Tales of Symphonia Orchestrates Racial Harmony By Overcoming Great Tragedy| OWLS “Colors”

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  fourth monthly topic, “Colors,” I decided hit up a show that originates from a GameCube JRPG–the one and only Tales of Symphonia which was, fun fact, the SECOND anime I had ever watched!! You know what that means—aww yeah, old-school Takuto wrote a dope review about it (here) years ago that is littered with grammatical errors but full of heart. It currently has zero comments and likes, so go mess that up for me, will ya? Be gentle 🙂

We are all part of one race, the human race. “Colors” refers to people of color in anime. For this month’s topic, we will be discussing how people of color or
characters of different “races” (could be a literal alien race) are represented in anime. Some topics we are considering is the dangers of stereotyping, bi-racial
characters, and the importance of racial inclusion.

I had the recent pleasure of finally finishing the Tales of Symphonia PS3 game recently, so I’m excited let the experience come full circle by revisiting one of the titles that got me into anime. Thanks Lyn for the prompt!

Image result


A brief discussion on the various races and factions that appear in the 2007-2012 11-episode OVA series “Tales of Symphonia: The Animation,” based off the GameCube game by the same name, created by Bandai-Namco, produced by Ufotable, directed by Haruo Sotozaki (“Tales of Zestiria”). SPOILER WARNING

When One World Flourishes, the Other Withers

Enter Sylvarant, a fantasy world of monsters yet very little magic. Why? The mana that flows through the realm has been draining out for a long time now, and it seems that the land will only grow drier (literally) with each passing day. Little to the peoples’ knowledge, a second world exists out there, one that mirrors their own home, and the reason it prospers and thrives is because the mana flow resembles that of an hourglass, Tethe’alla, this second world, residing on the bottom.

This is where the Chosen one comes to save the day! “Chosen” by the heavens, Colette Brunel of Sylvarant sets out on her quest of World Regeneration to flip the hourglass back in their favor. But her clumsiness and well-being worry her friends Lloyd Irving and Genis Sage, so the two, along with Genis’s older sister (and their village’s teacher) Raine and a mysterious mercenary named Kratos, embark on a journey, encountering new friends and more foes with their own philosophies, that will forever shake the foundations of their precious world that they’ve studied for so long.

Image result for tales of symphonia anime screencaps

Just when our gang finally learns to love the world for what it is,  things take one tragic turn after another, forcing our heroes to question the reason they fight, and whether their quest is one of nobility or selfishness. Remember, when one world flourishes, the other withers—people are bound to make great sacrifices.

Symphonia remains one of the top, if not THE #1 game in the incredible Tales franchise. Rife with gorgeous visuals, dramatic Celtic-inspired music, and heartbreaking characters, the animation holds on its own by establishing a fantasy adventure world (or two) where there’s always something to be lost for one of its characters. As the series progresses, we viewers, too, begin to question if a happy ending even exists for this broken cast of many ages and races. Symphonia tackles the harsh realities of acceptance and racism through its memorable characters.

Related image

Oppressed, Punished, and Exiled

In this vast fantasy world, several races and factions exist, most of which frequently bump heads with one another. Aside from the dwarves, who lead quieter pastimes as master craftsman, there are exist elves. They live reclusive lives hidden in villages like Heimdall among the trees, and choose to isolate themselves from society because breeding half-elves (the result of human x elf mating) is frowned upon. Largely stemming from human jealousy, for elves have much longer lifespans and can use magic but humans have neither, and disgust for human blood in an elf body, both humans and elves decided to hate half-elves all around, which leads us to Symphonia‘s most tragic bunch.

Related image

Half-elves cower at the tip of every whip cracked and at the shackles of every chain latched. Disdain from both humans and elves has caused these poor people to be punished for their mixed blood, and, if they are lucky, exiled from the land. Some literally fled to a floating isle called Exire to avoid their tragic fate. Those who could not escape detainment were hunted down, beaten, and even tortured. The main reason for their abuse, aside from their physical make-up, derives from the legend of the the great Kharlan War. In it, humans and elves fought over the two countries, Sylvarant and Tethe’alla, which left half-elves, magic users with longevity in human bodies, to be caught in the crossfire.

If We Could Just Include Instead of Exclude . . . 

Lloyd Irving, the main character, was raised by a dwarven father, meaning that he has seen the abuse from a more objective standpoint than that of a human, elf, or half-elf. Out of rage for their treatment, the Desians, a treacherous organization of half-elves, had swept through Sylvarant, enslaving humans and sacrificing them to create enhancing magic crystals called Exspheres. What they are doing is wrong, and Lloyd knows it, clutching his own mother’s Exsphere from when she was still among the living.

Image result

With a burning desire to end all enslavement and restore the two worlds to one so that all can live in harmony together, Lloyd uses his own experience with the people he holds dear to guide his quest. When it is revealed early on that his best friend Genis and sister Raine are, in fact, half-elves, Lloyd doesn’t grief or retaliate harshly. There’s even a scene where Genis mourns because he knows that when Lloyd and all of his friends eventually pass away, he will be left behind alive but lonely. Instead, Lloyd sympathizes and smiles that he is still able to enjoy their company in the present, looking beyond racial treatment and into the value of their personality.

Genis himself undergoes his own journey when he meets the great Mithos, suppposed Hero of the Kharlan War. In actuality, he manifests as a young half-elf boy just like Genis who only wished for a world where he and his sister Martel could live in peace. Unlike Lloyd’s determination to seek symphonic harmony with all races, however, Mithos sought to convert everyone into one homogeneous kind, believing that if race didn’t exist, then neither would racism. The boy is right and his ideals are true, but his brutal nature and execution of his plans are naive and cruel. The heart was in the right place, but the mind wasn’t, and that’s why Mithos continues to suffer until his own sister rejects him.

Image result for tales of symphonia anime mithos

We need more people like Lloyd and Genis—people who have had experiences with trauma on both sides, yet still manage to see the good in others regardless of their race or status. But there’s only one way to handle this matter carefully. Rather than force people to accept the beautiful array of colored people on this planet, shoving our own ideals down their ignorant throats, we need to integrate warm, positive spirits into communities that suffer from racial exclusion—we must value the characters, not appearances, of all different peoples in order to end this childish thinking.

Dividing the world into two so that people can exist on separate planes was not the answer. Same goes for establishing one master race. The weight of Lloyd’s unwavering acceptance and determination to create a world for everyone is the greatest joy that can come from the series. It’s the hope that some day we can all overcome our own tragedies to play in one harmonic symphony together that makes “Tales of Symphonia” ring true to so many hearts. Life in this kind of new world begins not by looking at what which makes us different, but celebrating what we share in common, and that is beautiful. 

Image result for tales of symphonia anime lloyd and genis

“Dwarven Vow #1: Let’s all work together for the sake of a peaceful world.” – Lloyd Irving


Tales of Symphonia is a really neat show full of heartwarming themes and deep characters, so do check it out if this kind of fantasy is your thing! For those who have seen it, what do you think of the game or its anime adaptation? What about how it’s emotional bits are portrayed? I preferred the anime’s flow in this department, but hey, let me know your thoughts!

This concludes my April 22nd entry in the OWLS “Colors” blog tour. Please check out Stephanie Clarke’s (Anime Girls NYC) post over the darker colored villains from the currently popular Twin Star Exorcists! And now the magic will trickle down to Eren (sakuradaisuki) as she walks us through “Colors” in the dear-to-heart Sailor Moon on Monday, April 24th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Image result

United We Stand in Ghost S.A.C. 2nd GIG| Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 26-episode winter 2004 anime “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG” and its recap 2006 film “Individual Eleven,” produced by Production I.G, directed by Kenji Kamiyama, based on the original manga by Masamune Shirow.

Cafe note: I reviewed the first season right here, so check that out prior to reading this. Many thanks, happy reading~!


Back to the Cybernetic City

With the Laughing Man’s agenda terminated by Motoko Kusanagi and the gang, Section 9 is no longer forced to operate in the shadows. Taking an interest in the way the brutal hunting force operates, Japan’s newly elected Prime Minister Kayabuki re-establishes Section 9 as her final attempt to fend off the latest rounds of cyber-terrorism, and find a party whom she could trust her life with. This new deadly collective, “The Individual Eleven,” has led a string of seemingly unrelated terrorist plots and assassinations across the nation.

Just as the Major and Chief Aramaki begin investigating into these gruesome cases, however, the Japanese government faces a forced confrontation by the alarming build-up of foreign refugees who were ousted from their homes during the Third World War, and are now seeking asylum in Japan. Section 9 attempts to juggle both crises, but their constant bumping heads with Kazundo Gouda of Cabinet Intelligence Service leads the Major to suspect he may be even more tangled up in the mess than the “enemy” is, and that perhaps both The Individual Eleven and the refugee crisis are just two parts of one titanic movement.

Image result

The Stand Alone Complex branch of the hit Ghost in the Shell franchise returns to the scene to reaffirm that everything, be it physically or digitally, is interconnected by the pushes and pulls of a techno-dystopian society.

Picking Up Where We Left Off

S.A.C. 2nd GIG wastes no time in welcoming us back to its inner universe. Unlike its predecessor, 2nd GIG features a clearer, more concisely written story. It achieves this by appropriately placing its “stand-alone” episodes within the timeline in less-congested areas of heavy plot action. Sticking to a story written in sequential order, 2nd GIG feels a lot easier to grasp, even if the characters themselves are more “complex” this second time around. I can see why fans acknowledge this series as the superior one not simply because the visuals are upgraded, but the linear way in which the story is told—even if the concept may not rival that of a wizard-class super hacker—seems more straightforward. Either that, or it just took me 26 episodes prior to get used to Kamiyama’s directing.

Image result for prime minister kayabuki

Critical characters to not only the series but the franchise as a whole are introduced quickly and efficiently, these namely being Kayabuki, Gouda, and Kuze, the eventual leader of the refugee camp and a mastermind in guerrilla warfare, both on the battlefield and in the net. Watching Kayabuki crumble before but endure the weight of those dirty politicians and back-alley deals emphasizes one trait that defined the Major as such a relatable character for so many: the strength of women, and the power, beauty, and grace that comes with enduring unfavorable outcomes and situations. Ghost in the Shell, like much of entertainment, explores the notion that life is one big power struggle; it’s as unavoidable as the rising moon or the flowing tides.

New, Twisted Faces

Speaking of power, Gouda is clearly not meant to be a likable dude. His *literally* twisted face should be an indicator of his reliability. He’s a competent and sophisticated man, using people and manipulating scenarios like he does with data. Though he’s got several tricks up his sleeves to be used against all of the pawns in the game, including the Major, his sheer level of skill and sneering wit make me MELT with a swelling love for his character. And John Snyder, his English VA absolutely knocked the role outta the park! We honestly need more intelligent rivals like him in anime; he’s a dick, but that’s what makes him so fascinating. Gouda is always one step ahead of the game, and stacking the deck is the only way to secure a trump card in this dirty world.

Image result

The Major’s foil finally manifests in the form of Hideo Kuze, an calm yet equally interesting antihero who holds a similar background. While I cannot mention too much without spoiling, I will say that he’s just as calculating as Motoko and Gouda, and perhaps more skillful and inspirational than both of them on a personal level. He’s quite interesting, so let his words sink in . . . everything he does is for the people . . .

Image result

Aside from the Major’s few moments, those members of Section 9 that did not previously have an episode for their own backstory (Pazu, Saito) receive one now EXCEPT for poor, poor Borma, the fat guy. While the Tachikoma’s return with more amusing exclamations and ideas, Togusa takes takes the back seat for this ride. One of these days we’ll get the backstory details and spotlight that they ALL deserve, but that time is sadly not now.

Improved Presentation Transcend S.A.C.

The two-ish year gap between each series really does reiterate the fact that Production I.G is the king of science fiction anime. Most of the characters receive new outfits and gear, all of which show off their differing personalities. The Major’s transformation from light gray and white to a dark gray and black skintight suit add contrast to the series’ new tone, a perfect match for some of the unsettling truths regarding the Major’s past. Her leather trench coat and obsidian visors complete the look. Besides the returning overly impressive architecture, it’s all the tiny details in character design that make 2nd GIG a fashion show for our models, both the sleek and the grungy alike.

Kanno returns to add that techno-blues/cop show soundtrack from the first season. Many of the tracks were even reused, so it’s not an entirely “new” OST. The epic action music in particular was done better this time. Where she doesn’t stand out in background music Kanno definitely makes up for with the new opening “Rise,” once again sung by the lovely Origa. “Rise” is the epitome of cyber punk trance dubstep, a song that hypes itself up with its intense beat, ascending chord progressions, and deep lyrics. Exhilarating stuff!

Since the characters remain largely underdeveloped in terms of background info, many just watch the show for its intriguing story, to which I point you toward the 3-hour (eek) recap film titled Individual Eleven that hones its focus solely on the core case from beginning to end. It is a recap, however, so all of your favorite one-off episodes are not present, and a lot of cool detours were cut, such as a fatal mission flaw by the Major that made my heart skip a beat. I give the same caution that I dished out last time, though—Individual Eleven features an entirely different English voice cast. While the wonderful Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Crispin Freeman, and now John Snyder should never have been replaced as Motoko, Togusa, and Gouda, respectively, the new cast largely remains serviceable.

United We Stand – The Individual VS Society

Ghost in the Shell S.A.C. 2nd GIG continues as a more light-hearted cop-chase approach to the original 1995 film, and by this I mean that it is less about self-reflection and more geared towards the interactions people share with others. It’s also no laughing matter, either, presenting the sadness of war, and that in the near future warfare is still terrifying and tragic. 2nd GIG resumes its heavy, confusing political drama, but its new emphasis on securing a cyber body through the black market is neatly explored with greater depth, ironically “fleshing” out the world.

Image result

The sequel to the beloved Stand Alone Complex is a successful piece of science fiction and sociological analysis. It’s a series rooted in the effects of technology on people, be it the goods, bads, or really bads. Sharpening its linear storytelling and enhancing its setting and character designs, one really shouldn’t stop at the first season—continue to uncover the fate of Section 9 as the original story intended!

“The refugees have given me countless names. I joined forces with them with the intent to save them. But maybe the real reason I united with them was to keep the loneliness at bay.” – Kuze

Final Assessment:

+ Story told sequentially with with focused, linear direction

+ New character designs are more appealing; Major’s new look

+ Production I.G upped their game again!

+ Both Gouda and Kuze are excellent characters

+ Explores the pillars of social order through a cool story; the war on terror continues

– Section 9 members STILL don’t get the backstory treatment they deserve

– Recap film English dub remains pestering

Image result


GitS S.A.C. 2nd GIG also deserves its “Cake” title (4/5), a must-watch if you’ve already started the first! It does require a great amount of focus and minor understanding of corporate politics, though. Thankfully the action weighs well against the political banter. What did you think of the Individual Eleven story, and did the recap film aid in your understanding as it did mine? Let me know, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Image result

Still lookin’ fresh, Batou and Major

No Man Laughs Alone in Ghost S.A.C. | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 26-episode fall 2002 anime “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” and its recap 2005 film “The Laughing Man,” produced by Production I.G, directed by Kenji Kamiyama, based on the original manga by Masamune Shirow.


City of Steel, Bodies of Iron

It’s 2032, the cyberization age. Because most brains are now encased in a metal mold, people can access the net just by thinking and slide into mechanical bodies through a connecting cable alone. Walk along the streets and one would find fleshlings, cyborgs, and robots alike coexisting as if it were commonplace. The power of the net has virtually blurred the lines between the physical and the digital, which can breed both terrific convenience and terrifying crime. Completely ineffective in halting cyber crime, as it typically is, the government has hired Security Division Section 9, a group of ruffians specialized in taking down hackers and terrorists alike.

Led by their Chief Daisuke Aramaki and Major Motoko Kusanagi, this small squad rules the shadows and grungy back alleys in an effort to clean up the city. When a great super hacker dubbed the “Laughing Man” rears his head once again after 5 quiet years, however, the Major and her troop face what could be their greatest social threat yet. Unlike their most recent cases, this one proves to be not as simple as SHOOT + LOAD + REPEAT, but rather an intense chasing game of CTRL + ALT + DELETE.

Image result for ghost in the shell stand alone complex section 9

The iconic franchise and its much-loved figurehead return to the streets after a silent 7 years since the groundbreaking film’s worldwide release in 1995. While it’s neat to see the title reinvented into a series, I found all of the GitS films, recap or not, to be far superior to the series. Before I go further into the franchise, let’s evaluate Stand Alone Complex and weigh its own merits.

It’s Not like the Movie, and that’s Perfectly Fine

This pun has already been pitched a million times, but to aptly put things, many of the episodes of Stand Alone Complex are, well, stand-alone. These episodes all tackle the lives of individuals of all all social classes, and how they interact with society and the Section 9 crew. The true underlying story is only tossed here and there as hints before the grand finale. Unlike the 1995 classic, which honed in on the psychological balance between human and cyborg, both of the GitS series challenge society instead, providing much sociological questioning such as “how much can people be “cyberized” before it’s no longer a human society,” or “whether the net truly brings people together or tears us apart.” Because it was less egocentrically based, I found myself less prone to self-discovery, but more open to social understanding. It’s a bit of a letdown at first, especially since the Major’s self-reflection is what sold me to begin with.

motoko.PNG

Where the plot may stumble and confuse, the characters provide entertaining banter and motivation. Being a more light-hearted approach to the franchise much like the original manga was, it’s appropriate to chuckle here and there at the strong man Batou’s unfortunate misdemeanors around the still-intelligent Major, or admire the human normie Togusa’s total dad bod. The presence of the cute Tachikomas, blue insect-shaped and car-sized robot AI, helped to not only alleviate unnecessary government actions that frustrated me, but also provide that quintessential self-pondering of being a robot vs a lifeform similar to what the Major dealt with in 1995. They’re annoying at times, but they remind us as to the joys of feeling alive.

A Stunning Sci-Fi Story and World

People watch this show for the genuine Section 9 crew and for high-paced, explosive combat layered with a complicated cop show setup. For its 2002 release, SAC has aged remarkably, providing some of the most engaging sci-fi action that rivals today’s anime fights. What ultimately brought it all together was the world itself, though. The towering skyscrapers and low, wrap-around market places give off a bustling effect to Newport City. The occasional gray sky and drizzly weather is almost enough to take one back to 1995, and the traffic—my goodness, all the road traffic! What a headache! Watching the characters drive from location to location allows Production I.G prove that they are the masters of anime architecture. The complex interwoven highways and cars almost act as a mirror of society itself, in that we’re ultimately all just a small part of the great flow.

Story-wise, it’s quite complicated, honestly. I held off on any Ghost in the Shell until I was older simply because I felt I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it fully without encompassing a greater intellect. (I’m still no genius, though.) To assume one has to be smart to enjoy this series isn’t true at all, but when it came to all of the political nonsense between government officials and sketchy deals, it is a lot to consume, I’ll admit.

Much of this can be negated, however, if a person checks out the 3-hour (yikes) recap film that reorganizes the Laughing Man snippets that are littered throughout all 26 episodes and places them into a more logical, sequential order. The [sadly] very few valuable backstory spotlights of Section 9 members are lost, but if one’s just in it for the core story, then this recap film satisfies immensely. The only caution I can give is to those who prefer English dubs; The Laughing Man features an entirely different vocal cast from the series, and while it is utterly DISAPPOINTING to hear brilliant actors Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and Crispin Freeman replaced as Motoko and Togusa, this other cast doesn’t do a bad job. Nope, not at all, and these are very large shoes to fill.

motoko1.PNG

While everyone praises Yoko Kanno for her sheer masterpieces of music, Stand Alone Complex is not her most memorable work for me. She keeps with the flow of light dialogue and adrenaline-filled action, balancing the two just fine, but I can’t recall any specific tracks besides the opening, “Inner Universe,” sung by the late Origa, a piece of music that perfectly captures the ENTIRE franchise. Its haunting yet entrancing beginning put me in full-dive mode every time. It’ll live on with the likes of “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis” as anime’s bests, and rightfully so.

Let Me Walk Away Laughing

It’s no surprise that SAC is different than 1995: different directors, production date, arcs adapted, character introductions and routes taken, etc. What hasn’t changed is the same powerful studio behind the project and the unwavering calculations of the Major. Ghost in the Shell is a franchise that explores possibility through the unification of humans and technology. It also shows us the worst case scenario—its abuse, and how that turns people off from all things cyber entirely. SAC‘s first season is a little hard to understand thanks to its divided attentions, but so long as you trust in the Major’s new face and follow your ghost, you may walk away having thought of something new, and that’s what sci-fi is all about.

Batou: Nowadays . . . people entrust their memories to external devices because they want to set down solid physical proof that can distinguish them as unique individuals . . .

Motoko: A watch and weight training gear, both of us have clung to useless scraps of memory, haven’t we?

Final Assessment:

+ This incarnation of the Major can be just as meaningful so long as you have an open mind

+ Emphasizes that Production I.G is king of city architecture and sci-fi worlds

+ Works in sociological approach that defines the franchise today

+ That opening combined with all the fluid combat gets the blood pumping

– Such a lovable cast deserves greater backstories

– Overarching story is hard to follow, but recap movie helps

– Missing out on series dub in recap film


Stand Alone Complex is welcomed at the cafe as a “Cake” title (4/5), one too sweet to miss out on if you have the time! It does require a great amount of focus and minor understanding of corporate politics, though. Sometimes the intermixed action sequences were the only bits that helped me stay awake! SAC has been around for YEARS now, so what do you make of the series? Did you enjoy the Laughing Man story, and did the recap film aid in your understanding as it did mine? Let me know, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Related image

Batou, his Tachikoma, and Major. Stay fresh, Section 9.

I’m Going to Naka-Kon THIS Weekend!

Evening all, just a couple of heads up items you might be curious about!

  1. Yes, I’ve STILL got the damn stomach bug, but I’m trying not to let it bother me too much, especially for this weekend. It started on Monday and, four days later, you’d think it’d be gone–NOPE. I’ve found out that I generally feel a bit better when I keep moving around, so hopefully all of the walking this weekend keeps my stomach from folding in on itself. Speaking of . . .
  2. YES, this will be my third year at Naka-Kon, an anime/Japanese culture convention in Overland Park, Kansas. It’s kind of a smaller con, but it’s recently gained a ton of popularity within the last couple years. I’ll be leaving tomorrow (Friday) in the early afternoon and I’ll hopefully arrive there at the hotel sometime that evening. I also do this thing with my siblings (and parents since they’re actually somewhat interested in my hobbies), so I’ll be spending the entire weekend with them and all the crazy and colorful things we love.
  3. I’ll be meeting voice actors at the con! In an ideal world, I’ll walk away with a photo and a signature from Max Mittleman, Robbie Daymond, and David Vincent, who will, fingers crossed, sign my A Lull in the Sea blu-ray 1 (I’m bring Aldnoah.Zero‘s DVD 1 in case I get lucky :3), Sailor Moon Viz DVD 1, and Fate/Zero pin-up poster + KILL la KILL blu-ray LTD volume 1, respectively. And though he’s certainly no voice actor, I’ll hopefully run into Kausus from Otaku Gamer Zone while I’m out in the madness! That’ll be an exciting reunion!
  4. Yes, I do cosplay, just a little, though. I’ve revised my Mikaela Hyakuya (Seraph of the End) like tossing the cheap foam pieces the set came with and remaking those pieces out of nice wood with a fresh coat of metallic paint. Same with the little jingly gold thingies–I replaced the basic gold ones with translucent blue ones like he has in all the concept art. I’ve also trimmed the wig so it fits LOL. On the third day, I’ll just sport your typical Attack on Titan jacket but with Shinji Ikari’s plug suit head piece things. They’re neat. It’s a cool, casual mashup.
  5. What happened to my Ghost in the Shell marathon? Well, thanks to my being bedridden, it was put on a temporary hold for a few days. I’ve finished the first two films, the first season and its recap film, and I’ve started the first 3 episodes of 2nd Gig. Currently having a blast with it all, and I’ll likely review my favorite entries from the franchise as soon as I finish it all!
  6. As to other reviews, a Blast of Tempest and Grimgar review are both in the works, so between those, my OWLS involvement, the GitS marathon, and a convention haul, there’ll be much more activity here at the cafe than in the past few months!
  7. I’ve got a TON, TON, TON of catch-up to play once my spring break hits, so I’m sorry if I’ve delayed your lovely comments for what, like 2+ months now? YOU WILL NOT BE IGNORED, I PROMISE!

Thank you all for your continued support. Wishing you all a fun, safe weekend, whatever you may be doing, and send some of your magical healing powers my way for the tum-tum if you’ve got juice to spare. 😉 Happy early Friday, everyone!

– Takuto, your host

Evangelion’s Misato Provides a Home for the Lonely | OWLS “Sanctuary”

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  third monthly topic, “Sanctuary,” I decided to pull in all of the Evangelion sources that I could, original series and Rebuild alike, in order highlight that no matter where you may be in the apocalyptic future of Tokyo-3, captain Misato Katsuragi’s apartment will always remain a safe haven from the wrath of the heavens.

A sanctuary is a place of safety and stability. In anime, there are several different places and environments that characters call “home.” For this topic, we will
be discussing locations and settings in anime.

Eva is a franchise that you might already know means the WORLD to me, so allowing myself to revisit its iconic universe is a real treat. Thanks Lyn for the prompt!

Image result


A brief discussion on Misato’s Apartment as it appears in the 26-episode 1995 series “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” the critical 1997 film “The End of Evangelion,” and the “Rebuild of Evangelion” film series, produced by Gainax and eventually Khara, all of which were written and directed by Hideaki Anno. 

First, A Welcoming Party

Eva opens up on an alternate present-day Tokyo where “Angels,” ironically named beasts of pure destruction, are in recent rise for some bizarre reason. Shinji Ikari, son of NERV commander Gendo Ikari, is called in to pilot the towering [neon] colored humanoid robot Evangelion Unit-01. NERV, an organization bent on the survival of the human race no matter the cost, may very well be the last battlefront in stopping these beings of terror, but it is ultimately up to Eva pilots like Shinji to determine whether humanity lives to see another day.

Shinji survives the first angel encounter against Sachiel. Barely. But the fact remains that he did actually save everyone, which is why his cold father ensures that Shinji remains on campus in case of another attack. No, the two don’t share the same living space, let alone sleep in the same house. Instead, they mutually agree that rooming together would be the worst possible outcome. Like a mother overprotective of her ducklings (this is funny because she has a pet penguin), the clumsy yet strong captain Misato Katsuragi takes Shinji under her wings and shelters the boy at her own apartment.

Image result for misato's apartment

Misato’s place is graphically located quite a ways away from NERV HQ, which is probably for the best considering that they are always on call, and that they already over-shoulder work everywhere else they go. It’s also crucial to note that we never see any interactions with the other apartment members in the complex, nor are the other lights on. It’s only Misato’s that is lit, like a lonely lighthouse guiding lost ships. After the two go out to pick up some welcome party snacks and view the majestic city sunset, the two share a memorably warm if not simple exchange before entering the household:

Misato: “Your things ought to have been delivered already, Shinji. I just moved here myself, ya know? *glancing back* Hey, come in.”

Shinji: “Uh, I don’t . . . want to intrude.”

Misato: “Shinji, this is your home now.”

Shinji: *hesitant pause, finally steps into the apartment, crossing the sliding door lining along the floor, and stares upward shyly* “I’m–I’m home.”

Misato: *closed eyes, smiling* “Welcome home.”

[the apartment door automatically slides shut, revealing the tag M.KATSURAGI]

Misato: “Ummm, as you can see, the place is just a little bit messy but uh, heh, go ahead and make yourself comfortable.”

This is your home now. Wow. Just by reading this you can already get a feel for both of our characters. Shinji is shy, not wishing to impose upon anyone his own troubles. Misato comes across as casual, relaxed, and friendly. But just as how she makes her cameo in a flashy blue sports car with nothing but a seductive picture to go by, the atmosphere quickly shifts from one of formality to an air of light-heartedness. Evangelion masterfully plays with moods depending on how the characters should be reacting to certain situations, and Misato’s apartment, in fact, could almost represent the peaceful and joyful side of the chaos. Now that we’re all acquainted, it’s time to get to know each other beyond the name tags.

Image result for misato katsuragi screencaps

Make Yourself Comfortable

“Is this how you act in public? In front of your friends!?” You might have gotten this spiel by your parents if you’ve ever for a second acted, heaven forbid, without concern for public opinion or manners. Going back to the question, of COURSE I don’t act like this out there–this is home, and home is the one place where an individual should feel less pressured to “suck in their gut,” so to speak. Home is where I can let my guard down, and the characters in Eva do exactly that at the apartment. These moments make up the lighter side of a series otherwise known to offer psychological trauma and emotional turmoil.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Shinji, Misato, and eventually Asuka are free to lounge around with a temporary leave of stress that comes with saving the world. At first it was only a woman and her pet. Soon the dynamic opens up to invite a pseudo son (episode 2), followed by a pseudo daughter (episode 9) and an anything-but father. Even aunty Ritsuko comes along and plays house at one point!

toothpick

Like mentioned earlier, Evangelion is rife with iconography. Some early examples include:

  • Episode 2’s introduction of the song, Misato’s theme
  • Episode 2’s fridge reveal of nothing but ice, snacks, and lots of beer
  • Episode 2’s infamous toothpick scene (adding on with the straw scene in the Rebuild)
  • Episode 2’s recitaiton of “Unfamilar Ceiling” (sheesh, one would think that episode 2 is important for some reason)
  • Episode 9’s synchronization training through DDR and fashion
  • Episode 16’s “I’m bored, so kiss me” by Asuka

Little Shin’s Room ❤

Homes allow people to ponder and create. In the show, we see the characters questioning their own existence, their place in the world, and whether the actions they take are justifiable. The apartment also allows philosophies to be revealed, such as Misato’s “Not everything must be answered with a yes m’am,” or “Wash away your troubles–bathing cleans the mind and soul!”Speaking of bathing . . .

Differing personalities invite conflict, however, for not everything in Misato’s apartment is happy-go-lucky. Time spent alone allows the darkness to sneak back into their heads. We are permitted to see the characters at their worst, such as this disturbing 20-second bath tangent by Asuka, portrayed by the incredible Tiffany Grant. Whereas bath scenes are supposed to be tranquil and stacked with fan service, Eva, being Eva, turns this cliche on its head to emphasize that not all acts at home are frivolous. Sometimes we get into fights, and that’s natural. Easily, the worst-case scenario remains the pinnacle choking scene from The End of Evangelion, which brings an entirely different and off-putting light to the children’s home.

Related image

What’s So Special About An Apartment

Not much, actually, only that it’s not just a house–it’s a home. A sanctuary from work stress and the trivialities of daily life, if you will. Even though these types of apartments are numerous in Japan, Eva still goes the extra mile in presenting the physical space uniquely. For one, the cinematography is sharp. This is reflected by the angles used, enhancing censored scenes like Shinji’s toothpicks or items such as the bras and lingerie that hang from the ceiling. This way the show stays interesting and provides enjoyment for a second time through. Utilizing warm hues of yellow for lighting also provides a sense of ease, unlike the cold LED lights of a hospital or a laboratory.

As much as it’s fun to break down the inter-workings of the minds of our favorite characters, or pick apart the cause and effect plots of our most beloved stories, taking a minute to admire the physical–locational settings–feels like a nice breath of fresh air.

misato.PNG

It feels like we’ve nearly covered it all, but in fact there’s so much more to the development of the apartment itself. How its atmosphere changes over the course of the story almost makes it seem as if it were a living, breathing entity. Home is a place to relax and be comforted by all the things, living or not, you cherish. It should be a place of intimacy, of quietude, a place to be yourself without anyone telling you how to live. I know not everyone has it this way, and I’m sorry, but I hope you have found your own little sanctuary somewhere in this wild world, or that someone like Misato has provided this comfort space for you.

To those who do settle down at the house, aren’t you the most “yourself” in the comfort of your own home or room? I know I am, and I hope that doesn’t change for at least a little while now. We all need our me-time, and there will never, ever, be something wrong with a lil’ peace and quiet. For those in solitude, just remember that even if you’re all alone without anyone to come home to, your own home will be waiting for you, eyes closed and smile wide, just as Misato was to Shinji. 

Welcome home.

step.PNG

Take care of yourself. – Neon Genesis Evangelion episode 26 title


Evangelion in its entirety clearly means a LOT to me. You could almost say that it influenced the shape of my character. If you’re interested in more of my ramblings and personal thoughts, please, feel free to browse the archives for more of that Eva goodness!

This concludes my March 8th entry in the OWLS “Sanctuary” blog tour. Please check out Matt’s (Matt-in-the-Hat) post discussing how, in Sword Art Online, there exists sanctuary within gaming. He apparently used my Fairy Dance musings as some inspiration, which makes me all the more excited to check it out! I’ll now toss the ball to BeckNaja (Nice Job Breaking It, Hero), for she will be jumping into Haikyuu!! this Friday, March 10th. (But let’s be honest, when is she not engaged with the show? lol) Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, take care ~

– Takuto

Sleep tight, Misato . . . such a mess, at least she looks comfortable enough

End of February Update 2/28/17

So I failed the 4-post-per-month plan yet again, but the defeat doesn’t seem as crushing as it was last month. Perhaps that’s because of my involvement with the OWLS bloggers; having a set deadline for a hefty post keeps me on my toes. Plus, they are more fun to write for some reason, hehe. The update this month will be brief, but hey, at least I’m doing the end of February update at the actual end of February!

Recently Finished:

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash – I covered my recent love for this short series in the last update, and here it is again but in the finished bin! Looking back, I’m happy that Grimgar didn’t stray from its preface of presenting the struggles of daily life in a fantasy adventure setting. Things took an unexpected turn, however, and on top of food, clothing, and other basic utilities, our party had to deal with death. Finding ways to cope and properly honor those who have passed on occupied much of the middle block. Luckily, the party found their way back on the track and ended their quest with great, intense combat, leaving the series open to a continuation if one ever were to arise. I quite enjoyed Grimgar, and I’ll probably try to pick it up now that FUNimation has released pics of the limited edition, huehuehue. I just might have to write a review if anyone is interested in knowing more of my thoughts!

grimgar.PNG

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence – As part of my Ghost in the Shell marathon week(s), this was the second entry to be completed. IT WAS NOT THAT BAD. Sheesh, everywhere you go, you have folks claiming that it was “too far up its own ass.” That quote was by the ANN podcast. I really enjoyed this film, I mean, not as much as the first, but still, it proved plenty interesting to say the least. The animation is gorgeous, the music complements the dingy atmosphere (that ending theme is soooo beautiful), and the premise offers enough to keep the viewer thinking, which is more than what Stand Alone Complex is currently giving me. I went ahead and picked it up on Amazon since FUNi recently rescued it and released it. When it gets here, I’ll rewatch a few bits then hopefully cover my thoughts in-depth later.

Currently Watching:

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – I’m not going to lie, SAC has so far been the most underwhelming entry in the franchise for me. I wasn’t even hooked until like episode 17 when the characters were trying to save bottles of wine–WINE for crying out loud! Maybe it’s just the way the characters converse that I’m not quite fully comprehending. I am watching the English dub (because YES Mary Elizabeth McGlynn AKA Viceroy Cornelia) if that makes any difference. The overarching “Laughing Man” plot has had its moments that completely gripped me, but there are too many government/political figures to remember, and that only adds to my confusion. Someone help, plz. I’ve got three episodes to go, so hopefully it all ties in by now, if not then by the “Laughing Man” recap movie, at least. The music is good, though, especially those first 15 or so seconds of the opening “Inner Universe.”

Between all this Ghost in the Shell, I don’t want to start anything not related to the franchise. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a marathon, right? I have Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2 on the way, as well as Innocence and GitS: The New Movie, so maybe I’ll hop into some sailor senshi awesomeness after Motoko’s done kicking all that cyber ass. Oh, isn’t set 2 of Sailor Moon S supposed to come out sometime in March? I already have set 1, so that’ll probably follow my Crystal session.

All of the releases lined up for this spring are absolute bliss: Steins;Gate the Movie, Crystal Season 2, Grimgar, One Punch Man, not to mention several others–the highlight of my entire year, however, has been the BLU-RAY RESCUE and even ENGLISH DUB of GOSICK set to come out in MAY. THIS. MAY. GOD I’M SO HAPPY I EVEN CRIED. What are you looking forward to picking up this spring?

Image result for gosick bluray

Also, how are the winter simulcasts, guys? I was going to watch Chaos;Child and Masamune-kun’s Revenge, but let me know if anything else out there is noteworthy. I plan to spend the afternoon reading all of the January and February OWLS blog tour posts, so be sure to check those out if you haven’t yet done so! I also plan to catch up on ALL of those comments you guys left. You know, time to be a responsible blogger for once, right? Haha, I will try to be super active this month, so until next time (hopefully soon), this has been

– Takuto, your host

Yuri!!! On ICE Goes the Distance for Life & Love | OWLS “Flight”

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 second monthly topic, “Flight,” I decided to incorporate what would have been my standard Yuri!!! On ICE review into this pep talk about ambition. Something different to mix things up, right?

An individual takes flight when there is a goal, a dream, or an ambition that he or she wants to achieve. For this blog post, however, we are going to look at “flight” through different lenses: the underdog’s dream, the possibilities that Yuri!!! On ICE allows viewers to think about, and also the dangers of greed and ignorance that can influence one’s dream.

Since last month’s interpretation of mine was a bit gloomy, I’ll be honing in on the wondrous joys of living in each moment–leaving it all out on the rink–and the ephemeral effects of social media.

I LOVE YURI!!! ON ICE so this’ll be fun! Thanks Lyn for the prompt!

Image result for yuri on ice episode 1


A brief discussion of the 12-episode fall 2016 anime “Yuri!!! On ICE,” produced by MAPPA, directed by Sayo Yamamoto, based on the original story by Mitsurou Kubo. 

Unexpected Loss, Unexpected Arrival

At age 23, country legend Yuuri Katsuki nearly lost it all when he returned to his family-owned Japanese hot springs without the gold. In fact, he didn’t even medal, taking last in the men’s ice-skating Grand Prix Final. Even though his face still beams youthfully, Yuuri’s not as agile as he used to be–and he knows it. Just as Yuuri contemplates moving on from skating, however, a video of him performing five-time world champion Viktor Nikiforov’s previous routine during practice instantly goes viral.

Image result

Scrambling to keep his life from further collapse, Yuuri finds himself in utter shock when Viktor, bearing himself in glistening full-frontal nude, unexpectedly shows up at his hometown’s Hasetsu hot springs. He jovially offers to mentor Yuuri and, being the BIGGEST Viktor Nikiforov fan ever to exist, Yuuri immediately accepts. His rekindled encouragement may blaze hotter than ever before, but Katsuki isn’t simply fighting against his past self! Everyone wants a piece of Viktor, including the competitive and fierce rising star of Russia, Yuri Plisetsky, and it quickly comes to both of their minds–and hearts–that there can only be one Yuri (!!!) on the ice.

Image result for yuri on ice yurio

So how do our guys “take flight” in the show? We’ll look at 3 ways that all relate to the anime’s ending theme, “You Only Live Once”!

1. Leaving the Comfort Zone

From their first day of practice together, Viktor splits Yuuri and Yurio apart, assesses their basic personalities, and assigns them opposing labels and routines completely and clearly different from themselves. This was all in the hopes of giving the two what they lack or fail to understand. Born from this exercise were the two spiritual entities on love, Eros and Agape, which I covered previously post that, ironically, received lots of love from you guys–thank you very much! Anyway, life and love come as a pair of L’s that Viktor himself has neglected. By understanding love, you can live a fuller life, and vice versa. To achieve their goals of competing in the GPF, Viktor rips the boys out of their comfort zone so that they, too, could fully comprehend the bizarre nature of love and its many beautiful forms.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2. Going the Distance

(In a post coming up soon I’ll be elaborating on my life-changing experience with sports, so for now you’ll get the truncated version.) Simply put, competitions like the GPF allow hardworking spirits from around the globe to come and put on a show for the world. They connect us. These boys all have their own origins: towns or cities that vary in atmosphere depending on the season; varying experience with languages and culture; the definition of a home-cooked meal.They are athletes, they are performers. And when they board that plane for the long flight ahead with determination to be the best in the world, they are ready  to put it all out there on the rink, no holds barred, no regrets. These boys want to do the best not only for themselves, their coaches, families, or nation, but for each competitor, too. THAT is the spirit of sportsmanship in competition: to do the best you can and make memories–make history–doing it with others!

Image result for yuri on ice traveling

And then that’s it. They’ll part ways, maybe take a couple pics together, and then decorations come down. But the memories never fade.

3. You Only Live Once

Tuning in to w.hatano’s “You Only Live Once” at the end of each episode treated us to an upbeat, happy-go-lucky firework show, not to mention a series of behind-the-lives-of-the-cast photos styled like an Instagram feed. The strong use of social media in this anime emphasizes a transient feeling, the romantic notion of fleeting emotions–of living in each moment–and living full and true to oneself. All of these characters are separated by their languages, styles, cultures, races, expressions, and location, but what binds them is love, love for one’s nation and the glorious joys that ice-skating brings.

The art they create doesn’t let them merely glide on the ice, but soar on the wings of life and love. Yuuri and the guys are just a bunch of kids from different countries coming together to make an ephemeral moment together. That’s why those last few episodes of touring Barcelona mean so much to the show as a whole and to us as viewers. They show us the boys out of their environment, or what they’d be like if we met them on the streets, and passing them by would be just that–evanescent.

So go out there and work hard, perform brilliantly, act courteously, be silly, laugh loudly, sing merrily, dance gracefully, pose triumphantly, speak clearly, learn intensely, ponder cleverly, play gently, dream wildly, write creatively, think positively, love passionately . . . and while you’re out there taking lots and lots and LOTS of pictures, never forget this: You only get one life. Live truthfully. 

It’s the only way those wings on your back will let you fly majestically. 

hugging2.png

There’s a place you just can’t reach unless you have a dream too large to bear alone. We call everything on the ice “love.” – Yuuri Katsuki


It’s no surprise that Yuri!!! On ICE has had a profound effect on my life recently, so regardless of its few shortcomings, flaws, or inconsistencies, the cafe will warmly welcome this anime as a “Caffè Mocha,” a proud rating for those shows that have touched my heart and are regarded as a must-watch from me. Watching YOI air throughout the cold, bitter wintry weather gave us all hope and anticipation for whatever excitement the next Wednesday would bring, and I’m seriously glad I joined Twitter when I did, otherwise I’d be missing out on the bountiful quantities of fan art, haha!

I strongly recommend watching Yuri!!! On ICE via Crunchyroll since you can boot up all 12 episodes for FREE! And OH MY GOODNESS, I didn’t even get to talk about the incredible soundtrack that accompanied each of our star performers! Not to mention studio MAPPA’s captivating and elegant animation–it’s on it’s own level in terms of representing sports physics in anime!! And then Dean Fujioka’s instant hit opening “History Maker,” oh how INSPIRING this entire ensemble is!!! I consider myself lucky each day that we honestly got a show like this one. It truly went out of its way to bring us something wonderfully unique and powerful. Emotionally touching, entertaining, comedic, inciteful, inspirational, full of good vibes all around . . . wow, it just means so much to me, and I could probably go on and on forever~!

This concludes my February 27th entry in the OWLS “Flight” blog tour. Please check out Hazelyn’s (Archi-Anime) post discussing how Viktor may have risked it all with his leap of faith! Next after me is . . . wait, did I just end our second blog tour? I DID, and what a pleasure it has been! Thank you so much for reading, and stay tuned for Arria of Fujinsei to wrap up this lovely month. Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

smiling-edit

Smiling Yuuri with long hair is everything. Go the distance to make yourself and others as happy as this kid!