Bokurano: The Darkness Within Our Hearts | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 24-episode spring 2007 anime “Bokurano: Ours,” animated by Gonzo, directed by Hiroyuki Morita, and based on Mohiro Kitoh’s manga of the same name.

***MINOR SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST COUPLE EPISODES ARE PRESENT***

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How Would You Spend Your Last Day on Earth?

I’m sure you haven’t given it much thought; to which, neither have I. None of us do, and yet here’s an anime where kids are told when they will die, how they will die, and that whatever they do with their final day is up to them. There is no running away from fate, it’s do-or-die time. However, I suppose my words would have more weight if I told you why. Allow me to backtrack . . .

Fifteen children are enjoying their youth together at a summer camp. It’s sun, sea, and, what’s this? A mysterious grotto by the shore? The kids explore the creepy cave only to find a strange setup of computers and monitors, along with an even creepier old man calling himself Kokopelli. Supposedly, Kokopelli’s been developing a game, one where the players pilots a giant robot to defend Earth against 15 different alien invasions, and all he needs now is willing players to test it out. Sounds fun, I mean, what could be the harm? By individually placing their hand on a scanner, the kids complete their contract and suddenly blackout.

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They awaken back on the beach. Other than the fact that night has fallen, everything appears normal. Normal, EXCEPT for the impossibly high 500-meter-tall giant robot now towering over them! In a horrific twist of fate, the children must now take to their seats to pilot Zearth one at a time in hopes that they have the physical strength and mental fortitude it takes to defeat the bizarre enemies. But Kokopelli’s abrupt disappearance leaves the afraid and confused kids with harsh truths they must discover on their own: What exactly is Zearth, and what is the giant robot’s energy source?

Before I rip into the fantastic story of Bokurano, I wanted to address my biggest issue with the show right off the bat: the “antagonist.” Surely, even just by reading the synopsis something seems fishy. Where did Kokopelli go? Will he reappear later as the antagonist? It’s tricky for me to explain much of anything without ruining the surprise, but I can imagine that you, too, understand that there’s something else at play here. And here’s the thing: that “something” doesn’t really make much of an appearance. When director Hiroyuki Morita brought over the story from Mohiro Kitoh’s manga, even he felt that some of Bokurano was just way too damn sad (sources are all over the web confirm this).

So he changed it, and I think that the force that moves the anime along was “left behind” in the process, either because it didn’t mesh well with Morita’s new story, or that there wasn’t enough time to explain it all (as is what often happens in anime). Don’t worry, this anime adaptation is still one of the most depressing things you’ll ever watch, but if the ending feels somewhat incomplete, it’s because *frustratingly* this is not the same ending intended from the start.

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The Saddest Soldiers for the Saddest Anime Ever

Systematically, we bear witness to pilot after pilot fight their battle and depart from the scene. Where do they go, what happens to them? Ready for a dose of reality? ***SPOILERS for the first couple episodes, but they die. That’s all there is to it. There’s no glory, and no reward. Once you’ve served your purpose in prolonging the planet’s safety, no longer are you of any use to Zearth and Koemushi, a cruel and sadistic ABOMINATION whose job is to circulate this cycle of death and inevitably select the next pilot.

Each episode or two, we center our narrative focus on the next pilot chosen. From family and friends to one’s most carefully guarded secrets, we quite literally see all of it. The darkness in our hearts can seem infinitely deep, regardless of one’s age, and the fronts we put up can’t always mask it all. We see kids break, physically and emotionally, and although we know that they’ll die at the end of the episode, it can still be dramatic and utterly heartbreaking. Honestly, I wish they had more time . . . I won’t go into further details for real spoilers, but watching others suffer is . . . well, “Pain is addictive.”

Bokurano is thrilling up until the very end, even if it is hard to watch these poor kids undergo psychological torment to no end. Either it was super interesting to watch or, subconsciously, I wanted to quickly put them out of their misery, but I just could not put Bokurano down for a second.

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Oh, and be prepared to have your guesses as to who’s next get smashed, as even the seemingly “main” characters are not spared from Koemushi’s wrath.

Lost Iconography: The Circle of Chairs

A lot of early 2000s anime don’t hold up very well in today’s day. Bokurano is no exception from this. The show’s characters can look pretty rough on the eyes, and other than the robot fights, Gonzo’s animation is kept to a minimum, resulting in too many dialogue scenes and conversations that don’t seem to end. On those robot fights though, man—Bokurano’s got some of the most engaging, exciting, strange, and truly colossal mech fights that the genre has to offer! Unlike a tedious game of “My gun is bigger than your gun,” a real amount of strategy is required to pilot a robot that essentially has no controls—just your mind. Sync with Zearth, tell it what you want to do, and it will likely perform the feat even if its mechanical structure has to be reconfigured entirely. Just as how we know more about the cast as we go along, we come to see Zearth’s true range of abilities, and understand why it is able to put up such a good fight.

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I wanted to briefly mention the chairs, though. You know, that eerie circle of unique chairs inside Zearth’s pilot chamber. The chairs are how the pilots enter and exit Zearth, and without their genius iconography, works like Madoka Magica may not have that extra special “Shaft” touch. A single object or location can tell an entire story—and these chairs encompass both of those categories. Whenever I see Daiichi, Komoda, or Chizuru’s chairs, I immediately recall their struggles, their emotions, their story, which is absolutely wild given that they’re ultimately just furniture. Where do you spend most of your time sitting? How does that area represent who you are as a person?

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While the main OST doesn’t offer much in the way of me thinking, “Oh yeah, that’s Bokurano!” Chiaki Ishikawa has absolutely dominated the sound department with her amazingly addictive OP and two excellent ED themes. “Little Bird” and especially “Vermilion” are rich with a somber quality to them, but “Uninstall” ranks up there as one of my favorite OPs of all time for its epic melancholy, sorrowful lyrics, and ability to call to mind all of the beauty and tragedy in Bokurano. 

The Pain of Letting Go

Could you put enough pain on a single person to change the human heart? Short answer, yes, but the road to such change can be messy, frustrating, and completely exhausting. Bokurano‘s main interest comes from the constant curiosity of where the story is headed next. What will ultimately stick with you, however, are the hearts left behind along the way, and the stories that succumbed to tragedy—or the few that ended with a glimmer of hope.

As characters exit the stage one by one, their vacant seats are left to inspire the next chosen hero. At one point, these chairs had a warm body that sat in them, that thought about their place in the world, and that struggled to come to terms with their fate. Although its visuals are dated and some of its background plot points could’ve been fleshed out better for the finale, Bokurano still holds fast as a gem of its genre, reminding us that everyone suffers—but we that can still be saved.

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An awesome reality came to meet us from beyond. It came to laugh at how simple our existence was. Even when I covered my ears, the truth slipped through both hands and confounded me . . . I have no choice but to act as a warrior who knows no fear.—from “Uninstall,” the opening theme


Bokurano‘s been sitting on my backlog ever since I watched Evangelion, and now that I’ve FINALLY seen it, I can confidently recommend it to fans of that other popular abstract mecha anime. Their distorted premises may be different, but the stakes of the game are the same, in that a group of kids must pilot giant robots against the wrath of the heavens—or face the destruction of their world. Similarly, both stories feature a very human cast dealing with issues like depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses to sexual frustration and an inferiority complex. Both series handle these themes with extreme care and realism, which can be appreciated immensely. If it isn’t a surprise by this point, then please, let’s honor Bokurano: Ours as a “Caffe Mocha” title, a rating reserved for only the best!”

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Because of its clockwork death count and endearing participants, I found this smartly written survival game to literally be The Saddest Anime I’ve Ever Seen. Despite being full of nothing but misery and grief, the suspense of hope that releases at the very end feels immensely satisfactory. If you’re up for a bit of a psychological challenge and don’t mind a throwback, you ought to give Bokurano a try (Crunchyroll’s got it for FREE)! Already seen it? Let me know what you thought about Bokurano or this review down in the comments and we can reminisce together! Thanks for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Devilman Crybaby – Ugly Tears, Bleeding Hearts, & The Pain of Modern Tragedy | Review

A brief spoiler-free review of the 10-episode winter 2018 anime “Devilman: Crybaby,” produced by studio Science SARU (and Netflix), directed by Masaaki Yuasa, written by Ichiro Okouchi, and based on the manga by Go Nagai. 

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A Wild Night Out

Akira Fudo is a crybaby. He’s always been, and he always will be. Akira’s high school career takes a trip to the wild side when his best friend from many years ago, Ryou Asuka, suddenly reenters Akira’s life. This surprise reunion excites Akira, but unfortunately, Ryou isn’t back so the two can play on the playground again. Instead, he informs Akira that hiding amongst the shadows of their picture-perfect reality are monstrous demons, and that soon the demons will revive to reclaim the world from the humans. To combat their brute, supernatural strength, Ryou has a plan: to fuse a human with a demon.

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Those who conquer their “literal” innermost demons can master the power over them. And thus, after violently loosing his innocence at an infamous nightclub rave suspiciously titled the “Sabbath,” Akira becomes Devilman, a being with the power of a demon and the heart of a human. Finally seeing the darkness that humans have hid for so long, Akira feels blessed to now be able to save others, but more so cursed because he will likely never be understood ever again. But he has Ryou, and for Akira, that’s enough to make the pain worth suffering. Or so he hopes.

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A Tragedy Fit for Our Time

By mere story alone, Crybaby is a masterpiece. Having heard the crazy amounts of praise that have been circulating already for a couple weeks now, this should be no surprise. It starts at zero, at everyday life for a young boy and his relay mates, and quickly escalates into a bloody, traumatic, world-ending experience for both the characters and the viewers. As a standalone piece of fiction, it’s a modern tragedy made fit for the decade—complete with its OWN FREAKIN’ CHORUS in the form of some swaggy J-rappers—a series that is and should be celebrated for the, might I say, “daredevil” tale it sets out to tell. So many countless symbolic, societal, and sexual metaphors make the story incredibly compelling, and the religious undertones work wonders in creating this gritty, larger-than-life epic.

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And the best part of all is that the series isn’t just “depressing” to be called tragic—rather, it lives up to the classical standards of Greek tragedy by existing to A) prove the faults in our own lives, B) present a heroic attempt at handling them, and C) leave us with a cathartic end to cleanse the insanity that just befell the cast. It’s a masterful formula from the humble beginning through to its apocalyptic end, and as the media outlet Polygon states, the finale is “beautiful, devastating perfection.”

The only [minor] problem with a story of this magnitude is that Crybaby has very little time to tell it: only ten episodes, to be exact. While the pacing for the first several episodes feels spot-on, there is a significant push, particularly in the last two episodes, that does seem rather hectic. To be fair, however, the gruesome content and big reveals in episodes nine and ten ARE time sensitive; dragging these plot twists and dramatic developments out beyond an episode’s time would ruin their effects. Besides, perhaps that rushed sense of mayhem is what contributes to the explosive, catastrophic nature of the Devilman franchise.

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Akira and Ryou: Cuter When They’re Young

As far as characters are concerned, I won’t go into much detail simply because half of the thrill stems from witnessing just who some of these characters really are, and exactly what they will eventually become as the plot edges further and further on borderline insanity. Akira Fudo’s deal with the devil surprises all those around him, sure, but his grotesque change conjures up more mental conflict than physical ailment. He’s honestly a gift to mankind who doesn’t belong in this cruel, cruel world, and as he teeters on the edge of his own humanity—of a dying hope vs. an unflagging despair—he realizes that, at the darkest roots of their heart, people can be even more vile, disgusting, and sinful than any demon to roam the planet. Compared to his cute, scrawny self at the series’s beginning, the superior antihero Devilman that Akira becomes is stronger in nearly every way—all except for that tender, still-broken human heart of his.

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Ryou’s fluffy, blonde-bowled, bishounen design may seem inviting, but don’t let that charismatic baby face fool you: underneath that puffy white coat is a deadly machine gun and cunning wit, both which are fully loaded at all times. From that first smooth car ride Ryou and Akira share together, you already get the feeling that Ryou is scheming something (as if the glaring camcorder he films on 24/7 wasn’t evidence enough). Still, he is doomed to a fate just as tragic as Akira’s—if not more so. Ryou is one baaaaaad boi, but I loved his development way too much to hate him.

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I Don’t Know How to Rate The Animation . . . 

I’m not kidding. Devilman: Crybaby has some of the downright UGLIEST animated sequences I’ve ever seen. From the hilarious attempt at depicting just how “speedy” devilmen can run to the blobby, disproportionate, and completely uncensored sex scenes, by visual standards, Crybaby is not a pretty-looking show.

But does an anime need to be “pretty” to have it’s own beauty? Absolutely not. Or, well, at least Crybaby says so.

You see, the series has this certain edge to it, a certain grit that is hard to explain. The animation outlines, for instance, are cleanly drawn and look quite fresh (faces in particular). But then you have the action scenes, which are just SO freakin’ bizarre to watch. Like, I couldn’t even tell you if some scenes were, in fact, “poorly animated” because the ENTIRE SERIES has that same exact look. The lack of detail in light-hearted moments (like Akira’s high school, or his quiet past) compared to the almost sickening actions of other demons and humans alike gave form to a style that I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s as if the animation is “untamed,” or “knows no bounds”—yet it all flows well as its own style within the context of the story. Not to mention that the compact 10-episode run and smart directing allow for each and every shot to carry some sort of secondary meaning, however unnecessarily violent or sexual or BOTH the risqué presentation seems to people.

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I, for one, felt that all of the overly grotesque scenes brutally tread some sacred ground of entertainment that hasn’t been touched in decades with a bloody tank. It’s a unique visual style that I frankly haven’t seen anywhere else, and it was depicted brilliantly.

But I Know I Loved the OST!

As I am currently writing this, the Devilman: Crybaby soundtrack is humming in the background for inspiration. What about it is so special? Well, it has great balance; it’s epic (“D.V.M.N.” – Main theme), startling (“Miki The Witch”), playful (“Wishy Washy”), intense (“Anxiety”), entrancing (“Beautiful Silene”), heart-pounding (“Smells Blood”), uplifting (“Prayer”), cathartic (“Pathetique”), and so much more. Composer Kensuke Ushio (Ping Pong The Animation, Space Dandy, A Silent Voice) knows how to write excellent orchestral/synth pieces, I tell ya!

There’s a little tune that is repeated throughout the entire soundtrack that can be any of the emotions listed above, so long is the right instrumentals is paired with the mood. My personal favorite IS a reprise of this gorgeous melody line, and it just so happens to be the very last song played in the series, the End of Devilman: Crybaby, so-to-speak. It’s appropriately titled “Crybaby,” and if it doesn’t move your heart to the point of tears, forcing you to recall Akira, Ryou, Miki, and Miko’s shared heartache and tragedy, then I’m not sure what will.

Oh yeah, there’s also a remake of the original Devilman opening included with the soundtrack, which, if you SOMEHOW haven’t heard yet, is SUCH A BOP HOLY SHIT. I STILL listen to it religiously.

The Destructive Darkness Within Us All

By Devilman:Crybaby‘s end, there is arguably no sadness left for the characters, no more tears to cry. It should feel complicated, as the amount of despair is simply undefinable. But instead, all you can wonder is how things got to this point, and how what you witnessed was, in fact, the end brought upon by humanity. The ending is completely unfair, yet it balances the scales with terrifying perfection. You could feel sad, or depressed, or enraged at how BLIND people can be, but instead, all of it feels pointless, as if nihilism just inducted you to suddenly became one of its patron saints.

The ending of Devilman: Crybaby is indeed a very empty one. And that very catharsis, that feeling of emptiness and pointlessness, is what lies at the heart of a well-written tragedy. 

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As happy and sad memories alike resurface for these two boys, Akira and Ryou come to realize that, without one another, life before friendship was boring and often cruel. It was lonely, and it was meaningless. But through the ugly tears they cry, the bleeding hearts they endure, and the tragic fates that they cease fighting against, the two learn to finally accept love, for it is really love, not hate, which makes the world go round. And so to tear up the ENTIRE world just to tell this seemingly small message—Yes, such is what completes the horrifically tragic Devilman: Crybaby as a modern masterpiece.

You’re crying too, Ryou-chan. You’re crying too . . .  – Akira Fudo

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Afterwords

Devilman: Crybaby is raw, brutal, yet oddly honest about its understanding of cause and effect and the power of compassion. It doesn’t forget to throw in a few laughs, though. As the community has already remarked, this show is ABSOLUTELY NOT for the faint of heart. This series showcases the worst aspects of humanity—of vengeance, overindulgence, paranoia, and immorality—and for many, that can be hard to watch (plus, it’s like, mega gory and sexual). You’ll be asking yourself “WTF is this even real?” many times, and you’ll feel absolutely disgusted with humanity. But have faith that there is a reason for the madness. I walked into this action series not knowing a lick about the Devilman franchise (aside from the old dub clips, heh heh) and obviously enjoyed the HELL out of it.

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If such disturbing material doesn’t bother you, then I’m sure you’ll also enjoy this wild ride through the bloody and the occult, as there are a fair amount of life lessons to be learned. I’m giving Devilman: Crybaby the honorary “Caffe Mocha” title because of its unexpectedly high emotional impact (you gotta love the indirect End of Eva references, too)! There’s a particular scene in I think episode 8 or 9 that absolutely wrecked me, and the powerful ending . . . wow . . . I’m sure I won’t be forgetting about that for a long time. If you are thinking about watching this anime, or have already seen it, you HAVE to let me know what you thought about it! I’m dying to dig the series back up, even though much of the hype has died down, haha! Let me know if I did a decent job by hitting the like button (I appreciate it!), and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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30-Day Song Challenge Day 8: Songs That Make/Made You Cry

I know, shame on me for being a day late. But I’m not skipping any days in this challenge, so I’ll just post two today. Now to pick today’s songs . . .

Dammit, I’ve already used “Ichiban no Takaramono” from Angel Beats! *bites thumb*

Like I mentioned about sad songs, no song by itself has really made me “cry,” but in the context of a given anime, things are a little different. With that said, I’ll once again choose songs that, when played with their respective scenes from the show, make/made me cry. Grab your tissues, and here we go 😥

From No.6, “Kaze no Requiem” snug by either Nezumi or Safu

Spoilers for No.6 below. CAUTION

I know for a fact that No.6 is not a very “good” show from a reviewer’s standpoint. But because I think of myself as more of an anime fan than a critical reviewer, I’ll give this little show all the lovin’ I want! One of two male leads, Nezumi, sings this tune throughout the entirety of the series. Notably, however, it can be heard in the last episode when his boy Shion is shot. Mourning over the loss of his love, Nezumi croaks this song as the city around him is being torn to pieces. The scene ripped my heart out; everything from his choking gasps to the dry tears in his soulless eyes just hits me right in the gut. His normally rich, low voice becomes flaky and parched as he strains himself to protect what was once an upbeat, energetic youth, now a lifeless body. This song is both melancholy and uplifting at the same time, which to me is a rare quality to find in songs.

And here is the second version, which is the continuation and remix of Safu singing after Nezumi stops. Her voice is utterly enchanting, but I think the reason I like it almost more than Nezumi’s is the opera chorus that rings in the background. It helps recreate that heavenly feeling when Nezumi came in contact with Elyurias.

Also from No.6, “Rokutosei no Yoru” by Aimer

I don’t think I really need to explain myself, cause just listen to it, I mean, it’s not necessarily a happy song >.< I’ll spare you my banter, enjoy the song. This slow, depressing rock is great to listen to on long rides 🙂

From Shinsekai Yori, “Going Home” by Dvorak, 2nd Movement from the New World Symphony

I don’t even know what happened to me, but when that last episode cued and this song played in the last few minutes, I completely lost it. I don’t think I cried, but man, I was a complete emotional mess after that! Very seldom does classical music mash so well with anime, and From the New World incorporated the piece brilliantly.

From Puella Magi Madoka Magica, “Decretum” by Yuki Kajiura

Okay, let me just clarify that all of the Madoka songs brought many feels. But I think “Decretum” brought the tears home when I first watched this catastrophe. Though she’s not my favorite, Sayaka Miki was definitely the most depressing to watch. That fake yet triumphant smile, the way she flittered around with Madoka, her near selflessness to save another’s soul – isn’t that what being a magical girl is all about? She lived a tragic life, and the Law of Cycles claimed her being in the end.

From Code Geass R2, “Continued Story” by Hitomi Kuroishi

The greatest moment of Code Grass: The moment when you finally understand how Lelouch will put an end to the Britannian Empire . . .

Just listen to it. I won’t have to explain my feelings this way. Why does this guy have to toy with my emotions? God dammit, ALL HAIL LELOUCH, YOU RIGHTOUS BASTARD IN BLACK

So before I start thinking too much about all of these depressing moments, I’m going to go write the next challenge post. AGH, I gotta stop picking so many songs per day >.< See you in a little bit!

– Takuto, your host

30-Day Song Challenge Day 4: Songs That Remind You Of Something Sad

Konbanwa, minna, it’s late, so let’s just jump right into it. (oh, and be glad I didn’t give you the full crying Dekamori :))

Angel Beats! – “Ichiban no Takaramono” Performed by LiSA, lyrics by Maeda Jun

Let’s get this one over with. Angel Beats!, yep, I cried like a lil’ b*tch when this played at the very end, no shame. The song, though it doesn’t have a whole lot of personal memories, it does remind me of the last episode, which, if you’ve been living under a rock, is sad. Very sad. Just envisioning him desperately grasping out, clutching to invisible air where that Angel once stood . . . nope, I can’t . . . *reaches for nearest sleeve and rubs nose*

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! – “Surechigau Kokoro To Kokoro”

It was only like the saddest song from the light-hearted rom-com, right? This song plays very few times, and someone kindly looped it so that we could enjoy it again and again. It reminds me of how fast time flies by from youth to young adult. I guess that’s not a lot of time, and I am no poet, but it honestly reminds me of the days when my siblings and I dressed up in silly epic costumes and ran around the house throwing fireballs and magic crystals at each other, jamming out to “Final Countdown” and the Sailor Moon OST from that episode when she was riding a meteor or something. My older brother is now in college, and my sister is a sophomore in high school. I die a little inside each time I think to myself: “There’s no going back now, we’re only getting older. We’ll probably all have families of our own not too far from now, and our kids will be secretly running around the house throwing magic as I did. But I’ll be slaving away at my work, whatever and wherever that may be.” But all of me wishes to stay young with my family forever – when it is okay to be naïve; unknowing was the greatest joy. I guess I kinda wish for the impossible, right haha? 😥    *takes a deep sigh*

Pandora Hearts – “Everytime You Kissed Me” by Yuki Kajiura, vocals by Emily Bindiger

I honestly don’t know where to begin with this one. Of all of the music I have ever listened to, this one has hit me the hardest without a doubt. I ran into this song on the web, and it made me want to check out the manga, which I was already eying because it has such pretty cover artwork. Once I’m done with the manga, I plan to watch the anime.

I distinctly recall sitting on a long, cold school bus ride. It was night – pitch black out – and my window just happened to be that one that never rolls up all the way, so cold air would seep through and rush into my eyes. But rather than complaining about my seat – rather than rise up to join the welcoming, friendly conversations, I sat against that frigid window, plugged this song into my headphones, and sat quietly as the frosty wind froze the tears in my eyes so they never fell.

Another time, a friend in my art class was wondering what I was listening to. I didn’t know how to share my passion for anime at the time, so I had just said it was “some music.” She pestered me all class, and finally I wrote down the title for her and gave her this crumpled little note with pencil lead scratched all over it. I doubt she ever gave it a listen, and I’ll probably never know, but part of me doesn’t want to for some reason.

It’s a heart-wrenching tune with crude yet beautifully haunting lyrics. It’s one of my most precious gifts I can share with you guys, and maybe you’ll enjoy it, too 🙂

Well, I guess I’ll be up all night now thinking about depressing stuff. Such is life, I suppose. Did you find interest in this deeper side of Takuto? I choked up a bit at writing some of this thinking “Gosh, do I want the internet to know this?” But then I thought, “Naw, it’s not that bad, I’ll throw it out there for anyone that cares.” I gotta get some zzzz’s now, so until tomorrow, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Plastic Memories: Sadly and Ironically Unmemorable

A review of the 2015 spring anime “Plastic Memories”

In the near future, androids that possess human emotions called “Giftia” can be seen all over the place. Produced and managed by the SAI Corporation, these Giftia practically blend in with society, the only catch being that they cannot live to be older than nine years, after which their memory needs to be wiped clean to prevent further contamination.

Upon bombing college entrance exams, Tsukasa Mizugaki is offered a position (through his father’s unknown relations) at one of SAI’s Terminal Service Department. Their job –  to retrieve nearly-expired Giftia and delete their memories.

Tsukasa descends into madness as he begins to take away the precious memories of his friends one by one, discovering that they are Giftia. Teaming up with a rebellious organization to stop SAI from creating more false hopes and plastic memories, Tsukasa and his sexy female companion Isla arm themselves to spill blood and delete data in hopes of a brighter future. But can a future be salvaged from these lost, crushed dreams?

Naw, I’m just kidding. It deceptively feels this way at first, though we could only wish it continued. Plastic Memories is actually a love story. Yep, one unmemorable love story at that.

Tsukasa is partnered up with Isla, a petit Giftia whose only practice and profession is serving tea to her co-workers. She’s a bit of a klutz and quite shy around him, but after a few retrieval cases, the two fall for each other and become more than office co-workers. Little does Tsukasa know, Isla only has a few months remaining before she herself is to be turned in.

Built in a sci-fi setting centered on a broken concept, this anime could have gone in several more interesting directions. Had I known that it was a love story from the beginning, then maybe I could have appreciated it more. Thing is, the anime also tried to be more than romantic. Slice-of-life, comedy, and sexual teasing are all tossed in to hinder the true development of the couple. You’d have a truly touching scene at the apartment, then someone waltzes in naked, Tsukasa freaks, and the whole moment is lost; “Plastic Memories,” more like plastic emotions –  Quit toying with my feelings and cue the tender skits, please!

Also, for sacrificing the whole potential plot towards this absentminded relationship, the romance isn’t even that great! I didn’t feel any pull between Tsukasa and Isla until the end, which is obviously too late. Plastic Memories was ultimately too distracted with other elements, and thus couldn’t keep my absolute focus – But right as I decide to close out of another wasted episode, the show manages to hook me back on with a heartwarming event.

When it comes to romance, or whatever this anime decides to sport, it’s up to the characters to convey the feelings out of my heart, and very few times do they actually achieve this goal. Determined Tsukasa and shaky Isla kindly function as one and manage to keep things as genuine as possible, but the supporting cast really likes to bump heads with our leads. They’re the typical office cast: the sideline tsundere drama, the loud spoken honest boy, the soft spoken kind boy, the grungy pervert man, the boss too kind for anyone to handle, the supervisor with a stick up their ass, so on and so forth. Had the directors not spent so many episodes of Isla and Tsukasa bumbling around in stupid antics with said cast, then they could have received actual depth rather than cheap one-liners. I really wanted to like this cast, but I couldn’t get into them because anytime deep fondness was expressed, someone had to jiggle their boobs or put another in a headlock. So frustrating!

The only character I’d like to highlight is Michiru (Eva’s Asuka lookalike), a well-developed tsundere who, like the series, could have taken a very different route. It’s obvious that she harbors feelings for Tsukasa, which could have made Plamemo a stereotypical love triangle, but Michiru is not there to makes things worse. She sticks up for Isla and even tutors the two, guiding them down the love path she wishes she could walk. Thanks Michiru for not fitting the mold and being delightful all by yourself! 🙂

Previously I had not seen any anime by studio Doga Kobo, so this was joyfully new for me. Characters and their expressions are cutely designed. Architecture of this futuristic setting was handled well, too, and the colors are always bright. There are a few awkward inconsistencies when it comes to facial details, and sometimes the action transitions choppy, but none of it was particularly bad; nothing spectacular, either.

Going back and listening to it now, the OST contains several upbeat string and vocal songs, usually featuring a guitar as well. For the softer scenes, tracks like “again & again” in the first half set the mood with beautiful piano. The opening “Ring of Fortune” by Eri Sasaki also accents this beauty. Overall the OST is not standout, but sweet and supportive.

Plamemo‘s biggest problem is the fact that it starts out with several heartbreaking retrieval cases that are honestly so depressing you can’t help but shed a little water from your eyes. This exposition starts you off thinking, “Oh god, I’m going to have my heart torn to pieces by the end.” But then when the show shifts to the romance, it distracts itself with dumb antics that don’t feel they should belong in this kind of show. It was only by the final Ferris wheel scene where I could actually feel the connection.

But I couldn’t feel sad either, for after all of this nonsense in the office and quiet days at home, it was time for the show to end, which it did so happily and without regret. It’s sad and ironic to say that I won’t remember Plastic Memories all because of its misplaced foolery and nonsensical direction, but it was the one that decided to poke fun at itself, not me.

“Having happy and beautiful memories won’t always bring you salvation. The more beautiful a memory is, the more painful it can become. Both for the one who’s leaving . . . and for the one left behind.” – Isla

+ Heartbreaking first four episodes are so powerful; compelling end on par with beginning

+ Michiru’s character added depth where there was none

– Continuous, overused antics stop this anime from being memorable

– Interesting premise with varying direction, route chosen was somewhat disappointing

– Side characters lack dimension

And that concludes my thoughts on an anime that tried to juggle it all, but dropped the pins. For cafe awarding, it can be found under the “Coffee” menu. Did you have other thoughts on Plastic Memories? Leave your comments below, “like” if you enjoyed this review and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Sword Art Online II (Mother’s Rosary) Review

The Mother’s Rosary (Rosario) side story arc encompasses the last few episodes of the series Sword Art Online II, and is the most touching bit from this franchise that I’ve seen thus far. Stick around ~

A popular figure by the name of Zekken, who wields the “11-hit Original Sword Skill” that is even faster than Kirito’s skills, challenges anyone in ALO to a fight. Asuna proves worthy of challenge and, after one hell of a match, is recruited by the “Absolute Sword” to fight alongside the “Sleeping Knights.” The guild is composed of terminally ill kids who wish to leave their mark in the world by defeating Aincrad’s newest floor boss themselves. Konno Yuuki, AKA Zekken, however refuses to tell Asuna anymore than that, as time is running out for our little purple knight. All the while, Asuna’s mom grows tired of her daughter wasting valuable time in a stupid video game.

I never truly appreciated Asuna like the majority of people do – even in Aincrad I thought she was a mediocre tsundere at best. Now, with the gorgeously smooth opening fight of Asuna VS Zekken, I have a growing appreciation. But wait, it gets better! She also endures a cold relationship with her mother, both sides knowing that she must eventually sacrifice her “childish” gaming in order to improve her grades and tests for the years of coming school work. Her mother forces adulthood unto Asuna that makes her more relatable and explains her actions more reasonably. Asuna’s struggle might not be a fresh concept, but witnessing the relatability of these real-life dilemmas, in one of my favorite anime nonetheless, forces me to reinterpret Sword Art Online‘s Asuna – and for the better.

While the rest of the supporting Sleeping Knight members are kinda pushed to the side, Konno Yuuki receives much development. Because it’s necessary for a full review, SPOILER ALERT: Konno severely suffers from acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS, which ultimately disables her from any physical activity. The AmuSphere and Medicuboid technology allow her to escape into the fantasy world, and the inevitable fate made out for her – death. We all see it coming, and when it does, let the waterworks begin:'(

I was so happy when I saw the recognition given to “the most powerful swordsman,” for once, a title not for Kirito. The inspiring amount of respect players of the Alfheim world gave her was incredible; truly, a legend died that day, not a little girl. Zekken will forever be missed, both online and in reality. “There are things you can only share with someone by fighting. For instance, how serious you are.” – Konno Yuuki

The amount of love and servitude that Asuna had given Konno was unbelievably generous. For her last few weeks, Asuna worked with Kirito and his mechatronics knowledge to bring Yuuki to school and her own house one last time, similar to his experiment with their digital daughter, Yui. I also have to mention the respect that Kirito had, backing down to support Asuna and her fight with the Sleeping Knights. What a gentle boy :3

And the opening – it’s the same great song with new visuals! It’s subtle but made all the difference. I’m loving the sharp violet resonance and pretty scenery of Alfheim 😀 The opening and these past two side stories have really changed my opinion of ALO altogether.

Although depressing, this last arc provides the much needed embellishment of Asuna’s character and introduced a small but very rememberable character. SAO impresses me the more I watch it, so I hope to see more wonderful content full of enchanting music, charming characters and high quality animation.

Sword Art Online II is tons of thrilling fun and concludes with a strong, heartwarming finish. I give this series a thumbs up and fully recommend it to fans of the first. If you haven’t seen either seasons, then you’re missing out! Well, at least for this season. Thanks so much for reading and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Attack on Titan Review

I actually watched the anime this past summer and my god, why didn’t I see it earlier? I guess I was put off by its gruesomeness and the fact that it looked too . . . I don’t want to say stupid, but seriously, it looked dumb. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but whatever; I gave it a go since it was so popular. Well, let me fully retract that outdated statement and write wrong (cause this is a written review, get it) with my anime review of the epic, Shingeki no kyoujin – Attack on Titan! Caution: a spoiler or two ahead!

Mankind retreated behind 50 meter tall walls Maria, Rose, and Sina in order to survive an onslaught of giants known as titans. To avoid extinction, humans began to fight, at first by cannon fire, but soon by omni-directional mobility gear, AKA their little hook-shot gas-powered motors that let them fly. Now in year 845, the “colossal titan” breaks a hole in the outermost wall, Maria, causing the titans to flood in. Eren Jaeger, a witness to his mother’s death by titan, vows to “destroy every last one.” Humanity must rise to fight once again, willing to sacrifice everything, or else be eaten alive by the blood n’ flesh-coated terrors!

Attack on Titan has outrageous pacing. Five years fly in five minutes, while one afternoon might span nine episodes. I didn’t really fancy that aspect, as it meant that there would be periods of epic combat followed by droughts of political chatter. I also found myself lost in their debates on occasion because they talk like real politics, speaking for the good of people and for themselves.

To counter those many moments of boredom or repetition, AoT did something truly neat. At the end of each episode, they would reveal something stunning, be it another way to defeat the titans, a death of a character, or a secret key to the underlying plot. Those last few seconds caused the series to roll and roll and roll until you found yourself out of episodes to view! The show is a bolder on a hill, only gaining momentum until it inevitably crashes into a house or a tree . . . or a wall . . .

All of the characters in Attack on Titan are just amazing. Even the guy who just cries about giving up his life like 300 times! They are all important because they symbolize the one thing that drives this show: fear, and what better way to represent such a characteristic than with the masses of soldiers marching to their inevitable death? Specifically speaking, Eren Jaeger is a badass! Like seriously, he is my favorite character, as he makes me remorseful when he makes mistakes, flinch when he takes on pain, and he makes me internally cry when he suffers. There are very few characters that have the balls like Eren does, and I respect that. God I love Eren.

And that’s not all, Mikasa, Armin, Jean and the rest are all just so cool. Mikasa’s amazing skills along with her faith in Eren and Armin make her a very strong female lead. I can see why many people like her. Sure many of the characters don’t have back stories, but they are not necessary to the plot, for before the titans came, they lived average lives. The squad members are brave, cowardly, innocent, greedy, appealing, dark and human. For once, there is a cast that actually fears the enemy to death! “Why risk my damn life out there when I could be with my family?” They make me stronger the more I think about them. By the way, the deaths in this anime are realistically carried out. I honestly felt sick when they were bringing in carts of the dead. It makes me realize that “this world is so very beautiful, yet so cruel (Mikasa Ackerman).” As a side note for those who haven’t seen this series, this is where that “potato girl” is; took me a while to figure that out LOL.

I was drawn away from the animation, but after finishing the series I was totally used to it. The bold lines on faces and on character outlines drove me insane at first. They do, however, add to the intensity of the show, so maybe that is why they are there. Regardless, it is interesting and new. Also, the fight scenes are beautifully choreographed from many angles, making them thrilling to the bone! The effective use of CGI in the buildings and ODM gear is also spectacularly done. By far one of my favorite action anime; it’s worth watching just for that.

Along with great animation is an epic soundtrack that beckons with awesomeness! Hiroyuki Sawano, the guy who composed such brilliance, did a very good job at keeping up with the thrill and suspense that is generated by Attack on Titan. My favorite parts of the OST would be when the chimes are just hammered away on, creating a creepy and rushing feel that was to die for! I also love both of the openings, “Crimson Bow and Arrow” and “The Wings of Freedom” by Linked Horizon. While the first one keeps with the idea of fear and death, the second song is about celebration, breaking free, and victory. Both songs accurately depict Attack on Titan. The show couldn’t have had better openings. Seriously, go listen to them, like now.

Attack on Titan is a visual masterpiece, telling the tale of humanity’s fear of something that is above them on the food chain. Would we act in the same manner? This anime is worth the watch for anyone who can stand the bloody gore of human flesh being ripped apart. Other than that, this show has a nice set of characters that will inspire you to be stronger, physically and mentally. The show is thrilling from the very beginning up until the last seconds of the final episode. It’s seriously great, so check it out if you haven’t done so already. Once you get past the first episode, though, you might as well finish the rest of the series – it’s that addicting.

Presently, the limited edition copy of parts one and two in the exclusive ender box that is available by FUNimation entertainment with a wonderful dub (besides Eren’s English voice being a little too raspy for me) and subs included rests valiantly on my shelf, awaiting my next visit to the year 845 – the year that “mankind received a grim reminder. We lived in fear of the titans, and were disgraced to live in these cages we called walls (Eren Jaeger).”

Thank you so much for reading my opinions on Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan! Did you watch this anime, if so, what did you think of it? Please feel free to leave a comment below! Until next time, this is all that is on today’s menu.

– Takuto, your host