Actually interesting anime that I’d recommend from the Fall 2013 season

Golden Time – This is a really interesting drama, where the main plots revolve around characters and character interactions and romance. I had low expectations when I started watching because the opening is really… setting you up for a different, terribler show. But the characters actually were well-rounded, interesting adults with interesting lives and semi-soap-opera problems, and I quickly got sucked into it. It’s still running, so I can’t give you any final comments, but so far it’s one of my favorite shows that’s running and definitely in the A range!

Log Horizon – I had low expectations for yet another show about how now an MMORPG is FOR REALZ. There was nothing especially interesting about the first few episodes, but I didn’t have issues with the treatment of the female lead, even though she’s lusted after by other characters, and there was something mildly interesting that kept me watching and I’m not sure what. And though slow to start, this show has become one of my favorites after it hit mid-season. There are super interesting world-building and setting things, character growing, learning about their new lives and how to deal with their situation that I think is crazy interesting and original. Haven’t finished, but so far, An A show!

Yowapeda: Yowamushi Pedal – This is a sports/guts show about an anime Otaku who just wants to make friends in high school, but turns out he has a talent for biking, thanks to his hoofing it to Akihabara every weekend. He ends up joining the ultra-competitive and impressive biking club, and ACTION! BIKING! RACES! GAINING SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH PHYSICAL ACCOMPLISHMENT. It’s super fun to watch and I <3 it. Hasn’t finished yet, but it’s a solid B+.

Valvrave the Liberator – I actually enjoyed this series. It has a plot that rushes forward and lots of action and plot-twists/turns. The characters have mostly differentiable personalities. It’s a fun action ride if that’s what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, it’s trying way to hard to be as interesting and awesome as Code Geass and kinda failing, plus the ending is less resolution and more deflation. It’s also really calling upon the tropes of the Mecha genre (which I do not like) and so at best I’d rate this anime a B-, maybe C+.

Review: Tamayura

This show is a warm-hearted, slice-of-life anime that focuses on the daily life of the main character, Sawatari Fu.  She moved back to a lovely town that her dad grew up in five years after his death.  She took a shine to photography, something she used to share with him, and uses his 35 year old camera a lot.  She is and is surrounded by other quirky characters, and together, they live quiet, peaceful lives filled with glowing warmth and pokapoka pikuniku (pokapoka is like the feeling of basking in sunlight, pikuniku =picnic).

The title is referenced several times in the show, at least once per episode.  The first episode explains Tamayura as little white balls of light that appear in photos and are supposedly good things, the children of light.  The mother’s shop is also named Tamayura, etc. There is some sort of weird fluffy pink thing wandering around that the main character really wants a good picture of, and its the only unusual thing there but it isn’t remarked upon or explained by the characters and it’s bugging me.  What is up with that thing! Want to know…

The show’s art style has the characters drawn using a simplistic style, with naturalistic coloring, whereas the backgrounds are realistic and fairly detailed.  The animation is also fairly high quality, with only a few mouth-flap issues here and there.  They switch into SD and other drawing techniques, like using flashing manga marks for startles and realization and things like that.  The direction is also nicely done, though nothing earth shatteringly brilliant. There are occasionally really interesting shots though. It works along side the story to keep a quiet, peaceful feeling.  I sorta want a little less SD, but only because sometimes I feel like it’s trying too hard to be cute/funny.

Overall, this is a great show.  It’s a lovely, low-key type of entertainment. Like a warm smile of a show. The quirkiness of the characters is interesting and fun, they have a great dynamic, and the development of their friendships and adventures together unfold in a slow, but sunny lazy picnic loveliness that is enjoyable.  It doesn’t really end, because there isn’t any sort of over-arching story to tie together, but that’s kinda okay because there is a TV show as a sequel airing now.  It’s short, only four episodes, so it’s not even like it’d take a lot of your time.  So I’d recommend most everyone watch it.  The only issue is that if you’re not in the mood for low-key entertainment, or you want some sort of intrigue and thoughtfulness, this is not the show for you.  Wait till you’re in a different mood and then try it out.

If you liked this show, it reminds me kinda of K-On! so you might also like that, though that one is based on a comic and is straight up a comedy show.

Also, Kamichu! is sorta similar in the lovely warm-picnic-feeling show, but Kamichu also has some supernatural interest going on that I really enjoyed. It would be worth while to check it out if you liked this, and alternately, if you liked Kamichu to try out this.

Review: Chu-Bra!!

Yes, the show is a comedy about Bras, as in undergarments.  Specifically, the main character, Nayu, is obsessed with the fashion and practical benefits of women’s undergarments.  Her brother and grandmother are also underwear designers, so it’s in the family and she has good reasons to demo her brother’s products for him.

This has led to her having a less-than-flattering reputation, mostly started by a jerk-girl squad in her class.  And throughout the show haters gotta hate. Though the evolving bad reputation, from a prostitute to a lesbian etc., is pretty entertaining.

She meets two friends, they are weirded out, but eventually accept her love of underwear. They try to start a club, and they add some more characters throughout the show.  Each character has a different perspective on underwear, since they have different personalities and interests, and they all get together to have fun times together. Underwear tends to show up, though they do have interesting interactions outside of that.  The show makes a lot of good points, for example the fit of a bra is really important to it looking and feeling right, and certain cuts of bras are much better for different sizes and kinds of busts.  And there is something lovely about fashion and looking and feeling good about yourself.  So I like that about this show. But it’s seinen, so it’s for men and utilizes the male gaze rather regularly when actually showing shots of undergarments.

But!  Even though it’s an ecchi comedy made for men and there are panty shots galore, the way that it’s done isn’t really offensive or problematic to me.  Firstly, the premise and subject matter are underwear a lot.  Having them shown is not just thrust in there for perving, its mixed in with the story and characters.  Rarely if ever are panties shown to the viewers that are not shown to the characters. It doesn’t have a predatory POV or even a character that is like that. Second, they talk about and show how this objectification and sexualization of clothing affects the characters, both male an female.  For example, the episode where they go to the beach and the male character, Komachi, has a really revealing swimsuit that he’s too embarrassed to wear, but gets seen in anyway, as well as the characters shopping for a swimsuit for the teacher, many of which were similarly embarrassing.

Third, they actually make a point of showing that even though he gets all hot and bothered by things, that this too isn’t always pleasant for guys.  There is a real sense that although some of the exact details of the girls versus boys experiences with underwear and also sexuality are different, in general its very similar, human experience that they’re growing into, and I find that lovely and fascinating.  And watching women’s fantasies about men is always fun and nice for a change, so go Mizuno-sensei! And the episode with male bras?  AMAZING!  Perfect ecchi entertainment!  And non-squicky ecchi comedy, BANZAI!

The end is an ending that just shows that the good times will keep on rolling, pretty common in anime, but this one’s happily realistic, where the whole thing isn’t neatly wrapped up so that life can go on exactly like it is.  I really liked that.  There is something really good about the timing and set up of the last two episodes that really helps create and relieve/resolve some good tensions without just making the whole plot points of angst that started it all magically disappear. The characters grow and change, and that’s good stuff right there.

The character designs and art overall are nothing to shout about, and the animation has some bleh moments and otherwise is really a non-entity.  The directing, likewise, is par for the course, standard.  Nothing to scream about in rage but also nothing to scream about in amazement.  Occasionally it does some interesting things with borders and patterns.

Overall, I think this is a wonderful anime, chock full of easily enjoyable lighthearted comedic fun that anyone can enjoy.  Granted, if you’re not into things about school-aged characters or you’re not a fan of any ecchi comedy or something, this won’t be for you.  But I think that it will even appeal to people who aren’t big ecchi comedy fans, nearly anyone.  There are a lot of issues that hold it back from being a three-star masterpiece, but good entertainment is good!

P.S.  The Shoujo Kakumei Utena references in the latter half of the show?  WONDERFUL!  So exciting! BRAVO! The thrown in Evangelion one?  Made my nerd heart so happy!

Blood+ Forgets How Poverty Works

So, I’m watching Blood+ and consuming it’s vampy goodness like a madwoman this week… Yes, I know, I’m a little behind the times.  But a show about vampires?    All I knew about it was that a lot of people liked it and that it was about vampires.  Bleh… I thought.  Most vampire things are filled with teenage angst, OH-NO-SMEXY-VAMPIRE-DON’T-SULTRY-SUCK-ON-MY-NECK, and “Who want’s to live forever?“  and I knew it wouldn’t even be hilariterrible like Vampire Knight. I also knew it had something to do with Blood: The Last Vampire (and wasn’t that a crap shoot?). So it wasn’t high on my priorities of things to watch.  I was like, ehn.  I’ll get around to it.

But I was at a party and someone recognized “Fuuma” as an anime name and then identified themselves as someone who watches anime (the shocking and pleasant event that is), and I couldn’t talk to them about their favorite because it was Blood+.  I had to rectify that!

Okay, anyway, I’m voraciously ripping through the much much better than I expected show and have gotten to the final climactic battle between Saya and Diva.  And all the supporting protagonists have an OH SHIT meeting (in ep. 46) where they explain the horrible ramifications of Diva’s plan (Speaking of which, it was never really Diva and it was always Amshel, so why were they always like DIVA YOU BITCH? Anyway…)

So the find out that AMSHEL (why is it Diva’s fault? That flake couldn’t set up a bioengineering lab to save her life) has created a drug of some sort that causes people to turn into the monster-esque vampires if they also hear Diva’s song. And that OH SHIT, the pharmaceutical corporation that is a front for AMSHEL’S (not Diva’s, dammit) evil villainy has been distributing food supplies all around the globe to the poor and war torn countries of the world.  And then THOSE BASTARDS are going to have a big-deal performance by Diva of her song that will be satellite broadcast worldwide. Setting off DOOM AND DESTRUCTION OF EPIC PROPORTIONS.

But they say about 3% of the world’s population has ingested the drug-laden products, and that now, thanks to this live broadcast, 100% of them, i.e. one-in-30 people will then turn into the vampires

And I was like, Really? Because the places that need food and the places that have TVs are not the same places, even if you’re Oh-so-very-impressively satellite broadcasting worldwide. Even then, wouldn’t they need either a satellite receiver on their TV, cable tv access, or a local station that antenna broadcast to pick up and redistribute the feed?

Look. Below is a lovely graphic from Wikipeia showing the amount of TVs there are per person in each of the countries around the world.  You will notice the more industrialized nations of Japan and America have some of the darkest (therefore highest amount of access).

And then below here is another map showing the density of people who are in need of food by country.

It’s pretty obvious that worldwide, there is a negative correlations between the amount of hungry people and the amount of TVs. Because places that have trouble with food sure as shit don’t have the time and money to build television stations, fancy satellite broadcast receiving equipment, and other expensive electronic leisure activities that industrialized nations have ingrained in their everyday lives.

Which is strange to me because I distinctly remember that when Riku and Kai were in the poor areas of Vietnam looking for Saya in episode 9 and this exact topic came up IN THE SHOW.  Riku is talking to Mui about how he likes to play video games more than baseball, and Mui is like, OMG, you must be rich to have your own video game!

Because yeah.  In her world, you would have to be pretty loaded to have everything that you would need to play video games, whereas in Riku’s background, they’re common everyday things.

So I’m extra weirded out that 35 episodes later the writer(s) seem to have forgotten that fact. So I was like, oh, yeah this plan is probably still a threat an all, but not nearly as problematic as ya’ll are making this out to be.  Thank god they didn’t stick to the free candy bars and ice cream samples in industrialized nations where there are a lot of TVs, or this really would be the disaster you’re touting it as.

The Tatami Galaxy as an Exploration of the Psychological concept of Rumination

So you’re sitting in your abnormal psych class and they start talking about depression… Or maybe not.  Maybe you’re a Wikipedia junkie, and are obsessively wondering whether or not it’s ruining your life when you realize (OF COURSE) that wikipedia can answer that! So you stumble upon the psychology term “rumination.” And you think to yourself, yeah, no, I can see how nearly obsessively replaying things you’re not happy with in your mind is not good for your mental health.  But why would that make you depressed, exactly? What does it all mean?

BEHOLD, my friends, Yojouhan Shinwa Takei, which FUNimation has dubbed as The Tatami Galaxy. BTW, there is no excuse for not beholding it, since FUNimation has made it free to watch on their website, youtube, and Hulu.

The Tatami Galaxy

As you can tell, the animation is different from the usual look and feel of anime, which I appreciated.  Apparently I’m not the only one, since it won the Grand Prize at the Japan Media Arts Festival, the first television program to do so and in part to its interesting visuals.  The music for the opening and ending are also catchy as all get out.  I wasn’t an instant fan, but by the time I had finished the series I couldn’t drive them from my head (in the good way).

The story follows the protagonist, who remains nameless, as he ruminates about his college life.  ORLY, you say? You’re really telling me this is good entertainment?

YA, RLY! I reply.  I know you wouldn’t think so, but DOODE. Chillax and check it out. The first reason: it’s not just some wanker angsting in his bedroom. The main character actually lives out his college life in the first episode, and he comes across some colorful and interesting characters, but because of them and his own personality, things just don’t end up like he was expecting (and usually in a way that is fun and entertaining for us spectators).  He is dissatisfied, and thinks to himself, if only I had done something different, had joined a different group of people, etc.  So at the end of the episode everything rewinds and he does exactly that. And for each of the next nine or so the show follows him as he repeatedly rewinds and strives for his “rose colored campus life.”

How is this rumination, you say, and not just a re-do of Groundhogs Day? I’ll admit it is sorta similar in premise and conclusion, and can get a little repetitive feeling in the middle, but I urge you to keep on!  Because the payoff at the end of the show, for me, was epic awesome. In comparison, Groundhogs Day was trite and waxing sentimental dribble.   Over the course you can see the protagonist growing more and more desperate, willing to throw himself to extravagant and complicated lengths to have his perfect life, while the world around him is filled with imperfect people acting like people, and therefore thwarting him.  But in the end, he retreats into himself, loosing his desire for a rose colored campus life and giving up on the world altogether. And this is where it struck me that it was a beautiful example of rumination. The show makes the mental path rumination can follow into a literal path, exploring the futility and consequences of it.  The character relived – literally instead of only mentally – experiences in his life he wasn’t satisfied with.  Clinical depression is often characterized by losing interests in the goals in your life, withdrawing away from social situations, and lethargy–all played out by the protagonist when he chooses a world that is only his 4 1/2 tatami room.  And ultimately, the message was that you have to learn to accept yourself and your past and move on from them to get out of your rut, to break free from that which confines you.  Just like psychological studies have shown for rumination.

So I say to you: Watch The Tatami Galaxy.  It’s free, so why the fuck not?  And think about yourself and your life!