I still have a hard time believing I actually sat down and watched this show, much less finished it given my initial impressions. You can backtrack to the two podcast episodes Draggle and I recorded on it: in one, I lambast the series‘ not-so-subtle rape, and in the other I marvel at the character development and metaphors of online versus offline connectivity. That 180 in attitude towards the show occurred through much of the season while it aired, and I would not in good conscience recommend the anime to someone without fully knowing their tastes. Regardless, Sarazanmai was one of the most memorable shows of the year and with high rewatchability.
I can feel the flames of the 12 Days of Anime licking at my heels as I write this from the east coast and it’s already past midnight. I tell myself were I back home in Seattle, I’d still be a few hours within the safety lines. The holiday activities are ramping up!
Today I bring you Kono Oto Tomare! Sounds of Life, a series that started airing in the spring and already is on a second season as we enter into the winter. The first episode had me teetering on the edge of dropping this show despite my interest in the subject, and I have my stubbornness to thank for sticking with it and finding one of my favorite stories of 2019.
It was with great surprise and pleasure that I learned about the anime adaptation of Dororo, an Osamu Tezuka’s late 1960s manga which I encountered first in its 2007 live action format. Back then, I didn’t have the understanding yet that many Japanese live action films and series were adaptations of manga and anime, and so didn’t try to pursue beyond the movie I loved. Now that I have seen the 2019 anime, I’d like to go back and read the manga as well as watch the 1969 anime to find out for myself just how much material was changed. That isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy what we received; on the contrary, I thought the story one of the most interesting of the year due to its style and and characters.
Book like Ender’s Game and anime series like Stellvia of the Universe had a younger me dreaming of an alternate reality where I, too, could enroll in a student space program and head out into the stars. Unfortunately, the settings in those two specific works were products of alien invasions threatening the very existence of humanity. Then I was exposed to works like Star Trek and Cowboy Bebop, where exploration for the sake of exploration drove the directions of their stories. I loved both styles, and continued to dream of a future where travel between planets was as normal as a flight to another country. ASTRA fills that craving with its colorful cast and varied environments, mixing an exhilarating sense of adventure with a persistent feeling of danger.
Fire Force made it to my 12 Days of Anime for a number of reasons, and not all positive. While it certainly presents itself well on a visual front, other areas like timing and characters are memorable for more distasteful aspects. Regardless, I do consider the show among some of the most artistic presentations of the year with its cinematography and use of sound effects.
2019 brought with it plenty of stories new to the screen, both adaptations and original works, many of which I’ll mention later on in the 12 Days of Anime. But I don’t want to overlook some of the sequels that I found just as enjoyable, partly due to their unexpected arrival.
It’s that time of year again where we look back at the previous year of anime and reflect on 12 powerful moments–great or terrible, that’s up to the rememberer.
This year, I start with After School Dice Club, a choice I’m sure will surprise many of you. It is neither extraordinary nor ill-written. Some might even describe it as forgettable fluff. Yet the moment this show was announced and the first game made its appearance, I knew I had to watch it.
As busy as life has been for me these past several months, I’ve come to cherish even more the interludes of calm between all the little storms. One oasis that soothes me time and time again is this season’s continuation of Encouragement of Climb, the third in its series.
As the title implies, this is a journey along the trails and mountains of Japan as presented by a group of girls of varying skills and styles. We began with Aoi, but have since met with many others over the course of their adventures. Encouragement of Climb has always been about more than just the physical climb; it encompasses our characters’ personalities and their relationships not just within their immediate circles, but also with the people around them.
It’s been a long journey with Soma Yukihira through the gauntlet that is Totsuki Academy: three seasons and countless meals served up to our pleasure. Through it all, Soma’s experience growing up in Yukihira’s kitchen gives him the inspiration to improve. His father, Joichiro Saiba, is a constant figure in those memories, a man looked up to by many, while simultaneously viewed as a hurdle on Soma’s path to becoming the best chef. We also see Saiba in Erina’s childhood as one of her rare moments of happiness. When adults in the culinary world, academic as well as professional, speak of Saiba, it’s with a tone of awe and, often, fear. What happens when such a man falters, when the person you look up to most in the world vanishes?
One of the least-discussed shows of this season is Yotsuiro Biyori, a show centering on a Japanese tea shop called Rokuhoudou and the people who pass through its doors. The owner and employees who tend the shop and the people they encounter share their stories from episode to episode in ways that will bring a smile to your face and quell the ailing heart. This, like so many others, is a story about stories. A big part of how Rokuhoudou is able to succeed is thanks to the hard work put in by its staff and the pride they take in their work. No effort is wasted, be it finding just the right ingredient and technique for a new dessert, or recommending the correct item for a customer who at times needs more than to fill their stomach.