Sailor Moon “Dark Kingdom Arc” Themes, Motifs, & Symbols

Welcome to the start of a new series on my blog! I want to try veering off the traditional review path and instead focus on some of the themes, motifs, and symbols in my favorite manga or anime series. These posts will not aim to critically analyze elements of the work, but rather provide a leaping-off point to prompt your own discussions. I encourage readers to use this post as they see fit (just be sure to tag me and link this page), and I hope you will find it useful!

The themes, motifs, and symbols discussed here pertain specifically to the “Dark Kingdom Arc” of Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon manga and the Sailor Moon Crystal anime series. Other themes, motifs, and symbols may also apply, though I plan to save those devices for future posts where they are more relevant in other parts of the franchise (like the use of dreams in SuperS). As such, this listing is by no means exhaustive, but it should help anyone trying to understand how some of the thematic devices function within the narrative. SPOILERS AHEAD!

Themes


Love and Fate Are Intertwined

Usagi and Mamoru’s relationship is written in the stars. Across time, they share many fated moments together, both on and off the battlefield. Whether as Usagi and Mamoru, Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask, or Princess Serenity and Prince Endymion, our star-crossed (or moonlit) lovers are fated to meet again and again. Their romance is the anchor for cruel fate to tear them apart at every possible junction. But, of course, love always wins, especially if it’s destined.

Destiny Is Circular

Fate, cycles, and chance meetings in the night create a circular storytelling pattern in the Dark Kingdom Arc. Just as the girls form unbreakable bonds with each other, they remember that they all used to be friends many moons ago—and that destiny, as it happens, has brought them together once more. The reuniting of the Sailor Guardians this time around is for the same purpose, too: the vanquishing of evil Queen Metalia once and for all. (In the classic Sailor Moon anime, the Sailor Guardians also lose their memories after defeating Queen Beryl—only for Usagi to have to once again become Sailor Moon in the second season—thus enhancing the circular nature of destiny.)

Light Conquers the Darkness

A story of magical girls invoking celestial powers to fight the forces of evil would not be complete without the popular saying “light conquers the dark.” It’s a cliche theme, but again, Sailor Moon makes it work because of its contrast between the heavenly moonlight of Silver Millennium (the force of good) and the subterranean Dark Kingdom (the force of evil). Quite literally, Serenity’s moonlight shines down from on high, establishing a visual hierarchy of morality as well as signaling a powerful allusion to heaven and hell itself.

Loyalty Accompanies Royalty

Every princess has her entourage of ladies-in-waiting, and Princess Serenity is no different. Although it takes the Sailor Guardians considerable time to realize that one of their own is in fact the Princess of the Moon Kingdom, they all naturally look to Sailor Moon anyway for guidance. Perhaps this is attest to her innate charm or the nature of destiny, but Usagi nevertheless finds herself surrounded by a circle of amazing female friendships. Similarly, Queen Beryl has her four Dark Generals carry out every waking task she can come up with. To the bitter end, they follow the will of their supreme ruler.

Acceptance of the Past

Finding out that you once stabbed yourself with a sword out of love several millennia ago and then were reborn in modern Tokyo would be a bitter pill for anyone to swallow. Yet, this is Usagi’s destiny, and it’s the past she has to accept if she wants to save her friends and the world in the present. Likewise, Mamoru must overcome any doubts of who he may have been as a young child due to his amnesia. All he knows now is that he needs the Silver Crystal to reaffirm something unknown to him in his own past. On the flip side, Beryl is forced to recall her feelings for Prince Endymion (and acknowledge her use of Metalia’s dark magic) if she is to take what she believes she rightfully deserves.

Justice Against the Usurper

Queen Beryl, as we find, was not always the monarch she claims to be. At most, she was a peasant girl whose infatuation, obsession, and jealousy over Prince Endymion’s love caused her to sign a dark contract. As Beryl led the rebellion against Earth and eventually the Moon, she only destroyed innocent lives in her path. When she finds the Dark Kingdom in the present age and establishes herself as its queen, she even starts scheming to overcome her ruler’s power, the darkness of Queen Metalia. Once Sailor Moon gets a complete grasp of the situation, it quickly becomes apparent what she must do: avenge her mother, her people, and her own past self by killing Beryl. Only Beryl’s (and Metalia’s) death will claim the justice Sailor Moon needs to validate her dual existence as Princess Serenity.

With Power Comes Responsibility

The staple character pattern of all superhero works is watching the protagonist grow into their newfound powers, only for them to realize that their actions have consequences, regardless of severity. Magic can be a blessing or a curse, and this dilemma stresses Usagi out. In the early chapters, she admits several times that she hates being a Sailor Guardian—that she hates being in pain and likewise inflicting it upon others. Being the guardian of love and justice certainly has its costs, yet Usagi’s destiny that only she can be Sailor Moon—as well as the Moon Princess—will be something she struggles with realizing time and time again. Gone are the days of innocent, youthful school life, and dawning now is the coming-of-age story for the future queen of the galaxy.

Motifs


Friendship

Perhaps what the entire Sailor Moon franchise is most beloved for is the endearing and genuine friendship between the girls. In the Dark Kingdom Arc, five girls who once adored each other and their peaceful life on the Moon are separated by fate, only to find themselves falling back into each others’ lives one chapter at a time. From their shared compassion, the Sailor Guardians are able to conquer any obstacles that come their way, whether the forces of evil Queen Beryl or the stress of classroom exams.

Magical Girl Transformation

Sailor Moon is one of the most influential works in creating the popular image of the “magical girl” as we know it today. From Sailor Moon, the magical girl has gone on to spiral into its own genre, wherein the themes of love, light, and justice often reoccur. While it may not be the first work of its kind, we can still understand how magical girls come across as admirable in the way that Usagi idolizes Sailor V. To Usagi Tsukino, Sailor V represents everything she aspires to become. Being a “tough and beautiful ally of justice” would be a dream—until Usagi becomes Sailor Moon, the soon-to-be-strongest magical girl in all existence, and realizes that her previous mundane reality wasn’t so bad after all. Each time the Sailor Guardians transform, we are reminded of their legendary powers, as well as how they are responsible for safeguarding humanity from the darkness.

Disguises & Misrecognition

People wear all kinds of disguises in Sailor Moon. Some moments of misrecognition are comic, like when Usagi transforms into a nurse to rescue Ami. Other times it is more tragic, like how Endou appears to Usagi with the face of Mamoru. The most famous disguise we know is Mamoru Chiba donning his suit and hat for Tuxedo Mask. With this disguise, he navigates through the night undetected to uncover more about the Silver Crystal’s whereabouts, as well as understand his own amnesiac past. As for the girls, they have their second identities as Sailor Guardians, and although they don’t look too different from their normal selves, the powers of magic prevent onlookers from seeing past the guise. Jadeite, Nephrite, Zoisite, and Kunzite also all use the bodies of innocent citizens to hide their monstrous demons. Finally, Usagi and Mamoru have their dual (tertiary?) identities as Princess Serenity and Prince Endymion. The fact that no one is able to figure out the princess’s identity until she is standing before them is attest to misrecognition’s role in protecting destiny itself.

Roundtable Meetings

Like King Arthur’s Knights of the Round or any other kind of strategizing scene in a superhero or spy movie, the Sailor Guardians are always assessing and evaluating new information as a group. Typically, their meetings take place at someone’s home, a local park, the arcade, or their secret base beneath the arcade. These meetings primarily serve to debrief recently acquired information and establish a plan of attack for the group, but they also provide insight into the girls’ individual personalities as they react to the developing situation. For example, Ami responds with tactical reasoning, Makoto just wants to fight the enemy, and Usagi usually sleeps through the whole thing. Meetings add moments of levity where the suspense of lingering battle can reset and transition back to daily life, reinforcing the themes of responsibility and loyalty to their noble cause.

Darkness & Light

Throughout this first arc, darkness always looms at bay. Whether the monsters of the Dark Generals, Beryl’s witchcraft, or Metalia’s overwhelming presence, darkness pervades in Sailor Moon. The radiant Moon and the Mythical Silver Crystal symbolize pure light, and although Metalia is a being born of the Sun, her existence only casts shadows—a kind of darkness which twists her and any who interact with her. It’s no coincidence that the Sailor Guardians are always “fighting evil by moonlight,” for the night is when the darkness can creep out. Likewise, their “winning love by daylight” lets us know that daytime is more or less a safe space. Any colorations of light and dark are further emphasized in the manga, wherein Naoko Takeuchi uses stark panels of all-black to heighten the spectacle of Sailor Moon’s glittering light.

Death & Rebirth

Cycles of life and death occur for both the heroes and the villains of the Dark Kingdom Arc. In the war on the Moon, the Sailor Guardians are defeated, Prince Endymion is martyred, and Usagi commits suicide. Likewise, Beryl is slain in her revolt, and her master, Metalia, is sealed away. The death of the antagonists and the preservation of the protagonists are commandeered by Queen Serenity, who uses the last of her strength to give the Sailor Guardians a second chance at life on Earth. Even after all Serenity had done, however, Mamoru again martyrs himself for Usagi, and Usagi—drawn to her wits end—surrenders to their circular fate and draws the fatal sword to her chest once again.

Monarchy

Castles and royalty are central to the early story of Sailor Moon and her legend. Queen Serenity ruled the Moon Kingdom. Prince Endymion ruled the kingdoms of Earth. Now, Queen Beryl rules the Dark Kingdom, and in order to reclaim what was lost from her mother, Usagi will have to awaken as Princess Serenity and end Beryl’s terrible reign. As the series progresses (across this arc and subsequent ones), we follow Usagi as she slowly starts equipping herself with the powers that once belonged to Queen Serenity. In this arc, the climax is Sailor Moon wielding the destructive force of the Silver Crystal to vanquish her foes. The passing of the jewel from mother to daughter is a significant rite of royal passage, one which marks Usagi as the next heir to the Silver Millennium.

Slumber & Awakening

Moments of sleep and wakefulness are apparent throughout the story. When not fighting the forces of evil, Usagi and the Sailor Guardians earn their rest. In fact, much of the motivated drama in the story is enhanced by Usagi and Mamoru’s conflicting dreams. Both sense their fate, yet they can’t quite grasp what it means. In the same sense, Queen Metalia “slumbers” deep beneath the Dark Kingdom as Beryl’s Four Dark Generals amass energy for their great ruler’s return. Likewise, both Queen Serenity on the Moon and the essence of Princess Serenity within Usagi’s heart lie dormant until the Silver Crystal can unleash their fated awakenings.

The Moonlight Legend Reborn

This signature phrase is borrowed from Viz Media’s marketing of the Sailor Moon Crystal anime, and it’s quite a fitting phrase considering how many times various adaptations have revisited this timeless story’s opening act. From manga to animation, stage plays to musicals, and likely countless drama CDs, Sailor Moon Crystal marks yet another retelling of the Moon Princess’ origin story. The moonlight legend is reborn, and we are once again given a chance for one of these adaptations to tell the manga’s story as Naoko Takeuchi originally intended. Thankfully, if the Crystal anime gets one thing right, it’s the conviction to that cause.

Symbols


Jewelry & Gemstones

Across literary and cinematic history, jewelry and gemstones have become associated with wealth, power, greed, and an obsession with vanity. Their sparkling allure attracts the gaze of many—it’s no wonder Beryl is so drawn to the Mythical Silver Crystal. Along with Beryl, the Four Heavenly Princes are characterized after actual gemstones. Naoko Takeuchi is able to flex her background in chemistry and gemology by tying many of the characters and plot points in the series to her personal fascination with minerals and gemstones.

Mythical Silver Crystal

The famous and sacred MacGuffin of Sailor Moon. Whether translated as legendary, imperium, or mythical (as the English localization of the manga went with), one thing’s certain—the crystal is silver, and its powers are unrivaled. One could argue that the Silver Crystal symbolizes the ugly struggle for power itself, as Beryl and Queen Metalia stop at nothing to obtain it. When wielded by an emotional Sailor Moon, however, the Silver Crystal only serves to protect her allies, heal their wounds, and carve a destructive path toward justice. The Silver Crystal also represents the legacy of the Moon Kingdom left in Usagi’s hands by Queen Serenity, which makes sense why it was hidden away from everyone—including loyal Luna—in Usagi’s own heart. What seems to matter most is that in the hands of evil, the legendary crystal is nothing but another pretty rock.

Transformation Pens

The obvious connotation here is that the pens aid in the transformation and disguise of the Sailor Guardians. Each pen is uniquely colored, denoting individual ownership over them. Thus, they become symbols of responsibility for the Sailor Guardians. While Usagi has her own assortment of magical items, the Sailor Guardians only have their pens. Holding their pens close to their chest when they shout out their transformation mantras, the transformation pens represent the timeless duty of the Sailor Guardians.

Stone Sword

The sword is a unique artifact in the continuity in that it is the only traditional weapon found in the battle against Beryl and Queen Metalia. A blade compounded over time by countless rocks and minerals, the sword is durable enough to cut through diamonds. It’s also heavy and denotes leadership, as shown in the way Sailor Jupiter helps Sailor Venus wield its power. Moreover, the sword was used in the previous war on the Moon to banish Queen Metalia. Back then it was shining, but its stone-cold appearance now reinforces the fact that Metalia’s power is turning things to stone. Additionally, Usagi wields this sword twice in the act of suicide, forever tying the blade to her suffering and legend. Thus, the stone sword needs to be the item that ends this story once again, for it symbolizes the destruction of ancient evil and leaving antiquity behind, once and for all.

The Moon & Silver Millennium

Floating high above and adorned on just about everything pertaining to the Sailor Guardians and their princess, the Moon carries the ambitious task of symbolizing everything the titular heroine stands for: tranquility, ephemerality, and serenity. Although Usagi may not embody those traits perfectly at first, the Moon is a constant reminder of where she’s come from—and where she needs to go next. We can almost attribute the crescent moon to Sailor Moon herself, while the full moon represents Queen Serenity. The moon’s white glow often warms the characters, and as they lose their way, they look up to its light for guidance. Of course, Earth’s silver satellite is also home to the Moon Kingdom, Silver Millennium, which means it bears an ancient history as the civilization that once orbited the blue planet below.

Rose

Red roses are the romantic mark of Tuxedo Mask. Since the flower is almost exclusively found on Earth, we can also associate plant life and nature with Prince Endymion. A red rose symbolizes true love, respect, and courage, qualities which are all tried and exemplified by all the good-natured characters in the story. Most of all, the flash of a red rose on the battlefield reaffirms Sailor Moon that she is not alone, for Tuxedo Mask is always watching her back.

Rabbit

Based on the pun of Usagi’s name and the Japanese word for rabbit, the animal is associated with Usagi Tsukino herself, as it is patterned on all her stationary and personalized items. The cute bunny ears and light colors also represent innocence, and we tend to associate them with Usagi as a middle-school girl as opposed to future queen of the Moon. In English, one could almost see the word “bunny” more closely relating to Usagi’s modern self, whereas the more sophisticated “rabbit” would befit Serenity (even though they are the same person and refer to the same animal).

Pocket Watch

Mamoru’s star-shaped pocket watch is the memento Usagi holds onto until she is able to see her beloved again. The watch symbolizes time, but specifically in relation to the temporal distance which separates the two lovers. When the pocket watch is cracked, the lovers struggle to find one another. The fact that the watch protects Usagi from her suicidal blow with the stone sword shows that time is on their side, and that they will eventually claim their happiness once they defeat Queen Metalia. Usagi mending the watch and returning it to Mamoru tells us that she has accepted her identity as the Moon Princess, and that she no longer needs to rely on borrowed time to understand her cosmic role.

Handkerchief

Like Mamoru’s pocket watch, the handkerchief is a classic symbol of lovesickness. Mamoru’s longing to be with Usagi is indicated by his delicate handling of her pink-laced handkerchief. The personalized cloth is also a mark of championship, almost as if Usagi has (unbeknownst to her) already chosen Mamoru to be her knight. We find this relationship twofold when Tuxedo Mask admits his admiration for the guardian of love and justice, Sailor Moon.

Sailor Moon’s Compact

The transformation brooch given to Usagi by Luna at the story’s beginning is the device which allows her to become the titular guardian of love and justice. It fashions nicely with both her sailor-suited outfits for school life and heroine life. As the franchise progresses, the compact itself transforms and receives new powers—blessings from the moon and Queen Serenity. After Beryl and Metalia’s defeat in the “Dark Kingdom Arc,” Usagi’s receiving of a new compact from her mother is symbolic of her divine right to rule. Its star-encrusted pattern and colored gems represent the unity of Sailor Moon and her Sailor Guardians as they are bound to Silver Millennium’s fate. This new compact houses the Mythical Silver Crystal, and its light will continue to guide Usagi as they both transform together.


Got any themes, motifs, or symbols you think should be on this list? Drop your suggestions down in the comments for all of us to see. Thanks for reading, and ‘til next time!

– Takuto

YenPress’ First Audiobook Lives Up to the Hype || Sword Art Online Vol. 1: Aincrad Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the “Sword Art Online Volume 1: Aincrad” audiobook, narrated by Bryce Papenbrook, written by Reki Kawahara, recorded by Hachette Audio, and released by YenAudio in August 2021. A review copy was provided to me by YenPress following its release.



Revisiting Kawahara’s Famed World of Swords

Ah, Sword Art Online, one of my favorite titles in anime that always seems to get dumped on. Thankfully, the most recent anime adaptation for Alicization (wow, it’s been so long since I got to say that word online!) was able to “redeem” reception for the series overall, despite its own issues. But, as much as I prefer the newer content for SAO than the old stuff, today’s review is about returning to Aincrad—and in its shiny, new audiobook form, no less.

Before getting to the actual experience of SAO in oratory form, I wanted to spend a minute reflecting on this first volume. Unless you’re just now embarking on this franchise for the first time, it’s likely that you haven’t read this first volume in years. Trust me, I had to dust off the cobwebs of my own NerveGear as I jumped back into Kawahara’s famed world of swords. And you know what, I didn’t find it nearly as cringeworthy as my memory served.

As a refresher, Aincrad is the impossibly large, floating castle of the VRMMORPG (impressed that I still remember this ridiculous acronym) Sword Art Online in which nearly 10,000 players are trapped, including Kirito, Asuna, and their allies. Each of the death tower’s 100 floors contains unique terrain—medieval cities, forests, caves, lakes, deserts, mountains, etc.—in addition to a sprawling labyrinth called the floor dungeon. Defeating each floor’s dungeon boss is the only way to unlock the stairway to the floor above, thus progressing the game. It’s already an enticing premise, as each floor typically brings with it new in-game items, quests, places to explore, and above all, a momentous step closer toward the game’s completion. And best (or worst) of all, author Kawahara clearly loves this game world as much as its notorious creator, Kayaba Akihito.

One of my favorite aspects of this novel is the way Kawahara describes the experience of the game world itself. The opening of chic menu windows via “swiping through the air,” the calculative measuring of recovery and reaction times in perilous battles, and even the “shattering of precious polygons” upon the loss of a character’s life are all repeated incidents which Kawahara intently focuses on. The time Kawahara spends fleshing out Kirito’s thought processes as he explores the relationship between the castle and its coding is rarely overdone. If anything, his language can be truly beautiful and inspiring, and his romanticization of Aincrad as both a prison and a palace for gamers immediately appeals as this first volume’s most popular motif. Much to their initial chagrin, Kirito and Asuna slowly start to warm up to the virtual world’s vast beauty, and so does the reader. Aincrad is a colorful fantasy setting, but Kawahara’s inclusion of stylish sci-fi interfaces and comprehendible coding make SAO a fascinating blend of both genres. Additionally, his lyrical prose is amplified by the audiobook format.

Now, as a story, the biggest (and often most criticized) issue with the novel is its pacing. Because the plot begins on day one and caps off at over 2 years of being trapped in the game, many parts of Kirito’s narrative are obviously cut, reordered, or diminished. For example, since we are already acquainted with Lizbeth the blacksmith, Silica the beast tamer, Sachi the guild mate from other parts of the franchise, we find that their omission in this novel really cuts down on the female representation, specifically. I didn’t realize how male-centered this novel was until Bryce Papenbrook (Kirito’s English VA and the audiobook’s narrator) started reading for Asuna’s part. It’s not bad to be missing those characters per se, but I think the masculine gaze is still a valid area for critique.

Still, I would say that the content of this novel holds up even now in 2021. Aside from a couple jarring time jumps and the overt masculine focus of the novel (Kirito, Klein, Agil, Kuradeel, Heathcliff, and others vs. Asuna), the story manages to maintain a compelling hold on what matters most to Kirito in SAO: Asuna. I often find myself comparing the young gamer couple to popular Shakespearean lovers, as Kirito and Asuna’s struggles in SAO are truly accented by the fact that they charge into the darkness together. The honeymoon glow is undeniably one of the cutest parts in the entire series, and as someone who strongly dislikes Yui, I’m glad that I can once again enjoy their love without the annoying fairy AI child that the franchise endorses.

The First “Anime” Audiobook

Let’s get right to the technical aspects of this audiobook. The review copy I was provided by YenPress (thank you!) had a code for Google Play Books, which I’d actually never used before. After downloading the app, it was as simple as redeeming the code and hitting the play button. Google Play Books divides the novel’s audio files by chapter, and you can even bookmark certain areas. Also, the app has a buffer that automatically reloads the previous second or two when you pause it for a while. As someone who frequently had to “put the book down” to attend to other activities, this was extremely helpful.

Now let’s talk about the most interesting part: the audio narration. Bryce Papenbrook, who plays Kirito in the show’s English dub, has a naturally raspier voice. This presents a few obvious challenges when it comes to portraying more soulful or smooth-toned voices. As such, I placed my earbuds aware of my skepticism. As it turns out, however, Papenbrook is still a pro, and there was truly little for me to worry about even as early as 10 minutes in. He manages to have a secure hold on SAO’s overall tone and all its characters far better than most actors would for their projects. I could especially sense Papenbrook’s care in his lines where Kirito experienced loss of any kind. Instead of it coming across as edgy and cringe like the first anime does at times, Papenbrook’s Kirito in the audiobook has a remarkably deep sense of fear and anxiety, which is more than fitting given this first novel’s overwhelming sense of isolation and loss.

Not only has Papenbrook improved in voicing Kirito’s nuanced sarcasm and wit, but also he surprised me in his ability to portray the entire cast with stunning depth. How he was able to match Klein’s enthusiastic, wannabe hero just as well as the actual English VA’s performance was amazing. The same could be said for Agil’s deep suave, Heathcliff’s principled disconnection, and Kuradeel’s wheedling insanity—Papenbrook goes beyond simply changing his vocal register and gives all these characters defining vocal quips, variations in breath, and unique tones. Flipping between these characters must’ve been exhausting. But hey, I suppose that’s why they hired a voice-over artist for the job—and one who knows and loves the franchise enough to put care into delivering the whole story, even in its most questionable moments.

Also, can we talk about Bryce’s Asuna?? Like, how did he make her appear in my mind just as the original text and Cherami Leigh’s performance does? Given Asuna’s importance as Kirito’s other half, I figured that hearing Kirito’s own voice for both of them would’ve been the novel’s biggest turnoff. I think I was able to enjoy his performance so much because he does more than “try to sound like a girl” when voicing Asuna. Asuna’s personality is defined by her dual presence—the tough and cold “Asuna the Flash” and the warm, vulnerable Asuna that invites Kirito to her apartment—and Papenbrook’s acting for both is starkly different. He retains Asuna’s character by portraying these traits first, then putting the higher vocal pitch behind it, and the result is that she blends seamlessly into the narrative rather than obnoxiously standing out.

A New Outlet for Anime AND Bookish Fans

What is gained through the SAO audiobook—widened accessibility, “new” content, and a closer relationship to Papenbrook as an actor/fan of the franchise—comes, of course, at costs in the visual department. For one, we lose all of abec’s fantastic artwork that accompanies the light novel. His early stuff isn’t necessarily impressive, but I couldn’t imagine the series without his artwork for GGO and Underworld later down. That said, Kawahara’s “Afterword” is preserved in the audiobook, which was a pleasant surprise.

I think the biggest concern facing the SAO audiobook is the sheer number of female characters to come. (Literally, Volume 2 introduces FOUR new female side characters.) Papenbrook might’ve been able to handle Asuna well, as she is somewhat tomboyish in her own actions, but I wonder if he would also portray Lisbeth with the same natural nasal that her English VA has, or if he’ll attempt to go falsetto voicing Yui. OR, it could be a possibility that the torch will be passed onto another VA from the dub to read Volume 2. After all, Cherami Leigh is credited along with Bryce for the second volume’s listing. (It’d be cool if this became a sort of full-cast project once it gets going!) I suppose we’ll find out what they do when Volume 2 releases on October 18.

Seriously though, I continue to respect what Bryce Papenbrook does with the black swordsman throughout their run together, and I’m genuinely curious (assuming that Yen goes this far into dubbing) as to how he might play Eugeo, Kirito’s friend, foil, and one of the franchise’s most beloved characters.

For now though, I would definitely say that the audiobook is worth listening to, especially if you have a friend who is convinced they want to get into the series but they don’t care for anime. As for if I personally would want more SAO audiobooks in the future—absolutely, bring it Yen! On an entirely separate note, I’m particularly excited for The Miracles of the Namiya General Store and how that story will be read. I’m entirely optimistic about this whole project of inviting VAs to read our favorite light novels, and if Yen is willing to send me review copies in the future—Well, let’s say that I’m all ears for more.


Afterword

Special thanks again to YenPress and YenAudio for sending me an audiobook review copy of Sword Art Online Volume 1: Aincrad. (I love the project so much, and I apologize that this review came a month past the audiobook’s release!) To my readers, what do you think of the idea of light novel audiobooks? Also, would you consider revisiting the original Aincrad story in this new format or are you content with the books and/or the anime? Let me know down in the comments! Thank you so much for reading, and till next time!

– Takuto

These audiobooks based on Yen Press content will be available wherever downloadable audiobooks are sold, across platforms including Apple Books, Audible, Audiobooks.com, Downpour, Google Books, Libro.fm, Kobo, and more. This volume retails for $25.98 USD ($19.99 or less in some shops) and is approximately 7.5 hours in length.

I’m Back! (Kinda) + More Posts Incoming + Thanks for 7 Years!

Hi all!

I realize it’s been well over a month since my last post. I’m terribly sorry about that. Looking at my social media presence in general, you can see exactly when I dropped off the face of the earth to start graduate school.

Speaking of, school is great! I love being able to finally focus all my energy on English classes after having graduated with my psychology B.S. already. Those four years sure went by fast, and I imagine these next two will breeze by all the same.

Between reading and researching for classes, my new job at our campus’ writing center (which I LOVE omg), recording and editing for YouTube, and keeping up with manga and anime progress on the socials, I’ve left very little time for blogging. Thankfully, the WP algorithm has still been working in my favor, for despite my inactivity, my blog’s overall views have eclipsed last year’s already. (Don’t get me wrong, that’s not much in itself, but I have to take the little victories when I can!)

On the subject of blogging itself, Takuto’s Anime Cafe officially turned 7 a couple weeks ago!! I wanted to push out a celebratory post, but it just didn’t feel right since I hadn’t done anything in a month. So, to right this wrongdoing, I want to thank you all again for continually supporting me. Whether it’s on the blog, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube, I cherish our interactions, and I hope I can be more present in the year to come. None of this would be here without you guys, so thank you!!

Going forward, I have a few projects planned. Immediately, I’ll publish a post over YenPress’ SAO audiobook—the first of its kind—which Yen was kind enough to send to me to review! Next, I plan to start releasing posts for all the videos that have yet to be shared on the blog. (I realize a lot of y’all don’t care about Kpop, but it helps sustain traffic and such.) Then, I want to resume writing short manga reflection posts to cover my reads. After that, well, we’ll see how far I get with just these goals.

Lastly, I just want to tag on that I’ve been in the works of trying to draft my first novel! It’s an exciting process, but a long and frustrating one, too. Not sure what will become of it or how far I’ll get, but it’s been a fun (and time-consuming) endeavor so far.

So, this is my “I’m back!” post, as well as an anniversary thank-you, and finally an announcement of things to come. I hope to see many familiar faces in the blogosphere again, especially after being gone so long, and I look forward to our little talks again! Until then, I hope you’re all staying safe, staying hydrated, and keeping up with the various Asian media we all love!

– Takuto

Reflecting on the Rebuild of Evangelion Before 3.0+1.0’s Release

FINAL THOUGHTS BEFORE THE END

Hey guys, I’m back with a different kind of anime-related video. As you know, Evangelion has had a profound effect on my life, and I’m absolutely stoked to ring in the end of this epic franchise spanning over 25 years with Hideaki Anno’s final big Evangelion film in the Rebuild series, Evangelion 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon a Time, which will be released globally on Amazon Prime in matter of hours!

But first, we gotta reflect back on the three masterpiece films that precede 3.0+1.0, which would be Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone, Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance, and the most divisive of all, Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo.

I love the Rebuild films. This is a video recapping my emotions toward them, as well as my hopes for what the true end of Evangelion will bring!

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Thanks for watching~!

– Takuto

Going manga shopping (because online stores are out of stock)

I FINALLY GOT TO HOLD THESE MANGA 😭👍

Hey guys! A little while back I went to see Weathering With You in theaters (video on that coming soon) and it was amazing, of course! While I was in the city, I also got to go manga shopping at a Barnes & Noble, and here’s everything that I picked up! Let me know your thoughts on any of these titles down in the comments 📚✨

It’s so hard to find some of these manga in stock, especially on RightStuf 😔 but thankfully I was able to fill some gaps in my collection. Hopefully manga printing will be back to full capacity sooner rather than later. 😣🤞 Anyway, enjoy my FIRST shopping vlog!

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Thanks for watching~!

– Takuto

STUDIO PONOC’s Modest Heroes (& Tomorrow’s Leaves) || Summer Film Spotlight #8

CELEBRATING STUDIO PONOC 🌱

Hey guys! Welcome to the eighth Summer Film Spotlight! Today we are taking a look at STUDIO PONOC’s 2018 film Modest Heroes, which was released by GKIDS. The film is actually comprised of three short films—“Kanini & Kanino,” “Life Ain’t Gonna Lose,” “ and “Invisible”—each of which are about 15 minutes in length and focus on the different heroes we may encounter in our daily lives.

I hope you’ll continue to join us on this summer journey through film. See you next Saturday with another Summer Anime Film Spotlight!

Interested in more anime, manga, or K-pop content? Subscribe to stick around 🙏

Thanks for watching~!

– Takuto

Studio Ponoc’s Cute Short “Tomorrow’s Leaves” Kicks Off the Tokyo 2020 Olympics!

Hey guys!

It’s been quite some time since I last sat down to write a blog post that wasn’t just for one of my videos.

In a way, today’s post isn’t much different, though, as I’m mainly writing to let you all know that Studio Ponoc’s animated short, “Tomorrow’s Leaves,” is finally out!

I enjoy seeing artistic projects like this, especially when they commemorate a historical event or particular achievement. For Japan to still decide on hosting the Olympics (much to the controversy surrounding the whole event in this current climate), I’d certainly call this a celebration for both of these feats.

If you can spare 8 minutes, definitely check out “Tomorrow’s Leaves” on the official Olympics page!

Alternatively, I’ve left the video linked below!

The Olympics article describes the short’s important staffing as such:

Produced by Yoshiaki Nishimura, “Tomorrow’s Leaves” is directed by the equally renowned Yoshiyuki Momose, who played a central role in famed works such as “Grave of the Fireflies” and “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”.

The music was composed by Takatsugu Muramatsu, a prolific film and television score creator who crafts music and sound effects to tell the story of a film.

Again, even if the event is currently surrounded in controversies and mishaps, I do hope the Olympics are a success this year. I’m more of a Winter Olympics person myself, but any kind of event that attempts to bring the world together is welcome in my book!

So, enjoy Studio Ponoc’s cute little short film (the spirit mascots are ADORABLE), and Happy Olympics Day from me~!

– Takuto

The Stranger by the Shore || Summer Film Spotlight #6

THE BOYS ARE FINALLY HERE, MY FRIENDS

Hey guys! Welcome to the sixth Summer Film Spotlight! Today we are celebrating the streaming release of Akiyo Oohashi’s “Umibe no Étranger” or “The Stranger by the Shore,” which is now available on Funimation. This 2020 shounen-ai romance film explores the cute relationship between aspiring novelist Shun and the spry young Mio. This film is FULL of love, and I can’t wait to listen to the English dub! 🌼

I hope you’ll continue to join us on this summer journey through film. See you next Saturday with another Summer Anime Film Spotlight!

Interested in more anime, manga, or K-pop content? Subscribe to stick around 🙏

Thanks for watching~!

– Takuto

ROOM TOUR 2021 || anime, manga, & kpop aesthetic ✨

SUMMER ROOM TOUR IS HERE 🌟

Hey guys! Since I’m moving out of home and into an apartment, I figured this would be the best time to film a room tour before I leave! A lot of my manga and K-pop collection will come with me to my new place, but the anime shelves are mostly here to stay. If you’ve ever wondered what is in Takuto’s room, now’s your chance to find out! ✨

If you want to see more of the room or my various collections, drop a comment below! Don’t forget to like and sub for more content like this~! ☺️

Thanks for watching~!

– Takuto

Ride Your Wave || Summer Film Spotlight #5

SUMMER ROMANCE IS HERE 🏄‍♀️💙🏄‍♂️

Hey guys! Welcome to the fifth Summer Film Spotlight! Today we are celebrating GKIDS’s beautiful dubbed Blu-ray release of Masaaki Yuasa’s Ride Your Wave. This 2019 romance drama film tests the effects of grief and mourning on the human heart with the relationship between summertime lovers Hinako and Minato. Themes of acceptance, friendship, and self-discovery also make waves in the lives of those deeply impacted by tragic loss. 🧡

I hope you’ll continue to join us on this summer journey through film. See you next Saturday with another Summer Anime Film Spotlight!

Interested in more anime, manga, or K-pop content? Subscribe to stick around 🙏

Thanks for watching~!

– Takuto