Welcome to the Ballroom’s Stumbling Lead and Silent Follow

“The one to capture the crowd wins. The conditions to win are obvious: lead and follow, unity, ability to read the floor, configuration, and confidence and impact. He has them all now” (Sengoku Kaname, “Line of Dance”).

“Sure he was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did…backwards and in high heels” (Bob Thaves).

Couples dancing is one of the few stages left where the importance of following is just as strong as ever. Leading and following are set roles that dancers take, with men typically the leads and women the follows. We see this norm displayed in this season’s show, Ballroom e Youkoso, to varying degrees.

Fujita Tatara is understandably starstruck by the people he sees and the moves they make. He finds a goal he never knew he needed in competitive ballroom dancing, and undertakes the long and painful journey to earning his place among giants. Yet even among the stars, he meets others who challenge his vision. Leads like Akagi Gaju treat their partners with disdain and their desires with objective possession. To Gaju, his sister Mako is a weakness holding him back; Shizuku, in turn, is sexy, capable, and desirable. He wants to swap the two and use Shizuku to fulfill his own needs. Gaju’s chauvinistic greed is among the ugliest displays we see on the dance floor, and an example I hope Tatara avoids for the sake of himself, his partner, and us viewers. We need a lead who dances with, not for, the follow.

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Balancing Competition and Teamwork in New Game!!

Yun: “…isn’t Yagami-san gonna get chosen anyway? She’s super talented. This competition’s just so that no one can complain. But it’s a foregone conclusion.”

Aoba: “That may be true, but I’m fine with failure so long as I know the results were deserved.”

(“Cos-purr-lay.” New Game!!)

How you tackle opportunities in life can determine your position and future endeavors, and there are often countless approaches to take. Picking the right one for your own happiness can be tricky; doing so may result in the unhappiness of others. This is the dilemma faced in the second episode of New Game!!, “This Is Just Turning Into Cos-purr-lay!” With a new project on the horizon, Eagle Jump creates a challenge to all employees to win the position of Lead Character Designer.

Despite Yagami Kou’s promotion to Art Director, it’s assumed by everyone that she will take part in the competition as well. Some employees, like Yun, view this as a fixed race and shy away from confrontation. Others, like Aoba, are more than eager to have this rare chance. Her gut reaction to give it her all shows just how much she’s improved since the first season, when she looked up to Yagami as a near unreachable figure. Now she’s excited to challenge her, even if the outcome is certain.

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Finding a Place to Return to in Sakura Quest

“Permanent resident population: In contrast to the temporary resident population, which comprises of visitors to a region, this describes the number of residents that have permanently settled in a region” (Yoshino, “The Queen, Convicted”).

My entire time growing up in Kenai–a coastal town in Alaska with a population around 6,000-7,000–I knew I was going to leave. Having moved there at the age of five and being one of the few Asian Americans in my school and surrounding towns, I never felt quite like I belonged. I had friends, yes. I was involved in many community activities. Yet through the books I read and the cultures I felt a part of, I felt an irresistible draw to travel elsewhere and live more connected to the big cities where exciting events occurred. Concerts. Festivals. Museums. Art. Food.

When the time finally came, I up and moved to Seattle and took a job downtown among no-nonsense lawyers and harried office workers. I had fun for a year, using my lunch breaks to wander the nearby streets and buildings and scheduling dates and events after work and on the weekends. Then I realized that I was over it. The increasingly trafficked commute and cement buildings wore me down. I started looking to nearby towns to live, and reconsidered my job. Like Sakura Quest’s Koharu Yoshino, I left the sticks for the city only to send myself straight back to small town life. Now I live and write from home about a thirty-minute drive away from Seattle, eating and taking breaks at my discretion, and feeling more a part of my chosen hometown than I ever did hanging out in the city. This quest for a place to call home didn’t come about from any grand plan, but instead from a series of small decisions that pointed me to where I am today.


In Sakura Quest, Yoshino struggles to survive in Tokyo after leaving her seaside town with the determination to never again live in the country. Call it misfortune or fate, a mistake leads her to signing a year-long contract to act as Manoyama’s “Queen,” where she works together with the tourism industry to try and revive the population. The task already sounds daunting enough even before considering the fact that Yoshino herself is part of the generation running to the cities and leaving rural hometowns like hers to literally grow old and, in some cases, die out completely.

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Natsume Yuujinchou Roku and a Place to Call Home

“To tell you the truth, I want to stay here forever. I’m sure that’s impossible, but I don’t want to go anywhere. I love this place. I want to stay here forever” (Natsume, “Nishimura and Kitamoto”).

“I found myself smiling at others, and seeing them smile in return….Reiko-san…did you ever really get to exchange smiles with someone? With the people you cared about?” (“What Matters”).

It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that true friends are difficult to find–you can spend your whole life never making more than a handful even if you’re lucky. Natsume Yuujinchou frequently circles on the topic of friendship, touching on humans and youkai alike. While the previous series in the franchise loosely hold their own themes, season six digs deeper into the nature of Natsume Takashi’s relationships with his human friends and family, as well as the spirits who surround him. Natsume has always walked a shaky line between the two worlds, learning stories of Reiko’s past and creating new ones of his own every day, though this may be the first time where we see through the eyes of his school friends. Their version of events provides further substance to an already fleshed-out world. Surrounded by friends and family like he is, Natsume finally has a home he can call his own and, perhaps, a purpose to pursue.

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Kabukibu! – Kabuki for the Modern Audience


Starting up a new high school club is familiar territory for anime, with many shows demonstrating the difficulties of gathering members and establishing a routine. Some represent Japanese classic arts, such as karuta (art and game) in Chihayafuru and yosakoi in Hanayamata. Games like go and shogi are mainstays with Hikaru no Go, Shion no Ou, and 3-gatsu no Lion. Even rakugo has found coverage in Joshiraku and Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. Now we have Kabukibu!, a light novel adaptation about a high school kabuki club.

Two expectations rose to the forefront when I considered watching the show: first, a boys-only group aimed at a female audience and, second, a demonstration of kabuki that leaned either too far away or too close to the art. Thankfully, the show has proven neither of these views, instead rising far above in approach and display to fully capture my attention.

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Seikaisuru Kado: The Sci-Fi You Should Be Watching


There was no way I could have predicted at the start of the season that Seikaisuru Kado would be impressing me the way it has in story, execution, and, yes, even visuals. The anime-original has inspired a manga adaptation, as well as a spin-off manga. If you enjoy science fiction with alien encounters, national and international politics, and theories of world peace, then Kado: The Right Answer may be just the show for you. You don’t even have to be a science fiction fan or anime fan to appreciate the series–the ideas and emotions presented are, quite literally, universal.

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Zero no Syo and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho, more easily referred to as Zero no Syo, takes place in a world where magic exists but is largely condemned as the bearer of misfortune. Humans blame witches for everything from plagues to natural disasters, and hold an almost equal disdain for beastfallen, humans born with an animal appearance like a wolf and tiger. Our story begins with one such beastfallen who stumbles across a witch unlike most other witches he has encountered.

When I first picked up Zero no Syo, I expected it to be much like any other generic fantasy show, familiar and forgettable. The average character designs and overall art style give no hint to the show’s immersive story. “Zero” and “Mercenary” are a surprisingly good combination of skepticism and wit, and I wish we had a longer amount of time than the slotted twelve episodes to explore their relationship.

A thread of miscommunication runs through the series–a lack of understanding between humans and witches, witches and beastfallen, beastfallen and humans. As is natural, they all prioritize their own interests before those of others, and create their own conceptions of the truth. These expectations appear fulfilled when events occur justifying their own ideas.

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ACCA’s Menu of Cakes for the Rich and Breads for the Poor

[King] “Do you like sweets?”
[Lotta] “Yes!”
[King] “Have as much as you’d like.”

“The Swirling Smoke of Rumors in the Castle,” ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.

Viewers of ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. rave about the series while also wondering about the significance of bread in the narrative. Among the cigarette smoking, district inspections, and political intrigue sits breads of all kinds–sweet bread, earthy bread, herb bread, the list goes on. Their imagery and descriptions cause the mouth to water, but also beg the question about why bread is so prominently featured. This is a story about a struggling kingdom swarming with rumors of a coup, not some light-hearted comedy set in a cafe.

I want you to consider this: diet is one of the quickest ways to determine a given location’s culture and class situation. Wealthy nations tend to overflow with a variety of meats, vegetables, and grains, much of which is imported from outside; poor and isolated countries that cannot afford the many costs of trade often pull from limited, local sources. We see this reflected in the different districts of Dowa, a monarchy comprised of semi-independent states that are encouraged to emphasize their cultural differences. As ACCA inspector Jean Otus conducts his interior reviews throughout the districts, we are presented with all kinds of foodstuffs, most of which are baked goods.

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3-Gatsu no Lion and Foreboding Stomach Pains

“It’s rushing towards me, Mr. Shimada’s thoughts. Like water that’s been let loose from a dam. Sudden and forceful!”
-Kiriyama Rei, “Torrent,” March Comes in like a Lion

Happy March! And what better way to enter this month than to touch on the show March Comes in like a Lion? The anime has been a favorite of mine from the beginning, but I’ve neglected discussing it until now. Part of the reason for that is the amount of material worthy of analysis and commentary felt daunting. Unlike Onihei, which I talked about in my previous post, March Comes in like a Lion receives plenty of spotlight from fellow bloggers and anime critics. However, the past few episodes featuring the character Shimada Kai reminded me of my own unpleasant and ongoing experience with stomach pains.

Shimada makes his living as a professional shougi player and suffers from chronic stomachaches. Although he ranks as an eight dan, he continues to look upward towards the top Meijin title. Shimada plays mentor and role model to younger players like Nikaidou and Kiriyama. While he guides them in their never-ending quest to improve themselves, he also paves the way for their paths to the top. As if to echo the weight of such responsibility, Shimada endures daily, near-debilitating pain in his gut.

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Straddling the Border with Onihei

Onihei is another winter 2017 anime that I almost skipped over in my seasonal selection, but thanks to the recommendation of a reader, I tried it out and added the anime to my weekly viewing. The period drama has roots in a late 1960s novel by Shoutarou Ikenami, and has been adapted into various mediums, including theater, television, manga, and even an arcade game. Despite the stories taking place during the Edo period, they impart messages and emotions that resonate to this day.

The anime takes an episodic format, with each week providing a new case for “Demon Heizou” (“Onihei”), leader of the Arson Theft Control. While there are some recurring characters, each week presents new faces. Episodes usually start with the conflict of the introduced character, such as a noble thief running from Arson Theft Control, then getting caught by Onihei. Next comes Heizou’s investigation into the matter, and later his confrontation and resolution of the main conflict. While each of these episodes thus far has wrapped neatly into almost perfect packages, they also support a belief in the gray zone. No story has just one method of telling, and not all acts can be categorized as white or black. There is always another point of view to hear, and oftentimes an act for good results in evil. This plurality also defines Onihei, who at times plays the hero, and at other times the villain.

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