Bokurano: The Darkness Within Our Hearts | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 24-episode spring 2007 anime “Bokurano: Ours,” animated by Gonzo, directed by Hiroyuki Morita, and based on Mohiro Kitoh’s manga of the same name.

***MINOR SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST COUPLE EPISODES ARE PRESENT***

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How Would You Spend Your Last Day on Earth?

I’m sure you haven’t given it much thought; to which, neither have I. None of us do, and yet here’s an anime where kids are told when they will die, how they will die, and that whatever they do with their final day is up to them. There is no running away from fate, it’s do-or-die time. However, I suppose my words would have more weight if I told you why. Allow me to backtrack . . .

Fifteen children are enjoying their youth together at a summer camp. It’s sun, sea, and, what’s this? A mysterious grotto by the shore? The kids explore the creepy cave only to find a strange setup of computers and monitors, along with an even creepier old man calling himself Kokopelli. Supposedly, Kokopelli’s been developing a game, one where the players pilots a giant robot to defend Earth against 15 different alien invasions, and all he needs now is willing players to test it out. Sounds fun, I mean, what could be the harm? By individually placing their hand on a scanner, the kids complete their contract and suddenly blackout.

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They awaken back on the beach. Other than the fact that night has fallen, everything appears normal. Normal, EXCEPT for the impossibly high 500-meter-tall giant robot now towering over them! In a horrific twist of fate, the children must now take to their seats to pilot Zearth one at a time in hopes that they have the physical strength and mental fortitude it takes to defeat the bizarre enemies. But Kokopelli’s abrupt disappearance leaves the afraid and confused kids with harsh truths they must discover on their own: What exactly is Zearth, and what is the giant robot’s energy source?

Before I rip into the fantastic story of Bokurano, I wanted to address my biggest issue with the show right off the bat: the “antagonist.” Surely, even just by reading the synopsis something seems fishy. Where did Kokopelli go? Will he reappear later as the antagonist? It’s tricky for me to explain much of anything without ruining the surprise, but I can imagine that you, too, understand that there’s something else at play here. And here’s the thing: that “something” doesn’t really make much of an appearance. When director Hiroyuki Morita brought over the story from Mohiro Kitoh’s manga, even he felt that some of Bokurano was just way too damn sad (sources are all over the web confirm this).

So he changed it, and I think that the force that moves the anime along was “left behind” in the process, either because it didn’t mesh well with Morita’s new story, or that there wasn’t enough time to explain it all (as is what often happens in anime). Don’t worry, this anime adaptation is still one of the most depressing things you’ll ever watch, but if the ending feels somewhat incomplete, it’s because *frustratingly* this is not the same ending intended from the start.

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The Saddest Soldiers for the Saddest Anime Ever

Systematically, we bear witness to pilot after pilot fight their battle and depart from the scene. Where do they go, what happens to them? Ready for a dose of reality? ***SPOILERS for the first couple episodes, but they die. That’s all there is to it. There’s no glory, and no reward. Once you’ve served your purpose in prolonging the planet’s safety, no longer are you of any use to Zearth and Koemushi, a cruel and sadistic ABOMINATION whose job is to circulate this cycle of death and inevitably select the next pilot.

Each episode or two, we center our narrative focus on the next pilot chosen. From family and friends to one’s most carefully guarded secrets, we quite literally see all of it. The darkness in our hearts can seem infinitely deep, regardless of one’s age, and the fronts we put up can’t always mask it all. We see kids break, physically and emotionally, and although we know that they’ll die at the end of the episode, it can still be dramatic and utterly heartbreaking. Honestly, I wish they had more time . . . I won’t go into further details for real spoilers, but watching others suffer is . . . well, “Pain is addictive.”

Bokurano is thrilling up until the very end, even if it is hard to watch these poor kids undergo psychological torment to no end. Either it was super interesting to watch or, subconsciously, I wanted to quickly put them out of their misery, but I just could not put Bokurano down for a second.

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Oh, and be prepared to have your guesses as to who’s next get smashed, as even the seemingly “main” characters are not spared from Koemushi’s wrath.

Lost Iconography: The Circle of Chairs

A lot of early 2000s anime don’t hold up very well in today’s day. Bokurano is no exception from this. The show’s characters can look pretty rough on the eyes, and other than the robot fights, Gonzo’s animation is kept to a minimum, resulting in too many dialogue scenes and conversations that don’t seem to end. On those robot fights though, man—Bokurano’s got some of the most engaging, exciting, strange, and truly colossal mech fights that the genre has to offer! Unlike a tedious game of “My gun is bigger than your gun,” a real amount of strategy is required to pilot a robot that essentially has no controls—just your mind. Sync with Zearth, tell it what you want to do, and it will likely perform the feat even if its mechanical structure has to be reconfigured entirely. Just as how we know more about the cast as we go along, we come to see Zearth’s true range of abilities, and understand why it is able to put up such a good fight.

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I wanted to briefly mention the chairs, though. You know, that eerie circle of unique chairs inside Zearth’s pilot chamber. The chairs are how the pilots enter and exit Zearth, and without their genius iconography, works like Madoka Magica may not have that extra special “Shaft” touch. A single object or location can tell an entire story—and these chairs encompass both of those categories. Whenever I see Daiichi, Komoda, or Chizuru’s chairs, I immediately recall their struggles, their emotions, their story, which is absolutely wild given that they’re ultimately just furniture. Where do you spend most of your time sitting? How does that area represent who you are as a person?

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While the main OST doesn’t offer much in the way of me thinking, “Oh yeah, that’s Bokurano!” Chiaki Ishikawa has absolutely dominated the sound department with her amazingly addictive OP and two excellent ED themes. “Little Bird” and especially “Vermilion” are rich with a somber quality to them, but “Uninstall” ranks up there as one of my favorite OPs of all time for its epic melancholy, sorrowful lyrics, and ability to call to mind all of the beauty and tragedy in Bokurano. 

The Pain of Letting Go

Could you put enough pain on a single person to change the human heart? Short answer, yes, but the road to such change can be messy, frustrating, and completely exhausting. Bokurano‘s main interest comes from the constant curiosity of where the story is headed next. What will ultimately stick with you, however, are the hearts left behind along the way, and the stories that succumbed to tragedy—or the few that ended with a glimmer of hope.

As characters exit the stage one by one, their vacant seats are left to inspire the next chosen hero. At one point, these chairs had a warm body that sat in them, that thought about their place in the world, and that struggled to come to terms with their fate. Although its visuals are dated and some of its background plot points could’ve been fleshed out better for the finale, Bokurano still holds fast as a gem of its genre, reminding us that everyone suffers—but we that can still be saved.

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An awesome reality came to meet us from beyond. It came to laugh at how simple our existence was. Even when I covered my ears, the truth slipped through both hands and confounded me . . . I have no choice but to act as a warrior who knows no fear.—from “Uninstall,” the opening theme


Bokurano‘s been sitting on my backlog ever since I watched Evangelion, and now that I’ve FINALLY seen it, I can confidently recommend it to fans of that other popular abstract mecha anime. Their distorted premises may be different, but the stakes of the game are the same, in that a group of kids must pilot giant robots against the wrath of the heavens—or face the destruction of their world. Similarly, both stories feature a very human cast dealing with issues like depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses to sexual frustration and an inferiority complex. Both series handle these themes with extreme care and realism, which can be appreciated immensely. If it isn’t a surprise by this point, then please, let’s honor Bokurano: Ours as a “Caffe Mocha” title, a rating reserved for only the best!”

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Because of its clockwork death count and endearing participants, I found this smartly written survival game to literally be The Saddest Anime I’ve Ever Seen. Despite being full of nothing but misery and grief, the suspense of hope that releases at the very end feels immensely satisfactory. If you’re up for a bit of a psychological challenge and don’t mind a throwback, you ought to give Bokurano a try (Crunchyroll’s got it for FREE)! Already seen it? Let me know what you thought about Bokurano or this review down in the comments and we can reminisce together! Thanks for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Game of Laplace: Rampo Edogawa’s Macabre Eye-Candy Playground | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 11-episode summer 2015 anime “Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace,” animated by Lerche, directed by Seiji Kishi, and inspired by the works of author Edogawa Rampo.

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A Startling Wake-Up Call

Famous for his influence on Japanese fiction, mystery author and critic Ranpo Edogawa (romanized as Rampo) passed away a little over 50 years ago, and what a better way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death in 1965 than with a surreal mystery/horror anime loosely based on his stories? (Ya nailed it Japan.) That’s exactly what Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace is, and although this series of brutal and bizarre crimes stems from an author known to write masterpieces, this clunky anime “adaptation” comes up short in just about every gruesome case. And somehow, I still enjoyed it.

Middle school student Kobayashi is framed for murder. He awakens in his classroom to find his teacher brutally mutilated, and the murder weapon dripping with blood in his hand. Any normal kid would be freaking out by now, but Kobayashi finds himself more so curious (and secretly thrilled) about this strange attempt to frame him. Watching out for Kobayashi’s well-being, a close friend named Hashiba joins the case as a willing accomplice to help prove Kobayashi’s innocence. Also roped into solving this twisted crime is Akechi, a lazy genius high school detective who immediately sees an interesting potential in the young accused boy. Desiring nothing more than to mix up his mundane life, Kobayashi pleads to be recruited as Akechi’s assistant, to which Akechi agrees to take him on—but only if he can handle the chaos that comes with disobeying the law.

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Game of Laplace‘s characters are simply too fun for the plot’s serious overtones. As much as the series tries to be a philosophical thriller, Kobayashi’s enthusiasm and Akechi’s frank lack of care always kill the mood. When viewed as a comedy, however, this problem is less apparent (which is probably not the intent but it just fits better no matter how you look at it). Hashiba’s one-sided (and unresolved) bromance with Kobayshi only makes his reason for always being with the detectives sillier, and once little-girl-lover and phantom thief “Shadow Man” becomes a member of the main cast, any sense of seriousness goes out the window. Heck, this crook wears a freakin’ PAPER BAG over his head to protect his identity! A true master of disguise, right? How can I not laugh at his constantly-dumbfounded expression??

Although the characters give this series a few too many laughs than it probably should have, there’s still a nice balance of chemistry between them. Kobayashi fawns over Akechi’s work; Hashiba blushes and stammers whenever Kobayashi acts too girly; police officers Kagami and Nakamura respect and deeply care for each others’ well-being; and everyone, especially Akechi, hates Shadow Man. (Look no further than episode six for proof of this. Even if you don’t watch the series, this episode is worth it if you wanna kill time for some damn hilarious dialogue.) So if it’s not the characters, what makes Game of Laplace not as great as it should be?

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The Problem with Telling a Good Mystery

From what I understand, in theory, every good mystery can be solved by oneself using the clues laid out before them. All of the necessary evidence should be placed fairly before the detective (in this case the viewer), and a decent amount of time should be given before the answer is revealed. Additionally, should a certain character need to solve the case, one piece of critical evidence will be withheld until the end explanation is made. Sounds about right, doesn’t it? Well, this is where Game of Laplace struggles hard, as there’s never enough evidence (or time) to find out whodunit.

Not only that, but the criminal or mastermind at hand rarely has any time to establish themselves as a character within the work. At most, you’ll get a ” Office Secretary” or “Construction Worker B,” and then the episode will move on to have Kobayashi quickly solve the case right after Hashiba gives a sensible hypothesis. It’s just a poorly written mystery series if that is truly the main goal, which is odd given that Rampo Edogawa is so highly regarded. (I’m guessing it’s a fault with the anime, not the original author’s stories.) As a viewer, I ended up just sitting through the series with my brain turned off, and while none of the reveals were particularly shocking, at least there was a coherent, albeit weak, story that weaves together the crimes.

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Making the Most Out of a Bad Situation

As I mentioned earlier, there’s a certain standalone episode six that I recommend even if you don’t watch the series. The reason for that is simple: Funimation’s hysterical English dubbing. Quick-witted and well-voiced, the quality of acting given to such a mediocre title truly makes the most out of this not-so-hot series. While a bad dub can ruin a show, a good dub can save one, and that by far is Game of Laplace‘s most redeeming quality. Newcomer Jill Harris has proven herself on multiple occasions that she can voice a cute feminine boy (like Kobayashi) without sounding “too girlish,” and Justin Briner as this doting “boyfriend” character with Hashiba is a great match. Throw in veterans like Eric Vale for Akechi’s aggressively low voice, J. Michael Tatum’s smooth-sounding Kagami, and Sonny Strait as everyone’s least favorite bag-wearing Shadow Man and you’ve got a wonderfully solid cast!

Stuido Lerche animates the world of Game of Laplace with just as much creative pizzazz, wacky checkerboard patterns, and bright colors as they do with all their titles. Like they did with the Danganronpa 3 anime (one of my favorites), the background characters are nulled out with a single color to truly seem like “background characters.” Not my favorite visual choice, as sometimes the culprits are actually these blobs of color, causing you to be reliant on voices alone (another reason for the dub), but it does result in an interesting style. The show gets its real visual appeal and absurdity from its investigation scenes where, in a fashion similar to superior mystery title Hyouka, each breakdown of the case is done so uniquely and creatively. This helps the show stay visually entertaining, even if the plot is a little out there. Also, butterflies.

Stick to the Classics

Nearly every mystery anime I’d seen before this one was better than Game of Laplace—but not all of those shows had a cast as fun as this one was. For a 50th anniversary project, I wish they had made an adaptation for a single one of his works, not a messy conglomeration of several. The series easily could’ve been better this way, and I bet more people would’ve watched a show advertised as “Rampo Edogawa tale brought to anime” than a series loosely based on a collection of works like “The Human Chair” and “Twenty Faces.”

This is going to be one of those shows that I enjoyed, but I can guarantee that most will not. The character humor tickled me just right with Funi’s dub, and Lerche happens to be one of my favorite animation studios. In other words, this series is only recommended to those thirsting for more murder mystery anime who have already exhausted the genre’s reserves in their desperate hunt. Watch Danganronpa, Hyouka, Higurashi, Rokka—any of those anime first; as the saying goes, “Stick to the classics” (ironic, I know). Then, only once you’ve thoroughly enjoyed what the genre has to offer, come stop by the Akechi detective agency for a laugh with old Rampo Edogawa.

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The harder the game is to solve, the more fun you can have, right?—Akechi Kogorou


Afterword

Not much to say here, especially since several character backstories and relationships remain largely unresolved by the end (hang in there, Hashiba). Like, Akechi is seen crushing up and washing down these white pills with the same brand of canned coffee all the time, but we never know why he does it . . . huh. Weird.

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Still, I downed this series like a hot “Coffee” myself here at the cafe, and so you’ll have to let me know what you thought about this series or my review down in the comments! It’s nice to be back for a quick review and not just an OWLS post, am I right? Not that I dislike writing them, but it seems like that’s all I write anymore, and I’ve got to change that! Thanks for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Princess Jellyfish: Confidence, Community, & the Beauty Below the Surface | OWLS “Pride”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, you might be new to this place. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, and welcome to my anime cafe!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s sixth monthly topic for 2018, “Pride,” I wanted to dive deep into the ocean where the jellyfish roam (and the otaku swim)! I suppose most jellies don’t actually swim that deep, as they prefer to ride the ocean’s current . . . Nevertheless, Princess Jellyfish is here to proudly de-Clara that, ultimately, we are all the same below the surface.

In honor of “Pride Month,” we will be discussing the word “Pride” and its meaning. We will be exploring pop culture characters’ most satisfying and joyful achievements or skills that they possessed, and whether or not these qualities could be seen as a positive or negative aspect in their personal lives and/or society.

Just like Haikyuu!!, this is one of those OWLS staples that every member must eventually talk about (haha, not really, but really). While I admit others in our group have explored the series more thoroughly than I will now, I do hope you enjoy what I have to say about this wonderful little title. Thanks Lyn for the month-befitting prompt!

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A brief spoiler-free discussion on the 11-episode fall 2010 anime “Princess Jellyfish,” animated by Brain’s Base, directed by Takahiro Omori, and based on Akiko Higashimura’s manga of the same name. 

All Dried-Up and Taking On Tokyo!

It took all but a single trip to the aquarium to get young Tsukimi Kurashita hooked on jellyfish. Well, Tsukimi’s fateful encounter was made more special by her late mother taking her there, but it’s impossible to ignore the adorable comparison Tsukimi makes between the glowing, flowing tentacles and the fluffy ruffles of a princess’s dress. Alone with only the memories of her mother in her heart, Tsukimi set out for Tokyo for a change. But oh, how life hits ya hard! Currently residing in the dilapidated Amamizukan apartment with five other unemployed otaku women, 19-year-old Tsukimi spends this new phase of her life as a social outcast still dreaming of becoming an illustrator.

However, her quiet life is met with sudden intrigue when a glamorous woman, one of the so-called “stylish” by Amamizukan’s “Sisterhood,” unexpectedly helps Tsukimi save a jellyfish from the careless treatment of a local pet store. After helping bring Clara (the jellyfish) back to the apartment, “the stranger—confident, fashionable, and the complete opposite of Tsukimi and her roommates—begins to regularly visit the girls’ building. This trendy hipster, though appearing shallow at first, harbors some secrets of her own, starting with the fact that “she” isn’t really a girl at all, but a wealthy male college student—and son of a major politician—named Kuranosuke Koibuchi!”

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I leaned on MAL for help with this summary a little more than I would have liked to, but I didn’t want to leave out a single detail of Tsukimi’s crazy situation. Seriously, there is NO end to the number of comedic outcomes to be found in this series! Visually and audibly, intentionally and unintentionally, the humor is excellent and always on point. Beyond the laughs, however, is also a story full of important life lessons. From coming out of one’s shell to coping with new life changes and finding strength and confidence in oneself, Princess Jellyfish never downplays the importance of pride.

Pulled from the depths of the sea that is her shut-in lifestyle, Tsukimi learns to build up her own self-esteem thanks to Kuranosuke’s stylish ways. Conversely, although he forces the Amamizukan ladies to reintegrate themselves back into society by trying new things, Kuranosuke unknowingly finds refuge for his frowned-upon love of cross-dressing in the Sisterhood’s combined passion for their own obscure hobbies.

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Doomed From the Start: The Sisterhood

Tsukimi is just one of five eccentric NEETs barely making it by on petty allowances from the apartment manager’s mother and the income of a mysterious sixth member’s popular BL manga. (Yikes.) Dubbed “the Sisterhood” for their extreme sense of purity (and complete lack of fashion sense), the ladies of Amamizukan neither excel at socializing with normal people nor supporting themselves.

Even so, I love all of them. Tsukimi’s infatuation with jellies of all kind, Banba’s enthusiasm for trains and subways, Mayaya’s fanaticism with anything “Three Kingdoms” and late Han period, Jiji’s silent lust for . . . older men(?) . . . Chieko’s obsession with traditional Japan (kimonos and dolls included)—the whole lot of them! They’ve all got such quirky yet memorable character designs, mannerisms, and speech patterns. Tsukimi’s rapid-fire jellyfish knowledge is fearsome; Chieko’s sewing skills are not-of-this-world; and Mayaya’s constantly-flailing arms and loud, seemingly illiterate shouting always proclaim a duel of sorts. Amamizukan’s ladies are heartwarming, almost overwhelmingly joyful at times, and watching them all casually grow to accept “Kurako’s” shimmering presence—from literally stoned to smiling—has got to be one of the biggest batches of character development I’ve ever seen.

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Sorry Mom, I Couldn’t Become a Princess . . .  

While Tsukimi has physically moved on to a new city where she’s made new friends, mentally, she’s still the same child yearning for mommy. This heartache results in frequent bouts of depression, which Tsukimi describes as “wanting nothing than to dive underwater and sway with the jellies.” At one of her lowest lows, she even wishes she’d be reincarnated as a jellyfish instead of a human just so that she wouldn’t have to deal with such cruel, troublesome emotions. Talk about drastic!

I’m really glad the series doesn’t suddenly drop this heavy mental weight when Kuranosuke gives her (or any of the Sisterhood) a makeover. The lesson isn’t that you’re prettier when you take off the glasses and thrown on some make-up—it’s that sometimes, you need to see yourself in a different way in order to appreciate who you’ve been this whole time. Tsukimi is still a social mess; Kuranosuke is helping in the only way he knows how: he loves fashion, and by spreading his passion with the others, he hopes that the the gals can feel happier with themselves just as how he does. Beauty is not something you simply put on: it’s an emotion you feel when you’re at your best. 

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. . . But I Made Friends With a Queen!?

This wouldn’t be a Princess Jellyfish post if I didn’t rave about our dazzling lead Kura-poo~! Ok, so I’m not Kuranosuke’s hip uncle (and friggin’ PRIME MINISTER) with an approval rating less than 10% and steadily declining, but hear me out: Kuranosuke IS a freakin’ QUEEN, an absolute diva whose own obsession with fashion ironically leaves him lonely. He’s got a mother who left his father, a father that doesn’t necessarily adore him, and a brother, Shuu, that he seems to get along with fine enough. Other than the girls who are just chasing after his looks and dad’s checkbook, however, that’s all Kuranosuke’s got for a support system. To compensate, he seeks pretty things as a memento for his missing mother who dominated the stage fabulously so many years ago, just like Tsukimi does with jellyfish. It’s a sad parallel, really.

That’s when his encounter with Tsukimi and the Sisterhood changes his life in return. Through pushing them to grow together, Kuranosuke finally finds a place to call home (and a squad to call family). Full of pride and not much else, he instills the ladies with the courage to stand on their own two feet against a city plan to demolish their beloved Amamizukan. Without any sense of pride, the Sisterhood wouldn’t stand a chance.

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Declaring their beauteous garb “battle armor,” Kuranosuke is able to shake things and bring change to a group that lives for the status quo. Every stick of lip gloss, bright-colored wig, and chic miniskirt is but a tool to help him reconnect with the past, as well as fill him (and his newfound friends) with undefinable confidence in the present. He treats the Sisterhood and their wacky hobbies with just as much appreciation and respect, as he knows that fashion means the same things to him. Kuranosuke is a rare character, a pillar of positivity—no, an absolute icon to a series that would lose all its main morals without. There’s never a dull moment with Kuranosuke around, and you’re always left wondering if he can get any better.

To which, of course, he always does.

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Precious Pastels, Lovable English Cast

Brain’s Base has crafted the perfect atmosphere that is fluffy and cute, yet realistic at the same time. The wild and hilarious character expressions shine wonderfully against the softer watercolor landscapes and cluttered Amamizukan space. And wow, the fashion transformations for Kuranosuke and the ladies are gorgeous spectacles to behold! The show’s also got a wonderful soundtrack complete with a nice OP and ED which are both, to describe in a single word, charming.

I have to—I must absolutely, without doubt, mention Funimation’s English dub before this post is over. I’ve finally found my favorite Josh Grelle performance with Kuranosuke here, and the same goes for Maxey Whitehead’s Tsukimi! His higher register for Kuranosuke’s aristocratic cross-dress mode didn’t feel fake at all, but rather powerful, graceful, ritzy, lush and, well, stylish. Monica Rial captures Mayaya’s ridiculousness and energy, and while Cynthia Cranz had never really stuck out to me before, her role here as Amamizukan’s manager, Chieko, was so full of care and motherly vibes.

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Passion & Inspiration, Acceptance & Pride

Princess Jellyfish covers a wide emotional range where several human values converge. Learning to accept yourself and love yourself is half the battle; the other half involves knowing that you are still able to change and be accepted by others. After all, you only become that confident, beautiful person once you accept yourself and feel comfortable with those around you. To quote Simply Gee, a YouTuber friend and fan of the series, “If you have a passion, if you love something, you’re a step ahead of everyone else—and you should embrace that, and not have to worry about everyone else’s perception of you.” Beautifully said, Gee!

At its very end, the story of Princess Jellyfish embodies something so pure, hopeful, and passionate that it becomes impossible to not enjoy. You grow to love the characters for who they truly are, even if we don’t get the rest of the tale. It’s an anime about community that means a lot to a good many people, as it provides comfort (and entertainment) for those leading lives similar to its cast. For its realistic premise and general themes of life and love, passion and inspiration, and acceptance and pride, Princess Jellyfish is one of the greatest Josei comedies out there.

Bold, brilliant, and tons of fun, Princess Jellyfish tells us that above all else, so long as you take pride in yourself and the things you love, all people—including us adults—still have plenty of room for growth and change. Just as how many parts of the ocean remain untouched, we all have vast seas of our own with exciting depths yet to be explored. These mystical waters, of course, are called our personality.

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Every girl is born a princess. Some just forget is all. — Kuranosuke Koibuchi


Afterword

I think I’ve said all that I’ve wanted to on this one . . . that is, until I start reading the manga! That’s right, seeing as how the anime just kinda “ends” (it’s still a pleasant stopping point, though), I want to know what happens to Tsukimi and the others. The future of Amamizukan? What of Kuranosuke’s unrequited feelings? And brother Shuu’s side plot relationship with that business woman Inari?? I just have to know, and the manga will give me those answers! I now totally understand why it’s a crying shame this anime hasn’t gotten a second season!

Despite no continuation, I recommend this “Caffe Mocha” series with every fiber of my being to all those struggling with sharing their passion for a hobby. For a coming-of-age tale, the development and growth of its cast is depicted with great realism, and I think that’s what makes it so relatable. The comedy is genuinely funny too, and the characters are utterly inspirational!

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This concludes my June 26th entry in the OWLS “Pride” blog tour. OWLS fam, you’ll have to let me know how I did with this one! Gigi (Animepalooza) went right before me with a video that you should totally check out! Now, look out for Scott (Mechanical Anime Reviews) with an epic post on the grand space opera Legend of the Galactic Heroes tomorrow, June 27th! Thanks for reading such a long post, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

ChaoS;Child–Thrills, Chills, & the Return of Madness | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 12-episode winter 2017 anime “Chaos;Child,” stylized as “ChäoS;Child,” as well as the prequel recap “Episode 0” and the OVA “Silent Sky” (episodes 13 and 14), animated by Silver Link., directed by Masato Jinbo, and based on visual novel of the same name by MAGES and 5pb. The anime is a sequel to “ChaoS;HEAd.”

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Return of the New Generation Madness

Six years ago, a massive earthquake rocked Shibuya to its core, leveling the ward to utter ruin under the cloak of a strange white sky. Such was the climax to ChaoS;HEAd and the mass hysteria that lead to Shibuya’s destruction caused by a series of gruesome murders dubbed the “New Gen Madness.”

Now, in a present day and newly rebuilt Shibuya, the mysterious chain of grisly murders that once shocked the world have started up again. It’d only be a matter of time before occult-interested third-year student and newspaper club president Takuru Miyashiro discovers a startling connection: the dates of the recent murders match those of the previous New Gen incidents. Risking the warning signs dished out by his foster sister, Nono Kurusu, Takuru and his friends of the club decide to entrench themselves deeper into the mystery, only to find that merely knowing about the crime scene is enough to put them all in danger against the bizarre and the unknown. Bleeding eyes? Sumo face stickers? What’s the connection?! The further Takuru persists, the worse his own case of delusions tries to consume him.

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With this sequel, several shocking twists are littered throughout the story to maintain an immense level of thrill—an almost nauseating number at that. I couldn’t count one episode that didn’t include a world-changing discovery, and the need for the series to constantly one-up itself makes for a bumpy ride. Are half of these sickening twists just written for shock value? Maybe a few of them were. That’s not to say it’s unexciting, however; if anything, it’s the perfect watch for fans of the thriller genre! Just know that the gore train doesn’t stop once it gets going, and that it’s also not for the faint of heart.

Takuru and the Unusual Family Dynamic

“Family” is a theme that, beyond ChaoS;HEAd, the Science Adventure Series rarely tackles. And yet, I think it fits quite well. Growing up in a foster home, Takuru constantly isolates himself from friends and family that clearly love him for fear of what unintentionally losing them will do to himself in return. In a show all about murder, deceit, and delusion, I would say that Takuru’s playing it smart—which is undoubtedly confirmed by Mio Kunosato, a certain young scientist affiliated with the government who purposefully acts like a dick to him. But the reality is that, without family, it can be harder to realize who you are, and what you might want to do with your life. His blind refutation of others’ compassion, particularly Nono’s (bless her heart), feels frustrating—and his actions will have grave consequences—but in the end, all the emotional justices and injustices balance out well enough.

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For spoiler’s sake, I can’t detail much more other than that Serika Onoe, Takuru’s newspaper club friend, doubles as the game’s other possible romantic interest. Like all Science Adventure heroines, however, there’s always something hidden under that lab coat, silly pose, or precious smile. Although Alex Moore’s Nono doesn’t quite fit the imagined vocal register, English dub fans will be pleased with Ricco Fajardo’s Takuru and especially Felecia Angelle’s Serika.

Revisiting Shibuya: Lights and Sounds

Animation studio Silver Link. brings an oddly soft and pastel glow to a world that is otherwise nothing but blood and guts strung all over Shibuya. Much like their work on other slice-of-life series, ChaoS;Child takes on many shades of cool blues and violets, but the pulsating red shimmers of cute character blushing, street lights, or, at its worst, blood, give an off-putting vibe befitting the supernatural undertones. Much like with ChaoS;HEAd, a grainy or fuzzy layer of film is added to Takuru’s delusion scenes, of which can spike the heartbeat with wicked intensity. Although the character movements are fairly stationary, they’re still pretty to look at against the sparkling, sprawling cityscapes and dark, grungy alleyways of a Shibuya we’ve explored all too thoroughly.

(I know these images are from the game, but the art style is nearly identical.)

Thankfully, Kanako Itou returns to the Science Adventure Series as a leading part of the music with a new OP, “Uncontrollable,” and though it’s much less memorable than “Hacking to the Gate” or even “F.D.D.,” she’s become an iconic part of this massive franchise that deserves shoutout. Takeshi Abo provides amazing suspense and fright with the soundtrack, but his work shines best with his gorgeous piano soliloquies to match the series’s bittersweet moments, or even his nice orchestral work for Takuru’s more heroic scenes. Overall, the tone is a great improvement from ChaoS;HEAd‘s unstable insanity.

The Adaptation Conquest Continues . . . 

“Not all is as it seems” with these Science Adventure Series games. While I enjoyed ChaoS;HEAd enough to merit it worth the buy, I was never truly satisfied with how its ending was executed (or how many of its grim stunts were pulled off). For the most part, ChaoS;Child is better in charge of its numerous plot twists, but that sense that some questions weren’t quite answered still lingers. This is largely due to the game’s many meticulous routes being cut and pasted to create the most coherent story (which explains why one of the newspaper club members doesn’t even speak a peep). Of course, the rushed urgency that comes with such a time crunch doesn’t help much either. To obtain the most complete experience, do watch the 50-min “Silent Sky” OVA (that is included AND dubbed on Funimation’s release!), as it adapts the game’s true ending and brings the story to more fulfilling, albeit beautifully tragic, ending.

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ChaoS;Child offers a decently strong follow-up to a series that frankly needed one desparately. Still, the plot lacks proper explanations to make its story truly solid writing. Essentially, while it’s not a must-watch (as I can’t force anyone in their right mind to sit through the headache that ChaoS;HEAd can be), the more you know about the case at large, the more enjoyable the entire experience is. The revelations made in ChaoS;Child build upon your previous knowledge of the New Gen crimes and a few of their deadly constituents, and making such fatal connections is half the fun—if not half the madness.

Although it moves too fast for its own characters’ backgrounds to shine and feels like a bit of a mixed bag for the sci-fi genre, murder mystery and thriller fans will surely get their fill of the grotesque and the paranormal that unmistakably belong to the weirder side of the this beloved franchise.

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There was so much that they didn’t give me. I was trying to find those things in her, I think. — Takuru Miyashiro


Afterword

Call it my unashamed love for the entire Science Adventure Series, but despite its rushed pacing and shaky character motives, I’ll still award ChaoS;Child worth the watch with a “Coffee” rating. At the very least, its high tension and dramatic twists made for a very interesting narrative, and it is visually appealing. Not that I’d place it on the top of my thriller anime favorites list (of which no such thing exists), but it would be on there for sure.

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But what did you think of ChaoS;Child? It was pretty cool to see Takumi and the old ChaoS;HEAd gang reanimated in the 2017 art style in that “Episode 0” prequel recap! I know the Chaos side of the franchise gets a lot of flack for things I’ve said over and over again now: rushed pacing, poor explanations, and weak character backgrounds. Even then, did you enjoy it as much as I did? Do let me know, for I fear that my own passion for this series could be a delusion in itself! Haha, thanks for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Granblue Fantasy: Endless Blue Skies, But Not Enough Time to Explore Them All | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 13-episode spring 2017 anime “Granblue Fantasy The Animation,” animated by A-1 Pictures, directed by Yuuki Itou, and based on the video game series of the same name by Cygames. 

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A World of Skies and Islands

Awash with a stunning canvas of roving blues and fluffy whites is the world Granblue Fantasy is painted on, a famous franchise which has amassed a great following thanks to its many JRPG titles. While I am unfamiliar with this particular adaptation’s origins, the story still follows its titular character, a young boy named Gran, and his adventures throughout the wondrous skies that surround him. Accompanied by a talking winged lizard named Vyrn, the two embark on quests that tend to question the governing bodies of their world, such as the menacing Erste Empire and her sprawling military factions.

Alone in the forest one day, Gran stumbles upon a young girl with cerulean hair. Her name is Lyria, and she just recently happened to escape from the Empire after being subjected to sinister underground experiments on magic and the mythical. Alongside Katalina, a once-high-ranking knight of the Empire assigned to guard Lyria, Gran and the crew set out into the vast skies to escape the Empire’s treacherous plots. With ship set to starboard, Gran’s party aims to protect Lyria, as well as head for the famed land of legend mentioned in the last letter Gran received from his father: “Estalucia, Island of Stars.”

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I’ll be frank, the story of Granblue Fantasy The Animation is not a new one; girl is used by evil organization, boy protects her, boy meets a bunch of new allies while traveling around, yada yada. Even still, the heart of a fantasy adventure series lies in the lands we are taken to, and the variety of peoples we meet along the way—this pattern may not be a new one, but it doesn’t need to be new to be a fun watch. In that regard, this anime exceeds, but the overarching story—the hero’s main goal—is still a bit fuzzy. One moment Gran merely wants to watch over Lyria, but the next he insists on defeating (or rather purifying) these godlike mythical beasts to obtain magic crystals for . . . what was it again? I honestly can’t remember, but it’s still formulaic enough to follow along.

The Crew Aboard the Grandcypher

As a main character, Gran is without much personality. He’s kind and strong, yet remarkably bland, and although the show tries to convince you that he’s a real stellar guy with “special powers,” Gran’s actions and words fare just as interesting as a silent protagonist’s.

Oh wait, he originally was one? *sigh* This is another reason why adapting games into anime is hard . . . and somewhat a mistake.

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Obviously, the show pins most of its character love on Lyria, and thankfully, she does seem like someone you’d want to care for. Her curiosity and blind love for the world may not be executed as well as Tale of Symphonia‘s Colette, but the idea still transfers alright. Even our dutiful knight Katalina and reliable ship’s helmsman Rackam felt like characters I would enjoy partying up with. Same goes for new recruits, like the fiery (yet ironically ice magic specialist) mage Io and Team Rocket-esque dungeon thief duo Karva and Mary. Anyone else, well, the show just doesn’t give much screen time to learn about, but I’m sure they can be just as likable if given a fairer shot.

All the while, the Empire is looming in the dark and new faces, friend and foe alike, keep poppin’ out like the skies are just one big circus tent for JRPG tropes—there were like +10 new characters in the second to last episode alone, it’s ridiculous! If Granblue Fantasy The Animation had one big problem, it was that it tried to compensate “character development” for “5 seconds of fame,” and, in the end, not one of the side characters stood out as a result (which is a real shame given how cool some of these outfits were).

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Painting the Skies–The Magical Watercolor Touch

While I couldn’t give a damn about some of the characters thrown in at the last minute, I did have an incredible appreciation for what A-1 has done with their latest fantasy anime. Say what you will about their method of adaptation, but from their work on shows like Fractale, From the New World, Fate/Apocrypha, Sound of the Sky, so many others and most infamously, Sword Art Online, I’ve found A-1 to be one of the best animation studios where the fantasy genre is concerned. From the luscious color palettes and beautiful blends to the “old ruin aesthetic” of their utterly enchanting scenery, A-1’s always been on top of the game, and Granblue Fantasy is no exception. If anything, it’s the model, the paragon of what a high-quality fantasy production should look like.

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But especially with Granblue, the studio preserved the original art style from the games by giving it a softer, almost watercolor appeal to the backgrounds, much like the magic they did with Grimgar. And the characters and fight scenes, agh, WOW! I believe I recall an ANN article explaining that the adaptation’s delay was due to preserving all of the characters’ outfits, armor, leathers, buckles, trinkets, etc. in the anime style, and boy did A-1 bring out all the bells and whistles for this one. Highlights, shadows, bevels, rivets, textures, blends—what can only be imagined as an animation nightmare turned out to be well-worth the extra effort!

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Just watching the Grandcypher and its beautiful, colorful cast soar through the airy clouds across majestic seas of water and light took me to an entirely different land altogether. Put its spiraling architecture together with Square Enix and Cymusic native Tsutomu Narita’s epic orchestral soundtrack and you’ve really got a solid, powerful combination.

Lastly, can I mention how much of a bop the OP “GO” by BUMP OF CHICKEN and ED “Sora no Parade” by HARUHI are? Like, these songs about living the best lives we can are the total chill vibes that I LIVE for!

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Will We Ever Reach Estalucia?

Afraid not . . . maybe . . . ? At the end of the day, Granblue Fantasy The Animation is an absolutely gorgeous fantasy adventure anime that is hurt by its weak direction, weak antagonists, and lack of character development (and proper introduction for that matter). After its pinnacle fight scene in episode 12, one would imagine that the last episode would take us to the isle of lore where the reunion (and final showdown) would commence—WRONG. Instead, we are “treated” to a random bikini-filled beach episode with the cast of ladies that were introduced a mere episode prior. What a letdown.

But there is hope, as supposedly a second season was announced not to far back (no sure date as of yet). The anime just came out last year, after all, so I would assume that this is just the first half of the big adventure to come. Will I watch it? Of course, I’m in it for the long haul! But should you? Granblue Fantasy The Animation definitely feels like it’s more of a treat for fans of the game, but if you love magic, fantasy, and adventures as much as I do, perhaps Granblue is worth the “grand,” if not slightly frustrating, investment. It was bland, sure, but never did I really get “angry” with the show—in fact, it kinda made me want to start playing the games! Your eyes will love what they see, and your heart will yearn for the fun in-town shopping and traveling to last forever, but you may be able to guess the end long before A-1 decides to give it to us.

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Our destinations could be totally different, but I think this is our fate. As we continue our journey, we keep meeting new people. I treasure the connections that we make—just like the one we feel with you now. — Gran


Afterword

A softer, much more light-hearted take on the fantasy genre than typical game-to-anime adaptations, I have trouble recommending Granblue Fantasy on the grounds that at this time, it is currently incomplete (the worst kind of ending IMO). Should we truly stop here, I’ll award Granblue Fantasy The Animation with the “Breads” rating and a recommendation to SKIP it unless you’re a fan of the franchise and want to see your favorite characters brought to life by A-1’s genius. If we get more, however, that value is instantly reappraised to a “Coffee,” or even higher depending on how the second half turns out. Here’s to more Gran-seeming-important, more Katalina-obsessing-over-Vyrn’s-cutness, and more pretty-artwork-for-days!

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As a last minute addition, should you take up Gran and Lyria’s quest, I CAN safely recommend the English dub by Aniplex (although I still condemn their $80 releases). Both the sub and dub of Granblue Fantasy can be found on Crunchyroll for FREE, so hit it up whenever you’re next in the fantasy neighborhood! Be sure to let me know what you thought of this series, its characters, or this review down in the comments, as I’d love to know! Thanks so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

The End of Hope: Despair Conquers All in Danganronpa 3 | OWLS “Movement”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, you might be new to this place. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, and welcome to my anime cafe!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s fifth monthly topic for 2018, “Movement,” I wanted to dive deep into despair with the Danganronpa franchise, specifically its “third” anime adaptation, Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School – Despair Arc. In today’s world where chaos is on the rise, spreading fear and horror through resurging domestic violence, manipulation of mass media, and most notably, school shootings, I couldn’t find a more relevant title befitting the catastrophic future we could potentially end up living ourselves—unless we stop this war on terror.

We join movements, organizations, and systems that align with our own personal values and beliefs. Sometimes we join these groups because they believe in doing good and making positive changes in society. However, these movements can turn sour when a dictator arises behind such good intentions, revealing perhaps a hidden agenda of oppression. It is in these groups that individuals start to shape their identities by either questioning their values and beliefs or conforming to the system. This month, we will be examining “real and/or fictitious” movements, organizations, or systems in anime and other pop culture mediums, and the positive and negative effects they have on individuals and society.

I’ve literally been dying to use Danganronpa in one of these OWLS posts, and seeing as how nobody ever talks about this epic third season, I think it’s about time that happened! (For the sake of a spoiler-free post, I will be omitting the series’s second half, the Future Arc. Call it saving a fantastic series for another day.) Thanks Lyn and Auri for the prompt!

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A brief discussion on the 11-episode summer 2016 anime “Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School – Despair Arc,” followed by its 1-episode “Hope” finale, animated by Lerche, directed by Motoo Fukuoka and Seiji Kishi, and based on the original story by Kazutaka Kodaka. 

AND YES, I HAVE DONE THE IMPOSSIBLE BY MAKING A SPOILER-FREE DANGANRONPA POST, SO ENJOY~! 

Beginning of the End – Despair Arc

Tragedy, Madness, Terror, Unpredictability

The Mastermind of despair had already destroyed the world come the end of the Killing School Life endured by the disassembled (but not completely hopeless) 78th class of Hope’s Peak High. Encompassed by the franchise’s first game/anime adaptation, this zany and bitter series of mutual killings was (believe it or not) the horrific climax to an even darker, more messed up series of unfortunate events. And that’s where the Despair Arc comes in: it aims to chronicle the reign of terror staged by the one and only Mastermind, how their plans easily came to fruition, and the thrill they received because of it.

Simply put, what begins as a tale of hope ends in utter despair. And that’s what makes it one of the coolest anime to ever exist. 

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Unlike practically all of the other Danganronpa entries, Despair Arc is one of the very few to not feature a survival game of sorts. Yet, it’s still that kind of series in which its perilous situations—to your own disbelief—only grow worse, and worse, and worse . . . At this point in the story, the series’s iconically dooming mascot Monokuma doesn’t exist, so how does Despair Arc get its own fix of insanity? For the Mastermind, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!

  1. School violence committed by beloved students
  2. Growing disparity between the talented and the talentless
  3. Inability of higher-ranking officials to properly dispute social problems

That’s all it takes to watch the world crumble—and to think the Mastermind became Despair itself by manipulating their followers’ hatred, jealousy, fears, guilt, anything, really, through humor and charm. I know what you’re thinking—those three issues hit scarily close to home, don’t they? No, it’s definitely true. All around us, the world of this despair-infested fictional setting is slowly creeping into reality. Carnage is spreading. People are being unfairly treated and lambasted for factors beyond their own control. Nuclear war looms on the ember horizon. Great tensions that have lasted decades are about to bust loose with a fireworks show of death and depravity.

And the worst part is that we’re all just standing around watching it happen.

Despair is on the rise, and we’re only letting the movement grow.

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While Despair Arc does rely on a couple cheap gimmicks to speed the Mastermind’s course of evil along (surely to accommodate the dreadfully short 11-episode length), the series takes the most wild, absurd, almost painfully realistic ideas and runs far with them. Very, very far. Somehow, Kodaka has written such a brilliant story that starts off all shining and bright and ends in utter ruin, perfectly encapsulating the range of human spirit at the onset fear and anarchy. After watching, you almost want to call the shot:

This is the future our own kids will be living unless we take action NOW. 

It’s a terrifying thought, unbelievable at times, and that is exactly why—despite being a mere prequel to an incredibly exciting, well-written sagaDespair Arc serves more as a warning to the path this global society is currently treading. Although a stretch, nearly all of the horrific crimes committed in this series can be, or have already been, reproduced in our own lives, right at this very minute.

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It may not be spear-headed by a single bored high school student, but all around us, people are rapidly growing more cynical, distrustful, and hateful than they have ever been. Despair is at an all-time high, and what’s even worse is that some sick individuals out there actually get off on this madness. The seeds of hopelessness have long-since been sown by humanity, and in just a few short years, months, or even days, the despair will blossom magnificently.

And only then will you be wishing you did something.

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Hope is a state of harmony. Righteous and bright, and all that other BS. Despair is more fun. And it grows so quickly. Like mushrooms, over a single night. Despair is messy and confusing. And it ain’t much of a picky eater. It devours love, hate, the whole shebang. Despair takes the plans you’ve put all your faith into and rips ’em to shreds. You may think you’re above petty human desires, but you need Despair. When it’s calling the shots, all bets are off. You don’t wanna be bored outta your skull for the rest of forever, do ya? — Junko Enoshima


Birth of a New Light – Hope Arc

Aspiration, Optimism, Dreams, Stability

Long after The Tragedy of Hope’s Peak High, The Twilight Syndrome Murder Case, The Worst, Most Despair Inducing Incident in the History of Mankind, the Killing School Life, the Killing School Trip, and the Final Killing Game, AT LAST, the skies begin to clear up. Was it the proper ending to a masterful franchise that fans had been anticipating for several years? Well, maybe it wasn’t exactly everything that we wanted (or deserved), but thematically, all points reconnect and converge at this final crossroad splendidly. At the end of a dreadfully prolonged saga of despair suffocating what little justice remains, hope ultimately comes out on top—and brighter than ever.

There’s something infectious about being cynical for fun. We do it all the time on the internet, making sad jokes that mock the hilariousness of our pitiful lives. “We are not strong,” or at least as strong as we think we are, and we enjoy a mutual sense of humor in this fallacy. This emotion that plagues our very lives with pessimism—this negative philosophy that we can neither change the tides of destiny, nor amount to anything in the end—such is true despair.

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Naegi’s struggle to remain hopeful in one desolate situation after another brought him to his knees. But unlike Future Foundation’s Munakata (or most of today’s political leaders for that matter), he still looked up to those around him, believing that although despair teaches us hardship, hope preaches harmony. Despair may have relished the past and the present, but Naegi’s unwavering hope paved way for the future—his movement of hope snowballed into what can only be described as a truly contagious effort.

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Hope is just way too stubborn to die. Despair can win the battle, but never the war. — Monaca Towa

All this and more is why I want you to think about how you approach communication with others. Do you start with a self-deprecating joke, or perhaps approach a conversation with praise or positivity for the given topic? The next time you log on to the internet—be it Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, forums, chat rooms, or other social media—do try your best to believe that there is still good in this wild world. We have the power to pick our battles, thus we should better learn when to restrain, and when to take matters into our own hands. Hope is but a simple four-letter word, and yet it has the power to shape generations, the life we live now, and the future that awaits us.

What that future looks like ultimately lies in our strength to fight the darkness, together. 

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Hard as we try, none of us can see the future. The horizon we walk toward is always obscured. The future’s always hazy. Hope and Despair mingle. We can’t always tell which is which. It’s strange. Sometimes terrifying. Still though, if all you do is sit and wait, nothing happens. The trick is to take it one step at a time. See, you don’t have to know the future to move forward. Just walk with your memories. Look up at the sky, and say to yourself, “There’s always Hope for tomorrow.” — Makoto Naegi


Afterword

The entire Danganronpa franchise is incredibly dark, creative, intense, vulgar, and tons of fun to both play and watch. As such, it’s no surprise that I award Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School with the certified “Caffe Mocha” rating. Especially with the Despair Arc, the series’s ability to not only account for all the nitpicky details, but string them together in a logical, story-telling format is admirable (even if some of the methods are a tad sub-par compared to, say, the second game’s beautifully corrupt and twisted ways). Aside from maybe Fate/ZeroDespair Arc is the greatest “beginning of the end” prequel anime to ever be written. Unlike all other told-from-zero stories, there is no happy ending to be found here, unless of course, you’re rooting for the Mastermind.

A bloody masterpiece of the whodunnit murder mystery genre, Danganronpa 3 tackles the near impossible and pulls it off with flying colors (and a lot of pink blood). I could go on and on about how much I love Lerche’s clean game-to-anime stylistic transfer, as well as Kodaka’s story, Masafumi Takada’s soundtrack, and ALL the damn characters, but alas! Perhaps for another post!

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This concludes my May 23rd entry in the OWLS “Movement” blog tour. Gloria (The Nerdy Girl News) went right before me and wrote about the living differences between humans and robots, and what truly makes us human in the anime Beatless, a series that I’ve been meaning to check out since it started airing. Gloria is new to OWLS, so go give her some love! Now, look out for another new member, Dylan (DynamicDylan) over on YouTube, with a vid about the great Gundam Seed set to air tomorrow, May 24th! Thanks for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Yūki Hayashi: Music to Motivate the Soul | OWLS “Melody”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, you might be new to this place. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, and welcome to my anime cafe!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s fourth monthly topic for 2018, “Melody,” I wanted to showcase a single composer rather than a specific series or genre. He writes with the strength of a series’s characters in mind, empowering them to go beyond and rise to meet any occasion. His name is Yūki Hayashi, and he’s probably my favorite composer in the realm of modern anime.

Music is a form of healing and self-expression. For this month’s topic, we will be exploring some of our favorite musical pieces (anime/drama OSTs, movie soundtracks, music genres, etc.) and how that music has provided us enjoyment and, perhaps, how it has impacted our lives.

I love music! Even in these OWLS posts, I make it a must to at least cover any particular tracks of a given show that stood out to me most. As such, it is my greatest pleasure to finally dedicate an entire post to a man who has unknowingly helped transform my life into something I am proud of living. Thanks Lyn (and Shokamoka) for the very simple yet exciting prompt! In this post I’ll be covering the many soundtracks composed by Hayashi, but none of these highlights will contain spoilers, so enjoy! Click each song title to listen!

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A Bit of Background

Perhaps [the series remains constantly engaging] because of musician Yūki Hayashi’s own experience as a rhythmic gymnast; the man already knows how to match tempo and tune with fancy footwork. Hayashi is a rising favorite of mine, as he knows how toImage result for yuki hayashi perfectly time moments that should be epic with music that is absolutely epic . . . There’s a raw love for classical strings, piano, and a bit of drums for movement in Hayashi’s internationally-infused music, and that’s why I’ll always look forward to his perfect, inspiring scores.

— Musings from my review of Welcome to the Ballroom

Inspiration to Lift Us Off Our Feet

Welcome to the Ballroom

We were all that awkward kid once, aimlessly going about our days with no aspirations or anything to make us stand out. Tatara Fujita was the same way, until the world of dance appeared right at his doorstep. Through dance, the young boy learned what it was like to stand up straight for the first time. Slowly, he accumulated a few rivals, but everyone knows a rival is just a competitor waiting to become a friend. With slicked back hair, perfect posture, and a beautiful partner at his side, Tatara earned confidence in himself by means of hard work, dedication, and the willingness to try something new. But dance would be nothing without song, which is what we’re talking about today.

Since I’ve already gone on length with my favorite tracks from this series in my review, I’ll just re-reminisce on a few of the bests. “Lesson Fuukei – Hajimete no Step 2” shows us how much sheer willpower it takes to start dancing. “Ballroom Shakou Dance” reflects on the progress made, and the long but exciting road ahead. “Ganbaritai Kimochi” lifts our spirits into the air screaming “YEAH, this is MY moment to shine!” As Tatara starts to see his own style of dance bloom, he’s gifted with the “Tatara Waltz,” a sweet melody just for him. Lastly, “Rise & Fall” reflects on inspiring triumph and crushing defeat, a fitting end to the series. These tracks carry so much heart—as does the rest of the OST—and I still listen to them now when I need a boost back into that positive mindset!

Motivation to Push Us Forward

DIVE!!, Haikyuu!!

Now that we’re standing tall, Hayashi’s ready to keep us going strong with these back-to-back sports!! series. One of DIVE!!‘s saving graces was its soundtrack, specifically this song which, in typical Hayashi fashion, takes a minute to get going, but soon can’t be contained because of its sheer motivational outburst! Music like this encourages Tomoki Sakai and fellow MDC divers to reach a place that only they can see.

And while at this view from the summit, Haikyuu!! bounces onto the scene full of youth and energy in tracks like “Chemical Change,” “Senior Proficiency,” and practically the rest of the OST. Taking a quieter but just as inspirational approach, “Goal” and “Evolution” appeal to emotions under the surface level. Then there’s “Powerhouse Schools,” “Kageyama vs Tsukishima,” “Into the Fray,” and “Let the Games Begin!!” to pump you up for the intimidating challenges that lie ahead. But we can’t forget that life has its setbacks, which is why “Frustration” resonates so well with me. While there is one more epic violin track I can’t find, the saddest yet most beautiful song, “Adults,” reminds me that kids (like myself) grow up fast, and that life is too short to not have fun or experience friendship. This track makes me want to cry because I can’t go back to simpler times, but it also makes me smile at how far I’ve come.

Heartache to Make Us Grow

Kiznaiver, Death Parade

Kiznaiver may be a show about understanding what friendship means, but along the way the characters sure do feel a great deal of pain. Loneliness and the difficulties of connecting with others plague its main cast (just as how they can affect us, too), and yet, there is beauty in sorrow. “Toumei Na Omoi,” my favorite track from the series begins with a cold harp soliloquy, but gradually opens up for a tender, heartwarming chorus.

This next heartbreaker needs no introduction. Death Parade welcomes the macabre by relishing in the woes of humanity. Visually, the Quindecim is quite appealing. But beyond the fancy visage lies a broken cast and a graveyard of puppets. Heralded as one of the “Most Emotional OSTs,” please feel free to lose yourself in the beautiful darkness of “Moonlit Night” and its breathtaking piano intro.

Strength to Go Beyond

My Hero Academia

Can I just place the entire soundtrack here? Honestly, every tune in this hit-shounen series is an absolute BOP. From the splendid, upbeat cheerfulness of “Symbol of Peace” and “I am here!!,” both All Might themes, to the workout motivation provided by “HERO A (Training to be the best!),” Izuku’s story never stops inspiring both the other characters and the us, the viewers! None of that playful rap or pep-band nonsense compares to “PLUS ULTRA,” however, as this single track contains enough power to move mountains—no wait, planets—the very heavens! All Might’s charisma ascends through this incredible music, much as how his strength is passed down to Izuku.

Did you think I’d forget “My Hero Academia” or the *in*famous “You Say Run“? HAH! Glory to all the UA heroes for pushing us to go beyond—and PLUUUS UUULTRA!!!

Ambition to Fulfill Our Dreams

Robotics;Notes

But none are more inspiring than that which I’ve saved for last. BEHOLD, the “Main Theme” of this most-underrated anime. The tale of a girl who musters the strength to turn a borrowed dream into her own reality, Akiho Sinomiya spends countless years chasing after her sister’s shadow. It’s a series about individuality and the passion to challenge impossible odds—even if friends, family, and society don’t agree with your ideals. Overflowing with ambition, motivation, bravery, and hope, Yūki Hayashi doesn’t dial back the heroism one bit. If anything, this is ingenuity in its rawest state. The roaring bass and cellos, the soaring violins, and the percussion section that just keeps giving—THIS is the spirit which motivates the soul!

Yūki Hayashi & The Resolve to Change

I love music. I listen to anime soundtracks often, and I pay attention to what exactly it is in the composition that moves me. As previously stated, Hayashi certainly has a way with notes. He weaves together strings, winds, brass, percussion, electric bass, and sometimes a dash of choir topped with remixing for truly epic scores. Even more interesting is that he’s almost always attached to works that feature characters struggling to grow—protagonists that grapple with finding their resolve to change themselves for the better. The road to such change is of course rife with hardship, competition, wins, losses, redemption, self-evaluation, and eventually a brief moment of pure intensity that shouts “LOOK AT ME!!!”

As people, we all desire attention, and to be our very best selves. Hayashi knows this path can also be messy, both physically and emotionally, and he clearly conveys these feelings through melodies and chords. He says, “This is what failure sounds like,” only to follow up with “And this song feels like victory, doesn’t it?”

Whether it’s a tall, tall wall looming in front of you,

the want yet inability to connect with others, 

the need to prove that your dreams are obtainable,

or perhaps the desire to change . . .

Know that the view from the summit is one that exists ONLY for you—so chase after it relentlessly. Try new things, make mistakes, meet new people, but never, never give up on your reasons for wanting to improve. Because maybe, in the process of overcoming your own impossible odds, you’ll inspire someone else to be a better human, much as how Yūki Hayashi inspired me through something as simple as a melody.

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Do you have a favorite anime composer that just blows you away? What about specific fave OSTs that lift your spirits after a dull day? Do you listen to as many “motivational” YouTube playlists as I do? Haha, let me know about your music tastes or this post down in the comments! This concludes my April 14th entry in the OWLS “Melody” blog tour. Mel (Mel in Anime Land) went right before me and wrote about Shinhwa, one of her favorite K-pop groups, which you can read right here! Now, prepare for Marina (Anime B & B) with the music she enjoys listening to while writing this Monday, April 16th! Thanks for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host