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.
[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.
“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.
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.
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 »
“There are people called ‘demi-humans’ who possess special qualities…the demi-humans who have been used as motifs in myths and fairy tales. They have also endured persecution in the past. But discrimination has been less common in recent years, and there’s even a welfare system for demi-humans who live with any sort of disadvantage. Now, being a demi-human is seen as just another aspect of one’s identity.” (Unknown, “Tetsuo Takahashi Wants an Interview,” Demi-chan)
There is no other show more surprising to me this winter season than Demi-chan wa Kataritai, a series I assumed would be a straightforward high school fantasy harem along the lines of Monster Musume no Iru Nichijou. Yes, there is a harem set up with our male protagonist and the female demi-humans, including three students and one teacher. Yes, they all look to be crushing on Takahashi-sensei. But, it isn’t the romance or comedy that shines in this series. Takahashi Tetsuo asserts himself from the very beginning as a man who not only wants to study demi-humans, but also respects them. Demi-chan wa Kataritai is a story that champions equality and appreciation for the precious and necessary diversity among communities.
Lotte Jansson is the star of Little Witch Academia’s fourth episode, “night fall,” where we witness her passion, loyalty, and support for a long-running series that spoofs Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga. While Lotte did receive some character development in the second film, this episode’s window into her interests reveals a girl full of confidence and conviction. The uncertain and meek Lotte who usually graces the halls of Luna Nova disappears. By showing us this side to the young witch’s personality, the anime hints at future growth in her self-confidence towards her own magical ability and her supportive friendship with Akko and Sucy.