Tag Archives: Anime

(✿◠‿◠) 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.

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(✿◠‿◠) 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….

 

 

(✿◠‿◠) 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.