Chill Season is Here | End of September Update 10/3/17

Hey everyone, what’s up? I did a header image thingy for an update! Like it?

Cool weather is finally here, ahh, yes, no more 100-degree F days. I’m in college now, in case you didn’t know that, and hey, I’m surviving (yay)! While I haven’t been utterly dumped with challenging homework yet, I am keeping busy, what with symphony orchestra and the long hours of practice that accompany it.

With all this “extra time,” I’ve done a lot of anime watching, some manga reading, and more posting. That’s always exciting. Now I have to get over the second slump—catching up on the millions of comments I’ve left unanswered. If I haven’t hunted you down in my posts yet, don’t worry, I will! I just need more energy within myself to keep the conversation going, and that can be tough. Blogging is a social sport, after all.

But slowly and steadily I am catching up. Painfully slowly, but it’s better than no progress at all. Anyway, let’s briefly check out what I’ve watched, read, and written within the past couple months!

RECENTLY FINISHED:

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Netoge: And you thought there is never a girl online?—I’ve finally signed up for a Funimation Now account, and this was one of the first shows I decided to watch. At the time, I was looking to satisfy simple needs: pretty characters, comedy, and a dash of nerd humor. And what do you know, Netoge was perfect for the job! I loved this show, and I’m not gonna lie, being able to stream a dub LEGALLY felt pretty good. This was my first time hearing Dallas Reid as Hideki “Rusian” Nishimura, and though I spent a lot of time deciding whether I liked him or not, I finally decided that if I kept needing to debate it, then he likely did a good job at it. We’ll likely hear A LOT more from Dallas Reid in upcoming dubs, I can just feel it. Anyway, fun show. Would watch more, but I likely won’t follow the novels.

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Saga of Tanya the Evil—After Netoge, I was craving something gritty, loaded with dark humor and kickass characters. Remembering Tanya from a couple seasons back as a big hit, I booted up the first episode on Crunchyroll and couldn’t put it down after that. Solid action, fantastic cast, and an engaging story of man vs. fate, or in this case, “bird mouth” Tanya vs. the cruel God who laughs from on high. It was just such a solid production that it left me here screaming, “WhErE iS sEaSoN tWo?!” I definitely plan to follow Tanya’s scheming and mocking of God in the novel series, which sees its first release I believe this winter. Awesome, high energy show that never lets up. When I watch the dub, expect a review!

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Aria the Animation—I participated in the huge Aria Kickstarter by Nozomi Entertainment AKA RightStuf back in September. At first, I donated blindly at the limited edition. Then I thought, “How stupid am I? Am I really going to blindly throw $60 at a title I don’t even know if I’d like??” And just as I questioned myself, Crunchyroll put the first season on their site to help with the campaign. After a watch of the first season, I can comfortably say that my gamble was a worthwhile one. Hopefully the +$200 that went into it will be everything that I wanted and more.

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Sailor Moon S—Awww yeah, I continue to knock through Viz’s releases of the beloved 90s series and I absolutely loved every bit of it! As a child, this was basically the first anime I was ever introduced to without knowing what anime was. It brought my whole experience of running around with sparkly ribbons and costumes full circle, and by the end (which I had never previously seen or known), I couldn’t help but melt down into an emotional wreck. I could never review a series that’s this close to heart, let alone slap a numerical rating on it, but maybe for an OWLS post or something I’ll get to dig out this series once again. Looking forward to seeing Crystal III this winter with all my heart—PLANET POWER!!!!

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Death Parade—This one you might recognize from my birthday haul! And while it’s quite up on this list, I actually started it in August and finished it just a day ago (hahaha that’s what I get for trying to watch it with my sister). Anyway, it was a wicked cool trip through the afterlife, and can’t help but think that the series needed something more for its ending . . . maybe for a future installment, right? It wasn’t as 10/10 masterpiece as everyone was making it out to be, but it was dark and fun, which is what exactly what I pegged the series for. Maybe I’ll review it, maybe I won’t. We’ll see.

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Code Geass: Akito the Exiled—Another from the b-day haul, yay! After breezing through the original Code Geass this past summer with my siblings, I was craving more of the universe. This calling just happened to be answered by Funimation’s rescue release of this spinoff, which takes place between the two halves of the original series overseas in the European Union. The dub had accents for the French and other nationalities represented, which was kind of a neat touch. I especially loved Jeannie Tirado’s resilient yet caring Leila Malcal. CG was used for the mechs this time around, and while one might find that originally distracting, the wild and dynamic movement and cinematography made for some excellent fights. My only great disappointment with it was the lack of involvement from returnees LELOUCH VI BRITANNIA and Suzaku Kururugi, as they were the main reason I even wanted more Geass. Oh well, cool show nevertheless.

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Shin Godzilla—It’s not anime, but it certainly counts for the reason I wanted to watch it: Evangelion. Director. Hidaeki Anno. Need I say more? Well, HAH, I wont’ actually, because a review of this titanic hit is coming very soon, so keep an eye out!

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Orange (anime and manga)—YES, I read some manga, and YES, it was an entry ruled off of the loooong backlog!! When the books were released and the anime adaptation of it aired, the ONLY thing people talked about was Orange. That popularity has since calmed down greatly, but the series is still definitely not one to be missed—especially that manga, dang! (I can officially recommend some manga to people, this is so fun!) The anime dedicates one episode to each chapter or two, so the pacing is absolutely flawless in terms of time/scene adaptation. Each frame of the manga held so much gorgeous facial expression, and the characters were each quirky yet very attractive. I wish the anime kept up with the quality on that front, but hey, taking a picture is easier than a video, I get it. Also, the manga was significantly more emotional than the series was. I’m not sure if that was just because I knew how it was all going to end, but hmm, yeah if someone wants the tear-jerker route, read the books. Both are still wonderful!

As a last note, though I never did actually cry, I was significantly touched by the morals of friendship, and how something so simple as friends can create beautiful moments and prevent terrible tragedies. It’s all about treasuring what we have, together, and living within each moment, not through them. I based my entire September OWLS post on the Orange manga, so if you’d like a spoiler free rundown on what it presents us with, consider checking it out! It gained a lot of traffic, and I consider it to be one of my bests posts because of how it was received. So, thank you if you decide to read it (link right here)!

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Re:CREATORS—OOH, OOH, now THIS is a show that saved itself during its run!! I was so happy with how it ended, and I won’t lie, I didn’t think the series had it in itself to finish with both story and emotional satisfaction, but it did, and because if that I do plan to review it! Until then, my lips are sealed—just go watch it!!

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Katsugeki TOUKEN RANBUKatsugeki had it all: incredible animation production, excellent digital effects by Ufotable, epic music by the composer of Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]‘s score, a solid franchise, and, of course, an overly supportive fanbase. So where did it go wrong? My theory is that it simply didn’t use the weight of each mission to fully impact the characters. From what I gathered, this is supposed to be a predominately character-driven franchise, so by not involving all of the characters, it walked away with only a couple of decently developed studs. Not to offend the fangirls, but it didn’t help when they decided to add a second wave of characters—the flashy First Unit—into the mix. Now you have +12 characters running around and all I can say was that the finale was very pretty. It was all more along the lines of “not my cup of tea” than “it sucked.”

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My Hero Academia Season 2—Bro, who wasn’t watching MHA this past season, cause like, dang! I thought the first was pretty good, but this second pulls out all the stops, especially with the famous TOURNAMENT ARC in the first half. Hell, I marathoned that shit cause I didn’t want to watch it at the time, and even though the Hero Killer/Hosu Incident Arc was a bit of a slump for me, I realize the importance it will have on not only the heroes but the villains as well. I won’t say too much more because I’d like to review it, but let’s just say it inspired me so much that I’ll be cosplaying the KING Todoroki #bestboy. Also, the first OP and the second ED were FIRE, man! Can’t stop listening!

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DIVE!!—So many thoughts. So much conflict. I think I like this show? See, I’m on the fence: I’ve admitted to the fact that this show did not turn out so well, but you can still like something that’s complete trash. I want to believe there is something of sustenance in this show, and that’s a very hard thing to do. It looks like I’ll be a bit against the crowd on this one, but don’t worry, I know that it’s garbage LOL. Review coming soon for sure!

CURRENTLY WATCHING:

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Tsuredure Children—Last spring’s trashiest show made its way to my Funi account and now I’m watching the dub. Not the greatest dub, but it’ll suffice for what I’m after: romantic nonsense. I want to watch curious kids fail miserably and hilariously with their love lives . . . is that sad? Beats me, but Tsuredure is defs fillin’ the cup up! It’s lighthearted, humorous, and charming in its own way, so sure, I’ll keep tagging along.

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Knight’s & Magic—Started this one yesterday night out of straight curiosity since half of the crowd said it was awesome and the other half hated it. I tend to like things that nobody else does, so here I come Ernesti! Episode one was good so far, but I can totally understand why people thought him being from another world was kinda pointless. I mean, in Saga of Tanya of Evil, it was part of the dude’s sin cycle, but here, IDK, Ernesti could’ve been a child genius and that would’ve rolled better with everyone. Anyway, the main reason I want to watch it is because the mechs look cool, so there’s that.

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I Hear the Sunspot—This is actually a manga that was recommended by Simply Gee over on YouTube. She found it to be lighthearted, soft, and simple; a story that doesn’t need to do very much to make our hearts warm. And she’s absolutely right. It follows a squirrely young college boy named Taichi who can’t seem to hold a job without getting into fights. This particularly sucks because he’s always hungry, that is, until stumbles upon Kohei, a quiet fellow college student who has a hearing disability. The two make a deal: Taichi be his note-taker and Kohei will provide him with free lunch!

Thus we watch the two struggle to understand just what they mean to one another, and how a problem isn’t too big of a problem when two people deal with it together. It’s got just the faintest touch of shounen-ai, but don’t let that turn you off—in fact, it’s half the magic. You’ll never know how friendly the two will get, but I’m willing to follow them throughout this standalone volume. Apparently it’s author Yuki Fumino’s first manga (which is overly impressive, my god), and due to its success, a sequel is on the way, hooray!

FALL SIMULCASTS:

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Fate/Apocrypha—I’m starting to understand characters, motives, and plugging their historical pasts with the present war. Apocrypha is getting better, but it’s still pretty rough given that only one servant has bit the bullet and we’re already halfway into this thing. I just hope they don’t start knockin’ down characters one by one. That always sucks. I don’t have much else to report on this one other than that it’s still engaging, action-packed, and rich with ancient lore. Did I ever mention the soundtrack? Besides the twisted Egoist OP (which I did finally decide that I like), the epic strings and main melody behind the show is just fantastic!

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Welcome to the BallroomBallroom is, ergmm, more fun to watch when it’s moving. There are SO many still shots it’s insane! And this is done by Production I.G.—aren’t they a powerhouse in the anime industry? That’s not to say that each frame is bad (cause they’re all friggin’ gorgeous), but man, it’s a sports show that requires a great deal of movement—so GIVE IT TO US, PLEASE! Otherwise it can sometimes be hard or embarrassing to watch. On several occasions during the first half’s Tenpei Cup, Tatara makes a comment on Gaju’s moves (“so powerful;” “oh he messed up here;” “he’s doing ___ move”), but then we see . . . nothing, it’s a SINGLE FRAME. Between the lack of movement, the loss of the season’s good first OP and ED, and the introduction of a potential new partner,  I just hope Ballroom knows what it’s doing in this second half.

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Food Wars! The Third Plate—Not much to say. It’s more Food Wars! and that’s about the best thing you could have for this fall season! I’m eagerly awaiting a tango with the Totsuki Elite Ten (dat alliteration tho) and all of the funny antics to follow! Cheers to more food porn!

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Juni Taisen: Zodiac War—The only reason I’m going to watch this series is because it sounds like the Holy Grail War. It’s a survival game; personifications of each Zodiac animal come to life and duke it out for the chance to make a wish come true (or at least I think that’s what it’s about). Sounds cool, looks cool, sure, count me in.


Blogging Projects

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Let’s see, in the last “Cafe Talk” I wrote about how “Having Unpopular Opinions Can Suck,” where I finalized my thoughts on the 2017 Ghost in the Shell Live-Action (spoiler alert: I loved it), as well as how frustrating it can be when nobody takes your side. There, I’ve jotted down just a few of my own “unpopular opinions,” so if you’re curious or feel I’m relatable, check that out. I’ve shared several great conversations with people on that post in the comments section, which is awesome—that’s what it’s there for!!! I’ll see if I can get on and answer some more soon!

I also recently partnered up with fellow gaming blogger NekoJonez on his expansive Legend of Zelda project, which brings in 13 of us to tackle the entire franchise from the first game to the latest. It was a surprisingly great deal of fun, especially at the end with those last couple hours before show time, and I made some awesome friends while reminiscing on a greatly beloved title. Honestly, it opened my eyes to the possibility of future collabs and projects with bloggers, but perhaps I should build up my own personal brand a bit more, right? Who knows, but I had a very fun time, and that’s all that matters in the end. Here are the games I covered if you are curious about Gaming Takuto!

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The Great Sea: Phantom Hourglass

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The New World: Spirit Tracks

I’m Tired of Playing Catch-Up

Whew! What an update! It’s just as large as last time’s, which means I need to get back to monthly ones, not this bimonthly nonsense! I mean, who wants to stick around for nearly 3,000 words of “I did this, and that, and didn’t do a lot of something else . . .” But inconvenience is how I roll, right guys? Haha, moving on.

I guess my biggest challenge right now isn’t “not wanting to write” as much as I’m sick and tired of playing catch-up! There are just WAY to many posts I want to read and comments that I need to respond to that, when I find myself going to draft another post, I just sigh at all of the responsibilities that should come first: responding to my readers, to my guests. What kind of host leaves their customer without their order? Not a very good one, that’s for sure. I’ll work on this more for this month as my biggest goal, and hopefully I can get out of this rut that I’ve sat in for MONTHS now.

I’m tired of playing catch-up, so I’ll change that. 🙂

I’m curious to know what you guys are following this fall season! Also, did you read any good manga or light novels recently? The new SAO series coming soon makes me want to purchase and read the Alicization books, as apparently it’s the best part of the franchise so far. But time is short, so we’ll see. ALSO INDEX III WAS ANNOUNCED HOLY CRAP I THOUGHT IT’D NEVER HAPPEN!!!! Now if we could just get an adaptation of Railgun’‘s Level Six Shift Arc, I could die happily with that franchise. I hope nicer weather has made its way to you as it has me, cause I’m partying in my fall jackets and hoodies now! Hahaha, take care you guys, until next time~!

– Takuto, your host

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2017 August Anime Haul [Birthday Edition]!

Greetings cafe goers!

August was a special month for me: first day of college, beginning my Funimation Now and Amazon Prime subscriptions, and most special of all, my birthday! Thank you so much to all those who sent me birthday wishes and good cheer that August 27th! It was just another reminder as to how many friends I’ve met thanks to blogging, and how far we’ve all gone together. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Now, my siblings like to go overboard on birthdays. They’re HUGE in my house. Like, even if you’re 40 or 50 you’re gonna get a ton of gifts and feel celebrated for—that’s just how we roll!

This year, my siblings asked for a list, and while that doesn’t guarantee anything will get picked, it gives them an idea of what I like (even though they already know by now). As always, I try to remain cost efficient, pulling together items that are currently on sale from various sites and places into one big list of fairly inexpensive anime-related items.

At the time, the biggest sale going on was Funimation’s end of summer (or was it middle of summer, I can’t remember) sale. We’re talking $5 films, $10 classics, and $30 new shows—that’s like RIDICULOUSLY CHEAP. And for that reason, I can understand why I received so many new titles. I’m now gonna brag about how cool they are by showing off what I got, so thanks bro and sis!

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My sister gifted to me one of the big hitters, if not THE biggest, of 2015: the chic yet suspenseful Death Parade. We’ve already busted it open, and have been watching an episode each night to relieve stress (or to add to it since there’s so much suspense and, well, death). She also got me the Trigun: Badlands Rumble film, and while that’s neat and all, I don’t have Trigun, nor have I watched it. There’s a reason she gave it to me (and wrapped it in my signature paper wrapping decorated with hints to the show as a little guessing game) . . .

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AND THIS is why she got me the film, hahaha she had coordinated with my brother!! Now I can enjoy this classic and not feel bad that they spent a ton of money on anything. He also got me the last book in the Bakemonogatari trilogy, which I’ve been reading since the first, Kizumonogatari.

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But he doesn’t stop there, oh no. He got me the SECOND big-hitter of 2015, everybody’s favorite Blood Blockade Battlefront, as well as the next film in the Project Itoh trilogy, harmony. (I showed the first film, The Empire of Corpses, to them, and told them the history of the project’s writer. Guess it must’ve made him curious.) I haven’t watched either of these yet, but I can’t wait!!

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To finish of my Ghost in the Shell collection (which I also showed to them the 1995 film), he got me the second of two OVA sets, which contains borders: 3 & 4Ghost Tears and Ghost Stands Alone. While I thought that Arise was mediocre at best, I am a collector, and this is just as wonderful as receiving a 10/10 title!

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LAST BUT NOT LEAST (oh god, how truly spoiled I am), he gifted to me this curious little oddity I found in the RightStuf 30th Anniversary sale, Freedom, which is supposedly from the creators of the apocalyptic Akira. I haven’t watched either of these yet, but I’m excited to explore more of the anime sci-fi branch and its origins. Plus it came in this stupidly high-quality box set (despite being under $30), complete with a mini artbook and YES black Blu-ray cases. Again, thank you so much bro!!

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But OF COURSE, I had to spoil myself #treatyoself with two titles that I’ve been VERY excited to watch! The first, a short series (like Arise, composed of four or five one-hour-long episodes) which takes place between the legendary Code Geass‘s first and second seasons: Akito the Exiled. After rewatching the series with my siblings this past summer (which they ABSOLUTELY LOVED TO DEATH), getting this ASAP was a must. Now we can enjoy the events that took place between the two seasons, as well as witness stunning CG mecha fights. I’ve plugged in the first two episodes, and so far it’s quite entertaining. Oh, and it came with an art card set like the first did, YAY! (ugh I’m wet for Clamp artwork.)

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The other movie I picked up was the wildly anticipated 2016 Japanese masterpiece film Shin Godzilla. I’m not a huge Godzilla fan, but knowing that Evangelion director Hidaeki Anno directed this project, too, made it a MUST HAVE. I NEED to know what he worked on between 3.33 and his upcoming 3.0+1.0 in order to understand the emotions running through his mind (or dare try), so the other title I need to pick up is Sentai Filmworks’ The Dragon Dentist, which I believe comes out in the fall.

I also know that Life-in-Japan YouTuber Sharla (Sharla in Japan, Sharmander) worked with the lead actors and actresses on pronouncing their English, as there is quite a bit despite being an otherwise subtitled film. I like Sharla, her videos being a large source of relaxation, exploration, and fun for me.

For another #TakutoMovieNight on Twiter, I watched Shin Godzilla as soon as it came in and I LOVED IT to pieces!!! Still not converted to a full-on Godzilla fan, haha, no, but the directing is very much like his films (1.11 especially), to which I honestly can’t get enough of. I’ll review it sometime if you’d like, just know that it’s already a thumbs up from me! When I watch it again, I’ll try out Funimation’s English track to see if it’s any good!

That’s all from me! For those wondering, I had a nice relaxing weekend with the family, to which we exchanged good food, laughs, and films together. Specifically, we continued the tradition of watching a film of my choice, and to follow up last year’s 1.11 (review here), we watched Evangelion 2.22 (review here).

Surprisingly, it left my parents intrigued as to what happens next, so my dad decided we’d watch 3.33 (review here) the following week. That made me happy. After watching it, however, they both got pretty confused (no surprise there), but I still think that they hold as much hope for the last film as I do, and that also reassures me.

In otherwords, it’s been a very Evangelion weekend, but I wouldn’t have it any other way~!

Again, big thank you to all who said such kind things to me throughout my little holiday!! I’ll be posting an End of August Update soon, so look forward to that! I really do have the BEST, most supportive family one could ever want, both IRL and through the net. Thanks for making my day that lil’ bit of “extra” we all need! Love you all, you party crew!!!

– Takuto, your host

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Having Unpopular Opinions Can Suck (GitS LA + more) | Cafe Talk

Uf, I can’t believe I have to write this post. But something has to be said so that I can have closure on this subject.

That’s right, we’re diving back into the live action Ghost in the Shell 2017, which I had previously covered in my review. Before we get too deep, however, I had written a more formal review about the film which you can view right here. It’s got most of my thoughts, from casting and cinematography to world-building, set design, and the soundtrack. Speaking of, Lorne Balfe has been graciously releasing a couple tracks each Friday in response to the fans’ call (mine included), so that’s really awesome of him!

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Welcome to “Cafe Talk,” a comment-welcome segment that, while it doesn’t happen as often as it should, is pretty fun to write! With this one, frankly speaking, we’re talking about being pissed off when no one likes your opinions, and exactly how much of a downer it can be. Sound relatable?

Your Opinion Doesn’t Suck, People Do

What can I say? You’re typically never in the wrong for harboring an opinion (unless that thought potentially threatens, harms, outcasts, etc. a person). Opinions are just personalized ideas, views, or judgments, and ideas are just that—intangible concepts. Alone, opinions and ideas can’t do much of anything, but when tagged together with a voice, that’s when things can get interesting.

Communication tends to happen after one’s opinion is formed; they seek out other individuals, groups, or even communities to see how their opinion stacks up, and whether it’s a favored or disfavored belief. More often than not, your position is accepted (YAY) as the popular opinion (hence the world “popular”).

You’ve done it! You’ve got nothing to fear!

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Last day of shooting, posted on Instagram by Juliette Binoche (Dr. Ouelet, right) and Scarlett Johansson (Major, left). They’re so happy I’M CRYING

Unless you’re like me, in which a chorus of crickets followed by intense booing ensues upon opinion delivery. You’ve just created an unpopular opinion (DAMMIT), and should you choose to continue to be vocal with your convictions, you’re life is about to get a bit harder. Just remember, this is NOT your fault—it’s a very human thing to stick with groups and label others as outcasts. You’ve just decided to bring something new to show-and-tell, and that scares the weak, the non-creative, the non-accepting, the unadventurous, the unappreciative, the crowd-followers.

Here, to console you, I’ll share a few of my own unpopular anime-related opinions cause, like, we know your thoughts can’t be as near as bad as mine, heh heh heh . . .

  1. I like Sword Art Online (oh crap, we’re starting with a strong one)
  2. I like Sword Art Online II more than the first (yes I just went there)
  3. Sailor Moon Crystal is a pretty enjoyable and strong adaptation of the original manga (no going back now)
  4. KILL la KILL‘s fanservice isn’t that off-putting (hi Kausus :3)
  5. Danganronpa: The Animation is a great adaptation of the game
  6. I don’t mind Kickstarting anime localizations
  7. Typically, I’d rather meet the English voice actors of a show rather than the Japanese seiyuus
  8. I thought The Empire of Corpses was a cool film
  9. Bryce Papenbrook is a good voice actor (in most cases, NOT Kirito)
  10. The Future Diary (Mirai Nikki) is fantastic NOT just because of Yuno Gasai
  11. “Monster girl anime” seem stupid
  12. Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) should NOT be skipped; both it and Brotherhood hold well on their own, respectively (same goes for Deen’s Fate/ stay night)
  13. Free! is NOT just about muscles and wet boys
  14. No Game No Life is not recommendable because it doesn’t end (same goes for Deadman Wonderland)
  15. Madoka Magica: Rebellion is a masterful film
  16. I love Robotics;Notes and Chaos;Head almost as much as Steins;Gate, even if Steins;Gate is the best
  17. The Viz Media English dub of Sailor Moon is better than the DiC dub
  18. I enjoy all of the Pokemon films
  19. Higurashi’s second season Kai is better than the first
  20. The Eden of the East films complete the story wonderfully
  21. Watamote is a funny anime, not a sad one
  22. The live-action Ghost in the Shell (2017) is an incredible and artistic film that respects its sources and holds quite well on its own

. . . Wait, that last one, “That’s not even cool bro . . .”

*cries*

So now that we’ve broken the ice (and melted it), let’s get this out of the way.

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My Unpopular Opinion, an Argument

Ghost in the Shell (2017) was a film that I walked out of not pondering endless sci-fi wonders, but feeling warm and tingly inside instead, which is quite unlike any entry in the franchise thus far has made me feel. But rather than chastise it as “something so far off of the original path that it’s unrecognizable,” think of it as a new side to the franchise. Ghost in the Shell has always been about vast interpretations and new ideas anyway, so why not welcome this unique artistic approach regardless that it looks like the black sheep in the herd.

Even Mamoru Oshii, director of the original 1995 film (which is much of 2017‘s inspiration) only wished for Directer Sanders to not be bogged down by his and Kenji Kamiyama’s Major (Stand Alone Complex), but to create his own as another face to the franchise.

Clearly, a lot of heart was put into visualization of the world—you can feel that the director was going for something GitS, but altogether a new and innovative vision [more relevant to our times].

I loved this fresh spin on the franchise, even if it admittedly bit off a little more than it could chew by trying to tie in so many homages to the franchise that, in fact, make each installment distinct from one another. And like any adaptation, if I wanted to see the original story all over again, I’D JUST WATCH THE ORIGINAL.

And about the casting, I’ve paraphrased a YouTube comment that quite honestly deserves a million likes:

“It’s controversial, but not incorrect casting. Major is an “Asian woman” in a European frame (robotic body), sure, yet part of the theme of cyberpunk and the series/movie revolves around self identity and what truly makes someone themselves—their experiences and actions. The people who said she should have been Asian were not only missing the entire movement of the franchise, but were critics just trying to push their political agenda onto a beloved title. Likely, they didn’t know the source material and went, “Oh, but, it’s Asiany and it’s made in Asia, sooooo.”

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What it Feels Like to be Crushed Your Unpopular Opinion

After I put myself out there, I definitely got “politely flagged” by other community members. They were responding to me, just trying to kindly say that they didn’t care for the movie—and that’s fine, especially since they were so nice!—but you kind of feel, I don’t know, down. It’s like you’re floating on your own raft out on the open waters, which are filled with bloodthirsty hate-filled sharks. And then you’re suddenly reminded that nobody is going to come and save you, so it’s either hold strong to what you value, or let it all go to the sharks.

And you know what? I’m still here, floatin’ away in this little hell all because I like the live action Ghost in the Shell. Stupid, right?

When you value something that others simply don’t, you start to get lonely. Nobody wants to waste their time attempting to scrounge up the very few “pros” that exist (if any) just to please you. They’ll notice, maybe console you saying something like, “Yeah, it could’ve been better,” or perhaps remind you once again as to why your opinions are dumb. But then they’ll go and find something else to talk about, and it almost leaves you feeling guilty for liking (or not liking) what you do. After all, you just missed out on a potentially awesome conversation—if only you shared the same opinion, that is.

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By having an unpopular opinion, you can feel isolated and at its worst, ashamed. You almost wish you could naturally hate something like everyone else did, or fall in love with something the way everyone else did. And then your problems would be gone—But THAT itself IS the problem:

Without your differing ideas, there would be only one main belief about something, and where’s the fun in that? Because you decided to explore where no one else dared, you walked out with something that no one else has, and you should embrace that, not hide it away!

Which is why I’m going to say it:

 “IT’S NOT JUST A SHELL. THE LIVE-ACTION GHOST IN THE SHELL IS NOT JUST A FREAKIN’ SHELL.”

I’m sick and tired of people—reviewers, critics, heck, even the media—calling it that just to make some stupid-ass pun. The SAME stupid-ass pun at that.

So from this experience that I had, I learned that you should always:

DELIGHT in the fact that your opinions may be different than the rest.

BE HUMBLE with your beliefs, proud but open to suggestions, discussions, and different viewpoints.

SUPPORT the things you love, for they brought you joy.

And for goodness sake, ENJOY something because YOU like it, not because others tell you not to or that you’re supposed to.

Don’t let all of the negative opinions and hate bog you down like it did me. Don’t let it! Hate puts your mind in the gutter, and honestly doesn’t feel good at all. You start second-guessing yourself, “Should I really be liking this,” which is EXACTLY what happened with this film for me. Instead, we should all keep on loving anime and the opportunities to ponder, interpret, and discuss that it has brought us. THAT is all you have to do!

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Have you ever had an unpopular opinion that struck you so deep that it brought unwanted hate your way? And did you defend your case in the respectful way you should have? Also, have you ever felt lonely or isolated for liking something that nobody else does? List some for me like I did, as I’m very curious! And almost more than that, I’m SO HAPPY to finally put my thoughts on this film and its controversy to rest. When it was in theaters, I had gone it THREE times (and saved the tickets just for this post), and as of now, I have purchased the artbook, the Blu-ray, and an adorable little Funko Pop of the iconic Geisha! And whenever the soundtrack comes, I’ll buy, support, and listen to that, too! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Halfway into the Summer Simulcast Season | End of July Update 8/8/17

That’s right, we’re halfway through the summer of anime! Even though school kicks up in a couple of weeks for many (myself unfortunately included), at least we’ll still have the exciting finales of many great titles to look forward to. Speaking of, what have I been following this summer? Let’s take a look!

But before we dive into what’s new, despite the lack of reviews I’ve actually watched a lot of anime this summer. For the recently finished titles, I’ll be looking as far back as the end of May until now. Crazy behind, I know! Also, I’ve got pictures in my updates now, so that’s cool!

Recently Finished:

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Bungo Stray Dogs Season I – Bungo Stray Dogs fans already form this occult following; either you love it and are willing to buy everything Bungo, or you’re just biting your nails until it’s over. I found myself on the latter side, but hear me out!! Animation: awesome. Characters: great amusement. Story: entertaining enough. So where did it go wrong for me? It lies in the identities of the characters, or rather, who they are pingbacks to in history. From what I grasped, each boy identified as an allusion to a famous author in history. Half the fun of the show was, like with Fate or Touken Ranbu, probably in seeing how these historical figures interacted with one another, and sadly, my literary history is quite lacking! Maybe I’ll give the second season a try, but I’m in no hurry at the moment.

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Buddy Complex – This was actually a title I was intending on reviewing once I finished, but I got caught up in other things before that could happen. Anyway, Buddy Complex is a title that went unnoticed as it aired—it even got a release by Funimation, sub only, though. That’s sad, cause I would’ve bought the heck out of a dub! I LOVED this anime. While it felt so cheesy and cliche at first, it kept on making all of these nonsensical calls that only made me curious as to how badly it would crash and burn in the end. Surprisingly, I found myself enthralled with how everything came together. It only goes to show how much a little OVA or two can make the world of difference. Definitely glad I didn’t give up on Buddy Complex, and hey, maybe I’ll revisit it when I pick up the Blu-ray.

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Hanasaku Iroha – If there’s one title I’ll remember for my 2017 summer, it’ll be this one. So soft and sweet but knows when to throw down the hammer, Hanasaku Iroha stands as another WIN for P.A. Works, and a huge victory for slice-of-life/drama shows. I could go on, but I actually tied my review for it into this month’s OWLS post, a two for one you could say! Here it is in case you missed it!

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Corpse Party – Ugh, I knew what I was getting myself into before I even started. Watched it with a couple of friends, one who said that we had to watch it. It wasn’t fun. At least I didn’t waste too much time on this shit show.

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Eureka Seven – Do you know of that one title that EVERYONE loved but you didn’t? For me, it’s Eureka Seven, and this is particularly tragic considering as I was really hoping to walk out of it claiming it to be perfect. I mean, it’s got all of the elements of a mecha anime that I love, but it was the characters that dropped the ball for me. All of the Gekkostate crew were dicks to Renton, and rather than taking the time to work him into the team, showing the audience some of their personalities in the process, they all either picked on him or ignored the poor guy! I guess they were certainly a realistic bunch, but not a crew that I would ever want—and these are supposed to be the good guys! The whole way I kept telling myself, “It’s gonna get better, it’s gonna get better,” and when it finally did in those last 12 episodes, it soon after ended. It’s the first time community hype has ever failed me. I’m still eager to watch the three new films within the coming years; maybe those will change my mind about the series.

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Fate/Grand Order: First Order – Anyone else utterly consumed by the Fate/Grand Order mobile game? If I ever have a spare hour, you know what I’ll be doing: plugging away, earning gold four-star EXP cards until the next story update. Anyway, this is just a 45-min adaptation of the game’s beginning, and it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, I could have watched more for sure. Like the recent Fate trend, it wasn’t done by Ufotable, but whoever did make it did a pretty solid job with it. Nothing too fancy, but pretty cool for those playing the game. Otherwise it’s a pass.

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KADO: The Right Answer – Unlike what the popular opinion about the ending is, this was a show that intrigued me from beginning to end, making me ponder endless hours as to the possibilities, the what-ifs, and could-have-beens about our own universe. KADO may have been done up in 100% CG, but not only is it good CG, the impossibly smooth texture of the models gives the series that extra edge, making it feel all the more otherworldly and spatial. The series is about a cube measuring 1 kilometer on each side (I think) that suddenly lands on a Japanese airport runway. A mysterious man calling himself a being from outside the universe offers mankind gifts beyond comprehension, but they may only keep those gifts if they make the right answers to his actions. Awesome show, might have to review!

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The Vision of Escaflowne – I DID IT LITA, I FINISHED IT!!! About a year ago, Funimation created a Kickstarter for the show’s 20th anniversary and a new English dub to go along with it. I supported it, and when I received the first part in the limited edition box I remember being overjoyed! It was my first Kickstarter, after all, so it kinda felt like owning a piece of history that I contributed to. I finally picked up part 2 this summer, watched it all, and finished just a couple days ago. While I was simply swept of my feet with the first half, the second started off pretty rough. At least it pulled itself together for the ending, and I’m glad to have watched another 90s gem. Will review this one for sure, so please look forward to that!

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Divine Gate – Hahaha I can’t believe I’m using my free 2-week Funimation trial for this dumbass show. I finished this one earlier this morning, and while the English dub was quite satisfactory, everything else about it . . . wasn’t. Like Buddy Complex and KADO, it was the trailer that convinced me to watch it, even if the YT comments were screaming otherwise. Call me a badass. But yeah, it had an exciting premise with decent animation to back it up (granted that other than the characters it was all CG), but man, either it needed a longer run than 12 episodes or Studio Pierrot (Tokyo Ghoul) just reeeaaallly sucks at adaptations. It was a tolerable show, but it’s not anything to write home about.

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Tales of Zestiria (PS3) – Takuto played a game?! Yup, gotta do anything for the Tales franchise! This marks my second Tales game, first being Symphonia. While Symphonia offered a much, much better story (it’s actually one of my favorite stories in any media ever!), Zestiria‘s gameplay was a lot more fun—and easier, at that. For me, a person who does very little gaming, that’s incredibly important. I set out on this adventure after meeting Robbie Daymond at Naka-kon. He’s the Viz Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon, Prompto from what is it Final Fantasy IV(?), and he’s Sorey from Zestiria. It inspired me to hear more of him, and seeing as how I’m already acquitted with the Tales franchise, and that I had been anticipating watching the anime for MONTHS now, I just put it all together! Fun game with great, playful characters. I’m very much excited to finally start the anime!

Currently Watching:

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My Hero Academia Season 2 – I mean, who’s NOT watching this show by now?? It’s the new hottest thing, all the kids love it, and I’m no exception. After the dazzling events of the sports festival AKA TOURNAMENT ARC (which I binge-watched), things had settled down in Izuku Midoriya’s world for just a second before rapidly picking back up again, reminding us that even in a world of tournaments and school games, the kids are being trained to be heroes, and heroes have to fight villains. As the second half of this sequel takes MHA back to its roots, I can’t help but miss the true fun and excitement of the tournament. My eyes are still yearning for more Todoroki being his half-n-half badass self, and the thrill of Bakugo’s explosive attitude (and powers), but season 2 is all about the original story, and I guess that’s A-OK too. It still has about 6 episodes to go, so hopefully it can peak the excitement that the first half boasted by the end!

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Re:CREATORS – This show was my EVERYTHING when I was marathoning the first 12 episodes that had already aired. Now, not so much. The show is still very good, still visually pleasing and entertaining as a story. I think it’s just the shift from watching the beginning straight through to now where I catch an episode each week. It feels very slow now, and I don’t want to blame the story on that if it’s just the way that I’m consuming the show. Re:CREATORS was a show that I myself hyped up on Twitter a couple seasons back, which has a stacked production cast including Ei Aoki (Fate/Zero) as director, Hiroyuki Sawano on music, and TROYCA as the studio, three components that made up the exciting guilty pleasure of mine: ALDNOAH.ZERO. It’s a show about popular manga and anime characters that are brought to our world by a woman in a strange military/priestess outfit, proclaiming to the creations to force their creators to change their worlds. It’s easily the most interesting simulcast I’ve watched in a while, and I can’t wait to see where it goes!

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Fate/Apocryhpa – Did someone wish for a year of Fate? Well, with Fate/Grand Order, Fate/Extella, Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel, and the newest adaptation to this perplexing arena, Fate?Apocrypha, it might feel this way. I’m a HUGE fan of this franchise, but I am a stranger to this tale about the Great Holy Grail War. Set in an alternate universe to Fate/stay night in where, during the Third War the Grail was stolen by the Yggdmillenia family (that name tho), the Mages Association must reclaim the relic before the family goes too crazy with it. Noticing the intended competition, the Grail conjures up 7 servants of Black to serve the Yggdmillenia family and 7 servants of Red for the Mages Association in addition to one Ruler class servant to oversee the war. It’s a clusterfudge of 14 vs. 14 and all I can say is that I’m glad this show was announced with 26 episodes cause MAN, I DO NOT KNOW ANYONE. JK, I’m slowly picking up names and goals, but if there isn’t some big fighting soon then I’m gonna be in a fit. Rather than Ufotable at the helm it’s A-1 Pictures, and while I’d like to complain, so far I can’t. I can feel the hard work that’s being put into the animation to compensate for Ufotable’s signature high quality style, and so long as the characters keep on interacting and learning about one another, I think the show will turn out just fine.

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DIVE!! – This is by far the quietest entry on my simulcast list. Very few people are tagging along with the MDC boys and their journey to the Olympics simply because, well, it’s unremarkable so far. Unfamiliar viewers have been labeling it as another Free!, but we all know it’s far inferior to that beloved title. Animation is pretty average, but the art of the characters does look quite nice. Also, I’ve been jamming to the nostalgic qualities of the ending song!! Something about it reminds me of good times I used to have, IDK. If DIVE!! is lucky, it’ll complete its run telling a full story all on its own, because I know very few would stick around for a sequel—if it even got one. Still, I like DIVE!!, and yes, I’ll keep on watching. 🙂

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Katsugeki TOUKEN RANBU – If there’s one show I’ll drop this season, here it is. No, it’s not because the show is bad by any means, it’s just that I am a complete stranger to this generally otome-catered title. It’s sword boys the anime, what can I say? From what I’ve grasped (ha, grasped), it’s about famous Japanese swords that are reincarnated as bishi boys to stop an organization that threatens to alter the course of history throughout time. Did I get that right? I just wished Ufotable took up Apocrypha instead of this because so far, while it’s a very pretty show, I’m still wondering when the main course is supposed to be served.

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Welcome to the Ballroom – Annnnd I’ve saved my favorite for last, BALLROOM E YOUKOSOOOO!!! I love everything about this anime, from the sharp character designs and snappy, fluid dance movement to the soft color palette it has. This anime has reigned as most people’s No.1 title for this summer, My Hero Academia aside since it technically is a spring leftover. The show is about Tatara, a young boy who falls in love with professional ballroom dancing after being saved by Sengoku, a dance coach, from some bullies. He’s invited to the studio, where he becomes entranced by his secret idol at school, the beautiful Shizuku Hanaoka. Shortly after, Tatara finds himself taking up lessons in anticipation to one day earn the right to dance with Shizuku on the ballroom floor. The problem is that he’s not the only one that’s head-over-heels for Shizuku, so unless he practices hard he’ll lose the girl and possibly much more! It’s a sports anime that takes me back to when I simulcasted my first sports anime, Free!. While I was hoping for DIVE!! to bring me back to those days, Ballroom has outclassed it in all areas. As the exciting opening song invites us onto the floor and the waltz-like ending theme brings the day to a close, I look forward to this show each and every week! Bless Ballroom and its 24-episode run!!

*deep inhale* And that’s what I’ve been watching lately. Thanks to the NOT-SO-LOVELY services that are Netflix and *shudders* Amazon Prime, I’ve been left with little option but to find my anime elsewhere, as I am not supporting giants that I know can get their money from other resources. That said, it’s been kinda hard moving around the various sites, and it reminds me of days where I did nothing but pirate. I don’t like to do it, but I do help when I can by paying for a Crunchyroll membership, buying Blu-rays (frequently), and very soon, paying for a FunimationNow membership. Sometimes we’re left with very little choice, and I like to think I’m still helping out.

If you didn’t already know, my lack of content here stems from some house/room remodeling and simply not wanting to write. Part of that was also my job, where I work as a lifeguard. When we work, it’s not a shift, but open to close. That means that, on the days where I work, very little watching can get done, meaning less time to review, too. Summer is coming to an end, and so is life-guarding. Maybe now I’ll get more watching, gaming, reading, and blogging in. Sound like a good plan?

Summers are hot where I live. At its peak, it was +100 degrees F for weeks at a time, but now it’s dropped quite a bit to the 80s~90s, and on a day like today, 75 and cloudy, the best kind of days. As a whole, I’m still pretty excited with all of the simulcasts that I’m following, and hopefully my interest lasts until the end of the season where I can review the ones that came out on top! I want to know what you’re watching, too, or if I should be watching something else! Let me know in the comments and (after I catch up on all of the others I’ve left unanswered) we can talk about them! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Hanasaku Iroha: Finding Beauty & Grace in Hard Work, Dignity, and Servitude | OWLS “Bloodlines”

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  eighth monthly topic, “Bloodlines,” I decided to incorporate what would have been my standard Hanasaku Iroha review into this discourse about “it runs in the family.”

Family means everything (or does it?). This month, we will be discussing the importance of family relationships in anime and pop culture. Familial relationships include a child and his/her parents, sibling rivalries, adoptions, etc. Some questions about family that we will be contemplating on include how does one’s family shapes his or her identity? How do we define family? How does a broken household influence a person’s view on family?

This show probably deserves a review all on its own, but hey, I’m just gonna go for it here! Thanks Lyn for the prompt!

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A brief discussion on the 26-episode spring 2011 anime “Hanasaku Iroha: Blossoms for Tomorrow” and the 2013 film “Home Sweet Home,” produced by P.A. Works, directed by Masahiro Ando (Blast of Tempest), based on the original story by Mari Okada (A Lull in the Sea).

Out On Her Own

Ohana Matsumae: bursting with rebellious energy and only 16 years old, her picture-perfect Tokyo life could’ve been every girl’s dream—if only her mom wasn’t such a mess! Carefree, irresponsible, and always on the go, mother Satsuki Matsumae and her boyfriend hurriedly pack their bags to flee from debt collectors, forcing Ohana to seek refuge out in the countryside at her grandmother’s Kissui inn. It is there at the Kissuiso that Ohana forms the resolve to work hard under her grandmo—I mean, Madame Manager’s—cold and strict guidance as a maid to prove that she is just as strong and independent as her mother, reevaluate her unrequited love life, and “fest up” her otherwise mundane city life.

As Ohana grows deeper connections with the quiet countryside land and the changing seasons, she is faced with the trials of working as a maid, as well as countless interactions with the many customers that come and go at the Kissuiso. Bonds of friendship are born, and inexpressible relationships blossom beautifully.

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The Kissuiso Staff

Much of the love and respect I have for this show lies right here with the inn’s staff. That said, it can also be the most frustrating part. The busybody maids remain my favorite: Ohana’s fresh, persevering face even if she’s not exactly helping in the best way just makes you want to shout “SHE DID NOTHING WRONG” (at least she’s always trying, unlike some of the others); Nako, the”quite literally” big sister character never fails to support Ohana in that soft and gentle way that she does; and Tomoe, the playful and typically jealous woman tends to catch gossip and spread rumors throughout the inn, adding in the comedic elements.

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It’s the cooking staff that annoys me the most. No, not Renji, the stoic and buff head chef who minds to himself—my issues lie with an outspoken young man named Tohru and a girl Ohana’s age named Minko who “secretly” has the hots for him. They’re just both so rude to everyone, scolding one another whenever they can and not leaving much room for fun. I guess part of that adds to the staff’s dynamic (and conflict for Ohana), but Minko’s attitude really got on my nerves; far too distracting for what her character honestly represents. I also couldn’t stand her voice.

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Lastly, I couldn’t forget the two loudmouths that pop in throughout the series: Yuina, the daughter of a rival inn’s family and Ohana’s new classmate who honestly only wishes to enjoy her youth while discovering her true passion; and Takako, the glamorous business consultant adviser for Kissuiso who always wants to revitalize the rather old-fashioned inn to suit the times. She often bumps heads with Sui, as her ideas are indeed ludicrous at times, but when it comes down to it, they both only desire what’s best for the inn and its customers.

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I could go on about how genuine the personalities and relationships of each character feel, but half the appeal of Hanasaku Iroha is witnessing how they go about their days, both the ordinary ones for those slice-of-life vibes and the hectic ones to see how this seemingly disjointed team tackles wild problems head on!

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One of P.A. Works’ Finest Pieces

I’m all about scenery. Whether it’s a schoolyard from heaven (or hell) or an enchanting undersea village, P.A. Works never fails to embody this ideal vision of a “gorgeous world.” The anime’s characters are all beautifully designed and fluidly animated in their own right, Ohana especially, but the colorful Kissuiso takes the cake as a visionary set piece. Perfectly blending antiquity with its polished, hand-carved wooden exterior with the luscious greens from nature, the rustic countryside inn almost feels tangible, one that you can breath fresh air easily in and instantly feel comforted by the relaxing atmosphere. I could probably lose myself in the pages of an art book if I ever got my hands on one (which I will surely try to).

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The same glowing things are to be said about the charming piano and string tracks by Shiro Hamaguchi, my favorite being a little sad piece called “Remember that day with a smile like that.” For OPs and EDs, I’m not a huge fan of nano.RIPE’s lead singer’s nasally voice, but its random fifth ending “Saibou Kioku” happened to play at just the right time.

It Runs in the Family

Hanasaku Iroha enters the realm of slice-of-life with a little drama thrown in the mix. While it’s easy to label it as just that—a simply relaxing show—the series poses much more than that. From the beginning, it presents a moving story about family and adulthood, parenting and role-modeling. Like most titles with drama elements, the events of the larger present story are results of a little, once-close-knit group from the past.

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This group now makes up the adults in Ohana’s life: her stern grandma, Sui, her defiant mom, Satsuki, and her scatterbrain uncle (Satsuki’s brother), Enishi. When these parental figures were supposed to guide Ohana as a child, Satsuki often left Ohana to do all of the chores and “take care of herself”—a mantra that she still employs—choosing to put her efforts into her work as a pro writer instead of parenthood. Satsuki gave up her entitlement as the inn’s next manager, and as a result Sui stayed behind at the inn, Enishi working for her, and that was that.

Ohana spent her whole life cleaning up after her own mother.

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As depressing as that sounds, the story’s realism is probably the best thing that it has going for it. It’s a show that doesn’t want to boast, but simply leave itself out there by remarking, “This actually happens in real life.” By intertwining the lives and efforts of the inn’s staff, using the Kissuiso itself as the anchor, everyone comes to understand the tension between Satsuki and her mother, why Ohana’s personality is so brazen and spirited, why Enishi is so desperate to win his mother’s approval over his big sister, and why their boss Sui acts like such a secluded hag. It all comes down to family in the end, or rather the lack of a strong one to bind them together.

I think we can all relate to this.

Genes have the power to shape a family, but only you can decide what path it takes. As people, we make mistakes—for some of us, a lot of them—and maybe you got that from someone (or you’ll pass it on). But regardless, if we spent as much time thinking about the ones we are supposed to love as we did ourselves, I think we’d all be better off.

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Ohana put herself in her mother’s shoes when she reconnected with the source that threw her mom off to begin with, and her entire world changed for the better as a result. She realized that as different as she liked to think they were, they both made the same mistakes as young girls. Knowing this, she vowed to be like her grandma one day, hopefully ending the cycle of familial neglect.

And this made momma very proud of her little girl.

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Hard Work Really Does Pay Off

Hanasaku Iroha walks us through the struggles of the worker class for a girl living in a somewhat broken home. As Ohana comes to find beauty and grace in hard work, dignity, and servitude, we can’t help but feel inspired by her bold newfound identity. Most important of all, we’re told an endearing story about being the best that only you can be, and that even in this self-centered world that is so consumed by “give and take,” there exists wonderful places like the Kissuiso, safe havens that offer both a relaxing time to heal old wounds and a staff that only wishes to work hard to serve YOU. And that, well, that’s really special.

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“You may come to a standstill or get irritated because things don’t work out the way you want them to, but what you gain from hard work will never betray you.” – Tohru Miyagishi


So there you have it, the very gentle and sweet Hanasaku Iroha. By the end of it, you just want to smile and cry at the same time. For those wondering, the film takes place before the finale, and acts more like three episodes linked together rather than a standalone film. Still wonderful stuff—so wonderful that I present it with the certified “Caffe Mocha” rating, one for the menu and it’s all on me (actually it’s on Crunchyroll for FREE)! You HAVE to let me know what you thought about my review over this quaint little gem if you’ve seen it, as it’s a quiet show that doesn’t get much buzz anymore. I found this to be the perfect show for this month’s OWLS theme since “Ohana” does mean “family” in Hawaiian, after all!

This concludes my August 4th entry in the OWLS “Bloodlines” blog tour. Since I was first again this month, I’ll give you the weekend before handing it off to my buddy Matt (Matt-in-the-Hat) with Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (I REMEMBER THIS FILM!) on Monday, August 7th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Ghost in the Shell (2017) Dives Deep Enough to Prove Itself a Fascinating, Engaging Ride | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 2017 live action film “Ghost in the Shell,” produced by Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks, directed by Rupert Sanders (“Snow White and the Huntsman”), based on the original manga by Masamune Shirow, as well as loose ideas from the entire franchise, especially the original 1995 film of the same name.


The First of Her Kind

In a future not too far from our own, people have grown to love technology. You can bet that anyone you run into on these cold streets will sport some sort of cybernetic enhancement modded to their body: prosthetic limbs, wired inner organs, or the trending metal-encased cyberbrain. These advanced augmentations were coded to grant humans more convenient lives: quicker, safer, and less cumbersome living.

After a horrifying terrorist attack, Major Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson) transcends into the first of her kind: the stunning results of the first-ever brain transplant into a fully synthetic body. Now a cyborg soldier programmed to eliminate cyber crime, super hackers, and back-alley schemes, the Major is automatically drafted to hunt down the ultimate next-gen terrorist—one who is able to hack into people’s minds and puppet them.

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Suffering from a faintly growing illness of glitching memory fragments, however, the deeper the Major dives into this case, the more intense her glitches become. As the possibility emerges that her new greatest enemy might in fact belong to her blurry past, the Major arms herself for a treacherous night journey. Nothing will stand in the way of satisfying her human curiosity, as well as the inevitable reawakening of her soul to a life that was stolen from her.

A New Story

While I’ll admit that we’re looking at the film’s weakest part—the plot—first, it’s impossible to deny that this live action reigns as one of sci-fi’s more interesting films in recent times, and holds the gold for the best live action iteration of an anime produced thus far, granted that I’ve only seen segments from most of them. What we’re looking at here with GitS (2017) is a fairly well-structured story of self-discovery followed by revenge, a typical Hollywood formula that feels relatively topical compared to the franchise’s classic 1995 film, which explored the deep values of being human, artificial sentience, and of course, the vastness of the Net.

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This apparent shallowness works out because of what the film is aiming at, though; in 1995 we dove into present identity and the other weighted themes previously listed—the Major as she is existing, if you will—but in 2017, we’re instead considering how the Major would feel about her past (2nd GIG did this), and what her creation ultimately means for the future of humanity, about feeling disconnected because she lacks the background that everyone else has laid out for them. Dig too deep into the original content and you risk deviating from the main intent: a new story.

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How This Live Action Holds on its Own

We take a undoubtedly cliche ride with the Major as she discovers how she came to be, and it all clicks together wonderfully and feels unique because of how huge the title is, what it means to others, and the sheer number of comparisons that can be drawn between this seemingly shallow film and its deep, thought-provoking origination. Everybody’s experience with it will be different, and that notion makes it not only thrilling to watch, but exciting to talk about.

So the film DOES in fact deliver a fresh outlook on an already well-refined series, standing out from its manga, anime, and even video game counterparts by re-imagining the Major’s previous identity, something that purposefully remained ambiguous throughout the franchise. It was a bold, completely unnecessary “prequel” adventure, but now that it’s over, I can’t help but welcome it openly with an applause. GitS is all about varying interpretations, proven true by Motoko’s complexity in 1995 and the franchise itself, which has had several makeovers. The idea of re-envisioning shouldn’t feel new, but everything from its tone, emotional pull, presentation, and core writing should. Speaking of new faces, how does ScarJo hold up as the Major?

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Casting the Characters

Several races and colors collide in the astonishing multicultural world that the franchise is known for. I had no qualms with the casting before I entered the theater, and that hasn’t changed. Johansson is a white female actress playing a traditionally Asian character, but that’s in fact where most of the misunderstandings arise—Motoko Kusanagi embodies no one race, no one color, no one gender, and she probably never will. This was stated by 1995‘s director Mamoru Oshii, and for people to be throwing up their pitchforks in revolt of the supposed “whitewashing” is actually kind of pitiful. The context of the show allows for virtually ANYONE to play the Major, and given Johansson’s overly qualified resume for sci-fi action films, I’d hope people would rescind their bombastic comments.

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TL;DR I thought Johansson was not only appropriate for the role, but her performance was great considering that Rupert was aiming for the more hot-headed, brash, young Major of the Arise series. I prefer this Major to the 1995 one because she arguably feels more relatable.

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But just like she is in her many iterations, the Major is nothing without her Section 9 team, consisting of Chin Han as the very-human Togusa [insert comment about race being appropriate here], Takeshi Kitano as rough and intelligent Chief Aramaki (who actually speaks Japanese since English is hard for him LOL), Pilou Asbæk as the big ol’ softie Batou, and a “surprise” favorite actress of mine: Juliette Binoche as the compassionate Dr. Ouelet. To quote Guy Lodge (Variety), “A warm, wistful Binoche, brings more pathos to the role than the script strictly demands.” She makes my heart weak.

There’s a real chemistry to be felt between Dr. Ouelet and the Major, as well as between Major and Batou, and that’s something that they nailed to a tee.

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“We cling to memories as if they define us, but they don’t. What we do is what defines us.” – Dr. Ouelet

The World of the Future

Where its story stumbles a bit, GitS (2017) leaves your jaw dropped with its incredibly “exciting and elaborately designed future settings,” plunging you into a visually entrancing world where cyberpunk is clearly the hottest thing. My GOD, this show is everything when it comes to its unique visual style! They use a clever lighting system that projects the color palette of the original 1995 onto the vast metropolis, giving off a vibe that’s so cold and distant, yet very interconnected with the world at the same time. CG solograms (solid holograms) layered over a typical Hong Kong-like setting give the atmosphere a very futuristic edge to it that I simply crave. You can tell that a lot of love and respect was put into the film.

 

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My favorite part of this film were the iconic shots of 1995 and Innocence that were recreated and woven into the story: the shelling sequence, building jump, deep dive, water fight, geisha attack, tank battle, and more. It’s all there, and yes, the scenes do not feel “thrown in” just for the allusions, but well-placed for the story’s flow. It’s a visual style to be praised, and its action sequences and use of practical effects (not just CG, but actual, physical props like the geisha masks, thermoptic suit, prosthetic and cybernetic enhancements, and other costumes) give us artsy people something really freakin’ cool to grasp onto. The hard work that went into replicating the world of Ghost in the Shell, largely from that of the film-loving folks of New Zealand’s Weta Workshop for prop creation and setting design, was very much appreciated.

 

The Greatest Injustice

Here it is, my biggest beef with the show and it’s NOT EVEN about the film itself. It’s about how it’s being dished out, or rather, that some of it is not. Paramount and Dreamworks refuse to offer Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe’s mind-blowing sci-fi soundtrack for sale. I understand that the movie’s box office reception was somewhat poor, but for crying out loud AT LEAST FINISH what you started. It’s a shame that a work of art, even if it’s controversial, cannot be appreciated in full just because it might not sell. These are million, probably billion, dollar corporations—it’s NOT too much to ask for by any means. There’s currently a petition going around for the soundtrack’s release (which I have signed), so hopefully we’ll see some change this way. If you value this show and artistic justice, please consider signing here!

If you stuck around for the credits, you’d have heard a remixed version of Kenji Kawai’s memorable main theme of the original film, a remix which I honestly prefer, as the drums in the second half give it a really epic feel! Again, love the throwback! All of the music adds to the gritty sci-fi tone.

Not the Last of Its Kind

It’s not very often that a sci-fi film will shift from a typical revenge mission to a cross-examination of cultures, intertwined human connections, and the irrefutable weight of family warmth. That in itself makes Ghost in the Shell (2017), despite its somewhat cliche story line, an incredibly unique experience. I’ve got nitpicks, but I’m more so thankful that I enjoyed the film beyond those glaring issues. It’s plenty entertaining, and if you look deep enough (or watch it three times like I did), you’ll surprisingly find deep, thought-provoking layers in the subtle actions of the actors.

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However much you enjoyed the show, there are bound to be more live action adaptions like it in the future—for me, that’s a hopeful thing, something nice to look forward to. This may not be relevant (not to spoil the ending here), but as a half-white, half-Asian lover of science fiction and the entire Ghost in the Shell franchise, I hustled into the theater prepared with an engaged mind, and left with an unexpectedly touched heart. It’s a show about doing what you feel is right—following your ghost—even if that challenges the world you live in and the people that once trusted you.

Because sometimes, like here, you make the right decision. 

“I mean, the character is living a really unique experience. She is a human brain inside an entirely machinate body. She is very brave to take a risk and give up everything she knows, everything that’s ever made her comfortable to discover the truth, to follow this calling. And at the end of the film really makes a huge sacrifice for the greater good of humanity. That, to me, was what was the major draw.” – Scarlett Johansson on the Major’s character

Final Assessment:

+ It’s A LOT better than I thought it would be for an anime live action; it only gets better the more I sit and think about it

+ Homages to the original material and the rest of the franchise are worked in fantastically

+ Visuals easily rival those of high-dollar action films; cool and damp futuristic atmosphere is established with excellent lighting; stylish designs and neat aesthetic all around; a very immersive world

+ Props, costumes, etc. layered beautifully with limited special effects for maximum potential; practical, physical props engineered perfectly

Ghost in the Shell is all about varying interpretations and new ideas, to which this is no exception; multicultural and multiracial world embraced

+ A fine movie if you ignore all the pointlessly controversial backlash nonsense, and this is coming from a hardcore fan of the original

– Story remains weakest part; revolves around somewhat predictable plot twists; boring antagonist; fails to explore Kuze’s Net and the world that could potentially await

– Major’s “strandy” hair can be a bit bothersome at times

– No official soundtrack release as of yet


Ghost in the Shell (2017) may not be an anime, but I’ll still welcome it here at the cafe as a “Cake,” a film that’s shy of master status but certainly worth watching for GitS or plain-old sci-fi fans in general! Despite it being an unfairly received film, I had the time of my life witnessing my Ghost in the Shell journey come to an end. It’d been a long time since I was that happy to see a film in theaters, and I’ll be coming out with a second post chronicling my loose thoughts on its reception, controversy, and the theater experience, so stay tuned for that!

I’m happy and proud to call this one of my favorite sci-fi live action movies of all time! PLEASE, let me know your thoughts on the film! Also, had you been familiar with parts of the franchise prior to, or did you dive in blind? I may be a bit of an optimist, but I enjoy hearing all sides. If you enjoyed the review, let me know with a “like” or a comment! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Time of EVE Welcomes Impartiality Through Reflection | OWLS “Mirrors”

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  seventh monthly topic, “Mirrors,” I decided to incorporate what would have been my standard Time of EVE review into this reflection on artificial intelligence and robotic spirit.

“Magic mirror, on the wall—who is the fairest one of all?” When we look in the mirror, what do we see? Do we see ourselves or someone we don’t want to be? For this month’s theme, we will be exploring some of our favorite anime and other pop culture media that redefine individual beauty—inside and out. Some topics we may explore are physical appearances, social expectations on gender, and the importance of self-confidence.

I’ve always loved that wicked mantra, so thanks Lyn for the prompt!

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A brief discussion on the spring 2010 anime film “Time of EVE: The Movie,” produced by Studio Rikka, directed and created by Yasuhiro Yoshiura.

She Left the House, and He Got Curious

Rikuo is just another Japanese student owning an android in the near future. While checking his android’s behavioral log one day, he notices odd check-in and check-out times. When Sammy, his android, finally takes another detour, Rikuo and his friend Masaki head out and stalk her. It turns out Sammy frequents a hidden cafe called “Time of EVE,” and the cafe’s barista Nagi only has one request: that there is no discrimination between humans and androids.

Being the compilation of a 6-episode series by the same name, Time of EVE follows a pretty basic formula: Rikuo and Masaki frequent the cafe in order to uncover more about each of its interesting patrons and, of course, find out just what kind of character Sammy really is. A tale of unrequited feelings, childhood dreams, and understanding comes to fruition.

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Director Yasuhiro Yoshiura solidified his wacky and weird yet oddly comedic and intelligent presentation style with this one. It’s subtle in execution, but anyone could still identify it as science fiction—and good sci-fi at that. I know people who don’t care sci-fi that walked out loving Time of EVE, and I think that’s largely because the film aims at much more than pondering ideas like sci-fi does; instead, it goes deeper, showing you that the genre also has a lot of heart once you pull the wires away. The story is touching, sometimes even hilarious with all the sudden zoom-ins, and its visual artistry still holds quite well as a visionary piece even today!

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THIS 10/10 AESTHETIC IS WHAT INSPIRED MY CAFE 

Yup, that’s right. Time of EVE so inspirational to me that it inspired the clean and modern look of my cafe here (or at least I hope it comes across this way . . . do I need to remodel!?). If I could spend all of my days writing and reading in one place, it’d be here, at the Time of EVE! Everything just feels so sleek and simple, yet intricate and “underground” at the same time. Like, the coffee (EVLEND) cups, and bar, the tall tables, the ceiling fans—ALL OF IT! It’s just a chill, quiet, aesthetically pleasing place = the perfect kind of place for me.

And I couldn’t forget Tooru Okada’s VERY 2008 soundtrack, which just happens to be included on the Blu-ray release, yay! The music adds wonderful immersion into the wonder and fun of the cafe, not to mention all of the very peculiar interactions that take place. The energetic child, the grandpa and his crazy kid, the sexy couple, and even the stoic man in the back: it’s as if they all have their own track, as well as a story to be told within the music and the dialogue. I’m very pleased that the show was crowdfunded via Kickstarter with a dub, too. (I only wish I could have participated to get the coffee set >.<)

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Sammy, You are an Android

a letter from Rikuo to Sammy, fan-written by Takuto

Sammy, what is it that you see in the mirror each morning when you wake up? I’ve noticed that you tie your hair up with a headband, scrunchy, or a flower when you go out sometimes. It’s unusual. You are an android, but don’t let that stop you from looking the way you want to look.

Now, Sammy, who is it that you see in the mirror each morning when you wake up? I’ve picked up on your subtle cues as to my tastes, preferences, and mannerisms. Perhaps that’s just the activity log recalling my “most recent selections.” But I like to believe that you’re growing, just like all of us are each and every day. You are an android, but if you find yourself wanting to be happy or sad, angry or surprised, I’ll understand. 

After frequenting that place you visit, that Time of EVE, I realized that it’s no ordinary cafe, but a safe haven from prejudice and routine. I’m kind of a nerd, one who gets picked on sometimes for saying please and thanks to you, my android, and if I had a place where I could go to escape all of the name-calling and expectations, well, I’d probably be at that cafe all the time, too. 

We live in a pretty convoluted world. It’s not necessarily bad, but people make it much harder than it needs to be. Why does it matter if you’re an android or a human? If we both value our own lives and only wish to help each other out, then I’d just rather avoid “things or beings” altogether. Sammy, you’re an android, and in this world so bent on exclusion and division, I only wish you the best. 

The fact that we gaze into the mirror to begin with reveals that we’re only insecure about something, really. But last I checked, androids don’t “feel insecurity,” only assurance in their code. This proves you can be anything and anyone you desire, so do it with pride for not only yourself, but anyone you inspire in the process, like Nagi, Masaki, and myself. 

For me, however, just please stop looking into the mirror—you look great with that headband on.

– Rikuo

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“Are you enjoying the time of EVE?” I sure am, so much so that I wish I never had to leave, haha! For Sammy, reflection about who she wanted to be came from experiences with the world around her, a fashion decision, and, of course, a trip to the cafe. Through the interactions with Rikuo, Nagi, and the other “people” at the cafe, she, an android, found individuality and character for herself, defying the laws of her creators and the social norm—strict servitude to the master. Considering its impact on myself, this blog, and sci-fi entertainment in anime, Time of EVE: The Movie is no undoubtedly awarded the “Caffe Mocha,” a film for all those even remotely interested in AI, as well as what it means to be human. It’ll fill you with warm fuzzy feelings for sure. Let me know your thoughts on this post and show if you’ve seen it!

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This concludes my July 17th entry in the OWLS “Mirrors” blog tour. Please check out Rai (Rai’s Anime Blog) who went right before me and wrote about accepting every fiber of one’s being in the gorgeously grim Elfen Lied. And now, I’ll turn it over to Carla (Pop Culture Literary) for this Wednesday, July 19th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host