Category Archives: Anime Review

Animax Asia to Air Charlotte on the Same Day as Japan

 

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An original anime production by prolific writer Jun Maeda is premiering first and exclusively on Animax – Asia’s first 24-hour Japanese anime channel.

Love is Coming Back! – Kuragehime Review

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From L to R: Banba, Mayaya, Tsukimi, Kuranosuke, Jiji, Chieko

Do you have any childhood memories that you’re particularly fond of? I’m sure that everybody takes a trip down memory lane once in a while to revisit an event that has in one way or another shaped their current interests. For Kurashita Tsukimi, the memory of admiring the jellyfish exhibit in the local aquarium with her mother was one she cherished dearly. Fast forward a few years later and Tsukimi became what one would call a “jellyfish otaku”.

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Shu Koibuchi gives his opinion on Tsukimi.

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Kuranosuke’s description is much more accurate.

Kuragehime, or Jellyfish Princess, is an anime adaption based on the comedy-josei manga of the same name. Tsukimi is our heroine whose love of jellyfish was influenced by her late mother. She lives in a women-only apartment complex called “Amamizukan with tenants who call themselves “the amars” (some other people would describe them as otakus too). One day, Tsukimi comes across a jellyfish that needs help and bumps into a beautiful woman who then saves the poor creature. However, it turns out that this beautiful woman is a crossdresser named Koibuchi Kuranosuke. He starts to take a liking towards Tsukimi and decides to regularly visit her in Amamizukan despite the “no men” rule implemented by one of the tenants, Mejiro-sensei. The story follows their adventures together, which is an entertaining one full of romance and comedy!

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It really is fearsome.

What I like most about Kuragehime is how diverse the cast is. The characters of Kuragehime are so unique and colorful that you’ll probably find yourself having a hard time choosing a favorite!

Tsukimi’s overall character design is quite different from the usual moe heroines that you find in lots of other shows; she looks somewhat more realistic. Her overall personality is what makes her an great protagonist and a character one could relate to as well.

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The aquarium is one of Tsukimi’s favorite places.

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Her room is decorated with her many illustrations of jellyfish.

Then there’s Kuranosuke, whose chemistry with Tsukimi is very sweet and their personalities mesh well together despite him being much more outgoing than she is. His exuberant personality shows in the way he presents himself; his many glamorous outfits are surely something to look forward to seeing in every episode.

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This is definitely one of my most favorite outfits from the show.

The amars are also really likeable! Banba, Mayaya, Jiji, Chieko, and Mejiro each have their own interests and are kind of one-dimensional. However, their individual quirks make them all fun characters that are sure to make you look forward to seeing more of their shenanigans as the series goes on. If you like the amars, they — and other supporting characters — get featured in the Kuragehime Specials, which are all quite enjoyable to watch.

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You can tell that eating is one of their favorite pastimes.

Apart from the interesting characters, the show’s super catchy OP and ED is sure to keep you hooked. Each song has fun lyrics and an infectious beat that will definitely get stuck in your head. While I usually skip these parts of most shows so that I could get right on with the story, I found myself enjoying the whole thing.

Animation-wise, one would say that it’s not exactly the best, but its simplicity is what gives it its charm. Besides, this show is not known for extravagant animation, but its excellently executed and well-paced story.

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Tsukimi finds herself reflecting on her feelings for a certain someone.

The anime only has eleven episodes, which is pretty short and can be finished in one sitting. To be honest, I was wondering why I couldn’t click the “next” button after I finished it because I expected at least one more episode! It definitely deserves one, but the way the story was handled made the ending satisfying enough.  If you want to know what happens next, it’s recommended that you read the manga because there weren’t enough volumes to fully wrap up some plot points at the time the show ended.

Kuragehime is a very unique anime with a wonderful story and super lovable cast of characters. It’s a hidden gem and is unfortunately somewhat underrated. I do hope that this review encourages you to try out this anime because it’s definitely worth it!

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Nice save, Tsukimi.

In other Kuragehime-related news,  according to Anime News Network, a live action movie will open in Japanese theaters this December 27. It will feature Rena Nonen as Kurashita Tsukimi and Masaki Suda as Koibuchi Kuranosuke. The trailer for this movie can be watched here!

Persona 3 The Movie: Chapter 1, Spring of Birth Review

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It’s been a while, probably a year, since I’ve last written an anime review, and it took a massive blast from the past to finally get me off my butt and shake the creative cobwebs off to get to write again.  To those who bother to care, this website started out as a place where I dumped my anime reviews, as I was such an avid anime fan who had watched 300+ anime series besides films.  Then I got engrossed in cosplay and things got really complicated and got really busy really quick so each time I do maintenance on the site I feel sad when I see my reviews section lonely and neglected.

 

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And then I got my hands on a copy of Persona 3 The Movie: Chapter 1, Spring of Birth and it flooded me with so much nostalgia that I couldn’t help but want to share this feeling with everyone.  This movie is based on the well-received, award winning video game by Atlus, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3, what I consider one of the best RPG games ever on any console.  I had spent literally more than 100 hours battling monsters, watching the story unfold, and on occasions, just letting go of the controller so I can just enjoy listening to its awesome soundtrack.

 

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I had a blissful time watching all 1 hour, 38 minutes, 32 seconds of it.  So what’s my verdict?  I give it a score of 4 out of 5 full moons, because it’s sure to give long-time fans like me or anyone new to the franchise something to howl about.  Read on to know more.

 

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Prelude

Set in fictional Iwatodai City, the movie begins when Makoto Yuki, an orphaned teenager with a hazy past, transfers to Gekkoukan High School.  There he inadvertently discovers the supernatural entities called Shadows which roam freely and attack people during the mysterious Dark Hour at the stroke of midnight.  In an encounter with one such creature, he releases an ability within himself called Persona, and Yuki finds himself caught up in an ongoing struggle against the Shadows with his new schoolmates. In the process, Makoto and his friends discover the horrifying reality which was to unfold in Iwatodai City, still unaware of the fate waiting for them.

 

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Directed by Noriaki Akitaya and written by Jun Kumagai,  Persona 3 The Movie: Chapter 1, Spring of Birth is a Japanese animated film released as the first installment in a series based on the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 video game by Atlus.  Production was done by AIC ASTA and was distributed by Aniplex.  It was released in a special screening in Japan on November 16, 2013 at Shinjuku Wald 9 with the general Japanese release on November 23, 2013.

 

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Strengths

 

One of the aspects I consider as essential to this movie adaptation of the game is the inclusion of the main staff who were directly involved in the original game.  Directed by Noriaki Akitaya and written by Jun Kumagai, along with the  same people behind the also successful Persona 4: The Animation series, the story was made  as faithfully close to the game as possible, so long-time fans will feel right at home and appreciate the meticulous work done to get the mood and atmosphere as dark and mysterious as the game.   At almost every scene those who have played the game will be pointing and shouting at the screen saying “I know that!” seeing nostalgic places and people.

 

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Also, as most  the original people involved in the game were brought in, the quality of the overall work was quite high and very polished.  The character designs were distinct and pleasant and lovingly nostalgic.  The voice acting department was more than sufficient as they were also part of the original game.  Probably the most impressive aspect of the movie was the animation.  The visual style was in a league of its own: sharp, flashy, dynamic, it reflected the exciting action the original game provided particularly in the fight scenes.  Scenes essential to the story were done quite dramatically as well, accentuating the dark, mysterious nature of the game.  Visually stunning, watching the movie from start to end is pleasant, enthralling experience.

 

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Another strength of the movie is its edgy, modern soundtrack.  Fans of the original game would pose no objection when I say the soundtrack from the original game is one of the best ever composed for a game in any era or console or platform.  It’s even great listening to the songs on their own.  All songs were composed by Shōji Meguro with help from sound director Satoki Iida in the track arrangement and selection. As his 12th work for the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, Meguro said that Persona 3’s fancy atmosphere compelled him to create its unique pop-like soundtrack with some changes due to the movie’s darker nature.  For me, the music is as enjoyable as it is memorable, and definitely helped with the overall mood of the movie.

 

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Weaknesses

Although the story from the game from which this movie is based was engaging and eventful, the narrative strength for the movie was lacking.  It is understandable that adapting a 50 to 80 hour RPG into a 90-minute film would be a challenge, so the movie only gets to cover only the very beginning of the Persona 3 story.  Because of this, many of the other protagonists, antagonists and side characters fro the game have not been introduced yet (though some have some nice cameos at the beginning of the film)and it’s safe to say that the real action has yet to begin.  So what we get to see is a prologue of what is to come, or, in another perspective, a simple story of the supernatural kind.  This thus lessens the effect the movie aims to project onto the audience despite in all other aspects, this movie is a masterpiece all on its own.

 

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Conclusion

 

So my verdict:  a score of 4 out of 5 full moons, because it’s sure to give long-time fans like me or anyone new to the franchise something to howl about.  For those who have played and enjoyed the game, expect nostalgia at almost every frame.  For those who have long been curious about the Persona or Shin Megami Tensei series, this movie might be just what you need to get you interested. For those who are just looking for great anime to watch, I’m sure this title won’t disappoint.

 

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Almost perfect as anime feature film, it’s certainly an enjoyable watch, and most likely well worth the hour and a half you’ll spend watching it. Guess we’ll all have to wait for the next installment, Persona 3 The Movie: Chapter 2, Midsummer Knight’s Dream, coming real soon.

 

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Thank you for dropping by, and please do visit again for more anime and cosplay features here at arkadymac.com.

 

 

 

 

Bird, Go! – Gatchaman Crowds Review

The cast of Gatchaman Crowds.

The cast of Gatchaman Crowds.

Gatchaman might be a familiar term to some of you. It may even bring nostalgia to some; childhood memories of watching an anime about superheroes battling aliens and ultimately saving the world might resurface. Well, that’s kind of a broad description that could apply to many other animes, but you get the point.

The cast of the original series, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman.

The cast of the original series, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman.

Science Ninja Team Gatchaman aired in the 1970’s and was quite a popular anime, earning five Japanese-produced projects based on it; Gatchaman Crowds being the fifth and most recent one as of now. Although Gatchaman Crowds (or GCrowds, as some fans like to call it) is more or less completely different from Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, there are still a few references that fans of the original series would be delighted to see.

Gatchaman Crowds is set in Tachikawa, Japan and takes place in the early summer of 2015, which isn’t too far off from now. The G-Crew, a group of Gatchaman, aims to protect the city from danger. They are warriors aided by special suits powered by their NOTE, a manifestation of each member’s spiritual powers.

CAGE is G-Crew's colorful headquarters.

CAGE is G-Crew’s colorful headquarters.

Hajime's tries transforming into her Gatchaman form for the first time.

Hajime tries transforming into her Gatchaman form for the first time.

It starts with the recruitment of Hajime Ichinose into the G-Crew by J.J. Robinson, the guardian of Earth. After Hajime’s recruitment, a powerful alien named Berg Katze threatens to destroy Earth the same way it did to many other planets. The G-Crew is headed by their leader Paiman, who resembles a panda but hates being associated as one. Other than Hajime, the members of the G-Crew are Tachibana Sugane, Utsutsu, OD, and Jou Hibiki.

Berg Katze is armed with their own NOTE.

Berg Katze is armed with their own NOTE.

From L to R: Jou, Hajime, Paiman, Sugane, OD, Utsutsu

From L to R: Jou, Hajime, Paiman, Sugane, OD, Utsutsu

Most of the members of the G-Crew are surprised at Hajime’s bubbly and energetic nature but samurai-like Sugane, who is assigned to watch over Hajime, seems to be the most baffled. In fact, her sheer optimism is the reason why some viewers tend to dislike her. Personally, I quite like Hajime because of her creative way of thinking and her friendliness. You might even say that she’s made friends with almost all the characters in the show!

Introducing the GALAX Collage Community.

Sugane meets Hajime’s GALAX Collage Community.

Later in the series, Hajime meets Ninomiya Rui, an eighteen-year-old boy who aims to “upgrade the world” with the help of a social networking service he programmed called GALAX. He proves to be essential in helping the G-Crew defeat Berg Katze because of his incredible intelligence.

Rui crossdresses and goes by the name LOAD GALAX when in public to disguise himself.

Rui crossdresses and goes by the name LOAD GALAX when in public to disguise himself.

GALAX proves to be useful in a time of crisis.

GALAX proves to be useful in a time of crisis.

Apart from the great characters, the use of vivid colors is one of the many reasons why this anime is so much fun to watch. The beautiful backgrounds in each scene is really something I love about Gatchaman Crowds; I sometimes find myself pausing at some parts just to admire the details put into the setting (especially in scenes where they’re in Hajime’s room. It’s so cute!). Another thing to take note of is its wonderful soundtrack. With cute tunes like Tutu and epic battle tracks like Crowds, this OST is one I’d definitely wouldn’t mind listening to all day.

Overall, I recommend this anime because of its  interesting plot and great soundtrack. I really enjoyed Gatchaman Crowds and, if you decide to give it a watch, I hope that you enjoy it as well!

I kinda wish that GALAX was real sometimes, haha!

I kinda wish that GALAX was real sometimes, haha!

Kill Me Baby Anime Series Review

Kill Me Baby is an anime series derived from the manga of the same name. It’s a gag show about a young foreign-trained assassin named Sonya and her daily life with her airhead classmate, Yasuna, and a ninja from the same organization, Agiri-san. How these three interact in doing everyday things is the source of  the humor in this series.

Strengths:
I would say that character interaction is  the highlight of the series.  Yasuna and Sonya are a comedy duo or manzai combi in Japanese.  Yasuna acts the part of the fool while Sonya is the straight man, or girl.  Nothing would probably happen to the show if Yasuna just kept her insane and inane ideas to himself, or Sonya not reacting, or Agiri not being her mysterious self.

 

I like Agiri especially.  One never really

Weakness:
The gags are hit-or-miss, and if you’ve watched enough gag shows about high school girls, then you might find the jokes trite and repetitive.  sometimes though, there will be a gag that will make you laugh out loud in the middle of the night as you watch the show.

Favorite Character:
Agiri-san takes the cake. I would go out on a limb and say that she saved the show for me.  Her ninja techniques put Hattori Hanzo’s to shame.

Favorite Line:

Conclusion:
While Kill Me Baby is nice to watch on any given day, it doesn’t have enough to set it apart from all the shows about high school girls since Azumanga Daioh.  For that craziness.

 

RElated Post:

 

Hanasaku Iroha Anime Series Review

The cast of Hanasaku Iroha: Ohana, Minko, Nako and Yuina.

The cast of Hanasaku Iroha: Ohana, Minko, Nako and Yuina.

How do you change this planet into a peaceful world where people live in complete and utter harmony?  Through brute force, of course, and I think this is the only philosophy I share in common with Archangel Duriel. No bad dreams this time.  After a blinding flash of lightning struck me and my PC without miraculously destroying the roof, all twenty gigabytes of lewd Photoshopped pictures of Shaina Magdayao were gone without a trace.  In its stead are 26 episodes of the anime series Hanasaku Iroha.  After cursing that accursed anime-freak angel out loud in a blood-curdling scream that was sure to reach the heavens, I stared at my outdated computer monitor in despair, and for some reason just started watching and couldn’t stop.  The result?  My fifth anime series review. Yee-haw!  Am I in a roll or what?  What do you mean “what”?!

Minko says give this series a try, with a tsundere blush hanasaku iroha anime japanese review

Minko says give this series a try, with a tsundere blush.

My verdict and score for this show?  5 out of 5 fun part-time jobs, if there are such things, because this show will remind you of all those fond memories of what it was like to be young and foolish.  And because now we can only be foolish, just read on to find out why I rate it so high.

 

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Ohana’s first good look at Kissuiso.

Prelude

Hanasaku Iroha, which can be translated as The ABCs of Blooming or The Colors of Blooming, is an anime series by studio PA Works featuring the female lead, Ohana Matsumae, an otherwise normal 16-year-old high school girl living an otherwise normal life in Tokyo until her irrational and irresponsible mother Satsuki sends her off to live with her estranged grandmother, Sui.  VERY  far from what she had in mind, Ohana finds herself working as a part of the staff of her stern grandmother’s hot spring inn called Kissuisō in exchange for food and a roof over her head.  As she starts a new life in rural Japan working at Kissuisō, she quickly finds herself at odds and in conflict with the many unique employees of the inn.  With much doubt about the point of her being there but having nowhere else to go, she instead faces her uncertain future head-on, and in the process, all their lives will be changed forever.

 

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Group shot of the staff of Kissuiso

Strengths

Character development makes this show stand out of the rest of the anime made in recent history.  We are given these flawed, broken, imperfect characters who strive to live their lives their own way, changing for the better along the way.  In Hanasaku Iroha, we witness how the characters’ hearts change little by little, and we appreciate those small changes because deep down we wish that just like them, we can make such small but significant changes in our lives too.  We witness how each other’s personalities come to a head, create conflict, but each one coming off with a better understanding of the other.  I could not help but admire the dynamism in the interactions of the characters, and in effect, makes the characters realistic and memorable.

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Ohana having too much omelet rice.

The plot itself is enjoyable and easy to digest.  The story just flows well.  What I do find highly commendable is that it has a PROPER ENDING.  I just want to stress that because all the other anime I have reviewed so far are lacking in this respect.  But then again, most anime have trouble finishing well, so imagine how glad I am for Hanasaku Iroha restoring my faith in contemporary Japanese storytelling.

Ohana drunk with a bottle of soda then berating her mother Satsuki hanasaku iroha series anime japanese

Ohana drunk with a bottle of soda then berating her mother Satsuki.

As for quality of the artwork, I cannot help but admire the stupendous production values invested in this anime.  The series is studio PA Works’ tenth anniversary presentation, and such extravagance shows in the character designs and in the background artwork.  The show also boasts of fluid action scenes that enhance even the most mundane of  movements.  Great care has been taken to ensure that all the details of the original inn were captured, and this can be seen in the sheen or wear-and-tear of wooden floors, paper walls and lush greenery.  This anime is truly a work of art and it can be felt in the care the people behind this show have painstakingly provided with almost every scene.

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Kissuiso Inn at dusk.

Voice acting is top-notch with veteran and highly-regarded talents like Kanae Ito and Chiaki Omagawa lending their voices to the colorful characters of Hanasaku Iroha.  They add believability to each and every character.

 

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At the local temple.

Weaknesses

The relaxed pace at which Hanasaku Iroha moves along can be a blessing or a curse.  While the many aspects of the character’s lives and the intricacies of inn keeping are explored in the series, there may be folks that would find the pace a bit slow to their liking.   At 26 episodes, the series would meander in some parts, but overall each episode serves a purpose: to feature the interesting lives and times of the colorful characters that make up the world of Hanasaku Iroha. Thankfully, there is no recap episode like many anime shows I know whose only purpose is to add an episode or two without much effort from the studio.

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Ohana and Yuina have their way with Minko.

For some strange reason, I find the musical score and opening and ending songs quite average considering the effort in all the other departments of production.  Well, maybe its just me.

Nothing wrong with some skinship between Ohana and Yuina anime series hanasaku iroha japanese anime series

Nothing wrong with some skinship between Ohana and Yuina

 

Conclusion

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Hanasaku Iroha gets a sparkling review.

Hanasaku Iroha is one of the best anime I have seen so far, in recent history at least.  Lovable, believable characters who change and grow with the seasons and their eventual fate will always make a show endearing and memorable.  With a simple yet well-thought out story that ends with a satisfying ending, I don’t think anyone can be disappointed watching this show from start to finish.  I highly recommend this series to be watched by everyone as this series has all of what it takes to be a superb example of what an anime should be.  So my score and verdict for this series:  5 out of 5 lovely hot spring inn maidens, because such a great show deserves lots of warm appreciation.

Three generations Ohana Satsuki Sui working together. hanasaku iroha anime series review japanese

Three generations: Ohana, Satsuki and Sui working together.

Thanks for dropping by, and do drop by again soon for another crazy anime review.

Be sure to watch Ohana in Hanasaku Iroha anime series review japanese

Be sure to watch Ohana in Hanasaku Iroha.

(Please click on a photo to view slideshow)

Thermae Romae Anime Series Review

Lucius with Japanese folks in onsen

Lucius with Japanese folks in onsen

What is a great way to relieve stress and cure all those aches and pains after a long day’s work?  A nice long soak in a Japanese onsen(hot spring bath), that’s what.  Well, the company of a pretty onsen girl washing your back wouldn’t hurt either.  Unfortunately, I can’t have that kind of luxury or money every day, or ever, so I just had to make do with a long, warm soak in my bathtub.  While my head was partly submerged in the water and as I was making bubbles from my mouth like a crab gone mad, I was desperately trying to think of ways of how to increase the visitors to my site. I was thinking about better search engine optimization techniques and a promotional cosplay event or two when the door to the bath opened.  It was then that I saw this pretty girl in nothing more than a skimpy towel.  “Kyaaa!” she shrieked , as she was startled to find someone else there and tried to cover more of her slim figure with her hands and arms.  Suddenly embarrassed, I apologized out loud and averted my gaze.  It was only after a while before she said, “No.  It was my fault for not checking. But I don’t mind being seen naked if it’s you, X-chan.”  Surprised, I suddenly looked at her direction.  For a split second I saw her face blush as she cast her towel aside and jumped into the bathtub with me. She disappeared for a while in the water, then after a few seconds something came out of the warm water and between my legs.  It was Archangel Duriel, in complete mithril battle armor.  “Stop goofing around and finish this anime review already!” he screamed.

“Gah!” was all I could say as i woke up from yet another nightmare. I should have known it wasn’t real because I couldn’t afford a place with a bathtub.  Strangely enough, I was in bed but was wet all over.  So was it all just a dream?  Well, I don’t really want to think about it, though I’m sure you know what follows next.  Oh, yes.  My sixth anime series review:  Thermae Romae.  Whoopee.  I bet my visitor counter is in the millions now.

My verdict and score for this series?  4 out of 5 bars of C.Y. Gabriel Genuine Whitening Beauty Soap, because I swear, it’s as funny as it sounds.  Stick around to find out why it scored so high.

 

Lucius discovers the wonderful Japanese concoction fruits milk!

Lucius discovers the wonderful Japanese concoction fruits milk!

Prelude

Thermae Romae, which is Latin for “Roman baths,” is an anime series based on an award-winning manga of the same name by Mari Yamazaki.  the viewer is introduced to Lucius, a Roman architect from ancient Rome who is fired for being unoriginal and unimaginative.  While trying unsuccessfully to relax in a Roman bath with a friend one day, he gets sucked into a tunnel underneath the establishment.  Lucius then finds himself in a bath house in Japan in the present time.   He is amazed with the strange bathing implements and innovations made by what he thought were a tribe of “flat-faced slaves.”  Just as mysteriously as he got transported to that strange land, he eventually gets back to his own period where he builds Roma Thermae, his own spa, adapting the marvels he had seen.

 

So that's how emperors do it.

So that’s how emperors do it.

Well, it's one way to have a hot shower.

Well, it’s one way to have a hot shower.

 

Strengths

Thermae Romae’s strength is the sheer absurdity of its premise, which delivers a dose of much-welcome hilarity.   The silly levels of Lucius’ culture shock and his extreme reactions to the taste of Japanese food are what makes Thermae Romae a welcome show to watch anytime you’re down.

Supposing all those history trivia are true, Thermae Romae offers the viewer an insight into Ancient Roman life, particularly  how they managed their hygiene. Far from being a mere history lesson, the viewer can be pleasantly surprised how the ancients managed without modern luxuries like a Japanese heated, talking toilet.

Voice acting was adequate, though Lucuis’ voice actor really takes the cake with a deep, dignified voice that enhances the comic effect of certain scenes.

Gyoza, banzai!

Gyoza, banzai!

 

Weaknesses

Though not that important as to overall impact of the work, I would appreciate a full anime rendering of this series.  I mean, they made a live-action movie out of it. The flash animation was serviceable, but I’m pretty sure more viewers would enjoy watching it if it were rendered in the usual Japanese animation nowadays.  But, hey, maybe that’s just me watching too much anime.  Had my share of laughs even without the benefit of pricey CGs.

That being said, the music can use some work too.

 

Does it look I'm lost?

Does it look I’m lost?

Yes, Lucius.  You get a positive review from the gods.  May they take you already.

Yes, Lucius. You get a positive review from the gods. May they take you already.

Conclusion

Thermae Romae is a nice, short and funny anime series that will make you chuckle and learn about the lesser known things of ancient Roman hygiene.  Though severely lacking in production values, the writing and humor will make this series a memorable one even though it’s only six episodes long.

So my verdict and score for this series?  4 out of 5 bars of C.Y. Gabriel Genuine Whitening Beauty Soap, because I swear, it’s as funny as it sounds.  This is something I can definitely recommend watching to anyone so that they can appreciate Japanese writing more.

I suddenly feel dirty and eed to take a bath now.  Hope you’ll visit the site again soon for another review.

It's likely the Romans (and Greeks) invented Yaoi.

It’s likely the Romans (and Greeks) invented Yaoi.

See you again soon.

See you again soon.

Ikoku Meiro no Croisee / Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth Anime Series Review

The main cast of Ikoku Meiro no Croisee: Claude, Yune, and Oscar

The main cast of Ikoku Meiro no Croisee: Claude, Yune, and Oscar

Ever studied a foreign language?  I was forced to take 12 units’ worth of French way back in college, and believe me, it was never ever pleasant.  Every time I read something from the textbook, I sounded like Pepe Le Peu on sedatives  and my tongue would cramp.  Every time I wrote something in French, I would mistake words for scientific names of obscure insects.  Frankly, I only passed the course because of perfect attendance.  Yes, it was that horrible.  I never really gotten past sentences beyond “I feel bad,” “I don’t understand,” and “I ate a cheese omelet at the blue library.” And to this day I haven’t met even one French person to brag these phrases to.

So when I dozed off a bit and found myself in a French language class, I knew I was having another nightmare.  My unbelievably patient and kind French instructor Ms. Reyes was replaced by Archangel Duriel. He was asking me to translate “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood?” in French.  Surprisingly, I was able to give him the correct answer.  But even before I can celebrate, he lunged at me with a sword that looked a lot like a four-foot-long piece of stale French bread.  I instinctively grabbed something from my pocket, but to my horror it was only Spanish bread, about 3 inches long.  Unable to parry, Duriel’s French Bread pierced my heart, and my last words were “Vive la France.”

I woke up with a loud “Gah!” and found myself on the floor of my dining room with a half-eaten croissant in my hand.  A friendly reminder: never eat a croissant from a bakery that can’t even make a proper ensaymada.  I knew that this was a sign from the heavens that I need to review another anime series.  Luckily, Ikoku Meiro no Croisee was up next, and it was a pleasant series to watch from start to end.  My verdict?  4 out of 5 creamy eclairs, because the series is just so yummy you’ll be begging for more.  Why a score so high?  Read on to find out more.

 

Our heroine, Yune

Our heroine, Yune

 

Yune seeing Gallerie du Roy for the first time

Yune seeing Gallerie du Roy for the first time

Prelude

The anime tells the poignant tale of Yune, a young Japanese girl (whose exact age the anime never really got to say), who goes to France at the end of the 19th century with an old traveler, Oscar Claudel, and promises to help at Oscar’s family’s sign shop in Paris.  Claude Claudel, Oscar’s grandson,  owner of the sign shop and owner of such a silly, redundant name, is understandably flabbergasted when his old grandfather goes home with such a young, innocent foreign girl to live with them.   Despite Claude’s seemingly antisocial and distrustful nature, he eventually reluctantly lets Yune stay and work for him.   How these two seemingly different individuals with nothing in common with each other eventually warm up to each other and get past personal and cultural differences is at the heart of this truly endearing anime.

Ikoku Meiro no Croisee is classified as a historical and slice-of-life genre anime.  The viewer is treated to a depiction of typical life in France in the final years of the 1800s, from how businesses were like, the food that were eaten, to how the people spent their time.   The show is not meant to be a history lesson.  It’s just that the marvelous sights and sounds of Paris are depicted well and serve as the backdrop of the unfolding story.

 

Claude and Yune try to understand each other

Claude and Yune try to understand each other

 

Strengths

The power of Ikoku Meiro no Croisee lies in the subtle ways the main characters reach out to each other.  One can see how earnestly the characters try their best to get their feelings across to the other person.  Their interaction despite and in spite of their idiosyncratic and cultural differences makes the series both touching and enjoyable.  The characters are believable and natural, which make them interesting and likeable, with all their attitudes, ideals, insecurities and quirks.  These are all fleshed out such that the viewer can genuinely feel for the characters.

It is a delight how Yune and Claude react to each other

It is a delight how Yune and Claude react to each other

Character design is commendable, with most of the French characters looking appropriately tall. big, and, well, Caucasian. Yune, on the other hand, looks like a freak of nature compared to them because she is simply the most ADORABLE anime character to come out in years.  Sadly, all realism is thrown out the window with those big, earnest, enchanting eyes on that small Japanese face.  But then again, if you’ve watched anime most of your life, you’d think all Japanese have such large, beautiful eyes of unbelievable colors.

Camille and Alice Blanche keep things interesting for Yune and Claude

Camille and Alice Blanche keep things interesting for Yune and Claude

The backgrounds are finely drawn, attempting to capture Paris’ famous early  landmarks, busy early metropolitan streets and shopping districts.  The carefully drawn sequences with these backgrounds lend an air of realism to the places where Yune and the other characters move around and live in.

Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris

The music of the series in also top-notch,  with touches of ambient street organ music, violins and even sequences with supposedly Japanese folk music blended in.  Music is appropriate and lends itself well to the overall mood of the series.  Opening and Ending sequence music are quite enjoyable too.

 

Japan, as imagined by Claude

Japan, as imagined by Claude

 

Weaknesses

If there is one thing I’d have to complain about this series is that it doesn’t tell us the whole story.  Like most other anime, this show is based on a manga that is still ongoing.  After 12 episodes and one special, the anime series ends poignantly,  but one may need to read the manga, also ongoing, to go further into what happens next to Yune and the other cast.  Of course, we can wait for subsequent seasons of the series, but there’s still no news about that yet.  Yes.  I bet you can hear me groan from way down here.

Anime mandatory "Walking in while bathing" scene.

Claude accidentally experiences the anime mandatory “Walking in while bathing” scene that usually only happens to Japanese teens.

 

Conclusion

Yune gets a glowing review.

Yune gets a glowing review. Well, freshly baked French bread can do that to you too.

Ikoku Meiro no Croisee is a spectacularly refreshing anime set in recent history.  It is a great example of how anime can be a great medium to tell a truly unique, heartwarming story. This is a series I’d happily recommend to people, even those who don’t normally watch anime.    At 12 episodes, it is short and sweet but it will definitely leave a lasting impression.  So again, my score and verdict:  4 out of 5 French eclairs, because its just that sweet.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you drop by again sometime for another review.

Claude and Yune during sunset over Paris.

Claude and Yune during sunset over Paris.

 

A Channel Anime Series Review

Channel A Team

The main cast of A Channel

 

How do you take a peek into the normal, mundane but otherwise colorful and heartwarming lives of adorable high school girls without getting arrested for crimes like stalking and indecency?  *Silence*  By watching slice-of-life-type anime like A Channel, of course.  Is there really any other way?  (If you know, do contact me right this instant!)

And while I thought the preceding introductory paragraph was clever (funny even), Archangel Duriel, who was looking at my outdated monitor over my shoulder, was sorely not pleased.  He yelled, “How is this supposed to change the world for the better, huh?!”

While a “sane’ or “normal” person can easily dismiss a 6’10” winged, heavily armored messenger of God in their bedroom as a figment of their imagination, I guess I am not so lucky as I cannot as easily dismiss his breath that reeked of White Castle Whiskey.

“Curse you, you baka angel!” I screamed as I proceeded to poke both his eyes with two fingers.  He fell backwards and howled with pain.  “How dare you insult my brilliance,” pointing a finger at him as I wept manly tears. “If more people can learn how to live simple lives like high school girls, then this world will be a more peaceful place.”  Right then I saw tears fall down the stubborn archangel’s cheeks.  Maybe it was from my speech.  Well, okay.  Getting poked in the eye can do that to you too.

So the result?  My fourth anime series review, A Channel.  My verdict:  3 out of 5 happy high school girls, because this world needs more bubbly innocence.  Do stick around and find out more about A Channel.

A Channel stars walking home from school

A Channel stars walking home from school

 Prelude

A Channel is a show about the otherwise normal high school life of a group of several young girls: Toru, Run, Yuko and Nagi.  There is no world to save, no sinister plot to uncover, no notebook that will send you to your death.  Slice of life and comedy is what it’s about.  Not much thought required to watch this one.  You are treated to a headache-free time and maybe even a chuckle every now and then.  This show is rife with misunderstandings and awkward situations which lead to, well, awkward conclusions.

Yes, of course.  it's always some sort of misunderstanding, right?

Yes, of course. it’s always some sort of misunderstanding, right?

Strengths

A Channel boasts of great production values and distinctly cute character designs.  Most scenes are well fleshed out and motion sequences are well drawn.  Backgrounds are stunning and detailed.  Effects like sunlight peeking through gaps in the leaves of trees are rendered wonderfully to add to moods which evoke those times you walked home from school with your own friends.  Everything is rendered in bright and lively colors which best describe the bubbly and light mood of the show.   Voice acting is top-notch, and the background music are appropriate, light and cheery.  The opening and ending sequence music are funky and catchy, aptly reflecting the  overall mood of the show.

The focal point of the story is the relationship between Toru and Run, and at least in my opinion the show treats their closeness well and evokes the most touching friendship in any anime in recent memory.

Run and Toru

Run and Toru

 

 

Cutting classes for karaoke/videoke

Cutting classes for karaoke/videoke

 

Anime mandatory day at the beach

Anime mandatory day at the beach

 

How high production values make a scene good

How high production values make a scene good

 Weaknesses

As much as I can enjoy watching this show forever, A Channel doesn’t really bring anything new into the table called high-school-slife-of-life-genre anime.  The characters, despite being lovable at times, are cliches of characters from other similar shows, like Azumanga Daioh,  Lucky Star and others.  The gags are hit-or-miss though the show makes an effort to be fresh every now and then.

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Why bathing is usually a private thing

Why bathing is usually a private thing

 

Beware of imaginations gone wild about lost musical instruments.

Beware of imaginations gone wild about lost musical instruments.

 Conclusion

Although an enjoyable show to watch on any given day, A Channel lacks something new and bold to offer into its genre.  Even though it may not reach that level where it can be called as one of the best anime of the year, I would still recommend it to people because it offers good solid entertainment, some laughs and some tender moments to warm a frozen heart on a cold day.  And for that, 3 out of 5 happy high school girls, because it is nice to live a normal life with friends every now and then. Lets save reminiscing about the good ol’ high school days later, okay?

 

Come watch A Channel, okay?

Come watch A Channel, okay?

See you again.  Same time, same A Channel.

See you again. Same time, same A Channel.

 

 

Chihayafuru Anime Series Review

 

Competitive Karuta

 

I came home one day hungry and the only things in the fridge were some frost on the sides of the freezer and a plate of leftover spaghetti I swore was moving by itself.  Since I planned to save the frost for dessert, I ate the pasta first and, predictably, had another bad dream.  Archangel Duriel visited me in my slumber, and we started playing cards.  After a while, he said, “Tap your mana!” to which I replied “Super Trump.  All cards are mine!” and realized we were playing different card games.  I used the Super Trump as a shuriken and hit him in the eye, and he responded with the spell: Sodom’s Love, and I woke up with vomit all over.  Moral of the lesson: when unsure, just call for pizza delivery.  if you have the money anyway.  I didn’t, so the end result is my third anime series review, Chihayafuru.  Whoopee!

My verdict and rating for this series?  I give it 4 out of 5 rare Mad Jeek: The Garnering cards because it’s a great story despite being an anime about a card game involving poetry.  A card game involving poetry?! Why do I get the sinking feeling I lost a few more readers already? Please read on and find out why that’s not such a bad thing.

 

Our story begins with Chihaya, Taichi and Arata.

 

 Prelude

Best in the world.  Even though we do not want to admit it, we have always wished that there was something we could do better than anyone else.  All of us have skills, talents or attributes that we are proud of, and these are things we hope, we wish, we dream, would be good enough to be regarded as best in the world.  What we wouldn’t give to rise and be at the top.  This is where distinctions between words like ambition and passion blur or disappear.

Chihayafuru is such a story—a girl named Chihaya wishing to be the best in the world at something, in this case, karuta, a unique Japanese card game involving poetry.   She was once content on being her pretty older sister’s fan, but then she got to befriend Arata, a boy in the same class as her who made her passionate about karuta and got her to play competitively with her other friend, Taichi.   Though separated in middle school, Chihaya strives to advance and improve in the hopes that one day karuta will bring them all back together.

 

Chihaya versus Taichi with Arata reading in a round of karuta.

Strengths:

The series’ strong point is the depth of its characters.  They are believable beings, with quirks and flaws, and we are drawn to them.  The viewer is made to empathize with these imperfect people who despite themselves manage to persevere and come out better people.  We can always use something like this to make us feel good, and that I guess is what Chihayafuru does well.  It is a show about the triumph of the human spirit and the perseverance needed to be able to reach one’s goals.

The interaction between the main characters is fun and quirky and they go about everyday things like anyone would.  A love triangle develops and is seen as a highlight of the story.  People genuinely want to know how this dilemma unfolds and hopefully, within our lifetimes, reach a conclusion.

The show also is able to give us a good dose of excitement, even if it is about a sport that involves cards and poetry.  The pacing heightens the excitement, especially when they join tournaments.

Voice acting is great and contribute well to the presentation of scenes, especially the funny, lighthearted ones.  Jokes are genuinely funny and do not rely on fan service to elicit laughs, which is always good, of course.

The animation is done by studio Madhouse, who has made the character designs distinct and charming.  The backgrounds are done well with ample lighting.  Scenes involving action is rendered adequately but not exceptionally.  There are some really bad or conspicuous CGs, however.  It must be that hard to draw so many moving cards, I guess.

Little Chihaya memorizing karuta before falling asleep.

 

Chihaya and Arata learning a new concept called “teamwork.”

 

Weaknesses:

The music was awful.  You know that tune when characters achieve something against all odds, like in those Robin Williams movies?  Well, they overuse that one, so the intended effect weakens considerably.  Although music isn’t really essential to this kind of series, the musical scores just distract the viewer and hardly contributes to setting the mood.  The opening and ending themes are hardly memorable or moving at all.

Sometimes friends are more disappointed in you than you are in yourself.

 

Conclusion

Even when the theme or subject  isn’t that exciting or appealing to us, karuta itself isn’t forced down the viewers’ throats, and it’s the characters and their development that makes us hang on waiting for the next episode.  Chihayafuru gives us characters we care about, and we relate to their struggles with themselves and with others.  The story itself is unfinished in the manga so we may need to wait for more seasons of Chihayafuru to get some real closure, but it is a still an anime I would recommend for those who are looking for an inspiring slice-of-life anime to watch over a holiday.  My verdict and score:  4 out of 5 Super Trump cards, because in this age of 3D, HD, CG, we have already forgotten how mere cards can give us clean, wholesome fun, unless it’s a round of strip poker with Archangel Duriel’s, that is.

Yay! These lab tests show I have the biggest breasts here. Oh, I’m sorry. It actually says they increased our club’s budget. Isn’t that great?

 

I can only wish I had such a picturesque childhood memory.