Naka-Kon 2018 Experience/Haul!

Hi everyone!

Since 2015, I’ve gone to this midwestern U.S. anime convention called Naka-Kon. That makes this my fourth year, which is kinda hard to believe! It’s a small convention, estimating around 8,000 attendees in 2015, but the population has grown exponentially in the past few years. Soon, I fear that the convention hall itself won’t be large enough to contain all our anime madness!

Anyway, this year was much less stressful compared to years past. Why? Well, I’m one of those eager youngsters that insists on meeting with English voice actor guests. I keep it brief, but try to walk away with a signature on one (or more if I’m lucky) of my Blu-rays, a picture, and delightful, positive memories to cherish. Typically, I’ll know (or at least recognize), say, 6/7 of the VAs—and you can bet that I’d try to meet with all of them if I could! At this year’s Naka, however, I only really knew (and loved) one or two roles per each voice AKA not enough to validate standing in line for a couple hours, sadly.

So I told myself to limit my VA line-standings to just one, and amp up my cosplay game so that I could spend time taking more pics and having fun. After 2017 when I cosplayed Mika from Seraph of the End, I didn’t realize what great fun cosplaying could be—SO MANY PEOPLE WANTED A PICTURE EITHER OF OR WITH ME (which makes me so happy and thankful), yet it was a tad overwhelming given how I had my own agenda of rushing from one VA line or panel to another. The guest line-up happened to work well with my intentions this year, and it all worked out swimmingly!

The unintentional VA-grab theme for this year must’ve been Cowboy Bebop (last year was Final Fantasy XV), as both Steve Blum (Spike Spiegal) and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Julia, also ADR Director) were both guests this year. While I love Bebop just as much as the next guy, I knew that his lines and panels would be crazy full, so I skipped out to avoid the hassle. Also, I only knew him as Spike and Todo from Code Geass. WE DID, however, manage to squeeze in to a huge panel hosted by Steve and Mary, as well as Ian Sinclair and Wendy Powell. I count my lucky stars that my sister persisted on us sitting down, as it was really cool to hear all these famous voices casually talking in one room!

As for Mary Elizabeth . . . SHE’S THE FREAKIN’ MAJOR FROM Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex!!!! If you’ve been following me for even the past year, you’ll know that GitS has quickly worked its way up my favorites list following my marathon of the franchise just one year ago from now (happy reunion!). She’s also my QUEEN, Cornelia li Britannia from Code Geass!! Long story short, she was my must-meet for 2018, and though I was only allotted one signing (as I wanted a picture for my second), she kindly signed my DVD copy of Stand Alone Complex, of which, fun fact, I had picked up JUST for this con! Our transient meeting—where we chatted about technology’s advancements and  possibilities, the internet, and finding our own path in this digital age—was brief, but one that will stick with me for a long time!

While at the con, I popped in on several of Xanthe Huynh’s panels. I only really knew her as Love Live!‘s Hanayo, Yuki Yuna‘s titular Yuki Yuna, PMMM Rebellion’s Nagisa, and A Lull in the Sea‘s Miuna (as pictured above). Her charming commentary on the industry and business as a voice actor for “all the cute characters” was very insightful, plus it was nice to balance out the wild loudness of, well, a con with a much smaller, calmer Q&A panel. After visiting like three of her panels, I made it my mission to nab an autograph, of which was quick, painless, and fun to meet her one-on-one!

Oh yeah, I also snagged a ticket for Ian Sinclair since I just could. It was a Sunday, lines were significantly shorter and moved much faster, so I thought “Eh, why not.” He’s not a personal favorite of mine, but I do think he does great work!

**Insert my frustrations when Wendy Powell, who had no people in line for like 20 minutes, left just as I had snagged a ticket to meet her after noticing the vacancy. Ughhh, oh well, at least I got to hear her voice IRL in that panel earlier. Also, the staff were very supportive in my endeavors to try and meet her. Shucks, thanks anyway! :3

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Moving on from my meetings with guests, 2018 was also a year to try out some other activities that the con offered given my greater schedule leniency. Each year, I fear that Naka will offer fewer and fewer surprises for me. Especially this year, I figured I’d be bored half the time—BOY WAS I WRONG, and joyfully so! My siblings and I went to our first cosplay shoot (for My Hero Academia), posed for countless many pictures, and even tried waltz lessons of all things together! It was great fun, and EVERYWHERE we went were nice, happy, positive anime fans! So yeah, new experiences all around—I shouldn’t have underestimated such a great con like I did!

But you probably just wanted my haul. Ok, so do I. 🙂

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Pins, pins galore! Each year I make it a mission to scout out new pins (especially from one artist in particular who designed the trio on the right), and this year my bag had nearly 20 some-odd pins from various favorite anime. With most ranging from one to just a couple dollars, it’s an easy, affordable way to support artists, as well as keep track of your favorite characters. Highly advised! In case you were wondering, those three on the left were gifts from my sister that she bestowed upon me as soon as we got home—how thoughtful of her! And of course, I had to get my Sailor duo, plus the almighty, all-powerful LELOUCH VI BRITANNIA!

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I also got some playing cards, this becoming my third set with anime artwork on them. I was a bit let down with this set, thinking that because the main image had the entire cast on it, it should have pics of the other YOI characters. WRONG, all main three, and all random close-ups, ahahaha! Should’ve gone with the other set they had, but oh well, more YOI to go around.

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Traditionally, I like to snag some new wall art (either as a scroll or artists’ prints) each year. Seeing as how I cosplayed a male version of Danganronpa‘s Junko Enoshima (which a crap ton of people recognized somehow and asked me for a pic), I thought it was only fitting to cap off the experience with something from the franchise. I’d never seen this artwork before, so I thought hey, let’s do it!

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I DIDN’T REALIZE CONS HAD CLEAR FILES until I stumbled upon a couple of vendors on the last day that had stacks full of ’em! These epic Fate/stay night: [Unlimited Blade Works] clear files had the absolutely stunning poster artwork on them that my DVDs had, and though I wish they had the last one from the second season, they make an awesome set to either hang up together (considering a Fate wall in my room) or to use them as actual files. (Does anyone use clear files like they’re supposed to? Let me know . . .)

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AND THEY HAD GHOST IN THE SHELL TOO, LIKE, WHAAAT?!? At either just $4 or $2.50 per file depending on the vendor, these are wonderful deals compared to the $10+ that buying off the net will charge. Like my Danganronpa wall scroll, these SAC files will forever be remembered as the ones that I bought when I met Major Motoko Kusanagi, the great Mary Elizabeth McGlynn herself! #unreal

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This right here was the biggest win for me. I knew that as soon as I passed it on day one, it would be mine come the end of the weekend. Because I was unexpectedly busy with all the cosplay shenanigans, however, I ended up waiting until later in the con ’till I finally snatched it up. Thankfully, the artist still had a few, and she was super happy that I was this excited over her Kiki’s Delivery Service artwork. I mean, WHO COULDN’T?! It’s like Ghibli meets Shinkai all perfectly contained within one aesthetically pleasing masterpiece! The artist is Alexis Moore, and you can reach her at both her website alexis-moore.com and social media (presumably Insta or Twitter?) @alexisparade. Love this so much~!

That wraps up the stuff that I personally bought. Much less money was spent than in years past, but that can be a good thing sometimes. Here are some gifts my siblings bought me (and don’t worry, I surprised them with some neat stuff, too)!

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This blind-pick horizontal poster of Yuuri and Victor that my sister got me, ahhh, so precious. You know how anime fans sometimes like to decorate their own spaces with that bit of anime-inspired flair during the holidays? Yup, I think this might be the winter holiday piece that’ll go over my door. 😛

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Here’s a Code Geass soundtrack (again with the con-specific merch to match the times, damn!) that my brother bought for me! It’s got quite a few quality jams from the series, and for only $8, ummm, duh one of us is gonna get it LOL! After I passed it up for a minute, he swooped in, bought it, then surprised me by giving it to me as soon as we got home (omg how kind). Part of it was as a thank-you for me creating the *coolest* part of his cosplay that everyone admired last-minute, so it was pretty nice to get this after he got all that recognition for my work.  >.<

But that’s not all—he also bought me a new wallet, and it’s Evangelion, holy shit! I’ve already swapped it out with my previous decaying Zelda one, and though this one is a bit bigger, I loving having fashionable anime that low-key celebrate my status as a fan. I was the one who introduced Eva to my brother (and sister), and although I know it was thanks for the cosplay accessories, I also see it as part of a return to introducing them to one of their favorites, too.

And that about wraps things up. Lots of cool voice actors, lots of neat stuff, and lots of pics (which are hopefully coming in a separate post). Even Mary exclaimed how cool my Todoroki ice effects were, and Ian knew exactly who I was as male Junko: “That’s awesome!” he said! All the praise felt good, and for someone with a mediocre body image thing going on, it felt nice to be admired for looks, even if just superficially.

This fourth year held all kinds of surprises, despite my thinking that I had Naka all mapped out. As my fifth year comes next spring, I want to do bigger cosplays, buy even more merch and art, and meet more cool people, be it big names in the industry or simply fellow fans wanting a picture together! Thank you to all who made this year’s Naka-Kon possible, as it’s become my favorite way to spend the spring break! Also, thank you for reading this post! Let me know if any of the art or merch I got was particularly neat to you, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Expanding My Anime Film Collection in 2017! | Blogmas 2017 Day 11

Hey everyone, welcome to (a very belated) day 11 of Blogmas (whoops)!

We’re nearing the final days, but there are still a couple of BIG things that made my 2017 a landmark year for exploration; one is on the anime side, the other on the blogging side. Today, we’ll briefly talk about anime movies, and how I went from disliking their short length and randomness to simply being enamored by their ability to tell a “complete,” charming story full of virtues. And yes, my film collection did exponentially EXPLODE this year as a result!

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Expanding My Anime Film Collection

(This is in regards to films that don’t belong to existing franchises. Ex. No titles labeled “The Movie”)

Like I was saying, I used to not be big on anime movies. Sure, there’s those fave Studio Ghibli films that everyone grows up with (special shoutout to Kiki and Laputa), but otherwise, you wouldn’t find me browsing for some little indie film or original short. Looking back on 2017 now, I think it was the tail end of 2016 where I caught the film fever.

I took a painting class during my last semester in high school. With little imagination (or teaching for that matter) to go off of, I turned to anime as inspiration, like we all do. I had seen Makoto Shinkai’s The Garden of Words sometime in 2016, and I was simply blown away with what I call the “Shinkai Aesthetic.” It’s clean, chic, picturesque, semi-realistic, and most of all, has wicked good lighting. I could go on, but there’ll be a HUGE post about this guy’s art coming soon! Many of my paintings were inspired by Shinkai’s style as a result (well, that and Studio Khara’s Eva Rebuild Series). Specifically speaking, Shinkai’s iconic skies. I’ll share some of them with you guys later if you’re interested!

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Anyway, I started to grow as an artist after creating these paintings, noticing the subtle (or drastic) differences in other anime directors’ styles: Hayao Miyazaki (and Studio Ghibli), Mamoru Hosoda, Satoshi Kon, the Project Itoh films, Mamoru Oshii, Yasuhiro Yoshiyura, and of course, Makoto Shinkai. Thematically, they all tackle different issues in different ways, and learning about not just how but why a director wants to send out a certain message through a particular scene became something that I could apply to my own writing, namely, my OWLS posts. As cheesy as they previously seemed, I learned to love life lessons and the things we can learn from entertainment.

During my Shinkai painting phase, I was also watching Ghost in the Shell for the first time, exploring the ENTIRE franchise from its first 1995 film to the Arise series and even Paramount’s 2017 live action. My mind kept expanding with every episode, every iconic shot, and the urge to recreate them in my drawing class just couldn’t be ignored. I was absolutely OBSESSED with cyberpunk by this point, and I thank all the directors and their unique styles for inspiring me so much!

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This brings us to my collection, and my [terrible] need to buy everything that I watch. Thanks to Amazon Prime’s wicked ability, which allows me to buy a single item WITHOUT reaching a certain paywall for free shipping (cause I ain’t ever gonna pay for that, mhmm), I would literally buy every single anime film that fell below $15-ish. One. At. A. Time. Spoiler alert: that’s a lot of them. Here was my anime film collection in 2016:

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Pretty basic, got classics like Paprika and Ghost in the Shell, and cool lesser-known titles like Time of EVE and The Empire of Corpses. Neat.

Here’s my collection now, at the end of 2017:

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Oh dear god.

I went out and bought every Ghost in the Shell Blu-ray that I could (excluding Stand Alone Complex, as the reviews for the Blu-rays were horrendous). I loaded up on Shinkai, I snagged some Hosoda (well, received them as gifts, rather), I picked up modern classics like In This Corner of the World and classic-classics like Akira that arguably shaped anime as we know it! Honestly, I’m not sure why it took this long for me to get around to Akira. As for that whole gorgeous-looking set of black on the far left . . .

Thanks to GKIDS and their re-licensing and re-releasing of ALL the Studio Ghibli films, I bought all the ones that were on “sale,” and you can already bet that I’m going back for more as soon as the others lower in price. These are some high-ass quality releases, definitely much better than Disney’s [ugly] shiny gold releases. Then again, ANYTHING is better than the oooold DVDs that were first released, so I bought all the new Blu-rays to replace the ancient DVD copies we’ve had (which were re-gifted as priceless memories to my siblings for their own collections, haha)!

But yeah, there it is, the physical representation of my growing appreciation for the art of film, all in the beloved media that inspires me to create and explore—anime. Throughout the years, I’ve neglected so many astounding masterpieces and modern classics, and all because I wouldn’t have wanted their short stories to end. What can you get out of a measly 2 hours, anyway? However, through some incredible directors and artists in the anime industry, I’ve learned that the journey can still be magnificent and awe-inspiring, regardless of how long or short the story is. Now I can’t wait to see which films I watch next, and the adventures that they take me on!

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How big is your personal anime film collection? Did you see any title up there that is a personal favorite of yours? What other anime movies should be in my collection? Let me know so I can go and buy it after writing this! This post will ALSO be logged as a “Cafe Talk,” so share your thoughts to your heart’s content!

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

– Takuto, your host

Double the Uniqueness! Keiko & Crimson’s Nominations | Blogmas 2017 Day 6

Hey everyone, welcome to day 6 of Blogmas!

So some good news and bad news for today:

The Good—In the past 24 hours, I have read over 45 OWLS posts from May, June, and July, and now I only have August, September, October, November, and December left. Wow, ok, so it sounds like I still have a long ways to go, haha, but it’s still progress! I’ve also, for the most part, kept up with the “12 Days of Anime,” and that’s been a blast!

The Bad—Due to prioritizing my OWLS binge (plus I have my December post coming out TOMORROW, woohoo!), today’s post will be pretty short. I’ll be falling back on the “personal” post option that I established in the intro’s guidelines, so it should still be a fun read. Plus, it’s an award—these are things to celebrate!

Without further ado, here are two very belated Unique Blogger nominations, but ones that I promised to fulfill! I’m always very thankful to be able to leave an impression of myself upon others, and that I get to be a part of such a loving community of anibloggers. It’s through these seemingly trivial awards and nominations that meet so many new faces, and I learn so much about my online friends. So thank you both, Keiko and Crimson!

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Keiko and Crimson’s Unique Blogger Award Nominations

The Rules:

#1 – Share the link of the blogger who has shown love to you by nominating you.

#2 – Answer the questions.

#3 – In the spirit of sharing love and solidarity with our blogging family, nominate 8-13 people for the same award.

#4 – Ask them 3 questions.

About Keiko (nominated 10/26/17)

Seeing as how we only met recently, I admittedly don’t know too much about Keiko. I DO, however, know that she writes many, many detailed episodic reviews for the given simulcast season, and that though her blog is self-named “A bubble of crappy anime reviews and the likes,” her reviews are neither crappy nor average. She’s cynical at times, yet seems fun to talk to, so go give her blog some love! (Keiko’s Anime Blog)

Keiko’s 3 Questions

1. If you were stuck in an anime universe, which would it be and why?

Assuming I would have been allowed the choice, hmm, that is hard. You see, I always find myself swaying between two genres: science fiction and fantasy, my mind and my heart. Since I’ve been in the sci-fi mood lately, however, I’ll pick the world of A Certain Scientific Railgun. Functioning as a sister series to A Certain Magical Index, the main story, Railgun seems light-hearted when it in fact is rife with some of the darkest secrets within the entire franchise. Why Railgun then? In Academy City, which is home to 2.3 million, most of the populace are espers, beings capable of utilizing their brain to achieve their own realities via special powers. Plus, the city has such a chic, hopful, futuristic aesthetic that is to DIE for.

Should I be allowed to pick a second universe, I’d go with Ghost in the Shell, a franchise that fully embraces cyber enhancements and the free, vastly infinite nature of the internet. You can become anyone and do anything in the future.

2. What anime left the biggest impression on you?

Easy one. Steins;Gate. It started me on the path to exploring science fiction in anime , leading me to discover more dystopian sci-fis like Ghost in the ShellPsycho-Pass, and of course, Neon Genesis Evangelion , my favorite anime of all time. Steins;Gate is just bloody brilliant, and I consider all of these works masterpieces.

3. If you were an animal, what would you be?

Kind of an odd question, haha, but one that still leaves me torn. Cats seem to live such peaceful lives, but that of a dolphin is much more exciting, where it is free to explore the entire depths of the great sea. Then there are birds, which can fly freely and soar above the clouds. I’ve always wanted to fly. If I had to pick, birds are the way to go.

Thanks again Keiko! Now onto Crimson!


 

About Crimson (nominated 10/15/17)

If y’all didn’t already know, Crimson and I go waaay back. Heck, we’ve even met in person! While I’ve remained here the whole time, Crimson has gone through much more blogging experience, including owning multiple blogs at once. Currently, she writes at “Crimson Blogs” the most. Anyway, she’s very funny, down to earth, and she loves to both write AND read, which are essential for being a great blogger. She also loves her fandoms, frequently getting me sucked into them through her wicked ways (My hero Academia). I always love reading her posts, as she frequently throws a personal twist in them that makes me understand her a bit more each time. If you’re not already, GO FOLLOW HER. DO IT! Tell her Takuto sent you, too. 😛

Crimson’s 3 Questions

1. If you could turn into any mythical creature, which would you be and why? And what would you do as this mythical creature?

Oh no, back with the creature-transformation questions, haha. As for what I’d like to be . . . can I make up my own? Similar to Paprika (from, well, the film Paprika) or even Reina Izumi from Myriad Colors Phantom World, I’d like to be a dream-eater. No, NOT the stealer of good dreams, but of bad dreams—nightmares, visions that put one on edge, causing constant anxiety throughout the night. Does something like this already exist? Anyway, I’m no therapist in real life, but I do think that people should get good sleep. By hovering around troubled individuals in spirit form, I could enter their dreams and help them fight off the force of evil eating away at their precious rest time. Then I could ease them into the deep, healthy REM sleep that they deserve. Call me your Dream Healer, or your Prince of the Night. What do you think of that?

2. Oh no! It’s the zombie apocalypse! What are your weapons of choice (up to 3 that you can realistically carry around) and what 3 bloggers would be on your survival team? Yes I’m thinking something similar to L4D.

OH CRAP, NOT ZOMBIES. I know virtually NOTHING about them, other than what is common knowledge, or what could be grasped from anime like Attack on Titan or Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. Three weapons, hmm, can they be from games or anime LOL? If so, I’d pick the Portal gun, the Dominator from Psycho-Pass, and the thermoptic suit from Ghost in the Shell. Smart pick that last one is, no? Portal open—Dominator destroy—thermoptic effects on—Repeat. If you can’t beat ’em, RUN LIKE HELL.

Now for three bloggers? Hmm, Matt (Matt-in-the-Hatt) is too good of a Christian (bless your heart). Kausus (Otaku Gamer Zone) would just be inspecting my gadgets all the time, so he’s out too (sorry boo). Rocco B (In the Cubbyhole) is . . . actually, where have you been, buddy? We need to chat more!

You know, I’m just gonna play it safe and call on the Owlets, a trio of female anibloggers who run the Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect, or OWLS (see, they’re already warriors, it’s only the best pick)! Composed of President Kat Sade (Grimm Girl) and the two lovely PR ladies, Naja (Nice Job Breaking It, Hero) and LitaKino (Lita Kino Anime Corner), these strong women already know how to fight the good fight, as they are constantly helping others overcome their insecurities while highlighting the good in the world. You three are my pick for the zombie apocalypse. And oh, if you’re not too busy Crimson, you can come too. ^.^

Seriously though, check out all of these wonderful people. 🙂

3. Related to Q2, what is your zombie apocalypse team survival playlist? Add as many or few songs as you’d like!

Since three seems to be the magic number here, I’ve got three hot tracks for ya:

AND OF COURSE . . .

Thanks again, Crimson! I won’t be nominating anyone due to these already being long-overdue, but they were tons of fun! Next time, hopefully I’ll be the one nominating you guys!


I’ve STILL got tons of catching up to do, what with OWLS posts and all the comments stacking up from the start of this holiday season, so this’ll wrap up Blogmas Day Six of the 12 Days of Anime! Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you all tomorrow!

– Takuto, your host

Having Unpopular Opinions Can Suck (GitS LA + more) | Cafe Talk

Uf, I can’t believe I have to write this post. But something has to be said so that I can have closure on this subject.

That’s right, we’re diving back into the live action Ghost in the Shell 2017, which I had previously covered in my review. Before we get too deep, however, I had written a more formal review about the film which you can view right here. It’s got most of my thoughts, from casting and cinematography to world-building, set design, and the soundtrack. Speaking of, Lorne Balfe has been graciously releasing a couple tracks each Friday in response to the fans’ call (mine included), so that’s really awesome of him!

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Welcome to “Cafe Talk,” a comment-welcome segment that, while it doesn’t happen as often as it should, is pretty fun to write! With this one, frankly speaking, we’re talking about being pissed off when no one likes your opinions, and exactly how much of a downer it can be. Sound relatable?

Your Opinion Doesn’t Suck, People Do

What can I say? You’re typically never in the wrong for harboring an opinion (unless that thought potentially threatens, harms, outcasts, etc. a person). Opinions are just personalized ideas, views, or judgments, and ideas are just that—intangible concepts. Alone, opinions and ideas can’t do much of anything, but when tagged together with a voice, that’s when things can get interesting.

Communication tends to happen after one’s opinion is formed; they seek out other individuals, groups, or even communities to see how their opinion stacks up, and whether it’s a favored or disfavored belief. More often than not, your position is accepted (YAY) as the popular opinion (hence the world “popular”).

You’ve done it! You’ve got nothing to fear!

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Last day of shooting, posted on Instagram by Juliette Binoche (Dr. Ouelet, right) and Scarlett Johansson (Major, left). They’re so happy I’M CRYING

Unless you’re like me, in which a chorus of crickets followed by intense booing ensues upon opinion delivery. You’ve just created an unpopular opinion (DAMMIT), and should you choose to continue to be vocal with your convictions, you’re life is about to get a bit harder. Just remember, this is NOT your fault—it’s a very human thing to stick with groups and label others as outcasts. You’ve just decided to bring something new to show-and-tell, and that scares the weak, the non-creative, the non-accepting, the unadventurous, the unappreciative, the crowd-followers.

Here, to console you, I’ll share a few of my own unpopular anime-related opinions cause, like, we know your thoughts can’t be as near as bad as mine, heh heh heh . . .

  1. I like Sword Art Online (oh crap, we’re starting with a strong one)
  2. I like Sword Art Online II more than the first (yes I just went there)
  3. Sailor Moon Crystal is a pretty enjoyable and strong adaptation of the original manga (no going back now)
  4. KILL la KILL‘s fanservice isn’t that off-putting (hi Kausus :3)
  5. Danganronpa: The Animation is a great adaptation of the game
  6. I don’t mind Kickstarting anime localizations
  7. Typically, I’d rather meet the English voice actors of a show rather than the Japanese seiyuus
  8. I thought The Empire of Corpses was a cool film
  9. Bryce Papenbrook is a good voice actor (in most cases, NOT Kirito)
  10. The Future Diary (Mirai Nikki) is fantastic NOT just because of Yuno Gasai
  11. “Monster girl anime” seem stupid
  12. Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) should NOT be skipped; both it and Brotherhood hold well on their own, respectively (same goes for Deen’s Fate/ stay night)
  13. Free! is NOT just about muscles and wet boys
  14. No Game No Life is not recommendable because it doesn’t end (same goes for Deadman Wonderland)
  15. Madoka Magica: Rebellion is a masterful film
  16. I love Robotics;Notes and Chaos;Head almost as much as Steins;Gate, even if Steins;Gate is the best
  17. The Viz Media English dub of Sailor Moon is better than the DiC dub
  18. I enjoy all of the Pokemon films
  19. Higurashi’s second season Kai is better than the first
  20. The Eden of the East films complete the story wonderfully
  21. Watamote is a funny anime, not a sad one
  22. The live-action Ghost in the Shell (2017) is an incredible and artistic film that respects its sources and holds quite well on its own

. . . Wait, that last one, “That’s not even cool bro . . .”

*cries*

So now that we’ve broken the ice (and melted it), let’s get this out of the way.

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My Unpopular Opinion, an Argument

Ghost in the Shell (2017) was a film that I walked out of not pondering endless sci-fi wonders, but feeling warm and tingly inside instead, which is quite unlike any entry in the franchise thus far has made me feel. But rather than chastise it as “something so far off of the original path that it’s unrecognizable,” think of it as a new side to the franchise. Ghost in the Shell has always been about vast interpretations and new ideas anyway, so why not welcome this unique artistic approach regardless that it looks like the black sheep in the herd.

Even Mamoru Oshii, director of the original 1995 film (which is much of 2017‘s inspiration) only wished for Directer Sanders to not be bogged down by his and Kenji Kamiyama’s Major (Stand Alone Complex), but to create his own as another face to the franchise.

Clearly, a lot of heart was put into visualization of the world—you can feel that the director was going for something GitS, but altogether a new and innovative vision [more relevant to our times].

I loved this fresh spin on the franchise, even if it admittedly bit off a little more than it could chew by trying to tie in so many homages to the franchise that, in fact, make each installment distinct from one another. And like any adaptation, if I wanted to see the original story all over again, I’D JUST WATCH THE ORIGINAL.

And about the casting, I’ve paraphrased a YouTube comment that quite honestly deserves a million likes:

“It’s controversial, but not incorrect casting. Major is an “Asian woman” in a European frame (robotic body), sure, yet part of the theme of cyberpunk and the series/movie revolves around self identity and what truly makes someone themselves—their experiences and actions. The people who said she should have been Asian were not only missing the entire movement of the franchise, but were critics just trying to push their political agenda onto a beloved title. Likely, they didn’t know the source material and went, “Oh, but, it’s Asiany and it’s made in Asia, sooooo.”

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What it Feels Like to be Crushed Your Unpopular Opinion

After I put myself out there, I definitely got “politely flagged” by other community members. They were responding to me, just trying to kindly say that they didn’t care for the movie—and that’s fine, especially since they were so nice!—but you kind of feel, I don’t know, down. It’s like you’re floating on your own raft out on the open waters, which are filled with bloodthirsty hate-filled sharks. And then you’re suddenly reminded that nobody is going to come and save you, so it’s either hold strong to what you value, or let it all go to the sharks.

And you know what? I’m still here, floatin’ away in this little hell all because I like the live action Ghost in the Shell. Stupid, right?

When you value something that others simply don’t, you start to get lonely. Nobody wants to waste their time attempting to scrounge up the very few “pros” that exist (if any) just to please you. They’ll notice, maybe console you saying something like, “Yeah, it could’ve been better,” or perhaps remind you once again as to why your opinions are dumb. But then they’ll go and find something else to talk about, and it almost leaves you feeling guilty for liking (or not liking) what you do. After all, you just missed out on a potentially awesome conversation—if only you shared the same opinion, that is.

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By having an unpopular opinion, you can feel isolated and at its worst, ashamed. You almost wish you could naturally hate something like everyone else did, or fall in love with something the way everyone else did. And then your problems would be gone—But THAT itself IS the problem:

Without your differing ideas, there would be only one main belief about something, and where’s the fun in that? Because you decided to explore where no one else dared, you walked out with something that no one else has, and you should embrace that, not hide it away!

Which is why I’m going to say it:

 “IT’S NOT JUST A SHELL. THE LIVE-ACTION GHOST IN THE SHELL IS NOT JUST A FREAKIN’ SHELL.”

I’m sick and tired of people—reviewers, critics, heck, even the media—calling it that just to make some stupid-ass pun. The SAME stupid-ass pun at that.

So from this experience that I had, I learned that you should always:

DELIGHT in the fact that your opinions may be different than the rest.

BE HUMBLE with your beliefs, proud but open to suggestions, discussions, and different viewpoints.

SUPPORT the things you love, for they brought you joy.

And for goodness sake, ENJOY something because YOU like it, not because others tell you not to or that you’re supposed to.

Don’t let all of the negative opinions and hate bog you down like it did me. Don’t let it! Hate puts your mind in the gutter, and honestly doesn’t feel good at all. You start second-guessing yourself, “Should I really be liking this,” which is EXACTLY what happened with this film for me. Instead, we should all keep on loving anime and the opportunities to ponder, interpret, and discuss that it has brought us. THAT is all you have to do!

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Have you ever had an unpopular opinion that struck you so deep that it brought unwanted hate your way? And did you defend your case in the respectful way you should have? Also, have you ever felt lonely or isolated for liking something that nobody else does? List some for me like I did, as I’m very curious! And almost more than that, I’m SO HAPPY to finally put my thoughts on this film and its controversy to rest. When it was in theaters, I had gone it THREE times (and saved the tickets just for this post), and as of now, I have purchased the artbook, the Blu-ray, and an adorable little Funko Pop of the iconic Geisha! And whenever the soundtrack comes, I’ll buy, support, and listen to that, too! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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United We Stand in Ghost S.A.C. 2nd GIG| Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 26-episode winter 2004 anime “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG” and its recap 2006 film “Individual Eleven,” produced by Production I.G, directed by Kenji Kamiyama, based on the original manga by Masamune Shirow.

Cafe note: I reviewed the first season right here, so check that out prior to reading this. Many thanks, happy reading~!


Back to the Cybernetic City

With the Laughing Man’s agenda terminated by Motoko Kusanagi and the gang, Section 9 is no longer forced to operate in the shadows. Taking an interest in the way the brutal hunting force operates, Japan’s newly elected Prime Minister Kayabuki re-establishes Section 9 as her final attempt to fend off the latest rounds of cyber-terrorism, and find a party whom she could trust her life with. This new deadly collective, “The Individual Eleven,” has led a string of seemingly unrelated terrorist plots and assassinations across the nation.

Just as the Major and Chief Aramaki begin investigating into these gruesome cases, however, the Japanese government faces a forced confrontation by the alarming build-up of foreign refugees who were ousted from their homes during the Third World War, and are now seeking asylum in Japan. Section 9 attempts to juggle both crises, but their constant bumping heads with Kazundo Gouda of Cabinet Intelligence Service leads the Major to suspect he may be even more tangled up in the mess than the “enemy” is, and that perhaps both The Individual Eleven and the refugee crisis are just two parts of one titanic movement.

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The Stand Alone Complex branch of the hit Ghost in the Shell franchise returns to the scene to reaffirm that everything, be it physically or digitally, is interconnected by the pushes and pulls of a techno-dystopian society.

Picking Up Where We Left Off

S.A.C. 2nd GIG wastes no time in welcoming us back to its inner universe. Unlike its predecessor, 2nd GIG features a clearer, more concisely written story. It achieves this by appropriately placing its “stand-alone” episodes within the timeline in less-congested areas of heavy plot action. Sticking to a story written in sequential order, 2nd GIG feels a lot easier to grasp, even if the characters themselves are more “complex” this second time around. I can see why fans acknowledge this series as the superior one not simply because the visuals are upgraded, but the linear way in which the story is told—even if the concept may not rival that of a wizard-class super hacker—seems more straightforward. Either that, or it just took me 26 episodes prior to get used to Kamiyama’s directing.

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Critical characters to not only the series but the franchise as a whole are introduced quickly and efficiently, these namely being Kayabuki, Gouda, and Kuze, the eventual leader of the refugee camp and a mastermind in guerrilla warfare, both on the battlefield and in the net. Watching Kayabuki crumble before but endure the weight of those dirty politicians and back-alley deals emphasizes one trait that defined the Major as such a relatable character for so many: the strength of women, and the power, beauty, and grace that comes with enduring unfavorable outcomes and situations. Ghost in the Shell, like much of entertainment, explores the notion that life is one big power struggle; it’s as unavoidable as the rising moon or the flowing tides.

New, Twisted Faces

Speaking of power, Gouda is clearly not meant to be a likable dude. His *literally* twisted face should be an indicator of his reliability. He’s a competent and sophisticated man, using people and manipulating scenarios like he does with data. Though he’s got several tricks up his sleeves to be used against all of the pawns in the game, including the Major, his sheer level of skill and sneering wit make me MELT with a swelling love for his character. And John Snyder, his English VA absolutely knocked the role outta the park! We honestly need more intelligent rivals like him in anime; he’s a dick, but that’s what makes him so fascinating. Gouda is always one step ahead of the game, and stacking the deck is the only way to secure a trump card in this dirty world.

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The Major’s foil finally manifests in the form of Hideo Kuze, an calm yet equally interesting antihero who holds a similar background. While I cannot mention too much without spoiling, I will say that he’s just as calculating as Motoko and Gouda, and perhaps more skillful and inspirational than both of them on a personal level. He’s quite interesting, so let his words sink in . . . everything he does is for the people . . .

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Aside from the Major’s few moments, those members of Section 9 that did not previously have an episode for their own backstory (Pazu, Saito) receive one now EXCEPT for poor, poor Borma, the fat guy. While the Tachikoma’s return with more amusing exclamations and ideas, Togusa takes takes the back seat for this ride. One of these days we’ll get the backstory details and spotlight that they ALL deserve, but that time is sadly not now.

Improved Presentation Transcend S.A.C.

The two-ish year gap between each series really does reiterate the fact that Production I.G is the king of science fiction anime. Most of the characters receive new outfits and gear, all of which show off their differing personalities. The Major’s transformation from light gray and white to a dark gray and black skintight suit add contrast to the series’ new tone, a perfect match for some of the unsettling truths regarding the Major’s past. Her leather trench coat and obsidian visors complete the look. Besides the returning overly impressive architecture, it’s all the tiny details in character design that make 2nd GIG a fashion show for our models, both the sleek and the grungy alike.

Kanno returns to add that techno-blues/cop show soundtrack from the first season. Many of the tracks were even reused, so it’s not an entirely “new” OST. The epic action music in particular was done better this time. Where she doesn’t stand out in background music Kanno definitely makes up for with the new opening “Rise,” once again sung by the lovely Origa. “Rise” is the epitome of cyber punk trance dubstep, a song that hypes itself up with its intense beat, ascending chord progressions, and deep lyrics. Exhilarating stuff!

Since the characters remain largely underdeveloped in terms of background info, many just watch the show for its intriguing story, to which I point you toward the 3-hour (eek) recap film titled Individual Eleven that hones its focus solely on the core case from beginning to end. It is a recap, however, so all of your favorite one-off episodes are not present, and a lot of cool detours were cut, such as a fatal mission flaw by the Major that made my heart skip a beat. I give the same caution that I dished out last time, though—Individual Eleven features an entirely different English voice cast. While the wonderful Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Crispin Freeman, and now John Snyder should never have been replaced as Motoko, Togusa, and Gouda, respectively, the new cast largely remains serviceable.

United We Stand – The Individual VS Society

Ghost in the Shell S.A.C. 2nd GIG continues as a more light-hearted cop-chase approach to the original 1995 film, and by this I mean that it is less about self-reflection and more geared towards the interactions people share with others. It’s also no laughing matter, either, presenting the sadness of war, and that in the near future warfare is still terrifying and tragic. 2nd GIG resumes its heavy, confusing political drama, but its new emphasis on securing a cyber body through the black market is neatly explored with greater depth, ironically “fleshing” out the world.

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The sequel to the beloved Stand Alone Complex is a successful piece of science fiction and sociological analysis. It’s a series rooted in the effects of technology on people, be it the goods, bads, or really bads. Sharpening its linear storytelling and enhancing its setting and character designs, one really shouldn’t stop at the first season—continue to uncover the fate of Section 9 as the original story intended!

“The refugees have given me countless names. I joined forces with them with the intent to save them. But maybe the real reason I united with them was to keep the loneliness at bay.” – Kuze

Final Assessment:

+ Story told sequentially with with focused, linear direction

+ New character designs are more appealing; Major’s new look

+ Production I.G upped their game again!

+ Both Gouda and Kuze are excellent characters

+ Explores the pillars of social order through a cool story; the war on terror continues

– Section 9 members STILL don’t get the backstory treatment they deserve

– Recap film English dub remains pestering

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GitS S.A.C. 2nd GIG also deserves its “Cake” title (4/5), a must-watch if you’ve already started the first! It does require a great amount of focus and minor understanding of corporate politics, though. Thankfully the action weighs well against the political banter. What did you think of the Individual Eleven story, and did the recap film aid in your understanding as it did mine? Let me know, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Still lookin’ fresh, Batou and Major

No Man Laughs Alone in Ghost S.A.C. | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 26-episode fall 2002 anime “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” and its recap 2005 film “The Laughing Man,” produced by Production I.G, directed by Kenji Kamiyama, based on the original manga by Masamune Shirow.


City of Steel, Bodies of Iron

It’s 2032, the cyberization age. Because most brains are now encased in a metal mold, people can access the net just by thinking and slide into mechanical bodies through a connecting cable alone. Walk along the streets and one would find fleshlings, cyborgs, and robots alike coexisting as if it were commonplace. The power of the net has virtually blurred the lines between the physical and the digital, which can breed both terrific convenience and terrifying crime. Completely ineffective in halting cyber crime, as it typically is, the government has hired Security Division Section 9, a group of ruffians specialized in taking down hackers and terrorists alike.

Led by their Chief Daisuke Aramaki and Major Motoko Kusanagi, this small squad rules the shadows and grungy back alleys in an effort to clean up the city. When a great super hacker dubbed the “Laughing Man” rears his head once again after 5 quiet years, however, the Major and her troop face what could be their greatest social threat yet. Unlike their most recent cases, this one proves to be not as simple as SHOOT + LOAD + REPEAT, but rather an intense chasing game of CTRL + ALT + DELETE.

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The iconic franchise and its much-loved figurehead return to the streets after a silent 7 years since the groundbreaking film’s worldwide release in 1995. While it’s neat to see the title reinvented into a series, I found all of the GitS films, recap or not, to be far superior to the series. Before I go further into the franchise, let’s evaluate Stand Alone Complex and weigh its own merits.

It’s Not like the Movie, and that’s Perfectly Fine

This pun has already been pitched a million times, but to aptly put things, many of the episodes of Stand Alone Complex are, well, stand-alone. These episodes all tackle the lives of individuals of all all social classes, and how they interact with society and the Section 9 crew. The true underlying story is only tossed here and there as hints before the grand finale. Unlike the 1995 classic, which honed in on the psychological balance between human and cyborg, both of the GitS series challenge society instead, providing much sociological questioning such as “how much can people be “cyberized” before it’s no longer a human society,” or “whether the net truly brings people together or tears us apart.” Because it was less egocentrically based, I found myself less prone to self-discovery, but more open to social understanding. It’s a bit of a letdown at first, especially since the Major’s self-reflection is what sold me to begin with.

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Where the plot may stumble and confuse, the characters provide entertaining banter and motivation. Being a more light-hearted approach to the franchise much like the original manga was, it’s appropriate to chuckle here and there at the strong man Batou’s unfortunate misdemeanors around the still-intelligent Major, or admire the human normie Togusa’s total dad bod. The presence of the cute Tachikomas, blue insect-shaped and car-sized robot AI, helped to not only alleviate unnecessary government actions that frustrated me, but also provide that quintessential self-pondering of being a robot vs a lifeform similar to what the Major dealt with in 1995. They’re annoying at times, but they remind us as to the joys of feeling alive.

A Stunning Sci-Fi Story and World

People watch this show for the genuine Section 9 crew and for high-paced, explosive combat layered with a complicated cop show setup. For its 2002 release, SAC has aged remarkably, providing some of the most engaging sci-fi action that rivals today’s anime fights. What ultimately brought it all together was the world itself, though. The towering skyscrapers and low, wrap-around market places give off a bustling effect to Newport City. The occasional gray sky and drizzly weather is almost enough to take one back to 1995, and the traffic—my goodness, all the road traffic! What a headache! Watching the characters drive from location to location allows Production I.G prove that they are the masters of anime architecture. The complex interwoven highways and cars almost act as a mirror of society itself, in that we’re ultimately all just a small part of the great flow.

Story-wise, it’s quite complicated, honestly. I held off on any Ghost in the Shell until I was older simply because I felt I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it fully without encompassing a greater intellect. (I’m still no genius, though.) To assume one has to be smart to enjoy this series isn’t true at all, but when it came to all of the political nonsense between government officials and sketchy deals, it is a lot to consume, I’ll admit.

Much of this can be negated, however, if a person checks out the 3-hour (yikes) recap film that reorganizes the Laughing Man snippets that are littered throughout all 26 episodes and places them into a more logical, sequential order. The [sadly] very few valuable backstory spotlights of Section 9 members are lost, but if one’s just in it for the core story, then this recap film satisfies immensely. The only caution I can give is to those who prefer English dubs; The Laughing Man features an entirely different vocal cast from the series, and while it is utterly DISAPPOINTING to hear brilliant actors Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and Crispin Freeman replaced as Motoko and Togusa, this other cast doesn’t do a bad job. Nope, not at all, and these are very large shoes to fill.

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While everyone praises Yoko Kanno for her sheer masterpieces of music, Stand Alone Complex is not her most memorable work for me. She keeps with the flow of light dialogue and adrenaline-filled action, balancing the two just fine, but I can’t recall any specific tracks besides the opening, “Inner Universe,” sung by the late Origa, a piece of music that perfectly captures the ENTIRE franchise. Its haunting yet entrancing beginning put me in full-dive mode every time. It’ll live on with the likes of “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis” as anime’s bests, and rightfully so.

Let Me Walk Away Laughing

It’s no surprise that SAC is different than 1995: different directors, production date, arcs adapted, character introductions and routes taken, etc. What hasn’t changed is the same powerful studio behind the project and the unwavering calculations of the Major. Ghost in the Shell is a franchise that explores possibility through the unification of humans and technology. It also shows us the worst case scenario—its abuse, and how that turns people off from all things cyber entirely. SAC‘s first season is a little hard to understand thanks to its divided attentions, but so long as you trust in the Major’s new face and follow your ghost, you may walk away having thought of something new, and that’s what sci-fi is all about.

Batou: Nowadays . . . people entrust their memories to external devices because they want to set down solid physical proof that can distinguish them as unique individuals . . .

Motoko: A watch and weight training gear, both of us have clung to useless scraps of memory, haven’t we?

Final Assessment:

+ This incarnation of the Major can be just as meaningful so long as you have an open mind

+ Emphasizes that Production I.G is king of city architecture and sci-fi worlds

+ Works in sociological approach that defines the franchise today

+ That opening combined with all the fluid combat gets the blood pumping

– Such a lovable cast deserves greater backstories

– Overarching story is hard to follow, but recap movie helps

– Missing out on series dub in recap film


Stand Alone Complex is welcomed at the cafe as a “Cake” title (4/5), one too sweet to miss out on if you have the time! It does require a great amount of focus and minor understanding of corporate politics, though. Sometimes the intermixed action sequences were the only bits that helped me stay awake! SAC has been around for YEARS now, so what do you make of the series? Did you enjoy the Laughing Man story, and did the recap film aid in your understanding as it did mine? Let me know, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Batou, his Tachikoma, and Major. Stay fresh, Section 9.

End of February Update 2/28/17

So I failed the 4-post-per-month plan yet again, but the defeat doesn’t seem as crushing as it was last month. Perhaps that’s because of my involvement with the OWLS bloggers; having a set deadline for a hefty post keeps me on my toes. Plus, they are more fun to write for some reason, hehe. The update this month will be brief, but hey, at least I’m doing the end of February update at the actual end of February!

Recently Finished:

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash – I covered my recent love for this short series in the last update, and here it is again but in the finished bin! Looking back, I’m happy that Grimgar didn’t stray from its preface of presenting the struggles of daily life in a fantasy adventure setting. Things took an unexpected turn, however, and on top of food, clothing, and other basic utilities, our party had to deal with death. Finding ways to cope and properly honor those who have passed on occupied much of the middle block. Luckily, the party found their way back on the track and ended their quest with great, intense combat, leaving the series open to a continuation if one ever were to arise. I quite enjoyed Grimgar, and I’ll probably try to pick it up now that FUNimation has released pics of the limited edition, huehuehue. I just might have to write a review if anyone is interested in knowing more of my thoughts!

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Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence – As part of my Ghost in the Shell marathon week(s), this was the second entry to be completed. IT WAS NOT THAT BAD. Sheesh, everywhere you go, you have folks claiming that it was “too far up its own ass.” That quote was by the ANN podcast. I really enjoyed this film, I mean, not as much as the first, but still, it proved plenty interesting to say the least. The animation is gorgeous, the music complements the dingy atmosphere (that ending theme is soooo beautiful), and the premise offers enough to keep the viewer thinking, which is more than what Stand Alone Complex is currently giving me. I went ahead and picked it up on Amazon since FUNi recently rescued it and released it. When it gets here, I’ll rewatch a few bits then hopefully cover my thoughts in-depth later.

Currently Watching:

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – I’m not going to lie, SAC has so far been the most underwhelming entry in the franchise for me. I wasn’t even hooked until like episode 17 when the characters were trying to save bottles of wine–WINE for crying out loud! Maybe it’s just the way the characters converse that I’m not quite fully comprehending. I am watching the English dub (because YES Mary Elizabeth McGlynn AKA Viceroy Cornelia) if that makes any difference. The overarching “Laughing Man” plot has had its moments that completely gripped me, but there are too many government/political figures to remember, and that only adds to my confusion. Someone help, plz. I’ve got three episodes to go, so hopefully it all ties in by now, if not then by the “Laughing Man” recap movie, at least. The music is good, though, especially those first 15 or so seconds of the opening “Inner Universe.”

Between all this Ghost in the Shell, I don’t want to start anything not related to the franchise. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a marathon, right? I have Sailor Moon Crystal Set 2 on the way, as well as Innocence and GitS: The New Movie, so maybe I’ll hop into some sailor senshi awesomeness after Motoko’s done kicking all that cyber ass. Oh, isn’t set 2 of Sailor Moon S supposed to come out sometime in March? I already have set 1, so that’ll probably follow my Crystal session.

All of the releases lined up for this spring are absolute bliss: Steins;Gate the Movie, Crystal Season 2, Grimgar, One Punch Man, not to mention several others–the highlight of my entire year, however, has been the BLU-RAY RESCUE and even ENGLISH DUB of GOSICK set to come out in MAY. THIS. MAY. GOD I’M SO HAPPY I EVEN CRIED. What are you looking forward to picking up this spring?

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Also, how are the winter simulcasts, guys? I was going to watch Chaos;Child and Masamune-kun’s Revenge, but let me know if anything else out there is noteworthy. I plan to spend the afternoon reading all of the January and February OWLS blog tour posts, so be sure to check those out if you haven’t yet done so! I also plan to catch up on ALL of those comments you guys left. You know, time to be a responsible blogger for once, right? Haha, I will try to be super active this month, so until next time (hopefully soon), this has been

– Takuto, your host