Yumeiro Patisserie: The Strong, the Savory, & the Sweet || OWLS “Failure”

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 eleventh monthly topic of 2019, “Failure,” I wanted to dabble just a bit into the sweetest little show that’s been on my plate as of late. We’re talking about Yumeiro Patissiere and a young girl’s road to becoming a pastry chef—and don’t worry, I’m not gonna sugarcoat any part of her great struggles!

One of the best ways we can learn is through failure. This month we will be talking about the failures of our favorite characters in pop culture media and what we can learn from them. We will also reflect on our own mistakes and failures and how those experiences have allowed us to grow as human beings.

I’m gonna keep this sweet and simple, just as the show would serve it to you, so thanks Lyn for the prompt!

strawberry crepe cake.PNG


A brief discussion of the 50-episode fall 2009 anime “Yumeiro Patissiere,” stylized as “Yumeiro Pâtissière,” animated by Studio Pierrot and Studio Hibari, directed by Suzuki Iku, and based on the manga by Natsumi Matsumoto. Minor spoilers for the first 12 episodes will be present. 

Thrown Into the Culinary World

Ichigo Amano may just be a middle schooler, but she’s nothing when compared to her piano prodigy of a kid sister. In fact, Ichigo hasn’t ever been successful at anything, but she does have a passion for eating cakes. This unique tongue of hers leads Ichigo to Henri Lucas, a famous patissier who not only recognizes Ichigo’s tasting talents, but points her towards St. Marie Academy. This prestigious culinary school specializes in the art of desserts, and just so happens to be her late grandma’s alma mater, who was an accomplished confectioner in her own right.

Despite being a beginner lacking all of the essential skills for the craft (and thanks to being recommended by THE Henri sensei), Ichigo is placed in the elite A Group with the “Sweets Princes.” Famous throughout the school for their enchanting treats (and charming good looks), the trio is composed of Andou, an analytical, traditional Japanese sweets specialist; Hanabusa, a delicate boy who crafts elegant candied flowers; and Kashino, a gifted chocolatier with an attitude that’s not afraid to bite back.

While they’d likely fair well on their own (save for poor Ichigo), each of the kids in A Group are accompanied by their “Sweets Spirits,” fairies from a distant land who make patissiers’ dreams come true by aiding them in the kitchen with tips and tricks. Together, they all work towards their unique goals in the competitive world of sweets, and pray each day that their combined efforts will pay off in the future.

ichigo sweets

The Strong Must Protect the Sweet

The culinary world will always be a scary one to me, so it’s no wonder that Ichigo is freaking out when she’s placed among the school’s elite from the get-go. Easily the kind of girl to mistake the salt for sugar, Ichigo is a total klutz—and this doesn’t take too long for her new classmates to figure out. Every minute Ichigo spends with the esteemed Sweets Princes soils their perfect reputation.

However, as she works her saccharine magic on their hearts and they bond together through late night practice sessions in the kitchen, the Sweets Princes slowly start to care less about what their peers think and more about what their savory sweets mean to those that fall for their confectionery. By bouncing their knowledge and creativity off one another, the members of A Group learn most of all that love is just as essential an ingredient as flour, eggs, or sugar are.

sweets princes.PNG

Criticism & Self-Destruction in Academia

Japan has this thing about letting us know how exploited and overworked students can sometimes feel in elite academic settings. The tiniest compliments can give such students the greatest confidence boost, but the slightest criticism can be absolutely devastating. It’s a fine line us students pressured by high standards find ourselves tight-roping across, and that’s exactly where Ichigo finds herself at St. Marie.

At its earliest low in the series’ first twelve episodes, Ichigo almost quits school entirely. The moment before she left her dorm for home, she got ahead of herself and thought she’d do well in the upcoming cake-baking tournament without having had more experience behind her. Of course, she was just joking around with the Sweets Princes, boasting because they had recently served up something incredible as a team, but Andou and Hanabusa, who are normally very kind and supportive, snapped back and told her how wrong she was—that the competitive world of a pastry chef is much more arduous and complicated than baking a cake for some kids.

sweets princes practicing.PNG

This revelation—and it coming from the nicest people in her class—throws Ichigo from the top of the summit to the bottom of the ravine. One minute she felt like she could joke around and laugh at her successes and failures alike with her esteemed peers, the next she couldn’t feel more distant from them. Here, we have a middle school girl voicing the concerns of every struggling honor student in academia:


I got into the school fine, but it was just screw up after screw up, day after day. And once in a while, when someone complimented me, I got way too carried away. I think I’m just not cut out for that place. — Ichigo Amano


Inspiration Lies In Our Humble Beginnings

It takes going back to her creative roots—to her grandma’s old sweets shop, and the source of her inspiration—to jump-start that confidence and motivate Ichigo to get back on her feet. Ichigo even gets the chance to flex in front of her incredibly talented younger sister, showing off all the skills she learned at her fancy academy. It turns out, when she has to fend for herself, Ichigo knows a lot more than she gives herself credit for

When she asks her uncle to make the house special strawberry tart, only she—not even her talented sister—notices that her grandma’s recipe was changed. It is at that very moment that Ichigo realizes she is qualified for this career, and she becomes even more deeply connected with her grandma’s unique style as a patissier.

grandma amano.PNG

Having turned a new leaf, Ichigo feels ready to get back to baking. Of course, kind hearts attract good company, as Ichigo’s mom had her packed bags ready to go in the trunk the whole time. Imparting precious wisdom, Kyouko Amano drops her clumsy yet dedicated daughter back off at the academy. Honestly, that’s #familygoals, but she also wouldn’t be coming back were it not for her friends in A Group who covered for her abrupt absence.

When the going gets tough, sometimes we have to take life one chocolate cake roll at a time. We should take chances, and even if we suck, we should never give up. We should polish our dreams like jewels, and even when we want to cry, if we try smiling while doing something we love, we just might be able to change our whole day around all on our own. Sometimes, all it takes is going back to our humble beginnings to realize just how far we’ve traveled. There are more takeaways one could make, but hey, sometimes the shortest explanations are the sweetest ones. 

ichigo baking.PNG


It’s ok to get depressed sometimes. But what’s important is to get back on our feet when we’re ready. — Kyouko Amano


Afterword

Just like the opening says, Yumeiro Patissiere is “Light and soft and fluffy! Melt-in-your-mouth sweet! It’ll bring you so much unbridled happiness.” So on and so forth. Yumeiro Patisserie is a gem, a certified “Cake” like you’ve never had it, and one that has a fun flavor you’ll never forget! I doubt anyone’s ever heard of this anime (I hadn’t, until the Blu-ray was recommended to me in a sale so I snatched it up), but don’t sleep on this shit—it’s GOOD. The young hardworking patissieres, the beautiful string music, the decadent, delectable desserts—this show is so friggin’ charming, and I’m so excited to see where it goes. After all, there are 50 episodes in the first season alone!

This concludes my November 28th entry in the OWLS “Failure” blog tour. My friend Crimson (Read At Night) went right before me with a post over the heartbreaking geisha drama novel Snow Country that you can read right here! Now, look out for my blogger buddy Scott (Mechanical Anime Reviews) as he rounds out the month with his crack at Haikyu!! and what failure means to the Karasuno Team (so excited to read!) this Saturday, November 30th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

A Blogger Who Motivated You to be Great (& Round-Up) || The Animanga Festival

Hello all, and welcome to my fifth and final official entry in The Animanga Festival, hosted by Auri and Nairne over at Manga Toritsukareru Koto!

We’ve come a long way, and here, during the “Best of Blogging” week, I offer you my final celebrations with an inspiring prompt if I do say so myself. Today’s a day for recognition and appreciation as many of us tackling the day’s prompt ask ourselves, “Who is the blogger who motivated us to be great?” That is to say, “Who is the one that brought you to where you are, as well as continues to push you to strive for your best?”

While I personally take inspiration for any person who likes my posts, comments on them, or even just drops by to peep in on things, I would be remissed if I didn’t give extra special thanks to the one who’s been with me since the beginning. I think you all know her quite well by now.


Thank You, LitaKino, for all you’ve done for me!


No surprises there, right? Guys, Lita has been my biggest support system for as long as I can remember blogging here at the cafe. Many will describe her as fun, crazy, goofy, hardworking, and heavily involved in the community—to which you’d be exactly right! But—and not to sound selfish or creepy—what I have with Lita feels extra special. It’s not just surface deep; it’s a genuine friendship.

jupiter finger gun

For one, we both love seaside settings (which is rare) and the mecha genre, sharing a mutual infatuation for shows like Free!, A Lull in the Sea (NagiAsu), and Gargantia. This means that whenever something related to either of those two starts airing or is released, we’re both the first to usually let the other one know about it AND fan the heck out of it.

Naturally, when she initially approached me for a collab idea and we succeeded in churning out our Free! collab just a couple months back, it was and still is a highlight from this year. You could even call it a dream come true, believe it or not! I’m so happy we did that together, and I look forward to the next thing we scheme up.

IMG_5893

So, you could say we have similar tastes in shows. We’re also both big on collecting, from buying the latest Blu-rays (or browsing eBay for bargains) to stocking up on manga. (The only huge difference there is that she actually reads the stuff she buys, whereas it seems to take me five months just to read three volumes. I know, I’m workin’ on it!) Whenever she posts pictures of her shelves, it just makes me reflect on my own collection and how much each title in it means to me.

Now, about blogging, Lita writes a lot more frequently than I do—and perhaps that’s why she’s a big inspiration for me as someone who comparatively posts much more sparsely. Whether a series review or a personal reflection, every time she puts something out into the world from her #LitaLaboratory, I am reminded that I should be getting on it too! In her reviews especially, what she writes is quite honestly her opinion about something; she gives it to you as it is, as she feels it, and I admire that honest writing style of hers.

mako tough.PNG

She’s also incredibly supportive—and you all can probably vouch for this about her as well (#ThugLita stans). Lita’s always going around sharing my stuff, bringing in new audiences to my writing, and her comments never fail to put a smile on my face. Back during OWLS’ early years when it was just Kat, Naja, and Lita running the live stream, I always made the time to especially pop in to hear what she had to say about my stuff, as well as thank her and the other ladies in the comments. (Spoiler alert, she’s too kind.)

On top of all this nice stuff she’s done for me, she never once told me not to pursue YouTube, even if she herself was going through a period where she didn’t know what she wanted to do with her channel. I never did get around to starting a channel, but it’s the encouragement that counts. Same for Instagram, but, well, perhaps I should just say “stay tuned.”

Ok, plus, she sent me a LETTER. Sure it was for our OWLS little secret Santa card exchange, but y’all, Y’ALL, I still keep it with my small collection of letters from my dear friends around the globe.

jupiter wave.PNG

The long and short of things is this: Where Lita goes, good company follows her. I’ve never run into a sour apple who was also a friend of Lita’s, and quite often, I end up becoming friends with the same peeps she does. In fact, I probably met over half of you just through her, and now I consider myself great friends with many of you guys! Her kindness comes in waves, and each time it arrives along the shoreline, I make sure to dip my feet in.

She’s a self-made gal, a good ol’ time, and I honestly don’t know where I’d be without her. Lita, you’re way too good for me—too good for us all!—and I can’t thank you enough for being such an amazing friend!

So if you see her around, be sure to give her a high-five and a hug from me. Lita is one of the sweetest bloggers out there—but I’m sure you already know that by now. If you’re not already following LitaKino Anime Corner and all of the crazy shenanigans she cooks up there, what are you waiting for?? Go see for yourself what this awesome person from down under—who does too many things on the interwebs involving anime—is like. If your relationship turns out to be anything like ours has been, I guarantee that your blogging experience will only go up further from here!

lita kino anime corner.PNG


The Festivities Come to an End

For me, that is. Many other bloggers will continue writing for The Animanga Festival throughout these next several days, so be sure to follow them through to the end. But alas, it’s time for me to bid the festivities farewell. This stop is where Takuto gets off—and what better way to end than by celebrating a beloved friend in the aniblogger community.

Below are links to each of the days I’ve written for. I had a blast answering each of these prompts, especially the Trip Itinerary, so please check ’em out of you have a minute or two!

10/2 ~ Anime/Manga You’d Introduce to a First-Timer

10/5 ~ Trip Itinerary to Places You’d Like to Visit in Anime/Manga

10/10 ~ A Collection of Your Best Works

10/19 ~ A Crossover You’d Love to See

10/24 ~ A Blogger Who Motivated You to be Great

And again, thank you so very much to Auri and Nairne for bringing me out here and inviting me in on all the fun. Participating in The Animanga Festival has reminded me about the joys of blogging, and that not every post has to be a review for it to be fun and engaging. Additionally, I haven’t blogged this much in a single month in years, and so for that reason alone, my gratitude is immeasurable. I sincerely hope everyone had as much fun reading my posts as I did writing them, and until the next one, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Chasing You, Chasing Me: The Heart of Run with the Wind | OWLS “Masculinity”

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 fourth monthly topic of 2019, “Masculinity,” I’ll actually be following up to my review of Run with the Wind, dedicating this entire post to highlight the key player on the Kansei Track Team, Haiji Kiyose (because, you know, he’s that great.) If you’d like a proper introduction to the series, you can check out my spoiler-free review right here!

Last month, we explored the meanings behind the terms “feminine” and “feminism.” This month, the OWLS bloggers will explore the concept of masculinity. We each have our own definition of what it means to be masculine and we will explore our definitions using “masculine” characters from various pop culture fandoms. We will discuss how these characters are “masculine” or show signs of a masculine persona. We will also share our personal stories about the amazing men that supported us in our lives, as well as share some of our experiences growing up as a man or knowing men who struggled with the masculine identity.

If you were hoping for a follow-up to my March “Feminine” post on the brave women of Space Battleship Yamato (this time examining the male leads), fear not! I’ve got a couple more Yamato-related posts loaded in the dock just itchin’ to be written. Thanks Lyn for another tricky and engaging prompt to write for!

haiji and king.PNG


A brief spoiler-free discussion on the male characters of the 23-episode fall 2018 anime “Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru (Kazetsuyo)” or “Run with the Wind,” animated by Production I.G, directed by Kazuya Nomura, and based on the novel of the same name by Shion Miura.

Welcome to the Kansei Track Team Aotake!

In case you need a refresher, Run with the Wind is about ten college guys who are roped into joining their university’s track team by Haiji Kiyose, their dorm’s lead resident assistant of sorts, and the antics that ensue with Haiji’s rigorous training regiment. What are they training for? Why, only one of the most prestigious university races in all of Japan: the Hakone Ekiden marathon.

We follow the majority of the story through Kakeru Kurahara, a college freshman who, after hitting a low point in his life and stealing food from a convenience store, is taken in by Haiji and the Aotake family. But while Kakeru’s hotheadedness and ex-track star status work well enough for him, aside from Haiji, the rest of the guys are complete novices.

Through hard work, butting heads, and lots and lots of running, each of the Kansei Track Team members eventually confront what running means to them as they aim for the top—the steepest mountains in the world. 

haiji headshot

What Does it Take to Break the Silence? – A look at Haiji Kiyose

Before I get ahead of myself, I want to share with you one of the most powerful quotes in the entire show and what prompted me to write a post solely about Haiji:

No one here is running half-assed. Why won’t you try to acknowledge that everyone’s trying their best? 

Is it because they’re slower than you? Is speed all that matters to you?

Then there’s no reason to run.

Ride a bullet train. 

Ride a plane. 

They’re faster.

WAKE UP, Kakeru.

It’s not enough to just chase speed. 

It’s . . . futile . . . 

— Haiji Kiyose to Kakeru Kurahara

I remember having to hit the pause button for just a second after hearing Toshiyuki Toyonaga (Haiji’s VA) plow through this painful line. To see someone so generally happy-go-lucky become so worked-up and defensive. What Haiji speaks, however, is the undeniable truth: there is no practical reason to run. Whether a car, a bike, or the city bus, all of these options are much quicker than running if speed is your only goal.

haiji angry.PNG

But it’s through this tunnel vision that Kakeru initially perceives the world. And this is also why Kakeru fails to get along with the other guys, especially Haiji. In this pinnacle moment though, the words finally cut through to him.

Haiji’s a tricky guy to pin down. He’s both kind and wicked, unreasonable and unreadable almost 100% of the time, much like a Magic 8-ball that never spits out what you want to hear and asks you to do the impossible when it feels like it. (Huh, do they still make those things?)

As such, he’s frustrating to get along with, and I think it’s largely because he doesn’t follow the “stereotype” for a masculine leader. Haiji’s strong, but more in an introverted, persevering way as opposed to your typical energetic and extroverted team captain. Behind the scenes, Haiji’s always calmly and collectively analyzing the shape of his men, both physically and emotionally. If something’s wrong with their bodies, he makes adjustments to their training and diet, simple as that. But when he notices that someone is anxious, depressed, or occupied with other thoughts, he doesn’t try to be overbearing and shoulder the heavy burden of “curing” their mental health. Instead . . .

Haiji sits down with them. He talks and offers what support he can, but most importantly, he’s just there for them when they need someone, and that speaks volumes about his character. I think it’s about time we start seeing male characters in sports anime break the silence on what it truly means to support others—because psychological support is just as important as physical ailment, and Haiji breaks away from the mold by finding the validity in simply “being there” for people when they are feeling down.

haiji and kakeru.PNG

To Haiji, dreams aren’t something to look down upon, even if they require the pursuers to look up towards something, in this case the pursuers being the Kansei Track Team and the dream being the Hakone Ekiden. Haiji also firmly believes in the collaborative benefits of teamwork—it’s either we’re all in, or we make changes such that everyone feels comfortable—and that’s a HUGE ideal not only for a “man” to stand up for, but for a man amongst other men.

Thankfully, the Aotake guys take Haiji’s wisdom to heart, culminating in many emotionally-driven, eye-opening experiences like the heart-to-heart with Kakeru quoted above. Haiji’s charisma fuels their motivational drive to improve themselves, and his dream of running in the Hakone Ekiden quickly becomes a goal within reach because of their combined efforts.

Of course, personal sacrifices of any kind must be made to achieve one’s goals. With the deterioration of his knee, Haiji walks (or runs, rather) on thin ice, risking permanently crippling his leg just so that he can discover his own reasons for running. And at last, he finds that in Kakeru, whom he decides to chase after as if every day were his last. Little does he know, Kakeru was chasing after him the entire time.

haiji on the bus.PNG

But when the day finally comes, all Haiji can do is break down in tears of bittersweet joy, sorrow, and satisfaction knowing that he gave it his absolute all to achieve his biggest dream in life—and with irreplaceable friends that mean far more than any mere medal or trophy. What effort Haiji gives is unbelievable, but what he gets back is even more amazing.

Looking back on this extraordinary journey, we see that Haiji Kiyose was the heart of Run with the Wind all along: a character so charismatic, wholesome, and inspiring that he was able to join the lives of ten men together just to create one precious, finite moment, then guide them back onto their own paths more motivated than ever before.

haiji seeing kakeru

Beyond Masculinity: Not as Tough as We Seem

There’s a preconceived notion that in adverse situations, men should just “tough it out” by themselves and wipe off the dirt. But that’s not what Run with the Wind tells us. Instead, it shows that as strong as men—as strong as people—try to be, we’re not all as tough as we seem. Together, however, we can inspire and push each other to accomplish everything that we couldn’t do alone, and that seemingly small sentiment echoes loudly and proudly in the hearts of Kazetsuyo‘s characters, one Haiji Kiyose leading this inspirational movement.

That’s right, men can be:

Sensitive to others’ feelings,

Responsive to the needs of a friend,

Doubtful of their own strengths, 

Dreamers who are still looking for reason, and 

Individuals that chase after others when they’re lost or confused. 

And when we finally decide to confront this reality—that we’re not only different, but also perhaps not all that “tough” as society makes us out to be—maybe then we can stop moving against our feelings and at last experience the joy and freedom of running with them. That’s just what Haiji did, and look at the lives he transformed—as well as the incredible breadth of emotions he made us feel. 

haiji ekiden.PNG

Tomorrow, the day after, and the day after that . . . What you need to do won’t ever change. Reality will always be there in front of you. So instead of running from it, why not try running with reality? — Haiji Kiyose


Afterword

I’ve gone on at length about this series now in TWO posts, and would you believe me if I said a THIRD was on the way!? I’d like to use what extra notes I took over the series to make one more post about Run with the Wind‘s other characters (cause you know, they all ROCK). If you’re interested in hearing more about the Aotake guys, then I’d be happy to deliver! As for this post, I’ve never done something this “preachy” before, haha, so I’d love to hear what you thought about it or the show in the comments.

Funny story, this was initially to be about ALL of the boys, but it ended up being way too long. So I cut it down to Haiji, Kakeru, and Prince, only to find myself writing well over 1,000 words on Haiji alone. That’s when I thought, “Hey, what’s wrong with a Haiji-exclusive post?” And you know what, there’s nothing wrong with a post all about this wonderful boy. So here it is, I hope you enjoyed it (as spoiler-free as I could make it)!

haiji and the dog.PNG

This concludes my April 13th entry in the OWLS “Masculinity” blog tour. The lovely and eloquent Irina (I Drink and Watch Anime) went right before me with a post on Natsume’s Book of Friends (imagine that!) that you can check out right here! Now, once again, look out for my good friend Crimson (Read at Night) with a post specifically about the construct of masculinity itself this coming Monday, April 15th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Naka-Kon 2019 Experience + Haul!

Hello all!

Apologies for dropping off the face of WP suddenly for two weeks. School’s been kicking my butt (and I had been doing so well blog-wise, uff). But before school got out of hand, I went to Naka-Kon 2019 over spring break, making it my 5th year at the con!

I love Naka. I love the guests they bring in, I love the size (it’s a smaller con, but just big enough to not be able to attend everything if you catch my drift), I love perusing the vendor hall and the artist alley, I love all the wonderful cosplay spirit, and I love staying at the convention center’s hotel. It’s awesome, and it’s perfect for me and my family.

Getting out of town and escaping into the city for three days for Naka-Kon is like a spiritual revival of sorts. I come back to my room with new things to hang up that’ll inspire me to watch more anime and become more productive with my blogging. Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to spend my spring break.


Meeting the Voice Behind the Mic!

This year was particularly great because it was super chill. Much more casual than the usual panic of making sure I attend panels and lines at the right time and such. The big reason for the relaxed tempo this time around was because there weren’t as many voice actors that I felt I absolutely had to meet.

Don’t get me wrong—I definitely went to all of the VA panels that I could, and I will continue to do so until I get sick of them (probably never tbh), but there’s a difference between being compelled to stand in an hour long line (alone away as my family are off doing literally anything that’s more exciting than standing ’till my legs go numb) versus just sitting down and listening to them for a bit.

But I did stand in a couple lines this year! In addition to sitting in on his YT panel, I got to meet the incredibly hilarious Alejandro Saab in the flesh! He was such a kind dude, and unlike the people in front of me who were in and out in 10 seconds, he spend what felt like an entire minute just chatting with me about creativity, motivation, business, anime licencing (regarding The Royal Tutor film) and life in general. (Plus he said he recognized my Danganronpa Komaeda cosplay after we took a picture together!)

Alejandro was well-informed about the characters he voiced (Haruto from A Sister’s All You Need, Prince Leonhard from The Royal Tutor) and was excited to impart his thoughts, which surprised me given that some VAs that I’ve met keep things pretty succinct (and understandably so). Such a generous guy. A positive experience all-around! ^ . ^

IMG_2054.jpeg

The other actor I met was Jad Saxton, a big name on the dubbing scene and an incredibly sweet person in real life! My meeting with Jad went by a lot quicker, but like Saab she was overjoyed to tell me about the roles I approached her for, particularly Faris in Steins;Gate (which we talked about returning for the much darker Steins;Gate 0 and the simultaneous joy and sorrow it brought) and my gateway role to her, Hatchin in Michiko & Hatchin. Other favorite roles include Sena in Haganai, Ruruka in Danganronpa 3, and Akatsuki in Log Horizion.

As a last-second comment, I wanted to express to Jad my appreciation for the Magical Girl Raising Project dub, as the casting and accents made it my favorite dub of 2018. We each shared a hearty *in a deep-south accent* “Calamity Mary!”, laughed, thanked each other, and I was off!

(My siblings also wanted to meet Miss Saxton, so I lent them something to sign in addition to their own materials. Thanks again fam!)

IMG_2039

Game Rooms, Quiz Shows, and the Big Schedule Conundrum 

My only big issue with this year’s Naka was the substantial number of scheduling errors and lack of communication for changed events. Some VA panels that were supposed to be on Saturday were bumped up to Friday, and we unfortunately missed them without knowing.

And it wasn’t just the times, either; panels of all varieties swapped rooms with each other unannounced, confusing and frustrating a lot of people. Unfortunately, Kara Edwards was getting over a cold, so her stuff was moved accordingly and understandably to accommodate both her health and fans wanting to meet her. But even her situation doesn’t explain why literally sooo many panels were moved around.

But surprisingly, that didn’t bother me too much. In the end, since seemingly all VA-related panels but Kristen McGuire and Jad Saxton’s ADR panel (which was quite lovely and informative!) were shuffled around, we pretty much just went to a bunch of anime quiz show sessions and played in the game room. Still, both ended up being pretty fun, and it allowed me to freely strut my cosplay and take pictures with people that asked without having to worry about time constraints.

RightStuf ran a pleasant anime quiz show through Kahoot, which allowed everyone in the room to be a player (a novel idea!). Although I’ve never participated in these game shows, perhaps I should haha! Out of three rounds with well over 60 participants each, I ended up scoring third, seventh, and fourth place, respectively. 😀 Maybe next time I’ll muster up the courage and volunteer in a less-anonymous game show.

Stuff I Bought!

So a couple VA panels, lots of gaming, and even more picture taking both with and for fellow fans and cosplayers. But what about shopping? Here’s everything I got from the vendor room and artist alley this year!

IMG_2045

These gorgeous Sailor Moon prints by FalseDelusion were an absolute MUST as soon as I saw them, especially the Silver Millennium piece on the left. Not only is the artistry delicate, but the combination of mediums here (hand-drawn characters and kingdom with overlaying of lighting and watercolor effects) creates a really fantastic vision of each planet. The ethereal dreaminess of the Moon Kingdom and the stormy colors used on Jupiter, planet of thunder, add so much character and dynamism.

The artist made one for each of the inner guardians, so I picked my favorites. Also, at my request, I had them signed and dated!

IMG_2046

The artist also had a set of small militaristic My Hero Academia prints featuring bold, bright colors with equally fierce character portraits. Since it was buy 2 get 1 free, I had to snag #bestboy as my freebie. 😉

IMG_2052

The other print I picked up was this adorable yet deep Princess Jellyfish illustration. I actually saw this print last year, but hesitated because I had spent too much—Not this time, though! I bought it in a heartbeat!! And I hope you can understand why. I love how the two are faced away from us, but while Tsukimi is lost in the sea of jellies, Kuranosuke’s attention is elsewhere . . .

My favorite part—the sharp white boarder framing—creates a powerful emphasis on the characters and the dreamy blue waters. In case you’re curious, the artist is Alexis Moore (alexis-moore.com or @alexisparade), and although I didn’t get to interact with her directly, I’m really happy that I was finally able to reunite with this beauty!

IMG_2048

Buttons, bears, and setters, oh my! Of course, it wouldn’t be Naka if I didn’t pick up a few pins for my board at home, so I grabbed up my favorite two Haikyuu!! characters as well as a Monokuma pin: a rare find IMO!

IMG_2047

OMG this artist. She had SO MANY OBSCURE CHARACTERS, MY HEART. It was a no-brainer to grab the Gosick and No.6 pairings (honestly, nobody does art for these characters). I was also really surprised to see the Devilman: Crybaby boys, so they came home with me too. And while I was only planning to pick up Seraph of the End‘s Mika, she jokingly convinced me that Mika and Yuu must not be separated, and I totally agree (<3). It was a 10-pins-for-$20 deal, so I picked up Yuri Katsuki and Suzaku to top my unintentionally bishounen cart.

Seriously though, I could’ve bought EVERYTHING from this lady! And she was so kind and humble :’) We joyfully exchanged our passions for some of these obscure titles and ships—easily one of my favorite interactions from the entire con!

IMG_2036

Onto the merch, my sister wanted a shirt, and since deals come in pairs, I grabbed more Eva goodness. I’d never seen the design for this one, and it’ll be nice to have a white anime tee to contrast my black wardrobe lol.

IMG_2053

Although my hunt for Danganronpa figures and clear files turned up ZILCH, I did manage to find the D3 Despair Arc wall scroll I hesitated buying last year and decided to submit. It’s a fantastic key visual featuring all my favorite Danganronpa 2 kiddos—no regrets!

IMG_2049

I WAS able to add another rubber strap to my arsenal, however—and it’s male Ranma, a classic favorite no less! On Sunday, my sister and I cosplayed female and male Ranma, respectively, so he was bought to commemorate this moment. :’)

IMG_2035

Last but not least is this gift from my brother, a chibi keychain strap of the Yamato (my latest obsession in case you missed it). What’s ultra hilarious about this gift however is the texture. She looks like hard plastic, doesn’t she? Well don’t let the packaging fool you—this keychain actually has a gel-like exterior that, when squeezed, activates a light on the wave motion cannon! #SquishyYamato has become simultaneously the worst and the best meme of our house ever since the surprising reveal. >.<

(PSA: Please check the texture of packaged keychains before buying. Otherwise you get awkward moments like this one :P)


And that about does it for Naka-Kon 2019! I’m hesitant to post cosplay pics just because, ya know, once it’s on the internet, it stays on the internet. But I’m about to the point where I’m like, screw it, it’s something I love doing, and I’m getting much better at it. So I might end up doing an entire post (or even series, who knows!) on my cosplay ventures. Only time will tell!

Overall, I had a wonderful experience—easily my most chill Naka yet—and if you see something cool above or are curious about other con-related details, leave a comment and I’ll definitely respond! Thank you to all who made Naka ’19 a great one, and we’ll see you in 2020!

– Takuto

Reflecting on my 2018 Watch Log + 2019 Blog Goals | Update

Hello again!

On this cold Monday morning, I present to you the last of my 2018 clean-up spree! Does anyone else use the term “watch log” anymore? Well, in case you didn’t know, this refers to all the anime shows/films I watched in 2018. I’ll also include the MyAnimeList rating I gave each title as a quick way to express how I feel about them. (I mean, this post would be waaaay too long if I wrote a paragraph about each one, so for your sake and mine, let’s keep it short.)

In the *rare* instance that I wrote about a certain title on my blog, I’ll include a link to that post so you can check out my more in-depth thoughts. Also, this list differs from my Top 10 Anime of 2018 post in that it is NOT LIMITED to shows that aired solely in 2018; it will include EVERYTHING that I watched/played in 2018 that relates to anime. What it will NOT include are the books that I read, because let’s be honest—keeping track of individual volumes of a specific series is both tricky and somewhat pointless.

The reason for writing this post is simple: there’s a LOT of stuff I didn’t write about on my blog. Although I may have wanted/planned to initially write about a show, for some reason or another, it didn’t always happen.

So, at the very least, I wanted to share with you all—in the quickest way possible—my adventures through anime in 2018. I owe you, my dear cafe goer, and to keep us both from constantly trudging along in the past, I have formulated the most efficient way to tell you about where 2018 took me, and where I’m at now.

But without further ado, here’s a quick reflection on my 2018 watch log—a brief retrospective glance at all the cool stuff I watched this past year. If you’ve seen any of these shows or would like to know my further thoughts on it/them, hit me up in the comments and I’ll respond!


HOW TO READ: The list goes in chronological order, starting in January (2018 End of Winter) and ending in January 2019. Since my own personal anime list that I keep on my phone’s notes section (classy, right?) is written in chronological order, so will this list. Also, in case you haven’t noticed, I group my anime adventures by season, as seasons seem to have the greatest influence on my watching experience. It’s got to do with emotions and timing stuff, IDK I’m just weird like that, hahaha. 

2018 End of Winter 

Land of the Lustrous     9/10

Diabolik Lovers     5/10

She and Her Cat: Their Standing Points     7/10

The Place Promised in Our Early Days     8/10

She and Her Cat -Everything Flows-     8/10

Cross Road     8/10

Made in Abyss     9/10

Love is Like a Cocktail     7/10

Patema Inverted     9/10

2018 Winter Simulcasts

A Place Further Than the Universe     10/10!

DARLING in the FRANXX     7/10

Devilman: Crybaby     9/10

Fate/Extra: Last Encore     6/10

2018 Spring

Haikyuu!!     8/10

Animation Runner Kuromi (Seasons 1 & 2)     7/10

Haikyuu!! 2nd Season     8/10

Sailor Moon Crystal Season III     9/10

My Love Story!!!     9/10

Whisper of the Heart     9/10

The Cat Returns     8/10

ChaoS;Child     7/10

Sailor Moon SuperS     [currently watching]

Colorful     8/10

2018 Spring Simulcasts

Steins;Gate 0     9/10

SAO Alternative: Gun Gale Online     7/10

My Hero Academia 3rd Season     9/10

2018 Summer

Granblue Fantasy The Animation     6/10

Children of the Whales     [need to finish]

Only Yesterday     8/10

Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace     7/10

Princess Jellyfish     9/10

Bokurano     9/10

Summer Wars     9/10

Waiting in the Summer     7/10

A Sister’s All You Need.     8/10

The Royal Tutor     8/10

Amagi Brilliant Park     8/10

Texhnolyze     [need to finish, may drop]

No-Rin     [need to finish, may drop]

2018 Summer Simulcast Season

Cells At Work     [need to finish]

Banana Fish     8/10

Attack on Titan Season 3     10/10!

Angels of Death     7/10

Grand Blue     6/10

Free! – Dive to the Future     8/10

High Speed!: Free! Starting Days     9/10

Free! -Take Your Marks-     8/10

2018 Fall

Assassination Classroom     [need to finish]

Ranma 1/2 (Viz Set 4)     [currently watching]

Magical Girl Raising Project     8/10

When Marnie Was There     9/10

Ocean Waves     7/10

Kino’s Journey     8/10

2018 Fall Simulcast Season

A Certain Magical Index III     [currently watching]

Sword Art Online: Alicization     [on hold]

DAKAICHI -I’m being harassed by the sexiest man of the year-     8/10

SSSS.GRIDMAN     9/10

Run with the Wind     [currently watching]

Tsurune: Kazemai High School Archery Club     [currently watching]

2018 End of Fall-Winter

Emma: A Victorian Romance     9/10

Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight     [need to finish]

Napping Princess     7/10

Emma: A Victorian Romance Season 2     10/10!

Genocidal Organ     8/10

Urusei Yatsura Movie 2: Beautiful Dreamer     8/10

The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star     8/10

Scrapped Princess     9/10

Tokyo Godfathers     9/10

2019 End of Winter

Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony (PS4)     11/10!!

The Promised Neverland     [currently watching]

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai     9/10

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet     [currently watching]

WorldEnd: What are you doing at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us?     [currently watching]

Image result for anime scenic wallpaper summer


My Most-Liked Post EVER!!!

I realize this is pretty much old news by now, but in case you missed it, 2018 was the year that I finally published my big meta analysis on Makoto Shinkai’s works in this post: On Love, Loneliness, & the Growing Distance Between Us | The Works of Makoto Shinkai. This project is utterly massive, clocking in at just over 5,000 words, and it encompasses every single animated work Shinkai has ever created. I’m really, really proud of how it turned out—all the countless hours of rewatching and research were definitely worth it.

And to top it all off, it has become, to my knowledge, my most-liked post EVER. With over BOTH 40 likes and 40 comments, it is now a central part of my blogging portfolio, which I do hope to expand upon in 2019. These stats may not seem like much to you guys, but to me, it means that if I work hard, others will appreciate my efforts, and that seemingly small sentiment means the world to me. Seriously, thank you—you guys are awesome! ;__;

IMG_1039


Some Blogging Goals for 2019

See, I told you I’ve been busy! As you can see, I kinda just *stopped* reviewing stuff after the summer, and that’s mainly because I took a hiatus, but also because I didn’t really feel like reviewing content. So instead I did nothing, and it definitely hurt my blog in the long run. And no, rewatching old favorites like From the New WorldDanganronpa 3, Aria the Animation, Railgun S, Cowboy Bebop, Lord Marksman and Vanadis, and so many others didn’t help much to expand my watch log . . . whoops. 😛

But now that lazy phase is over, and I should be back in the saddle. Should. Since this post is just one big update thing, I’ve compiled a few goals I want to accomplish blog-wise in 2019. Since I didn’t do anything like this last year, maybe writing my goals out will help me stay inspired and at the keyboard.

1. Read More Posts

Pretty self-explanatory; if I keep up with all of your guys’ content better, then there will be less for me to play catch-up with. Also, I want to be involved with you all again like I used to when I started blogging. For those of you who tweet out your posts, there’s a good chance that I will read them. But I realize that many do not use Twitter for that reason, so this goal involves using the WP reader more.

2. Write More Succinct Reviews

This one’s more for me—there’s a lot of shows from 2018 that didn’t get coverage even if I may have wanted to eventually write about them. While I don’t want to review every single thing I watch, this will at least help stimulate blog traffic again. It’ll be much easier to make this happen now that I FINALLY feel comfortable with my reviewing format. Now I just need to up my game. Plus, I hope to make these shorter and more succinct, bringing the word count from 2,000+ down to 1,500 or less again.

3. Post More Often

I’m thinking to upgrade from my 1-2 posts per month of 2018 to 3-4 posts per month, and although that doesn’t sound like too much for you guys (cause you’re all pros!), it’ll be a huge step-up for me—and I think I’m finally ready for it.

4. Bring Back Cafe Talk

Hey, yeah, where did this little guy go? I want to revive the segment in a new, fresh way by reformatting the way the posts are written. They’ll ideally be much shorter (think less than 500 words) and and personal, I want this to be a way to connect with you guys in case the reviews don’t (because hey, I get it). Short stories, thoughts, and whims from my life as an anime fan, collector, cosplayer, blogger, and kid suffering through college studies. Sound fun?

5. Write More Haul/Collection Posts

Although 2019 will be a year of saving money for me, I always get excited when it comes to writing haul posts. So, I thought, why don’t I just write more of them? As you may know, I’m an otaku-based collector; my shelves are full of DVDs, manga, and figures. And after reorganizing my room for the New Year, I couldn’t help but feel the urge to write about the new stuff I get and the old stuff I have. If you’re interested in this kind of thing, let me know in the comments!

Image result for tsurune smiling


Ready for 2019!

After the big OWLS catch-up, a reflection on my own OWLS experience, a compilation of my favorite shows from 2018, and my 2018 watch log + new blog goals up and out there, I’m finally ready to get 2019 started. Sure, I’m three weeks late, but better late than never, right?

Thank you so, so much for sticking with me throughout my slow year. I feel like we’ve all got one/will eventually get one, and it is so heartwarming to see that you guys are still interested in what I have to say. And to all my new followers, hi! Hello! Thanks for following, and I hope you are enjoying your stay.

With the past three posts done I’ve officially rambled enough. Again, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my watch log and goals, and if there’s a show up there that you want me to talk about further, I’d be more than happy to elaborate. Ah, I’m so excited right now, and I hope this inspiration sticks with me for months to come! Thanks so much again for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Ebb & Flow: Taking Life Slowly With ARIA | OWLS “Self-Care”

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  ninth monthly topic for 2018, “Self-Care,” I kinda wanted to break away from my typically structured review + reflection post and do a bit of free-writing about my own mental health. (Although I do not have any mental health illnesses, I do know what it’s like to be incredibly busy under pressure.) And what better a way to pull back the reins on my recently-rushed and unmotivated life than with one of the most soothing, slow-moving anime about enjoying every second of the present—Aria The Animation.

In favor of positivity and good mental health, we will be exploring the importance of self-care. Sometimes, we are lost in our thoughts and emotions that it can cause a negative impact on our lifestyle and our relationships. We will be exploring the mental health of pop culture characters and how their mental health affects their environments. We will explore the dangers of mental health illnesses and how it might lead to self-destruction and/or how one has the power to overcome their demons. In addition, we will share our personal stories and struggles about mental health and discuss positive ways in handling mental health issues.

Rather than gazing straight into the mindset of mental health, I’d like to flip the topic inside-out a bit and show how the environment affects mental health instead—specifically, how we can shape our mindsets to ease tension and better our lives. Thanks Lyn for the topic!

Related image


A brief, spoiler-free discussion on the 13-episode fall 2005 anime “Aria The Animation,” Hal Film Maker, directed by Junichi Satou, and based on Kozue Amano’s manga of the same name. This will also include a glimpse into my life, and how “Aria”  provides healing to those who need it. 

Tired, Stressed, & Tired of Being Stressed

If you came to my blog two years ago, you would’ve found it abundant with reviews and updates, and rich with a comments section that was always in full-swing. My my! That’s a bit hard to believe considering that within the past couple months, I would go weeks at a time without posting so much as a peep into what’s going on, save for the monthly OWLS post (like this one, which would go out, and then I would hibernate again). “What brought you to this level of stagnation,” you might ask? My need to write about every single series that I finished, rather than just the ones I really wanted to talk about, became a ritual that crushed my motivation. Even just thinking about all the shows I’ve missed coverage on from these past couple seasons makes my stomach hurt a bit.

Not only did I consider dismissing writing reviews, but I also wanted a break from blogging. Just a short one. It didn’t even have to be announced, and so I didn’t announce it. But once you have a small taste of “freedom” (even though I love blogging), all you want is more of it. And so one week became two, two became three, and so on.

Image result for aria the animation  president aria sad

It didn’t help that my life always seemed to be swatting my blog away This past summer, I worked two jobs simultaneously and was busy with music-related things on the side. Now, I am a full-time student at university (a sophomore, to be exact) clocking in 18 hours, including a position as a student success coach (I work with freshmen during their first year experience), ALL of my never-ending music nonsense (which keeps me as busy as a year-round sport would), and a part-time job. I tease myself (and am teased by others) for being generally lazy and procrastinating, but to call myself “inactive” would be far from the truth.

By 8 in the morning I’m at school, and I don’t get home until about 3 . . . only to go into work most days at 4 or 6 in the evening and return home at around 9:30 pm. After homework, I watch an episode or two of whatever I’m following this season, then go to bed at around midnight. Call it me complaining about how stupid my schedule is, but I thought telling you all about my life would help you understand why I’m constantly tired, stressed, and tired of being stressed. To top it all off, my OWLS deadline was approaching rapidly, and I had NO IDEA what to focus on. That’s where the self-care part comes in—when a package arrived on my doorstep one monotonous, unsuspecting day.

Image result for aria the animation

And Along Came Aria

I actually watched Aria’s first season back in the summer of 2017 in a mad dash to justify whether or not I should participate in RightStuf and Nozomi’s Kickstarter campaign for a dub and Blu-ray release of the property. Safe to say that, even though I didn’t enjoy it to its fullest potential during my initial rushed watch, the first season alone was enough to tell me that I’d enjoy everything the franchise had to offer. So I pledged heftily at the Prima Tier and a year later . . .

My Kickstarter awards arrived on my doorstep just last week. As I sifted through the box of goodies—which I will share in an upcoming post—I instantly recalled the calming allure of Aria. Eagerly and impulsively, I plugged the first disc in, feeling a rush of utter wonder and joy at hearing this year-long project payoff in the form of its fantastic English dub cast. From Choro Club’s vibrant yet chill acoustic soundtrack to the flowing canals and charming watercolor artistry of Neo Venezia, I was reminded of not only how much I loved Aria, but intriguingly, how much I truly needed it in that moment.

For just 20 minutes, I had blocked out the world and my obligations to truly enjoy time to myself, and it was wonderful. Then it hit me: “Aria. I could talk about Aria, and how slowing down is the first step to understanding self-care,” which brings me to now, and the last part of my short little story.

Image result for Aria

Finding Inspiration Starts with Slowing Down

During these past six or so months, I have struggled with finding the inspiration to write. I think it’s no use hiding it anymore, for if I truly loved blogging I would make the time to do it. I constantly got behind on comments and reviews, and it seemed like the only game I was playing was the “Catch-Up Game” (of which I am STILL a major loser, haha). Everyone around me would be celebrating the now, while I was reflecting on then, and I felt kinda lonely.

But I think my biggest fault lies with my understanding of inspiration. Previously, I would try to forcibly (and desparately) “jump start” my inspiration by traveling down nostalgia lane with older titles I love ( like rewatching Negima!?, Danganronpa, and yes, ALL of FMAB) or reading/watching from people who used to inspire me in the past. Is this something only I do?? I treated inspiration as a source, tapping into all of my resources that had already gone dry long ago, and in the end I just grew sad at how things used to be and what they’ve become. (Call me a romantic, or just depressed.)

After taking all this time off, however, I learned that inspiration is not a source, but a wave—an ebb and a flow that comes, and eventually goes. As frustrated as I became with my lack of passion, I first had to accept the fact I was experiencing a lull. With my last post, everything came to a halt, and I left the keyboard until the wave washed upon my aching feet once again.

And then along came Aria, a show that is as healing as the so-called “Iyashikei” genre gets. Heck, you could call it one of the firsts. Quiet, episodic, and slow enough to thoroughly enjoy the scenic gondola ride, Aria is warm soup for the soul. In rewatching Aria, my heart beat physically slowed down, and I found myself incredibly contented and, finally, relaxed.

Image result for aria the animation 1 話

You need time to relax in order to recharge.Alicia

As Inexplicably Wondrous as it is Wonderful

Aria is unique because it takes sci-fi from a very mellow perspective. Messing with gravity, terraforming Mars, and unexpectedly waltzing through time holes into the long-lost past would leave viewers watching any other show confused and questioning all the plot holes. But with Aria, it works because the science fiction elements are just devices that lead us to understanding the bigger picture: What it means to enjoy life and all that it has to offer. The same applies to the element of drama in Aria—situations never get too intense or bitterly poignant because, as Aika would always remark, “NO SAPPY LINES ALLOWED!”

In many ways, Aria is a prime example of how magical realism can construct characters with very much real emotions and tell stories about them living in a world that is as inexplicably wondrous as it is wonderful. Every single minute of the series is filled with simple expressions of love, and as the seasons roll by, we see that how we live our lives must change, too. By being able to slow down and assess how the world outside is changing us from within, we can better understand how to take care of ourselves.

Slowing down between all the busy, anxiety-filled moments in my life allowed me to rediscover my inspiration. Slowing down allowed me to admire the little things I missed out on. And most of all, slowing down allowed me to remember that the things I can do here, on this blog, truly are enjoyable—I just need to take the gondola ride at my own pace, and remember that everything will be alright in the end.

Image result for Animated film

Take whatever comes and change it inside yourself. Make everything something you enjoy . . . It’s truly such a simple thing, to enjoy what you do. But everyone always seems to forget it. — “Grandma”


Afterword

Rewatching this “Caffe Mocha” title and writing this reflection post was one of the best things to happen to me all year. It won’t go down as one of my most professional posts, but I’ll be able to look back on it as a snapshot of my emotions—how and why I felt the way I did, exactly at this time. And that is one of the greatest joys of blogging, to be able to archive moments like these and share them with others, good times and not-so-hot times alike. After writing this, I’m actually really looking forward to the next post, and the one after that, too! As Aria would say, “Thank you for spending this wonderful moment, together!”

Image result for aria the animation dvd

This concludes my September 14th entry in the OWLS “Self-Care” blog tour. Matt Doyle (Matt Doyle Media) went right before me with his own insightful, cautionary tale on hitting rock bottom which you can read right here. (That makes two of us for this tour, buddy!) Now, look out for blogger buddy (and one of my own inspirations) Lita (Lita Anime Corner) on Saturday, September 15th! Thanks for reading, and until next time, take it easy on yourself!

– Takuto, your host

Princess Jellyfish: Confidence, Community, & the Beauty Below the Surface | OWLS “Pride”

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 sixth monthly topic for 2018, “Pride,” I wanted to dive deep into the ocean where the jellyfish roam (and the otaku swim)! I suppose most jellies don’t actually swim that deep, as they prefer to ride the ocean’s current . . . Nevertheless, Princess Jellyfish is here to proudly de-Clara that, ultimately, we are all the same below the surface.

In honor of “Pride Month,” we will be discussing the word “Pride” and its meaning. We will be exploring pop culture characters’ most satisfying and joyful achievements or skills that they possessed, and whether or not these qualities could be seen as a positive or negative aspect in their personal lives and/or society.

Just like Haikyuu!!, this is one of those OWLS staples that every member must eventually talk about (haha, not really, but really). While I admit others in our group have explored the series more thoroughly than I will now, I do hope you enjoy what I have to say about this wonderful little title. Thanks Lyn for the month-befitting prompt!

tsukimi salute.jpg


A brief spoiler-free discussion on the 11-episode fall 2010 anime “Princess Jellyfish,” animated by Brain’s Base, directed by Takahiro Omori, and based on Akiko Higashimura’s manga of the same name. 

All Dried-Up and Taking On Tokyo!

It took all but a single trip to the aquarium to get young Tsukimi Kurashita hooked on jellyfish. Well, Tsukimi’s fateful encounter was made more special by her late mother taking her there, but it’s impossible to ignore the adorable comparison Tsukimi makes between the glowing, flowing tentacles and the fluffy ruffles of a princess’s dress. Alone with only the memories of her mother in her heart, Tsukimi set out for Tokyo for a change. But oh, how life hits ya hard! Currently residing in the dilapidated Amamizukan apartment with five other unemployed otaku women, 19-year-old Tsukimi spends this new phase of her life as a social outcast still dreaming of becoming an illustrator.

However, her quiet life is met with sudden intrigue when a glamorous woman, one of the so-called “stylish” by Amamizukan’s “Sisterhood,” unexpectedly helps Tsukimi save a jellyfish from the careless treatment of a local pet store. After helping bring Clara (the jellyfish) back to the apartment, “the stranger—confident, fashionable, and the complete opposite of Tsukimi and her roommates—begins to regularly visit the girls’ building. This trendy hipster, though appearing shallow at first, harbors some secrets of her own, starting with the fact that “she” isn’t really a girl at all, but a wealthy male college student—and son of a major politician—named Kuranosuke Koibuchi!”

kuranosuke meeting

I leaned on MAL for help with this summary a little more than I would have liked to, but I didn’t want to leave out a single detail of Tsukimi’s crazy situation. Seriously, there is NO end to the number of comedic outcomes to be found in this series! Visually and audibly, intentionally and unintentionally, the humor is excellent and always on point. Beyond the laughs, however, is also a story full of important life lessons. From coming out of one’s shell to coping with new life changes and finding strength and confidence in oneself, Princess Jellyfish never downplays the importance of pride.

Pulled from the depths of the sea that is her shut-in lifestyle, Tsukimi learns to build up her own self-esteem thanks to Kuranosuke’s stylish ways. Conversely, although he forces the Amamizukan ladies to reintegrate themselves back into society by trying new things, Kuranosuke unknowingly finds refuge for his frowned-upon love of cross-dressing in the Sisterhood’s combined passion for their own obscure hobbies.

princess bedsheets.jpg

Doomed From the Start: The Sisterhood

Tsukimi is just one of five eccentric NEETs barely making it by on petty allowances from the apartment manager’s mother and the income of a mysterious sixth member’s popular BL manga. (Yikes.) Dubbed “the Sisterhood” for their extreme sense of purity (and complete lack of fashion sense), the ladies of Amamizukan neither excel at socializing with normal people nor supporting themselves.

Even so, I love all of them. Tsukimi’s infatuation with jellies of all kind, Banba’s enthusiasm for trains and subways, Mayaya’s fanaticism with anything “Three Kingdoms” and late Han period, Jiji’s silent lust for . . . older men(?) . . . Chieko’s obsession with traditional Japan (kimonos and dolls included)—the whole lot of them! They’ve all got such quirky yet memorable character designs, mannerisms, and speech patterns. Tsukimi’s rapid-fire jellyfish knowledge is fearsome; Chieko’s sewing skills are not-of-this-world; and Mayaya’s constantly-flailing arms and loud, seemingly illiterate shouting always proclaim a duel of sorts. Amamizukan’s ladies are heartwarming, almost overwhelmingly joyful at times, and watching them all casually grow to accept “Kurako’s” shimmering presence—from literally stoned to smiling—has got to be one of the biggest batches of character development I’ve ever seen.

hot pot.png

Sorry Mom, I Couldn’t Become a Princess . . .  

While Tsukimi has physically moved on to a new city where she’s made new friends, mentally, she’s still the same child yearning for mommy. This heartache results in frequent bouts of depression, which Tsukimi describes as “wanting nothing than to dive underwater and sway with the jellies.” At one of her lowest lows, she even wishes she’d be reincarnated as a jellyfish instead of a human just so that she wouldn’t have to deal with such cruel, troublesome emotions. Talk about drastic!

I’m really glad the series doesn’t suddenly drop this heavy mental weight when Kuranosuke gives her (or any of the Sisterhood) a makeover. The lesson isn’t that you’re prettier when you take off the glasses and thrown on some make-up—it’s that sometimes, you need to see yourself in a different way in order to appreciate who you’ve been this whole time. Tsukimi is still a social mess; Kuranosuke is helping in the only way he knows how: he loves fashion, and by spreading his passion with the others, he hopes that the the gals can feel happier with themselves just as how he does. Beauty is not something you simply put on: it’s an emotion you feel when you’re at your best. 

tsukimi crying.jpg

. . . But I Made Friends With a Queen!?

This wouldn’t be a Princess Jellyfish post if I didn’t rave about our dazzling lead Kura-poo~! Ok, so I’m not Kuranosuke’s hip uncle (and friggin’ PRIME MINISTER) with an approval rating less than 10% and steadily declining, but hear me out: Kuranosuke IS a freakin’ QUEEN, an absolute diva whose own obsession with fashion ironically leaves him lonely. He’s got a mother who left his father, a father that doesn’t necessarily adore him, and a brother, Shuu, that he seems to get along with fine enough. Other than the girls who are just chasing after his looks and dad’s checkbook, however, that’s all Kuranosuke’s got for a support system. To compensate, he seeks pretty things as a memento for his missing mother who dominated the stage fabulously so many years ago, just like Tsukimi does with jellyfish. It’s a sad parallel, really.

That’s when his encounter with Tsukimi and the Sisterhood changes his life in return. Through pushing them to grow together, Kuranosuke finally finds a place to call home (and a squad to call family). Full of pride and not much else, he instills the ladies with the courage to stand on their own two feet against a city plan to demolish their beloved Amamizukan. Without any sense of pride, the Sisterhood wouldn’t stand a chance.

kuranosukemakeover.jpg

Declaring their beauteous garb “battle armor,” Kuranosuke is able to shake things and bring change to a group that lives for the status quo. Every stick of lip gloss, bright-colored wig, and chic miniskirt is but a tool to help him reconnect with the past, as well as fill him (and his newfound friends) with undefinable confidence in the present. He treats the Sisterhood and their wacky hobbies with just as much appreciation and respect, as he knows that fashion means the same things to him. Kuranosuke is a rare character, a pillar of positivity—no, an absolute icon to a series that would lose all its main morals without. There’s never a dull moment with Kuranosuke around, and you’re always left wondering if he can get any better.

To which, of course, he always does.

kurodresss.jpg

Precious Pastels, Lovable English Cast

Brain’s Base has crafted the perfect atmosphere that is fluffy and cute, yet realistic at the same time. The wild and hilarious character expressions shine wonderfully against the softer watercolor landscapes and cluttered Amamizukan space. And wow, the fashion transformations for Kuranosuke and the ladies are gorgeous spectacles to behold! The show’s also got a wonderful soundtrack complete with a nice OP and ED which are both, to describe in a single word, charming.

I have to—I must absolutely, without doubt, mention Funimation’s English dub before this post is over. I’ve finally found my favorite Josh Grelle performance with Kuranosuke here, and the same goes for Maxey Whitehead’s Tsukimi! His higher register for Kuranosuke’s aristocratic cross-dress mode didn’t feel fake at all, but rather powerful, graceful, ritzy, lush and, well, stylish. Monica Rial captures Mayaya’s ridiculousness and energy, and while Cynthia Cranz had never really stuck out to me before, her role here as Amamizukan’s manager, Chieko, was so full of care and motherly vibes.

sisterhood.PNG

Passion & Inspiration, Acceptance & Pride

Princess Jellyfish covers a wide emotional range where several human values converge. Learning to accept yourself and love yourself is half the battle; the other half involves knowing that you are still able to change and be accepted by others. After all, you only become that confident, beautiful person once you accept yourself and feel comfortable with those around you. To quote Simply Gee, a YouTuber friend and fan of the series, “If you have a passion, if you love something, you’re a step ahead of everyone else—and you should embrace that, and not have to worry about everyone else’s perception of you.” Beautifully said, Gee!

At its very end, the story of Princess Jellyfish embodies something so pure, hopeful, and passionate that it becomes impossible to not enjoy. You grow to love the characters for who they truly are, even if we don’t get the rest of the tale. It’s an anime about community that means a lot to a good many people, as it provides comfort (and entertainment) for those leading lives similar to its cast. For its realistic premise and general themes of life and love, passion and inspiration, and acceptance and pride, Princess Jellyfish is one of the greatest Josei comedies out there.

Bold, brilliant, and tons of fun, Princess Jellyfish tells us that above all else, so long as you take pride in yourself and the things you love, all people—including us adults—still have plenty of room for growth and change. Just as how many parts of the ocean remain untouched, we all have vast seas of our own with exciting depths yet to be explored. These mystical waters, of course, are called our personality.

kuranosukedress.jpg

Every girl is born a princess. Some just forget is all. — Kuranosuke Koibuchi


Afterword

I think I’ve said all that I’ve wanted to on this one . . . that is, until I start reading the manga! That’s right, seeing as how the anime just kinda “ends” (it’s still a pleasant stopping point, though), I want to know what happens to Tsukimi and the others. The future of Amamizukan? What of Kuranosuke’s unrequited feelings? And brother Shuu’s side plot relationship with that business woman Inari?? I just have to know, and the manga will give me those answers! I now totally understand why it’s a crying shame this anime hasn’t gotten a second season!

Despite no continuation, I recommend this “Caffe Mocha” series with every fiber of my being to all those struggling with sharing their passion for a hobby. For a coming-of-age tale, the development and growth of its cast is depicted with great realism, and I think that’s what makes it so relatable. The comedy is genuinely funny too, and the characters are utterly inspirational!

princess jellyfish poster.jpg

This concludes my June 26th entry in the OWLS “Pride” blog tour. OWLS fam, you’ll have to let me know how I did with this one! Gigi (Animepalooza) went right before me with a video that you should totally check out! Now, look out for Scott (Mechanical Anime Reviews) with an epic post on the grand space opera Legend of the Galactic Heroes tomorrow, June 27th! Thanks for reading such a long post, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host