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Review: Orange

Oct 11 // Karishma Roy
Orange Studio: TMS Entertainment Viewed on: Crunchyroll  Premiere Date: July 4, 2016 Orange is a character driven story and as such every single action and interaction matters. Naho, as the female protagonist, is a vexing character. She is a massive introvert verging on social ineptness. Despite knowing exactly what to do, thanks to the letter, she lacks the confidence to step out of her comfort zone and can often be found crying or running away. I felt that Naho’s growth as a character should’ve been made more evident to avoid audience frustration. Several times, I found myself saying, “Get an effing grip, gurl”, and this was especially true when she unnecessarily wastes time being indecisive or worrying about things like why her love interest might stretch out his hand with a longing look in his eyes. Thankfully her friends enlighten her on the age-old concept of hand-holding in romance. In some ways Naho’s weak personality is an advantage because it creates both internal and external conflicts that make the story eventful. She eventually gets her shizz together and towards the end appears much less timid. Kakeru, the male protagonist, may come across as playing into the trope of an angsty teenager but he suffers from depression and suicidal ideation. Episode 12, in particular, pulled at my heartstrings as it gave a gravely accurate picture of the severity of mental health issues. Research shows that Japanese people have very little understanding of depression, and suicide rates (especially among young men) are rather high, so I applaud this series for raising awareness about this serious condition. It was easy to understand Kakeru’s guilt and self-hatred and I found myself ruining my mascara as I ugly cried for him more than once. The romance between Naho and Kakeru was a bit clumsy and I’m just glad that Suwa existed - hats off to the best wingman ever! He was the most likeable character and is basically a saint. The determination with which he supports Naho and Kakeru, despite his own feelings for her, is truly remarkable. Our two main lovebirds would’ve been lost without him. The friendship is strong in this story – Hagita, Azu and Takako, along with Suwa, all come together to help Naho and attempt to save Kakeru. I appreciated that his friends noticed his depression, took it seriously and were actively doing something about it. The whole squad naturally complemented each other and I enjoyed their mundanely comical banter. Their different personalities were evident as the story played out, thankfully avoiding the need for character summations. The character design and aesthetics were visually pleasing except in episode 9 where the drop in animation quality made me gasp in shock. But, that is forgivable. Aside from that, the beautiful scenery and calm background music conveyed well the slow and steady slice-of-life feel to the story. Even though the mood is mellow on the surface, we are made aware that disaster is brewing underneath and the audience can’t quite relax. I liked the ending song, but I felt the opening was too upbeat whereas a slower and more emotional song would suit the melodramatic feel of Orange. So, should you watch it? I think yes. The overarching theme of Orange is about not wanting to carry regrets which I believe everyone can relate to. Most people tend to regret the things they didn’t do and this story encourages us all to become braver individuals who take risks. In that sense, Orange is inspiring. While I was dissatisfied with the romance mainly due to Naho’s initial characterisation, I accept that it was necessary to push the plot forward and allow the story to be told over 13 episodes. In every other way, this tale left my heart feeling full and fragile. The narrative about depression is accurate and it was refreshing to see a very prevalent mental health issue laced in with this anime. Orange is a good blend of romance, friendship, and slice-of-life with a sci-fi twist. If you find those genres appealing, then I believe it will be more than worth your time. [This review is based on a streaming copy of the series viewed on a premium account paid for by Japanator]
Orange Review photo
Would you change your past?
I was very excited for Orange, an anime adaptation of the manga, since it did incredibly well as a live-action film and there was generally a positive buzz surrounding this series. Did it meet my expectations? I enjoyed it an...

Annotated Anime: MY Love STORY!! episodes 19-23

Sep 18 // Nick Valdez
Episode 19 Takeo's mom has been pregnant on the sidelines, and it finally comes to a literal head in this episode. Takeo's been concerned with his mom's health ever since she told him about it (even if he's the one who's always reckless with his body), but she's maintaining a high level of activity despite his wishes. She's tough, and Takeo knows it, but he can't help but worry. After saving another pregnant woman from a fall, his mother feels a pain in her side and ultimately goes to the hospital. Takeo understandably freaks out and after running frantically and carrying his mother to her hospital room, Takeo's left to worry on the sidelines. After some consoling for Suna, he calms down and after retrieving a charm from Yamato wishing a safe delivery, Takeo's mom gives birth to the adorable giant baby you see above. In case you were wondering the show wouldn't crack a joke about that, Suna notes that she's the biggest baby in the room. It's actually the cutest and funniest thing.  Episode 20 This is my favorite episode to date. When Takeo laments that he never gets chocolate from a girl on Valentine's Day (and notes that Suna always receives tons of chocolate along with one from a secret admirer each year), he remembers Yamato and suddenly freaks out. Beaming with happiness, his friends corner him and ask if there's a way they could hang out in a huge group with Yamato's friends like they did at Christmas. During the group date, Yamato gives everyone chocolate cookies and Takeo's constantly wondering when he's going to get his special Valanetine's chocolate from Yamato. He's depressed when he thinks he won't get one, suddenly realizes he should've appreciated the cookies, and he acts like a giant, adorable idiot the entire episode. Of course, Yamato shows up with some kind of giant chocolate mountain and Takeo blows a super kiss from a couple of floors up. It's a good year for them both.  Ugh, this show is so cute I can't stand it.  Episode 21 During my last recap, I noted how Sunakawa is not only disinterested in women, but romance in general. He's clearly in tune with emotions as the show's proven that he cares about Takeo (going so far as to not date any of the girls who secretly joked about Takeo behind his back), but he's never pursued anyone for himself. It's a forward thinking asexual person that I hope wasn't the writer's happy accident. Anyway, the first person to challenge this and show a definite romantic interest in Suna is Yukika, a girl who's had a crush on him for ten years now. Her major flaw, however, is her crippling shyness that keeps her from actually approaching Suna in any way. the only way she's expressed her love is through Valentine's chocolate throughout the years with a note reading "I don't need anything, I just want you to love me back" or something to that effect. When Takeo and Yamato finally convince Yukika to approach, she suddenly blurts out a confession and Suna oddly agrees to go out on a group date.  While this episode tests my theory, it also posits that none of the girls were unique enough to have a relationship with a main character. Yukika's got all of the design of a new main character (silver hair, personality traits, uh, love?) but I never quite dug her. I actually found her quite annoying and way too stalkery to actually lead to a healthy relationship. Regardless, this episode's hilarious because Takeo's radar like senses always spotted Yukika.  Episode 22 While the last episode challenges Suna's bachelor lifestyle, this episode highlight's Suna's greatest quality and, potentially, his biggest flaw. You see, he's such a nice guy that he's willing to put everyone else's happiness ahead of his own. While that may be an anime staple, Suna's is actually kind of tragic. You see, as the group all go out to the zoo, Suna's just humoring Yukika the entire time. He doesn't really react to anything (except to Takeo, which Yukika points out later as a sign that he's truly interested in someone), and rather than it resembling traditional shoujo love interests, it actually adds to Suna's mysterious nature. We're never really sure what he's thinking and in fact we don't really find out till episodes end when he ultimately (and understandably given that she watched him from the shadows for ten years) declines Yukika's love. He gives her a notebook, and she loves that she even got to spend some time with the object of her affection. Of course, there was some weirdness in the middle when she freaked out on Suna since he had no interest in her. That only cemented how annoying she was. I'm glad it didn't really work out.  Episode 23 As a sort of palette cleanser, this episode is a light affair that returns to Takeo and Yamato's relationship. When Yamato gets a job at a bakery in order to better learn how to craft desserts, Takeo gets jealous for the first time in the series. When a handsome looking patisseire, Ichinose (always a hilarious ring of a traditional shoujo protagonist), mistakes Yamato's interest in cakes for an interest in him, he eventually challenges Takeo's relationship. He runs to Takeo and asks if Takeo really belongs with Yamato and states that she deserves someone more alike to her. Takeo, for the first time in the series, doubts himself and thinks Ichinose might've had a point. The episode ends as Takeo stands on shaken ground for the first time. Will Takeo actually give up on his relationship with Yamato? Nah, probably not. But this is an intelligent way to bring Takeo's untraditional nature and design in the genre to light. And it'll most likely bring about a good end to the season, and more likely, the series.  I'm not ready for this show to end, but as no sequel season was announced, I'm pretty sure the next episode is the last. I'm not sure what I'm going to do when it's over.
Annotated Love Story!! photo
I love this show so much
Have I told you that My Love Story!! is my favorite anime of the season? Although I jumped into these annotations majorly late, I've been glued to the screen each week just waiting on the latest release. It's the most fun I'v...

Annotated Anime: MY Love STORY!! episodes 15-18

Aug 27 // Nick Valdez
Episode 15 Although I've conceded the fact that MY won't have the kind of big emotional breaks I'd see in a more nuanced romantic story, that doesn't mean there's a lack of tension. It's kind of nice to watch something that's so low stakes, every molehill seems like a mountain. The latest stake is the introduction of a new love rival, Saijou, a classmate of Takeo's who's really bad at athletics. When she gets swept up in a relay, she asks Takeo to help train her. In classic Takeo fashion, he's super cool and supportive (and eventually wins the relay with no problems) and Saijou falls for him. All the while Yamato (thanks to input from her friends) catches on to Saijou and is constantly worrying over Takeo. But good ole' simpleminded Takeo sees Saijou as nothing more than another classmate. As Saijou calls him out after school in order to confess, she chickens out and asks Takeo to be her teacher instead.  Episode 16 Since this is as close to a conflict as I'd expect between the two of them, it has to be mined for as much as it can. Thankfully, the whole thing only lasts two episodes as a lesser anime would've stretched it out to at least three. That's sort of the show's best quality and biggest flaw. There's just nothing getting in the way of Takeo and Yamato's burgeoning relationship, so there really isn't any room for outside development. While that leads to some great decisions like having them form a relationship in the first episode, it's a greater effect of the Shoujo genre's flaw. In this episode Saijou is still trying to make advances on Takeo after she tells him she likes him just as a "person," and as pure hearted as Takeo is, he takes it literally and completely ignores her advances. Yamato is worried, but Takeo tells her not to worry because he's not popular with girls (instead of saying he really loves Yamato). When Saijou confesses again (during a particularly well crafted shot), Takeo turns her down and realizes why Yamato was so worried. After a pleasant scene, the two reconcile.  Best part of this episode? Sunakawa comforting Saijou. He always seems so cool and collected (and a great flip on a traditional Shoujo protagonist), but he's in touch with people's emotions. He seems asexual himself, but that doesn't mean he's checked out. It's pretty neat.  Episode 17 Even though I just went into this whole thing about the story not allowing for outside character developments, here comes "My Christmas." As Takeo and Yamato's friends Kurihara and Nanako confess their feelings to their respective friends, the two decide to cheer their friends on and take a back seat in this episode (even if it's their first Christmas as a couple). Since Kurihara is not used to talking with women, he ends up pushing Nanako away with constant jokes. Basically, he's trying the kindergarten tactic of picking on the girl you like in order to get attention (this doesn't work, gentlemen) and it's failing hard. After Nanako is finally fed up and Takeo gives a rousing speech, Kurihara climbs a giant Christmas tree in order to grab its top star (that's said to instantly make two people a couple, or something like that). Then the two reconcile and it's all back to normal.   I didn't quite like this episode. I may complain that the show doesn't explore others well enough, but if the other character's lives aren't engaging, I don't really care.  Episode 18 I'm a little sad it took so many episodes to get to this point, but it's finally happened. Takeo and Yamato kiss! It's also my favorite episode up to this point. It's Takeo's birthday (and also New Year's Day), so Yamato makes it her goal to make it Takeo's best yet. After hearing from Sunakawa that Takeo doesn't want to kiss until Spring (and calling back to one of the best gags of the series, Takeo stealing a kiss from Sunakawa), Yamato decides to push forward and kiss Takeo sometime on his birthday. This episode's full of romantic and well crafted scenes, and has a particularly deft hand with the lighting. It's all so well done, Madhouse just knocks it out of the park here. Story wise, not much happens other than Yamato and Takeo furthering their relationship a bit, but it's just so damn cute. It reminds me of why I fell in love with this in the first place. It's a return to the awkwardness, and I can't help but revel in it.  Truth be told, it just brings up a lot of memories for me. I'm 6'4, so I've always towered over girls I've dated and I've had to take the position above a few times. Just seeing it here warms me up inside.  I hope MY Love Story!! runs for more than 24 episodes, or announces a second season soon, because I don't want this to end yet. 
Annotated Love Story!! photo
Takeo x Yamato forever
I'm a sucker for romantic comedies. But it's been such a long time since I've been drawn to a romantic anime since they've all pretty much become the same thing. It's either an inappropriate relationship, an appropriate but b...

Annotated Anime: MY Love STORY!! Episodes 6-7

May 27 // Nicole Helmeid
When Ai and her brother confront Yamato about her secret, Yamato launches into a list of Takeo’s physical traits that get her heart racing. I was dying of laughter as her and Ai agreed on all of his good points while Makoto shrinks into the background. Yamato’s big problem was that she wanted to move forward on the physical side of her and Takeo’s relationship, but fears it would crush his “pure” vision of her. Ai is a little shocked but gives her the confidence to tell Takeo exactly what she wants. Ai is still struggling with her love for Takeo, I think she knows he is the happiest he has ever been. She is full of regret for not telling him how she felt sooner and is still incredibly jealous of Yamato. Yamato and Takeo finally clear up the misunderstanding and Yamato also confesses she lied about how she found his place in the beginning and also left her cell phone behind on purpose. I find it really cute that her big lies and “impure” thoughts are still so sweet and innocent. It’s really refreshing that a show of this typically-drama-filled genre can be so lighthearted. Takeo feels the pressure to be a good man for Yamato and is embarrassed to have messed up something as simple as hand-holding. He comes to Suna with a request- teach him how to kiss. Suna obviously refuses but Takeo cannot be stopped.  He traps Suna and puts saran wrap over his face because that makes it "OK" in Takeo's eyes. The episode cuts away and ends right as the kiss is happening, to the dismay of any fujoshi watching this series (myself included.)   In episode 7, Takeo is recruited by the Judo club to help with a tough match. He agrees without realizing it would cut-down on his time seeing Yamato. But in her usual sweet manner, she cheers him on and meets him after practice to deliver rice balls. There was a bit of filler in this episode with a training montage- but with the great animation, the overlay of text messages between Takeo and Yamato, and a few gags thrown in (like his mother using him as an ironing board) it was still very entertaining. Takeo told Yamato not to meet him after practice anymore since the area had warning signs for gropers. But since he isn’t the most eloquent man, he simply tells her not to come rather than explaining why. This worries Yamato so she goes to visit Sunakawa. Suna is now a master of interpreting Takeo and Yamato, so he calms her down and she realizes it must have been a misunderstanding. The day of the judo match arrives and Takeo’s opponent (who looks like a character out of Cromartie High School) declares Takeo has already lost since he has a girlfriend. Someone sounds jealous! When it is Takeo's turn to fight, the two school’s teams are tied. His opponent is pretty evenly matched and there are a few moments where Takeo falters. Usually Takeo has ridiculous superhuman strength so I’m glad he was paired up with a character that could produce an exciting match. Takeo eventually wins with a toss, to the amazement of everyone in the crowd. Even the stoic Suna is impressed.  The next episode is Titled "My Friend" so I'm hoping something good happens to Suna in return for his loyalty and devotion to Takeo.   
MY Love STORY!! Ep 6-7 photo
Communication is key
Yamato is still in turmoil over a secret she can’t tell. 

First Impressions: MY Love STORY!!

Apr 30 // Nicole Helmeid
Makoto Sunakawa looks like the stereotypical shoujo protagonist, but is actually Gouda's best friend since childhood. Quiet, seemingly cold, and good-looking, he receives many confessions from girls but turns them all down. One day they are riding the train when Sunakawa spots a girl getting groped by a strange man.  Gouda steps in and saves the girl, named Rinko Yamato, who falls in love with Gouda at first sight.  She begins baking sweets for Gouda regularly to thank him.  Gouda has a crush on Yamato but since he is used to girls not liking him, he believes Yamato is in love with Sunakawa.  He vows to help them become a couple while being oblivious to Yamato’s advances. The anime is currently on episode 4, and it has proven it can skewer the stereotypes of the genre while still being funny and romantic.  One of the aspects of shoujo that drives me crazy is a character’s inability to realize their romantic interest likes them back.  The annoying “will they or won’t they” then drags on for the whole series. Thankfully My Love STORY!! doesn’t fall into this trap, even though Gouda is thickheaded enough for it to be a believable plot point.  Thanks to a trick pulled off by Sunakawa,  Yamato and Gouda confess to each other and are surrounded by sparkly shoujo bubble bliss.  Madhouse’s animation is another great characteristic of this series, and you will especially appreciate it if you are an avid manga reader.   Sunakawa’s written thoughts and the aforementioned shoujo backgrounds always give me a laugh.  Since this is still a shoujo series I’m excited to see what drama is in-store for this atypical couple.   [You can watch MY Love STORY!! at Crunchyroll with new episodes every Wednesday.]
MY Love STORY!! photo
Nice guys finish first
 MY Love Story!! (or Ore Monogatari!!) is an unconventional shoujo manga that’s received an anime adaptation this season.  The story follows unlikely protagonist Takeo Gouda, an extremely tall and strong high ...

Sailor Moon photo
Sailor Moon

Pick up Sailor Moon tribute album on vinyl June 25

Check out these gorgeous new vinyl sleeves
Apr 26
// Brittany Vincent
It's Brittany again with another dose of Sailor Moon merchandising to populate the Japanator Sailor Moon tag! I kid, but hey, it's kind of true! Today I bring news and good fortune about the Sailor Moon 20th Anniversary Tribu...
Ao Haru Ride photo
Ao Haru Ride

Shoujo series Ao Haru Ride receives first promo video

I hadn't heard of it either, but it looks pretty good!
Apr 15
// Brittany Vincent
You guys know me. I love horror and shoujo manga, and all kinds of stuff in between. I hadn't heard of Ao Haru Ride, however,it looks like something I might want to tune into, especially given the art style. The official sit...
Wolf Girl & Black Prince  photo
Wolf Girl & Black Prince

Wolf Girl & Black Prince manga series is becoming an anime and I want in

Sadistic dudes? Yes please
Apr 08
// Brittany Vincent
The latest issue of Shueisha's Bessatsu Margaret is about to announce an anime edition of Ayuko Hatta's Wolf Girl & Black Prince, and I'm extremely interested. You guys remember Hot Gimmick, right? This sounds so totally ...

Shonen Showdown: Happiness Charge PreCure Episodes 3-4

Mar 25 // Brittany Vincent
Episode 3 Megumi and Hime are getting along swimmingly, and Blue bestows the Cure Lines upon them, tools for communication that they can only speak to each other on. He also warns the duo that no one can find out about their alter-egos, lest evil befall those close to them. You'd think common sense would prevail and you wouldn't even have to tell them not to go blabbing about their PreCure identities, but this is anime and sometimes common sense goes out the window. At least this'll give the duo a way to keep in touch, because every magical girl needs some sort of communicator, right? This episode finds Megumi struggling with keeping her secret identity concealed, which shouldn't be a problem for normal people, but given her propensity to overreact and overthink things, she's got quite the issue on her friends. Bratty childhood friend (and possible love interest?) Seiji overhears Megumi talking on her Cure Line to Hime and works it all out -- he's in the know, and it only took a single episode. That's got to be some sort of record. At least it's not like Sailor Moon, when Usagi couldn't deduce Tuxedo Mask's identity despite kissing him and interacting with him as well as Mamoru. [Editor's Note: Hey. Heeeeeey. Be careful when you talk about Usagi-sama.] There's a new Saiark terrorizing the town, and this time it's led by the prissy Hosshiwa, who wants to turn all the love and happiness in the vicinity into sweets for her to devour, because all the despair is so delicious to her. A bizarre candy land crops up as her Saiark rampages through, and this time Seiji happens upon the scene before the PreCures do. Surprisingly, he holds his own pretty well before succumbing to the monster's strength as he was destined to do, and Cure Princess and Cure Lovely have to step in to save him. Lovely's all fired up because of Seiji getting hurt, so she goes all out, even going so far as to be the first PreCure so far to use one of the PreCards in battle. She choose Cherry Flamenco, and the art style quickly changes to this awful, artificial-looking CG art style just like the credits at the end of the show. I'm not a huge fan, despite the colors and the smoothness of the animation. It just looks like I'm watching a Vocaloid or some such. At any rate, with the monster felled and Seiji out of trouble, it turns out Seiji didn't know about Megumi's PreCure status until right then, and his knowledge makes him useful enough to join the team. Blue officiates Seiji as a member and gives him his own Cure Line, while imparting one rule to the girls: PreCures musn't fall in love! Romantic tension in how many episodes? Episode 4 As our two PreCures settle into life together as partners and friends, it's decided that Hime should attend school with Megumi, which she thinks is the greatest idea ever when she realizes she can make friends there. She's all about some friendship, even though she's painfully shy when it comes down to introducing herself and actually meeting the kids at school who just wanna meet the cute new transfer student. Hime's pretty annoying in that regard. She talks a lot of game, but she never follows through. That's what this episode is actually about -- Hime's crippling shyness and desire for more friends, and the duality of her happy-go-lucky personality. I have to admit it's a little silly to watch Hime roll around in sadness when there's no reason for her to, especially when people just reach out to her at all times with friendly gestures and she clams up or runs away. It takes a run-in with a lonely teacher who thinks his students don't like him (weirdly, hiding out in a gym supply room) to turn the episode around, and as soon as you meet him you just know he's about to become instrumental in a Saiark transformation. When he does, Cure Princess takes center stage, and finally for once in the show so far shows some fighting spirit. It's about time. The catalyst? Thinking the school's going to be destroyed before she can befriend Yuuko or thank her for her kindness. Cure Princess single-handedly defeats the Saiark with the "power of friendship," or so it seems, and we get to check out another weird CG PreCard transformation that looks like it wouldn't be out of place in a video game or some sort of rhythm game. For all the fanfare, this was a really quick battle, but at the very least Princess seems to be demonstrating some combat prowess so she won't be completely useless in the future. That'd be pretty rad. With new PreCards acquired and a new friendship with Yuuko formed, maybe the third PreCure will be called upon soon!
PreCure photo
PreCures can't fall in love
It's another double dose of Happiness Charge PreCure as I get up to speed on the series for regular Shonen Showdown coverage! This week we're rapidly developing some characters and checking out some new PreCards. I'm ready for the third PreCure to make her appearance. How about you?

First Impressions: Happiness Charge PreCure! Episodes 1-2

Mar 24 // Brittany Vincent
I was wrong. Instead, I feel as though I've jumped into a series that's already in progress, with intricate plot threads intertwining into each other and a back story I feel I should have been reading up on. While I've made sense of it for the most part, I can't quite shake the feeling that having seen the previous series might help explaining some of the aspects I feel lost on. With that said, I've not actually done a "First Impressions" proper, so I'm doing a First Impressions mega-post, with plenty of PreCure goodness. I've prepared a novel here for you all, so I hope you're ready to wallow in happiness, love, and friendship. There's gonna be a whole lot of it floating around.  Episode 1 Cure Princess is a bumbling idiot who can't do much of anything right. On top of that, she's a crybaby. She just wants to make friends, or at least conquer one Saiark (enemies overrunning the world) by herself. As the story begins, she's already fighting a losing battle. While she's actually the princess of the Blue Sky Kingdom, Shirayuki Hime, she's also apparently sort of a klutz -- at least we can surmise from the first episode. Another PreCure, Cure Fortune, has to swoop in and save the day, but only after throwing some shade at Cure Princess. Apparently this not-so-awesome PreCure has been falling behind when it comes to saving the world, so she needs help. A lovely bishounen-san known as "Blue" bestows the ability to spawn a new PreCure upon Hime (I surmise it's her brother or love interest, perhaps?) and she's off to find someone to be her new best friend. Okay, well, she's going to toss the item given to her by Blue, and whomever it hits is just going to be her brand new B.F.F. Seriously.  That's where Megumi Aino (no, surprisingly I didn't say Minako) comes in. She means well, but her easygoing and fun-loving personality tend to get in the way of actually helping others. She's got the drive, however, and her smile's just as bright as her gorgeous pink hair. She's a huge PreCure fan, so when Hime meets up with her and "chooses" her to be her new friend and partner, she's ecstatic. When Cure Princess inevitably gets her butt kicked again by a Saiark, Megumi has to step in and transform at the end of the episode. Her moniker? Cure Lovely!  Though the events themselves of this episode were easy enough to follow, the beginning of the episode used to briefly expose the villain Queen Mirage wasn't exactly simple to understand. Jumping right into a battle didn't exactly help, either -- I wondered who all these established PreCures were and why they were fighting, but now that I've gone back to write these recaps in retrospect it makes much more sense now. It felt at first as if I was watching an incomplete episode, but after establishing a theme it became easier to get into. As an aside, Cure Princess has an insufferable voice actress, and I'm not so sure I want to listen to her every single week, but I'm a big fan of the theme song and the bright, eye-popping colors. I can't say the same about the lazy animation, but I suppose that's to be expected in a long-running series such as this one. All in all, I enjoyed the silliness and the decades-long transformation sequences, as well as the weird wrist device the PreCures use, especially when it involves rotating the dial like it's a rotary telephone. Not sure what's up with that, but I like it and I want to see more. I also want to see all the PreCures together and fighting something a lot more serious-looking than the Saiarks or the "gentlemanly" Namakeruda (whose name I had to find out from the Happiness Charge PreCure wiki.) Typical monster-of-the-day fare here, but I'm generally entertained. Maybe some more character or plot development awaits me with the next episode.  Episode 2 Much to Cure Princess's surprise, Cure Lovely seems to be pretty good at this butt-kicking business, for a newbie -- that is, until Cure Princess can't keep it together and prompts her partner to get out of what could end up being a sticky situation. Much to the general's (and my) surprise, the two book it out of there. It looks like Cure Princess' inability to believe in herself is hindering her when it comes to duking it out with Saiarks, so she heads over to Blue (who she calls "God") for further guidance, accusing him of lying when he told her that friends would be instrumental in improving and winning fights. Blue is the protector of the Earth apparently, and he explains to Cure Lovely what's up with those sunglasses-clad Saiarks who are terrorizing the planet. Basically, they're a bunch of jerks who want to wreak havoc on the human race. Keep it up, guys. That was all well and good, but I was excited to hear more about Queen Mirage and her dislike of all things lovey-dovey. We get to hear a little bit more about her as well as her kingdom. Turns out she's got a "guide" of her own like the PreCures do in Blue: Deep Mirror. When I look at Blue, I kind of wonder if he's genuinely a good guy with that creepy smile of his or if he's going to pull a Captain Aizen and actually be one of the enemies all this time. I think that's just reaching, since this show doesn't seem to be one that would use any kind of intricate plot devices, but a girl can dream, can't she? Two episodes in and we've already hit a snag where the heroine decides she's too overwhelmed by the responsibility placed on her and has to run away in a hissy fit, prompting everyone else to run after her to try to console her. She's been pretty useless so far, so I wouldn't mind if this suddenly became the Cure Lovely show instead. When Cure Princess has gone far enough and has found a place to sulk, Yuu comes by and offers her a special "honey candy" (probably foreshadowing a new PreCure, because I recognize her from the credits). Cure Lovely's gotta find Cure Princess too, so Megumi takes some "PreCards" given to her by Ribbon (the little fairy I keep forgetting the name of) and changes into the "Detective Coord" outfit. So that's what those little cards do. Megumi walks around in a ridiculous-looking detective outfit that recalls visions of Shugo Chara. [Editor's Note: I am honestly so confused right now.] When she finds Hime, the two share a heart to heart and decide to get back on the battlefield. With the Saiark felled and a renewed sense of growth as a team, the PreCures receive new PreCards and finally explain to us what those mean. They're a bunch of different outfits doled out in the form of trading cards, and when you fill up this special book, you receive one special wish. I wonder what that wish is going to end up being? And can I have special cards that allow me to dress up? I think I deserve them. 
PreCure photo
It's magically delicious!
I'm no stranger to magical girl anime, but I've never watched a PreCure series. I've always been interested, but once I sat down and started watching, the daunting task of sitting through 50+ episodes of each series no longer...

Review: Kamisama Kiss

Feb 21 // Karen Mead
Kamisama Kiss DVD/Blu-Ray Complete Series (Hyb) TMS Entertainment Publisher: FUNimation Release Date: February 11, 2014 MSRP: $54.98 Kamisama Kiss is a very skillfully done supernatural romance done in the shoujo style, and really, that could be the whole review right there. If you like the combination of shoujo aesthetics and supernatural characters, you will eat this show up with a spoon like it's chocolate pudding. Mmm. Sweet, sweet pudding. What's more difficult to say is whether or not this show has much appeal outside of shoujo fans who already know what they like. While the plot moves at a good clip (no lazy filler episodes here) and the story remains engaging throughout, it's still a very shoujo-y tale filled with breathy songs, impossibly leggy characters, and plenty of luminescent blushing. Furthermore, while it's not a true reverse-harem show, the fact that main gal Nanami has several attractive, supernaturally-gifted guys vying for her attention might give some viewers cause to roll their eyes. That said, I think the strength of the main character may be enough to win over some viewers who are new to the charms of shoujo. Poor Nanami gets kicked out of her house due to her absentee father's debts, and finds herself homeless at the start of the series. Through a chance encounter with a mysterious stranger, she becomes a supernatural creature called a "Land God" and inherits a shrine to live in. Unfortunately, the previous Land God's familiar-- a silver-haired fox demon, Tomoe-- isn't impressed with the idea of having a down-on-her-luck teen as his new God. What's a newbie divinity to do? What's refreshing about Nanami is that she's very active, taking control of her own story rather than just letting things happen to her. True, becoming a Land God in the first place is something she kind of stumbles into, but that takes place in the first five minutes of the show; after that, she's all about making choices and moving forward. She makes mistakes from time to time, but her errors always feel age-appropriate rather than the result of stupidity. She's a fairly realistic heroine whose bullheaded determination is a great source of strength, yet it's often her biggest problem as well; it's hard not to root for her. Naturally, handsome fox-spirit Tomoe is more cool and detached, and while his warming up to Nanami over the course of the series was something I fully expected, the way it's done isn't strictly predictable. In true "defrosting Ice King" fashion I expected Tomoe to talk down to Nanami and treat her basically like dirt until the final episode, at which point he would reveal that he's actually in love with her. I guess that's still kind of what happens, but in practice it's a little more nuanced and interesting than I anticipated, with more give and take. There isn't a ton of action, but Tomoe is a very hands-on kind of familiar and takes insults to his mistress very seriously, so don't be surprised to see some supernatural brawls go down. The magic is all mined from Japanese folklore, so be prepared for plenty of talisman-throwing as well. As a romance primarily, fight scenes were never going to be a big draw here, but I felt the series found a good balance between action and talking-head scenes; a liberal dose of humor helps keep things interesting as well. As is my habit, I watched the series subtitled, where a lot of the usual suspects abound if you're used to watching your shows in Japanese. However, I checked out an episode or two of the dub to assess its quality, and I don't think you can really go wrong with either option here; the dub is well-cast and it seems like some care was taken with the translation. I found Tia Ballard's Nanami to be a bit too loud, but then again, if I were in Nanami's position I might find myself yelling a lot too. This set is pretty light on extras, featuring only a few commentaries from the English ADR director Jerry Jewell and members of the cast. I could complain about the lack of bonus stuff, but this is the bare bones release; fans who want the whole Kamisama Kiss experience, complete with postcards and hair pins and what have you, should pick up the Kamisama Kiss Goddess Edition box set, MSRP $129.98. But these 13 episodes are strong enough on their own to warrant the reasonable asking price here without the need to guild the lily. I've attempted to elaborate on it, but what I said at the beginning of this review still stands: this is a really good shoujo supernatural romance. If you like that, jump on this. If you're not the biggest shoujo fan, but you like your heroine's feisty and your shows filler-free, Kamisama Kiss may be worth checking out anyway. It passed "The Wilson Test"-- by which I mean, my husband actually started watching it (and laughing along with the jokes) even though I didn't ask him to, and let me tell you: not every shoujo series passes that test. Score: 8.0 – Great. A great example of its genre that everyone should see, regardless of their interest.
Kamisama Kiss photo
Doing the God thing
When I dream of becoming God, these fantasies usually don't involve a white-haired pretty boy with fox ears who follows me around and does my bidding; clearly, I've been doing it wrong. Now that Kamisama Kiss has taught me th...

Exploring shoujo manga

Jan 17 // Karen Mead
Please note: I honestly haven't had time to sit down with these mags and read anything in depth (which for me requires a Kanji dictionary and a serious time investment), so these are just my impressions based on flipping through the mags and trying to read the stories that jumped out at me with my limited Japanese knowledge. Once I've narrowed it down to one magazine, then I hope to start reading in more depth. Feel free to let me know if you have a preference among any of these magazines, because right now I like ALL of them and picking one is probably going to come down to spinning around three times and picking at random. Alternately, I could just go with Ribon, since it was the first one I tried and First Girl Always Wins.... All magazines were purchased from Kinokuniya NYC.
Manga photo
Magazines for 10-year-olds are the best
Look guys, it's my first video! Let it never be said that I've been left behind in the age of new technology by sticking solely to writing text! Actually, I've totally been left behind in the age of new technology (I worked ...

Review: Sailor Moon

Dec 11 // Karen Mead
Sailor Moon (volumes 1-14) Published by: Kodansha Comics Written by: Naoko Takeuchi Illustrated by: Naoko Takeuchi Translated by: William Flanagan, Mari Morimoto Release date: Nov. 26, 2013 (date of last volume's release) MSRP: $10.99 (each)  If you're super-new to anime and don't know about this famous series, let me just get the premise out of the way real quick: Sailor Moon is about a lazy, ditzy middle-school girl named Usagi Tsukino who becomes a fighter for justice when a magical cat gives her the ability to transform into a sailor-suited warrior with superpowers. Usagi meets more and more Sailor Guardians, and together, the girls use their planet-themed powers to defeat all manner of evil and save the world multiple times. There is one token male named Tuxedo Mask, who is very handsome and also mostly useless, in a nice reversal of the typical damsel-in-distress trope. The early '90s series is notable for introducing many of the concepts that became staples in magical girl shows (and anime for girls in general) going forward. Probably the biggest surprise to me about this manga was how fast it moves. The anime was notorious for its monster-of-the-week format, but the Sailor Warriors in the manga have exactly zero patience for that silliness. Enemies aren't just defeated, they're vaporized, usually after only one or two appearances. Only the major arc villains get the luxury of tangling with the heroes for any extended period of time. In fact, battles tend to be of the curbstomp variety-- usually in the heroes' favor, but that gets reversed at times. Compared to boys' manga epics, where a single fight can span chapters upon chapters of manga, it's kind of amazing just how efficient everyone is in Sailor Moon. There's very little of that "Hah, let's see how you can counter this special attack!" cat-and-mouse game between the heroes and villains; everyone here is playing for keeps right from the word go. Personally I find it interesting that Sailor Moon, which many would consider to be a quintessential "girls" manga, is so brisk and businesslike compared to the likes of Naruto or Bleach, which are hugely drawn-out, unabashed supernatural soap operas. There's got to be a message in there, somewhere. The manga's pacing, however, is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the accelerated pace makes the characters seem a lot smarter than they do in the anime, and not just because they defeat their enemies faster. Plot twists that were dragged out for dozens of episodes on screen are dealt with very quickly on the page. For example, in the anime, it takes Tuxedo Mask and Sailor Moon ages to find out each others' real identities (which is kind of painful to watch, considering how poor their disguises are) whereas in the manga Tuxedo Mask logically figures out that Usagi is Sailor Moon almost immediately, and she finds out about him not much later. However, I felt like the manga could have used some breathing room; as soon as one enemy is defeated, it's time for the next one. At times, I actually found reading it to be kind of exhausting for that reason. I found myself wishing more time was spent on just the characters interacting, rather than always preparing for the latest and greatest threat to Planet Earth. The side stories, which Kodansha released in two volumes called Sailor Moon: Short Stories after volume 12, feature more character interaction, but are still bogged down with battles. It's probably worth noting that the first story arc (which runs through volume 3 of the Kodansha release), has the best pacing. This was the story Takeuchi originally set out to tell, before the series proved so popular that her editors demanded a continuation. After the first arc ends with the defeat of the evil Queen Metalia, Takeuchi does a capable job finding new ways to keep the Sailor Guardians on their toes, but by the final arc, I think you can tell she was getting tired of it; major characters get unceremoniously killed left and right (some even die off-panel) and the whole thing feels massively rushed. I've read that Takeuchi found the process of creating Sailor Moon very stressful, and by the last few volumes, I think you can really feel it. Speaking of the artist, Takeuchi's art can be hard to get a handle on. She draws some absolutely breathtaking pictures, but she isn't necessarily a great visual storyteller. Some panel-to-panel transitions were confusing, leaving me unsure what happened, or even flipping back a few pages to make sure I didn't miss something. Of course, this could be partially due to the fact that I thought I knew what was happening because of my experience with the anime, only for the manga to take a different route. Also, it doesn't help that so many of the characters look very similar; sometimes it's hard to tell who's doing what to whom. Of course, in the end the details don't matter too much since we know how every arc is going to end: Sailor Moon will whip out the Silver Imperium Crystal, the most powerful thingamajig in the galaxy, and save the day. The greatest weakness in the manga is that the Silver Crystal is so powerful that it robs us of anticipating how the good guys are going to triumph over evil; the details may change a bit, but in general, Sailor Moon will always use the crystal, powered by her love, and the world will be saved. To me, this is the flaw that keeps the title from being something that can fully satisfy adult readers; the win-button nature of the Silver Crystal just isn't up to the level of the other concepts on display, some of which are actually quite sophisticated. All that said, the title is full to the brim with creativity; in fact, it's almost impossible to appreciate just how innovative Sailor Moon is in 2013, since other creators have been ripping it off for 20 years now. It's hard to imagine how exciting it must have been as a reader to see some of these things go down for the first time. I've never been the huge fan of the so-called Outer Senshi (Sailors Uranus, Neptune, Saturn and Pluto) that some Moonies are, but all of their choices take the characters in different, interesting directions. The series' use of time travel is also surprisingly well-done; instead of descending into a confusing mess, the time travel in Sailor Moon actually makes logical sense and doesn't hurt your brain when you try to think about it in detail. Maybe I've just been watching too much Doctor Who lately, but personally, I appreciate that. From a production standpoint, Kodansha did a great job with this release. A minor nitpick is that sometimes dialogue seems to disappear into the spine of the books, but I only noticed this a few times during my reading of the entire series. Also, the dialogue doesn't always sound as natural as it could (and the decision to leave in certain honorifics will always be controversial), but I didn't have any major issues with the translation. The color illustrations at the beginning of the volumes look great, and the included translator's notes always prove an interesting read. The final volume, Sailor Moon Short Stories 2, also includes a series' timeline of both in-universe and real-world SM events, which is a useful little bonus.  So, in the end, were the legion of manga fans right? Is the manga indeed "so much better" than the anime? Don't kill me hardcore Moonies, but I don't think so. The manga is an artistic, elegant portrayal of a very ambitious, romantic and idealistic story, but suffers from a lack of character development for basically everyone except Usagi (and Chibi-Usa, but God, let's not even talk about her.) The anime, while loaded with filler and generally much lighter and sillier in tone, does a better job giving you reasons to care about these characters-- and arguably, a better job of disguising the deus-ex-machina nature of the Silver Imperium Crystal. If only the manga existed and not the anime, I think that today, the title Sailor Moon would perhaps be more respected, but nowhere near as beloved. All that said, I still think the complete manga is a stunning artistic achievement, and pretty much a must-read for any fan of the magical girl genre-- no, fans of manga period. Takeuchi's magical world oscillates from super-cute to downright creepy to wonderfully surreal, and there's something here for virtually everyone. There are significant flaws, but that does little to take away from the fact that this work is the product of a unique and exciting creative vision. Rating: 8.0 – Great. Beautifully drawn, well-written, with a loving attention to detail. Among the best of its genre.    
Sailor Moon photo
14 volumes of moonlight romance
As a Sailor Moon fan, or "Moonie" of 15 years, it's kind of amazing that I never got around to reading the entire manga until now. I guess it's not that weird when you think about it; early on, I was all about anime and had l...

A Look @: Sweet Rein, vol. 1

Nov 14 // Kristina Pino
Sweet Rein, vol. 1Creator: Sakura TsukubaTranslator: Tetsuichiro MiyakiPublisher: VIZ MediaRelease date: November 5, 2013MSRP: US$9.99 Print/US$6.99 eBook [BUY] My original assessment of this manga before giving it a read was that it's just your typical cutesy shoujo with a holiday spin. I was correct in that - this book has all of the elements that we've come to know and love (or in my case, hate) about the genre: the lovers meet, and one falls heads over heels, while the other is constantly filled with doubt. Some other hot person comes out of nowhere. The relationship is "doomed," and right, one of them hasn't ever had their first kiss. The works - Tsukuba really pulls all the stops, here. What makes this comic different is that it's clearly done more for the fun than anything else. Yeah, the story itself is kind of generic, but the creator got much joy out of drawing the adorable costumes for Kurumi (she is a Santa after all) and making nice, vibrant panels. It's just too bad the final product isn't full color, because it was clearly intended to be a bright and colorful work. Since Sweet Rein isn't this long, drawn-out dramedy designed to wrench your heart into tatters by the time it's over, the pacing is refreshingly brisk and the tone is light. There were a few panels that earned some out-loud chuckles from me, too. Despite its adherence to tropes we've seen before, I still found it a fun read. Just don't try to make too much sense out of the way the world works in this story, and take it all for what it is at the moment it's presented to you. After the Santa stuff is over, there's a second story called Sweet Bite Mark added to the back. It introduces a vampire called Ren who suddenly has a little girl claiming to be his daughter thrust upon him. It's another cute thing that isn't too far removed from things we've seen before, but again, it was more of a, "I wanted to write a vampire story!" deal from the author than anything else. If you're into the genre, this is a fun book to pick up. Since it isn't that long, I'll probably keep on reading as VIZ publishes it, so keep your eye on Japanator for more.
Sweet Rein vol. 1 photo
Santa Claus is a cute girl and she's coming to town
Last week saw the release of the first volume of Sweet Rein, a Christmas-themed love story published by VIZ Media. It's a translation of Sakura Tsukuba's Yoroshiku Master, which is finished, and mercifully short (three volume...

Shoujo photo

Hana Doki Kira Kickstarter showcases shoujo

Kickstart the sparkly-sparkly
Nov 05
// Karen Mead
There's a lot of projects on Kickstarter with some link to anime or manga these days, and while we can't keep tabs on all of them, we try to let you know about anything particularly interesting that pops up. One of the latest...
Sweet Rein vol. 1 photo
Sweet Rein vol. 1

Romance and Christmas spirit abound in Sweet Rein vol. 1

Santa Claus and reindeers just belong together
Nov 02
// Kristina Pino
VIZ Media is ready to kick off the holiday season early with the release of a new shoujo series titled Sweet Rein. The first volume will be out on November 5th both in print (US$9.99) and digitally (US$6.99) via the VIZ Manga...
Manga photo

Manga Reborn Kickstarter adds Satonaka Michiko title

The Old Testament, shoujo-style?
Oct 30
// Karen Mead
I already let you know about the Manga Reborn Kickstarter, which seeks to make a bunch of lesser-known manga legally available in English. Normally, the fact that the Kickstarter has added another title to the project wouldn'...
Japan Expo USA photo
Japan Expo USA

JX: Viz reveals their newest manga plans

Nana fans are given hope.
Aug 26
// Salvador G Rodiles
I don't know about you, but it looks like Viz has shifted into a manga overdrive with their latest announcements from Shojo Beat and Shonen Jump. On the digital side of things, Skip Beat, W Julie...

Kimi no Iru Machi getting an anime adaptation

Awww, it's all grown up!
Mar 12
// Kristina Pino
The Akiba reports that Kimi no Iru Machi, a manga/story by the same creator of Suzuka, which has only had a couple of OVAs will now be adapted until a full-on show. There aren't really any details further than that, thou...
Marmalade Boy returns photo
Marmalade Boy returns

Be still my heart, Marmalade Boy returns

Why am I getting so giddy?
Feb 28
// Hiroko Yamamura
You probably wouldn't be able to guess from my love of sci-fi anime, but the romantic anime series, Marmalade Boy is one of my all time favorites. I usually don't dig in shoujo anime and manga, but the Marmalade Boy TV series...

Rejoice! Aksys to bring PSP otome game Sweet Fuse to NA

It's that game where you're Keiji Inafune's niece
Feb 15
// Elliot Gay
The PSP is the console that just refuses to die, almost 10 years after its North American launch. The good folks at Aksys Games have announced that they'll be bringing Idea Factory's otome game Sweet Fuse: At Your Side (Bakud...

Say "I Love You" says hello to Sentai Filmworks

hehehe, clever headline, 10/10
Nov 16
Say "I Love You" is an anime airing this season about two misunderstood high school students falling in love... but that can't be right, because there's another anime airing this season called The Monster Seated Next to ...

Inu Yasha: The Final Act coming to DVD and BD in November

And now I'm all full of nostalgia feelings
Sep 29
// Kristina Pino
Inu Yasha: The Final Act, the long-awaited conclusion of the epic Inu Yasha series which went on and on... forever... is slated to be immortalized in DVD and Blu-ray with dubs this coming November, according to this article b...

Let Them Eat Romance: Rose of Versailles licensed

Sep 18
// Josh Tolentino
Now here's a blast from the past. In a move I definitely did not anticipate (though this probably stems from my cluelessness regarding the genre), Right Stuf has acquired the license to - of all things - Rose of Versaill...

Absolute Boyfriend being adapted for the stage

Apr 16
// Bob Muir
Yuu Watase's Absolute Boyfriend is getting a stage adaptation. In March 2013, the play will open at an unannounced theater in Tokyo. The story concerns Riiko Izawa and her attempts to get a boyfriend. In the process, a perfec...

Media Blasters rescues Fushigi Yuugi, rereleasing DVD set

Jan 12
// Bob Muir
Out of the blue, Media Blasters has announced via their Facebook page that they have acquired the license to Fushigi Yuugi, the 1995 series that ran for 52 episodes and spawned a few follow-up OVAs. The anime was previously p...

Japanator Recommends: Revolutionary Girl Utena Pt. 1

Jul 05 // Pedro Cortes
Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Student Council Saga [DVD]Studio: J.C StaffLicensed by: Nozomi / Right StufRelease Date: June 7th, 2011MSRP: $49.99 Revolutionary Girl Utena begins with a fairy tale, depicting a heroic prince saving a young girl. However, instead of growing up to become a pretty princess, the young girl strives to be more like her savior and become a prince. Thus are the off-kilter origins of Utena Tenjou, now a student at Ohtori Academy. Her heroic, tomboyish antics have her clash with a student council member. The result? The two have a duel in a seemingly impossible section of the school, with Utena winning and becoming the owner of Anthy Himemiya, the Rose Bride. The episodes included in this set depict her initial clashes with the various members of the Student Council, their attempts to win back Anthy and Utena's attempts to free Anthy of her destiny as the Rose Bride. That right there was a quick synopsis that doesn't take into account the numerously strange things that go on in Ohtori. For one? There's a giant upside-down castle on the premises that Utena must climb every time she goes to duel. There was a kangaroo with boxing gloves that punched a little kid in the face. Oh, and did I mention the apple slicing, knife throwing, and mass balloon floating Student Council that does random things while they discuss their plans to bring about a world revolution? Then there are the silhouetted actresses that present short skits that are somewhat relevant to which ever situation Utena is put in. When put together with a multi-layered story, these antics elevate Revolutionary Girl Utena above many in its genre. One of the more interesting bits about the show as a whole are the warped gender roles all over the place. There's the obvious Utena/Prince subversion, but the general androgyny of all of the Council members and a lot of the students add to the surreal quality of the whole thing. A strong/masculine female  as well as a diminutive/feminine male pianist in the Council stand out the most. The romantic inclinations between the people in the school also skew away from the norm. When I say that the pair with the brother/sister complex are as normal as you're going to get, I'm not kidding. With all of the oddity comes a few problems. Foremost is the formula that's repeated almost ad nauseum. With small variations, just about every epsiode goes like this: Utena starts out with a somewhat normal day with Anthy. Member of student council interacts with her. Tragic past revealed. Council meets. Letter received from mysterious individual and the duel is announced. Stock animation plays of Utena making her way to the battlefield. The duelists fight. Utena pulls something out of her ass and wins. Despite this, there are quite a few surprises, including the motivations behind several Council members. While the main man has typical desires for control and power, everybody else has their own reasons for fighting Utena over and over again. The set ends on a high note, preparing the show to enter much darker territory in the next arc. My personal highlight in this set was any episode involving Nanami, who deserves a show of her own. She's easily the funniest character in the show and is often the source of the show's strangest moments. The above mentioned boxing kangaroo was in one of her episodes as well as a gag episode involving magical curry that makes people switch personalities.  One of my other major problems when I first saw the show was the wildly inconsistent animation. Besides the opening and closing, the only solid bit of animation was Utena's stock climbing footage. Now, everything looks much sharper and bright, but there are still some occasional animation issues. To be fair, there is only so much you can do to improve a 39 episode show from 14 years ago. The sound has also been improved, making the varied soundtrack sound all the better. The acting is also pretty good, though I'm definitely not a fan of the dub. That said, it isn't absolutely offensive, so if you're dead set against reading subtitles and prefer the sound of English, it won't kill you. I also have to point out the excellent job that Nozomi/Right Stuf has done with the set itself. The box has a pair of stylish drawings done with the characters in silhouette, resembling the intro fairy tale and the actresses in the show. While the DVDs have little on them besides the episodes, the set includes a nice booklet with character art and interviews about the remastering process. It's interesting and informative, appealing to old and new fans alike. Despite some of its flaws, Revolutionary Girl Utena is an entertaining romp that revels in its surreal vibe. It never loses itself while it's being weird and is dramatically different from anything else out there. It looks and sounds great, being a marked improvement over its original DVD release, plus the packaging and extras are excellent. If you don't mind the formula that it repeatedly follows, it's definitely worth your scratch.   Score: 8.0

Surrealism is difficult to pull off properly in any genre or medium. Sure it's easy to slap some bizarre stuff next to a speaking character and say that it's surreal, but it rarely adds more to the final product. It usually t...


Jellyfish Princess fully licensed for US release, kulala~

May 12
This last fall season, FUNimation simulcasted the light-hearted anime Jellyfish Princess (aka: Kuragehime), which ended up becoming well-received here at Japanator, if not being considered a bit too short. Not too l...

Nanoha creator's next series is DOG DAYS

Jan 07
// Bob Muir
Moetron brings word that the latest Newtype has announced the next project for Tsuzuki Masaki, the creator of the popular Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha franchise. Starting in April, DOG DAYS will begin airing, be...

Ultra Maniac going on Hulu and iTunes, courtesy of Viz

Nov 10
// Bob Muir
And now, more digital anime news. Viz is releasing Ultra Maniac on not just Hulu, not just iTunes, but both Hulu and iTunes. You could pay for it or not pay for it, isn't that great? The first five episodes of the series...

First Impressions: Kuragehime/Jellyfish Princess

Oct 17
// Lauren Rae Orsini
This show is NOT about a jellyfish princess. Protagonist Tsukimi makes this clear: even though her mother told her as a child that all girls grow up into princesses, something has gone wrong and she’s just a nerdy girl....

Kaichou wa Maid Sama! and female strength

Sep 07 // Lauren Rae Orsini
However, I'm halfway through the series and no man can conquer this powerhouse of a character (and what's better, several of the storylines involve Misaki teaching her female friends to stick up for themselves, too). Misaki is smarter, stronger, and more articulate than every other character in the show. At the same time, she's drawn realistically, with brown hair and eyes and a modest figure. Maid Sama! is a shoujo anime so she's made to be a role model for girls -- she's designed for a female gaze. I don't think this would happen on American TV. Hollywood's idea of a strong female character is one who is forceful during romantic encounters, basically, in regard to a male character or male gaze. We very rarely see a female gaze in American television at all. This is why it was so hard for me to accept that Misaki is strong and remains that way, whether she's in love or not. Why is this happening in Japan, a country we consider far more sexist than America? I found one hypothesis in Roland Kelts' Japanamerica. Kelts observed that animes often have female or child heroes and found that this has a lot to do with Japanese identity. He interviewed anime journalist Hideki Ono, who presented his take: "Also very Japanese, [Ono] believes, is the emphasis on female and child characters... He theorizes that Asians in general, and Japanese especially, like to have more diminutive characters performing heroic feats -- David beating Goliath -- primarily because they are physically smaller than other ethnicities." Maid Sama! fits well with this storyline, as average looking Misaki beats all the boys at the Sports Festival, files comically large stacks of paperwork in mere minutes, and gets the highest grades in the whole school, all while beating up stalkers and delinquents. Of course, Maid Sama! is not without its subtle sexual storyline -- Misaki IS a maid-cafe maid and plot points frequently refer to the various moe themes at the cafe: Glasses Girl Day, Pigtails Day, Visual Kei Day etc. But the fan service is never gratuitous, and some of the comedy comes from Misaki's irration at having to act cutesy. If anything, the costumes and personas the maids assume on moe days show that weakness as femininity is just an act. Not to mention the parallel between the way Misaki's male classmates are at her mercy at school, so are the male visitors to the maid cafe. Has anyone else watched Kaichou wa Maid Sama!? I definitely recommend it, not just for the feminist critique I've made of it, but because it's a refreshing slice-of-life anime far removed from the excessive fan service I've been rotting my brain with this anime season.Check out more of Lauren's anime analysis on her blog, Otaku Journalist. 

When a friend suggested I check out Kaichou wa Maid Sama! (President is a Maid!) I was expecting a bubbly shoujo comedy-romance. I was half right. The leading lady, Ayuzawa Misaki, is anything but bubbly. The class president ...


No More Mutants: X-Men Misfits and more get axed

Apr 13
// Josh Tolentino
Dark times are nigh for fans of east-west comic book crossovers, as X-Men Misfits, a shoujo-manga-styled adaptation of everyone's favorite mutant franchise has been separated from its ability to exist, Scarlet Witch style.Deb...

First Impressions: Hime Chen! Otogi Chikku Idol Lilpri

Apr 11 // Karen Mead
Just for the record, watch out for Ayaka Wada, Ringo's voice actress; I hope we'll be hearing a lot more of her. Being able to play a small child convincingly while keeping one's voice from getting too high-pitched is a rare skill.There seems to be a part of my brain that hasn't evolved since the 1980's, and it is this part that allows me to enjoy shows like My Little Pony. While the other part of my brain that demands actual stimulation may be more demanding, I have to care for my juvenile side now and again.However, even the part of me that thinks Fizzy Making a Friend is the height of drama has standards, and I'm afraid that Lilpri doesn't quite meet them. It's not that it's bad; I suppose, if I was four, I would eat it up with a spoon. But my inner My Little Pony fan is closer to seven years old, and this show is too devoid of substance for that more mature demographic. Seriously.I can't remember this little guy's name, so I've just been calling him "the Twitter bird." It's about little girls who are transformed into pop idols in order to create "happiness tones" that will restore a fairy kingdom to it's former glory- kind of like the "Do you believe in fairies?" scene from Peter Pan dragged out into a show. Even with that premise, the show could still be entertaining if the characters were likable, but so far, none of them really have personalities. Ringo is a little more brazen in her desire to meet Wish, her favorite male idol, but that's all that distinguishes the three girls at this point.One positive note is that I don't think any real attempt has been made to sexualize the girls for the purposes of appealing to lonely otaku, a la Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha; I've no doubt some otaku will take a shine to the girls (who are actually quite cute), but it's not targeted in that direction in any obvious way; for better and for worse, this show is meant for very small girls. Even their magical "adult" forms don't look like they were meant to have much sex appeal. "What do you mean, they didn't make us SEXY?????" The art style is cute without approaching Hanamaru Kindergarten levels of cute (oh well...), but the CG during the idol sequences is kind of off-putting; I don't know exactly what it is that they're doing during the song and dance numbers, but I can tell that it's CG and it's awkward. I don't know what's going on here, but I DO NOT LIKE IT. Saying that you should ignore this show if you don't happen to know a little girl of the right age might sound like an insult, but actually it's not; this show is a dedicated children's show, and there's nothing wrong with that. I may watch a few more episodes just because I like the cute Twitter-bird, but otaku who may be looking for a magical girl show that's satisfying on multiple levels- like Card Captor Sakura- can rest assured that that they aren't missing anything.

Summary: Do you have a five-year-old daughter? No? Move along, nothing to see here.They said it was impossible, but I proved them wrong; I've found a shoujo show that makes Yumeiro Patissiere look deep. Sure, it's not like I ...

First Impressions: Kaichou wa Maid-sama

Apr 08 // Brad Rice
Misaki Ayuzawa is the student council president, a position that apparently inspires fear and has the student doing more work than a principal, at Seika High. She's aggressive and fiercely defensive of the female populace, since the school is 80% male, on account of it being an all-boys school until recently.Of course, Ayuzawa has a secret. She works a part-time job at a maid cafe, like any self-respecting girl would do. Of course, no one can know that the student council president is doing something so salacious as serving guys moe moe omelets. And, what do you know? The pretty boy who always just blows off whatever she says finds out. And he starts attending the cafe regularly. This stress, plus trying to deal with studies and her family's finances causes her to overwork herself. I think you can guess who comes to the rescue when she faints.Now, these two seem to have bonded over her little secret, although we'll have to wait and watch the rest of the series to see how this turns into a romance, undoubtedly.I'm not against plots that are easily telegraphed (see Ladies vs. Butlers!), but there's something in the back of my mind that's saying this is going to be so predictable it will hamper the fun of watching the show. The art style isn't one to save it, as J.C. Staff's design is fairly middle of the road on this.I'll keep watching the show for now, but I can't really recommend it as anything that's especially worth your while. Who knows, there may be some great plot twist a few more episodes in, and Ayuzawa gets TEEN PREGNANT. You'll have to keep your eyes peeled to Annotated Anime to find out!

Summary: Middle of the road shoujo fare that's probably nothing more than a promotional tool for the manga.I'll admit: I fall pretty easily for shoujo material. Stuff like Lovely Complex or Crimson Hero? I drink that milkshak...


What we want from a new Sailor Moon

Feb 06
// Karen Mead
While it's nebulous at the moment whether or not Toei is planning on doing anything new with the franchise, after this little announcement, there's certainly nothing wrong with considering the possibility of a new Sailor Moon...

Sailor Moon Returns! (kind of)

Feb 04
// Karen Mead
The good news is that Sailor Moon is back, baby! The bad news is that it's really only back in Italy.Now, no offense to Italy, but when I first heard whisperings of a Sailor Moon revival, I was hoping for a new anime series o...

Japanator Recommends: Sketchbook

Dec 19
// Karen Mead
This review was in real danger of becoming a "Japanator (Doesn't) Recommend" because this show is so slow. For the first episode or two, I shifted in my chair, wondering why a show I wanted to like seemed to be tryi...

Aurora Sale: Mega Cheap Manga!

Dec 14
// Danica Davidson
'Tis the season for nonstop shopping, what with all the holidays at this time of year. Sales are especially appreciated, particularly when it's sales on manga. If you know someone who wants manga for gifts, or if you want to ...

Why Kimi ni Todoke should be over

Dec 01 // Karen Mead
Okay, I know the animation budget is like, twelve dollars, but they could still draw some freakin' chairs. 1. The character designs aren't detailed enough We don't like to talk about it, but everybody knows the truth; animators are poor souls who have sinned in a past life, and now face eternal punishment in the form of drawing the same ridiculously complex character designs over and over again, day in and day out. It may be cruel, but it's certainly effective- I was tempted to murder someone once, then I thought about the possibility of spending an eternity drawing the girls from Shin Kohime Musuo, and then I just did some glaring in their general direction.KnT uses a minimalistic art style with the expectation that the audience is smart enough to define the characters by their personalities and not their outfits, or shining bubblegum-colored hair. It assumes that viewers are smart enough to appreciate the unsaturated, earth-toned color palette, and it's correlation to the themes of the show, rather than demand bright and flashy effects all of the time. I vehemently disagree with this approach- in fact, I resent the very implication that viewers are that smart. Are you that smart? I'm not. They have some nerve to expect me to pay attention without abundant shiny things, and spectacularly animated blue/green hair fluttering in the wind constantly. More importantly, the animators can't possibly be suffering enough- and remember, they deserve it. 2. It creates unrealistic expectations about high schoolThose of us who have already endured the banal circle of hell that is high school can at least watch the show with a kind of wistful incredulity, but I shudder to think of the consequences for those who are not so lucky. Think of the kids who are watching this show; they'll be led to believe that people have substance, social stereotypes can be transcended, and the most popular guy in school really might fall head over heels in love with the resident social outcast with no reservations. KnT wants you to believe that, though it won't be easy, you can cut through all of the pretenses and labels and make connections with people, even those with whom you would never expect to do so. That social barriers are not impregnable, and people can prove be better than you thought they were if you only give them the right opportunity. I think we can all agree that allowing the perpetuation of lies of this magnitude to continue would be to do cruel injury to our youth.What KnT does is like taking a kid for a ride, telling them that they're going to a magical land where unicorns frolic and frosted donuts grow on trees, and then dropping them off at a Siberian prison camp instead. That's how kids are going to feel when they get to high school and discover that, instead of sensitive souls with beautiful smiles like Sawako and Kazehaya, they are surrounded by sundry packs of unmitigated assholes who would literally rather die than give up their social labels. Just thinking about that level of disappointment has just ruined my day. How can we, as a society, condone this? 3. Lack of action scenes, and poor action choreography Even the most diehard fans of this show have to admit that the action is poorly choreographed. There's no excuse for the fact that all people ever do on this show is sit on their asses and gab, or stand up and gab. I thought we were going to finally see one of Sawako's special attacks last episode, and then it turned out that she was just kicking a rock because it was there.This show really needs to stop messing around and get to the fights we've been promised, like Pin vs. Kurumi, Kazehaya vs. Sawako's Inferiority Complex (it's become corporeal), and Sawako vs. The Real Chick From The Ring. Clearly, the only way to resolve the myriad issues on this show is via fight scenes that last multiple episodes, and feature someone commentating so we don't get confused. I know they want us to think that resolving conflict through patience and understanding is heartwarming, but you know what? "Heartwarming" is just animation lingo for "We're too cheap to animate proper fight scenes."  4. Unfair to Anime womenI cannot reveal my sources, but I have it on good authority that some Japanator editors have created shrines to Sawako Kuronoma in their bedrooms, quite possibly displacing their existing anime shrines- oh, and Brad, close your windows.Plenty of male otaku are head-over-heels in love with the raven haired, painfully socially inept school girl, and this represents a huge problem for the women of anime. Look at Sawako: she wouldn't know what a sexy attitude was if it bit her on one of her penny loafer-clad feet, she dresses like a nun, and she doesn't have the tiniest bit of cleavage to show even if she were so inclined. I mean, this is a girl who would have to stuff her training bra in order to create the appearance of possessing any curves whatsoever (not that she would), and she's taking all of the attention away from the women of Ikkitousen and Queen's Blade?Hundreds, thousands of female anime characters have been parading around in stupidly revealing outfits for decades now, and after all their toil, this is how they're rewarded? They get to watch otaku fall inexplicably in love with a girl with a hopelessly flat chest and the feminine wiles of, um, something with no feminine wiles? The shame must be unbearable. I've no doubt we'll start seeing mass suicides of buxom lasses (although most of them have identical personalities, so we might not notice who's missing for a while), and animators might start getting the idea that males respond better to female characters with charming idiosyncrasies and a sense of genuine kindness, as opposed to an endless parade of T&A. More female characters will start actually having character, and that means there will be more for me to remember. The part of my brain that stores anime character information has already begun to expand into the part that helps me remember the names of rock songs and kinds of fruit, and it's very scary. Can't anime girls just stay inter-changeable, and not make such demands on my limited supply of gray matter?? 5. Too relaxingThe opening and ending animations for this show are just too relaxing. In fact, I was going to write a great article for Japanator that would have won us some kind of journalism award or something, but then I watched Kimi ni Todoke and fell asleep in a field of flowers, and now I can't even remember what I was going to write. I've realized that I need the mispronounced English words in most Jpop-styled anime themes to keep me paying attention- when the song is this smooth, it's like an invitation to sloth. If they could only add a few lyrics like "Sekushi Lady!" or "I find breakthrough!", this wouldn't be happening. This is yet another egregious example of the animators chronic disregard for the needs of their viewers.This article almost didn't get finished, because I had to watch Kimi ni Todoke again in order to take screenshots, and then I just wanted to put on a white dress and go lay on a hammock for several hours. Fortunately, drinking a ton of coffee seems to have helped. Also: need to buy a hammock. 6. Giving animators the wrong idea If KnT continues to air and wins more and more fans, think of the consequences; animators will be led to believe that sound writing and memorable characters are more important to a show than superfluous details and shiny things. As an anime fan, the thought of the next generation of anime emulating KnT fills me with dread; how will I retain my attitude of smug condescension when nothing stupid is happening? How will I show off my love of anime to people who don't know anything about it, when it's become clear that the medium is so flexible that 'anime' doesn't have to adhere to any particular stylistic rules? How will I appreciate the artwork when the character designs no longer represent a kind of artistic pissing contest? Unless this show is canceled right quick, my tastes will mature, and I will come to have a more optimistic view of human nature, and perhaps even life itself. I'm terrified I won't even recognize myself by the end of the series.  It turns out that the characters on this show were right about one thing: Sawako is one scary little lady.

It's not at all difficult to surmise that Kimi ni Todoke has become quite a favorite here at Japanator. Not only do we bring it up often, even when talking about other shows, but we discuss it in the cblogs (and recently, the...

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