Ef – A Tale of Memories – Episode 1

Hey everybody! Today I’ll be running through some notes for a new series: Ef – A Tale of Memories. I’ve heard this franchise was one of Shin Oonuma’s greatest contributions to studio SHAFT, before he went off to reign over Silver Link for all eternity. I’ve also heard that it’s both extremely visually compelling and exactly my kind of thing, full of sharp character writing and romance and visual storytelling that actually elevates those things. Either way, the die has been cast for the first couple episodes, so we’ll see what Ef has to offer. Onward!

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Casshern Sins – Episode 5

Let’s dive into another episode of Casshern Sins! I should be a bit more familiar with the show’s style at this point, given the gap between watching episodes has shifted from around ten months to about six hours. The last episode offered perhaps the first glimpse of lasting hope for the series – in contrast with the doomed church of two and dying human of three, Sophita provided both friendship and hope to Casshern, giving him someone to return to in this wasteland. Given that dash of optimism, I’m expecting this episode to counterbalance with some oppressive, beautiful sorrow. This world won’t decay into forgotten tombstones all by itself, so let’s get right to it!

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Rurouni Kenshin, Part II: Kyoto Inferno – Review

Today I return to the live-action Kenshin films, for a look at the first half of the Shishio saga. This movie was definitely messier than the first film, in ways that felt almost inescapable. The first movie was just barely able to give all of its characters a reason to exist – with the second arc encountering the general character-creep of most long-running manga, this one just had too many stories to pack into one film. But being less gracefully constructed than the first movie certainly didn’t prevent this one from being a really fun time!

You can check out my full review over at ANN or my notes below.

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JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable – Review

Today I reviewed the latest of JoJos, Diamond is Unbreakable! This one ultimately rose to be my favorite season, in spite of not really matching the continuous, breakneck entertainment of Battle Tendency. Diamond is Unbreakable just offered so much good stuff, so many great ideas and characters and battles, and all of it framed within the most strangely compelling premise the show has found. I’ve heard both good and bad things about the coming season, but I’m happy this one turned out so well.

You can check out my full review over at ANN.

Fall 2016 – Week 13 in Review

Welp, only half my shows even aired this week, so I guess we’ll be keeping this one brief. It was all endings this time, which pretty much went down as expect – while Girlish Number’s last episode as a bit underwhelming, both Euphonium and Flip Flappers nailed the dismount, which was a great relief. As extremely good shows near their end points, I often feel more anxious than excited; when you’re competing for the big leagues, all I’m hoping for is an ending I’ll be happy to return to over the years. Euphonium and Flip Flappers both more or less managed that, so I can’t really complain. Let’s start Girlish Number and run these three down!

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Wandering Son – Episode 7

Wandering Son’s seventh episode opens with the turning leaves, as the late summer warmth of the school festival fades into the bundled coats of fall. Those leaves don’t just give us an indication of the time passing, though – they also directly echo this episode’s focus. Alternately titled “Rosy Cheeks” or “Growing Pains,” this episode hones in on the unwelcome shifts of adolescence, as Nitori finds her body changing in new and unwelcome ways. As the rich summer leaves shift into crinkly reddish paper, Nitori’s own rosy cheeks are turning red not with passion or beauty, but with the pimples of puberty.

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Natsume’s Book of Friends – Episode 2

Natsume’s second episode opens with a distant shot portraying Natsume’s school, along with more of the rural scenery that has already proven to be one of the show’s central characters. I love that scenery, beautiful even in this show’s simply drawn, low-resolution format. Rural Japan is one of my favorite anime settings, along with that “vaguely medieval Mediterranean countryside” employed by shows like Kino’s Journey and Haibane Renmei. Perhaps it’s simply a natural tendency towards exoticism, but something about Japan’s rolling hills and sprawling farmlands naturally puts me at ease. Continue reading

Top Ten Anime of 2016

And somehow, another year has come to a close. This has been a strange year for me – as my first full year of wholly anime-related employment, it’s been often terrifying, sometimes uplifting, and always exciting. I’m not sure it means anything that my move to freelance coincided with the world catching fire, but hey, things happen. At least I also write for Crunchyroll now!

As far as anime itself goes, this has been a very solid year in general. The industry is currently at a somewhat unsustainable level of production, and though foreign streaming and other forms of revenue are putting the industry in a more stable place financially, that still hasn’t adjusted the workflow mechanisms that keep animators so terribly underpaid. That will have to change eventually, but as far as the actual shows go, there were plenty of anime I had a great time with this year, and solid hits in a wide variety of genres. In fact, this year’s crop was so good that I even have some honorable mentions! That’s honestly kind of unusual for me – I generally struggle getting to ten shows without including stuff I’m not totally sold on. So let’s start right there, and run down the shows that just barely missed the list before we count off the final ten!

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Sound! Euphonium 2 – Episode 13

At last, it ends. Euphonium’s second season was far messier than the first, and was partially hamstrung by adopting a middle book that always felt fairly superfluous, but it sure did come together well. Asuka and Kumiko’s material has always been some of the best in the series, and watching their relationship grow over the course of this season was a wonderful experience. This was a graceful and poignant epilogue to a consistently rewarding series. Those friggin’ euphoniums did it again.

You can check out my excessively huge review over at ANN, or my notes below.

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Girlish Number – Episode 12

Girlish Number ended with as happy of an ending as you might have hoped for, and frankly a bit happier of an ending than I expected. Even Kuzu-P got to act like a big damn hero this time, though at least his smug posturing was quickly cut down by Chitose. Overall, this was mostly just a workmanly finale to a generally solid show. I’m sad this one sold like crap mostly because I’d like to see Wataru Watari continue to write anime-originals – but hopefully this doesn’t really impact his future plans. Anime could desperately use more prolific writers who construct people so well.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my notes below.

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