Friday, February 28, 2014

Kin'youbi Mosaic: 2/28/14 Attack on Boyfriend Edition

Let’s get this out of the way first: The first half of Attack on Titan is available for pre-order on Blu-ray and DVD! There are currently three versions available for pre-order: a DVD-only set retailing for $35 (Wal-mart only), a standard edition Blu-ray/DVD combo retailing at $50 (Rightstuf, Amazon), and a special Limited Edition retailing at $90 (Rightstuf, Amazon) with a variety of goodies (check the links for more). All of these will be released on June 3rd, 2014 and feature the first 13 episodes, including an English dub (plus the usual Japanese with English subtitles).
 
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In addition, Sentai Filmworks has released their June 2014 release slate, with all of the titles within available for pre-order on Rightstuf. It's a mix of Winter and Spring 2013 shows, plus one Fall 2012 show and even one Summer 2013. There's also one title that was only just announced as licensed earlier this week.

Amnesia and Samurai Bride are available with English dubs on Blu-ray or DVD. Available as a sub-only Blu-ray or DVD are a number of shows: Henneko: The Hentai Prince and the Stony CatLeviathan: The Last Defense (i.e. Zettai Bouei Leviatan), and their newest acquisition, MAOYU ~ Archenemy and Hero (i.e. Maoyuu Maou Yuusha). Finally, there are two shows that are being released as sub-only DVD only (no Blu-ray): Busou Shinki and Dog and Scissors.

This means that after a short period where everything was being offered with a Blu-ray, Sentai has now essentially given themselves three tiers in which they have divided up their releases. The titles that are most likely to sell enough extra units dubbed to make up for the dub cost get dubbed Blu-rays and DVDs (it seems that shows based on otome games are big dub sellers, hence why Amnesia is getting a dub despite having a... questionable reputation otherwise). At the moment, it seems that sub-only Blu-ray and DVD is the "default" tier for most of their titles, which probably won't sell well enough to make up for a dub but should still turn out decent sales. And then, there are the titles that are so low-profile that they are not expecting much in the way of sales at all, which will end up sub-DVD only.

On a side note, it is worth noting that the MAOYU and Henneko Blu-ray releases are planned to be released as one single disc containing all 12 episodes of those shows. According to Sentai Filmworks, this is possible without any loss of quality as there is only the Japanese audio track, with no dub track. Both Amnesia and Samurai Bride, which are each 12 episodes dubbed, are still split across two discs, and Leviathan, 13 sub-only episodes, is also split across two discs. (At the very least, Japan has done this before, as an upcoming Blu-ray release of GJ-bu is going to be a single disc with all 12 episodes.)

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Here's a license announcement that will rock your nice boats: Discotek Media, of all people, has licensed, of all things, School Days. Yes, that School Days anime. If you don't know what I'm talking about, let's just say that it's based on a dating sim that has some… interesting endings. The series is planned for release on June 24th.

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I decided to pick up the currently-airing Super Sonico: The Animation, which I initially dropped after a weak first episode but decided to pick back up again after hearing some good things about it. Indeed, the second and third episodes were just okay at best, but episodes 4 and 5 were fantastic, episode 6 was pretty good, and episode 7… that episode is currently my absolute favorite single episode this season. It is pure iyashikei, right up there with shows like Aria. In fact, if you like shows like Aria at all, I definitely recommend at the very least watching episode 7--there's no real need to watch any previous episodes to understand it, and you certainly don't have to watch any more of it beyond the one episode.

Super Sonico can be an uneven show--Episode 8 was the weakest episode yet--but its stronger moments have managed to win me over. It's definitely one of this season's biggest surprises.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Anime Best of 2013, Part 8: Top Episodes/Moments

No need for much of an introduction here; it's simply my favorite episodes and moments of 2013. (This excludes first episodes, which I already covered in my introduction.)

Be warned, though, that this post is a major spoiler minefield! I'll be hiding most of the content behind black bars so that you can choose what you get spoiled for, but even then, proceed with caution.

A couple special guests have thrown in their tiles for this part.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Kin'youbi Mosaic Special: 2/21/14 "A Midnight Fairy Dance" Edition

It’s been a pretty light week as far as news go, so this week’s Ramblings will actually be a more dedicated one to a show I recently finished watching… a certain show called Sword Art Online. I’ll cover some quick news first, and then, I’ll move onward with a very spoiler-laden post on my opinion of the show’s two arcs.
 
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First, the news. Probably the most notable thing to talk about here is Aniplex of America’s upcoming releases of more Monogatari properties; specifically, the four-episode Nekomonogatari (Black) TV special that aired at the end of 2012, and the four-episode-plus-one-recap Nekomonogatari (White) arc that starts the Summer 2013 series known as Monogatari Series Second Season.
 
These two arcs will be released separately, with Black due on April 22nd and White on June 24th, as Blu-ray only, sub-only Limited Edition boxsets, with extra items limited to booklets, illustration cards, and the otherwise very solid-looking packaging. Black can be bought for $50, White for $60. As usual for Aniplex of America, those can seem like rather high prices considering how few episodes there are in each release—that, plus the fact that they seem to be releasing each arc individually, one can probably expect to be paying a total of about $250-$300 for all of Monogatari Series Second Season (and that’s not including Nekomonogatari (Black)). It’s certainly a steep price to pay for anime these days, and it’s ultimately up to you if it’s worthwhile… but hey, at least the damage will be spread out over a year or so.

Also available for pre-order is Haganai NEXT! I’ve brought this show up a couple of times before in my Best of 2013 posts, mainly noting that it is quite an improvement on the first season, so I am definitely looking forward to picking this one up in May.
 
Next up is my discussion of Sword Art OnlineWarning: major spoilers for Sword Art Online after the jump!

Nowhere near as good as Summer 2012's other show about fairies.

 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Anime Best of 2013, Part 7: Top Relationships

There is much more to good character writing than just the characters themselves; there is also the matter of relationships with other characters. Whether in romance, friendship, family, or as part of a larger group of nakama, good relational writing is an important part of good shows. With that said, let's start looking at some of my favorite relationships from the last year.

As before, only one entry per series per list. And while I'm sure there are plenty of great art for all of these couples, there will be no pictures in this post. If you want some pictures, check out my Tumblr, where I'll be posting some pictures of the couples and groups listed here over the next week or so. And, beware of some romantic spoilers in the Top Romantic Pairs list (though nothing too surprising).


Friday, February 14, 2014

Kin'youbi Mosaic Valentine's Day Special: Anime Couples

It's Valentine's day, the day in Japan when a girl traditionally gives out chocolates to friends, families, and of course, the guy she has her eye on. And in the US, couples do couply things. I don't have any sort of significant other and never had, though, so this holiday is pretty much useless to me. Still, in the spirit of the holiday, I thought I'd use this week's weekly ramblings to talk about some of my favorite anime couples.

Be warned that there are some spoilers in this post. There's nothing too big for three of the four shows mentioned in this post (Lovely Complex, Toradora!, Ai Yori Aoshi), as the couples involved are pretty obvious from the start, and even in the fourth show, Clannad, the couple itself is obvious, though a fairly big plot point is spoiled (it will be hidden in black).

Not one of the couples I'll be talking about, but Holo and Lawrence of Spice and Wolf are definitely another one of my favorite couples.

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The Norm-Defying Couple: Risa Koizumi & Atsushi Ohtani, Lovely Complex


She's got him completely wrapped around her, uh, arms. (Seems to be official art.)

For various reasons, the norm for romantic relationships is that the guy is taller than the girl. As a rather short guy myself, this does not bode well for my future romantic prospects. Perhaps that is why this show's story of a tall girl and a short guy that somehow find love despite going completely against their expectations strikes a chord with me.

One of the funny things about romance is how it can completely defy our expectations. Things like who is taller or shorter that initially seem like big deals suddenly stop being important in the face of genuine connection. Whereas Koizumi and Ohtani initially considered each other incompatible based on their heights, their shared interests and overall support for each other eventually causes them to fall in love.

That said, the whole "love conquers all" belief is not one I hold to personally. Things that have to do with a person's behavior, especially religion and spiritual beliefs, can affect a long-term romantic relationship much more than "the power of love" can counter it, hence why I do not believe it is a good idea for Christians to get seriously romantically involved with non-Christians. But physical things like height? The power of love trumps that easily.

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The Intimate Couple: Ryuuji Takasu & Taiga Aisaka, Toradora!

Another couple with a height disparity, but this time with the traditional genders. (Art by しろたか)

In the field of psychology, one of the models of love relationships (including non-romantic ones) is the Steinberg triangle model, in which every type of love in a relationship can be defined by the presence or lack of three elements: romantic passion, interpersonal intimacy, and raw commitment. A relationship that mainly only has passion is, for example, a short-lived romantic fling; an intimacy-only relationship describes that between platonic friends, and a commitment-only relationship can likely describe the relationship you have with that brother/sister of yours that you generally do not have anything to do with outside of family functions, but whom you'd still rush out to help if they were in trouble.

Many relationships have a combination of these elements; a standard romantic non-marriage relationship may be primarily a combination of passion and intimacy, a whirlwind courtship where two people get married without really getting to know each other combines passion and commitment (for how long, who knows), and a combination of intimacy and commitment can describe close family members, long-lasting BFF-type friendships, and longtime-married couples for whom the passion has largely died out. An "ideal" marriage relationship has all three elements. However, the presence of those elements can change over time, especially passion, which can be particularly volatile.

One can have an absolute field day evaluation relationships in anime under this model, but one particular case where this sticks out is in Toradora! Ryuuji, at the start of the show, and through much of it, is attracted to his classmate Minori; however, the two have not interacted much with each other, and his attraction to her is largely that of passion--not a particularly intense sort, but definitely based more on physical feelings than anything else. Likewise, Taiga has a mainly-physical attraction to Ryuuji's friend Kitamura. On the other hand, while Ryuuji has no romantic attraction to Taiga at first, the two start spending a lot of time together due to various circumstances, and as such they develop an intimate relationship (that also has some degree of commitment) where they support each other to such a degree that they will even prioritize each other over their crushes. It's not too surprising, then, when the two of them eventually do end up romantically involved.

Ryuuji and Taiga represent well the intimacy aspect of relationship, and how that differs from a relationship based more on simple, physical attraction. And personally, I prefer those romances that are built on genuine intimacy that comes from a guy and a girl developing a solid friendship than those that are just based on romantic feelings.

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The Devoted Couple: Kaoru Hanabishi & Aoi Sakuraba, Ai Yori Aoshi

Another traditional couple, in more ways than one.
If Ryuuji and Taiga represent the intimacy side of the Steinberg triangle, then Kaoru and Aoi of Ai Yori Aoshi represent the commitment side. Aoi in particular is almost defined by her commitment; she was betrothed to Kaoru as a child, and has under her family's yamato nadeshiko traditions prepared her entire life to be a proper wife. She did spend some time with Kaoru as a child and was definitely touched by his kindness then, but their interactions beyond that have been limited. Still, when she heard that her engagement to Kaoru had been annulled, she seeks out Kaoru herself, and from there, their actual relationship starts to develop.

In the Steinberg triangle model, in addition to the "tolerable family member" example, another example of a "commitment-only" relationship is an arranged marriage (in the many countries where this is still a common practice) where the betrothed are not particularly attracted to each other physically at first and do not have much prior interaction (hence no intimacy); in that case, "commitment only" is oftentimes simply the starting point, as the couple then develop both passion and intimacy over the course of their marriage. In fact, an interesting study has been done in India comparing the amount of romantic love a married couple has over time, and in particular, compared those couples who married for love to those in arranged marriage; the "married for love" group's romantic love levels started off high--around 70 out of 81--but dropped off sharply at around the 2-5 year mark, all the way down to 40; on the other hand, the "arranged marriage" group started off low at around 50, but that number grew over time to around 65 at the 5-10 year mark and staying around that level afterwards. Given how famous romantic love is for fizzling out once the honeymoon period is over, maybe these arranged marriage peeps are onto something in not making that factor in to marriage to start? (Well, there are other possible problems with arranged marriages, so it's best not to look into that too much…)

One way or another, there is something special about commitment in a romance. After all, the whole institution of marriage is based on commitment, not on passion or intimacy--hence, why arranged marriages are a thing. And when it comes to anime arranged marriages that aren't of the "gotta get out of this before I get married to some sleazeball" variety, they provide a great opportunity to look at how commitment can work in the background of such a relationship to develop a romance. This is definitely what's going on with Kaoru and Aoi, made even more meaningful by some of the more painful aspects of Kaoru's past that show how Aoi is the one part of his past that he is truly grateful for. All of this makes Kaoru and Aoi a favorite couple of mine and Ai Yori Aoshi a show I very much enjoyed.

I will very likely have much more to say about these two in a later post. In the meantime, if you want another show that looks at this sort of arranged marriage, why not check out the currently-airing Engaged to the Unidentified? I'll probably end up talking about both of these shows in a post that looks more at these arranged marriage relationships… and what they have to say about a Christian's relationship with God.

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The Eternal Couple: Tomoya Okazaki & Nagisa Furukawa, Clannad

Boy, do these two go through a lot to get to this point.

And finally, I have to talk about the couple from one of my favorite shows of all time, Clannad. In and of itself, there's nothing too special about this couple; they're just a cute couple that supports each other and does a lot of things together while sometimes being cutely awkward with each other. It's fairly simple but effectively endearing.

What sets this couple apart is the extent to which their story is told, namely (spoilers ahead): [the fact that they get married, and the show even goes to show some of their married life together. Whereas most anime stop either when or well before the couple ties the knot (even the "arranged marriage" ones typically focus on the engagement period), Clannad After Story goes past that point and into the characters' adult lives.] Of course, there's even more to this story, and I'm not going to spoil past that; nevertheless, this is definitely one of the definitive couples of anime.

A question for commenters: What are your favorite anime couples?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Anime Best of 2013, Part 6: Top Male Characters

So, as a straight male, I'm kind of biased. This will be evident in this list, where I have half as many entries for each category as I do for their female counterparts. Except for the "cutest males" category, which has just as many entries, because cuteness transcends gender.

That said, just because the quantity of good male characters is lower doesn't mean the quality of the characters is lacking. So let's go forth and talk about the best male characters of 2013!

Note: There will be no pictures this time around, but there'll still be links to their MAL profiles. Also, since there are fewer people involved, there will be write-ups for each entry. And as before, only one character per show per list.

"…"

Friday, February 7, 2014

Kin'youbi Mosaic Returns Again! 2/7/14 Weekly Ramblings

Oh hey, my Weekly Ramblings series is back again! Real life has been busy lately, hence the lack of updates lately, but for now, have some assorted news and ramblings.

Speaking of news, I've replaced the news feed on the side of the blog with my Twitter feed. I do reblog news on my Twitter account, so you'll still get various news, as well as various other things I tweet about. And, of course, if you have your own Twitter account, you can also click that Follow button to follow my feed on your account.

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Is This A Zombie was one of Funimation's shows that they released DVD-only at first. (The reason has to do with the distributor, Kadokawa, wanting to protect the sales of the show's Blu-rays in Japan; see my post on reverse importation for more information.) However, some time has passed since then, and now, Funimation has solicited a Blu-ray/DVD combo of the first season under its Anime Classics line. Click here to see some different places where you can buy this release.

Here are a couple of other things newly available for pre-order:

If you missed out on AnimeSols's crowdfunding project for old, classic anime, this is your chance to reap the fruits of their efforts: the first 13-episode DVD sets of Creamy Mami and Black Jack are available for pre-order. And while you're at it, why not consider helping out with the pledge drive for the final Creamy Mami set? You can even add on one of the first three sets for $40 apiece, which is cheaper than the prices for the pre-orders linked above (though you'll have to wait until set 4 ships to get them).

And following in the tradition of the first two movies, Aniplex of America is offering an import release of the third Puella Magi Madoka Magica movie. There are a couple of options here: if you just want the movie itself and don't care for the various fancy extras, you can order the standard edition Blu-ray for a relatively-reasonable-for-Aniplex-standards $55. If, on the other hand, you want such bonuses as a soundtrack CD, artbox, and booklet, plus other stuff, there's also the Limited Edition sets, available for about $95. There are a couple of different places to get the Limited Edition, each with different prices and its own additional bonus: Rightstuf (clear files w/theatrical poster art, $95), Animate (B2-size wall scroll, $98), and C&L Internet Club (key holders, $121.50).

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Curious about how well various anime are selling in Japan? This site is a site dedicated to sales data for Japanese anime DVDs and Blu-rays. The data on this site is incredibly comprehensive and goes back quite a number of years, though it is limited by the fact that it can only give data reported officially by sales-tracking company Oricon. You can check out the Sales FAQ/Guide on that site for more information.

For now, though, I'll quick-link to the average sales of all 2013 anime so far. A number of those shows, particularly those that aired during Fall, are still being released, but from there you can tell what are the big sellers in Japan. Shingeki no Kyojin is even more of a hit over there than it is here, and perhaps you might not have expected Free! and Love Live! to be such major hits.

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Crowdfunding anime is always something I like to draw attention to in these posts, and in addition to the aforementioned Anime Sols,  the latest project on this end is the movie Mai Mai Miracle, this time on Kickstarter. It definitely looks like a nice, charming movie, and it's certainly very popular, with the base $30,000 goal being met on its first day out, and the show already close to meeting the $60,000 stretch goal for an English dub. The jury is still out on what other stretch goals might appear, but this is definitely a project to be keeping an eye on.

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And in completely random news, cat cafés are coming to the US! These cafés will house adoptable cats that visitors can be in the company of.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Sakura Trick Question: Is It Good For Christians To Watch Yuri Anime?

Whoo, time for probably my most controversial post yet on this blog.

First of all, a bit of a clarification: this question isn’t really a “trick” question (I was just trying to make a pun off the anime title) in the traditional sense. That is, a traditional trick question has a seemingly obvious answer which is actually wrong; however, I have no right or wrong answer for this question, and am posing it to offer it as a point of discussion.

If there is a “trick” to this question, it’s that I did not ask “is it okay for Christians to watch yuri anime?” I think when we Christians discuss discernment in terms of media, we focus too much on whether something (R-rated movies, stories about magic, etc.) are “okay” or not. And to an extent, that is an important question to ask, too. But that question’s nature is simply one of whether a show’s value is negative or not. A show can have absolutely no value for viewing; it’s not offensive and is perfectly “safe” for Christians, but they won’t get anything from it, so what’s the point of watching it? It just feeds into the criticism of entertainment as a brainless waste of time.

In asking if it is “good” to watch something, we instead flip the perspective of the question to whether something has positive value: whether or not there is something worthwhile in spending time on something. Of course, a lot of “good” things are not “safe”, and there may be some things that are “good” in various ways that are just not “okay” for certain people, and they need to avoid it for their own growth, at least for the moment. That is something that is ultimately up to personal conviction. But if we do decide that something is “okay”, we must then decide if it is “good”.

The focus of this post will be on yuri anime—that is, anime featuring romance between two girls. In particular, I will be focusing on the currently-airing Sakura Trick, quite possibly the first “true” yuri show to come about in a while. That is, unlike shows like Yuyushiki and Kin-iro Mosaic, which hint at romantic feelings between girls strongly but avoid anything explicitly romantic, Sakura Trick is pretty clear-cut in its romance, with girls kissing each other frequently and treat each other, if not completely like girlfriend and girlfriend, then definitely as two people in a budding romance.

And what's a budding romance without some jealousy and clinginess?
Before the jump, there are some things to note. Most importantly, I am writing this from the personal belief that homosexuality is a sin, according to the Bible. And in particular, when I ask whether it is good for Christians to watch this show, I specifically mean those Christians who believe the same way. (That said, I have no hatred of gay people. I love all people regardless of who they are or what they do.) That said, I welcome those who do not believe the same to keep reading and participate in this discussion from their own perspective, especially as this post will cover things about gender and relationships that are worth talking about regardless. For everyone commenting, please be respectful of others’ opinions and do not personally attack anyone, or else don't expect your opinion to be taken seriously. 

With that said, let's take a look at what value there is in a show like Sakura Trick