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.

Image result

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.

Image result for prime minister kayabuki

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.

Image result

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 . . .

Image result

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.

Image result

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

Image result


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

Image result

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.

Image result for ghost in the shell stand alone complex section 9

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.

motoko.PNG

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.

motoko1.PNG

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

Related image

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!

grimgar.PNG

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?

Image result for gosick bluray

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

The Delayed V-Day Sci-Fi Special!

Hello! So I was recently SLAMMED with two full weekends of out-of-town nonsense, one of which I plan to discuss in a Cafe Talk soon. It’s become tradition as of around 2014 to set aside Valentine’s Day weekend, safeguard myself in my room with snacks, and not come out until I had marathoned a classic anime (typically pre-2000s). Previous items on the menu include:

2013 ~ Steins;Gate

2014 ~ Ouran High School Host Club/Gosick (couldn’t remember which)

2015 ~ Neon Genesis Evangelion

2016 ~ The Rose of Versailles

and now

2017 ~ Ghost in the Shell

Yup! Exciting, right? In the spirit of the upcoming new live action movie (that I’m so psyched for) along with the recent bluray releases of the films and series, I’ll be taking a trip through this entire classic anime franchise that arguably helped shape science fiction as we know it.

Image result for funimation ghost in the shell infographic

Gosh how I love infographics. The crew over at FUNimation put together this one, and might I say how in-character it feels. 

Ghost in the Shell is a very hazy area in terms release order and technical chronology, such that the franchise has been divided into 3 separate universes–YES, the just pulled a Zelda on us, haha! After a few hours of researching different interpretations as to the order everything falls under, I’ve settled on the list below that I recorded on my wipe board (cause I am a list-nut):

FullSizeRender.jpg

At this exact moment, I have already watched 1995, Innocence, and the first 6 episodes of Stand Alone Complex. Odds are that I’ll just skip 2.0 and Alternative Architecture since they are typically disregarded anyway.

Image result for ghost in the shell live action posterIMG_8008.PNG

I even tweeted my excitement by making a themed wallpaper for my iPhone based on the live action poster 🙂

So yeah, that’s what has been on my mind lately. Within this month, you can hopefully expect a Cafe Talk about my swimming career and Free!, a review of Blast of Tempest, an OWLS post about Yuri!!! On ICE, a review of some parts of the GitS franchise, and lastly a monthly update. I’ll be reading through comments and catching up on several of your guys’ posts (especially the rest of the OWLS blog tour–I STILL haven’t read some of them!). Any words of wisdom from your Ghost in the Shell experience? What entry was your favorite part? I’ll admit, the two movies set the bar pretty high since I’m a thinker, and S.A.C. has yet to rope me in completely. Let me know, oh, and happy belated V-day!

With love,

– Takuto, your host

 

End of January Update 2/11/17

NOOOO I’ve already failed the 4-post-per-month plan!!! (but how, it was so easy??)

So it’s already a week into February and I’m not gonna lie, not a whole lot of anime got watched within the first month of 2017. It’s gotten so bad that I haven’t even participated in any of the simulcasts airing this season, which is a shame since some of them actually intrigued me a good deal. Because so little was watched in January, I’m going to flip back to December and recap the anime shows and films that I watched then until now. Sound good? Let’s take a trip back in the past!

“Recently” Finished:

The Garden of Words – We’re starting off with the MOST BEAUTIFUL anime film I have ever seen!! I kid you not, the story isn’t necessarily brilliant and the run time is only 45 minutes, but it’s 45 minutes of pure atmosphere: luscious greenery and endless rainfall. Speaking of plot, I really like the punchline this Shinkai film–“A story of solitude and heartache that comes before love.” If you’ve somehow missed out on Garden, do check it out if slick animation is your thing. (I mean, who doesn’t like that?) Seriously, it’s short and heartwarming; a must for fans of the rain!

Pale Cocoon – This and the other short film below were extra features included with the Time of EVE: The Movie bluray, so of course I had to watch more of Yasuhiro Yoshiura’s work! This one is the length of a normal episode and centers on a young man in the future who works as an archive recoverer (so a historian). The huge theme on this one is that those who dwell too much in the past can be consumed in the present and risk losing wonderful things. Kinda confusing but really thought-provoking. I remember watching this a long time ago but not understanding it at all, so it’s nice to see how I’ve grown as an intelligent viewer.

Aquatic Language – Yup, this is 8 minutes of WTF anime. It’s a cartoonish short set in a cafe. Like Time of Eve, there are many interactions taking place between people, and half the fun is finding out how all of the conversations tie in together and reflect the main character, a boy with a broken heart. I’d give this one a skip if it weren’t 8 minutes and included with the others.

Sailor Moon Crystal Season I -Following my Viz rewatch of Sailor Moon and its sequel R, I finally decided to boot up “The Moonlight Legend Reborn,” Sailor Moon Crystal, and I ABSOLUTELY LOVED all of it!!! Despite the popular opinion, I found Crystal to be a wonderful remake with a more straightforward and concise story. It retells Naoko Takeuchi’s tragedy as it was meant to be told, adding an entirely new layer of dramatic depth to the characters and their origins. In particular, Queen Beryl, the series’ antagonist, becomes a completely different woman clothed with misfortune. I even found myself enjoying the CG transformations, for each of them were beautiful in their own way! If you’re looking for the TRUE tale of the grim Dark Kingdom Arc, Crystal‘s first season has you covered!

Terror in Resonance – I’ve actually been holding onto this one for several months now having bought the LTD ED in a sale. At the time, I figured that this would be a grand winter show, so putting it on hold would be the wisest thing to do–boy, was I right! Though it gained immense popularity while it aired in 2014, if you haven’t heard about Zankyou no Terror, it’s about two boys who become terrorists to prove a point to their country regarding truth and justice–relevant themes to our current times, no? If I had to pick one from this list to recommend, Terror in Resonance is definitely the bomb.

Paprika – This little oddball took part in my Winter Movie Theater thing that I do with my siblings. The catch this time–I did not prewatch Paprika. Normally, I watch several shows/films and pick the ones worthy of their time (and my buying). Since I “knew” that Paprika was a classic and that I’d probably enjoy it, I went ahead and blindly picked it up for a super cheap price. Upon first watch . . . WHAT THE FRACK . . . but looking back while repeatedly listening to the OST, I found myself recalling all of its bold and subtle cues alike and appreciating the wackiness of its dreamlike presentation. It’ll be one of those shows that people won’t understand completely the first time through, so it’s a good thing I love rewatching anime!

Fafner: Dead Aggressor & Heaven and Earth The Movie – Fafner (SAVE edition) was another blind pickup from when Hastings went out of business (RIP). Why buy? It was dirt cheap, on bluray, and had a pretty cover. I don’t want to go into too much detail because YES, a review is on the way!! But if you’re wanting my direct opinion: The movie was everything I wanted out of the series and then some–the best Fafner has to offer. I’ve still yet to watch the new series that aired recently, but I plan to one of these days.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices – Woah, another blind pickup from the Sentai Filmworks sale that I figured I’d enjoy . . . and I did, to an extent, though. Don’t get me wrong, it’s gorgeous Shinkai animation, but the story feels so hollow and the fantasy world presented doesn’t feel very alive. The first half was amazing, the end was pretty decent, but everything in the middle was kind of a snooze fest. I much preferred The Garden of Words, but by all means, check it out if you have the extra time

Ghost in the Shell (1995) – The prequel to my next V-day marathon weekend begins with Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 sci-fi classic that shocked the world, Ghost in the Shell. For #TakutoMovieNight over on Twitter, I described it as “a wonderfully weird trip through the heart of anime science fiction.” Although that caption better suits Paprika, classics are classics. After viewing a 30-min analysis, I actually had to watch this film over again just to fully understand its depth–and even then, there’s still a lot GitS offers. Don’t just watch it, own it for a mere $8! I’m looking forward to exploring the entirety of the franchise this next weekend!

Blast of Tempest – Everyone saw this coming from my latest “Cafe Talk” regarding whether or not you research concepts as you’re watching a show. Check that out if you haven’t (yes, I’m a tad bit behind on the comments, but I’m working on it!). Inspired by both Shakespeare’s Hamlet and The Tempest, this one’s all about mages, mysterious deaths, and magical trees–anime for ya. While I wasn’t “mind blown” by what the anime had in store, it had enough standout moments to pull a win for me. More to come on that in a review!

Spirited Away (rewatch) – A [non-anime-affiliated] friend of mine was recently given this Miyazaki masterpiece and fell completely in love with it. (Will they pursue other anime films?! Stay tuned.) With all this talk about Your Name and its surpassing the GOAT, I thought I’d waltz back to my childhood days and revisit the film. All I previously remembered from Spirited Away was a disgusting bath scene, a witch with a big head, and a scary floating mask man that ate people. Childhood scarred. But I still recall myself being enthralled by the atmosphere of the bath house. Years later, I didn’t actually realize just HOW GOOD this film really was–I mean, it’s incredible, almost breathtaking in its execution and representation of the OG hardworking individual and their work habits. Oh yeah, there’s romance, too, but it was Chihiro’s development into a stronger, more resilient person that drew me in all over again. Maybe I’ll write about how I was swept off my feet once again by Ghibli . . . or maybe I’ll go find another one to watch instead! >.<

Currently Watching:

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash – Heh heh, here’s the show I’m currently watching. A bit of a throwback to last year, Grimgar follows teenagers who wake up in a fantasy realm of magic and swords. They can’t remember their prior lives, but they do know one thing: they must survive by any means necessary. I like how the focus isn’t necessarily on kill or be killed (though that is quite prominent), but on other aspects of life. In these medieval days, they still need to acquire money to eat and sleep comfortably. I’m two episodes in and the slice-of-life mixed with the challenges hardships bring is what’s winning me. I just hope it doesn’t turn into some dumb adventure of good and evil later on. Did I mention what got me to start this series in the first place? Why, it was the stunning watercolor backgrounds and artwork!! It’s been such a long time since I’ve seen landscapes as subtly enchanting as these~!

And that about does it! Again, apologies for my lack of content after setting up such a seemingly simple resolution. I feel terrible for skipping over so many of your guys’ posts, but I WILL do my best to be more active. I also want to begin some simulcasts soon so the updates seem more relevant each month. Thank you for sticking around so long, and hey, we’re almost at 200 followers–now that’ll be a celebration!! My winter days are coming to an end. Emotions are rolling out like crazy weird as I transition into a different stage of my life [to be discussed in a future cafe talk soon]. Even though it’s still February, we just had a couple days of 60-70 degrees F weather AKA global warming is NOT a myth. Frick the non-believers. See you soon in the next post~!

– Takuto, your host

Image result for grimgar of ash and fantasy backgrounds