Author has written 6 stories for Zatch Bell, Lucky Star, and Touhou Project.
I'm a shut-in who writes stories.
Come, stay, have a look at some anime reviews.
(Note: ratings are arbitrary and sometimes not even given.)
JOJO'S BIZARRE ADVENTURE (Season 1)
So I don’t really consider myself that big on watching anime, but at the same time I’ve had my own share of experiences with it. And there comes a point where I don’t even remember even the names of the latest shows I’ve watched, and even though I could tell you whether I liked them or not, I wouldn’t remember why. So here’s an attempt at documenting my (naïve) thoughts on particular anime, hoping to justify my gut feelings here and there in the form of writing, and maybe earn the right to actually call myself an anime fan.
First off, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (I’m going to call it JJBA from now on) was an entertaining one. It was action-packed, full of character, intense scenarios, and even a gratuitous announcer for the spectators. You have Jonathon Joestar, blessed with a sense of righteousness as well as sculpted biceps, along with protagonist status, who you know is going to be a tough force against evil. And then you have Joseph, who is cunning, humorous, and who inherits a heart of gold from his grandfather. Throw in some magic, evil (in the form of immortals and vampires), an alternate historical setting, and you have a series. Now, I don’t want to make it sound so easy to make up something like JJBA, but this is just to get a sense of just how simple the original creator made it to be.
The storytelling is what I’d like to focus on, since that is, to me, the most important aspect of any series. From the surface, the focus seems to be drawn to the appearance of characters, namely the body physique (courtesy of 80’s manga), clothing, poses, character move sets … all things that some people might consider “superficial.” But hey, who said you can’t have a good story as well? As a whole, the series was very character-centric, and sooner or later, the personality of each character started to make a huge impact on the storytelling. And here is where humor comes in. Part 2 of the series had plenty of it (the taxi scene being one of the few examples I remember), and this was mostly thanks to Joseph’s character. Humor is rarely reliable enough to be a selling point, and there were many gag attempts sprinkled throughout. But here, Joseph was a solid enough character - and protagonist - that I eventually began to accept his humor, the same way you would accept the humor of someone you respect.
That being said, there are a few things about the storytelling that feel a little awkward. Dio Brando, the embodiment of evil (not Scarlet Devil) comes off a bit unbelievable as a character. (No, not that he was unbelievably evil – it’s that… actually, yes. He was evil in an unbelievable kind of way.) Have you ever met someone who wanted to take over the world just for the sake of taking over the world? In real life, when someone wants to dominate the world, it is usually under a certain vision, whether it be religious doctrine, eugenics, loyalty from the people, etc. I’m not too sure which one of these Dio fits into. And more often than not, these so-called world dominators try to justify themselves. Dio has not. For all I know, he is always going to be “the guy that Jojo has to stop,” and nothing more.
Another thing that is a little off is the handling of the protagonists. When you have a protagonist square off against a deadly opponent in a life-threatening battle, you’d normally be worried. Here, I was not. This might be because the protagonist status is a reliable insurance against death, but… dub step? Yes. The flurry of action in battle is sometimes accompanied by music that made it feel as though I was watching two gladiators battling in a coliseum of bright colors and heavy beats, instead of having to fear for the life of a character I was supposed to grow attached to. One scene I’d like to draw attention to (and this is purely subjective) is when the pillar men conjure up the rings to place inside Joseph’s body – I thought that was hilarious. (One ring’s not enough? Now try TWO!) Dammit, now I feel like I just confessed to being an asshole.
Overall the series has been enjoyable so far, and I’m definitely going to watch the second season. There were times between the episodes where I didn’t mind not marathoning through, though. So far, I can’t tell how the series is going to be in the later episodes, since just about everything in the series is unpredictable. What I will keep an eye out for would be new characters and their personalities, and if I’m lucky, some more humor that clicks
ATTACK ON TITAN
Attack on Titan is one of those anime where once you've started watching it, you will most likely not be heard from for the next week or so as long as there is such thing as a "next episode." It's not hard to see why the series has such a large following. Mostly everything about it, from the destruction wrought upon whatever remained of civilization, to the size of the titans, to the background music that captures every scene of horror and spectacle, is large in scale. What's more, it somehow feels "realistic." Realistically speaking, this is how humanity would react to a sudden appearance of terrorizing giants. If they were to appear. This is how civilization would structure its military, its mental disposition, and its raging political conflicts. IF they were to appear. The series takes its realism to an even greater level by explaining, in the mid-show breaks, little intricacies like how the maneuver gears work, how the heights of each of the walls differ from one another, the dimensions of the giants, etc. (I might have made some of those up, but you get my point.) Yes, this series demands your full attention. And it deserves your full attention.
If anything, I would say that the number one goal of the series is to suck you in. Once you're in its grip, it makes sure to keep and retain you with its straightforward storyline (Is there anyone who actually wanted Eren to be gone forever after being eaten?), a protagonist with an iron will (and also the ability to find cowardly idiots to argue with), and cliffhangers and unanswered questions that are dealt out on a regular basis.
With a show so full of angst and horror, as well as hope, the series captures the emotions of everyone as if something like this really were to happen. But when a show repeatedly puts its viewers through the figurative "emotional" wringer, I hate to admit it, but the effect dulls a little over time. Had the show been just a little more aggressive in portraying Eren as a titan-killing machine of bitter revenge, that would have been exactly how I see him, and nothing more. (Mikasa too, but just a little more levelheaded.) I don't mean this as a criticism though. It's hard to relate to anyone in the world of AoT, having grown up in a titan-less world that's also known as Real Life. It all comes down to just how otherworldly the series actually is. Trying to reconcile that with reality is where the show's greatest effort really shines.
RWBY (Volumes 1 and 2)
I don't know whether it's because this show is in English, or that the music is fantastic, or that the characters are cute and funny and badass, or that the whole thing is done in 3D, but it's definitely something, something that has led me to start off by saying how much I'm freaking loving this web series. It all started with the trailers. Action-packed, popcorn trailers showcasing each main character are what set the tone, the expectations, the hype that never did go down throughout the run of the series. Maybe the series had been so unique and experimental from the beginning that I couldn't help looking for things to like, if only because my expectations were so high. Plus, anime. From the US of A! Also, I'm suspecting that I have a weakness for soundtracks that click, so if a series has music that blows me away, then that would disproportionately affect how I see the series as a whole. And thus, shame on you Rooster Teeth for hiring Jeff Williams. You cheater, you!
The world of Remnant is a convincing one. You have this ominous type of monster called the Grimm, which people trained at different combat schools in separate kingdoms fight against. You have corporations like Schnee Dust, an activist ethno-centric group like the White Fang, a villainous cohort whose intentions are unknown, of course (aside from stealing Dust), and finally a substance known as Dust with a purpose vaguely described as being an energy source. A lot of effort was spent on clarifying the rules of the universe, in which more questions were raised than answered, but that's okay. A lot of what goes into good storytelling has to do with leaving doors open and having just enough flexibility, all while keeping a good balance.
At first glance, the script and plot can seem childish and overly simplified, and not everyone would prefer to spend their time watching kids be kids (though, I'm pretty sure the characters have reached a point where calling them kids would just annoy the heck out of them...) I, for one, enjoy the character interactions most of the time and I think the show has a good balance between being plot-driven and being character-driven. Speaking of character development, that is one of the few areas in which I have mixed feelings. Some characters have moments that are just plain deep, such as when Jaune gets lectured to by Ruby about being a "true leader," or when Pyrrha semi-confesses to Jaune and tells him her reason for liking him. Heck, the show sometimes even makes someone like Weiss seem endearing. (J/K. I actually like her the best out of the four, but none of that partisan crap!) Other times, the character portrayals seem a bit shaky. Blake, always the first one to flip out whenever she thinks about the baddies, didn't strike me as prone to anxiety at first, given her quiet nature. Maybe it's because I'm still in denial of the fact that, yes... it's always the quiet ones. Always. Or maybe I just didn't like how she was messing with the team's synergy. Because we all like watching cute girls fool around and live happily every after... right?
Not gonna comment on the visuals and the voice acting, since I haven't watched a lot of dubbed anime, and I probably watched 3D anime zero times prior, but I figured I'll make a thinking face and say "Hm, this is good. But it can be improved."
Now, the music. (Sigh) One unique trick I noticed about RWBY was that the soundtrack was especially tailored for each specific episode (or that's how I think it's done. The OSTs I found on YouTube are named after their respective episodes). I often credit myself for being able to pick out the leitmotifs for each character throughout the series. Yes, music was of utmost importance, perhaps being the main selling point aside from the action, and I, uh, hope I'm not the only one being addicted to some of the vocal soundtracks?
I'd like to offer a final tribute to the creator of the series, whose work this time inadvertently became his swan song. This guy not only came up with the premise of the story, but also choreographed much of the action scenes, undoubtedly his specialty. The series itself was built within a company that prides itself with its close relation with its fans, and the broader gaming / anime community in general. Through this, it was able to show not only how fun it is to be watching the show, but also how it is to actually be part of the team that's creating it. Which, I hate to admit, probably made me biased in liking the show even more.
I want to say that the people creating this anime kind of cheated because who wouldn't be interested in an anime about making anime? I entered this one with surprisingly low expectations since I expected something moe / slice-of-life (due to the title poster), but not being any less interested nevertheless. Boy, how this show really blew my expectations indeed.
Shirobako is about a group of five college-aged - or recently graduated - girls whose dream is to work in the anime industry, which was nice because I've always wondered what the work environment was like in an anime company, what sorts of things are being done, how things are managed, etc. etc. If you're interested in this kind of stuff, this show is for you, though you might want to watch it a few times to over to take in all the technicalities they throw at you at light speed. Yes. This is not a mere after-school club. You will be satisfied. Although there were childish comedy sketches scattered throughout the show, they actually seem kind of off due to the Serious Business this show is all about.
The challenges faced by the crew are many. Aside from not being able to work in the same company and pursue their dreams as a team, each character deals with a different aspect of their anime-making process, each encountering their own problems both personal and interpersonal. The main character (or heroine, as I'd like to call her), Aoi, deals with production management. In other words, making sure everyone else does their thing properly and on time, and that includes people outside the company. If you had any experience with project management then you'd know how much harder it is than it sounds. Come to think of it, the anime was kinda smart to pick a role for the heroine that puts you in direct contact with everyone else.
For me personally, the other hero of the series is the director Seiichi. Aloof, lazy, physically unfit, and prone to sudden outbursts of emotion about the story he creates, he is probably a lot like what many anime fans imagine anime artists to be like. At the same time, one cannot imagine him being able to function without constantly being baby-sat by everyone.
So that's the series in a nutshell. Eventually they do finish making an anime (2, in fact) and we do get to watch some of their creations, though not nearly enough. If this is an honest depiction of life in the studio, then I haven't been swayed in the least from wanting to have this kind of work life (okay, maybe a bit, but only in the sense that I might not be good enough.) And why wouldn't it be honest? After all, it's made by an anime studio.
What does it take to empathize with someone? Whatever it is, this movie certainly has it, what with all the accounts of tears being shed and people making plans to rewatch it. A crucial component of relating a story of romance is the emotional investment of the audience, a hit-or-miss element that one would do well to nourish. Your Name entrusts this responsibility within two characters that, on their own, are at worst dull and naive (forget that the film's level of aesthetics keep them well-endowed in terms of looks). I don't know. Maybe it's the way the romance is executed, the whole body-swap trick being speed-date-ish in that two strangers are randomly chosen, while at the same time, becoming a fate that neither can escape from, yet preserving a sense of distance in that neither can directly interact with each other. Perhaps it's the idea of walking a mile in someone else's shoes (or having someone walk in yours) that is especially appealing, whether you think it'd be kinda fun, or whether you simply want some understanding. And the degree to which the film immerses you in the daily life of each of the characters - from the social dynamic with friends and family, to glowing sceneries of the metropolis and countryside - coincidentally aligns with what they themselves are going through.
In any case, I fell for it.
Forget the glaring time-travel plotholes, the obliviousness of our main characters, the relegation of secondary characters into non-essential players. My curiosity with the whole phenomenon, and by extension their relationship, was what sustained my interest. And boy, does the film know how to milk it for what it's worth.
When magical realism is done well, characters retain their day-to-day attitude and expectations even while one little perk is thrown into the mix. Since this gimmick only happens willy-nilly, sometimes it's easy to forget that magic can really happen at all. In this case, body switching eventually becomes something hard to attain, if not forgotten altogether. It's with this dynamic, that people's wishes can indeed come true but only if things are done correctly, that the stakes are raised, and love becomes ever more elusive.
Which is why the scene where we learn about the fate of the town really hit home. When everything seemed as if it was purely a figment of imagination, our hero finds the mountaintop shrine and realizes that he wasn't merely seeing things - a powerful moment when it's revealed that his feelings weren't a lie. This sort of thing can easily be dismissed as gratuitous teenage drama, but as for me, emotional agony is something that I can easily get swept away by, if it's justified and well-executed.
My emotional take aside, it's hard to pinpoint what exactly delivered this movie this amount of attention. All of its themes, from body-swaps, to time travel, to being ignored by mean grownups, these have been visited by numerous other works (though I'll admit I'm not a huge consumer of movies and the likes in general). Even when I've had limited exposure to the romance genre, I'm sure everyone already predicted the ending from a mile away. Maybe it's the extreme visual details put into every cut, that render us awestruck at the amount of effort harnessed to tell this story. Maybe it's the entrancing music that speaks for the scene when the characters themselves have no words. No matter the reason, I found myself wanting something to take away. I guess a good moral for this movie is that one should make the most of their relationships - doesn't matter if it's romantic or not. As fate has allowed you to be with a special someone, it could have just as easily prevented you from ever meeting. Of course, the fate of your relationship itself is for you to decide. But was it that easy this whole time?
Maybe going out of your way to look for a town you don't even know exists is not for everyone.
When you have an anime with high-school girls and an obvious moe factor, I wouldn't blame you if you had expected cringe-worthy scenes, non-existent character development, a trivial plot if there is any, humor that falls flat, and even suggestive themes at worst. Perhaps I have not yet watched enough anime to be jaded enough to go into this with such low expectations. Plus, Yuki Kajiura did the music, and thus I'd been wanting to enjoy this since the very beginning.
It couldn't have been a better ride. From the first episode onward, we are immediately made aware that this show is serious business. Despite their jovial nature outside, the high-school protagonists (being spies) are essentially reduced to nothing but agents for an elusive, unknown organization, who kill on the whim of others. Even among themselves, character relations are fraught with second-guessing and quid-pro-quo attitudes.
Which makes it all the more powerful when the show reveals genuine feelings of friendship between the characters. It is the theme of being human verses a being a tool that drives the emotional appeal of the show. One of the more subtle twists is when Princess first discloses that her ultimate goal was to become Queen (being a fake herself), there wasn't anything to suggest she wasn't doing it for purely selfish reasons. The head fake for the viewer comes later when she admits this is not only for her own happiness, or even the happiness of her close friend Ange who was separated from her, but the happiness of all the divided people separated by the wall.
The amount of action is, oddly, a bit muted for a spy thriller. On second thought, having the audience get accustomed to gunfire and explosions might not be a good idea for a show that is actually a bit character-centric. What ends up happening is that every gunshot that the show decides to portray ends up all the more significant, if not startling. (But then again, I am kind of a baby.) And now, I must comment on the inexcusable: the obvious deus ex machinas. These do exist in the show, unfortunately, especially because you have to account for the lives of five protagonists who constantly put their lives in danger throughout an entire series. If anything, the fact that their job requires them to be trained and resourceful and knowledgeable of their predicament is a small redeeming factor.
It's hard to find a place for the moe factor in any legitimate show that wants to take itself seriously, and this one is no exception. Sure, you might have won over audience members with particular tastes, but at the same time turning away others. I didn't have an issue with it personally so it didn't distract from the storytelling. I can't help but wonder why I haven't seen much anime like this one. Maybe if they made more anime like this, the moe factor might become less stigmatized.
YOUR LIE IN APRIL
I'm going to be honest. Romance as a genre is something new and unfamiliar to me. But whatever this series did, it worked wonders. There are just so many elements to the romance in this series that hit home.
First, we are introduced to a mere shell of a protagonist, a boy traumatized by the passing of his mother, a representation of his way of life which he was never able to let go. Piano performance by itself is not of much interest, but as something once embraced by Kousei, it is the vehicle which drives his outlook on life, the channel by which he was able to express his innermost feelings.
The music in the show, as beautiful and entrancing as it is, is not sold as a simple pastime, but rather something forced upon him, sometimes with great pain, as a child, which rings true for many who associate with classical music in reality. The show doesn't lie about that. (Bad joke.)
But things take an abrupt turn as the heroine barges into his life "without even knocking," as he puts it - someone who experiences the pleasure of music in its fullness, so much so that she flouts the supposed "rules" of playing music, and is seemingly her own raison d'etre on the concert stage.
The moment Kousei comes to the realization that she is the reason he even approaches the stage nowadays is when it all solidifies. Having invested so much of her time and effort to drag Kousei out of his shell, Kaori isn't just another crush for him. We've seen the world through Kousei's lens time and time again, and knowing the void he had experienced all too well, we are ALL supposed to fall in love with Kaori.
But will things ever end up the way he wants? Not only is he unsure of Kaori's true feelings (she did admit to having a crush on another boy), her health had deteriorated to the point where she can no longer hide it. And Kaori, being as whimsical as she is, can only keep him guessing. Besides, let's step into Kousei's shoes for a moment. Why would she even have an interest in someone like you? You had always been the self-pitying type who hadn't been motivated to do anything for who knows how long. Even so, it sure is fun to entertain the possibility that she does, indeed, return your feelings.
It isn't until Kousei and Kaori meet on the roof of the hospital in the snow that she passionately professes her wish to stay by his side no matter what. In a mock accusing manner, she blames Kousei for insisting that they perform together one last time, having been given a newfound will to keep on living.
All this time, we've seen Kousei's agony at having to lose a loved one once again, his reluctant acceptance that his love would never be returned, and his gratitude at being introduced to the joys of performing once more. Very rarely were we shown Kaori's feelings. Well, as it turns out, Kousei IS to blame for Kaori's own despair, her agony at not being able to stay with him much longer. It’s one thing to be in love, it’s another thing to hold the delicate feelings of that certain someone in the palm of your hand, and all of a sudden, realize that you actually do mean the world to the person you care about. Kousei already bears some of this responsibility, with regard to Tsubaki who has crush on him, and he had tried his best to adapt to the situation without causing too much grief, as difficult as it is.
Kaori never did officially confess to Kousei before she passed on. It's only when he reads her note afterwards that she explains why things ended up that way between the two of them - she had to be sensitive to Tsubaki's feelings after all. She isn't alone in this; we've all had the experience of friend-zoning a crush for whatever reason (I think), which is another thing that gives the romance here a taste of reality.
The series does have some minor details that seem out of place, such as the fact that Kousei is able to play a piece with almost no practice, or that audience members actually know who he is from a couple of performances years ago (and that little kids can find a new dream to pursue just by listening to someone play classical music). But at the end of the day, it is the emotions felt by each of the characters that tell the story, and as simple as they are, they are most definitely genuine. Good anime.
MADE IN ABYSS (Season 1)
The sun peeks out from the horizon, and slowly but surely, the city of Orth yields itself to the light of dawn. From what you can see, there is but one place where the sunlight does not reach, and that is the inner depths of the enormous hole before you. Over the years, you have come to know the Abyss through stories and narratives as recounted by your peers and forebears. It is in essence the unknown - a trove of undiscovered relics, a place of unexplained phenomena, life-threatening creatures and forces of nature. It is the final frontier. The city of Orth itself is built around the Abyss, owing its existence to multitudes of eager cave raiders who had gathered, whether in hopes of striking it rich, or to satisfy their curiosity.
Also, you are twelve years old.
A story like Made in Abyss is best told through the lens of a child, to whom the world is ripe for discovery, and whose curiosity can surpass even their fear. Hence that’s why we have Riko and Reg.
With the two of them being the main focus of the majority of the show (and with the show having a relatively small cast overall), character development becomes the element that essentially makes the show. Sure, there is plenty to be awed by when it comes to the world-building, but in the end, it is fantasy. Meaning, no matter how cruel or how unexpected the turn of events, you simply cannot question the logic. Suffering and joy, personalities and friendship, these become the only elements that ground the show into reality. When it comes to world-building, there is perhaps nothing more important than the inhabitants of said world.
Riko and Reg’s journey to the bottom of the Abyss seems lighthearted at first - Riko‘s source of determination being a mere note from her mother telling her to go down and meet her. As the show progresses, our duo encounters life-threatening situations one after another (one case being particularly painful to watch), and miraculously, our characters take on each challenge without losing their resolve.
Their determination does not owe itself to luck, however. Riko and Reg are... unique characters. They each have a level of maturity that, despite their appearance, makes their characters whole and relatable. With a good amount of knowledge about the intricacies of the Abyss, Riko is book-smart but never comes across as cocky. At the same time, her curiosity and engaging demeanor are as prominent as anyone in their youth, adding color to the mix. Most of all, she is sensitive to the care and affection of her pal, Reg, and understands the agony he felt when trying to save her life. Moving on to her counterpart, Reg bears the responsibility of protecting Riko, a job not only given to him by others, but one which he has internalized as his own. While a robot with emotions is an overplayed fictional motif, Reg’s own sensitivity to other’s emotions is developed to the point where the viewer can easily forget that he’s a robot, one example being his desperate plea to Nanachi not to kill herself even as she goes through the pain of losing her friend Mitty. And finally, while Nanachi is relatively new to the cast, she is a veteran of the Abyss and has a heart-breaking backstory... an interesting addition to the team.
This series has done well on the two fronts: characters and music - the former being all you need to tell a story, the latter to embellish it. To tell the truth, I had never expected a story with only a handful of characters and only one main setting (the Abyss) to be able to be so engrossing. It’s as if the elements of adventure, discovery, friendship, and sorrow had joined together in a perfect blend.
Now, on to Season 2! Where we will be taken for a thrilling and rewarding ride again, no doubt. Plus, who can leave behind all those miserable moments that turn the show into a masterpiece? I know you like those tasty tears, Mr. Tsukushi my homeboy.
FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD
Did you hear that? It’s the sound of my soul being absorbed into an otherworldly dimension known as “shonen.” While I’ve since moved beyond this demographic a long time ago, it still evokes feelings of nostalgia in me, especially since it’s the anime demographic I was first exposed to at a young age. Watching this show, even when everything’s new to me, still takes me back to simpler times, when having a bunch of kids in their early teens head off to save the world is enough to make for a savory tale.
In retrospect, this show somehow manages to avoid a lot of the stereotypes of shonen, ones that attract the most complaints. Long, drawn-out, monologue-y fights? Nahh. Dumb grown-ups? Only a couple. One-dimensional characters that infiltrate the cast and spoil the fun? Nope, can’t have that. Glaringly obvious deus-ex machinas? Okay... maybe a bit.
No... to engage the viewer, this show runs on something more powerful than any of the above: extraordinary world-building. The mastermind of this show, Father, hatches a simple plan: to be an omnipotent being that is one with God and Truth. With the necessary sacrifice of as many souls as there are people in an entire country, the plan spawns a chain of events that involve a huge array of characters, locations, revealing backstories, you name it. With a universe so expansive, you don’t need to rely on assholery or affected personalities to help the plot progress - you can just let your world do that for you, and let the characters react to whatever surprises, dangers, and mysteries lie in wait. That’s how we get such a long, extensive narrative that never lost its luster over 64 episodes. In contrast to the scale of the world-building, our heroes Edward and Alphonse anchor the viewer to a more intimate level, as they make it their personal mission to bring Al’s body back from the Gate of Truth, apart from saving the world.
From a messaging perspective, Brotherhood hits the nail in the head. One major theme present here is the enticing theme of rebellion, something that resonates with anyone who’s experienced injustice. With King Bradley being the most authoritative figure in all the country, as well as being the direct boss of everyone, already we have a leader we can’t trust. One of Edward’s last take-down lines to Selim was to scold him on being a “lapdog” who can’t even think for himself and listens only to “Father.” For our heroes, being a rebel is not just the right thing to do, it’s the only thing to do.
With each of its characters going through so much, Brotherhood had much to work with when it comes to character development. And they certainly passed on this front. It’s when you see conflicting emotions rise up in them (whether it’s vengefulness vs kindness for Roy Mustang and Winry, or greed vs self-sacrifice for Greed, or fear vs obligation for the chimeras who switch sides) that you‘re able to fully flesh them out, leaving the viewer with no choice but to cheer for their success. With that said, there's one thing you can never take away from the main characters: their young spirit. Anyone would normally scoff at the notion of two kids, in all their innocence and naive-ness, being able to save the world through just kindness and determined-looking faces. But we all know that's what a typical adult would think. These aren't children, but rather, battle-hardened leaders whose innocence works in their favor when you can even turn enemies into allies.
Okay let's be real. There's only one thing that saved this series, and that's Winry carrying through with her promise of "equivalent exchange."
A PLACE FURTHER THAN THE UNIVERSE
Remember that time when you went to a land full of ice and penguins with a group of friends who are now an inseparable part of you? If you’ve seen A Place Further than the Universe, then yeah, me too.
When you’re traveling as a group, it’s more about the people you travel with than the actual place you’re going to. With said place being somewhere as complicated as Antarctica, the show is able to make use of a prolonged setup to get us acquainted with the people we travel with. We start the journey on square one, before our four friends even knew each other, so that nothing can end up feeling conveniently staged (least of all, the bonds among the characters that are the focus of the show). We know exactly what being accepted as part of a team means for Yuzuki, who had only ever been known as a child star (and publicity tool). And exactly what spreading your goal to someone else means for Shirase, who had been shunned as a weirdo for the same goal.
With this foundation laid, the show seemingly has free rein on you as it hammers home the pain felt by every character, the comfort given by friends simply showing that they care, and finally a level of understanding that can only be achieved after this kind of agony. Is it right to say that the overall experience of this show is realistic? I really can’t tell. How many of us can say for sure that they would offer up one million yen (ten thousand dollars) to let someone keep their opportunity to travel alongside them? Check their friend’s email without asking their permission to find out what has been constantly bothering them?
The only reason they are able to embrace this ridiculousness is because they know what it felt like before they found each other. Loneliness had already been exposing them to ridiculous situations anyway, like deciding to quit school when your team members talk behind your back. Or doubling down on your outlandish goal of going to Antarctica when you are being mocked for having that thought.
Of all the things to appreciate about this show, one of the most striking is the amount of research that was done to depict how things would have unfolded if a journey to an uninhabitable place undertaken by a bunch of high-schoolers were to happen in today’s setting. Despite this dose of realism only being there for flavor, that might be just the element needed to get the viewer invested. You have to work hard when you’re trying to push a trope as cliche as “Anything is possible with the power of friendship.”
So yes, the experience of A Place Further than the Universe is realistic. Or rather, very much real. Personally, I’ve never experienced the type of relationship shown here, in real life. But even if this type of dynamic between a bunch of people doesn’t actually exist anywhere, maybe we should strive to make it happen among ourselves. But then, if I somehow do manage to end up enjoying the same kind of happiness as Kimari, Shirase, Hinata, and Yuzuki, what could possibly have happened to make me deserve this much attention, understanding, and sensitivity? And what kind of pain will I experience when our bonds start to fade?
For now, I think it’s easier to think of that as a place further than the universe.
How would I describe the feeling of watching this anime? It guess it would be like time-traveling to a place in the distant past, but finding bits and pieces of the modern world scattered around to your surprise. I’ve always found historical settings to be fascinating - it’s one of the only ways you can witness how life unfolds in a completely different way than the real world, yet it’s not just any random way, but one that is rooted in historical evidence. In taking place in the Edo Period, Samurai Champloo strives to immerse you in history - whether it is through social norms, historical events, politics, and the like. There’s no sugarcoating whatsoever either - all the misogyny, injustice, and lawlessness are laid bare. At the same time, the juxtaposition of various modern elements, such as hip-hop beats in the soundtrack, and plenty of “thug life” elements introduced throughout the show never did take away from the immersiveness of the setting.
The factors that drive the show are mostly the same factors that drive any series centered upon a journey - a looming conclusion, mini-adventures, and seemingly impossible messes from which the group emerges unscathed, every time. Ultimately, like any show that I gush over, the way the characters are written ended up being the sticking point. There’s just something about a “don’t give a shit” vagrant in a highly structured society, a verbally-weak yet highly-capable eye-contact-averter, and just another entitled high school girl in a feudal Japanese society that is completely contradictory to her character archetype.
What works really well with this show is the endorsement of “show, not tell.” The main characters, being as impulsive and self-serving as they are, waste no breath explaining anything to anyone nor giving protagonist-level moral speeches. The action is flashy and brutal, but always ends within a blink of an eye (and almost always with one side emerging a little less alive than previously), and sometimes the most powerful scenes aren’t even scripted.
As I watched through the series, it seemed as if their journey would last forever. The immersiveness of the environment, the entertaining quirkiness of each character, and the sheer scale of the journey made it seem like things are just getting started even by the middle of the series. But 26 episodes is all that’s delivered and all we get. Quite unfortunate.
More like this, please.