rakugo but he himself performs more akin to Sukeroku. Considering that he acts a lot like Sukeroku, the relationship between Yotaro and Kikuhiko becomes even more peculiar.
I’d love to talk a bit more about the second season but that would mean spoiling a fair bit and I do not want to do that. Since I’m trying to convince others to watch this anime, giving away most of the major plot points of the second half of the story would be a bad move. Though, I will say this though: the second last episode of season two is literal perfection. The animation, the voice acting, the music, the idea behind the episode, how it deals with a major plot point that is often dealt with badly, and also the message it conveys. That episode is what cemented ShouJuu into my mind as an anime that will surely become a classic in a few years if it gains enough of a following. Even if people fail to give it the attention it so rightly deserves, it will still at least become a cult classic. Christ, that episode should be a used as a lesson to teach aspiring writers and directors on how treat your characters right. Saying anymore about it would spoil the show so I will stop typing about it now. But, still, damn!
A couple of final things to note before I get into the technicalities is that the supporting cast is just as superb as the leads across the two seasons. Even those who we get brief glimpses of (in what seem like insignificant scenes) turn out to be major catalysts in the advancement of the plot. It is clear that the writers took great care when bringing them to life and ensuring they aren’t just plot devices but also human just like the leads. The other point is that for an anime that spans almost eighty years or so, the pacing is just right. The show doesn’t advance too fast nor does it come to speed bumps when coming up to key scenes. It’s like a leisurely drive out on the country roads to the places where the story belongs.
The director, Shinichi Omata, has done a wonderful job with ShouJuu. I haven’t seen other anime directed by him but I will sure be sure to check them out. Studio DEEN done a superb job with the animation as well. Yes, that’s right. That Studio DEEN which is known for heavily cutting corners in the animation in almost half of the anime they’ve worked on. I was shocked when I found out they were behind ShouJuu. But, hey, kudos to them. Rakugo requires one to be extremely expressive in order to do justice to the stories the rakugako tells. Even the slightest of facial movements are highly detailed and fluid. The wonderful directing easily puts a spotlight on the animation and increases twofold the captivating effect on the audience.
Speaking of captivating folks, the voice acting is marvelous. The anime needed it to emphasize the importance of nuance, tone, and pitch along with other particulars for the rakugo performances. The voice actors go above and beyond the standard established by the already competent voice acting industry of Japan. Yamadera Kouichi, the voice behind Spike Spiegel and Kenshirou, has done a fantastic job with Sukeroku. I am kind of disappointed that Kikuhiko had two voice actors seeing as I was mightily impressed with how the voice also changed minutely with each progression in the age of the character. One of the voice actors, Kobayashi Sanae, is female so I guess she was Kikuhiko’s early childhood voice. Despite my disappointment, the two voice actors gave an incredible performance for Kikuhiko throughout all stages of his life and it had been a treat to listen to them. I thank them, the writers, and the mangaka (Kumota Haruko) for carving Kikuhiko into my mind and soul as a sullenly flawed yet irresistibly charming and respectable man. Oh and the performance given by Yotaro’s voice actor, Tomokazu Seki, is just nigh impossible to not enjoy. He’s the voice behind Kougami Shinya from Psycho-Pass and Daru from Steins; Gate (which people seem to hate for some reason).
Finally, the music. Background music is used sparingly in ShouJuu but when it does play, it sure does sound pleasing and adds extra charm to the scenes. Funnily enough, though, the background music is used so well in especially intense scenes that you’re left on the edge of your seat. In one particular scene, aged Kikuhiko hallucinates and begins seeing the late Sukeroku in the middle of a performance. The music starts playing. The scene goes on with the beat. It has a tight grasp on your eyes making sure that you don’t even blink. I actually sweated a little. That was one hell of a scene. Another great use of music is the jazz in the opening and ending songs. The songs are great and going straight into my music folder (as usual). The grim imagery in the sequence for the second opening is particularly astonishing. For an interesting read on how it incorporates itself into the anime, check out this page.
I’ve already stated at the start of this review that I’ve given ShouJuu a perfect score. Anime of ShouJuu’s caliber that also don’t rely on fanservice are quite rare. This is one of the few shows I will gladly recommend to those who haven’t watched much anime or don’t watch it at all. It is a superb gateway drug into the bottomless pit that is the medium. This especially proves useful if the person isn’t really into action or comedy shows and wants a mature thought provoking experience that they themselves can push forward to others. Honestly, ShouJuu was a 9/10 show for me right until that flawless second last episode. So, without further ado, I give this a whopping
Ah, Trigger. Every time you announce an anime, you do it with such fervor that one can’t help be hyped. Whether you follow that hype to the end by meeting all expectations is another story altogether.
After the massive success of ‘Kill la Kill’, which ingrained Trigger as the champion savior of anime in the minds of most, we got ‘Kiznaiver’ which one either liked or heavily disliked. Then we had ‘Little Witch Academia’ thrown into our faces which many welcomed with a hearty moan as a sign of getting back on track. Between these, there were a couple of shorts such as ‘Space Patrol Luluco’ and some adaptations. As you can see, by and large, Trigger is an animation studio that has mostly thrived on its original works. So, when ‘Darling in the FranXX’ was announced (alongside two other shows) a lot of people could not contain their genital juice. They had a good excuse for getting underwear wet: many of the folks at Trigger are responsible for greats such as ‘Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann’, ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’, and ‘FLCL’. A-1 Pictures’ involvement also caused heads to turn. Another major reason is that FranXX was largely advertised as a mecha anime. People who know the recipe to a good mecha show making a NEW MECHA SHOW!? Pants were shat, I tell you. Shat!
The pants were then washed. Or thrown into a trash bag. Who knows. Fucking weeaboos. Anyway, with the release of the first episode, new trousers were donned and ready to be soiled.The question is, though, did FranXX manage to make the audience do what they were expecting? I don’t know about everybody else but I can at least tell you about my own experience.
Before I start analysing my shorts for answers I have to make a few things clear. I suffer from chronic constipation so I couldn’t drop a brown-bomb even if I wanted to. Also, I am very much a huge fan of Trigger and, to an extent, A-1 Pictures. Kill la Kill is one of my favorites, Little Witch Academia was great, and I found Kiznaiver to be rather fun. But I know when to and when not to submit to expectations. So I will be reviewing FranXX as fairly as I can but do expect some slight bias for the romance. I also went into FranXX fairly spoiled since Facebook and Funnyjunk had regular memes about it – along with pedophilia for whatever fucking reason.
Anyway, FranXX starts off with our protagonist, self-named Hiro, about to be booted off a mobile fortress of sorts called Plantation 13 with a dystopian environment as the backdrop. Hiro and his first partner, Naomi, had trouble piloting their mecha, called a FranXX, and so the scientists bid them adieu for being useless. At that moment, a giant robotic dinosaur, appropriately called a ‘klaxosaur’, attacks the plantation. A lone FranXX, piloted by horned heroine Zero Two, attempts to fight it off in vain. That’s when Hiro and Zero Two recall an earlier lakeside meeting and decide to join forces. Hiro loses consciousness the instant he links up but they still manage to kick metal ass and the credits for the very first episode roll. Thus marks the beginning of a story of love, hope, and hardcore mecha fans bitching, “Why isn’t this focused more on the mechas?!”
In my opinion, FranXX is not mecha anime by definition – where the sole purpose is giant robots kicking the crude oil or Energon out of each other with everything else as mere features. FranXX instead goes for the character route with the use of mechas as minor plot devices for progression and world building. The difference between the two is almost minute but still important to acknowledge. Viewers keep drawing FranXX on graphing sheets alongside Gurren Lagann, Evangelion, and Eureka Seven for constant comparisons. I find that unfair as FranXX only narratively parallels Eureka Seven. The other two shows are not entirely different from FranXX but from each other as well. Gurren Lagann is an absurd action anime mecha loaded with slapstick elements and unbound by even its own chaotic narrative rules. Evangelion is a serious story with an emphasis on the psychologically disturbing that is heavily undermined by its own pseudo-intellectual fans. FranXX is a semi-realistic coming of age story with a defined rule-set and often childish maneuvering in regards to both the plot and characters. Let me explain.
Like I stated many times before, I consider ‘originality’ to be a ‘myth’. Now what does that exactly mean? It means that any idea one may ever produce has already been done a long time before the same-ish idea that people already claim to be the standard. A modern example for easy understanding is the whole PUBG and Fortnite debacle. People bitch about them copying each other and calling whichever they like best the ‘father’ but they forget that what actually matters is how the games are on their own. Hell, the idea of chucking a group of people into a game of survival was done years ago in the Japanese ‘Battle Royale’ novel. Satan’s domain, the proposition of making a sizable number of human beings to forcibly partake in a fun activity whereby attempting to kill each other and come out on top at the end of the competition had been achieved centuries before in coliseums. You get the picture? When trying to fairly review, you have to talk about the thing’s own merits. You may love Shakespeare’s tragedies and consider Greek tragedies to be trash while your friend may compose a stanza in which he puts the vice in the versa. If you still don’t understand what I am trying to say then I don’t know how else to put it.
Rant aside, for argument’s sake, a true comparison of FranXX should be done against Trigger’s own two works – namely Kill la Kill and Kiznaiver. To be more accurate, I will say that FranXX is a lovechild of these both with Eureka Seven as the godfather while still growing up to have it’s own personality. Kill la Kill was chock full of metaphors. If you looked hard enough at one scene, you’d find at least find three of them. They often went overboard with it at times. Kiznaiver was a character (or caricature) study set in a somewhat strange world. Mix that in with Eureka Seven’s interspecies romance and you get Darling in the FranXX.
A thing to note about FranXX’s plot is that the pacing is all over the place. The anime is quite slow for most viewers until episode 10. I binged FranXX a day or two after the last episode aired so I didn’t have much of an issue with it. A large number of shows like this tend to have weird pacing. If you had attempted to watch FranXX as it aired then you would have dropped it by the 7th or 8th episode. Then there’s the divisive point of episode 18 which is where it becomes a ‘love or hate’ situation. I will get into that after the end of the review so as not to spoil the ending for those who haven’t watched the show yet.
Now to talk about the characters. As I’ve mentioned before, FranXX is a character study. Thus you can’t be lenient on that aspect. I feel that Trigger has learnt from most of their mistakes with Kiznaiver. They managed to fix the romantic issues that were present in Kiznaiver and the twist of the characters not knowing about the concepts of love and sex was quite interesting. The characters aren’t super deep or anything like that nor do they need to be but a tad bit more depth would have been appreciated. FranXX tries to deliver a message of hope and of love: if you want almost nihilistic pseudo-philosophy then go beg for another Evangelion. You don’t ask for something extremely specific when it already exists.
The closest you will get to actual depth.
Oh and this too.
The cast members are also sufficiently fleshed out. Some grow into their personalities early while a few fully develop after a timeskip. Zorome doesn’t change at all so that was a neat touch. As they say, some dudes never change. Interracial relationships are highlighted with Hiro and Zero Two’s struggles with their interspecies hoohaa. Emphasis is put on gender roles and reproduction using the subplot of squad mates Kokoro and Mitsuru. I am an old school romanticist and simple romance like these with just the right amount of drama tickle my cardiac muscles. Honestly, in today’s world where sex, the most intimate of acts, is treated like holding hands and where disillusioned men and women actively hate each other for being the other gender the message that Kokoro and Mitsuru convey is most welcome. These two developed an understanding and procreated because, as Kokoro said, “I want to leave my mark.” (vital scene in the context of a plot reveal)
Some might argue that the teenage crew of FranXX is way too dramatic but I don’t think so. They are 16 year olds going through late puberty in a war-ridden world with not even a definition for love and sex. What the fuck else were you expecting? You have no problem with Shinji and Simon being massively whiny fucks but now have complaints here where the whine is much less? Then there are the certain special folks who correlate the plot’s nuances, like how the mechas are piloted, to pedophilic tendencies. I… Huh? Honestly, it’s not even ironic. Some peeps actually believe this. That is a rant for another time, though.
Now for the technicalities! FranXX was a tri-studio collaborative effort and they did a great job with the animation. Fluid scenes, highly expressive facial animation, and detailed non-clunky CGI. A neat package. The mecha combat could have been better. Even though I don’t feel that FranXX is a mecha anime per se, they should still have made them more exhilarating. Another point to raise is that the mecha designs themselves are rather meh. The designs for the klaxosaurs are uninspired. The name is also stupid: they stop looking like dinosaurs a couple of episodes in. Considering how the Japanese language works, it could very well refer to being ‘ancient’ (because plot) but I still find to be rather ehhhh. These factors could very well prove to be mighty turn offs for those who came for the action and those who nitpick plot inconsistencies.
There’s also the constant use of the letterbox in impactful scenes. Works well.
The soundtrack is alright. Nothing that pumped me up or appealed to my ‘sad reacts’. The only time the music was on point and I was actually aware of it was the last episode. I wasn’t a fan of the ending songs. I loved the opening song, though. Mika Nakashima and L’Arc-en-Ciel’s Hyde have done an excellent job with ‘Kiss of Death’ and the animators have done justice to the OP’s visuals.
Despite the numerous plot inconsistencies, most of which occur after episode 18, Darling in the FranXX is still quite a solid show. It doesn’t deserve the hate it is getting but neither should it be showered with accolades. While it has managed to form its own identity, it is bested by other works in the ‘genre’. ‘Borrowing’ elements and still managing to be its own thing isn’t such an easy task as one may think especially today when there is an oversaturation of ideas with bad execution. Think back to the PUBG vs Fortnite argument, please. FranXX could have done with refinement especially past episode 18. I am also disappointed that I did not get goosebumps even once over the course of the show. Trigger is my main goosebumps supplier. As such, on its own, Darling in the FranXX is a 7 out of 10 show for me until episode 18. After that is a 5 out of 10.
One final thing, though, I find it absolutely hilarious that fans of Eureka Seven are bashing FranXX even when Eureka Seven is utter crap after the first volume. This is coming from someone who has spent money on the whole manga, lol.
“A cat meowing, looking up at you is life smiling at you.”
Truer words have probably been spoken but these twelve in this exact order ring closer to the heart more than the others. This is one of the last few lines from the acclaimed Turkish documentary on ‘kedi’: that is, cats.
But that is not what Kedi is only about. Kedi is a visually captivating aimless tale of love and connections between the people and cats of one of the most culturally rich and diverse cities on the planet – Istanbul. I use the term ‘diverse’ in its proper positively intended way, mind you. A soulful mix of the ancient and the modern playing a colorful regatta of good vibes all around. All to deliver one simply quaint message on the importance of love and the joys of life.
Kedi follows the tales of numerous cats and the people who take care of them. By the young and the elderly stories are told of problems, responsibilities, and of how the feline population of Istanbul goes about and act as an outlet for humans to be happy. And it does this all so extremely well.
Kedi never comes across as preachy or like an animal-rights hippie propaganda piece and that is exactly why it manages to deliver its payload of fluffy goodness in a way that lets you both thoroughly enjoy and think about what is happening on the screen. Sure, looming real problems, such as residential urbanization and the increasing lack of empathy in today’s increasingly cold world, are briefly touched but they never become the main topic as Kedi clearly draws the line and knows precisely what it wants to be and that is, quite ironically, being human. The right kind, that is.
Now you might be thinking how exactly Kedi achieved this. It’s no short wonder that it owes it all to the crew that painstakingly went into nooks and crannies to get all they could on the stars, the cats, they wanted to feature. They managed to find things out about the cats that not even their humans knew of. “She has given birth but I am not sure where. I am sure that she we will get furious if another cat attacks her kittens,” said an interviewee as the camera diligently followed a tabby into a warehouse to show her assume her position as a menacing guard to a Bombay cat who is passing by.
It is not only the hard work of the crew that shines in Kedi. All the different cats and their humans have their own little amusing tales to tell as they each say highly quotable wisdoms.
“Meow,” Bengu meowed.
Marvelous. Seriously, though, most of what is depicted in Kedi is brimming with warmth and will make you heartily laugh like without worry when you see all the different antics of the various cats. There’s this one cat called Psychopath who’s the toughest gal in town. She has dogs cowering before her and she’s even got a male cat under her who she keenly watches over to ensure he isn’t stolen away by other more graceful cats. A real Babushka, no? Then there’s the mafioso rivalry over territory between Gamsiz and the new kitter in town known as Ginger as they chase each other around and intrude into poor Gece’s home and eat his food.
Ginger and Gamsiz squaring off.
There are moments of sadness and quietness in Kedi as well. A kitten who has been attacked by a bigger cat and has to be taken to a vet. The man who had a nervous breakdown and his only road to recovery was finding happiness again when he got involved with the feline ones. A clear contrast is emphasized: find your rose in the midst of the gravel. And that arduously brings the point home with finesse. As someone who has raised many cats, and lost a decent number of them to Death, Kedi reminds you of the necessity of the values of Stoicism in one’s life.
Coming to the technical of the review, I have to say that the directing and cinematography are absolutely gorgeous. Cuts to aerial views and shots from the water of Istanbul after every turn of the spotlight on a meowser really signifies the lives of them all. Then you have the aforementioned efforts of the crew to chase the cats to get that perfect shot too. These paired with the beautifully arranged soundtrack of xylophones, jazz, classical, and traditional Turkish beats really make up a high quality budget – especially on the big screen. I swear, if they happen to screen Kedi here in my city then I will be at the cinema in a heartbeat. Fingers crossed.
This documentary has been a deeply enjoyable ride for me. It’s one of the few animal focused documentaries that actually have soul. It also reminds me a lot of Tekkon Kinkreet, heh. Cat lover or not, I highly recommend Kedi. You can catch it on YouTube.
After having declined all plans to do something over the summer with my friends due to location and time constraint reasons, I was feeling guilty. Plus, I was also bored and loaded. So, come Friday night on the 15th of September, I was ‘persuaded’ by a friend to go and watch the premier of the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s renowned novel ‘It’.
Feeling somewhat satisfied with the money I spent on the movie, I thought it’d be a good idea to review the movie since it’s all hip and trendy right now and could get me those sweet, sweet internet points.
Before I start, though, I’m going to have to say that I have not read the novel before and the only written King work I have read and thoroughly enjoyed is ‘The Last Stand’. The complete uncut edition, that is. As you can see, I am fairly familiar with King’s prose but not the work the movie I am reviewing is the adaptation of. In other words, you can expect an acute angled degree of non-bias here.
Let’s get it on with the plot.
Bill Denbrough’s younger brother, Georgie, is lured by and feasted upon by the town’s resident spooky scary clown from Hell who joyfully calls himself Pennywise. Pennywise rises up from bed once every 27 years for an all you can eat buffet with the menu being comprised of the town’s children. Bill ain’t having none of that shit and manages to coax his current and ‘to-be’ friends from ‘The Loser Club’ to beat the crap out of the demonic carnival junkie. That’s basically all you need to know about the plot. There’s not much going for the mystery aspect of the movie so saying any more will be just me flaunting distasteful spoilers.
Now, you probably might be wondering why the previous paragraph is rather whimsical. Or not. Well, you should now. For my sake, please. Anyways, it’s like that because It did not scare me at all.
Now what exactly is the point of a horror movie that does not even slightly unhinges you? There’s no point. It’s just a waste of time. But, thankfully, I was at least jeepered out a couple of times. Sadly, they were only few and far between the entire length of the 2 hours and 15 minutes duration. One of the most unsettling scenes for me was the rock throwing competition with such head-shots that 360noscope420blazeits would be put to shame. Realistic bodily harm fucks me up to no end.
Another scene, which is also hands down the best, was the bathroom one with Beverly. The timing, build-up and execution of that scene was just impeccable. Almost the entire theater was up and out of its seats. Hell, one friend had screamed like a little bitch while another had his mouth open – to shut a good long while after the scene changed to comment, “Now that’s going to be a classic.”
And that’s what really muffs me up about It. It had the potential to be absolutely terrifying but, it relied way too much on overused sound effects and plastic CGI. Whenever a jumpscare would pop up you’d know beforehand since ‘BWAAAAAAA BWAAAAA BWAAAAAAAAAAAH’ is apparently thought to be a great use of sound to create just that chilling atmosphere a horror movie needs. I have no issue with CGI in general, by the way. As long as it doesn’t look too blocky or unrealistic then CG and I are real good pals. I can not fathom why the people who worked on the movie felt the need to create a CGI balloon of all things. It just felt out of place a lot of times and not in the good sense either.
Otherwise, the cinematography and direction are pretty great. Scenes have weight and transitioning is smooth. There are still a couple of snags here and there. Though, they’re only noticeable to worrywarts. I expect the Blu-Ray release to have quite a number of extra scenes because of this.
For a movie that managed to cut a whole LOT of content to focus on the main evil I have to say that it did a nice job. There’s a reason why a large number of people claim It to be a good horror flick. It might not have scared me but it did manage to bag the audience with its repertoire of tried and tested jumpscares. I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t get spooked much by non-interactive media anyways. The creepiest movie I’ve watched in recent times is ‘The Taking of Deborah Logan’ that was released back in 2014. My all time favorite would be the 1986 remake of ‘The Fly’ starring Jeff Goldblum’s charming insanity. So you can take my review on the horror aspect with a grain of salt.
What you shouldn’t pour salt on, though, is my thought on the movie’s approach to comedy. This is a King movie – if you weren’t expecting comic relief delivered via some of the most left-field dialogue and visual gags imaginable then, I’m sorry, you should read at least one Stephen King book before leaving this world. You’ve got 12 year-olds shouting, “OOOOUWAHOhat the fuck?”, cracking dick jokes, taking jabs at adult ‘your mom’ jokes, pedophilic references, and even the damned clown eliciting a giggle or two with his antics. Honestly, if It was a full-blown parody then I would have given it an easy 9/10.
Finally, let’s talk about the characters and acting. As someone who went into the movie theater with the general expectations of King’s style for writing characters, I would have to say I was pleasantly surprised with how well they were brought to life on the big screen. Except for a few minor roles that serve to just advance the plot in the menial of ways imaginable, you probably won’t have any issues with the cast of It. All of the child actors can actually act! Along with that being a rare sight, it is also a dearly welcome one. You could actually feel the fear in their eyes. Especially Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie Kaspbrak. The scene with him cowering before Pennywise as he played peek-a-boo was just right. Or maybe Pennywise’s actor was just that good.
Speaking of the devil: Pennywise. Also known as It and The Dancing Clown. A terrifying role comfortably and masterfully acted by Bill Skarsgard who made the character into his own. His gaze, speech, and even his drool (Was the drool animated, hmmm?) managed to create a deeply worrying clown. If they had toned down the CGI for Pennywise then he would truly have shone as a proper terror of the deep.
Nevertheless, It was still an interesting watch and I had fun with it. I look forward to the sequel which is actually the second half of the novel – or so I am told. For now, It gets a 7.5 out of 10 from me. Score might drop if I read the novel. Which will be soon…
Time to take a little break from the usual reviews I do and take a trip down a palette of a memory lane.
Colorings Lane, to be exact.
Nowadays I’m busy with games, anime, manga, learning Japanese (Human Japanese is a great app), and this blog here. Been watching anime and reading manga from ages ago and had started learning Japanese a while back in late January, if I recall correctly. I can proudly say that I can now read the sound effects while reading manga!
Anyways, there was a period during which I wasn’t that into PC gaming. Had no consoles at the time as my multiple PS1s and PS2s had both died and I skipped gaming altogether during the PS3/Xbox360 generation. All I had was a Pentium 4 desktop up till early 2012. And then, through hard saving and numerous loans from siblings, I managed to build myself a Core 2 Duo desktop after the death of the Pentium 4. Ran it till late 2014. Then I built my current rig. It was a fun experience. Learnt a lot – especially, ”When in doubt, fuck RAM.”
Before I got my current rig all I had for fun were binging animations and reading novels and comics. I’ve got a decent library of novels now, man, but I haven’t bought any new ones in the last 5 years. Got more into manga, I guess. And since all of my cash started going into my rigs, I couldn’t spare money on novels anymore.
I mainly watched anime at first. One day, I found Beelzebub. Absolutely loved it. Until I got to the ending that is. It was an absolutely rushed fucked up job. So much so that I was willing to go on Reddit (urgh), of all places, and rant about it. But first, I decided to Google it. Turned out the manga was still ongoing. So, for the very first time in my life, I read a manga. Beelzebub’s manga. To this day, it is my #1 all-time favorite series and a little part of me died when it got axed.
Though, anyways, back on track.
I came across a character called Mamon in the Beelzebub and I instantly thought to myself, “Boy, he would look great in colour.”
And, well, that’s what I did. I colored him. Using a an online Photoshop clone called Sumopaint I had found before reading the manga, I spent 30 to 45 minutes just messing around with the a crop from one of the last few chapters. I hadn’t had fun like that in a long time. When I was done, I was actually really damn well proud of myself. A rare thing, that’s for sure.
This is probably the first and only time I got skin coloring and shading right.
After I got all caught up with Beelzebub, I decided to check out the world of manga some more. I got onto Mangatraders (a pirate’s life for me) and downloaded Ichigo 100%. Really liked that too. Except for the ending. Fuck the ending. Fuck Junpei. Fuck.
Next, came practice with a bunch of drawings a good artist buddy of mine. Around that time, we both had decided to make our own manga-style comic. We got to make 3 chapters over a couple of months but then, sadly, stopped due to time constraints. That’s also when I stumbled across Bakuman. and got a slight taste of what a mangaka’s life is like. Especially Mashiro and Takagi’s case. Friend and I were both in middle school at the time. It was fun while it lasted. I’d post some of the stuff we did together but I keep forgetting to ask permission so… Yeah.
I then got more invested into manga. Wanted to learn about panel placement and all that jazz. I found this manga called Tenjou Tenge by ONE. It had some downright jaw-dropping art. The raw details and creativity that went into his art was just spectacular. That manga might have gotten from good to crap in terms of story near its end but I will always remember it for its stunning drawings and excellent flow when it came to portrayal of combat.
I’m not sure exactly what I was trying to here with this coloring. Oh well, it turned out okay in the end, I guess.
Then, it was time for some nostalgia and continuations. I don’t how many of you all here have ever heard of History’s Strongest Discipile Kenichi. It was one of the first anime I ever watched that I actually knew was an anime – like we watched Digimon without knowing it was a Chinese cartoon. The anime ended at 1/20th of the manga’s total length. I decided to hit the manga and, boy, it was lewd as all hell. Shigure, damn.
Sad to say, though, I never actually ended Kenichi’s manga. I think I’ve got a 100 or so chapters left. Maybe I should finish it seeing as how the manga concluded a year or two ago.
Bill Gates is proud of this, I think. Or he will be when I e-mail this to him. He’ll be overjoyed. Ehehehe…
MOVING ON, I then decided to mess around with backgrounds and make some of my own. It was around this time I had finally acquired Photoshop.
And now, we’re back to Zombie Loan with a new and upgraded sense for color!
Plant more trees, bitches. Seriously though, please plant more trees. I need fresh air. Lots of it.
I then took a break for a while. Got hit by the inevitable reality that one always gets bitch-slapped by when middle school is about to end: what highschool to attend and choosing career subjects. Had no more time left for this hobby. I still read books and such whenever I could, though. Gotta have fun every once in a while. All work and no play makes Jack dead inside and lusting for the sweet release that is death.
When exams and all that pain in the jazz ended on a high note, I finally had the time to get back into business once more. Immediately, I colored the bleeding ‘kyootie’ that is Karin Maaka from the manga about a nose-bleeding Vampire called Karin (Chibi Vampire for the English cats).
You may have expected this by now: I took another break. My PC died and I was left internet-less for almost half a year. Unlike most teenage dirtbags my age, I did not own a cellphone. All I had to comfort and entertain me were my suit-book-case (I had no bookshelf so I stored my books in a suitcase) and my jolly PSP. Damn… I miss my PSP now.
When I finally built my current rig, I tried going back coloring stuff again. This time, I didn’t go far. I managed to do only two pieces.
The funny thing about this is that I realized this a whole few months after initially uploading it and sharing it with my friends. None of them had pointed out the absurdity of this picture…
A month after this somewhat disastrous project, I read the wonderful manga called Koe no Katchi. I had binged it in a single night. It was just sooooooo damned good. So much so that I just HAD color one of the last few pages from it. I had spent over a week trying to get everything. It turned out much different than I had originally envisioned but it’s still my favorite project up-to-date.
As amazed as I was by how good it had turned out, unfortunately, I had stopped coloring manga stuff altogether right after. Just lost the drive for it. My GPU had finally arrived from abroad and PC was ready to kick some major graphical ass. I immediately got lost in the world of MOBAs.
I recently tried to color a double-spread from Oyasumi Punpun, another brutally honest read, but it seems I have lost what little touch I had. Took much longer on it that I should have, as well.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get back onto Groove Street again.
Maybe I will.
I don’t know.
What I do know is that this Punpun coloring is why I wrote this blurgh post.
Ah, another live-action movie review. This will be my third one. I am mainly an anime and manga reviewer (which I well get to soon) so reviewing movies isn’t really my thing. Though, I will be reviewing those flicks which I hold very dear and reckon not many people know about. For example, the Bakuman movie; a pretty good flick. And don’t forget the Dr. Strange Movie as well. Other than those heavily into comics, not many people knew he even existed. Without further ado, let’s get on to Be With You!
The very first thing I have to say is that I’m heavily in love with the movie. Be With You, in my opinion, is the best romance movie I have ever seen (yet).
The first time I watched it was a couple of years ago when an Asian friend had recommended it. Yep, even I was skeptical with that claim when I remembered the movie a while back. As a result, I planned to re-watch the movie and confirm the hardness of my statement. Soon, an opportunity presented itself at the most perfect of times: right when the monsoon rains began here a few days ago. The movie, sounds of the pitter-patter of droplets, roaring of thunder, and the howling wind were in harmony. I’m pretty sure the director and Satan/God are in cahoots…
Anyways, according to my 3 minute research, Be With You released on the 30th of October way back in 2004. It also has a manga, which was published a year after the movie’s release, and a novel, which came out two days before the movie. I have read neither but the general consensus is that the manga is just average. The world knows Be With You by this name but the Japanese the name is ‘Ima, ai ni yukimasu’. You can use either names to torrent the movie as the DVDs only exist in collections now.
Background information over.
Story is a-go.
Be With You has a rather simple yet intricately formed story. 30 year old Takumi and Yuji, his 6 year old son, are soon left to fend for themselves after the death of his wife, Mio. They live in a village where a children’s story, or a legend per se, says that a girl returns to life at the beginning of the rainy season and then leaves when the sun finally shoos all of the rain clouds away when the season is over. And, well, that’s what happens with Mio. A year after her death, she is found in an abandoned building in the middle of a forest with amnesia. The flabbergasted Takumi and the delighted Yuji take her back home where the wheels of romance revolve once more.
That’s the gist of the story. As to how she came back to life and the way Takumi and Yuji deal with the situation are spoilers. But what I will say is that the movie is coherently made and treats its audience as thinking individuals. Certain plot points require you to ponder over the numerous circumstances surrounding Mio’s reanimation and the relationship between her and Takumi. Be With You is a prime example of ‘show over tell’. Especially when the plot comes full circle in the last 30 minutes of the movie. Excellent direction and writing make this movie a must watch. There are even moments of well executed silliness for those sweet laughs.
By the way, the ending is bittersweet. It does not pull any of its aphrodisiac-strengthened punches. You will most likely shed a few tears. Funnily enough, it’s been reported that cinemas in Japan became wail-houses by the end of the movie.
The characters, again, no real need to go into them. Just what should be said is that they’re highly believable. Well, except for the school teacher. No kidding, but she gave me lolicon vibes. Ahahaha… Half-jokes aside, the characters, even the kid, are wonderfully developed and given enough time to form a near-perfect 3D shape. Though, the real issue would be the actors portraying them.
Yes, for people who aren’t used to Japanese cinema will easily be weirded out by the strange and maximum over-expressed acting in the first 35 or so minutes of the movie. This kind of acting is the norm in low-budget cinema and most Japanese television show so I was kind of used to it. Still, the acting in the first 35 minutes was just unusually bizarre. Thankfully, the actors finally managed to possess their roles like an anti-evil spirit and put on an excellent show for the rest of the movie’s duration. Even the kid grew – both literally and figuratively. For a 2-hour movie, the actors did well to redeem themselves.
Speaking of low-budget, the same can be said for the visuals and the camera-work in, again, the aforementioned duration. It just seems like they tried to start anew in the middle of production and someone decided to be a Yakuza and let stains be stains. Oh well, I don’t know.
The music, though, was a good fit. Soothing use of bells and chimes and pretty neat orchestral stuff. Cheery when it should be cheery, intense when it should be intense. The real cherry, however, was the song played during the credits sequence. ‘Hana’ by Orange Range. Some of you may recognize Orange Range by the upbeat and catchy songs ‘Asterisk’ and ‘Viva Rock’ used in Bleach and Naruto respectively. Hana’s style is a bit different but it’s an instant hit. It topped the Japanese musical charts for almost a year after Be With You’s release.
Overall, it’s quite obvious, that I hold Be With You in regard. Tinoudatin! But, it’s not a perfect movie. An objective score would be a 9/10.
pls watch dis
(since I couldn’t screencap while watching the movie, image courtesy Google searches)
You ever open up the first episode of a show and you immediately get the sudden feeling this will be something truly remarkable? And right after you’re done with finally getting to experience what most have called a ground-breaking classic, you realize that the show is just decent at best?
Well, that’s what happened with me and Cowboy Bebop. The story was just OK; the characters, while interesting, were also not THAT great; the world building left quite a bit to the imagination; but the music and animation were beyond excellent. Still, I was very disappointed with it. It did not blow me away at all.
After that, I watched Samurai Champloo. It is another work by Shinichiro Watanabe, who directed Bebop up there, which many have hailed as another classic. Now THAT was something. It shone brightly in all the departments where Cowboy Bebop did not excel. Samurai Champloo was a blast from the beginning right till the end. Even the filler episodes were absolutely well crafted.
Going back to the questions I asked in the beginning of this review; I felt like that with Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and a couple of other shows too. Like Bebop, a number of them failed to deliver upon that feeling. And, like Champloo, the rest went directly into my list titled ‘Annoy the crap out of people who haven’t seen these so they finally crack and be subsequently amazed’. You can guess which light novel I got inspired from.
Michiko to Hatchin (‘to’ – as in ‘and’) gave me that aforementioned feeling. But the catch here is this: did it also deliver?
It did. Mostly.
Synopsis From MyAnimeList: Under the unrelenting heat of the South American sun, hardened criminal Michiko Malandro breaks out of a high security prison for the fourth time in search of a man from her past. Michiko finds a clue in the form of Hana Morenos, a young girl trapped under the fists of her abusive foster family. In her powerlessness, Hana fantasizes about the day when she is finally whisked away from her captors by her very own Prince Charming. Little does she know that her fated prince would turn out to be the buxom and husky convict who charges in atop a stolen motorbike, claiming to be her mother.
The unlikely duo chase down their dreams in the sun-drenched land of Diamandra, navigating through the cacophony of betrayal, poverty, and child exploitation rings hiding in plain sight. However, wind of Michiko’s manhunt soon reaches the ears of criminal syndicate Monstro Preto, and a storm of gang warfare begins brewing over the horizon…
Michiko to Hatchin is the story of vibrant people and their clashing agendas, and of all the unlikely human connections drawn together by one elusive man.
Other than my talk of that ambiguous ‘feeling’ I kept on about, the first thing to note about Michiko to Hatchin is that it’s a lot grittier than both Bebop and Champloo. While Shinichiro Watanabe was involved with the anime, the actual directors are Murase Shukou and Yamamoto Sayo. There are a high number of shootouts, dead bodies, decisions taken by characters most viewers might not expect, and other ‘whoah’ factors. For an anime I’d like to call ‘the South American Bebop’, it is the perfect combination of setting, theme, and tone. Take a Tarantino flick and turn down the eccentric-ness of the scenes down a notch and you wouldn’t be far off with Michiko to Hatchin.
Hell, the very the first episode will bring out your rage when you see the kind of crap Hana, nicknamed Hatchin, is pulled out of when Michiko gets her hands on her. Think of the Dursley’s treatment of Harry Potter and multiply it by ten.
As the episodes flow by the rage will subside very quickly and you will, being quite honest here, end up feeling a range of emotions from annoyance, genuine happiness, and a lingering sense of threat; to actual disgust. There’s action. There’s comedy. There’s a thing for just about everyone. One episode is basically a chapter from the traditional South American soap-operas we all are so familiar with. Michiko to Hatchin grabs all of these ideas and adds its own sense of bloody yet wacky style giving us a, to my knowledge, authentic Latin American craziness.
It is plain to see from all this praise that Michiko to Hatchin has a story that we won’t forget anytime soon but, it’s still not perfect. The anime starts off really slow and it often feels things aren’t really going anywhere. You’ll see Hatchin and Michiko arguing about menial matters in the fourth or so episode and you’ll see them do that again a few episodes later. It almost feels like they don’t really learn from their time together until way later in the story. While this doesn’t affect the story itself as much (things are always kept interesting) but the pacing and having most episodes start with our main duo arguing and making up in the end can feel a trite tiring. It did for me.
Another thing to bring attention towards before I move on to the characters is that plotholes in Michiko to Hatchin are plentiful. There are around two or three in the first episode itself. Exactly who was/is Hatchin’s mother? Just what exactly did Michiko do to get ten years in prison? If there was a third then I recall it, I’m afraid. Keep your eyes peeled deeper than an American stabbing Avocados for all of the other plotholes. It would make a neat treasure hunt, ehe.
The characters, in my opinion, are the real meat of the anime. Discussing them for even just a bit would mean revealing major spoilers so I’ll just briefly go through the main four.
Considering all the crap Hatchin’s put up with for close to ten years while living with the unholy priest’s family, it’s fair to say that she is very different from most kids her age. Haughty, demanding authority, and law abiding (because she ain’t havin’ nunya dat shiet) make for one interesting non-shounen child character. She gets the most development in the series. Though, that’s only in the first episode. She doesn’t change or reflect on her actions even a little over the rest of the anime’s duration. Which would normally be well and good if it weren’t for the fact that the trait of ‘ora?!’ she keeps on pulling with everyone she meets, causing arguments, wasn’t treated like some cheap gag.
Michiko is… Well, she doesn’t change much. Not much to say here. Keep an eye out for buddy cum nemesis Atsuko, though.
Hiroshi gets extremely shitty development. It’s just all over the place. We barely get to know anything about him in episode 1 and and by the end of the last episode, we still know jack shit. He’s treated like some mysterious macho-kindness ejaculating machine when he’s really just very poorly written.
And, finally, Satoshi (Hiroshi’s once best friend). My favorite character of them all. The most interesting. You know you’ve done great with a character when he’s properly depicted as a male African in anime as we all know how black characters usually get treated in our weeaboo productions.
Except for a few, the rest of the characters are far from not being one-dimensional but they still manage to be interesting and fit in cozily with the brutal world depicted.
Finally, technical stuff. Yippee!
The animation is standard for the period. Some episodes have great detail while some look like the budget went into pockets of the designer who thought up all the many different hip threads our dynamic duo adorn throughout the anime. What all the episodes have in common is the wide range of bright color and pretty neatly choreographed action scenes. I reckon more than 23 testicles are demolished by all of the female characters.
While the soundtrack doesn’t have many tracks, it still keeps things exciting and ears perked. Instant entry into the music library~
My original score for Michiko to Hatchin was a 9 but seeing as it’s been a couple of days and the plot holes keep bothering me every now and then, I brought it down to an 8. I didn’t really care about them while watching the show but now they’re being a pain. Nevertheless, I still highly recommend Michiko to Hatchin – especially since virtually no one seems to fucking know about it. Sad, I know.
Flip Flappers. Yep, Flip Flappers. An anime about… something. With a name like that, Flip Flappers could be about a number of things. Most people would think it’s some sort of children’s show. But anime are children’s cartoons anyways, hurr durr. But, is that really so?
Well, this original anime by Studio 3Hz, which did Dimension W, that ran from October to right before the New Year of 2016 is a mash up of many genres. While MyAnimeList lists Flip Flappers as comedy, adventure, and sci-fi only; it is not actually so. I don’t even know why it’s being touted as a sci-fi anime. It’s not sci-fi.
Anyways, this little 13 episode monomyth has basically got it all. Drama, yuri, comedy, horror, and you name it. Many people have resorted to describing Flip Flappers to be: “‘Inception’ met ‘FLCL’ and they both had gratuitous threesome sex with ‘Kodomo no Jikan’ in a liquor-fueled one night stand to produce this coming of age story about two middle school mahou shoujo probable closet lesbians”.
Yeah, I was paraphrasing up there but I bet I caught your attention with that. If not, then, here’s the MAL synopsis.
Synopsis from MyAnimeList:Cocona is an average middle schooler living with her grandmother. And she who has yet to decide a goal to strive for, soon met a strange girl named Papika who invites her to an organization called Flip Flap.
Dragged along by the energetic stranger, Cocona finds herself in the world of Pure Illusion—a bizarre alternate dimension—helping Papika look for crystal shards. Upon completing their mission, Papika and Cocona are sent to yet another world in Pure Illusion. As a dangerous creature besets them, the girls use their crystals to transform into magical girls: Cocona into Pure Blade, and Papika into Pure Barrier. But as they try to defeat the creature before them, three others with powers from a rival organization enter the fray and slay the creature, taking with them a fragment left behind from its body. Afterward, the girls realize that to stand a chance against their rivals and the creatures in Pure Illusion, they must learn to work together and synchronize their feelings in order to transform more effectively.
If you read the synopsis and thought that Flip Flappers sounds like any other mahou shoujo anime then you, sir, are horribly wrong.
Let’s first talk about the story.
Being compared to Gainax’s actual magnum opus, that is FLCL and not that trash Neon Genesis Evangelion, one would expect a lot from Flip Flappers – especially in the department of ‘God, I have no idea what’s going on but I sure am loving this!’
While FLCL and Flip Flappers do share a lot things in many departments, the story is actually the place where they are the least similar.
FLCL had a distinct style of relaying its story that heavily relied on comedic exposition through visuals and saucy dialogue. Flip Flappers adopted style and slightly changed it into an episodic format friendly one. With each episode, the style metamorphosed just enough to let each individual episode come off as its own unique portion that subtly builds on the world of Flip Flappers through creative use of varying scenarios in the anime’s rather flip-floppy plot device (maybe location in this context?) called Pure Illusion.
To be honest, this way of story telling is very confusing for viewers who aren’t used to noticing every teeny tiny detail in a scene. Bring subtitles into the picture and the viewer tends to miss out on even more details. That means to fully enjoy Flip Flappers, at least second watch should be essential for most. I know I will be rewatching it as I think I missed out on a major plot point. And, if I didn’t miss anything then Flip Flappers has a giant plot hole. Either way, not going go discuss that part due to fairness.
This also shows the kind of issues prevalent with stories like the ones Flip Flappers and FLCL have.
At times the pace might be really slow and then accelerate matters into full gear in five seconds tops. For an anime like this, that isn’t really a problem unless if the areas of snail-hood go into filler-like territory. This is, sadly, something Flip Flappers tends to do a lot. While Flip Flappers is director Kiyotaka Oshiyama’s first full-fledged work, he still has had a lot of practice with anime greats like Dennou Coil, the Fullmetal Alchemist movies, and the second season of Space Dandy. He did a good job with Flip Flappers but, honestly, he could have done a bit better.
Other than these points, Flip Flappers has an engaging story with a somewhat satisfying conclusion that’ll require you to fire up some neurons to actually understand the story. It’s nothing mind-blowing but you still get that warm feeling like the one you get right after an intriguing puzzle.
In my opinion, the greatest thing about Flip Flappers’ story is that everything is in the anime itself. You won’t need to go online or harass your neighbor’s weeaboo pet dog for answers. In the case of FLCL, pretty much most of the story was almost entirely up to one’s imagination. That thing was cool chaos in animated form but it didn’t help itself by butchering it’s coherence.
Now onto the characters.
For a coming of age story, the main character has to be great. Coconoa is not. She is just okay and that wouldn’t have been a problem if she wasn’t the worst character in the entire anime’s cast. Even the two twin villains, whose most recognizable trait is that they repeat the one another’s line, she routinely goes up against are more interesting that her. Maybe if Coconoa was just a bit less emo for her age then she would have been loads better. It’s true that she is empty and the anime is about her finding her identity but she wasn’t handled well in that regards. The biggest moment of these to not is when she blows fuses a couple of time for tiny reasons which is something her character isn’t supposed to do at all.
In comparison, Papika was handled much better better. While she was still a tad one-dimensional at first, she quickly rose up to shine as having the most and best character development by the time the last episode hit the credits. Going into detail about Papika would require me to spoil the story but I will say that she should be paid closer attention than Coconoa. The same goes for the rest of the characters. While being heavy cardboard cutouts, they each had their own funky charm. Hell, the Goddamned pet rabbit of Coconoa had more personality than her.
Nearing the end~
The character designs and the fun use of many saturated colors provide the animation with kind of spunk and whimsical intensity a show like Flip Flappers need. The animators knew what they were doing. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the time to fully realize their goal so many corners had to be cut.
As usual, I watched the anime in 1.5x playback speed and noticed a number of places where the color was missing and things like a character having an item in one hand and not having it in the next were very common. You shouldn’t be noticing things like these in visually heavy anime at increased playback speed. I’d be damned if I don’t say that at times the animation had many frames missing and it felt like I was watching at reduced speed…
The background music was fun. I may snag the OST sometime soon. I didn’t like the OP. The ED was just perfect.
This review is for the anime movie adaptation of the hit manga series called ‘Koe no Katachi’ – which also goes by the names ‘A Silent Voice’ and ‘The Shape of Voice’.
I will be comparing this movie to the original manga quite a fair bit. Spoilers are to be expected.
As I wholeheartedly recommend this movie, you should watch the movie first and then read this review.
Man, it’s been quite a long time since I’ve last written a review. That has to mostly do with the fact that I haven’t seen much anime during my absence along with the opinion that my studies are (read: were) more important. Also, playing League of Legends and Dota 2 sure does takes the wind out of a person, huh? Especially if they’re stuck in ranked…
Anyways, back to the topic at hand.
Koe no Katachi. Written and illustrated by Yoshitoki Ooima.
I started reading the manga right before the last chapter published. The rave reviews and the constant mentioning on MyAnimeList is what brought the manga to my attention and, boy, I’m sure as hell glad it did.
Koe no Katachi broke my heart, mended it, tore it out again, sent it to the cobbler, only to have him trod on it mercilessly, summon a magical fairy to fix it up again, and then left it with a bunch of scars.
Almost two and a half years later, the anime movie adaptation released to Blu-ray and I had to go through all of THAT again.
Synopsis from MyAnimeList: Ishida Shouya bullies a deaf girl, Nishimiya Shouko, to the point that she transfers to another school. As a result, he is ostracized and bullied himself with no friends to speak of and no plans for the future.
This is the story of his path to redemption.
First thing to note before I dive into the specifics is that I really love the movie. I was very skeptical about it when the movie announcement was made.
“How could they make a 60+ chapter story into a movie and make it work, lol?”
And, well, they did. Kudos to director Naoko Yamada and the rest of the crew. They knew exactly what to add and cut to make the on-screen version of Koe no Katachi such a flawed yet extremely satisfying watch. I am glad I waited the two and half years for this. This movie will probably make it into ‘classics’ lists after some time. B-believe it!
Now to get digging.
The Koe no Katachi movie starts off like any other contemporary Japanese movie would. Slow bells and chimes. Lots of panning. A number of cuts. Swoosh-in and swoosh-out. Wax on, wax off. Disregard the wax.
Though, unlike most of Japanese cinema, Koe no Katachi made fantastic use of ‘My Generation’ by The Who to set the perfect tone and pace for the movie. Yep, that’s an English song. By The Who. Who could have imagined? And it fits so well. Yikes.
We see Shouya Ishida, our main character, wanting to jump off a bridge and kill himself. Why, though? Because he bullied a deaf girl way back in middle-school, got called out and collectively blamed for being the only one to make the poor girl feel like a piece of shit, and then he was made into the class’ new harassment toy in her stead after the balance was tipped.
Well, OK. But is he dead? Did he kill himself?
Nah. Suicide is badass. He’s just not cool enough. Well, I mean, pathetic enough. So he decides to get in touch with the girl whose life he helped ruin and set things right. Live for her. In some way, any way, try to give her back the childhood she missed out on.
This sets up the beginning of the movie and the rest from here on is a story about redemption, acceptance, self-searching, and a teeny bit of love.
Speaking of love, one thing to realize, though, is that Koe no Katachi is NOT a love story. It has a romantic sub-plot but that’s it. Nothing more. I know that a lot of people were turned off by both the manga and anime not giving a proper conclusion as to the relationship between Shouko Nishimiya, our local deaf cutie, and Shouya. To be honest, it’s not even really needed. The movie fixes this by not making this a part of the main plot at all – while the manga completely butchered that aspect of the story in it’s sad attempt at an ending.
Maybe the manga was axed? Maybe the mangaka got impatient? I don’t know. Regardless, that ending should not have happened. And this is probably why, despite all of the plot related shortcomings, I prefer the movie more.
Anyways, the movie is an excellent package of creative cinematography and a quite decent musical score by none other than Kensuke Ushio (who did the wonderfully upbeat sounds for ‘Ping Pong The Animation’) pulling up a heart-wrenching story onto a platform of a greater height. Viewers will most likely end up liking the movie a lot but will complain about the several plot holes which, by the way, can be easily remedied by reading the manga. A pretty neat-o advertisement, no?
The viewers will ask, though, “Why read the manga when I just watched the movie?”
Well, even though the Koe no Katachi movie would feel complete to some viewers, it is actually missing a whole lot of content that was in the manga. Most of the side characters don’t get explored much. Actually, they don’t get explored at all. A number of events that stir up trouble within the recuperating group of teenagers, who want to be friends but are too socially inept for that bees-wax, don’t happen.
Like, for fuck’s sake, one of the characters is called Kawai. She’s one hell of a fake princess who always keeps shifting blame onto others and pretending to be a white lamb. In the manga, she gets a verbal trashing from her prince charming, Mashiba, and that is one of the most satisfying scenes in the manga for me. Too bad Kawai is just a bitch in the movie. Nothing else. Oh, did I mention Mashiba? Yep, I did. Mmmhmmm. He barely gets any lines and is just a throw away character.
So, yes, while Koe no Katachi’s movie is superb it still fails quite a bit in the characters department. But, I guess it’s to be expected. I don’t see how they could have crunched all or most of the sub-plots into just 2 hours. Maybe a 3 hour movie, eh? Nah, people would have complained.
Before I wrap this up, got to get into the animation and voice side of things.
The animation has been well above the standards Kyoto Animation has set for itself. Many different colors blending quite nicely in the light color scheme. Great use of lighting and abstract scene transitioning make the animation really smooth and a delight to watch. I usually watch anime at 1.5x playback speed but not this time, hehe.
And to the voice-acting. The seiyuu casting was almost perfect. Especially for Shouko. Damn. I wasn’t sure how they were going to handle her mumblings and attempt at speech but her seiyuu, Saori Hayami, was up to the task with finesse. I was mightily impressed. The seiyuus for the other characters did a good job as well. Some characters sounded differently than I had imagined them whilst reading the manga but, they were fitting voices, Brent. My only qualm was with middle school Shouya’s voice. He sounded less coherent than Shouko at times. Nota good job there.
My enjoyment of the movie was a whole 10/10.
But, from the objective side of things, the score would be close to an 8.5 or 9, I guess.
Below is an essay I had recently penned for a college course. Thought I’d put it up here because, well, why not.
“What do you mean the Holocaust is real, Mr. Jeremy? I thought that it was just an inside meme joke,” interjected Allen, a suburban British teenager in English Literature. His query had been brought up in a discussion on Anne Frank’s seemingly incredulous The Diary of a Young Girl. Jeremy Bradshaw, Allen’s middle-aged teacher, was quite vexed indeed. He began to ponder the situation’s horrific aftermath. Children today are increasingly becoming ignorant of major catastrophic events caused by humanity, or lack thereof, due to an inadequacy of a proper education system and a growing number of vocal deniers. If base ignorance was enough to deter people from believing that an event occurred, then what would be the case if history was actively tampered with? After due research and contemplation, it can be moderately that the general response towards tinkering with history has resulted in a deep sense of distrust towards not only other nations but home ground as well. Because of this root chariness, general demoralization of the loss of life, and active pushing of alternative narratives with the dearth and modification of information, it can be strongly opined that the state can take advantage of these factors to gain control of the freedoms of people and social values.
A relatively recent poll conducted by CNN revealed that about one European in twenty, in the countries surveyed, had never heard of the Holocaust (Greene “A Shadow Over Europe”). This daunting revelation has been mirrored by other surveys as well such as the one conducted by The New York Times, published in April of 2018, which claims that 41 percent of Americans, and 66 percent of millennials, cannot say what Auschwitz was (Astor “Holocaust Is Fading”). To clarify, the Holocaust was not kept hidden. The Holocaust is a humongous war crime that should never be denied. The same can be said of the literally turbulent September 11 quadra-attack on the World Trade Center buildings, in New York, and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. The 9/11 terrorist extravaganza is something that Americans will never rid their books and minds of. If one were put on their cynical spectacles, they would even agree that, in hindsight, these events brought many political and socio-economic reforms and advantages to the people they concern, but that discussion is not for this paper (Caryl “10 Winners And 10 Losers Of 9/11.”). To continue, these events were orchestrated by fiends from home on non-home soil. That is to say that the nation under attack was to gain nothing from hiding the atrocities that had occurred. The country’s image had surely been tarnished but it is agreed upon that reconstruction is much more commendable, and worthwhile, than wallowing in shame and fear. A prime example of such would be Japan after it had faced the double blow to its infrastructure by the metallic father-son duo, Fat Man and Little Boy.
Now consider the other cases where terrifying tactics were used by a nation on its own citizens. Shame of the highest order is attributed to these. Nations have no benefits to reap from shooting themselves in the foot. These often transpire as a result of rising tensions due to poor governmental performance and drastic abuse of power. Rewriting the annals of history to maintain hold of power and a prim image is usually what is done as a result. Such an attempt is quite apparent with the ongoing Chinese effort to cover up the Tiananmen Square massacre that took place on the 4th of June 1989. A state-controlled Chinese newspaper has said that claims that 10,000 people died during the Tiananmen Square massacre are ‘impossible’ by reporting that only up to 300 protesters may have been killed (Tiananmen Death Toll Is ’Hype’). The contrasting claims are quite clear and even more apparent when one considers how far the Chinese government is willing to go in censoring the event from its own people: low-wage workers are made to scour the internet for any references to not only the massacre itself, but the period of occurrence as well (Yuan “Learning China’s Forbidden History”). Not only this but cases in which a country unleashes havoc in another country also has serious repercussions back home. The My Lai massacre, which took place on the 16th of March 1968, saw US troops unleashing heavy gunfire in a village near the South China Sea resulting in the deaths of 500 Vietnamese (Allison). There is also the almost equally disgusting ‘Rape of Nanking’ in which Japanese soldiers went door to door brutally raping and murdering an estimated 250,000 soldiers and civilians in the Chinese city of Nanking (or Nanjing) for six weeks in 1937-38 (Editors “Nanking Massacre.”). Americans, who are aware of the My Lai incident, vehemently condemn the US military’s censorship efforts. Not only the Chinese but the Koreans as well seethe with unsurmountable hatred when Japan is mentioned as Japan has never actually apologized or acknowledged the incident. Japanese textbooks detail the massacre but with undertones isolating the massacre from the country and its denizens (Barnard).
This leads to the discussion of war crimes (and crimes after the end of war), and the hate that they receive. Most everyone around the globe with an intact moral compass will agree that the Holocaust was large scale crime of war against the Jews. To the east, as mentioned before, there are the Koreans spewing hate about the Japanese, the Taiwanese hurling insults at the Chinese, the Filipinos considering almost every other Eastern Asian country as a potential enslaver, et cetera. One could safely say that the entire region is locked in a conference room left to deal about a round-table on who should apologize to whom first over whichever atrocity. Using a local example to emphasize, a recall to the maddening violence perpetuated by the Indo-Pak partition of 1947 should be brought forth. An estimated 14 million people from all walks of life are thought to have fled from the then newly formed Pakistan to India, and vice versa. Of these, a highly debated 2 hundred thousand to 2 million are expected to have been the victims of chaotic looting, brutal rape, and frenzied murder (Doshi and Mehdi “70 years later”). Until recently, neither side was willing to accept that the violence had occurred – let alone actually take responsibility for it. Even now, South Asian citizens belonging to all sects and regions are still unwilling to gaze into the abyss that is the archive of Indo-Pak mass-migration violence.
With this, one can easily deduce why the Geneva Conventions exist. They are a series of treaties on the treatment of civilians, prisoners of war, and soldiers who are incapable of participating in combat. The first Convention produced a treaty designed to protect injured and unhealthy soldiers during wartime. The Swiss Government agreed to hold the Conventions in Geneva. After the end of the second World Ward, in 1949, two new Conventions were added, and all four were ratified by several countries. These along with two additional Protocols (1977) are in force today (LII Staff “Geneva Conventions.”). But despite 196 countries agreeing to adhere to the Geneva Conventions, current battle zones Afghanistan, Syria, and Palestine (or, more correctly, Israel) see almost daily disrespect of the Conventions (Lancet 1510). Now with the advancement of technology, war is becoming increasingly impersonal and condensed. Morals have taken a backseat and results are at the front. The usage of drone strikes is an obvious example: The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism has estimated that between 598 and 1,252 civilians have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia since 2004 (Drone Strikes in Pakistan). These numbers may seem insignificant considering the ‘results’ but, in the grand scheme of things, the practice has paved the way for the allowance of systematic termination of not only suspected terrorists but civilians as well. Civilians whose actions may not agree with the nation calling the strike. This can be seen by events such as the strike on a Médecins SansFrontières (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan, on the 3rd of October 2015 (Lancet 1510). Follow this up with American President Donald Trump’s signing of an executive order, on the 6th of March 2019, that cancelled the requirement that intelligence officials publicize the number of civilians exterminated in drone strikes and other attacks on terrorist targets outside of war zones (Talev “Trump Cancels U.S. Report”). With this, it is common sense to conclude that facts have been played with and a narrative has been pushed.
It may seem as if a slippery slope is being brought into view here, but it should be considered a folly to not consider the information at hand. The situation is not as convoluted as one may suppose at first and it can even be picked up by careful eyes. Tanner Higgin’s critical analysis of the second iteration, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, of the hit video game series Metal Gear Solid, brings forth the same comments as many other scholars who have undertaken the same task: The control of narrative leads to the control of men and identity (Huntemann, et al. 252-271). By using a pivotal character, director-cum-writer Hideo Kojima warned us of the age of information and behavioral manipulation almost two decades ago:
You’re being silly! What we propose to do is not control content but to create context. The untested truths spun by different interests continue to churn and accumulate in the sandbox of political correctness and value systems. Everyone withdraws into their own small gated community, afraid of a larger forum. They stay inside their little ponds, leaking whatever “truth” suits them into the growing cesspool of society at large. The different cardinal truths neither clash nor mesh. No one is invalidated, but nobody is right. (Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty)
Such ‘dialogue’ is commonplace in cyberpunk fiction and university level sociology books. Kojima’s video game made accessible to millions a concept that has been in discussion in academia since the early 1980s. Unfortunately, the common man is not lucky enough to stumble across and ponder the issue with such media, or even with a modern graduate study. The tinkering of history in order to silence or control is somewhat clear cut but nonetheless still a terrifying enough concept to deter most from considering the consequences. None could have envisioned the current geo-political climate when the idea was first brought forth and, unsurprisingly, quite a lot of people still deny it being as dangerous as analysts claim. The ‘Democratic Republic’ of North Korea is a textbook example.
North Korea is an eccentric nation in which the military dictatorship functions so stringently and strangely that some may be inclined to consider it may as well have been transported to our world from an Isaac Asimov science-fiction piece. Jieun Baek, Ph.D. candidate in Public Policy at the University of Oxford and research fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, notes in her revealing essay, The Opening of the North Korean Mind: Pyongyang Versusthe Digital Underground, that despite its title of ‘The Hermit Kingdom’, North Korea has seen drastic increase in the amount of outside information being smuggled into the country regardless of the great risks citizens dismiss in other to learn about the world, and their own caged situation (Baek 106). It is daunting to think that such a thing is occurring in a time when knowledge is available to almost everyone at their fingertips, but reality has nasty surprises for both the ignorant and the gullible. She sums up the situation succinctly near the end of the essay: “As North Koreans have developed a more accurate perception of their country and the world, many have begun to feel a profound sense of betrayal. That feeling, in turn, has fed a sense of distrust—one that could prove corrosive in a totalitarian state built around a fanatical cult of personality” (Baek 112).
It can be argued that censoring certain instances of history may prove to be beneficial in the long run, but it has no logical basis in both morality and historiography. While some people do believe in fabricating history for the ‘greater good’, this ‘greater good’ often ends up being a shallow misrepresentation of the infractions rendered by cultures. Yes, the censorship may prove cathartic at first but, as time goes on, the people become complacent. Slowly venturing closer to the edge of a violent loop. A loop commonly known as ‘repeating history’.
“Tiananmen Death Toll Is ’Hype’, Says Beijing.” Daily Telegraph (London, England), 2017. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsgbe&AN=edsgcl.520319601&site=eds-live.
Allison, William Thomas. My Lai : An American Atrocity in the Vietnam War. Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012., 2012. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=cat01977a&AN=LUMS.000194760&site=eds-live.
Baek, Jieun. “The Opening of the North Korean Mind: Pyongyang versus the Digital Underground.” Foreign Affairs, no. 1, 2017, p. 104-113. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsgea&AN=edsgcl.477642117&site=eds-live.
Barnard, Christopher. “Isolating Knowledge of the Unpleasant: The Rape of Nanking in Japanese High-School Textbooks.” British Journal of Sociology of Education, no. 4, 2001. Accessed 8 April 2019.
“Just as the opposite of love is not indifference… The opposite of hope is not despair. Apathy so strong that nothing matters anymore – that’s the opposite of hope. The ability to forgive anything. The ability to say, “Fine,” to anything at all – that is the opposite of hope.”
Yeesh! Talk about being a pretentious anthropomorphic chunk of bismuth. If I ever saw someone post this in a forum then I would have immediately commented with a picture of a smug anime girl while telling the person to re-evaluate their life choices.
There I was. Before the laptop screen. Bingeing the anime adaptation of Kubikiri Cycle: Aoiro Savant to Zaregototsukai – or The Beheading Cycle: The Blue Savant and the Nonsense Bearer. Closely watching the beginning of the second last episode of Nisio Isin’s, ahhem, NisiOisiN’s initial light novel series. In fact, his very first light novel. The point where his eccentric genius and love for writing extraordinary (mostly literally) female characters became known to the general Japanese populace. That point was finally projected onto our screens two years ago. Yes, almost 14 years later we got to revel in the craziness of the man’s debut characters on the medium-sized screen. Was the birth of NiSio ISin’s professional career given justice by the animation studio? Well, actually, I don’t know. I haven’t read any of the books from the Zaregoto series – to which Kubikiri Cycle belongs.
Okay, so that’s enough dick-riding for today. I should get back to the quote up above.
Like I said, I would berate the person who would utter something so lukewarm but, even so, I was still fixated to the words spoken by the protagonist-cum-narrator, Ii-chan. What he had said resonated within me. “Yes, that is right!” is what I had told myself. That’s the power of ISIn’s writing. The guy has this ridiculous talent whereby he can convince you of the most inane zingers as if they were nuggets of unfathomable truth. And that is, surely, a quality that is sorely missing in many writers who attempt character studies.
In a character study, the plot is secondary. As is true NISIo ISIN fashion (in hindsight), the plot of Kubikiri Cycle is itself a character. Layers upon layers of motives and sentiments are analysed over a round table of pizzazz bringing out of the audience unusual thoughts about morality and ambition. This becomes quite evident to the seasoned viewer when identities come into question. Regardless of whether you pick up on the subtleties lying within Kubikiri or just simply enjoy the solid locked-room murder mystery as is, the writing of the show is obviously it’s strongest feature.
Again with the dick-riding… Anyway, seeing as I have done enough praising of the pen and the man, or men, behind it, I should now address what the writing is about.
Kubikiri Cycle starts off with our Ii-chan, whose real name is unknown, and his moe companion Kunagisa Tomo inside an avant garde mansion on an isolated island. They are two of the number of geniuses that have been invited to the mansion by exiled hostess Akagami Iria. You have people who are at the top of their respective fields such as cooking, science, art, etc all living under the same roof mostly minding their own business except for at supper time. Then, one day, artist Ibuki Kanami is brutally decapitated and the liberal arts disrespecting mansion-mate and scientist Sonoyoma Akane is declared a prime suspect. Thus, she is thrown into another locked room so as to deter her or any other possible killer from leveling the heads of the others until ace consultant Aikawa Jun arrives on the scene to dish out some snazzy knowledge.
The set-up is quite simple and the mystery is free from bullshit like withholding information from the viewers or the usage of disgusting deus ex machina. The mystery is solved using the very same clues that our protagonist is presented with so the viewer can tag along for the Sherlock Holmes role-play as well. I’ve mentioned this before in previous reviews: a well written mystery is one in which the author assumes that the reader can be just as smart and capable as the sleuth. While there are some questionable aspects regarding certain events in the story, like the way rigor mortis is handled, the plot is still quite grounded enough for the viewer to partake in the mystery. Considering that this is an adaptation of NISION ISIN’s first published work, there are bound to be a myriad of firsts: you can actually pinpoint from whom he took inspiration for the waifu-of-the-novel extravaganza Monogatari Series.
Now while the plot is your standard mystery aficionado fare with nisio isin’s own creative twist, the characters surely are not. The most interesting thing about Kubikiri Cycle is that the characters, while outlandish, still feel real to an extent. Despite having rather messed up personalities and outlooks on life, the colorful cast of geniuses function like actual human beings who are accustomed to a non-normal worldview. I have to specifically make note of this here as characters of such depth are, sadly, uncommon in modern thrillers. Honestly, even in the early mystery novels, not all characters come to this close a level. Save for one or two, each person in Kubikiri Cycle has their own role to play following unscrupulous lines of thought. Still, it should be said that not everyone prefers their mysteries to be like this. Some folks want more focus on the plot. Think of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. I’m not saying that it steers parallel to Kubikiri Cycle but it is the closest novel I can recall at the moment to clarify my point a little. Well, there’s also the anime Un-Go but that was just trash.
As heavily implied above, the characters are the crux of Kubikiri Cycle. Ii-chan, who claims to be devoid of personality, is the one with the most complex head of them all. His relationship, of love and hate soaked in envy, with the childish engineer Kunagisa Tomo is quite intriguing to observe. The way those two play off of each other is reminiscent of the power couple Araragi Koyomi and Senjougahara Hitagi from Monogatari Series. It’s quite clear the relationship in Kubikiri Cycle served as a prototype for the foundation of the one in Monogatari Series – especially when you consider that nISIO ISIn had divulged that he had done all that he could with Ii-chan’s character when he stopped writing the Zaregoto novels.
Then there are the interactions between Ii-chan and the rest of the characters. The most captivating, and heated, conversations take place whenever the psychic Himena Maki appears on screen to tease our nameless hero. The use of Maki as a pseudo-observer was a nice touch as well. Knowing full well what happened and how it did but letting others sort it out due to just pure amusement.
I could go much deeper into these guys and the rest of the rest of the survival crew but that isn’t my job. After all, it is the purpose of the show. My job is to simply tell you what I like or hate about things so that you can become subservient to the opinions of a random stranger. That you’ve grown to love! Abandon the Pewds.
Uh, anyway, as expected of studio Shaft, directors Shinbou Akiyuki and Yase Yuki have done a fine job of bringing print to life. The Shaft repertoire of head tilts, bizarre landscape shots, and unconventional angles is put to good use Kubikiri Cycle. Every knows what Shaft stuff usually look and feel like so I don’t think there’s a need to delve into that pinhole. Well, the landscape shots in Kubikiri Cycle seemed a little less haphazard as compared to the Monogatari Series adaptations.
The voice acting is standard as well. The voice actors have done a good job with their roles. The voice actors for Akagami Iria and Ii-chan, played by Ise Mariya and Kaji Yuki, put up an especially great performance. The sound was mostly headed by the ever enchanting Kajiura Yuki of Kara no Kyoukai(Garden of Sinners)fame. Her oblique vocals compliment the mystery genre nicely. Gives it that haunting atmosphere. The performance by her band Kalafina for the ending themes was, in a word, dank.
While I was entranced by some of the dialogue and most of the smarts in Kubikiri Cycle; the unsurprising high quality, to be honest, has turned me off somewhat. Kubikiri Cycle is quite a unique work. The problem is that it is not a unique niSio iSin work. It feels much too similar to Monogatari Series. Yes, I understand that the author is the same and his ideas shouldn’t be that different from each work but there is a certain lack of… evolution, you could say. There isn’t any of that raw ‘beginner’ style in Kubikiri Cycle. Maybe it is more present in the actual novel instead of this anime seeing as how the directors and folks are the same ones who’ve worked on most of the Monogatari Series. I think it would have been better that another studio had animated Kubikiri Cycle. Just my weird two cents. This won’t affect the final score, though.
Without further dick-riding, I proclaim Kubikiri Cycle to be an 8/10 anime. It’s a must-see for all nISIoISIn fans. Mystery junkies should be able to get a hefty kick out of it too.
After the excellence that is ‘Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu’, I had decided to catch up to some ongoing shows with new seasons and, due to an itching for an echhi comedy, I settled for ‘Noucome’ as well. Noucome was pretty damn funny but nothing to write home about. Then a friend told me to check out ‘Shigofumi’ and write a review on it. Four days later, I obliged.
That title up there is basically what Shigofumi, which is translated to ‘letter from the departed’, is all about. Slap on an overarching plot and you get the makings of an original anime leaning supposedly heavily on the psychological thriller side. I used the term ‘supposedly’ as it eventually devolves into a meager slice-of-life romp with uninspired twists and a less than satisfactory ending.
To elaborate on the anime’s name, imagine dying and being allowed to send a single letter or object to any one person in the world. There are no rules to what you can send so the creative possibilities that can arise with this premise are seemingly endless. Add to that a supernatural postal service comprised of former live-folk and things get even more interesting. This is the gist of Shigofumi. The anime builds on this premise to go into a mystery of sorts concerning a certain postman, Fumika, who, unlike all other postmen, doesn’t age. The region over which she goes about her daily duties is related to her death and gradually connections are made to link it to the overarching plot.
This all sounds intriguing, no? Of the many anime my friend had offered me to watch and write upon, I picked Shigofumi just for the premise. I thought it would have made a shorter and better version of the ‘Jigoku Shoujo’ series where a young girl goes around granting people a chance to curse the source of their issues in exchange for eternal damnation. Shigofumi actually kind of emulated what made Jigoku Shoujo work and even, at times, surpassed it. Sadly, though, this was only true for episodes that did not focus on the overarching plot.
Shigofumi failed to have me interested in its main course. The appetizers and dessert were delightfully grim but the rest lacked flavor. It tried too hard to be this ‘intelligent thriller’ so much so that it failed to be at least somewhat surprising. This is mostly due to not refining the finer details regarding the whole postal service and the rules involved. You don’t have a clear understanding of how one becomes a postman nor do they delve into the obvious major flaw in the plot – why don’t most people know about the letters anyway? There’s also the fact that Fumika repeats several times that the postmen are not allowed to directly interfere with the lives of humans and yet they keep doing so over and over again. And then there’s the whole Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) twist in the main plot that is so lazily implemented that it feels like an insult to both the audience and the disorder itself.
It’s quite disheartening to see that this anime with so much potential suffers so damn hard from the crappy writing. I could have let this slide had they not linked even the most disconnected of the episodes to the overarching plot. It’s quite a shame seeing as these few episodes are actually quite good. You have murder out of necessity, suicide, child abuse, the whole shebang! None of these subjects are grossly romanticized nor are they watered down for casual consumption. They don’t preach that they are not acceptable and evil. They’re just things that people do in this messed up world due to circumstances. I like how these topics were maturely treated. But, as ol’ Ouroboros hisses in disdain, the main plot really undermines the only decent to good writing and directing in the show.
The cast of Shigofumi was just average. Nothing really special. The only standout character was a certain author, Mikawa Kirameki, but that was only because of how hilariously retarded he was. He was handled much too bizarrely to be even seen as an actual character at all. It’s like he was being controlled by a bunch of 4chan anons all of whom were trying to one-up each other with the next crazy ass thing for him to do. Hmmmm, I’d be interested in seeing an anime or visual novel like that done properly. Twitch Plays Anime. No one steal this idea.
Anyways, J.C.Staff did a God awful job with the animation for Shigofumi. They botched it. They botched it real bad. I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves. By the way, the pictures are all still frames – none of that in-between frames stuff.
The music was also nothing noteworthy. Hell, I don’t even remember any background music except for I guess some hard bass in some scenes. The ending song was alright. The opening song was funky. Ali Project makes some weird but catchy songs, I gotta say. If you don’t know who they are then the names ‘Another’ and ‘Tatakau Shisho: The Book of Bantorra’ might help you remember.
I could have gone a bit more into why Shigofumi’s narrative largely sucked but I decided not to. I wouldn’t recommend the show to anyone but I would mention it to folks who want some good old man based creepypastas. Plus they might actually like the overarching plot (like the majority) so going into heavier spoiler territory would be distasteful. I also don’t want them to miss out on the sombre third episode on casual suicide.
To conclude, ShiGOfumi gets a 5 out of 10 from me.
Wew. That title itself is a signal that ‘Wolf’s Rain’ is most likely an anime I may not have enjoyed much. It’s also a clever tactic that is the bane of all intellectual writing: clickbait. Have I finally stooped so low? Anyway, those who have read my past reviews should know enough about me to be able to tell that I’m not the kind of person to appreciate or growl at a work in a generalized fashion nor one to simply write off a project due to it belonging to a specific niche. Truth be told, sometimes M. Night actually does make good movies. The twists and turns he so worships are sometimes kind to him. 2016’s ‘Split’ is a good example. Although I haven’t seen it myself, others have told me the man has gotten his wish coins’ worth. Of his movies that I have seen, I found ‘Devil’ to be a pretty fun watch and ‘Stuart Little’ is a fond childhood memory.
Speaking of times gone by, Wolf’s Rain started airing around the time the west started being more open to the cartoons from the east. It’s safe to say that this anime might have been the one to introduce a significant number of teenagers to anime back then. A lot of these same viewers still look back with gleaming eyes with the thought that Wolf’s Rain was and probably still is one hell of a show. Well, I’m going to pull a quick ‘M. Nightie’ here and announce beforehand that I would not recommend Wolf’s Rain to anyone.
The story starts off with a train-jacking led by one of the leads, the brooding Tsume. The next day, he encounters a white wolf near his gang’s hideout and he and the wolf duke it out. Turns out Tsume is also a wolf but in the guise of a 70’s biker. Their fight is interrupted and soon the white wolf, Kiba, is captured by the dystopian animal-control services. Kiba then meets the energetic golden-brown Hige in jail and they both make a run for it. Wondering what Tsume was up to? Well, he was saving the mudblooded wolf pup Toboe from a sheriff hellbent on revenge against their kind. An episode or two later, in a mix of desperation and wonder, our main wolves together and anyone else important to the plot leaves the city to find the Paradise that Kiba and apparently all other wolves are obsessed with from birth.
The plot is driven mostly by Kiba’s intense elusive longing for the Paradise that the wolves seek and the knowledgeable humans dread. Wolf’s Rain is an anime that relies on the journey itself to bring the story home. The destination does not matter. Literally – but that is a clarification for later. There are hints to a hidden overarching plot early on but it doesn’t really take shape until far too late for you to actually care. Well, maybe not you. I know I didn’t care. Sometimes it felt like a chore trying to connect all the dots because Wolf’s Rain deliberately obfuscates crucial plot points in order to emphasize its narrative as an enigma. Sadly, this poor handling of the writing does not work at all. Obscurity works just fine in a well defined world. Wolf’s Rain’s world-building could be compared to setting up a porta-potty and then kicking it over. Like a Minecraft server hosted on an 80’s PC, the world is barren and very little effort has been made to fill it with necessary information. Many questions pop up during the journey and almost none of them are answered at the end of the line. Why had the world gone to shit before the beginning of the anime? Just how can the wolves take up human form? What exactly is ‘alchemy’? Just what is the background of the power of the Nobles? And so on and so forth. It almost seems like the writers simply forgot what makes a sci-fi world work and still went forward with what they had for ‘intellectual’ shits and giggles.
While Wolf’s Rain gets the fundamentals wrong, it still manages to do some things right. The pacing, for one, is actually quite airtight (until the repetition point comes up). The dialogue is quite solid most of the time. Most importantly, though, the character interactions are on point. Unfortunately, the most important characters are not up to par with the supporting cast which is a mighty shame.
Kiba’s character is more or less just a personification of the act of finding oneself. Ironically, Kiba is the one who gets the least development. He’s a hard-boiled wolf at first and at the last episode he’s still the same wolf just with a smile. Alright. Next we have the main villain who goes by Lord Darcia. He’s a character template stir fried and served with a bowl of sour cliches. He’s a living Desu XD Machine (which is just an advanced Deus Ex Machina). His actions make no sense and his personality can be easily bested by Ash Ketchum in a contest. Finally, we have Cheza. She is literally a flower brought to life. She is shown to be the wisest of them all and yet this vegan reincarnate goes jumping off into situations that could have wiped out the four main wolves in the blink of an eye – but they don’t, thanks to the Desu XD Machine working at full force.
Bah! I was supposed to talk about the good points of the anime. I should do it quick in this paragraph before I find myself jumping to ranting about the conclusion. As I said earlier, the supporting cast is actually pretty nice. They all get decent development and you even get to feel for a few of them. It was fun to follow Toboe. The twist with Hige’s past was the only twist that was actually done properly. We discover that Tsume isn’t just a Kiba from the 70’s. There’s also Sheriff Quent and his dog, Blue, whose backgrounds and interactions not only with the existential-crisis-couple of Detective Lebowski and scientist Cher Degre but with the wolves as well make for a good base for the overarching mess of plot to work on. The relationship between Quent and Blue is handled quite nicely, I must say.
I don’t really discuss the endings of the shows I review unless I absolutely have to. Considering the anime’s age and the fact that I don’t recommend it to anyone, I might as well talk about it. The last six of episodes of Wolf’s Rain is a strange mixed bag of good and over-bad. It becomes quite clear before the start of the sixth from last episode that everyone is going to die and they do. I would applaud this ballsy move had it not been for the last episode which just resets the world and therefore making the deaths meaningless. This is also when Lord Darcia just goes full wolf shit in both mind and body and we keep getting hit by these nonsensical twists. Lord Darcia wants to cure his waifu with the advent of Paradise. His waifu is killed by another villain. He’s like ‘oh well lol’ and then resurfaces later to meet the other villain who turns out to be the sister of his waifu. There are absolutely no indications towards this twist. This bitch is responsible for throwing an already fucked world into even more chaos just so she could get a chance at getting her clams appraised by Lord Darcia. It’s just… a mess.
Onto the technical messes now. The animation is standard for the time. I watched the BluRay version and I can honestly say that there is nothing impressive about the animation. The character designs are alright. The fights are meh.
I wish I could at least be happy with the soundtrack. Yoko Kanno was involved with the anime. She has made fantastic music for many anime which include ‘Cowboy Bebop’, ‘Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex’, and ‘Zankyou no Terror’. I am quite disappointed with the soundtrack. The background music did not leave any impression on me. The opening song, while fitting, did not strike my chords. I only ended up liking the ending song ‘Gravity’ which was performed by Mayaa Sakamoto.
Sigh, what wasted potential. I was originally going to score Wolf’s Rain a 6/10 but it took me two days to write this review and over the course of the days I thought a lot about the ending and the setting itself. I then decided to go for a 5/10. That’s the fairest I could go for considering the many flaws. BUT WAIT! There are a lot of high profile names attached to Wolf’s Rain, like Dai Sato, so it’s quite evident that it could have been better. So, I will give a 4/10 out of pure spite.