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.
A.I.C.O. Incarnation found itself on my watch list very late in the season. Netflix is one of the last video streaming companies I look at—especially since they sometimes stream an anime after it’s aired. One nice bonus with Netflix, though, is that it has interesting options for a lover of foreign tongues like me: I can stream an anime with a English, Japanese, German, French, Spanish, or Portuguese dubbing. (That said, I still watch 95% of new anime in the original Japanese.) Subbing purists may be horrified to learn that I gave the French dub of A.I.C.O. a try and loved it enough to watch the entire series in that mellifluous tongue. Somehow, the anime of a biohazard threatening to destroy civilization and a girl trying to regain her lost family does not suffer from listening to the French dub—perhaps because the plot and setting diverged so sharply from stock…
If I learned anything from anime, it’s that a childhood friendship is basically an invitation to future romance. This is a truth gathered from Love Hina, Skip Beat, Nisekoi, and…just about every other anime in which there’s a road toward such a relationship. But in the Steins;gate anime series, things work a little differently. While it’s true that the childhood friend doesn’t always end up with the MC (see most of the above examples), Steins;gate goes one further: there’s barely a even a hint of romance between Okarin and Mayuri; the focus instead is on a relationship often neglected in anime: friendship between the sexes.
And the special relationship between Okarin and Mayuri is expressed in Steins;gate… as much as the original (spoilers ahead). Mayuri is always on Okarin’s mind. He values his other friends immensely, too, but Mayuri is on a different level. In…
I want to help spread this post around. Deluscar is a nice little blog, and Kai and his readers would surely appreciate anyone willing to help add some vitality to it. I am thinking about offering to write a guest post myself, but this opportunity is great for anibloggers just starting out.
There’s no denying I’ve been slowing down. I’m… uhh… getting a little bit on in years. And as I age, I find it’s harder and harder to get into the right mood to write. A long time ago, you can see a new post every few days or so, but nowadays you would be hard-pressed to even see a new post per month.
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.
Violet Evergarden’s final episode is an episode largely of catharsis, and it is one that I, and many others, have wrestled with. In many ways, it brings us to the logical conclusion of the show, or rather to the stopping point for this portion of Violet’s story that we receive. In truth, I have watched this episode numerous times over, mulling its events over in my head, and it has been a process of numerous revisions to how I have come to finally view this last piece of Violet’s story (for now, anyway). Through this, I have found that my thoughts have changed significantly in more recent viewings. This final episode, depending on your reading of events, can be quite clear-cut on the surface, or somewhat more muddied as you dive deeper into it. It does give Violet a great sense of closure, a lifting of burdens, a renewed…
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:
With the close of the Winter 2018 season, the staff at Beneath the Tangles have decided to look back at the previous season and ask the following questions: What was the biggest surprise of the Winter 2018 season? What was your favorite series?
With all that in mind, we have an amazing and varied staff – so I can’t wait to see what everyone enjoys! Check them out below:
What a milestone! The sixth anniversary of Medieval Otaku! Most blogs only seem to last for two or three years, and so I’m happy to have dragged myself this far. It’s really no surprise that most blogs are done after two or three years: the circumstances from which one started have changed by then, and one might want to go on to something different. I have taken quite a few breaks when my own enthusiasm has flagged. Somehow, I still want to keep up with this hobby, and for that I can only thank my dedicated readers for all their support.
As we are on the brink of a new season, I just want to briefly list all of the new shows which have caught my eye. Then, I’ll give a brief program of the kinds of articles to expect in the near future.
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.
Gasaraki is one of the classic mecha anime. “If it’s a classic,” you ask, “why have I never heard of it before?” Despite the great animation (at least, to a connoisseur of 90’s anime like myself), many layers of intrigue, a unique plot, and great mecha battles, the dialog can be very abstruse–so abstruse that I switched from the Japanese to the English dub after four episodes. Esoteric anime generally don’t enjoy much popularity.
After four unintelligible episodes, the dub is a great improvement. The person who wrote the English script must have worked with the same translation, but he elevated the translation from “translationese” to proper English. Some of what occurred still went over my head, but the enigmatic nature of some of the dialog made me meditate longer about what the show was about. The show juxtaposes the individual against collective or group structures to highlight the…
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).