Tag Archives: Anime

(✿◠‿◠) 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.

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(✿◠‿◠) 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….

 

 

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 29/100Title: Saiki Kusuo no Ψ-nan (The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.)
Episodes Aired: 120
Year(s): 2015-16

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. is the exception that proves the rule when it comes to shows on the anime list. Where all others are ~24 minutes per episodes, these are are about 5 minutes each. This is how I managed to watch 120 episodes in the space of a few weeks.

When this aired originally aired in Japan it was (usually) one episode per weekday, with a weekly omnibus airing later. It makes for better viewing to see them as bundles, especially when they do a bit of serialization – otherwise I can imagine it getting a bit hard to follow, which was my issue with Senyuu.

Much like Nichijou, this is a gag anime – it’s just that all the 5 minute vignettes are led by the same character: a deadpan high school student with ridiculously powerful psychic abilities called Saiki Kusuo. The episodes mostly centre around him trying to avoid his annoying school mates, eating sweets and trying to look as average as possible without his powers getting in the way.

What powers does he have? Well, pretty much everything you can think of. Telepathy, teleportation, clairvoyance, pyrokinesis, super strength… the list goes on and is added to as required in the episode. I actually like the idea of having a character (much like Saitama in One Punch Man) where the joke comes from them being so ridiculously overpowered. It makes a nice change from more serious shows where they derive drama from limitations.

On the whole this series felt like a good diversion. Sure the jokes were silly, but after time in the office you need to watch something a bit goofy. It would be interesting to see this as a proper length show, but I can see how dragging the storylines out for a half hour would negatively affect the series.

 

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Gintama°

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 28/100Title: Gintama°
Episodes Aired: 51
Year(s): 2015-16

Here we go again with another trip into the madcap world of Gintama. Been a good long time since I saw Gintama: Enchousen and I think this is the most I have enjoyed any instalment in this franchise. It really feels like this is the season where all the previous episodes start to pay off with dividends.

The ever-increasing size of the cast have lent themselves to some of the best comedy arcs of the franchise (including the fantastic fan popularity arc) and Gintama° features two of their best yet: the gender-bending Dekobokko arc and the Soul Switch arc where Gintoki and Toshi finding themselves in each others’ bodies.

In previous editions the humour of the episodes can go a bit too far into the crude for my tastes (such as the alien bathhouse episode that was cringe-worthy). With Gintama°
these comedy episodes were utterly spot-on. I was actually laughing out loud at times as I was sat watching this alone in my Cardiff hotel room. Managed to watch nearly 30 episodes of this in two evenings… that’s how much I was enjoying it.

Then we get to the second half of the season. It feels like we’ve spent nearly 300 episodes building up this world up for the final 20 episodes of this edition putting it in jeopardy. There have been some serious arcs in the series, but with the Shogun Assassination and Farewell Shinsengumi there are some real and far-reaching consequences that have completely changed their world.

With more episodes still to watch I am keen to see the aftermath and how the writers are going to wind everything up as Gintama reaches the eventual endgame.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – One Punch Man

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 27/100Title: One Punch Man
Episodes Aired: 12
Year(s): 2015

With the number of superhero films and TV shows that have been on the air for the last few years I think I have had a bit of superhero fatigue. I think we all have on some level. It’s that fad that just isn’t going away… unlike vampires and zombies which is pretty much over.

So that, coupled with my recent push to cross off some of the longest anime series and books first,  meant I ended up postponing watching this for a while. Unlike Yuri!!! On Icewhich I jumped on immediately, I pretty much let the hype train for One Punch Man pass me by.

I mean c’mon. A weird anime about a disillusioned superhero that can defeat enemies in one punch. How good can that be?

The answer is: very.  Honestly, this is the best superhero anime that I have seen and is up there as one of the funniest.

When I heard the premise I figured that Saitama (the hero in question) would end up being extremely annoying. Either he would be utterly disinterested or incredibly whiny. Instead, he’s just a bit weird and that works for me.

The moment I realised that I had really fallen for this series occurred when he defeated an enemy quickly so he could make coupon day at his local supermarket… before descending into a depression because he missed it. I don’t know why that tickled me. Maybe because it made him so relatable? Maybe the absurdity of getting sidetracked by supermarket coupons whilst fighting a giant beetle? Who knows, all I can say is that it worked for me.

At only 12 episodes long One Punch Man ends pretty much as soon as it begins. Maybe that’s a good thing because you get to know the schtick really quickly. Saitama is the ultimate example of an overpowered hero and this show knows how to play with that, but I wonder how many other ways you can do this without being stale.

In any case, as of writing this, the next season has been announced… just without a date of transmission. Honestly, I can’t wait.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Space Brothers

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 27/100Title: Space Brothers
Episodes Aired: 99
Year(s): 2012-2014

If you go into this expecting it to be all rocket ships and space flights, then you’ll be slightly disappointed. Whilst this is technically a science-fiction anime, it is not intergalactic space stations, laser battles and aliens. Instead what you have is a slice of life dramedy telling the story of the two Nanba brothers who dream to go off into space.

Whilst both brothers get their own stories and arcs it is the older brother, Mutta, who is the main protagonist. We begin the series with him at a crossroads in life having been fired from his job as an engineer (he headbutted his manager, Zidane-style). His younger brother, Hibito, is about to fulfil his dream of being the first Japanese man on the moon… and this gets Mutta thinking about his long-abandoned dream of becoming an astronaut.

What follows is 90+ episodes of us watching Mutta training and competing to becoming an astronaut in his own right as he plays catch-up to his younger brother. The anime paints this as being a lot down to luck with Mutta born on the day of a big Japanese football defeat, whilst younger brother Hibito was born on a big football victory.

The idea of luck becomes a running theme. Mutta and Hibito have to compete with many people of equal ability with their luck (and their ability to react to bad luck) being the deciding factors for a lot of their careers. One of the best arcs in the entire show is about how Hibito deals with being stranded in a lunar crater and overcoming the odds to survive on a hostile hunk of rock.

At no point, however, does it feel like they get a raw deal or get too far ahead. The same goes for the huge number of side characters that populate the world of NASA and the Japanese Space Agency. Some, like Serika, achieve their dreams, whilst others achieve dreams they didn’t know they ever had. There are also those who never quite get there… which is a bit like life really.

The main issue with Space Brothers is the same as with Hunter x Hunter – it’s a currently running manga. This means that we are left with a not-so-ending which, whilst it did tie a bunch of plots together, leaves us with Mutta never having reached space after 99 episodes and 2 time skips. On the one hand it feels like an anti-climax as we’ve spent so many hours with him to still have his feet very much on terra firma. On the other hand, Space Brothers tells a far more human storyline and a unique one at that.

 

As of writing this Space Brothers has yet to get a second season to continue on the storyline, but the manga is still going strong. It would be great to see this get another series once the manga has finished. This anime needs a proper conclusion.

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

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 26/100Title: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure
Episodes Aired: 26
Year(s): 2012-2014

Right, so I usually don’t watch an anime adaptation this close to finishing the manga, but JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure felt like something that would better suit the small screen. In some ways I was correct, in others less so.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, which covers the first two storylines from the manga of the same name. Whilst this has the benefit of setting up the Joestar dynasty and gives a lot of backstory, the first JoJo was always the most boring to read and, at times, it was actually quite boring to watch. It doesn’t help that the first JoJo is a complete Mary Sue and that Dio is pure evil for no real reason.

Then entertainment really begins with the second half of the anime where we pick up with JoJo’s grandson… JoJo. Not only does this have a better JoJo voice actor (which the second JoJo being voiced by the same guy who does Gintoki in Gintama), but better villains, more entertaining powers and character with actual flaws.

Speaking of flaws, it’s time to address the two major flaws of this anime. The first is the narration or, to be more specific, the over narration. In the manga this made more sense due to the format, but in the anime it really interrupted the flow and made a lot of the dialogue feel really stilted.

Then there is over masculinity within the series, which makes this a bit of a throwback to anime series from the 1980s and 1990s. Everyone is obscenely muscular and there is an awful lot of weird posing that goes on when there could be some fighting going on or at least some development of the plot.

The thing is, I did not go into this first iteration of the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure expecting something truly amazing. Mainly because I really started enjoying the manga with the introduction of Stand powers. This probably means that I will enjoy watching Stardust Crusaders a whole lot more… whenever I get around to that.

(✿◠‿◠) 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.

(✿◠‿◠) 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.