Our Dining Table: Growing Closer One Meal at a Time || Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the standalone BL manga “Our Dining Table,” story and art by Mita Ori, and licensed in English by Seven Seas Entertainment.


Boys’ Love for the Soul

Despite his excellent skills in the kitchen, salaryman Yutaka has always struggled with eating around others since he was little. This changes when he encounters a hungry little boy named Tane and his much older brother Minoru. Eager to eat more of his tasty onigiri, the two brothers invite Yutaka over to teach them how to make his delicious food. Slowly, Yutaka starts developing an appetite for their warmth and acceptance around the table—as well as feelings for Minoru and his little family. This is the story of love that starts at the stomach, and gradually grows more heartwarming one meal at a time.

This slice-of-life shounen ai manga made waves in the manga community when it was announced for release by Seven Seas Entertainment. At the time, I wasn’t reading much BL, but even I heard about this highly anticipated title and was eager to pre-order my own copy the minute it went on sale. As a one-shot BL manga, Our Dining Table reads quick, closing out the story in just eight chapters. It even includes a short epilogue that, well, I won’t spoil for you. But it’s great, and it brings adorable closure to a story that I otherwise could’ve kept reading for decades.

To make the deal even sweeter, Mita Ori’s art is stuff to drool over. She draws food well. Very well. Too well. I grew envious of Minoru and Tane whenever Yutaka brought his cooking supplies over to their house. Right off the page, you can practically smell the delectable dishes they make together. The characters themselves are also drawn with a soft aesthetic to them, Tane in particular being the cutest little rugrat I’ve ever seen in manga! The way his eyes light up upon seeing whatever they’re having for dinner is an image I’ll never forget. I also love how Mita Ori used Tane’s childish stick-figure drawings as a transition to telling Yutaka’s backstory. Very clever and effective.

yutaka meets tane

Bonding Over Food

In both his personal and professional lives, Yutaka is a character who seems deeply misunderstood by those around him. People can be shallow and selfish, not to mention non-inclusive, and over time, being an outcast just becomes commonplace. We should always care for our friends and family, but things happen, and sometimes you find yourself eating alone at the dinner table each night. This is Yutaka’s life. Or perhaps, I should say was, as now he has Tane and Minoru in his life, and they really do change everything for him. Tane and Minoru aren’t just good company for Yutaka—they’re companions, the kinds you’d want with you your whole life, and I’m so glad they met.

Minoru and Tane aren’t without their sad family story either, though. Their mother passed away when Tane was just a baby, and Minoru has had to step it up as a parental figure to raise Tane in her stead. He loves his baby brother, but not everyone takes kindly to a 23-year-old who drags his 4-year-old brother with him wherever he goes.

It’s a good thing Minoru isn’t alone in his efforts, however; the brothers also have their loving father who makes a living as a potter, and their grandmother who looks after them by sending them off with nutritious meals whenever she can. Not everyone accepts or respects each others’ family lives, so the fact that Minoru and Tane can come from a place of understanding and accept someone like Yutaka into their home really is a delightful thing. It’s like seeing two lost souls find each other in the dark—their own glimmering light complements the other, and as they grow closer, they only radiate with a brighter glow and comforting presence.

yutaka and minoru

A Gentle Foodie Read

Mita Ori’s story about food, family, and friendship takes pride in the little things. Enjoyed are the quiet moments of tender living and merely existing with others, but celebrated are the joys of cooking and the sheer happiness that can come from cuisine when it’s made from the heart. Although Japan’s winter draws closer and colder, the bond between Tane, Minoru, and Yutaka only grows warmer and more wholesome.

Our Dining Table is just about the sweetest, most gentle foodie manga you will ever read. Yes, it is BL, but don’t let that label send your mind down the gutter. Through soft gestures, Mita Ori’s story is wholly dedicated to building meaningful bonds that capture the day-to-day life of two men from very different families, and how they intersect at the crossroads of food.

From cover to cover, this standalone slice-of-life BL manga promises to deliver pleasant vibes and positive energy, even when addressing the loss of a loved one. This is BL manga for the soul, and easily one of the best stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. It is an honestly written manga with solely pure intentions, and however wonderful and filling the ending is, I assure you this—you will only be left hungry for more.

our dining table


I’m so happy. So stupidly, totally happy. To think eating with someone could bring me this much joy. — Yutaka Hozumi


Afterword

Guys, I’m speechless. Really, this is the fastest review I’ve ever written, and while it’s also one of the shortest, I can’t think of anymore praise that I can give this manga. THIS is what a “Cafe Mocha” manga title looks like. It’s not perfect, and it doesn’t need to be. The story, characters, and art style just have to speak to me in a way that I not only connect with but love unconditionally, faults aside. Sure, Mita Ori could’ve elaborated more on Minoru’s father’s job, their mother, or Yutaka’s job. But she didn’t need to—the characters feel alive enough as-is, and the story speaks for itself. I really, really loved this manga, and if you did too, please let me know your favorite part about this endearing little title! I honestly can’t recommend this book enough!!

We’re almost at the very end. Tomorrow, I will at last be diving into Yuhki Kamatani’s critically acclaimed Our Dreams at Dusk. Although it will likely not be a full series review (due to time restraints), I hope nonetheless that you will enjoy my final Pride Month post. Besides, I’ll probably return and do a full review anyway, just not in June. ‘Till then, friends, I’ll be looking forward to it!

– Takuto

Seven Days: Will You Still Love Me When Monday Comes? || Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 2-volume manga series “Seven Days – Monday to Sunday,” story by Venio Tachibana, art by Rihito Takarai, and re-licensed in English by SuBLime Manga.


What Started as a Joke . . .

One week. That is all the time any lucky girl who dates Seryou Touji will spend with him. You can’t hate the guy, though. After all, he supposedly makes you feel like the most special person in the world during that time. Rumor has it that at the start of the following week, he’ll date the first person to ask him out that Monday morning, no tricks—and no strings attached either.

Curious about the mysterious first-year playboy himself, equally attractive third-year Shino Yuzuru decides to jokingly ask Seryou out one morning. True to the rumors, however, Seryou takes Shino’s offer seriously, and thus begins Shino’s fleeting seven days with him.

Although license rescued and released by SuBLime Manga, a company typically known for grabbing some of the harder yaoi works on the BL market, Seven Days much more belongs in the shounen ai or even school romance genre. Nothing about the story is explicit, making it the perfect gateway BL for newcomers ready to wet their feet.

Within just 13 chapters (or one omnibus volume), the entire story wraps up well enough to not warrant a continuation. Shino and Seryou’s week of dating and hanging out is also well-paced. Each day is divided into chapters, which means we literally are getting the full play-by-play for this awkward dating situation that started out as a joke but turned into much more.

morning surrounded

Not Gay, But Gay Enough

What made the story somewhat difficult to get into was the fact that, technically, neither of our boys here are gay. That is, Shino and Seryou don’t actively seek males as a dating preference to females; if anything, they’re both well-known ladies’ men, and they know it, too.

So, how can two “straight” dudes fall for each other? For one, they’re both undeniably the hottest men in their school. Second, they share a pastime together—archery—which often leads to the start of many conversations (and playful teasing). Third, and this might just be me reading into it, but Seryou might actually have been gay from the start. The first-year can’t seem to fall in love with any of the many girls he dates. Yet, when approached by Shino that Monday morning, he doesn’t refute him. It could be that he was curious all along, and took the offer when it came to him.

It’s a little frustrating to cheer two guys on when neither is really into the same sex (unless . . . ), but at the same time, it’s amazing what dating one another allows the boys to see about themselves. Despite his graceful nature and pretty face, Shino is a pretty laid-back, impolite guy, not to mention being seriously blunt about everything he notices. Dating Seryou makes Shino realize that his worst traits really can hurt people—but also that they are what make Shino himself.

Then there’s Seryou, also a pretty boy but drastically bad at reading people. Unlike Shino, Seryou wears his expressions on his face, and even though he thinks he’s being transparent, Seryou isn’t as good at knowing others as he might believe. In fact, he’s kind of shallow in his romantic encounters, which Shino quickly picks up on. Even though he can let girl after girl live their high school fantasy, at the end of the day, Seryou doesn’t even save their contact information on his phone. He sure was quick to memorize Shino’s number and email by heart, though . . .

seryou charming

The Look of Early 2000s BL

Although Ten Count was the first yaoi series I’ve ever read, I’m definitely no stranger to the BL genre. I’ve seen plenty of screenshots of early 2000s BL manga on the internet and have flipped through my own fair share of yaoi manga at used bookstores. It’s nice to finally have purchased my own copy of one of these works, and I feel even more pride in having it displayed on my shelves. Seven Days is a nice little title to have for sure.

Aside from the license rescue stirring news in the manga community, however, what initially pushed me to buy and read Seven Days was because it shared the artist of Ten Count, Rihito Takarai. Having recently been acquainted with her series work, I wanted to see how her older art held up. Boy, has she improved. But also, WOW, she’s been this good from the start!?

Takarai knows how to draw pretty boys. Both donning that signature uke and seme look with their tall, lanky, yet athletically built figure, Shino and Seryou walk like gods among men. Their chiseled features, large eyes, and pointy noses hold all the indications of desirable beauty, especially of BL characters in pre-2010 works. Perhaps you could call Seven Days an early 2000s time capsule that most would still love and enjoy today.

It was probably the hair styling, however, that first caught my eye and stays in my mind now. Shino’s medium-long chestnut hair creates an elegant, almost foreign bowl-cut look. Similarly, Seryou’s longer black hair would make anyone who had it look like a thug, but on him serves to make him look dashing and poised. The use of scenery (LOTS of fences), while modest, also sets the scene for this cute slice-of-life romance. Also, likable female characters are present in this manga—and they’re NOT evil, hooray!

seven days seryou and shino

The Perfect Gateway BL

I swear, this really is one of those stories where a whole week of “not knowing how the other feels” could’ve been resolved by Tuesday night had Shino and Seryou sat down for five freakin’ minutes and just talked it out like any normal couple would. It’s annoying how characters can feel like they’re just being strung along, only to find out by the end that their partner was “madly in love with them the whole time.” Especially in this story where the reader can be unconvinced of author Venio Tachibana’s intentions, it can come across as a strange case of queerbaiting. Trust me when I say it that Shino and Seryou are falling for each other, though—they just might not know it yet.

And that’s the huge draw of Seven Days: Shino and Seryou aren’t your typical BL pairing. Neither knows what they want, both in themselves and in relationships, and that makes finding love all the more difficult. While I bite back and wish Tachibana was more transparent about their love, I also find myself realizing that, yeah, I’m not sure I could so easily admit my own feelings if I were in their situation either.

Surprisingly full of more introspection than it’d have you believing, every single chapter of Seven Days was a gift. Force yourself through this playful senpai-kohai shtick and it’ll be the longest week of your life. However, with a little patience, you might unexpectedly find yourself relating to this drama that spans just seven short-lived, transient days.

shino seryou sleep


I wonder how many girls stood right here and closed their eyes just like this? And when they did, how did Seryou respond? — Shino Yuzuru


Afterword

I had to flip back at some of the chapters to write this review and, ahhhh, it’s such a cute story! I wish I could read more stories with Takarai’s art in it, but that’s all I’ve got for now. Seven Days was definitely stronger than Ten Count, but I think I still like it about the same, if not slightly more. With very little to complain about, Seven Days is a wonderful “Cafe Mocha” title here at the cafe! If you only get to read one shounen ai story, this is my go-to rec for the time being. Have you read Seven Days? I’d love to hear your thoughts down in the comments! My next Pride Month post will likely be a first impressions on Candy Color Paradox, so please look forward to that. ‘Till next time!

– Takuto

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.

Image result for fruits basket 2019 kyo

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.

kyo and tohru

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.

Image result for fruits basket anime yuki

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

Triumph! Sound the Euphonium!

A review of the 2015 spring anime “Sound! Euphonium”

I’ve been joined at the hip with music since a young age, and, having been a first-chair orchestra member for seven years and counting, I have not only the right but the responsibility to announce that this series exemplifies the hearts and minds of every concert band and orchestra member to T. Putting KyoAni’s ideal cuteness aside, Sound! Euphonium accurately depicts how rigorous classroom music can be when kids become critical of themselves.

Talented euphonium player  Kumiko Oumae enters Kitauji High School’s brass band club during her first year (‘Euph’: a “good sounding” small tenor-pitched tuba, sometimes referred to as a baritone). There, she encounters her old classmate Reina, and memories of a previous junior high incident flood back, causing Kumiko to be hesitant. As Kumiko remains strong buddies with other girls, though, Reina slowly opens up and the two become very close friends. Looming in the darkness is the national contest, which their meticulous new teacher, Taki-sensei, proposes to have the students decide for themselves whether or not they should pursue the gold.

Much like in real life, hours of practicing, enduring hardships, insanely challenging musical passages, kids who have talent that start to waver, competition among new and old recruits, wanting to drop out to focus on education and countless other issues bring a shining realism to the table – a characteristic that I haven’t sampled for a while now. From start to finish, the show knows exactly where it wants to go, and as much as I want to say it was the practical setting to thank, it’s because of the characters that this drive was so truthful.

Euphonium‘s cast does not rely on one or two characters, but rather the entire ensemble. Kumiko herself is strong-willed, though sometimes acts a little empty-headed, and her budding romance with the silent yet brilliant Reina is certainly our sweetest relationship. But there are several other duos that bring the issues listed earlier to light. The vigilant Asuka and occasionally sheepish Haruka tackle youth leadership with unsurety. The lackadaisical yet easy-going Nakagawa manages to keep Kumiko on her toes in terms of skill. Sub characters like the hot-headed Yuuko and gentle Kaori pose a nagging trouble to the professional Reina when they all duke it out for the trumpet solo. Seeing as how I play a string instrument, I was dying to hear more dilemmas from the only string player in the band: On the oversized contrabass everyone, Midori “Sapphire-chan” Kawashima! Too bad she only existed to cheer on the other girls 😦

I was overly pleased with what the anime had in terms of cast, as nearly each member of the band, major and minor, received standout character designs and individual thoughts and scenes. Having Taki-sensei  as a rather disoriented teacher also made situations more ambiguous. For instance, he’d ask “Are you having trouble with that?” Then instead of following up, Taki would declare, “Please have that ready by next week.” There were just certain aspects to his character that made me want to cuss, but then he would return on scene with a heartwarming smile and encouraging speech, kinda how a real director would.

If I had to pick something about the plot that seemed off, it would be the sudden love interest and misplaced drama. In the first few episodes, we clearly see that things between Reina and Kumiko are really awkward. After climbing a mountain trail path in a certain middle episode, however, POOF! The two become super intense friends – for some, too close for comfort. It’s not really yuri, but you could ship the two by just looking at the poster art now.

The non-music drama stems from a miniscule love triangle between Kumiko, an energetic girl pal Hazuki and Tsukamoto, Kumiko’s childhood friend. Seeing how Tsukamoto only cares for Kumiko, who feels indifferent, Hazuki becomes a forced trope just to milk some sort of depressing drama out of the whole shebang, not that the show already played perfectly fine without it. But like the sudden love, it’s all only one episode, so it can easily be overlooked.

I KID YOU NOT when I claim that Kyoto Animation performs their finest job I’ve ever seen from them in terms of animation!! All of the shining brass instrumets, the natural movement of people breathing during practice, the beautiful people themselves, and that side-of-the-river bridge where Kumiko always goes to chat and play the euphonium – it’s all so soooo gorgeous; a true crime not to watch the opening at least once to get a glimpse of BREATHTAKING EVERYTHING!!

The OST is also remarkable! Orchestra tagged along with a piano for melody hits up feels from slice of life to cliff sunsets to tension in the classroom . “Flow of Destiny,” the simplest variation of the main theme can be elegantly heard throughout the series. Real classical music is also pulled into the soundtrack for during performances and practices. Especially noted is Reina’s ditty of the “From the New World Symphony’s 2nd Movement,” which everyone stopped to listen to. 🙂

Hitting off each note is the exciting opening “DREAM SOLISTER” by TRUE! I love the inclusion of the brass instruments – it makes the song coherent to a show about a brass club, ya know? The ending “Tutti” by the Kitauji Quartet is also tons of foot-tappin’ fun!

In terms of character interaction, the featuring of the entire class as a whole and as individuals, stunning animation, topnotch voice acting, realistic musical presentation and content, Sound! Euphonium did several things right and executes everything with near perfection! The ending is also standing ovation-worthy for including the uncut concert performance rather than just cutting that out to view the results. Concert band and orchestra kids were given the best representation in anime – for most, more than what we could ever ask for. 5/5 stars, a triumphant “Caffé Mocha!” Congrats, Kitauji High School Band – You most definitely deserve the Gold in my eyes!!

+ Relatable and realistic anime for high school band and orchestra classes (or at least some); best representation anime has given us students

+ Themes of hard work VS raw talent are executed quite well

+ Absolutely breathtaking visuals, instruments look excellent, actual music is awesome, too

+ Story knows exactly where it’s headed, and delivers with a triumphant, satisfying end

– Sudden romantic relationship drama unnecessarily threw plot off course, though only for an episode

Thank you for reading my review over the wonderful Sound! Euphonium! It was definitely one of the most fun and fulfilling shows to follow this past spring. Did you have similar thoughts on this show? Were you as impacted as I was? Leave your comments below so that we can chat! Now while the inspiration is hot, I’m gonna go work hard myself and practice my cello! Haha, until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Love Live! School Idol Project (1st and 2nd Season Review)

Apparently, poppy young girls called “idols” dominate urban culture regions of Japan. This bright form of vocal art is definitely hit or miss by most. I’m only glad that Love Live! could be my first segue into this genre of anime, and not some generic idol series instead. For others new to spunky idols, here’s Love Live!, a true story of struggle and determination.

Honoka dives into her second glorious year at Otonokizaka High School with overwhelming passion only to find out that if the school doesn’t receive enough transfer students the following year, then it will close down forever. In an effort to save her beloved school, Honoka starts an idol group, which are currently popular, with her best friends Umi and Kotori to attract new students.

As the hardships stack up, μ’s (pronounced “Muse”) recruits six new members including three first-years and three third-years. Pouring all of their hard work, time, and love into their music, the girls pursue the “Love Live,” the top-dog high school idol contest in the region! But will their combined efforts be enough to save their blossoming high school life?

In terms of plot execution, this anime is a bit rigid. A lot of the characters have individual qualms that conflict with the idol competitions, for instance: studying abroad, future professions, failing grades, and other talents besides singing and dancing. And while I’m glad that these characters have realistic conflicts of their own, the show never bothers to touch up on some of these issues, some development even being dropped as “the show must go on” with all nine members intact (end of first season specifically). Don’t get me wrong, I love happy endings, but had some of these characters gone their own ways, then the show could have been more gripping, tear-jerking, and even relatable.

But where the show falters, the characters easily fill in the holes as the show’s richest feature. Each and every one of the girls are overly loveable, memorable, unique and just plain cute! Their constant teasing yet support of each other adds to the overall enjoyment and sense of reality that the show carries. Additionally, each of the characters, including the rival members of “A-RISE,” have some sort of back story and/or standout characteristic that adds a whole new level of depth to them. I’ve never seen a cast of girls so likable and so well-developed like they are in Love Live!

Honoka is seriously the most bubbly, loveable, natural-born leader character ever! Obviously being the main character, she undergoes the most development. You can definitely tell a difference before and after the two seasons. Her charisma and perseverance is nearly unmatched – well, until the rest of the girls step in to cheer Honoka up when she’s discouraged!

Two other characters in particular stuck out to me, which are the third-year student council members Eli and Nozomi. Eli embodies the student council attitude with her over-concerning will to protect the school. Of all the girls, she sets the standard for maturity and true talent (besides Maki), as she was a professional ballet dancer during her childhood in Russia. Though her story is never glanced back to, she just has this irresistible kindness and devotion that can’t be ignored.

Nozomi is vice-prez of the student council and serves as Eli-cchi’s advisor/best friend. After they both become a member of μ’s, however, Nozomi becomes a motherly figure that everyone looks up to. From the start, she is always watching over everyone and never loses faith in μ’s. She is the key that all things related to μ’s creation tie back to, and Nozomi hilariously uses these tarot cards to predict the outcome of everything. Nozomi also has this strange impulse of rubbing the other girls’ breasts when they “misbehave” and whatnot. It’s totally out-of-character, but it was always funny to witness!

As for visuals, the producers at Sunrise like to keep things very colorful and dazzling. Each of the girls have their own concept design to them as well, which helps to define their personality and distinguish them in the crowd. Especially enjoyable are the expressive faces that the characters give off. All of the emotions and feels are perfectly captured on their cute lil’ faces, allowing you to feel exactly what they do without them needing to say a word. And speaking of cute, some of them can pull of the most devilish smiles I’ve ever seen – Umi and Eli can be pretty freakin’ terrifying when they want to! 😀

The only “glaring” issue I found with the animation was actually with the CGI used in the performances. There’s such a crude switch between 2D and 3D in every other frame that becomes really distracting after even a few seconds. I understand why they did it an all – 3D is much smoother to animate, especially with dancing – but man, some of these transitions are pretty rough.

And while I’m hitting the dance scenes, I’d also like to point out that for a “music anime,” the songs weren’t that catchy or memorable. Perhaps that was just the idol music to my ears, but it was all just too bland for me. Happy, sure, but bland. Between both seasons, the only songs that I really liked were “Bokura no LIVE Kimi to no LIFE” performed in the anime by μ’s, Maki’s “Aishiteru Banzai!” and the anthem the song that started it all, “START:DASH!!” sung by the original three members in episode three and in episode 13 with all of the members. Now, my favorite song award goes to “Susume→Tomorrow,” initiated by Honoka in episode one – the first thing we hear, might I add. I absolutely fell in love with this sweet, delicate melody!

Love Live!‘s most enjoyable moments come from the enduring, harsh beginnings of the idol group. Their first concert in episode three in particular left me on the verge of tears. But once μ’s is up and off the ground, the lovable girls carry the story home. What I liked most about this show overall was that no matter how desperate situations seemed, the girls, primarily Honoka, endured it all.

Love Live! radiates POSITIVITY, and is UNEXPECTEDLY a stand-out anime! While the first season has a couple of plot issues, the second season makes up for that with great character development. Just know that all good things eventually come to an end, though . . . If you’re new to this idol business, I full-heartedly recommend this show – it’ll cheer you up no matter what and make you feel dem feels as well! “Nico Nico Ni :3”

“All we can ask for is just a tiny bit of support from you. We truly believe that with your help, we can change the world around us. We will make our dreams come true!”

+ Amazing, well-developed, fun main cast

+ Positive vibe is irresistible

+ Harsh reality of the idol business approached step by step

– 2D to 3D shifts jarring

– Plot cuts back stories short and forces the group over personal conflicts

– Music could have been better

Thanks so much for reading – hit the like if you enjoyed it! You can watch both seasons of Love Live! over on Crunchyroll for free. I can’t wait for NIS America to dub it all in English! Woot! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! Review

Ah yes, adolescents at its finest. I too, “suffered” from chunibyo, Japanese term for eight grader syndrome, when I was younger, though I wouldn’t call it suffering by any means. Sure, mine was only from elementary school until sixth grade or so, yet they were some of the most fun, carefree years of my life. Today, we invest ourselves in a girl who claims to “live in the world beyond” – yet she’s an incoming freshmen in high school.

The “Dark Flame Master,” AKA Yuuta Togashi intended to leave behind his embarrassing past when his family moved to a different city. Wanting to start anew with his freshman year in high school, he tries to make a fresh batch of friends. This changes when a mysterious girl appears climbing out of her apartment. That neighbor – that same delusional girl in his class, Rikka Takanashi the “Wicked Eye,” hears him speak of his past when he lets it loose on the school balcony for relief. She becomes fascinated, hooked – drawn in by his cool display of chunibyo. This crazy chick is the full on thing, though – eye patch, umbrella shield, battling with the “priestess” (her sister) and more ridiculousness. Together, the two recruit members for a trivial club and hilarity ensue.

Let’s just face it: the characters in this anime are beyond incredible. Yuuta is a simple boy desiring to leave behind his childishness. He’s awkward when trying to meet people such as Makoto Isshiki, a kid who attempts to rate the girls in his class; however, the two become best of friends. Isshiki’s love, Kumin-senpai, spends the majority of the show sleeping – no joke – but is still adorable.

Another duo is Shinka Nibutani, class representative, cheerleader, popular, yet ex-chunibyo sufferer “Mori Summer,” and the middle school servant of “The Wicked Eye,” Sanae Dekomori. Nibutani is beautiful and regarded as gentle or sympathetic by her classmates, but when playful Dekomori is found carrying around a book written by Shinka from her delusional days, she does everything in her power to protect her image by retrieving the tome.

Dekomori’s extremely long blonde twintails, her preferred weapon, are very original in design. She even loads them with weights when she enters harsh combat against the “fake Mori Summer,” for she doesn’t believe that Nibutani wrote the book. Also, unlike Rikka, Dekomori is the highest in her class – smartest, cutest, and rich. This background gives Nibutani and Dekomori great depth and memorable scenes. I love them both :3

Rikka is the epitome of Yuuta’s past, and thus presents major problems to the guy – well, just comedy for us. She finds pleasure in the smallest of things that we as viewers often forgot ourselves, be it in the form of a calculator lock taped to her door or spinning around an umbrella as a sword. But she’s more than just creative, as the two develop genuine feelings for one another to the point where they start dating. Even Nibutani backs down to kindly support Rikka and her motives, returning as “Mori Summer” when absolutely necessary. They don’t get very far at first due to Takanashi’s delusional state of mind, but that’s the time when we get to enjoy the couple, cause from here on the story sadly loses its touch.

The second half of the series throws in a concept that I absolutely love, yet classically hits the viewer like a bus – drama. Rikka’s family and past are delved into with sudden furiousness that made me go “wut, I thought this show was built upon light-hearted comedy and romance, not overused dramatic clichés.” Sure, the events improve Rikka as a character and explain her motives, but that development throws the rest of the plot down the drain. Takanashi and Togashi spend several episodes apart which made me drop most of the momentum their relationship carried through the first half; they had worked so enchantingly hard to sculpt an unfinished project. The writers took the “Chunibyo & Other Delusions!” out of the show, leaving a failing “love” to support the title.

A better side to the show is its visuals. If I tell you anything, it’s that this show is cute! J Kyoto Animation, as always, does a remarkable job capturing the youthfulness of the characters by using bright colors and outlines. Movements are extremely fluid to the point where any few seconds of the show would make a hilarious gif. Characters are lively and background sceneries stand appealing.

The OST, though nothing fancy, sounds fairly decent. To contrast the energetic or more comedic moments in the show are lovely slow-moving piano pieces played during depressing/relaxing scenes. The opening, “Sparkling Daydream” by Zaq is paired up with fun, fast visuals of the characters doing what matches their personality and Rikka shakin’ her ass, which is just awesome!

So, is Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! worth the watch? Yeah, I think it is. I feel younger and older audiences can appeal to the characters equally. The show’s highlights were any of the cute chunibyo-filled scenes and quick-witted character interactions, though they substitute those later on for more, and I put this in double quotes, “”character development.”” Chunibyo is definitely better than most rom-com anime out there, and I enjoyed it a lot; however, I wanted to watch these lovable “kids” goofing around doing stupid stuff and not worrying about real life. It’s a shame we all have to grow up sometime . . . “Reality, be rent. Synapse, break. Banishment, this world!!!”– Rikka Takanashi

You can watch the series to its entirety for free over on Crunchyroll, as it has a really enjoyable Japanese voice cast. Also, it has been licensed by Sentai Filmworks if you wanna pick up a copy. Thanks for reading and hit the like button if you thought this review was somewhat decent! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host