The phrase ‘Japanese culture’ will stir vastly different ideas depending on whom you choose to talk to. To some, the first thing that springs to mind is undoubtedly Shinto temples or giant Buddha statues while to others it might be the iconic tea ceremony.
For an increasing number though the initial thought is of the country’s thriving ‘youth culture’, most notably: anime. Western countries led by the US have, in recent years, seen a spike in people becoming increasingly engaged with the medium with the number of anime titles available on popular and specialised streaming sites.
It is then the perfect time to be writing about why now is the time to open up the tab on Netflix you’ve yet to open and watch your first anime since the original Pokémon.
Okay – you know what I’m here to talk about, so let’s try and point out some stereotypes that…
Not every anime is meant to have a deeper or sentimental message and of those that attempt to include one, the majority spectacularly fail in a haze of melodrama and tears. That is why Your Lie in April is so special. The show you are about to read about takes real and serious issues and creates 22 well paced episodes and a cast of interesting, often funny, though not always perfect characters.
Background and plot
Kousei Arima was once the child prodigy of all child prodigies in the world of piano, dominating competitions on a national level and generally annoying all of his competitors with his brilliance. During one competition however, following the death of his slave driving mother he breaks down, losing the ability to hear the notes he plays, thus fading into the obscurity of middle school Japan, and the introvert character type that would be typically expected to follow.
I do like trying new things here, in fact we all do. It’s why I try writing new types of articles and why you might, after watching Sword Art Online, decide to watch Log Horizon. In this new article format I’m going to be picking two shows that are similar or are often compared. And yep, you guessed it, for my first comparison I’ve chosen one of the biggest clashes in the recent anime world: MMO vs MMO – Sword Art Online vs Log Horizon.
At a very basic level, the link between the two shows is their grounding in an immersive RPG world that they players cannot escape from. In SAO, we have the world of Alfheim, where ten thousand players have been trapped by evil mastermind and game creator Akihiko Kayaba and if they die in the game, they will also die in real life. In comparison, in Log Horizon we have Elder Tale a desktop MMO that after an update became the reality for all of the players around the world who were logged in.
The autumn season of anime is well underway with most shows now either two or three episodes. Of all the shows I’ve started this season, the one that has intrigued the most is the psychological mystery The Perfect Insider.
The show is an adaptation of Hishori Mori’s 1996 mystery novel and has reached the anime medium after adaptations into a manga, visual novel and live action drama.
It’s difficult to write a first impressions review of this show because things are still unraveling even at the end of episode 3. Essentially the story goes something like this: a teacher and his student (who are both very clever) have a bit of a fascination with a doctor who as well as being widely viewed as the cleverest person alive, killed her parents. The teacher takes his seminar group on a trip to the island where the mysterious doctor has been in seclusion for the past 15 years only to bear witness to the aftermath of a murder.
As with anything that lives largely on the internet, the world of anime seems to love a good list. So today, because of criminal lack of reviewing over the past couple of months, I’m going to rank all of the shows that I’ve seen over the summer since the start of July by enjoyment (any attempt at being critical is being thrown out of the window for this article!). I’m going to every show I’ve seen whether it aired this season or I’ve only now got around to watching it, but to keep things interesting I’ll be combining seasons. Let’s get started!
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Bottom of the pile is the famous (infamous?) Madoka Magica. I’m not exactly an avid fan of magical girl genre but given the hype behind this show I felt that it might be worth the watch. What I found from watching the 12 episode season was a dark, beautiful but other underwhelming show that didn’t really seemed really confused up until the final 4 episodes. Then I watched the follow up movie: and the mess that it’s ending created is the cause for the Madoka Magica’s poor position in the list. Shame.
I seem to remember writing a first impressions review back at the start of the summer being really, really excited about Charlotte. Jun Maeda, Key, P.A Works and super powers – what could possibly go wrong? Three months later, I’m here to tell all.
Background and plot
The premise to Charlotte is a simple but very good one: a proportion of adolescent teenagers have (albeit somewhat limited) superpowers, ranging from flight to telekinesis. The show follows the student council of a school full of such teenagers who are out to protect other ability users that are at risk of being caught and experimented on by evil scientists.
The show runs for 13 episodes and initially sets a very good pace, using the first five or so episodes getting to know the members of the student council, Nao, Joujirou, Yusa and Yuu as well as the laters younger sister, Ayumi. Charlotte really excels in the middle episodes where the development from the opening really pays off with plenty of really enjoyable, well done drama and action.
There are couple of gaping problems in the plot however: firstly, an event occurs which in many ways makes a lot of things that happen in the show pointless and makes no effort to rectify the issue later on in the show.
When picking out anime to watch I tend to go for action heavy shows with lots of drama, conflict and intrigue. Every so often however, I feel like it’s worth rewinding, picking up a slice of life school drama and enjoying the ride it provides. Kokoro Connect was a show I decided to watch in just those circumstances.
Background and plot
The world of Kokoro Connect is, to no one’s surprise, largely a high school club room. The Cultural Research club is essentially the place for students that didn’t really fit into anything else, a situation which is taken advantage of by the ‘villain’ of the piece.
But what is the show actually about I hear you ask? Well, on one completely normal day two of the five club members swap bodies only for it to later be revealed that the event was not a one off and other similarly strange occurrings happen. The reason? A vaguely supernatural being known as ‘Heartseed’ wants to conduct experiments and thought the group were particularly interesting candidates.
In the past few weeks Charlotte has become this season’s anime to watch. What started off as a nostalgic Angel Beats! throwback has grown into a twist filled, action packed, feels heavy train ride into the trials and tribulations of Yuu Otasaka and those around him.
After last week’s episode it was hard to tell where the show was going with it’s final three episodes. The show had seemingly resolved what could have easily been a problem for the whole show. But this is Jun Maeda. So things won’t stop happening until the end of the thirteenth episode.
The episode opens by skipping the opening and reintroducing Yuu (again) and Mayumi to their older brother Shunsuke. For the first time in the show Yuu actually makes the decision to reflect on the scenario he has found himself in as well as what he has just been through. Compared to episode 7, Yuu shows some independence and maturity, while inwardly thinking of Nao, showing again the effect she has had on him as a person.
Madoka Magica needs little introduction. Magical girls are a fixture of the world and the question appears not to be if they will survive the series, but instead what the protagonists will wish for in exchange for gaining magical powers and fairy costumes.
But then this is Madoka Magica – the anime even those that haven’t watched it describe as ‘very dark’. And they’re right to, this is no Sailor Moon, and if that’s what you’re after then go and watch Sailor Moon itself because I’m sure it’s fantastic for girls getting magical powers and saving the world. Madoka Magica on the other hand is not so simple
Background and Plot
Madoka is your average 14 year old middle school girl, living her life quite happily with her family and friends in what appears to be a near future world. Her world starts to change when the strange creature Kyuubey appears to her in a dream offering her the chance to become a magical girl.
Heroes living amongst us with the secret power to transform and protect the world from aliens. No doubt the premise for many children’s favourite tv shows now and in the past. Surely though, such a genre couldn’t be successfully taken and plied to (slightly!) more mature audience? That is the task the Gatchaman Crowds gives itself, and here is what I think of it.
Background and plot
The world we all live in is constantly under threat from aliens who would destroy the planet or otherwise use it and humanity as their playground. This is the world presented to us in Gatchaman Crowds along with it’s faithful protectorate, the Gatchaman. Super heroes that, by using the god given NOTE, transform and secretly protect society.