Five CRITICAL Things I Learned About Collecting Anime in 2019 || Cafe Talk

Hello all,

Welcome to the first Cafe Talk of 2019! It’s been a while, has it not?

As I mentioned in my December OWLS post, “Unhauling” for the Holidays, the year 2019 was too good for the collection. From a size standpoint, I was definitely packing some full shelves. However, it got to a point where, in the last couple weeks of 2019, I went from receiving packages daily to hating everything in my collection. All of it. It made me sick. It was unexpected, and hit very, very hard.

What had happened was that, at some point in my mindless buying ventures, I stopped collecting what I truly love. Don’t get me wrong, I love anime, manga, figures, and everything else associated with them. Still do, too. But, in exchange for buying shows that I thoroughly enjoyed and would continue to enjoy over and over again, I started collecting, well, “stuff.”

I had no personal connection to approximately 30% of my collection, and so in the grand spirit of the holidays, I ousted much of these titles to my siblings (whom cheerfully accepted my hand-me-down books and Blu-rays).

Going forward in 2020—and the rest of my life if I can help it—I’ll still be collecting (once a collector, always a collector), but in a different way than I did before. 2019 was a very telling year, and although parts of it were painful, I realized a lot about who I am, who I want to be, and what I want to put on my shelf—because a bookshelf can represent one’s entire personality, and I would never want to clutter up my soul the way I did in 2019.

Thus I present to you five things I learned about collecting anime in 2019. Take these as cautionary pieces of advice, my friends, for I wouldn’t want to wish upon any of you that which happened to me: to feel burdened with having a collection.


5. Use Bookends

Sounds simple, but MAN would you believe how unnatural it feels to buy black metal bookends from Amazon in bulk. Your room may literally start feeling like library, but wow what a difference these simple little wedges make. Although I encourage you to use your LTD ED anime releases, box sets, picture frames, and the like when you can as bookends (see next tip), you should definitely consider investing in a set of 10 or 20 of these guys, especially if your collection is of substantial size (or foresees growth in the near future).

4. Alternate Your Display

The first thing that made me despise my own collection was seeing the rows upon rows of book and movie spines. It actually made me nauseous. If bookends are not an option for you (even though they are quite affordable), you can use other objects to vary up the look of your shelves. Place DVDs or manga volumes in vertical stacks; add some greenery with plants; mix in some picture frames or coffee mugs; take some of the figures from your figure cases and place them among your Blu-rays. The possibilities are endless.

I encourage you to get artsy with your collection. I’ll post pics of my own shelves here in a couple days, but my go-to for instantly aesthetically pleasing shelves are fake succulents!

3. Do NOT Blind Buy

Ever. Or, at least if you can help it. With online streaming and reading seeming like the popular option these days, the point of buying physical releases anymore is to put something you already know you like into your possession IMO. Even if it’s just the first couple episodes of a show, it’s much better to stream something as a sample than dive straight into the physical if you know it’s something you’ll enjoy. Otherwise, you end up with a bunch of strangers in your home taking space on your precious shelves, and that’s no way to do it.

Plus, unopened/unwatched/unread movies and books tend to pile up over time, much like your own anime backlog—you’ll definitely NOT want to throw money away at something you probably won’t get to for YEARS (trust me, it happens) when you could be spending it on stuff you enjoy now. Or, you know, groceries and stuff.

2. ONLY Buy What You Will Rewatch

Like all of these tips, this one sounds like a no-brainer. But trust me, it’s much harder to think in the long-term than it seems. I often find myself on a feel-good “high” after finishing an anime, whether I actually enjoyed the show or not. This leads me to inadvertently searching for the title in sales just so I can have a physical copy of my watch history on my shelves.

DON’T. DO. THIS. We buy DVDs so that we can one day rewatch them (and for books, reread them). If we never end up putting the disc in the player, we might as well have just thrown money down the river. So, next time you finish a show, wait a little while before deciding to pick it up. You may realize that, hey, it was a great show—but perhaps not something I plan on rewatching, let alone need a physical copy of.

1. ONLY Buy What Will Bring You Happiness

In other words, only buy what you truly love. This last tip pretty much sums up all the others, but can also be the hardest one to practice. Try this: Take a look at your own anime/manga collection right now. Skim each title with your eyes one by one. For each title, ask yourself, “Does owning this title bring me happiness?” We’re essentially applying basic Marie Kondo tips here, but with the added caveat that it must also be a title we plan to someday rewatch/reread (and trust me, it’s pretty damn hard to say you “love” something that you haven’t even seen yet).

So what do we do with the items we decide to take down from our shelves? Well, just unhaul them! Sell them to willing buyers, or perhaps give them to an interested friend. Remember, at this point, getting your money back is second to achieving happiness. We all want to make up for what we spent, but if it ends up taking you years to sell off that which you wish to unhaul, you might as well have left it on the shelf.

Whatever you decide, just remember going forward with any future purchases that you truly dig down and ask yourself, “Will this thing make me as happy as it should?” If not, consider that money saved on your part that you can now use toward something even nicer than that which you just passed up!


Well, I hope you came for the lecture but stayed for the life advice, cause if you follow all of these tips with your own collection, you can only expect it to continue bringing you happiness in the future. And hey, isn’t collecting because it makes one happy what this whole thing’s all about?

By learning these critical things through my own failures, my collecting habits have taken an entire 360 within just the past couple weeks. I’m a new man, I tell ya! And you have no idea how incredible it feels to be able to say, “Yes, I love absolutely every single thing that I own.” After applying these tips to other areas of my life, from eliminating old papers and personal belongings to reassessing what music I listen to and what foods I put in my body, I feel more confident about myself by the day. Buying stuff is fun, but unhauling can be even greater self-care.

Give these suggestions a try if you are seeking to maximize the satisfaction and joy out of your own collection. Because honestly, if there’s one thing that I learned, it’s “Why wait to be happy?” You can quote me on that. Anyway, how do you collect your anime, manga, or figures? Do you have any advice for fellow collectors out there that you’ve stumbled upon? Your wisdom would be most appreciated by us all! Thanks for joining me on this little cafe talk, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

2019 Holiday Haul #2 – Cyber Monday Deals || RightStuf Pickups

Hello all!

I’m back for day two of showing off all the stuff I bought for the holidays this year. Honestly, I spent waaay too much on myself, haha. But it’s so hard to pass up great deals on anime and manga you know you’ll want to have in your collection eventually, right?

So I splurged, as I often do, and here’s what I picked up through RightStuf’s 2019 Cyber Monday sale—enjoy!

Oof, we’re starting off with a strong one, and one of my favorite releases of the year no less. Space Battleship Yamato 2202 is one of those sequels that I normally wouldn’t recommend, if only the studio didn’t do such a fan-FREAKING-tastic job at reanimating the story for the modern day. This is my personal favorite remake of a classic series, and although it’s not everything I wanted Yamato’s sequel to be, it is told EXACTLY as the original story was, if not better on every front.

More pictures of the box and the art book. Funimation did such an incredible job making this as similar to their 2199 release as possible—as a collector, I am thankful to own such beautiful cohesive sets. The back of the Blu-ray shows off stunning art of the series’s villains, and while the art book is a little more bland than the previous one, it’s still a great bonus!

Ughhh the reverse side of the Blu-ray features gorgeous art of the side protagonists of 2202 preparing to engage the enemy. I love the violet sky and ship looming in the background. The discs are also uniquely designed with artwork from the series.

And if you were wondering what was inside that silver box up top, YES, we got some high quality art boards featuring artwork from the original Japanese releases. Really wish I could frame ALL of them, but alas, I’ve got very little space to spare. Kinda weird how there’s a duplicate of one of the cards . . . maybe I’ll give it to my brother or something, as he’s also a fan.

Up next is some more classic mecha stuff, this time with Gainax’s hallmark Gunbuster and it’s sequel recap/rebuild film Diebuster. Other than the fact that this franchise is absolutely iconic to the genre, I know very little about it. Spoiler alert, there’s a high chance that this will be my pick for my Valentine’s Day special, but we’ll see!

While the first season from the 70s or 80s (can’t remember) is long out of print here in the states, the second season is fairly easy to pick up. Here are all three volumes I picked up for like $2 each, and just like the films each release comes with its own little art book—such a pleasant little addition! Happy to finally be able to explore this lost gap in my Gainax history!

Lots of Aniplex stuff was/is on sale this year, and while I had no original intent on picking up the second half of Aldnoah.Zero (those who’ve seen it know why), I decided to snag them up before they went OOP like all of Aniplex’s older releases seem to be doing.

For half price off, just $15 each, I really didn’t want to miss out on owning this series complete if I ever turned the other cheek in the future. It’s not a great sequel, but I love this series nevertheless. Here are the reverse arts of the DVD, which I personally leave on display this way cause the warm color palette for these two DVDs congrats nicely with the cool-toned blue and turquoise of the first season sets.

Lastly for anime is this little one, Maria the Virgin Witch (clearly keeping up with the space/mecha theme, I know). In all seriousness, I picked this series up because it was recommended to me years ago at Naka-Kon and I never ended up watching it for some reason. Well, that changes now, and for $11 how could I resist!

Last but not least, I bought more manga! Continuing with volumes 4-9 in my collection, here we have the majority of what the second cour is currently adapting if I’m not mistaken. Guys, I unashamedly LOVE Fire Force. I find the series to be tons of fun, the bits of unnecessarily flashy fan-service aside, and the character outfits/designs are just the coolest in my eyes. I’ll actually be cosplaying little Shinra Kusakabe in March, so I’m really excited to beef up my manga knowledge of the flame hero!


There it is, the second of more holiday hauls to come. Like the first haul’s unintentional blue-green blend of items, this haul is also by chance themed out for a color. Can you tell what that is? (HINT: It’s the color of FIRE.) Feel free to share your thoughts on any of these pick-ups down in the comments, and I’ll see you all tomorrow with yet another batch of anime-related goodies!

– Takuto, your host

A Fall Haul (Part 1) – Anime & Manga Pick-Ups || RightStuf, Sentai, and More

Hello all!

I am officially back from Canada and on fall break! The conference went swimmingly, Montreal was beautiful, and I spent lots of money on some of the most delicious food I’ve ever eaten. It is easily one of the best trips I’ve ever gone on, such a gorgeous city, and being with just my two professors made us feel like the closest group of friends ever. I’ll never forget it, and hopefully my return to the wonderful land in the North won’t be before too long now.

But you’re here for a haul, that’s right. I really need to space these things out better, cause we’ve got THREE months of stuff to catch up on! The last time I did this thing was in August, so here before you now is all the anime-related goodness I’ve picked up in September, October, and November. I’ll probably split this into two halves just so I can go into greater depth about each item. Now, let’s get to it!

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Our first anime LTD ED is Funi’s release of Steins;Gate 0, and might I add that a) this is probably one of the nicest sets the company has ever released, and b) that it is so freakin’ nice to finally own this series after pining after it for YEARS. The chipboard box is slightly holographic on both sides, showcasing some of the JP Blu-ray art. Included is a neat little reference/art book, an Amadeus acrylic phone stand (which I actually use daily!), a vibrant green Upa strap, and the first half of the series on Blu-ray/DVD.

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Inside the extras box are nice art boards featuring ALL of the JP Blu-ray covers, which is always awesome to have. Each art card is layered with a green holofoil effect that kind of reminds me of The Matrix. It’s a neat collection of prints to have, and overall this set just feels very premium. Clearly, lots of thought went into making this release shine, and to think I was able to snag it up brand new on eBay for just $40!

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Next is another highly anticipated Funi LTD ED release I’ve been dying to add to my collection: it’s Free! – Dive to the Future, and boy is this another fine release. I really like how Funi has been doing more to go out and replicate the JP Blu-rays, as this set features much of the JP cover arts pieces scattered throughout. I really like how this set matches the other Free! sets I have, and the art book, oh man the art book! It’s got lots of fun stuff in it, from exclusive promotional artwork to character bios stylized as if each character had actually “written” them.

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Contained in a separate envelope (grrrr) are a small collection of screencaps from the ending theme printed on holographic paper. They’re a nice bonus, even if I don’t really have any place to hang them. Perhaps I should put all these LTD ED prints in a photo book or scrapbook of some kind . . . Anyway, glad to have all of Free! (so far) on Blu-ray! And another $40 eBay find, hooray!

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Two reasons why I bought this next set: 1) We’re a KyoAni stan, and 2) it was $20. This is one of the Funi sets featured in the most recent pre-holiday sale at RS, and while I’m honestly not a huge fan of this set (and the show) in general, for just $20, c’mon, I couldn’t say no.

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I’ve actually seen the show, but subbed, so it’ll be fun to rewatch it in the dub. I remember liking the characters, but seeing as how I’m not a big fanservice guy, there wasn’t much else for me in this one.

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Oh yeah, and there’s a separate envelope (grrrrr) full of cool lenticular cards. Unfortunately (for me), it’s just art of the girls with their school uniforms and, when tipped in just the right direction, art of them in their swimsuits. Again, not for me, but the colors are fun enough.

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Also in the sale (and for just $20) was the LTD ED for 91 Days. Although it was a blind buy for me, I have a feeling I’ll enjoy it. The leatherbound textured box is a nice touch, and an art book is ALWAYS a plus for me.

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Continuing with the theme, in a separate envelope (GRRRRR) is a small collection of art cards with art from the JP Blu-rays on them. From what I can tell, it’s a really nice, stylish set for an anime original series!

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This next one has a special story. Ever since this collector’s edition set was announced, I’ve been pining after for it, scouring eBay day and night for a decently priced offer. I’ve seen it go in and out of stores and sales like no other, so years after its release, I was really starting to think I wouldn’t ever pick it up. So, I settled for less and scored a deal for the LTD ED set . . . only for this to go on sale for $50 just a couple months later. Here I am now, having double-dipped in this series, but with no regrets!

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Look at it. LOOK AT THIS SET. The box has a gorgeous green beveled foil leaf pattern on it, which feels very premium when paired with the deep black matte texture of the box. The box alone is worth the price of admission, but we’re just getting started. The discs are held onto this massive digipak, which isn’t my preferred method of storage, but works well with the set. On the back is full art of each of the four main visuals for the series’ two halves, which is something I definitely wanted with whatever version of the show I decided to own. My sticker set was a bit mangled, but I don’t plan on really using it.

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The real catch here is the art book, which features over 200 pages of character and background art. Wit’s painted scenery and landscapes provide such a unique atmosphere to this show, and having this book full of pretty location art is just a joy. Also, more character art cards, and each showcases a cover from the JP Blu-ray releases! I’m honestly just so happy to have this exquisite, high quality set on my shelves!

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We’re on the last of the limited editions Blu-rays, and holy crud did Sentai knock this one out of the park. For starters, gone are the oversized DVD box sets, as they’ve started slimming down for space-conscious collectors like myself. Next, the matte full-wrap landscape art on the box—love it. There’s also the signature Sentai box of stuff (which fits IN the box), as well as not one but TWO art booklets, one being storyboards for the first episode.

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Inside the box are sticker sets and a dog tag, neither of which I’ll likely end up using, but the filler box art itself is pleasant and iconic to the series. I honestly think this is one of Sentai’s best sets to date, and if they were to keep up with this size and quality of release, I just might end up buying ALL of their sets!

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Onto the standard BDs, we’ve got some housekeeping to do with My Hero Academia Season 3 Part 1 and The Ancient Magus’ Bride Season 1 Part 2. Not much to say about them other than that I’m glad to be able to keep filling out parts of the collection with more content from some of the best stories out there.

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More housekeeping with the second and FINAL set of Sailor Moon Stars. I’ll forever have gripes with how Viz could’ve made these sets look much, much better. But at this point, all I feel is an overwhelming gratitude toward Viz for bringing us the end to this classic series for the FIRST TIME EVER in the States. It has been a long time coming, almost six years in the making, but the journey has been wonderful. I can’t wait to see how this series comes to a close! And oh yeah, picked up Metropolis cause it was cheap on Amazon (and more cyber punk, yay), as well as Hitorijime My Hero cause we a BL dub stan up in this club.

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Last for the BDs are an assortment of $7-$12 Maiden Japan titles from the RS pre-holiday sale. Lots of colors! Going around, we’ve got Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise, Hataraki Man, Den-noh Coil, Glask Mask, This Art Club Has a Problem!, and my personal fave that I am currently watching, Yumeiro Patissiere. Lots of colors here, and lots of anime gems!

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Onto the manga! I didn’t buy much this fall in theway of books, but one of my favorite simulcasts from the summer inspired this pick-up: it’s Fire Force volumes 1-3, and wow, how amazing the anime is at replicating Okubo’s style! It’s nearly 1:1, and I hope to continue picking up more as my reading goes along.

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I picked up some BL manga one-shots, the left being Bukuro Yamada’s Melting Lover, which also happens to be the first book published by KUMA. It’s a really nice quality publication with a softcover dust jacket, and I can’t wait to read it! The other is an older yaoi manga that I picked up on recommendation from Dynamic Dylan and Crimson, Same Cell Organism by Sumomo Yumeka. Equally excited to read this one!

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OMG, yeah, I bought a game this fall too! You should know that I’m not a gamer, but I make exceptions for some titles. Inspired by my revisit to Alicization, I snagged a used copy of Sword Art Online: Lost Song for less than $15 on Amazon. I played it once, and, heh, it’s a bit boring (as everyone warned me), but I won’t give up!

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This last item for part one of my “Fall Haul” has an interesting story. So, I’m lowkey obsessed with Abec’s work for SAO. I’ve always wanted to own the LTD ED releases, but never got the chance because, well, Aniplex. While browsing eBay one late night for used BDs, I came across the JP LTD ED box set for season two . . .

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While I had no intention of actually collecting the rest of the JP BDs, I did want this box—and the seller was giving it away for just $20. This thing goes on the market for AT LEAST a hundred, so it was in my cart before I could even comprehend it. The box now sits next to my SAO LNs as a bookend of sorts, adding a splash of color to that side of the shelf. I just love the way Sinon is posed with Kirito in this piece!

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Would you believe it that the night it arrived I actually ended up watching the first three episodes in Japanese without subs?? Haha it was surprisingly more entertaining than I thought it’d be, plus I’ve seen this beginning so many times that it makes sense without the narration. Anyway, the BD itself is a bonus—the box is the real catch here, and I’m so glad to have it on my shelf!


That’s everything for part one of the haul! Part two will mainly have figures and soundtracks in it, so stay tuned for that. Lots of money here, but don’t worry, ya boi only shops the sales, so rest assured I snagged all of these up for a decent price. What did you think of some of the shows I picked up? Are any of these LTD ED titles on your wish list, or are they already on your shelves? Let me know down in the comments! ‘Till part two~!

– Takuto, your host

Takuto Will Be Participating in the 2019 Animanga Festival!

Evening all, and happy October 1st!

While I’m a little behind with everything right now, I just wanted to pop in and say that YES, I will be participating in The Animanga Festival this year! Auri reached out to me with a personal invite a couple weeks back, and of course I couldn’t say no. She’s the sweetest, and you all should be following her!

But what’s this all about? Well, it’s an event to celebrate anime and manga lovers in the blogging/vlogging community. Auri and Nairne also host this wonderful event to commemorate their blog’s anniversary. This year, Manga Toritsukareru Koto turns TWO, and I’m happy to take part in the celebration. Here’s a message from Auri and Nairne:


As our community grows larger, we find ourselves losing many near and dear companions along the way. This event was created to celebrate us animanga bloggers, vloggers, and reviewers in an effort to remember our amazing friends and our own work for years to come. As an added bonus, it also gives us a great chance to interact among ourselves and discover new friends. 


Throughout all of October, various bloggers and vloggers will be posting responses to fun writing prompts, intriguing competitions, wacky activities, and sharing what they love most about anime.

Posts in the first week follow under the “Loving what you love” category. The second week is “Expressing you,” highlighting the one behind the screen. Week three is about our roles in media, “Fans, fanworks, and fandoms.” Week four is for expressing gratitude for our most inspiring friends, the “Best of blogging.” And lastly, the end of October will include round-ups and award ceremonies for any activities we might’ve held.

When will I be writing? I’m glad you asked!

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

Let me say that this is an INCLUSIVE project: if you want to take part and join the festivities at any point in the month, please, contact Auri @AuroraAcacia on Twitter and she’ll set you up right away. First and foremost, this is for fun, so it’s worth noting that this is not a project to stress over, but a time to enjoy casual writing—and connecting with our friends, of course! #TheAnimangaFestival

I’ll be here A LOT throughout the month, and I hope you’ll come back to celebrate with me and everyone else who’s taking part in the festivities. Once again, congrats and thank you to Auri and Nairne for including me in on the fun! What else can I say? Let’s hit it off everyone!

– Takuto, your host

July 2019 Anime, Manga, & Light Novel Pickups | RightStuf 32-Bit Birthday Haul

Hello all!

Since my recent summer Sentai Filmworks haul post was so well received (thank you very much), I figured I’d share some of my other pickups from this past July. There’s a lot to get through, so let’s take a look!

But first, Happy 32nd Birthday to RightStuf! Most of the anime and manga were bought during their sale, so in many ways, this is also one big haul post. Thanks for all the sweet deals!

We’ll start with a couple films. While I’ve never seen Sword of the Stranger, I was convinced to pick this movie up because it’s always featured in those “best fights in anime” videos (plus it was $4). As for Modest Heroes, I can comfortably say I am a Studio Ponoc fan all the way, and will continue support their work however I can!

After finally getting around to this well-known franchise’s first season, I decided to get Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond to see how it continues. Supposedly it gets better, which is comforting given that I thought the first was slightly above average at best. Love the shiny holo slipcover!

I’ve been such a huge Yona of the Dawn fan ever since the anime aired several years ago—so much so that I even bought the first NINE volumes of the manga in hopes of eventually reading the story past the anime’s untimely conclusion. I decided to opt for the split part one/part two releases (despite a complete collection already in print) to savor all that art on the BDs, only to be disappointed that my part two set didn’t come with a slipcover. Oh well, ya snooze, ya lose. :/

I can bet you already know why I snagged this lovely gem! It’s the Fruits Basket Sweet Sixteen Collector’s Edition, and might I add that this is one nice set.

If you already own any prior LTD ED set, I don’t believe this is necessary. But if you’re wanting it for the upscaled quality, the stylish white chipboard box, or the plethora of decent-quality art cards, then I’d say go for it.

Look at all them cards! So many classic scenes, the umbrella and living room ones being my favorites. As a fan without my own personal set of the series, for $26, how could I refuse?

Onto the manga! And ooh, some LGBTQ+ stuff at that. Honestly, I can’t say much about Our Dreams at Dusk or That Blue Sky Feeling because I told myself I’d read them all the way through once their entire series has been released (Shimanami is 4 volumes, Blue Sky is 3). Happy to have them for when the rest gets released!

On the less innocent side of the LGBT manga in print, we have Total Eclipse of the Eternal Heart (that name, lol) and Escape Journey volume 3. With Syundei’s work being another standalone volume and this being the end for Tanaka’s short BL series, I’m ready to start these whenever the need for smut hits me.

Ooh, big books. Picking up the gorgeous Sailor Moon Eternal Edition releases by Kodansha was never a matter of if, but when. And well, I guess when is now, even though I have so many other things to read. Really, it’s a high quality, lovely publication targeted at both collectors and huge fans of the series that deserves its own post. Maybe in the future.

Oh yeah, and there’s also volume one of Akiko Higashimura’s autobiographical work, Blank Canvas: My So-Called Artist’s Journey, that I have heard nothing but fantastic things about.

More housekeeping with this third and final volume for the Danganronpa 2 spinoff from Nagito’s perspective. I actually reviewed the series and talked about Dark Horse’s very publication that you can read right here!

I also picked up Komi Can’t Communicate‘s first volume as a recommendation from a book-tuber. Excited to read that.

Lastly for manga are the two Viz series that I will not only collect as they are released, but actually read them too. One shoujo and one shounen, respectively, they are Snow White with the Red Hair volume 2 and Seraph of the End volume 17. I’m enjoying these two immensely, and even have a first impressions post for Snow White in the works, so please look forward to that.

And now for light novels. After finally finishing finishing (more like slugging through) the recent A Certain Magical Index III, I was inspired to resume picking up and reading the LNs. Or, at least, slowly filling in the book perspectives the parts that I thought the anime could’ve done more with (which is, to be honest, all of it). I’ll be hopping around, which is why volume 15 is here.

Continuing my read of Sword Art Online, we have the latest release in the Alicization story, volume 16. I’ll read this when the fall gets closer in anticipation of the anime’s second cour.

More light novels! Eighty-Six by Asato might be a blind buy for me, but with only raving things said about it from even non-LN readers, I wanted to stay in the loop. Plus it looks pretty.

Then there’s my guilty pleasure LN read, volume 2 of A Sister’s All You Need. If you read my review of the anime, you’d know that I positively loved this silly series. I’m currently reading the first book, and am amazed at the word-for-word adaptation that the anime apparently is. Can’t wait to read!

Here we are at the very end, and what a better way to end a haul than with some epic Evangelion stuff. Now, little story here, I’ve actually been excited for this book ever since it was announced in Japan a few years back. I love the Rebuild art and character designs, and at the time, I was so tempted to order a copy even if I couldn’t read it. Welp, I held out, and sure enough, a couple years later Viz announced their licensing of this monstrous art book, and I’m forever thankful.

I’ll probably do a post just for this book, as this thing is MASSIVE. Thought it’d be hardcover, but who cares—I’m just happy we even got a release!


That’s it, that’s the haul. Didja make it to the end? If so, pat yourself on the back, cause I sure did buy a lot of books and movies in July (probably the most in a single month ever, as a matter of fact). Well, maybe. Anyway, did any of these releases stick out to you? Are you currently reading or anticipating one of these titles? If so, which ones? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Also, let me know if you want more of these haul posts, cause I can definitely make this a regular thing if you’d like. ‘Till next time!

– Takuto, your host

Ultimate Luck and Hope & Despair: Danganronpa 2 as a Manga . . . From Nagito’s Perspective | Review

A brief, spoiler-free review of the 3-volume 2012-2016 manga “Danganronpa 2: Ultimate Luck and Hope and Despair,” based on Spike Chunsoft’s game “Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair,” art by Kyousuke Suga.


A Spin-Off Full of Despair

Sixteen students from the prestigious Hope’s Peak Academy suddenly awaken on a deserted beach. Their teacher, a white and pink “magical girl” rabbit named Usami, proclaims that their first assignment is to become friends with one another by means of touring the island and collecting hope fragments together. Storm clouds quickly gather over this isle of palm trees and blissful breeze when Monokuma, a sadistic bear of monochrome hue, takes Usami down and gives the students a new assignment: to kill one of their peers and get away with murder in the class trial.

To the victor goes the only spoil these teens want—escape from the island. The students swear to one another that they’d never commit such a crime, but as Monokuma slowly and meticulously introduces calculated motives that play on the whims and desires of these kids, temptation is given into, and blood is spilt.

Forced into this deadly killing school trip, what once was an island paradise has become a hell on earth. But when these poor kids find that they’ve been deceived far more than what is even imaginable, the very fabric of their world hangs on the thin threads of hope.

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Greatly truncated for the sake of this review, this is the plot of Spike Chunsoft’s groundbreaking game “Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair,” and the sequel to the equally influential “Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc.” But as you can tell, this review isn’t about the game; rather, we’re looking at the manga spin-off today. Instead of playing this survival game through the eyes of main character Hajime Hinata, we experience life from the view of Nagito Komaeda, the Ultimate Lucky Student, and the bane of the class’ existence.

The Ultimate Lucky Student

Infamous for his willingness to take his “friends” down yet beloved by the community for his twisted nature and bromance with Hajime, Nagito is a complicated human bound by irrational thinking and a moral compass that always points south. Above all, he believes in the talents of the Ultimates of Hope’s Peak, and the insurmountable hope that can arise from their collective efforts. Weird, I know, but it gets worse.

Placing complete faith in his ultimate luck and the hopes and dreams of his friends sounds like a good thing, right? Well, not when you add in that twisted personality part I mentioned earlier. He derives pleasure from inflicting pain, suffering, and humiliation on his peers, without a doubt, but only because he deeply believes that his friends are Ultimates—students handpicked by hope itself. That means that no matter the size of the despair, hope always comes out on top. This flawed logic of his causes him to create scenarios that put everyone at risk just to watch the Ultimates overcome the despair. After all, according to Nagito, their talent can overcome any despair.

So, not only is this scrawny emo a huge Hope’s Peak fanboy, but he’s also a nut job with more than a couple loose screws. The PERFECT player to have in a killing game, right?

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To give him credit, there’s never a dull moment around Nagito. In fact, many of the game’s most exciting moments revolve around Nagito’s lies and schemes. By packing the best reveals and most fascinating plot points into this short 3-volume series, you’ve got a spin-off that is anything but boring. Nagito’s trademark luck carries him through numerous plots and conspiracies—many of which he is directly involved with—at the behest of everyone else’s security.

Madness and Maliciousness in Manga Form

Danganronpa is one of the most stylish games out there, arguably more so than even the hit Persona 5. Its iconic gun-and-target imagery offers fun gameplay effects, sure, but the flashy courtroom gimmicks and screen-shattering special effects aren’t just for looks. The series prides itself with the class trials, the bread and butter of the franchise, and this motif of breaking through lies—shining through despair—to uncover the truth. And thankfully, Kyousuke Suga’s adaptation faithfully adapts this matter of style into the fast-paced panels of his manga.

That’s right. Most if not all of the crucial lines and moments are replicated nearly word-for-word in the class trials. Although we only get the first three (for reasons I can’t explain without entering spoiler territory), I was quite surprised with how full and thorough the trials felt, given the immensely short length.

Like anyone should be, I was skeptical about a measly 3-volumes doing Danganronpa 2 any justice. By limiting the story’s POV to that of Nagito only, however, you realize that the Ultimate Lucky Student’s time spent with the Ultimates of Hope’s Peak is short, perhaps, but immensely impactful.

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The only turn-off to this little series is the character designs. All the guys look anorexic, while the ladies have totally unrealistic “curves,” almost as if everything was somewhat over-sexualized. Even if the seemingly sloppy, disproportionate bodies and facial expressions feel uncharacteristic of the game’s original designs (which were boldly outlined and always on point), there’s beauty in the quirkiness of Suga’s style, though.

This lax, less faithful style allows for us to see character expressions and reactions that the game just couldn’t keep up with. A sprite system might feel more stable, but this adaptive style manages to keep up with the subtle dark humor and self-deprecation (given that now we’re Nagito) that I felt the game just didn’t. Suga’s work is much more organic and less “cardboard cutout,” literally, and it makes for a nice afterword piece to the franchise.

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Why Should You Read This Spin-Off?

For one, it’s short. At three volumes, I finished it in a day and a half. Plus, it fills in some gaps of the game. During chapters two and three, Nagito is tied up (don’t ask) and unconscious (also don’t ask), meaning that while the others (namely Hajime) are experiencing the events of the story live, Nagito is playing catch-up. And boy does he do a damn good job at assessing the evidence of each crime scene.

Instead of running around and talking to our classmates, we enter Nagito’s nightmares and delusions of self-reflection. We see his fears, understand his motives, and get a better picture of why Nagito antagonizes his peers like he does. Much better than in the game (save for chapter 4), we get inside Nagito’s headspace and see what makes him tick, allowing the viewer to connect with him a bit more—even if he’s still a freak at the end of the day. You can practically regard this spin-off as cannon, as it never strays from the original plot, nor does it add conflicting details. That’s always a plus.

Additionally, we get different angles from the game. The “camera” shows us live conversations with multiple characters in a shot at different angles talking to one another, as opposed to the game where 2D characters are layered on top of a 2D backdrop. Plus, Kyousuke Suga just seems to understand that Nagito is not a character to be disgusted or hated all the time; Nagito is an oddball to the class, an anomaly that can’t always be understood, and I appreciate Suga’s more comedic take on Nags’ obsession with hope.

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Like Loki to Marvel’s Thor franchise, Nagito is a trickster that is fun to watch and frustrating to befriend, but undeniably inseparable from the equally quirky work in which he comes from. As such, it’s a real treat to have an entire narrative devoted to his character, even if it’s both a rehash of the game’s events (with a few dream sequences of backstory and inner monologues added) and, frankly, a series tragically short for its own good.

This manga series shows you some of the parts you wish you saw in the game, and it does so craftily without tampering with the existing plot. Is it for newcomers to the franchise? Absolutely not. But as supplemental material for those pining after anything extra to do with Hope’s Peak Academy’s 77th Class, Ultimate Luck and Hope and Despair is your stepping stone toward hope.

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Komaeda, you aren’t trash. If you died, or helped someone commit murder, it won’t give rise to hope. Just the opposite . . . it’ll wind up extinguising a ray of hope. ‘Cause . . . ’cause hope . . . is already shining inside you, Komaeda. — Monomi


Afterword

I had a blast reading this short little spin-off, especially given that I finished playing the second game right before starting this series. All the parts of this franchise connect together so intricately, so purposefully and creatively, and this manga spin-off is no exception. It’s extra material for sure, but if you love Nagito Komaeda’s guile as much as I do, you’re bound to love Suga’s work.

And can we talk about those volume covers?? The first two are so brightly colored and stylish with all the characters wrapping around from front to back, while the third is a haunting minimalist piece of Nagito looking like he’s preparing for the final show (if you know what I mean). I think Suga could’ve split volume three into two separate volumes, adding in more content from the ENTIRELY SKIPPED fourth trial, as the third book is nearly twice the size of the other two. Oh well, at least we got the series (in all its matte-cover glory) thanks to Dark Horse.

 

I doubt many of you will end up checking out this series, but if you do, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it! Although a manga series, I’ll give Ultimate Luck and Hope and Despair the “Coffee” rating for being a fun read but not an essential one. I believe the regular manga adaptation of the second game along with Ultra Despair Girls are coming out this fall, so I look forward to picking those up. Till the next review, this has been

– Takuto, your host

A Story That Loves Love: Go For It, Nakamura! | OWLS “Adore”

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 second monthly topic of 2019, “Adore,” I wanted to stray away from the darker content I typically go for with these posts and focus on something lighthearted. Fortunately for me, none come more fluffy and adorable than the one-shot shounen-ai manga that’s got the BL community completely under its love spell: Go For It, Nakamura!

In February, we will be exploring love and romance. The word selected is “adore” because it has two main connotations: to be loved and respected or to feel worshipped. We will analyze characters that give us a feeling of admiration and explain why we love those characters. We will also be exploring different forms of love (familial, friendship, and even self-love) and how those types of love influence our lives.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

I myself happened to have recently finished the book, so this prompt came in good timing. Thanks Lyn!

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A brief, spoiler-free discussion on the one-shot (11-chapter) manga “Go For It, Nakamura!,” story and art by Syundei, and licensed in English by Seven Seas Entertainment.  

Ganbare! Nakamura-kun!!

Nakamura Okuto may be a shy gay high school boy, but he sure knows what he wants—the love of his life, his adorable high school classmate, Hirose Aiki. He constantly daydreams of just about every cliche romance scenario ever written, but when it comes to executing his charm, Nakamura is a total klutz! To make matters worse, the two haven’t even formally met yet, and Nakamura’s clumsy streak is sure enough to botch things before they even begin. Oh boy, good luck Nakamura!

Serialized in Opera magazine over the course of a couple years, the 11 chapters that make up this volume comprise the existing story as it currently stands. It is a collection of vignettes from the titular character’s high school life sectioned off in a way not unlike that of a 4-koma manga.

It’s also a comedy manga—and one that’s fun as heck to boot. The comedic timing will leave you giggling in your chair, and the few moments of genuine connection between Nakamura and Hirose will make your heart all warm and mushy. There’s never a dull moment in Nakamura’s pitiful yet utterly relatable life.

As mentioned earlier, the romantic scenarios are cliche: staying after class, school festival drama, chance meeting in an alley, school plays, CLUBS, you get the picture. Even though you know how the story might play out that particular chapter, Nakamura’s inner dialogue and anxious turmoil transform repetition into a breath of fresh air. And yes, the retro art style contributes immensely to Nakamura‘s uniqueness.

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A Lost Art: The 1980s Japan Aesthetic 

I’m not a historian by any means, but if I had to pin a time period, I’d say that Syundei’s story takes place in 1980s Japan. Regardless, it’s old school, but cute. Really cute. Think Rumiko Takahashi (Ranma 1/2) printed in modern day. Wacky expressions, explosive bangs, random chibi appearances, traditional hair and clothing styles, that kind of 80s Japan. Between the bright colors on the cover, the fuzzy glow effect of Nakamura’s daydreams, and the flowery patterned backgrounds, Syundei has created a retro aesthetic that is quite the rare find these days.

I really loved the revival of the cartoonishly big hair bangs (a nice choice!). Not only does this design detail take us back to the past, but it makes the characters seem even fluffier than they already are. Hirose in particular is just such a kind, SOFT boi, and I totally understand why Nakamura’s enamored with this sparkling chestnut head! Hirose’s large round eyes also make him seem more gullible, innocent, and inviting, a stark contrast to Nakamura’s gloomy aura. For a guy who is used to hugging against the shadows, Hirose’s radiant light is blinding. So pure!

The duality of Nakamura’s expressiveness—from the estranged slim-eyed “bully” look to this blushing, red-faced, obsessive weirdo—establishes an even stronger bond between Nakamura and the reader. He may have a scary exterior, but he’s just a big softie (and one who’s madly in love!), and I found myself rooting for Nakamura throughout his antics because I relate to his struggles of silent obsession and unrequited love. Slowly but surely, Nakamura is crawling out of his shell and opening up to people, and I really look forward to further developments should Syundei return to this wonderful title.

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A Refreshing Spin on BL

Although he may be a closet gay to his peers, Nakamura isn’t afraid to let the reader know, and I really enjoy how being gay isn’t a big deal in Nakamura. Even his classmates don’t mock him for desparately wanting to hang out with Hirose, and it’s just so, so refreshing. If you’re new to BL, this story would make an excellent entry point. (Being a single-volume story helps make this a recommendation even more convincing!)

Additionally, this isn’t a BL story about lust and skipping the foreplay just to do the deed. Go For It, Nakamura! is as innocent and pure as they come, and for all the right reasons. Sure, Nakamura is a bit obsessive for Hirose, but not much more than any other girl or boy tailing after their romantic idol. The story sticks to themes of adoration and manages to run as far as a lovely, blossoming friendship. And interestingly, its lack of explicit content is what marks it as one of the bests.

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A Story That Loves Love

Watching the push and pull between Nakamura and Hirose grow with each chapter sure doesn’t leave the heart with much time to rest. At times stupidly funny, other times highly resonate and heartwarming, I couldn’t think of a high school couple more deserving of mutual love and affection. More than they realize, they need a person just like the other, and the ending will leave you with so much hope and happiness.

Syundei’s Go For It, Nakamura! is a story that loves love, and about loving yourself, too. Its characters are cute and fluffy, and despite my wanting to smash the two together and shout “NOW KISS!”, I wouldn’t have wanted the story (as it stands now) to end any other way. I was left squealing and stirring in my chair for hours after reading the last page, and if there’s any BL title out there to boast the word “adore,” this is easily the one.

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Y-you’re the one who said it was important to be true to yourself. — Nakamura Okura


Afterword

Well, when you don’t have to cover animation, music, voice acting, and directing, this makes for a pretty short post! Reading Go For It, Nakamura! easily became the highlight of my week, and its short single-volume release makes it easy to consume yet hard to let go of. It’s fun, simple, and it’ll make your heart go doki-doki for sure! As if I needed to reinforce its notability, Syundei’s Go For It, Nakamura! establishes itself as a “Cafe Mocha” title, an absolute hit for anyone wanting to spend an afternoon enjoying the softest BL manga ever written. Seriously, you’ll love it.

This concludes my February 3rd entry in the OWLS “Adore” blog tour. Man, when was the last time I went this early!? In fact, it looks like I’m the one kicking off the February tour, so I hope I set the groundwork well enough for all the great posts to come. Now, look out for my good friend Hazel (Archi-Anime) with a post about After the Rain on Wednesday, February 6th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host