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Chihayafuru Season One (anime review)

review provided by Katie and Andrew

Title: Chihayafuru Season One on Blu-ray

Director: Morio Asaka

Studio: Madhouse

Author: Sumino Kawashima

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U.S. Release Date: September 12, 2017

Format and Length: Blu-ray / 25 Episodes / 625 Minutes

Genre: Drama, School Life, Slice of Life, Sports, Card Game

Industry Age Rating: 14 and up

Overall Personal Rating: A

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Hanasaku Iroha: Blossoms for Tomorrow

Synopsis:

Chihaya Ayase was a girl who never seemed to fit in. She never had much in common with the other kids, and her family was so obsessed with her older sister’s modeling career that, sometimes, it was like Chihaya was not even there. Everything changes when transfer student Arata gets Chihaya interested in the world of competitive Karuta, a unique card-based game that requires lightning fast reflexes, an exceptional memory, and a keen ear. Chihaya is a natural, and she has the skills to take her to the very top. Suddenly, Chihaya has found her goal: to become the best player in Japan! It will not be easy, but when a girl has a dream in her heart, nothing else matters! Will Chihaya become the Queen of Karuta? You will have to watch Chihayafuru and find out.

Commentary:

Chihayafuru is a series that starts off very slow but then it becomes something amazing. The character development is amazing and I truly believe that Chihayafuru loves its characters. Chihaya is the tom-boy who wanted nothing better than for her sister to become the top supermodel in Japan. That was her dream for her life. But thanks to Arata and Taichi, she finally realizes that she wants to be the Queen of Karuta. Taichi is from a wealthy family and he is quite the golden boy as he is smart, good looking, and mature. He also excels at nearly everything he does which is why he is the President of the Misusawa Karuta Club. He has a crush on Chihaya but is hesitant to do anything about it as he believes she only has eyes for Arata. Arata left after elementary school graduation to take care of his grandfather. His passion for Karuta is inspired by his grandfather who was a Meijin (master).

I will try and explain Karuta but it will not be short. Karuta is not to be compared with playing cards in the sense of the Western World. It is not Poker, Rummy or Skat. It would be most comparable to Memory. There are different types of Karuta that can be played. Uta-Garuta is played in Chihayafuru. The card game consists of 200 cards, 100 of which are called Yomifuda, this are the reading cards and 100 Torifuda, which are the cards that are use by the players itself. On the Yomifuda are the first three verses of a traditional Japanese poem. The Poetry comes from the Hyakunin Isshu (100 poems of 100 poets, each poet one poem). The Torifuda (game- or field-cards) contain the last two verses of the respective poem. The challenge consists in recognizing the poems during the reading and to catch the corresponding play card in front of the opponent. Karuta fulfills everything a sport should have, high concentration, excellent memory, lightning reflexes, strategic thinking, endurance, resilience, mental strength and a tremendous commitment to the long training for coordination and precession. The person who touches the right card on the field first gets the card, when you take a card from the opponents side you can give them one of yours, when your half of the playing field is empty you win.

It sounds simple and quite boring but it’s NOT. In order to touch the right card quickly, cards get flung of the playing field, people are sweating, thinking and reacting at full speed and crazy-eating chocolate in between these intense games. To really play Karuta at top level you need memorization skills, good hearing and senses, good posture, analytic and strategic skills, precision, strength, speed, perseverance, an emotional connection to the cards and so much more. As you can see, Karuta is very difficult to play but when it is played by people who love it, it is a beautiful thing.

The animation was so beautiful and colorful. They showed off backgrounds that will take your breath away and traditional Japanese clothing that is just amazing. The voice actors did a great job and I really enjoyed this series even if the first five to six episodes drag a bit.

Extras:

Chihayafuru includes clean opening and closing animations and Sentai Filmworks trailers as Special Features. This series was released with both English and Japanese with English subtitles as language options.

Overall Grade: A

Usher and Tora Complete Collection (anime review)

Title: Usher and Tora: Complete Collection on Blu-ray

Director: Satoshi Nishimura

Studio: MAPPA, Studio VOLN

U. S Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: Aug. 29th, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 39 Episodes / 975 Minutes

Genre: Supernatural, Shonen, Drama

Age Rating: MA

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

Ushio always ignored his father’s crazy tales about the temple where they live. All that talk of restless souls and vicious monsters are nothing more than stories, right? However, Ushio quickly rethinks his position when he discovers a locked basement with an actual demon pinned to the wall by a spear! The tiger-striped demon threatens to eat Ushio if he doesn’t free him, so Ushio naturally chooses to ignore him. However, when the demon’s presence starts to attract others, Ushio is forced to remove the spear to save himself. To make a bad situation even worse, freeing the demon, Tora, also bonds Ushio to the cursed Beast Spear, sending him on a journey where unspeakable dangers await. The battle is only beginning for these unlikely partners!

Commentary:

In today’s environment to see so many older series being brought forward and rereleased and not being brought up-to-date makes Ushio and Tora a real unique entity. This series from the early 90’s has been given a new lease on life and even expanded. It is a major plus to see this revisiting of interesting series and even becoming a current hit for the strength of the story.

As for Ushio and Tora I found the story to be too episodic much the way Yu Yu Hakusho  seemed to be focus on simple battles. I think that is where Ushio and Tora looses me. The area it manages to keep me involved is the relationship that is developed between Ushio and Tora.

Overall Grade: B

I wish I could have given Ushio and Tora a higher grade, but I just got worn out by the simplicity of the story line. I do see it as a series that most seekers of action would like and the with it having 39 episodes manages to give everyone plenty to enjoy. The updated animation is strong and fluid enough to make it easy to watch and stay focused on the story and battles.

I realize that there are a great history of episodic series that are only about the battles and Ushio and Tora is not different except for the fact that it becomes a little more tiresome than some of the others. I don’t see it finding it’s way into the hearts and minds of the fan base like Yu Yu or Dragon Ball Z and that is because of the Mature Audiance rating. I think that if the violence would have been reduce down to a 13+ rating there might be a greater fan base to find and a way to secure a more sustained group of followers.

If you are looking for a solid battle anime then Ushio and Tora is one you need to pick up. It is great to see older series getting a true new lease on life.

Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt December Sky

Title: Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt December Sky on Blu-ray

Director: Kō Matsuo

Writer: Kō Matsuo

Music by: Naruyoshi Kikuchi

U. S. Distributor: Sunrise, Right Stuf

U. S. Release Date: July 7th, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / Feature Film / 70 Minutes

Genre: Sci Fi, Mecha, Action, Adventure, Drama

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: A

Synopsis:

Their war has not yet ended…

It is Universal Century 0079, at the end of the One Year War between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon. The space colonies of Side 4, or Moore, were previously destroyed by a Zeon attack, and many colonists lost their lives. Side 4 became a shoal zone filled with the wreckage of destroyed colonies and warships, lit by constant flashes of lightning due to collisions between electrified debris. It soon came to be known as the “Thunderbolt Sector.”

The Moore Brotherhood, an Earth Federation Forces unit made up of surviving citizens from Moore, set out to exterminate the Zeon forces in the Thunderbolt Sector in order to reclaim their homeland. To halt the Federation advance, the Zeon forces deployed their own Living Dead Division, which was established to collect combat data on soldiers with prosthetic limbs.

Io Fleming, though part of the Moore Brotherhood, hates being tied down by his homeland and family history. Daryl Lorenz, having lost his legs in earlier battles, is now an ace sniper of the Living Dead Division. When they confront each other on the battlefield, they will reach a mutual realization. These two are destined to kill each other.

Commentary:

Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt December Sky is the type of anime film that proves if you keep doing a thing enough you will finally get it right. This film hits on several major points and leave3s you wanting for a lot more. From the opening sequence all the way to end ending montage I found December Sky to be a delight. It did manage to have some of the overly melodramatic elements that Gundam Universal Century calls for and at the same time uses music and lively characters to make this fast paced film something worth watching.

One thing is very clear and that is the fact that Kō Matsuo understood the import of making these characters complex and human enough to sympathize with on both sides. Funny thing, I found December Sky to be one of the most anti war Gundam produces yet.

Overall Grade: A

As you can tell, I really liked December Sky and will recommend it to all Gundam fans and all other Sci Fi fans who love music and action. I don’t really care if it doesn’t resolve anything I think that from the artistic stylings to the insane character development everyone can get a great idea of what this film is all about. So, I just want to tell Kō Matsuo thank you for proving us with 70 minutes of pure excitement.

The Big O (anime review)

Title: The Big O: The complete Series on Blu-ray

Director: Kazuyoshi Katayama

Studio: Sunrise

Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

Release Date: June 20th, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 26 Episodes / 650 Minutes

Genre: Mecha, Drama, Post Apocalyptic

Age Rating: TV 14+

Overall Personal Grade: B+

Synopsis:

Forty years ago, the minds of Paradigm City’s inhabitants were wiped clean of all recollections of the past. Now, ruled by a powerful corporation and cut off from the rest of the world by desolate wastelands, Paradigm has become a virtual police state where Negotiators like Roger Smith keep the wheels of progress, commerce, and society turning.

As a combined hybrid of detective, mediator, and enforcer, Smith’s primary resource is his keen, analytical mind, but it doesn’t hurt to have a mansion filled with gadgets, his butler Norman, and his attractive assistant Dorothy to fall back on. Additionally, for those times when cases end up “in dispute,” he also has the biggest, baddest back-up that any cop or small army could ever hope for: the Big O, a giant robot loaded with all the extras. Film noir thriller meets mecha mayhem masterpiece as the acclaimed classic series returns in the complete collection of The Big O!

Commentary:

If you can imagine a nix of Batman the Animated Series and Cowboy Bebop with a dash of Gun X Sword then you should be able to get a great idea of what The Big O is like. It is very clear that designer Keiichi Sato and director Kazuyoshi Katayama (the creators of the series) are major fans of Batman based on some of the supporting dramatic devices that are cemented in the series. You have a single man living in a rather lavish old bank building with his butler who takes care of the home and the Megadeus (Big O).

This blending of both east and west wrapped in the complicated story of Big O makes the first season a little hard to follow because if is basically episodic. That leaves the viewer with a somewhat cold feeling for both the overall feel of the show and the characters too. Once the second season kicks in there is a much different feeling and the fog begins to lift.

Overall Grade: B+

All too often it is hard to get into older series and with Big O almost 20 years old the animation style comes across very dated. That older TV anime style does let the series down a bit, but if you let the story drive your attention then you should be fine.

As a story I found the Big O to keep my interest once the it got later in the first season and began to introduce much of the recurring cast for the second season. As the second season opens and flows through the first few episodes the series really solidifies. As it winds up there is a solid attempt to bring everything together and manages to hold the story and characters up in a fine fashion.

As an example of anime from the late 1990’s, The Big O sits above average. If you are a fan of Batman the Animated series from the early 1990’s then it is a must see.

As for me I found Big O to be a fun and interesting series because of the nostalgia and the plot that goes from simple to complex in a rather short time span and also manages to confuse me a little. So, if you like a dark hero with a heart of gold mixed with some rather strange characters then  The Big O! is for you.

 

Chivalry of a Failed Knight (anime review)

Title: Chivalry of a Failed Knight the Complete Collection on Blu-ray

Directors: Shin Ōnuma, Jin Tamamura

Screenplay Writer: Shogo Yasukawa

Studios: Silver Link, Nexus

Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

Release Date: June 13th, 2017

Format as reviewed: Blu-ray/12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Drama, Romance, Magical Users, Fantasy, Action

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

Ikki Kurogane may have come from a long line of Blazers, people with the ability to create weapons or devices manifested from their souls, but as far as the Hagun Academy is concerned, he’s been a major disappointment in the magical powers department. He is so disappointing, in fact, that he’s earned the unfortunate nickname of the “Worst One”.

However, things change for Ikki in the most surprising way when Princess Stella Vermillion, the most promising Rank-A Blazer to come along in many years, decides to transfer to Hagun. When she challenges him to a duel where the loser must obey the winner for the rest of their life, the last thing anyone expects is that the Worst One might prove to be a match for the Crimson Princess… and the unforeseen consequences will push the boundaries of society itself!

Commentary:

Chivalry of a Failed Knight takes on many common tropes in the anime world and manages to step up and succeed at some and not quite make it at others. The strongest of the plot devices that it goes after is the romance. It does start off very awkward but overcomes it sort comings relatively quickly. Wishing the first few episodes you become invested in the relationship between Ikki and Stella and root for them the rest of the way through the series.

When the series brings in the little sister and her fixation on Ikki it becomes almost to simplistic and something that should have never been introduced. I am always at a loss when anime finds a need to bring a sibling relationship to the brinks of incest. Thankfully that manages to loose its punch early on and only becomes a side issue that has positive reasoning behind it.

Other aspects of the Chivalry of a Failed Knight that manage to succeed are the character development for Ikki and Stella. Most of the other characters manage to remain secondary and don’t need the development which adds to the strength of the romance. There was also a hint at Chivalry of a Failed Knight becoming a harem early on but that faded as the real plot began to take form.

Overall Grade: B+

Chivalry of a Failed Knight is very entertaining and try to make a real mashup of many different storylines. I think the series does some things well and others were never really given a chance which was reflected in some poor writing. It is very clear to me that if the series had not tried to take on so many plot devices it would have been much stronger.

Overall it is clear that there has been plenty of effort to give the series a focus. There appear to be no plans at this time to give us the rest of the story in anime form, but both the light novel and the manga are ongoing and there is always hope that the studios will take the chance and wrap the story up.

Either way, I found Chivalry of a Failed Knight to be very entertaining and well worth the effort to watch it and hope for a second season.

Sound of the Sky (anime review)

Title: Sound of the Sky (Soro no Wata) Complete Set on Blu-ray
Director: Mamoru Kanbe
Writer: Hiroyuki Yoshino
Studio: A-1 Pictures
U.S. Distributor: Nozomi Entertainment
U.S. Release Date: June 6th, 2017
Format: DVD/ 12 episodes/ 355 minutes
Genre: Sci Fi, Slice of Life, Comedy, Drama
Age Rating: 14+
Personal Rating: A
Similar Titles: Air, Kanon

Sometimes our goals in life lead is to do things and impact others in way we would never expect. They also put us in situations that just might make all the difference in the world.

Synopsis:

A young girl, Kanata Sorami, joins the army to learn how to play trumpet because she saw a solider play “Amazing Grace” and was touched so deeply that it is the only goal she has in life. The army sends her to the outpost in the town of Seize to become the bugler. Unknown to her she becomes one of the Fire Maidens of Seize. These are the historical protectors of the Village. The other members of the squad are Rio Kazumiya, Kanata’s trumpet teacher, Filicia Heideman, the company commander, Noel Kannagi, the mechanic and Kureha Suminoya the other private assigned as the gunner.

In the beginning Kanata does not know how to play the trumpet very well but she has a great ear for sound and with some training by Rio she manages to become wonderful player and even the village begins to enjoy her playing. During this time she becomes a valued member of the platoon and the bonds of these 5 women become so close it almost seems as though they are sisters.

There is a tentative peace between Helvetia and Roma. The current talks are not going very well and the platoon must always be on the watch for anyone coming across the no-mans land just outside Seize. During this period of stress there is a secret about Rio that comes to light that drives her away from the platoon to eventually end up having a overreaching impact on everyones life.

Commentary:

This wonderfully crafted anime brings together several key elements that makes it one to be seen. The first of these elements is the bonding of the main characters that creates a group of women who become true sisters and find that they each have their role to play. They are each very different and have a dramatic past that is at the core of who they are. This is highlighted by Kanata who has the loss of her family and the contact with a beautiful bugler who was playing “Amazing Grace” in such a way that made her think to was the true Sound of the Sky. That was the motivating factor behind her having no fear and wanting to be able to play that piece for all the world to hear. The others also have past experience that make them so special that they each bound together make an unstoppable force. All of this is accentuated buy the strong character development and the wonderful series of events that bring them together.

The second of the outstanding elements has to be the plot structure and the way the story is told. By the middle of the series I was a little concerned that Sound of the Sky as nothing more than a string of unrelated events but in classic Japanese story telling fashion all of these events all roll up together and provide a ending that managed to warm even my cold heart. The stories told about these women and girls consistently brought a kind smile to my soul as I moved through the series and at the end I wanted only good to happen for this loving group of women.

The final and possible most impressive is the high quality of the animation. I found myself blown away by the impressive artistry put into creating the world that these intrepid ladies lived. The monastery where they lived was so well developed it made me feel like I was there and the landscapes were Miyazakiesk and created a peaceful place that we all would want to be a part of. At every turn I found myself in awe of the talented work that went into this loving series.

Overall Grade: A

Sound of the Sky is not one of those knock down drag-out anime that is all about the action, it is a kind gentle anime that does not shy away from action, but rather uses it only when it is important. The creators have given us something to contemplate and use as a guide to what it is to truly care about those others around us. This series should be put on everyones must see list.

Because of the gentle spirit of Sound of the Sky I would recommend Air and Kanon as the two other series to get that loving feeling from.

Utawarerumono-The False Faces: Complete Collection (anime review)

review provided by Katie and Andrew

Title: Utawarerumono-The False Faces: Complete Collection on Blu-ray
Director: Keitaro Motonaga
Studio: White Fox
Author: Takamitsu Kono
U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23
U.S. Release Date: April 25, 2017
Format and Length: Blu-ray / 25 Episodes / 600 Minutes
Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy
Industry Age Rating: 17 and up
Overall Personal Rating: B+
Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: Utawarerumono

Synopsis:
Where is he? More importantly, who is he? Awakening in a frozen wasteland, his first memories are of danger as he is instantly attacked by a giant creature. Kuon, the cat-like girl who rescues him, doesn’t know who he is either, but she gives him the name Haku in honor of another mysterious stranger who came to this world. Now, Haku must quickly learn how to survive in a land where monstrous beasts prowl, and where half-human beings rule in a city riddled with intrigue and secrets. With armies to aid, Princesses to guard, and a whole new future to explore, Haku and Kuon will face truth after shocking truth!

Commentary:
Utawarerumono-The False Faces: Complete Collection is a continuation of the original series, and takes place several years after the original Utawarerumono series. I have to say that the original scored very high in my book, as it would have received an A. It was an epic tale, with twists and turns all about. Utawarerumono-The False Faces: Complete Collection (second season is a fair statement) continues to live up to its predecessor. You are introduced to a completely new set of characters, and a new land. There are a few characters that make an appearance from the original series but they are only there for a few scenes, and make little impact. The first ten or so episodes do go slow at first, but they spend all this time building characters and relationships. The characters are very well developed and feel very real. You will develop an emotional attachment to many of them. At first the menial day to day activities will drag, as they develop characters, but after that it turns into another epic story as the action picks up, making it hard to stop watching. Many things will surprise you, and if you are a fan of the original, you will find a few of them will bother you, but rest assured that there is a reason for the turns it takes. The ultimate surprise came in the last episode, and completely without warning. Then it happened. It ended. If you have read any of my previous reviews of animes based on video games, you know it’s a pet peeve of mine that they must wrap up a story, and not use it as a “buy the game to see how it ends” to promote further sales of the game. In fact, there is little that irritates me more, as I am not a gamer. I cannot say that it ended completely, because it did not. It was more an end to that chapter, and more to come, except, there was no more. That was a big let down in the moment, but all things considered they did stop at a good point, if they plan to release another season to continue it. I very much hope they do, because I’m not buying the game. If they don’t, my disappointment will be extreme.

The art work itself was very good. In most scenes, they did a great job of mixing the CG with the animation so it did not stick out like a sore thumb. They also did very well with background scenery. Always active, like real life, the animation did not halt when characters were talking, like they do with many other titles. From tale and ear movements, to overall background action, there was much detail and made it even more enjoyable. Also the music was pretty good. Not epic, but worth listening to and not skipping the openings and endings, unless you cannot wait to see what happens next, like I did. I’m not known for my patience either. Overall, Utawarerumono-The False Faces: Complete Collection was a great story and worth checking it out. Had it wrapped up better instead of leaving it as an end of a chapter with lots of story left to tell, it would have gotten the highest score possible. I look forward, with much anticipation, to the continuation of Utawarerumono-The False Faces: Complete Collection.

Extras:
Utawarerumono-The False Faces: Complete Collection includes clean opening and closing animations and Sentai Filmworks trailers as special features. This series was released with both English and Japanese with English subtitles as language options.

Overall Grade: B+

Gundam 0083 Stardust Memory & Afterglow of Zeon Film: Complete series (anime review)

Title: Gundam 0083 Stardust Memory & Afterglow of Zeon Film on Blu-ray

Directors: Mitsuko Kase (eps. 1-5), Takashi Imanishi (eps. 2-13)

Writers: Fuyunori Gobu (eps. 1-4), Akinori Endo (eps. 5-6), Asahide Ookuma (eps. 7-8, 10, 12-13), Ryōsuke Takahashi (eps. 9, 11)

Studio: Sunrise

U. S. Distributor: Right Stuf

U. S. Release Date: April 4th, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 13 Episodes & film / 444 Episodes

Genre: Sci Fi, Mecha, Drama

Age Rating: 14+

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

Mobile Suit Gundam 0083 contains episodes 1-13 of Stardust Memory plus the Afterglow of Zeon compilation film.

Universal Century 0083. Having triumphed in the One-Year War, the Earth Federation has grown complacent, while the last remnants of Zeon forces have been planning one final stand. It all hinges on ace Zeon pilot Anavel Gato stealing one of the new prototype Gundams out from under the Federation’s nose. With a nuclear-equipped Gundam missing and their pride wounded, the Federation ship Albion and rookie pilot Kou Uraki set out in pursuit of the Zeon thieves and the stolen Gundam GP02A.

Special Features: The animation shorts “the Mayfly of Space 1” and “The Mayfly of Space 2”, Clean Openings, Clean Closings, and Japanese Promos.

Commentary:

In the Gundam franchise there are few series that I find above average and Stardust Memory is one of the few. There is still plenty of the over-the-top melodrama and one sided seriousness that I do have to cringe from time to time. Stardust Memory is fairly straight forward and clearly opens with the plot and development of the story.

Overall Grade: B

Without giving anything away I can honestly say that I believe that Gundam and non-Gundam fans will find this to be one of the best written series in the Universal Century saga. I can’t say that the age of the series will help bring people to the table because the animation shows it age and some of the dialogue is standard Gundam diatribe.

With all of the Gundam available I would suggest seeing Char’s Counter Attack before watching Stardust Memories (0083). You would at least have some understanding of what is really going on and maybe even have a little more appreciation of this series and Afterglow of Zeon.

I must admit that it great to see the Gundam universe come back to life.

Kokoro Connect Complete Series (anime review)

Title: Kokoro Connect The Complete TV Series & OVA on Blu-ray

Director: Shinya Kawamo

Studio: Silver Link

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks / Section 23

U. S. Release Date: March 14, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 13 Episodes + 4 OVA / 425 Minutes

Genre: Supernatural, Coming of Age, Romance, Drama, Seinen

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Grade: A

Synopsis:

The five members of the Cultural Study group that meets in class 401 have spent a lot of time wondering what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes. But they’re about to learn that there’s a huge difference between thinking about it and literally BEING in someone else’s shoes! That’s exactly what happens when, suddenly and inexplicably, they each find themselves inside the body of the girl – or boy – next door!

What happens next? Well, besides bringing a whole new meaning to the term “exchange student” and the to-be-expected freaked-out runs to the bathroom, it’s not hard to do the math: take one wrestling geek, the resident cool girl, the class clown, the popular chick and one sultry maid of mystery, scramble thoroughly and divide, and you can bet that pretty soon they’ll be answering ALL of the questions they never wanted to know about the opposite sex in ways they never anticipated!

Commentary:

I always cringe a little when I hear that a show is about people swapping bodies. Kokoro Connect only made me cringe because it is so good and how it manages to hit some genuine nerves with respect to the human condition. I have not felt this strong about a series since AnoHana made to our market. Kokoro Connect goes straight for that dynamic of exploring our relationships and our own frailties.

The animation style reminds me of the simplistic intimacy the K-ON! delivers or many of the other straight forward slice of life series. The one major difference is the solid development of the characters and the superb writing that brings the series to life. Each one of these students have a plenty of experiences that have helped form who they are, but they are just discovering the people they have become and how to move forward. Each are full and rich with plenty to say and it is very easy to become sympathetic toward them and their world.

The one thing that hit me the hardest was the honesty that came from the writing and exposed itself through these characters. This is where it made me cringe because of the way that they allow these characters to expose themselves and the things that they confess. There are things said that I can honestly say I would never expect to hear from anyone, but seeing it in this format makes those comments seem even more honest and revealing.

Overall Grade: A

Kokoro Connect is not for everyone and because of some of the conversations that happen I would say that it should really be rated 16 +. That doesn’t take away from the quality of the series and in fact adds to its overall attractiveness. Don’t expect this to be a sexy romp through adolescence, but rather a honest view of humans at this age and the things that make us who we are. There is one area that the Japanese are great at and they are coming of age stories that tug at our heart strings and Kokoro Connect hits a home run and made it on to my to ten releases. Be sure to check this one out.

Kokoro Connect  found it’s way into a top pick of mine for the series releases and with the addition of the 4 episodes / OVAs it is clear that it is now more than deserving of that list. I loved the way the series explores relationships without turning it into a silly redundant body swapping series. With the added emotion swapping that goes on in these OVAs it gives us another level of complexity and asked the question “how do we hide our feelings from our friends”? Funny thing is that we have all gone through this but not at this level of stress. The way that it is approached is both interesting and painful, but at all times it still keeps us grounded in both the characters humanity and the humanity of the viewers. There are plenty of other series that explore relationships such as Anohana or even Clannad, but Kokoro Connect does something that even they don’t do and that is touch a nerve that is so universal and at the same time so personal that they almost never come up and are almost never discussed among friends. To place young coming of age kids in the position of having to experience what others feel and all the while be bonded together through both friendship and the fact that they are all placed in this position without their consent. These simple factors make the series powerful for what it is and with the added awkwardness of those highly personal secrets rolling out from time to time makes Kokoro Connect something very special.

If you are looking for a series that makes you look at yourself and your friends in a new light then Kokoro Connect should be high on the list.

Similar Anime:

AnoHana: The Flower We Saw That Day, K-ON! , Tari Tari and Hanasaku Iroha are all in line with Kokoro Connect. AnoHana does explore the aspects of relationships and the dark secrets that we all hold back from each other. K-On!, Hanasaku Iroha and Tari Tari follow a much simpler format of exploration of coming of age but they still deal directly with how we discover how to maintain relationships with those close to us as we age and life becomes more complicated. There are plenty of other series that take on relationships and if you want to feel something other than just a punch of adrenaline then you should be sure to pick one of these series up.

Young Black Jack (anime review)

Title: Young Black Jack: Complete Collection on Blu-ray

Director: Mitsuko Kase

Studio: Tezuka Production

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: Feb. 7th, 2007

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Age Rating: TV MA

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

The year is 1968, the war in Vietnam is approaching its zenith, and the counterculture movement that’s been sweeping the world is engulfing Japan. While others are in the streets protesting, one young medical student becomes embroiled in a different kind of battle.

As new medical technologies to save and extend lives come into play, the temptation for a surgeon to play God has never been so powerful. Even as he strives to prove his own skills to his colleagues, Hazama Kuroo begins to suspect that the potentials for abuse inherent in the medical system are already being exploited.

To attempt to change the system means risking his own promising career as a surgeon, and to move against the perpetrators will put his own life in danger. However, as a doctor, how can he not act when lives are on the line?

The diagnosis is murder as the origin of Osamu Tezuka’s legendary rogue surgeon Black Jack is finally revealed in YOUNG BLACK JACK!

Commentary:

In the world of manga / anime few names take on the cult status that Tezuka does. Even the great Myazaki concedes that Osuma Tezuka was a undeniable force in the 1960s. The one thing that Osuma Tezuka did not do was to give us the rich and dramatic early days of Black Jack. This series produced after the legend has passed is far above anything I expected and stands out as one of favorite characters and stories derived from the Tezuka legacy. Young Black Jack provides plenty of drama and a wonderful dose of excitement.

Overall Grade: A-

If I was on the design staff for this series I would have brought up the one glaring issues with the character development. It has to be the unevenness of the character design. I know that there will always be a group that want to stay true to the strange and somewhat silly character design that is trademark Tezuka, but for this series it would have made more sense to make them all look more contemporary than the silly bulbous headed people that show up in the series. There is an uneven mix of normal looking characters and the silly Tezuka people. All I can do is ask why, it looks silly and detracts from the solid aspects of the anime.

To be perfectly honest I see Young Black Jack as something more than a Tezuka product, but rather a drama that continues to prove that humanity may need to be saved and at the same time not saved. I felt this way with other series like Black Lagoon and Darker Than Black. It just seems that Young Black Jack highlights the futility in our world and that giving all of yourself still may not be enough.

All you Tezuka fans get ready to be overjoyed and everyone else please try to get over the poor character design and look at the series as a whole. You will be very surprised and discover the deeper thoughts that run many anime that relate to a very easter way of thinking. So, be sure to check out Young Black Jack you will be happy you did.