Chasing You, Chasing Me: The Heart of Run with the Wind | OWLS “Masculinity”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” For the OWLS blog tour’s fourth monthly topic of 2019, “Masculinity,” I’ll actually be following up to my review of Run with the Wind, dedicating this entire post to highlight the key player on the Kansei Track Team, Haiji Kiyose (because, you know, he’s that great.) If you’d like a proper introduction to the series, you can check out my spoiler-free review right here!

Last month, we explored the meanings behind the terms “feminine” and “feminism.” This month, the OWLS bloggers will explore the concept of masculinity. We each have our own definition of what it means to be masculine and we will explore our definitions using “masculine” characters from various pop culture fandoms. We will discuss how these characters are “masculine” or show signs of a masculine persona. We will also share our personal stories about the amazing men that supported us in our lives, as well as share some of our experiences growing up as a man or knowing men who struggled with the masculine identity.

If you were hoping for a follow-up to my March “Feminine” post on the brave women of Space Battleship Yamato (this time examining the male leads), fear not! I’ve got a couple more Yamato-related posts loaded in the dock just itchin’ to be written. Thanks Lyn for another tricky and engaging prompt to write for!

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A brief spoiler-free discussion on the male characters of the 23-episode fall 2018 anime “Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru (Kazetsuyo)” or “Run with the Wind,” animated by Production I.G, directed by Kazuya Nomura, and based on the novel of the same name by Shion Miura.

Welcome to the Kansei Track Team Aotake!

In case you need a refresher, Run with the Wind is about ten college guys who are roped into joining their university’s track team by Haiji Kiyose, their dorm’s lead resident assistant of sorts, and the antics that ensue with Haiji’s rigorous training regiment. What are they training for? Why, only one of the most prestigious university races in all of Japan: the Hakone Ekiden marathon.

We follow the majority of the story through Kakeru Kurahara, a college freshman who, after hitting a low point in his life and stealing food from a convenience store, is taken in by Haiji and the Aotake family. But while Kakeru’s hotheadedness and ex-track star status work well enough for him, aside from Haiji, the rest of the guys are complete novices.

Through hard work, butting heads, and lots and lots of running, each of the Kansei Track Team members eventually confront what running means to them as they aim for the top—the steepest mountains in the world. 

haiji headshot

What Does it Take to Break the Silence? – A look at Haiji Kiyose

Before I get ahead of myself, I want to share with you one of the most powerful quotes in the entire show and what prompted me to write a post solely about Haiji:

No one here is running half-assed. Why won’t you try to acknowledge that everyone’s trying their best? 

Is it because they’re slower than you? Is speed all that matters to you?

Then there’s no reason to run.

Ride a bullet train. 

Ride a plane. 

They’re faster.

WAKE UP, Kakeru.

It’s not enough to just chase speed. 

It’s . . . futile . . . 

— Haiji Kiyose to Kakeru Kurahara

I remember having to hit the pause button for just a second after hearing Toshiyuki Toyonaga (Haiji’s VA) plow through this painful line. To see someone so generally happy-go-lucky become so worked-up and defensive. What Haiji speaks, however, is the undeniable truth: there is no practical reason to run. Whether a car, a bike, or the city bus, all of these options are much quicker than running if speed is your only goal.

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But it’s through this tunnel vision that Kakeru initially perceives the world. And this is also why Kakeru fails to get along with the other guys, especially Haiji. In this pinnacle moment though, the words finally cut through to him.

Haiji’s a tricky guy to pin down. He’s both kind and wicked, unreasonable and unreadable almost 100% of the time, much like a Magic 8-ball that never spits out what you want to hear and asks you to do the impossible when it feels like it. (Huh, do they still make those things?)

As such, he’s frustrating to get along with, and I think it’s largely because he doesn’t follow the “stereotype” for a masculine leader. Haiji’s strong, but more in an introverted, persevering way as opposed to your typical energetic and extroverted team captain. Behind the scenes, Haiji’s always calmly and collectively analyzing the shape of his men, both physically and emotionally. If something’s wrong with their bodies, he makes adjustments to their training and diet, simple as that. But when he notices that someone is anxious, depressed, or occupied with other thoughts, he doesn’t try to be overbearing and shoulder the heavy burden of “curing” their mental health. Instead . . .

Haiji sits down with them. He talks and offers what support he can, but most importantly, he’s just there for them when they need someone, and that speaks volumes about his character. I think it’s about time we start seeing male characters in sports anime break the silence on what it truly means to support others—because psychological support is just as important as physical ailment, and Haiji breaks away from the mold by finding the validity in simply “being there” for people when they are feeling down.

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To Haiji, dreams aren’t something to look down upon, even if they require the pursuers to look up towards something, in this case the pursuers being the Kansei Track Team and the dream being the Hakone Ekiden. Haiji also firmly believes in the collaborative benefits of teamwork—it’s either we’re all in, or we make changes such that everyone feels comfortable—and that’s a HUGE ideal not only for a “man” to stand up for, but for a man amongst other men.

Thankfully, the Aotake guys take Haiji’s wisdom to heart, culminating in many emotionally-driven, eye-opening experiences like the heart-to-heart with Kakeru quoted above. Haiji’s charisma fuels their motivational drive to improve themselves, and his dream of running in the Hakone Ekiden quickly becomes a goal within reach because of their combined efforts.

Of course, personal sacrifices of any kind must be made to achieve one’s goals. With the deterioration of his knee, Haiji walks (or runs, rather) on thin ice, risking permanently crippling his leg just so that he can discover his own reasons for running. And at last, he finds that in Kakeru, whom he decides to chase after as if every day were his last. Little does he know, Kakeru was chasing after him the entire time.

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But when the day finally comes, all Haiji can do is break down in tears of bittersweet joy, sorrow, and satisfaction knowing that he gave it his absolute all to achieve his biggest dream in life—and with irreplaceable friends that mean far more than any mere medal or trophy. What effort Haiji gives is unbelievable, but what he gets back is even more amazing.

Looking back on this extraordinary journey, we see that Haiji Kiyose was the heart of Run with the Wind all along: a character so charismatic, wholesome, and inspiring that he was able to join the lives of ten men together just to create one precious, finite moment, then guide them back onto their own paths more motivated than ever before.

haiji seeing kakeru

Beyond Masculinity: Not as Tough as We Seem

There’s a preconceived notion that in adverse situations, men should just “tough it out” by themselves and wipe off the dirt. But that’s not what Run with the Wind tells us. Instead, it shows that as strong as men—as strong as people—try to be, we’re not all as tough as we seem. Together, however, we can inspire and push each other to accomplish everything that we couldn’t do alone, and that seemingly small sentiment echoes loudly and proudly in the hearts of Kazetsuyo‘s characters, one Haiji Kiyose leading this inspirational movement.

That’s right, men can be:

Sensitive to others’ feelings,

Responsive to the needs of a friend,

Doubtful of their own strengths, 

Dreamers who are still looking for reason, and 

Individuals that chase after others when they’re lost or confused. 

And when we finally decide to confront this reality—that we’re not only different, but also perhaps not all that “tough” as society makes us out to be—maybe then we can stop moving against our feelings and at last experience the joy and freedom of running with them. That’s just what Haiji did, and look at the lives he transformed—as well as the incredible breadth of emotions he made us feel. 

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Tomorrow, the day after, and the day after that . . . What you need to do won’t ever change. Reality will always be there in front of you. So instead of running from it, why not try running with reality? — Haiji Kiyose


Afterword

I’ve gone on at length about this series now in TWO posts, and would you believe me if I said a THIRD was on the way!? I’d like to use what extra notes I took over the series to make one more post about Run with the Wind‘s other characters (cause you know, they all ROCK). If you’re interested in hearing more about the Aotake guys, then I’d be happy to deliver! As for this post, I’ve never done something this “preachy” before, haha, so I’d love to hear what you thought about it or the show in the comments.

Funny story, this was initially to be about ALL of the boys, but it ended up being way too long. So I cut it down to Haiji, Kakeru, and Prince, only to find myself writing well over 1,000 words on Haiji alone. That’s when I thought, “Hey, what’s wrong with a Haiji-exclusive post?” And you know what, there’s nothing wrong with a post all about this wonderful boy. So here it is, I hope you enjoyed it (as spoiler-free as I could make it)!

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This concludes my April 13th entry in the OWLS “Masculinity” blog tour. The lovely and eloquent Irina (I Drink and Watch Anime) went right before me with a post on Natsume’s Book of Friends (imagine that!) that you can check out right here! Now, once again, look out for my good friend Crimson (Read at Night) this coming Monday, April 15th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Run with the Wind: Wholesome, Heartfelt, & Inspiring Every Step of the Race | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 23-episode fall 2018 anime “Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru (Kazetsuyo)” or “Run with the Wind,” animated by Production I.G, directed by Kazuya Nomura, and based on the novel of the same name by Shion Miura. 

kazetsuyo line up


“Hey, Do You Like Running?”

Kakeru Kurahara has hit a low point in his life. Once a former elite runner at high school, the young college freshman finds himself alone, lost, and starving. While being chased for stealing food one night, he runs by Kansei University student Haiji Kiyose. Haiji  saves Kakeru and persuades him to live in the old dilapidated “Chikuseisou,” or more fondly “Aotake,” apartment building.

Unbeknownst to the other Aotake residents, Haiji’s spent the last four years of his college career carefully crafting and assembling the “perfect” team so that they can all enter the Hakone Ekiden Marathon, one of the most prominent and prestigious university races in the nation. Kakeru just so happens to be his number ten. Now realizing that they were all deceived, the guys are understandably left speechless with confusion and rage. But even more shocking is when Kakeru quickly finds out that aside from Haiji and himself, all of his new roommates are complete novices.

An air of reluctance hangs over Aotake for a while, but eventually everybody comes around (some definitely more optimistic than others). Slowly but surely, this oddball mash-up of personalities matures into a humble and inspirational group worthy of the name “Kansei University Track Team.” They train hard and work tirelessly to reconfigure their individual lifestyles, and as the fated day of the Hakone Ekiden draws nearer, the boys hope to answer the question lying at the bottom of each of their hearts: What does running mean to me?

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As one can imagine, getting the entire crew on board with Haiji’s wish isn’t as simple as just “learning how to run.” These guys have their own troubles to worry about, be it job hunting, maintaining a social life, or figuring out what to do after college. But oh man, the dude doesn’t back down! (Haiji’s a terrible person, yet it’s actually hilarious and kinda charming??) I had so much fun looking forward to each week’s episode and seeing what new evil thing Haiji would cook up to torture the guys.

But through their communal living experience and Haiji’s agenda—which includes torturous practices, rigorous diet reconstructing, bath house relaxation, and endless hours of running—the lives of ten young men slowly intertwine as they bond together.

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Realism, Recourse, and Reinvention

As a sports anime, Run with the Wind breaks away from the pack by building a story around a group of guys who, for the most part, have no interest in the titular sport. Some even detest running, and the tensions formed through these clashing viewpoints and personalities result in quite the compelling drama. Add in individual character motives grounded in realism and you’ve got the perfect formula for a story with even more motivational pathos than your average Joe sports anime (and one that’s five times better, might I add).

At first, each of Kazetsuyo boys takes running at their own pace, the fast ones (namely Kakeru) leaving the slackers (like Prince) in the dust. While the more resilient guys use the sport as a means to confront personal troubles, others take running as a chance for reinvention—an opportunity to better one’s physical and psychological health. One guy, Nico-chan, takes a complete 360 and decides to both quit smoking and lose weight! Another guy, Prince, surrenders to running not because he likes it, but because he’d detest himself even more if he didn’t get out and try it. That’s some powerful writing, and I’m barely scraping the top of the iceberg here.

Anime has gotten a mixed rep for how it handles issues like weight loss and self-worth. In most sports anime, our cast is already pretty fit and motivated; perhaps the leads are just searching for how to take down their foes and rivals and rise to the top. But for every single one of the Kazetsuyo boys, they themselves are their own enemy. We have characters screaming how much they HATE running, not love it. How much they HATE themselves for the way they are, not celebrating the things they are good at.

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And that’s why these ten men need each other—to acknowledge and accept one another’s flaws and say “Hey, let’s work on improving that together.” Kazetsuyo is FULL of these kinds of raw emotional moments, and you can bet these were the ones that made me tear up most while watching. I don’t think the anime community has realized how truly important it is to have a show like Run with the Wind representing the sports genre.


I’m not sure if these people are my friends or not, but at the very least, they recognize me, my ideas, and my worth. Among them, there is no high or low level. The only thing that matters is who we are! — Kashiwazaki Akane AKA Prince


Celebrate the victories, but never forget the losses. As I’m sure anyone else who watched the series figured out, Run with the Wind was never about winning. Rather, it was about finding purpose in the things you do, and moving forward only when you’re 100% ready. It’s a story about us, the norm, not the exception.

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My NEW Favorite Production I.G Sports Anime

Production I.G has this thing with their sports anime where they like to reuse some of the same exact scenes ad nauseam for emotional impact and thematic consistency (love ’em both, but see Haikyuu!! and Welcome to the Ballroom). For Run with the Wind, it was the first episode’s “Do you like running?” bike scene, and thankfully they stopped shoving it in our faces around the second half to replace it with symbolic animation of Haiji chasing a glowing Kakeru.

Not only was I glad they made this switch, but it established a powerful positioning of characters and a nice check for how they evolve over the series. In their minds, Kakeru and Haiji were constantly chasing after one another, and the spatial light show really shines as an iconic duality unique only to this series.

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Speaking of beautiful directing, Run with the Wind features stunning landscape shots, whether a chill rainy morning in the park, the blazing sunset against the Hakone mountains, or a quiet night in the city under a blanket of stars. Particularly, the emphasis on changing seasons creates such a mood fit for the show. The scenic framing leaves you stunned speechless, and as our all-star team stands side-by-side gazing out at the countryside view, you’re left not with words, but with feelings. Inspiration. Passion. A breath of fresh air. Nature. Life. Taking it all in, and letting it all out.

kazetsuyo sillhouette

The track races are also animated with intense energy and vigorous movement. Production I.G pours a lot of time crafting its breathtaking still-frames, but you can tell the animation budget was reserved for the Ekiden race itself, which encompasses the entire finale, a mammoth five episodes of constant motion.

Subtle shifts in character postures and habits (like Prince’s god-awful running form, Nico-chan’s thinner body, and the way Kakeru slowly moves closer to his teammates during practice and starts to crack a confident smile here and there) also lend themselves as a great source of characterization, to which I.G delivers without fail. Best of all, the animation syncs astonishingly well with the real force driving this show: the beat of Yuki Hayashi’s soundtrack.

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Chill Vibes, Heart-Pounding Winds

I’m honestly not sure what more I can say about Yuki Hayashi at this point. You’d all probably know that he’s my favorite composer for anime. The entire soundtrack Hayashi has put together for Kazetsuyo is by far one of his most emotionally resonant ones. His slow piano tracks transcend into harmonious ballads once you add in the glorious vocals and his signature soaring string melodies. It’s lengthy and intense build-up, but oh-so satisfying pay-off each and every time, much like the story itself.

For more subtle moments, Hayashi sticks to playful jazz-like guitar plucking and simple percussion for accompaniment. I have a playlist on my iPhone labeled “Vibes” (no joke), and literally half the OST is on it to inspire me when I need it.

Above all, the main theme of the series is by far the most positively-charged anthem I’ve ever heard in an anime—and it kicks in RIGHT when it needs to every single time. Even now, just listening to that piece brings happy tears to my eyes as I remember the spirited efforts of this underdog team, the trials and tribulations they had to overcome to get as far as they did. Through his ascending melodic lines, Hayashi is able to paint the picture of a runner on a dewy, drizzly spring morning, the sun just barely peaking through the city skyscrapers . . . Clearly, he was meant to write the music for this series, and I know only he could’ve made each uplifting moment so raw and powerful.

kazetsuyo cheering

And if you didn’t think it could get any better, Run with the Wind was BLESSED with four equally exciting and motivational OP and ED themes! Fan-favorite UNISON SQUARE GARDEN starts us off on a high note, while Q-MHz feat. Mitsuhiro Hidaka (aka SKY-HI) follows it with a pumped-up OP worthy of the show’s second half.

The real gems here, however, are Taichi Mukai’s ED themes. “Reset,” the first (and my fave of them all) focuses on Haiji and really suits the tranquility of a misty morning run. And whereas the first is all about the individual spirit, “Michi,” the second, ties the entire series together with feelings of celebration, family, and at last, freedom.

(Special shoutout to Toshiyuki Toyonaga who makes Haiji’s lines flow out so naturally. It was dialogue unlike anything I’ve ever heard from observing a Japanese dub, and Toyonaga is just, AGH, so perfect!)

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Against the Flow

Run with the Wind could have been a very simple anime. It could have just been a fun comedy shounen series with sports as the subject and winning as the goal. But it didn’t do that—it became something so, so much more. Drama anime usually revolve around unique circumstances, over-the-top twists, and a focus on “How shocking” as opposed to “How painfully relatable.” And yet here we are with a sports drama series that excels at everything it sets out to do and then some with delicacy and honesty. Every single leg of this well-written, 23-episode-long circuit remains simultaneously down-to-earth and extraordinarily heartfelt.

This anime is so much more than a simple sports comedy series. It’s the greatest feel-good story I have become this fond of in quite some time, and rooting for these goofy guys for over half a year was easily one of the greatest pastimes I could ask for. I fell completely in love with the cast and the music, plus it’s incredibly well-written and well-paced. For comparison, while I fell head-over-heels for the Haikyuu!! cast, I felt for the Kazetsuyo characters.

Every step of this journey felt sincere and wholesome, and I absolutely enjoyed laughing with the Aotake guys just as much as I did crying with them. Whether you’re a fan of sports anime or not, a genuinely passionate and realistic series like Run with the Wind isn’t the kind that comes often—so don’t miss it. Otherwise, you’ll be sleeping on what is perhaps one of the best anime to come out in years.

In Kazetsuyo, complex feelings and conflicting agendas clash both on the track and off it. We learn that not everyone will want to support your endeavors in life—some individuals would dare to directly oppose you, in fact. But sometimes, in the long-winded process of finding ourselves, we have to go against the flow to truly run freely with the wind. Just like the Kansei Track Team, we have to be willing to shout “We are here. We are running. And we are aiming for the top no matter what you do or say about it!”

kazetsuyo mountains.jpg

The mountains of Hakone are . . . the steepest in the world! — Haiji Kiyose (The Kansei Track Team Motto)


Afterword

For one of the most painfully realistic yet wholesome anime I’ve ever seen, Run with the Wind is without a doubt worthy of the house “Caffe Mocha” title. Winning a solid 10/10 from me (as well as my heart), I’m happy and proud to honor Run with the Wind as one of my favorite anime of all time. Every chord it struck resonated with me so hard, and the ending is just made me melt with happiness.

That said, I don’t believe the series is perfect; I mean, anything could use some sort of improvement. But the point I wanted to make with this post was that none of the faults bothered me enough to seriously stick out. Heck, I would’ve loved to learn more about the other guys besides Haiji and Kakeru (like Yuki, or Musa), but I simply can’t complain with what we got. Watching Kakeru grow from an angsty, easily set-off teenage firecracker into a helpful and considerate team player was really something special.

Man, I enjoyed this emotionally-charged journey so much! I’m really going to miss these idiots. I’ll miss Aotake. So much character, so much heart.

kazetsuyo running away

Whew, this review has turned into me gushing over Kazetsuyo for 2,000+ words, but I guess it can’t be helped, hahaha! What did you think of Run with the Wind? Did it grab at your heartstrings as much as it did me, or did you find other areas of the series to be critical of? I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts, so please, share to your hearts content! That’ll be it for me, but before I leave, tell me . . .

“The mountains of Hakone are?”

– Takuto

It’s Been 3 Months – How Am I Doing? | Quarterly Update (Spring)

Hello all!

Longtime cafe-goers might remember when I used to post monthly updates. I stopped doing this late 2017 I believe because it had reached a point where I was posting more updates than actual quality blog posts. That’s why for 2018 I did a “reflection on my watch log,” which essentially was just a quick read-off of everything I watched that year. Not the best for sharing my thoughts, but for efficiency, it gets the job done well enough.

That’s when I thought, hey, until I start posting more, I should just do quarterly updates, and WAH, here we are!

Back in January, I posted five blog goals for 2019 that wanted to achieve. It’s been three months—how am I doing in keeping up with those goals so far? This is the quarterly update!

Goal Reflection


#1 – Read More Posts

Alright, so I have been using the WP reader more frequently. But it’s still not at the level that I want to be keeping up with you all. Part of this conflicts with my need to accomplish goal #3, but yeah, I’ll try harder.  >.<

#2 – Write More Succinct Reviews

Ok, so the first couple posts were, in fact, shorter (which I consider less than 1,500 words). While I’m starting to slowly creep back up to that hefty 1,700 count, a part of me is just like, who cares though? I’m definitely one to not leave any stone unturned in my reviews, so why should I try to limit myself? Well, oddly enough, I generally feel more proud of my shorter posts for some reason. Additionally, let’s face it: more people read shorter posts. I’ll do what I can to keep my writing more succinct, but if I start sliding up there again, I hope you’ll understand it’s because there must be something in the post that I’m passionate about!

#3 – Post More Often

YES, I actually have written more posts, wahoooo! At my lowest point in 2018, it was 1-2 posts per month. Thus far, I am proud to say that I wrote FIVE posts in January, FIVE posts in February, and FOUR posts in March (spring got busy, y’all). That’s a HELL of an improvement for me, and I don’t feel like slowing down anytime soon!

#4 – Bring Back Cafe Talk

I’ve tried lol. Joking aside, I’ve only done one cafe talk (which was well-received, thank you very much for participating in the conversation). I think the reason I keep hesitating on writing them because of #2 here—I’m a very wordy person, but I also like to be detailed and thorough. Naturally, this means more words, and a simple 300-word thought becomes a 1,200 word formal APA paper, Times New Roman, double-spaced (I kid, I kid, but really though, perfectionism is such a huge block for me). I’ll try harder!

#5 – Write More Haul/Collection Posts

Alright, ending on a good note! I’ve posted my Naka-Kon 2019 haul, talked with you all about my recent book store experience, and shared the biggest limited edition anime box set I own. But believe it or not, I have two other collection-related posts on the way! Given that I can’t seem to stop spending money on anime and manga (despite my lack of funds and good decision-making lol), would you be interested in monthly or seasonal hauls? Let me know, cause I can totally make that happen. 😀

What I’ve Watched


As for anime, I am currently doing my best to finish all of the seasonal stuff I started this winter, including some shows from late last year. In that effort, I just finished Cells at Work (FINALLY), Run with the Wind, and The Promised Neverland—all fantastic series, Kaze and Neverland in particular ranking as solid 10/10s in my book. Currently working on the reviews.

I haven’t taken a solid look at the spring simulcasts yet, but once I do, I’ll let you guys know what I’m watching this upcoming season as well!

In the meantime, I’ve been occupied with some throwbacks: Space Battleship Yamato (about to start 2202, so excited!), Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody (finished, but ugh, this one lmao), Fairy Tail (yeah, didn’t think I’d ever cave, yet here I am . . . maybe I’ll do a cafe talk over this experience too), and, in preparation for the spring’s most anticipated title, the early 2000s Fruits Basket. It’s one of my sister’s favorite series (go figure), but as I’m watching it for the first time, she’s re-realizing just how truly fun and heartfelt it is.

Misty Mornings & Cosplay Ventures


In addition to upgrading my shelving, I’ve also invested heavily in cosplay. Specifically, the art of cosplay armor. The dream is to be able to don Eugeo’s entire Integrity Knight armor set come next Naka, but we’ll see. From EVA foam to buying a heat gun and contact cement, I think I’m finally ready to start applying the countless hours of YouTube cosplay armor tutorials to my own craft. Although I may hold off on going all-out till summer rolls around, don’t be surprised if I cheat and start a little early. 😉

(Also, should I start an Insta for all my cosplay and collection-related musings? Let me know your thoughts if you use that platform.)

And that’s just about everything I’ve been up to! Spring weather is slowly crawling in, bringing in occasional rain showers at night and a chilly mist in the morning. In other words, the best kind of weather. If only the rain lasted a bit longer.

Anyway, thanks so much for reading what I’ve been up to for the past couple months. I’ve got a lot more coming—if only I could sit down and plow through writing the reviews that have stacked up since late February! Feel free to share any thoughts you have on this post in the comments, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Naka-Kon 2019 Experience + Haul!

Hello all!

Apologies for dropping off the face of WP suddenly for two weeks. School’s been kicking my butt (and I had been doing so well blog-wise, uff). But before school got out of hand, I went to Naka-Kon 2019 over spring break, making it my 5th year at the con!

I love Naka. I love the guests they bring in, I love the size (it’s a smaller con, but just big enough to not be able to attend everything if you catch my drift), I love perusing the vendor hall and the artist alley, I love all the wonderful cosplay spirit, and I love staying at the convention center’s hotel. It’s awesome, and it’s perfect for me and my family.

Getting out of town and escaping into the city for three days for Naka-Kon is like a spiritual revival of sorts. I come back to my room with new things to hang up that’ll inspire me to watch more anime and become more productive with my blogging. Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to spend my spring break.


Meeting the Voice Behind the Mic!

This year was particularly great because it was super chill. Much more casual than the usual panic of making sure I attend panels and lines at the right time and such. The big reason for the relaxed tempo this time around was because there weren’t as many voice actors that I felt I absolutely had to meet.

Don’t get me wrong—I definitely went to all of the VA panels that I could, and I will continue to do so until I get sick of them (probably never tbh), but there’s a difference between being compelled to stand in an hour long line (alone away as my family are off doing literally anything that’s more exciting than standing ’till my legs go numb) versus just sitting down and listening to them for a bit.

But I did stand in a couple lines this year! In addition to sitting in on his YT panel, I got to meet the incredibly hilarious Alejandro Saab in the flesh! He was such a kind dude, and unlike the people in front of me who were in and out in 10 seconds, he spend what felt like an entire minute just chatting with me about creativity, motivation, business, anime licencing (regarding The Royal Tutor film) and life in general. (Plus he said he recognized my Danganronpa Komaeda cosplay after we took a picture together!)

Alejandro was well-informed about the characters he voiced (Haruto from A Sister’s All You Need, Prince Leonhard from The Royal Tutor) and was excited to impart his thoughts, which surprised me given that some VAs that I’ve met keep things pretty succinct (and understandably so). Such a generous guy. A positive experience all-around! ^ . ^

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The other actor I met was Jad Saxton, a big name on the dubbing scene and an incredibly sweet person in real life! My meeting with Jad went by a lot quicker, but like Saab she was overjoyed to tell me about the roles I approached her for, particularly Faris in Steins;Gate (which we talked about returning for the much darker Steins;Gate 0 and the simultaneous joy and sorrow it brought) and my gateway role to her, Hatchin in Michiko & Hatchin. Other favorite roles include Sena in Haganai, Ruruka in Danganronpa 3, and Akatsuki in Log Horizion.

As a last-second comment, I wanted to express to Jad my appreciation for the Magical Girl Raising Project dub, as the casting and accents made it my favorite dub of 2018. We each shared a hearty *in a deep-south accent* “Calamity Mary!”, laughed, thanked each other, and I was off!

(My siblings also wanted to meet Miss Saxton, so I lent them something to sign in addition to their own materials. Thanks again fam!)

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Game Rooms, Quiz Shows, and the Big Schedule Conundrum 

My only big issue with this year’s Naka was the substantial number of scheduling errors and lack of communication for changed events. Some VA panels that were supposed to be on Saturday were bumped up to Friday, and we unfortunately missed them without knowing.

And it wasn’t just the times, either; panels of all varieties swapped rooms with each other unannounced, confusing and frustrating a lot of people. Unfortunately, Kara Edwards was getting over a cold, so her stuff was moved accordingly and understandably to accommodate both her health and fans wanting to meet her. But even her situation doesn’t explain why literally sooo many panels were moved around.

But surprisingly, that didn’t bother me too much. In the end, since seemingly all VA-related panels but Kristen McGuire and Jad Saxton’s ADR panel (which was quite lovely and informative!) were shuffled around, we pretty much just went to a bunch of anime quiz show sessions and played in the game room. Still, both ended up being pretty fun, and it allowed me to freely strut my cosplay and take pictures with people that asked without having to worry about time constraints.

RightStuf ran a pleasant anime quiz show through Kahoot, which allowed everyone in the room to be a player (a novel idea!). Although I’ve never participated in these game shows, perhaps I should haha! Out of three rounds with well over 60 participants each, I ended up scoring third, seventh, and fourth place, respectively. 😀 Maybe next time I’ll muster up the courage and volunteer in a less-anonymous game show.

Stuff I Bought!

So a couple VA panels, lots of gaming, and even more picture taking both with and for fellow fans and cosplayers. But what about shopping? Here’s everything I got from the vendor room and artist alley this year!

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These gorgeous Sailor Moon prints by FalseDelusion were an absolute MUST as soon as I saw them, especially the Silver Millennium piece on the left. Not only is the artistry delicate, but the combination of mediums here (hand-drawn characters and kingdom with overlaying of lighting and watercolor effects) creates a really fantastic vision of each planet. The ethereal dreaminess of the Moon Kingdom and the stormy colors used on Jupiter, planet of thunder, add so much character and dynamism.

The artist made one for each of the inner guardians, so I picked my favorites. Also, at my request, I had them signed and dated!

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The artist also had a set of small militaristic My Hero Academia prints featuring bold, bright colors with equally fierce character portraits. Since it was buy 2 get 1 free, I had to snag #bestboy as my freebie. 😉

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The other print I picked up was this adorable yet deep Princess Jellyfish illustration. I actually saw this print last year, but hesitated because I had spent too much—Not this time, though! I bought it in a heartbeat!! And I hope you can understand why. I love how the two are faced away from us, but while Tsukimi is lost in the sea of jellies, Kuranosuke’s attention is elsewhere . . .

My favorite part—the sharp white boarder framing—creates a powerful emphasis on the characters and the dreamy blue waters. In case you’re curious, the artist is Alexis Moore (alexis-moore.com or @alexisparade), and although I didn’t get to interact with her directly, I’m really happy that I was finally able to reunite with this beauty!

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Buttons, bears, and setters, oh my! Of course, it wouldn’t be Naka if I didn’t pick up a few pins for my board at home, so I grabbed up my favorite two Haikyuu!! characters as well as a Monokuma pin: a rare find IMO!

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OMG this artist. She had SO MANY OBSCURE CHARACTERS, MY HEART. It was a no-brainer to grab the Gosick and No.6 pairings (honestly, nobody does art for these characters). I was also really surprised to see the Devilman: Crybaby boys, so they came home with me too. And while I was only planning to pick up Seraph of the End‘s Mika, she jokingly convinced me that Mika and Yuu must not be separated, and I totally agree (<3). It was a 10-pins-for-$20 deal, so I picked up Yuri Katsuki and Suzaku to top my unintentionally bishounen cart.

Seriously though, I could’ve bought EVERYTHING from this lady! And she was so kind and humble :’) We joyfully exchanged our passions for some of these obscure titles and ships—easily one of my favorite interactions from the entire con!

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Onto the merch, my sister wanted a shirt, and since deals come in pairs, I grabbed more Eva goodness. I’d never seen the design for this one, and it’ll be nice to have a white anime tee to contrast my black wardrobe lol.

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Although my hunt for Danganronpa figures and clear files turned up ZILCH, I did manage to find the D3 Despair Arc wall scroll I hesitated buying last year and decided to submit. It’s a fantastic key visual featuring all my favorite Danganronpa 2 kiddos—no regrets!

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I WAS able to add another rubber strap to my arsenal, however—and it’s male Ranma, a classic favorite no less! On Sunday, my sister and I cosplayed female and male Ranma, respectively, so he was bought to commemorate this moment. :’)

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Last but not least is this gift from my brother, a chibi keychain strap of the Yamato (my latest obsession in case you missed it). What’s ultra hilarious about this gift however is the texture. She looks like hard plastic, doesn’t she? Well don’t let the packaging fool you—this keychain actually has a gel-like exterior that, when squeezed, activates a light on the wave motion cannon! #SquishyYamato has become simultaneously the worst and the best meme of our house ever since the surprising reveal. >.<

(PSA: Please check the texture of packaged keychains before buying. Otherwise you get awkward moments like this one :P)


And that about does it for Naka-Kon 2019! I’m hesitant to post cosplay pics just because, ya know, once it’s on the internet, it stays on the internet. But I’m about to the point where I’m like, screw it, it’s something I love doing, and I’m getting much better at it. So I might end up doing an entire post (or even series, who knows!) on my cosplay ventures. Only time will tell!

Overall, I had a wonderful experience—easily my most chill Naka yet—and if you see something cool above or are curious about other con-related details, leave a comment and I’ll definitely respond! Thank you to all who made Naka ’19 a great one, and we’ll see you in 2020!

– Takuto

She Flies Again! The Stellar Women of Space Battleship Yamato 2199 | OWLS “Feminine”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” For the OWLS blog tour’s third monthly topic of 2019, “Feminine,” I’ll be veering far off the path of my usual writing format to hone in on one particularly stellar aspect of this classic sci-fi remake: the incredible women aboard the Yamato and the challenges they persist ad astra per aspera, or to the stars through difficulties.

In honor of Women’s History Month, the OWLS bloggers will explore the concepts of femininity and feminism. We each have our own definition of these two terms and we will explore our definitions using “feminine” characters from various pop culture fandoms. We will discuss how these characters are “feminine” or show signs of a feminist agenda. We will also share our personal stories about the amazing women that supported us in our lives as well as sharing experiences involving women’s rights, oppression within the patriarchy, and/or issues of growing up as a woman or having a feminine persona.

Although seemingly simple, March’s theme has proven itself to be one of the trickiest ones yet. I hope you enjoy what I have to offer, and thanks again Lyn for the challenge!

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A brief, spoiler-free discussion on the female characters of the 26-episode 2012-2013 OVA series “Space Battleship Yamato 2199,” also localized as “Star Blazers 2199,” animated by Xebec and AIC, directed by Akihiro Enomoto with story by Yutaka Izubuchi, and based on the original 1970s television series created by Yoshinobu Nishizaki and Leiji Matsumoto. 

Hope Lies 148,000 Light Years Away

The year is 2199. Our once magnificent blue and green mother Earth has been reduced to a radioactive desert wasteland by unyielding attacks from the hostile aliens of planet Gamilas, her remaining population forced into underground cities. But a glimmer hope arrives in a message from a distant peace-seeking planet of Iscandar, whose queen sends along with her sympathies the blueprints to build an admirable spaceship capable of making the long trek to Iscandar and the technological device to power it. What lies on Iscandar will supposedly help clean and restore Earth to her former health.

With haste, the United Nations Cosmo Navy resurrects the long-sunken battleship Yamato by installing the mysterious Iscandarian technology to its core, transforming it into the titular vessel: the Space Battleship Yamato. Collectively placing what little faith and courage persists in the crew and its leader, the distinguished Captain Juuzou Okita, the Yamato departs Earth in the quest to receive Iscandar’s aid.

As she sails throughout space experiencing numerous technological issues and dealing with the onslaught of Gamilas fleets, the inexperienced crew of the Yamato must summon every inch of their resolve if they are to survive the storm of hardships and complete their mission: to save humanity before its estimated remaining time of 365 days expires.

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Feminist Strength Aboard the Yamato

Strength manifests in many different forms for many different people. For some, it’s physical might; others possess unwavering character and moral sets. With this post specifically, one of Yamato‘s greatest appeals is its approach to gender equality in crafting a well-rounded crew. Men and women alike share all kinds of important duties, be it navigation, operations, the fighter squadron, or the medical force.

But not all of these leading ladies got their roles handed to them—let’s take a quick look at how four of the main female characters define strength by their own values.

Lieutenant Yuki Mori

Leading with the Heart

Responding to Iscandarian expressions as if she were one of their own (or is she . . . ?), the Yamato‘s operations division head is always willing to meet discourse with a cup of tea. Literally. She feels deeply into the Iscandarian’s ultimate pursuit of life—that is, the salvation of all intelligent life in the universe—but is equally willing to stick up for her fellow comrades in arms, even when under scrutiny by said comrades for suspicious origins. Personally, I find that part to especially require guts.

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Lieutenant Mori’s approachable nature suits her well, her charm pulling in the admiration of both men and other women alike. Despite a rocky start with main character Lieutenant Susumu Kodai, we find that Yuki guides the Yamato’s course with compassion, sensitivity, and care for all life, and her ability to empathize and immediately form genuine connects with others serves Yuki as her greatest strength.

Kaoru Niimi

Willingness to Pursue Curiosity

Lieutenant Niimi is a bit of a tough nut to crack. Possessing a multi-faceted intelligence in technology and the sciences, Niimi’s many responsibilities as information chief and ship counselor kind of lie all over the ship. Although knowledge is her game, Niimi’s a dreamer. Having run the calculations herself, she sees very little chance of Earth ever rehabilitating, even with foreign aid. As a result, she finds herself drawn to stopping off at every Earth-like planet capable of sustaining life throughout their arduous journey (which, by the way, stirs a lot of good drama later down the line).

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In a way, Niimi uses her skills and impressive brain to benefit all of mankind by thinking in the long run: I mean, let’s face it, we can’t live on Earth forever, not if we keep acting the way we do. But unfortunately for her, Captain Okita and most of the crew is dead-set on reviving Earth. Her duty as the guardian for mankind’s future is a noble one, but also a very lonely one, and as frustrating as her decisions can be at times, Niimi goes beyond all of the ship’s crew in one crucial area—weaponizing her failures to fight on the side of good.

Melda Dietz

Valuing Honor in One’s Craft

Without spoiling too much about this next admirable female, Lower Storm Leader Melda Dietz does indeed fight on the side of Gamilas, but not in the way the other Gamilan soldiers do. A fighter pilot for the enemy, Dietz originally enters the Yamato as bargaining chip, but quickly becomes a wartime buddy on the front. A warrior for justice, Dietz realizes the corrupt ways of her homeland and commits herself to the side of righteousness. It’s a valiant thing to go against one’s mother country when you know it has deteriorated from what she originally stood for, and that’s what makes Melda Dietz a figure worth remembering.

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Did I also mention that of all the pilots, she’s also one of the most admirable to fly in the black abyss of space? Dietz values pride on the battlefield, as well as capability, independence, and the willingness to deter from the norm. Being bold just comes second nature to this wild red baron.

Akira Yamamoto

Embracing Diversity

Last but certainly not least is Ensign Akira Yamamoto, an often unsung heroine with arguably the biggest feminist energy going for her. Even though her elder brother fought bravely as a pilot for Earth, Yamamoto was assigned to accounting because of her status as a woman. She also suffers from occasional discrimination for being the only Martian aboard the ship. But what does she do with these differences of hers? How does she quell the warrior’s spirit residing within her?

She cuts her long silver hair, steals a fighter jet, and proves her self-worth on the battlefield. Now she’s the best fighter pilot the Yamato’s got, and nobody’s complaining. What a badass.

Yamamoto uses her rare talents to the best of her ability, not letting anyone stop her from applying her unique origin and skill set to the betterment of the entire crew. She knows she’s an exception to the rule, but she nonetheless embraces these differences as her core strengths, driving her to become a fully realized character.

Embracing her diverse nature as her greatest strength, Yamamoto transforms societal disadvantage into an inspirational force for militaristic equality. And if that’s not the feminist spirit, I’m not sure what is.

The Future Looks Bright

With all of these old sci-fi series, it’s becomes somewhat disappointing to look back and see a male-dominate crew with perhaps a few token women (usually used more for fanservice) or female nurses. But not Space Battleship Yamato 2199. The cast and crew is as expansive as the widening universe, and as we go along creating more wonderful works of fiction, our scope only becomes more diverse—our focus becomes more about real people as opposed to idealized standards. Sure, there are a few carbon copies here and there, but that only goes to show that the struggles that women face are universal issues felt by all.

The Space Battleship Yamato franchise revolves around themes of brave sacrifice, noble enemies, grandiose ideological feuds, resilience, and the respect for heroes lost on the battlefield. But it also ventures to the far edges of space to prove that no matter where you are in the universe, there will always be struggles concerning gender—and that there will always be courageous heroines out there willing to fight for our equality and our integrity.

Men read science fiction to build the future. Women don’t need to read it. They are the future. — Ray Bradbury


Afterword

There’s so much more to be said on 2199—so much so that I may make it the focus of my next OWLS post given that the theme for April just might fall under the same lines . . . ‘Till then, let’s celebrate the wonderful women of the Yamato along with the remainder of this tour!

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This concludes my March 13th entry in the OWLS “Feminine” blog tour. Kind of a shorter OWLS post from me, but I know the lovely folks running the monthly live-stream will appreciate it, haha! Aria (Animanga Spellbook) went right before me with a post on the leading ladies of Zombieland Saga, a series that from what I understand is equal parts bizarre and sheer fun—so check it out! Now, look out for my good friend Crimson (My Fujoshi Life) with a post on finding a voice in a special category of music this Saturday, March 16th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

The Biggest Anime DVD Box Set I Own: RahXephon Limited Edition | Unboxing

Hello!

I’ve got a bit of a different post today. Believe it or not, unboxing and haul posts are some of my favorite to write because once the pictures have been taken, all I have to do is write a couple sentences and upload, easy-peasy.

Specifically though, I’m writing this post because, like any well-researched collector, I wanted to know whether this was the edition of RahXephon that I wanted to buy. But when I began scouring the web for pictures of this box, I found nothing. Now, maybe someone will be able to find security and satisfaction in this A-grade product.

Because oh man, what a fantastic set this is.

I’m gonna boast for a minute here and hail the RahXephon limited edition as the biggest anime DVD box set I own. I know these kinds of box sets have been around in anime for quite some time, but this is my first foray into the classic anime collecting scene (where you’d supposedly spend $30 on a DVD containing four episodes and do this seven times until you eventually roped in all 26-odd-some episodes), so let me have this one.

I was lucky enough to buy from a seller who not only sold it for just $45, but kept it in mint condition. Seriously, this beast is IMMACULATE—and it’s over 15 years old!! Proof that there are good collectors out there who take care of their stuff. And they packaged it so nicely too, bonus points! Really happy with this find.

But you just want to see this beautiful box, don’tcha? Alright, me too, so let’s go!


(NOTE: All of these images are placed in slide shows, so you might have to change browser to view them fully.)

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Here’s the box’s exterior: the front, back, top, and sides. I love the holographic foil printing on the logo (which is consistent on EACH of the DVDs as we’ll see here in a bit. The artwork is also particularly exquisite, capturing the mysticism of the story with these divine pieces worthy of framature in any museum. It’s really cool to see all 8 of the DVD spines together as well. Each is consistently laid out and color-coded, almost as if they were meant to go together or something!

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Onto the DVD cases themselves, each one contains key art from the series on a pristine white background overlaid with that holo-foil logo. Each set matches the color dot on the spine, which is a nice touch. Also included in this set is a hefty artbook for the film, Pluralitus Concentio, which makes the 8th DVD in this complete 8-disc set.

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The backsides of each DVD maintain the same white and color-coded schema. The designers also utilized the series’ theme of music to tie in clever phrases to each progression of the plot, beginning with the prelude and ending, of course, with an encore. I LOVE IT.

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Cracking into the DVDs—if you thought this set couldn’t get any better—you will find a miniature artbook for each set. The cover and back pages have the art printed on a specialty paper with a parchment/wax-like texture, which adds to the classiness of this set. Each pamphlet includes approximately 10 pages of character information, as well as art of the various robots and Dolems that appear throughout the series.

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Want a closer look? So do I! Here’s each DVD set complete with its disc and art pamphlet, as well as the film artbook. I really like the landscape art included on the inside pages of each little book. When you think about it, I guess this is what each DVD contained when it was individually purchased back in the day.

Again, this seller kept the box and its contents in such spotless condition that it truly feels like I’m owning a product that just came hot of the press, let alone an artifact from well over a decade ago.

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So to any fellow anime collector out there looking for a proper review of this set, I hope this post helps. If anyone is wanting an even closer look than I provide here, feel free to ask me in the comments. When I was still laying out my purchase options, it came down to either the thinpack (and then I’d buy the film for a separate $10) or this mammoth set, and I’m glad I stuck with the latter.

Will I buy more boxes like this in the future? Hahaha, good question, if my shelves can support it I guess. RahXephon was a special case given that its main accessibility from a physical standpoint was this, the thinpack, or a couple other thinpack-like options. Only time will tell, I suppose.

That’s all I’ve got for this one. In case you missed it, I watched RahXephon as part of my annual V-Day marathon and enjoyed it so much I also reviewed it on my blog (which you can read right here)! I’d be delighted if you checked it out. Friends and fellow collectors, ’till next time!

– Takuto, your post

 

 

Alita: Battle Angel — A Warrior’s Tale | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 2019 American cyberpunk action film “Alita: Battle Angel,” produced by 20th Century Fox, written by James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis, directed by Robert Rodriguez, and based on the 1990s manga “Battle Angel Alita” (or “Gunmn” in Japan) by Yukito Kishiro. 

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After the Fall: An Origin Story

Still recovering from a catastrophic war referred to as “The Fall,” humanity remains determined to eke out a living on a devastated Earth in the year 2563. While scavenging the junkyard metropolis of Iron City, Dr. Dyson Ido, a renowned cyborg scientist, stumbles across a disembodied female cyborg—human brain still fully intact. Taking the remains back to his lab, Ido rebuilds the cyborg and gives her a name: “Alita.”

Although she has no recollections of her past, she is able to create new memories thanks to the doc’s healing hands. She eventually meets Hugo, a teenage boy who dreams of one day moving up to the wealthy city in the sky, Zalem. He introduces her to the competitive, cutthroat sport of Motorball, an every-man-for-himself race where cyborgs fight to the death for a chance at ascending to Zalem if victorious.

But sinister connections tie even the friendliest faces to the shadows, and as Alita quickly comes to realize that there’s no force more powerful than the game, the titular cyborg sets out to learn about her past to save the ones she loves most in the present.

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Alita: Battle Angel may be my first introduction to this much beloved franchise, but man, what solid footing director Robert Rodriguez and writer James Cameron provide for this classic origin story. Going in blind, I can already tell you that the franchise is worth the investment. This live action film, albeit a bit fast-paced, serves as a fantastic place to start if picking up four volumes of the manga just isn’t an option for whatever reason.

Admittedly, there’s some cheesy villain dialogue that sours the seriousness at times, and while I wish these lines weren’t delivered with such blatant “evilness,” the script actually feels more anime because of it. Critics may have blasted the script and the plot for their lack of ingenuity, but I—and most audiences, apparently—seemed to enjoy it regardless. Alita‘s wild betrayals and reveals may come as a shock to some; others may have seen the twists from a mile away. But if you still enjoy the story, that’s all that matters. To quote Dr. Ido:


“But that’s just a shell. It’s neither bad nor good. That part’s up to you.”


Surprisingly, the film contains includes a decent amount humor to remind you that Alita is—as much cyberization and machine-slaughter as the plot contains—a very human story. Although the environment is both visually and aesthetically astounding to take in, it’s the characters of Alita that make this powerful story of purpose and destiny resonate with newcomers and longtime fans alike.

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Alita, An All-or-Nothing Gal

From design to personality, I fell in love with Alita the moment I first saw her in the promotional trailers months back. I knew she’d be your typical brave girl fighting against the system character, but I wasn’t expecting her to be the feisty rascal kind—a delightful surprise. Brazen and bold, the girl is drawn to danger like a moth to a lamp. It’s always all or nothing with her, and Alita’s rebellious free-spirited nature makes her a refreshing heroine to cheer for—even if her recklessness tosses her down the rabbit hole more than a few times.

Did I mention that Rosa Salazar is freakin’ OUTSTANDING as the titular role? Cause she’s absolutely phenomenal, able to communicate to the audience that she struggles with fighting this world’s injustice, but is always eager to learn something new. Salazar’s gradual transformation from fluffy, chocolate-loving teenager to hardcore warrior is impressive to behold. Every second Salazar is on screen feels genuine. Through this loss of innocence, she doesn’t let the emotions hold back (even during the tender moments). If she induces a tear in your eye as you watch, I’m not sorry. She’s that awesome.

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The rest of the cast deserves a round of applause too, especially Christoph Waltz’s portrayal of Dr. Ido for making him this benevolent yet fascinating foster figure. What a dad. (And bless his aide, Gerhad, whose mere presence provides enough support for Alita.) The same glowing things could be said about Keean Johnson’s semi-dreamy Hugo, the junk dealer.

As for the villains, Mahershala Ali’s acting is perfect for the intimidating “king” of Iron City, Vector, but his character’s status(es) needed stronger clarification, as I didn’t even realize what his roles were until halfway into the film. Same for Jennifer Connelly’s Dr. Chiren, a somewhat frustrating character given her circumstantial duality.

And NO, the large CG-altered eyes don’t detract from the narrative one bit. After five minutes, they just became part of her charm, and I didn’t even realize it afterwards.

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Motorball & The World Below

Between the numerous sci-fi action sequences and the stunningly brutal sport of Motorball, Alita is a visual feast. Whether fighting in back-alley slums, the dark sewers below, or on the exhilarating race track surrounded by stadium lights and roaring cheers, there’s never a dull moment in this film. And Motorball though, WOW, one of the franchise’s biggest spectacles is brought to life through stellar visual effects and cyborg goodness to make any sci-fi junkie drool just watching.

Alita also does something really neat with visual lighting. The film begins in the rustic, sunlit scrapyard, which transitions to an even brighter, cheerier atmosphere when Alita meets Hugo. But when rain begins to fall, the dark and dreary cityscape—lit only by holographic street signs and neon lights—emphasizes the literal night journey Alita embarks on. Once she uncovers the truth, light returns as she confronts Vector and his pawn Grewishka to finally deliver justice.

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From the intricate and gorgeous detailing of Alita’s cybernetic body to the remarkably thrilling fights, the attention to detail in crafting this postwar cyberpunk world is on a level of its own. If this isn’t a faithful adaptation of the manga, I cannot even begin to imagine what greatness Yukito Kishiro’s original story contains.

No great sci-fi movie is complete without an equally epic score, to which Tom Holkenborg overwhelmingly pulls through. Between the strong symphonic opening in “Discovery” and “Motorball” busting through the gates with its powerful rhythmic tribal drumming, the harmonic balance between strings and dubstep is just right. For the credits, Dua Lipa’s “Swan Song” also ties in well as a piece addressing social injustice and change. Thank god for Apple Music, because I’ll be listening to this soundtrack for weeks to come.

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But Will it be Enough?

With so many moments where you just want to pump your fists in the air and cheer, Alita does everything it needs to do to be a great movie. Gripping, emotional, heartfelt even, but will it be enough? Will this be the last we hear of Alita and company on U.S. theater screens, or will Rodriguez and Cameron’s efforts be enough to finally end the trend of live-action anime adaptations being one-off movies?

Either way, I support everything this film tried to accomplish and then some—heck, I went to the theaters twice, and totally would’ve gone a third if my schedule wasn’t so busy as is. Beyond the issues of faithful source reconstruction or the present lack of a thorough conclusion, all I wanted from Alita: Battle Angel was an entertaining film that holds on its own—and boy does Alita stand proud and tall.

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I do not stand by in the presence of evil. — Alita


Afterword

Oh man, such a GOOD MOVIE my friends!! Job well done to the cast and crew for sure, as this is already a good contender for my favorite non-anime film of the year. Whether in theaters or on your home screen in the near future, I hope you got (or eventually get) a chance to watch it, cause Alita‘s not one to miss. They did this one right, holy shit.

I don’t really ever review live action films, but for Alita’s charm, I’ll make an exception. 2019’s Alita: Battle Angel is certified “Cake” here at the cafe, and should we ever see a sequel, there’s a solid chance I’d bump this one up to a “Caffe Mocha,” without a doubt! Guys, let me know your thoughts about this kickass LA-anime-done-right down in the comments, be it your praises or your criticisms, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host