Perfect Blue: Life is Anything But Glamorous || Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 80-minute 1997 anime film “Perfect Blue,” animated by Madhouse, directed by Satoshi Kon, script by Sadayuki Murai, and loosely based on the novel “Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis” by Yoshikazu Takeuchi. 

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Fantasy & Reality

Rising star Mima Kirigoe has just announced her retirement from her Japanese idol group to pursue an acting career. While she tries to convince herself that this is what she wants to be doing with her life, others couldn’t be in greater opposition. Namely, her fans, and one deranged creep in particular who begins to stalking her. As the people responsible for her career change are gruesomely murdered one by one, Mima herself starts to teeter on the edge of sanity.

From the genius mind of Satoshi Kon comes the bizarre story of a singer-turned-actor desperately trying to escape from the delusional head space that is causing the lines between fantasy and reality to blur. The film is swamped in Kon’s signature quick-cut directing style, with creative transitions, wacky visual perspectives, and bright colors guiding the eye through this terrifying narrative.

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Kon’s attentiveness to defining the boundaries of fantasy and reality is exemplified in Perfect Blue. Sometimes we are shown Mima acting in a scene, while other times the stage is very much mirroring reality. Figures from Mima’s imagination haunt both her visions of reality and the viewer’s perception of it. You often find yourself asking, is this a dream? Or, perhaps, the nightmare that Mima’s reality has become?

Set at the dawn of the Internet Age, this psychedelic trip puts the viewer on a wild roller-coaster ride through the darker tunnels of human emotion. Paranoia, loneliness, and fear are thoroughly explored in this masterful film that demonstrates what the psychological thriller genre of entertainment can do when a gripping story is met with heart-pumping suspense and a clever directing style that shows you exactly what it wants, when it wants.

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Living in Duality

Perfect Blue begins at the end. That is to say, the end of Mima’s career as a pop idol, and the beginning of her acting career. Despite being a beloved icon on stage, her back stage life is actually a realistic mess. Her apartment is cluttered, and she’s so in-and-out all the time that the cheese she buys at the beginning of the film expires a few scenes later. Mima is, to be frank, just another teenage girl trying to make a living in modern day Japan.

As such, it’s no surprise that Mima’s idol career was suffocating her. Much like a high school memory, sure, she had fun. But maybe it’s time to move on now. She is characterized by a sense of modesty and passion for her work, although she’s perfectly fine with moving on to a new phase of her life. That is, until the industry starts to exploit her talents.

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Without going into spoilers, I merely can offer this small sentiment: We really don’t have any idea of how the industry works, unless we are actively a part of it. In the world of money and fame, it’s not about you want to do, but rather about what other people want you to do. Sure, a girl can give her verbal consent, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she would be comfortable with being used for someone else’s gain. As an actor, you serve the director, and sometimes that can conflict with your own moral values as a person.

As the story goes along, Mima becomes a victim of forced maturation. This includes being thrust into horrific rape scene that, despite knowing it is fake, scars her poor young mind. She is also met with increased anxiety, depression, PTSD, and even a separation of self by means of superstition. This delusional mindset causes negative thoughts to rise, as in so long as someone is Mima, who really cares if Mima is Mima. How the mind repairs itself and subconsciously shields you for self-protection is absolutely incredible, and that underlying theme is what ties every red thread in Perfect Blue together in one complex, disorienting knot.

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Sensation, Perception, & Direction

Madhouse boosts Perfect Blue‘s production value with an unbelievable amount sensory detail work that I can’t even begin to comprehend. Flashing stage lights, rattling AC units, the motor noises of a 90s desktop computer, the gentle hum of a fish tank—it’s almost sensation in excess, which is just what this film needs. Transporting us to modern day Japan, the attention to detail enhances the setting, and makes the story feel all the more real.

Another gift of watching this film is getting to understand the iconography that makes it so famous beyond being just a really good movie. The bath scene where Mima curls up and screams, bubbles rising from the air of her trapped emotions is particularly beautiful. Seeing Mima hold a knife in midair against a flashing digital backdrop of own image embodies the epitome of suspense. And although creepy in context when paired with the scary music, the scene where Mima chases her dancing, skipping pop idol self through a hospital building conjures up true feelings of horror and hysteria.

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Speaking of music, Masahiro Ikumi’s music score for the film adds an eeriness that today’s horror anime just can’t compete with. When we’re not jamming out to light idol music from the 90’s (or listening to it in the elevator . . .), pounding sound board effects, uneasy remixing, and metallic screeching accompany a wailing chorus of uncanny cries. It sounds unpleasant, and it is. But, without Ikumi’s OST, I doubt Mima’s experiences would’ve felt as intense and life-threatening as they were.

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It’s A Maddening, Cruel World

Perfect Blue takes an introspective look at how fantasy can shape reality, and vice versa. In subtle ways, it asks the question that, as creators of some kind of content, what do we owe our consumers? Are we ever miscommunicating with our readers and viewers, and how would we know? Also, if our successes define us to some extend, how long will they cast shadows into our future?

The world is cruel, scary, and unfair. If it can take something from you, it will. And it won’t give anything back. But Perfect Blue also tells us that if any of these thoughts we are having bother us, then it’s all reality because these thoughts still shape how we feel in real life. Even the most seemingly sane people in our lives . . . We have no idea what they may be going through. Life is a performance, a stage, and if we don’t tell people about what’s going on, they might not ever know. 

In that way, Mima’s story is one about winning yourself back. What does it take to feel confident in my words and thoughts, and how can I get to that place—that’s what I got from Perfect Blue.

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A harrowing journey through a young woman’s psyche as she tries to escape from the fever dream that her reality is becoming, Perfect Blue effectively uses deception in anime to play with his viewer’s mind. The perception of reality cannot be trusted, especially as the psychodrama heightens towards the climax. But WOW is it a compelling mystery. You actively want Mima to figure out what’s wrong with her life—you want her to solve the case. And with a sucker punch ending that’ll hit ya right in gut, the whole experience comes to a satisfying conclusion.

Believe it or not, for a story that began with existential worry and cleverly crafted chaos, the ending of Perfect Blue provides an outlook that favors hope, confidence, and independence. And seeing the light of those perfect blue skies completes this wild yet captivating journey through the complexities of the human psyche.

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The truth is that today more than ever, I wanted to have a good time with you. — Mima Kirigoe


Afterword

While I would recommend this film to every fan of anime out there, it IS full of gratuitous sex and violence. So, if either of those are triggering to you, definitely steer clear for a bit. More than just thrilling, suspenseful, and entertaining, Perfect Blue ponders so many ideas, from how the internet will forever change privacy, to the savagery in the entertainment world. A compelling mystery by master storyteller Kon himself, “Cafe Mocha” certified Perfect Blue can truly make you feel genuinely scared for your life (especially if you watch this at midnight by yourself like I did, eep).

I’d love to hear what you think of this classic film down in the comments! Special thanks go to GKIDS for rescuing this long out-of-print title and giving it a lovely Blu-ray remaster—they really are the best! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go binge Love Live! . . . you know, to maintain my own sanity. ‘Till next time!

– Takuto, your host

Magical Girl Raising Project: Being Irresistibly Drawn to Death | OWLS “Grotesque”

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!” For the OWLS blog tour’s  tenth monthly topic for 2018, “Grotesque,” I wanted to revel in the spooky fall festivities by cross-examining an unconventional magical girl throwback from 2016 with humanity’s intriguing obsession for death and the macabre. As someone interested in human behavior, it’s a fascinating area to study, and hopefully I’ll be able to make some science out of the magical!

In honor of Halloween, we will explore what we find vile and ugly in pop culture. For this month’s topic, OWLS bloggers will be exploring characters or aspects of the grotesque in a piece of media and how it is a metaphor or allegory for society, human nature, or some other philosophical or humane idea.

Heads-up! This post will dabble more into studying the human condition than evaluating the series itself. My personal thoughts? It’s a twisted little title with an engaging battle royale setup that turns out somewhat lackluster in the end but is still stupidly entertaining. Watch it. I liked it, and seeing as how we seem to be irresistibly drawn to that which is gruesome (even if for no apparent reason), you should like it to, right? riGhT??

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A brief, spoiler-free discussion on the 12-episode fall 2016 anime “Magical Girl Raising Project,” animated by Lerche, directed by Hiroyuki Hashimoto, and based on Asari Endou’s light novel series of the same name. This will also include a light historical context analysis on how pop culture and the media make a spectacle of death and gore.

Again, this will be SPOILER-FREE, so enjoy!

“You’ve been selected to become a magical girl, pon!”

Magical Girl Raising Project. It’s the latest fad to dominate the mobile game sphere, and it seems that every young girl and adult woman alike in N-City can’t seem to stop playing the app game. Jumping into combat with your sparkly avatar, beating up shadow beasts, collecting candies—it’s the closest thing they have to being a real life magical girl! For Koyuki Himekawa, however, the app offers more than a mere simulation. One day, she receives a peculiar notification from Fav, the game’s mascot, saying that she has been selected to become a real magical girl. Unknowing the full implications of their contract, she eagerly accepts the offer to become her adorable in-game avatar Snow White.

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Gifted with the ability to transform at any time, Koyuki viewed her new life with a newfound optimism and excitement. That is, until the game admins sent out a startling notification claiming that “the number of magical girls in this region must be halved,” as the system couldn’t support the whopping 16 players who decided to take on the magical mission. The one to collect the least amount of Magical Candies—which are awarded for their magical girl activities—at the end of each week will lose their powers. But when a real-world tragedy befalls the first player to drop out, they find that their powers aren’t the only thing stripped from them.

As the magical girls perilously try to avoid their fate by cheating on their fellow players and throwing one another under the bus, the enigmatic Fav continues to add more twisted rules, forcing these young hearts to realize that what started off as a shining opportunity to help others has become a desperate struggle for their own lives.

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I’ll be frank with y’all: the story suffers largely from its systematic approach to execution and trying to develop its immense cast within 12 short episodes. While not Juni Taisen levels of predictability (God, that show disappointed me so much), you can pretty much tell who’s gonna go next based on the placement of their backstory. Ahh yes, the it’s the typical “Here I am and now I’m gone!” approach to character writing. In the instances where the show is able to catch you by surprise, however, those are the thrilling moments when the entertainment value shines through. Call it underdeveloped, or rushed, or even lackluster at times (I mean, the ending could’ve at least been more intense), but to call it “boring” would be a great underestimation of its twisted imagination and off-the-walls fun characters.

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From Wild-West to the Wicked and the Blessed

I can guess what stood out to you most—16 characters, right? Yeah, even for a battle royale that’s quite the large ensemble. Like they did with Danganronpa: The Animation and Assassination Classroom, Lerche was able to communicate the variety of personalities through unique dialogue patterns and intricate character designs. One of my fiendish favorites, the brazen and dangerous Calamity Mary, for instance, dons wild-west gunslinger apparel (boots, spurs, hats, tassels, leather, cow print, you get the picture). In the English dub, Mikaela Krantz even voices her with a low syrupy tone and a heavy southern accent. While I may not remember the specifics of her life before becoming a magical girl (as these important backstories are often rushed through in a couple minutes before their untimely demise), I will remember who she was and how she acted based on the distinctive character designs.

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A good pal of mine and genius essayist Irina wrote about my other favorite magical girl, the almighty, all-knowing QUEEN Ruler in a neat character analysis that I absolutely loved. She vouches for the same opinion that I do, in that “Raising Project isn’t perfect by any means but it certainly isn’t shallow. The writing is on point in many aspects.”

Although some characters look more put together with a theme than others (looking at you Swim Swim), I really enjoyed the diverse cast of tropes interacting on the battlefield: the sparkly one, the innocent one, the queen, the twins, the cowgirl rebel, the ninja, the witch, the badass protector, the nun, and even the freakin’ ROBOT. Some last longer than others, and some go out with a bigger bang while others exit the stage silently. A huge criticism many people have about the series is that the deaths feel too structured—I mean, we all know that someone’s gotta go by the end of each week, and the anime is true to its word. What this creates is a lack of empathy towards most of the girls and ultimately a mere “meh” or “aww that sucks, I liked her” when they die. More than anything, the show plays off these deaths as thrilling over depressing, and that got me wondering:

When did we become so fascinated with torturing little girls in anime to the point where it has dominated nearly every magical girl title in recent times? 

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How Horror Works in the Mind

I took to Psychology Today for a bit of research on the topic, which led me to the article “Why Do We Like Watching Scary Films?” Briefly, it examines psychological horror at the cinema and how the genre works in the mind. When answering the question, author Mark D. Griffiths Ph.D. quotes Dr. Jeffrey Goldstein, a professor of social and organizational psychology at the University of Utrecht, in a 2013 interview for IGN:

“People go to horror films because they want to be frightened or they wouldn’t do it twice. You choose your entertainment because you want it to affect you. That’s certainly true of people who go to entertainment products like horror films that have big effects. They want those effects . . . Even though they choose to watch these things, the images are still disturbing for many people. But people have the ability to pay attention as much or as little as they care to in order to control what effect it has on them, emotionally and otherwise.”

That last bit especially got me interested. He claims that we are the ones who choose our entertainment, and that we also have the ability to let the content affect us (in this case potentially scare us) based on how much we care to pay attention to the film. And I can see this as true—if I were to attend a scary movie and cover my eyes half the time (which I wouldn’t go to in the first place cause I’m a wimp), my desire would be that the film frightens me as little as possible.

Now, would the same apply to the film maker(s)? I mean, the director is essentially the one deciding how much gruesome content to put in front of our eyes, so if a series were nothing but moments of shock value (interspersed with some touching backstories, of course), wouldn’t that be what the director also cares about most in the series? Maybe seeing Madoka Magica receive immense fame gave him the idea to go all-out with the suffering. Besides, what’s more shocking to us anime fans than watching cutesy moe girls get massacred? Once one series showed us it could be done, everyone else wanted to do it too.

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A 2004 article in the Journal of Media Psychology by Dr. Glenn Walters proposes that “the three primary factors that make horror films alluring are tension (generated by suspense, mystery, terror, shock, and gore), relevance (that may relate to personal relevance, cultural meaningfulness, the fear of death, etc.), and (somewhat paradoxically given the second factor) unrealism.” In a 1994 study on disgust, college student participants found videos of real life horrors (like a cow slaughterhouse and a surgery involving removal of facial skin) to be incredibly disturbing. Yet many of these same individuals would think nothing of paying money to attend the premiere of a new horror film that had literally ten times more blood than what was present in the real-life documentaries! Why is that? It was posed by McCauley (1998) that:

The fictional nature of horror films affords viewers a sense of control by placing psychological distance between them and the violent acts they have witnessed. Most people who view horror movies understand that the filmed events are unreal, which furnishes them with psychological distance from the horror portrayed in the film.

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Oh, so if we know it’s fake, it doesn’t inherently terrify us as much, despite blood and guts leaking all over the floor. I suppose that makes sense. Even I don’t see clowns as scary when I remember that they’re likely just unshaven middle-aged men dancing around in colorful costumes. But even if it’s fake, some people enjoy the thrill of being confronted by gruesome death because it’s an experience that, for the most part, it’s something available only in fiction, and fiction intrigues us. One last look at Dr. Dolf Zillman’s Excitation Transfer theory (ETT) offers this:

“Negative feelings created by horror movies actually intensify the positive feelings when the hero triumphs in the end. But what about movies where the hero doesn’t triumph?  . . . Some small studies have show that people’s enjoyment was actually higher during the scary parts of a horror film than it was after.”

Alright, so you’re saying that perhaps the scary parts of a horror film are more enjoyable than the rest of the film itself? That perhaps explains why pop culture hits like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and heck even Attack on Titan delight in killing off major characters in fantastical ways—During these “scary” parts, we find ourselves at peak enjoyment, and if the writers can capitalize on this enjoyment through constant narrative twists and turns, then the viewers will stay glued to their screens. But hold on a second . . .

Magical Girl Raising Project isn’t horror, not even close. It’s barely a thriller series at best. Fair point, but think about the content itself: Purposefully designed cute children under the innocent guise of “magical girls” get brutally slashed or decapitated NOT by the forces of evil, but by fellow magical girls. Tension caused by suspense; relevance caused by a magical girl’s fear for her own life; unrealism given that magical girls shouldn’t exist within our world or theirs . . . Doesn’t that mark MagiPro as gruesome as horror—as grotesque as horror? And how about this: The most grotesque part about it all is that as fans, most of us enjoyed watching this series. Sure it ranks in the 3000s on MAL, but a  7.11/10 could be implied that 7 out of 10 people liked this series—cute girls, competition, and all the bloodshed in between. 

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At Least I Had Fun

Regardless of whether we should count MagiPro as a horror anime or an anime with horror elements, I did find myself enjoying it. A lot. Probably more than I should have. With each passing episode and character elegy, I truly found myself helplessly and irresistibly drawn to death. As more characters bit the bullet, I eagerly clicked on to see not necessarily who would survive, but rather who would fall out of the competition next. As unnecessarily dark and edgy, unnecessarily gruesome, and unnecessarily sophisticated as it tried to be, Magical Girl Raising Project won me over because it shamelessly played with death. And isn’t that the true spirit of the macabre?

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“As a means of contrast with the sublime, the grotesque is, in our view, the richest source that nature can offer.”—Victor Hugo, French Poet


Afterword

Yikes, went on a bit of a ramble there with the research, but maybe you learned something new! Magical Girl Raising Project is an interesting title that has gotten me thinking more than it probably should, but hey, a series that has me reflecting this much over it has to be doing something right. MagiPro isn’t the darkest of its kin, but definitely one of the sweetest. Thus, I award the series with the “Cake” rating, and a recommendation to check it out if you enjoy the thrill of a decent survival game. Not sure if Crunchyroll has it, but Funimation’s got it all with an incredibly well-done English dub that just finished airing for your viewing pleasure! If you have seen this series, you definitely have to let me know what you thought about it (I need more MagiPro friends)!!

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This concludes my October 19th entry in the OWLS “Grotesque” blog tour. Aria (Animanga Spellbook) went right before me with a nice and short post over the recently-aired Phantom in the Twilight that you should check out right here! Now, look out for Flow (Captain Nyanpasu)  this upcoming Monday, October 22nd! Thanks for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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 borne 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

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

Shiki: The Frightening Science of Vampires | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 22-episode summer 2010 anime “Shiki,” produced by Daume, based on the novel by Fuyumi Ono.

How would you feel about being given a second chance at life? Was there work you left behind unfinished that just needed a few more final touches? What about reuniting with a loved one from your past life? An opportunity like this rivals that of winning the lottery–a dream fulfilled, is it not?

Now, what if you were forced to return to this wretched earth, strained out of the dead to continue maintaining your fragile body at the expense of friends and family? You’d be a burdensome leech, a selfish and disgusting virus which feeds off of the innocent and the ignorant alike just to preserve your own rotting corpse. If you could kill people without consequence, would it be easier to do? Would you feel more inclined to repeat your actions?

Shiki presents us with both scenarios of life for the undead, but its grim tone and somber character stories have us believing that life after death is truly and rightfully morbid.

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Welcome to Sotoba – Population: Fear, Hysteria, and Death

This tale of madness descending is set in a remote rural village isolated from “modern” society. (We’re talking a town with traditional wooden Japanese houses and only one clinic to visit in case of emergency.) From the get-go, we already know that what will happen in the village will stay in the village. At first the atmosphere is cheery, starting us off through the eyes of hot n’ dangerous teen Megumi, a girl who feels like an outcast among the villagers because of her fashionable and trendy fantasies of city life (quite relatable, might I add). She lusts after a transfer student by the name of Natsuno who would be, as anyone could guess, charming yet mysterious “boyfriend material.”

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But much of her young life changes when an enormous castle-sized mansion is built almost overnight–the extravagant yet seemingly-elusive Kirishiki family has moved into that vacant lot high in the mountains. They are reserved and elegant divas of the night, but what terror, if any, lies beyond their walled stronghold on the hill?

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And exactly like clockwork, strange disease and paranoia begin seeping through the cracks of these closed-off country minds. Villagers grow pale and unresponsive, only to pass away within days of their diagnosis! All of this perplexes our [arguably the] main character, the good doctor Toshio, and his battle against these unseen and mystical forces quickly causes his ironclad rationale to teeter on the edge of self-destruction.

Themes! Themes for all!

The story is loaded with conflicts of the individual vs. culture and society that would make any philosopher or English teacher quiver in delight. If you continue to dissect its characters apart, you’ll notice a healthy amount of psychoanalysis to be done. There’s also the very nature of these vampiric beasts that’ll surely give you goosebumps if you’re just in it for the action. All things considered, Shiki’s premise is well-crafted and cleverly presented through its many different viewpoints. The anime tries to handle the scenario through every set of eyes possible, and actually does a fair job at it.

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Watching Occupation Shaping Perception

If this show is trying to preach one lesson to its viewers, it’s that OCCUPATION SHAPES PERCEPTION. First we have Toshio the Rational who wields science and logic as his guiding torch. His hands-on experience and repeated failure with his patients shape his view on how the village should act. Given this firsthand account of horror, the trauma is enough to eventually shake his mental stability. “Empty your hearts. In order to kill these demons we have to become demons.”

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Then there’s Muroi the Romantic writer and priest who believes through feelings that these demons are just like us. Even now, they only have special requirements to live. His benevolent approach leaves him without any clue as to how to fight a back, however, for his inexperience and urge to document the case rather than seek justice cause him to remain sane but forever alone.

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And finally we have Natsuno and Megumi, both Angsty Lovers who embody mixes of the doc and the junior monk. They remain rational and understanding of all that takes place, but their struggle against striving for the lives they desire to live under supernatural circumstances leads them to consequence. All of the villagers, save for these four, are static characters designed to move the plot forward and advance growth in our leads.

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A Damn Good English Dub

A fair point is that I fell in love with the English dub voices before I did the characters, so props to FUNimation for that win–especially to Tia Ballard as Megumi, holy crap! Also, while there are a dozen characters that I loved (and a dozen that I hated), my heart goes out to nurse Yasuyo (yay for more Wendy Powell!), the busty, compassionate sweetheart clad in fishnet-leggings. What a frickin’ saint she is!

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Relying on Story Horror Rather than Visual Horror

Onto the animation side, studio Daume actually did a very decent job. Several excellent cinematic shots and moldy/bold color choices were used to convey the eerie atmosphere. But I did have a few problems. As much as I took great pleasure in the Shiki black ombre eyes, too many different kinds of eye styles made me really dislike the ugly, small-pupil look that was overused on “insane” characters. Also, what’s up with that hair shaping? Natsuno’s nasty cut reminded me of the salad leaves I was munching on! (Yes, I did tweet about this).

I’m sure you’ve heard Shiki’s main theme “Shi-Ki” in one of your “emotional anime music 2 hours” compilation videos. But don’t just stop there! Check out the melodramatic tracks I left below which utilize a haunting choir, chimes, bass drums, a soothing macabre orchestra to create the illusion of nightmares stalking the shadows. They are a bit overused, but hey, you get so consumed by the atmosphere that repetition doesn’t matter. Composer Yasuharu Takanashi (Log Horizon, Oda Nobuna, Fairy Tale, Sailor Moon Crystal) remains one of my favorites, for he always does such phenomenal job in mashing together atmosphere and action.

“Day and Night”

“Eau de Vie”

“Pendulum”

Also, the second opening, “Calendula Requiem” by kanon x kanon totally rocked the house. Just look at those visuals–and the song, ooh the song!

Why is it Popular? Fresh Spin on a Legendary Concept

Shiki is praised for its ability to tell the same story through every character viewpoint possible; you get attached to individuals from both sides, which is quite a wonderful thing given the premise. It’s a nice rational approach to an ancient, typically fantasy or magical subject–The Science of Vampires, if you will. It presents us with a very well-thought-out tale of morality vs. rationality, never taking the easy way out to show its claims.

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In a world where monsters and humans alike are pitted against each other, fear, especially of abandonment, consumes all who let it. Common people who are unwilling to let go of pre-existing notions are the ones that get left behind. It sounds harsh, but in this brutal and vicious cycle everyone except the sane ultimately lose. What draws the line between superstition and simply being afraid is how disturbingly far people will go to preserve their own “sanity.” It’s only after the smoke clears, however, that humans realize the error in their ways, and that any God has long since abandoned them . . . or at least some believe.

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Final Thoughts

Anyone can die at any time; no one is safe/excluded from the elements listed above, which is also why I really enjoyed Shiki. Fear of uncertainty through the supernatural catches us off guard, in that fear CAN and WILL strike at any time. The use of gory sound effects and beautifully ghastly music help to establish that fearful tone. Shiki may not have visually scared me, but its raw content sure was creepy, gruesome, and more interesting than any Hollywood horror film.

“This is what a world ruled by order looks like. Those who accept order can live together peacefully, protected from the unknown safe in their belief that all is as it should be. But when something happens to threaten this orderly existence, they will fight to the very death. By eliminating the threat, they hope to preserve the fabric of their lives–the order that holds their entire world together. And so they realize what a fragile world it is.” – Seishin Muroi

Final Assessment

+ Frequent tonal shifts, led by the many viewpoints, leave strong and vastly different impressions from beginning to end

+ Death can strike anyone, anytime

+ True fear and creepiness created by the supernatural STORY ITSELF, not necessarily the visuals (never takes the easy way out)

+ Wonderfully presented themes of morality between individuals, culture, and society, and how people are only as safe as their surroundings make them feel

+ Nailed the village horror atmosphere with frightful perfection; intricately woven web of characters and interactions between them and setting

– Eye and hair designs on some characters just looked dumb

– Fantastic and complementing soundtrack, but some tracks are a bit overused

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What a Halloween break well-spent, no? Well, if anything could be said, it’s that those Japanese need real doors, not the paper-thin stuff you can hear through the walls, yikes! What did you think of this anime? It’s another “Caffe Mocha” over here! Were you completely freaked out or more invested in its thought-provoking messages? Let me know in the comments so we can talk about this beloved title! I’m so happy I got to finally watch this very peculiar classic. Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Extravagant Divas of the Night, the Kirishikis

The Root of All Disappointment: Tokyo Ghoul √A

A review of the 2015 winter anime “Tokyo Ghoul √A”

Remember that fireworks analogy I made in my Tokyo Ghoul review: suspenseful start, awkward wait, explosive finish? Well, I will now describe √A using a continuation of that comparison, let’s say, what the actual firework looked like. If the first season was the bang, then this sequel is the tiny bursts of light that follow. Bursts so minor, dull and utterly disappointing that by the end of the display, you’ve realized that you purchased a cheap firework, and the only way to get your money back is by reading the manga.

***Spoilers for Tokyo Ghoul ahead

√A picks up right where we last left it. Kaneki gives into his inner ghoul and, battle after battle alongside “Aogiri Tree” unleashes more of the deadly, uncontrollable powers that Jason infected him with. Over at CCG, superior officers and Amon handle new recruits, one being Mado’s daughter, Akira. The finale takes us back to every ghoul’s favorite coffee shop, “Anteiku,” where the monstrous “Owl” reveals his identity. Carnage ensues.

And that’s about all I got. Whisked from one large-scale bloodbath to the next, there’s never a moment to just stop and think about the what’s going on. As such, there’s not really time to cram in motives for most of the major ghouls introduced in this season either. You desperately try to grasp onto any connections within the show, but nothing pieces together correctly; the plot is far too choppy.

Also, I could give one finger less about the CCG dudes and their struggle against the ghouls – Why can’t we uncover the secrets surrounding the ghouls already: Where did Ghouls come from? What determines their powers? Do the Kagunes have special properties, and how can normal people wield them? What can a half-breed do better than anyone else? How did Rize actually die?? My previous questions still go unanswered 😦

Other than Akira Mado, whose incredible intel and willingness to seek out the truth seems fresh since NOBODY ELSE KNOWS WHAT’S GOING ON, the characters in this sequel also stand as unremarkable. Even Kaneki, my previous fave attends the sidelines right up until the end, where the “plot” makes the decisions for him. I couldn’t even call his big revelation character development; it was ridiculously unreal, forced maturation. The new detectives and ghouls that come out to play also only get a ten-second flashback to fill you in, then the fight continues. What the actual f*ck? Literally, I don’t know any other characters besides the Anteiku gang. They were pretty chill ~

Animation was just as enjoyable as before, but there were several more obvious derps. For instance, during on one of the fights, they panned out to a downwards view of a ghoul in the air and some CCG dude on the ground was sliding parallel with the ghoul. So either that guy can glide over concrete or the ground was shifting below him :’D A coincidental fog also happens to blur out most of the background during the prison fight and the final confrontation. Studio Pierrot, that’s plain lazy!

Sound quality remained one of the best aspects, with phenomenal voice acting for Tsukiyami, Juuzou, and Kaneki (whenever he actually spoke) and an epic orchestral OST to back up all of that combat! There was one particular grand, foot-tapping string instrumental that caught my ear each time it played, but I can’t seem to find the name. While the opening was sadly annoying as all hell, the ending “Kisetsu wa Tsugitsugi Shindeiku” by Amazarashi had vibrant still visuals depicting the cast, which was pretty neat.

You’re probably wondering, “Takuto, if the plot was a disaster, the characters were rushed and bland, and animation is kinda sloppy, then what is there commendable, if anything, about this show?” I have to give the sole reason I liked this series to the final episode. By the end, nothing really gets accomplished, nothing is answered, and we still don’t know whom we are cheering for, but the reuniting of two charactersKaneki and his old best friend Hidebrings EVERYTHING to a halt, where something very special happens.

In the midst of the bloody chaos on the ruined streets: wounded and dead, male and female, adult and child – all lying on the ground, Kaneki finally embraces his harsh reality in a very cold yet artistic and heartbreaking scene that chilled me to the bone. I was reminded of ALDNOAH.ZERO‘s first cour ending.

Tokyo Ghoul as a whole is extremely flawed. A leaves off hinting a third season, but honestly, it’s not worth watching. In my defense, I have never read the manga, which I know has several significant variations, explanations, and development in it. Thus, I rate Tokyo ghoul A a “Bread” here at the cafe, and a recommendation to ONLY watch it if you are a desperate fan of the manga. It had a beautifully choreographed ending, I’ll admit, but everything else is a complete wreck.

“I was wrong. I wasn’t eating ghouls. I’m the one . . . who was being eaten.” – Kaneki Ken

“Whether we die or not isn’t really that big of a deal.” – Insane boy Juuzou

+ Epic orchestral OST and voice acting make overall sound a near-perfect

+ Artistic and heartbreaking ending

– A mountain of unexplained plot holes, and there’s still more to the story

– Too many characters to balance, especially when all we get is combat and no pensive conversations

– Who are we rooting for again?

What did you guys think of A? It wasn’t so bad compared to what I thought it’d be, but it was still incredibly disappointing. *sighs* If the prison scene was the climax of this season, which was built up by explanations and proper introductions of the characters, some drama here and there, then this would have been a great season. This way, the Anteiku clash could have been  the third season’s climax, with even more character development and secrets of the ghouls revealed. Gosh, maybe I should have directed this series, haha, maybe . . . Comment below with your thoughts and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Tokyo Ghoul Review

You know when you launch a firework there’s a thrilling rush as you flick the match and light the string? After, there’s this awkward wait to see if it takes off and, if it does so correctly, then it’s followed by a long, dry pause, everyone just staring at it, most losing sight of it. Finally BOOOOOOMMM!!!  it explodes furiously, and everyone applauds, expecting more to come, right?

That, friends, is Tokyo Ghoul,  a new dark fantasy/horror anime that starts and ends with quite the bang, but in the middle leaves us squinting our eyeballs to spot any real development.

Creeping around the dark alleyways of modern Tokyo are the Ghouls, monsters that devour human organs as food. Everyone knows about them, and some even fear for their lives of taking a daily death stroll, but most just continue on with their day. Why would you do something so insane?? Because these Ghouls look exactly like normal people: adults, teens, children, elderly, husbands, wives, etc. The only distinguishing feature of these demons is their black and crimson eyes that burn when they exhibit fierce emotions.

Kaneki Ken is your average college student who frequents a local cafe for one main reason: the enchanting Rize. Since they both enjoy reading from the same author, Kaneki musters the courage to ask her out, thinking that they have so much in common. Kaneki’s date quickly soils into a blood fest when Rize “the Binge-Eater” reveals her wicked Ghoul powers and then tries to kill Kaneki. Suddenly, an accident occurs in their location, and the critical medical situation results in her organs being transplanted into Kaneki to preserve his life.

But now Kaneki feels strange. All normal food makes him want to vomit, and instead he craves . . . human flesh. The story is about Kaneki’s struggle as this new “Half-Breed” for his remaining humanity, and what he’ll risk to remain moral no matter what – or give in to Ghoul within!

Right from the start Tokyo Ghoul latches on with an interesting predicament for our protagonist. The show quickly appeals to your senses when, after the operation, Kaneki tries to cram his face with his favorite foods, all to no avail. They taste like charcoal and rotten dung. Those incredibly morbid realizations that he’s become a monster attack the heart, causing you to feel all of the suffering that he does. This deep argument of human VS Ghoul develops as the show progresses, mostly to build around Kaneki and a little girl named Hinami, though.

I think Kaneki fits the mold for the intense themes of humanity and life better than any other character could have. Cocky like let’s say Eren Yeager (Attack on Titan) and everyone at the cafe will despise him. But too kind like Armin Arlert and I don’t think we’d get anywhere. Kaneki embodies the middle ground of what I’d like to call a “real human being.” He’s never too innocent, yet never totally ridiculous either, and that makes him easily likeable.

Hanae Natsuki portrays all of Kaneki’s hardships believably well, be it screaming in Ghoul mode, conversing calmly with friends, or choking on blood. He’s amazing!

The rest of the characters range from a tsundere teen somewhat goth girl, to an overly-attached whimsical genius, to a desperate family, and finally to a pair of Ghoul counter team members. Even with all of the variety, however, I just didn’t feel the characters nor relate to them in any way. In fact, I can hardly recall names, which is crucial to note because I hardly ever forget a name. Other than Kaneki and possibly Touka, another cafe Ghoul refugee, Tokyo Ghoul lacks in the character department.

Quite stunning is the art and animation by Studio Pierrot (Yona of the Dawn), who puts together intense action sequences with outrageously beautiful and surprisingly colorful animation – especially of the Kagunes, the Ghoul blood weapons. Supposedly, there’s a lot of gore, but I couldn’t see half of the screen because of all of the DAMN CENSORING!! Sheesh, like seriously, they’re only gonna make me more curious about what’s going on. And you know what, it probably wasn’t that bad of gore anyway! But I suppose that’s not the studio’s fault, as the various censoring depended on what your source you watched from.

Yutaka Yamada provides a supportive soundtrack that easily surpasses your average OST. Loneliness, tragedy, melancholy, and epicness are all packed into his tracks. “Licht und Schatten (Light and Shadow)” and a battle theme entitled “Symphony” are model examples of his high-quality work. Though the OST is a rather small one, the few tracks played are not only longer than usual but great to listen to. Quality over quantity is what I believe wins the day!

I’ve gradually become more and more familiar with Ling Tosite Sigure’s opening “Unravel,” which is a step up considering that I don’t care for that high-pitch screamo voice. The song matches the show perfectly, and it became one of my favorite parts of the experience. 🙂

As mentioned previously, the anime’s ending is an unexpected thriller, one that I didn’t see coming a mile away. The show steps away from its usual routes to do something very, very interestingsomething that hopefully pays off in the second season. If you can watch the end without flinching, then congrats to your balls of steel.

And now for my major problem with the show: we don’t have explanations for anything! Where did Ghouls come from? What determines their powers? Do the Kagunes have special properties, and how can normal people wield them? What can a half-breed do better than anyone else? How is the main antagonist roped in with all of this? How did Rize actually die?? Tokyo Ghoul has a crap ton of potential, enough to be considered one of the best – that is, if the second season pans out well, because at this point, Tokyo Ghoul is definitely unfinished. If you’re gonna get into it, just be sure you can stomach the gore, and please, watch it uncensored. It tastes better that way >.<

“What is this? What is it to be a Ghoul? Killing people . . . killing each other . . .I’m not like that! I’m . . . human!” – Kaneki Ken

+ Easily likable, non-annoying lead character with good development

+ Gripping start, intense, bloody and sweaty cliffhanger

+ Quality colorful visuals, gorgeous fights, matching OST to back it up

– SO many unanswered questions, literally no explanations!

– Weak secondary character development

– Middle of show deviates from an psychological alley horror to a slice of life coffee shop drama (no JK, but seriously, what?)

I’m pretty excited for the sequel! It has a lot riding on its shoulders, and I can only hope it doesn’t disappoint (even though I heard it sucks, I will be the judge of that myself). What did you think of Tokyo Ghoul? Were you thinking “Welp, this makes absolutely no sense, why aren’t people screaming for their lives? At least it’s pretty :3” FUNimation has licensed the anime for North America with an English dub on the way, though you can watch it for free on their site if you’re +18. Clobber that like button for more material like this and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host