Tag Archives: Feature

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!

Final Thoughts: A Silent Voice

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

It is has been over three years since Kyoto Animation released what is probably one of their greatest works since the studio’s founding in 1981. While maybe not the grandiose, love story spectacle that propelled “Your Name” to its spot as one of the best selling Japanese films of all time, “A Silent Voice” is not only an arguably better film, but one that carries a lot more weight in its subject matter. Here are my final thoughts.

The Story of A Silent Voice

A Silent Voice tells the story of Shoya Ishida and Shoko Nishimiya. While attempting to kill himself, Shoya recalls the days of his elementary school. During those times, he was happy, had plenty of friends, and almost no problems, that is, until Shoko Nishimiya transferred to his school. It wasn’t long, however, before Shoko’s deafness made her stand out among the elementary school kids. Soon enough everyone was bullying her, Shoya most predominantly, but with everyone more or less sitting back and laughing. Eventually, it gets so bad that her mom calls, prompting everyone to sell out Shoya as the only culprit, leaving him angry at Shoko. This all leads to Shoko leaving the school.

Fast forward back to the present. Shoya, now in high school, is alone with no friends. Feeling some level of guilt, he decides to try and reconnect with Shoko as a way of apologizing. From there, the two of them slowly build their relationship.

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Hating That Which is Different

A Silent Voice’s central conflict comes from Shoya’s horrible past. At the beginning of the film, he feels so bad about his own life and the things he did to Shoko that he tries to kill himself, but stops at the last second. That horrible past, of course, was bullying Shoko because of her deafness. Because her hearing made it slightly inconvenient to communicate, the kids around her saw this as a reason to hate who she is.

Most important, the lesson to take from Shoya’s past is that the kind of hatred that treats people differently because of who they are is quite literally childish, and ultimately stems from an animalistic fear of that which people do not recognize.

On Redemption and Self-Hatred

Throughout the film, Shoya and Shoko approach their friendship from two very different places, but one that still leave them with self-hatred. Shoya sees his actions as a reason to not only reconnect with Shoko, but to keep himself isolated from others. In his view, the loneliness he feels after being shunned by his classmates is deserved. Part of this does come off as a bit of a martyr complex on Shoya’s end. He sees himself as the only person who should suffer, even though he knows that others also took part in bullying Shoko.

Shoko, on the other hand, almost seems to still hate Shoya for most of the movie. Now, this is understandable given that Shoya went out of his way to make her life horrible during elementary school. However, it is still really weird given the fact that she continues to hang out with him. This, combined her having romantic feelings for him likely created the turmoil which prompted her to attempt suicide.

Because both of them hold in these feelings of self-hatred for so long, it creates a toxic relationship that neither of them quite realize they are in until it is almost too late. Still, by the end of the film they understand each other enough to let these feelings go, which allows them to be true friends.

Sending the Wrong Message?

One thing that has been highlighted by writers and content creators much smarter than myself is the dynamics between characters and how they can reflect real life relationships. Someone who does really well is The Aficionado, so go check them out. As for A Silent Voice, its safe to say that the dynamics are a bit odd, at least for Shoko anyway. Having a former bully come back into your life wanting to be friends can be a bit awkward to say the least, and is, again, part of the reason why she attempted suicide. Now, its true that in the end the two do end up casting aside their guilt, but it is worth thinking about whether or not sending the message of accepting your abuser back into your life is a good thing.

Good Writing Things That are Good

There are always a few things that good stories do to set themselves apart from other good stories, to show that they are willing to go above and beyond in order to make the best moments even better. One such great moment is near the end of the film, when Shoko tells Shoya she is going to go home and study. Now, this alone makes it somewhat suspicious, but the film adds to this foreshadowing when Shoko, instead of signing see you later instead signs what I presume was simply goodbye. Then, when Shoya goes back to the apartment shortly after to get Yuzuru’s camera, he almost immediately recognizes what Shoko is going to do because he was planning on doing the same thing.

Another one of these moments is actually a fusion of writing and animation. In order to visually represent Shoya’s fear of connecting with and looking at other people, the film uses giant blue X’s which appear on the faces of those he either does not know or is scared to talk to. While it is not particularly complex, it does add to the overall presentation in a way that makes for more emotional scenes, like in the final moments of the film where Shoya overcomes his guilt and is finally able to see everyone for who they are, and so all the blue X’s that were covering his classmates faces then disappear.

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The Animation

There is not much to say about A Silent Voice’s animation other than that it is amazing. While it is true that the film is not action heavy like some of Kyoto Animation’s other projects such as Beyond the Boundary, there is still a lot of care put into the film’s animation. I already mention the blue X’s, but one other part that stands out is the character designs. Something that lesser anime projects can often suffer from are lackluster character designs that don’t inspire many to remember any of the characters. However, A Silent Voice has no problem with this whatsoever, and the character designs are noticeable improvement over the manga.

The Dub

As I re-watched the movie on Netflix for this post, I decided it would be a good idea to give the dub a try, since I had never heard it before. Luckily, the dub manages to deliver in spades. Each of the actors did a great job portraying their characters and made them all feel unique. Some of the best performances came from Robbie Daymond and Lexi Cowden, who voiced Shoya and Shoko respectively.

Conclusion

A Silent Voice is maybe not among my personal favorites, but it is a film that accomplishes everything that it sets out to do. Not only does it talk about important subject matter, but manages to do so with one of the most beautiful presentations in recent memory. It is almost guaranteed to live one in the hearts of those who choose to watch it.


How do you all feel about A Silent Voice? 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: Iron-Blooded Orphans

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After putting up my What Else Should You Watch: Doctor Stone post a few weeks ago, I again thought about the kinds of posts how I have not done in a while, and I settled on a first impressions, if for nothing else than because its kind of an easier one to write while I am dealing with end of the semester stuff. For this first impressions, I am taking a look at a show that was put on Netflix only recently, but has been given a lot of critical acclaim for a while, that being Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans

Iron-Blooded Orphans, like many of its Gundam counterparts, takes place in a world after great destruction. In its case, the Calamity War, a battle between earth and its outer colonies in space, ended in the division of earth into four separate economic blocks. Mars, meanwhile, is in deplorable conditions, and its people are quickly signing on to the idea of Independence from Earth. Kudelia Bernstein, an aristocrat representing the independence movement, decides to enlist the help of the CGS, a local military branch. However, her sense of security is somewhat short-lived, as Gjallarhorn, the organization responsible for keeping peace in the universe, attempts to assassinate her. Despite the attempt, Mikazuki Angus and Orga Itsuka, along with many other child soldiers working under the organization, pull together to help defend her.

Now, I will get this out of the way upfront: I am in no way an expert on Gundam, so what I say after this point is going to apply to this series only. I do not want to generalize to much and then have Scott tell me I am wrong. Anyway, onto the rest of it.

After watching three episodes of Iron-Blooded Orphans, I can say for sure that the series is not boring. While it sticks to a lot of science fiction convention, even from the first couple of episodes it has an extremely ambitious vision of the story it wants to tell. One of the good parts about it right of the bat is its main characters, Mikazuki and Orga. The first scene of the first episode shows the two of them struggling to survive, even having to kill someone to do so. The desperation of their situation becomes immediately apparent, and so its makes sense why they ended up joining a military organization, even as kids. Another important thing that first scene shows is the dynamic between the two of them. Mikazuki is very much someone who will whatever Orga asks him to, even killing someone. This kind of dynamic is both immediately concerning, and also hints at what might come later on.

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The story also alludes to a lot of other important themes early on, such as poverty. Orga, Mikazuki, along with many of the other kids at CGS, came from desperate situations where they were on the brink of dying in the streets. To escape this suffering, they did what they thought they had to and joined the military, if for nothing else than the basics of food, water, and shelter.

For as much as I try and put my own taste aside when talking about the artistic merit of a series, it is not always easy, and while I have enjoyed certain mecha series in the past it is not a genre that generally peeks my interest. I mainly took a look at Iron-Blooded Orphans as a way to test my own waters, so to speak. However, as it turns out, I am still not much of a fan of the idea of giants robots slamming each other into the dust, at least not under normal circumstances.

One thing that is worthy of criticism outside of personal preference though are the character designs. Specifically, the way the character designs clash with the feel of the story being told. Iron-Blooded Orphans is clearly trying to show us the gritty reality of its main characters, from murder, to betrayal, it wants to capture all of the feelings and actions involved with life at war. Which is why it is strange that the characters all still look like they are supposed to be in a shounen series. I would say that normally this does not bother me as much, but Iron-Blooded Orphans is aggressive in how much it wants to be taken seriously, and so the clash is much more noticeable.

Suffice it to say that I will likely not continue the series, or if I do it might just be a few more episodes. While there is probably a lot of good left to be found in the show, it frankly just does not appeal to me much and the clash between its characters design and its tone will probably throw me off the whole way through.


How do you all feel about Iron-Blooded Orphans? 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!