NOTE: Feel free to skip around this blog post, reading about the anime you are interested in. The text of this post is largely unedited, I'm sorry for some of the bad turns of phrase. Also these categories are just for fun and to help organize things better.
June is around the corner. A quick glance at my currently watching list will tell you that in the next few weeks I will finish watching a handful of anime series (Future Diary, Blast of Tempest and Rainbow). And in a few more weeks the "Spring" season of anime will be ending (Flowers of Evil, UtaPri2 and Chihayafuru 2). Over the course of the past months (or years in the case of One Piece) I have come to love and appreciate all the anime on this watch list. As I start to consider what anime I plan on watching after I finish these series, I thought this would be a great time to share some brief (haha) thoughts on these great anime.
CONTENTS of this blog at a glance:
1. Flowers of Evil
Weaving and Driving Plot Lines
2. Attack On Titan
4. Blast of Tempest
5. Future Diary
Caring about something I wouldn't normally care about
6. Space Brothers
8. UtaPri 2
The ship's end... inmates and PIRATES!!!
10. One Piece
11. Black Lagoon
I have been pretty vocal about my support for Flowers of Evil both in the discussion thread and in a previous blog about it. The series' bold animation style combined with its treatment of psychosexual and psychosocial themes make for a chilling and thoughtful anime experience. One thing that has been on my mind recently is that the manga was based on children in primary school, while the anime is based on children in high school. I'm not sure whether the anime would have been more effective if it used child actors instead of adult actors. Either way Flowers of Evil is an anime that flies in the face of current moe and ecchi anime trends and questions how we think about sex in anime and the social/sexual relationships depicted between anime characters.
The next 4 anime on my watch list have a strong emphasis on plot. They each find their own way of balancing action and animation with story and plot development. They each have enough depth and intrigue in the plot for those who want to delve into that. But each of the stories has an amazing simplicity that is original enough to captivate any casual viewer.
Like Flowers of Evil, I've also posted a lot of comments about Attack on Titan in the discussion thread. At this point we still don't know a lot of things. We don't know how the Titans reproduce, where they come from, what their goals are or how the huge walls defending human civilization from the Titans were built in the first place. For those who want to dig into deeper plot analysis, there is a whole discussion about whether the Titans are symbolic of anything (consumerism perhaps). Also there's a whole discussion that could be had about fatalism in the anime, whether humans are just wasting their time, delaying their fateful defeat by the Titans.
For those that don't care about such brooding and serious themes, Attack on Titan has brilliant animation and gore to satisfy any action fan. The main premise of the show "humans get attacked by huge human-eating monsters and tragedy ensues" isn't completely original, but everything from the animation to story is balanced in a great way. Attack on Titan has enough to appeal to a really broad audience, which I think is why it is being so well-received.
Yes, you read that right, 63 episodes. I think I started watching this anime last year. It took me until last night for me to finally realize just how amazing the plot for Monster is. Over the course of its 74 episodes, dozens of characters are introduced. The amazing part is that all of these characters and their individual plot lines all ultimately intersect on one person "Johann" the grand antagonist of the series. Johann, as a child, and several other children were effectively brain-washed by a secret government organization in attempts to produce the next great dictator (after Hitler). The ways in which various characters have connections to Johann is staggering, uncomfortable and thrilling. Through its various characters and plot lines, Monster is not afraid to explore the world of crime, prostitution, child abuse, assassination and the corruption of police and detectives.
Underneath this seemingly drab and corrupt exterior, Monster is grounded on strong morals. The protagonists of the series, Dr. Tenma, Nina Fortner and Dr. Reichwine (to name a few), all try to do the right thing and prevent more lives being lost to Johann's plans. I encourage anyone who wants to check out this series to NOT rush through it, hoping that Johann will get killed already. Yes, the main premise of the show is tracking down and killing the antagonist Johann, simple enough. But I made the mistake of wishing that Dr. Tenma would catch Johann, kill him and end the series already. This series is not meant to be rushed through, the real beauty of this series is seeing how everything fits together and experiencing the lives and stories of all the characters the show has to offer.
There are mages and there are magical trees that can "change and control the logic of the world". What? There is a lot that can be discussed about the effect of the trees on the world, who is right/wrong, whether there is any point in trying to "change or go against the logic of the world". But luckily, like all the other 3 anime in this group, there is a relatively simple plot underlying this show. A girl is murdered and his brother is out for revenge. BAM that's it.
Blast of Tempest uses lots of music from Beethoven and also frequently quotes lines from various Shakespeare works like Macbeth, Hamlet and Tempest (which the anime is named after). I'm not exactly comfortably with this anime's appropriation of those various works, but it has nevertheless been really interesting to see how a Japanese medium (anime) uses other media from other cultures. With that said the animation and art work is really well done and like Attack on Titan, will be enough to satisfy casual viewers, while also providing enough for people who want to look deeper into the plot.
A future diary is a cell phone that can tell the future, there are 12 future diaries belonging to 12 different people. If your future diary is destroyed you die. The last future diary user left alive becomes a god. Simple enough, but like Flowers of Evil, there is a lot that can be said about the social/sexual relationship between the two main protagonists Amano Yukiteru and Gasai Yuno. They are both diary users and Gasai Yuno is the very definition of yandere, caring for Yuki to the point of being willing to kill anyone who might possibly harm Yuki. Future Diary also touches on themes of child abuse. Future Diary has plenty of action, blood and violence to keep viewers entertained. It's an amazing thrill ride that doesn't stop for much. It has a sense of humor as well, exhibited in characters like MurMur or other humorous scenes between the characters.
This could really apply to almost any anime on this list. A part of what makes anime interesting (or any other story-telling medium for that matter) is the ability to hear new stories about new characters in new situations and caring about them in all its uniqueness. The next 3 anime though, really had an impact on how I view the subject matter of each anime. I think what really ties together a lot of these anime is it's emphasis on good morals and teamwork. In each of the following anime, you have characters working together, challenging themselves and others around them to strive for their dreams and be the best at what they do. These anime do this without selling any of the characters or plots short and make for really memorable stories. I've said it before with Tsuritama, any anime that makes me care about something I wouldn't normally care about, is a good anime in my books.
If I had not watched Space Brothers I would not have cared much about space exploration or stuff like the International Space Station. But after seeing Nanba Mutta and other Japanese characters work hard toward their dream of becoming astronauts, I've come to really appreciate space and space exploration. Sometimes it is easy to think about "the world" being equal to "Earth", and for many of us, during our lifetime that might very well be the case. Space Brothers effectively expanded the scope of how I think about the world, and it did so in an entertaining and fun way, with memorable characters and stories that made me want to cry with tears of joy and happiness.
Chihayafuru centers around a Japanses card game named "Karuta". A game of Karuta is played between 2 players. Each player randomly selected 25 of 100 cards. Each cards has a short poem written on it. So at the beginning of a match there are 50 cards on the field. There is a memorization period where players are able to memorize the cards on the field. When the match begins, a reader reads out (from another deck of 100 cards) each poem. If a poem in play is read, the player must try to grab the card as fast as they can. The first player to get rid of all the cards on his/her side of the field is the winner.
Karuta involves intense memorization, and is incredibly taxing on the player's brain. Imagine memorizing a specific arrangement of cards for one Karuta match, then having to forget and relearn an entirely new arrangement of cards the next match. DAMN! The story itself centers around Chihaya and her friends as they try to get better and better at competitive karuta. Chihaya's goal is eventually to become the best Karuta player in the world. Throw in a love triangle and some hard teamwork, and you have Chihayafuru in a nutshell.
Chihayafuru 2 focuses a lot more on actual Karuta matches than the first season. This really brings out the intensity of the actual karuta matches. The first season was really endearing because we got to see Chihaya, Taichi and Arata develop from children to teenagers along with their love of Karuta. Chihayafuru 2 builds on a lot of what was already established in season 1, and knows how to deliver an emotional punch when it needs to.
UtaPri gives us a somewhat idealized picture of the male idol industry. It presents us 6 male idols and 1 female song-writer who are aspiring to make it in the Japanese idol industry. Each of the 7 main characters have their own history and reasons for becoming an idol. All of them sing and make music because they love singing, or have grown to love singing. Despite being labelled as a "reverse-harem" anime, there is little to no ecchi or fan service in UtaPri. Instead we have a look at 7 unique and mature-looking characters striving to realize their dreams together. Whether that involves appearing at a fashion show, on a variety show, acting in a television series or singing at a concert, each character supports each other through their hardships and difficulties.
Before this anime, hearing news about super groups in japan like AKB48 and their relationship with fans was just disheartening and filled me with disdain. But, I feel like watching UtaPri has made me care a little more about the Japanese idol industry, and express maybe a little sympathy for Japanese idols. I'd like to believe they all love to sing and are pursuing their dreams like the characters in UtaPri2.
Like I mentioned, I'm close to finishing a lot of the anime on my currently watching list. The next 3 anime specifically deal with pirates or inmates. I could have combined these 3 anime with the previous category. After all, these anime made me care more about pirates and teenagers who get stuck into juvenile prison, who I normally wouldn't care much about. But I decided to give them it's own category because it shows that I am in a weird transitional period with the anime I am watching. Only a few days ago have I started watching Black Lagoon. On the other hand it has been years since I started watching One Piece. As the anime on this list come to a close I'll be looking for new anime to watch, new stories to experience and new characters to meet.
It's post-WWII Japan and 7 teenagers land themselves in a reformatory. Economic times are tough, and they each had their reasons for what they did. A corrupt warden and doctor make the reformatory a living hell for them. Through their experiences in the reformatory together, an unbreakable and beautiful bond is born. Even after they finally leave the reformatory, they continue to struggle to live. Rainbow is an emotional rollercoaster. There were a number of times where I wanted to cry watching this anime. You can really feel the pains and joys of each of the characters when they are getting tortured, when they cry, when they succeed.
The only thing that has bugged me about this anime is its depiction of female characters. Rainbow is prominently about the guys, it is made for the male audience. The sense of camaraderie among the boys that is developed throughout the series is amazing and beautiful. This however leaves many of the female characters in fairly stereotypical roles of innocence and purity, or serving as plot devices to advance a male character's development. Keeping this in mind, Rainbow presents a powerful and unforgettable story that I won't forget any time soon.
The longest running anime on this list. Weirdly enough, I also feel like this anime is coming to an end for me too. Why, you ask? Aren't there another several hundred episodes before I catch up to the currently airing One Piece episodes? YES that is true, but since I've been watching One Piece exclusively on Funimation.com for a while. I am slowly approaching the "gap" in Funimation's episodes (Funimation does not have episodes 264-390 available). Probably next week I will reach episode 263, and will have to decide whether to: 1. Wait for Funimation to licence, sub and upload those episodes, 2. Skip those episodes entirely and start watching from episode 391, or 3. Go back to pirating One Piece. Over a hundred episodes is a lot to skip, and really don't want to miss the Enies Lobby Arc, after all it's hyped up after Waters Seven, so I'm leaning toward the 3rd option sadly...happily?
So much for commenting on the actual anime. Haha, what more can I say? I've grown to love the Straw Hats and the Universe of One Piece. My newest favorite character is Tom. The shipwright who designed Gold Roger's ship. Tom tells us you should be proud of the work that you do, even if people use your work for their own questionable ends. I can't wait to meet new characters and see how the plot progresses with One Piece.
The whole Black Lagoon opus is available on Funimation.com and spans 29 episodes and I just started watching it a few days ago. Rokuro Okajima, is a Japanese salaryman who joins the pirate group "Black Lagoon" after he was kidnapped by them and his company left him for dead. Like One Piece it's about pirates, but if One Piece were likened to a Disney film, then Black Lagoon would be likened to a Hollywood action movie. I found myself wondering what it is about being an anime that makes it that much "cooler" than if the same story was presented as a live-action.
I wonder how many Japanese salarymen watching this when it aired thought "damn this is sick, I wish I could go on crazy adventures with Black Lagoon!" I'm sure similar reactions have been had with One Piece and many other characters in different worlds. Personally I used to imagine what it would be like tagging along with Cloud, Barret and the rest of the AVALANCHE crew in Final Fantasy VII, but that's just me. :P
Well I've already started watching Black Lagoon, so I guess that's next. But after most of these anime come to close I'll be looking to watch some new anime. AND guess what, I'm going to write another ENTIRE blog about what I plan on watching next! HAHAHA *manic laughter*... Except it won't be as long as this post because... well I haven't watched any of them yet. So look forward to that, if you're interested. Until then, have fun and enjoy your anime! Feel free to leave comments about any of the anime on this list. Any experiences you want to share that sound like any of the experiences I had. Otherwise, as always thank you so much for reading. :)