The Joy of New Shelves || Cafe Talk

Hello all!

I’m really happy today. Actually, I have been for the past couple days now. Why the sudden cheery mood? I finally decided to replace my desk that I never sat and worked at (like a proper human should) with some new shelving for my collection.

But these aren’t your ordinary shelves. No, these are those little white cube shelves that all those “manga aesthetic” people have (you know the ones). Well, now I can proudly call myself one of those people. Drumroll please!!

BAM. Aren’t they just the most beautiful things ever?? They’re so friggin’ cute next to each other. And yeah, SUCH an aesthetic boost. It occurred to me just the other day that I had a box of old Pokémon figures and such tucked underneath my bed. So, I dug it out, thinking they’d add a pop of color and fun to the area. Plus, it’s nice to see some old friends again. 🙂

It’s nice when spontaneous decisions work out, am I right? I literally had no plans to do this. At least, not for a while. But with the whole stay-at-home order, it became necessity for me to maximize my living quarters if I’m going to be here for a while.

Oooooh I just love ‘em! I’m so thankful to be able to own such nice little shelves to display parts of my collection. I’ve found myself sitting on the rug more these days, just quietly flipping through volumes of Yona of the Dawn and Snow White with the Red Hair. Having more white has done wonders to improving my mood, too! Eventually, I’d love to fill these shelves with new manga. But that won’t happen until I read what I’ve got first, of course. ^ . ^


When was the last time you bought (or made) shelving for your collection? Do you use hand-me-down furniture (hey, if it ain’t broke, take it!) or do you have fancy shelves from Ikea or some other store? We always talk about the books and Blu-rays we own, but never about where these items sit! Comment below what your shelf status is like, and hey, if you guys like this kind of stuff, maybe I’ll post more collection pics here on the blog!

Thanks for sitting down with me for a sec and listening to me ramble about the joys that new shelves bring—the conversation is always appreciated. Till our next tea time together~!

– Takuto

Filling Gaps in the Anime Collection

Hello all!

Even though I’ve exponentially pulled back the reigns on what I buy for the collection, that hasn’t stopped me from picking up a couple new Blu-rays for some of my favorite ongoing franchises. After all, it’d be kinda crummy to cut cold turkey with a bunch of “Part 2” and “Season Three” gaps in the collection.

So, over the past month or two, I’ve been meticulously eBay hunting, haggling back and forth with sellers for the sets I want—and only at a price I’m willing to pay.

Enjoy the spoils of my hunt—there’s not much here (compared to normal collection updates), but everything here I love, and quality should always usurp quantity!


Up first is the second half of Steins;Gate 0. You may recall the boxset from a previous haul, and this set completes it. I’m absolutely in love with the art, and I’m glad Funi was able to snag so much of the Japanese Blu-ray art.

One of these days I’ll do a complete watch of the series, starting with the original and instead continuing down the 0 route with the Beta Episode like we’re supposed to!

Here’s another Part 2 to go with the first part’s limited edition set. Star Blazers 2202 isn’t my favorite sequel ever made, but it continues to be THE best reboot a vintage franchise has ever received. Period. I love the art for this franchise so much that I’ve collected almost all of the movie posters (called chirashi) for each theatrical release (since the series was released as a collection of OVAs).

More gorgeous art, ahhh my heart! So happy to have all of Yamato in my clutches.

Onto yet another franchise that I love—any RailDex fans out there? I realize that despite needing the most “hype” the third season is actually the weakest installment. But hey, I still liked it, and will probably rewatch it more than once in the future. For this release, love seeing how much Kiyotaka Haimura’s illustrations have improved (on the right), but something about the main visual for this season has me absolutely LIVING. The clouds are everything!

Funimation included a little art/character booklet with both parts of Season Three, and they’re actually quite nifty guides given Index’s lofty sum of characters that make their first (and last) entrance in this wobbly final season. It’s a nice edition, although it makes me wish each season came with one.

Annnd here’s Part 2, the climax of Index’s main story, and what an ending it is. (Yikes.) At least the main visual for this one maintains the intensity that the final confrontation *should’ve* had. It’s a really pretty cover, don’t get me wrong! I just wish Season Three wasn’t so, IDK, *shudders* mediocre.

Again, it’s got that nice little booklet to help keep you straight with all these crazy mages and organizations, religious or otherwise. I’m just thrilled to finally be up-to-date with all the releases for one of my favorite series ever!

Now here’s a third season that doesn’t disappoint in the slightest! Attack on Titan is fantastic, and I know it’ll be a masterpiece of entertainment once it’s all complete. This set includes the traditional limited edition digibook-artbook hybrid thing that Funi’s been doing for all their AoT sets.

The backside has Captain Levi lookin’ all fine and stuff. (I mean, when does he not?) It’s surreal to have the third “wall” completed on my shelf—that is, each of these giant LTD ED boxsets is modeled after one of the three walls, this last one being the most interior Wall Sina.

As you can see, the art book is actually imbedded with the release. A lot of people complain about it, but I don’t mind. We’re also blessed with the stunning Wit Studio Blu-ray covers, this one featuring Levi and Kenny in an active shot.

Flipping the cover page of the book, I see Eren lookin’ stoic and beautiful as ever. God, I’d buy an entire art book of this stuff. This little book continues on for another handful of pages, and it’s chalked with all kinds of great character materials and notes.

I just wanted to show off the back page of the art book cause DAMN, ERWIN LOOKS SO GOOD. Not as good as Eren, but this mans be FINE. And oh look, some DVD discs.


This pretty much concludes the collection update. I’m thankful to be able to continue collecting from my favorite franchises, especially during times like this. Yes, I want to support the shows I love, but I also want to be able to enjoy them for years to come. Only buy what won’t be a burden to you later on, and don’t spend what you don’t have. The anime will always be there, even if you have to do a little hunting around.

I’d love to hear what shows you guys have recently picked up. Got any franchises that you particularly enjoy collecting from as the years go by? Let’s chat in the comments! Thanks for reading, and until the next post! –

Takuto

Keeping Busy in Quarantine || Quarterly Update (Spring 2020)

Evening all,

I realize I recently posted an update a couple weeks back on how this whole pandemic has suddenly impacted my life, but I figured I’d keep consistent with my quarterly updates anyhow. In case you forgot how these things go, in my quarterly updates I will be reflecting on the five blog resolutions I set for myself at the beginning of 2020. This was a pretty successful system that I gave a trial run for last year, and it’s certainly less redundant than the monthly updates I used to do. Plus, it puts my resolutions into perspective each season, which helps reaffirm what I want to do better and how far I’ve come. Let’s see how 2020 has treated me thus far!

Goal Reflection


#1 – Read More Posts

Ok, so I was on top of this one until about mid January when school started up again. Then I was pretty much off the WP grid until this past week where I spent a couple afternoons scrolling through the feed and checking out all the content I missed. I guess you call this one a flop on my part, but I do have intentions to do better—and with all this social distancing, I plan to spend a lot more time online. So yeah, fear not, I’ll read your stuff!!

#2 – Write More Succinct Posts

Except for my big SAO Alicization review and my lengthy Weathering With You write-up, I don’t think I’ve gone over the 1,500 word mark on any of my posts (or at least not more than a couple hundred over). I hope this helps make my content easier to stomach, as I know long posts can lead to blog fatigue (for both you and me). I realize it will “always depend on the content” yada yada, but what do you generally prefer, longer or shorter posts? I personally like short reads, but I understand it excruciatingly difficult to evaluate every single quality of a piece in a review with less than a thousand words. It’s just not possible. For now I’ll take the win, but I’ll try harder to write more frequent, quicker reads for you all.

#3 – Read & Review More Books

So I DID actually review one book this month, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, and I had a lot of fun just sorta free-writing my thoughts away. Such a cool read. Thanks to self-quarantining, I’ve done a lot more reading—and I don’t plan on stopping. I’m trying to read all the manga and light novels I’ve accumulated over the past couple years that I bought but never read (DON’T DO THAT). If it all works as it should, I’ll have several manga reviews and first impressions posts coming your way here shortly!

#4 – Write More About Me

Interestingly, this has taken the form of me trying to fulfill those award/nomination/tag posts that circulate around the community. Do y’all like reading these? Cause they’re SUPER easy to write, and lots of fun! I’ve made sure to do one of these each month, so if you’re wanting to know more about me, here’s January, February, and March’s nomination posts. Thanks to the bloggers who keep tagging me in these—I’ve got more coming, just wait!

#5 – Build Up My “Personal Brand”

Like with the blog nomination posts, I’ve found myself writing at least one non-review/analysis post each month (that is also not an award or haul post). In January, I shared some of my anime and book collecting tips with my readers (specifically, what you shouldn’t do). In February, I used a tripod that I recently bought to do a little photoshoot for my first-ever clothing try-on. It was really fun to experiment with, even if not many people read the post. Hey, something different. And just a couple days ago I did the whole social distancing and what I’d been up to update where I just kinda unloaded some of my stressors and aspirations alike for the next coming weeks. Maybe I’m not as interesting as a thought (*laughs*) but I hope they’re still posts worth reading!

What I’ve Watched


Back in January when I was on my idol grind (still am, BTW), I watched iDOLM@STER SideM and discussed the nature of idol culture and personal branding for my OWLS post. I even started watching IDOLiSH7, which I still need to finish. Then, as previously mentioned, I went out to theaters and thoroughly enjoyed Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You. Lastly, I started the K-drama Cinderella and the Four Knights on Netflix. I’ve been holding off on the end because, well, I don’t want it to end!! But, perhaps it about time I finished it LOL.

We skip most of February because I wasn’t in the mood to watch anime. This was carried over from the end of 2019 though, so I wasn’t surprised; I just didn’t want to force myself. So I took a break, which also affected my Gunbuster marathon. Don’t worry though, it’ll still happen, just at a later date!

Most of my winter stimuls joined my watchlist in March (none of which I’ve completed yet because I’m waiting on the last few simuldub episodes). These are A Certain Scientific Railgun T (watching this one subbed, but waiting for more episodes to air so I can watch it all at once), ID: INVADED, Darwin’s Game, and Smile Down the Runway. I love all these shows a lot, actually, and cannot wait to see how they end—especially Smile Down the Runway and Darwin’s Game for some reason! I already know Railgun T will be great, so there’s no worries there.

I also ended up starting a lot of random shows cause of spring break, one of those being Hozuki’s Coolheadedness. I actually had no plans to watch this until Simply Gee brought it up in a recent haul vid, but it’s alright so far. I also decided to watch the Azur Lane (review here!) anime on Funimation cause the poster art was so epic looking, and it ended up being much better than everyone was saying it was.

I even dug into my personal backlog with the first K-Project anime, which I just reviewed. Now, had I watched this series a couple years back, it’d probably be one of my all-time faves. But in 2020, it’s just a good little series. Excited to explore the rest of the franchise! Oh, and I FINALLY STARTED Shirobako—unsurprisingly, it’s GREAT SHIT. Defs planning to review it.

Just a few days ago I published my March OWLS post, which gave spotlight to Millennium Actress, one of my favorite watches of the year so far. I loved it so much that I even hung up the exclusive lithograph that my preorder from Shout! Factory came with, so that’s cool. In other news for films, I finally busted into the Code Geass film trilogy, having watched all but the third. It’s quite good, surprisingly!! I just need to pick up the final film ASAP cause I know I’ll want NO breaks between the third film and the grand finale. Looking forward to seeing how this new iteration comes to a close.

Finding Enjoyment in Solitude


That’s pretty much all I’ve been up to these past three months. I’ve learned to balance my rekindled spark for K-pop with my long-time love for anime a lot better, so expect more anime content here soon. I gotta say, it’s been immensely pleasurable just being able to throw a random watch on screen and binge it all the way through. It feels like I haven’t done that in AGES. Man, anime is good.

Beyond idols and anime, however, I’ve been trying to monopolize on this time by reading as much as I can. I’ve read all of Ten Count (boy, that was a thing), picked up Snow White with the Red Hair once again, and also started Yona of the Dawn since I bought the first NINE FREAKIN’ VOLUMES a year ago cause I have NO restraint apparently. In times like this, though, I can only be thankful that I picked up what I could, as it’s wonderful being able to read a little Yona each night with no fear of running out anytime soon. (And if I do, there’s, like, 15 more volumes I could pick up—and THEN I could justify spending more money on books.) Until that time, I’m just enjoying what I have.

I hope you’re all managing yourselves well during this time. Do you find yourself picking up any old hobbies, or perhaps starting new ones? I haven’t watched, read, and written this much since I started blogging years ago, so that’s the biggest thing in my life. Are you getting enough sleep? Enough food to eat? I hope you and your friends, family, and loved ones are staying safe.

Although spring is here, the cool weather has continued to linger. I’m fine with it though, as I love the fresh chill and cloudy skies. As we move forward these next couple weeks, I’ll try to update you on any big changes in my life—as I’d hope you would, too. Until the next post, friends, stay well. Much love for all your support. ❤

– Takuto

K-Project: Supernatural Secrets & Seven Kings || Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 13-episode fall 2012 anime “K,” animated by GoHands, directed by Shingo Suzuki, Hiromichi Kanazawa, and Susumu Kudō, and based on the original story by Tatsuki Miyazawa (and GoRA).


Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Yashiro Isana seems to be an ordinary boy—and as far as he knows, he is. When a video of the unassuming white-haired teen maniacally shooting a young man is broadcast all across the net, however, “Shiro” finds himself in the midst of a manhunt. To make matters worse, his predators aren’t your typical PD, but rather various vengeful members of the Seven Clans of Color. Ruled by seven unique Kings, these psychic clans are truly the ones responsible for making Japan the technologically advanced superpower that it is currently is.

Wanted for supposedly killing a Red Clansman, Shiro is hunted by the Red Clan as their King, Mikoto Suou, faces his own grievous trials in Blue Clan captivity. Also out to weigh the justice of Shiro’s crime is the infamous “Black Dog” Kurou Yatogami, a skilled swordsman determined to follow the will of his late master, the Seventh King. As Shiro struggles to prove his own innocence for a murder he doesn’t even recall committing, a strange conspiracy starts to unravel that calls his own existence into question. Far from concrete, perhaps memory is just as fragile as a floating cloud.

yashiro isana

What started as a puzzling murder case spirals out into a war between supernaturally gifted Kings. Although this first series centers on the conflict between the fiery Red and tactical Blue Clans specifically, I have a hunch that later entries in the franchise expand upon this calamitous war of honor, duty, and brotherhood. Season one in itself has quite a high entertainment value on its own, however; if you were to stop here, you’d still be satisfied by these 13 episodes alone.

primarily falls under the action and supernatural genres, but isn’t afraid to sneak in a joke or two here and there. In fact, the entire first half of the series—besides following the whole mystery plot about a boy trying to find evidence for a crime he didn’t commit—shows off the rather ordinary daily lives of Shiro and his classmates. It’s a peaceful beginning to what will eventually be an all-out war in the latter half (and subsequent adaptations). All the tensions gradually build to this superb midway twist, ending with a grand identity reveal and the inevitable, explosive duel between the Red and Blue Kings.

These first seven or so episodes are spent watching Shiro and Kuroh gradually warm up to one another, and the addition of the mischievous shape-shifting cat girl Neko adds a layer of gag comedy that’s surprisingly effective. I’d even go as far as to say the first half is stronger than the second, but that’s just me being picky—the whole narrative is tons of fun. Finding out how Shiro—unbeknownst to even himself—is deeply woven into the lives of all these characters is really cool. If you enjoyed any of the Science Adventure Series or Eden of the East, you’ll likely be entertained by just as much.

red clan

Kings, Clans, and the Cat Girl

I’ll be up front with y’all, I had a lot of fun with this cast. Shiro’s an adorable and innocent little space cadet, yet holds an allure that you just can’t trust entirely . . . Due to his suspiciousness from the get-go, we are treated to an exciting narrative trick: the unreliable narrative. We can’t seem to want to trust Shiro 100%, even if we didn’t see him do anything wrong, and that’s half the battle we have to overcome. Shiro’s dub VA Sam Riegel completely sells the role, even if his voice is a little lower and more hollow-y sounding than you’d expect.

The rest of the cast is also PERFECT. Matt Mercer’s Kuroh is deep, but believably young-sounding for his age. Listening to him recite his Master’s teachings at the most odd yet pinnacle moments was hilarious—same for whenever he yells at Neko. Speaking of, Stephanie Sheh’s Neko is everything you’d want from a cat girl—and without being annoying, it’s great! If Kuroh’s view on Shiro is “Guilty until proven innocent,” Neko is the other way around, representing companionship, warmth, and trust for our protagonist. I could’ve watched this goofy trio dicking around in Shiro’s apartment for hours, their banter balances out so well. But alas, we have a story to tell—and a murder to solve.

kuroh and neko

I also love how the cast is divided into these Clans, which are, of course, colored by their respective attributes. You can expect Red Clan members to be hanging out in alleyways like a gang, roughing up opponents and violently trying to get their way in literally everything, no matter how childish. Blue Clan members are reserved, focused, and assemble formally at their base desks. They act as a vanguard of knights loyal to their King for his authority, whereas Red Clansmen protect one another out of brotherhood and respect for hierarchy through strength and acknowledgment by “the boss.” Color plays a bigger role in than simply dividing the cast up.

On the Blue side, I enjoyed Johnny Yong Bosch’s devilishly deceptive Saruhiko Fushimi and Tara Platt’s sultry yet strong Captain Seri Awashima. For the Reds, Todd Haberkorn’s suave bartender Izumo Kusanagi and Benjamin Diskin’s *holla at ya boy* Yata Misaki were so much fun. Ahh, Yata, DAMN I love this little shit. 

yata skateboard

The Vivid Colors of K

Visually, is just about one of the most unique series out there. Yes, the fight sequence animation is superb, and the character designs are very signature to each role. But what clearly stands out the most is the cool tone filter that overlays the screen 24/7. Some may find it irritating on the eyes, and I wouldn’t disagree—the bright color contrast and over-saturation can feel overwhelming. When your eyes finally adjust to this artistic decision, however, you find that this omnipresent blue-green color tone could only work on a series like K. The series is oozing with style, from the sharp uniforms and hairstyles to the meaning of color itself in the story. has a one-of-a-kind aesthetic, and I am living for it.

Can I talk about the soundtrack for a minute, because wow, Mikio Endo really knew how to deliver the directors’ vision. K‘s OST is comprised of many laid-back jazz and bossa nova-inspired tracks which support the series’ chill atmosphere. Like the visuals, the music is stylish, but it isn’t afraid to pull out a little dubstep during the action sequences or some elegant piano work for the more intimate Clansmen scenes. It’s all great stuff, and angela’s iconic OP aptly titled “KINGS” kicks off each episode with excitement. Meanwhile the ED theme “Tsumetai Heya, Hitori” sung by Neko herself (Mikako Komatsu) nicely provides that dramatic sendoff we need.

blue clan

Power, Revenge, and Redemption

Just as K is this tale of power and revenge, it is also the saga of redemption for vital parties on all sides of a dangerous war. I really appreciate the series’ attempt to fully flesh out the Red and Blue Clans and their collective attitudes and ambitions, as unlike with most stories of good versus evil, no one Clan is truly more virtuous than the other. At the end of the day, each of these characters value their pride, love, and trust for their fellow Clansmen to an equal degree; their respective Kings are just as admirable for upholding the lives of their comrades over the pursuit of power.

This isn’t an all-out war of good and evil—it’s a calculated power struggle between two forces that actually want to understand one another, yet ultimately cannot due to varying ideologies of honor and unity. Rather than fighting for glory, these Kings clash to protect their followers and friends, and I can respect that. Sure, the show feels a little rushed here and there, and there are A LOT of characters. But, this series really is so much more than your average action flick. (And all the pretty men, OOF.)

From its original mystery story and chivalric writing style (with a modern day twist) to its vivid animation and unique lighting design, is a commendable project right from the start. As to where the story goes from here: I can only imagine that as more colorful and daring personalities join the fray, will gradually transform into the great supernatural drama it was destined to be.

shiro neko kuroh


It’s not about a man’s appearance, or even what’s on the inside. My policy is to judge a man by his actions. — Kuroh Yatogami


Afterword

So yeah, I liked just as much as I thought I would! My only qualms would be that the story doesn’t hit “as hard” as it should when I know it’s trying to. Perhaps that’s just on me, but feel free to share what you like most about this series down in the comments! As for the cafe, I’ll gladly welcome as a “Cake” title, one that is too sweet to miss out on. I can’t wait to explore the rest of what this franchise has to offer. I read that there’s a film, a sequel, and a series of movies after that—looks like I know what I’ll be doing these next couple weeks! Thanks for reading, and ’till next time!

– Takuto

My First Mystery Blogger Award (Megan’s Nomination)

Hello all!

I’m back today with another one of these cool award posts. The blogger who was kind enough to nominate me was Megan (A Geeky Gal), who is known for writing all sorts of fun and nerdy posts. She’s a prolific blogger, and someone who I always have a ball talking to. If you aren’t following her blog, you’re missing out on a great time and a wonderful person!

Now, of all the award and tag posts that have been floating around these past five years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve yet to receive the Mystery Blogger Award—until now, of course! According to its creator, Okoto, this award denotes a blog that “not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get.” High words to live by, so I’m grateful to Megan for noticing what I do here. 🙂

The Rules:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Display the award logo on your blog.
  • Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.
  • List the rules.
  • Tell your readers three things about yourself.
  • Answer five questions from the nominator.
  • Ask your nominees any five questions of your choice, including one weird or funny question.
  • Nominate from 10 to 20 bloggers.
  • Notify the bloggers by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Share the link to your best post.

I won’t be nominating anyone in specific because I know this award just went through the community. However, I’d love to see how you would answer Megan’s questions down in the comments!!

Three things about me:

  • I started learning the viola da gamba this semester just to shake things up
  • I bleached and dyed my hair for the first time a little over a week ago and it’s been fun having light-colored hair
  • I’m currently in the middle of switching my educational focus from psychology to English (wish me luck!)

Megan’s Questions:


If you could meet any anime/book/TV character, who would it be?

Oof. This is always a question I never give much thought to because, you know, characters are fictional. BUT, I wouldn’t be opposed to sitting down with Shinji Ikari of Neon Genesis Evangelion fame just so I could give the poor kid a hug. He doesn’t deserve half the shit people give him—and *tea* the people who dislike him for being a depressed whiny kid kinda miss the entire point of the series.

Name your top 3 favorite websites.

Excluding app services, I often find myself looming around the sites I use the most: RightStuf Anime, MyAnimeList, and this place, Takuto’s Anime Cafe. Is that too conceited? Well, even if it is, I love this place; it’s my home away from home.

Which anime/book/TV character would you marry?

Hmmm, again, I don’t have much to comment. BUT, some of my waifus are Mami Tomoe (Madoka Magica) and Haruka Tenoh (Sailor Moon), my husbandos being Makoto Tachibana (Free!) and Todoroki Shouto (My Hero Academia).

What anime changed your life?

SO many. EvangelionSteins;GateFree!Yuri!!! On ICEGhost in the Shell, and Sailor Moon are some of the ones that immediately jump to mind.

What’s the background on your phone/computer right now?

Well this will be revealing. No surprise to see this lovely Eva fan art for the lock screen. The home screen, however, is the boys of Tomorrow X Together, a junior K-pop boy band that I happen to be very fond of. No, it’s not a phase. >.<

IMG_0630


Again, I won’t be nominating anyone in specific just because I know many of you already recently participated in this award; however, I do want to thank Megan again for the nomination—I enjoyed answering your questions! Till next time, everyone!

– Takuto

Millennium Actress & Our Obsession with the Chase || OWLS “Devotion”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” For the OWLS blog tour’s third monthly topic of 2020, “Devotion,” I wanted to give special spotlight to a recently rescued and released anime film that I’m sure many fans of the early 2000s era might recognize: Satoshi Kon’s magnificent Millennium Actress!

When we talked about fandoms, we show our appreciation and support by buying merchandise, cosplaying, writing fanfiction and etc. In fact, our appreciation can end up looking like a sign of religious worship. For this month, we will be talking about how certain characters express devotion to others, objects, and values. We will also be discussing how devotion can turn into an unhealthy form of passion and obsession and the implications of that.

I’ve got an interesting angle for this one that I hope you guys will enjoy. Thanks Lyn for the prompt!

chiyoko rides


A brief discussion of the 2002 anime film “Millennium Actress,” animated by Madhouse, directed and based on the original story by Satoshi Kon and Sadayuki Murai. 

A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

Have you ever been starstruck? You know, met or have worked with someone so cool, famous, or at least well-renowned in your area that you find yourself absolutely mesmerized by this person’s presence, their every word? Well, that was budding filmmaker Genya Tachibana to Ginei Studio’s star actress, Chiyoko Fujiwara, many decades ago.

Now, at the turn of the millennium, the legendary studio is set to be demolished. As an ex-employee, Genya decides to honor this occasion with a special commemorative documentary about Ms. Fujiwara herself. Having retired at the height of her career, the sweetheart of Shouwa Era cinema has lived a reclusive life up in the mountains. With the hour now at his chance, an eager Genya cannot be more excited to place his lifelong idol back in the spotlight one last time.

As a young lover of film and the industry, Millennium Actress quickly won my heart. Navigating through over a thousand years of Japanese history, the film seamlessly bobs and weaves through entire eras by showcasing all of the major roles Chiyoko has played throughout her prominent career. Nearly an hour and a half of carefully crafted cuts and quick visual tricks culminate in an experience that is as unique as it is autobiographical and personal to this now very tired, very humble elderly woman.

Chiyoko’s narrative gracefully guides us through the three major periods of her life: adolescent fame, her blossoming teenage years, and her still-yet accomplished adulthood. Specifically, we see how a young girl’s early encounter with love shaped the rest of her life. Driven by romance and adventure yet saturated with the pains of drama and missed opportunities, Kon’s film—with Chiyoko’s character—lives on today to inspire an entirely new generation.

chiyoko elder

A Fateful Encounter Under a Full Moon

From samurai to spacesuits, Chiyoko Fujiwara has played them all throughout her fabled career. To call her a person of passion would be an understatement; very few actresses can embody the wide range of personalities appropriate for acting as a woman living in so many different historic eras, as well as so many countless roles. And yet, our “millennium actress” is capable of being the perfect heroine for all time! So what drove the idol of Genya’s dreams to become a master of her craft? Well, like it might happen for any of us: she fell in love. 

Before she became a household name, Chiyoko was caught in an incident which involved her helping an injured man. Although he supposedly may have been an “art thief” on the run, that didn’t stop childhood Chiyoko from being swept off her feet that fateful night. In their short time, they bond over simple life pleasures together, one of those being the moon.


Chiyoko looks up at the night sky, remarking how beautiful the full moon will be tomorrow. But the “man with the key” says that it is most beautiful now, for once the full moon is here, it only begins to wane. Whereas, it is under this this sky that you can spend the whole night looking forward to what the moon will become.


I think that this single, beautiful metaphor is representative of the entire film. I’m sure the mysterious man with the key who lives day-to-day may value this philosophy due to his risky occupation. But after her date with destiny, Chiyoko won’t ever be able to shake the man’s charm from her memory. In a long-winded and tiring search spanning a lifetime, Chiyoko scours all of Asia for any chance to reunite with the man. Even when she loses the one symbolic representation of their relationship—the key which unlocks “the most important thing”—she never stops longing for his love. She chases after him, and relentlessly so. After all, the chase kept her excited—-kept her living on the edge of love, forever—-and allowed her to feel eternally young at heart even as her hair grayed and memories began to fade.

chiyoko runs

It Was Never About the Destination

Hidden high up in this quiet mountain home is a thousand years of Japanese cinematic history just waiting to be narrated. Chiyoko’s deep reflections of the past take Genya and the viewer on an illusory journey through the saga of an actress’s career and her incredible filmography. As the actors in her life blend with the characters on screen, the tatami beneath their feet shifts from stage to stage, and the present completely blends with the past.

This is the extraordinary tale of a phenomenal actress who was so devoted to pursuing the love of her life that she stumbled through a legendary film career in the blink of an eye. Similarly, we also see how a fan’s positive and passionate devotion to his idol can lead to wondrous outcomes with the right intent behind them. Though the remarkable actress may have retired at the height of her career decades ago, Satoshi Kon’s directorial magic absolutely has you convinced that the curtain on her life’s stage has yet to fall.

chiyoko key

Does Chiyoko ever see the man with the key again? Well, does it really matter? If nothing else from this story, what we come to understand is that when we have our eyes set on only one thing in life, the meaning for everything else can start to fall from our view. Perhaps, just perhaps, we had what we really wanted all along. Like the night before a full moon, maybe the longing for some things—the journey itself—is more satisfying than the destination will ever be . . .

And so, as Genya presents an elderly Chiyoko with the very key she lost so many years ago, she at last finds what “the most important thing” to her was. After a long pursuit spanning a thousand years, it finally dawns on her that perhaps she was never in love with the man to begin with—she was just lost in the tremendous thrill of the great chase. 

chiyoko sakura


After all, it’s the chasing after him I really love. — Chiyoko


Afterword

Some beauty really is timeless. There’s so much cinematic and storytelling gold here that I could write a hundred—no, a thousand—posts on this film. I’m definitely glad I held off on this one for as long as I did, but even more so thankful to Eleven Arts and Shout! Factory for licensing this gorgeous film (the Blu-ray restoration is terrific)! Need I say more for now? Millennium Actress may just be the best film Satoshi Kon ever made, a certified “Caffe Mocha” for all those who know how I do things around here. But what are your thoughts on this timeless classic? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

This concludes my March 27th entry in the OWLS “Devotion” blog tour. My dear friend Mel (Mel in Anime Land) went right before me with a post on K-pop and idol culture that you can read right here! Now, look out for Megan (A Geeky Gal) this coming Monday, March 30th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time!

– Takuto

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe: A Thrilling Ride Through Space || Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the young adult fiction novel “The Loneliest Girl in the Universe,” written by Lauren James, originally published in 2017 by HarperTeen.


Adrift in Space

Carrying with it the hope of humankind, The Infinity continues its noble trek through the blackness of space, despite all but one of its crew having died on board in a horrific accident years ago . . .

Although she bears the title of first child born in space, Romy Silvers only has connection to her therapist on Earth and her wits to occupy her as she drifts alone in deep space aboard The Infinity. But to her surprise, Romy’s mundane life in space suddenly picks up when she finds out that a new NASA ship, The Eternity, has set course to meet her on her long, lonesome journey to a new planet—and sooner than she ever could have anticipated.

While initially eager to unite with another of her kind, cryptic emails from both Earth and J, the friendly pilot of The Eternity, start to trigger anxiety-filled memories of the past and terrifying visions of the future. Perhaps, as she quickly realizes, there are worse things than being alone . . .


The Infinity is the biggest, most expensive scientific mission in history. I get to be the very first person to see the results. I’m so lucky. — Romy


A slow-build yet gripping sci-fi thriller with a sprinkling of romance throughout the journey, the plot of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe begins leisurely by showing us several chapters of Romy’s character and daily routine, but rapidly escalates in the last third of the novel (AKA the big plot twist part). To build this energy up, author Lauren James features a countdown system instead of traditional chapter titles or numbers, most beginning with “365 Days Until The Eternity Arrives,” then “364 Days . . .” and so on. 

The book’s printing is quite large and generously spaced out, making these 300 or so pages seem like they just fly by. It helps that James writes short chapters, most being no more than a couple pages. Like a series of diary entries strung together in one large narrative, we quickly get a feel for who Romy is, and why things like people—not the black abyss of space—scare her most of all. 

Finding Strength in the Darkness

Lemme begin by getting it out there: If you’re wanting a story with strong feminist energy and mental illness rep, this one’s all for you. Romy may only be sixteen years old, but given her scary close relationship with loneliness and anxiety, she’s one hell of a ship commander. I really appreciate the mental illness rep going on here. Romy’s severe anxiety doubles as both something she must learn to accept (or fight) AND a first-person story-telling trick: the unreliable narrator.

Sometimes we have to question whether the sights and sounds Romy experiences in the night are real terrors or nightmares stirred by her anxiety, and Lauren James handles the balance between the real and surreal with incredible deft and care. James has created a feminist character who’s stronger than she knows, and following her journey has me inspired to face some of my own fears with isolation and nihilism.


It’s hard to focus on the future when the past is so distracting. — Romy


One of Romy’s qualities that I absolutely commend is how—despite having the ability to spoil herself—she always puts the needs of The Infinity first. Always. It’s her ship, clearly, and she feels strongly for it just as how any of us would for our own children. When ship efficiency emails start to suggest that Romy observes using less electricity by turning out the lights early or conserve water by taking shorter showers to maintain ship’s water supply, she obliges, even if the message’s sender seems sketchy.

She knows that being the sole commander of The Infinity comes with it the responsibility to maintain the vessel; making necessary sacrifices is just one part of the job. This respect and care for her ship—her home—is no doubt a trait she inherited from her dutiful parents, especially her good-natured father whom Romy was especially close to. As the story unravels, we gradually find out how they met their end, as well as the understand the tragic events that occurred during Romy’s early childhood that led to her being alone.


My life is a gambling chip thrown carelessly across the universe in the hope it’ll land somewhere my descendants can survive. I represent the culmination of centuries of human achievement and exploration. But who cares if my name goes down in history, if no one remembers who I really am? — Romy


Thrilling to the Very End

If you couldn’t already tell, I had a blast getting to know Romy and speculating with James as to what interstellar travel may be like in the near-distant future. I also loved the messages of longing and learning to love yourself, even if that process can be slow, confusing, and often painful. While I had my suspicions about certain plot twists, I was completely thrown off by the exciting change of pace near the finale—what a fantastic ending! It makes me appreciate even more the 150-200 pages of careful build-up that Lauren James so meticulously crafted—and I was already enjoying the adventure since the first page!

For those looking for THE perfect solitude-vibes title during this quarantine we’re all under, I cannot recommend The Loneliest Girl in the Universe enough. Lauren James has laid out a carefully plotted journey beginning as early as the title itself. There’s also a lot of references to pop culture—including YouTube, Netflix, and even fanfiction communities—that help bring Romy and her situation to life.

Just know, though, that this isn’t your typical fluffy long-distance romance plot. Sometimes the story is uplifting and kind, but other times it’s really gonna try and scare ya—don’t underestimate that part. Intelligent, suspenseful, and deliberately cautious, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is thrilling to the very end—even in its quietest moments.

loneliest girl insta


This voyage was never meant to be easy. It was meant to be important. — Romy


Afterword

Man, what a wonderful, terrifying, and weird little book this was. Special shoutout to Natalie (Book of Bee) over on YouTube for recommending it to her viewers—it was delightful! While not technically an anime or film, I’ll gladly welcome The Loneliest Girl in the Universe here as a certified “Caffe Mocha,” a rating reserved only for the best works! If you read this novel, PLEASE, tell me what you liked or disliked about it in the comments! Also, if you’ve got any recommendations that are similar to this one, be sure to leave those too. ‘Till next time!

– Takuto