From the New World: Through Horror, Calamity, & the Truth | OWLS “Journey”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, you might be new to this place. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, and welcome to my anime cafe!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s eighth monthly topic for 2018, “Journey,” I definitely wanted to hone my focus on one of anime’s true bests. Originally intended to be a post on Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (since I had just finished rewatching it and it’s not everyday you can say “I managed to fit in a rewatch of a 64-episode show!”), another fellow OWLS member snatched it up for the taking. I know she’ll do a nice job over it though, and that makes me very excited!

Anyway, that’s why I ended up going with another series I just happened to be rewatching with my siblings: Shinsekai Yori or From the New World, a bizarre dystopian sci-fi/fantasy series that I actually covered way back in, what, 2015? You can read my fresh, immature thoughts over the series here if you enjoy the prospect of knowing what young Takuto was like! *shudders as a single tear falls down face*

We have all heard this saying in some shape or form: “Life is a journey.” We travel down a path hoping that we reach a goal or destination, but the travel in getting there isn’t always easy. Along the way, we encounter some personal struggles. It is in those moments where we must overcome an adversity to complete our journey or take a different route or path instead. In this month’s OWLS post, we will be discussing the personal journeys of pop culture creators, icons, and characters. We will explore the journeys that these characters went through, discuss the process and experiences they had on their journeys, acknowledge what they discover about themselves, or share our own personal journeys.

Seeing as how I’ve already covered the series before, this won’t be my typical review and life reflection 2-in-1 post. Instead, I’ll dive straight into the heart of the matter and dedicate this entire analytical post toward the story’s main character, a girl whom we follow from the youth of adolescence to the ripe ages of adulthood—and all the messiness in between. Thanks Mel for the adventurous prompt this month, and Lyn for turning such a simple word into a universe of thought worth exploring!

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A brief discussion on the 25-episode fall 2012 anime “From the New World,” animated by A-1 Pictures, directed by Masashi Ishihama, and based on Yusuke Kishi’s  novel of the same name. Specifically, this will be a light character essay on the main female lead, Saki Watanabe. What she learns over the course of her journey—and more importantly, what she does with this new, scary knowledge—stands as attest to both humanity’s innate barbarity and its determination to pursue justice through truth—even if the truth can be the cruelest thing of all. 

Spoilers will be marked, although you should just do yourself a favor and watch this series!

A Preface to the Madness

Shinsekai Yori tells the unique coming-of-age story of Saki and her friends as they journey to grow into their roles in the supposed utopia. Accepting these roles, however, might not come easy when faced with the dark and shocking truths of society, and the impending havoc born from the new world.

(Source: MyAnimeList)

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Adolescence

Rules, Roles, Law and Order, Crime and Punishment


We open this story of a young girl and her five precious friends growing up in the 31st century with the induction of Saki Watanabe into society. Her psychic powers are sealed away only to be released back to her a moment later, perhaps to prove that the Ethics and Education Committees had absolute control of the average citizen’s entire life from the start. Made up by select adult village members of Kamisu 66 and the surrounding areas, these councils govern not only the flow of power, but of knowledge, too. A small population living in an idyllic area holding power above all, culling the weakest in education, and secretly disposing any child that failed to fit the mold—that was the true reality. While times were peaceful then, fear still snuck its way into Saki’s heart when one of her friends suddenly disappeared one day. “She was always a bit frail. Maybe the trickster cat got her?” Thus began Saki’s series of revelations, heartache, and confusion in the dark.

Rather than a sci-fi action show about revolution or a drama full of romance, From the New World is more a commentary on the fallacies of conservatism and how a society can actually be harmed by perpetuation and stagnation. This first arc happily entertains us with games of clay rollers and paper dolls, but also frightens us with things we do not know, cannot explain, and cannot comprehend, much like what we experience during childhood. “If only I had known ‘this,’ or if only I had prevented ‘that’ none of this would’ve happened.” A story told in flashback as a first person narrative, Saki reflects on how painful her youth really was now that she knows the truths surrounding her innocent circumstance.

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The foreshadowing builds when Saki and the rest of Group One (comprised of her closest friends, the other main characters) venture off the main path into forbidden territory during a school camping trip. Together, they enjoy their friendship and freedom, rowing past the safe areas in search of monsters, but what they find is much worse than what they imagined: a False Minoshiro, a walking digital library of information disguised as a creature of nature. At the children’s’ threatening request, the False Minoshiro leaks startling info regarding the world around them, such as how their society came to be and the violence and bloodshed humanity had encountered in the past millennium. Scarred and left in utter disbelief, the oriented narrative of history proves itself a guiding theme through this shocking discovery.

Then, the hero descends into the underworld; a clan of monster rats, a lower race of rat people that look up to humans as gods for their incredible powers, captures Saki and Satoru. And as fate would have it, it was there in that forest where they met Squealer, a pathetic little monster rat who spoke their language and helped them escape. Setting the groundwork for everything to come, adult Saki closes out the adolescence arc reminiscing on their ill-fated meeting not with anger and hatred, but a bitter regret for her own ignorance.

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The Teenage Years

Independence, Self-Advancement, Personality, Free Will


Beginning with scenes of teenagers of the same gender holding hands and openly making out on the grass, this next arc ushers in new emotions besides fear: deceit, desire, malice, envy, lust, and love. Just as the False Minoshiro predicted, humans, like their genetic chimpanzee counterparts the bonobos, seek passionate love as a coping mechanism for immense stress relief, hence the sudden changes in behavior. This sexual awakening causes Saki’s inner love and admiration for her friend Maria to develop into a serious relationship; the same goes for Satoru and Shun, and poor Mamoru is left out with unrequited feelings for Maria, ultimately leading to the group’s self-destruction.

– SPOILERS AHEAD – 

Hiding his inability to accurately control his psychic powers, Shun transforms into a karmic demon, or runaway esper, and meets his fate like how the adults taught them to in school: solitary confinement and suicide. His sacrifice saves civilization, but Saki and Satoru are left broken with voids echoing in their hearts. Sometimes we get left behind—but what’s worse is when we have to leave behind others.

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Despite practicing using his psychic powers every day in hopes of both not falling behind the others and getting Maria’s attention, Mamoru’s efforts are not enough. He flees the village, knowing full well that two visits by the trickster cat means certain death. Terrifying thoughts of his well-being race through Group One’s minds, and although they find him salvaged from the snow by a wild monster rat, they know that the matter of simply returning him to the village is out of the question. Bidding farewell, Maria promises to watch over Mamoru in the unknown icy landscape, and the pain of being away from Maria devastates Saki. Did Mamoru let society down, or did society let him down? Saki’s ironclad resolve to change her world begins to take shape—something must be done.

– END OF SPOILERS – 

To top it all off, prior to Mamoru’s departure Saki is met by the mentor, the head of the Ethics Committee (and Satoru’s grandmother) Tomiko Asahina, who shielded Saki and her friends from disposal by the Education Committee for knowing about their true history. Eyeing Saki for her strong mental stability as well as qualities of a leader, Tomiko seeks Saki as her successor. But Tomiko’s knowledge of humanity’s history timed with the revelation as to her sudden memory loss leaves Saki beyond disturbed. Torn between doing what was best for her people, herself, and her long-lost friends, Saki’s youthful days came to an end with the return of an old acquaintance . . .

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Adulthood

Interdependence, Empathy, Intimacy, Self-Awareness, Wise Counsel


– SPOILERS AHEAD – 

Squealer, now the self-proclaimed Yakomaru, has elevated in status from lowly Robber Fly Colony slave to its commander. With their clan’s queen shackled and practically imprisoned, Yakomaru was able to set up a two-house diet similar to humanity’s government. He deceived other clans and conquered them, subverting his intentions when questioned by the board of monster rat management, of which Saki now belongs. His armies were massive, his weapons were civilized, and his speech was greatly improved. In other words, he was ready for his next target.

– END OF SPOILERS – 

By this point, we, along with Saki, had born witness to humanity’s miracles and carnage alike. At last, we’d understood that rebellious and reformative elements are the biggest interior threats, and that exploitation of those perceived as inferior beings is a grave and serious crime. We’d been tricked time and time again by Squealer, but were we doomed to repeat what our elders did before us? What had we learned? What made this time different?

Joy and sorrow. Loss and loneliness.

Palpitation and stagnation. History and evolution.

Past and future. Death and rebirth. Fear and freedom.

But above all, we’ve understood that to feign ignorance is the greatest crime of all. We can’t keep blaming people for their shortcomings, but instead should help guide them in becoming better. Corruption breeds from within when we close off our minds and our hearts to new peoples and ideas, and while we are weak when we are desperate, we are strong when it counts. People are twisted, easily corrupted, and worst of all, easily scared. To tear the world apart is easy; to put it all back together, not so much—that is what I’ve learned from Saki’s journey.

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A Journey Through Horror and Calamity

“It is always darkest underneath the lamp.” — Old Proverb


Together, we’ve embarked on one of the greatest journeys ever conceived, and I believe it is such because, at its core, From the New World is the story of humanity. Of us, and the terrible, absolutely horrifying things we have done and will continue to do should we look away from the truth. Often, it is closer than we think. Maria once told Saki that “Sometimes, the truth is the cruelest thing of all,” and that “Not everyone could bear it” as easily as she did. Oh, how right she was.

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And now here we are, at the end of the madness and frustration with little chance of success, yet still a sliver of hope. To kill, or to be killed—that and so much more is the subject of the final episode, and I’ll save the rest of it for you to discover on your own. Culminating into a genius story of fearing the unknown and the darkness within us all, From the New World comes right out and says “The one we should be most afraid of is ourselves.” I hope both its sheer violent nature and resounding messages of hope will stick with you, too, for a long time to come. Because this one’s not just an anime—it is a lesson on the human spirit: a cautionary tale for all those in life we change, and all those who change us.

“We have to change our way of thinking if we really want to change the future.” And to those ends, we must safeguard our hearts with an imagination great enough to change everything.

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Imagination has the power to change everything.Final line of From the New World


Afterword

I had to leave out SO MUCH STUFF in order to make it suitable for all readers, and even then, I couldn’t explain some of Saki’s developments without mentioning a couple major spoilers! Sheesh! I’ll never win. Anyway, that’s From the New World in a nutshell . . . NOT. There’s so much more to this incredible masterpiece, and I do hope you get around to this 25-episode thrill ride some day. I’d love to read any of your thoughts about this post in the comments, and if you have seen From the New World, you ought to let me know what you thought of the series! This post is absolute PROOF that I could go on forever about how great it truly is, and how phenomenal Saki is as a protagonist! Seriously, it was such a pleasure getting to revisit this hauntingly beautiful title.

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This concludes my August 7th entry in the OWLS “Journey” blog tour. Shay (Anime Reviewer Girl) went right before me with a video about the adventurous spirit of the Pokemon franchise which you can watch right here! Now, look out for blogger buddy  Matthew Castillo (Matt-in-the-Hat) with a post on Naruto‘s Jiraiya this Thursday, August 9th! Thanks for reading such a long post, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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The End of Hope: Despair Conquers All in Danganronpa 3 | OWLS “Movement”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, you might be new to this place. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, and welcome to my anime cafe!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s fifth monthly topic for 2018, “Movement,” I wanted to dive deep into despair with the Danganronpa franchise, specifically its “third” anime adaptation, Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School – Despair Arc. In today’s world where chaos is on the rise, spreading fear and horror through resurging domestic violence, manipulation of mass media, and most notably, school shootings, I couldn’t find a more relevant title befitting the catastrophic future we could potentially end up living ourselves—unless we stop this war on terror.

We join movements, organizations, and systems that align with our own personal values and beliefs. Sometimes we join these groups because they believe in doing good and making positive changes in society. However, these movements can turn sour when a dictator arises behind such good intentions, revealing perhaps a hidden agenda of oppression. It is in these groups that individuals start to shape their identities by either questioning their values and beliefs or conforming to the system. This month, we will be examining “real and/or fictitious” movements, organizations, or systems in anime and other pop culture mediums, and the positive and negative effects they have on individuals and society.

I’ve literally been dying to use Danganronpa in one of these OWLS posts, and seeing as how nobody ever talks about this epic third season, I think it’s about time that happened! (For the sake of a spoiler-free post, I will be omitting the series’s second half, the Future Arc. Call it saving a fantastic series for another day.) Thanks Lyn and Auri for the prompt!

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A brief discussion on the 11-episode summer 2016 anime “Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School – Despair Arc,” followed by its 1-episode “Hope” finale, animated by Lerche, directed by Motoo Fukuoka and Seiji Kishi, and based on the original story by Kazutaka Kodaka. 

AND YES, I HAVE DONE THE IMPOSSIBLE BY MAKING A SPOILER-FREE DANGANRONPA POST, SO ENJOY~! 

Beginning of the End – Despair Arc

Tragedy, Madness, Terror, Unpredictability

The Mastermind of despair had already destroyed the world come the end of the Killing School Life endured by the disassembled (but not completely hopeless) 78th class of Hope’s Peak High. Encompassed by the franchise’s first game/anime adaptation, this zany and bitter series of mutual killings was (believe it or not) the horrific climax to an even darker, more messed up series of unfortunate events. And that’s where the Despair Arc comes in: it aims to chronicle the reign of terror staged by the one and only Mastermind, how their plans easily came to fruition, and the thrill they received because of it.

Simply put, what begins as a tale of hope ends in utter despair. And that’s what makes it one of the coolest anime to ever exist. 

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Unlike practically all of the other Danganronpa entries, Despair Arc is one of the very few to not feature a survival game of sorts. Yet, it’s still that kind of series in which its perilous situations—to your own disbelief—only grow worse, and worse, and worse . . . At this point in the story, the series’s iconically dooming mascot Monokuma doesn’t exist, so how does Despair Arc get its own fix of insanity? For the Mastermind, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!

  1. School violence committed by beloved students
  2. Growing disparity between the talented and the talentless
  3. Inability of higher-ranking officials to properly dispute social problems

That’s all it takes to watch the world crumble—and to think the Mastermind became Despair itself by manipulating their followers’ hatred, jealousy, fears, guilt, anything, really, through humor and charm. I know what you’re thinking—those three issues hit scarily close to home, don’t they? No, it’s definitely true. All around us, the world of this despair-infested fictional setting is slowly creeping into reality. Carnage is spreading. People are being unfairly treated and lambasted for factors beyond their own control. Nuclear war looms on the ember horizon. Great tensions that have lasted decades are about to bust loose with a fireworks show of death and depravity.

And the worst part is that we’re all just standing around watching it happen.

Despair is on the rise, and we’re only letting the movement grow.

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While Despair Arc does rely on a couple cheap gimmicks to speed the Mastermind’s course of evil along (surely to accommodate the dreadfully short 11-episode length), the series takes the most wild, absurd, almost painfully realistic ideas and runs far with them. Very, very far. Somehow, Kodaka has written such a brilliant story that starts off all shining and bright and ends in utter ruin, perfectly encapsulating the range of human spirit at the onset fear and anarchy. After watching, you almost want to call the shot:

This is the future our own kids will be living unless we take action NOW. 

It’s a terrifying thought, unbelievable at times, and that is exactly why—despite being a mere prequel to an incredibly exciting, well-written sagaDespair Arc serves more as a warning to the path this global society is currently treading. Although a stretch, nearly all of the horrific crimes committed in this series can be, or have already been, reproduced in our own lives, right at this very minute.

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It may not be spear-headed by a single bored high school student, but all around us, people are rapidly growing more cynical, distrustful, and hateful than they have ever been. Despair is at an all-time high, and what’s even worse is that some sick individuals out there actually get off on this madness. The seeds of hopelessness have long-since been sown by humanity, and in just a few short years, months, or even days, the despair will blossom magnificently.

And only then will you be wishing you did something.

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Hope is a state of harmony. Righteous and bright, and all that other BS. Despair is more fun. And it grows so quickly. Like mushrooms, over a single night. Despair is messy and confusing. And it ain’t much of a picky eater. It devours love, hate, the whole shebang. Despair takes the plans you’ve put all your faith into and rips ’em to shreds. You may think you’re above petty human desires, but you need Despair. When it’s calling the shots, all bets are off. You don’t wanna be bored outta your skull for the rest of forever, do ya? — Junko Enoshima


Birth of a New Light – Hope Arc

Aspiration, Optimism, Dreams, Stability

Long after The Tragedy of Hope’s Peak High, The Twilight Syndrome Murder Case, The Worst, Most Despair Inducing Incident in the History of Mankind, the Killing School Life, the Killing School Trip, and the Final Killing Game, AT LAST, the skies begin to clear up. Was it the proper ending to a masterful franchise that fans had been anticipating for several years? Well, maybe it wasn’t exactly everything that we wanted (or deserved), but thematically, all points reconnect and converge at this final crossroad splendidly. At the end of a dreadfully prolonged saga of despair suffocating what little justice remains, hope ultimately comes out on top—and brighter than ever.

There’s something infectious about being cynical for fun. We do it all the time on the internet, making sad jokes that mock the hilariousness of our pitiful lives. “We are not strong,” or at least as strong as we think we are, and we enjoy a mutual sense of humor in this fallacy. This emotion that plagues our very lives with pessimism—this negative philosophy that we can neither change the tides of destiny, nor amount to anything in the end—such is true despair.

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Naegi’s struggle to remain hopeful in one desolate situation after another brought him to his knees. But unlike Future Foundation’s Munakata (or most of today’s political leaders for that matter), he still looked up to those around him, believing that although despair teaches us hardship, hope preaches harmony. Despair may have relished the past and the present, but Naegi’s unwavering hope paved way for the future—his movement of hope snowballed into what can only be described as a truly contagious effort.

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Hope is just way too stubborn to die. Despair can win the battle, but never the war. — Monaca Towa

All this and more is why I want you to think about how you approach communication with others. Do you start with a self-deprecating joke, or perhaps approach a conversation with praise or positivity for the given topic? The next time you log on to the internet—be it Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, forums, chat rooms, or other social media—do try your best to believe that there is still good in this wild world. We have the power to pick our battles, thus we should better learn when to restrain, and when to take matters into our own hands. Hope is but a simple four-letter word, and yet it has the power to shape generations, the life we live now, and the future that awaits us.

What that future looks like ultimately lies in our strength to fight the darkness, together. 

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Hard as we try, none of us can see the future. The horizon we walk toward is always obscured. The future’s always hazy. Hope and Despair mingle. We can’t always tell which is which. It’s strange. Sometimes terrifying. Still though, if all you do is sit and wait, nothing happens. The trick is to take it one step at a time. See, you don’t have to know the future to move forward. Just walk with your memories. Look up at the sky, and say to yourself, “There’s always Hope for tomorrow.” — Makoto Naegi


Afterword

The entire Danganronpa franchise is incredibly dark, creative, intense, vulgar, and tons of fun to both play and watch. As such, it’s no surprise that I award Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School with the certified “Caffe Mocha” rating. Especially with the Despair Arc, the series’s ability to not only account for all the nitpicky details, but string them together in a logical, story-telling format is admirable (even if some of the methods are a tad sub-par compared to, say, the second game’s beautifully corrupt and twisted ways). Aside from maybe Fate/ZeroDespair Arc is the greatest “beginning of the end” prequel anime to ever be written. Unlike all other told-from-zero stories, there is no happy ending to be found here, unless of course, you’re rooting for the Mastermind.

A bloody masterpiece of the whodunnit murder mystery genre, Danganronpa 3 tackles the near impossible and pulls it off with flying colors (and a lot of pink blood). I could go on and on about how much I love Lerche’s clean game-to-anime stylistic transfer, as well as Kodaka’s story, Masafumi Takada’s soundtrack, and ALL the damn characters, but alas! Perhaps for another post!

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This concludes my May 23rd entry in the OWLS “Movement” blog tour. Gloria (The Nerdy Girl News) went right before me and wrote about the living differences between humans and robots, and what truly makes us human in the anime Beatless, a series that I’ve been meaning to check out since it started airing. Gloria is new to OWLS, so go give her some love! Now, look out for another new member, Dylan (DynamicDylan) over on YouTube, with a vid about the great Gundam Seed set to air tomorrow, May 24th! Thanks for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Devilman Crybaby – Ugly Tears, Bleeding Hearts, & The Pain of Modern Tragedy | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 10-episode winter 2018 anime “Devilman: Crybaby,” produced by studio Science SARU (and Netflix), directed by Masaaki Yuasa, written by Ichiro Okouchi, and based on the manga by Go Nagai. 

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A Wild Night Out

Akira Fudo is a crybaby. He’s always been, and he always will be. Akira’s high school career takes a trip to the wild side when his best friend from many years ago, Ryou Asuka, suddenly reenters Akira’s life. This surprise reunion excites Akira, but unfortunately, Ryou isn’t back so the two can play on the playground again. Instead, he informs Akira that hiding amongst the shadows of their picture-perfect reality are monstrous demons, and that soon the demons will revive to reclaim the world from the humans. To combat their brute, supernatural strength, Ryou has a plan: to fuse a human with a demon.

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Those who conquer their “literal” innermost demons can master the power over them. And thus, after violently loosing his innocence at an infamous nightclub rave suspiciously titled the “Sabbath,” Akira becomes Devilman, a being with the power of a demon and the heart of a human. Finally seeing the darkness that humans have hid for so long, Akira feels blessed to now be able to save others, but more so cursed because he will likely never be understood ever again. But he has Ryou, and for Akira, that’s enough to make the pain worth suffering. Or so he hopes.

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A Tragedy Fit for Our Time

By mere story alone, Crybaby is a masterpiece. Having heard the crazy amounts of praise that have been circulating already for a couple weeks now, this should be no surprise. It starts at zero, at everyday life for a young boy and his relay mates, and quickly escalates into a bloody, traumatic, world-ending experience for both the characters and the viewers. As a standalone piece of fiction, it’s a modern tragedy made fit for the decade—complete with its OWN FREAKIN’ CHORUS in the form of some swaggy J-rappers—a series that is and should be celebrated for the, might I say, “daredevil” tale it sets out to tell. So many countless symbolic, societal, and sexual metaphors make the story incredibly compelling, and the religious undertones work wonders in creating this gritty, larger-than-life epic.

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And the best part of all is that the series isn’t just “depressing” to be called tragic—rather, it lives up to the classical standards of Greek tragedy by existing to A) prove the faults in our own lives, B) present a heroic attempt at handling them, and C) leave us with a cathartic end to cleanse the insanity that just befell the cast. It’s a masterful formula from the humble beginning through to its apocalyptic end, and as the media outlet Polygon states, the finale is “beautiful, devastating perfection.”

The only [minor] problem with a story of this magnitude is that Crybaby has very little time to tell it: only ten episodes, to be exact. While the pacing for the first several episodes feels spot-on, there is a significant push, particularly in the last two episodes, that does seem rather hectic. To be fair, however, the gruesome content and big reveals in episodes nine and ten ARE time sensitive; dragging these plot twists and dramatic developments out beyond an episode’s time would ruin their effects. Besides, perhaps that rushed sense of mayhem is what contributes to the explosive, catastrophic nature of the Devilman franchise.

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Akira and Ryou: Cuter When They’re Young

As far as characters are concerned, I won’t go into much detail simply because half of the thrill stems from witnessing just who some of these characters really are, and exactly what they will eventually become as the plot edges further and further on borderline insanity. Akira Fudo’s deal with the devil surprises all those around him, sure, but his grotesque change conjures up more mental conflict than physical ailment. He’s honestly a gift to mankind who doesn’t belong in this cruel, cruel world, and as he teeters on the edge of his own humanity—of a dying hope vs. an unflagging despair—he realizes that, at the darkest roots of their heart, people can be even more vile, disgusting, and sinful than any demon to roam the planet. Compared to his cute, scrawny self at the series’s beginning, the superior antihero Devilman that Akira becomes is stronger in nearly every way—all except for that tender, still-broken human heart of his.

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Ryou’s fluffy, blonde-bowled, bishounen design may seem inviting, but don’t let that charismatic baby face fool you: underneath that puffy white coat is a deadly machine gun and cunning wit, both which are fully loaded at all times. From that first smooth car ride Ryou and Akira share together, you already get the feeling that Ryou is scheming something (as if the glaring camcorder he films on 24/7 wasn’t evidence enough). Still, he is doomed to a fate just as tragic as Akira’s—if not more so. Ryou is one baaaaaad boi, but I loved his development way too much to hate him.

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I Don’t Know How to Rate The Animation . . . 

I’m not kidding. Devilman: Crybaby has some of the downright UGLIEST animated sequences I’ve ever seen. From the hilarious attempt at depicting just how “speedy” devilmen can run to the blobby, disproportionate, and completely uncensored sex scenes, by visual standards, Crybaby is not a pretty-looking show.

But does an anime need to be “pretty” to have it’s own beauty? Absolutely not. Or, well, at least Crybaby says so.

You see, the series has this certain edge to it, a certain grit that is hard to explain. The animation outlines, for instance, are cleanly drawn and look quite fresh (faces in particular). But then you have the action scenes, which are just SO freakin’ bizarre to watch. Like, I couldn’t even tell you if some scenes were, in fact, “poorly animated” because the ENTIRE SERIES has that same exact look. The lack of detail in light-hearted moments (like Akira’s high school, or his quiet past) compared to the almost sickening actions of other demons and humans alike gave form to a style that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s as if the animation is “untamed,” or “knows no bounds”—yet it all flows well as its own style within the context of the story. Not to mention that the compact 10-episode run and smart directing allow for each and every shot to carry some sort of secondary meaning, however unnecessarily violent or sexual or BOTH the risqué presentation seems to people.

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I, for one, felt that all of the overly grotesque scenes brutally tread some sacred ground of entertainment that hasn’t been touched in decades with a bloody tank. It’s a unique visual style that I frankly haven’t seen anywhere else, and it was depicted brilliantly.

But I Know I Loved the OST!

As I am currently writing this, the Devilman: Crybaby soundtrack is humming in the background for inspiration. What about it is so special? Well, it has great balance; it’s epic (“D.V.M.N.” – Main theme), startling (“Miki The Witch”), playful (“Wishy Washy”), intense (“Anxiety”), entrancing (“Beautiful Silene”), heart-pounding (“Smells Blood”), uplifting (“Prayer”), cathartic (“Pathetique”), and so much more. Composer Kensuke Ushio (Ping Pong The Animation, Space Dandy, A Silent Voice) knows how to write excellent orchestral/synth pieces, I tell ya!

There’s a little tune that is repeated throughout the entire soundtrack that can be any of the emotions listed above, so long is the right instrumentals is paired with the mood. My personal favorite IS a reprise of this gorgeous melody line, and it just so happens to be the very last song played in the series, the End of Devilman: Crybaby, so-to-speak. It’s appropriately titled “Crybaby,” and if it doesn’t move your heart to the point of tears, forcing you to recall Akira, Ryou, Miki, and Miko’s shared heartache and tragedy, then I’m not sure what will.

Oh yeah, there’s also a remake of the original Devilman opening included with the soundtrack, which, if you SOMEHOW haven’t heard yet, is SUCH A BOP HOLY SHIT. I STILL listen to it religiously.

The Destructive Darkness Within Us All

By Devilman:Crybaby‘s end, there is arguably no sadness left for the characters, no more tears to cry. It should feel complicated, as the amount of despair is simply undefinable. But instead, all you can wonder is how things got to this point, and how what you witnessed was, in fact, the end brought upon by humanity. The ending is completely unfair, yet it balances the scales with terrifying perfection. You could feel sad, or depressed, or enraged at how BLIND people can be, but instead, all of it feels pointless, as if nihilism just inducted you to suddenly became one of its patron saints.

The ending of Devilman: Crybaby is indeed a very empty one. And that very catharsis, that feeling of emptiness and pointlessness, is what lies at the heart of a well-written tragedy. 

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As happy and sad memories alike resurface for these two boys, Akira and Ryou come to realize that, without one another, life before friendship was boring and often cruel. It was lonely, and it was meaningless. But through the ugly tears they cry, the bleeding hearts they endure, and the tragic fates that they cease fighting against, the two learn to finally accept love, for it is really love, not hate, which makes the world go round. And so to tear up the ENTIRE world just to tell this seemingly small message—Yes, such is what completes the horrifically tragic Devilman: Crybaby as a modern masterpiece.

You’re crying too, Ryou-chan. You’re crying too . . .  – Akira Fudo

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Afterwords

Devilman: Crybaby is raw, brutal, yet oddly honest about its understanding of cause and effect and the power of compassion. It doesn’t forget to throw in a few laughs, though. As the community has already remarked, this show is ABSOLUTELY NOT for the faint of heart. This series showcases the worst aspects of humanity—of vengeance, overindulgence, paranoia, and immorality—and for many, that can be hard to watch (plus, it’s like, mega gory and sexual). You’ll be asking yourself “WTF is this even real?” many times, and you’ll feel absolutely disgusted with humanity. But have faith that there is a reason for the madness. I walked into this action series not knowing a lick about the Devilman franchise (aside from the old dub clips, heh heh) and obviously enjoyed the HELL out of it.

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If such disturbing material doesn’t bother you, then I’m sure you’ll also enjoy this wild ride through the bloody and the occult, as there are a fair amount of life lessons to be learned. I’m giving Devilman: Crybaby the honorary “Caffe Mocha” title because of its unexpectedly high emotional impact (you gotta love the indirect End of Eva references, too)! There’s a particular scene in I think episode 8 or 9 that absolutely wrecked me, and the powerful ending . . . wow . . . I’m sure I won’t be forgetting about that for a long time. If you are thinking about watching this anime, or have already seen it, you HAVE to let me know what you thought about it! I’m dying to dig the series back up, even though much of the hype has died down, haha! Let me know if I did a decent job by hitting the like button (I appreciate it!), and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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In This Corner of the World: A History Lesson on Hope & Healing | OWLS “Warmth”

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 twelfth monthly topic, “Warmth,” I decided to incorporate what would have been my standard review of In This Corner of the World into a sympathetic discussion on the hardships of war and loss, and how love gives us the strength to continue being compassionate through even the worst of times.

It’s the season of joy, thankfulness, and love. This month’s topic is “Warmth.” Whether it is spending time with family members during the holiday season or with that special someone during New Year’s Eve, we will be discussing moments in anime and pop culture media that convey a feeling of happiness in our hearts. During times of struggles, we look towards the things that matter to us as a source of strength, hope, and happiness. We hope you enjoy this round of posts and that you, too, will have a wonderful holiday season!

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I’ve nothing else to say for the intro! Thank you Lyn for twelve consecutively thoughtful topics to ponder each month—I’ve enjoyed writing for all of them!


A brief spoiler-free discussion on the fall 2016 anime film “In This Corner of the World,” produced by studio MAPPA, directed by Sunao Katabuchi (“Black Lagoon”), based on Fumiyo Kouno’s award-winning manga of the same name.

New Life, New Opportunities

In 1944, life for Suzu Urano starts slipping through her tiny calloused fingers. For one, she is married to Shuusaku Houjou, a reserved young clerk, and is sent off to the small town of Kure in Hiroshima where her husband works at the local naval base. Now living with the Houjou family, Suzu must adjust to her new life, which is made especially difficult since she quickly becomes an essential meal-making, chore-doing crutch for the family. She does all of the daily housework during the tough wartime conditions, and the familial disconnect Suzu experiences between her sister-in-law—timed with the regular air raids—makes both the political and household climates feel like battlefields.

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When intense bombings by the U.S. military finally reach Kure in 1945, devastation to Hiroshima and its townsfolk, as well as its culture, forever shake the nation, and Suzu’s life is permanently impacted by the tragedies. “Much is gained by living in Kure, but with war, many things cherished are also lost.” It is only through the greatest perseverance and courage that Suzu manages to continue caring for those around her, and to truly live life to the fullest.

“Torn apart by war. Brought together by love.”

By its end, In This Corner of the World is a somber ode to history, wherein the tragedies of WWII’s Hiroshima bombing are experienced firsthand by the main characters. But before the bomb is dropped, the entire first half of the film winds us back to the 1920s, Suzu’s peaceful childhood. It starts this way to not only show Suzu’s developing story from beginning to end, but also to create the picturesque vision of pre-war times in Japan, specifically Hiroshima and its surrounding towns. As every 5 or 10-minute interval—marked by on-screen dates—brings us closer to that horrific day, August 6, 1945, your stomach starts churning in dreadful anticipation; you know what’s about to happen, and you’re almost left disbelieving how Suzu’s whole life could just fall apart in an instant.

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Akin to African author Achebe’s world-renowned novel, Things Fall Apart, which was written to show that life, law, and liberty already existed before the white man saw the need to organize, colonize, and, get this, “save” Africa, Fumiyo Kouno’s story serves to inform the viewer about the other side of the Pacific. You are put through the trials and tribulations of Suzu’s daily life, from learning to properly make a meal using rations to understanding the familial benefits of marriage, in order to hopefully understand that despite their differing customs, both the attackers and the attacked have things they want to protect.

I set up a pretty overwhelming historical background here, but the film really isn’t that political at all. Rather, its a drama centered around one little girl’s average life during WWII, and how no matter the global circumstances plaguing a household cause ruin and chaos, life goes on. That’s right, life will always go on. There are always things to be fixed, clothes to be washed, and food to be cooked. Suzu understand this, and that’s why she faces each painstaking day blessed that there’s still a roof above her family’s head. In This Corner of the World, though rife with tragedy, is ultimately a heartwarming tale of Suzu’s prevailing love and healing hands.

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A Hero at Home: Suzu Urano

Characterized as tiny, optimistic, and a bit aloof at times, Suzu Urano goes through great lengths to help in anyway she can, even if her assistance comically ends up backfiring in the end. She’s also incredibly creative, shown in both her beautiful landscape sketches and paintings, as well as when she wields her knowledge of samurai food rationing to construct some, at the very least, “interesting” dishes. Her artistic talents act as a sort of sanctuary for her, and it is through her simple yet gorgeous works that she meets many new friends and even potential lovers. But like all artistic endeavors, chores come first, and slowly you start to see the hobbies that she once did for herself fade away to make room for aiding the family.

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On top of working her hardest around the house (her efforts eventually exceeding those of everyone around her), Suzu is a girl, a soon-to-be-woman who undergoes all of the same treatments that Japanese women received during the 1900s. From stricter expectations in the kitchen and household to family-controlled courtship, rarely is Suzu the master of her own fate. Yet somehow, Suzu makes the best of what is given to her, for merely being allowed to experience the tranquility and joys of everyday life in Kure is enough to give her hope and purpose. Honestly, what a woman!

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Suzu only speaks out once or twice in the entire film—remember, this is a film that chronicles Suzu’s ENTIRE life! She many not be honest to herself all the time, frequently disregarding her own happiness and well-being for the sake of her family and her nation’s pride, but Suzu knows how to fight the good fight, as well as when to keep pushing on through the toughest of hardships. Between watching her frugal attempts at fitting in with her husband’s family, her struggle to adjust to life in Kure, and the tragedies of war she later encounters, it feels as if you physically and emotionally cannot go through as much heartache that is thrust upon her and make it out ok. Yet Suzu manages to bandage up her scars and continue making herself useful to everyone. The warmth she brings to the war-torn world embodies the purest light of hope in a time of darkness.

Visually, the Softest Movie I’ve Ever Seen

“It was like Studio Ghibli meets the Peanuts and together they talk about some pretty serious stuff.” This was my immediate reaction to the film which I posted on Twitter, and I still stand by these words now. The backgrounds are painted so smoothly, giving off an immense sense of ease, and the magical watercolor touch just feels so right. Even the characters, for a lack of a better word, look so . . . “soft.” There’s a lack of detail in their physical features, but it’s their sometimes cute, sometimes sorrowful mannerisms and words that convey their true characters. Seeing characters this adorable almost feels wrong for the tone of the film’s second half where the air raids become prominent, but it somehow works altogether as one moving, breathing, snapshot of history.

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(If you watch the special feature clip “Hiroshima & Kure: Then & Now,” you’ll understand how and why it all looks so historically accurate; the attention to detail in re-creating several destroyed sites where famous architecture once stood was very commendable.)

The luscious animation is accompanied by equally gentle music, as kotringo’s (Rieko Miyoshi) soundtrack matches perfectly with the tone. At times uplifting, other times more tender or melancholic, tracks like “Kanashikute Yari Kirenai” or my personal favorite, the ED theme “Migite no Uta (みぎてのうた)” provide lovely messages to live by: “Even in this painful and broken world, there IS hope.”

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Learn From Fiction: Heartwarming Tenderness Comes From How We Live

It is stories like Suzu Urano’s that give us all the fuzziest feelings of contentment and comfort. But like all stories, they eventually end, and once they’re over, the books get placed back on the shelves, and the DVDs and Blu-rays are ejected from their players. And that’s it. It’s all just entertainment, anyway.

*If you’ve ever thought this, then you completely missed the point as to why certain works even exist in the first place.

All fiction is written with messages, no matter how significant or insignificant. With the case of In This Corner of the World, it’s to showcase the tragedies of war firsthand, and the devastation that comes with violence. That should’ve been apparent from the synopsis alone. Looking deeper, we can understand more big takeaways from the film:

  • Hardships exist everywhere—someone is always struggling
  • Protect family, for without it we are fundamentally alone
  • Gender roles can limit individuals from reaching their full potential
  • The youth of today ARE our future
  • With destruction comes the joy of rebirth
  • By rebuilding from the ground up, we build a stronger foundation than the one before it
  • Make the most of your life—you only get one, and it goes by incredibly fast
  • WE ALL have the choice to be happy or sad, rude or nice—live the way you want to
  • Be thankful for what the earth provides, and what you can do for it in return
  • And lastly, to quote The End of Evangelion, “Anywhere can be paradise, so long as you have the will to live”

Just LOOK AT ALL OF THOSE THINGS I CAME UP WITH. And that only took me a couple minutes of reflection.

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History will always be our greatest teacher

Authors, directors, artists, musicians—Creators improve on what skills they already have in order to teach us invaluable lessons about the human experience. They have the power to take all the world’s evil and tell us that life can be incredible, so long as we don’t repeat history’s mistakes. Don’t just watch a film: enjoy what it is trying to show you. Don’t just read a book: revel in the messages left in-between the lines. Take what you learn and monopolize on it! Essentially, BE the good in the world!

In This Corner of the World presents the catastrophic effects of humanity’s cruelty, savagery, and barbarity—yes, absolutely. But it also exists to tell us that through the ashes, we can rebuild; that we can be kind to others, even if they treat us harshly; that most of all, we have the choice to see the good in this wild, wicked, unfair world.

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As a race, we have this terrible tendency to appear on the wrong side of history (if you know what I mean). The title In This Corner of the World refers to both Suzu’s tiny Kure house on the hill AND a state of harmony achieved by acknowledging and balancing the positives and negatives that life throws at us. A heartbreaking historical ballad for those we have wronged, and the terrible things we have done, In This Corner of the World is here to say that life goes on, and that as long as we try to understand one another, hope and a warm heart will always allow us to move forward.

We can love. We can rebuild. We can move on. But we’ll never truly forget.

There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self. – Aldous Huxley


This can be a hard film to watch, but it all depends on how seriously you decide to take it. It has several comedic points of value in it, as well as a very cute presentation style, but don’t let those two aspects close you off from In This Corner of the World‘s subtle brilliance and emotional depth. As a powerful, touching work of art, this film is awarded the “Caffe Mocha” seal of approval, a rating for those special titles that I consider to be a must-watch!

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This concludes my December 20th entry in the OWLS “Warmth” blog tour. Arria Cross of Fujinsei went right before me and expressed her sincere gratitude to all of her fellow readers, bloggers, and OWLS members in one emotional, heartwarming post. Now, look out for fellow aniblogger LitaKino (Lita Kino Anime Corner) with a surprise celebratory birthday video this Friday, December 22nd! Thank you so much for reading, from my first OWLS post in January to here at the end—I do hope you have enjoyed them, as I do really, really like writing them! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

The Heroic Spirit Manifesto (Anime Ver) | Cafe Talk

Hi guys, so it would appear that I’ve missed this deadline by quite awhile. This post is about two weeks late, in fact. I’ll be posting some sort of mid-May update here soon to caption what’s been going on and why I haven’t been posting (though you could probably guess). This way, I can avoid cluttering up the hero week celebration. Welcome to café talk . . . ?

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What was this post supposed to be about again?

That’s a good question, haha. Hero Week was ideally supposed to encompass my thoughts and reviews for four anime with heroes in them followed by a café talk to wrap everything up and conclude with a few of your guys’ thoughts.

Unfortunately, there were very few comments. On two posts, exactly zero. so I won’t be doing that part.

In huge part, this was all my bad. While I did get the first few reviews out on perfect schedule, I lacked the promotional qualities that would technically keep bringing people back. Little preparation went into setting up the “festivities.” In fact, I mainly set this all up as an excuse to review the recent flow of anime I had finished with heroes in them.

Another reason Hero Week fell pretty flat was – again, on my fault – the shows that I picked. ERASED was a good one, and it got the matching hits and comments it deserved. Since everyone has already talked about One Punch Man, I figured that it would attract little public eye. The hardest one to write, Yuki Yuna is a Hero, is the most obscure show on the list, and despite how much effort went into writing it, only a tiny handful of you checked it out — and that is FINE! As readers (and writers), we deem what we think is worth our time, and if it was worthwhile, we might even drop a like or a comment. As a content creator, I was a bit discouraged.

Then my dinky iPhone-published-on-the-spot My Hero Academia impressions post came out, and several of you rejoined the congregation. This was unexpected! While I didn’t feel it made up for the lack of activity on the previous ones, I was definitely happy to talk with all of you 🙂

So where does this leave us? I mean, why even bother? Because heroes should be celebrated, and also because I am NOT a quitter! I realize this was kinda a failed project (and I won’t rush into one like this again), but there were very important lessons learned during the process. Part of me is glad that it turned out like this just so that I can emerge even stronger and more knowledgeable about the whole ordeal. But enough about my pitfalls, let’s talk about what the heroic spirit means to some other popular anime (no spoilers)!

The Heroic Spirit Manifests in other Anime

Fate/Zero – Quite literally, the seven “heroic spirits” which are conjured up by the Holy Grail itself each contain their own ideology on heroism, some being more extreme than others. The majority believe, however, that heroes are leaders among the crowd, and they must continue to inspire their brethren in the pursuit of peace and triumph. They must be feared, awed, and worthy.

Attack on Titan – Heroes are hard to come by in this world overrun by gigantic zombies, but even those few reluctant heroes must spur comrades – and even humanity – to find the will to survive, and to be bold and brave during dark times.

Eden of the East – Twelve influential people are given the possibility change humanity for the better by transforming not only politics and economics, but also society itself. Though they all possess their own opinions on how the world should be saved, these heroes must give the average man or woman a sense of belonging and purpose in such an overwhelmingly crowded world.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – All magical girls seem to do is fight bad guys with sparkles and pink dust, but this dark fantasy’s twist adds extreme weight to the biz. Whether it’s fighting to purge your mind of troublesome thoughts, clashing with others who oppose your methods, or moving forward (or going back) to save the lives of the ones you love, heroes must make devastating sacrifices and bear terrible burdens in order to protect those who are precious.

 

A Certain Scientific Railgun – In this massive network of a city for academics, darkness lurks behind forgotten alleyways and inaccessible files. To eliminate surface crime and the unspeakable evils of power and curiosity, heroes must possess good judgment and an open personality to keep their dearest friends out of the chaos. Consequently, they also must be able to accept a helping hand when faced against extreme odds.

Guilty Crown – Being ordinary is just dandy, but when accidents so tremendous shake the very foundation of science and human health, heroes must arise to the occasion and step up to bat when potential is thrust upon them. And in their pinnacle depression, they must be able to accept the guilt of others by transforming shame into valuable experience.

The Rose of Versailles – A life of luxury comes at the expense of others’ suffering. When that suffering becomes inhumanly great and revolution ignites on the horizon, a hero of passion, charisma, and valor must understand both sides of the spectrum before taking a stance.

I could go on until we’ve covered nearly every anime I’ve watched, but I think you get the picture.

Hopefully now you can see that in ERASED, heroes must be able to overcome trial and error by empathizing with the past. Or that in One Punch Man, heroes can be any guy off the street so long as they have fun fighting for the good of the cause. Or how about in Yuki Yuna is a Hero, where heroes must be able to bear the pain of others, however intense, and handle loss in order to keep them truly safe.

I’d like to conclude with one of the heartiest anime I’ve come across thus far: My Hero Academia. Loaded with stereotypes and gimmicks so cheesy and redundant that we know the outcome of every scene — But we still love it, why? Because heroes must be able to inspire others to do good deeds for the cause itself. They’re not out to eliminate all evil in the world, but to spread enough positive vibes that outdo negative potential.

Watching Izuku Midoriya stumble during every training session and getting back up again is what fuels us to believe that he is a hero. We can relate to him and the other students and heroes alike. All Might himself has decided to pass on his quirk, the culmination of strength of previous holders, to Izuku, which is proof from the get-go that Izuku has the capacity to serve the world well.

All of the celebrity-like heroes in My Hero Academia have this cool edge to them (beyond the neat costumes and variety of superpowers), and watching them soar in and save the day fills us with this familiar sense of well-being — like there truly is someone out there fighting behind the scenes for all of us and boosting our drive to right our wrongs, find hope, and smile through the pain. All of this isn’t set out to rid the world of evil, but more in the hopes that one day, we can inspire those around us and the world to do wonderful things.

To bring all of this in full circle conclusion, I TASK EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU to comment below with an anime title and how the HEROIC SPIRIT manifests itself within the story or characters. It’s hard to go wrong, especially after the examples I listed, and I know that you have some interesting things to say on the matter. Upon submitting your comment, you will have completed Takuto’s hero training courseCongratulations, and thank you for celebrating Hero Week with me!

What do we have in Common? WE ARE HEROES!

If I Went Missing . . . ERASED | Hero Week Review

One Punch Man is Absurd, Out-of-this-World Fun! | Hero Week Review

Loss Has Little Meaning in Yuki Yuna | Hero Week Review

My Hero Academia (Eps. 1-5) Thoughts | Hero Week

Above are the Hero Week reviews just in case you missed them the first time around and wish to check them out and/or add something to them. Sorry again for the late finale (consider this a lesson learned for myself) and I can’t wait to see you in the comment party! We can still make this awesome 😀

– Takuto, your host

THIS IS WHY WE CAN (NOT) REDO | Comprehensive Review

Here lie my thoughts on the 2012 anime film “Evangelion: 3.33 You Can (Not) Redo,” also known as “Evangelion Theatrical Edition: Q Quickening,” produced by Studio Khara and Gainax, original story by Hideaki Anno. Specifically, this is a bit of a review, analysis, and diatribe . . . thing . . . over FUNimation Entertainment’s February 2nd, 2016 release of the prolonged English dub and translation. Be forewarned, we breech SPOILER TERRITORY, and this post will be rather lengthy and out-of-the-ordinary in comparison to my typical reviews. This compilation will (not) be for everyone, clearly, but if thus far you have enjoyed the musings of Takuto the host as a person, do consider taking the time to carefully read. I would greatly appreciate it.

While my Eva celebration concluded a week ago, I held off on this review. It’s not only hard to talk about from a statistical standpoint, but difficult to pass judgement on an emotional level. I think I’m finally ready to wrap this up, though. No spoiler, I enjoyed myself. However, my voicing of CONCERN for a franchise has NEVER been stronger than what is contained below – And I watched PMMM: Rebellion! For both of us to navigate this wasteland of crushed dreams and abundant thoughts, I’ll be dividing this into sections. Read parts of it, all of it, just the end, none of it – Whatever you’d like.

CG Evas never weighed so little! Also, best soundtrack to date!

This’ll be the easiest area to cover, as the quality of the Rebuild continues to impress. The dynamic perspectives in space, the desolate tone of old NERV HQ, the unbelievable action sequences, that godly piano scene, oh my!! I only hope that the last film (whenever it gets here, *sigh*) doesn’t rely so heavily on CG mapping because seriously, the entire first third of the series (which really feels like its own episode) is all CG, save for the characters. It’s not a bad thing, per say (the Mark.04’s last form looks like a shitty CG fan blade and the Wunder, Misato’s flagship not only lacks explanation for its abilities, but also looks dorky), I just remember when the Evas had so many moving CG parts and details, and now just a black line down the middle can replace that? Um, no. Also, not sure how I feel about the sharper face designs.

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Yeah . . . ten-year-old me might have been a fan, but now . . . 

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Unit-08 in the trailer in 2.22

 

What we actually got in 3.33. Yeah, it sucks.

This was from the trailer (not that we should trust them anymore) for the last film. Doesn’t it look kinda ugly?

And why are they now weightless?? Giant robots are flyin’ all over the place towards the end looking like sprinting drunk fools. Also, do you remember when beast mode was a special thing only Shinji could do in NGE and 1.11? Well, not only can Mari do it (2.22) but so can Asuka now *facepalms*. Is best mode just a gimmick now, because it’s not even cool, neither does it make sense. The animation otherwise is absolutely stunning, and I mean that with every sense of the word! I still hope Khara is saving the good stuff for last . . .

Shiro Sagisu has done it again, that is, knock the atmosphere of EVANGELION OUT OF THE PARK!!! This was probably my favorite part of the entire film, his epic and otherworldly soundtrack elevating the stakes on every scene. While I love the reprisal of his old stuff, his new pieces, full orchestra or melancholic piano, are not something to cast aside. “The Ultimate Soldier,” “The Wrath of God in All its Fury,” “God’s Gift,” and “Scarred and Battled” are all bone-chilling masterpieces. They add SO MUCH to the movie! While at first I was very disappointed with Hikaru Utada’s new ending theme “In the End (or Sakura Nagashi), as the anticipation from the first two blew me away, I have come to delight in this change of pace. As for the English dub, it too is excellent! Not sure why a translation took so long, but hey, the acting is wonderful, and it’s so great to hear Allison Keith as Misato and Tiffany Grant as Asuka once again.

Not the world we thought we knew: Reintroduction and Basic Summary

Following the cataclysmic Third Impact initiated by Shinji Ikari at the end of 2.22, 14 years of undefined strife have passed, leaving the Earth stained red. SEELE, revealed to be nearly crippled by mysterious attempts behind the scenes, has entrusted “World’s Best Dad” Gendo Ikari to carry out the remaining mission of returning mankind to a world free of human suffering and sin: Instrumentality. But Dr. Ikari has anticipated this, and instead proceeds with his own selfish plan of using the Evas to eradicate God in return for a reunion with his wife, Yui, who is revealed to be “trapped” inside the purple Unit-01.

Not all of the adults were very pleased with NERV’s true motives, however, and as a result Wille was born out of the crimson fires of rebellion. Headed by Misato, Ritsuko, three familiar NERV faces, and some new recruits, this “Will” is the only remaining organization fighting for the People.

While a decade and a half has transformed everyone around him (the “Curse of the Evas” preventing Mari and Asuka from physically aging, though), Shinji remains the same old idiot brat. He clearly still hates himself, and, upon hearing that he is no longer useful to anyone he loved AND that he failed to save his beloved Rei, fleets in anguish and rage.

Upon returning to old NERV headquarters, the third child encounters SEELE’s boy, Kaworu Nagisa. The majority of the film develops their intimate relationship, but when even more lies and secrets sneak their way out, Shinji once again mentally teeters on the brink of destruction, setting the stage for the beginning of the end of humanity.

The first ten minutes were fascinating – that space battle entranced me and left me dazed! What was so promising, however, became unexplained motives just for SHOCK VALUE. I wasn’t digging the Wunder or any of Wille’s musings at all simply because I don’t recognize anyone there! I can’t sympathize with something that has no feelings for its viewer! After, when we return to Shinji at NERV, things get a little more interesting but continue without regard to us watching. It was a deadly cycle of WTF after WHY?

This is how felt.

3.33 is set in a world gone to shit. Our favorite mentally-disturbed NERV-lings now grit their teeth and point guns at each other. I understand wanting to shock the individual through Shinji’s dusty reopened eyes, but there is a difference between sudden character development and dun-dun-dun PLOT TWIST. The tonal shift is absolutely effective, but everything just feels wrong with this movie. It’s as if I’m stuck in the worst dream of my life, yet waking up is impossible not because I’m trapped, but because this intangible hope still fascinates me; an urge to scratch an itch.

Despite my love for its previous “Angel of the week” setup and watching the robots fight, Evangelion has always been more than that – It’s an assessment of the human condition, how we cope with loss, and the relationship between troubled individuals . . . With the Rebuild, I almost have to discard both of these beliefs because, after reading the pamphlet the set came with, it read:

“Volume 3 plunges headlong into unknown territory as it presents the viewers with unconventional plot twists that they never could have imagined. At the same time, it brings together all the story elements as “Shinji Ikari’s Story.”

That second bit could possibly explain the entirety of this new direction. It’s “Shinji Ikari’s Story” now, not necessarily being about the others. Shinji’s new development is much less noisome compared to the original. That might be a plus for some, but for others (NGE fans) the choices he makes and the unexpected backbone grown feels even more disconnected than before. He’s suddenly able to save chicks and initiate Third Impact just by going berserk, which makes NO SENSE considering that Third Impact is a ritual of sorts contained with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Then you want us to believe that Third Impact was prevented, yet it still managed to destroy the world?? What the hell?! 3.33 is more emotionally invested at the cost of its linear storytelling built by the first two films, and that investment is totally dependent on ridiculously high stakes timed with over-the-top action sequences – NOT character mentality. I want my real characters with real problems back, not heroes saving princesses.

Familiar faces . . . or are they?

I’ll get right to it. I hate this new Misato. The Misato that we’ve come to love from the previous two films would have understood Shinji and tried to comfort him like a mother. At the end of 2.22, she even remarks that he shouldn’t care about the rest of them or the world. “Do what you think is right” coaching. The only subtlety of her kindness is when she refuses to detonate the DSS choker around Shinji at the end of the first third. That part makes sense, but THAT’S ABOUT IT. It doesn’t help when she, being a main character in the first two films, gets a combined 5 minutes of screen time, if that. I despise those who keep comparing this series to the original, but we were cheated out on the beautiful relationship between Kaji and Misato. It was one of my favorite moments from the show that dives into the complex mind of NERV’s bossy gal.

And Ritsuko, HOLY GOD WHERE IS YOUR HAIR?!?! Like Misato and the rest of the crew, no explanations as to what occurred during that 14-year gap were given. In the original series, this would’ve been the point when Ritsuko fought with her past – her mother. While the absence of Misato and Ritsuko’s stories isn’t world-crushing for fans of the original series, it would be such a disappointment for someone who only knows of the Rebuild. At this point, Misato and Ritsuko are just hot husks for shock value, and that makes me cry.

Don’t even get me started with Asuka and Mari. At this point, they’re both in it just to say they were in it. Asuka is mad at Shinji and continues to bring the best fights in the entire franchise. Wow, that’s new. Had I only watched the Rebuild, I wouldn’t have even thought that she suffered from acceptance issues by her mother, and that the Eva is the only way of showing how awesome she is. Want to know why? BECAUSE WE DON’T KNOW IT! It’s that stupidly simple!

And Mari, oh poor Mari. She gets 2 minutes of screen time standing in the background sniping things that DIDN’T MATTER IN THE SITUATION. She’s clearly back up for Asuka at this point, but god is she unappreciated. Also, her psychologic state receives zero background, adding nothing new here. It only adds fuel to the fiery debate that Mari is pink fan-service that serves no purpose in the Rebuild. Is it sad that I’m starting to side with them? I feel disoriented with the Rebuild’s characters, much like Asuka spinning around in the dark loneliness of space.

As for Touji’s sister Sakura and the other old/new recruits? Either give us more than 10 minutes of Wille interactions or don’t add them at all. To quote the new Misato, “You do nothing.” Interestingly, for as much that explodes in our faces, 3.33 is the shortest film in the series. Would 20 extra minutes of integral building on Asuka, Misato, Mari and the others have helped the movie? You bet your sweet ass. This is yet another reason why I feel so cheated on by 3.33.

. . . Rei fans? Not anymore . . .

Ignorance of the hedgehog

SHINJI IS FOR ONCE A RELATABLE CHARACTER. If you woke up after a 14-year-long coma and everyone wanted to wring your neck – yet not tell you why – How angry and disoriented would you feel?? Shinji has every right to storm out of the Wunder. Wille did NOTHING to better the situation. By leaving Shinji in the dark then getting mad at him and scolding him, of course he’d be sick of it all! He didn’t intend to destroy the world, let alone do it a second time at the end. Why doesn’t someone inform him? Kaworu tried, but he’s too cryptic for Shinji to understand. Fuyutsuki told him about his mom, but this information only explains Gendo’s motives – NOT what he has done “wrong” as a human.

Finding love in a war-torn world, A “fanfiction come to life?”

Sittin’ in the cock . . . pit.

That’s right you KawoShin fans, here’s the part you’ve been waiting for. The film takes on the emotional side of the franchise, especially the pinnacle of Shinji’s depression: The rejection of others and the loss of a dear friend. 3.33 invests more emotional build up through this pairing and the opposition that Shinji is once again faced with, though this time feeling more artificial. In a world where no one will accept Shinji for whom he is anymore, seeking refuge with a new-found friend was the happiest thing for me. I was ready for the movie to end when they were tangled up in the magic of music, THE MOST beautiful scene in the entire movie in terms of emotion – I dare say of the entire Rebuild. I fangirled HARD. Kaworu filled the holes (in more ways than one *wink*) left after everyone’s betrayal and gave the first child a purpose for still living. More than that, he gave Shinji a friend. He needed that. The DSS choker, bearing the weight of sin, is taken by Kaworu, which signifies that atonement can be achieved through hope. “What was caused by an Eva can be fixed by an Eva.”

The HOPE for rebirth is out there . . .

I read a comment on YouTube a few days ago:

“Don’t worry Shinji, Rei’s got your Walkman, Asuka’s got your hand, Mari’s got your back, and between them they’ll eventually talk Misato around.”

The only problem with this is lovely statement is that in order for Shinji to cope with his depression in this route, the radio has to be left behind. It is, in short, the unwillingness to open up; the grudge against a cruel world and his father; a pact with solitude. I have a strong feeling that we won’t be hearing the next track in that same old player – It’ll be something new and full of hope because it HAS to be. 3.33 leaves us with Shinji, Asuka, and Rei (no Mari, see, even Anno doesn’t care anymore) ready to traverse the bloodstained wasteland. By themselves. No one else. This is very exciting!

The Rebuild has given up on coping with issues like depression and loss. That much is clear. Instead, it goes for a more conventional theme: Hope. 3.33 ends with neither closure nor satisfaction, and that is very frustrating. If EVERYTHING is explained and built upon in the fourth installment, then cool, this is a masterpiece. But that is highly unlikely. The Rebuild doesn’t need to look back at this point. The stage is set for the final act, and its heading is definitely fixated forward. In its third chapter, we were thankful that the ROE was focusing all of its energy on cohesively developing its main character, “Shinji Ikari’s Story.” Sadly, this comes at the incredible cost of its other leads and a cohesive plot. I fear more than anything that these great sacrifices and risks won’t be worth it.

Consider me shocked and impressed, but I’m not at all comfortable with these new developments quite yet. The Rebuild of Evangelion is still in the closet (with this film, in more ways than one). Not a whole lot was accomplished, as yet another step in Gendo Ikari’s ever-expanding, world-deconstructing plan was fulfilled, and it only leaves us on another verge as to what will ‘impact’ us next. Though it has blinded us with myriad shades of red, it has yet to show us its true colors. What will unfold? Only God knows.

– Takuto, your host