Cafe Talk #2: When Anime Became Commonplace?

Mina-san, konnichiwa ~

I’m back the second “Cafe Talk,” and today I’m here to ramble on about how I got into anime. It’s quite the embarrassing story, but I figured I let someone know. Lord, this one’s for the history books, gosh. The rest of the chat is my journey through the beginnings of anime. I hope you enjoy!

O.K. So I had known about Sailor Moon, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Pokemon when I was a young child but I never really knew that they were “anime.” In fact, I didn’t know what “anime” was. The closest things that hooked me on the Japanese culture were Ghibli films Kiki’s Delivery Service and Castle in the Sky.

How I became fully inducted into the anime life was . . . don’t laugh . . . I didn’t know what hentai was. I WAS A KID, OK! CUT ME SOME SLACK I’M NOT A PERVERT I SWEAR!!! Anyway, after searching it in Google I found a small clip of guess what? The Negima!? Spring OVA, you know, the one where they go to Ayaka’s private resort island and party hard!? It’s not a full-on hentai  by any means (not that I’d know what that’s like or anything :P), but it was far “bustier” than any cartoon or animation I had ever seen.

Yeah, that’s the one.

I watched it in three parts, and fell in love with the animation style, the art, the comedy OMG, the voices (in English – go Greg Ayres!), the boobs plot – everything! I then went on to research the main series, watch it all and if you want to know my weaboo thoughts on my first anime series, click here to read my first ever review!!

Back to the topic, for those who’ve seen Negima!?, you’ll know that besides comedy, magical fanservice and a poor shota boy-genius, there’s actually a lot of great animated action sequences to accompany the main story (that’s studio Shaft for ya’ll) – and that is what hooked me most, the gripping action.

Back on YouTube, I saw “Top 10 OPs” and “Best Fight Scenes,” and while those all amazed me (and weirded me out at the same time), what I ended up sliding the cursor over was “Japanese Tales Of Symphonia Opening.” *click*

God what I’d give to own it now on DVD . . .

I was blown away.

What I came across was an enchanting ballad where fights in glorious animation were commonplace – the Tales of Series, and specifically my favorite Tales of Symphonia. I had hit the entertainment goldmine for a youth in desperate search of heartbreaking and relatable characters, incredible stories, and all of it brought to life not as a game, however, but as video entertainment – anime.

From there, anime only continues to secretly provide me with an escape from everything in the real world, not that anything was particularly bad, but ya know, boring as all hell.

Shows like No.6 and Ef – A Tale of Memories and Melodies invoked  periods of pure sadness yet true joy at the same time through memorable romantic ties and gut wrenching tragedies.

Head-scratchers like Steins;Gate opened up my brain to its full capacity with a beautiful story revealing the cruelties of time, showing me that there’s a deeper meaning behind very tiny details (SYMBOLISM) such as blue butterflies, microwaves and lab member pins . . .

This is it right here. I’ll never look at normal things ever again. Thanks anime.

Crossover shows like A Certain Scientific Railgun/Magical Index forced me to realize that no matter your level or rank, you can still impact lives and make true friends, all while being a badass at the same time!

Even Free! – Iwatobi Swim Club inspired me to go out for my first sport ever – swimming – and I’ll never forget the fun times that they had and all the amazing memories that I would make myself!

A hundred or so anime passed. This leads me to my “common era.” I participate in simulcasts, check the anime news, indulge myself in the industry – it’s great and all, but can I just return to the old days? Even for just a sec?

Probably not. So that’s why I started reviewing.

Maybe, just maybe, I can find that thrill of untapped territory once again if I explore some of the aspects that made me love anime so much! Then, perhaps, I could uncover the sweet, sweet bliss like I did back then. Don’t get me wrong, there have been TONS of great shows that I’ve watched after that, some I’d even call masterpieces, but each anime feels different, and that feeling can be a double-edged sword. Did I get really into the show and “feel it,” or did it just have good concepts?

I’m Takuto, and while I operate this cafe and meet all of you wonderful people, I have a deeper quest, and that is to find that “feeling” I felt during those days. It’s indescribable, almost lustful at times, but I’ll find it for sure!

Chasing after the feels.

Do you understand that feel that I’m talking about, or do I just sound like a crazy guy – well, that one’s probably a guarantee, but regardless LOL, do I make sense? Did you know anime when you first saw it, or was it just a good ol’ childhood show? What was your first non-childhood anime? Also, I put pictures for the first time! Comment below because man, I’m getting tongue-tied! Haha thanks so much for reading and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Negima!? (season two) Review

This anime has a special place in my heart as it is the first I had ever seen, besides random encounters with Sailor Moon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, etc. I watched it in the spring of 2012. For those of you who don’t know, Negima!? is slice of life, fantasy adventure, comedy, magical girl, fanservice anime. With that being said, it is an honor for it to be the first that I review! First review – here we go!

Negima!? revolves around Negi Springfield, a 10 year-old genius wizard who had just graduated from the Magic Academy, a school for wizardry and magic. As part of his training, Negi and his talking ermine fairy friend Chamo are transferred from their home in Wales, England to Mahora Academy in Japan, which is an all-girls school. His mission – to teach English class there while seeking out a partner to help in his sorcery. With this partner, Negi must form a pact, or “Pactio!” which involves a kiss on the lips. The partner then may have their contract invoked in order to use magic. The plot rolls along, however, when the loudmouth obnoxious Asuna Kagurazaka, student No. 8 in his 2/3-A class of 31 girls, sees him using magic. From here on out, Negi eventually makes partners out of his entire class, all while encountering twisted fairies, magical worlds and the darkness.

When I first watched this series way back when, I found it to be ridiculously awesome, probably giving it more credit then it actually deserved. The concept is easy, but not astonishing in any way, to understand, as most of the terms are thoroughly explained in the first episode. I found myself always wondering what would possibly happen next, then again I was younger when I first watched it. The surprises Negima!? had in store were nicely executed. This series also has a lot of cultural references, which made the experience a knowledgable one, too.

Negima!? has one of the largest casts that I have ever seen; 31 girls plus a few more is a handful to keep track of. Nevertheless, Ken Akamatsu, the creator, displayed valuable and unique traits for each of the girls. A decent amount of screen time (for a cast this large) was given to each one, which allows the viewer to love more than just the main eight or so. It was silly, at one time, I had all of the girls memorized! Looking back, it was a huge waste of time trying to remember all of them!:D Since it is a comedy, all of the cast members each have their individual quirks that make them stand out. This makes the dialogue for the English dub especially fun to listen, as the voice actors really get distinct in their respective character(s).

While characters in Negima!? made me laugh, they did not make me feel anything else. Aside from Anya, Negi, Nekane, Evangeline, Asuna and maybe Yue, the others were pretty static. I guess if the creator spent an episode for each one, then the plot would never advance. But, maybe a couple episodes dedicated to the side characters instead of useless boobage and banter would have been more beneficial.

I distinctly remember the OST, opening, and ending for this anime, which is a good sign. The OST for this show is small, which means the tracks are used over and over again. However, they are good songs and tend to fit the mood better than anything else. Some themes such as Nekane’s or the Chupacabra Research Society’s are especially easy to recall, for they are breathtakingly sweet and outrageously hilarious respectively. The series’s opening “1000% SPARKING” is really catchy and motivational and is also sung in English in FUNimation’s dub. Personally, I prefer the English one. The same is for the show’s ending “A-LY-YA!” – it is such a fun song.

Previous anime I had seen include Sailor Moon and Pokemon, so Negima!?‘s animation was a treat (no offense to those classics). The artwork was presented in one of the most memorable fashions. Sometimes they would have different camera angles in boxes and these boxes would just be floating and shaking on the screen depending on who is talking. Sometimes the background would be super ornate – like reeeally cool – and during other times it would just be one solid outline color. I recall even a few times they would include real life photos and crop them in. The differentiation in presentation made the show more exciting, as it was more of a show for humor over plot. Characters were drawn with individuality, so you could remember how certain characters acted just by looking at them. These people were also drawn in a simple yet fitting way to match with the background. In other words, the characters were easy to see but did not stick out like black on white. Negima!?‘s unique animation is definitely its highlight.

Overall, Negima!? was quite the entertaining show. Its mix of stupid comedy, quick jokes and decent plot make it a good first-time anime for those who are interested in the culture. I can say that I was fairly entertained. While this anime lacks in individual character development, it makes up for that in its one-liner character descriptions. Each character really does have an individual personality, and part of the experience is figuring out what roles certain characters play. A downside to this, however, is trying to balance this enormous cast with each of the single impacts on Negi Springfield. A tip from me is to just roll with it because you’ll pick up on who Negi hangs out with right off the bat.

As I mentioned at the beginning, Negima!? has carved a very special place in my heart and I will never forget it was my first anime. Whenever I see or hear make a joke with similar wordings, I immediately reference this series before any other. I find myself still drawing Motsu’s face on all of my papers! Motsu and Shichimi were, by the way, the driving forces of comedy!! I love them both so much! This show in particular is one that you could watch a few times over and still have fun doing so, as there is so much detail work put in to the setting, the character designs and the funny dialogue. A warning, however, is to enjoy it the first time through because if you spend your whole time fussing over the details, you will miss Negima!?‘s quick wit and crazy charm.

Currently, FUNimation’s S.A.V.E. edition of Negima!? “balances rather precariously” on my shelf, “In a good way.”

Thanks for reading!

– Takuto, your host