Category Archives: Thoughts

Cowboy Bebop Episode 4 [Theatrical Edition] [END]

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Session#4 – Gateway Shuffle

Real quickly I want to invite my readers to my Facebook page for this site, it’s finally up here.

The first episode introduced us to bounty hunters Spike and Jet–  the lives they lead and the struggles they have at making money with their professions.  While it was a very delicate look into the universe of Bebop the second entry shifted with a less serious tone using Ein as the bounty reward and the hilarity of Spike’s own skills as a fighter to add more a drive to this series.  Honky Tonk Woman delivered one of two of the strongest female characters in the entire series with Faye Valentine and her self-indulgent endeavors at escaping from a life that was boring to her.  That was only touched on here and now we’ve got a varied main cast on board the Bebop and this is where the fourth episode comes in.

Faye decides to work with Spike the rest of the Bebop crew to hunt down a space activist group that plans to turn the human population of Ganymede into monkeys.  The silliness of this episode seeped through with the virus “Monkey Business” but more so with the depiction of Harrison and his relationship with his mother, Twinkle Maria Murdock.  I really enjoyed how this completely backfires on him by the end with his insistent punishments for neglecting his duties as a member of the terrorist group Space Warriors.

This also marks the first time we are given a look into Jet’s past and his connection with the ISSP.  Bob’s reveal to Jet about the Space Warriors bounty cancelled and demanding a ransom with the hostages was proof that there is a lot more to him than the bounty hunter that he claims to be.  Faye was used wonderfully here, because since the previous episode we were given a comedic side to Bebop that we hadn’t seen before–  sarcasm and this plot emphasized it so much more.  Her constant bickering with Spike including Ein really pushed towards the development in how real these characters were for a series set in space and their actions to keep these adventures highly engaging.

It is also great how well directed this episode was because we’ve got Yoshiyuki Takei handling this–  whom got his start out on the popular Escaflowne series of the early 90’s and the more recent and very inventive ending animation to Space Dandy‘s final episode!

If only they surprised the audience here with all 26 episodes as I definitely would have stayed for every single one of them.  However, it is great that they chose these four episodes to screen because while they were a good start for a first-time viewer they rekindled what fans loved about the series.  Each one of them had been unique, they offered a great perspective into the world of Bebop without spoiling parts of the main story.  It’s memorable cast and it’s enthralling collection of stories helped landmark this series to greatness.  Just in the way that Watanabe’s newest series Space Dandy had done this year.  While Space Dandy may have been a spiritual successor or rather answer to Bebop‘s main themes, Cowboy Bebop is a definitive call to establishing Japanese animation into the mainstream industry of television–  it’s wildly ambitious, genuinely dramatic and funny at times utilizing episodic content at the forefront.  It is an honest view of western culture with a mix between American and Japanese commentary in a very stylish way.

I sure do hope that the Alamo Drafthouse and their collaboration with Funimation would considering screening the rest of this significant series as it would give a newer generation of anime fans a broader look at what made japanese animation so important at that time rather than the countless moe-filled series that have become the foundation of this medium today.  It is interesting though to see how much animation has changed since then and how often we are given the anime of today with a pretty look rather than a realistic and mature one.  I guess what I’m trying to say here is that what Cowboy Bebop taught anime series ahead of its time is to be solid, hearty and rich in all facets of storytelling.

Also, want to point out that I wonder if the disguise Morgan was using at the beginning was the culmination of Dandy, seriously the guy looks very similar to him.  Not to mention the star on his suit.  Really cool to see that thrown into an earlier series like this and it makes me think about how much influence this series had on developing Space Dandy—  the currency, Toys in the Attic fridge, Dandy’s ‘bang’ quote, among many others.

See You Space Cowboy…

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

Cowboy Bebop Episode 3 [Theatrical Edition]

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Session#3 – Honky Tonk Women

One of the most incredible female anime characters of all time, Faye Valentine is brought into the adventures of the Bebop and this is one episode that shouldn’t be missed–  as it is an absolute favorite of mine, due to its dynamic between action and comedy that has a wonderfully written script by screenplay writer of Tokyo Godfathers and numerous Space Dandy episodes Keiko Nobumoto.  This was awesome to watch on the big screen!

Casino settings, sometimes these are thrown into series without any real reason [Rave Master] and used as filler and other times they are used as a backdrop for the main themes of series, one more recent being 2011’s Rio~Rainbow Gate.  Then there are shows that have a really strong individual plot set around this aspect of life only to establish its characters even further–  Cowboy Bebop used this amazingly well by putting Faye at the very center of it.  A fugitive stuck with a ton of debt ends up being caught in the middle of a bad situation that gets even worse as the story jumps further along as people wind up getting killed, being manipulated and having Faye working for the head of the casino, Gordon!

This truly gives off a very engrossing story here that re-introduces a lot of space themes we’ve seen before–  deception between Faye and the casino, Spike’s luck with danger and of course a very cool scene with Faye’s Hammer Head ship!  She’s a strong, smart and sexy woman that uses her appeal to get what she wants.  Also she is able to do something this show hasn’t done before yet–  a really good level of sarcasm between Spike and Jet that overturns every single person in this entire episode!

She captures Spike’s curiosity by cheating at blackjack, her attempts at escaping both the casino and the Bebop illustrates how she wants to run away from the debt she has acquired and the life she leads.  I won’t spoil anything here about future episodes but I find it very intriguing towards the beginning with Gordon that Faye known as the Lady Luck/Queen of Hearts in the solar system mentions if the legend of Hearts were still alive she would be over 200 years old–  an unusually small detail that after having seen this series becomes a poignant part in the development of Faye’s past.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

Cowboy Bebop Episode 2 [Theatrical Edition]

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Session#2 – Stray Dog Strut

If there is anything I have learned over the course of my anime viewing its that episode directors can largely play a role in how an episode’s pacing, art, choice in music let alone overall tone can be integral in making or break an episode whether it has a good script or a poorly written one.  When it comes down to it the episode directors have a way of completely overturning so many of these elements and general director Shinichiro Watanabe knows this when he recruits his staff.

What I mean to say here with regards to Cowboy Bebop is that we’ve got this hardened and intelligent series and the first episode proved just that with the attention of quite a few factions wanting the drug Bloody Eye.  However, here we’ve got a plot that has introduced what Space Dandy had done so well and that is putting its characters through comedic situations.  Not over the top like what tons of anime series from the 90’s and even today do with its repetitive jokes–  Nichijou, Monogatari series are to name just a few.  Comedy anime series that have more than meets the eye and that triggers every aspect on the development side to have a finished animated production with substance.

Spike hates animals and when he tries to catch up with the mysterious Ein in order to receive his bounty reward on Hakim he is left a lot more irritated than what we’ve seen before.  This provides a very nice balance to what we already know so far–  he’s a bounty hunter that knows martial arts is a daring pilot.  Plus we had one of the coolest vocal tracks featured in this episode by Mai Yamane–  “I Want it all Back”.

Ikuro Sato helmed this episode and I can see where the inspiration from the zombie episode of Space Dandy came from this story of Cowboy Bebop—  odd yet funny scenes that capture the misfortunes of the main cast.  Spike is led on a chase by data dog Ein where Dandy is running away from a collection of mindless brain-munching zombies–  two different genres that tackle similar elements–  strange animals [Bebop] and strange aliens [Dandy] push the lead character into a worse situation than what they had started with.  Both episodes had a rather fast pace to them considering how slow Dandy and his crew moved by the second half of the zombie episode! Haha!

Which brings this full circle into Spike’s character in that he hates animals and now has one as part of a crew member on the Bebop.  Fantastic direction in introducing its characters!  However, there was a lack of backstory for Ein–  the scientists that are chasing after him provided a wider entanglement part of this episode but little to no understanding as to how and why Ein was made into a data dog.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 9/10

Cowboy Bebop Episode 1 [Theatrical Edition]

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Session#1 – Asteroid Blues

I walked into this screening as advertised with the English dub listed as the official audio track for this special presentation but as soon as the opening began it was in japanese with subtitles.  In amazing that 7.1 surround sound across a giant screen in Blu-ray format.  It has been about a year since I have seen a whole entire episode of Bebop in Japanese so with this I was pleasantly surprised.

As the story opens up we are introduced to Asimov Solensan, a drug dealer and criminal along with his girlfriend Katarina–  what makes these stories so popular is how stand-alone some of the episodes are as we are given a glimpse at Spike and Jet and the adventures on the Bebop by putting them in the background and giving the main focus to the episodic characters of this series and even this episode!  This worked out very well here because it moves at such a pace that doesn’t leave the viewer bored between long conversations about Bloody-Eye and the numerous agencies wanting to sell it on the streets to action-packed shootouts and dogfights between the police, Asimov and the Bebop.

Yoko Kanno may have written the greatest soundtrack she’s ever done in her career with Zankyou no Terror but without the fantastic music of Cowboy Bebop we would not have all the incredible musical pieces as we have today if it were not for this series!  Come to think of it, after having seen Space Dandy I can see the amount of influence Kanno had on director Watanabe with both series when he gathers different staff to work on episodes.  Here we’ve got a really strong episode director with Yoshiyuki Takei from Vision of Escaflowne fame and helmed probably the strongest episode of Kidō Butōden G-Gundam from the early 90’s.  The animator of Michio e Hatchin‘s final episode developed the designs for this and very much captures as a whole how the anime industry has changed as technology has advanced over the years!  Akitoshi Yokohama is a really talented animator I say that because he’s so versatile from going between series–  Rahxephon and Photo Kano to series like Kemenozume and Kill La Kill!  Incredible!

For Cowboy Bebop voice acting has always been memorable both in Japanese and in English but what shined especially in this episode was how subtle it was.  No overacting that a ton of shows even today suffer from as this presented a very different feel that makes you feel like you aren’t watching anime.  I mentioned before how well-written the script was for the English dialogue of this show but I have to hand it to the Japanese cast for delivering really strong performances–  Kouichi Yamadera [Spike Spiegel] gives off a mix of low and higher sounding pitch compared to Stephen Jay Blum’s hardened smooth tone.  Both are really good voice actors in their respective countries as what this episode succeeded in doing that most series fall short in is pacing.  For this episode we had two very special seiyu, Rintarou Nishi [Asimov] and Yurka Hino [Katarina], both are doing two underrated yet very good shows this season– Amemiya’s tokusatsu series Garo and Chibli’s first television series Ronja based on Swedish author Astrid Lindgren’s novel of the same name.  It’s really cool to see how much their voices have aged over these years and yet they are still able to deliver some amazing performances!

There wasn’t a lot thrown at us as we were show small details of the jobs of bounty hunters, crime and the life that Spike and Jet lead against the backdrop of the Tijuana asteroid colony.  This world reminded me a lot of the towns from Trigun and considering how Bebop got released after that series I wonder if there was some influence here.

Great introduction to a compelling series that provides us with a bigger picture overall that even made Space Dandy so amazing–  the Bebop crew encounter different people throughout different worlds where each episode is varied, some are action-packed, filled will romance, intense thrillers but at the end of it all we are taken inside their travels of making money and living life.  Truly an exception series.


OP: “Tank!!” by the Seatbelts [arranged by Yoko Kanno]

One of the most popular anime songs ever, and in my list of favorite opening animations of all time!  This song doesn’t use vocals but a style of bebop which is largely mixed which here is used to its full potential!  A sense of pizazz by incorporating dark tones mixed with bright backgrounds against a very rambunctious and ambitious jazz score reminiscent of the early days of Latin music! A fantastic overview both in imagery and musical performance of what this series themes are truly about!

ED: “The Real Folk Blues” by the Seatbelts featuring vocals: Mai Yamane

[arranged and composed by Yoko Kanno]

This is by far one of the best ending themes to an anime series ever, and I can’t find anything wrong with this as it uses japanese vocals by Mai Yamane to bring the story of Spike’s lost love into the picture with such passion!  There were a lot of talented international staff members that helped bring this to life including recording engineer of Mile Davis, Rudy van Gelder!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

Cowboy Bebop Introduction [Exclusive Theatrical Edition]

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So we got to see the Star Wars trailer, and what was funny was how they didn’t have anything else to show so they displayed it twice in a row.  Such an amazing trailer and can’t wait to see what J.J. Abrams has in store for the next trilogy. I know this isn’t my 250th post or 300 for that matter as I’ve got something planned for that extra one hundred milestone in reviews.  This post is going to be a bit different than the typical run-of-the-mill post here in that I want to talk about a series that received some extra attention as of late–  a sci-fi adventure that lands in my Top 10 Best Anime and is in the number 1 spot and that is Cowboy Bebop.  For years fans have awaited a blu-ray version of this acclaimed series and on December 21st, 2012 Japanese fans had received exactly just that.

Only thing was this show had a wider commercial success in the western parts of the world due to its heavy influence as a science-fiction collection of stories that integrated spaghetti western themes mixed with styles of jazz.  American fans revitalized this show as something very special because as it failed in Japan initially it was re-aired and gained popularity after receiving such praise from american audiences from all across the globe.  As I have said before this has to be one of the most popular anime and anyone that has heard of japanese animation or even seen a couple KNOWS about this one.  Pushing past the licensing issues this series had with Bandai Entertainment’s inevitable shut down in 2011, North American licensing distribution publisher Funimation along with Sunrise teamed up to rescue this series and as such will be releasing this on the Blu-ray format December 16th, 2014.

What remains even to this day as a monumental success in Bebop‘s efforts at receiving positive results was its fantastic direction in the English dubbing department–  the Japanese blu-ray set never included the dub track nor subtitles in English it was a bare-bones collector’s box for anyone that doesn’t speak Japanese whereas the U.S. release of this will include them.  To commemorate this Funimation has started doing a special theatrical screening ploy to increase its retail popularity even further–  I’ve got to say this was a ridiculously smart move on their part because you know the hardcore fans will go out and see this like I did.  Too bad there won’t be a theatrical viewing of all the episodes but this sure did provide a nice teaser for the Blu-ray edition of this acclaimed classic.

Fall 2014 Season Preview [ongoing]

Here are the likely candidates for what I will be covering for the upcoming Fall 2014 Anime Season.  These are shows that look somewhat interesting to me and I will blog at least the first episode of.  This list may grow as the season slowly is beginning this week.  I will keep you all updated soon on this.

PSYCHO-PASS Season 2

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  • PRODUCTION STUDIO: Tatsunoko Productions
  • DIRECTOR: Naoyoshi Shiotani
  • ORIGINAL CREATOR: Gen Urobuchi
  • SERIES COMPOSITION: Tow Ubukata
  • CHARACTER DESIGNER: Kyoji Asano
  • MUSIC: Yuugo Kanno

Noitamina I am sure glad you’ve picked up a fairly successful series for your lineup this upcoming season.  The programming block had some very amazing anime series to show this year: Gin no Saji, Samurai Flamenco, Ping-Pong the Animation and Zankyou no Terror.  Hopefully this second season and Naoshi Arakawa’s Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso will provide some powerful stories to an otherwise loosely intriguing Fall season.

I am very excited about this second season considering how the first season ranks in my Top 10 Best Anime.  Looking at the previews for this it looks great and with the director back from the first 22 episodes, it will be great to see what he does after the Sibyl System is exposed to Akane.  Problem however doesn’t lie with the director at all, but the writer Tow Ubukata [Ghost in the Shell: Arise, Fafner] and the animation studio role is handed off to Tastunoko Productions?  What?  If I recall Production I.G. had said in an interview right before Psycho-Pass in 2012 had aired that this was going to be their flagship series– taking back the throne of sci-fi just as the original Ghost in the Shell series had done.  A bit worried about the style that made Psycho-Pass so strong might emerge entirely different here.

LIKELY TO BLOG: 85%


MUSHISHI ZOKU SHOU [PART 2]

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  • PRODUCTION STUDIO: Animation Studio Artland
  • DIRECTOR: Hiroshi Nagahama
  • ORIGINAL CREATOR: Yuki Urushibara
  • SERIES COMPOSITION: Hiroshi Nagahama
  • CHARACTER DESIGNER: Yoshihiko Umakoshi
  • MUSIC: Toshio Masuda

 

Fantastic! Everyone of the staff that worked on the first season and first half of Zoku Shou will be returning for this!  Can’t wait to see what chapters the anime decides to do here, as the first twelve episodes were amazing!  Simple art, traditional musical score, and an engaging relaxing collection of stories that are pulled into an episodic format!  Love these kinds of series and I am sure this return will be a great addition to the Fall season!

LIKELY TO BLOG: 100%


 

KISEIJUU: SEI NO KAKURITSU

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  • PRODUCTION STUDIO: Madhouse
  • DIRECTOR: Kenichi Shimizu
  • ORIGINAL CREATOR: Hitoshi Iwaaki
  • SERIES COMPOSITION: Shoji Yonemura
  • CHARACTER DESIGNER: Tadashi Hiramatsu
  • MUSIC: Ken Arai

 

The manga to this horror sci-fi series is very good, and it has been quite some time since we’ve had a show like this.  Aliens slowly invade Earth, parasitic creatures that develop a relationship with its host.  High school boy Shinichi Izumi is infected by Migi that attaches itself to his right hand.  Soon they find themselves caught in a strife between humans and the parasites over the takeover of Earth!  Yes a 2-cour horror anime!  The plot is fantastic and with the writer of Guin Saga on board at least certain the pacing here will be adequately smooth.  The issue is with a director I’ve never heard of.  Is this Kenichi’s first time in the director’s chair and if so can he pull off a strong adaptation here?  Do have to say I love the promotional art this series has, really neat looking.

LIKELY TO BLOG: 80%


 

GARO: HONÕ NO KOKUIN

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  • PRODUCTION STUDIO: MAPPA
  • DIRECTOR: Yuichiro Hayashi
  • ORIGINAL CREATOR: Keita Amemiya
  • SERIES COMPOSITION: Yasuko Kobayashi
  • CHARACTER DESIGNER: Toshiyuki Kanno
  • MUSIC: MONACA

 

PLOT: The story of the anime begins when the king’s adviser launches a witch hunt, which endangers the Makai Knights and Makai Priests, who are supposed to protect people. A Makai Priest who has been condemned to die at the stake gives birth to a child, Leon Lewis. The child is rescued by his father, a Makai Knight, but never meets his mother. When he grows up he inherits the Gold Armor as a descendant of the Gold Knights. Meanwhile the king’s adviser has taken over the country as the king has become ill, and Prince Alfonso has been driven out with his mother. He comes seeking the legendary Gold Knight in hopes of retaking his kingdom.

This is going to be very interesting to see how this anime pans out.  Another amazing director on board to do an action series of this caliber! The creator of Shaman King doing the character designs?!  The script writer of Casshern Sins, Shingeki no Kyojin, and the Trigun: Badlands Rumble film makes me more intrigued to see how much of the material he can adapt here.  Not too pleased that MONACA is doing the music to this, as they’ve already done one series this year [Captain Earth] while the soundtrack was solid, it all sounded very similar.  The best staff member working on this has got to be its source material: the original creator being the same guy who did Mahou Shoujotai!  Talk about an astounding fantasy anime–  one that utilized 7 minutes of airtime each episode to flesh out maturing teenage witches into a mystical and engrossing world!  Hope this works in MAPPA’s favor here.  If there was an issue I’d say it be that MAPPA IS going to be doing two shows this season, could see some loss of quality by the budget this season from them doing this and Shingeki no Bahamut Genesis.

LIKELY TO BLOG: 85%


 

SHIGATSU WA KIMI NO USO

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  • PRODUCTION STUDIO: A-1 Pictures
  • DIRECTOR: Kyohei Ishiguro
  • ORIGINAL CREATOR: Naoshi Arakawa
  • SERIES COMPOSITION: Takao Yoshioka
  • CHARACTER DESIGNER: Yukiko Aikei
  • MUSIC: Masaru Yokoyama

If any of my readers haven’t noticed I am a huge fan of anything Noitamina.  I always give these broadcast productions a shot as some of the time they are gems of a series.  The second entry in Noitamina’s fall lineup, and one that will be a romance anime.  It is about time we get a story like Nodame Cantabille that features music as a motivational push for its main characters to get together.  I have yet to read the manga to this but I am very excited about this series for two reasons: It has the music composer of Arakawa Under the Bridge which had a fantastic soundtrack and 2: It’s a story that brings in musical talent to develop its characters.  This doesn’t mean though that I’m whole-heartedly on board with this project as I’ve got a few problems with it.  A-1 Pictures loves to make their projects very shiny to look at with the more recent Sword Art Online II and Aldnoah.Zero, even Anohana and Senkou no Night Raid 1931 had very smooth animation yet there isn’t a whole lot more to it like what BONES has done with Space Dandy, and Masaaki Yuasa does with his anime series.  Also, why is that these romance drama anime typically feature teenagers?  Hope this doesn’t turn out to be like Kimi ni Todoke filled with tons of talking and no progression of the plot.

LIKELY TO BLOG: 70%


SHINGEKI NO BAHAMUT GENESIS

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  • PRODUCTION STUDIO: MAPPA
  • DIRECTOR: Keiichi Satou
  • ORIGINAL CREATOR: Cygames
  • SERIES COMPOSITION: Keiichi Hasegawa
  • CHARACTER DESIGNER: Naoyuki Onda
  • MUSIC: Yoshihiro Ike

I am more excited to see this than even Psycho-Pass’ second season.  The director of the films Asura and Karas, and TV anime Tiger & Bunny!  This will be great because we’ve also got the animators that did Zankyou no Terror and Sakamichi no Apollon doing the animation to this.  The character designs look very classic considering how it’s the same animator that did the designs for the Berserk films and the 90’s space opera Sol Bianca.  Definitely going to keep a lookout on this one for sure!  Oh and we couldn’t have had a better team on this:  Ike’s the one who did the music to Ergo ProxyFREEDOMKaras, and Reideen! Fantastic!

LIKELY TO BLOG: 95%


SANZOKU MUSUME NO RONJA

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  • PRODUCTION STUDIO: Polygon Pictures and Studio Chibli
  • DIRECTOR: Goro Miyazaki
  • ORIGINAL CREATOR: Astrid Lindgren
  • SERIES COMPOSITION: Hiroyuki Kawasaki
  • CHARACTER DESIGNER: Naoyuki Onda
  • MUSIC: Satoshi Takebe and Hiroko Taniyama

What is more intriguing about this series than the actual plot itself is how it came to be.  Nippon Animation worked on a few World Masterpiece Theatre series alongside Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata and after one of their top producers passed away, there was a very long absence of a director or writer adapting classic children’s series.  I’m talking series from the 60’s to early 90’s like Dog of FlandersAnne of Green Gables, Tom Sawyer and Katri, Girl of the Meadows.  All fantastic series that some ran for quite a long time, but here we’re finally breaking the barrier of children’s stories, with Rona.

Ronja is the only daughter of Mattis, a bandit leader who lives in a castle in the middle of a large forest. When Ronja grows old enough, she ventures into the forest to interact the strange and magical creatures that live there. She learns to live in the forest through her own strength, with the occasional rescue from her parents. Ronja’s life begins to change, however, when she happens upon a boy her own age named Birk. [~Taken from AnimeNewsNetwork]

So we’re finally getting a children’s adventure series but the part of the crew I find strange on this is Polygon Pictures, the same animators of Sidonia no Kishi, which ended up with some very obscure results in the quality of the show.  Aside from the decision to pick CG animators Hiroyuki Kawasaki is great at writing solid animated works:  Sakura WarsHyouge Mono [this is one of Bee-Train’s best works right here] and Tsubasa: ReserVoir CHRoNiCLES.   I will be very curious to see how this show turns out. It’s too bad that Chibli is in a bad state after Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement, I hope this show can redeem some of the qualities that made that studio develop some very powerful stories that captured the hearts of children and adults.

LIKELY TO BLOG: 80%


 

 

Anime of the past and the future ahead [My thoughts on anime trends]

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I have been an anime otaku for a long long time, and I want to take a moment to talk about some things that have been positive in the industry and negative as well. More notably a negative trend I have noticed throughout the years of watching anime series that has been bugging me. Season lineups are getting longer and longer churning out somewhat unique series down to about 2 to sometimes 4 original series that contain good character development, plot, animation, etc. Last season we had kyoukai no kanata [based off of a light novel by Nagomi Torii] by PA Works which as some of you may know is always very good in the animation [more so than not the animation feels very recycled with its character designs] department but not so much in terms of continuity of story. Continue reading Anime of the past and the future ahead [My thoughts on anime trends]