Expanding My Anime Film Collection in 2017! | Blogmas 2017 Day 11

Hey everyone, welcome to (a very belated) day 11 of Blogmas (whoops)!

We’re nearing the final days, but there are still a couple of BIG things that made my 2017 a landmark year for exploration; one is on the anime side, the other on the blogging side. Today, we’ll briefly talk about anime movies, and how I went from disliking their short length and randomness to simply being enamored by their ability to tell a “complete,” charming story full of virtues. And yes, my film collection did exponentially EXPLODE this year as a result!

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Expanding My Anime Film Collection

(This is in regards to films that don’t belong to existing franchises. Ex. No titles labeled “The Movie”)

Like I was saying, I used to not be big on anime movies. Sure, there’s those fave Studio Ghibli films that everyone grows up with (special shoutout to Kiki and Laputa), but otherwise, you wouldn’t find me browsing for some little indie film or original short. Looking back on 2017 now, I think it was the tail end of 2016 where I caught the film fever.

I took a painting class during my last semester in high school. With little imagination (or teaching for that matter) to go off of, I turned to anime as inspiration, like we all do. I had seen Makoto Shinkai’s The Garden of Words sometime in 2016, and I was simply blown away with what I call the “Shinkai Aesthetic.” It’s clean, chic, picturesque, semi-realistic, and most of all, has wicked good lighting. I could go on, but there’ll be a HUGE post about this guy’s art coming soon! Many of my paintings were inspired by Shinkai’s style as a result (well, that and Studio Khara’s Eva Rebuild Series). Specifically speaking, Shinkai’s iconic skies. I’ll share some of them with you guys later if you’re interested!

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Anyway, I started to grow as an artist after creating these paintings, noticing the subtle (or drastic) differences in other anime directors’ styles: Hayao Miyazaki (and Studio Ghibli), Mamoru Hosoda, Satoshi Kon, the Project Itoh films, Mamoru Oshii, Yasuhiro Yoshiyura, and of course, Makoto Shinkai. Thematically, they all tackle different issues in different ways, and learning about not just how but why a director wants to send out a certain message through a particular scene became something that I could apply to my own writing, namely, my OWLS posts. As cheesy as they previously seemed, I learned to love life lessons and the things we can learn from entertainment.

During my Shinkai painting phase, I was also watching Ghost in the Shell for the first time, exploring the ENTIRE franchise from its first 1995 film to the Arise series and even Paramount’s 2017 live action. My mind kept expanding with every episode, every iconic shot, and the urge to recreate them in my drawing class just couldn’t be ignored. I was absolutely OBSESSED with cyberpunk by this point, and I thank all the directors and their unique styles for inspiring me so much!

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This brings us to my collection, and my [terrible] need to buy everything that I watch. Thanks to Amazon Prime’s wicked ability, which allows me to buy a single item WITHOUT reaching a certain paywall for free shipping (cause I ain’t ever gonna pay for that, mhmm), I would literally buy every single anime film that fell below $15-ish. One. At. A. Time. Spoiler alert: that’s a lot of them. Here was my anime film collection in 2016:

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Pretty basic, got classics like Paprika and Ghost in the Shell, and cool lesser-known titles like Time of EVE and The Empire of Corpses. Neat.

Here’s my collection now, at the end of 2017:

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Oh dear god.

I went out and bought every Ghost in the Shell Blu-ray that I could (excluding Stand Alone Complex, as the reviews for the Blu-rays were horrendous). I loaded up on Shinkai, I snagged some Hosoda (well, received them as gifts, rather), I picked up modern classics like In This Corner of the World and classic-classics like Akira that arguably shaped anime as we know it! Honestly, I’m not sure why it took this long for me to get around to Akira. As for that whole gorgeous-looking set of black on the far left . . .

Thanks to GKIDS and their re-licensing and re-releasing of ALL the Studio Ghibli films, I bought all the ones that were on “sale,” and you can already bet that I’m going back for more as soon as the others lower in price. These are some high-ass quality releases, definitely much better than Disney’s [ugly] shiny gold releases. Then again, ANYTHING is better than the oooold DVDs that were first released, so I bought all the new Blu-rays to replace the ancient DVD copies we’ve had (which were re-gifted as priceless memories to my siblings for their own collections, haha)!

But yeah, there it is, the physical representation of my growing appreciation for the art of film, all in the beloved media that inspires me to create and explore—anime. Throughout the years, I’ve neglected so many astounding masterpieces and modern classics, and all because I wouldn’t have wanted their short stories to end. What can you get out of a measly 2 hours, anyway? However, through some incredible directors and artists in the anime industry, I’ve learned that the journey can still be magnificent and awe-inspiring, regardless of how long or short the story is. Now I can’t wait to see which films I watch next, and the adventures that they take me on!

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How big is your personal anime film collection? Did you see any title up there that is a personal favorite of yours? What other anime movies should be in my collection? Let me know so I can go and buy it after writing this! This post will ALSO be logged as a “Cafe Talk,” so share your thoughts to your heart’s content!

I’m on a bit of an odd schedule now thanks to the holidays, but this concludes Blogmas Day Eleven of the 12 Days of Anime. Only one left! Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you shortly with the last post!

– Takuto, your host

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Empire of Corpses Reanimates a Classic Tale | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the fall 2015 anime film “Empire of Corpses,” produced by Wit Studio, directed by Ryoutarou Makihara, based on the novel by Keikaku Itou. 



Oh my, is it already passed Thanksgiving?! Woah, since I’ve been slacking I’ll make this one brief. Shall we visit the first of three films based on the late novelist Itou’s melancholic work and see if Wit Studio was able to breath life into his ambitious project?

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Zombies and Steampunk

Welcome to an 1800s London where zombies roam the streets! Not really, sort of. Scientists have played god with dead bodies long enough that they’ve patented it down to a system called reanimation. In other words, the Brits are reviving the dead. It’s not a foolproof process, however, for the key to understanding life itself–the soul–does not return upon reignition. Because these walking corpses are incapable of experiencing the joys and sorrows that life presents, they’re mainly revitalized to serve in the labor force.

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But every lab experiment comes with its breakthroughs, and that is exactly what befell Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Rumored to have been the first to successfully reanimate a corpse with a soul, the great mad scientist suddenly disappeared–his work supposedly vanishing with him. Inspired by his love for research and science, John Watson pursues hunting Dr. Frankenstein’s notes regarding the blueprints of the soul in order to revive his best pal, Friday. Throughout his journey, Watson unearths the terrifying truths of corpse technology, and how costly the science is for not only the living, but also for those who have long since passed on.

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What exactly makes up the “Weight of the Soul?”

I’d like to first point out that I understand why the film, despite its glorious visuals, was poorly received by critics. The first Project Itou film tries to dish out a lot of hard, unknown science, but above all make you feel emotional connection to the lead character Watson and his situation. Grasping the conceptual stuff is particularly tricky, and the ties between real life historical figures and their fantasy counterparts don’t seem to make understanding the basics much easier. It’s even arguable that the rules of the world presented are poorly laid out from the start. This build up of failed comprehension and attempt at emotional appeal led to a cataclysmic finale on both the story and visual levels.

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Beyond the messy climax, I did quite enjoy the relationship between Watson and Friday. Their exchanges (well, Watson’s actions and Friday’s silent responses) felt genuine, and above all, I think that matters more than a shaky concept deliverance does. When Watson felt curious or distressed, the actions were reciprocated on myself. Also, to go against the crowd, I really liked the female role. Though she mainly served as a reminder of the scientist’s goal–Friday serving as his ambition–I found myself wanting her to also receive a happy ending. The Russian scientist Nikolai could’ve used more screentime, but I digress since the show mainly revolves around Watson’s side.

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The Incredible World of Sherlock Holmes

Empire of Corpse’s strongest point easily lies with Wit Studio’s fantastic job in creating an atmosphere similar to a Sherlock Holmes film straight out of Hollywood! Such entrancing lighting, rich symbolism, and articulate detail in the machines and other devices absolutely blew me away. Each of the characters stand out beautifully in their own way, from the deadpan expressions of Friday to the stylish English outfits of a steampunk society. Action scenes would engage any viewer (I’m a sucker for vehicle chase scenes, so the opening really drew me in), and it all culminates into a finale so stellar it became a visual feast. I had to pick between absorbing or comprehending, and, well, I think you knew which won. I did notice Redjuice and Egoist accredited, which would also explain the Guilty Crown vibes.

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While I cannot recall any specific tracks, the music did do the show justice in contemplating the Sherlock Holmes tone. On the auditory side, huge props to the English voice cast and THE ACCENTS that tied so well with the concept and setting. Wonderful performances from Jason Liebrecht (Watson) and Micah Solusod (Nikolai).

Final Thoughts

Even if the concepts presented are a bit tricky to grasp near the end, this movie achieves in the feels department for me. Perhaps I was missing the context of the original Frankenstein novel for a few of those bits, but I did find it okay for the most part. It’s another demonstration on how far man will go to pursue knowledge above all else, an ultimate nudge to the idea that for us humans, some things are best not knowing.

“Beauty and sublimity are not what shape the future. It’s the willpower to try to actualize one’s words and feelings for someone else–DON’T YOU SEE!?” – John Watson

Final Assessment

+ Breathtaking visuals, fantastic steampunk design

+ Emotional attachment to Watson’s struggle with Friday

+ Fascinating project history, happy to see Itou’s work animated

– Started off simple enough, but lost its footing by the end

– “Weight of the soul” not explained thoroughly

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I’m signing off on the first Project Itou film with a hot “Coffee” rating here at the cafe! Understandably flawed, but still quite enjoyable. This was the finale to my Halloween break following Shiki, a title which I reviewed a week or two back if you’re interested. Shoutout to Crimson for recommending this movie to me!! What did you think of Empire of Corpses? Were you disappointed with the results or did you find it particularly noteworthy for anything? Let me know because parts of me (the living ones, at least) are still a bit conflicted! Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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I know it’s fan art, but LOOK at that mechanical detail!

End of October Update 11/7/16

*chiseled*

As everyone’s spook day festivities come to an end, so does the summer weather over here. Fall has finally set in, and times are busy, but that doesn’t stop me from making my rounds in the aniblogger community. Now for this past month’s recap–It’s update time!

Recently Finished:

The Ambition of Oda Nobuna – There was only one main reason I began watching this show. That is, the word “ambition.” It’s one of my favorite words. After being thoroughly intrigued by all of the Satsuki Kiryuin/Oda Nobunaga fan-interpretations, I decided to strike up a show with the legend’s name. And lo and behold, I hit a title with two of my needs! Despite it being another fan-service history mash-up with girls serving as ancient Japanese mascots, the show, surprisingly, had a lot to offer. More to come on that if I review it.

Sailor Moon R – My Sailor Moon marathon session continues in Viz’s re-release DVD sets. On October’s plate was R, the season of the rose–of romance. The web of deceit and falsehood continues to weave itself into complex net of twisted relationships. Invaders from distant planets and galaxies try to tear apart our star-crossed lovers, and the tragic legacy left by the evil Queen Beryl doesn’t help our heroes. It’s a bit harder to love, with all the new characters and revelations, but it’s still the same passionate Sailor Moon. Perhaps I’ll review each series if the soon-to-be-released S really gets my motivation going!

Shelter – Everyone saw (heard?) this little diddy floating around Twitter and YouTube. Because my opinion of it wasn’t very different from that of the masses (IT’S AWESOME), I won’t be doing a separate post over it. If you somehow missed this creative music video, I’ll leave it right here for yaShelter’s got a production history unlike any out there, and I hope we see projects like these more frequently in our future! Really neat stuff!

Shiki – This year, my Halloween break revolved around the spooky vampire fling that is Shiki. It failed to really “scare” me, but instead brought a whole slew of psychological realism surrounding skepticism in remote areas. Very peculiar and rife with internal conflicts regarding ethics and rational. I won’t speak more because I DO have a review forthcoming, but it was a spook day well spent.

The Empire of Corpses – The first Project Itou film stole the last day of my mini Halloween break–and boy was it nothing like I expected! From what I had picked up on, it was going to be a gorgeous film with a halfway decent plot. What I got, however, was an intriguing concept lost to cluster-fudge of jaw-dropping visuals. In other words, my eyes certainly got their exercise, but my brain still can’t seem to shake off the events of the film, particularly the climax. Up until the end, it was bloody fantastic. After that, hmm, more to come on the ending with a review [dedicated to blogger-buddy Crimson once again].

Currently Watching:

Izetta: The Last Witch – Oh boy, oh boy, it’s simulcast time–and is it just me or does this season seem like one of the better ones to come in recent years? Let me know what you think. But hey, my first hit-up for this fall was Izetta. I really, really like where it’s going. The most recent episodes, 4 and 5, showed us how the media can glorify anything–including a little girl who flies on a rifle.

Awakened from a cryo-like sleep, Izetta, the last little witch of her kind, is reunited with the princess of a distressed kingdom. Finé , our unfortunate heir, finds her trump card hidden with Izetta’s incredible powers. Set in an alternative pre-WWII world where magic runs deep within the Earth’s roots, Princess Finé must ally herself with whoever she can in order to save her poor country! Check it out on Crunchyroll streaming now!

Sound! Euphonium 2 – More Euphonium = a very happy Takuto. Having been more than satisfied with the first, Eupho has returned triumphantly in order to finish telling the tale of Kyoto’s Kitauji High School Band! I can’t spoil much since it is a sequel, but I did review the first a while back if you want to check that out here. If you loved the first, then the second will only bring you more of KyoAni’s topnotch animation and tightly-knit cast of characters. Five episodes in and still groovin’, Eupho 2 can also be found on Crunchyroll.

Yuri!!! On ICE – I have not felt this inspired to get active since back in 2013 when Free! Iwatobi Swim Club aired. WOW. THIS is easily my favorite title of the fall anime that I am following!!! Heck, I felt so emotionally charged that I had to write about the dramatic episode 3 in a post comparing our two lead characters which you can read RIGHT HERE! I thought I did a decent job on that post, too, so please feel free to share it with the YOI fandom ^.^

But if you didn’t know, the show follows Yuri Katsuki, a 23-year-old figure skater who was feeling a bit dried up with his season until his idol and world champion skater Viktor Nikiforov of Russia paid a visit to the family spa. But why would a star visit a rural Japanese hot springs? Why, to train Yuri himself, of course! Yuri!!! On ICE is about seeing your own reflection in others and finding the inspiration to help them out. In turn, you end up finding fresh motivation from their youth. Full of light-hearted moments that’ll just warm you to the core, Yuri!!! On ICE has proven that even with half of its season still not out yet, it’s definitely earned those three exclamation points–It’s Gonna MAKE HISTORY!!! NOW, seek out Crunchyroll my cafegoers!

Ranma 1/2 (Viz Set 3) – Viz describes this oddity better than anyone else has: “Things just can’t stay quiet at the Tendo Dojo.” I’m not going to describe Ranma  because I really shouldn’t have to. Boy gets hit with cold water: turns into girl. Doused again with hot water: she’s back to a he. Classic anime for ya. But it’s been one of my family’s favorites for years now, so set three here I come! I can tell you that its late 1989 quality has come a long way with its third season–that’s for sure!

Lostorage Incited WIXOSS – I’m a huge WIXOSS fanboy. Hopefully that wasn’t news to you. Naturally, I was so hyped to hear that one of my favorite “magical girl” series was getting a continuation in the same universe. Then it hit me–I haven’t seen the movie, selector destructed WIXOSS yet. Soooo, either I hunt for it online [and then, of course, support the official release later, geez] in order for me to continue, or I skip out this season. Not sure what I’ll do yet.

Outside of anime, fall has finally hit, WUAH! How I love the cool weather! Today it rained off and on from morning to evening, so I’m probably pushing my luck on future cloudy days *sighs*. Anyway, how was your spook day? Also, I’m dying to know what’s piled on your plate for this season of anime? Are you planning with Izetta and the crew, or perhaps are you practicing hard for Nationals with Kitauji? Either way, you’ll never be chill until you settle down with the Yuris. Yes. Both of them. They are sides of the same coin. I’ve even changed my Twitter name just for the spirit of things. I’m also suddenly interested in ice-skating. EHERM. ‘Till next we meet ~

– Takuto, your host

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Follow my Twitter @TakutoAnimeCafe AKA Taku!!! On ICE for all my latest shenanigans~!