As the doctor prescribes: TAKE ALL THE SHORTCUTS!!!
Well, summer is drawing to a close, and with it I am trying desperately to cram as much of the good-times and partying and staying up late and so-forth into one week as I possibly can. That being said, I figured it would be best to keep this blog short and sweet, a call-back to my very first Regimen and Tonic if you will. But instead of asking “what anime make you think of summer”, I’m simply going to list the anime that I actually watched and/or finished this summer, and then maybe we’ll finally find something to talk about. (LUV ME SENPAI!!!!)
Anyway, without much further ado...
I’m not exactly sure why I watched this show. I’ve always been a sucker for historical-genre stuff, and so I got pulled in because Tactics is set in Meiji era Japan, right on the cusp of the mass industrialization and mobilization that occurred shortly before the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. Speaking of which, that reminds me of a much, much better anime that is set in the 1930’s, called Night Raid 1931. But back on topic, Tactics is set somewhere between 1900 and 1920 and the plot revolves around a paranormalist named Ichinomiya and his pet Tengu, Haruka. Yep. Pet Tengu. Also did I mention this is Shoujo?
The manga is Yaoi apparently, (and no I'm not linking that one) but they downplayed that pretty heavily in the TV adaptation so what you get instead is some watered-down, “cutesy”, saccharine monster that pretty much bores you to death. Haruka is utterly one-dimensional, Suzu-chan (the perfunctory tween girl character) is very typical and very modern (mini-skirts and curled hair? In 1910? What the hell!?!?!) although at least Yōko-chan (a kitsune) is slightly less annoying. The only one I found slightly interesting was Ichinomiya and Minamoto, the supposed main antagonist who never got enough screen time.
The episodes are self-contained and they ARE mysteries, many of which are based on traditional Japanese folk tales. Yokai and Oni and possessed humans and the like, although still not as dark as the premise of the show suggested it would be. Also Ichinomiya is an Onmyouji. The score is fairly well done, which makes it easier to bear. Also Ichinomiya is an Onmyouji. But mainly I got hooked because of the setting, thus watching twenty-five episodes of it. Also Ichinomiya is an Onmyouji. Nothing is that exciting, the animation quality is poor, but the main protagonist did provide for some tension for the plot, and I’ve seen worse shows.
The most valuable part of Tactics though, was that I learned that Ramune, (sometimes called “marble soda”) has been around since 1841. Who would have thunk? I only discovered it last year so... *random trivia no one will ever need*
(Also known as The Devil is a Part-timer)I couldn’t decide which one ranked lower on my list, Tactics or this one. It IS a funny show, to be sure, and the premise is interesting: Demon Lord Satan is banished from his home fantasy land of Ente Isle (which he had turned into a personal, hellish paradise) by the hero Emilia, and somehow they all end up in modern Japan, but for some reason it seemed to fall a little flat to me. Maybe it was the Moe-style to the (females’) animation, Chiho’s one-dimensional obsession over Sadao, Emi as a tsundere, or the stale comedy-skit setups
I can’t really remember much of it, to be perfectly honest, as it all blurred together in one long “meh” I suppose. Even Lucifer, Demon Lord Satan’s underling (wait, weren’t those two supposed to be the same?) was rather cliché. What I did gain from watching the show was a greater appreciation of fast-food restaurants in Japan, which are extremely classy compared to what we have here in the USA. So, if you want to see some light-hearted comedy and the inner-workings of a Japanese “MgRonald’s”, this show is for you. Other than that I’d say it’s pretty forgettable.
Michiko to Hatchin
This is a show that I am going to remember for a long, long time. Set somewhere in a fictional rendition of Brazil, the story is about a notorious gangster named Michiko who escapes from maximum security for the fourth time in order to track down and rescue her long-lost daughter Hana, aka Hatchin, from her abusive foster parents. From there the two of them go on a cross-continental journey to track down Hatchin’s father, presumed dead and missing for many years. While the show has its fantastical moments, I was mainly surprised by its gritty realism and unexpected accuracy in the setting. It feels like South America, and when I was watching it I could not help but be reminded of Lima, Peru. So the show impressed upon me in a sentimental sense, I suppose you could say. Not only that, but the animation was stellar and the score unique. There were a couple of actual Portuguese songs included in the soundtrack, which I couldn’t understand, but I COULD read the actual Portuguese written on signs in the background. Needless to say, the amount of attention they paid to detail is incredible. On the other hand, the plot is slow and tends to meander around, which is fitting of a journey-esque tale I suppose, but it can tend to drag in parts. I’m not sure if the characters were vibrant and original or just following stereotypes, but they were much, much more sympathetic than Tactics' cast, for sure. The ending was slightly disappointing as well, but I suppose that was the attention. Whatever the case may be, I think this show deserved more attention than what it got. I’m glad I watched it.
Shokugeki no SōmaAh, Food Wars. This show is still in emission so I haven’t finished it, obviously, but I have to say: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed what I’ve seen so far. It’s about, well, Sōma-kun of course, who has worked with his dad in their family-owned restraint ever since he could hold a knife. Well, before he could hold a knife actually. After saving the establishment from disaster one day while his dad is out, said dad comes back and promptly announces that he will close the place down for three years to tour the world with a friend, sending Sōma off to the nation’s premier cooking school in the interim. At first Soma is perplexed over why someone would go to school to learn how to cook, but soon his eyes are opened to the vast and daunting world of gourmet and... Food Wars. There is a lot of comedy in this show, which is to be expected, but what I did not expect was the sheer intensity that it manages to ratchet up. It’s a little slow at first, but once you get into it... you get into it. The plot takes you on a break-neck course of suspense and rivalry, and the individual storylines are entirely embroiling. There were moments that I laughed so hard my sides hurt, and other moments where I was on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen. I’ve even tried a recipe or two from the show because, I’ve got to say, as great as Sōma might be as a character, it is the food itself that carries the show. The food looks absolutely fantastic, and realistic enough to replicate (for the most part.) I can’t wait to see how it will end.
Well, Gintama 2015 started back in February, I suppose, but I mainly got caught-up this summer. Gintama is Gintama. It seems to be the same as always. The first two episodes were one of the funnier ones I’d say, and there have been one or two since then that were pretty hilarious. I sort of lost interest at the recent executioner/Seppuku arc, so I’ll have to get back into it. And I found the gender-bender arc a bit odd, even for Gintama, but it was still enjoyable. Like I said: Gintama is Gintama. It has its ups and downs, but fortunately for all us fans: it’s still Gintama.
You know, I actually tried to watch Steins;Gate about a year or so ago. I saw the first episode but couldn’t really get into it: it was weird, seemingly non-sequitur, and I think I may have watched the dub. The dub is baaaaaad. I’ve heard some idiot-internet-commentators say that the dub is actually really good: and they are just flat-out wrong. I’m sorry, but there’s just no way to replicate “HOUIN KYOUMA!!!” in English. At least not convincingly. Anyway. I re-watched the first episode... and was then addicted to the show. The trick is to read the Wikipedia description first to know “what the hell is actually going on here: Okabe Rintarou, the protagonist and a self-proclaimed “mad-scientist” creates a time machine out of a phone and a microwave, and from there things start to progress. Or should I say devolve? The show has a slow start, and I’ve seen reviews where the Moe aspects were heavily criticized (and granted there are some elements that could have been left out, I feel, but they are easy to ignore.) Thing is, no show is perfect. I was expecting something much grander with Steins;Gate, some high-stakes gamble or race against time on the level of say Death Note or Darker than Black. Well, Steins;Gate isn’t exactly high on that particular type of suspense (by which I mean the genre)... but it is suspenseful. Very, very much so. You have to get to around episode seven or so (maybe twelve, I can’t remember) to know what I’m talking about, but by then the story has grabbed you by the throat and you can’t stop watching. I finished all 25 episodes in a span of three days: which is quite the marathon if I do say so myself. The show’s setting, minimalist, masterful score (as in, you barely notice that it’s there at all: which is a good thing as it blends into the background and simply serves to help create the mood of the scene, a rarity in anime I’ve noticed) and superb animation create a dream-like feeling that draws you in. It was like watching a classic science fiction film only mixed with the grassroots, free-spirited entrepreneurial spirit of college student craziness only with a surprisingly good romance mixed in only as an anime. Sort of. One of the coolest aspects of the show is that they actually reference real-life scientific theories, gadgets, and organizations, such as the Large Hadron Collider, CERN, and even crack-case John Titor. The premise also poses some very, very interesting questions and, overall, it is a story that both pulls on your heartstrings while simultaneously asking you to stop and think. By far one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long, long while.
As a side note, I learned later on that Steins;Gate is meant to be a sort-of sequel to Chaos;Head, which was another visual novel to game to anime to manga adaptation that I saw produced by the same people. Funny thing is, I hated, and I mean HATED Chaos;Head. The first few episodes set up a plot that... well, never actually happened in the course of the story. BUT, apparently, there are ties between the two series. I may have to re-watch some of those first episodes (granted, a few very, very good first few episodes) to try and figure out the connections, but if someone else is aware of those connections I would be thrilled if you could point them out to me.
The only thing I really didn’t buy into was the fact that Okabe is supposed to be 18. Did anyone else find that hard to swallow?
Just remember: Save all the Bananas.
Mushishi is a dismally underrated show. I started watching it at the start of the year but didn’t finish it until this summer, which is good because apparently they just came out with the final part, an anime film, in May. I have to say: I haven’t seen the film yet, partly because if I do I’ll be depressed for a week because it will mean that Mushishi has well and truly ended for me. And this is tragic. Why is this tragic?
Because Mushishi is literally the most beautiful anime I have ever seen. And I have seen a lot of anime. Nothing can compare to the water-color palette, the incredibly realistic lighting, or the surreal, impressionistic style to the characters and animation. The closest thing would be a Miyazaki film, particularly the strangely breath-taking beauty an eeriness of say, Laputa, Spirited Away and (more so than the others) Princess Mononoke. If you liked Princess Mononoke, there is a very high chance that you will enjoy Mushisi. The score highlights and compliments the art, and at times is haunting, soaring, or lullabic. But mostly just haunting. The plot itself is somewhat slow, and since it’s episodic there’s not really any sense of continuity or over-arching storyline. Some people criticize it for this, but I found it refreshing and unique: a reminder of the old Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers shows I used to watch as a kid. Well, that’s probably an entirely incorrect analogy but... what I am saying that, since there aren’t any cliff hangers to worry about, Mushishi leaves you time to ponder between episodes. It is a show to be savored. There are also some incredibly deep themes at play here: questions about the basic nature of humanity, the love of a family, strength, perseverance, solitude... I remember a few episodes where I was left with the distinct taste of unease and a dire warning. Other stories inspired me, encouraged me, and propagated hope. Still others left me raw from bittersweet tragedy. Mushishi is melancholy. There are very few actual “happy endings,” which adds a layer of gray and gravitas that might have otherwise been lacking. Another interesting thread are the ties to traditional folk tales and traditions, which often seem to have heavily inspired the writer, so it may be helpful to brush up on pre-Edo country practices, although it’s not necessary. The stories are serious and wandering, not unlike the main character himself, whom you can’t help but fall in love with. He is the only true constant in the show, after all. Our guide into the mysterious world of the unseen.
I can’t say much more at the risk of simply devolving into gushing praise. Mushishi is one show I highly recommend. It isn’t as thrilling as Steins;Gate, but is, as I said, a show to be savored. For the good of your soul, watch Mushishi.
And Now, Class...
So, there you have it. Those are pretty much the only shows I’ve seen this summer. (I told you this issue would be shorter didn’t I?) Anyway, what have you seen this summer? Any of the same shows I watched? Anything note-worthy or something we should see? Ready, set, go: