Halfway into the Summer Simulcast Season | End of July Update 8/8/17

That’s right, we’re halfway through the summer of anime! Even though school kicks up in a couple of weeks for many (myself unfortunately included), at least we’ll still have the exciting finales of many great titles to look forward to. Speaking of, what have I been following this summer? Let’s take a look!

But before we dive into what’s new, despite the lack of reviews I’ve actually watched a lot of anime this summer. For the recently finished titles, I’ll be looking as far back as the end of May until now. Crazy behind, I know! Also, I’ve got pictures in my updates now, so that’s cool!

Recently Finished:

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Bungo Stray Dogs Season I – Bungo Stray Dogs fans already form this occult following; either you love it and are willing to buy everything Bungo, or you’re just biting your nails until it’s over. I found myself on the latter side, but hear me out!! Animation: awesome. Characters: great amusement. Story: entertaining enough. So where did it go wrong for me? It lies in the identities of the characters, or rather, who they are pingbacks to in history. From what I grasped, each boy identified as an allusion to a famous author in history. Half the fun of the show was, like with Fate or Touken Ranbu, probably in seeing how these historical figures interacted with one another, and sadly, my literary history is quite lacking! Maybe I’ll give the second season a try, but I’m in no hurry at the moment.

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Buddy Complex – This was actually a title I was intending on reviewing once I finished, but I got caught up in other things before that could happen. Anyway, Buddy Complex is a title that went unnoticed as it aired—it even got a release by Funimation, sub only, though. That’s sad, cause I would’ve bought the heck out of a dub! I LOVED this anime. While it felt so cheesy and cliche at first, it kept on making all of these nonsensical calls that only made me curious as to how badly it would crash and burn in the end. Surprisingly, I found myself enthralled with how everything came together. It only goes to show how much a little OVA or two can make the world of difference. Definitely glad I didn’t give up on Buddy Complex, and hey, maybe I’ll revisit it when I pick up the Blu-ray.

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Hanasaku Iroha – If there’s one title I’ll remember for my 2017 summer, it’ll be this one. So soft and sweet but knows when to throw down the hammer, Hanasaku Iroha stands as another WIN for P.A. Works, and a huge victory for slice-of-life/drama shows. I could go on, but I actually tied my review for it into this month’s OWLS post, a two for one you could say! Here it is in case you missed it!

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Corpse Party – Ugh, I knew what I was getting myself into before I even started. Watched it with a couple of friends, one who said that we had to watch it. It wasn’t fun. At least I didn’t waste too much time on this shit show.

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Eureka Seven – Do you know of that one title that EVERYONE loved but you didn’t? For me, it’s Eureka Seven, and this is particularly tragic considering as I was really hoping to walk out of it claiming it to be perfect. I mean, it’s got all of the elements of a mecha anime that I love, but it was the characters that dropped the ball for me. All of the Gekkostate crew were dicks to Renton, and rather than taking the time to work him into the team, showing the audience some of their personalities in the process, they all either picked on him or ignored the poor guy! I guess they were certainly a realistic bunch, but not a crew that I would ever want—and these are supposed to be the good guys! The whole way I kept telling myself, “It’s gonna get better, it’s gonna get better,” and when it finally did in those last 12 episodes, it soon after ended. It’s the first time community hype has ever failed me. I’m still eager to watch the three new films within the coming years; maybe those will change my mind about the series.

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Fate/Grand Order: First Order – Anyone else utterly consumed by the Fate/Grand Order mobile game? If I ever have a spare hour, you know what I’ll be doing: plugging away, earning gold four-star EXP cards until the next story update. Anyway, this is just a 45-min adaptation of the game’s beginning, and it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, I could have watched more for sure. Like the recent Fate trend, it wasn’t done by Ufotable, but whoever did make it did a pretty solid job with it. Nothing too fancy, but pretty cool for those playing the game. Otherwise it’s a pass.

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KADO: The Right Answer – Unlike what the popular opinion about the ending is, this was a show that intrigued me from beginning to end, making me ponder endless hours as to the possibilities, the what-ifs, and could-have-beens about our own universe. KADO may have been done up in 100% CG, but not only is it good CG, the impossibly smooth texture of the models gives the series that extra edge, making it feel all the more otherworldly and spatial. The series is about a cube measuring 1 kilometer on each side (I think) that suddenly lands on a Japanese airport runway. A mysterious man calling himself a being from outside the universe offers mankind gifts beyond comprehension, but they may only keep those gifts if they make the right answers to his actions. Awesome show, might have to review!

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The Vision of Escaflowne – I DID IT LITA, I FINISHED IT!!! About a year ago, Funimation created a Kickstarter for the show’s 20th anniversary and a new English dub to go along with it. I supported it, and when I received the first part in the limited edition box I remember being overjoyed! It was my first Kickstarter, after all, so it kinda felt like owning a piece of history that I contributed to. I finally picked up part 2 this summer, watched it all, and finished just a couple days ago. While I was simply swept of my feet with the first half, the second started off pretty rough. At least it pulled itself together for the ending, and I’m glad to have watched another 90s gem. Will review this one for sure, so please look forward to that!

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Divine Gate – Hahaha I can’t believe I’m using my free 2-week Funimation trial for this dumbass show. I finished this one earlier this morning, and while the English dub was quite satisfactory, everything else about it . . . wasn’t. Like Buddy Complex and KADO, it was the trailer that convinced me to watch it, even if the YT comments were screaming otherwise. Call me a badass. But yeah, it had an exciting premise with decent animation to back it up (granted that other than the characters it was all CG), but man, either it needed a longer run than 12 episodes or Studio Pierrot (Tokyo Ghoul) just reeeaaallly sucks at adaptations. It was a tolerable show, but it’s not anything to write home about.

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Tales of Zestiria (PS3) – Takuto played a game?! Yup, gotta do anything for the Tales franchise! This marks my second Tales game, first being Symphonia. While Symphonia offered a much, much better story (it’s actually one of my favorite stories in any media ever!), Zestiria‘s gameplay was a lot more fun—and easier, at that. For me, a person who does very little gaming, that’s incredibly important. I set out on this adventure after meeting Robbie Daymond at Naka-kon. He’s the Viz Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon, Prompto from what is it Final Fantasy IV(?), and he’s Sorey from Zestiria. It inspired me to hear more of him, and seeing as how I’m already acquitted with the Tales franchise, and that I had been anticipating watching the anime for MONTHS now, I just put it all together! Fun game with great, playful characters. I’m very much excited to finally start the anime!

Currently Watching:

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My Hero Academia Season 2 – I mean, who’s NOT watching this show by now?? It’s the new hottest thing, all the kids love it, and I’m no exception. After the dazzling events of the sports festival AKA TOURNAMENT ARC (which I binge-watched), things had settled down in Izuku Midoriya’s world for just a second before rapidly picking back up again, reminding us that even in a world of tournaments and school games, the kids are being trained to be heroes, and heroes have to fight villains. As the second half of this sequel takes MHA back to its roots, I can’t help but miss the true fun and excitement of the tournament. My eyes are still yearning for more Todoroki being his half-n-half badass self, and the thrill of Bakugo’s explosive attitude (and powers), but season 2 is all about the original story, and I guess that’s A-OK too. It still has about 6 episodes to go, so hopefully it can peak the excitement that the first half boasted by the end!

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Re:CREATORS – This show was my EVERYTHING when I was marathoning the first 12 episodes that had already aired. Now, not so much. The show is still very good, still visually pleasing and entertaining as a story. I think it’s just the shift from watching the beginning straight through to now where I catch an episode each week. It feels very slow now, and I don’t want to blame the story on that if it’s just the way that I’m consuming the show. Re:CREATORS was a show that I myself hyped up on Twitter a couple seasons back, which has a stacked production cast including Ei Aoki (Fate/Zero) as director, Hiroyuki Sawano on music, and TROYCA as the studio, three components that made up the exciting guilty pleasure of mine: ALDNOAH.ZERO. It’s a show about popular manga and anime characters that are brought to our world by a woman in a strange military/priestess outfit, proclaiming to the creations to force their creators to change their worlds. It’s easily the most interesting simulcast I’ve watched in a while, and I can’t wait to see where it goes!

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Fate/Apocryhpa – Did someone wish for a year of Fate? Well, with Fate/Grand Order, Fate/Extella, Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel, and the newest adaptation to this perplexing arena, Fate?Apocrypha, it might feel this way. I’m a HUGE fan of this franchise, but I am a stranger to this tale about the Great Holy Grail War. Set in an alternate universe to Fate/stay night in where, during the Third War the Grail was stolen by the Yggdmillenia family (that name tho), the Mages Association must reclaim the relic before the family goes too crazy with it. Noticing the intended competition, the Grail conjures up 7 servants of Black to serve the Yggdmillenia family and 7 servants of Red for the Mages Association in addition to one Ruler class servant to oversee the war. It’s a clusterfudge of 14 vs. 14 and all I can say is that I’m glad this show was announced with 26 episodes cause MAN, I DO NOT KNOW ANYONE. JK, I’m slowly picking up names and goals, but if there isn’t some big fighting soon then I’m gonna be in a fit. Rather than Ufotable at the helm it’s A-1 Pictures, and while I’d like to complain, so far I can’t. I can feel the hard work that’s being put into the animation to compensate for Ufotable’s signature high quality style, and so long as the characters keep on interacting and learning about one another, I think the show will turn out just fine.

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DIVE!! – This is by far the quietest entry on my simulcast list. Very few people are tagging along with the MDC boys and their journey to the Olympics simply because, well, it’s unremarkable so far. Unfamiliar viewers have been labeling it as another Free!, but we all know it’s far inferior to that beloved title. Animation is pretty average, but the art of the characters does look quite nice. Also, I’ve been jamming to the nostalgic qualities of the ending song!! Something about it reminds me of good times I used to have, IDK. If DIVE!! is lucky, it’ll complete its run telling a full story all on its own, because I know very few would stick around for a sequel—if it even got one. Still, I like DIVE!!, and yes, I’ll keep on watching. 🙂

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Katsugeki TOUKEN RANBU – If there’s one show I’ll drop this season, here it is. No, it’s not because the show is bad by any means, it’s just that I am a complete stranger to this generally otome-catered title. It’s sword boys the anime, what can I say? From what I’ve grasped (ha, grasped), it’s about famous Japanese swords that are reincarnated as bishi boys to stop an organization that threatens to alter the course of history throughout time. Did I get that right? I just wished Ufotable took up Apocrypha instead of this because so far, while it’s a very pretty show, I’m still wondering when the main course is supposed to be served.

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Welcome to the Ballroom – Annnnd I’ve saved my favorite for last, BALLROOM E YOUKOSOOOO!!! I love everything about this anime, from the sharp character designs and snappy, fluid dance movement to the soft color palette it has. This anime has reigned as most people’s No.1 title for this summer, My Hero Academia aside since it technically is a spring leftover. The show is about Tatara, a young boy who falls in love with professional ballroom dancing after being saved by Sengoku, a dance coach, from some bullies. He’s invited to the studio, where he becomes entranced by his secret idol at school, the beautiful Shizuku Hanaoka. Shortly after, Tatara finds himself taking up lessons in anticipation to one day earn the right to dance with Shizuku on the ballroom floor. The problem is that he’s not the only one that’s head-over-heels for Shizuku, so unless he practices hard he’ll lose the girl and possibly much more! It’s a sports anime that takes me back to when I simulcasted my first sports anime, Free!. While I was hoping for DIVE!! to bring me back to those days, Ballroom has outclassed it in all areas. As the exciting opening song invites us onto the floor and the waltz-like ending theme brings the day to a close, I look forward to this show each and every week! Bless Ballroom and its 24-episode run!!

*deep inhale* And that’s what I’ve been watching lately. Thanks to the NOT-SO-LOVELY services that are Netflix and *shudders* Amazon Prime, I’ve been left with little option but to find my anime elsewhere, as I am not supporting giants that I know can get their money from other resources. That said, it’s been kinda hard moving around the various sites, and it reminds me of days where I did nothing but pirate. I don’t like to do it, but I do help when I can by paying for a Crunchyroll membership, buying Blu-rays (frequently), and very soon, paying for a FunimationNow membership. Sometimes we’re left with very little choice, and I like to think I’m still helping out.

If you didn’t already know, my lack of content here stems from some house/room remodeling and simply not wanting to write. Part of that was also my job, where I work as a lifeguard. When we work, it’s not a shift, but open to close. That means that, on the days where I work, very little watching can get done, meaning less time to review, too. Summer is coming to an end, and so is life-guarding. Maybe now I’ll get more watching, gaming, reading, and blogging in. Sound like a good plan?

Summers are hot where I live. At its peak, it was +100 degrees F for weeks at a time, but now it’s dropped quite a bit to the 80s~90s, and on a day like today, 75 and cloudy, the best kind of days. As a whole, I’m still pretty excited with all of the simulcasts that I’m following, and hopefully my interest lasts until the end of the season where I can review the ones that came out on top! I want to know what you’re watching, too, or if I should be watching something else! Let me know in the comments and (after I catch up on all of the others I’ve left unanswered) we can talk about them! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Hanasaku Iroha: Finding Beauty & Grace in Hard Work, Dignity, and Servitude | OWLS “Bloodlines”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s  eighth monthly topic, “Bloodlines,” I decided to incorporate what would have been my standard Hanasaku Iroha review into this discourse about “it runs in the family.”

Family means everything (or does it?). This month, we will be discussing the importance of family relationships in anime and pop culture. Familial relationships include a child and his/her parents, sibling rivalries, adoptions, etc. Some questions about family that we will be contemplating on include how does one’s family shapes his or her identity? How do we define family? How does a broken household influence a person’s view on family?

This show probably deserves a review all on its own, but hey, I’m just gonna go for it here! Thanks Lyn for the prompt!

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A brief discussion on the 26-episode spring 2011 anime “Hanasaku Iroha: Blossoms for Tomorrow” and the 2013 film “Home Sweet Home,” produced by P.A. Works, directed by Masahiro Ando (Blast of Tempest), based on the original story by Mari Okada (A Lull in the Sea).

Out On Her Own

Ohana Matsumae: bursting with rebellious energy and only 16 years old, her picture-perfect Tokyo life could’ve been every girl’s dream—if only her mom wasn’t such a mess! Carefree, irresponsible, and always on the go, mother Satsuki Matsumae and her boyfriend hurriedly pack their bags to flee from debt collectors, forcing Ohana to seek refuge out in the countryside at her grandmother’s Kissui inn. It is there at the Kissuiso that Ohana forms the resolve to work hard under her grandmo—I mean, Madame Manager’s—cold and strict guidance as a maid to prove that she is just as strong and independent as her mother, reevaluate her unrequited love life, and “fest up” her otherwise mundane city life.

As Ohana grows deeper connections with the quiet countryside land and the changing seasons, she is faced with the trials of working as a maid, as well as countless interactions with the many customers that come and go at the Kissuiso. Bonds of friendship are born, and inexpressible relationships blossom beautifully.

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The Kissuiso Staff

Much of the love and respect I have for this show lies right here with the inn’s staff. That said, it can also be the most frustrating part. The busybody maids remain my favorite: Ohana’s fresh, persevering face even if she’s not exactly helping in the best way just makes you want to shout “SHE DID NOTHING WRONG” (at least she’s always trying, unlike some of the others); Nako, the”quite literally” big sister character never fails to support Ohana in that soft and gentle way that she does; and Tomoe, the playful and typically jealous woman tends to catch gossip and spread rumors throughout the inn, adding in the comedic elements.

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It’s the cooking staff that annoys me the most. No, not Renji, the stoic and buff head chef who minds to himself—my issues lie with an outspoken young man named Tohru and a girl Ohana’s age named Minko who “secretly” has the hots for him. They’re just both so rude to everyone, scolding one another whenever they can and not leaving much room for fun. I guess part of that adds to the staff’s dynamic (and conflict for Ohana), but Minko’s attitude really got on my nerves; far too distracting for what her character honestly represents. I also couldn’t stand her voice.

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Lastly, I couldn’t forget the two loudmouths that pop in throughout the series: Yuina, the daughter of a rival inn’s family and Ohana’s new classmate who honestly only wishes to enjoy her youth while discovering her true passion; and Takako, the glamorous business consultant adviser for Kissuiso who always wants to revitalize the rather old-fashioned inn to suit the times. She often bumps heads with Sui, as her ideas are indeed ludicrous at times, but when it comes down to it, they both only desire what’s best for the inn and its customers.

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I could go on about how genuine the personalities and relationships of each character feel, but half the appeal of Hanasaku Iroha is witnessing how they go about their days, both the ordinary ones for those slice-of-life vibes and the hectic ones to see how this seemingly disjointed team tackles wild problems head on!

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One of P.A. Works’ Finest Pieces

I’m all about scenery. Whether it’s a schoolyard from heaven (or hell) or an enchanting undersea village, P.A. Works never fails to embody this ideal vision of a “gorgeous world.” The anime’s characters are all beautifully designed and fluidly animated in their own right, Ohana especially, but the colorful Kissuiso takes the cake as a visionary set piece. Perfectly blending antiquity with its polished, hand-carved wooden exterior with the luscious greens from nature, the rustic countryside inn almost feels tangible, one that you can breath fresh air easily in and instantly feel comforted by the relaxing atmosphere. I could probably lose myself in the pages of an art book if I ever got my hands on one (which I will surely try to).

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The same glowing things are to be said about the charming piano and string tracks by Shiro Hamaguchi, my favorite being a little sad piece called “Remember that day with a smile like that.” For OPs and EDs, I’m not a huge fan of nano.RIPE’s lead singer’s nasally voice, but its random fifth ending “Saibou Kioku” happened to play at just the right time.

It Runs in the Family

Hanasaku Iroha enters the realm of slice-of-life with a little drama thrown in the mix. While it’s easy to label it as just that—a simply relaxing show—the series poses much more than that. From the beginning, it presents a moving story about family and adulthood, parenting and role-modeling. Like most titles with drama elements, the events of the larger present story are results of a little, once-close-knit group from the past.

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This group now makes up the adults in Ohana’s life: her stern grandma, Sui, her defiant mom, Satsuki, and her scatterbrain uncle (Satsuki’s brother), Enishi. When these parental figures were supposed to guide Ohana as a child, Satsuki often left Ohana to do all of the chores and “take care of herself”—a mantra that she still employs—choosing to put her efforts into her work as a pro writer instead of parenthood. Satsuki gave up her entitlement as the inn’s next manager, and as a result Sui stayed behind at the inn, Enishi working for her, and that was that.

Ohana spent her whole life cleaning up after her own mother.

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As depressing as that sounds, the story’s realism is probably the best thing that it has going for it. It’s a show that doesn’t want to boast, but simply leave itself out there by remarking, “This actually happens in real life.” By intertwining the lives and efforts of the inn’s staff, using the Kissuiso itself as the anchor, everyone comes to understand the tension between Satsuki and her mother, why Ohana’s personality is so brazen and spirited, why Enishi is so desperate to win his mother’s approval over his big sister, and why their boss Sui acts like such a secluded hag. It all comes down to family in the end, or rather the lack of a strong one to bind them together.

I think we can all relate to this.

Genes have the power to shape a family, but only you can decide what path it takes. As people, we make mistakes—for some of us, a lot of them—and maybe you got that from someone (or you’ll pass it on). But regardless, if we spent as much time thinking about the ones we are supposed to love as we did ourselves, I think we’d all be better off.

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Ohana put herself in her mother’s shoes when she reconnected with the source that threw her mom off to begin with, and her entire world changed for the better as a result. She realized that as different as she liked to think they were, they both made the same mistakes as young girls. Knowing this, she vowed to be like her grandma one day, hopefully ending the cycle of familial neglect.

And this made momma very proud of her little girl.

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Hard Work Really Does Pay Off

Hanasaku Iroha walks us through the struggles of the worker class for a girl living in a somewhat broken home. As Ohana comes to find beauty and grace in hard work, dignity, and servitude, we can’t help but feel inspired by her bold newfound identity. Most important of all, we’re told an endearing story about being the best that only you can be, and that even in this self-centered world that is so consumed by “give and take,” there exists wonderful places like the Kissuiso, safe havens that offer both a relaxing time to heal old wounds and a staff that only wishes to work hard to serve YOU. And that, well, that’s really special.

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“You may come to a standstill or get irritated because things don’t work out the way you want them to, but what you gain from hard work will never betray you.” – Tohru Miyagishi


So there you have it, the very gentle and sweet Hanasaku Iroha. By the end of it, you just want to smile and cry at the same time. For those wondering, the film takes place before the finale, and acts more like three episodes linked together rather than a standalone film. Still wonderful stuff—so wonderful that I present it with the certified “Caffe Mocha” rating, one for the menu and it’s all on me (actually it’s on Crunchyroll for FREE)! You HAVE to let me know what you thought about my review over this quaint little gem if you’ve seen it, as it’s a quiet show that doesn’t get much buzz anymore. I found this to be the perfect show for this month’s OWLS theme since “Ohana” does mean “family” in Hawaiian, after all!

This concludes my August 4th entry in the OWLS “Bloodlines” blog tour. Since I was first again this month, I’ll give you the weekend before handing it off to my buddy Matt (Matt-in-the-Hat) with Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (I REMEMBER THIS FILM!) on Monday, August 7th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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