Manga Discussion: What a Wonderful World!

what-a-wonderful-worldWhat a Wonderful World is a short, 2 volume series told through various short stories of snip-its of people’s lives. A nice look at a lot of different perspectives, and it is very interesting to see all the ways that the characters are connected to each other. Each little story is like the beginning of  a much larger tale, but we only ever get to see that one little moment. While there are certainly a lot of themes going on in the series, I wasn’t able to pick up nearly that many of them, and I feel that it would take me several readings to finally come up with everything this series is about. The presentation of the story is very unique, and depending on how you see it, you might find it as a positive or a negative: because the stories themselves are so short, you never really get attached to the characters, not only that, but they aren’t fleshed out that much either, and it may find you feeling disconnected; however, because there are so many different stories and so many different perspectives, the world feels really big and alive, even with one of the narratives seeming to contradict that. The way everything connects is also an amazing feat of storytelling and truly excellent work by Inio Asano in the way he managed to pull it off. While the story might have a lot to say though, it is still incredibly complicated and hard to dissect, and that I feel is a rather large negative as it requires a lot from the reader in order to fully understand everything that is going on because everything’s moving quickly and each character only has the focus for a short amount of time. Overall though, I feel the series is a great read, and since it’s so short, you might as well. I give this series an:

8 out of 10.

Manga Discussion: Girl Friends

girl-friendsIf you want a series about a girl-girl relationship, then Girl Friends is certainly a series you want to check out. A nice series that shows a relationship grow between two friends (Mariko Kumakura and Akiko Oohashi) from one of friendship, to one of romance. It’s nice to see the gradual progression of the two main characters’ relationship throughout the series and always keeps you wanting to read more every time you finish a chapter. Since this series is almost entirely about the growth of the romantic relationship between its two main characters, it’s hard to talk about it without spoiling the series, but if you’re looking for a good read about a lesbian relationship, then you might wanna check this one out. My only real complaint about the series is that I feel it ended too soon, and I would have liked to see their romance progress just a little bit further, and possibly seen how it would play out in the characters’ adulthood, but the series is still good and strong without that. If anything, I’d like to see a sequel to see how things play out in the future, and that would make me quite happy to see. As for now, it’s a very nice and well done romance series that has some great characters, and a very gripping story;  I give it a:

9 out of 10.

Initial Review: Pale Cocoon & Harmonie

pale-cocoonharmonie

This one’s a little bit of a special review, since this time I’ll be taking a look at 2 short films by Studio Rikka, each only being about 25 minutes long, and to start off with I’ll start off with Pale Cocoon. Seeming to take place in the far future, this film is an interesting one that deals with environmental issues about Earth. While the animation is outdated, and the video quality isn’t that great, it still manages to look decent enough to tell the story it needs to, and the CG used in large amounts actually looks pretty good. Since it’s so short, there isn’t much to talk about without spoiling anything, but I would say that while not very gripping, was certainly able to at least hold my attention all the way through, and its portrayal of its characters was at least pretty interesting. I’d give it a:

7 out of 10.

Now, on to the next short film, Harmonie. This film I found to be more compelling and had some nice character dynamics, and some well don “show don’t tell” story telling methods. You could tell what social group each character was apart of even though it wasn’t stated, while also being able to see what each of the characters cared about. I also felt the story was slightly more compelling and had me wanting more by the time it ended so I could see where each of the characters ended up later in the story. As for this film, I’d give it an:

8 out of 10.

Manga Discussion: A Girl on the Shore

a-girl-on-the-shoreShort and stark, A Girl on the Shore really hits hard with its narrative and characters. The series doesn’t try to make you feel good and you can just tell by looking at the frames that it isn’t a happy story at all. It isn’t often that I find a story as hard hitting as this one, and if you’re looking for a series that’ll make you think about some dark, and heavy stuff, this one will definitely do it for you. The two main characters are very fleshed out and you can really see the reasoning behind the things they do. The series almost never lets up on its drama, except for in the final chapter were I feel things fall apart. Up until about midway through the second-to-last chapter, I was thinking that this series was going to be a masterpiece, and one that was almost always great, but due to the awkwardness of the last chapter and the oddity that was the ending, I was left feeling disappointed instead of satisfied. While the series is still worth the read, and one  I would highly recommend, I still feel like it had more potential than what it ended up being. The series had the perfect length, fantastic characters, a phenomenal rhythm and beat, but just fell short of being something that would certainly be in everyone’s top 10 best manga of all time. Even though it has an ending that is a little lackluster, everything else about the series made me wanting more, and really allowed me to get into the minds of the characters just by the way they were drawn, and how they were acting. Inio Asano really crafted a fantastic story in there and drew everything to match the tone of the series, and boy, does it match; just by looking at the artwork you can tell exactly would the mood and tone of that moment is and it is wonderfully crafted. While just felling short of being a masterpiece, this is certainly not something you want to skip, and so I would give this series a:

9 out of 10.

The Effects of Grief and Dealing with Loss; Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash: A Full Review

Preface: Spoiler warning for those who have not seen the show; if you are looking for a recommendation, then you have one and I would strongly suggest checking this series out as I see it as one of the better series to have come out in the year of 2016. It is a very well put together drama that really handles its subject matter well. Now then, time to get into the real review.

The point of the beginning of this series is to do two specific things, the first is to establish that the world our party of six is in isn’t one filled with sunshine and rainbows, and the second is to establish the fact that Manato is the leader of the group. The series quite quickly establishes the rantaworld by putting a rather serious emphasis on death early on, as well as showing that the six main characters are incredibly weak when it comes to fighting monsters, as they are shown struggling to take down a single goblin as a group, and even more clearly stated through Haruhiro’s thoughts during the first battle of the series: “I don’t want to admit it… but the goblins might be stronger than us” (Haruhiro Episode 1). During the second episode, we see another fight between Haruhiro’s group and a goblin, only this time, the group manages to kill the goblin, however, the fight had some physiological effects on the members pf the group, most notably: Ranta,  who breaks down crying after pinning the poor thing to the ground, as it tried to run away, and stabbed it several times in its stomach, as it lay under him, crying out in pain; Shihoru, who loses consciousness for a brief moment, as she saw what Ranta was doing, before burying her head in Yume’s chest as she started to cry, and Haruhiro, who not only was stabbed in his left shoulder, but was nearly suffocated by the goblin, and, who after the fight, had significant difficulty loosening his grip on his dagger. The second, is also down very well, as it is very apparent that Manato is calling the shots; he seems confident, he’s loud but not harsh, he picks up his teammates slack, he wakes up earlier than anyone else to gather information about how to do better, and he even self draws a map of an abandoned town to better the whole squad; anmanatod it isn’t even until the end of episode three that someone finally states that he is their leader. That’s some subtlety. It’s also shown that Manato is also just a normal person, and not some kind of superhuman, as he explains to Haruhiro that he sometimes feels that he was born to be yelled at, and that he feels he wasn’t the kind of person that people typically treat as a friend, while also saying that he’s happy that all six of them are like a tight-nit group, willing to support one another. Haruhiro takes these words to heart, and tells Manato that he probably wouldn’t be there without his help and guidance, to which Manato replies, “If you guys weren’t here, I don’t know what would have happened to me”(Manato Episode 3). At this point, Manato has become a sort of mentor figure to the group, someone they can count on, or as someone they can go to if they need help; he has become someone who can be relied on whenever and wherever, and because of this, it becomes even more painful and difficult when he is no longer there to guide them. His untimely death is even more painful for Shihoru, because she had developed a romantic interest in Manato (though it is never expressly stated), and saw him as something more; her pain is made even more evident as the episode he is killed, is the same episode in which the two have a nice talk in the early morning where you really see Shihoru’s  feelings, coupled with the fact that it is also the first episode in which she wears the hairpin he bought for her a long time ago. We also see Haruhiro

screenshot-84
Shihoru crying as she relies on Yume to support her.

deny his death as he begs with healer they had brought him to. It’s not only his party that takes notice of his death, as the camera goes all around the town to show everyone’s faces looking up towards the sky as Haruhiro let’s go of his ashes and lets them fly into the wind; Manato was not only a good leader, but a good man as well, and the people of Grimgar took note of his loss, and that loss was felt most by those closest to him. The group was different after he was gone. They were lost, and weren’t themselves. They all started to act out of character, and they started act more rashly. They distance themselves from one another, and couldn’t think straight. Haruhiro, Ranta, and Moguzo leave the girls and go drinking at the tavern every night, and make decisions for the group by themselves, something Haruhiro picks up on later, and regrets. He also constantly asks himself and wonders, “What would Manato do?” (Haruhiro Episode 5). They pick up another party member, Mary, and without realizing it, start to expect the same things out of her as they did out of Manato; their reliance hadn’t changed. They knew nothing about who Mary was, and what her past was like and simply thought of her as a replacement for Manato. The original five hadn’t come close to getting over Manato’s loss, and with them being unable to talk about how

screenshot-85
Ranta, staring into nothing, in shock at what had just happened.

they felt, it only made things worse, as shown in a conversation between Yume and Haruhiro outside the bath house. This is when Haruhiro is finally able to get himself back together as he cries and laments his death, while he and Yume hold eachother close as he presses his end into her chest as tears flow down her cheek. The dark and dreary mood that had been ever-present throughout this episode are washed away as Shihoru mistakes the two as a couple, causing for some much-needed comic relief, that also symbolizes a turning point in the emotions of the characters; they were no longer going to let Manato’s death get them down, and were instead going to try to move forward, because that is what he would have wanted. The group decides they are going to make an effort to be nicer to Mary, while the boys decide they aren’t going to keep to themselves anymore as they start going to the tavern with both Yume and Shihoru. The group starts moving forward, and finally starts to make progress in regaining who they were and moving forward after Manato’s death. This progress is also shown in parallel with their chemistry with Mary. After the group learns about Mary’s past, and how she had lost three of her friends for the same reason Manato lost his life, being out of magic, they start making an even bigger effort to bring her out of her cold shell. Haruhiro, as the new leader of the group, takes it upon himself to take the first step, by explaining her the details of their past struggles with losing Manato. He calls her his friend, and this cases the rest of the group to chip in and agree with him, that she is just as valuable a member of the group as they are.

screenshot-86
Moguzo, unsure of what has happened and what to do next, stares off into space.

This also shows Haruhiro’s growth as a character, as he has to fill the void as the leader of the group in Manato’s absence, something he does not feel confident in, but after a few encouraging words from a ghostly Manato, he gains the confidence to do so. He starts making plans and taking charge, while also noticing the fighting styles and quirks of his party mates more, such as noticing Moguzo holding back because he doesn’t have a helmet or that Mary will only heal them outside of combat. He gains confidence in himself, and really starts to play the role of a good leader that can unite the group. Their chemistry grows stronger with each battle, and the loss of Manato, while they still feel the pain, have grown to live with it; such as how Shihoru begins to wear Manato’s hairpin again. The final push to get them over the loss of Manato, is during a fight with the same group of goblins who had shot and killed Manato. The group manages to push the goblins out of their hideout, but before they finish them off, Mary gets shot in the back with an arrow, just as how Manato was when he died, only this time, she survives, which makes a great symbol for how the group has grown stronger since his loss; the same things happened, only this time, they were strong enough to push through. Another symbol for how the group has grown, is the recovery of Haruhiro’s dagger, which he had dropped in the attack in which Manato had died; it was as if a part of him was still left in that city of goblins, and he had come and taken it back. Finally, during a long scene at Manato’s grave, Haruhiro makes a long speech about the group and how they’ve gotten stronger since he left them, and that they’ve finally become real soldiers, as shown by their dog tags, of which they bought a pair for Manato as well. Haruhiro said that it probably isn’t something Manato would have wanted, and that they should have spent that money on equipment, but that they did it anyway, against his will as if saying they had grown strong on their own, and that they could stop relying on him. Haruhiro explains that he never really knew much about Manato but that he thought he was a good guy. He says he thought he was perfect, and then

screenshot-87
Haruhiro Finally realizing what has happened, as he kneels down defeated.

goes on to say that it may be because he never really knew him that well and that he would have liked to have. Finally, on the way back to town from the graveyard, Haruhiro asks Mary about her wounds, to which she replies that she healed them with magic, but that her clothes still have holes in them. Haruhiro then makes a statement about how magic also can’t heal emotional wounds just like how it can’t mend clothing, and that he can’t imagine what it must have been like for Mary to have lost three of her closest friends. Then, in the middle of the snow and cold, Mary had finally become a part of the group, just as the group had learned how to handle the pain of their loss. After a long struggle with themselves, they were finally able to handle the pain of their loss, and while it may never go away, they’ve learned to accept it and move forward. While Haruhiro still has visions of Manato, he never seems haunted by them, and instead sees them as if Manato were still with him, coaching him through his new role as leader of the group. Loss isn’t something most anime tend to handle in a way that Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash does; it takes around a third of the episodes of the show for the characters to accept their pain, emotions, and loss, but it never really leaves them as they think about the times before. Their pain isn’t over quickly and solved in the blink of an eye, and it never completely goes away, adding to the realism of this series. While this is certainly one of the series key points and one of the reasons why I think it is as great as it is, it certainly isn’t the only theme running in the series, far from it. But I think that’s where I’ll leave this review off for now. But don’t worry, I’ll cover some of its other themes in another review, and I’ll hopefully be better at this sort of thing next time. 🙂

End Note: If you’re reading this, thanks for sticking around so long, I know it’s a longer post than I usually do for a single series. Anyway, since this is my first post of this nature, It’d be nice to get some feedback from you readers. How’d you like it? What’d you like about it? What didn’t you like about it? Simply leave any feedback you have for me in the comments below, and also, since this is my first major post, it’d be nice if you guys could share it wherever you like, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc. Every like, share, or comment really helps out a lot, and is greatly appreciated. Thanks for your reading, and continued support, until next time, have fun.

5 Romance Anime for Valentines Day!

Just some anime for the day of love, and I hope I’ve done a good job naming some series that are not the super cliché picks, nor shows that are super popular. Please note that these entries are in no particular order and are not necessarily my favorite, romance anime, but instead some off-kilter picks for some lesser known shows/movies.

  1. Aoi Hanaaoi-hanaTo start off with, we’ve got a nice romance between girls, and about figuring out who you are. With relationships that always seem to be intertwined in unfortunate ways and a feeling of never ever getting together with the person you want to, this series is a nice shoujo-ai romance without any of the ridiculousness that typically comes with these kinds of shows; it’s way more down to earth than a lot of other girl-girl romance shows. It’s a real nice drama that may pull your heartstrings a bit.
  2. Mayo Chikimayo-chikiThis series happens to be one of a genderbent butler trying to fulfill his families line of work. Unfortunately for her, is that one of the stipulations of her keeping her butler job is that no one is to find out about it, and because this is a piece of entertainment, the rule of drama means that some must find out about this secret; this person just so happens to be the love interest of the series who promises to keep his mouth shut. What could possibly go wrong?
  3. Midori no Hibimidori-no-hibiHave you ever wondered what it would be like if your hand were your waifu, well look no further than this nice little rom-com. There’s not really much else to say about this fantastic series other than you should watch it. I mean come on,  do you really wanna pass up on a story that talks about guy with girl troubles having his hand turned into the perfect waifu?
  4. Hoshi no Koehoshi-no-koeA lesser known film by Makoto Shinkai, and a short one at that, totaling at only 25 minutes, and talks about long distance relationships, and I mean really long distance relationships, like distances that need to be measured in AUs. This one will probably be a lot more dependent on the one watching, but you’ll probably end up liking it more than I did, and who knows, maybe it’ll make you shed a tear.
  5. KarinkarinLastly, we have a vampire romance, and no, there isn’t a lot of gore in this series, just maybe a lot of blood. This series details the relationship between the vampire Karin and the only human that knows her secret, Kenta; the fact that she’s a vampire and that she’s a vampire that doesn’t drink blood, but instead has it come bursting out of her fangs!  A nice romance series that felt a lot shorter than it was.

Manga Discussion: The Gods Lie

the-gods-lieA solid premise with some really great concepts, but let down by its short length; that would be The Gods Lie for me. The underlying story of this single volume series is the relationship between the two main characters: Natsuru, a young up-in-coming soccer player; and Rio, a mysterious girl that seems to stand out from all the other kids. Upon Natsuru’s meeting with Rio, a chain of events begins and changes their lives forever… but the series isn’t long enough to be as impactful as it could have been. With the story being only 5 chapters inside a single volume, there’s very limited space to work with and because of that, the story feels very rushed a lot of the time and as a result of that, the drama can also feel forced at times because of a lack of fleshing out the main characters and the world they inhabit, not to mention the fact that the believability of the story is already a little low because I feel the characters are just slightly too young, being only in sixth grade. The story underneath, nevertheless, is very strong and the premises the story deals with are very well thought out and executed, and should certainly draw you in to the events that are unfolding. This series disappoints me more than anything because I feel that if given more pages, the series could have very well been something that I remember for a long time and been something that is amongst my favorites, but unfortunately, while not forgettable, is something that will sink to the bottom of my mental manga catalog; not being lost, but certainly something that’ll have to be brought to the surface. With those thoughts, I would give this series a:

7 out of 10.

Manga Discussion: Wolf Children

wolf-children-mangaIf you’re a fan of the film, the manga adaptation of Wolf Children, while still being very good, is not quite up to the merits of the film. To start things off, I would like to congratulate Yen Press on their release of the manga; the hardcover edition is very nice and the translation is very well done and had a lot of character, the only flaw really being the very awkward translation of a specific and important phrase, but aside from that, they really did a very nice job translating this edition. Now, on to the other stuff. For the artstyle, I thought it matched the story very well, and while there were a few moments where I felt things were a little off, the majority of the illustrations matched the theme and tone of the story very well, and they really do justice to the original material. The only real downside to the manga version of the story, is the loss of a lot of thematic and tonal elements brought to the film by its voices, sound effects and score, that I feel really hurt the print edition of the story. It still has a lot of great moments, and adds a few things that make things a little bit better, the loss of that sense really puts a damper on this story specifically. I distinctly remember forcing myself to remember the sound bit of, “I’m gonna be a little girl all the way home” from the film through my head because the translation wasn’t even close to that line (it was translated as “three presents, three octopuses”) and while you might say that that was just a result of an awkward translation, it got me thinking; voice played a massive role in the presentation of the film, I distinctly remember the phrase to a T with every little inflection of voice with each little nuance of beat. A large part of why the film was as emotionally impactful and as gripping as it was, was due to that audio component that it had, and that doesn’t really transition to print media. While I am incredibly happy that I own this and can say that it’s part of my collection, I would say that unless you enjoyed the film, I would pass on this edition (although I find it very hard to not like the film, it’s one of the best films I’ve seen, period). Now, if you did like the film, I can say that this is something you might be looking at reading/picking up as it is still a story that’s so good, it’s nice to see presented in two different fashions. It’s because of this that I give the manga adaptation an:

8 out of 10.

Manga Discussion: A Silent Voice

a-silent-voiceBeing handicapped in some way is already disadvantageous and bad on its own; being picked on and bullied for it is even worse, but being betrayed by everyone around you and watching everyone turn their back to you as you rapidly become the victim can be just as damaging. A Silent Voice does a near perfect job of demonstrating and presenting these situations and the aftermath of them, showing a fantastic story of how your mindset can greatly change the way you see the world, and in turn, change the way the world sees you. This is certainly a series that has been talked about with a little bit higher frequency recently, especially with the release of the film adaptation, and while I haven’t seen the film, it is something that has me incredibly excited. I can say that this series is one I enjoyed reading to such a significant degree that I ended up finishing the entire 7 volume, 64 chapter series in 1 sitting, starting at around 10 at night, and reading it through till around 4 in the morning; if that doesn’t show you how much pull this series has, I’m not sure how else to put it. If you’ve never heard about this series, here’s a brief description of what the story is: the narrative primarily follows the life and interactions of Shouya Ishida, a former bully of Shouko Nishimiya, and young deaf girl who feels little confidence in herself. Do to certain events, Shouya’s outlook on things shifts radically, and he sets his sights on something he feels he should have done a long time ago, hating himself for being as blind as he was. This is a series I would recommend to anyone, and is one of a few series I would consider to be a must-read. The 1st volume alone is incredibly powerful and the series only gets better from there. There’s only one thing about that series that left me slightly disappointed, but hopefully the film can fix that small issue I have, and if you’ve read the series through to completion, my issue with it is most likely the one that came to you mind first, but please, no spoilers in the comments. This series is not only strong, but powerful as well and I would love to read/watch more stories similar to this one, I give it a:

10 out of 10.

Initial Review: 5 Centimters Per Second

5-centimeters-per-secondIf you wanna feel completely crushed after watching a film, then you might wanna check out 5 Centimeters Per Second. Certainly not a happy story, but one that will leave you in awe of the breathtaking visuals throughout its run, and vacate your mind of every thought but “wow” at the end. The film is broken up into 3 parts, each dealing with a different part of our main character, Takaki’s, life. Each part is a compelling piece in it of itself, with the final part leaving you at a loss for words. A sad story it is, and one I would definitely recommend to anyone, and if your someone who’s been in a long distance relationship before, this film might strike an even bigger chord with you. While the film may be short, it has a lot of emotion in it, and is certainly worth the watch, and is a film that will almost certainly leave you feeling dead on the inside. With all that though, some moments feel a little out of place, and I feel that the ending didn’t hit me as hard as it could have. I feel like this film could certainly have been more than it was, but even so, the film is still great, and one you should definitely check out; I give it an:

8 out of 10.