AniB’s Top 10 Anime Openings!

The return of the blogger, with some musical fun!

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Hello everyone! So, I’m not dead, I’m still committed to AniB Productions, and I’ll square off the most obvious question: my long absences are both academic and hardware-related. (Seriously, my laptop needs a keyboard replacement at the time of this writing.) As both a thank you to the loyal readers here and an apology for said frequent hiatuses all year long, I’ve got a fun piece in store for you all!

Anime openings are in simplest terms, “the gateway to a show.” Often times, they are our first impression of a series, and they must encapsulate some essence of the show in question in a roughly 90-second block of higher-budgeted animation and song. What exactly makes a great opening tick is a fairly subjective exercise though, even if certain broad objective standards are to be recognized in doing so. For the purpose of this piece, I’ll attempt to note these unifing factors of OPs as I progress though an unusual write-up for me on here: my personal top 10 anime openings! (It’s actually extended out to 15, so extra fun for anyone wondering “what was cut off?”)

Long-timer readers may recall I did a “top 10” listing of my top ranked and reviewed shows on here years ago now (back around when I first started writing here, probably close to 6 months into running AniB Productions.) Since then, while the site has featured lots of reviews, character and thought pieces, there hasn’t been a ranking-type writing in a long time, and I couldn’t be more excited to get underway. Here we go!


Honorable Mention (5 that almost made the cut):

For these guys, I’ll give a short explanation before hitting the ones you’re all waiting for:

15) That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime (Nameless story, OP 1)


Disclaimer: If you were looking for a pretty good isekai and an opening to match, you might be in luck here. Slime, despite its unwieldy title has two very nice openings in its first season, and “Nameless story” gets the nod here, for both a great visual and musical appeal. It gets you excited for this show, no doubt. (Review pending here!)

14) Utayo! Miracle (K-On!!, OP 2)

“That bass line is amazing, Mio.”  Probably my first thought about the song can be summed up there, as there’s this incredible bass part in the middle of the song that feels like a much deeper cut than it has any right to be in a show featuring adorable leads. Just fun to listen to, and the visuals are great as well.

13) A Cruel Angel’s Thesis (Evangelion, OP 1)

This song may as well be the unofficial anthem of anime opening everywhere. Talked about, praised, scorned, memed and edited in dizzying array, “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis” doesn’t really need an introduction, but it remains the best part of Evangelion years later.

12)  H.T. (Trigun,OP 1)

A classic banger right here, Trigun’s opening is just a straight minute and a half of shredding on a guitar. Few openings have ever sounded as epic before or since- and while the visuals are admittedly hit or miss, the music does not disappoint in the slightest.

11) Through the Night (Outlaw Star, OP 1)

Finishing the mini-trip through the 90’s, Outlaw Star, along with this opening are underrated by the current generation. This is a rock-solid piece that serves as a fine entry point into Gene Starwind’s adventures (and another show that definitely deserves a review.)


So that’s the preliminary round. What did I find personally as the best of the best?

 

 

My top 10:

10) Kimi No Sei (Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny-Girl Senpai, OP 1)

A mild surprise, given the recent nature of this show (and the review that has yet to be dropped!) but this catchy tune from The Peggies is likely to wedge itself in your head as well as it did to mine. The opening to a show that is much deeper and more psychological than the title suggests, it’s always a welcome start to the high-event episodes.

9) Kyouran Hey Kids!! (Noragami Aragoto, OP 1)

Honestly, either of the Noragami openings could have slotted in here, given that the show had the pleasant rarity of two outstanding openings. The second season’s pick, by the Oral Cigarettes, gets a slight nod, for combining a banger of a song with some really well paired and interesting visuals. While Noragami itself is the definition of a “solid, good show,” both OP’s deserve the distinction of being noted in this column.

8) Hyadain no Joujou Yuujou (Nichijou, OP 2)

A while back I talked about the standout music from this show, and at least some part of that was the energetic openings from Hyadain, who did some really cool producing tricks to make some interesting audio output. While either of the show’s openings could come into this slot, much like Noragami, the second one’s frantic but fun energy gives it the subjective (but truly non-existent) edge.

Aside from the technical wizardry of this piece, Nichijou’s a standout in its specific genre, and at least a part of that is due to how well the music works for it. While the piece in question about it can be read here, the openings do an amazing job of setting the tone for the surreal comedy that Nichijou embodies.

7) CAGAYAKE!Girls (K-ON!, OP 1)

While all the K-On! openings are delightful, the original takes the cake. Featuring two versions mirroring visuals of HTT pre and post Azusa Nakano joining the club, this song’s the perfect representation of a great show- energetic, upbeat, cute and with the synergy of the lovable main protagonists.

In a very real sense, K-On! as a series is “never-ending girls’ talk.” Following the high school careers of the main characters turns out to be every bit as fun and unexpected as this song seems to imply- and regardless of whether you’re a guy or a girl, it’s very relatable as a life experience.

6) THEME FROM LUPIN III (2015) (Lupin III: Part IV)

While any variation of the famed Lupin III’s theme could have fit this slot, it’s Part IV’s refreshed updated of the ’77 theme that takes the cake here, with just a hint of Italian flair. A jazzy classic from the long running franchise, the Lupintic Six always hits this out of the park- and frankly, this one wouldn’t be out of place at a jazz performance, top anime lists aside.

The song has actually undergone several variations over the years, the most recent of which was Part V’s Parisian-themed take in 2018, but it’s worth looking up the different versions just to hear the different twists on the leimotif. Like its source material, it’s aged like fine wine. (RIP Monkey Punch, you are missed.)

5) Re:Re (ERASED, OP 1)

Erased was a great show, with all the right notes of suspense, an interesting lead and cast, and a very well executed mechanic. Of course, the review I wrote on that would echo the same sentiment, but another well executed part of this anime was its opening.

Sure, the song from ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION is catchy as heck as is the music, but it’s really the superb attention to visual detail in this one coupled with the notes that lifts this one as high as it is on the list. Nothing is irrelevant in the greater picture of the show- and like how things come together for Satoru Fujinuma, so too does the visuals for the viewer as the plot accelerates.

4) MIND CONDUCTOR (Little Witch Academia, OP 2)

The last in a series of openings on this list that could have featured either one, Little Witch Academia is blessed with two superb efforts from YURiKA, who some of you may also recognized performed Land of the Lustrous’s opening. “MIND CONDUCTOR” gets a slight nod from me based on personal preference, but both it and “Shiny Ray” (OP 1) do a great job of representing the show.

While “Shiny Ray” captures the absolute wonder of the adventure you’re about to dive into and that of Akko Kagari, the lead, the pick here combines some wonderfully detailed visuals paired with a story that’s advanced further and a song that has some energy, tonal shifts, some intense drumming and a really nice power guitar riff going on there. You get the sort of excitement, tension and idea of what this world of magic is going to be throwing at our leads down the stretch, and it couldn’t be more appropriate, especially with context. This show definitely evoked some emotions, and the openings did have some part in that role.

3) departure! (Hunter x Hunter (2011), OP 1)

“So…do you want to be a Hunter?”

My personal favorite anime also just so happens to have an excellent opening, and in a more interesting twist, it’s the same song through the entire series. Indeed, while there are two different lyric sets, the longevity of “departure!” is impressive, along with being the right song to kick off an episode anywhere in the series.

If that wasn’t enough, the visuals change for each major arc of the show, keeping it refreshing. The visuals featured here are from the Hunter Exam, the first arc of the show- but half the fun is seeing them change as the show rolls on and the details stuffed into them. HxH fandom aside, this is a Swiss army knife of an OP for what it does in this series, beyond being just plain enjoyable.

2) Tank! (Cowboy Bebop, OP 1)

Ok…3…2…1… let’s jam! It doesn’t get much more classic than the theme song from Sunrise’s classic show. For the space noir that Cowboy Bebop is, nothing gets you more appropriately in the mood than this famous jazz song that has flair and life set against the ever-fitting visuals, with the “newspaper clippings”, shading, silhouettes and more.

There isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said about this one in the years since Bebop burst onto the scene, but the advice from yours truly is to just sit back and enjoy this one anytime it plays.

And finally, the top pick…

1) Bye Bye Yesterday (Assassination Classroom, OP 4)

There was a great deal of debate and careful listening that went into deciding the top pick, and Bye Bye Yesterday captures everything wonderful in a fantastic opening. It tells a story unto itself, gives us a great song performed by the VA’s themselves, pairs it with incredibly thought-provoking visuals to add up to an emotionally charged and bittersweet final opening to what is an excellent show. However, the greater context pushes this one over the top:

You’ve been riding the highs and lows of that school-year with Class 3-E, and every opening of Assassination Classroom tells a part of that story, but this is the endcap- both the highest of highs, and the uncertainty of the future for all of the characters. The melancholy is even reflective in the lyrics, for instance- “Though we laughed and said goodbye/Though tears were in our eyes/Time passed before we even knew the reason why…” You ride that emotional rollercoaster to the end with those kids- and for a show that packs one hell of a punch at the end, this opening couldn’t be more appropriate or emotionally resonant. That’s why it’s my #1 on this list.

(All credit to “animethemes.moe” for their repository of opening videos. Credit also goes to respective studios of these shows (Lerche, Madhouse, Sunrise, Trigger, Kyoto Animation, and so on.)


Like what you see? Have a favorite opening you’d like to share? Leave a comment!

What’s In a Character: Kenshin Himura (guest piece by Onamerre)

The peaceful wandering warrior hides an unusual depth of character.

Hey! So the newest installment of the ever-popular “What’s in a Character” pieces is actually from my friend Onamerre, who’s contributed a few guests pieces in the past. For anyone who remembers, he was responsible for a terrific review of the show in question where this character hails from (Rurouni Kenshin). Take a trip from the last character piece at Luna Nova Academy to the early years of the Meiji Restoration in Japan, and discover a deep dive into the wandering swordsman. Onamerre, take it away!


No doubt longtime followers of AniB Productions know that Rurouni Kenshin is my all-time favorite anime, and with that my all-time favorite anime character is the titular protagonist, Kenshin Himura. So the answer long time questions of why on Earth am I so obsessive over this show and its protagonist, want to know further as I give a fair assessment of the character promoting his strengths and exploring his weaknesses.

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The reverse-blade sword. This rurouni is the real deal!

What makes Kenshin first and foremost one of the most interesting shonen manga/anime protagonists isn’t the fact that he was essentially raised to kill and became one of the most notorious assassins during the Tokugawa Civil War, but rather it’s primarily what he did after all the bloodshed ceased. Instead of taking up a high ranking military position within the new government (arguably a quick way to make a vast fortune), he took a personal vow to never kill again and lend his superhuman samurai slashing abilities to those in need, courtesy of his unique reverse blade sword. I get many people reading this right may recognize what I just said if they watched Digibro’s review of the same character, but I want you to know my take on this character as well.

Very early on in the series a high-ranking government official comes and visits Kenshin and offers him a high-ranking job within the Japanese government. I would like to take a minute and ask everyone reading this piece to reflect on what the scene is about. How many anime characters have the soul character motivation of becoming the best blank? The best ninja, the best hunter, the best fighter, the best pirate, the best bounty hunter, etc etc? Kenshin is literally handed the end goal of much of the previous and continuing anime protagonist goals on a silver platter, and concludes that this is not what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Indeed, the peaceful warrior would rather live the rest of his life on a moment-to-moment basis and lend his sword to those in need. Where the real fun and drama comes in is what happens when he is pushed to the brink…

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Serious and somber Kenshin. It’s not easy to leave the ways of the manslayer.

Of course, Kenshin’s solemn vow is hardly an easy path. Early on in the series as well as at the beginning of the of legendary Kyoto Arc (which very well might be analyzed soon), there are moments when he is pushed to his emotional limit and almost reverts back to his old man-slaying ways. We see this when Kaoru is kidnapped early on in the series and puts her in a lethal trance that can only be ended if Kenshin takes the life of the kidnapper (“Deathmatch under the Moon! Protect the One You Love”, episode 7). This moment is the closest in the entire series where he was to reverting back to his old ways, save only by Kaoru’s amazing courage.

Another example takes place during the Kyoto Arc. A former opponent of Kenshin makes an appearance at the dojo he is staying at and immediately reverses his mentality back to during the revolution. For 20 minutes Kenshin and his opponent are locked in a death battle until it’s broken up by a government representative. What keeps the audience on their toes, holding the tension, is again the temptation- will Kenshin will go back to his manslaying ways during this confrontation? This struggle gives the audience a real hook to watch- if the now peace-loving optimist that is Kenshin will continue his path of redemption and peace, or revert back to his previously demented  life.

Screen Shot 2019-07-07 at 8.24.09 PM

For all his virtues and toughness, Kenshin can be a bit of a goofball.

One final interesting take about this character is that Kenshin, despite the common trend of manga and anime protagonists being in their early to mid teens, is 28 years old at the start of the manga and possibly is around the age of 30 as of the newer Hokkaido Arc recently printed in Shonen Jump. Why this matters is there have been quite a number of years from once he started killing at a young age till the current present in which he had time to observe, learn, and reflect on all of his experiences. To borrow from a different fictional universe, one could easily make the claim that Kenshin is basically the samurai version of Obi-Wan Kenobi, in which the knowledge he knows in the ways of the sword is pretty much invaluable, all the while using his skills along with his heart and ungodly determination to make the world a better place.

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As of now I have not read into the series original finale arc that is known as the Jinchu arc, nor began the continuation with the Hokkaido Arc. But from what I’ve seen from the anime and bits and pieces of the original manga, it’s safe to say without a shadow of a doubt that Kenshin may just be one of the most interesting and unique protagonists ever put to page and screen. Thank you all for reading this to the end and putting up with my deep obsession with the show and the character. I’m Onamerre, and I’m outta here.


And that’s a wrap from Onamerre! Feel free to leave him feedback and comments, especially if you’re a fan of Rurouni Kenshin or the titular character.

Review: Fate/Zero

The gateway to a popular franchise finally gets a review.

Happy Independence Day to everyone in the States! While it’s two days before at the time of this writing, I’m going to be out of town on the 4th. I do hope to write more frequently than I have been as of late as well. So, onto the review!

The Lowdown:

Show: Fate/Zero

Studio/years released: ufotable, 2011-2012

AniB’s thoughts:

Alright, so I returned to the Fate franchise not long after writing a piece of my mind about it, and the subsequent go-round turned out to be a lot more fruitful. In fact, I finished not only this show, but also its sister show, Fate: Unlimited Blade Works right after it, and while an argument can be made that I did these in a reverse order, I’d argue Zero followed by UBW is the ideal way to approach it, particularly as an anime. Zero is designed to set up relevant plot threads in the next show (or any other routes, as Fate is a VN adaptation), and as such, it actually raises the tension and excitement in the viewer’s mind as several important characters and story points carry over. In turn, it effectively makes the narrative that much more compelling.

The various reasons why Fate/Zero didn’t sit well with me the first time wound up being remedied by a fresh start and a renewed outlook on the franchise, thanks in no small part from the comments of readers on here. The first, most notable difference was simply being able to understand the fast-moving plot a lot better because I’d had some time to digest the basic mechanics of the Fate system (the Master-Servant pacts, classes, and so on.) As a result, it was much easier to focus in on the usual aspects that compose a typical evaluation of a show- and in Fate/Zero the strongest of them is the characters, against which Fuyuki City and the Grail War gives them a backdrop.

Zero was an anime-original adaptation/prequel from ufotable that primarily focuses on Kiritsugu Emiya, and the events of the Fourth Grail War that set up stay/night and its various routes. Curiously, depending on your previous background with this franchise, your experience will be entirely different with Zero. If you’re anything like me, you would have started from well…zero and been surprised at the many twists and turns that occurred. However, if you’d been a previous VN player or watched another adaptation first based on stay/night, you’re liable to recognize a good number of these characters, and the complexion of the show changes. The effect is a bit similar to the Star Wars prequels and the original movies. If you were like most people and started with the original films, the prequels are a tale of “how did we get there?” Likewise, if one were to start with the prequels earlier in life, I suppose it would be a great surprise in some ways how things unfolded. Despite this, neither way is incorrect to experience it, and the same could be said for Fate/Zero and something like Unlimited Blade Works.

So what is my recommendation? I say pick what works for you, but for my animation-only readers, Fate/Zero’s a fine place to begin, and really deepens the tension in anything related to it, such as Unlimited Blade Works. As a standalone effort though, Fate/Zero is a strong character tale with a lot of interesting implications, and the character of Kiritsugu Emiya in particular proves to be a strong lead, who faces a variety of difficult decisions in a battle wrought with danger. There’s really a lot of aspects within this show or greater franchise that could be discussed at further length, but as a general review, keeping it simple is probably the best way to go.


Animation: Modern 2-D computer animation. Zero was praised at the time for its animation, which is still stunning. The battles really pop in this show, and character design here works, even on the more fantastical Servants (also called Heroic Spirits.) Narratively, the animation does what it sets out to do, and brings the vivid portrait of the 4th Grail War to life in a most satisfactory manner.

5/5 points.

 

Characterization: There’s a lot of moving parts in Fate/Zero, with 7 Masters and Servants, not even counting various allies they may have in the fight. Chances are a different piece could cover all of the intricacies going on between this cast (and I don’t doubt someone has done a piece exactly like what I’m suggesting, given this franchise’s popularity). However, the essentials are about Kiritsugu Emiya and those most linked to him in the story and its plot.

Kiritsugu himself is a man with a mysterious, sordid past; despite this he still fervently holds an important dream he never was able to realize. To that end, he entered the Grail War in alliance with the Einzbern family heir, Irisviel- who is also his wife, and with her bore a daughter, Illya. With a reputation as a “magus killer,” he works in the shadows with his assistant Maiya.

As for Kiritsugu’s Servant, he summons the brave and noble Saber, whose identity is of a certain legendary king and his holy sword. Saber however, is female (not an entirely uncommon subversion Fate does on certain characters.) Said to be the strongest Servant, her ideals find themselves often in contention with those of her master. Saber too harbors a dream and a wish, and this wish finds itself often juxtaposed against Kiritsugu’s ideals and the other hopes of Grail War masters and servants.

Of course, every good story needs a great villain and Zero provides it between its themes and the form of a certain Master and Servant. While who I’m referring to will be abundantly clear to anyone who’s seen this show, for anyone reading who has not, it’s a very good development that takes place.

Also worth mentioning is a unique character in Fate/Zero: Waver Velvet. A third-generation magus determined to make his mark in the world, he’s enrolled at a prestigious academy for mages. He sets out to prove his teacher (Kayneth Archibald el-Melloi) wrong on his views, and in doing so, stumbles into becoming a Grail War participant by some lucky fortune. Paired with Rider, the duo serves as an unlikely but compelling undercard story to the main one unfolding with Kiritsugu, even crossing paths as such tales inexplicably do.

4.75/5 points

 

Story: Principally, this show is about the “Holy Grail War” and the mages who battle through the Master-Servant system to win the Grail- said to be an “omnipotent wish granting device.” Of course, this is merely the backdrop and mechanic to the real meat of the show, which is the characters and their interaction, but despite that basic framing, it’s rather effective and compelling.

4/5 points.

 

Themes: A great deal happens in this show, but it can be boiled down in essence to “ideals clash.” Characters in this show work to find the way to achieving what they desire most fervently, and in doing so, their ways of doing things, and their approaches clash, masters against masters, servants against servants, and everything in-between. There’s a great search for the path forward in everyone’s circumstances- not a bad analog to life itself- and perhaps the old adage “the decisions we make seal our fate” is most applicable here.

4/5 points.

 

Don’t Insult the Viewer: There’s a very good orchestral score in this show, and this series focuses seriously on its storytelling, avoiding fanservice and the like. It can be very intense at certain points, so I wouldn’t advise anyone under 17 to pick this show up, and the Fate core system, while elegant, is dense and difficult to pick up initially with no real background.

4.5/5 points.

 

Total: 22.25/25 (89%). A launching point into the Fate franchise, the show also stands on its own merit, with a compelling cast of characters, an interesting setting and intriguing motivations that play out over the course of the series. While a information-dense series, the merits of the show shine through once one digests the VN-inspired system present. This is also a fairly intense watch, so be warned!


Like what you see? Pleased I returned to Fate/Zero? Leave a comment!

 

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!

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!