Tag Archives: Romance

Koi wa Ameagari no You ni Episode 2

Episode 2 Production Details

Episode Director: Shingo Uchida [Episode Director on Ace Attorney episode 2 / Director on Berserk: The Golden Age Arc I / Unit Director on Blood-C: The Last Dark / Episode Director on FullMetal Alchemist: Brotherhood episode 39 / Key Animator on Gantz episode 26 / Storyboard on Hajime no Ippo Rising episode 2 / Storyboard and Episode Director on JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure episode 18 / Episode Director on Thundercats [2011] episode 8]

Storyboards: Ayumu Watanabe [Director on Ace AttorneyMysterious Girlfriend XSpace Brothers]

Script: Deko Akao [Series Composition on Anonymous Noise // Series Composition and Script on Amanchu! and Amanchu Advance / Series Composition and Script (episodes 1-2, 5, 8, and 12) / Script on My Little Monster episodes 5, 8, and 10) / Series Composition and Script (episodes 1-3, 6 and 7, 11 and 12) on Noragami) / Series Composition and Script (episodes 1 and 2, 4, 8 and 9, 11) on Akagami no Shiraiyukihime (Snow White with Red Hair)]


 

This show’s framing is very good. The contrast color balance of yellow against blues and the white clouds add a clean look to Ameagari’s backgrounds and crisp line art to the movement of this series characters and background objects.

Kondo’s comedy is realistic, he’s a carefree manager with a lot of responsibility and many a times he messes up. Yui Nishida brings a fine point to Tachibana’s feelings about love and what makes her heart move.  This episode teaches us that when you give up on something–you will always hold a special place in your heart for the things you don’t want to try for. In Tachibana’s case she is slowly spreading her wings and trying to find her something that makes herself be happy. In this case her track team and how she loved to run with her classmates on the team illustrates her timid behavior.  A directorial choice with an inspired direction with this sequence as we see Tachibana running  alongside a clear sky. The running sequence shows to Kondo how impressive Tachibana is but plays a toll on her injury. Takashi’s clumsiness with the plates was the backbone for this entire sequence to come crashing down literally.  His hyper active personality is quite the difference to Tachibana’s shyness when she’s around Kondo. I really like how this Ameagari plays around with this ideas between vulnerable intimacy and tension with Tachibana’s frustration in the previous episode all while maintaining a sublime mood this show instills to its audience.

This past season we’ve had a lot of series about fantasy, supernatural and mecha anime that its nice to finally have a series so grounded in reality. This show strays away from abnormal jump out animation and highly expressive acted moments and opts for complacent yet complex cast of characters. Allowing this series particularly this episode to present so many identifying characterization moments in a such a short amount of time –Tachibana’s injury and her willingness to help others (ex. delivering the phone back to the customer) and Kondo’s worried nature towards her that all of these scenes are pleasant to watch. Tachibana’s injury doesn’t draw too much expanded attention to herself and that entire scene just rests carefully within the episode’s narrative. The acting is spot on–almost as if Kou Matsuo directed it.  If any of you don’t know, Matsuo has a tendency to have his actors voice before animating a series [Red Garden, Natsuyuuki Rendezvous, Kurenai]. The voice acting is quite good in this because the visual presentation is treated satisfyingly subdued.

The make-up animation especially towards the later half of this episode creates a sense of nostalgia for Tachibana remembering her scar. WIT Studio has a habit these days of creating these well-polished watercolor closeup shots that look super warm on the screen and then there are these side-panel crayon like designs that enhance the details of this series’ characters in a more adult style. A true illustration put into an animated work! Both are incredibly beautiful and mixed with complementary colors that carry a romantic visual quality to it.

If there was one thing I would change it’s how little we see outside of the school, the workplace, and the cafe they travel to. I’d like to see a lot more expressive scenery within the structure of the story outside of these places!

That cliffhanger!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8/10

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Koi wa Ameagari no You ni Episode 1 (Initial Impressions)

PLOT: The protagonist 17-year-old high school student Akira Tachibana is a girl who barely expresses herself. She harbors a secret crush on Masami Kondō, the 45-year-old manager of the family restaurant she works at part-time.

Animation Production: Wit Studio

Director: Ayumu Watanabe [Director on Ace AttorneyMysterious Girlfriend XSpace Brothers]

Series Composition: Deko Akao [Series Script Writer on Akagami no Shirayukihime [Snow White with Red Hair] Amanchu!, Arakawa Under the BridgeFlying WitchNoragami,

Character Designer: Yuka Shibata [Character Designer for Kimi ni Todoke, Key Animator for Shikabane Hime: Kuro, Storyboards for Little Witch Academia Episode 1]

Original Creator: Jun Mayuzuki

Music: Ryo Yoshimata [Shin Megami Tensei Devil Children TV Anime / High-profile live action TV composer and producer]

Episode 1 Production Details

Episode Director: Ayako Kawano [Storyboards for Ace Attorney’s Sequence Ending Sequence, CG Digital Artist on Final Fantasy XV: Kingsglaive film, Episode Director on Durarara!!x2 Ten Episode 19, Storyboard on Blend S Episode 4]

Storyboard: Ayumu Watanabe

Chief Animation Director: Yuka Shibata (worked at GAINAX in the 2000’s following much of the staff to work at TRIGGER. She left after storyboarding iDOLMASTER episode 17, then working for UFOTABLE where she was a character designer for the Majocco feature film. Now she does freelance work.)


Every once in a while a series comes along and sweeps you off your feet just by the first episode. It’s been well over a year and a few months since I have last posted anything. I will try and get at least a few posts out every once in a while.

Koi wa Ameagari no You ni has a unique premise–immediately after I heard it was receiving an anime adaptation I was intrigued. A relationship between a 45-year old man and a 17-year old high school girl. First thing is first I really like how this show doesn’t focus on sexual intentions. At the moment, Ameagari delivers a strong coming-of-age romance story. If you are a fan of the manga animation director Yuka Shibata does a faithful job at keeping with the source material’s art style.

Plus, the quality of this series is about the best out there. Dare I say it’s better than Violet Evergarden? That series has the usual Kyoto Animation style to it and while it does look pretty Ameagari has a charming tone to its overall presentation.

Akira Tachibana is a shy high-school student that clicks with a few of her friends and was once on the track team. This episode calmly introduces us to its cast with a strong focus on sound effects and the choice to not heighten the music score. Tachibana works at the cafe her crush (Masami Kondo) manages at–and we quickly get the idea that she is head over heels for him. Masami Kondo on the other hand is a carefree man and we see that when he sees his old self in  how he yearns for romance.

The very first moment is spectacular because it establishes an air to how this series will handle itself in telling a love story. Framing plays a large part in this. Akira’s beginning the next chapter in her life–the sharp attention to details and incredible direction key in this idea by showing a bit of her past in a subtle way. This show masks a lot of her background on the track team while at the same time hiding her emotions about it all. The great part about this is he doesn’t show it–neither does he realize it himself. The introduction of his son plays with the charm of this show by sliding in some comedy and Akira’s interest in him. Also lying down some groundwork for the two of them to be couple material later on in this series.

That second half was directed wonderfully! Especially when Akira remembers how she first met Kondo and how this is depicted by the shirt he left on the chair! Great visuals, emotionally-charged music and a nice way to end it–with a comedic scene between the two of them!


OP: “Nostalgic Rainfall” (ノスタルジックレインフォール) by CHiCO with HoneyWorks

Directed by: Ayako Kouno

Storyboards: Ayumu Watanabe

Animation Supervisor: Akiyo Okuda

Animators:

  • Kouta Fumiaki
  • Yuka Koiso
  • Keita Nagahara
  • Masato Hagiwara
  • Takemoto Yoshiko
  • Kawazuma Tomomi
  • Maeda Kyosuke
  • Erika Nishihara
  • Sachiko Matsumoto (Chief Makeup Animator on Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress)
  • Yuko Sera
  • Hideyuki Arao
  • Mayuko Kato
  • Kana Ito
  • Tetsuya Hasegawa
  • Naohiro Osugi
  • Chikashi Kubota
  • Tomoyoshi Tsuchiya
  • Hiroshi Tomioka

This opening sequence is fantastic! The very beginning represents spreading your wings and discovering your dreams. How should Akira act around him? Akira shows her personality in a big way through this entire sequence–from calm and shy to extremely expressive. The change of clothing acts as a tool of excitement for her. She wants to express her feelings towards him and this comes across nicely with the dancing animation. The use of bright colors was a strong and smart choice for this entire opening! A fun fact the scene towards the end showing heart fragments to each other was animated by Chikashi Kubota. An animator for feature film A Letter to Momo and some of the explosion sequences to Space Dandy. The heart fragments combining into one was an entirely different animator–Fumiaki Kouta. As for Kouta is known for animating a lot of sequences of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. A great animator that uses a detailed approach on effects such as fire, liquid and smoke during fight sequences.

A bit of background behind the music group Honeyworks. They first got their start on streaming service site, Niconico since 2007 using the Vocaloid system. To this day they still remain active on their channel. They’re a circle of performers consisting of composers Gom and shito and their illustrator Yamako. The guitarist Oji  (Kaizoku Ou), illustrators Mogelatte and Rocoru act as support members. The style of music is rock songs with a positive form to them. The band also writes light novels based on their songs. as part of their Confession Executive Committee Love Series. As for this song it’s particularly bright, remaining in their style from their previous works with a rock-pop sound using Chico’s voice with her fantastic vocal range!


ED: “Ref:rain” by Aimer

Directed by: Ayumu Watanabe

Storyboards: Ayumu Watanabe

Animation Supervisor: Chiaki Kumakura

This is by far one of the best songs that Aimer has ever done. I may be biased here because I don’t think there is a single song of hers that I don’t like. This song translates to this series’ story extremely well. The lyrics and piano hits a tender view on love with beautiful visuals to match it! The line art of Akira is stunning!

 

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

Akagami no Shirayukihime Episode 1 [Initial Impressions]

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Shirayuki is a beautiful girl working as a medicine woman with red hair, a color that is considered very rare. When she is proposed and chased after by the prince of her country, she cuts her hair and runs away, only to meet Zen, the prince of a neighboring country. Finding respect for the young man, she decides to serve at his side as his court doctor. ~ANN


If I had to describe my initial thoughts on this episode in one word I’d have to say I was charmed.  It’s about time that we see more light-hearted shojo series!  Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii last year was a very solid story about an arranged marriage between a princess and a Prince both from very different kingdoms and traditions.  Akagami is a Japanese shojo manga by Sorata Akizuki.  She’s fairly new to the business starting out in the early 2000’s with a collection of short stories and one-shots including Akagami.  This is her breakout hit as it is still ongoing with around 66 chapters out so far.  More than enough for three seasons worth of material!

The story of Akagami is a take on Snow White.  I grew up on Disney films (one of my favorites being Lion King) and like many children I found the magic of it all very fascinating.  The romance were always uplifting, inspirational where these stories always had a lesson or two to teach.  Contrary to a lot of belief regarding the classic tale of Snow White it is not a creation of Disney but a Brother’s Grimm fairytale based loosely on the life of 16-year old Margaretha of Waldeck.  Waldeck was threatened by her stepmother and poisoned by Spanish authorities because they saw the inevitable marriage between Waldeck and the Prince.  The history behind the story of Snow White is very dark and over time has received many interpretations and Akagami chooses the Disney path with this anime series.  A nudge to Disney’s vision with many changes that involve more of an Eastern style.

Shirayuki is known as the beautiful girl with red hair all across the country and is chased after by Prince Raji.  Raji is the stereotypical Disney villain–he’s made out to be this beautiful person on the outside and sinister on the inside.  He desires Shirayuki because of her rare red hair and Zen says it best when he describes Prince Raji as when he wants something he already counts it as his.  At first I thought Zen would be the representation of the well-known dwarf characters that are features so heavily in Disney’s version however this is not the case.  He is Shirayuki’s love interest.  The interactions between the two of them are fantastic–quick conversations that spark right after Shirayuki proves she’s an herbalist by injuring her own arm!  I really like how their relationship tosses most romance comedy series out the window as Zen plays off as in-between from dark prince and knight and shining armor.  He’s charistmatic, a genuinely nice guy and acts very realistic especially in the second half of this episode after he’s taken a bite of the apple and realizes it  is poisoned.  He’s a great balance to Shirayuki.

She’s not stubborn nor does she have a ditsy personality.  She’s strong-willed, is able to hold her own when she’s in trouble which is a nice step away from the damsel-in-distress that many shojo series hold on to.  This show does dive into that form quite a bit but it quickly saves itself from being too generic by giving her realistic courage.  A very refreshing female protagonist!  If this were any other kind of series I’d say this doesn’t work at all but since this handles classical storytelling it excels in re-introducing us the magical story with the author Akizuki’s nods to Snow White.  The poisonous apple, mirror-mirror on the wall are but a few that were mentioned in this episode!

The production itself is amazing.  Stellar visuals between wonderfully drawn backgrounds by three animators in the industry from animation company Studio Easter.  The studio that did the background designs for 2011’s horror series, Another.  Akiko Manabe, Yoko Atsumi and Yoko Kamiyama are all under the cooperation of Akagami‘s art director and another employee of Studio Easter, Erika Okazaki.  What sort of budget did BONES have for this particular episode?  This was stunning in the design department!

So far, Akagami is my favorite introductory episode to air this season–it reigns in so much talent from Sword of the StrangerZetsuen no Tempest and the original Full Metal Alchemist series director Masahiro Ando to Michiru Oshima’s emotionally moving classical score in an attempt to breathe life into the popular shojo manga!  Oshima’s soundtrack for Akagami is the best this season has to offer.  I really enjoyed Tsutchie’s work on GANGSTA but this was incredibly moving and lifted each scene to great heights!

Would also like to point out the pun in Shirayuki’s name.  Shira’s  literal translation is “white” and the second half of her name “yuki” means “snow”.


OP: “Yasashii Kibō” (やさしい希望;Gentle Hope) by Saori Hayami

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This is the official opening to the show and acts as the ending for this first episode. I really like the visuals including its transitions on this.  Overseen and storyboarded by series’ director Masahiro Ando the animation is fluid and gives us a good view of its main cast!  The art is headed by Ouran Highschool Host Club‘s character designer Kumiko Takahashi.  Wonderfully drawn with tons of talented key animators that include Hiroki Harada (Sasami-san@Garanbarai‘s character designer), Ayaka Hata, Takahiro Kimura, and Masahiro Sato!  However, I feel the instrumentals in the music is way too fluffy for this series’ soundtrack.  It works in bringing the world of Japanese anime to the screen of a classic story but doesn’t have that charm the overall score has.   Perhaps Michiru Oshima should have written the score to this because Saori Hayami overwhelms the song!  I think this would have been awesome to hear Oshima’s style with a set of chorus vocals in the background!  I wonder if Kokia could do a light-hearted Oshima score?  Maybe this will grow on me over time.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso [91/100]

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This show is bittersweet–depicting the lives of middle school students enjoying their youth and experiencing hardships.  Noitamina picked a wonderfully written manga to adapt and the music sells this show a ton!

A-1 Pictures adapted Naoshi Arakawa’s manga faithfully.  It’s beautifully drawn with very detailed character designs by Yukio Aikei!  This is a wonderful series that ties the bonds between friends together through music and love.  Arima Kousei’s growth is one of the big highlights of Shigatsu as we see him placing fear onto himself due to his mother’s death.  The contrast that gets him out of his shell is Kaori Miyazono.  She’s free-spirited and much like his childhood friend, Tsubaki Sawabe, she’s got this drive to fix Kousei out of his slump.  The connection is that they are both musicians and this is how the romance develops between the two of them.  They’re both learning their own sounds by practicing together and discovering they’ve got strong chemistry!

Masaru Yokoyama’s soundtrack fits extremely well into this–  picking from a range of popular classical insert songs to a collection of original pieces that are just as emotionally moving as the animation and its engaging characters!  When it comes to a series about music it’s pivotal that you need sound to get this story moving and it doesn’t let go of this idea ever.  This is one series I would highly recommend to anyone that’s a fan of music or romance.  It touches on parental loss and the huge respects are paid to this theme throughout as Kousei goes on his journey discovery that in order to get over his mother’s death and realize his feelings for Kaori he must find his own way of voicing it out even if its through playing piano.

If you like Nodame Cantabile‘s focus into music than I’d say you would enjoy this series.  A lot of criticism from Shigatsu stems from its overdramatic scenes and moments where the show at times leans more on a characters’ emotions rather than the musical performances themselves.  In my opinion I find this to be a pretty big success to the series’ way of reminding us that these are middle school students and they need all the room to grow up in their own ways.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [91/100]

PUNCHLINE [71/100]

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Having finished my classes for summer I’ve actually had more time to sit down and watch anime series I’ve neglected.  For Punchline I had seen the first few episodes and it fell off the map for me simply because series like Kekkai SensenDurararax2 Shou among a few others were grabbing my attention more.

An original anime series on the Noitamina programming block I was very eager to see this show:  MAPPA handling animation production and the script by Kyokugen Dasshutsu ONA writer Koutarou Uchikoshi gives this series extreme promise.  Plus, the story is very strange–  the world blows up if Yuuta Iridatsu gets a nosebleed from seeing panties.  I’m all for series that takes creativity to a whole other level.  If there is a series I’d recommend that had thrown in a “left-field” hook than look no further than Punchline.  It’s got a ton of FLCL spirit to it–  which makes sense considering director Yutaka Yemura first began his career as a CG artist for GAINAX.  I can clearly see some crossover influences in his works between these shows.  The characters in both are really exaggerated in the physical actions and personalities.

The amount of puns in this show are quite hilarious too!  That is if you can catch them.  The title of this show in Japanese “パンチライン” contains the word “Panchira” which literally translates to “panty-shot”.  Which is very in-line to the anime’s intentions.  Mikatan Narugino plays the love interest to Yuuta in this show and it’s funny how even her name translates to “ally for justice”.  Referring to her mahou shojo identity “Strange Juice” and the group the girls represent “Justice Punch”.  The genius inventor Meika Daihatsu is even a pun:  “dai hatsumeika” where “dai” means “great” and “hatsumeika” meaning “inventor”.   Otaku and NEET is derived from Ito Hikiotani’s name and Rabura Chichibu reflects her character.  Pun on “Chichi burabura”.  In Japanese the term “Chichi” or it’s written style “ちち” is a homophone for “father”, “milk” and “boobs” depending on the context.  As for “bura bura” it acts as an onomatopoeia for “just wandering”.  Depicts a lot of what she does in this series from all the running around and when Yuuta takes over her body to tell the others about the destruction of the world or Ito’s danger with the QMAY group.  All the girls names illustrate their own ideals and actions throughout this show that gets them closers as friends.

The first 4 episodes teaches the audience about Yuuta’s situation as a spirit and spirit cat Chiranosuke as a mentor figure in guiding him on his time-traveling journey.  The terminology in this series rocks because a lot of it is well-timed jokes that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.  Chiranosuke is a pervert so the creators decide to nonchalantly put in cats having sex with each other on a computer he’s looking at.  The transitions there are fantastic!  The slapstick comedy between Rabura’s psychic powers and Mikatan’s Strange Juice transformation sequences are highly energized and are quite refreshing compared to some of the calmer series of the season.

When Punchline does get serious though is where it actually shines.  Remove all the supernatural spirit stuff, sex jokes, time-traveling and you’ve got a couple of high-school students living together in the Korai House dealing with separation issues from childhood, neglect from parents and experimentations that separate them.

The main problem of Punchline is attributed to too much in too little time.  With 1-cour only to deal with the narrative switches throughout episodes as Yuuta is time traveling to different days with the Christmas Party being the constant unknown mystery factor as the key to Yuuta saving Ito from death as well as Mikatan.  This series is a definite re-watch in order to catch a lot of what’s going on between the QMay group’s infiltration of Korai and exactly what days these situations happen on.  Switching bodies at childhood is certainly a new approach but I feel it would have worked if this was 2-cour and the twist isn’t a rushed and cheap attempt at establishing Yuuta as the sacrificial (turns out to be a girl) in saving the people she loves.

Have to admit Marina Inoue did a fantastic job of masking Yuuta as a boy.

After a long absence from the anime soundtrack world, Vampire Hunter D composer Tetsuya Komuro returns to compose and produce Punchline‘s score!  His last work was on 2005’s Zoids:Fuzors by Tokyo Kids Animation Studio.  He’s well-known for bringing the dance genre to Japanese music and I can see some of that style in this show.  His strength however, lies as a producer signing on popular artists Namie Amuro, Ayumi Hamasaki, Ami Suzuki and many others even internationally like the Backstreet Boys within the pop scene around the 90’s.  Towards the beginning and in a few of the action sequences we get a lot of dubstep and it’s actually pretty decent.  You can tell the production of it is really high and it has a very deep bass sound.  The show has a strong bond with music and Mikatan’s pop-idol songs are key to this.  There are a few really funny drunk karaoke party scenes with some horrible singing!

Animation Studio MAPPA has quite a bit under its belt now.  Sakamichi no Apollon. Zankyou no Terror. Garo Honoo no Kokuin and now Punchline.  Their upcoming work on Ushio to Tora looks like it’ll be animated nicely but those character designs suck.  As for Punchline, it’s one of the most detailed in animation of the season.  This is where FLCL‘s influence comes in–  Yuuta flying through rooms trying to avoid panties, Rabura busting into a room and her wild psychic situations and the fight scenes are tightly animated!  The fluid style is pretty to look at the episodes aren’t as detailed as shows like Kekkai Sensen in terms of conceptual design on its backgrounds and characters.


OP:  “PUNCH LINE!” by Shokotan ♥ Denpagumi (Shoko Nakagawa x Dengapumi.INC)

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Such a strange opening. It reminds me of how quirky Hozuki no Reitetsu had been in integrating its cast to the song.  The character movements are edited well into the song but the transitions from scene to scene are a bit off.  I like how this basically tells Yuuta’s journey from each room discovering each girls’ panties and what happens to him if he does.  The band Dengapumi is a female Japanese idol group that are all former otaku and cosplayers that perform the instrumentals and backup to Nakagawa’s lead vocals.  It’s a fun and crazy song about panties that reflects this series a ton.  Generic in the style but its delivery is nice.

ED: “Mitsu Mitsu Mitsu” (蜜蜜蜜) by Ayumikurikamaki

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Great ending.  Another JPOP idol group that formed in 2012.  The name is derived from the original members’ names.  Known for their bear costumes on stage (they probably should have done a Yuri Kuma Arashi insert song haha) that change according to the season.  The song itself just like the opening is typical with a steady drum beat and strong rock guitar riffs but the vocals are great because they do a wonderful job of illustrating the fun these girls have in the Korai House.  As for the animation it’s awesome–  the characters are drawn in a kawaii style  mixed with this pastel matted background design.  The director and animator on this is Wataru Uekusa.

This is the first time he’s animated and worked on a full-fledge series before as most of his work are from music videos.  Including Yasashii March: The Tender March for Soutasei Riron’s song “Miss Parallel World”, fake!fake! for the song “fake!fake!” by A Crow is White and Mukougaoka Chisato wa Tada Mitsumeteita no Datta.  Curious by this style:  I could see him working with Masaaki Yuasa sometime in the future.  Uekusa gives off a visually smooth and bright tone that contains a wild trip spiraling out of control.

Here’s the music video of Mikougaoka Chisato:

—-

This one is fake!fake!—  its visually stunning and has some of smoothest animation I’ve ever seen in a music video!  Reminds me of Kaiba.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 71/100

Yuri Kuma Arashi [94/100]

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Kunihiko Ikuhara.  From Revolutionary Girl Utena to Mawaru Penguindrum comes a story about young girls falling in love.  His stories as I’ve mentioned previously contain a narrative pattern–  repetition, sexual symbolism and of course the addition of fanciful elements.  In this case its bears and what these creatures represent both for women and the important of the absence of males in Yuri Kuma.  I believe the reason for this is to enhance the dynamic between true love and lust.

Kureha Tsubaki lost her mother to a bear, fell in love with a bear and is coming to grips with Sumika being eaten by a bear.  She’s trying to find her own place in a world [the school] caught up in the Invisible Storm.  These Kumalia bears are depicted as the aggressors both out of survival instinct and sexual desires.  An incredible look at same-sex relationships by using a court system [which interestingly enough is led by males] to judge human compassion, the validity of friendships and how far people will go in order uphold these ideals. As strange as the beginning may have been for a lot of viewers its typical Ikuhara fashion.  A style I find engrossing.  The final three episodes were probably the best this show has to offer as it ties any sort of confusion together quite nicely.  The weird elements of bears ‘eating’ girls’, the imagery of lilies being deflowered/clipped and Lulu’s seductive behavior towards Ginko act as symbolic pieces to a fairly straightforward narrative about maintaining friendships and understanding yourself from a girls perspective.  Perhaps this is why Ikuhara decided on shifting the focus away from manly tropes–  Yurika’s father is represented as a male with female features in masculine clothing.  The judges aren’t even human which is why they are oddly designed to be a patriarchy with moe designs.  Really stick out with Yuri Kuma because underneath all of Ikuahra’s intentional softcore visuals, naughty dialogue and whimsically-driven storytelling lies a simple story about friendships and love overcoming societal structure!

One of the most incredible character study series I’ve ever seen apart from Simoun.  The focus isn’t just on Kureha but for most of episode 4 towards the beginning there is a look at Lulu’s life at the kingdom, eventually we get to see Yurika’s backstory and the motif behind bride-in-the-box.  What’s even more prevalent throughout is how dead characters are just as important as the main cast!  Sumika represents Kureha’s courage, Reira is the reminder to her that you should never give up on your dreams and accept things with your heart fully.  The picture book [and it’s incredible watercolor drawn art] amplifies innocence from Kureha’s perspective wonderfully.  Mirun, Lulu’s brother is the same as well!

The animation in this show is done amazingly solid.  This and Rolling Girls have some of the best background art of the Winter 2015 season!  Especially the storybook sequences!

The soundtrack is top notch.  Paint animator on Patema Inverted and composer/arranger Yukari Hashimoto wrote songs for this that are filled entirely with chromatic piano melodies, chorus and techno sections!  It fits Yuri Kuma perfectly with its transitions from downright weird to passionately engaging and heartfelt.

I highly recommend this series if you are a fan of Ikuhara’s other works.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [94/100]

Yuri Kuma Arashi Episode 12 [END]

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The ending is finally here.  It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about this series that aired in the Winter 2015 season: Yuri Kuma Arashi is extremely thought-provoking.  I’d really like to see him do an original work with Masaaki Yuasa.  The class excluding Kureha because she’s different–  she loves a bear.  Lulu’s bear death is the final key to Ginko’s courageous actions against the class.  Exclusion represents the Invisible Storm this series has frightened its girls with.  I really like how the rooftop is the confrontational backdrop in illustrating this somewhat simple idea about abandoning friends.

The girls with their rifles standing in a triangle shape, Kureha tied up, Ginko standing at the edge of the roof–  Yuri Kuma‘s imagery is the larger part of this series that explains more than what the story lets on to be.  Kureha is tackled by the chains of society, forcing to be accepted into a group of deceitful classmates.  The triangle these girls form is wonderfully drawn in as it speaks about gender equality, harmony between young girls, integration into a uniformed lesbian society and the Celtic belief about Birth (renewal), Death (Closure) and Transcendence (rebirth). In a way Kureha has passed all these obstacles and is about to transcend into a world these other girls don’t understand–  a true love that never backs down by becoming a bear herself!

Throwing away her existence she overcomes Lady Kumalia which turns out to be Sumika.  I like how Sumika has been the protection and courage for Kureha to stand up against anyone that’s been misguided throughout this entire show.  The repeating flashbacks where she’s seen moving her hair away from her ear, near the garden with Kureha and at the Tsubaki house alludes to her goddess nature perfectly!  This episode finally explains her existence amazingly well.

Standing up for her ideals, Kureha doesn’t back down on her love for Ginko through her Lily judgment in the Court of Severance–  I really like how Life Sexy gives off the impression he’s known all along about what was to come.  Kureha has to confront her past love, her human existence by shooting herself in the mirror in order to break the bonds that society has strapped her down to.  She’s made Ginko’s wish come true and the Promise Kiss to fruition!  Yuri Kuma Arashi wrote a very solid yet bizarre story about adolescence!  This ending was fantastic and what a charming way to give the robot bear a happy ending–  Kureha made it known that bears and girls can co-exist that scene amplified this nicely.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 9/10

Yuri Kuma Arashi Episode 11

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We’ve got a pretty new episode director with this–  I’m really impressed with this one here.  Yuki Yase helmed last year’s Mekaku City Actors so I can definitely see a few elements tied into  this episode with the obscure camera angles–  close up shots of the character’s body movements.  This does have some of the best music scores out of a lot of what we had for the Winter 2015 season–  Yukari Hashimoto is really amazing and helps elevate an already awesome character study about girls ridiculously well!  Director Kunihiko Ikuhara knows how to reel in an audience–  the repetition is for good reason especially with Sumika’s hair scenes and Ginko’s past (which we get to see more of here) all coming together.  I’m really glad that we actually get to see how Ginko and Kureha react to each other and the sacrifices that they make in order to be accepted into society.

Lulu being right about Kureha losing her memories about Ginko points out a great deal that these three girls are very much closely connected than I initially thought.  This is where the finally revealed camera angles come into to play–  the stairs but most importantly the roof of the school is a triangle.  I’d like to point out that every single time this rooftop sequence occurs is where one girl confronts another–  perhaps this is foreshadow that someone might not make it out alive.  Lulu is the sacrificial element that this entire episode needed in illustrating that Ginko and Kureha are destined together.  What’s interesting is how Lulu’s lustful desire for Ginko represents a bigger picture that that the love she never wanted to accept was in fact towards her own brother and he died.  “We hated you from the very beginning we loved you from the very beginning” really speaks volumes to a lot of the personal connections this anime depicts.  Lulu is considered a failure in her own eyes that the only way she could redeem herself is by living out someone else’s dreams but she came to fall in love with that idea and that person–  Ginko.  I like how its her brother’s Promise Kiss that provides the foundation for Ginko’s friendship with her and the death scene at the end here amplifies this immensely.  On the other side we’ve got Ginko and Kureha which they signify a hope of breaking out from society: which in this case is the student body class and the Life Cool, Life Beauty and Life Sexy.

So Ginko makes a trade with the Court of Severance in order to become a human.  She was shown as an outcast just as Kureha had been for being a bear.  I feel it’s this point that will be the crux of the finale of Yuri Kuma and another sacrifice [literally or symbolically] will have to be made.  This episode is all about a bear wanting to be a part of the very society Kureha is from and what Kureha may have to give up to realize their loving friendship as a reality.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 9/10

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata [73/100]

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From the past few episodes I knew this series would be around the 70’s rating range for me.  I’m not such a huge fan of harem series however Saenai hits a lot of the right notes in being unconventional.  Based on a light novel series hat leads to collection of successful witty narratives between different female tropes about doujin creation.  If only the creators took the time in developing some kind of tie-in to how a dating sim game is created.  Perhaps they should have taken note from Bakuman was with the manga industry and how it had gradually shifted nicely between making serialization deadlines to timeframe of artwork and writing chapters.  I hope that the second season rectifies this glaring issue for me.  Aside from that the pacing in this is gradual, something that director Kanta Kamei knows really well on how to achieve after seeing his work on Usagi Drop.

The music score by Hajime Hyakkoku is toned down in the impact and yet a lot of the pieces throughout Saenai‘s episodes end up being up-lifting.  Tons of keyboard compositions.  Similar to his other works on K-On! and Gugure! Kokkuri-san.

This is much better than his directorial disaster on Nanana—  I believe that show had a poor scenario writer and planner.  Saenai for most of its run was very funny–  introduced its trope characters of Utaha and Eriri with just enough background that is familiar in this genre and still remains a refreshing contrast to Tomoya’s drive for anything that defines him as an otaku.  His room illustrates this point greatly.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: [73/100]

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata Episodes 11 and 12 [END]

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Episode 11:

This is rare.  The final episodes of Saenai are broadcast back-to-back.  The Episode 0 and now having a 12-episode run on Noitamina?  What is going on here?  In the past couple of years I’d say around 2010 the programming block received an additional timeslot–  this can either hurt and help them in the long run.  We’ve had a couple of poorly produced series since this block got two shows per season however we’ve also had tons of amazing series in this too!  Sanaei is very unconventional in delivering a harem series and now I can clearly see its this case with the production of it too–  using an OVA fan service episode from the get-go is definitely a different style to introduce its cast.

Since we’ve had the Eriri and Utaha’s arcs fully completed its time for Michiru to shine and these two episode added a nice spotlight to otaku outside of the realm of manga with attention focused on music.  Megumi also receives the attention she deserves as she’s learned a lot in tsundere personality type Eriri and yundere Utaha in that she’s level-headed.  She’s a mix of a lot of characteristics that most japanese works featuring girls fall into but comes out alive from it.

The sourness from Eriri and Utaha finding out about Michiru being a closer childhood friend to Tomoya separates exactly what he wants out of Megumi as the main heroine without shoving information in our faces here.  Great to see!  Probably the best part of this is how the creator’s built-up Michiru’s band —  their problematic and Michiru worries that they would shun her for being involved in an otaku endeavor.


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Episode 12:

The entire scene from this episode where Tomoya reveals that her band is originally involved with anime is priceless! Quite the unexpected route.  It illustrates how playful this show is–  camera angles of Michiru straddling Tomoya [aboslutely loved Eriri and Utaha’s reactions to this!], the generic and unfortunate to Michiru backstory around the Icy Tail, every bit of this came together so smoothly!  The icing on the cake though is their performance of Sorairo Days which happens to be another the song from the anime Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann!  I like how this performance of theirs gives life to Michiru and the passion she needs to have in helping with Tomoya’s dream of creating the best dating sim game ever.  The animation isn’t as good as performances in Haruhi Suzumiya or Space Dandy but does in fact get the point across that Michiru is destined to be a part of Blessing Software.  As well as give us a good look into what Michiru is actually like outside of her sociopathic behavior.

While these two episodes didn’t provide any conclusion whatsoever it did give just enough push to make this series further up on my list of good anime series.  Can’t wait to see more of these girls’ interactions in the second season and how they come up with the development of the game!  Much better than last year’s Spring moe-mystery series Nanana.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 9/10