Category Archives: Observation Deck

The Observation Deck: Brothers Conflict

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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Ladies, gentlemen, and non-binary folks, we are gathered here today to talk about an anime. Not just any anime, mind you, but the one, the only, Brothers Conflict. This is a show that is so genuinely awful it is honestly not worth it to even pretend there are redeeming qualities about it, an adaptation so lazy that the cast barely has a workable personality split among its almost 20-something-odd list of characters.

I could sit here and do any amount of research about the development process or its source material, but honestly, I do not care that much and yes, the source material, both the light novel and the game adaptation, are almost certainly better than this garbage. Calling this show Oreimo levels of trash is frankly insulting to Oreimo, because that would imply that anything about it is remotely interesting or worth caring about. With that being said, let’s get started, I guess…

What is Brothers Conflict?

Some-no, most-no, nearly all of you probably read the title of this review and went “huh?” and yeah, that is totally reasonable. In short, Brothers Conflict is a light novel/Otome dating sim adaptation about Ema Hinata, later Ema Asahina, a girl whose rich and famous dad remarries a mom with 13 other sons. As part of this new stage of their life, Ema moves into her mom’s luxurious mansion with room enough for all of them. However, Ema quickly discovers that nearly all of her brothers have some sort of romantic feelings for her…yeah, it is one of those.

Boring Main Character is Boring

Ema is the main character in the same way that your avatar during a multiplayer fps game is technically the main character. Literally, the only purpose she serves is to show you around and get a better view of the brother characters who you are supposed to fall in love with. She is so shamelessly a self-insert that when I did bother to look at the Wikipedia page for this franchise, I was genuinely surprised to find out the light novels were the original source material.

Ema not only has no personality worth mentioning, but the only interests she is given are also to better connect her with the potential relationship matches she might have. Her liking video games? an excuse to get more involved with her brother that works at a video game company and her brothers that work as voice actors respectively. Her interest in flowers? so she can talk to the one that works in their home garden and give a nice romantic background for later romantic encounters. Seriously, how was this not a dating sim first?

Fun fact, I wrote most of this review and almost completely forgot to mention Juli, the talking squirrel character who only Ema and Louis can understand. This is never explained and is treated as totally and completely normal.

Boring Brother Characters are Boring

I could sit here and give you a sentence-long blurb about each of the other main characters and pretend like I care about their development, and yeah, that would probably be the responsible critic thing to do. However, this is an anime blog, and also there are thirteen of them, none of who have any remotely notable personality traits outside of their occupations and their insatiable lust for their 16-year-old step-sister.

I will mention that Louis and Hikaru, two of the older brothers, have mildly more interesting character designs, but that is only because it seems like they were intended to be some flavor of queer, but of course, the anime would never dare to be that interesting. The ongoing antagonism between Natsume and Subaru ends up being the “main” storyline near the final few episodes, but that is only because it is really the only plotline the series bothers trying to resolve.

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Yeah It’s Problematic, But Man It’s Hard to Care

It absolutely should not be overlooked that much of what happens in this series is older, college age and above men going after a 16-year-old girl. It is most definitely weird and creepy and Brothers Conflict should be criticized for it, especially since at no point is this fact ever addressed, let alone framed in a negative light.

At the very least, when it comes to a show like Oreimo, there are points where the weird incest vibes are less distracting because the characters are notably interesting and have conflicts outside of that dynamic. Because this show is only interested in romantics to the point of being one-dimensional, it becomes hard to ignore. So, not only is the show painfully boring, but it is also incredibly gross and creepy.

Animator? I Barely Know Her!

For how much the characters and backgrounds in this show actually move in any dynamic or interesting way, they might as well just have ported over the png files from the Otome adaptation, which I will remind everyone for the third time came after the light novel (seriously wtf?!). The most “well-animated” moments in the series, if one could even call them that, are the sequences at the beginning which only serve to remind you just how interested her brothers are in f***ing her.

This is by no means meant as a criticism of the animators themselves, as they were likely operating with pretty spare time and coordination and thus just had to put something together. Rather, it is pretty clear that Brothers Conflict was only greenlit as a way of selling merch and copies of the existing materials.

Conclusion

I’m sure there were some amount of people who saw this series and genuinely enjoyed it, mostly in the sense that it did something for them sexually. Still, I just do not get it. There are so many other series in this same lane that are not only better at being hot but are also legitimately more interesting from a storytelling and character perspective.

Brothers Conflict is a half-assed, quantity-over-quality approach to making a reverse harem that does not come close to overcoming its problematic and boring execution. I reached some of the highest highs this year when it came to the medium of anime, so I suppose it only makes some sort of weird cosmic sense to torture myself with the lowest of lows.

25/100


Have you seen this abomination? Let me know in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck: Wolf’s Rain

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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Where do we all come from?

I do not mean in the immediate sense of parenthood or biological relations, but rather in a much broader philosophical sense, as in, where does the origin of humans come from. The most commonly accepted answer, and the probably correct one, is based on the theory of evolution. However, what if that was not the case? Bones’ 2003 original series Wolf’s Rain attempts that very premise, engaging with questions not only of origin but even some of the end.

The world of Wolf’s Rain is one informed by legend, a legend that says humans were originally descended from wolves, some naturally through a process like evolution, others who actively revoked their humanity. Most, though not all, have cast aside this legend as nothing but heresy. Kiba is a wolf who one day decides to stroll through Freeze City, drawn in by a particular smell, and in search of Paradise, the supposed promised land for wolves that none have yet to reach. En route to this strange aroma, he meets others, Tsume, Hige, and Toboe, each of whom decides to join him on his journey to paradise. Still, this journey is not without its various interruptions and detours.

This is a series like nothing I could have expected, with twists and turns at every stage of its narrative. With that being said, let’s talk about it.

Wolves are the World

By far the most defining characteristic of Wolf’s Rain is its focus on religious myth. The existence of Wolves as it is written into the world functions a lot more like a creation story than anything else. The difference, in this case, is that in this world, those myths are real, the evidence being our four, later five, main characters and the various others we meet in the background. The text which informs this myth is the Book of the Moon, a book that was banned nearly 200 years ago from the beginning of the story. It describes the process of wolves becoming humans as well as the origin of the wolves themselves.

This wolf religion, so to speak, and how it is expressed in the lore of the series, is endlessly fascinating. It draws on a variety of influences, from its more western conception of Paradise, a word often used as a synonym for Heaven in Christianity, to its eastern focus on reincarnation and rebirth, and even its more “pagan” focus on nature the life that exists within it. I will stop right here to say that I am not at all a student of religion or religious history, and this analysis is based purely on my general pre-conceptions of these belief systems, so if you are someone who is better versed in these subjects and has also watched this series, feel free to better inform me in the comments.

Even outside of big foundational ideas, however, the series has a lot of unique bits of lore. An important in terms of the plot is the Wolves’ ability to disguise themselves in human form. The first arc of the show even has Kiba dealing with his own prideful nature, refusing to turn into a human, and only doing so at the behest of Hige. Because most living creatures, not just people, are descended from wolves, others are able to awaken to their true identity and take on a human form as well, most notably the character of Blue.

The World is Theirs, or So It was Thought

The YouTube channel Mother’s Basement recently made a joke in their Kaguya-sama essay (which you should all go watch if you like long video essays since it is very good) about video essayists relating everything back to socialism. It is a good joke, like all good jokes are because there is a bit of truth in it. Now, allow me to continue that stereotype but for anime bloggers.

Kidding, except only kind of. A large part of the story in Wolf’s Rain is the battle against the Nobles on the journey towards Paradise. There are two important bits of context in understanding why this series could be construed as a socialist, or at the very least anti-capitalist narrative.

The first is the nature of the nobles themselves. It is said that nearly all humans are descendants of wolves. The exception to this is the bloodlines of the nobles. It is for this reason that one noble in particular sought out Paradise for himself.

The second is the organization of society. The world in which everyone currently inhabits is one of catastrophe and decay. One might even call it the end times. People are confined to cities, with little outside of them except for a vast wasteland, which are divided up into jurisdictions. These jurisdictions belong not to any formal government, but to the nobles. It is stated by multiple parties throughout the series that the wars engaged in by the nobles are not ones of necessity, but rather ones of dominance

It is also these nobles that have simultaneously maintained the ban on the Book of the Moon while trying to create Paradise for themselves. The way that people have been alienated from their origins and led to believe otherwise for hundreds of years seems like a decent, albeit maybe slightly confusing, allegory for the ways that capitalism has separated people from their work and created feelings of nothingness.

The Grunge

The music of this series is very much bathed in the era that birthed it. At least in the States, the late 90s and early 2000s were very much a high point for alternative rock like the famous Nirvana. I am also not versed enough in music history to say whether a similar trend existed in Japan or not, but regardless, the soundtrack is very much of its time.

This is true both of the soundtrack and the series’ famously over-the-top opening Stray, which was written by Tim Jensen and performed by Steve Conte.

The compositional mastermind behind all of it, though, is Yoko Kanno. Kanno is by far one of the most brilliant artists to touch anime soundtracks, and she holds punches when it comes to Wolf’s Rain. The series can go from heavy guitar-based ballads to heavenly orchestral arrangements at the drop of a hat. I honestly do not think I could find a bad track even if I went through it multiple times, as every one of them has a place.

Video and Audio Formatting

Technology has come a long way, even in just the past 20 years. Better hardware and software have meant significantly better quality for both live-action and animated media. Some media, like video games, have gotten the treatment of HD remakes, meant to improve the quality from when it was released on less powerful machinery.

Anime is not often on the receiving end of such treatment, as is the case with Wolf’s Rain. I mentioned in my initial reaction to the series that part of what made it hard to get into it was the 4:3 aspect ratio and the oddly quiet latent audio found on the physical release. Now, I am still of the opinion that this should not be knocked against the show itself and is simply a reality of the time. However, it is slightly annoying that any time I wanted to watch it I either had to put on headphones or put the tv on max volume.

There is the outside possibility that this is a problem with my PS4, which is the only DVD/Blu-ray player I have access to at the time of writing. I do kind of doubt this since I have watched more recent disc-based media on it without the same problem.

Conclusion

As sad as it is to say, the series creator Keiko Nobumoto passed away just last year after a battle with cancer at just 57 years old. Not only did she create this amazing series, but wrote others such as Cowboy Bebop and Tokyo Godfathers. Her work has undoubtedly touched the hearts of many, it would be a shame to see a series as amazing as Wolf’s Rain be left out of that conversation.

91/100


How do you feel about Wolf’s Rain? Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, special thanks to Jenn for supporting the blog on Patreon.

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck: Komi Can’t Communicate (Pt. 2)

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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If there is one thing I realized pretty quickly during my high school experience, it is that managing my anxiety along with communicating things to other people can be extremely difficult. Luckily, though, I had a lot of good friends, and a fairly fast-paced four years which included writing for our school paper and a number of high-level classes which kind of forced me to make decisions and take care of myself. Still, it is not always that easy for others.

Komi Can’t Communicate focuses on its namesake character Komi. While the others in her class view her as basically a walking goddess, Komi herself could not have been blessed with less confidence. This has left her unable to communicate outside of writing down what she wants to say in a notebook or otherwise. Tadano, however, sees the situation she is in, and vows to help her get a hundred friends, even as feelings between them have only gotten more complicated.

Komi Still Can’t Communicate

Oh boy, more Komi…yay.

Alright, maybe that is a little mean. However, season one, while definitely being above average, was not the series I was looking forward to the most. Since part two finished a bit later than the rest of the spring season, I was not able to review it when I talked about Kaguya and Spy x Family. However, even compared to those two, it does little to stand out.

I will re-affirm that the show’s central premise is a good one and that Komi does a lot to be an entertaining character. The switch between her more cartoonish, goofy expressions and the weirdly sensual face which feels like an expression of how people view her on the outside is genuinely entertaining. On top of that, I still appreciate the message the show is trying to deliver: That people with crippling anxiety exist and deserve to be respected.

It is a shame really that the supporting cast, despite adding quite a few new characters in its second half, does little to elevate the series or its message. Tadano is pretty much as boring as ever, though I will give him credit for having at least a little bit more of an internal sense of development. All of the other new characters are either annoying like Shisuto, or get so little development as to not be worth mentioning outside of the fact that progress Komi’s emotional growth

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The lone exception to that is Katai who is by far one of the funnier characters during the second half. While it certainly helps to be one of the only other recurring characters, his dynamic with Komi and Tadano is well written. Katai, much like Komi, is an anxiety-ridden mess who just wants some friends, but whereas the ladder of the two actively attracts attention to herself, the former’s huge build and unintentionally aggressive demeanor leave most people scared of him for most of the second half.

What is more, Katai appreciates Tadano’s kindness and really wants to be friends, and continually looks towards Komi for “guidance” despite being intimidated by her. Meanwhile, Komi is just as scared of him, if not more, and so the two spend a lot of time staring at each other while never really saying anything, which is a solid bit that creates a lot of humorous moments.

A Blossoming Relationship?

The romantic tension between Komi and Tadano has been present since pretty much the end of part one. The more that Tadano helps her, the more he realizes just how much he loves being around her. Conversely, the kindness Tadano has shown Komi has been genuinely life-changing, and so she in turn builds feelings for him.

Despite the continued buildup of this relationship, nothing emerges even during the show’s finale. The two stand next to a classroom window while they reflect on the events of that school year, thinking about just how far the two of them have come. Yet, none of that progress is really shared in their own relationship, at least not romantically.

Interacting with other people can be scary, and even scarier is sharing feelings with someone that they might not have themselves. So, I guess in a way, that sort of ending makes sense. Still, If there is another season in the works, I hope we get to see the two of them in a post-confession world.

Conclusion

Normally I would have a bit more to say, but since I have already talked about part one of this series in-depth, there is not much reason to do so again. The first part was solid, and overall part two is maybe even a small bit better. At the end of the day though, the show is still just ok, lacking in a lot of strong characters and compelling arcs that would maybe propel it a bit higher.

63/100


How did you all feel about Komi Can’t Communicate and it’s second half? Let me know down in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, special thanks to Jenn for supporting the blog on Patreon.

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck: Odd Taxi

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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I will be honest, after reading Goodbye, Eri earlier this year, there was little doubt in my mind that it would remain the most compelling thing I consumed in 2022. Little did I know, however, that a certain show about an anthropomorphic walrus taxi driver would come into my life and give it a serious run for its money.

Last year’s critical darling Odd Taxi tells the story of Hiroshi Odokawa, a seemingly normal middle-aged taxi driver who spends his days listening to manzai comedy on the radio. Yet, for as much as he likely wishes to live out the rest of his boring days in peace, all of that is swiftly interrupted by his connection to the case of a missing 18-year girl. He soon becomes caught up in a web of crime that involves friends, foes, and passengers alike.

A Story Like No Other

Odd Taxi is the sort of once-in-a-decade show where everything about it lines up perfectly or near-so. It is a story that starts and ends around its central premise: a dude driving a Taxi, but what it does with that time in between is so mind-blowingly brilliant that dissecting it all in full could easily take up a two-hour YouTube essay. Unfortunately, I am not looking to make said video, so I will try my best in a more condensed context.

For starters, Odokawa. Not only is he the conduit through which all of the characters are introduced, but each and every interaction that he has with them is also relevant in some way to the overall plot. This leaves the story and dialogue oozing with attention to detail. A conversation that happened in episode two likely has some bearing on how a person views episode seven, for example.

One might assume then since the focus is often the people he drives around in his taxi that Odokawa’s character suffers because of it, but this is not true. In fact, despite the passive nature of his job, Odokawa often challenges the ideas of his passengers, both as a way of calling out the dumb things that they say, but also as a way of understanding the world around him.

Then, there is everyone else. I am not exaggerating when I say that it is almost irresponsible of me to talk about any individual side character for too long because nearly all of them contribute to the plot in some equally important way.

Among some of the more important ones though are Goriko and Shirakawa, Odokawa’s doctor and nurse respectively, and Dobu, one of the criminals who force Odokawa to help him over the course of the show. The three of them tend to show up most often, especially in the later episodes, and often dictate events in a way that is most relevant to Odokawa himself.

As far as the actual quality of the characters themselves, there is not much to say other than that they are fantastically written. Apart from their functionality in the story, despite being presented as animals, everyone in the story feels like uniquely real, often morally flawed human beings. Furthermore, it is often these flaws that generate conflict, both internally and externally and make each scene that much more compelling.

Two Words: Good Pacing

It is one thing to have a set of compelling and unique characters whose stories have intertwined in a way that makes sense. It is another thing entirely to be able to tell that story in a window of time which makes it feel not too convoluted but also not too slow and neverending. Odd Taxi again pulls off an incredible feat by finding the perfect slight left-of-center pacing.

One example of how it pulls this off is by using its often dense dialogue. I mentioned before how important a two-minute conversation can be in the grand scheme of things, and I was not joking. However, none of this ever feels like it is being pulled out of nowhere. The speed at which plot points move is certainly above average, but not so much so that some of the bigger reveals towards the later third are nonsensical.

There is also a lot of visual delivery when it comes to major elements of the story. Now, that might sound incredibly stupid since I am talking about an anime, but let me explain. Odd Taxi likes to use a good amount of switching between scenes, even when a conversation is ongoing, as a way of making sure to check if the audience is paying attention. Important details are often delivered in the final moments of an episode, making it necessary to watch the screen at all times. Now, for those who are not as accustomed to reading subtitles quickly (i.e. newer anime fans or people who do not watch with subtitles as much) this can create a small barrier to entry, but it is nothing that would ruin the experience entirely.

Simple is Good Sometimes

Those who have seen any trailers for the series may have noticed something about the show’s animation: it is decidedly less complex than a lot of other series. This is not to say that the animation is bad, far from it. There are a ton of stand-out moments where the animation picks up as needed.

What I mean to say, rather, is that a lot of Odd Taxi‘s worldview is reflected in the way it draws its characters. Sure, they are all anthropomorphic humans, but even in their designs, there is a lot of personality. Without going into spoiler territory, Odokawa is again a useful example. Yes, he is most certainly a Walrus, there is no denying that. The plainness of his eyes, the heaviness around his nose and mouth which almost look like a five-o-clock shadow, and his tendency for simple button-ups portray a lot more about his personality than a crazy sakuga moment ever will.

Now, someone could just respond and say “that’s called character design,” and based on what I have said they would be one-hundred percent correct. Still, this simplicity does not just exist within its characters, as it extends to the show’s backgrounds as well. There is significantly less stylization when it comes to the color schemes and a much more gritty reality. Pretty much all of this has to do with Odokawa himself, but again, that would be spoiler territory, and this show is still relatively new.

Conclusion

It was honestly harder to find negative things to say about this series than positive ones. If I were really nitpicking, I would say that the comedy duo could have been involved in the main plot more, or that Yano’s whole rap shtick got kinda old by the end. Really, though, that would just be delaying the fact that this is the best thing I have watched this year, and finding more competition is going to be hard, to say the least. It goes without saying, though I will say it anyway just to be sure, that those who have not watched Odd Taxi should absolutely watch it.

96/100


How do you feel about Odd Taxi? Let me know down in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, special thanks to Jenn for supporting us on Patreon

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck: Kaguya-sama Love is War: Ultra Romantic

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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The end of another season of course means the end of another block of anime. However, this season feels a bit different, and a lot of that can be attributed to the series I am talking about today, Kaguya-sama. I have admitted in the past to not being the warmest on the show when it first came out. In fact, it felt kind of gimmicky. At least, that is how it was at first.

Not only did the series only get more and more entertaining, but the amount of longevity and growth it has had over its now three seasons is also one of the most impressive I have seen from a show in a while. Any hesitancy about its quality on my part has since been replaced with whole-hearted enthusiasm for one of the most charming romantic comedies of the last decade.

For those unaware, Love is War focuses on Miyuki Shirogane and Kaguya Shinomiya, the president and vice president of the student council of the elite Shuuchin Academy. After working together for about half a year, the two simultaneously develop a crush on the other. However, the driving philosophy among those at the top is as such: Admitting one’s feelings is tantamount to admitting defeat, and so the two engage in war to get the other to confess first.

Ultra Romantic? More Like Ultra in Panic

I said in the plot description that the show focuses on their game of not admitting to one another, and while that is still generally true of the third season, there is a large shift in philosophy that encompasses much of Ultra Romantic. Whereas seasons one and two felt significantly more playful and comedy focuses in their approach to the story, Kaguya-sama’s third season is decidedly not that.

Ultra Romantic instead looks towards the end game. For as much as the antics between Kaguya, Miyuki, and the others are fun, time is not static, and both seemingly want this game to come to an end. Kaguya is as restless about the situation as ever, and at this point is even worried about sending him a message on social media, not only because of their game but because she is genuinely confused about how she should approach the situation.

Meanwhile, Miyuki’s sense of self-worth has always been determined by his ability to outwork others. Consequentially, this has meant that his relationship with this game has become more tied to his self-worth. Thus, this sense of resignation in wanting to confess to Kaguya is a genuine internal conflict that she is only aware of on a surface level.

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Romance Isn’t Just For Protagonists

If Love is War was only good for its leads, I do not think I would be able to leverage the amount of praise for it that I do. What sets the series apart from other romantic comedies is that its side characters are decidedly less one-note in their effect on the story or any individual gag.

A great example of this is Ishigami. While he certainly started out as kind of a nothing character, his evolution throughout the series has been phenomenal. His arc during the final episodes of season two showed that the series is able to handle heavier moments despite its more lighthearted nature.

Season three only built on this development, as the revelation of his feelings for Tsubame creates a funny and heartwarming side-story which at times feels as compelling as the push and pull of Miyuki and Kaguya. If season two was Ishigami’s lowest moment, then the end of season three is a moment of triumphant return.

However, Ishigami is not the only other love-struck idiot desperately hiding their affection. It really could not be any more obvious that Miko herself has started to develop feelings for Ishigami, who does not seem to notice, and yet continually feeds this attraction by showing her continual kindness. This comes to a head when Ishigami hand delivers an IPad so she can watch the campfire that she helped organize in the first place.

As much as the main romance of the series is great, some of my favorite moments have come from the interactions between Hayasaka and Shirogane. Embedded in their encounters is a message about what it means to be one’s genuine self, and how the two of them are forced to hide behind a social mask for fear of being ridiculed. Apart from the obvious romantic dynamic of Hayasaka’s crush on Shirogane, their relationship also symbolizes the hardships that come with being from a lower-class family, which itself makes their relationship feel like a continuous moment of solidarity.

The Visual Gag Level Up

Another thing that Kaguya-sama has always been good at is visual gags. Its ability to utilize moments of extreme sakuga and other weird references to tell a joke is second maybe only to a few others. Much like the previously mentioned character development, the visual gags of season three have only gotten funnier.

One of my personal favorites comes from Maki during the early to mid part of the season, where Ishigami tries to protect her from playing her erotic relaxation soundtrack out loud because she forgot to plug in her headphones, meanwhile the image of cute boys is constantly appearing in her head.

Kaguya’s facial expressions are also amongst my favorite, as she can often go from menacing psychopath to adorable gremlin in a matter of frames. The thing that makes it even more humorous is when the series ops to cut in the moments of heaviness with these strange visual gags, which can certainly feel jarring if done poorly, but is almost always on point.

The Finale/Confession

The climax of the series’ cultural festival arc is one that I did not see coming even despite how obvious it was that something was going to happen. In a final bid to get Kaguya to confess, Shirogane undergoes a secret identity of the phantom thief, leading everyone around so that he can have his moment with Kaguya, and while neither actual confess, they do share a kiss under the thousands of heart-shaped balloons which he had risen up from the campfire below.

Again I am not gonna pretend like I did not see it coming. It is literally in the premise of the show that it was going to happen eventually. However, I am a strong believer in the idea that a plot point being obvious is not necessarily bad as long as it is executed well, which this flashy display of romance most certainly was.

Conclusion

There is not much to comment I that I have not praised the series for before, and on top of that, it has been confirmed that another anime-related project is in the works, which likely means either season four or a sequel movie. Season three was exciting, charming, and overall everything that I could have wanted from the series in its latest incarnation.

91/100


How did you all feel about Kaguya-sama: Love is War? Let me know down in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, special thanks to Jenn for supporting the blog on Patreon.

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

The Observation Deck: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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Wow, I really forgot just how much fun it can be to watch things with other people. As an introvert, I generally prefer to watch things alone and absorb them in a space free from any immediate distraction. However, sometimes it is nice to take a break from that and just hang out with other people. Not like my last group watch was that far removed, but watching Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou with others was an incredibly relaxing experience.

For those who are unaware of this critically acclaimed manga turned two-time OVA series, Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is set at the end of the world…kind of. An unnamed disaster has left humans a dwindling artifact of planet earth. Meanwhile, androids like Alpha are fairly common. Alpha is told to manage her owner’s coffee shop after he is called away on business indefinitely. With nothing else to do aside from managing a mostly empty store, Alpha decides to spend her days exploring the landscapes and people around her.

98′ vs 02′

Despite the critical acclaim of the original manga, the series only managed to amass a series of OVAs, or rather two series of OVAs. The first aired in 1998 and the second four years later in 2002. Interestingly enough, this period also roughly coincides with the transition period during which many studios underwent a major transition from traditional cell animation to digital.

The change in animation style is definitely noticeable. While the studio that adapted the series stayed the same between both OVAs, the watercolor backgrounds of the original are noticeably absent in the later series. Both styles are certainly unique, and the digital animation has a charm that is unique to itself. However, it would have been nice to see the series continued in that original style.

Outside of that minute difference, there honestly is not a lot to say about the series’ animation other than that it is well done. Character movement is fairly limited, but the movement that does happen is expressive and displays a ton of personality, like the way Ojisan is always delighted to see Alpha when she walks/drives by.

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Who is Alpha?

YKK is as episodic as it is relaxing. Each episode is fairly self-contained, and though there is an overarching story, it is ultimately built around the main character Alpha. Each episode is focused on either her internal thought process in running the shop or the external struggles of having to deal with a broken body or house.

While the appeal of the show, and of other Iyashikei stories at large, is that they are inviting and peaceful, there is a lot about our main heroine that is left undetermined, at least in the story for anime. Questions about the identity of Alpha’s owner and the nature of his “business trip” still hang around, giving the series an almost melancholic vibe.

I do mean almost though, as none of this really ruins the mood of the series. The vast majority of Alpha’s narrative conflict is centered around nature in some way, whether that be its beauty or its capacity for destruction, or sometimes even both at the same time. The ending scene of episode two of the first season manages to find beauty in a sunken seaside town, and if you don’t take anything else away from this series honestly just watch this scene:

The World is Over, I Guess…

Another massive Elephant that seemingly is never addressed, I suppose for fear of killing the mood, is the setting, because, in the universe of YKK, everyone is living through the apocalypse.

Ok, that is a little inaccurate. Technically, the Apocolypse that wiped out a large chunk of humanity is a couple hundred years removed from the events of the series. Still, it feels like when it is addressed at all, it is done in a way that feels incredibly calm and detached.

Part of this is probably due to the previously mentioned time separation, but a large chunk of it also seems to stem from the fact that Alpha is a robot. While she certainly acts the part of a young woman running a coffee shop, her perception of time seems to be significantly different than that of a normal person.

Again, this stems from multiple reasons, but rather than feeling weird and out of place, this lack of a consistent temporal grounding serves to aid YKK in creating its more relaxed atmosphere. More focus on what caused the end of the world or how it has affected other places would likely take away from the feeling that it has so meticulously crafted.

Conclusion

Weirdly enough, there is not much more to be said about the series. In fact, its brevity may arguably be one of its strengths. It is by no means a series that is going to appeal to everyone (people who primarily enjoy shounen are not likely to find much value in Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou). However, those who tend to enjoy a more monotonal, slice-of-life atmosphere will definitely get a kick out of it.

80/100


Have you all seen Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, special thanks to Jenn for being an amazing Patron.

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck: Attack on Titan OADs

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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Some of those reading the title right now might be a bit confused as to why I am choosing to cover the topic of this post. After all, OADs are often not important to the story, and on top of that, I rarely if ever talk about them outside of the context of reporting that they exist. In fact, I do not even watch them most of the time unless I am struggling with things to watch.

Well, apart from the fact that Crunchyroll has them conveniently listed on their website and the fact that I said I was going to cover them, I want to feel like I am getting the full-on AOT experience. Plus, it seems as though most of these are to be treated as canon, and since that is the case, I want to give them the respect they deserve as proper entries into Attack on Titan.

There is not really a convenient summary I can write since each episode, or in some cases dual episodes, cover different characters and events. It might be easiest to think of them as an extended “Tales of Ba Sing Se” only a lot darker and with completely different timestamps and contexts. In fact, the range of time in which these episodes happen spans from before the first episode to the middle of season three.

Highs and Lows

I will say that there is no bad episode among the released OADs. There is, however, one mediocre episode, which comes right at the beginning. Episode two focuses on a cooking competition between Jean and Sasha, all the while Jean is looking for every excuse not to see his mom, even going so far as to kick her out of the barracks when she comes to visit him.

Rather than outright bad, I would describe this episode as just being closer to mediocre. Everything about it feels…off for some reason. Whether it is the stakes, which are some of the lowest the series has ever seen, or maybe even the focus on Jean’s homelife which is not particularly interesting. If I had to choose one thing about it that feels the most wrong, it would be the comedy, which just feels out of place as the focus of an entire episode.

The highlight of this season is by far the episodes focused on Levi’s backstory. He has always been one of the most popular characters in the series, memes or otherwise, and these episodes cemented the justification for said popularity. These episodes also give us the origin story of Levi’s friends, and how exactly his relationship with Erwin came to be.

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Levi’s story is by far one of the most compelling in the Attack on Titan universe. Little is known about the underground city outside of the fact that those who live down there tend to stay down there. Poverty is its defining characteristic and through a major tragedy, Levi is able to make it to the surface.

In fact, I would argue that both of the two-part OADs are worth mentioning, as Annie’s is also surprisingly good. Her episode focuses on investigating the missing daughter of a wealthy elite. The job is passed on to her after she asks her roommate to report her sick for tomorrow’s Military Police work. Despite not caring that much, to begin with, she ends up solving the whole thing in a day.

It is an interesting story because Annie is one of those characters who also feels a bit underdeveloped despite how much importance she has early on. Unfortunately, I cannot say these episodes do as much in terms of properly explaining her motivations, but it does give us another side of her that makes her feel decidedly more human than even Reiner or Bertholdt. On top of that, the episode shows us yet another aspect of the seedy underworld that is human society within the wall: drugs. At first, it felt like an odd choice, but considering they have weapons that literally send them flying through the air at top speed to kill titans, it makes sense that they can cook drugs.

OADs vs Main Seasons

Outside of the aforementioned episode about Jean, all of these are above average episodes, with a lot of them focusing not just on individual characters, but the soldiers as a group. Something that feels missing from Attack on Titan is a sense of comradery which the earlier military training episodes fail to really foster. I dare say that making time for the content of, let us say, episode three would help to improve that.

Episode three showcases Eren and friends during a training mission in which the only immediate objective is to reach a checkpoint and come back. The group is attacked by black market weapon sellers at which point their gear and Krista are taken. The crew is then forced to use their better judgment to devise a plan and get her back.

Honestly, if this episode were just dropped into the middle of the original series and edited a bit for context, the series as a whole would be a fair bit better. This is not to say that right now Attack on Titan is not compelling, but it feels like if more time were spent on characters earlier on, there would be a bit more impact later on.

That could actually be said for most of the episodes here. Their division from the main series as OADs, while they may still be canon, gives them an air of unimportance. One of my biggest gripes with Annie’s episodes, for instance, is not even anything to do with the episodes themselves. Rather, it is the fact that they exist outside the preview of season one, where their inclusion would have seriously assisted her character.

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What is the Point?

Though not as narratively or technically impressive as some of the others, Mikasa’s “flashback” during the last OVA feels compelling enough to talk about. Many have argued that her character basically comes down to having strong feelings for Eren, and while I do not deny that, it is not necessarily a bad thing for a character to be solely focused on another.

During the episode, Mikasa reimagines the world with the stipulation that Eren has to die at some point, and their terrifying reality mirages itself away, replaced instead by one in which Mikasa’s parents are still alive, and Eren becomes her distant friend.

This episode appears to be in the context in which the group figures out that Eren only has a few years left to live, which makes a lot of sense. Those feelings of desperation can be hard to deal with, and yet, by the end of the episode, it all vanishes, which highlights the immediacy of their situation.

Music? Music.

Surprisingly there are actually a few cool things to say about the music in these OADs. For starters, during the intro sequence to the episode about Jean’s cooking competition, the intro for Guren no Yumiya is edited to focus more on Jean himself. While not incredibly important to the overall episode, it is a nice touch that was admittedly pretty funny.

Of course, I cannot talk about Attack on Titan music without also mentioning the man, the myth, the legend, Hiroyuki Sawano. The base soundtrack for the series is already beautiful, but the female rendition of Call Your Name which is included at the end of Annie’s episodes is absolutely phenomenal and was quickly added to my music rotation.

Conclusion

For the purposes of this review, these episodes are being judged as a sort of loosely connected mini-series, with the over-arching story coming from Attack on Titan itself and not from any internal connectivity between the episodes. Even with that being the case, they are a great addition to the overall story of AOT, and with the full context of the series now under my belt, I look forward to the final season.

83/100


Have you seen the Attack on Titan OADs? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, thank you to our awesome Patron Jenn

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck: Bubble

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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There are a number of anime that I approached in the past with the mentality of really wanting to like them. Whether it was because of a specific visual in a trailer, or a plot summary that felt particularly compelling, I watched them with the expectation that I was going to enjoy them. The best example of this which comes to mind is Food Wars, of which I sat through two and a half seasons before finally realizing how utterly mediocre it is.

Unfortunately, it seems as though I and many others have had a similar experience when it comes to Netflix’s latest anime film Bubble. In this case, a lot of what got people excited upon its announcement last year was the big names attached to the project, most notable of which are Tetsurou Araki (Attack on Titan, Death Note) and Gen Urobuchi (Madoka Magica, Psycho-Pass, Fate/Zero). Sadly, though, for as much talent as this project managed to pull, it only ended up being just ok.

Bubble tells the story of a seemingly magical Tokyo, where the appearance of bubbles followed by an extreme explosion created a unique anti-gravity environment that was flooded by the surrounding ocean. This new environment attracted an experimental project involving orphans and parkour where teams compete for resources while living in this now floating city.

Doing Too Much

Another thing that this movie made me imagine was a writer’s room filled with like 20 people where everyone was just kind of shouting out ideas to the head writer (Urobuchi in this case) and they just kind of write it all down and try to make it work in order to keep everyone happy. Kind of a shame really, since Urobuchi’s writing is generally very purposeful and slimmed down to only the most important elements.

Like, take a second to really think about how many plot points get introduced. A bubble storm that destroys Tokyo, orphans who invade the city while it is on lockdown, a then seemingly government-endorsed research project, a parkour sports league that may or may not be government-endorsed, a bubble that gains sentience and becomes obsessed with the main characters, a plot by one of the parkour teams to kidnap the lead researcher of the science project…what?

This movie drops picks up and drops story beats like Thor suddenly losing his connection to Mjolnir. Multiple times. Generally speaking, I tend to give more points to interesting ideas even when they are executed badly. After all, in an age where art is as well funded as it has ever been and now everything is a re-tread of something else, having genuinely new ideas is hard. Still, the media does need to execute for it to be worth watching, so ultimately the story fails in that department.

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Well, It is Pretty

Honestly, that could be the tagline for most of the anime films I have covered over the last few years. However, Bubble does go the extra mile above simply having a few nice-looking frames, because my god is the choreography in this film phenomenal.

And no, the use of the word choreography here is not a mistake. Sure, the characters are technically playing a non-dancing sport, but the way they are animated to glide through the air while bouncing from building to building, car to rock, is absolutely breath-taking. While I am incredibly lazy and therefore cannot be bothered to check the entirety of the staff listing for both projects, it is clear that Wit-Studio and many of those who worked to bring the visuals of the 3D Maneuver Gear in Attack on Titan to life brought the same passion to the parkour scenes in Bubble.

Speaking of, parkour is actually such a cool thing to watch. There was definitely a time in recent history when the saturation of parkour videos on YouTube made it hard not to meme. Yet, it never stopped those videos from being fun to watch. I will not sit here and lie saying I watched them for hours, but I would also be lying if I said the occasional parkour compilation video did not get me hyped. Again, it is one of those ideas which feels genuinely unique to this film, and it does look nice, but it never feels like it adds anything to the story.

Good Music

It feels like ever since the release of Your Name back in 2016, the standard for music in anime films has become Radwimps. Regardless of how one feels about the story of Your Name, and I know my opinions have certainly changed since then, the soundtrack is one area where its reputation has remained untouched.

Luckily, Bubble does not suffer much in this department either. For starters, both its opening and ending themes fit with the nature of the film, with the opening being more upbeat and EDM-based and the ending song being more of an acoustic ballad, with a more melancholic tone.

The rest of the soundtrack is composed by Hiroyuki Sawano (Again, the talent pool here is insane) and is definitely reflected in the more bombastic moments, like on the track “Tower.” However, Sawano knows how to flex his muscle a bit, as is evidenced by the more mysterious main theme which is titled after the movie and also sounds like the call of a siren. This feels appropriate since Uta is primarily compared to the little mermaid throughout the film.

Oh yeah, the characters…

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This Movie Has Characters?

I was legitimately about to wrap up writing this post without touching on the characters at all, which should tell you just how much is actually going on in this mess of a film.

The main storyline, if it can even be called that, focuses on Hibiki, one of the kids who ran away into Tokyo after the explosion at Tokyo Tower. He is something of a genius at parkour, and at times seems to be the Defacto leader of the group Blue Blaze. After an accident near the tower where he almost gets sucked into a BLACK HOLE (yeah forgot to mention there are black holes in this movie), He is saved from drowning by a bubble-turned-humanoid which he later names Uta.

The most interesting part of either character is not even the romance, but rather Hibiki’s Auditory Hypersensitivity, which is used to explain why he often spends time alone and is constantly wearing headphones. Many in online discussion of the film have taken this to be a soft confirmation that Hibiki is autistic since that particular condition is often associated with being on the spectrum. However, the film seemingly never confirms this nor does anything with it outside of a two-to-three minute flashback near the end. Again, a nice inclusion, but it feels like this could have been a much bigger focus considering where the film ends up.

I would bother to list any of the other characters except that literally none of them are consequential or even really remotely interesting. In the interest of not spoiling the movie for anyone who still wants to check it out after reading this, the best summary I can give is the following: the romance is ok, except it does not actually go anywhere. As far as the ending goes, it is exactly what one would think it is going to be once the movie reveals a certain plot point.

Conclusion

I wish I had more to say about Bubble, except actually not really because this post is already over 1000 words, but I do not. For those who do not give a shit about a compelling storyline and are fine with just looking at nice visuals for almost two hours, by all means, be my guest. For everyone else…well, it is possible to get something out of this, but chances are not particularly high.

65/100


If you have seen Bubble already, how did you feel about it? Let me know in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, special shoutout to Jenn for being an awesome Patron

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck: Goodbye, Eri

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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At times, it can feel as though there is no logic to the world in which we inhabit. There is innate cruelty that taxes our very existence. Sometimes that tax is physically far enough that we can go on mostly unaffected, other times, it happens right in front of our face, maybe even behind the lens of a camera…

I won’t bother giving much of a plot description here since the story in question is only one volume. Honestly, the short and sweet of it is that it has my thorough recommendation, but the long version is going to be entering big spoiler territory, so I will give a warning now. Basically, the story consists of a middle school-aged boy named Yuta who confronts personal tragedy by making films.

Storytelling

Goodbye, Eri is much about narrative as it is about tragedy. In most cases, the audience experiences the world not directly from Yuta’s perspective but filtered through the camera on his phone. Even the first panel in which he is scene comes from the camera recording him during his birthday party. Additionally, Yuta is encouraged both by his mother and later by Eri, to record them, and thus the world of Goodbye, Eri is always one degree removed.

This becomes a factor pretty much immediately, as having all of this footage of his later deceased mother becomes the motivation for his filmmaking. The reason narrative becomes so important is that later on, it is revealed just how horrible Yuta’s mother actually is, constantly degrading him for not capturing her perfectly. Despite this abuse, Yuta decides to make the film anyway, with a twist: Yuta is unable to record his mother’s death despite asking her to, and so the final moments of his film involve him running away, the hospital exploding behind him. This eventually leads to his classmates making fun of him and his principal reprimanding him for the directorial choice.

Eri, though shown to be significantly nicer than Yuta’s mother, ultimately makes the same request, and thus Yuta experiences her most directly through his camera. What’s more, the fact that Eri meets a similar fate to his mother makes the continued filming of Eri emotionally difficult.

What makes Goodbye, Eri so compelling is the way Fujimoto Juxtaposes the need to remember somebody fondly with the power to control their narrative. It would have been just as easy for Yuta to make a film that was honest about his mother’s behavior, and yet the entirety of the opening act is filled with nothing but positive, save for Yuta’s indecisiveness at the end.

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Fantasy vs Reality

The ability to control the narrative as a thematic concept is explored even during moments when the camera turns off. We find out in the final moments of the manga that, much like in Yuta’s hastily thrown together screenplay, Eri is actually a vampire. Despite witnessing her death firsthand, Eri returns without her memory. Except, she writes a letter to herself as a reminder of her identity. The resident filmmaker experiences this during another time of immense personal tragedy, after waking up in the hospital to find out his entire family is dead.

Again the question of perspective throughout the manga invites the questioning of this dynamic in such a brilliant way. Before this moment near the end, Yuta had primarily experienced Eri through a camera lens, and even during the moments when she is off-camera, the two of them are alone. Now, is it necessary to read Eri as completely imaginary on the part of Yuta as a way of coping with his mother’s death? No, but it is a conversation certainly worth having.

After all, the abandoned building where the two spent hours watching films just explodes in the final panel after Yuta decides suicide is not worth it. Even in the most bitter and hopeless moments of his life, he is still in control, whether or not he wants to be.

Panels

I have already talked about how perspective plays a huge role in determining Goodbye, Eri‘s thematic and narrative elements. However, Fujimoto also uses his art to help support this as well.

For starters, his character designs lend nicely to the grittier realities he tends to portray. A manga with this framework would not work nearly as well with lighter, fluffier character designs that tend to support a more relaxed atmosphere, as this story is anything but relaxed. This is not to pass judgment on said art styles, but I somehow doubt this one-shot would have had nearly the same emotional resonance in another artist’s hands.

On top of that, there are many frames that are drawn more roughly, with less line work in order to simulate the effect of blurriness in a camera. While probably not a complicated endeavor from an art standpoint, it does add a lot to the narrative and thematic elements, as it reminds the audience that Yuta is constantly behind a camera rather than viewing things for himself.

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Conclusion

While a story of this nature likely could have worked in a multi-volume setting, the decision to make this a one-shot was a brilliant one, as the brevity of a single volume lends it a power that not many stories in its lane are able to match. If for some reason there are people at the end of this post who have yet to read Goodbye, Eri, 1. I did warn you for spoilers, and 2. read it anyway. Easily one of the best stories to come out this year, and I would not be surprised to see it win a ton of awards.

95/100


Have some thoughts on Fujimoto’s latest work? Let me know down in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, shoutouts to Jenn for supporting us on Patreon.

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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The Observation Deck: Kotaro Lives Alone

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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Normally, I would start this review with a joke or some stupid bit of imaginary dialogue as a way of easing people into the content. But to be completely honest with everyone reading, I do not have one this time.

Because, well, fuck this show is so sad…

Kotaro Lives Alone was released on Netflix early last month, and given that I have not been keeping as up to date on their releases, came as a bit of a surprise. What I initially guessed to be little more than a run-of-the-mill slice of life series ended up being something that at points was hard to watch, but not necessarily in a bad way.

The series focuses on Kotaro Sato, a kindergartener who has moved into the same apartment complex as an aspiring mangaka Shin Karino. Kotaro eventually makes friends with most of the people in the building, but it leaves everyone wondering: why is this kid in an apartment by himself? The others in the building soon come to find out about Kotaro’s dark past and his relationship with his parents.

Kotaro and Trauma

For anyone who has yet to see this series and becomes interested in watching it, let me use this space to offer a bit of a warning. For as cute an aesthetic the show has, Kotaro Lives Alone goes to some surprisingly harsh places. Thus, I suggest those who are triggered by similar experiences hold off or proceed with caution. Given that I will be discussing these same elements throughout the rest of this review, the warning applies here as well.

With that being said, It would be hard to have an honest conversation about the show’s subject matter without mentioning the themes of abuse and trauma. Kotaro Lives Alone is not a question, but a statement. A reality imposed by the unacceptable behavior of his parents. Thus, he is forced to fend for himself, and it is only after he becomes friends with his various neighbors like Karino, Mizuki, and Tamaru that he begins to truly lower his guard. It is an honest view of how these systems can inevitably warp our minds to focus solely on survival, represented by Kotaro’s persistent desire to “become stronger”

Ok, but Why a Kindergartener?

At first, I did think it weird to have the main character be at an age where most kids are barely able to speak, let alone pay taxes and rent. After all, the idea that a four-year-old would be allowed live alone and sign contracts sounds pretty ridiculous. Regardless, the nature of animation is exaggeration, and one of the biggest known effects of trauma is forcing kids to mature at a pace they would otherwise not.

It is within this framework that we can begin to understand Kotaro’s character. The extent of his abuse has created a child who is not only self-reliant but one who actively refuses the help of others as a means of saving face. All of this makes Kotaro a much quieter kid, who makes friends in a way that feels awkward to someone who watching from the outside.

What’s more, Kotaro’s personality is much different from that of his peers. It is noted often and by multiple characters that Tono-Sama, his favorite show, is not particularly popular among kids his age. The show’s focus appears to be on strength and personal responsibility, how to be a good kid, and things that have also been forced on Kotaro by his situation.

It Takes a Village

In the absence of said abusive parents, Karino thinks it important to help Kotaro in his day-to-day endeavors. Thus, he, along with the others living in the apartment, decides to help look after the young boy. As previously mentioned, it takes a while for Kotaro to get used to the idea of trusting these random adults, but eventually, he becomes used to their company.

The relationships Kotaro builds with Karino and the others are both heartwarming and heartbreaking. For every moment in which the group becomes closer, another element of the kid’s broken past seems to come out, whether it be the fact that he doesn’t like having his picture taken because his father used it to track him down or his affinity for large meals due to the absence of consistent food.

Stability for Kotaro has largely been a privilege, and getting comfortable is hard for him.

Kotaro’s Animation

For as compelling a story as Kotaro Lives Alone is, its animation is one of the departments where I would say it feels lacking. Not bad per se, as the choice of bright colors contrasts well with the drabness of flashbacks to Kotaro’s past. Rather, I cannot really come up with anything particularly praiseworthy about it. Which, in all fairness, is true of most shows I review.

Another thing I slightly dislike is the character designs, specifically concerning Kotaro. Idk if this was another choice specifically motivated by psychology, but his eyes look almost lizard-like. There is a deadness there which just feels incredibly off-putting. Again, it makes sense given the context of the story, the whole premise is incredibly off-putting. I wonder, though, if maybe there was another way to portray that through his character design.

Conclusion

Kotaro Lives Alone is an incredibly special series. It is rare that shows tackle social issues specifically and with this much depth. It was indeed hard to watch at times, but mostly because of the painful reality of its descriptions. Because of the gripes I mentioned with its animation, along with some of the later episodes kind of blending together, I cannot give it a perfect score, but it does deserve your undivided attention at some point.

88/100


How did you feel after watching Kotaro Lives Alone? Let me know in the comments.

If you are interested in reading more from me, check under blog to read my most recent stuff, or look below for some related posts. Also, if you would like to support Animated Observations, consider donating on Ko-fi or through paypal, or pledging on Patreon. You can even support by just liking and sharing this post.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, shoutout to Jenn for supporting us on Patreon!

If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friends!

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