Hello, 2020: Anime Update from Late 2019 to Now
Warning: The following post may contain spoilers of various anime series I've talked about before (also movies I haven't). If you don't want to know what happens in any of the properties I'm talking about in here, it's best if you join me once you've watched the first few episodes of each, or the entire thing. But then again, if you want to take that warning with a grain of salt, feel free to stay put.
With that said:
The 2010's have come to a close. With that, an era of anime is officially behind us. 2019 wasn't the best year for me with shows, but I still watched a few things I was happy to get to. I delved deep into Hallmark movies and watched sixty-four of them compared to the six I watched in the back half of 2018. Mortal Kombat became my new video game love, and I gained two new best girls in D'Vorah and Skarlet:
We respect badass fighting game women on this blog.
Finally, I recognized what made me initially want to start my social media accounts is fading. Yes, making Top Model shows is fun, but since I barely focused on editing my current cycle during first semester, it's a sign that I'm reaching the end of that chapter of my life. In terms of my school life, I found out college parties are not for me, staying up close to midnight watching Teen Titans is a great use of your time on the weekends, and reminding others of Sandra Lee's iconic Food Network show will lead to many great moments.
Oh, and vacation time? Use it wisely to watch any anime you can get your hands on.
In today's post, I'm going over anything I missed in my last update post in August before cracking into the shows and movies I watched in my first semester of school. Most of what I talk about today will end with me assigning scores (since I don't plan on reviewing most of the movies and shows), but if there's anything I'd like to save for the future, I will withhold my final rating until future notice. I will also mention one show I was able to re-watch this past year since it was part of a project.
To start things off, let's go over all the movies I've seen:
I've always neglected to reference movies I've seen on this blog. Part of that has to do with not knowing how to structure my anime movie reviews (although at this point, I've done reviews on Hallmark movies, so I now have a format at my disposal), but another part of me was worried I wouldn't talk about movies in a way I would be proud of. That's only because I haven't tried with an anime movie at this point, so in the future, I hope to get reviews up on this blog that aren't just for series. It'll depend on timing, though.
For this section, I will first talk about the movies I've mentioned in the past before I take a closer look at movies I haven't mentioned in alphabetical order. I will not be counting the fourth Haikyuu compilation movie since that primarily serves as a recap of the third season. But I will say the bonus footage slapped.
All right. Let's begin:
Bungo Stray Dogs: Dead Apple was an experience. I went and saw this in theaters with Luke, and my town happened to get hit with a severe thunderstorm that produced a tornado about nineteen miles from the theater. In retrospect, I loved every minute of being terrified for my life. The hail provided such ambiance for the scenes where Atsushi and Kyouka were driving through the green fog.
In terms of the actual movie, I enjoyed this grand adventure. Tatsuhiko Shibusawa wasn't the most developed character, and I do think Fyodor Dostoevsky made a more compelling antagonist (ironic, considering he's the main antagonist for the next arc), but the reason why this movie stuck with me was Atsushi's character growth finally sticking the landing. In the series, while Atsushi became stronger, it came with sudden transitions to his vulnerability I felt were out of place. Here, Yoji Enokido hit the perfect balance with Atsushi questioning himself and being a badass. We also got to see great character interactions and more to fan favorites the series hadn't tapped into at that point.
There was also beautiful direction from Takuya Igarashi, a lovely score from Taku Iwasaki, and great voice acting. I left the theater feeling energized and ready for the rest of the school week. I may not have gotten around to Season 3 of this show quite yet, but as I mentioned in August, a review of Dead Apple will come at some point.
I referenced seeing the R movie of Sailor Moon in theaters back in 2017, which was another great day for me. I wasn't able to see the S re-dub in theaters since the theater I went to accidentally showed the SuperS movie and special instead (I was going to miss it anyways, so it was all good), but I got to see it once I bought the DVD and Blu-Ray combo pack from Viz Media. Before seeing all three this past decade, I had watched the S movie when I was eight and saw bits of the other two movies when I was a kid. Since Sailor Moon was my gateway anime, I love being able to watch more than just random episodes whenever I have the chance. Getting into the content has always been a goal of mine, and it's something I hope to work at in the new decade.
Out of the three, the R movie is my favorite. While all of them had great animation, stories, and voice acting, the first just holds a special place in my heart. How Kunihiko Ikuhara directed the movie just enraptured me from start to finish. The remastering was lush, and I really liked Fiore as an antagonist. There were high stakes as the world was in danger and Usagi almost sacrificed her life. It's dark for a movie aimed towards younger girls while hitting the cusp of teen and adulthood in a way I respect. The other two movies don't make as much of an impact as this film, but they're still fun on their own.
10/10 for the R movie and 9/10 for the S and SuperS ones.
I really need to watch the last two Bleach movies. Thinking about Bleach brings me back to the beginning of high school when I started exploring more of the stuff that was "popular." The Bleach franchise was the one that stuck with me, and that flimsy devotion got me through sixteen manga volumes, twenty episodes of the anime (along with four filler episodes), and the first two movies. Though it's been a bit since I've seen both projects, I liked both of them. Memories of Nobody had weak antagonists, but it was engaging, comical (the scene with the drawings always gets me), and had great action. The DiamondDust Rebellion gave me the Toshiro Hitsugaya screen-time I craved at fifteen and a strong main villain, but there were a few things that kept it from perfect. I'm not sure what they were outside of Ichigo forgetting what a execution was, but I don't know when I'll get the time to re-watch the movie.
If there's one thing I remember more than anything else, it's Ichigo yelling at Soul Society whenever they screw up. It happens quite frequently in these films. I wouldn't mind watching more of Bleach in the future, but it's probably going to be a filler arc.
9/10 for both movies.
Excluding my hatred towards Laxus, I didn't mind what I saw of Fairy Tail. Sure, Hiro Mashima and the anime adaptation team love showing off their female characters, the series is as shonen as shonen can get with the power of friendship and bonds and all that, but the arc I watched right before Laxus made moves was great for Erza's character development, and the animation and score were pretty solid. I doubt this series has gotten stronger over time, but it was still pretty entertaining.
The Phoenix Priestess is the best thing to come out of the franchise, though. Under different direction, the animation was refreshing and gave the characters a more mature look, the story was interesting and didn't make me bored, and I was happy the key players in the Fairy Tail guild each got a part in defeating the villains. Éclair was a great character and I remember enjoying her arc, even though it didn't end happily.
There was one moment where pointless fanservice struck again (to those who've seen the film, I think you know what I'm talking about) and I felt the main antagonist reveal was poorly done, but other than that, this was a good movie at thirteen and I'm sure it still will be, even though I tend to avoid this subset of the medium now. Well, I watch Haikyuu and Nanatsu no Taizai, so I'm not avoiding shonen completely.
Seeing Millennium Actress in theaters finally made me understand why Satoshi Kon's work has been praised to the moon and back. I had read up on Perfect Blue, which left me terrified, and saw about an hour of Paprika, which left me confused (though that was because of the bad English dub). Taking the opportunity to watch this, though, was one I'm never going to forget. I'm sure other reviewers have talked about the magic of this film time and time again, but I'll briefly mention my favorite parts here. The film's construction was exquisite, never losing track of its end goal. The movies Chiyoko worked on always seemed to parallel what was going on in her life, which was a very smart choice. Madhouse did an amazing job pouring every ounce of money they had into making the film look as great as it did. The score was cinematic and helped tell the story. But the ending perfectly captured what Kon set out to do and almost made me cry with its clarity.
Now that this film has been re-released in the US and can be found on Amazon Prime, I think it's a film everyone will like. This is most likely the most accessible film out of Kon's work, and I can't wait to see more. His contributions to Japanese animation have impacted so many people, and he is still missed nearly ten years after he passed.
I also got the chance to see Miss Hokusai in theaters. Compared to some of the movies I've written about (and will), a cinema based in my hometown with a focus on indie films was showing this. My parents thought I would find it interesting, so I decided to take a chance on a film I hadn't heard about before. Taking a chance can end in one of two ways, but the good news is that I ended up enjoying Miss Hokusai.
Despite being pretty episodic in its storytelling, I was still fascinated by O-Ei's life and what happened in it. Production I.G's animation style was fitting of when this film took place and was very colorful and detailed. I also enjoyed the dub despite some minor problems with it, primarily because Erica Lindbeck's performance as O-Ei was so captivating and drew me into more of her work. Because of this movie, she's now one of my favorite voice actors. At some point, I would love to re-watch this movie to see if it still holds up, but knowing my anime tastes, I think it has.
Promare was a lot of fun. Despite some problems with the story (Kray was an obvious villain, the first half of the movie stalled a bit, Burning Rescue's character development wasn't there), Trigger still gave us an enjoyable movie with the most homoerotic subtext I've ever seen. Galo was a fun main character who was completely clueless and endlessly energetic, I liked how the Burnish weren't all bad, there were a couple of surprising developments in the plot, the animation style was innovative and fresh, and Hiroyuki Sawano produced his best score yet that sounded amazing over the theater speakers.
I know, I'm surprised too. Considering how harsh I've been to Sawano in the past, I'm happy his score for Promare didn't bore me or felt too reliant on his signature/another composer's style. I cared more about most of the pieces than just certain tidbits or "Perfect Time." Combined with great action scenes and a robot named Deus X Machina, I could ignore some of this story's weaknesses and get caught up in the colors.
Despite being a "recap" of the first six episodes of the first season, this movie paid more attention to how the events played out in the first light novel. Compared to the show, I enjoyed this so much more. Not to say the series is bad, but having a movie that improves on the qualities of a show is never a bad thing.
The final battle had higher stakes, and I liked how Shana and Margery put aside their differences in the movie with the latter even helping Yuji and the other Flame Haze to defeat Friagne. The romantic angst from the series was also toned down in order to focus on what was most important. The animation and OST were still pretty solid. Hell, even old and new scenes flowed seamlessly together. I was just in awe of what J.C. Staff and the anime team did. Well done! It kept me entertained one November night when I was in a bad mood.
I'm the most proud of getting these done. The Tenchi Muyo franchise has been close to my heart for a decade now. Getting into everything proper (excluding the rest of the OVA's and GXP because I've heard they're bad, but I still need to watch War on Geminar) only made my appreciation for the harem's hijinks grow. It may be the cause of our annoyed hair-pulling with the barrage of light novel quasi-harem adaptations and isekai schlock, but it set the standard for them, even with its faults. Universe was amazing at thirteen, the first two OVA series were good despite problems, and Tenchi in Tokyo might have been the weakest out of everything, but even that was still entertaining at times. But what about the movies?
After putting it off for nearly a year after getting the movie set from FUNimation for Christmas, I watched in Love, Daughter of Darkness, and in Love 2/Forever. Luke was at college, I had the house mostly to myself, I wasn't motivated to do anything except wait for the school year to start, so three nights were spent watching all the Tenchi Muyo movies. Take a bow, Jack. You deserve it.
Tenchi Muyo in Love landed in the middle for me. I liked the movie's plot, and it was great to see the Universe incarnation of the characters again after being away from them for a while. It also moved at a good pace and had a perfect mix of action and comedy. Seeing Achika and Nobuyuki meeting in the past was cute, and the movie was entertaining even before the big climatic battle. The writers could have developed Sabato more, considering his aim to defeat Kain before Tenchi and his harem did, and I had other minor quibbles.
Before watching Tenchi Muyo: Daughter of Darkness, I'd heard from a variety of sources that it sucked. The movie was too short, not enough time was given to develop the story, it's not in canon with the other properties, among a variety of other things. There were a few things I agreed with. The movie is only about an hour long, which feels too short with the amount of content stuffed in it, but also makes the plot run long at points. Mayuka wasn't that interesting of a character for me, either. I understood why the group took a liking to her, but I wish there was more that defined her outside of her purposeful attachment to Tenchi and trying to wrestle free from Yuzuha's control.
Not having this movie in canon with the OVAs, Universe, or in Tokyo wasn't too big of a deal. Since Tenchi has so many timelines, it was easy to think of this as being placed during the OVA timeline but with Kiyone in the mix. Ryoko's arc in this movie was also great. I liked seeing her grow to Mayuka after being bugged by her when she arrives, even if this movie takes place over a day or two. I also enjoyed how Naoko Hasegawa developed Yuzuha so she wasn't a corn husk of a villain. It was the worst out of the collection, but it wasn't the disaster I was set up to believe it was.
I was surprised by how enraptured I got with Tenchi Muyo in Love 2. Having Tenchi mostly out of the picture didn't bug me as much as I thought it would. Seeing the harem pull all the stops in order to find Tenchi was heartwarming, but the focus on Ryoko and Ayeka, the two pivotal women of the group, made sense, as they took on the hard work. Haruna was despicable, but her motivations for doing what she did made sense,and I liked how Masaharu Amiya fit her into the Universe timeline. She just wanted to be together with Yosho, and if she couldn't have him, she could get the next best thing: his grandson.
This movie was also the most cinematic with its score and ambiance. The animation and Blu-Ray remaster were a bit choppy at points, but I do think the staff created the best possible experience for Tenchi fans who wanted to see how this twisted adventure played out. The ending not only wraps everything up but even hints at a Tenchi and Ryoko endgame, something I saw pieces of at thirteen but didn't think Amiya would strongly suggest. Oh, if I could only see the look on thirteen year-old me's face right now, it'd be...
Yeah, exactly that. Ew.
Regardless, I did like what I got out of the three movies and was happy to finish them before I started my sophomore year. I'm not sure when I'll get around to War in Geminar with its batch of new characters, but we'll have to wait and see.
8/10 for in Love, 7/10 for Daughter of Darkness, and 9/10 for in Love 2.
Are we ready for the shows?
Overall, I watched a total of five anime from late August to early January. We'll go in the order I watched them and end with what I just wrapped, starting off with:
I binge-watched Tanaka-kun Is Always Listless during Labor Day weekend with Luke and one of my friends. It wasn't a show I was interested in watching when it aired in the Spring 2016 season, but I'd heard plenty of great things about it. One thing this show excelled at was making me relaxed, almost like snuggling under a warm blanket. It was easy to follow, which a slice-of-life should do, but it also wasn't boring. The characters were pretty good, the animation looked nice, and the score suited what was going on without being too distracting. The casting of Kensho Ono and Yoshimasa Hosoya as Tanaka and Ohta, respectively, was also pretty funny.
I did have an issue with some of the characterization (mainly with Tanaka's younger sister), yet regardless, this show accomplished what I wish to get out of most slice-of-life anime, and that's all that matters.
My full thoughts on Kakegurui can be found here. In short, I really enjoyed both seasons of this show, and it was my favorite anime of 2019. The gambles kept me entertained for the most part, I liked all of the characters despite some not getting equal development, the animation was pretty, the score was stunning, and I got to hear some of the best voice acting I've heard in anything. If there's another thing I was proud to see this past year, it was this.
As I mentioned in my Kakegurui review, I watched Sanrio Boys between both seasons. This franchise caught my eye around the time it started, and when an anime adaptation was greenlit, I knew I wanted to watch it at some point. What was this series going to tackle, especially since men liking Sanrio goods are looked down upon in modern society? My interest was piqued when Rebecca Silverman, a reviewer at Anime News Network, mentioned there was a shower scene in the first episode. Curious, I looked it up, eventually found this stitched screenshot:
and my inner fifteen year-old fanboy did this.
Typical. I could say this is all Rebecca Silverman's fault, but that would deflect blame from the real person responsible: me. I could have saved the suspense until I watched the show, but of course, thirst always wins.
At the end of the day, I did like Sanrio Boys. The three writers from Clockwork Planet (plus an additional one) did a great job at proving a point with the show's message: It's okay for a guy to be interested in things that are girly. I liked each arc the main characters went through and how the problems weren't necessarily solved. Silverman brought up a great point in her full series review about the five now having better coping mechanisms when something out of their control comes their way. After all, they're still teenagers, a point Yu brings up in the final episode. I didn't expect that to hit me like a dodgeball to the face, but it did. I also appreciated how the show wasn't as "BUY OUR TOYS!" as I expected, even with the references to a couple attractions in Japan, like Puroland, a Sanrio theme park. The humor also managed to click for the most part, even though it was very sexual. At least we didn't have the weird tonal shifts of Clockwork Planet.
Of course, it wasn't the best show. Episodes 7-10 establish the climax, but they don't have the emotional nuances the rest have. Pierrot did a better job with this show's animation despite outsourcing, although there were weak moments scattered throughout. The score was also pretty forgettable. What I won't forget? The power of friendship and the nod to the two other characters Sanrio introduced later on in the app's run for the grand finale. It worked for me.
DAKAICHI really tested my patience. I sort of knew what I was getting into. Here we have another problematic BL show, but between men in the entertainment industry. Despite Takato's savage inner monologues, pretty character designs from Minako Shiba (whose work for Black Butler and Kamigami no Asobi I've loved) and an amazing score from Masaru Yokoyama, I wasn't the biggest fan of this show. Takato and Junta's relationship is framed to be incredibly romantic despite the fact that it isn't. Junta's obsession with Takato starts in a healthy place as his flashback episode indicated, but over time, it went south and became very creepy. Junta has so much control over Takato, especially in the first half, and it made me question whether I would continue with the show.
My biggest issue took place after Takato got taken advantage of by Chihiro Ayagi, which almost ended in rape. I get Junta's anger towards Chihiro, because no one should jump on the chance to have sex with someone who is taken (and unconscious), but he also blames Takato for what happened, even though the situation was out of his control. It was disgusting, and I wish that moment was handled better.
What does DAKAICHI also not handle well? Its supporting characters don't offer much to the plot and become tropes (the playboy who has a "sexual awakening" and lusts after the main character because he reminds him of a woman; the naive one who isn't in the loop on certain things; the higher-up who takes advantage at a random point for no reason). Almost all of the romantic moments either don't work because of the framing or lack of consent. The only semblance of tension I bought into was the paparazzi storyline when photographer Jiro Hasegawa snapped a photo of Takato and Junta in an intimate moment. That had stakes and actual drama, since gay relationships are still not thought of well in Japan. I liked how Junta took matters into his own hands and outwitted Jiro by pretending to date his co-star in a current drama. That was fun.
I wish I could say that about the rest of the show. While it had its good moments, the first half slogged, and the highs never lasted long enough for me to really appreciate them. It's not good when your favorite characters are brothers who are walking gay stereotypes, right?
I also rewatched Kiznaiver over Thanksgiving break and into my final week of first semester classes to continue the project I referenced in my second big update post. I had the time, so I broke out my Black Butler journal and got to work. As with Qualidea Code, my opinion didn't dramatically change, but I was able to catch the romantic foreshadowing and appreciate some of the themes it touched upon. The score also held up, and I was surprised to see one piece not be used in the show proper, instead popping up in the preview special. Regardless, it was fun to OST track again, and I did enjoy re-experiencing the highs and lows of the Sugomori High School Seven. Honoka's now my favorite character.
Finally, here is what I just finished:
When I found out this show was on Crunchyroll, I was pretty excited. I had known about Pandora Hearts thanks to the Top Model community and fell in love with Alice Baskerville when I was twelve. I used her in a few shows, she won the third cycle of my Anime's Next Top Model, and I even did my own janky take on an art piece from Jun Mochizuki's Odds and Ends artbook when I was thirteen. I also read the first volume of the manga when I was at camp and then completely blanked on what it was about.
This series is in the vein of anime like Black Butler and Karneval. It relies heavily on its aesthetic and works best for teenagers when they want to rebel against shonen. If I had watched this show at fourteen, I probably would have loved it. At twenty, I like it, but it's not without its problems.
Once the writers focused on the characters' emotional arcs, Pandora Hearts was at its most compelling. Mochizuki's world-building is so vast that it's easy to get lost in all the terminology thrown your way. I don't think the anime writers handled it well, either, so it was nice to watch Oz see beyond himself, Alice piecing together what happened one hundred years ago while trying to find her memories, and Break explaining the mysteries of his past. It was also fun to see how the ten years Oz spent in the Abyss played with time. I forgot about that element of the story, if it was even hinted at the end of the first volume at all.
The animation was also nice and did its job with great direction and muted colors. I liked the character designs, and the grainy quality to the frames supported the historical aspect. Yuki Kajiura's score was beautiful, and even though I haven't liked scores with a more orchestral influence in the past, it added so much to the show. The tracks with vocals gave me chills.
Outside of the info-dumping, some of the individual arcs were weak. Surprisingly, I didn't mind the steps the anime adapters took to finish the series, despite them rushing to get there. However, as I mentioned earlier, there's so much to keep track of at the start of this series that the subplots run together. Also, the humor is pretty hit or miss depending on what's going on. There are a couple of weird tonal shifts or moments where comedy doesn't stick. Despite that, I still think this show was pretty fun and brought me back to when I started consuming anime by the handful, younger and when life was so much simpler.
With that, this update post has come to an end. Thanks to everyone who stuck through and read all of it. I hope you enjoyed my quick rambles on what I've watched and are excited for what's to come. Considering we're getting more Haikyuu and IDOLiSH7, not to mention the fifth Mystery 101 movie just started filming, I'm ecstatic for 2020 proper.
In the meantime, I wish you all well. Until I post again: