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.
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.