Tag Archives: japan

Love Bullet – Yurikuma Arashi REVIEW


In this post apocalyptic world, bears have risen up and eaten the populace. It’s a lot different to the types of near-extinction shows we’ve seen in the last few years. Usually it involves something huge or scary or simply unseen. Here though the threat is adorable…adorably deadly. Yurikuma Arashi is the antidote to Attack on Titan oversaturation.

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Our story takes place in a world where bears have evolved into hyper intelligent killing machines. However, these bears aren’t the hulking grizzlies we would first imagine; these bears are a foot tall and so utterly cute it hurts. Thanks to some kind of super powered asteroids which hit Earth when the distant planet Kumaria exploded, bears stood on their hind legs and started eating humans. As such, mankind built huge walls in the sky to keep the bears out…until one day, two bears broke through and started wreaking havoc [sound familiar?]. Some bears can also take human form and infiltrate the population; which is what bears Ginko and Lulu have done. They have enrolled in a school to find fresh meat to feast on. Enter Kureha, our leading lady. She and her best friend [and what is portrayed as lover] Sumika tend to the school garden until one day, when Sumika is killed and eaten by what is seen to be Ginko and Lulu although as we progress through the plot, it becomes a lot more confusing. We then get scenes which involve a courtroom where the two bears are judged whether they can do something [I wasn’t quite sure at first] which involves saving Kureha [which is illustrated as licking her lily…eww.]. It’s all rather poetic and symbolic, but is it any good?

yurikuma_2The show’s director is Kunihiko Ikuhara, the genius behind Revolutionary Girl Utena and Mawaru Penguindrum, two shows which broke boundaries in style and flair as well as yuri undertones. As soon as you say Ikuhara you can understand where the story will go, this show will contain a lot of girl love and a lot of crazy shenanigans! This series feels a little different though; it’s a lot more assured in pace than the two other Ikuhara works I mentioned. Like the plot is keener to get going and throw some really surreal stuff at the audience’s face. One thing’s for sure, you’re not watching your typical moe-fest here. Everything feels carefully crafted and patiently choreographed to ensure the message which the auteur wishes to convey is not lost. Sadly though to the average viewer, it could come off as pretentious and baffling and I must admit that I found myself thinking this all too often. For example, the whole courtroom scene with Ginko and Lulu; it’s at first hard to say what their allegiance is. They clearly want to eat humans but they seem to be protecting Kureha from enemies or keeping her alive so they can be the one that eat her. Also, the lily. I get it, it’s pretty phallic and it sums up what this show is about – it’s high-art soft-core ecchi. Sophisticated titillation.

yurikuma_4If you come at this show with a more adult orientated perspective, you could consider Yurikuma Arashi an example of social commentary with Japan’s attitude towards homosexuality. In Japan, homosexuality is frowned upon in the extreme; BUT why are yaoi and yuri so prevalent in its primary visual export? Ah, that’s where this show illustrates that notion perfectly. Most yaoi and yuri projects aren’t as sexually driven as you might think; it’s all in the romantic atmosphere. The love shared between two people who are very close and have a bond which is pure and beautiful which explains the more rose-tinted colour palette most series and books employ. That’s what we have with Kureha and Sumika’s relationship – a pure and romantic friendship of two young adults. It’s OK they’ll grow out of it, their parents tell themselves. It’s all harmless adoration. Then we get the bears, a potential example of how homosexual women are portrayed in Japanese society. Rabid, lustful and corrupting; unable to restrain themselves and “eat” the innocent lovers or taint them. Ginko and Lulu behave in a far more carnal nature than Kureha and Sumika did. That’s just one example of how deep this show is; it’s a show which is here to comment on the state of homosexuality in Japan and how it’s considered to be black and white; either it’s harmless experimentation or it’s no-holds-barred lust which needs to be governed by the authority [which in this case is the courtroom, I think.].

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I
n the end, Yurikuma Arashi is a show intended to entice and provoke. If you’re tired of the vapid and the facile anime show that is all too common these days, let Ikuhara take you on a colourful journey through sexual discovery and the media’s portrayal of sex and love. Kureha is our conduit and the bears Ginko and Lulu our handlers; together they lead us through a highly intricate story which is guaranteed to shock and intrigue. I recommend you give this a go and remember, this IS a yuri series, expect a certain level of fanservice but it’s all done tastefully and with due care and attention. Just like the show as a whole.

Yurikuma Arashi is available to stream on Funimation.

RATING: CONTINUE [A clever show with a vibrant symbolic plot]

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Fall 2014: Action


Summer’s gone and Autumn [or Fall] has taken its place.  The anime is still coming by the boatload though and on Anifile we are delighted to be able to continue with the previews for the shows coming up. Like in the spring, we are separating shows into different categories based on their primary genre. There are thirty anime eligible for review on this site [As usual, I don’t count sequel seasons of series such as the two new Gundam series] and instead focus on the brand new franchises and see if they’re worth your time. Let’s begin with some action!

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Akatsuki no Yona
(Yona of the Dawn)

Animation Studio: Pierrot
Origin:  Manga [Kusanagi]
Date of Premiere: October 7th

Summary
On her sixteenth birthday, the only princess of Kouka [Yona] is greeted with the sight of her dead father at the hands of her cousin and love interest Soo-won. Before he can kill Yona, her servant Hak rescues her and takes her to an old monk who teaches them about four legendary dragons which can save the kingdom from the tyranny of Soo-won’s faction.

Initial Thoughts
Upon first glance, it’s a decent looking show with average visuals and some grandiose battle sequences thrown in. The plot is somewhat samey with the whole love interest angle despite the fact that one of the subjects killed the other subject’s father; kind of makes things awkward. It seems like a good show overall though but it’s not novel enough to bring to the front of the queue.

Review Priority Rating [RPR]: Medium

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Donten ni Warau
(The Cloudy Laugh)

Animation Studio: Dogakobo
Origin:  Manga [Karakara]
Date of Premiere: October 3rd

Summary
In the Meiji era, the age of the samurai was starting to fade away into the history books. Carrying swords was made illegal, but crime spiked as a result. In response, the government created a huge island prison where the only way in or out is via boat. Three brothers from the Kumo family man the vessels as they transport convicts to the island. However, from first glance, it seems that things aren’t quite as straightforward as you might think.

Initial Thoughts
The last hurrah of the samurai is a hugely significant part of Japanese history and to focus on it in an anime is somewhat refreshing. It’s like how the Western genre revelled in the dying days of the cowboy in the 1880s. It’s the same thing! These trio of samurai-born warriors have a cool look about them and clearly show prowess in different ways. I’m intrigued with how this will pan out as it’s clear that the story goes far beyond simply ferrying prisoners. Let’s see!

Review Priority Rating [RPR]: Medium-High

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Garo: Honou no Kokuin
(Garo: The Carved Seal of Flames)

Animation Studio: MAPPA
Origin:  GARO Tokusatsu franchise
Date of Premiere: October 3rd

Summary
The Valiante Kingdom has begun a massive search for wielders of Maki, both priests and knights. In the resulting purge, the art of Makai is brought to a near extinction. One man, Leon Luis, returns to the Valiante Kingdom at the request of the king’s son when his throne is taken from him by his former advisor. Leon wields the power of the Golden Knight Garo and only its power can help the land be restored to its rightful owner.

Initial Thoughts
Two thoughts came to mind. Knights transforming and ‘The past will come back to haunt you!’ This adaptation of the famous Garo tokusatsu series is a curious retelling of the concept. Unrelated to the live-action series, the anime plans to take a grander approach to the idea of knights with sentai-like powers. This show carries a lot of weight behind it and seems to look pretty cool too!

Review Priority Rating [RPR]: Medium-High

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Kiseijuu
(Parasyte)

Animation Studio: Madhouse
Origin:  Manga [Iwaaki]
Date of Premiere: October 8th

Summary
In this world, Japan has been besieged by intergalactic parasites known as…Parasites. These aliens invade the population not with lasers but by burrowing into humans and animals through their noses or ears taking them over – in VERY disturbing ways. One boy named Shinichi is spared such a fate, or at least for the most part, because he was wearing headphones. He is still infected but only his right arm is infected; it develops a personality and together they fight other Parasites whilst using each other to survive and prosper.

Initial Thoughts
Wow. I thought Terra Formars was going to be the shocker of the season; this probably will give it a run for its money. It is a REALLY scary idea; parasites taking over your body without you knowing it and turning you into some kind of monster that likes eating other people. Even dogs aren’t safe! In any case, I really want to see where this goes and how Shinichi and his partner, Migi [Japanese for right as the parasite takes over his right hand] interact and help one another!

Review Priority Rating [RPR]: High

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World Trigger

worldtrigger

Animation Studio: Toei Animation
Origin:  Manga [Ashihara]
Date of Premiere: October 5th

Summary
The city of Mikado is home to some of the worst Neighbors you’ve ever seen. From another dimension, these beings destroy Mikado and have been for about four years before the story proper begins. The Border group meet this challenge with a brand new class of weaponised young kids, Triggers. Thanks to these Triggers, the city is brought back to a relative peace until a Black Trigger appears and threatens to disrupt the newly formed status quo.

Initial Thoughts
I don’t know. I’m not overwhelmed with the initial premise. I’ve seen this before and I reckon I’ll see this again in the future – demons appearing which cannot be stopped by regular weaponry and as such NEW weapons need to be made. Fortunately, the show in its entirety seems to be quite light-hearted and characterful with a neat main duo. My main concern is that Toei will skimp on the animation [which is somewhat evident IN THE PREVIEW] like it has done with recent shows that aren’t Dragonball or One Piece. If it can give this show a good animation budget then things should be OK, otherwise the look won’t match the feel.

Review Priority Rating [RPR]: Medium-Low

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So we have five action-packed productions in the work. What else do we have? Well, we got twenty-five other anime to cover and seven of them are comedies which we will look at next time!

RETRO REVIEW: Persona 4 The Animation


Back from 2011 once again for another retro review. The famous PSP/PS2 franchise gets its own anime adaptation and proves to worm its way into this reviewer’s spectrum. A must-see.

Welcome to Anime! Which Series Should I Watch?


[Titlecard courtesy of Frobman ]

Hello! Welcome to anime! You’ve probably been curious about anime ever since you curiously watched that one episode of Naruto or Sailor Moon and thought it was pretty neat; or you saw some cosplayers milling about your hometown during a convention and wondered what the hell was going on…or you might have watched some random stuff that your one friend linked you to. Either way, anime has gotten you curious in some shape or form.

Since the start of this year, I’ve watched over seventy different anime series; some that will stick with me and others that will fade from memory…and some that I wish would. It’s made me think about which series someone new to the medium should get interested in; to help build up their interest further and keep them keen. There’s a lot of debating and everyone is perfectly entitled to their opinion but here is a list of the shows I recommend to anyone getting started. Please note I am not including shows like Naruto, Bleach, Dragonball Z because they have managed to breach the mainstream to some extent. This list comprises twenty series that we fans hold in high regard and wish to shout their praises from the rooftops. Let’s get started!

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Akira: The game changing movie from the 1980s which broke cover thanks to a plucky US distributor. Since then, the dystopian setting of Neo Tokyo has generated a strong interest in anime outside of Japan. There had been nothing else like it before then when it came to animation and it set the trend spectacularly.

Azumanga Daioh: This little comedy is a perfect example of the slice-of-life genre with a lot of comedy thrown in. It might seem a little bizarre, but it’s perfect at demonstrating to newcomers that anime can be weird and surreal whilst also tugging at the heartstrings at the same time.

Berserk: Most newcomers to anime had probably seen Akira and were captivated by the shocking visuals and epic plot. Berserk takes that and puts it into a medieval setting with a lot of sadistic and twisted imagery which has endured for nearly a quarter of a century in some form of media. If you like knights and warriors killing each other gruesomely with an undertone framed around the theme of witchcraft and devilry then you’ll love this!

Cardcaptor Sakura: We’re not talking Cardcaptors; we’re talking about the original cut. There’s a lot more to this series than the initial English release portrayed. If you felt something was off, there was. You need to go the original source and find out what you missed. Not to mention it’s probably one of the best magical girl series of the nineties.

Code Geass: More giant robots! I think why there are loads of mech shows on this list is because it’s something that all boys and men can get behind; it’s machines and these machines are blowing up other machines! Not to mention it manages to sustain drama in more sophisticated ways too meaning it’s accessible to anybody in some manner!

Cowboy Bebop: This has to be here out of sheer coolness. A western-themed space opera with action and spaceships and adult themes. It’s a very mature series that can also be quite quirky as well. Spike and friends collect bounties in an unforgettably gritty drama which has become ubiquitous in anime circles.

Death Note: In 2006, anime upped the ante. This series was at the forefront of that movement. A story about a guy who is bestowed the gift of death for those who he has deemed worthy of such a fate. Everybody has a moment where they wish they had that kind of power and Light Yagami [our lead] gets it; doesn’t mean it’s an easy ride. A superb art style, a kille soundtrack and one of the most iconic stories out there.

FLCL [FuriKuri]: This anime is quite polarising. Some love it because it’s rather avant-garde and surreal, especially for the early noughties. Others hate it because Haruko [the leading lady] who can be very grating and causes heaps of trouble for our lead male Naoto. Although the characters and premise are strange at times, this short six-episode series is worth a look because it pushes the boat out narratively speaking and isn’t afraid of that.

Fullmetal Alchemist…Brotherhood: Although this and the original 2004 series are both great, the re-imagining of the story of the Elric brothers gets the nod for this list on the grounds that it is a more faithful adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa’s vision. If you love supernatural powers mixed with tons of guns and brotherly love, this is a good start!

Gurren Lagann: How could I not have this here? Gurren Lagann takes the giant robot concept and goes nuts with it. The level of style, detail, uniqueness and technical mastery at play makes this a grand candidate for this list. It is also rather accessible as it isn’t modelled on a particular country; it’s a post-apocalyptic wasteland populated by original characters and amazingly dazzling robots!

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure [and the manga]: If you’re bored of what’s on TV and in the cinemas, then look no further. JoJo is crazy good fun which is recently going through another surge in popularity. If you’re not sure what it’s about, I’ll try to sum it up in one sentence. Men being fabulous and kicking each other’s asses mixed with TONS of references to Western rock music! Need I say more?

Kanon: I choose this over its sister anime Clannad [which I like too] because it’s the more rounded and simplistic story from the Japanese game studio Key [which made the original source material for both shows]. Both have a strong cast of girls to choose from but Kanon takes the cake simply because of the sheer drama and empathy that I felt whilst watching.

Lupin III: One of the longest running franchises in anime. Over forty years old and still going strong, Lupin III is one of the world’s greatest criminal minds as well as being one of the most likeable, ingenious and hilarious. You don’t care he’s stealing millions of dollars’ worth of jewellery, you love the guy! He also has the best team behind him and the most inept detective chasing after them which leads to a timeless formula where the bad guys come out on top and you’re OK with that.

Martian Successor Nadesico: My FAVOURITE anime. If you are looking for some satire when it comes to giant robots then this show is your best bet. I recommend this over Neon Genesis Evangelion because it does the whiny robot pilot gimmick a lot better and also I’ve not seen all of Evangelion so I cannot recommend it nor do I particularly want to! A colourful cast, a great looking ship and robot coupled with a serious message about bureaucracy overriding humanity and people putting a stop to it. A masterclass at balancing comedy and drama. Skip the movie though.

Mobile Suit Gundam: You thought Transformers was awesome? Wait until you see Gundam. This put the giant robot squarely in the minds of boys everywhere since 1979. Dozens of series owe Gundam a huge favour and it’s not hard to see why. It set the standard of what a series about mechanical warriors requires: killer robot designs, super powers, SWORDS and tons of weaponry. Noteworthy series from the Gundam universe include the original Mobile Suit Gundam, Gundam Wing, Turn A Gundam, Gundam SEED and Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam.

Outlaw Star: It is a fantastic sci-fi tale with tons of action and comedy but it’s a lot more light-hearted and doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you find Cowboy Bebop a little heavy, this show is the way to go!

Ranma 1/2: If you want to get a good understanding about what Japan is and some of its cultural traditions whilst being entertained, then this series is your best bet. Made by Rumiko Takahashi, this romantic comedy is a classic which should not be ignored. Plus it’s got PANDAS!

Steins;Gate: I’ve not seen this series come up often on recommended lists; that surprised me. This epic sci-fi tale explores the intricacies of cause and effect and other aspects of time travel whilst impeccably sustaining high drama. It also knows when to have a laugh every now and again to relieve the stress levels a little bit. A masterpiece of the modern era which is a little more cerebral than most would expect.

Studio Ghibli Films:  Hayao Miyazaki is often described as the Japanese Walt Disney and with good reason. He and his team formed a studio which has made some of the most iconic, emotional and inspirational films in the past thirty years and acted as a global ambassador for anime and why it’s so great. Most of their movies are worth a watch but the five I recommend to watch right now are Spirited Away, Grave of the Fireflies, Laputa, Howl’s Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke.

Tenchi Muyo: Like Ranma 1/2 but containing a lot more supernatural elements. Plus the cast of characters is more colourful and outlandish. One of the best examples of the harem anime genre.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya: This 2006 production was a turning point in anime design and look. Haruhi Suzumiya and her supernatural gang of espers, time travellers, aliens plus the token normal guy put a studio on the map because of its fantastic premise, catchy music and eye-catching visual style. The first season is stunning, the second season is worth watching but be aware of the Endless Eight, that’s all I’ll say.

Urusei Yatsura [AKA Everybody Hates Ataru]: One of the first anime I watched. It’s a very strange show based on space devils, love triangles and comedic storytelling. A good example of explaining the origins of the harem anime.

Usagi Drop: This sweet story about a girl who has recently become an orphan. Daikichi, whose grandfather was the father of this girl [Rin] takes her in after the rest of his family practically disown her on the grounds that Rin’s mother was a mistress and therefore illegitimate. This unlikely move on Daikichi’s part changes the character unequivocally and is the ultimate display of human compassion.

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This list is a starting point for you. From here you will find shows like the ones I mentioned or shows that break the mould I’ve established; in the end, it’s all good! There are more shows I want to recommend but that requires a little more understanding of anime before viewing. This list is here to gently introduce anime and what it is. These shows have things in common with western media and act as a great interim production. In any case, good hunting!

What do you think of this list? Are there shows I missed out or you would recommend yourself? Leave a comment below and let’s spread the word of anime.

Locodol REVIEW


If you think that idols are the trappings of international stardom or at least national importance, think again. Quite a lot of the time, there are idols for just about anything; even your own local town. These idols are known as locodols [short for local idols] and their job is to promote their town and businesses within. This is captured in the anime Futsū no Joshikōsei ga Locodol Yattemita and reveals that there is more to being an idol than just looking pretty; there are names to remember too!

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Nanako is your typical high school student with a secret dream of being an idol and becoming famous. This dream is suddenly realised when her uncle, who works for the local council, asks her to help promote the opening of the town’s newly refurbished swimming complex. The town of Nagarekawa is going through a rebranding exercise and its next step is to recruit their own idol and mascot troupe; Nanako is part of that mission and her uncle manages to ‘trick’ her into performing as a locodol despite the fact she’s really got no stage presence whatsoever and gets frightened easily. Fortunately her locodol partner Yukari is a kind soul and helps Nanako conquer her initial fear and the event is a success despite some hiccups along the way. As the rest of the show unfolds, a new mascot [Uogokoro-kun] is introduced as well as new member Yui and her understudy Mirai to help complete the lineup for the Nagarekawa Girls. They even get a proper manager after her uncle is relieved of his duties! That’s all there is to the plot essentially; the girls go from one engagement to the other and eventually hit the national stage representing their home town. In terms of ambition, the show doesn’t have much unlike its characters.

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Locodol is a simple story and that simplicity is carried through into the art style, plot and overall message. However, there are some places which cause either some critical thinking or moments where you are left feeling slightly awkward or disappointed. I’ll start off with why I like this show; it’s got heart to it. Nanako, Yukari and Yui are true friends and there isn’t any bitterness or in-fighting going on. It’s so simple and everyone is rooting for everyone else. Nanako is a timid girl with little ambition, Yukari is a confident girl with dreams yet no friends due to her wealth and Yui is a nervous girl who is very athletic and agile, perfect for the task of wearing the Uogokoro-kun costume. Each of them has a flaw and they all work together to boost each other’s confidence and pull off the event they are taking part in. That made me feel warm inside. I even appreciated that these girls were intelligent, genuine about their love for their town as well as its history [except for Nanako who is ashamed of her ignorance] and quite humble at the same time. I want these girls to succeed! It’s light and fluffy entertainment which is there to make you feel happy and not strain your brain for twenty minutes every week. When you strip away the window dressing of the locodol gimmick and see the scenes where the quartet are just going around town and being themselves with no trappings of ‘fame’ around them, it’s quite sweet and enjoyable. I like how the show manages to balance life and work somewhat evenly. Of course there is going to be idol-related plot points but it’s not relentlessly shoved down our throats; we get pauses to breathe and actually get to know the characters as people – thank you!

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Now for the reasons why I am not so sure about Locodol. I do like the main characters and their individual drives, but I feel like the show has several underlying tones which seems a little unsettling. Nanako’s uncle and their new manager Saori don’t seem to worry so much about the girls’ insecurities and seem keen to exploit their charm and sexualise them way above the level any of them are comfortable [not as much for Yui who is in a costume most of the time, but even her figure is highlighted by the animators whenever she takes the suit off!]. With Nanako’s uncle it’s quite obvious and you don’t feel as disturbed because of its predictability but still, it’s kind of worrying that he wants to see his niece in skimpy swimsuits and whatnot. You think he was bad though? Saori is much worse! In episode four, there’s a pervert on the loose stealing costumes of idols and Nanako is scared out of her wits. Saori then shows up and its alluded heavily she is the pervert pinching the clothes; then it’s pretty much stated she runs the Nagarekawa Girls’ fansite secretly taking pictures on her own camera as the production team does their thing. The blog itself is pretty sexualised with a lot of candid pictures. Saori even has a crush on Nanako and uses that crush as a motivator to be the girls’ manager. I find that to be creepy. This awkward feeling is tempered slightly because Saori is a good manager ultimately and helps the girls get work but the feeling remains and it spoils my enjoyment of the show. The other part which saddens me is that the level of ambition of the anime itself is low, much lower than the characters within. The narrative seems pretty stock to me and it doesn’t try to break ground or do something different, it’s something we’ve all seen before and would wish not to see again [or at least not so often.].

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Am I turned off by Locodol because of its awkward perversions? Not quite. I try and look past it and look at the girls as people. They are nice people who look out for one another and are the kind of idols that we don’t see enough. They all have their charms and quirks plus they’re flawed in some way; but they come together to override the flaws and bolster each other through the hard times and ultimately come out on top when things look a little tough. The animation is pretty tame but it looks good enough to not be an eye-sore and allow one to focus on the story without being put-off by the animation quality; but it could be more ambitious, just like the show itself in the end. My summation? Try harder!

Locodol is available to stream on Crunchyroll.

RATING: CAUTION [The show has heart but it’s a bit of an underachiever. Plus the perverted undertones are off-putting.]

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