My Neighbor Totoro

 

My Neighboy Totoro Tonari No Totoro

I was down with the flu and I was curled up in my room, looking for something cozy to watch. Flipping through my collection, I suddenly remembered the My Neighbor Totoro DVD I had received as a gift a while back. Needless to say, I popped it into my player, sat back and had one of the most relaxing and peaceful 90 minutes of my life.
My Neighbor Totoro is hard to synopsize because of the tranquil and laid back first half. I suppose it would suffice to say that this classic 1988 Studio Ghibli movie is about the innocent fun of two little sisters who move into a house in a village, along with their father, only to find out that the picturesque place can be more mysterious than they thought. My Neighbor Totoro has bagged several awards over the years and helped bring Japanese animation into the global spotlight.
The basic driving force behind the story is this: Don’t you want to be a kid again? Don’t you want to go back to the days when your only responsibilities were to show up at school and be home on time? Don’t you want to look forward to each day, because there was always something new to learn, find and discover? This universal, yet eternally successful theme is what made My Neighbor Totoro click. The story is so beautifully crafted that kids look at this movie as the adventures of two sisters, while adults while adults perceive this anime to be a timeless classic that will forever remind them of their innocent childhood.
Another positive aspect of the story is that it’s character driven, but not in the traditional sense. Instead of developing the characters or making them take on hard decisions, this movie’s characters are the diamonds in the rough because of their simple and lifelike charms. They think, act and behave just like any curious and energetic children of their age would. The two sisters, Satsuki and Mei, are sure to inspire kids and bowl over adults with their sweet and loveable attitudes. The seiyu also deserve a lot of credit here, because they bring out all the energy and emotions necessary for their roles.

 

 

If you were wondering why I didn’t make a mention of Totoro, the giant chubby ferret/forest spirit, it’s because he is (in my opinion at least) present for appealing to the kids and doesn’t really play an important role otherwise. A contributor to the entertainment (and cuteness, if you like) factor.
I got my hands on a re-mastered DVD edition of this one, so I won’t be able to judge the quality of the original theatrical/VHS version. Still, you can’t make a good sculpture without good clay, so I think it’s safe to say that the art was outstanding. The backgrounds were very neat and looked exactly like a 1950s Japanese village. Characters were drawn in trademark Ghibli style, which is never a bad thing. A perfect ten.
The soundtrack added to the straightforward atmosphere of the show. Nothing fancy, just the good old piano. The OP, Stroll, was a nice upbeat song that reminded me of The Sound of Music, especially the English version.
This anime would get a sure ten from any kid who’s below 10, but looking at it from a more mature perspective, My Neighbor Totoro does have some minor issues which deny it the perfect score. Because of its age, it is rather predictable and I felt the mood swing from the lax and serene atmosphere from the first half to the more fast paced and fantastical approach to the second half was a little unnecessary. The fantasy aspect is played around with to please kids, but older viewers might not approve. The dialogue and script could’ve been a tad tighter too. But that’s about all the flaws I can come up with, after a lot of time I spent on nitpicking.
Regardless of whether you’re a kid, adult, otaku, casual viewer or just plain bored, My Neighbor Totoro is most certainly worth your time.

 

 

[  THE WRAP-UP ]
My Neighbor Totoro is a landmark anime that garnered critical appeal and international fandom. Although primarily intended for children, this 90 minute movie is bound to appeal to the taste buds of anyone, even if they’re not a big fan of anime. The story is uncomplicated and easy to watch, which is always a good thing if you’re looking for something nice and comfy. The undeniable charm of the characters also adds to the realistic atmosphere of this Studio Ghbili movie. Despite its release date, the animation is solid, just like the fitting soundtrack. My Neighbor Totoro is an anime that gained mainstreamed recognition and popularity for good reason. In other words, watch it.


Rating:
8/10

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Golden Time Review

Golden Time Anime  Review

By Miki

Koko & Banri Golden Time

This series deals with a college student who has amnesia.  Tada Banri  has forgotten everything from high school and earlier.  In Shizuoka he confesses to Linda his best friend after graduation.  She tells him she will give her answer tomorrow and he awaits her on the bridge.  Unfortunately he is run over and loses his memories before she gets there.  He runs to Tokyo to escape the feelings of expectation from those who knew him before the accident.  We find this is due to an incident when he snuck out of the hospital and ran into a girl (Linda) who said she was attending a university in Tokyo. He did not remember that Linda was his childhood best friend.   He then makes new friends: Kaga Koko , Mitsuo Yanagisawa , Chinami Oka, Nana, and Takaya Satō aka 2D-kun. He joins the festival club with Koko and renews friendship with Linda.

Koko Golden Time

He meets Yana first when they are following girls to find the college. Both looking very suspicious they end up buying popsicles and losing the girls.  They start their friendship there and once they get to the college he meets Koko as she slaps Yana with a bunch of roses.  Banri is instantly captivated by her confidence and beauty.    Yana keeps trying to run from Koko but she pursues him wildly and eventually they come to terms with Yana making it expressly clear he won’t be anything but a friend to her. Koko and Banri get taken to cult club and meet 2D-kun.  Banri creates distraction by telling part of his story so others can leave. They end up running into Linda and the festival club practicing as they fled the cult. Koko and Banri become good friends by her using him to get to Yana.  Banri stays by Koko’s side and finally tells her he likes her and wishes she’d give up on Yana.  Yana in turn confesses to Oka and is hurt at a party.  Koko and Banri start dating.

Banri Golden Time

They all have lots of adventures together.  Yana decides to go after Linda not understanding Banri’s close relationship to her.  He has hidden his past from all of his new friends but it slowly starts to unravel as his memories slowly fluctuate and sometimes return in small bursts causing current memories to vanish momentarily.  This scares Banri and Nana helps with Linda to keep him from losing it.  Will Koko and Banri stay together?  Will he forget all his current life for the past?  Can Banri share his fears?  Will the others figure out whats happening to Banri?  Find out by watching this twisting and emotional anime.  It really was worth the wait to find out the ending.  8 out of 10 stars.

Finn’s Classic Anime Reviews: Slayers

Number of Episodes: 26

Episode Length: 22 min

Year of Release: 1995

Producers: FUNimation, SoftX, Easy Film

Genres: Adventue, Comedy, Fantasy

slayers anime

In a world of fantastic adventure where monsters plot the destruction of mankind everyone’s hope rests squarely on the shoulders of a band of stalwart quest seekers led by the infamous and undeniably powerful sorceress Lina Inverse.  Can Lina save the world from darkness or will she be distracted yet again by shiny treasure?

Artwork: 3/5

I have to try and remember that the mid 90’s were a simpler time when it comes to animation. There’s a lot of pan and zoom type animation in this. For example, Lina is falling off a cliff so the animators take a still drawing of the forest below and zoom in to simulate the descent. Actually, the only thing that really bothered me was the design of the fishmen. It’s mystifyingly silly looking.

Plot: 5/5

The setting is typical for fantasy anime. Imagine any fantasy rpgs you’ve played and that’s pretty much the world of Slayers. You have the adventurers travelling through forests, mountains, and ruins whilst fighting off monster hordes. Occasionally they visit a town and stay at the inn or try to sell loot they found adventuring. While that stuff gives me a nostalgic feeling it is not what makes Slayers a classic. It’s all about the characters. They are by no means typical. Rather the characters of Slayers are in every way memorable and unique. Their zany antics are what make Slayers an enjoyable anime with immense replay value. As such I have decided to end my review with character profiles. Enjoy!

Slayers Lina

Lina Inverse - Where ever there is treasure to be found Lina will be there to take it even when it belongs to someone else or could possibly lead to the destruction of the world. Often Lina’s greed is the focal point of the anime. She is a well known trouble maker and a frighteningly powerful sorceress. The two things Lina loves is treasure and food. She will stop at nothing to obtain mass amounts of both. Even though Lina can be rather cunning she usually ends up resorting to using her powerful Dragon Slave spell to wipe out anything that gets in her way, and everything else nearby too. For a hero she is downright evil sometimes.

Slayers Gourry

Gourry Gabriev – A virtuous swordsman, weilder of the sword of light, and Lina’s constant companion. He joins up with her when he mistakes her for a lost child. At first she let’s him stick around so that she can steal his magic sword, but his skill as a warrior becomes indespensable. Gourry is a simpleton. He has no knowledge of the world and often forgets what just happened. Which works pretty well as a plot device to get Lina to explain characters and events to both him and the viewers.

Slayers Zel

Zelgadis Greywords – The heartless mystical swordsman. Skilled in both elemental magic and physical combat Zelgadis is a powerful warrior motivated by his own interests. At times he is great ally or a fearsome enemy depending on his whims. Through unknown magic Zelgadis has been transformed into a chimera part demon, rock golem, and human. He sometimes travels with Lina’s party while trying to find a way to turn back into a human. Of all the heroes he has the most normal personality. Compared to Lina he is relatively neutral.

Slayers Amelia

Amelia Wil Tesla Seyruun – The fourth usual member of Lina’s party is the princess of Seyruun. Amelia is a holy priestess who is entirely consumed with an obsession for heroic justice, and dramatic entrances. She can often be found climbing to a high place before flinging herself headlong into danger. She has a naive idea of absolute good and evil. Perceiving any crime as a threat to humanity she tags along with Lina for various reasons, but mostly in an attempt to play hero.

Slayers Rezo

Rezo the Red Priest – An enigmatic wandering sage who has a reputation for being a great healer and champion of the people. His true nature is wrapped in mystery.

Sword of the Stranger Review

Sword of the Stranger poster featuring Luo Lang and Nanashi.

Sword of the Stranger poster featuring Luo Lang and Nanashi.

Well nuts. My first review, for Mass Effect: Paragon Lost, got lost in cyberspace a while back, so this one will be, officially, my first review for this site. But that’s okay, because I’m reviewing a top-notch film for you.

It’ll be a little gushy and maybe even a little mushy at times, but that’s only because this film is that good. A traditional samurai plot is upheld by stunning animation, impeccable voice selection, and a sound track worth listening to on its own. The story is that of Kotaro, a young boy fleeing from a group of Ming warriors following their Emperor’s orders. Their goal is to make a medicine from the boy’s blood that grants immortality, as prophesied by trusted member of the Emperor’s court. A child sacrifice is only chosen every hundred years, and must be sacrificed at a specific time and day, and Kotaro is that child.

He is first sent on the run by his monk protector, who bids him to find his way to a specific temple that will protect him. Along the way, he takes shelter in an abandoned building and encounters a nameless ronin. After demanding that the ronin leave, he makes dinner for himself and his dog, Tobimaru, who offers the ronin a fish despite Kotaro’s protests. The ronin sticks around long enough to witness a Ming warrior and his escorts attack the boy; despite his previous disinterest in Kotaro, he becomes protective of the boy and defeats the attackers. Tobimaru is injured and poisoned in the attack. Kotaro subtly begs the ronin to help him save the dog, offering up a gem the monk gave him and boasting about it’s value. The ronin, Nanashi – “No Name” – accepts the boy’s terms to save Tobimaru and escort the two to Mangaku temple after much hesitation.

Tobimaru and Kotaro early in the film.

Tobimaru and Kotaro early in the film.

They immediately set off for the nearest town with a medicine man. Tobimaru is treated and recovers while Nanashi locates a saddle for them. On his way back to their rented shack, he is attacked without reason by Luo Lang and holds his own until the fight is interrupted with the news that two of Luo Lang’s companions are dead. The Ming leave, and Nanashi returns to the shack. They argue briefly before Tobimaru wakes. Due to the dog’s recovery, Kotaro’s attitude towards Nanashi improves, allowing the ronin to teach the boy how to ride a horse. Once Tobimaru is able to travel, they continue their journey.

Upon reaching the temple, Kotaro happily gives Nanashi the gem while telling the truth about its value. The two have a laugh, and Nanashi quietly slips away when Shouan, Kotaro’s monk friend, appears from the temple. The monks tie up Tobimaru and escort the boy to the center of the complex, where the head monk greets him, then hands him over to the Ming. Lord Akaike’s men attack the Ming in an attempt to capture the boy for ransom. The Lord’s men fall easily, but one takes off on a horse to gather reinforcements, which alerts Nanashi to the commotion. He arrives at the battle scene after the Ming leave with Kotaro, and demands information from Shouan. The monk proclaims that he had no choice, and that if Nanashi were in his position, he too would have given up the boy. Deeply disturbed by the monk’s justification, the ronin deems Shouan unworthy of being a monk and races off on foot with Tobimaru to the Shishine fortress, where the Ming have constructed a gigantic altar.

Shogun Itadori arrives at the temple after Nanashi leaves, finding Shouan’s body hanging from one of the trees. While Itadori is gone from the daimyo’s mansion, Luo Lang, Lord Byakuran, and the other Ming kidnap Lord Akaike and take him to Shishine. Itadori is alerted to this and makes his way on horseback with his lieutenant, meeting up with a platoon of soldiers on the way to the fortress. They reach the fortress before Nanashi. The Ming use the daimyo in an attempt to stall for time, but Itadori has his own agenda and his lieutenant kills the lord before they storm the fortress gates.

The battle is well under way when Nanashi arrives, and is caught in a blast that destroys part of the fortress and kills most of Itadori’s men, but survives unscathed. While trapped in the debris, he relives the moment that caused him to put down his blade: he obeyed an order to kill the children of the lord he helped depose, despite his own moral code. He comes back to reality with new resolve to save Kotaro and escapes the debris, working his way to the boy. One of the surviving Ming attacks him, but the ronin breaks the binding preventing him from drawing his blade and kills the Ming with ease. Tobimaru, having gone up the altar while Nanashi was buried beneath the debris, delays the sacrifice long enough for the ronin to reach the altar, but not enough for Nanashi to get to the top. Knowing he can’t make it, he throws his sword, and it kills the large Ming assigned to kill Kotaro.

Nanashi makes his way to the top and reunites with the boy. However, the Ming still want Kotaro, and two attack the ronin. He kills one Ming fighter, but is blinded by a spray of blood, though he manages to send himself and the remaining attacker off the platform to the one below. Only he survives the fall, and while Kotaro pulls him from the edge of the platform, Lord Byakuran fires at him. Luo Lang has different plans for the ronin, however, and slices through the gun and the elderly man’s left arm, causing the bullet to miss its target. Luo Lang reveals his true nature: he cares not about the Emperor’s medicine, nor about the boy, only about finding a warrior who can defeat him. Thus, they fight, and Nanashi ultimately wins.

A still from the final fight scene that showcases the film's exceptional art.

A still from the final fight scene that showcases the film’s exceptional art.

And now I can talk about how much I liked it. There are very few animes that I don’t end up nitpicking to death, whether it’s over bad writing, bad animation, or bad editing. Sword of the Stranger is an exceptional film in pretty much every way. The animation is beautiful, the plot is strong, the characters are genuine, and the dialogue is real.

To start with the animation, it is supreme when it counts, and was sloppy in all the right ways. The level of detail and care put into this film is palpable, most notably during the final fight scene. Not to mention the beautifully painted backgrounds that give it an even more authentic feel.

Now on to the plot, which is your basic samurai epic; this is not a bad thing. Traditional samurai epics are fantastic things to behold, and this film brings only glory to its genre. It is complex without being confusing, and each majour character is well-defined in the context of the plot. The ‘invasion’ of the Ming adds an interesting element to the film, as it brings extra-cultural influences as well as a hint of the supernatural.

As for the characters, none of them feel out of place or forced, with their traits displayed naturally and effectively. Luo Lang and Nanashi are an intriguing duo in opposition due to both their similarities and differences. Both are foreigners, are exceptional fighters, and are driven by their own motives. In contrast, Luo Lang seems to have little use for morals, where Nanashi adheres to them strictly. Nanashi’s agreement to escort Kotaro and Tobimaru to Mangaku temple, and ultimately saving the boy from a sacrificial death, is a way for the ronin to clear his guilty conscience, to repent for the killing of innocents he had done in the past, while Luo Lang’s only desire is to find an opponent worthy of killing him. I could go on about the characters for hours, so I won’t, and will move onto my final topic, the dialogue.

I’m a writer myself, and one of the few things about writing that always gave me trouble was dialogue. Having recently taken up screenwriting, I have learned to appreciate the dialogue in films much more than I used to; but it also means I’m much more critical of it. A good film can end up being cringeworthy if the dialogue is badly written, and good dialogue is memorable, even if the film isn’t so great. So when I say that the dialogue in this film is real, I mean that the writer knew exactly what they were doing. This can be surprisingly uncommon. Unfortunately, I was not able to get a translation for the spoken Chinese, so I only have a faint idea of what was said, but all the English was spot-on.

In closing, I’ll reiterate: this is a great film. I would recommend this to everyone mature enough to watch it, including those who don’t usually enjoy anime.

Nanashi and Tobimaru

Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone

Evangelion 1.01 you are not alone

 

This review is purely of the first Neon Genesis Evangelion movie/rebuild, “You Are (Not) Alone”, and does not cover (and isn’t compared with) the original anime series or the subsequent movies. This review is spoiler free.
Earth is being attacked by gigantic creatures called Angels, whose purpose is to annihilate the human species. Shinji Ikari, a meek little boy who’s seeking to win his father’s approval, is chosen to pilot Evangelion Unit 01, a mecha which is capable of killing Angels. Can Shinji overcome the difficulties of growing up and accept the fact that no human can walk without a burden on their shoulders, all while defeating the monstrous Angels?
From the point of view of someone who has not watched the original 26 episode series, the story is very confusing. Why are mechas that are larger than skyscrapers piloted by kids? What are these “Angels”? Why do all the Angels attack only Tokyo? I had no idea what the hell was going on for the first 20 minutes of the movie. The movie didn’t answer any of these questions, but the MAL synopsis of the original series did. It wasn’t very hard to deduce through the course of the movie though, considering it was the usual shonen fare, mixed in with a lot of sci-fi Hollywood elements. The plot is nothing standout. But then again, what did you expect when the main character was a boy (whose father is a genius) is The Chosen One and once again, the fate of the world and the human species is put in the hands of a Japanese kid. Oh, and throw in a female tsundere and two goofballs while you’re at it.
Adding fuel to this sci-fi letdown fire are the clichéd scenarios. You have just about every single one of the usual shonen scenes, such as the boy seeing the girl naked unintentionally, memories flashing across the screen whenever the hero is losing the battle, eyes going into the shadows when talking about the past – you name it. You can see the climax coming from a mile away and I had a hard time stifling my yawns. Totally predictable, unless you’re new to anime.

 

Evangelion 1.01 you are not alone

 

However, sci-fi fans will be entertained to nerdgasmic proportions thanks to the drop-dead-gorgeous animation. Gainax went all out on this one. You can almost see the cash on the Angels. The characters are very well detailed and the movements are fluid, even with CGI. Mecha battles are a real treat and will have you nerd-drooling all over the place. The whole thing looks fantastic. My only complaint was that Shinji’s mecha looked disproportionate at times and that the NERV logo was drawn inconsistently. Still, good enough to get a perfect ten from me.
One thing I did find very distasteful was the (mild spoiler) nudity of kids. There were certain moments in the movie when I felt the Youth Ordinance Bill was justified.
Soundtrack is fitting. Not much else to be said here, other than the fact that I found the OP, Beautiful World, to be an awesome track. The seiyu were doing a great job, but I felt the English dub wasn’t nearly as good as the original version. As if Shinji’s whiny personality wasn’t enough, his voice actor makes you want to pull your hair out in annoyance. It was a problem of miscasting more than the language itself.
NGE You are (Not) Alone was fairly entertaining. It wasn’t adrenaline pumping awesome nor was it excoriating to watch. It was somewhere along the middle, slightly leaning towards the former, but comes nowhere close. The movies was completely devoid of emotions and it felt hollow. Never did I find myself emotionally connecting to the characters, even in the most dramatic scenes. It’s pretty good for killing time, but I don’t think I would ever watch this more than once.

 

Evangelion 1.01 you are not alone

 

[ THE WRAP-UP ]
Neon Genesis Evangelion: You Are (Not) Alone is a great shonen-mecha anime. But if you’re looking for anything more than that, chances are, you aren’t going to find it in this 100 minute movie. The plot is predictable and will rarely surprise you because of the avalanche of clichés, which pile one on top of each other. That said, it’s still a fun fare for shonen fans that are looking for a couple of hours worth of good entertainment. Spectacular animation reflects on the (extremely) high production values. The ending wasn’t very conclusive, but it left you wanting for more. However, this movie does no justice to the tremendous amount of hype (and acclaim) is received.
Rating:
7/10

 

Fall Anime 2014

 

 

 
Fall 2014 Anime Chart v3.1

Aoi Bungaku Series

Aoi Bungaku Series

For a long time now, the psychology genre has been dominated by the likes of Elfen Lied, Higurashi, Monster and Requiem for a Phantom. All these anime looked at psychology as the mindset of a murderer or the troubled past of the protagonist, and there were also shows like Death Note, which focused on the mental abilities of two geniuses. This has been the way anime have defined the psychology genre for years.

But, as always, along comes a player that changes the way the game is played.

Aoi Bungaku Series thrusts you into the shows of the protagonists and synchronizes their brain to yours. It gives you a spectacularly detailed insight into their thoughts and feelings, all while following an intense storyline.

The show is the anime adaptation of several literary masterpieces in Japan (much like Ayakashi Classic Japanese Horror), some of them dating back to the late 1920s. ABS portrays six such immortal classics, each of them highlighting the complex and fickle nature of the human mind. Except for the first arc, each arc lasts only two episodes. Writing an in-depth analysis of each of the stories would be giving away too much and might ruin the experience. If you want absolutely no spoilers, then I recommend you do not read the MAL synopsis either, as it contains nearly half the story. Here’s a quick breakdown of the basic elements of each of the stories, while keeping the spoilers to a bare minimum:

(NOTE: Each arc is a completely different story, are in no way interrelated and can even be viewed as a standalone anime. That’s the primary reason why I’m reviewing each arc separately.)

Aoi Bungaku Series

No Longer Human – This classic, written by Dazai Osamu, focuses on a psychotic and troubled mind – that of a congressman’s son. Set in 1929, this dark and gloomy arc was the longest, lasting four episodes, which proves to be more than enough time to let the viewer unravel the protagonist’s twisted perceptions of society and how he bears the pressure of being crushed under the weight of his own ego. Drenched with sadness and pregnant with hope, each of those four episodes is memorable to say the least. After watching this arc, you understand why No Longer Human was the defining work of the author and the most read literary piece in Japan.

Under Cherries in Full Bloom – Probably the most bizarre two episodes of an anime I’ve ever seen in my life. Ango Sakaguchi, the author, tries to tell a tale of how people need to speak their minds in order to live a peaceful life. However, his idealistic approach on decadence falls short in this anime adaptation, because of unnecessary humor, inappropriate chibi animations and dreadfully boring jazzy songs.  The sudden light-heartedness and lackadaisical pacing feels like a fish out of water after watching the melancholy and sorrowful No Longer Human.

Kokoro – Natsume Soseki is considered the Charles Dickens of Japan for good reason. I felt like I was drifting along in a sea filled with the characters’ emotions. When I talked about this anime being the game changer, I was mainly referring to this arc. It weaves a bittersweet story of love, lust, trust, jealousy and friendship.

Run, Melos! – “Is it more painful to wait, or to make someone wait?” The most straightforward story of the lot. The storyline is very basic and is about a playwright’s life, as he spends his life waiting for his childhood friend to come and meet him. Once again, this was written by Dazai Osamu and is the retelling of a Greek legend, the overall theme of the arc being unwavering friendship. As I said, it’s a very simple story and it can get a tad predictable, but since it lasts for only forty minutes, it’s an enjoyable ride.

The Spider’s Thread – What starts off as a brutal Assassin’s Creed anime, ends up as a crude moral story that is far too short to convey any real message. While the basic idea of Ryunosuke Akutagawa was to entertain children with this novel, the anime adaptation is aimed at a much more mature audience because of its gore and profanity. A good story, but 20 minutes proves to be too short to convey the author’s ideals.

Hell Screen –Penned by the same author as Spider’s Thread, Hell Screen succeeds exactly where The Spider’s Thread fails – it gets its point through in a single episode. This arc is about an artist and his struggle to paint his masterpiece, much like O.Henry’s “The Last Leaf”.

Aoi Bungaku Series

The animation in this show is one of the best I’ve ever seen, if not the best. The show features some of the highest production values to date. It’s also one of the very few anime that managed to use CGI well. The generous use of the morose red in the first arc, No Longer Human, was what contributed to the eerie atmosphere of the anime.

The soundtrack is great. While the instrumental pieces were fitting, the series doesn’t have an OP and the ED was not very good.

As far as content warning goes, this show is rated R17 for a reason. Not only does it feature a large amount of blood, gore, sex and profanity, but it also contains strong messages about the society, which younger audiences will neither understand nor appreciate.

The subbing by Masterpiece was perfect and provided T/L notes wherever necessary.

But when it’s all said and done, Aoi Bungaku Series is not a show that will ever have universal appeal. Due to its complex nature and dark atmosphere, this show will most probably never see the light of the day.

Aoi Bungaku Series

[ THE WRAP-UP ]

Aoi Bungaku Series is one of the darkest and most complex anime out there. Not only does it show ‘psychology’ in an entirely new light, but it also provides an artful insight into Imperial Japan. Excellent animation and a strong soundtrack make sure that this anime is technically sound. Being an adaptation of six different novels, each arc is bound to have a different impact on the viewer, but maintain an overall consistency in the intensity of the storyline. Aoi Bungaku Series is definitely not for everyone and is made for a limited audience. If you don’t like the first couple of episodes, then I don’t think you’re going to like the rest of the series either. Those looking for happy endings or lighthearted storylines are not going to be impressed with this one. However, if you’re in the mood for a dark, depressing anime about the world’s cruelty and a gripping psychological anime, then Aoi Bungaku Series might fit the bill. Individual story ratings given below:

No Longer Human – 9/10

Under the Cherry Blossoms – 7/10

Kokoro – 10/10

Run, Melos! – 8/10

The Spider’s Thread – 8/10

Hell Screen – 9/10

Rating:

9/10

Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou

zoku natsume yuujinchou

Checklist:

High school boy with supernatural abilities – Check.

Shunned by society due to his powers – Check.

Dead Parents – Check.

Ancestor with the same power – Check.

Funny sidekick – Check.

Sigh…a typical show, huh? … But, wait! I have one more item on my checklist –

Totally awesome anime that manages to break out of its generic setting and blossoms into something absolutely fascinating and surpasses its predecessor in almost every way – Check.

Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou is the second season of the show Natsume Yuujinchou. There are no major storyline changes and these 13 episodes are a direct continuation of the first season. Although detailed knowledge of the first season isn’t required, it definitely gives you a better understanding and connection with the characters.

For those who want to give the first season a skip (although I wouldn’t), here is a quick synopsis: You follow Natsume, a high school student and his encounters with youkai. Youkai are basically demons (or ghosts) that are invisible to most humans. Once a youkai gives its name to a human, then it pledges its soul to the human and they can never truly pass on unless they have their names back. Natsume’s grandmother, Reiko, had collected the names of various youkai and recorded them in a book called the “Yuujinchou” or “The Book of Friends”. After her death, this book falls into Natsume’s hands and a never ending stream of spirits come after him. Along with Madara, the demon cat, he sets about dissolving these youkai contracts, while trying not to get killed by them.

Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou

While the basic story is pretty straightforward, the actual episodes are not. Each episode contains a lot of elements, each mixed in the right proportion – action, mystery, drama, comedy, supernatural and slice of life. The stories/arcs feel complete and don’t have the half-baked feel that they had last time around. There is an overall consistency. Unlike last season, where you had youkai coming and just getting their names back or trying to steal the Yuujinchou, in Zoku you get youkai that have bizarre requests. And this adds a whole new dimension to the show. The anime now revolves less around the youkai’s names and shifts its focus to the back-stories of these youkai. Each youkai tells a tale that is intriguing and thoughtful. This also makes the anime’s objective clear – to focus on the relationships of humans and not actually the youkai.

Although it retains its episodic format, the anime manages to bring in an overall arching plot. Yes, that means you can’t watch it in any random order and this makes the show far more engaging than the earlier disjoint episodes. You feel that the anime is actually going somewhere and not just dawdling around with half-dead creatures.

But let’s look at Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou as a stand-alone and not as a sequel to Natsume Yuujinchou: Zoku is an entertaining show, to say the least. Not only does it provide you with certain intense situations, but it also puts you in the shoes of Natsume so gently, that you can hardly feel yourself drifting into the world of the characters. And you want to stay there and never leave. This charming handling is proof enough that the show does not lack in the plot. It takes true skill to transport the viewer into a fictional world where the characters aren’t exactly happy. I mean, think about it – Would you go into the world of Harry Potter, knowing that Harry was not yet born and it was still the Dark Ages with Voldemort running around and massacring people?

In case you’re still wondering why I think this anime managed to stand out compared to its counterparts, it’s because of the overlying genre of Slice of Life. How often do you see an anime which has demons, spirit cats, ancestral prodigies and a legendary book, but focuses not only on these, but also on the emotions of the protagonist AND the youkai? Not often.

The animation has improved slightly, but not much to say here – pretty standard stuff for a 2009 anime. Everything looks like it should and the characters designs are pretty detailed. Backgrounds are as gorgeous as ever. Overall, the animation is perfect for this kind of series.

On a side note, (this might sound kinda weird), but if you liked the display picture of Zoku Natusume Yuujinchou on MAL, then chances are, you’ll like the anime. The cover art was the reason why I picked this anime up in the first place.

Although there are no major soundtrack additions, there is a new OP and an ED. The OP is solid and is an upbeat song, with a pretty catchy tune. The ED was the definition of charming and it’s one of the best ballads ever. The vocals were very sweet and the piano playing in the background was played in a gentle and melodious manner. The lyrics of the ED were superb. It’s not often that you see an anime song whose lyrics you remember, but “Aishiteru”’s lyrics is one I will remember for a long time to come (“Hey, just a little longer. Can you listen to me just a little longer? Hey, just a little longer. Can I be selfish just a little longer?”). The BGM is apt.

The characters are what truly made this anime loveable. In NY, Natsume’s plight as a social outcast never really triggered any sort of emotional reaction from me. But, in Zoku, Natsume’s loneliness is highlighted in a much more subtle manner and somehow, this managed to capture my attention. I was finally able to sympathize with him and was genuinely moved by his condition. He finally realizes that he doesn’t need to do this alone and that there are people out there looking out for him. After watching the entire show, I realized how much I liked him. In fact, if you were to meet me in real life, he’s the character I would resemble the most. He is a character that I will hold close to my heart.

Madara is back and this time he steps up his game. His jokes are hilarious and sometimes I found myself literally ROFLing at his silly jokes. His snide remarks are loaded with sarcasm and rival Kyon’s. You can also see him developing, in a fatherly-tsundere way. You have two other characters, whose names I cannot mention, who play an important role in Natsume’s life and you get to see them in about 3 or 4 episodes, which is a lot considering that the first season contained only Tanuma, who appeared for a grand total of twelve minutes in the whole series. Both these characters actually represent the yin and yang of Natsume’s outlook on youkai.

The show also addresses the question that constantly haunts Natsume – Is he or is he not grateful for having the ability to see youkai? To know the answer to that, you just have to watch the show. But I’ll tell you this – Natsume is a more complex character than you think.

Overall, Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou is the kind of show I would pick up in a couple of years and still feel the same way about it. It’s fast, fun and fresh.  And most importantly, it is one of the very few anime out there that is able to distinguish the fine line between Slice of Life and Drama. That being said, this anime does not have universal appeal. If you’ve watched Kino’s Journey, Mushishi, xxxHOLiC or Haibane Renmei, you can’t go wrong with this one. But then again, the fact that not a single reviewer has given this anime a score below 9 even a year after its completion is testament to the fact that this anime truly is, one of a kind.

[ THE WRAP-UP ]

Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou succeeds where several anime of its genre fail – providing thought-provoking entertainment. Its emphasis on how life is a journey and how, more than often, you find yourself all alone in it and how it is at that moment, do we find the people that truly matter and who will provide us with the moments that we will cherish for the rest of our lives. Set in an episodic format, each episode/arc is loaded with content that packs a punch so hard, in such a gentle manner, that you are bound to be knocked out by its charm. The animation is smooth and the soundtrack is apt. The ED deserves special credit for its sweet vocals and charming lyrics. ZNY is testament to proof that Slice of Life is a genre that CAN be used successfully alongside action and also illustrates why Drama and Slice of Life are actually two very different genres. If you loved the first four episodes, then you’re going to have a wonderful nine episodes ahead, but if not, then this anime is just not for you. With a great atmosphere and balanced elements, this anime is one that you should sit up and take notice of. Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou is the butterfly coming out of the cocoon of its predecessor – beautiful, elegant and something that you will remember for the rest of your life.

New Anime for Summer 2014

Been wanting to post this before it is too late. Check out some of the new anime airing in Japan, and let us know what you would like to see reviews of.

 

 

 

Summer 2014 Anime Chart v3

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