Category Archives: Anime
Genre: High School, Romance, Comedy
My Little Monster is a charming and sometimes ridiculous romantic high school comedy focusing on the evolving relationship between Mizutani Shizuku, a girl who wants nothing more than to study and be alone, and Yoshida Haru, the namesake “monster” who ends up turning her peaceful life upside down. Both social outcasts, once Haru encounters Shizuku and immediately declares his love, Shizuku is left trying to salvage her grades and worldview from a boy who doesn’t even really seem to know what love is.
There isn’t much else I can say about this anime other than I enjoyed it. The show was entertaining to watch and still relatively satisfying even though it never really comes to a cathartic conclusion.
Genre: Drama, Romance, Junior High, Music
Your Lie in April is… well, as beautiful as it is devastating.
It follows the life of Arima Kousei, a Junior High school piano prodigy who has been living life in monotone. Following the death of his abusive, piano-instructing mother, Kousei can no longer hear the notes he plays, and thus has abandoned the craft for the past two years. Forcibly introduced to Miyazono Kaori one evening during a friend’s double-date, the boisterous and free-spirited Kaori begins to reignites his world with color.
Almost every single element of this anime is brilliant and well-executed. The art direction is amazing, including how the designers incorporated Kousei’s monotone worldview into the actual color-scheme, while gradually having Kaori’s vibrantness bleed through. Then there’s the music, which forms the basis around which the plot pivots. While I already liked some classical piano pieces, in the context of this show I began to appreciate them on a higher level. Then there is the devastating emotional payload, which reminds me of why I watch these sort of things in the first place: to feel something. And it succeeds in doing so.
In short, Your Lie in April has, to my own surprise even, become one of the best anime I have ever watched. It’s sad, it’s beautiful, it’s fantastic.
Genre: Sci-Fi, Drama, Devastating Emotional Payloads
Plastic Memories is a pseudo-Sci-Fi anime that follows the life of Tsukasa Mizugaki as he joins the Terminal Service Department of SAI Corp, and attempts to get along with his partner Isla. This particular department is responsible for the removal of the family androids who are approaching the end of their seven-year lifespans. What follows in this short, half-season anime is a series of devastating emotional payloads that, despite seeing them coming from a mile away, you nevertheless get destroyed by. Or maybe that was just me.
The closest analog to this anime would be Anohana: the Flower We Saw that Day, in the sense that the premise itself is sad, but you continue to get absorbed by the narrative and how exactly things will play out. You see the knife coming, but you still yearn to feel it twist. And in that regard, Plastic Memories does so with particular vigor. In spite of this, I came away from this catharsis with a greater appreciation of the relationships one can form, even if they prove to be temporary.
After all, that is exactly what everything is.
Episodes: 1-13 (S1), 1-8 (S2)
Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life
Mitsudomoe is a risque comedy slice-of-life that ends up a combination of Azumanga Daioh and Kodomo no Jikan. It mostly follows the misadventures of the Marui triplets as they (intentionally or not) torment their 6th grade teacher and classmates with rampant misunderstandings, usually of a suggestive nature. For example, in an early episode they end up officially naming the class hamster… Nipples. Hilarity ensures.
In truth, how much of the humor actually gets a reaction out of you will depend on your willingness to let the show do what it does. I compared the show to Azumanga Daioh and Kodomo no Jikan, but both of those shows are far, far superior to Mitsudomoe as they have a sense of progression and deeper meaning underlying the jokes. Mitsudomoe? It’s basic, frivolous comedy. Don’t get me wrong, as I found the show quite funny. But if you aren’t looking for 24 minutes of 6th grade humor and panty jokes, you can keep on looking elsewhere.
For the record, there is a 2nd 8-episode season of this show, but it really felt like the entire second season consisted of jokes cut from season 1 for not being funny enough. Unless you are some kind of masochistic completionist (like I can sometimes be), feel free to skip it.
Genre: Sports, High School, Drama
Cross Game is an old-school-looking, baseball-themed anime centered around Ko Kitamura, the Tsukishima sisters who live nearby, and the struggle of growing up with loss.
In truth, it is difficult for me to really summarize Cross Game, for one specific reason: the anime is 50 episodes long. This is not to suggest that the show was boring or had any particular amount of filler – indeed, I sat down and watched 20 episodes in a row one evening – but rather its ultimate theme takes form over such a distance as to make the thematic transition gradual. Which, in a way, is noteworthy on its own; this is an anime of small gestures, long silences, poignant looks, and accumulated experiences. The character progression feels completely natural, and there is ample time to grow acquainted with just about every character.
At the same time, I could not help but feel like the anime would have been more impactful had it been, say, 26 episodes. Or even less. Indeed, what I keep circling back on in my head is how shows like Your Lie in April or Plastic Memories or Anahona can in 13 episodes deliver an emotional payload on a greater scale than Cross Game does in 50. The relationships in Cross Game are “thicker” with the sheer volume of experiences, but… I dunno.
Ultimately, whether Cross Game is worth your time is going to need to be a call you make yourself. You do not need to be a baseball fan to watch the show (I’m not into sports), but you do need to be prepared to buckle down for the long haul. It will be a satisfying journey if you aren’t in a hurry.
Genre: High School, Drama, [spoilers]
Holy shit, you guys.
I almost don’t want to write a review for this anime at all, as the best way to watch it is to go in completely blind, as I did. So this will be your first chance to stop reading and go watch it yourself without getting spoiled in any way.
The basic premise of School-Live is that a group of four high school girls have started a club with their teacher adviser called the School Life Club. In this club, the rules are that they are not allowed to leave the school building, and otherwise have to stay on school grounds. The anime follows their everyday life in this club, the various activities they get into, and the struggles they have with classmates, and adapting to living in the school building.
Last chance to stop.
The huge, mind-blowing juxtaposition this show presents is that all of this occurs after the zombie apocalypse. I literally almost turned the show off before the end of the first episode, as it seemed just another goofy high school comedy. As it turns out, the “narrator” of that first episode, Yuki Takeya, has completely blocked out the mental trauma of seeing everyone she liked die during the fall of the city, and thus sees everything as “normal.” So Yuki goes to class and sees a normal classroom, whereas in reality it is an empty room littered with blood, broken glass, and other debris.
And the most amazing thing about School-Live! is how it plays all this straight. These are not girls with magical powers, unlimited ammo, or even particularly strong constitutions. The only real weapon they have is a shovel, and only one of them is strong enough to even use it. They are simply trying to survive on the upper floors of their school, while Yuki inadvertently keeps their spirits up by suggesting club activities as if everything was fine. And in so doing so… it somehow is.
As stated the juxtaposition is the best part of School-Live! After the first episode reveal, the title sequence changes to reflect reality (and continues to change as a foreshadowing mechanism), but the cute anime style stays the same. By “cute” I do not mean that School-Live! avoids sucker-punching you in the throat on occasion (especially towards the end), but rather the style remains consistent throughout. These characters could be air-dropped, personalities and all, into any other anime and perfectly fit in. But they still work beautifully and devastatingly here as well.
In short, this show is worth your time. It might not change your life, but it will make you feel something.
For those who might be interested, here you go:
That should link you to a nigh-exhaustive list of all the anime (and manga) I have watched and remembered to write down over the years. While I will continue to actually write reviews in the future, I feel like that list will be good enough for a lot of those shows, especially the older ones. In other words, if we have similar interests and you want some recommendations, just sort the list by Score and work your way down.
As far as the scoring system itself, I had an internal rubric going, but I’m realizing that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of my head. For example, is Serial Experiments Lain really a 9, above even Death Note? Well, Lain blew my mind back 2002 when I watched it, so that’s how I remember it. Chances are Lain would score lower if I rewatched it, or if I watched it for the first time after having seen Death Note. So just keep that in mind.
In light of that, it’s best to read my scores this way:
- 10-8: I really liked these shows, they made me feel something, go watch them.
- 7-6: These deserve a spot on your queue, even if you don’t watch them immediately.
- 5: It’s anime.
- 4-1: I wouldn’t bother.
So there you go. If you have a similar list you would like to share, or notice some glaring omissions in my anime resume, feel free to post them in the comments below. I prefer shows that are on CrunchyRoll, but I have access to FUNimation and even BakaMT.me for the older stuff.
Genre: Sci-Fi, Near Future, Drama
Steins;Gate is a gripping, emotional drama that also reminds me of why I hate time travel as a narrative mechanic so much. The anime follows the eccentric teenage “mad scientist” Rintaro Okabe and his two friends/Lab Members as they spend their days fighting the “Organization” and otherwise goofing around with gadgets. After going to a conference on Time Travel, Okabe encounters a woman stabbed and lying in a pool of blood. Shaken, he texts his friend about the incident while the Phone Microwave gadget was running… and his text arrives 5 days in the past, changing the future.
What is brilliant about this anime is exactly what I dislike about the conceptual narrative. The first half of the anime explores the nature and limitations of the “D-Mail” system – the ability to send a phone text to someone in the past – and each successful D-Mail permanently changes the world and resets everyone’s memories to match it… other than Okabe, who remembers everything. Later on, the anime darkens considerably once Okabe realizes the butterfly effects of all these changes and the seemingly inevitable future it portends. And that is the rub. Each time the world is changed, everything that happened previously ceases to be. Okabe (and you) remember that other world, but it’s irrelevant in a practical sense, erasing huge swaths of continuity and character development.
Make no mistake, Steins;Gate is a superb, shocking, draining anime and by far the best version of Time Travel I have encountered in fiction. I still hate Time Travel as a narrative mechanic though, and my attachment to the characters of Steins;Gate and their sacrifices (which are erased) only deepens my antipathy for it.
But if you have no issue with Time Travel? You should see this anime yesterday.
Genre: High school romantic comedy
In a nutshell, Toradora is a high school romantic comedy with enough dramatic elements and interesting characters to set it apart from what otherwise amounts to another entry in the busiest anime genre of all time. The show follows Ryuji, a high schooler who looks like a delinquent but is actually fairly sensitive and domestic, and his new neighbor Taiga, the short “palm-top tiger” with an even shorter temper. Once the two of them realize that they have crushes on the other’s best friend, they set differences aside while trying to set the other up with their crush. As you might expect, misadventures and misunderstandings abound.
Overall, I really enjoyed Toradora to the tune of crushing all 25 episodes across two days. As mentioned, there is enough drama and emotional scenes to set the anime apart from its peers, if the quirky characters did not do so already. And most importantly? There is actually catharsis by the end; this is no harem comedy in which nothing is resolved by the final credits.
Clannad & Clannad: After Story
Episodes: 22 & 22 (plus bonuses)
Genre: Drama, High School, Romance, Devastating Feels
Clannad is the anime adaptation of one of the most popular visual novels ever released in Japan. It follows the high school life of Tomoya Okazaki, as he wastes his days away as a delinquent with his only other friend, Youhei. After a chance encounter with the timid and sickly Nagisa, Tomoya ends up halfway courting nearly the entire female school population, as is usually the case with these sort of shows.
In terms of structure, Clannad and especially Clannad: After Story, good god, is precisely calibrated to deliver devastating emotional payloads. The majority of the series is your standard sort of high school comedy, but it always eventually segues into serious childhood trauma. The visual novel origin means you will become extremely familiar with each of the main love interests throughout mini-plot arcs with little, if any, sort of “payoff.” This changes in the last few episodes as the plot solidifies around one person in particular, and… well. Just keep some tissues handy.
Clannad and its After Story is one of those anime that I both hesitate to recommend while also requiring other people to eventually watch. The series is a great response to someone asking if an anime can be just as emotional as a book or film, and Clannad arguably beats the majority of both. I am not exactly walking away from the anime with a sense of well-being, but the catharsis is real. And to be fair, that sort of thing is extremely hard to pull off.
Code Geass – Lelouch of the Rebellion & R2
Episodes: 25 & 25
Genre: Drama, Giant Robots, Supernatural, Cerebral
The best way I could describe Code Geass is Death Note meets Gundam. Which is more than a little ironic, considering that Code Geass was released concurrently with Death Note back in 2006. It follows the travails of Lelouch vi Britannia, an exiled prince in hiding, as he schemes to destroy the empire of his birth to save his disabled sister from political machinations. His plans are greatly accelerated in high school when a chance encounter with an immortal witch grants him Geass: the ability to force anyone to follow any command he gives… once, and via direct eye contact only.
Over the course of two seasons, Code Geass remains fairly consistently serious. Outside of a cat episode early on, the plot is filled with drama, betrayal, and impossible scenarios in which Lelouch has to rely on his uncanny brilliance to escape. Lelouch’s fight with Britannia doesn’t quite reach the labrythine depths of Death Note’s Light vs L showdown, but it remains pretty satisfying nevertheless.
It is not going to change your life or anything, but Code Geass is worth a view in my opinion. It rather successfully marries the kinetic, mecha action to the more cerebral, supernatural anime. If you only like one of those genres, chances are you will still enjoy this blend. And if you like both? Buckle up, because this show is for you.
Beyond the Boundary
Beyond the Boundary is a 12-episode supernatural anime surrounding the troubles of Kanbara, a high school student that is half-youmu (e.g. half-spirit creature) which makes him effectively immortal. One day he meets Kuriyama, a transferred “bespectacled beauty” who nevertheless repeatedly tries to kill him. Turns out she is part of a cursed Spirit Warrior clan that makes a living killing youmu and selling the “spirit crystals” that they drop. Problem is, Kuriyama can’t bring herself to actually kill any youmu aside from Kanbara, much to Kanbara’s immortal dismay.
The series develops a more serious side as time goes on, and there are some more intricate shenanigans going on behind the scenes. The jokes were amusing, the animation stellar, and the plot perfectly serviceable. If you are just looking for something to watch and kill time, Beyond the Boundary is not bad.
One Week Friends
One Week Friends is a rather endearing 12-episode anime that explores the somewhat novel friendship of Yuki Hase and his classmate Kaori Fujimiya. After building up some considerable courage, Yuki finally tries to ask Kaori – whom never seems to talk to anyone – to be his friend. After a week passes, Yuki learns Kaori’s secret: she loses all memories about her friends every Monday. The rest of the series deals with Yuki’s efforts in trying to get Kaori to remember him, and how they handle their relationship starting over every seven days.
I considered this anime to be well worth the watch. The premise is pretty interesting and the burgeoning relationship between Yuki and Kaori satisfying in its development.
Kimi no Iru Machi | A Town Where You Live
A Town Where You Live (hereafter Town) is a roughly ~260 chapter drama/real life/romance manga that I really enjoyed. It follows the early high school life of Haruto as he experiences perhaps the standard harem-esque tropes of this genre: panty jokes, comical misunderstandings, and every female of child-bearing age falling instantly in love with him. Except… not really. Whether it was intentional or not, Town seems to mature in tandem with the growing age of its protagonists. There are still jokes here and there, but the background subject matter becomes as serious as the relationships it contains.
As mentioned, I really enjoyed reading Town, especially given its character progression and closure. There is a little bit of fan service sprinkled in (especially for the chapter 200 “alternate-ending” celebration), but it is not especially obnoxious about it. If you can get past the main character being a real dumbass when it comes to unintentionally leading women on, I think you’ll find it difficult to put down.
Genre: Harem, Supernatural, Action
Strike the Blood is a sort of disguised, supernatural harem action anime. The main character is a high school student, Kojou, who has been transformed into the “4th Progenitor,” a sort of super-vampire who could upset the balance of the other three super-vampires. In response, various human and supernatural parties try to court his attention, keep an eye on him, and/or try and kill him. Did I mention this all this takes place on a man-made island way out in the ocean, made structurally sound by magic and ancient relics? And a significant portion of the population are pseudo-demons?
While there were quite a few particularly hilarious scenes/situations, the bottom line is that this really was as I described it: an action harem anime. If it annoys you when 4-5 girls compete for the male lead’s attention in just about everything they do, then you’re not likely to have a good time. If instead you’re looking for something funny with angst and drama all the traditional harem trimmings, this is likely worth your time.
Genre: Action, Fast-Paced
Kill la Kill is a fast-paced action anime from the creators of Gurren Lagann. In this regard, I sort of view a parallel between it and FLCL; both are less-serious, more-manic derivatives of what came before while still holding ground on their own merits. The premise is that a particular Japanese high school is crafting school uniforms with “Life Fibers,” which grant the wearer immense power. Ryuuko recently transfers to this school to seek revenge for the death of her father at the hands of a mysterious assailant. What follows is a huge assortment of duels, explosions, and Sailor Moon-esque transformation sequences as Ryuuko dispatches her foes with one half of a pair of scissors. The show only gets crazier as time goes on.
This anime does many things particular well. For example, while the heroine (and most female foes) dons a fairly fanservice costume, there is at least an attempt at a rational explanation for it on top of the anime not dwelling too much on it… outside of some jokes at the anime’s own expense, of course. The pacing of the show is also extremely well done, with just enough breaks in the action to catch one’s breath. In this regard, the episodes seemed to fly right by and always leave you hungry for more. I recommend a watch if you enjoy zany action anime.
Genre: Everyday Life, Ghost, Drama
Are you in the mood to be depressed? Homesick? Want to feel like you need to call your friends right now? Then, boy do I have the anime for you! Anohana is an anime that follows a small group of friends, several years after the accidental death of one of their members. After a year or so of social withdraw, Jinta suddenly begins to see what he believes to be a hallucination of Menma, the member of the group that had died years prior. After interacting with her over a series of weeks and months, he comes to believe that perhaps she is a spirit trapped on Earth until her final wish is granted. From there, he begins to try and recruit his old friends to help figure out Menma’s last wish and fulfill it.
I’m not going to lie – this can sometimes be a hard anime to watch, for reasons that have nothing to do with it’s otherwise outstanding quality. In fact, this is perhaps the best anime I have ever seen in its examinations of how much impact a death can have on a circle of friends. There’s survivor’s guilt, jealousy, feelings of failure, love triangles, mental health issues, and more all in 11 short episodes. Still, if you are in the market for an anime that will make you feel something, Anohana is an easy recommendation.
As I’ve mentioned before, I usually keep my anime reviews on the down-low, if only because I’m not entirely sure of the overlap in readership interest. If you are interested though, I have a half-dozen new micro-reviews up on the Review tab, including Attack on Titan, Angel Beats!, and Psycho PASS. I am actually to the point where I’m cleaning up the rest of my unwatched anime collection, and will likely start seeing if streaming sites like CrunchyRoll is better than downloading.
And if you have no interest in anime, you’re missing out:
This post may or may not have been an elaborate excuse to upload these screenshots.