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.
Most of you are familiar with the idea and the format of Quick Takes, so I’m just going to jump right in.
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.
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.*
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 Peace. Violet Evergarden uses the interplay of these motifs about as well as I’ve ever seen in any anime.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s a classic everyone has heard of, but I only watched it a few days ago. It’s a very emotional film. Knowing that, I steeled myself against the tragedy I knew was coming, which was probably the wrong way to watch the film. Instead of riding the emotional rollercoaster, you might say I watched the ride sitting on a bench somewhere with a soft drink. The result was that I examined the tragic flaws of our hero rather than grieved over the tragedy of the orphans’ plight. My focus was on why they suffered instead of the how they suffered.
In the case of firebombing the Germans and the Japanese in WWII, I can never reconcile myself to the legitimacy of this form of warfare. With the nuclear bombs, one can legitimately claim destroying industrial parks and dockyards as the main objective, while terrorizing the enemy into surrender as the secondary objective. Incendiary bombs, especially of the sort used in WWII, have no effect on factories built with steel and cement. Firebombs work much better against wooden houses–especially houses of Japanese design. When it comes to firebombing, terrorizing the enemy is still the secondary objective, but destroying civilian homes and killing non-combatants becomes the primary objective.
On Day 4, I watched From up on Poppy Hill. You’ll be amused to learn that I did not find an English sub or dub and had to watch it raw. Despite having only a low intermediate knowledge of Japanese, I never felt lost while watching the plot or listening to the dialogue. That the themes of this movie revolved around basic things like family, friends, love, and young people striving for independence helped.
That the animation imitated an older style (it felt like I was watching something from 2001, not 2011) added a nice touch to the story. The images of the ships and the waterfront were beautiful, but I also enjoyed the scenes of crowded city streets. All in all, the backgrounds do a nice job of immersing the viewer in that time and place.
Hello, All! It’s been too long since my last movie review, and so an update of sorts seems appropriate. I should get back to the movie reviews starting today. From up on Poppy Hill and In This Corner of the World were both very well done, and these two films might be treated in the same post. After that, I’ll get back to writing one movie review a day–if all goes well.
I had forgotten that Satoshi Kon directed Millenium Actress until his name rolled across the opening credits. Even if one had missed his name, the quirky Satoshi Kon method of transitioning from scene to scene would have tipped me off. Millennium Actress reminds me of Perfect Blue. The two movies have many points of comparison; yet, their treatment of living in a fantasy world are very different. You might call Perfect Blue‘s treatment of fantasy and delusion via negativa, while Millenium Actress stands as a via positiva. I’d love to read any blog posts comparing and contrasting the two. Send such a blog my way if you’ve written one, dear reader. I’ll reblog the first three of you!
Millennium Actress covers the life of Chiyoko Fujiwara from her teens in WWII Japan to her old age in contemporary Japan. The movie is a framed story, with Chiyoko’s life being the center and the interview of Chiyoko conducted by Genya Tachibana, a very avid fan, with his assistant in modern times framing the tale. Amusingly, Genya and his assistant–in the fashion of how Satoshi Kon mixes reality and fantasy–appear to film her life as if they were right there beside her. I won’t spoil just how much Genya participates in Chiyoko’s life, but there’s not another movie which uses quite the same idea.
The Boy and the Beast was a fun movie–even a great movie. I loved the animation, which excelled both in the action sequences and when depicting the backgrounds. Some of the scenes in Tokyo do a remarkable job of making the viewer feel like he is right there with Kyuuta. The soundtrack melded seamlessly with the action of the story.
My biggest complaint might very well be the dub. I watched it in English, and actresses were selected to voice the boy characters. The Japanese do this all of the time. However, when the Japanese actresses take on the roles of boys, I never find myself thinking: “Well, that’s an unnaturally sexy voice coming out of that kid.” It might very well have been better to have used some young male talents for these parts. The voice talents of John Swasey as Kumatetsu and Ian Sinclair as Tatara stood out as the two best performaces. I do not think that I have heard the latter gentleman before. Sinclair’s voice sounds very similar to Steve Blum’s (Spike Spiegel of Cowboy Bebop and Makoto Shishio in Rurouni Kenshin).
About every two years I add one hundred anime to my Watched list. (Not too impressive when you consider that shorts, OVAs, and movies also count as separate titles and that I stay away from series with over twenty-six episodes.) Also, as usual every two years, I want to let my dear readers vote upon what I watch to finish out this new hundred. Since I ran into Ex-Driver and Submarine 707 Revolution the Movie at my local 2nd and Charles bookstore, you will get to vote on eight of the last ten. (I think of 2nd and Charles as an earthly paradise of sorts. Book, manga, and anime lovers who live nearby such a store know what I mean.) Below is a list of thirty-two movies from my Want to Watch list arranged by production date, please select eight choices. I intend to review each and every movie in the final lineup.
Thanks for your input on which movies will be in the new series of posts! Be sure to pass the poll onto your friends so that they can throw in their two cents also. The poll will remain active through January 23rd. If a group of movies require a tie breaking vote, I’ll hold another such poll afterwards. Thanks again!
EDIT: I notice that one title did not come out properly in the poll. Where you see “(2015),” it ought to read “<Harmony> (2015).”
Don’t ask me how I forgot to review Girls’ Last Tour yesterday, for this oversight is a mystery even to me. If anything can explain it, it’s the fact that I dropped the anime for a while until some commentators convinced me to give it another try. (Yours truly ought to more frequently apply the three episode rule.) Reading Infinite Zenith’s “Girls’ Last Tour (Shōjo Shūmatsu Ryokō): Full Series Review and Recommendation” reminded me of the fact that I had both watched the show and not reviewed it on my blog. Infinite Zenith features very detailed posts with plenty of screenshots, and I highly encourage all my dear readers to read the post linked to above.
What first attracted me to this anime was how unique the setting was. As a lover of snowy settings and post-Apocalyptic tales, I had to give this show a try. As the series unrolled, one could see that the mangaka essentially explored what makes life worth living. Each episode provided one possible answer, and overall the mangaka simply answers “friends.”
The time has come for my season review. The seven anime I watched rated from two to four and a half stars with only two shows receiving the same rating. This is to say that my shows run the gamut from disappointing to near masterpieces. Fall 2017 well rounded out a good year for anime: the quality of the shows were generally good even if nothing truly spectacular came about. I’ll write more about this when I write about my top five shows of last year. The shows below rank from least to greatest.
Without further ado, let’s begin!
7) Dies Irae ★★
As a cross between Fate/Stay Night and Hellsing, this show boasted a unique atmosphere–one of the most unique of the season. It also boasted some likable characters, and one really roots for the hero to overcome the immortal Nazis trying to massacre his city. The above makes me sad that I cannot in justice give it more than two stars. Though the plot eventually becomes discernible, the events in the anime tend to be scatterbrained and the tale descends into bloody and disturbing violence. The flashback to Sister Liza Brenner’s past as the mother of Lebensborn was probably the most disturbing part of the anime.