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Posts Tagged ‘Azumanga Daioh’

Alright…I am going to be trying something a little new (for me) this season. I am actually going to make a point of watching at least the first episode or two of any new anime that interests me. A lot of times I just tend to focus on a few and spend my time watching those, even though there are more series being released that interest me. And, of course, being that time is limited, it often takes me a very long time to ever get around to watching those series I don’t initially try out…usually because by the time I finish the series I started, a new bunch of shows are being released. So…this season…we are going to see how many shows I can “sample.” I already have in mind the few I will probably actually watch until the end, but maybe by putting the shows through “prelims,” I will change my mind or add an anime to my list that I otherwise might not have. If I leave out a show, it is probably because of one of the following reasons:

1. It’s the type of show I would never watch anyways (i.e. hentai, yuri/yaoi, and so on).

2. The show is a sequel to a series I have yet to watch (i.e. Shakugan no Shana III and Fate/Zero).

3. For whatever reason, the show simply does not interest me (i.e. Mobile Suit Gundam AGE and Battle Spirits: Heroes).

4. I run out of time or shows to try.

5. I get bored and just want to watch the shows I’ve decided on.

6. Any other whim that hits me.

So, please understand that I am only doing this because I enjoy it. And so, the instant I stop enjoying it, I will stop the prelims. Thus, I apologize ahead of time if there is a show you were really hoping I would try out and I do not get around to it. Or if I listed one of the shows you really like as one of the ones I definitely would not watch to begin with. I feel that I am entitled to my opinions, though, (as you are entitled to yours) and so plan to stick with mine. If, however, there is a particular show you really, really want me to give a shot, feel free to say so. I won’t promise to fulfill your request, but I will certainly be happy to give it serious thought and consideration.

Planned Prelims: Chihayafuru, Mirai Nikki, Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing, Persona 4, Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai, Mashi-Iro Symphony, Tamayura, Kimi to Boku, Phi Brain, Chibi DeviHorizon in the Middle of Nowhere, C3, Guilty Crown, and Un-Go.

Let the prelims begin!!!

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Alright, time for my next official review! Whoo! Once again, I cannot guarantee that there will be no spoilers ahead, so read at your own risk!

Ikoku Meiro no Croisee

Ikoku Meiro no Croisee

Brief Summary: It’s the 19th century, and Yune is a kind, industrious, and absolutely adorable thirteen-year old girl from Japan. With the help of the very generous benefactor, Oscar Claudel, Yune is able to realize one of her greatest dreams: to visit France…specifically, Paris. There, Yune balances her time between serving Oscar and his grandson, Claude, and learning how to get along in this country that is vastly different from her own. From food to social customs to world views, Yune both revels in and struggles with adapting to the very foreign French culture. And similarly, Claude and his fellow Parisians who meet Yune must learn how to accommodate this exotic cutie from Japan. From one day to the next, Yune and Claude are faced with new challenges–some simple, others more complicated and personal–that help them to grow both as individuals and as members of the human race.

A beautiful and touching series, Ikoku Meiro no Croisee stole my heart from episode one and held onto it all the way to the very end. To begin with, I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, and so it would be no lie to say that the story’s setting won me over early on. Because that’s absolutely true. Ikoku Meiro does an absolutely incredible job of portraying 19th century France, giving viewers an incredibly intricate, not to mention gorgeous, depiction of Paris. In fact, the artwork throughout all of this show was simply stunning. This is not to say that the character designs were particularly original, but they didn’t need to be. This was meant to be a more realistic depiction of life, and so the more simplistic designs fit right in.

In addition to all of the eye-candy that Ikoku Meiro has to offer, this show also has a lovable cast of characters. Yune, especially, is able to capture the heart with her gentle personality and wide range of hilarious and adorable expressions:

The Many Faces of Yune

Not only Yune, but Oscar and Alice as well were characters that ended up growing near and dear to my heart. And though moody Claude never won the same affection as these other characters, he provided the show with the “something different” it needed, serving as a contrast to Yune and, subsequently, providing viewers with a much better comparison of the Japanese and French cultures.

Story-wise, Ikoku Meiro is nothing extraordinary, but it’s simplicity is also what makes this show what it is. This is not some high-drama, suspense-filled tale that is meant to keep you on the edge of your seat, clawing your hair out as you wait for the next episode. This is very much a picturesque slice of life that’s purpose is to serve as light entertainment that gives a lovely glimpse into a piece of the past. Nothing more and nothing less. Ikoku Meiro is the type of show that puts viewers in the position of “spectator.” In other words, the only depths this show will reveal are those that are immediately necessary to explaining what is happening to the characters right now. As such, you get to learn bits and pieces of the characters’ pasts, but that’s about it. Mysteries are presented but left unsolved, questions provoked but left unanswered, because they are not the focus of the story. It is a show that does what it sets out to do, and it succeeds tremendously.

Just because Ikoku Meiro does an excellent job performing in the role it takes on does not mean that this show will appeal to everyone. In fact, I highly doubt that it would. It may be a period piece, but this is no Emma. And it is a slice of life, but not like what you’d expect to find in shows like Azumanga Daioh and its countless look-alikes. If this show could be compared to any, I would dare to put it on the same shelf with a series like Aria: beautiful, simplistic, and pleasant. So, if you’re the type of person who can’t watch a show like Aria because it’s too boring for you, I would hesitate to recommend Ikoku Meiro to you. If, however, you just want a stress-free and enjoyable piece of entertainment, then Ikoku Meiro is absolutely for you.

If there is anything I did not like about this show is that it seems to occasionally attempt to take a different route…which would not necessarily be a bad thing…before reverting to it’s old, usual self. As I previously stated, Ikoku Meiro presents mysteries and provokes questions and suggests that drama does in fact exist within the characters’ lives, but then it does absolutely nothing with them. We do not learn whether or not Yune gets her mother’s kimono back. We do not learn the whole story of what happened to Claude and Camille, nor do we see if any of it gets resolved. We do not get the whole picture behind what really went on between Claude and his deceased father. Only glimpses are given–just enough to get you interested–and then the show moves right along. Now…if this means that a second season is in store…one that will address some of these details that it brought up and then dropped…that would be absolutely fantastic. And I think it would do a world of good for Ikoku Meiro. However, I also do not think it is necessary. It just goes to show that this series really has a lot of potential to go in many different directions, but is, at the same time, just fine the way it is.

So…overall…this is a wonderful series with which I fell head over heels in love. Watch it on a rainy day when you need something to perk you up, but don’t really want to have to think too hard about it. It will melt your heart and leave you feeling like the world is a beautiful and amazing place to live.

Final Grade: A

As usual, feel free to disagree with me. Just please do avoid the flaming. I love a good intellectual debate, but have no desire to participate in uninformed arguments. So…comment as you please. Or not. Over and out.

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Whoa. Part 2. Bet you never thought you’d see this. Well…I figured since I’m on a roll with my posting today, I’d go ahead and knock this out while I’m at it. Plus, it would free up some space on my desktop…getting tired of those pictures I’m using for this taking up all the space. So here we are…Part 2 GO!

9. Koge-Donbo

Digi Charat, Pita-Ten, and Kamichama Karin

To an extent, Koge-Donbo is a guilty pleasure for me. Her art is sweet enough to give you a cavity just looking at it. But do not be fooled…Koge-Donbo is good at far more than just drawing painfully cute pictures. In what starts out as what can be compared to an ADHD three-year old that’s just been pumped full of sugar, Pita-Ten matures into an incredibly beautiful and heart-wrenching story. The only problem is that you have to get past the fluff to get to that first…and some people will probably not be able to last that long. If you’re like me and LIKE the cutesy stuff…or if you’re not, but you think you can endure it long enough…then Pita-Ten will certainly reward you in the end. Koge-Donbo definitely falls into that “more than what meets the eye” category.

10. Kiyohiko Azuma

Azumanga Daioh and Yotsuba&!

Kiyohiko Azuma is an incredible artist and a comedic genius. In both his works Azumanga Daioh and Yotsuba&!, Azuma successfully captures the humor of everyday life in a way that will bring a smile to your face (when it doesn’t have you rolling on the ground with tears streaming down your face). If I am ever in a bad mood, picking up one of Azuma’s books will put a smile right back on my face, whether I’m reading about the antics of high school friends or the innocent adventures of a precocious toddler. Not only that, but as I previously mentioned, Azuma is an amazing artist. Azumanga Daioh is a young series and so, while it does give you a glimpse of his talent, Yotsuba&! is the one to which you truly want to turn in order to get a better idea of his capabilities. Every time I pick up the next Yotsuba&! volume, I am dumbfounded by what I see…it is not just a manga…it is a work of art. Azuma takes the time to explore the different ways he can use his art to depict the beauty of life, and he succeeds with flying colors. The only downside to Azuma is that HE TAKES FOREVER TO RELEASE THE NEXT BOOK. But considering what I get from it in the end…the wait is TOTALLY worth it.

10. Short but Fun

FLCL and R.O.D.

What do these two series have in common? Absolutely nothing, except that they are both short and fun shows that any true die-hard anime fan should take the time to watch. I cannot promise that everyone will like them, but they are anime milestones…shows that give a new glimpse of anime’s true potential. To be honest, I hated FLCL at first. I didn’t get the appeal…I didn’t get it at all. The art was TERRIBLE, the plot made NO SENSE, and I didn’t particularly care for some of the characters. And then I got to the last two episodes. I don’t know what happened, but all of a sudden something clicked, and I fell in love with it. Suddenly the terrible artwork appeared stylish…the senseless plot had a point…and even the annoying characters were endearing in their own quirky ways. It’s now one of those shows that I can watch again and again without thinking twice…there’s just something so charming about it. Unlike with FLCL, I instantly loved R.O.D. Not everybody likes this show, but I did. I could instantly relate to the main character and I fell in love with the whole premise…librarians saving the world from dangerous books and the people who abuse them. Perhaps it’s because, down deep inside, even then I knew I wanted to be a librarian. But it’s impossible to really say. At only three episodes, it won’t waste much of your day and, you never know, you might just like it…so give it a shot.

11. The Sci-Fi Era: Phase 2

Last Exile, Shangri-La, and Ergo Proxy

Where the first phase of my interest in sci-fi anime tended to include those shows that were fast-paced, high-flying, action-pumped epics, my second phase focused on something slower, more thoughtful, and much more close to home. While Last Exile maintains remnants of what I enjoyed in such shows as Neon Genesis Evangelion, this is the first sci-fi anime that began to branch away from the idea that science fiction somehow involved outer space, aliens, etc. It was not about the survival of humanity against some foreign force…it was about humanity having to save themselves from…well…themselves. This carries on into other shows like Shangri-La and Ergo Proxy, two shows that have taken critical hits for being too slow, not interesting enough, and inconclusive. To me, though, both of these series had exactly what they needed: intrigue. Sure, they didn’t always have very much action, and sure they embraced a lot of confusing themes and philosophies…but I was okay with that. These shows met another need of mine: the need for a puzzle. I liked not knowing all the answers. I liked not knowing if everything was going to be okay. They set out on a very different kind of mission, and both, I feel, delivered.

12. Key

Kanon, Air, Clannad, and Angel Beats

Ladies and gentlemen, I must confess: I hate watching movies that make me cry. I do not go to watch a movie because I want to be scared…or to have my heart torn to pieces…or to be made to think that everything is going wrong in the world and that I am to blame. I go to be entertained. And entertainment, to me, means LOTS of action, LOTS of laughing, and a tiny smattering of not-disgusting romance. Key breaks several of these rules. There is not a single series I have watched by this company that has not made me cry…that has not torn my heart to pieces…that has little action, some amount of laughing, and tons of romantic elements (though not disgusting). And I absolutely LOVE every single one of them. I love how these shows have all been able to pull my heart-strings in such a way that I am able to cry from sadness…cry from joy…laugh and cry at the same time…and without feeling ashamed. Each of these shows is a masterpiece (though many would disagree). Yes, they are all technically “harem” anime…but they are only that on the surface. Yes, every single one of these FEELS like it was made by Key…once you’ve watched one, you’ve watched them all. And yet, at the same time, Key pulls different heartstrings every time. They bring up new aspects…make you look at life in a slightly different way…and make you bawl your eyes out every single time. Those tears are good tears though. And while some Key shows are better than others, I am a firm believer that they are ALL worth watching. (No, do not ask me, I cannot choose a favorite.) And believe me when I say…I am waiting on the edge of my seat for the next Key anime. (PLEASE MAKE REWRITE AN ANIME! PLEASE!!!!)

13. Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni

Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni

Much like all of the shows by Key, Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni breaks a lot of my rules. (There’s just something about anime that makes me okay with it I guess.) Higurashi is scary. And not just a little scary. It is TERRIFYING. You are essentially watching children torture themselves and each other. No, not just mentally. PHYSICALLY torturing each other. We’re talking stabbing themselves in the head, tearing their own throats out, pulling off fingernails, gutting, beating with baseball bats, and the list goes on. You will cringe. You will flinch. You will wonder on NUMEROUS occasions why you are still watching this show. And yet you will continue watching. It is a gory, psychological horror fest that messes with the mind…and yet it has so many ways of keeping you hooked. Perhaps the strongest feature of Higurashi is the fact that this show is one gigantic puzzle. Though I know many people who have enjoyed the first season and the first season only, I am the type of person who likes it when my puzzles are eventually solved. Thus, if you are more like me, I recommend you be prepared to watch both seasons if you plan to begin this series in the first place. You have been warned. (Isn’t it oddly appropriate that this one happened to be #13? No, I didn’t plan it that way. I swear.)

14. Rip-Roaring Action

Black Lagoon and Baccano!

Two very different shows that are nowhere near being on the same level, and yet both succeed in providing the viewer with one heck of a fun ride. Black Lagoon is what I like to call my senseless violence anime. Ever had one of those days where you just want to sit down and play violent video games or watch a movie with a plot that consists of nothing more than characters shooting at each other? Black Lagoon fits that need perfectly. It is just plain fun. Senseless violence up the wazoo. A plot that you do not have to think very hard about. Completely unrealistic action and ridiculous characters that you don’t get tired of watching. That’s Black Lagoon. Baccano!, on the other hand, is very different. While this is another show that’s number one feature is being FUN, Baccano! is full of both strong characters and a strong story. In fact…you watch Baccano! just for that…the characters and the story. It is a “story” anime in every sense of the word. Does this mean it’s confusing? Does this mean you actually have to get to know the characters? Does this mean you have to pay attention?  Yes, yes, and yes. But the payoff is worth it. It is an extremely rewatchable show…one that I have no doubt I will be watching repeatedly in the future.

15. Ef ~a tale~

Ef ~a tale of memories~ and Ef ~a tale of melodies~

Last one! Can you believe it? And is that yet another harem anime you see me saving for last? You bet it is. And, let me tell you, it is a work of art. The Ef series is, hands down, my favorite romance anime. Yet, it contains some harem elements, and yet it has bits and pieces of fanservice like you’d expect in this sort of show, but it is, more than anything, a piece of great beauty. From the music to the characters to the story to the art and directing, Ef is a beautiful series. There is nothing not beautiful about it. Because this is a work of art, though, it has the qualities that one would expect to find in art: abstract, strange scenes that will throw a person off if they are not prepared for and willing to appreciate it. This is a slow series that one must take the time to digest…it’s like a fine wine…meant to be savored, not chugged. And I believe it is because of this that it did not obtain the popularity it deserves. It is because of this that it has not yet been licensed in the United States. In a decade where harem and moe anime are the trend, Ef is a breath of fresh air, but it is also misunderstood.  And so when I see shows like 11 Eyes and Koi Hime Musou licensed, yet Ef continues to be passed over, i can’t help but feel deeply saddened. I still have my fingers crossed, though, in the hopes that one day an American company will recognize this series for what it is and take the risk of bringing it over for the few who want it. It is worth the risk, ’cause believe me, those who want it will gladly pay the price for it.

Yay! I finally finished! Now that I’m done…I probably won’t post again for awhile. Who knows, though, maybe another interesting piece of news will catch my eye that I can’t wait to share. So yeah…see you on the flip side.

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