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The Delayed V-Day Sci-Fi Special!

Hello! So I was recently SLAMMED with two full weekends of out-of-town nonsense, one of which I plan to discuss in a Cafe Talk soon. It’s become tradition as of around 2014 to set aside Valentine’s Day weekend, safeguard myself in my room with snacks, and not come out until I had marathoned a classic anime (typically pre-2000s). Previous items on the menu include:

2013 ~ Steins;Gate

2014 ~ Ouran High School Host Club/Gosick (couldn’t remember which)

2015 ~ Neon Genesis Evangelion

2016 ~ The Rose of Versailles

and now

2017 ~ Ghost in the Shell

Yup! Exciting, right? In the spirit of the upcoming new live action movie (that I’m so psyched for) along with the recent bluray releases of the films and series, I’ll be taking a trip through this entire classic anime franchise that arguably helped shape science fiction as we know it.

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Gosh how I love infographics. The crew over at FUNimation put together this one, and might I say how in-character it feels. 

Ghost in the Shell is a very hazy area in terms release order and technical chronology, such that the franchise has been divided into 3 separate universes–YES, the just pulled a Zelda on us, haha! After a few hours of researching different interpretations as to the order everything falls under, I’ve settled on the list below that I recorded on my wipe board (cause I am a list-nut):

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At this exact moment, I have already watched 1995, Innocence, and the first 6 episodes of Stand Alone Complex. Odds are that I’ll just skip 2.0 and Alternative Architecture since they are typically disregarded anyway.

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I even tweeted my excitement by making a themed wallpaper for my iPhone based on the live action poster 🙂

So yeah, that’s what has been on my mind lately. Within this month, you can hopefully expect a Cafe Talk about my swimming career and Free!, a review of Blast of Tempest, an OWLS post about Yuri!!! On ICE, a review of some parts of the GitS franchise, and lastly a monthly update. I’ll be reading through comments and catching up on several of your guys’ posts (especially the rest of the OWLS blog tour–I STILL haven’t read some of them!). Any words of wisdom from your Ghost in the Shell experience? What entry was your favorite part? I’ll admit, the two movies set the bar pretty high since I’m a thinker, and S.A.C. has yet to rope me in completely. Let me know, oh, and happy belated V-day!

With love,

– Takuto, your host

 

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End of January Update 2/11/17

NOOOO I’ve already failed the 4-post-per-month plan!!! (but how, it was so easy??)

So it’s already a week into February and I’m not gonna lie, not a whole lot of anime got watched within the first month of 2017. It’s gotten so bad that I haven’t even participated in any of the simulcasts airing this season, which is a shame since some of them actually intrigued me a good deal. Because so little was watched in January, I’m going to flip back to December and recap the anime shows and films that I watched then until now. Sound good? Let’s take a trip back in the past!

“Recently” Finished:

The Garden of Words – We’re starting off with the MOST BEAUTIFUL anime film I have ever seen!! I kid you not, the story isn’t necessarily brilliant and the run time is only 45 minutes, but it’s 45 minutes of pure atmosphere: luscious greenery and endless rainfall. Speaking of plot, I really like the punchline this Shinkai film–“A story of solitude and heartache that comes before love.” If you’ve somehow missed out on Garden, do check it out if slick animation is your thing. (I mean, who doesn’t like that?) Seriously, it’s short and heartwarming; a must for fans of the rain!

Pale Cocoon – This and the other short film below were extra features included with the Time of EVE: The Movie bluray, so of course I had to watch more of Yasuhiro Yoshiura’s work! This one is the length of a normal episode and centers on a young man in the future who works as an archive recoverer (so a historian). The huge theme on this one is that those who dwell too much in the past can be consumed in the present and risk losing wonderful things. Kinda confusing but really thought-provoking. I remember watching this a long time ago but not understanding it at all, so it’s nice to see how I’ve grown as an intelligent viewer.

Aquatic Language – Yup, this is 8 minutes of WTF anime. It’s a cartoonish short set in a cafe. Like Time of Eve, there are many interactions taking place between people, and half the fun is finding out how all of the conversations tie in together and reflect the main character, a boy with a broken heart. I’d give this one a skip if it weren’t 8 minutes and included with the others.

Sailor Moon Crystal Season I -Following my Viz rewatch of Sailor Moon and its sequel R, I finally decided to boot up “The Moonlight Legend Reborn,” Sailor Moon Crystal, and I ABSOLUTELY LOVED all of it!!! Despite the popular opinion, I found Crystal to be a wonderful remake with a more straightforward and concise story. It retells Naoko Takeuchi’s tragedy as it was meant to be told, adding an entirely new layer of dramatic depth to the characters and their origins. In particular, Queen Beryl, the series’ antagonist, becomes a completely different woman clothed with misfortune. I even found myself enjoying the CG transformations, for each of them were beautiful in their own way! If you’re looking for the TRUE tale of the grim Dark Kingdom Arc, Crystal‘s first season has you covered!

Terror in Resonance – I’ve actually been holding onto this one for several months now having bought the LTD ED in a sale. At the time, I figured that this would be a grand winter show, so putting it on hold would be the wisest thing to do–boy, was I right! Though it gained immense popularity while it aired in 2014, if you haven’t heard about Zankyou no Terror, it’s about two boys who become terrorists to prove a point to their country regarding truth and justice–relevant themes to our current times, no? If I had to pick one from this list to recommend, Terror in Resonance is definitely the bomb.

Paprika – This little oddball took part in my Winter Movie Theater thing that I do with my siblings. The catch this time–I did not prewatch Paprika. Normally, I watch several shows/films and pick the ones worthy of their time (and my buying). Since I “knew” that Paprika was a classic and that I’d probably enjoy it, I went ahead and blindly picked it up for a super cheap price. Upon first watch . . . WHAT THE FRACK . . . but looking back while repeatedly listening to the OST, I found myself recalling all of its bold and subtle cues alike and appreciating the wackiness of its dreamlike presentation. It’ll be one of those shows that people won’t understand completely the first time through, so it’s a good thing I love rewatching anime!

Fafner: Dead Aggressor & Heaven and Earth The Movie – Fafner (SAVE edition) was another blind pickup from when Hastings went out of business (RIP). Why buy? It was dirt cheap, on bluray, and had a pretty cover. I don’t want to go into too much detail because YES, a review is on the way!! But if you’re wanting my direct opinion: The movie was everything I wanted out of the series and then some–the best Fafner has to offer. I’ve still yet to watch the new series that aired recently, but I plan to one of these days.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices – Woah, another blind pickup from the Sentai Filmworks sale that I figured I’d enjoy . . . and I did, to an extent, though. Don’t get me wrong, it’s gorgeous Shinkai animation, but the story feels so hollow and the fantasy world presented doesn’t feel very alive. The first half was amazing, the end was pretty decent, but everything in the middle was kind of a snooze fest. I much preferred The Garden of Words, but by all means, check it out if you have the extra time

Ghost in the Shell (1995) – The prequel to my next V-day marathon weekend begins with Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 sci-fi classic that shocked the world, Ghost in the Shell. For #TakutoMovieNight over on Twitter, I described it as “a wonderfully weird trip through the heart of anime science fiction.” Although that caption better suits Paprika, classics are classics. After viewing a 30-min analysis, I actually had to watch this film over again just to fully understand its depth–and even then, there’s still a lot GitS offers. Don’t just watch it, own it for a mere $8! I’m looking forward to exploring the entirety of the franchise this next weekend!

Blast of Tempest – Everyone saw this coming from my latest “Cafe Talk” regarding whether or not you research concepts as you’re watching a show. Check that out if you haven’t (yes, I’m a tad bit behind on the comments, but I’m working on it!). Inspired by both Shakespeare’s Hamlet and The Tempest, this one’s all about mages, mysterious deaths, and magical trees–anime for ya. While I wasn’t “mind blown” by what the anime had in store, it had enough standout moments to pull a win for me. More to come on that in a review!

Spirited Away (rewatch) – A [non-anime-affiliated] friend of mine was recently given this Miyazaki masterpiece and fell completely in love with it. (Will they pursue other anime films?! Stay tuned.) With all this talk about Your Name and its surpassing the GOAT, I thought I’d waltz back to my childhood days and revisit the film. All I previously remembered from Spirited Away was a disgusting bath scene, a witch with a big head, and a scary floating mask man that ate people. Childhood scarred. But I still recall myself being enthralled by the atmosphere of the bath house. Years later, I didn’t actually realize just HOW GOOD this film really was–I mean, it’s incredible, almost breathtaking in its execution and representation of the OG hardworking individual and their work habits. Oh yeah, there’s romance, too, but it was Chihiro’s development into a stronger, more resilient person that drew me in all over again. Maybe I’ll write about how I was swept off my feet once again by Ghibli . . . or maybe I’ll go find another one to watch instead! >.<

Currently Watching:

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash – Heh heh, here’s the show I’m currently watching. A bit of a throwback to last year, Grimgar follows teenagers who wake up in a fantasy realm of magic and swords. They can’t remember their prior lives, but they do know one thing: they must survive by any means necessary. I like how the focus isn’t necessarily on kill or be killed (though that is quite prominent), but on other aspects of life. In these medieval days, they still need to acquire money to eat and sleep comfortably. I’m two episodes in and the slice-of-life mixed with the challenges hardships bring is what’s winning me. I just hope it doesn’t turn into some dumb adventure of good and evil later on. Did I mention what got me to start this series in the first place? Why, it was the stunning watercolor backgrounds and artwork!! It’s been such a long time since I’ve seen landscapes as subtly enchanting as these~!

And that about does it! Again, apologies for my lack of content after setting up such a seemingly simple resolution. I feel terrible for skipping over so many of your guys’ posts, but I WILL do my best to be more active. I also want to begin some simulcasts soon so the updates seem more relevant each month. Thank you for sticking around so long, and hey, we’re almost at 200 followers–now that’ll be a celebration!! My winter days are coming to an end. Emotions are rolling out like crazy weird as I transition into a different stage of my life [to be discussed in a future cafe talk soon]. Even though it’s still February, we just had a couple days of 60-70 degrees F weather AKA global warming is NOT a myth. Frick the non-believers. See you soon in the next post~!

– Takuto, your host

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Conducting Anime Research | Cafe Talk

Do you ever conduct a little research?

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I’ve spent the past week eagerly awaiting the arrival of an Amazon package. Was it manga? Nope. Anime? Not quite? Ooh, a figure? Now you’re way off! Just like any kid, I’ve been DYING for my . . . Shakespeare . . . to get here? Welcome to “Cafe Talk.”


If it puts you at ease, I ordered from the “No Fear Shakespeare” line because, goodness me, there’s no way I could read the fully saturated original plays. Nope, I’ve adapted to the “side-by-side PLAIN ENGLISH” narrative that Sparknotes publishes, and might I add that they make the experience plenty more fun for a weak reader like myself.

But god, save for The Tempest, these covers are shit tho. Like seriously, who designed these? I’m not even going to show you what they did to Midsummer Night’s Dream.

But I’m sure you’re also just bubbling with curiosity as to what stories I’ve decided to pick up. First, that requires a little background (because heaven forbid someone just “start feeling like reading classic lit”).

Years ago I started a little anime called Blast of Tempest out of pure love for the stained-glass graphic they put on their promotional poster.

^^Yeah, this one!

Anyway, I never got past the first or second episode. Try as I might, no matter how many times I restarted I never progressed. Eventually I gave up. Guess I just didn’t understand it, which, looking back, doesn’t surprise me at all because within the first FIVE MINUTES of the show the characters start rattling off nonsensical quotes from Hamlet and The Tempest!

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So being the “smarter” person that I am now, guess what I did? I FREAKING bought Hamlet and The Tempest. (The concept of checking out books doesn’t sit so hot with me.) While I have vague ideas as to how both end, I decided that I’m NOT progressing with the anime until I’ve at least read one of them, starting with Hamlet.

Guys, I have TWO episodes left and the suspense is killing me.

I suppose what I’m asking you is this: “Are you ever inspired to do a little research before further adventuring into manga, anime, games, and the like?” You know, “get familiar with the original source for more background” or “understand allusions and make connections to classic lit, historical events, or even real people?” Recalling times where I had to google existing events, places, and people for reference, I came up with this sample list of past searches:

Type Moon myths, legends, and epics

Madoka Magica Walpurgisnacht, entropy

Joan of Arc anything

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood tree of life

Evangelion dead sea scrolls, new testament, EVERYTHING

Seraph of the End Abbadon, trumpets of the apocolypse

Rose of Versailles French Revolution

Eden of the East selacao

Cross referencing Tales games and anime

A Certain Scientific Railgun esper resonance, concepts

Sword Art Online Fairy Dance novels, Midsummer Night’s Dream

Yuri!!! On ICE real GPF skaters

and now,

Blast of Tempest Hamlet, The Tempest

The list goes on forever, but you get the gist. All of this research is done, of course, so that I can apply real world knowledge to better myself as a fan of entertainment. Take no shame in searching up something that confuzzles you–Odds are that you’ll learn something cool, or find yourself lost in the digital library of wonder. And THAT feeling is incredible. Many of my most cherished memories about certain anime spawned from browsing the archives of “such-and-such Wikia” because IF you can google it, odds are there’s a Wiki for it.

So there are my thoughts regarding the pursuit of knowledge. In other words, DO IT if it feels right. I hope you learned a bit about me, and I’d really like to know more about you anime “research” habits (if I can even call my Wiki pastimes research)! “Cafe Talk” welcomes open-ended discussions, however brief or lengthy you wish to be! In the meantime, I’ll be resuming Act 1 Scene 2 from Hamlet–wish me luch, haha! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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I feel you, Hakaze.

 

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Kiznaiver, Where Change is Worth the Pain | OWLS “Disruptors”

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!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s first monthly topic, “Disruptors,” I decided to incorporate what would have been my standard Kiznaiver review into this discussion on peaceful protest. Something different to mix things up, right?

“To disrupt” has a negative denotation, but rather than looking at the verb in a negative light, we are going to use the verb in a positive way. It’s like the word “protest,” which has positive and negative connotations depending on the perspective of the person.

Disruptors: An individual or a group disturbing a system/set of social norms that they believe is destroying what is morally right.

I got this. Thanks Lyn for the prompt!

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A brief discussion of the spring 2016 anime “Kiznaiver,” produced by Trigger, directed by Hiroshi Kobayashi, based on the original story by Mari Okada.

When You Hurt, We All Hurt

Kids being subjected to horrific sociological experiments lurking within the shadows of a metropolis is a trend that, by now, anime is no stranger to. Just look at A Certain Scientific Railgun S and Terror in Resonance among others for proof. The newest “toddlers in test tubes” flick to come from Japan features kids not bound by grades, smarts, or other great potentials, but by blood–specifically pain–instead.

That’s right, they’re blood brothers (and sisters), and when one kiddo cries, the agony is divided. But like most scary psychological tests, the experiment is eventually caught, abandoned, and deemed a failure.

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Years later, seven teenagers–who would otherwise NEVER be friends with one another–find themselves confronted by Noriko Sonozaki, a bland yet mysteriously cruel high-schooler clad in a suit and long pale blue hair. She sets up an elaborate scheme to trap and force these clique representees into one small conflicted group in order to revive the “Kizuna System.” All of its members, or “Kiznaivers,” become connected through pain in a farfetched attempt to thoroughly understand what truly binds people.

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In a fashion very reminiscent of The Breakfast Club, the Kiznaivers must learn to get along with each other and accept one another’s differences and desires, or else risk receiving much more than a bad lab grade. Little do these wandering teens know that pain is not always a physical ailment.

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Disrupting the Social System

Whether lifting weights or running sprints, it’s easier to relate to people by saying “Ah god that sucked!” after the workout rather than during while you’re dying. Similarly, we quickly learn that it is not pain that binds the group, but the absence of that pain the minute the torture stops.  Basic application of sociology practices can easily tell us that breaking “social statics,” the order that holds society together, can lead to psychological effects both beneficial and disastrous. How are the three main broad modern perspectives of sociology displayed in Kiznaiver . . . ?

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First is the functionalist perspective. “Society is a set of interrelated parts that work together to produce a stable social system.” This refers to the seven deadly sins that reflect each character. I didn’t tell you about them? Oh, well, here’s a pretty infographic for that:

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I did not make this infographic. Character images belong to Studio Trigger.

Like The Breakfast Club was trying to strike home with at the end, society CANNOT function WITHOUT these individual traits, and that each of these traits–to a certain degree–exist within each one of us. Through a mutual hostility towards Sonozaki and the Kizuna System, consensus is achieved within the group . . . . that is, once they finally make the “high and mighty” Maki come around. They quickly realize that if each of one of them does not sacrifice himself to the collective, then their summer would be dreadful as hell. The dysfunctions that the group encounters, such as embarrassing reveals and aching hearts, do, in the end, lead to social change in order to fix their wavering social instability.

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Second is the conflict perspective. Oh yes, it wouldn’t be anime if our main cast wasn’t chased by idiots in ridiculous suits, racing against the clock to solve a simple equation of personality or reach the checkpoint in some quirky game. Sonozaki doesn’t like waiting for the pot to simmer, and we see this through her hiring of goons and manipulating of the higher ups to reach quicker means of an end. She exercises calm yet absolute control over her lab rats, and her form is only disturbed when Katsuhira Agata, our quiet protagonist, invites her in on the fun. Sonozaki may not be the best-developed of her kuudere kind, but her use of conflict as the prominent source for change adds a fair degree of speed and excitement to this show bombarded by melodramatic twists.

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Third is the interactionist perspective. The name’s self-explanatory. “It focuses on how individuals interact with one another in society.” Our crew of seven fall back on this perspective as they uncover their true selves and unravel the hearts of others. This perspective is interested in the ways in which individuals respond to one another in everyday situations, which is why Kiznaiver is rife with scenes where these unrelated characters are just eating or lying on the couch and talking to each other nonchalantly. Slice-of-life interactions and witty dialogue are what keep this anime afloat, after all. The show gets its edge from the characters’ constant defining and interpreting of each other’s actions.

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REMEMBER, They Didn’t Chose This Life

It’s easy to forget that our seven peeps weren’t chosen heroes, but actually lab rats of a terrifying experiment lost in the past. In other words, they didn’t chose to save society by disrupting the immoral, negative flow–they were FORCED to make change, and I think that’s why they struggled so hard. If anything, they dedicated themselves to taking down Sonozaki and the supposed system designed to achieve “world peace.” These kids just wanted to continue being normal . . .

Katsuhira, a victim unresponsive to pain,

Chidori, a silent lover in denial,

Tenga, a street thug to pass the time,

Maki, a bookwork undetected by her peers,

Yuta, a popular kid distanced from his past,

Niko, a spoiled delusionist by choice,

Hisomu, a hospital resident seeking pleasure,

Sonozaki, a child in fear of suffering . . .

But because these seemingly unrelated individuals were bound together by fear itself, they learned to welcome the bizarre, the wacky, and the weird that resided within each of their souls, and to protest against the elusive faults of a perfect society so that their new bonds of friendship could persevere through even the thickest of storms. In the final bout to save themselves, the Kiznaivers resolved to defy the social norms dictating their lives, for in the deepest, darkest, most-messed-up cores of each other, they found only themselves staring back.

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“Everyone wants to carve their scars into someone else. Everyone wants to connect with someone else.” – Noriko Sonozaki


Pay no heed to the slightly pessimistic tone there at the end–it’s supposed to be a good thing! Also, don’t feel bad if you didn’t recognize any of the science I was spittin’ out at the beginning. I just happened to be in the sociology neighborhood at school. So, what have you learned from this? Well, other than that Sonozaki is kinda a mad, lovesick bitch on sedatives, we found that sometimes it is not always the positives that make people seek change. The Kiznaivers were tired of wallowing around with cringy, disgusting insides that decayed their spirits.

To eliminate that self-pity, they helped each other, which in turn helped themselves find personal salvation, which finally led to an improvement within their squad, which was reflected as a mirror of society itself. By putting their differences aside, disrupting social norms, and coming together with a strong goal in mind, they effectively corrected some of the dysfunctions of society, even if only for a brief moment. That, is understanding. That, is change. That, is healing. There, look at me finding the positives!

Kiznaiver is by no means one of the best anime out there–I’d welcome it as a “Coffee” here at the cafe. But, if you look hard enough, you might be surprised with what’s actually lurking in the belly of the beast. Perhaps seven deadly sins? All 12 episodes of Kiznaiver can be found on Crunchyroll if I’ve at all intrigued you! If you liked The Breakfast Club, then this also might be for you. And if things just don’t jive with you too well, heck, at least Trigger’s animation and Yuuki Hayashi’s music are entertaining enough. Oh, and we can’t forget its true legacy, the opening”LAY YOUR HANDS ON ME” by BOOM BOOM SATELLITES.

This concludes my January 27th entry in the OWLS “Disruptors” blog tour. Please check out Pink-chan (Pinky’s Palace) who did a lovely job right before me (as did everyone else) discussing the modern dystopian classic PSYCHO-PASS, one of my top favorites, no less! Oh, and get psyched for one of my best blogger buds Lita (LitaKino Anime Corner) to wrap up this exciting month! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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To disrupt, or not to disrupt: that is the question of change.

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Happy New Year! I’m Going to Try Harder in 2017!

WOAH, who’s this guy? “Takuto . . .” Wasn’t he some self-named “aniblogger” who we stopped hearing from back during the fall of 2016?

Well, you’re not wrong. I kind of dropped the ball–Just like New York did.

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It’s been another crazy-busy year in the personal life of Takuto the host. For that reason (and a lack of blogging enthusiasm), you probably noticed me vanish off the face of the blogosphere several times. Let’s look back on the few achievements sprinkled here and there in 2016, shall we? I’ve linked each header to the related posts for those who like archive browsing like I do. 🙂

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EVA-Week Takes 2016 by Storm

During the past new year festivities and up through the spring, I was ON FIRE. To celebrate the long-held-off U.S. English release of the third block in the Rebuild of Evangelion movie series, Evangelion 3.33, I hosted “EVA-Week,” a week-long journey through the franchise’s other entries besides the main series Neon Genesis Evangelion, beginning with a throwback to Valentine’s Day 2015 when I began my life-altering quest and ending with concerns and cupcakes dedicated towards the latest installment. Boy, was that the time of my life. Many of you already know and some can relate, but this franchise really, really means a lot to me. 2016’s high came early, the 3.33 release easily topping anything that came after it–and that was in FEBRUARY!

Escaflowne, my First Kickstarter

This was one of those unnecessary but fun events to partake in. Though much controversy surrounds the project, I think it’s safe to say I enjoyed participating in a bit of anime history. Ignore my taking the measly $15 pledge, however, for after careful consideration I upped the ante so that I myself could actually hold that piece of history.

IRL Meet-up at Naka-Kon

The highlight of my spring for the past couple years has been attending an anime convention called Naka-Kon in Overland Park, KS. What made this year so special was getting to meet blogger buds Crimson (Crimson Blogs at Night) and Kausus (Otaku Gamer Zone) IN THE FLESH. Our time spent together was brief but nonetheless legendary, and I hope that we’ll be able to reunite again this year. Looking back, I had to include my announcement post (here) because it contained the countless comments (pre-Twitter days) regarding a conversation between myself, Crimson, Kausus, and Lyn (Just Something About LynLyn) where basically they were trying to track my location in the universe. 70 comments of hilarity, and I remember every bit of it!

Watching the Oldest Anime I’ve Ever Seen

I don’t think I can classify myself as a “well-rounded, knowledgeable anime fan” until I have dabbled in a little of every genre from all ages. So, representing shoujo minds of the late 70s/early 80s is The Rose of Versailles. Don’t let its antiquity fool you, for its glittering beauty is eternal, a masterpiece of romance, tragedy, and historical fiction.

Defending Fairies in the Spring

March marks an impressive month for this cafe. After finally being fed up with all of the bashing against Sword Art Online‘s second arc, the “Fairy Dance,” I decided to take flight to the original light novels and compare them to the anime adaptation. Safe to say that in SAO‘s case, the books are better than the movies. Not by a long shot, haha, no, but they make pretty entertaining (and less disgusting) reads. “In Defense of Fairy Dance” remains my most ambitious project yet, spanning over 10,000 words across five distinct parts–Not that more words means better writing, but I think you understand that it was quite the undertaking. This series of posts strengthened my voice in writing and helped me to use graphics in a more effective way. I’m glad I took the time to visit ALO.

Space Cowboys w/the Fam

Do you watch anime with your family? Not many do (and I totally understand and respect each person’s choice in the matter), but here at my place anime was something we all shared growing up. From the ridiculously long speeches about a children’s card game in Yu-Gi-Oh to the lands where creatures and man share the world in Pokemon; from the magical realms of escape in Studio Ghibli works to the even more magical and sparkling city where a young girl recalls her legendary past in Sailor Moon; from the arenas dominated by flaming, spinning tops in Beyblade to the conflicted domain where two worlds collide in Bakugan; my siblings and I (as well as our parents whenever they feel entranced by our joy) have stood by each other’s side, and though I lead the herd, I dare say I’d be nothing without my followers. As part of my 2015 Winter Movie Theater, we fled for space in Cowboy Bebop, a show that my dad remembered watching when he was younger. Though we didn’t finish it until spring the following year, it was a delight to watch this classic, and to witness the end of a journey through the blues that my own dad started many moons ago.

Finding Strength in Hero Week

The third and what would be final big project of 2016 was somewhat a failed one–“Hero Week.” While the intent was to write a review for four shows I was watching that happened to have a hero trend going, there ended up being a day or two of space between each post with a recap about 2 weeks later–2 WEEKS! That’s not good. I don’t regret my actions, for they sort of gave me strength and a view of the big picture in regards to specialized reviews. ERASED, One Punch Man, Yuki Yuna, and My Hero Academia all taught me that no matter how hard things get, we must dust ourselves off and hang in there as best as we can.

More Movie Theater Madness

Summer eventually reared its hot head, and as such the 2016 Summer Movie Theater was under way! The movie theater thing is something I hold for my siblings, but if you’re wanting more info on that, I wrote a Cafe Talk over it quite a while back. Some of the titles that “wowed the crowd” included A Lull in the Sea, Danganronpa, and KILL la KILL, all favorites of mine and excellent pieces that hold on their own!

Joining the Twitter Aniblogger Fam

When I had thrown out a “coming soon”post with bluish tinted wings in the featured image, I wasn’t expecting so many of you to think that a Takuto on Twitter was becoming a reality!! What that announcement ended up being was a teaser to my “Fairy Dance” series, and I felt somewhat sad for disappointing a few of you, haha. But never fear, for I finally got around to that Twitter and all I can say is “why didn’t I do this sooner?!”

Ice-Skating Boys Changed My Life

Yuri. On. Ice. Who knew that an anime about guys gallivanting around on frozen water would forever lift my spirits and revolutionize my winter season? I wasn’t even intending to watch this show, but the constant images of one boy yelling at another boy with the same name in a bathroom stall that flooded my Twitter feed after the season premiere  aired ended up being enough to convince me to boot up the first episode. I was blessed–I think we all were–and so I converted that raw inspiration into a post reflecting the series’ critical third episode. Eros and Agape. Without these two, my blog activity in the latter half of the year would have been quite sparse, so I thank Yuri!!! On ICE for all it has brought into my previously-low-motivated life!!!

Becoming the Change

I was recently recruited into the OWLS, the Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect. We are defined as:

A group of otaku bloggers who promotes acceptance of all individuals regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and disability. We emphasize the importance of respect, kindness, and tolerance to every human being.

More information can be found at my pal Arria’s place (Fujinsei).


Of course, my typical reviews, updates, and other posts like hauls and Cafe Talks filled the gaps between each of these major moments, so please, check those out if you feel so inclined. They are the backbone of this fine establishment, after all~!

A Happy New Year to you all, and cheers to 2017 where I promise to work harder on the blogging front!

Like last year, I delayed this post because I wanted to be the last one on the anime blogosphere to wish you a Happy New Year! But, unlike last year, I had to write ALL of this lengthy post. Part of it is a self-motivation plan, another part is that I’m tired of not being around more. I want to be with all of you, followers of my Anime Cafe or not, because you make up the conversations being laid here–You, the reader, are here because we both share a similar passion, anime, and I want to talk about that with YOU! I want to get lost in the worlds of our favorite animated works and experience all of the joys and sorrows that our beloved characters feel.

My art teacher posted this on her dry-erase board sometime in November, and I couldn’t have summed up 2016 better. What happened to be my theme by the end?

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This wasn’t my greatest year (of only 2 lol) for blogging, but I have zero regrets on the path I’ve paved thus far. December provided much self reflection, and it only made me realize how much I want to be here. There is such unique thrill in hitting the “Publish” button that no other hobby can satisfy for me. I need to keep creating content for me, for you, and for anyone else who stumbles across my little digital cafe in the vast sea of data, communication, and connection. My plan? Four posts per month:

  • Anime Review
  • Cafe Talk
  • Monthly Update
  • Another Anime Review/Miscellaneous (haul, analysis, other)

It sounds weak (because it is), but I need to do only what I CAN do. If I can do this much then maybe I can maintain my blogging motivation and [eventually and hopefully] write more!

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I offer the warmest THANK YOU from the bottom of the coffee pot for sticking with me these past few months, both the active comment-leavers (you know who you are) and the quiet readers. Also, to any of you who recently walked through the door, HI, I’m Takuto, your host at my Anime Cafe. I hope you enjoy the fruits of my efforts, the wonders to come and the gifts I’ve left behind~! 

Let’s aim for a another year ripe with hearty conversations and memorable moments in this little cafe of mine 🙂 AS ALWAYS, until next time, I cherish you all more than words can express!! Good night!

– Takuto, your host

 

 

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Empire of Corpses Reanimates a Classic Tale | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the fall 2015 anime film “Empire of Corpses,” produced by Wit Studio, directed by Ryoutarou Makihara, based on the novel by Keikaku Itou. 



Oh my, is it already passed Thanksgiving?! Woah, since I’ve been slacking I’ll make this one brief. Shall we visit the first of three films based on the late novelist Itou’s melancholic work and see if Wit Studio was able to breath life into his ambitious project?

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Zombies and Steampunk

Welcome to an 1800s London where zombies roam the streets! Not really, sort of. Scientists have played god with dead bodies long enough that they’ve patented it down to a system called reanimation. In other words, the Brits are reviving the dead. It’s not a foolproof process, however, for the key to understanding life itself–the soul–does not return upon reignition. Because these walking corpses are incapable of experiencing the joys and sorrows that life presents, they’re mainly revitalized to serve in the labor force.

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But every lab experiment comes with its breakthroughs, and that is exactly what befell Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Rumored to have been the first to successfully reanimate a corpse with a soul, the great mad scientist suddenly disappeared–his work supposedly vanishing with him. Inspired by his love for research and science, John Watson pursues hunting Dr. Frankenstein’s notes regarding the blueprints of the soul in order to revive his best pal, Friday. Throughout his journey, Watson unearths the terrifying truths of corpse technology, and how costly the science is for not only the living, but also for those who have long since passed on.

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What exactly makes up the “Weight of the Soul?”

I’d like to first point out that I understand why the film, despite its glorious visuals, was poorly received by critics. The first Project Itou film tries to dish out a lot of hard, unknown science, but above all make you feel emotional connection to the lead character Watson and his situation. Grasping the conceptual stuff is particularly tricky, and the ties between real life historical figures and their fantasy counterparts don’t seem to make understanding the basics much easier. It’s even arguable that the rules of the world presented are poorly laid out from the start. This build up of failed comprehension and attempt at emotional appeal led to a cataclysmic finale on both the story and visual levels.

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Beyond the messy climax, I did quite enjoy the relationship between Watson and Friday. Their exchanges (well, Watson’s actions and Friday’s silent responses) felt genuine, and above all, I think that matters more than a shaky concept deliverance does. When Watson felt curious or distressed, the actions were reciprocated on myself. Also, to go against the crowd, I really liked the female role. Though she mainly served as a reminder of the scientist’s goal–Friday serving as his ambition–I found myself wanting her to also receive a happy ending. The Russian scientist Nikolai could’ve used more screentime, but I digress since the show mainly revolves around Watson’s side.

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The Incredible World of Sherlock Holmes

Empire of Corpse’s strongest point easily lies with Wit Studio’s fantastic job in creating an atmosphere similar to a Sherlock Holmes film straight out of Hollywood! Such entrancing lighting, rich symbolism, and articulate detail in the machines and other devices absolutely blew me away. Each of the characters stand out beautifully in their own way, from the deadpan expressions of Friday to the stylish English outfits of a steampunk society. Action scenes would engage any viewer (I’m a sucker for vehicle chase scenes, so the opening really drew me in), and it all culminates into a finale so stellar it became a visual feast. I had to pick between absorbing or comprehending, and, well, I think you knew which won. I did notice Redjuice and Egoist accredited, which would also explain the Guilty Crown vibes.

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While I cannot recall any specific tracks, the music did do the show justice in contemplating the Sherlock Holmes tone. On the auditory side, huge props to the English voice cast and THE ACCENTS that tied so well with the concept and setting. Wonderful performances from Jason Liebrecht (Watson) and Micah Solusod (Nikolai).

Final Thoughts

Even if the concepts presented are a bit tricky to grasp near the end, this movie achieves in the feels department for me. Perhaps I was missing the context of the original Frankenstein novel for a few of those bits, but I did find it okay for the most part. It’s another demonstration on how far man will go to pursue knowledge above all else, an ultimate nudge to the idea that for us humans, some things are best not knowing.

“Beauty and sublimity are not what shape the future. It’s the willpower to try to actualize one’s words and feelings for someone else–DON’T YOU SEE!?” – John Watson

Final Assessment

+ Breathtaking visuals, fantastic steampunk design

+ Emotional attachment to Watson’s struggle with Friday

+ Fascinating project history, happy to see Itou’s work animated

– Started off simple enough, but lost its footing by the end

– “Weight of the soul” not explained thoroughly

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I’m signing off on the first Project Itou film with a hot “Coffee” rating here at the cafe! Understandably flawed, but still quite enjoyable. This was the finale to my Halloween break following Shiki, a title which I reviewed a week or two back if you’re interested. Shoutout to Crimson for recommending this movie to me!! What did you think of Empire of Corpses? Were you disappointed with the results or did you find it particularly noteworthy for anything? Let me know because parts of me (the living ones, at least) are still a bit conflicted! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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I know it’s fan art, but LOOK at that mechanical detail!

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Shiki: The Frightening Science of Vampires | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 22-episode summer 2010 anime “Shiki,” produced by Daume, based on the novel by Fuyumi Ono.

How would you feel about being given a second chance at life? Was there work you left behind unfinished that just needed a few more final touches? What about reuniting with a loved one from your past life? An opportunity like this rivals that of winning the lottery–a dream fulfilled, is it not?

Now, what if you were forced to return to this wretched earth, strained out of the dead to continue maintaining your fragile body at the expense of friends and family? You’d be a burdensome leech, a selfish and disgusting virus which feeds off of the innocent and the ignorant alike just to preserve your own rotting corpse. If you could kill people without consequence, would it be easier to do? Would you feel more inclined to repeat your actions?

Shiki presents us with both scenarios of life for the undead, but its grim tone and somber character stories have us believing that life after death is truly and rightfully morbid.

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Welcome to Sotoba – Population: Fear, Hysteria, and Death

This tale of madness descending is set in a remote rural village isolated from “modern” society. (We’re talking a town with traditional wooden Japanese houses and only one clinic to visit in case of emergency.) From the get-go, we already know that what will happen in the village will stay in the village. At first the atmosphere is cheery, starting us off through the eyes of hot n’ dangerous teen Megumi, a girl who feels like an outcast among the villagers because of her fashionable and trendy fantasies of city life (quite relatable, might I add). She lusts after a transfer student by the name of Natsuno who would be, as anyone could guess, charming yet mysterious “boyfriend material.”

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But much of her young life changes when an enormous castle-sized mansion is built almost overnight–the extravagant yet seemingly-elusive Kirishiki family has moved into that vacant lot high in the mountains. They are reserved and elegant divas of the night, but what terror, if any, lies beyond their walled stronghold on the hill?

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And exactly like clockwork, strange disease and paranoia begin seeping through the cracks of these closed-off country minds. Villagers grow pale and unresponsive, only to pass away within days of their diagnosis! All of this perplexes our [arguably the] main character, the good doctor Toshio, and his battle against these unseen and mystical forces quickly causes his ironclad rationale to teeter on the edge of self-destruction.

Themes! Themes for all!

The story is loaded with conflicts of the individual vs. culture and society that would make any philosopher or English teacher quiver in delight. If you continue to dissect its characters apart, you’ll notice a healthy amount of psychoanalysis to be done. There’s also the very nature of these vampiric beasts that’ll surely give you goosebumps if you’re just in it for the action. All things considered, Shiki’s premise is well-crafted and cleverly presented through its many different viewpoints. The anime tries to handle the scenario through every set of eyes possible, and actually does a fair job at it.

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Watching Occupation Shaping Perception

If this show is trying to preach one lesson to its viewers, it’s that OCCUPATION SHAPES PERCEPTION. First we have Toshio the Rational who wields science and logic as his guiding torch. His hands-on experience and repeated failure with his patients shape his view on how the village should act. Given this firsthand account of horror, the trauma is enough to eventually shake his mental stability. “Empty your hearts. In order to kill these demons we have to become demons.”

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Then there’s Muroi the Romantic writer and priest who believes through feelings that these demons are just like us. Even now, they only have special requirements to live. His benevolent approach leaves him without any clue as to how to fight a back, however, for his inexperience and urge to document the case rather than seek justice cause him to remain sane but forever alone.

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And finally we have Natsuno and Megumi, both Angsty Lovers who embody mixes of the doc and the junior monk. They remain rational and understanding of all that takes place, but their struggle against striving for the lives they desire to live under supernatural circumstances leads them to consequence. All of the villagers, save for these four, are static characters designed to move the plot forward and advance growth in our leads.

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A Damn Good English Dub

A fair point is that I fell in love with the English dub voices before I did the characters, so props to FUNimation for that win–especially to Tia Ballard as Megumi, holy crap! Also, while there are a dozen characters that I loved (and a dozen that I hated), my heart goes out to nurse Yasuyo (yay for more Wendy Powell!), the busty, compassionate sweetheart clad in fishnet-leggings. What a frickin’ saint she is!

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Relying on Story Horror Rather than Visual Horror

Onto the animation side, studio Daume actually did a very decent job. Several excellent cinematic shots and moldy/bold color choices were used to convey the eerie atmosphere. But I did have a few problems. As much as I took great pleasure in the Shiki black ombre eyes, too many different kinds of eye styles made me really dislike the ugly, small-pupil look that was overused on “insane” characters. Also, what’s up with that hair shaping? Natsuno’s nasty cut reminded me of the salad leaves I was munching on! (Yes, I did tweet about this).

I’m sure you’ve heard Shiki’s main theme “Shi-Ki” in one of your “emotional anime music 2 hours” compilation videos. But don’t just stop there! Check out the melodramatic tracks I left below which utilize a haunting choir, chimes, bass drums, a soothing macabre orchestra to create the illusion of nightmares stalking the shadows. They are a bit overused, but hey, you get so consumed by the atmosphere that repetition doesn’t matter. Composer Yasuharu Takanashi (Log Horizon, Oda Nobuna, Fairy Tale, Sailor Moon Crystal) remains one of my favorites, for he always does such phenomenal job in mashing together atmosphere and action.

“Day and Night”

“Eau de Vie”

“Pendulum”

Also, the second opening, “Calendula Requiem” by kanon x kanon totally rocked the house. Just look at those visuals–and the song, ooh the song!

Why is it Popular? Fresh Spin on a Legendary Concept

Shiki is praised for its ability to tell the same story through every character viewpoint possible; you get attached to individuals from both sides, which is quite a wonderful thing given the premise. It’s a nice rational approach to an ancient, typically fantasy or magical subject–The Science of Vampires, if you will. It presents us with a very well-thought-out tale of morality vs. rationality, never taking the easy way out to show its claims.

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In a world where monsters and humans alike are pitted against each other, fear, especially of abandonment, consumes all who let it. Common people who are unwilling to let go of pre-existing notions are the ones that get left behind. It sounds harsh, but in this brutal and vicious cycle everyone except the sane ultimately lose. What draws the line between superstition and simply being afraid is how disturbingly far people will go to preserve their own “sanity.” It’s only after the smoke clears, however, that humans realize the error in their ways, and that any God has long since abandoned them . . . or at least some believe.

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Final Thoughts

Anyone can die at any time; no one is safe/excluded from the elements listed above, which is also why I really enjoyed Shiki. Fear of uncertainty through the supernatural catches us off guard, in that fear CAN and WILL strike at any time. The use of gory sound effects and beautifully ghastly music help to establish that fearful tone. Shiki may not have visually scared me, but its raw content sure was creepy, gruesome, and more interesting than any Hollywood horror film.

“This is what a world ruled by order looks like. Those who accept order can live together peacefully, protected from the unknown safe in their belief that all is as it should be. But when something happens to threaten this orderly existence, they will fight to the very death. By eliminating the threat, they hope to preserve the fabric of their lives–the order that holds their entire world together. And so they realize what a fragile world it is.” – Seishin Muroi

Final Assessment

+ Frequent tonal shifts, led by the many viewpoints, leave strong and vastly different impressions from beginning to end

+ Death can strike anyone, anytime

+ True fear and creepiness created by the supernatural STORY ITSELF, not necessarily the visuals (never takes the easy way out)

+ Wonderfully presented themes of morality between individuals, culture, and society, and how people are only as safe as their surroundings make them feel

+ Nailed the village horror atmosphere with frightful perfection; intricately woven web of characters and interactions between them and setting

– Eye and hair designs on some characters just looked dumb

– Fantastic and complementing soundtrack, but some tracks are a bit overused

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What a Halloween break well-spent, no? Well, if anything could be said, it’s that those Japanese need real doors, not the paper-thin stuff you can hear through the walls, yikes! What did you think of this anime? It’s another “Caffe Mocha” over here! Were you completely freaked out or more invested in its thought-provoking messages? Let me know in the comments so we can talk about this beloved title! I’m so happy I got to finally watch this very peculiar classic. Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Extravagant Divas of the Night, the Kirishikis