Fall 2018 Anime First Impressions

Welcome back to another first impressions post. I didn’t get a chance to do one last season, mainly because there was really only one romance show that season worth talking about, Banana Fish. It seemed like a lot of other bloggers had that one covered so I figured I could skip the first impressions post. Well, this season has certainly made up for the lack last season in both quality and quantity this season. There are six romances I wanted to talk about this time, and a few that I didn’t include in the list below because they sat on the line between romance and something else without specifically being tagged as a romance. In particular: Jingo-san no Yome and As Miss Beelzebub Likes. Both I have found to be pretty entertaining and I encourage you to check them out, but I won’t be talking about them here as neither are fully romance and sit more in the moe or slice-of-life genre. Anyways, see below for some first impressions of six romance shows currently airing this season, and if you want to see what other shows I’m watching this season, feel free to check out my MAL account. Continue reading

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October Mythology Special: Homunculi and Alchemy

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The creation of artificial human life has long been connected to alchemy and can be traced back to the first recorded recipe for creating a Homunculus in an Arabic work titled The Book of the Cow. So what does an aspiring alchemist need in order to create artificial life? Well, according to this book you’ll need: magician semen, a sunstone, a cow or ewe, sulfur, a magnet, green tutia, and a large glass or lead vessel. Robert Lamb from How Stuff Works goes on to lay out the step-by-step instructions, and you can read those for yourself, but it says that after the cow or ewe is inseminated and fed exclusively on the blood of another animal it will give birth to some “unknown substance”. After being transferred to the large vessel with the before mentioned chemicals, it will start to form human skin and develop slowly into a small human.

At which point, alchemists thought these tiny creatures could be used in a variety of ways, some of which were: “The first type of Homunculus may be used to make the full moon appear on the last day of the month, allow a person to take the form of a cow, a sheep or even  an ape, allow one to walk on water and know things that are happening far away. The second type of Homunculus can be used to enable a person to see demons and spirits, as well as to converse with them, whilst the last type of Homunculus can be used to summon rain at unseasonable times and produce extremely poisonous snakes.” Continue reading

October Mythology Special: The Legends Surrounding Sun Showers

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A.B. Mitford’s Tales of Old Japan has in it an enchanting story of a very particular wedding, a fox’s wedding. He tells of two young, white foxes here: “Now it happened that in a famous old family of foxes there was a beautiful young lady-fox, with such lovely fur that the fame of her jewel-like charms was spread far and wide. The young white fox, who had heard of this, was bent on making her his wife, and a meeting was arranged between them. There was not a fault to be found on either side; so the preliminaries were settled, and the wedding presents sent from the bridegroom to the bride’s house, with congratulatory speeches from the messenger, which were duly acknowledged by the person deputed to receive the gifts; the bearers, of course, received the customary fee in copper cash.

“When the ceremonies had been concluded, an auspicious day was chosen for the bride to go to her husband’s house, and she was carried off in solemn procession during a shower of rain, the sun shining all the while. After the ceremonies of drinking wine had been gone through, the bride changed her dress, and the wedding was concluded, without let or hindrance, amid singing and dancing and merry-making.” Continue reading

October Mythology Special: Nurikabe (The Wall Yokai)

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This edition of October Mythology Special comes with a true story from a pretty famous mangaka: Mizuki Shigeru, the creator of GeGeGe no Kitaro. Everything is Scary recounts his story on their site: “In his historical memoir, Showa, Mizuki depicts an encounter that brought him incredibly close to the most senseless of all deaths. While in Papua New Guinea, alone in the pitch dark of night, the young soldier encountered an invisible wall that he could feel with his hands. It compelled him to stop and he slept the night, only to awake next to a cliff’s edge. Mizuki credits the spectral wall, a yōkai called Nurikabe, for his survival. ‘“If the Nurikabe hadn’t been there,” he writes, “I would have run straight off into the darkness and died.’”

There has been another more recent encounter in 2005 as well in the famous Aokigahara forest by the medium Yuuko Sou during the filming for a TV program. Tofugu recounts: “She and the TV crew were just about to enter the forest when a blurry, wall-like thing allegedly rose from the ground, as if the spirits of the dead had come together to say, No further! If you’ve come to commit suicide, you can’t enter!Continue reading

October Mythology Special: Zashiki Warashi

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“About 600 years ago, a warrior was fleeing forces from the south when he discovered and befriended two six-year-old brothers. The oldest brother came down with a deadly illness, and succumbed after swearing to protect his home – the land of Ryokufuso Inn. When the owners and visitors of Ryokufuso Inn began noticing strange occurrences such as the sound of child’s laughter and footsteps, objects moving on their own accord, and almost nightly incidents of sleep paralysis, they believed the spirit of the boy had settled as a zashiki warashi. In order to please the zashiki warashi, the owners collected toys and placed them in the front parlour tatami room. As well as toys suddenly springing to life, ghostly orbs are often captured on film.”

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The story above is about a real inn in Iwate that seems to be blessed with the spirit of a zashiki-warashi. I say blessed because these kinds of youkai are often seen as a sort of good luck charm to the families that they haunt, with the disappearance of a zashiki warashi from the home as a sign of bad luck. The zashiki warashi is a kind of house youkai, with zashiki referring roughly to the tatami room of a traditional Japanese house and warashi meaning small child. This youkai always appear as small children, and never adults, often between the ages of 3 to 15 years old. They are mainly known for the mischief that they cause rather than their appearance, but when you do see them, they often appear in kimonos if they’re girls and more patterned or striped outfits if they’re boys. They are also often depicted with short straight hair in a bob-cut.

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The origins of the zashiki warashi may come from the need to come up with an explanation to small children why their family’s fortunes have waned, but there are few other more historical origins it may be pulling from as well. The Book of Yokai by Michael Foster mentions that the basis of these legends might stem from the practice of infanticide in Japan that happened through at least the eighteenth century. A dead infant may not be necessarily memorialized like a more grown child would be, so they were often buried under the floors of houses and though to become a sort of guardian spirit because of it. Hyakumonogatari points to a similar yet more specific origin: the history of the relationship between the people of the Tono region and Yamabito. It is said that the men of Yamabito would often raid the villages of Tono, either raping or kidnapping local women. Any children born of these raids would either be hidden away in the depth of the house or killed if they became too much of a burden. The hiding away of these children and subsequent infanticide seems like a logical basis to the zashiki warashi legends.

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There are quite a few zashiki warashi characters in anime and manga, but as I haven’t seen all of these shows, I’m going to point to three that I have noticed in the past couple months of reading manga and watching anime. One of the more recognizable characters in recent anime seasons would be Ougon-douji from Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits. Ougon-douji is the owner of the two different inns featured in the anime, Tenjin-ya and Orio-ya, and she maintains a role as innkeeper and mistress mostly at Orio-ya. She is very clearly a zashiki warashi and is named as such in the show by the characters. Her appearance is similar as well with one key difference: her hair is blond instead of black. But she is pictured a lot wearing a traditional kimono, short hair in a bob cut, fairly young looking, and carrying a child’s toy. Ougon-douji also has the ability to bless certain places with good luck, which Aoi find out when she gets a huge influx of customers to Moonflower after she shows up.

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My next example is a little less clear, but still referred to as a zashiki warashi in the story itself. I’m talking about the Zashiki Warashi in XXXHolic. She’s a little less clear because when we first meet her, she doesn’t really look like a typical depiction of this youkai. For one, she’s on the high age range, looking to be around 15 years old maybe. She’s also wearing non-traditional clothes with a more Western looking winter outfit. Her hair is also longer, but it is straight and black so that fits fairly well. There’s no real reference to her bringing good luck or taking up residence in a house or building, but there may be a slight reference to the origins of the myth by saying she usually lives deep in the mountains secluded from other people, which may be referring to Yamabito or Toho and the way their regions were fairly secluded. CLAMP definitely took a few liberties when they chose to use this myth, but I think it’s a fairly clear depiction especially when we get to scenes of her in a traditional kimono.

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The last one I want to bring up may or may not be the case. This is a personal theory of mine on the origins of this character, but I do think it works. I’m talking about Kitaro from GeGeGe no Kitaro. I have to admit I don’t know much about the history of this series, so this very well could have been the intended thought behind his character design. My thoughts on Kitaro being a zashiki warashi come mainly from his appearance. For one, his hair is short and cut into a bob or bowl cut. He’s also wearing fairly traditional clothes with his sleeveless top shirt in a striped pattern. There’s no real reference to similar abilities of good luck, but I think it’s safe to say that at least his character design may have been based off of the look of the zashiki warashi.

Let me know what your favorite characters are that are based off of zashiki warashi in anime and manga, and join me next time for more myths and legends in the October Mythology Special.

~~Thanks for Reading!~~


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Waxing Philosophical: On the Fate of Those Who Can See Youkai

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I love stories about youkai, whether it be in anime or manga form. Mythology, especially that of Japan, has always been a huge interest for me, as you can probably tell from the plan for next month and my posts on the mythology of Ancient Magus Bride. Which also means that I’ve spent a lot of time watching all sorts of different shows that have youkai and reading different manga as well, and through that process, I’ve come to notice a few things.

There are some common threads throughout all youkai stories that seem to paint a picture, both troubling and hopeful, for those who have the ability to see youkai and spirits. For the purposes of this post I went through some of my favorite youkai anime and manga again, namely: Ancient Magus’ Bride, Kakuriyo: Bed and Breakfast for Spirits, XXXHolic, and Elegant Youkai Apartment Life. These shows may all focus on the interaction of human and youkai, but they are all also so different from one another in terms of mood, setting, and story. The aspects I found that seem to stay constant however are the background of main character, the kinds of interactions humans can have with youkai, and the impact seeing youkai has on human-to-human relationships. Continue reading

Some Short Thoughts on The Night is Short, Walk on Girl Film

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Today and yesterday mark the two-day only release of Misaaki Yuasa’s new film The Night is Short, Walk on Girl in US theaters. I almost didn’t get tickets, as the ones at the theater closest to me were selling out rather quickly, even a two weeks before the release. Now, I’m so glad I decided to buy those tickets when I did because this movie is definitely worth watching. Coming from the director of the Tatami Galaxy, Lu Over the Wall, and, most recently, the new Devilman Crybaby series, you can definitely see Yuasa’s free-form and expressive style throughout the film. I’m a sucker for unique and artistically expressive animation, and this film has it in spades. It’s honestly a feast for the eyes and wound up warming my heart in the process.

If you haven’t had a chance to look into the film, it follows the plot of the novel of the same name written by Tomihiko Morimi of a young college-age girl (Otome as she’s referred to, since she doesn’t have a name) who is enjoying a night out on the town in Tokyo, a night that doesn’t seem to end. It’s full of drinking, festivals, and the magic of used book markets. It’s also full of love, longing, and the search for romance as Otome’s senior in college (called just Sempai) searches for a way to get her to notice him and earn her love. Continue reading

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms – The Cyclical Nature of Life and Motherhood

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After months of waiting and teaser trailers that showed off its awesome animation and world, I finally got the chance to see Maquia in theaters. There seems to be more modern sci-fi or slice-of-life movies coming out than say high fantasy or stories that focus on fantastical worlds. Your Name and A Silent Voice being the bigger block-busters of the last two years, both focusing on the lives of highschoolers with the former having a sci-fi twist. We had Mary and the Witch’s Flower, which was pretty good, but it still doesn’t really capture the high fantasy feel that Maquia does with its towering castles, dragon riders, and almost elf-like race of humans.

We also have Mari Okada at the helm, one of the bright stars of the anime industry in her first directorial debut. The Canipa Effect has a great video on what makes Okada so great, from her her ability to pull apart scripts and figure out their flaws, to her work on Anohana that’s impact is still being felt in Japan seven years after the series debuted. She pushed and continued to push her role as a screenwriter as far as it could go, eventually getting the chance to write and direct her own project. As The Pedantic Romantic mentions in his video on Black Rock Shooter and Okada’s involvement in the production, she is sometimes seen as a sort of queen of melodrama by members of the anime fandom. But if we look deeper into her stories and characters, we see that Okada has a keen eye for human relationships and how people develop friendships and the nature of devotion. Continue reading

Tada-kun Never Falls in Love (Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai) Anime Review

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Tada-kun Never Falls in Love was one of the stand-out animes of the Spring 2018 season. I mentioned in my First Impressions post that it was series I could see becoming one of the romances I would keep watching all season. It had some tough competitors last season, and while it didn’t necessarily come out on top, I did enjoy the time I spent watching. It is a series that managed to take a look at what it means for children to mature faster than perhaps they should, how regret can fester over the years, and how the people you meet only for a short time can have a huge impact on your life. It’s an anime that spoke to me in many ways, both through some stunning scenes and through the messages it tried to impart along the way. Tada-kun is definitely not a perfect anime, and I have problems with the way the show ended, but over the course of last season I found myself enjoying the time I spent with this series.

Tada-kun Never Falls in Love is a 13-episode romance anime that follows the life of Mitsuyoshi Tada, an aspiring photographer and member of his high school’s Photography Club. After a chance meeting with a captivating blond-haired girl while out taking photos, Tada finds his life getting turned upside down as he begins to run into her again and again including at school. This girl is Teresa Wagner, a foreign exchange student from the fictional European country of Larsenburg. She’s followed closely by her travel companion Alexandra Magritte. Both girls wind up joining the Photography Club, and the story continues to follow their new and building relationships with Tada and the other members of the club. This original anime was picked up by Studio Doga Kobo and licensed by Sentai Filmworks for US release.

[My reviews tend to have spoilers, so proceed with caution] Continue reading

Kakuriyo: Bed & Breakfast for Spirits Anime 1st Cour Review

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I’m a sucker for youkai shows, so when this one started streaming on Crunchyroll last season, you bet I followed along with every episode. It matched well with both the other romance animes airing that season as well as the food-based shows. I was a little worried that it would wind up following a lot of tired tropes with the arranged marriage plot-line, but while Kakuriyo doesn’t quite present something different, it wound up being interesting enough in it’s characters and setting that I continued watching all the way to the end of the first cour. It’s at the end of the first cour, or 12 episodes, that we’ll stop for this review. I’ll pick back up the show this season and do a second cour review at the end of the Summer. So for those of you who are fans of youkai and cooking shows, I’d suggest checking this one out while it’s still airing, though I do still have a few problems with the series to talk about. If you’d like to hear more, keep reading.

Kakuriyo follows the life of Aoi Tsubaki who was born able to see youkai/spirits or ayakashi as they are called in this series. After her only relative, her grandfather, passes away she is left alone to deal with the ayakashi by herself. But one fateful encounter with an Ogre Ayakashi finds her transported to the spirit world. It’s there she learns that her grandfather wracked up a huge amount of debt in the spirit world while he was alive, and put Aoi’s hand in marriage up as collateral to the Head of Tenjin-Ya, a hotel for spirits. However, Aoi has other plans, and to escape her arranged marriage and pay off her grandfather’s debt, she decides to open a small eatery and cook for the spirits of the other world. Continue reading