Review: Anohana

75d87960c388efc544be093603b8e9f01406669874_full

Note: possible spoilers are in white

Anohana is a tale of grief and recovery, love and jealousy, and of course, friendship. The main characters are make a close-knit group of friends as children, with Jintan as the leader of their group called the “Super Peace Busters”, and Menma who is loved or envied by all. Menma is considered the prettiest and sweetest of the girls, but she dies tragically and suddenly. Years later, Jintan is a hikikomori and the group barely interact. However, one day Menma’s spirit visits Jintan and everything is set in motion again.

The music is lovely, the animation is clean and bright. So nothing to worry about there. The characters are distinct both in design and personality, as they have a touch of realism to them, and personalities that are distinct without having to resort to 2D “types”.

The anime is short, only 11 episodes long. The story is a heart-wrenching tale of loss that progresses at a steady pace. This anime made me cry. I didn’t even know why I was crying at times. It makes everyone cry. The Anohana crew sure know how to pull some strings, and that’s admirable! If you are really into dramas or interested in exploring grief and friendship, this anime is for you. However, Anohana could be labelled a ‘melodrama’ due to its excessive use of intense emotions. You don’t have to be too far into the anime to be swamped with scenes full of crying or shouting. Some characters overreact, raging unexpectedly. Such intense emotional scenes should have been saved for the climaxes, such as the ending, but their overuse instead dulls the effect of emotional climaxes,.

Furthermore, the anime did not go as deep as I wanted. It lacks specific details- what happened immediately after Menma’s death for everyone involved? What happened in the years in between? And moreover, the characters could do with more depth as they only exist in relation to Menma and their friendship group. They don’t seem to have any real aspirations outside of their friendship group, which would have made the characters more well-rounded and therefore realistic. For example, Tsuromi studies hard- maybe it’s a reaction to Menma’s death? Or maybe it’s because of her dream to become a …? Furthermore minor characters such as Jintan’s mother and father were not fully fleshed out, but had great potential and relevance to the story.

Furthermore, the problems that have been taunting the characters are … yawn… so repetitive! X is in love with who is in love with Z. Tears, repressed love and melodrama ensue. It get boring and is uncreative. The anime would have been more interesting if it explored other problems beyond unrequited love. Also the fact most of the characters still had the same childhood crushes even into their late teenage years seemed ridiculous and childish… I mean sure, one or two characters would be fine… but almost all of them? And none of them had moved on?

However, I am happy that Anohana is able to depict characters moving on from mourning and guilt, especially Jintan as it is a story of hope and action for those who feel unable to progress. If you want to watch a sweet, tear-jerker, Anohana is for you.

Advertisements

Review: Oniisama e (Brother, Dear Brother)

Oniisama e is about its characters: the sweet and naive schoolgirl, the prideful and manipulative Sorority head, the suicidal, heartbroken drug addict, the basketball star with a secret struggle, and it goes on. Character development is an extremely important ingredient in this anime, and each character in this series is well explored and developed, even the penpal (“Brother”) has a significant role in the anime. However, sometimes I felt some characters could have been more active, or that the explanations for their actions were pompous or unbelievable.

The anime is old, and based on an even older manga. The animation is absolutely stunning, as they give attention to detail and pan paused shots. Similarly, the music is beautiful and conveys the feelings of the anime.

On one hand, the manga is potentially groundbreaking for its time, as it discusses topics such as lesbianism, incest, drug use, divorce and disease. On the other hand, Oniisama e sometimes feels outdated and slightly conservative in its portrayal of such themes and its characters, despite the fact the anime is supposedly ‘happier’ than the manga (not by much, I would say).

The structure of the anime is, well, very loose, but well plotted as most character arcs are resolved and well-placed to drive the action. Sometimes this makes it fun to watch, since you never know what’s going to happen next, other times, there are weird shifts in mood and theme. The anime is also 39 episodes, which is pretty long. This is both an advantage and disadvantage in comparison to the 3 volume manga- the story is expanded, but also hella long. The anime is exciting at times, but can also be pretty boring and slow.

In the end, the anime is a character-centric drama that revolves around the themes of love, friendship and growing up, so if you’re not interested in those themes, don’t watch it.

P.S: there is a hell a lot of crying, but then it’s not surprising since the catch line at the end of every episode is: “Brother, Dear Brother… there is no end to my tears.”

Trigger warnings (because this is a triggery anime)
– self-harm
– eating disorder
– psychological manipulation
– suicidal thoughts
– death

Sailor Moon Crystal 3: Death Busters Review

Sailor Moon Crystal 3: Death Busters is a re-animation of the original Sailor Moon: Infinity manga, around two decades after the first Sailor Moon anime aired.

It’s needless to say that the quality of the animation is nothing to worry about, unlike the previous 2 seasons. It is arguably more creative, cleaner and more consistent than the original anime. However, I want to talk more about the how character development, plot, word-building was executed, as well as aspects of artistic direction.

The Senshi unite

Firstly the anime really showed the mental development of Sailor Moon (Usagi Tsukino) as a character, through showing her internal thoughts in important scenes.

Super Sailor Moon

However, other characters we not given anywhere near that amount of development, although I enjoyed the fact that the heroines took an active role in searching for the villains, instead of the more passive approach displayed in the 90s anime. As a consequence of the lack of focus on the other characters, we don’t really get to see the friendships of the Inner Senshi develop.

The Inner Senshi

Another disappointment was the lack of development of the romantic relationship between Haruka Tenoh (Sailor Uranus) and Michiru Kaioh (Sailor Neptune), which was what made the 90s anime stand out. Their relationship is never really explored beyond showing them together and giving hints about their relationship. Michiru’s character was especially neglected- if my knowledge of her was based on this series alone, I would know next to nothing about her personality.

Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune

Furthermore, there was a subplot between Haruka and Usagi that became neglected after a certain point, despite its importance.

Usagi (Sailor Moon) and Haruka (Sailor Uranus)

Although the anime was strictly no-nonsense in its absence of fillers and quick plot, it did not handle the plot and character development as delicately as it could have, leaving untied threads or unexplored characters. On the positive side, it does give ample attention to Chibiusa and her relationship with Hotaru Tomoe. Both of their characters were well-developed during the short series.

Chibiusa and Hotaru

In avoiding any filler, or anything ‘unnecessary’ to the main battle plot, Sailor Moon Crystal 3 lacked the humour of the 90s anime. More importantly, I think the tone and climaxes of the anime were not well managed. The plot became too focused on the battle with the final boss too early on, and consequently became too serious, and too focused on the battle and not on character development (except for Sailor Moon). The fact the anime reached the climax so early on meant that the tension stayed at the same level for a long time, which sucked the last episodes of their potential intensity for me. This was furthered by the lack of creativity in the use of colour and backgrounds in the final battle episodes. Another issue is that the tone would sometimes fluctuate from very serious to very happy at times.

The Inner Senshi

The serious tone of the anime would not have been a problem if there had been better world-building. Unfortunately, from what I have gathered, the villains of this season have no other reason for their actions except the cliched “bwahahaha let’s take over earth”, which is extremely unfortunate. Almost all of the villains and their intentions are only given surface attention and never explored deeper. However, this fault probably stems from the original manga. Not only are the villains lacking in character development, but there seemed to be little creative thought going into their creative designs (I am talking about the Daemon and the final boss, not villains who stuck to the same designs as the 90s anime), which made the battles less interesting to watch.

An important villain

Would I recommend this over the original? Probably not- lack of Harumichi and uncreative villains, also because the original has good character episodes and some episodes which have amazing direction. Of course this version has advantages over the original- less filler, more development for Sailor Moon and better animation (and fewer episodes). Whether you watch this series or not is up to you. If you’re an old fan in for some nostalgia, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this, especially as if you really liked the manga (I have heard that it is closer to the manga). But if you’re watching Sailor Moon for the first time and want to understand the hype, I would say, watch the original.

 

P.S: My views may have been affected my the fact I watched the anime weekly, not all at once. I may change my opinions if I watch it again.

Credits for the screencaps go to http://sailormoonscreencaps.tumblr.com/

Review: Inside Mari

What if you swapped bodies? What if you found yourself in the body of the person you most admired, the “angel-like” school idol who you pass every night (and possibly stalk)? Well that’s what life has install for Komori Isao, a hikikomori who lives for no one else but himself, playing games and masturbating endlessly on repeat. Until he becomes Mari of course.

If anyone has heard of Oshimi Shuuzou, it’s undoubtedly for his notorious manga-turned-anime Aku no Hana. So don’t be surprised about the fact the Oshimi Trio are back again- angel, devil and the boy in the middle of nowhere- potentially to take apart the idea of a perfect angel, once again.

im who are you

Oshimi explores gender expectations, and the complex fabric of social hierarchy and friendships, which Komori must now maintain as Mari. Moreover, Oshimi utilises the “body swap” to question the idea of self- at one point the protagonist admits they are no longer either Isao or Mari, but Mari-Isao. A character with both the memories and minds of Isao and Mari. Through the double lens of Mari-Isao, the original “Isao” is able to gain deeper insights into the world and into relationships, that they would not have been able to make, if not for the unbelievable situation.

Inside Mari is an interesting twist on the body swap trope, that provides commentary on social and philosophical issues. However, I would warn readers that it contains nudity, sexual scenes and suggestions of abuse, in case that is something you would like to avoid.

Inside Mari is available to read on Crunchyroll premium member and is still currently being published in Japan. Fan translations can also be found online.

Extra: From what I have read, in the manga and on forums, I believe Inside Mari is also an exploration of psychological issues and mental disorders.

Extra: I think the characters are better fleshed out than in Aku no Hana, however, that may just be the skewered perception of my memories. I think Aku No Hana was very impressionistic- it created direct and forceful scenes that were vivid and playful, deviant and repulsive. There are less explosive moments in Inside Mari, it speaks to you more directly (or so I feel).

I agree with other fans who say that Inside Mari is Aku No Hana graduated. Although again, the fallibility of memory.