Tag Archives: Manga

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

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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

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

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

Ultra Romantic? More Like Ultra in Panic

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

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

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

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Romance Isn’t Just For Protagonists

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

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

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

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

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

The Visual Gag Level Up

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

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

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

The Finale/Confession

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

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

Conclusion

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

91/100


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

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

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

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

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

Attack on Titan Final Season: Episodes 64-67

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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It is once again time to talk about everyone’s favorite dumpster fire: Attack on Titan. The first part is a joke, obviously, because the series has been amazing. These next four episodes have continued to impress as well, highlighting the chaos that has come from the Marleyian government and its focus from the rest of the world.

As it worked out, these next four episodes covered what ended up being a pretty big reveal, not that it was not obvious anyway. As it turns out, the older man that Falco was helping deliver letters outside of the camp was Eren, who managed to sneak in through the military. Eren and the others use the power of the titans to launch a surprise attack inside the camp, on the night that the head of the Tyburs made his big speech.

Again, what surprised me about these episodes is not necessarily the reveal itself or what happened after, but how it happened. While it certainly makes sense after the fact, Eren confronting Reiner directly was not something that I was anticipating. It felt like something that would have happened near the end of the season, rather than it its first quarter. Still, it was a surprisingly powerful moment, one in which neither character came out looking morally good but certainly the emotion behind it was there.

As for the fighting that happened after…look, if there is one thing that I can count on AOT for its some damn good looking fight scenes. Seeing two giant monster swing at each other is always going to be fun as long as there is some reasonable context behind it. On top of that, the lighting in most of these scenes gives off the feeling of war movies set in enemy territory at night, and it absolutely nails the tense atmosphere that comes with those settings. People and titans are moving quickly and often the only light comes from gunshots and the fires burning just a few hundred feet away.

Another element of warfare that Attack on Titan does fairly well is the strategy. A good battle scene not only gets the audience invested in what is happening immediately but subtely draws their attention away from things that they might have lingered on otherwise. A good example of this comes in the middle of the fight between the Eldian titans and Eren, when unbeknowst to everyone else, Armin was getting ready to set of the Fat Guy level bomb that is the Colossal Titan, destroying an entire bay of ships.

The only thing that feels somewhat protest worthy is the character development of Gabi. Whereas Falco has fairly clear motivations for his actions at this point in the series, Gabi, who is important enough to be considered the next Armored Titan, does not give me that same feeling. The episodes this week helped with that a fair amount, which is why I would not consider it a big deal, but I do hope she gets a little bit more development before they inevitably kill her off.

At least, those are the vibes I get from the season thus far. On top of Gabi and Falco’s suicide mission into the blimp and procedeing murder of Sasha, there is also the reveal of Zeke working for Eren and the others. I would be lying if I said that this made total sense to me, but it did happen in the last five minutes of the last episode I happened to watch, so judgement will be reserved for next week’s episodes.


Have you finished season four already? Have you yet to even watch Attack on Titan? Are you a clearly superior manga reader who already knows what’s going to happen? Let me know down in the comments, but please avoid spoilers, for my sake and others.

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

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

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

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

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The Observation Deck: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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

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

98′ vs 02′

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

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

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

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Who is Alpha?

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

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

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

The World is Over, I Guess…

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

80/100


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

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

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

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

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

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Initial Results: Wolf’s Rain

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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There are a lot of shows that sit in the back of my mind, every so often popping into my immediate consciousness after a brief interaction via a mention on social media or a peer talking about the series in passing. This time, however, it was a little bit more forward than even that, as a friend of mine lent me the series since it is one of their favorites. After sitting on it for a month, I decided to finally start Wolf’s Rain and see for myself why this 2003 Bones original is remembered fondly by so many.

The story of Wolf’s Rain details a world much different from our own, where legends say humans are descended from wolves, and that their ultimate goal is to return to paradise. The only problem is, the last wolves were seen over 200 years ago, and are believed to be extinct…so it is thought by most, anyway. Enter Kiba, a lone wolf who has recently come to town following the scent of the Lunar Flower. He then meets a few others, Tsume, Toboe, and Hige, who flee the town and join him on his journey.

There are a lot of individual storylines which are introduced in the opening episodes of the series. The majority of the time thus far has been spent on the wolf boys themselves. However, there is the story of the sheriff who came to Freeze City looking for wolves, the detective whose head researcher ex-wife knows a lot more than she lets on, and a mysterious masked man who is trying to gather the “flower maidens.” Yet, despite all that, it never feels like these storylines are fighting each other. Rather, they serve as a compliment in a mystery that is clearly bigger than all of them.

Not only are the storylines immediately interesting, but the world itself is also fascinating. Not much about the landscape outside of major cities is known, but a lot can implicitly be drawn from episode four, where the crew travels across what looks to be a war-torn area, and Toboe’s reactivation of a mech that was buried underground seems to imply that much of the world was burned down from advanced military technology. There is a sense of bleakness not just in the landscape but in the colors as well. The four wolves trek across what is essentially open, frozen land, with nothing but snow for miles.

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The wolf boys themselves are fairly compelling, and each of them clearly has their own problems. Tsume has been leading a gang in order to make enough money to survive, but clearly does not fit in with human society. Toboe, at least at first, is a bit more optimistic. A chance encounter with a young girl gives him hope that wolves might be accepted by humans but is later betrayed when the girl cowers after he reveals his wolf form. Hige is admittedly the most underdeveloped of the three since he more or less just meets Kiba and sticks along for the ride. However, I am hopeful that his own storyline will come to fruition.

I did choose to watch the series in dub, only because that is how the DVD is set by default (I am that lazy). Still, I do not at all regret that decision. Not only does Johnny Young’s Bosch play the role of Kiba, but a younger Crispin Freeman takes the role of Tsume, and oh boy do I miss his buttery voice when watching anime dubs. Hige, played by Joshua Seth, and Toboe, voiced by Mona Marshall, also do a great job in their respective roles. Although, in the case of the latter, I cannot help but laugh a little every time I hear his voice.

The only thing I can really complain about at the moment is the format in which I am watching it. The show is almost 20 years old at this point, and as such, is sadly stuck in 4:3 aspect ratio. Not only that, the latent audio is incredibly quiet, and the English subtitles do not at all match the dub script, meaning I am basically required to wear headphones when I want to watch it.

Minor annoyances aside, Wolf’s Rain is looking set up for success. Not does it excel at visual storytelling, but its cast is just big enough to keep it interesting at all times without having to fight for screen time.


Have you all seen Wolf’s Rain? Let me know in the comments, but please avoid spoilers, as by the time this gets released I may or may not be finished with the series.

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

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, thank you to our Patron Jenn for being amazing!

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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School is Out: What’s Next?

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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College is officially done, and hopefully, that means more consistent content coming your way. After got to endlessly feed the algorithm…yay.

In all seriousness, I am happy to be back, and now that I have time to write and watch/read new series, I will be able to focus on delivering some articles on a regular basis. With that being said, there are just a few things I thought would be worth touching on briefly.

Update: The Animated Observation’s Rating System

At the beginning of the year this year, I implemented a rating system for the series I review in depth. There were a number of reasons behind the change, which are outlined here. Looking back on it over the last few months, I am happy with the change. It gives me as a writer and the reader a way of quantifying my feelings without necessarily taking anything away from the review itself. As such, it will probably continue to be here for the time being. It may get a visual tweak along the way, but the primary system itself will remain intact.

Taking Part in K’s Tik Tok Battle Royale

Anyone not familiar with K at the Movies should change that very quickly. He’s a great personality who makes excellent content, and over the course of the next month or so, I’ll be taking part in one of his awesome challenges. I don’t know how much he wants to be revealed at this point, so I’ll keep my mouth shut for now, but be on the lookout for more on that soon.

Working on a Chapbook?

This is not as much related to Animated Observations but I did want to talk about it for just a bit. In addition to focusing more on writing here, I want to put some serious focus on my poetry. My basic timeline for this is to have some sort of complete chapbook/potentially complete collection by the end of summer, and then start considering my options for release once the new semester begins. I will also hopefully be documenting this journey over on Solidly Liquid, so those who have yet to do so, be sure to give it a follow.

What I’ll Be Covering

It has been a while since I did this, but I figured it would be fun to let my lovely readers in on what I’ll be covering in the upcoming weeks. This is not definitive by any means, and there is always the outside chance that I get distracted by some new shiny object, but I am hoping to get through these at least by the end of next month:

  • Attack on Titan (OADs and Season 4)
  • Arakawa: Under the Bridge
  • King’s Game
  • Wolf’s Rain
  • Kaguya-Sama (seasonal)
  • Spy x Family (seasonal)

This should hopefully give me enough to chew on for a bit before another seasonal rotation hits and the summer comes to an end.


What are you all up to? 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!

Thanks as always to Jenn for being an amazing Patron.

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

Everyone Should Read This Manga

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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Hey, everyone, I’m back haha

The final stretch of this last semester at college was a bit harder than usual, for reasons that honestly have more to do with me than with any of the actual work. I will probably have an update post sometime in the next week detailing more personal stuff, so look out for that. For now, though, I wanted to put out something a bit more substantive to really get back into the writing grind.

One series, in particular, has been holding my attention more than a lot of others, despite the fact that, as of the writing of this post, it only has 8 chapters due to its monthly release schedule. (As an aside, I am actually totally ok with this. Monthly release schedules for manga seem way healthier than the hell that is weekly chapter releases, so I kinda hope that becomes more of an industry-standard).

Show-Ha Shoten is a shounen comedy about a high schooler Azemichi, who in his free time calls into radio shows to deliver the best jokes around, going by the alias Everyday Shijima. One day, he gets to me the famous child actor Taiyo Higashikata while doing some work for the student council. The two quickly realize their shared passion for comedy, and so when Higashikata’s partner bails during the school festival, the two deliver a powerful comedy set that gets the whole school laughing.

Ok, But Why Should I Read It?

Well for starters, it’s only eight chapters. While the feeling of diving into a longer-running series and catching up is certainly fun a lot of the time, there is something to getting in early and seeing how it develops. I can only imagine what it must be like for people who have been reading One Piece religiously for the last decade. The chapters are a bit meatier than most manga, averaging around 40 pages outside of the first, but given the aforementioned monthly release that kind of makes sense. Still, I imagine after reading the title “Everyone Should Read This Manga,” most are probably looking for something a bit more compelling than it is quick to read.

Ok, let us start with the characters then. Azemichi is in a position that I think a lot of people who are at least in high school can probably relate to. Clearly, his interests lie with comedy, but social expectation, both from his parents and from society at large says that comedy is not an option. In that way, there are a lot of comparisons to be drawn between himself and Blue Period‘s Yatora Yaguchi. Azemichi, though, does stand out on his own. His nervous attitude is typical, but not so paralyzing that he is unable to take the risk of doing what he loves.

Higashikata is a bit harder to talk about without giving too much away since a good portion of his backstory is intertwined with developments in the most recent chapters. Still, if the phrase “child actor” did not set off a few alarm bells, well then it definitely should. Even threw his backstory, however, Higashikata has managed to be charming and funny, with his weirdo personality often taking center stage, both literally and metaphorically, in the duo’s relationship.

What’s So Funny?

Talking about the comedy in Show-Ha Shoten is ironically the hardest part of explaining its appeal. On the surface, this feels like it should not be the case. After all, comedy is comedy, right?

Most understand the idea that what one person finds funny is not what other people find funny, and no, I do not mean in the edgy, “politically incorrect” way. That topic is far too big for a series as straightforward as this. Rather what I mean is the cultural differences between American and Japanese humor. While certainly not a new aspect of discussing comedy manga/anime series, given how much focus there is on how the comedy itself is judged and critiqued, it is worth talking about.

To but briefly, Japanese humor, in general, relies a lot more on setup and storytelling than it does on being witty or pun-focused. Thus, the judging and response of the audience reflect that. A duo that fails to tell a compelling story usually scores very poorly, whereas duos that can execute a particular beat well do better. All of this is to say that the comedy which the series tends to focus on, both in and outside of the structure of routines, is a lot different than what most are probably used to.

What makes Show-Ha Shoten so compelling is not necessarily that every joke lands perfectly, but rather that the jokes, in combination with the shounen battle elements, create a cheery, feel-good atmosphere, occasionally challenged by the more serious contemplative moments of whether or not Azemichi can actually make a career out of his passion.

Conclusion

Ok, fair enough, I cannot promise that literally, everyone will enjoy it. Still, while its attempts at humor may not be for everyone, the passion behind the comedy and its well-written main duo makes it something that everyone should at least check out. The artist for death note also did the art for this, so that is a plus.


Have you already read Show-Ha Shoten? How do you feel about it? Let me know in the comments.

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

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

Thanks as always to our Patron Jenn for being absolutely amazing!

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

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The Observation Deck: Goodbye, Eri

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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

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

Storytelling

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

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

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

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

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Fantasy vs Reality

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

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

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

Panels

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

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

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

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Conclusion

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

95/100


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

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

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

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

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

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SPY x FAMILY Episode 1 Reaction

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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The spring season is officially upon us, and with it a plethora of exciting new offerings. However, the series I am focusing on today has received the bulk of the hype from manga readers and new comers alike. Yes, my dear readers, I am talking about SPY x FAMILY.

The series takes place in a slightly alternate universe from our own, one in which the war of information between the west and the east is well on its way. The most trusted by spy on the side of west, Twilight, has been tasked taking out an influential party leader. His mission is one which could potentially alter the course of history, but in order to accomplish it he’ll need… a family?

In my recent binge of romance anime, I think it fair to say that what I was really looking for was some emotional levity. I went looking for solace in stories which were primarily focused on romantic relationships, and while I got some, there is also plenty of that to be found in anime like SPY x FAMILY.

If the series were taking itself super seriously, there might be a problem. Names like Westali and Ostania feel a bit on the nose, especially considering the period they are trying to invoke (At that point you might as well call them Americaville and Russialand). On top of that, Twilight as a character takes himself way to seriously to be enjoyable on his own.

However, the moments in the first episodes which are most enjoyable come from when the veil is lifted, and we seen the humanity in both Twilight and Anya. As much as the life of spy is one of deceit, retaining a sense of humanity is important too. It also helps that those moments also happen to be pretty hilarious.

There honestly is not much else to say beyond that. Both characters seem to have a solid foundation, and for as much as the show does not take itself super seriously, the action sequences still look fantastic. It feels like an adaptation worthy of its source material. The big question is whether or not the rest of the series will stick the landing, and given that SPY x FAMILY has been confirmed for 25 episodes, it is a big landing to stick.


How do you all feel about SPY x FAMILY 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!

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

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

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The Observation Deck: Kotaro Lives Alone

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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

Because, well, fuck this show is so sad…

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

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

Kotaro and Trauma

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

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

Ok, but Why a Kindergartener?

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

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

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

It Takes a Village

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

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

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

Kotaro’s Animation

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

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

Conclusion

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

88/100


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

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

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

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

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

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The Observation Deck: My Dress-Up Darling

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

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Valentine’s Day may be long past at this point, but there is still plenty of love in the air…or, maybe more like pent-up sexual frustration? or, no love? We’ll go with love.

Nerds come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and creeds. Some of them like to watch anime, play video games, collect figures, read comics, and…make Japanese Hina dolls? Sure, why not. The story of My Dress-Up Darling focuses on two such nerds, albeit of very different social standing. Gojo is a loner who has literally zero friends, and Marin is the high school hottie who everyone loves and adores. However, after the two have a chance meeting after school, Gojo finds out that Marin wants nothing more than to cosplay her favorite characters. Attracted to her endearing personality (and general good looks), Gojo agrees to help, and so the two begin their cosplay journey.

Is It Horny In Here, or Is It Just Me?

It is not much of a secret that a lot of high school romances in anime tend to be on the…ecchi side of things. Whether one considers that a good or bad thing, that is the reality. This is not to say that is the case for all of them, but a decent portion.

“Yeah, yeah, get to the point!”

…the point is that, I do not mind that much when a character expresses their sexuality openly. In fact, in a lot of contexts, it is more than justified. However, when it comes to a romance show My Dress-Up Darling, some of that should, at the very least, feel earned. Character development should come from more than just how many weird angles a series can shove into one episode, and plot should mean, ya know, plot.

My expectations of this show were pretty low, to begin with, just based on what I had heard about the manga, and for the first two episodes, I was a bit torn. How the series managed to spend an entire episode on measuring Marin’s proportions I will only ever view through the lens of extreme horniness.

Still, what lies past those first two episodes is actually a genuinely entertaining series about

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Cosplay? Cosplay!

Well, mostly. There is of course the blossoming romance between the main characters, but when they are not obsessing over each other there attention is focused on making cosplay for Marin. Given Gojo’s skills in designing dresses for Hina dolls, Cosplay comes pretty naturally to him, and Marin (being a literal model as we come to find out later) wears his cosplay effortlessly.

This dynamic between the two of them is arguably what feels most enjoyable in the series. Marin tells him about one of her favorite characters, Gojo spends hours on research and coming up with a near perfect design, and then the two of them geek out over it when he finishes it. Of course there is a little more to it then that, but overall it feels incredibly wholesome and fun.

While dynamic female characters are definitely becoming more prominent in the medium, and despite my introduction focusing on the more pronounced sexual elements, it is worth noting that most of the show cast Marin in a light which hones in on her enjoyment of Cosplay. The romance, meanwhile, develops as a result of this, as opposed to be assumed from the beginning.

Pretty Colors!

Being the big, dumb stupid idiot who is easily impressed/entertained, I appreciate the shift towards brighter color palettes. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with drearier color schemes. it of course makes sense that this will changed depending on the tone and subject matter of the series attached to it. I guess what I really mean to say is that it is nice to see a shift in color to match the happier, more popcorn-y direction of slice of life/romance type shows.

With My Dress-Up Darling, in particular, the pinks and oranges stand out in a way that feels really pleasant to look at, especially against the background of Gojo’s house and the various cosplay locations they visit throughout the show. It reminds me a lot of Lovely Complex, in this way, which is certainly not a complaint.

Conclusion

I could speak more about the various problematic elements of the show, but honestly, for a series that is otherwise fairly light-hearted and enjoyable, it feels like wasted breath. It is not a masterpiece by any means, but it is, at the end of the day, fun. I cannot say this is going to be a series that everyone enjoys, but certainly a lot of people will.

68/100


How did you feel about My Dress-Up Darling? Let me know in the comments.

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

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Check out my writing blog, Solidly Liquid!

As always, thanks to our patron Jenn for being amazing.

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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