Archive for the English Anime Category


Yuri Anime: Citrus (English) Guest Review by Yurimother

January 31st, 2018

Hello and welcome to Guest Review Wednesday on Okazu! It is my very sincere pleasure to offer both a brand new Okazu Guest Reviewer and a counterpoint review to my review yesterday. ^_^ I hope you’ll all give a warm Okazu welcome to our newest Guest Reviewer, Yurimother! 

Passione’s anime adaptation of Saburouta’s Citrus is finally out with three episodes having aired time of writing. Fans of the popular manga rejoice while outsiders are somewhat more skeptical. The first thing that a potential viewer needs to know about this Yuri anime is that the main characters, Yuzu and Mei, are stepsisters. Citrus is an incest story which is not for everyone.

The story’s lead, Yuzu Aihara, a fashionable and brash teen, transfers to a prestigious school when her mother remarries. There she quickly begins to clash with the stern student council president and granddaughter of the school’s chairman, Mei. Yuzu’s situation becomes more complicated with the revelation that Mei is her new stepsister. This development thrusts them into two different relationships with each other, an unwanted sisterly one, and a confused sexual one.

Saburouta set the bar extremely high in the manga’s art, and Passione delivered. The characters look amazing, backgrounds are gorgeous, and everything from the sky to bathwater has a fantastic polish that takes the art to the next level. I found myself skipping backward more than once to watch a sequence again and marvel at the animation. This artwork is all accompanied by an above-average musical score that adds an extra layer of emotion to many parts of the anime.

The high school setting is overused and rather dull at this point, however, Citrus manages to present an interesting plot. However, this accomplishment is despite the setting rather than because of it. The school environment is at least convenient for introducing characters, problems, and even some levity. An example of this is when the school’s rule against cell phones allowed the anime to execute one of the few breast jokes that I have ever truly found hilarious.

Citrus wastes no time getting straight to a dramatic story, in which the characters’ development is rapid and interesting. Just a few episodes in Yuzu already landed her school career, family, and relationship with Mei in hot water. The plot has kept me both engaged and excited. Without outside knowledge of the manga, I would have no idea what development would happen next, even if the results of the situations are somewhat predictable.

Early episodes of Citrus do not have many interesting or diverse characters. Everyone introduced so far can be categorized as either happy and outgoing (Yuzu, her friend Harumi, and her mother) or uptight and strict (Mei, the other student council members, and the school chairman). That is not to say that these characters cannot be enjoyable to watch, but I eagerly await their growth. While individual characters have seen little early development, their relationships have, specifically Yuzu and Mei’s. These two become more sisterly even as Yuzu’s affections for Mei blossom.

The most outspoken critics of Citrus point out that the sexual moments between Yuzu and Mei are not consensual. During their first kiss, Mei pins her stepsister to the ground and kisses her for an uncomfortably long time among groans of protests. While this is certainly off-putting to many viewers, it is not meant to be cute or sexy service. I propose that the scene is intended to be disconcerting. As readers of the manga will know, there is more to Mei than meets the eye. There are complexities to her character and her relationship with Yuzu that will likely unfold, explaining, although not excusing her actions. These hidden layers are hinted at in emotional fanservice scenes that usually end with one of the characters (and at least once me) in tears (although I tear up whenever I see animated homosexuality). Assuming Citrus plays its proverbial cards right, it will win over some of its skeptics. 

While it is by no means perfect if you stick with Citrus and overlook some of its faults you will find a dramatic and salacious Yuri.

Subtitled episodes of Citrus are simulcast on Crunchyroll.

Ratings: 

Art: 10
Story: 7
Characters: 4 (Although more time with the series will likely increase this)
Music – 7
Service – 8 (it may be uncomfortable at times but there is plenty of it)
Yuri – 9 (no Yuri Goggles needed here)

Overall: 8

Erica here;:Thank you so much for this review!  It was great to see this from a wholly different pair of eyes than my own.

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Yuri Anime: Citrus (English)

January 30th, 2018

This review is going to get a counterpoint review tomorrow, so if you disagree with this review or any of the points made here, please consider tuning in tomorrow for a Guest Review by Yurimother, with a different point of view! Today, however I felt it absolutely incumbent upon me to provide you with my view of the anime adaption of Sabuouta’s citrus manga. 

I sat down to watch Citrus anime, streaming on Crunchyroll, with my wife. She has never so much as looked at this series, so I felt confident that she would bring a fresh perspective with her, while I was going into watching this anime with already negative opinion of the series as a whole. ^_^;

The anime was moderately well-animated, which was nice. I wouldn’t have paroxysms of ecstasy over the animation or anything, but it looked good. 

As a modern version of the traditional dark-haired, emotionally intense classic Japanese beauty and the energetic lighter-haired girl (the same exact couple we’ve seen in many Yuri series throughout the last century,) neither Yuzu nor Mei are original character types nor particularly well-wrought examples of their types.  

Yuzu is not overtly clumsy or stupid, but she is presented as critically naive. Every school I have ever even considered applying to sends parents and students a metric ton of “Dos and Don’ts.’  While things have changed, I know for 100% sure from teacher friends that – here in the US, at least – schools communicate more with parents and students, not less. A student arriving at an elite school without the slightest clue of anything at all was irritating in 2007, when Aoi Nagisa did it. In 2017 it is simply, flatly, unbelievable. That said, Yuzu’s obliviousness naivete is an important component of this series.

When Yuzu gets to school, somehow wholly unaware that the school has rules (rules that are commonly deployed as plot complications in every single existent form of entertainment in Japan and could be guessed at, even if she was too lazy to read the documentation,) she is sexually assaulted for not knowing the rules. The search she undergoes has nothing at all to do with “looking for a phone.” No one keeps their phone tucked under or between their butt cheeks.

Mei’s behavior is not sensible…except that nonconsensual, passive-aggressive assaults are wholly consistent with a girl who has endured sexual abuse. Mei’s sexual assault of Yuzu continues, moving from groping to a deep kiss and later forceful undressing, without any of the steps that must come before such behavior – knowing the other person consents, primarily. You know, the the attraction and affection of two people who are looking to learn more about one another. The entirety of the relationship that we cherish in the Kase-san series is completely excised from citrus. The narrative refuses to admit sexual assault or anything Mei does as a consequence of it, and so, it throws the premise of the story into unacceptable implausibility. Even more implausible is the narrative’s assumption that I will somehow root for these two to become a couple. The only thing I am rooting for is for them to both seek therapy. 

Mei’s passive-aggression and sexual acting out works in this context because Yuzu is presented in the first few minutes as naive. She knows as much about sex as she does about the school rules. She is the kind of person who lies about her lack of experience rather than admit she has not had sex. Additionally, “having had sex with a boy” is left hanging as the benchmark for “sexually knowledgeable” as if they are one and the same thing. Let me assure you, they are not. Mei even uses this as a weapon against Yuzu. “Someone who has never kissed before can’t know anything.” Patently untrue, and it can only work if the audience as well as the characters believe that sexual experience is equivalent to knowledge is equalivalent to maturity. It is not. Neither is anything in this series indicative of “love” as Yuzu naively (and alarmingly) imagines.  

We also meet Yuzu’s mother, whose behavior is likewise implausible. This is when something dawned on me.

About the time we encountered Yuzu’s mother, I recoiled as I gasped, “Oh my god, they are playing this for comedy.” I watched, horrified, as the story demanded that I find a sexual assault amusing. Oh haha, look Yuzu was just sexually assaulted on her first day of school and she gets to live with that person! Hahah. How droll! As we’re dealing with #metoo and the repeated public flagellating of people for being brave enough to talk about their experiences with sexual assault, this is so far beyond insensitive, I am gobsmacked by it. Days after watching, I am still horrified that I was supposed to find it appealing in any way. (Update: I have just watched all I can manage of the third episode and this trend continues. We are repeatedly expected to find sexual assault acceptable, justifiable, romantic and, in some cases, comedic.) 

We made it through the first two episodes and then my wife and I debriefed. I offered her the chance to write part of this review. This is what she said. “I felt triggered by it.” Those of you who know my wife will understand that this may be the very first time in her life she has ever uttered this sentence. I have never heard her speak it in 34 years. She agreed with me that the assault was being played as comedy.

Along with the creepy fanservice added in many scenes, citrus anime was, in a word, grotesque.

Ratings:

Art – 7
Story – #metoo
Character – No. Absolutely not. This is not how healthy people behave, speak or deal with things.
Service – Infinity
Yuri – 100% Sexual Assault until Yuzu and we are groomed to believe it’s okay. It is not okay, not ever.

Overall – 1

Feel free to comment, but under no circumstances should you feel free to justify using sexual assault as a replacement for sexual attraction as a plot complication in this anime, or in life. I will not allow those comments.

For those of you who disagree, come back tomorrow for a completely different point of view!

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Yuri Anime: Konohana Kitan (English)

December 3rd, 2017

As I sat down to watch Konohana Kitan, I thought back on my experience with the manga, which was to mostly ignore it when it was running as Konohana-tei Kitan in Yuri Hime S magazine. Animal ears are not my thing; I just never bothered to follow it.. I’m familiar with Amano Sakuya’s work though, and I was ready to not very much like the anime. To my surprise I did not hate it. ^_^

The story follows the adventures of a kitsune-girl named Yuzu, as she apprentices at an inn in the world of supernatural beings. Streaming on Crunchyroll,  the anime is based on the manga that now runs in Gentosha’s Comic Birz, which is a good fit for the series. Birz tends to have a fair smattering of supernatural stories and a heavy dollop of fanservice. Konohana Kitan fits both these criteria easily, and adds a slightly schmaltzy overall tone of joyful appreciation of life and emotionally engaging/manipulative narrative,  as well as lovely scenes of Shinto ritual and religion.  A little like Natsume’s Yujin-cho with fox girls breasting boobily and occasionally saying and doing things with overt sexual tones for basically no reason (in a way that no one ever would.)

The schmaltziness increases as the series goes on and, since this is slice-of-not-human life, there’s a splash of tsukumogami, youkai, gods, and other random things that populate Japanese myth and folklore. I’m basically watching the series for these and doing something else during the frequent and extended bathing scenes. Honestly, my favorite scene so far was when we saw Izanami and Izanagi drawing Onogorishima from the primal waters.

The Yuri in the series is exactly what one might expect under these circumstances – it’s there, it’s servicey. Yuzu is sharing a room with Satsuki, a moody and irritable sempai at the inn. They are instantly a couple, as Yuzu’s ineffable upbeat attitude quickly wears away Satsuki’s cynicism. Ren is another passive-aggressive character, paired with boyish Natsumi who is the most openly honest of the vixens at the inn. She and Ren are already a couple when we meet them and they share the few kisses in the series as of yet.

Would I recommend this anime?  If you actively enjoy fanservice, yes. If not, then yes, with reservation. I don’t dislike it, although I do resent being manipulated by it and still find the service tiresome. Otherwise it is mostly cute and sappy and Yuri.

Ratings:

Art – 8 Lush backgrounds, detailed textiles, beautifully rendered floorboards, generic faces.
Story – 7 Sometimes sweet, occasionally creepy (both intentionally and just because some service is downright creepy,) mostly sentimental.
Characters – 6 Most of them would be intolerable in any real life situation
Service – 8

Overall – 7

You might be put off by the oversentimental tone, or the service, but if neither of those bother you much, you’ll probably enjoy Konohana Kitan.

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Sailor Moon S Anime, Part 2, Disk 3 (English)

October 13th, 2017

Okay, I’m convinced.  Watching Sailor Moon S, Part 2, Disk 3 on Blu-Ray has convinced me of the superiority of Blu-Rayfor remastered old analog anime. (I’m still completely un-awed by it for regular already higher-definition-than-my-eyes-see-at-anyway hi-def.)

But here, at the final disk of my favorite season of this show, I was unwilling to let a single over-saturated background slip by unnoticed. So Blu-Ray it was. The sound quality was good as far as I can tell. Undoubtedly, audiophiles among you cried out in despair, but all I want is the BGM balanced against the foreground dialogue, (which we did not get with the Pioneer DVDs.) I want, to be specific, “World Shaking” to resound appropriately. ^_^ And so it does. 

Plot-wise, we are in the darkest depths of the arc, basically watching uncomfortably as Hotaru’s body and psyche are the wrestling ground for three entities, only one of which is Hotaru herself. We’re forced to watch her struggle to live as Uranus, Neptune and Pluto try to kill her, Mistress 9 attempts to control her and Sailor Saturn awakens.

Thankfully, it’s the Sailor Senshi and her calm musical theme who wins, and proves the Outers to be completely, wholly, incorrect about all but one thing.

They save the world, of course, It wasn’t really in doubt, even almost a quarter of a century ago, when learning that fact would have been a spoiler. ^_^

The disk came with interviews with Erica Mendez, Lauren Landa and Christine Marie Cabanos, (Sailors Uranus, Neptune and Saturn respectively) which were delightful to listen to. Landa is a long time fan of the series and it shows. She has the same problem I have with “Tuxedo Mirage,” that I tear up for no particular reason when I hear it. ^_^ Another extra is watching them live as they watch an episode in which all of their characters appear together. It was worth a watch and it gave me a good reason to watch an episode dubbed. So let’s talk about the dub for a second.

There is one reason and one reason only I prefer subs to dubs. No, wait, two reasons. There are two reason I prefer subs. One, I really like to listen and try to follow the spoken Japanese. Anime dialogue is not nearly as fast and complicated as real-life dialogue, which makes it good practice for listening to spoken Japanese, something I am not at all good at (I say, then remind myself to put on JapanTV and listen to the damn news in Japanese and get some practice, only to find that Rin-ne is on. With subtitles. orz)

The second reason is completely, utterly, obnoxiously fannish. For decades, listening to American voice actors murder Japanese names just made it intolerable for me to listen to dubs. Well, I listened to this dub and didn’t cringe. So Viz is responsible for not only the definitive edition of Sweet Blue Flowers, but also the definitive – best-of-breed version of Sailor Moon S.  In a short chat with Viz rep Jane Lui at New York Comic-Con I expressed how impressed I have been with their work on these Yuri classics. She noted that creator Naoko Takeuchi-sensei gets final approval of everything on this release of Sailor Moon. I was very relieved and happy to hear that. Takeuchi-sensei deserves to have her say. So I’ll repeat here what I told Jane – thank you to everyone at Viz for doing such an amazing job. The love everyone has for this series shows. So, thank you to everyone who worked on it. 

Ratings:

Art – 8 
Story – 7
Characters – 8
Yuri –  5 Alternate family FTW
Service – 3 The Daimon stay racy right through the end.

Overall – 8

The penultimate episode reminded me just why adult characters are so important in series with mostly teen protagonists – someone needed to have pointed out to Haruka and Michiru that they were wrong about almost everything. It is this that really drives my dislike of the 5th season. Someone needed to say to Haruka and Michiru, “Hey! We’ve done this already! You have to listen to Usagi…remember?” It vexes me through the entire season.

Sailor Moon SuperS is on the way, I’m looking forward to it to see the Amazon Trio once again. ^_^

Thank you very much Viz for the review copy!  It was a blast to hum along with every single musical riff. We have the  Proplica Spiral Heart Moon Rod and play the Spiral Heart Attack music about as often as you’d expect. You know…daily. ^_^

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Sailor Moon S Anime , Part 2, Disk 2 (English)

September 25th, 2017

For the first time ever, I’m going to say hands down, the Blu-Ray is better. Watching Sailor Moon S, Part 2, Disk 2 on BD was…fun. The colors are super-saturated, and the animation is as good as the animation ever was (which is to say, not really all that good.) It was good enough, however, that we commented that the Blu-Ray made a difference and we never do that. Sound quality was, again, really decent and overall, the technicals were solid enough that we never once had to think about them for being intrusive or annoying.

In Part 2, the story is getting both sillier and more serious at the same time. We lose Eudial and pick up the delusional Mimete, with her creepy cormorant Daimons. In Mimete’s world, pure hearts are only had by celebrities, so she’d get along famously in 2017.

The Outer Senshi have settled down into full-time brooding, as Sailor Moon herself is getting used to a powerup. I particularly like how they don’t sit down to have any sensible conversations about the situation. Chibi-Usa is the only one who can cross lines, and that’s only because no one takes her seriously. 

Hotaru gets a creepy power-up, then the pathos is laid on with a trowel. I don’t get Kaolinite treating Hotaru so shitty. You’d think…but, no. 

In one of the most eye-opening episodes we both saw something so Ikuhara we started to laugh. It’s funny to see a beloved director’s visual tic so obviously on display.

We’re about to get into the darkest moments of the series and I find I can’t wait to watch it. 25 years later and I’m still a huge fangirl…which is why I’m as excited as I am to say I’ll get to see the new Sailor Moon store in Harajuku! Yay! I’ll be in Tokyo for Comitia and will save my yen for all the Sailor Senshi goods. ^_^ 

Ratings:

Art – 8 
Story – 7
Characters – 8
Yuri –  2 A bit muted this disk
Service – 3 

Overall – 8

I’m also keeping my fingers crossed for an interview that will interest you all at AnimeNYC. Say a little prayer.

Thanks very much to Viz for the review copy! I just love it to pieces.

 

 

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