Anime, Shows

Sasaki and Miyano: A Cute New BL Anime

Anime Review:

Sasaki and Miyano Season 1

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Positive LGBTQ+ representation
  • Beautiful art style
  • Great animation
  • Cute romance

Cons

  • Somewhat repetitive
  • Clich├ęs–the typical anime umbrella scene, for example
  • The shapes that floated around randomly were overused

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

Review and Reflection

Before Yuri on Ice, I had never watched a single BL anime. What is BL anime? BL anime stands for Boy’s Love, an anime genre that depicts homosexual relationships between men. I enjoyed Yuri on Ice so much that I decided to try another BL, Sasaki and Miyano. Coming from a sheltered, conservative Christian background that I only abandoned last year, I was exposed to this category of anime in the past few months.

Yeah, I’m a newb to BL, and pretty much anything gay. But I still have something to say.

While Sasaki and Miyano is not as cute as Yuri on Ice, I still really enjoyed this romance. Miyano meets Sasaki when Sasaki defends another student from some bullies. They slowly get to know each other better, and Miyano begins to lend Sasaki BL manga. Sasaki loves it and asks for more.

Miyano is a fudanshi, which is a word meaning a fan of BL manga. He does not recognize that he is into guys, however, because the only crush he has had in the past was to a girl. He seems to be unfamiliar with the term bisexual. When Sasaki confesses his love to Miyano, Miyano asks for time to figure his own feelings out.

Miyano had thought Sasaki was just joking about liking him and teasing at first, until the serious confession. Sasaki had asked if Miyano had wanted to go out and bought him chocolates, but Miyano hadn’t realized the depth of his feelings until the confession.

Seeing Miyano struggle to understand himself is painful at times, but seems realistic.

When Miyano asks what Sasaki likes about him, Sasaki gets nervous and says he likes Miyano’s face. Wrong move, Sasaki. Miyano is extremely self-conscious about his face because he believes he looks feminine. On one hand, I couldn’t believe Sasaki could screw up that bad. On the other hand, that is totally the kind of awkward thing I would say. I’ve never been the most articulate while speaking. The written word is my friend, but sadly, the spoken word is not.

Another note: I learned a bunch of random words from this such as fudanshi and what it means that someone is cat-tongued. Apparently cat-tongued means when a person can’t drink or eat foods that are hot, or at least really don’t like to. I’m the opposite–I can barely stand drinking or eating cold things. What does that make me?

Two more things.

First, I watched this halfway dubbed, and then watched the second half subbed. I know, I’m a monster. No doubt I have grievously offended both sides of the subs vs. dubs debate as well as the anime gods.

Honestly, I prefer dubs because it is easier to take notes when my eyes don’t have to be glued to the TV screen. Reading subtitles means I can’t look down for even half a second most of the time without missing a piece of dialogue. I try to get around that by using my laptop and taking notes right beside the show. That’s how I am watching the subbed Squid Girl. But that’s kind of annoying so I still prefer dubs.

So why did I finish the season off subbed? Well, I was impatient. With one dubbed episode of Sasaki and Miyano coming out every week, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had to see the rest, even if it was subbed. If this one ended anything like Adachi and Shimamura, I would have probably screamed into a pillow in frustration.

But no, it was finally a LGBTQ+ romance anime with heart and a conclusive ending that wasn’t a half-assed attempt at good representation.

Anyway, back to the subbed and dubbed discussion. Because I watched both, I got to hear all of the voice actors. The voice actor for Sasaki in the dubbed version was the greatest thing I have ever heard. He had the most distinctive voice and it was kind of hilarious. It cracked and wavered unsteadily between high and low pitches. But the subbed version of Sasaki was easier to take seriously. So honestly, I liked both, but it was way more fun to mimic the English Sasaki. Perhaps a little mean, but it was done out of good humor and a love of his voice.

Second, the random pastel shapes that floated around half the time got kind of annoying. I get it, they have mushy-gushy feelings for each other. I could figure that out without the love kaleidoscope. So while the art style and animation were impressive, the details kind of ruined the moment sometimes for me.

That being said, I would wholeheartedly recommend this anime. Sure, it’s a 7 out of 10 due to its clear flaws, but it was entertaining and wholesome, so give it a try! I would recommend it for people who would enjoy an anime with a large helping of romance and a sprinkle of humor.

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Anime, Shows

RWBY Volume 6 Gives the Real Story of Salem

Anime Review:

RWBY Volume 6

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Memorable heroes
  • Effective villains
  • Focus on pivotal character backstories
  • Unique weapons and apparel
  • Phenomenal fight scenes
  • Interesting setting
  • Original music
  • Attractive intro
  • Balance of comedic and dark moments
  • Groundbreaking American anime
  • Beautiful art style and animation

Cons

  • No specific cons

Warning: Spoilers below!

Review

Trigger Warning: Suicide

There are so many things I love about this season. The new characters and Grimm, the epic fight scenes, the beautiful intro, the depth of the character backstories….

Let’s start with my two favorite new characters…

Maria Calavera is a wonderful addition to Team RWBY. Her eyes, once grey like Ruby’s, were destroyed by the villain Tock. She has mechanical goggles that allow her to see, even though they need tuning from time to time and they cause her to be colorblind. As the Grimm Reaper, she was highly skilled and even inspired Qrow to make a weapon modeled off of hers. I love the part where she tries to get away with using a military airship by using jargon. She pulls off the jargon, but is given away because the military does not employ the elderly.

Tock

Even though Tock is a side character shown only briefly in a flashback, I found her character design to be fascinating, and her semblance and focus on the passage of time interesting. She was inspired by the crocodile from Peter Pan and carries a watch with her. Tock’s semblance allows her to be invulnerable for 60 seconds, although it does sap almost all of her aura. She tends to play with those she intends to kill. Formidable, snarky, and sadistic, she is a character to be appreciated. Before her death, she was trusted enough by Salem to be a part of her inner circle.

The Sphinx is one new type of Grimm the heroes face pretty early on in the volume. The train fight is phenomenal. You can see how the characters have grown as fighters.

The Apathy are by far the creepiest Grimm I have ever seen. They slowly sap one’s will and volition to live. They killed a whole town because the people slowly lost the will to move and died in their beds one morning. Their cry is frightening, and they don’t even have to be fast because their prey will move slower and slower as its energy is sapped.

The battle of the team vs. the Colossus, which is manned by Caroline Cordovin, is utterly fabulous. I love that when the good guys finally get the upper hand, the city is threatened by a Leviathan. And they just took down the only thing capable of stopping the Leviathan. The guilt and determination are superb as enemies turn to reluctant allies. Ruby using Jinn to stop time was super smart and gave her what was necessary to succeed. Then Cordovin drilling into that Leviathan Gurren Lagann style…nice!

The intro is great, creating so much foreshadowing and tension. You can tell that it is shaping up to be a great volume just from watching the intro. I know some people ship Ruby and Weiss so I bet that final scene with Weiss helping Ruby up will make them happy–it looks very sweet.

Also, can I just say, the animation of this volume was much better? It really was. People were even freaking out about the detail on the trees near the beginning of the volume. A big improvement.

The backstory for Salem and Ozpin is phenomenal. Their love story seemed so sincere…until love turned to hatred. Salem went to terrible lengths to try to bring Ozpin back to life. She even turned the humans of the world against their gods, and every human was obliterated except for her. She became immortal until she could appreciate the value of life and death…a terrible sentence for the crime of turning against the gods and trying to bring back the dead. Salem tried to commit suicide at least twice, once by the sword and again by casting herself into a pool of darkness.

I found it interesting that the brother gods got along decently well despite their vastly different outlooks, one being creation and one destruction. They respected each other, and were not enemies even though their goals did not altogether match.

Qrow’s struggle with alcoholism and his loss of authority over the younger characters were pivotal in this volume. The younger characters decide to do things their way and Qrow’s permission is no longer sought or needed. This changes the power dynamics in the group. Luckily, things turn out pretty well after the the young’uns take charge.

I loved this volume and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys action and anime. Did you watch this volume? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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Anime, Shows

A Flawed Character Worth Rooting For: Wandering Witch Season 1

Anime Review:

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina Season 1

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Entertaining, flawed main character
  • Good storytelling
  • Some strong, impactful episodes
  • Beautiful animation and art style

Cons

  • A little hard to get into at first
  • The episodic feel made it seem a bit plotless and like it was going nowhere

Observations

  • Almost all of the character development focused on one character

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

Review

This anime is about a young traveling witch who visits various countries, cities, and towns.

When I started watching this anime, one of my first impressions was that I didn’t like the main character. I simply hadn’t considered her value to the show as someone with obvious flaws yet capable of change and development. It was a simplistic way of approaching the anime and I wish I had thought more carefully about it, because that attitude left me dissatisfied with the first few episodes.

As a writer, I should have realized the reason that Elaina grated on my nerves was not because she was a bad character, but because she was well-written and had a set of flaws composed of ones that annoyed me more than most other flaws would. It’s okay to have a character that is not likable as the main character, as long as she is well-written and has strong narrative purpose. And it took a reminder from my sister and a friend to help me see it that way.

The main reason Elaina bugged me at first was because she is so full of herself, especially as an adult. At the beginning and/or the end of most episodes, she describes herself as beautiful or amazing. For example, at one point she says she is so brilliant, the sun squints involuntarily upon seeing her. At another time, when asked about her specific talents, she says “I’m good at pretty much everything.” Sure, she’s right. She is a prodigy who became a witch in record time. But man, that gets annoying pretty fast.

She was apprenticed to a witch named Fran, who tried to teach her the power of failure by overwhelming her. That was a lesson she wouldn’t really internalize and learn until later, however, when she failed in more significant ways than just being defeated in a duel by a powerful witch.

Her parents have her make three promises when she leaves them to travel the world.

First, to run away from danger. She doesn’t do that very well. Even though she is apathetic most of the time and tries not to get involved in the conflicts and problems of everyday people, she gets in danger plenty of times without running away.

The second promise is not to think of herself as anyone special. I laughed upon thinking back at that one. She failed that promise with style.

The third promise is that she will come back someday and tell her parents about her adventures. She doesn’t do that, either, at least in the first season. She writes and publishes a book about her adventures, if that counts for anything. Perhaps her parents will read it.

She basically fails at all three promises.

It takes a botched mission to make her realize that she is not perfect, and what she experienced during that mission traumatized her. In episode 9, A Deep Sorrow From the Past, Elaina is the Clock Village of Rostolf. She is low on money and must take on a job.

The Lavender Witch Estelle offers her a job. Estelle had a close childhood friend, Selena, whose parents were murdered by a burglar. After their murder, Selena is sent to live with her uncle, who was abusive. Eventually she turned on her uncle and killed him, afterwards becoming a serial killer. She kind of reminded me of Toga from My Hero Academia. Estelle was eventually order to kill Selena, and she did it by beheading her. This traumatic event left Estelle obsessed with finding a way to go back in time and change her friend’s terrible destiny.

When Estelle tells Elaina this story, Elaina appears to be completely apathetic. She is truly only in it for the money.

Estelle reveals that she has found a way to time travel. She has been sacrificing her own blood to get enough magic to prep the spell. She wants Elaina to come with her since she will be drained of magic after the spell. Estelle gives Elaina a ring that allows them to share magic power.

When they go back in time, Estelle convinces Selena’s parents to leave the house so they will not be murdered. Meanwhile, Elaina watches the house so she can catch the burglar. The burglar never shows. Eventually, Elaina notices from the ring that Estelle is using her magic power. She follows the source of magic to find that Estelle is bloodied and lying on the ground next to Selena’s murdered parents.

Selena is standing there with a knife. It turns out she was originally the one who killed her parents, not a burglar. Her father had been sexually abusive and her mother had gotten jealous and hit her repeatedly.

Estelle rises to her feet and starts to strangle Selena with magic. Elaina is horrified that a friend is killing a friend and tries to stop her by taking off the ring. Estelle sacrifices all her fond memories of Selena in order to get the remaining energy necessary to behead her.

Once they return to the present, Estelle has no memory of Selena. Elaina holds herself together until she gets outside, and then breaks down into tears. She recognizes her own failures and is devastated from having watched love turn to hate and from seeing a child brutally killed. She admits to herself that she is inexperienced and occasionally helpless to stop bad things from happening.

The extent to which this experience impacted her is revealed in a later episode, when she enters an enchanted place in which there are multiple versions of herself. One of these versions is violent and exhausted, deeply hurt by what happened with Estelle and Selena. The true Elaina must come to terms with all the versions and aspects of herself before she is able to escape that place. This offers her a sense of closure and helps her move on.

Those were my two favorite episodes, although there were many other good ones. Those were one of the few that seemed strongly connected as well. Most of the season felt somewhat plotless, with Elaina wandering aimlessly to various destinations. Each episode was like a vignette, a piece mostly independent of the others. The episodic feel was interesting, though not always satisfying.

In conclusion, I would recommend this anime to anyone who appreciates somewhat dark anime with an interesting lead character.

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Anime, Shows

Noragami Season 2’s MVP is Bishamon, Goddess of War and Fortune

Anime Review:

Noragami Aragato Season 2

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Tons of character development, especially for Bishamon
  • Heartwarming scenes
  • More backstory
  • Balance of tragedy and humor
  • Interesting intro

Cons

  • Bishamon is bathing all the time, seems like fan service

Observations

  • Darker than the first season
  • I really wish this wasn’t the last season

Warning: Spoilers Below!

Review

After watching Season 1 of Noragami, I was stoked to watch Season 2, which is also called Noragami Aragoto. That literally means “Stray God, Rough Style” which is a little strange for a title. Anime is no stranger to odd titles, however. If I had to guess why it has that name, I would think it is because this season is significantly darker than the previous one.

Fun fact: Apparently a sound that sounded like the Islamic call to prayer was embedded in the music and greatly offended some Muslims. After the backlash and careful consideration, the sound was removed from this anime. I guess the fact that the anime features a polytheistic society is what made the inclusion of the Islamic call to prayer so offensive.

Bishamon

Bishamon is the MVP of this season, and she gets a lot of character development. We learn that the main character, calamity god Yato, killed most of her regalias after they were corrupted, thus saving her life. (Regalias are spirits of the dead who serve the gods.) Bishamon holds a grudge against Yato, however, because she had considered those regalias to be part of her family. Bishamon continually rescues regalias and adds them to her large family, even if they are what most people would consider useless. One new regalia, for instance, has the form of a broken mirror when not in humanoid form–lacking any practical use. Some regalias are weapons when in object form. Bishamon’s exemplar (the leader of her regalias), is an earring in object form. His name is Kasuma, and when he turns from regular regalia to exemplar, his object form changes from a nail that pierces Bishamon’s skin to an earring.

Having so many regalias is a danger to Bishamon’s health. Because regalias are deeply connected to their respective gods, when a regalia does evil or feels strong negative emotion, the god is blighted. Blight is painful corruption, and left untreated, it will eventually kill a god. Yep, in Noragami, gods are capable of dying. The renowned gods such as Bishamon would be reborn if killed, but lesser-known gods such as Yato would be gone for good if they died.

Kuguha

As the series goes on, it becomes clear that Bishamon is not the true villain of the series. Sure, she is an antagonist, at least for the first part of Season 2. But the real villain of Season 2 is Kugaha, a regalia of Bishamon’s. Kugaha believes the number of “useless” regalia Bishamon has accumulated has made her incompetent, and intends to arrange for her death so that she reincarnates. He believes that if she reincarnates, he will be her exemplar.

Many villains believe that they are the good guys of their own story, and Kugaha is no exception. He is so certain that his actions are pure that his terrible deeds do not even blight Bishamon. In her eyes, he is not completely evil. She does banish him, but does not let Yato destroy him. He becomes a minor nuisance after his banishment, but does much more damage as Bishamon’s regalia when he massacres her other regalias.

Yukine, Yato’s regalia, was friends with one of the regalia of Bishamon, Suzuha. Suzuha reveals one of the downfalls of Bishamon’s habit of collecting regalias into one big family. Suzuha loves Bishamon for her caring nature, but feels increasingly neglected when Bishamon never calls on him even once. He seeks companionship in a human, but she forgets him over and over and then disappears from his life completely. He also seeks solace in taking care of plants, but while that is somewhat fulfilling, he still is unhappy. Kugaha murders Suzuha brutally, and Yukine is devastated when he finds out.

Suzuha’s death is especially painful to watch knowing that Yukine has so few friends and even fewer people he can strongly relate to. He is so excited to have Suzuha in his life, so the short time when we as the audience know of Suzuha’s death before Yukine knows is cringey. Not cringey in a bad way, just a serious case of dramatic irony.

After Kugaha is defeated and Bishamon recovers, she creates a diary for her regalia to exchange so that she can read it and know what they are feeling and what they have been doing. This is not to spy on them, but rather to make sure they do not feel neglected like Suzuha did. The idea is cute and I suspect it will make their family closer.

The anime gives the audience a bit of a scare when Yukine is destroyed in sword form. I love Yukine, so seeing his near-death put me into a mini panic, even though I suspected he would survive. Turns out I was right, because Yukine’s sacrifice to protect Yato basically promoted him to an exemplar, which saved his life.

I also found it interesting that it is customary for a god to release a regalia that has blighted them even one time. That makes the number of times Yato put up with Yukine’s transgressions in Season 1 seem like an extreme act of mercy. It is clear that the relationship between god and regalia in the case of Yato and Yukine is not a conventional one. I personally think the friendship between Yato, Yukine, and Hiyori is sweet. I even put a picture on my desktop background of the three of them.

I don’t know why Bishamon is depicted bathing so often. That happened in the first season too. She bathes more often even than Nanase from the anime Free! It seems like it is fan service, and I don’t like it. There is nothing wrong with occasionally having characters naked if it makes sense in the story, but having her naked so often suggests they are trying to cater to the whims of the audience rather than focusing on the storyline. They also risk objectifying her for the sake of the male gaze.

Anyway, back to the relationship between Hiyori, Yato, and Yukine. Hiyori is pretty much flat-out told that if she cuts ties with Yato and Yukine, her soul will stop slipping out of her body, which is what it has done countless times since she was hit by a vehicle. She refuses despite the personal cost to herself. I admire her loyalty to her friends.

At one time, Ebisu tries to purchase Yukine from Yato with tons of money, enough for Yato to buy a shrine. Yato ultimately refuses because Yukine is valuable to him both as a friend and an exemplar. While touching, this solidarity paves the way for an even more heartwarming moment–when Hiyori creates a small shrine and gives it to Yato. Yato cries after receiving it. The freakin’ god of calamity burst into tears at the gift. It was beautiful.

I love how Yato gets his shrine officially recognized by the rest of the gods. He literally visits the government officials every day right at closing time until they cave in. As someone who has worked retail in the past, I 100% agree that this would work. Trust me, no one wants customers to be there at closing.

When Ebisu was introduced, I immediately thought he was a typical power-hungry bad guy. His plan to buy Yukine definitely made me suspicious of him, and then there is the part of the intro that shows Ebisu and Yato fighting.

But Ebisu is actually a great person who cares about his regalia and about humans. He wants to utilize phantoms to protect humans and make the world a better place. While unusual, his methods are thought through. Unfortunately, Ebisu reincarnates with astonishing regularity since his work frequently blights him. Yato becomes his friend and ally.

I hated that Ebisu was killed after all the trouble Yato and Bishamon went to in order to try to save him. Yes, it was good for the story. Yes, it had impact. But man, it pulled on the heartstrings. Yato taking the reincarnated Ebisu to the restaurant the Olive Tavern was super sad.

Intro style with Yukine

The intro is attractive, with a similar limited color palette as the intro and outro from Season 1.

I loved this season of Noragami, and would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy, comedy, or slightly dark anime.

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