Tales of Symphonia Orchestrates Racial Harmony By Overcoming Great Tragedy| OWLS “Colors”

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  fourth monthly topic, “Colors,” I decided hit up a show that originates from a GameCube JRPG–the one and only Tales of Symphonia which was, fun fact, the SECOND anime I had ever watched!! You know what that means—aww yeah, old-school Takuto wrote a dope review about it (here) years ago that is littered with grammatical errors but full of heart. It currently has zero comments and likes, so go mess that up for me, will ya? Be gentle 🙂

We are all part of one race, the human race. “Colors” refers to people of color in anime. For this month’s topic, we will be discussing how people of color or
characters of different “races” (could be a literal alien race) are represented in anime. Some topics we are considering is the dangers of stereotyping, bi-racial
characters, and the importance of racial inclusion.

I had the recent pleasure of finally finishing the Tales of Symphonia PS3 game recently, so I’m excited let the experience come full circle by revisiting one of the titles that got me into anime. Thanks Lyn for the prompt!

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A brief discussion on the various races and factions that appear in the 2007-2012 11-episode OVA series “Tales of Symphonia: The Animation,” based off the GameCube game by the same name, created by Bandai-Namco, produced by Ufotable, directed by Haruo Sotozaki (“Tales of Zestiria”). SPOILER WARNING

When One World Flourishes, the Other Withers

Enter Sylvarant, a fantasy world of monsters yet very little magic. Why? The mana that flows through the realm has been draining out for a long time now, and it seems that the land will only grow drier (literally) with each passing day. Little to the peoples’ knowledge, a second world exists out there, one that mirrors their own home, and the reason it prospers and thrives is because the mana flow resembles that of an hourglass, Tethe’alla, this second world, residing on the bottom.

This is where the Chosen one comes to save the day! “Chosen” by the heavens, Colette Brunel of Sylvarant sets out on her quest of World Regeneration to flip the hourglass back in their favor. But her clumsiness and well-being worry her friends Lloyd Irving and Genis Sage, so the two, along with Genis’s older sister (and their village’s teacher) Raine and a mysterious mercenary named Kratos, embark on a journey, encountering new friends and more foes with their own philosophies, that will forever shake the foundations of their precious world that they’ve studied for so long.

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Just when our gang finally learns to love the world for what it is,  things take one tragic turn after another, forcing our heroes to question the reason they fight, and whether their quest is one of nobility or selfishness. Remember, when one world flourishes, the other withers—people are bound to make great sacrifices.

Symphonia remains one of the top, if not THE #1 game in the incredible Tales franchise. Rife with gorgeous visuals, dramatic Celtic-inspired music, and heartbreaking characters, the animation holds on its own by establishing a fantasy adventure world (or two) where there’s always something to be lost for one of its characters. As the series progresses, we viewers, too, begin to question if a happy ending even exists for this broken cast of many ages and races. Symphonia tackles the harsh realities of acceptance and racism through its memorable characters.

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Oppressed, Punished, and Exiled

In this vast fantasy world, several races and factions exist, most of which frequently bump heads with one another. Aside from the dwarves, who lead quieter pastimes as master craftsman, there are exist elves. They live reclusive lives hidden in villages like Heimdall among the trees, and choose to isolate themselves from society because breeding half-elves (the result of human x elf mating) is frowned upon. Largely stemming from human jealousy, for elves have much longer lifespans and can use magic but humans have neither, and disgust for human blood in an elf body, both humans and elves decided to hate half-elves all around, which leads us to Symphonia‘s most tragic bunch.

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Half-elves cower at the tip of every whip cracked and at the shackles of every chain latched. Disdain from both humans and elves has caused these poor people to be punished for their mixed blood, and, if they are lucky, exiled from the land. Some literally fled to a floating isle called Exire to avoid their tragic fate. Those who could not escape detainment were hunted down, beaten, and even tortured. The main reason for their abuse, aside from their physical make-up, derives from the legend of the the great Kharlan War. In it, humans and elves fought over the two countries, Sylvarant and Tethe’alla, which left half-elves, magic users with longevity in human bodies, to be caught in the crossfire.

If We Could Just Include Instead of Exclude . . . 

Lloyd Irving, the main character, was raised by a dwarven father, meaning that he has seen the abuse from a more objective standpoint than that of a human, elf, or half-elf. Out of rage for their treatment, the Desians, a treacherous organization of half-elves, had swept through Sylvarant, enslaving humans and sacrificing them to create enhancing magic crystals called Exspheres. What they are doing is wrong, and Lloyd knows it, clutching his own mother’s Exsphere from when she was still among the living.

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With a burning desire to end all enslavement and restore the two worlds to one so that all can live in harmony together, Lloyd uses his own experience with the people he holds dear to guide his quest. When it is revealed early on that his best friend Genis and sister Raine are, in fact, half-elves, Lloyd doesn’t grief or retaliate harshly. There’s even a scene where Genis mourns because he knows that when Lloyd and all of his friends eventually pass away, he will be left behind alive but lonely. Instead, Lloyd sympathizes and smiles that he is still able to enjoy their company in the present, looking beyond racial treatment and into the value of their personality.

Genis himself undergoes his own journey when he meets the great Mithos, suppposed Hero of the Kharlan War. In actuality, he manifests as a young half-elf boy just like Genis who only wished for a world where he and his sister Martel could live in peace. Unlike Lloyd’s determination to seek symphonic harmony with all races, however, Mithos sought to convert everyone into one homogeneous kind, believing that if race didn’t exist, then neither would racism. The boy is right and his ideals are true, but his brutal nature and execution of his plans are naive and cruel. The heart was in the right place, but the mind wasn’t, and that’s why Mithos continues to suffer until his own sister rejects him.

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We need more people like Lloyd and Genis—people who have had experiences with trauma on both sides, yet still manage to see the good in others regardless of their race or status. But there’s only one way to handle this matter carefully. Rather than force people to accept the beautiful array of colored people on this planet, shoving our own ideals down their ignorant throats, we need to integrate warm, positive spirits into communities that suffer from racial exclusion—we must value the characters, not appearances, of all different peoples in order to end this childish thinking.

Dividing the world into two so that people can exist on separate planes was not the answer. Same goes for establishing one master race. The weight of Lloyd’s unwavering acceptance and determination to create a world for everyone is the greatest joy that can come from the series. It’s the hope that some day we can all overcome our own tragedies to play in one harmonic symphony together that makes “Tales of Symphonia” ring true to so many hearts. Life in this kind of new world begins not by looking at what which makes us different, but celebrating what we share in common, and that is beautiful. 

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“Dwarven Vow #1: Let’s all work together for the sake of a peaceful world.” – Lloyd Irving


Tales of Symphonia is a really neat show full of heartwarming themes and deep characters, so do check it out if this kind of fantasy is your thing! For those who have seen it, what do you think of the game or its anime adaptation? What about how it’s emotional bits are portrayed? I preferred the anime’s flow in this department, but hey, let me know your thoughts!

This concludes my April 22nd entry in the OWLS “Colors” blog tour. Please check out Stephanie Clarke’s (Anime Girls NYC) post over the darker colored villains from the currently popular Twin Star Exorcists! And now the magic will trickle down to Eren (sakuradaisuki) as she walks us through “Colors” in the dear-to-heart Sailor Moon on Monday, April 24th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Yuri!!! On ICE Goes the Distance for Life & Love | OWLS “Flight”

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 second monthly topic, “Flight,” I decided to incorporate what would have been my standard Yuri!!! On ICE review into this pep talk about ambition. Something different to mix things up, right?

An individual takes flight when there is a goal, a dream, or an ambition that he or she wants to achieve. For this blog post, however, we are going to look at “flight” through different lenses: the underdog’s dream, the possibilities that Yuri!!! On ICE allows viewers to think about, and also the dangers of greed and ignorance that can influence one’s dream.

Since last month’s interpretation of mine was a bit gloomy, I’ll be honing in on the wondrous joys of living in each moment–leaving it all out on the rink–and the ephemeral effects of social media.

I LOVE YURI!!! ON ICE so this’ll be fun! Thanks Lyn for the prompt!

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A brief discussion of the 12-episode fall 2016 anime “Yuri!!! On ICE,” produced by MAPPA, directed by Sayo Yamamoto, based on the original story by Mitsurou Kubo. 

Unexpected Loss, Unexpected Arrival

At age 23, country legend Yuuri Katsuki nearly lost it all when he returned to his family-owned Japanese hot springs without the gold. In fact, he didn’t even medal, taking last in the men’s ice-skating Grand Prix Final. Even though his face still beams youthfully, Yuuri’s not as agile as he used to be–and he knows it. Just as Yuuri contemplates moving on from skating, however, a video of him performing five-time world champion Viktor Nikiforov’s previous routine during practice instantly goes viral.

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Scrambling to keep his life from further collapse, Yuuri finds himself in utter shock when Viktor, bearing himself in glistening full-frontal nude, unexpectedly shows up at his hometown’s Hasetsu hot springs. He jovially offers to mentor Yuuri and, being the BIGGEST Viktor Nikiforov fan ever to exist, Yuuri immediately accepts. His rekindled encouragement may blaze hotter than ever before, but Katsuki isn’t simply fighting against his past self! Everyone wants a piece of Viktor, including the competitive and fierce rising star of Russia, Yuri Plisetsky, and it quickly comes to both of their minds–and hearts–that there can only be one Yuri (!!!) on the ice.

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So how do our guys “take flight” in the show? We’ll look at 3 ways that all relate to the anime’s ending theme, “You Only Live Once”!

1. Leaving the Comfort Zone

From their first day of practice together, Viktor splits Yuuri and Yurio apart, assesses their basic personalities, and assigns them opposing labels and routines completely and clearly different from themselves. This was all in the hopes of giving the two what they lack or fail to understand. Born from this exercise were the two spiritual entities on love, Eros and Agape, which I covered previously post that, ironically, received lots of love from you guys–thank you very much! Anyway, life and love come as a pair of L’s that Viktor himself has neglected. By understanding love, you can live a fuller life, and vice versa. To achieve their goals of competing in the GPF, Viktor rips the boys out of their comfort zone so that they, too, could fully comprehend the bizarre nature of love and its many beautiful forms.

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2. Going the Distance

(In a post coming up soon I’ll be elaborating on my life-changing experience with sports, so for now you’ll get the truncated version.) Simply put, competitions like the GPF allow hardworking spirits from around the globe to come and put on a show for the world. They connect us. These boys all have their own origins: towns or cities that vary in atmosphere depending on the season; varying experience with languages and culture; the definition of a home-cooked meal.They are athletes, they are performers. And when they board that plane for the long flight ahead with determination to be the best in the world, they are ready  to put it all out there on the rink, no holds barred, no regrets. These boys want to do the best not only for themselves, their coaches, families, or nation, but for each competitor, too. THAT is the spirit of sportsmanship in competition: to do the best you can and make memories–make history–doing it with others!

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And then that’s it. They’ll part ways, maybe take a couple pics together, and then decorations come down. But the memories never fade.

3. You Only Live Once

Tuning in to w.hatano’s “You Only Live Once” at the end of each episode treated us to an upbeat, happy-go-lucky firework show, not to mention a series of behind-the-lives-of-the-cast photos styled like an Instagram feed. The strong use of social media in this anime emphasizes a transient feeling, the romantic notion of fleeting emotions–of living in each moment–and living full and true to oneself. All of these characters are separated by their languages, styles, cultures, races, expressions, and location, but what binds them is love, love for one’s nation and the glorious joys that ice-skating brings.

The art they create doesn’t let them merely glide on the ice, but soar on the wings of life and love. Yuuri and the guys are just a bunch of kids from different countries coming together to make an ephemeral moment together. That’s why those last few episodes of touring Barcelona mean so much to the show as a whole and to us as viewers. They show us the boys out of their environment, or what they’d be like if we met them on the streets, and passing them by would be just that–evanescent.

So go out there and work hard, perform brilliantly, act courteously, be silly, laugh loudly, sing merrily, dance gracefully, pose triumphantly, speak clearly, learn intensely, ponder cleverly, play gently, dream wildly, write creatively, think positively, love passionately . . . and while you’re out there taking lots and lots and LOTS of pictures, never forget this: You only get one life. Live truthfully. 

It’s the only way those wings on your back will let you fly majestically. 

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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’s no surprise that Yuri!!! On ICE has had a profound effect on my life recently, so regardless of its few shortcomings, flaws, or inconsistencies, the cafe will warmly welcome this anime as a “Caffè Mocha,” a proud rating for those shows that have touched my heart and are regarded as a must-watch from me. Watching YOI air throughout the cold, bitter wintry weather gave us all hope and anticipation for whatever excitement the next Wednesday would bring, and I’m seriously glad I joined Twitter when I did, otherwise I’d be missing out on the bountiful quantities of fan art, haha!

I strongly recommend watching Yuri!!! On ICE via Crunchyroll since you can boot up all 12 episodes for FREE! And OH MY GOODNESS, I didn’t even get to talk about the incredible soundtrack that accompanied each of our star performers! Not to mention studio MAPPA’s captivating and elegant animation–it’s on it’s own level in terms of representing sports physics in anime!! And then Dean Fujioka’s instant hit opening “History Maker,” oh how INSPIRING this entire ensemble is!!! I consider myself lucky each day that we honestly got a show like this one. It truly went out of its way to bring us something wonderfully unique and powerful. Emotionally touching, entertaining, comedic, inciteful, inspirational, full of good vibes all around . . . wow, it just means so much to me, and I could probably go on and on forever~!

This concludes my February 27th entry in the OWLS “Flight” blog tour. Please check out Hazelyn’s (Archi-Anime) post discussing how Viktor may have risked it all with his leap of faith! Next after me is . . . wait, did I just end our second blog tour? I DID, and what a pleasure it has been! Thank you so much for reading, and stay tuned for Arria of Fujinsei to wrap up this lovely month. Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Smiling Yuuri with long hair is everything. Go the distance to make yourself and others as happy as this kid!

The Delayed V-Day Sci-Fi Special!

Hello! So I was recently SLAMMED with two full weekends of out-of-town nonsense, one of which I plan to discuss in a Cafe Talk soon. It’s become tradition as of around 2014 to set aside Valentine’s Day weekend, safeguard myself in my room with snacks, and not come out until I had marathoned a classic anime (typically pre-2000s). Previous items on the menu include:

2013 ~ Steins;Gate

2014 ~ Ouran High School Host Club/Gosick (couldn’t remember which)

2015 ~ Neon Genesis Evangelion

2016 ~ The Rose of Versailles

and now

2017 ~ Ghost in the Shell

Yup! Exciting, right? In the spirit of the upcoming new live action movie (that I’m so psyched for) along with the recent bluray releases of the films and series, I’ll be taking a trip through this entire classic anime franchise that arguably helped shape science fiction as we know it.

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Gosh how I love infographics. The crew over at FUNimation put together this one, and might I say how in-character it feels. 

Ghost in the Shell is a very hazy area in terms release order and technical chronology, such that the franchise has been divided into 3 separate universes–YES, the just pulled a Zelda on us, haha! After a few hours of researching different interpretations as to the order everything falls under, I’ve settled on the list below that I recorded on my wipe board (cause I am a list-nut):

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At this exact moment, I have already watched 1995, Innocence, and the first 6 episodes of Stand Alone Complex. Odds are that I’ll just skip 2.0 and Alternative Architecture since they are typically disregarded anyway.

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I even tweeted my excitement by making a themed wallpaper for my iPhone based on the live action poster 🙂

So yeah, that’s what has been on my mind lately. Within this month, you can hopefully expect a Cafe Talk about my swimming career and Free!, a review of Blast of Tempest, an OWLS post about Yuri!!! On ICE, a review of some parts of the GitS franchise, and lastly a monthly update. I’ll be reading through comments and catching up on several of your guys’ posts (especially the rest of the OWLS blog tour–I STILL haven’t read some of them!). Any words of wisdom from your Ghost in the Shell experience? What entry was your favorite part? I’ll admit, the two movies set the bar pretty high since I’m a thinker, and S.A.C. has yet to rope me in completely. Let me know, oh, and happy belated V-day!

With love,

– Takuto, your host

 

Conducting Anime Research | Cafe Talk

Do you ever conduct a little research?

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I’ve spent the past week eagerly awaiting the arrival of an Amazon package. Was it manga? Nope. Anime? Not quite? Ooh, a figure? Now you’re way off! Just like any kid, I’ve been DYING for my . . . Shakespeare . . . to get here? Welcome to “Cafe Talk.”


If it puts you at ease, I ordered from the “No Fear Shakespeare” line because, goodness me, there’s no way I could read the fully saturated original plays. Nope, I’ve adapted to the “side-by-side PLAIN ENGLISH” narrative that Sparknotes publishes, and might I add that they make the experience plenty more fun for a weak reader like myself.

But god, save for The Tempest, these covers are shit tho. Like seriously, who designed these? I’m not even going to show you what they did to Midsummer Night’s Dream.

But I’m sure you’re also just bubbling with curiosity as to what stories I’ve decided to pick up. First, that requires a little background (because heaven forbid someone just “start feeling like reading classic lit”).

Years ago I started a little anime called Blast of Tempest out of pure love for the stained-glass graphic they put on their promotional poster.

^^Yeah, this one!

Anyway, I never got past the first or second episode. Try as I might, no matter how many times I restarted I never progressed. Eventually I gave up. Guess I just didn’t understand it, which, looking back, doesn’t surprise me at all because within the first FIVE MINUTES of the show the characters start rattling off nonsensical quotes from Hamlet and The Tempest!

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So being the “smarter” person that I am now, guess what I did? I FREAKING bought Hamlet and The Tempest. (The concept of checking out books doesn’t sit so hot with me.) While I have vague ideas as to how both end, I decided that I’m NOT progressing with the anime until I’ve at least read one of them, starting with Hamlet.

Guys, I have TWO episodes left and the suspense is killing me.

I suppose what I’m asking you is this: “Are you ever inspired to do a little research before further adventuring into manga, anime, games, and the like?” You know, “get familiar with the original source for more background” or “understand allusions and make connections to classic lit, historical events, or even real people?” Recalling times where I had to google existing events, places, and people for reference, I came up with this sample list of past searches:

Type Moon myths, legends, and epics

Madoka Magica Walpurgisnacht, entropy

Joan of Arc anything

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood tree of life

Evangelion dead sea scrolls, new testament, EVERYTHING

Seraph of the End Abbadon, trumpets of the apocolypse

Rose of Versailles French Revolution

Eden of the East selacao

Cross referencing Tales games and anime

A Certain Scientific Railgun esper resonance, concepts

Sword Art Online Fairy Dance novels, Midsummer Night’s Dream

Yuri!!! On ICE real GPF skaters

and now,

Blast of Tempest Hamlet, The Tempest

The list goes on forever, but you get the gist. All of this research is done, of course, so that I can apply real world knowledge to better myself as a fan of entertainment. Take no shame in searching up something that confuzzles you–Odds are that you’ll learn something cool, or find yourself lost in the digital library of wonder. And THAT feeling is incredible. Many of my most cherished memories about certain anime spawned from browsing the archives of “such-and-such Wikia” because IF you can google it, odds are there’s a Wiki for it.

So there are my thoughts regarding the pursuit of knowledge. In other words, DO IT if it feels right. I hope you learned a bit about me, and I’d really like to know more about you anime “research” habits (if I can even call my Wiki pastimes research)! “Cafe Talk” welcomes open-ended discussions, however brief or lengthy you wish to be! In the meantime, I’ll be resuming Act 1 Scene 2 from Hamlet–wish me luch, haha! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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I feel you, Hakaze.

 

Happy New Year! I’m Going to Try Harder in 2017!

WOAH, who’s this guy? “Takuto . . .” Wasn’t he some self-named “aniblogger” who we stopped hearing from back during the fall of 2016?

Well, you’re not wrong. I kind of dropped the ball–Just like New York did.

HAH

It’s been another crazy-busy year in the personal life of Takuto the host. For that reason (and a lack of blogging enthusiasm), you probably noticed me vanish off the face of the blogosphere several times. Let’s look back on the few achievements sprinkled here and there in 2016, shall we? I’ve linked each header to the related posts for those who like archive browsing like I do. 🙂

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EVA-Week Takes 2016 by Storm

During the past new year festivities and up through the spring, I was ON FIRE. To celebrate the long-held-off U.S. English release of the third block in the Rebuild of Evangelion movie series, Evangelion 3.33, I hosted “EVA-Week,” a week-long journey through the franchise’s other entries besides the main series Neon Genesis Evangelion, beginning with a throwback to Valentine’s Day 2015 when I began my life-altering quest and ending with concerns and cupcakes dedicated towards the latest installment. Boy, was that the time of my life. Many of you already know and some can relate, but this franchise really, really means a lot to me. 2016’s high came early, the 3.33 release easily topping anything that came after it–and that was in FEBRUARY!

Escaflowne, my First Kickstarter

This was one of those unnecessary but fun events to partake in. Though much controversy surrounds the project, I think it’s safe to say I enjoyed participating in a bit of anime history. Ignore my taking the measly $15 pledge, however, for after careful consideration I upped the ante so that I myself could actually hold that piece of history.

IRL Meet-up at Naka-Kon

The highlight of my spring for the past couple years has been attending an anime convention called Naka-Kon in Overland Park, KS. What made this year so special was getting to meet blogger buds Crimson (Crimson Blogs at Night) and Kausus (Otaku Gamer Zone) IN THE FLESH. Our time spent together was brief but nonetheless legendary, and I hope that we’ll be able to reunite again this year. Looking back, I had to include my announcement post (here) because it contained the countless comments (pre-Twitter days) regarding a conversation between myself, Crimson, Kausus, and Lyn (Just Something About LynLyn) where basically they were trying to track my location in the universe. 70 comments of hilarity, and I remember every bit of it!

Watching the Oldest Anime I’ve Ever Seen

I don’t think I can classify myself as a “well-rounded, knowledgeable anime fan” until I have dabbled in a little of every genre from all ages. So, representing shoujo minds of the late 70s/early 80s is The Rose of Versailles. Don’t let its antiquity fool you, for its glittering beauty is eternal, a masterpiece of romance, tragedy, and historical fiction.

Defending Fairies in the Spring

March marks an impressive month for this cafe. After finally being fed up with all of the bashing against Sword Art Online‘s second arc, the “Fairy Dance,” I decided to take flight to the original light novels and compare them to the anime adaptation. Safe to say that in SAO‘s case, the books are better than the movies. Not by a long shot, haha, no, but they make pretty entertaining (and less disgusting) reads. “In Defense of Fairy Dance” remains my most ambitious project yet, spanning over 10,000 words across five distinct parts–Not that more words means better writing, but I think you understand that it was quite the undertaking. This series of posts strengthened my voice in writing and helped me to use graphics in a more effective way. I’m glad I took the time to visit ALO.

Space Cowboys w/the Fam

Do you watch anime with your family? Not many do (and I totally understand and respect each person’s choice in the matter), but here at my place anime was something we all shared growing up. From the ridiculously long speeches about a children’s card game in Yu-Gi-Oh to the lands where creatures and man share the world in Pokemon; from the magical realms of escape in Studio Ghibli works to the even more magical and sparkling city where a young girl recalls her legendary past in Sailor Moon; from the arenas dominated by flaming, spinning tops in Beyblade to the conflicted domain where two worlds collide in Bakugan; my siblings and I (as well as our parents whenever they feel entranced by our joy) have stood by each other’s side, and though I lead the herd, I dare say I’d be nothing without my followers. As part of my 2015 Winter Movie Theater, we fled for space in Cowboy Bebop, a show that my dad remembered watching when he was younger. Though we didn’t finish it until spring the following year, it was a delight to watch this classic, and to witness the end of a journey through the blues that my own dad started many moons ago.

Finding Strength in Hero Week

The third and what would be final big project of 2016 was somewhat a failed one–“Hero Week.” While the intent was to write a review for four shows I was watching that happened to have a hero trend going, there ended up being a day or two of space between each post with a recap about 2 weeks later–2 WEEKS! That’s not good. I don’t regret my actions, for they sort of gave me strength and a view of the big picture in regards to specialized reviews. ERASED, One Punch Man, Yuki Yuna, and My Hero Academia all taught me that no matter how hard things get, we must dust ourselves off and hang in there as best as we can.

More Movie Theater Madness

Summer eventually reared its hot head, and as such the 2016 Summer Movie Theater was under way! The movie theater thing is something I hold for my siblings, but if you’re wanting more info on that, I wrote a Cafe Talk over it quite a while back. Some of the titles that “wowed the crowd” included A Lull in the Sea, Danganronpa, and KILL la KILL, all favorites of mine and excellent pieces that hold on their own!

Joining the Twitter Aniblogger Fam

When I had thrown out a “coming soon”post with bluish tinted wings in the featured image, I wasn’t expecting so many of you to think that a Takuto on Twitter was becoming a reality!! What that announcement ended up being was a teaser to my “Fairy Dance” series, and I felt somewhat sad for disappointing a few of you, haha. But never fear, for I finally got around to that Twitter and all I can say is “why didn’t I do this sooner?!”

Ice-Skating Boys Changed My Life

Yuri. On. Ice. Who knew that an anime about guys gallivanting around on frozen water would forever lift my spirits and revolutionize my winter season? I wasn’t even intending to watch this show, but the constant images of one boy yelling at another boy with the same name in a bathroom stall that flooded my Twitter feed after the season premiere  aired ended up being enough to convince me to boot up the first episode. I was blessed–I think we all were–and so I converted that raw inspiration into a post reflecting the series’ critical third episode. Eros and Agape. Without these two, my blog activity in the latter half of the year would have been quite sparse, so I thank Yuri!!! On ICE for all it has brought into my previously-low-motivated life!!!

Becoming the Change

I was recently recruited into the OWLS, the Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect. We are defined as:

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

More information can be found at my pal Arria’s place (Fujinsei).


Of course, my typical reviews, updates, and other posts like hauls and Cafe Talks filled the gaps between each of these major moments, so please, check those out if you feel so inclined. They are the backbone of this fine establishment, after all~!

A Happy New Year to you all, and cheers to 2017 where I promise to work harder on the blogging front!

Like last year, I delayed this post because I wanted to be the last one on the anime blogosphere to wish you a Happy New Year! But, unlike last year, I had to write ALL of this lengthy post. Part of it is a self-motivation plan, another part is that I’m tired of not being around more. I want to be with all of you, followers of my Anime Cafe or not, because you make up the conversations being laid here–You, the reader, are here because we both share a similar passion, anime, and I want to talk about that with YOU! I want to get lost in the worlds of our favorite animated works and experience all of the joys and sorrows that our beloved characters feel.

My art teacher posted this on her dry-erase board sometime in November, and I couldn’t have summed up 2016 better. What happened to be my theme by the end?

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This wasn’t my greatest year (of only 2 lol) for blogging, but I have zero regrets on the path I’ve paved thus far. December provided much self reflection, and it only made me realize how much I want to be here. There is such unique thrill in hitting the “Publish” button that no other hobby can satisfy for me. I need to keep creating content for me, for you, and for anyone else who stumbles across my little digital cafe in the vast sea of data, communication, and connection. My plan? Four posts per month:

  • Anime Review
  • Cafe Talk
  • Monthly Update
  • Another Anime Review/Miscellaneous (haul, analysis, other)

It sounds weak (because it is), but I need to do only what I CAN do. If I can do this much then maybe I can maintain my blogging motivation and [eventually and hopefully] write more!

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I offer the warmest THANK YOU from the bottom of the coffee pot for sticking with me these past few months, both the active comment-leavers (you know who you are) and the quiet readers. Also, to any of you who recently walked through the door, HI, I’m Takuto, your host at my Anime Cafe. I hope you enjoy the fruits of my efforts, the wonders to come and the gifts I’ve left behind~! 

Let’s aim for a another year ripe with hearty conversations and memorable moments in this little cafe of mine 🙂 AS ALWAYS, until next time, I cherish you all more than words can express!! Good night!

– Takuto, your host

 

 

Empire of Corpses Reanimates a Classic Tale | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the fall 2015 anime film “Empire of Corpses,” produced by Wit Studio, directed by Ryoutarou Makihara, based on the novel by Keikaku Itou. 



Oh my, is it already passed Thanksgiving?! Woah, since I’ve been slacking I’ll make this one brief. Shall we visit the first of three films based on the late novelist Itou’s melancholic work and see if Wit Studio was able to breath life into his ambitious project?

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Zombies and Steampunk

Welcome to an 1800s London where zombies roam the streets! Not really, sort of. Scientists have played god with dead bodies long enough that they’ve patented it down to a system called reanimation. In other words, the Brits are reviving the dead. It’s not a foolproof process, however, for the key to understanding life itself–the soul–does not return upon reignition. Because these walking corpses are incapable of experiencing the joys and sorrows that life presents, they’re mainly revitalized to serve in the labor force.

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But every lab experiment comes with its breakthroughs, and that is exactly what befell Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Rumored to have been the first to successfully reanimate a corpse with a soul, the great mad scientist suddenly disappeared–his work supposedly vanishing with him. Inspired by his love for research and science, John Watson pursues hunting Dr. Frankenstein’s notes regarding the blueprints of the soul in order to revive his best pal, Friday. Throughout his journey, Watson unearths the terrifying truths of corpse technology, and how costly the science is for not only the living, but also for those who have long since passed on.

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What exactly makes up the “Weight of the Soul?”

I’d like to first point out that I understand why the film, despite its glorious visuals, was poorly received by critics. The first Project Itou film tries to dish out a lot of hard, unknown science, but above all make you feel emotional connection to the lead character Watson and his situation. Grasping the conceptual stuff is particularly tricky, and the ties between real life historical figures and their fantasy counterparts don’t seem to make understanding the basics much easier. It’s even arguable that the rules of the world presented are poorly laid out from the start. This build up of failed comprehension and attempt at emotional appeal led to a cataclysmic finale on both the story and visual levels.

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Beyond the messy climax, I did quite enjoy the relationship between Watson and Friday. Their exchanges (well, Watson’s actions and Friday’s silent responses) felt genuine, and above all, I think that matters more than a shaky concept deliverance does. When Watson felt curious or distressed, the actions were reciprocated on myself. Also, to go against the crowd, I really liked the female role. Though she mainly served as a reminder of the scientist’s goal–Friday serving as his ambition–I found myself wanting her to also receive a happy ending. The Russian scientist Nikolai could’ve used more screentime, but I digress since the show mainly revolves around Watson’s side.

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The Incredible World of Sherlock Holmes

Empire of Corpse’s strongest point easily lies with Wit Studio’s fantastic job in creating an atmosphere similar to a Sherlock Holmes film straight out of Hollywood! Such entrancing lighting, rich symbolism, and articulate detail in the machines and other devices absolutely blew me away. Each of the characters stand out beautifully in their own way, from the deadpan expressions of Friday to the stylish English outfits of a steampunk society. Action scenes would engage any viewer (I’m a sucker for vehicle chase scenes, so the opening really drew me in), and it all culminates into a finale so stellar it became a visual feast. I had to pick between absorbing or comprehending, and, well, I think you knew which won. I did notice Redjuice and Egoist accredited, which would also explain the Guilty Crown vibes.

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While I cannot recall any specific tracks, the music did do the show justice in contemplating the Sherlock Holmes tone. On the auditory side, huge props to the English voice cast and THE ACCENTS that tied so well with the concept and setting. Wonderful performances from Jason Liebrecht (Watson) and Micah Solusod (Nikolai).

Final Thoughts

Even if the concepts presented are a bit tricky to grasp near the end, this movie achieves in the feels department for me. Perhaps I was missing the context of the original Frankenstein novel for a few of those bits, but I did find it okay for the most part. It’s another demonstration on how far man will go to pursue knowledge above all else, an ultimate nudge to the idea that for us humans, some things are best not knowing.

“Beauty and sublimity are not what shape the future. It’s the willpower to try to actualize one’s words and feelings for someone else–DON’T YOU SEE!?” – John Watson

Final Assessment

+ Breathtaking visuals, fantastic steampunk design

+ Emotional attachment to Watson’s struggle with Friday

+ Fascinating project history, happy to see Itou’s work animated

– Started off simple enough, but lost its footing by the end

– “Weight of the soul” not explained thoroughly

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I’m signing off on the first Project Itou film with a hot “Coffee” rating here at the cafe! Understandably flawed, but still quite enjoyable. This was the finale to my Halloween break following Shiki, a title which I reviewed a week or two back if you’re interested. Shoutout to Crimson for recommending this movie to me!! What did you think of Empire of Corpses? Were you disappointed with the results or did you find it particularly noteworthy for anything? Let me know because parts of me (the living ones, at least) are still a bit conflicted! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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I know it’s fan art, but LOOK at that mechanical detail!

Shiki: The Frightening Science of Vampires | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 22-episode summer 2010 anime “Shiki,” produced by Daume, based on the novel by Fuyumi Ono.

How would you feel about being given a second chance at life? Was there work you left behind unfinished that just needed a few more final touches? What about reuniting with a loved one from your past life? An opportunity like this rivals that of winning the lottery–a dream fulfilled, is it not?

Now, what if you were forced to return to this wretched earth, strained out of the dead to continue maintaining your fragile body at the expense of friends and family? You’d be a burdensome leech, a selfish and disgusting virus which feeds off of the innocent and the ignorant alike just to preserve your own rotting corpse. If you could kill people without consequence, would it be easier to do? Would you feel more inclined to repeat your actions?

Shiki presents us with both scenarios of life for the undead, but its grim tone and somber character stories have us believing that life after death is truly and rightfully morbid.

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Welcome to Sotoba – Population: Fear, Hysteria, and Death

This tale of madness descending is set in a remote rural village isolated from “modern” society. (We’re talking a town with traditional wooden Japanese houses and only one clinic to visit in case of emergency.) From the get-go, we already know that what will happen in the village will stay in the village. At first the atmosphere is cheery, starting us off through the eyes of hot n’ dangerous teen Megumi, a girl who feels like an outcast among the villagers because of her fashionable and trendy fantasies of city life (quite relatable, might I add). She lusts after a transfer student by the name of Natsuno who would be, as anyone could guess, charming yet mysterious “boyfriend material.”

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But much of her young life changes when an enormous castle-sized mansion is built almost overnight–the extravagant yet seemingly-elusive Kirishiki family has moved into that vacant lot high in the mountains. They are reserved and elegant divas of the night, but what terror, if any, lies beyond their walled stronghold on the hill?

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And exactly like clockwork, strange disease and paranoia begin seeping through the cracks of these closed-off country minds. Villagers grow pale and unresponsive, only to pass away within days of their diagnosis! All of this perplexes our [arguably the] main character, the good doctor Toshio, and his battle against these unseen and mystical forces quickly causes his ironclad rationale to teeter on the edge of self-destruction.

Themes! Themes for all!

The story is loaded with conflicts of the individual vs. culture and society that would make any philosopher or English teacher quiver in delight. If you continue to dissect its characters apart, you’ll notice a healthy amount of psychoanalysis to be done. There’s also the very nature of these vampiric beasts that’ll surely give you goosebumps if you’re just in it for the action. All things considered, Shiki’s premise is well-crafted and cleverly presented through its many different viewpoints. The anime tries to handle the scenario through every set of eyes possible, and actually does a fair job at it.

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Watching Occupation Shaping Perception

If this show is trying to preach one lesson to its viewers, it’s that OCCUPATION SHAPES PERCEPTION. First we have Toshio the Rational who wields science and logic as his guiding torch. His hands-on experience and repeated failure with his patients shape his view on how the village should act. Given this firsthand account of horror, the trauma is enough to eventually shake his mental stability. “Empty your hearts. In order to kill these demons we have to become demons.”

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Then there’s Muroi the Romantic writer and priest who believes through feelings that these demons are just like us. Even now, they only have special requirements to live. His benevolent approach leaves him without any clue as to how to fight a back, however, for his inexperience and urge to document the case rather than seek justice cause him to remain sane but forever alone.

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And finally we have Natsuno and Megumi, both Angsty Lovers who embody mixes of the doc and the junior monk. They remain rational and understanding of all that takes place, but their struggle against striving for the lives they desire to live under supernatural circumstances leads them to consequence. All of the villagers, save for these four, are static characters designed to move the plot forward and advance growth in our leads.

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A Damn Good English Dub

A fair point is that I fell in love with the English dub voices before I did the characters, so props to FUNimation for that win–especially to Tia Ballard as Megumi, holy crap! Also, while there are a dozen characters that I loved (and a dozen that I hated), my heart goes out to nurse Yasuyo (yay for more Wendy Powell!), the busty, compassionate sweetheart clad in fishnet-leggings. What a frickin’ saint she is!

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Relying on Story Horror Rather than Visual Horror

Onto the animation side, studio Daume actually did a very decent job. Several excellent cinematic shots and moldy/bold color choices were used to convey the eerie atmosphere. But I did have a few problems. As much as I took great pleasure in the Shiki black ombre eyes, too many different kinds of eye styles made me really dislike the ugly, small-pupil look that was overused on “insane” characters. Also, what’s up with that hair shaping? Natsuno’s nasty cut reminded me of the salad leaves I was munching on! (Yes, I did tweet about this).

I’m sure you’ve heard Shiki’s main theme “Shi-Ki” in one of your “emotional anime music 2 hours” compilation videos. But don’t just stop there! Check out the melodramatic tracks I left below which utilize a haunting choir, chimes, bass drums, a soothing macabre orchestra to create the illusion of nightmares stalking the shadows. They are a bit overused, but hey, you get so consumed by the atmosphere that repetition doesn’t matter. Composer Yasuharu Takanashi (Log Horizon, Oda Nobuna, Fairy Tale, Sailor Moon Crystal) remains one of my favorites, for he always does such phenomenal job in mashing together atmosphere and action.

“Day and Night”

“Eau de Vie”

“Pendulum”

Also, the second opening, “Calendula Requiem” by kanon x kanon totally rocked the house. Just look at those visuals–and the song, ooh the song!

Why is it Popular? Fresh Spin on a Legendary Concept

Shiki is praised for its ability to tell the same story through every character viewpoint possible; you get attached to individuals from both sides, which is quite a wonderful thing given the premise. It’s a nice rational approach to an ancient, typically fantasy or magical subject–The Science of Vampires, if you will. It presents us with a very well-thought-out tale of morality vs. rationality, never taking the easy way out to show its claims.

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In a world where monsters and humans alike are pitted against each other, fear, especially of abandonment, consumes all who let it. Common people who are unwilling to let go of pre-existing notions are the ones that get left behind. It sounds harsh, but in this brutal and vicious cycle everyone except the sane ultimately lose. What draws the line between superstition and simply being afraid is how disturbingly far people will go to preserve their own “sanity.” It’s only after the smoke clears, however, that humans realize the error in their ways, and that any God has long since abandoned them . . . or at least some believe.

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Final Thoughts

Anyone can die at any time; no one is safe/excluded from the elements listed above, which is also why I really enjoyed Shiki. Fear of uncertainty through the supernatural catches us off guard, in that fear CAN and WILL strike at any time. The use of gory sound effects and beautifully ghastly music help to establish that fearful tone. Shiki may not have visually scared me, but its raw content sure was creepy, gruesome, and more interesting than any Hollywood horror film.

“This is what a world ruled by order looks like. Those who accept order can live together peacefully, protected from the unknown safe in their belief that all is as it should be. But when something happens to threaten this orderly existence, they will fight to the very death. By eliminating the threat, they hope to preserve the fabric of their lives–the order that holds their entire world together. And so they realize what a fragile world it is.” – Seishin Muroi

Final Assessment

+ Frequent tonal shifts, led by the many viewpoints, leave strong and vastly different impressions from beginning to end

+ Death can strike anyone, anytime

+ True fear and creepiness created by the supernatural STORY ITSELF, not necessarily the visuals (never takes the easy way out)

+ Wonderfully presented themes of morality between individuals, culture, and society, and how people are only as safe as their surroundings make them feel

+ Nailed the village horror atmosphere with frightful perfection; intricately woven web of characters and interactions between them and setting

– Eye and hair designs on some characters just looked dumb

– Fantastic and complementing soundtrack, but some tracks are a bit overused

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What a Halloween break well-spent, no? Well, if anything could be said, it’s that those Japanese need real doors, not the paper-thin stuff you can hear through the walls, yikes! What did you think of this anime? It’s another “Caffe Mocha” over here! Were you completely freaked out or more invested in its thought-provoking messages? Let me know in the comments so we can talk about this beloved title! I’m so happy I got to finally watch this very peculiar classic. Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Extravagant Divas of the Night, the Kirishikis