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

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!” For the OWLS blog tour’s eighth monthly topic of 2019, “Believe,” I wanted to spend some time revisiting one of Kyoto Animation’s most fun yet often overlooked titles: the incredible, the amazing Amagi Brilliant Park!

Kyoto Animation. We all have that one anime we enjoyed from Kyoto Animation. Whether it is pain or joy, Kyoto Animation has brought to life stories that can touch our emotions. For the month of August, we will be honoring Kyoto Animation and all it has done for art, storytelling, and popular culture by discussing some of our favorite Kyoto Animation series. We will discuss what we love about these series and what they taught us.

The fire that happened at the studio is indeed a tragedy. We pray for the lives that were lost in this tragedy and the families that are suffering at this time. Fires may be dangerous, but there are flames that burn within us that spark passion, hope, and belief in ourselves.

I think it’s so wonderful that bloggers, YouTubers, and fans in this community have been reacting to this tragedy by sharing what they love most about the studio and its people. Although my words will not likely reach them, I hope our collective sentiment does, even it’s just to say a heartfelt “Thank You.” Lyn, thanks for this prompt!

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A brief discussion of the 13-episode fall 2014 anime “Amagi Brilliant Park,” animated by Kyoto Animation, directed by the late Yasuhiro Takemoto, and based on the light novel series of the same name by Shoji Gatoh.

A Land of Magic and Fun

Seiya Kanie is one good-lookin’ high school dude, and boy does he know it. Of course, this smart yet extremely narcissistic guy would believe that the quiet and beautiful Isuzu Sento has invited him on a date at an amusement park (even if she threatened him at gunpoint to get him there). His expectations are shattered when the bus pulls up to a run-down facility, where Seiya discovers that the titular Amagi Brilliant Park is running itself into the ground.

An employee herself, Sento takes Seiya through various disappointing attractions. Eventually, she brings him to see the owner of the theme park, Princess Latifa Fleuranza, who reveals to Seiya that Amagi is no ordinary amusement park. That very sentiment wins him over when Latifa bestows upon Seiya magical powers of his own. To further prove her point, she tells him that many of the park’s employees hail from her kingdom of Maple Land, and that they are mysterious magical beings who are nourished by animis, or the energy created by people having fun.

Because of his impressive intellect and natural charisma, Sento recruited her classmate not for a date, but to become the park’s new manager. Why so desperate? As per the park’s land-use contract, Amagi has less than three months to meet a quota of 500,000 guests. If they fail, the park will be closed for good, and all of its employees will have to scrounge up jobs—and a living—elsewhere. Entrusted with the hopes and dreams of this far-off enchanted land, Seiya declares he’ll use his many skills to bring Amagi back on its feet within this three-month span, or else watch it crumble to the ground.

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Amagi Brilliant Park is a fun fantasy romp that balances comedy and drama surprisingly well. You come for the stupid gags and lewd humor, but stay for the heartfelt character moments and the blood, sweat, and tears that come with hard work. Although the end wraps up a bit quicker than I’d have liked, this is ultimately just an adaptation of a much larger story.

Meet the Cast of AmaBri!

Seiya Kanie’s time at AmaBri challenges his character in a sort of redemptive way. As he comes to know the quirks of the park and its staff, he realizes that his boundless narcissism won’t help him through all situations. Sometimes he needs to lend a hand; other times, an ear will do just fine. That doesn’t stop him from gazing at his own reflection to remind himself of his dashing good looks.

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Our broad-shouldered, dead-panned Isuzu Sento is our female lead and Seiya’s partner in crime. She means so, so well by her actions, but her history as one of the Princess’ soldiers from their Maple Land days has whipped her into a prim and proper manager’s secretary that just can’t take a joke. Many of the park staff have a love/hate relationship with Sento, as her soldier instincts lead her hand to her magic rifle to solve any problems with rascally customers or staff. As she watches Seiya and learns from his diplomatic skills, however, Sento’s feared reputation slowly dissipates, as does that expressionless face of hers.

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The majority of AmaBri’s other staff are magical misfits from Maple Land, from cute talking sharks, digger moles, and dragons, to an anthropomorphic wrench and . . . a globe? Yeah, they’re a buncha of weirdos for sure. But the true stars of the park are the biggest freaks—and in the most unconventional way. Who knew a perverted cat, a foul-mouthed sheep, and an overly aggressive, umm, Moffle (?) would be Seiya’s biggest headache.

Seriously, Tiramie the flower fairy, Macaron the music fairy, and AmaBri’s sweets fairy mascot Moffle are an absolute HANDFUL, but man are they THE trio of goons. Most of the series’ hilarious moments come from Macaron’s laziness (a true artist must “take time off” if they’re not feeling inspired), or Tiramie’s perverted gawking and awful facial expressions. Overall, such a fun, endearing cast, even if their main purpose is just to put a smile on your face (kinda like . . . a theme park’s staff). 😉

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KyoAni IS the Magic of AmaBri

Animation lies at the core of anime, and like any comedy series, delivery is everything. Timing hilarious visuals with outrageous sounds is the goal with these kinds of shows, and in regards to humor, Amagi Brilliant Park is one of the bests out there. For me, much of Tiramie and Macaron’s slapstick comedy landed so hard I was left laughing hours after the episode ended. Not only do their faces twist in wacky, grotesque expressions, but the dialogue itself is absolutely hysterical.

Seriously, the dub script is GOLD, and the delivery by the actors has gut-busting potential. Can Adam Gibbs just voice every KyoAni male protagonist from now on, because he just has that perfect blend of charisma, charm, and awkwardness down pat. He can be goofy, but also attractive, which fits very well with Seiya’s personality. Molly Searcy’s Sento is much stiffer than what even the writing makes her out to be, but it grew on me throughout the series. Other fave performances included the dynamic duo of Tiffany Grant and Allison Keith as Moffle and Macaron, respectively. Hearing two of Eva‘s most iconic characters as giant stuffed cussing mascots was just awesome beyond words.

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Despite how perfect I thought the anime’s comedy skits were executed, I actually found the drama moments to land even better. Moments of bitter pain or sudden realization are captured perfectly by not only the characters’ facial expressions, but the space they inhabit. When Sento and Seiya were deeply pondering how much one meant to the other, deep blue shadows are cast over a blinding orange sunset, filling the screen with contrasting colors and conflicting emotions.

And of course, the all scenery is just beautiful to take in. The bright-colored landscapes work well with the cheery, cartoonish character designs. Plus, Seiya and Sento, as well as the other “human” characters, look very pretty—the KyoAni standard. In fact, had any other studio adapted AmaBri‘s story, I can bet you money that it wouldn’t have turned out as nearly as magical and fun as it did here with KyoAni.

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On the audio side of things, Shinkichi Mitsumune’s soundtrack supports all the laughs and the feels with incredible emotion. And if there’s a song more positive and upbeat than AKINO and bless4’s OP “Extra Magic Hour,” I haven’t heard it yet!

The humor hits home, and the drama is very much respected by the late Yasuhiro Takemoto’s sensitive directing style. Sure the story and characters were written long before the show was created, but Kyoto Animation, YOU were the ones who put the real magic into this series, and it shows with every laugh I gave and every tear I shed while watching. You are the magic that saved AmaBri, and I honestly can’t celebrate my enjoyment with this series enough!

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Dreams Only Come True if You Believe

Amagi Brilliant Park is a story about a boy who prides himself above others, thinking that he is good at everything, and that same boy’s struggle to help those that don’t believe in themselves become proud of their own abilities. It’s a story about give and take, hard work, and at the end of the day, finding the fun in what you do for a living. Seiya may manipulate and play on the staff’s whims and emotions throughout the series, but a strong sense of trust always lies at the core of his plans.

Seiya’s magic doesn’t stem from his newfound power—it comes directly from his belief in the resilience and strength of all the people of Maple Land. Seiya makes an investment in these people, pouring all his time and energy into transforming the workers of AmaBri into employees worthy of their gifts.

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

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If you wanna make people dream, you’ve gotta start by believing in that dream yourself! — Seiya Kanie


Afterword

At LAST, I’ve written the post about AmaBri that I’ve been wanting to ever since I saw it a couple years back. Again, I’d like to extend my thanks to the lovely Kyoto Animation for giving us the gift of fun all wrapped in a pretty little bow—I hope I was able to do the series justice! Amagi Brilliant Park is one of the studio’s most underrated series, and I hope some of you will decide to watch this hilarious and heartwarming “Cake” title! To those few who have actually seen this gem, you ought to let me know your thoughts!

This concludes my August 10th entry in the OWLS “Believe” blog tour. Mel (Mel in Anime Land) wrote about Free! and Tsurune, two of my favorite series by the studio, that you can enjoy right here! Now, look out for Scott (Mechanical Anime Reviews) also with a post on Tsurune (ahh, all the love!) tomorrow, August 11th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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

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!” For the OWLS blog tour’s seventh monthly topic of 2019, “Technology,” I decided to go with a slightly less-than-obvious choice, the incredibly profound yet humble Kino’s Journey (2017). Odd pick, right? Just wait, I think I can make it work!

For this month’s topic, we will be discussing how technology impacts our relationships with others and how it improves our lives (such as in communication, education, etc.) by exploring the technology used in various anime and pop culture worlds.

A simple prompt, but an exciting one nonetheless. Thank you Lyn and Aria!

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A brief discussion of the 12-episode fall 2017 anime “Kino’s Journey -the Beautiful World- the Animated Series,” animated by Lerche, directed by Tomohisa Taguchi, and based on the light novel series of the same name by Keiichi Sigsawa.

From Country to Country

Three days, two nights. No more, no less. That is the only rule Kino made for herself before she set out on her talking motorcycle, Hermes. Whenever the 15-year-old feels bogged down by heavy thoughts or unpleasant memories, she travels. For Kino, few things in life can compare to the joy that comes with exploring the wild yet wonderful world around her, as well as understanding the diverse ways in which people live.

But don’t let Kino’s cute, slightly androgynous appearance and courteous demeanor fool you: Kino isn’t afraid to kill if it means protecting herself or Hermes. A diplomat, sure, but a pushover—hardly. If she needs to kill, she won’t hesitate. Otherwise, Kino ekes out a peaceful life of traversing foreign lands with her best friend and loyal partner.

Sprawling cityscapes and vast countrysides, mountain villages and tiny valley towns, grassy prairies and open seas—Kino and Hermes are here for all of it. As these partners in crime encounter new people and learn the rules of their *often quirky* civilizations, they grow to find out more about their own values and virtues. But as Kino immerses herself more deeply in discovering the world around her, she also finds herself facing dangers that linger within the beauty of the great unknown.

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The World is Eccentric

Countries that roam atop the plains using caterpillar tracks, others that float in great ships on the open seas. Countries that reside within enormous walls, and others that are located deep within the earth. Countries of unimaginable size, others so small they might as well be cults. No two countries look nor feel alike, making each stop one full of intrigue and curiosity.

From cryptic laws to hysterical citizens, the written or mutually understood way of life for a country is almost always shrouded in mystery. Either for its dark history or doomed future, these eccentric countries operate with irrational decisions, or a mindset that is far too rational to make any practical sense. Some countries are understandable (if not a bit extreme), while many are frustrating and deeply flawed. Kino’s Journey is a fun watch, don’t get me wrong. But to say it isn’t hella weird at times would be far from the truth.

If things sound too good to be true, it’s because they are. And if the country feels too dystopian, there’s ought to be a silver lining in it somewhere that Kino can find. She wields only her her guns and her wits as she travels, yet on her shoulders is a level head and an open mind that is truly one of a kind. If we were following anyone besides Kino, the journey—and all of its crazy tales—would be drastically different. I suppose that’s why it’s Kino’s Journey, not anyone else’s.

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Every country, just like every man, causes some degree of bother to others merely by existing, yet we all must carry on. — Public Servant from the Bothersome Country


Friendship Comes in Many Forms

Through her splendid little motorrad, Kino explores the beautiful world around here, all its happiness and wickedness alike. Hermes and Kino keep each other company like no one else could for the other. They are not the standard traveler, but exceptions to the rule. Rather than seek fame and fortune, Kino and Hermes yearn for psychological satisfaction. They talk not of grandeur, but of philosophy around the campfire. Seeking what cannot be seen, Kino takes delight in everything the journey has to offer, sorrows and hardships included, and Hermes is a huge part of her willingness to keep exploring. Exactly half of it, in fact.

A loyal, sentient motorcycle, Hermes, allows Kino to deeply connect with the many lands and peoples along her journey without a destination. And this very motorrad is the technology which I’m spotlighting in this post.

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One thing I love about the world of Kino’s Journey is the acceptance of technology used by travelers. Even though it’d be the first point to bring up by you or myself, no one seems to have questions or qualms about the talking motorcycle. Weird, right? Regardless of whether they hail from proud medieval villages or urban metropolises, the people of any given land posses neither curiosity nor despise for Hermes. He just exists along with his traveler, and thus saves Kino from having to continuously explain Hermes’ unusual sentience, which would get quite old within just a couple episodes.

The more I got to thinking, I started to realize that the internet is my Hermes that connects me to all of you. I have seen so many sights, heard so many sounds, and felt so many stories just through the power of the internet. And in the process, I found friends, too, much as Kino did in Hermes. To a traveler, the motorrad is literally a vehicle for communication and connection, and also an unlikely friend.

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How Technology Connects Us

Technology only works if you try to work with it, as we see in Hermes’ relationship with Kino and all the unique, technologically developed civilizations they encounter. Much like people, some countries are outwardly hostile, while others welcome travelers with outstretched arms instead. Regardless of their attitude towards outsiders, each country uses almost radically different forms of technology. From medieval pitchforks and knives, to guns and ammo of the Wild West, and even robots from the far future, technology has found itself embedded in humanity’s existence.

Some people are protected by technology. Others are haunted by it. Some use it to connect with people and society, while others use it to live peaceful, solitary lives. Kino comes across many stories of horror and hope alike, but technology is almost always somehow involved. Above all, what Kino learns from these tales is that people leave technology behind—or worse, are left behind by it.

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The metaphor I’m trying to make is a simple one: Hermes connects Kino to the world just as the internet connects me to all of you colorful people. Even if I come across sadness or heartache through my internet explorations, there’s always positivity and kindness to be found as well. I’ve been able to learn about so many real-world countries, real-world customs and cultures that would’ve been impossible otherwise (or at least not as easily accessible).

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

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A pact is an agreement to help each other out a bit. As long as I handle the balance, keep him fueled, and plot our destination, he’ll give me all the speed I could ask for. And with that, travel gets a lot easier, also more fun. — Kino


A Traveler’s Tale

Kino’s Journey (2017), like its 2003 “predecessor,” employs the time-honored motif of the road trip as a vehicle for self-discovery and universal truth. Deeply meditative, thought-provoking, imaginative, and sometimes disturbing, Kino’s journey is told in an episodic style with an emphasis on atmosphere rather than action or plot, though still present.

Each country has its own customs, some of them strange, some interesting. And just as how every place has a story, every story most certainly has a place. All who travel leave their mark behind, and I’m talking about more than just the tire treads of Hermes’ wheels in the mud.

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Unlike the loud excitement of a road-trip adventure, Kino’s Journey delights in the philosophical banter between two very old, quiet souls. In this wacky and weird world, technology allows Kino and her best friend to expand their knowledge of the world, but also learn a thing or two about one another and themselves along their journey. Their meandering through various lands bring with them their own challenges of how to connect with a place’s people.

A series of vignettes, a collection of stories. Some “tales from the wise” are nice, others less so. But all of them are fascinating in their own way. Human decency, empathy, respect—these are all qualities people from different lands define in different ways. And that is fine.

Often, the problems Kino encounters with Hermes are not with law or culture, but with people. Where there are people, there will always be problems—that much is inevitable. But when we can accept one another’s differences and see the order in the world, the world itself becomes much easier to live in. A bothersome world, sure, but a beautiful one nevertheless.

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I’m not sure if this world is beautiful, but it sure is big. — Hermes


Afterword

I could’ve easily have picked Evangelion given both how central technology is at the story’s core and that I’m almost finished with my rewatch of the series on Netflix. But I didn’t, as that would’ve been too easy, not to mention obvious. I like picking more unique titles for these OWLS tour posts, and I hope I was able to do Kino’s Journey justice. By the way, the series is a “Cake” title here at the cafe!

There’s so much depth to this title, both the old one and the new one, and I hope that, if you’re ever needing a quiet escape journey, you’ll take Hermes for a spin with either the 2003 or 2017 adaptation. The latest remake is beautiful on the outside and adapts previously untouched chapters from the novel, while the early 2000s version uses storytelling methods and imagery that transcend the outdated visuals. My opinion? Watch them both! More Kino is a good thing, after all!

Speaking of beautiful, I didn’t even mention how just draw-droppingly gorgeous Lerche’s visuals are. Along with A Lull in the Sea and the works of Makoto Shinkai, I truly believe that Kino’s Journey (2017) features some of the most colorful, alluring, and enchanting landscapes anime has ever seen! Plus, Kino’s new character design is just fantastic, a charming look fit perfectly for our titular traveler!

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This concludes my July 7th entry in the OWLS “Technology” blog tour. Jack (Animated Observations) went right before me with a post on Psycho-Pass, a textbook pick for this tour and one of my favorite anime that you can read right here. Now, look out for Lyn (Just Something About LynLyn) with a post on one of my favorite films ever, the world famous your name.tomorrow, July 14th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Sarazanmai & the Price of Connection | OWLS “Vulnerable”

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!” For the OWLS blog tour’s sixth monthly topic of 2019, “Vulnerable,” I wanted to give some character spotlight to this spring season’s craziest title: Ikuhara’s Sarazanmai. 

In the month of June, we will be discussing what it means to be vulnerable. To some individuals, being vulnerable could be seen as a sign of weakness, but in fact, vulnerability is actually a sign of strength. We will explore what it means to be vulnerable and how certain characters in pop culture glamorize vulnerability. When do we show our vulnerability? How do we express vulnerability? Why should we show vulnerability? These are questions that we will be discussing in our posts featuring characters that show vulnerability and/or sensitivity and what we can learn from them or even our own personal stories.

I was pretty stoked when this month’s theme was announced. “How unusual, yet cool,” I remember thinking. Sarazanmai definitely fits the bill well, and what do you know—it’s even got some queer representation in it, perfect for pride month! Thanks Lyn for the prompt!

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A brief discussion of the original, 11-episode spring 2019 anime “Sarazanmai,” animated by MAPPA and Lapin Track, directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara and Nobuyuki Takeuchi, and written by Ikuhara and Teruko Utsumi. SPOILERS for episodes 1-3 will be present. 

We’re All Connected

What does it mean to connect? Middle school boy and Asakusa local Kazuki Yasaka is trying to figure that out for himself. After accidentally breaking a statue of a kappa, Kazuki and his friends Enta Jinnai and Toi Kuji find themselves transforming into the very creature of Japanese folklore at the behest of Keppi, prince of the Kappa Kingdom. To become human again, they must fight against the kappa-zombies, even stranger beings birthed from human desires and created by Keppi’s enemies: the Otter Empire.

If that weren’t already enough, to kill the kappa-zombies, the trio must perform the “Sarazanmai,” a sound produced only when the three are united. But making such connections are much easier said than done. What’s even worse is that each time they emit the sound, one of their secrets are revealed to the others! (Vulnerable in every sense of the word, am I right??)

For their efforts, Keppi cuts them a deal: Collect the rampant desires of the kappa-zombies and he’ll bestow upon them the “Dishes of Hope,” plates Keppi can create from humanity’s darkness that can make their wishes come true. When Kazuki, Enta, and Toi find that it takes five plates to make even just one wish come true, however, the friendship of these three boys is challenged. With every new fight springs forth another one of their innermost secrets, whether they like it or not! It’s only a matter of time before one of the boys breaks—but will the connections to their loved ones shatter with the fall?

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Sarazanmai is equal parts sarcastic and dramatic in its storytelling. During half of it, you are allowed to laugh at the silliness of it all. Probably for more than half, actually. To obtain the desires of the kappa-zombies, Kazuki and friends must enter the, ehem, *anus* of the demons and steal their shirikodama, a mythical orb said to contain the desires of one’s soul. Sound kinda dumb? Well, don’t blame the writers (or do for going through with it), because that’s actually how the legend of the Kappa goes, believe it or not!

And that’s just the beginning of the absurdity. Wait till we introduce the fortune-telling idol girl, the boy who cross-dresses as said idol, the other boy who shot a yakuza when he was just a wee tot, and the gay cops!! Oh Ikuhara, you’ve really created art with this one!

Joking aside, Sarazanmai is a neat little coming-of-age fantasy story for three poor youths who can’t seem to understand their place in the world. They don’t feel connected to anyone, lost adrift the tumultuous sea of love, and that’s what makes the moments when they realize the true meaning of their bonds so tender. Unconventional in execution, perhaps, but still immensely entertaining to follow.

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So, What is the Sarazanmai?

Is it a song? A dance? Something you can eat? Keppi says that: “Sarazanmai” refers to a connection of mind and soul. You share all your deepest secrets as well.”

So it’s abstract, but still simple to grasp. Humans are connected through their shirikodamas. When they lose them—as when Kappa Kazuki steals it to perform the Sarazanmai with Enta and Toi—they become incapable of connecting with anyone else, and they get kicked out of the circle that makes up the world (also quoted by Keppi). Yeesh, talk about a soul-siphoning ceremony!

By uniting in the Sarazanmai, Keppi can obtain these captured desires. Much like a double-edged sword, however, some of the users’ own desires inadvertently “leak” in the process. We’re talking about these boys’ private diary-grade secrets, which is what I want to talk about next. Trust them on this one: it ain’t easy being green.

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I Want to Connect, But . . . 

Reaching out to others is hard. It can be especially scary if you already think little of yourself. For whatever reason, trust me, we’ve all been there, and so have Kazuki, Enta, and Toi. Because Kazuki’s backstory carries more significance with the latter half, Toi’s with the show’s ending, I’ll be focusing on the Enta, our glasses wearing member of the “Golden Duo” meant to last all time!

Kazuki and Enta have been best friends ever since they met. After watching the other boys kick the soccer ball during practice for several weeks, a young Kazuki finally extends a hand to Enta to join the team. He was invited inside the circle, and granted permission to interact with an all-star like Kazuki. It sounds like a cold way of viewing their initial exchange, but this is how Enta, with all his self-doubts and insecurities, felt towards soccer and this new life.

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But feelings of more than just friendship blossomed for Enta. A closeted gay kid, Enta fell in love with his straight best friend. He felt blessed for having such a friend in his life, but cursed for feeling things that otherwise conflict with both the object of his affection and the status quo.

So like any shy gay boy, Enta hid these unacceptable feelings. He hid it all, months, years—

Until he performed the Sarazanmai. 

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Despite how hard he sheltered his secrets, all finally came bursting at the seams. Enta was left 100% unguarded, vulnerable. The boys saw how Enta inhaled Kazuki’s scent on his jersey in the locker room—how Enta’s expression glowed with lust when he placed his lips on Kazuki’s recorder—how Enta even KISSED Kazuki’s lips while he lie asleep. It was too much, way too embarrassing!! Kazuki was shocked, but blew it off under the assumption that his teammates dared Enta to kiss him. For Enta, however, his feelings were rejected, and not just trivialized, but entirely unacknowledged.

To be looked away by his love crushed him. Enta wanted to connect, but it wasn’t meant to be. Enta wanted to connect, to lie about what he did, but the Sarazanmai only reveals the truth. Enta wanted to connect, but to take more than what he could have. He wanted to connect, but Kazuki was so far away. And at the very end, when Enta stole the dishes for the chance to satisfy his own selfish wish, he couldn’t be forgiven. Lover became stranger, and Enta lost sight of himself.

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Love Yourself, & Cherish the Bonds You Form

I think if Sarazanmai has a bigger message under its themes of connection and expression, it’s this. When his whole life came crashing down on him, Enta first had to learn to be happy with himself if he was to not give up on his wish. Sure, he betrayed his friends, but he never gave up on Kazuki, even if Kazuki hated him for his actions.

We have to learn to be happy with ourselves if we are to form genuine connections with others. That said, we can still dislike parts of ourselves. I don’t think Enta ever wanted to have the feelings that he did for Kazuki, nor did he like feeling like a bystander all the time. But he eventually embraced those parts of himself, and found that all of these aspects—the good and the bad, the black and the white, the lustful and the loving—made up who he was as a person.

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Underneath its wacky, circus-like presentation, Sarazanmai is story about victimization, victimizing, and inadvertently hurting the people you love most to protect yourself. It shows us the price of maintaining connections with others, the deadly costs and the sinful pleasures alike. Each of the boys got to the point where they couldn’t even tell their closest friends about what was going on in their life, and that’s deeply eye-opening. Some connections cause you pain, yet you have to hold on to them.

Full of hidden meanings and rife with cultural symbolism, Sarazanmai delves into messy territory with philosophy on what it means to form genuine connections with others. How much should I give in a relationship? What should I be receiving in return? Is a connection supposed to be completely reciprocal, or . . . is it ok for one party to wind up with more? 

What does it mean to love someone, as opposed to desire something? How can my dreams help others, or why do my desires always hurt someone else? Merely living might be the hardest part, but true human connection and love make it all worthwhile. So long as we try to reach out to others and form connections, we’ll always be vulnerable to attack, physical or emotional.

But more importantly, just by trying, we’ll always have the chance to be happy—and not even a desire-snatching kappa can steal that opportunity away from you.

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Never forget that only those who connect their desires through the pain of loss can take the future in their hands. — Azuma Sara


Afterword

There’s A LOT going on in Sarazanmai, and a lot of good, might I add. This was easily one of the most fun watches I’ve had in a long time, and I hope the series stays on the radar for longer than this spring season. I would’ve loved more time with the characters, but I don’t feel like anything essential was left out. Maybe I’ll revisit it in a future post, but until then, Sarazanmai is honored here at the cafe as a “Cake” title, a show too sweet to miss out on. (Although if you’re not careful, this one might give you a cavity!)

So many people dropped this series, and that saddens me immensely considering that the ending is so rewarding. What did you think of Sarazanmai? Was it too weird for you, or right up your alley? Who was your best boy? I’d love to know in the comments! My love goes out to these precious kappa kids!

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This concludes my June 29th entry in the OWLS “Vulnerable” blog tour. Carla over at Pop Culture Literary gave us a very interesting post about Jen Wang’s comic The Prince and the Dressmaker that you can read right here! Now, look out for Fred (Au Natural) as he rounds out this exciting pride-filled month with his own take on vulnerability on Sunday, June 30th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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

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!” For the OWLS blog tour’s fifth monthly topic of 2019, “Happiness,” I wanted to share with you all something that I rarely talk about, yet is one of the biggest things that defines me as both a fan and a person: my anime collection!

Happiness is subjective. We all have different definitions of what happiness means to us and we also feel happiness in varying degrees. This month we will be exploring several questions describing our happiness in our fandoms, communities, and hobbies. Why do we find enjoyment watching anime or reading manga? Why did we decide to join the anime or pop culture communities? Why do we blog about our hobbies or cosplay as our favorite characters? This topic is all about the passions we have for our interests and why they are important to us.

Oh man, there was so much I wanted to talk about with this prompt! But, I love getting to share any part of my collection with you guys, so I settled on that. Thanks Lyn for going easy on us this month and giving me an excuse to share my stuff!


 

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The Main Shelf

Ah, here we are. Welcome to my room, my little safe haven in this wild world we live in. The main shelf here houses most of my anime and even a few volumes of manga. Littered throughout the display are Nendoroids, Funko Pop figures, and even some fake succulents (cause #aesthetic). Across the top is my Evangelion collection, which became an instant favorite of mine immediately after my first watching and has accumulated over the years.

My room is pretty large, but even then I have a lot of stuff, so for Eva to maintain an entire row to itself goes to show how much it means to me. You’ll find that a show or franchise’s meaning is almost a direct determinant of its shelf space prioritization in my collection. That means Evangelion gets its own shelf, and the same goes for Fate, Danganronpa, Ghost in the Shell, Sailor Moon, so on and so forth. Ain’t that nice?


I’ve squeezed as many bookcases in this tiny space as possible. Being surrounded by books and magazines makes me feel calm. It makes the room seem wrapped in a layer of protection. As if nothing or no one can get to me.

— Angelo Surmelis, The Dangerous Art of Blending In


Each mini shelf is compartmentalized to a certain genre, my favorite shelves being the sci-fi section, the mecha shelf, the anime classics, and my magical girl shelf with Ms. Mami Tomoe there. Between categorization by genre, height, and color, there’s a mutual method to my madness (that probably only I understand, let’s be honest). Each little box contains so many stories, and yet each tell a larger a story all on their own thanks to how I’ve arranged them—according to my thoughts and feelings about each title.

And that’s one of the many wonderful qualities of my collection that makes it just that: a collection all by me, for me. It won’t carry the same weight for someone passing by, and that’s just fine. But to me, these shelves encompass my entire world, as well as chronicle my entire life.

New Shelves, New Room

This is one of those “right time, right place” kinda posts, as I just completed remodeling my entire room this past spring and BOI am I happy with it. Previously, all of my manga and light novels were housed on this old, handmade, plywood box shelf that had three compartments to store my books. Not only was it kinda ugly, but it was rough textured and offered limited storage.

So, four days of work and $150 later, I opted to finally remove the tacky padding from my wall, repaint it all, and build five new shelves of (with my dad’s help). And they’re cut from entirely REAL birch wood this time. Here are the results:

 

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I wanted to share that little story with you all because it is just once instance of me trying to upgrade my collection. My room is in constant flux; I’m always rearranging books, movies, games, art, you name it, just to find the right feng shui. I like to think that every change I’ve made to the shelves and how things are arranged are a step in the right direction—one step closer to the ideal image in my mind. That said, this was quite the leap forward, but I’m really thrilled with the results.

In fact, I loved it so much that I ripped padding off my other wall to do the exact same thing, although on a much smaller scale:

 

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This set of five three-foot boards supports my innermost interests. From Free!‘s impact on my own personal swim career and these other seaside delights to my fandom favorites like Todoroki ANYTHING and the Danganronpa series, this small shelf carries so much weight beyond a few Blu-ray cases and acrylic stands. It’s an expression of love, of dedication, and a way to give back to the series that gave so much to me. 

With these new shelves, I can showcase all my favorite anime, manga, novels, figures, and other merchandise—pieces which, individually, contain stories, but combined together tell one giant story. If you were to walk into my room, I could point to . . .

the DVD that started my journey,

the title that impacted me the most,

the anime that made me want to try new things,

the book that made me fall in love with reading,

the figure that reminds me all about a character’s hardships,

the art that inspires me to improve my own work,

and so many more emotions and memories that words alone can’t properly explain.


Inspiration can come from anywhere. 


Why Do I Collect Anime?

Anime is an expensive hobby. It doesn’t help that I’m also interested in manga, light novels, figures, soundtracks, games, art books, art prints, rubber straps, and more recently, acrylic stands, chirashi posters, and shikishi boards. I’ve sacrificed a great deal of money and physical space toward my collecting hobbies, which has led me to spend even more money in compensating for the collection’s gradually increasing size.

So why do I do it all? Well, of course it makes me happy. I wouldn’t pour this much time and cash into something that made me feel worse than I did before. I’ve always been a collector, whether for Pokemon and Yugioh cards or Bakugan and Beyblades. On that note, perhaps collecting physical anime and related media was inevitable.

But on the other hand, while I love collecting for my own sake, I also like being able to share my library with my family and friends. I can’t even tell you the number of hours my siblings and I have spent chatting with one another as we admired the collection and all the adventures it has brought us.

Also, if you couldn’t tell by the way I’ve stylized my blog, I’m an archivist. I take immense pleasure in experiencing something and then filing that experience away in some sort of physical form. All my school work from years past is neatly organized and archived, and my books and movies are no different.

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While outsiders may see my collection as a costly stack of movies and merch (to which they’re not wrong), I see a wall of memories. It’s a wall that has built up slowly over seven years, starting with my S.A.V.E. DVD of Funimation’s Negima!? and accumulating until now where my $75 Hajime Hinata figure from Danganronpa dominates my shelf. But even then, it’s all still there: most if not all of the series I have enjoyed have been archived in this wall, and the memories have only continued to amass.

No matter how I try to look away, my eyes always wander to the collection—to this gigantic three-dimensional photo album which comprises sights and sounds, textures and thoughts, musings and memories. Wherever I gaze, I am transported into another time, another place where another me was living and experiencing yet another story. This mental time travel serves as a constant reminder as to where I’ve gone, how far I’ve come, and even where I’m headed next. It is simultaneously the past, the present, and the future.

Reorganizing my collection’s display is a passionate, artistic, therapeutic, and fulfilling endeavor. The many parts and pieces of my anime collection are symbolic of who I am as a person. But beyond owning these items or possessing all this stuff, merely knowing that this collection of thingsthis wall of memories—has shaped who I am today and where I may go tomorrow is a thought that brings me true and unfettered happiness.


A bookshelf is a reflection of its owner’s personality.


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Afterword

A seemingly simple prompt at first, this post somehow managed to pull everything out of me! Reflecting at what collecting means to me and physically writing it down has made me really appreciate the availability of these kinds of goods to us fans. I mean, we can get a hold of nearly everything and everything, and all because there are people who are willing to create, and more people who strive to bring those creations to us. Even if you can’t get a hold of that $200 dream figure or $300 Blu-ray import, we really are fortunate to live in the times that we do.

Do you collect anime, manga or content from other related mediums? If so, why do you collect what you do, and what started you on your collecting journey? I love talking about hobbies (if you couldn’t tell), so feel free to ramble down in the comments—I won’t judge! Also, if I made an Insta, would you be interested in seeing more close-ups of my collection through that?

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This concludes my May 21st entry in the OWLS “Happiness” blog tour. Flow (Den of Nyanpasu) went right before me with a post about the joys of anime sequel announcements and how much gaming means to them, which you can read right here! Now, look out for the lovely Irina (I Drink and Watch Anime) with, get this, a post about NATSUME (plz never stop writing about this show) this Wednesday, May 22nd! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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

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!” For the OWLS blog tour’s fourth monthly topic of 2019, “Masculinity,” I’ll actually be following up to my review of Run with the Wind, dedicating this entire post to highlight the key player on the Kansei Track Team, Haiji Kiyose (because, you know, he’s that great.) If you’d like a proper introduction to the series, you can check out my spoiler-free review right here!

Last month, we explored the meanings behind the terms “feminine” and “feminism.” This month, the OWLS bloggers will explore the concept of masculinity. We each have our own definition of what it means to be masculine and we will explore our definitions using “masculine” characters from various pop culture fandoms. We will discuss how these characters are “masculine” or show signs of a masculine persona. We will also share our personal stories about the amazing men that supported us in our lives, as well as share some of our experiences growing up as a man or knowing men who struggled with the masculine identity.

If you were hoping for a follow-up to my March “Feminine” post on the brave women of Space Battleship Yamato (this time examining the male leads), fear not! I’ve got a couple more Yamato-related posts loaded in the dock just itchin’ to be written. Thanks Lyn for another tricky and engaging prompt to write for!

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A brief spoiler-free discussion on the male characters of the 23-episode fall 2018 anime “Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru (Kazetsuyo)” or “Run with the Wind,” animated by Production I.G, directed by Kazuya Nomura, and based on the novel of the same name by Shion Miura.

Welcome to the Kansei Track Team Aotake!

In case you need a refresher, Run with the Wind is about ten college guys who are roped into joining their university’s track team by Haiji Kiyose, their dorm’s lead resident assistant of sorts, and the antics that ensue with Haiji’s rigorous training regiment. What are they training for? Why, only one of the most prestigious university races in all of Japan: the Hakone Ekiden marathon.

We follow the majority of the story through Kakeru Kurahara, a college freshman who, after hitting a low point in his life and stealing food from a convenience store, is taken in by Haiji and the Aotake family. But while Kakeru’s hotheadedness and ex-track star status work well enough for him, aside from Haiji, the rest of the guys are complete novices.

Through hard work, butting heads, and lots and lots of running, each of the Kansei Track Team members eventually confront what running means to them as they aim for the top—the steepest mountains in the world. 

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What Does it Take to Break the Silence? – A look at Haiji Kiyose

Before I get ahead of myself, I want to share with you one of the most powerful quotes in the entire show and what prompted me to write a post solely about Haiji:

No one here is running half-assed. Why won’t you try to acknowledge that everyone’s trying their best? 

Is it because they’re slower than you? Is speed all that matters to you?

Then there’s no reason to run.

Ride a bullet train. 

Ride a plane. 

They’re faster.

WAKE UP, Kakeru.

It’s not enough to just chase speed. 

It’s . . . futile . . . 

— Haiji Kiyose to Kakeru Kurahara

I remember having to hit the pause button for just a second after hearing Toshiyuki Toyonaga (Haiji’s VA) plow through this painful line. To see someone so generally happy-go-lucky become so worked-up and defensive. What Haiji speaks, however, is the undeniable truth: there is no practical reason to run. Whether a car, a bike, or the city bus, all of these options are much quicker than running if speed is your only goal.

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But it’s through this tunnel vision that Kakeru initially perceives the world. And this is also why Kakeru fails to get along with the other guys, especially Haiji. In this pinnacle moment though, the words finally cut through to him.

Haiji’s a tricky guy to pin down. He’s both kind and wicked, unreasonable and unreadable almost 100% of the time, much like a Magic 8-ball that never spits out what you want to hear and asks you to do the impossible when it feels like it. (Huh, do they still make those things?)

As such, he’s frustrating to get along with, and I think it’s largely because he doesn’t follow the “stereotype” for a masculine leader. Haiji’s strong, but more in an introverted, persevering way as opposed to your typical energetic and extroverted team captain. Behind the scenes, Haiji’s always calmly and collectively analyzing the shape of his men, both physically and emotionally. If something’s wrong with their bodies, he makes adjustments to their training and diet, simple as that. But when he notices that someone is anxious, depressed, or occupied with other thoughts, he doesn’t try to be overbearing and shoulder the heavy burden of “curing” their mental health. Instead . . .

Haiji sits down with them. He talks and offers what support he can, but most importantly, he’s just there for them when they need someone, and that speaks volumes about his character. I think it’s about time we start seeing male characters in sports anime break the silence on what it truly means to support others—because psychological support is just as important as physical ailment, and Haiji breaks away from the mold by finding the validity in simply “being there” for people when they are feeling down.

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To Haiji, dreams aren’t something to look down upon, even if they require the pursuers to look up towards something, in this case the pursuers being the Kansei Track Team and the dream being the Hakone Ekiden. Haiji also firmly believes in the collaborative benefits of teamwork—it’s either we’re all in, or we make changes such that everyone feels comfortable—and that’s a HUGE ideal not only for a “man” to stand up for, but for a man amongst other men.

Thankfully, the Aotake guys take Haiji’s wisdom to heart, culminating in many emotionally-driven, eye-opening experiences like the heart-to-heart with Kakeru quoted above. Haiji’s charisma fuels their motivational drive to improve themselves, and his dream of running in the Hakone Ekiden quickly becomes a goal within reach because of their combined efforts.

Of course, personal sacrifices of any kind must be made to achieve one’s goals. With the deterioration of his knee, Haiji walks (or runs, rather) on thin ice, risking permanently crippling his leg just so that he can discover his own reasons for running. And at last, he finds that in Kakeru, whom he decides to chase after as if every day were his last. Little does he know, Kakeru was chasing after him the entire time.

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But when the day finally comes, all Haiji can do is break down in tears of bittersweet joy, sorrow, and satisfaction knowing that he gave it his absolute all to achieve his biggest dream in life—and with irreplaceable friends that mean far more than any mere medal or trophy. What effort Haiji gives is unbelievable, but what he gets back is even more amazing.

Looking back on this extraordinary journey, we see that Haiji Kiyose was the heart of Run with the Wind all along: a character so charismatic, wholesome, and inspiring that he was able to join the lives of ten men together just to create one precious, finite moment, then guide them back onto their own paths more motivated than ever before.

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Beyond Masculinity: Not as Tough as We Seem

There’s a preconceived notion that in adverse situations, men should just “tough it out” by themselves and wipe off the dirt. But that’s not what Run with the Wind tells us. Instead, it shows that as strong as men—as strong as people—try to be, we’re not all as tough as we seem. Together, however, we can inspire and push each other to accomplish everything that we couldn’t do alone, and that seemingly small sentiment echoes loudly and proudly in the hearts of Kazetsuyo‘s characters, one Haiji Kiyose leading this inspirational movement.

That’s right, men can be:

Sensitive to others’ feelings,

Responsive to the needs of a friend,

Doubtful of their own strengths, 

Dreamers who are still looking for reason, and 

Individuals that chase after others when they’re lost or confused. 

And when we finally decide to confront this reality—that we’re not only different, but also perhaps not all that “tough” as society makes us out to be—maybe then we can stop moving against our feelings and at last experience the joy and freedom of running with them. That’s just what Haiji did, and look at the lives he transformed—as well as the incredible breadth of emotions he made us feel. 

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Tomorrow, the day after, and the day after that . . . What you need to do won’t ever change. Reality will always be there in front of you. So instead of running from it, why not try running with reality? — Haiji Kiyose


Afterword

I’ve gone on at length about this series now in TWO posts, and would you believe me if I said a THIRD was on the way!? I’d like to use what extra notes I took over the series to make one more post about Run with the Wind‘s other characters (cause you know, they all ROCK). If you’re interested in hearing more about the Aotake guys, then I’d be happy to deliver! As for this post, I’ve never done something this “preachy” before, haha, so I’d love to hear what you thought about it or the show in the comments.

Funny story, this was initially to be about ALL of the boys, but it ended up being way too long. So I cut it down to Haiji, Kakeru, and Prince, only to find myself writing well over 1,000 words on Haiji alone. That’s when I thought, “Hey, what’s wrong with a Haiji-exclusive post?” And you know what, there’s nothing wrong with a post all about this wonderful boy. So here it is, I hope you enjoyed it (as spoiler-free as I could make it)!

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This concludes my April 13th entry in the OWLS “Masculinity” blog tour. The lovely and eloquent Irina (I Drink and Watch Anime) went right before me with a post on Natsume’s Book of Friends (imagine that!) that you can check out right here! Now, once again, look out for my good friend Crimson (Read at Night) with a post specifically about the construct of masculinity itself this coming Monday, April 15th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

She Flies Again! The Stellar Women of Space Battleship Yamato 2199 | OWLS “Feminine”

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!” For the OWLS blog tour’s third monthly topic of 2019, “Feminine,” I’ll be veering far off the path of my usual writing format to hone in on one particularly stellar aspect of this classic sci-fi remake: the incredible women aboard the Yamato and the challenges they persist ad astra per aspera, or to the stars through difficulties.

In honor of Women’s History Month, the OWLS bloggers will explore the concepts of femininity and feminism. We each have our own definition of these two terms and we will explore our definitions using “feminine” characters from various pop culture fandoms. We will discuss how these characters are “feminine” or show signs of a feminist agenda. We will also share our personal stories about the amazing women that supported us in our lives as well as sharing experiences involving women’s rights, oppression within the patriarchy, and/or issues of growing up as a woman or having a feminine persona.

Although seemingly simple, March’s theme has proven itself to be one of the trickiest ones yet. I hope you enjoy what I have to offer, and thanks again Lyn for the challenge!

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A brief, spoiler-free discussion on the female characters of the 26-episode 2012-2013 OVA series “Space Battleship Yamato 2199,” also localized as “Star Blazers 2199,” animated by Xebec and AIC, directed by Akihiro Enomoto with story by Yutaka Izubuchi, and based on the original 1970s television series created by Yoshinobu Nishizaki and Leiji Matsumoto. 

Hope Lies 148,000 Light Years Away

The year is 2199. Our once magnificent blue and green mother Earth has been reduced to a radioactive desert wasteland by unyielding attacks from the hostile aliens of planet Gamilas, her remaining population forced into underground cities. But a glimmer hope arrives in a message from a distant peace-seeking planet of Iscandar, whose queen sends along with her sympathies the blueprints to build an admirable spaceship capable of making the long trek to Iscandar and the technological device to power it. What lies on Iscandar will supposedly help clean and restore Earth to her former health.

With haste, the United Nations Cosmo Navy resurrects the long-sunken battleship Yamato by installing the mysterious Iscandarian technology to its core, transforming it into the titular vessel: the Space Battleship Yamato. Collectively placing what little faith and courage persists in the crew and its leader, the distinguished Captain Juuzou Okita, the Yamato departs Earth in the quest to receive Iscandar’s aid.

As she sails throughout space experiencing numerous technological issues and dealing with the onslaught of Gamilas fleets, the inexperienced crew of the Yamato must summon every inch of their resolve if they are to survive the storm of hardships and complete their mission: to save humanity before its estimated remaining time of 365 days expires.

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Feminist Strength Aboard the Yamato

Strength manifests in many different forms for many different people. For some, it’s physical might; others possess unwavering character and moral sets. With this post specifically, one of Yamato‘s greatest appeals is its approach to gender equality in crafting a well-rounded crew. Men and women alike share all kinds of important duties, be it navigation, operations, the fighter squadron, or the medical force.

But not all of these leading ladies got their roles handed to them—let’s take a quick look at how four of the main female characters define strength by their own values.

Lieutenant Yuki Mori

Leading with the Heart

Responding to Iscandarian expressions as if she were one of their own (or is she . . . ?), the Yamato‘s operations division head is always willing to meet discourse with a cup of tea. Literally. She feels deeply into the Iscandarian’s ultimate pursuit of life—that is, the salvation of all intelligent life in the universe—but is equally willing to stick up for her fellow comrades in arms, even when under scrutiny by said comrades for suspicious origins. Personally, I find that part to especially require guts.

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Lieutenant Mori’s approachable nature suits her well, her charm pulling in the admiration of both men and other women alike. Despite a rocky start with main character Lieutenant Susumu Kodai, we find that Yuki guides the Yamato’s course with compassion, sensitivity, and care for all life, and her ability to empathize and immediately form genuine connects with others serves Yuki as her greatest strength.

Kaoru Niimi

Willingness to Pursue Curiosity

Lieutenant Niimi is a bit of a tough nut to crack. Possessing a multi-faceted intelligence in technology and the sciences, Niimi’s many responsibilities as information chief and ship counselor kind of lie all over the ship. Although knowledge is her game, Niimi’s a dreamer. Having run the calculations herself, she sees very little chance of Earth ever rehabilitating, even with foreign aid. As a result, she finds herself drawn to stopping off at every Earth-like planet capable of sustaining life throughout their arduous journey (which, by the way, stirs a lot of good drama later down the line).

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In a way, Niimi uses her skills and impressive brain to benefit all of mankind by thinking in the long run: I mean, let’s face it, we can’t live on Earth forever, not if we keep acting the way we do. But unfortunately for her, Captain Okita and most of the crew is dead-set on reviving Earth. Her duty as the guardian for mankind’s future is a noble one, but also a very lonely one, and as frustrating as her decisions can be at times, Niimi goes beyond all of the ship’s crew in one crucial area—weaponizing her failures to fight on the side of good.

Melda Dietz

Valuing Honor in One’s Craft

Without spoiling too much about this next admirable female, Lower Storm Leader Melda Dietz does indeed fight on the side of Gamilas, but not in the way the other Gamilan soldiers do. A fighter pilot for the enemy, Dietz originally enters the Yamato as bargaining chip, but quickly becomes a wartime buddy on the front. A warrior for justice, Dietz realizes the corrupt ways of her homeland and commits herself to the side of righteousness. It’s a valiant thing to go against one’s mother country when you know it has deteriorated from what she originally stood for, and that’s what makes Melda Dietz a figure worth remembering.

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Did I also mention that of all the pilots, she’s also one of the most admirable to fly in the black abyss of space? Dietz values pride on the battlefield, as well as capability, independence, and the willingness to deter from the norm. Being bold just comes second nature to this wild red baron.

Akira Yamamoto

Embracing Diversity

Last but certainly not least is Ensign Akira Yamamoto, an often unsung heroine with arguably the biggest feminist energy going for her. Even though her elder brother fought bravely as a pilot for Earth, Yamamoto was assigned to accounting because of her status as a woman. She also suffers from occasional discrimination for being the only Martian aboard the ship. But what does she do with these differences of hers? How does she quell the warrior’s spirit residing within her?

She cuts her long silver hair, steals a fighter jet, and proves her self-worth on the battlefield. Now she’s the best fighter pilot the Yamato’s got, and nobody’s complaining. What a badass.

Yamamoto uses her rare talents to the best of her ability, not letting anyone stop her from applying her unique origin and skill set to the betterment of the entire crew. She knows she’s an exception to the rule, but she nonetheless embraces these differences as her core strengths, driving her to become a fully realized character.

Embracing her diverse nature as her greatest strength, Yamamoto transforms societal disadvantage into an inspirational force for militaristic equality. And if that’s not the feminist spirit, I’m not sure what is.

The Future Looks Bright

With all of these old sci-fi series, it’s becomes somewhat disappointing to look back and see a male-dominate crew with perhaps a few token women (usually used more for fanservice) or female nurses. But not Space Battleship Yamato 2199. The cast and crew is as expansive as the widening universe, and as we go along creating more wonderful works of fiction, our scope only becomes more diverse—our focus becomes more about real people as opposed to idealized standards. Sure, there are a few carbon copies here and there, but that only goes to show that the struggles that women face are universal issues felt by all.

The Space Battleship Yamato franchise revolves around themes of brave sacrifice, noble enemies, grandiose ideological feuds, resilience, and the respect for heroes lost on the battlefield. But it also ventures to the far edges of space to prove that no matter where you are in the universe, there will always be struggles concerning gender—and that there will always be courageous heroines out there willing to fight for our equality and our integrity.

Men read science fiction to build the future. Women don’t need to read it. They are the future. — Ray Bradbury


Afterword

There’s so much more to be said on 2199—so much so that I may make it the focus of my next OWLS post given that the theme for April just might fall under the same lines . . . ‘Till then, let’s celebrate the wonderful women of the Yamato along with the remainder of this tour!

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This concludes my March 13th entry in the OWLS “Feminine” blog tour. Kind of a shorter OWLS post from me, but I know the lovely folks running the monthly live-stream will appreciate it, haha! Aria (Animanga Spellbook) went right before me with a post on the leading ladies of Zombieland Saga, a series that from what I understand is equal parts bizarre and sheer fun—so check it out! Now, look out for my good friend Crimson (My Fujoshi Life) with a post on finding a voice in a special category of music this Saturday, March 16th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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

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!” For the OWLS blog tour’s second monthly topic of 2019, “Adore,” I wanted to stray away from the darker content I typically go for with these posts and focus on something lighthearted. Fortunately for me, none come more fluffy and adorable than the one-shot shounen-ai manga that’s got the BL community completely under its love spell: Go For It, Nakamura!

In February, we will be exploring love and romance. The word selected is “adore” because it has two main connotations: to be loved and respected or to feel worshipped. We will analyze characters that give us a feeling of admiration and explain why we love those characters. We will also be exploring different forms of love (familial, friendship, and even self-love) and how those types of love influence our lives.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

I myself happened to have recently finished the book, so this prompt came in good timing. Thanks Lyn!

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A brief, spoiler-free discussion on the one-shot (11-chapter) manga “Go For It, Nakamura!,” story and art by Syundei, and licensed in English by Seven Seas Entertainment.  

Ganbare! Nakamura-kun!!

Nakamura Okuto may be a shy gay high school boy, but he sure knows what he wants—the love of his life, his adorable high school classmate, Hirose Aiki. He constantly daydreams of just about every cliche romance scenario ever written, but when it comes to executing his charm, Nakamura is a total klutz! To make matters worse, the two haven’t even formally met yet, and Nakamura’s clumsy streak is sure enough to botch things before they even begin. Oh boy, good luck Nakamura!

Serialized in Opera magazine over the course of a couple years, the 11 chapters that make up this volume comprise the existing story as it currently stands. It is a collection of vignettes from the titular character’s high school life sectioned off in a way not unlike that of a 4-koma manga.

It’s also a comedy manga—and one that’s fun as heck to boot. The comedic timing will leave you giggling in your chair, and the few moments of genuine connection between Nakamura and Hirose will make your heart all warm and mushy. There’s never a dull moment in Nakamura’s pitiful yet utterly relatable life.

As mentioned earlier, the romantic scenarios are cliche: staying after class, school festival drama, chance meeting in an alley, school plays, CLUBS, you get the picture. Even though you know how the story might play out that particular chapter, Nakamura’s inner dialogue and anxious turmoil transform repetition into a breath of fresh air. And yes, the retro art style contributes immensely to Nakamura‘s uniqueness.

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A Lost Art: The 1980s Japan Aesthetic 

I’m not a historian by any means, but if I had to pin a time period, I’d say that Syundei’s story takes place in 1980s Japan. Regardless, it’s old school, but cute. Really cute. Think Rumiko Takahashi (Ranma 1/2) printed in modern day. Wacky expressions, explosive bangs, random chibi appearances, traditional hair and clothing styles, that kind of 80s Japan. Between the bright colors on the cover, the fuzzy glow effect of Nakamura’s daydreams, and the flowery patterned backgrounds, Syundei has created a retro aesthetic that is quite the rare find these days.

I really loved the revival of the cartoonishly big hair bangs (a nice choice!). Not only does this design detail take us back to the past, but it makes the characters seem even fluffier than they already are. Hirose in particular is just such a kind, SOFT boi, and I totally understand why Nakamura’s enamored with this sparkling chestnut head! Hirose’s large round eyes also make him seem more gullible, innocent, and inviting, a stark contrast to Nakamura’s gloomy aura. For a guy who is used to hugging against the shadows, Hirose’s radiant light is blinding. So pure!

The duality of Nakamura’s expressiveness—from the estranged slim-eyed “bully” look to this blushing, red-faced, obsessive weirdo—establishes an even stronger bond between Nakamura and the reader. He may have a scary exterior, but he’s just a big softie (and one who’s madly in love!), and I found myself rooting for Nakamura throughout his antics because I relate to his struggles of silent obsession and unrequited love. Slowly but surely, Nakamura is crawling out of his shell and opening up to people, and I really look forward to further developments should Syundei return to this wonderful title.

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A Refreshing Spin on BL

Although he may be a closet gay to his peers, Nakamura isn’t afraid to let the reader know, and I really enjoy how being gay isn’t a big deal in Nakamura. Even his classmates don’t mock him for desparately wanting to hang out with Hirose, and it’s just so, so refreshing. If you’re new to BL, this story would make an excellent entry point. (Being a single-volume story helps make this a recommendation even more convincing!)

Additionally, this isn’t a BL story about lust and skipping the foreplay just to do the deed. Go For It, Nakamura! is as innocent and pure as they come, and for all the right reasons. Sure, Nakamura is a bit obsessive for Hirose, but not much more than any other girl or boy tailing after their romantic idol. The story sticks to themes of adoration and manages to run as far as a lovely, blossoming friendship. And interestingly, its lack of explicit content is what marks it as one of the bests.

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A Story That Loves Love

Watching the push and pull between Nakamura and Hirose grow with each chapter sure doesn’t leave the heart with much time to rest. At times stupidly funny, other times highly resonate and heartwarming, I couldn’t think of a high school couple more deserving of mutual love and affection. More than they realize, they need a person just like the other, and the ending will leave you with so much hope and happiness.

Syundei’s Go For It, Nakamura! is a story that loves love, and about loving yourself, too. Its characters are cute and fluffy, and despite my wanting to smash the two together and shout “NOW KISS!”, I wouldn’t have wanted the story (as it stands now) to end any other way. I was left squealing and stirring in my chair for hours after reading the last page, and if there’s any BL title out there to boast the word “adore,” this is easily the one.

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Y-you’re the one who said it was important to be true to yourself. — Nakamura Okura


Afterword

Well, when you don’t have to cover animation, music, voice acting, and directing, this makes for a pretty short post! Reading Go For It, Nakamura! easily became the highlight of my week, and its short single-volume release makes it easy to consume yet hard to let go of. It’s fun, simple, and it’ll make your heart go doki-doki for sure! As if I needed to reinforce its notability, Syundei’s Go For It, Nakamura! establishes itself as a “Cafe Mocha” title, an absolute hit for anyone wanting to spend an afternoon enjoying the softest BL manga ever written. Seriously, you’ll love it.

This concludes my February 3rd entry in the OWLS “Adore” blog tour. Man, when was the last time I went this early!? In fact, it looks like I’m the one kicking off the February tour, so I hope I set the groundwork well enough for all the great posts to come. Now, look out for my good friend Hazel (Archi-Anime) with a post about After the Rain on Wednesday, February 6th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host