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.
We’ve finally arrived at the end of the series, and I’ve chosen Sakura Quest to lead us into the next year—not because it was the best of 2017, or even necessarily my favorite. Sakura Quest had its ups and downs. There was a time where I was worried the plot wasn’t going anywhere. With enough failures, and never ending communication, Yoshino grew along with Manoyama and found a new purpose in life. That’s the message I want to take to heart and relay to you now: learn from the mistakes of this past year, speak openly with the people around you, and strive to improve in the future. Whatever your belief, I wish you a wonderful holiday season and new year.
You didn’t think I was going to write 12 Days without referencing one of the best series of the year, did you? There is no participating in the event without Land of the Lustrous (Houseki no Kuni), which from the opening scenes established itself as a classic in the making. Everything from writing to visuals somehow improves with each episode, building upon the canvas in a steady and masterful manner. There are countless ways to discuss Land of the Lustrous, but one that has stood out to me from the beginning is the massive space occupying the frames of this show.
Almost a year has passed since the second season of Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju aired, and even now the show stands among the top with the best of 2017. The sequel was not to be outdone by the original season, which focused largely on the past, and spent much of its time contemplating the role of rakugo from present to future. One of the story’s champions for progress can be found in the complicated character of Konatsu.
The near-constant stand up comedy in Girls’ Last Tour owes its success to the convincing personalities of its two main characters, Chito and Yuuri. As straight man and funny man, the girls give the viewers a unique perspective on their lives in a world nearly devoid of any other humans. In a way, their seemingly opposing outlooks mirror the very place they inhabit; as empty the spaces and dire the search for sustenance are, Chi and Yuu still manage to entertain one another and see the good things in life, as shown in the snapshots from their camera. As the viewer, we know we should be worried about them running out of food and fuel. What would happen if one of them became deathly ill, or injured? What if they run into someone far less kind than the ones we’ve met thus far? The danger always lingers, as does the compulsion to keep moving onward and upward.
When I was a child, I latched onto any book I could get my hands on. My genre of choice was fantasy, particularly anything based on Celtic and Gaelic mythology. Some of my favorite authors included Lloyd Alexander (The Chronicles of Prydain), T.A. Barron (The Merlin Saga), Susan Cooper (The Dark is Rising), and, of course, J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings). They each wielded their magic with aplomb, weaving narratives that bewitched my senses and promised a journey of my own someday.
These days, I read far less than I used to or would like, and when I watch anime, most of the fantasy is based on Japanese mythology. When The Ancient Magus’ Bride appeared before me, I felt an instant jolt of nostalgia and affection. Its familiar setting and language brought me back to my childhood, where I imagined going on that adventure promised me so long ago.
I can’t think of a single success story as surprising as Kemono Friends, an anime that aired at the start of the year and quickly stormed through the anime community. I pride myself on an open mind when it comes to anime—I try to give every series the benefit of the doubt no matter my reservations about the art or genre. Somehow Kemono Friends slipped past my net. It wasn’t until I saw the hype on Twitter and many of the blogs I read that I realized I had almost missed out on something special. So I set out to remedy my mistake, and tried the first couple of episodes. The story didn’t seem remarkable, and the CG animation and art were an eyesore…but I kept watching. I wanted to visit the next area with Kaban and Serval. I wanted to meet more Friends. Before long, I realized I didn’t want the story to end. Japari Park had become real.