Game of Laplace: Rampo Edogawa’s Macabre Eye-Candy Playground | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 11-episode summer 2015 anime “Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace,” animated by Lerche, directed by Seiji Kishi, and inspired by the works of author Edogawa Rampo.

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A Startling Wake-Up Call

Famous for his influence on Japanese fiction, mystery author and critic Ranpo Edogawa (romanized as Rampo) passed away a little over 50 years ago, and what a better way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death in 1965 than with a surreal mystery/horror anime loosely based on his stories? (Ya nailed it Japan.) That’s exactly what Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace is, and although this series of brutal and bizarre crimes stems from an author known to write masterpieces, this clunky anime “adaptation” comes up short in just about every gruesome case. And somehow, I still enjoyed it.

Middle school student Kobayashi is framed for murder. He awakens in his classroom to find his teacher brutally mutilated, and the murder weapon dripping with blood in his hand. Any normal kid would be freaking out by now, but Kobayashi finds himself more so curious (and secretly thrilled) about this strange attempt to frame him. Watching out for Kobayashi’s well-being, a close friend named Hashiba joins the case as a willing accomplice to help prove Kobayashi’s innocence. Also roped into solving this twisted crime is Akechi, a lazy genius high school detective who immediately sees an interesting potential in the young accused boy. Desiring nothing more than to mix up his mundane life, Kobayashi pleads to be recruited as Akechi’s assistant, to which Akechi agrees to take him on—but only if he can handle the chaos that comes with disobeying the law.

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Game of Laplace‘s characters are simply too fun for the plot’s serious overtones. As much as the series tries to be a philosophical thriller, Kobayashi’s enthusiasm and Akechi’s frank lack of care always kill the mood. When viewed as a comedy, however, this problem is less apparent (which is probably not the intent but it just fits better no matter how you look at it). Hashiba’s one-sided (and unresolved) bromance with Kobayshi only makes his reason for always being with the detectives sillier, and once little-girl-lover and phantom thief “Shadow Man” becomes a member of the main cast, any sense of seriousness goes out the window. Heck, this crook wears a freakin’ PAPER BAG over his head to protect his identity! A true master of disguise, right? How can I not laugh at his constantly-dumbfounded expression??

Although the characters give this series a few too many laughs than it probably should have, there’s still a nice balance of chemistry between them. Kobayashi fawns over Akechi’s work; Hashiba blushes and stammers whenever Kobayashi acts too girly; police officers Kagami and Nakamura respect and deeply care for each others’ well-being; and everyone, especially Akechi, hates Shadow Man. (Look no further than episode six for proof of this. Even if you don’t watch the series, this episode is worth it if you wanna kill time for some damn hilarious dialogue.) So if it’s not the characters, what makes Game of Laplace not as great as it should be?

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The Problem with Telling a Good Mystery

From what I understand, in theory, every good mystery can be solved by oneself using the clues laid out before them. All of the necessary evidence should be placed fairly before the detective (in this case the viewer), and a decent amount of time should be given before the answer is revealed. Additionally, should a certain character need to solve the case, one piece of critical evidence will be withheld until the end explanation is made. Sounds about right, doesn’t it? Well, this is where Game of Laplace struggles hard, as there’s never enough evidence (or time) to find out whodunit.

Not only that, but the criminal or mastermind at hand rarely has any time to establish themselves as a character within the work. At most, you’ll get a ” Office Secretary” or “Construction Worker B,” and then the episode will move on to have Kobayashi quickly solve the case right after Hashiba gives a sensible hypothesis. It’s just a poorly written mystery series if that is truly the main goal, which is odd given that Rampo Edogawa is so highly regarded. (I’m guessing it’s a fault with the anime, not the original author’s stories.) As a viewer, I ended up just sitting through the series with my brain turned off, and while none of the reveals were particularly shocking, at least there was a coherent, albeit weak, story that weaves together the crimes.

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Making the Most Out of a Bad Situation

As I mentioned earlier, there’s a certain standalone episode six that I recommend even if you don’t watch the series. The reason for that is simple: Funimation’s hysterical English dubbing. Quick-witted and well-voiced, the quality of acting given to such a mediocre title truly makes the most out of this not-so-hot series. While a bad dub can ruin a show, a good dub can save one, and that by far is Game of Laplace‘s most redeeming quality. Newcomer Jill Harris has proven herself on multiple occasions that she can voice a cute feminine boy (like Kobayashi) without sounding “too girlish,” and Justin Briner as this doting “boyfriend” character with Hashiba is a great match. Throw in veterans like Eric Vale for Akechi’s aggressively low voice, J. Michael Tatum’s smooth-sounding Kagami, and Sonny Strait as everyone’s least favorite bag-wearing Shadow Man and you’ve got a wonderfully solid cast!

Stuido Lerche animates the world of Game of Laplace with just as much creative pizzazz, wacky checkerboard patterns, and bright colors as they do with all their titles. Like they did with the Danganronpa 3 anime (one of my favorites), the background characters are nulled out with a single color to truly seem like “background characters.” Not my favorite visual choice, as sometimes the culprits are actually these blobs of color, causing you to be reliant on voices alone (another reason for the dub), but it does result in an interesting style. The show gets its real visual appeal and absurdity from its investigation scenes where, in a fashion similar to superior mystery title Hyouka, each breakdown of the case is done so uniquely and creatively. This helps the show stay visually entertaining, even if the plot is a little out there. Also, butterflies.

Stick to the Classics

Nearly every mystery anime I’d seen before this one was better than Game of Laplace—but not all of those shows had a cast as fun as this one was. For a 50th anniversary project, I wish they had made an adaptation for a single one of his works, not a messy conglomeration of several. The series easily could’ve been better this way, and I bet more people would’ve watched a show advertised as “Rampo Edogawa tale brought to anime” than a series loosely based on a collection of works like “The Human Chair” and “Twenty Faces.”

This is going to be one of those shows that I enjoyed, but I can guarantee that most will not. The character humor tickled me just right with Funi’s dub, and Lerche happens to be one of my favorite animation studios. In other words, this series is only recommended to those thirsting for more murder mystery anime who have already exhausted the genre’s reserves in their desperate hunt. Watch Danganronpa, Hyouka, Higurashi, Rokka—any of those anime first; as the saying goes, “Stick to the classics” (ironic, I know). Then, only once you’ve thoroughly enjoyed what the genre has to offer, come stop by the Akechi detective agency for a laugh with old Rampo Edogawa.

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The harder the game is to solve, the more fun you can have, right?—Akechi Kogorou


Afterword

Not much to say here, especially since several character backstories and relationships remain largely unresolved by the end (hang in there, Hashiba). Like, Akechi is seen crushing up and washing down these white pills with the same brand of canned coffee all the time, but we never know why he does it . . . huh. Weird.

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Still, I downed this series like a hot “Coffee” myself here at the cafe, and so you’ll have to let me know what you thought about this series or my review down in the comments! It’s nice to be back for a quick review and not just an OWLS post, am I right? Not that I dislike writing them, but it seems like that’s all I write anymore, and I’ve got to change that! Thanks for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Anime at the Theaters: My “Your Name” Experience! | Blogmas 2017 Day 10

Hey everyone, welcome to (a very belated) day 10 of Blogmas (whoops)! I know today’s topic isn’t necessarily “new” for 2017 (nor is it for years prior), but this was the first year I was able to attend a theater to watch anime on the big screen!

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Anime at the Theaters!

From Funimation’s screenings of films for Project Itoh, Dragon Ball, Fairy Tail, One Piece, Black Butler, Attack on Titan, Psycho-Pass, The Boy and the Beast, and In This Corner of the World, to live action films like Tokyo Ghoul, Rurouni Kenshin, and Shin Godzilla, anime has been on the rise, as most of these titles were indeed screened this year. And they’re not stopping at 2017; they’ve already lined up the beginning of 2018 with theatrical releases for the widely anticipated first Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution film!

Heck, even Viz Media had joined in on the fun with its grand premiere of Sailor Moon R: The Movie this past winter (which was, by the way, promoted with the red carpet treatment, complete with a voice actor/pro-cosplayer meet-up, AND a spotlight on Snapchat—FREAKIN’ SNAPCHAT). The same goes for Aniplex of America and their latest (successful) efforts with Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale and Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel. Oh, and we can’t forget Sentai Filmworks with the big debut of the No Game No Life: Zero! Though Aniplex has been in the game much longer, it’s only now that their publicity has reached far enough to include theater screenings not just limited to the California area. And this trend will likely increase for all of these companies as the years go on, which is awesome because when more anime goes around, we get more of it!

I unfortunately wasn’t able to see this film (or any of the ones listed above, for that matter), but I did try, I did! ;_: Now I own the DVD. :3

It’s not often that anime “strikes rich” with U.S. audiences, though. The fan base and popularity expand, sure, but the monetary gain from screening anime films in the U.S. is nothing compared to what Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, Walt Disney Studios, or even some indie films earn. But every bit helps, and seeing as how screenings of our favorite niche titles keep popping up, we can only imagine that it’s all helping the anime industry in Japan. Anime News Network wrote an article during the film screening boom awhile back, so you might want to check that out if you’re curious to know the “science” behind it all.

As I was saying, very rarely do anime films earn household names thanks to theater screenings: Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and most Studio Ghibli films are pretty well recognized thanks to their unique artistic styles and of course, classic nature. Just this past spring, Funimation streamed a little title called Your Name.—ever heard of it? Yeah, I’m sure you have, and you’ll probably already know that it’s now the world’s highest-grossing anime film, finally beating out Ghibli staples like Spirited Away (2nd), Howl’s Moving Castle (3rd), and everyone’s favorite fish-girl with the round tummy, Ponyo (4th). No, it’s not a competition, but credit should be given where it’s due, and Your Name. IS one incredible, breathtaking film. While Japan is still loyal to Spirited AwayYour Name. did manage to climb all the way up to become the fourth highest-grossing film in the nation. If that doesn’t speak volumes about the film, I’m not sure what will.

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My “Your Name.” Experience

(This is not a review. That will come out in early 2018, fingers crossed >.<)

Have you ever been to a Warren Theatre? They’re apparently prominent in the big midwestern cities, but essentially, they are luxurious movie theaters heavily decorated and inspired by Hollywood during the Roarin’ Twenties. Very Gatsby-esque and decked out to the extreme, one wearing athletic shorts and a t-shirt (me) would feel very out of place. EVERYTHING is gold in that place—no, literally, there are tall pillars embossed with shiny gold-colored plating. Exquisite paintings hang on the gorgeously patterned walls, and the staff are finely dressed in slick black suits. Even the bathrooms are paved with solid ebony marble flooring with rows upon rows of ridiculously clean stalls. There are several open little outlets that line the curtained walls, each containing waiting rooms with comfortable maroon leather couches and, wait, yes, a fireplace.

 

[Pictures from Google]

All-in-all, my mom, dad, and sister and I were very shocked. Very shocked. The place was simply stunning, and I couldn’t recommend it enough. The Warren is an experience, not just another place to watch movies.

 

[They even had this cool giant promotional poster for the Ghost in the Shell live action, which I was absolutely enamored by! You can bet I took pictures posing by this, haha!]

So the Warren was hella lit, but what made the three-hour journey to see Your Name. all the more worth it was the meet-up. (Woah, Taku has friends that like anime IRL?! Yup, you bet.) If you didn’t already know, music was my thing from basically birth up through high school (and even now, too). I play the cello, and on my second year with the All-State Orchestra, my sister made friends with her fellow stand partner. He was also Asian, so there’s kinda that instantaneous bond right there, and we all kept in contact after that fateful encounter.

Flash forward, and he starts talking about this film he saw on his way back from Japan, a title that, though unfamiliar with my sister, was screaming at me because of all the recent hype: Your Name., Makoto Shinkai’s latest creation. He recommended the film because he’d seen it, I knew how to get us to see it, and my sister was the glue that held us all together. The only problem—he lives across the state, over three hours away, and while it might not seem like much for the average traveler, you can’t forget that we’re youngins, and that distance was enough to keep us apart.

So we agreed to meet halfway. He chose a conveniently located place where we’d meet up to eat (which was a really awesome and tasty Japanese restaurant similar to how Qdoba or Chipotle are fashioned—how fitting, I know), I found the Funimation-approved theater, and my sister kept us all excited (well, more than we were, at least)! Several laughs later, it was time to make our way across the parking lot, and before we knew it, we were ushered into the theater balcony where we were seated before a giant red curtain. That’s right, this movie theater opens and closes its screenings with the grand red curtain. God, did I mention that I love this place??

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So the great curtain raised and the great curtain lowered. The film was over, and it was admittedly hard not to cry. So many things had led up to this one moment:

  • Hearing about the rapid success of Your Name.
  • Attending All-State Orchestra and meeting a new friend
  • Funimation announcing a theatrical release
  • Reconnecting via technology and setting up a reunion
  • Traveling the distance, meeting the other halfway
  • Walking into the Warren
  • Reuniting for a delicious lunch
  • Seeing one of the greatest films ever created
  • Feeling the emotions of the characters, together

I mean, all this considered, it was so very difficult to believe that this dream of mine would quickly come to an end. It was not only a bittersweet ending for Mitsuha and Taki, but for the three of us, too. Honestly, bidding farewell to a friend had never been harder. But we agreed to meet again, and sure enough, just this past weekend, we met halfway once again to have fun at the city’s mall. We were going to ice-skate all together, but he had a piano competition coming up and his mom didn’t want him risking his wrist—perfectly understandable, and we had fun nonetheless. (Our family did go ice-skating, though :P)


Thoughts on Life, Transience, and Memories

It’s not often that an anime film gets screened here in the states. And it’s also not often that said movie becomes the highest-grossing anime film in the world.

Similarly . . . 

It’s not often that we get to have perfect long-distance friendships. And it’s also not often that we get to cross that seemingly great distance to have our own Your Name. experience. Little did we know it, we, too, traversed the state in search of the other and promised to meet up again someday. And when someday finally came, we were all just so, so happy.

We have to take advantage of the fleeting opportunities that life presents us with. Not every moment will be magical, but when you make the most of what you have—pouring all your heart into what you want most—sometimes chance grants you that picture-perfect moment . . .

Only for it to quickly fade into a memory. 

Cherish the friendships you currently have, relish in the art that entertains you, and I cannot express this last one enough: Take as many photos as you can. I say it all the time, but the reality is that life goes by quicker and quicker with each passing day. Don’t let thinking about the “could have beens” before they even happen stop the “can be” that you can make possible. There was a point where I considered not reaching out to my sister about the film because I thought it wasn’t going to work for some reason. I was wrong. We can make beautiful memories to last a lifetime, and we can take risks to pursue happiness.

It’s all a matter of taking the first step and hoping that it leads you to enjoying the step after that.

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Wherever you are in the world, I’ll search for you. – Taki Tachibana


Maybe now you understand why getting to see Your Name was one of my highlights of 2017. Did anyone else have the opportunity to visit anime in theaters this year? If so, what did you see, and how was your experience? I’d love to know! I’ll be logging this as a “Cafe Talk,” so feel free to let your thoughts loose on this post or anything else related to it!

I’m on a bit of an odd schedule now thanks to the holidays, but this concludes Blogmas Day Ten of the 12 Days of Anime. Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you shortly with another belated post!

– Takuto, your host

My Top 10 Long-Awaited U.S. Anime Releases from This Year| Blogmas 2017 Day 2

Hey everyone, welcome to day 2 of Blogmas, or as everyone else calls it, the “12 Days of Anime!” This year was pretty BIG for us anime collectors in the states; several titles that had gone unlicensed for the looooongest time were FINALLY license-rescued and saw physical releases this year. Most were given that Blu-ray touch for the first time ever, and some even lucked out by getting an English dub, despite the YEARS of neglect. That’s pretty awesome of them.

Particularly, from 2016 September to the earlier parts of 2017, Funimation led the rescue front, releasing long-awaited titles like Haruhi Suzumiya, Code Geass, The Vision of Escaflowne (via Kickstarter), and more. For this post, I’ll be highlighting my favorite titles that I picked up from this year alone. So yeah, these are my top 10 releases from least to most anticipated. Here we go!

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TOP 10 U.S. ANIME RELEASES IN 2017

Honorable Mention:   The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

This film needs no introduction, as it means A LOT to many, many, MANY fans out there. Unfortunately, at the time of writing this, I have not seen Haruhi Suzumiya. BUT, I did manage to snag one of the last copies of the collector’s edition before they went out of stock, as well as a copy of this film when it came out. In other words, I’m saving it for one epic rainy day, but should I had seen it by now, I’m sure it would’ve been close to the top. GOD BLESS FUNI for saving this film and bringing it to Blu-ray with the rest of the franchise!

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This set’s simple red-lettered theme is to DIE for

#10  The Vision of Escaflowne

Escaflowne may have been my first Kickstarter I campaign to participate in, but it most certainly won’t be my last. Recorded over with a brand new English dub (I did try out the old one, wasn’t too big a fan), Escaflowne was a blind buy, and I have to say it was a pretty neat show. Surprisingly, I haven’t reviewed it yet, but maybe after I get around to the film I’ll just review the entirety of the franchise. While this limited edition Kickstarter exclusive box is fairly nice looking, it’s nothing compared to the gorgeous hand-drawn art style of the collector’s edition. At least the reverse covers make it look like a complete set.

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I showed the back side of the box because the front is the same as the little art pamphlet. It’s also cooler.

#9  Miss Hokusai

By far the oddest entry on this list that you will read, this film has some very odd history. To be fair, I hadn’t heard of this film before either—it wasn’t until I came across a English trailer on YouTube featuring Erica Lindbeck that I immediately put everything that I was doing now to rush and preorder it on Amazon. There was just an underlying charm or witty humor in its delightful trailer, and Erica’s brief yet strong and somehow resilient portrayal as the lead (presumably the titular Miss Hokusai at the time) was enough to convince me it was worth it. The film ended up being fairly good, nothing like a Ghibli film (though it’s not really fair to compare like that). I think a second rewatch would have allowed me to place it higher up on this list.

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MAH GURL, KILLIN’ IT

#8  Code Geass: Akito the Exiled

Ever since I heard that more Code Geass existed—and it served to fill in events that took place during the series—I knew that Akito was a must. And though it doesn’t quite live up to the original’s masterful characterization and story (not even close, but it’s a tough show to beat), I did enjoy this little set of OVAs—the dub was pretty solid too, complete with accents! And ooh look, pretty art cards!

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Shin Godzilla was definitely a highly-anticipated release, but I’m just reusing pics here to save me time 🙂 

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#7  Sailor Moon Crystal Season II

Now, y’all already know that I love me some Sailor Moon, especially Crystal for its more accurate take on the manga’s rich story of betrayal and tragedy. Despite what anyone says about the CG animation or the ridiculously long legs, I still love Crystal, almost as much as the original; for me, both are necessary to bring out the depth of Usagi’s tale. That said, Crystal II was definitely a step down from the first. The plot was fine, accomplishing what took R +30 episodes in like 12, but the same main problem prevents Crystal from matching its predecessor—the characterization (particularly of the villains this time around) is incredibly weak. Aside from Usagi, Mamoru, and Chibiusa, there is very little time left for everyone else. I still love this saga, however, and I CANNOT wait to pick up Crystal III! The English dub is excellent for this one, BTW.

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The holographic finish on these Crystal covers is gorgeous—I only wish there was a consistent theme between all of them.

#6  Sailor Moon R The Movie

Anyone remember when this film was subtitled “Promise of the Rose” by Dic? Yeah, well I still call it that >.< and I have no regrets. Though a technically A-OK film, much of the nostalgia was lost with the removal of the English insert song “The Power of Love,” which I still jam to daily! The original Japanese song is, to be fair, still kickass. I didn’t get to witness R The Movie on the big screen like everyone else, but now I’ll be able to watch it whenever I like!

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I think this cover art was exclusively created for Viz’s release, so HUGE props to them on that cause it’s absolutely gorgeous.

#5  Sailor Moon S 

YASSSS SAILOR MOON S AND THE OUTER SCOUTS!!!! Of all the releases to come before it, this was the one I was most excited for—and boy did it live up to its reputation! You see, as a child, I watched this series on like 4 or 5 VHS tapes. Those tapes chronicled all of the Sailor Moon knowledge that I had, until I picked up Viz’s first release of it and watched the whole thing in sequential order. My childhood self was absolutely SHOOKETH to find out just how dark the real, uncensored story was. I’m still partially in disbelief at S‘s ending. But alas, the show goes on, and I cannot wait for SuperS in the spring!

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Viz’s other Sailor Moon DVD sets continue to look pretty bland, but at least they look nice together as a set.

#4  Your Name

Does this film even need an introduction? I mean, seriously, it was advertised like hell in 2016, and has been praised ever since. And you know what? It’s deserving of every good thing said about it. Now that I own the Blu-ray myself, I’ll elaborate more on this one in a review and theater experience coming up soon, heh heh heh. But for now, know that this one was a short, painful wait, yet one made all the more worth it because of the immediate NEED to experience it all over again.

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THE HOLOGRAPHIC FINISH ON THE SLIP COVER IS EVERYTHING. I tweeted my reaction to this surprise and Funimation retweeted it, causing it to blow up to 200 likes in one day. I’m famous now.

#3  Steins;Gate The Movie – Load Region of Deja Vu

In terms of looooong-awaited releases, this entry is hard to beat. I’m a huge Steins;Gate boy. In fact, it’s in my top 5 favorite anime of all time. When the film first came out in Japan, of course I -illegally- streamed it somewhere on the internet, and I have no regrets for doing so, as little did I know that it would not see a U.S. release for FOUR YEARS. Well, after a little bit of time travelin’ myself, four years are up, and now I can relive—what I like to believe is—one of the most perfect films to follow up an anime series. Long story short, I’m very happy to have this, and to FINALLY listen to J. Michael Tatum, Trina Nishimura, and the rest of the spectacular English dub in all their glory!

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I’m at a loss for words. The art parallels between this set and the series is just so damn clever.

#2  Hyouka 

We’re down to the last two—IT WAS SO HARD TO PICK. But of course it made a spot in the top five! Hyouka‘s lead, Oreki Houtarou, has been the face of this cafe for years now. That said, you can probably expect this to be one of the most celebrated releases for me in recent times. Hyouka was one of those Funimation license rescues that took FIVE years to get here. This is why, upon its announcement, that many thought the show would receive the sad DVD/sub-only treatment. Boy were we surprised. Not only would it get the Blu-ray combo pack special, but IT GOT A FREAKIN’ DUB. To make things even better, THE DUB IS FANTASTIC!!! (Sadly, there was no LTD ED box, but I made my own thanks to Simply Gee’s help, so we’re good I guess.) No words can honestly express my excitement, but there is still one title that deserves the real gold here . . .

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I was absolutely stunned with how much official artwork Funimation was able to obtain for these releases. Where they don’t have a cozy official box to slide into, the art more than makes up for it. Also, what do you think of my own DIY box? 😛

#1  Gosick

I watched this show in the spring of 2014. That’s three years ago, but it’s not as long as some fans have been waiting for. Gosick is SIX, almost SEVEN years old. SEVEN, and it had gone unlicensed for all this time. Some of you may argue that Hyouka is far better than Gosick, both as mystery shows and physical releases. And you know what, I kinda agree. But riddle me this: How much do you value the first anime you ever watched? Gosick is not that title, but it was one of the firsts that wowed me as a youngster—everything from the silly, lovable characters, the old-fashioned European atmosphere, and that EPIC ending theme that triumphantly rang at the end of each episode just enthralled me, it really did.

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And just like with Hyouka, holy crap—Funi was able to get like every single cover from the Japanese releases, and used them in a practical way that features all at once. I JUST LOVE THIS SO MUCH. (Also, another homemade box.) 

So here we are, so many years later, and so many anime have gone by since. On over 20 occasions, I was THIS close to just buying a bootleg of this series (heck, not sure how, but it supposedly even came with a soundtrack!). But I had faith, a near-unwavering faith that one day, however long it would take, someone would save this show. Once it left Crunchyroll a few years back, I had officially lost all ties with it—but I still carried my faith with me. And then Funimation finally lifted my prayers: “GOSICK Blu-ray/DVD English Dub & Sub COMING SOON.” That’s all it took to make this year awesome for me as a collector and a fan. Even though the dub is merely serviceable, I still have the sub; Even though it didn’t come with a fancy box to house the two parts, I made my own; EVEN THOUGH it took SIX YEARS to be rescued, it’s always better late than never.

God, I love Funimation. And for all these reasons and more, this why I love the exciting, unpredictable industry that is anime. 

(still praying for ya, Tales of Symphonia and Black Rock Shooter—you got this!)

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Let me know if you had any favorite anime releases from this year! Heck, I didn’t even get around to the magic happenin’ at Sentai lately (to be fair, I haven’t picked up their latest LTD EDs yet, though—still lookin’ at you, Haikyuu)! This wraps up Blogmas Day Two of the 12 Days of Anime! Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you all tomorrow!

– Takuto, your host

Shin Godzilla is Terrifyingly Realistic & Meaningful Ode to History | Review

A brief discussion on the summer 2016 Japanese film “Shin Godzilla” (also known as “Godzilla: Resurgence”), produced Toho, co-directed by Hidaeki Anno and Shinji Higuchi, based on the original story by Anno (Evangelion). 

*I am not overly familiar with the Godzilla franchise (meaning I cannot properly decide whether it is a particularly “good” or “faithful” addition), but I do respect it and the impact it has had on the Japanese people and the rest of the world.*

“A God Incarnate. A City Doomed.”

This is how Funimation captions the deadly film containing the biggest, baddest Godzilla known to mankind, and accurately so. (He’s literally the tallest in the franchise!) But before the King of Monsters surfaced from the deep, it was just another quiet day for Japan. Chaos quickly floods the scene when a giant, strange gilled creature explodes from the ocean’s surface and begins tearing through the city.

Prioritizing citizen safety above all else, the government attempts to keep the situation under control, only to realize that their technicalities and formalities are useless in the face of true terror. It’ll take a rag-tag team of volunteer scientists, engineers, and public safety officials to come up with some sort of way to combat this seemingly perfect lifeform. “But time is not on their side—the greatest catastrophe to ever befall the world is about to evolve right before their very eyes.” – Funimation

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More Than BOOMS! and BANGS!

Despite boasting action (it’s a Godzilla film for crying out loud), there’s a surprising amount of substance, particularly a possible social commentary on the hierarchy of the Japanese government and they way the nation handles foreign affairs during war time. Specifically, we are frequently shown how frustrating and slow policy can be. The film’s first half centralizes on political officials arguing about who should do what, when, and their reactions to the unbelievable events unfolding—most were consumed with disbelief, in fact, except for the young yet forward-thinking Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Rando Yaguchi, our basically-main character (and wow, what a title).

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We join Yaguchi in his frustration against the higher-ups, as well as his struggle to make amends with the innocent lives lost because of the government’s inability to act early on. While those above him in rank merely wish to hold fast to their comfortable, well-paying seats, shrugging off the impending doom that is about to likely kill them all, Yaguchi pulls together every asset that he can to find out what Godzilla is, and solve the mysteries surrounding Goro Maki’s research on the subject. It’s sad to admit how painfully real the execution of this all is.

Unlike the other officials who merely bicker about bureaucratic protocol and semantics (and not take things seriously), Yaguchi deals with exactly what’s in front of him. He knows he’s trapped within the system’s web, but he doesn’t fear questioning those above him in order to do his job correctly and honorably. Actor Hiroki Hasegawa conveys the complexity of Yaguchi’s character impressively, balancing fitting facial expressions for each emotional hit: a mix of concern, anger, sadness, and confusion.

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As I side note, I thoroughly enjoyed the excitement that came with watching Godzilla transform from the weird gilled lizard on all fours to the menacing tower of terror we’ve come to know and love. It was so much fun! One small small complaint that I did have was (and I’m not sure if this actually counts) that I couldn’t really tell if the CG done on Godzilla was “good” or not. Seriously, I couldn’t. Was he creepy lookin’? Sure, but I’m not sure how this makeover compares to previous ones. Also, while his explosive beams later on looked absolutely terrifying, I didn’t like the cheesy sound effects for the explosions—they felt like they were missing a low boom to ’em, or perhaps an epic bass you’d expect from a Hollywood explosion.

Intense Dialogue, and the Engrish Doesn’t Help

Most of the film’s complaints are targeted at the lead female, Kayoko Ann Patterson, portrayed by Satomi Ishihara, whose unfortunate script is loaded with English-heavy dialogue. In an interview, she even stated “Sometimes it’s so frustrating, I just want to cry,” and by NO means is any of this her fault—that’s a director issue. Her character is meant to seem very American, and while we definitely get that feeling, I can’t help but think that her normal Japanese speaking would’ve sufficed the whole way through. Anyway, I still love Kayoko to death because of how her character acts as an excellent foil to Yaguchi’s—both see themselves in higher positions, but for now, they work together efficiently with what they’ve got in their own ways.

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The Engrish problem is solved by switching the language settings to Funimation’s English dub, which is especially wonderful because the subtitles just fly by! Shin Godzilla is a film about talking through the problem, and less about any spectacular human actions. The political nonsense in the first 20 minutes, as well as the ending with solving Maki’s quote (which I’ll get to) are much easier to understand with the dub. If you don’t mind live-action dubs, do give this one a go—it could help immensely with understanding the film’s main messages.

Understanding the Legacy of the Atomic Bomb

More than having knowledge of the franchise, it’s historical context that is needed for full emotional effect here. Japan was rocked not once but twice by an evil that shouldn’t have even been unleashed on the planet: the atomic bomb. History has learned that the destruction that follows an atomic bomb is not cool. It’s not something the U.S. or any country should glorify, and this film makes sure of that. Godzilla was birthed once the long-term effects of radiation poisoning revealed themselves as something just as fearsome and frightful as the bomb itself—gosh, perhaps worse.

This brings us back to the film, which could stand an allegory for nuclear war and its long-standing effects, Godzilla itself mirroring the disastrous earthquakes, tsunamis, and radiation that hit the poor nation all at once. Unlike normal action films where you’re just waiting in anticipation for the bad guy to unleash their awesome powers, I was left not cheering, but shaking with fear of the results that, very closely, mimic an atomic bomb. The theme of destruction is a powerful one, a scary one, and that’s how this film shocked the viewers—the moment Godzilla unleashes its wrath is one that can only be witnessed . . . and feared.

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The People that Made this Experience Special

1. Sharla (Sharmander on YT)—Being one of my favorite YouTubers, it’s rare to ever hear about her work life as a dialogue coach, and so I was ecstatic once she put out a video saying that she worked with the cast (particularly Yaguchi and Kayoko on those stubborn English lines) and Anno himself.

2. Shiro Sagisu—Known for his epic music in Evangelion, Shiro gives the film a really neat character. His famous “intense operations planning” music that plays throughout the franchise makes several appearances in this film, and though it felt overplayed at first, a second watch through with the dub made it all feel like it blended seamlessly, as if Eva and Godzilla were truly “a match made in kaiju heaven!”

3. Hidaeki Anno—THIS MAN puts me through so much stress, and yet I can’t ever look away whenever I hear his name involved in a project. He is the reason I jumped into this foreign franchise, after all, so that’s got to mean something, right? He perfectly combs together realism, destruction, and rebirth in such a way that merits a masterpiece with every work. In Shin Godzilla, he took me back to the first time when I saw Evangelion and was impacted in such a way that I’d never be the same without it. I’m glad Anno took the break between 3.0 and the final Rebuild film, because hey, sometimes we have to “Do as we please,” and I respect that.

Thank you for giving me my Evangelion fix—it was an incredibly enjoyable experience!

“Do as you please.”

These are the few words left by the enigmatic Maki, and yet, they remain the strongest message within the work. It’s something so simple, to do as you want to, though I get the impression that it’s not a common Japanese lesson taught. No, this isn’t a wish or a passing thought, but a statement aimed DIRECTLY at Japan. Towards the end of the film, the Prime Minister must either give consent to or deny the United States’s declaration against Godzilla: “Take care of it now, or we will nuke it.” That’s right, history will repeat itself. Japan would risk losing the pride and dignity it spent so many years recuperating to the humiliation of starting at ground zero once again.

With the titular creature MIA towards the end and the U.S.’s threat, it almost begs the question: Are humans deadlier than Godzilla?

But oh, “Danger is an opportunity for personal growth,” remarks the U.S. President in the film. Yeah, not for this country. The true climax of the film comes down to a duel between philosophies—to accept help and then rebuild, or own up to the situation. And when Japan finally does decide to take matters into its own hands, fighting the way only they do best by studying their enemy, the scientific team makes work of the King of Monsters in a way that, without spoilers, makes me proud to be human. Using science, mankind’s greatest weapon, the team transforms the impossible into plausible—theory into reality.

It’s that moment when you realize you CAN stand for yourself WITHOUT having to kill another being—THAT is the big takeaway. Take pride in the things you can create and accomplish together, NOT destroy. And finally, for ONCE in your overly obedient life, do as YOU please, NOT what the others want.

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Shin Godzilla is incredibly smart, realistic, meaningful, and genuinely scary at times. Most of all, my god, if this film had come from my country, I’d be overflowing with pride, too.

“Accountability comes with the job. A politician must decide to own it or not.” – Rando Yaguchi 

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(None of these screenshots belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended.)


Have I been completely Godzilla-fied? Haha, not quite, but I will definitely be keeping an eye out for future installments, including the wildly anticipated CG Godzilla film directed by Gen Urobuchi, another one of my favorite directors in the industry! Shin Godzilla may not be anime, but I’ll let it slide into the “Caffe Mocha” selection as grade-A movie material for sure, and for everything it stands for. Shout-out to Scott (Mechanical Anime Reviews) for hyping me up about it, and for covering the film way better (and quicker) than I did here.

Lastly, thank you so much for reading, as this was a film that has grown to mean a lot to me. I’m dying to know what you thought about Shin Godzilla, especially regarding its production, so let me know your thoughts in the comments! Until next time everyone, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Eros and Agape: Behind the Lovely Ice-skating Veils | Cafe Talk

A light analysis and comparison of, in regards to love, Eros and Agape, and how they are represented in the fall 2016 anime Yuri!!! On ICE (eps. 1-4).

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The struggle to find love, either in others, oneself, or both, remains one of life’s greatest conquests. When world-junior-class figure skaters Yuri Katsuki and Yuri Plisetsky faced-off against each other in a competition for the gorgeous and professional Viktor Nikiforov’s coaching attention, the two took on opposite personas assigned by Viktor himself: Eros and Agape. But what lies beyond the romantic nicknames, and how do these titles represent each skater on more than simply a physical level? Welcome to “Cafe Talk!”

“Love,”a How-To by the Greeks and Christians 

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There exist arguably six different interpretations of what exactly “love” translates into from original Greek texts (geez, leave it to those Greco-Romans to complicate matters). The four listed above are the famous ones, and all but Eros (the smexy one) can be found somewhere in the Christian Bible. We will only be looking at the two that matter under Yuri‘s light: the red and the blue, opposites in every way. We’ll also sort this out in performance order.

“On Love: Agape” – Yuri Plisetsky, a Lover Deflowered by Cold Submission 

Our Russian punk Yurio wasn’t too pleased when he was denounced “the unconditional lover.” The show translates agape love as follows: “God’s infinite love is self-sacrificing and uncalculating.” That’s actually a pretty good first impression.

Agape love mirrors the sacrificial giving of God to humanity. Graceful, unselfish, unbiased, and possibly unknowing to or of love. Agape lovers give freely and seek nothing. It still functions as active love, but it remains “spontaneous and unmotivated.” In other words, agape lovers seek love by giving in return. They’re typically submissive as well, and value the worth of love above all else. Nygren (see works cited) depicts their value as such: “Those who are loved become worthy because they are loved.”

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Since Yurio hardly embodies any of the agape traits, perhaps they represent aspects he is deprived up. He knows neither of innocent love nor of self-sacrifice, demonstrating only that he is passionate and fierce, hence his epithet the “Russian Punk.” While it’s amusing for us fans to watch his battle against the unselfish, Yurio truly is an unappreciated boy by his Russian coach(es). They respond to success, technique, and poise, not to sympathy and affection. By assigning the Agape costume to Yurio, Viktor has given him everything he could have wished for — to be loved unconditionally and embraced with care. Yurio, if only for a brief moment in the rink, became a lover deflowered by submission.

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But you have to be devoted to the agape all the way . . . That is why Viktor picks Yuri.

And this piece, oooh, this heavenly chamber voice overflows with an innocent, perfect love! Can you feel “someone who doesn’t know what love is yet?”

“On Love: Eros” – Yuri Katsuki, a Lover Instilled with Fiery Passion

Our home-team Pork Cutlet was left stuttering “It’s enough to make even me, a man, pregnant! Such eros!” when the fabulous Viktor crowned him “the sexual lover.” The anime depicts eros love as follows: “Pleasure followed by pleasure. One just drowns in it.” This, too, hits the mark of a passionate lover.

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In stark contrast to the tender and giving apage love, eros love is not found in the Bible’s purity, tracing origins more closely to Greco-Roman antiquity. Nygren notices a sharp reflection of love “to Plato and to Plato’s heirs and followers.” Plato treated love as two different forms of the same “eros,” one being vulgar and the other “heavenly.” Yuri interprets this more on the raunchy side as a vigorous, demanding, and sexual love. It is seeking pleasure for oneself, not necessarily for others (though that is a plus, *wink wink*).

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The differences between Yuri and this controlling love honestly mirrors his relationship with others. Unlike Yurio, Yuri follows the orders of his friends and coaches, causing him to have weaker self-esteem and a poor sense of leadership in the art of skating. He doesn’t want to disappoint others, which is why Yuri lets his coach pick out an earlier song to skate to when he notices the coach’s lack of care for the tune a friend of his created.

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Yuri also tends to hide behind his appearance: longer bangs and glasses, both which shield the face. Just as how Yurio performs at the skate-off with a surprising sense of calm and devotion, our Pork Cutlet slicks back his hair, tosses aside the glasses, and makes passionate love with his footwork on the ice. Viktor has given him bold confidence and sexiness with the eros title, and to that, Yuri expends this energy in his fiery tango.

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And this one, ooh la la, the snappy guitar and sassy violin shine with passion!  To see him take the persona a step forward and declare himself the most beautiful woman seducing the playboy goes to show how much Viktor’s teaching has truly given him.

“On Love: Eros and Agape” – A Tale of Two Lovers

Neither of the boys have given love much thought, which is why the episode carries so much emotional weight in the grand scheme. Episode three (if it wasn’t apparent from the start) firmly presents us with the case of two lovers in search of filling the holes that occupy their minds and hearts. One desired confidence, the other pursued innocence. If I had my wish, Viktor would be teaching them both. But alas, the competition must go on and tear our lovers apart! If Twitter’s given us its two cents on the subject, it’s “Get a man who can do both.”

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“You have to do the opposite of what people expect. How else will you surprise them?” – Viktor Nikiforov, the perfect blend of power and grace

Yuri!!! On ICE claims a hot spot (oh the irony) as one of fall 2016’s bests, and I wholeheartedly agree! Catch it streaming over on Crunchyroll.com for FREE, or check out FUNimation Entertainment’s rockin’ English dub (complete with Russian accents), though you must be a subscriber to access the dub. And where would we be without the incredible music to accompany the performances? Fantastic, I say!

For our “Cafe Talk” conversation down in the comments, I ask, “What do you align with more – are you an Eros or an Agape Lover?” Also, “Who do you feel won the skate-off?” I wish I was more of a “go get ’em guy,” but I digress with my agape language. For the match, my eyes yearned for Yurio, but my heart and body told me Yuri. Let me know, and hey, glide over to that “like” button for more content like this, or the”follow” to keep up with me (OR BOTH)! Don’t forget to share with the other Yuri!!! On ICE fans! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Intrigued by the topic? Here are the works I used compile this post:

Crunchyroll – Yuri!!! On ICE

The Ancient Greeks’ 6 Words for Love (And Why Knowing Them Can Change Your Life)

Agape and Eros Summary – Anders Nygren

The Four Kinds of Love – Greek Agape, Phileo, Storge, Eros, 3 are in the Bible

The More Excellent Way, Four Greek Words for Love: Agape, Phileo, Storge, Eros

EDM Difference between Eros and Agape

Takuto Helped Back The Vision of Escaflowne Kickstarter!

That’s right! I participated in my first ever “Kickstarter” program. Albeit a measly $15 patron, I’m still entitled to some pretty neat gifts (even though that’s not the main reason I participated, well, sorta). See below:

Watch the announcement for a groundbreaking new Kickstarter project for The Vision of Escaflowne–and join us in creating a new definitive dub of this classic that finally matches the uncut HD content!

Read more and back the Kickstarter today at http://funi.to/1n4Rq2a!

The uncut HD Japanese version of the classic anime The Vision of Escaflowne includes scenes that have never been seen in North America, meaning that English speakers have never experienced the show fully in dubbed format. Help make a fan-demanded complete dub finally a reality!

If you are at all interested in a Blu-ray/DVD re-release of this anime classic with never-before-seen-in-English scenes from the original Japanese release . . . Did I also mention a BRAND NEW ENGLISH DUB by FUNimation Entertainment? Then consider throwing a few bucks at this kid. It’s their first Kickstarter and mine as well, and I hope my $15 token helps bring the project closer to its steep $150,000 goal (even though they are well over 3/4 there.

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If you are interested, click below for more INFORMATION!

ANN’s post over the project

The Vision of Escaflowne Kickstarter itself

Being my first, I didn’t want to overspend, you know? But contributing even a little bit was thrilling, and I hope it pays off! Only the name The Vision of Escaflowne is familiar to me; I know virtually nothing about the franchise. Nevertheless, you can expect Takuto’s REAL NAME to appear on the on-disc credit listing if everything works like it should, haha!

Just thought I’d pop by with my thoughts. Support NOW while you can, as this Kickstarter is FLYING BY! Spend wisely ~

– Takuto, your host

 

It’s My BIRTHDAY!!

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It would seem that FUNimation has already tagged me. I don’t know how the picture came out, but I snipped it and threw it in just for kicks :>

But YESS, at about 1 o’clock or so where I live, I will be donning another year of experience points and growth. We’ve baked cakes and I’ve made frosting, so we’re all set! WOHOO I bought myself a Mami Tomoe Nendoroid and it came in the mail on Tuesday, so a bit early but she’s SO AWESOME XD Cake, Mami, Cake, Bebe. TIRO FINALE!!!

Anyway, this is just an update so you know what I’ll be doing today. I plan to have so much fun that I’ll blow up!

– Cheers! From Takuto