What I’ll Be Watching This Fall 2018 Simulcast Season!

Greetings all! With the first days of October under our belt, fall is officially here!

I realize I never did one of those Summer 2018 recaps . . . I’ll get around to it once I actually finish them . . . maybe. Anyway, I’m super pumped for this fall season. Couple of  long-awaited “season threes” to go around, plus some neat new stuff from KyoAni, Production I.G, and even Trigger. Let’s see what I’ll be watching this fall 2018 simulcast season!

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Banana Fish

First for returning shows of the summer season is everyone’s favorite Yuri!!! On ICE-meets-gang-warfare-and-mafia-conspiracies smash hit shoujo BL series (you’re tackling a lot of ground there, BF). Banana Fish had me at the beginning, but admittedly not as much now. I think it’s become one of those things where the show’s visual aesthetic (the 1980s art style with Mappa’s lightly drawn character designs and the intricate backgrounds) is better than the actual plot. Every single episode ends with a cliffhanger, so that’s definitely a factor that keeps drawing me back, but the characters are the best part of this beloved title for sure. I have a feeling that Ash Lynx’s path will start to grow plenty darker, and as his mental state teeters on the edge of becoming a real beast, I do hope Eiji will be there to keep him from committing an irreversible sin.

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Attack on Titan Season 3

Wow, wow, wow, where to begin with this one? The second of two returning summer titles, AoT 3 certainly put the franchise back on the map. Things are getting revealed, characters from the shadows are making their move, and Eren is growing more and more into an understandable character at the behest of Levi and Historia’s suffering (and their eventually overcoming the demons from their pasts). People and themes are starting to better connect, and as humanity careens on the its own self-destruction, everything is coming to light. It’s incredible how this franchise can transition from straight shounen action in the first season to this horror, murder mystery that is the second, and now a political drama AND STILL maintain my interest and fascination with the world and its characters. Each season has its own unique tone (the second still being my favorite, as unpopular as my opinion is), yet they are all equally–and unmistakably–Attack on Titan. I’m ALWAYS looking forward to more, and I hear the next developments are particularly epic.

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Radiant

Now to the new stuff . . . I know literally nothing about this series. I guess it’s based on a French shounen manga, which is cool. But the main reason I’ll be trying to follow it is because Lerche is behind the project, and y’all know I love that studio. Not sure if I’ll end up following it, but I put it here anyway just to try out the waters.

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Tsurune (Kazemai Koukou Kyuudoubu)

Aww yeah, now THIS one I’m excited for. It’s #archeryboys, and I can’t wait for Kyoto Animation to bring this school sports/drama series to life! I love the soft green, brown, and white color palette the advertising department has been working with. Having thoroughly enjoyed Free! and virtually everything else that KyoAni has produced in the past, I’m absolutely ready to cheer on this high school archery club as they aim for the prefectural tournament.

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Run with the Wind (Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru)

More sports drama, woohoo! Other than the fact that this is animated by Production I.G (who brought us Haikyuu!! and, more importantly to me, Welcome to the Ballroom), I don’t know much about this series. The characters look cool, but apparently they’re all just a bunch of university novices trying to run in the some big famous marathon in Japan. WAIT, is that UNISON SQUARE GARDEN doin’ the OP? Strap me along for the ride, cause I’m sure it’ll be a fun one!

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SSSS.GRIDMAN

Hahaha, another one that I know nothing about. But it’s GRIDMAN—IT’S HYPE, RIGHT!?! I guess this one already has mixed reviews since the first episode came out, but regardless of whether they’re “good” or not, I support Trigger’s original projects 100%. Kiznaiver was alright. Darling in the Franxx wasn’t so hot. So let’s wait and see how Gridman turns out and hopefully this sci-fi mecha series will win more hearts than turn minds away. Oh and did you guys hear Funimation’s dub trailer yet? Greg Ayres, Lindsay Seidel, AND Barry Yandell on board? HECK yeah, sign me up!

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Sword Art Online: Alicization (Season III)

Get the hate out of your system. All of it. Keep going, I’ll wait.

Is it gone yet? Alrighty, it’s SAO S3, and I’m hella pumped. The past couple weeks I’ve been catching up on the light novels in anticipation for what is supposedly the franchise’s best arc yet–and trust me, I believe it. In 2015 I read books 1-4, or what we know as the first season’s Aincrad and Fairy Dance arcs; in 2016 I read 5, the first half of Phantom Bullet; and just recently, I picked up books 6-14 minus 8 (yes, that is a lot of books and money). Whenever I have free time between classes and studies, I’d immerse myself in Reki Kawahara’s virtual worlds, enjoying every second of leisurely reading. I first read 9 to get a preview into this next arc, then went back to 6 to truly finish Phantom Bullet, and lastly took an emotional pit-stop at 7’s Mother’s Rosario to bridge the storytelling gap. With practically all of SAO in both anime and novel form under my belt (save for the Ordinal Scale film), I’m excited to venture on with my homework in volumes 10-14, as well as follow the anime side-by-side. The promos seem promising and the advertised character designs are simply beautiful. In other words, Alicization, here I come!

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A Certain Magical Index III

And last but not least, my most anticipated title in the line-up is the loooooong-awaited continuation of one of the big franchises that pushed my journey along as a young anime fan, arguably becoming my favorite series for the longest time. FINALLY, we’ve got the third season of Index, and although it’s not Railgun (the true best), I’ve been waiting to find out what happened after the climactic events of the second season since what, like 2013—has it really been that long!? Anyway, I don’t have much else to say other than I’m absolutely, positively thrilled to be back in Academy City, a place where science and magic clash, and there’s never a dull moment!


That’s all for what I plan to be following! What about you? Will we be watching some of the same shows together, or do you have your eyes set on something else this fall 2018 season? I’d love to hear your line-up, as there’s a bunch of good stuff to look forward to! Let me know in the comments, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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All That Glitters IS Gold in “Land of the Lustrous” | OWLS “Revival”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, you might be new to this place. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, and welcome to my anime cafe!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s first monthly topic for 2018, “Revival,” I decided to incorporate what would have been my standard review of Land of the Lustrous into a short, shimmering reflection on the main character’s journey of self-discovery, and how even though our emotional selves may fracture, we can still be pieced back together—and return stronger than ever before.

A new year implies “new beginnings.” Yet, rather than discussing the “new,” we will be discussing the “revival.” “Revival” has multiple definitions, but the meaning we will be focusing on is the improvement, development, or refinement of something. Our posts will be about characters that undergo a positive or negative transformation and what we can learn from them.

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Thanks Lyn for the prompt—what fitting way to kick of the New Year!


A brief spoiler-free discussion on the 12-episode fall 2017 anime “Houseki no Kuni” or “Land of the Lustrous,” produced by studio Orange, directed by Takahiko Kyogoku, and based on Haruko Ichikawa’s manga of the same name.

NOTE: The characters in this anime are genderless, and I will do my best to watch my pronoun usage.

Enter the Radiant Land of the Lustrous

Not all clothes are cut from the same cloth. In Land of the Lustrous‘s case, not all gemstones are cut from the same rock. Or are they? In a distant fantasy future, a new immortal and genderless life form called Gems (the “Lustrous”) roam what inhabitable remains of Earth are left. We’re not really told what happened, other than that the mainland in which the story takes place is under attack by the Lunarians (or “Moon Dwellers”), mystical cloud-like Buddha-looking beings who regularly abduct the Gems to turn them into jewelry—to turn a proud race into frivolous decor.

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Phosphophyllite, or simply Phos, is the youngest of the Gems, and though their 300 years on Earth has given them much time to play and mess around, having a hardness of only 3.5 makes them more fragile than glass on the battlefield. Set in a tribe-like school of sorts where one’s hardness determines whether they are deemed fighters or medics, Phos is neither suited for battle nor the books. As such, Phos is treated trivially, and is often met with belittlement or noisome glares by their peers.

Phos’s feelings of being an outcast diminish when Kongou (Adamantine), the master of Gems, assigns Phos the unique task of creating a natural history encyclopedia, an archive of the nature of their world. Though everyone—including Phos—knows that the pointless job is just to keep them out of trouble, no one could’ve imagined the incredible journey Phos was about to take, and the impact their transformation would have on their entire civilization.

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From the synopsis alone, Land of the Lustrous (what a cool title, BTW) already sounds plenty weird. The anime is categorized under the genres of action, fantasy, and seinen, but it proves itself even more interesting by also harboring an underlying mystery element. Who are the Lunarians, and why do they really want the Gems? What is Master Kongou’s relation with the moon people? What truly happened to humanity? Constantly, I found myself hitting the next episode button in eager anticipation of learning the secrets to this fascinating world. And the sudden loss of Amazon’s Anime Strike program (you will NOT be missed) allowed me to stream seamlessly without fear of paying double the price. I generally like to take my time watching a series; rarely do I gulp an entire series down in a single weekend, but I finished all 12 episodes in just two days. Yes, it was that entertaining. Not all my questions got answered, but it definitely ends ready for more, and it did encourage me to want to start reading the manga.

While its premise, setting, and characters are all quite creative, humanity’s nature is unchanging. Much like any child would, Phos experiences loneliness and a sense of uselessness, but through their peers, Phos also comes to understand important values like perseverance, respect, kinship, and the payoff of hard work. They also face the realities of their once thought-to-be fairy-tale world, revealing that life does have its cruelties. The anime’s messages are endearing, even if we’ve already seen them a hundred times, and that’s probably thanks to Land of the Lustrous‘s fantastic set of characters: the 28 Gems that make up this sparkling society.

Shine Bright Like a Diamond

Variety is the greatest spice of life, and Land of the Lustrous‘s gleaming cast of Gems is definitely the series’s leading feature. Ordered appropriately according to the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, the jewel people are all given characteristics that match the features of their own gemstone. Cinnabar is a soft toxic mercury ore (the same bold red used as a pigment); correspondingly, Cinnabar’s character only has a hardness of 2, and their ability to produce a lethal poison prevents them from interacting with the other Gems. And just as how diamonds are used for precious moments, and are regarded as the world’s prettiest jewel, “Dia” is literally a sparkling, pure, kind-hearted individual with hardness 10, and is almost always seen “engaged” (see what I did there) with a certain Gem.

The attention to detail here goes far beneath the surface, feeling much richer than some cheap gimmick. Here, an imaginative use of characterization births some of the most unique and heartwarming characters I’ve ever seen, and though each gem’s screen time is limited to showcase one another’s distinctive traits, you still get a wholesome feel for who most of these polished beauties are. I imagine that this show would be any mineralogist or gemologist’s wet dream!

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Shout out to all the fans and artists over on Twitter for convincing me to watch this show, and for making me love the characters beyond what the series presents! So much pretty artwork, and I can’t get enough of it! Oh yeah, and Antarcticite is best . . . Girl? . . . Boy? . . . Androgynous gem person!

This IS the Best CG Anime EVER

I was incredibly surprised with how 2017’s Kado: The Right Answer was able to shake up the CGI reputation in anime. It crafted a setting in which CG-animated elements not only worked, but actually enhanced the out-of-this-world story being told, as well as the wondrous anisotropic devices presented. Complaints were still to be made, however, most regarding that the normal people were also animated in CG when they totally didn’t need to be. In typical CG fashion, it made the character actions look a tad awkward.

But from characters to concept, Land of the Lustrous both fits as a CG anime AND looks absolutely stunning doing so. First, the CG mapping allows the character designs to appear consistently gorgeous. The beautifully colored jewel people’s hair radiates with a twinkling, glistening shine—something that could only be achieved using this 3D technique—and their fights against the Lunarians prove to be engaging, expectation-shattering spectacles! Not to mention, the 2D painted backgrounds are works of art all on their own! This 2D-3D blend was clearly well-thought out and executed marvelously, for all that glitters IS gold on the animation front.

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Before I leave the production side of things, I do want to mention that Yoshiaki Fujisawa’s soundtrack provides such an atmospheric, entrancing allure that I can only express in these words: it is a soundtrack suited perfectly for this anime.

Bonds Stronger Than Any Glue: Phos’s Transformation

As stated previously, Land of the Lustrous is a coming-of-age tale where a clumsy, useless, and worthless individual tries to find not only a reason to live, but a place to belong. It’s a story about being useful to those you value, even if those people don’t value your own effort to establish teamwork.

Like people, Gems can be brittle beings with fragile hearts. Phos both mentally and physically “breaks” several times throughout the course of the series. In the search to finally be useful to others, Phos seeks change. Phos just . . . wants to be special. Well, change of any kind comes at a price—to gain something new, something must be lost—and unfortunately, that price is the precious time of others. Or, at its worst, the life of a friend. With an almost foolish bravery and air of bad luck, Phos pursues many partners in an effort to improve—to refine those blemishes of their personality, and to forever eliminate the imperfections that cause them mockery and shame.

But change is scary. It can be painful, it can be sudden, and it can be dangerous.

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Every try, every fail—no matter what, Phos desperately continues to pursue a reason for being. And through each failure, Phos learns a priceless lesson about what it means to feel valued and helpful. Smash your frail legs? Find stronger ones to replace them. Fracture your tiny arms? Hunt for a material that can better weather the crushing pain of defeat. Lose a beloved friend:

Make them proud by living for them. Do what they couldn’t by becoming someone you would both be proud of. Being immortal means each rupture can and DOES lead to a chance to return stronger and shinier than before—to feel reborn anew, to feel revived. And Phos doesn’t let that precious opportunity go to waste.

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Putting the Pieces Back Together

Change involves suffering, but that grief is a necessity for growth. Phos will shatter again, and again, and again, picking up the sad, broken pieces of their shiny shell. Yet with the help of some friends, these shards can be pieced back together to continue fighting on. The bonds that Phos forms, unlike their lustrous figure, are unbreakable. It’s a powerful positive transformation, absolutely, but it comes at very critical costs.

Phos can do it, though. Slowly but surely, Phos comes to realize that self-worth isn’t determined by the people around you, but rather what YOU make of yourself. With great determination, Phos knows the road to truly reviving their spirit is paved with hardship and loss. The world is cruel, after all. But so long as we can hope to become better individuals—actively seeking to help others in return—change and improvement just might someday find us, too. And it’s that seemingly small sentiment that makes Land of the Lustrous shine brighter than all the diamonds in the night sky.

You’ll grow stronger. You’ll be fine . . . Somebody will figure out a way. You won’t get any worse. You must change. You must find courage. You’ll make it. But you don’t have time. – Voice from the ice floes, the reflections of our innermost thoughts

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As emotional as I make it sound, Land of the Lustrous is just such a cool, unique show unlike ANYTHING I’ve ever seen. It’s a neat twist on science matched with a budding mystery that I cannot wait to uncover in the manga! I’m awarding Land of the Lustrous with the “Cake” title, as it’s certainly an elegant show, but its lack of a “true ending” leaves many titillating questions unanswered. You ought to let me know what you thought of this anime or this post down in the comments, as this “hidden gem” (haha ok I’ll go home) was a big hit for some and a sleeper for many others!

Oh, and if you enjoyed this series, consider checking out Yuki Yuna is a Hero for scarily similar-looking antagonists (and overall concept of fighting), A Lull in the Sea for its similar take on village life and growing up, or lastly From the New World because, well, just trust me on this one. In the meantime, I’ll be praying for a classy LTD ED release of this show by Sentai Filmworks, hopefully complete with Yoichi Nishikawa’s end card art cause HOLY BAUBLES, them beauties!

This concludes my January 10th entry in the OWLS “Revival” blog tour. Moonid (Random Garage) went right before me and wrote a bit of a character analysis over Nightingale from the Chinese fantasy web novel Release that Witch. Now, look out for Zoe (Let’s Talk Anime) with ReLIFE, a title that I really need to watch, and Arata’s second chance at youth on Friday, January 12th! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host