This blog’s eighth anniversary came and went on April 5th without comment. Oops! Hopefully, I blog a little more regularly next month. May these quick takes in some way make up for my lack of posting!
I have finally made progress in Ashita no Joe II. Joe Yabuki is almost in position to fight his greatest rival to date: Bantamweight World Champion Jose Mendoza. (It’s funny to consider that most of the strong and tough boxers in this anime weigh 118 pounds or less!) The buildup to this fight has been even more intense than the one between Rikiishi Touru and our hero.
I can’t recommend this classic enough. After all of the anime I’ve seen, nothing tops Ashita no Joe—a fifty year old anime! Sure, modern shows beat it in the realm of animation, but the characters and fights of more modern stuff fall flat when compared to Ashita no Joe (aka Tomorrow’s Joe or Champion Joe). Anyone who can should watch this masterpiece.
A few anime from Spring 2020 fit my fancy. The first one should be no surprise: My Next Life as a Villainess: All Roads Lead to Doom. The anime manages to stick close to the source material while cutting out parts which would slow down the story. It finishes the events of the first novel in three episodes, bringing our heroine to the magic academy by episode four.
Having watched four episodes, part of me wonders whether this will turn out to be a yuri. You see, the heroine is terrible at discerning the affection the male love interest characters have for her. She also managed to steal two of the male characters’ plot events in regard to their romances. The first leads to Mary falling for Katarina, and I have to wonder whether the second will lead to the putative heroine falling for Katarina also. Well, we’ll see. I refuse to search for spoilers.
Another anime from Spring 2020 to catch my attention was Sing “Yesterday” for Me. It reminds me a lot of After the Rain in terms of characters who have lost their sense of purpose and the unequal relationship at the heart of the story. (Unequal in terms of age.) Animation-wise, however, there is no comparison. After the Rain is a stunning masterpiece in terms of visuals, while Sing “Yesterday” for Me utilizes more basic animation. Still, the softness of the lines in the latter anime work well to conform with the mood of the story.
Last, but not least, is Wave, Listen to Me! This anime features a waitress who finds herself dragged into the radio business after a drunken rant of hers is broadcast across Hokkaido. She speeds down to the radio station, where the manager offers to let her explain herself on air. Impressed with her natural talent, he offers her a time slot…at 3:30 AM.
Kudos to Riho Sugiyama for being able to play a frenetic character like Minare Koda. I cannot recall another role which she has done, but she must be a spectacular new voice actress not to permanently lose her voice by playing Minare.
Recently, I noticed that Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex could be obtained cheaply on Walmart’s website ($17). The first time I tried to watch the anime was in either 2005 or 2006, and it did not grab me then. Watching things like Gunslinger Girl, All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku, Solty Rei, and others must have expanded my taste for cyborg and robot anime since I’m enjoying Ghost in the Shell now. You can say that this anime fan has come a long way from only wanting to watch samurai and fantasy anime!
I found the perfect anime for our coronavirus lockdown situation: How Heavy are the Dumbbells You Lift? The show manages to be both funny and informative. Much of the advice applies to ways to workout at home without equipment. There is a decent amount of fanservice when showing off the benefits of exercise, but I did not find it excessive. I highly recommend skipping the opening and closing songs. The worship of muscles did become progressively annoying, which makes it a good thing this anime is only twelve episodes long. ★★★ 1/2
For the final quick take, I’d like to mention an excellent biography: Stepinac: His Life and Times by Robin Harris. This book concerns Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac of Zagreb, Croatia. He held this see from just prior to WWII until 1960. Serbs and Communists have attempted to make Stepinac seem like a Nazi collaborator. This is the reason his canonization has been held up by Pope Francis. (This must count as the first time atheists and non-Catholic Christians have held up the canonization of a Catholic saint!)
The author of this book has lived most of his life in Zagreb and speaks Croatian fluently. This has helped him use eyewitness testimony and previously sealed documents to show that Stepinac was a hero, saving countless Serbs and Jews from the Ustashe regime and defying the Nazi ideology in his sermons. (The general commanding German forces in that area commented that a German bishop would not leave his pulpit alive after preaching the way Stepinac did!) Stepinac also spoke against the communist regime which set itself up after WWII over Yugoslavia, which led to his famous show trial and imprisonment.
I find this book highly readable and yet well footnoted. People with an interest in how WWII played out in Slavic countries and the Cold War will like it.