They are by far the best anime! We counts down the best anime to come out all the time, including the likes of Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note, Hashiri Tsuzukete Yokattatte., Dragon, Ie wo Kau., and more!
5: Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note
MAL Score: 6.21
Aya Tachibana is a sixth-grader who frets and obsesses over friends, family, grades, and more. One day, she joins the “Tantei Team KZ” with four very idiosyncratic boys she met at cram school. There is the glib and attention-grabbing leader Kazuomi Wakatake, the mysterious “expert of personal relationships” Takakazu Kuroki, the smart and stoic math genius Kazunori Uesugi, and the sweet-hearted Kazuhiko Kozuka who is good at social matters and science. Aya finds her place among them as the “language expert.” “Tantei Team KZ” gets involved in modern-day cases, and even if they bicker from time to time, they collaborate by pooling each of their talents and skills to solve these cases.
Firstly, credit where it’s due. In an era of anime where every other show seems to be about high school kids with magic-science-demon powers saving the world, it’s refreshing to find a story where the stakes seem appropriate to the setting. Tales of earth shattering events, evil conspiracies & alien invasions so often found in anime can sometimes feel like a lazy way for the writer to up the stakes in a story that they are otherwise unable to come up with ways to keep the readers attention. KZ meanwhile has thus far kept its mysteries grounded in the reality of a typical middle schooler.
That’s not to say the mysteries are so trivial as to be pointless, or that the story fails to raise the stakes as things progress towards a solution. Nor do I suspect that many of the viewers have found themselves in some or any of the situations that arise. But what I mean by grounded in reality is that you can imagine, for example, a group of fifteen year old’s trying to find out why one of their friends got food poisoning & following that trail to a local factory selling tainted meat. Not everything has to be about saving the world, stopping murderers or finding your one true love to be engaging.
In some ways it has the charms of reading Enid Blyton or Richmal Crompton stories (do kids still read those?) about school kids trying to solve the mysteries of missing shoes or just trying to find things to do on a boring family holiday. Frankly it’s rather refreshing to watch something like KZ, given that 2015 was full of magic power fantasies & overly dramatic love stories to the point that it got quite tiring.
Unfortunately, KZ is not without problems, & quite major ones at that. As is too often the case with ensemble casts, the characters are quite limited in their personalities. Each of the four male members of the KZ team suffer from the usual anime problem of having one (& precisely one!) character trait that has to match with their art design. Nothing happens with any of them, either in terms of their personalities or how their relationships develop (or don’t) that you wouldn’t have been able to predict just by looking at the MAL image.
The shows production is a mixed bag. On the one hand, the water colour look of the background art & the softer pastel colours & borderlines of the characters give the show a nice, relaxed look. But like a frustrating number of slice of life type shows in recent years, KZ suffers from what appears to be the current image editing logic that brighter = better. The result is that the screen is often so bright that it overwhelms the image, washing out any subtler or softer tones &, for instance, giving faces a ghostly, colourless appearance. Indeed at times, usually when there is a lot of white space on the screen, it can get quite uncomfortable to watch.
But perhaps the biggest problem with KZ is that the writing is what some would describe as fanficcy. This term is often used derogatively & unfairly, but it’s the best way I could sum up what watching KZ can seem like. Indeed, if you told me that KZ started out as a fanfic of Secret Seven or another kids mystery book into which the author wrote themselves, I’d believe you.
Aya as a character can be summed up as how a tweenage girl would write themselves if they were imagining how they’d get to go on adventures with their favourite boy band. Her mum’s a nag, her classmates are just not on her level (her words, not mine) & by sheer coincidence she finds herself in a room with the hottest guys in the school, who waste no time inviting her into their group. This of course only makes the other girls even more jealous of her than they obviously were before, especially when those hot boys start looking for her in class or waiting for her in the courtyard after school (how embarrassing!)
Her “skill” that she brings to the group, that being her superior language skills, has mattered precisely zero times so far & indeed really just means she’s a bit better at Japanese (I presume referring to memorising more Kanji?) than the others. None the less, those boys sure do want to impress upon her the importance of that skill & they just have to get to know her better or confide with her about things that they can’t even tell each other, despite being friends far longer.
Really that’s her skill, the power to make the hottest boys in school want to talk to her & to see through to the real them. No surprises that, for instance, when everyone’s telling her not to hang out with the green haired delinquent (who takes an interest in her, naturally), she’ll stubbornly insist that he’s just misunderstood & wouldn’t you know it she get’s through his tough exterior & is proved right.
Indeed, while nominally a show about solving mysteries, KZ wears all the trappings of a harem. Each episode will make sure to find time for her & one of the boys (each mystery tends to have a b-plot revolving around one of them) to have one or more of those “moments” where they have an emotional connection that in no way impacts the story or their relationship going forward. I will say that the shorter run time of KZ helps ensure that these don’t end up as excruciatingly drawn out as they often are in shows with a standard episode length, but they’re still clearly there just to make the tweenage girl in you go “sqwee!”
That’s the thing about KZ, though: it’s clearly meant for an audience of younger girls. While I stand by my criticisms, I’m also aware that since I’m neither of those things, it’s not unreasonable to respond with “well it wasn’t made for you, so why are you watching it?” Whether its target audience would have the same complaints I do or not, I couldn’t say. But it is something to bear in mind when watching KZ.
As a mystery series aimed at a younger audience, KZ does a decent job of keeping things grounded yet still interesting, but does have the usual problems with leaps of logic & the occasional convenient convergence of events to wrap everything up. Someone also needs to explain to Kazuomi that blackmailing a criminal is still a crime. But it’s not really possible to not view KZ as, at least on some level, a harem; one that seems less about using Aya as a way to connect the audience with a variety of interesting males than it is about making her seem like the kind of girl that the guys just can’t help but be drawn to. Sounds like the protagonist of your typical fantasy light novel, now that I think about it.
What this series does really well is to show the sense of isolation our main character feels. Tachibana Aya is a young girl who finds it difficult to make friends, a universal problem especially common in children. It portrays her thought process very accurately, with evidence shown by her personality and family situation. Because of how well these points are established, we care more when she finally gets the company she longed for, creating a real sense of attachment to the characters in the series.
However, the mysteries in the show aren’t great. The way each of them is solved is absurd, with middle schoolers having access to information most adults can’t even hope to obtain. The series is smart though for keeping other better aspects of it in the spotlight while the mysteries are going on, character development and motivations are fleshed out during the solving of a mystery which help keep the series relatively entertaining.
I was surprised when the series ended, it was pretty abrupt and inconclusive. But despite these caveats, I think it was a really nice series to watch, not many anime manage to deal with its core themes as well as Tantei Team Jiken Note.
This children’s detective anime was genuinely good !!! It had interesting CRIME cases and the situations they stumble on has some bad people and the danger is there which really made this good and exciting like Kindaichi.
Aya was really cute too with her group of friends that are boys, I guess a little bit of a reverse harem starting young? 🙂 It shows Aya likes being with them. They are all cool and smart that also likes Aya.
Let me MAKE CLEAR this is nothing like Conan’s Detective Boys where irritable nosy brats kids gets in the way and ends up so unreal, even Conan has to pretend to be a naive kid. The characters here may be children, but they are completely better.
Wakatake is the least mature, often has childish reasons, and a hothead to expose the culprit. Even then, he knows to gather evidence first when he investigates like everyone else. Intellectually as a group, they can calmly and rationally think their next action, and point out the truth. They think of safety like when it’s proper to call the police and make sure everyone’s safe especially Aya 🙂 They are like good friends in school you would want around.
For example, in the anime, Aya tells Uesugi that he can speak to her anything if there’s something he don’t want the other guys to know. Another example, in the anime, Aya’s friends also never force her to do anything that she doesn’t want in the line of detective work.
I enjoy watching the kids solving the cases together as great friends, contacting each other, using their abilities together in plan/research, catching the culprit, and what really stood out was while also taking care of school and school life FIRST like children should.
This anime is a real detective mystery that I would miss seeing. The cases are plenty original and seeing how there was already a timeskip in the anime from elementary to middle school which was really COOL! IF a full series would be made again, maybe we can see a high school for Team KZ too! With even bigger cases!
4: Hashiri Tsuzukete Yokattatte.
English: I’m glad I could keep running.
MAL Score: 6.41
Minato visits a recitation at an anime event with his friend. He is captivated by the voice actors’ performances and decides to enroll in Suidoubashi Animation Academy. There, he meets Chikako, who used to live in the room he is moving into and who left a message in a USB drive. Minato, who aims to be a voice actor but is unable to put himself into the role, and Chikako, who lives with a past trauma, encourage one another and try to improve themselves. With the help of seniors such as Ryouta and Kei watching over them, they try to mature. As they stumble and worry, what lies ahead for them both?
(Source: MAL News)
The story in a nutshell is the life and work of flourishing voice actors. Pretty interesting concept for a short, but I’d wondered for an original series, it would have been nice to see this fleshed as a normal 12-episode series, given that the characters, aside from main MCs Minato and Chikako’s journey of trials and tribulations, along with their own personal fears that make the whole voice acting job feel pressured and looked upon by society standards. Both MCs interactions in getting over their fears, such as taking that 1st step into voice acting are decent. Nothing groundbreaking but passable.
Signal.MD’s artwork and animation still shines, albeit decently. This is not their “MMO Junkie” level of expertise, so take everything you see with a grain of salt. And of course, the music. What’s music like when you add in the well-known HoneyWorks label? Good and well-rounded music, that’s their forte, though I wish that they would stick to female groups instead of male groups (as evidently pointed out by the ED being better than the OP IMO). Sexism? Oh hell no.
In the end, this is just meh and pretty much a bare-bones (if you ask me). Nothing exciting fills you up than having to know how voice acting is done in Japan, I guess. Not a recommendation, unless it’s for the HoneyWorks music, and purely alone.
This anime is about two aspiring voice actor and actress (seiyuus) and their special kind of bond that healthily influence each other’s lives to do their best in their craft.
Chikako, has a stage fright due to her previous professor’s strict way of teaching, which lowered her self-esteem and her confidence in portraying her roles.
Minato, on the other hand, is new to voice acting and does a decent job but lacks the emotions and doesn’t quite understand how to “breathe life into a character”.
I like how the characters are portrayed in such a way that it’s convincing. Like, I could see a person like Chikako or a Minato in real life and I wouldn’t be surprised. I could somehow relate to Chikako’s stage fright and Minato’s frustrations because I know it can happen to me and to anyone.
Animation-wise, it’s beautiful. It’s not the type of beautiful that you would see in anime movies but I would not say that it is “just good”. I mean, it does its job in immersing me into the “inspiring” vibes and when important scenes happen, the animation and art perfectly complements the atmosphere that the scene just flourish and sparkles naturally.
Perhaps I can say it’s above average, I guess.
Do I need to say more?
Oh, yeah, the voice acting is great. It should be. It would be quite ironic and hilarious if an anime about voice acting would have terrible seiyuus, right?
(Oh gosh, imagine a parody anime about crappy seiyuus… anime gods! can you hear me?! Make it come true!! Lol)
Overall, the story is decent enough is you have the time and it certainly wouldn’t disappoint you, especially if you are fond of the Shoujo genre.
The series basically depicts the daily struggles, work and daily life of our two young Voice actors enrolled in an voice actor academy and how they are learning to grow and cope with it.
Minato who got inspired from a voice acting performance decides to be one himself.
He meeets chikako our female mc who used to reside in the room which minato currently is in and also is on the road to become a successful Voice actor.
Both have their own Struggles and Flaws, for example Minato not being able to breath life and emotions in his character and Chikako with her past trauma and nervous issues.
But after meeting each other they start comforting, inspiring and supporting each other while working towards their own goals respectively.
The best thing i liked about this show is the fact they give us the perspective , the emotions and the in depth truth about Voice actors and their work, how each kind of VA has their own style and approach to their roles and characters.
Also how Minato and Chikako encourage each other using different methods for example enacting out a particular scene from a drama to portray the character who is a example of someone who’s emotions and situations can be related to our MC’s and then how the character resolves to overcome the challenges and our mc’s taking that as an inspiration. its really something unique and a beautiful concept.
The animation is done well by SIGNAL.MD. Also the original character Design by Yamako from Honeyworks is really top notch and so is the Music as expected from honeyworks . The intro and the outro are really well made. Good quality stuff.
Finally i would just say if you are interested in small short series, Voice actors related stuff and bit of life inspiring moments to enjoy in a slice of life. Then definitely give a watch, its worth for a hour of your time . 🙂
3: Dragon, Ie wo Kau.
English: Dragon Goes House-Hunting
MAL Score: 6.42
In an RPG fantasy world, a red dragon named Letty is disowned by his parents after failing to guard their eggs. Now he has to find a place of his own, but unlike other dragons, Letty is meek, cowardly, and has overall low stats. Regardless, a defenseless young dragon makes for an easy target for those who only see him as a beast to be feared, vanquished, and even devoured. After some time searching for somewhere to call “home,” he encounters the elf Dearia, who saves him from a band of heroes. Both an architect and a real estate agent, Dearia offers to help Letty find the perfect abode that suits his needs. Thus ensues Letty’s house-hunting quest, as well as all the fantastical creatures and formidable enemies he meets along the way!
As the title goes, it’s literally “Dragon Goes House-Hunting”, and to create more “magical” moments for a trivia, one of this show’s sponsors is actually a real-life company by the name of “OPEN HOUSE Co. Ltd”, which engages in the real-estate agency and brokerage business in Japan. It operates through the following segments: Single-Family Homes Related Business, Condominiums, Property Resales, and Others. It’s methodically analytical to think that a real-life real estate Japanese company would promote their services alongside mangaka Kawo Tanuki’s work, and in this case, what the anime portrayed throughout its run of different house-hunting procedures, the company OPEN HOUSE also does the exact same business, and this is especially relatable to both native Japanese and Gaijins (foreigners) whom are like this dragon who’s constantly searching for home in all nook and cranny areas possible.
I know that a lot of people are turned off by the MC dragon Letty’s casted VA Shun Horie, but you’ve gotta remember that he didn’t exactly have good roles to begin with on his VA business. His most recent MC roles being Kazuya from “Kanojo, Okarishimasu” and Hacker from “Akudama Drive”, it’s easy to hear why his voice sounded very different from other more pronounced VAs like Yuki Kaji a.k.a KajiKaji. Nevertheless, I’d feel that Shun Horie provided a very unique child-like voice to Letty, being the kid dragon of a family that disowns him because he’s being very timid and careless about his life to the point that it’s un-dragon-like, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you look at his personal card, you’ll see that his stats are far from ideal, the worst being that he has his LUK stat in the negative (like when was there ever such points being pwned). Thankfully, Letty gets a huge help when he encounters an elf realtor by the name of Dearia, supposedly a faux Demon Lord with his name stretching far and wide across the fantasy land, and there’s no one whom have never heard of this good-looking Ikemen realtor before. Together with this unassuming “powerful” elf, the timid dragon Letty starts his journey to search for his perfect home.
Other than the stereotypical heroes whom surface up time and time again to stop Letty and Dearia in their tracks (because Letty is a dragon, and red ones spew fire), it’s literally gag moments one after another with the unassuming Dearia having to protect Letty’s backside every now and then. But sometimes on occasion, Dearia requests that Letty does his own protection, because he is a dragon, and he should be able to spew fire, however, due to Letty’s timidness, he has to constantly hide behind Dearia’s back, which sometimes give him a headache, much less the specifics of different houses and features that would cater best to his long-time client. Nevertheless, the other main characters that would soon pop up in both elf and dragon’s life with Piyovelt a.k.a Pip the Hraesvelgr Norse mythology bird (who calls Letty his dad) and the stuck-up child that is Princess Nell (whom like Letty, wants to find a home for herself and away from royalty), they provide extra hilarity and bantering that is worth every bit of that comedy gold. And adding onto that effect with the RPG-like symoblisms and references, this show’s straightforward-ness is one that is enduring the toleration on the boring side, but also best enjoyed in a slice-of-life-ish relaxing scale.
Most of the production team working on this show do have some experience, but it seems as though that the way with Youkoso Japari Park director Haruki Kasugamori’s direction, this show produced at Signal.MD is average at best. I’m not asking for like A-1 Pictures levels of production, just a well decent one that wouldn’t sacrifice quality for quantity, and sadly this show just looks abstractly drab with many cutting corners. I get that Haruki Kasugamori is trying to make this show look like something that’s made for kids, but this is anime, and the stark contrast is huge for the general population. Sure, the manga is well adapted, but if there was a choice, I would stick to the manga while hearing voice recordings of VAs, that would be a good compromise.
What’s a total surpise is that one of the most famous J-Pop artists, Masayoshi Ooishi, performed the OP, which looking at the MV on YouTube, is also aimed at kids. It’s to be expected of a song quality that is like SSSS.Dynazenon’s one that fits well into Masayoshi Ooishi’s repertoire, but this one is totally out of left field, and not to mention that every song produced by this reputable music artist is catchy great. Non Stop Rabbit’s ED has gotta be one of my favourite EDs of the season, being a medieval rock song that doesn’t stray away from the fantasy realms. Seriously though, this OST is IMO top-notch.
At the end of the day, with such a simple story and lackluster anmiation, this show should have been doomed from the get-go. Thankfully, with its endearing character cast and gag comedy, it changed the game with its nonchalant characters that showcase “hummingbirds knocking into wood” levels of comedic banter, so much so that I can’t stop having my funny bones being triggered every now and then.
Let this be a PSA: Even if this show will never get a Season 2, if you like some fantasy escapism, I highly implore you to give this show a second chance. I know I did from the get-go, embrace it wholeheartedly, and came out with a smile on my face. This series needs more love than the hate that it got.
Making the Heroes the bad guys and the “Monsters” just average beings wanting to live and let live is a novel take on the fantasy genre.
An un-Dragon Dragon may have thrown people off, but I love this twist.
The only downside for me was they could have done a lot more with Letty’s character development. From Runt to Alpha Dragon would be an incredible counterpoint to the effervescence of the plot.
But from the intro to the credits, the series puts on an uplifting and whimsical play that you can’t help but laugh and smile and grin at. In a world of way too serious anime, Dragon, Ie wo Kau is refreshing.
As for the opening theme…it’s in my music list as a GO TO song for making me smile 🙂
It is only by good fortune that he meets Dearia, an elf architect who happens to be The Dark Lord, and they venture off together to find Letty a good home. Their adventures are surprisingly hilarious, and the characters are for the most part likeable. The writers have done a good job parodying the normal fantasy tropes, with the episode featuring the Gladiator Dungeon being my favorite so far. Plenty of laughs to be had in this series, which I would consider comedy fantasy.
This series has one of the cutest non talking Mascots ever. The protection and adoption of Pip, Letty’s “son” is also very heartwarming. This is a show an adult could easily watch with a child without fear of the kid crying from excessive violence or sex. PG anime! There are several surprisingly adult themes included which I would hope are subtle enough not to traumatize children but which adults will “get” and laugh at. In a way this reminded me a lot of Shrek.
The downsides are serious though. The design of the Letty dragon is not good. It’s clunky and awkward – a creature with that kind of design would not be anatomically capable of moving like Letty does. The fore arms are too long and the hind end doesn’t move “right”. It’s like they spent all the budget making Dearia delicious, Pip cute and left not much for Letty, the main character. This is particularly disappointing because the Black Dragon is VERY well animated and looks real.
After finishing the series I can’t rate this anime better than fair. It’s a cute, charming watch, sprinkled with life lessons and humor. With better sound and animation this could easily have had a better rating. This being said, I will happily watch a season 2, hopefully done by a studio that has better animation.
2: Mars Red
Japanese: MARS RED
MAL Score: 6.64
In the year 1923, a vampire crisis takes Tokyo by storm. Provoked by the illegal trade of “Ascra,” an artificial blood source, the population of vampires begins to rapidly increase within the city. Under orders from Lieutenant General Sounosuke Nakajima, the Special Forces Unit 16 gathers vampires within the military to create a new undercover vampire-hunting unit known as Code Zero.
Leading the unit is Colonel Yoshinobu Maeda. Responsible for locating the source of the Ascra trade as well as capturing and killing vampires, he is pressured into producing fruitful results amidst the growing criticism that threatens to decommission the unit. To make matters worse, the vampires within the unit are struggling to grasp their newfound powers and identities now that they are no longer human. With the world at odds against them, the members of Code Zero must find a way to curb the crisis or otherwise fall victim to their own demonic natures.
– How does it end?
– It’s a tragedy.
One word: cinematography and theatrics.
If someone told me before I have seen Mars Red that it’s a TV anime entirely drawn in cinemascope size (2.35:1), my first thought would’ve been, “Well, that’s pointlessly pretentious. Not like a TV anime is shot on 70 mm film and meant to be projected on cinema screens.” Boy, am I happy to be wrong on this one. Every other scene of Mars Red is an absolute masterpiece of shot composition, properly utilizing the wide aspect ratio for grand panoramic views and pensive camera pans. It wouldn’t be weird to think you’re watching Quentin Tarantino’s work, so skillful the presentation on the pure craftsmanship level is.
And it’s not like I’m implying this is a case of style over substance – in Mars Red style IS substance. The show is adapted from a stage play, and it wears that origin on its sleeve. The cast members can’t walk three steps without quoting some classical drama (the fact that several of them are actual thespians helps). And then the storylines of the early episodes mimic the very same classics in a deliberate, ostentatious manner. So the wide shots don’t just exist for the sake of pretty pictures – they are contributing to the show’s extravagant theater-like atmosphere and to its exclusively visual storytelling, the much-vaunted “show, don’t tell” principle, which many like to use as a buzzword but few appreciate when it’s seriously put to practice, as lack of spoonfeeding makes the story cryptic and genuinely hard to follow (I had to watch the first episode twice to fully understand what transpired there – and I saw many not only completely miss the ENTIRE story of that episode but also miss even the fact that they’re missing something – but more on that later).
Also, it’s about vampires, which I hope is something I don’t have to explain because any self-respecting vampire fiction fan should understand that vampires means pathos and pathos means vampires.
Do note that the show has two distinct “phases”, and so far I’ve been talking about its first half. The second half ditches the episodic structure and the theater homages in favor of a single main plotline, but what it loses in aesthetics gets compensated twofold in weight of its dramatic writing – Episode 6 is a particularly profound highlight.
Here, I ought to elaborate on the show’s setting and how it contributes to the tone and the narrative. It’s Taishou Era (the early 1920s) Japan – no doubt the consequence of Kimetsu no Yaiba’s success, that nonetheless has more significance than just being a marketing gimmick. The Taisho Era was the golden age of the Japanese Empire – coming out of World War I on the winning side with massive territorial gains and ushering the decade of prosperity, progress, modernization, and social change. It’s not an accident that the male characters of Mars Red are manly military men with iron-cast jawlines, nor is it one that the female characters are plucky, go-getting “modern girls” (the Japanese name for flappers). There couldn’t be a better stage for a theatre-inspired story.
So, what the central plotline of the second half of the show does on that stage is denouncing the militaristic ethos birthed from that decade (embodied by the character of Lt. Gen. Nakajima) – the ethos responsible for railroading the Japanese Empire into World War II and spelling its demise. Furthermore, the main plot is counterpointed by personal dramas of the cast members playing out amidst the aftermath of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 – another defining event of the Taishou Era.
Returning back to the “show, don’t tell” point. Honestly, at times what this series does feels more like “don’t show, don’t tell.” Important plot developments happen off-screen between episodes, with the audience left to figure out wtf had happened only by the breadcrumbs in characters’ dialogues and reactions to the aftermath of those. It’s like the show was purposefully trying to filter out the “plot” audience that watches anime to see if aliens will explode the earth with a blue laser – instead of watching it for character arcs, exploration of themes, or audio-visual presentation – as figuring out the plot here is a nigh-impossible task. This is the first series since The Tatami Galaxy that feels intentionally designed for rewatches. The first rewatch is a much more enjoyable experience than the initial watch-through – and I don’t mean this as an abstract impression, but as my actual first-hand experience. I have rewatched the entire show before it finished airing to confirm for myself if things that I felt were unexplained/plot holes actually were those things – or if I just missed/didn’t get it the first time. Rest assured, it’s the latter – not a single question about the plot points, character motivations, etc. that I had on my first watch was left unanswered after a rewatch. So, yeah, look at the screen when watching anime.
Still, don’t expect a Madoka-tier perfectly-structured, easily-digestible screenplay. Watch this show only if you’d like to appreciate some amazing cinematography and submerge yourself in some stageplay pathos. I really don’t have all that many words to describe those, as it’s kinda a misguided effort trying to describe with words what’s so beautiful about the sunset over the ocean – one just has to see it.
11/10 (on a 15-point scale) for “historical drama that epitomizes the art of visual storytelling.”
P.S. Below is a list of plot points established in the first episode purely by visual/indirect storytelling. The list is meant for those who have seen the episode. It’s there for a case study of how a “deep” anime actually looks like.
*Spoilers begin here*
1) Misaki was Maeda’s fiancee. I’m not explaining this one, it should be obvious to anyone who looked at the screen when watching this episode.
2) Maeda has recently lost his dominant right arm and wears a prosthetic. You can see him struggling to write readable kanji with his left hand around 00:50, as well as generally using only his left hand for everything while holding his right arm in an unnaturally stiff way. Later, around 10:35, Lt. Gen. Nakajima apologizes for summoning Maeda three days earlier [than his medical leave ends] and inquires about the arm, to which Maeda replies, “I can use it.”
3) Misaki’s first name is revealed around 11:15 by a case file, and then her full name is spelled on a letter Maeda holds around 12:45 – and it’s Nakajima Misaki. Meaning, she is a relative (an educated guess would be – a daughter) of Lt. Gen. Nakajima. When Nakajima instructs Maeda to dispose of her if she is not usable, and makes a point that personal feelings should not interfere with the duty – he talks to himself just as much as he talks to Maeda.
4) Defrott is a vampire and he’s the one who turned Misaki. She was mortally wounded in an accident that happened in his presence, and expressed regret about missing the chance to show her performance of Salome to Maeda – and so Defrott gave her a second chance. Defrott reveals his and Misaki’s motives in a conversation with Maeda around 15:30, and then with Salome quotes around 17:30.
Bonus: the title Mars Red alludes to the god of war and the color of blood – it’s a story about using vampires as a military force. Something tells me that the Venn diagram of people that got this meaning on their own and people that disliked this show is nil.
Largely influenced by the learning journey in theater due to his family upbringing, Bun-O Fujisawa experienced many theatrical shows, even trickling down to even opera and musicals. His expedition to London to study theatre in London is quite liberal, and being a native Japanese, he has to prove his skills through his performance of his works in London, orchestrated in a carefully considered and methodically composed manner. If you can notice Fujisawa’s trademark in Episode 1, where the “recitation drama” of Salomé, this is the result of Fujisawa having noticed that recitation dramas weren’t building any momentum in Japan when that culture didn’t exist, only often happening in places like bookstores. What he did was to induce performances almost exactly like a regular theater show with the flashy live band performances and the outfits; the only difference is that the actors remain stationary.
So then, Bun-O Fujisawa’s depiction of Mars Red is simply taking the same trope or cliché, but expanding in a way that seems famililar, yet feels differently. The depiction of vampires not as conventionally powerful monsters, but as vulnerable people in society, the theme that humans and vampires alike possess both strengths and weaknesses, or so Fujisawa thinks that essence is very important to the anime (which having experience from similar plays in the past, I totally agree with this unique subtlety of a direction). What makes Mars Red appealing is in what Fujisawa says it best: “Don’t you think that the appeal of vampires is that they possess two contrasting elements: superhuman powers and weaknesses? In the show, there’s even more of a focus on their “weaknesses” compared to your conventional vampire. They are weak to sunlight, can’t swim, and need blood. Because of their heightened senses, the stench and noise pollution of industrial Japan can only cause them pain. In this story, vampires are born within the paradox that is the modern science of the industrial revolution: it supports them in their weaknesses. Even then, science can’t do anything about the problems of their heart that they face in eternal life. I hope you can enjoy this new tale about vampires.” And indeed he has created his own spin of vampires that has its own charm, though an underrated one to some who can appreciate the enamor.
For more information about that one, I can reference you to ANN’s interviews with the creator Bun-O Fujisawa himself, as is debut director Kouhei Hatano and screenwriter Junichi Fujisaku done very recently, paying homage to the legend that is Fujisawa and his Reading Theater stage play (seen in Episode 1). The TL;DR is this: Junichi Fujisaku, having done similar stories like Blood+ and Blood-C from the elusive Blood franchise, if you are a millennial or older who’ve watched the Blood franchise before, you can definitely feel the similarities in the scriptwriting, though this is an unique, standalone work on its own. It is a throwback to a classic that’s made modern with its own flare and feel that makes Mars Red a compelling, moody story.
Stage plays are nothing new when you reference that to the long extensive history, but in anime? This has always been a topic that is very hard to be translated into animation, and somehow Kouhei Hatano and his production team at Signal.MD managed to pull this off with much fanfare, even if the audience population scale of influence is small. Nevertheless, knowing its theater-cum-stage-play influence of a theme, Mars Red uses its many characters to develop their small “side”-stories that will converge to play like a major scene in most theatrical screenplays. Even Fujisaku admits that he tried to arrange the screenplay in a way that follows the source material. However, the format of an audio dramatic stage reading play does not include images, rather, tt uses the voice actors’ performances and music to create an image in the audience’s heads, similar to the techniques of Japanese Rakugo. Because everyone creates their own images, it may be the case that an anime, which has to portray images in a distinct form, can’t surpass those imaginings, which is a huge undertaking to risk spoiling the tight story. Also, because the characters of Kurusu, Yamagami, Maeda, Suwa, Takeuchi, Deffrot, Nakajima, and Aoi all having their own story developments, Fujisaku had a feeling that it might lack dynamism as a series, so the first thing he did was rethink the theme of the anime series: The weakness of vampires is the strength of humans. Regardless, Hatano and Fujisaku made a conscious decision to be subtle with the storytelling, one which compels the audience to understand the time era which this show is based upon (reminder: Year 12 of the Taisho Era (1923), the climax of the source material) and why the dialogue is mentioned as such. At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer, and Fujisaku mentions that whatever the answers you arrive at while watching Mars Red, it is all valid.
Truth be told, I thought that the 2007 series “Romeo × Juliet” had the best depiction of any old-school classic theatrical shows to date when it comes to anime, of course, the real-life stageplays will always triumph over any form of media that tries to depict poetic stories. But while Mars Red might not break the same bank, I can at least appreciate all the symbolisms and subtleties that this show encapsulated, from the obvious plays of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé, to even the whole kinda ridiculous Van Helsing-like vampire setting that when combined, gives a whole new meaning to the theatre act. As for what this show is about, please refer to the synopsis, as it basically tells the underlying story that’s the tip of the iceberg, and it’s true setting of something even deeper down the rabbit hole. But if that’s not enough, Episode 1 is easily one of the best introductory episodes into Mars Red, as foretold by Fujisaku that the story won’t work without it, as one of 3 pivotal episodes that will make-or-break the show as a whole.
Being a theatre play, the 21:9 cinematic letterbox scaling is a MUST to tell stories of this calibre, and the dark, somber visuals of Signal.MD’s tight production schedule mirrors that of a play that is 13 episodes long (which equals 5 hours of runtime), but feels like we’re watching a 2-hour Broadway show at max, if you’re the type to appreciate theatre, musicals and the like. The visual composition of shows (not just movies) made purposefully in the 21:9 aspect ratio scaling truly gives shows an edge together with the storytelling elements that remark that of a typical movie-like feeling, if the story and plot holds up together nicely, which in Mars Red’s case, can be a hit-or-miss.
The best part of the show has gotta be the music. More than lifting iconic orchestra plays like Salomé to even Frederic Weatherly’s “Danny Boy”, I just can’t get enough of those musical references which play off the show’s theatrical themes so well. Not to mention the OP and ED, this is one unexpected pairing that I’m truly thankful for, for being one of my top favourite OSTs of the season. Wagakki Band’s OP that mixes rock music with traditional Japanese musical instruments, together with HYDE’s incredible ED, is a phenomenal godsend banger of an OST. Even if you hate this show, the music’s reason alone to watch this one.
How did this show got so badly lost in the shuffle of great shows in the Spring 2021 season is beyond me. All I know is that Mars Red is truly criminally underrated for its convoluted, yet easy-to-understand plot, and you’d have to be a bit literate in theatrical studies to fully enjoy this anime. Otherwise, this show is just not for everyone, and will only cater to the elitists of the masterfully crafted people who can admire and value the art of theatre.
1: Atom: The Beginning
Japanese: アトム ザ ビギニング
MAL Score: 6.83
Japan in the near future suffers an unexplained major disaster. Five years later, reconstruction is well underway. Two young researchers at a university are pinning all their hopes on robot development. Now their new interpretation of the eternal hero Astro Boy up until his birth is just about to start!
Atom: The Beginning had a great premise. Tell the story of Doctor Tenma and Doctor Ochanomizu as they create Bewusstsein, the AI system which will revolutionize robotics and will lead to creation of one of the greatest anime/manga icons of all time, Atom.
And we get that, but we also get a lot of useless filler. First 7 or 8 episodes work in repetitive episodic format. X Slice of life situation happens. Everything goes well, until something goes wrong. A106 saves the day. The end. This would’ve been fine if it built the characters of the show, or the world of the show. But sadly it doesn’t happen. After the first half of the series we enter the second half which has continuous plot up until the very end. Aaaaaaand…it’s not very good either. There is some action but it’s bland. Characters are mostly uninteresting, the world itself is uninteresting. The show itself is uninteresting. We don’t get to see how Robots deal with gained humanity. We don’t get to see early stages of AI exploration. We get a fighting tournament.
Only episode which somewhat saves this anime from being completely mediocre, is the finale which at last brings some retrospective and contemplation.
As I said, the characters are uninteresting. All of them lack depth. All of them lack originality. Only Tenma occasionally shows deeper characteristics. But these moments are rare. Usually he’s just a male tsundere/genius that doesn’t act as genius. Hiroshi is the good guy, Motoko is the smug girl and Ran is the shy loli.
From the production standpoint it’s fine. Music is good but forgetable, animation is fine (I am glad they kept the Tezuka’s trademark noses) and CGI is actually pretty good.
I was looking forward to this anime the most in the last season. Sadly it disappointed me, but the final episode gave me a little hope for the future. If the series returns for another season, I hope this will be the path it’ll take. Anime about beginnings of Atom deserves something better than episode about making udon.
TL;DR: Overall Section
Now, I’m sure that many people out there have watched Astroboy at least once . Astroboy was an important part of my childhood as how other anime like Dragon ball or even Saint Seiya were childhood for others (sadly Super ended being garbage) so knowing that a prequel to Astroboy was going to happen in spring season caught my eye, I, of course didn’t expect a full packed action like Astroboy were. but at least a bit of what happened a long while ago, before Astroboy was even created, a past where Tenma and Ochanomizu were lab pals.
What inspired them to create an A.I that could think like a Human? a Robot capable of feeling something? be aware of spoilers in case I let some squish over here
we are introduced on a futuristic world were robots with A.I are possible for easy tasks like construction, traffic, or even partners for humans(something like dogs for example). so what lead Ochanomizu and Tenma to attempt creating a robot with “Heart”? will they succeed on the Idea of creating robots that can think, act and feel like a Human? that lead into creating A10-6, Ochanomizu and Tenma’s latest creation, a robot that has a “heart” on itself and can think like a human, but with improved strength and reflexes
as for where the story is heading, this is more of a SoL anime with some heartwarming moments, of course there will be some development, specially for A10-6. yet, the concept of improving the “bewwustsein” system to make a even better robot with a “heart” is still there, and while they experiment with A10-6 on basic tasks, they get more ideas of what can they do to improve the A.I for upcoming projects.
let’s not forget the nostalgia factor of how the idea of a Heart grows while we think of their success with Astroboy
the art for both OP and ED were gorgeous, I also like the Idea of not depending that much on CG graphics on robots (with the exception of robo-fights, yet it didn’t look bad at all) there was an episode were the animation quality did fall considerably, yet it wasn’t really bothering me, overall the art was really appealing and beautiful. I won’t get enough from Tenma and Ochanomizu “Nose grabbing” when they succeed on something XD
Both OP and ED delivered on the Soundtrack department. the OST was really special to me, quite touching when it had to. I liked A10-6 voice overall, Seiyuus did a decent job, not complains here
who would thought that a single robot could develop this much? proving the success of the “Bewusstsein” system, the development of A10-6 was excelent, it was a bit slow, but was completely worth it. even the OP defines what is he feeling (at least that’s what I get from the lyrics) feelings that are still unkown for him, questions without answers for a robot, what is his purpose?
the last episode was really heartbreaking while we were hearing A10-6 inner thoughts as how he feels with himself and what has become of his “life” while having deep thoughts and being cared by the whole gang.
oh yeah, before I forget, as for the other cast of characters, they are unique on their own, I got my appreciation over Motoko-waifu xD, and some nostalgic factors over Tenma and Ochanomizu, can’t speak much of them, because, after all, this story is more about A10-6 IMO
Since the first episode, I knew what I was up to. What I can say is that if you enjoyed Astroboy, you will surely enjoy this one
TL;DR: Nostalgia hits like a train with an Unique setting and refreshing premise
I thought the story was great overall. Each mini arc that was given to us throughout the series was interesting. In particular, I thought the last part of the story was amazing.
The art and animation wasn’t anything spectacular but I also had no complaints about it either. I share most of the sentiments for the soundtrack and sound design as well. The character designs felt familiar yet updated for a more modern look.
Where Atom: The Beginning really shines is with its characters. The way how they interacted with one another, Ochanomizu and Umatarou in particular, made for an entertaining show. I also thought that the main and the supporting characters all got sufficient development.
In closing, Atom: The Beginning was an anime that I was able to get a lot of enjoyment from and I’m surprised at how underrated the show actually is. I definitely encourage you all to give this anime a watch!
Did YOUR favorite anime make the cut? Let us know in the comments below!
1. Atom: The Beginning
2. Mars Red
3. Dragon, Ie wo Kau.
4. Hashiri Tsuzukete Yokattatte.
5. Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note