Violet Evergarden is set in a steampunk universe in which technology, other than metal prosthetics, is at the 19th century level, and the main character is a girl that was used as an elite child soldier in a terrible war who now has to find a purpose in a civilian life. She takes on the job of a "auto memory doll", a person who needs to put into words the feelings of others. That's a bit of a stretch, because she doesn't know how to feel herself... it's like me taking on a job in psychology or artistic design so as to learn a new skill. Certainly great for me, but kind of sucks for my employer!

Anyway, the animation is really well done and the acting is top notch. The story itself is beautiful, even if at times inconsistent. After watching the 14 episodes of the first season, I was itching for more, only to hear from a colleague that the studio responsible for the animation, Kyoto Animation, was destroyed in a terrible arson attack. That doesn't bode well for a sequel, yet a spin-off film had already been announced, so who knows?

Bottom line: it's not for everyone. PTSD romance, I would call it. But it nicely animated and I liked the story. I felt that the characters were a bit off, but not annoyingly so. Here is a trailer, in English:

Paranoia Agent (or Delusion Agent, maybe) is an anime by famous anime director Satoshi Kon, unfortunately killed by cancer in 2010. His work is always more than it seems, focusing on the inner worlds of people and how they all perceive things differently.

The anime is only 13 episodes and starts with a simple case of violent assault on the street and then becomes stranger and stranger until it is not clear which is real and which is in someone's head. It critiques the repressive Japanese society and human nature in general, it goes from police procedural to slapstick comedy, from horror to psychological drama. The ending is, as they say, a mystery that doesn't stay solved for long. I quite liked the anime and I recommend it highly. It is rarer and rarer to find Japanese anime which is not derivative or simply idiotic.

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos is the film that banks on the hunger of Alchemists all over the world after the Brotherhood series ended. It is not a sequel, just a full feature film happening sometime around the 21st episode of the series. The story is complicated: three nations in turmoils, alchemy of all sorts, chimeras and in the middle of it all: Ed and Al, fighting for what is right.

I liked the story, it hit a lot of sour points of the present, with large nations literally shitting on smaller ones, while they can only maintain their dignity by hanging on old myths that give them moral rights over some God forsaken territory. What I didn't particularly enjoy were the characters and the details of the plot. There were many holes and, in all, no sympathetic characters. The few promising ones were only barely sketched, while the main ones were kind of dull. The animation also felt lazy. If this was supposed to be a send off for the characters, it exceeded its purpose, as now I am considering if I would have even enjoyed a series made in such a lazy way.

So, bottom line, part cash grab, part great concept. A promising film that reminded me of the series I loved so much a decade ago, but failed to rekindle the hunger I felt when the series ended. Goodbye, Elric brothers!

I've watched several lackluster recent Japanese animes from Netflix and I was feeling bored and disappointed with the clichés spouted by almost every character, most of them as cardboard as they can be. So when I started with Devilman Crybaby, a very original show both from the standpoint of the manga it adapts and the animation style, I was hoping for not being bored. And I wasn't. The show is fast, jumping from scene to scene and asking the viewer to extrapolate what happened in between. The characters are complex and seldom critical of one aspect or another of society, or representing such negative treats. Violence and sex are everywhere, although they are often depicted as kinds of vices and impulses that people have to fight against. The animation style is weirdly psychedelic. So did I like it? Not really.

Even from the beginning I was off put by the animation style. It's paradoxically both artistic and very simple. It made me think of Aeon Flux (the MTV animated series), which had several other things in common with this, as well. But I didn't let it bother me and I continued watching. As I said before, the characters are complex and the story is meandering around the peculiarities of each of them, which made it interesting. However, the plot was full of holes! Things that were "revealed" later on were evident from the beginning, people acted in weird ways that were eroding the suspension of disbelief. There were fights, but simplistic in nature and more inline with the symbolism that the author was so hard on. There were substories, but kept to a bare minimum. Do you see a pattern already?

Yes, in its entirety, things that were not important to the philosophical message that the anime wanted to make were abstracted, simplified or removed altogether. It is hard to enjoy any of it after you've got the memo. Even worse, perhaps because of its heavy (handed) symbolism, all the articles and reviews online praise it as a masterpiece. I said it before and I will say it again: just because it is not the usual crap it doesn't mean it's good. There are so many sorts of crap. You read two or three of them, discussing "what they meant", and you realize they are as full of shit as the makers of the anime. If you need to explain what you meant, the joke wasn't very good!

To be less of a dick about it, the show has many redeeming qualities, that is why I can't discuss too much the particulars without spoiling it, and you might want to watch it. However, to me, those qualities were wasted in the pseudo spiritual and moral bullshit that suffused the show. One alleviating circumstance is the source material, written in the 70s, which I have not read, so I can't really compare, but it was the 70s. Weird and wonderful stuff came from back then. This is mostly just weird. And I really hated the title.

Here is the trailer:


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What do you do if you want to make an anime that would be successful not only in Japan, but everywhere Netflix is watched? You take a bit of every successful anime and mix it all together. This is how you get the kingdom of Cremona, set somewhere in a nondescript time that has 1960's cars and cellphones and a nondescript place that looks like Europe, where experiments with the bones of god like creatures leads to superpowerful beings that are super crazy fast and shout Nipponisms with every opportunity: win and lose (in life, but seen as a game), protecting (someone, something, anything) just so your life makes some sense, "I will kill you with my own hands" and so on and so on, but also super smart detectives that figure things out, all for the sake of energetic, smart, cute and ultimately pointless much younger girls. But wait, there is more: there are crazy psychopaths that kill people and are super smart. There are arrogant evil people that have a lot of power, but are ultimately crazy, and which act as if everything and everybody is beneath them. And of course, all the fighting is done with magical swords and henchmen die quicker and with less talk than bosses, who are not particularly strong, but they just yap and yap and yap.

The anger that you see expressed in my review is related not so much to the mediocrity of the anime, but to the potential that it had. The animation is well done, the sets are good, the story is... ahem... workable. And yet they press every button that was ever pressed and add absolutely nothing new. B: The Beginning even has the gall to believe it will spawn sequels, so whatever else they had in mind they left it for later. I would say that's typical DragonBall Z, but that should apply to Saiyans not anime shows! You don't leave the good part for the end of the battle! You don't level up your writing only when you see that everybody is bored already.

Bottom line: the writing was the biggest flaw of this series: unimaginative and inconsistent, with tiresome dialogues and brutal switches of emotional context that made even the most motivated viewer break stride. The rest was always just good enough, with no evidence of any effort for reaching greatness. As mediocre as it can possibly be.

Unfortunately, being typical is not a good thing. All characters in A.I.C.O. Incarnation are manga clichés and the few interesting sci-fi ideas are obliterated by the lack of courage in showing body horror and the obvious gaps in logic. The most promising, yet underdelivered concept is that of consciousness and identity. What would happen if brains and bodies were swapped, changed, mingled, etc. This could have been great if each episode explored some way the "malignant matter" affected biology and consciousness, but in truth, less than half of an episode really approaches the idea.

In short, the story follows a group of "Divers" who go into a biological infested area in order to stop said infestation and save people. They have to battle amorphous blob like monsters and government officials and mad scientists to get to their goal. Obviously they are all young and rash and falling in love and trying to protect people and making honor bound promises and so on. It was so by the book that it became nauseating. I think a heavily cut video edit of the first and last two episodes would more than cover the entire series.

It is good that Netflix is paying for more anime adaptations, but this one is not that worthwhile. Still 29 to go, though :) Here is a trailer, if you are still interested:


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Literally translating to "The town where only I am missing", Boku dake ga Inai Machi presents (what else?) a manga artist with no life or future who finds out he can transfer his consciousness in the past, fixing things that went wrong. Of course, the worse thing that ever happened to him was living through a killer's series of murders of some of his school classmates. Another traumatic experience makes him, now 29 years old, transfer his consciousness in the past, during his childhood years, and determined to find and stop the killer.

Now, this might not seem particularly captivating, only the solution for saving the children is not to investigate clues or stake out locations or alert adults, but using the tools a mere child has: making friends, being around the lonely people the killer seems to target. This has an impact on the man's life, but also on that of the people around. In the end, it's a call to end self alienation by connecting and doing good things to people close to you. The title is a metaphor to the impact a person has on their environment. What if you never were? Would things change? The English title - Erased - is the one licensed for the US market and has little to do with the plot.

The anime is nicely drawn, if not spectacular, the Japanisms are pretty common, the story is sort of predictable, so the only true positive thing about the show is the mood and moral. I can't recommend it to everybody, but I personally enjoyed it. It has just 12 episodes and so it's like 4 hours in total. Here is a trailer:


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Bastard!! is an adaptation of the manga with the same name. The manga itself is ongoing, but very slowly. At the moment of the writing it had 138 chapters. The genre of it is magical fights in an action comedy kind of style. Bob Samurai has a video review of it.

For myself I have to say that I had fun watching it, in a mindless "I come from work and I don't feel like doing anything" kind of way, but it wasn't that special in plot, animation or feeling. The "anti-hero" is actually the typical hero that does incredible good deeds for the love of women and the biggest source of humor are the few lines peppered throughout the episodes that break the fourth wall. Stuff like "What would have been the purpose of defeating that guy when we were off screen" or "a handsome hero like myself couldn't possible lose to one as ugly as you". The manga is a little bit more about the scoundrel nature of the main character - as it should be, there are 70 chapters (the Host of Shadows) covered by mere 6 episodes of the OVA - but it is also rather different from the anime: more story detail, more types of magic, etc. Probably the OVA, as quick dirty fun as it was, is not a very good one, since it relays only bits and pieces of the manga.

One can watch the anime at AnimeDreaming, read the manga at MangaHere and watch BobSamurai's video review on YouTube.

Shinsekai Yori, translated as From the New World in English, is the anime adaptation of the homonymous book from 2008, written by Yusuke Kishi. It shows, too, as the subjects touched are deep, the characters are complex and the story is wonderful. It is a true sci-fi, not only set into the far future, but also using serious concepts such as what it means to be human, what is the price of peace and questioning if we can ever change as a species and as a culture.

It is a complete plot told in 25 episodes, well animated, but I wouldn't call the animation special, yet the story is certainly worth it. If you want to compare it with something, try a combination between The Village and some fantasy kid school movie. While it begins like a post apocalyptic version of Harry Potter, it quickly turns into a discussion about the sacrifices required to preserve peace. It doesn't just stop at the young adult audience, but continues with new and new twists until it feels like you have a collection of stories that just happen to follow one another, yet they are very connected. The film is filled with Japanese ways of seeing the world, from the absolute obedience towards authority to the horror they instinctively feel when talking about mass destruction, but also random cruelty based on a class system, or that sense of duty that permeates everything everybody does, or girls always stumbling or being interrupted by men when they talk and told what to do. However, it doesn't stop there and it explains, in a way, why things are like that and what are their consequences.

In the end, you feel like humanity has been deconstructed and its ways of functioning laid bare and put to trial. I liked the characters and the emotional rollercoaster the anime has put me through. Really nice, Hollywood should take heed on how to do a good story and put it into motion. I highly recommend it.

I took the name of the anime from a YouTube video, recommending it as one with a great twist in it. I watched for two episodes as the main protagonist, an ordinary guy in a Japanese highschool, starts talking to a strange girl (Haruhi Suzumiya) in his class, gets coopted in a mad scheme to create a club that investigates mysteries - specifically aliens, time travelers or espers, then adding the three other members of the club. I thought it was going to be about this club actually investigating something. But no, in the third episode we realize that the three other members are an alien, a time traveler and an esper. Soon after we find out that they know about each other and that each of them and, indeed, their entire race/organization were figments of Haruhi's imagination made reality. Haruhi apparently has the ability to create entire universes, essentially making her a goddess, albeit unknowingly.

So far so good, but then for 28 episodes I waited for anything interesting to happen. Where was that amazing twist? Apparently, the twist was that she was some supernatural phenomenon and that's it. The rest is just a typical cliched Japanese high-school story, the one where the lead character is a male boy surrounded by beautiful girls that have an almost undisclosed interest in him and that do crazy stuff together. When the last episode wasn't even closing the series, I got really mad. It was a complete waste of my time. Ugh!

OK, I have no idea what most Japanese titles want to say. Is this about a parasite who is also a short, pithy statement expressing a general truth or rule of conduct? No, it is not. Parasyte is about a guy who gets infected by an alien metamorph, but somehow he manages to contain the infected area to his right arm. As a result, he maintains his personality, but now has a powerful alien as his right arm. It can change shape, it is very intelligent and it is generally useful when dealing with other afflicted, who usually have their brain infested, and thus are alien in their entirety.

Of course, being a Japanese anime, our hero is a high school male student after which a number of girls are pining for no good reason and that he has to fight to protect. No scenes of using his versatile tentacle arm on these girls, though. There are also some discussions about the role of these parasites and/or humans in the world, a vague ecologist propaganda that really has nothing to do with the plot and lots and lots of gore. The interaction between the human highschooler and the amoral and fiercely individualistic alien makes for most of the fun in the anime.

The series is ongoing, but I just watched the first 23 episodes and I can safely say that they could have stopped there. Probably they can come with fresh ideas, but for me the story started and ended satisfactorily with episode 23. The animation is good, but nothing spectacular, the Japanese cliches are abundant, but only barely overused and the main character is someone you can easily like and understand.

As far as I can see the anime faithfully follows the manga and episode 23 ends where the manga chapter 62 ends. There are just two other manga chapters published, so the anime and mange are pretty much synchronized. You can read the Parasyte manga online.

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It was inevitable, both Naruto and Sasuke were getting ridiculously strong. In the end they fought the mother of all chakra and... of course they won, then they fought each other, but it was kind of underwhelming, since their power prevented any subtlety and they just went cowboy punching each other. The last color chapter is about how they leave it all to the next generation, although it is hard to think of anything more they could do to top their parents. I loved the entire series and it is easy to understand why: simple concept, positive feelings like friendship and camaraderie and weird magical ninja fights. I was a teen when I started watching the anime and now I am freakishly old. Well, life happens. After I got kind of tired of watching the anime, even if it was really well done and followed the manga faithfully, I went with reading the manga. I like to use Mangastream for my reading purposes, so you can read the entire thing here: Naruto Shippuden. Even if it appears they are writing some Naruto side stories, I am not sure I will ever read them. I am still looking for a manga that can grab me like Naruto has.

I've reached the last of the animes in the Studio Ghibli series that I wanted to watch (again) and it was nice that this one got to be the final one. You see, before that I had watched The Cat Returns and I rated it mediocre, so unlike the beautiful movies from the same collection. Whisper of the Heart seems to be the film designed to redeem it.

The story is that of a young girl who likes to read a lot of books. She notices that most of the books that she borrowed from the library had the same name on their library cards, a boy that she didn't know. Coincidentally she follows a fat cat, apparently named Muta, to the shop of an old man who has a beautiful doll of a cat in a suit: the Baron of Gikkingen. You guessed it, two characters from The Cat Returns. And behold, the old man is the grandfather of the boy that kept borrowing the same books.

Whisper of the Heart seems to just take beautiful elements from other Ghibli animes and bring them all together in a wonderful union. The windy hills of Tokyo, which still has beauty despite the expansion of the city. The young girl who is not only smart and sensible, but also ambitious and kind. The family who is sometimes annoying and overbearing, but that in the end is the source of support for the development of the child it nurtures. The indolent fat cat :)

And then the love story, something that springs from common interests and a karmic connection between two people who seem to have been meant for each other. But there is more. They don't just click and that's it; they get motivated and energized to be the best of what they can be in order to honor the relationship in which they enter. In a way, it is a continuation of the warm and supporting family model from which both protagonists come.

One of the scenes in the anime was so funny to my wife that she spoke the Japanese words from it for a week. What a wonderful thing to have a film that not only makes me want to be a better man, but that already does make me be so by connecting me stronger to the one I love. And I watched it on Valentine's day, too! How can I rate it any less than with a perfect 10?

Returning to The Cat Returns, it somehow felt to me that the story linked to it also from the perspective of the ever aspiring artist; the rough and unpolished plot there sounds a lot like the story Shizuku writes, her first but one in many, the stone that will allow her to get to the skill and experience to do this story, which is so much better and complete. It does seem that way to me, since I watched The Cat Returns first, but chronologically Whisper of the Heart was made seven years earlier.

Now I don't know exactly in which proportion is Hayao Miyazaki responsible for the great quality of this film and story and how much Hiiragi Aoi, the writer of the original manga, but I heartily recommend the end result. I may be exaggerating, but this could be the best anime Studio Ghibli ever did, and that is saying much.

I can't say that Neko no ongaeshi had a great effect on me. The animation was OK, the story was like a fairy tale, but it lacked something, a special feeling that I was expecting to have.

The plot is that a young girl saves a cat from death and finds herself uncomfortably rewarded by the entire hidden nation of cats with a trip to their kingdom, a marriage to their prince and a free transformation into a feline. She doesn't want this, but helped by new friends, she manages to escape. I am not really spoiling anything here. It wasn't like at any moment I felt that she might be in real danger, which I think was the biggest flaw of the story. Another anime from Studio Ghibli, Spirited Away, features a much more beautiful and scary foray in a magical world and one of the novels of Clive Barker, The Thief of Always, brings the required tension and fear that is missing in this film.

Another issue I had with this is that, other than eat mice and fish, the cats behaved exactly like humans, missing entire opportunities to delight the viewer with so many catty things. They don't use their claws, they don't do acrobatics, they live in a feudal community and are loyal to each other. The whole concept of a feline kingdom passed right by the creators of the anime.

My conclusion is that this is a film for very little children or a lazily made one. It's not that I didn't enjoy watching it, but was completely bland, devoid of any inspiration that would make it rise above average.

I always liked animes from Studio Ghibli., but until now I didn't quite get why. It is because they have calm. Everything today has to be over the top, flashy, fast. Ghibli stories take their time, they feature normal people with normal desires and rhythms. behaving normally.

The Ocean Waves is about a cute girl moving from Tokyo to a provincial highschool in Kochi. Everybody is curious about her, but she is a loner and quite rude. Two friends are both interacting with her, but it's never clear what's in their hearts. Slowly, but surely, we start to understand each of the actors and the story comes full circle after graduation, at the first highschool reunion.

I've learned so much about Japanese culture from animes, but the ones from Ghibli make me understand the people. The stories often have what is missing in not only animation, but real actor movies as well: people that you can empathise with, because they are like you (or rather, like you would like to be, but not in infantile fantasies, but in your hopeful dreams).

Really nice movie, it certainly worth seeing.