Ending Summer With a Splash! || “Free!” Collab w/LitaKino

Lita (LitaKino Anime Corner) and I have been planning this thing for SUCH a long time now, and I’m so excited to finally see it happen!

Welcome to my first aniblogger collab of 2019! As the title suggests, joining me on this little adventure is the spunky and out-going Lita! Lita and I go way back as blogger buddies. Ever since I first started, she was there, and I’ve never forgotten about her presence (I mean, just how could you?).

So, when she approached me with a collab proposition, of course I couldn’t refuse this dear friend of mine! In fact, it had me thinking that except for being members of OWLS, Lita and I had never actually done a collaboration effort of any kind together. Kinda crazy, I know, and I’m thankful that she reached out to me.

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If there’s one thing that bonds Lita and I aside from our history as bloggers, it’s that we both love anime with a focus on one of these unique factors: mecha and seaside. So, when the idea for a collab was pitched, naturally there were several worthy candidates for discussion. Perhaps we will return in the [near] future with a post over, say, Space Battleship Yamato, Gargantia, or A Lull in the Sea. But for now, we settled on a title perfect for rounding out this summer.

On today’s plate is a special aquatic title that means a lot to both of us, and what with the summer heat finally starting to wind down, I thought it’d only be appropriate that we end summer with a splash.

It’s no surprise that Lita and I both love Free!, for some reasons similar, others vastly different. Challenged with inquiring one another about anything we’d like about the franchise, I sent Lita seven questions, and below are the seven that she sent me. Let’s check out what she asked!

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The Free! OST for every season is phenomenal. There’s a variety of music mixes from high-pump, urban trance to subtle softness. Alongside the music, the series encompasses that aquatic factor. Do you feel the music elevates the series in its entirety? What are some of your favourite tracks from the OST?


I firmly believe that without Tatsuya Katou’s music work on Free!, there simply wouldn’t be a “Free!” (or, at least the one we all know and love). Music adds motion to a series, breathes life into a space that is otherwise just pretty visuals and characters. For Free!, and I’ve expressed this numerous times, the show likely wouldn’t be nearly as impactful were it not for Katou’s OST.

Unforgettable tracks like “A Boy in the Water” and “Innocent Boy” cue us in to the mindset of the main character, Haru: passionate, yet perhaps searching for a larger purpose in life. “Rhythm of Port Town” introduce us to the fresh, family-oriented landscape of the fictional seaside town of Iwatobi. “Revelry of Student” brings out the sweet flavor of Nagisa, as well as shows that high school life can still be fun even if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing and where you want to end up. “Old Days” allows us to relax and come to know Makoto, Haru’s best friend since childhood, as well as the sort of refreshing life they live together.

In “I Need You,” all of the tension in Haru’s life starts to break down, despite his carefully plotted attempts at living a calm and collected lifestyle. Then comes along “Night Sky & Ever Blue,” which relieves the air and gives us a hint at the score’s main theme through vibrant strings and a slow-grooving percussive rhythm. Lastly, we rejoice as “Melody of Ever Blue” chimes with celebration and finale, marking the end of this first season.

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I skipped over so many tracks, not to mention only covered the FIRST season of three. Each has their own OST that continues with these themes and goes in their own directions, which is wonderful as a devoted listener. I actually own physical CDs of the first two soundtracks (dinosaur tech, I know), which is why these particular tracks instantly jumped into my mind. This first album, “Ever Blue Sounds,” is my personal favorite, as I believe it encompasses everything Free! has been about: youth, memories, and the future.


No one thought KyoAni’s choice direction of how swimmer boys are portrayed would earn such massive popularity. The intended audience seemed to be for females, but as one of few dudes I know that actually likes the series, give us your perspective on why you love Free! as much as you do.


I actually wrote an entire post just about my love for the series, which you can read right here! Basically, it boils down to being one of those shows that aired at the right place, right time. I came across an ad for the series on YouTube back in 2013, and came back each week to watch the entire thing there too. The series aired in the summer right before my freshman year of high school, which eventually inspired me to pursue the sport that fall.

I love Free! for the relatable characters, the gorgeously animated water effects, the heartwarming score, and of course, the story. But perhaps I love it even more because I was also able to fall in love with the water as these boys did, which has gone on to influence four more years of my life and now through college even!

Free! gave me an entire new world to express myself in and meet new people through, and I think it’s that unique combination of personal history and actually appreciating the series as more than a character drama (but as an actual sports anime) that has made me love Free! more than most people I know.

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Now, apart from the hot swimmer boys, Free! has a good swimming focus. As I know you were or still are an active swimmer part of a team, did you feel Free!‘s representation of life was portrayed to an extent that you can relate to?


As an anime, Free! glorifies the sport far more than it probably should. In fact, you could argue that swimming is just a vehicle for larger themes the series presents, such as life in the adult world or having the ambition to go beyond one’s personal limits.

But yeah, swimming is still a sport. And a hard one, too. The first season focuses a lot on basics, from understanding the different strokes to the logistics of swimming in a relay. I like that part about it a lot. Of course, that won’t stop the series from including a somewhat unrealistic beach training episode.

Even as a surface level exposition, Free! isn’t like Yuri!!! On ICE or Haikyuu!! where it’d tell you how scoring works, technique, etc. Instead, the technicalities of the sport take a back seat role to add in that pleasant mix of slice-of-life and dramatic rivalry, which works far better in Free!‘s case for sustaining audience attention in my humble opinion.

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So, can I relate to it as a swimmer? For the few swimming-specific training moments that are in it, as well as the heart-pumping pre-race anxiety, absolutely. I still get PTSD stomach jitters whenever they dive off the blocks. However, I would hope that at least foreigners to the sport would relate to the stress and emotional tension of swimming in a relay—that part Free! got right.


You’re a water baby Taku, as am I, so have to ask the question . . . Did watching Free! make you want to go swimming immediately? I ask because it did for me after watching first few episodes—I hit the pool the next day! ūüėā


Technically speaking, I joined the swim team right after I finished watching the first season, so, umm, yes. Haha! But I know what you mean. Cooking anime make me want to eat food. Naturally, swimming anime want me to swim. Even the airing of the third season during my freshman year of college had me wanting to get back to the pool. My career as a lifeguard throughout high school up to now is my only other link to the water, so I guess you could say that each time I rewatch old parts of the series or get to see new content, I dig out my goggles and jammers just in case the need arises. ūüėČ

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The bath tub just really isn’t the same :/


I feel the series was cruel in the moments where Makoto and Haru have ‚Äúclose encounters” (you know, the whole queer-baiting thing). Did that ever bother you, make you squirm a bit? Or maybe make you think, “Oh, I can see them as a couple.” Because Lita over here did (my mind went there).


At first (so we’re talking, like, 2013), the series definitely gave off a fanservice vibe more than anything else. Yet for some reason, I always saw Haru and Makoto’s relationship as too platonic to function. They walk together, train together, and even sometimes share a meal with each other. But it makes sense—after all, they’re neighbors, and family friends at that. Heck, I’m sure we all wish we had a friend like Makoto!

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Seriously though—and maybe this is just me, but I wonder if it applies to other sports players and their corresponding sports anime—by this point, I’ve seen so many dudes in jammers and speedos (cause of swimming) that I’m pretty desensitized to it all. I find their emotional connection much more wholesome than their physical one (if such thing did/does exist). Now, I don’t play volleyball, so in the case of Hai—


The main characters of Free! always get talked about, but did you have a favourite side character from any of the other teams?


YES, and his name is Momotarou Mikoshiba!! Nobody talks about my sweet otter boy, and that makes me sad. He’s a weird one, not gonna lie. I find Momo’s enthusiasm and innocence to be so goofy and contagious. His loud, cat-like personality is also a plus. Add in his mad backstroke skills, flaming orange hair, and odd love for beetles, and you’ve got chaos incarnated. IDK why I like him so much, I just think he’s a fun character, plain and simple. Underrated, too.

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Finally . . . hehe a cruel question. If you were a girl, which swimmer boy would you date? (ūüėāūüėā coZ there all soooo pretty ya know ūüėČūüėŹ)


Aww man, she just had to ask The Question ūüėČ

Ok, so logically speaking, Haru might have the prettiest face, but he’d be awkward as heck on a date. Rei’s too good for me. Nagisa sounds like a fun time, but he does seem young, doesn’t he? Sousuke is too much of a man (he’d crush me between those biceps, let’s be honest). Rin is . . . just not my type, too extreme. Same for Asahi, though I would prefer him. Ai is too innocent. Momo is a cool cat, maybe him . . . ? Ikuya is much too emo for my liking (lol), same for Shizuru, that new Iwatobi swimmer. Ikuya’s bro Natsuya seems like quite the charmer, so there’s a possibility . . . Hiyori is an ass, so he’s out. I don’t know much about Nao, but idk he seems too pure for this world.

Who does that leave us with? Well, if it were younger me, I’d pick Romio, one of the new Iwatobi swimmers. He seems like a good and honest kid that I’d want to know more about, and he’s Nagisa and Rei-approved, so there you go! He also looks like Tom Holland so there’s that.

Really though, there’s only one true choice for me. You should be able to figure it out—after all, he’s the only one I didn’t name! #TeamMom

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And that’s all I got for our collab. Getting to reflect on Free! is always a fun time, and I’m glad I was able to do it with a friend! Speaking of, be sure to check out MY questions for Lita over on her side of things! I think both of us did a fair job at posing each other those Qs, and I hope we get to do it again in the near future. In the meantime, be sure to give Lita a follow—she’s one hardworking gal, and her content is always fun to read!

The world of Free! is only expanding. Although KyoAni has likely put their 2020 project on hold (and for understandable reasons, my goodness), I’ll look forward to whatever comes next—whenever it comes—with the same hope and excitement as I have for every installment thus far.

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Thoughts on any of our questions or answers? Be sure to let us know in the comments! Oh, and feel free to answer any of the questions yourself if you’d like! Thank you again Lita for reaching out to me for this collab! Until next time everyone, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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What My Anime Collection Means To Me | OWLS “Happiness”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, ‚ÄúHi, I‚Äôm Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!‚ÄĚ For the OWLS blog tour‚Äôs fifth monthly topic of 2019, ‚ÄúHappiness,‚ÄĚ I wanted to share with you all something that I rarely talk about, yet is one of the biggest things that defines me as both a fan and a person: my anime collection!

Happiness is subjective. We all have different definitions of what happiness means to us and we also feel happiness in varying degrees. This month we will be exploring several questions describing our happiness in our fandoms, communities, and hobbies. Why do we find enjoyment watching anime or reading manga? Why did we decide to join the anime or pop culture communities? Why do we blog about our hobbies or cosplay as our favorite characters? This topic is all about the passions we have for our interests and why they are important to us.

Oh man, there was so much I wanted to talk about with this prompt! But, I love getting to share any part of my collection with you guys, so I settled on that. Thanks Lyn for going easy on us this month and giving me an excuse to share my stuff!


 

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The Main Shelf

Ah, here we are. Welcome to my room, my little safe haven in this wild world we live in. The main shelf here houses most of my anime and even a few volumes of manga. Littered throughout the display are Nendoroids, Funko Pop figures, and even some fake succulents (cause #aesthetic). Across the top is my Evangelion collection, which became an instant favorite of mine immediately after my first watching and has accumulated over the years.

My room is pretty large, but even then I have a lot of stuff, so for Eva to maintain an entire row to itself goes to show how much it means to me. You’ll find that a show or franchise’s meaning is almost a direct determinant of its shelf space prioritization in my collection. That means Evangelion gets its own shelf, and the same goes for Fate, Danganronpa, Ghost in the Shell, Sailor Moon, so on and so forth. Ain’t that nice?


I’ve squeezed as many bookcases in this tiny space as possible. Being surrounded by books and magazines makes me feel calm. It makes the room seem wrapped in a layer of protection. As if nothing or no one can get to me.

— Angelo Surmelis, The Dangerous Art of Blending In


Each mini shelf is compartmentalized to a certain genre, my favorite shelves being the sci-fi section, the mecha shelf, the anime classics, and my magical girl shelf with Ms. Mami Tomoe there. Between categorization by genre, height, and color, there’s a mutual method to my madness (that probably only I understand, let’s be honest). Each little box contains so many stories, and yet each tell a larger a story all on their own thanks to how I’ve arranged them—according to my thoughts and feelings about each title.

And that’s one of the many wonderful qualities of my collection that makes it just that: a collection all by me, for me. It won’t carry the same weight for someone passing by, and that’s just fine. But to me, these shelves encompass my entire world, as well as chronicle my entire life.

New Shelves, New Room

This is one of those “right time, right place” kinda posts, as I just completed remodeling my entire room this past spring and BOI am I happy with it. Previously, all of my manga and light novels were housed on this old, handmade, plywood box shelf that had three compartments to store my books. Not only was it kinda ugly, but it was rough textured and offered limited storage.

So, four days of work and $150 later, I opted to finally remove the tacky padding from my wall, repaint it all, and build five new shelves of (with my dad’s help). And they’re cut from entirely REAL birch wood this time. Here are the results:

 

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I wanted to share that little story with you all because it is just once instance of me trying to upgrade my collection. My room is in constant flux; I’m always rearranging books, movies, games, art, you name it, just to find the right feng shui. I like to think that every change I’ve made to the shelves and how things are arranged are a step in the right direction—one step closer to the ideal image in my mind. That said, this was quite the leap forward, but I’m really thrilled with the results.

In fact, I loved it so much that I ripped padding off my other wall to do the exact same thing, although on a much smaller scale:

 

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This set of five three-foot boards supports my innermost interests. From Free!‘s impact on my own personal swim career and these other seaside delights to my fandom favorites like Todoroki ANYTHING and the Danganronpa series, this small shelf carries so much weight beyond a few Blu-ray cases and acrylic stands. It’s an expression of love, of dedication, and a way to give back to the series that gave so much to me. 

With these new shelves, I can showcase all my favorite anime, manga, novels, figures, and other merchandise—pieces which, individually, contain stories, but combined together tell one giant story. If you were to walk into my room, I could point to . . .

the DVD that started my journey,

the title that impacted me the most,

the anime that made me want to try new things,

the book that made me fall in love with reading,

the figure that reminds me all about a character’s hardships,

the art that inspires me to improve my own work,

and so many more emotions and memories that words alone can’t properly explain.


Inspiration can come from anywhere. 


Why Do I Collect Anime?

Anime is an expensive hobby. It doesn’t help that I’m also interested in manga, light novels, figures, soundtracks, games, art books, art prints, rubber straps, and more recently, acrylic stands, chirashi posters, and shikishi boards. I’ve sacrificed a great deal of money and physical space toward my collecting hobbies, which has led me to spend even more money in compensating for the collection’s gradually increasing size.

So why do I do it all? Well, of course it makes me happy. I wouldn’t pour this much time and cash into something that made me feel worse than I did before. I’ve always been a collector, whether for Pokemon and Yugioh cards or Bakugan and Beyblades. On that note, perhaps collecting physical anime and related media was inevitable.

But on the other hand, while I love collecting for my own sake, I also like being able to share my library with my family and friends. I can’t even tell you the number of hours my siblings and I have spent chatting with one another as we admired the collection and all the adventures it has brought us.

Also, if you couldn’t tell by the way I’ve stylized my blog, I’m an archivist. I take immense pleasure in experiencing something and then filing that experience away in some sort of physical form. All my school work from years past is neatly organized and archived, and my books and movies are no different.

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While outsiders may see my collection as a costly stack of movies and merch (to which they’re not wrong), I see a wall of memories. It’s a wall that has built up slowly over seven years, starting with my S.A.V.E. DVD of Funimation’s Negima!? and accumulating until now where my $75 Hajime Hinata figure from Danganronpa dominates my shelf. But even then, it’s all still there: most if not all of the series I have enjoyed have been archived in this wall, and the memories have only continued to amass.

No matter how I try to look away, my eyes always wander to the collection—to this gigantic three-dimensional photo album which comprises sights and sounds, textures and thoughts, musings and memories. Wherever I gaze, I am transported into another time, another place where another me was living and experiencing yet another story. This mental time travel serves as a constant reminder as to where I’ve gone, how far I’ve come, and even where I’m headed next. It is simultaneously the past, the present, and the future.

Reorganizing my collection’s display is a passionate, artistic, therapeutic, and fulfilling endeavor. The many parts and pieces of my anime collection are symbolic of who I am as a person. But beyond owning these items or possessing all this stuff, merely knowing that this collection of thingsthis wall of memories—has shaped who I am today and where I may go tomorrow is a thought that brings me true and unfettered happiness.


A bookshelf is a reflection of its owner’s personality.


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Afterword

A seemingly simple prompt at first, this post somehow managed to pull everything out of me! Reflecting at what collecting means to me and physically writing it down has made me really appreciate the availability of these kinds of goods to us fans. I mean, we can get a hold of nearly everything and everything, and all because there are people who are willing to create, and more people who strive to bring those creations to us. Even if you can’t get a hold of that $200 dream figure or $300 Blu-ray import, we really are fortunate to live in the times that we do.

Do you collect anime, manga or content from other related mediums? If so, why do you collect what you do, and what started you on your collecting journey? I love talking about hobbies (if you couldn’t tell), so feel free to ramble down in the comments—I won’t judge! Also, if I made an Insta, would you be interested in seeing more close-ups of my collection through that?

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This concludes my May 21st entry in the OWLS ‚ÄúHappiness‚ÄĚ blog tour. Flow (Den of Nyanpasu) went right before me with a post about the joys of anime sequel announcements and how much gaming means to them, which you can read right here! Now, look out for the lovely Irina (I Drink and Watch Anime) with, get this, a post about NATSUME (plz never stop writing about this show) this Wednesday, May 22nd! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

On Love, Loneliness, & the Growing Distance Between Us | The Works of Makoto Shinkai

Have you ever had that “feeling”? You know the one—when you notice yourself suddenly skipping about here and there, flattering others in an uncharacteristically cheery way that makes them remark, “I want what¬†they’re having!” Some call that expression—that intense feeling of deep affection, interest, or yearning—love.¬†It’s but a simple four-letter word, and yet it can give some people enough purpose and motivation to perform wild, breathtaking feats, going to the greatest of lengths just for that shared pleasure of joy. “Love makes the world go round,” it truly does.

Such a complex and powerful emotion often finds its way into animation. Specifically, the romance genre of anime holds steady as one of the field’s experts. Its incredible variety masterfully demonstrates that love is not only sweet and tender, but can also be realistically crushing and emotionally devastating.

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The latter is the kind of stories director Makoto Shinkai likes to tell. Rather than measuring up as a statistically sound series or film—that is, a rated “10/10” on various elements such as plot, pacing, characters, animation (his forte), sound etc.—Shinkai films excel at eliciting a feeling,¬†usually on the heartache end of the emotional spectrum.¬†To quote his latest award-winning hit,¬†Your Name., Shinkai’s films provide, simply put, “Nothing more or less than a breathtaking view.” Each possess their own fair share of flaws, some more than others, but beyond the little plot holes lies a relatable character struggle that just might tread a path you yourself have walked.

And it’s exactly that strong resonance between one’s own experiences and Shinkai’s ill-fated cast which makes him one of the bests in the industry. Everyone wants to feel connected to others, and Shinkai depicts through his picture-perfect worlds what that connection is really like, and why it isn’t always everything that we wanted after all.

In the iconic, beautifully cruel style which solidified his films as masterworks of modern animation, Makoto Shinkai appeals to humanity’s most innate fears of rejection and loss by directing his characters through the timeless themes of love, loneliness, and the growing distance which separates people as time goes on. These lessons teach us that though life has its fair share of heartbreak, each relationship we stumble into and every opportunity we miss out on still¬†carries the potential to live out a better tomorrow—you just have to look beyond the distance.

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A comparative study and light analysis on the works of Makoto Shinkai. For each title, I will delve into the big issues or “separators” at hand, factoring in whether the story’s realism and emotions which the endings provoke somehow determine the possibilities¬†for happiness and sadness alike. As such, SPOILERS for nearly all of his films WILL BE PRESENT. Also, these will NOT be individual reviews for each title. For those prepared to relive all of these amazing films, enjoy!

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(NONE OF THIS GORGEOUS ARTWORK BELONGS TO ME. All praise and ownership goes to Makoto Shinkai and CoMix Wave Films.)

She and Her Cat (1999)

I will always be by your side. After all, I am your cat.

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Aside from the music (by Tenmon), this 4-minute short was completely created by Shinkai alone, marking the early beginnings of his budding career as not only an animator and writer, but also a director. It’s the short tale of an average Japanese girl living in an apartment told from the viewpoint of Chobi, her beloved cat. Chobi speaks formally and passionately about his owner, yet he still has this pure, unclouded perspective of a cat. Arguably his softest work yet,¬†She and Her Cat: Their Standing Points stood out due to its innovative (and awfully cute) exploration of love.

What ultimately separates the two from “eloping” is, well, obvious—“She” is a human girl, a woman, while Chobi is a cat. It’s an unusual relationship, but that doesn’t stop the film from being so unrealistic as to the plot being “impossible.” The woman, nicknamed Kanojo by the community, faces her own hardships in the real world (including a possible love interest), and though Chobi would like to know what she does and where she goes once she closes their apartment door, he understands that her life likely isn’t all sunshine and roses—it doesn’t really concern him. All that matters to him is that she returns home at the end of a long day.

Like with all of Shinkai’s films to follow, what separates them (different species, the “language barrier”) also unites them, for through each others warm embrace—that of a cat and his owner—they find comfort and care. Simple, peaceful, heartwarming.

Voices of a Distant Star (2002)

We may be the first generation of lovers separated by time and space.

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Stepping up his game, yet still working alone (aside for Tenmon’s gorgeous piano and string score),¬†Shinkai quotes this rather aged 2002 short film as the piece which put him out in the world. Set in the near future, mankind’s ambition to explore space separates Nagamine and Noboru, a young girl and boy in junior high. As Noboru enters high school, Nagamine is sent off on an expedition into space’s infinite depths. The farther she strays away from Earth and her Noboru-kun, the longer it takes for their texts to reach one another. Minutes turn into hours, days, weeks, months, and soon—

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Though inventive at its time, the 3D graphics haven’t aged all too well. But thematically,¬†Voices of a Distant Star packs more of an emotional punch than most 12-episode series could today—and this film only clocks in at 25 minutes, including the credits! It seems as if the big separator in¬†Voices is the physical distance, but waiting for their messages of goodwill to traverse the vast blank void that is space ushers in another factor: time. As Nagamine’s unchanging body fights on (in what I can only imagine to be early-2000 Shinkai’s mecha dream-of-a-giant robot), Noboru ages at what feels like an alarming pace. In reality, his growth rate is no different from any of ours is, but the way Shinkai conveys the rapid passage of time only accentuates our lovers’ tragedy. Is it realistic? Even as a sci-fi flick, not really. But does its bittersweet run end on an ambiguously hopeful note? Absolutely.

Voices is arguably the first film in Shinkai’s line-up to convey this notion that perhaps the lack of realism can lead to a happy ending. Very interesting . . .

The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004)

On those now-distant days, we made a promise we couldn’t keep.

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To tackle the 1 hr. 30 min. length of this next film, Shinkai needed a team. Between his early beginnings and now in 2004, he partnered with the animation studio CoMix Wave Films. The results—The Place Promised in Our Early Days visually blew audiences away, nearly more so than with 2002’s¬†Voices. Set near the turn of the century in an alternate reality Japan, which is split by America and the Soviet Union, young boys Hiroki and Takuya aim to fly to the top of the fantastical, unbelievably high Hokkaido Tower using an old drone. While at first a secret for just the two of them, Sayuri, a girl Hiroki and Takuya both like but would never admit to one another, discovers their secret, leading to the boys putting their project on indefinite hiatus. When Sayuri suddenly disappears from their life, however, the two come to realize that reaching the mysterious tower—the promised dream of their childhood—might be the only way to save her.

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Hiroki and Takuya experience a loss of youth, of innocence, as they learn to develop their own dreams and ideologies different from their childish musings. What once united them in friendship tears them apart, and the disappearance of Sayuri and discovery of her untimely illness are what kicked off the depressing events that plague the film’s middle. To watch two friends come at each other’s throat can be painfully real to some, as we’ve all have our fair share of little spats with friends. Additionally, I’m sure we’ve all seen sickness and temptation take the life of a loved one and push them into a place beyond our reach. Thankfully, a happy reunion awaits the cast at the end, leading to the belief of how sacrifice can yield rebirth.

Once again, Shinkai writes with a science fiction mind, and although people still relate to Hiroki and Takuya, the entire premise is unrealistic, nothing more than a child’s fantasy. Can you still learn from it? Of course, but come Shinkai’s next film, reality takes a turn for the worst—the start of a tragic trend.

5 Centimeters Per Second (2007)

At what speed must I live to be able to see you again?

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Here it is, Shinkai’s greatest creation (thematically, that is). I’m sure it needs no introduction, unlike his more obscure early works, but in case you forgot, it’s the story of two very close friends and classmates: Takaki Toono and Akari Shinohara. Elementary school should be a time of play and triviality, but for these two, such isn’t the case. Rather than run around on the playground, Takaki and Akari would rather read in the library, or simply chat about life’s musings. Just as they become close, however, Akari’s family plans to move. Takaki and Akari send letters to one another, but Akari only continues to move further and further away. In a final attempt to see Akari before she’s beyond his limits, Takaki sets out to reunite with her. His unlucky trek attracts a cold winter’s blizzard, delaying the series of trains to Akari’s town. But that doesn’t stop the two from finally, FINALLY meeting once again. And boy, does your heart just melt the frost away.

Equal parts faith and love, Takaki made the effort to travel out in the cold, sure, but Akari was the one who waited—the one who sat there miserable and alone with nothing to do but pray that her young love was on his way. It was proof that their love should be everlasting, but alas, that’s not the story Shinkai is trying to tell. In this first episode, it is a physical¬†distance¬†which separates our main couple.

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A chain of short stories about their distance.

After this touching first episode, the film enters its next “story.” Time passes on. Takaki, too, moves away from his hometown to the warm regions of Tanegashima (a stark contrast to the first episode’s frigid finale). Now a high schooler, Takaki meets a new girl, and though she tries to admit her feelings to him, Takaki knows all along that his heart only belongs to one person: the woman of his past.¬†Time¬†and other¬†relationships¬†have left him traveling aimlessly.¬†In the final episode, Takaki is old. Maybe not in the physical sense, as late 20s—early 30s is still quite young, but his spirit definitely seems lost—his heart broken from years without seeing or hearing from¬†her.

The painful reality is that, as life would have it, she has moved on, already engaged to another man. And that’s just it—the final separator which drives these now-unrelated adults is¬†life itself. Life is always changing, and as we continue down our own paths, we sometimes have to leave others behind.

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At its core,¬†5 Centimeters Per Second strives to present one’s “first love,” and how difficult it is to hold onto it—so much so that it almost feels not worth experiencing at all. Takaki, by his end, is lonely, depressed, and empty. It’s a sad film, yet a brutally honest one. Shinkai’s first feature-length film in a world without giant robots or fantasy towers is painfully real, and¬†that aspect remains¬†what distinguishes Shinkai from today’s anime directors. By this point, Makoto Shinkai had earned the appreciation and respect of his more mature adult viewers.

Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011)

This is the journey to know the meaning of “goodbye.”

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Shinkai returns to the realm of fiction with this next film. Clearly inspired by the magical presentation of Studio Ghibli movies, the story follows young Asuna, an excellent student who maintains her family’s house in a rural town during her mother’s absence. Aside from spending time with nature, Asuna is alone. She finds escapism in her secret hideout up in the mountains, and frequently tunes into her old crystal radio for relaxation. One day, she unexpectedly picks up on a curious frequency: a rather melancholic melody, different from any song she had ever heard before. As if fated to meet, a mysterious boy named Shun rescues Asuna from a wild, bizarre creature, unintentionally dragging Asuna and her teacher, Mr. Morisaki, on a perilous journey to Agartha, a land long-lost to time and human presence.

Though not his smartest film by any means, Shinkai has been longing to visit this colorful, enchanting world—Agartha—for some time now. The luscious planet upon which Nagamine lands in¬†Voices of a Distant Star; the domain where the comatose Sayuri resides in¬†The Place Promised in Our Early Days; Takaki Toono’s realm of dreams in 5 Centimeters Per Second—each time this wondrous world reappears, it offers comfort to the characters. Not coincidentally, the design remains the same, too. From the gorgeously iconic “Shinkai clouds” to the seas of green grass and remains of old ruins, Agartha FINALLY gets the thorough fleshing-out that it has since deserved, and I’m just glad we got to go there at long last.

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But¬†Children Who Chase isn’t all sunshine and roses. Awaiting Asuna and Morisaki is an adventure rife with death, and a thorough demonstration as to what happens when man attempts to bring those passed back to life. Foolish, blind greed and a gaping sense of loss are what separate Morisaki from someone pure-hearted like Asuna. But in the same way, the journey of letting go and understanding what “goodbye” truly means allows for the film to end with an odd, lukewarm sensation of happiness. Adventure yields danger, but to those who learn their lessons, the hope to live a fulfilling life burns on.¬†God may be a cruel teacher, but so is history.

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Children Who Chase Lost Voices is far from a realistic story, and thus, the pattern of Shinkai’s fantasies ending contentedly continues. Is he trying to say that reality is just full of heartache and nothing else? Perhaps so with his next couple of films.

The Garden of Words (2013)

Before there was love, there was loneliness.

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A personal favorite of mine, Shinkai’s¬†The Garden of Words provides a 46-minute feels trip through an unusual couple’s short-lived romantic spat.

Tenmon takes a break from the music to allow talent like Daisuke Kashiwa’s immersive piano soliloquies to establish an atmosphere unlike ANY other. And the visuals—THIS is the incredible level of quality which defines Makoto Shinkai’s digital landscaping, lighting, and realism today. Visually, The Garden of Words¬†remains¬†the most beautiful short film I have ever seen, and it will probably hold that title for a long time to come!

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On a rainy morning in Tokyo, aspiring shoemaker Takao Akizuki does what every student on a rainy day wishes they could do—he skips class to sketch designs in the city’s beautiful garden. Thinking he’d be all alone in this calm misty weather, he accidentally meets a beautiful yet reserved young woman. Her name is Yukari Yukino, and though she continues to skip out work to drink and eat chocolates in the garden, Takao takes a liking to her poetic words. To [figuratively] get her back on her feet, Takao offers to make Yukino new shoes. And thus they vow to themselves: for each day it rains, I will spend time with her/him.

More rainy days arrive, and as the two secretly convene in their garden of words—of shared acceptance and belonging—the two unknowingly start to lighten their own personal burdens just by being together.¬†Tokyo’s rainy season may be long, but like all good things, it doesn’t last forever. As warmer days creep ahead and the chance for precipitation diminishes, Takao and Yukino’s relationship risks drying up like the rain which brought them together.

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The Garden of Words¬†paints the true vision of life’s loneliness before love intervenes. It’s the gentle story about finding solace in another, and learning to alleviate one’s personal worries through something as simple as conversation. At first, a lack of courage casts Takao and Yukino as an awkward couple. Only after Yukino is revealed to be a teacher at his school do we see the true separator at hand: the age gap, and the societal notions that place stigmas on teacher–student relationships. YUKINO KNEW THE WHOLE TIME, yet held of on saying anything for fear of judgement. And in the end, Takao yells at her, forcing her on her feet through their compelling emotional conflict.

Realistic in every sense of the word, its finale feels bittersweet, yet resolved. Separated from each other, the two resume pursuing their own personal aspirations. Though somewhat sad, in truth the ending is optimistic about the different directions Takao and Yukino take, as it was¬†through¬†comfort in one another’s presence which allowed them to find their way back on the path—and with a stronger, more confident “footing” this time around.

The Garden of Words rings true as the new Shinkai standard, but thematically, it revolutionized Shinkai’s game: for the first time, a realistic story¬†does, in fact, yield a happy ending.

Someone’s Gaze (2013)

There are a lot of things you two have forgotten.

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Returning to form, Makoto Shinkai cranks out another charming yet touching short (6 minutes in length) with the release of The Garden of Words. It hearkens waaay back to his beginnings, with the simple yet relatable tale of a girl and her cat. Aa-chan lives in a near-future Japan, and has recently made the big transition of living on her own following graduation and the start of a new job. With her mother working overseas as a doctor, her loving father is left behind at the apartment with the family cat, Mii-san, who happens to be very old by this point. Seeking a way to reach out to her, her father tries several times to reconnect with his distancing child, but the gap is too awkward for him to bridge. Eventually Mii-san passes away, but this sudden grief holds the power to reunite a tired daughter, a busy mother, and a lonely father.

All that emotional energy conveyed in such a short time serves to remind us as to Shinkai’s greatest strength, that is, being able to make his viewers experience heartbreak followed by hope (or hopelessness) in a matter of mere minutes.¬†Someone’s Gaze¬†is especially relatable, as the burnout experienced by today’s youth and the parental fear of their children growing up in today’s world both hit us hard at some point in our lives. With maturity comes opportunity, but that often involves temporarily leaving an old way of life—and the people in it—behind. In truth, familial bonds change over time, and as we grow up, it can be hard to maintain that “want” to communicate.

Like The Garden of Words, Shinkai permits for a realistic story to end optimistically hopeful, perhaps marking that the guy really is turning a new leaf from his long history of depressing, failed love stories.

Cross Road (2014)

I sought to find something great, and while it may not have been what I expected, I found something . . . or rather, someone. 

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Although this latest short is actually just a 2-minute commercial for the Z-Kai cram schools, it was still directed by Shinkai, and holds that same breathtaking, picture-perfect style to boot.¬†As college entrance examinations draw near, two students living completely different lives focus their time and energy into a correspondence education service. Juggling their studies with their already-involved daily lives, the two diligently work towards that high goal of college admission, unaware of how much they share in common. It’s a brief yet inspiring “work hard, play hard” preview into a film that I can only imagine would’ve been absolutely stunning had it received the length it deserved. Not as absurd as those 30-second Cup Noodle ads, but even just a couple minutes more would have doubled the story’s length.¬†I suppose we don’t always get what we want; such is life.

Despite the let-down of a run time, Cross Road¬†still manages to follow a truncated version of the Shinkai formula: two individuals in similar situations are separated by different lives, but their unexpected meeting reveals that, through hard work, the hope to overcome their challenges increases. Call this a lighthearted take on the next and final film—the realistic outcome of what¬†possibly could have been.

Your Name. (2016)

Wherever you are in the world, I swear I will find you again—no matter what.¬†

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Your Name.¬†exploded onto the anime scene, continuing to break record after record until it became the highest-grossing anime film in the¬†world (among other nominations). Funimation and Madman Entertainment’s combined efforts to license, dub, and promote the film through staggered theatrical releases maintained its hype not just for the remainder of 2016, but for most of 2017, too. Even now, anime fans who are¬†finally¬†getting around to watching it share their praise with the community, reviving the excitement of this rom-com drama to no end.¬†By this point,¬†Your Name.¬†wasn’t just another Shinkai film—it was a moving, breathing phenomenon.

Like any high school girl born and raised in the Japanese countryside, Mitsuha Miyamizu craves the wonder and excitement of city life. Unfortunately for her, the family’s shrine needs its maiden, restricting Mitsuha to her life in the boonies. Meanwhile in the lively Tokyo, high school student Taki Tachibana labors away at his part-time job with the hopes of eventually pursuing a career in architecture.

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One day, Mitsuha awakens to an unfamiliar ceiling, but the chic apartment and bright view of the city skyscrapers instantly identify as Tokyo. “This is my dream life! But wait . . . wha—I’m in a boy’s body!” Out in the countryside, Taki finds himself waking up in a similar frightening situation. A strange phenomenon swapped the two’s places, and in order to figure out the reasons for their predicament, Taki and Mitsuha live out random days in the other’s shoes, learning about the differing lifestyles, and that above all, fate works in mysterious ways. As Taki and Mitsuha desparately begin searching for the other, their actions begin to dramatically impact the course of destiny, forever altering the threads of fate which tie them together.

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Your Name. almost feels like the culmination of all of Shinkai’s themes, plot points, and even character personalities that make a work, well, Makoto Shinkai’s. Enormous skies, photo-realistic cities, intense lighting, a calm atmospheric music score, themes based on things taken for granted in daily life, and lots of trains. THIS is what Shinkai represents to us now, and on that cinematographic level,¬†Your Name. is perfection. (Also, like, Radwimps wrote the greatest insert songs to an anime EVER.)

A girl and a boy torn apart by an impossible distance, but brought together through circumstance and, of course,¬†fate. At first, that distance is literal: Taki lives in Tokyo, while Mitsuha resides miles away living her humble country life. And part of that is the trick, the gimmick behind the landscape facade, for as soon as the big reveal of the comet Tiamat’s destruction is made, BOOM—time turns out to be the true separator here. Though Taki felt confident and sure of this feeling tugging at his heart, his confession was sadly three years too late.

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And because of this he suffers. Mitsuha suffers. These star-crossed lovers save their beloved Itamori and all its kind, caring folk, BUT—as if their story weren’t painful enough—one last divider severs their last chance of reuniting: their memories of each other are lost to time.¬†Is it a realistic element? Hardly, but it does lead to one of the most happily fulfilling endings I’ve ever experienced. Here’s why.

Makoto Shinkai’s latest film borders on tragedy. Up until this point, it was about to become the biggest heart-breaker in anime film history. But thankfully,¬†Your Name.¬†appreciates a sort of cosmic balance to all the good we do—Shinkai calls that seemingly magical, underlying, connecting force musubi,¬†and we can thank it for honoring Mitsuha and Taki’s feelings for one another. By the film’s end, the two are left with just that—a subtle¬†feeling of the all their shared struggles, surprises, happiness, sadness, inspiration, appreciation, love. . . now memories lost to a different time.

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But when distance tried to physically separate them, Taki and Mitsuha took the trains;

When time placed a rift between them, dreams gave them clues to find each other;

When katewaredoki¬†briefly cut their first meeting short, Mitsuha fought on to finish Taki’s mission;

When¬†memories¬†of one another’s name left their minds,¬†love held on tightly to that lingering feeling—that’s why Taki wrote “I love you” on Mitsuha’s hand, for bridging the timeline gap at twilight involves giving up memories of the other. Names will fade, but emotions have the power to transcend time;

And when tragedy attempted to end their tale of romance and miracles, fate reconnected the strands of love to the cord of hope. Thus, Taki and Mitsuha became destined to meet again.

Separated by distance, connected by fate.

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What Shinkai’s Works Have Taught Me

Have you ever felt that “feeling,” that despair of something that can’t be changed or is beyond your reach, but you still long for it anyway? I’d like to call it “love,” but Makoto Shinkai interprets such a complex emotion as “longing in solitude.” It is only through loneliness that we understand what compassion really feels like, after all.

Shinkai’s works tend to feature unusual yet somewhat realistic relationships, which more so play out as bittersweet than truly tear-jerking (save for maybe¬†Your Name.) He covers a broad range of relationship stages, too, from the cutting of ties and moving on (5 Centimeters Per Second) to the early beginnings of expression (Garden of Words). Unlike most film writers and directors, he delves into themes like pain, longing, yearning, loneliness, and emptiness to give the audience stronger, almost more common emotions to connect with. His creative use of time laps emphasizes this distance or emotional disconnect that the characters and audience experience, and his hyper-realistic visuals never fail to immerse you in the setting he wants, be it on faraway roving fields of green, a quiet Tokyo apartment, or a rainy day in the park.

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Most of all, through¬†distance, Shinkai is able to explore the gap between two people’s feelings: why it exists, and how it is a natural part of the human experience. Life isn’t that glamorous fairy tale that Disney or Hollywood make it out to be. Instead, Shinkai tells us it can be messy, and often times painful to shoulder alone. It’s okay to fall both in love and¬†out of it, as people are always changing.¬†He also teaches that¬†you can, in fact, grow as an adult; emotional maturity has nothing to do with one’s age, for even as adults we can get lost on our path.¬†

None of us are invulnerable to emotional struggle, grief, and even depression. But none of us are forever doomed to loneliness, either—such is why even his most realistic works end in both sadness and happiness. After studying all of his films, I can confirm that NO CORRELATION between the level of realism and whether the ending is positive or negative exists, as Shinkai doesn’t sugarcoat the reality we live in. He presents it for what it is, which has its fair share of good and bad times.

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Ultimately, no amount of magic or sci-fi gimmicks can determine whether YOU chase after the ending you want, for you, too, are constantly growing and learning new things. The hope that we can always change for the better resides within us all—you simply have to decide who¬†you¬†want to be for yourself, and make that leap of faith over the scary distance to connect with another. While you’re at it, don’t forget to enjoy life’s little things we often take for granted.

In Makoto Shinkai’s picturesque, emotionally charged films, I found a rekindled passion for life’s hidden beauties, and so long as he continues to explore the growing distance between us and how finding solace in another can heal our emotional wounds, I’ll always look forward to his next creation.

I still don’t know what it really means to grow up. However, if I happen to meet you, one day in the future, by then, I want to become someone you can be proud to know.¬†–Makoto Shinkai,¬†5 Centimeters Per Second

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Afterwords

At a touch over 5,000 words, this is officially the longest post I’ve ever written, and if you read¬†all¬†of it, you’re my favorite person ever—I hope you learned something new! As you can tell, Makoto Shinkai’s works mean a good deal to me. Most find them repetitive, as in “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” But really, that’s not the case, as each offers a different commentary on relationships and life, even if the execution or premises feel very much the same. So instead of fighting against the argument, I wanted to write this—to leave behind my innermost thoughts and emotions on Shinkai’s films in hopes that whoever stumbles upon this in the future might feel the same way, and that I can comfort them with my musings.

Have you ever resonated with one of Makoto Shinkai’s films, be it his oldest shorts or his latest hits? If so, do you happen to have a favorite or two? I want to know! If you’re fairly new to this director, was¬†Your Name. your introduction to Shinkai’s scenic style? You have to let me know that, too! I’ve met several new faces (including a dear friend) through¬†Your Name.‘s theater experience (which you can read about here), and I hope that you, too, get the chance to share one of his films with a friend or even a lover.

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This officially concludes my comparative study over the creative works of Makoto Shinkai. It’s been a long time coming, what with the writing process¬†and¬†reserving time to rewatch ALL of Shinkai’s films in order, and I’m finally glad I got to share it with you. Despite being terrifyingly long, it’s one of those posts I feel proud to have written.¬†Please let me know any thoughts of the films or this post down in the comments, as I’d love to hear your feedback!¬†Also, feel free to share this to any Shinkai fans you know out there!

As it happens to be on love and romance, I saved writing this post for February, so Happy Valentine’s Day, my dear readers! Whether you spend this season of love with others or save it for yourself, know that I’ll always be wishing you good health and happiness! Thank you so, so much for reading this lengthy analysis—’till next time!

With much love,

– Takuto, your host

Celebrating the New Year with a Reflection on my OWLS Experience! | Blogmas 2017 Day 12

Hey everyone, welcome to the FINAL day of Blogmas! Due to the holidays, I got a little behind this year. But we can still work with that—for this post, I’ll be combining my last big moment of 2017 with my New Year’s wishes to you all! Together, we’ll briefly look at how OWLS has changed me for the better as a blogger, a writer, a listener, a learner, and ultimately, a human being.

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A Review of my First Year with OWLS

(No spoiler-warning necessary~!)

Why Did I Join?

If I were not a member of OWLS today and noticed their tour going on, the thought of joining a group that stood for “Otaku Warriors for Liberty and Self-Respect” would never have occurred to me. Looking deeper at what they represent (acceptance of all people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and disability), I definitely would’ve said “No way” to joining. I’ve already tackled in September’s “Treasure” post that I struggle with the Four D’s (Death, Divorce, Drugs, Depression), and that I’m no good with sensitive subjectsw. It’s not that I’m incapable, it’s just that I’m rather “average” on topics like gender roles/equality/terminology/titles. To be frank, I felt very unknowledgable on the matter(s), as I just never gave them much thought in my daily life. Simply, if someone had a preference on being called “he, she, or they,” didn’t matter to me; I would acknowledge their preference, and oblige by whatever they’d like. It’s just a pronoun, after all. The least I could do was accept their choice.

Then it hit me: wasn’t that exactly the kind of person OWLS was looking for?

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That wasn’t the tipping point for making me join, though. I’d never really been a part of a blogging “team” before, and I didn’t want to jump the gun when I knew I blogged infrequently as-is. With my limited knowledge, I knew that blogging groups or circles had deadlines, requirements, rules, regulations, and that was just stuff I wasn’t up for. I knew my strengths, and I¬†definitely¬†knew my weaknesses.

So I turned back to the recruitment messages that were sent to me (OWLS wasn’t around at the time, so I would eventually become a founding member, heh heh). Reading on past the gender stuff, I noticed more things that OWLS emphasized: importance of respect, kindness, and tolerance to every human being. Yeah, more emotional mumbo-jumbo. Not my style. I remember telling myself to sleep on the thought, so I did.

My days at high school went on. I was taking an AP English course that combined English composition with world literature and the human experience. The class was a lot of work, as I struggled with finding the deeper meaning in works both long and short. This kind of meaningful, poetic writing wasn’t my forte, and the essay units were DEATH. But for some reason, I still liked the class. More and more, I found myself inspired by learning about works like Oedipus Rex,¬†and I was doing off-the-clock research on my own.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I had fallen madly in love with the workings of tragedy, dark romanticism, and dramatic irony. Slowly, I started making connections to my favorite tragic characters in anime like Fate/Zero and Madoka Magica, and I felt I suddenly understood a long-lost philosophy, a secret order to the world known only by the truly enlightened. And before I knew it, I was thinking:

Maybe . . . maybe this English stuff was for me.

And maybe . . . this OWLS thing would allow me to vent this hidden passion.

So I joined. Unqualified as I felt at first, I signed myself on for what would—unbeknownst to me—eventually become a journey of understanding both entertainment and myself on a very deep, personal level.

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At first, things felt pretty good. With each monthly topic, however, I felt the distance between what I wanted to personally say to my readers VS what OWLS wanted me to promote grow. On several occasions, I was graciously using the flexibility of the monthly topics to better fit my own messages and themes. I would feature very fictional characters and premises that were, well, unreal. From robots and artificial intelligence of Time of EVE and Blade Runner, to elves and half-elves in Tales of Symphonia, to the FREAKING cast of Evangelion, which is already infamously loathed enough. My opinions were unpopular. On top of it all, few even knew the shows that I picked, regardless of them being favorites of mine, and thus it was harder for people to relate to what I was trying to say.

As a result, I changed my game to work harder on making my posts “stand out.” I’d try a variety of different writing styles and visual formats, from writing “letters” to poem-ish outlines, and even including my own personal experiences. Going even further, I’d spend extra time on editing images that I put in my posts, using a variety of apps to give form, shape, and emphasis to the entire look. Though this extra work caused me to be a little late some days with releasing posts, the changes made me feel better about both my writing and my self-esteem.

STILL, I couldn’t give a lecture about gender identity. I couldn’t vouch for those fighting a terminal illness, nor living with a mental disorder. It felt as if there was a group of intellects working their butts off to make an impact, however small, and then there was me, the janitor working off of everyone else’s great posts. I felt a bit isolated because I just didn’t know enough about what exactly it was we were fighting for. I thought there was just no “click” between me and the others. At one point, I felt taking a couple months off OWLS just to read a manga featuring LGBTQ+ hardships or watch anime regarding depression and suicide with the hopes of “fitting in” with the discussions on our Twitter and Discord chats.

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But I knew, deep down, that those works weren’t the ones that truly interested me. They may have been great stories—masterpieces even—but everyone has their own tastes. From my own experiences, you can’t write sincerely if you don’t feel passionately about what you’re writing. So I turned to examine myself once again: I have lived a decent life, one with few “big obstacles” and unbearable hardships. Sure, I get a bit lonely at times, but doesn’t everybody? Towards the middle of 2017, I changed the focus of my writing. My mission became this:

Write about coping with everyday life, the troubles we face, and above all, the things we can learn from history. Explore the dark underbelly of the average mind and procure remedies to changing our outlook on humanity. Through the negatives, we can understand the positives, and hopefully go from there. Combine my reviewing strengths with thematic analysis to “knock out two birds with one stone.”


Despite ALL my inner turmoil and struggle to fit in with the other OWLS posts, however, you all kept supporting me. The other OWLS members were cheering me on the whole way. In typical “me” fashion, the reality was that I had made a big deal about nothing. The OWLS members who ran the monthly live streams described my posts as “detailed, heartfelt, and poetic.” And through the busy, busy months of inactivity (spring and summer), OWLS gave me a purpose to write, and it kept my blog alive and well. I’m thankful to OWLS for not only allowing me to be a member of a fun and friendly team, but also for giving me the chance to do some long, hard thinking about why I write, and what I want to learn in the future. Honestly, they’re the best kind of people that I feel unworthy of being around and writing for, but like their mantra states:

We are a group of otaku bloggers who promotes acceptance of all individuals regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and disability. We emphasize the importance of respect, kindness, and tolerance to every human being.

Should you join OWLS? Gosh, well, as you can see it took me a hot minute to think about that myself. But if you are willing to work hard for a good cause, and are passionate enough to write about anime and the pop culture medium, this might be the otaku group for you!

At least, I¬†now know it’s the family for me.

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My Top Five Favorite OWLS Posts that I Wrote in 2017

It’s hard to pick favorites. I don’t like doing it, but in the spirit of the 12 Days of Anime, I’ve managed to select five OWLS posts that accurately represent the sum of who I am, why I write, and what I want you, the reader, to learn! All of my OWLS posts are my babies—in fact, they’re probably some of the best posts I’ve ever written, if not THE best of what I’ve got so far, and I thoroughly LOVED writing ALL of them—so enjoy my reminiscing, and feel free to scope them out if you missed them, or are feeling the urge to relive each month’s thought-provoking topic.

On the header/taskbar thingy of my site, you’ll see that OWLS has its own tab (and rightly so), so you can find the rest of 2017’s posts there! Alrighty, here we go—let’s wrap up 2017!

RUNNER UP: 

¬†Tour #1 January ‚Äď Kiznaiver, Where Change is Worth the Pain | OWLS ‚ÄúDisruptors‚ÄĚ

We All remember “that first time” we did something. Stepping out the gate with my first OWLS post was pretty scary, but even reading this now, I can recall the slight feeling of motivation I felt while writing the ending. It served as my review of the show, and it also had some sociology nonsense stuff in it. But YES, oh the memories!

Life Lessons Learned: 

  • It is not always the positives that make people seek change.
  • We must not shame, but accept the bizarre, the wacky, and the weird that reside within each of us.
  • Don’t be afraid to stick up for the things you believe in—odds are, someone else believes in them, too.

NUMBER FIVE:

Tour #5 May ‚ÄstGrimgar: Stronger Together, Now & Forever | OWLS ‚ÄúStrength‚ÄĚ

This was the first time I tried a different writing style. It was also where I was coined as a “poetic writer” because my post was formatted to, simply put,¬†look like a poem. Straight from the heart, I went in with no outline whatsoever, and very few times did I hit the backspace key; if it was typed in first, it was typed for a reason. I like to think it turned out okay. Plus, I thought this show¬†totally hit the monthly theme on the head!

Life Lessons Learned:

  • For a team, true strength lies not solely on one’s shoulders, but in faith in one another‚ÄĒin overcoming adversity and misfortune together.
  • Tragedies and bad experiences in life can be used strengthen your being; what doesn‚Äôt kill you does¬†make you stronger.
  • You are only alone if you choose to be. Similarly, one may be strong, but a team is stronger.

NUMBER FOUR:

Tour #2 February ‚ÄstYuri!!! On ICE Goes the Distance for Life & Love | OWLS ‚ÄúFlight‚ÄĚ

Yo, I looove¬†Yuri!!! On ICE. Y’all already know that (and no, my bias towards the show isn’t what put it on this list). The reason I picked February’s post for #4 is because it inspired me to live a cleaner life. Now wait, I know you think I sound pretty egotistical for saying that “my own post inspired me,” but I’d be lying to you if I didn’t mention that putting this post out there¬†did¬†in fact encourage me to live life on the free-er side. I felt inspired to live more vicariously, without regard to what I could and could not control, and that made my stress decrease immensely. Also, I was recently sent a Twitter message saying that this post (specifically, the last bit) inspired another fellow blogger to write a review over a film that they loved in a similar fashion. Isn’t it the goal of all bloggers to get messages like these?? Anyway, I hope it helps you if you ever feel that you’re just letting life pass you by!

Life Lessons Learned:

  • Leaving the comfort zone can allow you to unlock potentials you thought you never had, or better yet, complete a part of you that had been missing.
  • True sportsmanship is doing the best you can, respecting your competition, and making memories doing it with others.
  • You only get one life: live truthfully.¬†

NUMBER THREE:

Tour #9 September ‚Äď ‚ÄúOrange‚ÄĚ is Sweet & Sour, Yet All The More Beautiful | OWLS ‚ÄúTreasure‚ÄĚ

I’ve mentioned numerous times in this post my discomfort with discussing depression, suicide, and the like. Well, September was my first shot at the whole mess, and because of all the heartwarming comments I’ve received, I got to learn so much about not only the issues at hand, but also many of your own lives. It wasn’t an easy post to write, but of all of these, it’s one that I was most glad I had. Also, isn’t the header image so pretty?¬†Orange‘s art is so aesthetically pleasing!

Life Lessons Learned:

  • When helping others with sensitive issues, it’s hard to know what to say at exactly the right time. Don’t hate on yourself for messing up—you tried, and that’s admirable enough.
  • Every life is precious—treasure each and every day, the present, the moment, and yourself.
  • Do your best to live without regrets.

NUMBER TWO:

Tour #12 December ‚Äď In This Corner of the World: A History Lesson on Hope & Healing | OWLS ‚ÄúWarmth‚ÄĚ

After writing for 12 consecutive months, I was surprised to see that I still had the stamina to push on with December’s final post. Though I felt a bit wordy with this one (it’s one of the longest posts I’ve written!), I like to think that every single word is there for a reason. At first, I thought the film I featured for this month was okay, nothing too fancy, but definitely decent. The more I thought about it, however, I came to realize that it was not only one of the best, but also one of the most important watches of 2017! It touched my heart enough to force me to spit out many BIG lessons on the human experience! I would’ve put this down as my #1 OWLS post for 2017, but it was missing one vital, personal touch.

Life Lessons Learned:

  • Life always goes on. Those who learn to adjust the quickest and accept the circumstances around them will have a greater chance at happiness.
  • Learn from fiction:¬†no matter how significant or insignificant, it is all created with something valuable to be learned.
  • We all have the choice to be happy or sad, rude or nice‚ÄĒlive the way you want to.

AND FINALLY, NUMBER ONE:

Tour #6 June ‚ÄstFor the Team ‚Äď Free! & My Swim Story | OWLS ‚ÄúTeam‚ÄĚ

I think it’s obvious how much this one meant to me. Almost 100% personal and taken from my own experience with a team, June’s post was not only a long-time coming, but also a story that I’m glad I finally got around to telling. It was important for me, and it should be of importance to you, should you care to know more about who I am! It was also a hard one to write, as I recall staying up until past 3 am the next day (late) just to finish it, and word it¬†exactly how I wanted to. It’s an autobiography, a blog tour post, and a review of a beloved series that is dear to my heart.

You all reached out to me in the comments on this one, and for that alone, I am forever thankful.

Life Lessons Learned

  • If you find yourself losing your passion for something, or are stuck with a team that frankly isn‚Äôt filled with the most wonderful of people, then be that wonderful person for the team.
  • Determination, perseverance, and ambition speak volumes about people.
  • Life is fleeting. Savor the bests of each moment, and never forget your actions can cause ripples, unknowingly inspiring others in the process.

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Happy New Year From Me to You

That’s the end, folks! Between all my OWLS posts and the experiences I’ve shared with all of you, this is the list of things I learned in 2017! Now you, too, have the opportunity to carry these timeless lessons into 2018! Did you have a favorite OWLS post of mine? If so, please let me know!¬†Even though I get behind on comments, I always value your thoughts and opinions, and I am ALWAYS grateful to those who simply read my posts!!

Oh yeah, this also FINALLY includes Blogmas 2017 and the 12 Days of Anime! I got sooo behind, but I’m so glad I did it because I got to reconnect with all of you. Writing for each day of Blogmas was surprisingly fun, and I never got tired (just busy). Next year, I’ll definitely have to stay on top of it better!

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for all your support over this past year! There were several gaps of inactivity in 2017, and one goal for 2018 would be to fill in those gaps with more reviews of titles that I cannot wait to watch. Thank you for being patient with my responses, and for letting me know when I do a decent job at something (it’s the little things that go a long way, right?). The blog’s almost at 300 followers, so it’d be really awesome if I could say about 100 people joined the cafe each year!

So here’s to you, to me, to all the wonderful things we’ve done, and to the many, many more exciting things we’ll do together! Already, I have made my peace on Twitter, but again, I’m wishing you all a year full of good health, healing, and a ton of luck~!! I’ve got many projects in mind—one in particular to kick off 2018—so please look forward to that! As always, my favorite bunch of people in the vast sea of the internet, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! And until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Anime at the Theaters: My “Your Name” Experience! | Blogmas 2017 Day 10

Hey everyone, welcome to (a very belated) day 10 of Blogmas (whoops)! I know today’s topic isn’t necessarily “new” for 2017 (nor is it for years prior), but this was the first year I was able to attend a theater to watch anime on the big screen!

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Anime at the Theaters!

From Funimation’s screenings of films for Project Itoh, Dragon Ball, Fairy Tail, One Piece, Black Butler, Attack on Titan, Psycho-Pass, The Boy and the Beast, and In This Corner of the World,¬†to live action films like¬†Tokyo Ghoul, Rurouni Kenshin,¬†and¬†Shin Godzilla, anime has been on the rise, as most of these titles were indeed screened this year. And they’re not stopping at 2017; they’ve already lined up the beginning of 2018 with theatrical releases for the widely anticipated first¬†Eureka Seven Hi-Evolution¬†film!

Heck, even Viz Media had joined in on the fun with its grand premiere of Sailor Moon R: The Movie¬†this past winter (which was, by the way, promoted with the red carpet treatment, complete with a voice actor/pro-cosplayer meet-up, AND a spotlight on Snapchat—FREAKIN’ SNAPCHAT). The same goes for Aniplex of America and their latest (successful) efforts with¬†Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale¬†and¬†Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel. Oh, and we can’t forget Sentai Filmworks with the big debut of the No Game No Life: Zero!¬†Though Aniplex has been in the game much longer, it’s only now that their publicity has reached far enough to include theater screenings not just limited to the California area. And this trend will likely increase for all of these companies as the years go on, which is awesome because when more anime goes around, we get more of it!

I unfortunately wasn’t able to see this film (or any of the ones listed above, for that matter), but I did try, I did! ;_: Now I own the DVD. :3

It’s not often that anime “strikes rich” with U.S. audiences, though. The fan base and popularity expand, sure, but the monetary gain from screening anime films in the U.S. is nothing compared to what¬†Warner Bros., Sony Pictures, Walt Disney Studios, or even some indie films earn. But every bit helps, and seeing as how screenings of our favorite niche titles keep popping up, we can only imagine that it’s all helping the anime industry in Japan. Anime News Network wrote an article during the film screening boom awhile back, so you might want to check that out if you’re curious to know the “science” behind it all.

As I was saying, very rarely do anime films earn household names thanks to theater screenings:¬†Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and most Studio Ghibli films are pretty well recognized thanks to their unique artistic styles and of course, classic nature. Just this past spring, Funimation streamed a little title called¬†Your Name.—ever heard of it? Yeah, I’m sure you have, and you’ll probably already know that it’s now the world’s highest-grossing anime film, finally beating out Ghibli staples like Spirited Away (2nd),¬†Howl’s Moving Castle (3rd), and everyone’s favorite fish-girl with the round tummy,¬†Ponyo¬†(4th).¬†No, it’s not a competition, but credit should be given where it’s due, and¬†Your Name.¬†IS one incredible, breathtaking film. While Japan is still loyal to¬†Spirited Away,¬†Your Name. did manage to climb all the way up to become the fourth highest-grossing film in the nation. If that doesn’t speak volumes about the film, I’m not sure what will.

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My “Your Name.” Experience

(This is not a review. That will come out in early 2018, fingers crossed >.<)

Have you ever been to a Warren Theatre? They’re apparently prominent in the big midwestern cities, but essentially, they are luxurious movie theaters heavily decorated and inspired by Hollywood during the Roarin’ Twenties. Very¬†Gatsby-esque and decked out to the extreme, one wearing athletic shorts and a t-shirt (me) would feel very out of place. EVERYTHING is gold in that place—no, literally, there are tall pillars embossed with shiny gold-colored plating. Exquisite paintings hang on the gorgeously patterned walls, and the staff are finely dressed in slick black suits. Even the bathrooms are paved with solid ebony marble flooring with rows upon rows of ridiculously clean stalls. There are several open little outlets that line the curtained walls, each containing waiting rooms with comfortable maroon leather couches and, wait, yes, a fireplace.

 

[Pictures from Google]

All-in-all, my mom, dad, and sister and I were very shocked.¬†Very shocked. The place was simply stunning, and I couldn’t recommend it enough. The Warren is an experience, not just another place to watch movies.

 

[They even had this cool giant promotional poster for the Ghost in the Shell live action, which I was absolutely enamored by! You can bet I took pictures posing by this, haha!]

So the Warren was hella lit, but what made the three-hour journey to see¬†Your Name. all the more worth it was the meet-up. (Woah, Taku has friends that like anime IRL?! Yup, you bet.) If you didn’t already know, music was my thing from basically birth up through high school (and even now, too). I play the cello, and on my second year with the All-State Orchestra, my sister made friends with her fellow stand partner. He was also Asian, so there’s kinda that instantaneous bond right there, and we all kept in contact after that fateful encounter.

Flash forward, and he starts talking about this film he saw on his way back from Japan, a title that, though unfamiliar with my sister, was screaming at me because of all the recent hype:¬†Your Name., Makoto Shinkai’s latest creation. He recommended the film because he’d seen it, I knew how to get us to see it, and my sister was the glue that held us all together. The only problem—he lives across the state, over three hours away, and while it might not seem like much for the average traveler, you can’t forget that we’re youngins, and that distance was enough to keep us apart.

So we agreed to meet halfway. He chose a conveniently located place where we’d meet up to eat (which was a really awesome and tasty Japanese restaurant similar to how Qdoba or Chipotle are fashioned—how fitting, I know), I found the Funimation-approved theater, and my sister kept us all excited (well, more than we were, at least)! Several laughs later, it was time to make our way across the parking lot, and before we knew it, we were ushered into the theater balcony where we were seated before a giant red curtain. That’s right, this movie theater opens and closes its screenings with the grand red curtain. God, did I mention that I love this place??

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So the great curtain raised and the great curtain lowered. The film was over, and it was admittedly hard not to cry. So many things had led up to this one moment:

  • Hearing about the rapid success of¬†Your Name.
  • Attending All-State Orchestra and meeting a new friend
  • Funimation announcing a theatrical release
  • Reconnecting via technology and setting up a reunion
  • Traveling the distance, meeting the other halfway
  • Walking into the Warren
  • Reuniting for a delicious lunch
  • Seeing one of the greatest films ever created
  • Feeling the emotions of the characters, together

I mean, all this considered, it was so very difficult to believe that this dream of mine would quickly come to an end. It was not only a bittersweet ending for Mitsuha and Taki, but for the three of us, too. Honestly, bidding farewell to a friend had never been harder. But we agreed to meet again, and sure enough, just this past weekend, we met halfway once again to have fun at the city’s mall. We were going to ice-skate all together, but he had a piano competition coming up and his mom didn’t want him risking his wrist—perfectly understandable, and we had fun nonetheless. (Our family did go ice-skating, though :P)


Thoughts on Life, Transience, and Memories

It’s not often that an anime film gets screened here in the states. And it’s also not often that said movie becomes the highest-grossing anime film in the world.

Similarly . . . 

It’s not often that we get to have perfect long-distance friendships. And it’s also not often that we get to cross that seemingly great distance to have our own¬†Your Name. experience. Little did we know it, we, too, traversed the state in search of the other and promised to meet up again someday. And when someday finally came, we were all just so, so happy.

We have to take advantage of the fleeting opportunities that life presents us with. Not every moment will be magical, but when you make the most of what you have—pouring all your heart into what you want most—sometimes chance grants you that picture-perfect moment . . .

Only for it to quickly fade into a memory. 

Cherish the friendships you currently have, relish in the art that entertains you, and I cannot express this last one enough: Take as many photos as you can. I say it all the time, but the reality is that life goes by quicker and quicker with each passing day. Don’t let thinking about the “could have beens” before they even happen stop the “can be” that you can make possible. There was a point where I considered not reaching out to my sister about the film because I thought it wasn’t going to work for some reason. I was wrong.¬†We can make beautiful memories to last a lifetime, and we¬†can¬†take risks to pursue happiness.

It’s all a matter of taking the first step and hoping that it leads you to enjoying the step after that.

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Wherever you are in the world, I’ll search for you. – Taki Tachibana


Maybe now you understand why getting to see Your Name was one of my highlights of 2017.¬†Did anyone else have the opportunity to visit anime in theaters this year? If so, what did you see, and how was your experience? I’d love to know! I’ll be logging this as a “Cafe Talk,” so feel free to let your thoughts loose on this post or anything else related to it!

I’m on a bit of an odd schedule now thanks to the holidays, but this concludes Blogmas Day Ten of the 12 Days of Anime. Thanks for reading, and I‚Äôll catch you shortly with another belated post!

‚Äď Takuto, your host

Completing My First “Tales” Game! | Blogmas 2017 Day 7

Hey everyone, welcome to day 7 of Blogmas!

Another quickie today, but a celebration nonetheless! This past early spring, I completed my first¬†Tales game. For those unfamiliar with the massive franchise, the title¬†Tales refers to a sprawling series of games, most unrelated, created by the game company Bandai Namco in Japan. They’re known for their iconic and elaborate character designs, fantasy-inspired landscapes, Celtic-inspired soundtracks, and most of all, their deep, thought-provoking adventure stories that can take just as long as a¬†Final Fantasy¬†game to complete. We’re talking about clocking no less than 30 hours per game!

Anyway, the¬†Tales¬†franchise means a lot to me. Not because I am overly familiar with the gameplay (as you can see by the title of this post, I’ve actually played very little¬†Tales¬†in my life T__T), but because I get my roots as a fan of entertainment in general from the fantasy genre, the¬†Tales franchise being rich in the source. I’m a kid born and raised on attending Renaissance Festivals and Madrigal Feasts, often loosing myself in the adventurous worlds of tabletop gaming like (our adapted version of) HeroQuest (anyone remember that), TCGs like¬†Pokemon¬†and¬†Magic the Gathering, books like¬†John Flanagan’s¬†Ranger’s Apprentice¬†series, or even iconic films of the genre,¬†Lord of the Rings and¬†The Hobbit to name a couple. I love fantasy—essentially, its themes of valor, honor, and justice compose my heart for entertainment.

Most importantly,¬†Tales of Symphonia: The Animation¬†is one of only a handful of shows to get me started on anime. If¬† didn’t come across the Japanese opening of the game, “Starry Heavens,” which I’ll link below, I would never have discovered the wondrous world of Japanese animation.

So here we go: to the best of my ablility, I will briefly discuss my experiences playing both Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Zestiria on the PS3 from the weak non-gamer perspective that I have!

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Loose Discussions on My Experiences Playing a “Tales” Game

(These will DEFINITELY NOT be formal reviews.)

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Tales of Symphonia

Looking back on it,¬†Symphonia‘s anime does a really, really good job at sticking to its source material. It’s got all the major locations, major backstory elements pertaining to the main characters, and even some of the minor characters. Heck, even most of the theme songs for specific characters and towns were brought back for the anime! But this isn’t about the anime, I suppose. Back to the game.

One of the biggest problems I had with the game was the use of annoying side mazes that involved using a “magic ring” to properly traverse. It’s gimmicks like these that tend to ward me off of games—I JUST WANT TO SEE THE STORY. Some of those were really hard, too; as a beginner, I found myself referring to YouTube walkthroughs more and more as the game’s climax neared just to get passed these stupid little travel puzzles.

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OH MY GOD WELGAIA’S FREAKIN FLOORS SCREW THIS

Another beef I had with it was the English audio. As a who’s fan loyal to what I hear first, that being the anime in fansubs, I couldn’t stand the English voices for Lloyd or Zelos. This was easily fixed by changing the game’s audio back to the original Japanese, however, so it’s not so much of a problem as it was just a preference. Raine’s VA for both¬† was good though, so way to go Kari Wahlgren!

Where it has its minor issues, I found myself immensely enjoying all of the sidequests or story elements that were dropped in the anime adaptation; piecing together the events and locations, however major or minor, that were missing from the anime was tons of fun, as I learned many new things about¬†Symphonia‘s two worlds and their peoples. And while I did think that the final confrontation with Mithos, the ultimate antagonist, was a bit lousy in game format (or at least it had way less of an emotional appeal to it, though movies do tend to resonate with me more), I much rather preferred the game’s handling of tying up all the loose ends—specifically, resolving the pact with Origin and the birth of the new World Tree. It had more time to fully explain itself, and now after all these years I FINALLY understand who Origin is! Woohoo!

All-in-all, finally getting around to playing (and actually finishing, holy shit)¬†Tales of Symphonia (PS3)¬†after six LONG years of putting it off, I can’t help but feeling so complete—the story has finally come full-circle, the adaption introducing me to anime as a media and the PS3 game engrossing me in JRPGs. Do I now despise the anime for excluding so many “crucial” plot points? Absolutely not. I still hold Tales of Symphonia: The Animation in the highest regard, as it’s still a beautiful, moving tale of the harsh realities of racism and revenge, and the hope that comes with uniting two fundamentally broken worlds—I love both iterations of the story, and I probably always will. I DO recommend both the anime and the game, so pick your poison and head out on your own adventure ASAP! (Or be like me and experience both! More¬†Symphonia is a very good thing.)

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Ultimately, I was just so happy I could say I completed my first¬†Tales game, but I immediately knew that It wouldn’t be the last. In fact, my second¬†Tales adventure was awaiting me just around the corner—the end of a good school year, and the start of a brilliant summer!

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Tales of Zestiria

I remember seeing a promotional poster for the anime Tales of Zestiria the X circulating years back, and I do recall being excited for it despite not knowing anything other than that it was another¬†Tales adaptation by the GOD STUDIO, Ufotable.¬†After getting to see the English voice actor for¬†Zestiria‘s MC, Robbie Daymond, in person at this year’s Naka-Kon, I knew the first thing to do as soon as I got home: purchase the PS3 game (I actually ended up doing it in the hotel room, tho >.<).

My recent success with¬†Symphonia set my passions ablaze for tackling the next big JRPG. Once you’ve played one JRPG, you’ve played them all, right? Or perhaps, you¬†want to play them all. From the reviews alone, I already knew that this one was going to be the easiest-to-understand in the entire franchise so far, and that it was arguably the “not-very-smart one” in the series. The character designs charmed me too much, however, and the sparkling armitization sequences just blew me away! The real draw-in for this series, voice actor meeting aside, was the anime’s OP theme, “Kaze no Uta” by FLOW. It was just the smooth, crisp 60 fps display plus the ridiculously catchy tune that made this show a MUST for me. Anyone see a trend here?

That’s right, both¬†Tales¬†games that I have played drew me in through their gorgeous, catchy openings. I suppose that should speak volumes about their music choice and soundtracks, no? Easily some of the best stuff I’ve ever listened to. And I still jam to this song every time I’m working out (which is rare) or whenever I need something to lift my spirits (which is often).

Unlike¬†Symphonia, however,¬†Zestiria¬†had yet another thing winning for it: the fandom. Oh the ships, all the ships, I tells ya!! I’m such a sucker for anything Sorey and Mikleo, Alisha and Lailah. They’re all just so pretty, AHH!!

EHERM.¬†Tales of Zestiria, despite all my senseless fanboying, is a beloved game that, honestly, treads many of the same lines that¬†Symphonia did: two races trying to coexist, one “chosen” person designated to heal the land, a loudmouth (yet adorable) MC and his reserved, intelligent best friend. “Best friend ;)” All of the parallels and similarities just make me glad that¬†Zestiria, though argued as the “dumb one,” was my second¬†Tales¬†game.

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As a PS3 game itself, the reviews ARE true in that the game is likely one of the easier ones in the franchise. I had very few problems in it . . . as in literally none at all. Sure, the story isn’t as deep or intricate (or emotional) as I would have wanted it to be (AKA more like¬†Symphonia’s darkness), but that in itself makes¬†Zestiria‘s almost overwhelming optimism contagious, and fun to play regardless of whatever mood you’re in. The visuals are, holy god almighty, some of the finest I’ve ever seen in gaming (THOSE SKIES THO F*CK ME), and the orchestral soundtrack should be on EVERY tabletop gamer’s background music playlist. Like, shit, need something that sounds absolutely LEGENDARY for a whole freakin’ hour, here you go:

To recap the¬†Zestiria (PS3) experience, it was easy, simple, fantasy fun at its finest. You don’t need to collect many bonus items (if any at all, I skipped most of them), and the fights themselves are, WOAH, WHAT’S THIS, the most FUN part of the gameplay! I’m no gamer, and I found swingin’ around Sorey’s massive armitized swords, bow, giant fists—what have you—to be greatly pleasurable. If you’re not looking for the deepest¬†Tales game, but one that’s great for a first-timer,¬†Zestiria is the one for you. I recommend it.

FUN FACT: After meeting Robbie Daymond, I played through all of the game in English and loved it—proof that once again, whatever you hear first is likely your favorite. I was also incredibly hyped for the anime adaption, as it looks like the best thing to come from Ufotable besides¬†Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, and that’s one of the most top-tier anime you could ask for! I’m currently watching the anime, and while the inclusion of the¬†Berseria *promotional episodes* were pointless and time-draining, it’s a pretty good show. I won’t make any judgement calls now, but I’d love to review it whenever I finish! Also, for all I know,¬†Berseria could very well end up being my next¬†Tales game to experience, as it, too . . . well, I bet you can already guess.

It had a rockin’ OP. ūüôā

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What did you think of¬†Symphonia¬†or¬†Zestiria? Any opinions on their anime adaptations, either?¬†For the record, I have seen the¬†Tales of the Abyss anime, but that was also very long ago, so want to rewatch that some day.¬†Lastly, are there any particular favorites or recommendations¬†from the¬†Tales franchise out there? Let me know! I’ve heard that¬†Symphonia is actually one of the bests, and though I haven’t played the others, I’m gonna probably call it as my favorite. Sorry, it’s just first-timer’s bias.¬†This wrap up Blogmas Day Seven of the 12 Days of Anime! Thanks for reading, and I‚Äôll catch you all tomorrow!

‚Äď Takuto, your host

Animepalooza’s 50 Otaku Facts Tag! | Blogmas 2017 Day 1

Hey everyone, it’s Thursday! The 12 Days of Anime AKA Takuto’s 2017 Blogmas officially begins now! For the first day’s festivities, we’ll kick off by getting to know a bit more about me, the host here at the cafe. Instead of immediately responding to AniYouTuber Gigi of Animepalooza’s 50 Otaku Facts Tag a couple months back, I decided to save it for something like this, the 12 Days of Anime, when it might pack a little more interest.

So strap yourself in for a long list of 50 more things you may or may not have known about Takuto! Also, I decided to frame the order and type of “facts” by answering along with Gigi’s video (I copied, whoops), so thanks gurl for the indirect tag and the outline to follow, haha!

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50 Otaku Facts Tag

  1. The first anime I ever watched (knowing that it was indeed an anime) was Negima!?. That is, the Shaft one with Motsu the frog.
  2. The first order I made when I consciously decided to start collecting anime was from RightStuf in 2014 and I believe it was parts one and two of A Certain Scientific Railgun S, DVD only.
  3. My favorite anime genres are sci-fi, psychological (thriller or not), and mystery. I also enjoy comedy, sports, and, though not a genre, survival games.
  4. My favorite anime of all time is (oh god I can’t pick), hmm,¬†Evangelion.
  5. My favorite psychological anime is¬†Neon Genesis Evangelion (that’s why).
  6. My favorite sports anime is Free! (because it actually encouraged me to do sports in the first place).
  7. My favorite sci-fi anime, besides the aforementioned Eva, the 1995 Ghost in the Shell. For series, I love Psycho-Pass AND Psycho-Pass 2.
  8. I started my blog because I wanted to have a cozy place on the internet where I could freely express my anime happenings with other fellow fans. I also love archiving shit. No literally, it can be anything, just let me organize it and file it away so it looks pretty and neat.
  9. My favorite Pokemon are Bulbasaur, Chansey, and of course, Pikachu Related image
  10. I also love 80s and 90s retro anime, my favorites being Ghost in the Shell, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Sailor Moon.
  11. When I was growing up, I “played”¬†Sailor Moon¬†just like half of us all did. Rather than choosing a single scout, however, I took on a blend of Jupiter’s powers with Uranus’s appearance. In other words, I wanted to be the hot one.
  12. Two genres that I cannot stand, for the most part, are (also) ecchi fanservice and straight up “moe” (the cute-girls-doing-cute-things skit, yeah, not a fan, sorry!).
  13. I also am enthralled by Clamp’s art style, but seeing as how I’ve only watched one anime with that style (Code Geass,¬†which I LOVE), I cannot completely judge the rest.
  14. My English voice actor husbando is Micah Solusod (and J. Michael Tatum, it goes back and forth).
  15. My English voice actress waifu is (OH NO THERE ARE TOO MANY TO PICK), uhh, I’ll go with Jamie Marchi, the baddest bitch of them all.
  16. I also agree that the¬†Sword Art Online proposal scene was pretty sweet and romantic. Just don’t expect me to make you sandwiches all the time once we’ve wed.
  17. I believe the most underrated anime is Robotics;Notes. GO WATCH IT.Image result
  18. My favorite type of anime characters are strong, bold, fierce-and-they-know-it *QUEEN* females and teen males who don’t know what they’re doing with their lives (because I can relate).
  19. My anime waifu for laifu is Saber (shh, don’t tell Junko Enoshima or Mami Tomoe), my anime husbando being *EROS* Yuri.
  20. While I haven’t seen any boy idol anime yet, I did enjoy¬†Love Live! and even parts of¬†Cheer Boys!!.
  21. My favorite reverse harem anime is, by far, Ouran High School Host Club.
  22. My least favorite horror anime of all time is Corpse Party. That crap is just dumb.
  23. It took me three tries to watch¬†Blast of Tempest and you know what? It’s actually pretty good.
  24. I had watched¬†Sailor Moon as a kid a long time ago on VHS. That’s right, I basically watched the same 6-10 tapes (like 20 episodes) over and over and over again and never got sick of them. Same goes for¬†Yu-Gi-Oh and¬†Pokemon. Now, thanks to Viz’s re-releases of the beloved series, I am watching the ENTIRETY of¬†Sailor Moon¬†(with the Viz dub cause it’s amazing) from episode one to, eventually, 200. All I know about the¬†Stars‘s ending is that they’re all floating in the clouds naked. Same.
  25. I AM NOT A COMPLETIONIST BY CHOICE. It’s actually a curse, and thanks to my hyper-focus abilities, I can barely start watching a second anime without completing the first, no matter how much it sucks. At least this means I’m loyal.
  26. I ALSO love the¬†Yuri!!! On ICE¬†fandom more than the anime!!! Don’t get me wrong, I totally give the series a hot 10/10, but without the wonderful fandom theories and fan-artists,¬†YOI just wouldn’t feel as magical as it is. Bless you all.
  27. I, too, tend to have a horrible habit of shipping seemingly unrelated couples. It doesn’t help when the official companies release artwork EXCLUSIVELY exhibiting two such individuals that have no relation to another whatsoever (looking at you,¬†Free!¬†and¬†Fate).
  28. Eros Yuri and Minami is my YOI crack ship. Phichit is always invited, though.Image result for eros yuri and minami
  29. When I marathon anime (Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell,¬†etc.), I marathon HARD. I’ll even set aside time on break just to thoroughly explore a franchise. That said, I usually can’t review anything on my blog afterwards because I’d exhausted all of my cares by that point (plus, the series is over–HOW DO I FIND ANOTHER ONE AFTER IT??).
  30. The first Nendoroid I ever purchased was of Makise Kurisu from Steins;Gate, and she still stand there beautifully in the spotlight on my shelf.
  31. The first figure I ever purchased (besides the Kurisu Nendoroid) was a two-for-one of Eren Yeager and Saber Alter.
  32. Free! is a sports anime. Gigi . . . GIGI . . . they swim, practice, go to meets, set goals, and make new friends through it all. Sports anime. LOL.Related image
  33. GIGI FREE! ETERNAL SUMMER IS BOTH SLICE-OF-LIFE AND SPORTS, YOU HAVE TO ACCEPT IT AS BOTH, just as how SouRin and SouMako are BOTH a thing. Ok, maybe a bad analogy, but still. As for slice-of-life anime, I only like them if that nature of it is underneath a larger genre. Ex: Steins;Gate (slice of life and sci-fi), School Live! (slice of life and horror), Free! (slice of life AND sports).
  34. My favorite English dub is surprisingly¬†Ouran High School Host Club‘s! Something about the cast selection just really meshes well together for me. I also do adore the dubs for¬†Code Geass,¬†Steins;Gate, Evangelion,¬†and¬†KILL la KILL.
  35. I prefer English dubs to English subs. Why? Sure, the sub may be a more “accurate” interpretation of the director’s vision, but things heard in my own language tend to resonate with me more than when I have to read it. I do love both, though.
  36. Like Gigi said, if a show is in a regular release (no SAVE classics edition) PLUS it has a decent rating, there’s a good chance I’ll buy it cause SAVINGS.
  37. And also like Gigi, I hardly ever by anime or manga unless it’s on sale. It’s expensive enough as is.
  38. I honestly have not read a lot of manga, but some of my favorites include¬†Orange, Seraph of the End,¬†and (for the little I’ve read of it),¬†Pandora Hearts.Related image
  39. I’m a strong believer in the philosophy that true horror (as a genre) is inherently terrifying, as in it shouldn’t rely on cheap gore fests just to render itself as scary. This often times results in me just looking for mystery anime more than horror titles. A couple of my favorites are¬†Another¬†and¬†Higurashi.
  40. One #relationshipgoals scene for me would be the moment, in¬†Code Geass, when Lelouch is captured and his Zero persona is nearly revealed–until C2 suddenly appears donning the Zero attire, shocking not only the characters (and Lelouch himself), but the viewer, too. She’s gotcha back, Jack. What a woman.
  41. Not to sound weird, but I get incredible chills whenever a character reaches their pinnacle moment of despair–that rare, dark realization that “This is the lowest I can get,” and “There is no turning back.” Instances would include¬†Fate/Zero‘s finale with Kiritsugu, Homura’s transcendence in¬†Madoka Magica: Rebellion,¬†and the entirety of¬†Danganronpa. Despair, dEsPaIR. DESPAIR.Image result for junko enoshima anime
  42. “The anime that made me get my Crunchyroll subscription” was, I believe,¬†Kiznaiver, because I FINALLY wanted to be a part of the simulcast-watching community.
  43. Yuri, yaoi, or loving heterosexual relationships of any kind do not bother me. To quote Gigi, “Any love in anime is some good love.”
  44. I don’t watch a lot of hentai. Like, basically none.
  45. “Best Girl” in anime is the one who knows exactly what she wants and how to get it. Junko Enoshima, Satsuki Kiryuin, Asuka Langley Soryu, Mami Tomoe, you get me.¬†Image result
  46. If I could get a relationship where the other side accepted me for whatever I liked (all this anime nonsense), then I’d be set for life. Bonus points if they have the same hobbies as I do, and “you’re a winner” if you stay up all night and day teaching me how to play all the anime-like video games. I NEED A TUTOR AND A FRIEND.
  47. Five anime characters that are most like myself are Oreki Houtarou (Hyouka), Junko Enoshima (Danganronpa), Asuka Langley Soryu (Evangelion), Shu Ouma (Guilty Crown), and Mikaela Hyakuya (Seraph of the End).
  48. Asuka Langley Soryu–IF YOU ALREADY COULDN’T TELL–is best girl.¬†Image result
  49. The one property that I want turned into an anime is (besides adaptations of¬†Fate‘s¬†first 3 Holy Grail Wars)¬†The Legend of Zelda. For books, I think seeing Huxley’s dystopian novel¬†Brave New World as an anime would be pretty wicked.
  50. Regarding anime, my life’s goal is to get around to watching EVERYTHING that has ever piqued my curiosity. Whether it was a title that just aired, will air, or was lost sometime 30 years in the past, I want STILL want to see it. And hopefully I will.

There you have it! Fifty more things to know about my anime-watching career! I’ll leave a link to Gigi’s channel (Animepalooza) right here in case you want to see fifty neat things about her. Also, for fun, I’ll go ahead and tag anyone who is interested in sharing more about themselves–yes YOU, go for it! Just share 50 Otaku/anime-related facts about yourself and tag me back so I can read it! That’s it, super easy.

This wraps up Blogmas Day One of the 12 Days of Anime! Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you all tomorrow!

– Takuto, your host

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