Max Reviews Tokyo Ghoul

 Show: Tokyo Ghoul (Season 1)

Manga Creator: Sui Ishida
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Horror
Studio: Pierrot
Director: Shuhei Morita

First Showing: July 3, 2014

Episodes: 12

                Yeah, so, if you’ve noticed, most of my past reviews have been of relatively obscure or less popular anime. This time, I thought I’d review Tokyo Ghoul for several reasons. One, is because most of the club has already seen it (besides it being popular, we just watched it…), and I know it’s much more interesting to read a review for an anime you’ve seen already. And two, I truly thought it was a really interesting show with a lot of meaning behind it, which just goes to show, you don’t need to look to the most obscure, off the wall, “hipster” shows to experience a deep, meaningful, and well thought-out anime. My disclaimer is that I’ve only just seen season 1 of Tokyo Ghoul, so I’ll be writing this review with no knowledge of the events of Season 2.

SYNOPSIS

                Right, so Tokyo Ghoul takes place in a world in which creatures called ghouls coexist alongside humans. Ghouls can only obtain their sustenance from human flesh and are inevitably drawn to it as humans are to a tasty meal. Of course, this is a cause for strife among both humans and ghouls because in obtaining their food, ghouls are labeled as criminals and murderers. The story revolves around a human named Ken Kaneki, a shy college student who has a crush on a woman named Rize. In the first episode, Kaneki lands a date with Rize who, when they are alone, reveals herself as a ghoul and attempts to eat him. Suddenly, the building they are standing by partly collapses, seriously injuring Kaneki and killing Rize. In the hospital, Kaneki undergoes surgery in which he is given organ transplants from Rize (I believe that the doctors are unaware that she is a ghoul) resulting in him becoming part ghoul. This sets off a chain of events that define the plot of the show as Kaneki searches for his true identity as a human-ghoul “monster”, learns about the interactions between ghouls and humans, and discovers the mysterious past surrounding Rize and other prominent ghouls of the city.

OPINIONS AND INTERPRETATIONS

There are two things in Tokyo Ghoul that really stood out to me and I think truly define the feeling of the show. The first is somewhat subtle: it is the idea that ghouls are somewhat of a symbol for social injustice and inequality, and embody the misfortune, cruelty, and misunderstanding that is targeted at those who deviate from a perceived norm or who exhibit behaviors that are unaccepted by society. In the real world, some prominent examples would be the treatment of individuals expressing different sexual and gender orientations, having radical opinions, belonging to minority groups, and even simply taking interest in media and books that are perceived by others negatively. Tokyo Ghoul is brimming with support of this idea. One prominent example concerns the lifestyle and behavior of ghouls: not only do ghouls look exactly like normal human beings, but they hold the same values and are capable of the same emotions as humans; most people would agree that ghouls can truly be seen as humans themselves, simply altered in some way. Another big point are the parallels drawn between the views humans hold of ghouls and ghouls hold of humans. The show conveys that the majority of either side views the other with contempt and having a lack of understanding, so much that violence towards one another becomes a regular part of their lives. Each front justifies their actions through one-sided arguments, with humans claiming that ghouls are murderers and animals and a threat to society but ghouls claiming they are saving themselves and labeling humans as cruel. This reflects the violence and bitterness expressed between different social groups in the real world. The conflicts in Israel are perfect examples, with both sides being motivated against each other through their own ideas of justice, resulting in intense violence and strife. Not only do many ghouls not accept humans, but some ghouls have trouble accept themselves, with Kaneki being the prominent example. Even after being integrated into Anteiku—the organization of peaceful Ghouls within the 20th ward who strive to prevent killing humans and rely on the flesh of dead bodies instead—and accepted by his fellow ghoul accomplices, Kaneki is unwilling to accept his own body and despises his urges to consume human flesh. This applies to the real world by demonstrating society’s tendency to categorize and label individuals based on their thoughts, opinions, and behaviors. In reality, most traits concerning humans (i.e. gender identity, personality, likes and dislikes, sexual orientation, and even ethnicity) are better considered as a continuum with infinitely possible combinations, rather than a set of predefined categories (like “communist” or “right-wing”, or racial groups on a questionnaire, or even “ghoul” and “human”) which tends to polarize people, intensify differences, and leave those in the middle, like Kaneki, stranded and alone. Evidence of this phenomenon can be seen in the treatment of sexual orientation: as we’ve discussed in my class on human sexuality and culture, while homosexual individuals are slowly continuing to gain influence and understanding across the nation, individuals who identify as bisexual or refuse to place themselves in the categories of “gay” or “straight” have not made as much progress, perhaps due to it being easier to accept people if they can be easily sorted into neat categories, which can be seen in Tokyo ghoul by how most people call Kaneki a “one-eyed ghoul”, as if he is merely a ghoul with a bit of human in him, rather than being a different being altogether.

The other aspect of the show that I (and probably many other people) found significant was it’s interesting and excessive use of gore and body imagery. Now I know, if you watched Tokyo Ghoul for the first time in Gator Anime (like me), you we’re probably pretty annoyed at the extent of censorship in the show. However, I find that this merely suggests how famous this aspect of the show truly is and how powerful it is in defining the show itself. I like to contrast Tokyo Ghoul’s use of “blood imagery” to other anime: many shows I can think of tend to use blood to dramatize or make a fight scene seem realistic or exclude blood and/or injury almost entirely (like children’s shows, obviously). Tokyo Ghoul uses this imagery not just to convey that someone is injured, however, but to suggest ideas and evoke feelings that are horrifying, painful, sensual, psychological, and sometimes downright disgusting.

Watch from 13:55 – 15:30

This is a scene from Bleach. You can see how the artists use blood to dramatize the battle and add to the seriousness of the fight scene

Watch from 0:00 – 1:20

This is a scene from Tokyo Ghoul (episode 1) When Rize tricks Kaneki. You can see how the artists use blood to intensify Rize’s personality and pair it with her horrific behavior

To elaborate on this a bit more, I’d like to compare Tokyo Ghoul’s visual style and subjects to a neat video game I’ve played called “.flow” (although I guess this probably applies to horror video games in general, really). Besides the main characters looking alike and the similar color schemes, there are a lot of identical uses of imagery to convey comparable ideas in both mediums. .flow has simple exploratory gameplay and a lack of storyline or dialogue. This, coupled with its extensive use of gory imagery, work to convey complex and ambiguous ideas suggesting immorality, hatred, disgust, lost innocence, and immense suffering. As the player progresses through the game, they begin to question the sanity of their situation and their world, similar to the trauma Kaneki faces when being forced into the world of ghouls. In .flow, you ultimately have to make a decision to permanently change your identity, similar to how in episode 12, Kaneki faces himself and his inner psychological conflicts to make a decision that will permanently change his own identity. Yet one large difference I find between .flow and Tokyo Ghoul’s uses of gory imagery is how the latter uses it to suggest passion, life, and realism. This ties back to the earlier theme of Ghoul’s being a marginalized and discriminated populace, but acting wrongly by striking back with violence. Symbols of bloodshed and human flesh suit ghouls as being full of life and rage, seeking reprise and vengeance from the unfairness of their lives. This is evidenced by each ghoul possessing a “Kagune”, a spirit-like entity that manifests a ghoul’s emotions and desire to live, which they use to their advantage in battle. This is partly why I (and probably many other people) cheer on the ghouls: because they are passionate, badass, and have a reason to fight. They have a strong will and some of them (like Kaneki) possess a powerful sense of justice, all of this emphasized by their close connection to human flesh and the body. In .flow, there is more of a lean towards destruction, death, and decay. The main character’s name, Sabitsuki, literally translates to “rusting” and as the game progresses, it seems as if the world is breaking down or falling apart, rather than heating up to a point of climax, as in Tokyo Ghoul.

Fanart of Kaneki from Tokyo Ghoul and Sabitsuki from .flow. It’s interesting how fans interpret both unrelated mediums with similar visual styles, as seen by similarities in color schemes and stylizations of the characters. The ideas expressed in each medium overlap in many ways as well. However, slight differences in texture and shading might exemplify the differences in feeling between the two (passion and pent anger vs. apathy and decay)

FINAL NOTES

Although Tokyo Ghoul’s characters and themes of betrayal, friendship, love, and understanding (to name a few) are similar or analogous to many other anime and media, I admire the uniqueness of it’s approach by incorporating the idea of ghouls into its storyline—to reconcile the needs of humans and ghouls (who eat humans) would seem impossible and futile; and yet, I would argue that much of the intrigue and beauty of the show lies in just this struggle. To go even further, the creator emphasizes, rather than downplays, the ghouls’ monstrosity and gory habits, perhaps to represent the passion and willpower behind most ghouls’ actions and feelings. What I find truly interesting is how popular this show has become across the world. For example, if I were to tell some of my friends I was watching a show in which the good guys were human-like monsters that eat other people, I might get some strange looks. And yet, Tokyo Ghoul’s popularity cannot be denied: although humanity still has a long way to go, we have come so far towards accepting and understanding other cultures, values, and humans which differ from our own expectations and treating that which we find “ugly” or perhaps unpleasant with respect, tolerance, and renewed interest.

 

Max Reviews Oreimo

Show: Oreimo, or Ore no Imōto ga Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai (My Little Sister Can’t be this Cute)
Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life 
Studio: AIC Build
Director: Hiroyuki Kanbe

Episodes: 12 (+ 4 bonus) (Season 1)

I first noticed Oreimo because it was one of the animes on the Facebook poll for our Spring Semester shows. When I asked one of the club officers about it, he told me it was supposed to be a “lolicon” anime that hints at romantic relations between a brother and his sister, and that someone put it up for vote as a joke. Intrigued (and a little bit scared, honestly) I put on my “skepticals” and decided to give Oreimo a try.

SYNOPSIS

The story is centered on Kyosuke and Kirino Kousaka who are presented as terrible siblings who can never seem to get along. Kirino is in middle school and is an A-student, star athlete, and successful model while Kyosuke is portrayed as just a regular high schooler with no special talents. It appears that Kirino’s brother is a reasonable guy, albeit pretty jealous of the attention earned by his sister’s accomplishments, but Kirino herself is incredibly short tempered and violent. There is, however, one flaw to Kirino’s perfect record: and that is her immense hoard of eroge anime, manga, and video games (wham), which all feature moe-style little girls and sister x brother themes (double wham). Kirino knows that if anyone were to find out about her hobbies, she would lose all of her credibility and closest friends, but she can’t hide all of it forever either: it’s a part of her she cannot simply give up. When her brother accidentally discovers her secret hobbies, he is incredibly shocked, as anyone would be. But instead of spurning her or even just ignoring it, he decides to help her. Kyosuke works to reconcile her hobbies with her life, going far out of his way to help his sister find new otaku friends, give her life counseling, accompany her to anime conventions, play her games with her, and even defend her hobbies in front of her other non-otaku friends. The amazing thing is that Kyosuke really has no association with anime at all and pretty negative relations with Kirino already: the fact that he goes so far to help his sister is a strong point in the series that I appreciate a lot. Much of the humor in the series comes from the disparities in opinions between the anime-cultured and the anime-ignorant worlds. For example, in one episode, Kirino’s father finds out about her entire collection and is intent on throwing it out, for fear that it has been tainting her thinking and performance. But Kyosuke saves the day by lying to his dad and claiming it as his own instead of Kirino’s, earning him the title “worthless son” for the rest of the show.

INTERPRETATIONS

So of course, the things you always end up noticing (hence the title) are the subtle hints of “romance” between Kyosuke and his sister. But what I love about Oreimo is how lightheartedly they handle this topic: it is not necessarily intended to appeal to “lolis” (which is a really silly name, if you think about it), and is instead used as a medium for conveying some of the the show’s true messages, like how we should be more open-minded about and responsive to the opinions and concerns of others. This is incredibly relevant today in so many aspects of life, but there are two prominent examples that I am familiar with.

One concerns the rise of the My Little Pony fandom, which, despite being a children’s show, is comprised hugely of older men. Everyone feels passionate about their fandoms, of course, and it hurts to see someone bashing, shunning, or feeling discomfort towards another person’s interests, especially if it’s done in a biased manner. In Oreimo, there is a really powerful scene in which Ayase, one of Kirino’s lifelong friends, discovers her secret and cannot come to terms with her “indecent” hobbies, claiming that she saw a news report that confirmed that playing a certain video game called “SisCalypse”, in which little sisters are supposed to fight using superpowers, drove a man to molest a child. Kyosuke himself tracks down the evidence to show that this news claim was biased and completely false, logically disproving Ayase’s arguments. It shows how opinions that go against cultural norms or our beliefs, or even those make us uncomfortable for reasons we are unaware of, are not always wrong and may be dear to somebody, and for that reason we should try to be open-minded and watch what we say about them. And yet contradictorily, it’s nearly impossible not to yield to the social pressure of labeling such shows and their viewers as uncouth and weird (as I used to do with My Little Pony and my friends who watched it just several months ago). And it is tricky, I’ll admit, to judge what media is acceptable. For example, by today’s standards, video games with intense violence are accepted by most people—and yet there arises the controversy of the possible link between abnormal aggressive behaviors and violent video games: although violent games are “accepted” as normal (i.e. there won’t be nationwide riots when they show advertisements for the next Call of Duty) we aren’t certain that they are the most beneficial for us, in the long term. How, then, do we judge if an anime like Oreimo is acceptable? I think Oreimo does a really good job of bringing light to this question, as explained previously.

This bridges into the next real-life example that I’m familiar with, and that is the book by Jesse Bering titled Perv: the Sexual Deviant in All of Us. Yes, the title and cover clearly explains the book: it’s about coming to terms with deviant sexual desires and being aware of some of the strangest erotica out there. Note that the author makes some pretty extreme statements! One of the his main arguments is that if a sexual practice—no matter how strange or outlandish—does not cause harm to another being, it shouldn’t really be a problem. He makes a clear distinction between pedophiles and child molesters, noting how the one person causes real harm while the other simply has a deviant desire and shouldn’t be shunned by society. He also illustrates the extensiveness of deviant sexual desires and sexual fantasies among everyday people (things like sadism and masochism actually comprise a pretty significant minority) and the public’s lack of knowledge of how significant the role of pornographic material is in society. For example, he shows how, in some cases, the accepted use of pornography can actually cause a decrease in sexual offenses by the public, contrary to popular belief. This plays out in Oreimo through Kirino’s attitude towards others: by the later episodes, we can tell that deep down, she cares for the safety of others and never really desires to harm people—even her brother, whom she regularly abuses. Without her hobby and her collection of eroge as an outlet, she would certainly not be the same person she is now: it’s a part of her and defines who she is. Moreover, it doesn’t harm others and actually offers a chance to make new friends and to get know her brother better, even if it is weird and pretty deviant from the norm.

OPINIONS

The first anime/manga I ever really got into was Naruto. But before I began to actually pay attention to it, I remember complaining to my sister (who was watching it at the time) about all anime being full of violence, overly sexualized girls, and over-emotional people, and that all anime was pretty stupid and weird. I’m pretty sure a lot of us have encountered something like this in our lives: that feeling of anxiety and uneasiness that accompanies the breaking of an unspoken norm, whether it be in regard to religion, sexual orientation, or preferences in books and TV shows. I think we have to stay open-minded—at least a little bit—about anything and anyone. In fact, I appreciate when shows like Oreimo make me feel uncomfortable and a little weird, because it helps me to understand my own opinions (sometimes prejudiced) and views of the world and convinces me to try and change them to make them more helpful and less hurtful to others. There are plenty of anime and video games out there that I wouldn’t care to involve myself with, but I have to try not to judge people who watch those animes or play those games, simply by the fact that they do so. In fact, realizing that the people you know (like your sister, in the case of Oreimo) have such hobbies can do more good than harm. Also, it’s okay to have weird hobbies and be a deviant in your opinions and desires; and if you’re lucky enough to have a friend or sibling that truly cares about you, they’ll adjust their own opinions about the world rather than force you to conform to theirs.

FINAL NOTES

Although it’s quite clearly toned down and completely PG-13, Oreimo might be a little too weird for some people. I was familiar with its ideas because I’ve read a few books on such topics (like Lolita by Nabokov and Perv) and have had friends that were in to My Little Pony, but it does require a bit of background knowledge of fandom culture and what things like anime and “moe” mean in a cultural sense. It also has an interesting way of referencing otaku culture and its stereotypes—creating imaginary animes and video games and having characters cosplay and attend conventions, for example—which might go over the casual anime viewers’ heads (some of it sure did go over mine!).

On Tumblr, there are so many posts bashing this anime (for obvious reasons), which is a little sad, because I can tell it tries so hard to change those social stigmas surrounding “lolis” and the media they enjoy. In addition, it really only relies on the brother x sister idea for comedy and a little plot development. Oreimo is really about understanding people and their true desires—about coming to terms with your friends, your family, the world, and yourself. I highly recommend it!

Max Dunevitz is a UF student who enjoys meaningful and insightful anime and video games that challenge the status quo. His hobbies include programming, the arts, music composition, mathematics, and community service.

Stephanie Reviews Bastard!!

Show: Bastard!!— Genre: Action, Adventure— Episodes: 6

This week, I decided to give myself the assignment of finding an anime that I had seen, but would rate very lowly, since all my reviews so far have been things I like. So, here goes.

Kids, strap into the wayback machine, we’re going back to 1992, a time when companies produced shows completely independent from quality, because they knew fans would buy it, because there was no other option. Bastard!! is a six episode OVA based on an ongoing manga series that appears in Ultra Jump, I assume when they run out of other things to print.

I came across this spectacular failure at the turn of the century, when some friends and I were quenching our anime thirst by circulating VHS copies of bootlegged films with varying quality. It was on a tape with a DBZ movie and Dragon Half, and I still associate the three of them even though they have nothing in common.

Bastard!! is not appropriate for children. Or anyone, really. Our plot is simple: the bad guy, Dark Schneider, is trying to take over the world and also get a girlfriend or three. He’s been in prison for a while, and by prison I mean trapped inside the body of this kid:

Because that’s a thing.

Meanwhile, Dark Schneider’s lackeys have been trying to raise the god Anthrasax so that the apocalypse happens.

Fast forward 15 years in the storyline, and THE APOCALYPSE HAS HAPPENED. Seriously, the bad guy wins, but the story doesn’t end. And we don’t see how they did it, it’s just done. Then, Dark Schneider decides his old allies have gone too far, and fights for the good guys, sort of! With magic!

And there are demons, and guts, and ladies who can’t seem to keep their clothes on for any amount of time.

Our main characters and places are all named after 80s US metal bands. In the version released to us, Anthrax was changed to Anthrasax, Metallica to Meta-Ricana, etc. There is a female character in this series called Bon Jovina. Really.

The OVA ends on a cliffhanger, which doesn’t really matter since you can’t tell what’s going on anyway. The internet tells me there were supposed to be two more episodes, but even they thought it was so bad, they never finished making it.

Bastard!! is so terrible, it sort of loops back around to being entertaining. It has to be, or it wouldn’t still be talked about. There are lots of fans of this show, for reasons I can’t quite fathom. If it weren’t for the confusing, disjointed episodes, time jumps, and lack of ending, I might have actually enjoyed it. It makes no sense at all. None. There’s a lot of crying, and fighting, and yelling. They resolve three out of four characters they’re supposed to be chasing. Then, you think something is going to happen, and it’s over. That’s the cliffhanger.

I give it 1 out of 10 Golden Tanukis.  Everybody gets one.

Stephanie is a UF alumnus who enjoys baking, reading, cats, and the internet. Also anime. OK mostly anime. 

Max Reviews Mushishi

Show: Mushishi 
Genre: Supernatural 
Studio: Artland Inc.
Director: Hiroshi Nagahama
Episodes: 26

I’m surprised how many votes Mushishi has gotten in the poll for next semester’s anime! It really is an interesting show and I’m glad so many people in the club know about it already. I watched Mushishi a long time ago as a kid and thought about reviewing it now to give it the credit it deserves.

SYNOPSIS

The story takes place in 19th century Japan and is centered on a traveling man named Ginko who serves the profession of a mushi master (mushi-shi in Japanese), one who observes mushi and aids people who are experiencing problems with them. Mushi are primitive, unicellular-like organisms that take on a variety of shapes and abilities. They are abundant in all places, yet unobservable by all, with the exception of the mushi masters. They cause supernatural phenomena such as strange diseases, illusions, and the granting of unnatural—and oftentimes undesirable—abilities to people.

The only major recurring character is Ginko. In addition, there is no overarching plot: each episode is a fully contained story, usually dealing with a single type of mushi, its interactions with people, and Ginko’s experiences with attempting to reconcile human and mushi needs. The show is very mellow and philosophical in tone. It is best described as a food-for-thought anime, focusing on simple plots that have deep and thoughtful meanings and implications.

INTERPRETATIONS AND OPINIONS

Mushishi is about what we can’t observe and how it affects us. It directs its attention to broad themes such as the extent of human perception of the natural world and the inherent danger and beauty of nature. It is very pure in its stylistic approach, containing simple characters, settings, and music that are often derived from or inspired by 19th century Japanese culture and lifestyle. Its focus on themes and the structure of its episodes creates an interesting philosophical undertone to the show, in which each episode is like a parable, providing a lesson for the viewer to consider. For that reason, Mushishi is a very thought-provoking show, truly the first of such animes I had ever encountered as a kid. For example, in one episode, there is a mushi that is carried by the sound of one’s voice that causes rust-like rashes to appear on objects, so that the girl afflicted with the mushi will no longer speak out of fear and embarrassment. Another episode features a plant-like mushi that grows to mimic the appearance and function of human beings, which serves as the child of two elderly parents who are unknown of their son’s true nature. But the mushi aren’t the only creatures in the show that deserve attention. Ginko himself is a man shrouded in obscurity: he speaks few words and bears a mysterious past, yet is a knowledgeable, assuring, and venerable person, seeking only to help others that suffer and to study the mushi; these qualities make him a highly intriguing character. In all, Mushishi is an excellent show with a lot of creative thought and effort behind it that conveys a unique and intellectually stimulating experience.

FINAL NOTES

I would recommend this show to anyone, really. Mushishi is a very enriching anime that provides a break from the stresses of life to consider some interesting connections between humans and nature. Because of its structure, the episodes do not have to be watched all at once or in sequential order. Actually, I would encourage you not to watch multiple episodes at a time without reflecting on each one a bit, to consider their deeper implications.

Max Dunevitz is a UF student who enjoys meaningful and insightful anime and video games that challenge the status quo. His hobbies include programming, the arts, music composition, mathematics, and community service.

Stephanie Reviews Golden Time

Show: Golden Time— Genre: Comedy, Romance— Episodes: 24

This week we’ll be looking at Golden Time, a 24 episode dramedy about some college-age folks. It ran from October 2013 to March 2014 on Japanese television, and was simulcast on American websites like crunchyroll.

On his first day of college, Tada Banri just wants to fit in and be normal. An accident took his memories the previous year, and he spent a long time in hospital before getting back on his feet. Despite his amnesia, he’s trying to be an average college freshman. Of course, he’s already running late for his entrance ceremony, so he picks a likely fellow freshman and follows him. Mitsuo Yanagisawa is warm and friendly towards Banri, and they become fast friends. Just as they’re reaching the college, one of our other main characters makes her debut. Koko Kaga pops out of freaking nowhere and assaults Mitsuo with a bunch of flowers.

Seriously, this is our first introduction to Koko.

And so it begins. Koko is obsessed with Mitsuo, and everything unfolds as you expect it might. He’s not interested, she’s obsessed. I expected Mitsuo to come around, as that’s the norm for most romance shows, but at some point Koko realizes she’s becoming a stalker, and doesn’t like the direction her life is going.

Koko realizes she might be a tad shallow at the moment.

Banri tries really hard to fit in, but the only other friend he’s made is actually from his old high school. She goes by Linda, and there is a complicated subplot that unfolds with her. She’s extremely useful to Banri in helping him with his memory problem.

Everything you would expect is there. There is a beach episode, a festival episode, an episode where the freshmen all pick clubs. The depth here is in the characters, not what they’re doing. Amnesia is a tired premise, but they play it well. This show pulled me along for a variety of reasons, not least of which is because it’s set in college, not middle or high school. The characters already sort of know what they want to do with their lives, they know who they like and it’s not a new sensation for most of them. And it’s funny. This show sneaks into your heart when you’re not paying attention, and you don’t even realize you care until it’s too late. The sad parts are tragic, and the comedy is really on point. There’s a lot of this kind of thing:

Of course pieces of Banri’s memory come back to him here and there, and it gets complicated fast. The second half of this show is definitely way more interesting and better paced than the first half, although the first 13 episodes are interesting enough.

Also, this show is full of crazy surprises.

NANA is his neighbor? What?

My love for this show built up over time. By the end though, I was rooting for our characters to have their happily ever after. Bring tissues.

All in all, I give this show 7 out of 10 Golden Tanukis. In my opinion one of the better anime to come out of last winter/spring, but I had to get several episodes in to really get attached to the characters, and it gets really confusing at times. Details that should be pointed out as important aren’t, and not in a clever Sherlock Holmes sort of way. Some of it is really obtuse. The characters shine through, however, and all in all it was an enjoyable experience. And all the opening and ending theme music is done by Yui Horie, who I love.

On another note, it occurs to me that all of the shows I’ve reviewed I’ve rated pretty well. I suppose the first few weeks I just wanted to share my recent enjoyable findings with whoever cares to read them. Next week I’ll try to dredge up something truly awful, just to round things out.

If you have any suggestions on reviews, feel free to reach out to me here or on the gator anime facebook page. If I’ve seen it, I’m happy to write about it.

Until then, I love you all <3

Stephanie is a UF alumnus who enjoys baking, reading, cats, and the internet. Also anime. OK mostly anime. 

Stephanie Reviews Engaged to the Unidentified

Show: Mikakunin de Shinkoukei— Genre: Comedy, Romance— Episodes: 12

This week we’ll be taking a look at Engaged to the Unidentified. This adaptation of a weekly comic strip aired in Japan under the title 未確認で進行形 Mikakunin de Shinkōkei (which translates to Unconfirmed and In Progress) between January and March of 2014. There are 12 episodes, each building on the last, as each episode we come a bit closer to finding out the truth about our main characters. When Kobeni Yonomori turned 16, she was informed that she had a fiancee.

aren’t they cute?

This is a plot device I’ve seen before, but always with the genders reversed. Kobeni’s betrothed, Hakuya Mitsumine, comes to live with her, along with his little sister Mashiro. Surprisingly, Kobeni is all right with this without being particularly for or against the marriage. We see her have more inner reflection on her situation than I expected to see.

Life is hard when you’re a betrothed teenager.

At first glance, this show seems like it’s going to be full of the same overworked plot points seen in countless romantic comedy/slice of life shows that have come before it. This is not the case. This show doesn’t pull any punches, drops major plot twists like it’s nothing, and is ridiculously funny. Mashiro, along with Kobeni’s sister Benio, fuel the comedy side, and it is wonderous.

Something about aliens?

way too many!

For his part, Hakuya is a quiet, reserved, deep thinker. He’s super smart, and very emotionally sensitive, but not obnoxious about it.

Poor guy just wants to build stick palaces in peace.

Although there is a good bit of foreshadowing so that you know something is different about Hakuya and Mashiro, they don’t broadcast it so loudly that it falls flat when they start revealing their family’s secrets. The romance between Kobeni and Hakuya is adorable, and feels genuine. Unlike many romance shows, the story entirely revolves around the main female character; what she feels and what she wants are most important.

All in all, I give Engaged to the Unidentified 7 out of 10 Golden Tanukis. You’ll survive if you don’t get around to seeing it, but it’s definitely worth seeking out. I would recommend this show if you need a laugh and a d’awww. Until next week, here’s Mashiro, doing some gratuitous dancing.

Stephanie is a UF alumnus who enjoys baking, reading, cats, and the internet. Also anime. OK mostly anime. 

Stephanie Reviews Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day

Show: Anohana— Genre: Comedy-Drama, Romance— Episodes: 11

Anohana: The flower we saw that day, in Japan known as あの日見た花の名前を僕達はまだ知らない。 Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai., literally translated to  “We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day.” is an 11 episode series that ran in Japan in 2011. There was a film released in 2013, and a second film will come out in 2015.

Left to right, that’s Poppo, Jintan, Anaru, Atsumu, and Tsuruko.  

There are 6 main characters, who span a variety of personalities. The story is told from the perspective of Jinta Yadomi, also called Jintan. He was the leader of a group of childhood friends who called themselves the Super Peace Busters. Meiko Honma, who everyone refers to as Menma, is the ghost of a little girl who was friends with the group but died in an accident. She moves the plot along, nudging Jinta out of the house and trying to reunite the group. We also have Naruko Anjo, aka Anaru, who’s a popular and pretty girl, and struggles with her image as shallow and vapid. Atsumu Matsuyuki has grown to hate Jinta, as he blames him for Menma’s death. He is athletic and popular and bears a weird secret. Chiriko Tsurumi, aka Tsuruko, is the introvert of the group. She and Atsumu are close friends, and have a complicated relationship. Lastly we have my personal favorite, Tetsudo Hisakawa, who everyone calls Poppo. He’s hilarious. A drop-out, he actually sets up in their old Super Peace Busters base and works part time jobs to save up money to travel.

Here’s Jintan, leading the Super Peace Busters through the woods when they’re children, back when everything was beautiful.

The bare bones of the story are simple– Menma is the ghost of a little girl who died tragically, and she needs to have her wish fulfilled to move on to the next world. It’s up to our main character, Jintan, who is the only one who can see Menma’s ghost, to convince their other childhood friends to help fulfill Menma’s wish. Only, Menma doesn’t remember what her wish is, because she’s a ghost, and therefore has to follow ghost rules to figure it out. Watching Jinta try to convince everyone he’s not crazy is entertaining in and of itself, but that’s not the heart of the show. The real charm of this show lies in rekindling friendships they all once thought was damaged beyond repair and seeing the different kinds of people they’re growing up to be.

There are a lot of feelings.

This show  is unexpectedly touching. I found myself tearing up from time to time (read: a lot of the time). I couldn’t pick out a character to relate to, but I still felt connected to them by the end of the series. The writing does a good job imparting the themes of friendship and trust without shoving it down the audience’s throat, and there are a few plot twists I did not see coming. All told, I enjoyed it more than I thought I was going to.

I give it 7 out of 10 Golden Tanukis. I’d watch it again, and I recommend it to anyone who would like to experience major feels. I’m looking forward to the second movie next year 🙂

Stephanie is a UF alumnus who enjoys baking, reading, cats, and the internet. Also anime. OK mostly anime. 

Stephanie Reviews Nagi no Asukara

Show: Nagi no Asukara— Genre: Drama, Fantasy— Episodes: 26


Nagi no Asukara 凪のあすから, AKA Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea ran in Japan and was simulcast on crunchyroll October 2013 through April 2014. When trying to explain this show to others, I feel like I’m voicing an old movie trailer: *ahem* In a world where sea gods are real, where merpeople are forced to go to middle school on land, one lovestruck teenager fights the odds to reconcile an age old conflict between land and sea.

It’s actually way more nuanced than that, but I love those old trailers. In Nagi-Asu, merpeople exist in the bays of Japan. The local sea town is called Shioshishio, its land counterpart is Oshiooshi. (Shio means salt)

Sea people look, act, dress, and are cultured just like land people, but they have a special layer of stuff on their skin called Ena that has to be moistened from time to time, or they can’t breathe. Because of an unusual amount of salt flake snow, the local sea middle school has been closed, so all of our main characters are transfers.  They all share the same genetic trait of very light blue eyes. They begin their year by quietly protesting the closure of the school by wearing their old uniforms to the new land school.

Screw that land school. Sea uniforms all the way.

Sea snow is a real thing in real life, you can learn about it here →http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_snow

Although officially it’s considered one long season, there is an opening and ending theme change after episode 13, as well as a time jump.

I like this anime because it gets me more interested in the world they live in than involved with the characters. There is a really fascinating political dichotomy between the two towns, a unique arrangement with blurred borders. This features heavily in the second half of the show since the beginning pieces of round two aren’t about our main characters at all.
The whole concept of Shioshishio is based on the idea that Japanese deities are real and literal things. According to legend, the sea god fell in love with a girl chosen to be his sacrifice, and so the first sea person is created. Their origin harkens back to Adam and Eve, as all the current citizens of the sea town are directly descended from that pairing. I found this particularly interesting because the voice of the sea god is a character with real implications to our main crew

and he’s super hot.

There is a lot of tension between the sea town council and the land town council, specifically about regulating the worship of their sea god and fishing, both of which are naturally related to the people who live under the water, but not as obvious to the land townfolk. That’s where our hero, Hikari, comes in. Although at first he holds some pretty firm prejudices, eventually he’s motivated to mediate between the two groups to help everyone get along. He also spends a lot of time fumbling through his feelings for his friend Manaka.

That’s a good sign, right?

There is a lot of social commentary about familial obligation lurking just below the surface here. If you fall in love with a land person and leave the sea, you are cast out, never allowed to return.
It’s about family and friends and love and burgeoning adolescence, but more than that it’s about societal roles. Loss of family members, estranged relationships, second marriages. At first glance this show is light and fluffy, but it quickly becomes obvious that the content gets at the root of what makes life worth living. Lasting friendships, familial love, faith. All wrapped in an enjoyable package of fairly typical middle school life.

This show gets 9 out of 10 Golden Tanukis. The characters and their world are full of depth, and little pieces of it have been flitting around in my head ever since I finished the last episode. Watch it, you know you want to.

Until next week, try not to get hexed!
Stephanie is a UF alumnus who enjoys baking, reading, cats, and the internet. Also anime. OK mostly anime. 

Max Reviews Digimon Tamers

Show: Digimon Tamers 
Genre: Action-Adventure, Science Fiction 
Studio: Toei Animation 
Director: Yukio Kaizawa 
Episodes: 51

 

As a 51-episode anime for kids, there is a long, slow-moving plot with many predictable twists and frequent, lengthy flashbacks. As a result, you really can’t write proper a review unless you consider the entire plot, so spoilers beware!

SYNOPSIS

Digimon Tamers is the third season of the Digimon animated franchise. If you’re not familiar with the Digimon universe, just imagine Pokémon, except that the “creatures” chiefly exist within the “digital network” of communications between computers and electronics and are considered incapable of materializing in the real world. However, each season of Digimon presents an entirely different perspective of the “digital” world and Digimon themselves. In Digimon Tamers, Digimon are actually trading cards that are played with using a “Digivice” and can be interacted with on a computer. Three children, however—named Takato, Li, and Ruki in the Sub; Takato, Henry, and Rika respectively in the Dub—have their Digimon “bio-emerge” into the real world—Guilmon, Terriermon, and Renamon respectively. They soon team up to stop other Digimon that have begun appearing in the real world as well to uncover the secrets behind a shady organization called Hypnos. The three “Tamers” meet up with some side characters—including Takato’s crush, Juri (she becomes quite important later)—and Digimon Culumon (Caulmon in the Dub) and Impmon. They eventually have to journey into the Digital World to rescue Culumon who has been kidnapped where they find that there is a computer program, called the D-Reaper, which has been threatening the digital world for ages. The team eventually leaves the Digital world only to find that the D-Reaper has invaded their own world. It takes the efforts of the once evil Hypnos organization, the original programmers of the Digimon trading cards, and the Tamers to defeat the D-Reaper and ensure the safety of the Digital and Real worlds.

Whew!

QUICK PROS AND CONS

Pros: The character designs are interesting and surprisingly relatable for children, there is a meaningful over-arching plot that has deep implications and interpretations, the jams are pretty sweet, and the overall feel of the show is a somewhat serious, which is unique for a children’s show, from my experience.

Cons: You could seriously cut the number of episodes in half and maintain the same consistency of plot. There is a lull in the action in the 20 or so middle episodes when the Tamers are have to go up against a group of Digimon called the Deva, an arc that really unnecessarily extends the story. A few of the characters provide little to the plot development but are given significant screen time and there are a few scenes, like a few battles, which seem overly convoluted and unexplained. However, I imagine that all of these can probably be attributed to various contracting deals demanding a longer season and the fact that Digimon Tamers is for younger audiences.

OPINIONS

One thing I really enjoy about this show is the amount of effort that was put in to maintaining a childlike simplicity while concurrently devising a meaningful plot with occasionally dark situations and characters. For example, you can compare visually some of the posters for Tamers to the first series of Digimon: Digimon Adventure. It’s clear that Tamers takes on a darker and more serious approach. The focus on the three central Tamers is apparent throughout the show and they occasionally deal with problems that really resonate with our own, like social acceptance, forgiveness, empathy for others, and refusing to face the real world. The soundtrack of the series is excellent as well, employing many genres of music to convey each character’s beliefs and personality.

Digimon Adventures

Digimon Tamers

 

 

compared with…

 

 

Here is a video of each Digimon’s “digivolution”. It’s like Pokémon evolution, except that it’s temporary. You can just watch it to 2:08 to get the gist: the art style and music is pretty dark and intense. Also, each Digimon is not necessarily hero material. Guilmon is supposed to be a virus type Digimon and is very mischievous, and Renamon is pretty much a tsundere character that likes being alone.

]This is a dark and somewhat disturbing scene from one of the later episodes, where Juri is recalling the traumatic experience of discovering her mother’s death while the D-Reaper overtakes the city.

INTERPRETATIONS

Digimon Tamers also communicates quite a few ideas on technology. The plot itself is propagated through the interaction of a technological world and a real one. The fact that Digimon are coming to life is not just a neat idea, it’s a sign that technology and humanity are merging and changing. In the end, the ultimate enemy is a creation of humanity, the D-Reaper, which, interestingly, alludes to the real life program of a similar name that was used to eliminate the world’s first computer virus—a tiny bit more on that here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creeper_(program)

Kind of makes you think about where technology is headed in today’s world

The great computer scientists of the mid-20th century like John von Neumann and Alan Turing recognized the life-like attributes of a digital network of computers and the possibility of “digital organisms” existing in the invisible matrix of signals and electronics, obscured from our view—even before the Internet was invented! On an even higher interpretive level, I feel that the Digimon franchise, and especially Digimon Tamers, is a realization of this idea. In both the Digimon universe and ours, the digital world as a whole is, in a sense, autonomous and is often beyond the control of humans, despite our daily reliance on it for communication and entertainment. Therefore the name Digimon “Tamers”.

FINAL NOTES

If you like the simplicity of children oriented material but also enjoy deep plots and relatable characters, then you should try this anime. Just be patient, as it is a children’s show, so not all of its 51 episodes are mind-blowing! If you stick it out, you’ll find that Digimon Tamers is an exceptional anime by the standard of kids’ shows and is a wonderful show in itself as well.

 

Max Dunevitz is a UF student who enjoys meaningful and insightful anime and video games that challenge the status quo. His hobbies include programming, the arts, music composition, mathematics, and community service.

Stephanie Reviews Future Diary

Show: Future Diary— Genre:Action, Mystery— Episodes: 26

Happy Halloween! This week’s super spooky series is Future Diary. This 26 episode thriller aired under the title 未来日記 (Mirai Nikki) in Japan from October 2011 through April 2012. It’s not so much creepy as exciting and bloody and maybe a little traumatizing? There are some things you can’t unsee. Amano Yukiteru, who goes by Yuki, is a loner who loves playing darts and writing in his journal. Well… digital journal. Well… it’s on his cell phone. And it’s not really a journal. It’s more of a list of things he observes. So this is a, uh, totally normal kid who would rather talk to his imaginary friend than have real ones and takes note of everything he sees and does.


So homeboy is going along minding his own business, and like normal goes to write in his cell phone diary, when he realizes today’s date is all filled in. Then, the things in the diary start to come true. A girl in Yuki’s class knows what’s going on. She calls him out on the contents of his diary, and shows him hers. They stop a serial killer together. Then, a different girl shows up to blow up his school. You might be thinking that I’m spoiling too much, but these are just the first two episodes.

It’s cool, he handles it with the help of his prophetic cell phone. His imaginary friend said this might happen. His imaginary friend turns out to be a powerful deity.

Yeah, that guy.

Yuki is involved in a dangerous game. There are a number of these future diaries around, and they come in quite handy when escaping dangerous situations. With the help of his classmate, Gasai Yuno, whose diary tells her Yuki’s every move, they just might survive. It’s kill or be killed, and it’s delightful.

I give Future Diary 8 out of 10 Golden Tanukis. This show is exciting and suspenseful and strays from many of the stereotypical aspects of high school age characters. It’s bizarre without being alienating, and it will keep your heart pounding from beginning to end.

You can watch it here–>
http://www.hulu.com/watch/292716

Stephanie is a UF alumnus who enjoys baking, reading, cats, and the internet. Also anime. OK mostly anime.