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Dive!! The Complete Collection (anime review)

Title: Dive!! The Complete Collection

Director: Kaoru Suzuki

Written By: Tōko Machida

Studio: Zero-G

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: Dec. 11th, 2018

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Sports, Drama, Comedy, Slice of Life

Age Rating: PG

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

Tomoko Sakai has loved the sport of diving since he was a child, and there’s no place he’d rather be than the high board at the Mizuki Diving Club. Unfortunately, the MDC’s having hard time staying afloat financially and there’s a sinking certainty that the club is about to drown in a sea of its own debt. Fiery female coach Kayoko Asaki has a bold plan to throw the club a lifeline, but it’s going to require achieving something that’s almost impossible: get one of the club’s members on the National team for the next Olympics! Can this struggling group of young athletes pool their talents in time to resuscitate their club, or will they make the ultimate belly flop? It’s time to sink or swim as the whole team leaps for the gold!

Commentary:

Dive!! jumps into the deep end of the many sports and swimming anime that have littered the screen over the last few years thanks to the popularity series like Free and Haikyu!!. Most of the series that come out tend to be heavy on sports and drama and light on character development and substance. Dive!! on the other hand play lightly with the sport and focuses on the character development. This helps the short series rise to a level most don’t manage to find.

Being a serious fan of Haikyu!! I expect a sports anime to give me more that just cheesecake I want to care about these young athletes and really want to see then succeed. Dive!! manages to provide me with 3 characters that each have their own reason to compete and also have good reason to become friends. The fact that we don’t have the revenge rivalry amounts these 3 is great. They have their reasons to compete and go for the top, but they also see the best in each other. Often you find a team spirit that is only at the surface with some other deep seeded envy or unhealthy competitive nature lurking in the dark areas of the characters existence. Dive!! makes these young athletes friends before they become true competitors which helps them root for each other in a very natural way. That in itself would make the series work watching, but add that to full character development and you have a solid series that makes you smile more often than not.

Overall Garde: B+

I know you are asking why is it that I praised the series so highly and only give it a B+. The answer is simple, there series is just way too short. Everything seems to flow naturally through the first 10 episodes then like a flurry the story is wrapped up. There is a rush to complete that both disappoints and also lets these wonderful characters down. I wanted to learn more about all three of these main characters and get a better feeling of the struggles they each have to go through. In other words the series let itself down by being so short.

The rest of the production was solid from the animation to the voice acting. There were a few moments that I felt a softer tough with cell shading would have worked better, but they are not paying me to be a technical advisor so I guess that is just a personal issue.

If you enjoy sports anime and are looking for a quick fix then all I can say if Dive!! into it, you will walk away with a smile.

 

 

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! -Take On Me- (anime review)

Title: Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! -Take On Me-

Director: Tatsuya Ishihara

Studio: Kyoto Animation

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: November 20th, 2018

Format: Blu-ray, Feature Film, 94 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life, Romance

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: A

Synopsis:

Yuta and Rikka may have finally started to come to terms with the various delusions that have run their lives, but as their relationship becomes progressively more real, their development as a couple seems to be increasingly in danger of stalling out! When your relationship is partially the result of a series of fantasies, what can reality serve up that’s equal to the make-believe?

Rikka’s sister decides that she’s going to move to Italy and take Rikka with her, and the solution that Rikka and Yuta decide on is both improbably logical and unrealistically practical: They’re going to elope! For real! Get ready for the ultimate fantasy road trip as our two young would-be lovers take off a whirlwind tour of the real Japan in Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! -Take On Me-

Commentary:

Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! -Take On Me- takes us further along in the saga of Rikka and Yuta which finally gives us some real closure on their relationship in ways that make total sense and feel very natural for such an absurdist type of romance anime. Honestly, the struggle for these characters to deal with their chunibyo is worth the watch and at the same time begin to understand that the real world has a great deal to offer.

This installment of the series points us to a bright future for everyone and allows us to continue to like everyone for who they are and not what others might want them to be. Yuta may just be the only one that understands this more than anyone but he also appears to be further along on his road to maturity than the other, especially Rikka.

The real fun to the film is the way they all interact to help Rikka and Yuta evade Toka. The beauty is that there is a symmetry to everything that goes on and a blast of humor that does not deny the original series.

Overall Grade: A

I am often worried when I come across short films that could be nothing more than toss of money grabs for a series. In the case of Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! -Take On Me- it is clear from the very beginning that the intent is to tell even more of the store and find a wonderful stopping point for the story. Now I can’t be sure that the series is done with this film, but I would not be disappointed if it is. I feel like I can believe that they will all be fine as they mature and that Rikka will grow into a beautiful person who maintains a rich fertile imagination that will blend perfectly with Yuta’s pragmatism.

For all the fans of the series I know you will not be let down by Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions! -Take On Me-.

A Spirit Of The Sun (anime review)

Title: A Spirit of the Sun on Blu-ray

Director: Masayuki Kojima

Studio: Madhouse

U. S. Distributor: Maiden Japan, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: June 19th, 2018

Format: Blu-ray, 2 Episode TV Special, 154 Minutes

Genre: Drama, Seinen

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis: 

In the movie A Spirit of the Sun, it was the worst-case scenario. When the twin disasters of the eruption of Mt. Fuji and a massive earthquake hit Japan, the island nation was literally shattered and torn in two. With millions dead and the life-sustaining national infrastructure destroyed, mass evacuation of much of the country’s population was the only alternative.

But now the Japanese refugees living in Taiwan find themselves in conflict with the native citizens. There’s not enough work, the living conditions are terrible, and what remains of Japan is occupied by China in the North and the U.S. in the south. Genichiro Ryu is just one of the survivors, but having been adopted by Taiwanese parents, he has a foot in both worlds and seeks to find a way to bring peace between the conflicting sides in the movie A Spirit of the Sun directed by Masayuki Kojima.

Commentary:

The Japanese have a history of telling very sad stories about major strife, devastation and the struggle to survive. A Spirit of the Sun is no different. It really shows off the real trouble that can come from nature and economic disaster and reminds us of how fragile our world is. I’m not too sure the American audience will understand this concept too well, but I do know that other film like Grave of the Firefly and Barefoot Jen have found some rather interesting fans in our country.

In the case of A Spirit of the Sun we see how hard life can be when you are the outsider in a country that has old deep feelings toward you. I think it is rather poignant in todays environment with the travel ban having just been upheld by the Supreme Court. I guess a world where we can live together without hatred and anger just isn’t possible.

Overall Grade: B

I think in may ways I wish this could have been just a little better. I found the animation to be relatively low quality even for 2006 production and some of the writing felt overhanded. I get that the story is trying to teach something very important, but see it as missing the mark just a little.

I also find it rather interesting that the Japanese could see bigotry and hatred coming from the sides without being more open about their own nationalism that exists. I guess that there is some discourse here that show the separation and hope along with a vision that just might bring some understanding in its wake.

I would recommend A Spirit of the Sun if for nothing else to see how so many Japanese still have a inferiority complex that plays itself out in these types of stories.

Girlish Number: Complete Collection

Title: Girlish Number: Complete Collection on Blu-ray

Director: Shota Ibata

Writer: Wataru Watari

Studio: Diomedea

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: March 6th, 2018

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: C

Synopsis:

Chitose Karasuma wants to make it big as a voice actor, but while she looks and sounds adorable, she’s also self-absorbed, inattentive, selfish, and lazy. However, since her manager is also her big brother, she’s still getting bit parts and dreaming of landing the big role that will make her famous.

Unfortunately, karma bites Chitose in the worst way possible when her big chance finally arrives, because the producers who’ve hired her are even more clueless than she is! Now, she’s trapped in a nightmare production where nothing goes right, the ratings are in the toilet, and swimsuit photos and live stage shows take priority over making quality programming! Can Chitose and her fellow trapped actresses turn things around and save their careers? Or will they all go down with the sinking ship?

Commentary:

I am always a sucker for a fun easy slice of life anime and Girlish Number fits the bill. Of course you have to navigate through all of the silliness to get to some meaning. In the case of Girlish number you are given a look into voice actors and their approach to dealing with other voice actors. Most of them are rather fake about how they portray themselves and at times it becomes a little annoying. Chitose is one of the biggest offenders of this fake persona which  is my main problem with the series.

Overall Grade: C

Girlish Number peeked my interest because of my affection for these types of Slice of Life anime, but in the end it fell a little flat for me. I was thinking that I would find some connection with Chitose and what I found was something much different. I ended up siding with the more seasoned and crass voice actors who did not hide their feeling or persona the way Chitose did. Of course we did get to see who she really was, but it took some time and several episodes of cringe worthy character development.

The overall production values of the series are high enough to help keep the viewer entertained and they followed the tried and true artistic stylings of most girl centered slice of life anime that made it pleasing to watch. The one area that I was really disappointed with was the writing , but of course it may have been too real to make me want to enjoy the story. From the incompetency of the producer and director to the general lack of motivation of the production staff and the off putting personalities of the voice actors I found the series difficult to get into.

If what you want in an anime is a look at the voice acting world and some of the trouble with anime production then Girlish Number is right up your ally.

 

 

 

 

 

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Complete Collection Blu-Ray (anime Review)

series was reviewed by Andrew and Katie

Title: My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Complete Collection Blu-Ray

Director: Ai Yoshimura

Studio: Brian’s Base

Author: Shotaro Suga

U.S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U.S. Release Date: March 13rd, 2018

Format and Length: Blu-ray / 25 Episodes / 650 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Romance, School

Industry Age Rating: 14 and up

Overall Personal Rating: B

Similar Series or Titles to Check Out: The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, WataMote: No Matter How I Look At It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Unpopular, Haganai, and Haganai: NEXT

Synopsis:

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Complete Collection contains episodes 1-13 of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU and episodes 1-12 of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU TOO!

Caution! Opposites may attract, but putting them together may result in chemical burns, electric shocks, and explosions. Enter Hachiman Hikigaya, a pessimistic high school student with no friends and absolutely no interest in making any, and the firm belief that everyone else’s cherished high school experiences are either delusions or outright lies. Hachiman finds himself forcibly coerced by his well-meaning student advisor into joining the one member Service Club. There he encounters club founder Yukino Yukinoshita, a smart, attractive, walking superiority complex who looks down on the entire student body.

These two negative personalities are quick to attract Yui Yuigahama, who’s cute, bright, cheerful, and needs the Service Club’s help to… bake cookies as she should not be allowed in a kitchen by herself. Is this a recipe for romance or the precursor for a nuclear meltdown? Will there be cookies or a reason for everyone to play hooky? Get ready for rom-com gone totally wrong as the three members of the Service Club is unleashed on the unsuspecting student body!

The stampede of recent events may have herded the awkward members of the Service Club into something closer to a real bonding, but the upcoming field trip to Kyoto threatens to reverse those tiny steps forward. Alongside a list of attractions to see, they will also be taking along a lot of emotional baggage, and helping others with their personal and romantic issues may just cause the entire luggage rack to collapse.

Between Hachiman’s growing realization of how much he can manipulate others, Yukino’s underlying battles with responsibility, and Yui’s shifting needs and insecurities, the tenuous thread that holds their relationship together is more fragile than ever. Even as the path ahead is strewn with psychological traps, the feelings that each of them refuse to acknowledge may end up being the true pitfall in My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Too!: Complete Collection.

Commentary:

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU: The Complete Collection is the opposite of a rom-com but at the same time it is one as well it just depends on the episode. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU: The Complete Collection gives you a fresh and exciting spin on anime stereotypes that will leave you bawling in laughter. The storyline is mostly episodic and character-driven. The last few episodes flow together but the rest of the episodes do not need to be watched in order after the first episode.

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU: The Complete Collection really gets its characters and empathizes with them, but it does not make excuses for them. The characters are wonderful and well thought-out. Hachiman Hikigaya, or Hiki, is your cynical and somewhat pessimistic lead male character and his dissections of everyday occurrences and his appreciation for the little things in life bring hilarity to the story. The way he thinks and acts changes drastically throughout the course of the show as he meets new people and learns more about how to be a friend. Yukino Yukinoshita is the incredibly cunning and calculative tsundere of the series. She and Hiki are in the same boat when referring to lack of friends because she lacks them due to her perceived perfection and elitist attitude; while Hiki lacks them for his mistrust of others and cynical behavior. It was amazing to watch them grow on each other in a way that is not very predictable, but extremely well done. Yiu Yiugahama is the air-headed and inexplicable nice member of the group and serves as the glue that sticks them together with her much needed comical outbreaks and genuine emotions.

The animators brought these characters to life and it was amazing to watch. The character designs were bright and the facial expressions added the realism to the series. The opening and closing songs were fun to listen to and were easy to sing-along with. The voice actors did a great job and helped bring the characters to life before your eyes.

I loved the first season and I was really looking forward to the conclusion that My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Too!: Complete Collection would give the story. Boy was I wrong about that conclusion because Hachiman, Yukino, and Yui end up not talking about their feelings at all and instead shove them all to the side so they can just be friends. There was no plot progression, actually it crawled at a snail’s pace and never really went anywhere, and the characters did not change or develop at all.

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU Too!: Complete Collection starts off where the first season left off at the school festival and Hachiman’s behavior is explained to some degree. Then they all go off to Kyoto and that is where all the problems for our three main characters start. Hachiman decides to go off and change the outcome of one of the club’s projects and they did not care at all for how he handled it. Yukino’s older sister comes back into the story and just causes all sorts of trouble and eventually brings their mother into the picture because she is worried that Yukino is just copying her older sister and not becoming her own person. That situation is what forces Yukino to set her true feelings aside and it changed her personality. Yui is just too shy to say her true feelings and instead just wants everyone to be friends and get along. She knows that cannot happen but she still pushes for it every chance she gets.

The animation changed a bit from the first season but it still looks great. The colors are bright and lively and the backgrounds do not detract from the characters. The voice actors did a great job as always. The opening and closing animations were catchy and I found myself singing along with them within a few episodes.

Overall Grade: B

My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU: The Complete Collection has made it onto my list of favorite series and I found it quite enjoyable. It is a refreshing and interesting take on the rom-com genre. It is great that Sentai Filmworks has put both together in one package.

Tanaka-kun is Always Listless (anime review)

Title: Tanaka-kun is Always Listless on Blu-ray

Director: Shin’ya Kawatsura

Writer: Akemi Omode

Music by: Hiromi Mizutani

Studio: Silver Link

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: Jan. 30th, 2018

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes/ 300 Minutes

Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life

Age Rating: PG

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

Tanaka-kun can’t help it. Put him someplace nice and warm, and he’ll start nodding off, even in class or on the way to school. You would think that this would eat into Tanaka’s social life, but, fortunately, our consciousness-challenged protagonist has a guardian angel in the form of his best friend Ohta, a gentle giant who (literally) carries Tanaka from place to place. Then there’s class-rep Shiraishi, who’s convinced that Tanaka’s unique perspective lets him see past her beautiful appearance; Miyano, their hyper pint-sized classmate who somehow becomes Tanaka’s unwanted apprentice in listlessness; and Echizen, a self-proclaimed delinquent who’s determined to fight him. As for Tanaka, being the center of attention is the last place he wants to be, but the world just won’t leave him alone.

Commentary:

I find Tanaka-kun is Always Listless to be a very interesting series. That fact that someone that sleepy has such devoted fiends says a lot about the Japanese culture. Tanaka being one of the most tied characters in all of anime manages to lead a full ice life. If he were in an western series he would be a side character who manages to get in the way every once in a while, but to see him have not just friends but a cute girl who has a crush on him is outrageous at best.

Tanaka-kun is Always Listless has a full variety of characters and that is where it really shines. I found Ohta to be one of the more interesting character with his stoic manner and unwavering friendship to be spot on. Most of the rest of the group are standard fair for most slice of life anime, but with this series you get to enjoy them in a much different way because of Tanaka and his sleepy nature.

Overall Grade: A-

Tanaka-kun is Always Listless hits the mark on many levels and even though it has its slow moments I found it to be vey likable. I would not recommend Tanaka-kun is Always Listless if you are tired because you might fall asleep just watching Tanaka and his listless nature.

I did find the animation style to be perfect of the series and the English voice actors did a great job with understanding their character. Most of the overall production was spot on. The only area where I found any issues was with some of the basic plot line and character development of a couple of the secondary character.

I found it to be a much more positive experience than with some of the other recent slice of life series and would suggest that if you are looking for something that is straight up funny thenTanaka-kun is Always Listless is of you.

 

Initial D Legend 1 Awakening (anime review)

Title: Initial D Legend 1 Awakening

Director: Masamitsu Hidaka, Tomohito Naka (co-director)

Studio: Sanzigen & Liden Films

Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

Release Date: Dec. 5th, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / Feature Film / 60 minutes

Genre: Car Racing, Coming of Age

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B

Synopsis:

In Initial D Legend 1: Awakening, when aspiring racer Koichiro Iketani witnesses an unplanned street duel between Keisuke Takahashi, a member of a rival race team, and a mysterious Toyota Sprinter Trueno AE86, Koichiro’s totally blown away by the skill of the 86’s driver. What Koichiro doesn’t know is that the driver is fellow gas station attendant Takumi Fujiwara, who was making a late-night tofu delivery for his father, a legendary Mt. Akina driver himself.

Unforeseen events are about to springboard Takumi into the center of the street-racing world, turning the rivalry between Iketani’s Akina Speedsters and Takahashi’s Akagi Red Suns into an all-out street war! The legendary series that introduced the west to the sport of drift racing is reinvented in an all new feature film that’s even faster and more furious than ever before: NEW THEATRICAL MOVIE INITIAL D LEGEND 1: AWAKENING!

Commentary:

Initial D is one of those series that has lasted the test of time even though the cars have shown their age there is something very real about teenage boys and cars. That is really the only thing that Initial D Awakening has going for it. I know that if I were still in my 20’s or even my 30’s I would be all over this film, but I found it rather single minded and lacked a depth that I was hoping for. The fact that the natural racer (Takumi) doesn’t really care about racing and is just doing it to get home faster. There is also the connection between Takumi’s father and his racing history that is way to easy and somewhat disappointing.

The plot does hold up and Awakening does a great job of setting us up for the second film. The animation is good and the work that went into the races really paid off. There is also an attention to detail on the cars that I found interesting and reassuring. The voice acting was much more typical and fell apart at time and lent itself to the typical American answer of overacting for some of the core characters that tend to add a tension that isn’t needed.

Overall Grade: B

Initial D Legend 1: Awakening has everything any Initial D fan will need to make them very happy. It is also a great film for any young man between the age of 15 and 40 who is into cars. This gives a very special depiction of Drifting and what made it so very special in the 80’s and 90’s.

It is always fun to get a feeling for the beginning of a story line and get a sense of what these beloved characters were all about before the original series began. Initial D Legend 1: Awakening does several things very well and a few thing not so well. The biggest issue for me is that the film is broken into two films and maybe should have been edited so that it is just one full length film.

Initial D fans get your motors running!

Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto (anime review)

Title: Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto on Blu-ray

Director: Shinji Takamatsu

Studio: Studio Deen

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: Nov. 21, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 13 Episodes / 325 Minutes

Genere: Slice of Life, Comedy

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: A-

Synopsis:

Step into classroom 1-2 and meet the coolest guy in school. In fact, Sakamoto may just be the coolest guy ever. And that’s not just because he makes his student uniform and glasses look like a fashion magazine cover. There’s also the fact that nothing ever seems to surprise or rattle him. The girls are all crazy for him, of course, but even the most macho delinquents start to feel a little funny when he’s around.

However, Sakamoto never seems to notice, let alone take advantage of the attention. He’s too busy being cool and mysterious without even trying! This does drive some people crazy, but the more someone tries to challenge Sakamoto, the more they start to fall under his spell. Intrigued? Then come join the class and get a lesson in cool from the master in Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto!

Commentary:

Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto! is something of a dilemma anime for me. On one hand I think it is great and makes you want to be that extra cool Sakamoto, but on the other hand I feel like it is a one note anime. There is just too much thing to upstage or discover any flaws in Sakamoto that I feel as though the series is missing a great opportunity to make a average person manage to get through High School by just being very cool. Instead they make Sakamoto cool without trying to be cool.

I know it may seem petty and in fact I see the series as a true hit and yet I still don’t connect with the character they way I wish I could have. Of course it is more important to connect with the other characters to make the series worth while.

Overall Grade: A-

I realize that this is a high grade for a series that I believe has some serious flaws and in a way I am just another hypocrite falling in line with all of the other anime fans who like this series. I did find the other students to be worthy of my fandom and also enjoyed seeing them fail at all of their attempt to trip Sakamoto up or even discover his first name. I am just a weak as everyone else that has seen and enjoyed Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto.

As far as the animation, voice acting and overall production of the series, I would have to say that it was above average but not something to write home about. I could say there was any real standouts or major failure. That for me is a job well done and should be recognized for the effort put into the series to make it work a seamlessly as they did.

If you always wondered how the really cool kids managed to be really cool then don’t watch Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto because, it will only fool you to think they didn’t even try. If you want to watch a series and realize that you are just like all the other students then Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto is just the medicine you need.

 

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

Bakuon!! Complete Collection (anime review)

Title: Bakuon!! Complete Collection

Director: Junji Nishimura

Written By: Kurasumi Sunayama

Studio: TMS Entertainment

U. S. Distributor: Sentai Filmworks, Section 23

U. S. Release Date: Aug. 22, 2017

Format: Blu-ray / 12 Episodes / 300 Minutes

Genre: Slice of Life, Comedy

Age Rating: TV 14

Overall Personal Rating: B+

Synopsis:

Riding a bicycle may be better than walking, but when another girl zips past her on the way to class, Sakura Hane realizes that there’s an even better option: motorcycles! Fortunately, Sakura’s all-girl school just happens to have a motorcycle club! It only has one member though: the mysterious Raimu Kawasaki, who’s never been seen without her face-obscuring helmet. But that changes immediately once Sakura and the girl who passed her, Onsa Amano, sign up and start recruiting!

It won’t all be easy riding… Sakura still has to earn her license, and there are problems like the club’s official status having slipped, and the need to recruit a faculty sponsor. But when the rubber hits the road, those are just little potholes as six student bikers take a ride on the wild side!

Commentary:

Bakuon!! is simply K-On! on motorcycles or one of the other many girl high school clubs slice of life series that manage to tug at that the heart strings and manage to give us all a reminder that somewhere in the world teenage girls are not possessed with being mean or crappy like they are in the U. S. Ok, that might have been a little harsh, but in reality the current media fixation on mean girls is breading a new generation of teenage girls that are crappy at best. Bakuon!! is the opposite. It gives us girls that may not always get along but they still care enough to show kindness to each other when it matters.

Bakuon!! may not reach the classic hight of K-On! but it still manages to give us some rather wonderful slice of life moments and plenty of humor to keep the viewer coming back for more. Bakuon!! also manages to avoid the trap of Love Live or Cinderella Girls and tends to stick with the much simpler trappings of a bike club. There is some mystery and suspense when it comes to their senpai Raimu.

Overall Grade: B+

I make no secret that I enjoy these simple slice of life anime and see the easy noncommittal viewing that comes with them. Bakuon!! manages to hit all the points that make it worth watching and enjoying.

The animation quality is good and so is the character design and approach to highlighting the motorcycles they ride. There is a solid attention to where they took the series adding in plenty of humor and bizarre happenings that it is easy to stay with the series. I can’t tell if Rin’s father is immortal or just very lucky.

Bakuon!! is one for the books it may not be a solid A but it sure is a series worth checking out. I just hope it doesn’t fall by the wayside in favor of mediocre series like Attack on Titan when the real hope and allure of anime is not how mucho it can be like western comics, but rather how much it can showcase the eastern idealism and philosophy that makes it so powerful.

Bakuon!!, check it out you won’t be disappointed.