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

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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

Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku Anime – The Nerdy Romance We Needed

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I feel like over the course of this blog I’ve read, watched, and reviewed more highschool romances than I can count now, with even more sitting on the back-burner waiting for their moment. It’s been a never-ending cycle of young girls worrying over indirect kisses, love triangles that always end how you expect them to, and relationships that amount to a singular kiss and some hand-holding. Don’t get me wrong, I still find enjoyment in a lot of these series, especially when they have engaging characters or some sort of psychological drama. But I’ve found myself gravitating more towards Josei series over the years. Maybe It’s just because I’m getting older, or that my own relationship has progressed to the point where I don’t see inexperienced adolescent romance as appealing or relatable anymore. Because of this, I think Wotakoi came at an opportune time and quickly rose to number two on my list of favorite (non-recurring) anime this season overall.

Wotakoi is the story of closeted fujoshi Narumi who gets a new job after a bad break-up and the reveal of her secret. It just so happens that one of her new coworkers is childhood friend, Hirotaka, a handsome gaming otaku. After a night of drinking and lamenting the scarcity of good men in her life, Narumi and Hirotaka begin dating. The two seem a perfect match, but as the title says, love is hard for otaku. With the help of otaku couple and coworkers Koyanagi and Kabakura, they begin to work at their new relationship. Based off the webmanga series by Fujita, the story was picked up for adaptation by A-1 Pictures for the 11-episode series and is currently being streamed in the US through Amazon Prime. Continue reading

Hyouka Anime Review

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I’m not sure what I expected going into Hyouka. I knew it was a mystery series and I had seen the occasional clip here and there, but it definitely wasn’t the kind of mystery I was used to. I grew up on old black and white murder mysteries from the 40s and 50s. One of The Thin Man movies was sure to pop up on our TV at some point every week. It was and still is, in some ways, a staple in my household to sit down every once and a while and watch those old shows. It’s something I’ve grown to love over time, a love passed from my dad to me. But going into Hyouka with this background made a bit confused as to how exactly this series was considered a mystery. It isn’t like any mystery show I had experienced, after all there’s no murder, no real crime to solve. I think that’s the appeal though. Hyouka isn’t just a mystery. It’s a slice of life show, a school life show, and a romance. It follows students being students, solving the kind of mysteries that matter to them in the moment. I have to say, it’s a really interesting show, and one that may make it onto my list of ones I come back to again and again.

The plot of Hyouka follows high school student Hotaro Oreki, someone who hates expending energy on anything, who is forced by his older sister into joining the Classic Lit Club to keep it from going defunct. He is joined by Chitanda Eru, Satoshi Fukube, and Mayaka Ibara. Together they try and solve various mysteries around school, mostly at Eru’s request. The series is based off of a 2001 mystery novel written by Honobu Yonezawa, book one out of six, the other five books being published between 2002 and 2016. A manga adaptation was created in 2012 by Taskohna, with the 22-episode anime by Kyoto Animation following soon after. Continue reading

How Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card Managed to Disappoint One of its Biggest Fans

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The title of this blog post makes it sound like I’m feeling a bit betrayed right now, and in a way that is true. Cardcaptor Sakura is one of my all-time favorite series. It’s one that’s been a favorite of mine since early childhood and, because of this series, I was introduced to many more brilliant CLAMP series like xxxHolic and Kobato. It was one of the first magical girl series to really break the mold of what it meant to be a magical girl, doing away with transformation sequences, actually adding characterization to the male leads/love interest, and promoting positive views of single parenthood and same-sex relationships. To say that I was looking forward to this series when it was announced would be an understatement. I knew there was a chance it would turn out to be a sub-par remake, but I honestly had faith that CLAMP wouldn’t let one of their most popular series fail like that.

Back at the end of last season, the middle of the series, I wrote a blog post talking about Clear Card as it stood then and my hopes for where the story may go from there. There were a ton of questions circling around at that time about where the story would go, what kind of reveals we would see later on, and predictions on where the story around Akiho might go. Now, I can definitively say after watching the last episode that I honestly have more questions now than I did then. This review is probably going to end up being pretty spoilery, so if you haven’t caught up on the new series, I suggest you go watch it before reading further. Continue reading

Skip Beat Manga Review: Volumes 7-9

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Welcome back to my read-through of Skip Beat, one of my favorite mangas of all time. If you haven’t read the previous reviews, please do so before reading on. These reviews will contain some spoilers, so if you haven’t read the manga, you might want to do that as well. Today, we’ll take a look at volumes 7-9, another great series of chapters that add a lot to the characters of Kyoko, Ren, Moko, and Sho. These characters weaknesses are on full display in these chapters with some great moments and major developments in story and relationships. It’s one of the things I love most about this series, the ways Nakamura explores her character’s weaknesses and how they overcome them in order to better themselves and their position in showbiz. Combined with our usual great art and page layouts, I really enjoyed these volumes. So let’s dive in and discuss what makes them so entertaining.

Shoujo Beat’s back-cover description goes like this: “Kyoko’s dreams are finally coming true! She’s landed a spot in Sho’s new video, and revenge is in sight! But vengeance isn’t as easy as she thought, and her rage starts to get in the way of her acting. When her performance catches the attention of some important people, Kyoko finds herself working with the terrifying Ren Tsuruga! Can she make it work, or will her growing fame be her downfall?!” So besides the plot with Sho’s promo video (and the obscene amount of exclamation points), we also get to see a story from Moko’s life as she runs into trouble with a new job in a drama, and see the beginning of the Tsukigomori arc as LME President Lory tries to prevent Ren from taking on his first role in a romantic drama. Continue reading

Manga or Anime? – Snow White with the Red Hair

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Snow White with the Red Hair has been one of my favorite romance anime for a while now. I love the characters, the slight fantasy setting, and how some episodes focused on Shirayuki using her herbology knowledge to solve problems. I’ve discussed both seasons of the anime at length before, so if you’re looking for a review of the anime, be sure to check those two posts out. There was one thing I’ve never gotten around to doing though, and that was read the manga. I recently watched back through the whole series on a day or so that I wasn’t feeling well, and finally felt the need to see where the story went after the anime ended. In doing so, I also discovered just how much Studio Bones altered and added to get it to the current anime we have now. The story is still pretty much the same, but I can’t deny that there are a few moments in the manga that I find to be much better in the anime. If I had to make a decision right now, I would say that while the manga has the advantage of story, the anime has the advantage of polish. For the purpose of this review, I’ve only had the chance to read up to chapter 34 in the manga, a little bit past where the anime ends. Continue reading

Everyone’s Getting Married Manga Review: Volume 1

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I’m always looking for more josei manga to read, and this one has also been popping up on my Twitter feed. I think the last volume of the manga just came out in the US, but this series hasn’t been on my radar until now. I decided to give this one a try and picked up the first volume at Anime Boston a few months ago, and I have to say I will probably be picking up more volumes sometime in the future. So far, it seems like a fairly straight forward story of two people trying to reconcile their relationship goals in the face of their feelings for each other. I wouldn’t say that it’s an amazing story, but I am liking the art and the characters enough to keep reading. There are a lot of times where I feel like I get too cynical of shoujo romances, so it’s nice to take a break from them and experience some stories about people closer to my age and current experiences.

Everyone’s Getting Married follows the successful career woman Asuka Takanashi who has the old-fashioned dream of getting married and becoming a housewife. After her long-time boyfriend breaks up with her to pursue his own career, she meets the handsome newscaster Ryu Nanami. They both seem to get along well enough, but the last thing Nanami wants is to get married. So the challenge becomes, who will give in first or will they find a way to be together even with their conflicting values? Written and created by Izumi Miyazono, the manga was picked up for US release by Viz Media and imprint Shoujo Beat. Continue reading

The Young Master’s Revenge Manga Review: Volume 1

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One of my goals for this year and in restarting my use of Twitter was to try and keep myself updated on what’s going on in the industry and better follow new releases from all sorts of publishers. I’ve seen this manga pop up a bunch of times on my Twitter feed from Shoujo Beat, so while I was at Anime Boston, I decided to pick it up and give it a try. Honestly though, I don’t think I’ll be picking up the next volume. It may be that this kind of rom-com isn’t really my thing, but I could see that if I ever decided to read anymore the characters and general premise of this manga would start to get under my skin. I wanted to quickly write up a short review tonight and try and get to the bottom of why I think this way and where exactly this mang may be going wrong.

The Young Master’s Revenge is a relatively new manga — at least in the US — created by Meca Tanaka and published by Viz Media’s imprint Shoujo Beat. It centers around the story of Leo, who at a young age had his pride destroyed by the daughter of a wealthy family a childhood friend, Tenma. After being forced to live abroad in America for a couple years, Leo finally returns to Japan to seek his revenge, especially now that his father’s clothing business has taken off making him heir to a fortune. His plan? Make her fall in love with him and then dump her in the worst possible way. Continue reading

A Bride’s Story Manga Review: Volume 2

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I finally had the chance to return to this series and pick up Volume 2, and I have to say that the more I read of this series, the more I fall in love with it. The art is still holding strong and the story keeps getting better. If you haven’t already read my review for volume 1, I would highly suggest starting there before we get into spoiler territory. If you’re looking to pick up some volumes of this series, I honestly will suggest getting the physical copies, it’s worth it. They come in only hardcover, but I think that also allows the publisher to present the art and pages in a larger format which also means better quality to showcase Kaoru Mori’s amazing artwork. Buying a manga or any comic in general in hardcover just gives me a completely different feel than buying the regular soft-cover manga volumes. I’m not sure why, but it’s almost like it gains an extra sense of importance or respectability. But that also could just be me and my brain making weird connections.

Anyways, the story of the second volume picks up where we left off after Amir’s family’s first visit to her new family to try and take her back to their tribe to remarry. After being turned away once, they return again in full force determined to take her away this time. The only problem is Amir is part of their family now, and this family does not give up so easily. We are also introduced to a new character, Pariya, who is commonly considered by prospective husbands as too cheeky to be a worthy wife. Later on, we are also given more insight into Mr. Smith’s past as a messenger arrives in town baring letters from far-off lands. Kaoru Mori continues to weave interesting stories set in the not-so-standard 19th century Silk Road. Continue reading