The Ravishing, Elegant Imperfections of “Welcome to the Ballroom” | Blogmas 2017 Day 9

Hey everyone, welcome to (a very belated) day 9 of Blogmas (whoops)! This past summer, two sports anime aired simultaneously, and I decided to follow them to see which would wind out on top! Today I present a review of the show that finished airing about a week or so ago, the anime about a young boy’s experience as a ballroom dancer, and how the sport challenged and changed him for the better!

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The Summer of Sports: A Review of Welcome to the Ballroom


A spoiler-free review of the summer 2017 anime “Welcome to the Ballroom,” produced by Production I.G, directed by Yoshimi Itazu, based on the manga by Tomo Takeuchi. 

Entering the World of Dance

Tatara Fujita’s another one of those introverted third-year middle schoolers with no aim in life who very soon has to make the big high school decision. On one of his particularly average days, he is harassed by delinquents, only to suddenly be rescued by an imposing gentleman on a motor cycle. His name is Sengoku, an energetic professional dancer on the international level, and it is through some miscommunication on Sengoku’s part that Tatara ends up at his dance studio. There, he meets a girl from his school: Shizuku Hanaoka—the woman of his dreams—and it is partially because of both her charm and Tatara’s own desire to change himself that he enters the world of dance. The free-spirited Sengoku sees potential in young Tatara, and thus decides to show him the steps.

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Through his experience with dance, Tatara meets many people, friends and rivals alike, who will each challenge Tatara not only as an athlete, but as a young man coming of age. And it is through this same interaction with Tatara that other dancers feel encouraged to take steps to overcome their own issues and flaws. His feet will get plenty sore, and he’ll fall on the dance floor many, many times in practice, but Tatara keeps on going because of the enjoyment and wonder dancing brings into his otherwise goalless life.

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From Slouch Stance to Swing Dance

One of the most exciting times to be alive was Welcome to the Ballroom‘s beginning. Its first six or so episodes set up a pretty strong premise, not to mention a promising standard of animation quality. From Tatara understanding how to stand up straight and correct his terrible slouch to learning the waltz’s basic box pattern, I truly felt inspired to try waltzing around my room like I used to so many years ago. You just want to see more and more of the characters and the sport they all love—it’s first several episodes are addictive! But it’s hard to maintain that same adrenaline over the course of one dance competition alone. Let me elaborate.

Over the course of 24 episodes, we only bear witness to what, three, maybe four competitions. And it is from each of these arcs that we are expected to understand that Tatara’s skills accelerate at a terrifyingly quick rate. One does not instantly become a pro by attending merely a couple competitions, though; the reality is that it takes tens, if not hundreds of events like competitions that challenge one’s entire range of skills. I know Tatara wasn’t defined as a “pro” by the end of the series, as he clearly still has much to learn, but the fact that he was able to equally rival some of the series’s known-to-be-greatest dancers felt somewhat unbelievable.

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And while we’re on the subject of shounen arcs, a single dance could last two or three episodes, while a competition could span as great as nine or so episodes. What’s with that pacing? Had the competitions made shorter, we could’ve made room for more of them, which might’ve balanced the characterization better. In its defense, I imagine that my issues with the slow pacing would be way less apparent watching it now in marathon format as opposed to over the course of SIX MONTHS.

Where the series fails to be a completely smooth run here and there, it definitely makes up for it by proving to be VERY entertaining. Each episode does leave you craving to know what might happen in the next round, or perhaps to see which couples end up clashing on the dance floor. My pacing dissatisfaction wasn’t from “bad episodes” or “poor directing choices,” but rather a lack of action worthy enough to fill a whole episode (especially by the end). It’s not filler, it’s just slow-moving, and I suppose I’d rather a show take its time than push forward and leave out development.

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Finding Something to be Good At: Tatara & Dance

To give him credit, Tatara Fujita does practice A LOT. He’s a hard worker, and in fact, many shots in the series focus on characters walking into the studio, only to discover a tired Tatara training through the early hours of the morn. Where he struggles with verbal teachings, Tatara is incredibly gifted at duplicating dance moves he has seen. Odds are that this is the reason why he is able to fair well against many dancers, including the experienced ones.

Either way, he struggles with communicating what he wants, and as such fails to grasp the masculine hold that a couple’s lead should possess. This translates across to his external conflict: great shyness, nervousness, and a lack of self-confidence around others. He dances in secret, embarrassed by being a male dancer, and is unable to make friends as a result, nor tell his dad about his newfound hobby. Mentally, he is fighting to “man up,” accept dance as a part of himself, and discover what dancing really means to him—this is all while chasing after Sengoku’s shadow, of course. Overall, I like Tatara, as his conflicts are not only relatable, but his efforts to respect and embrace what he truly loves are praiseworthy, too! Through an unlikely sport like dance, Tatara finds that one thing he wished he could be good at, as well as a way to express his true, repressed, artistic spirit.

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Finding Kinship in Competition: Hyoudou & Gaju

As mentioned, several challengers oppose Tatara over the course of the series. Though they are mainly boys a tad older than he is, there are a couple of older men who provide valuable lessons and wisdom on the sport. Sengoku is the obvious culprit, but his lack of attention to Tatara kind of makes him a dick of a coach. He does have his own professional career to worry about, I suppose. And I do see why Tatara (and heck, everybody else) idolizes the guy: for all his goofiness and trouble with verbal instructions, Sengoku knows his stuff, and he sure is one eye-catching, dynamic dancer.

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Then there’s the other leads, namely dancing prodigy Kiyoharu Hyoudou and the brash, loudmouth Gaju Akagi. On their own, Hyoudou’s seemingly perfect career is suffering from a hidden injury, and the way the show handled his behavior and mannerisms was quite realistic and well-handled. It’s always a surprising dilemma to see “the star” in trouble, but it can happen to anyone, and the road to recovery can really deter one’s once-blazing determination. Every time he appeared from the shadows and opened his smart mouth to make some stupidly detailed analysis of Tatara’s mistakes, however, I did low-key want to punch him in the face.

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If Hyoudou is Tatara’s foil, then Gaju would be more like your standard, overly zealous competitor, the epiphany of dominance over one’s partner. He is the glue that holds the group together, though, and in times of relaxation and relief, it’s Gaju’s presence that brings out the casts’s nice chemistry.

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Finding a Partner: Chinatsu & The Struggle to Connect

At first, the other female dancers seem like standards for Tatara’s partner(s) to reach and eventually pass, but thankfully, that’s not how Ballroom works. While I’m told the manga (which I can’t wait to read) fleshes out the female characters better, as you get read their thoughts, I found myself nonetheless enjoying Hanaoka’s untouchable nature and the cute Mako Akagi’s hidden glam (seriously, the Tenpei Cup final was EPIC, and I love Mako’s yellow dress). Even the adult females like Sengoku’s partner Chizuru or Hyoudou’s mom Coach Marisa serve more purpose than just being there for Tatara—they all feel like real people with their own attitudes, weaknesses, and ambitions.

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As much as I loved Mako’s adorable yet strong-willed spirit, my favorite female character was one introduced in the show’s second half: Chinatsu, Tatara’s fiery future partner. Characterized as the polar opposite of Tatara—fierce, strong, bold, and most of all, a true leader—Chinatsu poses a lot of problems for Tatara (and frustration for the viewers, too). She’s essentially everything that he’s not, and her unwillingness to accept her own issues and work through them calmly (and fairly) with Tatara sets up a rocky, explosive relationship just waiting to burst. How Chinatsu’s existence changes EVERYTHING reminds me so much of Shinji and Asuka’s relationship from Evangelion, and it’s probably the reason why I like their dynamic so much.

Simply put, she’s everything that makes him uncomfortable, and he’s everything that challenges her very being. 

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The anime’s ending tries to cap off their relationship with a sudden “everything’s gonna be ok,” but we all know that more fights and fits are bound for this couple in the future. Their animosity was just handled so well, so powerfully, and it arguably made the long second half bearable for me. The struggle to connect and find a partner is a very intimate, vital thing, and I’m glad it wasn’t underplayed.

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(To avoid spoilers, obligatory shoutout to Kugimiya and his partner Idogawa, as it was their character development that made the final competition so impactful!)

A Dancing Anime Without the “Dance”

Ballroom blossoms beautifully when it’s moving. Seriously, it’s freakin’ wonderful. But fluid scenes on the dance floor are sadly few and far between, which is odd considering that a powerhouse like Production I.G is behind the helm. This was most viewers’ biggest beef with the anime adaptation, as the manga’s pages are rife with striking, expressive motion (which seems odd for paper, but just open up a volume whenever you get the chance). Way too often than what should be allowed for a sports anime, we are treated to still frame, after still frame, after still frame, which are guided by someone annoying (like Hyoudou) verbally leading us through what should have been a thrilling, visual feast! Don’t get me wrong—Every. Single. Frame. Of this anime is drop-dead gorgeous. Like, those dresses, holy shit, wow! But man, I was sighing throughout so many of the dance scenes because I just wanted to see SOMETHING move. It could literally be a ribbon or a dress sequin—JUST MOVE IT. I really hope some animation is added to the Blu-ray releases.

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(As for the giraffe necks, I didn’t mind too much. They’re glaring at first, but after a few episodes you don’t even notice how wrong it is.)

Music, the Soul of Dance

Thankfully, Ballroom manages to stay somewhat engaging during these motionless shots because of its delightful soundtrack. Perhaps this is because of musician Yuuki Hayashi’s own experience as a rhythmic gymnast; the man already knows how to match tempo and tune with fancy footwork. Hayashi is a rising favorite of mine, as he knows how to perfectly time moments that should be epic with music that is absolutely epic. From moving ensembles like “Ballroom, Shakou Dance” to THE MOST UPLIFTING BEAT OF THE CENTURY, “Ganbaritai Kimochi,” how you can’t NOT feel the emotional weight? And don’t even get me started on the dance music—waltz, salsa, jazz, swing, samba, cha-cha, Charleston, Merengue—so many styles, and so much respect for each time period’s jams!!

Hayashi’s able to take a simple melody and turn it into a gorgeous, heartwarming waltz, or even a snappy, saucy tango. I was just so happy to see my favorite time signature, the waltz’s 3/4, be revived in modern anime akin to Ouran High School Host Club‘s brilliance. It’s a shame that his dance-themed tracks would be frequently swapped out for the main OST mid-dance, unlike the continuous play like in Yuri!!! On ICE, but I suppose that makes anticipating each lovely track all the more exciting. There’s a raw love for classical strings, piano, and a bit of drums for movement in Hayashi’s internationally-infused music, and that’s why I’ll always look forward to his perfect, inspiring scores.

“Tatara’s Waltz,” “Hyoudou Tango,” “Blooming On Our Way,” “Tango City,” “Viennese Waltz,” “It’s like a symphony,” “Quick Step B,” “La Cumparsita, “Las Patineurs,” “Sing, Sing, Sing . . .” HOW CAN YOU NOT LIKE THIS VARIETY???

I’ve already talked way to much about the music in this anime, but on top of featuring a well-rounded soundtrack, Ballroom has TWO amazingly energetic openings that create so much HYPE! Both by UNISON SQUARE GARDEN (which I will now keep an eye out for), “10% roll, 10% romance” and “Invisible Sensation,” my favorite of the two, have made my “Current Faves” playlist. And I couldn’t forget about the first ED theme, “Maybe the next waltz” by Mikako Komatsu, which was sung, yes, AS A SWEET WALTZ. I JUST LOVE THIS ANIME’S STYLE SO MUCH!!

Dismantling the Stereotypes: The Beauty of Evolution

As a final note, Ballroom makes quick work of eliminating any frivolous or “girly” things you previously thought about ballroom dance. Its appropriate depiction as an equally sweaty, vigorous sport is eye-opening, and you can feel that all the people behind the project had a great respect for the sport. The anime is aware of this, and repeatedly nails in the idea that ballroom dance IS, indeed, very difficult. From the pain-staking accuracy of the sound that certain shoes make, to the flow and friction of suits and dresses, incredible attention was put into the sound effects to fully immerse you in the bustling dance floor atmosphere. Lastly, both the anime’s culturally diverse soundtrack and fashion sense pay ode to dance’s professional realities, culminating into an accurate depiction of dance’s heaviest hardships and most joyous pleasures alike.

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When it wants to be, the show is also very funny, using quick-witted humor and hilarious facial reactions to lighten an unnecessarily tense mood—something that we routinely find ourselves in.

Welcome to the Ballroom clearly has many strengths, but also several weaknesses. It boasts the allure of dancing, yet frequently fails put the concept into motion. It showcases how thrilling the sport can be, yet often drags out the effect nearly to the point of boredom. But above its faults, Ballroom promotes the beauty of evolution, the purity of youth, and the countless many possibilities that come with change and transformation. It’s a dramatic story of motivation, inspiration, and progress, both for its characters and the future of the sport itself. And by its end, I couldn’t help but applaud the valiant effort made to enlighten me on the world of dance and all its ravishing, graceful, and truly elegant imperfections. It’s that rare kind of show that doesn’t come around often—and one that should not be missed.

Dance’s physical and emotional expressions seem close, but they aren’t easily tied together. It can’t be considered a real expression unless you can reflect the outside knowledge and experiences you’ve gained. That’s why with an emotional dance, you can see through the dancer’s entire life. Joy and sorrow. Love and hate. A dance with a variety of emotions adds depth. Don’t you think that becomes meaningful enough to dedicate the time in your life to dance? – Coach Marisa Hyoudou

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Production and pacing problems aside, Welcome to the Ballroom‘s biggest issue right now is the lack of a licensing, as Anime Strike doesn’t count for CRAP! Seriously, someone please get a hold of the polished Japanese Blu-rays, dub it if you want, and I’ll buy three. This was such a long review, my goodness, but I wanted to make sure that I covered EVERYTHING about it! If you managed to make it from beginning to end, give yourself a pat on the back, and let me know in the comments what you thought of Welcome to the Ballroom in the comments! It’s a sweet, delicious “Cake” here at the cafe!

This concludes Blogmas Day Nine of the 12 Days of Anime, as well as part 2 of “The Summer of Sports!” If you couldn’t already tell, Ballroom definitely won the match, but I do love them both! Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you shortly with another belated post!

– Takuto, your host

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“DIVE!!” Flops as a Summer Sports Anime | Blogmas 2017 Day 8

Hey everyone, welcome to day 8 of Blogmas! This past summer, two sports anime aired simultaneously, and I decided to follow them to see which would wind out on top! Today I present a review of the show that finished airing first, the anime about a boys diving club and their ambition to enter the Olympics!

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The Summer of Sports: A Review of DIVE!!


A brief spoiler-free review of the summer 2017 anime “DIVE!!,” produced by Zer-G, directed by Kaoru Suzuki, based on the novel series by Eto Mori. 

Gazing up at the Concrete Dragon

A young Tomoki Sakai was inspired to join the Mizuki Diving Club (MDC) after witnessing its pride and joy member Yoichi Fujitani dive from high up off a giant captivating “Concrete Dragon.” Though the imposing diving platforms don’t literally stretch into the sky like a dragon would, the 10-meter height is enough to turn off most children and adults alike. But to Tomoki, Yoichi’s single dive proved that people can reach even greater heights through the daring sport, and thus he joins.

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Years of practice and good memories pass. Eventually suffering from significant financial troubles and on the verge of closure, the MDC hires a new coach as a last-ditch effort to promote its divers. This new coach manages to persuade the club’s sponsors to stay open, but only on one condition: the club must send one of its members to the Olympics in just a year’s time.

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If DIVE!! had one big gray area where it needed work, it’s right here in the plot. True sports anime have this natural tendency to hype you up as you’re watching. You may not know the rules of the sport, nor the backgrounds of all the characters, but there’s still a level of heart-pounding adrenaline to every failed goal, missed shot, or faulty start. DIVE!!, simply put, isn’t all that exciting. Even at its climax, I couldn’t help but compare it to how another water sports anime, Free!, handled its enthusiasm through its incredible character growth and thrilling animation sequences. It just wasn’t there for DIVE!! (which is ironic, because its title boasts two exclamation points), and I think there are other reasons for why it flopped as a sports anime.

Where most sports anime dedicate a decent portion at the beginning to understanding why the sport is so beloved by its cast, we only really have two characters to go off of: Yoichi and Tomo. Even then, Tomo just wants to feel special and catch up to Yoichi, while Yoichi seems like he could hardly care less about it all—he happened to be born with diving talents, that’s all. The goal is the Olympics, but I can’t even seem to muster the heart to cheer for these boys during practice when they keep skippin’ all the time! Sure, characters like Okitsu’s grandfather and Coach Asaki fill in that void later on, but by then, most of my interest had already been lost.

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Also, and this is a nitpick, as many good sports anime can still be notorious for this, but the lack of explanation of how scoring works, or why certain techniques are more difficult than others not only increases my disinterest, but it hurts the series’s ending: Were Yoichi and Tomo’s scores really that good? What does a standard Olympic score even look like, and where do those numbers come from anyway? What makes a triple flip that much more special than a quadruple, and what kinds of people can achieve this level of technique? Tomo is seriously just a middle schooler—can middle schoolers even enter the freakin’ Olympics?? So many questions, and no answers to be found anywhere. It almost begs me to ask whether this show is worth watching anymore. Well, if it weren’t for the characters, I’d give it a hard pass for sure.

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How Realism Shakes Up the Status Quo

As I mentioned earlier, we reach a point in the story where club members start dropping practice one-by-one, each rotating back in only for another overly sensitive boy to leave. Not everyone likes the new competition brought by suddenly raising the bar. Coaches Asaki and Fujitani (Yoichi’s dad) quickly pick their favorites, and it is that favoritism which causes jealousy and rage to seed themselves within the minds of Ryou and Reiji, Tomo’s “friends.” Ryou’s straightforwardness constantly clashes with Coach Asaki’s partiality to Tomo, and Reiji faces his own internal conflict of competition anxiety. It’s a lose-lose situation for both parties, yet it all somehow feels so . . . real. While anime like Free! glorify friendship and rivalry during swim meets, DIVE!! says that sometimes athletes don’t recover from lost pride, and that team members DO in real life leave the teams that isolate them. Aside from the MDC boys feeling way too young for the Olympics, it’s DIVE!!‘s realism that almost saves it in the end.

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Take Yoichi, for instance. He’s basically perfect: talented, hardworking, a natural born leader, has a great body, etc. But the guy can’t get a girlfriend, and he eventually faces burnout due to, well, a couple reasons. One is that he feels pushed by everyone, especially his father, to make it into the Olympics—and he totally wants to go, but he becomes sick of the pressure and expectations set by all those around him. The second is his realization that the Olympics almost seems to market its athletes more than support them. In what is definitely DIVE!!‘s saving plot point, understanding how the Olympics’s way of promoting and advertising its fine athletes affects people like Yoichi opens up a whole new level of devastation. It was, to be frank, Yoichi’s unexpected fall from grace. Ka-chan, an aniblogger friend of mine detailed Yoichi’s character conflict with the Olympics’s abuse of athletes for money in a very interesting post, which I’ll link here!

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MDC’s latest member, the towering island boy Okitsu, also has a short yet fairly impressive arc dedicated to his own passion for diving. Born and raised along the coast, Okitsu’s only ever been familiar with ocean diving. For him, the pool is like a cage, but he joins MDC nonetheless after Coach Asaki enlightens him on his late grandfather’s stunning pro-diving career. It was honestly a well-done plot point, and I likely won’t ever forget it. Watching a coach bond with her pupils like this was how it should’ve been done for everyone; she’s an integral character for this story. But there’s one character that caught Coach Asaki’s eye more than anyone.

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“Why is Tomoki so special?” Very good question. Nicknamed “Diamond Eyes” for his dynamic vision, Tomo’s as natural a diver as they come. And like all diamonds, they need a fair amount of polishing in order to truly shine. Between Coach Asaki’s intense regimen to shape Tomo into one of Japan’s greatest divers to experiencing a sense of betrayal by his closest friends, including his girlfriend, Tomo comes to realize that many sacrifices must be made to excel at something: sleep, food, free time, energy for other passions, a chance at friendship and love. Admittedly, Tomo being that distraught about losing hid girlfriend and moping about it the whole time was dumb. He’s slow to others’ feelings, and that too is quite frustrating. But nonetheless, he learns that sometimes being good at something requires you to distance yourself from others. Having him voiced by Yuki Kaji was a HUGE win for me, but ultimately, Tomo is one of the weaker characters in the story.

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Diving So Stiff that it Hurts to Watch

As I mentioned earlier, the best sports anime usually have decent to top-tier animation. It sounds very privileged of me to say that a certain anime needs to look this way or that, but man, a huge problem with DIVE!! is that it’s just not pretty to look at. Artwork? Absolutely gorgeous color palette with chiseled abs (for those in need). The water? Looks smooth enough. The divers themselves? Let’s just say they are animated so stiffly that it hurts your back to watch.

The soundtrack though, oh my gosh, it’s surprisingly great! Kohta Yamamoto hasn’t done much work for anime, but he knows how to rouse up a dramatic track when it’s needed. It helps that the music was credited to two individuals, however, the second being the great Yuuki Hayashi (Robotics;Notes, My Hero Academia!, Death Parade)! And while the OP  “Taiyou mo Hitoribocchi” by Qyoto pumped you up (for what you thought would be some good sports fun), the ED “NEW WORLD” by Yuuta Hashimoto was THE REAL BOP OF THE SUMMER. SERIOUSLY GUYS, “NEW WORLD” IS PROBABLY MY FAVORITE SONG OF ALL THE SIMULCASTS I STREAMED THIS YEAR. It’s just so melancholic, so bittersweet, so befitting of everything that DIVE!! tried to be.

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Surpass the Limits You Set for Yourself

Arguably, DIVE!! is not a sports anime, but rather a character-driven coming-of-age story for the main characters. It highlights the experiences—both good and bad, done with a team and alone—that sports can bring, as well as the realities plaguing growing teenage athletes. Unlike the happy-go-lucky Free!DIVE!! teaches us that sometimes being good at something requires you to distance yourself from others. You must decide for yourself what’s best for you, and sometimes that choice doesn’t follow what others want—that’s ok. Through diving:

  • Reiji found excitement and adventure in his otherwise risk-less yet worrisome life
  • Okitsu left the ocean and fell in love with his grandfather’s calling
  • Yoichi experienced burnout after dealing with the reality the adults preordained for him, but thanks to his team found his passions once again
  • And lastly, Tomo gained a pastime that provided him many friends and opportunities, but he had to give up many things to have even the slightest chance at victory

Unlike any sports anime that I’ve ever seen, DIVE!! focuses on the things given up or lost, rather than what is gained. Diving is solely an individual, all-or-nothing sport, after all. But even as a “diving anime,” I couldn’t distinguish between a good dive and a bad one due to the uneven animation, not that it mattered because the plot was so unfocused (the finale looked great, though). Much like its characters, DIVE!! tried to pave its own destiny, but ultimately flopped as truly engaging sports anime—or even as a piece of entertainment for that matter.

Diving is a competition that requires many long years of practice. Their future is a long one. Our duty isn’t to show them the shortcuts, but rather to teach them about the length. – Coach Fujitani

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Don’t get me wrong—despite all the crap I gave its animation and plot issues, I still actually like DIVE!!. At the very least, I clearly tried to see the good in its character development . . . maybe it’s because water sports resonate so much with me, or that I just like sports anime too much. It’s not unbearable, but you’re better off watching something else if you’re craving the thrill that comes from the genre. It’s been a while since I awarded anything with this, but DIVE!! deserves the “Coffee” recognition, as there is some decent content hidden deep below the water’s depths—if only the plot development didn’t merely skim the surface.

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Let me know what you thought of DIVE!! if you happened to watch it! Not many people did, but I’d still love to know your experience with it. This wrap up Blogmas Day Eight of the 12 Days of Anime, as well as part 1 of “The Summer of Sports!” Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you all tomorrow for part 2!

– Takuto, your host

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Completing My First “Tales” Game! | Blogmas 2017 Day 7

Hey everyone, welcome to day 7 of Blogmas!

Another quickie today, but a celebration nonetheless! This past early spring, I completed my first Tales game. For those unfamiliar with the massive franchise, the title Tales refers to a sprawling series of games, most unrelated, created by the game company Bandai Namco in Japan. They’re known for their iconic and elaborate character designs, fantasy-inspired landscapes, Celtic-inspired soundtracks, and most of all, their deep, thought-provoking adventure stories that can take just as long as a Final Fantasy game to complete. We’re talking about clocking no less than 30 hours per game!

Anyway, the Tales franchise means a lot to me. Not because I am overly familiar with the gameplay (as you can see by the title of this post, I’ve actually played very little Tales in my life T__T), but because I get my roots as a fan of entertainment in general from the fantasy genre, the Tales franchise being rich in the source. I’m a kid born and raised on attending Renaissance Festivals and Madrigal Feasts, often loosing myself in the adventurous worlds of tabletop gaming like (our adapted version of) HeroQuest (anyone remember that), TCGs like Pokemon and Magic the Gathering, books like John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice series, or even iconic films of the genre, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit to name a couple. I love fantasy—essentially, its themes of valor, honor, and justice compose my heart for entertainment.

Most importantly, Tales of Symphonia: The Animation is one of only a handful of shows to get me started on anime. If  didn’t come across the Japanese opening of the game, “Starry Heavens,” which I’ll link below, I would never have discovered the wondrous world of Japanese animation.

So here we go: to the best of my ablility, I will briefly discuss my experiences playing both Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Zestiria on the PS3 from the weak non-gamer perspective that I have!

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Loose Discussions on My Experiences Playing a “Tales” Game

(These will DEFINITELY NOT be formal reviews.)

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Tales of Symphonia

Looking back on it, Symphonia‘s anime does a really, really good job at sticking to its source material. It’s got all the major locations, major backstory elements pertaining to the main characters, and even some of the minor characters. Heck, even most of the theme songs for specific characters and towns were brought back for the anime! But this isn’t about the anime, I suppose. Back to the game.

One of the biggest problems I had with the game was the use of annoying side mazes that involved using a “magic ring” to properly traverse. It’s gimmicks like these that tend to ward me off of games—I JUST WANT TO SEE THE STORY. Some of those were really hard, too; as a beginner, I found myself referring to YouTube walkthroughs more and more as the game’s climax neared just to get passed these stupid little travel puzzles.

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OH MY GOD WELGAIA’S FREAKIN FLOORS SCREW THIS

Another beef I had with it was the English audio. As a who’s fan loyal to what I hear first, that being the anime in fansubs, I couldn’t stand the English voices for Lloyd or Zelos. This was easily fixed by changing the game’s audio back to the original Japanese, however, so it’s not so much of a problem as it was just a preference. Raine’s VA for both  was good though, so way to go Kari Wahlgren!

Where it has its minor issues, I found myself immensely enjoying all of the sidequests or story elements that were dropped in the anime adaptation; piecing together the events and locations, however major or minor, that were missing from the anime was tons of fun, as I learned many new things about Symphonia‘s two worlds and their peoples. And while I did think that the final confrontation with Mithos, the ultimate antagonist, was a bit lousy in game format (or at least it had way less of an emotional appeal to it, though movies do tend to resonate with me more), I much rather preferred the game’s handling of tying up all the loose ends—specifically, resolving the pact with Origin and the birth of the new World Tree. It had more time to fully explain itself, and now after all these years I FINALLY understand who Origin is! Woohoo!

All-in-all, finally getting around to playing (and actually finishing, holy shit) Tales of Symphonia (PS3) after six LONG years of putting it off, I can’t help but feeling so complete—the story has finally come full-circle, the adaption introducing me to anime as a media and the PS3 game engrossing me in JRPGs. Do I now despise the anime for excluding so many “crucial” plot points? Absolutely not. I still hold Tales of Symphonia: The Animation in the highest regard, as it’s still a beautiful, moving tale of the harsh realities of racism and revenge, and the hope that comes with uniting two fundamentally broken worlds—I love both iterations of the story, and I probably always will. I DO recommend both the anime and the game, so pick your poison and head out on your own adventure ASAP! (Or be like me and experience both! More Symphonia is a very good thing.)

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Ultimately, I was just so happy I could say I completed my first Tales game, but I immediately knew that It wouldn’t be the last. In fact, my second Tales adventure was awaiting me just around the corner—the end of a good school year, and the start of a brilliant summer!

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Tales of Zestiria

I remember seeing a promotional poster for the anime Tales of Zestiria the X circulating years back, and I do recall being excited for it despite not knowing anything other than that it was another Tales adaptation by the GOD STUDIO, Ufotable. After getting to see the English voice actor for Zestiria‘s MC, Robbie Daymond, in person at this year’s Naka-Kon, I knew the first thing to do as soon as I got home: purchase the PS3 game (I actually ended up doing it in the hotel room, tho >.<).

My recent success with Symphonia set my passions ablaze for tackling the next big JRPG. Once you’ve played one JRPG, you’ve played them all, right? Or perhaps, you want to play them all. From the reviews alone, I already knew that this one was going to be the easiest-to-understand in the entire franchise so far, and that it was arguably the “not-very-smart one” in the series. The character designs charmed me too much, however, and the sparkling armitization sequences just blew me away! The real draw-in for this series, voice actor meeting aside, was the anime’s OP theme, “Kaze no Uta” by FLOW. It was just the smooth, crisp 60 fps display plus the ridiculously catchy tune that made this show a MUST for me. Anyone see a trend here?

That’s right, both Tales games that I have played drew me in through their gorgeous, catchy openings. I suppose that should speak volumes about their music choice and soundtracks, no? Easily some of the best stuff I’ve ever listened to. And I still jam to this song every time I’m working out (which is rare) or whenever I need something to lift my spirits (which is often).

Unlike Symphonia, however, Zestiria had yet another thing winning for it: the fandom. Oh the ships, all the ships, I tells ya!! I’m such a sucker for anything Sorey and Mikleo, Alisha and Lailah. They’re all just so pretty, AHH!!

EHERM. Tales of Zestiria, despite all my senseless fanboying, is a beloved game that, honestly, treads many of the same lines that Symphonia did: two races trying to coexist, one “chosen” person designated to heal the land, a loudmouth (yet adorable) MC and his reserved, intelligent best friend. “Best friend ;)” All of the parallels and similarities just make me glad that Zestiria, though argued as the “dumb one,” was my second Tales game.

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As a PS3 game itself, the reviews ARE true in that the game is likely one of the easier ones in the franchise. I had very few problems in it . . . as in literally none at all. Sure, the story isn’t as deep or intricate (or emotional) as I would have wanted it to be (AKA more like Symphonia’s darkness), but that in itself makes Zestiria‘s almost overwhelming optimism contagious, and fun to play regardless of whatever mood you’re in. The visuals are, holy god almighty, some of the finest I’ve ever seen in gaming (THOSE SKIES THO F*CK ME), and the orchestral soundtrack should be on EVERY tabletop gamer’s background music playlist. Like, shit, need something that sounds absolutely LEGENDARY for a whole freakin’ hour, here you go:

To recap the Zestiria (PS3) experience, it was easy, simple, fantasy fun at its finest. You don’t need to collect many bonus items (if any at all, I skipped most of them), and the fights themselves are, WOAH, WHAT’S THIS, the most FUN part of the gameplay! I’m no gamer, and I found swingin’ around Sorey’s massive armitized swords, bow, giant fists—what have you—to be greatly pleasurable. If you’re not looking for the deepest Tales game, but one that’s great for a first-timer, Zestiria is the one for you. I recommend it.

FUN FACT: After meeting Robbie Daymond, I played through all of the game in English and loved it—proof that once again, whatever you hear first is likely your favorite. I was also incredibly hyped for the anime adaption, as it looks like the best thing to come from Ufotable besides Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, and that’s one of the most top-tier anime you could ask for! I’m currently watching the anime, and while the inclusion of the Berseria *promotional episodes* were pointless and time-draining, it’s a pretty good show. I won’t make any judgement calls now, but I’d love to review it whenever I finish! Also, for all I know, Berseria could very well end up being my next Tales game to experience, as it, too . . . well, I bet you can already guess.

It had a rockin’ OP. 🙂

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What did you think of Symphonia or Zestiria? Any opinions on their anime adaptations, either? For the record, I have seen the Tales of the Abyss anime, but that was also very long ago, so want to rewatch that some day. Lastly, are there any particular favorites or recommendations from the Tales franchise out there? Let me know! I’ve heard that Symphonia is actually one of the bests, and though I haven’t played the others, I’m gonna probably call it as my favorite. Sorry, it’s just first-timer’s bias. This wrap up Blogmas Day Seven of the 12 Days of Anime! Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you all tomorrow!

– Takuto, your host

In This Corner of the World: A History Lesson on Hope & Healing | OWLS “Warmth”

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!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s twelfth monthly topic, “Warmth,” I decided to incorporate what would have been my standard review of In This Corner of the World into a sympathetic discussion on the hardships of war and loss, and how love gives us the strength to continue being compassionate through even the worst of times.

It’s the season of joy, thankfulness, and love. This month’s topic is “Warmth.” Whether it is spending time with family members during the holiday season or with that special someone during New Year’s Eve, we will be discussing moments in anime and pop culture media that convey a feeling of happiness in our hearts. During times of struggles, we look towards the things that matter to us as a source of strength, hope, and happiness. We hope you enjoy this round of posts and that you, too, will have a wonderful holiday season!

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I’ve nothing else to say for the intro! Thank you Lyn for twelve consecutively thoughtful topics to ponder each month—I’ve enjoyed writing for all of them!


A brief spoiler-free discussion on the fall 2016 anime film “In This Corner of the World,” produced by studio MAPPA, directed by Sunao Katabuchi (“Black Lagoon”), based on Fumiyo Kouno’s award-winning manga of the same name.

New Life, New Opportunities

In 1944, life for Suzu Urano starts slipping through her tiny calloused fingers. For one, she is married to Shuusaku Houjou, a reserved young clerk, and is sent off to the small town of Kure in Hiroshima where her husband works at the local naval base. Now living with the Houjou family, Suzu must adjust to her new life, which is made especially difficult since she quickly becomes an essential meal-making, chore-doing crutch for the family. She does all of the daily housework during the tough wartime conditions, and the familial disconnect Suzu experiences between her sister-in-law—timed with the regular air raids—makes both the political and household climates feel like battlefields.

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When intense bombings by the U.S. military finally reach Kure in 1945, devastation to Hiroshima and its townsfolk, as well as its culture, forever shake the nation, and Suzu’s life is permanently impacted by the tragedies. “Much is gained by living in Kure, but with war, many things cherished are also lost.” It is only through the greatest perseverance and courage that Suzu manages to continue caring for those around her, and to truly live life to the fullest.

“Torn apart by war. Brought together by love.”

By its end, In This Corner of the World is a somber ode to history, wherein the tragedies of WWII’s Hiroshima bombing are experienced firsthand by the main characters. But before the bomb is dropped, the entire first half of the film winds us back to the 1920s, Suzu’s peaceful childhood. It starts this way to not only show Suzu’s developing story from beginning to end, but also to create the picturesque vision of pre-war times in Japan, specifically Hiroshima and its surrounding towns. As every 5 or 10-minute interval—marked by on-screen dates—brings us closer to that horrific day, August 6, 1945, your stomach starts churning in dreadful anticipation; you know what’s about to happen, and you’re almost left disbelieving how Suzu’s whole life could just fall apart in an instant.

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Akin to African author Achebe’s world-renowned novel, Things Fall Apart, which was written to show that life, law, and liberty already existed before the white man saw the need to organize, colonize, and, get this, “save” Africa, Fumiyo Kouno’s story serves to inform the viewer about the other side of the Pacific. You are put through the trials and tribulations of Suzu’s daily life, from learning to properly make a meal using rations to understanding the familial benefits of marriage, in order to hopefully understand that despite their differing customs, both the attackers and the attacked have things they want to protect.

I set up a pretty overwhelming historical background here, but the film really isn’t that political at all. Rather, its a drama centered around one little girl’s average life during WWII, and how no matter the global circumstances plaguing a household cause ruin and chaos, life goes on. That’s right, life will always go on. There are always things to be fixed, clothes to be washed, and food to be cooked. Suzu understand this, and that’s why she faces each painstaking day blessed that there’s still a roof above her family’s head. In This Corner of the World, though rife with tragedy, is ultimately a heartwarming tale of Suzu’s prevailing love and healing hands.

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A Hero at Home: Suzu Urano

Characterized as tiny, optimistic, and a bit aloof at times, Suzu Urano goes through great lengths to help in anyway she can, even if her assistance comically ends up backfiring in the end. She’s also incredibly creative, shown in both her beautiful landscape sketches and paintings, as well as when she wields her knowledge of samurai food rationing to construct some, at the very least, “interesting” dishes. Her artistic talents act as a sort of sanctuary for her, and it is through her simple yet gorgeous works that she meets many new friends and even potential lovers. But like all artistic endeavors, chores come first, and slowly you start to see the hobbies that she once did for herself fade away to make room for aiding the family.

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On top of working her hardest around the house (her efforts eventually exceeding those of everyone around her), Suzu is a girl, a soon-to-be-woman who undergoes all of the same treatments that Japanese women received during the 1900s. From stricter expectations in the kitchen and household to family-controlled courtship, rarely is Suzu the master of her own fate. Yet somehow, Suzu makes the best of what is given to her, for merely being allowed to experience the tranquility and joys of everyday life in Kure is enough to give her hope and purpose. Honestly, what a woman!

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Suzu only speaks out once or twice in the entire film—remember, this is a film that chronicles Suzu’s ENTIRE life! She many not be honest to herself all the time, frequently disregarding her own happiness and well-being for the sake of her family and her nation’s pride, but Suzu knows how to fight the good fight, as well as when to keep pushing on through the toughest of hardships. Between watching her frugal attempts at fitting in with her husband’s family, her struggle to adjust to life in Kure, and the tragedies of war she later encounters, it feels as if you physically and emotionally cannot go through as much heartache that is thrust upon her and make it out ok. Yet Suzu manages to bandage up her scars and continue making herself useful to everyone. The warmth she brings to the war-torn world embodies the purest light of hope in a time of darkness.

Visually, the Softest Movie I’ve Ever Seen

“It was like Studio Ghibli meets the Peanuts and together they talk about some pretty serious stuff.” This was my immediate reaction to the film which I posted on Twitter, and I still stand by these words now. The backgrounds are painted so smoothly, giving off an immense sense of ease, and the magical watercolor touch just feels so right. Even the characters, for a lack of a better word, look so . . . “soft.” There’s a lack of detail in their physical features, but it’s their sometimes cute, sometimes sorrowful mannerisms and words that convey their true characters. Seeing characters this adorable almost feels wrong for the tone of the film’s second half where the air raids become prominent, but it somehow works altogether as one moving, breathing, snapshot of history.

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(If you watch the special feature clip “Hiroshima & Kure: Then & Now,” you’ll understand how and why it all looks so historically accurate; the attention to detail in re-creating several destroyed sites where famous architecture once stood was very commendable.)

The luscious animation is accompanied by equally gentle music, as kotringo’s (Rieko Miyoshi) soundtrack matches perfectly with the tone. At times uplifting, other times more tender or melancholic, tracks like “Kanashikute Yari Kirenai” or my personal favorite, the ED theme “Migite no Uta (みぎてのうた)” provide lovely messages to live by: “Even in this painful and broken world, there IS hope.”

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Learn From Fiction: Heartwarming Tenderness Comes From How We Live

It is stories like Suzu Urano’s that give us all the fuzziest feelings of contentment and comfort. But like all stories, they eventually end, and once they’re over, the books get placed back on the shelves, and the DVDs and Blu-rays are ejected from their players. And that’s it. It’s all just entertainment, anyway.

*If you’ve ever thought this, then you completely missed the point as to why certain works even exist in the first place.

All fiction is written with messages, no matter how significant or insignificant. With the case of In This Corner of the World, it’s to showcase the tragedies of war firsthand, and the devastation that comes with violence. That should’ve been apparent from the synopsis alone. Looking deeper, we can understand more big takeaways from the film:

  • Hardships exist everywhere—someone is always struggling
  • Protect family, for without it we are fundamentally alone
  • Gender roles can limit individuals from reaching their full potential
  • The youth of today ARE our future
  • With destruction comes the joy of rebirth
  • By rebuilding from the ground up, we build a stronger foundation than the one before it
  • Make the most of your life—you only get one, and it goes by incredibly fast
  • WE ALL have the choice to be happy or sad, rude or nice—live the way you want to
  • Be thankful for what the earth provides, and what you can do for it in return
  • And lastly, to quote The End of Evangelion, “Anywhere can be paradise, so long as you have the will to live”

Just LOOK AT ALL OF THOSE THINGS I CAME UP WITH. And that only took me a couple minutes of reflection.

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History will always be our greatest teacher

Authors, directors, artists, musicians—Creators improve on what skills they already have in order to teach us invaluable lessons about the human experience. They have the power to take all the world’s evil and tell us that life can be incredible, so long as we don’t repeat history’s mistakes. Don’t just watch a film: enjoy what it is trying to show you. Don’t just read a book: revel in the messages left in-between the lines. Take what you learn and monopolize on it! Essentially, BE the good in the world!

In This Corner of the World presents the catastrophic effects of humanity’s cruelty, savagery, and barbarity—yes, absolutely. But it also exists to tell us that through the ashes, we can rebuild; that we can be kind to others, even if they treat us harshly; that most of all, we have the choice to see the good in this wild, wicked, unfair world.

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As a race, we have this terrible tendency to appear on the wrong side of history (if you know what I mean). The title In This Corner of the World refers to both Suzu’s tiny Kure house on the hill AND a state of harmony achieved by acknowledging and balancing the positives and negatives that life throws at us. A heartbreaking historical ballad for those we have wronged, and the terrible things we have done, In This Corner of the World is here to say that life goes on, and that as long as we try to understand one another, hope and a warm heart will always allow us to move forward.

We can love. We can rebuild. We can move on. But we’ll never truly forget.

There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self. – Aldous Huxley


This can be a hard film to watch, but it all depends on how seriously you decide to take it. It has several comedic points of value in it, as well as a very cute presentation style, but don’t let those two aspects close you off from In This Corner of the World‘s subtle brilliance and emotional depth. As a powerful, touching work of art, this film is awarded the “Caffe Mocha” seal of approval, a rating for those special titles that I consider to be a must-watch!

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This concludes my December 20th entry in the OWLS “Warmth” blog tour. Arria Cross of Fujinsei went right before me and expressed her sincere gratitude to all of her fellow readers, bloggers, and OWLS members in one emotional, heartwarming post. Now, look out for fellow aniblogger LitaKino (Lita Kino Anime Corner) with a surprise celebratory birthday video this Friday, December 22nd! Thank you so much for reading, from my first OWLS post in January to here at the end—I do hope you have enjoyed them, as I do really, really like writing them! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Double the Uniqueness! Keiko & Crimson’s Nominations | Blogmas 2017 Day 6

Hey everyone, welcome to day 6 of Blogmas!

So some good news and bad news for today:

The Good—In the past 24 hours, I have read over 45 OWLS posts from May, June, and July, and now I only have August, September, October, November, and December left. Wow, ok, so it sounds like I still have a long ways to go, haha, but it’s still progress! I’ve also, for the most part, kept up with the “12 Days of Anime,” and that’s been a blast!

The Bad—Due to prioritizing my OWLS binge (plus I have my December post coming out TOMORROW, woohoo!), today’s post will be pretty short. I’ll be falling back on the “personal” post option that I established in the intro’s guidelines, so it should still be a fun read. Plus, it’s an award—these are things to celebrate!

Without further ado, here are two very belated Unique Blogger nominations, but ones that I promised to fulfill! I’m always very thankful to be able to leave an impression of myself upon others, and that I get to be a part of such a loving community of anibloggers. It’s through these seemingly trivial awards and nominations that meet so many new faces, and I learn so much about my online friends. So thank you both, Keiko and Crimson!

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Keiko and Crimson’s Unique Blogger Award Nominations

The Rules:

#1 – Share the link of the blogger who has shown love to you by nominating you.

#2 – Answer the questions.

#3 – In the spirit of sharing love and solidarity with our blogging family, nominate 8-13 people for the same award.

#4 – Ask them 3 questions.

About Keiko (nominated 10/26/17)

Seeing as how we only met recently, I admittedly don’t know too much about Keiko. I DO, however, know that she writes many, many detailed episodic reviews for the given simulcast season, and that though her blog is self-named “A bubble of crappy anime reviews and the likes,” her reviews are neither crappy nor average. She’s cynical at times, yet seems fun to talk to, so go give her blog some love! (Keiko’s Anime Blog)

Keiko’s 3 Questions

1. If you were stuck in an anime universe, which would it be and why?

Assuming I would have been allowed the choice, hmm, that is hard. You see, I always find myself swaying between two genres: science fiction and fantasy, my mind and my heart. Since I’ve been in the sci-fi mood lately, however, I’ll pick the world of A Certain Scientific Railgun. Functioning as a sister series to A Certain Magical Index, the main story, Railgun seems light-hearted when it in fact is rife with some of the darkest secrets within the entire franchise. Why Railgun then? In Academy City, which is home to 2.3 million, most of the populace are espers, beings capable of utilizing their brain to achieve their own realities via special powers. Plus, the city has such a chic, hopful, futuristic aesthetic that is to DIE for.

Should I be allowed to pick a second universe, I’d go with Ghost in the Shell, a franchise that fully embraces cyber enhancements and the free, vastly infinite nature of the internet. You can become anyone and do anything in the future.

2. What anime left the biggest impression on you?

Easy one. Steins;Gate. It started me on the path to exploring science fiction in anime , leading me to discover more dystopian sci-fis like Ghost in the ShellPsycho-Pass, and of course, Neon Genesis Evangelion , my favorite anime of all time. Steins;Gate is just bloody brilliant, and I consider all of these works masterpieces.

3. If you were an animal, what would you be?

Kind of an odd question, haha, but one that still leaves me torn. Cats seem to live such peaceful lives, but that of a dolphin is much more exciting, where it is free to explore the entire depths of the great sea. Then there are birds, which can fly freely and soar above the clouds. I’ve always wanted to fly. If I had to pick, birds are the way to go.

Thanks again Keiko! Now onto Crimson!


 

About Crimson (nominated 10/15/17)

If y’all didn’t already know, Crimson and I go waaay back. Heck, we’ve even met in person! While I’ve remained here the whole time, Crimson has gone through much more blogging experience, including owning multiple blogs at once. Currently, she writes at “Crimson Blogs” the most. Anyway, she’s very funny, down to earth, and she loves to both write AND read, which are essential for being a great blogger. She also loves her fandoms, frequently getting me sucked into them through her wicked ways (My hero Academia). I always love reading her posts, as she frequently throws a personal twist in them that makes me understand her a bit more each time. If you’re not already, GO FOLLOW HER. DO IT! Tell her Takuto sent you, too. 😛

Crimson’s 3 Questions

1. If you could turn into any mythical creature, which would you be and why? And what would you do as this mythical creature?

Oh no, back with the creature-transformation questions, haha. As for what I’d like to be . . . can I make up my own? Similar to Paprika (from, well, the film Paprika) or even Reina Izumi from Myriad Colors Phantom World, I’d like to be a dream-eater. No, NOT the stealer of good dreams, but of bad dreams—nightmares, visions that put one on edge, causing constant anxiety throughout the night. Does something like this already exist? Anyway, I’m no therapist in real life, but I do think that people should get good sleep. By hovering around troubled individuals in spirit form, I could enter their dreams and help them fight off the force of evil eating away at their precious rest time. Then I could ease them into the deep, healthy REM sleep that they deserve. Call me your Dream Healer, or your Prince of the Night. What do you think of that?

2. Oh no! It’s the zombie apocalypse! What are your weapons of choice (up to 3 that you can realistically carry around) and what 3 bloggers would be on your survival team? Yes I’m thinking something similar to L4D.

OH CRAP, NOT ZOMBIES. I know virtually NOTHING about them, other than what is common knowledge, or what could be grasped from anime like Attack on Titan or Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. Three weapons, hmm, can they be from games or anime LOL? If so, I’d pick the Portal gun, the Dominator from Psycho-Pass, and the thermoptic suit from Ghost in the Shell. Smart pick that last one is, no? Portal open—Dominator destroy—thermoptic effects on—Repeat. If you can’t beat ’em, RUN LIKE HELL.

Now for three bloggers? Hmm, Matt (Matt-in-the-Hatt) is too good of a Christian (bless your heart). Kausus (Otaku Gamer Zone) would just be inspecting my gadgets all the time, so he’s out too (sorry boo). Rocco B (In the Cubbyhole) is . . . actually, where have you been, buddy? We need to chat more!

You know, I’m just gonna play it safe and call on the Owlets, a trio of female anibloggers who run the Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect, or OWLS (see, they’re already warriors, it’s only the best pick)! Composed of President Kat Sade (Grimm Girl) and the two lovely PR ladies, Naja (Nice Job Breaking It, Hero) and LitaKino (Lita Kino Anime Corner), these strong women already know how to fight the good fight, as they are constantly helping others overcome their insecurities while highlighting the good in the world. You three are my pick for the zombie apocalypse. And oh, if you’re not too busy Crimson, you can come too. ^.^

Seriously though, check out all of these wonderful people. 🙂

3. Related to Q2, what is your zombie apocalypse team survival playlist? Add as many or few songs as you’d like!

Since three seems to be the magic number here, I’ve got three hot tracks for ya:

AND OF COURSE . . .

Thanks again, Crimson! I won’t be nominating anyone due to these already being long-overdue, but they were tons of fun! Next time, hopefully I’ll be the one nominating you guys!


I’ve STILL got tons of catching up to do, what with OWLS posts and all the comments stacking up from the start of this holiday season, so this’ll wrap up Blogmas Day Six of the 12 Days of Anime! Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you all tomorrow!

– Takuto, your host

The Year of Anime on the GO! | Blogmas 2017 Day 5

Hey everyone, welcome to day 5 of Blogmas!

Today’s post will be pretty short, as I have skipped out the past few days of reading through the monthly OWLS tours due to being busy. But of course, we still have something from 2017 to celebrate today, and that is the rise of mobile apps relating to anime. While most if not all of these have been out since before this year, 2017 was when I found myself using them to their fullest potential.

So yeah, in no particular order of favorites, here we go!

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Favorite Anime-Related Mobile Apps of 2017

Crunchyroll 

Startin’ off easy. EVERY anime fan in the U.S. should have Crunchyroll. It’s FREE to download, and you get access to basically everything in their catalog—which is a lot, a lot, of subbed anime. From seasonal simulcasts to binging old classics, Crunchyroll is about the best you can get. I do pay for a premium membership ($60/year), and that gets me instantaneous access to the latest episode of simulcast shows in near-real time. Pretty sweet.

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Funimation Now

What would be one best girl without the other, right? Funimation made major improvements over their old streaming app, the biggest being that you do have to pay up front to use it (if you use their website, most not new, age-appropriate titles can be viewed for free). I believe it’s also around $60/year, BTW. So between Crunchyroll and my Funimation Now account, $120 gets me access to just about 4/5 of all the anime I’ve ever wanted to watch, subbed AND dubbed. I admittedly haven’t used the Funimation account to watch their simuldubs yet, but I’m sure in 2018 that I’ll cave in.

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Vudu

This year, I did start utilizing those “digital download codes” that come primarily come in anime films, and you know what, this app was surprisingly nifty! With the exciting announcement of newly released full SERIES by Funimation including digital downloads, I can only see myself using this app more and more in the future.

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VRV

Acting as a partnership app between Crunchyroll and Roosterteeth (with a little Funimation in the mix), VRV mixes parts of both catalogs as well as some J-dramas and cartoons into its own interface. I haven’t used this app much at all, but I did download it, and for the most part, its basic features ARE free!

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Pokemon GO

With its worldwide popularity seemingly plummeting after its summer 2016 release, there are surprisingly still many who play Pokemon on the go, which is cool! I’ll admit, I didn’t go Pokemon hunting much this year myself (I wish it didn’t take so long to load >.<), but seasonal events like the Halloween special did bring me back into the digital world. I just LOVE its simple use of virtual reality, and I really do hope it doesn’t die out completely in the coming year.

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Fate/Grand Order

I’m pretty sure Fate GO was the app I used most this year, and it absolutely deserves the shoutout! Highly anticipated by myself and much of the the Fate fandom, Aniplex of America’s version of the hit Japanese mobile game was widely received when it came out this summer, scoring quite well into the top 100 apps at the time. Though I have lost a little steam thanks to the large time gap in story content being updated, I still loyally check my phone DAILY to rack in all of the streak benefits. Like Pokemon GO, I’m definitely not “the best” or a “pro” at the game, but I do have fun playing, and hey, that’s all that matters, right? I’ve lost so many hours playing this amazing game, and it’s so awesome being able to plug in the fragments of what I knew and what I now know with the greater universe of Fate!!

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I told you it’d be a pretty short read! What anime subscriptions do you use? Which ones do you pay for? Does ANYONE use Amazon’s infamous Anime Strike? Also, what anime-related apps did you use this year? Any saucy otome games for iOS LOL?? Askin’ for a friend, heh heh, so let me know!! If I want to stay on schedule, I’ve got three months of OWLS tour posts to go read now, so this’ll wrap up Blogmas Day Five of the 12 Days of Anime! Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you all tomorrow!

– Takuto, your host

Celebrating Yuri!!! On ICE’s First Anniversary! | Blogmas 2017 Day 4

Hey everyone, welcome to day 4 of Blogmas!

Fall 2016 will long be remembered as the season where only one show that aired truly mattered: Yuri!!! On ICE. It was here, there, and everywhere, and like a boomerang IT CAME BACK to bless (or haunt) the fall/winter season of 2017. For about 2-3 months just this past fall, hashtags like #RememberYOIWednesdays circulated like crazy, flooding a typical “empty talk” Twitter feed like mine with hundreds of favorite scene reflections, thousands of beautiful fan theories, and seemingly infinite amounts of dangerously slutty Viktor x Yuuri artwork. (No, like, seriously, there is no end in sight, and I still can’t get enough.)

To kick off the celebration, here is a list of some of my favorite YOI fan artists on Twitter—these people are amazing, and have made every moment that much more special!! (Check them out if you’re needing that extra YOI in your feed like I do, heh heh.) Support these incredible people if you can!!

@kazu_k_yv  |  @bon0501  |  @kobayashi_niki  |  @shiro___mi  |  @sawa_nya

@yomosugara_yoi  |  @nori20170709  |  @pyhu_pd  |  @ASTRO_HO

@_nii21  |  @meyoco_  |  @mouri1977  |  @tanawwww  |  @rueamasawa

@butleronduty  |  @monoyoi  |  @CL_e_y  |  @Yuma_ice  |  @nikipedia_z

@183333ays  |  @GEAROUS

Let me know if there is someone I should be following! Do YOU recognize anyone on this list? 😉

All of their artwork reminds me of how thankful we are that such a show groundbreaking show  even aired, let alone was popularly received. I like to call it groundbreaking because, at least for me, in a time where sincerely honest romance was ruled by the shoujo genre alone, YOI paved the path to a different kind of love—the rare kind that blooms realistically, yet still possesses that magical charm. It was one precious display of affection after another, and it all came together as if it were real, albeit a touch on the fast side.

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So here we are, a year after we were wowed one episode at a time, and we still can’t stop celebrating these boys and the sport they all love: ice-skating. Cheers to all of the fans, whose optimism, appreciation, and raw excitement all contributed to one of the most emotionally thrilling times in anime that I’ve ever been a part of. For all of the far-fetched yet deeply held theories and ships, and to all of the glorious art work that has graciously passed my eyes (and eventually saved onto my phone’s growing +13k photo collection), I’d like to present—in the order they appear in the show—TEN of my own favorite moments from the anime that changed lives one exhilarating winter ago!

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Ten Yuri!!! On ICE Moments That Made Me Love It Even More

SPOILERS PRESENT—YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

1. Yuuri working out

No, I’m not that desperate for my smut. It’s just that, in general, seeing a character in anime exercise is very motivating for me. Whenever I see Yuuri working hard to get back on the ice as Viktor’s pupil, be it cold morning jogs or intense sets of sit-ups, I feel the urge to get up myself and do “something” about my own physical health. Simply put, Yuuri need to work out is both motivating, inspiring, and painfully realistic.

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2. The duel of sexual entities: On Love, Eros vs. Agape

Y’all already know how much I loved episode 3 of this show. From a thematic perspective, it sets up the two big problems that our conflicting leads each have—Yuuri’s insecurities and Yurio’s aggressiveness—and a way to solve them both. By skating the other’s expected routine, both of which choreographed with Viktor’s seal of approval, the two come to understand what it is they’ve been missing in their personalities, and how to express these unknown feelings on and off the ice. It’s smooth, genius character development, and when timed with the two gorgeous songs of the SAME melody, it’s all just so great. (Plus, Eros Yuuri is THE BESTEST BOY. EVER.)

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3. Ambiguity of “The Kiss”

One of those “typical” fave moments, but the reason I like this scene so much isn’t actually because of the kiss itself—it was the community’s reactions to the scene’s ambiguity. “Did they actually kiss?” “Yeah, duh! The lip and body outlines TOTALLY match up!” “Umm, NO, actually, it was just a surprise embrace!” For the longest time, there was no real answer, and though I am definitely glad that the creators confirmed it to be a 100% genuine lip-lock, it was so much fun watching everyone’s scientific reasoning as to why it was or wasn’t a true kiss.

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4. Yurio’s free skate program reveal

Episode 9 had a lot of great things going for it—Yuuri Katsuki’s struggle to skate without his one true love, Yakov’s brief moment of tutelage in the spotlight, as well as the next two things on this list. Arguably, my favorite moment was the reveal of Yuri Plisetsky’s free skate program. We were teased with hints of Yurio’s bold costume in the previous award ceremonies leading up to Russia’s Rostelecom Cup competition, but other than the fact that Yurio was doing ballet, we didn’t know anything else about it. In complete contrast to his beautifully developed Agape short program skate, his wicked, dangerously paced free skate was perfectly described: “A monster that continues to evolve with each performance, reaching new, impossible heights every time.” Eros Yuuri may be my favorite “persona” on ice, but Yurio’s intense skating to the powerful drumming strings of “Allegro Appassionato in B Minor” always excited me the most.

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5. The first act of friendship: Yurio’s gift of pork cutlet pirozhki 

Right after Yurio is declared the Rostelecom Cup winner, the two share a brief yet very peaceful meeting out on the cold snowy streets of Russia. Yurio’s grandfather’s creation of the pork cutlet pirozhki pleases the two boys, as it is not only incredibly tasty (I imagine), but it symbolizes blending the best of both cultures to create something amazing, much as how the entire show and the sports competition itself represents the acceptance of all different peoples to pull off something that challenges and excites the world. It also mends the somewhat hostile bond the two shared, serving as Yurio’s first act of kindness and friendship to his Japanese buddy. Ah, what joys sharing delicious food with nice company can bring~!

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6. The dog doesn’t die (also, that airport reunion tho)

Makkachin, Viktor’s adorable dog, is hinted at several times to be struggling with health issues: the somber expression when he appears lonely during the ED; the passing away of Yuuri’s own dog Vicchan prior to the events of the story; Makkachin’s strong companionship with Viktor (and already accumulated 15-ish years together); and just the cliche that the damn dog always has to die. Though it is highly unlikely that Makkachin is actually sick with anything, his emergency hospital visit did have us all panicking for a hot minute. Silly dog, Japanese buns are for kids. (And Viktor, if ya know what I mean.) Also, watching the two run side-by-side at the airport, gazing into the others’ eyes through the glass wall that divided them, was super romantic. “I wish you’d never retire.” Viktor, SLAY ME.

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7. Barcelona sight-seeing (plus the cathedral scene)

The Grand Prix Final in Barcelona was incredible, but I think what made this “calm before the storm” episode so special was getting to see the characters out of the rink and touring the gorgeous city rich with culture and art. Otabek and Yurio went on a spontaneous motorcycle ride together. Yuuri went shopping and practically PROPOSED to Viktor in front of a gorgeous chapel (ughh those round, golden rings, F*CK ME UP). Everyone walked the cool, frosty, festive streets and met up to enjoy one final meal together in very “The Last Supper” fashion. Chris took a dip in a hot tub, JJ interrupted the fun, and Phichit took lots of selfies. THIS EPISODE IS JUST EVERYTHING, IT’S YURI!!! ON ICE: SLICE-OF-LIFE VERSION. This whole series uses social media and fleeting moments of victory and loss alike to convey how short and transient life is—and this episode is the epitome of those dear-to-heart themes.

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8. Beginning relevancy and the Banquet Scene

AKA How Yuri!!! On ICE invented plot twists. SERIOUSLY THO. This revelation took the series to a whole other level, and arguably a level that was necessary to help tie up so many loose ends: Why did Viktor present himself in bold, full-frontal nude in the first episode? Why did Yuuri not understand Viktor’s emotional attachment from the get-go? Why was Viktor so quick to move to Japan in the first place? By saving this hilarious turn of events for this late in the game, the show is allowed to be seen as an absurd, light-hearted comedy at the beginning; it helps to speed up the developing relationship between the two, which makes full use of the series’s short 12-episode run. Plus, it keeps us in suspense, and allows us to be totally surprised in a show that would otherwise probably be pretty predictable. Very creative presentation (iPhone photo gallery) and use of ending credits to continue telling a story, too!!

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Ironically, getting drunk allows for everything to suddenly make sense. The entire absurdity of the first couple episodes magically becomes relevant, and that’s just awesome.

9. Yurio winning the GPF

Again, I LOVE Yuuri to death—he’s such a good boy, and he’s one of the big reasons I kept watching this show! But man, there are two big prizes to be won here at the final, and it just wouldn’t be fair if Yuuri won both of them. That said, I don’t believe Yurio won the GPF simply because it would’ve been “too much victory” for Yuuri. No. Yurio practiced hard, like, damn hard. He was already a child prodigy from the start, and unlike Yuuri, Yurio was willing to give up everything—pushing himself to the breaking point with the inclusion of his ballet lessons—in order to win the gold. Thinking back, Viktor even promised he would give Yurio the greatest senior debut one could ask for. (There’s that beginning relevancy again.) Well, Viktor wasn’t lyin’, and I couldn’t have been happier with the results. Yuuri may be the heart, but Yurio is perfection.

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10. “History Makers”

Yes, this is reference to not only the pair skate scene, but also the accredited title change in the ending credits. Did anyone else notice that the ED theme was renamed to “History Makers” with that extra “s”? You could say it stands for Yuuri and Viktor considering Yuuri’s new record in the free skate program and the depiction of “love wins” in media. It could also be for Yurio, who was not only the youngest to participate and WIN the GPF, but he, too, surpassed a record of 5-time world champion Viktor Nikiforov. But I like to think that “History Makers” refers to the entirety of the cast—all of the figure skaters who worked hard, together and for themselves, and put it all out there on the rink. After all . . .

There’s a place you just can’t reach unless you have a dream too large to bear alone. We call everything on the ice “love.” – Yuuri Katsuki


It was SOOO hard to just pick 10 moments from this wonderful show!! Also, you’ll notice that I kept it down scenes about the main three: Yuuri, Viktor, and Yurio. If I were to include the entirety of the cast, well, I’d have to have 10 moments for each of them because I love them all so much! Such great characters, despite many of them only appearing for an episode or two. Again, the fandom really made this show what it is for me now. What moments from Yuri!!! On ICE did you absolutely die for?! Let me know! I’m a little late today, but this wraps up Blogmas Day Four of the 12 Days of Anime! Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you all tomorrow!

– Takuto, your host