Archive for the English Anime Category


Sound! Euphonium Anime (English) Guest Review by Christina Maria J

August 5th, 2015

Sound!EuphoniumWhoo-hoo!! Today is Guest Review Wednesday and we have a new Guest Reviewer! Welcome Christina Maria J. with a much-looked forward to review! The floor is yours, Christina Maria!

Before Sound! Euphonium aired, most people, me included, expected it to be something along the lines of a slightly more serious K-On! with different instruments. Instead it asserted its origins in the novel of the same name, to provide a mature and complex drama.

The show centers on high school freshman Kumiko, who almost besides herself finds ends up joining the band club, playing the euphonium despite her stated desire to get away from a past doing just that in middle school. She joins, only to find a club that’s both terrible and rife with old wounds being reopened by the presence of a new, ambitious advisor. Further complicating matters is the presence of old middle school bandmates, who Kumiko clearly has baggage in regards to, most notably the ambitious Reina.

A highly character-driven show, Sound! Euphonium not only juggles a large cast of characters, it actively explores a number of their lives, without ever straying from its central narrative and thematic points. This is made possible through highly efficient writing that rarely sticks to developing one plot point at a time; with almost every interaction developing multiple characters as well as the central plot. Unlike other shows, you won’t find archetypal characters doing their thing in isolation until their focus episode happens. Of the many relationships presented, the central one is that between the emotionally guarded, cynical Kumiko and the passionate, aloof loner Reina.

It is within this relationship the Yuri lies. Starting slow with Kumiko simply being heavily preoccupied with Reina, it develops to a point where the two share an intense physical and emotional intimacy that is not lost on other characters. A key aspect of their relationship is that it heavily deviates from the mold of being pure and innocent – much of their flirting is quite sexually laden – instead focusing on mutual attraction or how the other doesn’t simply conform to expectations of “proper” behavior. Both emphasize this aspect as part of their declaration of love for the other and, unusually, it is framed as a positive that helps them not only realize themselves, but learn to properly interact with society. This intense romantically and even sexually charged relationship is emphasized by how it stands in contrast to the close, platonic friendships between girls that make up most of the rest of the key relationships of the show.

On the whole, it builds up as a full romance, starting with the early stirrings of a crush and working all the way to being an established relationship. At least that’s how it comes off to me and the reading the show itself encourages. But I would be dishonest if I claimed that my interpretation wa universal. Many have found that it lacks the smoking gun of absolute proof that makes them feel like the creators truly sought to present LGBT representation.

There is much more I could talk about, I haven’t touched on the show’s themes at all, for example, nor have I touched on the band plot despite the way itform the backbone of the show. I could also have discussed the care with which music and the band experience are portrayed or the strength of the visual storytelling. Instead of going deeply into these topics, I’ll simply encourage anybody who finds anything in this review even the least bit interesting to explore it for themselves.

Ratings:

Art – 10: Pushes the boundaries of anime visuals, both technically and artistically
Story – 9: Complex and mature
Characters – 10: All complex, multidimensional and sympathetic with no anime stereotypes in sight
Yuri – Personally 9: but in light of the frustrations of others and my understanding of how my own background informs my perception, I’ll say 6 overall.
Service – 2: Generally unobtrusive, but there are some questionable character poses in a few shots

Overall – 10: A truly exceptional, nuanced drama that also provides what is, in my opinion, the best looking TV anime ever made

Available on Crunchyroll in all regions except Asia.

Erica here: Thank you Christina Maria, for a thoughtful review. I’ve been waffling over whether to give this some time, since fan art is rarely a good indication of anything other than fan delusion. ^_^ Now I’m inclined to give it a try!





Yuri Anime: Dear Brother, Set 3, Disk 2

July 30th, 2015

DearBrother3-275x390“The tears, they will not stop.”

We hear this sentence at the end of of every preview, but do we listen? The tears, all the tears which have not been shed by Rei, by Kaoru, by Fukiko, and by Nanako are going to come gushing out in the most horrible lancing of a wound possible. It takes a pointless, awful, stupid, tragic death for healing to begin.

Saint Just is dead. It’s not a suicide, and that helps, but it doesn’t change that she’s gone.

All along, we were thinking that Nanako was the mascot of this series, that the story was always about the beautiful people. But in the end, it turns out that Nanako, like Yumi many years later, is truly the protagonist and that she functions as a catalyst for the lives around her, is not entirely accident.

Misohoh Nanako, who can see the symbolic moments in her life, the rain, the wind, and the doves, has always been the center around which this tale orbits and Saint-Just was just everyone’s mascot after all.

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Yuri – 4
Service – 6 Bathing suits, nakedness

Overall – 9

It’s been a long time since this series ran on Japanese TV. Divorcing parents are no longer a scandal, breast cancer is no longer a death certificate. But, some things are timeless. Dear Brother is timeless.





Sailor Moon, Season 1, Part 2, Disk 1 (English)

July 15th, 2015

SMS1P2At the end of a long day of tile cutters and sanding and drilling and sawing in my home,  I really want to chill with a relaxing TV show. Sailor Moon, Season 1, Part 2, Disk 1 is not that show. ^_^

Usagi is, as the intro of the show now states, “figuring it out.” But this disk starts in a brutal place, as Nephrite, who is showing signs of being a decent being, is killed. Killed, horribly and pointlessly, although not quite *as* pointlessly as Jadeite.  This means that Naru becomes the focus for a little while, as Usagi does her best to be a good friend. Remember, it is this friendship that gives Usagi the first real taste of what being a “soldier for love and justice” means, so Usagi hanging on and being there for Naru while she works through everything, is critical to us being able to like her.

At last, we add Sailor Jupiter. It’s always hard for me to pick an Inner Senshi I like best, but Makoto is usually my first choice, then I say, “well, Ami’s adorable and I like Rei, and Minako’s a goof” in that order. So, yeah, she’s  my fave. ^_^ Her appearance is steeped in the tropes of the gang-girl yanki she was originally meant to be. All that was shed in favor of the uber-girly flower shop, or perhaps bakery, owner she turned out to be. But still I love Makoto’s first few minutes on screen. ^_^

Now we’re up to four Senshi, but it’s not getting any easier…and Zoisite seems to be slightly more intelligent than his predecessors. We also get a hint of his and Kunzite’s relationship. We’ll never see it without kid’s anime filters off, but it’s obvious to all of us even the bad guys know some kind of love.

We’re about to head into what I think the slowest bits of the season, but when Usagi and Rei aren’t bickering, she doesn’t whine quite as much. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 5  I didn’t say “god, look at that art” as often this disk
Story – 7 Nephrite ftw
Characters – 7 They are starting to seem more like “friends”
Yuri – 1  Makoto is a girl magnet, even if they never show that. ^_^
Service – 1 on principle

Overall – 7

The monsters of the day designs are so 1990s.

Many thanks to Viz Media for the review copy. Despite my first sentence, it is a pleasure being able to rewatch this series.





Yuri Anime: Dear Brother, Set 3, Disk 1

July 3rd, 2015

DearBrother3-275x390It’s so fascinating, isn’t it, when something that was life-crushing 40 years ago is pretty normal now.

There is a movie, Stella Dallas. It is about a poor mother who has a child out of wedlock. She raises the child while working, but when a rich sophisticate falls in love with her daughter, the mother all but disowns her, driving her daughter into her fiancee’s arms and keeping herself out of the picture. She sees the wedding through the church windows from outside, in the rain, because of course. In 1937, this movie was a tearjerker. In 1990, when it was remade as Stella, it kind of didn’t really make any sense. Single, unwed mothers were no longer a life-ruining thing or something to be ashamed of.

In 1975, divorces were just starting to become common. I remember when, for the first time, I was in a class where more students had divorced parents than not. It was just about then that the stigma of a divorce was starting to fade.

Now, in 2015, it has no stigma at all. Like, say, being gay, having divorced parents will not completely trash most young lives. It’s not to say that the actual action of coming out or going through a divorce is not difficult, but…

So watching Mariko in the beginning of Dear Brother, Set 3, Disk 1, crying her heart out over – and worse, suffering bullying because of – her parents divorce is a Stella moment. It doesn’t have the impact it would have in the 1970s…it wouldn’t even all that much in the early 1990s when the anime was made. Times change.

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As Miya-sama will learn, as Kaoru-no-kimi proposes the dissolution of the sorority. Watching Miya-sama’s delusions being eroded, while she sits in denial, was fascinating.

The school drama is far more interesting than poor Mariko’s personal drama, until we learn that Mariko and Aya had once been friendly rivals and in the end, save each other just enough to face another day.

And finally, we come to the most amazing, heartbreaking scene, as Fukiko asks Rei flat out if she hates her and Saint Juste breaks down completely over her feelings of love and hate for her half-sister.

This volume is a rough ride. I think I ended every episode by saying, “Wow, this is a depressing series.” But for all that, it’s one of the most deep, complex and in many ways human, dramas I’ve ever watched. The characters by now are all so fully fleshed out that you can see them as humans, rather than ciphers. These were the days before one-issue/joke per character was the rule. Everyone has flaws, everyone has strengths.

My personal favorite scene is when Nanako notices that drama-signifying doves have all left and no one else notices that there were ever any doves at all.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Yuri – 2
Service – 4 Naked Rei.

Overall – 9

To the end, Miya-sama remains selfish and mean. And in our hearts we can never even imagine her as anything but.





Re-Kan! Anime (English) Guest Review by Alice D

July 1st, 2015

75b2c08e6d279f5975a7ae77168da2881428009461_fullWelcome to Guest Review Wednesday! Today we have a brand new Guest Reviewer, Okazu Hero Alice D! I just love Guest Reviewers, it always gives me a thrill to be able to offer up a perspective that is not my own here on Okazu. ^_^ Take it away, Alice!

Though billed as a horror comedy Re-Kan! abandons the horror aspect almost immediately, for the audience anyway. The show starts with Amami, our main character with the titular “re-kan” (sixth sense) that lets her interact with ghosts, heading out for her first day of school in a seemingly normal fashion. At a crosswalk she suddenly starts hopping across and collapses in the middle of it where Inoue takes her by the hand and half-drags her to the other side of the street. Amami apologizes and explains that it was just a little boy spirit playing a prank. Inoue is confused at first but, predictably, freaks out when she catches a glimpse of it in a street mirror, and thus our two leads meet.

At school we learn that Inoue is terrified of ghosts, has a passive-agressive tsundere personality, and is very much a “grandma’s girl” to the point where her grandmother is, for lack of a better term, haunting her. We also meet Amami and Inoue’s friends consisting of Esumi, a former gangster, Uehara, Esumi’s childhood friend and occult blogger, Ogawa, who loves zombies, and Yamada, who… we’ll get to in a moment. It’s this group of friends that provides the comedy portion of the show through their interactions with each other and the ghosts that show up around Amami. There is also a rather perverted cat who very much wants to see panties, as Amami can apparently talk to cats as well (the link between ghosts and cats I am unclear on) this cat bothers her quite a lot.

As for Yamada, I still have no idea what purpose he serves. He’s the “genki girl” stereotype in boy form: loud, obnoxious, prone to breaking up moments that might otherwise serve to provide development with the Amami/Inoue relationship, and gets punched/kicked/has things thrown at him because of how annoying he is by one of other characters, usually Esumi and/or Uehara (which is suppose to be funny but is more of a relief because he finally shuts up at that point). At least with pervert cat and his quest to see girls’ panties A) he doesn’t show up as often, B) none of the characters really notice that he’s there, mostly due to C) it’s the various ghosts that stop him (which provides some characterization through their protectiveness of Amami and her friends and can be worth a laugh). The show would probably be better off without either Yamada or pervert cat though given a choice between the two I’d take the cat.

The story progresses in usual slice-of-life fashion though with the “twist” of ghosts being part of daily life for Amami who goes out of her way to provide offerings and assistance to them. There is a beach episode, of course, in which Yamada’s older, just as annoying, and slightly creepy older brother makes an appearance, and a cultural festival episode where they meet Amami’s father, who is every bit as scared of ghosts as Inoue is. This leads Esumi to point out the old saying about girls falling for people who resemble their fathers, Inoue reacts to this in standard tsundere fashion while Amami seems oddly happy about it. After this, at least once and episode, Esumi and/or Uehara go fishing for reactions from Inoue by insinuating that Inoue likes Amami a bit more than she lets on.

The best parts though, by far, come when the comedy is left behind, usually when Amami and Inoue have screen time alone. Fortunately they are fairly abundant. It’s in these moments that Inoue can show some genuine human emotion removed from the tsundere stereotype that she is locked into while the other characters are around. Most notably in the penultimate episode Inoue shows up to (nearly literally) kick Amami out of her depression by dragging her around town where they run into various people whom Amami had helped out using her sixth sense, culminating in a tearful almost love confession, but not quite (“I want to be friends with you forever”).

The final episode is a return to a “normal” life where the group goes to an amusement park, accompanied for some reason by Yamada’s brother, and have a sleep-over at Amami’s (the boys have to sleep in the yard). It ends almost as expected with the relationship between Amami and Inoue being an ambiguous ‘they have more-than-just-friends feelings for each other but won’t actually come out and say it’ sort of thing. However, the show closes on Amami and Inoue waking to the realization that they had spent the entire night holding hands and becoming very embarrassed over it. And on the roof of Amami’s house the pervert cat wakes up due to the fuss they’re making, stretches and says “Yuri? Oh yes.” before walking off screen. That parting line is certainly debatable though, it could be an indirect admission from the staff that that is the direction Amami and Inoue’s relationship is headed in or, cynically, since pervert cat could be considered an audience stand-in, it’s not to be taken seriously and is just wishful thinking. Given that the rest of the show has the other characters (except Yamada) providing good-natured ribbings to Amami and Inoue regarding their feelings for one another, I’m inclined to believe the former is the case.

Ratings:

Art – 5: middle of the road
Characters – Varies: Amami and Inoue would be around a 7, the supporting cast a 5, and Yamada a 1.
Service – 3.5: Surprisingly little for having a cat who’s only goal in life is to flip skirts and see panties, though their skirts could stand to be a hand-span longer.
Story – 6.5: (most episodes) 8: (episodes 3, 8, 11, and 12)
Yuri – 5: Most of the cast is aware of Amami and Inoue’s feelings for each other and won’t hesitate to point it out.
Overall- 6.5ish: Nothing to write home about, but definitely worth a watch if you have the time.

Erica here: I probably would never have even heard of this had it not been for you. I always appreciate the extra eyes and ears of the Yuri Network. ^_^ Thank you!