Halfway Through 2019 – What’s New, & Where Are We Headed? | Quarterly Update (Summer)

Hello all!

Can you believe another three months have passed since the last time we met for an update? Why, that was the beginning of April, and now we’re already a week into July. JULY. Crazy, right? I hope all my friends in the U.S. had a happy 4th of July full of friends, family, and good food. To everyone else, I hope you’re summer hasn’t been too hot!

In other news, I’ve been watching and reading a decent amount—which is great considering that one of my 2019 goals was to watching all of the stuff I’ve bought (yet haven’t touched) to justify buying it in the first place. Unfortunately, as soon as I finish one movie, three new ones somehow appear on my shelf. Weird. It’s not me, I swear!

Ok, so maybe the sales have been good to me lately, but I am enjoying getting around to all this stuff. These novels, manga volumes, and Blu-rays were bought for a reason, after all! Without further ado, let’s see how much stuff I’ve been able to knock off my To-Watch backlog! First though, some goal updates . . .

Goal Reflection


#1 – Read More Posts

I’m sorry everyone. My phone’s home screen is once again becoming filled with your posts so that I can read them . . . but they just continue to amass, as opposed to being read and shared. WordPress has made mobile blogging a pain in the ass, in that I cannot comment and like without being logged in—and yet even when I try to log in, it still won’t let me respond to you all! Instead, my phone wants me to use the app and WP reader to communicate with other bloggers, and that’s a real nuisance given that I get most of my reads from Twitter posts AKA posts shared online, not via app. I’ll work hard to clean up my home screen in the meantime, even if it means individually typing out every single post in the search bar and finding it that way.

#2 – Write More Succinct Reviews

I think I’ll be changing this goal to “Write More Succinct Posts (in general),” as it has happened for the most part with all my other posts besides my reviews. And I’m ok with that. Personally, I don’t see 1,300 – 1,600 words as that much for a full-series review. Otherwise, I’ve posted a couple posts that were just like 300 words, and y’all don’t even know how good that felt for someone as wordy as myself! Even if just simple announcement posts, I like to think I’m improving on this goal.

#3 – Post More Often

I’ve continued this next set of three months by successfully managing to publish about one thing a week, which was my goal! In April there were four posts, while in May and June there were FIVE posts per month. Again, it sounds like a really sad goal, just five posts out of 30 days, but this is a huge step for me. I’m proud of the work I’ve done so far, and hope I can keep up at least this much content, if not more, as the summer goes on!

A side note, last year I wrote 27 posts. Yup, that’s it, and that’s not much. As of July 6th, 2019, I’ve already written 30 posts, so I’ll easily double the amount of posts I wrote last year if I continue down this track!

#4 – Bring Back Cafe Talk

Nope, lol. BUUUUT, I did create an entirely new segment on my blog in its place. Called “Anime Revisited,” the posts in this category are just that—shows that I’ve already reviewed, but would like to look at once more under a new light or fresh perspective or whatever. Basically, I rewatched Gurren Lagann and wanted to talk about it again. But “oh no, I’ve already reviewed that series.” No problem, just revisit it! And so I did, and it was received quite warmly by you all, thank you very much.

#5 – Write More Haul/Collection Posts

Yeah, this one has gone no where, and here’s why: I’m really considering an Instagram for all my haul, collection, and cosplay related musings. Like, really thinking about it. Like, it could happen tomorrow, or even today. I’ve still been getting tons of crap, but I’m not sure if I want to junk up my blog with pictures of the stuff I’ve bought as opposed to talking about or analyzing that stuff like an intellectual would. If Insta happens, you all will be the first to know!

What I’ve Watched


Aside from the last couple simuldubbed episodes of Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life, I’ve finished all the spring shows I’ve been following, including Sarazanmai, Attack on Titan Season 3 Part 2, and Wise Man’s Grandchild. Really tempted on going back for the music drama Carole & Tuesday and Mix, a little baseball series that silently aired this spring. Plus, I haven’t started the new Fruits Basket yet. (I know, I SUCK!) Reviews for the spring content will be rolling out here soon, fingers crossed.

As for Blu-ray watching, I watched Lu Over the Wall, Liz and the Blue Bird, and Mary and the Witch’s Flower, three adorable films that I was supposed to review but haven’t yet (spoiler alert, watch them). I also finished Asobi Asobase, a great comedy series which contains some of the STUpidest shit I’ve ever seen, as well as the second half of Re:ZERO. Definitely not as good as the first half, but still epic (and nail-biting, heh heh).

In the past month, I finally watched Blood Blockade Battlefront, which I’m pretty sure I didn’t like as much as everyone else, yet liked it enough to apparently impulse buy the second season the minute RightStuf’s 32nd Anniversary sale started (my dumb ass, right?). Apparently it’s a fantastic sequel though, so I’ve got high hopes.

Speaking of another questionable move, I watched Majestic Prince and, well, won’t get the time back from watching that LOL. I also rewatched Izetta: The Last Witch, but that one was actually pretty fun to visit again.

One of my favorite watches these past three months was The Great Passage, the dictionary anime that aired in 2016 that everyone (myself included) slept on. After hearing it was by the same person who wrote Run With the Wind, I hustled on down to Amazon, gave it a watched, and fell in love. Review coming soon!

Oh, and I finished Sailor Moon SuperS and the movie Black Dream Hole, too! Although I won’t review anything Sailor Moon (as the nostalgia lens are very foggy with this one), you can bet I loved it. Excited for Sailor Stars!

Another incredible watch was Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu-hen, the first in a masterpiece trilogy by studio Shaft. It was a pain to spend $50 on a 60 min film through eBay, but it beats the $70 that Aniplex is asking for. At least the set is drop-dead gorgeous. (Which I could show off if I, you know, had an Insta.)

As for what I’m currently doing, I’ve been rewatching Neon Genesis Evangelion since the new dub hit Netflix. The dub is serviceable. Not as near as personable and heartfelt as ADV’s dub, but it works if you’re new to the series or can’t afford the old DVDs. Regardless, I’m still having tons of fun rediscovering why I fell in love with it in the first place. I also started God Eater . . . not much else to say on it. It’s pretty for a monster-slasher series, and I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts once I finish it!

Despair Returns: A Danganronpa Playthrough


I know how all the Danganronpa games go. Same for the anime, and even the novels. I’m a huge fan, a mega fan. An Ultimate Fan, if you will. Since I’d never actually played the games myself and let the LPs and walkthroughs entertain me, however, I thought I’d change that. Oh, and challenge my siblings at the same time!

So now, every chapter, every trial, we switch of players. We finished the first game early June, and are about to finish the second game. The Danganronpa games are tons of fun, so despite knowing how things play out, I’m not sick of it yet. Totally hyped to play V3 all over again, especially since it’ll be their first time with Danganronpa‘s thrilling finale!

My New Job Has Kept Me Away


That’s the simple truth of it all. As you can see, there’s a lot I’ve been watching, but now that I work 30 hours a week (and a 5-hour part time thing), I’m pretty exhausted when I get home. What do I do? I left my old job in food to reunite with my passion: the water. I’m a lifeguard at my university, but also a swim lesson instructor. I love my co-workers (a first!), and oddly enough working with kids is refreshing. I feel more physically and mentally fit than I have in probably a whole year, and even though this job is time-consuming, I thank it for flushing out all the icky in my life. I feel good, great even.

I go to bed at 10:30 each night now, not 2 a.m. I’m home with my family on weekends, and don’t feel bad for going in to work since I now leave for work at the same time everyone else does. It’s win-win, plus I get to swim on the job!

So, I don’t want to push my luck. I could be at the keyboard more often, but it’d cost my anime-watching time, my time with my siblings, and I don’t want to trim those anymore than I already have. I should be writing a little bit more this month, though, so we’ll see if that improves things on this end.

What’s new? The job. Where are we headed in the meantime? Easy: Writing posts for all the anime and manga in my collection that I’ve been watching and reading!

That’s about all I got for now. The 95-degree days are killer, but working at an indoor pool softens the blow immensely. Now, if only the rainy season would last longer, I’d be truly happy, hahaha! It’s crazy to think that the next time I write an update like this it’ll be October. Till then, thank you so much for reading, and take care of yourself!

– 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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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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