Tag Archives: Feature

AnoHana Episode One: To be Haunted by the Past

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

I do not know why I did this to myself…but, I guess we are here now, so lets talk about it.

It has been quite a while since my last time watching “AnoHana: The Flowers We Saw That Day,” for mostly good reason. Mainly, that its really sad. Now, I know that to anyone whose even remotely familiar with the show that is not a particularly revolutionary piece of information. However, given the year that has unfolded, I felt like being sad is just sort of an inevitability at this point.

It also just so happens that because Crunchyroll’s manga reader DOESN’T WORK AT ALL I can’t read “Inside Mari” as I initially planned. Putting that aside though, lets talk about “AnoHana” episode one.

For those who are totally unfamiliar, The story focuses on Jinta Yadomi, a high school kid whose memory of his dead friend Menma has somehow manifested her back to life. Now, he must reunite his old friend group, who drifted apart after her death, and grant her wish, whatever that may be.

Emotional Impact

The series eleven episode run time leaves absolutely no room for filler, even during the first episode. As the episode begins, the series shows Jinta’s reaction to seeing Menma for the first time. Rather than an immediate overreaction, Jinta begins to feel the weight of Menma’s presence slowly overtime, until he eventually collapses from summer heat and stress. After he wakes up, and the idea that his delusion of Menma is, in fact, quite real, Jinta begins to question why she is here in the first place.

The two also spend the episode meeting their old friend group, and it becomes apparent just how much everyone has changed from when they were kids. This upsets not only Menma, who is sad to see that her friends are no longer together, but also Jinta who, because of Menma, must now confront his own personal failures.

After Jinta tells Menma to leave her alone, she then goes to her family’s house, at which point the show also gives a look into the life of her family, who seem to have also grown distant in the time since her passing. Her brother seems not to care for their mom’s sentimentality.

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On top of all of that, the show saves time to make something immediately clear from the beginning. The Menma that appears before Jinta is not just some figment of his imagination, as evidenced by the fact that after the scene shown above, Menma responds to herself by saying that she does know that she is dead, beginning to cry immediately afterwards.

The Friends That Once Were

Another thing that is immediately obvious is that their friends also have not forgotten about the past. As the episode comes to close, the perspective changes from Jinta to the others, each in fairly quick succession, showing them living out their lives, but not quite content with the present. Whether it was seeing Jinta once again or just having it on their mind anyway, the fact that they just sort of left each other after Menma’s passing is still bothering them.

Menma

is clueless during all of this, yes, but as I mentioned before, the series make sure lay out the fact that she knows she is dead and that she is their for some reason. The most interesting part about her character is that she has seemingly appeared out of nowhere, and seems to only have knowledge of the time before she died, which makes it a lot harder for Jinta to communicate with her.

Conclusion

The first episode hits pretty hard, but also does a lot of groundwork for setting up other important plot points later on. The eleven episode run time may seem like it might not leave a lot of room for the series to fully unpack itself, but episode one confirms just how much can be accomplished in a 20 minute run time.


There is definitely a long road ahead when it comes to this series. I’m not kidding when I say I legitimately started to cry near the end of the first episode, and I honestly do not remember a lot about the series since it has been about 4 or so years since I last watched it. Also, is there anything specifically you folks want out of this re-watch? 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!

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

Final Thoughts: Aku no Hana Volume Eight

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

To be lost, without an identity
To be haunted, by those from your past.
To be stranded, abandoned by those who are supposed to love you. 

A boy without a home, hiding behind the pages of books. 

It is getting harder and harder each week to introduce such an incredible series. Every volume goes in a completely different direction than the one before it, and yet “Aku no Hana” still works as a cohesive series. What it is buiding to is something I still genuinely do not know, as I have been avoiding any discussion of the series online or with friends. As for volume eight, though, here are my final thoughts.

The Hair!

One of my favorite things about reading a good series is finding the little pieces of symbolism that are often times hidden in plain sight, and I think Oshimi did a great job with this. For “Aku no Hana,” the most obvious mini-symbol are the characters’ hair. Oshimi uses Nakamura’s original hairstyle as a reminder of her presence even when she is not in the scene itself. One good example is when Saeki cut her hair right before she went over to Kasuga’s house in a last ditch effort to get him to change course. There, she had Nakamura’s hairstyle, which was both a tool used by Saeki to get his attention and a reminder of how important Nakamura is.

However, more recently, Kasuga also has his hair in Nakamura’s style. This serves as a symbol of Kasuga’s longing for her, and also how he still sees himself in her. On top of that, the hairstyle could also be seen as a reminder of Nakamura’s personality, being someone who always demanded the attention of others, and was not afraid to be loud and rebellious.

While the hair style itself is not a particularly technical element of the story, it is one of those small things that helps to really tie the overall narrative together, and adds a deeper layer even when there appears to be not much else going on.

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Saeki’s Return

I honestly thought it would be a little bit later that either Saeki or Nakamura would get reintroduced, but it makes a lot of sense.

While walking home with Tokiwa and talking about her novel, the two pass by Saeki and her new boyfriend. The four talk for a bit, and then Kasuga and Saeki exchange contact info, only for Saeki to invite Kasuga out the same night. The two then go out for lunch the next day. The two start by having a normal conversation, but it quickly moves to the topic of their past. It becomes clear that the two of them are yet to be completely over the past.

One of the more interesting revelations during this conversation is that Kasuga has yet to try and contact Nakamura in any capacity. While it could be argued how much ability he has to actually get in contact with her, the reality is that Kasuga’s reluctance to find Nakamura is much more of a mental block than a physical one.

On the one hand, Kasuga obviously misses who he thinks is the one person he ever had a real connection with, maybe even the first real feeling of love. However, with those first feelings also came hardships and sadness. In many ways Nakamura ruined his life just as much as she might have made it better.

Saeki’s accusation still rings somewhat true, that Kasuga merely used Nakamura as a way to escape his own emptiness and depression. Now, Kasuga wants to start again, but first he has to deal with his feelings about the past. He can not get to attached to

Tokiwa.

Tokiwa is another reminder for Kasuga of Nakamura. Not only does she have that very similar hairstyle, the two also look incredibly similar more generally speaking. More importantly though, Tokiwa can be seen as representative of Kasuga’s internal struggle. She is both a reminder of his past, as well as a gateway to a new normal.

I said a few lines ago that things will get complicated if Kasuga acts on his feelings for her, but I think that part is pretty obvious. What will happen after that is a bigger mystery, one that I can confidently say I do not have the answer to.

Conclusion

The end of the series is fast approaching. In just three more volumes I will finally reach the end of this series, and yet it still has kept its charm and mystery throughout these first eight volume, which is a testament to just how good “Aku no Hana” really is. Their really is a density of meaning hidden throughout the series that reveals more and more each time I read it, which is part of why it has become so much fun to write about. I hope you all will join me next week when I continue on to volume nine.


How do you all feel about this volume? Let me know in the comments. If you want to follow along with me, feel free to use the link below to buy this volume:

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!

Final Thoughts: Aku no Hana Volume 4

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

In this town,
where the weak roam clueless,
and those who know charge forward,
the absurd no longer reigns supreme.

If the end of volume three was the series first real climax, then volume four is its first new beginning. Whereas before Kasuga was unable to make a decision, remaining defined by his emptiness, he has instead chosen to pursue a new path, one in which he is fully committed to Nakamura, both as a person and as a set of ideas. As for volume four, here are my Final Thoughts.

The End is a New Beginning

At the start of the fourth volume, about a month after the incident on the mountain, Ai confronts Kasuga about avoiding Saeki along with Saeki herself. Kasuga, still feeling empty, is unable to talk to Saeki, saying simply that she would find someone much better than himself, to which she simply replies by saying the two should break up.

At this point, Kasuga is still undecided. As I talked about last time, his inability to choose between Saeki and Nakamura ultimately reflects a struggle as to whether or not he can confront the absurd. His choice to hide behind books, acting as though he is better than those around him, is one that ultimately has left him empty and alone, unable to even decipher who he is as a person. Which leads me to another interesting interpretation…

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Kasuga as Academia/The General Public

In the first three volumes of the series, Kasuga’s only real personality trait is reading books. Almost nothing else about him, not his other hobbies, his favorite food, favorite place, etc. is ever talked about. This seems to indicate that Kasuga is also not just a character but rather a representation of something else.

My first thought was that Kasuga’s character seems to be a criticism of academics, with books being a simple symbolic stand in for knowledge. Oshimi’s criticism is that those in academia often hide behind there specialized knowledge as a way of acting superior to others, when in reality they are often just as unsure of themselves as even the most uneducated among us, if not more so.

However, the criticism could also be much broader than that. Kasuga also seems as though he could be a stand in for the average person, who tries to hide behind rational thinking as a way to ignore the fact that there are some thing humans simply do not have the ability to understand.

Both of these, I think, are valid criticisms. While I am by no means an expert in psychology, it does not take a degree to understand that everyone has different coping mechanisms. For some, simply denying that there is a problem seems to be the case. Those who know a lot, or at least think they know a lot, are likely more prone to this type of coping when confronted with something they do not know, because it simply does not make sense, in their eyes, that there is something they do not know.

This is not to say that this is a widespread problem, only that it is a real one.

The Affirmation

Arguably the most interesting part of the volume, like most of the series thus far, is the end. The final two pages contrast a crying Saeki with a rather content Kasuga and Nakamura. While Saeki feels alone, sitting outside in the darkness, Her two friends are sitting inside a make shift fort, lit by a burning pair of panties and a copy of “The Flowers of Evil” Saeki says that “[she] can’t bear it anymore,” likely referring to her remaining feelings for Kasuga, which are so strong that she could not help but break down while Ai comes to see if she is ok.

Kasuga and Nakamura, though, have moved on. Represented by the burning objects, Kasuga has sacrificed his common decency and shield of knowledge to find his own meaning, a meaning that exists outside his dull life in a small town. He has finally made his choice.

Conclusion

While this volume may not be the most exciting of the ones so far, or even really the series, in terms of its meaning, it is a vitally important part of the story of “Aku no Hana,” and one that likely defines the message of the series. Still, there is much more to the series, and I am exicted to see where it goes. Tune in next week as we continue to cover this fantastic manga.


How do you all feel about “Aku no Hana?” 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!

Final Thoughts: Aku No Hana Volume Three

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

In the end, there was no pleasure.
A boy split between the normal and the distant.
He tried to cross over, but his indecision left him stuck.

Aku no Hana is a weird series. I know at this point that might as well be the equivalent of saying “grass is green” or “the sky is blue,” but its worth reiterating since its story and characters seem to purposefully operate within that idea. Even despite the strange situation the main character Kasuga faces, it never seems to deviate from this question of normal. Anyway, here are my final thoughts.

A New Understanding of Nakamura

I recently realized that analysis of the series so far might be a bit off. Up until this point I assumed ill-intent from the character of Nakamura, used her criticism of normal as a way to write her off as jealous of freedom, when it is in fact Nakamura herself who seems to be the vanguard of such freedom, or at least that is how it seems now.

It is clear that, despite the things she has done up until this point, Oshimi wants us to view Nakamura as a sort of force for good. Rather than being a representation of the more conservative elements of society, Nakamura is in fact the more open and liberal one, someone whose ultimate goal could be interpreted as freeing herself, and by circumstance Kasuga, from the ways of old.

The only thing that stands for certain about her though is that she is indeed an agent of chaos, one who seeks to disrupt and escape life as she knows it. One might say she is…absurd.

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“Aku no Hana” and Absurdism

The bountiful references to 20th-century french authors reminded me a lot of Albert Camus, the French author, journalist and philosopher who wrote on the idea of the Absurd. Simply put, The absurd is defined as “the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life, and the human inability to find any in a purposeless, meaningless or chaotic and irrational universe.”

Kasuga is a character who is undoubtedly dealing with the Absurd. For all of the series thus far, Kasuga has tried to find meaning in living out his life in his small town. However, even despite trying to hide behind the intellect of others, Kasuga has failed to find a good reason as to why his existence has any meaning. He even admits this near the middle of the third volume, where he describes himself as “empty.”

Near the end of the manga, Kasuga is confronted with a choice: continue to the other side of the mountain with Nakamura, or go back home to his meaningless life with Saeki. Ultimately, though, he fails to make a decision, and because of this the three of them are caught by the police and are brought back home. Kasuga not only fails to make a decision but by effect fails to confront the Absurd. He is currently still stuck looking for meaning because he knows how hollow is really is.

Saeki and the Denial of Meaninglessness

When Saeki meets the two runaways on the mountain in the rain, she confronts the two of them, asking why Kasuga always seems to end up with her. Nakamura goes on her usual spiel, calling him a “shitbug” and a “pervert.” After that, Saeki tries to get him to come back, telling him that she does not care about what other people think, and that she is OK with the way Kasuga is. Saeki, though, also seems to cling to a sense of normal that Nakamura simply does not care for. As a result, she ends up clinging to him as a way of projecting her need for meaning, despite there not being any for Kasuga.

Good Pacing…I Think

One thing that stands out Oshimi’s work is just how much he knows how to pace a story. Each major reveal in the series feels like it has an adequate buildup, and not like he was rushed for time and just through something completely out. Each chapter thus far feels as though it has served a purpose to the wider story, which is more than I can say for some series even shorter than Aku no Hana.

Also, I am not sure if this was intentional or not, but the way the chapters are compiled make it so that each huge climax comes at the very end. While this may seem a bit repetitive, and probably is so tbh, it also makes the end of each volume feel like a real reward.

Conclusion

“Aku no Hana” does not seem to care about holding any punches. Its exploration of the absurd seems to be going full stop with no breaks. While it seems likely the characters will take some time to reflect in the next volume, that will likely come with some self-discovery, or at least I think it will. It really is hard to say given the series’ unpredictable nature. I hope you’ll join me next week as we continue on in this intriguing series.


How do you all feel about the series so far? 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!

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

Final Thoughts: AKU no Hana Volume Two

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

In this small town, 
secrets live and die among only a select few.
The egos of many are so frail they need a paperweight.
Fantasy sometimes becomes so powerful that the ground 
dissapears under the veil of night.

“Aku no Hana” is without a doubt one of the stranger series I have read/watched. In a lot of ways, it feels like I should hate it, and yet the more I read the more I can’t help but get absorbed into the madness of it all. Apart from the first chapter, the second volume was almost nothing like I expected it to be. There are so many unknown variables, the biggest one being Nakamura, that it sometimes feels like the series is doing a 360 just to add a layer of confusion. Anyway, here are my final thoughts.

And the Story Continues

It was not enough for Nakamura to simply make Kasuga’s life miserable, nor is it likely that it will ever be enough, and as a result, she continues to make him feel the weight of his guilt. In this volume alone she nearly reveals Saeki’s clothes by pooring water on Kasuga while he’s on a date, becomes friends with Saeki as a way of making Kasuga worry, suggests to Kasuga that Saeki wants to have sex with him, and in the fairly infamous scene, forces him to write out all of the things he has done across their homeroom.

Meanwhile, Kasuga attempts to live his life normally while forming a relationship with Saeki. However, Nakamura’s antics cause him so much stress that right after he and Saeki begin dating, he says that he “hasn’t felt this free in years.” The relationship between Kasuga and Nakamura on its own already brings out a lot of tension, but when you add in the implications on Kasuga’s life on top of it, it becomes clear just how deep that tension really runs.

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Nakamura

I mentioned in my last post about “Aku no Hana” that Nakamura as a character seems to be representative of something more, of a society that only wishes to shame others for deviating from a designated cultural norm. The second volume provides another big piece of evidence for this.

In the classroom scene at the end of the volume, as Nakamura attempts to run away and calls Kasuga a coward, she mentions how society is obsessed with sex. However, instead of coming off as a serious criticism, it seems to come more from a place of jealously. In this scene, Nakamura represents a more conservative element of society that hates the emotional freedom that comes from modern society, not for any principled reason, but rather because those same elements lacked that freedom when they were younger.

Even more generally though, Nakamura could also be seen as representing the lack of freedom people had to pursue their own interests when they were younger, and the need to control others because of it. The message still feels a little weird coming from a series with the subject matter that it has, but nonetheless is still an important one.

Kasuga

On the other side of this interaction is Kasuga, who, after being manipulated by Nakamura, finally rebels, at least in a way. To keep Nakamura in the classroom, he does what she says, writing out his moral failures on not only the chalkboard but across the entire classroom, leaving it covered in black ink and descriptions of his endeavors. In a way, by fully admitting to the things he’s done, mainly stealing Saeki’s gym clothes, he is freed from her manipulation and can go on living without having to worry about what others think.

Still, part of me believes ultimately that this is actually what Nakamura wanted all along. By getting Kasuga to admit his guilt in a big display of passion, she can make him feel even worse, knowing full well that the shame will come rushing back as he falls from high of rebellion.

By the way, I guess I should take some time just to say that whenever I write these Final Thoughts posts on individual volumes, I never read ahead, so all of this is speculation, meaning everyone is totally free to make fun of me in the comments for how wrong I am provided there are no spoilers. So, have fun with that.

Conclusion

While I honestly thought this volume’s pace was going to be a lot worse, I am very happy about how wrong I was. the show just continues to build and build, allowing the reader to dive deeper into the madness and then feel the climax near the end. All of it is extremely well written, and on top of all the suspense, author Shuzo Oshimi forces people to contend with some pretty uncomfortable ideas. It is honestly hard to say where the series will go from here, but I am excited to continue, so be sure to come back next week as we dive in further.


Hope you all enjoyed the little poem at the beginning. I’m trying to make my posts a little more flavorful/personal, so I hope that added something more interesting. What do you all think of Aku no Hana? 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!

OWLS May “Adapt” Tour: Rei and the Need to Adapt

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Its that time again for another OWLS post. Just in case, for anyone who is not familiar with the group, OWLS is:

A group that promotes the acceptance of all individuals regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender, religion, and disabilities and highlights the importance of respect and kindness to every human being.

This month’s writing theme is “adapt,” as described below.

Right now, we all have lost something or gained something in return during this dark time. Our lives have been completely altered due to coronavirus. For this month, we will be talking about anime series and other pop culture media where we have characters having to adjust to changes in their environment. Whether it’s adjusting to a new school or heading towards an isekai fantasy world, we will be discussing characters that had to make changes within themselves in order to adapt to the circumstances they are in. This will also give us an opportunity to express our own personal lives as we try to adjust to a “new normal.”

For this month, Megan will be going after me on the 14th, so be sure to give her post a look, and drop her a follow as well.

With all that being said, enjoy the post.


I talked last week about a game called Hearthstone, a card game that features a large amount of random effects, and one that consequently requires its players to be able to adapt to changing situations. Life, in many aspects, is the same way. Things rarely go as people plan them, whether it be their dream job, school of choice, or even just plans for the weekend. In all of those cases, people need to be flexible, adapt, and find a plan B. If most people were not able to accomplish this, life would fall apart pretty quickly.

“March Comes in Like a Lion,” and more specifically Rei, embodies the need for both forms of adaptation very well. When it comes to playing Shogi, its obvious that Rei stands as a cut above many of his fellow competitors. There are many reasons for this, one being his training in the game from a very young age. Another, though, is his ability to adapt.

Episode to episode, Rei meets a great deal of shogi players, each who have their own play style. Some lean heavy into aggression, while others choose to play much more offensively. Rei, however, sits somewhere in the middle. His style is ill-defined, often leaving him to react to his opponent, rather than developing his own unique way of approaching the game.

This ability to adapt to his opponent mid-game and create a new path to victory based on his current board state is what makes Rei such an excellent player. However, the same cannot be said for Rei’s ability to play the game of life, at least initially.

The story of “March Comes in Like a Lion” opens on a Rei still stuck in the past. He is solely focused on his past and what his adopted family put him through. His anger and resentment keep him from seeing anything else important, and he continues to hate shogi as a result.

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It is only after he meets the Kawamoto sisters that things begin to change. The three sisters, Akari, Hina and Momo, show him genuine kindness. They let him stay out there house, they feed him homecooked meals, and even watch his matches after they find out about his career as a pro shogi player.

After meeting them, Rei’s life begins to change drastically. Suddenly he has more to focus on then just shogi and paying bills. While his memories and family members still bother him a lot, he is better able to deal with those things because he has the sisters to help keep him positive.

Throughout the rest of the show, Rei uses this change in attitude to his advantage. Not only does he grow as a player, improving his shogi skills by studying alongside various top players, he continues to grow as a person.

Ultimately, what “March Comes in Like a Lion” shows is that adapting is important. Whether it be in a game or in real life, adapting can be the difference between victory and defeat, and sadness and happiness. While it might feel hard to change while worrying about the existential threat that is COVID-19, it is worth remembering that even taking small steps can eventually lead to a more healthy and desirable version of yourself.


Yeah, so this kind of turned into an advice column more than a post, but I know even just based on my own headspace that people can use a little more positivity. Also, money and healthcare, but that’s a different post entirely. Do you feel like you are adapting well to COVID life? 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!

First Impressions: Dragon Quest 11 Echoes of an Elusive Age

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Although I greatly enjoyed, and am still on my way towards completing, “Fire Emblem Three Houses,” I took a break because I wanted to play something a little more traditional. I could think of nothing else more traditional than the latest entry in one of the series that helped define the JRPG genre. While it has not fully impressed me as of yet, despite it in all likelyhood a fairly long game, I have seen enough within the first eight or so hours of the game that makes me want to continue on.

For Starters, despite being presented well, Dragon Quest 11’s story does not seem out of the ordinary for the series. It focuses on a main character who was born as the reincarnation of the luminary, a being of light who is destined to battle the dark one. Along the way, he meets a number of individuals who are either told to or tasked with meeting the luminary and helping them on their journey.

While the main character, who is simply dubbed “The Destined Hero,” does not have much in the way of compelling traits, the rest of the cast, at least so far, more than carries the weight. Erik, for instance, starts out as a totally mystery, fitting of his rouge-like origins. However, it becomes apparent that he has only the intentions of helping the luminary. His gestures and manner of dialogue make him pretty entertaining.

The game does not due much to alter the classic RPG formula of game-play. It mainly consists of fighting monsters, gaining levels and skills points, and doing various missions and side-missions along the way. While some might argue that there is something to be said for keeping it simple, Dragon Quest is a series that could arguably stand to benefit from a serious overall in its combat.

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The enemies by themselves are not particularly difficult to fight, including many of the bosses. In fact, the only way the combat becomes even remotely difficult is by altering the game through the draconian mode, which allows the player to put certain restrictions and challenges on while they play.

Outside of these restrictions however, it is fair to say that the combat is uncompelling at best.

However, despite a fair amount of mediocrity, their remains a lot to be liked about the game. For instance, nearly all of the games cut scenes are beautifully animated and worthy of extreme praise. Leave it to Square Enix to create yet another incredibly animated game that breathes life into the characters it is portraying.

One scene that was incredibly well done is when the main character returns to his home village with Erik. He is shown a vision of his grandfather, as well as himself when he was younger, and gets the chance to talk with him. Upon being released from his allusion, he sees his home village burnt to the ground, with homes and other buildings destroyed by the King’s troops.

Another aspect of the game that is well done is the soundtrack. This is not really a surprise, considering Square Enix is also well known for their incredibly soundtracks, but it is worth noting regardless. Often times game soundtracks have little diversity, or just do not have very interesting music, and make the person playing want to turn on their own music. However, this is simply not the case with “Dragon Quest 11.”

Overall, I will likely continue on with the game, if only to meet the rest of the cast. Despite having a few mediocre elements, “Dragon Quest 11” still has enough elements going for it that make it worth seeing through.


Have you guys played “Dragon Quest 11?” 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!

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

Final Thoughts: The Golden Sheep Volume One

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

Kaori Ozaki’s “The Gods Lie,” was, in a lot of ways, a devastatingly sad tale. From the initial story of a young boy growing up disillusioned with, to the evolution of its characters, and its seamless transition into a romantic tragedy gone wrong, it is a work that is not only heartbreaking to read, but touches on issues that are important in the real world. Her follow up work “The Golden Sheep” follows a similar path.

It revolves around Tsugu, a high school girl who, after leaving her hometown for a few years, returns to find her friends Sora, Sally and Yuushin exactly as she left them, or so she thinks. As time passes she discovers that the friends she left behind in elementary school are not the same as they used to be.

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Tsugu’s return to her hometown marks a noticeable change in both her friends and herself. What Tsugu initially does not realize about them is that their relationship dynamic has changed dramatically. Yuushin, who was once the proud protector of the group, now bullies Sora for his money, and Sora feels so bad about what happened to Yuushin when he was younger that he just sits there and takes it.

Meanwhile, Sally, who has yet to muster the courage to confess to Yuushin, now feels like she is competing with Tsugu. As a result, Sally takes her anger out on Tsugu, pushing her away by bullying her quite literally behind her back. Tsugu realizes that life is not the same as it was when she left. Her friends are different.

Much like its predecessor, “The Golden Sheep” is incredibly well written, at least so far, and does a great job at layering important messages into the story. Whereas “The Gods Lie” focused on child neglect and abuse, “The Golden Sheep” tells a very similar tale about bullying, and how time changes people, both for the better and the worse.

The way this is mainly told is through the Yuushin and Sora. After Tsugu left the year they graduated from grade school, Yuushin was bullied due to a news story about his father having sexual relations with a teenage girl. After reuniting with Sora in middle school, he begins to bully him, as a way to take out his aggression on him.

Sora, on the other hand, feels as though he abandoned Yuushin, and as a result simply takes Yuushin’s bullying without much resistance. In fact, Sora feels so bad about his situation, with a mixed sense of guilt and anger, that he attempts to commit suicide by locking himself in a car and suffocating from burning charcoal. It is only after Tsugu notices and saves him that he realizes his own value.

One thing that seems not necessarily problematic, but more so interesting, is her characters tendency to use running away as a problem solving mechanic, even though both mentally and materially it solves almost nothing. In both “The Gods Lie” and “The Golden Sheep,” running away becomes more a means of momentary relief than anything else.

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Another thing this manga and the “The Gods Lie” share is amazingly detailed artwork that works to enhance he storytelling. One scene that stand out really well is the one featured at the beginning of the first volume depicting Tsugu rescuing Sora. Out of context, the scene is depressing, sure but is on its own not incredibly emotional.

It is only after hearing Tsugu and Sora’s backstory that the artwork really enhances the scene. It shows a crying Tsugu, her favorite guitar in hand, shattered in half trying to save one of her only friends from himself. The detail in Tsugu and Sora’s face, as well as on the guitar really adds to the power of the scene as a whole.

The dynamic between the four main characters is also incredibly complex. Each new piece of information that is revealed about one of them feels like it affects all of them. When it is revealed that Sally has a crush on Yuushin, and that Sally is jealous of Tsugu, she begins to bully her. This in turn makes their relationship more similar to Yuushin and Sora’s than to the relationship of true friends.

Overall, the first volume of “The Golden Sheep” feels like an excellent opener to what will undoubtedly be an emotional complex series.


How do you all feel about “The Golden Sheep?” 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!

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

Production I.G. and Two Great Sports Anime

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

It has been a while since the last time I talked about these two shows, but considering their quality, I felt it was important to revisit them, especially now that I have seen more of one of them. “Kuroko no Basket” and “Haikyuu” are two shows made by Production I.G., the studio behind a number of classic anime, including “Eden of the East” and “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.”

Production I.G. has worked in a variety of genres. Aside from the two shows listed above, they are also responsible for co-producing “Attack on Titan” with Wit Studio, as well as making “Pyscho-Pass” at the Direction of Shinichiro Watanabe.

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Within the realm of sports anime, the studio has also been relatively sucessful. Aside from the “Haikyuu” and “Kuroko no Basuke,” they were also responsible for both “Ace of Diamond,” co-produced with Studio Madhouse, and “Run with the Wind,” both of which were received relatively positively.

However, I think both “Kuroko no Basket” and “Haikyuu” excel for a number of reasons. For starters, while both shows have a relatively large cast, they do enough with those casts to make each of the minor characters pretty memorable.

A good example from each would be Tsukiyama from “Haikyuu” and Hyuuga from “Kuroko no Basket. In the case of Tsukiyama, his character stands out initially because of how tall he is, but isn’t particularly moved by the idea of playing Volleyball. However, after getting good at blocking, he realizes how much fun it is to use his height to his advantage during play.

Hyuuga’s story is noticeably different. While not possessing any innate skill rather than being somewhat taller than average, he works hard both at leading the team and at being a good player. These two things lead to some pretty great moments of other teams underestimating his skill and him proving them wrong.

Another thing great about each show is the dynamic between their main characters. In “Kuroko no Basket,” Taiga is initially perplexed by Kuroko, as his skills at basketball seemed below average at best. However, as he learns about Kuroko’s specialized skills in passing, he comes to understand just how good of a teammate Kuroko can be. In the first episode Kuroko promises Taiga “to become the shadow to your light.”

Meanwhile, Hinata and Kageyama’s relationship in “Haikyuu” is also quite different. Hinata starts out wanting revenge on Kageyama for beating his middle school team when they first met. Leaving his teammates behind, Hinata trains, practicing almost everyday until he can join his high school volleyball team. Upon arriving to Karasuno High School, Hinata finds out that Kageyama is actually on his team. The two eventually must put aside their differences, though, in order to work together, while still maintaining their rivalry.

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They would not be great sports anime, however, if they were lack in great action scenes, and of course they have those in spades as well. For “Kuroko no Basket,” a great scene that comes to mind is in the second episode, when Kuroko show Taiga and the rest of the team why he was known as the phantom sixth member of the generation of miracles.

While scrimmaging, Kuroko uses his passes to both confuse his opponents and to get the ball to Taiga, who himself uses his incredible height and jumping capability to dunk over everyone. The two work together extremely well, and manage to outscore the other team by a large margin. It is a scene that not only looks cool, but manages to foreshadow the heights the two of them are able to reach.

“Haikyuu” has a lot of great scenes, but one that stands out a lot is when Kageyama and Hinata first play together in Tournament. While their chemistry during practice suggested that the two would not be able to work well together, it turns out not to be the case. The both of them manage to not only work together well, but pull of an impressive series of spikes and fakes that manage to net them the win. In that way, it is very similar to “Kuroko no Basket” in that it manages to foreshadow their success.

Now, that is not to say either series is without fault. “Kuroko no Basket” can often suffer from being a bit to shounen, which can often ruin the atmosphere. For example, it is a bit hard to take a basketball anime seriously when one of the main rival’s abilities is that he can literally make a shot from anywhere on the court. While theoretically it make sense that, given enough time, anyone could make shots consistently from that far away, it does come off a bit silly.

“Haikyuu” certainly is not as bad, but also does not get a free pass. The teams in Haikyuu actually suffer from the opposite reason: being to indistinct. None of them, save for Jousei high school, leave a particularly large impression. Often times it feels like characters are being introduced for the first time when they have been in the series for much longer.

Overall, though these are minor nit-picks. Both “Haikyuu” and “Kuroko no Basket” are great sports anime in their own way, but are similar in their quality. Both manage to have interesting supporting casts, dynamic rivalries, and breath-taking action scenes. While I certainly would not recommenced watching them back to back, they are worth watching at some point.


What are some other great sports anime I should watch? I’ve heard about Slam Dunk quite a bit, and Hanebado also seemed pretty cool, but I would love to hear from you all. 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!

Animated Observations Update #9: What Feels Like the End of the World

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

I Hope everyone has been doing well and staying safe. Life has definitely changed dramatically for everyone in the past month, but considering the amount of updates I skipped over the last couple of months, I wanted to make sure everyone knows whats happening with myself.

Done with Break

Having the month of March to recharge my brain and take some time to think about what I want to do has definitely helped me feel more inspired to write. While I definitely did not watch and play as much as I wanted to, it still felt like I got stuff done. Now, I am ready to write again.

COVID-19

It also helps to get your creative juices flowing when there is a deadly pandemic forcing everyone inside. While the part of the U.S. I am from does not have it particularly bad, the state government has definitely been taking it just as seriously. Pretty much everything non-essential is either shutdown completely or is actively encouraging people to stay away.

Which makes sense. The recent pandemic is nothing to take lightly, and the initial claim that the disease only affects older people has been proven demonstrably false. All most people can really do at this point is just hope that it ends relatively quickly, although at this point that does look like wishful thinking.

What I Have Been Watching/Playing

For the first half of the last month, I spent my time pretty exclusively playing “Fire Emblem: Three Houses.” However, I usually only got to play it a few hours at a time, and because of that, I still have at least six or seven chapters left until I finish the game.

Around the middle of the month I decided to take a break from “FETH” and finally watch some anime. My two main accomplishments are catching up on “My Hero Academia” and starting and getting through half of “Kuroko no Basuke.” While the former has only been kind of meh, the latter I have actually enjoyed quite a bit.

While it definitely has its moments of being a little too shounen for being a sports anime, it is definitely exciting to watch, and I honestly cannot wait to finish it.

Online Classes

For those completely unaware, COVID-19 has forced most college students into online classrooms, often times with students getting kicked out of their dorms entirely, and some not even being allowed to get their stuff.

Fortunately, since I was already a commuter student, this was not as much of an issue for me, at least initially. Online classes overall have definitely been a worse experience than just going there in person, and while I do appreciate having more time, I certainly would trade it to not have to meet in Zoom again.


What have you all been up to recently? 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!