Rating the Anime of Winter 2019, pt. 1

Here begins the first part of a long set of reviews–at least, of what I call reviews.  I tend to describe the facets of each show which I found enjoyable or deplorable.  After all, the other anime reviewers have covered all the technical points by now, and I’d likely only be repeating myself.

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The following six out of the eleven anime watched in Winter 2019 rate from 2 1/2 to 3 stars.  For me, two and a half stars refers to a mediocre anime which disappointed me, but not enough for me to consider it to have been a waste of my time.  Three stars designates a decent anime which I enjoyed but will not watch again.  Three and a half star anime are good enough to be worth watching again in the future and contain aspects which make them memorable.  I’m inclined to be generous with that last rating.  Thankfully, I did not run into any anime I’d rate two stars or less this season, which are all levels of poor quality.

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Let’s begin, shall we?  Spoilers ahead!

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Commentary on a Shield Hero and Slavery Post

Recently, Beneath the Tangles featured a very long and well-written post on the topic of slavery in The Rising of the Shield Hero.  It is worth your time to read when you have a good chunk of free time:

Guest Post: When a Shield Hero Becomes a Slave Owner

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Slavery is a very interesting topic in regards to Christianity, because the Bible never condemns it in explicit terms.  This has led to epochs where rulers and nobility saw slavery as permissible, especially in the Age of Exploration and when the wars between Christendom and Islam became more advanced.  Thus, the papacy had to condemn the practice several times in encyclicals and statements in the years 1462, 1537, 1639, 1741, 1815, and 1839.  (See Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life by Stanley M. Elkins.)  I might also add the 1435 encyclical commanding that Canary Islanders be freed from the condition of slavery.  That slavery could be countenanced is rather odd when one considers that Medieval society had made great strides in eliminating slavery with its borders so that it was virtually non-existent by the 11th century, which coincides with the end of the Viking Age.

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Five Favorite Anime of 2018

Now comes the post to sum up the highlights of 2018.  Last year did not have the same quality as 2017, which saw every anime in the top five rated 9/10 or 10/10.  Yet, 2018 was still a great year, offering plenty of four star anime to choose from.  It was difficult to choose between them.  In the end, I chose #3 – #5 based on how much enthusiasm I felt for these anime when they came out.  Honorable mentions go to Hinamatsuri and Golden Kamuy.

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5) Isekai Izakaya ★★★★

I cannot imagine giving a short more than four stars, but part of me wanted to make an exception for Isekai IzakayaDagashi Kashi II stands as another example of a well done and hilarious short from last year.  (It’s ironic that the original Dagashi Kashi was too long and the sequel too short.  If only season one had been a series of shorts, and the second season used full length episodes!)  But, where Isekai Izakaya trumps Dagashi Kashi II lies in how the former excelled in more than comedy and lovable characters.  Isekai Izakaya builds a great fantasy world using the Holy Roman Empire of the High Middle Ages as a basis–just as Isuna Hasekura did for Spice and Wolf.  In addition to exploring the world of Japanese cuisine in the anime, it offered some bonus segments alternating between a young chef showing the viewers how to make the dishes portrayed in the anime and an old gourmand touring various Japanese eateries.

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Pro Deo et Patria & What is Your Country?

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading TWWK’s post “For God or Country? Violet Evergarden and Divided Allegiance.”  It was a very good post meditating on Violet Evergarden’s relationship to her country and also about the relationship between piety and patriotism.  However, “For God or Country?” is a question which one should never have to ask.  In that regard, it’s like the question “Liberty or Equality?”  In these times of egalitarian extremism, we might be tempted to say “Liberty!”  But, the fact of the matter is one cannot throw out either liberty or equality without the end result being tyranny.  A society needs the proper balance of these two things to thrive: let’s say 70% liberty and 30% equality–if one can so quantify the two ideas!

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In regard to God and country, the problem is not one of balance but of order, as TWWK avers: “…I understood the idea that my allegiance to God trumps all other allegiances, meaning I could still be loyal to my country, still treasure it, but not above all, not above God.”  This is a very satisfactory answer and recalls the fact that some people reverse the order.  America is such a great country that one does find Americans who seem to worship–worship in the archaic sense of to praise and to serve–their country more than God.  This kind of patriotism exists as a vice rather than a virtue: love of God ought to come before love of country.

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Biting off More Anime than I Can Chew

Long time readers have likely heard me complain that I can’t watch more than seven shows in a season and that four is the most I should follow.  Well, Winter 2019 is shaping up to be an awesome season: yours truly went ahead and picked up ten anime.  This amounts to 3.5 hours of anime per week or about 2% of the week.  This seems doable.  At any rate, let me get onto the anime without further ado.

 


1) Boogiepop and Others (Crunchyroll)

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You know, I never watched the original series, Boogiepop Phantom; though, it’s on my list of things to do.  Knowing about the original drew me to take a look at Boogiepop and Others.  The opening arc kept me in my seat for the entire three episodes.  It looks like your classic supernatural, monster-slaying anime set in a modern high school.  The fights, the suspense, and the mysterious nature of the setting make for a very intriguing anime, and I look forward to more.  Has anyone seen Boogiepop Phantom and would recommend it, by the way?

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A Samurai Anime You Should Watch: Angolmois

Happy New Year to my dears readers!  You have not heard from me since Christmas, but I’m still around.  My schedule for the near future promises to be freer than it has been for the past several months, so I hope to produce more content.  This content will include my top five anime from 2018, a run down of what I watched for Fall 2018, and what I intend to watch this season.  (So far, Boogiepop and Others, The Promised Neverland, and The Rising of the Shield Hero have caught my attention.)  Two of those posts are late indeed, but better late than never!

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In the current post, I want to encourage everyone to watch Angolmois: Record of the Mongol Invasion.  Angolmois came out during the summer of 2018, but I did not discover it until December of last year.  I love samurai anime, especially those with a strong core of bushido.  Angolmois does not disappoint on this score as it drips with the virtues of the samurai.  Any fan of samurai anime or medieval action would do well to pick up this anime.

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Dropping Golden Kamuy

Here’s a show which I feel sorry to drop.  Golden Kamuy stood as one of my favorite anime from two seasons ago.  I loved the aspects of it which dealt with the Ainu, the beautiful backgrounds, Hokkaido, and turn of the century Japan.  The action was great, and the characters interesting and fun.

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Yet, one unfortunate element intruded itself towards the end of season one: the author’s interest in serial killers.  Our heroes’ trip to the fishing village in search of more clues introduced a seriously disturbed fisherman, Henmi Kazuo, who became sexually aroused at the prospect of murder and death.  I found myself enduring rather than enjoying these couple of episodes.  And so, it probably comes as no surprise that I dropped the anime after the second season begins with introducing yet another crazed serial killer: Yasaku Edogai the taxidermist.

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Goblin Slayer and the Root of Horror

The Halloween season has given me some impetus to think about the horror genre.  A while back, an academic named E. Michael Jones was on the Patrick Coffin show explaining how he thought about the horror genre.  He has written at least two works on this subject: Monsters from the Id: The Rise of Horror in Fiction and Film and Sex with Monsters.  Jones believes that the modern horror genre arose as a reaction to the free love movements of the 19th century and reached its full flowering following the Sexual Revolution.  Many persons were hurt by the myriad problems which inevitably arise from sexual licentiousness and enjoyed a cathartic reaction from a central message of many horror stories: sex can kill you.

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You all know how this story ends.  Or, if you don’t, School Days should be on your list.

School Days might be the anime locus classicus for such a theme, but my dear readers know–know even a priori–that playing Don Juan for a length of time is going to lead one to embarrassing, painful, and even dangerous situations.  People don’t like being used as playthings, and the relatives of the playthings take an even dimmer view of such conduct.  The fact that one’s partner consents to the relationship does not take away from the feeling of being used.  The Sexual Revolution tried to paint promiscuity as a desirable thing, even promoting contraceptives and abortion so that women could participate in “consequence- free” sex.

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Further Ruminations on Old School Anime

My thanks to all who have commented and participated in the poll below.   Your comments have forced me to think a little more about just what counts as old school anime.  In particular, I needed to think about how to separate it from both ancient anime and modern anime.  An old school anime has the following qualities:

  1. Not black and white
  2. Uses cel animation
  3. Character animation is less influenced by Disney’s style, usually with a sharper look
  4. Has a story which appeals to teenage and older anime fans, which appeal is proved by current fans of anime still seeking out these stories
  5. First aired between 1970 and 1999

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The fifth point likely surprises some of my readers.  My old parameters for old school anime stretched from 1960 – 1989.  This was based on the misconception that Ashita no Joe, an old school anime par excellence, aired in 1967, and I expected to find many others like this show in style.  Ashita no Joe actually only officially aired in 1970 (a pilot episode did appear in 1969), and only two anime exist in the in 60’s to which do not strike me as ancient: Tiger Mask (1969) and Star of the Giants (1968).  Not enough to classify the 60’s as an old school decade!

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What is Old School Anime?

This is just a little question for my dear readers.  I once argued with someone about the definition of Old School anime.  He argued that the term covered 90’s anime, while I said that it did not apply to 90’s anime.  I’m curious what the consensus is on what qualifies as Old School anime.  So, I’m placing a poll below asking about which decades you think this term applies.

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My opinion is that the 90’s counts as a transitional period from the old, hand-drawn cell method of animation to the more computerized version of animation we see in the 21st century.  I just refer to anime from that decade as “90’s anime.”  (You might say that we’ve entered another transitional period starting in around 2015, where CGI animation is becoming more used and accepted.)  I call 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s anime Old School, while anything before the 60’s is simply ancient.  (I ran a search on anime made during the 50’s on Anime-Planet, and the only thing I recognized was Hakujaden, aka The Legend of White Snake or Panda and the Magic Serpent.)  But, I imagine that some of my readers might call 60’s anime or even 70’s anime ancient.  At any rate, please satisfy my curiosity below.

Thanks for participating!

Quick Takes for Old Anime

It’s been a little while, my dear readers.  It looks like the regular anime season is past the mid-point, so I should write something up about what I’m up to.  If you recall, most of my current watch list consists of old anime on my backlog.  I did make an exception for Cells At Work, which was recommended by MIB of MIB’s Instant Headache–an excellent recommendation.

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Most of you are familiar with the idea and the format of Quick Takes, so I’m just going to jump right in.


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Vampire Princess Miyu TV (1997-98) comes pretty close to being a masterpiece at ★★★★ 1/2.  The closest anime to compare with this show has to be Hell Girl.  Both share a female protagonist bound by fate whose closest companions are otherworldly beings–called Shinma in Vampire Princess Miyu.  (The English translation simply used the Japanese word.  “God-demon” is the most literal translation and the most confusing one.  Often, one will see creatures like this just called demons despite the Japanese equivalent for what is usually meant by the word demon is akuma.  Subbers should just borrow the term longaevi from the Latin, as this is the most accurate term for a host of beings in Japanese mythology.)  While Ai Enma is summoned to send usually wicked people to hell, Miyu works by keeping her territory clear of stray Shinma.  She’s often willing to ignore the presence of stray Shinma as long as they behave, but she’ll send them into the demon realm within a fiery inferno should they choose to prey on humans.

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Skip the Summer Season!

This judgment of mine is coming a little late, but here goes.  Yours truly has been browsing through the 2018 Summer Anime Chart and reading the opinions of various bloggers.  At this point, I can honestly say that Summer 2018 looks like the worst anime season I have seen in a long time.  The only show that piqued my interest was Dies Irae: To the Ring Reincarnation, because I wonder whether they can salvage the anime from the train wreck of the original season (★★).  The best news about this summer is that certain good anime from the previous season are carrying over into this one, like Isekai Izakaya.*

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I can’t think of a better opportunity for catching up with one’s backlog.  Surely, you have some anime you’ve placed on the back-burner.  (From casually browsing Anime-Planet, my Want to Watch list numbers 361 titles!)  Now is the time to watch these shows.  Anime is more than the year 2018 after all!  This year counts as the hundred and first anniversary of anime, which began with Namakura-Gatana (1917), which means there’s more anime than the average fan can watch in a lifetime.

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Top Five Anime of 2017

This post has been delayed for far too long.  That I waited until this year to watch some of the best shows from last year contributed to the delay; though, laziness stands as the primary cause.  It is remarkable that four of the top five were aired on Amazon and that one streamed on Netflix.  Most of my anime is viewed by way of Crunchyroll, which often errs on the side of quantity over quality.  (Not a bad thing if one wants a more complete experience of each season.)  I have the impression that Netflix and Amazon have more resources to either contribute to making or culling the crème de la crème from each season’s lineup.

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Having said that, I wish that I could have included a show streamed from that pillar of the online anime community.  If this list had been made in January, I would have included a couple of them.  And so, let me list a couple of them to begin with as honorable mentions:

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Violet Evergarden: Best of Winter 2018

Many people followed Violet Evergarden episodically over the course of the last season.  I waited for the Netflix release and watched it in spurts of three to four episodes at a time.  This is a good thing, because I could not imagine waiting a whole week for another twenty minute chunk of this masterpiece.  If it were not for the rather complete ending offered by the first season, waiting for the second part would seem like an eternity.

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Violet Evergarden excelled at many levels.  The animation was spectacular–easily the best of last season.  I loved how well they captured the look of Old World European cities for the backgrounds.  Besides being very detailed, the backgrounds did a great job of conveying the mood: whether of a bright, sunny day in town or a dark night of death and chaos on the battlefield.  The juxtaposition of war and peace in Violet Evergarden, the greatest tragedy against the great desire of mankind, makes for very powerful tale–as Leo Tolstoy also knew when he penned arguably the greatest novel of all time, War and PeaceViolet Evergarden uses the interplay of these motifs about as well as I’ve ever seen in any anime.

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Brief Review of The Cat Returns

The Cat Returns strikes me as one of the lesser known Studio Ghibli titles.  There was a showing in theaters on Monday as part of Ghibli Fest 2018.  Today is the last day to see The Cat Returns in theaters, and I hope my dear readers are able to take advantage of it if they have the time.  Because no one talks about The Cat Returns, I assumed it was a mediocre film.  What I discovered on Monday was that it’s a splendid movie reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland and better than the Disney film of Lewis Caroll’s famous book.

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Before talking about the film, I must mention how vexatious Fathom Event’s presentation of the movie proved to be.  Having arrived twenty minutes early, I settled down to read some of Dostoyevsky’s short story “The Crocodile.”  It’s a very amusing short story which mocks capitalism and socialism at the same time.  The capitalist character basically lacks compassion for the poor and is overly academic.  The socialist character, who happens to get swallowed by a crocodile early in the short story, does not even live in reality.  This gentleman somehow manages to live after being swallowed by the crocodile and feels that his position, that of one cut off from humanity and in complete darkness, somehow qualifies him to propose new economic and social theories to mankind.  It has to be one of Dostoyevsky’s funniest pieces, and I’d recommend “The Crocodile” to anyone with some spare time.

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Anime Winter 2018 Season Review: Part 2

Well, I’ve delayed writing the second part of this series of posts enough to have watched Violet Evergarden in the meantime.  As you suspect, I waited until Netflix released it.  I have to say that Violet Evergarden stands head and shoulders above everything which came out in the winter 2018 season.  So, I modified my last post such that it covers #10-7, this post will cover #6-2, and Violet Evergarden deserves a post of its own.

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6) A Place Further than the Universe ★★★ 1/2

Many people have placed this show first for the season.  In my case, this genre is so far from one of my favorites ( my favorites being fantasy, action, and comedy) that A Place Further than the Universe had no chance of rising so far–especially with its standard quality animation.  Kudos still goes to this show for how eager I was to watch it every week.  In a more usual season, where there are more subpar anime, it would have risen higher on the list.

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Anime Winter 2018 Season Review: Part 1

I have not written many posts on the past season, but I managed to keep up with nine anime.*  Yes, that’s one more than I noted in my mid-season review and two more than I started with.  This season displayed good quality overall.  None of the following shows fell below three stars.  At the same time, none rose above four.  I thought that Kokkoku: Moment by Moment might have broken into the masterpiece or classic range, but it did not do enough with its unique cast and setting.  The plot slowed down after the first third of the show, and not much really happened over the course of twelve episodes.

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Anyway, the following season review will be broken up into two parts.  The first part includes the bottom four.  The second part will include the top five.  I hope to have that out tomorrow.


 

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10) Takunomi ★★★

Here’s a short about four female roommates exploring the world of alcoholic beverages together.  (That four women live in the same apartment rather highlights how expensive living in Tokyo is.  Though, rooming with someone in early adulthood is pretty common.)  The characters were all very likable and some scenes were outrageously funny.  Exempli gratia:

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Anime Winter 2018 Mid-Season Review

I should get on with this review before this season gets any closer to the end.  Many anime have already released their tenth episode by this point!  Let me just note that you should be seeing my top five anime of 2017 and a quick takes post on the various anime I’m consuming right now in the near future.  Before I wrote a definite top five list, there were a couple of shows which I wanted to try.  Am I glad that I did: these two anime took the first two places with five stars!

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At any rate, below are my thoughts on the now eight anime I’m watching from the current season.  I decided that I had room on my schedule to add the short Takunomi, which I’ll be comparing to Osake wa Fuufu ni Natte Kara.


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1) After the Rain

Here’s a show which has seen an endless number of bloggers comment on the premise.  Is it right for the 17 year old Akira Tachibana to desire a romantic relationship with the 45 year old Masami Kondo?  How appropriate is such a relationship?  It’s not appropriate at all: Kondo’s wife is still alive.  Kondo would sin if he began another romantic relationship, and Akira likewise if she were to become his partner.

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Days 8 – 10 of 10 Days to 500 Anime: Unlimited Blade Works Movie, Submarine 707 Revolution, & Ex-Driver the Movie

Well, that took twenty-nine days rather than ten!  The last time I completed another hundred anime, it also took longer than ten days, leading me to dub the series “Dragging Myself to 400 Anime.”  (To be precise, I now have 503 anime under my belt.  I’ll tell you about those extra three sometime later.)  On a side note, a few people have sent me questions through “Ask Medieval,” and I hope to get to those soon.  The query I received about Wolf and Parchment, the sequel to Spice and Wolf, might take a little while.  It’s hard to get used to Col and Myuri after spending so much time following the travels of Holo and Lawrence.  But, I’ll get through volume one soon enough.

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Myuri is apparently only ten years old, by the way.  Too young to go adventuring!

Anyway, a lot is on my plate–including mid-season reviews!  For now, please enjoy these brief reviews of the last three movies in this series.  Following the reviews will be the rankings of all ten movies.

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Day 7 of 10 Days to 500 Anime: Time of Eve

So far, Time of Eve has the lowest rating of the movies in this series.  The fault lies more with the constraints of the format than the story itself.  The movie condenses a six episode OVA into an abridged version of one hour and forty-five minutes.  Abridged versions can work: many people praise the Vision of Escaflowne movie–even over the original TV series.  As for myself, Escaflowne is one anime I never wanted to see the end of, so I’ve never given the movie much thought.  With Time of Eve, so much of the story revolves around what’s going on in the character’s heads and the state of their society.  So, abridging our heroes’ journey does the story a disservice.  The audience wished to be immersed in the intellectual lives of the characters, which takes more time in film than in print.

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The movie focuses on how we should treat androids/robots if they became conscious or self-aware.  Blade Runner touches on about the same theme.  It’s fun to dabble with ideas like this in fiction, but it’s a materialistic fallacy to believe consciousness correlates to intelligence or programming of some sort.  Computers can be very smart: they can now best both chess and go professionals.  Computers may even soon have programs which allow them to learn like a human being would.  But, learning and smarts can’t bestow a soul on something.  A mind aware of itself, capable of meditating on first principles, and able to ponder its highest good is a distinct gift given by God to persons–whether human or angelic.

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