Anime Corner: Top 10 Favourite Anime (Redux)

Blog Top 10 Anime Redux Title

And your challenge, should you choose to accept it, 1) Name all the characters featured above 2) Before reading the rest of this post, guess which one of these characters isn’t going to appear in the list. Have fun.

I love anime. Considering the amount of it I’ve reviewed over the past five years that probably comes as a surprise to no one, but with this being the start of a new year, and a new decade, it got me thinking. Back in the early days of this little blog o’mine I posted up a ‘Top 10 Favourite Anime’ list (you can check it out HERE if you want and compare it to the list I’m about to go through). Obviously I’ve watched a heck of a lot more anime since then, the majority of which I have adored and gushed over on this very blog, so me thinks it’s time for an update.

The same rules apply as last time, this list will only contain anime that I have seen (obviously) and only anime that have finished airing. I’ll admit this list was tough to put together, but I think I’m finally happy with the order it’s in, if you want to drop your own list down in the comments then feel free and with that, let’s get this show on the road!

  1. Cardcaptor Sakura

Upon finding a mysterious book in her basement, Sakura accidentally released the Clow Cards. Created by one of the most powerful sorcerers in history, Clow Reed, the cards each have their own unique personality and abilities. Now it’s Sakura’s job to capture them before their powers get out of hand and end up hurting someone, but with the help of guardian beast Kero and her best friend Tomoyo, Sakura is sure everything will be alright.

This is the series that carved out a place for the magical girl genre in my heart for all eternity. I remember watching it as a kid and falling in love with Sakura who was just so sweet and charming and endlessly optimistic that I couldn’t do anything but admire her, and that was before she started roller-skating on to the back of giant birds and trying to outrun sentient water. Whether it’s the beautiful designs of both the characters and the cards, the fun characters themselves or even just the mad antics of capturing the card of the week, I adore this series. It’s innocence personified and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  1. Digimon Tamers

Takato loves Digimon, whether it’s the TV show or playing the card game with his friends. He spends his days dreaming about what his perfect partner would be like and one day, when he finds a mysterious blue card, his wishes come true and the Digimon he designed, Guilmon, comes to life! However owning a real life Digimon isn’t as easy as Takato thought and soon he finds himself dealing not only with the differing views of his fellow Tamers, but invading Digimon causing havoc and a secret government organisation out to delete all Digimon from the real world!

This is my favourite Digimon series of all time and one that I recommend for everyone to watch. For a show primarily created to sell toys to kids it has a remarkably mature story (which makes sense when you realise this was written by the same guy that did Serial Experiments Lain). We get some great character arcs across the series, especially in Impmon who runs the full gambit from troublemaker to villain to hero seeking redemption. The series also isn’t afraid to throw in a few more complex themes and a bit of moral and ethical questioning for its characters to deal with. It may start off a little slow but it all builds into something truly dark and epic like no other Digimon series has ever done before or since.

  1. Shirobako

When they were at school, Aoi, Ema, Shizuka, Misa and Midori all played a part in making their very own anime short. Now, having graduated, the girls are all either looking for or holding down jobs in their favourite industry, the anime industry! Unfortunately it turns out that getting their dream job may actually be a bit of a nightmare, between crushing production schedules, dithering directors and really unhelpful middle men, turns out working in anime can be really rough. Do the girls have what it takes to pull things together and someday, somehow, get to all work on a project together like they did at school?

Anime is tough guys. If you ever doubted that then just watch this anime (though I realise it is also a romanticised version of the anime industry so I have no doubt the real thing is even more hellish than this series depicts). I first watched this anime when I was in a bit of a slump, my adolescent idealism had crashed headfirst into the cliffs of adult reality and I was feeling pretty dejected, pretty much in the same way the characters are at points in this series and it gave me hope to know that maybe, just maybe, the struggle would be worth it in the end (the moment where all the girls get to work together at the end really is a thing of beauty). Rewatching the series now though, it speaks to me on even more levels, from the arduous path of the creative process to what it’s like to work in an office (though the office I work in is nowhere near as pressurised as the one in this show). Add on all the little in jokes and references and all anime fans should watch this at some point.

  1. A Place Further Than the Universe

Tamaki Mari, AKA Kimari, always wanted to have a grand adventure before she finishes high school, but she’s always been afraid to take that first step. All that changes when she meets Shirase, a girl determined above anything else to go to Antarctica, despite how impossible that sounds. Now, with a newfound passion and determination, Kimari sets out with Shirase and her other new friends to make the impossible possible and shout ‘I told you I’d make it!’ to all those who said they couldn’t. Their youth is finally in motion!

Heartfelt, that’s the best word I can come up with to describe this series. Everything in this show, from the gorgeous animation to the sweet and charming characters, even the emotional stories of each girl, all of it just hits me right in the feels. I cried at every single episode when I first watched this series and I cried a good chunk of the time when I re-watched it. I love this show. Not only is the message a really important and powerful one, that you can’t let fear and doubt hold you back, if there’s something you want to do, go and do it. It’ll take some hard work and a bit of luck, but if all you ever do is back down then you’ll never get anywhere. Also I love these characters and the chemistry between them, they feel like the best of friends and it’s just a joy to be around them.

  1. Mob Psycho 100

Mob wants nothing more than to be an ordinary kid, and maybe the ability to talk to his childhood sweetheart in complete sentences. However, between his tremendous psychic powers, repressed emotions and his con man boss, there’s not much chance of that. Whether it’s exorcising evil spirits or taking on deranged psychics, Mob’s real battle is with himself, learning to control and, eventually, accept his emotions to the point were he becomes a better, more rounded person.

It’s the second season of this show that gets it on to this list. However much I enjoyed the first season, the second feels like something special. It takes everything that the first season had, the lightning fast comedy, the visually diverse and stunning animation and fun characters and adds so much emotion on top of that. Watching Mob’s journey from an awkward, emotionally repressed teen to such a kind, open and emotionally healthy person is by far one of my favourite character arcs in all of anime. I also think this series has some really beautiful messages about forming bonds, how people can change and how its not good to let your own ego blind you to the world around you, all of which feel really relevant to the world today.

  1. Sound Euphonium

When Kumiko begins her first year of high school she’s determined to have a fresh start, yet somehow finds herself joining the school’s concert band and playing the euphonium (an instrument she’s been stuck playing for the past seven years). It doesn’t help that an old school friend of Kumiko’s is also in the club, a friend that Kumiko feels incredibly awkward around. Things begin to change though when the band’s new advisor starts pushing the students to improve and tensions rise. Will Kumiko rediscover her love for music and the euphonium? Or will this put her off for life?

Every part of this series is beautiful, from the jaw-dropping animation to the blissful music and the clever and life-like writing. More than that though I love each and every one of these characters. Kumiko’s arc from detached and indecisive to someone who is driven by her passions is great and I have to admit resonates a fair amount with me. This is not a show that I would typically watch, but I’m so glad I did. Even if you’ve never been in a band, or have the least bit of interest in one (like me), make sure to check this series out as it has so much more to offer you than your standard high school drama. You’re missing out if you don’t see this one.

  1. Psycho-Pass

In the future you’d better watch what you think because thanks to the Sibyl System a person can now be judged on how likely they are to commit a crime. Anyone who’s deemed as a potential danger to society will have the Enforcers sent after them, either to bring them in for emergency therapy or, if they’re beyond help, to blow their heads clean off. But what if the system couldn’t read a certain type of person? What if there was a master criminal out their inciting others to commit crimes and providing them with all they need to go on their own crime sprees? For rookie Inspector Akane Tsunemori these are going to be important questions, but the biggest of all may be just what exactly is the Sibyl System?

I love so much about this series I really don’t know where to start or how to summarise it, but here goes. For starters the world of Psycho-Pass is one of my favourite, so rich and detailed, from all the fun tech it employs to the moral questions it raises. Add on top of that some fantastic characters and you have a great anime. Akane is one of my favourite female protagonists of all time, her journey from naïve rookie to badass detective is another of my favourite character arcs. Then we’ve got Makishima who’s one of my favourite anime antagonists and there’s Kogami and I could really go on all day like this. Every time I watch this series I come away loving it that little bit more.

  1. Fate/Zero

The 4th Holy Grail War is upon us. Once again Seven Masters will summon seven Servants, Heroic Spirits of legend such as King Arthur or Alexander the Great brought to life again in the modern day. Together they’ll battle it out for the Holy Grail and the chance to have their dearest wish made a reality. For Kiritsugu Emiya, that wish is for the world to find peace, but for a man who has spent his life killing mages, can they ever really be any peace? The answer has already been decided and no matter what anyone does, fate marches on to its inevitable tragic end.

If you’ve checked out my previous favourite anime list then you may have noticed that my top three anime hasn’t really changed, and I doubt they ever will. Fate/Zero is not perfect, but I adore it with all my soul. I love these characters, I love seeing them interact with one another, so many clashing philosophies and goals this is what makes a great story for me. Whether it’s Saber’s idealism clashing with Kiritsugu’s pragmatism or Iskandar, King of Conquerors, giving Waver lessons on what it means to be a true king, I could watch this forever and not get bored. Add on the great music and animation, some epic fights and you have an anime for the ages.

  1. Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Madoka wants nothing more to help others and make a difference with her life, a chance she seemingly gets when a strange creature named Kyubey offers her a deal. In exchange for any wish she desires, she can become a magical girl and protect the innocent people of the city from evil witches. Sounds like a win-win right? Well it turns out that the life of a magical girl isn’t quite so magical and between the dangers of the job and battles with rivals, Madoka’s about to learn what happens when a wish turns into a curse.

If there were only one anime I could watch again for the very first time, I’d pick this one. When I first watched this series I binged it all in one night and it destroyed me emotionally. I’ve never quite had a reaction like it before or since, though not for lack of trying. This show is as close to perfection as it gets for me. The plot is so tightly written and paced, knowing just when to let you catch your breathe before plunging you into an even deeper well of despair. Everything is connected and so many little details turn out to be really important later, I get so much fun out of every time I rewatch this series. Add on to that the music and, I don’t even know how to describe the animation, it has such a unique artistic quality to it that I just love it.

  1. Fullmetal Alchemist (2003)

The law of Equivalent Exchange is the core principle of alchemy, something the brothers Alphonse and Edward Elric learn the hard way when they try to resurrect their dead mother. They lose much in the exchange; Edward has his arm and leg taken away from him, while Alphonse loses his entire body. They’re only hope to put themselves back together is to get a hold of a philosopher’s stone, something that will let them perform alchemy without obeying equivalent exchange. They aren’t the only ones searching for a stone though and when the boys learn just what it takes to make one, will they be willing to pay the cost?

The original, and my personal favourite. Madoka Magica may be close to perfection for me, but this series has everything I could ever ask for from an anime, great characters, compelling story and drama, even stunning animation, it’s all here. The bond between the two brothers is really something special, their willingness to sacrifice themselves for one another is truly beautiful and that moment at the end of the series where they demonstrate just how far they’ll go for one another is one of my all time favourite moments in anime. Then again this series is packed with great moments that I love, from the boys confronting their mother to certain deaths, which I won’t spoil here, but this show is a real roller coaster. The story never once falters, perfectly paced and engaging, I don’t even skip over the filler I like it so much, though I think it’s greatest strength is that it never loses sight of its core. Edward and Alphonse are the centrepiece of this story and they are such great characters. If you’ve not seen this anime, or only ever watched Brotherhood, then do yourself a favour and check this one out.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

Put a Tune to It: Western Songs for Anime

I got nominated for a tag by tcrow over at Crow’s World of Anime! I’ll admit it’s been a while since I’ve done any tags and this was an incredibly fun one to dig into. At first I thought I was going to have a hard time with this, depending on my mood my musical tastes can get very eclectic and there’s normally a lot of musicals involved, which won’t fit a lot of anime. Then I started actually thinking about it and my selections came to me within about an hour, but before we get to them, let’s do the housekeeping.

First this tag was originally set in motion by Dewbond over at Shallow Dives in Anime and here’s the rules!

  • Choose any number of western songs (any genre) that you think best sums up an anime or manga of any type or genre.
    • If you want to pick more than 1 from each section that’s fine. Or if you can’t think of one for a specific category that’s fine also.
  • Explain why you think your choices could work. Is it the lyrics? The tune and the beat? Or just the music video?
  • Link back to the original post so I can read people’s suggestions, I’d love to read everyone’s ideas.
  • Include Put a Tune to It in your tags so everyone including myself can find them all easily.
  • Nominate around 1-5 bloggers. My nominations will be at the bottom.

And so, without any further delay, let’s get this show on the road!

Halloween-Themed (Soul Eater)

Okay, we’ll start off with a pretty obvious one and the first thing that came into my head. This is Halloween by Marilyn Manson. Does this really need any explanation? I must have seen a dozen amvs with this set to snippets of Soul Eater or any anime with a halloween episode over the years. It just fits so well. Every time I hear this version of the song I automatically see Maka and Soul standing under that grinning crescent moon, Blair riding a pumpkin somewhere in the background.

Mecha (Gundam)

And we’ll follow that up with another song that I automatically associate with anime, Mr. Roboto by Styx. This one I can blame on the review site SF Debris, because his reviews of Gundam 0080 had this song set over the credits and its been fixed in my brain ever since. I love that beat as they sing the ‘domo arigato’ part, it works so well as a marching beat as a gundam or some other mecha is deployed for action. Plus the song is unmistakably 80s and I always think of the 80s when I think of mecha, that’s another common association in my brain.

Drama (Sound Euphonium)

Right, taking a step away from long-held associations, let’s pick something a bit more current (at least in the fact that I’ve only recently discovered this band), Brighter by Against The Current. This song is really for any series that has either a main character or a large portion of the cast who are a little unsure of themselves. They’re lacking in confidence, but as the series progresses as they begin to discover themselves bit by bit and let their passions ignite. For me this song really suits Kumiko from Sound Euphonium, specifically towards the end of the series when she’s decided that she wants to be truly special along with Reina and is ready to throw her all into the band’s performance.

Gangster (91 Days)

And now, something a little more offbeat (I knew I’d get one in here somewhere). Gangsta’s Paradise by Postmodern Jukebox ft. Robyn Adele Anderson. I love the Postmodern Jukebox, they often take more current songs and perform them in a more retro style and this happens to be one of my favourite covers they’ve done. Can’t you just smell the smokey atmosphere in some rundown speakeasy as you listen to this? It fits so well with 91 Days as well, considering that anime is set during prohibition, I can just see Angelo and Nero sitting and sharing a drink while this plays, all the while Angelo is slowly reaching for his gun.

Shonen (One Piece)

Okay, maybe the last two choices have been me trying to get songs I really like on to this list and, well, here’s another one (though in my defence I think this one really fits). Friendship Song by Brennley Brown (featured in Tangled the Series). Considering how many shonen series are all about the power of friendship and unbreakable bonds, this song is really just perfect. It’s intended to be about two friends, but I think it works just as well for a group, like say the Strawhat pirates. They can always rely on one another, they’ll always have one another’s backs and be there through the laughs and the tears, as the song says, ‘we fit together perfectly’.

Shonen (My Hero Academia)

Another common trend in shonen anime is that their main protagonists are often optimistic dreamers. They’ve got these big, impossible dreams and there’s no shortage of people ready to tell them how unattainable their goal is. Yet that won’t deter them, they have….High Hopes by Panic! At The Disco (did you see what I did there? Of course you did and I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist that one.) I can just see Midoriya charging forward as this plays, All for One or some other villain cackling away until Midoriya comes out of nowhere and smashes them out of the way and ready to declare ‘I am here!’

Epic Fantasy (Fate series)

Last one! Actually this one may be cheating a little bit because I first discovered this song in an amv using clips from Fate/Zero and Garden of Sinners fused together into the best amv I have ever seen (look for Steel Fenders amv on Youtube, I hope it’s still there). Ever since Iron by Woodkid has been linked to the fate series in my brain. From the first blast of those trumpets to that rising beat, this song is the very definition of epic to me. It fills my head with images of climatic battles, legends brought to life and just a sense of majesty that makes me want to grovel in my unworthiness (which is often how I feel about the fate series when it’s at its best). If you haven’t heard this song, then listen and thank me later.

Hmm….there’s not as much rock on this list as I thought there was going to be, or electro swing for that matter. Ah well, we’ll leave it here for now. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed my choices, I certainly had a lot of fun putting this together and thanks Crow for nominating me!

As for who I’ll nominate, apologises if you’ve already been selected, but I’ll go with:

Scott

Ospreyshire

Jon Spencer

Irina

Karandi

Of course anyone else who is interested please join in.

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

First Impressions: Autumn 2016 part 2

And we’re back! On with the first impressions!

Sound! Euphonium 2

My favourite school band anime is back! Which thinking about it isn’t too hard since this is the only school band anime that I’ve watched, though it’s still one of my favourite anime in recent years. This time around the band are making preparations for the Kansai competition, but could trouble be stirring when a student who dropped out of the club last year wants to rejoin? It seems the shadow of the incident from the previous year, where a bunch of students walked out because some people weren’t taking it seriously, is still hanging over the group and with new band members coming to foreground what drama will the club have to overcome this time?

Everything that made the last series so great is back, that gorgeous animation, the music, the characters I’ve come to love and all their interactions and relationships. I am interested in these new characters, though I just hope it doesn’t push existing characters to the sidelines. I’m glad we’re getting more of Asuka as I’ve been wanting to know what her deal is ever since the first season started and Kumiko and Reina are officially the cutest couple in existence (I shall ship them ‘til I die!). On a side note, I don’t care how much the show tries to convince Yuko is a good person I ain’t buying it, after the crap see pulled last season there’s no coming back.

Bungo Stray Dogs 2

The super powered members of the Armed Detective Agency are back, kind of. We’re taking a trip into Dazai’s past as we see what it was like when he was a member of Port Mafia and deals with the disappearance of another of their members. With a mysterious group called Mimic striking against the Port Mafia and questions being raised about just where the missing member’s loyalties lie it looks like dark times are ahead. Back in the present things aren’t any rosier though as a three-way battle for survival is kicking off between the Agency, the Port Mafia and the Guild! Will anyone survive? We’ll just have to wait and see.

This second season started in a weird place, but I’m kind of glad of it. The humour is more turned down and the action, drama and seriousness are turned up to eleven, couple that with an interesting mystery and conflict and I’m hooked. It’s different from the last season, but I cope with that for something this good. I like seeing this younger and darker Dazai, I mean he’s still the goofball I know and love (even if he is toned down a little) but there’s definitely something a lot more threatening and dangerous about this version from the past. I even like the new characters and wouldn’t mind a series getting to know them. Back in the present things pick up pretty much where they left off and the anime doesn’t waste anytime in getting to the conflict. I can’t wait to see the powers of the Guild and how this is all going to work out.

Flip Flappers

Cocona is a model honour student, cautious of change and struggling to find her path in life, but all that changes when she meets a mysterious girl called Papika. Together the two of them travel to bizarre and wondrous worlds and realities that are apart of something called Pure Illusion to collect strange gems. They’re not the only ones after the gems though. What are these gems and, more to the point, what is Pure Illusion? I hope the series is going to tell us at some point, but for now I’m just enjoying the visual feast that this anime is.

I really love this anime. A Studio Ghibli film on acid is the best way I have of describing it, each episode so far has presented us with a strange new reality that a different mash up of art styles, genres and influences. You never quite know what you’re going to get. True the actual plot is fairly vague at the moment, we don’t know much about anyone outside of our leads and we know even less about what’s actually going on. There are hints at something bigger, but so far no real clue as to what they mean or where they’re going to lead, well, outside of something equally wacky and gorgeous. This series is worth watching just for the animation and artistic style alone, but if it can ace the story as well then I think we have a winner here folks. Weird and wonderful, just the way I like my anime.

Drifters

Moments from death famous historical figures find themselves before a strange man working at his desk. The next thing they know they wake up in a fantastic land with no clue of where they are or what they’re meant to do. They are the Drifters and unbeknownst to them they have become involved in a battle to the death between other famous historical figures. Let the bloodshed begin.

Be prepared for violence and blood, lots and lots of blood. This is definitely one for my inner man-child, there is action galore here and it is gloriously animated, the story so far is a bit thin on the ground as basically we’ve just met some of the characters and watched them kill things, though to be fair I don’t think the story is going to be much more than that. I will warn you not to come to this series expecting anything near an accurate representation of the historical figures involved, Joan of Arc is a pyromaniac for an example and sometimes the humour can be a bit strange as it whiplashes between the dark and violent scenes and the characters being goofy. Still, as an action romp it’s fun.

Lostorage incited WIXOSS

Suzuko has just moved back to the town where she grew up and is hoping to meet her childhood friend Chinatsu. Before that though she gets involved with the WIXOSS card game and is chosen as a Selector. Now she must battle with other Selectors with her memories on the line and if she loses all together then she’ll be reduced to blank slate. What Suzuko doesn’t know is that Chinatsu has been chosen as a Selector as well. What will happen when the two friends come face to face as opponents?

I never got around to watching the two previous seasons of WIXOSS, though they did catch my interest and I’m sure I’ll get round to them eventually, for now I’ll dip my toe into this series since it looks to have a completely new story and characters to the previous seasons. It should be perfect for newbies like me, that’s the theory anyway. I do like the concept of the story and I think it could lead to some really dramatic and harrowing moments, but for the moment I’m just not all that invested. The characters are fine but nothings given me an emotional gut punch yet to get me to care. Everything just feels a little too constructed, like everything is being made to go down this route rather than a tragic twist of fate, the characters need to do a bit more to convince me to care. It probably doesn’t help that I have no idea what’s going on during the fight scenes. I hope the card game itself was explained a lot better in those other seasons because here it’s just kind of there, it’s a bunch of people shouting out stuff and some flashy effects and I don’t really know whether what’s happening is good or bad. I’ll stick with it for now though.

And that’s that for now. Next week we’re back to the regular anime reviews!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday. 

Anime Corner: Sound! Euphonium Review

Blog Sound Euphonium Review Title

Eupho-kun! Please don’t leave me!

What’s the Story?

Kumiko is just starting high school. She thinks the school band kind of sucks, but her friends convince her to join anyway, that is until Kumiko realises that a former classmate, Reina, is also in the band. Kumiko is still cripplingly embarrassed by an encounter with Reina back in the last year’s band competition, but getting past that is only the start. The band must face many trials and tribulations if it wants to reach the Nationals.

The Review

Now admittedly I’ve never been in a school band, and I don’t really watch a lot of shows about musical groups (I think the last one I saw was Glee, so you can see why that might have put me off watching a few), so it really is a surprise to me just how much I love this show. This show feels very realistic and human. It makes you feel like you’re apart of a band, you share the nerves and the frustration with the characters, cheering them on through the low points and applauding them during their highs. It also helps that this anime never feels clichéd, and the drama never forced. There’s drama of course, but it naturally flows from the plot and you can understand every action. You have the frustration of trying to aim for a goal, when it’s clear not everyone is pulling their weight, you’ve got the agony of auditions, and what happens when not everyone makes it, you’ve got band politics and unrequited love (but not in a cliché way).

This is an anime about music, so you can count on it sounding good, but damn is this anime beautiful as well. I thought after seeing Ufotable’s Fate/stay night that never I’d be truly blown away by the visuals of an anime again, let alone for it to happen in the exact same season, but this anime has done it. It is utterly mesmerising. The motion is always fluid, but what sells it the most is all the tiny little details. Every little flick of the wrist or jostle of hair is just perfectly animated. Like looking into a great big machine, you get to see how each individual part works, from the movements of the fingers to each expulsion of breath. Then there’s that fabulous lighting and the way the camera moves give some scenes this dream-like quality. It’s good, guys, it’s really good.

All of the characters feel really human. You know they’re just pictures replacing one another faster than the eye can see, but it’s the way they move is just so convincing that you can’t help but be sucked in. Their movements are so natural and full of character and personality. It makes you believe in every bated breath, every nervous glance. This is backed up by some fabulous voice acting that really puts across the anxiety and the frustration the characters are going through. These people are real to me, I don’t care what my brain is telling me, my heart tells me that these people exist, and I’m inclined to believe it. It also helps that there’s such a diverse range of characters (and character designs), and while most of them don’t get the focus you can still see them moving around in the background and existing.

That’s brings us to the stars of the show, the eternal Yuri-bait, Kumiko and Reina (may their ship never sink).

I’ll start with Kumiko. Honestly at first I wasn’t all that keen on her, don’t get me wrong I didn’t hate her or anything, but she’s kind of hard to cheer for at the start (for me anyway). You see Kumiko is a very distant person. She never really gets passionate about anything, and while her embarrassment is incredibly cute, it’s hard to get behind someone who can never get behind anything. To me Kumiko feels lost, looking for what she wants in life, a bit indecisive and uncertain of herself. The series does a wonderful job of developing her character though, helping her to fall in love with music again (and possibly a certain trumpet player), and really strive for a goal. By the end I adore Kumiko and how far she’s come.

That brings me to Reina, another odd character. At first she’s very cold and doesn’t really interact all that much with those around her, and she doesn’t change all that much, thankfully. Unlike Kumiko, Reina is extremely passionate, about music, about staying true to herself, and about becoming special. She’s doesn’t care what other people think about her or say, she’ll just continue to play to her own tune. She is a talented star rising high above everyone else. Now Reina could easily have been portrayed as a diva, or a horrible person, but she never is. Reina is a kind and loving person, when you get to know her. You are completely with her when she gets frustrated with all the crap she has to put up with from the band.

What makes me love both of them though is their chemistry together. The anime ends without ever giving us a clear answer as to the nature of their relationship (is this romantic love, or just a just a really strong friendship? You decide!), but without a doubt the characters are great together. They really spark off of one another. Also they have some really weird conversations, but that just adds to the human feel of the characters.

To me this series is crying out for a season 2, there are several plot points that feel unfinished by the end. We still don’t know exactly what Asuka’s deal is (I’m betting she’s crazy), and things aren’t completely resolved between Kumiko and her sister. These are only minor plot points, and the finale is a good conclusion to the main plot, but I just really want to spend more time with these characters, please!

The Verdict

This anime feels very real, and very human, it’s like being a part of a school band. You fall in love with every character. You feel both their joy and their pain as the band struggles towards the Nationals. The animation is utterly beautiful, and, of course, the music is great. If you’re into bands, or fancy checking out what it’s like to be a part of one, there is no better anime than this at the moment.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

First Impressions Spring 2015

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So much anime, so little time. Let’s get on with this already.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?

In a world where goddesses have taken human form, and adventurers travel vast dungeons, battling monsters for fame and fortune, we meet Bell who is only a novice adventurer. Yet he hopes to one day be a great adventurer and maybe impress the woman who once saved him from a monster attack. There’s more than a couple of girls with their eye on Bell though. Let the harem nonsense begin!

I think this anime has some potential. I like Bell and his desire to be stronger and better himself. He’s a good guy, a touch oblivious, but that’s par for the course with harem shows. The world is interesting, even if a touch familiar when compared with other fantasy shows. I hope it can distinguish itself a bit more, outside of the gods and goddesses walking around. They animation is pretty good too. My only real concern is that I can see this anime easily being overcome by fanservice and harem stuff. I hope it does manage to find a balance between that stuff, while also giving attention to its characters and action. A part of me doubts it will though, still, I live to be surprised.

Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma

Soma has worked in the kitchen since he could hold a knife, and longs to surpass his father as a chef. One day though, Soma’s father closes down the family restaurant so that he can travel the world. Soma finds himself enrolled in an elite culinary school, where the best of the best are trained. Only the top 1% survive the full three years here, and those that do are hailed as cooking gods. Can Soma cut it?

I never knew that cooking could be so dramatic. Now I’m not a chef, nor do I have any real interest in being one, yet still this anime has me hooked. It’s exciting, it’s funny, and it’s mouth-wateringly gorgeous. I only really have two complaints so far. Number one is that Soma is just a little too much the genius child at the minute. He’s too good and I understand that they need to set up his potential, but I hope that he starts to stumble in later episodes. If he just wins at everything this’ll just get boring. The other complaint I have is the fanservice (or should it be called foodservice in this show?) After three episodes it’s verging on softcore porn at times, and I really really really hope they tone it over the next couple of episodes.

Fate/stay night Unlimited Blade Works

Yay! Fate/stay night is back! The battle for the Holy Grail continues. With Saber now Caster’s captive, Shirou and Rin are put in a dire situation. As the 5th Holy Grail War draws to a close the battles will intensify and masters will fall. But in the end, who will claim that mystical wish-granting artefact?

Unlimited Blade Works is still as gorgeous and epic as ever. It did stumble in its first episode back as the break robbed it of its dramatic punch. The anime is quickly gathering back its steam though. I like how the Rin and Shirou relationship is developing at a natural pace. I also appreciate a bit more back story for some of the supporting cast. My only complaint is that I don’t like how Saber has become a damsel in distress for the moment. I especially don’t like that dress she’s been forced into, or the pose she had to stand in back in episode one. Saber is one of my favourite characters, and it’s so demeaning to have her reduced to fanservice like that. Hopefully she’ll be freed soon enough and get back into action.

Plastic Memories

In the future personal robots, Giftia, have been developed with souls of their own. Unfortunately these Giftia only last for a few years before they have to be shut down. Tsukasa has just started a job in the department that retrieves Giftia for their shut down. It’s not a pleasant job, breaking up the owners from beloved partners. Matters are made worse when Tsukasa is partnered with a female Giftia who is incredibly clumsy and who’s only talent appears to be making tea.

Honestly I don’t think this is that original an anime, or premise. The characters, for now at least, are mostly just your typical stereotype with only slight variations. That doesn’t mean they’re bad or anything, I do like them, I just hope there’s a bit more to them as we go further down the line. Where is anime really shines is when it comes to its emotions. This is an anime designed to make you cry (and laugh a little too). I have no doubt that the ending is going to break my heart, we’ll just have to see if the journey to get there is any good.

Sound! Euphonium

Kumiko has just started her first year of high school, and her friends manage to convince to join the school’s brass band club. The only real problem is the band kind of sucks. Whether it’s lazy students, or a lack of direction from their hands-off teacher, things don’t bode well for the club. Yet I’m sure trials shall be overcome, and friendships forged (that’s how all these anime turn out in the end right?)

I’m not a music buff, but I do love a big band so I was willing to give this anime a shot. After the first two episodes though, I was going to pass off this anime as something nice, but also very typical. I don’t watch many anime about school clubs or bands, but that’s mostly because I’ve seen most of the plots before in other shows. Episode 3 made me change my mind a bit, or to be more accurate, the ending did. You feel the frustration and the pain of the character as she plays, and the scream afterwards felt very true. Honestly I wasn’t that into the character up until that point, but after that scene I think she might be my favourite now. If the show can get more moments like that, and get me caught up in the character’s emotions, then I think this could be a very good show. Also so far it’s been pretty informative about the different instruments and how to go about playing them, so that’s a bonus.

Wish Upon the Pleiades

What’s the story? Um…well…err… there’s some magical girls. They ride broom sticks that make the noise of a car engine when revving up. Honestly, that’s all I’ve got.

Mysteries are all well and good in a series, but I could do with a little context here to ground me. At the moment this show is just a bunch of random bits floating around that I have no idea how they piece together, or what they’ll eventually make. There’s talk of different realities and possible potential. The girls are meant to go around collecting engine fragments, but we have yet to see the ship they belong to, or learn why any of this is happening. There’s also a confusing back story between two of the girl who both think it was the other one to leave them, which makes no sense. Don’t get me wrong this isn’t a horrible show. It’s bright and colourful and perfectly fine in its own way, but with so many other shows demanding my attention I might just let this one slip away. I just don’t have the time to sit through it and untangle this mess of a plot.

ETOTAMA

Takeru moves into his new place to find a hole in the floor that leads to the world of Gods and spirits (just roll with it this gets weirder, trust me). Out of said hole pops Nya-tan, a girl representing the cat clan. Nya-tan is determined to become a part of the Chinese zodiac, seeing as how the cat didn’t manage get in 2000 years ago. In order to achieve her goal though she must battle the 12 zodiacs, including the mysterious, and lethal, Chu-tan (Rat) who appears to have a very personal hatred for Nya-tan and the cat clan, though no one knows why. Insanity ensues.

Honestly this is how I like my anime comedies, fast, wild and completely off their nut. The comedy is perfectly paced, knowing just when to let you rest, and just when to hit you with an onslaught of jokes. It also manages to weave in a hint of drama, which I appreciate. The fights are cute and colourful, but that in no way lessens the impact of the action. The fight in episode 3 is particularly brutal. I enjoyed episode 3, but I can see some people being put off by it. For the latter half of the episode all of the comedy evaporates and things take a very dark turn. I was expecting something like this to happen, but not until the last couple of episodes. For me though it works for the story, it raises the stakes and furthers the mystery, even if the ending is a touch too sad for my tastes. On a last note, can we have an ambulance for the poor fourth wall? This series keeps smashing it to pieces.

Punch Line

What’s the story? Which one do you mean? The magical adventures of a young super-heroine who’s chief weapon is a giant straw? The slice-of-life comedy featuring four girls and a bear? Ghost boy’s pervy panty peepshow? That’s without even mentioning the terrorist organisation and its missing leader, the asteroid headed directly for Earth, the ghost cat and whatever’s possessed our lead guy’s body. Weird doesn’t cover it.

Honestly this show is a mess. I like the individual characters, though the comedy can be hit or miss (I found the joke about Strange Juice’s transformation sequence, and the difference between what’s in her head and reality, to be hilarious. However the joke about a couple of the girls mishearing a conversation and thinking one of the other’s to be pregnant was tired and boring). At the minute there are too many plots, and just too much craziness, which is stopping me from investing in anything. There is a hint of this all being part of a bigger puzzle, but right now the pieces are too scattered and the picture too big for me to work it out.

Also, the fanservice in this series is horrendous. It makes Kill la Kill look like a prude (so anyone who knows that anime should know how bad this series is).

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.