Tag Archives: Manga

Monk and Robot and the Spirit of Iyashikei

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It has been a while since I properly rambled about a niche topic…well, actually, no it has not, since that happens two times every week. Rather, it has been a while since doing so in a purely opinion piece/essay style format. Call it a lack of motivation or maybe even a moderation of my stronger, more out there opinions, but I have not had that much to say.

However, today is different. After recently finishing both halves of Becky Chamber’s Monk and Robot series “A Psalm for the Wild Built” and “A Prayer for the Crown Shy,” a lot of things ran through my mind. Most of them were about how damn good the novella actually was. Which is true, definitely go read it. However, a few of those thoughts drifted towards series like Yokohama Shopping Trip and one I started recently: Aria the animation.

The sub genre of Iyashikei is not one that gets talked particularly often, usually drowned out by discussion of the latest one piece arc or whatever seasonal powerhouse has ahold of people’s attention. This is not to say these conversations cannot exist simultaneously, only that they usually do not. Which, in my eyes, is a real shame.

For those unaware, Iyashikei (literally “healing type” or “healing”) refers more specifically to shows intended to have a calming effect on its audience. This is usually done with more laidback storylines, either by focusing on characters’ individual journeys, their connection with their immediate environment, or a combination of both. This often results in less overarching story and more of a focus on episodic or segmented story beats.

In anime and manga, Iyashikei tends to overlap quite a bit with the concept of slice of life, since many stories focus on one or just a few characters. Additionally, there is often a sense of intimacy within that focus, both from the characters’ previously mentioned connections with their environment, but also in their self-discovery-oriented journeys, regardless of whether they realize that is happening.

Pretty much all of what I have just described as Iyashikei is represented and celebrated within Monk and Robot, a series about a traveling tea monk who gets bored of their everyday routine, only to travel off-road into woods set aside for the Robots that gained consciousness and left society several generations ago. Said tea monk Dex then meets Mosscap, a robot who’s mission involves reconnecting with human society and finding out what it is people “need.”

It’s a big question for what feels like a relatively short series. Still, despite the sci-fi, solar-punk aesthetic that frames a large portion of the story’s setting, Monk and Robot is arguably one of the most Iyashikei stories to be released in a long time. This is because, rather than turning into some kind of big action adventure story about a society that rejects and becomes afraid of technology that has “turned against them,” the premise is very much taken at face value.

We are instead dropped into a much more understanding society. Humans in Monk and Robot, while clearly having some differences in opinion on the nature of the robot awakening, as well as on matters of ethics and religious philosophy, seem to by and large accept the idea that their abuse and exploitation of these now sentient creatures was and is wrong.

This is even true of Dex. Despite being well-traveled and seemingly enlightened, their knowledge of how Robots work is basically zero. This is probably true of most others in modern human society (the novellas are less focused on “expert scientific opinion” than it is on the nature and implications of human and robot sentience) but, of course, the main focus is Dex’s relationship with Mosscap.

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Speaking of, Mosscap comes across as a classic non-human mannerism adjusted robot, an entity whose curiosity directs them just as much as their stereotypically logic infused personality. As such, they serve as a great foil to the occasionally hot-headed and distraught Dex, who finds the robot right around the time they begin asking the same question Mosscap hopes to answer.

What starts as an incredibly awkward meeting with Dex naked in a forest quickly turns into a mutually enjoyable journey in which the two find purpose in each other. Every chapter lends itself a new adventure worth pursuing, even at the expense of some immediate comfort, which is saying a lot considering Dex’s entire religion basically revolves around small comforts like the tea they serve.

Regardless of whatever town or long stretch of road they happen to be arriving at or treading through, Mosscap manages to find something worth appreciating in a way Dex never could, at least not in their current mental state. The teachings of Allalae say that, as long it is not hurting the land or any people, that engaging in comforts is ok. However, it seems that lost in those teachings were the idea that the land and people themselves could also be those comforts.

The end of their journey feels representative of this. During the final chapter of book two, rather than going back towards the city where Dex trained to be a monk, the two instead take a detour to the beach. They eat, sleep, play, until the weight of their final journey forces them to have a candid conversation. The two ultimately conclude that, while everyone might have a purpose or something they feel like they need to do, that purpose is not something that needs to be figured out right away.

The story of Monk and Robot certainly is not always immediately feel good. It does throw out a lot of big questions with very little in the way of warning. Questions about what it means for things other than humans to be as intelligent as them. Questions about the nature of belief and its effects on our lives as people. Questions especially about human purpose.

However, most Iyashikei stories, even most stories period, operate on this principle of self-reflection before significant change or decisions. Yokohama Shopping Trip, set in the distance future and with a considerably lower human population, sees Alpha deal with extreme loneliness before she sets off on her trip in search of her boss. Though I have not seen it myself, one of the more popular anime that draws on ideas of Iyashikei is Yuru Camp. The series revolves around four teens who go camping in various locations around Japan. Despite the difficulty involved in said process, there is a joy at the end when they can wake up the next day to a beautiful sunrise.

There are certainly elements of the story that someone could nit pick at and find problems in. The beginning does border on being a little bit info-dumpy, especially when it comes to lore that feels less consequential than it really should. On top of that, while the non-binary representation is greatly appreciated, there is some really awkward sentence construction around gender neutral pronouns which could have been done a bit better.

However, none of these minor problems really take away from the point of Monk and Robot. It is a story about a transformational journey, sure, but it is also a story about enjoying life’s comfort and finding one’s place. Peace in the truest sense is hard to come by nowadays, especially in a post pandemic landscape where the general social attitude feels continually pessimistic in a way that’s hard to escape. This is not to say the correct response is throwing hands up at social ills and ignoring real problems. However, in between these battles for equality and better living conditions, there should be time for finding moments of real happiness and relaxation.


This turned out…ok. In all seriousness, I had the idea for this post a month ago when I started reading Monk and Robot’s first book. However, I also read The Afictionado’s post about cozy sci-fi during the pandemic and that inspired it even more, so shout out to them. Have you all ready this series? What do you think? Let me know down 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

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

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

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Finally, the Beginning of the End for Attack on Titan?

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Should…should I make the joke again? Yeah sure why not.

“Look guys, this one says final season, guess that means we’re getting more next year.”

Attack on Titan’s horrendous advertising of the final season aside, it does seem there is finally going to be a conclusion to what has been a literal decade-long journey through the adaptation of Hajime Isayama’s groundbreaking work. According to the article linked above, the hour-long special which will be the focus of this post is part one of two of the show’s final arc. However, it seems as though this second part is not going to be airing until the fall. Sigh…oh well, there is still plenty to talk about with this first special. So, with that being said, let’s talk about the first part of the final arc.

Speaking of finales, wow, what a cliffhanger to leave on. Seeing basically an entire army gets wiped out only for the last fighting force of Eldia to swoop in and charge at Eren full force was an incredible scene. Attack on Titan is a series that lives to create hype moments and watching Reiner titan bomb on top of Zeke was certainly nothing if not hype. There’s also a sense of simultaneous dread and hope in the fact that a group of the last of humanity is watching all of this play out in much the same way Eren and the others believed themselves to be the last of humanity at the beginning of the series.

The special also does a great job of creating those feelings throughout the course of the entire episode. As Eren and the colossal Titans march through the world, it quickly devolves into utter chaos, with people desperately trying to get away while they only watch out for themselves. There is also a whole section where the episode focuses on Eren apologizing to a small child while they are visiting the outside world, knowing full well how the future plays out. This then goes into a heartwrenching scene where that same kid and his friend are stomped on by one of the colossal titans.

Attack on Titan really does do a great job at creating its atmosphere, and part of what contributes to that atmosphere are some excellent character moments. I mentioned the episode’s cliffhanger already, but the midsection which focused on Hange and her defense of the plane had some amazing direction and camerawork, adding to the already intense scene of her trying to buy as much time as possible while burning up in the process.

The animation for this episode also feels above average, even by Attack on Titan standards. My guess is that a lot of that has to do with the fact that it is basically a short film which means MAPPA did not have to put as much planning and coordination into it as they would have done with a full season.

While my overall impression of the special is fairly positive, I do think some things about it feel a bit, for lack of a better word, meh. For example, the relationship between Annie and Armin, while not coming out of nowhere, does not seem to add much to the overall narrative other than giving her a potential reason to join the fight later.

Also, though this is not directly related to the episode itself, the whole Eren being able to see the future plot point never really sat right with me. On the one hand, the planning around said plot point mostly makes sense within the context of the series, and even some easter egg stuff I have seen floating around on Twitter seems to further confirm it. On the other, it does feel a bit retroactive in how it has been implemented in the story. IDK, it has not significantly altered the quality, so it is not like there is much room for complaining, but it still feels weird.

Overall, it was a great episode/special, and assuming part two does not go off the rails production-wise, it will likely serve as a great conclusion to the series.


How do you feel about the first half of Attack on Titan’s conclusion? 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

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

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

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Initial Results: The Ichinose Family’s Deadly Sins

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(spoiler warning for all the available chapters)

Ever read something and just been…confused, horrified, excited, and gone through the entire emotional spectrum? Then, in the end, it turns out most people have not even read it much less heard about it? Well, that was not exactly the case for me since this series was shown to me by a friend of mine, but I had not seen anyone talking about it until I went out of my way to look it up.

The Ichinose Family’s Deadly Sins is by far one of the strangest series this side of English publications, and I say this while the series only has 15 chapters. The author, Taizan5, is most known for their 2021 series Takopi’s Original Sin which went semi-viral for its darker subject matter related to bullying, a lot of which seems to have transferred over into this series as well.

For those who are unaware, which is likely most people reading based on its general level of popularity, The Ichinose Family’s Deadly Sins follows a family of amnesiacs who has recently woken up in the hospital following some sort of accident. The group, unsure of the nature of their past relationships, tries to reconnect by discussing potential memories. However, it seems as though there are some darker secrets hidden behind the fog of the past.

Normally, I would just put the spoiler warning and call it a day, but if you’re at all interested in this series based on that description I highly recommend just catching up since it is still pretty early on and most of the chapters are pretty short. It is not unrealistic that medium-paced readers could catch up in about an hour or so, and probably a little over two-ish hours for those on the slower side like myself. So yeah, go do it.

If it was not clear enough already, this manga is crazy. The premise and more psychological/horror vibes to the story feel reminiscent of the early 2010’s Amnesia series that got popularized by a lot of Lets Players like Markiplier and PewdiePie. Although, without most of the gorier elements of those games, by which I mean all of them really, at least so far.

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Tsubasa, the second youngest of the family of six and a high schooler, serves as main vantage point from which the story unfolds. The story reveals very quickly that, despite having fairly positive attitudes about their situations overall (minus Shiori but we’ll get to her in a sec), it is obvious there are some darker secrets that are being hidden by the rest of the family.

Younger sister Shiori, for example, ends up getting messaged by an older man who is implied to have been messaging and hitting on her prior to the accident. She ends up trying to please this man only for Tsubasa to come in and get her out of it. All of this happens while Shiori is angered by Tsubasa’s seeming lack of urgency about their situation.

One of the things that really contributes to this often uncomfortable but nevertheless intriguing atmosphere is the contrast between the manga’s story and its character designs. Outside of being solidly written, the manga’s characters themselves are drawn in a way that feels very family friendly, with big, expressive faces that simultaneously look depressed as hell.

With respect to that sentiment, Taizan5 really knows how to draw his characters eyes. Tsubasa constantly has a look in said eyes that feel both full of hope and yet somehow constantly defeated. This is especially true in the opening chapters when dealing with his best friend turned bully and the rest of his classmates.

Despite being 15 chapters in, a not insubstantial amount, it feels like The Ichinose Family’s Deadly Sins has only gotten started. Between Kakeru being memory swapped out of existence by the new guy and his mom just straight getting CIA eliminated in the last chapter, the level of what the fuckery is only elevating.

As far as the actually quality of the series, I am a bit torn so far. On the one hand, the writing does feel pretty good. However, it does seem like there is a nonzero possibility that the manga keeps introducing plot points for shock value and then ends up with a lot more questions than answers by the end of it. Still, I am hopeful the series can stick the landing in the future.


Have you read The Ichinose Family’s Deadly Sins? What are your thoughts on the series? Let me know down in the comments.

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

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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

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

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Initial Results: High Card

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Oh wow, I’ve gotten super behind on seasonal (per the usual) and now it is almost time for spring shows. I guess I better check out some of the new stuff before its too la-

oh, ok. Well, so much for that.

Kidding, kidding (kind of). A friend of mine asked me about High Card over the weekend and, not having anything better to do, decided to watch it and get back to them about it. Well, after giving the show a solid three episodes I can confidently say that…uh, its ok ig.

For those who are unaware, High Card is an action focused series which follows Finn Oldman, a high-school age kid who, after finding out about the potential shut-down of his former orphanage, looks for a way to help them out. Snooping around a casino leads him to the discovery of X-playing cards, 52 cards that grant people powers when used, and the various factions looking to collect them.

One such organization, High Card, disguises itself as a car dealership by day while simultaneously collected the X-playing cards for the royal government. The group recruits Finn and he agrees in order to help paying to save the orphanage.

Is it just me, or has this show been done already? No, I don’t mean to say this is a remake or anything, but it kinda feels like High Card represents that same not-an-isekai but “insert action series here” type of story that feels present in basically every season. Some of you, if you have a separate brain space for obscure seasonal shows, might remember Code Breaker from back in 2012. It was one of those series I consumed when I first got into anime and basically watched anything I came across.

At the end of the day, Code Breaker was not bad by anime means, but it also was not particularly good either, and that is the impression I get from watching High Card. It felt like Studio Hibari and the writers who worked on it were trying to create an action series without much thought about the story itself. Maybe that is a bit harsh for three episodes, but it is a feeling I cannot help but come back to.

Still, that is not to say there are not good things worth mentioning. The idea of Finn coming from nothing and entering a more high class society is certainly an interesting angle. That is, assuming they do something with it beyond surfaces level details, though Leo’s character makes it seem like that is going to be more or less unavoidable.

The series’ aesthetic is also fairly unique. The main characters are generally wearing suits, and since the cards turn into gloves when their powers activate, it gives a sense of completeness to their looks. A sort of suave energy, if you will. Like…government butlers. Yeah, that kind of makes sense.

The neon-esque color palette in a lot of the setting and character designs, including the literal casino they go to in the first episode, feel very Vegas. That, in contrast with the suits and playing cards, further distinguish between the have and have not energy in a lot of the interactions between the characters.

I cannot say anyone outside of Finn or Leo have cemented themselves as particularly memorable, but again, three episodes might not be the fairest way to judge that. The opening credits do seem to imply so fairly interesting storylines in later episodes, especially with the secretary who seems to have a fairly wild side to her.

Ultimately, High Card has left me really unsure. Nothing about it on the surface seems particularly special, but a lot of what is hinted to come next might just make it worth continuing. My plan for now is to give it another few episodes and re-evaluate. Until then, my opinion is kind of up in the air.


Are you caught up on High Card? How do you feel about the show? Let me know (without spoilers) down in the comments.

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

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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

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

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The Best, The Worst, The Lot of Us: Ryou Yamada

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As I talked about in my review of the series last month, Bocchi the Rock does not have a typical sense of character development. Given its origins as a four panel gag manga, much of its story revolves around set-up punchline scenarios that leave a lot less room for traditional storytelling. While I cannot speak for the source material itself, the adaptation manages to circumvent this and give all of the girls meaningful focus, including Ryou.

Ryou Yamada serves as the chaotic neutral of the group, doing whatever and whenever she pleases while barely hiding her excitement and lack of concern about the rest of the group. She might not seem high energy in the first few episodes, but given the right topic of discussion she opens up fairly easily. Ryou is also known for admitting to her weirdness without a second thought.

One of the things that made Bocchi the Rock! such an interesting experience from a character perspective is the way it incorporated their development into a lot of the comedic bits. Now, the center of these bits is usually centered in one way or another on Bocchi herself, but the ones that do end up focusing on Ryou are also pretty interesting.

There are, of course, the various quirky moments where she chooses to simply do the dumb. However, many also highlight the weird contradiction between her coming from a rich family while simultaneously begging the others for money and food, usually to the detriment Bocchi and Nijika.

On top of that, while usually not presenting herself as such, Ryou is very much a music nerd’s music nerds. She feels like if every music influencer on social media were put together into one person. Basically, she is there for the vibes and not much else. Which, honestly, who can blame her most of time?

Though it is not much explored in the first season, there is so implied backstory that has to do with Ryou complicated connection to music. Primarily, this comes in the form of her previous band, as one scene near the beginning of the show has her staring at a battle of the bands poster rather closely.

Despite not being the most stable herself, financially or otherwise, Ryou does end up becoming part of Bocchi’s mental support system. In particular, the scene with her and Bocchi at the cafĂ© conveys a lot of the two’s personality. While not having any idea what to do about the bands lyrics, Bocchi confides in her and vice-versa. Ryou ultimately ends up giving her one of the most important pieces of advice, and one that helps get her out of her shell. Basically, even if the lyrics feel niche, they can still convey a lot of emotion, and that is what matters the most.

This is something I can speak to personally as a creative writing major, specifically someone who spent a lot of time in poetry classes, and it is often referred to as the paradox of specificity. In poetics, it refers to the idea that the more specific a personal experience, the more compelling and relatable that experience becomes. Adversely, the more generalized a piece of writing is, the more abstract and uninteresting it is. Thus, Ryou’s advice is genuinely very good, on top of being good for Bocchi.

Assuming there is a season two at some point, it is likely that Ryou’s character will only get better. She’s witty and quick to make bad decisions, but simultaneously introspective and wise beyond her years in a way that does not feel like a stretch. Overall, despite not being the most deep character, she is still a really well-written character for a well-written gag-comedy show.


How do you feel about Ryou as a character? 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

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

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

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The Observation Deck: Kaguya-Sama Love is War – The First Kiss That Never Ends

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(Minor spoilers ahead)

I have talked a lot about Love is War over the past couple of years, and for good reason. The show has only gotten better with time and additional seasons, further developing its characters into some of the most compelling in all of the medium. Additionally, it does so while basing its entire premise around the conceit of not wanting to confess first out of fear of being seen as weak, which itself is born out of the implicit relationships people have based on socioeconomic status and perceived importance.

Thus, with a sequel movie getting announced after the end of an already incredible third season, there was going to be a lot more to talk about. Expectations, my own included, were pretty high considering what had transpired previously. Now, after having watched the film in the company of a friend of mine, I would have to say this movie was terrible, just awful, a total departure from-

Of course not, Kaguya-sama: Love is War – The First Kiss That Never Ends is one of the best anime films in recent memory. Anything it could have done right it did and manages to navigate both the comedic elements as well as the more genuinely tragic moments with the same level of gravitas.

The Narrative Setup

Japanese Christmas, not having the same sorts of religious connotations for most people as it does here in the west, tends to be a more romantic holiday like Valentine’s day (hence the marketing and release schedule). Anyone who has watched an anime with any sort of romantic plot or even just a subplot has probably figured this out already. Thus, it makes a perfect setup given Shirogane and Kaguya’s kiss at the end of season three. The race against the clock set-up also gives them a perfect window in which to create snappy, comedically effective bits as well as build on previous jokes such as Kaguya’s internal courtroom and various personas.

The two of them clearly want to be together. The problem, and what makes this film so brilliant, is that rather than fighting each other, the two spend most of it fighting themselves. Both Kaguya and Shirogane still have a strong sense of pride, one that will not let themselves be vulnerable around another person. This is especially true in Shirogane’s case, to the point that he ends up collapsing due to sleep deprivation. That strong sense of tension helps to propel the movie forward through its fairly accelerated pace.

Though the film was most obviously going to focus on the two leads, Ishigami’s love for Tsubame felt like one of the more important plotlines of the last season, and the show seemed to imply it was going to get resolved in this film as well. However, the parts of their story that are adapted feel a bit thin, getting a fairly suggestive couple of seconds at the end followed by Tsubame going to a psychic for advice. It was not bad, per se, but lacked the same kind of satisfying resolution that Kaguya and Shirogane ended up with.

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Did Someone Say Comedy?

Yeah, I did.

Kaguya-sama has always been known for its fairly ludicrous gag comedy and visual bits, but the animators and editors really turned it up to eleven for this film. The first half is slathered in some of the most out-of-pocket, unhinged humor in the whole series. Hell, the first 20 seconds include Ishigami reading softcore porn and while talking about how publishers skirt obscenity laws by only including four pages of suggestive material, and it really only gets better from there.

The latter half, meanwhile, slows down a bit, switching between comedy and tragic backstory. However, despite doing so fairly often, the weight of the situation is never compromised, because at this point in the series, it is understood how awkward and corny both Kaguya and Shirogane can be. In fact, wearing various masks such as the ones featured in season three’s climax becomes the main visual metaphor for how the two have had to hide their true selves from the world and each other.

Granted, the film is not exactly treading new thematic ground when it comes to this subject. Plenty of media in the past has played with the idea of having to hide one’s true self (Persona 5 comes to mind, primarily because of the way he shouts “persona!” halfway through while transitioning through backstory). Still, The First Kiss That Never Ends brings a sense of freshness to the topic that is uniquely its own.

Experimental Visuals

Ok, maybe “experimental” is not the right word. Still, it is hard to deny, just how much trippy-ass stuff happens in blink-or-you-miss-it moments. One moment that sticks out, in particular, happens during a flashback about Kaguya, where she blankly stares forward into the camera, with black nothingness rotating through her eyes. She does as she is being taught by someone who is presumably a private tutor bought by her family, someone who is also revealed to be just as abusive as the other Shinomiyas. It was genuinely very creepy and out of left field in a way that contributed to the tragedy of her situation.

Additionally, the show also has shot composition and timing down to a science, not just when it comes to comedy, but especially for its more serious moments. The film does a great job of creating further tension by focusing on just a frame or two over the span of a few seconds. Again, not exactly new, but utilized in combination with a distinctive soundtrack and characters’ trademark expressions to ride the fine line between comedic and serious nearly perfectly.

Although, at this point, experimental could be considered standard when it comes to Kaguya-sama, and Bocchi was arguably doing way more experimental stuff for scenes that had way fewer stakes.

Conclusion

I could go on about just how amazing this film is, and depending on my boredom after finishing this review I might, but rather than overexplaining jokes that someone else could probably do a better job of anyway, I will simply say go watch the movie. It absolutely earns every single one of its 96 minutes down to the credits scene. Kaguya-sama fans will not be disappointed.

94/100


How do you all feel about Kaguya-sama: Love is War – The First Kiss That Never Ends? 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

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

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

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A New Friend? Old Lovers? Welcome Back, Alice Vol. 4

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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Forget rollercoasters, Welcome Back, Alice is turning into the whole damn amusement park, but not necessarily in a bad way. Every other page is a new layer of drama and internal debate that is seemingly driving these characters insane…ok, maybe it is not that hyperbolic, but it is definitely getting interesting.

Volume four sees the continued aftermath of Yohei’s…intimate outing with Mitani having gone wrong from the last volume. Kei, rather than being upset, not only emotionally supports him but makes him feel better in other ways. The two go back to having a normal relationship, at which point a new potential friend comes into the fray. Mitani must now deal with her own insecurities once again.

Mitani and Yohei’s Complications

Speaking of Mitani’s insecurities, it makes sense for this volume to start at the end, where Mitani, after feeling bad about not getting intimate with Yohei the first time due to his seeming lack of attraction to her, decides to whisk him away after school and try again. The two “do the do,” and Yohei leaves feeling… disappointed.

At this point in the story, it is clear that his emotional investment is with Kei, and sex with Mitani feels like a betrayal of their newly restored relationship, especially after their own episode at the beginning of the novel. However, despite Mitani coercing our awkward protagonist into sex, there is a lot more going on here.

In this situation, she feels bad about not being able to get him hard, because attraction and being erect are automatically linked, which is not necessarily the case a hundred percent of the time. As a result, she feels a need to rectify the situation by trying again, even to Yohei’s and her own discomfort. It creates yet another situation where no one has any absolute moral authority.

The Fourth?

One of the critiques about Kei that stuck with me from initial impressions of the series is about how the character ultimately does embody a lot of hypersexual stereotypes about queer people. Though that is still true to an extent, it is a problem that could be addressed later down the line, either with a serious transformation in Kei’s character or another queer character.

It is unclear whether Ren is actually going to be that, though their mentioning of “understanding Kei’s feelings” on gender issues certainly points in that direction. Still, even if it ends up not being the case, adding a fourth does create new possibilities for potential dynamics, some romantic, some platonic, and even some purely plot-related.

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As of right now, though, it is still mostly speculation outside of her one conversation with Yohei, and also the fact that she saw Yohei and Mitani leave school together. You know, small stuff.

Also, a small addendum: I talked in the last post about how Yohei and Mitani refer to Kei with he/him pronouns, but Ren’s character still uses she/her. This leads me to believe that, rather than Oshimi not understanding non-binary identity, it is more the other characters who are purposely written to do so. It sounds stupidly obvious in hindsight, but given that no other character had previously done this, I had little reason to believe otherwise.

Feelings

The big contrasting element of the story so far is just how much Kei cares for Yohei, but also how much Yohei’s actions seem to waver despite similar feelings for Kei. People who have also read the series or those who have been following my posts on this series might be asking “but isn’t that the entire point?” to which I would answer, “well, yeah.”

I point it out only to further emphasize just how interesting the series writing really is. Despite the two internally wanting to be together, there is a lot of obvious tension in how Yohei is being pressured away from Kei, both in an abstract societal sense but also in a more tangible, immediate social sense by himself and others.

I also point this out because volume four is the last volume currently available in English, and based on when the others were released it seems like there will be at least another few months before the next one comes out.

Predictions

Whatever interaction the cliffhanger was leading on is probably going to be important. Wild guess, I know, but at this point, it is hard to say anything concrete. Ren feels like they are going to be pretty important as well, but in what sense I do not have a clue.


How do you all feel about Welcome Back, Alice? 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

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

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

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The Place Where Shame Goes to Die: Welcome Back, Alice Volume Three

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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It seems as though a lot of questions from the last volume have been answered relatively quickly, but maybe that is a bad thing? or maybe it is a good thing and I am just using that sentence structure for rhetorical effect. Either way, let’s talk about it.

In volume three of Welcome Back, Alice, Yohei finally gets what he wants. At least, Yohei gets what he thought he wanted in his relationship with Mitani. However, her prohibition on interacting with Kei at all leaves him with a seemingly much stronger yearning for his childhood friend. Mitani, meanwhile, deals with her own insecurities, most stemming from Kei’s transition, and largely takes it out on her new boyfriend.

Kei’s Identity

Something I have noticed, which was also pointed out by the “Reception” section of the manga’s Wikipedia page, is that Kei’s identity as non-binary feels…well, dismissed. Sure, it is true that everyone, except Yohei and Mitani, is pretty excepting of Kei’s identity in a way that feels genuine.

However, the use of “he” by every character other than Kei kind of undermines that identity and the whole mission statement of the series. Up until this point I had been using “they” to address Kei as a character, which felt more correct given the initial volume. Kei himself says explicitly that he does not identify as a guy.

I do not mean to come across as quick to label the series “problematic,” because that is not my intention. However, it does feel like a big oversight on Oshimi’s part, one that ultimately serves to weaken the message of the story by placing Kei back in the masculinity that he explicitly rejects at the start of his introduction.

Mitani and Heterosexual Attraction

The more of this series I read, the more my theory about Oshimi’s writing style feels correct. If Kei represents a sort of radical sex and queer positive life that might be better for Yohei, Mitani very much represents traditional heterosexuality, with all the pros and cons that come with that.

On the one hand, being with Mitani means Yohei will not have to worry about being judged by his peers. His life remains stable but is maybe not be what he truly wants. On the other, a relationship with Kei comes with the societal stigma of Kei’s identity (and maybe his own but that remains to be seen) but ultimately still feels like the choice that will make him happiest.

There is also a sense of betrayal and manipulation that comes with their newfound relationship. When Yohei tries to kiss Mitani and is rejected, she admits that “[she] thought she could love [him],” implying that her confession was more a way to drive a wedge between him and Kei. The whole thing feels messed up in a way that represents the toxicity present in a lot of heterosexual relationships.

Decision Point

Yohei is clearly under a lot of pressure in the context of the story. Navigating relationships, especially romantic ones that challenge societal norms, is not always the easiest task to handle mentally. However, as mentioned before, he is presented with a serious decision to make.

At the risk of making too many comparisons. the setup is fairly similar to The Flowers of Evil. Both main characters are forced to comply with a set of socially acceptable boundaries, for they risk revealing something that society might deem disturbing. Both even go as far as to comment on young male sexuality. However, Welcome Back, Alice feels more purposeful in its attempts to do so.

Predictions

At this point, it feels hard to say what will happen. Oshimi tends to make pretty sudden plot-related shifts. Still, it seems as though whatever decision Yohei is planning on making, romantically at least, will probably happen in the next volume. If it does not, however, it will likely mean some serious social consequences.


How do you feel about Welcome Back, Alice? 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

As always, special thanks to Jenn for the support on Patreon

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

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The Observation Deck: Spy x Family

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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“huh, I never thought I’d get this far” -Plankton

Well, it has been less than a month, and I have already covered or started covering most of the stuff I wanted to since coming back. On top of that, being four-plus weeks late on seasonal stuff means now is as good a time as any to go through some of the stuff I wasn’t able to talk about in 2022. With that being said, Spy x Family

Yor Forger

The show’s first cour was a lot of fun, and there really was not a ton to complain about outside of Yor feeling a bit less developed as a character than Loid or Anya. On that front…well, actually, Idk. Yor definitely did get some moments in the season’s second half, but it felt like a lot of those moments were connected to Loid or Anya as opposed to the fact that she is an assassin, a fact that feels continually lost outside of some recurring bits or an occasional laugh.

My expectation, maybe wrongfully placed, was that her assassin job would start to come into conflict with the family dynamic, even if only as a minor plot point in an episode or two. However, that simply is not the case, and it makes Yor feel a bit more like a supporting character than one of the main ones. This is not to her screen time is unenjoyable, only that she feels a bit forgotten about.

The Goodest of Boys

Granted, a lot of the reason for Yor’s lack of focus probably has to do with the introduction of Bondman, Anya’s adopted pet whose introduction takes up three episodes. Again, not complaining, since he feels right at home (literally and metaphorically) with the rest of the family.

His ability to predict the future due to the numerous scientific experiments performed on him by the government gives the series an interesting new dynamic, one that even saves Yor’s life due to Anya’s having read his mind. Bondman is also just goofy and funny in a way that adds a lot to the show’s comedic bits.

Romantic Rivalry

One more important introduction during this season is Fiona, another spy from Loid’s agency who also just happens to be madly in love with him. This is so much the case that she attempts to take Yor’s place in the mission to contact Desmond, which fails miserably and hilariously multiple times.

The two also go on a mission towards the end of the season to recover an important piece of art and the whole time she is just fawning over him, barely paying attention to the mission. It was the biggest example of the “does he know” meme but in an anime, which, again, contributed to the comedic elements of the series.

The Climax

Spy x Family ends the season with Loid’s first interaction with Desmond, brought about by Damian’s desire to see him after being stuck in school for the whole year. Of course, the risk of being found out as a spy by a member of the Ostanian government makes the who situation feel as tense as it probably should.

The series spends a lot of time building up Desmond as this monster who cannot be stopped. Thus, when Loid interacts with him in person, there is a sense of who he really is, a stuffy, rich government official who feels as suffocating as the evil he represents.

Conclusion

Most of my feelings about part one carry over here: The show is well-animated with beautiful action scenes, the music still slaps (including the new opening and ending), and the show has a great balance between comedy and serious moments that don’t feel the need to constantly overtake one another. Thus, my comments here are fairly limited. For those who have yet to watch one of the most hyped-up shows of the last few years, give it a chance, because it does live up.

85/100


How do you all feel about Spy x Family? 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

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

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

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Initial Results: Naoki Urasawa’s Monster

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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(Spoilers for the first for episodes, so if you want to go in blind feel free to click off).

Going into a series with a lot of critical acclaim can sometimes be nerve-wracking, not because I care about having the “wrong” opinion or whatever, but more because it feels like I might be missing something that would significantly affect my enjoyment of the series way or another. With the anime adaptation of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, however, I do not really get that feeling. What makes the series the incredibly nerve-wracking psychological thriller it is known to be is very much self-contained, in a way that often makes one feel like they are there watching the events of the story in person.

For those unaware, Monster tells the story of Dr. Kenzo Tenma, a genius neurosurgeon who moved to Germany from Japan in order to study medicine. However, his fairly cushy life goes from looking up to depressing when defying the orders of his hospital director/future father in law leaves him without his position as the head of neurosurgery and the ire of the other doctors at the hospital. What is worse, the patient he chose to save when defying said orders turns out to be a serial killer, one who seems likely to haunt him.

One thing that stands out about this series is how terrifying the atmosphere can be at times. The show uses a lot of muted colors in order to create a feeling of stuffiness which is often associated with hospitals, which is where much of the opening episodes take place. However, this also has the affect of drawing attention to colors when they do appear, such as with blond hair and the uniforms of police. This makes it more likely that people will focus on certain characters, such as Johan.

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Speaking of Johan, though I cannot speak to the strength of his motivations for becoming a serial killer, it is a fascinating development. Dr. Tenma, for better or for worse, made what he thought was a moral decision that ultimately came back to bite him. In fact, the name Monster along with the series general setting and aesthetic feels reminiscent of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in a way that feels too intentional to be coincidence. Not a direct allusion, per say, but certainly an interesting nod to the classic western novel.

Dr. Tenma, meanwhile, at least at this point in the story, feels like an unfortunate victim. After all, how was he supposed to know that saving a kid and then getting angry at his fellow co-workers was going to result in a home-grown murderer? Going back to the Frankenstein comparison, he very much feels like a modern interpretation of Victor, someone who is trying to do right by others but ends up making a terrible decision in the pursuit of morality. Though, Tenma almost certainly deserves this less than Victor did his punishment.

Seeing the politics of the hospital was also fairly interesting as well. It is clear that the director, before he dies anyway, only cares about himself. The same is also true of his daughter and Tenma’s ex-fiancĂ© Eva, who seems to be coasting through life off of her father’s success. Despite the fact that Tenma is innocent, his connection to Johan puts that innocence in question, given that he does have a motive for killing the director and the other doctors.

The show is in a great place, both stylistically and narratively. Even though it has only been four episodes for me, I can certainly understand why this series has been given so much praise in the past. From what I have read, however, it does not seem as though Netflix has the full series just yet, so it might be a while before I do actually finish it. Still, it will probably be worth the wait.


How do you feel about Naoki Urasawa’s Monster? Let me know down in the comments.

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

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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

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

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