Why Are You Not Reading? (vol. 1)

Up till now, I’ve mostly been doing reviews of anime along with some movies now and then. Oh, I also did that brief post on my history with manga. I guess it’s time to get onto reviewing manga too. There’s a catch, though. ‘Why Are You Not Reading?’ is less of a review series and more of a recommendation one. All the manga I’ll talk about here in this series’ posts are ones that, I’ve noticed, don’t have much of a following. Let’s get down to business!

Today’s post, that is volume 1, is about two manga series. Well, it’s actually about a relatively unknown gag mangaka (manga artist/author) called Hiroyuki Nishimori. He is regarded by fans to be a god of slice of life comedies that are easily accessible by both children and adults. Almost all of his manga have a heavy emphasis on delinquents in a high-school setting with unique characters and, sometimes, highly interesting circumstances. We’ll be taking a look at his two most famous works and earliest works. If you happen to greatly enjoy these two manga then you can look up the rest of his portfolio to sate your hunger. Or thirst. Hmmm… Do we eat or drink laughter? I’m pretty sure at least one of his characters has had this thought before. Anyways, onto the first manga.

Nishikmori’s longest running manga series is Kyou Kara Ore wa!! (From Now On, It’s My Turn!!). It very much deservedly ran from 1988 to 1997 – almost a decade. It has been lauded by fans to be Nishimori’s funniest series and I have to agree with them: I was laughing out loud with almost every chapter.

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lol

The story of KKOw is not original by any means. Though, I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before; nothing is original, everything has been rehashed one way or another with slight differences in execution here and there. It’s a matter of who manages to find that just right combination that spells success. Look at Sword Art Online and any .hack series. Glare at Shakespeare and contemporary tragedies.

Anywho, back to the topic at hand, KKOw follows the 3-year shenanigans of Mitsuhashi and Itou who both had the same idea of changing hairdos to change the gears of their boring lives and stand out as delinquents in high-school. Mitsuhasi adopted a blond hairdo while Itou decided to be as one with his inner sea urchin. There is no actual plot nor any sense of a goal that needs to be accomplished. It’s just ridiculous dudes getting into even more absurd and, often, very dangerous circumstances. You’ll get to see showdowns with the Yakuza, running away from the cops, dojo hunting, raiding a rival high-school, and Mitsuhashi doing everything in his power to ensure that others’ relationships fail. Except for that last one, all of these sound like a recipe for brutal violence but the way the characters approach these situations is just what the doctor ordered to remove your sides. There are even some highly relatable situations like Mitsuhashi going around sneezing everywhere on his enemies when he has a fever.

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The comedy in KKOw is, I repeat, its most inviting point. This is improved upon by the quite large cast of characters ranging from Satoshi, a rival banchou (head of delinquents) who graduates from high-school to run a takoyaki stall; to Ryouko, a girl who goes around beating the crap out of her crush and gifting him bananas and ropes. Every single character interacts with most of the cast thus giving us a crystal clear view of how they progress when it comes to their ambitions, regrets, etc.

The characters are not all entirely saints nor are they demon incarnate. Mitsuhashi has a habit of throwing whatever he has near him at people who piss him off. Here, pissing Mitsuhashi off means a broad range of things. Happily munching on a snack is grounds for him to throw a trashcan straight for your head. Itou is the manga’s go-to character when it comes to most of it chapters regarding morals and yet he’ll beat the crap out of anyone who dares to insult him. He can also be a bit sexist at times when it comes to his girlfriend. Imai, another banchou, is a dumbass. He’s probably my favorite. The point here is that each and every character has flaws. Flaws that don’t stick out like a Lego-abused foot like in most high-school comedies. The characters act realistically. There’s not much angst nor ecchi fanservice bullshittery going on here.

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Imai was running away from cops who were accusing him of a hit and run. Apparently, he never thought about just talking it out.

A thing to note is that the most of the characters will get fully fleshed halfway through the manga. If you’re one of those poor sods who want characters to keep changing over the entire course of a series (even when it’s not needed) then this might be a turn off for you.

Speaking of getting turned off, the art… I personally loved the art style while quite a lot of newcomers to Nishimori’s manga complain that it is too simple. In my opinion, it is perfect for the kind of stories Nishimori likes to tell. It is miles better than the prevalent art style of the 80s and early 90s which had characters designs looking like they took inspiration from Metal Mario. The paneling is neat and done in such a way that the flow is never hampered. Just the sheer simplicity will be often enough to elicit a hearty chuckle from you when you least expect it. The dialogue fits the art well. You won’t believe how many panels there are, overall, showing the characters having a good ol’ laugh. Which reminds me, the characters ACTUALLY laugh at all the things they do unlike in most comedies where something funny happens and the characters just stand there for a second or feel the need to explain the joke. There is very little of the Tsukommi and Boke relationship and more of ‘show than tell’ in KKOw.

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Just two out of many.

That’s it for KKOw. Onto the next manga which is Tenshi na Konomaiki. It’s called A Cheeky Angel in English.

I have fond memories of Tenshi. It is what accidentally introduced me to hentai… I blame my horrible typing skills at the time. Anyways, I had actually watched Tenshi’s anime a long time ago when I was around 7 or 8 years old. It was probably the very first Chinese cartoon I had watched that I was aware of as something called an ‘anime’. We’ve all, I hope, seen Pokemon, Digimon, and Beyblade as kids but not many of us were aware that they were anime until much later.

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The hentai, though…

I then read Tenshi’s manga the year I started reading manga in general. I was relieved to find out that it was just as good as I remembered it from childhood. That’s a good feeling, yes.

Unlike, KKOw, Tenshi’s actual plot seemed to have been planned out instead of going from arc to arc. The story starts with a young boy who encounters a fairy who tells him he can grant him one wish. The boy asks to be made the manliest of men. The fairy twists his wish and makes him the womanliest of women. Thus, the boy-turned-girl called Megumi has the goal of finding the fairy again and getting it to reverse the wish. She/he is helped by his/her (I’ll use x, xe, and xir for Megumi now) best friend named Miki and a banchou called Genzou who fell in love with Megumi after being kicked in the balls by xir. They meet an otaku, a samurai, and a whole bunch of other crazy and adorable douchebags along the way.

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When she bust yo nut and still kicking.

While the essence of comedy is more or less the same in both series, Tenshi tends to sway just a tad bit more towards sexual jokes given the subject matter at hand. It also dives into more serious topics like arranged marriages since both Megumi and Miki are rich, and whether Genzou will still love Megumi when xir pair up there goes back down to where it belongs.

Whatever I said for the characters in KKOw applies to Tenshi’s ragtag bunch of misfits as well. While the most interesting character is quite obviously Megumi, the actual cherry (boys) are Genzou and the samurai who go through astonishing growth and really shine by the end of the story. I wouldn’t be wrong when I say that Genzou could very well be the protagonist.

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My heart was only p-pretending to flutter!

Tenshi’s art is more detailed than KKOw’s but still essentially the same when it comes to the basic feel for expressions and poses. Tenshi began serialization just almost two years after KKOw ended and if you read KKOw, you’ll notice that Nishimori’s art style slightly evolves over time. Though, with Tenshi there is a little drawback to this art style. Nishimori is not good at distinguishing the designs for his female characters and since Tenshi has more chicks than dudes you’ll be getting annoyed and confused at times.

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Improvement!

Before I conclude this, you should keep two things in mind. The first is a warning. Both Tenshi and KKOw have anime adaptations. Actually, they are the only manga by Nishimori to have anime. I’ve only seen Tenshi’s anime so I’ll speak for that. The anime’s ending is wildly different from the manga’s. If you want a happy ending then the manga is for you. If you want things to be bittersweet then the anime will suffice. Although the manga has a few more mini-arcs, both the manga and the anime are complete. You’re better off thinking of them as alternate routes.

The second thing is that fans consider KKOw to be better than Tenshi. It all boils up to an individual’s taste. Not a lot of people are okay with the gender bender genre but everybody loves comedy. Those who claim they don’t like comedy are attention whores. Hmmmph!

Anyways, both KKOw and Tenshi were 10/10 in terms of enjoyment for me. I hope you’ll get into them as soon as possible.

Manga, Colorings And I

(Proofread by my girlfriend, Tristana.)

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!

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I think it says ‘Kaaa~” there.

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.

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One day… I’ll be back novels. I’ll be back!

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.

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AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

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.

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The whites along the outline. Awwww. ❤

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.

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The worst coloring I have ever done. This is what Junpei deserves for the crap he pulled with Aya.

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.

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I then colored the MC of Tenjou Tenge.

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.

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Kenichi ’bout to beat yo ass up.

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.

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This is from Zombie Loan. Probably the laziest coloring I have done to date.

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.

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DJ Lain courtesy of the anime And OST album cover. Which is best? Or do they all suck?

And now, we’re back to Zombie Loan with a new and upgraded sense for color!

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I think I’m seeing a pattern here.

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).

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oWo wut dis

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.

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The colors are weird because my monitor at the time had a yellow overlay. Hardware issue. I asked my friend for hexcodes to colors I needed and that moron sent me entirely other codes for half the image. For example: asked for wood brown and got this light purple instead.

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.

Behold!

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The third one and no background are the best ones. The last one was just me fucking around with filters.

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.

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Spoiler alert?

I don’t know if I’ll ever get back onto Groove Street again.
Maybe I will.
Maybe not.
I don’t know.

What I do know is that this Punpun coloring is why I wrote this blurgh post.

Scusi.

Be With You (2004)

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.

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These two actually got married after the movie. Sadly, they divorced a year later…

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.

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Rain, rain, don’t go away~ Please stay here another day~

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.

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I’m too lazy to check but I’m pretty sure this kid has gotten quite successful.

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)

Michiko to Hatchin (2009)

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.

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It ain’t a pretty world.
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Getting OJ drunk after a show at a strip club. Hatchin wasn’t stripping, by the way.

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.

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Don’t let it undermine how badass Michiko actually is, though.

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.

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Some readers right now.

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.

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I think this might be a weird but good way to sum Michiko up.

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.

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For example: Fake Satoshi here.

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.

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Animation budget well spent.

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 (2016) ~with a dash of FLCL~

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?

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Definitely for children.

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.

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This is why I watched Flip Flappers. I love this image.

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.

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A trip to Pure Illusion on one particular day.
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During the trip the next day.

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.

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13 Papikas Why (kill me for being trendy)

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.

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w0w

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.

By the way, take this.

Voice acting is same as most stuff. The crazy scientist was the summit and all of the times Papika goes on her usual ‘coconoacoconoacoCOnoaCOcoNOAAAAAAA’ spiels was downright fucking annoying.

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CRAZY SCIENTIST

To end, I’m going to say that Flip Flappers is a 7.5/10 in my book.
Ignore the rating and still watch it. It’s a fun ride I’d recommend to anyone. Except for lolicons.

Koe no Katachi (2016)

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…

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SORRYMASEN

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.

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A rollercoaster of emotions, I tell ya hwat.

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?

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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.

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See. Even Shouya agrees.

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.

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I wonder if the director saw this scene and went, “Nope, we ain’t got time for that shit,” and then did the same with the side-characters.

 

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.

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SOMEBODY once told me
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The world was gonna roll me
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I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed…

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. Not a good job there.

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I had imagined something much different as Nagatsuka’s, Shouya’s new friend, voice. He alsom sadly, doesn’t get fleshed out on-screen as much as he should have so their relationship may seem somewhat platonic to some.

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.

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Don’t forget: this movie is also a good manga.

Kiznaiver (2016)

After been completely turned off of anime for about month thanks to a recommendation by a friend, I was finally able to muster up enough strength to break one of my rules and drop the aforementioned anime. It’s name was Heroic Age. It wasn’t bad per se. It was just… really boring. The characters, the setting, the animation, and the everything. I tried watching it, in vain, three times but I always fell asleep.

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This screenshot is the only thing of any value from Heroic Age.

Anyways, after a string of many lost games in League of Legends last night, I finally decided to get back into anime again. I spent a good while thinking about what to watch. Then, suddenly, Kiznaiver came to mind. I wanted something good. Something interesting. I knew Studio Trigger would deliver. Good or bad, whatever they make at least has you interested.

Unlike most people who went into Kiznaiver thinking it to be another Kill la Kill or Inferno Cop (lol), I watched it knowing what to expect. Quite a number of people who watched the show while it was airing complained that it was rather slow, never went anywhere, or the characters were one-dimensional. Hell, some viewers even lamented the fact that it was nothing like Kill la Kill. Absolutely no fan-service whatsoever.

Kiznaiver is Trigger’s first attempt at trying something different. All of its shows till now have been either parodies, focused on action, or both. Even Little Witch Academia follows this. I, for one, am glad that Kiznaiver is very different from Trigger’s usual works.

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No action. Only FARUKON PAAAAAAAAANCHI!

Synopsis from MyAnimeList: Katsuhira Agata is a quiet and reserved teenage boy whose sense of pain has all but vanished. His friend, Chidori Takashiro, can only faintly remember the days before Katsuhira had undergone this profound change. Now, his muffled and complacent demeanor make Katsuhira a constant target for bullies, who exploit him for egregious sums of money. But their fists only just manage to make him blink, as even emotions are far from his grasp.

However, one day Katsuhira, Chidori, and four other teenagers are abducted and forced to join the Kizuna System as official “Kiznaivers.” Those taking part are connected through pain: if one member is injured, the others will feel an equal amount of agony. These individuals must become the lab rats and scapegoats of an incomplete system designed with world peace in mind. With their fates literally intertwined, the Kiznaivers must expose their true selves to each other, or risk failing much more than just the Kizuna System.

Simply put, Kiznaiver is a mild case of character study. It doesn’t just lightly touch it’s subject matter nor does it go fully into psychological territory. It is very apparent from the second episode of Kiznaiver that it is a show meant for fun with a bunch of melodrama here and there. Exactly what I thought it would be.

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That’s me when the show ended. Ignore the bandages. That’s also Katsuhira Agata.

So how come, you would ask, Kiznaiver interested me so? Well, other than the characters themselves, it was mainly because of the huge plot device that is known as the ‘Kizuna System’.

The Kizuna System is basically just having surgery performed on the seven main characters so that if one of them has pain inflicted on them then they all feel. Over the course of the show, as the Kizuna System progresses, if one of the ‘Kiznaivers’ feels any strong emotion then that emotion is felt by all of them. Then we go into reading the heart. Interesting concept, no? But, like I said before, the Kizuna System is just one big plot device. Without the Kizuna System, the anime would just have been an over-dramatic slice of life. This plot device helps create a balance – giving you the false illusion that something evil is afoot. This helps keep the oddities of the characters and their behavior in check and helps the anime not into Korean soap-opera territory.

Now, to the meat of Kiznaiver. The characters!

Katsuhira Agata is the main focus, in regards to the characters, of Kiznaiver. He is devoid of emotion and cannot feel physical pain. An emo without the trademarked black look. Along with his childhood friend, Takashiro Chidori, he and a six other students from his class are abducted and chosen for the Kizuna System experiment. They are told they have to expose themselves to each other for the sake of the experiment. For the sake of world peace.

mml
*Breathe in* *Exhale* “BworldpeaceOI.”

A point to note: no matter what angle you analyze the Kizuna System from, there is no logical explanation for HOW it will help attain world peace. Even the show doesn’t explain how. So, while being an effective plot device, the Kizuna System is also one of Kiznaivers biggest cons.

Anyways, back to the characters.

Tenga Hajime is the thug who secretly has a huge heart. Yuta Tsugihoto is the spaz who pretends to be what he’s not – an arrogant tool. Niyama Niko is an eccentric Hollywood blondie who pretends to be eccentric because she thinks she isn’t (whewie). Maki Honoka is… well it would be a spoiler. And, finally, Hisomu Yoshiharu is a masochist in denial who, in my opinion, is the most rational character in the show.

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Ah, Niko.

All of these guys and gals are gathered by Sonozaki Noriko who is adamant in proving the success of the Kizuna System for it has already failed before.

Seeing of all these characters interact with each other and step out from their single dimension into the third is a fascinating treat. With grounded and witty dialogue, the characterization comes out just great. Exactly what it feels like when I talk to my friends. Yes, even Nico.

It’s a shame that a lot of viewers just went with the first judgment of the characters and deemed them to be caricatures till the end of the show. Kiznaiver is slice of life disguised as action (but there is no action at all) so a lot people were left bored during the middle of the show which was just character development for the finale. I’m not really sure if this is a fault in direction, script, or Trigger’s image itself. Oh well, you win some and you lose some.

Kiznaiver’s music is OK, I guess. The opening ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’ by Boom Boom Satellites which bloody amazing for me since that kind of electronica and rock usually doesn’t sit well with me. The ending wasn’t bad – just that I’ve heard a lot of songs like it so I just skipped it. As for the background music, nothing special. The hard violin, techno and beats certainly suited the show but overall, nothing memorable.

The animation is gorgeous. For once Trigger got its budget under control and created a show with no slacking in animation. The character designs are a neat break from the usual fare you see in modern anime. Light and long bodies with a lot of curves and fluidity topped by a bright color palette. Good stuff.

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In 3 seconds of this…
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I found 4 frames of this.

If Kiznaiver had a thorough quality check for its plot then it would truly have been something special. But, the Kizuna System’s flaws and the contrived wishy washy ending deal a serious blow to it’s overall goodness. Also, the world building needed some polishing too. No matter how good the characterization in a show is, without a properly fleshed out plot you’re not going have many heads rolling and that’s a damn shame.

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Kiznaiver in a nutshell.

Right as the show ended, I thought it was an 8.5/10 in my book. But, today after giving it some thought, I think it objectively deserves a 7/10 at most. But it’s a 7.5/10 for me thanks to the fun I had watching the characters grow.
Recommended for those slow nights when you suddenly feel like ringing up some friends but can’t because they’re busy. Or if you don’t have friends and feel like wanting to make some.