Reflecting on my 2018 Watch Log + 2019 Blog Goals | Update

Hello again!

On this cold Monday morning, I present to you the last of my 2018 clean-up spree! Does anyone else use the term “watch log” anymore? Well, in case you didn’t know, this refers to all the anime shows/films I watched in 2018. I’ll also include the MyAnimeList rating I gave each title as a quick way to express how I feel about them. (I mean, this post would be waaaay too long if I wrote a paragraph about each one, so for your sake and mine, let’s keep it short.)

In the *rare* instance that I wrote about a certain title on my blog, I’ll include a link to that post so you can check out my more in-depth thoughts. Also, this list differs from my Top 10 Anime of 2018 post in that it is NOT LIMITED to shows that aired solely in 2018; it will include EVERYTHING that I watched/played in 2018 that relates to anime. What it will NOT include are the books that I read, because let’s be honest—keeping track of individual volumes of a specific series is both tricky and somewhat pointless.

The reason for writing this post is simple: there’s a LOT of stuff I didn’t write about on my blog. Although I may have wanted/planned to initially write about a show, for some reason or another, it didn’t always happen.

So, at the very least, I wanted to share with you all—in the quickest way possible—my adventures through anime in 2018. I owe you, my dear cafe goer, and to keep us both from constantly trudging along in the past, I have formulated the most efficient way to tell you about where 2018 took me, and where I’m at now.

But without further ado, here’s a quick reflection on my 2018 watch log—a brief retrospective glance at all the cool stuff I watched this past year. If you’ve seen any of these shows or would like to know my further thoughts on it/them, hit me up in the comments and I’ll respond!


HOW TO READ: The list goes in chronological order, starting in January (2018 End of Winter) and ending in January 2019. Since my own personal anime list that I keep on my phone’s notes section (classy, right?) is written in chronological order, so will this list. Also, in case you haven’t noticed, I group my anime adventures by season, as seasons seem to have the greatest influence on my watching experience. It’s got to do with emotions and timing stuff, IDK I’m just weird like that, hahaha. 

2018 End of Winter 

Land of the Lustrous     9/10

Diabolik Lovers     5/10

She and Her Cat: Their Standing Points     7/10

The Place Promised in Our Early Days     8/10

She and Her Cat -Everything Flows-     8/10

Cross Road     8/10

Made in Abyss     9/10

Love is Like a Cocktail     7/10

Patema Inverted     9/10

2018 Winter Simulcasts

A Place Further Than the Universe     10/10!

DARLING in the FRANXX     7/10

Devilman: Crybaby     9/10

Fate/Extra: Last Encore     6/10

2018 Spring

Haikyuu!!     8/10

Animation Runner Kuromi (Seasons 1 & 2)     7/10

Haikyuu!! 2nd Season     8/10

Sailor Moon Crystal Season III     9/10

My Love Story!!!     9/10

Whisper of the Heart     9/10

The Cat Returns     8/10

ChaoS;Child     7/10

Sailor Moon SuperS     [currently watching]

Colorful     8/10

2018 Spring Simulcasts

Steins;Gate 0     9/10

SAO Alternative: Gun Gale Online     7/10

My Hero Academia 3rd Season     9/10

2018 Summer

Granblue Fantasy The Animation     6/10

Children of the Whales     [need to finish]

Only Yesterday     8/10

Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace     7/10

Princess Jellyfish     9/10

Bokurano     9/10

Summer Wars     9/10

Waiting in the Summer     7/10

A Sister’s All You Need.     8/10

The Royal Tutor     8/10

Amagi Brilliant Park     8/10

Texhnolyze     [need to finish, may drop]

No-Rin     [need to finish, may drop]

2018 Summer Simulcast Season

Cells At Work     [need to finish]

Banana Fish     8/10

Attack on Titan Season 3     10/10!

Angels of Death     7/10

Grand Blue     6/10

Free! – Dive to the Future     8/10

High Speed!: Free! Starting Days     9/10

Free! -Take Your Marks-     8/10

2018 Fall

Assassination Classroom     [need to finish]

Ranma 1/2 (Viz Set 4)     [currently watching]

Magical Girl Raising Project     8/10

When Marnie Was There     9/10

Ocean Waves     7/10

Kino’s Journey     8/10

2018 Fall Simulcast Season

A Certain Magical Index III     [currently watching]

Sword Art Online: Alicization     [on hold]

DAKAICHI -I’m being harassed by the sexiest man of the year-     8/10

SSSS.GRIDMAN     9/10

Run with the Wind     [currently watching]

Tsurune: Kazemai High School Archery Club     [currently watching]

2018 End of Fall-Winter

Emma: A Victorian Romance     9/10

Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight     [need to finish]

Napping Princess     7/10

Emma: A Victorian Romance Season 2     10/10!

Genocidal Organ     8/10

Urusei Yatsura Movie 2: Beautiful Dreamer     8/10

The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star     8/10

Scrapped Princess     9/10

Tokyo Godfathers     9/10

2019 End of Winter

Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony (PS4)     11/10!!

The Promised Neverland     [currently watching]

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai     9/10

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet     [currently watching]

WorldEnd: What are you doing at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us?     [currently watching]

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My Most-Liked Post EVER!!!

I realize this is pretty much old news by now, but in case you missed it, 2018 was the year that I finally published my big meta analysis on Makoto Shinkai’s works in this post: On Love, Loneliness, & the Growing Distance Between Us | The Works of Makoto Shinkai. This project is utterly massive, clocking in at just over 5,000 words, and it encompasses every single animated work Shinkai has ever created. I’m really, really proud of how it turned out—all the countless hours of rewatching and research were definitely worth it.

And to top it all off, it has become, to my knowledge, my most-liked post EVER. With over BOTH 40 likes and 40 comments, it is now a central part of my blogging portfolio, which I do hope to expand upon in 2019. These stats may not seem like much to you guys, but to me, it means that if I work hard, others will appreciate my efforts, and that seemingly small sentiment means the world to me. Seriously, thank you—you guys are awesome! ;__;

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Some Blogging Goals for 2019

See, I told you I’ve been busy! As you can see, I kinda just *stopped* reviewing stuff after the summer, and that’s mainly because I took a hiatus, but also because I didn’t really feel like reviewing content. So instead I did nothing, and it definitely hurt my blog in the long run. And no, rewatching old favorites like From the New WorldDanganronpa 3, Aria the Animation, Railgun S, Cowboy Bebop, Lord Marksman and Vanadis, and so many others didn’t help much to expand my watch log . . . whoops. 😛

But now that lazy phase is over, and I should be back in the saddle. Should. Since this post is just one big update thing, I’ve compiled a few goals I want to accomplish blog-wise in 2019. Since I didn’t do anything like this last year, maybe writing my goals out will help me stay inspired and at the keyboard.

1. Read More Posts

Pretty self-explanatory; if I keep up with all of your guys’ content better, then there will be less for me to play catch-up with. Also, I want to be involved with you all again like I used to when I started blogging. For those of you who tweet out your posts, there’s a good chance that I will read them. But I realize that many do not use Twitter for that reason, so this goal involves using the WP reader more.

2. Write More Succinct Reviews

This one’s more for me—there’s a lot of shows from 2018 that didn’t get coverage even if I may have wanted to eventually write about them. While I don’t want to review every single thing I watch, this will at least help stimulate blog traffic again. It’ll be much easier to make this happen now that I FINALLY feel comfortable with my reviewing format. Now I just need to up my game. Plus, I hope to make these shorter and more succinct, bringing the word count from 2,000+ down to 1,500 or less again.

3. Post More Often

I’m thinking to upgrade from my 1-2 posts per month of 2018 to 3-4 posts per month, and although that doesn’t sound like too much for you guys (cause you’re all pros!), it’ll be a huge step-up for me—and I think I’m finally ready for it.

4. Bring Back Cafe Talk

Hey, yeah, where did this little guy go? I want to revive the segment in a new, fresh way by reformatting the way the posts are written. They’ll ideally be much shorter (think less than 500 words) and and personal, I want this to be a way to connect with you guys in case the reviews don’t (because hey, I get it). Short stories, thoughts, and whims from my life as an anime fan, collector, cosplayer, blogger, and kid suffering through college studies. Sound fun?

5. Write More Haul/Collection Posts

Although 2019 will be a year of saving money for me, I always get excited when it comes to writing haul posts. So, I thought, why don’t I just write more of them? As you may know, I’m an otaku-based collector; my shelves are full of DVDs, manga, and figures. And after reorganizing my room for the New Year, I couldn’t help but feel the urge to write about the new stuff I get and the old stuff I have. If you’re interested in this kind of thing, let me know in the comments!

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Ready for 2019!

After the big OWLS catch-up, a reflection on my own OWLS experience, a compilation of my favorite shows from 2018, and my 2018 watch log + new blog goals up and out there, I’m finally ready to get 2019 started. Sure, I’m three weeks late, but better late than never, right?

Thank you so, so much for sticking with me throughout my slow year. I feel like we’ve all got one/will eventually get one, and it is so heartwarming to see that you guys are still interested in what I have to say. And to all my new followers, hi! Hello! Thanks for following, and I hope you are enjoying your stay.

With the past three posts done I’ve officially rambled enough. Again, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my watch log and goals, and if there’s a show up there that you want me to talk about further, I’d be more than happy to elaborate. Ah, I’m so excited right now, and I hope this inspiration sticks with me for months to come! Thanks so much again for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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My Top 10 Favorite Anime of 2018!

Hello!

Happy Friday evening everyone. I’m back with more 2018 clean-up, and although several weeks overdue, I wanted to give each of the Fall 2018 anime a couple more weeks to see how some of them further progressed.

And boy was I glad I did that!

There was a lot in 2018 that I didn’t get around to watching: Violet Evergarden, Laid-Back Camp, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Megalo Box, Wotakoi, Planet With, Bloom into You, and the rest of Revue Starlight to name a few. But while much went unwatched for me, I did manage to watch a small handful of shows each season to compile a list such as this.

Anyway, enough stalling. As the title of this post indicated, listed below are my top 10 favorite anime of 2018!


NUMBER TEN:

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Angels of Death

Despite the incredible flack it got for drawing out the climax another four episodes (only to end in more controversy), the multi-interpretive ending of Angels of Death is actually one of my favorite aspects about it. The impossibly large setting with countless floors of traps and mazes reminded me of my first experience in Danganronpa‘s Hopes Peak High (which simultaneously frightened and amazed me), and for that matter, the mystery elements of the plot were surprisingly entertaining.

Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if it wasn’t so edgy about death and better incorporated the floor boss villains into the narrative rather than just treating them as sadistic criminals. But alas, for an anime based off an old JRPG horror fave, I’d say Angels of Death was a worthwhile investment.

NUMBER NINE:

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DAKAICHI -I’m being harassed by the sexiest man of the year-

I know, I know, it’s SMUT. If there was an award for guilty pleasure anime of the year, DAKAICHI would’ve taken it hands-down. I’m actually somewhat embarrassed to put this BL rom-com on the list, but hey, I should give credit where it’s due, right? And I really did love this silly little anime about much-beloved, A-list Japanese actor Takato Saijou boldly pursuing the love for the first time in his life. Cute characters, nice animation, yup, not much else to say here!

NUMBER EIGHT:

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Free! – Dive to the Future

Oh geez, one title full of bishounens after another—Who wrote this list?? Wait, I can explain!! I’ve loved Free! ever since it started airing back in the summer of 2013, and even if they decide to draw out the franchise (and unnecessarily so) for five more years after this, I’ll still love Free!. While this season’s additions of Ikuya and Hiyori brought all kinds of ~meh~ drama into the water, it was nice to still be able to follow these guys in college (cause, ya know, I’m also in college now).

Plus, Rei as Iwatobi’s captain, YASSSS! Since it just kind of “ends” after one of the meets, I’m looking forward to the film to hopefully bring resolution to Haru’s newest rivalry.

NUMBER SEVEN:

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Steins;Gate 0

In case you didn’t know, Steins;Gate was my favorite anime of all time for several years in the running. It has one of the best endings of all time, and even though many didn’t care for the film, it only added to my love of this title. When it was announced that we’d FINALLY be receiving an adaptation of the story’s “lost timeline,” the game known as Steins;Gate 0, I was positively thrilled. And for the first six, heck, even 12 episodes, it didn’t disappoint. But there was one episode, episode 18 to be exact, that really ruined the entire show for me. To quote ANN on the matter, “I’ve never been so frustrated and disappointed by an episode of Steins;Gate.”

Now, I’m a firm believer in how one episode cannot ruin an entire series, but when it needed to be strongest—to execute its immense build-up of time-altering tension and deliver shocking plot twists one after another—Steins;Gate 0 absolutely dropped the ball. It’s odd, considering that with every single episode after that, the show only goes up until its thrilling, chilling ending. But man, how tragic it is for the great Steins;Gate to fall flat due to an issue with unusually lazy directing, animating, and adapting.

NUMBER SIX:

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Tsurune: Kazemai High School Archery Club

I’m really, really glad that KyoAni has given this series everything it’s got to make it stand out on its own as a fantastic high school sports drama. We’ve seen the studio churn out somewhat lukewarm stories in the past (Beyond the Boundary and Myriad Colors Phantom World as the most infamous ones), and I was definitely afraid of the same happening to Tsurune just because they marketed the series with some cute archery danshi.

With only one episode left to air, I couldn’t have been more wrong—Tsurune is beautiful. Its animation is top-tier, its music is fantastically gorgeous, its direction is powerful, and its characters are more soulful than any of us expected them to be. Can’t wait to see how this wonderful little show ends!

NUMBER FIVE:

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Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai

Given that I only just watched this series a week ago, talk about a last-minute pull! I may have covered Bunny Girl Senpai in my latest OWLS post, but all I was able to do was barely skim the surface of its first three episodes. In actuality, the entire series and all of its self-contained story arcs are layered with the same character complexity as its brilliant intro arc, and I highly recommend checking out the series beyond those three episodes if you get the chance.

But yeah, as everyone’s been saying, it’s like Bakemonogatari for dummies, but in many ways better. The stories are easy accessible (compared to the madness of the massive Monogatari franchise) and the comedy is always on-point—what more could you ask for? Most surprisingly-enjoyable series of the year: Bunny Girl Senpai.

NUMBER FOUR:

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SSSS.GRIDMAN

Of all the shows on this list, Gridman became the one that I looked forward to each week the most. Although initially turned off by the ugly color palette and clunky CGI kaiju fights, by episode four or so I quickly became ADDICTED to the Gridman aesthetic Trigger creates. If there’s one word to sum up this show, it is “atmospheric.” Shiro Sagisu’s musical score not only plays off both the retro nature of a giant robot anime and the epic, not-of-this-world scenario, but also the subtle, somber, and hauntingly atmospheric moments that require solo piano or mere silence alone. I really appreciate how involved the main trio of high school kids are with the plot—no one is forgotten about, including the lesser of the leads.

To top it all off, we got Akane Shinjo, one of my favorite female characters of 2018! Between the high intensity kaiju fights and the mysterious nature of this very world, SSSS.GRIDMAN knew exactly what kind of story it wanted to be—and it never held back. 

NUMBER THREE:

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Devilman: Crybaby 

Since I’ve already talked at length about this wild series in my review way back in February, I’ll keep my reasoning for its top-three spot concise: Crybaby is epic. It is ruthless to its cast and unyielding to the audience. Gory, over-the-top, and emotionally devastating until the very end, there’s rarely a moment to breath. Crybaby also became my entry point into the Devilman franchise, as it did for many others. And like the Yuri!!! On ICE and Banana Fish epidemics, there was—and still is—no end to the amount of Devilman: Crybaby artwork floating around on Twitter. That pleases me immensely.

Crybaby is going to be on a lot of top-10 lists and for good reasons. If you’re willing to stomach the copious amounts of gore and nudity, you should, without doubt, check out this series—it’s an absolute heartbreaker, and often those are the best kinds of anime.

NUMBER TWO:

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Run With the Wind

I really, really, really, really wanted to put Run With the Wind in the #1 spot, but for the obvious reason of “it hasn’t finished airing yet,” I couldn’t cheat out the true number one when anything could still happen in the second cour of this amazingly fun and relatable sports anime. Like Welcome to the Ballroom, Production I.G has teamed up with musician Yuki Hayashi to create a well-animated, motivational story featuring a sport. This time, it’s cross country running, and since my sister ran it all throughout high school, I kinda know what’s up.

Simply, I enjoy Run With the Wind because it doesn’t try too hard to make me smile, laugh, angry, heartfelt, or inspired. The ten boys of the Kansei University track team are full of spirit, heart, and their own motives in life. As they each struggle with the daunting goal of running in the great Hakone Ekiden, we quickly find that to say something is vastly different than actually doing that thing. No matter what it is, you have to work for it, and you will encounter roadblocks along the way that must eventually be dealt with if you wish to do whatever it is you’re trying so hard at.

We all get frustrated, jealous, and mad at ourselves and others, but at the same time, we also feel triumphant, proud, and happy when things turn out as we want them to. For an anime about something as seemingly simple as running to make me feel all these emotions and more, I can only hope that Run With the Wind sticks with its greatest strength—its heart—until the very end.

Honorable Mentions:

Violet Evergarden

Because I DON’T HAVE NETFLIX UGH I have yet to actually watch this Evergarden. But if I did, you can bet that it’d be on this list.

Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight

Like some of the others here in this section, I’m only halfway done with Revue Starlight (love it BTW), so I didn’t want to put an anime on this list in which I’ve only seen six episodes of. Makes sense, right?

A Certain Magical Index III

While I was initially STOKED to get more Index, this third season has left me quite, err, confused. Like, Index isn’t known for connecting its arcs together as smoothly as most others, and the burn of abruptly dropping one story arc and diving straight into another really hurts the enjoyment factor. Fellow blogger Karandi even voiced her frustrations with the story so far and has stepped away from this third season, and I totally understand why. I want to like Index III, but is that the mentality I should be having with any anime—or anything for that matter?

Sword Art Online: Alicization

In case you don’t follow my Twitter adventures, I’ve actually been trying to read the Alicization light novels PRIOR to watching the anime so that I can compare/enjoy both mediums. This newest arc covers a whopping ten volumes, from 9 to 18, and I just finished 13 today. This means that in about a month or two, the anime will be caught up to where I’m currently at. Given how volume 15 just released in English, I’m fighting a losing battle, I know, but that’ll make watching all 50-some episodes of Alicization when I’m done reading that much greater of a reward. Of the six episodes I’ve seen thus far, it’s safe to say that had I watched more, SAO: Alicization would’ve made a spot on the list easily.

Attack on Titan Season 3 & My Hero Academia 3rd Season

A LOT of people have taken these two powerhouse third seasons out of their top-10 lists, and it makes sense: they would utterly DOMINATE otherwise. So, I shoved them here with the absolute recommendation to #GetOnThisShitASAP if you’ve been living under a rock. If you were wondering, however, I really did enjoy the new reveals and further characterization/world-building in AoT, and MHA continues to be the epitome of a well-done anime. Looking forward to more of both!

AND FINALLY, NUMBER ONE:

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A Place Further Than the Universe

It’s rare for me to switch up my simulcast schedule and jump on a series mid-season. Seriously, it never happens. But once I saw that 2-minute clip of the YoriMoi girls running throughout the city (for unknown reasons at the time), it instantly dawned on me that I’d be missing out on something truly remarkable if I were to pass up this unsuspecting slice-of-life/drama series. Just, man, everything about this series is perfect. Utterly incredible and enjoyable from beginning to end.

I also find it rare for a series to inspire me as much as this. A couple years back it was Yuri!!! On ICE, and in 2017 it was Welcome to the Ballroom. I could argue and say that Run With the Wind would be the next natural candidate, but YoriMoi was able to make me think about things in a way that none of these other wonderful titles could. What does it mean to try? What does it mean to fail? What does it mean to do both, repeatedly, yet keep on going until you make it to the other side of the world and leave everyone else in shock? What does it feel like to leave it all behind? And what does it feel like to find suddenly what you’ve been searching for all your life? 

The reason I never properly reviewed A Place Further Than the Universe was because, at the time I finished the show, I couldn’t. I was pretty much speechless, cathartic, and cleansed. Even now, I still don’t know how to put my thoughts for it in words. At the time of finishing, I wanted to leave parts of my own life behind, in fact, and that caused me to briefly leave blogging until I was ready to reopen the cafe. In the short time ToriMoi was actively was in my life, it changed everything—or rather, it paved the way for me to make my own changes for once: to chase after my own desires, throw caution to the wind, and try something new.

And all this and more is why A Place Further Than the Universe is my irrefutable pick for anime of the year.

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Thanks 2018 for all the great anime!

That’s all I got! What did you think of my top ten anime of 2018? Were some of my picks predictable or even cliche? Probably, haha, but you can’t deny what’s good when it comes for you, am I right? I’ve been doing my best to stay on top of your guys’ top-10 posts, but in case I missed yours, you’re more than welcome to leave a link down in the comments for me to read! I’ll soon be posting a 2018 “watch log” post of sorts detailing everything I watched in 2018 aside from seasonal stuff, so stay tuned for that. Thanks 2018 for all the great anime, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

The Conviction to Change in Bunny Girl Senpai | OWLS “Metamorphosis”

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 first monthly topic of 2019, “Metamorphosis,” I wanted to take a look at one of 2018’s best shows (in my opinion), the most unusual tale of a high school boy who encounters many different teenage girls, each of which are struggling with a bizarre phenomenon tied to personal turmoil: the (in)famous Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai.

A brand new year means new beginnings and opportunities. We have a tendency to embrace the new year because it’s a time when we can start fresh. For this month’s topic, we will be exploring our favorite dynamic characters who undergo changes for better or for worse. We will analyze these characters’ transformations and how these transformations benefited or minimized these characters’ potential in becoming “great people/beings.” We will also use these characters as a way for us to reflect on our own lives and who we want to become. Lastly, we would like to say “Happy New Year, everyone!”

Much like last year’s “Revival” tour, January ushers in new beginnings and a fresh start for us all. Here’s to the first in a long line of wonderful months to come, and thanks Lyn for the prompt!

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A brief, spoiler-free discussion on the 13-episode fall 2018 series “Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai,” animated by CloverWorks, directed by Souichi Masui, and based on the light novel series by Hajime Kamoshida. 

Troubles in Youth, the Adolescence Syndrome

Also called “puberty syndrome,” this sickness of sorts rumored on the internet to be caused by sensitivity and instability during adolescence plagues young hearts and entangles several girls in weird experiences beyond the explanation of physics.

Sakuta Azusagawa, a second-year high school student, meets these girls that are experiencing this “puberty syndrome” over the course of one eventful year. The one to stand out the most, of course, is famous child/teen actress Mai Sakurajima, which he encounters in a public library wearing a bunny costume. Although he knows her to be a senior at his school, for some reason, no one else can see Miss Sakurajima in her scantily clad attire.

When did she become invisible? How did she become invisible? As Sakuta earnestly spends more and more time with Mai-san and tries to unravel her mysterious circumstances, Mai’s hidden emotions slowly reveal themselves and a relationship of love begins to blossom.

Mai Sakurajima isn’t the only one changed by Sakuta, though—energetic underclassman Koga Tomoe is stuck in an endless time loop until she confronts her inner feelings; Sakuta’s science club friend Rio Futaba has to deal with a doppelganger of herself running around; hardworking idol Nodoka Toyohama undergoes a sudden body swap with Mai-san, who turns out to be her sister; even Sakuta’s own sister Kaede is still recovering from her terrible past with adolescence syndrome. All the while, a figure from Sakuta’s past—his first love, Shouko Makinohara—makes an incomprehensible reappearance into his life.

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Love, Romance, & Schrödinger’s Cat

Sakurajima was a child star, adored by all and a household icon to boot. But following a couple-year hiatus caused by her transitionary high school phase and a conflict with her manager (her own mother), the teen actress fell out of the public eye. She suddenly became invisible, and the Adolescence Syndrome amplified that literal meaning.

Despite his convincingly bored and constantly horny exterior, Sakuta is a genuinely good guy. He’s honest, straightforward (a bit too much sometimes), persistent, caring, and is able to read into people surprisingly well. These qualities make him a perfect agent for change, which he acts upon to improve the lives of those he deems worthy of his friendship.

When going about “fixing” Sakurajima’s invisibility problem, Sakuta appeals to his super smart science club friend Futaba for advice. If anyone can believe him and break down the Adolescence Syndrome’s causes and cures, it’s Futaba. She postulates that the students’ collective forgetting of Mai-san was caused by the school’s atmosphere, and she makes the analogy of Schrödinger’s cat to explain how Mai’s existence cannot be confirmed by those who refuse to acknowledge her. Finally, Futaba proposes that if the atmosphere were to be shaken enough to awaken everyone’s memories, Mai-san’s life would return to normal.

With the school as the box and Mai-san as the cat, the Schrödinger’s cat tie-in helps to create a powerful metaphor for the change process. Unless we open the box and confront its contents, we’ll never know if the cat is dead or alive, thus it is half of both. Similarly, until we open up to others with our problems and allow each other to see why we are hurt, confused, or scared, we’ll never be able to understand one another, and thus our problems will prevail.

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In this case, Sakuta persistently sought after people who knew Mai-san’s personal life, including her mother (and sister as well later on), to unravel the reason for Mai’s actions and the consequences pressed by the Adolescence Syndrome. So, what did he find? Sakuta urged Mai-san to return to her acting career. After all, she loves show business. But what made things different this time is that she wouldn’t let her mother micromanage her life. Instead, she’d plant her feet and make the choices she wanted to make.

Just like Futaba the science whiz found, unless the name Mai Sakurajima was put back into the student body’s mind in a way that broke the static atmosphere, nothing would change. Determined not to give up on Mai even though he, too, had almost forgotten her forever, Sakuta came up with a daring last-minute plan to make everyone remember. And while confessing the love of your life to every single person at school by shouting from the baseball field was a bit over-the-top, you can definitely call Sakuta’s efforts in making Mai Sakurajima visible once again commendable. Quite praiseworthy indeed!

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Change to Last a Lifetime

On the subject of metamorphosis itself, one characteristic that makes Sakuta Azusagawa stand out as a “hero” type protagonist is his conviction to not only solving each problem plaguing our cast, but his focus on making lifelong changes rather than little remedies to temporary issues. Like, he could have just told Sakurajima to get back into acting or “broke the atmosphere” from the start. Instead, he devoted immense time and energy to reconstructing Mai-san’s mindset geared towards a fresh, new perspective on self-confidence. Considering how that involves rebuilding a mother-daughter relationship, I’d say it’s no small effort whatsoever.

The same could be said about the other girls, though. For Koga Tomoe, he didn’t merely get her to confront her feelings—he willingly went along with her repeated time looping until she felt comfortable being honest about the nature of a one-sided romance. Sakuta helped Koga get her friends back, her reputation back, and all because she was a true friend to him. Even with Futaba, the problem wasn’t just with eliminating the doppel—it was about filling the hole in her heart with friendship, youthful memories, and some good, honest fun.

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If there’s one big takeaway from Bunny Girl Senpai, it’s that deep down, we’re all just trying to keep the past out of the future, even if that means giving up on some of the things we love. It’s a romantic notion, don’t get me wrong, but that’s not how we should be living our lives—and Sakuta Azusagawa knows it.

Try as we might, we’ll never be able to completely let the past go. Whether its remnants haunt us in the present, like Mai’s longing to act again and Kaede’s desire to see the outside world, or our feelings keep us from moving forward, as with Koga and Futaba, there will always be something we hate about ourselves, something to regret.

What we can do, however, is do our best to live without said regrets—to think, act, and dream as if we are absolutely owning our lives. And if we don’t like how things are going, we CHANGE what we can such that we create the world we want to live in. The conviction to change is something that ultimately comes from within, and having close friends, even just a couple, can make this exciting way of living all the more within our grasp—we just have to be willing to reach out, change the atmosphere, and when we’re ready, open the box. 

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“No matter who you were before, how you look right now is who you are.”— Sakuta Azusagawa


Afterword

Whew! This one was a bit of a cram watch, but I’m glad I finished it for a post like this one. Despite seeming like a surface-level rom-com with pervy jokes and toilet humor, Bunny Girl Senpai is surprisingly full of complex metaphysical concepts. Through its amazing and mature lead characters, Sakuta and Mai, it’s able to weave in these interesting principles with thought-provoking conversations and an air of scientific wonder. If you’re wanting a harem-ish anime that offers more emotional and intellectual challenge (or Bakemonogatari without the abstract directing style), give Bunny Girl Senpai a shot. You might enjoy the chemistry (and petty banter) between the leads more than you initially think! Plus, the voice acting is great, the animation is pretty, and OP and ED themes are absolute BOPS.

As for the cafe, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is certified “Caffe Mocha,” a show from 2018 that’s simply too awesome to miss out on! Seeing as how I focused this post solely a few story/character points, I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts on the rest of the series down in the comments.

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This concludes my January 13th entry in the OWLS “Metamorphosis” blog tour. I tried going for a shorter, more condensed and focused form of writing for this OWLS post, so if you have any feedback on that I’d greatly appreciate it. Jack (The Aniwriter) went right before me and wrote about change and the liberation it can offer in Wandering Son, a series I really ought to watch! Now, look out for Megan (Nerd Rambles) on Sunday, January 13th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

My Top Five Favorite OWLS Posts That I Wrote in 2018

Hello! Happy New Year!

I realize 2019 has already begun, but there are still a few 2018 round-up posts I plan to write, one of those being this one right here. My top five OWLS posts of 2017 listing was fairly well-received by you all, so I decided to bring it back! As I mentioned last year, it’s hard to pick favorites. But, in the spirit of the New Year and bidding the old farewell, I’ve managed to select five OWLS posts that accurately represent the sum of who I am, why I write, and what I want you, the reader, to learn!

As previously mentioned, all of my OWLS posts are my babies—in fact, they’re probably some of the best posts I’ve ever written, if not THE best of what I’ve got so far, and I thoroughly LOVED writing ALL of them—so enjoy my reminiscing, and feel free to scope them out if you missed them, or are feeling the urge to relive each month’s thought-provoking topic.

On the header/taskbar thingy of my site, you’ll see that OWLS has its own tab (and rightly so), so you can find the rest of 2018’s posts there! Alrighty then, let’s take one last look at some of the posts I wrote in 2018!


RUNNER UP:

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Tour #19 July – The Royal Tutor: A Heartfelt Lesson on Judgement | OWLS “Mentor”

Like several of the titles I featured for each month, my watch of The Royal Tutor came at just the right time. I recall desparately searching my watch catalog just nights before the post was due, and then Heine Wittgenstein waltzed into my life and all was well. Not a single episode goes by where Heine fails to offer a valuable lesson on what it means to be human, and its that strict attention to theme that gives this OWLS post an easy runner-up position on the list. Heck, Heine practically wrote the post for me!

Life Lessons Learned:

  • Before quitting something you want to do, you should always explore alternative solutions.
  • This world is very big. Do not deprive yourself of people who will understand and care for you.
  • We should all believe in second chances.

NUMBER FIVE:

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Tour #24 December – Finding a Place to Belong: Tokyo Godfathers & the Gift of Kindness | OWLS “Miracles”

Here’s another one of those last-minute struggle watches that I managed to cram in right before the deadline, and boy am I glad I finally watched this anime cult Christmas classic. In the post, I dabbled a bit on how “God’s miracles” are what guide these three crazy homeless friends through an eventful Christmas Eve in Tokyo. The unfathomable number of plot conveniences can be explained by the presence of this guiding light, and this wild series of events—which can only be described as miraculous—are what make it the perfect fit for not only the monthly theme, but the holiday season.

Life Lessons Learned:

  • Life has a funny way of dealing with some situations—embrace chaos with faith.
  • A simple conviction to kindness will surround you with good company and food aplenty.
  • We will always have the opportunity to be kind to others.

NUMBER FOUR:

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Tour #13 January – All That Glitters IS Gold in “Land of the Lustrous” | OWLS “Revival”

Similar to our first tour of 2019, “Metamorphosis,” January and the New Year revolve around change. It involves a spirit of revival, an air of renewal, and the determination to change oneself for the better. Similarly, I found Phos’ journey to find purpose and self-worth to be an excellent fit for 2018’s first monthly topic. (I also happened to be watching it at the time, but I digress.) Just as how humans are fragile beings at heart, the Gems of Land of the Lustrous can shatter into hundreds of tiny pieces—some Gems more than others, namely Phos. Although the post is a tad bit on the longer side to accommodate every aspect that I wanted to hit on, I still look back on it fondly as how 2018 started—a shimmering, hopeful time to try new things. 

Life Lessons Learned:

  • Change is scary. It can be painful, it can be sudden, and it can be dangerous. Change involves suffering, but that grief is a necessity for growth.
  • Self-worth isn’t determined by the people around you, but rather what YOU make of yourself.
  • So long as we can hope to become better individuals—actively seeking to help others in return—change and improvement just might someday find us, too.

NUMBER THREE:

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Tour #20 August – From the New World: Through Horror, Calamity, & the Truth | OWLS “Journey”

This show, oh man, how far we go back together. I find it quite rare for a series to impact my views on critical concepts like justice and dignity so easily. And then comes along Shinsekai Yori to flip everything that I knew on its head. Absolutely loaded from head to toe with painful themes of reality and the duality of man, From the New World represents so much more than sci-fi series about good and evil. Rather, it’s a journey through horror, calamity, and the truth, and how the truth can sometimes be the cruelest thing of all. Given how complex it is, I was quite satisfied with how I was able to sum up each of the story’s arcs and how they impact Saki Watanabe, the lead character. (Also, I really, really like the header image I designed for this one.) It’s riveting, it’s meaningful, it’s powerful, and of all the shows I’ve EVER scene, few deserve the title of masterpiece quite like From the New World does.

Life Lessons Learned:

  • To feign ignorance is the greatest crime of all. Corruption breeds from within when we close off our minds and our hearts to new peoples and ideas.
  • People are twisted, easily corrupted, and worst of all, easily scared. But while we are weak when we are desperate, we are strong when it counts.
  • “We have to change our way of thinking if we really want to change the future.”

NUMBER TWO:

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Tour #16 April – Yūki Hayashi: Music to Motivate the Soul | OWLS “Melody”

I try to dedicate a solid paragraph in each of my anime reviews to the series’ soundtrack composer. What can I say, I’m a music man, and Yuuki Hayashi just so happens to be my favorite anime soundtrack composer! He’s done the background music for so many of my favorite shows, and it was about time that I dedicated an entire post—a very special OWLS post at that—to Hayashi’s genius. At long, long last, I got to practically fanboy about all my favorite anime soundtracks, but there’s another reason I picked a composer rather than a single song or series to focus on. You see, Hayashi’s music isn’t just epic—it’s also inspirational, a set of notes and sounds designed to motivate the very soul. And although this one low-key has my favorite header graphic, it’s missing one final relatability factor to push it into number one.

Life Lessons Learned:

  • Music encapsulates and can provide inspiration to lift us off our feet, motivation to push us forward, heartache to make us grow, the strength to go beyond, and the ambition to fulfill our dreams.
  • Know that the view from the summit is one that exists ONLY for you—so chase after it relentlessly.
  • Try new things, make mistakes, meet new people, but never, never give up on your reasons for wanting to improve. Because maybe, in the process of overcoming your own impossible odds, you’ll inspire someone else to be a better human.

AND FINALLY, NUMBER ONE:

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Tour #18 June – Princess Jellyfish: Confidence, Community, & the Beauty Below the Surface | OWLS “Pride”

Here’s your number one for 2018! Did it surprise you? Princess Jellyfish burst onto the scene of my life and totally changed my views on confidence, community, and the inner beauty we each possess below the surface. It features a dynamic, hilarious, and heartwarming cast of otaku NEETS who are all just struggling to get by in society, as well as the one queen who will unite them all in their effort to freely express themselves. Princess Jellyfish is the epitome of pride, a story that is attest to how vast our personalities truly are, and although I was a bit long-winded with other technical aspects of the series, this post really is just one big expression of love. Princess Jellyfish is a series about loving what you want to love, and bonding with those who share that same incredible sentiment. At its very end, the story of Princess Jellyfish embodies something so pure, hopeful, and passionate that it becomes impossible to not enjoy—and it’s for all these wonderful reasons and more that I select June’s “Pride” post as my favorite OWLS post of 2018.

Life Lessons Learned:

  • Sometimes you need to see yourself in a different way in order to appreciate who you’ve been this whole time.
  • Beauty is not something you simply put on: it’s an emotion you feel when you’re at your best. 
  • Above all else, so long as you take pride in yourself and the things you love, all people—including us adults—still have plenty of room for growth and change.

A HUGE Round of Applause to the OWLS Crew!

WHEW! After binge-reading ALL of the 2018 OWLS posts from January 1st to December 31st, I can officially say that each and every one of us deserve a pat on the back. Seriously though, all of lovely individuals in OWLS are not only fantastic people, but awesome writers as well, and while I didn’t share every single post over on Twitter (for fear of clogging up everyone’s feed), each one of them most certainly deserves the read.

This post compiles my favorite OWLS posts that personally wrote. As bloggers, I’m sure we can all identify our stronger posts compared to the rest of our catalog. So, if you are an OWLS member, I’d love to read what you found to be your own favorites! Think of it as celebrating your accomplishments for being a member of such a cool group. 🙂

Speaking of accomplishments . . . to my knowledge, I am one of the few who has posted for every single tour. That’s 24 posts since our debut in 2017! While I plan to write more posts aside from OWLS ones (as that is what became of me this year, whoops), I am happy with myself for not giving up and sticking with the group through each thought-provoking monthly topic. It’s just a small sidenote, but I’m proud for having come this far, and I look forward to hopefully adding 12 more posts come December 2019!

Anyway, that’s it for me. What did you think of the line-up? Did you have a particular favorite month to read/write for, either of my posts or everyone else’s? Or are you, like I was less than a month ago, still in the process of catching up? Haha! Either way, thank you so much for supporting me throughout my 2018 OWLS journey, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Finding a Place to Belong: Tokyo Godfathers & the Gift of Kindness | OWLS “Miracles”

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 twelfth monthly topic for 2018, “Miracles,” I wanted to feature the epitome of anime Christmas films, the one and only KING of uplifting vibes and positivity, Tokyo Godfathers!

‘Tis the season where miracles happen. For December’s theme, we will be exploring faith in anime and pop culture. We will discuss some of the miracles that enter a character’s life during their darkest moments. Some of the questions we will explore: How does a “miracle” change a person’s life? How do we define miracles? Can miracles only happen due to a legend or a mystical being? Or do miracles happen every day, but we just don’t see them? We hope that you enjoy this holiday season!

– the OWLS Team

We’re down to the end here, my friends! One last OWLS post for 2018, and I’m thrilled to finish on a film so full of heart that there truly isn’t a Christmas experience like it. Thanks again Lyn for the prompt—enjoy!~

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A brief, spoiler-free discussion on the 2003 film “Tokyo Godfathers,” animated by Madhouse, and both directed by and based on the original story by the late Satoshi Kon.

A Babe in a Manger

Christmas Eve. A glistening white snow has fallen upon Tokyo, and as three homeless friends are rummaging in a dump for a Christmas present, they discover a newborn baby. Despite having nothing to their name, the three take in this pure little girl which they name “Kiyoko.” Knowing they can’t support the child on their own for long, however, they take to the streets in search of Kiyoko’s mother, based on the small amount of info they gathered from her meager belongings.

But just as how the night before Christmas is the longest for any young child, these three poor vagabonds become entangled in a wild series of events involving a kidnapping, crime, death, a fight between rival gangs, and a crazy chase throughout the vast city.

A transvestite, an alcoholic, and a runaway teenager may make for an unlikely team, but what binds them together in their search for where this baby belongs is their inherent goodwill and incredible heart. By finally raising their heads toward the future, they are also able to confront their pasts, coming just a little bit closer to finding their own place in this wild world—a Christmas miracle in itself.

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I love Satoshi Kon works, but in some ways I also hate them. His vivid artistry, unique directing style, and powerful storytelling are masterful (and totally iconic). But while he knows how to blow my mind and make me see the world in a whole new way, he also knows exactly how to make me feel weak, shameful, and powerless as a human being.

Tokyo Godfathers is very much a human story. It features three troubled individuals living in an unequal, unfinished world, and although they finally address the error of their ways, their individual revelations occur only after being ridiculed, accused, and exposed for the true sins of their past. (Also, they get physically and emotionally beat up throughout the film’s entirety, which is met with frequent crying and wailing in the Tokyo slums.)

Just as how the film is praised for its soulful story, inventive directing, lively character animation, and holiday cheer, it also, fittingly for Kon, makes the viewer feel pity for the cast and anger towards the socioeconomic imbalance in the world, yet helpless to do anything about it! But maybe there is something we can do—after all, this wouldn’t be a post about the joy of miracles if it ended in in heartache and tragedy.

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Coincidence, Miracles, & Faith

Equally touching as it is prophetic, there are a stunning number of what can only be called “coincidences” that stack up in Tokyo Godfathers. I mean, I can understand running into “the one” person you need to see in the sprawling Tokyo cityscape as a means of plot convenience, but man, talk about being in the right place at the right time!

Over the course of the film, our three homeless friends stumble into ordeal after ordeal, yet persist out of the goodness in their hearts—and fate, or more appropriately here, God, assists in their noble endeavor. How does Hana always know the right path to take? How does Miyuki seem to constantly entangle herself in trouble, yet flee at just the right time? And how does Gin manage to stay alive? Simply, it is God who is watching over our homeless friends, and his subtle roles and appearances can be found in the backgrounds. Perhaps he could be keeping tabs on them from on high through a billboard depicting a crying woman; other times, God manifests in more illusionist ways: walls and windows that create faces, figurines with pulsating stares, and angel statues representing guidance.

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In these mystical, foreshadowing ways that Satoshi Kon has mastered through cinematography, Kon transforms one of the film’s biggest critiques—its over-dependence on an unnaturally high number of plot conveniences—into a powerful, compelling theme: faith and goodwill towards others are rewarded with protection against the unknown.

Faith plays a strong role in Tokyo Godfathers. Whether in the opening Christmas Eve church sermon or the biblical motifs scattered throughout the film, Kon makes it clear that those who believe in the good in others are granted love and respect in turn—which is interesting given that Satoshi Kon supposedly wasn’t a religious man. More importantly, kindness isn’t a virtue limited to religion. Kon teaches us that anyone can be kind, and that empathy and altruism can be found in the rarest of places . . .

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Three Wise *Homeless* Men

Ok, so they’re technically not all “men,” seeing as how Hana identifies as a transwoman, but the motif still holds. As the holy scriptures dictate, Gin, Hana, and Miyuki stumble upon a babe in a dumpster, but instead of bringing Kiyoko gifts, our three wise men find her a home. What we eventually find out, however, is that the baby isn’t the only one suffering from displacement. Each in their own way, Gin, Hana, and Miyuki can’t go back to their previous way of life, and that dissolution has led them to be homeless both in the physical and mental sense.

But life has a funny way of dealing with such situations. In a tale that is equal parts dramatic as it is comedic, our homeless trio is predestined to find a sense of belonging so long as they confront the shadows of their past and persist through the present, to which they certainly do. As a new fan of the film, I just love these three silly goons!! Miyuki’s rebellious teenage side shines in her fiery dialogues with Gin. And as if they needed more reason for conflict, Gin and Hana never cease bickering with one another, much like a married old couple. A drunk, a homo, and a teen girl—who would’ve thought such a cast could be so enjoyable to watch!

In all seriousness, I especially adored Hana’s kind, motherly nature. Hana is also highly intuitive, as she’s always able to pick the right direction to take, as well as describe exactly what Kiyoko’s mother would be doing upon finding her. As the situation calls for her to sacrifice more and more, we see how willing, courageous, and caring she truly is despite suffering from (and hiding) her own personal sickness. She draws a tragic relation to the story about the Blue Demon, and knowing full-well that she, too, must eventually go away, Hana’s challenge to care for the baby she’s always wanted likely is her final test to determine her fate in the afterlife. And given that final leap of faith at the end where she literally jumps off a building to save the child—an event which can only be called miraculous—it becomes clear that she definitely passed the test. Bold and brazen, loud and proud, funny as heck and never afraid to stick out her neck for the ones she loves most, Hana is a gift to us all.

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A Christmas Miracle

As the old aphorism goes, “In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take,” and if there’s anything to be learned from Tokyo Godfathers, it’s that the good and bad in life comes and goes, but we always have the opportunity to be kind to others.

As Gin comes to terms with his gambling and alcohol addictions, he takes ownership of the actions in his life and becomes determined to not mess up the second chance he’s been given with his daughter.

For Miyuki, she accepts the terrible things she did to her father tries to seek him out to apologize and mend their bond.

Hana is finally granted the opportunity to be a mother—to care for a child, to love it, and to provide warmth for it in the harsh winter cold.

And lastly, a mother learns what it’s like to lose her child—to lose everything that mattered to her—as well as what it feels like to miraculously get it back.

With justice and dignity intertwined with love and hope on this eventful Christmas Eve, Satoshi Kon performs Christmas miracles and delivers a story to stand the test of time—an invaluable lesson on what it truly means to be human in this wild, wild world.

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“Being able to speak freely is the lifeblood of love.” — Hana


Afterword

To be honest with you all, I’d never actually watched Tokyo Godfathers until just the other day. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely been wanting to watch it for a long time now, but if it weren’t for this post, I likely wouldn’t have seen it as early as I did—and I’m sure glad I spent that cold wintry day on my bed eating a bowl of hot soup and watching such a heartwarming movie. Guys, Tokyo Godfathers is fantastic, a “Caffe Mocha” classic for sure and the perfect family friendly anime film if you’re willing to share the holy word. This isn’t an overly complex film by any means—it’s about simple emotions, a simple act of kindness, and how even the smallest of efforts can snowball and impact the lives of others.

Spend this holiday season with someone you love. Do something nice for someone else, even if you get something out of it, too. I encourage you all to dig deep within yourself—as this film has done for me—and go out there and make a difference in someone else’s life. As I always like to forward on, we only get one of these things, one life, so be sure to take all the chances you can get. And be kind to others—a simple conviction to kindness will surround you with good company and food aplenty, that I can assure you!

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This concludes my December 19th entry in the OWLS “Miracles” blog tour. Dale (That Baka Blog) went right before me and wrote a heartfelt post on one of, if not, my favorite anime film: Kiki’s Delivery Service!  Now, look out for Jack (The Aniwriter) this upcoming Friday, December 21st! Thank you so much for following my OWLS journey this year—I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing for every single month, and I’m looking forward to all the incredible topics to be written for in 2019! ‘Till next time, Happy Holidays!~

– Takuto, your host

When Science & Magic Collide: Top 5 Reasons Why I Love Index/Railgun | OWLS “Thankful”

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  eleventh monthly topic for 2018, “Thankful,” I wanted to shed some light on a certain franchise that doesn’t ever get too much public love from me. Believe it or not, back in the day when I only had about 20 or so anime under my belt, A Certain Scientific Railgun was one of, if not my favorite anime ever. And because of its decline in publicity following the climactic Index II finale, I never really got to express how much this incredible franchise meant to me (and still does mean to me).

Here at OWLS, we are pretty thankful that we are able to come together as a community and share a love and appreciation for anime and manga. This month we will be showcasing our appreciation by giving a shout out post to our favorite manga artists, creators, production companies, and writers who produced some of our favorite works. We will be discussing our favorite works by these creators and our reasons as to why we appreciate them.

A very simple yet fitting topic for this month, I’m excited to put on the nostalgia lens and celebrate just a few of the many reasons why I’m overjoyed to have this electrifying world where science and magic collide in my life. Cause trust me–there’s never a dull moment in this city!

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A brief, spoiler-free glimpse into the massive “A Certain Magical Index/A Certain Scientific Railgun” or “Raildex” franchise, all animated by J.C. Staff, and originally written by Kazuma Kamachi.

Been a while? Let’s briefly review!

The world of Index is one where having supernatural powers is commonplace—that is, for the 2.3 million residents of Academy City. A sprawling metropolis boasting the technological prowess of a city existing 30 years in the future, everything in Academy City is regulated and organized to perfection. Because its inhabitants or Espers must develop their psychokinetic powers, an elaborate education system dominates much of the city. Sprinkle in several hundred research institutions and it’s no wonder these supercharged Espers have become associated with the scientific community.

A poor Level 0 possessing no powers but a strange knack for canceling out others’ with his right hand, Touma Kamijou finds himself ironically disenchanted by reality when he discovers that Espers aren’t the only power users roaming the planet. One day, he finds a nun literally draped over his balcony who claims to be on the run from a group of magicians. Magicians are those who practice magical arts, usually subscribing to a certain religion, church, sect, or philosophy to guide their training.

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But Touma doesn’t care about any of that—he’s already got a bunch of classes to make up, a Level 5 “bug zapper” out for guts, and a case of rotten luck that seems to follow him wherever he goes!

A Certain Magical Index chronicles Touma Kamijou’s mishaps as he stumbles through the magical side of things and entangles himself in situations that eventually threaten the balance of the two communities vying for supremacy in Academy City. Meanwhile, the spin-off A Certain Scientific Railgun functions as a sister series to Index in that it follows the Level 5 Electromaster Mikoto Misaka and the trials and tribulations she faces while encountering the dark side of Academy City.

Top 5 Reasons Why I Love Index/Railgun


#5 – The Incredible Cast of Characters

Whether you prefer the diversity of Index or the raw friendship in Railgun, you can’t deny that as a whole, both series offer a fascinating cast of characters. While some are much better developed than others (such as the “heroes” vs. the “villains”), you get the sense that each character is fighting for reasons beyond their role. As the story goes along, we see the complexities of each character shine in their individual little arcs, and although you could argue that Railgun put more love into its cast (good guys and bad guys alike), all of them are fascinating in their own right, be it with their powers, their relationships to others, or their system of beliefs. So many different personalities! The cast becomes even more fun to watch when the two stories collide, but I’ll get to that here in a minute.

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#4 – The Insane Architecture & Animation

I wanted to keep this reason separate from another on this list because it truly does deserve its own category. Simply put, this is the best set of works from J.C. Staff that I’ve ever seen, especially Railgun S. Admittedly, Index season one has aged quite a bit in all aspects; that’s not to say it’s bad, but rather quite average for a mid-2000s shounen anime. Railgun, on the other hand, looks timeless in practically all areas, be it the riveting action sequences or the more down-to-earth comedic moments. With each new season comes a more vivid, dynamic vision of what these supernatural power users are truly capable of, and naturally, newer entries will look far superior to older ones. From the explosive energy of Misaka’s signature “railgun” to the mystical spells and arts cast by magicians, the animation remains a high point for this beloved franchise. As an Esper, you are only limited by what you can’t mentally compute quick enough!

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And can we give those background artists a freakin’ round of applause?? They are the ones responsible for bringing Academy City to life: towering skyscrapers, glowing lights, roving highway streets, radiant research institutions, dirty alleyways—heck, even the seemingly infinite number of CG wind turbines littered throughout the city! The clean sci-fi aesthetic matched with homely elements like the occasional brick-paved sidewalk or flower box really does make it feel like Academy City exists in the near future—a future well within our grasp. So I’m glad we’re getting more Index and Railgun, not only for the story and characters, but because I can rely on J.C. Staff for turning these sequels into top-notch productions.

 

#3 – The Intricate, Intertwined Storytelling

We all like a good cameo here and there, right?  Well, Index is FULL of them, so much so to the point that certain characters from the science side of Railgun will hop onto the magic side and have a little fun. Sometimes these visits are brief, such as seeing the dangerous Level 5 Meltdowner chilling in a coffee shop with her friends; others are extended, like when Accelerator had that whole encounter with Index and even bought her food at everyone’s favorite family restaurant Joseph’s. We love seeing our favorite characters thriving in their element, but it can be even more fun to see them out of it and even chatting with characters we know from what feels like entirely different worlds.

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The sheer level of articulation needed to not only tell each story but intertwine them on the same time line is monstrous. To keep each little side story straight yet consistent with the main plot and other happenings in the universe boggles my mind, as I’m sure it does the writers’. I mean, how do you remember that X character went into Y store at this time and saw Z AND keep this seemingly pointless interaction in-line with everything else that is slowly unfolding around us?? Having two series that bounce off of each other so well is one of the franchise’s great hallmarks without a doubt!

The franchise’s most famous story, the “Sisters Arc”, is known throughout all seasons and reiterations of the story for its complexity, and has been heralded as a brilliant story all on its own between its gripping characters and powerful, conflicting emotions. Having been told in both Index season one and elaborated on in Railgun S, the multi-lens perspective of both Touma and Misaka only proves that the writers of the Raildex franchise know exactly what they are doing, and I just can’t wait for more.

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#2 – The Battle of Concepts: Science VS Magic

Kind of an obvious one, as I like my action scenes just as much as the next guy. But beyond just visuals, Index makes it especially clear that actions are rooted in beliefs, faiths even, and this battle of concepts—of ideologies—is the real fight I’m talking about here. One of the first things that drew me to this universe was Esper power hierarchy, which rates a student’s ability from 0 to 5. This power system also influences the socioeconomic balance, where your Level 4s and 5s are practically viewed as pop stars living lavish lifestyles. (We quickly find this doesn’t apply to everyone, though.)

But just like real science, researchers are all working to push the boundaries of what humans are capable of—the ultimate goal, of course, being to produce the first Level 6. Some scientists lie in the depths of Academy City’s darkness to deceive, trap, and capture innocent children and Espers alike for the sake of their research. Although twisted, the dedication to making the process as truly scientific as possible was what won me over as a fan. Misaka’s railgun is grounded in real scientific principles, and there’s always a satisfying explanation to how an Esper uses their supernatural powers.

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Unlike science’s dedication to mapping the brain and dissecting DNA, magic is a difficult concept to unravel, which makes sense given that magic in this world and in ours is tied to myths, legends, and stories of old. Religious doctrines and artifacts are referenced left and right in Index, and although not as clearly defined as the science side, it’s always fascinating to see how these mythical ideas and religious figures translate to a medium as exploratory as anime.

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#1 – The Sprawling Metropolis of Academy City

Annnnd my favorite reason I love this franchise is for the setting itself, Academy City. In fact, if I could live in any one fictional anime setting it would be Academy City. I mean, beautiful buildings sparkle in the sunlight, shopping districts are everywhere, the weather is predicted down to the second, cafes can be found at every street corner—it MUST be the place for me! Not to mention a chance at having psychokinetic abilities and a curriculum to develop those powers?? HECK YEAH COUNT ME IN. It is essentially a utopia, a perfect place for near-perfect people. But what we find is that this drive for perfection also makes it the perfect place for underground organizations to manipulate social happenings.

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Arguably more of a character than a location, Academy City becomes the converging point for nearly every element of the story. Watching it become warped over the course of series as the climate for war increases is astounding, and it’s awesome that we’re finally getting to find out what will happen in this climactic third world war. For every conflict between religious institutions there has been an illegal experiment in some seemingly defunct laboratory. Between the Mages and Espers, scientists and magicians, and terrorists within and outside the walls all trying to maintain their hold on this sprawling metropolis, Academy City has mastered the duality of darkness. Possibilities are quite literally endless in a place that favors advancement and new ideas, and that’s why I love it so much.

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A Thank-You to Everyone Involved

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this entire franchise, specifically the Railgun side, has meant a lot to me over my years an anime fan. Yet, I never really have expressed my love for it before on my blog (maybe after I rewatch it all I’ll have something to say). And so, I just wanted to offer my sincerest thanks to everyone who has been involved with this massive project:

To all the writers, especially Kazuma Kamachi for the original story of Index; to artist Kiyotaka Haimura for his art in the Index light novel as well as for all the memorable character designs; to Motoi Fuyukawa for creating the Railgun spin-off manga; to Hiroshi Nishikiori and Tatsuyuki Nagai for directing Index and Railgun, respectively; to the endearing Kawada Mami on Index and electrifying fripSide on Railgun for providing their incredible opening theme songs; to all the producers, voice actors (both sub and dub), TV broadcasters, licensing companies like Funimation, Crunchyroll, Seven Seas, and Yen On for bringing over the anime and books to the states, and to everyone else that I missed—

Words cannot express how thankful I am to have had such an incredibly fascinating and intricate universe of thought brought to me over the years. Your collaborative efforts on this tremendous project have inspired a generation of young fans, myself included, to think outside the box and create our own personal realities. Thank you all!

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Afterword

Guys, I used to be OBSESSED with this franchise you have no idea. With the suddenly recent airing of the long-awaited Index III (as well as an announcement of a third season of Railgun and EVEN an adaptation of the Accelerator spin-off), there’s never been a better time to be a fan. And if you’ve held off for this long for one reason or another, now’s an excellent time to jump right on in. You’ve got novels, manga, several TV series, and even a film to enjoy at whatever pace you’re comfortable with. My personal recommendation? If you’re an anime-only person, start with A Certain Scientific Railgun season one. It introduces the world and Academy City better than Index does in my opinion. Then hit up Index’s first season, Railgun SIndex II, and the Endymion film. If you’re already a fan, then where have ya been?? Let me know in the comments, and also what your favorite entry or story in the franchise is!

This concludes my November 20th entry in the OWLS “Thankful” blog tour. YumDeku (MyAnime2go) talked about two anime they were thankful for, which you can find out what those were right here! Now, look out for our good friend and prompt-writer Lyn (LynLyn Says) with a post coming Wednesday, November 21st! Thanks for listening to me fanboy about Index for over 2,000 words (you rock!), and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Magical Girl Raising Project: Being Irresistibly Drawn to Death | OWLS “Grotesque”

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  tenth monthly topic for 2018, “Grotesque,” I wanted to revel in the spooky fall festivities by cross-examining an unconventional magical girl throwback from 2016 with humanity’s intriguing obsession for death and the macabre. As someone interested in human behavior, it’s a fascinating area to study, and hopefully I’ll be able to make some science out of the magical!

In honor of Halloween, we will explore what we find vile and ugly in pop culture. For this month’s topic, OWLS bloggers will be exploring characters or aspects of the grotesque in a piece of media and how it is a metaphor or allegory for society, human nature, or some other philosophical or humane idea.

Heads-up! This post will dabble more into studying the human condition than evaluating the series itself. My personal thoughts? It’s a twisted little title with an engaging battle royale setup that turns out somewhat lackluster in the end but is still stupidly entertaining. Watch it. I liked it, and seeing as how we seem to be irresistibly drawn to that which is gruesome (even if for no apparent reason), you should like it to, right? riGhT??

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A brief, spoiler-free discussion on the 12-episode fall 2016 anime “Magical Girl Raising Project,” animated by Lerche, directed by Hiroyuki Hashimoto, and based on Asari Endou’s light novel series of the same name. This will also include a light historical context analysis on how pop culture and the media make a spectacle of death and gore.

Again, this will be SPOILER-FREE, so enjoy!

“You’ve been selected to become a magical girl, pon!”

Magical Girl Raising Project. It’s the latest fad to dominate the mobile game sphere, and it seems that every young girl and adult woman alike in N-City can’t seem to stop playing the app game. Jumping into combat with your sparkly avatar, beating up shadow beasts, collecting candies—it’s the closest thing they have to being a real life magical girl! For Koyuki Himekawa, however, the app offers more than a mere simulation. One day, she receives a peculiar notification from Fav, the game’s mascot, saying that she has been selected to become a real magical girl. Unknowing the full implications of their contract, she eagerly accepts the offer to become her adorable in-game avatar Snow White.

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Gifted with the ability to transform at any time, Koyuki viewed her new life with a newfound optimism and excitement. That is, until the game admins sent out a startling notification claiming that “the number of magical girls in this region must be halved,” as the system couldn’t support the whopping 16 players who decided to take on the magical mission. The one to collect the least amount of Magical Candies—which are awarded for their magical girl activities—at the end of each week will lose their powers. But when a real-world tragedy befalls the first player to drop out, they find that their powers aren’t the only thing stripped from them.

As the magical girls perilously try to avoid their fate by cheating on their fellow players and throwing one another under the bus, the enigmatic Fav continues to add more twisted rules, forcing these young hearts to realize that what started off as a shining opportunity to help others has become a desperate struggle for their own lives.

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I’ll be frank with y’all: the story suffers largely from its systematic approach to execution and trying to develop its immense cast within 12 short episodes. While not Juni Taisen levels of predictability (God, that show disappointed me so much), you can pretty much tell who’s gonna go next based on the placement of their backstory. Ahh yes, the it’s the typical “Here I am and now I’m gone!” approach to character writing. In the instances where the show is able to catch you by surprise, however, those are the thrilling moments when the entertainment value shines through. Call it underdeveloped, or rushed, or even lackluster at times (I mean, the ending could’ve at least been more intense), but to call it “boring” would be a great underestimation of its twisted imagination and off-the-walls fun characters.

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From Wild-West to the Wicked and the Blessed

I can guess what stood out to you most—16 characters, right? Yeah, even for a battle royale that’s quite the large ensemble. Like they did with Danganronpa: The Animation and Assassination Classroom, Lerche was able to communicate the variety of personalities through unique dialogue patterns and intricate character designs. One of my fiendish favorites, the brazen and dangerous Calamity Mary, for instance, dons wild-west gunslinger apparel (boots, spurs, hats, tassels, leather, cow print, you get the picture). In the English dub, Mikaela Krantz even voices her with a low syrupy tone and a heavy southern accent. While I may not remember the specifics of her life before becoming a magical girl (as these important backstories are often rushed through in a couple minutes before their untimely demise), I will remember who she was and how she acted based on the distinctive character designs.

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A good pal of mine and genius essayist Irina wrote about my other favorite magical girl, the almighty, all-knowing QUEEN Ruler in a neat character analysis that I absolutely loved. She vouches for the same opinion that I do, in that “Raising Project isn’t perfect by any means but it certainly isn’t shallow. The writing is on point in many aspects.”

Although some characters look more put together with a theme than others (looking at you Swim Swim), I really enjoyed the diverse cast of tropes interacting on the battlefield: the sparkly one, the innocent one, the queen, the twins, the cowgirl rebel, the ninja, the witch, the badass protector, the nun, and even the freakin’ ROBOT. Some last longer than others, and some go out with a bigger bang while others exit the stage silently. A huge criticism many people have about the series is that the deaths feel too structured—I mean, we all know that someone’s gotta go by the end of each week, and the anime is true to its word. What this creates is a lack of empathy towards most of the girls and ultimately a mere “meh” or “aww that sucks, I liked her” when they die. More than anything, the show plays off these deaths as thrilling over depressing, and that got me wondering:

When did we become so fascinated with torturing little girls in anime to the point where it has dominated nearly every magical girl title in recent times? 

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How Horror Works in the Mind

I took to Psychology Today for a bit of research on the topic, which led me to the article “Why Do We Like Watching Scary Films?” Briefly, it examines psychological horror at the cinema and how the genre works in the mind. When answering the question, author Mark D. Griffiths Ph.D. quotes Dr. Jeffrey Goldstein, a professor of social and organizational psychology at the University of Utrecht, in a 2013 interview for IGN:

“People go to horror films because they want to be frightened or they wouldn’t do it twice. You choose your entertainment because you want it to affect you. That’s certainly true of people who go to entertainment products like horror films that have big effects. They want those effects . . . Even though they choose to watch these things, the images are still disturbing for many people. But people have the ability to pay attention as much or as little as they care to in order to control what effect it has on them, emotionally and otherwise.”

That last bit especially got me interested. He claims that we are the ones who choose our entertainment, and that we also have the ability to let the content affect us (in this case potentially scare us) based on how much we care to pay attention to the film. And I can see this as true—if I were to attend a scary movie and cover my eyes half the time (which I wouldn’t go to in the first place cause I’m a wimp), my desire would be that the film frightens me as little as possible.

Now, would the same apply to the film maker(s)? I mean, the director is essentially the one deciding how much gruesome content to put in front of our eyes, so if a series were nothing but moments of shock value (interspersed with some touching backstories, of course), wouldn’t that be what the director also cares about most in the series? Maybe seeing Madoka Magica receive immense fame gave him the idea to go all-out with the suffering. Besides, what’s more shocking to us anime fans than watching cutesy moe girls get massacred? Once one series showed us it could be done, everyone else wanted to do it too.

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A 2004 article in the Journal of Media Psychology by Dr. Glenn Walters proposes that “the three primary factors that make horror films alluring are tension (generated by suspense, mystery, terror, shock, and gore), relevance (that may relate to personal relevance, cultural meaningfulness, the fear of death, etc.), and (somewhat paradoxically given the second factor) unrealism.” In a 1994 study on disgust, college student participants found videos of real life horrors (like a cow slaughterhouse and a surgery involving removal of facial skin) to be incredibly disturbing. Yet many of these same individuals would think nothing of paying money to attend the premiere of a new horror film that had literally ten times more blood than what was present in the real-life documentaries! Why is that? It was posed by McCauley (1998) that:

The fictional nature of horror films affords viewers a sense of control by placing psychological distance between them and the violent acts they have witnessed. Most people who view horror movies understand that the filmed events are unreal, which furnishes them with psychological distance from the horror portrayed in the film.

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Oh, so if we know it’s fake, it doesn’t inherently terrify us as much, despite blood and guts leaking all over the floor. I suppose that makes sense. Even I don’t see clowns as scary when I remember that they’re likely just unshaven middle-aged men dancing around in colorful costumes. But even if it’s fake, some people enjoy the thrill of being confronted by gruesome death because it’s an experience that, for the most part, it’s something available only in fiction, and fiction intrigues us. One last look at Dr. Dolf Zillman’s Excitation Transfer theory (ETT) offers this:

“Negative feelings created by horror movies actually intensify the positive feelings when the hero triumphs in the end. But what about movies where the hero doesn’t triumph?  . . . Some small studies have show that people’s enjoyment was actually higher during the scary parts of a horror film than it was after.”

Alright, so you’re saying that perhaps the scary parts of a horror film are more enjoyable than the rest of the film itself? That perhaps explains why pop culture hits like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and heck even Attack on Titan delight in killing off major characters in fantastical ways—During these “scary” parts, we find ourselves at peak enjoyment, and if the writers can capitalize on this enjoyment through constant narrative twists and turns, then the viewers will stay glued to their screens. But hold on a second . . .

Magical Girl Raising Project isn’t horror, not even close. It’s barely a thriller series at best. Fair point, but think about the content itself: Purposefully designed cute children under the innocent guise of “magical girls” get brutally slashed or decapitated NOT by the forces of evil, but by fellow magical girls. Tension caused by suspense; relevance caused by a magical girl’s fear for her own life; unrealism given that magical girls shouldn’t exist within our world or theirs . . . Doesn’t that mark MagiPro as gruesome as horror—as grotesque as horror? And how about this: The most grotesque part about it all is that as fans, most of us enjoyed watching this series. Sure it ranks in the 3000s on MAL, but a  7.11/10 could be implied that 7 out of 10 people liked this series—cute girls, competition, and all the bloodshed in between. 

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At Least I Had Fun

Regardless of whether we should count MagiPro as a horror anime or an anime with horror elements, I did find myself enjoying it. A lot. Probably more than I should have. With each passing episode and character elegy, I truly found myself helplessly and irresistibly drawn to death. As more characters bit the bullet, I eagerly clicked on to see not necessarily who would survive, but rather who would fall out of the competition next. As unnecessarily dark and edgy, unnecessarily gruesome, and unnecessarily sophisticated as it tried to be, Magical Girl Raising Project won me over because it shamelessly played with death. And isn’t that the true spirit of the macabre?

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“As a means of contrast with the sublime, the grotesque is, in our view, the richest source that nature can offer.”—Victor Hugo, French Poet


Afterword

Yikes, went on a bit of a ramble there with the research, but maybe you learned something new! Magical Girl Raising Project is an interesting title that has gotten me thinking more than it probably should, but hey, a series that has me reflecting this much over it has to be doing something right. MagiPro isn’t the darkest of its kin, but definitely one of the sweetest. Thus, I award the series with the “Cake” rating, and a recommendation to check it out if you enjoy the thrill of a decent survival game. Not sure if Crunchyroll has it, but Funimation’s got it all with an incredibly well-done English dub that just finished airing for your viewing pleasure! If you have seen this series, you definitely have to let me know what you thought about it (I need more MagiPro friends)!!

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This concludes my October 19th entry in the OWLS “Grotesque” blog tour. Aria (Animanga Spellbook) went right before me with a nice and short post over the recently-aired Phantom in the Twilight that you should check out right here! Now, look out for Flow (Captain Nyanpasu)  this upcoming Monday, October 22nd! Thanks for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host