Month: April 2015

Zipang

Zipang

Zipang

  • Trailer: Opening animation
  • What it’s about: The Japanese AEGIS Cruiser Mirai is on its way to a routine joint training exercise with the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor when it is caught in a strange storm. When the rains and wind pass, they find that there’s no satellite signal and no sign of their escort ships. They soon discover that they’ve left the 21st Century behind – the date is June 4, 1942, and the Battle of Midway is about to begin.
  • Why you should watch it: It’s a fantastic war drama, posing an interesting question: should the crew of the Mirai support their homeland, or maintain neutrality in the hopes of bringing their own future to pass? There’s no right answer, and each of the characters wrestles with the issues that arise from holding information and military power that could turn the tide of the greatest war in modern history. Refreshingly for a show about war, neither side (nor any of the characters, in fact) are made into simple bad guys. Everyone has their own ideals, their own ideas about what to make of the situation that they’ve now found themselves in.
  • Caveats: This is a drama with action scenes, not an action show with dramatic scenes. Don’t go in expecting explosions and battles in every episode. Also, the show was produced for the purpose of drawing people into reading the manga, and the ending is an obvious invitation to do just that. Finally, the CGI scenes are pretty basic. Thankfully, they’re not the focus of the show, usually being simple transition and establishing shots of the fleets and aircraft.
  • Themes: Do you sacrifice a known and prosperous future for the lives being lost in the present? Where does ones duty lie – to country? captain? friends or strangers? Can a people brought up in peace truly judge the actions of soldiers fighting to defend their homeland?
  • Similar works: John Birmingham’s Axis of Time novels have a very similar premise (though it’s an American fleet transported back, rather than a single Japanese cruiser). Within anime, Flag and, to a lesser extent, Legend of the Galactic Heroes.
Advertisements

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

Gekkan

  • Trailer: PV Trailer
  • What it’s about: Nozaki has a passion for manga. For writing girls’ manga, to be specific. And he’s successful at it, too, even if nobody at school believes him. Of course, they’d be more likely to do so if his personality wasn’t so stoic and oblivious – to the point where he mistakes a girl’s confession as a request for an autograph.
  • Why you should watch it: It’s less of a romantic comedy than a comedy about romance. As a writer, Nozaki draws inspiration from all of the people he meets, and the shows cast are suitably bizarre and hilarious, from his best friend and ladykiller Mikoto who embarrasses himself with the cheesy lines he spouts, to the obliviously offensive Yuzuki. The show takes a sketch format, with each episode being broken up into several smaller stories about particular incidents or characters.
  • Caveats: There’s no real on-going plot, if that’s important to you. Though the characters are fun enough to riff off of for the whole length of the show.
  • Similar works: Daily Lives of Highschool Boys, The Comic Artist and his Assistants.

Toradora!

Toradora!

toradora

  • Trailer: English dubbed trailer
  • What it’s about: It’s a new year of high school, and once again Ryuji has to convince a new batch of classmates that he’s not as much of a thug as his appearance implies. At the same time, he’s hopelessly trying to work up the nerve to do something about his crush on the lively Minori. To that end, he strikes a deal with Minori’s best friend Taiga – he’ll help her with her own crush on his friend Yusaku, if Taiga lends a hand getting Minori’s attention.
  • Why you should watch it: Toradora! is not an innovative show. What it does do, though, is polish the tried and tested anime romcom formula to a perfect shine. There’s no flab in the story – even the standard beach episode, cultural festival episode and Christmas episode all work to progress the plot and to provide actual character development rather than empty fan-service. The characters themselves are fantastic. They’re all multilayered people and not just the bland stereotypes the first appear to be. All of them are lying to each other, to the audience, and in many cases to themselves about who they are and what they want, and the show does a fantastic job of slowly teasing out who these characters are underneath it all.
  • Caveats: While there are depths to the characters, many of them fit archetypes pretty closely at first glance. Taiga in particular seems to be your standard hyper-violent “tsundere” for the first couple of episodes. Stick with it.
  • Themes: Fumbling through adolescence and your first real relationships. Trying to “help” people by lying to yourself about what you actually want, and how it ends up just causing more problems down the road.
  • Similar works: Toradora! is a great poster-child for the entire genre of anime rom-coms, so you’ll find similarities with a lot of them. Try out Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo.

Garo: Honoo no Kokuin

Garo: Honoo no Kokuin

Garo

  • Trailer: PV Trailer
  • What it’s about: The border between the world of demons and the human world is paper-thin. Strong negative emotions invite Horrors across the gap – monsters who possess those in despair to wreak havoc. Until recently, the threat of these Horrors was kept in check by the order of Makai Knights. All of that changed when the Makai Knights were accused of witchcraft, and the order has been hunted to all but extinction. Leon Lewis wants to live up to the ideals of the Makai, while wrestling with his own desire for revenge against those who burned his mother at the stake.
  • Why you should watch it: An adaptation of a long-running and hugely successful live-action series, Garo has a rich world and mythology to draw upon. The show spins a grand tale of heroism and vengeance. The real heart of the story, though, lies with the characters. They’re all well-written, and the voice actors (especially that of the scheming advisor Mendoza) put in some stellar performances. Leon’s character arc in particular is excellently realised – while he starts out looking to be your cookie-cutter brooding teenage angst-magnet, his struggles and failures throughout the show serve to temper and strengthen him into a genuine hero by the end.
  • Caveats: The show struggles a bit in some of the early episodes with balancing the need for impressive fight scenes against its animation budget. Garo is a show that gets steadily better as it settles into its pace, but there’s no real “wow” moment to hold out for. If the first few episodes don’t appeal to you, feel free to drop it.
  • Themes: Garo is at its core a story about not giving into negativity, of suffering and coming out stronger on the other side. The destructive outcome of doing that is shown physically in the creation of Horrors, and more personally in Leon’s ongoing struggle with his own rage and bloodthirst. Every character in the show suffers or has suffered losses, and they all deal with it differently.
  • Similar works: The live-action show is an obvious place to move onto if you enjoyed this. It has a completely different setting and set of characters, but the lore and the themes are much the same. Shingeki no Bahamut is another anime to look at, if you haven’t already seen it.

A Piece of Phantasmagoria

A Piece of Phantasmagoria

phantasmagoria

  • Trailer: None that I can find. The episodes are only three minutes each, though, so a trailer seems a bit redundant.
  • What it’s about: The world of Phantasmagoria exists only in dreams, populated by a bizarre set of groups and individuals. Each episode provides a small glimpse into a different section of the world, steadily assembling a picture of a strange world of interconnected and bizarre locations. From a town made of bread to a sea of glass, from a factory converting rainbows into paint to the movie projector that overlays the stars into the night sky, the inhabitants of Phantasmagoria interact in unusual and unpredictable ways with the place they call home.
  • Why you should watch it: It’s a sedate, dreamlike series of shorts. Bedtime stories, really. The calm narration, the surreal but peaceful people and events, even the simplistic visuals and sound design all seem to come together to present something truly unique. This is a pretty classic take on animation. It’s imaginative, it’s weird, and it’s wonderful. It’s not really a show to binge through, though. Just take an episode or two at a time before bed or when you feel the need to calm down a bit.
  • Caveats: The show has very, very crude animation even for its time, and it looks even worse in comparison to the slick presentation of the average show today. It’s also quite hard to find a legal subtitled copy of the series, though there are always certain places on the web that will have it available.
  • Similar works: Bartender has a very similar feel to this show. As does Mushishi, to a lesser extent. Outside of anime, take a look at Salvador Dali’s Destino.

Parasyte

Parasyte

kiseijuu

  • Trailer: PV Trailer
  • What it’s about: Alien parasites have quietly begun to appear across the world. After seizing control of a host body, they blend in while discreetly murdering and consuming new victims. Shinichi was almost the victim of one such being, but some quick thinking trapped the parasite within his hand. Now the two of them must co-operate to survive, as other aliens see their situation as an unacceptable risk for exposure.
  • Why you should watch it: Adapted from a tremendously popular manga series from the early ‘90s, Parasyte is a thriller with a tinge of horror to it. The entire run of the source material is being adapted, which makes a nice change from partial translations meant to act more as advertisements than standalone works. Madhouse have also shown adroitness in adapting the story to a more modern world – nothing seems particularly dated or out of place. The soundtrack is fantastic – even if you don’t want to watch the series I’d advise picking up the OST. It’s also one of those rare works that are eminently approachable from a non-anime watcher’s point of view. There are no overused jokes, tropes, or other pandering. Just action, suspense, and a solid character arc for the protagonist.
  • Caveats: It’s fair to say that Shinichi and Migi carry the show, in that very little time is spent developing any of the secondary cast. The dubstep elements of the soundtrack were slightly controversial during the opening episodes, but I think they fit in just fine. While clever editing and composition limit the censorship, there’s still a little bit here and there.
  • Themes: Cold logic versus emotion. Prioritisation of one’s own survival versus the survival of the community, tied in to a general environmentalist theme. Humanity as a natural/”evil” force.
  • Similar works: Tokyo Ghoul‘s protagonist faces much the same sort of situation. Shiki offers the same kind of horror, but ramps it up significantly.