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

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

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

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

Reviews


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

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Cacophony in Paradise: RahXephon & Accepting the World

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

I Finally Watched the Old Fruits Basket 

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

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

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

OWLS Posts


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miscellaneous Posts


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

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The Scope of the Universe: Gurren Lagann Revisited

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

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

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

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

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


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

– Takuto, your host

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

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

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

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Delight in the Refined English Air of Endor College

Mary and the Witch’s Flower

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

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

Immerse Yourself in the Atmosphere of Victorian England

Emma: A Victorian Romance

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

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

Room At the Nicest Lodging Ever in the Kind Country

Kino’s Journey

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

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

Witness Legendary Creatures Fly Freely in the Land of the Dragons 

The Ancient Magus’ Bride

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

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

Soak in the Ancient Waters of the Jusenkyo Hot Springs

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

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


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

– Takuto, your host

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

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

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


Manga For Newcomers

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

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

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

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

Anime for Newcomers

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

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

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

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


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

– Takuto, your host

Takuto Will Be Participating in the 2019 Animanga Festival!

Evening all, and happy October 1st!

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

10/10 ~ A Collection of Your Best Works

10/19 ~ A Crossover You’d Love to See

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

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

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

– Takuto, your host

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

Lita (LitaKino Anime Corner) and I have been planning this thing for SUCH a long time now, and I’m so excited to finally see it happen!

Welcome to my first aniblogger collab of 2019! As the title suggests, joining me on this little adventure is the spunky and out-going Lita! Lita and I go way back as blogger buddies. Ever since I first started, she was there, and I’ve never forgotten about her presence (I mean, just how could you?).

So, when she approached me with a collab proposition, of course I couldn’t refuse this dear friend of mine! In fact, it had me thinking that except for being members of OWLS, Lita and I had never actually done a collaboration effort of any kind together. Kinda crazy, I know, and I’m thankful that she reached out to me.

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If there’s one thing that bonds Lita and I aside from our history as bloggers, it’s that we both love anime with a focus on one of these unique factors: mecha and seaside. So, when the idea for a collab was pitched, naturally there were several worthy candidates for discussion. Perhaps we will return in the [near] future with a post over, say, Space Battleship Yamato, Gargantia, or A Lull in the Sea. But for now, we settled on a title perfect for rounding out this summer.

On today’s plate is a special aquatic title that means a lot to both of us, and what with the summer heat finally starting to wind down, I thought it’d only be appropriate that we end summer with a splash.

It’s no surprise that Lita and I both love Free!, for some reasons similar, others vastly different. Challenged with inquiring one another about anything we’d like about the franchise, I sent Lita seven questions, and below are the seven that she sent me. Let’s check out what she asked!

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The Free! OST for every season is phenomenal. There’s a variety of music mixes from high-pump, urban trance to subtle softness. Alongside the music, the series encompasses that aquatic factor. Do you feel the music elevates the series in its entirety? What are some of your favourite tracks from the OST?


I firmly believe that without Tatsuya Katou’s music work on Free!, there simply wouldn’t be a “Free!” (or, at least the one we all know and love). Music adds motion to a series, breathes life into a space that is otherwise just pretty visuals and characters. For Free!, and I’ve expressed this numerous times, the show likely wouldn’t be nearly as impactful were it not for Katou’s OST.

Unforgettable tracks like “A Boy in the Water” and “Innocent Boy” cue us in to the mindset of the main character, Haru: passionate, yet perhaps searching for a larger purpose in life. “Rhythm of Port Town” introduce us to the fresh, family-oriented landscape of the fictional seaside town of Iwatobi. “Revelry of Student” brings out the sweet flavor of Nagisa, as well as shows that high school life can still be fun even if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing and where you want to end up. “Old Days” allows us to relax and come to know Makoto, Haru’s best friend since childhood, as well as the sort of refreshing life they live together.

In “I Need You,” all of the tension in Haru’s life starts to break down, despite his carefully plotted attempts at living a calm and collected lifestyle. Then comes along “Night Sky & Ever Blue,” which relieves the air and gives us a hint at the score’s main theme through vibrant strings and a slow-grooving percussive rhythm. Lastly, we rejoice as “Melody of Ever Blue” chimes with celebration and finale, marking the end of this first season.

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I skipped over so many tracks, not to mention only covered the FIRST season of three. Each has their own OST that continues with these themes and goes in their own directions, which is wonderful as a devoted listener. I actually own physical CDs of the first two soundtracks (dinosaur tech, I know), which is why these particular tracks instantly jumped into my mind. This first album, “Ever Blue Sounds,” is my personal favorite, as I believe it encompasses everything Free! has been about: youth, memories, and the future.


No one thought KyoAni’s choice direction of how swimmer boys are portrayed would earn such massive popularity. The intended audience seemed to be for females, but as one of few dudes I know that actually likes the series, give us your perspective on why you love Free! as much as you do.


I actually wrote an entire post just about my love for the series, which you can read right here! Basically, it boils down to being one of those shows that aired at the right place, right time. I came across an ad for the series on YouTube back in 2013, and came back each week to watch the entire thing there too. The series aired in the summer right before my freshman year of high school, which eventually inspired me to pursue the sport that fall.

I love Free! for the relatable characters, the gorgeously animated water effects, the heartwarming score, and of course, the story. But perhaps I love it even more because I was also able to fall in love with the water as these boys did, which has gone on to influence four more years of my life and now through college even!

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

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Now, apart from the hot swimmer boys, Free! has a good swimming focus. As I know you were or still are an active swimmer part of a team, did you feel Free!‘s representation of life was portrayed to an extent that you can relate to?


As an anime, Free! glorifies the sport far more than it probably should. In fact, you could argue that swimming is just a vehicle for larger themes the series presents, such as life in the adult world or having the ambition to go beyond one’s personal limits.

But yeah, swimming is still a sport. And a hard one, too. The first season focuses a lot on basics, from understanding the different strokes to the logistics of swimming in a relay. I like that part about it a lot. Of course, that won’t stop the series from including a somewhat unrealistic beach training episode.

Even as a surface level exposition, Free! isn’t like Yuri!!! On ICE or Haikyuu!! where it’d tell you how scoring works, technique, etc. Instead, the technicalities of the sport take a back seat role to add in that pleasant mix of slice-of-life and dramatic rivalry, which works far better in Free!‘s case for sustaining audience attention in my humble opinion.

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So, can I relate to it as a swimmer? For the few swimming-specific training moments that are in it, as well as the heart-pumping pre-race anxiety, absolutely. I still get PTSD stomach jitters whenever they dive off the blocks. However, I would hope that at least foreigners to the sport would relate to the stress and emotional tension of swimming in a relay—that part Free! got right.


You’re a water baby Taku, as am I, so have to ask the question . . . Did watching Free! make you want to go swimming immediately? I ask because it did for me after watching first few episodes—I hit the pool the next day! 😂


Technically speaking, I joined the swim team right after I finished watching the first season, so, umm, yes. Haha! But I know what you mean. Cooking anime make me want to eat food. Naturally, swimming anime want me to swim. Even the airing of the third season during my freshman year of college had me wanting to get back to the pool. My career as a lifeguard throughout high school up to now is my only other link to the water, so I guess you could say that each time I rewatch old parts of the series or get to see new content, I dig out my goggles and jammers just in case the need arises. 😉

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The bath tub just really isn’t the same :/


I feel the series was cruel in the moments where Makoto and Haru have “close encounters” (you know, the whole queer-baiting thing). Did that ever bother you, make you squirm a bit? Or maybe make you think, “Oh, I can see them as a couple.” Because Lita over here did (my mind went there).


At first (so we’re talking, like, 2013), the series definitely gave off a fanservice vibe more than anything else. Yet for some reason, I always saw Haru and Makoto’s relationship as too platonic to function. They walk together, train together, and even sometimes share a meal with each other. But it makes sense—after all, they’re neighbors, and family friends at that. Heck, I’m sure we all wish we had a friend like Makoto!

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Seriously though—and maybe this is just me, but I wonder if it applies to other sports players and their corresponding sports anime—by this point, I’ve seen so many dudes in jammers and speedos (cause of swimming) that I’m pretty desensitized to it all. I find their emotional connection much more wholesome than their physical one (if such thing did/does exist). Now, I don’t play volleyball, so in the case of Hai—


The main characters of Free! always get talked about, but did you have a favourite side character from any of the other teams?


YES, and his name is Momotarou Mikoshiba!! Nobody talks about my sweet otter boy, and that makes me sad. He’s a weird one, not gonna lie. I find Momo’s enthusiasm and innocence to be so goofy and contagious. His loud, cat-like personality is also a plus. Add in his mad backstroke skills, flaming orange hair, and odd love for beetles, and you’ve got chaos incarnated. IDK why I like him so much, I just think he’s a fun character, plain and simple. Underrated, too.

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Finally . . . hehe a cruel question. If you were a girl, which swimmer boy would you date? (😂😂 coZ there all soooo pretty ya know 😉😏)


Aww man, she just had to ask The Question 😉

Ok, so logically speaking, Haru might have the prettiest face, but he’d be awkward as heck on a date. Rei’s too good for me. Nagisa sounds like a fun time, but he does seem young, doesn’t he? Sousuke is too much of a man (he’d crush me between those biceps, let’s be honest). Rin is . . . just not my type, too extreme. Same for Asahi, though I would prefer him. Ai is too innocent. Momo is a cool cat, maybe him . . . ? Ikuya is much too emo for my liking (lol), same for Shizuru, that new Iwatobi swimmer. Ikuya’s bro Natsuya seems like quite the charmer, so there’s a possibility . . . Hiyori is an ass, so he’s out. I don’t know much about Nao, but idk he seems too pure for this world.

Who does that leave us with? Well, if it were younger me, I’d pick Romio, one of the new Iwatobi swimmers. He seems like a good and honest kid that I’d want to know more about, and he’s Nagisa and Rei-approved, so there you go! He also looks like Tom Holland so there’s that.

Really though, there’s only one true choice for me. You should be able to figure it out—after all, he’s the only one I didn’t name! #TeamMom

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And that’s all I got for our collab. Getting to reflect on Free! is always a fun time, and I’m glad I was able to do it with a friend! Speaking of, be sure to check out MY questions for Lita over on her side of things! I think both of us did a fair job at posing each other those Qs, and I hope we get to do it again in the near future. In the meantime, be sure to give Lita a follow—she’s one hardworking gal, and her content is always fun to read!

The world of Free! is only expanding. Although KyoAni has likely put their 2020 project on hold (and for understandable reasons, my goodness), I’ll look forward to whatever comes next—whenever it comes—with the same hope and excitement as I have for every installment thus far.

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Thoughts on any of our questions or answers? Be sure to let us know in the comments! Oh, and feel free to answer any of the questions yourself if you’d like! Thank you again Lita for reaching out to me for this collab! Until next time everyone, this has been

– Takuto, your host

On Love, Loneliness, & the Growing Distance Between Us | The Works of Makoto Shinkai

Have you ever had that “feeling”? You know the one—when you notice yourself suddenly skipping about here and there, flattering others in an uncharacteristically cheery way that makes them remark, “I want what they’re having!” Some call that expression—that intense feeling of deep affection, interest, or yearning—love. It’s but a simple four-letter word, and yet it can give some people enough purpose and motivation to perform wild, breathtaking feats, going to the greatest of lengths just for that shared pleasure of joy. “Love makes the world go round,” it truly does.

Such a complex and powerful emotion often finds its way into animation. Specifically, the romance genre of anime holds steady as one of the field’s experts. Its incredible variety masterfully demonstrates that love is not only sweet and tender, but can also be realistically crushing and emotionally devastating.

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The latter is the kind of stories director Makoto Shinkai likes to tell. Rather than measuring up as a statistically sound series or film—that is, a rated “10/10” on various elements such as plot, pacing, characters, animation (his forte), sound etc.—Shinkai films excel at eliciting a feeling, usually on the heartache end of the emotional spectrum. To quote his latest award-winning hit, Your Name., Shinkai’s films provide, simply put, “Nothing more or less than a breathtaking view.” Each possess their own fair share of flaws, some more than others, but beyond the little plot holes lies a relatable character struggle that just might tread a path you yourself have walked.

And it’s exactly that strong resonance between one’s own experiences and Shinkai’s ill-fated cast which makes him one of the bests in the industry. Everyone wants to feel connected to others, and Shinkai depicts through his picture-perfect worlds what that connection is really like, and why it isn’t always everything that we wanted after all.

In the iconic, beautifully cruel style which solidified his films as masterworks of modern animation, Makoto Shinkai appeals to humanity’s most innate fears of rejection and loss by directing his characters through the timeless themes of love, loneliness, and the growing distance which separates people as time goes on. These lessons teach us that though life has its fair share of heartbreak, each relationship we stumble into and every opportunity we miss out on still carries the potential to live out a better tomorrow—you just have to look beyond the distance.

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A comparative study and light analysis on the works of Makoto Shinkai. For each title, I will delve into the big issues or “separators” at hand, factoring in whether the story’s realism and emotions which the endings provoke somehow determine the possibilities for happiness and sadness alike. As such, SPOILERS for nearly all of his films WILL BE PRESENT. Also, these will NOT be individual reviews for each title. For those prepared to relive all of these amazing films, enjoy!

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(NONE OF THIS GORGEOUS ARTWORK BELONGS TO ME. All praise and ownership goes to Makoto Shinkai and CoMix Wave Films.)

She and Her Cat (1999)

I will always be by your side. After all, I am your cat.

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Aside from the music (by Tenmon), this 4-minute short was completely created by Shinkai alone, marking the early beginnings of his budding career as not only an animator and writer, but also a director. It’s the short tale of an average Japanese girl living in an apartment told from the viewpoint of Chobi, her beloved cat. Chobi speaks formally and passionately about his owner, yet he still has this pure, unclouded perspective of a cat. Arguably his softest work yet, She and Her Cat: Their Standing Points stood out due to its innovative (and awfully cute) exploration of love.

What ultimately separates the two from “eloping” is, well, obvious—“She” is a human girl, a woman, while Chobi is a cat. It’s an unusual relationship, but that doesn’t stop the film from being so unrealistic as to the plot being “impossible.” The woman, nicknamed Kanojo by the community, faces her own hardships in the real world (including a possible love interest), and though Chobi would like to know what she does and where she goes once she closes their apartment door, he understands that her life likely isn’t all sunshine and roses—it doesn’t really concern him. All that matters to him is that she returns home at the end of a long day.

Like with all of Shinkai’s films to follow, what separates them (different species, the “language barrier”) also unites them, for through each others warm embrace—that of a cat and his owner—they find comfort and care. Simple, peaceful, heartwarming.

Voices of a Distant Star (2002)

We may be the first generation of lovers separated by time and space.

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Stepping up his game, yet still working alone (aside for Tenmon’s gorgeous piano and string score), Shinkai quotes this rather aged 2002 short film as the piece which put him out in the world. Set in the near future, mankind’s ambition to explore space separates Nagamine and Noboru, a young girl and boy in junior high. As Noboru enters high school, Nagamine is sent off on an expedition into space’s infinite depths. The farther she strays away from Earth and her Noboru-kun, the longer it takes for their texts to reach one another. Minutes turn into hours, days, weeks, months, and soon—

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Though inventive at its time, the 3D graphics haven’t aged all too well. But thematically, Voices of a Distant Star packs more of an emotional punch than most 12-episode series could today—and this film only clocks in at 25 minutes, including the credits! It seems as if the big separator in Voices is the physical distance, but waiting for their messages of goodwill to traverse the vast blank void that is space ushers in another factor: time. As Nagamine’s unchanging body fights on (in what I can only imagine to be early-2000 Shinkai’s mecha dream-of-a-giant robot), Noboru ages at what feels like an alarming pace. In reality, his growth rate is no different from any of ours is, but the way Shinkai conveys the rapid passage of time only accentuates our lovers’ tragedy. Is it realistic? Even as a sci-fi flick, not really. But does its bittersweet run end on an ambiguously hopeful note? Absolutely.

Voices is arguably the first film in Shinkai’s line-up to convey this notion that perhaps the lack of realism can lead to a happy ending. Very interesting . . .

The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004)

On those now-distant days, we made a promise we couldn’t keep.

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To tackle the 1 hr. 30 min. length of this next film, Shinkai needed a team. Between his early beginnings and now in 2004, he partnered with the animation studio CoMix Wave Films. The results—The Place Promised in Our Early Days visually blew audiences away, nearly more so than with 2002’s Voices. Set near the turn of the century in an alternate reality Japan, which is split by America and the Soviet Union, young boys Hiroki and Takuya aim to fly to the top of the fantastical, unbelievably high Hokkaido Tower using an old drone. While at first a secret for just the two of them, Sayuri, a girl Hiroki and Takuya both like but would never admit to one another, discovers their secret, leading to the boys putting their project on indefinite hiatus. When Sayuri suddenly disappears from their life, however, the two come to realize that reaching the mysterious tower—the promised dream of their childhood—might be the only way to save her.

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Hiroki and Takuya experience a loss of youth, of innocence, as they learn to develop their own dreams and ideologies different from their childish musings. What once united them in friendship tears them apart, and the disappearance of Sayuri and discovery of her untimely illness are what kicked off the depressing events that plague the film’s middle. To watch two friends come at each other’s throat can be painfully real to some, as we’ve all have our fair share of little spats with friends. Additionally, I’m sure we’ve all seen sickness and temptation take the life of a loved one and push them into a place beyond our reach. Thankfully, a happy reunion awaits the cast at the end, leading to the belief of how sacrifice can yield rebirth.

Once again, Shinkai writes with a science fiction mind, and although people still relate to Hiroki and Takuya, the entire premise is unrealistic, nothing more than a child’s fantasy. Can you still learn from it? Of course, but come Shinkai’s next film, reality takes a turn for the worst—the start of a tragic trend.

5 Centimeters Per Second (2007)

At what speed must I live to be able to see you again?

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Here it is, Shinkai’s greatest creation (thematically, that is). I’m sure it needs no introduction, unlike his more obscure early works, but in case you forgot, it’s the story of two very close friends and classmates: Takaki Toono and Akari Shinohara. Elementary school should be a time of play and triviality, but for these two, such isn’t the case. Rather than run around on the playground, Takaki and Akari would rather read in the library, or simply chat about life’s musings. Just as they become close, however, Akari’s family plans to move. Takaki and Akari send letters to one another, but Akari only continues to move further and further away. In a final attempt to see Akari before she’s beyond his limits, Takaki sets out to reunite with her. His unlucky trek attracts a cold winter’s blizzard, delaying the series of trains to Akari’s town. But that doesn’t stop the two from finally, FINALLY meeting once again. And boy, does your heart just melt the frost away.

Equal parts faith and love, Takaki made the effort to travel out in the cold, sure, but Akari was the one who waited—the one who sat there miserable and alone with nothing to do but pray that her young love was on his way. It was proof that their love should be everlasting, but alas, that’s not the story Shinkai is trying to tell. In this first episode, it is a physical distance which separates our main couple.

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A chain of short stories about their distance.

After this touching first episode, the film enters its next “story.” Time passes on. Takaki, too, moves away from his hometown to the warm regions of Tanegashima (a stark contrast to the first episode’s frigid finale). Now a high schooler, Takaki meets a new girl, and though she tries to admit her feelings to him, Takaki knows all along that his heart only belongs to one person: the woman of his past. Time and other relationships have left him traveling aimlessly. In the final episode, Takaki is old. Maybe not in the physical sense, as late 20s—early 30s is still quite young, but his spirit definitely seems lost—his heart broken from years without seeing or hearing from her.

The painful reality is that, as life would have it, she has moved on, already engaged to another man. And that’s just it—the final separator which drives these now-unrelated adults is life itself. Life is always changing, and as we continue down our own paths, we sometimes have to leave others behind.

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At its core, 5 Centimeters Per Second strives to present one’s “first love,” and how difficult it is to hold onto it—so much so that it almost feels not worth experiencing at all. Takaki, by his end, is lonely, depressed, and empty. It’s a sad film, yet a brutally honest one. Shinkai’s first feature-length film in a world without giant robots or fantasy towers is painfully real, and that aspect remains what distinguishes Shinkai from today’s anime directors. By this point, Makoto Shinkai had earned the appreciation and respect of his more mature adult viewers.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011)

This is the journey to know the meaning of “goodbye.”

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Shinkai returns to the realm of fiction with this next film. Clearly inspired by the magical presentation of Studio Ghibli movies, the story follows young Asuna, an excellent student who maintains her family’s house in a rural town during her mother’s absence. Aside from spending time with nature, Asuna is alone. She finds escapism in her secret hideout up in the mountains, and frequently tunes into her old crystal radio for relaxation. One day, she unexpectedly picks up on a curious frequency: a rather melancholic melody, different from any song she had ever heard before. As if fated to meet, a mysterious boy named Shun rescues Asuna from a wild, bizarre creature, unintentionally dragging Asuna and her teacher, Mr. Morisaki, on a perilous journey to Agartha, a land long-lost to time and human presence.

Though not his smartest film by any means, Shinkai has been longing to visit this colorful, enchanting world—Agartha—for some time now. The luscious planet upon which Nagamine lands in Voices of a Distant Star; the domain where the comatose Sayuri resides in The Place Promised in Our Early Days; Takaki Toono’s realm of dreams in 5 Centimeters Per Second—each time this wondrous world reappears, it offers comfort to the characters. Not coincidentally, the design remains the same, too. From the gorgeously iconic “Shinkai clouds” to the seas of green grass and remains of old ruins, Agartha FINALLY gets the thorough fleshing-out that it has since deserved, and I’m just glad we got to go there at long last.

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But Children Who Chase isn’t all sunshine and roses. Awaiting Asuna and Morisaki is an adventure rife with death, and a thorough demonstration as to what happens when man attempts to bring those passed back to life. Foolish, blind greed and a gaping sense of loss are what separate Morisaki from someone pure-hearted like Asuna. But in the same way, the journey of letting go and understanding what “goodbye” truly means allows for the film to end with an odd, lukewarm sensation of happiness. Adventure yields danger, but to those who learn their lessons, the hope to live a fulfilling life burns on. God may be a cruel teacher, but so is history.

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Children Who Chase Lost Voices is far from a realistic story, and thus, the pattern of Shinkai’s fantasies ending contentedly continues. Is he trying to say that reality is just full of heartache and nothing else? Perhaps so with his next couple of films.

The Garden of Words (2013)

Before there was love, there was loneliness.

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A personal favorite of mine, Shinkai’s The Garden of Words provides a 46-minute feels trip through an unusual couple’s short-lived romantic spat.

Tenmon takes a break from the music to allow talent like Daisuke Kashiwa’s immersive piano soliloquies to establish an atmosphere unlike ANY other. And the visuals—THIS is the incredible level of quality which defines Makoto Shinkai’s digital landscaping, lighting, and realism today. Visually, The Garden of Words remains the most beautiful short film I have ever seen, and it will probably hold that title for a long time to come!

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On a rainy morning in Tokyo, aspiring shoemaker Takao Akizuki does what every student on a rainy day wishes they could do—he skips class to sketch designs in the city’s beautiful garden. Thinking he’d be all alone in this calm misty weather, he accidentally meets a beautiful yet reserved young woman. Her name is Yukari Yukino, and though she continues to skip out work to drink and eat chocolates in the garden, Takao takes a liking to her poetic words. To [figuratively] get her back on her feet, Takao offers to make Yukino new shoes. And thus they vow to themselves: for each day it rains, I will spend time with her/him.

More rainy days arrive, and as the two secretly convene in their garden of words—of shared acceptance and belonging—the two unknowingly start to lighten their own personal burdens just by being together. Tokyo’s rainy season may be long, but like all good things, it doesn’t last forever. As warmer days creep ahead and the chance for precipitation diminishes, Takao and Yukino’s relationship risks drying up like the rain which brought them together.

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The Garden of Words paints the true vision of life’s loneliness before love intervenes. It’s the gentle story about finding solace in another, and learning to alleviate one’s personal worries through something as simple as conversation. At first, a lack of courage casts Takao and Yukino as an awkward couple. Only after Yukino is revealed to be a teacher at his school do we see the true separator at hand: the age gap, and the societal notions that place stigmas on teacher–student relationships. YUKINO KNEW THE WHOLE TIME, yet held of on saying anything for fear of judgement. And in the end, Takao yells at her, forcing her on her feet through their compelling emotional conflict.

Realistic in every sense of the word, its finale feels bittersweet, yet resolved. Separated from each other, the two resume pursuing their own personal aspirations. Though somewhat sad, in truth the ending is optimistic about the different directions Takao and Yukino take, as it was through comfort in one another’s presence which allowed them to find their way back on the path—and with a stronger, more confident “footing” this time around.

The Garden of Words rings true as the new Shinkai standard, but thematically, it revolutionized Shinkai’s game: for the first time, a realistic story does, in fact, yield a happy ending.

Someone’s Gaze (2013)

There are a lot of things you two have forgotten.

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Returning to form, Makoto Shinkai cranks out another charming yet touching short (6 minutes in length) with the release of The Garden of Words. It hearkens waaay back to his beginnings, with the simple yet relatable tale of a girl and her cat. Aa-chan lives in a near-future Japan, and has recently made the big transition of living on her own following graduation and the start of a new job. With her mother working overseas as a doctor, her loving father is left behind at the apartment with the family cat, Mii-san, who happens to be very old by this point. Seeking a way to reach out to her, her father tries several times to reconnect with his distancing child, but the gap is too awkward for him to bridge. Eventually Mii-san passes away, but this sudden grief holds the power to reunite a tired daughter, a busy mother, and a lonely father.

All that emotional energy conveyed in such a short time serves to remind us as to Shinkai’s greatest strength, that is, being able to make his viewers experience heartbreak followed by hope (or hopelessness) in a matter of mere minutes. Someone’s Gaze is especially relatable, as the burnout experienced by today’s youth and the parental fear of their children growing up in today’s world both hit us hard at some point in our lives. With maturity comes opportunity, but that often involves temporarily leaving an old way of life—and the people in it—behind. In truth, familial bonds change over time, and as we grow up, it can be hard to maintain that “want” to communicate.

Like The Garden of Words, Shinkai permits for a realistic story to end optimistically hopeful, perhaps marking that the guy really is turning a new leaf from his long history of depressing, failed love stories.

Cross Road (2014)

I sought to find something great, and while it may not have been what I expected, I found something . . . or rather, someone. 

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Although this latest short is actually just a 2-minute commercial for the Z-Kai cram schools, it was still directed by Shinkai, and holds that same breathtaking, picture-perfect style to boot. As college entrance examinations draw near, two students living completely different lives focus their time and energy into a correspondence education service. Juggling their studies with their already-involved daily lives, the two diligently work towards that high goal of college admission, unaware of how much they share in common. It’s a brief yet inspiring “work hard, play hard” preview into a film that I can only imagine would’ve been absolutely stunning had it received the length it deserved. Not as absurd as those 30-second Cup Noodle ads, but even just a couple minutes more would have doubled the story’s length. I suppose we don’t always get what we want; such is life.

Despite the let-down of a run time, Cross Road still manages to follow a truncated version of the Shinkai formula: two individuals in similar situations are separated by different lives, but their unexpected meeting reveals that, through hard work, the hope to overcome their challenges increases. Call this a lighthearted take on the next and final film—the realistic outcome of what possibly could have been.

Your Name. (2016)

Wherever you are in the world, I swear I will find you again—no matter what. 

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Your Name. exploded onto the anime scene, continuing to break record after record until it became the highest-grossing anime film in the world (among other nominations). Funimation and Madman Entertainment’s combined efforts to license, dub, and promote the film through staggered theatrical releases maintained its hype not just for the remainder of 2016, but for most of 2017, too. Even now, anime fans who are finally getting around to watching it share their praise with the community, reviving the excitement of this rom-com drama to no end. By this point, Your Name. wasn’t just another Shinkai film—it was a moving, breathing phenomenon.

Like any high school girl born and raised in the Japanese countryside, Mitsuha Miyamizu craves the wonder and excitement of city life. Unfortunately for her, the family’s shrine needs its maiden, restricting Mitsuha to her life in the boonies. Meanwhile in the lively Tokyo, high school student Taki Tachibana labors away at his part-time job with the hopes of eventually pursuing a career in architecture.

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One day, Mitsuha awakens to an unfamiliar ceiling, but the chic apartment and bright view of the city skyscrapers instantly identify as Tokyo. “This is my dream life! But wait . . . wha—I’m in a boy’s body!” Out in the countryside, Taki finds himself waking up in a similar frightening situation. A strange phenomenon swapped the two’s places, and in order to figure out the reasons for their predicament, Taki and Mitsuha live out random days in the other’s shoes, learning about the differing lifestyles, and that above all, fate works in mysterious ways. As Taki and Mitsuha desparately begin searching for the other, their actions begin to dramatically impact the course of destiny, forever altering the threads of fate which tie them together.

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Your Name. almost feels like the culmination of all of Shinkai’s themes, plot points, and even character personalities that make a work, well, Makoto Shinkai’s. Enormous skies, photo-realistic cities, intense lighting, a calm atmospheric music score, themes based on things taken for granted in daily life, and lots of trains. THIS is what Shinkai represents to us now, and on that cinematographic level, Your Name. is perfection. (Also, like, Radwimps wrote the greatest insert songs to an anime EVER.)

A girl and a boy torn apart by an impossible distance, but brought together through circumstance and, of course, fate. At first, that distance is literal: Taki lives in Tokyo, while Mitsuha resides miles away living her humble country life. And part of that is the trick, the gimmick behind the landscape facade, for as soon as the big reveal of the comet Tiamat’s destruction is made, BOOM—time turns out to be the true separator here. Though Taki felt confident and sure of this feeling tugging at his heart, his confession was sadly three years too late.

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And because of this he suffers. Mitsuha suffers. These star-crossed lovers save their beloved Itamori and all its kind, caring folk, BUT—as if their story weren’t painful enough—one last divider severs their last chance of reuniting: their memories of each other are lost to time. Is it a realistic element? Hardly, but it does lead to one of the most happily fulfilling endings I’ve ever experienced. Here’s why.

Makoto Shinkai’s latest film borders on tragedy. Up until this point, it was about to become the biggest heart-breaker in anime film history. But thankfully, Your Name. appreciates a sort of cosmic balance to all the good we do—Shinkai calls that seemingly magical, underlying, connecting force musubi, and we can thank it for honoring Mitsuha and Taki’s feelings for one another. By the film’s end, the two are left with just that—a subtle feeling of the all their shared struggles, surprises, happiness, sadness, inspiration, appreciation, love. . . now memories lost to a different time.

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But when distance tried to physically separate them, Taki and Mitsuha took the trains;

When time placed a rift between them, dreams gave them clues to find each other;

When katewaredoki briefly cut their first meeting short, Mitsuha fought on to finish Taki’s mission;

When memories of one another’s name left their minds, love held on tightly to that lingering feeling—that’s why Taki wrote “I love you” on Mitsuha’s hand, for bridging the timeline gap at twilight involves giving up memories of the other. Names will fade, but emotions have the power to transcend time;

And when tragedy attempted to end their tale of romance and miracles, fate reconnected the strands of love to the cord of hope. Thus, Taki and Mitsuha became destined to meet again.

Separated by distance, connected by fate.

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What Shinkai’s Works Have Taught Me

Have you ever felt that “feeling,” that despair of something that can’t be changed or is beyond your reach, but you still long for it anyway? I’d like to call it “love,” but Makoto Shinkai interprets such a complex emotion as “longing in solitude.” It is only through loneliness that we understand what compassion really feels like, after all.

Shinkai’s works tend to feature unusual yet somewhat realistic relationships, which more so play out as bittersweet than truly tear-jerking (save for maybe Your Name.) He covers a broad range of relationship stages, too, from the cutting of ties and moving on (5 Centimeters Per Second) to the early beginnings of expression (Garden of Words). Unlike most film writers and directors, he delves into themes like pain, longing, yearning, loneliness, and emptiness to give the audience stronger, almost more common emotions to connect with. His creative use of time laps emphasizes this distance or emotional disconnect that the characters and audience experience, and his hyper-realistic visuals never fail to immerse you in the setting he wants, be it on faraway roving fields of green, a quiet Tokyo apartment, or a rainy day in the park.

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Most of all, through distance, Shinkai is able to explore the gap between two people’s feelings: why it exists, and how it is a natural part of the human experience. Life isn’t that glamorous fairy tale that Disney or Hollywood make it out to be. Instead, Shinkai tells us it can be messy, and often times painful to shoulder alone. It’s okay to fall both in love and out of it, as people are always changing. He also teaches that you can, in fact, grow as an adult; emotional maturity has nothing to do with one’s age, for even as adults we can get lost on our path. 

None of us are invulnerable to emotional struggle, grief, and even depression. But none of us are forever doomed to loneliness, either—such is why even his most realistic works end in both sadness and happiness. After studying all of his films, I can confirm that NO CORRELATION between the level of realism and whether the ending is positive or negative exists, as Shinkai doesn’t sugarcoat the reality we live in. He presents it for what it is, which has its fair share of good and bad times.

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Ultimately, no amount of magic or sci-fi gimmicks can determine whether YOU chase after the ending you want, for you, too, are constantly growing and learning new things. The hope that we can always change for the better resides within us all—you simply have to decide who you want to be for yourself, and make that leap of faith over the scary distance to connect with another. While you’re at it, don’t forget to enjoy life’s little things we often take for granted.

In Makoto Shinkai’s picturesque, emotionally charged films, I found a rekindled passion for life’s hidden beauties, and so long as he continues to explore the growing distance between us and how finding solace in another can heal our emotional wounds, I’ll always look forward to his next creation.

I still don’t know what it really means to grow up. However, if I happen to meet you, one day in the future, by then, I want to become someone you can be proud to know. –Makoto Shinkai, 5 Centimeters Per Second

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Afterwords

At a touch over 5,000 words, this is officially the longest post I’ve ever written, and if you read all of it, you’re my favorite person ever—I hope you learned something new! As you can tell, Makoto Shinkai’s works mean a good deal to me. Most find them repetitive, as in “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” But really, that’s not the case, as each offers a different commentary on relationships and life, even if the execution or premises feel very much the same. So instead of fighting against the argument, I wanted to write this—to leave behind my innermost thoughts and emotions on Shinkai’s films in hopes that whoever stumbles upon this in the future might feel the same way, and that I can comfort them with my musings.

Have you ever resonated with one of Makoto Shinkai’s films, be it his oldest shorts or his latest hits? If so, do you happen to have a favorite or two? I want to know! If you’re fairly new to this director, was Your Name. your introduction to Shinkai’s scenic style? You have to let me know that, too! I’ve met several new faces (including a dear friend) through Your Name.‘s theater experience (which you can read about here), and I hope that you, too, get the chance to share one of his films with a friend or even a lover.

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This officially concludes my comparative study over the creative works of Makoto Shinkai. It’s been a long time coming, what with the writing process and reserving time to rewatch ALL of Shinkai’s films in order, and I’m finally glad I got to share it with you. Despite being terrifyingly long, it’s one of those posts I feel proud to have written. Please let me know any thoughts of the films or this post down in the comments, as I’d love to hear your feedback! Also, feel free to share this to any Shinkai fans you know out there!

As it happens to be on love and romance, I saved writing this post for February, so Happy Valentine’s Day, my dear readers! Whether you spend this season of love with others or save it for yourself, know that I’ll always be wishing you good health and happiness! Thank you so, so much for reading this lengthy analysis—’till next time!

With much love,

– Takuto, your host

Celebrating the New Year with a Reflection on my OWLS Experience! | Blogmas 2017 Day 12

Hey everyone, welcome to the FINAL day of Blogmas! Due to the holidays, I got a little behind this year. But we can still work with that—for this post, I’ll be combining my last big moment of 2017 with my New Year’s wishes to you all! Together, we’ll briefly look at how OWLS has changed me for the better as a blogger, a writer, a listener, a learner, and ultimately, a human being.

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A Review of my First Year with OWLS

(No spoiler-warning necessary~!)

Why Did I Join?

If I were not a member of OWLS today and noticed their tour going on, the thought of joining a group that stood for “Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect” would never have occurred to me. Looking deeper at what they represent (acceptance of all people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and disability), I definitely would’ve said “No way” to joining. I’ve already tackled in September’s “Treasure” post that I struggle with the Four D’s (Death, Divorce, Drugs, Depression), and that I’m no good with sensitive subjectsw. It’s not that I’m incapable, it’s just that I’m rather “average” on topics like gender roles/equality/terminology/titles. To be frank, I felt very unknowledgable on the matter(s), as I just never gave them much thought in my daily life. Simply, if someone had a preference on being called “he, she, or they,” didn’t matter to me; I would acknowledge their preference, and oblige by whatever they’d like. It’s just a pronoun, after all. The least I could do was accept their choice.

Then it hit me: wasn’t that exactly the kind of person OWLS was looking for?

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That wasn’t the tipping point for making me join, though. I’d never really been a part of a blogging “team” before, and I didn’t want to jump the gun when I knew I blogged infrequently as-is. With my limited knowledge, I knew that blogging groups or circles had deadlines, requirements, rules, regulations, and that was just stuff I wasn’t up for. I knew my strengths, and I definitely knew my weaknesses.

So I turned back to the recruitment messages that were sent to me (OWLS wasn’t around at the time, so I would eventually become a founding member, heh heh). Reading on past the gender stuff, I noticed more things that OWLS emphasized: importance of respect, kindness, and tolerance to every human being. Yeah, more emotional mumbo-jumbo. Not my style. I remember telling myself to sleep on the thought, so I did.

My days at high school went on. I was taking an AP English course that combined English composition with world literature and the human experience. The class was a lot of work, as I struggled with finding the deeper meaning in works both long and short. This kind of meaningful, poetic writing wasn’t my forte, and the essay units were DEATH. But for some reason, I still liked the class. More and more, I found myself inspired by learning about works like Oedipus Rex, and I was doing off-the-clock research on my own.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I had fallen madly in love with the workings of tragedy, dark romanticism, and dramatic irony. Slowly, I started making connections to my favorite tragic characters in anime like Fate/Zero and Madoka Magica, and I felt I suddenly understood a long-lost philosophy, a secret order to the world known only by the truly enlightened. And before I knew it, I was thinking:

Maybe . . . maybe this English stuff was for me.

And maybe . . . this OWLS thing would allow me to vent this hidden passion.

So I joined. Unqualified as I felt at first, I signed myself on for what would—unbeknownst to me—eventually become a journey of understanding both entertainment and myself on a very deep, personal level.

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At first, things felt pretty good. With each monthly topic, however, I felt the distance between what I wanted to personally say to my readers VS what OWLS wanted me to promote grow. On several occasions, I was graciously using the flexibility of the monthly topics to better fit my own messages and themes. I would feature very fictional characters and premises that were, well, unreal. From robots and artificial intelligence of Time of EVE and Blade Runner, to elves and half-elves in Tales of Symphonia, to the FREAKING cast of Evangelion, which is already infamously loathed enough. My opinions were unpopular. On top of it all, few even knew the shows that I picked, regardless of them being favorites of mine, and thus it was harder for people to relate to what I was trying to say.

As a result, I changed my game to work harder on making my posts “stand out.” I’d try a variety of different writing styles and visual formats, from writing “letters” to poem-ish outlines, and even including my own personal experiences. Going even further, I’d spend extra time on editing images that I put in my posts, using a variety of apps to give form, shape, and emphasis to the entire look. Though this extra work caused me to be a little late some days with releasing posts, the changes made me feel better about both my writing and my self-esteem.

STILL, I couldn’t give a lecture about gender identity. I couldn’t vouch for those fighting a terminal illness, nor living with a mental disorder. It felt as if there was a group of intellects working their butts off to make an impact, however small, and then there was me, the janitor working off of everyone else’s great posts. I felt a bit isolated because I just didn’t know enough about what exactly it was we were fighting for. I thought there was just no “click” between me and the others. At one point, I felt taking a couple months off OWLS just to read a manga featuring LGBTQ+ hardships or watch anime regarding depression and suicide with the hopes of “fitting in” with the discussions on our Twitter and Discord chats.

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But I knew, deep down, that those works weren’t the ones that truly interested me. They may have been great stories—masterpieces even—but everyone has their own tastes. From my own experiences, you can’t write sincerely if you don’t feel passionately about what you’re writing. So I turned to examine myself once again: I have lived a decent life, one with few “big obstacles” and unbearable hardships. Sure, I get a bit lonely at times, but doesn’t everybody? Towards the middle of 2017, I changed the focus of my writing. My mission became this:

Write about coping with everyday life, the troubles we face, and above all, the things we can learn from history. Explore the dark underbelly of the average mind and procure remedies to changing our outlook on humanity. Through the negatives, we can understand the positives, and hopefully go from there. Combine my reviewing strengths with thematic analysis to “knock out two birds with one stone.”


Despite ALL my inner turmoil and struggle to fit in with the other OWLS posts, however, you all kept supporting me. The other OWLS members were cheering me on the whole way. In typical “me” fashion, the reality was that I had made a big deal about nothing. The OWLS members who ran the monthly live streams described my posts as “detailed, heartfelt, and poetic.” And through the busy, busy months of inactivity (spring and summer), OWLS gave me a purpose to write, and it kept my blog alive and well. I’m thankful to OWLS for not only allowing me to be a member of a fun and friendly team, but also for giving me the chance to do some long, hard thinking about why I write, and what I want to learn in the future. Honestly, they’re the best kind of people that I feel unworthy of being around and writing for, but like their mantra states:

We are a group of otaku bloggers who promotes acceptance of all individuals regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and disability. We emphasize the importance of respect, kindness, and tolerance to every human being.

Should you join OWLS? Gosh, well, as you can see it took me a hot minute to think about that myself. But if you are willing to work hard for a good cause, and are passionate enough to write about anime and the pop culture medium, this might be the otaku group for you!

At least, I now know it’s the family for me.

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My Top Five Favorite OWLS Posts that I Wrote in 2017

It’s hard to pick favorites. I don’t like doing it, but in the spirit of the 12 Days of Anime, 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! 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 2017’s posts there! Alrighty, here we go—let’s wrap up 2017!

RUNNER UP: 

 Tour #1 January – Kiznaiver, Where Change is Worth the Pain | OWLS “Disruptors”

We All remember “that first time” we did something. Stepping out the gate with my first OWLS post was pretty scary, but even reading this now, I can recall the slight feeling of motivation I felt while writing the ending. It served as my review of the show, and it also had some sociology nonsense stuff in it. But YES, oh the memories!

Life Lessons Learned: 

  • It is not always the positives that make people seek change.
  • We must not shame, but accept the bizarre, the wacky, and the weird that reside within each of us.
  • Don’t be afraid to stick up for the things you believe in—odds are, someone else believes in them, too.

NUMBER FIVE:

Tour #5 May – Grimgar: Stronger Together, Now & Forever | OWLS “Strength”

This was the first time I tried a different writing style. It was also where I was coined as a “poetic writer” because my post was formatted to, simply put, look like a poem. Straight from the heart, I went in with no outline whatsoever, and very few times did I hit the backspace key; if it was typed in first, it was typed for a reason. I like to think it turned out okay. Plus, I thought this show totally hit the monthly theme on the head!

Life Lessons Learned:

  • For a team, true strength lies not solely on one’s shoulders, but in faith in one another—in overcoming adversity and misfortune together.
  • Tragedies and bad experiences in life can be used strengthen your being; what doesn’t kill you does make you stronger.
  • You are only alone if you choose to be. Similarly, one may be strong, but a team is stronger.

NUMBER FOUR:

Tour #2 February – Yuri!!! On ICE Goes the Distance for Life & Love | OWLS “Flight”

Yo, I looove Yuri!!! On ICE. Y’all already know that (and no, my bias towards the show isn’t what put it on this list). The reason I picked February’s post for #4 is because it inspired me to live a cleaner life. Now wait, I know you think I sound pretty egotistical for saying that “my own post inspired me,” but I’d be lying to you if I didn’t mention that putting this post out there did in fact encourage me to live life on the free-er side. I felt inspired to live more vicariously, without regard to what I could and could not control, and that made my stress decrease immensely. Also, I was recently sent a Twitter message saying that this post (specifically, the last bit) inspired another fellow blogger to write a review over a film that they loved in a similar fashion. Isn’t it the goal of all bloggers to get messages like these?? Anyway, I hope it helps you if you ever feel that you’re just letting life pass you by!

Life Lessons Learned:

  • Leaving the comfort zone can allow you to unlock potentials you thought you never had, or better yet, complete a part of you that had been missing.
  • True sportsmanship is doing the best you can, respecting your competition, and making memories doing it with others.
  • You only get one life: live truthfully. 

NUMBER THREE:

Tour #9 September – “Orange” is Sweet & Sour, Yet All The More Beautiful | OWLS “Treasure”

I’ve mentioned numerous times in this post my discomfort with discussing depression, suicide, and the like. Well, September was my first shot at the whole mess, and because of all the heartwarming comments I’ve received, I got to learn so much about not only the issues at hand, but also many of your own lives. It wasn’t an easy post to write, but of all of these, it’s one that I was most glad I had. Also, isn’t the header image so pretty? Orange‘s art is so aesthetically pleasing!

Life Lessons Learned:

  • When helping others with sensitive issues, it’s hard to know what to say at exactly the right time. Don’t hate on yourself for messing up—you tried, and that’s admirable enough.
  • Every life is precious—treasure each and every day, the present, the moment, and yourself.
  • Do your best to live without regrets.

NUMBER TWO:

Tour #12 December – In This Corner of the World: A History Lesson on Hope & Healing | OWLS “Warmth”

After writing for 12 consecutive months, I was surprised to see that I still had the stamina to push on with December’s final post. Though I felt a bit wordy with this one (it’s one of the longest posts I’ve written!), I like to think that every single word is there for a reason. At first, I thought the film I featured for this month was okay, nothing too fancy, but definitely decent. The more I thought about it, however, I came to realize that it was not only one of the best, but also one of the most important watches of 2017! It touched my heart enough to force me to spit out many BIG lessons on the human experience! I would’ve put this down as my #1 OWLS post for 2017, but it was missing one vital, personal touch.

Life Lessons Learned:

  • Life always goes on. Those who learn to adjust the quickest and accept the circumstances around them will have a greater chance at happiness.
  • Learn from fiction: no matter how significant or insignificant, it is all created with something valuable to be learned.
  • We all have the choice to be happy or sad, rude or nice—live the way you want to.

AND FINALLY, NUMBER ONE:

Tour #6 June – For the Team – Free! & My Swim Story | OWLS “Team”

I think it’s obvious how much this one meant to me. Almost 100% personal and taken from my own experience with a team, June’s post was not only a long-time coming, but also a story that I’m glad I finally got around to telling. It was important for me, and it should be of importance to you, should you care to know more about who I am! It was also a hard one to write, as I recall staying up until past 3 am the next day (late) just to finish it, and word it exactly how I wanted to. It’s an autobiography, a blog tour post, and a review of a beloved series that is dear to my heart.

You all reached out to me in the comments on this one, and for that alone, I am forever thankful.

Life Lessons Learned

  • If you find yourself losing your passion for something, or are stuck with a team that frankly isn’t filled with the most wonderful of people, then be that wonderful person for the team.
  • Determination, perseverance, and ambition speak volumes about people.
  • Life is fleeting. Savor the bests of each moment, and never forget your actions can cause ripples, unknowingly inspiring others in the process.

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Happy New Year From Me to You

That’s the end, folks! Between all my OWLS posts and the experiences I’ve shared with all of you, this is the list of things I learned in 2017! Now you, too, have the opportunity to carry these timeless lessons into 2018! Did you have a favorite OWLS post of mine? If so, please let me know! Even though I get behind on comments, I always value your thoughts and opinions, and I am ALWAYS grateful to those who simply read my posts!!

Oh yeah, this also FINALLY includes Blogmas 2017 and the 12 Days of Anime! I got sooo behind, but I’m so glad I did it because I got to reconnect with all of you. Writing for each day of Blogmas was surprisingly fun, and I never got tired (just busy). Next year, I’ll definitely have to stay on top of it better!

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for all your support over this past year! There were several gaps of inactivity in 2017, and one goal for 2018 would be to fill in those gaps with more reviews of titles that I cannot wait to watch. Thank you for being patient with my responses, and for letting me know when I do a decent job at something (it’s the little things that go a long way, right?). The blog’s almost at 300 followers, so it’d be really awesome if I could say about 100 people joined the cafe each year!

So here’s to you, to me, to all the wonderful things we’ve done, and to the many, many more exciting things we’ll do together! Already, I have made my peace on Twitter, but again, I’m wishing you all a year full of good health, healing, and a ton of luck~!! I’ve got many projects in mind—one in particular to kick off 2018—so please look forward to that! As always, my favorite bunch of people in the vast sea of the internet, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! And until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host