The V-Day Sci-Fi Special Returns for 2019!

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

It’s officially February 14th, the day of love and romance, and I’m looking forward to spending another V-day alone this year. Oh, no, wait, don’t get me wrong—I actually prefer it this way!

Every year since 2013 I’ve tried to give myself some “me” time around the middle of February. I like to think of it as self care. After all, what’s wrong with celebrating the love for oneself?

Anyway, although it’s traditionally been a sci-fi title (odd genre choice, I know), I have mixed it up a few times, 2018’s V-Day special being a sports anime. The point is that the holiday is dedicated to cracking open a decently sized franchise and all its pieces. As a refresher, here’s been the past selections:

2013 ~ Steins;Gate

2014 ~ Kokoro Connect (I think . . . )

2015 ~ Neon Genesis Evangelion

2016 ~ The Rose of Versailles

2017 ~ Ghost in the Shell

2018 ~ Haikyuu!!

Now, having actually just recently finished Haikyuu!!‘s third season (whoops!), I can proudly erase my board (which has had the episode listing on it since last February, yikes) and move on to announce the V-Day Special anime of 2019. And guess what? We’re returning to sci-fi classics. Aww yeah, give it up for . . .

2019 ~ RahXephon

Wooohooo!!! I’ve been wanting to watch this show ever since I figured out what Evangelion was and noticed everyone always kept comparing the two shows. Well, now it’s time to unearth another long-lost sci-fi classic uncover what secrets it holds. It looks so bizarre TBH and that excites me immensely. As you can see, I’m clearly well-prepared, heh:

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This year’s V-Day special will actually begin this upcoming weekend, and the marathon will last three days: Friday the 15th through Sunday the 17th. RahXephon will be streamed in English via Amazon’s Prime Video services. In the event something goes wrong, one of the alternatives I have picked out will be selected instead. Since I am a student, hopefully I’ll be able to make time for both homework and the binge-watching.

As always with this thing, I’m looking forward to stockpiling the sweets and locking myself in my room for three days straight, haha! Please enjoy this time of the year with someone (or something) that you love, and be sure to make time for yourself, too! Following the marathon, a review will eventually be published, so I look forward to reporting my findings in that.

Until then, much love and chocolates from me!

– Takuto

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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

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

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

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

What I’ll Be Watching This Fall 2018 Simulcast Season!

Greetings all! With the first days of October under our belt, fall is officially here!

I realize I never did one of those Summer 2018 recaps . . . I’ll get around to it once I actually finish them . . . maybe. Anyway, I’m super pumped for this fall season. Couple of  long-awaited “season threes” to go around, plus some neat new stuff from KyoAni, Production I.G, and even Trigger. Let’s see what I’ll be watching this fall 2018 simulcast season!

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Banana Fish

First for returning shows of the summer season is everyone’s favorite Yuri!!! On ICE-meets-gang-warfare-and-mafia-conspiracies smash hit shoujo BL series (you’re tackling a lot of ground there, BF). Banana Fish had me at the beginning, but admittedly not as much now. I think it’s become one of those things where the show’s visual aesthetic (the 1980s art style with Mappa’s lightly drawn character designs and the intricate backgrounds) is better than the actual plot. Every single episode ends with a cliffhanger, so that’s definitely a factor that keeps drawing me back, but the characters are the best part of this beloved title for sure. I have a feeling that Ash Lynx’s path will start to grow plenty darker, and as his mental state teeters on the edge of becoming a real beast, I do hope Eiji will be there to keep him from committing an irreversible sin.

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Attack on Titan Season 3

Wow, wow, wow, where to begin with this one? The second of two returning summer titles, AoT 3 certainly put the franchise back on the map. Things are getting revealed, characters from the shadows are making their move, and Eren is growing more and more into an understandable character at the behest of Levi and Historia’s suffering (and their eventually overcoming the demons from their pasts). People and themes are starting to better connect, and as humanity careens on the its own self-destruction, everything is coming to light. It’s incredible how this franchise can transition from straight shounen action in the first season to this horror, murder mystery that is the second, and now a political drama AND STILL maintain my interest and fascination with the world and its characters. Each season has its own unique tone (the second still being my favorite, as unpopular as my opinion is), yet they are all equally–and unmistakably–Attack on Titan. I’m ALWAYS looking forward to more, and I hear the next developments are particularly epic.

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Radiant

Now to the new stuff . . . I know literally nothing about this series. I guess it’s based on a French shounen manga, which is cool. But the main reason I’ll be trying to follow it is because Lerche is behind the project, and y’all know I love that studio. Not sure if I’ll end up following it, but I put it here anyway just to try out the waters.

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Tsurune (Kazemai Koukou Kyuudoubu)

Aww yeah, now THIS one I’m excited for. It’s #archeryboys, and I can’t wait for Kyoto Animation to bring this school sports/drama series to life! I love the soft green, brown, and white color palette the advertising department has been working with. Having thoroughly enjoyed Free! and virtually everything else that KyoAni has produced in the past, I’m absolutely ready to cheer on this high school archery club as they aim for the prefectural tournament.

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Run with the Wind (Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru)

More sports drama, woohoo! Other than the fact that this is animated by Production I.G (who brought us Haikyuu!! and, more importantly to me, Welcome to the Ballroom), I don’t know much about this series. The characters look cool, but apparently they’re all just a bunch of university novices trying to run in the some big famous marathon in Japan. WAIT, is that UNISON SQUARE GARDEN doin’ the OP? Strap me along for the ride, cause I’m sure it’ll be a fun one!

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SSSS.GRIDMAN

Hahaha, another one that I know nothing about. But it’s GRIDMAN—IT’S HYPE, RIGHT!?! I guess this one already has mixed reviews since the first episode came out, but regardless of whether they’re “good” or not, I support Trigger’s original projects 100%. Kiznaiver was alright. Darling in the Franxx wasn’t so hot. So let’s wait and see how Gridman turns out and hopefully this sci-fi mecha series will win more hearts than turn minds away. Oh and did you guys hear Funimation’s dub trailer yet? Greg Ayres, Lindsay Seidel, AND Barry Yandell on board? HECK yeah, sign me up!

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Sword Art Online: Alicization (Season III)

Get the hate out of your system. All of it. Keep going, I’ll wait.

Is it gone yet? Alrighty, it’s SAO S3, and I’m hella pumped. The past couple weeks I’ve been catching up on the light novels in anticipation for what is supposedly the franchise’s best arc yet–and trust me, I believe it. In 2015 I read books 1-4, or what we know as the first season’s Aincrad and Fairy Dance arcs; in 2016 I read 5, the first half of Phantom Bullet; and just recently, I picked up books 6-14 minus 8 (yes, that is a lot of books and money). Whenever I have free time between classes and studies, I’d immerse myself in Reki Kawahara’s virtual worlds, enjoying every second of leisurely reading. I first read 9 to get a preview into this next arc, then went back to 6 to truly finish Phantom Bullet, and lastly took an emotional pit-stop at 7’s Mother’s Rosario to bridge the storytelling gap. With practically all of SAO in both anime and novel form under my belt (save for the Ordinal Scale film), I’m excited to venture on with my homework in volumes 10-14, as well as follow the anime side-by-side. The promos seem promising and the advertised character designs are simply beautiful. In other words, Alicization, here I come!

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A Certain Magical Index III

And last but not least, my most anticipated title in the line-up is the loooooong-awaited continuation of one of the big franchises that pushed my journey along as a young anime fan, arguably becoming my favorite series for the longest time. FINALLY, we’ve got the third season of Index, and although it’s not Railgun (the true best), I’ve been waiting to find out what happened after the climactic events of the second season since what, like 2013—has it really been that long!? Anyway, I don’t have much else to say other than I’m absolutely, positively thrilled to be back in Academy City, a place where science and magic clash, and there’s never a dull moment!


That’s all for what I plan to be following! What about you? Will we be watching some of the same shows together, or do you have your eyes set on something else this fall 2018 season? I’d love to hear your line-up, as there’s a bunch of good stuff to look forward to! Let me know in the comments, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Here’s What I Got From the ARIA Kickstarter!

Hi there! How are you doing?

A couple weeks ago my life was super hectic (and it still somewhat is), but right when my ARIA Kickstarter backer awards had arrived on my doorstep in a big unsuspecting package, you already know that my week only got better from there. I had torn into the unusually large RightStuf box and immediately plugged in the first Blu-ray to hear new English dub (which is fantastic BTW).

Suddenly, I found myself at ease with everything that was going on in my life at the time, and I spent the next couple of relaxing nights enjoying the rippling canals of Neo Venezia and the charming allure of the acoustic guitar. From the tender voice cast (well, maybe except for Aika, teehee) to the slow-moving episodic nature of Aria‘s storytelling, I briefly covered my thoughts on Aria‘s healing qualities in my September OWLS post. You can check it out here in case you missed it (and yes, I’ll be getting around to answering your comments, I swear!)

Anyway, you’re probably just here to see all the neat stuff I got as a backer of Nozomi’s Kickstarter campaign, so on to the goodies!

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Starting with the box, here’s an image of the slipcover (O-card?) and the chipboard box. Although the design for the slipcover is, like, really basic, I feel it better represents the show than all the loud, bright, and colorful character art we’ve seen again and again. Don’t get me wrong, I love ALL of Aria‘s art, but not every episode of the series is as cheery as its characters. Sometimes the clouds roll in, the sea lulls, and the characters have to deal with the stirring emotions in their hearts. (Speaking of, the last time I did one of these was way back during NIS America’s A Lull in the Sea release, another excellent sea-side title to make LitaKino jealous, might I add, haha!)

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And here’s the backside of each. While the slipcover is a little flimsy for my liking, what with being just a piece of cardstock wrapped around a sturdy chipboard box, I’m glad that the release came with it anyway. IDK, it just completes the clean, simple aesthetic that I live for. Also, I believe someone mentioned that the art on the chipboard box was created just for this release, which would explain why the characters look so darn good compared to some of the older artwork out there. Not sure if that’s true, but I love the complimentary orange and brown sunsets against the solid aquatic blue sea!

Man, they sure did go overboard in making sure this box was covered in art! That’s alright–I’m a sucker for background art anyway. Here are the top and side spines respectively, and they continue to contrast wonderfully with their bright orange and yellow hues against the rich blue exterior and logo.

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This is the paper insert for the first Blu-ray of Aria, which contains the entire first series—Aria The Animation—on three discs that mirror the basic cover design. It features the three lovely ladies that comprise the main cast of this first season. I appreciate the full image wrap around design, as well as how the art includes more of Neo Venezia’s gorgeous architecture. Once the other seasons are finished, this’ll be one nice set with wonderful continuity in its design!

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And here’s the interior, AKA the art you see when you open the case. Set against gray clouds and the first snowfall of the season, this art perfectly depicts how the series concludes with the onset of the wintry New Year’s celebration.

IMG_7474.jpg The set also contains 5 art cards featuring poster art for each season (designated on the back) and a sticker set. Not sure what I’ll do with the stickers, but it’s nice to get artwork not only for the first season, but the other ones to come—you can see the quality increase as the years go on (not to say that any of this art is weak)!

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We’ve also got a blue and white Aria-themed stationary set and a mug. While they’re not necessarily physical extras that I desire, the mug is really nice, and currently it’s being used to hold business cards and letters from artists I’ve purchased from either on Twitter or at conventions! (Also psyched because the simplistic design I voted for won!)

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We’re not done yet, though—for some reason, patches are still a thing, so the set includes the logos for the three main gondola companies, as well as magnets for each company’s feline mascot. Again, not sure what to do with these, haha, but I’m glad the patches are logos and not characters. As for the magnets, hmmm, I’m sure I can find something metal to stick them to. 😛

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Last but not least is this: the giant-ass lithograph. You see, when I first pledged for this award, I assumed that the numbered lithograph would be the size of your standard art card, much like most limited edition releases have. Well, Aria and Nozomi Entertainment are both exceptionally extra, and art this gorgeous couldn’t just stay rolled up in a cardboard tube and abandoned in my closet. Soooo, I cleared off my wall and framed it, and you know what, it looks pretty damn official, doesn’t it?

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Although the print doesn’t have as high a color contrast as it should to properly show off the vibrant, sparkling blue water, it’s still nice to have something that is exclusive—it’s one more thing that makes paying like $200 worth it as a backer. And 1555/1600? Nice!

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So here’s everything that came in the package! This DOES NOT include the big fancy hardback art book, as well as the first part of the second season: Aria The Natural. Those will be shipped as soon as they’re completed, and if you’d like, I can probably review the art book and give you a glimpse into all that it contains once it arrives (EXCITED!). But yeah, if you pledged for Nozomi’s Kickstarter of Aria The Animation at the Prima Plus tier, this is exactly what you would’ve gotten! As a bonus, I’ve listed my real name in the on-disc credits (the backer wall), so good luck searching for me once the standard release is ready to be sold!

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2,648 backers pledged $595,676 to help bring this project to life, and I’m stoked to have been a part of this little slice of anime history. Nozomi did SUCH a nice job updating us via campaign emails, including pre- and post-production notes, videos from the Englisih VAs, and mini clips of the dubbing process—and to think it’s not even halfway done yet since they’ve still got season three and the OVAs to go! Personally, I found it more enticing than the Escaflowne campaign by Funimation if you participated in that, NAMELY because the actors felt more like friends we helped support rather than “stars.” Maybe that’s just me, but regardless, I’ve enjoyed both campaigns, and I’ve already set out for the next one—Emma: A Victorian Romance!

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Did you participate in the Aria Kickstarter, and if so, how far did you pledge, and what did you think about it? Let me know! If you’ve got any thoughts on the backer awards or campaign itself, we can talk about it in the comments together! Again, in case you missed it, you can read about how I took life slowly with Aria in my OWLS post. You guys have no idea how much I appreciate each and every comment, like, share, and conversation we have, even if it does seem like I’m MIA all the time. I’ve got some more posts planned, including thoughts about the Summer Simulcast season, as well as some other anime-related experiences, and I’m looking forward to sharing those with you as well. Thanks so much for reading, and until next time this has been

– Takuto, your host