300 Followers, the Winter Olympics, and Haikyu!! | End of February Update 3/1/18

Hey hey, it’s been a while!

Two months of 2018 have passed and I have very little to show for it. Excluding the last couple days of Blogmas (because it should have concluded at the end of 2017), I have published but four posts. They’re decently long posts, some actually being my biggest posts yet, but that’s exactly it—ONLY FOUR POSTS. And there’s not really any shocking reason for my lack of content. Like any other blogger here, I get busy, life happens, and then I just don’t feel motivated enough to write about anything, let alone make the time to sit down and watch something.

I’ve considered on several occasions writing about other happenings in my life, my passions, yearnings, and what I’ve been up to besides anime. Such is why my latest OWLS post covers the 2018 Winter Olympics and not my typical post/analysis 2-in-1 method I’ve traditionally stuck to. I’m honestly considering redoing that OWLS post—if such a thing is even possible—or at least writing a follow-up to it. While I kinda feel done with the Olympics now that they’re over (which is incredibly sad, as it has been my whole life these past couple weeks), this OWLS post got very, very few notices.

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Post-Olympics Blues

I DO NOT like to brag about stats, as I believe in the spirit of conversation more than a system of likes and hits to dictate one’s success, but this last OWLS post received only eight likes. I am fortunate to have an audience that seems to get excited whenever I post something (more on that in a bit), and perhaps it’s because backdated it (something which I had NEVER done before) or that maybe the topic wasn’t for everyone, but even I know that eight likes is a strangely (and scarily) low turnout. Admittedly, it was a rushed post, no doubt, as I wanted to cover the first half of the ladies skate when I know I shouldn’t have because I was already cutting it so close to the deadline. 

Ultimately, people will read what they want to read, I know, but it was somewhat disheartening to wake up the next day only to not see the bombardment of email and WordPress notifications that I have become accustomed to.

Although, saying that I now want to redo that post probably says something about a lack of confidence in my own writing. I also don’t want to sound like I’m desperate for likes, cause that’s totally not it either! UGH, I’m just so frustrated and confused. Tell you what: if you see a follow-up post, please consider reading it, as it shall contain my true, truncated thoughts on this past incredible Olympic season—everything that I really wanted to say, and how I wanted to say it.

How about some happier news?

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I’ve Hit 300 Followers, “Officially!”

Increasing as of late, I’ve had my doubts about WordPress and the way it holds onto the blogs I follow and those that follow me. The worst horror stories I’ve heard are from those who end up getting dropped from another’s reader feed, neither side knowing of it. Plus, the “followers” number on some bloggers’ page don’t seem to add up when the WP app is saying they have a different number.

So I had my reason to be skeptical, and now I can finally—and officially—announce with confidence that Takuto’s Anime Cafe has hit 300 followers!! It took me until several weeks after supposedly hitting the mark, waiting for the count to climb to 317 to finally believe it was true, haha! For whatever reason you are here and decided to become a cafe-goer, I am sincerely thankful, and grateful to be able to communicate on a platform that offers intelligent feedback and thought-provoking comments. And to you, the reader, if it were not for your interests in me, I would not have a reason to keep on going, so thank you, really, thank you so much!

*I want to celebrate 300 followers, so if my veteran bloggers and friends have any suggestions for posts, let me know!*

 The Delayed V-Day Special Returns

Every Valentine’s day I have this tradition of closing myself off from the world, setting aside the optimal time needed to thoroughly binge a well-known franchise, if not an anime classic. Though, for some odd reason, these titles are almost always sci-fi, this year I wanted to shake things up a bit with some sports anime to fit the times. HOWEVER, my coverage on the Olympics ended up taking waaaay more time than it should have, but I try not to beat myself up about it given the four-year wait.

Thus, I ended up missing out on the V-Day special . . . UNTIL NOW, because I know I’d hate myself if I were to look back on this season and find that I skipped out.

So now, in March, I’m watching Haikyu!!. Rejoice, fam!

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For those wondering, YES, I prepare a traditional checklist for the number of episodes I have to watch on my dry-erase board. Too nerdy? Nah, I call it art. I’m thrilled to FINALLY be watching this much-loved series, and I have absolute confidence that I, too, will become a huge fan! HOORAY FOR SPORTS ANIME LOVE.

What Am I Watching This 2018 Winter Simulcast Season

Not. Much. LOL. Because I want to keep this short, I will not be chronicling all the anime I’ve watched in the past two months like I usually do. Instead, we’ll look at the ones that really matter: what everyone else is currently watching.

Devilman Crybaby – It technically counts, okay? The cancerous, trashy-ass Devilman fandom reared its ugly head when its lead bishies were transformed into . . . ummm prettier bishies in this latest “reboot” of the classic series. While I absolutely loved this show’s range of highest highs and lowest lows, I won’t spoil all my thoughts seeing as how I already reviewed it, BAM (click here to read). Wait, you’re tellin’ me my preparedness doesn’t count since it aired at the beginning of the year? Well drat, better late than never!

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A Place Further Than The Universe – Is it weird to say that between the other two epic action series here, I’m enjoying this lighthearted, clumsy trip to Antarctica the most? Abbreviated to Yorimoi, four girls set out on an adventure to the bitter-cold continent for what, a change of pace? To find one of the girl’s lost mother? To simply call themselves BADASSES? A fair mix of all of the above, actually. Each episode always has that one dramatic moment that makes you want to throw yourself overboard it’s so intense, but in a way, it contrasts the stark nothingness that would otherwise mark it as a plain slice-of-life anime. Yorimoi has substance, and as long as it continues to relish in the silly moments, embrace the hardships of reality, and provide brilliant music cues HOLY CRAP, I think I’ll be quite pleased with this one. By episode 8, we’ve just pinpointed frozen islands in the distance. However far these crazy gals go, I’m sure they’ll be alright.

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DARLING in the FRANXX – I really, really, really want to call this series a favorite of mine, but it’s just not grabbing my attention in the way I wish it would. Interesting premise, check! Likeable characters, yeah I suppose, check! Five star Trigger animation (or should I say 3-star, heh heh), check! Bottom line—Darling in the Franxx has everything it needs to really stand out against the crowd, but so far I’m a little lost at its aim. Is it gonna become the next big mecha hit like Gurren Lagann, or perhaps spiral down into the dark, emotionally messy (and favorable) pit that is Evangelion? Only time will tell, I suppose, but seeing as how I’ve watched like seven episodes now (and the next is apparently a beach episode like WAT), this series is gonna have to do a lot to build on its world and the reason why its characters behave the way they do. Again, I’m rooting for this series, which is exactly why I have to be critical of it!

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Fate/EXTRA Last Encore – I’m . . . yeah I really don’t know what this is. HUGE Fate fan over hear, yessir, but even I am confused about what’s going on. Aside from Madoka Magica and Negima!? (yes you heard me right, NEGI), I’m not a big Shaft fan. For me, it’s too abstract to the point of boredom, and the dialogue reads like I’m trying to translate poetry of a language I don’t know into another language that I, too, do not understand (like the Monogatari series, but at least that is well-written from the start). But its more Fate, and seeing as how I’m a fan of ALL of it, even the latest Apocrypha, I’ll give it the starting benefit of the doubt. To be fair, completing merely two episodes should not be the time for judgement. If it plays out like all other Fate adaptations I’ve watched so far, a thrilling adventure should be in store for us, assuming we can get past the overly bland protagonist!

Changing Weather, Changing Moods

With spring just on the horizon, I’m bundling up for winter cold in the morning and stripping down for the afternoon heat, which is incredibly taxing on my limited wardrobe, ahahaha! But seriously, as I slide out of this winter slump, hopefully I’ll feel more inspired to blog, and to return to writing reviews like I used to do so passionately in the past.

As Kausus (Otaku Gamer Zone) has tweeted multiple times, Naka-Kon is coming up in just a couple weeks! I plan to cosplay as Todoroki from My Hero Academia and a male version of Danganronpa‘s Junko Enoshima—both of which I need to complete! I’m making these cool Styrofoam pieces for Todoroki’s ice, so that should be neat once it all comes together. It’ll be my first time doing something besides clothing for a cosplay, which is why I’m particularly excited! I want to be able to share my progress and experience with you all, but I’m not sure how to document my adventure in this way. Considering Instagram . . .

Lastly, in case you missed it, I published my “thesis” on the Works of Makoto Shinkai, which you can read right here! Ideally, I’d like for this to become my most-liked post, as I poured everything that I had into research, methodology, and execution, and though it’s a long one, it’s on I feel very proud of—one of my blogging career’s crowning achievements, so to speak. So hit that post up and share it around for me, would ya? It’d mean the world!!

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I think that about covers things. Look out for an Olympics follow-up (and please give it some love) if it actually happens! Otherwise, I’ve got a fat stack of fun blogging award nominations to sort through, plus all of the lovely comments on the four posts I’ve written to catch up on. And then when I’m done with that, there’s lots of stuff from you guys I have to catch up on, and, of course, there’s always more reviews to write, AGH! Let me know your thoughts, including anything about the Olympics, a 300 followers special, Haikyuu!!, the winter simulcasts, or on even life in general, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Devilman Crybaby – Ugly Tears, Bleeding Hearts, & The Pain of Modern Tragedy | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 10-episode winter 2018 anime “Devilman: Crybaby,” produced by studio Science SARU (and Netflix), directed by Masaaki Yuasa, written by Ichiro Okouchi, and based on the manga by Go Nagai. 

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A Wild Night Out

Akira Fudo is a crybaby. He’s always been, and he always will be. Akira’s high school career takes a trip to the wild side when his best friend from many years ago, Ryou Asuka, suddenly reenters Akira’s life. This surprise reunion excites Akira, but unfortunately, Ryou isn’t back so the two can play on the playground again. Instead, he informs Akira that hiding amongst the shadows of their picture-perfect reality are monstrous demons, and that soon the demons will revive to reclaim the world from the humans. To combat their brute, supernatural strength, Ryou has a plan: to fuse a human with a demon.

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Those who conquer their “literal” innermost demons can master the power over them. And thus, after violently loosing his innocence at an infamous nightclub rave suspiciously titled the “Sabbath,” Akira becomes Devilman, a being with the power of a demon and the heart of a human. Finally seeing the darkness that humans have hid for so long, Akira feels blessed to now be able to save others, but more so cursed because he will likely never be understood ever again. But he has Ryou, and for Akira, that’s enough to make the pain worth suffering. Or so he hopes.

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A Tragedy Fit for Our Time

By mere story alone, Crybaby is a masterpiece. Having heard the crazy amounts of praise that have been circulating already for a couple weeks now, this should be no surprise. It starts at zero, at everyday life for a young boy and his relay mates, and quickly escalates into a bloody, traumatic, world-ending experience for both the characters and the viewers. As a standalone piece of fiction, it’s a modern tragedy made fit for the decade—complete with its OWN FREAKIN’ CHORUS in the form of some swaggy J-rappers—a series that is and should be celebrated for the, might I say, “daredevil” tale it sets out to tell. So many countless symbolic, societal, and sexual metaphors make the story incredibly compelling, and the religious undertones work wonders in creating this gritty, larger-than-life epic.

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And the best part of all is that the series isn’t just “depressing” to be called tragic—rather, it lives up to the classical standards of Greek tragedy by existing to A) prove the faults in our own lives, B) present a heroic attempt at handling them, and C) leave us with a cathartic end to cleanse the insanity that just befell the cast. It’s a masterful formula from the humble beginning through to its apocalyptic end, and as the media outlet Polygon states, the finale is “beautiful, devastating perfection.”

The only [minor] problem with a story of this magnitude is that Crybaby has very little time to tell it: only ten episodes, to be exact. While the pacing for the first several episodes feels spot-on, there is a significant push, particularly in the last two episodes, that does seem rather hectic. To be fair, however, the gruesome content and big reveals in episodes nine and ten ARE time sensitive; dragging these plot twists and dramatic developments out beyond an episode’s time would ruin their effects. Besides, perhaps that rushed sense of mayhem is what contributes to the explosive, catastrophic nature of the Devilman franchise.

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Akira and Ryou: Cuter When They’re Young

As far as characters are concerned, I won’t go into much detail simply because half of the thrill stems from witnessing just who some of these characters really are, and exactly what they will eventually become as the plot edges further and further on borderline insanity. Akira Fudo’s deal with the devil surprises all those around him, sure, but his grotesque change conjures up more mental conflict than physical ailment. He’s honestly a gift to mankind who doesn’t belong in this cruel, cruel world, and as he teeters on the edge of his own humanity—of a dying hope vs. an unflagging despair—he realizes that, at the darkest roots of their heart, people can be even more vile, disgusting, and sinful than any demon to roam the planet. Compared to his cute, scrawny self at the series’s beginning, the superior antihero Devilman that Akira becomes is stronger in nearly every way—all except for that tender, still-broken human heart of his.

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Ryou’s fluffy, blonde-bowled, bishounen design may seem inviting, but don’t let that charismatic baby face fool you: underneath that puffy white coat is a deadly machine gun and cunning wit, both which are fully loaded at all times. From that first smooth car ride Ryou and Akira share together, you already get the feeling that Ryou is scheming something (as if the glaring camcorder he films on 24/7 wasn’t evidence enough). Still, he is doomed to a fate just as tragic as Akira’s—if not more so. Ryou is one baaaaaad boi, but I loved his development way too much to hate him.

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I Don’t Know How to Rate The Animation . . . 

I’m not kidding. Devilman: Crybaby has some of the downright UGLIEST animated sequences I’ve ever seen. From the hilarious attempt at depicting just how “speedy” devilmen can run to the blobby, disproportionate, and completely uncensored sex scenes, by visual standards, Crybaby is not a pretty-looking show.

But does an anime need to be “pretty” to have it’s own beauty? Absolutely not. Or, well, at least Crybaby says so.

You see, the series has this certain edge to it, a certain grit that is hard to explain. The animation outlines, for instance, are cleanly drawn and look quite fresh (faces in particular). But then you have the action scenes, which are just SO freakin’ bizarre to watch. Like, I couldn’t even tell you if some scenes were, in fact, “poorly animated” because the ENTIRE SERIES has that same exact look. The lack of detail in light-hearted moments (like Akira’s high school, or his quiet past) compared to the almost sickening actions of other demons and humans alike gave form to a style that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s as if the animation is “untamed,” or “knows no bounds”—yet it all flows well as its own style within the context of the story. Not to mention that the compact 10-episode run and smart directing allow for each and every shot to carry some sort of secondary meaning, however unnecessarily violent or sexual or BOTH the risqué presentation seems to people.

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I, for one, felt that all of the overly grotesque scenes brutally tread some sacred ground of entertainment that hasn’t been touched in decades with a bloody tank. It’s a unique visual style that I frankly haven’t seen anywhere else, and it was depicted brilliantly.

But I Know I Loved the OST!

As I am currently writing this, the Devilman: Crybaby soundtrack is humming in the background for inspiration. What about it is so special? Well, it has great balance; it’s epic (“D.V.M.N.” – Main theme), startling (“Miki The Witch”), playful (“Wishy Washy”), intense (“Anxiety”), entrancing (“Beautiful Silene”), heart-pounding (“Smells Blood”), uplifting (“Prayer”), cathartic (“Pathetique”), and so much more. Composer Kensuke Ushio (Ping Pong The Animation, Space Dandy, A Silent Voice) knows how to write excellent orchestral/synth pieces, I tell ya!

There’s a little tune that is repeated throughout the entire soundtrack that can be any of the emotions listed above, so long is the right instrumentals is paired with the mood. My personal favorite IS a reprise of this gorgeous melody line, and it just so happens to be the very last song played in the series, the End of Devilman: Crybaby, so-to-speak. It’s appropriately titled “Crybaby,” and if it doesn’t move your heart to the point of tears, forcing you to recall Akira, Ryou, Miki, and Miko’s shared heartache and tragedy, then I’m not sure what will.

Oh yeah, there’s also a remake of the original Devilman opening included with the soundtrack, which, if you SOMEHOW haven’t heard yet, is SUCH A BOP HOLY SHIT. I STILL listen to it religiously.

The Destructive Darkness Within Us All

By Devilman:Crybaby‘s end, there is arguably no sadness left for the characters, no more tears to cry. It should feel complicated, as the amount of despair is simply undefinable. But instead, all you can wonder is how things got to this point, and how what you witnessed was, in fact, the end brought upon by humanity. The ending is completely unfair, yet it balances the scales with terrifying perfection. You could feel sad, or depressed, or enraged at how BLIND people can be, but instead, all of it feels pointless, as if nihilism just inducted you to suddenly became one of its patron saints.

The ending of Devilman: Crybaby is indeed a very empty one. And that very catharsis, that feeling of emptiness and pointlessness, is what lies at the heart of a well-written tragedy. 

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As happy and sad memories alike resurface for these two boys, Akira and Ryou come to realize that, without one another, life before friendship was boring and often cruel. It was lonely, and it was meaningless. But through the ugly tears they cry, the bleeding hearts they endure, and the tragic fates that they cease fighting against, the two learn to finally accept love, for it is really love, not hate, which makes the world go round. And so to tear up the ENTIRE world just to tell this seemingly small message—Yes, such is what completes the horrifically tragic Devilman: Crybaby as a modern masterpiece.

You’re crying too, Ryou-chan. You’re crying too . . .  – Akira Fudo

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Afterwords

Devilman: Crybaby is raw, brutal, yet oddly honest about its understanding of cause and effect and the power of compassion. It doesn’t forget to throw in a few laughs, though. As the community has already remarked, this show is ABSOLUTELY NOT for the faint of heart. This series showcases the worst aspects of humanity—of vengeance, overindulgence, paranoia, and immorality—and for many, that can be hard to watch (plus, it’s like, mega gory and sexual). You’ll be asking yourself “WTF is this even real?” many times, and you’ll feel absolutely disgusted with humanity. But have faith that there is a reason for the madness. I walked into this action series not knowing a lick about the Devilman franchise (aside from the old dub clips, heh heh) and obviously enjoyed the HELL out of it.

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If such disturbing material doesn’t bother you, then I’m sure you’ll also enjoy this wild ride through the bloody and the occult, as there are a fair amount of life lessons to be learned. I’m giving Devilman: Crybaby the honorary “Caffe Mocha” title because of its unexpectedly high emotional impact (you gotta love the indirect End of Eva references, too)! There’s a particular scene in I think episode 8 or 9 that absolutely wrecked me, and the powerful ending . . . wow . . . I’m sure I won’t be forgetting about that for a long time. If you are thinking about watching this anime, or have already seen it, you HAVE to let me know what you thought about it! I’m dying to dig the series back up, even though much of the hype has died down, haha! Let me know if I did a decent job by hitting the like button (I appreciate it!), and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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