Tag Archives: Anime

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Death Note

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 25/100Title: Death Note
Episodes Aired: 37
Year(s): 2006-2007

As part of my job I find myself helping out at training events. Some of them, like the one I just finished, take me away from home for 3-4 days. Every time I go away I make the unrealistic assumption that I will be able watch films, read books and generally make a dent in my lists.

So yes, that didn’t happen. Instead I used my limited free time to finish watching Death Note and, seeing how my room is next to the path where the golf karts are driven, I managed to watch a lot of it in the morning before the events began.

This has left me somewhat bereft since this is a series I have been looking forward to seeing for ages and I am done with it almost as soon as I started it. I went into it with the baggage that many view this as one of (if not the) greatest anime series ever produce, and left it agreeing with that sentiment.

The idea behind Death Note is simple, but incredibly effective. If you were given the power to kill anyone in the world just by writing their name in a book – what would you do. This is the question that Light Yagami (the central character) faces. This is a boy (later man) who is of genius level intellect and, as such, is incredibly bored. This book, the titular Death Note, provides him with a self-imposed project to rid the world of all bad people by using the book to kill them.

Thinking on it now, it’s a decision that I think a lot of people would take – especially if you are a believer in capital punishment. Honestly, I don’t know what I would do. Is like to think I’d just not do anything… but that leads into the big theme of power and megalomania.

The sense of entitlement that this Death Note affords its user is astounding. You become judge, jury and executioner all in one – whilst also being able to remain anonymous. That is… until someone notices that suddenly all these criminals are dying at once. Enter L – a genius detective and truly one of the greatest characters ever put into manga and anime.

As engaging as Light is, it is the relationship between Light and L that elevates this story to almost masterpiece. Story arcs become chess games and genius ones at that. Thanks to the many rules and abilities of the Death Note it is fantastic watching these two try to outdo each other and force the other one out of the game.

[Spoilers will now follow]

It is therefore the big weakness of this show that the final third of the series is without L. I think a lot of people have written on this, but for those few episodes after L’s departure the story just starts to struggle. It does pick up again and end up with a final two episodes that are basically perfect (especially when watched in quick succession), but the spectre of L just hangs over everything.

However, this show going off a cliff is still better than a lot of other shows trying their hardest. Also considering that this show ended up writing itself into a corner, the departure of L was the only option, plus it allows for some great symmetry as L’s protégé Near is (in the final episodes) able to do what L could not.

At this point I really should point out the quality of the voice acting. I watched the dub because, again, it was highly acclaimed and I could not fault it. The voice actors for Light, L and the shinigamis (oh yes, I forgot to mention there are death gods in this) are outstanding. I particularly have to single out the English language voice of L whose work was able to soften the many eccentricities of the character instead of having the be annoyances.

There is a lot more that’s praiseworthy in this anime including the music, use of colour and shadow in the animation, pacing and the many areas of psychology explored in the actions and reactions of everyone in the Death Note universe.

At just shy of 13 hours of content Death Note is an example of just how great anime can be. I know that, for many, this was the show that got them into anime in general. It’s one of the many shows that have that crossover potential – but is often just dismissed as another animated show. Their loss I guess.

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

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 24/100Title: Shokugeki no Souma: Ni no Sara
Episodes Aired: 13
Year(s): 2016

Well, I was able to hold off on watching this as long as I could. The thing is, after over a month with a boxing anime this just felt like the ultimate antidote. Sure they both deal with people facing off with each other in a competition, but that is where the similarities end.

I don’t think there is that much more to say about this show that wasn’t said when I posted about the first season it eight months ago. It’s a show about students at a crazy competitive school for chefs that makes you hungry no matter how full you are.

At the end of the first season we were left with the cliffhanger of main character Yukihira Soma having made his way to a big knock-out cooking tournament for the first year students. We then spend this season in this tournament and one further challenge for the students. Of course we are then left on another cliffhanger… so we’ll just need to see how many more seasons that this gets.

This season still features some fantastic food talk. Some of the things that I have learned on this shows about food have really made me want to try new things. Maybe not a turtle burger so much, but a quail stuffed with risotto or a lemon curd semifreddo? Just hand me a fork.

Honestly, this isn’t high level watching but it is good fun and makes for a perfect palate cleanser before tackling my next series.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Hajime no Ippo

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 23/100Title: Hajime no Ippo
Episodes Aired: 75
Year(s): 2000-2002

It has been about two months since I last completed an anime series and even longer since I last saw a sports anime that wasn’t Yuri!!! On Ice.

I think I can now remember why it’s been such a big gap: I’m not exactly a sports fan so watching a lot of episodes that would essentially be watching a sports event takes a lot to get me interested. Same with anything related to the nuts and bolts of sports training.

Now, to give Hajime no Ippo credit, it did keep me interested for pretty much the entire run. There were only two time where this show failed for me: the flashback episodes and the general love story between Ippo and Kumi. This makes it sound that this show had poorly constructed characters, which isn’t true at all.

The thing that keeps you watching is Ippo himself. He starts out as a nobody who is bullied at school and he turns to the world of boxing to both gain confidence and find his purpose. He is your typical shy, clumsy and endearing underdog who finds out that he is a natural at boxing.

It feels like it could be a little by the numbers since it is obvious that Ippo will be the champion by the end of the series. However, there are enough diversions along the way, including a rather devastating loss and a boxing match with a bear, that meant I kept watching this show rather than giving it up… unlike One Piece which managed to turn me off very quickly.

I guess that the mix of the characters and the sense of humour was enough to keep me going. Also, I feel that I have learned an awful lot about boxing. However, 75 episodes is a lot to binge on any show let alone one about a subject that you don’t exactly have a lot of interest in.

At the end of the day I honestly did think that Hajime no Ippo was a good show, but I probably should have interspersed this with another lighter anime or at least something completely different like Aria or Space Brothers. I don’t know what I’ll be watching next but I know that I’ll need a break from sports anime for a little while.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Assassination Classroom

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 22/100Title: Assassination Classroom – Season 2
Episodes Aired: 25
Episodes Watched:
25
Year(s): 2016

In between watching One Piece and Gintama: Enchousen I started watching Assassination Classroom. However, this overlapped with my discovery of Stardew Valley, which meant that I needed an anime where I could watch an English dub. Therefore One Piece took over and I came back to Assassination Classroom at a later date with only 8 episodes to go.

Like with Clannad: After Story I made an effort to watch the preceding series, if only to make sense of what I was about to watch for the anime list. I am so incredibly thankful that I did this for Assassination Classroom, otherwise I would have missed so much and I would have been lost.

Honestly, if it was not for the final few episodes of Season 2 I would say that I found the first series to marginally be the better one. However, the way that the series managed to polish off the main story and give a genuinely satisfying epilogue just pipped it for me.

So what’s this show even about? Well we start off with the moon exploding into a permanent crescent. The major suspect? A squidlike entity, later referred to as Koro-sensei (a play on ‘korosenai’ – the Japanese word for invincible) who cannot be hurt by regular weapons because he is made of some form of anti-matter. For some reason Koro-sensei bargains with the government that he will stay in one place, but only if he can become a classroom teacher of a certain class. The catch being that he is to teach his class the way of the assassin so they are able to kill him before he explodes.

korosensei

It’s an odd premise which, on the surface, should make for a nice throwaway series. And yet, by the time you reach the end of the second/final season you care so deeply for the characters – especially Koro-sensei himself and a handful of his students.

Speaking of Koro-sensei – I love him so much. If I were to make a list of my favourite anime characters he would likely be among the Top 10 with some characters from Steins;Gate, Yuri On Ice, Hunter x Hunter and Bleach. 

He works so well because there is a genuine threat about Koro-sensei whilst also being the nicest and most supportive teacher you could ever hope to have in a class. I mean, this is someone who can move at the speed of sound and kill you in a split second, yet he is someone who goes out of his way to make the lives of his students better. I wish I could have been more like Koro-sensei, then again I’m not invincible.

So yes, I loved this show. There’s more to be said, but I have a hankering for some Lego Dimensions to round off the evening. I have no idea what I’ll be watching yet. It’s been a while since I did a sports anime… so that might be my next port of call.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – One Piece

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 21/100Title: One Piece
Episodes Aired: 790+
Episodes Watched:
61
Year(s): 1999-present

When I added the anime list to this bucket list I never stipulated a point that I would have to reach before being able to give up a show. For a show like Erased this would never be a problem since 11 episodes is almost nothing to just get through, however I don’t fancy the idea of making my way through nearly 800 of these.

I saw some people online discussing the mammoth task of starting One Piece from the beginning and questioning whether it was actually worth it. The standard advice was to get to episode 42 and make your decision from there. I overshot this a bit because I figured it was worth an extra pop, but I still had my issues.

For those who don’t know: One Piece is a show about a boy called Luffy who sets sail to become ‘King of the Pirates’. He also has stretchy superpowers that pretty much make him a rubber man.

Most of the episodes I saw revolved around Luffy getting members of his crew together and the beginnings of some of the mythology. Mythology that is actually quite interesting. However, this is a shonen series and that means that most of the episodes revolve around fighting sequences. Where the fights in Hunter x Hunter felt unique and had an interesting bent, the fights in One Piece got old pretty fast.

The other big problem was the repetition. In a 25 minute episode of the episode about 5 is taken up by the credits, another 5 by a recap of the previous episode and then 1-2 minutes previewing the next episode. It doesn’t make for a satisfying binge watch when you keep reaching for the fastforward.

With this crossed off there are few long series left on the list. I think I’ll be reaching for Assassination Classroom next. I mean, who doesn’t like an anime about a yellow space octopus?

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Gintama’: Enchousen

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 20/100Title: Gintama’: Enchousen
Episodes Aired: 13
Episodes Watched:
13
Year(s): 2008-2009

After watching the previous iteration of Gintama I was beginning to get a bit tired of how hit and miss this series could be. I think that with Gintama’ Enchousen I might have seen the best and most consistent series to date.

I managed to watch all 13 episodes of this on a recent work trip to Wales where I spent two nights in a hotel with weirdly limited wi-fi. By limited I mean that I had to lay in front of the door to the hotel room in order to get a strong enough signal for Crunchyroll to work. So, this was watched in a makeshift nest of pillows and extra blankets. On the floor. Because I am an adult.

Within Gintama’ Enchousen there are three arcs and one standalone episode. The second arc, known as the Courtesan of a Nation arc, was one of the best that I have seen from the franchise so far. Is it because it heavily features Tsukuyo (my favourite side-character) in a serious story about promises and toppling the patriarchy that ended up making me cry? Yes, yes it is.

The thing is, there is no way that you can watch Gintama’ Enchousen without seeing any of the previous seasons. The first arc is extremely meta and only works if you know the characters really well. However, this is a show that’s big enough and far enough in that it doesn’t really need to use a season opener to introduce new viewers.

I say this, but Gintama’ Enchousen actually included some remastered episodes from the previous that could have provided some sort of introduction… but I didn’t see the point of watching repeats when I have so many great animes calling my name.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Clannad: After Story

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 19/100Title: Clannad: After Story
Episodes Aired: 24
Episodes Watched:
24
Year(s): 2008-2009

I think it goes without saying, but it’s hard to talk about what made Clannad: After Story without delving into spoiler territory. There are few shows I have come across that have taken a complete left turn in their storytelling and been all the better for it.

As the title might give away, Clannad: After Story is actually a sequel series to the original Clannad. You have to watch Clannad to get as much as possible out of After Story. It does make an effort to re-introduce some of the characters between seasons, but there are jokes and certain relationship dynamics (see: any scene between Tomoya and Kyou) that only make sense if you have watched all the previous episodes.

You would be well within your right to think that you are watching a standard harem anime. In fact, until you get to about episode 9 of After Story this is a harem anime; a good one, but not exactly an example of expert storytelling. Then everything changes.

Suddenly the very moe-style animation isn’t complementary, but juxtaposing. Why? Because life starts to hit home for the main couple of Tomoya and Nagisa. In fact, every hurdle that a regular person would have to deal with as they leave school isn’t just there, but 20 metres high and without any sort of ladder to clamber over.

Nagisa gets sick, Tomoya takes on a manual and exhausting job, Tomoya misses out on job advancement because his father ends up in jail. Oh and Nagisa dies in childbirth. Then Tomoya deals with 5 years of depression before his own daughter dies. It’s blow, after blow, after blow. You watch it wondering how fate is going to rear it’s ugly head episode after episode after episode.

Interwoven throughout the series is a more magical and sci-fi idea of an Illusionary World and a myth that if you collect enough balls of light (created by happiness) that you can be granted a wish. This world makes no sense out of context or in the context of the rest of the series – until you get to about episode 18 of After Story. Then there are enough pieces of the puzzle to figure out how this series will end. Okay, it’s a little bit of a cop out, but dear God Tomoya has earned a happy ending.

I can easily say this was not how I expected this anime to go. In the space of a few episodes it jumped from a 3.5/5 rating to a 4.5/5 rating. Sure there are things that could have been removed, such as the gang fighting episodes, but it’s a very interesting look at what it means to be an adult.

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

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 18/100Title: Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion
Episodes Aired: 25
Episodes Watched:
25
Year(s): 2006-2007

“You can’t leave it there!” screamed anime fans when the first season of Code Geass ended in July 2007. They’d already had to wait for months to see the two part conclusion to this amazing series for it only to end in this extreme stalemate. Did the ruddy job though, I just want to get on with watching Round 2.

Starting off, Code Geass is one of those anime set in a world somewhat parallel to our own. It’s a world where, much like in 1984, there are three large empires of the world: China, the European Union and Britannia. It is 2017 and Japan has been a subject of the Britannian Empire for 6-7 years.

This is a world where Japan (now called Area 11) is downtrodden, Mt Fuji is being mined for rare materials and the tools of oppression are mecha suits known as Knightmares. Oh and there is a witch that can grant supernatural abilities known as Geass.

code_geass_ep10_the-guren-dances_720pblurayx264_-_gg-thora03035706-18-34Seriously, the world that has been created for Code Geass is remarkable and this is only scratching the surface of a highly political series. Given the conflicts happening around the world, where the terms ‘terrorists’ and ‘freedom fighters’ appear even more interchangeable, a lot of what happens in Code Geass feels very relevant.

At the centre of it is Lelouch, an exiled Britannian prince out for revenge against the empire for killing his mother and using him as a bargaining chip in the take over of Japan. The first series is very much us seeing the annihilation of Lelouch’s moral compass as he finds himself wading in too deep into the world of rebel groups.

Thanks to his superior intellect, tactical genius and a gift of Geass that allows him to order any person to do his bidding (although this only works once per person) Lelouch finds himself as the charismatic figurehead of the Black Knight movement. To protect his identity he adopts the guise of Zero – an equivalent of V in V For Vendetta.

He only has one care in this world: his blind, wheelchair-bound sister Nannally. Whilst he does care about others around him many are pretty much dispensable for as long as he is able to achieve his act of vengeance against his father the Emperor and those who killed his mother.

suzaku_and_euphy

We are introduced to a wide range of strong characters during the run of the show; Kallen being the ultimate example. She truly is a badass and the ultimate soldier of justice. As a member of the Black Knights, whose actions under Zero can be questionable, she is able to remain both just and true to her principles.

However, one character who needs to be mentioned is Euphemia. She is the epitome of kind-heartedness and seeks peace. Despite being a royal princess of the Empire of Britannia, what she really wants is to bring peace to Japan and end all the needless bloodshed. It is because of her undeniable goodness that makes the final episodes of this first season all the more devastating. This, after all, is not a world built on good intentions.

So yes, despite how amazing this series was I will not be heading straight for the second season.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 18/100Title: Natsume Yuujinchou and Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou
Episodes Aired: 26
Episodes Watched:
26
Year(s): 2008-2009

As I mentioned when I first added this list to the blog – the MyAnimeList is very volatile. To its credit this means that series from 2016 and 2017 are able to gain a place. On the flip side it means that with the 6 month gap between writing and posting there are series that will fall off.

The first series of Natsume Yuujinchou is an example of this. As of writing this post for the second series it is still in the list at #100. However, by the time this goes up in May I have no doubt that it will fall out of the list. Hey ho. I would still have watched this in order to understand the four further seasons of this on the list.

In a nutshell, the Natsume Yuujinchou series is about a boy named Natsume Takashi who can see spirits (or yokai) and his yokai guardian that looks like one of those lucky cats you see in every Chinatown souvenir shop .

At the start of the he comes across his grandmother’s ‘book of friends’ (the ‘yuujinchou’ of the title), which she used to control spirits by stealing their names. How did she do this? Mostly by punching them in the head. It’s anime/manga, so it doesn’t have to make sense to us in the West.

The episodes are pretty slice-of-life and follows a ‘yokai-of-the-week’ style formula with the overarching theme of Natsume’s lonliness. He is one of those unusual examples of a main character who lives with foster parents (well, very distant relations but they act as foster parents). He is a lonely boy as, due to his ability to see spirits, Natsume has not been able to make many friends as people just think he’s a bit weird.

zokuchou04f

The big arc for Natsume is his gaining of friends and, effectively, his re-integration into the human world whilst also becoming more aware of his spiritual powers. There are a number of recurring characters, including a charismatic actor who is also a spirit hunter.

As viewing goes it is pretty gentle and, going by the level of fandom I see online it is not a series that I think has hit me as hard as other people. It’s a fairly nice palate cleanse after the weirdness of Gintama’ and whatever I choose next. I am eyeing a bit of Clannad: After Story or maybe even Cowboy Bebop now that it is on Netflix.

Who knows.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Gintama’

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 17/100Title: Gintama’
Episodes Aired: 51
Episodes Watched:
51
Year(s): 2011-2012

So here we are again (so soon) in the wacky world of GintamaThis is the odd part of using MyAnimeList as a source for this Top 100 – if a show takes a year or two out they class it as a new separate show rather than a continuation. Good news for shows you like, not so much for those you dislike (not come across any of those yet, but it’ll probably happen at some point)

For a show like Gintama, which has follow through but no serious serialization, the break in seasons is beneficial. The world is weird and inconsistent enough as it is without there being too many anime-only arcs and storylines to muddy up the waters.

gintama235

Now, whilst I still found many a laugh out moment in this season of Gintama it felt slightly more inconsistent than previous series. There were some great episodes like the Renho, Glasse, Four Devas and Scandal arcs. On the other hand there were episodes where it went over the top with the idiocy/crudeness (see: the Jugem and Bath House episodes) or the whole Thorny arc which dragged along.

It was most definitely more hit then miss, but the ratio was not as good as the previous season. There were still a lot of laughs and feels though. The episode where the three central characters sit down to eat crab just encapsulates everything I love about this show. It’s wacky, it escalates quickly, it’s overly dramatic at times and it is unpredictable.

Another episode or two worth a mention are episode 23 (with the haunted blu-ray player) and episode 47 (or any episode with Hasegawa as a main character to be honest)

I am in two minds whether I should continue on with Gintama or finish it off. Thoughts on the subject would be greatly appreciated.