Movie Review – A Silent Voice

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Kyoto Animation

Last year, Makato Shinkai’s Your Name took the world by storm.  I have already reviewed this film and I will go on the record as describing it as a masterpiece.  There was one downside of this worldwide frenzy though; another anime film that was just as a good managed to get eclipsed by Your Name.  This is an adaptation of a manga that I absolutely loved.  A manga that deals with some very serious issues that was emotionally devastating to read.  I’m talking about A Silent Voice.  This film adaptation by Kyoto Animation manages to present one of the most beautiful anime films of all time from both a story and production perspective.

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Story and Characters

I will not spoil any of the latter elements of the story arc, but for the sake of discussing the story, it is necessary to provide some background.  The plot follows Shoya Ishida through his reunion with a deaf student named Shoko Nishimiya.  In his elementary school years, Ishida was one of the main perpetrators in bullying Shoko to the point where she had to transfer schools just to get away.  With Shoko gone, the rest of the class soon shifts its attention to Ishida, making him the new bullying target.  Ishida is ostracized to the point where he lacks any sort of friend even when he reaches high school.  Because of this, Ishida becomes suicidal, but desires to atone for his past actions.  He manages to find Shoko, seeking to form a friendship with her to make up for his horrible treatment of her.

At its core, A Silent Voice is a story that is all about redemption.  There is no apologizing for Ishida’s actions.  Every character acknowledges that he did some terrible things and he even feels like his life after Shoko was almost a karmic like result of his horrible actions.  This makes Ishida’s character so interesting.  It’s rare to see an anime character know what they did was wrong and even that there is no changing what they did.  Watching Ishida move forward from the past in order to help Shoko is a beautiful thing.  Shoko’s character is similarly just as layered.  From her variety of outbursts, to her portrayal as the victim, this film does an excellent job at showcasing her character.  The film largely focuses on these two characters and it is an emotional roller coaster.

It’s about presenting some serious topics that haven’t really been covered to this extent in the anime medium.  The story takes an in-depth look into suicide, depression, and bullying.  It can be very heavy at times.  However, I think that is where the inner beauty lies with the film.  It takes these topics and expertly presents them into a story that is emotionally captivating without being overdramatic.  Similarly, it does not make light of these issues and presents them with the seriousness that is required.  It would be very easy for the film to trivialize some of the more serious issues, but it does not fall into this trap.  The result is a story in which the characters grow significantly by the end of the film.  It presents the viewer with a watch that is uncomfortable, beautiful, heartwarming, and devastating.  It really is a perfect drama.

I want to briefly talk about the nature of the adaptation.  This film should be a textbook example of how to condense a longer manga series into one movie.  Of course, this does have some drawbacks.  The film largely excises the development of Ishida’s group of friends.  This has the effect of ignoring their bullying of Shoko during elementary school.  The film showcases this somewhat, but mostly puts Ishida as the main instigator.  In the manga, pretty much every other elementary school student was an absolutely deplorable piece of shit and not every character is redeemable.  The film also does not provide the background into Shoko’s home life and the circumstances of why her mother was raising the children by herself.  I feel like this would provide some much needed characterization of Shoko’s mother, but was not truly necessary in the grand scheme.  The story arcs not involving Ishida and Shoko were pretty much the ones that were cut.  Given that the main strength of the manga was this central plotline between Ishida and Shoko, the lack of these storylines is not detrimental to the overall plot of the film.

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Animation and Sound

Kyoto Animation presents one of the best looking films of the year.  Every frame of this film is breathtaking in every way.  The backgrounds are highly detailed and showcase a level of quality that is unbelievable at points.  The animation is just as a high a quality as every other aspect.  The characters move with a level of fluidity that manages to impress at every opportunity.  This level of animation was necessary to capture the sheer emotion of the story.  I was even impressed with watching the characters use sign language. The character expressions are also highly detailed.  Seriously, any shot that is a close up on a face is likely to impress.  Any time a character cries, the facial animation just exudes the emotion.  The stylistic choice of the manga to portray Ishida’s view of characters with X’s over their face is also used to perfection here.  I do not have a single negative thing to say about the animation and this does not make for an interesting review because I don’t have a lot to say other than this is truly a perfectly animated film.

The sound design also impresses to a similar degree.  Musically there isn’t anything that really stands out other than the opening montage featuring a song by The Who, but the tracks manage to exude the emotion needed for the more serious scenes.  The most impressive aspect lies with the voice acting.  Every character gives a great performance, but the voice actors for Ishida and Shoko deserve praise.  Shoko’s voice actress perfectly captures the sound of her voice as a result of her deafness.  This is powerful because when Shoko actually speaks out loud, the viewer is inclined to listen.  It also helps give a lot of legitimacy to the film.  Similarly, Ishida’s voice actor perfectly captures that mix between optimism and fear with regards to his interactions with Shoko.  Much like the animation, I don’t have any negative to say about the sound design.

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Final Thoughts

A Silent Voice is a perfect adaptation of a phenomenal manga.  I don’t have a single negative thing to say about this film.  The story is a perfect look at suicide, depression and bullying while also providing some necessary optimism with Ishida’s redemption.  It treats these topics seriously to form a powerful and emotional story that made me cry.  The film’s animation is perfect.  The voice acting is perfect.  It’s a beautiful film in every regard.  For that reason, I give A Silent Voice my Bananaowns’ Stamp of Approval.  If this ever gets licensed in the United States, I will be buying Blu-Ray, that’s how good it was.

Bananaowns stamp of approval

This review is over, but I had a couple more things to say.  This film deals with some very heavy themes and one of them presents an opportunity to say something.  A Silent Voice starts off with a look at Ishida’s contemplation of suicide because of his years’ worth of losing faith in humanity.  For those that are suffering through depression and contemplating suicide, I strongly urge you to seek out some help.  No matter how bad things get, there are always people that care about you and these people will be hurt in the event that the worst happens.  If anyone feels like no one cares or will listen, there is always someone who does and you can always seek help with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

This was relatively serious way to end this review, but given the subject matter, it felt appropriate.  Thanks for giving this review a look.

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Series Review – Sound Euphonium Season 2

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Kyoto Animation

Second season reviews are kind of awkward to write.  Generally, the pros of the first season remain mostly the same and the cons are usually worked on.  As a result, a second season can feel very similar to the first, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  With that said, it’s time to check out the second season of Sound Euphonium.  I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.

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Story and Characters

The second season features the same likeable high school band as they compete to win a spot in the national competition.  Everything that was great about the first season returns in some sort here.  The dynamic between Kumiko and Reina is just as great as the first season with the yuri-shippers having a field day as always.  I actually am tired of this ship though, due to the fandom’s tendency to cast hatred on poor Shuichi for even attempting to talk to Kumiko.  That aside, the relationship between the main characters is as solid as ever.  I also enjoyed the exploration into backgrounds of characters that were prominently featured in the first season.  The motivations of Taki-sensei are revealed in this season in a surprisingly emotional moment.

Much like the first season, the drama from this one little band manages to create some compelling story arcs.  The first arc involving a band member that quit last year is relatively weak though in comparison to the main plot threads of the season.  The biggest change is Kumiko’s direct involvement in the drama now.  Last season, she just happened to be in place as issues were resolved, but now she is actually the target of the drama.  Between the story arcs involving Kumiko’s sister and Asuka, Kumiko is actually impacted by all this drama.  Of course she still maintains her very blunt personality which is a plus, but her character manages to become more genuine as the season progresses.

I really don’t have much to say because this second season is just more of the same.  Given my love of the first season, that is not detrimental in any way whatsoever.  Chances are if you enjoyed the story of the first season, then this one will be highly enjoyable as well.

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Animation and Sound

The presentation and sound design for this series maintains its excellent quality.  The animation is flat out perfect.  The backgrounds are highly detailed and the moving animation of the characters is unreal.  It is a treat to watch the animation anytime the band plays.  The standout sequence of this season is the full band performance.  This scene was absolute perfection and was one of the best sequences of the entire year.  Of course, the series also maintains its astounding use of facial expression, showcasing the best cute girl animation of the season yet again.

The sound design is great for this series as well.  Like with the last season, a show about a concert band needs to have great sound design.  The characters play a great selection of music, especially during that band scene that I mentioned above.  The instruments still sound great and the sound design in the band scenes impresses yet again.  The voice acting also maintains its charm.  Again, the highlight is the performance of Kumiko’s voice actress.  There is just something so inherently real about the way Kumiko talks and the actress captures this sarcastic tone perfectly.  Given that Kumiko is actually the subject of some emotional scenes now, the voice actress needed to explore a new side of the character.  Thankfully, she managed to pull of these emotional scenes to perfection.

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Final Thoughts

The second season of Sound Euphonium is the perfect follow up.  The story brings the band drama, but the new focus on Kumiko directly makes it a lot stronger.  The animation and sound design is still amazing as well.  I give season 2 of Sound Euphonium my Bananaowns’ stamp of approval.  I’ll be back next week for another review and thanks for checking this one out.

Bananaowns stamp of approval

Series Review – And You Thought There Is Never A Girl Online?

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Project No. 9

Every now and then a show comes along that perplexes me, but for a good reason.  In the case of the show I am reviewing this week, this confusion had nothing to with any plot details or character decisions.  It simply comes from a single thought about the quality of the show.  And You Thought There Is Never A Girl Online? had no right be as good as it was.  I thought it was just going to be a simple guilty pleasure, a trashy show that would placate the most basic of my anime needs.  Instead, I was surprised to find a show that had a lot of heart and an actual romance that was developed.  It also was a decent look into the culture of an MMO-RPG without making fun of it.  This series was one of my favorites from the spring season.  I am Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth Anime review.

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Story

The story follows the party of Hideki Nishimura, known more commonly by his online tag, Rusian.  Rusian and his friends are obsessed with an MMO-RPG known as Legendary Age.  A few years prior to the series, Rusian had a negative experience with online love that made him very cynical about the true identity of his online companions.  Despite this, another player named Ako managed to convince Rusian to accept her in-game marriage proposal.  He finally gets an opportunity to meet his guildmates in the real world and he is shocked to find that they are all actually girls and attend the same high school.

From this initial setup, the series places a larger focus on the group’s attempt to acclimate Ako to the real world, while also exploring Rusian’s very real feelings for his in-game wife.  Naturally, the series places these characters in a variety of typical high school situations that can be a bit generic.  You have a beach episode and an episode about a culture festival, but these are much more entertaining because of the dynamic between Rusian and Ako.  Any anime that pairs up characters right away immediately piques my interest.  Rusian and Ako form a relationship early on and the series places a large focus on this aspect.  So the generic high school plotlines are enhanced as Rusian and Ako go through these normal high school experiences for the first time.  It is important to remember that both of these characters are otakus, so this relatively new territory for them, especially for Ako.  The series expertly places a large amount of focus on Rusian and Ako. This makes the story truly adorable and highly enjoyable.

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 Characters

All of the characters possess certain quirks, but the two standouts are the romantic leads.  Ako and Rusian give this show that extra amount of charm, so let’s take a look at both of them.  Ako initially appears to be absolutely insane.  She has a hard time differentiating between the real world and the game world.  Ako is a shut-in that lacks a lot of real world interactions.  Even her gaming life was characterized by a period of loneliness before she met her current party.  Considering how she initially only knew her friends in the game, it was no surprise that she preferred that world.  However, once they started hanging out in the real world, this aspect of her character diminished quite a bit.  It’s refreshing to see a character with very genuine feelings for another.  She loves Rusian for accepting who she was.  Despite her clumsy nature, Rusian always remains at her side.

Rusian is one of the most dependable main characters in this genre of anime.  He’s a proud otaku and is highly intelligent.  I also love how he avoids the dense protagonist trope.  Rusian is actually a very self-aware character.  He realizes his feelings for Ako relatively early on, despite being initially hesitant.  He is actually a very normal character for an otaku archetype.  He really shines in his interactions with Ako.  When dealing with her more crazy tendencies, he can be very blunt with not putting up with her shenanigans.  However, at the same time, he goes out of his way to help her at almost every opportunity.  Looking at it this way, Ako and Rusian complement each other quite well in terms of personality.  This is one of the more satisfying anime relationships that I have seen.  The show puts this relationship at the forefront which was a very smart move.  The interactions between these two characters really makes this show special.

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Animation & Sound

While this series will certainly not be considered a standout in terms of animation quality, it excels in a stylistic sense.  Earlier I mentioned how this show is adorable; the stylistic choices present this tone. Everything about this anime is very bright and peppy.  It makes everything pleasurable to look at despite the rather mediocre animation.  The 2D representation of the game adds on to this rather cheery tone.  It’s rather enjoyable to see the extra detail of a 16-Bit art design and it adds on to just how crazy these characters are about gaming.  The show visualizes the characters as their in-game avatars and these scenes typically have a large jump in animation quality.  It manages to broaden the overall animation by introducing new environments and even some action sequences that take place in game.

The highlight of the animation though is the character design.  These characters are all designed in a way that makes each one standout.  For instance, Ako’s rather timid nature is shown by having her bangs cover her eyes.  Little details like this add extra depth to the characters.  I suppose I also should mention that this show has a lot of fan service.  The characters were originally designed by a hentai artist and it can show at times.  With the proper context though, I feel like most of these scenes are not too gratuitous and some can be rather hilarious.

The sound design doesn’t have any aspects that really standout besides the voice acting.  The voice acting is perfect for this series.  Ako’s voice actress manages to capture her highly variable personality.  This is also true for the rest of the cast.  The foley work for the game is acceptable.  It’s not amazing, but it works for the series as the action is not the real focus here.  The soundtrack is highly generic and forgettable.  I suppose this aspect is perfectly shown through the typical opening song.  It pretty much sounds like every other romantic comedy anime opening.  However, there is nothing with the sound design that I would consider to be detrimental to the show.

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Final Verdict

It is very obvious that this show managed to exceed all of my expectations.  I expected a guilty pleasure, but the show was so much more than that.  It was mostly a romantic comedy with two great leads and most importantly, it actually had heart.  The animation was average, but the character design was astounding.  The music was generic, but the voice acting was great.  I give And You Thought There Is Never A Girl Online? my Bananowns’ stamp of approval.  I would say that it was my second favorite show of the season.  I’ll be back next week for another review and thanks for checking this one out.

Bananaowns stamp of approval

Series Review – RWBY Volume 1

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Roosterteeth

What exactly makes an anime? Despite the variety of genres and visual styles, anime remains an all-encompassing classification.  The next three videos will focus on a series that has created an endless debate on what is and is not an anime.  It is obviously heavily inspired by the magical girl genre as well as the powered high school genre.  One point keeps being brought up, it’s not an anime because it was not made in Japan.  To me, it is a similar argument as the difference between whiskey and scotch.  At the broadest level the difference is merely because of geography.  Of course, the differences become greater the deeper you go, but it doesn’t really mean anything in the end.  It might not be an anime on a technicality, but I will treat this show as I treat any other series.  Of course I am talking about Roosterteeth’s series, RWBY, more specifically the first season.

Before I begin, it’s important to realize that this first season was the product of a very small pool of people, especially compared to traditional anime production.  So expectations should be tailored accordingly, given the shorter runtime compared to other anime.  It just was not feasible given the almost test-like nature of the first season.  It was Monty Oum’s and Roosterteeth’s first foray into something of this caliber.  With that being said, I am Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.

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Story

The story takes place in the world of Remnant.  This world is filled with creatures known as Grimm.  Before the series, mankind was able to fight back through the use of an element called Dust.  In the present day, Dust is used as the backbone of the weapons used by characters known as Huntsman and Huntresses.  The plot focuses on a group of four girls as they attend the prestigious Beacon Academy, where they are trained to become Huntresses.  It’s a similar concept to HunterxHunter, but with an academic twist.  Huntsman and Huntresses battle the creatures of Grimm and protect humanity.  The first season follows the formation of teams while the antagonist organizes a series of robberies throughout the city of Vale.

RWBY’s first season is rather generic with a few problems amplified by the format.  A lot of time is spent establishing the world and the characters, with the overall plot not receiving much focus at all.  Instead, the first season mostly features small character arcs that introduce a variety of plot details about the main characters. The shorter runtime exacerbates this problem, but I cannot exactly fault them too much.  Establishing an entire world in such a short amount of time is extremely difficult to do well and it was necessary in order to ramp up the show in later seasons.  Season one is oozing with potential that was not fully realized, but ended up being an indication of how great the later seasons could be.  It’s the equivalent of the first Assassin’s Creed game where the first game was considered good, but had a lot of faults that prevented it from ascending to greatness.  Assassin’s Creed 2 saw a refinement and a variety of fixes to the problems that plagued the first game.  The later seasons of RWBY see a similar level of improvement, but that is going to be covered in the next two videos.

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Characters

The series initially appears to have a focus on the four person team comprised of Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang.  While this is initially true, it would be more correct to say that the first season places a heavy emphasis on two other characters: Jaune and Pyrrha.  Ultimately, it feels like Ruby and Yang are underdeveloped compared to some of the other characters when it comes to this first season.  Yang especially does not receive that much time compared to the other members of the main group.  With that being said, let’s go through a brief rundown of a few of the main characters.

Ruby is the main character of this series.  She is relatively naïve, but this is due to her younger age.  She was accepted quite early into Beacon due to her amazing combat ability.  It’s amazing to see her hold her own despite her lack of experience.  She often butts heads with Weiss mostly due to her innocent, but impulsive personality.

Weiss is the stereotypical rich girl of the group. She often comes across as irritable and can display an especially bad attitude.  Deep down though, she can be quite the good person when her brashness subsides.  Weiss has rather tenuous relationship with her teammates at the beginning of the show.  Her character arc of the first season largely deals with her opening up and trusting her teammates.

Blake is a rather mysterious character.  Her backstory is actually an integral part of the plot of the first season so I won’t get into too many details in fear of spoilers.  Initially she starts off reserved with a desire to just be left alone.  Blake can also get very riled up, to the point where she will gladly speak her mind.  As the series progresses, the viewer learns why she acts the way she does.  It’s actually one of the more interesting arcs of the first season.

Jaune is a person that means well, but is ultimately unqualified to be at Beacon.  It is quite apparent early on that Jaune is a step behind the rest of his classmates.  He also receives quite a bit of the very limited run time of this series. He often is used as an audience surrogate, at least before he starts to come into his own.  Give his lack of experience, the broader combat concepts are explained to Jaune, which allows the audience to learn of this world’s mechanics.  Despite his lack of experience, Jaune actually proves himself to be an excellent leader.  Even if he doesn’t quite have the abilities of his team, he is able to coordinate them to perfection.

Overall, the characters that do receive focus are developed pretty well.  It just takes time for them to grow from the very generic beginnings.  Again, this is another problem exacerbated by the very short length of the season.  Also, Yang doesn’t really receive any character development until the second season.  When you combine this with the pacing problems of the story, it’s actually a big issue.  I can’t fault them too much though; the short length was used effectively for what they had time to do.  Much like with the plot, this was a sign of how good things could be once the introductions were done.

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Animation

From the instant I viewed the Red Trailer; it became apparent that this show would offer a level of animation that was unparalleled for a web series.  This series was created by Monty Oum, the genius behind the Dead Fantasy Series and Haloid.  As a result, the fight animation carries his trademark style of fluidity and fast-paced animation.  Every fight scene carries the perfect balance of disbelief while adhering to some sense of real world physics.  The way the characters use momentum to influence movement in mid-combat is astounding.  This also extends to the very creative weapons used by the main characters.  These help with the amazing action scenes by creating a very unique fighting style for each character. Ruby uses the momentum of her sniper shots to assist with her scythe swings.  The same could be said for the other characters.  Nora expertly uses a grenade launcher that morphs into a hammer.  Her scenes are an absolute great example of this concept of momentum and the genius of Monty Oum.

Sadly, there are some dips in the animation quality.  Outside of the action, characters move awkwardly and with a certain degree of stiffness.  Just look at this one scene where Ruby demolishes a tray of cookies.  It can be especially jarring given the excellent quality of the action scenes.  This problem also extends to the rather washed out backgrounds. My main method of critique involves the use of black silhouettes as stand-ins for other students. This looks so out of place and really brings down the overall quality of the show.  I understand it was a measure to save time on background characters, but give the sheer absurdity of these silhouettes; it was not a good call.  Remember though, RWBY is one of the more unique shows in terms of actions scenes to the point where I would recommend watching RWBY solely to view these amazing sequences.

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Sound Design

Much like the animation, there are a lot of things that are great and not so great about the sound design.  The sound effects have a wide range of quality.  Some fit the weapons perfectly while other sound like compressed MIDI files.  It’s a relatively weird issue that really should not have been one in the first place.

The voice acting is similarly a mixed bag in this first season.  The voice actresses for Ruby, Jaune, and Weiss come straight out of the gate with strong performances.  Other voice actors took a bit of time to grow into their role.  In particular, Yang’s voice actress never really overcomes the rather greenhorn performance.  However, this is not that surprising given the character’s lack of presence in the story.  It is also important to remember that this first season featured many first-time voice actors.

A universally loved aspect of RWBY is the soundtrack by Jeff Williams.  It would be more correct to say the songs that feature the talented Casey Williams on vocals are the main draw.  This father-daughter duo managed to create a variety of songs that perfectly compliment the amazing action sequences. In fact, I would say that the soundtrack adds on to the series as a whole and lessens some of the overall rough edges of the first season.  I wholeheartedly recommend that everyone check out the soundtrack in addition to the show.  In a nod to anime, RWBY also features a heavily stylized opening that would be at home on anyone’s favorite opening list.

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Final Verdict

It is very difficult to write a review on this first season.  It certainly is rough around the edges, but the core of this series is absolutely solid.  Given the many critiques I had, I don’t want the misconception that I did not like this show.  In fact, I am a big fan of RWBY and loved the first season despite its problems.  RWBY represents something much more than a simple web series.  It managed to be popular enough that the series was released with a Japanese dub in Japan.  An anime inspired series made in the United States managed to be exported to Japan.  That is absolutely insane.  I can certainly see why this series managed to find such a wide audience.  The core of the story is solid, with a large variety of interesting main characters.  On top of this core, lies the astounding action animation and the phenomenal soundtrack as well. Despite the faults, the good does outweigh the bad in this first season.  I give RWBY volume one my Watch Rating.  While the first season was far from perfect, it was a short, but entertaining romp.  Most importantly, it carried something that a lot of shows lack, potential.  RWBY managed to improve immensely on its first season.  Join me next week for a review on RWBY’s second volume.

Watch Rating

Series Review – Gate

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of A-1 Pictures

Growing up I was a big fan of the show Deadliest Warrior. For those that are not familiar with the show, a team of analysts ran a simulation that featured two warriors from different time periods.  For example, a Spartan might face a Samurai.  A variety of factors were considered and a winner would be declared.  The show that I’m reviewing today piqued my interest in a very similar way albeit in a much more one-sided manner.  Gate features a plethora of battles between a modern military against a medieval army. However, this show is much more than that basic premise.  I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.

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Story

A mysterious portal to another dimension opens up in the middle of Japan.  Waves upon waves of medieval soldiers come out of this portal and begin to slaughter innocent civilians.  While initially stunned, the Japanese Defense Force quickly overcomes this attack with their better tactics and weaponry.  After the attack, they send in an expeditionary force to explore this new land. Gate largely focuses on Itami, a self-proclaimed otaku who happens to be a member of the military.  He acquires a rag-tag group of people ranging from a mage to a disciple of a goddess.  The story involves him learning about this new land and its inhabitants.

Initially, Gate has a very light tone.  The first half of the series place is a large focus on the antics of Itami and his group of friends.  However, it does not hold this light tone throughout the entire series.  The battle scenes with the JSDF take on a much more serious nature.  The presence of a civil war in the second half presents a rather political focus that can get surprisingly dark.  It’s not a rapid change, but the viewer should be warned that the tone of the show changes drastically and for a good reason.  The second half is a better told story.  It may lack some of the great character interactions from the first half but creates such an interesting web of intrigue that the tradeoff is worth it.  Even with the tonal differences, Gate possesses a very entertaining story overall.

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Characters

Gate has no shortage of characters between the various members of the military and the denizens of the medieval world.  It can get overwhelming at times.  The main party alone has four characters that each have a story arc and get quite a bit of focus as a result.  For the sake of review, I am only going to talk about Itami.  The characters of Rory and Tuka deserve to be watched and would be spoiled by any further mention.

Itami is a unique anime protagonist.  He is a proud otaku.  In fact, he only works for the military in order to fund his rather obsessive habit.  He also can be quite a pervert, but a reserved one if that makes any sense whatsoever.  Itami is a good man though, and a sociable one at that.  I get tired of stereotypical otaku characters being overtly awkward.  It was refreshing to see how charismatic Itami could be at times.  Even if he initially expresses a lot of doubt regarding his promotion, he actually makes a great leader.   My one criticism is that he takes on the traditional anime role of a character that helps everyone.  The good thing about this characteristic is that it is largely curtailed by his superiors though.  I also enjoy that Itami can be enraged despite his rather laid back and lazy nature.  Overall, the characters are inherently interesting and do a lot for this show.  My personal favorite is the hilariously named Piña, but there are sure to be a plethora of characters that could be fan favorites.

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Animation

I will be perfectly honest here; the animation of the show is fairly average. Despite the mediocre nature of most of the animation, there are moments where the animation quality jumps immensely. Typically this is the result of the management of the animation budget.  Certain scenes are planned to be of a higher quality, which can diminish the quality of other scenes.  Of course the scenes with higher quality are the action scenes.   The fantastical creatures have a high level of detail, but the absolute standout is the animation of the large variety of military equipment.  The helicopter scene alone is one of my favorite moments of this anime.  The way the weapons look, combined with the fluid movement of the characters make any scene with JSDF action a highlight.

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Sound

The series is voice acted excellently.  The performances of Rory, Itami and Piña are my favorite performances.  However, the sound design excels with its foley work.  The sounds of the JSDF weapons are impressive.  I love the weight and impact of the sound of the mortars along with the sound of the helicopter’s weapons as well.  The music is of a rather forgettable quality.  The only scene that stood out to me in regards to music was the helicopter scene that features the Ride of the Valkyrie.  Other than that, the music was not anything worth remembering.

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Final Verdict

Gate is a highly entertaining show that is only lacking in its presentation and music.  While it possesses a tone shift, the story is engrossing.  When combined with the excellent character interaction, the story elevates itself beyond being a simple guilty pleasure.  While mostly mediocre, the animation has quite a few moments of standout quality.  The sound design is of a similar nature.  I give Gate my watch rating.  It’s not perfect, but it is a highly entertaining show that I am sure will be loved by a significant amount of people.  I’ll be back next week for another anime feature.  Thanks for checking this one out.

Watch Rating

Series Review – Grimgar of Fantasy & Ash

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of A-1 Pictures

I am beginning to get tired of the virtual-MMO trope just because of the sheer number of shows that use this setting.  It’s one of the reasons that I have not watched the current run of Re: Zero even though I know that I’ll probably like it.  So this is a long way of saying that this will be my last virtual-MMO anime review for a significant length of time.  However, my attitudes toward the genre have not dampened my enjoyment of the show that I am reviewing this week.  Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash turned out to be a highly enjoyable show that had a slightly different take on the genre.  I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.

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Story

Grimgar follows a group of people as they try to adapt and survive in a fantasy world.  Scores and scores of people arrive without explanation with none of their memories intact.  Most people are recruited to join a defense force which keeps the realm safe by taking on various monsters.  It is apparent that these groups of people were originally from a modern world given the slight references tossed in, but the overall mystery is never explained during the series run.

The main party consists of the leftovers basically the losers that were left to their own devices after everyone else partied up.  The show focuses on how they deal with their new found situation.  At first, these people are utterly hopeless.  Despite each member receiving training from the various guilds in town, they can’t even defeat the lowest of monsters, with a very real chance of death for failure.  Naturally, the show follows this group as they manage to get better, which takes some time.

That leads me into a discussion about the pacing of the series; it’s a relatively slow burn.  The story takes quite a bit of time to reach its zenith.  There is a plethora of musical montages and moments of a similar nature that slow the pacing of the story, but I enjoyed this aspect.  The story takes time to immerse the viewer in the characters.  When the larger events occur, this has more of an emotional impact.  Seeing their slow rise along with the constant fear of death, creates a rather tense atmosphere as they venture out.  The slowness of the town scenes alleviates this tension and fosters a relationship with the characters.  Overall, this is an underdog story with a slow pacing, but the pacing makes the story even better.

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Characters

A great strength of this show is the interaction between characters.  The show does an excellent job at showcasing the inner workings of each member of its main party.  I don’t want to get into every member of the main party, but I would like to discuss two of the main characters.

Haruhiro receives the most amount of time and his inner monologue is often heard.  He is the character that receives the most amount of change as the series progresses.  Initially he starts off relatively shy, but quickly becomes more reliable as his party needs him more.  His story arc revolves around him becoming a leader of sorts that the group could turn to in a time of need.  This extends to his support role in combat as well.  As a thief, he often takes a supplementary role in battle, working in tandem with his party members.  It’s also refreshing to see a rather well-adjusted character.  He obviously has his own mix of fears, but he manages to not let it bring him down as what is common in other anime.

Manato is the de facto party leader.  Despite being a priest, he manages to take a more involved role in combat which echoes his status as the leader.  Even though the group manages to be relatively weak, he possesses an innate skill to plan and use his party members’ strengths accordingly.  Despite his strong façade, there is a deep level of worry within Manato.  He doesn’t show it, but his status as party leader terrifies him at times.  He is one of the more interesting characters until Mary is introduced in the latter half of the series.  Overall, the interactions between the main characters are a strong highlight of this series, but note that Haruhiro does get most of the spotlight.

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Animation

It is quite apparent from the first second of this show that it possesses an amazing stylistic choice.  All of the backgrounds are in a watercolor motif that makes every frame of animation look like a watercolor painting of some sort.  This stylized nature carried throughout the entire run which makes this one of the more visually impressive shows in a purely stylistic sense.  As for the proper animation, it is of a good quality.  The fight scenes possess an impressive amount of fluidity and are excellently choreographed.  I also really enjoy the character design, specifically the outfits worn by the characters.  The armor is practical.  The roguish characters use a form of leather armor while the tanks use a heavier metal.  It’s refreshing to see armor that isn’t there to just look cool or provide fan service.  Although, there is some fan service here, but it isn’t solely because of the clothing design.  Grimgar possess unique backgrounds and excellent character design which make the animation stand out immensely.

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Sound

Music plays a large role in this series, especially during the slower moments.  Insert songs are used quite frequently to a great effect.  My favorite of these being a montage that takes place in the town marketplace.  It’s a great moment which highlights the strengths of the slow pacing that I mentioned earlier in this review.  As for the voice acting, I really enjoyed the performances.  Nothing really stood out to me, but each one reached a certain standard of quality.  There are certainly no amazing performances here, but a significant amount of what I would categorize as good performances.  Overall, the sound design is the weak link, but it is by no means bad.

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Final Verdict

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash will not blow anyone away.  It instead takes a rather subtle approach with a very oversaturated genre.  The story and characters drive the show to be something more than just a show with a certain stylistic animation choice.  The watercolor motif adds a lot to the viewing of this show though.  It creates a sense of wonderment out of the slower paced scenes simply through the art.  As for the sound design, there are a lot of insert songs that are enjoyable, but no performances that stand out.  I give Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash my Watch rating.  It’s well worth the watch.  Thanks for checking out this feature and I’ll be back next week for another.

Watch Rating

Series Review – Bubuki/Buranki

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Sanzigen

I have been very vocal about my dislike for computer animation when it comes to anime.  So it was surprising when I actually started watching a completely CG show this last season.  It was a show that I actually enjoyed a bit.  It’s no masterpiece, but it was a guilty pleasure.  This review is going to be shorter because I don’t have too much to say about Bubuki/Buranki.  I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth Anime Review.

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Story & Characters

The setting involves giant sentient robots called Buranki that inhabit Treasure Island, a floating landmass located over Japan.  Migiwa Kazuki watches over the sleeping Buranki, but one day they start to wake up.  She sends Azuma and Kaoruko down to Earth in her personal Buranki named Oubu in order protect them.  Ten years later, Azuma travels to Japan to go back to Treasure Island.  He joins forces with a plethora of Bubuki users.  Bubukis are sentient weapons that form the limbs of the Buranki.  It’s actually very confusing at first.  However, Japan is controlled by a Buranki named Entei piloted by the mysterious Reoko Banryu.  So naturally the series focuses on Azuma and the Bubuki users coming together to take on Reoko and Entei.  It’s the typical power of friendship nonsense, but it manages to be entertaining.  It’s fortunate this show is getting second season because there are way too many mysteries that are not even addressed.

As for the characters, the show has a tendency to just keep adding more and more.  There are over six or so characters that are extremely important to the plot.  The show has a tendency to focus on the back stories of the main Bubuki users.  The issue with this comes with how much time it takes for this show to progress because of this focus and the addition of more characters.  There are about ten characters introduced in a single episode after the previous episodes focused on a lot of backstory.  This combination creates the feeling that the plot doesn’t really move all that fast.  It’s not necessarily true, but the feeling is there despite the large amount of progress made over the series.  Ultimately, Reoko is the highlight in terms of characters.  She possesses the most interesting past and the most interesting character arc in the series.   Overall, the plot and characters of this show are not really anything special, but manages to entertain.

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Animation & Sound

I liked the stylized CG animation of this series.  The Buranki and the Bubuki look great in this style.  The mechanical aspects are represented perfectly in the animation.  The human characters don’t move with the same fluidity though.  A lot of the animation outside of the fight scenes is awkward.  The character movements seem stiff and at times the frame rate of these animations is terrible.  It’s like trying to run a PC game on a computer that just is not quite good enough.  The sound design is good; I have no problems with it whatsoever.  The sounds of the Bubuki and the Buranki are very well done.  The voice acting is great, but the music is my favorite aspect of the sound design.  The ending song alone is one of my favorites.  Overall, the animation excels in some aspects, but has lot of problems and the sound design is simply good.

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Final Verdict

While this show was a guilty pleasure of mine, it actually was not that good.  The story and characters were forgettable.  The animation looked nice in some places, but had a lot of issues.  The sound design was great overall.  There just wasn’t that much there to categorize it as a show that was worth watching.  While I will check out the second season, I still give this show my Don’t Watch rating.  I’ll be back next week with a review of a show that I liked quite a bit.  Thanks for checking this one out.

Don't Watch

Series Review – God Eater

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Ufotable and Daisuki

Production issues are not fun for anyone involved.  It’s absolutely terrible for the fans.  Anyone who watched Kekkai Sensen as it was airing can attest to this.  Production issues coupled with timeslot problems delayed the last episode for a significant amount of time.  Unfortunately, these things do happen.  The show I am reviewing today was only able to air its last four episodes months after the intended date.  I am talking about Ufotable’s adaptation of the beloved video game series, God Eater.  I am Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth Anime Review.

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Story

God Eater takes place in the rather tired post-apocalyptic setting.  The world is besieged by invincible creatures known as Aragami.  In the last few bastions of humanity, an organization known as Fenrir developed a means to combat the Aragami.  Using Aragami cells, Fenrir managed to create guns and blades known as God Arcs that are capable of killing Aragami.  The story follows the plight of a newly minted God Eater named Lenka Utsugi.  Lenka is one of the rare God Eaters that is able to transform his God Arc between the gun and blade modes.  The series places a lot of focus on Lenka’s ascension through the ranks and on humanity’s last effort to create a safe haven from the Aragami.

Humanity is fighting a losing battle.  At any point, they can be completely wiped out by the scores of these creatures.  This creates the rather dreary mood of the series.  The series has a very depressing mentality and surprisingly, that it a great thing.  The struggle to survive creates a sense that the stakes are real.  Scores of people are killed and main characters can fail.  The only problem is that the series starts off relatively generic.  It takes a bit of time for it to find its legs and develop into something a bit different from the typical post-apocalyptic setting.  However, I can say that the story was entertaining and I was satisfied by the series conclusion.

Now there is another aspect of the plot and this aspect is fascinating.  There are a series of flashbacks that detail how the world was put into its current state.  These flashbacks star a group of scientists that eventually became the leaders of Fenrir.  These flashbacks provide the necessary information on how the Aragami function, but leave a certain sense of mystery.  It’s a very interesting way to present a lot of exposition and I found it refreshing.  Overall, the story of God Eater starts of rather generic, but develops into something that is relatively bleak, but satisfying.

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Characters

God Eater features a wide cast of characters that mostly manage to be interesting throughout the series.  However, there is a select few that receive a significant portion of screen time in detailing their backstories.  Lindow is one of these characters and is sure to be an audience favorite.  For the sake of review, I’ll only focus on Lenka and Alisa.

Lenka is the typical protagonist that has a very tragic back story that really highlights just how screwed the world is now.   As a result, he is very kind and possesses an intense desire to help others, even if it requires reckless action.  He eventually evolves as a character though.  After a few episodes, he develops a rather rational mind.  He will follow orders because that will likely lead to the least amount of casualties.  He actually gets tempered.  The initial fire is still there, but it’s toned down.  It’s a rarity that a character actually manages to deal with certain faults, especially in an anime.

Alisa is a character that is initially introduced as a complete badass.  She’s a Russian God Eater that is also a new type, but unlike Lenka, she has mastered using her God Arc.  Below the surface, she is a damaged individual with a tragic backstory similar to Lenka.  Unlike Lenka, this event had a very negative impact on her which wrecked her psyche.  At certain points, she goes into nervous breakdowns, in a PTSD-esque manner.  I like this fragile aspect of her character because it eschews the typical anime trope of the cold, but badass fighter.  Alisa’s arc starts generic as she slowly gains respect for Lenka, then it just goes a completely different direction story wise.  I really enjoyed this aspect because it was different enough.  Overall the characters of God Eater are good, with Alisa and Lenka being the two standouts, mostly due to the extra time spent on their backstories.

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Animation

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that God Eater has a unique animation style.  This animation style was a large reason for the production delays.  It caused a lot of issues due to the complexity of creating this CG like effect.  Seeing the animation quality though, it was well worth it.  This is one of the most unique looking series that I have watched.  The almost cell-shaded motif makes every frame of animation with a human character absolutely beautiful.  This extends into the fight scenes as well.  Every fight is choreographed perfectly.  The New Type God Eaters display the standout sequences of the series, due to constant switching between the God Arc forms.

Episode three has my favorite fight scene of the season which showcased just how interesting these fights could be.  The remaining episodes featured a large assortment of fight scenes that did live up to this hype.  I initially was hesitant due to the use of CGI for the Aragami.  They can seem out of place compared to the stylized nature of the animation.  However, I found that after a few episodes, the look of the Aragami impressed me.  They are unnatural monsters and it fits that they seem a little out of place.  Overall, the animation quality of this series was excellent and one of the reasons to check out this show.

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Sound Design

The voice acting for this series is rather good.  The performances are believable and showcase a certain level of drama.  Alisa’s voice actress deserves a special commendation due to her excellent portrayal of her nervous breakdowns.  The foley work is also great.  Between the roars of the Aragami and the sounds of God Arcs cleaving, the anime does an amazing job at creating a variety of believable sounds.  Now the real standout of the sound design lies with the insert songs.  There are a large amount of songs performed by Ghost Oracle Drive and these songs fit perfectly with the show.  There are even a large range of moods portrayed by this band ranging from action packed bangers to slow songs.  Any moment of this show has an insert song that fits perfectly with it.  The sound design is great overall and I can’t wait to get ahold of the soundtrack.

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Final Verdict

Despite the generic start and the production delays, I liked God Eater a lot.  It’s a not a perfect show by any means, but it has heart.  The story is an interesting take on a post-apocalyptic world and certain characters are interesting.  The animation is beautiful and heavily stylized.  The sound design is of a similar quality.  I give God Eater my Watch Rating.  It won’t blow an audience away, but it’s worth giving it a watch.  I’ll be back next week for another anime feature.

Watch Rating

Series Review – Shirobako

Review written by Bananaowns
Images courtesy of P.A. Works & Warner Entertainment Japan

It can be said with certainty that I am very passionate about anime.  My weekly production of anime videos showcases this crazy love of mine.  Despite my love, I find that I do not actual have a lot of knowledge about the production of anime.  It would be more correct to say that I did not realize just how much work went into producing just one season’s worth of anime.  Between the production assistants, director, original author, there is much more to anime then a normal person would realize.  Shirobako presents a fascinating, albeit slightly sugarcoated, look of the industry.  I am Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.

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Story

Shirobako tells the story of a group of 5 friends that all had the dream of working in the anime industry.  The series places a large focus on Miyamori, the only member of this group that acts as a production assistant.  However, every character does get a significant amount of time except for Shizuka, the aspiring voice actress.  It is split into two arcs, detailing the production of two separate anime series.  It covers every aspect of production ranging from early talks of character design to finalizing CG work. It also presents a rather large cast of characters that are involved with each aspect of production ranging from animators to production assistants.  Any person with a moderate fascination of anime will find this look very entertaining.  I certainly learned a lot about key frame animation and the inherent difficulty of producing a solely animated work.

The plot largely deals with the high stress environment of production and the amount of problems that Aoi has to deal with.  Naturally, a workplace drama deals with the concepts of failure and insecurity.  Many of the characters undergo arcs where they are unsure about their future in the industry due to their relative newness.  The result is an anime that captures real world stress perfectly.  While this series showcases a lot of negative aspects, it still doesn’t portray production completely accurate matter.  Real world anime production possesses terrible pay for some absolutely defeating levels of time.  It’s unfortunate but Shirobako does not hide this reality fully, but just presents a rather idealized version.  Overall, Shirobako is a fascinating story that surprisingly uses its relatively large cast of characters remarkably well.

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Characters

Shirobako has an absolutely insane amount of characters due to the various jobs required for production.  It can be quite overwhelming at first, but these characters are ingrained quickly in the audience’s memory.  For the most part, all of these characters are fascinating.  Except Taro, fuck that character. For the purpose of review, I will focus on the five main characters.

Miyamori is one of the most competent characters in an anime. She constantly manages to solve every challenge that is thrown at her.  She also is very insecure.  Unlike her friends, she does not possess their level of artistic talents.  As a result, the series spends a lot of time focusing on her insecurity regarding her future career goals and just exactly how she fits in the anime industry.  Ema is the recently hired animator.  As a newbie animator, she constantly questions her ability especially when compared to her animation senpais.  A significant portion of her arc focuses on her acquiring a level of confidence in her ability.  Early on, she leans heavily on her superiors, which is both beneficial and detrimental.  She also is a very talented dancer.

Misa is the 3D animator of the groups and her character arc differs slightly from the rest.  She manages to acquire a great job, but one that leaves her very unfulfilled.  As a result her character arc focuses on the very real idea of being unsatisfied with work.  Midori is the aspiring writer of the group.  She does not get a lot of screentime.  Her arc mirrors Ema’s as she needs to acquire a sense of confidence in her abilities.  In my opinion, it is one of the less interesting characters arcs, but that is solely due to the similarity between hers and Ema’s character arc.

The most interesting arc involves the aspiring voice actress Shizuka.  Shizuka is the only one of her friends to not have a job in the industry.  So the story deals with her continued failed attempts to break into voice acting.  Being Shizuka is suffering, especially when all of her friends possess jobs in the industry.  I believe the story places too little time on this arc, it is only resolved in the last couple of episodes.  Shizuka is definitely the most interesting character besides Aoi.  The concept of dealing with the success of friends while you are unsuccessful is haunting, but absolutely real.  Overall, the main characters are developed very well.  The rest of the cast similarly gets developed albeit to a lesser extent.

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Animation

The animation quality for Shirobako is fairly standard, but possesses a few aspects that make it standout.  The character design is on point, with each character being dressed very well in a variety of outfits.  My personal favorite is Goth Loli Sama.  As for the movement, it’s pretty standard because there really isn’t much in terms of spectacle.  It’s a series that portrays a real world industry.  What is interesting about the anime is the showcasing of key frames and various aspects of production.  The anime does not shy away from showing the process and even early parts of CG work.  It shows what an anime looks like when it’s unfinished and this stylistic choice is phenomenal.  I love every scene that showcases Ema’s work, especially the one that has her trying to draw the face of someone who has just eaten a sour candy.  Little moments like this comprise the rather stand out quality of the animation.  There is no gigantic spectacle but the little moments add up.

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Sound

The voice acting of Shirobako has a meta quality to it.  The cast perfectly captures the real world aspect.  The dramatic performances do not feel forced.  The voice actor for the director character gives an astounding performance as a man who has a wide range of moods. The actress for Shizuka similarly gives a fantastic performance as she manages to perfectly capture the nuance of auditioning.

Similarly, the anime grants focus on some aspects such as sound effects.  One episode features Miyamori assisting with the creation of a variety of sound effects.  This is a great meta moment as it showcases foley work.  The foley for this show is great because it is brought to the forefront.  The same could also be said with in show direction of the voice actors.  It places an emphasis on how different alternate takes could be.  As for the music, there is a showcase on scoring an anime.  However, the actual music for the show is not memorable.  I enjoyed the openings, but this really isn’t a highlight of the series.

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Final Verdict

Shirobako is an amazing series that deserves to be watched.  The story and characters are handled very well and showcase a rare thing in anime, a real world.  The animation and sound design show a range of stylistic choices that create a very meta feeling.  Shirobako earns my Bananaowns’ stamp of approval.  Every fan of anime needs to give this a watch.  I’ll be back next week for another anime feature.

Bananaowns stamp of approval

Series Review – Sound! Euphonium

Written by Bananaowns

Images courtesy of Kyoto Animation and Ponycan USA

By this point, I have written over five anime reviews. With the exception of Toradora, all of my previous reviews have involved shows that contain a significant amount of action. This week’s review is more similar to that of my Toradora review, in that I will be covering an anime that does not fall into my typical tastes. This show has certain slice of life element, in that it depicts relatively everyday occurrences. In anime speak, this means that the show largely lacks an overarching plot. K-ON is one of the more popular examples of this type of series. For the most part, this type of anime does not catch my attention at all. Even after viewing this week’s anime, I would say that still holds true. However, Sound! Euphonium is a slice of life anime that I enjoyed immensely. It’s not a true example of the genre and I think this is the reason why it caught my attention. Unlike typical slice of life shows, there is an overarching plotline and a lot of drama that comes with that. This drama comes from typical high school issues, in this case the issues stemming from joining the concert band. This second point is strong as well because the whole school band experience really resonated with me. I played trumpet for a number of years and ultimately, Sound! Euphonium managed to relate to my experiences in concert band. I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth Anime Review.

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Story

Sound! Euphonium takes place in what would normally be considered a rather mundane setting. It is a normal high school with no supernatural or fantastical elements. The story follows Kumiko, a first-year high school student, as she joins the high school’s concert band club. The new band teacher, Noboru Taki, gives the students the choice of playing in concert band for fun or to take it seriously. Naturally, the students choose the serious option and are thrust into long practices as Taki-sensei attempts to get them ready for competition. What follows is a pertinent look at what basically amounts to typical high school drama. Now I’m not using typical in the sense of high school drama portrayed in other mediums, but instead, I am using the word to mean normal. The story follows realistic problems that would occur in high school. A friend might develop a crush on someone you like. There might be someone from junior high that you had problems with and is now in your class. In terms of band, people goof off despite claiming they want to the best. Those are the types of issues that this show covers. A large portion of the show is focused on how Kumiko deals with these problems. That is the strength of this series. It takes the normalcy slice of life genre and generates a plot from these typical occurrences. That is also what sets it apart from the typical slice of life series. Drama does happen in normal settings, not everything is going to be sitting around and drinking tea, I’m looking at you K-ON. This is not meant to insult those that love slice of life shows, but that genre is not necessarily my cup of tea (couldn’t resist that one). Sound! Euphonium manages to take these rather mundane aspects of high school life and craft an excellent series out of them. With how normal the issues are, it is very easy to relate to the drama and ultimately, the characters.

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Characters

Sound! Euphonium is fairly typical when it comes to a majority of the characters. There is the standard spunky one, the timid one, the childhood friend and a plethora of senpais. However, two characters really manage to stand out. Fortunately, these are the two characters that receive a majority of the screen time. In my opinion, Kumiko and Reina are the best characters of Sound! Euphonium. The friendship between these two girls is one of the series’ strengths.

Kumiko is one of the more normal characters that I have seen in an anime. She has a more subdued personality, at least when it comes to her public persona. Thankfully, the viewer is able to hear her inner smarminess through the internal dialogue. She is a very lifelike character who undergoes a significant amount of change as the series progresses. This change is not lighting fast, but is more subtle. While initially ambivalent to concert band, she gains an appreciation and ultimately a deep-seated desire to become better. It is very easy to emphasize with Kumiko to the point where the viewer really can understand the emotions of the character.

Reina represents a more stereotypical character, but this serves the story very well. She perfectly encapsulates that one person in high school who seems to have everything figured out already. She is one of the few characters that has a goal and is aware with who she is as a person. She possesses the initial motivation that Kumiko lacks. This later characteristic is instrumental in the overall development of Kumiko’s character. In addition to this motivation, Reina can appear quite cold and distant, but this is merely a façade as well. She’s not an ice queen. Reina likes to have fun and frequently expresses her emotions, despite a cold exterior. The combination of Kumiko and Reina is the main driving force for character changes as the series progressed and is one of the highlights of the series as a whole.

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Animation

This is one of the most beautiful shows that I have watched. The animation is absolutely gorgeous. The facial expressions and the movement of the characters are just absolutely pristine. Any one of the backgrounds could be amazing wallpapers for your computer. Seriously, look at this animation and tell me it’s not the best of this year. This animation quality transcends the already well-choreographed band scenes into something special. From the way the characters play their instruments, to the sweeping camera pans of the full ensemble, every ounce of this show is absolutely beautiful. I could go on and on, but anything more would be redundant. This is one of the best animated shows that I have seen. The level of animation quality alone makes the show worth watching.

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Sound

Now a show about a concert band carries with it a special need for great design. Fortunately, Sound! Euphonium delivers in this aspect. First off, the voice acting is absolutely excellent. Kumiko’s voice actress does a fantastic job at portraying her inner wit. Reina’s voice actress also does a phenomenal job at portraying the purported cold exterior. As for the other characters, the voice cast is excellent overall. The portrayal of the instruments is where the sound design really shines. It is quite a large task to recreate an orchestra, with the large variety of instruments necessary for an accurate portrayal. The band scenes sound absolutely phenomenal. When you take the sound design of this show and combine it with the animation, these scenes are absolutely breathtaking. The instruments perfectly match the notes being played, with added details that take it to the next level. The specific hits on the drums are accompanied with a realistic portrayal of how those sounds would be generated. Another example of this attention to detail is how the anime presents the sound of the band when they, in the words of Kumiko, suck. The band in this instance audibly sounds terrible and that is one of the triumphs of the sound design. Throughout the series, the sound of the band gets better as the characters practice their instruments more and more. It results in a strong payoff when the band performs in the final episode.

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Final Verdict

Sound! Euphonium was one of the best shows of 2015, so much so that it has already been confirmed for a second season. Compared to a typical slice of life, this series actually possesses a plot. In addition to this, the plot is actually realistic. As for the characters, Kumiko and Reina are absolute standouts. Kumiko is a very relatable character. The animation and sound design are some of the best this year. The show is gorgeous to look at and the sound is beautiful as well. Overall, Sound! Euphonium earns my Bananaowns stamp of approval. It really is a must watch. Come back next week for another review.

Bananaowns stamp of approval