The Sunshine Blogger Award!

Hi! I’m back off hiatus again, and to kick off the start of summer officially, it’s the Sunshine Blogger Award! A big thanks to The Pantless Anime Blogger (TPAB) for passing this tag onto me! Check out his blog here, it’s good stuff. Before we dig into the meat and potatoes though, da rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link to their blog so others can visit them.
  • Answer eleven questions asked by the nominator.
  • Nominate eleven bloggers of your choosing and provide ask them eleven questions of your own.
  • Notify the nominees by commenting on one of their blog posts.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post or on your blog site.

 

Now…I’ll do my best to answer these questions, come up with some of my own, and pass it on!

TPAB’s Questions:

In a Jump All Star rumble, who would you pick to win? Saitama from OPM, Korosensei from Assasination Classroom, Dio from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure or Kankichi from Kochikame?

Well, the easy answer here is Saitama. His entire gag is based around being so stupidly strong to the point he’s bored, longing for a new challenge- and this is despite facing some unbelievably powerful individuals in his own series. Much as I love Korosensei and Assassination Classroom (seriously, I wrote both a review and a whole character piece on Nagisa Shiota), there’s no reason to think the caped baldy wouldn’t take this. (Apologies to DIO too- after all, he actually lost.)

After a stressful day, you would go to _______ to ________ so you can unwind. I probably could’ve phrased this better.

I’d go to my room to watch animation and write. Or I might go to the Y to work out. Depends, there’s more than one way to deal with stress!

Tea or Coffee?

Usually a cup of coffee with some milk or half and half in the mornings, but tea is very relaxing at night, or when you have headaches. Chamomile is my favorite, but I also like green tea. And in both cases, it must always be hot!

A random dude in a cat mascot costume suddenly rushes towards you on your way to school. What do you do?

My first instinct might be just to knee the guy in the stomach, but that would injure me more than him, probably. So I sidestep him and ask what exactly he’s doing, provided he’s not there with lethal intent. Overall, it’s a strange incident unless it’s Halloween or the weekend of some local comic-con, in which case I doubt anyone blinks.

Truck-san just helped you travel to another world. Which world? The Harry Potter world of Zero no Tsukaima or the WWII-esque world of Yojou Senki and yes, you’re reborn as a loli here too.

Do I really have to answer this? And no, it’s not just because I’m being summarily forced to be a loli, it’s also because I haven’t covered either of these shows. But, to call a quick audible…I have seen Little Witch Academia (a Harry Potter-esque world) and Girls und Panzer (girls who compete in WWII-era tanks), and both those worlds seem fun for different reasons. Furthermore, they both allow me to get away with that other stipulation without so much as a question (as they feature primarily female casts), and I learn magic or become a skilled tankery practitioner. Win-win, I say!

Favorite drama?

Favorite drama, huh? That’s a difficult question. So I’ll give an animation answer and a live-action one as well. For the former, Code Geass is always an excellent choice. And for the latter, there’s countless ones, but I’ll recommend Darkest Hour, the 2017 historical drama about Winston Churchill and the events surrounding his early days as British PM.

You’re going to battle a Pokemon in a one-on-one deathmatch. Which Pokemon do you choose as your opponent?

Me, battling a Pokemon in a 1 on 1 deathmatch? Well, preferably it’s something that can’t fight back too well. My first instinct was Magikarp, since it’s a huge, helpless fish, but that might be highly annoying as it flops around trying to get away. So I’ll go with Caterpie. String Shot silliness asides, it’s a big ol’ caterpillar.

What’s your guilty pleasure movie/anime/series?

Well, there’s a lot of series that might qualify as this in my mind! Lots of times it also mingles with “my own favorites,” so I’d say things like Ed, Edd n Eddy in the West count (seriously, it never gets old), or Dragon Ball Z in the anime department. I could rewatch those battles anytime.

Would you rather drink a blendered juice made of apple,celery, and pork fat OR mint, tuna and chives?

Neither, please and thank you. Mint, tuna and chives might be the start of a nice dish, actually. But either one of these in drink form would be awful.

What’s the main reason you wake up and leave bed in the morning?

Pretty simple answer to a question that affects us all: we all have the gift of life, so use it to the fullest! Make every moment count, and take in each minute as the unique moment in time that it is. Carpe diem!

So, 10 questions from me to the lucky folks I choose:

-What’s one animated show you’ve watched that you didn’t expect you’d like going into the watch, but wound up really enjoying? (It can be anime or Western animation.)

-Sports fans are everywhere, so if you’re a sports fan, who’s your favorite team and if so, why?

 

-What’s the best thing you ever ate?

 

-Name a popular series that you disliked, contrary to most people’s opinions?

 

-Is there a city, place or a country you’d really like to visit on a vacation?

 

-What’s that one show or movie you always intended to see or watch, but never got to yet?

 

-Books or video games?

 

-Since I liked this one from TPAB a lot, your guilty pleasure movie/anime/series?

-If you had a dream job, what would it be? (And if you already have it, share it!)

 

-Ok, one fun theoretical setting question: A school relay competition is held between Kunugigaoka Junior High’s Class 3-E (Assassination Classroom), U.A. High School’s Class 1-A (My Hero Academia) and Luna Nova Academy’s girls (Little Witch Academia). The objective is to use teamwork to move a baton about a mile and a half (or 1.6 km) to a finish line, and the course is lined with dense forest. Who wins, and why?

 

-What inspired you to be a writer and/or a blogger?


Alrighty, that’s it from me! Now, 10 lucky people to receive this tag:

sgliput (Rhyme and Reason)

Drew’s Movie Reviews

Mallow (Secluded Observation)

Edgy Anime Teen

Jon Spencer Reviews

Modern Retrospectives

Irina

Cactus Matt (Anime QandA)

moyatori

Lumi (Lumi Reviews Things)

 

I’m looking forward to what folks have to say! Thank once more to TPAB, this was a lot of fun!


Like what you see? Leave a comment!

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Review: Land of the Lustrous

A quirky, interesting show with an equally quirky lead.

The Lowdown:

Show: Land of the Lustrous (Hoseki no Kuni)

Studio/years aired: Orange, 2017

AniB’s thoughts:

Ah, Land of the Lustrous. 2017 brought some interesting shows to the fore, from the depths of Made in Abyss to what was at the time the second season of the ever-popular My Hero Academia. The subject of this review though, managed to stand out on its own merits.

In short, while this series is about a distant future featuring “hoseki,” or gem people collectively, it’s mostly a tale that is a coming of age for the young and impetuous Phosphophyllite, or Phos for short. Without giving it all away, she’s tasked with trying to find a role for herself in the gem society, when all Phos would rather do is fight the moon people who threaten the existence of her home and her fellow gems, who are taken as rare and precious stones by the invaders. In this way, Land of the Lustrous is an interesting take on the coming of age story, as Phos goes on to experience several events through the course of the show that change her for better or worse.

This anime, at least for now, is as good as it gets in Japan with 3-D animation. For a show featuring sentient precious stones, this style actually brings out the brilliance of the different gem lusters and cuts in the action. As someone who grew up fascinated with rocks and minerals, this more academic side of the show- from Phos’ difficulties with brittle hardness, to how different gems and elements interacted, was actually an interesting appeal, beyond the narrative.

It’s a bit of a bizarre show in a vacuum, but the direction it goes in works quite nicely. It’s hard to get into a lot of depth about it without it either sounding confusing or like a massive spoiler, so I won’t, but this show is really about change. With a different aesthetic that is pleasing and a lead character that manages to be engaging enough, it was a solid experience- maybe not game changing, but memorable in its own right.

There’s an interesting character story here with the unique animation to match. If you’re looking for a show that has a unique premise that works, this is as good a pick as any, with a blend of adventure, character and world-building, and a good, if slightly strange premise.


Animation: The 3-D animation is groundbreaking for an anime, and for this style of show, it makes everything “pop” nicely. With a show that features precious stones as the main characters, the style allows the full luster of the materials shine- and beyond that, the world looks lush and stunning. A very good technical achievement! Fight scenes also look fantastic, as an aside.

4.75/5 points.

 

Characterization: As previous mentioned, Phos is the main character of the series. While the gems of the show are generally classified as no gender (given that they’re precious stone in a humanoid form), the majority of them can be considered female, including our lead. Phos is both an impetuous and silly gem, who in her immaturity longs to join the fight against the “moon people” who attack the gems’ civilization. She of course, is poorly equipped for combat as a brittle and beautiful type of stone in phosphophyllite (Mohs scale hardness 3) and so, the shows mostly revolves around her journey.

The “moon people” are the mysterious invaders who attempt to steal the gems for themselves, as the defenders, despite having human forms, they can shatter and be made into jewelry, ground up, or destroyed like any precious stones. Mysterious as they are dangerous, these strange visitors are shrouded in mystery as they ceaselessly continue their relentless attacks.

Kongo is the leader of the gem society – a mysterious individual who unlike the rest is in the form of a large human man with an appearance similar to a Buddhist monk. He cares deeply about the younger gems he watches over- and possesses immense combat power as well. His past and motivations seems deeper and more mysterious than anyone actually knows, though…

There are other gems in the series worth mentioning- from Cinnabar, a loner who generally avoids other due to her natural poisonous abilities, to Bort, the best fighter of the main squadrons in combat, and Dia- a diamond who despite her hardness isn’t as good a fighter as Bort, but is kind. Each character has their own interesting personalities- and you’d discover more of these characters if you were to pick up the show. (For those who have watched, there’s some good depth to this aspect of characterization in this show, which was interesting.)

3.75/5 points.

 

Story: “Gems defend home and lives while Phos figures things out” might be a very accurate summation of how Land of the Lustrous goes. Of course, it’s more nuanced than that simple description, but some variant of that statement proves itself to be true. There’s some really solid, interesting moments that occur within the story, but it’s carried more by its characters than by the narrative itself, from what I found. Still, an interesting world is built up.

3.5/5 points.

 

Themes: There’s a large focus in Land of the Lustrous on what it means to find a place or a role in a society or a family- and in turn, what it means to stay true to one’s self. In this important sense, there’s a question of what one’s worth is defined as- by enemies, by friends, and by oneself, which is an interesting literal and metaphorical question. Of course, there are other ideas at play, such as the secrets that seems to lie in hearts and minds, but the first point is a key idea to consider in this show.

3.5/5 points.

 

Don’t Insult the Viewer: Pretty solid watch all around. There’s some strange things that do happen, and I’m not sure if the design work in every instance will go over perfectly for everyone who watches the show, but it’s a minor concern honestly. Do note there are plenty of intense moments.

4.75/5 points.

 

Total: 20.25/25 (81%): A technical achievement as far as 3-D anime is concerned, Land of the Lustrous also proves to have a lead and a story to match the visuals. If you’re pining for something that’s not exactly standard fare, this show may fit the bill.

What’s In a Character: Atsuko Kagari

A girl with big dreams and a shining sense of belief.

After quite a while, it’s finally the 10th “What’s In a Character” piece here on AniB Productions! From the one-time prince in exile (Zuko), to the assassin-turned Hunter (Killua Zoldyck) and even the iconic screwball of the Looney Tunes crew (Daffy Duck), it’s been a very entertaining ride to this point. And now we jump back into the enthralling world of Little Witch Academia at Luna Nova Academy to discover a girl with the dream to become a great witch like her idol, Shiny Chariot- the one and only fireball of energy and enthusiasm bundled into determination, Atsuko Kagari! Come see what a dazzling show she can put on- and hopefully, the end result is smiles.

WARNING: Major spoilers for Little Witch Academia.


As many of those who regularly read this blog may recall, Little Witch Academia was a watch that brought a lot of nostalgic feelings to yours truly in how it unfolded. At the center of a tremendously fun show though was its effusive and effective lead character- Atsuko “Akko” Kagari. So let’s jump into why exactly Akko’s such a special character!

 

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/littlewitch/images/f/f1/Akko_Kagari.png/revision/latest?cb=20170822115827

“Just you watch! I’m gonna become an amazing witch one day and make the whole world gasp in surprise!” Akko Kagari

Atsuko Kagari, or just “Akko” stood out to me for a variety of reasons at the center of Little Witch Academia, a fine show in it of itself. Between some excellent character development, countless important moments in which she squarely found herself in, and an adorableness that was far more endearing than annoying, it was hard to not notice the Japanese girl with a great dream. Indeed, an interesting conversation I had about Akko with someone on Reddit actually shed some more light into the origins and meaning of her name:

“The name Akko Kagari is chosen not only as a reference to protagonist of the first Magical Girl Cute Witch anime -Akko Kagami (of Himitsu no Akko-chan) but also an in-joke that a significant number of women who enter the animation industry happen to be named “Akko”. To the point that the creators consider it a shorthand/general term for young women in the animation industry.

Luna Nova is an animation academy sticking to the principles established by the “Nine Olde Witches” (which are a direct analogue to the Nine Old Men of Disney). To the extent of which Croix’s machinations conflict with the school itself is meant to evoke the battle between Traditional and Digital.”

(all credit to /u/Manbabarang)

Pretty interesting, right? Akko’s captivating not only because of what she represents in an industry sense, but because of her relentless and fearless determination in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and situations. She isn’t a tremendously gifted individual, but she has a strength of will unmatched by all but a handful of characters in any show. This extends to her drive to meet her goals and see her dreams through, from the time she stayed up all night to learn transformation magic, to the extreme lengths Akko goes to try and pass her exams despite being significantly behind on the basics due to her lack of background in the subjects.

She’s also relentless is believing there’s a brighter future ahead- a dreamer with a force of will to stay believing in the impossible. It’s evidenced time and again in Little Witch Academia, from a stubborn refusal to simply follow the mundane tradition of the “sacrifices” at Luna Nova’s Sanhaim Festival (“What You Will”, episode 13), turning it into a show that ultimately freed a tortured soul from a “grief seed” with the power of the Shiny Rod, to her stubborn refusal to let Diana Cavendish leave the school over her family’s power struggle. In fact, it is this very quality that makes Akko uniquely qualified to wield the “world-altering” magic of the Grand Triskelion, whose simplicity confounded and confused the logical, realistic, yet passionless Croix Merides.

 

Akko and Diana about to save the world. It wasn’t always this way.

Another key aspect about Akko is her belief and trust in her friends. She’s usually not a loner when it comes to executing grand schemes or ideas, and indeed in the most pivotal moments of the show, she proves to acknowledge that nothing could be accomplished just by her own power alone- and in turn, her friends implicitly acknowledge the effect Akko’s had on them, particularly Diana Cavendish, whose opinion of the former had slowly changed over the course of Little Witch Academia from bemused contempt to irresistible curiosity upon Akko’s exploits at the Sanhaim Festival, and eventually a gratefulness and a real acknowledgement of her after the events that nearly drove her away from Luna Nova for good.

And speaking of Diana, it was she that helped pull Akko out of the closest thing to despair in the show after a certain moment (more on that later), and took point along with the main protagonist as the final fated duel unfolded in the show. In most respects, Diana proved to be the opposite side of the same coin- a Shiny Chariot lover, a deep believer in the power of magic, but with the weight of a family crest on her shoulders and the pressure and expectations of greatness (which she handled well, by and large). However, what started as disdain grew into admiration on both sides: Akko grew to understand the burden of the Cavendish name while Diana saw that regardless of the odds the former believed relentlessly in whatever she pursued, and often with a joy and excitement. Truthfully, more could be written about the heir of the Cavendish clan, but in the context of Akko, she’s the perfect compliment to the latter’s strengths and weaknesses, which culminates itself wonderfully.

 

One of many misadventures Akko led the way on with her friends. You can just tell Sucy knows this is a bad idea.

Lotte Jansson and Sucy Manbavaran were the main social barometers against which Akko’s intial character development took place. At first they were annoyed with her- not an uncommon experience. Sucy messed around with her, while Lotte was too kind to refuse the hitchhiking attempt from the energetic Japanese girl. Despite the awkward beginnings, the duo can’t help but become her friends between the first episode’s harrowing experience in the Forest of Arcturus and the coincidence that saw the trio as roommates at Luna Nova. It would be subsequent events that would solidify just how important these bonds were. From the unforgettable time Akko jumps unabashedly into Sucy’s head to rescue the latter from a potion gone awry (“”Akko’s Adventure in Sucyworld / Sleeping Sucy”, episode 8), to her determined effort to rescue her friends and Lotte’s family from a rare disease in a visit to Finland (“Pohjola’s Ordeal / The Trial in Pohjola”, episode 16), it was hard not to note the progression there, all while Akko learned important lessons, from patience (sorta) to listening to what others were thinking. (Of course, Akko is also a class-A certified goofball, but it’s hard not to love her as she attempts everything with full vigor!)

Akko also impacted several of the secondary characters in the show, such as the memorable episode she helps Constanze prepare for the Wild Hunt after much persistence, and the subsequent battle with the battleship the duo created (“Stanship Take Off! / The Stanship of the Great Air Battle”, episode 18). Another key moment revolved around Amanda and Akko’s adventure at Appleton Academy, in search of the Holy Grail. (Naturally, this went awry when Croix’s magic interfered with proceedings.) Regardless of the outcomes of these moments, Akko managed to share character-bonding time with almost everyone along the way- a fact that not only contributed to the depth of her character, but proved pivotal as the show reached its climax and the final showdown. It was there Akko in turned needed the help of all her friends- and in a way that made sense (not the tired “power of friendship!” trope) each one of them would play a small but important role in helping Akko and Diana defeat the final boss.

 

Lotte Yansson cartoon anime

This moment was made possible by Akko’s hat.

Akko’s relationship effects also had a wide-reaching effect on Andrew Hanbridge, the son of an important government official. Entrusted with the mantle of expectations and of a certain prestige, the boy’s own views on the world didn’t start to really take shape until he met the bright-eyed little witch by chance on a an official visit to Luna Nova. (“The Fountain / The Fountain of Polaris”, episode 6). One memorable misadventure later, Akko- and a seed of doubt about his own held point of view- was entrenched. The boy’s disbelief in “magic” is actually a metaphor about the power of believing things will always be the way the way they are, while “magic” itself could be seen as a belief in that something better could be created through a strong enough belief and the vision to see it through- which is something Akko wound up instilling in Andrew, along with a healthy thought to become more than just his father’s imprint in opinion and action. The young man continued to be intrigued by his unlikely encounters with the protagonist, but became friends with her, drawn no doubt by her iron-clad will and fearlessness in the pursuit of what was right and her dreams despite seemingly insurmountable odds. Nowhere was this more felt when Andrew was the lone voice in the war room of the government to acknowledge- and support- Akko and Diana’s attempt to stop the rogue Noir Rod.

 

Image result for shiny chariot
“Believing in yourself…that is your magic!”- Shiny Chariot’s famous words, imbibed by a young Atsuko Kagari

The relationship and role of Chariot du Noir, or rather, Ursula Callistis with her greatest admirer/ oblivious student is a key part of Akko’s character arc and one that any self-respecting piece about her cannot go without. Chariot serves in a most interesting duality to Akko: her inspiration and also the reason it’s so hard for her to succeed in the world of magic; at once the witch Akko most admires and simultaneously has no idea for the majority of the show is right under her nose. Indeed, when Professor Woodward tests Akko and she unlocks the 3rd form of the Shiny Rod in “Blue Moon” (episode 11), it’s notable that Akko refuses to be just like her idol if it means giving up her memories, friends and everything else dear to her. Indeed, in stark contrast Chariot makes a Faustian bargain of sorts with Croix to enhance her magic show at the cost of robbing people’s latent magical energy- and in this way, a sharp divide is drawn between Akko’s earnest and honest pursuit of her dreams, against someone who trod the same path but compromised it looking for a specific result, without considering the consequences. And for Chariot, those consequences went beyond the Shiny Rod’s abandonment of her- it tied directly into her failings to protect Akko from Croix’s machinations and subsequent flight loss from the Wagandea pollen (“Discipline / Wagandea”, episode 21). Later yet came the painful revelation of Chariot’s true identity to Akko and the reality of her magic shows. Despite the dagger revelation, Akko’s depth of character showed up as after this point, she expressed a strong interest in continuing to learn from Chariot not as her admirer, but as the teacher she’d grown to know and trust.

 

As is amply evidenced, Akko’s a great character precisely because of her relatability and her flaws. As a human, she embodies the persistence and hope we all harbor in pursuit of our goals and dreams- our “magic,” so to speak. Furthermore, she’s willing to work hard to get where she wants to be, and has inspired and worked with other individuals she never knew at first in her journey, starting with the fated encounter with Sucy in the first episode. Which leads to one final important question…

So what about the Shiny Rod? Why would a magical object of great importance choose Akko? The many reasons outlined, along with the people she affected sufficiently answers that question. It is the power of belief and hope, mixed with an uncompromising commitment to see it through, along with an understanding of being flawed, and human that made Akko the worthy wielder of the powerful magical artifact. She was, in a word, able to change the world because she harbored no ill ambitions, but rather just the joy of her “magic”- the lessons she learned, the people she met, and the words she learned the true meaning of.

For all the analysis, Atsuko Kagari is just a plain fun character, and well worth the time of exploring further. The star of a wonderful, whimsical ride in Little Witch Academia, she’s the series’ heartbeat and also the backbone of some pretty great comedy as well. A complete character, it never becomes tiring to jump back into Akko’s quest to become a great witch, one “who will make people smile,” and the vigor in which she pursues that quest. This little witch in academia is truly worthy of “What’s in a Character” as she delivers on a very human and enthralling experience in her home series. Now, all she has to do is get better at riding brooms to really take off… tia freyre!


Of course, no Akko piece would be complete without Chariot’s Theme:

There’s something just so exciting every time I hear this leimotif. No wonder Akko looked up to Chariot!


Like what you see? Do you love Little Witch Academia or Akko? Leave a comment?

My run-in with the Fate series: A Brief Introspective

How a well-known series’ experience can go sour.

Well…here we go! To be perfectly honest, this isn’t the type of post I tend to make. With such a strong focus on analysis, reviews and criticism, it’s unusual to take a personal aside about something, but this “something” is my run-in with the Fate series and at least some small part of its rabid fandom.

(Minor spoilers may appear.)


Ah, Fate. I wanted to be excited about a popular franchise that is apparently quite popular and quite renowned not just in anime circles, but also from its source material- video novels, or VNs. Listening however to the endless parade of praise on what had become an enormously complicated series wound up souring the experience for yours truly though. Now it’s just a pit of bitter annoyance at something in theory I really should have loved (Action! Historical figures! Character interactions!) and on paper, it has it all. I even think I modestly liked the series’ structure from what I’ve seen, but it simply wasn’t jiving with me. There’s a few major reasons for this dissonance, which I’ll do my best to break down.

One of the major problems was the vocal opinions of VN fans who insisted on one order to watch the many installations of the series, and then the anime watchers’ opinion about starting with Fate/Zero, the well-regarded 2011 series. I didn’t like how complicated figuring out an order to watch something would be to someone unfamiliar with the series at all, and it seemed like something was wrong regardless of who you talked to. Then there was the exposition. Yes, Fate has a tremendously thought out system featuring “Masters” and “Servants”, but having to figure it out in an exposition dump wasn’t exactly ideal…it’s not terrible once you figure out the nuances of it, but the initial time it’s a lot to swallow, especially when you just want to enjoy a show.

Personally, I think one of the things Fate diehards don’t realize is that from the outside looking in, they don’t make it feel like something you’d want to be part of. They’ll tell you how amazing it is, but if you bring up some counterpoint about character design, or that multiverse theory doesn’t necessarily make everything better, the brigade is out in full force to say “you didn’t give it a chance.” I’m not here to fault people for liking a series they may be very passionate about, but from a point of entry it can be a difficult experience, particularly as one is just in the discovery phase of a series. No matter the series, it’s critically important to be able to form your own thoughts on something through experience, and too often it felt like I wasn’t finding excitement in the same things people around me might have been emphasizing. For instance, the meeting of the “kings” in Fate/Zero was rather emphasized as something I ought to geek out over, and the episode was really neat, but it wasn’t some sort of other-worldly anime experience to me, at least.

There’s also the weird feeling that you’re doing something wrong by not loving something so many folks seem to, not just within people you might know. I don’t think this is an uncommon experience for anyone with any series that might fit this billing, but here it was with Fate- a series in a vacuum that isn’t bad and perhaps even very good- and nothing was getting me excited about it. The professional part of me, who writes the reviews and assigns grades all the time knew something like Fate/Zero wasn’t a bad show at all, but the personal enjoyment part of me found something lacking. What that “something” is remains difficult to define, but I think the variety of points I’ve been making is the “something” collectively.

 
So, what did I actually enjoy about my brief sojourn into this expansive franchise? As mentioned, the intricate master-servant system is a selling point for many, though the learning curve is a bit more than I would have liked. There are certain character designs that work really nicely, though servants can be hit or miss, between depicting something about their historical origin or just looking overdone or over-stylized. Since I used it for examples, Fate/Zero is a solid show, though I’d hardly count it among my favorites, and it featured two openings that are quite popular and acclaimed. And I suppose the amount of material that exists is a double-edged sword in that anyone wishing to dig deeper into the franchise is likely to find a lot more to explore, quenching a thirst for new stories.

I don’t doubt the idea that I may still yet revisit Fate and all it has to offer, but it might be after a lengthy period of time and with a refreshed vigor to go after it. Of course there’s plenty of potential here and making premature judgements is not something I’d wish to do, especially in light of my other work with animation and its countless wonderful stories and characters to delve into, but this was something I wanted to unpack and just write about, since I’m unsure how common this sort of experience might be with Fate as a series, or if people had other series they shared similar experiences with like I was describing in relationship to this one. I’m curious to hear what people have to say, and I sincerely believe this might not be the end of the line with the ongoing train of thought I’ve got on this franchise. But for now, it’s a general catharsis and a need to move on to other projects I’m excited about to bring along on AniB Productions!


Like what you see? Have an experience to share on a series that didn’t work for you, or on Fate? Leave a comment!

 

Thank you- 100 followers!

In a twist of irony on the day I returned at last from a writing hiatus, AniB Productions has finally, officially hit 100 followers!

A big thank you is in order to everyone who’s read the work that’s been posted here, put up with hiatuses, suggested shows and other ideas to cover, and for continued support through it all. For those who have followed AniB Productions, you know who you are, and I am grateful, particularly with those I’ve been fortunate enough to interact with on here and with some of your own blogs as well!

As I move forward on here, I’m excited for what will come, and I plan to write regularly again as the summer begins. It’s an exciting time, and I can’t wait to give it my all. In a way, the greatest gift I can give is to keep on writing and hopefully keep it fresh and interesting.

I’m truly grateful for the support of great readers and bloggers,

-Christian, aka “AniB”

Review: K-ON!

A charmingly cute and energetic anime classic.

The Lowdown:

Show: K-On!

Studio/years aired: Kyoto Animation, 2009-2010

AniB’s thoughts:

Before the review really gets underway, it’s great to be back! It has been quite a while since I sat down and wrote a proper review, but I did remain busy in the business of watching shows while on hiatus, and the standout of the bunch was this one- K-On! Considered somewhat of a modern classic in the “slice of life” genre, the show centers around the high school careers of the main cast- Yui, Ritsu, Mio and Mugi (and slightly later, Azusa)- and the club band they form and bond over, the Light Music Club. (In Japanese, “light music” is actually “keion” the way it’s pronounced, and so the title of the show is rather literal in that sense.)

So how would one describe this series and why it’s so good? For me, if a show like Nichijou was the peak of comedy in this genre of show, K-On! is its soul in what you’d want. It’s cute without being pandering, the characters are fleshed out individuals not boiled down into stereotypes, and it’s got a wonderful energy buoyed by the dynamic interactions among the cast. As a result, the episodes feel like a great deal of fun rather than a slog to work through, and the show successfully avoids the common pitfalls of many a mediocre “slice of life” en route to being adorably awesome. There’s also a relatable aspect to what you’re watching- while it’s true that not everyone is a high school girl in a band they formed, the memories of bonding with people over shared pursuits and the relationships made while growing up, right towards graduation, is a theme that resonates strongly here.

There’s a substantial real-life tie-in with the school that K-On! takes place in. It’s a real place- Toyosato Elementary School in Japan’s Shiga Prefecture, and all the locations within the grounds in the show are faithfully depicted. The historical building, which was a fully operational school until 2001, can be toured around in, and to no one’s surprise, the clubroom in which the Light Music Club held their activities in the show has become a sort of K-On! shrine, from drawings to tea sets, and even replicas of the instruments the girls used. *

As you also might expect from a show featuring a band, there’s a great number of original tracks between the two seasons, three openings and endings. Like the girls who comprise the club, the styles tend to vary with one unifying theme: it sounds pretty good, which while hardly the be-all, end all of any self-respecting evaluation, is both critical and important in this show’s success. From the openings and ending to the various songs played at key moments in the show, it all melds together into the overall narrative in a way that works really nicely.

From my end, K-On! was a joyful ride while also staying entertaining and interesting the whole way through. I wasn’t on the anime scene in any meaningful way when the show released back in 2009, so the fact that the experience was undimmed by 10 years is a testament to the show’s enduring qualities in this writer’s opinion. It’s not to say it’s a perfect show, as nothing quite is, but it embodies the best qualities of a genre and executes them at a high level, and that is worthy of some praise.


Animation: Let’s get the most obvious observation out of the way: everyone is adorable in this show. At the same time, the cuteness feels natural and not pandering in the character designs, and everybody is very “expressive.” You can get a sense of each character’s personality through their actions, and so the action is conveyed nicely not only through words but the animation as a result. Overall, the show looks great still (it was a 2009-2010 release) and the style helps convey the action well.

4.75/5 points.

 

Characterization: The main cast, as mentioned in my thoughts, focuses on the members of the Light Music Club and the band they form (which is later named Hokago Tea Time, or HTT for short). Featuring remarkably distinct personalities, the way the interpersonal relationships and character growth proceed organically in K-On! gives the show an undeniable heart while avoiding the pitfall of being generic.

Yui Hirasawa serves as the lead guitarist and technically as the show’s lead, though any of the main members could lay a claim to that title. She’s an upbeat and hopelessly flighty girl who despite the latter, can perform amazing things with proper focus (such as learning to play her guitar, which she named Gitta)…but at the expense of everything else. Yui’s also got an insatiable appetite for sweets and was initially lured into the club by the promises of tea and snacks. She’s the older sister of Ui, though in an unusual reversal it’s her loving younger sister who looks after her, knowing all too well Yui’s bad habits.

The self proclaimed president and leader of the club is Ritsu Tainaka, the group’s drummer. She’s synonymous with an air of informality, from her constantly untucked uniform shirt to her often blunt manner of speaking and love of practical jokes. Childhood friends with Mio Akiyama, the two are the formative members of the club and share a close bond, though are complete opposites in personality.

Indeed, Mio is a brilliant but shy girl, smart but easily frightened and embarrassed despite being a capable individual. As the group’s bassist, she also serves as the chief songwriter and is more level-headed than most of her companions. Despite that, she can easily get flustered, a fact that is exploited all too often by Ritsu with practical jokes. How she came to be friends with Ritsu is explored in the show, but for those who haven’t seen K-On!, I’ll save it.

 
Tsumugi Kotobuki, usually referred to simply as Mugi, is the group’s keyboardist and resident supplier of tea. Coming from a wealthy background, Mugi is constantly enthralled by common everyday experiences and takes great pleasure in learning about new activities and actions while seeing new places with her friends. Despite her upbringing, she’s a very kind girl and rarely gets upset or rattled over events, making her a steady presence in the group.

Azusa Nakano is the group’s junior, joining on in the later half of season 1. A serious and talented guitarist, she’s often dismayed at the lack of practice the Light Music Club does- but inevitably gets pulled into the pace of the others, as she has a not-so subtle liking for sweets. Nicknamed “Azunyan” by Yui, she’s often characterized as a little cat as Sawako (the group’s teacher and advisor) likes to make her wear a headband with cat ears, and she even gets a unique tea mug corresponding to this as well. She’s fond of her seniors and never fails to get excited when they actually perform.

The major supporting characters are small in number, yet fullfill their roles well. As previously mentioned, Sawako Yamanaka is the club’s teacher and advisor. She’s usually a kind presence who supports her students, but she hides a wild side to her, as she’s a metalhead at heart (and in her past), and has a hobby of making new costumes for the girls for their performances.

Ui Hirasawa is Yui’s younger sister and unlike the latter, she’s an extremely responsible and competent individual, but also kind. Ui adores her sister in taking care of her, and like Yui, is a fast learner (albeit far more focused all the time.)

Finally, there’s Nodoka Manabe and Jun Suzuki. The former is Yui’s childhood friend and classmate; she’s a serious and resourceful individual who becomes student council president, and remains a useful resource for club needs. Jun on the other hand, is a friend of Azusa and Ui’s in their grade. She’s quick to appear like she has a sense of knowing everything that’s going on, but she’s really a bit of goofball. In a show where characters are so important, K-On’s cast shines.

5/5 points.

 

Story: In simple terms, this is a character story about growing up, in high school, and about the girls who formed a band. Sure, it’s been done before, but not always as tactfully or as fun as it is here. Here, the characters make the story, and it’s relatable on a human level, which makes it engaging in turn. Split into two seasons, 41 total episodes (counting 3 extra episodes) and a movie (which isn’t technically covered in this review), it’s a overarching narrative that keeps up at a good pace.

4/5 points.

 

Themes: Going off the story, thematically this show’s about shared experiences, being part of something greater than just yourself, and of course a throwback to something relatable to everyone- going through high school, and the memories associated with it. It’s all wrapped up nicely in a cute package.

4/5 points.

 

Don’t Insult the Viewer: In terms of intangibles, K-On! is overflowing with them, from its catchy music soundtrack to its engaging main cast and the fact that it’s also considered a superior adaptation from its original source, a 4-koma manga. Add in that it avoids being fanservicy, and you’ve got a superb outcome.

5/5 points.

 

Total: 22.75/25 (91%): A delightful blend of fun, sweetness, and enjoyable interactions, K-On! proves to be a must watch for fans of the “slice of life” genre and an excellent pick  for animation fans of any persuasion. An undeniably charming show.


Like what you see? Big fan of K-On? Leave a comment!

*Credit to https://www.bewashiga.com/article/toyosato-elementary/ and Ashley Davis for information on the real-life Toyotaro Elementary.

April Update!

I’m back! A quick refresher for everyone.

Hello dear readers,

As you’ve no doubt noticed, I’ve been on a big long hiatus. I do apologize for that, but it was important to prioritize some bigger priorities (namely academic) in my life right now. However, it was important to let everyone know that I’m certainly not going to be off and away from here forever, and in fact, I’ve got some new and exciting things planned for the future! A sneak peek, if you were curious:

 

-A new “What’s in a Character?” piece. Yes, the ever-popular character analysis series does have another entry on the way, or maybe even two….I’ll leave you all to guess who it might be!

 

-New show reviews! Always the backbone of AniB Productions, I’ve still kept busy watching some new fare, and there is certainly some series I’ve been hoping to cover for a little while. There’s both picks that I’ve wanted to do, but also some things people had requested to me and I’ve patiently taken both factors into consideration.

-At least one special project in the making. Even when I get back to writing a bit more regularly, this one is a long-term idea where I’ve got to watch a few more productions until I can actually write the piece. I’m pretty excited about this idea, though!

So there’s a bit of a preview. I’m hoping everyone has continued to enjoy reading this blog as it has grown, and for my fellow writers on here, I do continue to wish you all the success in the world and a thank you for your continued support. I’m excited to be back, and while I will continue to be busy for the foreseeable future, I’m going to do my very best to get some of the promised new material out for everyone’s reading enjoyment. Here’s to a continued good year in animation and writing-

-Christian, aka “AniB”