Category Archives: Reviews

GANGSTA Episode 9.5

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Recap Planning and Organization: Bandai Visual

Narrator: Hashizume Tomohisa [Delico’s seiyu]

I am not a fan of recaps unless they are treated like Garo handled it last year.  This doesn’t make sense at all.  First, there’s a recap episode here and secondly, the creators decide to take a week break to air episode 10.  Now I’d understand splitting up a two-cour series or even long-running series like Naruto but GANGSTA is 1-cour.  Clocking in at around 12 episodes–having a recap is a waste of time and money for both MANGLOBE and Bandai Visual.  Not to mention the broadcasting networks like TV Tokyo and ABC.  The only thing I can think of is they didn’t get enough time to animate episode 10 for its scheduled airing.  I sure hope the creators announce some kind of sequel to this.  They need to animate more of Kohske’s manga!  With only 3 episodes left, you have to wonder how much left they can adapt.  I’m betting on them getting up to at least chapter 38.

Regardless, this is a decent primer for first-time viewers.  Getting  lot of the important scenes displayed from episodes 1 through 8.  I’m not sure why episode 9 wasn’t covered since this recap is 9.5, but oh well.  The transitions weren’t tied together very well but this did have one amazing re-edited opening sequence using Stereo Dive Foundation’s “Renegade” theme.


GANGSTA Episode 9

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Episode Director: Yusuke Onoda [Naruto Shippuuden episode director, Fairy Tale episode director]

Storyboards: Ohashi Yoshimitsu [PlanETES, Key Animator for Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood episodes and storyboarded OP 4]

Script: Takagi Seiko [Samurai ChamplooOre Monogatari!!Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii]

GANGSTA‘s story is slowly tying itself together.  Picking up from last episode just after Alex’s singing performance the situation goes from bad outside to even worse inside the club Bastard.  Sudden violence breaks out of control giving this episode a fairly solid beginning.  The young leader of Corsica, Loretta being the target builds up the tension between her bodyguards and Marco’s entry into the fray surprisingly well.  I say this because I feel GANGSTA‘s been focusing a bit too much on the trio (Nicholas, Worwick and Alex) way too much instead of developing smaller self-contained stories around them.  Boss Monroe is just another guy the Handymen meet in the back alleys of Ergastulum–instead of spending more than 10 minutes on backstories of the main cast the creators (and even its author Koshke) should have written these minor characters in a bit more strongly.  Just for episodes like this one.  Its as if this show is forgetting what ground to stand on?  Is this show about Worwick and Nicholas specifically or people trying to survive in a rotten city?

Loretta is a shining example of bringing a character into an already focused story so well–with only two episodes of a real introduction to her.  She’s smart, she knows there is a coup d’etat somewhere within the families and she wants to understand exactly who is pulling the strings.  She’s also got guts.  Giving Alex a gun in order to protect herself illustrates how the femininity is strengthening in this series.  From the beginning the only female character we had seen was Alex–a washed out prostitute.  From her being able to meet and be saved by Worwick and Nicholas things have been looking up for her.  Dr. Theo’s assistant nurse, Nina doesn’t shy away from reality and is willing to help anyone in need.  We saw that firsthand in the second episode and even more recently.  Loretta is like her in she understands she needs to hold her own if she’s going to head the Cristiano family.  Thinking back on that scene where she tells Alex the gun is for self-defense peels off another layer of her character–she’s kind-hearted and doesn’t want any unwanted blood to be spilled because there’s a riff in the four families.

As for the other side, Mikhail and Erica are indeed the ones killing Twilights since episode 3.  Mikhail is a lot how Doug was when he fought Nicholas–he’s completely reckless.  Perhaps that’s to depict how a lot of these Tags are. It is interesting how Erica is Delico’s twin isn’t confirmed off the bat whether or not she’s a Twilight.  She’s fast, really fast and her being related to Delico does lean towards the idea she has Tags but the anime hasn’t confirmed it as of yet.  Good to see there is still some mystery left in GANGSTA‘s cast!  I’m glad Kohske took this detail to amp up Nicholas’ fighting spirit only to reveal he’s not the TAG he’s been shown off to be!

MANGLOBE what happened?  I’ve forgiven GANGSTA‘s first few episodes having a choppy animation style but this was bad.  The production of this episode was a bit off.  Between facial expressions and arm movements; felt very forced.  Animation wasn’t smooth, however, it sure had some unique camera angles during the fights.  This show as I’ve mentioned before is very clunky when the characters are moving around and this episode didn’t let go of that at all.  Not necessarily a good thing to have when the intention of this was to be highly action-packed.  What’s even weirder is the music production–this show isn’t going to have a large collection of songs for its soundtrack but Tsutchie needs to add some variety!  I like the chill mood each piece gives off but its more of the same!  Also want to point out some of the score was used at the wrong times especially during Nicholas’ fight!



GANGSTA Episode 8

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Episode Director: Kudo Shun [Hajime no Ippo: Rising and Garo episode director and storyboard writer]

Storyboards: Oshio Manjiro [Witch Hunter Robin Episode 5 Storyboards/ Wolf’s Rain Episode 19 Storyboards]

Script: Kimura Noboru [script writer for Seikoku no Dragonar / Episodes 2, 5 and 8 of GANGSTA]

I’m trying something a bit different for posts from here on out.  I feel that I have been discussing more about the production of an episode rather than the stories themselves!  I will list a brief breakdown of production of individual episodes.  As for initial impressions I am going to give a breakdown of series director, series writer, conceptual design, animation studio and soundtrack composer.  Rather than discussing what these animators and directors have been doing it is going to be a lot more organized if I give a first-on introduction to them before diving into the episodes.  I’ll be putting up some of their most notably works (if any) out of their career.

I believe what makes this episode stand out is its music.  Instead of using the chill electronic hip-hop that Tsutchie helped write with the late Nujabes for Samurai Champloo‘s soundtrack; GANGSTA‘s score channels Tsutchie’s hip hop-infused style and modernizes it by using dubstep in its place.  This enhances the action sequences very strongly.  Speaking of dubstep, I believe this year we’ve got a few powerhouse composers working in this genre: Taku Iwasaki [if you haven’t heard the recently released Gatchaman Crowds Insight soundtrack I highly suggest you do!] and Ken Arai’s work on Kiseiju.

Prior to this episode we’ve been distracted by GANGSTA‘s timid violence. I’m curious how the Blu-rays will look uncensored, the added bonus is that the SINGLE volume releases will contain English subtitles.  There is also this anime’s sexual tones with Alex’s past and Worwick’s womanizing behavior and last but not least the rugged animation–sometimes its pretty and other times it feels stuck and out of place especially when characters are moving around the screen.  The character’s spacial area comes off very heavy–MANGLOBE really needs more talented animators and time to work on this show.

Having all this information about contract holders [Worwick being one of them], the Handymen protected by the Monroe family and the Tags throughout the city ending up dead: there’s a lot to take in!  This episode does focus on one thing.  There is normalcy out of all the hell that’s going on around them.  Amidst the city being controlled by the four families–Monroe, Corsica, Paulklee and Cristiano their arguments over whose killing the Tags is a calm before the storm.

A very toned down episode here.  A breather episode is what we’re getting and as much as this was about Twilights being accepted into society it is more about Alex.  The Handymen fixing the Corsican shop gives the needed development for her since we’ve had a ton of backstory on Nicholas and Worwick recently.  Alex had suffered from abuse and illustrating that she hasn’t fully recovered is how she remembers that she has a brother.  Gradually, she’s becoming more of a member of the Handymen’s activities than ever before.  Her jobs might not be as dangerous as the two men but the small jobs she does take–the singing for instance–delivers on a social mediator between the families.

Loretta Cristiano is a young girl that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  She’s the most lively character of this entire episode.  She’s presented as very lady-like and yet her personality says differently–gives off some strong humorous moments with her crew and before the attacks on the Tags start occurring.

MANGLOBE’s animated efforts haven’t been the best in this show, however, what IS effective is the storytelling.  We’re learning about Alex’s brother just as she is and him hearing her singing able to recognize that it’s her is icing on the cake for us.  GANGSTA is finally coming together!  Alex enriches the Tags turmoil beautifully in this scene because she’s a woman that’s already been broken and trying to make a better life for herself.  It’s because of this that I feel she’s very tough to watch, in an unlovely sense.  The dress she’s wearing illustrates how she’s moving on from her past slowly but surely and that there can be peace found in this rotten city.

I also want to point out how amazing the directing is.  Every episode has flushed out the characters and the transitions between scenes have been perfect.  Loved the part where everything is calm at Bastard and the scene cuts straight into the action with the highly effective electronic song.  It adds mystery to what is going to happen next!


GANGSTA Episode 7

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This episode strengthens and reinforces the bond the Handymen have with Alex quite a bit.  Plain and simple, they aren’t going to take advantage of her like what Barry had done.  They’re pulling her out of despair and give her a chance to start over–Nicholas did the same for Worwick when he took out his eye and murdered his family.  Before all this happened to him he taught Nicholas  how to read.  This is fundamental in how they respect one another.  Mr. Monroe is a very objective person–he’s not surprised by much of anything in the slightest.

This series is very masculine.  It’s realistic in depicting its characters’ relationships and their struggles.  It doesn’t shy away from  Worwick’s abuse from his father and Nicholas’ actions from his superiors act as the groundwork for how they want to treat Alex as theirs.  I believe this is one of the first times of many [hopefully in the future] that she takes charge.  She -worries about them especially Worwick’s pain in his eye without consideration for herself.  GANGSTA‘s director certainly took in to consideration where to place manga material in a 1-cour series.  I’ll be curious as to how they are going to end this show with the manga ongoing–will it be original?  Switching scenes around [and for the better] really adds edge to its main cast and how they interact with the side characters.  Nina’s innocence is shot down by the fact that she’s Dr. Theo’s nurse and she knows secrets behind the Twilights even about Nicholas.   Nicholas jumps from building to building with Nina in tow draws tranquility to its heavy atmosphere.  GANGSTA‘s charm lies in the gritty narrative design and being able to mix it in with heartfelt moments–most of which this episode consisted of.

At first, I wasn’t too thrilled in how these past scenes jump into between the present story but it works well when the creators are establishing the history of why Twilights stay in alleyways and curfews are popping up for certain situations.  Nicholas just like other twilights have an addiction to drugs–he relies heavily on the uppers to enhance his strength and strike fear in people wanting to mess up Ergastulum.  As it so happens the dead body cases aren’t from Doug but someone else.  1-cour airing is widely going to affect how these villains will be handled from here on out.  I applaud Kenjiro Tsuda in breathing life into Nicholas’ character.  Alex desperately wants to learn how to converse with him and it’s great to see that he at least get’s the feel for how she’s wanting to be accepted.


GANGSTA Episode 6

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Director of this episode, Shinpei Nagai might have landed his best work out of his entire career.  Having worked on a huge list of ecchi romance works including the infamous episode 18 of Psycho-Pass he’s sort of a mixed bag in the industry.  If any recall the Psycho-Pass series director [Naoyoshi Shiotani] apologized on his twitter about the animation being poorly done.  A lot of issues with the animation being outsourced, and with Nagai in charge of that department I’m sure some of the heat landed on him.  Anyway, Nagai shouldn’t be a full-fledged director–Danna ga Nani o Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken is proof of that.  Nor should he even be key animating shows–Psycho-Pass‘ episode 18 was awful.  One of his highlights, however, that was messy and paid off nicely was Michiko e Hatchin‘s episode 19.  It featured a train sequence that had very gritty and messed up animation that for some reason flowed together nicely with the large amounts of movement and intriguing camera angles it contained.  Reminds me of the work Eunyoung Choi does for Masaaki Yuasa.  Nagai’s directing on single episodes are good–Samurai Flamenco‘s premiere was very strong.

I’ve neglected to mention who worked on the opening in my previous posts.  The opening sequence is directed by Pyeon-Gang Ho.  Episode director of episode 7’s Zankyou no Terror and at least two episodes that I know of from Baby Steps.  One of the best openings of the season!

Nicholas and Worwick’s pasts bears a lot on their current situation as Twilight and holder.  As it was revealed previously we learn that there are Normals that maintain control over their Twilight slaves.  The Arcangelo parents death that has been quickly shown in flashbacks pays a heavy weight on Worwick and his relationship with Nicholas.  It’s interesting how he wants to forget he even owns Nicholas.  His phrase where he says “you’ll stick with me partner” alludes to this.

The vocal piece that is played during  the middle of this episode was fantastic.  It draws in the reality Worwick saw as a child and the abuse he experienced from his father.  Their relationship also pays a heavy price on the mysterious Veronica they took care.  I have to wonder how far this 1-cour show will go in developing that.  With all the action from previous episodes it is nice to have a breather episode with Nicholas recovering from the downers Paulina shot at him.

As for Alex’s disappearance in the ending of the last episode this episode provides the backbone to Worwick becoming Alex’s saving grace.  Along with Nicholas, he’s one of her guardian angels that’s pulled her out of the hell Barry put her through.  That kiss and her attempt at giving in to old desires emphasize’s Theo’s analysis of a woman caught up in a submissive lifestyle and how she can overcome it with even the smallest bits of kindness.  A roof under her head, some medical treatment and people to converse with.

That piano piece at the end was incredible and illustrates, musically, the idea that there is some kind of hope in this rotten city.


GANGSTA Episode 5

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Directed by  in-between animator Kaori Suzuki.  Must have gotten a promotion in the past few years because that’s all Kaori had ever been commissioned for until this episode of GANGSTA.  Most notably known for working on Matoko Shinkai’s Hoshi wo Ou Kokomo.  This was by far the best episode of GANGSTA to date.  The music pulled together the Nicholas and Doug fight nicely. The overhead shot of the twilight duel was animated by none other than Shinya Takahashi.  The same key animator of Blood-C and Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru‘s opening sequences.  Animation was directed by freelance animator and one of the founders of JAniCA, Japan Animation Creators Association.  Most of his work stems from the Lupin III series and Hajime no Ippo.  The other animation director is from Studio TRIGGER’s team Kotaro Nakamori.  He’s mostly worked on 2013’s Kill la Kill and Anime Mirai 2014’s Harmonie piece that was produced by Ultra Super Pictures.  Now onto GANGSTA.

The fight was just icing on the cake as we finally get a good view of how the Twilights are treated in Ergastulum.  The three laws separates the humans of this series [called Normals] and the Twilights as Doug decides to go after Monroe from an illegally operated union.  It’s briefly shown in a televised broadcast towards the beginning.  Genius!  As loose as the narrative has been in adapting the manga the creators took a lot of attention to tell it hearty.  I’m glad to see these laws aren’t a quick plot device.  This gives a solid introduction to the Paulklee guild and its members.

Ginger is very nervous especially when handling Nicholas.  There’s an obvious gap between them–good thing this wasn’t shown off right away until her boss Gina Paulklee arrives to swiftly assess and correct the situation between the Twilights.  Doug should be more of the wildcard as given how he’s taken out Monroe’s men–a mafia leader protected by the three laws.

This is the first time we’re seeing more strength in its female characters.  GANGSTA contains a masculine quality to it–we saw that with the sex segments in the first episode and action scenes.  However this episode lifts the lid on that perspective a little and gives some fortitude to women.  Alex has been beaten physically and psychologically by Barry Abott and this episode fuels that even further.  It shows that those earlier scenes in this show are intentional in creating lasting consequences on her personality.  She may have been freed by the two hitmen but her battle to overcome her fears trapped in her mind are far from over.


GANGSTA Episode 4

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I am enjoying the story to GANGSTA quite a bit.  It’s vastly different than a lot of series that are airing this season in that it’s gritty by design, mature with its story and leaves a lot to the audience to speculate each week.  Talk about a cliffhanger this episode, can’t wait to see that fight between Doug and Nicholas in the next episode!  Looks as though there was an issue with the original broadcaster for this show as it’s moving their time to Sundays.

Key animator of Mushishi, Eiji Abiko directed this episode and I’m amazed at how he was able to shift between slow-paced scenes with Alex’s fears of the past and gradually discovering the Handymen’s pasts to maintaining a momentum with Worwick’s backstory in order to build up to Doug’s appearance.  I say this because this is Abiko’s first time directing an episode. Is it just me or is this animator freelance?  Artland is the production studio for Mushishi and Abiko was the animation director for the Zoku Shou and the two 1-hour specials we had last year.  On top of that he’s worked with BONES on a few Space Dandy episodes and with MAPPA on Zankyou no Terror.  Glad to see he’s gotten a promotion this year direction an episode for GANGSTA. Because this was really good! This also takes me to my next point about MANGLOBE.  They’ve kept a ton of their key animators from Ergo Proxy and Michiko e Hatchin to work on this show.  The animation was really good this time around–there are at least 5 animation directors on this!  Hiromi Okazaki, Itsuko Takeda, Noritomo, Hattori, Masaiku Tayori, and Shinya Kitamura.  All of which are lead animators at MANGLOBE–working on some of the biggest productions between 2006 and 2010!  Ergo ProxyMichiko e HatchinRistorante Paradiso and 2013’s Samurai Flamenco!

We finally get a good look at when Nicholas and Worwick were young and how they met each other.  I like how unhinged Worwick used to be–his reaction to Nicholas being deaf was fantastic! Wonderful way to build this up through Captain Chad and Cody’s interrogation on the murder cases.  Worwick’s been around Ergastulum for a long time and this episode barely touched the surface on the things he’s seen.  His connection with the prostitutes and various gangs illustrates his value to the police and Barry Monroe without shoving it down our throats with a long information dump.  Smart move on the original author, Koshke, to develop this with a quick analysis of the actual murders themselves!  I like how his innate ability to memorize  transitioned back towards his childhood and the social status his family upheld.

The adaptation doesn’t leave anything out, however, it does switch the placement of scenes around.  Doug showing up, taking out Monroe’s men is the highlight of the episode because we get a chance to see how an A tag handles his own against a group of normals and more importantly another A tag, Nicholas!


GANGSTA Episode 3

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A-1 Pictures, MADHOUSE, MAPPA, BONES–any one of these studios could have made this series really pretty. Taking a year break benefits this show in numerous ways.  It takes a while getting used to their style and MANGLOBE pulled in a few new talented animators for this show.  From what I can tell in this episode there are a few scenes that has blocky designs and the buildings aren’t very detailed when the action hits the screen.  They’ve got a ways to go in growing as animators but as a whole for GANGSTA it pays off.  It’s good to see them working alongside key animators from Production I.G. and Nakamura Production because these new artists will be able to get inspiration from them.  A washed out look on the characters, dismal and dark backgrounds portrays Ergastulum in the best way possible.

This episode dives into Worwick’s other job–a gigolo.  The dynamic between the main cast is awesome–Nicholas is driven by killing and nothing else.  His fight with the dogtag last episode was a large indication of this.  As well as his tribal tattoo that Alex notices early on in this episode.  He’s a warrior with a very grim past that’s connected to Worwick’s family.  I’ve been reading the manga so I will avoid any future spoilers that the anime hasn’t covered yet.

Speaking of the manga what is interesting is how this adaptation has changed the placement of scenes.  Big Mama’s introduction ends up before Nicholas’ entanglement with Doctor Theo and the dogtag as well as a few other scenes.  I’m not sure why they did this because the show’s writer Shinichi Inotsume didn’t leave anything out of this.  Alex is slowly learning about Nicholas’ habits but this episode jumps into her relationship with Worwick and his lifestyle.  I like how understanding he is–taking Alex under his wing by giving her a job as Handymen’s secretary.  He really understands how much Alex had suffered by Barry and I’m glad the story hasn’t neglected how important the napkin is to her.  The trio’s close relationship is nicely woven into   Ergastulum–  there’s a lot of respect between the Handymen and Daniel Monroe, head of the Monroe family syndicate.  We’ve never seen Nicholas be so kind to anyone until now–his conversation with Monroe left quite the impact considering how amazing Kenjiro Tsuda is at pulling off a deaf character!

Tsutchie’s soundtrack came off wonderfully in this episode we’re finally hearing some main themes come across in the story!


GANGSTA Episode 2

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This was awesome.  All that gritty build-up of the city and it’s trio–Nicolas, Worwick and Alex pays off wonderfully in this episode.  Theo is a grim doctor definitely aware of the city’s inhabitants and its great to see it reflect his character and his calm demeanor.  He’s missing two fingers and takes care of the only innocent character we’ve seen so far, Nina.  She’s absolutely adorable and played by Aoi Yuki of Puella Magi Madoka Magica‘s Kaname Madoka!  She’s voiced some of my favorite characters in the past–Gosick‘s Victorique, SHIKI‘s Sunako Kirishiki and of course Kurenai‘s Murasaki Kuhōin!  Nina is very young compared to the rest of the cast as she knows exactly what Nicolas is and I like how the roles are reversed between the two female leads of this show!  It feels as though Nina is maturely adapted to the city more than Alex has!

After being used by Barry, Alex has finally been given a second chance as Benriya’s assistant and it’s the beginning of this episode that really embellishes the finer points of how she’s learning the ropes of their killing business and Ergastulum.  It’s just the tip of the iceberg on the dogtags and what they represent–frightened by Nicolas’ strength and strong attachment to death Alex amplifies the mystery behind the dogtags quite strongly.  We are seeing just the beginning of what sort of corrupt people live in Ergastulum–famous for its prostitutes and drug smuggling that episodes that are slow with their pacing end up being really rewarding for episodes like this one with a heavy amount of action!

Tsutchie’s soundtrack really comes through by the second half–there’s a strong distinct melody playing that pays tribute to GANGSTA‘s grisly crime themes.  Tsutchie’s real name is  Shinji Tsuchida whom started out as a DJ and producer for the rock group ShakkaZombie.  Since his departure from them his work consists mainly of solo and a few collaborations works like with Forces of Nature, Fat Jon and Nujabes on the score for Samurai Champloo.  His style with this show is sublime to say the least offering a nice atmosphere to this anime’s toned down artistic choice in background designs and adult appeal towards its rugged character designs.  Not Masaaki Yuasa rugged but worn-out looking.

Would like to point out that Yasuomi Umetsu storyboarded, directed and drew all the key animation segments for GANGSTA‘s ending.  Known for creating the feature length film  for Kite as well as its series back in 1998.  Throughout his career in the anime industry, Yasuomi Umetsu is really versatile in staffing work.  Ranging from original creator to character designing, key animating and directing!  What’s strange is that he’s working on such a seinen series like GANGSTA rather than his usual ecchi productions.  That’s great and all but I’m very glad he didn’t direct this show as I’ve seen how horribly planned Wizard Barristers was back in the Winter 2014 Season.  I’ll admit his work on Kite was decent putting aside the horrible voice directing but his two original anime series Galilei Donna and following it up with Wizard Barristers were disastrous for his career.  Not to mention the latter using one of the worst studios in the business, Arms.  Perhaps he’s learning from his mistake of “don’t write and direct at the same time” method.  Some can pull that off where others cannot.  This ending on GANGSTA is probably on his top tier in collaborative works out of his entire career.  Please, please don’t let Umetsu do anything original for a while–he’s got a lot of ambition but isn’t able to put it down on pen and paper too well.  On a positive note he must be learning a lot from MANGLOBE and Ergo Proxy director Shuko Murase right now with this show.


Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso [91/100]

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This show is bittersweet–depicting the lives of middle school students enjoying their youth and experiencing hardships.  Noitamina picked a wonderfully written manga to adapt and the music sells this show a ton!

A-1 Pictures adapted Naoshi Arakawa’s manga faithfully.  It’s beautifully drawn with very detailed character designs by Yukio Aikei!  This is a wonderful series that ties the bonds between friends together through music and love.  Arima Kousei’s growth is one of the big highlights of Shigatsu as we see him placing fear onto himself due to his mother’s death.  The contrast that gets him out of his shell is Kaori Miyazono.  She’s free-spirited and much like his childhood friend, Tsubaki Sawabe, she’s got this drive to fix Kousei out of his slump.  The connection is that they are both musicians and this is how the romance develops between the two of them.  They’re both learning their own sounds by practicing together and discovering they’ve got strong chemistry!

Masaru Yokoyama’s soundtrack fits extremely well into this–  picking from a range of popular classical insert songs to a collection of original pieces that are just as emotionally moving as the animation and its engaging characters!  When it comes to a series about music it’s pivotal that you need sound to get this story moving and it doesn’t let go of this idea ever.  This is one series I would highly recommend to anyone that’s a fan of music or romance.  It touches on parental loss and the huge respects are paid to this theme throughout as Kousei goes on his journey discovery that in order to get over his mother’s death and realize his feelings for Kaori he must find his own way of voicing it out even if its through playing piano.

If you like Nodame Cantabile‘s focus into music than I’d say you would enjoy this series.  A lot of criticism from Shigatsu stems from its overdramatic scenes and moments where the show at times leans more on a characters’ emotions rather than the musical performances themselves.  In my opinion I find this to be a pretty big success to the series’ way of reminding us that these are middle school students and they need all the room to grow up in their own ways.