Hello my readers!
Please excuse my absence. Between getting sick, working on obligatory family things around the holidays, and still looking for work, I completely ignored my own 5-year anniversary on the 31st of December! Sorry I’m late!
Of all the side projects that I have done, I never would have thought that anime reviews would be the one thing that I would like to do most on this site. Well it’s the one thing that gets the most traffic on this site anyway, never mind my fan fictions and philosophical musings that I also do!
If there is anything that I have learned from being a largely ignored WordPress user who hypocritically doesn’t do anything to get people to notice him, it’s that you will only get attention on the Internet if you talk about stuff that everyone else is talking about, or you space out your content with pictures that grabs users’ attentions. And yes, while that is definitely a skill that I don’t have as a writer, I am just about as stubborn as every other critic out there who believes that my opinion needs to be heard, rather than appease the audience!
But enough ranting.
In the past 5 years, I’ve learned that my strength as a writer/critic/whatever isn’t so much in terms of analytical expertise anyway. I couldn’t comment on this character’s performance or that show’s sound quality or this other show’s craptastic use of CGI. I’m a holistic reviewer, which is aware of these elements and interpret them in a way that is meaningful to me, and hopefully translate it to something that is meaningful to you! Not a lot of critics out there approach anime (or anything else, really) like that! And since I’m also a humorist, my job is to ultimately entertain you, even when a lot of ways in which I approach things inevitably make people think. Maybe.
To date, I’ve written 168 anime reviews since I began this blog, and some time in the near future, I will be continuing that trend. Looking back, my writing has evolved, to the point that I actually consider a lot of my early reviews as garbage! And yeah, I’ll go ahead and accept that. A lot of your writing, even published writing, is going to be garbage! But even as my opinions come and go over these gems, some anime reviews stick out to me more than others.
Anyway, I’d have something wittier to say that will segue this text block that most of you will ignore anyway for the actual list or the pictures that go with it, but… nah! Here are 10 of my favorite anime reviews that I have done on this blog thus far! These aren’t my favorite anime of all time, but about the reviews themselves that I’ve written.
These are (sort of) ranked.
I couldn’t resist. I can’t have a favorite set of reviews without including the most “liked” one that I’ve ever written! And to this day, I still don’t know how you guys have chosen this one over so many others that I have, but for some reason, it is one of the few posts that I’ve done that continues to get people to hit that “like” button!
Funny, because this was one of those shows that I kind of “faked” my way out of analyzing, despite the fact that I actually did. Awesome lead character not-withstanding, this review special was written around March 14, which is White Day in Japan, and for personal reasons, I think is way better than Valentine’s Day. That’s because it’s when the dudes have to bend over backwards to respond to their lady friends from February 14, and I get to be in control of the selection, and I get to celebrate Math stuff at the same time because it doubles as Pi Day!
And because I’m asexual and therefore don’t really care whom I choose gender-wise really, I chose Louis Andō. Wait, is that the real reason why y’all liked my–
9. Million Doll
I had a hard time selecting between this one and Miss Monochrome to feature, as I did both of these reviews in tandem. Both are animated shorts about idols, both take unique approaches about their subject, and both are hopeful in the idol industry as a whole, despite also being very critical of it. But I suppose of the two, Million Doll is the review that stands out to me more as they matured.
While not as popular as Miss Monochrome, Million Doll takes a realistic approach to the idol industry, even illustrating in short, low-budget spurts the lives of local and independent idols before they go major. But a lot of time is also given to the contributions of their early fans, and how everyone, EVERYONE, is very much flawed! For an industry that mocks the idea of graceful perfection in a lot of ways, Million Doll was a lot of fun for me to write about for a subject that at the time, I wasn’t very familiar with.
And of course, I would be lying to you if I didn’t say that I fell in love with the blogger Sūko. But maybe you already knew that!
I have so many mixed feelings about this show. Sure, it was funny at times, and surprisingly thoughtful in others. But man, hype and fandom for this series is such a buzzkill that there are times I wondered if this was the only series that got anime fans’ attention this past year.
But even if my heart is made of stone for stuff that everyone else likes without question, there were a few things about Miss Kobayashi that spoke to me as an older, burned-out otaku. There aren’t a lot of shows in the anime canon that really do that, even if there is currently a trend of meta anime about the fans of anime.
And yeah. Miss Kobayashi is relatable and all, but Fafnir is still bae.
Ah yes. My arch nemesis that never was, because both of us are probably garbage. He only gets a pass because people actually watch his stuff for 3 seasons!
And sorry if any one of you thinks that everything on the Internet must be true, but no. I wrote the entire Wooser review myself! But you know what? It was a lot of fun pretending to be a Wooser that would spite me just because he can! And everything he said about his own show is a satire of the reviewing styles that I absolutely hate! You know, the kind of stuff that sounds smart, but ultimately says nothing about the show in question? Or, you know, all of my anime reviews prior to No. 50 when I decided to just get real with my life around Love Hina? There were some very dark times in my review history, and if you’re one who thinks that I should return to that style of reviewing again… ugh!
The Wooser review was the first time I experimented with interacting with a character from the show, which for better or worse, doesn’t always translate very well to a written medium. It’s definitely an unconventional style of writing, but if you ever take the time to read these posts as opposed to browse through them, they are a lot of fun. I certainly had a lot of fun writing it!
Now before you ask, yes, I actually thought this one was well-made, despite its obvious flaws, as well as the fact that I don’t watch cover a great deal of ecchi stuff in the first place. And no, I came out of every episode genuinely hoping that these girls would be the heroes that I knew they were always meant to be. I legitimately cried for Ito, because at the time I was watching this, I felt like a shut-in, wishing that the world would just go to Hell, yet still answer the call for when I will fight for everything that I still love about it. Also, this was the first review where I uttered the inside joke that no one else has ever caught onto yet, “Bears are awesome!”
Truth be told, I did end up finishing a course in Indian Philosophy after I wrote this review, and given some of the values and lore that I’ve learned from that class, the inspirations from that in Punchline do make the overall story a lot easier to grasp. And you thought it was just another male fantasy excuse to look at girl’s underwear for most of the series. Yes. Yes, it is that. But at least it’s smart about it?
Look, I said that these review features are the ones that I liked to write about on this blog. I never said that the shows themselves were masterpieces!
This is one of the most energized, heart-felt anime aimed for kids that I, as a critical curmudgeon almost in his late 20s thought, “Damn. I wish this was around when I was a kid.” And oddly enough, I find more and more that fans of this overlooked gem have spoken out in favor of it ever since.
Tribe Cool Crew was one of those shows where I really got into its subject material, doing a decent amount of research on hip hop, trends, and other social commentaries about urban life that you really don’t see a lot of in anime. I love it so much, I had a new-found appreciation for dance and hip hop that I wouldn’t have expected in my lifetime. Sure, Tri-Cool is far from perfect, and unfortunately I do feel like the subject material itself is rather dated, harking back to a rose-colored nostalgia for the late ’80s, early ’90s, which was right around the time I would be a toddler, wondering what kind of cool stuff my big brother would be watching on TV. But then again, my big brother probably wouldn’t be watching this anyway, but… who’s to say?
♪ Can you feel, can you feel, can you feel my heartbeat ♪
Oh, sorry. Pop stuff is absurdly catchy!
4. Hand Shakers
As much as I like a hot mess anime that gets fans and critics riled up over stupid things, Hand Shakers was admittedly not very easy to watch, and for a lot of reasons that don’t typically get brought up. For me, the biggest issue was its overall tone, and the kind of message it was really trying to get across. Then again, I categorize Hand Shakers as a post-modern piece, so screwing with my mind about analyzing it was kind of the point.
That’s not to say that Hand Shakers didn’t have a cohesive plot. It did, but it was one that was never conveyed properly to our main characters, let alone the audience. For a medium that often holds your hand in explaining every last detail about a given fantasy universe, Hand Shakers reminds me that even the explanations given in the show are subject to interpretation, and as such can be flawed, red herrings, or just downright stupid.
But hey, I still think that twenty-something-year-old Chizuru is pretty hawt, am I right? Oh God, please don’t send me to jail for this.
This anime review was written especially for my 100th review on this site. And of course it’s going to be about one of my favorite niches of Japanese culture: Poetry!
What? That’s a non-standard answer? Whatever. I do what I want!
I wanted to get this series right, so I ended up watching it multiple times and took plenty of notes to think about before I actually wrote about it. And while I wouldn’t say that my own review of the series is perfect, it was the process for me to interpret it in and of itself that was I liked about it. The words of the Hyakunin Isshu have transcended across centuries of Japanese history, and to this day, its words continue to inspire (or I suppose haunt) Japanese people in the form of Karuta and Classical Literature curricula. If anything, I found it most amusing that the meaning of the poems then have such different meanings to how we interpret them today, which in itself is kind of an adventure in bringing the life back to these beautiful poems, but I digress.
Anthologies like Hyakunin Isshu have been told and retold countless times since its inception, and they’re not stopping anytime soon. Who knows how I, or someone in the future will feel about the work and the medias surrounding it will find meaning in this abstract thing we call “love?”
Ever since some of my friends found out how much I loved engaging this series, they have pushed me to try a lot of other psychological thrillers that have come out previously. To which I say… why?
Everything Becomes F: The Perfect Insider wedded two things I really like and have become staples of this blog site: anime and philosophy. And because of that, that was the reason I ended up liking it so much, that I ended up devoting a lot of care to the review, more so than others that I have written. And I guess the effort shows, because a lot of you did hit that “like” button on my post about it.
Unlike other reviews, my take on The Perfect Insider put the puzzle pieces to solving its mystery at the forefront, rather than me spending time, analyzing the story or the characters or whatever other stupid thing so many other critics talk about when they engage anime like this. To me, understanding the mystery of this series is by far the most important part of why I thought it was so great, and why the message that Dr. Magata has at the very end is significant to how the show is remembered.
I wouldn’t put The Perfect Insider on a list of things that has a significant rewatch value, as I do think that this series was intended to be a thought-piece rather than an entertaining one. But if you’re one to think that our plane of existence is boring without critical examination, it is one that I think a lot of you should definitely watch at least once.
The following are some quick bites about reviews that I also liked to write, but obviously didn’t make the cut for this long kaleidoscope of 5 years of reviewing. Again, no particular order.
I was legitimately surprised to see a spike in interaction with my page, only for it to subside thereafter, when I covered this series. All for a show that I thought was trying too hard to mean stuff!
Legend has it that I ended up turning this review in for my final project for a philosophical portfolio upon graduating, along with my review on The Perfect Insider. Still got an A- in the class!
How come I keep forgetting that I wrote this anime review? This is my favorite anime of all time!
The exploration of young love in an asexual romantic comedy? Count me in!
Sadly I wrote this gem after I graduated with my degree in Philosophy, meaning that it didn’t make the cut to be in my senior portfolio. But if I was determined to keep that portfolio going, you can bet that this review would be in there as well!
I talk about this series with people so much, you’d think that this was my favorite anime of all time! And well… there is some truth to that.
As a critic, part of my job is to give my opinion about shows that I critique. Things I like, things I don’t like, and an argument for why it has meaning either way, or to what extent that meaning is conveyed or fails to convey. But why I love Wish Upon the Pleiades and the review that I wrote about it so much lies not so much in opinion, but in something else that I have come to know is part of my job as well: interpretation.
Ask any anime fan or critic out there, and chances are they either hated this series, or don’t even know what it is. And I think part of that is because it goes against what a lot of people consider “good” anime: complex story, familiar tropes, hyperactive and relatable characters, and something that has a high rewatch rate, to which I say, “Fine. But I still love it because all those things you just mentioned, I have found in this anime.”
While it isn’t always apparent in my reviews, my intent on writing my review on Wish Upon the Pleiades was a defense that this gem is good enough to be one of the better shows of this decade, had it not been for the fact that its reception wasn’t as warm as a bunch of other things before it. But whether or not you read it as a defense, Wish Upon the Pleiades the show has done a lot for me in terms of personal growth, that isn’t always expressed in my review of it.
It gave me the courage to dream.
That’s something that a lot of us critics, no, adults forget. Reality hits as you get older, and it hits hard, especially when you realize that you’re growing up differently from everyone else, with different preferences, different personalities, different worldviews on where we find meaning, and given the variety of anime titles that I have reviewed, this is the one that I come back to. And the funny thing is, never once did I think that it was a chore to write!
Yeah, I tried (and failed) to start catch phrases like “po-warm” from this series, even thought about a campaign to name the mysterious Planet Nine that scientists are searching for Apate, the name that was given to the massive planet that the girls discover floating outside our solar system in Wish Upon the Pleiades. Sure, I’ve discovered that a lot of the “scientific” principles in the anime aren’t so clear cut in actual research, but I think that the curiosity to find out if it is is part of the wonder that comes from watching it.
But most of all, one thing that I really loved about Wish Upon the Pleiades (that did ultimately make it into my review) is that it captures the concerns of middle school children really well, caught between the responsibilities of an adult and the wonders of a child. This is especially of significance for me, because middle school students are the ones that I’m working with the most when I teach: yet another point of contention that many, many people shy away from.
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It’s been about 2 years since I wrote the Wish Upon the Pleiades review, and I do intend on writing things that are better than that review in the future. Heck, I’m almost certain that you have read stuff of mine that you think is way better than that piece of writing! So if you’re still reading this, leave a comment below on which of my many, many anime reviews you thought was good writing. What got you interested in a show you haven’t watched yet? Did my thoughts help you to see a show in a different way, or reinforce your idea of what the show was about? Maybe you think that one of my reviews is total crap along with the anime that is being discussed! I don’t know!
Thanks for sticking with me on this blog journey for the past 5 years. More reviews are on my schedule, as soon as I get other adult responsibilities out of the way! Until then, I’ve been The True Lystria!
Enjoy the reads!