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 Sword Art Online: Alicization, Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld, 5-toubun no Hanayome, and more!
10: Sword Art Online: Alicization
English: Sword Art Online: Alicization
Japanese: ソードアート オンライン アリシゼーション
MAL Score: 7.55
The Soul Translator is a state-of-the-art full-dive interface which interacts with the user’s Fluctlight—the technological equivalent of a human soul—and fundamentally differs from the orthodox method of sending signals to the brain. The private institute Rath aims to perfect their creation by enlisting the aid of Sword Art Online survivor Kazuto Kirigaya. He works there as a part-time employee to test the system’s capabilities in the Underworld: the fantastical realm generated by the Soul Translator. As per the confidentiality contract, any memories created by the machine in the virtual world are wiped upon returning to the real world. Kazuto can only vaguely recall a single name, Alice, which provokes a sense of unease when mentioned in reality.
When Kazuto escorts Asuna Yuuki home one evening, they chance upon a familiar foe. Kazuto is mortally wounded in the ensuing fight and loses consciousness. When he comes to, he discovers that he has made a full-dive into the Underworld with seemingly no way to escape. He sets off on a quest, seeking a way back to the physical world once again.
Sword Art Online’s biggest problem is itself.
Its writer, Reki Kawahara, keeps getting in his own way, and when he doesn’t, the anime eschews his vision. What he wants to get across is almost always clear, and there are effortful attempts to act on those ideas, but with the anime’s focus on moving the plot forward rather than making details feel elaborately set, it ends up bringing down the entire experience to make watching the series weekly for the most part, feel like a slog of boring exposition attempting to cover up poor pacing of external events. If something from earlier is justified, it can feel annoyingly retroactive. Kirito himself is less a factor than in previous arcs, he is still partially to blame in the indistinct coverage of how this season adds to the themes of the franchise.
General spoilers for the season below:
The main premise of this arc is that Kirito, while on a date with his girlfriend Asuna, is caught off guard and stabbed to near death by one of the three Death Guns from the previous season. While in a coma, he ends up in the digital world of Rath, a system used for a military experimentation project where he must do…………………………nothing in particular at no real urgency. There is a plot, and there is a goal, but for once they feel entirely separate from the tension.
But I’ll get to that later. SAO, being as popular as it is, has mostly being met with snark and derision from people calling it the “worst ever” or otherwise exaggerating the flaws of it, so I think it’s fair to start off with the positives of this season, because contrary to what haters will tell you, they do exist.
1. Production value and music. These have been consistent strengths of the SAO series throughout the years and generally, they still hold up here. The character models take on the new polished style from the Ordinal Scale Movie, and while not having as much animation (I’ll get to that), the look is maintained very well across all 24 episodes of the show. If you compare to the original two seasons, there is a definite improvement, and while the architecture present isn’t particularly unique or standout, it is well presented. Likewise, Yuki Kajura’s music, while not her best soundtrack, still does what it can to set the mood for the quieter scenes and the action scenes, with a great new remix of Swordland to go along with it. Special mention to some of the opening moments of Episode 2, and the fight in Episode 16. Of the music outside of the show, the first OP and the second ED are the best ones and do have a good amount of catchiness and energy to them.
2. Alice Schuberg, the arc’s new female lead. While it takes 16 episodes in to actually really explore her as a character, and she looks a lot like Saber from the Fate series, the time we do have from then on with her sets her as probably the most consistent female lead in SAO so far. As of yet, she’s hasn’t been subjected to an endless supply of ass shots, her growth hasn’t been stunted by time skips, nor is her growth entirely for Kirito’s sake. Her arc of rejecting the corrupt system she’s been brainwashed under, wanting to reconnect with her old life and opening up on her feelings is adequately handled and leads to some of the stronger character moments this season. She also has one of the coolest weapons in terms of both design and animation; a space bending sword acting as moving protection with golden butterflies as weapons. It’s been put to effective use in the fights so far and has potential to be used further as the story moves along.
3. Measuring Kirito’s power. Compared to say, the Phantom Bullet arc, some of the worst aspects of his character are toned down. He doesn’t start the series overpowered from the get-go, has actual struggles in several fights and even takes a few Ls in a couple of them. It gives a couple of the fights in the season more tension than previous ones. The existence of Eugeo also helps for his sake since the show is better able to balance the battles between the two of them rather than giving Kirito the entire spotlight. It doesn’t mean there isn’t still an annoying amount of contrived solutions to conflicts, but that’s more on the writing than him specifically.
4. Actually building the villain. The arc’s villain, a Knight Templar dictator calling herself Quinella, has an established backstory and a defined reason for ruling the way she does. We know why she is the villain, we see the clear consequences of her actions on the world and she isn’t as laughable to be taken seriously compared to say, Sugou from ALFheim. She’s a product of an as of now unknown evil seed, but nonetheless she’s established properly. However, showing her attractive naked body on screen doesn’t work at all to be alienating for a series that in the past used naked bodies during bath scenes as fanservice. There are some fun intensity moments with her in the climax, even if the battle is a mere two minutes long.
Unfortunately, that’s the positives out of the way. Now for everything else that really breaks this arc and saddens me given the inherent potential of a SAO story.
The biggest problem that persists throughout the entire show is the immeasurable focus on exposition over every other element. Characters will abandon the idea of development, fighting, talking, world building, or anything else for the opportunity to talk in technical terms about topics that, while somewhat relevant, are not as important as what else could be focused on. Eugeo, the new male lead, has got family issues? No, that’s not important. We need to talk about the villain’s plan and “Fluctlights” (the series’ pretentious name for digital souls in an indistinct coverage of AI vs humans) again. Knowing how that works is way more important that a main character’s backstory. The exposition often brings the narrative to a screeching halt, especially in scenes where the heroes stop fighting the villain and exposition for a few minutes while the villain just stands around waiting for them.
Exposition is something inherent in building a setting and establishing the plot. I understand the use for it. There are several shows that have still been entertaining despite or because of their exposition. But SAO Alicization’s exposition is not only incredibly frequent but boring and lacking in character. It’s frequent enough to where Episode 1 spends 10 minutes just expositioning off vague terms about the setting, while half of Episode 12 and nearly all of Episode 13 are nothing but this flat delivery of the plot. Other episodes tend to tag nearly every fight with exposition that’s 8 times longer than the fight itself. While the old director was no exemplar by any means, he at least knew how to make fights seem varied and exciting visually with a lot of movement. Here, Yuki Kajiura puts in the effort, but this new director who directed some of the worst LN adaptations in recent memory like Mahouka and The Asterisk War, just cannot pull it off. So, when the OP makes you think you’ll be getting this epic fight, it’s usually just maybe two attacks apiece preceded and followed by 5-10 minutes of exposition.
The framing device of the season also presents several issues this time around. The idea that Kirito’s exploration in this new world is happening while his real-world body is comatose could generate tension, but this alongside Kirito’s connection to the real world is poorly substantiated. In learning about this framing device, we, as the audience, know it is just a waiting game for Kirito to heal up and be back to normal. Until the very last episode, his actions in Rath have absolutely no consequences in the real world. None of that “die in the game die in real life” stuff here. He gets really hurt from time to time but we have no idea how his real body is taking it. There’s a two-year timeskip at one point, but unlike in Season 1 where it really was two years, we have no idea how much the time exchange is between the system and the real world which I think hurts the connection to the story. This framing device also separates Kirito from his past connections in this story. I don’t mind the reduced role of his entourage for the moment (even if Asuna, who SHOULD be important, has nothing to do right now), but he barely brings them up over what’s been at least two years. There was one moment Kirito thought of his real-world connections, but that was for a poorly animated fight that ended in a draw and had absolutely no effect going forward. Kirito cries more over the fact that flowers he planted were destroyed (that were contrivedly brought back anyways) than even the chance that he might NEVER see Asuna again being stuck for so long. I want to care, but the show refuses to let me with a framing device that undermines the events and severs past connections.
Other old habits die hard, whether because of Kawhara’s own writing or the adaptation. Not only do we get another ridiculous rapey scene, but there’s a two-year timeskip rather than say, actually seeing Kirito and Eugeo train up to be better swordsman. They set off for the Capital and the next we see them, BOOM, two years pass, and they’ve already had a lot of training done. They could’ve at least done an FMA03 type thing by building character relationships prior to a timeskip but nope, nearly all relationships at the sword academy are shown after and as of now, doesn’t matter to anything since we know so little about them. If this was better in the light novel, good for Kawahara, but perhaps it should’ve been a cause for concern seeing how much got cut for the anime onlys. In this adaptation, the only purpose of the sword academy stuff, aside from telling us Kirito and Eugeo became better swordsmen offscreen, was to build two bullies as irredeemable rapey monsters, and paint two cute girls as victims of this. We don’t know much about them either, aside from one of them having a romance arc with Eugeo that goes absolutely nowhere. There’s also a lot of contrivances to make progress, like with Kirito seeing the “ghost” of Alice in Episode 4 lead him the right way, how Cardinal is introduced into the story specifically to ex Machina Kirito and Eugeo out of a scene, and how Kirito uses a completely unknown attack to one shot a late-game villain that returns him to his Black Swordsman coat for a bit. This attack is never referred to by name and never mentioned again.
And it’s not like this progress has done well for the characters, as Alice aside, they range from passable to horribly flat. Kirito isn’t as overpowered as before, but aside from problems the framing device puts on him, he still has annoying moments, like one case where he retroactively Sherlocked his way to avoid being poisoned, or where he used a device he only had two of on a character he barely knew, rather than to potentially stop the villain and save Alice. The show puts him in the right for this by the way, and there’s not much of an arc for him this season either. Cardinal is actually pretty decent, even if the show’s use of her as an ex Machina isn’t for the best. The sword academy characters are barely developed at all, and among the antagonists, only Bercouli and Deusolbert are passable; the rest are just obnoxious. Fanatio’s only character trait is being ashamed of being a woman, which falls deaf when both the main villain and Alice, whom she knows personally, are also women, as well as there being no indication of gender division in the world. And Chudelkin’s only purpose is to ruin the tone and make rapey faces whenever possible until kill stealing at the end.
Which leads us to the biggest wasted potential so far, Eugeo. There was a lot of potential for his character at the start. Being a guy partner to help balance Kirito out of the spotlight, there was a lot Kawahara could do with what he distinctly did not know about Kirito, his personal relationships with him and Alice as kids, his fighting ability, the idea that he has more innate fighting potential than Kirito, his unawareness of being an AI program and his romantic relationship to Tiese.
Unfortunately, not one of these elements get to shine in this adaptation to let us in on his blank sheet personality. Perhaps improved in the light novel, but the anime should have better stood on its own. Him having more innate potential than Kirito is completely ignored later on, his sword training is told not shown, and anything the show tries to pull regarding his relationships with Kirito/Alice as kids, his family, or Tiese fall completely deaf because they received little to no focus. He didn’t even TALK to Alice in the present day, once. The show would rather go into long tirades of exposition than show a main character’s backstory! Near everything about him was entirely cut short by the show despite having more than enough time to act on all of it. They try their best to make up for it at the end, but it’s a bit too little too late.
It’s hard to say whether I’m more annoyed or disappointed with how Alicization has been executed so far. Sure, some of the problems in the world, characters and framing device can be fixed going forward, but first impressions are everything and this series did not make a good one. The focus on constant exposition over all else, the disconnected framing device, and lackluster character writing drag it down more than needed, but it could’ve been avoided if Kawahara just knew what to focus on or the anime didn’t skim over the better parts, since his ideas are abundantly clear. The SAO franchise can theoretically explore a lot, but it almost deliberately gets written into corners. That’s something I’ve always given SAO over the many works that have almost no effort at all to act on their ideas, and though there’s that chance for the future with new elements coming in to make the second half an improved experience, this season’s quality suggests it won’t be without a wide range of caveats.
It’s not rocket science to realize SAO would eventually get a continuation. It was just a matter of when and after 5 years since the second season, the time is now. Sword Art Online Alicization covers the light novels with an extended amount of material, much more than the previous season. It’s so much that in fact, a full 2-cour season of 24 episodes isn’t enough. Luckily, it has been confirmed the series would run more than that and given an additional season for its adaptation. However, the big question people should ask themselves if this is another SAO show to jump into or a cash grab at making more money.
Starting with the prologue, we get a double length episode to give a general background of the new season. Make no mistake though as Alicization is not going to spoonfeed viewers with recapping. The show assumes you are familiar with the first two shows so anyone hoping to watch this needs to have completed the first two seasons. Light novel adaptations tends to suffer a lot from adaptation standards but thankfully, Alicization manages to deliver a faithful start with its character cast and storytelling. Besides Kirito, we are introduced to Eugeo, a new character who serves as his partner and best friend in this arc. Similar to Kirito, he has a kind heart although lacks experience in the beginning compared to him. He also appears somewhat cowardly in the beginning as he is unable to prevent certain events from happening, in particular for failing to help his childhood friend Alice. It’s not until he meets Kirito that he develops a resolve and finds the courage to become a stronger person. That is to say, Alicization features a lot of character bonding especially in the first half of the show. Eugeo begins to grow out of his shell after training and becoming strong enough to fight as a warrior. It really shouldn’t take long to realize that he has great potential, perhaps even someday of surpassing Kirito himself. As for Kirito, his personality remain largely the same in this season. That is, he is a selfless person who isn’t afraid to help others in need. Kirito and Eugeo develops great respect for each other and the latter even finds his resolve. The two sometimes almost feel like brothers.
Outside of the duo, you may have noticed another prominent character being featured in the trailers or key visuals. Alice would be her name and she is Eugeo’s childhood friend. The show makes it clear that she is an important character from her introduction to later on in the story. Alicization also devotes time to developing her character after meeting Kirito. Despite having a rocky start, she develops respect and a growing trust for him. Now, people may have a curiousity if Alice become another ‘harem girl’ similar to some of the previous seasons. SAO is not a harem although it gives off a stench at times. Thankfully, there’s no need to worry. The closest that Alice seems to be with Kirito is when they are at the tower during one of the episodes and nothing more comes out of it. On the other hand, Kirito’s friends from the real world are still concerned about his well-being. In particular, Asuna searches for him through unorthodox methods while discovering some revelations about the technology in the real world. Remember, the world of SAO contains complex technology that defies the law of nature. I’m not even referring the VR system or robotics but rather the capability of influencing people’s lives. This extends to the virtual world where the Administrator managed to use system commands to reverse her own age. Sounds unbelievable, right?
As with previous seasons, Alicization can’t be complete without antagonists and conflicts. One of the major antagonist in the new season is the Administrator, Quinella and her Integrity Knights. She’s an important character as not only is she a threat to the main protagonists but also a catalyst for some of the key events in this season. This includes character manipulation that extends to our new characters such as Eugeo and Alice. I’m not going to lie though, one of the events in this show is rather disturbing to watch considering the way she manipulates others. (I’m looking at you, Eugeo) On even more disturbing matters, we even have characters that commits unforgiveable sins that pushes Eugeo to the edge. It’s the type of event that brings controversy out of its fullest. I’m not going to spoil it but when you get to that particular episode, you’ll feel disgusted too. It’s so disturbing that it even changes Eugeo’s views on the laws of their world and causes him to rebel. Quinella herself also demonstrates a God-like complex with her own dark motives. If I said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times. She is detestable. I doubt anyone with a sane mind would find her character likable.
I can’t be the only one to notice that the animation quality improved more than the previous seasons, right? The Ufotable-like animation is used in parallel with the Sword Art Online movie, Ordinal Scale. Not only did the animation style improve, it also managed to craft an imaginative virtual world to it its fullest. The character designs are also featured in great details compared to previous seasons. In particular, Alice is important to note for her chivalrous look and golden armor. Character expressions are meaningful with an emphasis put on human emotions. Eugeo is a prominent example especially as his personality shifts from a weak survivor to a noble swordsman. While I’m not impressed by how antagonist are portrayed this season, they were able to deliver their dialogues straight with a degree of villainous expressions. Quinella is the biggest culprit with her manipulative personality. Her malevolence simply cannot be overlooked.
The SAO franchise is one of the longer light novel running adaptations that continues to build more into its universe. Truthfully and despite some of the controversy from the past seasons, this one managed to finally jump out of its rabbit hole and deliver what I wanted to see. With another season on the way, I cross my fingers that it will ride on this momentum.
**THIS WILL INCLUDE MINOR SPOILERS ABOUT THE OVERALL SETTING **
The story this time is centered not on a game, but around a simulation of civilization. The aim of this simulation is to develop highly advanced A.I capable of thoughts and emotions. It brings about some ethical questions about humanity, playing God, and where to draw the line in scientific experiments. This season deals with more of these mature themes than the previous seasons ever did.
The premise is that Kirito finds himself in a medieval world with its own history and lore and journeys with his newfound friend Eugeo to achieve both of their (different) goals. It starts out slow, with a lot of focus on world building. Even though it seems disconnected to the plot of the previous seasons, eventually many plot points from before will make their way into the story. So it is important to watch the last seasons to get a full understanding of the current season.
Eugeo is the focus of these two cours, Kirito just tagging along. He has an innocent, easygoing personality that makes the story work – much like Frodo from Lord of the Rings. He is the embodiment of a common citizen of Underworld. His opinions about himself, others and the society he is in changes throughout the story and the viewers get to experience the same things he does. Alice has not much role in the initial part, but her time for development will come in the 3rd and 4th cours.
Unlike SAO’s history, there is pain and blood in the fights. It makes the characters’ struggle believable and makes you root for the characters. Later on, the story gets even more darker without resorting to plain bloodshed – in a psychological way. Kirito is not overpowered in this arc. He only has the knowledge of a swordsman and works his way from the bottom up.
The entire story is well thought out and is planned beforehand. There are several questions that arise in the early episodes – the answers are made clear slowly, as the plot progresses. Some of the things happened may seem irrelevant and random, but they make sense eventually.
A large number of new characters are introduced in this season. Most of them influence main characters in various ways. The three main characters undergo some changes throughout the series and get some good character development. But the same cannot be said about the side characters.These characters last only for about 3 episodes and don’t make an appearence till the 2nd part of this arc, but the gap is too long.
The review will be incomplete if the villain is not mentioned. It is an ambitious character capable of easily manipulating others for personal gain that ended up turning into a different and dangerous entity due to an accident. Certainly there are better villains in the anime history, but this character is arguably the best villain SAO has seen so far. There is a moral ambiguity for this character.
There are plenty of criticisms that can be offered as well. Some episodes have a lot of talking involved. A lot of exposition is delivered this way. People expecting all out action scenes will be disappointed or bored by these episodes. There is some pseudo-science explanation for the premise. It may not appeal to everyone.
The tower climbing arc is adapted very poorly. The Integrity knights that are supposed to have their own reasons and understandings about the world around them are dumbed down to mere villains of the week. The cliffhangers are conceived in a very poor way. They feel forced and unnecessary because most of the fights are very short.
The anime looks gorgeous with colorful shading – just like Ufotable. But the same can’t be said about action sequences. In many action sequences, the frame of animation focuses only on one character. It makes the viewer unable to follow the fights well. The short fights are usually already ended by the time we get invested into them.
The soundtrack is underwhelming compared to the last seasons. Old music is repeatedly used by remixing it. Only few soundtracks are memorable and they don’t last long. Some of them sound very similar to Yuki Kajiura’s other works. Only new notable music is the Eugeo’s theme and the Quinella’s theme.
The adaptation of the source material is below average. It is not butchered to Tokyo Ghoul Re’s extent, but it is significantly rushed and cuts out a good amount of inner monologues that gives a good understanding of character relations and motivations. Think of the GGO arc that lasted for 14 episodes but now compress it into 8 episodes. That is how much rushed it actually is. Even so, everything that has happened can still be understood with some thought.
Tl;dr – If you liked the previous seasons, it is a must watch.
If you thought that the previous seasons were wasted potential then this is still worth watching as it explores a different theme – in far more detail.
However if you didn’t like the original characters of SAO, then better stay away from this season. Chances are that you will not like this season either.
There is still two more cours to come. But that is a different entry in the database. Be informed that the story doesn’t end yet.
For me, what is great about this arc are its themes and execution, albeit the poor adaptation.
9: Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld
English: Sword Art Online Alicization War of Underworld
Japanese: ソードアート オンライン アリシゼーション War of Underworld
MAL Score: 7.58
Despite the defeat of Quinella—the pontifex of the Axiom Church—things have not seemed to calm down yet. Upon contacting the real world, Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya finds out that the Ocean Turtle—a mega-float controlled by Rath—was raided. Due to a sudden short-circuit caused by the raiders, Kirito’s fluctlight is damaged, leaving him comatose. Feeling insecure about the people at the Axiom Church, Alice brings the unconscious Kirito back to their hometown—Rulid Village, disregarding her banishment due to an unabsolved crime. Now, Alice is living an ordinary and peaceful life close by the village, wishing for Kirito to wake up.
However, tragedy strikes when Alice notices that the Dark Territory has already started to invade the Human Empire. Reassuming her previous alias, Alice Synthesis Thirty, she promises to defeat the Dark Territory in order to defend the world that Kirito and Eugeo worked so hard to protect.
The story is a prelude of the war that we will see in the sequel, and it has a nice pace. The plot introduce the characters and the reasons behind the fight. However, from my perspective, the villains are not appropriately developed, and some characters need a bit more details that I hope to see in the next sequel. We do not have the usual information about them, and that could be seen as a terrible outcome. Also, at the begging, following the events from Alacization, we have a Kirito that ended in a catatonic state. I thought that without him, the story would fail. Still, now I can say it is better. The other characters are now the protagonists, such as Alice. Her will to fight or all the conflicts surrounding her and the need to see all to possibilities and her reasons to wear the armor again. Furthermore, she proved that she could be the main lead of SAO’s series. I liked the part when she decided to fight again in the first episodes. Also, if we notice, Kiriko is used as a motivational character, as we can see in some events. Even if he does not fight or talk, he stills as an essential character of the whole series. Additionally, the entrance of Asuna is excellent. Still, she looked vastly overpowered. The ending was interesting if you ask me.
I am not giving any further details about the plot; I want to avoid any spoiler that could destroy the readers’ enjoyment. Even if you hate SAO or find it annoying, I am sure you can enjoy this arc. The bad part is that you need to know the characters or the previous arc to understand the whole plot.
The art and sound impressed me. It is excellent and gorgeous. I was not expecting that quality, and it helped the story to be entertaining. All the fights and the camera movements combined with a good score and sound mix made a great series that hope it continues with the same level in the sequel.
Finally, SAO is not a loved series. However, the LN is now the best LN of the decade in Japan; we need to give the series some credit and stop burying it because we cannot stand the plot in some parts. The fans loved it, and I love it. I know there are some silly parts that we want to avoid, but Alicization is the best arc from those novels. I am thrilled that they animated it.
There is sakuga in every episode, the artwork is vibrant, and the fight choreography is better than ever. As for the writing, it is hasn’t improved much over Sword Art Online’s previous seasons. Where the narrative shines is its premise: The underworld is a hellish land cloaked in a warm aura radiating from the blood-red sky. Flatter than an ocean, it is a wasteland populated with no vegetation as far as the eye can see. Divided by a valley of stone are humans on one side and monsters in the Dark Territory on the other.
In real life where the A.L.I.C.E. simulation is operated, a group of terrorists invade the game; they overthrow an empire of monsters then march them into a war to kill the good guys and Kirito—who is in a vegetative state for the duration of this season. The terrorists enter the game as generals of the monster army, it all plays out like a shlocky imitation of Matrix 3. Once again, the script is overwritten as hell. There are so many buzzwords and names that you’ll need flashcards to keep track of them. Before the titular War begins, every single character who isn’t a CGI soldier gets a close-up with a name tag. About twenty of them were introduced before anyone drew a sword. We only needed the name tags because the setting is so underwritten. With the bare minimum world-building, there is suddenly an all-out war and we’re expected to follow along. There are only two people on either side you have a reason to care about. Alice and a wheel-chair bound potato, and the two bad guys they’re fighting against.
Any moments of self-sacrifice or emotional death ring hollow. Every tearjerker moment felt 100% like emotional manipulation, but I can’t say they made me feel nothing. When the music cuts out, the scene fades to washed-out colors, and all that’s left is a close-up of someone with tears streaming down their faces, it is almost moving. Almost. A cowardly knight got a sad flashback that explained his personality, it should have been sad, but he was so irrelevant that it evoked no emotion. The moment at least made him less one dimensional. However, it’s immediately undercut because he suddenly becomes a fearless badass. And that’s the best character development we’ve got. A few of the knights got half-episodes like that guy; I’ll admit, these moments of introspection paired with an electric guitar riff and breathtaking sakuga were awesome.
A majority of the screen time is dedicated to battles, strategizing on either side, and knights valiantly fighting alone. The best animation comes out during the solo knight battles. The animation is nearly movie quality during these moments. There’s a fair share of CGI during footsoldier combat for filler between the impressive fights. There is at least one spectacular display of sakuga every episode, which is unheard of in a TV anime. This commitment to a visual spectator is what made A-1 Pictures split this season into two cours, a wise decision on their part. It’s not every day I find myself praising this problematic studio; with the recent release of Kaguya-sama: Love is War, now this, it’s safe to say they’re on a roll. The directing and writing of this series, unfortunately, falls far below Kaguya-sama. Logic defying fighting, plot holes, mediocre editing, the roller coaster pacing, and an overreliance on name tags. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen this many tags on characters, locations, factions, and times.
One guy throws a punch, another catches it before he hits him—two seconds pass then we get close-ups of their shocked expressions. This probably seems like I’m nitpicking, but when everything in the show is off by a second or two, it makes the action feel slow and disconnected. Both OP/ED in the prior Alicization themes were much better than these ones. The songs are average, both visually and audibly. Lisa and Eir Aoi did much better work on the last season. I’ll also say, the voice acting was great amidst all of the action. The Engrish interspersed in the real-world characters’ dialogue was hilarious.
A vegetative Kirito is hilariously wheeled into the battle in his wheelchair. Right from the first episode, it’s hinted he will wake up when the time is right. Essentially he is a plot device waiting for when Alice is in a pinch. He hangs behind the army, with a constant creepy smirk on his face, while Alice awkwardly hovers above on her dragon as if it’s a damn helicopter. That dragon can kill a horde of monsters like it’s nothing. She is just as overpowered as Kirito. Alice could have been a good character, unfortunately, she is just as flawless as Asuna. Neither of them develops over the course of the season. And being TOO nice isn’t a flaw!! Rather than the main character, she is an extension of Kirito. Just like every other 14-year-old looking girl in this show, she is in love with Kirito. She is motivated by her desire to protect him first, everyone else comes second. While Alice has her own reason having no personality, it doesn’t make for a good protagonist. At one point, another knight showed up, a female knight mind you, who wanted to see Kirito so she could “try some things to wake him up” *wink wink nudge nudge. If Alice hadn’t stopped the bitch, she would have given him a good old handy while he was too mentally incapacitated to consent. Alice wouldn’t want another woman putting the moves on her man, obviously. The whole confrontation is disgusting on multiple levels, but it just goes to show Alice’s main purpose in the show is to look pretty and protect her future husband (little does she know he’s engaged).
After not too long, Alice is swept under the rug in favor of a few knights and generals. The rest of her appearances are brief and surface level. In one of her moments alone with the audience, she monologues about the unfairness of the war. Monsters and men have the same souls, and they should not be fighting, so she says; meanwhile, CGI goblins lethargically wave their swords two at even uglier CGI humans in the background. Their swords don’t even come within 4 feet of hitting each other. The “modeled in ten minutes with Blender” aesthetic really adds depth to Alice’s philosophies. To compensate for Alice’s personality (or lack-there-of) more ladies find their way to Kirito as if he’s a magnet. The thing is, Kirito didn’t need to be such a waste of air in this season. He is a prisoner of his own mind, this was a great chance to give us insight into his thoughts. Unfortunately, this was another case of wasted potential by this adaptation.
During the first half of the show, there is a bit too much time spent in the real world (similar to the most frustrating parts of Assassin’s Creed). Everyone in the real world is there to info dump the plot of this season, no characterization at all. I didn’t know one of these guy’s names aside from Asuna. Oh yeah, she is still hovering around Kirito like a fly on shit, telling us how she “won’t forgive you!” if anything bad happens to her boyfriend. God, what does a man gotta do to get a female equivalent of a fruit fly bodyguard? Kirito’s rejected women’s club also shows up a few times in person to remind us they are still in love. Even the little winged rat Kirito calls his daughter shows up. The two girls who were nearly molested by the villainous guys from last season made an appearance too. Not for any special reason, just to remind us they still existed and they’re still in love. Being trapped in a new game, Kirito’s harem couldn’t come. Even as a potato, our main god himself still gets all the ladies. If this is your thing, no shade, just take this paragraph with a grain of salt. One last thing to add; when every female character (who knows the protagonist firsthand) only talks about their love of a potato, aside from surface-level observations and info-dumping, I consider them poorly written characters.
As for the villains of this season, there are slim pickings. The first bad guy is a comically evil fat dude who calls Alice a witch for trying to evacuate her family’s village. He wants everyone to stay and defend the village because that’s where all his money is. He even says “but I can’t lose my money-I mean I don’t want the village to be destroyed!” The whole altercation is laughably stupid. Of course, Alice gets them to leave, cue the monster stampede. After that episode, we never hear from him again. Then the true antagonist makes his appearance. The blonde-haired terrorist bastard. This guy is so bad I wished for the first one to come back. The leader of the terrorists is a psychopath who has been killing people since he was a child. The murders of an adorable little girl a beautiful woman in lingerie are shown with creepy detail. In a show about kids fighting off anthropomorphic animals and goblins, gross exploitation for shock factor feels so out of place. You could argue this is ‘character development’ because we need to know the bad guy is Very Evil, even though he’s barely in the show. I’d say his personality was conveyed sufficiently by displaying a woman’s severed head the foot of his throne. Not to mention, the main ‘antagonist’ is barely in the show. Another evil general I want to mention is a woman wearing only ribbons and a cape like a dominatrix. She is Very Evil too. When she kills people she gropes herself and moans. Very depraved. Very necessary character development.
Quinella—the antagonist of the previous season—appears as a ‘devil on your shoulder’ type of villain. In dreamlike flashbacks, she speaks to the knight’s inner insecurities and desires. Her voice is accompanied by an ominous flute as well as a piano, both playing a low methodical tune. Quinella’s scenes are enrapturing. She drew the knights, and me, into her eerie world. These moments were some of the best in the show. Sakuga aside, there were a few other highlights in this season.
Sword Art Online has never looked better than War of the Underworld; the sakuga is amazing. As for the writing, it is still lackluster at best. A few slightly relevant knights got a modicum of character development. More time should have been spent developing, you know, Alice or Asuna. It’s worth noting that I’ve been told this adaptation butchered the pacing of the source material. If the premise/characters do interest you I would recommend seeking out the novel. A bevy of flaws aside, War of the Underworld surprised me.
Does it live up to the hype? No.
Is it the best season Sword Art Online? In my opinion, yes.
Isekai has always been one of the most iconic genres in terms of popularity among anime. However, and unsurprisingly, not many of its shows are actually held at the same regard as those from other genres.
The question for this truth ahead came into existence long ago, but still, yet to be answered. Is it because Isekai shows are always labelled with concepts of “trashy, childish and impractical series”, or are they too familiar to viewers in recent years and therefore are not capable of differenciating themselves from others?
Several shows are introduced every year, each portrays an aspect of the genre in its own way, but still retains the similarity of someone being transferred to another imaginary world with several designated purposes. Of course, this notion is not anomalous by now, but when it comes to the year of 2012, not all of us then had already been informed of “What is anime?” to say nothing of the term “Isekai”.
However, little do we know. Since the advent of SAO in that same year, Isekai genre has started a steady development in all aspects, and then somehow soared recently with SAO itself took a partial role of setting the ball rolling for this. Despite being the most popular and beloved anime in 2012, SAO anyhow gradually received one-upping hatred from its own viewers, which has casted plenty of questions with hardly any reasonable answers related to this incredible 180-degree turn.
I have never been such a fan of SAO, but I do not hate it either. This is partly because of the whole novel notions and ideas Reki Kawahara intending to deliver throughout this franchise. An exceptional VR world of Aincrad that blew us away with its magnificent looks and feels, the creative and innovative concept of introducing future technology (which is yet to be a daydream at the present) right in year 2012 as well as the hidden message that, on behalf of game addicts, expressed their inquiry about “What does real world mean?”. Such hilarious and foolish this type of question is. Howbeit, being dedicated enough to scrutinize this from its core in order to figure out the most reasonable answer is not a simple task. Deprivation of dedication is what thwarting us.
So, what brings about this lack among Isekai genre, or to be more specific, among SAO franchise?
One of the biggest problem SAO presented from its own beginning is that, it just followed one same pattern throughout the whole series, when we see an overpowered protagonist having to save the day and defeat an antagonist, who is unsurprisingly stronger than him. Such simply predictable the plot is, from which a sense of boredom may result, and likewise turn a beloved series into a total disaster just in one episode. I’m not saying that SAO 1 didn’t acquire numerous incredible potentials which were just as promising as it should have been when its first trailer was released. Indeed, this franchise was one of the most invested ones among Isekai genre with fascinating characters, spectacular animations, breathtaking scenes and full epic soundtracks. The pacing was somewhat reasonable and matched the plot fairly precise, thereby grabbed the viewers’ attention and made them follow the path of their hyperactive hero until the very end. Having said that, the show hardly introduced any breakthrough twists and turns with lackluster details, which really blurred the presence of some utmost fight scenes that ever existed in anime. These, together with unnecessary fan-service scenes, possibly served as rationales behind the hatred given to this franchise and turned it into a whole series designated for children thereafter.
Unfortunately, SAO 2 followed that same path of failures.
Numerous arguments have been made around this downturn and the most controversial one is “The fall of Isekai genre”. This is partly due to the rapid explosion of Isekai shows, in number not quality, during the next few years, which caused viewers to suffer a blasé sense about anime as well as their desperate need for a fresh alternative mainstream. This was probably one of the darkest ages among the anime history, but it practically left a huge question mark onto Isekai producers, whether they should reform the whole appearance and comply with the changing majority, or follow the same pattern that once succeeded as to gain back their position in everyone’s eyes?
This Gordian Knot has surrounded the genre for nearly a decade and is yet to be untied, with immediate submergences of almost every Isekai shows released after the year of 2013 till this day. Having said that, several ones which did not suffer from this seemingly inevitable obstacle, “RE: Zero” for instance, have actually proposed a solution for which the whole genre has always wanted, and thereby make the grand escape all away from this contradict reality.
Few have successfully managed to handle this, however.
And it may come even more amiss to many of you that amongst these, SAO is the franchise which I believe to have completed the most compelling transformation.
Before we enter the main part of this review, I just want to make out some point. I was first intended to encapsulate this latest season of SAO in a short and concise review, but the further and deeper look I gave onto the story, the more I realised the injustice of criticising it without touching on the whole journey it took to get to this very momment. SAO: War of Underworld (WoU), without a doubt, is one of the best long-lasting Isekai series in the anime world by far and the anticipation given keeps one-upping day by day, which is unexpected for a franchise exposed to that amount of love and hatred. And, believe or not, the time has come for SAO to rise from the ashes, stronger than ever.
The storyline, perharps, is the aspect should be introductorily considered for this. It is quite straightfoward with decent amount of information and frames displayed on each episode, therefore gives viewers a sense of being captivated with the flow of the show and somehow gets them curious about what is coming next. This, however, hardly appeared in any earlier seasons of the franchise. SAO 1 and 2 did have some great storytelling at first but then declined slowly afterwards due to the appearance of some “filler” episodes and fan-service scenes, which had no point to make with the entire story.
Another point worthed noting is that, the show has incredibly expanded from the very beginning, no matter how many new ideas and concepts coming out each season, it still manages to retain its unique “VR world versus real world”. The whole franchise has heavily relied on this premise, with the introduction of future technologies, from the Nerve Gear to The Seed, to its prequel AmuSphere and lastly SoulTranslator, which was the basis for the whole Underworld to operate. The way they are presented plainly matched the storyline, and therefore did not make viewers feel overwhelmed for such a lot of novel concepts to adhere to.
The pacing of this season is what also gain it a plus mark. 12 episodes, when they end, just feel like that same amount, no more no less, but are stil able to convey the whole meaning of the story with scarcely misunderstandable details. Additionally, the season is far less dependent on random and meaningless comedic moments, none in fact, which offers a more fluent and cohesive plot ever than what used to exist in two first seasons.
Animations and visuals are still astonishing as always, breathtaking sceneries of the Underworld together with the absolute contrast of ones belong to Dark Territory somehow stuck into my mind the scenerio of our real world future if we continue to destroy our planet. Aside from these, SAO WoU undoubtedly possesses winsome original soundtracks which are highly memerable and play an immense role on inculcating the series itself into its viewers. What’s more, alluring character designs as well as highly genuine expressions on their faces absolutely got viewers interested further into their development, but we will get to that in a bit.
Let us take a deeper look into the content. The main story is still surrounding our protagoinst Kirito as he entered the Underworld created by RATH in order to seek for an AI named Alice and take her with him to the end point of Underworld then log two of them out. This has contrastly grown however, with Kirito having his Fluctlight damaged and is now incapable of moving or communicating with others. Several altercations have been made around this twist, but mostly emphasizes on the incentive this will give to other characters of the show to take the spotlight, and the studio incredibly make use of this.
We have Alice now having to make a difficult decision of proceeding to protect Underworld and its inhabitants as an Integrity Knight or to take a step down and protect Kirito as a more-than-close friend. The dilemma given to such a special AI like her initially seems to be overwhelmed, but as her own character has been strikingly well-established, she somehow manages to equally contribute to both side of the coin.
Furthermore, we get to see our supportive characters having been exposed to us for a decent amount of time throughout the season, and when it ends, they really leave an impression on us of not ceasing as “supporting” but really being an essential part of the entire story as well as making it lively and captivating. This absolutely reminded me on the second season of AoT where we got to see some important characters later on (Krista, Reiner, Bertold, Ymir) being put to more than enough amount of screen times and secure their spot throughout the story. The improvement in this aspect really shines as a spotlight itself of the whole season, which assures that the show is now independent on the only one protagonist to carry it along, because the rests all can.
Whilst the story plus the character design of this season simply outweighed its former in many facets, one of the biggest issues with it, and surprisingly has not changed since the first one, is the world building. I’m not saying this season’s world building has partly surpassed the prequels, but we need to concentrate deeper on the actual premise of it. What I mean by that is Underwold, unlike orther VR worlds introduced throughout the franchise, is created and operated on the basis of what is inside its designer’s mind. Trees, mountains, fields and rivers all exsist in the same way their creators want them to be, or in other words, they somehow mimic that exact same trees or mountains appeared in the creators’ memory. As for its inhabitants, they depict real world’s people but in another point in history, around the mid 15th, 16th century. The dwellers live the lives of humankind and are obligated to obey the rules given, and consequently pave the way for a whole society to flourish.
However, can this exact same scenerio applied to those come from the Dark Territory? This is one real big issue that SAO so far has not given any clues. The Underwold’s inhabitants must follow the given rules notwithstanding any contexts and in fact are utterly unable to break them. As a result, this raises more questions about the existence of Dark Territory. Who constructed it, why would ones do that and especially how could it be done if RATH had taken control of Underworld since its very first beginning? Another question that should be raised during the season but it has somewhat to do with our real world is that why wouldn’t an AI question the fact that they are the production of human’s hands and are roaming in an imaginary world but just simply accepted it in the same way that Bercouli did? Or, if that’s on the table, why are they being created, what purposes do their creators want them to serve? Or something else to those effects.
Furthermore, the origin of this region was succintly mentioned in the light novel, which should have also been presented in the anime from the very first. This actually cast a doubt onto the reliability of the show’s world building in the eyes of viewers, and even though A-1 Picture actually completed a great job on giving viewers insights into SoulTranslator, the basis technology behind the operation of Underworld, this is just superficial in comparison to the urgency of comprehending what is truly happening at the momment.
Taking everything into consideration, SAO WoU has fully evolved into something entirely new which we have never predicted when we first watched it, and thereby changes its name from a whole childish Isekai show to one that deserves to be celebrated by all walks of anime fans and manages to distinguish itself from other series among the genre. The show is not flawless technically, but as it dares to stand out right in front of the viewers and affirmes its position in the anime world line, we should probably give it another shot. SAO now is no more a long-lasting series that we all want it to end as soon as possible, but the one that worthed our time waiting every week with definite hype, excitement and anticipation, which may be a bit uncommon among Isekai genre. However, because it has somehow been able to not only overcome the challenges given to the entire genre but also keep itself up a notch, this may be the case.
It’s unsurprising by now that SAO is truely worth watching and deserves the wait for an epic finale.
8: 5-toubun no Hanayome
English: The Quintessential Quintuplets
MAL Score: 7.67
Fuutarou Uesugi is an ace high school student, but leads an otherwise tough life. His standoffish personality and reclusive nature have left him friendless, and his father is debt-ridden, forcing his family to scrape by.
One day during his lunch break, Uesugi argues with a female transfer student who has claimed “his seat,” leading both of them to dislike each other. That same day, he is presented with a golden opportunity to clear his family’s debt: a private tutoring gig for a wealthy family’s daughter, with a wage of five times the market price. He accepts the proposal, but is horrified to discover that the client, Itsuki Nakano, is the girl he confronted earlier!
After unsuccessfully trying to get back on Itsuki’s good side, Uesugi finds out that his problems don’t end there: Itsuki is actually a quintuplet, so in addition to her, he must also tutor her sisters—Miku, Yotsuba, Nino, and Ichika—who, despite the very real threat of flunking, want nothing to do with a tutor. However, his family’s livelihood is on the line so Uesugi pushes on, adamant in his resolve to rid the sisters of their detest for studying and successfully lead them to graduation.
The plot is easy to follow. A guy, Fuutarou Uesugi, nerdy, poor, solitary, gets a job as the tutor of a group of quintuplets who are near to fail the school. This group of girls, Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba, Itsuki, named in order as they came to this world, hate to study and even more dislike the tutor. After some time, these girls begin showing affection towards their tutor and their surroundings starts to change. The only problem, this kind of plot could be seen absurdness and filled with excessive banality, boring a selected group of anime followers.
But that hardly matters. This group of characters is funny and genuine. In the beginning, you can feel the show as the classical, generic harem where the guy likes and love all the girls. However, in this series, the guy only cares to study and do not see the quintuplets as friends or even more as candidates to have a relationship. I do not think that passed his mind (in the manga is in the same way). The quintuplets have a different personality forcing Fuutarou to take different decisions to deal with each of them. This contrast creates refreshing chemistry between the cast and keeps the whole crazy story spinning, this thing is never boring. As a positive point, I am glad, the adaptation followed the manga and they do not change anything of the plot, so I am hoping to see a second season in the future (it was announced).
The quintuplets have a very different personality; for example, we can observe a clear contrast between Nino and Miku. The latter is shy, dedicate, charming, not social while Nino is very social, extrovert, direct, bossy and probably most of the spectators could end disliking her. The same happens with the other sisters, Ichika, the eldest and the one who tries to keep the group harmony, Yotsuba, filled with excessive energy and who cannot say no as an answer and finally Itsuki, the hard worker and stubborn sister.
On the other hand, the art and sound are fabulous. For me, the art quality is one of the best of the season and I want to praise the creator, the animators because the quintuplets have the same silhouette but with some changes in the hair and the accessories they create different characters. If you pay closer attention to the character design, they will look the same boosting the effect. The sound and voice acting are perfect. The sound appears in the precise moments and it fills the scene. The characters’ voice is contrasting and complements the personalities. The OP and ED are good. However, the OP is fantastic because it shows the voice contrast between the quintuplets and has a good rhythm and interesting lyrics.
Mostly, “Gotoubun no Hanayome” is just fun, for Fuutarou to become a better person and starts caring for others outside his family, for the quintuplets whom evolve and begin to experience the love path. Together, they create a cheerful and enjoyable comedy where this group connects between each other and their world expands hilariously.
A good harem show needs good characters. When i say good characters I don’t just mean the girls which form the harem but the main dude as well. All of my favorite harem shows such as DxD, Trinity Seven, A world only God knows, and Ouran host club have both of those. Quintessential Quintuplets does not have both. I can say I do like 1 character from Quintessential Quintuplets (Miku) but I can’t say I love them all. Even with utter trash shows I can still say I like at least 1 character. However in this show I can say none of these characters are good in anyway.
A little about this show. We have our MC Fuutarou, a poor student who studies all the time to get out of poverty and finds himself in a situation were he teaches 5 rich big tittied women (cause of course he does). However before this we get a teaser of the future in which he marries one of these 5 girls which is unique I guess, maybe pushing it a little. The five girls he has to teach are all dumb, with minor spoilers they have at least 1 thing there good at. To make my point that this show is litter I will use examples.
Now the characters are the backbone of any story. Without good characters you can not have a good story. From the people who have watched and read the manga they praise the characters, for being a good example of how to do the trope correctly. I fail to see how.
Nino being the bratty tsundere who at any moment she can, wants and does do things to make the MC’s life miserable. “She does it cause she loves her sisters..”sh-shut the fuck up. Bluntly accusing someone of sexual harassment for the sake of “her sisters” is not only annoying but just bad. Even though I don’t like the MC I hate the way she treats him. In the end of episode 3 after the whole sexual harassment gag when she storms off and Fuutarou ends up leaving and then sits next to her and they talk, the episode end with her saying. “I will never accept you” or some shit. Idk if people find this cute or heart warming somehow but its just annoying and makes me hate her even more. If you wanna use the she cares about her sister shit that’s why she acts like such a bitch then shut up u have bad taste. Just kidding but still. The overuse of trying every way to be a dick to the MC gag was annoying the first time I saw it and still hasn’t gotten better the 10,000th time. People have also said that during her arc which are like the last two episodes she gets better but in honesty she just gets worse. Nothing like a bratty big biddie bitch being bashful by bad boys. In the anime at least she doesn’t develop at all.
Itsuki the seemling main girl of the series. Yet another tsundere who openly hates the MC and why does she hate the MC. Because when she asked him to tutor her first he declined, then after her dad hires Fuutarou without the girls knowing she gets upset and starts to pout and throw a tantrum like a fucking five year old. Again we have another character who trashes the MC over and over and the trope still hasn’t gotten funnier or cuter from the first time I saw it. In the first episode when she drugs the MC because she doesn’t want him to her and her sisters send him on the taxi home, and may I put some emphasize to the fact she legit drugs him, is this not a crime. Of course as they get to his house Fuutarou’s sister greets them and wants her to come in for dinner. After seeing how poor they are and Fuutarou sister cuteness she doesn’t agree to want him to tutor but at least doesn’t mind if he shows up. I would like to see if she has a good side to try and say something good about her but I can’t .
Ichika being the onee-san type of the 5 doesn’t have much else going for her. However she is not really a unique character in this trope. If you wanna say she has other qualities like having a goal of being an actor and she works hard for it then go for it I won’t stop you, but it’s like okay? She tries hard at something she likes. Good for her? How does this make her a good character in anyway? It’s not like she is a bad character she just isn’t an overly good one.
Yotsuba is the engirtic girl of the group she is the always friendly one, the ditzy, always accepting and always sacrificing herself for people type. I guess she isn’t really bad but she isn’t good either. She has nothing new to this archetype as well she is just really bland. She doesn’t progressive in the anime and seems to be more of a side character rather than a main one.
Miku being the only girl I actually like in this group due to her not being annoying bitch and actually being really cute and loveable however that is just compared to the other girls which is pretty much comparing a shit to somewhat better shit. Either way it’s still shit. Even if I do like her it’s only within this series and can’t say I can really like her outside of it.
Fuutarou himself is the typical harem MC. Being a loner who has one good trait about him, he can’t say the words he needs to when he should and always putting the girls in his harem before himself no matter how bratty they are. He takes the fall for any situation and he doesn’t stand up for himself when he should. He is just your average bland protagonist.
All the girls beside miku for the most part are shit characters individually and even worse as a group. As nothing good happens when they all get together and for the most part when they get together only really bad slapstick humor follows. I can never put my full on hatred for really just Nino or Itsuka in this review. On top of bad characters the animation and art are also really shit beside that one scene in episode 11 when Ichika and Fuutarou are in the shed together and he grabs her as she falls and says something MAJESTIC to her which makes her start to fall for him. That was like the only good part of animation/art in the show. However again the art is far better in the manga.
In conclusion, this is a typical harem anime with nothing new to add to the genre and another show to add to the already large trash pile.
Inside of it is full of all of the things that make up a relatively generic harem show, but only this time with a group of five sisters. Standard anime archetypes, boring/bland main character who all the girls magically fall in love with, overrun harem tropes, you name it. People have called it a more “wholesome” harem show with less fanservice and a less insufferable main character, but I fail to see how it is even better than other harem shows with similar qualities.
There is nothing inherently wrong with being cliche, but Gotoubun fails at creating interesting characters within their archetypes. Miku is just a kuudere with an affection to Japanese history. Yotsuba is just a genki girl. If Nino is the tsundere, than Itsuki is just a lighter version of her. The reasoning for all of their personalities is the same, they love each other and act they way they act because of that. Without the cliche archetypes, none of the girls would be different from each other at all. The ironic thing about this is they all are strangely distant despite being sisters. Ichika is actually too embarrassed to tell her sisters that she is a actress. Nino is too scared to request help from her sisters when she gets locked out of their apartment. These type of trivial situations that actual siblings wouldn’t care about get dragged on forever and make the show incredibly uninteresting. And about uninteresting, there is nothing of note about the MC. He is standard to the harem genre. Self insert, dull, helps all the girls for whatever reason, and they all end up loving him. (bonus for even being voiced by the harem king himself, Matsuoka.) Sometimes a good group of female characters can carry a harem show if the main character is stale (OreShura, Saekano, A Bridge to the Starry Skies) and sometimes a good MC can make it all that much better (Seitokai no Ichizon) but Gotoubun fails on both sides. This is crucial.
I am aware the character design is quite a bit different from the manga, and as a result many situations were poorly adapted. Any time a joke or gag was to infer the sisters look alike, was downright laughable for all the wrong reasons. Because obviously, in the anime, they don’t look alike. Why they didn’t scrap these jokes I have no idea, and I’m not even really sure why they changed the character design from the manga to the anime so much. The art overall is super inconsistent. The colors are beautifully done, and many of the close up shots and backgrounds are nicely drawn, but there a tons of wonky shots and weirdly drawn faces. It got to a point where almost every time the show cut to a faraway shot I would cringe at how wonky the faces would look. The type of huge inconsistency between how good the show would look and how bad it would made this so incredibly noticeable.
While the general idea of the plot did have potential to be interesting, teasing that one of the girls does in fact marry the MC into the future, (although it is pretty obvious Itsuki is the ‘main’ one) the show itself is just a sort of collection of cliche harem happenings. Fireworks festivals, characters getting sick, getting locked in a shed, having to pretend to like each other, etc etc. All of this has been done before in more interesting ways. They even throw in that the MC knew the girls when he was younger, and has a sort of “fated love” with one of them, that he can’t remember. This felt totally shoehorned in and unnecessary.
Helplessly generic, boring, standard archetypal characters, and a “go read the manga!” ending. It isn’t the worst thing ever, but just meh work.
7: Kono Oto Tomare!
English: Kono Oto Tomare!: Sounds of Life
MAL Score: 7.88
Gen Kudou, a koto maker, believes that his delinquent grandson Chika would never understand the profoundness of the traditional musical instrument. In an attempt to make up for his naivety and understand the words of his late grandfather, Chika tries to join the Tokise High School Koto Club.
Even though the club is in dire need of members, new club president Takezou Kurata is unwilling to easily accept Chika’s application due to his bad reputation. Nonetheless, after seeing Chika’s seriousness and enthusiasm, Takezou allows the problem child to join, along with koto prodigy Satowa Houzuki and three of Chika’s energetic friends. Kono Oto Tomare! follows the merry band of musicians as they aspire to play at the national competition.
Like can you believe that the 2nd cour was planned right when the show just started it’s pilot episodes? That’s some fierce determination right there.
But first, a quick background about the Koto, which is the centerpiece of the series. Made in 13 or 17-string variants, the koto is a rendition of the Chinese Guzheng, and is the Land of the Rising Sun’s national instrument, having heralded first in China over many centuries. It is a marvellous piece of instrument with sounds unlike any other (the stringed “Angels” harp doesn’t even come close). And so far, no music series has so far encased the use of the koto (as much as I’ve seen anime and read manga for so many years).
The story goes of the Tokise High School Koto Club, once a club of mediocrity, and with seniors playing for the fact that the tone doesn’t strike as “Aim for Nationals!”, the small reminder poster in the tattered practice room. To make matters worse, a second-year by the name of Takezo Kurata, is the ONLY surviving member of the club, with his seniors graduating all at once. Not being outdone, as the new president of the club, he tries to recruit people to continue the tradition of playing the koto, though with that said, Takezo is an amateur player. Not to mention that his cowardly-self also impacts the club, right down to his own brother having to coerce him into determination and courage not to back down, and raise the club’s morale he (eventually) did.
And then…in comes the school’s most notorious person, responsible for in and out-fighting of people, and labelled a delinquent: Chika Kudo. Funnily enough, if you paid attention to the meaning of his name (in Hirakana), his name means 爱, or “love”, speculating that his friends call him names for his childish personality. Being a delinquent in his younger years, plus the fact that his grand-dad made Koto instruments for people, IMO the Koto would have saved his younger years (but it wasn’t meant to be), but through his harsh lesson to learn and understand to express himself as time passes in this series. But, he’s not alone.
With his good ol’ bud Tetsuki Takaoka, he was the right-hand man and close friend of Chika whenever he couldn’t weaver his way out of any trouble, both major and minor. But Takaoka isn’t just Chika’s advocator. He also helps addresses issues with Takezo on Chika’s past, and whilst helping Chika rekindle his grand-dad’s pursuit on the Koto and get back in the groove, for replacing his anger management and violence issues. And I say that Takaoka is best support character, really wished we all had a close friend like him in the deepest ranches of the furnace.
With the duo set in motion, plus the three followers/stooges (Saneyesu, Sakai and Mizuhara) joining in the venture, there stood a powerful figure, one of the most hardworking but underappreciated figures in the Koto world: Satowa Hozuki. Born a prodigy in a harsh family enviromment that is built upon skill and tone, she was abandoned by her mother and the entire family group and left to her own devices, whilst still maintaining a super-strong calibre that at most times with a very stuck-up attiude (that slowly becomes neutral overtime), takes a very heavy toll on both her physical and mental being. As you can tell, being a prodigy, also meant being a teacher to essentially everyone in the club, since they are learning from scratch. As time passes, she becomes the quintessential member of the club, spurring everyone to do their best…
And it would be a BIG sin for me to leave out the truly short but cute and romantic moments between Chika and Hozuki. It’s her having a crush on Chika, but at best hiding it from his naivety. I LOVE THESE stress-relieving MOMENTS A LOT.
Hiro Kurusu, the classmate of Takezo’s class, is what I imagined to be the series’ Malty/Bitch. A stuck-up character caught within the “Waves of Desolution”, trying to bring down the club with her double personality. Fortunately, Takezo sees through that personality and warns her to give up this thought, while processing the benefits of the club.
And the final character, the not-as-hopeful Suzuka Takinami-sensei, the club advisor. Knowing the desolute days where the Koto club would not suffice, he has placed less emphasis and brought more criticism to Takezo. But however, like past experiences, with his facade intact, as he saw the Koto club improve overtime, so does his negative thoughts that subsequently faded away. Not entirely, but surely.
To me, this series does a super great and tremendous job at the character development of each and every member related to the Koto Club, be it family members or even rival schools in the Nationals, their quest of overcoming their past identities and forging new links of their own, and it definitely has shown that and more. I can even consider this the “golden (Harry Potter) Snitch” of the series.
To the studio responsible, this is like Studio 8-bit’s Magnum Opus (which was the Slime Isekai series), to which this is Platinum Vision’s Magnum Opus, the flagship series representing the studio’s best and talented efforts. Artwork and animations are super detailed thanks to renowned directors Junko Yamanaka and Toshimitsu Kobayashi who did the manga source material justice, and a whole lot more. Some rough details but nothing too off, and the full experience is wholesome.
But being a musical series, what is there to say if I didn’t “Stop This Sound!” about the music, which is the anchor for the series. And I have to give a shoutout to sound director Hajime Takakuwa. Being the SD for the current Black Clover and classics such as Spice and Wolf, there is no one person perfect for this job as this talented man (albeit with a few mediocre ones). The Koto pieces were truly indistinguishable from the IRL ones (albeit with some differences), and this made all the difference. Not to mention that both the OP and ED are great too. And it’s been awhile since I’ve heard a Shouta Aoi song, and his OP song “Tone” really fits the (literally) tone shift of the series. The ED “Speechless” by Chika’s VA Yuuma Uchida is a damn perfect ending, as music renders us “Speechless” at its play, and this is my ED of the season. Plus, spectacular jobs and props to the VAs, marvellous and convincing acting.
The only thing I’m sad for is that with the sesasonal battle between this and Shinichi Watanabe’s “Carole & Tuesday”, I’d wager which series garnered the most attention (and it’s an obvious one to boot). Regardless, even if you’re NOT an anime fan of the music genre, I highly, HIGHLY recommend that you give this series a second chance to not skimp on it.
Because the journey of Takezo, Chika, Hozuki and the others aren’t done yet.
Because of the split-cour decision (2nd cour in Fall 2019).
Because of such an underrated series like this.
Because of all the above, no one series is perfect to a T, but watching it makes your time worthwhile.
Because I believe (and you should too) that it could be more than this, and expectations run high.
More importantly, because being casual is the easiest way to strike a chord, and being comically serious strikes THAT chord into something beautiful.
Awaiting Season 2 / 2nd cour in Fall with greatness.
Musical-centered anime follow a similar framework to sports anime. The participants usually start with mediocre talent and low expectations, but through the power of bullshit (i.e. friendship), they overcome all/most obstacles in pursuit of their goal. Like when the vice principal challenged the crew to learn the koto in a month and play a song in front of the student body. The subsequent veneration from the student body was a cliched response that has been utilized more times than a crack pipe at Charlie Sheen’s estate…or car, or on the set of “Two and a Half men,” or at Wendy’s as he wears his Burger King crown with glee — “Smoke it your way, bitch!”
Manufactured plot points aside, the characters are recycled tropes of the worst kind. Chika (he’s actually a dude — outré, I know) was the archetypal ‘tough guy’ with a concealed gentler side. With the wisdoms of his father constantly ringing in his head, and the strengthening bonds of friendship, he blossomed into an amiable companion who supported his fellow koto enthusiasts. Satowa, the resident bitch, deceived the various men in her life to do her bidding. One might liken her to a succubus, but let me assure you, she’s not putting out. Similar to Chika, her aggressive demeanor cloaks her insecurities and longings to have friends. Both character arcs proceed accordingly, with no meaningful nuance to distinguish itself from its predecessors.
Takezo Kurata was an apathetic, meek boy who didn’t establish himself as someone worth caring about. His character arc was rather predictable, with a gradual rise in self-confidence as the series progressed toward its finale. The other, initial koto members — Kouta, Saneyasu, Michitaka — were stock characters with no discerning characteristics worth mentioning. Miya Sentarou, a member of a rival koto team, did have a humorous moment when he started ‘powering’ up during a live performance, and reached a state of kaio-ken (or, maybe he was having an aneurysm — tomayto, tomahto). Otherwise, though, Sentarou was rather tropey.
An interesting facet about “Kono Oto Tomare!” was the lack of koto music. Performances were often cut short or relegated to a considerable amount of internal dialogue/flashbacks from the main characters. Frankly speaking, evading the primary focus of the show for a contrived love story and frequent reminiscing seemed like lazy, bland storytelling. The difficulties of learning a new instrument is fascinating in its own right, without the ‘aid’ of superfluous, emotional conflicts. Eliminate the soap opera and focus on the trials and tribulations of the learning process.
6: High Score Girl II
Japanese: ハイスコアガール II
MAL Score: 8.02
The year is 1996, and second-year high school students Haruo Yaguchi, Akira Oono, and Koharu Hidaka live their lives as passionately about video games as they were five years ago. Brought together by arcade games, what began as a healthy rivalry and friendship has turned into something more. As they endeavour towards understanding their unfamiliar feelings, they work with allies, navigate high school, and find that, although life has its many challenges, there’s always a game or two they can rely on.
Well, what can be said about this but it for me is a 10/10.
The show picks up right after the ‘Extra Stage’ and the story is just spectacular. It may not seem so since it is about video gaming in one sense. But this is really just a sideline matter since it really is a coming of age romance.
The show has Haruo and Akira going through what can be only seen as the pivotal moment in their lives. They live in completely different worlds with the responsibility she holds and his immaturity. They go through some pretty intense situations that bring many emotions forward. Koharu also brings out her feelings openly towards Haruo. The story has a spectacular finale that really pulls the strings of the heart. You are on the edge of your seat waiting for the pivot of the episode that you hope ends as you want it too.
The show is a CGI show that many would complain about. This however actually fits really well with the show. The crazy on-screen situations occurring because of the video games makes this work. It wouldn’t also be right if it didn’t because games like ‘Street Fighter’ are not done in the way of traditional anime but in a more CGI format look.
The OP for the show is great. The ED is spectacular, ‘Unknown World Map by Etsuko Yakushimaru’ really is so fitting for the show. It is a great song too now on my personal playlist. I hope that she continues to do anime.
Characters are pretty much as before but that is perfect. They are growing though, they change in as many ways as they don’t. It is more you can just begin to see the more honest side of them.
Akira is the most outstanding of the characters in that for a girl that doesn’t speak you start to feel like Haruo in that you can almost hear her speaking like he does to understand her. Her emotions are just laid bare. Thankfully we have Koharu to keep reminding Haruo of a girl’s feelings that he misunderstands.
The show is just so enjoyable. Each episode had something new and unexpected and was tense and emotional. The show did not disappoint and is a triumph.
Since this catches up the Manga it is the end. There is a new one ‘High Score Girl Dash’ that is about Koharu when she is a middle school teacher in the future. Hopefully, we get closure on Akira and Haruo in this.
An OVA would be welcomed that shows the finale a few years later with its ultimate conclusion. That said I did wish for that with ‘Toradora!’ yet I still wait.
Acting as a follow-up to Season 1 (and the three OVA episodes I think are actually important), High Score Girl II acts as the finale arc to the story of Yaguchi Haruo and his unconditional love for fighting games. Now starting their first year of high school, things like growing up and past rivalries flare up in this era of adolescence in order to finally put a cap on his long-standing rivalry with the girl that he’s known from his youth, Akira Oono.
High Score Girl is a series I describe as being several parts video game history, several parts character growth, one part romance, and a scarily large part physical abuse for comedic effect. The brunt of the story really is a focus on Haruo and his feelings on both life and the people around him now that he’s in high school with more things to think about aside from just games. It’s because of this that I find his sections of the story to be both rewarding and enjoyable to watch, as it’s time dedicated to detailing and showing the audience the maturity and growth he’s had over the course of his life, while sticking true to his roots as a Guile main.
However the main selling point of High Score Girl is (apparently) its romantic story which unfortunately is a part of the series that misses a few beats with me. The story is good at building romantic tension. The rivalry between the two girls had motivations that felt like it had weight with Koharu especially feeling like she had something genuine to gain or lose by ‘winning the guy’. While I’m not particularly a fan of these kinds of setups outside of generic harems, there were enough stakes for that subplot to come to fruition. Haruo also having agency in his decisions also make the romance a bit sweeter, especially after about a season and a half’s worth of indecision (though that one’s not really through any fault of his own.) Despite those positives, the romance is still not as great as I think a lot of people believe.
For one thing, the season spends only the last third focused on the idea of Haruo having agency over his love life, whereas prior, both girls sent numerous mixed messages that really made me question whether or not this was supposed to be ‘romantic’. With the punchline of the series being “Everyone beat up Haruo every time he does something stupid”, that problem was only exacerbated with time. This problem is furthered by the show sporting a plot mcguffin at the end to achieve a kind of ‘satisfying’ conclusion that feels neither earned nor necessary. It feels like the creators wanted to add something to make the ending more dramatic, but really it just feels like a detail that comes out of nowhere in order to build tension that wasn’t there to begin with.
Regardless, the story of High Score Girl remains as a time capsule for a time long gone for veterans of the fighting game genre with a splash of romance added to the series for color. While I’m still of the opinion that the romance could’ve been way better than how it was portrayed, I’m at least still satisfied with the growth of (most) of its main cast and glad that Haruo is no longer that snot-nosed brat from the beginning of the series.
I’ve praised Haruo’s improvement as a character due to his agency in the latter halves of the season as well as the overall growth of his character from an annoying kid who finds everyone else around him just as annoying. His demeanor and attitude towards the rest of the cast is what sells him for me as a character, since his love of video games remains as a core part of his character, but mostly as a stool to step off of and slowly branch off into other avenues and interests as other things in his life start to become more important to him. It’s nice, and I’m glad he developed the way he did.
Oono though is a different story. So much of her character is aided by the use of side characters and Haruo that she almost feels like a non-factor to the series. Most of her interactions with the rest of the cast rely heavily on everyone else acknowledging her presence, and (towards Haruo only) physical violence. It gets to a point that the ending feels unearned because it makes it seem like, without saying a word, she gets everything she wanted and doesn’t nearly do so much as struggle when comparatively, Haruo does whatever he can to better himself and defiantly decides what he wants out of life and who is the one that fulfills him in the end. Things just happen around Akira, and it irks me how this is considered ‘romance’ when at the end of the day, only one party is speaking.
And then there’s Koharu, the unfortunate heroine of the main trio who unceremoniously gets booted out of the series and barely shows her face in the last third of the season. Inverse to Akira, Koharu’s presence and actions in the series are driven by her own desires and agency to get the things that she wants. Her struggle with coming to terms with her own feelings and the change that went along with it is one of the best arcs the series has made. And it’s a shame that the show ends up doing her dirty the way it did. It feels like a slap in the face because the series basically asserts its authority by saying “You are not the ending” and cuts out what little significance she had left by not giving her so much as a consolation prize for her impact to the series.
Side characters are surprisingly common this time around with a majority of the side cast having prominent roles in the lives of the main trio, and unnecessary characters were cut out to the series’s benefit. Mainstays like the Oono family driver and Haruo’s mom keep up prominent appearances while newer characters like Akira’s older sister REALLY make a splash to make up for any lost time when they weren’t in the series prior. My favorite supporting character however is Guile, Haruo’s SF main, who acts as his spiritual advisor for all situations. Which is kind of amusing, since it makes it seem like Haruo’s losing his mind from playing too many games.
As much as I had hoped, the aesthetics for High Score Girl have not changed, and J.C. Staff still sticking with the low budget 3-D model animation for the series still leaves something to be desired. Granted while it does reflect Oshikiri Rensuke’s artstyle, the movement and overall budget of High Score Girl aren’t really anything to note. It doesn’t take away from the experience all that much, but I would’ve hoped they could’ve at least made some improvements from to make help the characters not move so…unnatural.
The video game graphics are still good, and really help push for that nostalgic factor since the series is littered with pixel sprites and various fighting games from the 1990’s that eventually bleed into the real world as Guile and similar characters make more and more cameos in the real world around Haruo.
The OST was never something that I paid much attention to when I was watching the first season, which unfortunately spells for a similar story for Season 2. Flash sung by sora tob sakana is remarkably similar to the OP of Season 1 that I did a double take to make sure that they were two completely different songs. Personally I don’t find it that memorable, but the retro sounds throughout the piece are at least a nice detail that I want mention.
Yakushimaru Etsuko’s “Unknown World Map” by comparison is better than its OP counterpart, sporting a quieter singer and a calmer, steady tempo that I personally find to be more pleasant. I still don’t find this song to be all that memorable, but it’s at least a nice song to listen to.
I may have forgotten to watch the three OVA episodes before writing this review, but surprisingly enough, I don’t think it’s all that necessary? Yeah you miss on Makoto’s introduction to the series, but she makes enough of a splash in S2 to negate needing to know who she is prior.
High Score Girl is a series that I’ve seen being praised for being a great series with a great romance story that deserves all of the praise that it’s gotten. Honestly…it’s not. Maybe most of it, but in my opinion, it’s a series that succeeds in some aspects, but falters in others. The history and progression of arcade cabinets and fighting games posing as the series’s backdrop is one of the more interesting aspects of the series that I found myself weirdly engrossed in despite never delving into that genre of games. This, combined with Haruo and Koharu’s characters being given time to develop made for the blueprints of a show with a lot of potential. Unfortunately due to some questionable plot choices and committing to the trope of the ‘first girl’, the High Score Girl ends up shooting itself in the foot as it stumbles to the end with a well executed, but unearned ending that feels satisfying, but hollow.
High Score Girl still has my recommendation of being something that’s worth watching. But that recommendation comes with the caveat with sections that I feel should’ve been different and/or the plot wasn’t allowed to change from the rigid structure that it set itself in. Oono not saying anything up till the end is a narrative choice that I feel hurt the series more than helped, and I would’ve liked to see at least something, anything to make her more than just this mysterious, silent girl who just so happens to be an incredible Zangief main.
And I’d have to say that the romance aspect really takes up a notch here as the three kids age, so do their dreams and ambitions that could change within the short span of time. Most particularly for Oono, her family situation hasn’t been the best from Season 1’s build-up that slowly saw her getting more spoiled, and then forcing her to follow family protocol like she doesn’t have a choice of rebuttal to conform to. Coming from Season 1, she has been pretty much quiet for the most part, but when with either Haruo or Hidaka, only does she respond like a human in her robot state. Haruo is always playing his gamer face as usual following Season 1, as games get more bigger and complex that turns his heads 360 degrees around for the latest trends. Same for Hidaka, as her love for Haruo grows stronger, so does the objective to defeat Oono with her much improved skillsets, and understanding the bond between the inseparable duo. This love triangle sure burns brighter than the sun….and the hotter it gets, the love shines forth.
As for the other aspects, for veterans of the previous season, the CGI isn’t too daunting this time, and I’ve just gotta give a shout-out to the animators over at Shogakukan Music & Digital Entertainment (or SMDE for short) managed to do a great job knowing how Season 1 turned out, and refined the missing pointers for improvement towards the sequel for a better experience, especially the arcade games and such. J.C.Staff’s production standards still stands on par with Season 1, so it isn’t a big surprise to see it withstand pretty greatly.
What is a change though, is the music department. Obviously being a new season and such, the relevant music artists came back with another new song in their catalogue, and I’m afraid to say that while group artist sora tob sakana’s 2nd OP is good, the 1st OP is infinitely better IMO, while Etsuko Yakushimaru this time, managed to top her own 1st ED song with the 2nd ED that are both great.
This journey overall has been a fabulous one, and to think that this series spanned 1.5 years from start to finish really shows a lot about the dedication to a fast-dying genre, while keeping it modern. This show truly is a blessing not just as nostalgia but also to people who’d wanna see the replicas of the time of the 90s in anime form (that sadly no longer hooks). Instant recommendation for a binge if you’re finally wanting to watch this all the way through.
5: Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2
English: Teasing Master Takagi-san
MAL Score: 8.10
Even after spending a considerable amount of time with Takagi, Nishikata is still struggling to find a perfect plan to defeat the expert teaser. A battle of wits, a contest of physical prowess, a test of courage—any strategy he employs to expose her weaknesses is to no avail. On the contrary, Nishikata’s pitiful attempts only reveal more of his own flaws, which Takagi takes advantage of to become increasingly daring in her teasing attempts. To make things worse for Nishikata, rumors about him and Takagi may have spread in class due to the frequent interactions between them.
However, the optimistic Nishikata believes that wisdom comes with age and that as the days go by, his experience with her constant teasing will eventually bear fruit, leading him to the awaited moment of victory. Thus, Nishikata continues to strive for the seemingly impossible—to outsmart Takagi and make her blush with embarrassment.
However, I can’t do the same for Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 at all, because that wouldn’t be doing it justice.
At its core, the second season doesn’t change anything drastically from the first – we have our two main characters and their teasing formula, our three side characters from Ashita wa Doyoubi, a side couple, and a new addition of another side couple who don’t get much screentime. So what makes the big difference between the two seasons? If I had to put it in one word, it would be passion. It feels as if a new team of die-hard Takagi-san fans have taken over the adaptation, and they’ve done everything in their ability to bring out the absolute best of what a story like Takagi-san could offer in this second season.
From fixing the awkward pacing issues of the first season that even as someone with the Takagi-san manga on his favorites list for a long time I could not ignore, to beautifully tying up episodic chapters to make them have more impact, to even coming up with completely new anime-original segments – which are all up there for me with my favorite manga chapters, that’s how much I loved them – the studio have clearly given it their all for this season, and it is definitely reflected in how much I have enjoyed every single moment of it.
And of course, something important which I should probably have said earlier – the anime-original segments I mentioned include actual romantic progression! If you enjoyed season 1’s “Critical Hit”, then you’re going to love this season – you’ll be feeling those critical hits through the screen, as the “teasing” has long since passed the line most people would call “flirting”.
To sum it up – if you liked the previous season, you are going to love this one. If you felt lukewarm about the previous season, there is still a very good chance you are going to love this season.
This season gets a honest 10/10 for me, and I wish every adaptation was given as much care as this one – but for now I’ll just be happy that one of my favorites got one.
The first thing I would like to mention happens to be the characterization between the 2 main characters. In the previous season Takagi always enjoyed making fun of Nishikata and winning their games to frustrate him, she finds it hilarious to dismantle the plans he spends hours coming up with and always being one step ahead. This season is different, although the bullying Takagi did in the last season seemed some what mean spirited to Nishkata, this season Takagi was generally a lot more kind and made it pretty clear she likes him and even tried to throw a few of their games on purpose. Of course, Nishikata is way to fucking dense to ever get the obvious signs that she wants him to just grab her hand and lean in for a kiss, but who can blame him he is like 11 and does not have much life experience. This improvement in characterization, especially during the anime original camping scenes, greatly improves the atmosphere of the show for viewers, as we no longer have to feel exhausted watching Nishikata get bullied episode after episode with no chance of winning. Takagi being kind and clearly trying to make games where Nishikata could win if he had some courage changes the atmosphere from being exhausting to refreshing, the show has progressed further into the romance genre and focuses less on the same overused mind games that occurred before. There is also one big moment in the show near the end where Nishikata does step up and its quite touching and shows how far he has grown since the start of the series.
Something else that improved in the show is the sound track, the opening actually covered a lot of the themes in the show, Takagi and Nishikata rivalry, their romantic undertone, the experience of adolescence of the other relevant characters in the series, and blended them all together in a very well-made OP. The general sound effects and OST did not change much however its use improved, the same soundtrack was not used for multiple stories back to back and instead the show alternated between them to keep it fresh, while in the first season they constantly used the exact same theme, you know which one I am talking about, whenever a new story started in the episode.
One other thing that improved was the focus on side characters, the show was getting boring with the entire focus being on Takagi and Nishikata in season 1. However, this season the 3 side girls had their own segments every episode and it made for a very comfy slice of life break from the drama between Takagi and Nishikata. The jokes involving the 3 girls were also of a completely different kind from the mind game jokes between the main characters which creates variety instead of the tired and overused humor we were seeing earlier. The other side characters like Nishikata’s friends had more scenes as well in which they served as commentary on the main characters, pointing out the frustrating stuff the viewers noticed but also misunderstanding some aspects of the power dynamic between Takagi and Nishikata which was sort of funny. Even the teacher got some more screen time and went from a hard ass who exists to yell at Nishikata to a more respectable guy who is just trying to properly educate children and make sure they behave in a reasonable way.
As far as art and animation go, Takagi San season 2 isn’t really any different from season 1, but that is alright no one is watching this show for quality animation or amazing art, it’s a romcom set in a middle school after all. Some things that were an improvement though was that the same background art was not being reused like last season, there were many new parts of the school, the town, and of course the entire background during the camping episode along with the starry sky that were very different from season 1.
Overall though these improvements do vastly improve the show for the viewer, even if a lot of mind games are the same as before, and the story plays out the same, there has been growth in the relationship between the main characters. The growth along with the small improvements in several aspects of the show lead me to give Skilled Teaser Takagi San 2 a rating of 8, higher then the rating of 7 I gave to the first season.
The series features the day-to-day interactions between the main duo, Takagi-san and Nishigata, which revolves around trivial moments in school and daily life, ranging from visiting a small grocery store to throwing stones beside the river. Each episode is divided into several sub-episodes where they will hold small bets or “contests”, with Nishigata being the loser on nearly all occasions. Still, he tries every desperate mean to trick Takagi-san back but fails anyways. Bit by bit, day by day, their relationship grows from the little pranks they put on each other. The second season continues to illustrate Nishigata’s inability to retaliate and the ever-increasing intimacy with Takagi-san.
The immaturity of Nishigata can be pinpointed in the title itself. In Japanese, “-san” is usually used for addressing formally or someone you are not acquainted with, which is basically the equivalence of “Mr.” or “Mrs.” in English. The fact that Nishigata still adopts such a distant approach with Takagi-san even after a whole year shows that he is unable to handle conversations or even a relationship with the opposite sex – a perfect example of how carefully designed Nishigata is.
If I were to nitpick, the show’s greatest downfall would be its repetitiveness. Episodes after episodes of contests with very predictable outcomes are surely dull and boring. Retaining the same format, the story nonetheless showed some progression from the first season, with Nishigata evolving from not revenging at all to reminding himself of the humiliation through push-ups and constantly plotting back at Takagi-san.
It is crucial to bear in mind that Nishigata was merely a grade 7 student(grade 8 in this season). Immaturity, irrationality, and evasion from physical and verbal contact with the opposite sex are all undeniably traits of someone in Nishigata’s age, and that is exactly what the show depicted Nishigata as with panache. Aberrant the scenes may seem, they are nonetheless a genuine and authentic portrayal.
Takagi-san features an art style nuanced from the mainstream. The colour tone is mainly bright and vibrant with the doodle-ish feeling, which is not commonly seen in other popular shows. We can see that the animation is done with passion and care. The backgrounds are well-crafted and details are not compromised.
The opening “Zero Centimeters” is sung by Yuiko Oohara, who also sang Season 1’s opening. The endings are sung by Takagi-san’s voice actor, Rie Takahashi. Not only are the opening and endings catchy, but the background music also gives a youthful and upbeat feeling with its performance with recorders and a piano, fitting the middle school theme perfectly.
Takagi-san has transcended beyond your typical seasonal romcom waifu battleground. It remains one of my favourites in the romance genre for its simple yet meticulous depiction of some heart-tingling and face-blushing middle school romance and touches on themes seldom explored. Next time before you are about to dive into another brawl for waifus, why not take a break and fill your wholesomeness meter with Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san instead?
4: 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.
2: Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai: Tensai-tachi no Renai Zunousen
English: Kaguya-sama: Love is War
MAL Score: 8.40
At the renowned Shuchiin Academy, Miyuki Shirogane and Kaguya Shinomiya are the student body’s top representatives. Ranked the top student in the nation and respected by peers and mentors alike, Miyuki serves as the student council president. Alongside him, the vice president Kaguya—eldest daughter of the wealthy Shinomiya family—excels in every field imaginable. They are the envy of the entire student body, regarded as the perfect couple.
However, despite both having already developed feelings for the other, neither are willing to admit them. The first to confess loses, will be looked down upon, and will be considered the lesser. With their honor and pride at stake, Miyuki and Kaguya are both equally determined to be the one to emerge victorious on the battlefield of love!
Story? There’s no story beyond two teen high schoolers failed love attempts at getting the other person to confess. Fans have dubbed Kaguya sama as the “Death Note of romance”, which is laughable because the mind games here are pretentious, basic tactics.
The comedy is hit or miss most of the time, with the odd joke being able to crack a smile from me. The jokes and gags are repetitive and become stale e.g. the skit where the President and Kaguya gave love advice dragged on too long. The episode about the wiener joke (no, I’m not kidding) was so childish.
The characters are a bunch of troupes who receive no character development: Kaguya is a rich, childish, pampered tsundere with barely any endearing qualities. Chika is the cute ditsy airhead, Ishigami is the depressed emo okatu that fans relate to calling him “our guy”. He’s easily the worst character because of how one dimensional he is and all his jokes being so predictable e.g. “oh no, Kaguya is going to kill me! I’m going home President!”. The president is the hardworking and studious guy. He’s the best of the main cast in my opinion. He’s the most interesting, relatable and got varied comedy.
The main problem with this show is the narration. The narrator might as well be his own character with how overused it is, to the point it becomes overbearing and annoying. The writer clearly didn’t grasp the concept of “show, don’t tell” because i don’t want to be told about the characters and their thought process like they’re puppets. I don’t know why the narrator is keeping score of their matches because it ultimately amounts to nothing and we get the same rinse-repeat scenario next episode. He’s often mentioning stuff that’s obvious on screen with info dumps, which is jarring because it comes across as if the viewer is too stupid to think for themselves.
I’ll give it to A1, the animation is great, the osts are good and the stylistic presentation is visually impressive enough for you to overlook most scenes taking place in one location. The opening visuals are creative, however the opening song is cheesy and the ending is forgettable.
Overall, Kaguya sama is a fun rom-com, but it’s cliche and filled with troupes that would otherwise be criticised in other shows. The dynamic between the two leads doesn’t change as they are no closer to confessing to each other than they were at beginning. It’s baffling to see so many positive reviews and the amount of praise it’s received when it lacks substance and does nothing special compared to other rom-coms.
Kaguya-sama: Love is War takes this relatable fear to the extreme. This anime isn’t your average rom-com; it’s a fight to the death between two stubborn geniuses in a battle of who will confess first. Kaguya Shinomiya is the wealthy heir to a corporate enterprise, a prodigy of course, but sheltered, with far more pride than common sense. Her adversary, Miyuki Shirogane, comes from a much more humble background, a workaholic to reach the top of his class, but unfortunately, he has little experience with anything else. Despite wildly different upbringings, they share many things in common; stubbornness, unrivalled intelligence, egos more inflated than two hot air balloons, and they’re both hopelessly in love.
Rather than merely confessing, they use their intellect for schemes to make the other confess their love first. Fear rejection is too much for their overly inflated egos to handle—this makes their attempts to trick each other over-the-top and hilarious. Still, the underlying motivations of their outrageous scheming are heartfelt. It’s always evident that they’re in love. Whenever they come close to confessing, they immediately fall deep into their egotistical personas and shrug it off.
Truthfully, I should hate Kaguya-sama. I prefer romances that focus on development and believable relationships—rather than awkward interactions until they finally confess in the final episode. Kaguya-sama’s main appeal is cringe-worthy teasing, and it’s abundantly clear we won’t get a confession anytime soon. Albeit with the stakes raised so high that its psychological warfare is comparable to Death Note. You may think a premise as simple as this would grow tiresome. Still, it continues to raise the stakes. The directing is phenomenal. People often complain that nothing changes through the series—but they’re overlooking details. The relationship gradually progresses, and each chapter has permanence. The student council room changes, past conversations are referenced all the time, and their attitudes change. Kaguya and Shirogane start as very cold, keeping conversation to a minimum, then they become more open with their personal lives. Of course, they retain their professionalism. Another complaint is that the jokes are repetitive; this isn’t entirely offbase. As the show progresses, each characters’ sense of humor changes. They begin to understand each other more; as such, their banter becomes more personal.
Each character fulfills a distinct comedic role. Shirogane, the student council president, and Kaguya, his vice, both at the top of their class, are always the center of their school’s attention. They’re geniuses but also crazy in love with each other. The supporting cast and even the narrator add so much more to the comedy. They all have fantastic chemistry with one another. Even the smallest mannerisms and reactions put you into the character’s mind, conveyed through close-ups and internal monologues—this clues us in on how each of them feels, from a wild comedic display to a subtle emotional response.
Chika, the student council secretary, is the embodiment of chaos and the straight man in the comedy routine. She unknowingly intervenes in the intense battles between Kaguya and Shirogane to hilarious effect. Although she acts airheaded, she’s intelligent, talented, and has more life experience than both of the leads combined. Then there’s the always anxious student council treasurer, Ishigami, who makes a late appearance in the show. He’s likable for his long-running gags and banter with Kaguya. We often see Kaguya and Miyuki’s nefarious strategizing from the side characters’ perspective, revealing how ridiculous they both look. It gives the show a welcoming sense of self-awareness.
Every joke lands with a powerful impact because of the audiovisual feedback. Every sound effect is pitch-perfect. The melodic orchestral music constantly changes to complement wild tone shifts; it’s nothing short of brilliant. The opening credits beautifully showcase the cast and the exaggerated mind games with an aesthetic reminiscent of studio Shaft. The theme song is so damn good; it is unlike anything else in anime nowadays. The third episode’s notable ending credits are impressive, too. Chika’s dance was rotoscoped with expert detail rarely seen in big-budget productions. Talent like this is hard to come by. The artist, Nagisa Sugao, must have days animating that one-and-a-half minutes of intricate animation. She not only came up with the dance herself; she performed it to get replicated with animation. If that’s not the ideal blend of talent and passion, I don’t know what is.
What elevates Kaguya-sama’s great comedy material far above any other rom-com is the exceptional directing from Shinichi Omata, among other industry experts. Known for his work on Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, he brings brilliant storyboards, a considerate eye for framing, dynamic direction, and creative budget distribution that takes what could have been an average adaptation to the best this season has to offer. This anime’s excellence is thanks to perfect production management. Even with as little animation as this show has, there is always something moving onscreen. If a shot lingers, it’s to highlight emotions without any dialogue, like the moment Kaguya admired her nail polish on the way to the club. It’s brief, but it tells us exactly what she’s thinking.
Scenes blend into each other seamlessly. Objects fade into one another—and the transitions never break the 180-degree film rule. I counted more than a dozen match cuts in a single episode; The level of detail put into storyboarding each cut is impressive. I have nothing but admiration for the director. Background art transforms to reflect the character’s inner monologue’s mood, indicating how they overthink even the simplest of exchanges. The breathtaking animation only gets used to highlight pivotal moments, such as when Kaguya and Miyuki come close to kissing. Emotional character-development moments are highly memorable because of this extra attention to detail.
Omata employs a frenetic style to emphasize punchlines and give importance to every bit of dialogue. Reality occasionally bends to create incredible and abstract visuals, which makes potentially mundane punchlines incredibly intense. These moments reflect just how exaggerated the crazed characters perceive their mind games to be. On the far end, the show straddles the line between slapstick comedy and an all-out thriller with static lines overlaying close-ups as a character verges closer to defeat in a battle; this is what makes Kaguya-sama so funny. Kaguya and Miyuki have astronomical IQs, but they use their intelligence to do the most idiotic things because they’re afraid of having their hearts broken. It’s so painfully relatable. The mind games they get lost in are entertaining, but they’re so misguided in their approach to love that even their failures are hilarious to watch. They’re both walking catastrophes. Thankfully the show acknowledges this and pokes fun at them through irony and sarcastic supporting characters. Its visual excitement, music, and wildly contrasting tones craft a dynamic comedic experience.
Confessing your love to someone is terrifying. Growing up is an even more formidable challenge. Kaguya and Miyuki are slowly but surely navigating through their complicated emotions. Masterfully timed jokes, expert directing, and relatable characters—this show has it all. No matter if you love or hate anime romcoms, this takes the standard genre tropes and subverts them in new and exciting ways. Kaguya-sama: Love is War is an outstanding series that anyone can walk away from wholeheartedly adoring.
Not because these type of scenarios don’t happen throughout the show, but more so because I’m not entirely sure that it is accurate to describe the characters as “prideful” or even “geniuses”; and that might be the biggest issue the show has.
Kaguya-sama begins in a very direct way; the whole idea of the show, everything about Miyuki and Kaguya, and their relationship is thrown at us through a narrator. There is no build up of their relationship, we are told they are in love and we are immediately expected to care. As a result, I found it difficult to ever form a sort of solid connection with the characters, to ‘root’ for their romance, to think their ridiculous antics were always funny. Miyuki and Kaguya have little chemistry. It feels like I am missing something. With more care given to the characters, this show really could have been something special.
I can imagine this could have been salvaged, if the characters proved themselves so charismatic and fun that they would eventually become completely endearing. But the characters never really had a consistent personality. Because let’s be honest, Miyuki and Kaguya are not always ‘prideful’. The are constantly shown as vulnerable, embarrassed, and shy. Highlighting those parts about them were easily the worst bits of the show. When they were smart, cunning, devious, it lead to the best and most hilarious moments. The author probably did this to make them more relatable and cute, but I ultimately think it negatively impacted the show. Some of the situations Miyuki and Kaguya go through are so trivial and childish that only sheer ridiculousness of their characters could have made it genuinely hilarious. When we know that the basis of their resistance to being open to one another is rooted more in shyness than pride, it makes the situations come off as more silly than potentially hilarious. It should have gone all in on making them scheming egomaniacs, for the sake of the humour.
Sometimes the show did have moments where the characters acted the way I hoped they would—and it was funny. Various moments of the show proves itself as creative, enjoyable, and worthy. Chika and Ishigami served as good side characters, although it may have been a little too obvious that sometimes they were just there to steer the direction of the joke. The art style was bold and outwards. Over time the show starts to get a bit more ‘normal’ looking, but I do appreciate shows taking a step outwards to make it more memorable.
Many times I was left feeling like some potential was being wasted. The show does stick to a formulaic way of having a ‘winner/loser’ in every bit, which didn’t always work. Sometimes it seems like the direction of the joke was radically shifted for no other reason than to just create a winner or a loser. I never found the narrator useful, and at worst he was just annoying. The show should have been more free, less confined to one particular style. Often it came off as settling.
The most disappointing thing about the show is how good it could have been.
1: 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.
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Kono Oto Tomare! 2nd Season
2. Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai: Tensai-tachi no Renai Zunousen
4. Fruits Basket 1st Season
5. Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2
6. High Score Girl II
7. Kono Oto Tomare!
8. 5-toubun no Hanayome
9. Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld
10. Sword Art Online: Alicization