Given: Broken Heartstrings & Unforgettable Sounds || Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 11-episode summer 2019 anime series “Given,” animated by Lerche, directed by Hikaru Yamaguchi, and based on Natsuki Kizu’s manga of the same name.

starry mafuyu.PNG


Rocky Starts, Aching Hearts

Between playing basketball at high school and dabbling on the guitar in his small band, Ritsuka Uenoyama has found himself stuck wandering the lonely desert of academic boredom. He dozes off in class, sleeps during break, and only looks forward to jamming out with a couple of upperclassmen college friends in the evening.

One day, he sees a classmate of his, Mafuyu Sato, cradling a broken guitar on a secluded staircase. Although Uenoyama makes nothing of restringing Mafuyu’s red guitar for him, Mafuyu becomes completely attached to the dark-haired musician and insists Uenoyama teach him how to play it. Uenoyama initially shrugs him off, but when he hears Mafuyu singing for the first time, his voice leaves a deep impression on him. He can’t get it out of his head, and eventually finds himself drawn to Mafuyu’s aloof yet mysterious allure.

Given is a single story split among four separate narratives, each with their own unique perceptions of the conflicts presented throughout the series. Equal parts slice of life and drama, the series follows four students in an amateur rock band and the dual romantic relationships that form among them: between shy vocalist Mafuyu and passionate guitarist Uenoyama, and between the caring bassist Haruki and stoic yet silly drummer Akihiko.

uenoyama and mafuyu stare.PNG

Given is also a BL adaptation, and it doesn’t ever stray from that intent (which I respect). But hear me out. At most, the series presents its shounen ai relationships with genuine care and realism. It’s far less sugarcoated than most BL anime out there, and frankly just a really good romantic drama about curious feelings and the closet. This particular set of 11 episodes tells the story of the band coming together, their complex feelings toward one another, and specifically the growing relationship between Uenoyama and Mafuyu leading up to their first performance. The series never felt rushed, nor does it end too optimistically to be true, which is probably what I appreciated most out of the series—aside for the characters themselves, of course.

Complicated Feelings, Complex Characters

The main focal point of this series is around Uenoyama and Mafuyu’s relationship, which admittedly has a rocky start and is only littered with more misunderstandings as they go along. But somehow, like with most love stories, the two make it work.

From the get-go, Uenoyama is about as relatable as they come. Uncomfortable with relationships (in general), unsure of how to express his feelings, questioning what these sudden emotions of his are and where they come from—the whole confused teen-sexuality shebang. We see jealousy build up in Uenoyama as he unravels Mafuyu’s past relationship with another boy, and how this jealousy and regret slow down his performance both on the court and in the practice room. His declining musicianship is called into question by Haruki and Akihiko, and from there the upperclassmen work to help out his love life (and in their own unique ways). I just love Uenoyama’s character arc, and I’m really satisfied with how he grows from a dense lump of laziness to a person who actively seeks to understand both himself and his partner.

mafuyu and uenoyama hallway.PNG

Mafuyu. Oh lost little Mafuyu. Cute little Mafuyu. This kid really does resemble a puppy, no lie! Introverted, quiet, and reserved, Mafuyu is on a quest to reconnect with a person from his past, unbeknownst to any of his new band mates. He’s never picked up an instrument before, yet seems to have a talent for singing. This secret agenda AND hidden talent of his are what guide him to Uenoyama and the band. Little does he know that through their mutual love for music, Mafuyu’s past is dragged out into the open and exposed—but also cared for and carried together with his newfound friends. While I personally found the plot spinning him in some moments that were a bit too melodramatic, I still like Mafuyu a lot, even if he isn’t the one I identify with most.

Haruki and Akihiko, bassist and drummer, are the other pairing in this story. While doomed with an obsessive, unrequited love, Haruki secretly fawns over Akihiko, even if the guy’s a big musclehead. It’s unfortunate that Akihiko just might already have a partner, but manbun can’t help himself anyway. The way Akihiko sleeps, the way Akihiko compliments him in practice—Haruki just can’t get enough. But as the band’s “leader,” he is torn between resisting his urges and pursuing his own happiness in love, despite this directly violating his philosophy that relationships between band members just doesn’t work out in the long run.

haruki and akihiko.PNG

More of Haruki and Akihiko’s relationship will be explored in the 2020 Given film, but I really like these two dorks a lot (especially manbun) and how they make the effort to support one another and their band mates. Such bros.

Iridescence in Motion

Lerche really is my favorite animation studio, without a doubt. Given boasts a visually bright style to highlight the beauty of youth and the joys of love in this series about those two very concepts. While the screen is light and colorful nearly all the time, we see color drain as winter sets in towards the end of the series—the pivotal climax where potential heartbreak lies. I use the term iridescence because, like emotions, these luminous yellow, tangerine, and turquoise filters shift when we see the same set from a different angle. It’s clean. And it’s aesthetically pleasing.

mafuyu sings to uenoyama.PNG

Giving new meaning to the phrase “lighting design,” Hikaru Yamaguchi’s strong direction really shines in both the intense moments and those of tranquility or thoughtfulness. And the attention to detail in the instruments is NUTS, not to mention the studio painting a timeless picture of modern day Tokyo. The guitars, amps, and drums look AND sound incredibly authentic, and the detailed city backgrounds are delicately crafted with architecture that mirrors real life Shibuya and Machida, down to the last little street sign and business advertisement. Lerche makes anime reality look even better than REAL life in this beautifully made series.

mafuyu guitar.PNG

Character designs also glow with this attractive and cute aura while maintaining respective ages. (It’s nice to see college dudes that LOOK like college dudes and not 40-year-old men!) Speaking of characters, I don’t really give shoutouts to seiyuus unless they particularly stand out to me, but wow, here we’ve got four fantastic leads! Shougo Yano brings to Mafuyu a high-pitched innocence that has made characters (and fans) fall for his charm left and right. Yuuma Uchida gives Uenoyama a grumpiness and stubbornness that suits his character so very well. Masatomo Nakazawa makes hearts swoon as Haruki, and I just adore his sass whenever Akihiko requests something of him. And none other than Takuya Eguchi brings this lovable lug to life, perfectly capturing Akihiko’s serious and goofy sides.

got the flashdrive.PNG

A music anime has to have good music in it, obviously, and Given does not disappoint. Michiru provides a musical score full of chill blues guitar, casual jam session rifts, and delicate melodies to make any grown man cry. My favorite piece of music from the show is the energetic yet wistful OP “Kizuato” by Centimilimental. Mafuyu’s VA sings for us the tender ED, “Marutsuke,” which appropriately features animation of a puppy rolling around during the theme. Mafuyu also gets his own little song that I won’t spoil for you, so all-in-all, you’re in for a real treat with the music this time around!

A Given from the Start

Is it okay to be happy when you know someone you loved had to suffer for it? The answer, of course, is yes. So long as we are alive, we will always have the chance to be happy. What matters most is whether you are able to accept what has passed and move on for yourself. That’s what Mafuyu has to find out for himself; Uenoyama just nudges in the right direction, and even gives him happiness in the present.

Having watched the series, there’s still lots I want to know about. What happens to the characters from here? Does the band go on to perform more concerts? Does Uenoyama still write music for Mafuyu to sing? For now, however, this is a strong step forward for BL anime, and incredible representation for the genre as a whole.

I like music anime, great romance stories, and studio Lerche. Perhaps it was a given from the start that I’d love this show, but the series has proven that if you surround yourself with positive influences, good things will surely come your way. At times painfully resonant, other times light-hearted and fun, Given will continue to pluck at your heartstrings both throughout each emotional episode and long after the series is over.

mafuyu at the mic 2


Hearts are like guitar strings. They won’t play sound if they’re too loose. You have to wind them up until they’re about to break, and that’s when they become a wave the hit your eardrums. — Ritsuka Uenoyama


Afterword

Yeah, I liked this one a lot. No surprise here, but Given is certified “Caffe Mocha” stuff, and easily one of my favorite titles from 2019. I wonder who will pick up the license for this gem and give it the physical release (and dub!) it deserves. Until then, I’ll keep recommending this title through Crunchyroll—as all of you should be doing! I’m happy the reception for this series was so overwhelmingly positive, but I’d still love to hear your thoughts on Given or this review down in the comments. (Plz, I’m lonely and need someone to love this show with!) Until the next review, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Advertisements

A Collection of My Best Works (From 2019) || The Animanga Festival

Hello all, and welcome to my third official entry in The Animanga Festival, hosted by Auri and Nairne over at Manga Toritsukareru Koto!

It’s totally a coincidence that this post, a collection of my best works, falls on #ThrowbackThursday. Because it’d be waaaay too time consuming to sift through every single post I’ve ever written, I figured I’d keep this list 2019-only. It’s kind of weird to be writing this while there are still three whole months left to go for this year, but oh well, we love a good reflection. Let’s look back on some of the cool posts I’ve written this year! (I mean, I think they’re kinda neat at least. They’re cool, right? RiGhT??)

In no particular order, here are what I consider to be my favorites write-ups thus far, as well as a little excerpt from each post. If the tiny tidbit I’ve included intrigues you, please, consider giving the full post a look if you haven’t already!

Reviews


I’ve written more reviews this year than probably last year and the year before combined. Even still, I merely picked three as what I’d consider “bests” of mine. Hopefully these are titles you might remember me writing about!

oreki point.PNG

Cacophony in Paradise: RahXephon & Accepting the World

Ayato’s complexity becomes the leading force in this very much character-driven story about being useful to others. It sounds simple enough, but it’s much harder to live up to others’ expectations than we give the act credit for.

I Finally Watched the Old Fruits Basket 

Whether the old, stale, yet genuine 2001 version or this latest vibrant retelling, watch Fruits Basket. Then you, too, will see what all the ruckus is about in the Sohma household—and why it’s such a heartwarming, endearing little place to stay.

Run with the Wind: Wholesome, Heartfelt, & Inspiring Every Step of the Race

Every step of this journey felt sincere and wholesome, and I absolutely enjoyed laughing with the Aotake guys just as much as I did crying with them. Whether you’re a fan of sports anime or not, a genuinely passionate and realistic series like Run with the Wind isn’t the kind that comes often—so don’t miss it. Otherwise, you’ll be sleeping on what is perhaps one of the best anime to come out in years.

OWLS Posts


Even though I’m a “reviewer” by trade, I consider my OWLS posts to be the bread and butter of my work. Truly, I am so honored to be a part of the OWLS crew, as writing each of these posts fills me with immense emotional satisfaction. It’s something I can’t quite get out of a review, which is designed as an evaluation as opposed to an analysis.

owls logo.jpg

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

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.

A Story That Loves Love: Go For It, Nakamura! | OWLS “Adore”

Syundei’s Go For It, Nakamura! is a story that loves love, and about loving yourself, too. I was left squealing and stirring in my chair for hours after reading the last page, and if there’s any BL title out there to boast the word “adore,” this is easily the one.

Chasing You, Chasing Me: The Heart of Run with the Wind | OWLS “Masculinity”

As strong as men—as strong as people—try to be, we’re not all as tough as we seem. Together, however, we can inspire and push each other to accomplish everything that we couldn’t do alone, and that seemingly small sentiment echoes loudly and proudly in the hearts of Kazetsuyo‘s characters

What My Anime Collection Means To Me | OWLS “Happiness”

Wherever I gaze, I am transported into another time, another place where another me was living and experiencing yet another story. This mental time travel serves as a constant reminder as to where I’ve gone, how far I’ve come, and even where I’m headed next. It is simultaneously the past, the present, and the future.

Kino’s Journey: Navigating This Beautiful World | OWLS “Technology”

Blogging, social networking, and even just browsing the internet in general has transformed me into a person who knows of what the world outside is like, and as a direct result, I’ve learned how to broaden my horizons and accept and appreciate diversity of all things in life. Hermes takes Kino to unimaginable lands and their people, and the internet brings me to all of you.

Amagi Brilliant Park: The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had With KyoAni || OWLS “Believe”

Seiya draws out the inner passion for their work, and with a little faith, is rewarded with the park’s continual success. It is a belief driven by transformation and grounded by trust. Trust in Seiya’s process, and you, too, will enjoy one of—if not—Kyoto Animation’s most fun creation they’ve ever given us.

Michiko & Hatchin, Two Against the World || OWLS “Lover”

What Michiko’s story also tells us about love is that a relationship fueled solely by the “good old days” of the past cannot survive in the future. At one point, Hiroshi was something special to her. But now, at the end of the road, he may not be so special anymore.

Miscellaneous Posts


From collabs to talks and even the start of a new segment, here are a couple more shameless plugs to add to the list. Really happy to have stoked the conversation by writing each of these!

oreki smiling.PNG

The Scope of the Universe: Gurren Lagann Revisited

Within Simon, Yoko, and everyone else is this incredible swell of kinetic energy, a rawness that can only expressed through a studio like Gainax. Sometimes this spiral force spills over as a storm of chaotic emotions; other times it is love, a powerhouse which carries the potential to change this simultaneously rational and insane universe we live in.

These Silly Guys: What Makes Kazetsuyo A Very Special Anime | Cafe Talk

We watched Kakeru grow from a haughty teenager into a man who exudes genuine compassion and encouragement towards others, and his growth is equal parts satisfying and wholehearted. He finds that talent can get a person far in life, but it’s all pointless if you don’t have friends to share your gifts with. Finally, he learns how to smile around others and not let shadows from the past prevent happiness in the future.

Ending Summer With a Splash! || “Free!” Collab w/LitaKino

Free! gave me an entire new world to express myself in and meet new people through, and I think it’s that unique combination of personal history and actually appreciating the series as more than a character drama (but as an actual sports anime) that has made me love Free! more than most people I know.


You might’ve noticed that, aside for my year-in wrap-up, I never write these kinds of round-up posts. It’s mainly because I dislike tooting my own horn. Also because I sometimes feel my own stuff is, idk, just mediocre? Bah, who cares. Y’all will have to let me know your thoughts: Are these my bests from 2019, or did you remember something better? I’d appreciate the feedback. Oh man, I only have two more chances to revel in the Animanga festivities with you all. Hopefully between now and the next one I’ll have a couple reviews for ya. ‘Till next time!

– Takuto, your host

Only Three Months Left To Go . . . || Quarterly Update (Fall)

Hello all!

“It’s crazy to think that the next time I write an update like this it’ll be October.” That’s how I ended my July quarterly update, and wow, those three months are now behind us. I hope everyone enjoyed a hot summer full of fun and freedom. I miss those days already, lemme tell you.

Anime watching has slowed immensely due to work, classes, research, and extracurriculars. While I have been able to keep up with simulcasts (mopping up the last few episodes as I write this), very few films or Blu-rays from my personal library were tackled these past couple months.  With only three months in 2019 left to go, I fear that I will not have watched and read through as much as I would’ve liked.

On the other hand, the series I have gotten to enjoy were particularly awesome watches. Same goes for the few books that I’ve read. I’m sure you’re just itchin’ to know what I’ve been up to, so let’s get to it. Oh, but first, here’s the last reflection of my 2019 blog goals before December—and the last chance to improve before the end of the year is upon us!

Goal Reflection


#1 — Read More Posts

I am proud to announce (probably for the first time this year, actually), that I have successfully been keeping up with the blogging community! I usually check in with the reader every 3-5 days or so, and my home screen is for the most part free of to-be-read posts. Now, as school gets more and more intense post-midterms, I might have to bow out for a little bit. Until then, I’ve been enjoying keeping up with everyone like I used to once more.

#2 – Write More Succinct Reviews Posts

Ok, so my OWLS posts are still fairly long, as are my reviews, but participating in The Animanga Festival will allow me to tackle this goal more appropriately. I’ve really loved throwing together little pieces for the festival and just sending them out there into the world. The spontaneity and brevity of each festival post falls much more in line with what I believe blogging should be about (as opposed to me pushing out long formalized essays). There’s nothing wrong with a hefty analytical post, but it’s quite nice to know that the posts over the course of this month will be written quickly, easily, and in vivo.

#3 – Post More Often

Again, another goal that The Animanga Festival contributes to immensely! I wrote five posts in July, six in August, five in September, AND, looking ahead, TEN posts in October (if I keep to my schedule). Like I’ve said in each update, even posting four posts per month is huge for me, let alone six or even TEN. Half of those posts will be for the festival, but still—that’s five or six more posts more than the goal, so I’m calling this one a win for sure!

#4 – Bring Back Cafe Talk

I ACTUALLY WROTE ONE. As I’ve reported in each update, this is one of my goals that I’ve been terrible at following through with. So, to have even a single one slip through the cracks is something I’m content with. (“Jeez Taku, that’s low standards.” Yeah yeah, I know :/) For what it’s worth, half of my festival posts practically fall under “Cafe Talk’s” range. But just so it doesn’t seem like I’m being to lenient with myself, I’ll surrender and wave the white flag to this one. Maybe the winter will bring more talks.

#5 – Write More Haul/Collection Posts

I’ve posted THREE haul posts these past three months—that’s practically one a month, YEET. The reason you haven’t seen more lately is because I haven’t bought anything because I’m broke. My two July hauls and August birthday haul have been about it, so I’m confident that I’ve satiated this goal for now. I’m sure the winter season will bring more purchases—as it tends to do—and I’ll definitely share with you all my seasonal hauls!

What I’ve Watched


Continuing right where we left off mid-July, I finally got around to watching the classic Akira, and wow was it a trip. Like seriously, I was so excited to be able to write about it, only to be left without words by the end.

Two quieter titles from my shelves were used to sedate me after my long days at work: Kino’s Journey -the Beautiful World-, which I talked about in July’s OWLS post, and the spiritual Mushi-Shi, which I still have four episodes left before I review it. Both of these titles are beautifully atmospheric and thought-provoking, telling many traveler’s tales as they tread through their respective narratives.

For films, I FINALLY saw A Silent Voice, and get this: I had taken notes throughout my watch of the movie . . . and then accidentally deleted them from the WP app (damn the system!). It’s tragic, it really is, so when I rewatch it someday, I’ll definitely let you know my thoughts. I saw the most recent Yugioh movie, The Dark Side of Dimensions, with my brother and was hella impressed with all of it. In fact, looking back on the summer, it was probablly one of my favorite watches cause of the insane nostalgia and Seto FREAKIN Kaiba. I also watched and reviewed the thrilling Perfect Blue, as well as Origin: Spirits of the Past, a [long-awaited] watch I wasn’t expecting much from, and, well, didn’t get all that much from.

Somewhere in the heat of the summer was a recommendation from my sister, which we watched together: Kiss Him, Not Me!. THIS IS SUCH A GOOD SHOW Y’ALL WHY DOESN’T ANYONE TALK ABOUT IT. I never published my own review of it from watching, so I probably shouldn’t be preaching to the choir. But yeah, good stuff. Same goes for Tokyo Magnitude 8.0—now that’s some depressing shit, but really powerful writing, too.

My sister and I tore into Viz Media’s fifth set for Ranma 1/2 while taking her to Texas for uni, which I’ll continue when the call for 80’s comedy hits again. Since we were on a South-bound road-trip, it was only natural that I’d start her on Michiko & Hatchin, which I had to go and finish rewatching on my own cause DAMN that shit slaps so much harder now than it did years ago. (Thank you for the positive reception on that OWLS post btw! ^ . ^)

Also, and I was meaning to make a post about it, but I started Dragon Ball! Like, the first one when Goku’s a kid! I never saw past the first thirteen or so episodes (with Emperor Pilaf) as a child, so it’s been kinda surreal seeing what happens next. I’m 30 episodes in and taking a small break from it for now, but it’s been fairly pleasant overall.

When the rainy season hit, I made sure to finally watch Typhoon Noruda, which I reviewed and even wrote a “Cafe Talk” over! Really happy to have that one under my belt. The Blu-ray included a little short film on it, so I still have it out so I can get to that sometime soon.

Going back to the beginning, I’m currently working through my summer simulcasts, many of which are delayed since I’m watching them as a simuldub. I’ve finished Given and The Case Files of Lord El-Melloi II, both of which will have reviews soon come hell or high water. Still waiting on the last dubbed episodes for Astra Lost in Space, Fire Force, and A Certain Scientific Accelerator.

Oh, and I randomly watched the Tokyo Ghoul live action film the other night for some reason. Lots of fluids, but was actually pretty good. Maybe I’ll review it since Halloween and all, but we’ll see.

Lastly, the most influential watch for me as of late has been Sword Art Online: Alicization, which started airing last year but I held off on to finish the books. I loved it, all of it. So much. Now that I’ve read the first half AND watched the anime for it, I’m excited to finally continue the epic story with the books, and pick up War of Underworld once I’ve finished reading those. Don’t worry: I’ve got not one but TWO Alicization posts coming out at the end of this month alone, so please look forward to those!

I Played NieR:Automata in Three Days


Considering that I’m not a gamer, I thought this was worth sharing. After Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, I was craving more apocalyptic cityscapes, which led me to this overgrown world of machines and androids. Three nights later and I’d played through all the major story routes (on easy, mind you). Yup, A-E my friend, and I freakin’ loved all of it. Seriously, this game is so good. It’s STILL stuck with me now, and I find myself often bouncing back between Alicization‘s soundtrack and this one’s.

I was intending on writing a post chronicling my experience—and maybe that’ll still happen, I’d like it to—but we’ll see. I’m just still shook by it all. Ending C. Dammit A2, you turned me into an emotional wreck!

A Figure-Buying Addiction


Before I close out this update, I just wanted to inform you all that ya boi has spent waaaaaaay too much money on figures as of late. Seriously, I’ve been draining $150 purchases like #BUCKETS over at TOM (Tokyo Otaku Mode), and I think it’s about time I deleted the app or something cause I CAN’T KEEP SPENDING MONEY LIKE THIS. This is probably why anime-buying has slowed these past few months lmao.

In case you need to know how bad it is, from now till June 2020, I’m expected to receive TWO figures in the mail PER MONTH. And get this, SIX in JUNE. We ain’t talkin’ cheap prize figures either. No, for the most part, these are fancy $75 scales and $40+ Nendos (and one $120 statue of Shinra that broke my bank, lord help me). It’s become a problem, an addiction, and I probably need to stop. I don’t need three scale figures of Todoroki or Eugeo, but I NEED THEM.

Thank You For Five Wonderful Years


I’ll keep it short, but just last month, Takuto’s Anime Cafe turned five! I distinctly remember starting this blog back in high school sophomore year. Wild how far we’ve come together. I consider every single like, comment, share, and follow a blessing, as y’all totally don’t have to hang out here. But you do, and I can’t thank you enough for pulling up a chair and listen to some kid rattle on about anime.

It’s kind of been an unintentional tradition of sorts, but each year I’ve gained ~100 followers. As of writing this update, I’m sitting at 480. It’d be totally awesome if we could hit 500 by the end of 2019—and I really think we can do it, too!

Alright, I’ve talked too much. But, I suppose there was a lot to talk about this time around. So, I’ll keep on slogging through the reviews of stuff from the summer. In the meantime, you can also look forward to the Animanga festivities, my Alicization love letter posts, and eventually a fall simulcast line-up sometime soon. Can you believe it, fall anime are here! What the heck!

With cooler weather settling in my town and studies starting to kick it up a notch, I hope I’ll still be as present here as I’d like to. Next time we meet for one of these it’ll be to recap 2019 and welcome 2020. Ain’t that nuts? 2020. Huh. Well, please, feel free to share your thoughts on what I’ve been doing or what you’ve been up to this fall season down in the comments. Until that final update post, thank you so much for reading, and take care of yourself!

– Takuto, your host

Let’s Go Traveling! Five Fall Vacation Spots in Anime || The Animanga Festival

Hello all, and welcome to my second official entry in The Animanga Festival, hosted by Auri and Nairne over at Manga Toritsukareru Koto!

Today we’re going on a vacation, all expenses paid, throughout anime—and right from the comfort of your own screen! Just as the title says, here we’ve got a few of my favorite anime hot spots I’d love to visit. I even themed our trip for the fall season just to add that realistic flair (you’re welcome). There’s a long journey ahead of us, so strap in, and let’s go traveling.

land of dragons 1.PNG


Delight in the Refined English Air of Endor College

Mary and the Witch’s Flower

I know school is THE last place you want to be when on vacation, but hear me out: Most college campuses are beautiful in the fall, and Endor College is no exception. Although England is technically known for its smoggy air, this prestigious university floats high in the clouds, hidden from view.

endor college.PNG

At Endor College, young witches learn about all things magic through their fantastical studies and whimsical teachers, not unlike Hogwarts. We may even bump into the famous headmistress, Madam Mumblechook, or the wacky Doctor Dee! College is a time of new beginnings—that’s why we’re starting here, and I hope you have a magical time.

Immerse Yourself in the Atmosphere of Victorian England

Emma: A Victorian Romance

Fall is Victorian weather. Rainy days, cloudy nights, always cool, and always busy preparing for winter. While we’re still in England, let’s make a stop at one of the luxurious estates the region is known for. Have you ever wished you could travel back in time and see what life was like for a wealthy and noble Victorian family? Well, now you can! Take your pick at touring and temporarily staying at the Jones Estate that the titular Emma loves visiting, the elegant Mölders Estate in Yorkshire, the traditional Campbell Estate in London, and other estates featured in the series—they’re all lovely, and very well-maintained by a hardworking team of maids, servants, butlers, cooks, and the like!

jones estate.PNG

Take a walk through their sprawling maze gardens, enjoy an elaborate and authentic feast in the great hall—just make sure to mind your manners at this stop. Remember, we are their honored guests. And who knows, you might even get the opportunity to dance with a handsome nobleman or fair noblewoman at one of the magnificent balls!

Room At the Nicest Lodging Ever in the Kind Country

Kino’s Journey

Not sure where it’s located, but here we are at our next stop: the Country of the Kind up in the mountains. Everyone who lives here seeks a life of kindness and respect, making them just about the nicest populace for a town you could ever stop through. The small country prides itself on its rich culture and village ancestry, which is reflected in intricate Italian architecture of this mountainside city. Take a walk down the spiraling cobblestone roads and admire the gorgeous fall forestry surrounding the country while munching on flaky, freshly baked pastries. The sweet cinnamon aroma of pastry shops is to die for!

kind country.PNG

The famous traveler Kino regards this stop as one of the few that fellow travelers have actually been tempted to end their journeys at to start a new living here. The only caveat? Three nights is all we get, for then WOOSH, this village is gone, and nothing but wistful memories will remain. To say the least, it’ll be one country you’ll certainly never forget.

Witness Legendary Creatures Fly Freely in the Land of the Dragons 

The Ancient Magus’ Bride

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been a dragon kid at heart. Our second to last stop is probably the most exciting on this list, especially if you, too, have wanted to see one of these beasts up close and personal. Who knows—maybe you’ll even get to fly with one and gaze down at the luscious landscape below.

land of dragons 2.PNG

Gushing waterfalls, scenic nature hiking trails, and colorful dragons everywhere! Playing with the young dragons IS encouraged, so be sure to treat them to a few minutes of your time. Magic is in the air in the enchanting land of the dragons, so saddle up and get ready to soar in the clouds with one of nature’s most incredible creations.

Soak in the Ancient Waters of the Jusenkyo Hot Springs

Ranma 1/2

While we spent a good portion of this vacation touring places in Europe, I would be remissed if I didn’t allow us to spend our final destination relaxing at a hot springs. Taking us all the way out to the Bayankala Mountain range in China, this springs in particular carries with it an ancient history. Since long ago, people and animals have underestimated the water’s depths and have drowned in the various springs that make up Jusenkyo. As such, when a person mistakenly falls into one of these cursed springs, they might find themselves transforming into the creature of lore that drowned there.

jusenkyo.PNG

However, not all of the springs are cursed—but you should still stay close to the rocks! May relaxing in the springs, training with skilled martial artists, and admiring the natural landscapes of ancient China sooth your soul, strengthen your body, as well as rejuvenate your mind. And with that, our trip is complete!


How’s this for a travel itinerary through some of my favorite places in anime? Is this a vacation trip you’d be willing to go on? To keep with the fall theme (and not be as cliche as possible), I left out a TON of top-tier destinations. So, what other places in anime or manga do you think would be beautiful to visit in the fall? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments! ‘Till the next festival post!

– Takuto, your host

Anime & Manga I’d Introduce to a First-Timer || The Animanga Festival

Hello all and welcome to my first official entry in The Animanga Festival, hosted by Auri and Nairne over at Manga Toritsukareru Koto!

As the title of this post says, today’s prompt is “Anime/Manga I’d Introduce to a First-Timer.” All the best things in life come in threes, don’t you agree? Correspondingly, I’ve prepared a trio of both anime and manga (in no particular order) for all my imaginary first-time fans out there. Without coming across as generic as possible, fingers crossed, let’s get right into things!


Manga For Newcomers

orange newcomers.PNG

Orange by Ichigo Takano is everything you’d want from a nice little shoujo drama series: a pleasant balance of comedy and seriousness, pure oodles of friendship, attractive characters, a respectful nod toward mental health, and ooh what’s this, only two omnibus volumes long? SOLD. I described Orange in my OWLS post for the series as being “sweet and sour, yet all the more beautiful,” and I still stand by those words today. It’ll break your heart—but in the sweetest way possible.

nakamura newcomers 2.jpg

Go For It, Nakamura! by Syundei is a standalone volume (WOOT!) perfect for people who are not only new to the manga scene, but maybe even still in the closet (or happily out of it). That doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed by anyone else, but I imagine it’s ultra relatable to all those closeted introverts out there. If you’ve ever had a big fat crush for someone but didn’t know how to confess your feelings cause you’re a dork who’ll probably screw everything up, you’ll just burst with love for Nakamura. And lookie there, that 80’s anime/manga aesthetic—WE STAN.

snow white newcomers.PNG

Snow White with the Red Hair by Sorata Akiduki is more of a commitment, as it’s still on-going, but anyone’ll fall head over heels for these adorable characters after the first volume (heck, you might as well start picking it up now). Shirayuki is an herbalist living in a Tanbarun, a small medieval country. But when she bumps into the handsome prince of a neighboring kingdom, she sets her sights for one day working at Prince Zen’s castle. Comedy, action, and young love blossom in this shoujo series sure to win hearts.

Not much of a variety there, I realize. But hey, I guess now you all know what kind of manga I prefer. Soft stuff. Warm, tingly, fuzzy-feeling stuff. Onto the anime!

Anime for Newcomers

attack on titan newcomers.jpg

Attack on Titan was everyone’s go-to recommendation back when it started airing in 2013, and hell, it’s still mine. Humanity’s been pushed behind giant walls just to continue living in this apocalyptic medieval society, and one day, a 50-meter-tall titan busts a hole in the outermost wall—and the titans invade. A thrilling story of survival, gripping action, and wild conspiracies unfolds, and with a final season in sight, Attack on Titan will go on to become one of the greats—if it hasn’t already. Come for the hot action, stay for the legendary lore and world-building.

sg newcomers 2.PNG

Steins;Gate is a much more thinking-intensive watch, but one that you’ll never forget. There’s an allure to the series that always pulls me back to it. Maybe it’s the fact that Okabe Rintarou invented a time machine with the help of his friends and started using it to change some of the small issues in their lives. Maybe it’s because all of those D-mails they sent to the past lead to a future with WWIII in their reality. Maybe it’s because the government starts to trace their actions and hunt them down, and their only way to fight back is by undoing all those sent messages—undoing the past. Thrilling and captivating, humorous at times yet incredibly intelligent, people might tell you it’s boring, or that you should wait so you understand all the references. Ignore ’em. It was one of my first watches, and look at me: I turned out fine. Better than fine because of it, in fact.

yoi newcomers 2.PNG

Yuri!!! On ICE stole hearts when it aired in 2016, and I don’t think a single soul has forgotten about it. Yuri Katsuki suffered an embarrassing loss at the figure-skating Grand Prix Final last year, and who else to train him for the next one than his idol, the living legend Viktor Nikiforov himself!? Beloved for its sports appeal and the budding relationship between its lead characters (plus, I mean, literally everything else about it), this underdog story delivers heartfelt moments one right after the other until your heart explodes and you die you find yourself rooting for everyone, even JJ. Freakin’ JJ. Everything they do on the ice they call love—do yourself a favor and hop in the rink.

Of course, there’s always Your Name., Ghost in the Shell, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, My Hero Academia, and anything directed by Hosoda or Miyazaki, but eh, they’ll get around to them after these shows have sunk them in deep, right?


Between one, two, or all three of the titles listed under each category, hopefully my imaginary first-timers will find something that hooks them on anime or manga (or both)! What do you think of my recommendations? Let me know down in the comments, and until the next prompt, I sincerely hope you’re enjoying the opening festivities thus far!

– Takuto, your host

Takuto Will Be Participating in the 2019 Animanga Festival!

Evening all, and happy October 1st!

While I’m a little behind with everything right now, I just wanted to pop in and say that YES, I will be participating in The Animanga Festival this year! Auri reached out to me with a personal invite a couple weeks back, and of course I couldn’t say no. She’s the sweetest, and you all should be following her!

But what’s this all about? Well, it’s an event to celebrate anime and manga lovers in the blogging/vlogging community. Auri and Nairne also host this wonderful event to commemorate their blog’s anniversary. This year, Manga Toritsukareru Koto turns TWO, and I’m happy to take part in the celebration. Here’s a message from Auri and Nairne:


As our community grows larger, we find ourselves losing many near and dear companions along the way. This event was created to celebrate us animanga bloggers, vloggers, and reviewers in an effort to remember our amazing friends and our own work for years to come. As an added bonus, it also gives us a great chance to interact among ourselves and discover new friends. 


Throughout all of October, various bloggers and vloggers will be posting responses to fun writing prompts, intriguing competitions, wacky activities, and sharing what they love most about anime.

Posts in the first week follow under the “Loving what you love” category. The second week is “Expressing you,” highlighting the one behind the screen. Week three is about our roles in media, “Fans, fanworks, and fandoms.” Week four is for expressing gratitude for our most inspiring friends, the “Best of blogging.” And lastly, the end of October will include round-ups and award ceremonies for any activities we might’ve held.

When will I be writing? I’m glad you asked!

10/2 ~ Anime/Manga You’d Introduce to a First-Timer

10/5 ~ Trip Itinerary to Places You’d Like to Visit in Anime/Manga

10/10 ~ A Collection of Your Best Works

10/19 ~ A Crossover You’d Love to See

10/24 ~ A Blogger Who Motivated You to be Great

Let me say that this is an INCLUSIVE project: if you want to take part and join the festivities at any point in the month, please, contact Auri @AuroraAcacia on Twitter and she’ll set you up right away. First and foremost, this is for fun, so it’s worth noting that this is not a project to stress over, but a time to enjoy casual writing—and connecting with our friends, of course! #TheAnimangaFestival

I’ll be here A LOT throughout the month, and I hope you’ll come back to celebrate with me and everyone else who’s taking part in the festivities. Once again, congrats and thank you to Auri and Nairne for including me in on the fun! What else can I say? Let’s hit it off everyone!

– Takuto, your host

Michiko & Hatchin, Two Against the World || OWLS “Lover”

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 ninth monthly topic of 2019, “Lover,” I decided to travel back to one of my earliest anime watches with Michiko & Hatchin. Specifically, we’re looking at the titular Michiko’s fiery relationship from her past, and how love sometimes isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

When it comes to romantic relationships, what do we look for in a partner? What core values do we seek when it comes to building a healthy and loving relationship? For this topic, we will be discussing some of our favorite couples in pop culture and what they have taught us about love and relationships, the good and the bad. 

Sweet and simple, I like it. Thanks Lyn and Flow for the prompt this month!

michiko close up.PNG


A brief discussion of the 22-episode fall 2008 anime “Michiko & Hatchin,” animated by Manglobe, original story and direction by Sayo Yamamoto and Shukou Murase. MINOR SPOILERS WILL BE PRESENT. 

On the Hunt for Their Man

She’s escaped from prison three times, and each time she gets farther. The name of this hardened criminal is Michiko Malandro, and she’s searching for a man from her past. Somewhere else under the harsh heat of the South American sun is Hana Morenos, nine years old, who lives a terrible life trapped under the oppressive whims of her abusive foster family. In her loneliness and despair, Hana dreams of the day when her Prince Charming will charge in and whisk her away from her captors. What Hana doesn’t know is that her “prince” would turn out to be the husky and vivacious escaped convict who’ll drive a stolen motorbike straight into the dining room window, claiming to her mother.

Free from their captors but now on the run from the law, the unlikely duo traverse the sun-soaked (and bone-dry) land of Diamandra, careening through this tumultuous adventure of betrayal, crime, child exploitation, rival gang warfare, and murder at every bend in the road. It’s a man-eat-man world out there, and Michiko and “Hatchin” are what’s for dinner.

A wild tale of vibrant lives and fateful reunions, two poor souls throw caution to the wind as all the unlikely human connections strung together by one elusive man start to converge on the dusty crossroads of destiny.

michiko glass

Equal parts action and drama, Michiko & Hatchin tells the timeless tale of a young girl searching for her father in a lawless land. The fictional setting of Diamandra itself is rife with drugs, alcohol, and poverty. People lie, cheat, and steal from one another—after all, everyone’s gotta make a living somehow in these ghettos. But buried within the tussles of the bad lie the good, and although they are few and far between, Michiko and Hatchin somehow make it by thanks to the handful of kind ones out there. Above all else, what Hana finds is that people are willing to do anything to survive another day—including murder and theft, of course—but also find someone to love, be it an artist, a musician, or a criminal.

Like Mother, Like Daughter . . .

. . . Is what I wish I could say about these two, but let’s face it, no one is quite like Michiko. Busty, brawny, and not afraid to kick the shit out of any man, Michiko is as gutsy as they come. A “sexy diva” who rocks her body to get whatever she wants, whenever she needs it (even if that means taking it by force), Michiko is loud, proud, and incredibly impatient, often yelling Hatchin around like someone would an animal. Plus, she’s an avid drinker and smoker, and quite often enjoys picking fights “negotiating” with her fists.

When she’s not being a royal pain in the ass, well, let’s face it, Michiko is always a pain. This Brazilian bombshell just wants her ex-lover, Hiroshi Morenos, back in her life. She’ll whine, scream, kick—basically whatever it takes to find Hiroshi. But the one thing she won’t do is give up, and if Hana got any good trait from her mama, it’s her unbridled determination.

michiko grownups

Again, Hatchin couldn’t be more different from her Latina madre. Polite, introverted, respectful, outwardly compassionate, “Hatchin” (nicknamed by Michiko after Hana told her she didn’t want to be called her real name anymore) does what she can to find Hiroshi within the boundaries of the law. If Michiko stole shoes for her, Hatchin would find a job and work to earn the money for them. Same goes for food, medical visits, travel fares, you get the gist.

Hatchin’s a good girl, clearly much more mature and level-headed than her loudmouth, obnoxious mother. But she looks out for Michiko nonetheless, even if that means hauling her drunk, angry ass to a nearby motel for the night. Really, the entire series is about the different forms affection takes in this south-of-the-border adventure. Although they bicker and fight frequently with one another, Michiko’s always got Hatchin’s back, and Hatchin’s got Michiko’s. It may mean saying “Wait for me” a hundred times and dropping off the face of the planet for a bit, but one way or another, the two will always find a way to see each other again, no matter the cost.

michiko purple sunset.PNG

The Search for Hiroshi

Now, about the mans Michiko’s so desperate about seeing again. Once upon a time they were lovers, until the day when young Hiroshi just up and left Michiko on her own. He was the kind of guy you could tell “the embarrassing shit, and he’d always lend a sympathetic ear”—that’s what everyone remembers about Hiroshi. Ever since, Michiko’s made it her job to find him because she truly loved him. The irony of this Cinderella story is that instead of Hiroshi being in one place and also lookin’ for her, this dude’s runin’ away from her, city by city! The great escapade is twofold, a gritty push and pull between what the heart wants—and what it certainly shouldn’t get.

By the beginning, Michiko’s story has already played out. She was a bad girl who fell in love with a bad man, and had their child only long after he was gone. Her man, Hiroshi Morenos, was the only guy who was able to tame this wild vixen, and the only human who could leave such a scar on her heart when he left her for dead. But Michiko can’t see that side of him. Or rather, she refuses to, and that ends her up in a world of hurt where the bad people take what little you have left, and the good people shut their blinds cause it ain’t their problem.

Michiko’s inflated visions of Hiroshi from her memories of the past royally screw her over in the present. Would she have been happier just forgetting Hiroshi? Yeah, probably—no, absolutely. But no one forgets about Hiroshi once they’ve met him, and so Michiko hunts him down. Contrary to what most romantic tales tell us, having a lover in this story means having to share the other’s pain and anguish. Yet, love is redemption for Michiko. In her mind, if she can find Hiroshi, she and Hatchin can be happy.

michiko palm trees.PNG

As Michiko desperately pines for information of Hiroshi’s whereabouts, she is met with the unfortunate realities of the situation—that the man has long since died. But with Hatchin, they persist anyway. And what do they find? The shadow of a man, a husk with a pretty face, but the same old shitty personality. And honestly, deep down, I don’t think Michiko was expecting anything more from this fleeting encounter.

Having a lover in the world of Michiko & Hatchin is the equivalent of having an unbearably heavy weight tied to your foot. While providing an anchor for the soul in this otherwise turbulent landscape, it does little to actually make one happy. It’ll slow you down in the long run. Why? Because people and the relationships they share with one another are portrayed through the ugly side, the sad but realistic one we often tend to forget about. Michiko doesn’t want to find the real Hiroshi, but the Hiroshi of her dreams she remembers from one chance encounter long ago. And that’s why the ending is perfect. It delivers just what it should, even if it’s not the one we’d want; it’s how things would’ve realistically played out.

michiko leaning on hiroshi.PNG

The Reality Love Brings

Michiko is Hiroshi’s lover, not the other way around. He ain’t lookin’ for her, nor is he worried about her safety and well-being. And she knows all she’s gonna find at the end of the rainbow is a crock a shit, not “no damn pot o’ gold.” That’s what is waiting for Michiko and Hatchin and the end of this story, and the sad truth is that they know it deep down, too.

Lovers turn good people bad in this tale, and bad people to a life of crime. Everyone wants a piece of Hiroshi, but ain’t no one gonna get it without a dollop of heartache with their slice. Because dammit, sometimes that’s just the way it is. Love isn’t the contract—it’s the bait. And boy did Michiko fall hook, line, and sinker for this piece of trash.

hiroshi morenos.PNG

But Michiko can’t help it. She loves stupid guys, and the hotter and dumber they are, the better. But Hiroshi was a smart man, cunning, and she couldn’t help herself from feeling like a moth drawn to a flame every time he opened his lips. Love can be a curse that ties people down in the past, entrapping their emotions in the present to those memories long-gone.

Having a lover can also make us do rotten things to other people to make sure the relationship is protected. It’s not about staying afloat, so much as trying not to sink. I guess it’s as the saying goes, play shitty games, win shitty prizes. 

michiko sad.PNG

At the End of the Road

So, what’s the moral of the story? True love is something you give, not something you take. Bad people only get what they want because they take it from those who already have it. But also, ironically, there is nothing that love cannot mend. Michiko and Hatchin’s relationship, even if balancing on rickety stilts, is proof that in this terrible world, love is still something you can give, not just take. Hiroshi left without a trace except the empty hole in his lover’s heart; Hatchin came into her life and was able to make the whole situation easier to bear.

They are each others’ hero, a bond stronger than man and woman, but of mother and daughter. A familial love. And an irreplaceable love at that. 

What Michiko’s story also tells us about love is that a relationship fueled solely by the “good old days” of the past cannot survive in the future. At one point, Hiroshi was something special to her. But now, at the end of the road, he may not be so special anymore. After enduring 22 episodes heartache and emotional turmoil, Michiko AT LAST realizes that Hiroshi isn’t what she or her daughter need anymore. And thus, bathed and reborn in the fresh light of the rising sun, Michiko is finally able to leave her dreamy past behind, and face the future head on with Hatchin at her side.

And for a tale of two against the world, I find that ending profoundly touching. 

IMG_6290


It’s not gonna help to run, you know. I’ll come after you, no matter what. You belong to me, forever. — Michiko Malandro


Afterword

When I watched this so many years ago, it didn’t really resonate much with me. But now, having rewatched the series as an adult, lemme tell you: Michiko & Hatchin slaps differently. With unforgettable character designs, vivid animation, and a charming Latin-inspired OST, it’s unbelievable how well this 2008 series holds up today!

Delusions of grandeur, memories of the past, the painful realities of unrequited love—I’ve exhausted myself with analyzing this relationship, and now, the rest is up to you! For me, Michiko & Hatchin is a certified “Caffe Mocha” title, one for the history books that should be loved and enjoyed for years to come. But I’ve talked enough. What are your thoughts on the series? Please, let me know in the comments!

This concludes my September 24th entry in the OWLS “Lover” blog tour. Yumdeku (myanime2go) went before me with a post about Yuki and Yuno from The Future Diary, a favorite of mine that I can’t wait to read! Now, look out for Flow (DenOfNyanPasu) as they talk about the Visual Novel game Kara no Shoujo tomorrow, September 25th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host