Category Archives: Review
Here’s our final part of the summer anime 2015 review! We’ve saved the best for last (or did we?)
Medieval Otaku – 9/10
Arslan Senki is one of those shows which just misses a certain something–je ne sais quoi–to render it a masterpiece. I love the massed battles, compelling and unique characters, and the torrent of schemes and traps Arslan and his champions must dodge. Though the setting is reminiscent of the Persian Empire, they bring in weapons and armor relating more to the Middle Ages–perhaps to give it more of a fantasy atmosphere. (Persians did not have long swords or maces tailor made for Sauron.) In particular, I loved the inclusion of chain mail through CG, though its proportions are cut to the size of the haubergeon–the smaller version of the coat of mail which became popular during the Age of Plate. At any rate, the show delighted the medievalist and fantasy lover in me and fully deserves the above rating–as one might expect from one of Hiromu Arakawa’s works.
Here’s part 2 of 3 of our summer anime 2015 review!
Baby Steps 2
Baby Steps 2
Annalyn – 8/10
In the Spring anime review, I gave Baby Steps 2 a 7/10. Now that I’ve finished it, I decided to give it an 8/10. I admit, it’s a little difficult to defend the score change. The visuals didn’t get much better. Most of the characters squeak by with minimal, unremarkable development, and very little about the conflict matters to Ei-chan’s life off-court. So what’s changed? This season, Baby Steps convinced me that tennis-related conflict is plenty—partially because the character himself is so absorbed in the sport, his growth as a person is attached to his growth as an athlete. He is introspective, and while he does enjoy and learn from his friends and mentors, I can’t expect the same relationship-oriented themes that are so prevalent in team sports anime. Instead, themes arise in how he approaches his sport and, by extension, his life. This season, he learns a lot about balance. Off the court, that means balancing rest, romance, eating habits, and practice. On the court, he learns to balance instinct, reason, and emotion. As he sorts through these lessons, a bigger pressure hangs over his head: he has to make it to the All-Japan Junior and win in order for his parents to support his tennis career. Before, I thought that wasn’t sufficient. I’ve changed my mind. Tennis is Ei-chan’s life, and losing it would completely change his future. I’m invested in his goals now, and I’m fascinated by his internal conflict and how it plays out on the court. I hope a third season of Baby Steps comes along soon!
As students head back to school, it’s time for our summer anime review! We have plenty of great (and not so great) anime to review, and these review posts will be featuring the most diverse set of voices from the Beneath the Tangles staff to date, so look forward to them.
My Love Story!!
Japesland – 8/10
I’ve written on Ore Monogatari numerous times as it has aired, which says something about my opinion of the series. If you’ve read those articles, then you know that I praise what it’s done to break the shoujo mold, while still holding to some of the tropes that make it what it is (utilizing without subverting, in contrast to shows like Now and Then, Here and There or Madoka Magica, which are entirely subversive). Unlike your traditional shoujo, conflicts created by teenage misunderstandings are actually resolved, and the male lead is neither a slender hunk nor egotistical. It’s a wholesome break from the mold that I appreciate for that reason, but it is by no means perfect. As much as I personally enjoyed it, I have to acknowledge the common complaints that even arose from many of our staff here at Beneath the Tangles, particularly revolving around the lack of satisfying conflict and resolutions often falling back on the male lead being a ridiculously nice guy. Regardless, I still have to praise the show for focusing on characters with moral compasses stronger than perhaps any I’ve seen before in the genre. I can’t recommend this show enough for anyone looking for a romance with less anime angst.
When I first started watching A Lull in the Sea when it started in Fall 2012 (known at the time only by its Japanese name, Nagi no Asukara, or its shorthand name NagiAsu), I was admittedly not too impressed by it. Sure, it looked nice, but the main characters, especially the lead male Hikari, annoyed me or were otherwise not too interesting, and the plot just seemed like your usual middle-school romantic drama with a side of “sea vs. land” drama to go with it. However, as the show went on, the story eventually revealed itself to be much deeper, and while I was not able to finish the show until just recently, I am definitely glad I did, because at the end the show had become something fantastic. If you are up for a thematic romantic drama where characters start out as immature but grow and improve throughout, NagiAsu is highly recommended.
The big theme that NagiAsu revolves around is “change”. The show starts off with a major change, as four childhood friends who live in the sea (more on that later) must now attend middle school on land; on top of that, one of the four, Manaka, meets a land-dwelling classmate, Tsumugu, and gets fascinated by him. This greatly annoys Hikari, who had always looked after Manaka and for some reason does not like how she is so interested in this new boy. As for the other two friends, Chisaki has held feelings for Hikari in secret, and in turn, Kaname for Chisaki. So far, it’s a very standard romantic “love polygon” setup.
Where things get more complicated is where Akari, Hikari’s older sister gets involved. Akari fell in love with a man from the surface, which is taboo among the sea people as the children of sea-land unions do not have the Ena that allows them to live underwater. Her boyfriend’s daughter from a previous marriage, Miuna, has her own reservations about the marriage, making the situation even more complicated. Hikari, being if nothing else a caring younger brother, starts trying to understand Akari’s feelings and eventually tries to get her marriage approved by all parties involved. This is ultimately what pushes him to grow out of being the immature brat he starts out as, as he learns to consider others’ feelings and channel his stubbornness and hot-headedness in positive ways.
All of this is still only the beginning of the changes that happen in this show, leading up to a major event at the halfway point that causes some significant shifts in the characters’ lives (which, among other things, complicates the love polygon situation tenfold). Here, the theme of change—or lack thereof—comes into full play. The name A Lull in the Sea becomes meaningful as it represents that which refuses to change: a sea that, in the second half, has become still and frozen over. This stands in contrast to the protagonists, who experience that change and must come to terms with it, whether they want it or not. While it is difficult to talk about this without mentioning major spoilers, suffice it to say that this theme of change is represented beautifully and poetically, with each character’s development strengthened in the process.
Did you enjoy yesterday’s review? Here’s another packed post reviewing this past season’s anime!
stardf29 – 10/10
Yes, you read that right; I am giving this show a perfect score. And this show most definitely deserves it. This show has everything I could ask for in a concert band-themed anime. The characters are all very strong, as both main and side characters get great development individually and relationally, coming off as very realistic and multidimensional. The overall storyline does a great job of exploring the concert band experience, and many times I could really relate to the show because it reminded me so much of my own school concert band experience. At the same time, the concepts of participating in an activity seriously or not, and being inspired by and having to compete with others pursuing a shared goal, are things anyone can relate to. Kyoto Animation brings incredible production values to the show as expected, with the music being an especially strong point as the band sounds very authentic, even when they are not playing very well. Though when they do play well, it is some of the best music I have ever heard in anime. Oh, and there’s plenty of great comedy amidst all the drama, too! Any flaws with this show are just nitpicks that are up to personal preference, and the only “problem” with this show is that I want more than just the thirteen episodes we got. This show has definitely earned its spot among my all-time favorite anime (my 5th favorite, specifically), and it is a show I would wholeheartedly recommend to any anime fan.
Did you enjoy yesterday’s review? Here’s another packed post reviewing this past season’s anime!
Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in the Dungeon?
Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigatteiru Darou Ka
Medieval Otaku – 6/10
The main problem with Danmachi lies in that the essentially RPG fantasy setting is overused these days. Otherwise, one can’t deny that this is a fun fantasy romp. People complain of the fanservice, but I don’t think of it as that bad in comparison to other shows. The female characters are all quite interesting; though, Bell still strikes me as a bland harem lead. What more might I say? The animation was well done, the action engrossing, and the humor quite amusing—especially in regard to the many women in the hero’s life. A good show, but it still leaves something to be desired.
Studio Ghibli has built its success on telling stories of girls who find strength to overcome obstacles, and in the process undergo beautiful transformations. For its final film, Studio Ghibli again presents that tale, but dives into newer territory by setting it against the backdrop of a supernatural mystery. And the result is phenomenal.
When Marnie Was There features the sullen Anna, who stands out among Studio Ghibli’s flawed heroines as one undergoing an illness all too common to children these days – depression. Her “aunt” sends Anna to the countryside for a change of scenery, where the girl begins to slowly open up, though interactions with other adolescents remains difficult. Anna finds most of her solace in a beautiful, run-down mansion across a marsh that fills up during high tide. It’s at this old home that Anna sees and later meets Marnie, a girl that seems to be everything that she’s not – cheery, kind, open, and extravagant. Despite their differences, the two bond quickly and intimately.
But the story of Marnie’s identity and connection to Anna hangs like a mist over the film, and like a moving fog, soon envelopes the secret friendship between the girls.
The intrigue and mystery of When Marnie Was There adds a layer not seen in previous Ghibli films. I marveled at how I could see clues being dropped, but didn’t make the connection until the director began to reveal the revelations. Likewise, I found myself reflecting on how the movie made me forget the mystery and focus simply on the girls’ friendship when necessary, and back onto the mystery when needed.
The animation is what we’ve come to expect from every Studio Ghibli film – beautiful and vivid. There are several pan-back shots that give us long views of the lush setting, which itself is a character in the film – particularly the water, which forces the plot forward by its ebb and flow. Still, the animation wasn’t perfect – I noticed a faceless character or two that I surely wouldn’t have been seen in a film by the master and Ghibli co-founder, Hayao Miyazaki.
But even the animation takes a backseat to story itself. The final reveals in the film are deeply emotional – sniffles were heard all around the theater I was in – not only because of the power of the revelations, but because of our connections to the characters. Subtly, the film had led us to care about our heroines, even the oft-surly Anna. Because of this, the conclusion to When Marnie Was There becomes one of Ghibli’s best, and an ending that we’ll be talking about for years.
One of the final shots of the film is of Marnie, standing at her window, waving. It struck me as an image that could be iconic – gorgeous and emotional. It also might be an allusion to Studio Ghibli saying goodbye to us, at least for now. And if it’s that image their staff leaves us with, and this movie that serves as their finale, I’ll be satisfied. The company that’s produced so many classics has given us one more to treasure.
For the final part of our winter anime 2015 review, we’ll be changing the format to highlight a particular show: Death Parade!
Japesland – 7/10
I picked up Death Parade a little late, and only because of Sean’s (our podcast’s co-host) recommendation, and when I was starting it I found myself pleasantly surprised as I recognized the setting and character’s of the short film, Death Billiards. I had no idea the productions were related (and I think Kaze is the only other person I knew who had even seen Death Billiards, except for maybe Sean). After the series finally kicked off its first few episodes I was thoroughly enjoying it and reasonably engrossed. I’m an absolute sucker for something episodic that tickles your philosophical funny bone, hence why I love Mushishi, and Death Parade scratched that itch enough to earn an 8/10 (I score I rarely give, I might add!). I finally had to drop it down a point, though, because the end just did not manage to maintain the atmosphere I had learned to love throughout the show, operating on some rather strange character transformations and assuming some development that did not actually occur. Had it ended on a cliffhanger, much like Death Billiards, I think I might have liked it more. That said, it’s still a worthwhile watch.
Today we continue our review of the winter 2015 anime season with reviews of Aldnoah.zero 2, Junketsu no Maria, Drrrx2, Dog Days”, Parasyte, and The iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls. And tune in tomorrow for a finale that we’re approaching a little differently!
The iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls
The iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls
stardf29 – 8/10
The original iDOLM@STER anime started off slow but ended up really good; Cinderella Girls keeps up the quality of the original while having a stronger start. The first seven episodes are especially strong, with a good plot line that explores a lot of both the excitement and disappointments of entering the entertainment industry (as well as providing me with plenty of blog material). The character focus episodes that followed were all very solid, too, if not as strong as the show’s first quarter. The development of the producer character is yet another strong point that this show has inherited from its predecessor. Overall, this show looks to be every bit as good as, if not better than, the original iM@S anime and I am definitely looking forward to the second half this summer.