Recent Anime that Subtly Broke their Genre Molds

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I’m going to do something a little different. I have been seeing a lot of gripes about how anime is getting repetitive lately, and to be honest, that is true on a basic, oversimplified level. While the industry does favor anime with similar stories and themes in terms of being “safe” choices for viewers, there are others that enjoy making fun of tired tropes in the form of parodies, or completely deconstruct their genres. These kinds of shows are the ones that fans and critics alike will talk about the most, whether they liked or disliked them.

However, I’m more interested in a handful of “middle tier” anime: shows that weren’t necessarily bad or good, but altered their themes slightly where they felt original to me, but also maintained important aspects of their respective genres. Some of these have become popular, but I thought that they were very creative in offering something different. For limitation’s sake, these are anime series that I have already reviewed on this blog. By the end of this post, I hope you’ll appreciate the idea that no two anime are alike.

These are in no particular order.

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Anime Review: Chihayafuru 2

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I know I already did a review for Chihayafuru a long time ago, back when it first came out. However, since 2012, the series has done one other animation installment early on in 2013 and an OVA later that year. And as usual among the things I tend to like, Chihayafuru 2 got much praise in Japan while being overlooked everywhere else. Can’t blame them though; unlike some anime which cross over cultural barriers, the subject of this series is very specifically Japanese.

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10 Great Moments in Anime (2013)

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So I had plans to write a bunch of posts featuring my favorite anime series for the entire year of 2013. Unfortunately, my list of things I actually watched during this year (54 new series) was far too big for me to narrow anything down! So I decided to share 10 of the best moments in anime this year instead.

Note: the following posts do not necessarily reflect my personal opinion about each series as a whole. I may have also skipped some really great moments; but then again, these are simply from my opinion only. This post contains spoilers! Continue reading

My Winter 2013 anime simulcasts: summaries

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The Winter 2013 season for anime is coming to a close at the end of March. I felt this to be a good opportunity to briefly discuss what’s going on in the shows I’m keeping up with (and believe me, there’s a lot of them). Each one can be found at Crunchyroll at the given time (PST) and weekday. I place an asterisk (*) next to the shows I fan-boy over. All images can be found at My Anime List.

 

Ishida & Asakura (Sunday 7:00am)

This show is freakin’ weird. Then again, most shorts are. This series basically tells a snip-it of a day in the life of Ishida, a high school genius, and Asakura, his dumbass friend. There is some crass humor that one would normally see on Comedy Central.

 

Vividred Operation (Sunday 7:00am)

I don’t normally watch anime about magical girls or giant robots, but for some reason, I will tolerate this series which contains both. I think of it as a contemporary twist on Sailor Moon with a lot more fan-service. Each transformation sequence clearly shows teenage girls’ lingerie and almost every scene contains a panty-shot. Need I say more?

 

Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman* (Monday 11:00am)

A show about a Robin Hood character from the Meiji era of Japan, who teams up with his younger sister, a western doctor, a shrine maiden, and an old geezer who fight crime and rescue prostitutes? I feel like a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons again! “Roman” contains mostly childish humor for an extremely cheesy situation. It feels oddly nostalgic for me to laugh at.

 

Naruto SD: Rock Lee & His Ninja Pals (Tuesday 2:00am)

Starting their 4th season, Rock Lee continues to poke fun at the Naruto universe with some of the most outrageous situations that befall upon a ninja who knows no ninjustu and all of his friends. While there is no more Byakusharingan references, there are plenty of chances to get Tenten pissed off!

 

Amnesia (Tuesday 7:30am)

A young woman who loses her memory on August 1 desperately tries to regain her memory by relearning the relationships she has with the people around her. Too bad she has some of the most rotten luck by losing consciousness again and wakes up to another August 1 where she has to repiece her mysterious identity again! Will this heroine ever figure out who she is?

 

Shin Sekai Yori* (Tuesday 12:40pm)

The utopian society of District 66 Japan continues its story, as watchers are accelerated 1000 years into a future where all humans have psychokinesis. After having their memories altered to forget a kharmic demon friend, Saki and Satoru are left behind as Mamoru and Maria escape from their community. When Saki and Satoru become adults, an incident amongst the monster rat colonies strike fear among humans: they believe an oni is among them. Based on the popular novel by Yusuke Kishi, I anticipate every week how this story will find its way to completion.

 

Magi: the Labyrinth of Magic (Wednesday 10:00am)

This second season began when Alibaba stormed the Balbadd Palace and alone overthrew the monarch. Upon establishing a Republic in its place, Alibaba and his friends face immediate retaliations amongst the rebels. Aladdin awakens with Solomon’s Wisdom to thwart the dark magi Judar’s power. And yet, we realize Judar was but a puppet in this charade. Is Balbadd completely safe from outside political realms yet?

 

Encouragement of Climb* (Wednesday 10:00am)

Despite being a comedy short, Encouragement of Climb actually has a chronological storyline. Aoi is a shy girl who becomes friends with the tomboyish Hinata. Together they learn to overcome mountain summits and their fears in a sentimental series about what it truly means to climb in order to achieve one’s goals.

 

Mangirl (Wednesday 10:00am)

No, that’s not pronounced “man-girl,” but rather “manga-girl.” This short tells the story of a new manga magazine staff at a college, and exploits all of the blunders of publishers, as 4 girls desperately take on wild adventures to reach the next deadline!

 

The Pet Girl of Sakurasou* (Wednesday 12:00pm)

Now that the Cultural Festival is over and Nyapollon has made its most spectacular debut from season 1, Sorata Kanda must choose who or what he must devote himself to. Will it be Mashiro Shiina, the socially-challenged world-famous painter turned popular manga-ka? Will it be Nanami Aoyama, the level-headed hard-working aspiring voice actress? Or will it be to make a brand new video game with his personal hero, Kazuki Fujiwara? Things also heat up as Jin finally confesses to Misaki, but now Sakurasou is threatened to be torn down by the school! How will these misfit high schoolers fight back?

 

Naruto Shippuden (Thursday 4:00am)

With the conclusion of the “500 episode celebration” arc (otherwise known as “Chikara”), the series returns to the manga canon as Naruto enters the Great Ninja War. Itachi Uchiha has released himself from control of Kabuto and now Gaara’s regiment faces their worst enemies: the previous kages.

 

Ai-Mai-Mi (Thursday 7:30am)

Yet another crass comedy short about three high school girls (the girl on the left of this picture is not one of them) and their surreal adventures in writing manga. Each episode is supposedly inspired by the frustrations of the manga artist who inspired the anime to write it. If I ever got really high and started laughing uncontrollably at a television show, this would probably be the one.

 

Kotoura-san (Thursday 10:30am)

Based on the reviews or blatant fan-boy shouts I’ve seen across the Internet, this is by far the most popular anime among the Winter 2013 simulcasts (and no, I didn’t make a mistake, there is no asterisk next to this one). A girl named Haruka Kotoura, who was born with the power to read minds is ostracized for the first 15 years of her life by her friends, parents, and general members of the community around her. Her existential life suddenly hits reality as Yoshihisa Manabe decides to befriend her, along with the members of the ESP Research Club at her most current school. Has Kotoura finally met the people she could put her trust in?

 

Blast of Tempest* (Thursday 12:00pm)

In its second season, the World Tree of Genesis has calmed itself after 2 billion people worldwide have been killed by the destruction caused by both the Trees of Genesis and Exodus. The Tree of Genesis continues to show off its presence, while a weakling is revealed to be the Mage of Exodus. Meanwhile, the Princess of Genesis, Hakaze Kurisabe begins to fall in love with Yoshino Takigawa, who finally reveals the identity of his mysterious and elusive “girlfriend.” Will this story unfold with a happy ending like¬†The Tempest¬†or in tragedy like¬†Hamlet?

 

Maoyu (Friday 10:00am)

Literally “Maou Yuusha,” or “Demon King and Hero,” a war between humans and demons in a medieval setting is at a standstill, as humanity’s greatest hero joins forces with the “Demon King,” a beautiful womanlike character who wants to see peace in her lifetime. Maou introduces new technologies such as compasses and potatoes to the starving human cities as well as ideas such as crop rotations and education. Will this be enough to bring peace between the human and demon worlds?

 

Chihayafuru 2* (Friday 12:00pm)

Chihaya and the rest of the Karuta Club of Mizusawa High start their second year, as they work hard to maintain their status of Tokyo’s No. 1 karuta team as well as finding new members. Meanwhile, Arata in the Fukui prefecture joins a Karuta society to once again compete in tournaments as a Class A player. While this season revisits old rivalries and new friends, I predict that this season will be Taichi’s year to finally shine in the limelight, as he desperately trains to become a Class A player and realizes his true feelings for Chihaya (I was spoiled by manga scanlations). Manga artist Yuki Suetsugu and Madhouse Studios team up once again to continue this amazing josei anime, one of my own personal favorite series thus far.

 

Boku no Imouto wa “Osaka-Okan”¬†(Friday 8:00pm)

Another anime comedy short that is valued not necessarily for its plot but all the hilarious references it has about the differences between the Edo and Osaka dialects, lifestyles, and nuances. Whoever told you that stereotypes aren’t supposed to be funny obviously doesn’t know how to laugh.

 

Oreshura (Saturday 9:30am)

Short for Ore no Kanojo Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru, this slice-of-life harem comedy follows Eita Kidou and his group of four girls who constantly battle over his affection. The five of them comprise of the school’s “Club for Maidens in Search of Redefining Themselves,” a club aimed at helping girls become overtly popular amongst guys; or rather just Eita-kun. Who will Eita choose?

 

Space Brothers* (Saturday 8:00pm)

This series in its 4th season competes as my most anticipated anime for the Winter 2013 season with Chihayafuru. Now that big brother Mutta Namba has been selected as one of the newest astronaut candidates of JAXA, we go to little brother Hibito’s story as he has made it to the moon. All is well until Hibito gets into what could be a fatal accident on the moon, where he and his partner drive over a cliff and deep into a ravine! How will Hibito make it out alive?

 

Saki: Episode of Side-A* (OVA)

The Saki spinoff continues toward the Mahjong tournament finals, as the four semifinalist teams compete for the winning spots. Each of the three veteran teams are weary of the strengths and weaknesses of each other; and yet there is one thing they weren’t counting on: the strength and determination of the girls of Achiga High!

I am open to discuss any and all of the anime listed above with you! Please message me your thoughts.

Thanks!

Anime Review: Chihayafuru

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Reposted from Facebook 27 June 2012.

It comes to no surprise to anyone that I really like this series. Chihayafuru is an ongoing manga series written by Yuki Suetsugu, and has gotten quite popular among shoujo manga readers. An animation was then created by Madhouse Studios (yes, they’re going to be there for Anime Expo) for the Fall 2011 and Winter 2012 lineup. While I haven’t quite caught up with the manga, due to some obvious language barriers, I watched the entire series eagerly from beginning to end, and believe me, I will be tracking the second season when it comes out!

Chihayafuru follows the story of Chihaya Ayase; and more specifically, her obsession with Karuta or Hyakunin Isshu (literally The Hundred Songs): a card game of memory, speed, and stamina (for competitive Karuta). This game consists of, you guessed it, 100 songs written in tanka form (5-7-5-7-7 syllabic structure) which are read aloud. Players must find the card in a sea of as many as 50 cards which has the last three lines of that song written on it. Hyakunin Isshu has been around for centuries in Japan, so it is taught in elementary and middle schools for kids to learn the Japanese alphabet and literature. For competitive players, each song can be recognized by the sixth, third, or even first syllable! Well anyway, that’s the basics of the game, and I don’t want to take up this entire review explaining a game that even most Japanese people don’t bother to play due to its difficulty.

Our heroine is introduced to karuta in the sixth grade, when she meets Arata Wataya (which one of these days I will cosplay because his character is simple, but awesome). Arata’s grandfather was a meijin of Hyakunin Isshu, a well-respected master in this sport (yes, I said “sport”); but since being a master of an esoteric game is not very profitable, the Wataya family was relatively poor. Arata plays a game of Karuta with Chihaya and after a quick match, a lasting bond of friendship began. Soon after, Chihaya’s childhood friend Taichi who is considerably good at everything (and comparably rich as well) develops a brotherly rivalry with Arata. Thus, this triple friendship grew through the karuta game. However, Arata moves back to his hometown in Fukui due to family circumstances, leaving Chihaya and Taichi behind in Tokyo. Three years pass, and Chihaya is determined to reach the top in competitive Karuta, in hopes to someday play against Arata again.

Well, that’s the general back story, anyway. I like the series overall, so reviewing it in my fanboy perspective won’t really do it a lot of justice. I will say that I definitely like how this series combines the storyline beautifully with the songs of Hyakunin Isshu in a present-day setting. One example would be when Chihaya finally gets in touch with Arata just after the annual Meijin and Queen tournament qualifiers. At this point in the series, we discover that Arata’s grandfather had passed away; and Arata himself has barely started playing Karuta again. Chihaya knows that Arata’s fragile spirit might never get past the grief; and yet in this moment, she was relieved to know that Arata was still determined to do his best in Karuta because he, too, wanted to see Chihaya again. Now, if I haven’t lost you in this storytelling yet, Chihaya then remembers this poem (translated loosely in English from Crunchyroll):

When the misty bridge of the

magpie feathers comes into sight,

the night is nearly past.

This poem among the Hyakunin Isshu, for those who don’t know, refers to the story of Orihime and Hikoboshi, which is celebrated during the Tanabata festival (which is coming up starting July 7!). For those who get the reference, Chihaya (Orihime) awaits the day she is reunited with Arata (Hikoboshi); and even if it is just for a moment in time, it is the most loving moment she will definitely never forget.

You don’t have to be a karuta player, a girl, or a Japanese culture enthusiast to appreciate this series. It has a great storyline, wonderful art, and very heart-warming themes. I definitely hope the series continues to do well.