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

CELEBRATING STUDIO PONOC 🌱

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

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

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

Thanks for watching~!

– Takuto

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

THE BOYS ARE FINALLY HERE, MY FRIENDS

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

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

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

Thanks for watching~!

– Takuto

Ride Your Wave || Summer Film Spotlight #5

SUMMER ROMANCE IS HERE 🏄‍♀️💙🏄‍♂️

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

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

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

Thanks for watching~!

– Takuto

Children of the Sea 🐋 || Summer Film Spotlight #4

MYSTERIES OF THE SEA 🐠🐋🐠

Hey guys! Welcome to the fourth Summer Film Spotlight! Today we are celebrating GKIDS’s beautiful dubbed Blu-ray release of Ayumu Watanabe’s Children of the Sea. This 2019 film adaptation of Daisuke Igarashi’s famed manga explores the fascinating relationship between nature and the human mind. Contemplated is the relativity of existence, and how we’re not so different from the stars shining above us—or the creatures lurking deep below the ocean’s depths.

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

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

Thanks for watching~!

– Takuto

Miss Hokusai || Summer Film Spotlight #3

THE UNTOLD STORY 🌊✍️

Hey guys! Welcome to the third Summer Film Spotlight! Today we are celebrating GKIDS’s beautiful dubbed Blu-ray release of Keiichi Hara’s Miss Hokusai. This movie is full of important artistic values, from finding creativity in everyday life to balancing family life. O-Ei’s tale continues to inspire me as an artist, and I want to share it with you guys.

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

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

Thanks for watching~!

– Takuto

Tokyo Godfathers || Summer Film Spotlight #2

IT’S CHRISTMAS IN JULY ✨🎄✨

Hey guys! Welcome to the second Summer Film Spotlight! Today we are celebrating GKIDS’s beautiful dubbed Blu-ray release of Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers. Although it is neither Christmas nor July, I thought it’d be fun to kick off the summer with beloved anime movies that fans have been loving for years, and Tokyo Godfathers is just that kind of film!

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

Don’t forget to read the original blog post ➡️ Finding a Place to Belong: Tokyo Godfathers & the Gift of Kindness | OWLS “Miracles”

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

Thanks for watching~! –

Takuto

Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel I. Presage Flower || Summer Film Spotlight #1

SUMMER AT THE MOVIES BEGINS! ☺️

Hey guys! Today begins a series of weekly videos that will highlight an anime film I recently watched! First up is Ufotable’s Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel – I. Presage Flower, released by Aniplex of America. I love me some Fate, always, and it’s about time I figured out if all the hype surrounding these movies is worth it. (Spoiler alert, it is.) 🌸

I’ve been wanting to start a project like this for months now, and I finally have the time to sit down and talk about my favorite anime movies. I hope you’ll join me on this journey through film! Oh, and regular posting should resume again soon now that I’ve graduated from uni (more on that in an update forthcoming). See you next Saturday with another summer anime film spotlight!

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

It’s good to be back. Thanks for watching~!

– Takuto

Mushoku Tensei: A Jobless, Shameless Reincarnation || Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 11-episode Winter 2021 series “Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation,” animated by Studio Bind, directed by Manabu Okamoto, and based on the light novel series of the same name by Rifujin na Magonote.


Reborn in a World of Magic

A thirty-four-year-old shut-in has just about had all of life that he can handle. Even when he tries to do something heroic for once in his life, it ends in a tragic accident. Fate, however, has other plans for him, and the man awakens in another world as Rudeus Greyrat, the newborn baby of two loving parents.

With the memories from his previous life still intact, Rudeus quickly adapts to this new fantasy environment. The knowledge from his adult past allows him to latch onto the world’s magic system faster than the other kids, and before long, his parents hire a mage tutor named Roxy Migurdia to help hone his skills. Rudeus learns swordplay from his father, Paul, and makes his first friend in the beautiful Sylphiette. Although Rudeus is no knight right now, his time with the blade will come in handy when he eventually takes on his own young pupil—the fiesty Eris Greyrat—and her buff, beast-human guardian Ghislaine.

Granted a second chance at life, Rudeus endeavors to live in a way that his old self would be proud of. As Rudeus attempts to conquer the traumas of his past, he starts to believe that maybe, just maybe, there is love for him in this world after all.

Gonna have to spit this out there now, but I absolutely despise the isekai story-starter trope of reincarnation. Rarely is it explored to full effect in these shows, and often is the tragic death overlooked by episode 3. That said, Mushoku Tensei is different. Throughout the series, we receive direct narration of events not from the voice of young Rudeus, but rather that of his past self. At first, the cynical and snarky dialogue comes across as largely pessimistic and cruel. But, as Rudeus starts to make connections and brave his way outside the comfort zone, the narration slowly adopts a note of hope. And of course, Rudeus is a pervert both then and now, but you’d be surprised how well he fits the bill as “The Son of Paul Greyrat.”

THE GREYRATS ARE SCUM

I know he’s really a 34-year-old man on the inside, but boy is Rudeus a cutie. I mean, just look at that name ~Rudeus~ I love it. Although we know who he really is, no one else does, and so Rudeus plays the innocent young prodigy part remarkably well. A lot of viewers may not take to him because of this fact (plus that he’s a whole-ass pervert), but I like Rudeus, and I hope he does find that self-love and acceptance he was missing out on in his sad past.

The same well wishes cannot be said for Rudeus’ father, Paul. I won’t spoil what he does (or who he does, yikes!), but don’t let that knightly title lead you to believing that honoring and respecting women is a virtue he exemplifies. THIS MANS IS SCUM. Hell, ALL OF THE GREYRATS ARE SCUM. And yet, I still love ’em all, the horny bastards. Paul is lucky to have a charismatic babe like Zenith!

Although the kind and soft-spoken Sylphiette is who propels Rudeus to become a stronger mage, a character I believe most audiences would resonate more with is Roxy. A wonderful teacher and talented water mage, Roxy serves as a huge motivation for Rudeus. Rudeus’ graduation ceremony from Roxy’s teachings had tears welling in my eyes, and as a teacher of young students myself, I just really hit it off with her reserved yet inspiring teaching style. Roxy rarely yells, but rather guides, and her realizing Rudeus’ potential (which far exceeds her own) hit me in the feels. The prospect of eventually reuniting with Roxy incentivizes Rudeus to work hard at not only magecraft, but also other avenues of life.

Then we have Eris Greyrat, who comes in and stomps on all of Rudeus’ hopes and dreams. I kid, but she’s definitely a stubborn pain in the ass. As Rudeus’ charms slowly start to rub off on Eris, however, she becomes noticeably more tame, even likable to an extent. Were it not for Ghislaine’s overwhelming strength and presence to hold Eris back, I’m not sure how far Rudeus would have gotten in his mentorship!

Quality Character Animation

While searching for more information about the studio behind making Mushoku Tensei, it appeared to me as if this is Studio Bind’s first work—and to this, WOW, I’m quite shocked. The animation of the series keeps up with the spellcasting elements of the show just as well as the dumb ecchi-comedy moments. Specifically, it was the quality of the character animation that grabbed my interest. In fact, I had no plans to watch Mushoku Tensei until one of the sakuga-crazed Twitter accounts I follow retweeted a short animation of Roxy splitting a tree and then healing it. From that moment on, I looked forward to seeing Rudeus’ water magic develop just as much I wanted to see that perverted little face of his warp into a devilish smile.

If I’m being honest here, the whole production of Mushoku Tensei won me over far before the story’s premise. The series is accompanied by a wonderful fantasy soundtrack from the genius Yoshiaki Fujisawa. Likewise, all of the grassy plains, vast deserts, and medieval cities provide a pleasant background to the show’s relatively soft visual aesthetic. Lastly, since I watched this one subbed, I did want to toot the seiyuu voicing the project, especially Yumi Uchiyama’s cute lil’ Rudeus, Ai Kakuma’s fiery and passionate Eris, and Megumi Toyoguchi’s tough and throaty Ghislaine.

A Debauched, Self-Indulgent Comedy

Mushoku Tensei probably wasn’t meant to be this enjoyable, at least for me. The series blends ecchi and isekai elements (which I typically cannot stand) into a fantasy drama with ludicrous amounts of world-building lore and pleasure-seeking fun. In addition to the nice magic animation and memorable character design, the series also pursues themes of self-love, reclamation of youth, and goodwill to others with Rudeus’ narrative. You can tell by the end how much taller he stands, and how he’s already so much prouder of the chances he’s taken in this life than the scarring, regret-filled life of his past. With this first season, a man is finally starting to overcome his fears from being bullied and enjoy life under the sun for once. I hope he’s able to go even further in subsequent seasons.

However the story tries to move you, this dramatic character development doesn’t stop Rudeus—and all of the Greyrats for that matter—from being horny on main 24/7. The series is never afraid to have fun with itself, and it remains wholly dedicated to its cause of debauched, self-indulgent comedy. If you’re wanting an isekai fantasy series with perverse, no-holds-barred commentary (and a slice or two of redemption), step right up to the house of Paul and Zenith Greyrat—I’m sure they’d love to have you.


“The worse I am at something, the better I feel when I work at it and learn how to do it.”

Rudeus Greyrat


Afterword

I’ve spent the past weekend trying to finish all the Winter 2021 simulcasts I started months ago. It’s actually been fun seeing how some of these shows ended, and it was equally exciting to see the season two announcement for Mushoku Tensei already greenlit! While I’m guessing the story from here on will lean more on the serious side, you can bet I’ll be back for more Greyrat degeneracy when the sequel airs this summer. For those wondering, I’m welcoming Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation as a “Cake” title here at the cafe, a show that’s not for everyone, but one that certainly scratches that itch you might’ve not have even known you had. I like the show when it’s both dumb and endearing, and that’s rare for even me to admit.

What are your thoughts on Mushoku Tensei? Do you think Paul Greyrat is scum or do you think he’s scum? Also, are you looking forward to more of this series or was this first season enough for you? Let me know your thoughts about the show or this review down in the comments! Thanks for reading, and ’til next time!

– Takuto

RePlay: A Sweet Single-Volume Baseball BL || Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the single-volume BL manga “RePlay,” story and art by Saki Tsukahara, published in 2020 by TOKYOPOP.


Out of the Game

Although Yuta and Ritsu have been playing baseball together since they were children, a devastating defeat in a local tournament the summer before their senior year results in the “married couple’s” retirement from the high school team so that they can focus on university entrance exams. Yuta still yearns to play baseball again, but even when he’s given the chance, the game just doesn’t have the same appeal without Ritsu. Whenever Yuta brings up the sport, however, Ritsu seems to distance himself further.

What does baseball mean to Yuta, and why should it matter whether Ritsu is there or not? As the boys begin ask themselves these questions, feelings that have always been present are realized, and the bond between teammates develops into something far more affectionate and intimate.

This has got to be one of the most satisfying BL manga I’ve ever read. To Saki Tsukahara—where can I read your other works??? I had so much fun getting to know the history of this couple, as well as watching Yuta and Ritsu realize their feelings for each other. A surprising amount of character depth is crammed into this book, and the ending beautifully rounds out this story of compassionate love and fresh starts. The final pages (following our one sex scene, of course) left me happily content and hopeful about their future. Older audiences may also appreciate the high-school-to-college shift—along with the “separation angst” of changing friendships—that Tsukahara tries to capture.

Teammates to Something More . . .

Since we mainly take in the story from Yuta’s perspective, let’s talk about him first. Yuta Mizuhara is your typical loudmouth, food-snatching, panic gay who can’t seem to understand that others may actually like him. A lot. Defs the jumpy uke type. Still, he’s got a really cute face and them ATHLETE ABS THO, and most readers will enjoy him if even just for that. Compared to Ritsu, Yuta has to try a lot harder in his studies, especially if he’s wanting to attend the same university as Ritsu. I’m glad that his studying habits (or lack thereof) play a prominent role in the plot.

As for Ritsu Mashino, the dude’s RIPPED and ready for college life. The smart, quiet, handsome-type seme. Because he can get into practically any university, he spends a lot of his time going behind Yuta’s back to prep “surprises” for him. (If I say anything more it’s spoiler territory, so my lips are zipped.) Anyway, he’s also got a cute hairstyle and face to match, and I simply can’t express enough how PERFECT Saki Tsukahara’s characters look! The whole manga is just plain pretty. (And for my friends wanting something steamier, RePlay is fairly tame, save for the occasional shirtless scene and the last couple pages . . . )

The only part of the manga I found a bit cringe was how Yuta and Ritsu’s fellow teammates and classmates would keep calling them the “married couple.” They’d even refer to themselves in this way, and it’s such a weird term, even for manga. Like, when you’re this adamant on calling each other the school’s married couple, you’re not even queer-bating at this point—they both might as well just come out to each other already. At first, it’s a cute label, but it becomes harder to take even as a joke with each repetition.

A Satisfying Single-Volume BL

RePlay explores the attraction between two high-school seniors who are trying to sort out their long-withheld (or unrealized) feelings for one another while also preparing for university life. Since both boys have graduated from club activities, the sports element mainly serves as a backdrop to the soft and sweet story about the fear of growing apart. The volume reads like a sports anime fanfic, yet also has a sense of completeness that is rare for this kind of manga.

Saki Tsukahara’s lovely art remains consistently light and gorgeous, and their character designs match my tastes to a T. If you’re a fan of childhood-friends-to-lovers romance and are looking for a BL that looks fondly back on high school life as its characters make plans for college, I highly recommend RePlay as one of my new favorite single-volume BL manga!


“On the field, we understood every facet about each other, but now . . . “

Yuta Mizuhara


Afterword

This was such a great read, my goodness. Thank you to all who recommended this manga to me! If my enjoyment wasn’t obvious enough in this post, RePlay is a certified “Caffe Mocha” manga here at the cafe, a rating reserved for my favorite reads and watches! I’ve got a growing list of TOKYOPOP single-volume BL manga that I plan to pick up soon, so hey, if you liked this post, I’ve got more on the way! Drop your thoughts on this manga review (or your BL single-volume recommendations) down in the comments! Thanks for reading, and ‘til next time!

– Takuto

Battle Angel Alita: The Original Cyberpunk Classic || Manga First Impressions

First impressions for volumes 1-2 (Deluxe Edition Volume 1) of Yukito Kishiro’s manga series “Gunnm” or “Battle Angel Alita,” published in 2017 by Kodansha Comics.


Saved from the Scraps

Only the few and the fortunate are permitted to live in the shining space city of Zalem, a utopian metropolis which floats high above a desert wasteland. What trash and unnecessary dealings the people of Zalem find expendable are tossed into The Scrapyard, an enormous stockpile of waste below the city which is surrounded by a clustering of ghettos and shacks. This is where the rest of humanity–flesh and cyborg alike–eke out a living, surviving by grit and brute strength alone.

While scavenging a pile of discarded android parts, Daisuke Ido, a cyborg repairs doctor, finds the head of a young female cyborg amid the scraps. Dr. Ido builds a new body for the head and names her Alita. Although Alita’s memory upon activation is foggy and lost to her, she still wishes to stay by the good doctor’s side.

The caring relationship between the two is challenged when Alita discovers Ido’s night job as a hunter-warrior, a bounty hunter working for The Scrapyard’s government, and she decides to become one herself against Ido’s warning. While pinning down wanted criminals in the shadows of the slums, Alita awakens to her forgotten knowledge of fighting techniques. As it turns out, Alita is a warrior, though her origins are still unknown. With her newfound strength, Alita determinately fights for justice, recovering bits of her fragmented past to rediscover her original identity.

Lawlessness and Chaos

I love cyberpunk. Whether the clean-cut, glowing neon feel or the technologically clustered vision (as with Alita here), I enjoying seeing how different artists approach their worldbuilding. Whereas Ghost in the Shell is more cerebral-focused–showing how cyber enhancements in the brain transform humanity’s relationship with the Internet–Alita sticks to altering the physical body. The toughest of cyborgs that enjoy fighting in the arena are equipped with metal arms capable of lifting megatons. Might makes right in The Scrapyard.

When not admiring the glorious physiques of the various strongarm hunter warriors, we can look to the background art for cyberpunk influence. Often, pages of the comic will pass with little to no dialogue, leaving the reader to simply awe at the setting artwork and detailed landscape imagery. Yukito Kishiro structures the worldbuilding aspects of the series with elements of action or moments of self-discovery, imbedding the story of The Scrapyard within key character backstories or set pieces.

I’m especially referencing the ghastly yet vast and mazelike conditions of The Scrapyard’s sewer system–a seemingly bottomless world of gross infestation and hellish living for any creature. The bubbling bog’s curious plumes of stench contrast fantastically against the arid and metallic cityscape of the surface world. What binds them, however, is a prevailing sense of lawlessness and chaos.

If You Liked the 2019 Film, You’ll Love This

Despite having come to the manga from watching the 2019 live action film, I found Alita to read incredibly easy on its own. Each story element flows to the next well enough to warrant having the series on your shelf along with the film’s Blu-ray. Both the film and the manga have their own subtle differences (mainly concerning changes to the appearances of certain characters, or their omission entirely), but again, they both hold well on their own.

Perhaps the only major crime (as a film watcher) is the sad discovery that motorball isn’t in the manga at all! Or, at least not in the first couple volumes (*cries anyway*). Kodansha’s first Deluxe Edition volume ends on the film’s climax, so I’ll have to see how that cliffhanger is resolved in the manga. I wonder if it’s anything like the cool ending of the film . . .

Alita is, by and large, one of the most important titles in the cyberpunk genre. Its influence extends far beyond the main genre it belongs to, including the realms of action, adventure, science fiction, and even dystopia. What I discovered from my read of the first 10 or so chapters of the manga, however, was that all of the praise for Alita is well-deserved. Whether you liked the film as much as I did or not, you’re bound to love the empowering female narrative of the Battle Angel Alita manga even more.


“I believe that every human can choose her own way of life! We can choose to be ugly or beautiful!”

Alita


Afterword

I’m sure you’ll hear more about my Alita journey as I pick up more volumes, but we’re off to a fantastic start so far! Now the question is whether I should continue the series in the Kodansha Deluxe hardcovers or move to digital since, you know, it’s cost-effective (and saves a ton of shelf space)! I’ve got lots to think about.

One last thing! With all the cyborg skull-crushing and limb-smashing violence, Alita does lean more on the graphic side. Just wanted to let you know in case you are entirely new to the franchise. 🙂

Have you ever tried out this classic cyberpunk manga? Let me know in the comments! So far, I love the world and the characters in it, and that’s enough to keep me throwing money at this franchise. Thanks for reading these first impressions, and ’til next time!

– Takuto