Sangatsu no Lion Episode 1 [Initial Impressions]

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PLOT: The protagonist Rei is a 17-year-old professional shōgi player, who lives by himself, not having a real family, and has scarcely any friends. Among his acquaintances is a family, which consists of a young woman, Akari Kawamoto, and her younger sisters, Hinata and Momo, who also keep several cats. As the story progreses, Rei deals with his maturing as a player and as a person, while developing his relationships with others, specially the Kawamoto sisters.

Animation Production: SHAFT


  • Akiyuki Shinbo
  • Kenjiro Okada

Series Composition: 

  • Akiyuki Shinbo
  • Fuyashi Tou

Character Designer: Nobuhiro Sugiyama

Original Creator: Chika Umino [ Honey & Clover]

Music: Yukari Hashimoto

Episode 1 Production Details

Episode Director: Kenjiro Okada

Storyboard: Shinsaku Sasaki

Script: Yukito Kizawa

I decided to change things up a bit and not post so much information on production staff regarding previous anime they’ve worked on.  Hope you all enjoy it!

One of the most anticipated series of the season finally arrives! This adaptation is quite different than what I expected from when it was first announced. This turned out to be quite a solid piece of work.

An incredible use of sound and SHAFT uses creator Chika Umino’s slow-paced story to its advantage with director Akiyuki Shinbo at the helm!  Per Umino’s request! From the trailers and now this first episode I can tell that SHAFT put a lot of restraint on how they typically animate their shows like the Monogatari series.  The first half is a beautifully animated and very subdued long morning for the protagonist Rei Kiriyama.  SHAFT certainly was the right choice in this because they were able to breathe life into Rei’s dark objectified view of the world and flip it with a superb second half.  The animation is simply designed–using a solid palette structure for its backgrounds.  At first glance this isn’t an anime with a large budget like what we’ve been seeing with Yuri!!! on Ice! , but when you see this episode you can clearly get a clear indication that a lot of time was spent on the direction of the animation.  Closeup shots of objects (especially the drinks) and facial expression techniques.  The most important develop of this show is through its use of sound effects!  From the very first scene it’s clear that there is a certain level of discomfort in Rei’s home. He’s internalized all of his emotions (if he has any) and through a very smart stylistic choice in visuals and sound direction that Rei is suffering.  Without the addition of music until the shogi match illustrates a larger picture that Rei enjoys his isolation.

I think it says a lot when a series chooses little dialogue to capture an audience into its narrative. We don’t know the man he’s playing is his father until he sees a news report later on from a tragic unrelated event. Sound was crucial here–the report established Rei’s disconnect from his own circumstances perfectly!

This transitioned nicely into the Kawamoto family’s introduction. Bubbly music score and strikingly bright animation.  Hues of pinks and yellows represents how lively the family is–the antics with the younger children remind me of 7-year old Naru from Barakamon.  The animation in the second half of this episode reverts from the dismal and dark tone that Sangatsu no Lion originally went for!  You either like the style or you don’t. 3-Gatsu no Lion is different than what we’re used to seeing with shows like Honey & Clover.

Akari Kawamoto, the oldest of the three sisters notices Rei’s disconnect from society–it is seen when she, right after Hinata had texted him, requests that he pick up vegetables for the dinner. I like how this show doesn’t force the interpersonal relationships down our throats–we given small details in doses.  The news report, the text messages, even by the end of this episode we see that Rei is gradually crawling out of his shell through the use of shadow effects and dream-state imagery.

I’m actually quite glad that this premiere didn’t shove Shogi matches to explain his character in-depth.  Using a visual narrative and a down-to-earth family to establish his grounding in the world succeeds wonderfully!  Posters of the manga on the train, Sangatsu logo on the grocery store sign. Perhaps SHAFT was taking the source material advertising a bit too literal.  Although, it certainly is one way to do it.

OP: “Answer (アンサー)” by BUMP OF CHICKEN

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Directed by: Naoyuki Asano

Storyboards: Naoyuki Asano

Animation Supervisor: Naoyuki Asano

Key Animators:

  • Hironori Tanaka
  • Tsutomu Shibuya
  • Shintaro Douge
  • Kazuki Ito
  • Atsushi Saito
  • Nozomu Abe
  • You Yamamoto
  • Naoko Masui
  • Tomohiro Shinoda
  • Naoto Nakamura

Notable Key Animator: 

  • Hironori Tanaka [ BLEACH #166 (specifically Ichigo and Grimmjow fight sequence)
    • Known for character acting and expressive animation particularly with line-work animation and hair animations.

Hironori Tanaka animated many of the opening scenes for this, notably, Rei’s drowning and the majority of sections featuring water sequences.  A bit of history about this animator. He’s well-known in the world of sakuga having worked on some very popular series including School DaysFate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade WorksGurren LagannBakemonogatari and one of my favorites The Tatami Galaxy.   I believe what stands out best as his best work as a key animator is on director Kou Matsuo’s Kure–nai.  Episode six to be exact–featuring a musical sequence.  Sometimes there doesn’t need to be -in-between frames when there are many key frames used.  Typically TV Anime do not produce this level of quality, however, there are times when this style of animation is utilized. This seems to be Tanaka’s style resulting in a very smooth flow to his sequences. He’s one of a few animators to be experienced and designs scenes with a purity to them . I say pure because he is able to draw 50 to 80 frames just to get a sequence nailed down properly.

Sangatsu‘s opening has very beautiful animation with varying shades of blues and other dark tonal colors that mesh together with a powered pigment influence.  BUMP OF CHICKEN are back for the anime adaptation reprising their role in 3-Gatsu no Lion material with both a well-designed opening and ending sequence.  They definitely delivered an emotionally-charged and well-written indie-styled rock song that matches these visuals beautifully.  Rei is drowning without a pathway to follow in life–the visual cues with the doorways represents that he has many choices in life but doesn’t have a grasp on his own life yet. I really like how the song gives an uplift with the chorus and suddenly the animation changes to firefly visuals and the family that has taken a chance on him might just give him the push he needs to figure out his life goal.

Yuri!! on Ice Episode 1 [Initial Impressions]

Yuri!! on Ice effortlessly ignites an engaging story about figure skating with fluid animation, a compelling soundtrack, and a creative charm that works perfectly.

PLOT: Yūri Katsuki carried all of Japan’s hopes on his shoulders to win at the Gran Prix Finale ice skating competition, but suffered a crushing defeat. He returns home to Kyushu and half feels like he wants to retire, and half feels like he wants to continue ice skating. Suddenly the five-time consecutive world championship ice skater Victor Nikiforov appears before him with Yuri Plisetsky, a young Russian figure skater who is already defeating his seniors. Victor and both Yuris take up the challenge on an unprecedented Gran Prix series.

Animation Production: Studio MAPPA [Sakamichi no Apollon [Kids on the Slope]TeekyuZankyou no Terror [Terror in Tokyo], Garo: Honoo no Kokuin, Shingeki no Bahamut: GENESIS, PunchLine, Ushio and Tora, In This Corner of the World, Days, Hajime no Ippo: Rising [co-produced with MADHOUSE])

Director: Sayo Yamamoto [Storyboard and Episode Director on Samurai Champloo Episodes 5,11, 18, 22 and 26 / Storyboard on Death Note episode 22 / Series Director and Storyboards on Michiko e Hatchin / Storyboard on Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin Episode 11 / Storyboard and Episode Director on Space Dandy episodes 2 and 7 / Director and Storyboard on PSYCHO-PASS‘ first opening sequence / Director and Storyboard on Shingeki no Kyojin [Attack on Titan]’s first ending sequence / Director and Storyboard on Space Dandy‘s ending sequence / Director and Storyboard on Shingeki no Bahamut: GENESIS‘ ending sequence)

Series Composition: Sayo Yamamoto

Character Designer: Tadashi Hiramatsu (Animation Character Design and Animation Director on Cutie Honey [Live-Action Film] / Director, Storyboard, Animation Director [OP; episode 1] on Re: Cutie Honey OAV / Key Animator on Darkside Blues film / Key Animator on Master Keaton episode 28 / Key Animator on Neon Genesis Evangelion episodes 15,19, 21, 23, 24, 25 and 26 / Storyboard and Assistant Animation Supervisor on Mushishi episode 8 / Key Animator on Mushishi episodes 16 and 20 / Storyboard and Episode Director on Denno Coil episode 10 / Key Animator on Kimi ni Todoke episode 5 / Key Animator on Space Dandy episodes 2 and 17 / Animation Supervisor and Character Designer on Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakkuritsu / Storyboard on Kuromukuro episode 5)


  • Taku Matsushiba (Composer for the following advertisements and animation projects: Asahi The Dream, Oono he Kaerou, Yokai-Watch “puni puni”, Toyota Vitz, JR Toukai, Nissin Cisco, Mix Channel)
  • Taro Umebayashi (Composer for the following works: Space Dandy [credited as ‘milk’]

Episode 1 Production Details

Episode Director: Jun Shishido (Storyboard and Episode Director on Sakamichi no Apollon [Kids on the Slope] episode 6 / Storyboard on Kingdom episode 32 / Series Director and Storyboard on Hajime no Ippo: Rising episodes 1,2, 21 and 25 / Storyboard on Kiseiju: Sei no Kakuritsu episode 11 / Episode Director on Death Parade episodes 1, 6 and 11 / Storyboard on Death Parade episodes 3,6 and 11 / Director on Ushio and Tora‘s first and second opening sequences /

Storyboards: Sayo Yamamoto

Script: Sayo Yamamoto

From the director of Michiko e Hatchin and Lupin the Third: Fujiko Mine comes a story about competitive figure skating.  Originally this project by Sayo Yamamoto was created as a music video entitled “Endless Night” for the Japan Animator’s Exhibition project from Studio Khara [Neon Genesis Evangelion] and Dwango last year.  The visuals are stunning and some of the best this year has to offer. I knew this season would be huge considering that my favorite genre Josei [Sangatsu no Lion and Fune wo Amu] would be getting the spotlight but this knocked out just about every show that’s aired so far out of the water!  Yūri Katsuki is a timid 23-year old skater admiring the talents of skating legend Victor Nikiforov.  This episode does a fine job in establishing Yūri Katsuki as someone with much to learn.  He’s more relatable than many male protagonists and adding to this realism are a few qualities that outlines director Yamamoto’s attention to characterization–he has problems managing his weight. Not to mention the effects of his dog’s death weighing on him too. Which I’m sure the anime will explore this avenue later on.  His issues can clearly be seen as we see him crying in the bathroom and during the childhood segment alongside Yuko–he’s emotional and hasn’t quite come to terms with his loss at Gran Prix. Russian figure skater Yuri Plisetsky didn’t help the situation either. However, it does set up a nice rivalry between the two of them.  We also see how affected Yūri is after losing at the competition through the episode’s stylistic direction affixed on Yūri’s own physical appearance.  This is highlighted in his face perfectly.  From a downward spiral to an ultimately uplifting skating performance that turns out very rewarding in the second half.  As the story progresses we see that Yūri still has passion for figure skating.   Spending the remainder of this episode at the Hasetsu skating rink and an unexpected encounter at the hot springs provides a solid start to the story.

The visual quality is superb–the cast is attractive and this comes across during the skating scene as well.  Transitioning from Yūri and Victor Nikiforov’s skating performances.   MAPPA and Yamamoto didn’t mess around with staffing for this anime.  Picking  two time Japanese national ice skating champion (now retired) Kenji Miyamoto to choreograph all of the skating scenes and the visual appeal is breathtaking.  This isn’t the first time Miyamoto has choreographed either as he’s choreographed show programs for Japanese figure skaters Shizuka Arakawa, Daisuke Takahashi, Akiko Suzuki and Yuzuru Hanyu.  Working as a coach and choreographer gives him a chance to shine on projects like Yuri!! on Ice!

The ice skaters move freely across the screen–extremely life-like.  From hand gestures to flowing hair, Yūri and Victor’s curvatures and clothing embellish a style that’s physically charming and sensually engaging. In other words this is a fine example at what animation can achieve–a physical style that comes off more beautifully than to sexualize its characters through fanservice framing. What’s interesting is how artistic the entire sequence is–you can see his passion through his skating and this is depicted in his slimmer figure on the rink and top-notch performance.  The animation choice during this scene was beautiful on purpose.

Off the ice, this show explores body language in a variety of ways–closeup shots of expressive facial animation and quick comedic caricatures capture ballet teacher Minako-sensei and Yūri perfectly. Hopefully, we will get to see a ballet performance from Minako in a later episode accompanied by a originally-composed Taku Matsushiba piece.  This show couldn’t be all pretty like the previews let on. The goofy animations were done by famous Ranma 1/2 and FLCL animator Hiramatsu Tadashi.  Reminding us that we’re still watching a Japanese anime.  The background designs are a pencil-sketch style and very colorful. Object are highly detailed as well.  These characteristics in animation transitioned nicely to the natural movements of the characters giving off the idea that there is beauty outside of ice skating.

Overall this was a beautiful piece of work that is an extension to “Endless Night”.  One that I highly recommend checking out.  A charming additional to the Fall 2016 Anime lineup!


OP: “History Maker” by Dean Fujioka

Directed by: Sayo Yamamoto

Storyboards: Sayo Yamamoto

Animation Supervisor: Sunghoo Park

Absolutely incredible. This is one of the coolest openings I have ever seen. Beautifully animated and on-point with the song by Dean Fujioka!  I love his voice it’s very smooth sounding and his English is amazing. The song was written in cooperation with Taku Matsushiba.  His style is astounding–this song is heavily inspired by classical and contemporary pop music. Providing a nice introduction in the anime’s backdrop–a modern day skating story.  Very inspiring lyrics and visuals that are filled with huge amount of artistic passion!

ED: “You Only Live Once” by Wataru Hatano

Directed by: Yoichiro Hayashi

Storyboards: Yoichiro Hayashi

Animation Supervisor: Tadashi Hiramatsu

This was a surprisingly good ending.  Really good. Coming off from the modern day musical styled opening sequence this one focuses on life outside of the ice skating element.  An entire sequence of instagram posts of the famous figure skaters featured in Yuri!! on Ice! Looks like a sequence taken from  FREE! but with a lot more heart to it.  This ending comes off super smooth with the addition of an electro-pop sound for the ending song and seiyu Wataru Hatano’s singing. Enjoyed this ending a lot. Anyone notice the “bae” acronym? Very funny.


Boku Dake ga Inai Machi [ERASED] [93/100]

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A show that masterfully created suspenseful drama. Productions were top notch–visuals by A-1 Pictures put this towards the top of my list as some of the best animation including its wonderful cinematography!  Yuki Kajiura scored a dramatic soundtrack and it pays off!  Especially with Kayo’s scenes between her mother and the incredible detail on object framing throughout the kids conversations at school!

We get a realistic perspective on how Satoru grows up through the eyes of a child.  If it weren’t for Satoru’s mother, Sachiko, being such a strong parental figure (supporting Satoru’s decision on not abandoning Kayo) in this series I would not have rated this in the 90’s.  It’s because of her we understand Akemi’s treatment of her own child, Kayo, and that Boku Machi is more than just a chilling murder mystery series.  It is clearly seen by the first half of this anime that the director chose to highlight the friendships (Kayo x Satoru) rather than focusing on Satoru finding out who killed his mom [until towards the end of the anime].  We get a concurring theme of murder mystery that helps him get closer to Kayo–the animation and cinematography were important in getting this across.  We see realistic scenes between the two of them from hand holding to birthday parties and while being in his 10-year old self it’s Satoru’s job to protect Kayo it also rewarding that he is learning new things about himself and why he couldn’t connect with his mom and friends before.  His revival ability gives him the chance at a “do-over” and it’s amazing to watch it pan out.  Offering us well-written inner dialogue scenes from heartfelt moments to comedic scenes.

Director Tomohiko Ito [Sword Art Online] cut out a lot from the manga and still managed to give us an ending that is satisfying.  The manga explains that Satoru can rerun moments of time backwards sometimes of his choosing.  In the anime, his ability is known as revival where it occurs through a situation that leads to tragedy.   In the manga, chapter 3 explores this in detail when Katagiri Airi and he discover a building getting torn down and Satoru has a rerun.  He knows something is off and discovers a child stuck in an elevator shaft.  After saving the child’s life he discovers that Katagiri’s first name is Airi and they call each other on a first name basis after the incident.  In the anime this entire scene is completely removed resulting in a lack of characterization for Airi. And still the anime captured even Airi’s moments nicely.  Using her as Satoru’s push forward in the middle of this story worked–Satoru can lean on his friends for help.  IF it wasn’t for her punch scene with the manager and the entire fire sequence I don’t think Satoru would have leaned on his friends, especially Kenya, as much as he did in the second half of Boku Machi.



On a side note I thought I’d share some upcoming events my anime club is having. If anyone is interested in helping out with my events please contact me.

Anime Nights’ Facebook Events

Arslan Senki Episode 16

Episode 16 Production Details

Episode Director: Kazuo Nogami (Episode Director on Ninku episodes 18, 28, 35 and 43 / Episode Director on Denno Coil episodes 7, 9, 11 [alongside Tomoya Takahashi], 18 and 20 [alongside Masaru Yasukawa] / Episode Director on BLEACH 284, 293, 300, 311, 320, 326, 333, 340 / Episode Director on Gin no Saji [Silver Spoon] episode 3 / Episode Director on Terra Formars 10 and 11 [assistant episode director])

Storyboards: Kazuo Nogami

Script: Aoi Shushiro [Script writer for Samurai Champloo episode 10 / Series Composition writer on Hamatora / Script writer for Galilei Donna episodes 5, 9 and 10]

We’ve seen this many times before.  Narsus outwits Arslan’s enemies and this episode wasn’t much different on that front.  There needs to be more personal dilemma for Narsus rather than an over-powered strategist, some kind of slip-up needs to happen to build his character out better. I say this because Narsus is yet again faced with overwhelming odds and still manages to come out on top.  Rajendra has 50,000 soldiers and Gadevi has 150,000 men including drugged war-elephants.

Narsus thinks ahead by misleading Gadevi, pulling  his soldiers out of Gujarat leaving behind dummy soldiers (literally) for them to square off against.  It takes a turn for the better when Rajendra, haven’t being told of the plan, is caught by surprise when his army shows up to battle Gadevi.  It’s great to see that the plan isn’t  being told to us in plain view and even, we are surprised by how Narsus’ strategic skills are put to use in a battle with two other armies.  The tactics used in this were fantastic, however, unlike the first few episodes there wasn’t too much tension developed.

This is where  I want to mention that the director on this series is Noriyuki Abe, the general director of BLEACH.   While, BLEACH was known for information drops right before a battle, revealing a plan to an enemy even way before it occurs. This was problem for this show however Arslan Senki steers (for the most part) clear from that (for now) and designs a wonderfully written set-up to its battles especially in this episode.  Too bad the tension and the animation aren’t polished–tons of heavy action scenes detracted away from the importance of this battle.

The aftermath of the battle  with Gadevi also portrays quite a vicious image of him.  He’s ready to execute Jaswant before the Vizer steps in and this alludes to how Arlsan is viewed by the company that he keeps.  Jaswant notices the difference in how Arslan treats his loyal subjects as opposed to Gadevi.  It this entire scene that explores how immature Rajendra and Gadevi’s sibling squabble is. Making matters worse is when the old king, Karikala wakes up and isn’t too pleased to hear his sons are bickering, costing thousands of soldiers’ lives. Given the situation it makes sense, during these times, that there would be a duel before the Gods. Using Daryun for this battle is just a small piece for Arslan understanding himself, his allies, and the world accepting him as the future of Pars.


91 Days Episode 1 [Initial Impressions]


Animation Production: Shuka [Durarara!!x2 Shou and KetsuNatsume Yujin-Cho Go Season 5)

Director: Hiro Kaburagi (Storyboard on Guilty Crown episode 6 / Series Director on Hozuki no Reitetsu / Episode Director on Kaze no Stigma‘s Opening Sequence / Series Director and Script on Kimi ni Todoke and 2nd Season / Director on Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun / Storyboard on Rolling Girls episode 9 / Episode Director on Speed Grapher episode 19)

Series Composition: Taku Kishimoto ( Series Script Writer on Gin no Saji / Series Composition and Script on Boku Dake ga Inai Machi [ERASED] / Series Script Writer on Haikyuu!! / Script Writer on Prince of Stride: Alternative episode 2 / Series Composition and Script on Usagi Drop)

Character Designer:  Tomohiro Kishi (Key Animator on Baccano! episode 1 / Character Designer and Chief Animation Director on Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun / Key Animator on Gunparade Ochestra‘s Opening and Ending Sequences / Animation Director on Space Dandy episode 5 / Animation Director on Zankyou no Terror [Terror in Tokyo] episodes 4 and 6)

Music: Shogo Kaida ( Music Composer on S.A.Uragiri wa Boku no Namae o Shitteiru)

Episode 1 Production Details

Episode Director: Hiro Kaburagi ( Director on Dededen Specials / Episode Director on Fantastic Children episodes 2, 5, 9, 11, 15, 20, 24 and 25 / Storyboard on Guilty Crown episode 6 / Director on Hozuki no Reitetsu / Episode Director on Kaze no Shoujo Emily episode 19 / Director on Kimi no Todoke / Episode Director on NHK ni Youkoso! [Welcome to the NHK!] episodes 5, 13 and 22)

Storyboards: Hiro Kaburagi (Series Composition on Boku Dake ga Inai Machi [ERASED]/ Series Composition on Gin no Saji [Silver Spoon] / Series Composition on Joker Game)

Script: Taku Kishimoto

I remember how spectacular Zankyou no Terror‘s premiere was. Full of dramatic action and sequences that left me wanting so much more from a 25 minute episode run-time.  This was the case with 91 Days.  A revenge story about a young man Angelo Lagusa vows to take a revenge on the family that murdered his own. Script writer, Taku Kishimoto nailed the human relationships in this first episode wonderfully. For the first few minutes we are gently brought into the drama surrounding Angelo and his curiosity towards the Vanetti family.  He receives a picture of his younger brother claiming that the Vanetti family is in the town of Lawless.

The first ten minutes of this episode as beautifully written, incredibly drawn and the camera angles were a stylistic choice that comes off like you’re watching a high-budget 1920’s crime film.  Angelo’s brother Luce Lagusa and his friend Corteo playing with the candle are a small piece of what makes 91 Days a step up above many shows that are airing this summer season.  Shogo Kaida handles the music in this anime and I’ve got to say I’m impressed.  The use of strings during the murder scene weaves together nicely between shots of the kids looking through the crack of the closet doors witnessing the traumatic event unfolding. I also love the slow-motion effects the creators decided on using–Testa slashing at Vincente Vanetti to Luce running out of the closet to a well-lit room to save his mother.  The framing in this was spectacular!  Three Vanetti members were involved in the killing of his mother, father and brother and it creates potential in developing these characters further when (or if) we are introduced to them in some way or another.

An original story and I’m glad to see a newer studio tackle it too–they produced the previous Durararax2 Shou and Ketsu seasons so I can clearly see where their budget was being used on. It was for this. The lighting between many dark scenes of the house and landscape of the woods fit together.  I’m glad they decided on a TV route for this rather than a feature-length film.  So much story is involved!  Hopefully, they will make this longer than 1-cour (91 episodes is wishful thinking).

After the murder scene we are treated to an introduction reminiscent of the Godfather films that sets the tone and atmosphere of a 1920’s world.  Also this acts as a gradual build in time jump that begins Angelo’s revenge on the Vanetti’s. Creteo being a moonshiner was a nice choice.  It reminds us of the time this series is set in and opens up a door for Angelo to get involved with a ragtag team of bootleggers that turn out to be none other than Nero Vanetti himself, one of the men that helped with murdering the Lagusa family!



Kekkai Sensen Episode 12 [END]

Episode 12 Production Details

Episode Director: Rie Matsumoto (Episode Director on Yes! Precure 5 episodes 14 and 24 / Storyboard and Episode Director on Saint Seiya Omega episodes 3 and 10 / Series Composition and Storyboards on Kyousogiga)

Storyboards: Rie Matsumoto (Episode Director on Yes! Precure 5 episodes 14 and 24 / Storyboard and Episode Director on Saint Seiya Omega episodes 3 and 10 / Series Composition and Storyboards on Kyousogiga)

Script: Kazuhisa Furuya (Series Composition on Kekkai Sensen)

After that cliffhanger I would not have expected such a long wait on the finale.  Three and half months later (October 3rd) the conclusion to this incredible supernatural series finally airs!  The cause for the delay was because BONES originally intended on this finale to be longer than a thirty minute time-slot permits.  Finding a broadcaster to air it can be problematic due to other series and programs signing for a specific time-slot, from weeks prior to even months ahead of air time.  Typically, anime studios will delay an episode due to not finishing the animation in time.  I would imagine that would cost them an additional fee or a recap episode.  Now I can see why a recap episode was paramount to production. The question is does this long hiatus bode well for Kekkai Sensen‘s ending or does this tone down the excitement?

This had to be one of the best endings of 2015–BONES utilizing all of that extra time certainly paid off. Six animation supervisors, four assistant episode directors, 58 key animators, and 24 2nd key animators.  Delivering jaw-dropping visuals throughout the entire 46 minute runtime!  There wasn’t a single frame that contained a drop in quality! Terrific music including classical music references throughout. On a delivery front, the music was chosen wisely.  The build up is strong from the first half!  Showcasing at least the first five minutes or so of “Polovtsian Dances” from Alexander Borodin’s opera “Prince Igor”. Providing an emotionally-charged collection of scenes in order to build up Libra’s fight throughout the city and Klaus’ battle against the King of Despair.

Kekkai Sensen blew my expectations out of the water with this episode!  Instead of adding in extraneous sub-plots to re-introduce Hellsalem’s Lot after a near 4-month absence the creators committed to the ending they intended on from the get-go.  A story about love and peace [an honest homage to Trigun].

Mary and William were loved by their parents, that when the Great Collapse occurred they set up a barrier inside of White (Mary).  Tragically we know now that she had actually died from the collapse and explains why throughout this series she can’t ever go outside Hellsalem’s Lot.  This is where William comes in; why he wanted to keep her close inside the hospital at all times. The King of Despair’s presence explains why White betray’s Leonardo, offers the all-seeing Eyes of the Gods.  Despair [inside of Black] shooting White in the chest removes any barrier that is left protecting the city is further indication that White knew exactly what and who she was from the very beginning that she met Leonardo. A nice tie-in to the first episode’s conclusion!

I wish they’d have given an episode focused solely on Chain Sumeragi.  Her interactions with the rest of the cast are humors and it’d be great to see her backstory.

Remember the God of Chow back in episode 10?  If you’ve been paying attention you’ll notice how Leo can perceive the dead.  The finale, here, highlights this point and puts it right in front of us to understand that he’s more than just an ordinary guy.  He’s something special and more a part of Libra than he ever has been before!

While this episode concludes White and Black’s story it does a fine job establishing that Leo’s story within Hellsalem’s Lot isn’t over.  It is only just beginning. Both Leo and Black have confronted reality due to the choices they’ve made.  A city that is between two worlds  with varied aliens and humans living amongst the main cast shows how important the characterization in these series needed to be.  As devastating it was to lose White for both of these men; this moment in the final scenes of Kekkai Sensen allows for them to become more human than they ever have before.

Rie Matsumoto is a spectacular director.  She clearly is a fan of the old days of Japanese anime–Kyousougiga was loaded with a variety of colorful visual elements!  The direction she chooses is spastic and very inventive. She came up with the story of White and Black for Kekkai Sensen and original creator Nightow oversaw the project! Her style has a similar fashion to GAINAX’s first few animated works especially Gurren Lagann.  Also, I’d say that Kekkai Sensen is very reminiscent of Cutie Honey’s three-episode OAV opening sequence, how characters are introduced on-screen and how they interact with the world around them!

I believe this is one of the best anime narratives in recent years.  They took an original adaptation and created a faithful interpretation based on Yasuhiro Nightow’s original manga. After seeing this, I’d like to see her adapt either Warainaku’s Keyman-The Hand of Judgment or re-adapt Atsushi Ōkubo’s Soul Eater.


Kekkai Sensen Episode 11

Episode 11 Production Details

Episode Director: Masashi Abe (Director on Kekkai Sensen‘s Ending Sequence / Storyboard on Blue Dragon episodes 12, 26, 30 [alongside Matsushita Yukihiro), 37 and 46 / Episode Director and Storyboard on JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure episodes 4 and 19 / Episode Director on Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis episodes 6 (alongside Shinichi Matsumi) and 10 (alongside Atsushi Wakabayashi and Tomoyuki Kurokawa) / Episode Director on Noragami Aragoto episodes 2, 5 and 12)


  • Rie Matsumoto (Episode Director on Yes! Precure 5 episodes 14 and 24 / Storyboard and Episode Director on Saint Seiya Omega episodes 3 and 10 / Series Composition and Storyboards on Kyousogiga)
  • Tomohiko Ito ( Director on Boku Dake ga Inai Machi / Director on Gin no Saji (Silver Spoon) / Director on Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin / Director on Sword Art Online / Storyboard and Episode Director on MONSTER episodes 42, 55 and 70 / Episode Director on Death Note episodes 2,7, 14, 23, 26, 29 and 35 / Episode Director on Michiko e Hatchin episodes 4 and 12 / Storyboard on Michiko e Hatchin episodes 4,12, and 19 [alongside Yasuji] / Storyboard on Noragami Aragoto episode 8)

Script: Kazuhisa Furuya (Series Composition on Kekkai Sensen)

I will admit I do not like recap episodes.  However, Episode 10.5 tackles Kekkai Sensen’s story thus far in a rather inventive way. A radio show with the cast making detailed changes along the way.  I will take no time in the recap and jump right into the story with episode 11.

One of the biggest points that Kekkai Sensen has with its success is how unpredictable it can be.  Dancing along the setting of the manga’s storyline we get an entire series focused on a bombastic group (Libra) and the situations they encounter with other people and aliens throughout a fictional New York City.

This episode manages to do the impossible. An entire 25 minutes dedicated to William (Black) and Mary (White) Macbeth.  Not a single member of Libra has a shred of dialogue! And yet we get details bit by bit from previous episodes finally coming together here in order to explain the twins’ backstory.  They’re children of casters, which is why the LOHOS group was prevalent in the previous episode, and marks a return in a big way here.

Throughout this show we’ve seen how devious Black is and the power that comes with his alternate persona. This penultimate episode filled in all the questions without shoving the information down our throats needlessly.  William inherited cast powers and Mary did not. This explains why Mary is sold brash, bold and whimsically charming towards Leonardo.  As for Black he’s the timid and shy twin.  That is until the King of Despair takes hold of his personality. The imagery is superb in this episode.  Delivering a heartwarming effect on its audience.  Filled with visually warm childhood scenes between sibling fights and touching scenes between child and parents.  Parents that are shepherds in a sense.  The father reminds me a lot of Maes Hughes from FullMetal Alchemist: BROTHERHOOD— especially with his comedic moments with Mary and his wife.  A beautiful collection of memories that are torn apart in the second half of this episode.  Containing some of the darkest moments out of this entire series!

This episode’s intention was to establish the main manga’s world elements but more importantly acts as a parallel between the Macbeths and the Watches.  Both older siblings giving up something precious for their younger siblings presents two motifs: hope and despair.  This is represented nicely when we learn what the twin’s parents had done in order to keep Mary alive.

I really like how Femt has been overseeing Black’s plan. That scene towards the end felt as though it was original creator, NIGHTOW, seeing this anime original arc unfold! Sitting at the sidelines teasing us that the main story hasn’t even begun!

I sure hope there is a season two because this has been a fantastic ride!


Kekkai Sensen Episode 10

Episode 10 Production Details

Episode Director: Ikuro Sato ( Director on FullMetal Alchemist: BROTHERHOOD‘s Second Ending Sequence and Third Opening Sequence / Director on STAR DRIVER‘s Second Opening Sequence / Director on No. 6‘s Opening Sequence / Director on Captain Earth‘s First Ending Sequence / Episode Director on Zetsuen no Tempest episodes 14 and 23 / Episode Director on Space Dandy episode 4 / Episode Director on Akagami no Shirayukihime episodes 5 and 11 / Episode Director on Soul Eater episodes 4, 8, 18, 24, 31, 40, 41, 48 and 51 [alongside Takuya Igarashi)


  • Rie Matsumoto (Episode Director on Yes! Precure 5 episodes 14 and 24 / Storyboard and Episode Director on Saint Seiya Omega episodes 3 and 10 / Series Composition and Storyboards on Kyousogiga)
  • Tomohiko Ito ( Director on Boku Dake ga Inai Machi / Director on Gin no Saji (Silver Spoon) / Director on Seikimatsu Occult Gakuin / Director on Sword Art Online / Storyboard and Episode Director on MONSTER episodes 42, 55 and 70 / Episode Director on Death Note episodes 2,7, 14, 23, 26, 29 and 35 / Episode Director on Michiko e Hatchin episodes 4 and 12 / Storyboard on Michiko e Hatchin episodes 4,12, and 19 [alongside Yasuji] / Storyboard on Noragami Aragoto episode 8)

Script: Kazuhisa Furuya (Series Composition on Kekkai Sensen)

In the last episode we were treated to the White/Black subplot, anime original, and finally becoming the heart of this show.  As dramatic as this was, learning about White’s tragic past we’re now getting to a climax. This episode was different.  A fun-filled antics adventure featuring Leonardo, Zapp, and Zed on a journey for lunch.  The comedy is spot-on with this show–Zapp is his usual obnoxious self, Leonardo is the worrywart of the group and Zed puts up a front that is non-confrontational and yet still finds a way to get into Zapp’s head.

The first place that go into is a Sushi restaurant–exploring Zapp and Zed’s relationship as a semi-brotherly love.  I like how its Zapp that picks this place, ultimately backfiring on him.  Zed being perfectly fine with cannibalism highlights his reptilian appearance wonderfully!  Amidst their lunching adventure is Klaus, Steven, and Abrams aiding the city’s cops into fighting 1,000 brothers (literally).  This is one of the charm’s of Kekkai Sensen it doesn’t hold back!  Libra’s relationship with organization LOHOS is complex.  A philanthropic group of humans with super powers that had been awakened by their encounter with Beyond.  Known as Casters, referring to the same casters that created the barrier in Hellsalem’s Lot–unifying a peace treaty between humans and the otherworldly creatures known as Beyondians.  The organization is very much like Libra, keeping an interest in self-sufficiency, the natural order of things (in other words maintaining a “balance”) and a unyielding rule to sacrifice the powerful in order to protect the citizens of Hellsalem’s Lot.  This is where Black’s story converges with the cast.   A few finely detailed action sequences tied in with some strong exposition clarify how bizarrely crafted this episode is.  Strange restaurants (including an Italian restaurant that’s an obvious nod to the Sopranos) from a chef regurgitating the food they serve, chowder eating its own customers and food establishment serving brains and other body parts.  It is no wonder why Leonardo is seen freaking out (speaking in tongues) and has it out with the God of Chow.

The biggest highlight of this episode, however, is the small attention to detail.  The sign at Diane’s “Send a Salami to your boy in the army” is a reference to Katz’s Delicatessen.  A kosher style restaurant established in the lower east side of Manhattan, New York City.  During World War II the slogan was used to encourage parents to support their children that had joined the army.

I think this was a smart move to use this because everything up to this point had been absolutely bizarre and now the story has calmed down and grounded back into reality.  It isn’t until the last five minutes that the story really sets in with White’s demand of Leonardo.

Once again this show continues to amaze me!

Animator Spotlight:

Hidetsugu Ito

[Previous Works Include]

  • Bounen no X’amd Episode 2 [Key Animator]
  • Zetsuen no Tempest Episode 24 – debris, fire and lighting effects during Megumu Hanemura’s flame technique against the Tree of Genesis. [Key Animator]
  • Space Dandy Episode 10 – mecha, smoke explosions. [Key Animator] (3)

Yuki Hayashi

[Previous Works Include]

Notable Styles: yutapon cubes, smearing animation techniques and debris effects.

  • Toriko Episode 5 – cave fight sequence. [Key Animator]
  • Yuyushiki Episode 7 – leg grabbing sequence [Key Animator]
  • Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta Episode 2 – Kotoha Isone’s fight with Hime Yarizakura. (2)



Top Ten Anime Series I’ve Seen

Ten: Toradora!
The ultimate tsundere romance, Toradora! portrays high school odd-couple Taiga, a short statured and short tempered student, and Ryuuji, a young man with the appearance of a Yakuza member and a borderline obsessive-compulsive need to clean and organize things. Although nominally set in high school, the relationship dynamic between Taiga and Ryuuji is more like that of a married couple than teenagers, which extends the appeal of the story.
Toradora! is based off of a light novel series by Yuyuko Takemiya, who also wrote Golden Time. What is interesting is that even though Golden Time is set in university and Toradora! Is set in high school, the characters and relationships in Toradora! seem more mature.
Contrasting characters Taiga and Minori in an early episode.
Nine: Silver Spoon
Silver Spoon is the story of Yugo Hachiken, a somewhat stilted young man who has failed the entrance exam to the most prestigious high school in Sapporo. Unable to face his classmates and his family, he takes the best out he can find by attending an agricultural boarding school in the hinterland. Knowing literally nothing about farming, and surrounded by teens whose families have been farming for generations, he discovers that here, too he is completely out of his depth.Fortunately for everyone, he gamely steps up to these new challenges.
As an audience stand-in, Hachiken learns about both the technical and economic aspects of farming in Japan, often facing some dour truths about the state of family farms and rural life in general.Based on an on-going manga,I hope that there will be a third season at some point.
Hachiken and Mikage go to the temple to write down their dreams.
Eight: Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun
The anime revolves around the relationship between Nozaki, a teenage boy who somehow is a famous author of girls’ romance manga, and his classmate Sakura, who is in love with him, but has through a series of misunderstandings been roped into working as his assistant.A great show to write a college paper on, Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun overturns every accepted trope in anime and manga; whether this is done in order to deconstruct received notions about entrenched social structures, or just because it’s funny, is left as an exercise for the reader.
montly girls.png
Yuzuki Seo, the series’ kūki o yomanai (“oblivious”) character.
Seven: Genshiken
Genshiken’s main draw is that it lets fans of the manga to see it come to life; as a stand-alone work, it is fantastic as a mature slice-of-life story, but newcomers might not see what the big deal is, especially as neither of the two seasons manages to finish the manga’s overall story arc, and without the background information from the manga the individual episodes feel somewhat disconnected from one another.
Casual viewers also might not even be aware that there is a second season (not to be confused with Genshiken: Second Season, the series’ sequel), making the anime seem even more truncated.A similar series, Princess Jellyfish, has an even more pronounced version of this problem; the series ends right in the middle of a story arc.
Chica Oguie, my second favorite tsundere character.
Six: Welcome to the NHK
Welcome to the NHK is not for everybody, which is why it isn’t higher on this list. I don’t mean that it can only be appreciated by a true connoisseur, I just mean to enjoy it you need to have either gone through a similar situation, or else be willing to be a very sympathetic witness to the foibles of the young.It does take a charitable viewer to deal with the series’ protagonist.
Tatsuhiro Sato’s problem is outwardly simple: he needs to go out and get a job. All discussion of hikikomori or social anxiety disorder or what-have-you aside, the basic fact is he wouldn’t be able to sit alone in his room all day hating himself if it wasn’t subsidized. This can make Sato a difficult character to empathize with, particularly for very self-directed individuals, or those whose personal narrative, however rightly so, centers around overcoming of adversity.
But patience is rewarded, and Sato is neither undeserving of our attention, nor is he alone in the story: The series is filled with people who, for whatever reason, have become disassociated from society: a failed business person, an office worker who depends on pills to get through the day, a cult member, a young man fleeing attempting to flee his hometown, it goes on and on. These are people whose alienation is universally comprehensible; their degree of isolation in a society that emphasizes positive group dynamics can only be guessed at.The light novel the show is based on is well worth a read if you can find it.

Life isn’t over in your early 20s. Or is it?
Five: My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU
A strong example of the recent trend towards irony-infused dramedies staring quirky, precocious teens, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is a surprisingly good watch for anyone who has ever been an adolescent. The only drawback is that at certain points the plot seems to jump the tracks; I suspect that certain cultural cues and assumptions are lost on western viewers. Or maybe I just don’t get today’s youth. It would be hard to fault the translation, which does an amazing job of delivering the series’ deadpan, borderline cynical humor.

Hachiman’s rationalizations are a high point of the series.
Four: Steins;gate
Steins;gate’s chief strength, besides its memorable and immensely likeable characters, is the way in which the tone of the show completely alters depending on whether it is a first or second viewing. Following the series’ theme of time travel, the semi-circular plot forms a moebius strip that encourages and rewards a second viewing. So engrossing is the story that viewers may not notice the harem slowly building around the protagonist, nor the few moments of oddly timed fan-service.
Mayuri Shiina, a longtime observer of Rintarō Okabe’s social faux pas
Three: Psycho-Pass
Equal parts Orwell, Huxley, and Judge Dredd, Psycho-Pass presents a seemingly bright and shiny cyberpunk future, where mental health is the key determinant of social status. As such, the population is constantly being monitored by an ambiguous, networked system that continually tracks and evaluates the mental fitness of every citizen. Those that don’t pass muster are forced to attend therapy, imprisoned in mental health facilities, or even summarily executed on the street or in their homes.The depth of thought presented is stellar for a work of popular culture – characters discuss topics as varied as Titus Andonicus, Phillip K. Dick, Proust, and the Marquis de Sade, as well as quote Spinoza and Pascal, all without skipping a beat. The first season presents enough ideas in an episode to fill a season of a normal series; the only drawback is the somewhat lukewarm second season, which was, however, redeemed by the follow-up film.
Mandatory Happiness
Two: From the New World
From the New World represents the most cohesive story on this list, having a clear and internally consistent dramatic arc with a satisfying resolution. It is an odd science fiction tale where technology is almost absent; instead, the driving force is human beings’ ESP powers, and the (very) ambiguous utopian society they have constructed for themselves. It is also a coming of age tale that follows the protagonists from early childhood well into adulthood, realistically depicting multiple stages of life in a context both familiar and yet also vastly different from contemporary society.Underpinning the story is a very subtle idea: if our minds were able to conjure up our heart’s desire in an instant, our own thoughts, particularly our subconscious, would be a constant source of potential danger to ourselves and those around us.

Saki Watanabe discusses school problems with her mother.
One: Attack on Titan
First place goes to Attack on Titan, which would be considered a stellar work in any medium, and would entertain and engross even the most diehard anime skeptic. The show has everything: memorable characters, an engaging and believable story, fantastic animation, particularly the action scenes, and great voice acting.The series defies easy labeling. More mature than a typical shonen anime, it is a science fiction story that features archaic technology with some fantasy elements, a conspiracy that so far is mostly just hinted at, and a coming of age tale in which the characters mature almost immediately.

We lived in fear of the titans, and were disgraced to live in these cages we called walls.

Kekkai Sensen Episode 9

Episode 9 Production Details

Episode Director: Masashi Abe (Director on Kekkai Sensen‘s Ending Sequence / Storyboard on Blue Dragon episodes 12, 26, 30 [alongside Matsushita Yukihiro), 37 and 46 / Episode Director and Storyboard on JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure episodes 4 and 19 / Episode Director on Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis episodes 6 (alongside Shinichi Matsumi) and 10 (alongside Atsushi Wakabayashi and Tomoyuki Kurokawa) / Episode Director on Noragami Aragoto episodes 2, 5 and 12)


  • Rie Matsumoto (Episode Director on Yes! Precure 5 episodes 14 and 24 / Storyboard and Episode Director on Saint Seiya Omega episodes 3 and 10 / Series Composition and Storyboards on Kyousogiga)
  • Michio Fukuda (Storyboard on Death Note episodes 9,13, 19 and 28 / Storyboard on Dennou Coil episode 17 (alongside Mitsuo Iso) / Storyboard on FullMetal Alchemist: BROTHERHOOD episodes 13 and 21 / Storyboard on STAR DRIVER episodes 5, 9, 14, 17, 20 and 24 / Storyboard on Galilei Donna episode 8 / Key Animator on Summer Wars film / Key Animator on REDLINE film / Director, Storyboard and Animation Supervisor on Terra Formars: Revenge first Ending Sequence / Director on Terra Formars: Revenge / Key Animator on One Piece Film 6: Omatsuri Danshaku to Himitsu no Shima)

Script: Kazuhisa Furuya (Series Composition on Kekkai Sensen)

Series like Space Dandy and Kekkai Sensen reminds me why I love watching Japanese anime. Animation can be free form without any constraints. Fueled by relentless, imaginative storytelling and visuals.  Combine that with Japanese traditions and American pop culture and you can get some incredibly diverse, risky, and fresh shows. Both Space Dandy and Kekkai Sensen excel at this, giving us a fantasized perspective of world culture with spectacular BONES quality! In a conventional sense Kekkai Sensen’s manga would have been quite difficult to adapt. I’ve got to hand it to Matsumoto and her ability to craft together an original-anime story, Black and White, and weave this into the world of Kekkai Sensen flawlessly. Both Kyousogiga and this series nails down how incredible Matsumoto is at pacing.

The beginning spans in the matter of minutes–introducing us to Zed, Raju’s other disciple, giving a feel of what his relationship with Zapp is like and how they learned their techniques under Raju. The teacher giving a finishing blow to the blood breed spells out how well trained all of them really are too. This allows Leonardo to use his all seeing eye ability so that Klaus can seal him. A team effort that delivered a very fun ride of action!

The reveal with White and Black alludes to how this show might end. Leonardo can sense something is going on with White.  With that said, it is proof enough that his ability will be the crux of this series (hopefully, season). A bad heart is what White has. The Ming of Despair can only save White’s body if he can receive Leo’s all seeing eyes. A trade off that I’m sure will result in casualties is a a strong way to build up Kekkai Sensen’s finale. Setting up White as the sacrificial character of this show.

The flashback of William (Black) and Mary’s (White) homeland is absolutely gorgeous. Super bright tones that mixes a beautifully drawn blue sky and nicely bright greenery. Illustrating how happy their family was before the King of Depravity entered the picture and changed their lives forever.

That ending scene was incredible! Well-acted on White and Black’s parts!  The soundtrack really stood out this episode too!

Animator Spotlight:

Yutaka Nakamura

[Previous Works Include]

  • Sword of the Stranger film- fight sequences
  • STAR DRIVER‘s second ending sequence
  • Escaflowne‘s opening sequence [specifically, Nakamura animate the slow motion mecha fight] (1)