Monday, September 1, 2014

Hanayamata, Eps. 7-8: When Things Fall Apart

Things are not exactly going well for our yosakoi girls. Yaya has just learned that her band has failed her audition, and that's just the beginning of her troubles. Meanwhile, the group's first performance at a department store event draws closer... and the girls are gaining weight. Thankfully, a surprisingly positive message comes out of that last one.

Not all weight gain is bad weight gain. (Especially if it's muscle weight.)

However, things are getting serious for these girls. Take a look at what we can learn from them after the jump, but beware of some fairly major spoilers.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

One Week Ramblings: Looking Back at The Devil is a Part-Timer!

Even the Demon King needs 10000-yen bills.
There isn't much to say about this show, except that it scores very high marks in overall execution and pure entertainment factor.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Osananajimi Series, Part 2: PDA

It's been a long while since I initially started the Osananajimi Series, where I look at one of anime's favorite romantic interest archetypes and how it reminds me of the relationship between God and a Christian who has grown up in the church. This time, what I will be talking about is pretty applicable to all Christians, and there won't be a specific anime series that I will be drawing from, instead drawing from the osananajimi archetype in general.

The subject of this post is PDA. However, it does not stand for Public Displays of Affection here, but rather, Promises, Deeds, and Attributes--what childhood friends have to do with them, and what they have to do with our relationship with God.

It's a promise that transcends... well, you'll have to watch Kanon to see.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

One Week Ramblings: Looking Back at Fruits Basket

One thing I will sometimes do during these weekly ramblings is pick a show from my anime history and look back at it. (In other words, like Annalyn's Rewind posts at her blog.)  This will be separate from my Hall of Fame Inductions as the focus is less on recommending the show to others and more on what it means to me personally. Of course, I will very likely induct eligible shows I cover here properly into the Hall of Fame.*

For my first post of this nature, I thought I'd pick a show that was particularly influential to my anime history. I had a number of options, but after reading this article on Anime News Network on some "gateway anime" choices, as well as some other blog posts on the show (beware spoilers!), I decided on Fruits Basket.

Now, while Fruits Basket was among my first anime series I finished, it was not truly a "gateway" show in that it neither introduced me to an anime (or even to the shoujo genre, as Cardcaptor Sakura took that technically) nor was it the show that got me particularly interested in anime; nevertheless, it was a pivotal show that I watched during an important period of my anime history, and to this day it remains a show that holds a dear place in my heart.

I'll be doing a proper Hall of Fame induction of this show soon, so I'll be talking more about the show's qualities then. As for what the show means to me, there are a number of things that this show did for me.

Probably what really made this show so important to me was its various messages about life. They were very nice and positive messages that show that there is good in this world, and really helped me enjoy the show on a greater level than I had for most other shows I had watched until then. It helps that those messages were naturally incorporated into the show itself, thanks to a very nice protagonist in Tohru Honda, an optimistic and cheerful girl that sees the good in everyone. (She is also one of the major reasons I'm a big fan of her Japanese voice actor, Yui Horie.) She's one of my favorite characters in anime (although I like her even more in the manga; more on that later).

Of course, I have to talk about the other characters in the show, specifically the members of the Zodiac. They're a fun and varied bunch (well, most of them; Hiro was pretty insufferable in the anime), from the cool but soft-hearted Yuki to the tsundere Kyo, and fun side characters like the cheerfully childish Momiji and the crossdressing Ritsu and the absolutely adorable Kisa (one of the few girls among the Zodiac members). In addition to them, Tohru also has some good friends that play significant roles, too.

With a great cast, good messages, and a solid plot overall, plus some great comedy helped by some fun artistic direction, this show has pretty much everything it needs to be a top-tier show. I gave it a raw score of 9/10 (an A-) and a personal score of 9.7/10.0, both of which place the show cleanly among my favorites. If there's one particular thing I didn't like about the show, it was how it was cut short compared to the manga. While the anime does have a decent conclusion in and of itself, it is ultimately just a prelude to an even greater story found in the original manga. After enjoying the anime so much, I started reading the manga, and Fruits Basket also became the first manga series I bought in its entirety, even as it was being released in the U.S. by Tokyopop.

The manga is my all-time favorite manga series, and for good reason. It takes the foundation shown in the already excellent anime series and develops the characters and plot to further depths, introducing some Zodiac members the anime didn't have time to cover, providing more insight into the story's "villain", Akito, and showing that for all of Tohru's goodness, she is far from being "too perfect" (a complaint that is easy to make about the anime's Tohru, though it never bothered me too much). Unfortunately, it doesn't look like a reboot of the anime to cover the rest of the manga material will be coming, which is unfortunate, as if the anime could cover the entire story, it would probably be in my top 5 anime of all time. As it is... it's still in my top 20 and a show I remember fondly.


News Corner

Sentai Filmworks has announced their December slate of releases. It includes a number of things, including some new licenses such as Reideen, the Queen's Blade OVAs, and The Ambition of Oda Nobuna, as well as the bilingual limited edition Blu-ray/DVD release of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! The releases are all available for pre-order on RightStuf, and will also start appearing for pre-order on other sites.

And in a particularly big bit of news, the original CLANNAD visual novel will be coming to Steam! Fans of the anime (which personally is my 2nd favorite anime of all time) will definitely want to check it out.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Hanayamata, Eps. 5-6: Live Like A Main Character

With Tami now part of the Yosakoi club, all Hana and Naru need to do to make the club official is to get Yaya to join the club (even if only in name), and then get Sally-sensei to be their advisor. Of course, that is exactly what happens, and before they know it, the Yosakoi club is officially a thing, and suddenly everyone is seriously practicing and thinking of logos and going to public yosakoi performances for inspiration.

Also, confusing their fathers with their sudden cheerfulness.
First of all, I should mention that I love it when others blog about the shows I love, such as this show, especially when other Christian anibloggers talk about the Christian themes in these shows. After all, I do not intend these posts to be comprehensive looks at every Christian theme in these shows, and there are certainly themes that I've missed. Alternatively, they save me some of the work of writing these posts if they cover an episode I haven't covered already, which is a good thing, right? Anyway, if you haven't already, do check out Japesland's post on Hanayamata (specifically episode 5) over at Beneath the Tangles.

Before I talk more about these episodes myself, I guess I'll use this part where I make my normal spiel about being careful of spoilers after the jump, and mention that now I will be noting just how spoilerrific the post will be. Spoiler Warning: The very end of this post will have a fairly major spoiler, so stop at the second picture if you don't want to see it. Otherwise, just the usual minor spoilers are after the jump.

Monday, August 18, 2014

One Week Ramblings: The Actual Church of Barakamon

I've been very enthusiastic blogging about Barakamon, one of the best shows this season and definitely the one I would most readily recommend to anyone. One of the reasons why I love this show so much is how it presents Christian values in every episode--it's what I'm blogging about it, after all--which I had thought at first to be incidental rather than intentional, like most cases of Christian values I find in anime. However, these Christian values might not be as incidental as I thought.

While it was probably mentioned before, episode 7 of Barakamon confirms that the show takes place on the Gotou Islands off of Nagasaki. And if you read the Wikipedia entry I just linked to, particularly the Demographics section, you'll find out, as I did, that the people of the islands are descended from a Christian sect that escaped there during the persecution of Christians in the 1600s, and that there are many Catholics and Catholic churches on the islands, making it one of the most notable Christian communities in Japan. This is especially notable given that Japan has a very small Christian population, at supposedly less than 1% of the entire population--in anime, this means that very few anime are actually about Christians and Christian values; as I mentioned before, most cases of Christian values in anime are completely incidental.

Now, I cannot say for sure that the author of Barakamon is intentionally drawing on Christian values, or that the characters living on the island are Christians; nothing directly related to Christianity is shown, outside a picture of a cathedral as one of the tourist spots one of Seishuu's off-island friends wants to visit. Nevertheless, it is very clear that the people of the island live according to Christian values, in their sense of hospitality, grace, and overall friendliness, and knowing the Christian background of the islands, it now makes much more sense that their culture is steeped in those values, regardless of their actual beliefs.

All this is to say that Barakamon is probably the closest thing to an actual Christian anime airing on TV in a long time. Christian anime fans like myself who are long used to having to find redeeming values in a definitively non-Christian field of media should be glad to know that there is at least one major series for which the Christian faith is, if not a core part of the show, at least a significant factor in it. It certainly has given me a new appreciation for what was already one of my favorite shows of the season.


News Briefs:

Lots of anime movies have their Blu-ray and DVD listings solicited.

Two Studio Ghibli favorites are appearing on Blu-ray for the first time: Kiki's Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke. In addition, Hayao Miyazaki's most recent (and probably last) work, The Wind Rises, is now available for pre-order on Blu-ray and DVD.

In addition, Patema Inverted and Welcome to the Space Show are also available for pre-order on Blu-ray and DVD.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Barakamon, Eps. 5-6: Past Victory

As I continue my biweekly coverage of this show, I am glad to see other bloggers covering this excellent show. If you have not yet already, do check out D.M. Dutcher's post on how the people of the island can represent what the Christian Church should be like. I would also highly recommend checking out Takaii's continuing coverage of the show at Random Curiosity.

Special thanks to Random Curiosity for the Barakamon screencaps. Have a delicious oyster shell as thanks!
Of course, I am still covering this show as part of my YamaHanaBara series. In these episodes, our exiled calligrapher Seishuu Handa has had plenty of time to get accustomed to the ways of the island. Can he show some of his old friends and calligraphy acquaintances how he has grown when they visit? I probably don't need to say it at this point anymore, but expect minor spoilers after the jump.