They’re the best Anime that 2019 has to offer! We counts down the best anime to come out this year, including the likes of Carole & Tuesday, Beastars, Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari, and more!
10: Carole & Tuesday
MAL Score: 7.91
It has been 50 years since mankind began its migration to the terraformed Mars, where they live in comfort due to advancements in AI. Carole lives in the metropolis of Alba City, working part-time by day and playing keyboard by night. Tuesday has run away from her home in Hershell City to escape the grip of her wealthy family, and instead hopes to pursue music with her acoustic guitar.
After a fateful encounter, the two decide to perform music together. Up against the AI singers that dominate the music world, the two of them believe that together they can convey their feelings through their songs. Will hard work and luck be enough for the duo to create the biggest miracle that Mars has ever seen?
But behind these seven minutes is the journey that set it all in motion.
Carole & Tuesday is a tale steeped in the past, now set in the gleaming terraformed future of Mars. The story of rags-to-riches between a pair of talented women: Tuesday, who sneaks away from her wealthy sheltered lifestyle and takes a train to the big city, and Carol, an ex-refugee and orphan constantly looking for work with no clear direction in her life. In their world, music has been studied, dissected and repackaged to perfection through the use of artificial intelligence; the popular human artists now acting as merely fronts for the artistry. They both feel isolated and melancholy, needing some way to express it. In this, the two have a fateful encounter as Carol plays piano atop a bridge. She hums along to the music, but Tuesday insists she can hear the meaning of her song despite the lack of words. Carole and Tuesday, two musicians from radically different socioeconomic backgrounds, are able to understand each from through their music.
Considering the nature of this series being centred around music, the anime puts a lot of attention towards the music incorporated within the show. Carole & Tuesday holds some clear similarities with other works by director Shinichiro Watanabe; not only does he use a variety of diverse character designs and art styles, but here he employs different genres of music and artists to coincide with the Western accessibility of the show in general. Flying Lotus, Alison Wonderland and Denzel Curry and just some of the names associated with this project. Most importantly, the music acts as a natural means for development between the two leads. When the two begin playing together, the flaws in their sessions are apparent: they aren’t in tune with each other, Tuesday is a step behind Carole and both continually have to restart the song. The session is a work in progress, but once they start finding their rhythm, it’s as if their souls have slowly begun to intertwine. Their unity, passion and emotional release creates a world of their own, free from the gloomy feeling around them.
The worldbuilding details constantly echo the technology-driven culture of today, giving it a sense of believability amidst the more fantastical elements. Instagram, Google and YouTube are all featured in some way during the duo’s attempt to break into the music industry, before eventually entering a talent competition that parodies the likes of The Voice and American Idol. This is where the most diverse musical genres of the series are showcased, from a profane barbershop quartet number to an operatic hip hop hybrid piece that really shows the range of musical styles present in the show. While the pacing is slowed down significantly for this purpose, it also introduces an antagonist to the pair in Angela, a model turned singer on her own journey that acts as a clear juxtaposition with Carole and Tuesday. Unlike the lead duo, Angela embraces the influence of artificial intelligence and is pushed as the industry’s next big star, however her struggles are as real as the two protagonists. Angela as a former child star carries her own share of baggage whilst being used as a puppet of the industry and given no creative control over her art. But she is passionate about her career and has to work tirelessly in order to stay relevant. She provides an insight into what can happen when business takes priority over pleasure.
All of the contrasting styles and motivations serve as foils to the stripped-down singer-songwriter ability of the titular duo, representing the traditional side of music with warmth and authenticity that cannot be replicated. At least, that is what the intention was with each of their performances. But the series only achieves this in theory. Their opponents in the talent show seek to treat music as a commodity first and foremost in contrast to Carole and Tuesday, who want to deliver a more intimate experience with their songs as down-to-earth musicians. Except that the music they play seems counter-intuitive, coming across as the kind of melodramatic pop that would not be difficult to find nowadays. It might not be surprising to see how the judges love the pair whose music you would expect to find in every talent show in the last decade, but consider how the series is trying to, in a sense, rehabilitate music, with some of the most generic pop tunes of our time. Lyrically the song also come across poorly, with the melodies and rhythm having to compensate for instances of laundry being used as a metaphor for example. The song writing here speaks volumes about Tuesday’s lack of life experience to draw from, yet they are still showered with overwhelming praise after each and every one of their performances.
As the series continues, there’s a concerning lack of character development going forward for a character-driven show such as Carole & Tuesday. The characterization starts off strong with establishing the differences in both leads, before the script changes to emphasize the commonalities between them and more nuance is added to their actions. However, their bond as a whole feels unnatural, as they become such close friends after a short amount of time and their bond is never challenged going forward. Chemistry between main characters, especially in dramas, tends to grow little by little through each of their interactions with each other. Because of this, viewers are able to see their relationship develop gradually for themselves, thus coming across more naturally. This does not happen with Carole and Tuesday. Instead the two are shown to be great off the get-go, putting on good to excellent performances together that garner high praise from well-known artists. There is hardly a struggle they face that is shown in their journey. Add to that how predictable and light-hearted the tone of the series is, Carole and Tuesday feel more like avatars than their own characters for the remainder of the show.
From the offset Carole & Tuesday, despite its shortcomings as a music drama, was based around the two leads coming together and making a name for themselves in the music industry. But after the talent show, the narrative begins to shed more of a light on their backgrounds: Carole’s friends who are refugees and, more importantly, Tuesday’s family ties to politics. This is where the story transitions from the tale of two women chasing their passions in an age of AI-produced music to an allegory of current-day American politics that takes itself seriously. Politics in an anime is not an inherent issue and make no mistake, Carole & Tuesday wanted to be a socially conscious series from the beginning. But the sudden change in plot and focus causes most of the key events that occur to feel forced and inorganic, not to mention even more predictable than before. The execution is clumsy at best and incompetent at worst; it imitates the United States’ immigration policy yet holds a childlike perception of the debate that would only lead to more dissention. The show portrays it as simply a societal bad mood without any further nuance to the discussion, to where the audience is never told why Earth has refugees coming to Mars in the first place. The story becomes so concerned with being a social commentary on the world today that it does not bother to justify the political actions that happen within the story.
And regardless of how much the story has shifted, the anime continues to revolve around Carole and Tuesday. The two musicians who at first strived to be a success in the music scene have had their journey side-tracked by the overt political agenda that, coincidentally, renders their previous journey obsolete. The AI-produced music that initially acted as a commentary on how pop music panders to the trends of today instead of creating something “meaningful” is tossed aside. The sub-plots unresolved from the talent show remains unresolved. Instead the series takes the overly-idealistic route that coming together and singing an inspirational song has the power to change the world, with music’s power lying in the ability to make one’s own voice heard. Only a vague solution to the real-world crisis the show intended to reflect. There’s an air of cynicism to the series that feels crafted out of naivete, which is certainly odd when Shinichiro Watanabe’s name is at the helm of the project. For an esteemed director as himself, it feels as if he was phoning it in here, not overly concerned with how the show ended up looking. Obviously, external factors like scheduling and budget play a larger part than ever trying to gauge effort from a director, but comparing Carole & Tuesday to his previous work (Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo, Space Dandy, etc.) should highlight how underwhelming this most recent project is.
Carole & Tuesday was ultimately a tale in two parts: the first enamoured in the original journey of its two protagonists, their pursuit of passion acting as a love letter to the art of music. While meandering in parts and feeling a tad bloated, it’s hard to deny the show had a genuine love of the craft on display. But its second half was burdened with misguided ambition, aiming to encompass every angle of drama the series holds without regard for their impact on the writing as a whole. Unwilling to commit on its initial story and core values, we can only imagine what could have been a true moment of bliss.
Carole—who’s the black one by the way, I swear to god that was a trap on purpose—and Tuesday are two young girls down on their luck, a broke street girl and a runaway rich girl respectively, who discover each other through their music and decide to live by their fate and continue their humble craft together, only to soon be swept away by their own untapped well of talent and take the world by storm. It’s a pretty cliche setup as far as western media is concerned, but it’s unique in the context of anime and not inherently bad. However, everything about it is executed messily or more often outright awfully.
The show is criminally soulless. The voice actresses don’t sing their own songs and, including all the side characters you meet along the way, are always switched with quote-unquote professional vocalists during every musical number. Even if you like the show and characters, you’ll be immersed only until the singing begins, and then you’ll have to sit there for two and a half minutes while two english vocalists who don’t sound even remotely similar to Carole or Tuesday’s Japanese voice actresses take over, and the Japanese animators who don’t understand english vowel sounds or mouth movements completely fail to match the english lyrics to the mouth animation making the disconnect even worse and ruining the experience for anyone who isn’t both blind AND deaf. And even that is only concerning Carole and Tuesday’s english vocalist. Wait till you see some of the side performers I mentioned, like Pyotr for example, who’s this pre teen Instagram Celebrity who purposefully sounds like 2010 Justin Bieber as some kind of hackneyed joke only to suddenly develop a low-pitched, full-toned man’s voice when singing. And it gets more and more criminal as it goes on. I mean, they bring in Megumi Hayashibara in this one episode, and the replacement vocalist for her silky, dulcet voice is the full, powerful voice of a black woman! The animation production behind the performances—and the entire show for that matter—is terrible as well. You’ll see something like Crystal’s sequence in episode six which has a minimum of ELEVEN OFF-MODEL FRAMES, you’ll see something like GGK’s sequence in episode nine where the character’s entire costume is colored via a still image filling, or you’ll see something like Pyotr’s sequence in episode eight which is just fully, unabashedly rotoscoped. For such a gargantuan joke, this show isn’t even funny. As if I needed to tell you, all the instruments are CG, and if I had a dollar for every time Tuesday’s horrendous digital white outline shading clipped though the 3DCG shading of her guitar, I could personally fund someone to hand draw this entire laughingstock of a train wreck myself. Speaking of character shading, the characters’ hands are all CG too, and the director clearly had no fucking clue how to integrate this well, which itself is generously assuming they even could integrate it well given the PS2 graphics quality of all the CGI. When the shot composition is just the hands on the instruments, it’s acceptable. You know, it’s just ugly CG. Nothing new about that. But when they try to have a character’s entire body in the shot connecting the CG hands to the hand drawn arms, it’s laughable.
And I didn’t mean to so quickly brush over the rotoscoping in this show, seeing as it’s easily the production’s biggest, most fatal vice. As of episode twenty three, eighty four point seven three percent of all performance sequences, by my own counting, are rotoscoped, and this is not including the two scenes in the show rotoscoped for character animation totally separated from music. Bones’ 20th Anniversary Production, ladies and gentleman, this is it. And if you’re holding onto the hope the few hand-drawn performances are animated by Yutaka Nakamura or something like the legendary Viva All dance sequence from Space☆Dandy, you’re lying to yourself. No, no, no sweet summer child. Don’t you know the second anime original My Hero Academia movie is coming out this year?! They gotta chain that poor, weary soul to a chair so he can animate some more lifeless, mindlessly directed pieces of sakuga littered with speed lines and even off-model frames, for which his genga is getting more and more scribbly. And mind you, the show is well aware the hopeless mice animating the few hand-drawn performance sequences in the show aren’t worth their salt at all, because they only let them do it for the nobody filler characters and let the digital camera do the heavy lifting for the characters who actually matter. Every. Single. Performance. Of Carole and Tuesday, the losers who are supposed to be the main heroines of this god awful excuse for an anime, are fully rotoscoped. I’m not even kidding, and I urge you to go visit the cringe comedy image gallery from this show I’ve personally compiled and posted on my profile because a significant amount of those abhorrent screenshots are from these ROTOSCOPED scenes. Like, Jesus Christ, people, are you not already rotoscoping this?! IS IT THAT HARD TO TRACE A FUCKING PICTURE SOME DIGITAL CAMERA ALREADY DREW FOR YOU, you untalented swine?!?!? And forget the rotoscoping, honestly, because the rest of the show is immeasurably worse. Even having just taken the week off between seasons, they had to delay episode fifteen a week back, no surprise given episode fourteen was one of the ugliest episodes of TV anime I’ve finished in recent memory without dropping the show immediately afterwards, but still utterly disgraceful. The show’s background art is some of the ugliest I’ve ever seen—forget about how generic, choppily colored, blatantly overlapped, and abundantly digital they are—simply because of the fact the characters don’t even look like they belong on said backgrounds at all. There wasn’t a single person animating this farce who knew a single thing about depth of field, so even the endless scenes of our cast of wholly uncharismatic washouts droning on with their conversations look like garbage even though the only thing needing actual animation on screen is their mouth movements since they look like they’re FLOATING ABOVE THEIR SEATS! And god knows the bodily proportions are never even remotely anatomically accurate. I remind you this is Bones’ 20th Anniversary Production, so happy fucking anniversary.
I keep wanting to roll on to my next complaint without elaborating on the sheer depth of each element’s individual failure. Since the show sure didn’t, I’ve got to give some attention to those side characters I mentioned, because everyone outside the main rival is a literal, in context joke. The show is so eager to construct worthless tournament arcs and challenges, but every single artist Carole and Tuesday face off against is a walking meme. The cold open of the show reveals Carole and Tuesday are, indeed, going to become an international phenomenon, but for half the show they’re treated like little babies with no talent, all potential who need to do as they’re told and respect the greats, but they’re being told this by a bunch of old losers out of their prime whilst the only young people on the same level as the girls are, again, ALWAYS blown off as joke characters who were never even a competitor to begin with. I mean, in the one proper tournament arc the show blithers to set up, the initial audition itself displays no one but idiots the judges all unanimously scoff at. You leave the scene wondering why you even watched it, seeing as it set up no potential challengers and only managed to make fun of black people, Indian people, Chinese people, and European people in the span of literally seventy two seconds. I remind you this is the same so-called competition in which our girls really had to give their all against such staunch competition as a trio of black transgender women—or at least male crossdressers—who come on stage only to sing the lyrics, in English, as follows:
-Holy shit, oh fucker.
-Son of a bitch, what the hell?
-Oh, motherfucker, goddamn bullshit, holy shit.
-Oh, holy shit, bullshit, goddamn motherfucker. (Motherfucker.)
-Oh, fucking bastard, goddamn fucking shit. (Oh, fucking shit.)
-Son of a motherfucking bitch. (Oh, shit.)
I’m sorry, but if there’s a joke here, I’m not getting it. I’m not five years old like whatever loser wrote this disgrace, and I’m not going to giggle just because someone says a naughty word, and moreover, HOW DID THESE ASSHOLES EVEN GET PAST THE AUDITION WE JUST SAW WHERE THE JUDGES DISMISSED PEOPLE SEEMINGLY JUST FOR HAVING FOREIGN ACCENTS?!?!??!?
Which is a great segue into this show’s delightful writing, because if you thought this show’s nauseating audio/visual presentation was all it had to worry about, you’ve got another thing coming. The writing behind it all is equally, stupefyingly abysmal.
The character writing is downright infuriating and made me—for lack of a better term—rage quit certain episodes which I had to pause and come back to just to stay calm and away from objects I might’ve hurt myself with. I seriously forgot what it was like to get so vehemently angry at another person. For example, in consideration of Tuesday’s status as a runaway teenager, Carole asks, “Are you okay being on camera?” ARE YOU OKAY BEING ON CAMERA?! Bitch, you FILMED YOURSELVES and uploaded it to the internet to get famous and went out of your own way to make an Instagram account with pictures of both your faces, TAKEN PERSONALLY BY YOU, to attempt to build your fanbase. There is such an overwhelming sea of lines which should be totally nonchalant throwaway piece of dialogue which end up breaking a character or the entire eternal logic of the narrative like a twig. There’s this other time they meet this musical legend guy, and his backstory is he was in love with this other guy, he died, and the future legend consequentially “lost the ability to sing.” He then SUNG SONGS and GOT FAMOUS SINGING, became beloved, and only then did his fans’ support allow him to “find the strength to continue singing.” But you just got famous by singing…RIGHT?! There’s so many lines that contradict themselves, WITHIN themselves. Or like this other, other time when the girls muse over their rival, Angela, having a larger social media presence than themselves, “Ehh!? Look how many follows she has!” What happened to her being famous worldwide—actually no—solar-system-wide as a model before even holding a microphone? Did the show just forget a main character’s backstory, BECAUSE I SURE DIDN’T! Or like this other, other, other time when Gus, Carole & Tuesday’s manager and quote-unquote comic relief character, suddenly starts categorically claiming everyone from Texas—yes, the actual state of Texas in actual America—is populated entirely by wild western cowboys in, I remind you, THE MIDDLE OF THE SPACE AGE. I must say though, as someone from Texas myself, all I could think of whilst first attempting to process the ridiculousness of that scene was, yup, this fat deadbeat cuck whose wife left him for a woman is most certainly from the good ol’ Lone Star State. God, this show made me sick. Or like this other, other, other, other time when Carole, an orphaned refugee, finally gets to meet her father who tracked her down after seeing her on TV after he inserted himself into the story by buying a ticket to Mars, FROM EARTH, after just having got out of his SEVENTEEN YEAR PRISON SENTENCE. Or like this other, other, other, other, other time the squad is brought in by this music guru to…I don’t even know, honestly, but this guy invites them over, and given his enigmatic social perception, Carole decides to ask, “Um, are all those rumors true? Like, that you’ll die if you’re exposed to sunlight?” Good question, except she asks this while THEY’RE STANDING IN A FUCKING AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHAHAHA OH MY GOD A FUCKING GREENHOUSE!!!!
Now, we were about to wind down here, but I must discuss this show’s attempt at theming. At this point, this review has been nothing but taking candy from a baby. This show obviously wasn’t trying, because how on Earth could you ever turn out this product if you were, so my railing on it just came off as being vain. Luckily, the show really tries on a single front, its themes, and while I could’ve spent this time steepening the mountain of scripting flaws from the last paragraph like the fact the character Roddy finds Carole and Tuesday’s exact location from their Instagram in episode two in exactly eighteen seconds documented on screen, remarking how careless they were for not disabling that functionality, yet Tuesday’s mother and brother with infinite funds and a later established information gathering network can’t find their runaway family member for the life of them for five whole episodes, I think taking the time for this is necessary so this review actually has a sense of back and forth. Carole & Tuesday does entertain a disproportionally large number of ideas, but again, it’s all vapid surface level bullshit trying to distract you from the fact anything else your attention could possible fixate on is uglier than roadkill and worse written than Sword Art Online. The one concept they tried to make meaningful, genuinely, was their copy of the Cowboy Bebop universe. For those of you who forgot (or for those of you who haven’t even seen Cowboy Bebop), the Earth has suffered from a cataclysmic event ruining the landscape almost entirely and sending whatever factions of the populace with the means to other planets. But really only Mars, Venus, and the Moon, since technology has advanced that far, but not far enough to leave the solar system. The difference, however, is in Cowboy Bebop the racial denominations left behind on Earth were those you’d realistically expect to have been. They weren’t a specific race or ethnicity, it was just a vague mix of third-world citizens, like Eastern Europeans, Central Asians, Southeast Asians, and Africans who would’ve been too numerous for international powers to reach out to when evacuating the planet in a real world crisis scenario. Ed’s last name wasn’t Williams, or Johnson, or Brown, or Jackson, or Davis, it was Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV. There’s a reason that name contains a comically ridiculous amount of ancestries, as well as a reason my example names were the Google search results for “most common black last names in America.” It’s because in Carole & Tuesday the people left behind on Earth are SPECIFICALLY—and as far as the show lets us know—EXCLUSIVELY first-world cultured black people. Yes, that’s insurmountably retarded given black people’s relative population spread and resource wealth on the planet in today’s present age—forget the future age of this show—but most importantly this contrivance serves as the foundation to one of the most backwards attempts at sociopolitical thematic commentary in the anime medium. So, Earth is screwed along with its apparently entirely first-world cultured black populace who—and this is real fuckin’ important—the show insists on explicitly calling “refugees” at all times despite its technically incorrect denotative implications, and the stage is thusly set for Valerie Simmons. Valerie is the upstart Martian presidential candidate whose big, bold idea to change the pace of society is to ban any and all “refugees” from Earth from entering Mars under all circumstances since they’re perceived as lower class, under educated, uncivilized, and a general pollution to Martian society, and her supporters are exclusively white skinned, blue eyed, blonde haired people who show their support for Valerie’s campaign and patriotism towards their state by dawning bright red hats with the candidate’s slogan on them—OKAY YOU SEE WHERE THIS IS GOIN’ YET?! Seeing as we’ve already taken the liberty to excuse the dumbass contrivances behind this farce, this should be all fine and dandy until you learn all of Valerie’s blatantly racist and classist political propositions were orchestrated behind the scenes by Jerry, the legendarily infamous political advisor, and Valerie herself actually has a heart of gold, is a strict but ultimately loving mother, and was largely manipulated by Jerry into her current level of corruption. Um, WHAT?! Why instate such astronomically feigned plot devices like asserting all of Mars is united peacefully under a single governing body, use such politically charged and inflammatory labels as “refugees” even when the word isn’t even logically applicable since the migration in question is not involuntary, and paint such racially suggestive portrayals as making one hundred percent of the discriminated blacks targeted exclusively by whites to concoct such a boldfaced Donald Trump parallel only to turn around and assert that very same parallel is a totally upstanding person?! Is Carole & Tuesday trying to tell me the sex offender running my country is actually a totally chill guy I just have the wrong idea of being sat ignorantly behind a TV screen EVEN THOUGH WOMEN HAVE BEEN ACCUSING THE GUY OF TOUCHING THEM SINCE BEFORE HALF THIS SHOW’S VIEWERSHIP WAS EVEN BORN!?!?!?!?!???!?!?
I contemplated censoring my hatred towards this show considerably for this review, seeing as an obtusely negative review may come across as being toxic and bad for the community, but after coming to terms with the fact saying anything other than exactly what I did would’ve been outright dishonest, I realized this was the only way I could’ve gone forward in good conscious. Carole & Tuesday is just that bad and with that few redeeming qualities. The bits and pieces of Watanabe’s personal direction were nice if quaint like the laundry mat scene, but he was Chief Director, which for those of you who don’t know, is effectively an oversight producer who audits the actual directors’ work, so any personally directed scenes from the man himself were few, far between, and hard to appreciate or even identify given just how ugly the show looks on a second to second basis. I honestly don’t blame him at all for distancing himself from the production as much as possible though. MAPPA busted their asses back in 2012 to bring he and Yoko Kanno’s vision to life in Kids on the Slope—talk about actually innovating on and bringing to life rotoscoped artwork and being a show about instrumentation with actually good musical numbers—and seeing the horrendous work Bones was doing this time around probably did little more than kill any and all motivation he could’ve had going in, as it most certainly killed any and all motivation I had to put myself through any one more god damn second of it too.
Thank you for reading, and I’d like to kindly invite you to visit the aforementioned Carole & Tuesday cringe comedy image gallery I’ve posted on my profile. I’m hosting it on catbox dot moe if you’d like the download, but I had to remove the link I had posted here. Speaking of which, shoutout to everyone who reported this review such that the mods had to contact me about censorship and editorial. Thanks for your engagement, if not your love.
The first time we see Carole and Tuesday is two characters with different backgrounds and personalities. It’s easy to get the image of these two girls into your head as the main characters thanks to their contrasting images. Carole has a cool, rebellious type of look while Tuesday is designed with more feminine delicacy and innocence. On-screen, both characters displays a remarkable amount of realism, characteristics that can be easily relatable in our society. First, there’s Carole Stanley, an orphan with keyboard skills and somewhat of a rebellious attitude. Working various part-time jobs, she’s a common type folk you can probably encounter easily on the streets. On the other hand, we also meet Tuesday Simmons, a timid rich girl with talent of singing and the guitar. After running away from home and into the city, it’s where she encounters Tuesday and their incredible journey begins.
This is a character driven story, one that tells what humans can do when they put their minds into making their dreams into a reality. From the start, both Carole and Tuesday display remarkable potential for their skills although with a lack of experience in a professional environment, they need to push themselves. The first few episodes both shows and tells of their character personalities. Carole is the confident one who isn’t afraid to speak of her mind. Tuesday is the timid girl of this pair and for her to work in a professional environment would require commitment and discipline. The character chemistry is surprisingly compatible given their contrasting looks and personalities. Throughout the story, both characters come to learn and understand each other as part of the youth experience. Let’s face it, they’re young and have a long journey of life ahead of them. Making a career in the music industry will probably be one of the biggest challenges in their lives. They’d have overcome the fear of anxiety, build a strong audience, and promote themselves to be world-class superstars. Not to mention, being in public also requires supreme self-confidence, something that Tuesday need to realize and accept. Early in the show, both girls also get into trouble and having to run away to avoid consequences. The truth is that they don’t really know how the adult world works. It’s part of the reality of this show that performs so well. Honestly, the more I watched Carole and Tuesday, the more I felt attached to this anime. There’s even a feeling of nostalgia when you realize how inexperienced both girls are when dealing with adults and this new world they decided to step into. Thanks to their share of love and passion in music, Carole and Tuesday builds a great amount of trust and bond in their relationship.
Thankfully, both characters evolve as they face obstacles. From dealing with the pressure of competition to harassment from a stalking fan, Carole and Tuesday shows that they have what it takes to be in the business. Their personality shows change too as Carole matures into a more sensible person while Tuesday displays a growing confidence in herself. It’s the type of character evolution that makes this anime worth investing into. Growing up is not easy after all in our own society when we have to make decisions ourselves. Carole and Tuesday learns that when making decisions, there’s usually a risk and they have to face the challenge head on. They also have to realize the impact it would make for their lives. Welcome to reality, girls.
Being a music entertainment industry also has its competitive atmosphere. Meet Angela Carpenter, a former child model who wants to make a name for herself in the music business. With strong self-confidence and talent, Angela becomes a foil to the main characters. She exhibits a great deal amount of charisma and comes into industry with a focused sense of commitment. Some of the early comments Angela makes in the show suggests that she wants to truly prove herself although her words often come across as intimidating. In fact, during one of the competitions, she mocks Carole and Tuesday of their music. Even after the competition, Angela doesn’t seem to truly accept Carole and Tuesday as equals or friends. To me, a character like Angela represents the type in anime that protagonists must overcome or at least earn their respect from. She’s a type of realistic character that you may have encountered in your life. Indeed, the anime unravels colorful personalities of different people. It’s the type of personalities that garners an audience and create the sensation of a competitive environment.
Outside of the two main cast, the show does put some value into characters such as Gus Goldman. While he may be overlooked at times, it’s characters like Gus who makes an important asset for Carole and Tuesday. Without him, their careers would not have been possible. Introduced later in the story, Flora is a character that is a source of inspiration for Tuesday. Indeed, music artists are usually influenced by others and it should come across as no surprise that’s also the case in this anime. Unfortunately, the anime doesn’t put enough emphasis on the others such as Cybelle, Dahlia (Angela’s agent), Tao, or even the judges. Most of the contestants are forgettable although it’s easy to say the Mermaid Sisters made an explosive impression when they dropped the F-bomb.
Perhaps the most prominent element in Carole & Tuesday is the music and songs. From the very beginning, the show consistently manages to craft consistency with its soundtracks. With 24 episodes, the show featured many different songs ranging from its OP and ED themes to the various stage performances. I’m not going to list them all but the first album consists of at least 20 different tracks by various musicians. The first OP song “Kiss Me” contains a coming of age feel that brings the reality of characters growing up and is no doubt one of my favorite in the series. When it comes to the character performances on stage, every song artist or group brings their unique talent. The choreography combined with the visual elements is nothing less than spellbinding creativity. Carole and Tuesday’s talent also synchronizes perfectly to bring the best out of each other during their performances.
Honestly, you don’t need to be a music nerd to enjoy Carole & Tuesday. The experience of watching this show can easily be felt by what the staff wanted you to see. They managed to capture the essence of the music industry and make it as real as it can be. And while the show contains plenty of drama, there’s also room for comedy and joy. Music is a source of empowerment that draws people to feel and can even change lives. Carole and Tuesday is a duo with lives connected by their passion and love of music. We can learn more from them in this anime, even if you don’t agree with their choices. Honestly, Carole & Tuesday is so much more than just an anime.
MAL Score: 7.93
In a civilized society of anthropomorphic animals, an uneasy tension exists between carnivores and herbivores. At Cherryton Academy, this mutual distrust peaks after a predation incident results in the death of Tem, an alpaca in the school’s drama club. Tem’s friend Legoshi, a grey wolf in the stage crew, has been an object of fear and suspicion for his whole life. In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, he continues to lay low and hide his menacing traits, much to the disapproval of Louis, a red deer and the domineering star actor of the drama club.
When Louis sneaks into the auditorium to train Tem’s replacement for an upcoming play, he assigns Legoshi to lookout duty. That very night, Legoshi has a fateful encounter with Haru, a white dwarf rabbit scorned by her peers. His growing feelings for Haru, complicated by his predatory instincts, force him to confront his own true nature, the circumstances surrounding the death of his friend, and the undercurrent of violence plaguing the world around him.
**Before we continue, in case you lean to the right side and consider yourself red-pilled, you most likely are at least on some level avoiding this anime like plague. I had my fair share of skepticism before going in, but I conclude this series is not driven by any pre-set political agenda. Social commentary exists, you can take it as political satire, call its world building neo nazi enigma, see the similarities to Stalin styled communism, laugh at how it practically labels food chain fascist, acknowledge the furry-relations, or entirely watch the series as an independent, stand-alone work that may have real life influence to back it up, but rather than preaching already discovered answers, it raises questions. It creates thought-provoking situations and presents them from multiple different perspectives, leaving room for the viewer to make their own interpretation. More than anything, it is what you make of it. What do we call this? Showing respect towards the audience.
There are three main cast members who all are vastly different from each others. They each have their own complex and shallow sides, inner and outer personalities; the one they are inside and the one they show to others, there is a clear portray of each individuals’ self-image, fair bit of awareness of what their self looks like to the outside eye, even inner monologue filled with reflecting exist, and the list goes on. The character-centric focus is highly psychological while the presentation itself is partially toned with philosophical questions. This level of detail and accuracy is highly uncommon for anime characters even in psychological anime series. There is more depth, detail, planning and polish that one would expect or let alone see at first glance. The cast members all come with self-awareness and ideas that come from within the person. There are no moments in the narrative where a thought or piece of behavior seems out of place or controlled by the author behind the 4th wall. While some of the supporting cast members (such as mixed breed rabbits) clearly appear as devices in the narrative instead of being sincere individuals, the main cast members do not come with any type of compromises.
Our trio consists of Legoshi, Louis and Haru. Legoshi is the main main character, a cautious and sensitive wolf who faces prejudices that are about his supposed wolf-like nature. He aims to counter this by censoring himself and acting almost like the polar opposite of what is expected of him. This causes some inner psychological struggle and visible bounce in forms of his nature overwriting his supposed raw personality. Louis is a deer whom seems to have not only overly egotistic behavior but narcissism, superiority complex and manipulative skills. His ego is no less than enormous, but what makes him vastly different from common student who is narcistic is that his near flawless self-image carries thru making wide masses around him actually genuinely believe he is the greatest person alive, which is due to his skill to manipulate people on individual level and in masses but still not entirely limited to this. On a side note: I’d love to see how he puts on a buttonless t-shirt considering those massive antlers. They never explain that.
Our last main character is Haru and she is perhaps the most disliked character. She is a rabbit and literally a slut. She sleeps with everyone and is widely hated by girls for supposedly stealing their men. She is the most controversial character in the series and many seem to despise her. Despite her getting bullied, assaulted and violeted, it seems to be rare for viewers to feel any sympathy towards her. I think that’s her true genius, because most people – at least in my generalization – love attention from the opposite sex (or their sex of interest) and are more than willing to make love with sexually attractive people, but we do not appreciate this feature in others. This is the viewer’s moment to reflect. Haru is a bit pushy self-victimizer, and her ideas seem to be some type of double edged sword where she’d want to see someone see her inner personality, but her outer behavior tends to ratiate only the slutty features she has. She is practically a self-caused illness, but this is still fascinating thing to follow, because she is nowhere near a weak person. By weak, I mean both: not weakly-writter nor the opposite of strong. Without her the series would definitely not be the same, and she is essential because what makes the cast so incredibly strong is not really their stand-alone personas, but how they interract with each others and develope relations. In these moments, when you have high understanding of these characters, even their smallest actions come with profound slow-burn effect.
As far as the writing goes, the premise and world building are basically wit wonderlands. The psychological side is accurate and clever, the animal prejudices -which are used as metaphoras- along the societal structure and way the world works, do not only have their real life relevance and political satire factors in them, but do hell of an impressive job creating the anime’s very own universe. One of its main ideas seems to be that healthy ideals do not necessarily create a healthy, functioning world. When a wide portion of society doesn’t feel well, it tends to backlash, leaving room for extremist, anti-government activity, havoc and, more specifically in this case, create downunder societies and black markets for the products that are banned. Where’s the funny in this, then? Because the herbivores blame those who cannot digest this; not the nu-food nor the bureaucratic bs and paints them the “bad guys.”
The actual plot could be said to come with its fair share of simplicity, and certain events play out with some level of convinience, which shows that not every bit has been thoroughly planned to hold water (this is the series’ sole biggest weakness), but as a whole, its writing has “attention to detail” type of approach, and when considering this, it’s quite hard to give justified criticism of its shortcomings when they come out as attributes rather than flaws. However, it should be noted that some of the story events are heavily slice of life oriented, and during these fractions, the series can side track from its actual main content quite a bit. In case you cannot accept more baseline vanilla plot events that are simply beautified with detail, it may be hard to find Beastars’ story significant and it may not appeal to you. If you can look past this rather niche and superficial issue, I promise what you see is a brave attempt succeeding and living up to its potential. I can only try and imagine the moment when the author wrote this and realized it’s actually good. I am sure not even she planned this all to work so well in her favor. It all just kinda happened, fitted together like compounds of a vaccine. For this reason, it may be easy to overanalyze the series: give its intellectual side more credibility than it deserves. But on the other hand, the lack of strong inprint from the author makes the series seem far less pseudo-intellectual than majority of series that are supposedly aimed for smart people. More than being a tool thru to which the author tries to prove her own genius, Beastars does what was already once said: leave room for viewer’s own judgement.
Some of the questions this raised in me were: Is equality the first step towards inequity? Are societal norms and values the very roots of human double standards? Can a person truly escape the mold that shaped him? Was Mufasa from Lion King actually wrong (you must take your place in the circle of life)? And most importantly, why do we so rarely get anime series that not only show us multidimensional characters, but tell a meaningful story? My final judgement: AOTY.
WARNING: MAJOR STORY SPOILERS AHEAD.
The anime started off well and was a bit surprising. I went into this thinking it was a comedy, but it’s a drama. There’s a little humor, but mostly it’s a serious anime that imagines what the relationship between carnivores and herbivores would be if they had a human society. In the midst of this, the likable MC, Legoshi, falls for a rabbit, Haru, basically because she talked to him once in a greenhouse. Even though he tried to eat her the first time they met. This is the first logic break, because he’s apparently attracted to her forward and outgoing nature, when everyone around him seems to be outgoing and he’s the only introvert in the show.
But, you can ignore this logic flaw and still get into a pretty bizarre, but definitely good story. Legosi struggles to define his feelings for Haru, while struggling to contain his own predatory nature. There’s a bit of a love triangle going on with Legoshi, Haru and Louis. Louis is a very irritating and overconfident deer, who is tapped to be the Beastar, which, I’m still not quite sure what it is, but it has some kind of power over society or something. Because Haru is a rabbit who feels like she’s weak, she sleeps with everything that moves. (Screw like rabbits. hardy har har, I guess.) She slept with Louis because of this and tried to sleep with Legoshi, because she’ll sleep with anyone who wants it. This triangle with Louis, Legoshi and Haru provides some intrigue. Through this situation, you wonder if the anime might take a dark turn due to jealousy. I watched every episode wondering how this was going to go south, especially once the second grey wolf, Juno enters the anime, who has a thing for Legoshi. It really seemed like it might go the “School Days” route, because Legoshi could just eat Louis and Haru if he wants to and he seems psycho enough to do it. Or, Juno could eat Haru, or something. The wolves were kinda nuts.
But, just as this love square seems to hit a crescendo, between predators and prey, BOOM, they throw a completely stupid curve ball at you that destroys the story. Haru the Rabbit, is suddenly kidnapped by a group of lions who plan to feed her to their boss. (Which, BTW, the lions should’ve been females, they’re the hunters. Males don’t hunt for other males.) But, this is when it gets incredibly stupid.
What was a weird, animal, high-school, romance drama, suddenly turns into Die Hard, as Legoshi goes all Bruce Willis (Complete with the wife beater and broken glass) to rescue the rabbit. And with only a crossbow wielding Panda by his side, he somehow defeats THIRTY-FIVE LIONS. A wolf beating one lion is stupid. A wolf beating 35 lions? Come on, man.
The entire world’s lore broke with these ridiculous episodes. The chief world breaking issue is the fact that suddenly, the lions have guns and the panda has a crossbow. Now, this entire world is based upon that idea that strong carnivores are a massive threat to helpless herbivores. But, if there are GUNS then why the hell are the herbivores so scary and helpless? SHOOT people who try to eat you. The playing field is level with guns, so the whole concept of the society falls apart and becomes senseless.
So many logic breaks happen after this. Just, so many. The Leo Group (The lions) are supposed to be terrifyingly powerful, but are easily beaten by two people. The Leo Group goes through all the trouble of kidnapping a tiny rabbit for the boss to eat, and they let her live like ALL NIGHT LONG. I mean, I get felines play with their food, but, seriously… The kicker, is after Legoshi is done doing his Bruce Willis thing, Louis shows up and kills the boss and then gives himself up to be eaten to two other armed lions while laughing like a nutcase. And it is barely mentioned. Louis was not a minor character, and his role in the anime was supposed to be extremely important, like a MLK bridging the gap between carnivores and herbivores. (Still not sure how). He disappears, and it might be mentioned 3-4 times by others. You’d think the whole city would freak out, but, nah…they’re good.
But, the biggest plot hole in no one seeming to care? Is that of everyone who doesn’t really care, it is Haru herself who seems to care the least. As she does not mention Louis again even once after he disappears. Rabbit thot is all about Legoshi now, like she never knew a deer named Louis. She was supposed to love him. That was established many times in the anime. But, I guess Legoshi was so manly in his Bruce Willis tee, she just completely forgot all about Louis.
I can’t even explain all of the logic gaps this anime contained. Why is it unnatural for a rabbit to bang a wolf, but it’s natural for it to bang deer, foxes, dogs and whatever the hell else Haru slept with? And why the hell do animals with keen senses of smell not know how to find people unless its convenient to the plot? What the hell happened to the Panda after the miracle fight? Did he just leave Legoshi to fight the boss? Is he dead in a pool of his own blood? Why the hell would he even follow a guy he had one conversation with to fight the most feared Mafia in the city? Why is a student from a love-story suddenly fighting a mafia anyway? Why does smelling scents make Legoshi stronger than frickin’ lions? I don’t know…
Then we get to the ending. The non-ending. The no reason at all for it to be a non-ending, ending, but is a non-ending ending, anyway.
After rescuing her, Haru is prepared to slut out for Legoshi a second time, but then her “instincts” make her jump into his mouth to try and be eaten by him, instead. I’d like to know what kind of animal instinct this is, that causes prey to jump into the mouth of their predators? I’ve never seen it in the wild, and I love nature documentaries. I was completely unaware that animals developed instincts to jump into predator’s mouths, when they get horny. Just a completely dumb reason for them to not have sex. Especially dumb when you consider this rabbit has slept with dogs and foxes, who also hunt rabbits. No mouth jumping there?
After the awkward “I want to make love to you but my body told me to commit suicide, instead” scene, we flash forward to the festival, where Legoshi tells Haru he loves her again and she runs away (Even though she just tried to screw him less than 24 hours ago) which causes Legoshi to chase her to the mandatory “hill overlooking the city” scene, where he tells her AGAIN that he loves her, like it’s the first time. And then, even though she tried to bone him TWICE, even though she said she can’t live without him now, they DON’T get together. Instead, Legoshi says he’ll become stronger for Haru so he can overcome his instincts and society that says they shouldn’t be together. And what a specifically racist society. Only wolves and rabbits can’t hook up. Rabbits and deer are fine. We can even have inter-species love hotels. But, no rabbits and wolves! Bigots.
Her response to Legoshi’s declaration of becoming strong enough to apparently not have the instincts of a wolf, is “I’ll wait.” (Although she had no interest in waiting yesterday.) Why? Why are we waiting? Is he NOT going to be a wolf at some point? Hasn’t he already NOT eaten her many times? And seeing how she jumped into his mouth and he still didn’t eat her, shouldn’t he be waiting for her not to be the world’s dumbest rabbit?
This anime teaches us all an important lesson: If you’re going to get drunk, do it after you finish episode 12, not episode 9.
Coming into Beastars, I was a bit skeptical. That’s because I saw the 3D animation and immediately thought of Berserk 2016. Granted, the previews for Beastars were enough to convince me otherwise, but I was still leery. It’s not say that 3D aesthetics are terrible in general, but an artistic essence, if you will, seems noticeably absent — as compared to 2D aesthetics — making the 3D visuals seem a bit lifeless. Also, Japanese artists (unlike Western artists), draw 2D characters, which makes the conversion process to 3D look unnatural and wonky. Furthermore, the multitude of anime with horrendous 3D animation has soured expectations in the anime community, making a preponderance of fans jaded to the very notion.
Taking that all into consideration, I must say that Beastars far and away exceeded my expectations; as I was thoroughly impressed and astonished by its brilliant imagery. Episode 4 was the high water mark for the series, with its expressive color palette, remarkable camera angles, and phenomenal still-shots. It literally felt like someone painted a masterpiece, over, and over, and over again; stitching each stunning image into one cohesive product, that we call an episode. This, in my opinion, is the mark of a great film/series. One that leaves lasting images in the viewers memory long after the viewing experience. The shot with Louis extending his arm to Legosi — similar to Michelangelo’s, ‘The Creation of Adam’ — was simply marvelous. Also, the scenes with Haru and Legosi in the hotel bedroom featured poignant shots that expressed the emotional/sexual tension between the two. A tension that felt eerily relatable to the human condition, as each one of Legosi’s awkward advances were mired in insecurities. While there were hiccups here and there with the various character movements (the fight between Legosi and the Shishigumi boss comes to mind), it did little to diminish the dazzling visuals on screen.
That all being said, images only go so far, as a thematically rich story with well developed characters is needed to create a truly great work. Fortunately for the viewer, Beastars does just that. Starting with our main character, Legosi, he is a tortured soul that has a strong, innate urge to eat meat (which is considered taboo at school). In episode 2, we see the metaphorical demon that dwells within Legosi, and how that shapes him as a person. Because for Legosi, displaying any signs of aggression, in the presence of an herbivore, is unacceptable; thus, he represses this facet of his personality, in exchange for a timid persona that exudes little-to-no confidence. But while this calm, socially-withdrawn facade may put his fellow students at ease, it is tearing him up inside (resulting in self-loathing).
This was highlighted in episode 4, when Legosi and Bill (the bengal tiger) put on a ‘performance’ in front of the student body. But what appeared to be acting, was really subtext for the act that carnivores put on while in the presence of herbivores at school. An act that Legosi will need to acknowledge if he is to ever break free from his self-imposed constraints. Needless to say, it will be interesting to see how Legosi confronts this dilemma, especially as his affections for Haru proliferate.
One of the other major character arcs in Beastars is that of Louis; a male deer who is the antithesis of Legosi (strong-willed, confident, and self-affirming). His dilemma, however, is not unlike Legosi’s — in which he feels insecure in his own skin — causing him to overcompensate with a brash attitude to conceal his ‘weaknesses’ as an herbivore. In this regard, Louis and Legosi are two sides of the same coin; wanting they cannot attain, but not appreciating what was given to them. They are both putting on an act that they cannot sustain, as all shows must come to an end — and after the show, comes reality.
Speaking of reality, Louis’ past reality is a tragic one. But it is worth remembering in understanding how that shapes his future self (it is also worth remembering for its stunning, visceral images). Because while it seems that Louis is always composed and in control — in truth, he is not. Louis is a slave to his perceived fragility, creating an identity crisis in which he desperately seeks power to prove himself to others. It is a quest that will, most likely, lead to self-destruction if he does not accept his limitations.
Another herbivore that seeks to transcend her limitations, is Haru. A bunny-girl that feels looked down upon (physically and emotionally) by society. This was accentuated beautifully in episode 10, when Haru chronicled her life’s story in the anticipation of impending death. But her plight for acceptance is different from Louis, as she utilizes lust to achieve ‘equality.’ A desire that provides temporary benefits, yet no lasting returns. And this self-destructive cycle not only precludes an endearing relationship, but it also tarnishes her reputation among her classmates — creating social isolation. All in all, Haru does more damage to herself via overcompensation. A theme that is pervasive in all three main characters (four, if you count Juno).
Needless to say, I was completely engrossed by the changing dynamics of Beastars, and how it utilized symbolism and subtext to emphasize its core themes. While the show featured different species of animals to underscore the hardships of carnivores and herbivores living together, it really showcased the same trials and tribulations that we face as humans. Hence, why it is crucial to watch these types of anime for proper perspective.
“The tendency to live within one’s own reality is a dangerous notion, and without proper grounding from outside influences — we can easily foster our own emotional seppuku.” — Krunchyman
8: Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari
English: The Rising of the Shield Hero
MAL Score: 8.02
The Four Cardinal Heroes are a group of ordinary men from modern-day Japan summoned to the kingdom of Melromarc to become its saviors. Melromarc is a country plagued by the Waves of Catastrophe that have repeatedly ravaged the land and brought disaster to its citizens for centuries. The four heroes are respectively bestowed a sword, spear, bow, and shield to vanquish these Waves. Naofumi Iwatani, an otaku, becomes cursed with the fate of being the “Shield Hero.” Armed with only a measly shield, Naofumi is belittled and ridiculed by his fellow heroes and the kingdom’s people due to his weak offensive capabilities and lackluster personality.
When the heroes are provided with resources and comrades to train with, Naofumi sets out with the only person willing to train alongside him, Malty Melromarc. He is soon betrayed by her, however, and becomes falsely accused of taking advantage of her. Naofumi then becomes heavily discriminated against and hated by the people of Melromarc for something he didn’t do. With a raging storm of hurt and mistrust in his heart, Naofumi begins his journey of strengthening himself and his reputation. Further along however, the difficulty of being on his own sets in, so Naofumi buys a demi-human slave on the verge of death named Raphtalia to accompany him on his travels.
As the Waves approach the kingdom, Naofumi and Raphtalia must fight for the survival of the kingdom and protect the people of Melromarc from their ill-fated future.
If there is a reason Tate no Yuusha ever stood out in the first place, it is because of the protagonist and the appalling situation he is soon forced into. Though isekai anime taking a turn for the dark are hardly rare, the abject betrayal Naofumi faces is not the treatment one would expect for someone abducted from their world and supposedly re-branded a “hero”. The corrupt, contemptible society he is forced to fight for is not what you might anticipate from a genre where the setting— the fantasy— is meant to be an escape from the monotony of the real world. Instead, it turns out things in Naofumi’s new world may actually be far worse than they ever were in his old one. A fantasy turned nightmare.
The whole ‘twist’, I suppose— if you could call it that— was a success in the eyes of many. It turned another forgettable, run-of-the-mill anime into something a bit more engaging, and gave many a reason for the viewer to empathise with Naofumi, through joining in his hatred for society and his potential quest for revenge. Whether these themes were ever fully realised, or even handled well, may well be a different story entirely.
See, Tate no Yuusha never actually takes things further than ‘corruption sucks’ and ‘I’m mad— grr, watch my flames of anger.’ The king is inherently evil because of a small grudge. Myne is verminous scum merely because… wait, there is no actual reason. Motoyasu, the spear hero, is a gullible idiot who likes to womanise and that is all there is behind his punch-able little face. Raphtalia is a benevolent mary sue who will not utter or even think a bad thought, her almost immediately (and incomprehensibly) falling in love with Naofumi, thus existing as waifu material for those who like to rescue their damsels from distress. Filo is pure fodder for lolicons and a relentless annoyance for anyone who is not. The list goes on. The only one who still has potential is the Queen, but considering the path the show has trodden thus far, it would be illogical to assume a second season would fare her any better. Tate no Yuusha’s characters, though they may initially show promise, are quickly cast aside and made merely to be fanservice or vehicles to drive Naofumi’s hatred along, however the writer’s whims may fancy.
Oh, you wanted to see the anime tackle issues surrounding the slave trade, and Naofumi’s moral dilemma of having taken part in an evil system yet saved someone as a direct result of it? Sorry – I have disappointing news. Did you want to see the politics, heck, even geography of the world explored with more than two lines of dialogue? Nope. Not here. Everything in Tate no Yuusha is surface level. It has the facade of maturity, but in reality is about as mature as a 1999 Slipknot album.
Any fight scene, no matter how overwhelming and powerful the opponent, can, and will, be prematurely ended by Naofumi’s anger turning him Super Saiyan. Whereas anime like JoJo will carefully construct the fights to be based on tactics and cleverness, Tate no Yuusha presents nothing except power levels. You can fast-forward through any climactic fight scene and have lost little to nothing of value, as all you ever need to know is that Naofumi got angry and won. Sure, there is a degree of self-awareness throughout the show, with characters remarking on how this power is essentially him “cheating”. But when Naofumi attributes all his success to hard work and yet wins merely because of said mysterious power randomly appearing at the most convenient time— essentially a deus ex machina— you have to wonder what the hell he is even talking about.
If all you ever wanted to see was Naofumi take revenge against those who wronged him, then, I am sorry to say, but even that will lead you to much disappointment. On numerous occasions, when he is on the cusp of enacting his long-sought revenge, he takes the high road and proselytizes about how killing a bad person makes you just as bad as them, or whatever— the usual tripe you hear from lame, holier-than-thou anime protagonists. Since when was Naofumi ever supposed to be an idealistic person? Hadn’t he lost all his faith in society, or even in morality itself after what he had experienced? Not only does this betray fans of the first several episodes, but it makes his character an inconsistent and incomprehensible mess. He plays hero when it is supposed to sound cool, and villain when it is convenient for him. By the time there actually is some sort of retribution for those who wronged him, it is too little too late, a thumbs-up, an “okay, cool” rather than anything deserving of applause. Tate no Yuusha surely and steadily loses its steam as the episodes blindly trudge by, and once its primary theme is lazily cast aside, there is no reason to care about what happens to a world where saving the day and being a ‘hero’ never even meant anything in the first place.
So there you go. Another trite isekai anime, popular mostly for its gimmicky nature, masquerading itself as mature merely because it has themes that are darker than is usual. Those who aren’t fans of the genre will most likely have trusted their instincts and avoided this show, anyway, but for those who sit on the fence, and even for those who generally enjoy these sorts of shows, there is not much to be gained from Tate no Yuusha’s feckless affairs. It makes me miss the flawed but ambitious Re:Zero, and Re:Zero is not an anime I had really imagined myself missing all that much.
And now I’m all out of words because I realise the next one of these— Arifureta— is down the corner, just a week’s time away, with a premise that is almost word-for-word copy-paste of what is found in Tate no Yuusha.
It just doesn’t end.
Do people actually think The Rising of the Shield Hero is above other isekai harem fodder? Naofumi is yet again another blank slate protagonist who builds his harem by “saving” a bunch of lolis. Rather than developing any of them, the show just adds a new loli to avoid writing compelling characters. Naofumi is a nobody otaku who stays at his home all day—with perfect hair for some reason—then he gets sent to another world in the painful 45-minute first episode. Why is he there? To save some video game fantasy world from being destroyed! Why did they choose him? Who cares! The writers didn’t! Once he arrives, he notices a shield is stuck to his arm, not cool. Naofumi finds three more boring guys who were also sent to this world to help save it. The other heroes have much cooler weapons like a spear, a bow, and a sword.
Naofumi is looked down on for being so lame and getting the worst weapon. It’s kind of hilarious to watch them crap on him, but it has sinister implications. One of the heroes accuses Naofumi of being a criminal because he owns slaves; he defends himself by saying it’s okay because, in the fantasy world, slavery is legal. Like any sensible person, the hero tells him that he should follow civilized Japanese society’s laws. The whole scene is frighteningly framed as if Naofumi is correct and the hero is the villain (but he’s actually right). It’s a distasteful moment, but you’ll soon realize Naofumi prides himself on being a complete asshole. At every turn, he exploits, enslaves, or swindles innocent people.
This is one of those shows where EVERYONE shits on the weak protagonist except his harem, but watch out because he’s going to become a badass! They act like he will be a weakling, but of course, his defensive skills are just overpowered attack skills in disguise. Right from the very beginning, it’s obvious Naofumi will get everything fa harem protagonist deserves. Magic powers that defy logic, waifus to fight over him, and more money than he’ll ever be able to spend.
All of this sounds great for our plucky personality-less main character, but reaching the ultimate isekai protagonist status would prove to be challenging. No one wants to join the lame Shield Hero’s party. Fortunately for him, there is someone who volunteers! Malty, the princess of the kingdom that summoned the four heroes, offers her help. Is it too good to be true? No! He’s getting the woman he deserves! …Oh no. Then Malty falsely accuses him of rape, and she steals all his stuff. Then she ditches him for the spear hero, a cool guy who everyone loves. Anyone with a functioning brain can see this ‘twist’ coming from a mile away. This petty conflict reveals the author’s nihilistic insecurity; The fear that if a beautiful woman loves you, she must be secretly trying to manipulate you. I understand the author. All of us have experienced rejection, and this is a fantasy for disillusioned young men. Yes, I am calling the author a man. Many people seem to believe the author’s a woman, so what? For those new to the internet, the incel (involuntarily celibate) community is known for misogyny, self-loathing, violent rhetoric, and hatred toward relationships. Since its inception, the community has generated mass murderers, rapists, and dozens of suicides. Even if Shield Hero was written by a woman, it’s still garbage.
Naofumi is exiled, stripped of his money, and his reputation is tarnished. This is the stage of inceldom known as the red pill: He accepts that he will be alone because society misunderstands him. No one will ever love him, and if they claim they do, they are lying. Nothing is his fault; he is unable to fix his life. Similar to the toxic red-pill rhetoric, you can poke holes in this logic; Naofumi is an OK looking guy, I’d fuck if he wasn’t a personified plank of wood. There are plenty of ex-cons getting laid every day. A real justice system will have a fair trial in a court that practices innocent until proven guilty, not vice versa. The author bends logic, so the court trial is totally unrealistic, and everyone comically hates him. It’s unintentionally hilarious.
Then, Naofumi takes the black pill: If you feel abandoned by society, why not seek revenge? He vows to seek revenge on Malty in the most brutal way possible. I’m not trying to demonize the author; I am condemning the ideologies he promotes. The black pill’s inevitable state is known as LDR (Lie Down and Rot), which is as evil as it sounds. The black pill is a toxic trash heap of profoundly ill men worsening each other’s depression and cultivating their anger towards women. They share what’s called sui-fuel—images and stories to convince themselves to commit suicide. Looking at these images is like dousing a cut with hand sanitizer, not unlike watching Naofumi being punished unjustly. Malty, the King, and the three heroes are the villains, except they are never given motivations or any character depth. Malty was evil for the sake of being evil—she a plot device to fuel the revenge fantasy. She exists to be hated and motivate Naofumi to seek revenge. He never questions why she did what she did.
There’s no subtlety, ambiguity, or nuance to this message, making for a very dull anime. For most of the show, the conflict is stagnant. Naofumi solves trivial problems to grind for XP (which does not matter at all in the end), then when the conflict is addressed, the execution is very underwhelming. There’s no satisfaction to be had from the revenge plot. Unless you love torture porn—complete with women suffering, boob shots, and ahegao faces—then you’ll be disappointed. The author grows tired of Shield Hero’s plotlines like an impatient child; he rewrites its plot, setting, and conflicts at the drop of a hat. Naofumi strolls down to the neighborhood slave market full of despair to pick up a new party member and potential love interest. I do not need to explain why owning another person is wrong. Half of the anime community turned a blind eye to slavery—one of the most amoral and depraved crimes. They ignored it because the girl Naofumi bought was a cute tanuki. In the context of the story, the inclusion of slavery is a pointless addition that serves nothing but degenerate fetishistic fantasies. The prominent theme of slavery in Shield Hero affirms the incel ideology known as “The Redistribution of Sex.” They believe men should be legally assigned a woman against their will.
The second episode is aptly titled “The Slave Girl,” as if it was a confession of guilt from the show’s producer. Naofumi picks up a cute raccoon girl, a battered slave. Anyone who praised Shield Hero early on couldn’t put into words why other than “cute raccoon girl” and “Naofumi reminds me of myself.” Wow, a slave owner with no personality is just so relatable. After episode five, the slave girl’s personality stopped developing altogether. Naofumi named her Raphtalia, then he trained her by using the slavery game mechanic—he shocked her whenever she refused his orders. Like any great father, he grooms her to become a killing machine. By the end of the second episode, she is suddenly a grown adult woman after a few in-game days pass. OKAY. Every in-game level adds a year to her physical appearance. However, she looks no older than 21 despite her level increasing far beyond that. It’s almost like the author wanted to write a pure, child-like girl who looks above the age of consent, despite obviously being unable to consent due to her mental reliance on Naofumi as a slave owner and a father figure. Soon it apparent that “age” doesn’t stop the show from fetishizing its female characters. Raphtalia has a father/daughter relationship with Naofumi, but now that she’s older, she becomes a weird sort of love interest. Cross that fetish off the author’s checklist. Honestly, it’s doubly creepy because he even says she’s like his daughter.
Throughout the series, Raphtalia makes romantic advances towards Naofumi, but he acts too braindead to perceive anything as sexual. Their relationship never progresses, and so this show never becomes a romance (thank Christ). When she talks to Naofumi, he could be replaced by a plank of wood, and there would be no difference. She struts her stuff in front of him, wearing a skimpy bathing suit in the very important beach episode, to no response. With the same vacant expression, he comments on how effective the swimsuit will be in combat. Later on, Naofumi buys another slave. This one was an egg. It hatches into a colossal feathery bird named Filo—or rather a little girl, naked upon introduction. Her only purpose in the story is to fight for Naofumi in combat. She also fights for Naofumi’s love against Raphtalia and the other waifus. The rest of his harem is underage girls, and Filo is under a year old (although she looks like a toddler). Could this get any more revolting?
The story goes in circles; people accuse the Shield Hero of being a rapist and owning slaves, then the cycle repeats itself over and over. First, it’s princess Malty, then it’s the King, then it’s the church, then all of the cardinal heroes accuse him. These allegations don’t ever get to Naofumi because he is more or less a passive protagonist. He is either told to do something, like stopping the waves of chaos to save the world, save helpless villagers, or circumstances push him to do something. He doesn’t grow at all from any conflict. The rest of the cast is even worse written than he is. Throughout the story, character motivations are rewritten with no build-up, which makes their previous actions seem nonsensical in retrospect. Powerful weapons, new powers, and incentives are retconned into the story to increase the stakes. The retcons are so stupid they lessen the effect of the action scenes. At the best of times, the fight choreography is average, and it only gets worse. If you love janky, hideous CGI, you will love the action scenes in this show. Later on, low detail CGI is used in any shot Kinema Citrus can shove it into. Guards, intimidating monsters, grand attacks, background characters are all CGI. Any grand action set piece you would expect to be well-animated is hideous CGI. The only thing the visuals have going for them is the character designs, and even those are generic and uninspired. With a drab color palette of browns and faded greens, the background art couldn’t be blander. Kinema Citrus is a promising studio with great productions like Made in Abyss; this is a new low for them.
The fantastic composer Kevin Pelkin was brought on by Kinema Citrus again. While Pelkin’s soundtrack doesn’t live up to the heights of his work on Made in Abyss, it is the best part of the show. The OST is always used to build tension in place of, you know, writing, and to that extent. However, the music consists of calming string instruments and woodwinds, fitting an atmospheric story. The music is not suited to this kind of anime. Forcing the composer to carry the weight of a crappy script just undermines his talent. Pelkin deserves better than this. Both openings were pretty terrible, sorry MADKID. I would say I liked the ending songs if I could remember them, but they were average and forgettable.
The Rising of the Shield Hero is about an asshole who doesn’t care about anything but showing everyone how better he is than them. The themes are slavery apologia, misogyny, and women’s rights. Never mind, scratch that last one. Everyone hates him, they misunderstand him, they underestimate him. His goal is to prove he is far better than they thought, for them to know how great of a person he is, and to love him.
Flawed people make good characters, and Naofumi is VERY flawed. That’s why he’s often called an anti-hero. However, his many imperfections are never explored. People judge him, but they don’t criticize him. Raphtalia is groomed to respect him; she loves him before even meeting him, there is never any hint of criticism of his treatment of her. She even looks back on him abusing her with nostalgia in later episodes. His misogyny is implied and understandable. However, it is ignored and it never adds any depth to him.
Shield Hero is cliched, predictable, and ugly. Light novel writers churn out stories like Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari all the time. An adaptation of a generic LN is bound to make money, that’s why drivel like this exists. Unless you are a fan of wish-fulfillment isekai anime, nothing makes this one worth watching. The archetypal characters do not have enough personality to make this morally bankrupt plot engaging at all. Once the art and writing quality decline far past mediocre, it becomes unremittingly awful. Without a doubt, The Rising of the Shield Hero is the worst anime I have had the misfortune of watching all year.
I’m going to keep what I wrote below since I don’t believe in changing one’s work. It’s how I felt then, so I have to deal with it. Just know that it’s a lot more positive of a take then how I feel about Shield Hero now.
We’ve come to a point in the anime industry where isekai anime are immediately judged just for being isekai. Due to the apparent “overuse” and “unoriginality” of the genre, some individuals will make a big deal about it or not even watch an anime at all simply because of the genre, even if the isekai elements have essentially no bearing on the narrative whatsoever, as is the case with The Rising of the Shield Hero. Yes, Shield Hero is an isekai, but don’t let that blind you from seeing the true themes and merit of this show. At its core, this is an anime all about friendship, perseverance, and what it means to truly be a hero.
It’s also a cleverly disguised loli harem series too. Crazy, right? But I’ll save explaining this shocking revelation for later. Oh, the suspense!
I know I just started off by saying not to judge Shield Hero just for being an isekai, but it honestly does have a stereotypical fantasy setting. Heroes are summoned to another world that’s suspiciously designed just like a video game with the task of saving the world from monsters. Yeah, I’ve totally never heard that one before! But what really matters is execution, which Shield Hero completely nails. After starting off quite harmless with everything going fine and dandy for Naofumi, the recently dubbed shield hero, things take a dark turn after one of the most controversial occurrences in modern anime goes down. He gets accused of rape. Because of the current state of our real world society, the false rape allocations against Naofumi by the bitchy princess Malty struck a cord with many people and caused lots of heated debates on the topic. I say keep reality and fiction separate, and I personally think that this was a great way to swiftly introduce the central conflict between Naofumi and basically everyone else. Everyone essentially berates and shames the poor dude, leaving him a little broken on the inside. In the span of a single episode, Malty, the king, and the other three heroes summoned to the world are set up to be extremely hatable characters, and it just works. It’s honestly as good of an introduction as you can get in a fantasy series.
What I love the most about Naofumi is how he deals with the crappy lot in life he ended up with. He transforms from a happy go lucky protagonist to a more cynical guy who only seems to care about personal gain, and I feel like this is a pretty realistic shift considering what he’s gone through. He even ends up purchasing a demi-human slave! I thought only bad guys did that! This of course is where the anime starts to really get good, because of how great Shield Hero portrays the relationship between Naofumi and his slave raccoon loli Raphtalia. You can tell that Raphtalia has gone through some pretty messed up stuff, which the anime touches on in later episodes. It seems like Naofumi treats her a bit harshly at first, but you can quickly tell that he’s actually giving her some tough love and training her to become stronger and to get over her fears. Heck, she even upgrades from a loli to a woman, that’s how effective his training is!
And then after Naofumi gets further put down by the kingdom, it’s Raphtalia who saves him from completely falling into despair. That’s why their relationship is great, because they both help and in some ways even complete each other. Plus it’s handled in a completely unconventional way too. You’d think that Naofumi would release Raphtalia from being a slave, but neither of them in fact want that, to the shock of the Spear Hero and others. Of course the writing here can be viewed as dangerous as it seems to present slavery in a positive light, but I think this situation should be kept separate from reality and that the morally grey approach works in the anime’s favor. It’s little things like this that make Rising of the Shield Hero really stand out.
One thing that could weaken your interest in this anime would be how quickly you get annoyed at the constant degradation of Naofumi, because his defamation continues far after Raphtalia saves him, and is the primary conflict in the anime. This isn’t a show about a hero fighting against monsters. No, this is an anime about a man fighting against the people who should be his allies. I’ve seen people say that they’ve gotten exasperated over how much Naofumi gets put down, but I’d have to disagree. This anime makes you really dislike characters who shouldn’t actually be villains at all, yet are set up like it due to their poor choices and actions. And shouldn’t a good antagonist be someone that viewers are meant to despise and root for the protagonist to overcome? Shield Hero does just that, and I think that the central conflict is handled and eventually resolved quite well.
Of course, there’s more going on than just that. Throughout his journey Naofumi encounters two more loli party members. Lucky him. The first is Filo, a cleverly named filolial who Naofumi basically raised from birth after purchasing her as an egg. She has two forms. The first is her angel-like loli form, and the second is her super fluffy giant chicken-like beast form. What can I say, she’s absolutely adorable in both forms. She does lots of useful things like draw the wagon, beat up cgi monsters, and kick the Spear Hero in his balls. Also, like Raphtalia, Filo develops a strong bond with Naofumi in which they build off of each other to further evolve as characters. Filo also develops a cute rivalry with Raphtalia over Naofumi’s affections, which is pretty humorous. The final girl to complete Naofumi’s holy loli triad is Melty, the younger sister of Malty and heir to the throne. Because Naofumi has the most hostility towards royalty, his interaction with Melty sets up an interesting dynamic. They gradually learn to trust and rely on each other, and by consistently helping Melty, we can further see just how much of a hero Naofumi really is. Melty also has my favorite character design in the show, and despite being nobility, Melty’s cuteness just makes my heart melt.
These characters travel together cleaning up the messes of the other three so called heroes all while being defamed and hunted by the government. Yet despite his annoyance at and mistrust of everyone outside of his party, Naofumi keeps persevering, which is quite admirable. Though you know what I think gives him strength? The lolis. You may have noticed that all three main girls are lolis. “B-But Raphtalia isn’t!” Wrong! She may have evolved from her loli body, but she says that she still has the age and mentality of a child. This is a clever technique by the writer to hide the fact that Naofumi has obtained a loli harem. And just like your typical harem, all three girls have a thing for Naofumi and go all blushy blush when they’re around him. And just like a harem protagonist, Naofumi seems completely oblivious to their advances. The author knew that he’d be labeled a degenerate for making a loli harem series, so he masqueraded his fantasy as an isekai anime. It’s simply brilliant honestly. Or maybe I’m just completely wrong. Yeah, it’s probably the latter…but you never know…
Madkid was asked to RISE to the occasion and perform both opening theme songs. To be honest, my FAITH in their ability to deliver quality music wasn’t too high since I’m personally not a big fan of their style, but they did a good job here.
Yes, the show does have its share of flaws. For one, I do feel like episode 21 should have been the season finale, since there was a transition of arcs after it, which to me was a pretty odd design choice considering that the anime only had a few more episodes left. Shield Hero definitely has its share of technical issues as well. In some cases character designs and movements just looked a little sloppy. And the cgi used on some of the creatures just didn’t look that good.
The Rising of the Shield Hero has a surprisingly decent narrative that touches upon themes that lesser anime in the genre don’t even bother to mention. You know, a lot of isekai protagonists tend to act like the three cardinal heroes. They’re ecstatic about living in a fantasy world and think everything revolves around them. But Naofumi is different. He keeps getting back up after getting knocked down. He may seem like he takes advantage of others, but he always has everyone’s best interests at heart. He genuinely cares about his party. And even if he doesn’t get any appreciation for his good deeds, he still always does the right thing. And that’s what makes this shield bro a true hero…except I don’t think that anymore at all haha. Naofumi can go join the ranks of hundreds of other bland isekai protagonists.
7: Fruits Basket 1st Season
Japanese: フルーツバスケット 1st season
MAL Score: 8.22
Tooru Honda has always been fascinated by the story of the Chinese Zodiac that her beloved mother told her as a child. However, a sudden family tragedy changes her life, and subsequent circumstances leave her all alone. Tooru is now forced to live in a tent, but little does she know that her temporary home resides on the private property of the esteemed Souma family. Stumbling upon their home one day, she encounters Shigure, an older Souma cousin, and Yuki, the “prince” of her school. Tooru explains that she lives nearby, but the Soumas eventually discover her well-kept secret of being homeless when they see her walking back to her tent one night.
Things start to look up for Tooru as they kindly offer to take her in after hearing about her situation. But soon after, she is caught up in a fight between Yuki and his hot-tempered cousin, Kyou. While trying to stop them, she learns that the Souma family has a well-kept secret of their own: whenever they are hugged by a member of the opposite sex, they transform into the animals of the Chinese Zodiac.
With this new revelation, Tooru will find that living with the Soumas is an unexpected adventure filled with laughter and romance.
There’s one thing for certain: Fruits Basket is a best-seller in the West. Whether you’re a fan of shoujo genre or not, the series has a large fan base that still exists today. As a fan myself, I’ve read the series many years ago and have seen the first anime adaptation. Coming into the new Fruits Basket feels like a trip down memory lane. Only this time, we have enhanced visuals updated to more modern quality and a commitment to bring a full adaptation. For an emotional story and character driven show, Fruits Basket is a classic.
It’s 2019 and bringing a show from the past isn’t that simple. The biggest question on many people’s mind revolves how many episodes will the new season consist. With the actual amount of content from the manga, it’s not enough for just 25 episodes. Hence, it’s labeled as “first season” serving as a remake continuation of the franchise. However, something else came to my mind with its staff and cast. Fruits Basket’s characters are significant and to bring their personalities on the TV screen would need an A+ level of talent. Luckily, there’s no need to worry as the voices in this show are able to step up to the plate. Tohru Honda’s VA has changed for the new adaptation but her personality remains relatively the same. For those new to the franchise, she is the main female protagonist and an incredibly kind high school girl. While her character introduction may cause some heads to turn away (I mean, who would be impressed by an orphan living in a tent?), there’s no doubt she is a selfless person. She is loyal and often optimistic about her life. There’s many times in the show where she treats others with respect and is well known for her kindness. At the same time, Tohru’s weakness shows in her personality with her being too forgiving of others. Her character growth this season is slow but should be respected as the anime wants to flesh out her personality as much as possible. Most importantly, the show establishes her as an iconic shoujo character.
Meanwhile, we shouldn’t forget about the other main cast. Fruits Basket is a shoujo after all and isn’t complete without important male characters. These consist of members the Soma family. Most prominently, there’s Kyo and Yuki. The characters themselves are based off of the Eastern Chinese Zodiac with 12 animals. Strangely enough, Kyo himself is not part of the Zodiac although he is still a member of the family. He is portrayed as a young man with a short temper who often gets into pity arguments with Yuki. Their rivalry is relentless with battle of words, contests, and occasional physical fights. However, their rivalry is more about Kyo trying to prove himself and whether he truly can be accepted as a member of the Soma family. In other words, it’s not really some blood feud with lives at stake. Plus, a princely guy like Yuki isn’t the type that would want to harm others. His gentle and reserved personality at school earned him many fans, including his own personal fan club. Despite this, Yuki is portrayed as a distant man who isn’t easy to make friends with. Throughout the show, he develops a unique bond with Tohru as the two understands each other more. It’s also important to realize the season occasionally shows cryptic parts of his darker past. We don’t see it often but there are windows of moments where he shows insecurity and fear. Any new fans would no doubt be curious to learn more about Yuki. And as the more episodes progresses, the more complicated his character gets.
On the other hand, the more you look at Kyo, the more you can probably realize he’s growing a deeper affections towards Tohru. There are some episodes that shows his curiosity about her and even transforming into a genuine friendship. From a character relationship perspective, their chemistry evolves surely, although slowly. Tohru herself also begins to see his true character, beyond that of a hotblooded youngman. It’s important to know that outside of the Sohma family, she has close friends such as Arisa Uotani and Saki Hanajima. It’s noticeable that the anime dedicates time to focus on all three of them ranging from when they first met to how much they deeply care about each other in the present timeline. Similarly, Tohru has a deep devotion for her deceased mother. Known for its flashbacks, Fruits Basket both shows and tells a story about the importance of family. It’s a tear inducing story once you truly understand how much Tohru’s mother cares about her. At the same time, Tohru inherits characteristics from her mother as being a selfless woman who isn’t afraid to protect her friends.
The more I watched this new version of Fruits Basket, it made me wonder how they can introduce the other characters properly. Remember, there are 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac and outside of the two main guys, there are at least 10 others. Shigure Sohma is introduced early on after taking in Tohru in as a house guest. Being much laid back than others, there’s not much we understand about him although he is a man with a word of wisdom. Unfortunately, this season doesn’t fully explore his character so anime fans will have to wait a bit longer. Others such as Kagura, Momoji, Hatsuharu, Hatori, and Ayame are also introduced in various episodes. While not being prominently featured as the main cast, they do have value in the show despite some portrayed as being very childish. Kagura and Momoji are key examples of this with their behavior. I mean, who can forget about the episode with Kagura practically jumping herself into Kyo’s arms? Indeed, while Fruits Basket often carries a melancholic mood, there’s many comedic moments. There’s even a running gag in the show with the guys losing their clothes after being hugged and transforming into animals. Now that’s a curse to really be careful of. But perhaps one of the most mysterious character is someone named Akito. This character is mentioned many times by the main cast, most prominently by Yuki. Just who is Akito? What’s this character’s purpose? And why does Akito make Yuki react in such fearful ways? If you want answers, you’re going to be in for a long ride.
TMS Entertainment is honestly a studio I have mixed thoughts for. They do have a history of producing shoujo anime such as Kamisama Kiss and even bringing back long running franchises like D Gray Man a few years ago. After seeing the promotional material for the anime, I’m thankful to say there’s no need to worry. The animation quality lives up to modern standards with the vibrant and colorful character designs. They’re faithful to the manga on most parts with updated quality compared to the 2003 version. The setting itself presents a youthful field of decorated visuals full of life. And of course, the ladies will be in for a treat with the guys getting the bishounen makeover.
The fact that I’m even talking about Fruits Basket in 2019 is amazing by itself. Not too many franchises gets the golden treatment of having a complete remakes these days especially for the anime medium. Fruits Basket is a great example of a show that deserves this continuation for the 2003 version didn’t truly live up to its expectations. Here, we have the beginning of a beautiful journey and a reminder of why certain franchises deserves to be revived.
I know that’s an unpopular opinion as the author and manga readers despised the original anime for dropping the ball in terms of adapting the manga but I thought it was a pretty good show, despite its flaws.
When Fruits Basket 2019 was announced around late 2018 I was very excited as I finally got to experience this tragic tale in complete form.
I went into Fruits Basket 2019 with very high exceptions as I expected the series to deliver it’s promises and fortunately the series managed to meet and surpass my high exceptions as Fruits Basket 2019 is only the best anime I have ever encountered but it’s easily the best Shoujo anime I have seen from this decade.
Watching Fruits Basket 2019 story unfold was like picking up light hearted fairy tale book only to find out that the fairy tale book that picked has a lot of dark and mystery elements in it. That’s Fruits Basket 2019 plot in the nutshell. It’s a dark and intriguing story that was disguised as a fluffy and light-hearted story.
One of the things you begin to notice while watching the first couple of episodes was how it simply got straight to the point. The series wastes no time establishing its characters, themes and mystery elements to the viewer. It felt like a proper introduction and the way the show did was astounding.
Naturally this is an anime remake and the whole point of an anime remake is not only to fix the flaws were presented in the original adaptation for that particularly series but to also tell the present the classic story again to newer anime fans. This is Fruits Basket 2019 second biggest strength.
You can clearly tell that the Fruits Basket 2019 director Yoshihide Ibata had passion, respect and ambition towards this remake as he made sure it was accurate to the manga from story elements, themes and characterisation and it shows especially in the second half where the original anime went out of bounds.
Before we talk about Fruits Basket 2019 biggest strength I want to talk about the other aspects that it does well-staring with the well handed tonal shifts. One of my biggest issues I have with modern anime is how they struggle to have a consistent tone and many anime that shall be nameless end up being bad.
Thankfully Fruits Basket 2019 doesn’t suffer from this as it knows how to use its tonal shifts and it never feels out of place due to the show understanding pacing.
Speaking of pacing that’s an another aspect that Fruits Basket well.
The plot moves at the smooth and consistent pace that never bores the viewers. The smooth pacing also gives characters as its mystery and plot elements enough time to shine. Which leads me to Fruits Basket biggest strength theme exploration.
The series explores the themes of child abuse, family, bullying, memories, pain, love, accepting your true self, guilt child abandonment and discrimination. I loved how the series was able to execute and present its theme to the viewer without feeling forced or hamfisted thanks to great writing and direction. This was in retrospect absent in the original anime.
Obviously a well-written story like this is nothing without strong and likeable characters and fortunately the characters are just as great as the well written plot.
Thoru is one of the best Shoujo protagonists I’ve ever encountered in a long while. I know you guys are thinking right now. But you called her a great character already in your original Fruits Basket review.
It is true that I called Thoru a great character in my review for the original anime however the reason why she was not one of my favourite Shoujo leads period is that she a bit of a Mary Sue. 2019 Thoru is not a Mary Sue whatsoever she a caring but mentally damaged person.
Throughout the series we see trying her best to break the Shoma family curse by getting to know the Souma family as well not losing her cool in life due to her tragic past that damaged her mentally as a person. She also a nicely developed character as she changes through the plot with each new Shoma counter.
In the original anime Momiji was my character in series however in the remake Kyo is my favourite character. I just low how aggressive and caring he is when interacting with other characters. Kyo is also a well-developed character as he goes from an angry individual who hates everyone especially to a friendlier person who is able to his peers. Kyou strong characterisation is only better with his sad and well-written backstory.
Yuki is an another character that I really liked. I loved he’s clam, charming and mysterious personality when he talks to other characters in the series. He also develops through the anime as he goes from an isolated individual who has a hard time communicating to his peers due the Shoma family curse in him to a more spoken individual who is able express his feelings towards others.
The supporting characters are just good and well-written as the main characters.
In the original series Saki and Arisa were mostly comedic relief characters that only embraced the comedy nature of the original series.
They were hardly relevant in the original plot minus a few key scenes notably episode 25. The remake turns Arisa and especially Saki into more serious and relevant characters and it was honestly for the better.
Seeing them properly characterised in this remake put a smile on my face as my wish for the now defunct season 2 of the original anime was granted. They finally became more than just tools of the plot as both Arisa and Saki as just as interesting as the Shoma family.
This is not to say Saki and Arisa aren’t funny characters at all they still retain they gags and personality quirks that never fail to make the laugh their asses off.
The other Shoma members are also great. Every Shoma member is unique in terms of personality and seeing them interact with Thoru and the other Shoma members was fascinating due to Fruits Basket 2019 outstanding character chemistry.
The series also manages fantastically characterise every Shoma member to a point where you can sympathise with them including the some of the more loud and bizarre members like Kagura and Hrio.
If there was one word to describe Fruits Basket 2019 it would be gorgeous. Studio TMS did an outstanding job at bring the show to life with the smooth and sharp character designs that were only the enhances by the smooth bright and vibrant colour palette.
The background scenery is bright, well-detailed, and the lighting is spot on. As for actual animation it’s pretty good. Character movement is smooth and there’s hardly any still frames used.
The series may not be visually stylish as Demon Slayer and March Comes in Like a Lion but it makes up by great direction and shot competition especially towards the final 4 episodes.
Fruits Basket 2019 soundtrack is for the most part very good. The soundtrack features an upbeat, cheerful and melancholic score that perfectly the tone of the anime.
The first opening theme Again by Beverly is a beautifully composed song that perfectly captures the tone of the series.The second opening theme Chime” by Ai Otsuka is an upbeat and sparkling song that captures the more light-hearted elements in the series.
The first ending theme Lucky Ending by Vickeblanka is one of my favourite ending themes of all time due it’s calming and beautiful bass. Fun fact the singer who did the ending theme for this also did the famous kickass third opening theme for Black Clover Black Rover.
The second ending One Step Closer by INTERSECTION may not be as great as Lucky Ending but it’s still a pretty solid song.
The voice acting is strong in both languages but if I had to pick between the original Japanese audio and the Funimation English Dub I would easily pick the Funimation Dub. Not only the dub was very well-acted, but the audio quality was top notch. Returning voice actors Laura Bailey, Jerry ewell and Eric Vale absolutely blew the Seiyuus counterparts away.
The new voice cast for certain characters is also very good. My favourite newcomer for the dub is Mikaela Krantz who did a great job of portraying the bubbly Monoji especially with that German accent.
Overall its personal preference but I suggests giving the English Dub a shot.
Watching Fruits Basket 2019 reminded me why I love this medium. It is a fantastically written and charming series that screams passion and love.
Compared to FMAB and Hunter x Hunter 2011 where you have the opinion to check the original adaptations for more detailed versions of earlier arcs there’s little to no reason to watch the original anime as this remake from head to toe did everything better.
Sure the original series may have nostalgia factor but nostalgia is only as good as it’s overall quality and that where Fruits Basket 2001 unfortunately falls flat on that regard.
Fruits Basket 2019 is not only great it’s the type of great that makes you laugh, smile, cry and happy.
Studio TMS and Yoshihide Ibata thank you for bringing this classic story to the modern day.
I’ll go through each point that made me love this anime that didn’t please me as much in the beginning. Firstly, let me tell you that this anime is perfect for shoujo lovers, BUT I’ll try throughout my review to interest the people who skip this only because it’s categorized as a shoujo.
Fruits basket is a simple shoujo story as we could have seen at first sight. Our main girl, Tohru Honda helps certain people affected by a curse that makes them transform temporarily into a cute animal of the zodiac when they hug someone of the opposite sex. What is the big deal you would say?
Yeah doesn’t mean much as a problem for me also when I started this anime. The beginning is what you expect from a typical shoujo show. A cute and simple girl flirting with handsome males that makes jealous others random female students at school. And she starts to live with them from the very first episode! In the first episodes, you could find that all is going well without any strong pressure and you will probably think: “Ah, another shoujo/slice of life anime without interest”.
You could’ve never been so wrong.
As the anime and the story advances, you will discover a very dark and mysterious story behind all the characters, and it doesn’t limit at the mains ones! That’s one of the strongest point of Fruits Basket (2019), the characters are really well written. Theirs backstory are roughs, deeps, unpleasant, frightening but also sometimes happy and they made them as they are today. All their interactions with the other members of the cast are coherent and really well thought taking into account their own experiences, traumas, etc… even if the spectator doesn’t know them yet.
From a certain point in the anime, the mysteries about the past lives of some characters start to be revealed. And it’s done in a magnificent way. Trust me when I say you will need more tissues than you usual jerking week routine. More seriously, the way this anime conveys the feeling is incredible and is on par with Violet Evergarden as an example. Those few episodes really hit the spectator because for some characters, all the pressure built during the anime releases suddenly as a flow of beautiful flashbacks, hidden memories and sickening past situations that explain a lot about how they are behaving today. Even for the characters that were not hinted to have a dark past, we do get some breathtaking moments that will stay on your mind for a while after.
I also must highlight that Tohru is one of the strongest characters I’ve seen in this genre of anime. Being able to put on the truest smile you’ve seen and being constantly a flurry ball of cheerfulness for everybody she met while staying reasonably true is something truly admirable if we consider what she has been through.
Enough about the characters, the music/sound in Fruits Baskets (2019) serves perfectly its role. Accentuating the emotional moments when it should and give a relaxing tone when the story goes on. And God I love the endings, they did a really good job, the songs are very emotional and remind us at the end of every episode the feels that went through during the last 24-min (If you saw episode 24, you know how powerful it can be haha). Moreover, they are meaningful both in their lyrics and in their visual.
F-yeah we could do a complete review on the second opening about how Tohru is giving hope and peace for all the characters as we see the cast bring down their umbrellas one by one while the rain stops and the luminous sunrays lightens up their faces.
For a remake, the animation of Fruits Basket (2019) is so worth it. Not much to say about it, it’s just beautiful. The sceneries are great, the movements are fluid and the expressions on the characters faces really feel authentic and is giving a lot to the spectator.
Overall Fruits Basket (2019) is close to a masterpiece of its genre. A story of love, friendship but mainly a story about life itself. The hard times that we all had once at least can be found and reflected in this anime. Thus, the spectator can easily relate to the various tragic event and it’s so well done that even if he didn’t encounter them in his life, they will still get through him. As Tohru brings peace and joy to the people she loves, Fruits Basket (2019) brings us tears of understanding and a very strong feeling of compassion that makes us want to take into our arms every single character of the show (and it’s not because we only want to pet them after!).
If you loves shoujo or you seek anime like Violet Evergarden with strong emotional moments with beautiful music and smooth animations, you should 100% go for it RIGHT NOW.
And if you are not particularly interested by shoujo nor slice of life anime, why not give it a try? You might be surprised by how moving an anime about simple things in life can be!
MAL Score: 8.35
Tightly clutching his Gibson guitar, Mafuyu Satou steps out of his dark apartment to begin another day of his high school life. While taking a nap in a quiet spot on the gymnasium staircase, he has a chance encounter with fellow student Ritsuka Uenoyama, who berates him for letting his guitar’s strings rust and break. Noticing Uenoyama’s knowledge of the instrument, Satou pleads for him to fix it and to teach him how to play. Uenoyama eventually agrees and invites him to sit in on a jam session with his two band mates: bassist Haruki Nakayama and drummer Akihiko Kaji.
Satou’s voice is strikingly beautiful, filling Uenoyama with the determination to make Satou the lead singer of the band. Though reticent at first, Satou takes the offer after an emotional meeting with an old friend. With the support of his new friends, Satou must not only learn how to play guitar, but also come to terms with the mysterious circumstances that led him to be its owner.
I can understand that “shounen-ai” (and by extension “yaoi”) can’t be a genre that fascinates you. The “yaoi” often represents the fantasies of fujoshi / fudanshi rather than reality. We can have the usual “uke” (the “passive”) and “seme” (“active” character) relationships and it can relate harassing, non-consensual relationships and maybe beyond. But forget all your preconceptions because to be honest, Given is probably the most surprising series of its season.
If I tell you that Given is perhaps one of the most realistic series I’ve ever seen. Would you believe me?
It is more a series that explores the characters, their worries, their inner struggles in their daily lives. Uenoyama, for example, is a bored character until he meets Mafuyu, who shows him his broken guitar. Uenoyama decides to fix it and thus begin their relationship. Friendship although Mafuyu seems really attached to Uenoyama. It would be difficult to perceive romantic relationships in the first episodes. Of course, I don’t want to spoil you but their relationship will be more complex and will develop gradually.
Meanwhile, Uenoyama invites Mafuyu to join his band “the seasons” that he created with his elders (who are at the university) Haruki and Akihiko. You can guess that music has an important place in addition to the possible relationships that will be created within the group.
The series has a slow pace and takes time to explore his characters. But honestly, the series is all the more convincing because it is obvious that in order to play on a stage, it requires improvement in its instrument performances (or singing for Mafuyu) and that it is not only in 2-3 days that you can enter in perfect harmony.
However it will be more complicated than expected. The characters have their worries and that disturbs the progression rhythm. Some characters will also lose their motivation, their inspiration. And the most mysterious element is Mafuyu. His past is a bit gloomy and seems to hide something unmentionable, it is very interesting because his past is explained implicitly. Many unsaid things that are ultimately more interesting to interpret.
The romance is also very appreciable. The discovery of love and especially of first love as a teenager has been achieved in a very realistic way. This is not your random crush written in 10 minutes but a friendship that gradually evolves in more complex feelings. (In order not to detail even if you can easily guess)
On technical aspects, the series presents really authentic settings, that are perfectly suited to the contemplative aspect (especially when Mafuyu walks alone), there is not much animation but I was not disturbed by the animation of the concerts. (no disturbing CGI) You’ll see a slight drop in animation quality with episodes 7 and 8, nothing troubling.
I can’t forget to mention the songs whose lyrics are really meaningful especially and the voice of Mafuyu really portrays the rage and frustration that mafuyu has accumulated until his concert. The soundtrack is excellent and very well used, coupled with quiet moments to enhance immersion.
Depending on your preferences, there are still some minor issues. Around episode 5, there is a character who tries to disturb the main relationship and tries to dissuade Uenoyama from continuing this relationship. Unfortunately this character is mostly used to be hated like a punching ball. Indeed, the character is opportunistic and has a hateful behavior but I think we must also admit that everyone can make mistakes. Personally this character did not bother me and had potential but its development is unfinished.
I said I enjoyed Mafu’s performance, but I mostly talked about songs. At the beginning of the series you will have to endure his constant “LALALA” (the acapella version, lol) and honestly, the voice made me uncomfortable. However, I consider that it is not a bad thing either. About these both issues, the spectators’ comments were quite amusing to read, so it may be less terrible than they seemed the first time.
I definitely can’t convince everyone to watch Given, but if you want to get out of your comfort zone and/or if you’re fond of contemplative slice of life or just love following artists, I think you should really give it a chance.
It is fairly unconventional for a single cour romance to have convincing characterization…yet Given makes this a strong point. Each of the band mates are given practical goals, motivations and fleshed out backstories that are sprinkled into the narrative as the episodes progress rather than forcefully crammed in a short span of time. This methodical progression helps the episodes flow smoothly, as it rarely feels as though there is a dominant character focus for any particular episode.
It is a great touch for the instruments of the characters to serve as a reflection of their inner struggles and/or role in the narrative. Lead guitarist Uenoyama, for example, is a hot headed prodigy who has been rejected by previous bands for creative differences. He must learn how to channel the volatile improvisation required of his instrument while accepting the input of his partners and empowering them to reach their ideal performance level. Mafuyu struggles with severe trauma to the extent that he is handicapped from genuinely expressing his feelings to others in ordinary conversation. It is only through his singing, songwriting, and encouragement from his fellow band members that he finds a means of finding closure to what tormets every waking moment of his life. Aki and Haruki are both in supporting roles as the drummer and bassist respectively, true to their positions as the oldest members of the band who serve as the voice of reason to their younger partners and the very foundation that keeps them together. In isolation these characters are lost. Together, they build each other up to reach their true and ideal selves.
Given is entirely absent of the plot contrivances that plague romance anime today – no ill timed misunderstandings that take an entire arc to resolve, no sudden childhood friend love interest interrupting romantic progression, no almost kiss scenes that are interrupted by a sadist. Just a continual build of trust between two friends who grow to like each other until they agree to become lovers. The relationship between Mafuyu and Uenoyama is founded upon principles that mirror actual strong relationships in the real world today. Beautiful stuff.
Similar to other great anime of the genre such as Nana, Kids on the Slope, most recently Carole & Tuesday, music is used as a platform to unite people of different backgrounds who probably wouldn’t associate with one another otherwise. This gives the narrative a feeling of “destiny”; that it was meant for these characters to be together in this exact moment and create something special that will change their lives forever. Given does well to hammer this theme and make the viewer feel as if they are watching legends in the making.
A fair criticism is the lack of an elite OST track list – there are few outstanding background songs and many of the scenes are without music entirely. But this “flaw” can be considered an intentional creative decision to reflect real life circumstances. After all, in real life we don’t have on the go orchestras narrating our lives in the background and award winning singers belting out our emotions during times of distress. So this detail actually works to make Given more convincing that it would be otherwise. In the climax of this narrative – the signature “big breakout performance” that is a constant of the musical genre – it becomes EXTREMELY gratifying to listen to the most powerful track in a single defining moment. Even thinking about it gives me goosebumps.
Another criticism, and one that I actually agree with, is that the narrative ends at a point where so much more can occur. The ending isn’t abrupt to the extent where you should feel cheated, but there is obviously much more of a story to be told in terms of relationship development and progression of the band. This is a common consequence of anime adaptations for continuing series and in truth the only thing keeping me from giving Given a perfect score. So guess it’ll just have to settle for being the best anime of the season.
Should you watch Given? Yes. Why should you watch it? because it’s good. Do you need to affirm your sexuality before watching it? No, contrary to the tendency of every critic who throws out that tired tagline of “I’m a 100% straight male and I surprisingly loved this gay anime”. Given excels for reasons that are not at all dependent upon orientation, and the open minded person should find no less value in this narrative than other musical themed romances that use a common passion as a vehicle to develop human relationships. I eagerly look forward to the movie adaptation (confirmed for 2020!) for a continuation of this great story.
Many will tend to call out Shounen or Shoujo Ai (or as we know it, Lesbian and BL) as those kind of taboo subjects that are made even worse when described into a medium (e.g. anime), and more often than not, the mediums triumph and/or silence the naysayers to an insane degree, that it’s worth watching them to understand more about their world and how these people perceive same-sex love (a.k.a LGBT). Heck, look at Japan and their recent history with LGBT, with more people coming to accept it even though it’s criminalized (for the better seriously). One solid reference I can give is last Fall’s Yagate Kimi ni Naru (Bloom Into You) by budding yuri mangaka Nio Nakatani, more than knowing that there’s a demand for such a genre as BL or Lesbian, she decided to go that route, and lo and behold, Troyca’s anime adaptation made justice to her manga source and garnered a name for herself.
In the same way (as @RebelPanda puts it), (also budding managaka) Natsuki Kizu’s Given treads along that EXACT SAME path: “it is NOT a romance, but rather, a self-realization love story.” But more than that, it’s not just about the good times, but also the bad times, where letting go past hurts and moving on reeks of more damaging and hurting to the soulless human spirit.
Mafuyu Satou, a seemingly random boy, holding onto a broken guitar. The start may not seem like much, but the broken Gibson ES-330 he’s clutching onto dear life, holds all of his past memories, from the presence of the other people that it has been used from, and the strings which shows the connections and then the eventual disconnect with the events thereon that has scarred his life to bits, not letting go of the past, and certainly not moving forward towards a brighter future. He leads the usual day in, day out with his 9-month old Pomeranian dog named Kedama, petting it before he leaves his house, and nothing more. That is until he meets the person who will change his life and turn it upside down musically with tremendous force:
Ritsuka Uenoyama, a young, up-and-coming guitarist for a small band. His training from young serves his expertise well, though his character interactions seems somewhat bullish due to his inexperience communicating with others amidst his kind personality. Oh, and he doesn’t fall in love easily, unlike the rest in his band: Haruki Nakayama and Akihiko Kaji, both of which have treaded the BL line and are experienced in what they do (in music DUH), but on the romance side, not so much as their secret rivalry extends onto people in relation to them, that are in love with one another (a.k.a Haruki’s crush on Akihiko, while Akihiko is livng with his present boyfriend).
With the seemingly kind-as-usual Uenoyama reaching out to Mafuyu, the first step being to repair the strings of his Gibson guitar, sparks a full-on length of descriptions of who Mafuyu realy is, deep in his core: not just someone who has played in a band before, nor someone being both a musician and singer, but someone who can’t quite get his feelings right and remains on the fence after his past childhood love (a.k.a Yuki Yoshida) is gone from his life which eludes the constant aloof to the surroundings around him. And along with the help of Uenoyama’s band friends Haruki and Akihiko, plus his friends in his previous band (i.e. childhood friend Hiiragi Kashima and band member Yagi Shizusumi) who was once tolerant but ignorant on the overwhelming effect of post-mortem Mafuyu and getting his groove back, it was a journey of many embarrassingly trivial issues with momentary feelings and emotions on the rocks until the disperse of negativity into pure frustration, a sound that needs to be let out into the wilderness. A sound that supresses all the times of unhappiness, into one of a solid firm foundation and connections that are once snapped but threaded back (like guitar strings) to right where they started to overcome and take hold of their own futures. And believe me, the guitar string has always been a ridiculous yet personified symbolism in this show (and rightfully so), but it works to a T here.
What I simply love about Given is more than just extending the main and backstories of both the essential and related characters from the manga source, it ACTAULLY fleshed out the somewhat brushed-pass casual scene shots in the manga to full activity statuses, meaning that you could actually see more of just their usual stances, be it in the band, in their own individual happiness and sadness, and co-animating it with the present manga scenes made it for an experience that I could well say, the anime is leaps and bounds better than the manga in every conceivable way. Furthermore, the “show, don’t tell” approach works insane wonders, working with very few from the start and slowly letting us the audience know of the true value and disposition of each of the central characters, be it the roles that they play in each other’s lives and the eventual “Eureka!”s which led them to develop resolutions to NOT keep each other at arm’s length, and work together to create an impact so big that it keeps us on our toes all the time.
And before I go on, I would like to applaud the shounen VAs who worked on this series for their voice acting, especially co-leads Yuuma Uchida (for Uenoyama) and upcoming new VA Shougo Yano (for Mafuyu). More notably for Shougo Yano, because while he has done a main lead before (that being Tsurune’s Nanao Kisaragi as his first), this depiction of Mafuyu is simply amazing right down to the core subjects. And holy smokes, for a young 20 year-old, his voice acting is one of the new generation’s best. That song in Episode 9, was just true refinery and soulful acting to everyone’s knees, leaving all of us speechless. What a VAer, literally taken aback by his sheer performance going above and beyond.
Once again, on the art and animation side, Lerche doesn’t disappoint to great effect, and it seems that aside from Kanata no Astra (by the same studio) being a underrated heavy-hitter, Given is the one which shares the same lineage as the studio’s way of recent above-average quality shows through and through, ONLY except that this series is massively overlooked for it being the basis of a taboo subject. But regardless, what the production team managed to do, with director Hikaru Yamaguchi landing his very first full-on half-hour series, it was nothing but god-damningly, exceptionally impressive to say the least. I’d thought that the 3DCG would waver at times, but surprisingly Lerche did their very best to keep it as consistent as it would watching someone play the guitar on YouTube. The vibrant art helped play along with the background emotions of the characters, whether solemn or casual emotions that acts as the casual to the shift in relations with swiftness. All I can say is that Lerche is my SOTS (studio of the season), and having watched Kanata no Astra, Given, in the same season, really gives the studio the cut above the rest.
And of course, how would Given be without its iconic music, I mean, why the hell not! Since it is made out of a musical setting, music is the primary source, the icing to the cake. Making music out for a living is bread-and-butter of these small bands, and whether they are liked or not is up to them to create inspirational music, one that deeply touches the soul. And need I say more when Mafuyu’s music makes us shudder in spirit? That was definitely an explosion of tense feelings that needed to be plugged out into the world. And as priceless as Uenoyama is to Mafuyu, his inspiration as the latter’s new found love interest only gets better from here on. Not to mention the extremely senstitve and foreshadowing OP which sounds great, as well as Mafuyu’s ED with his cute and cuddly pet dog being the visual cue into his singing. Both are top-notch songs worthy to be placed into your J-pop playlist.
Overall, Given is a by-product of a wonderful and amazing adaptation, but as mentioned, the BL aspect hinders people watching it, so get your mind out of the gutter, and go watch this, NOW. I believe that this (along with Bloom Into You) are the strongest contenders and representations of respective gender’s same-sex romance, that their shows are not afforded to be missed critically. So even as a straight male, I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend that you take a gamble at this series, and it will set you ablaze at its Given (pun) potentials.
5: Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru
English: Run with the Wind
MAL Score: 8.42
Former ace runner of Sendai Josei High School, Kakeru Kurahara is chased away from a convenience store for shoplifting. Shaking off his pursuer, he runs into Haiji Kiyose, another student from his university. Haiji is impressed by Kakeru’s agility and persuades him to live in Chikusei-sou, the run-down apartment where Haiji resides along with eight other students. Having lost his entire apartment deposit at a mahjong parlor, Kakeru accepts the offer reluctantly.
However, Haiji reveals a secret during Kakeru’s welcoming party: the apartment is actually the dormitory of the Kansei University Track Club. He unveils his ultimate goal of participating in the Hakone Ekiden—one of the most prominent university marathon relay races in Japan. Unfortunately, all the residents apart from Haiji and Kakeru are complete running novices. Worse still, none of the inhabitants are even remotely interested in being involved with Haiji’s ridiculous plan! With only months before the deadline, will the fourth-year student be able to convince them otherwise and realize his elusive dream of running in the Hakone Ekiden?
Run with the Wind boasts such a splendidly rich animation production, it really reminds you just how impressive, how downright humbling this division of the studio is at its best of times. The character designs are as clean, sharp, and all-around attractive as those of Haikyuu and Welcome to the Ballroom, fit with a level of orate detail which was incessantly impressive to see in such fluid movement. The design-work of the main cast in particular, as well as the voice actors chosen to play them, clearly had a lot of thought put behind them, as you can see exactly why they dress the way they dress, walk the way they walk, accessorize the way they accessorize, and how such distinct appearances representing such well-realized personalities can really benefit the immersion of the work as a whole. And as the show progresses and you come to understand the characters more intimately, you’ll slowly start noticing more and more of those little details that had been there the entire time. It’s as brilliant as it is beautiful, and the background art never slacks either, as expected of the committed craftsmen and women of IG who would never sacrifice one facet of production on behalf of another’s quality—they just make it ALL that good. The astounding level of hand-drawn details, expertly mixed manual and digital shading, color variation and gradients, and well-researched setting references all work in tandem to build this gorgeous aesthetic of naturalistic beauty balanced with realistic subtlety.
On top of the impeccable visuals, the sound design is so nuanced and ever-present, when I noticed it I would become so absorbed and distracted as to miss entire lines of dialogue and have to rewind. And I can say without hesitation the soundtrack is an easy nine out of ten, as the composer was the same talent behind the monumentally epic, blood pumping score for Haikyuu, the emotionally gripping yet hyper-stylized Studio Trigger tracklist for Kiznaiver, and the music for Death Parade, which reached the heights of contemplative character dramaturgy and exciting psychological thrillers both. I simply cannot praise the production of Run with the Wind any more without it coming across as hyperbole, and as for the narrative which gave the beauty its heart and the solid writing which firmly held it all together, it was pretty damn good itself, even if not as breathtakingly perfect as the production values were. The main characters made up one of the most grounded ensemble casts in all of anime, easily competing with and outclassing legitimately good shows like Durarara, Hajime no Ippo, or Assassination Classroom, who’re all known for their ability to deftly juggle enormous casts whilst developing those within them. Unlike those aforementioned and most others which aren’t even half as good, Run with the Wind managed to not merely manage the large cast, but to actually mete out character development in a down-to-earth manner which didn’t challenge the realism of the story’s structure.
At no point in this show is there anything that could be described as an “arc.” Never does the narrative take a break for drama, nor does it ever feel like one character in particular is being too overbearing or stealing the spotlight, with any necessary character building sneaking its way into the narrative subtly. Such sensible pacing works wonders for any conflict too, since all confrontations are built up to naturally. Nothing ever comes out of nowhere and is usually born from within the main character, Kakeru, who you get to know well enough to both sympathize and empathize with the anxieties of. While it’s not hard for me to image someone having a problem with the blunt spright-man bringing all the conflict to the table being the main character himself, his deep-seated motivations are so well-written and intrinsic to his character which we’ve come to understand, I totally got where he was coming from whenever he blew his top. That said, this brand of discord is by no means unique to Kakeru. All the characters have insecurities and hangups which feel truly genuine. Most anime will have characters ranting and raving about a bunch of out-of-this-world garbage the viewer has no reason to care about, but Run with the Wind does nothing of the sort. The character Nico-chan (a play on the word “nicotine”) has difficulty running for his addiction to smoking and his unhealthy BMI. The character King has trouble being committed to the team because he has to find work to pay for college. The character Shindo has doubts about his involvement with the team because his girlfriend dumped him after feeling he had neglected her. All the characters are real, with real scripts, with real problems. It’s a seriously wonderful cast who brings the relatively straightforward story to life, and there were a number of times I had tears in my eyes watching them cross the finish line.
The final point I wanted to discuss before concluding is the villain, Sakaki. Sports anime, simply put, NEVER commit to real villains. They always pussyfoot around the issue with mutually understood competition wherein the opponents are never genuinely malicious and are only causing conflict for the sake of sportsmanship. The only time truly antagonist villains appear in sports anime is like Jabberwock from Kuroko no Basuke, or Bryan Hawk from Hajime no Ippo, or the Blue Mars from One Outs, or any other one-dimensional villains out there who are just evil assholes for the sake of being so. Out of all four thousand anime I’ve seen, I’ve yet to see a wholesale ill natured antagonists who truly wants to beat the protagonists solely out of hatred. Sakaki, the main villain in Run with the Wind, is the first character I’ve seen in a sports anime who truly earned the title of “villain.” His history with Kakeru makes for a heavy motivation for conflict, and his vindictive attitude comes across as being deserved, even if you take Kakeru’s side. Again, Kakeru may not always be righteous, so the idea he has some skeletons in his closet isn’t all that far fetched. As you learn more about their pasts, and you get both sides of the story, you’re naturally invested. It’s just another really, really good aspect of the show which I wanted to make a point wasn’t under-appreciated at all in my review since Run with the Wind is a fantastic show I highly recommend for what I hope are now obvious reasons, and that’s not even mentioning the fact this point is what begins to illuminate the refreshingly unexpected psychological core behind it all. As I’ve said no shortage of times, the main character Kakeru is a really flawed person. He’s impulsive, irritable, and outright violent, and it’s not even anyone’s fault, it’s just who he is. So, he runs. He literally and metaphorically runs away from his problems and is constantly accused of doing so by many characters in the show. As said problems continue to pile up despite his speed, he realizes the problems are within and running simply won’t escape them. When he finally stops and turns around to see all the people he’s hurt along the way, all the mistakes he’s made and regrets he has, and all the people still trying to support him in spite of all he’s done, he sits down and confronts reality in a poignantly human fashion, and it’s this emotional courage that frees his spirt, so to speak, so he can truly move forward and run with the wind.
Thank you for reading.
To check off the bucket list, you should probably ask yourself if you enjoy a story driven by drama with sports elements. Because make no mistake, this anime contains a great deal of realism while selling drama at every chance it gets. It will try to evoke emotions out of the viewers and between the storytelling, you’ll experience a story with its insightful character cast.
Meet Kakeru Kurahara, the 1st year former elite runner at Kansei University. The first episode shows his daredevil actions as he is caught stealing. Thankfully, he is saved by 4th year student Haiji Kiyose who has an ambitious dream of competing in the Hakone Ekiden. The Hakone Ekiden is considered an important relay race taking place btween Tokyo and Hakone in Japan. Kakeru seems like a perfect candidate to be on the team. Upon being invited to the Kanse University Dorm, he quickly discovers it’s a place for the Track and Field team. The show sets up for huge amount of story and character development as we quickly realize how weak their team actually is.
Now I’ll say right off the bat that I am a sucker for an underdog story. It has potential to develop characters on many levels. The problem here is that Kakeru isn’t a noob compared to the rest of the team. He already has experience in running but lacks the enthusiasm. This is explained through some very complicated and dark background storytelling. Apparently, an incident from his former Track & Field team caused him to doubt himself. Nonetheless, I believe Kakeru’s personality to be one that people can understand after seeing what he’s been through. This is a sharp contrast to Haiji, who is always enthusiastic about the team and his dream. The main problem is that the team requires a lot of training and commitment to compete at the Hakone Ekiden level. Still, I appreciate the character bond of the team. As the show progresses, Kakeru begins to realize that he’s not running alone and that he has friends to run with. A main selling point about Kakeru’s own journey is how he conquers his personal demon and move beyond his past.
You better get used to seeing a lot of Kakeru and Haiji’s character bonding in this story. Interestingly, the rest of the cast get their spotlights too as they reinforce the show’s themes. Characters such as Takashi and Akane (aka Prince) are inspirational for their dedication and realization to succeed. Remember, most of the guys in Haiji’s team aren’t experienced or very athletic. It takes a strong will, determination, and attitude to become succesful. The show carries character development as its team members strives to be the best they can be. It’s a relatable concept that can be applied to real life with goals being accomplished through hard work. I personally find the show’s attitude to be very inspirational with many of its character cast conquering their fears and running toward their dreams.
As dramatic as the show can be, do also expect a decent amount of lighthearted moments and comedy. The Jo twins are a prime example of this with their playful personalities. The man service also adds in some cheek humor when the team have bonding moments while discussing about their goals. When the drama picks up though, definitely be prepare to experience the real deal. Teams such as the Rikudo University is no pushover for their reputation. Haiji’s push to get his team to succeed also comes at an immense amount of effort considering the requirements for this dream race. It’s revealed in the show that the team must rank into the top 10 teams and meet personal records. So by all means, it comes to no surprise the amount of pressure the team can feel while training. This is where the main amount of drama drops in with characters feeling how difficult is to reach their goals. Nonetheless, I confess to say that a show like this meets the satisfaction of “the journey is more important than the destination”. People may have hard this phrase many times before but as a driving force in the show, it suits for it perfectly. The amount of character development is expanded to most of the main character cast that you can easily recall their names and some of their memorable moments. No one is truly left out in favor of the main cast even as they seem featured more prominently at times.
As a Production I.G. show, this definitely reminds me a bit of their other sports projects. Haikyu especially comes to mind for its similar character designs and competitive atmosphere. More importantly, I felt the great deal of realism for its character designs. Throughout the show, the characters evolve physically and mentally. Their character expressions and reactions carries an emotional weight that can easily be felt throughout the show. It’s the type of feeling when you finally earn a sense of pride and accomplishment after all the hard work. And don’t forget, the team is consisted of cool guys so the man service can be a treat for the ladies.
With 23 episodes, I confess to say that it’s the perfect amount for this particular anime. Why? That’s because it managed to develop its character cast while staying consistent with the storytelling. The amount of realism made me realize how inspirational this show can be. With every episode, I felt compelled to see just how much the characters can succeed for their future. Honestly, we need more literature adaptations these days.
It should be warned already on the title page that every factor from story progression, seiyuu choices, male casting and slice of life-like approach yells out one thing loud and clear: homo undertones. While great many sports series have chosen this approach (Haikyuu, Kuroko, Wind Up, Free — just to name a few), Kaze ga has very little charm outside its naked ecchi boys / manservice factors. Just to specify to what extent this exist and why it is a problem: there are 4 scenes of our young boys being naked already shown in the first episode before we even know their names. I don’t mind male ecchi or bros bathing together washing each others dicks when it is manly and #no_homo, but when it becomes the first thing that stands out in a sports series that was told be filled with drama and comedy, and executed with cute boys who don’t, in any way, act like genuine humans, we are off to a terrible start.
The selling point of sports series tends to be their cast for their stories can never truly work if the person(s) going thru the story are not worth of being followed. Kaze ga’s cast and approach I’d like to describe with a short meme: y Tho? Our “club” of 10 boys are, outside few expectations, the exact same people. They have nearly invisible personalities, all they have are things that are common between all of them for there aren’t such things that would separate them from each others — outside their outlooks. And even this isn’t entirely true since there are even twins among them. As a whole, the cast is fake and empty to a point that I wonder if this is what feminists see when watching CGDCT or ecchi anime. The cast doesn’t have much appeal to me. I couldn’t find any way to care about any of them. They have nothing that would make relate to them, they offer no entertaining personality traits, their behavior is dull and mainly reminds me of cardboard. None of them have any interesting past stories or current stories. None of them even says anything mildly interesting at any point during the run. The more they talked the more I came to go meh over them. How awfully boring must ones life be to hang out with any of them? A question I found myself asking several times.
Outside episode 16, the sports side is an absolute joke. Even tho I don’t like running myself, I have seen series that focus on running and track&field and which I have liked. Kaze ga’s take on this torture method is exactly as dull as the sports itself. Nothing stands out, nothing feels meaningful, there aren’t even any fitting/atmospheric or agro songs used that could make these scenes better. Instead, same few songs are repeated over and over and none of them is very fitting. So often, there plays some supposedly emotional song whilst our cast members run and sweat, followed, for example, by a scene where they get scolded for being too slow. What the series is trying to deliver here never reached my end. And typically, these running scenes are very short and made in the exact same manner, only thing that differs is the aftermath. Watching the execution here feels like repeatedly hitting ones head in the wall with a force so light that you barely even feel the effect, but still know it is happening. There are even sports series centering around baseball and fighting sports which field work (AKA running) is more noteworthy than anything Kaze ga achieved. The best characters here are these one-dimensional ‘evil’ buttholes who just come around to mock our sports team for being a disgrace towards track’n field. Why? Because their phrases are truthful remarks. Especially towards the end, the melodrama Kaze ga mixes together with sports is nothing less than a disgrace towards all athletes.
In terms of actual story, one of the driving motions here are our boys interest to girls.. Literally “lets run for the are girls.. on the other side of the road.” I am not sure who the writer is trying to fool with this since they only introduce one slightly relevant female cast member and she is more obviously filler than any other character. Also, she falls under the trope “every food she prepares turns poison” because apparently it is funny when women can’t cook. She is totally adorable regardless. Yet it feels so unnecessary to insert such things here yet not deal with them accordingly. The outcome is just idiotic. The events itself are rather formulaic. Male x male interactions in fujobait manner, bathing together naked, and running. Some pseudo-psychological things going on since, apparently, running (for our mc) is the same as running away from problems, and the main dude seems to have some. Even so, there is no clear reason for the series to exist, story-wise. It’s clear from early on that the mc’s “insecurities” are just bullshit used as an excuse to work as some sort of ongoing cliffhanger to make people interested in what type of “mysterious” reasons he has for being such an angsty loner. Other sides of the “drama” are practically sitcom-tier since the cast acts like a bunch of drama queens instead of there being any “real” drama going on. Sometimes randomly asspulled and beyond fake event occurs, such as one character suddenly losing a consciousness at the end of an episode just to create a cliffhanger worth of 3 pennies. To talk more about these cliffhangers, they are used to some extent and every time they match the definition of “horse shit”. False tension and not much more.
The production, outside the incredibly bland character models (their bodies look like spaghetti and have even weirder necks than people in Ballroom e (not exaggerating — same studio, also) — and worth-of-nothing sports scenes, is one more thing that is not making this thing any better. The naked men bathing -scenes seem to be the ones that have gone thru the most planning. Comedy moments are over-simplified to a point that it looks just cheap and it is practically the exact same execution every single time. Dude’s doing 2 frame shaking when being cornered. Otherwise the series screams it is made by Production I.G with their modern standards (which have been going down and down rather consistently for years if someone hasn’t noticed). The pacing is simply too slow during any part that is not related to running and too fast with anything that is. Obviously, because they wanted to save money when animating running masses. CGI is being used during track events and it’s like 3fps when out zoomed. Often, people who run look like they are floating over the track rather than touching the ground with their feet. Looks so incredibly lame. Not that it couldn’t be forgiven if there were some actually good things going on. Pros that out weighted the cons. To me, even the smallest of problems stood out for I couldn’t achieve any level of immersion with the series, rather saw it as nothing but a soulless product.
All the criticism aside, I did quite enjoy moments around Akane “Prince” Kashiwazaki, who is the polar opposite of everyone else. Seems to hate running and is in really bad shape. His running form is so awkward and wrong that I managed to laugh at it few times, mainly reminding me of zombie movements from Resident Evil games. Even his posture while standing is advanced scoliosis, so I guess kudos for creating a dude like him. Other thing I have to drop here is the ending of episode 19 which was simply hilarious. If only there had been other good things I could praise than the rare few.
4: Kono Oto Tomare! 2nd Season
English: Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life Season 2
MAL Score: 8.42
The Tokise High School Koto Club has courageously pushed through their fractured and unsynchronized performance at the Kanto Region Traditional Japanese Music Festival. Club members Chika Kudou, Satowa Houzuki, Takezou Kurata, Hiro Kurusu, Kouta Mizuhara, Saneyasu Adachi, and Michitaka Sakai are devastated to learn the negative results of their performance, leaving them crushed. Nonetheless, the group recognizes their potential and enthusiastically agree to collectively sharpen their skills, improve their flaws, and develop higher caliber playing to succeed in the upcoming national qualifiers in winter.
With the help of their now willing club advisor Suzuka Takinami, the group’s goal gradually becomes achievable as they begin to grasp the foundations of good music and refine their koto-playing abilities, with the suggestion of performing more often to gain what they lack most—experience.
However, as their journey to nationals is underway, the koto club members face challenges that obstruct their focus and progress. Not only does the threat of other powerhouse schools and musicians remain, but the high school issues of budding romance and soon-to-be-graduating seniors also begin to push the limits of the determined group of teenagers and the future of the koto club.
Intro and premise
Based off a popular manga of the same name Kono Oto Tomare is a music, drama and school-based anime that gives us the unique opportunity to see the kinds of challenges that Tokise high schools Koto club faces in an era where ancient instruments like the koto are increasingly being forgotten by their fellow students and worst its players being seen as nothing more than jokes who are wasting their time with ancient instruments. While music and school-based animes themselves are not a rare occurrence as shown by the popularity of the famed K-On and Fuuka series the inclusion of the drama genre into this pairing of genres in this case I felt was appropriate as while it allowed the anime to show the many types of struggles that the club members face within the school from students and teachers alike it also allowed us the viewer to see the many kinds of personal struggles that each member of the club wrestles with unknown to their friends and club mates. This combination of struggles I felt was rather special as it allowed us to see not just how the club manages to not just prove to both the school and their various detractors that despite being old the Koto is still an effective instrument when played correctly but at the same time allow its various members to realize the core problems of their struggles and overcome it with their friends aid and in the process making not just themselves but also the club stronger and giving both the club and themselves the sense of unity and focus that they so far have been sorely lacking. This itself was one of the primary reasons as to why I was drawn to this anime and I’m glad that I decided to stick with it to the end. The first episode of the series. I felt was a excellent one that while doing well in introducing two of the main leads for the series also served to not just allow us to see how dire things have become within the koto club as a result of the graduation of much of their senior members but also how difficult it is for the club to appeal to the school body as a result of both the students disinterest in what they see as a relic instrument and the schools desire to close a club that they see as not being useful. Seeing such a unique club that despite losing much of their members and facing great difficulty in both recruiting new members and justifying itself to the school stand its ground and fight hard to both recruit new blood and grow the talent of its members I felt was quite the interesting premise and ensured that this was a series that I will watch until the end.
The overall story of the series takes place in Tokise High school a seemingly average high school in Kanagawa Prefecture and follows the life of Takezou Kurata a second-year student of the school and the sole remaining member of the schools Koto club. While not as glamorous as the schools soccer or Tennis clubs the Koto club still in its prime had a fair number of members who not only learned to appreciate the kinds of harmony and fun that can come from learning to play difficult pieces together but also use that to forge lasting bonds and friendships with its members a revelation that can be said to have made a potent impact upon Takezou. However, time can indeed be a cruel mistress and despite having an enjoyable time with his seniors within the club their graduation into the real world soon made Takezou’s life empty once more while simultaneously making him the de facto leader of the club on account of the fact that he is the only remaining member.
As the new year starts however and Takezou begins his attempt to promote the koto club and hope to not just recruit enough members that not only show genuine interest in the playing of the koto but would also be willing to help expand knowledge of it to the wider school population never did he expect that his beloved club would not just gain many new and unexpectedly skilled members whose skills and passion at Koto were every bit his equal but also reawaken within him the kinds of joy, passion and the bonds of friendship and trust that can form between like-minded people who like him are determined to use koto to not just overcome their past demons but use this as a means to not just change themselves but also allow them to realize and embrace the one thing that they all passionate about in their lives which is the opportunity to play the Koto with people who share their passion and a desire to bring this wonderful sound to the wider world.
Takezou Kurata portrayed by Junya Enoki of Digimon tri fame is one of the main characters of the series and is the main protagonist of the series. A second-year student of Tokise high school and the lone surviving member of the schools Koto club and by default its club president Takezou on initial impressions is seen to be a quiet, dedicated and hardworking person who despite being ridiculed daily by both teachers and classmates is shown to have a genuine passion for both the koto and playing it. Due to his quiet nature, Takezou was shown early on to be someone that was nervous, had low self-esteem and was someone that tried hard to avoid confrontations of any type. However, unlike many people who experience these traits, Takezou was someone that didn’t hide it from others and indeed was someone that bore his weakness with honesty. While from an external perspective being the president of an otherwise dead club may seem counterproductive to the aspirations of a second-year student it can be seen that Takezou’s passion for the koto actually comes from the fact that to Takezou it was more than a mere instrument as not only did learning and playing the koto with his club mates give him a clear purpose in life but also provided him with many moments of joy and pride that he can display to both his classmates and to his family. A joy that unfortunately only served to disappear once the rest of the clubs members graduated from the school.
As the series goes on however and Takezou gets to not only meet many like-minded schoolmates that share his passion for the playing of the koto as well as the view that Koto can be used to convey different types of emotions and feelings towards others that will otherwise be difficult to put into words his personality gradually starts to change. As noted previously in the beginning Takezou was noted to have a rather low sense of self-esteem that when combined with his quiet nature and preference to avoid interaction with others served to make him not only have a rather bleak view on his skills as a player but also cause him many difficulties in trying to recruit new talent for his club. However, as the series progresses and Takezou gets to not only meet like-minded as well as equally skilled players such as Chika and Houzuki this view of his gradually starts to change. While at first somewhat dismayed at the fact that freshman like Chika and Houzuki not only have a deep interest in Koto but are also able to show both genuine skill and a desire to improve said skills as they come across challenges Takezou also starts to realise that even if his skills at koto were lacking and even if outside of the club there are not many within the school that view his club with positive feelings none of that matters for as long as the fire that is Takezou’s passion to reform the club and spread the beauty of koto through the hard work of both himself and his new members continues to burn then that is enough for the true fun of koto is being able to play together with friends while aiming to reach for the goal together. While reenergized on a motivational level this change in attitude also served to change Takezou’s personality as well. While still retaining his quiet nature and preferring to stay away from trouble when possible Takezou gradually begins to become not just braver but also more assertive in both the attitude that he shows to the school as well as in the way that he manages the club as shown in his willingness to offer advice to his friends that are based on careful observation and understanding of the problems of both sides as well as him taking a more leading role in training Chika and the newbies. While still showing some nervousness to some degree it can be seen that unlike in the past where Takezou would let this nervousness overtake him after his awakening Takezou as a result of seeing not just the hard work that both he and the members of the club have put in as well as the many happy memories that have resulted from them that Takezou would not just be able to stand up for his club and his friends but also show a sense of self-confidence and pride that many of his peers would no doubt be surprised about.
The character of Takezou I felt was an interesting character that I felt was both well designed and developed with his gradual development from a quiet, nervous and easily rattled teenager that was being hamstrung by his own qualities in his defence of the club to one that was not only more confident in both himself and his skills as a leader of a club but also one that had realised that while the members of the club may not have the same level of skill as each other they are all equal in both their passion and commitment to not only playing koto but also in using it to forge stronger bonds with each both each other and their audience. Watching Takezou gradually mature in both his skills as a koto player as well as awaken his innate ability as a leader I felt was an excellent development of his character.
Chika Kudou portrayed by veteran voice actor Yuuma Uchida of Classroom Crisis and Ryuuou no Oshigoto fame is one of the main characters of the series and is one of the members of the Tokise high school Koto club. A newly enrolled student of Tokise high school Chika from initial appearances is seen to be someone that’s akin to a classic troublemaker due to both his attitude and his general appearance both of which within the series combine to give that impression to all that he meets within the school. From initial appearances, Chika was shown to be a quiet and direct person by nature that while not afraid of expressing his own opinions was also someone that was noted to have quite the temper for his age. However, despite these traits and his repute as a troublemaker Chika was someone that was shown to be somewhat honourable towards others and was someone that was seen to display fierce loyalty towards both his friends and to those that he respect’s as shown in the loyalty that his friends show towards him that was borne out of him saving of them in the past. At the same time while his reputation as a troublemaker may give the impression that Chika was someone that openly showed his feelings as well as being one that had a short attention span and was someone that will give up once he encounters a trial in which he cannot best it can be said that rather the opposite is true. On the surface, while certainly someone that was rather direct with their words and actions Chika was shown to be someone that can be said to be surprisingly good at hiding his inner thoughts behind his default image of a rebel and indeed behind his mask it can be seen that Chika is someone that’s kind, caring and honest in nature and is someone that will show both loyalty and respect towards those that have earned his trust as shown in his gradual change in attitude towards Takezou who he viewed as unsuited for the position of president at the beginning of the series. This sense of hidden self is also shown in the fact that unlike the expected archetype of a troublemaker Chika when confronted with a challenge that he cannot easily overcome would instead of giving up as many would have expected of him early in the series instead would seek to instead dig his heels and try and understand the problem as a whole before attempting to overcome it a process that while potentially taking a long time also showcases one of Chika’s core traits of stubbornness and show his determination to play the koto no matter who stands in his way.
As the series goes on and Chika’s personality is gradually expanded upon as he encounters not only unique situations but forge strong connections with like-minded schoolmates Chika’s personality gradually starts to change. From the beginning of the series, Chika was shown to be someone that was both confident and had great amounts of pride both in his surface qualities as well as in his determination to overcome any perceived difficulties that he encounters. However despite this, as the series goes on that this sense of confidence is revealed to be one that was not built on solid foundations and indeed was one that can be seen to be quite fragile as shown during his first encounter with Houzuki a girl who despite being of the same age as him has skills and knowledge of koto that was leagues beyond him. However while certainly a rude shock for Chika that can be seen to shake him to the core this development also served as a potent wake up call for Chika as well for this allowed him to not only realised just how naive he was at not only the skills that he believed that he had but also make him realise that until this point Chika unlike Houzuki did not have a clear reason for wanting to excel at playing the koto other than his quest for atonement. As a result of this revelation, Chika’s attitude towards Koto gradually began to change as he slowly began to mature from one that only used Koto as a form of atonement towards his gran to one that was genuinely interested in Koto as shown in his desire of not only wanting to learn from Houzuki and Akira but also in his determination to learn how to also maintain and repair them as well showing well the sense of passion and determination that had been developed inside him. While showing well his determination towards koto this newfound attitude also served to change Chika’s attitude on a social level as well as it also served to illustrate just how lacking Chika’s social qualities were for while he was honest and loyal towards his friends to the other members of the club Chika still represented something of an enigma to them due to his preference for hiding his own feelings instead of sharing them with them. While itself the result of a protective measure of Chika’s that was borne out of his desire to protect himself from bullies Chika soon began to realise that while it served effectively in its intended role it also had the side effect of creating distance between the club and himself and hindering their efforts to coordinate and improve as a whole something that Chika immediately regretted and began to change.
While still remaining quiet to a degree Chika gradually began to express his own feelings and opinions more openly instead of suppressing them as he did previously. At the same time while still remaining loyal to his friends this small circle of his gradually began to expand as the members of the club slowly began to understand Chika as a person and in the process discover that beneath Chika’s tough exterior that in reality, he was actually someone that was both considerate of others feelings as well as being perceptive to the inner turmoil that may lay beneath someone’s heart as shown in how he managed to break Houzuki out of her shell as well as in his desire to help get the club through the nationals and give the seniors a memory worth remembering. In the beginning of the series, Chika as a result of the stigma that comes from being labelled and treated as a troublemaker by society was seen by someone that while understating well the value of having friends that you can trust and confide in was seen to be someone that didn’t place much value on forming lasting bonds with others and as a result made no effort to understand the kind of problems that others were secretly facing. However, as a result of opening himself up to the members of the club, Chika not only realised just how much fun forming friendships and bonds with like minded people can be but also how rewarding it can be as you struggle together and improve your skills together while aiming for a goal that they all aspire to attain. This within the series is best shown in Chika’s relationship with Houzuki as while the two of them in the beginning had a complicated relationship that served to make them rivals the sense of rivalry that developed instead of serving to create a negative relationship was instead the opposite as it served to push both to improve their skills as koto players while also allowing them to mutually help each other overcome the walls that stand in their respective paths. As a character Chika I felt was a well designed and developed one that while rough and direct in the beginning that served to unnerve many served to gradually become someone that was responsible, determined and loyal to his friends as the series went on and becoming not only a valued member of the club but also one of the vital foundations that served to support the rest of the club a role that I felt matched well with Chika’s awakened desire to have fun with people that he can trust while enjoying an activity that he’s determined to excel at.
Satowa Houzuki portrayed by veteran seiyuu Atsumi Tanezaki of Granbelm and Rascal Does not dream of Bunny girl sempai fame is one of the main characters of the series and is one of the members of the Koto club. A freshman that joined the school at the start of the school year Houzuki on initial appearances is seen to be a quiet, confident, honest and direct person by nature and someone that’s shown to have a personality that’s highly adaptable. While at first motivated to join the club as a result of seeing the clubs performance from the start it can be seen that Houzuki is no mere rookie when it came to playing the koto. Indeed unlike the other members of the club, Houzuki can be said to be far more connected to the world of Koto than they are for unlike them Houzuki is not only a member of a prestigious family that is well known within the koto world but also one that has many victories to her name despite her young age. As a result of this impressive record, Houzuki was not only not afraid of pressure and intimidation but also able to parry it effectively by using appropriate levels of punishment for those that annoy her as shown in her early fights with Chika. However, it’s important to note that while this level of fame has served to bestow upon her with a great deal of experience and confidence that Houzuki is someone that’s the opposite of what such people are usually like for while confident she’s also understanding and cunning in equal measure adept at both focusing someone’s attention on a given goal while using the best methods to get them there. This aspect is also shown well in the manner in how she treats her instruments and the belief that only those that have the required mindset can hope to use an instrument and play it at an optimal level.
As the series goes on however and Houzuki’s character is expanded upon it can be seen that beneath the surface that Houzuki like Chika secretly wrestles with a secret emotional pain that has made her life more difficult than it should be. While certainly the eldest daughter of a renowned Koto family it can be seen that this while serving to gain her plenty of recognition within the field also served to have an unintended side effect of creating distance between Houzuki and her family and peers as despite being a high school student Houzuki has not only never got to interact with classmates and hang out with them but also never had the opportunity to have any form of fun at all such was the pressure that came from being part of such a distinguished family. As a result of this at the beginning, Houzuki was someone that can be seen to lack real-world knowledge of how to interact with others that girls her age should have been masters of that served to distant her from her classmates within the school. However, as the series goes on and Houzuki’s interaction with the club deepens this served to make Houzuki realise just how much fun and enjoyment that she had been avoiding from her life as a result of trying so hard to follow the path that had been laid down before her by her family. A revelation that proved to be a perfect catalyst that served to open Houzuki’s eyes to just how much fun koto can be if she was playing not by herself but with like-minded peers that not only understood the beauty and emotions that came from playing the pieces on the koto but also shared her determination to develop their passion for it and demonstrate to not only the world but themselves as well the beauty that comes from playing the koto with friends that you can trust. As a result of this Houzuki’s personality gradually began to change shifting from her default solo mode to one that was not only more friendly, honest and open with her feelings but also one that was more considerate of the feelings and circumstances of others a change as well as a willingness to change her opinions a attribute that is shown best in the relationship that she had with her fellow club mate Chika.
At first due largely to both her initial attitude as well as the fact that both she and Chika had personalities that were polar opposites to each other the relationship that existed between them can be said to be frosty, to say the least, a fact that served to not only cause them to have many arguments but also cause the initial impressions that both had of each other to be on the rather low side. However as a result of both the change in attitude as well as having the time to get to understand Chika as a person Houzuki soon began to realise that despite the differences between them that she and Chika were more alike than she initially suspected as despite being on opposite ends of society they both shared a common burden in that both carried a pain and regret that came from family. However unlike herself Chika despite being seen and labelled as inferior by not just society but herself as well not only did not give in to despair as many would have but instead worked hard to overcome his own weaknesses and lack of skill in koto through sheer determination and hard work that while serving to show just how serious he was at Koto also served to prove to Houzuki that while her ability to judge someone by the quality of the sound that they play on the koto was not wrong it is not absolute as it cannot judge someone’s heart and the feelings that lay within it a fact that when used in conjunction with her revelations served to transform the relationship between them as both now saw each other as worthy members of the club that can be counted upon when needed. As a character, I felt that Houzuki was one that was both well designed and developed with her transformation from a skilled, confident and determined if one tracked person that only saw the club as a mere stepping stone to one that was not only more positive, friendly, caring and considerate but also one that found just how enjoyable and fun it was to not only be able to play an instrument that she prizes with like-minded people but also in the process discover just how much more fun life can be when shared with friends that you can trust and rely upon for advice and help can be being especially well done.
Hiro Kurusu portrayed by new seiyuu Sara Matsumoto is one of the main characters of the series and is one of the members of the koto club. A second-year student and a classmate of Takezou Hiro from initial appearances is seen to be a positive, friendly and intelligent person by nature that was relatively popular within the class. However, beneath the surface, it can be seen that this is merely her surface personality for beneath her mask Hiro was someone that can be seen to be vastly different to her surface self in that she was someone that was not just manipulative but also cunning and patient as well always trying to take advantage of others at their expense as shown in her initial actions within the club. However, as the series progresses and we get to understand Hiro’s personality more it can be seen that this personality of hers is something that’s akin to a protective measure of sorts that was formed due to a painful experience with her friends in the past.
Beneath this mask of hers, it can be seen that Hiro while confident and positive on the surface is someone that’s emotionally fragile as a result of past betrayals actions that served to create within her a sense of hatred for friendships and bonds as she believes that the only thing that they represent is pain. A pain that in the beginning caused her to not only hide her true feelings but also stay away from forging genuine bonds with people that she was genuinely curious about. However as a result of observing the effects that the bonds that are forged between the members of the club have on not only their skill at playing the koto but also the effects it has on their interactions with each other this mask of hers begins to gradually slip as for the first time Hiro was confronted with a realization that not only can friendship and bonds bring genuine warmth to you but also give you the strength that you need to overcome whatever trial stands in front of you. Though at first hesitant at revealing her own genuine feelings regarding both koto and the members of the club this sense of hesitation gradually began to vanish as unlike in the past the members of the club not only accepted her warmly but also sought to teach her everything that she needed as a club member a development that served to not only convince Hiro to finally let go of her mask but also cause her to develop a strong sense of loyalty to both her friends and the club as well as shown in her desire to learn more about Koto as well as in her efforts to shoulder the responsibility that comes from managing the club as its vice president. At the same time as a result of discovering the value that can come from having genuine bonds of friendship with others Hiro not only becomes more perceptive but also becomes more sensitive to the feelings and moods of others always willing to step in and help when needed unlike how she was in the past a development that I felt reflected well on how much the strong bonds of friendship within the club had served to crack open the mask that Hiro had worn for far too long within her life.
Akira Doujima portrayed by veteran seiyuu singer Nao Touyama of Beatless and Gate fame is one of the main supporting characters of the series and is one of the advisers of the koto club that assumes her station in the second season. A member of a house that serves Houzuki’s family school Akira from initial appearances is seen to be a kind, gentle, polite and patient person by nature that while confident exhibited an arrogant attitude towards others and was one that was rather direct with her words. However, despite this attitude, Akira was someone that was shown to have a high level of skill at koto that was both genuine and powerful that showed well the kind of training that she had been through to attain it. While somewhat hard to see at first Akira was someone that while arrogant was someone that admired genuine hard work and skill that was borne out of it. At first, due to the relations between her house and Houzuki’s own the relationship between the two of them and by extension with the rest of the club was a frosty one due to both her own admiration of Houzuki’s skill at koto as well as the fact that this caused her own skills to be continuously compared against her own which served to create for Akira a rather tough childhood all of which served to make their relationship a poor one despite attempts to solve it by others.
However, as the series progressed and as Akira bore witness to the many changes that Houzuki goes through as she interacts with the members of the club her opinion of both Houzuki and the club gradually starts to change in parallel with her own views on herself as she starts to realise that while learning and trying to master koto by yourself and winning competition after competition can be an amazing experience was it fun at all and was it worth it to make all that sacrifice in the name of your family when conversely you could have played koto with like-minded people that share your passion and have fun while improving your skills all the same. As a result of these revelations, Akira not only realised that rather than merely playing around Houzuki and the members of the club were not only serious about improving their skills at koto but also equally serious about their love for it a love that they are determined to show to others when they get to the nationals revelations that served to not only show just how foolish her grandmother’s ambitions were but also convince her that with without her guidance the koto world would not only lose a potent team of talented players but also cause herself to remain trapped in her own nightmare once more all of which served to be a potent catalyst that allowed Akira to for the first time in her life to take a path that she chosen by herself one that not only freed herself but also one that served to bring a new light to the world of koto in the form of the team.
In terms of character design, I felt that the individual designs were both well designed and developed with each matching well with their assigned personalities. Arguably within character design the individual uniform designs for the many schools that take part in the koto competitions are an important aspect as this is the primary method that allowed us, viewers, to identify the schools that are playing on stage. In this, I felt that the uniform designs while similar in many respects were also sufficiently different so as to allow each school to be defined by both their school colours and the uniforms that they wore with notable examples being Himesaka’s uniform that while smart was also notable in their unique composition. As a whole, I felt that the animation was excellent and while crisp also made some great use of still frames which within the series was used to showcase the effects that the music had on the audience an aspect that I felt only served to enhance its effect on us viewers. In terms of music, the two seasons made use of a total of 2 opening and ending themes for each season with these being Tone and speechless that was performed by Shouta Aoi and Yuuma Uchida and Harmony and Rainbow that was performed once again by Shouta Aoi and Yuuma Uchida respectively. Each of these songs I felt were excellent ones with my favourite ones being Harmony and Rainbow that served well to illustrate just how much of a strong bond the members of the club have managed to forge as a result of overcoming countless challenges and achieving both sweet victory and crushing despair as they aspire to achieve their dreams. Apart from the openings and ending themes and the Ost it’s also worth mentioning the various pieces that were performed by the various schools during the competitions as each while unique was bolstered by the skill and playstyles that each school made use of that served to give each performance not only a powerful impact but also a degree of surprise as well as we get to see not only a new piece but also see the fruits of the labor that the schools have been through in their training as well as the effects that it had on the audience.
In terms of voice acting, I felt that as a whole the series main voice cast all did an excellent job at portraying their assigned characters whether they were main or support ones. In particular, I felt that Junya Enoki, Yuuma Uchida, Atsumi Tanezaki, Sara Matsumoto and Nao Touyama all did an excellent job at portraying their assigned characters of Takezou, Chika, Satowa Houzuki, Hiro and Akira respectively. In addition, I felt that the series also featured a well-rounded cast of support characters that I felt served to enhance the story with their various contributions to the story. Notable ones in my opinion included Himesaka girls schools lead Kazusa Ootori that was portrayed by veteran seiyuu Ayane Sakura, Club adviser Suzuka Takinami who was portrayed by Daisuke Namikawa and Hakuto’s lead player Mio Kanzaki who was portrayed by Shouta Aoi.
In overall I felt that Kono Oto Tomare was an excellent anime and was definitely one of the true gems of this season with its main strong points, in my opinion, being its unique premise, excellent story, well designed and developed characters, excellent animation, excellent voice acting and its skilful infusion of music, feelings and revelations into its main themes that served to make each character that much more interesting and making us root for them more within the series.
The series overall story and its unique premise is without a doubt one of the main highlights of the series. While music-based animes are not as widespread as they once were I felt that Kono Oto Tomare’s success lay in the fact that while music is naturally the main theme of the series it is not the only one as in this case the reformation of a rapidly fading music club that few people remember within the school is paired with not just the recruitment of new talent to its halls but also their development as individuals that is achieved via the learning of the art of playing the koto. In this case, it can be said that koto not only serves as a primary focus for the club members but also serve as a solid foundation from which the individual members can stand upon and face the demons and struggles that they have so far kept hidden from their friends. This method of using koto to not only overcome the struggles that have existed within one’s heart but also use it as a means to change your existing life path I felt was both excellent and creative as it allowed each character to not only realize and understand the core problems that dictated that struggle but also determine via the support of the bonds and friends that they had made within the club the optimal way to solve it. While reflecting well on the individual lessons that each character learned by interacting with the club this also served to reflect the strong character chemistry that gradually starts to take root in the club as the individual members gradually starts to make peace with their respective regrets and develop as individuals a fact that is shown well in the development of the characters of Takezou, Chika and Houzuki.
While the first season of the series did an excellent job at establishing the foundations of both the club and the individual club members after they overcome their initial hurdles I felt that it’s the second season that really served to elevate this series to the top as it took excellent advantage of both the lessons and skills that they had learned from the club and the bitter taste of defeat that they had experienced and reforged it into a weapon that they will continuously refine as they set about the path to the nationals. This development I felt was helped greatly by not just the looming wall that the nationals represented but also of revelation that while individually their skills may be high that only by embracing their passion for koto and the bonds that they have managed to forge with each other will the club be able to attain the cherished wish that they all aspire to achieve a fact that is shown well within the series as they demonstrate to the audience the power of the skills and bonds that they have managed to attain via their powerful performances that when used in conjunction with the threat posed by the other schools truly made the second season a memorable experience.
Overall Kono Oto Tomare was an excellent series that featured an excellent premise, story and cast of characters that were both well designed and extensively developed through not just solo development but also shared development via their experience with the koto club and their friends, excellent animation, voice acting and skilful combination of feelings, music and revelations all of which served to make the core struggles of the series main cast not just more memorable and relatable but also serve to make me more invested in both the story and the characters as well a feat that is aided greatly by the series skill at creating effective and emotional backstory for its characters. As a final score I would say that Kono Oto Tomare easily deserves a final score of 10/10.
The series overall had such a good story plot and better characters for the lack of namesake, NOT a single character is there for comedic relief nor just there for placement reasons, everyone works together as a team, even in the most insignificant of changes and at times being the weakest link, just as implied in this quote by Henry Ford: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
Assuming that you haven’t watched Season 1, the story in a recap is about the Tokise High School Koto Club, on the verge of collapsing after seniors failed to make results. Takezou Kurata, the only member left, has to recruit members for the sake of keeping the club alive, while Chika Kudou, the delinquent grandson of a prolific Koto maker, and Koto prodigy Satowa Houzuki, who was exiled from her family due to fear and repulsion from family members, both come into terms with their suffering and atoned for their sins to understand their anthem of the heart for what they do and the inspiration of playing the Koto. Along with Takezou’s bitchy classmate Hiro Kurusu and Chika’s band of “The Three Stooges” friends, the 1st cour takes them to Preliminaries to see where they stood with rival schools and improvements are definitely on the wall (not to mention the romance “ship” between Chika and Hozuki which grows stronger overtime, along with Kirisu’s contending crush towards Takezou).
If that was Season 1, you’re definitely NOT prepared for what Season 2 has in store for you, as it takes what Season 1 has laid the foundation with, and gradually refines with the club’s failure in making a stand-out dent in the Preliminaries, as a stepping stone for the Nationals to proceed within the upcoming span of months. Suzuka Takinami, the Koto Club’s relenting “failure preacher” of an advisor suddenly sees the improvement in them, but with the Nationals requiring a whole different set of high-standard caliber, he adopts someone whom Hozuki knows that infers the bad blood of family relations further: former middle school rival and current Hozuki Family heir Akira Doujima. Slowly and surely, the relations of both Hozuki and Akira worsen from the get-go due to how much complacency that Hozuki’s excommunicated mom and manipulative grandmother have cast a dark shadow within each other’s lives. Even to the point that the current situation of the Koto Club has to be on the upper echelons of unrealistic expectations set by Akira, to which Takezou knows that with the lesser of experiences they had, it was a tough uphill race to improve, reflect and practice like hell. But practice they did, and to an extent, Hozuki opened up Akira’s heart to see the majesty of playing the Koto while the tightening-down of skills and expertise are still required as focus for the Nationals, for the sole purpose of one aim: to give their best and perform admirably.
To summarize, the 2nd cour had better pacing than the 1st cour, along with the intense character drama, mostly between the rival schools that have made their mark and strive to be better than before, all in the purpose for reconciliation and reformed hearts of determination.
As I’ve said in my 1st Cour review, this series has been studio Platinum Vision’s Magnum Opus of a production, but to think that the 2nd Cour has managed to improve and refine on what the 1st Cour lacked, is a tremendous improvement on its own. Kono Oto Tomare would forever be anchored as the “Platinum” status that the studio has ever achieved, it’s vision being so remarkable with loopholes from the get-go and what has been done here is nothing short of impressive. The highly detailed light-shaded visuals got significant upgrades that hid the lesser of the animations in this 2nd half, and it’s a delight to have the improvement needed.
The music itself is a WHOLE OTHER ballgame, as the Koto pieces get more rich-sounding but skillfully hard in technique, the combination of the two brings a whole new world in the music that plays and for every musical piece, it just brings nothing but feels, emotions and most importantly, teas of joy. I cannot emphasize enough that the music in Kono Oto Tomare has always been its valiant strength of why we say that “music is the universal language of mankind”. If nothing touches music, nothing ever will, and in this case, emits that music to great effect. Same goes with the OST, with Shouta Aoi and Yuuma Uchida’s respectively new OP and ED, both are equally as great songs as the 1st Cour, I’d say that while I liked the former OP more than the latter, its ED is infinitely better than the former, so much that I love it on repeat.
The music genre has its fair share of good and bad anime, but I’d must say that Kono Oto Tomare as a series overall is just splendid, bar none. Instant recommendation for music lovers and those of the (lesser) romance and completely Shounen aesthetics.
I sincerely can’t praise this series enough, truly one of the best anime of 2019 that’s no AOTS, but rather, a dark horse for the year.
And this is the embodiment of Kono Oto Tomare.
It’s a story composed of romance, drama, slice of life and music without the sadness in that April. A story where romance doesn’t dominate and comedy doesn’t take away the serious tone it is set for. It’s balanced, it’s refreshing and it’s damn touching.
As it continues from that dreadful cliffhanger, the characters are still up with their quirky interaction. And each frustration and subtle support they have for each other pulls their bond closer. The last chance to get to the national competition rises up the stakes even more, forcing them to present their best performance yet. The romance continues to blossoms, even sailing two ships at a time.
The emphasis on eyes are fiercer than ever, reinforcing the saying that eyes are the windows to the soul. Frustrated eyes, shocked eyes, manipulative eyes, disappointed eyes, determined eyes are the soul tools to be accompanied by music to evoke emotions, and this is executed perfectly. But among the all, the ultimate tool is a pair of eye that can radiate sadness with kindness that requires way more than just superb animation. And this proves that.
One of the main merits of the show is the chibi cartoon style that changes the mood for the comedy. The blushes and bubbly art style that enchances the mood for the romance. The eyes covered for the characters that elevate the suspension and uneasiness. The moment of resonation when they expressed their feelings frankly, only to receive a weirdly-wide smile.
The studio has done such an amazing job with the distinction of art style that completely build up the ambience to suit the story. It’s not perfectly done, but it’s right on time in a way that you can expect it but it will still carve a smile on your face.
As for the opening, ‘Harmony’ is compiled with such small details that is very rewarding if you watch every single one of them as it adds much more attachment to the characters.
And as you slowly immerse in it, you wondered. Could you feel their emotions even with empty words? Can you even catch their feeling by watching their hands moving gracefully? Will their hard work actually pay off in the end? Did that last note reach you?
Kono Oto Tomare, is one of the best slice of life I’ve ever seen that can blend romance, music and shounen genre almost perfectly. A music composed of hard works, friendships and passion from their heart.
And I’d like to invite you to listen to their very own,
Sounds of Life.
3: Chihayafuru 3
Japanese: ちはやふる 3
MAL Score: 8.49
Winning the high school team tournament was a great accomplishment for the Mizusawa members. Each of them has made great strides in improving themselves, and the victory symbolizes how far they’ve come. But after accomplishing one goal, their individual aims are within reach. Chihaya Ayase has her sights set on Wakamiya Shinobu and the title of Queen, and now that Taichi Mashima has made it into Class A, he can finally compete against Arata Wataya. Everyone in Mizusawa wants to get better, and there’s no telling what the future holds if they keep trying.
The 3rd season of this amazing series has just been so amazing that i am sure that all the older and new fans were hooked onto it with the utmost interest and awe. Madhouse has just outdone themselves again and its not just a regular praise, it comes from a heart of a fan
who has read the manga and seen the adaptation with such finesse and quality it actually makes me happy to be a anime fan especially for this show.
This underrated show has been like the one of the most beautiful gems of the fall season, that i cant appreciate and praise it enough.
The story continues with our trio with their journey of Karuta. The unique aspect of this show which is karuta is that even though its based on a card game,
its unlike other card based shows which captivates the viewers with just the hype, or through unbelievable power ups of characters in a battle or some unreal logic, but through
realistic game plays which is portrayed through the playstyle of the players, their background story, personality,how they view & perceive karuta through their minds and most importantly how karuta is presented through these beautiful traditional japanese poems which have depth in their storytelling of folklore and depicts what these stories are
trying to convey with their words and poetry which will leave you mesmerized. Absolute breathtaking stuff.
The main trio are great characters with their own stories and development. One of the element which i found missing in the first two seasons was one of the trio i.e Arata Wataya not getting enough screen time for the viewers to watch and understand his character more in depth,but this season it was quite well resolved which made me satisfied. Also there was major development with the other male character Taichi Mashima and his transformation, which had
been quite a sight to watch. As for our female MC Chihaya Ayase, she continues through various developments regarding her future in general life and the game which is her most important passion i.e Karuta.
I am actually quite happy to see the three progressing with the story line which perfectly paced and enjoyable to watch.
But another main factor is that makes chihayafuru so special is that it not only focuses on the main trio but also on the supporting side characters as well,depicting their journey so far with their personal development & background story in relation
to the game. Also one of the interesting things that caught my eye this season is how they explore the character background in depth of the new challengers, major professional players and even more importantly the Master and queen (The reigning champions)
whom had been shown as mystery figures on the surface so far in season 1 & 2 and since our
main characters ultimate goal is to win the title from them, it was actually unique seeing things from the perspective of the opposite side.
The narration has been so on point and it actually never fails to keep you interested.Every tiny detail, every tiny scene, flashback or sequence makes up for the bigger picture in the present & for future scenarios. Almost every character is portrayed developing
in the most humane way and the changes make them more sensibly compatible for the plot. Especially the trio who inspite keeping their original self,develop necessary changes which make bigger impacts for their personal story and with the main story as well.
Coming to animation and sound, Boy i cant praise mad house enough,Not a single episode from these 24 episodes have gone by and i have been like “Meh that was ok i guess” and i am not exaggerating. Every episode has been adapted so gracefully with attention to details from the
source material. The beautiful art and colors, fluid life like animation, brilliant character designs and visuals. Even when a important scene happens or emotions are being depicted, it literally comes to life that viewers can actually feel them with their eyes, its
that mindblowing. The sound is so pure and crystal clear with the amazing performance of all the VA’s of different character make it even more enticing and enjoyable. The OP and ED are equally well made, especially the ED with the artwork and the music from Band harassment made it my favorite.
Overall as its one my personal favorite series i would easily give it a 10/10. Its underrated as hell and i would love that other anime fans would give this masterpiece a chance especially if they enjoy a mix of competitive sport,Japanese culture and a amazing story with brilliant characters.
I know my review might seem i am over selling this, but trust me please do give this a try, it will definitely be worth your time and i am positive you would appreciate this amazing piece of work and the content it tries to share with its viewers.
I just want this beautiful series to be recognized and appreciated more for its value it truly deserves.
It did take a bit of time for the anime franchise to return but jumping back into Chihayafuru’s third season felt like going back to school after a Summer break. We reunite with our friends, learn the competitive game of karuta, and experience new memories that will last for generations to come. Watching Chihayafuru 3 reminds me that games such as karuta isn’t just a competitive sport but a poetry in motion. Every episode capitalizes on the creativeness of the game that exemplifies on commitment, strategy, and wit. I won’t be explaining the fundamentals of the game since you shouldn’t be watching this season without the first two anyway. But coming into this new season, we got ourselves another masterful adaptation.
With Chihayafuru 3 at our hands, the show draws us into the everlasting karuta experience similar to the previous season. Despite being a complex game, the anime makes it clear that anyone can pick karuta up. However, learning the game is one thing and mastering is another. We see the best of the best compete at the highest level in this season. Of course, I’m talking about the Queen Title matches. But before we get to that, you should also remember why Chihayafuru 3 managed to create such a faithful audience. It’s been six years after all and fans have been anticipating this show since the dawn of time. This is easily answered by the charming lovable cast of our three characters – Chihaya, Taichi, and Arata. The three make up the heart and soul of this franchise with their complex relationship between one another. Early in the season, we witness Chihaya once again picking up karuta and going head to head against none other than Taichi. If there’s anything that tells us about Chihaya’s character is that she is eager to learn, whether through success or failure. Her skills show improvement as she is able to match head on with fast paced strategy and clever tactics in these games. Still, a big question that surrounds her is why she is there. Why does Chihaya want to be a karuta player? This question extends to other prominent characters such as Shinobu, Suo, Haruka, and among others. The fact remains that every character has a purpose in the show, a reason to be where they are in the present timeline.
As every episode progressed, the drama begins to mount up with the higher stakes in these high level karuta games. The karuta games themselves in fact are presented with superhuman-like reactions. It may take years of practice to reach such levels but the anime portrays it like poetry in motion. As I mentioned that before, karuta is much more than just a competitive sport. It’s like a work of art with each card representing a piece of value between two players. Adding to the game is the amount of emotions that us, the audience can easily get invested into. For instance, we witness Dr. Harada’s side of the story this season and why he picked up karuta. In his match against Arata, it represents a clash of new and old generation. Meanwhile, we also follow the journey of Shinobu Wakamiya, one of the most prominent Queens of this era. Fans will remember Shinobu as being the youngest Queen in karuta history and a prodigy with nearly unrivaled skills. She returns this season to compete against Haruka, another skilled karuta player with several titles in her name. The psychological pressure embedded into their match felt like none other as we witness the true potential of high class competitors. And that’s one other thing that identifies these karuta game: the psychology. Each game threads together a formula from start to finish to test the players’ ability to outplay one another. From tagging cards to crafting advanced moves in their heads, karuta at such exceptional high level feels like a different game. Watching the high level competitors such as Arata, Shinobu, Suo, and Haruka compete are such examples where they push these games to the limit.
And at the same time, Chihayafuru 3 delivers its character relationship so well, being able to get the viewers understand them on a personal level. There’s a complex relationship angle between Chihaya, Taichi, and Arata built from the very first season. Carrying into this third season also means new developments including an unparalleled confession that will surprises more than just the fans. For a show being so human and realistic, Chihayafuru scores with much more than karuta competition. From the first episode to the finish, it celebrates the personal commitment of the cast and how much people can change over time.
Though the show has aged, Chihayafuru’s life cycle still stays true with its art style. Madhouse returns for this season to give us an elegant feast of visuals to lay eyes on. From the photorealistic settings to the mature character looks, everywhere, the camera angles lines up to showcase the technical achievements of the anime. And as a show loaded with drama, there’s plenty of time to experience a breather too with the light comedy. We can expect Chihaya and her friends to return to also enjoy their school life like normal people would. There’s also running gags that I’m sure fans are eager to see again. The character voices also makes their return in their noticeable accents. When combined with the emotive dialogues, it brings out so much worth to them.
Welcome back Chihayafuru 3. I can say with supreme confidence that the third season is no short of delivering the house it has built. From the complex character relationships to the high stake karuta games, there’s something in store for returning fans. Even as someone who has read the manga, this is a classic to watch in animated form and that’s thanks to the wonderful talent of the staff and producers. I thank them for giving us this wonderful season.
TL;DR: Do you like sports anime? Do you like sports anime based on actual sports and not something completely made up? Well, if you’ve been hiding under a rock or not yet cultured on the competitive game that is Karuta, then get yourself educated because Chihayafuru S3 is back… after 7 goddamn years to give us something heavenly to cherish during these quarantined time.
[Story: 8/10 , Characters: 9/10, Art: 9/10, Sound: 9/10, Enjoyment: 9/10]
“Naniwa-zu ni / Sakuya kono hana / Fuyu-gomori / Ima o haru-be to/ Sakuya kono hana”
How long should a studio wait before delivering something to the fans that can both live up to the expectation of its predecessor and heighten it so it can set a new bar for itself to be a strong contender as one of the best real sports based shounen anime? If you ask director Morio Asaka and Studio Madhouse, it’s apparently 7 years. Fans of Chihayafuru have waited so long for this third installment and boy did it live up to the hype. When the same five note started playing that was ever abused throughout the entire show, that gush of nostalgia just came all back. It’s rare to find such a feel good pulsating anime that can do that these days and Chihayafuru did just that and more! Before we continue, if you haven’t watched S1 or S2 along with OVAs of this anime, watch them all first. I promise you’ll binge through it no time. If you don’t like it, understand this is one of those niche sport/genre where if you aren’t fan of it, you won’t enjoy it as much as the rest. Also I’m not going to explain how to play Karuta, wiki it, because every time I try to explain it, people fall asleep. Now that being said, let’s dive deeper into this installment of Chihayafuru and explore both the technical aspects such as animations, OST, visuals and its character driven plot such as growth of players along with their purposes in life to see what made this iteration better than its previous seasons, ultimately leading it to become a must watch as fans of it have been hyping it up for years.
“In Karuta there are only 4 ways, right? You take the card, your opponent takes the card, you make a mistake, your opponent makes a mistake.” – Master Suou
Chihayafuru, written by Yuki Suetsugu is about a high school girl, Chihaya, who is finding a purpose in her life other than being a supportive slave for her model sister by diving into Karuta taught to her by her idol/best friend Arata in order to become the Queen, basically the best female Karuta player in the world. Alongside her, you have Arata, the grandson of the legendary Master, best male Karuta player in the world, who is trying to devote his life to Karuta to achieve his grandfather’s dream and Taichi, her childhood friend who is gifted with brain, brawn and looks, aiming for something similar but to win Chihaya’s approval or finding his own purpose in life. It’s a complicated triangle. At first it may see that the Manga was mainly aimed at the demographic who were into the josei genre but as time went on people fan of drama or sports or even shounen to an extent started to really get into it. This cross demographic propagated the popularity of this show and all for the right reason. The overarching theme of this anime is that to achieve one’s dream and to be the best at something, you have to sacrifice something in return for it. This theme is prevalent in any sports anime or shounen anime but Chihayafuru gives its due diligence by actually showing the physical and mental ramification of such sacrifice through their interpersonal and intrapersonal interaction with others who are both in or outside of the world of Karuta. This season is knee deep into tournament arc of becoming Master and Queen. Since we are witnessing how our main protagonists competes in the race to become Master and Queen, we see it firsthand with the current quirky Master Suou and Queen Shinobu as well as supporting characters competing. In retrospect, whenever you have a sports anime, plot wise there isn’t much story as the story is usually told through growth of characters during tournament arcs and if you knew how previous seasons of Chihayafuru functioned then you would expect this season to be similar. Spoiler alert, it wasn’t. This season heavily explores the tremulous trepidation of hormones, heightened emotional roller coaster and sense of belonging & camaraderie.
“I’ve always, always wanted to become a person who is not a coward.” – Taichi
In the previous season, Karuta was mostly played in team aspect but since this season, most games are individual 1v1, we finally get to dive deeper into the mental state of each character and grow with them as they redefine their purpose and find ways to seek it. The stand out character for this season wasn’t Chihaya at all, and in a way I’m glad, it was actually Taichi. Taichi is a very complicated character. His sense of purpose was never really defined like Arata or Chihaya. On one hand he played Karuta because he wanted to be near Chihaya because he loved her but on the other hand why go through Karuta to only get her attention? Why does Chihaya only pay attention to Arata? Is it because he is so good at Karuta? So do you become better than Arata to achieve his purpose he set out from the beginning, that is to achieve Chihaya? What if along the journey, he realizes, maybe he is more like Harada or Master Suou, his actual purpose is to become the Master and to do that, he must sacrifice it all, including Chihaya? All of these questions and more that constantly circled Taichi this arc makes his character such a standout one this season. Definitely an enjoyable and facepalming experience. That being said, the reason this anime is great because Taichi’s struggle was used as a foil to showcase similar struggle for purpose for other characters such as Shinobu, Arata, Harada, Haruka and even Master Suou. I guess in a way, since this season wasn’t so focused on Chihaya is what made it much better in a weird way. If you thought Sudo was the biggest sadistic dick in Karuta, wait till you start interacting with Master Suou. New favourite character for sure. Regardless, it’s the characters growth in this season is what makes this season so much more enjoyable. Spoiler alert, press F for Taichi. #TeamArata.
“I sincerely apologize. Have you sirs and ladies restored your exalted spirits?” – Shinobu
Now that we have the brilliant story our of the way, let’s raise a toast for the amazing work this studio did in adapting this brilliant anime. No matter how good the manga is, cough Tokyo Ghoul cough, if the studio doesn’t do justice in adaptation, cough Studio Pierridiot cough, then it can never shine bright like a diamond. From the breathtaking visual, to the nostalgic yet brilliant orchestraic OST, OP & ED, to the seiyuus pouring their heart out to heighten each character’s struggle to lastly those poets reading those poems, it’s such a complete technical package that is hard to come by these days even though we are technically in the golden age of anime. Biggest credit should be given to director, Morio Asaka, for staying on this project from the beginning. It helps with maintaining the consistency and vision this anime is headed towards. Each panel of the anime is brilliantly animated with bold vibrant colours. The matches are animated and depicted true to its form irl (I checked by actually watching an IRL of last season’s Master’s match) plus it added the anime flare by slowing down at appropriate times to enhance the dramatic tension for different strategy employed by the players to problem solve during tense situations. It really enhances viewers experience. None of those panning shots used by lazy studios to each episode. Moreover, the OST is just so warming to listen to as a standalone piece. Although I didn’t enjoy the OP and ED song as much this season as previous seasons but it was still good and became adjusted to it by the end. Lastly, kudos to the seiyuus. Especially the poet readers for Karuta. Their voice when reading each poem actually feels like a melodic song. Although we can never hear the second part of the poem since the game is so fast paced but at this point, the introductory poem is just ingrained in the brain. Overall, very hard to nitpick flaws in the technical aspect.
“Luck of the Draw is not about luck or fate at all.” – Harada
Overall, at the end of the day, if we were to assume that no anime is perfect and an anime is only as great as the viewer’s enjoyment; then Chihayafuru S3 did a great job in disproving both null hypothesis by showcasing that the recipe for a great sports anime comes from a character driven plot that uses each player as a foil to shine the overarching theme of sports anime, that is through sacrifice shall one achieve greatness & purpose in life! It also bauds well when it’s backed greatly through well executed technical aspects that acts as a great ladder to propel the anime further up. This season may seem slower than the previous ones but by no means should it be used as a criticism. Would I recommend others to watch it? That’s a loaded question to answer since this is such a niche anime. Since this anime is based on a card game that can only be played in Japan who know Japanese, it’s not easily relatable irl, however, if you are a fan of sports anime, and you enjoy growth of players’ skills through hard work and perseverance, similar to Haikyuu or Kuroko no Basket, then give this anime a try. It isn’t only geared towards girls and there isn’t much of a romance aspect as some fans might allude to. Lastly, there will be another season but who knows when that will come, here’s to hoping it’s not another 7 years. However, if it takes that long to maintain this level of perfection, then It’s worth making that sacrifice. Anyways, thank you for reading this review & feel free to share with me your favourite poem from the anime. Ciao.
P.S. Thank you for reading. I hope you found this short and supaishi review helpful!
P.P.S. Are you Team Arata or Team Taichi? Why? Let me know! I’m curious.
2: Vinland Saga
Japanese: ヴィンランド サガ
MAL Score: 8.73
Young Thorfinn grew up listening to the stories of old sailors that had traveled the ocean and reached the place of legend, Vinland. It’s said to be warm and fertile, a place where there would be no need for fighting—not at all like the frozen village in Iceland where he was born, and certainly not like his current life as a mercenary. War is his home now. Though his father once told him, “You have no enemies, nobody does. There is nobody who it’s okay to hurt,” as he grew, Thorfinn knew that nothing was further from the truth.
The war between England and the Danes grows worse with each passing year. Death has become commonplace, and the viking mercenaries are loving every moment of it. Allying with either side will cause a massive swing in the balance of power, and the vikings are happy to make names for themselves and take any spoils they earn along the way. Among the chaos, Thorfinn must take his revenge and kill Askeladd, the man who murdered his father. The only paradise for the vikings, it seems, is the era of war and death that rages on.
This dude is apparently the protagonist of the story, but he does absolutely nothing to deserve this title. No wait, he runs like Naruto and is OP for some inexplicable reason after receiving absolutely no adequate training throughout his young life, so I guess he does check off most of the boxes for “generic anime protagonist.” Unfortunately, he has zero semblance of development until the very end of the anime. And his personality throughout the entire show is as stale as expired bread. Now I don’t care if he evolves much more as a person in the much longer source material. I’m basing everything off of what I see in the anime, and what I see is a poorly written character whose total stagnancy is astounding. Also, Vinland Saga is considered to be a historical anime and boasts a more realistic take on Vikings. Now no one, least of all me, expected this anime to be entirely realistic. I mean come on, it’s an anime after all. But when Thorfinn can accomplish feats like casually charging through hundreds of arrows shot at his head, leaping 12 feet in the air over a moat, sprinting up the side of a vertical castle wall, and running through dozens of trained soldiers in armor while making abrupt slashing motions with his knives that decapitate all of them with one slice, then I start to have a problem with the “realism” factor. Moments like these had deleterious effects on the quality of the anime in my eyes, and Thorfinn’s inexplicable demigod-like feats of strength and skill when compared to the generally normal capabilities of the majority of the rest of the cast caused a disconnect with the historical direction that the anime seemed to be aiming for.
Of course that loud, mountain of a man Thorkell is somehow worse when it comes to absolutely shattering any sense of realism that Vinland Saga was aiming for, but I don’t even want to attempt to talk about that horrendously written character.
Yes, I believe Thorfinn failed spectacularly as a protagonist. But thankfully, there’s Askeladd. He’s honestly much more of a main character than Thorfinn, and is actually quite compelling and given a believable reason for his actions. He’s clearly the deepest character and most entertaining part of the show, and despite my issues with many aspects of the anime *cough* Thorfinn *cough* he kept things interesting. He’s the type of character that you initially want to hate but then grow to appreciate as time goes on, and I have to commend Vinland Saga for writing him in such a compelling way. But even Askeladd couldn’t save Vinland Saga from falling into mediocrity. And that’s thanks to the inclusion of another certain character.
Canute is a Norse princess waifu…but he’s a dude. The entire arc surrounding Canute can be summarized as Askeladd’s vikings with Canute in tow march through all of England in fear of Thorkell’s vikings who are in pursuit. It’s terribly boring and is worsened by Canute constantly whining to his cone-headed adviser until even Askeladd gets annoyed by his character and tries to make a man out of him. Canute remains stagnant for many episodes until he has this incredibly pathetic and laughable epiphany about love that doesn’t really make any sense and his character suddenly does a complete 180. His voice proceeds to drop an octave and his eyes get smaller and sharper to visually imply that yes, Canute’s balls have finally dropped. His character transformation is so abrupt and nonsensical that I can only describe it as a monumental failure when it comes to development. This is especially sad because I know that the author of Vinland Saga has the ability to write quality characters. He did it with Askeladd after all. It just feels like he sort of gave up on trying to realistically develop Canute over a proper period of time and was just like “Screw it, he’s a badass now!” Which is honestly quite unfortunate.
I also find the narrative to be quite weak and lazily written. Sure, it shows on multiple occasions how harsh and cruel Vikings can be, but in reality it just depicts a bunch of dudes traveling around accomplishing not much of anything for like 20 episodes with a few “dark” moments sprinkled in to remind viewers that they’re watching a medieval fantasy. I honestly couldn’t find much depth or intrigue in this anime at all. It’s just not interesting to me whatsoever and feels like a ginormous waste of time. And the whole revenge plot surrounding Thorfinn and Askeladd had about as much substance as the awful revenge plot featured in Masamune-Kun’s Revenge. Which is to say that there’s practically zero substance, as it never feels like Thofinn makes any progress whatsoever at getting back at Askeladd. Now this would be fine if the anime took the route of trying to develop their bond and bring them closer over the years, but it doesn’t feel like that either. That is of course until the anime force feeds us that angle at the end in a last ditch attempt to derive some emotional impact…sorry, it didn’t work. The whole show is just Thorfinn being perpetually angry at Askeladd and Askeladd being sort of indifferent to Thorfinn, which was quite disappointing for me. It made the whole anime feel sort of pointless. And when I can draw parallels to frickin Masamune-Kun’s Revenge, which is in my opinion one of the poorest produced anime of the 2010s, you just know that Vinland Saga done goofed up somewhere along the line.
Despite my harsh criticism of Vinland Saga, I don’t actually hate the show or anything. It does have some solid visual and sound work (bar the jarring CGI), courtesy of Wit Studio. And there are some fun fight sequences included. I’m just disappointed that the anime squandered so much potential. While it admittedly starts strong with Thors and finishes strong with Askeladd, the rest…unfortunately isn’t the best.
As the struggles between English and Danes grew worse each passing year, calls for peace had diminished, and death became commonplace. In the wake of these restless times were Vikings; violent raiders who reaped the spoils of war and marched to the beat of their drum. Brutal, merciless and unfeeling, they pillaged whoever they pleased and left only wreckage behind them. And raised by the band who murdered his father is Thorfinn, a young boy driven by hatred, longing to cut down the one responsible and avenge his past.
This is the tale of Vinland Saga, a sprawling epic penned by Makoto Yukimura that thrusts you into a world drenched in bloody violence and battle-hungry warriors. At least, that is what the manga first introduces readers to. Whereas the anime, produced by Wit Studio with director Shuuhei Yabuta at the helm, decides to take a different approach with the saga by telling its narrative chronologically. Aside from a short battle sequence, viewers aren’t subjected with carnage outright, but a calm and tranquil village on the coast of Iceland untouched by the remnants of war. In doing so, it trades the fast-paced feel of its original story for a more methodical slow burn that fortunately retains enough intrigue and uneasiness to keep it from becoming a tedious watch.
Such a change carries significant implications for the remainder of its runtime, altering the show’s focus in such a way that brings more light to the world at large. Yukimura is often praised for his passion of technical realism as displayed in his previous work Planetes. Vinland Saga is no different, taking inspiration from Nordic tales that combine elements of culture, family and overarching philosophy into an engrossing plot. Here these features are given slightly more consideration, with early episodes providing a greater representation of the lifestyles embodied in this realistic setting. The nameless faces we encounter, though unimportant to the story at large do feel like real people, with their own goals, families and livelihoods. This level of realism is also found through various anime-only scenes later in the series, that both maintain the steady pace of the show between key events and help in conveying an appropriate air of verisimilitude for its interpretation of the saga at large.
With a more methodical approach comes a better understanding of Vinland Saga’s characters initially. Some may be inclined to point out how this comes at the cost of cast members losing some degree of subtlety, feeling forced in the process. But what is important to note is that characters early on lay the foundation for the development of our protagonist. Thorfinn is easily impressionable and holds a curious eye from those he admires, most notably his father who he learned the concepts of honour and courage from. His actions when his morals are tested, and more importantly Thorfinn’s reactions aim to give viewers a clearer look at the bigger picture – a story of personal and global discovery. It is more than happy to let viewers dwell on the tender moments and melancholic scenery before the story inevitably shifts gears. As a child, Thorfinn sat at the feet of the great explorer Leif Erickson, captivated by his thrilling tales and in turn longed for adventure of his own. However, those youthful fantasies are soon shattered in a raid that leaves the boy craving revenge on the band’s leader, Askeladd.
Vinland Saga thrives off the dichotomy between Thorfinn and Askeladd. A child’s innocence ruined with only vengeance left in its place, and a man that epitomizes what any Viking would want in a leader: strong, intelligent, calculated and charismatic. One wears his deadened heart on his sleeve, unfazed by the “comrades” around him and content with watching the world burn, while the other holds a silver tongue and laid-back demeanour, masking his desire for influence by any means necessary. Thorfinn is willing to take part in whatever atrocities asked of him if it means bringing him closer to killing his commander, even though he’s just a pawn in the greater game Askeladd is playing. Their relationship is one that walks on thin ice, giving each of their interactions a hint of uncertainty. Not only is it hard to predict how the plot will progress and subsequently where it’ll take this band of misfits, but also how Thorfinn will be able to achieve his revenge, if at all.
Consistent characterization is arguably the show’s greatest strength, as within a story so epic in scope lies a profound study of character archetypes. The source material knows that historical stories often require authentic characters and the adaptation does not forget this. Vikings are neither vicious by nature nor are they depicted as idealized figures of legend, just men hardened through tough lives with dreams of making a fortune. The raids are done less out of malice but rather from the need to survive in a landscape where winters are long and resources are scarce. These warriors are humanized to an extent that prompts questions on the nature of war and those who voluntarily take part in such. The world and its inhabitants are considered for with a more holistic perspective than what anime normally offers, delivering on its rare setting that warrants a mature audience. There have been criticisms lobbied at the anime regarding some of the exaggerated feats of power and use of clichés as if it were a shounen story, which I find ironic given the manga was originally published as a shounen before being moved to a seinen magazine. Being a relatively faithful adaptation, the anime incorporates these parts but gradually grounds them into the plot, convincingly enough to where it slowly but surely no longer requires as much suspension of disbelief from the viewer.
While Vinland Saga is rich in depth and subtext, it is still a story steeped in action and combat. Unfortunately, this is where the anime suffers most. It’s worth pointing out that this show does have its merits visually; art director Yusuke Takeda and his staff at studio BAMBOO boast some astounding digital background art that capture the gravity in times of mourning and sorrow. The voice acting performances – Thorfinn’s especially – are excellent in bringing the struggles and emotions to life. Character designs by Takahiko Abiru do well to imitate Yukimura’s artwork – albeit not with such excellent attention to detail or graphic displays of savagery, but still quite serviceable enough for a TV anime. There’s this myth that Vinland Saga is among the likes of Berserk, Kingdom and Vagabond as manga considered impossible to adapt. This is hyperbole, as apart from Vagabond’s aesthetic, these can all be realistically recreated in anime depending mostly on the staff, budget and scheduling. Fixating on atrocious efforts in the last decade only soils the standards that fandoms will have for future attempts. Thankfully, this adaptation is generally effective in transforming the majority of the manga’s illustrations and panel compositions to animated form… Expect for one key aspect: the action.
The battles in Vinland Saga look about as disorderly as the computer-generated ocean that our cast frequently sail over. Of course, that isn’t the say that water is the only thing that is CG: the boats are always CG, the foot soldiers often turn CG, the entire environment in long-shots end up being CG, and all these examples of CG integration look especially jarring. It’s reminiscent of Shuuhei Yabuta’s work overseeing the 3D animation on Attack on Titan Season 3 Part 2, with short yet often noticeable faults. The direction overall is still an improvement over his last directorial effort on Inuyashiki, even holding flashes of excellence as the different animation styles, models and digital effects merge into great action sequences. But these moments are few and far between a multitude of scenes looking as though they were haphazardly worked on and do not coalesce well in comparison.
Even the more experimental cinematography such as first-person perspective shots that appear great in concept pale in contrast to other anime that pulled off the same technique far better in the same year (Mob Psycho anyone?). By the time it finishes airing, there will be those eager to shower this series with immense praise for the art and animation, whilst forgetting to mention the inconsistent nature of its visuals. It’s tumultuous. There are great screenshots you can take of the anime at its most expressive and colourful – most of which are found away from the action. Likewise, there are short clips that highlight the visual blandness and worse portions that barely look as though they belong to the same season. The action still holds tension and weight when watching, but half the time you are probably better off glossing over them.
These action scenes do gradually improve over the season, even if simply by not being as ambitious as before. However, there still lies various issues within the script that are worth mentioning, if only for their lasting effect on the project. Earlier I pointed out the importance of historical accuracy in Vinland Saga that pervades every corner of its setting. For the most part, the anime remains accurate in its portrayal of 11th century Northern Europe. But the screenplay is where most of its discrepancies exist. The staff in charge of writing such altered sections from the source material that acknowledge proper cultures, only to have such be overwritten for what I can only surmise as for the sake of localization. This furthermore muddles the various languages that characters are meant to speak throughout the story. There were never complaints about the manga including morsels of lore into the plot, and all these changes do is needlessly break immersion and consistency. This dialogue is also laden with telling the viewer actions that are clearly shown seconds beforehand. These could easily be brushed aside as nitpicking, but when these instances happen time and time again, it’s no longer a nitpick; it’s a recurring problem.
But nevertheless, these problems do little to take away from the overall experience that makes Vinland Saga such a special piece of fiction in the realm of manga and now anime. While the premise does tell a tale of revenge, there is a balance ever-present. It rides a line which avoids getting too heady for its own good, but at the same time follows a linear path that realizes its potential to be intellectually stimulating. Drawing you in with its copious amounts of violence, before peeling back the layers to reveal something truly meaningful. Look beyond the strokes of bloodshed from mere pawns and see what caused these acts to occur. Vinland Saga casts a mirror over this time in history, on both famous figures and those forgotten overtime and simply asks us to think over what is shown. Consider if Thorfinn really has any enemies to justify his pursuit for vengeance. Ponder over the musings of a priest that fall on the deaf ears of most Vikings. And imagine if there were a land somewhere, far from slavery and the flames of war.
Of all the clashing ideals of love, war and pacifism at play, the most fascinating comes from Prince Canute. Hard to fathom at first, being introduced as timid and weak, even drawn with a bishounen appearance. His inexperience in times of conflict and inability to function without his servant make him wholly unfit to rule over anyone, as demonstrated once held hostage by Askeladd. Every man is a slave to something: Thorfinn to his anger, Askeladd to the past, Thorkell to the battlefield and Canute to his own comfort. But it is once he loses the person closest to him when the shackles around him are broken. His preconceived notions about the world are shattered, leading to a startling epiphany where he is born anew as the strong leader history remembers. Canute’s ambition to spite God and create a utopia on Earth is chilling to watch develop, with heavy piano music accompanied that while ill-suited for the setting, hits all the emotional beats. His motivations not only serve as a compelling transformation of his character, but bring into question basic tenets of love and freedom with an intriguing yet complex theological framework. If the Vikings represent a struggle of maintaining independence, Canute’s arc symbolises the first steps toward a nation state, where freedom is forcibly exchanged for stability – and the Prince is more than willing to cut his father down to achieve that dream.
‘Every action has a consequence.’
Behind the brutality and political scheming lies this constant message. They are felt by each character and echoed through the narrative. In part, this is what makes Vinland Saga such an unpredictable journey. Thorfinn’s past catches up to him and tries to sway him from the existence he chose after seeing his father slain with his own eyes. Askeladd’s craftiness and quick decision-making for years has brought him to serve under Canute as his right-hand man. And the Prince’s circumstances caused by the King’s order has resulted in the emergence of his greatest threat to the crown. From the beginning, the series has prepared its stage for an inevitable impasse, with each piece carefully positioned for their own personal growth. But despite all the planning and deliberation possible, the world may decide to deal you a different hand. The nature of the world is unflinching, with unexpected endings sometimes being peaceful, tragic and even undeserved, for better or for worse. After everything being built up to this moment, we are given more questions than answers, and left in shambles, unsure of what awaits these characters in the saga’s next entry. The prologue concludes. Such is life, and such is history.
– – – – – – –
For years, Vinland Saga has been proclaimed as a must-read classic manga, and here the anime does it justice. It’s a powerful tale with well-defined, palpable characters all living in a harsh yet beautifully captured world brought to life by rich colours, stellar landscapes and a varied selection of melodies that help convey a specific tone. Presenting the narrative in a different medium where it does falter on occasion, but essentially stays true to the heart of Vinland Saga, even providing original content that compliment the core material with a strong directorial voice and impressive execution. Some may be concerned for where the series can go after such an ending. But let me assure you that Vinland Saga knows what kind of story it’s telling, and it is nothing short of remarkable.
Thorfinn Thorsson is the Icelandic protagonist, a character with complex personality driven with an ambition. After the death of his father, he becomes a warrior, someone who will do whatever it takes to get his revenge. In this 11th century, the audience must understand how barbaric life is. Every day is an adventure where possibilities are almost limitless. Vinland Saga is very engrossing with a rich culture and preaches to the elements of historical fiction. This anime adaptation adapts a story to get us familiar with its Viking world, the harsh life of Thorfinn Throsson, and what it means to survive.
Besides Planetes, Vinland Saga is mangaka Makoto Yukimura’s most prominent work. The anime adaptation remains faithful throughout the series but the director does mention that “there will be some adjustments to the manga”. With that in mind, the audience shouldn’t need to worry too much because Vinland Saga is fundamentally an adaptation for fans of the original series. The first few episodes takes off to showcase the violence and barbaric nature of the 11th century. From the harsh weather to immense amount of bloodshed, it is obvious the producers wanted to make the anime feels as real as possible. Wit Studio managed to carry a caliber of high production quality throughout a great deal of this series. The landscapes and Baltic Sea are illustrated with gorgeous visual quality enhanced by its realism. The scenes in some episodes contains elements of photorealism, characteristics that makes this show’s visual quality nothing less than a near masterpiece. There’s a Viking culture that we must quickly adapt to such as the rough clothing, crude ships, and historical weapons. Vehicles are replaced by horses and technology is crafted by the hands of humankind. In essence, this anime retains a beautiful setting but with dark elements of complex storytelling.
With the characters in mind, Thorfinn is the central protagonist as we focus on his rebellious life. During his childhood, he was happier like an ordinary kid before his life changed forever. Now, he carries a vengeful attitude with a rebellious nature while trusting almost no one but himself. He is what I describe as a survivalist, someone who is opportunistic, wild, and unpredictable. He is fundamentally a decent person although some of his actions are questionable throughout the series. It’s hard to judge his character altogether in this adaptation but based on his actions, you could say he is far from a heroic protagonist. What is important is the relationship he develops with others in particular, Askeladd, the man who manipulated Thorfinn into his service. This becomes a complex relationship because Askeladd was contracted to kill Thors, Thorfinn’s father. As leader of his own Viking band, he is an important figure because of his influence on Thorfinn. And the more you watch Vinland Saga, the more you’ll realize how much certain characters have influence over others.
Taking some steps back, the audience should also be familiar with Thors, the father of Thorfinn. As one of the most powerful character in the franchise, Thors is a testament and symbol of warrior. And despite not being around as much as the other characters, Thors teaches us what it means to be a true warrior. This is somewhat in contrast to Thorkell, a barbaric man with inhuman strength and widely considered to be one of the most brutal warriors in the series. He loves the thrill of fighting, to always find powerful opponents, and tests his strength. After encountering Thorfinn, he comes to respect the boy for his inner strength and determination. He is even somewhat honorable in that when facing against worth opponents, he prefers to settle it in a fair fight, without interference or bias. In my eyes, he is a breakout character to always keep an eye on.
But Vinland Saga isn’t just about barbarism and violence. It has a society ruled by order with laws and dictatorship. From within the story, we meet Canute, a prince with a cowardly personality and bishonen-like appearance. Created as a foil as some of the main characters, he starts off as a meek man but transforms into a strong headed prince after losing someone close in his life. And that’s what makes Vinland Saga so meaningful. Character deaths are impactful and causes people to change as in the way it’s meant to. I can honestly say from heart that character evolution in Vinland Saga is one of the core fundamentals of the series. It’s not just about evolving characters either but showing the reality of death. It’s a clever way to avoid character assassination by changing their personalities through events. As I watched more of the show, it becomes more and more intriguing to understand each one. Unfortunately, a 2-cour adaptation does limit the potential of full character development. There’s much more to be found in the manga but that’s for another story.
If I said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times. Vinland Saga contains a cruel world and filled with moments of despair, emotions, and conviction driven by action. If you’re here to see fan service, it’s served with bloodshed and body horror, not half naked women. It has little time to humor as its time period isn’t an era to enjoy life. It’s to survive in it. What will seduce the audience to this series’ theme ultimately come down its hallmark of creative realism. It manages to be exactly what it advertised from the start and in Thors’ words, make a “true warrior with no sword”.
1: Shingeki no Kyojin Season 3 Part 2
English: Attack on Titan Season 3 Part 2
Japanese: 進撃の巨人 Season3 Part.2
MAL Score: 9.10
Seeking to restore humanity’s diminishing hope, the Survey Corps embark on a mission to retake Wall Maria, where the battle against the merciless “Titans” takes the stage once again.
Returning to the tattered Shiganshina District that was once his home, Eren Yeager and the Corps find the town oddly unoccupied by Titans. Even after the outer gate is plugged, they strangely encounter no opposition. The mission progresses smoothly until Armin Arlert, highly suspicious of the enemy’s absence, discovers distressing signs of a potential scheme against them.
Shingeki no Kyojin Season 3 Part 2 follows Eren as he vows to take back everything that was once his. Alongside him, the Survey Corps strive—through countless sacrifices—to carve a path towards victory and uncover the secrets locked away in the Yeager family’s basement.
On the basis of that postulate, the journey resumes for our SnK characters, as they prepare to undertake a fierce battle against those who want to annihilate humanity…however, is that these guys objective?
It is well known the one-of a kind storytelling attributes this adaptation has: the understated foreshadowing –great for those who like to re-watch shows-, the captivating epicity, the more than famous plot twists; nevertheless, it never stops to amaze me the ability –and specially, in this season- they have had to build, step by step, a huge storyline that is both fascinating and enjoyable, while being able of connecting the dots that had been scattered during the 3 seasons prior to this one -all of this without making the story messy and confusing-.
While I am on this subject, I have to bring to the table the marvellous combination of this storytelling with the animation and music. One of the most overlooked aspects, not only in anime, but also on the film industry, is the ability of a motion picture to use this or that piece of music, sound, silence and/or frame in this or that given moment to capture the audience and, what can I say, Shingeki no Kyojin does it extremely well on this season.
Speaking about music, this asset is and has been one of SnK’s hallmarks. Not only the use of it –as I mentioned before- but the compositions per se are just one of a kind. Am I the only one who listens to them on a daily basis? And if this was not enough, WIT studio decided to bring into the equation some of the old soundtracks from season 1, which we will all agree were masterpieces.
Furthermore, speaking about other technical aspects, the animation has made quite an improvement, leading to great results. This made some of the events –including fights- that took place over the course of this season something special: backgrounds were depicted in a really wonderful way, movements and facial expressions were really fluid and seemed pretty natural (including the Omni-directional mobility gear animation where camera rotations and 3D movements were executed to perfection) and pace was used fantastically well –that episode 54 fight it’s a great example, where Levi moves so fast that it takes time to the physics to actually catch up with him, making it look like he moves at the speed of light-. This, accompanied by an amazing sound design, a cast sounding as good as they do and a very good characterization, makes Shingeki no Kyojin a really wonderful series to watch. And don’t forget what a banger the OP was.
Moreover, I’m glad that, between the chaos of war, they have set aside some time to explore the inner conflicts of some of our characters, their convictions and motivations, the reason for them to fight, as well as exploring on how their decisions not only changed –and will change- their lives and made them who they are now, but the lives of the people around them. Characters like Levi, Armin or Erwin, who had not have so much screentime-development over the course of the show gain in importance on this season -it was about time-, without laying aside others like Eren -who finally shows a glimmer of manhood and logic-, Mikasa, or even our titanic traitors -if you know what I mean-, as they also meaningfully develop. For instance, side characters no longer feel like side characters.
So, while I’m not in a position to say that I would never see something like this in awhile, I can say that this season was, hands down, a dazzling, breathtaking piece of animated work.
TL;DR: From Titans being shredded to human bodies being melted, this is the season fans have been waiting for since Season 1. We have been blue balled long enough. It’s time to finally find out what’s in that bloody basement. If you didn’t watch any previous seasons, don’t even bother reading or watching this anime. Go back to watching your crappy anime. We are in the endgame now.
[Story: 9/10 , Characters: 8/10, Art: 9/10, Sound: 8/10, Enjoyment: 10/10]
“Everyone will die someday. Does that mean life is meaningless?” – Erwin Smith
The second part of Shingeki no Kyojin or Attack on Titan Season 3 picks up immediately where it ended. No delay in pacing, no unnecessary flashbacks, we are in the endgame now. If you’ve been following this show, you know where we are and what’s at stake. We all want to know what’s in that basement. So let’s finally find out. Question is, are you ready? Can you handle the truth? If there is one thing I’ll warn you, after learning the truth, this season will immediately surpass any of the previous seasons and just turn the entire show upside down. If you can’t handle the truth, avoid this season. Your watch has ended. If you can, let the clash begin, for Isayama has the best curve ball prepared since GRRM wrote Game of Thrones. Don’t worry though, thankfully we don’t have incompetent writers like D&D to screw this gem of a manga up. With the animation powerhouse of Wit Studio and musical prowess of Linked Horizon, Tetsurou Araki delivers the justice this manga have always deserved. It’s been a while since we’ve seen an anime that can equally deliver on both action and plot.
“It’s us who gives meaning to our comrade’s lives!” – Erwin Smith
From Titans being shredded to human bodies being melted, this was the bloodiest season of them all. This season is the season of revelations. All the hype that’s been building up since season 1 about the bloody basement is finally going to be explored. Question is, who will survive to know the truth and who will die trying. If there is anything the preview showed us last season, we know Araki will be jamming to “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor” as he skillfully directs this cour. The story is linear but you’re constantly at the edge because every episode ends on a cliff-hanger and the dead bodies just pile up. Despite how fast paced each episodes are, you know certain episodes are going to be jaw dropping when they start without playing the opening song. What’s more, some episodes, there is more after the end song. Just downright crazy. Last season we tackled the moral dilemma of our living system within the walls by juxtaposing the childish and adult view whereas this season we tackle the racial political dilemma of genocide, murder and ostracism. The only complaint viewers are allowed to have is maybe two more episodes to flesh out the plot better. Overall, the manga is beautifully adapted and no qualms about it.
“My soldiers, rage! My solders, Scream! My soldiers, FIGHT! – Erwin Smith
Time after time, the characters of this show just always stand out. Despite this season being more plot heavy, the characters still managed to steal the spotlight, especially Erwin. As each season are passing, more major characters are dying; that’s why we are able to focus more on the key characters of the show and better understand the uphill battle they are always facing. This not only heightens the anxiety and tension but delivers a cathartic feeling in their success or death. Last season, our heroes had to go up against humans and deal with the ramification of murder. This season, despite reverting back to killing Titans, they have to deal with the ramification of murder again. It seems Isayama wants to solidify within us, no matter how much we enjoy seeing our heroes kill Titans, murder is murder. Moreover, none of this would be possible had it not been for the seiyuus. Every damn season, they are going above and beyond to give each character such depth and plot, hell even minor side characters are voiced so well. You just can’t help feel right in the moment of the story. Huge kudos to them.
“No casualties, Don’t you dare DIE!” – Levi Ackerman
Aside from the stellar linear plot & well developed characters, if there is one thing this studio does justice, it’s their animation & art style. Without any surprise, this season they nailed it again. At this point, they have set the bar so high, good luck any other studio, attempting to reach it. Every panel was hand-drawn really well and the use of CGI for certain action sequences flowed really well. Kudos to the key animators. We know they bailed on us part way last year since they were not going to finish the animation in time but be glad they took the time. They delivered. The background score was really hype throughout all the fight sequences and the drops right before key enigmatic moments definitely escalates the excitement each episode. Linked Horizon is back again for an eargasmic opening song, even if it sounds very similar to their first opening song and the ED song is nice and chilling. When the OST is released, fans of this show will enjoy listening to it repeatedly.
“I always knew you were the bravest one out of any of us” – Eren Jaeger
Overall, SnK S3 P2 significantly blew all previous seasons out of the park. Is this season perfect? No. Is it the best we’ve seen so far? Yes. Isayama is a master of foreshadowing and this season from all the revelations, you will be going back and realizing just how many scenes and dialogues you overlooked thinking it would never be important to the story. Given how well Araki and staff of Wit Studio adapted the manga by rearranging the story arcs to showcase a better linear plot, it really accentuates the rewatch value of this show. Even after it ends after it’s final season (which has also been announced), fans of this show can continue to rewatch over and over again. At this point, if you’ve come this far without spoiling yourself, then anime watchers, I would recommend hold your breath and not read the manga. If you’re a manga reader, be happy your fav manga was adapted this well. Without spoiling too much, the series ends with a new purpose and goal for the characters. The real war is about to begin. Nevertheless, there is no point not watching this season of AoT. You’ve already invested in watching previous seasons, so might as well binge watch this season. That’s always the best way to watch this anime. Anyways, check it out & let me know later how you like it as well as share with me your favourite quote from the anime! Ciao.
P.S. Thank you for reading. I hope you found this short and supaishi review helpful!
Now let’s begin this review.
Imagine if you were a fish that since birth has been living inside a fish tank, you are unaware that there is a bigger world out there with vast oceans where you can swim to many different areas and see various different species. That is basically what Eren and company were in, and we as the viewers were also in the same situation. Attack on Titan season 3 part 2 is the season that connects all the previous seasons neatly together, this was three seasons in the making. Snk is an action/mystery series that builds its foundation and then explodes with greatness when the apparent time comes.
To appreciate this season you have to realise how important foundation is, in terms of setup, without proper build up this season would not be getting the praise it currently has, because if there wasn’t any foundation the impact of the basement reveal and the character interaction/fights would be lacking, there would be a big void there.
I think plenty of persons believe the basement would be the end game, where after finding out what is in the basement the series would eventually end, the twist is that the basement is simple the key to open the next level of the series, the first 3 seasons
were simple the prologue and it is now time for the series to touch on the main plot or the true issue at hand.
Visually this season looks great despite the issues with the animators, the staff did their best with this season from the awesome soundtrack, to the great action scenes, some fights were lacking a bit like episode 2 also the cgi Collosal titan was a bit distracting at times, but that still didn’t affect my enjoyment of this season, the voice acting in this season was phenomenal especially in episode 6 when there was minimal ost used in that episode.
The interaction and development for some of these characters in this season was also a highlight, especially between Erwin and Levi, there is a famous criticism that snk gets a lot and that is that the characters are bland, but I think it is an outdated criticism back in season 1 that needs to die, simple put a lot of characters didn’t get much time to develop in the first seasons also in retrospect some of the characters didn’t get early development because of their secrets, but as more seasons were release, the more the characters grow on you and the more you appreciate these characters and want them to finally be free.
Despite giving this series a 10/10, don’t take it as me saying it is a “perfect” series, because no series is perfect and this is where I will point out a flaw I personally have for this particular season and that is the fakeout in this season, specifically regarding Reiner and Armin, I didn’t like the situation/explanation in how they both survive and that bothered me, but here is where Isayama shows why he is a God writer! he somehow finds a way to make something great come from those two sour situation for me, with Armin in episode 6 and how that was written was just incredible the same with Reiner, can’t say much but all I will say is that he is putting him to good use, not often a writer can write something you as the viewer didn’t like but then just blow you away with what he has done with that particular situation.
I don’t think I will ever like it, but what I am getting at is that nothing in this world is perfect, just like how you care for your close family and friends and you know they have their flaws, you argue with them at times and there is somethings you don’t like about them, but in the end you care deeply for them, it is basically the same for loving a series or someone despite their flaws.
And to end this I will say to all anime only watchers, I know that some of you are nervous, excited and even skeptical on where the series is going, but trust me when I say you should have faith in Isayama, he delivered on the basement reveal and has set up the series perfectly for the main course, see you all again in season 4 and make sure that you will not become another fallen soldier when the next season arrives, Erwin would not be pleased.
Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of your day.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Shingeki no Kyojin Season 3 Part 2
2. Vinland Saga
3. Chihayafuru 3
4. Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru
5. Kono Oto Tomare! 2nd Season
7. Fruits Basket 1st Season
8. Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari
10. Carole & Tuesday