Saturday, February 11, 2017

February Manga Challenge 2017 | Week 1


The February Manga Challenge (2017) is currently happening over on YouTube, and while most reading challenges have not appealed to me in the past, this one sounds exactly like what I need.

The challenge put out by YouTubers @YuriInRealLife is super simple:
1. Read one volume of manga (or the equivalent) every day for the month of February. 
2. No skipping days. 

Check out their full video here: YuriInRealLife's February Manga Challenge

Now, since I jumped into the challenge three days late I will be occasionally doubling up on volumes so that I will have read at least 28 volumes by the end of the month.

Here's how 'Week One' went:


Saturday 2/4/17

Phantom Thief Jeanne, Vol.3
Arina Tanemura

Rating: 2/5

I lament the fact that I am not enjoying this series, and the third volume was the worst one yet.  Some of the antics feel unnecessary to telling this story and the naivety of Maron causes many opportunities for character growth to pass right on by.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18775118-phantom-thief-jeanne-vol-3

Phantom Thief Jeanne, Vol.4
Arina Tenemura

Rating: 2/5

Still not enjoying this series any better.  A great deception is revealed to Maron in this volume, which has only a slight impact on her.  One character attempts to rape Maron and she continues to associate with him.  Then she travels back in time to learn the truth of what happened to Jeanne D'Arc.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18775313-phantom-thief-jeanne-vol-4

Sunday 2/5/17

Phantom Thief Jeanne, Vol.5
Arina Tanemura

Rating: 3/5

Alright.  This concluding volume was better than the last two, but not by much.  The looming epic battle concludes quickly and anticlimactically.  I think it would have had more impact if I were emotionally invested in Maron, but I'm not.

I did feel closure with each of the relationships that were affected along the way.  The lore surrounding Adam, Eve, God, & The Demon Lord was solid.  It fits the story and is not full of plot holes, but it comes right at the very end and could not do much to save the series for me.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21411995-phantom-thief-jeanne-vol-5

Monday 2/6/17

Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms
Fumiyo Kouno

Rating: 5/5

This is a collection of three manga short stories that depict life in Hiroshima and other such areas after the Atomic Bomb was dropped by the USA in WW2.  The story telling method was so simple, with clean lines and realistic depictions of fortitude after tragedy.  I really appreciated the order in which the stories were printed.  It added an extra layer of impact by the end and definitely must be read in one sitting.

I am not a reader of sad stories, but I loved this book. I will write a full review on this one.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/608883.Town_of_Evening_Calm_Country_of_Cherry_Blossoms?ac=1&from_search=true

The Voices of a Distant Star 
Makoto Shinkai, Concept by Mizu Sahara

Rating: 4/5

I have not seen the original anime movie which this manga is based on, but now I would love to check it out.  This manga tells the story of two middle school friends, Mikako, a girl who is drafted into a deep space exploration team by the United Nations, and a boy, Noboru, who is left behind to attend high school on Earth.

The two keep in touch, but the further she gets from Earth, the longer it takes to send and receive text messages, until years pass.  Again, I am not usually a big fan of tragic or melancholy stories, but this one was great.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/328091.The_Voices_of_a_Distant_Star?ac=1&from_search=true

Tuesday 2/7/17

Princess Jellyfish, Tome 1
Akiko Higashimura

Rating: 5/5

This is a strong start to a great character driven manga.  Tsukimi lives in a boarding house full of female otaku.  All the members are passionate about their hobbies, shut-ins to some degree, and despise fashionable women and men.  Their home is their safe haven--until that world is shaken up.

I love the way this story is showing the different sides of the 'be yourself' argument.  A person should know what they like and don't like, what they are passionate about, and what realistic limitations they deal with.  But there is a difference between living a life you love, and living in fear.  These girls have been largely living in fear, but now its time to take charge of their futures, with a little help from a new friend.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13354244-princess-jellyfish-tome-1

Wednesday 2/8/17

The Ancient Magus' Bride, Vol. 6
Kore Yamazaki

Rating: 4/5

This issue takes place during the days of Winter Solstice and Christmas.  It delves into character backstory and surrounds Chise realizing she has family and friends now.  She also makes a new friend and utilizes a new skill.

It was very sweet to see Ainsworth struggling with more human feelings but I think I prefer his character as the formidable, non-human, ancient magus.  This volume really lived up to its 'Dark Fairytale Romance' tagline.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30139740-the-ancient-magus-bride-vol-6

Thursday 2/9/17

Nichijou, Vol. 2
Keiichi Arawi

Rating: 3/5

I like the random, over the top, humor of Nichijou, but it is a quirky enough read that you have to really be in the mood for it.  These ordinary lives are certainly anything but ordinary, and my favorite character from this volume was the black cat.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26067755-nichijou-2

Friday 2/10/17

Komomo Confiserie, Vol.4
Maki Minami

Rating: 4/5

This series is very typical of the shoujo genre, but is handled in an expert way.  The recovering Princess Komomo has finally acclimated to the real world.  She really develops as a person in this volume, defending they pastry shop that has become her new home, the job she loves to do, and the chef that makes it all possible. 
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27406762-komomo-confiserie-vol-4

Saturday 2/11/17

Komomo Confiserie, Vol.5
Maki Minami

Rating:5/5

WHHAATTT!?  This is the last volume?  Huh.  I really thought this series would be longer.  Well, its now or never, do Komomo and Natsu love each other?  Or not?

Again, for an extremely typical shoujo story line, the subject matter in this series is handled so expertly that it feels fresh and new.  I really enjoyed this series.


That's a wrap for week one!
See you in week two!

Thanks for reading!
Amanda

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Anime Fall 2016 Season Wrap Up

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Out of all the new releases for Fall 2016 that caught my eye I ended up watching 8 new shows.

6 - Completed Season Ones
2 - Abandoned

All eight are listed below in rank order from my favorite watch of the season, Yuri on Ice! to my least favorite Occultic;Nine and its gonna be a long one...

Yuri!!! on ICE


5/5 Stars
Fall 2016 Season
Episodes: 12
Genres: Sports, Comedy, Romance
Studio: MAPPA

Originally I did not plan to watch Yuri on Ice.  I don't typically watch sports anime and I had suspected the promo material was "queer baiting" (including material that would appeal to fans of queer romance but never actually intending to fulfill the promise of including a queer romance).

But I was WRONG!  And as soon as I received word that I was wrong I watched the entire series in two days.  I enjoy romance stories, especially ones which depict a healthy, realistic, relationship.  And Yuri on Ice did just that.  I love how the relationship between Yuuri and Victor is important, but instead of being the focus of the story it is a part of the larger whole.

The pressure on professional ice skaters to preform their best during their peak years of performance creates high stress when something goes wrong.  This anime tells the story of Japan's skater Yuuri Katsuki miraculously obtaining everything he ever wanted to get him back into competitive skating after a crushing defeat the year before.

This anime has a relatively large cast.  I enjoyed all the character story lines and individual perspectives, especially as they compete for the same title, but angsty little Yurio has a special place in my heart.

And while I preferred the moments off the ice to the scenes of actual competition, the championship had me on the edge of my seat.

Fune wo Amu, The Great Passage 


Rating: 5/5
Fall 2016 Season
Episodes: 11
Genres: Slice of Life, Drama, Work, Romance
Studio: Zexcs

I feel like I am the only person who watched this anime in which a small editorial department creates a new dictionary called "The Great Passage" over a period of fifteen years.

This slice of life, drama, is intellectual and motivational.  It has the tranquility of an anime set out in the countryside, even though it occurs in a dank forgotten office space in the city.  The drama includes the characters lives in and out of work.

It is widely known that their publishing company thinks producing a dictionary is a money pit, but the team perseveres because they believe their work will help others.  Check out this passage that I transcribed from episode two.

Araki: "Majime, do you know why we're trying to create a new dictionary?"

Majime: "No."

Mr. Matsumoto: "A dictionary is a ship that navigates an ocean of words.  Without words, you cannot express your thoughts or be able to have any sort of deep understanding of others.

People board the ship we call dictionaries and find the perfect words to gather the small lights floating to the top of dark waters.  Words are lights.

But in our ever changing world, unable to find the right words, there are those who lead troubled lives, caged with their own trapped feelings.  We need a ship people like that can feel safe boarding.

That is the dictionary we are trying to create.  Written with characters meaning 'to cross the vast ocean'.  It's called The Great Passage."

As a writer and a lover of words, I fell for this anime hard.  I even cried at the end of it.  The emotion is only heightened by the excellent choice of instrumental music throughout.  And the upbeat opening song: Shiokaze by Taiiku Okazaki is now one of my favorite songs.

Watashi ga Motete Dousunda, Kiss Him, Not Me!


Rating: 4/5
Fall 2016 Season
Episodes: 12
Genres: Comedy, School, Harem, Romance
Studio: Brian's Base

I thought this anime was hilarious and relateable.  Serinuma is a major otaku fujoshi with a passionate love for her favorite BL character Shiro.  As the result of fujoshi related heartache, she loses a bunch of weight and returns to school a traditional shoujo beauty.

And to her eminent dismay, attracts the special attention of four handsome boys and one handsome girl.  This entire series surrounds the antics that occur when someone who is uninterested in romance is perused romantically.

I enjoyed this anime for the comedy, plot wise and message wise I recognize it has quite a few issues and do not think it should be taken very seriously.

I really loved the friendship which reluctantly blooms among this group.  Also, that each member of the harem got an episode dedicated to exploring their character.

The ending was lackluster and I was disappointed in the lack of character growth in Serinuma, but maybe, she isn't the character that needs transformation after all.  I think it's too soon to tell.

What's that?  You want me to pick only one member from the harem?  I couldn't possibly--Igarashi--yeah, definitely Igarashi.

Soushin Shoujo Matoi, Matoi Sacred Slayer 


Rating: 4/5
Fall 2016 Season
Episodes: 12
Genre: Magical Girl, Comedy, Supernatural
Studio: White Fox

I watched Matoi last out of all my watches for this season.  It caught my eye initially because the animation looked clean, stylistic, and colorful in a psychedelic sorta way.  Also, the story about exorcist girls who live at a shrine sounded interesting.  Despite that, out of everything I chose to check out during the season, I really thought this one was going to disappoint me--I was super wrong!

Matoi and Yuma are young girls whose exorcist girl powers have recently awakened.  They get tossed into the world of fighting demons along side a veteran fighter, the super stoic Claris sent to japan by the Vatican.

There is not much time for these girls to train their skills.  The barriers between dimensions are weakening and the demons are getting stronger.  There is a mystery surrounding Matoi's powers and what happened to her mother.

It was really good.  Essentially, this show is an even mixture between a satire of the magical girl genre, and is also, somehow, a kickass magical girl show itself.  It sounds like a weird concept, but they managed to strike a perfect balance.

Characters break the fourth wall to make jokes about including fan-service for ratings and yet each battle scene is accompanied by an epic battle song with strong vocals.

Also! Hot dads aren't my thing, but dam Shingokun...


Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru


Rating: 3/5
Fall 2016 Season
Episodes: 12
Genre: Game Adaptation, Samuri, Slice of Life, Comedy
Studio: Doga Kobo

This anime is based on a game where swords of historical significance are summoned and anthropomorphized into males of varying degrees of typically masculine traits.  It is fantasy and comedy, so they already understand what it means to be human and come into the world fully formed with their own baggage and issues.  

They have memories of the battles they have faught, and who their owners were, but not every blade was used in battle, and some are reforges.  All of this plays into their current personalities.  

Through scifi/fantasy magical ability, the master sends these swords back in history to fight an evil force that is trying to change the outcome of past battles.  And in other episodes they cook food, do chores, and greet the new swords as they are summoned.

The plot feels pretty random, and I think I would have understood it all better if I had played the game or knew more about Japanese history.  I almost abandoned it, but after watching episode three I became emotionally invested in the characters.  

Some story lines were super cheesy, and I definitely do not remember more than half the characters, but I did enjoy it at the time. 

3-gatsu no Lion, March Comes in Like a Lion


Rating: 3/5
Fall 2016 Season
Episodes: 22 (I watched 12)
Genre: Drama, Slice of Life, Game
Studio: Shaft

This is a very emotionally driven anime depicting the stark difference between a lonely, solitary, life and a life full of love and family.  

Rei is a highschool aged boy who is also an orphan and a professional shogi player.  He is currently living on his own in a starkly furnished apartment near the big river in his city. 

This show is moody, somber, and beautifully stylistic in animation.  Seriously, the sky makes appearances cosplaying as a Van Gogh painting.  There are drastic animation differences between the scenes which occur inside the Kawamoto house, (which is full of family, young girls, delicious foods, and cats), and the scenes outside of it.

Rei thinks he has nothing but his shogi talent, and this anime chronicles how he deals with knowing he has "ruined" the lives of his opponents who have lost to him.  

While watching this anime, you get the sense that everything is on the verge of crumbling in some tragic way.  I was paranoid the whole dam time.  And I think this feeling instilled in the viewer is mimicking how Rei is feeling.

Rei has an adoptive family, but has a very strained relationship with them.  And when his step-sister appeared I wanted very much for Rei to throw her in the river.  

Even though Rei is struggling right now, episode 10 leads me to believe that he will survive, but honestly, I am not sure when I will be in the right frame of mind to watch the second half of the season.  This show probably deserves a higher rating, but I'll need to finish it first to decide.

Trickster: Edogawa Ranpo "Shounen Tanteidan" yori


ABANDONED
Episodes: 24
Fall 2016 Season
Genres: Mystery, Supernatural, Futuristic, Police
Studio:  TMS Entertainment 

I abandoned this anime after watching three episodes.  It was very fast paced, futuristic, and action packed, but nothing about it appealed to me.  

The main character, who is a teen boy detective was the arrogant type of character and his partner was a technologically advanced teen girl who is a shut in.

Occultic;Nine


ABANDONED
Episodes: 12
Fall 2016 Season
Genres: Supernatural, Scifi, Mystery
Studio: A-1 Pictures    

I thought the plot of this anime sounded really cool, but wow, it was awful.  I abandoned it after watching three episodes.  The main character seems arrogant and unlikable.  He runs a website that curates supernatural stories from around the internet for the sake of making money off of the traffic.

Every character talks extremely fast.  I had a hard time keeping up with the subtitles.

And as if that did not make this anime difficult enough to watch--then there were the boobs.  For whatever reason, the main female character was animated with huge boobs that moved around in every which way, at all times, and even got in the viewers way of seeing the scene.  I could not even consider it fan-service.  It made no sense.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of these shows!

Until next time,
thanks for reading! 
Manda

All anime images taken from MyAnimeList.net
Blog post graphic made on canva 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Anime Season Preview: Top Five Releases for Winter 2017

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There are only five new releases that I am excited to check out during the Winter 2017 Anime Season.  And while that is a rather short list, I am feeling slightly relived.  At present, I have a list of 8 shows that I missed out on during the past few seasons that are only now getting lot's of positive reviews and support.

So my anime watching plan for winter 2017 is to binge watch the shows I missed during the days between each new episode's release.

Top 5 Anime Releases for Winter 2017


5. Urara Meirochou

 
Premiere: Jan 6, 2017
Studio: J.C. Staff
Genre:  Slice of life, Comedy

I am drawn to this anime because of the art style. Both the characters and what little I could find of the scenery looks adorable.  The characters remind me of New Game! While the background is making me think of the underworld in The Morose Mononokean.  Two shows I enjoyed in Summer 2016.

The synopsis, four girls are apprentice fortune tellers in 'Labyrinth Town', is short and not very descriptive.  But it sounds to me like it has the potential to be a cute, feelgood show, in a whimsical setting. Enjoyment of this show will probably depend heavily on the personalities of the characters.


4. Masamune-kun no Revenge

 
Premiere: Jan 5, 2017
Studio: Silver Link.
Genre: School, Romance, Comedy, Harem

I am afraid to get my hopes up for this show, but truthfully they might already be all the way up.  It will tell the story of a male protagonist who has completely changed up his image, and plans to seek revenge on the girl who used to torment him for being chubby.  I'm rather certain things will not go as he plans.  

Because the main male sounds like he's the type to take initiative and the female tormentor is a very wealthy girl, I'm wondering if it will be anything like Toradora? 

Because the promotional art seems to depict a harem I am wondering if there will be a large cast of friends and make the show feel anything like Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches.


3. Seiren

Premiere: January 6, 2017
Studio: Studio Gokumi, AXsiZ
Genre: School, Dating Sim

This is another anime with very little available information, but it sounds wonderfully simplistic.  The main protagonist is a high school male with little plan for his future.  He is average and quiet in all other ways.  He sounds very lost.  

In come a harem of girls to save the day.  Maybe.  But each girl introduced to the story will change up his world in some way.  I enjoy personal relationships between characters, so this synopsis is appealing to me, rather than sounding boring.

The lines and colors in this show look clean and the detail looks fresh.  I have seen it mentioned that this show is a sequel to Amagami SS (2010), with different characters.  I've not seen Amagami SS, but because the art in Seiren appeals to me more, I will start with this show.  If I end up loving it, I'll probably go back and watch the first installment. 


2. Kuzu no Honkai

 
Premiere: January 13, 2017
Studio: Lerche
Genre: Drama, Romace, School

The plot of this anime is that two teenagers appear to be the perfect high school couple with the perfect lives, but secretly, they are each in love with another.  Another person that is painfully far out of reach for them.  In each other, these two manage to ease some of their loneliness.

I am slightly concerned about where the actual plot of this show will go.  People can do extremely irrational things when gripped by infatuation for another.  I am hoping this anime will not tell that type of story, because that would be too dramatic for my current tastes.  I might be worried for nothing, but at this time it has a mature rating for violence, and that art from the trailer is reminding me of Pretty Little Liars.   


1. Little Witch Academia

Premiere: January 9, 2017
Studio: Trigger
Genre: Magic, Comedy, School

I watched both Little Witch Academia movies on Netflix without realizing that they were anime.  Both were enjoyable, but ultimately, told extremely short stories.  So when I found out that a full season of Little Witch Academia was finally coming out I was instantly excited.  

Personally, I do not expect anything profound from this anime.  Nor am I the biggest fan of the art style.  But I am a sucker for magical schools, and for silly young students going on adventures to save the day.  I'm feeling pretty optimistic that this show will be able to deliver on that.


Honorable Mention 


Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2

 
Premiere: January 12, 2017
Studio: Studio Deen
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy 

Konosuba is getting a second season during Winter 2017 & because season one is very high on my list of anime to catch up on, it is likely that I will be watching this second season as well.

In this anime an Otaku dies on his way home from buying a video game and gets the chance to reanimate into a fantasy world.  Apparently, this show was great, and I missed it.  But I am excited to watch it now because at this particular moment I am feeling really nostalgic for some good old fantasy RPG.  

If this story takes us on a quest through all the typical places, the dungeon boss, the village market, the tavern, the mountains, ect. but then tosses in characters with atypical personalities, I think I will be more than pleased with it. 


All anime images taken from Google Images 
Blog header graphic made on Canva: MABzf_w5Z_w

What are you watching this Winter?  I'm feeling like there are good shows out there that I could have missed.

Thanks for reading!
Amanda