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

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Chill Season is Here | End of September Update 10/3/17

Hey everyone, what’s up? I did a header image thingy for an update! Like it?

Cool weather is finally here, ahh, yes, no more 100-degree F days. I’m in college now, in case you didn’t know that, and hey, I’m surviving (yay)! While I haven’t been utterly dumped with challenging homework yet, I am keeping busy, what with symphony orchestra and the long hours of practice that accompany it.

With all this “extra time,” I’ve done a lot of anime watching, some manga reading, and more posting. That’s always exciting. Now I have to get over the second slump—catching up on the millions of comments I’ve left unanswered. If I haven’t hunted you down in my posts yet, don’t worry, I will! I just need more energy within myself to keep the conversation going, and that can be tough. Blogging is a social sport, after all.

But slowly and steadily I am catching up. Painfully slowly, but it’s better than no progress at all. Anyway, let’s briefly check out what I’ve watched, read, and written within the past couple months!

RECENTLY FINISHED:

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Netoge: And you thought there is never a girl online?—I’ve finally signed up for a Funimation Now account, and this was one of the first shows I decided to watch. At the time, I was looking to satisfy simple needs: pretty characters, comedy, and a dash of nerd humor. And what do you know, Netoge was perfect for the job! I loved this show, and I’m not gonna lie, being able to stream a dub LEGALLY felt pretty good. This was my first time hearing Dallas Reid as Hideki “Rusian” Nishimura, and though I spent a lot of time deciding whether I liked him or not, I finally decided that if I kept needing to debate it, then he likely did a good job at it. We’ll likely hear A LOT more from Dallas Reid in upcoming dubs, I can just feel it. Anyway, fun show. Would watch more, but I likely won’t follow the novels.

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Saga of Tanya the Evil—After Netoge, I was craving something gritty, loaded with dark humor and kickass characters. Remembering Tanya from a couple seasons back as a big hit, I booted up the first episode on Crunchyroll and couldn’t put it down after that. Solid action, fantastic cast, and an engaging story of man vs. fate, or in this case, “bird mouth” Tanya vs. the cruel God who laughs from on high. It was just such a solid production that it left me here screaming, “WhErE iS sEaSoN tWo?!” I definitely plan to follow Tanya’s scheming and mocking of God in the novel series, which sees its first release I believe this winter. Awesome, high energy show that never lets up. When I watch the dub, expect a review!

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Aria the Animation—I participated in the huge Aria Kickstarter by Nozomi Entertainment AKA RightStuf back in September. At first, I donated blindly at the limited edition. Then I thought, “How stupid am I? Am I really going to blindly throw $60 at a title I don’t even know if I’d like??” And just as I questioned myself, Crunchyroll put the first season on their site to help with the campaign. After a watch of the first season, I can comfortably say that my gamble was a worthwhile one. Hopefully the +$200 that went into it will be everything that I wanted and more.

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Sailor Moon S—Awww yeah, I continue to knock through Viz’s releases of the beloved 90s series and I absolutely loved every bit of it! As a child, this was basically the first anime I was ever introduced to without knowing what anime was. It brought my whole experience of running around with sparkly ribbons and costumes full circle, and by the end (which I had never previously seen or known), I couldn’t help but melt down into an emotional wreck. I could never review a series that’s this close to heart, let alone slap a numerical rating on it, but maybe for an OWLS post or something I’ll get to dig out this series once again. Looking forward to seeing Crystal III this winter with all my heart—PLANET POWER!!!!

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Death Parade—This one you might recognize from my birthday haul! And while it’s quite up on this list, I actually started it in August and finished it just a day ago (hahaha that’s what I get for trying to watch it with my sister). Anyway, it was a wicked cool trip through the afterlife, and can’t help but think that the series needed something more for its ending . . . maybe for a future installment, right? It wasn’t as 10/10 masterpiece as everyone was making it out to be, but it was dark and fun, which is what exactly what I pegged the series for. Maybe I’ll review it, maybe I won’t. We’ll see.

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Code Geass: Akito the Exiled—Another from the b-day haul, yay! After breezing through the original Code Geass this past summer with my siblings, I was craving more of the universe. This calling just happened to be answered by Funimation’s rescue release of this spinoff, which takes place between the two halves of the original series overseas in the European Union. The dub had accents for the French and other nationalities represented, which was kind of a neat touch. I especially loved Jeannie Tirado’s resilient yet caring Leila Malcal. CG was used for the mechs this time around, and while one might find that originally distracting, the wild and dynamic movement and cinematography made for some excellent fights. My only great disappointment with it was the lack of involvement from returnees LELOUCH VI BRITANNIA and Suzaku Kururugi, as they were the main reason I even wanted more Geass. Oh well, cool show nevertheless.

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Shin Godzilla—It’s not anime, but it certainly counts for the reason I wanted to watch it: Evangelion. Director. Hidaeki Anno. Need I say more? Well, HAH, I wont’ actually, because a review of this titanic hit is coming very soon, so keep an eye out!

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Orange (anime and manga)—YES, I read some manga, and YES, it was an entry ruled off of the loooong backlog!! When the books were released and the anime adaptation of it aired, the ONLY thing people talked about was Orange. That popularity has since calmed down greatly, but the series is still definitely not one to be missed—especially that manga, dang! (I can officially recommend some manga to people, this is so fun!) The anime dedicates one episode to each chapter or two, so the pacing is absolutely flawless in terms of time/scene adaptation. Each frame of the manga held so much gorgeous facial expression, and the characters were each quirky yet very attractive. I wish the anime kept up with the quality on that front, but hey, taking a picture is easier than a video, I get it. Also, the manga was significantly more emotional than the series was. I’m not sure if that was just because I knew how it was all going to end, but hmm, yeah if someone wants the tear-jerker route, read the books. Both are still wonderful!

As a last note, though I never did actually cry, I was significantly touched by the morals of friendship, and how something so simple as friends can create beautiful moments and prevent terrible tragedies. It’s all about treasuring what we have, together, and living within each moment, not through them. I based my entire September OWLS post on the Orange manga, so if you’d like a spoiler free rundown on what it presents us with, consider checking it out! It gained a lot of traffic, and I consider it to be one of my bests posts because of how it was received. So, thank you if you decide to read it (link right here)!

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Re:CREATORS—OOH, OOH, now THIS is a show that saved itself during its run!! I was so happy with how it ended, and I won’t lie, I didn’t think the series had it in itself to finish with both story and emotional satisfaction, but it did, and because if that I do plan to review it! Until then, my lips are sealed—just go watch it!!

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Katsugeki TOUKEN RANBUKatsugeki had it all: incredible animation production, excellent digital effects by Ufotable, epic music by the composer of Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works]‘s score, a solid franchise, and, of course, an overly supportive fanbase. So where did it go wrong? My theory is that it simply didn’t use the weight of each mission to fully impact the characters. From what I gathered, this is supposed to be a predominately character-driven franchise, so by not involving all of the characters, it walked away with only a couple of decently developed studs. Not to offend the fangirls, but it didn’t help when they decided to add a second wave of characters—the flashy First Unit—into the mix. Now you have +12 characters running around and all I can say was that the finale was very pretty. It was all more along the lines of “not my cup of tea” than “it sucked.”

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My Hero Academia Season 2—Bro, who wasn’t watching MHA this past season, cause like, dang! I thought the first was pretty good, but this second pulls out all the stops, especially with the famous TOURNAMENT ARC in the first half. Hell, I marathoned that shit cause I didn’t want to watch it at the time, and even though the Hero Killer/Hosu Incident Arc was a bit of a slump for me, I realize the importance it will have on not only the heroes but the villains as well. I won’t say too much more because I’d like to review it, but let’s just say it inspired me so much that I’ll be cosplaying the KING Todoroki #bestboy. Also, the first OP and the second ED were FIRE, man! Can’t stop listening!

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DIVE!!—So many thoughts. So much conflict. I think I like this show? See, I’m on the fence: I’ve admitted to the fact that this show did not turn out so well, but you can still like something that’s complete trash. I want to believe there is something of sustenance in this show, and that’s a very hard thing to do. It looks like I’ll be a bit against the crowd on this one, but don’t worry, I know that it’s garbage LOL. Review coming soon for sure!

CURRENTLY WATCHING:

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Tsuredure Children—Last spring’s trashiest show made its way to my Funi account and now I’m watching the dub. Not the greatest dub, but it’ll suffice for what I’m after: romantic nonsense. I want to watch curious kids fail miserably and hilariously with their love lives . . . is that sad? Beats me, but Tsuredure is defs fillin’ the cup up! It’s lighthearted, humorous, and charming in its own way, so sure, I’ll keep tagging along.

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Knight’s & Magic—Started this one yesterday night out of straight curiosity since half of the crowd said it was awesome and the other half hated it. I tend to like things that nobody else does, so here I come Ernesti! Episode one was good so far, but I can totally understand why people thought him being from another world was kinda pointless. I mean, in Saga of Tanya of Evil, it was part of the dude’s sin cycle, but here, IDK, Ernesti could’ve been a child genius and that would’ve rolled better with everyone. Anyway, the main reason I want to watch it is because the mechs look cool, so there’s that.

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I Hear the Sunspot—This is actually a manga that was recommended by Simply Gee over on YouTube. She found it to be lighthearted, soft, and simple; a story that doesn’t need to do very much to make our hearts warm. And she’s absolutely right. It follows a squirrely young college boy named Taichi who can’t seem to hold a job without getting into fights. This particularly sucks because he’s always hungry, that is, until stumbles upon Kohei, a quiet fellow college student who has a hearing disability. The two make a deal: Taichi be his note-taker and Kohei will provide him with free lunch!

Thus we watch the two struggle to understand just what they mean to one another, and how a problem isn’t too big of a problem when two people deal with it together. It’s got just the faintest touch of shounen-ai, but don’t let that turn you off—in fact, it’s half the magic. You’ll never know how friendly the two will get, but I’m willing to follow them throughout this standalone volume. Apparently it’s author Yuki Fumino’s first manga (which is overly impressive, my god), and due to its success, a sequel is on the way, hooray!

FALL SIMULCASTS:

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Fate/Apocrypha—I’m starting to understand characters, motives, and plugging their historical pasts with the present war. Apocrypha is getting better, but it’s still pretty rough given that only one servant has bit the bullet and we’re already halfway into this thing. I just hope they don’t start knockin’ down characters one by one. That always sucks. I don’t have much else to report on this one other than that it’s still engaging, action-packed, and rich with ancient lore. Did I ever mention the soundtrack? Besides the twisted Egoist OP (which I did finally decide that I like), the epic strings and main melody behind the show is just fantastic!

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Welcome to the BallroomBallroom is, ergmm, more fun to watch when it’s moving. There are SO many still shots it’s insane! And this is done by Production I.G.—aren’t they a powerhouse in the anime industry? That’s not to say that each frame is bad (cause they’re all friggin’ gorgeous), but man, it’s a sports show that requires a great deal of movement—so GIVE IT TO US, PLEASE! Otherwise it can sometimes be hard or embarrassing to watch. On several occasions during the first half’s Tenpei Cup, Tatara makes a comment on Gaju’s moves (“so powerful;” “oh he messed up here;” “he’s doing ___ move”), but then we see . . . nothing, it’s a SINGLE FRAME. Between the lack of movement, the loss of the season’s good first OP and ED, and the introduction of a potential new partner,  I just hope Ballroom knows what it’s doing in this second half.

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Food Wars! The Third Plate—Not much to say. It’s more Food Wars! and that’s about the best thing you could have for this fall season! I’m eagerly awaiting a tango with the Totsuki Elite Ten (dat alliteration tho) and all of the funny antics to follow! Cheers to more food porn!

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Juni Taisen: Zodiac War—The only reason I’m going to watch this series is because it sounds like the Holy Grail War. It’s a survival game; personifications of each Zodiac animal come to life and duke it out for the chance to make a wish come true (or at least I think that’s what it’s about). Sounds cool, looks cool, sure, count me in.


Blogging Projects

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Let’s see, in the last “Cafe Talk” I wrote about how “Having Unpopular Opinions Can Suck,” where I finalized my thoughts on the 2017 Ghost in the Shell Live-Action (spoiler alert: I loved it), as well as how frustrating it can be when nobody takes your side. There, I’ve jotted down just a few of my own “unpopular opinions,” so if you’re curious or feel I’m relatable, check that out. I’ve shared several great conversations with people on that post in the comments section, which is awesome—that’s what it’s there for!!! I’ll see if I can get on and answer some more soon!

I also recently partnered up with fellow gaming blogger NekoJonez on his expansive Legend of Zelda project, which brings in 13 of us to tackle the entire franchise from the first game to the latest. It was a surprisingly great deal of fun, especially at the end with those last couple hours before show time, and I made some awesome friends while reminiscing on a greatly beloved title. Honestly, it opened my eyes to the possibility of future collabs and projects with bloggers, but perhaps I should build up my own personal brand a bit more, right? Who knows, but I had a very fun time, and that’s all that matters in the end. Here are the games I covered if you are curious about Gaming Takuto!

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The Great Sea: Phantom Hourglass

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The New World: Spirit Tracks

I’m Tired of Playing Catch-Up

Whew! What an update! It’s just as large as last time’s, which means I need to get back to monthly ones, not this bimonthly nonsense! I mean, who wants to stick around for nearly 3,000 words of “I did this, and that, and didn’t do a lot of something else . . .” But inconvenience is how I roll, right guys? Haha, moving on.

I guess my biggest challenge right now isn’t “not wanting to write” as much as I’m sick and tired of playing catch-up! There are just WAY to many posts I want to read and comments that I need to respond to that, when I find myself going to draft another post, I just sigh at all of the responsibilities that should come first: responding to my readers, to my guests. What kind of host leaves their customer without their order? Not a very good one, that’s for sure. I’ll work on this more for this month as my biggest goal, and hopefully I can get out of this rut that I’ve sat in for MONTHS now.

I’m tired of playing catch-up, so I’ll change that. 🙂

I’m curious to know what you guys are following this fall season! Also, did you read any good manga or light novels recently? The new SAO series coming soon makes me want to purchase and read the Alicization books, as apparently it’s the best part of the franchise so far. But time is short, so we’ll see. ALSO INDEX III WAS ANNOUNCED HOLY CRAP I THOUGHT IT’D NEVER HAPPEN!!!! Now if we could just get an adaptation of Railgun’‘s Level Six Shift Arc, I could die happily with that franchise. I hope nicer weather has made its way to you as it has me, cause I’m partying in my fall jackets and hoodies now! Hahaha, take care you guys, until next time~!

– Takuto, your host

“Orange” is Sweet & Sour, Yet All The More Beautiful | OWLS “Treasure”

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!” As part of the OWLS blog tour’s  ninth monthly topic, “Treasure,” I decided to incorporate what would have been my standard review of the Orange manga into a cautionary yet hopeful look at the realm of teen suicide, and how, as an outsider, it is okay feel unsure when warning signs are observed.

There are moments in our lives where we lose our sense of self-worth and value and as a result, we find ourselves deep in darkness or drowning in the ocean. However, every person in this world is a treasure—we treasure ourselves or we are treasured by others—and at times, we may need to be reminded of that. We will be exploring characters who have suffered from mental illnesses, depression, and/or suicide, and then discussing how these individuals cope with these issues, the reasons for their emotions, and how they handled the situations they were in.

For as long as I’ve been avoiding it, alas, there’s no going around the major theme of suicide in Orange, so thanks for the prompt, Lyn! This is also my first manga review, so wish me luck!

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A brief spoiler-free discussion on the 5-volume 2012-2017 manga “Orange,” localized in the U.S. by Seven Seas Entertainment with story and art by Ichigo Takano. 

Death, Divorce, Drugs, Depression

Today, teachers will advise students to omit these four things when it comes to important college, scholarship, or job essays/interviews. This is likely because your employers and admissions offices do not want your pity; they want to hear about your strengths, a time you overcame tough odds, or maybe a moment of positive character development in your lifetime—NOT about the pitiable setbacks along the way.

But if these four items have become such crucial parts in the great cycle of life, why mightn’t you want to write about how you didn’t let the divorce of your parents or attempt at suicide ultimately stop you, or convey how even though drugs might’ve ruled your past that they would not own your future?

Ok, real talk. Depression is, well, depressing. Drugs are weird. And let’s face it, having to console someone about their “recently late” Aunt Susie can be extremely awkward, both for the you and the other party, rest-assured. It’s hard to talk about suicide and say “just the right thing” at “just the right time.” When is that time? Is it my fault for not knowing? It’s all just so . . . pressuring, so time consuming, and your boss probably doesn’t have the time to seat you on the sofa and listen to you express all your life’s troubles.

As much as I hate to say it, business and education are professional. Save your need of counseling for the counselor.

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I’ve Been Running for So Long

All this and more is why I avoid the Four D’s, both on my papers and here on the most informal of blogs. I try not to talk about specific real problems—negative aspects, terrible people, worrisome events—we face daily, but instead offer to celebrate the good that can come from something, even if that bit of positivity is ultimately (and knowingly) insignificant or greatly overpowered. Death and depression are hard to talk about for many, and the last thing I want to do is try consoling someone when I’d probably end up making things worse.

We don’t always get to make that decision, however, as entertainment has integrated these kinds of issues into their stories and characters. I might hear that a certain manga or anime is a “masterpiece of emotional conflict,” yet as soon as I hear “mental illness,” I won’t lie, I get turned off.

This brings me back to Orange, a brief tale about THE WORLD’S GREATEST GROUP OF FRIENDS and their willingness to alter time—risking the wonderful future in store for themselves—in order to prevent the inevitable suicide of a troubled young boy, their newfound beloved, treasured friend. It’s a story so short, powerful, and highly regarded of that it just couldn’t be ignored anymore, and descending into darkness proved well-worth the risks.

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To You, in the Past

The start of Naho Takamiya ‘s junior year in high school was unlike any other: for the first time, Naho overslept, which was also her first mistake. That morning a letter made its way to her, but she was too busy trying to make it to school on time. When she finally arrives, her teacher announces a new transfer student by the name of Kakeru Naruse. According to the letter (which she now has some time to scope out), he’ll sit next to her. And just like clockwork, the teacher seats him in the back right next to her.

To her disbelief, Naho realizes she stumbled upon a letter from herself ten years in the future, which chronicles her everyday emotions and actions for the next six or so months. It’s not until shortly after Naho and her four other friends invite Kakeru to walk home together after class that she, again, violated the letter’s requests: her second big mistake.

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Naho is tasked by her future self to get to know Kakeru Naruse better—to make him feel welcomed, loved, cherished, and understood—for ten years from now, Kakeru no longer walks among the living, and his loss was her greatest regret. Now unfolds a fatalistic love story that spans across time, a tale full of many emotional ups and downs.

Everyone Needs Friends Like These Guys

I find myself in the same boat as Naho; depression is hard to talk about, so she often skirts around the issue by using the excuse of “making him smile.” I suppose both technically work, but clearly, Naho has no idea how to make Kakeru happy. While I can relate to her frequent indecision and lack of self-confidence, C’MON GIRL, JUST SPIT IT OUT ALREADY. I love Naho’s cute and considerate character to death, but man, telling a guy that you have lunch for him shouldn’t be that hard. I guess it adds to Orange‘s drama, and that some social anxiety can be just as stressful as depression.

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Orange is only complicated on an emotional level, concerning itself almost exclusively with Kakeru’s depression and Naho’s inability to act the way she truly wants to. The relationship between the two of them is such a focal point that I couldn’t help but wish more of Naho’s friends played a bigger role. There’s the ever-teased soccer “giant” Suwa, a real team player, and he’s just about the best friend you could ever ask for. I’ll avoid spoilers by merely saying that he’s a funny guy full of heart, and that if anyone’s willing to take one for the team, it would absolutely be him. (Props to creating one of the most challenging love triangles ever.)

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But there are others: the girls, including the loud and cheerful Azusa and the cool, strong Takako. These two are almost always up to no good, snooping around whenever and wherever they can, but their presence makes me feel most at ease. They’re both overly caring, and despite how bratty Azu can get, or scary Takako may seem, they only mean to stick up for their friends.

Lastly there’s poor, poor glasses-kun Hagita, who likely would’ve been my favorite character had he been more than just the team’s punching bag. He’s picked on and ridiculed for nearly everything he does, but his logic and reasoning, no matter how pessimistic, often lead to the solutions everyone’s been looking for. Several times throughout the series he’s hinted on having a huge involvement with the finale (which could’ve led to something really cool), when in actuality, he’s just as equal in importance as the other girls.

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*gulp* Here We Go

It doesn’t take a second glance to see that Kakeru is dealing with his own demons. His smile may be pretty and sparkly, but underneath that shine is a whole lot of self-doubt, trauma, and shitty memories from his previous school. On top of it all, his parents are divorced, and he blames himself for his mother’s sudden suicide early on, which is what triggers the events of Orange! Well geez, it’s no wonder he’s thinkin’ about offin’ himself all the time!

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Suicide is big. It can be hard to stomach and awkward to talk about, I covered this. But because it can be so off-putting for some people, odds are that they will have a difficult time with Orange. It doesn’t help that Kakeru comes across as particularly frustrating and ungrateful. But we gotta help the guy out, that’s what we do, right? With these kinds of people and situations, we need to get as close as we can to hear them out. From there, we can only go with our gut and advise them, appreciate their efforts and tell them that  it’s almost always never their own fault, and that they are never alone.

In my opinion, Naho did what was right by involving all of her friends in on the dilemma. She took her sweet time, but thanks to plot convenience (and a neat twist), everyone becomes gung-ho about saving Kakeru. Take things slowly, sincerely, and whole-heatedly, for if you can save the life of a friend, then it’s always worth the time. You may not get it right the first time, but at least you tried.

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Regret and Happiness

I boast that one of Orange’s winning features is its short 5-volume run, but maybe that’s because I can’t take +10 volumes on suicide. Suicide plays a big role in the story, I’ll admit, but it’s not the real enemy here—regret is. As if all of the characters play supporting roles, Regret is the main antagonist (Guilt his henchman), whilst Satisfaction and Happiness work together to calm not only Kakeru’s mindset, but everyone else’s regret-filled future, too.

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It just sucks when you have to give up what could have been your dream life all because you felt a little guilty for having that blessed life in the first place.

To You, in the Future

Like the titular fruit flavor, oranges taste so sweet and delightful. That is, until you notice that subtle sour tinge. Once it stands out to you, that’s all you can taste, and the fruit no longer becomes desired for its sweetness.

Naho lives one of the coolest lives ever imaginable, surrounded by her dearest friends and caring family. But as soon as Naho experiences Kakeru’s false smile, the sourness just punches her in the gut and pushes her to the brink of tears and exhaustion. That’s when she remembers Kakeru’s value to not only herself now, but herself in the future: “Ten years from now, I’m still regretting Kakeru’s death and the fact that I didn’t even notice how he truly felt.”

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At this point, she makes a desperate call to fate, the ruler of this timeline, wishing to keep the treasure that she found—that they all found—in Kakeru’s heart. And if fate didn’t grant her this treasure, then she’d take it by force. I’m no love expert, but that’s pretty cool of Naho, and I’m glad that this sour story found its sweetness once again by the end—it just makes it all the more beautiful.

“Kakeru . . . is my greatest treasure. Please let us change Kakeru’s future . . . I will not let this be his last day.” – Naho Takamiya


What’s the moral of the story? Well, you could say “Never give up,” but I rather like the sound of “Live without regrets.” The author Ichigo Takano herself, in the epilogue, hopes that our future is a happy one, and that years from now we are still living without regrets. “If you have someone like Kakeru in your life, please find a way to save them. Every life is precious. Please treasure each and every day, the present, the moment, and yourself. Thank you very much.” 

If we notice someone displaying potential signs of any mental illness, don’t feel afraid to step out and let them know you’re with them. Never expect to know EXACTLY what they’re going through, but be prepared to get them the right help just in case. I’m excited to watch the Orange anime now, and with a LTD ED release coming this fall thanks to Funimation, I know what’ll bring my wonderful experience full circle! For now, the manga receives the “Caffe Mocha” approval rating!

A very special to Gigi (Animepalooza) over on YouTube for gifting me with the first volume as per her giveaway—without you, I would not have been allowed to experience this endearing story of romance and very attractive artwork, so many thanks again~!

This concludes my September 19th entry in the OWLS “Treasure” blog tour. Prior to me, Hazelyn (ARCHI-ANIME) wrote about reasons for living in the otome PS Vita game Collar X Malice, and just tomorrow the 20th, Crimson (Crimson is Blogging) will walk us through the Katie Green novel Lighter Than My Shadow! Thank you so much for reading, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

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Dying Tech, Fading Tans, Bargain Hunting, and Homecoming King!? | Where I’ve Been Since Mid-July

How truly nice it feels to once again be in this place, chatting about the one thing we all especially cherish: anime.

Hello all from around the globe, ‘tis I, Takuto, back with an update so large you’ll to download iOS 10 five times over just to comprehend my absence. It’s been a while . . . three months, in fact . . . so thanks for keeping the place all tidy. Speaking of, we have several thousand housekeeping items to go over concerning my return to the blogosphere and what that actually entails. Let’s get to it!

Overcoming the Computer Conundrum

I mentioned this in the July update, but if you couldn’t recall, I do not blog on my own computer. I used to have a personal laptop, but it went kaput years ago. Since then, I had just been using the laptops we loan during the school year to enter my virtual café. Naturally, when school ends in May and summer kicks in, I am without a key to here for three months until it starts back up again in August. I’ve only experienced two summers during my blogging session. The first, I borrowed the family silver laptop, which was fairly new and had sufficed at the time. This past summer I tried my luck in using the silver again, but to no avail. That one, as I said in July, and I quote:

Cannot be unplugged without it shutting off, frequently overheats itself, has lost Google and instead uses some sketchy browser (we got Chrome tho), and finally, that half of us need to use all the darn time.

Yup, and it became so bad that I just couldn’t take it anymore.

I used music camp (which was surprisingly quite pleasant, actually) in mid-July as a week-long vacation to just get away from the darn thing and ‘relax’ (cause 5-hour nights are totally soothing). The honor’s recital [that paid my entry] went by swimmingly and before I knew it, camp was over. I was planning to blog when I got back, but the computer wouldn’t let me. At that point, I just decided to take two weeks off until August when my dad would hand his mini laptop off to me.

Summer’s End, School Life is Back to Haunt Me

August came around and about a week or two in he upgraded and I inherited his gadget. At the time, I was too busy marathoning all of Fullmetal Alchemist and Brotherhood, and with the intent to finish that before school began again, blogging was out of the question.

The finale came and school resumed. I’ve never been more involved with school and community activities more than I have this year. IT’S INSANE. Not only has heavy course work kicked me in the rear (not surprised), but extracurricular activities execute projects of incomprehensible size, resulting in one tired Takuto.

Lifeguarding season has also come to a close, which means that my tan is sayin’ “PEACE OUT” and fleeing my skin at an incredible pace. That especially sucks since I spent three months cultivating that damn beauty. *dies*

Obliterating the Café Funds

Haha, no I don’t get paid to blog. But I’m sure many of us living in the South and Midwest have caught wind of the chain book/movie/music/game store Hastings announcing its bankruptcy. In preparation for that, I had probably spent well over $200 on myself, and have received over $200 worth of manga and blu-rays in the form of birthday gifts (thanks fam!). I am both mentally and physically drained from casual over-spending and dozens of spontaneous trips when the original plan was to blow it all on FUNimation’s recent collector’s edition releases. I suppose you could say it’s money well-spent, because now instead of getting Haruhi or Code Geass, I have obtained over 10 titles for the same price. It was a lot up front, but I’m sure the experiences I will have shall eventually pay it all forward.

King Takuto

Ohhh, where to start on this one . . .! So, sometime a couple weeks back I got the announcement that I, among 14 fellow classmates, were chosen to be 2016 Homecoming Candidates. For those who didn’t notice (because I try to keep it discreet), I am a high-school senior. Yup. Hope that doesn’t startle anyone too much. Anyway, the candidates are chosen by the senior class, and then the entire student body votes on one boy and one girl to be crowned King and Queen . . . Hehe, I’m that boy. When they gave the candidate announcement that morning, I immediately knew that, deep down, 14 of us had won—Two of us just happened to win again during the night of the crowning.

I felt so very humbled by all of my peers. There’s no other word to describe it than that. Humbled. So very humbled. If you would have asked me about all this a day before the announcement, I would have laughed at you hard. Super hard. I mean, there was NO WAY that little ol’ me was to be a candidate, let alone the man of the hour. The idea of being accepted by the majority of those who had voted . . . no words could describe . . . I’m honestly still speechless about the whole thing, even though I know full well that, within a year, none of it would matter anymore.

You can go ahead and address me as “King Taku—-

Where do we go from here?

Hmm, good question. I don’t see much point in making up the past couple of monthly updates, because this is it—I’ve been occupied with things other than blogging. One thing has changed, however, that being my system of reviewing. Previously, I reviewed a title every single time I finished a show. That’s right, each and every show. I’ve come to realize that that is not the best idea, for now whenever I think “Ah, I have some downtime—let’s watch some anime,” that thought also comes hand in hand with “Welp, now I must force myself to write up a formal review.” That isn’t necessarily healthy, for it led me to a period where I neither wanted to blog nor watch anime, which totally defeats the purpose of having a blog in the first place! You may have seen my experimentation in fighting the strain of a formal review with my “5 Ballistic Reasons You Should Watch Girls und Panzer” post. Now that I’ll only be reviewing anime that I want to say something about, reviews, “café talks,” and other related content like simulcast thoughts shall gradually be returning to the menu.

Speaking of, here are all of the anime I completed between July and now:

Fullmetal Alchemist, Space Patrol Luluco, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Planetarian, Psycho-Pass 2, SCHOOL-LIVE!, Ranma 1/2 (Viz Set 2), Sailor Moon

Currently Watching:

The Ambition of Oda Nobuna, Sailor Moon R

You’re pretty cool . . . How can we keep in touch?

For direct, unrelated-to-posts conversation and hilarity, seek out my Twitter @TakutoAnimeCafe. Want to know what I’m always watching? My MAL account under the name takuto27 is constantly being updated 24/7, so if you notice I’m watching a show you also enjoy, message me—let’s talk! And of course, there is also the option of leaving comments on my posts. (I’ll get on all those that I missed!) There is also a blog email now (hooray!), so if you want to talk privately, yet don’t have these forms of social media, check out takutoanimecafe@gmail.com for sure!

I miss you all—What have you been working on?

With the new schedule, I won’t be able to read every post that comes from everyone I follow like I usually do. Sorry, that’s the truth. But if you know me, I always (and will continue to do) my damnedest to keep up with y’all! Now. What do I want from you? PLEASE leave in the comments UP TO THREE posts you wrote [during my absence] that you feel confident in sharing with me. I WILL READ AND COMMENT ON THEM, ABSOLUTELY!! Sorry I have to cap it off at 3, but there will be time later down the line for me to scan through your guys’ blogs. If you don’t leave me your posts, I will not immediately catch up with you, which would be totally tragic!

2-year-anniversary

While we’re on tragic, I missed this by over a month!! Happy 2nd Birthday Takuto’s Anime Cafe! Here’s to many more to come~!

. . . So that’s about it. I’m back in my café with the customers who are like family to me. This time, I will try even harder to expand my reach to new folks, keep up with all of my current friends, and write better content that will make me proud. My break was crazy, but lots of fun and full of memories to treasure forever. Stay on the lookout for my first back-in-action post, for I have quite a few things in mind to discuss, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host ~^.^~

~ It’s never too late to hit up the café—Follow Takuto the host today! ~

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Did I ever mention that over 10 people followed me while I wasn’t even here?? You guys are seriously awesome!

End of August Update 9/2/15

Hello all, ’tis I, Takuto, back with the usual update ~

As many of you know, the 30-Day Song Challenge has been draining my already-minuscule breaks from daily labor. I hope you have been enjoying the music, by the way, as I certainly have picked up playlists of great songs recommended by some of your challenges :> On another exciting note, I just posted day 20, which means only 10 left!! Then all will be back to normal; “Cafe Talks” and anime reviews for all! (Click here to view the previous 20 days of the song challenge if you missed any. You know want to) Just click on a day to revisit the music 😀

With that said, I’ve also had virtually no time to watch anime. I’ve been reading a chapter or two here and there of the Pandora Hearts manga, an ongoing battle I’ve been fighting to finish my first manga series, but I suppose that’s not anime. Planning to hop into Hyouka with a clean slate as soon as the challenge is over, I’ve been prepping myself by drafting my Nagi-Asu review when I can eke out the spare minutes.

But let’s move onto what I have been following, shall we? I’ll give you a hint: There’s nothing new -_-

Recently Finished:

Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea – Oh lawd, no, why did this one have to end?? This anime probably took the cake as my anime of the summer (remember, simulcast break?). Enjoyable characters, lovely story, engaging drama, and the art and animation MAKES ME MELT even though it’s such a cool show >.< Just everything about this one is precious – so precious, in fact, that I once again gave Aniplex my left leg (cause they already had my right) in exchange for the first DVD set with the English dub! Now, my birthday order is still “Pending Fulfillment,” which I shot Rightstuf a question regarding it today, as it has been a week and my order still hasn’t shipped. But I’m working it out, so cross your toes it gets here soon (maybe I’ll do a birthday gift haul if you’re interested)!

Currently Watching:

Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma – Let me just start by saying that this has been the greatest simulcast I’ve probably ever watched. In the last few episodes, all of the chefs-in-training had been working diligently to find the perfect spice to use in the upcoming competition, which I think will determine the new members of this 10-seated hierarchy. The anime seems to be building up to this climax, so the next time we meet for this show, it’ll probably be the season review. Nikumi, Takumi, Megumi, kid in Polar Star Dorm with the maroon hair who smokes (grills) everything, and Soma – Give it your all!!

The Heroic Legend of Arslan – Thank heavens that the whole Rajendra side plot is over! I was about to keel over and drop the show entirely. With Lord Silvermask back in the picture, Arslan and crew reach the final buildup to this wartime drama, if I can even call it that. I wanted more characterization with Arslan’s inner party, like Gieve x Farangis, Elam x Alfreed, and Narsus being Narsus, but I don’t think we’re gonna get anymore. Bummer. BUT, the latest episode with Etoile’s reappearance, disguised as a girl, really has improved the story tenfold. I actually felt emotional connection with Arslan. Hopefully the anime continues with more moments like this in store, but for now, all we can do is wait it out. Episode 19’s end card supported ravishing artwork of the graceful Farangis, which I honestly loved so much it’ll probably be this post’s head pic ~

EEP, that’s it? Gosh, umm, okay. Short is good sometimes, right? Like you, this song challenge has been fun, but I CANNOT wait to get back on the review trail. I’ve got several “Cafe Talks” in store, too, so if you enjoyed sitting around the cafe sippin’ that espresso with crema on top or that delicious caffè latte, then you can look forward to that 🙂 My, how these months have flown by. Where I live, we’re sliding into the autumn season, so maybe the weather will get cooler. I need this ridiculous 100-degree F heat to just go away! I guess that’ll do it. Thank you for reading, I’m eager to see what September will bring us. Until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host