July 2019 Anime, Manga, & Light Novel Pickups | RightStuf 32-Bit Birthday Haul

Hello all!

Since my recent summer Sentai Filmworks haul post was so well received (thank you very much), I figured I’d share some of my other pickups from this past July. There’s a lot to get through, so let’s take a look!

But first, Happy 32nd Birthday to RightStuf! Most of the anime and manga were bought during their sale, so in many ways, this is also one big haul post. Thanks for all the sweet deals!

We’ll start with a couple films. While I’ve never seen Sword of the Stranger, I was convinced to pick this movie up because it’s always featured in those “best fights in anime” videos (plus it was $4). As for Modest Heroes, I can comfortably say I am a Studio Ponoc fan all the way, and will continue support their work however I can!

After finally getting around to this well-known franchise’s first season, I decided to get Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond to see how it continues. Supposedly it gets better, which is comforting given that I thought the first was slightly above average at best. Love the shiny holo slipcover!

I’ve been such a huge Yona of the Dawn fan ever since the anime aired several years ago—so much so that I even bought the first NINE volumes of the manga in hopes of eventually reading the story past the anime’s untimely conclusion. I decided to opt for the split part one/part two releases (despite a complete collection already in print) to savor all that art on the BDs, only to be disappointed that my part two set didn’t come with a slipcover. Oh well, ya snooze, ya lose. :/

I can bet you already know why I snagged this lovely gem! It’s the Fruits Basket Sweet Sixteen Collector’s Edition, and might I add that this is one nice set.

If you already own any prior LTD ED set, I don’t believe this is necessary. But if you’re wanting it for the upscaled quality, the stylish white chipboard box, or the plethora of decent-quality art cards, then I’d say go for it.

Look at all them cards! So many classic scenes, the umbrella and living room ones being my favorites. As a fan without my own personal set of the series, for $26, how could I refuse?

Onto the manga! And ooh, some LGBTQ+ stuff at that. Honestly, I can’t say much about Our Dreams at Dusk or That Blue Sky Feeling because I told myself I’d read them all the way through once their entire series has been released (Shimanami is 4 volumes, Blue Sky is 3). Happy to have them for when the rest gets released!

On the less innocent side of the LGBT manga in print, we have Total Eclipse of the Eternal Heart (that name, lol) and Escape Journey volume 3. With Syundei’s work being another standalone volume and this being the end for Tanaka’s short BL series, I’m ready to start these whenever the need for smut hits me.

Ooh, big books. Picking up the gorgeous Sailor Moon Eternal Edition releases by Kodansha was never a matter of if, but when. And well, I guess when is now, even though I have so many other things to read. Really, it’s a high quality, lovely publication targeted at both collectors and huge fans of the series that deserves its own post. Maybe in the future.

Oh yeah, and there’s also volume one of Akiko Higashimura’s autobiographical work, Blank Canvas: My So-Called Artist’s Journey, that I have heard nothing but fantastic things about.

More housekeeping with this third and final volume for the Danganronpa 2 spinoff from Nagito’s perspective. I actually reviewed the series and talked about Dark Horse’s very publication that you can read right here!

I also picked up Komi Can’t Communicate‘s first volume as a recommendation from a book-tuber. Excited to read that.

Lastly for manga are the two Viz series that I will not only collect as they are released, but actually read them too. One shoujo and one shounen, respectively, they are Snow White with the Red Hair volume 2 and Seraph of the End volume 17. I’m enjoying these two immensely, and even have a first impressions post for Snow White in the works, so please look forward to that.

And now for light novels. After finally finishing finishing (more like slugging through) the recent A Certain Magical Index III, I was inspired to resume picking up and reading the LNs. Or, at least, slowly filling in the book perspectives the parts that I thought the anime could’ve done more with (which is, to be honest, all of it). I’ll be hopping around, which is why volume 15 is here.

Continuing my read of Sword Art Online, we have the latest release in the Alicization story, volume 16. I’ll read this when the fall gets closer in anticipation of the anime’s second cour.

More light novels! Eighty-Six by Asato might be a blind buy for me, but with only raving things said about it from even non-LN readers, I wanted to stay in the loop. Plus it looks pretty.

Then there’s my guilty pleasure LN read, volume 2 of A Sister’s All You Need. If you read my review of the anime, you’d know that I positively loved this silly series. I’m currently reading the first book, and am amazed at the word-for-word adaptation that the anime apparently is. Can’t wait to read!

Here we are at the very end, and what a better way to end a haul than with some epic Evangelion stuff. Now, little story here, I’ve actually been excited for this book ever since it was announced in Japan a few years back. I love the Rebuild art and character designs, and at the time, I was so tempted to order a copy even if I couldn’t read it. Welp, I held out, and sure enough, a couple years later Viz announced their licensing of this monstrous art book, and I’m forever thankful.

I’ll probably do a post just for this book, as this thing is MASSIVE. Thought it’d be hardcover, but who cares—I’m just happy we even got a release!


That’s it, that’s the haul. Didja make it to the end? If so, pat yourself on the back, cause I sure did buy a lot of books and movies in July (probably the most in a single month ever, as a matter of fact). Well, maybe. Anyway, did any of these releases stick out to you? Are you currently reading or anticipating one of these titles? If so, which ones? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Also, let me know if you want more of these haul posts, cause I can definitely make this a regular thing if you’d like. ‘Till next time!

– Takuto, your host

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Sentai Filmworks 2019 Summer Sale HAUL!

Hello all!

Just as the title says, I caved and spent $107 at Sentai Filmworks’ summer sale. They always go all out, and you know I can’t resist $10 anime Blu-rays.

Seeing as how one of my 2019 blog goals was to post more of my hauls (as I tend to buy a lot but not tell anyone, shhhh), here we are. Let’s get this box sliced open and see what’s inside!

First up is The Ambition of Oda Nobuna and BTOOOM!, two series that I’ve wanted for quite some time, but for entirely different reasons. BTOOOM! I’ve heard is an awesome survival game show, one of my favorite sub genres of the overarching thriller genre, so there’s that. But Oda Nobuna has been a long-awaited buy. I watched it in the summer of 2016, and enjoyed it immensely for some reason. Glad to finally have her in the collection—or should I say, on the throne where she belongs!

Here’s a couple more pickups I’ve been meaning to make for a while: Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 and Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions!: Take On Me, the movie. I’ve heard nothing but stellar things about the former, but it was always out of stock whenever I tried to buy. Happy to have these after all this time!

I wasn’t actually planning on ever watching Knights of Sidonia, let alone buying it. Yet, it would seem even titles produced by Netflix expire on Netflix, meaning it was $20 now or a missed opportunity forever, and I thought hey, CG space fights sound pretty aight.

I used to TORTURE myself over whether to settle for DVD or pay practically double for Blu-ray back in the day. Thankfully, with Blu-ray prices steadily declining and DVDs going extinct, I’ve been limited to the obvious choice. It would seem that everyone’s trying to get ahold of this beloved title, however, so it was DVD for both sets or eBay Blu-ray hunting for one of the OOP collections. I chose laziness. Settled for less, perhaps, but was it really worth the effort to begin with? Only time will tell.

Last, but certainly not least, is Sentai’s massive Patlabor Blu-ray collection, which contains ALL of the classic series. That’s like, 47 episodes, 3 movies, and a boatload of OVAs. And it was just $40! A no-duh purchase for a sci-fi fan like myself, right?

Here’s what the inside cases look like. Love the coordinating art and the blue, white, orange color palette. The silver shine on the “box” also adds a nice industrial feel to the release. Did I mention the window on the box sleeve is really neat, cause it is.

And here’s the back, since I’m feeling generous and all (and I’m totally not exploding with happiness for the quality of this release). They even included a little timeline for all this animated stuff—how thoughtful! Speaking of time, I heard the first film just had its 30th Anniversary this past Monday, July 15th! What a perfect way to celebrate the franchise and its success! (Plus, a wonderful way to end this post!)


I love hauls. No matter the contents, no matter the amount, they bring me so much joy. Did you buy anything from the summer Sentai sale? Show me your haul over on Twitter or let me know down in the comments! Have you seen Patlabor, and did you like what you saw? Let me know that, too!

I typed all of this spontaneous post on my phone, so yay for mobile blogging. I’ll get around to posting a manga review here within the next couple days, so that’ll be cool. Same goes for a summer simulcast line-up . . . it’s, eherm, on the way, yeah. Otherwise, that’s all I’ve got, so till next time!

– Takuto, your host

Halfway Through 2019 – What’s New, & Where Are We Headed? | Quarterly Update (Summer)

Hello all!

Can you believe another three months have passed since the last time we met for an update? Why, that was the beginning of April, and now we’re already a week into July. JULY. Crazy, right? I hope all my friends in the U.S. had a happy 4th of July full of friends, family, and good food. To everyone else, I hope you’re summer hasn’t been too hot!

In other news, I’ve been watching and reading a decent amount—which is great considering that one of my 2019 goals was to watching all of the stuff I’ve bought (yet haven’t touched) to justify buying it in the first place. Unfortunately, as soon as I finish one movie, three new ones somehow appear on my shelf. Weird. It’s not me, I swear!

Ok, so maybe the sales have been good to me lately, but I am enjoying getting around to all this stuff. These novels, manga volumes, and Blu-rays were bought for a reason, after all! Without further ado, let’s see how much stuff I’ve been able to knock off my To-Watch backlog! First though, some goal updates . . .

Goal Reflection


#1 – Read More Posts

I’m sorry everyone. My phone’s home screen is once again becoming filled with your posts so that I can read them . . . but they just continue to amass, as opposed to being read and shared. WordPress has made mobile blogging a pain in the ass, in that I cannot comment and like without being logged in—and yet even when I try to log in, it still won’t let me respond to you all! Instead, my phone wants me to use the app and WP reader to communicate with other bloggers, and that’s a real nuisance given that I get most of my reads from Twitter posts AKA posts shared online, not via app. I’ll work hard to clean up my home screen in the meantime, even if it means individually typing out every single post in the search bar and finding it that way.

#2 – Write More Succinct Reviews

I think I’ll be changing this goal to “Write More Succinct Posts (in general),” as it has happened for the most part with all my other posts besides my reviews. And I’m ok with that. Personally, I don’t see 1,300 – 1,600 words as that much for a full-series review. Otherwise, I’ve posted a couple posts that were just like 300 words, and y’all don’t even know how good that felt for someone as wordy as myself! Even if just simple announcement posts, I like to think I’m improving on this goal.

#3 – Post More Often

I’ve continued this next set of three months by successfully managing to publish about one thing a week, which was my goal! In April there were four posts, while in May and June there were FIVE posts per month. Again, it sounds like a really sad goal, just five posts out of 30 days, but this is a huge step for me. I’m proud of the work I’ve done so far, and hope I can keep up at least this much content, if not more, as the summer goes on!

A side note, last year I wrote 27 posts. Yup, that’s it, and that’s not much. As of July 6th, 2019, I’ve already written 30 posts, so I’ll easily double the amount of posts I wrote last year if I continue down this track!

#4 – Bring Back Cafe Talk

Nope, lol. BUUUUT, I did create an entirely new segment on my blog in its place. Called “Anime Revisited,” the posts in this category are just that—shows that I’ve already reviewed, but would like to look at once more under a new light or fresh perspective or whatever. Basically, I rewatched Gurren Lagann and wanted to talk about it again. But “oh no, I’ve already reviewed that series.” No problem, just revisit it! And so I did, and it was received quite warmly by you all, thank you very much.

#5 – Write More Haul/Collection Posts

Yeah, this one has gone no where, and here’s why: I’m really considering an Instagram for all my haul, collection, and cosplay related musings. Like, really thinking about it. Like, it could happen tomorrow, or even today. I’ve still been getting tons of crap, but I’m not sure if I want to junk up my blog with pictures of the stuff I’ve bought as opposed to talking about or analyzing that stuff like an intellectual would. If Insta happens, you all will be the first to know!

What I’ve Watched


Aside from the last couple simuldubbed episodes of Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life, I’ve finished all the spring shows I’ve been following, including Sarazanmai, Attack on Titan Season 3 Part 2, and Wise Man’s Grandchild. Really tempted on going back for the music drama Carole & Tuesday and Mix, a little baseball series that silently aired this spring. Plus, I haven’t started the new Fruits Basket yet. (I know, I SUCK!) Reviews for the spring content will be rolling out here soon, fingers crossed.

As for Blu-ray watching, I watched Lu Over the Wall, Liz and the Blue Bird, and Mary and the Witch’s Flower, three adorable films that I was supposed to review but haven’t yet (spoiler alert, watch them). I also finished Asobi Asobase, a great comedy series which contains some of the STUpidest shit I’ve ever seen, as well as the second half of Re:ZERO. Definitely not as good as the first half, but still epic (and nail-biting, heh heh).

In the past month, I finally watched Blood Blockade Battlefront, which I’m pretty sure I didn’t like as much as everyone else, yet liked it enough to apparently impulse buy the second season the minute RightStuf’s 32nd Anniversary sale started (my dumb ass, right?). Apparently it’s a fantastic sequel though, so I’ve got high hopes.

Speaking of another questionable move, I watched Majestic Prince and, well, won’t get the time back from watching that LOL. I also rewatched Izetta: The Last Witch, but that one was actually pretty fun to visit again.

One of my favorite watches these past three months was The Great Passage, the dictionary anime that aired in 2016 that everyone (myself included) slept on. After hearing it was by the same person who wrote Run With the Wind, I hustled on down to Amazon, gave it a watched, and fell in love. Review coming soon!

Oh, and I finished Sailor Moon SuperS and the movie Black Dream Hole, too! Although I won’t review anything Sailor Moon (as the nostalgia lens are very foggy with this one), you can bet I loved it. Excited for Sailor Stars!

Another incredible watch was Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu-hen, the first in a masterpiece trilogy by studio Shaft. It was a pain to spend $50 on a 60 min film through eBay, but it beats the $70 that Aniplex is asking for. At least the set is drop-dead gorgeous. (Which I could show off if I, you know, had an Insta.)

As for what I’m currently doing, I’ve been rewatching Neon Genesis Evangelion since the new dub hit Netflix. The dub is serviceable. Not as near as personable and heartfelt as ADV’s dub, but it works if you’re new to the series or can’t afford the old DVDs. Regardless, I’m still having tons of fun rediscovering why I fell in love with it in the first place. I also started God Eater . . . not much else to say on it. It’s pretty for a monster-slasher series, and I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts once I finish it!

Despair Returns: A Danganronpa Playthrough


I know how all the Danganronpa games go. Same for the anime, and even the novels. I’m a huge fan, a mega fan. An Ultimate Fan, if you will. Since I’d never actually played the games myself and let the LPs and walkthroughs entertain me, however, I thought I’d change that. Oh, and challenge my siblings at the same time!

So now, every chapter, every trial, we switch of players. We finished the first game early June, and are about to finish the second game. The Danganronpa games are tons of fun, so despite knowing how things play out, I’m not sick of it yet. Totally hyped to play V3 all over again, especially since it’ll be their first time with Danganronpa‘s thrilling finale!

My New Job Has Kept Me Away


That’s the simple truth of it all. As you can see, there’s a lot I’ve been watching, but now that I work 30 hours a week (and a 5-hour part time thing), I’m pretty exhausted when I get home. What do I do? I left my old job in food to reunite with my passion: the water. I’m a lifeguard at my university, but also a swim lesson instructor. I love my co-workers (a first!), and oddly enough working with kids is refreshing. I feel more physically and mentally fit than I have in probably a whole year, and even though this job is time-consuming, I thank it for flushing out all the icky in my life. I feel good, great even.

I go to bed at 10:30 each night now, not 2 a.m. I’m home with my family on weekends, and don’t feel bad for going in to work since I now leave for work at the same time everyone else does. It’s win-win, plus I get to swim on the job!

So, I don’t want to push my luck. I could be at the keyboard more often, but it’d cost my anime-watching time, my time with my siblings, and I don’t want to trim those anymore than I already have. I should be writing a little bit more this month, though, so we’ll see if that improves things on this end.

What’s new? The job. Where are we headed in the meantime? Easy: Writing posts for all the anime and manga in my collection that I’ve been watching and reading!

That’s about all I got for now. The 95-degree days are killer, but working at an indoor pool softens the blow immensely. Now, if only the rainy season would last longer, I’d be truly happy, hahaha! It’s crazy to think that the next time I write an update like this it’ll be October. Till then, thank you so much for reading, and take care of yourself!

– Takuto, your host

Majestic Prince: The Dumb, the Horny, & the Brave | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 24-episode spring 2013 anime “Majestic Prince,” animated by Doga Kobo and Orange, directed by Keitarou Motonaga, and based on Rando Ayamine’s manga of the same name.

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Born to Fight

In the near future, humans have begun to live in space through large satellites connected via space elevator. It’d be natural progression for the human race to eventually leave Earth and migrate elsewhere, but hostile aliens launching attacks from the outskirts of Jupiter are making this progress a little trickier than humanity would’ve hoped.

To adapt in their new zero-gravity environment and combat the foreign belligerent threat, genetically engineered children known as “Princes” by the public eye are artificially raised and trained to pilot giant armed robots. These units, the AHSMB, are humanity’s last line of defense, and as the egocentric, lust-driven Wulgaru forces close in on Earth’s orbit, five young pilots from the academic city Grandzehle are forced to fight on the front lines—or die trying to defend their home.

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Majestic Prince tells a simple story. Aliens = bad are after human DNA so as to satisfy their hunt for life in the universe. Meanwhile, humans = good are trying to protect themselves from the invaders. I was really hoping for the anime to be at least somewhat more complicated than that, but I’m afraid that’s as gritty as it gets.

Following a lucky victory in the show’s opening episode, Izuru Hitachi and his classmates get a taste of what the battlefield is really like, as well as how society reacts to humanity’s “super soldiers.” After these first six episodes of training, the kids come to realize that their lives are much more complicated and meaningful than fighting aliens. They have become symbols for justice, the “Majestic Princes,” and although Izuru and his friends were not expecting this kind of life post-graduation, such is what fate *cruelly* delivered. 

In a series of 2 to 3-episode mini arcs, our heroic group of teens is given missions involving disabling enemy technology, fighting, or scouting out enemy territory. The goal: push the Wulgarian forces to the edge of the solar system. Despite inching closer towards liberation, each of these little victories feels hollow. Majestic Prince is most certainly a plot-driven series, but despite the progress, the story and all of the pieces that make it up just aren’t that interesting. Plot twists, when unveiled, are few and unsurprising, and the biggest reason for this lackluster delivery lies in the dreadfully written characters, both good and evil.

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The Fail Five (that’s literally their name)

Ok, it’s actually Team Rabbits, but regardless, I don’t really like these kids. Not that I have anything against them, but there’s quite honestly nothing about this cast that stands out. Izuru is the hero (or at least he desparately proclaims himself to be so), Asagi is the friendly-fire rival, Tamaki is the cute one (boooo), and Suruga is the annoyingly smart and techy one (UGHHH, I hate this guy).

The only one of Grandzehle Academy’s infamous “Fail Five” that strays from the mark is Kei, the constantly-tired big-sister-type that ironically sucks at anything home-ec. In any other show with this kind of cast, the hero would be paired with the cute one, but not in Majestic Prince. Instead, the series gives Kei unrequited feelings for Izuru, who’s denser than a brick to notice. I . . . kinda liked this scenario, but the execution is half-assed. The series abruptly ends with no emotional or romantic conclusion for our poor, purple-hued tactician. Talk about a wasted investment.

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At least the alien Wulgaru are nasty and cool, right? Hah, WRONG. This is probably the most boring cast of humanoid villains I’ve ever seen in a mech show. Characterized as manifestations of the darker side of human emotions, these pleasure-driven, war-hungry tyrants are only in it for themselves, which would’ve been fine had they served as more than just slaves to this destructive ideology. The Wulgarian elites possess half-hearted motives, and their emperor is a total snooze. He doesn’t do ANYTHING!

I would’ve loved to have seen the drama of betrayal commonly found in any series with a collapsing evil monarchy built up much more than it was, but I suppose even Majestic Prince‘s antagonists aren’t on the bright side.

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Visual Forte: “With Our Powers, Combined!”

Perhaps the animation is the most impressive thing Majestic Prince has going for it. The series is listed with having two production studios; I would imagine that Doga Kobo took over the 2D stuff, while Orange (Land of the Lustrous, Black Bullet, Dimension W) handled all the 3D CG mechas and space fights.

While the quality of the CG is actually pretty good (the mechas themselves looking faaaar more impressive than the Wulgarian blob creatures), the fight choreography can be hard to follow at times. Dramatic zoom ins and outs, constant spinning around the battlefield, no focal point to really anchor at—to be frank, it’s too much at times. You almost get space sick, if such a thing exists.

But, seeing as it’s a giant robot series, let’s talk about those for a sec. It should be the goal of any mecha designer to create a look that is both appealing to look at and memorable in some way, shape, or form. Each of the Fail Five pilot a mecha unique to their strong suits, stylized by mechanical designer Kouji Watanabe. Suruga likes guns, so he’s the sniper. Tamaki and Kei are protectors, so they make up the shield and strategist, respectively. Meanwhile, Asagi is that ninja/senpai figure, so naturally he wields a sword, and our hero Izuru is the fighter, hence fists, guns, and a mild combination of everyone’s skill set, really.

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This works really well for the audience. It allows the viewer to associate not only a color to these frankly unmemorable characters, but also their own unique AHSMB unit. Add in the crisp CG imaging and a little transformation sequence at the start of each battle and you’ve got a good routine going—a factor of many great mecha anime that few seem to acknowledge. Even if the characters all kinda have the same moe face, the distinctions on the battlefield marked by the varying colors, positions, roles, weapons, and unit designs make up Majestic Prince‘s visual forte: the collaboration between these two great studios!

As for sound, Toshiyuki Watanabe’s orchestral tracks add a classic vibe to this series—even if the visual effects are anything but. While I can’t recall any specific music moments (aside from the combat start-up sequence) that caught my ear, Watanabe’s OST adds another wonderful layer to this otherwise high quality production.

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Another One Bites the Dust

Half of Majestic Prince was boring; the other was unmemorable. Easily, its most interesting plot point was how such a society would view child mecha pilots—and that only lasted throughout the first half. My favorite episode didn’t even have any fighting in it; rather, it gave us insight into what the daily lives of these teens are like, and all the business they must tend to off the battlefield. Whether it’s repping a brand to gain financial support, volunteering community service at a daycare to ensure public trust, or even modeling for the media, these are realistic issues that most mechas wouldn’t dare to waste time on. And yet, that’s where Majestic Prince thrived.

But when you put all the pieces together, something still doesn’t fit quite right, and it’s honestly the characters that ruin Majestic Prince for me. First, the series insults its cast with unintelligently written dialogue. Second, these kids are dumb (a result of their terrible scrips!) and when they try to get you to laugh—cause you know, there’s always some sort of innuendo to be made with a bunch of horny teens around—you find yourself more so rolling your eyes. And third, the series insists on being funny, and yet when it tries to be, it gets worse. Some of the characters even drag porn into the mix just to squeeze a laugh out of the viewer. Straight up PORN. No, I’m not joking, and no, it didn’t work.

Had I been five or even ten years younger, maybe the series would’ve worked on me. But it’s very hard to pass Majestic Prince on anything when its story and characters are so obviously flat and dry. This is especially sad considering that its production values are pretty damn decent for its time, a combined effort between visuals and sound that clearly tries to salvage this wreck. At the end of the day, however, I’d still just prefer to leave this mess out in space—floating with the dust, and far out of my reach.

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I’m not fighting because I want to fight. I’m doing it to protect those who are dear to me. And because . . . I want to become a hero! — Izuru Hitachi


Afterword

Despite my misgivings with the show, I’m glad I finally gave Majestic Prince a watch. It’d been in my backlog (and on my shelf!) for what had felt like forever, and when at last I decided that the wait was over and plugged in the first disc, well, this is what happened. For all its dorky characters and dull plot points, I’m barely letting Majestic Prince squeak by with the “Coffee” rating. Barely. What saves it is its animated space fights, which allows the piece to at least be entertaining at times. Apparently there’s an OVA episode 25 and a film to follow that make the ending feel less abrupt, but I’m in no hurry to get to them, especially since they aren’t currently licensed.

Leave it to me to once again review a throwback that NO ONE asked for, yet I delivered, haha. What did you think of the Majestic Princes (or Fail Five if you fancy) and their valiant efforts to protect Earth? Be sure to let me know, especially if you thought better of the show! Thanks for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Izetta: The Fairy Tale That 2016 Slept On | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 12-episode fall 2016 anime “Izetta: The Last Witch,” animated by Ajia-do Animation Works, directed by Masaya Fujimori, and based on the original story by Hiroyuki Yoshino. 

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Die Letzte Hexe: The Last Witch

Back during the ages of old, a witch with pristine white hair wielded her powerful magic to protect her country of Elystadt, defending its people until her last dying breath. Years later in 1939, militaristic giant Germania invades a neighboring country, plunging Europe into a devastating war. Boasting far superior technological prowess in this industrial era, Germania sets her sights on Elystadt, a significantly weaker alpine country in the way of Germania’s great conquest.

To make matters worse for the tiny country, Germanian soldiers capture their princess, Ortfiné “Finé” Fredericka von Eylstadt, as she is heading to a decisive meeting with Britannia. When trouble aboard the transport plane breaks loose, another piece of precious cargo, Izetta, the last witch alive, escapes. Recognizing Princess Finé from a childhood memory, Izetta transforms a soldier’s rifle into a flying “broomstick” and rescues Finé.

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Now reunited with her princess, Izetta pledges to protect Elystadt from the clutches of Germania—just as the White Witch of legend once did—and with the last surviving witch on their arsenal, Elystadt hopes to turn the tides against the imperialist war titan.

Original projects excite me. There’s nothing more freeing than hearing a studio trying to bring together a story from the their own combined passions, and then seeing the results. Izetta was no exception. While underwhelming in its finale, Izetta provides a magical spin on a historical setting where a world war is fought . . . by a witch.

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What if a World War had a Witch?

Izetta is a bumbling little mess of emotions and crimson hair. She’s kind and overly humble, but often disregards her own well-being for the object of her affection: Princess Finé. Speaking of, our Princess of Elystadt herself is quite the noble woman. Just as Izetta, she’s loyal to her countrymen and responsible to a T. Respect is another quality that runs deep in the Elystadt family’s lineage (or at least the legend has us believe), but trust me when I say that Finé is the genuine article.

The two are a power duo, and many of my favorite scenes don’t revolve around the engaging combat, but rather the quiet nighttime conversations that are exclusive to the pair. Although they act selfishly so as to preserve the others’ safety, Izetta and Finé are undeniably a cool couple bound together by lore and destiny.

Aside from Izetta, Finé, and a young Germanian spy boy named Ricelt, none of the characters’ motives felt resolved, however. If this were an adaptation of a larger work, then I could understand why some details might’ve gotten left out. But Izetta is an original story with an entirely original cast, and to have interesting characters that serve little more purpose than to act as mere decorative pawns is a crime. If one character’s role can be performed by a separate entity and the story pans out the same way, then that’s a sign you should probably rethink your character count.

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Banking on Design: The Art of Izetta

Ajia-do isn’t a studio known for producing the most outstanding works (the most noteworthy to me being Emma: A Victorian Romance‘s second season), but they definitely did Izetta justice. The magical dogfights featuring Izetta flexing her powers are super fun to watch, as she enchants a variety of guns, swords, and missiles to fly by her side and “aid” her. All of the CG armaments gliding around the battlefield are well animated, and the background villages, landscapes, ballrooms, and regal offices are splendidly colored.

Speaking of colors, the character designs are surprisingly detailed and ornate, especially Ortfiné’s. BUNBUN’s light novel-esque character designs mirror the quality of Abec’s works of Sword Art Online fame. The hauntingly gorgeous ED theme “Hikari Aru Basho e” by May’n features the beautiful original artwork in an elegant slideshow fashion. As for the rest of the music, Michiru delivers wonderful militaristic anthems for on and off the battlefield. Overall, the soundtrack supports both the dramatic and the more lax moments of the series fairly well.

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For dub fans, Funimation’s got you covered with another high quality English script. Mallorie Rodak brings a nobility to Princess Finé that is very reminiscent of her lovely work as Space Battleship Yamato‘s Yuki Mori. Derick Snow’s young boy voice for the soldier-spy Ricelt was, wow, perfect, and Jad Saxton’s Sophie makes for a wicked antagonist, even if I dislike the character. I found Skylar McIntosh’s Izetta to be the weakest performance here, but even then I grew to enjoy her natural naivete that fits so well with the role.

The End of Magic and Fantasy

Amidst the hype of the incredible fall 2016 anime season (which included Drifters, Bungou Stray Dogs‘ 2nd Season, Haikyuu!!’s 3rd Season, and the phenomenon that was Yuri!!! On ICE to name a few), Izetta slipped by the radar fairly undetected. Its flashy moniker and simple yet exciting world-wars-meets-magic premise was pretty well received by fans that somehow didn’t have enough that season to chew on, although few stuck around for very long. (Don’t worry Izetta, I made time for you back then.)

After the first stunning and smart six episodes, the promises and high stakes let on by this thrilling first half see a weak follow-up (and even weaker conclusion) come the end of the story. The introduction of a villain, aside from the uninteresting Germanian emperor, in the latter half serves more thematic purpose than anything else. That is to say, the addition of an actual antagonist to directly oppose our titular witch doesn’t make this story of war any more exciting.

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Prior to this reveal, the series was building up to one big narrative conclusion: that war is bad. It’s not novel, but it certainly fits. Seeing as how there are radicals, spies, and heavy losses on both sides of the border, I would’ve been quite satisfied if Izetta had held a more neutral position.

But then they go ahead and say, “Aha, this new villain is TRULY evil,” and any hopes of an appeal to the enemy side are lost in the muddy trenches. Maybe that kind of story works for you, but I just wasn’t a fan of the big baddie because it didn’t feel like the finale Izetta was building up towards. As an original tale, you could’ve gone anywhere . . . and this is what you decided on? At least Izetta looked great soaring high in the sky on that rifle of hers—I’ll certainly miss our little witch and her magic, even if just for that.

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I, for one, am glad we saw the magic. It may not seem like much, but I think the fairy tale of the White Witch who appeared in modern times left something good inside the hearts of people all over the world. — Izetta, the last witch


Afterword

It’s been three years in the making, and it took receiving a physical copy of the Izetta Blu-ray as a gift from my brother to finally make the time for a rewatch and give this series a proper review. Even if I was disappointed with parts of the ending, the final sentiment of leaving magic behind and looking towards the future will always bring a tear to my eyes. More than not, I’m so happy this project became realized by the production team behind it—it’s a noble little piece, and an achievement in my eyes. Izetta: The Last Witch receives the “Coffee” rating, a title that you, eh, might enjoy, but I wouldn’t recommend like crazy.

Were you one of the few who stuck around to see the end of the magic, or did you bail out of the plane halfway like Finé did in episode one? Let me know, because literally no one talks about this series! Really, the show is kinda dumb, but it’s fun popcorn material if you just want to turn your brain off. On another note, I’m in the reviewing mood, so I’m hoping to churn out a few more before the inspiration passes! So, until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

I Finally Watched the Old Fruits Basket | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 26-episode summer 2001 anime “Fruits Basket,” animated by Studio Deen, directed by Akitarou Daichi, and based on the manga of the same name by Natsuki Takaya.

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The Girl with a Big Heart

Despite losing her mother in a car accident and being kicked out of her grandfather’s house due to renovation, 16-year-old Tohru Honda manages to love life like no one else you’ve ever known. Lying to her friends and family that she’s already found a new place to stay (so as to not burden them) Tohru sets up camp *literally* in the woods.

One fateful night after a long shift at work, Tohru returns to her tent only to find it crushed and flattened by a landslide. Desperately digging through the rubble for the last precious picture of her mother, Tohru faints in the mud. Luckily, the prince of her high school, Yuki Sohma, and his author cousin, Shigure Sohma, come to her aid and even invite Tohru to stay with them until her grandfather’s home renovations are finished.

But as life (and the shoujo genre) would have it, a roof over one’s head doesn’t come free, and so Tohru works as a housekeeper at the Sohma house in return for room and board. The Sohma’s aren’t an ordinary family, however: if a Sohma is hugged by someone of the opposite gender, POOF, they temporarily transform into one of the animals of the Chinese zodiac! (Plus, they return to being human without their clothes on.) Toss in Kyo Sohma, the fiery zodiac cat, and you’ve got quite the crazy household.

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While the Sohmas’ secret causes more sticky (and silly) situations than not, this strange phenomenon isn’t all giggles for Tohru and especially the members of her new family. Rather, the curse of the zodiac has caused all of the Sohmas to bear the tremendous weight of their dark family history. Some are more complacent about the situation than others, but none of them are happy with what the curse has brought them.

As Tohru meets more of the family’s members, she continues to see the light casting such great shadows across each of their hearts. But even with her unusually big heart and kind yet resilient nature, is there a limit to the heartache that Tohru can take?

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Welcome to the Sohma Household!

Oh Tohru, where to begin with you! She’s just about the sweetest young lady you’ll ever meet, so determined and steadfast, yet also gentle and supportive. Full of gratitude for her life and warmth to spare, I couldn’t think of a better protagonist for such a story as this. I love Tohru’s character, I really do, and I totally get why you all do, too! But as a dub fan myself, I couldn’t fully appreciate Tohru without giving praise to Laura Bailey for bringing this clumsy yet polite high school girl to life. UGH, I just love listening to old dubs and hearing Laura Bailey as anything, but this, without a doubt, is a hallmark role for a reason.

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Now for mah boys, where are my Prince Yuki fans? Kyo Sohma stans?? Prior to watching, all I knew about Fruba was that all of the male Shomas were supposedly boyfriend material. I get it now. Kyo and Yuki are ICONIC, like fire and ice, cat and mouse (rat), respectively; the Asuka and the Rei of the shoujo world. The smart one perfectly imperfect, the stupid one imperfectly perfect. Although both are unable to open their hearts to “normal” people, these two rivals in arms compete for the affection of Miss Honda without holding back, unbeknownst to their own feelings in the beginning.

And yeah, in case you were wondering, #TeamKyo ALL THE WAY. After voicing Kaworu in Eva 3.33, I never thought I could fanboy over Jerry Jewell this badly. Turns out, I can.

I couldn’t wrap up the Sohmas without mentioning some of my other favorites, however; if Kyo is #bestboy, then Shigure is best man cause DADDY AM I RIGHT. Jokes aside, I really do love the zodiac dog and all his whimsical teasing. John Burgmeier’s Shirgure is just as slippery as his personality should be. Same could be said about Chris Sabat’s overly frilly pompousness for Ayame Sohma, our resident snake, cause wow, just such dream casting.

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Sweetly, Softly, Serenade Me

Ah, here we are, Fruba‘s biggest deal-breaker: the animation. Studio Deen isn’t known for producing the most beautiful works by any means, and it pains me to report that as much as I love the characters, the show kinda looks like ass. To be honest, not many early 2000s anime fair as well as those that came before (and most certainly those we have now), but the inconsistently drawn faces and blocky body structures make Fruba 2001 a pretty bland watch, especially when compared to the 2019 remake (I mean, I would hope so, at least). The chibi art style for the many comedic moments in the series is iconically well-done, however, so I’ll at least give it points for being extra cute and even hilarious at times.

There’s also a problem with the anime-only ending, but I can’t and won’t add more on that simply because I do not know how faithful that ending is to the manga. While it may seem totally out of touch given the fluffier content of the earlier half, perhaps the original story does go that dark, that suddenly, to which I can only really say . . . yikes. Emotional, absolutely, but it still hits hard from waaaay outta left field.

Much of the actual OST for me is a blur, but I loved the reprises and acoustic versions of the OP and ED featured throughout the series’ run. The actual theme songs happened to exist during the days of dubbing the music, so the OP and ED are in English. And I love that too. Hearing Laura Bailey softly signing along to “Chiisana Inori” at the end of each episode was the gift you earned for having to watch the drab animation. But to hear the bittersweet “For Fruits Basket” immediately following as the OP was, well, emotionally draining to say the least. (It really just HITS ya.) Ahh, my heart, what a lovely pair the two make!

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Acceptance Begins with Understanding

From the synopsis alone, I can see why the series has become so iconic to the genre. The scenarios in Fruits Basket are as classic as they get—I can only imagine, if there’s an anime romance trope out there, Fruba‘s got it. Whether the quirkiest or steamiest of situations, however, the series handles the delivery more gently than most. It’s almost as if the series, despite how depressing it can be, is too kind for its own good. And you can bet Tohru is a huge part of why Fruba manages to be simultaneously innocent and full of depth and heart.

The story is richly woven with character dramas and inspiring little tales reminiscent of a child’s bedtime storybook, Tohru serving as both the narrator and the characters’ guiding light. Each of the Sohmas possess an individually distorted view of their dark pasts, and after years of rejection, isolation, oppression, and feeling like an outcast, who could blame them? These are wounds that even time cannot heal—scars that will never fade—and yet, Tohru tries to bandage them up anyway. Through her accepting essence, Tohru allows Kyo, Yuki, and so many others in the family to vent their frustrations, their past errors, and their regrets.

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After what feels like a long, exhausting therapy session, our zodiac friends slowly come to peace with themselves and, at last, feel proud for being who—not what—they are. As someone willing to understand them, Tohru offers to do what no outsider has ever done before and help shoulder their burden, however tremendous the weight, and I couldn’t even begin to fathom how relieving that must feel. “Finally, I can tell someone. FINALLY, I can be me!”

From me to you, don’t sleep on this story as long as I did. With the new season airing, tons of fans around the world are reconnecting with their favorite zodiac friends and passionate OTPs and ships. To miss out on such fun would be tragic. So, whether the old, stale, yet genuine 2001 version or this latest vibrant retelling, watch Fruits Basket. Then you, too, will see what all the ruckus is about in the Sohma household—and why it’s such a heartwarming, endearing little place to stay.

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You never know what will happen tomorrow! If it’s not tomorrow, then maybe the next day. Maybe after a year, or even ten years . . . But even so, as long as you’re alive, things keep happening. As long as you’re alive, wishes keep getting made. — Tohru Honda


Afterword

What more can I say, Fruits Basket is a classic after all. So classic, in fact, that I’m awarding this long-awaited series with the “Cake” title, a series so sweet it’d be a crime to skip out on. That said, I’d only make it a true must for shoujo fans. If romance and cutesy fun stuff ain’t your thing, skip it, or better yet try the 2019 version. At least that one looks pretty (not to say I won’t crush over 2001 Kyo for the next year). There’s so much heart in this series, guys—I GET WHY Y’ALL LOVE IT SO MUCH. And the dub, oh my god, they really milked this one for all its worth. So honestly, truly wonderful.

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Do you have any memories with Fruits Basket 2001? Ooh, what about a favorite zodiac member?? You’re gonna have to let me know in the comments for sure! I’ll forever treasure this past spring, spending my weekends watching this beloved show with my sister. In fact, the remake may be why I decided to watch it now, but my sister’s the one who shared this series with me in the first place! Thanks so much for reading another rambling gush-fest of mine, and until the next post, this has been

– Takuto, your host

The Scope of the Universe: Gurren Lagann Revisited

A few days ago, I took to Twitter following my rewatch of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and tweeted this:

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If you didn’t notice it sitting there in my collection post, I recently (and FINALLY) got a hold of the Gurren Lagann limited edition DVD set released by Aniplex of America several years back. It’s a set that I’ve wanted ever since I laid eyes on it—and that was before I even watched the series! You can only imagine my elation when I managed to get this OOP set for just $60 after haggling with the eBay seller for a couple days.

Now, as the title of this post indicates, I’m not going to review the series. Nah, I’ve already done that, and I still stand by everything I say in my review of Gurren LagannRather, this is just to express my feelings about it now, three years after my first viewing. I like to think I’m a different person compared to when I first watched this series, and correspondingly, the show means different things to me now than when I first saw Lagann take flight in that iconic opening episode.

This isn’t anything new. Y’all are probably familiar with this show’s hype given how well it has been passed on from fan to fan. Heck, perhaps the only reason you watched it was because of someone else’s recommendation. And there’s a good reason for its constant spreading throughout the past decade.

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From Gainax’s off-the-walls animation to the high-octane soundtrack of ROW ROW FIGHT THE POWAHHH, Gurren Lagann delivers consistent quality, still holding up TWELVE years later as one of anime’s best-looking and best-sounding. I literally started CRYING once I heard “Libera Me From Hell” again in the finale, you guys. It’s the stuff of legends, I’m telling you. And with all this recent circulation of what it means for an anime to be “classic,” well, can I just say that whatever your standards may be, Gurren Lagann most certainly fits the bill.

And the ENDING. I can’t even begin to fathom the scope of Team Dai-Gurren’s galactic quest. From a tiny hole in the ground, to the Earth’s surface, the moon, and beyond the Milky Way. That’s just nuts! Since my rewatch, I’ve found myself sitting here just staring at the wall more and more, just trying to comprehend it all. What even is at the end of the universe? What other kinds of life are out there among the stars? Will we ever earn the chance to interact with such forces? I mean, this is a Gainax series, so I’m theoretically not supposed to risk a massive headache over trying to rationalize the impossible, but that’s half the fun, really.

According to Wikipedia, the universe measures 93 billion light years across. The freakin’ Universe. Proportionally, that’s how big Gurren Lagann‘s story is. Ok, maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but when you have a climax that ends in two cosmically sized robots (or energy beings at this point) hurling galaxies at each other, you know your story is kinda big. My point is, to discount any of the events of Gurren Lagann and label it as anything less would be, well, a lie.

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In my review, I called Gurren Lagann The Larger-Than-Life Story of Us.” Pretty title, right? That’s not simply me trying to be poetic, though. The series is all about evolution. Each and every day, we try to evolve—to push ourselves to the max—just to be better, EVEN IF only the slightest bit, than we were the day before.

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

Gurren Lagann is zany through to the very end. So much happens in such little time, it’s absolutely unbelievable. Lagann’s bombastic protagonists and equally bizarre antagonists thrust upon you a story that demands your attention as it dares to break through the heavens. It’s a weight that doesn’t have to be shouldered alone, however; the series has solidified itself as a timeless ode to the vigor of the human spirit, and a demonstration of the sheer audacity of the human race.

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I’m not quite sure where I’m going with this post anymore, but I do know one thing for certain: the day we decide to forget this classic story is the day the anime community will lose a monumental part of its core—but not without gaining something new to fill its place. What that new show or shows will be, only the future us will know. I do hope we never give up on Gurren Lagann, but the inevitability of fate that the series itself wields might prove my wish otherwise.

So, going back to my desperate-sounding tweet, please, PLEASE never stop sharing Gurren Lagann with all your friends and the wonderful people of this community. Such a vibrant star should never lose its light, but as we too continue to change and evolve, sometimes we have to leave even the best and most precious of our memories behind.

I only hope that the great Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann doesn’t fade from our hearts anytime soon.

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When does a man die? When he is hit by a bullet? No. When he suffers a disease? No. When he eats a soup made out of a poisonous mushroom? No! A man dies when he is forgotten. — Kamina


I really haven’t done a post like this before, but I had some thoughts I needed to vent and didn’t know how else to do it. If you share the same sentiments about this beloved title, I’d love to hear them! Tell me your stories, I’ll listen. In fact, merely sharing mine with you again led me to the creation of a new category on my blog: the Revisited titles. Since I tend to rewatch stuff a bunch, it only felt right to finally honor the series that are worthy of such revisits!

The weirdest thing about all of this was that, even just a couple months ago, I didn’t even feel that passionately about the series. But as soon as summer hit—the exact same time of the year in which I initially watched Lagann—man, it just kicked on like crazy. I HAVE to watch Gurren Lagann again, I kept telling myself. So I did, and I bought it, too. If you’re strapped for cash, however, the entire series is available on Crunchyroll for FREE!

Anyway, thanks for reading my loose ramblings. It was quite enjoyable being able to get these thoughts out here. Now, I can finally move on. ‘Till next time!

– Takuto, your host