Into the Abyss: Fire Force Manga Volumes 7-9

Loose thoughts on volumes 7-9 of Atsushi Ohkubo’s manga series “Fire Force,” initially published in 2016 by Kodansha Comics. Spoilers will be present.

CLICK HERE TO READ MY THOUGHTS ON VOLUMES 4-6


Enter the Forge

Coming off the shocking ending of volume six with the introduction of *assumed villain* Viktor Licht to Company 8, volume seven opens with new knowledge of Shinra’s world. As it turns out, much of the habitable land known to mankind was burned to a crisp at the dawn of the Solar Era. Countries that we are familiar with now no longer exist in this period as a result of spacial distortions. The planet is quite literally falling apart. Although the actual history is still unknown to us, Viktor isn’t afraid to confirm with the reader now that Amaterasu and the Tokyo Empire are definitely fishy in origin.

Taking on the other companies will prove difficult with their current team. Thus, Obi sends the innocent trio of Shinra, Arthur, and Sister Iris to try and talk a legendary blacksmith and mechanic over to their side: Vulcan, aptly named after the god of the forge. I appreciate the way Ohkubo quickly yet thoroughly introduced Vulcan and his “family” to us; unlike most other additions Ohkubo would make this late in the game, Vulcan isn’t an annoying guy.

Vulcan’s goal of bringing back animal life to the world—another detail I had yet to realize until now—is a noble one, and his frustrations with Haijima Industries is well understood thanks to his backstory. It was honestly moving to see that underwater projection, reminding us of how hot and dry the landscape often seems. I can totally see the anime dragging Vulcan’s history to the point of tedium, but the manga remains quick on its feet and moves past his angst.

Volume seven doesn’t stop there. The drama escalates when Shinra realizes that the White Hoods set a trap for Company 8 and Vulcan. It was an ABSOLUTE double-whammy to find that not only was the WHOLE Company 3 working for the Evangelist, but also that Lisa, a member of Vulcan’s “new family,” was also an Evangelist spy. Really, this caught me off guard. I had my sneaking suspicions that Company 3’s captain, Dr. Giovanni, was actually Vulcan’s grandfather, but this conspiracy was quickly snuffed out—and probably for the better.

Oh yeah, and Princess Hibana joins the fray with some SERIOUS heat. Glad Ohkubo is keeping her relevant both off and on the battlefield.

Shinra Meets Sho

THE CONFRONTATION WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR. And honestly, it was just as short as I thought it’d be. So far, it would seem that the only edge Sho has over Shinra is his extreme speed, which is kinda lame cause I thought he’d have real nasty fire abilities. I suppose we have yet to see those, though, so for all I know Sho’s fire is just as potent as Shinra’s can be. Anyway, Sho has no wishes of joining our heroes, which was kinda already expected, just not as bitter.

To finish out the battle at Vulcan’s workshop, I found it perhaps most odd that Joker jumped in to fight off Sho from catching up to Shinra’s escape. Even more surprising was that Joker appears to be no match for Sho’s deadly speed. What is Joker’s aim? I thought he was with the Evangelist. Is he just a terrorist, or perhaps an anti-hero? I’m sure his story will come to light before too long.

As with Princess Hibana’s efforts in the previous volume, Ohkubo is really trying to keep all the characters he introduces on the table—which is fantastic. The majority of this eighth volume is spent on a mini training excursion in Asakusa. That’s right, Benimaru is back, BITCHES. I love this man, WOW, and I still don’t even know why. I just wish he’d join Company 8 more on their quests already cause y’all already know he can take Sho down.

Just as Shinra learns from Benimaru to focus his fire with traditional meditation techniques, Arthur also learns a thing or two about how to sense life on the battlefield. Arthur is such a ditz, but Ohkubo’s made this guy impossible to hate at this point. Benimaru’s wise teachings will already prove helpful as Obi takes the fight to the White Hoods in Fire Force‘s next big arc.

The Nether, a land of darkness that remains untouched by Sol’s holy light. In other words, the Tokyo subway ruins following the cataclysm many years ago. Man, Ohkubo’s world-building continues to astonish. Just when I think I have Fire Force‘s world all figured out, Ohkubo gently places new information to throw the reader off. He’s been slowly, carefully fleshing out this universe of fire and brimstone, and the results pay off when the reader can look at the lower gates to an ordinary subway and a chill runs up their spine. There’s definitely something wrong with this place . . .

Now that we’re here in the depths of the earth, it finally occurs to me that, yeah, there really aren’t that many scenes where our characters are exploring any subterranean location. Again, this obviously carries intent. The stress on Sol as a deity is really questioned throughout this volume and the end of the previous. Company 3’s Dr. Giovanni goes on a religious tirade praising the glory of the Evangelist and diminishing the light of Sol, but really, who is this Evangelist—and who or what is Sol? This self-inquisition adds so much to a world that, apparently, we still know very little about.

A Light in the Dark

At the end of volume eight we get our first fight: Maki vs. Flail. I CANNOT wait to see this shit animated, cause wow, Maki’s new gear is so freakin’ cool. Thanks to Vulcan’s handy-work, Maki’s able to utilize her little fire sputters in a much more advantageous way: they are the fuel for a set of giant floating armored hammers that can both attack AND defend with ease. The staggered armor plating on these pile-bunker-esque arms also matches Obi’s signature full-body shield, which is nice for consistency. In all, it’s just nice to see Maki shine on her own.

My favorite confrontation, however, was the explosive sniper duel of Hinawa vs. Arrow. Hinawa may just be the coolest guy in the company. His backstory is solidly written. His purpose and ties to the other characters makes absolute sense. And his abilities as a Second Generation, WOW, so fitting for him and useful on the field. Both snipers were almost willing to destroy themselves just to hit their target, which lends to itself humorous commentary in Arthur vs. Mirage (also a pleasant rematch, it’s nice to see how much Arthur has grown). The stark use of black and white during these panels also accentuates the flash of their bullets and arrows—the clash between two sharp, diligent minds.

The weakest fight was by far Tamaki vs. Assault. As opposed to her flame ability taking out her opponent, that damned “lucky lecher lure” or whatever ended up being Assault’s downfall. Gosh, my eyes cannot roll hard enough. It’s bad enough that I don’t care for Tamaki at all, but to see her fighting like this really degrades her character. I sincerely thought this was going to be redemption for the cat girl. Oh well, at least Sister Iris came in with that lead pipe to Assault’s head.

Lastly, there’s Obi and Vulcan vs. Dr. Giovanni and Lisa. This fight really shows off Dr. Giovanni’s cunning ways, but also Obi’s raw human strength as a non-powered soldier. Vulcan and Lisa do little aside from playing Romeo and Juliet, so the main draw of this fight is definitely on the ideology clash between the company captains. I just can’t wait ’till Obi rips that obscene mask off Giovanni’s head.

As Shinra frees Viktor Licht from the White Hoods, it quickly becomes apparent that something isn’t right here. Shinra has sensed Sho’s presence in the Nether since the beginning, but a strange vision of ashen demonic skeletons has me scared for Shinra’s life. I have a hunch that the grand conflict awaiting us in volume ten will not only prove hard on Shinra because of Sho, but because his own powers may decide to reveal their true colors.


We are forever beseeching the rising sun. Grant thy light to the undefiled souls.Sister Iris


Afterword

Lots of stuff happened in these past three Fire Force volumes. I have no doubt that the story is only to get a lot darker with the reveal of certain truths about the world in the volumes to come. I went ahead and ordered the next nine volumes (I know, I should moderate myself better), but I’ll be taking a break from the series until they arrive. Until then, what are your thoughts on the series so far? I’d love to hear, but no spoilers please! ‘Till next time!

– Takuto

The Flame Expands: Fire Force Manga Volumes 4-6

Loose thoughts on volumes 4-6 of Atsushi Ohkubo’s manga series “Fire Force,” initially published in 2016 by Kodansha Comics. Spoilers will be present. 

CLICK HERE TO READ MY THOUGHTS ON VOLUMES 1-3


A Bug in the System

Continuing where the third volume left off, volume four reveals the presence of a traitor in the Tokyo Fire Force. We also find that the secrets to spontaneous human combustion don’t lie in a fault with the Sun God, but rather are caused by man himself. Specifically, followers of the “Evangelist” are trying to track down people who are blessed by the Sun God by injecting random men, women, and children with a strange insect born from the ashes of Infernals.

Although we don’t know much, these wanted individuals supposedly possess an “Adolla Burst,” or “pure, undefiled flame,” and a great aptitude to wield their pyrokinetic abilities. Shinra just so happens to have one of these Adolla Bursts.

Enter Rekka Hoshimiya, the Company 1 traitor and a devout follower of the Evangelist. I distinctly remember disliking this part of the anime most, as it also happens to center around Tamaki and her allegiance to this terrible man. While nice character growth for her (what with the shattering of her greatest role model and her overcoming this sad reveal), Shinra’s fierce encounter with Rekka is unfortunately bogged down by more awkward fanservice pandering.

In a couple of action stunts, Shinra is thrown off balance and rolls into an abused Tamaki’s chest while she is propped sitting against a pillar of the abandoned factory setting. I get that Ohkubo likes this kind of thing in his manga and that he finds it funny, but I just think it’s awkward—and in a bad way. For one, it ruins the tension built up in this serious fight. Secondly, of all the places to land, OF COURSE Shinra has to fall into her bosom—and more than one time!

But the best part of this little setback is how it ironically propels the story forward immensely. Suddenly we know a lot more about SHC, as well as a taste of what the true enemy looks like—and it ain’t pretty.

In Good Company

I really like volume five. The book opens with the history of Company 8’s formation told from Hinawa’s sharp perspective, as well as the backstories of Hinawa, Obi, and Maki’s relation to one another. Hinawa was a diligent soldier in the Imperial Army; Maki was a general’s daughter but also worked hard as a rookie soldier; and Obi was an honest-to-goodness firefighter (and he still is, really).

This backstory serves to flesh out Hinawa’s rigid character, answering why he’s so punctual towards his company but also compassionate towards victims of SHC. His story is a sad one, but is brought into great care thanks to Obi. On that note . . .

God I admire Obi so much. What a great guy. Finding out that the reason he was kicked out of the job was because he decided to release the soul of an Infernal (despite shitty orders from the Fire Force) was totally a thing he’d do. And the fact that Hinawa was the one who pulled the trigger just SENDS me. These two really do have each other’s back.

Volume five’s second half shifts gears to the next big development: the attack on Asakusa. We meet the annoying, foul-mouthed lolita twins of Company 7, Hikaga and Hinata, as well as the stubborn dude simultaneously protecting and destroying this region of Tokyo: Benimaru Shinmon. 

A tough nut to crack, Benimaru is the exact kind of guy I CANNOT STAND in shounen anime. EXCEPT, for some reason I like him a lot. Maybe it’s because of Ohkubo’s character design, or because I remember his dub voice from the anime, but everytime Benimaru flexes his gifted pyrokinetic skills, I just gawk at the pages for hours. His signature final move, Nichirin (“The Sun Wheel”), adds a super neat oriental flavor to the different types of fire power in this series.

The world also starts to open up a lot in this volume. Like with Hibana’s Company 5, we see how Company 7 handles the Infernal cases, and it’s shockingly touching. Honoring the spirit an unsuspecting person who goes Infernal, Company 7—with their savior Benimaru at the front—parades Asakusa with cheers and destruction, celebrating their life and death in the process by lighting up the town and rebuilding from the ashes. I like the Company 7 way of things.

The Flowers of Edo

If volume five provided the build up to this invasion of Asakusa, the sixth volume adds the climax. The White Hoods have set a trap for Company 8, and it would seem that Benimaru’s poor leadership has caused his own Company 7 to fall for it as well. As citizens start mistaking one another for various crimes, a citywide spell of doppelganger sets in on Asakusa. We find that one especially potent servant of the Evangelist, Yona, has the power to reshape the human face, and boy are its effects nasty.

Even though there’s this new typed of horned Infernal revealed—which is appropriately called a Demon—the White Hoods themselves really shine as the action set piece on this one. The archer with the gorgeous yet deadly crescent-shaped bow made of flames makes HER reappearance from Rekka’s shocking death in volume four. As villains, the character designs for the White Hoods seem just as well thought out as the MCs themselves, and it’s always nice to have a badass-looking villain cloaked in white. We know very little of Arrow’s personality, but the motivation is clear: to return mankind to the inferno. 

Growing from his learned failures, Benimaru pulls off a fantastic victory thanks to Shinra’s backup. Lieutenant Konro shows more pathos than I’d have imagined a guy like him would, and it’s because of Konro’s backstory reveal that Benimaru comes across as a tired man looking for atonement. This duo nicely parallels Hinawa’s dedication to Obi from the previous volume. Perhaps the two companies aren’t so different after all.

Most interesting of all was Shinra’s strange tingling sensation in his foot when he heard Konro’s shout. Does the Adolla Link allow him to sense the passionate flames of others? I’m sure we’ll find out soon. What I did like about Shinra from this volume was his cooperation with Arthur in the White Hoods fight, but also how he literally leapt into action before he could even think when Konro screamed his name. (The acceleration shots were bursting with an energy I could feel!!)

I was reminded of Deku from My Hero Academia, and how the one thing that drew All Might to Izuku was how his legs moved before he thought about the dangers ahead. Given Shinra’s aspirations to be a hero (and the importance of his feet!), I wouldn’t be surprised if this is how they were tying it all together.

Last but certainly not least was the final page reveal: the man who was working with the Joker has made his way into Company 8 as their chief scientist. I think I got actual chills from that scene! Also, does this creep really serve Shinra’s now-evil brother Sho??? I’m not sure where this is going, but I have a feeling that Shinra and the rest of Company 8 are gonna have to really watch themselves around this eerie dude.

After all, it is always darkest beneath the lamp.


The spirit of Company 8 hasn’t changed since the day it was formed! To the dying, we give our prayers and respect . . . and to the living, we give release from the flames. We value human life . . . that’s what we’re about. —- Akitaru Obi


Afterword

Is anyone else reading Fire Force? Well, I hope you either are or weren’t planning to because I just spoiled a huge part of this developing story! Did you like this type of post where I sat down and just freely wrote about the manga I’ve been reading? I’d love to hear your thoughts—both on the series and on the post—in the comments. If a couple of you enjoyed it, I’d be happy to do reflections like this for future Fire Force volumes as well as other series I’m reading, just let me know! The story only continues to expand, and I’m eager to explore past what I’ve seen in the anime. ‘Till next time!

– Takuto

CLICK HERE TO READ MY THOUGHTS ON VOLUMES 7-9

Keeping Busy in Quarantine || Quarterly Update (Spring 2020)

Evening all,

I realize I recently posted an update a couple weeks back on how this whole pandemic has suddenly impacted my life, but I figured I’d keep consistent with my quarterly updates anyhow. In case you forgot how these things go, in my quarterly updates I will be reflecting on the five blog resolutions I set for myself at the beginning of 2020. This was a pretty successful system that I gave a trial run for last year, and it’s certainly less redundant than the monthly updates I used to do. Plus, it puts my resolutions into perspective each season, which helps reaffirm what I want to do better and how far I’ve come. Let’s see how 2020 has treated me thus far!

Goal Reflection


#1 – Read More Posts

Ok, so I was on top of this one until about mid January when school started up again. Then I was pretty much off the WP grid until this past week where I spent a couple afternoons scrolling through the feed and checking out all the content I missed. I guess you call this one a flop on my part, but I do have intentions to do better—and with all this social distancing, I plan to spend a lot more time online. So yeah, fear not, I’ll read your stuff!!

#2 – Write More Succinct Posts

Except for my big SAO Alicization review and my lengthy Weathering With You write-up, I don’t think I’ve gone over the 1,500 word mark on any of my posts (or at least not more than a couple hundred over). I hope this helps make my content easier to stomach, as I know long posts can lead to blog fatigue (for both you and me). I realize it will “always depend on the content” yada yada, but what do you generally prefer, longer or shorter posts? I personally like short reads, but I understand it excruciatingly difficult to evaluate every single quality of a piece in a review with less than a thousand words. It’s just not possible. For now I’ll take the win, but I’ll try harder to write more frequent, quicker reads for you all.

#3 – Read & Review More Books

So I DID actually review one book this month, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, and I had a lot of fun just sorta free-writing my thoughts away. Such a cool read. Thanks to self-quarantining, I’ve done a lot more reading—and I don’t plan on stopping. I’m trying to read all the manga and light novels I’ve accumulated over the past couple years that I bought but never read (DON’T DO THAT). If it all works as it should, I’ll have several manga reviews and first impressions posts coming your way here shortly!

#4 – Write More About Me

Interestingly, this has taken the form of me trying to fulfill those award/nomination/tag posts that circulate around the community. Do y’all like reading these? Cause they’re SUPER easy to write, and lots of fun! I’ve made sure to do one of these each month, so if you’re wanting to know more about me, here’s January, February, and March’s nomination posts. Thanks to the bloggers who keep tagging me in these—I’ve got more coming, just wait!

#5 – Build Up My “Personal Brand”

Like with the blog nomination posts, I’ve found myself writing at least one non-review/analysis post each month (that is also not an award or haul post). In January, I shared some of my anime and book collecting tips with my readers (specifically, what you shouldn’t do). In February, I used a tripod that I recently bought to do a little photoshoot for my first-ever clothing try-on. It was really fun to experiment with, even if not many people read the post. Hey, something different. And just a couple days ago I did the whole social distancing and what I’d been up to update where I just kinda unloaded some of my stressors and aspirations alike for the next coming weeks. Maybe I’m not as interesting as a thought (*laughs*) but I hope they’re still posts worth reading!

What I’ve Watched


Back in January when I was on my idol grind (still am, BTW), I watched iDOLM@STER SideM and discussed the nature of idol culture and personal branding for my OWLS post. I even started watching IDOLiSH7, which I still need to finish. Then, as previously mentioned, I went out to theaters and thoroughly enjoyed Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You. Lastly, I started the K-drama Cinderella and the Four Knights on Netflix. I’ve been holding off on the end because, well, I don’t want it to end!! But, perhaps it about time I finished it LOL.

We skip most of February because I wasn’t in the mood to watch anime. This was carried over from the end of 2019 though, so I wasn’t surprised; I just didn’t want to force myself. So I took a break, which also affected my Gunbuster marathon. Don’t worry though, it’ll still happen, just at a later date!

Most of my winter stimuls joined my watchlist in March (none of which I’ve completed yet because I’m waiting on the last few simuldub episodes). These are A Certain Scientific Railgun T (watching this one subbed, but waiting for more episodes to air so I can watch it all at once), ID: INVADED, Darwin’s Game, and Smile Down the Runway. I love all these shows a lot, actually, and cannot wait to see how they end—especially Smile Down the Runway and Darwin’s Game for some reason! I already know Railgun T will be great, so there’s no worries there.

I also ended up starting a lot of random shows cause of spring break, one of those being Hozuki’s Coolheadedness. I actually had no plans to watch this until Simply Gee brought it up in a recent haul vid, but it’s alright so far. I also decided to watch the Azur Lane (review here!) anime on Funimation cause the poster art was so epic looking, and it ended up being much better than everyone was saying it was.

I even dug into my personal backlog with the first K-Project anime, which I just reviewed. Now, had I watched this series a couple years back, it’d probably be one of my all-time faves. But in 2020, it’s just a good little series. Excited to explore the rest of the franchise! Oh, and I FINALLY STARTED Shirobako—unsurprisingly, it’s GREAT SHIT. Defs planning to review it.

Just a few days ago I published my March OWLS post, which gave spotlight to Millennium Actress, one of my favorite watches of the year so far. I loved it so much that I even hung up the exclusive lithograph that my preorder from Shout! Factory came with, so that’s cool. In other news for films, I finally busted into the Code Geass film trilogy, having watched all but the third. It’s quite good, surprisingly!! I just need to pick up the final film ASAP cause I know I’ll want NO breaks between the third film and the grand finale. Looking forward to seeing how this new iteration comes to a close.

Finding Enjoyment in Solitude


That’s pretty much all I’ve been up to these past three months. I’ve learned to balance my rekindled spark for K-pop with my long-time love for anime a lot better, so expect more anime content here soon. I gotta say, it’s been immensely pleasurable just being able to throw a random watch on screen and binge it all the way through. It feels like I haven’t done that in AGES. Man, anime is good.

Beyond idols and anime, however, I’ve been trying to monopolize on this time by reading as much as I can. I’ve read all of Ten Count (boy, that was a thing), picked up Snow White with the Red Hair once again, and also started Yona of the Dawn since I bought the first NINE FREAKIN’ VOLUMES a year ago cause I have NO restraint apparently. In times like this, though, I can only be thankful that I picked up what I could, as it’s wonderful being able to read a little Yona each night with no fear of running out anytime soon. (And if I do, there’s, like, 15 more volumes I could pick up—and THEN I could justify spending more money on books.) Until that time, I’m just enjoying what I have.

I hope you’re all managing yourselves well during this time. Do you find yourself picking up any old hobbies, or perhaps starting new ones? I haven’t watched, read, and written this much since I started blogging years ago, so that’s the biggest thing in my life. Are you getting enough sleep? Enough food to eat? I hope you and your friends, family, and loved ones are staying safe.

Although spring is here, the cool weather has continued to linger. I’m fine with it though, as I love the fresh chill and cloudy skies. As we move forward these next couple weeks, I’ll try to update you on any big changes in my life—as I’d hope you would, too. Until the next post, friends, stay well. Much love for all your support. ❤

– Takuto

Chasing After the ~Vibes~|| Quarterly Update (Winter 2019)

Evening all!

As the title of this post suggests, I have for you all the final big update post of 2019. In the last update, I spoke briefly about how I hadn’t watched much anime due to school and, well, not much has changed since finals haha. Goal reflection in general will be pretty weak this time around, but hey, it’s the last couple days of 2019—new goals will be on the way before we know it!

Goal Reflection


#1 – Read More Posts

If any of these goals had the greatest crime done to it, it’d be this one. Guys, I am criminally behind on keeping up with the community. My phone home screen is once again backed up with posts I’ve been wanting to read, and that doesn’t include all of the OWLS posts I’ve missed out on since January. Yeah, not good. But with the New Year, hopefully I’ll dedicate some time to some much-needed housekeeping.

#2 – Write More Succinct Posts

You know, just scrolling through the site’s main page at all of the posts, I think I have done a better job at keeping things on the short and sweet side. Between October being nothing but Animanga Festival posts and November and December being full of hauls, there hasn’t really been too much to say for each post. Thinking in terms of the entire year, I’ll count this one as a win.

#3 – Post More Often

Ten posts in October, four posts in November, and so far five posts in December makes my initial four-posts-per-month goal a success! Productivity definitely slowed down for school, but even with a three-week study hiatus in there, I’ve still managed to blog as often as I wanted to in 2019. Maybe I’ll kick things up a notch in 2020, who knows, but for now—WE DID IT Y’ALL.

#4 – Bring Back Cafe Talk

Hahaha nope. I don’t know what’s stopping me from writing these kinds of posts, especially when they can be the easiest things in the world sometimes. But here we are. Overall, this was 2019’s most-failed goal.

#5 – Write More Haul/Collection Posts

Guys, GUYS—I’ve done like SIX haul posts this winter season, and honestly, I could totally throw together another one if you guys were interested in seeing the straggler TOM pick-ups or what I got for Christmas. If goal #4 was my worst-achieved goal, #5 is 2019’s big winner. Hooray for hauls!

What I’ve Watched


Well this part isn’t gonna take long (LOL). For Halloween this year I binged all of Castlevania seasons one and two on Netflix. Excellent series, full of incredible action sequences and bloody good comedy (surprisingly). It was easily one of my favorite watches of the year, especially for the spooky season, and I honestly can’t wait for season three. I’ve actually got notes for the entire series ready to be transformed into a review, so hopefully I’ll muster the energy to finish that and get my thoughts out there.

Around the same time before finals started hitting hard, I picked up a little extra time to watch Fairy gone in the mornings. While I’m only five or six episodes in, I don’t think it’s as bad as everyone said it was when it aired. Plus, the dub is really good. (Special shout out to Caitlin Glass for making that one of the show’s redeeming qualities!)

Skipping ahead to the colder days of winter, I began an unexpected watch with Yumeiro Patissiere, which I actually featured in my November OWLS post that you can read right here! Most of my thoughts on the series are contained within that, but long story short: Watch Yumeiro Patissiere. It’s light-hearted and fun, but also sometimes bittersweet and full of heart. Easily a better food competition series than Food Wars! in my humble opinion.

Fall simulcasts have also been slow for me. Like, really slow. Notice how I never posted a fall seasonal line-up post like everyone else did? Yeah, it’s cause the only show I’ve managed to keep up with has been Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front – Babylonia, and my motivation for watching that namely stems from seeing anime Gil once again. Even still, it’s also been one of my favorite watches in years, and just might end up being my favorite Fate anime besides the glorious Fate/Zero where my love for the franchise all began. Can’t wait to see how it ends!

While we’re still on Fate, I’ve rewatched the first 12 episodes of Apocrypha since the entire series is on Netflix. Only this time it’s dubbed, and the English dub is FANTASTIC. I think all the VAs were perfectly cast, and I’m excited to watch the epic second half!

Obsessed With BTS


In case I never make it apparent, I’m a half white, half Korean 21-year-old currently residing in the U.S. I’ve liked K-pop ever since I became an anime fan, but never really rocked out to it as much as I did J-pop or even Western pop music. Until now.

To make a long story short, I’ve fallen back in love with BTS. They’ve had my heart since 2017, but this time I tripped BIG and fell down several flights of sparkly stairs into K-pop hell. And I have no regrets. I’ve listened to BTS, Super Junior, Girls Generation, NCT Dream, and Red Velvet albums literally every second of the past two weeks, and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. Please share your K-pop recommendations with me in the comments!!

Naturally, my rekindled love for K-pop brought me to K-drama and idol culture in general, so I’ve been bouncing between Hello, My Twenties on Netflix and The iDOLM@STER SideM on Crunchyroll. If you have any K-drama/idol recs (and the places I can watch them), please send me those too!

I feel like I’m chasing a vibe whenever I do my daily workout to these pop icons, or even unhaul more parts of my collection to make space on my shelves for some added greenery. For sharing these personal parts of my life, I think these quarterly updates work the best both for me as the writer and you all as readers. So, expect these to continue throughout 2020. A goals and resolutions post for 2020 will be out very soon, along with a very, very special surprise announcement for all my followers!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas if you celebrated it. Mine was quite pleasant and relaxing—in fact, I’m still in vacation mode, which is why I haven’t done much of anything (besides listening to BTS, of course)! I’ve got one more post for 2019, so please look forward to that. Till then, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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

Hello all!

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

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

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

Goal Reflection


#1 – Read More Posts

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

#2 – Write More Succinct Reviews

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

#3 – Post More Often

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

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

#4 – Bring Back Cafe Talk

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

#5 – Write More Haul/Collection Posts

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

What I’ve Watched


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Despair Returns: A Danganronpa Playthrough


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

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

My New Job Has Kept Me Away


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

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

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

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

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

– Takuto, your host

The Scope of the Universe: Gurren Lagann Revisited

A few days ago, I took to Twitter following my rewatch of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and tweeted this:

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If you didn’t notice it sitting there in my collection post, I recently (and FINALLY) got a hold of the Gurren Lagann limited edition DVD set released by Aniplex of America several years back. It’s a set that I’ve wanted ever since I laid eyes on it—and that was before I even watched the series! You can only imagine my elation when I managed to get this OOP set for just $60 after haggling with the eBay seller for a couple days.

Now, as the title of this post indicates, I’m not going to review the series. Nah, I’ve already done that, and I still stand by everything I say in my review of Gurren LagannRather, this is just to express my feelings about it now, three years after my first viewing. I like to think I’m a different person compared to when I first watched this series, and correspondingly, the show means different things to me now than when I first saw Lagann take flight in that iconic opening episode.

This isn’t anything new. Y’all are probably familiar with this show’s hype given how well it has been passed on from fan to fan. Heck, perhaps the only reason you watched it was because of someone else’s recommendation. And there’s a good reason for its constant spreading throughout the past decade.

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From Gainax’s off-the-walls animation to the high-octane soundtrack of ROW ROW FIGHT THE POWAHHH, Gurren Lagann delivers consistent quality, still holding up TWELVE years later as one of anime’s best-looking and best-sounding. I literally started CRYING once I heard “Libera Me From Hell” again in the finale, you guys. It’s the stuff of legends, I’m telling you. And with all this recent circulation of what it means for an anime to be “classic,” well, can I just say that whatever your standards may be, Gurren Lagann most certainly fits the bill.

And the ENDING. I can’t even begin to fathom the scope of Team Dai-Gurren’s galactic quest. From a tiny hole in the ground, to the Earth’s surface, the moon, and beyond the Milky Way. That’s just nuts! Since my rewatch, I’ve found myself sitting here just staring at the wall more and more, just trying to comprehend it all. What even is at the end of the universe? What other kinds of life are out there among the stars? Will we ever earn the chance to interact with such forces? I mean, this is a Gainax series, so I’m theoretically not supposed to risk a massive headache over trying to rationalize the impossible, but that’s half the fun, really.

According to Wikipedia, the universe measures 93 billion light years across. The freakin’ Universe. Proportionally, that’s how big Gurren Lagann‘s story is. Ok, maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but when you have a climax that ends in two cosmically sized robots (or energy beings at this point) hurling galaxies at each other, you know your story is kinda big. My point is, to discount any of the events of Gurren Lagann and label it as anything less would be, well, a lie.

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In my review, I called Gurren Lagann The Larger-Than-Life Story of Us.” Pretty title, right? That’s not simply me trying to be poetic, though. The series is all about evolution. Each and every day, we try to evolve—to push ourselves to the max—just to be better, EVEN IF only the slightest bit, than we were the day before.

The death of Kamina is one of many pathos the series evokes to inspire that drive to change, to improve. Within Simon, Yoko, and everyone else is this incredible swell of kinetic energy, a rawness that can only expressed through a studio like Gainax. Sometimes this spiral force spills over as a storm of chaotic emotions; other times it is love, a powerhouse which carries the potential to change this simultaneously rational and insane universe we live in.

Gurren Lagann is zany through to the very end. So much happens in such little time, it’s absolutely unbelievable. Lagann’s bombastic protagonists and equally bizarre antagonists thrust upon you a story that demands your attention as it dares to break through the heavens. It’s a weight that doesn’t have to be shouldered alone, however; the series has solidified itself as a timeless ode to the vigor of the human spirit, and a demonstration of the sheer audacity of the human race.

gurren lagann ep 23

I’m not quite sure where I’m going with this post anymore, but I do know one thing for certain: the day we decide to forget this classic story is the day the anime community will lose a monumental part of its core—but not without gaining something new to fill its place. What that new show or shows will be, only the future us will know. I do hope we never give up on Gurren Lagann, but the inevitability of fate that the series itself wields might prove my wish otherwise.

So, going back to my desperate-sounding tweet, please, PLEASE never stop sharing Gurren Lagann with all your friends and the wonderful people of this community. Such a vibrant star should never lose its light, but as we too continue to change and evolve, sometimes we have to leave even the best and most precious of our memories behind.

I only hope that the great Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann doesn’t fade from our hearts anytime soon.

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When does a man die? When he is hit by a bullet? No. When he suffers a disease? No. When he eats a soup made out of a poisonous mushroom? No! A man dies when he is forgotten. — Kamina


I really haven’t done a post like this before, but I had some thoughts I needed to vent and didn’t know how else to do it. If you share the same sentiments about this beloved title, I’d love to hear them! Tell me your stories, I’ll listen. In fact, merely sharing mine with you again led me to the creation of a new category on my blog: the Revisited titles. Since I tend to rewatch stuff a bunch, it only felt right to finally honor the series that are worthy of such revisits!

The weirdest thing about all of this was that, even just a couple months ago, I didn’t even feel that passionately about the series. But as soon as summer hit—the exact same time of the year in which I initially watched Lagann—man, it just kicked on like crazy. I HAVE to watch Gurren Lagann again, I kept telling myself. So I did, and I bought it, too. If you’re strapped for cash, however, the entire series is available on Crunchyroll for FREE!

Anyway, thanks for reading my loose ramblings. It was quite enjoyable being able to get these thoughts out here. Now, I can finally move on. ‘Till next time!

– Takuto, your host

It’s Been 3 Months – How Am I Doing? | Quarterly Update (Spring)

Hello all!

Longtime cafe-goers might remember when I used to post monthly updates. I stopped doing this late 2017 I believe because it had reached a point where I was posting more updates than actual quality blog posts. That’s why for 2018 I did a “reflection on my watch log,” which essentially was just a quick read-off of everything I watched that year. Not the best for sharing my thoughts, but for efficiency, it gets the job done well enough.

That’s when I thought, hey, until I start posting more, I should just do quarterly updates, and WAH, here we are!

Back in January, I posted five blog goals for 2019 that wanted to achieve. It’s been three months—how am I doing in keeping up with those goals so far? This is the quarterly update!

Goal Reflection


#1 – Read More Posts

Alright, so I have been using the WP reader more frequently. But it’s still not at the level that I want to be keeping up with you all. Part of this conflicts with my need to accomplish goal #3, but yeah, I’ll try harder.  >.<

#2 – Write More Succinct Reviews

Ok, so the first couple posts were, in fact, shorter (which I consider less than 1,500 words). While I’m starting to slowly creep back up to that hefty 1,700 count, a part of me is just like, who cares though? I’m definitely one to not leave any stone unturned in my reviews, so why should I try to limit myself? Well, oddly enough, I generally feel more proud of my shorter posts for some reason. Additionally, let’s face it: more people read shorter posts. I’ll do what I can to keep my writing more succinct, but if I start sliding up there again, I hope you’ll understand it’s because there must be something in the post that I’m passionate about!

#3 – Post More Often

YES, I actually have written more posts, wahoooo! At my lowest point in 2018, it was 1-2 posts per month. Thus far, I am proud to say that I wrote FIVE posts in January, FIVE posts in February, and FOUR posts in March (spring got busy, y’all). That’s a HELL of an improvement for me, and I don’t feel like slowing down anytime soon!

#4 – Bring Back Cafe Talk

I’ve tried lol. Joking aside, I’ve only done one cafe talk (which was well-received, thank you very much for participating in the conversation). I think the reason I keep hesitating on writing them because of #2 here—I’m a very wordy person, but I also like to be detailed and thorough. Naturally, this means more words, and a simple 300-word thought becomes a 1,200 word formal APA paper, Times New Roman, double-spaced (I kid, I kid, but really though, perfectionism is such a huge block for me). I’ll try harder!

#5 – Write More Haul/Collection Posts

Alright, ending on a good note! I’ve posted my Naka-Kon 2019 haul, talked with you all about my recent book store experience, and shared the biggest limited edition anime box set I own. But believe it or not, I have two other collection-related posts on the way! Given that I can’t seem to stop spending money on anime and manga (despite my lack of funds and good decision-making lol), would you be interested in monthly or seasonal hauls? Let me know, cause I can totally make that happen. 😀

What I’ve Watched


As for anime, I am currently doing my best to finish all of the seasonal stuff I started this winter, including some shows from late last year. In that effort, I just finished Cells at Work (FINALLY), Run with the Wind, and The Promised Neverland—all fantastic series, Kaze and Neverland in particular ranking as solid 10/10s in my book. Currently working on the reviews.

I haven’t taken a solid look at the spring simulcasts yet, but once I do, I’ll let you guys know what I’m watching this upcoming season as well!

In the meantime, I’ve been occupied with some throwbacks: Space Battleship Yamato (about to start 2202, so excited!), Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody (finished, but ugh, this one lmao), Fairy Tail (yeah, didn’t think I’d ever cave, yet here I am . . . maybe I’ll do a cafe talk over this experience too), and, in preparation for the spring’s most anticipated title, the early 2000s Fruits Basket. It’s one of my sister’s favorite series (go figure), but as I’m watching it for the first time, she’s re-realizing just how truly fun and heartfelt it is.

Misty Mornings & Cosplay Ventures


In addition to upgrading my shelving, I’ve also invested heavily in cosplay. Specifically, the art of cosplay armor. The dream is to be able to don Eugeo’s entire Integrity Knight armor set come next Naka, but we’ll see. From EVA foam to buying a heat gun and contact cement, I think I’m finally ready to start applying the countless hours of YouTube cosplay armor tutorials to my own craft. Although I may hold off on going all-out till summer rolls around, don’t be surprised if I cheat and start a little early. 😉

(Also, should I start an Insta for all my cosplay and collection-related musings? Let me know your thoughts if you use that platform.)

And that’s just about everything I’ve been up to! Spring weather is slowly crawling in, bringing in occasional rain showers at night and a chilly mist in the morning. In other words, the best kind of weather. If only the rain lasted a bit longer.

Anyway, thanks so much for reading what I’ve been up to for the past couple months. I’ve got a lot more coming—if only I could sit down and plow through writing the reviews that have stacked up since late February! Feel free to share any thoughts you have on this post in the comments, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Reflecting on my 2018 Watch Log + 2019 Blog Goals | Update

Hello again!

On this cold Monday morning, I present to you the last of my 2018 clean-up spree! Does anyone else use the term “watch log” anymore? Well, in case you didn’t know, this refers to all the anime shows/films I watched in 2018. I’ll also include the MyAnimeList rating I gave each title as a quick way to express how I feel about them. (I mean, this post would be waaaay too long if I wrote a paragraph about each one, so for your sake and mine, let’s keep it short.)

In the *rare* instance that I wrote about a certain title on my blog, I’ll include a link to that post so you can check out my more in-depth thoughts. Also, this list differs from my Top 10 Anime of 2018 post in that it is NOT LIMITED to shows that aired solely in 2018; it will include EVERYTHING that I watched/played in 2018 that relates to anime. What it will NOT include are the books that I read, because let’s be honest—keeping track of individual volumes of a specific series is both tricky and somewhat pointless.

The reason for writing this post is simple: there’s a LOT of stuff I didn’t write about on my blog. Although I may have wanted/planned to initially write about a show, for some reason or another, it didn’t always happen.

So, at the very least, I wanted to share with you all—in the quickest way possible—my adventures through anime in 2018. I owe you, my dear cafe goer, and to keep us both from constantly trudging along in the past, I have formulated the most efficient way to tell you about where 2018 took me, and where I’m at now.

But without further ado, here’s a quick reflection on my 2018 watch log—a brief retrospective glance at all the cool stuff I watched this past year. If you’ve seen any of these shows or would like to know my further thoughts on it/them, hit me up in the comments and I’ll respond!


HOW TO READ: The list goes in chronological order, starting in January (2018 End of Winter) and ending in January 2019. Since my own personal anime list that I keep on my phone’s notes section (classy, right?) is written in chronological order, so will this list. Also, in case you haven’t noticed, I group my anime adventures by season, as seasons seem to have the greatest influence on my watching experience. It’s got to do with emotions and timing stuff, IDK I’m just weird like that, hahaha. 

2018 End of Winter 

Land of the Lustrous     9/10

Diabolik Lovers     5/10

She and Her Cat: Their Standing Points     7/10

The Place Promised in Our Early Days     8/10

She and Her Cat -Everything Flows-     8/10

Cross Road     8/10

Made in Abyss     9/10

Love is Like a Cocktail     7/10

Patema Inverted     9/10

2018 Winter Simulcasts

A Place Further Than the Universe     10/10!

DARLING in the FRANXX     7/10

Devilman: Crybaby     9/10

Fate/Extra: Last Encore     6/10

2018 Spring

Haikyuu!!     8/10

Animation Runner Kuromi (Seasons 1 & 2)     7/10

Haikyuu!! 2nd Season     8/10

Sailor Moon Crystal Season III     9/10

My Love Story!!!     9/10

Whisper of the Heart     9/10

The Cat Returns     8/10

ChaoS;Child     7/10

Sailor Moon SuperS     [currently watching]

Colorful     8/10

2018 Spring Simulcasts

Steins;Gate 0     9/10

SAO Alternative: Gun Gale Online     7/10

My Hero Academia 3rd Season     9/10

2018 Summer

Granblue Fantasy The Animation     6/10

Children of the Whales     [need to finish]

Only Yesterday     8/10

Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace     7/10

Princess Jellyfish     9/10

Bokurano     9/10

Summer Wars     9/10

Waiting in the Summer     7/10

A Sister’s All You Need.     8/10

The Royal Tutor     8/10

Amagi Brilliant Park     8/10

Texhnolyze     [need to finish, may drop]

No-Rin     [need to finish, may drop]

2018 Summer Simulcast Season

Cells At Work     [need to finish]

Banana Fish     8/10

Attack on Titan Season 3     10/10!

Angels of Death     7/10

Grand Blue     6/10

Free! – Dive to the Future     8/10

High Speed!: Free! Starting Days     9/10

Free! -Take Your Marks-     8/10

2018 Fall

Assassination Classroom     [need to finish]

Ranma 1/2 (Viz Set 4)     [currently watching]

Magical Girl Raising Project     8/10

When Marnie Was There     9/10

Ocean Waves     7/10

Kino’s Journey     8/10

2018 Fall Simulcast Season

A Certain Magical Index III     [currently watching]

Sword Art Online: Alicization     [on hold]

DAKAICHI -I’m being harassed by the sexiest man of the year-     8/10

SSSS.GRIDMAN     9/10

Run with the Wind     [currently watching]

Tsurune: Kazemai High School Archery Club     [currently watching]

2018 End of Fall-Winter

Emma: A Victorian Romance     9/10

Shoujo Kageki Revue Starlight     [need to finish]

Napping Princess     7/10

Emma: A Victorian Romance Season 2     10/10!

Genocidal Organ     8/10

Urusei Yatsura Movie 2: Beautiful Dreamer     8/10

The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star     8/10

Scrapped Princess     9/10

Tokyo Godfathers     9/10

2019 End of Winter

Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony (PS4)     11/10!!

The Promised Neverland     [currently watching]

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai     9/10

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet     [currently watching]

WorldEnd: What are you doing at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us?     [currently watching]

Image result for anime scenic wallpaper summer


My Most-Liked Post EVER!!!

I realize this is pretty much old news by now, but in case you missed it, 2018 was the year that I finally published my big meta analysis on Makoto Shinkai’s works in this post: On Love, Loneliness, & the Growing Distance Between Us | The Works of Makoto Shinkai. This project is utterly massive, clocking in at just over 5,000 words, and it encompasses every single animated work Shinkai has ever created. I’m really, really proud of how it turned out—all the countless hours of rewatching and research were definitely worth it.

And to top it all off, it has become, to my knowledge, my most-liked post EVER. With over BOTH 40 likes and 40 comments, it is now a central part of my blogging portfolio, which I do hope to expand upon in 2019. These stats may not seem like much to you guys, but to me, it means that if I work hard, others will appreciate my efforts, and that seemingly small sentiment means the world to me. Seriously, thank you—you guys are awesome! ;__;

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Some Blogging Goals for 2019

See, I told you I’ve been busy! As you can see, I kinda just *stopped* reviewing stuff after the summer, and that’s mainly because I took a hiatus, but also because I didn’t really feel like reviewing content. So instead I did nothing, and it definitely hurt my blog in the long run. And no, rewatching old favorites like From the New WorldDanganronpa 3, Aria the Animation, Railgun S, Cowboy Bebop, Lord Marksman and Vanadis, and so many others didn’t help much to expand my watch log . . . whoops. 😛

But now that lazy phase is over, and I should be back in the saddle. Should. Since this post is just one big update thing, I’ve compiled a few goals I want to accomplish blog-wise in 2019. Since I didn’t do anything like this last year, maybe writing my goals out will help me stay inspired and at the keyboard.

1. Read More Posts

Pretty self-explanatory; if I keep up with all of your guys’ content better, then there will be less for me to play catch-up with. Also, I want to be involved with you all again like I used to when I started blogging. For those of you who tweet out your posts, there’s a good chance that I will read them. But I realize that many do not use Twitter for that reason, so this goal involves using the WP reader more.

2. Write More Succinct Reviews

This one’s more for me—there’s a lot of shows from 2018 that didn’t get coverage even if I may have wanted to eventually write about them. While I don’t want to review every single thing I watch, this will at least help stimulate blog traffic again. It’ll be much easier to make this happen now that I FINALLY feel comfortable with my reviewing format. Now I just need to up my game. Plus, I hope to make these shorter and more succinct, bringing the word count from 2,000+ down to 1,500 or less again.

3. Post More Often

I’m thinking to upgrade from my 1-2 posts per month of 2018 to 3-4 posts per month, and although that doesn’t sound like too much for you guys (cause you’re all pros!), it’ll be a huge step-up for me—and I think I’m finally ready for it.

4. Bring Back Cafe Talk

Hey, yeah, where did this little guy go? I want to revive the segment in a new, fresh way by reformatting the way the posts are written. They’ll ideally be much shorter (think less than 500 words) and and personal, I want this to be a way to connect with you guys in case the reviews don’t (because hey, I get it). Short stories, thoughts, and whims from my life as an anime fan, collector, cosplayer, blogger, and kid suffering through college studies. Sound fun?

5. Write More Haul/Collection Posts

Although 2019 will be a year of saving money for me, I always get excited when it comes to writing haul posts. So, I thought, why don’t I just write more of them? As you may know, I’m an otaku-based collector; my shelves are full of DVDs, manga, and figures. And after reorganizing my room for the New Year, I couldn’t help but feel the urge to write about the new stuff I get and the old stuff I have. If you’re interested in this kind of thing, let me know in the comments!

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Ready for 2019!

After the big OWLS catch-up, a reflection on my own OWLS experience, a compilation of my favorite shows from 2018, and my 2018 watch log + new blog goals up and out there, I’m finally ready to get 2019 started. Sure, I’m three weeks late, but better late than never, right?

Thank you so, so much for sticking with me throughout my slow year. I feel like we’ve all got one/will eventually get one, and it is so heartwarming to see that you guys are still interested in what I have to say. And to all my new followers, hi! Hello! Thanks for following, and I hope you are enjoying your stay.

With the past three posts done I’ve officially rambled enough. Again, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my watch log and goals, and if there’s a show up there that you want me to talk about further, I’d be more than happy to elaborate. Ah, I’m so excited right now, and I hope this inspiration sticks with me for months to come! Thanks so much again for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

My Top Five Favorite OWLS Posts That I Wrote in 2018

Hello! Happy New Year!

I realize 2019 has already begun, but there are still a few 2018 round-up posts I plan to write, one of those being this one right here. My top five OWLS posts of 2017 listing was fairly well-received by you all, so I decided to bring it back! As I mentioned last year, it’s hard to pick favorites. But, in the spirit of the New Year and bidding the old farewell, 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!

As previously mentioned, 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 2018’s posts there! Alrighty then, let’s take one last look at some of the posts I wrote in 2018!


RUNNER UP:

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Tour #19 July – The Royal Tutor: A Heartfelt Lesson on Judgement | OWLS “Mentor”

Like several of the titles I featured for each month, my watch of The Royal Tutor came at just the right time. I recall desparately searching my watch catalog just nights before the post was due, and then Heine Wittgenstein waltzed into my life and all was well. Not a single episode goes by where Heine fails to offer a valuable lesson on what it means to be human, and its that strict attention to theme that gives this OWLS post an easy runner-up position on the list. Heck, Heine practically wrote the post for me!

Life Lessons Learned:

  • Before quitting something you want to do, you should always explore alternative solutions.
  • This world is very big. Do not deprive yourself of people who will understand and care for you.
  • We should all believe in second chances.

NUMBER FIVE:

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Tour #24 December – Finding a Place to Belong: Tokyo Godfathers & the Gift of Kindness | OWLS “Miracles”

Here’s another one of those last-minute struggle watches that I managed to cram in right before the deadline, and boy am I glad I finally watched this anime cult Christmas classic. In the post, I dabbled a bit on how “God’s miracles” are what guide these three crazy homeless friends through an eventful Christmas Eve in Tokyo. The unfathomable number of plot conveniences can be explained by the presence of this guiding light, and this wild series of events—which can only be described as miraculous—are what make it the perfect fit for not only the monthly theme, but the holiday season.

Life Lessons Learned:

  • Life has a funny way of dealing with some situations—embrace chaos with faith.
  • A simple conviction to kindness will surround you with good company and food aplenty.
  • We will always have the opportunity to be kind to others.

NUMBER FOUR:

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Tour #13 January – All That Glitters IS Gold in “Land of the Lustrous” | OWLS “Revival”

Similar to our first tour of 2019, “Metamorphosis,” January and the New Year revolve around change. It involves a spirit of revival, an air of renewal, and the determination to change oneself for the better. Similarly, I found Phos’ journey to find purpose and self-worth to be an excellent fit for 2018’s first monthly topic. (I also happened to be watching it at the time, but I digress.) Just as how humans are fragile beings at heart, the Gems of Land of the Lustrous can shatter into hundreds of tiny pieces—some Gems more than others, namely Phos. Although the post is a tad bit on the longer side to accommodate every aspect that I wanted to hit on, I still look back on it fondly as how 2018 started—a shimmering, hopeful time to try new things. 

Life Lessons Learned:

  • Change is scary. It can be painful, it can be sudden, and it can be dangerous. Change involves suffering, but that grief is a necessity for growth.
  • Self-worth isn’t determined by the people around you, but rather what YOU make of yourself.
  • 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.

NUMBER THREE:

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Tour #20 August – From the New World: Through Horror, Calamity, & the Truth | OWLS “Journey”

This show, oh man, how far we go back together. I find it quite rare for a series to impact my views on critical concepts like justice and dignity so easily. And then comes along Shinsekai Yori to flip everything that I knew on its head. Absolutely loaded from head to toe with painful themes of reality and the duality of man, From the New World represents so much more than sci-fi series about good and evil. Rather, it’s a journey through horror, calamity, and the truth, and how the truth can sometimes be the cruelest thing of all. Given how complex it is, I was quite satisfied with how I was able to sum up each of the story’s arcs and how they impact Saki Watanabe, the lead character. (Also, I really, really like the header image I designed for this one.) It’s riveting, it’s meaningful, it’s powerful, and of all the shows I’ve EVER scene, few deserve the title of masterpiece quite like From the New World does.

Life Lessons Learned:

  • To feign ignorance is the greatest crime of all. Corruption breeds from within when we close off our minds and our hearts to new peoples and ideas.
  • People are twisted, easily corrupted, and worst of all, easily scared. But while we are weak when we are desperate, we are strong when it counts.
  • “We have to change our way of thinking if we really want to change the future.”

NUMBER TWO:

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Tour #16 April – Yūki Hayashi: Music to Motivate the Soul | OWLS “Melody”

I try to dedicate a solid paragraph in each of my anime reviews to the series’ soundtrack composer. What can I say, I’m a music man, and Yuuki Hayashi just so happens to be my favorite anime soundtrack composer! He’s done the background music for so many of my favorite shows, and it was about time that I dedicated an entire post—a very special OWLS post at that—to Hayashi’s genius. At long, long last, I got to practically fanboy about all my favorite anime soundtracks, but there’s another reason I picked a composer rather than a single song or series to focus on. You see, Hayashi’s music isn’t just epic—it’s also inspirational, a set of notes and sounds designed to motivate the very soul. And although this one low-key has my favorite header graphic, it’s missing one final relatability factor to push it into number one.

Life Lessons Learned:

  • Music encapsulates and can provide inspiration to lift us off our feet, motivation to push us forward, heartache to make us grow, the strength to go beyond, and the ambition to fulfill our dreams.
  • Know that the view from the summit is one that exists ONLY for you—so chase after it relentlessly.
  • Try new things, make mistakes, meet new people, but never, never give up on your reasons for wanting to improve. Because maybe, in the process of overcoming your own impossible odds, you’ll inspire someone else to be a better human.

AND FINALLY, NUMBER ONE:

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Tour #18 June – Princess Jellyfish: Confidence, Community, & the Beauty Below the Surface | OWLS “Pride”

Here’s your number one for 2018! Did it surprise you? Princess Jellyfish burst onto the scene of my life and totally changed my views on confidence, community, and the inner beauty we each possess below the surface. It features a dynamic, hilarious, and heartwarming cast of otaku NEETS who are all just struggling to get by in society, as well as the one queen who will unite them all in their effort to freely express themselves. Princess Jellyfish is the epitome of pride, a story that is attest to how vast our personalities truly are, and although I was a bit long-winded with other technical aspects of the series, this post really is just one big expression of love. Princess Jellyfish is a series about loving what you want to love, and bonding with those who share that same incredible sentiment. At its very end, the story of Princess Jellyfish embodies something so pure, hopeful, and passionate that it becomes impossible to not enjoy—and it’s for all these wonderful reasons and more that I select June’s “Pride” post as my favorite OWLS post of 2018.

Life Lessons Learned:

  • Sometimes you need to see yourself in a different way in order to appreciate who you’ve been this whole time.
  • Beauty is not something you simply put on: it’s an emotion you feel when you’re at your best. 
  • Above all else, so long as you take pride in yourself and the things you love, all people—including us adults—still have plenty of room for growth and change.

A HUGE Round of Applause to the OWLS Crew!

WHEW! After binge-reading ALL of the 2018 OWLS posts from January 1st to December 31st, I can officially say that each and every one of us deserve a pat on the back. Seriously though, all of lovely individuals in OWLS are not only fantastic people, but awesome writers as well, and while I didn’t share every single post over on Twitter (for fear of clogging up everyone’s feed), each one of them most certainly deserves the read.

This post compiles my favorite OWLS posts that personally wrote. As bloggers, I’m sure we can all identify our stronger posts compared to the rest of our catalog. So, if you are an OWLS member, I’d love to read what you found to be your own favorites! Think of it as celebrating your accomplishments for being a member of such a cool group. 🙂

Speaking of accomplishments . . . to my knowledge, I am one of the few who has posted for every single tour. That’s 24 posts since our debut in 2017! While I plan to write more posts aside from OWLS ones (as that is what became of me this year, whoops), I am happy with myself for not giving up and sticking with the group through each thought-provoking monthly topic. It’s just a small sidenote, but I’m proud for having come this far, and I look forward to hopefully adding 12 more posts come December 2019!

Anyway, that’s it for me. What did you think of the line-up? Did you have a particular favorite month to read/write for, either of my posts or everyone else’s? Or are you, like I was less than a month ago, still in the process of catching up? Haha! Either way, thank you so much for supporting me throughout my 2018 OWLS journey, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Ebb & Flow: Taking Life Slowly With ARIA | OWLS “Self-Care”

Chances are that if you were linked here from another blogger pal, then you might be new. To those first-timers, “Hi, I’m Takuto, welcome to my anime cafe!” For the OWLS blog tour’s  ninth monthly topic for 2018, “Self-Care,” I kinda wanted to break away from my typically structured review + reflection post and do a bit of free-writing about my own mental health. (Although I do not have any mental health illnesses, I do know what it’s like to be incredibly busy under pressure.) And what better a way to pull back the reins on my recently-rushed and unmotivated life than with one of the most soothing, slow-moving anime about enjoying every second of the present—Aria The Animation.

In favor of positivity and good mental health, we will be exploring the importance of self-care. Sometimes, we are lost in our thoughts and emotions that it can cause a negative impact on our lifestyle and our relationships. We will be exploring the mental health of pop culture characters and how their mental health affects their environments. We will explore the dangers of mental health illnesses and how it might lead to self-destruction and/or how one has the power to overcome their demons. In addition, we will share our personal stories and struggles about mental health and discuss positive ways in handling mental health issues.

Rather than gazing straight into the mindset of mental health, I’d like to flip the topic inside-out a bit and show how the environment affects mental health instead—specifically, how we can shape our mindsets to ease tension and better our lives. Thanks Lyn for the topic!

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A brief, spoiler-free discussion on the 13-episode fall 2005 anime “Aria The Animation,” Hal Film Maker, directed by Junichi Satou, and based on Kozue Amano’s manga of the same name. This will also include a glimpse into my life, and how “Aria”  provides healing to those who need it. 

Tired, Stressed, & Tired of Being Stressed

If you came to my blog two years ago, you would’ve found it abundant with reviews and updates, and rich with a comments section that was always in full-swing. My my! That’s a bit hard to believe considering that within the past couple months, I would go weeks at a time without posting so much as a peep into what’s going on, save for the monthly OWLS post (like this one, which would go out, and then I would hibernate again). “What brought you to this level of stagnation,” you might ask? My need to write about every single series that I finished, rather than just the ones I really wanted to talk about, became a ritual that crushed my motivation. Even just thinking about all the shows I’ve missed coverage on from these past couple seasons makes my stomach hurt a bit.

Not only did I consider dismissing writing reviews, but I also wanted a break from blogging. Just a short one. It didn’t even have to be announced, and so I didn’t announce it. But once you have a small taste of “freedom” (even though I love blogging), all you want is more of it. And so one week became two, two became three, and so on.

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It didn’t help that my life always seemed to be swatting my blog away This past summer, I worked two jobs simultaneously and was busy with music-related things on the side. Now, I am a full-time student at university (a sophomore, to be exact) clocking in 18 hours, including a position as a student success coach (I work with freshmen during their first year experience), ALL of my never-ending music nonsense (which keeps me as busy as a year-round sport would), and a part-time job. I tease myself (and am teased by others) for being generally lazy and procrastinating, but to call myself “inactive” would be far from the truth.

By 8 in the morning I’m at school, and I don’t get home until about 3 . . . only to go into work most days at 4 or 6 in the evening and return home at around 9:30 pm. After homework, I watch an episode or two of whatever I’m following this season, then go to bed at around midnight. Call it me complaining about how stupid my schedule is, but I thought telling you all about my life would help you understand why I’m constantly tired, stressed, and tired of being stressed. To top it all off, my OWLS deadline was approaching rapidly, and I had NO IDEA what to focus on. That’s where the self-care part comes in—when a package arrived on my doorstep one monotonous, unsuspecting day.

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And Along Came Aria

I actually watched Aria’s first season back in the summer of 2017 in a mad dash to justify whether or not I should participate in RightStuf and Nozomi’s Kickstarter campaign for a dub and Blu-ray release of the property. Safe to say that, even though I didn’t enjoy it to its fullest potential during my initial rushed watch, the first season alone was enough to tell me that I’d enjoy everything the franchise had to offer. So I pledged heftily at the Prima Tier and a year later . . .

My Kickstarter awards arrived on my doorstep just last week. As I sifted through the box of goodies—which I will share in an upcoming post—I instantly recalled the calming allure of Aria. Eagerly and impulsively, I plugged the first disc in, feeling a rush of utter wonder and joy at hearing this year-long project payoff in the form of its fantastic English dub cast. From Choro Club’s vibrant yet chill acoustic soundtrack to the flowing canals and charming watercolor artistry of Neo Venezia, I was reminded of not only how much I loved Aria, but intriguingly, how much I truly needed it in that moment.

For just 20 minutes, I had blocked out the world and my obligations to truly enjoy time to myself, and it was wonderful. Then it hit me: “Aria. I could talk about Aria, and how slowing down is the first step to understanding self-care,” which brings me to now, and the last part of my short little story.

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Finding Inspiration Starts with Slowing Down

During these past six or so months, I have struggled with finding the inspiration to write. I think it’s no use hiding it anymore, for if I truly loved blogging I would make the time to do it. I constantly got behind on comments and reviews, and it seemed like the only game I was playing was the “Catch-Up Game” (of which I am STILL a major loser, haha). Everyone around me would be celebrating the now, while I was reflecting on then, and I felt kinda lonely.

But I think my biggest fault lies with my understanding of inspiration. Previously, I would try to forcibly (and desparately) “jump start” my inspiration by traveling down nostalgia lane with older titles I love ( like rewatching Negima!?, Danganronpa, and yes, ALL of FMAB) or reading/watching from people who used to inspire me in the past. Is this something only I do?? I treated inspiration as a source, tapping into all of my resources that had already gone dry long ago, and in the end I just grew sad at how things used to be and what they’ve become. (Call me a romantic, or just depressed.)

After taking all this time off, however, I learned that inspiration is not a source, but a wave—an ebb and a flow that comes, and eventually goes. As frustrated as I became with my lack of passion, I first had to accept the fact I was experiencing a lull. With my last post, everything came to a halt, and I left the keyboard until the wave washed upon my aching feet once again.

And then along came Aria, a show that is as healing as the so-called “Iyashikei” genre gets. Heck, you could call it one of the firsts. Quiet, episodic, and slow enough to thoroughly enjoy the scenic gondola ride, Aria is warm soup for the soul. In rewatching Aria, my heart beat physically slowed down, and I found myself incredibly contented and, finally, relaxed.

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You need time to relax in order to recharge.Alicia

As Inexplicably Wondrous as it is Wonderful

Aria is unique because it takes sci-fi from a very mellow perspective. Messing with gravity, terraforming Mars, and unexpectedly waltzing through time holes into the long-lost past would leave viewers watching any other show confused and questioning all the plot holes. But with Aria, it works because the science fiction elements are just devices that lead us to understanding the bigger picture: What it means to enjoy life and all that it has to offer. The same applies to the element of drama in Aria—situations never get too intense or bitterly poignant because, as Aika would always remark, “NO SAPPY LINES ALLOWED!”

In many ways, Aria is a prime example of how magical realism can construct characters with very much real emotions and tell stories about them living in a world that is as inexplicably wondrous as it is wonderful. Every single minute of the series is filled with simple expressions of love, and as the seasons roll by, we see that how we live our lives must change, too. By being able to slow down and assess how the world outside is changing us from within, we can better understand how to take care of ourselves.

Slowing down between all the busy, anxiety-filled moments in my life allowed me to rediscover my inspiration. Slowing down allowed me to admire the little things I missed out on. And most of all, slowing down allowed me to remember that the things I can do here, on this blog, truly are enjoyable—I just need to take the gondola ride at my own pace, and remember that everything will be alright in the end.

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Take whatever comes and change it inside yourself. Make everything something you enjoy . . . It’s truly such a simple thing, to enjoy what you do. But everyone always seems to forget it. — “Grandma”


Afterword

Rewatching this “Caffe Mocha” title and writing this reflection post was one of the best things to happen to me all year. It won’t go down as one of my most professional posts, but I’ll be able to look back on it as a snapshot of my emotions—how and why I felt the way I did, exactly at this time. And that is one of the greatest joys of blogging, to be able to archive moments like these and share them with others, good times and not-so-hot times alike. After writing this, I’m actually really looking forward to the next post, and the one after that, too! As Aria would say, “Thank you for spending this wonderful moment, together!”

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This concludes my September 14th entry in the OWLS “Self-Care” blog tour. Matt Doyle (Matt Doyle Media) went right before me with his own insightful, cautionary tale on hitting rock bottom which you can read right here. (That makes two of us for this tour, buddy!) Now, look out for blogger buddy (and one of my own inspirations) Lita (Lita Anime Corner) on Saturday, September 15th! Thanks for reading, and until next time, take it easy on yourself!

– Takuto, your host