Category Archives: Anime

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – March Comes In Like A Lion

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 40/100Title: March Comes In Like A Lion
Episodes Aired: 44
Year(s): 2016-18

March Comes In Like A Lion is one of the most acclaimed anime series to come out in recent years – at least if you follow the ratings on MyAnimeList. For a while both seasons of this show appeared within the Top 100, but it would appear that – at least for now – the first season is its way out. However, for the purpose of this blog, I will be talking about both together as this it would be impossible to dive into the second season without seeing the character growth that went into the first one.

In brief, March Comes In Like A Lion is a slice-of-life following a young and introverted shogi prodigy called Rei Kiriyama as he navigates living my himself in the Tokyo suburbs whilst still attending high school. As the series progresses we watch as he comes out of himself, deals with his troubled past and reaches a point where he feels like he belongs and can find happiness in his choices.

With this description it feels like a lot of other slice-of-life shows, just in the world of professional shogi players. What March Comes In Like A Lion has to recommend it is a metric shit-ton of heart and some genuinely funny moments (some of which includes us being able to read the minds of some very hungry and attention-seeking cats). It also does a good job at explaining the rules of shogi (something that’s far more complicated than chess) and making these games interesting to watch.

As well as the Rei’s involvement in the shogi world, we are also watching him as he becomes accepted as a (pretty much adopted) member of a neighbour family consisting of three sisters and their grandfather. Through them we watch a lot of Rei’s growth as he gets more and more involved in their family, whereby one of the main threads of the second season is about the escalation and resolution of the middle sister being bullied at school.

Where a lot of animes give you some insight into the mind of the main protagonist, this anime gives you insights into every main character and a number of secondary/tertiary ones. It provides interesting psychological looks into relatable situations (like bullying and financial problems) and helps to frame more novel situations (like the anxieties during a shogi game) in a recognisable way.

I hope that, by the time this has been posted, there is news about a third season of March Comes In Like A Lion. Whilst the ending was very sweet and wrapped up a lot of the threads, there is still plenty of story to tell and a lot of manga chapters left unexplored. Maybe they’ll do an Attack on Titan and wait a few years so that they can bank enough chapters to warrant a 2-cour season, as a slow-burn show like this would be greatly disserviced by a 13 episode order.

Since I am currently reading Attack on Titan, I don’t think I’ll be going there for my next anime. After a slice-of-life like March Comes In Like A Lion I’m thinking of going for something more action or supernatural. Maybe another season of Natsume or it might be worth making my way through more Monogatari so I can reach the second season of Owarimonogatari.

Advertisements

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Pingu In The City

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 38/100Title: Pingu In The City
Episodes Aired: 26
Year(s): 2017-18

Right, so Pingu In The City‘s placement on the anime list feels a bit like a joke gone that bit too far. When it first aired at the end of 2017, this show temporarily occupied the top placement as people trolled MyAnimeList by giving it full marks. As of writing this, Pingu In The City has fallen out of the top 100 once, but is now back in the Top 50. I am fully expecting this to have fallen out again once this post goes up but since I’ve seen it, I might as well do a little write-up.

If you know the original Pingu claymation series, then you know what the Japanese computer-animated Pingu In The City is all about. We follow the escapades of lovable young penguin Pingu as his family move to the big city. The episodes are 10-11 minutes apiece and are incredibly cute.

As a young Pingu fan, I was really keen to give this modern reboot a go. The thing is, as much as Pingu In The City has done well to match the original look of the claymation – a lot of charm is still lost by this being computer generated. It’s very competent and it’s cute, but I prefer a small town Pingu having small town adventures with his seal friend.

At some point in the future I will likely have to watch the second season of Pingu In The City. I can’t imagine how much more it would provide than what is in the first season… unless they go completely off book and do something more serialized. Nah! At least it’ll be cute.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 37/100Title: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable
Episodes Aired: 39
Year(s): 2016

It’s only been a few months since I watched the last season of JoJo’s Bizarre AdventureSince then, I read the next part of the manga and found it increasingly hard to wait that long before finishing off the anime series. Honestly, I don’t know why I leave these gaps between series when I am keen to carry on watching. I think this is something I need to remedy going forward…

ANYWAY. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable is an adaptation of the fourth part of the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure manga series; also it is the final anime series that has been produced… for now. I assume that more will be produced eventually, but for now it ends with Diamond Is Unbreakable.

As with the previous parts of the series Diamond Is Unbreakable has a new member of the JoJo family as the central character – this time it is the illegitimate son of the JoJo from Part 2, which makes him the uncle of the JoJo from Part 3. This 4th JoJo is well meaning and outgoing, which makes him a complete contrast to his predecessor.

If you know third part of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure then you can pretty much guess what this particular part is going to be about. The mythology of the stands (alter-ego spirits with special powers that are used to fight) continues as follow a new group of powered up individuals as they battle against stand-owners with evil intentions.

The JoJo series has always contained interesting villains. Yoshikage Kira – the villain of this seasons’ second half – might be the most threatening and best realised of all of them so far. Sure, the previous seasons had Dio (an incredibly powerful and vengeful vampire), but he always felt a bit pantomimish at times. Then there is Kira, a serial killer who just wants a peaceful life as he gives in to his uncontrollable urge to kill and dismember women. He’s a scary villain because he actually feels like a real person (albeit with supernatural powers) and I wish there had been a way to have him more involved in the first half of the season…

Still that’s a small glitch in what is an enjoyable supernatural fight series with a good heart and sense of humour. I hope there is a Part 5 soon as I am eager to see where the JoJo anime goes next.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 36/100Title: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2
Episodes Aired: 25
Year(s): 2008

So here we are one year after watching the first series of Code Geass and I’ve finally gotten around to watching the second season. There is a third series in the works, which means that it was imperative that I got round to the second season so that I could be up to date once the third one drops.

Having watched the second season, I do question why this is the higher season in the MyAnimeList rankings. My guess? If you didn’t like the first one you won’t try the second, which inflates the score. I mean, this has to be the reason why so many sequel series are above the original on this list (sometimes it’s well deserved, but not always).

This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2 – it’s just that this kept tripping up over it’s own tropes that, at times, it was willingly confusing and, at others, coddling. For example, starting the series off with Lelouch having amnesia in order to explain the whole world again to newcomers… which is fine for the newcomers, but it means that it takes the show a few episodes to really get going.

Then there’s the character of Rolo who, despite how much they tried to save, always felt more like a cousin Oliver than a meaningful character. Another issue was the lack of a real shocking moment int he same vein of Princess Euphemia in the first series. They tried in this season, but the emotional connection to Marianne and her story wasn’t great enough to warrant any sort of shock.

That’s really the issue I had with this entire second season – everything was done better in the first one. This was actually a little bit disappointing after how much I had enjoyed the previous one. Still, I’m very much interested in how they’re going to continue the story into a third season.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Aria: The Origination

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 35/100Title: Aria: The Origination
Episodes Aired: 13
Year(s): 2008

Despite the name, which sounds like it should be all about origins, Aria: The Origination is the third and final season of the Aria franchise. As with most series, it pays to watch the preceding seasons in order to get the most out of it… even if the final season is by far the best.

As far as story goes it can be summed up as being a show about three apprentice gondoliers who live on a terraformed Mars and are training to become professionals (known in-world as Primas). It’s a really interesting idea for a concept, especially when this series decides to go into some of the history of the Martian pioneers who lived and died to bring water to the red planet.

It’s just that, of all the anime series I’ve seen so far this has got to be the slowest yet. Whilst I am usually fine with a slower movie or show, I do have my limits. Being a slice-of-life show there is always going to be the danger of trying to extend too little content into a half hour, which is why I ended up skipping the latter half of season two. It’s not that it became bad in any way, it’s just that life is too short and there’re other shows that I am itching to watch.

That being said, I am really glad that I did watch the earlier episodes as the emotional payoff in the final few episodes would have been entirely muted. The Aria series is one that is definitely worth giving a go to, but be aware of the type of show it is when you start and that Aria: The Origination makes up for the earlier episodes.

The visuals and the music in Aria is gorgeous. The animators really took the idea of a Venice on Mars and brought it to life, along with some interesting ideas of Italian culture (like people eating pizza crust-first which, if you ever watched Angela Anaconda, you know is a crime against nature). The three leads are a bit cookie-cutter, but you end up caring for them… even if the main character Akari is a tad too wet for my liking.

So yes, it’s flawed but it’s a series that’s worth a punt. As for the next show… who knows. The list is so volatile at the time of writing that I have no idea what a good bet will be to watch next.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Shokugeki no Souma: San no Sara

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 34/100Title: Shokugeki no Souma: San no Sara
Episodes Aired: 12
Year(s): 2017

Okay, so I am writing this six and a half months in advance knowing full well that this may have left the list by the time this post is published. Also, the fourth season of Food Wars will have started (and possibly finished airing) – a concluding 12 episodes that this third season very much needed.

There really isn’t much for me to add to this season of Food Wars that I haven’t already mentioned in the first or second seasons. This is a food porn anime where the food-lover in me is satisfied on an episode-by-episode basis by watching some amazing cooking. Hell, I have even been inspired to make dishes myself (see pictured the ‘Gotcha Pork Roast’ from the first season) or use some of the acquired knowledge in my own cooking.

The issue that I have with the third season is that it feels incomplete. We end the run of episodes with the first wave of confrontations as the culinary school goes through a hostile takeover. It just feels like it ends abruptly rather than there being any sort of conclusion. I guess that this makes sense considering that there is a 3 month gap between this season and the upcoming fourth season.

Another problem is that it feels like the budget has been slashed for the animation budget. The number of tracking shots with minimal animation seems to have really increased this year and the weirder foodgasm shots has gone down… although I did enjoy the white knight in the forest surrounded by animals.

Still, this is not a serious anime nor should it ever be mistaken for one. It delivered a fun 20-odd minutes every week and let me enjoy some cartoon cookery. I know I’m going to happily tune into the next iteration of this series… so it’s really a job well done by them in that respect.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Haikyuu!! Second Season

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 33/100Title: Haikyuu!! Second Season
Episodes Aired: 25
Year(s): 2015-16

It’s been over 18 months since I saw the first season of Haikyuu and within a few minutes of the first episode of the second season I wondered what had taken me so long to get back to it. I really fell for the first season and it’s impressive just how quickly the second season was able to get you back into the fray.

The experience of watching the second season was sizeably different to the first one. Where the first season focused on them having to pull a team together and, eventually, suffering a shattering loss at the end; the second builds on this defeat and we see the team training up to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Whilst I still have no idea of half of the volleyball terms being used, it’s amazing how much I have learnt about this sport through sheer osmosis. They can start talking about pinch servers, liberos and other positions and I actually know what they mean. I still haven’t quite gotten to grips with the different ‘tempos’,  but I’m getting there. Still, it shows how this show has been able to disseminate enough information to help you enjoy the sport.

And here’s the thing, I really enjoy watching these volleyball matches. It’s not like the boxing in Hajime no Ippo where time is artificially elongated to make a match last multiple episodes, in Haikyuu they will skip large sections of the match because it won’t add to the story. As a viewer who is not really into sport, this editing helps a lot. It also helps with the tension that we’ve seen this team lose important matches, so you’re never quite sure of the direction an episode will take.

That is until the final few episodes as, given the title of the third season, you know how this has to end. Then again, if I was watching this live then I would have had no idea of the outcome and, despite being mostly certain of how the match would finish, I still found myself cheering at the TV like a bit of a loser.

Hopefully by the time this goes up we will know more about the elusive fourth season of Haikyuu, but until then I have the third season to watch… right after I finish The Ancient Magus’s Wife, Food Wars: Season 3, my re-watch of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and the other things I’m currently watching.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 32/100Title: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 2nd Season
Episodes Aired: 24
Year(s): 2015

When it originally aired, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders was broadcast in two halves. In-keeping with the weirdness of the MyAnimeList ranking system, only the second half of the Stardust Crusaders season actually features in their Top 100. Obviously I watched all 48 episodes, as this would otherwise have not made any sense, so that’s something to keep in mind.

As I mentioned when I watched the first season of JoJo’s Bizarre AdventureI had high expectations for the Stardust Crusaders arc because of how much I enjoyed it in the original manga. I was not disappointed.

Two of my big issues with the first anime season (the over-narration and the over-masculinity) were nowhere to be seen here and, thanks in part to the increased number of episodes, due care and attention could be paid to each of the enemies that they fight.

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. What is this series even about? Well, think of it as a show where the then-current male members of the Joestar family (in this case a grandfather and his grandson) fight against an incredible evil using supernatural powers. In the first season, these powers took the form of life energy known as ‘Hamon’. For Stardust Crusaders these are called ‘Stands’, which is like some sort of manifestation of a person’s psychic energy whose individual powers range from stopping time to super strength.

In many ways, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders is a traditional monster-of-the-week kind of anime. It’s just that, in the case of this show, the monsters are actually incredibly varied and are each based either on a tarot card or a major Egyptian God. The links between the monster and card/god they represent is usually tenuous, but it’s fine because the powers are usually cool, weird or both.

So here I am with one more season of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure to go with to complete the anime list. I guess I’ll need to get back to reading the manga… which means I actually need to finish Middlemarch… that book is taking me a while.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Monogatari: Second Season

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 31/100Title: Monogatari: Second Season
Episodes Aired: 26
Year(s): 2013

Aside from the volatility, my major bugbear of using MyAnimeList is that seasons of different anime are listed separately. This is fine for the likes of Gintama and Haikyu as everything from the get go appears within the list. However, for Monogatari: Second Season I needed to make my way through three previous iterations first. So, as I am writing this I am not only talking about Monogatari: Second Season, but also Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari and Nekomonogatari (Black).

The key concept of the Monogatari, whereby a half-vampire high schooler troubleshoots the spirit-based problems of the girls in his social circle, is ultimately an interesting one. Going into this I was expecting a harem anime along the lines of The World God Only Knows, but with a more varied mythology. Needless to say I went into this with high expectations.

For the most part, these expectations were not met.

Of the four iterations that I saw I can honestly say that I found myself really enjoying two of them (Bakemonogatari and Nekomonogatari (Black)) with the other two turning be off because of inconsistency (Nisemonogatari) or the extreme level of under-aged fan service (Monogatari: Second Season).

You see the main character, Koyomi Araragi, is a pervert. Now, there are many enjoyable characters in comedy anime are perverted because there are otherwise socially inept (Daru from Steins;Gate and Kazuma from KonoSuba immediately spring to mind), but with Koyomi the perversion takes a more paedophilic and, sometimes, incestuous quality.

Now, this wasn’t so bad in the first season (Bakemonogatari) or in the Nekomonogatari (Black) side story. In fact, Koyomi was mostly able to act as a proper (anti-)hero and try to save the day to the best of his abilities. There were actual human stories that made real connections… even if the connections were slightly goofy. This was a series I could actually enjoy.

So imagine my joy when the first story arc of Monogatari: Second Season was more along these lines. Then it quickly descended into him being sexually aroused by a 11-year old girl pressing her breasts into his back and I just had had enough.

This is a series with such complex ideas when it comes to philosophy and mythology only to have it be drowned out by an extreme level of fan service. You also have the issue of every conversation taking way too long, which gets tiresome after a while.

The thing is, there is a really great anime here beneath the fan service. Visually this is one of the most striking and original animes I have seen since Paprika. The style takes a while to get used to, but after a while it is truly arresting. Similarly, the Monogatari franchise has some fantastic OPs.

When it does characters and backstories well (like with Hanakawa and Senjōgahara) then this is a really great one to watch. Otherwise, it veers between tedious and off-putting. Such a shame really.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Monster

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 30/100Title: Monster
Episodes Aired: 74
Year(s): 2004-2005

Six months ago(ish) I finished reading the Monster manga. Pretty soon afterwards I started on a weekly date with the anime. The manga had affected me so much that I was immediately keen to see how well the anime adaptation would be. Despite some fears to the contrary, I was in no way disappointed.

If there is one thing that can be said for the Monster adaptation, it’s that it is incredibly faithful. I mean, I would struggle to name a single scene from the manga that wasn’t animated. For some adaptations the idea of being ultra-faithful can be a downside, but I guess that’s the big plus point of having this done as a television series with 74 episodes.

One thing that I don’t think I truly appreciated whilst reading Monster is just how visually brutal it would be. The torture scenes with the nail clippers were especially awful… I mean how can you not cringe when seeing that depicted onscreen. Similarly, there’s something about seeing villains like the Baby and Johan (aka the titular Monster) being animated that can being an extra chill to your bones. I mean just look at that pale death stare:

On the other hand there is a lot of beauty in the anime that you don’t see as well in the manga. The attention to detail that went into making the German countryside look as idyllic as possible is admirable. Similarly the way that regional tchotchkes like the pop-up clock are brought to life shows a great affection on the part of the animators.

As someone who had read Monster I was still able to be shocked and intrigued by the adaptation. The English dub that I watched wasn’t perfect as some of the voices were fairly similar (i.e. Lunge and Grimmer), but on the whole it was fine. One bonus was the far superior ending theme which was so much more fitting than the Japanese one.

This is a seriously good show. Whilst it might be more enjoyable if you don’t know the story it is still a lot to enjoy because of how complex it is. My next anime pick may not live up to this….