“If you have a choice, why not try something you’ve never had before?”
-Takeshi Shizuko, “Anniversary Oden,” Samurai Gourmet
Having just finished another J-drama food series, Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, Netflix rightly suggested I try Samurai Gourmet, a television series with a lighter spirit and distinct sense of humor. In addition to the food and individual stories, I was drawn to the series by its main actor, Naoto Takenaka, who I loved in the live action music series, Nodame Cantabile.
Gourmet Samurai is an episodic series spanning 12, 25-minute episodes. Played by Takenaka, Takeshi Kasumi is a retired salaryman unsure of how to fill his now free days. Thanks to the suggestion of his wife, Kasumi steps out in search of a hobby and stumbles across the joy of dining out. His food discoveries are always accompanied by a hallucination (or is it?) of a wandering samurai. This samurai, played by the very handsome Tamayama Tetsuji, helps Kasumi overcome his misgivings, like drinking in the middle of the day, eating properly in a formal setting, and even dealing with grouchy chefs. The more Kasumi learns from the samurai, the more he is able to appreciate his new found hobby.
In the hopes of shedding my winter gear and moving into the spring, I’ve decided to continue on with this second part of my season wrap. I may or may not give my final thoughts on Tales of Zestiria the X after the last episode airs at the end of the month.
Overall, this winter season treated me remarkably well, with a couple of gems I would include in a top-30-of-all-time list. It’s not often that a series comes along I can definitively say exemplifies the possibilities of anime as a medium for storytelling, or that transcends its art style in such a way that anime skeptics can still appreciate. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu and ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka are two such titles.
In addition to these pillars, there are also several shows that have already become cult classics, such as Kemono Friends and Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon. These anime understood and executed their roles perfectly, capturing the hearts and loyalty of their audience almost from the beginning. Maybe I can’t provide a synopsis about either to a non-anime viewer without raising some eyebrows, but that doesn’t change the fact that these characters had a powerful impact on me. Shows like Kemono Friends remind me to see the best in myself and others no matter how bleak the surroundings. That’s a particularly important reminder these days.
ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka
Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon
Kuzu no Honkai
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans 2nd Season
I stumbled across yet another Netflix gem in the form of Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, a continuation of a popular Japanese live action series with three earlier seasons and two movies. I had actually seen a bit of the first season, Shinya Shokudo, several years ago with FoxyLadyAyame, but I cannot recall if we ever finished it. This realization didn’t hit me until I started watching Tokyo Stories and many of the setting and character details felt familiar. You do not actually need to watch any of the prequels to appreciate the 4th-season Netflix original, as the stories are episodic in nature. You can even watch them out of order if you like, though I do think the last episode perfectly wraps up the sentiment of the show and the bar where everyone intersects.
I’ve started to notice blossoms along the path I take when walking my dog, and I haven’t had to adjust the heater for a few weeks now, so I guess winter is finally coming to an end. As much as I detest being cold, I hate heat even more, so it is with mixed emotions that I say farewell to the winter season. There were a number of gems this time around that I am sad to see end, namely 3-gatsu no Lion, Demi-chan, and Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. They each impacted me in unique ways and left me thoughtful of my own relationships and contributions.
This anime season seemed to fly by even more quickly than usual, perhaps due to me actually keeping on schedule for the first time in a long while. I have decided to split my season review into a couple of posts, largely because Tales of Zestiria the X announced a delayed final episode. If you don’t see one of your favorite shows listed immediately below, see if it is included in my list at the end of this review.
As promised in my 12 Days post on playing Tales of Graces f and Symphonia, I picked up another Tales of game and finished it within a few weeks. Tales of Xillia is a 2011 title that came to America in 2013 on the PS3 and, like most of the titles in the series, includes combat co-op. The story runs along a clear line, battle allows for interesting combinations, and many dated and irritating qualities of older titles are removed. Long-time fans, however, will likely knock Xillia in several fields: story, setting, combat, and missing elements that are signatures of the franchise. On the whole, I enjoyed the game and would recommend it as a possible entrance point for new players to the franchise.
While on a flight this past year, I watched this film sitting snugly between my now husband and a complete stranger. I used to I still feel self conscious about watching anime in public, but all the flights I’ve taken the past couple of years have chipped at my caring exterior–that and the fact that submersion into a series or movie makes time fly faster than almost anything else I can do on a plane. I could feel my neighbors eyes now and then on my screen, and if it wouldn’t have been completely rude to everyone else, I might have unplugged my earbuds so he could watch along. Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki (i.e. Wolf Children) is a film I think almost anyone can appreciate, exploring age-old topics of romance, parenthood, and identity.
Long Riders! is a delightful anime that began airing during the previous 2016 season in October. It was scheduled to complete on schedule in December, but the last two episodes were postponed until February of this year. The show features college girls who enjoy long distance cycling. When I first noticed this anime, I thought it might more closely resemble Yowamushi Pedal, another cycling manga and anime that has become incredibly popular in Japan. While both works center on the bicycle, they differ greatly in terms of topic, setting, and voice. I value each for their contribution, but found myself better appreciating the emotions inspired by Long Riders! Read More »
Let us all breathe a sigh of relief that I have finally finished the fall anime! Thanks to my three-week honeymoon and a terrible throat infection/fever, I had a lot of catching up to do after returning home. There were a ton of wonderful shows this past fall that I was almost sorry to complete. 2016 as a whole was actually a great year for anime, and the fall season capped it beautifully. I hope you enjoyed the season and year as much as I did, and that you’ll share with me your thoughts and personal favorites!
Bungou Stray Dogs 2nd Season
Fune wo Amu
Haikyuu!!: Karasuno Koukou VS Shiratorizawa Gakuen Koukou
On my flight home from Australia, I had the luck of stumbling across the 2015 film An while browsing the available movies. An tells the story of a Japanese dorayaki seller and few of the people who impact his life. Dorayaki is a confection pairing little pancakes with an, sweet red bean paste. Obviously it was the setting of the dorayaki shop that drew me in, but it was the story that kept me watching, smiling, then later crying unashamedly. Thank goodness the plane’s lights were dimmed! I really had no idea what I was walking into–the only real hints I had were the drama categorization and the short trailer showing Sentaro learning how to make real an from Yoshii Tokue. The movie ended up sharing so much more than that, including such topics as the human spectrum of emotions regarding helping others, the cages others build and that we create on our own, as well as our resilience and ability to start again. As you can tell, this discussion will include a fair amount of spoilers, so if that deters you from watching, please take my suggestion now to try the film and let me know your thoughts.
This second and final wrap for the summer season turned out shorter than expected, as I resorted to reserving a few series for later viewing. There’s still a lot to read, though, and I encourage you to let me know what you thought of these shows. The summer season treated me very well with its wide range of genres. There are always the disappointments in shows that didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but there are also a handful of wonderful surprises.