The Sweet, The Savory, and The Salty
Guess Which One Is Which!
By: Head Writer – J.R Tafoya
Hello again, my Giga-Landers! I hope you’re ready for another sweet yet sour season review in anime!
Summer has just ended, like so many childrens’ breaks, and with it goes a great season in anime. If you’re one of the people that likes to wait for shows to end and then wait for people to tell which ones were good, or which ones you might like, then look no further! I have, with all the loving intent in the world, watched a load of anime this season just so I could tell you which ones were amazing and which ones you should avoid! If you’re one to “Netflix and Chill” (am I using that phrase right?) on weekends to marathon anime in a single night, then your savior has arrived!
This season had a lot of original titles that not only melted the hearts of
softy’s MANLY MEN like myself, but riled the fires within our hearts with its cutting edge battle scenes! Amaama to Inazuma was terribly sweet, and the savory feel that we got from Mob Psycho 100 topped off what was a wonderful anime meal. Sadly, for most people this season, Berserk left a sour taste in our mouths as it awkwardly served up a strange souffle of sour grapes.
You can definitely tell which ones I like, but I’ve opted for a different style of review this time, not too long, not too short, but just the right size for this editorial porridge. Man, I must be hungry.
As the wind beneath your wings, and the blood in your veins, I welcome you with open arms into an epoch the likes of which you’ve only seen since Shakespeare’s day!
Amaama to Inazuma
(Sweetness and Lightning)
Verdict: So Sweet, It’ll Give You Diabetes Faster Than Lightning –
So, as a starter, I wanted to lead off with something that I personally liked more than anything else this season, Amaama to Inazuma. When I say this show is “sweet”, I damn well mean it. If you haven’t read my brilliantly worded and undeniably accurate(?) intro to this amazing anime, you’d best to do so now. Then come back here and read this.
Don’t worry, I’ll wait. . .
I believe most people have some kind of parental instinct built-in. That undeniable love for someone, or something, that came from you or that you chose to raise. That undying, eternal love is what Inazuma plays at for the whole of its existence.
Kouhei, a young new teacher at a high school, had previously lost his wife to some unknown force. Despite his apparent pain or feelings of loneliness, he perseveres just to see his daughter, Tsumugi, smile every day. Kouhei realizes early on that the way to do this is with food and that, my dear friends, is the subtle subject of this show: “Cooking”.
Kouhei meets one of his students on a weekly basis, a young girl named Iida Kotori, to cook together for Tsumugi. Neither of them has much experience cooking, even though Kotori’s mother happens to run a restaurant. But, this is where most of the story and comedy takes place. And, while he’s newbie who makes all the amateur mistakes, Kouhei very rarely fails at cooking . . . Which hardly makes sense! Hell, my first time in the kitchen I literally caught something on fire and almost burned the kitchen down. But, I guess being a teacher means you’re smart or something, right!? I’d make a “salt and cooking” joke now, but that’s too easy.
In the kitchen, Kouhei realizes more about himself and his adorable daughter than he could have ever hoped for. But, at the same time, it only serves to reinforce his feelings of solidarity and how much he’d realized that he’d taken his late wife’s cooking for granted. The contrast is how ridiculous the actual show is outside the kitchen. I mean that in a literal sense too, like, silly things happen NEXT to the kitchen, but not inside it. The few episodes we have that center specifically on Tsumugi were comedy gold as she wanders about getting into the same amount of trouble a 5-year old should. She might be sharp for her age, but I felt like a lot of the stuff she did, I saw myself doing at her age as well so it really helped bring that slight sense of nostalgia around that really capped off a delicious recipe for an anime.
I talk about how serious the show can get, but I don’t mention how often. If you’re one to worry less about the sobering reality in a slice-of-life than the ridiculous antics, then worry not. The human parts of the show are very few and far between, but the impact of those certain scenes is made stronger because of its sparsity. Instead the show focuses on simple cooking tips and tricks with a bit of childish humor – that is, humor involving Tsumugi – sprinkled on top.
It’s difficult to put into words how fun the show is, especially for someone who generally avoids the genre. It doesn’t have any traits in it that would particularly bring someone in to this certain style of writing, and in terms of story or character development it’s on the small side. But, that’s usually what defines a slice-of-life anime.
In the end, this is a show about a single father trying to raise his daughter the best he knows how, but also about him making mistakes as a parent. This is a show about how cooking and eating with your family can bring you closer together, and about how the quality of the food doesn’t matter; only the company. And, it’s about how a close group of friends could rally together to help raise this lonely man’s daughter, despite not having any familial ties to her.
If you need something to make you smile from the depths of your heart, I highly recommend this show. If you want something that can make you laugh with child-like glee, you’ll find a friend here. And if you want something a little deeper than your run-of-the-mill slice-of-life, Amaama to Inazuma definitely finds a way to pull at your heartstrings. The particular heartstring attached to the part of your eyes that make water come out. Whatever that’s called.
Mob Psycho 100
Verdict: MOB! MOB! WHAT DO YOU WANT!? –
In all seriousness though, if I was to give this show an actual verdict, it would probably be something along the lines of, “Highly Recommend, After Bull-Rushing the First Three Episodes”. I really wanted to do one of my patented, and highly acclaimed(?), Anime Outlook . . . things . . . on this show. I really did. But, the first couple episodes left me confused more than anything. Hell, if the episodes weren’t enough to confuse me, the opening was one hell of a brain-teaser too! Mob isn’t confusing in a conventional way like “this crossword is really difficult”, or “that mystery had too many layers to understand”. It’s confusing in the sense that I wasn’t sure what the anime was trying to convey, or what its ultimate purpose was.
As some of you may know, Mob was created by none other than ONE, the man behind the critically acclaimed One Punch Man. His writing style is strong in a sense that it doesn’t pander to mere tropes and character archetypes that anime has become used to and it’s satirically funny and serious to a point where even dummies like me can understand. Mob, however, seems to have taken a slightly more subtle approach to that.
Kageyama Shigeo (a.k.a “Mob”) has a bit of a gift for telepathy. Though, “a bit” is vastly underestimating this middle-schooler’s abilities. Mob, for all his life, has had psychic powers he could barely control denoted to us by how he often he inadvertently bends the eating utensils he’s using. But, that’s only the tip of the iceberg for his powers and we know how powerful he actually is from the opening scene alone. Mob works for a con-arti-. . . “Exorcist” named Reigen who has promised not only to employ Mob (for a pittance) but also to help him control his powers. From there, we’re treated to something like a “Monster of the Week” kind of show with an insanely . . . -er, “unique” art-style to back up the Shounen feel.
But, after episode three hit, we were given something much, much more than a run-of-the-mill Shounen anime with the “I can’t control my powers!” theme happening. It’s almost as if the show is telling us that, rather than being unable to control his powers, he’s less able to control his emotions. His psychic powers range from devastatingly destructive, to world-rebuilding-ly repentant(?), all without his knowledge and dependent on his emotional state. From there, we see how human Mob is as he tries to fend off attackers, become a better (more athletic) person, and as he tries to save his brother, all without the use of his powers.
You see, there’s an overarching theme to the entire show. One Punch Man was about having power, but being unable to use it. It’s what made Saitama the most amazing, and most boring (I mean that in a good way, I promise) character ever. Mob Psycho 100 is about having power and choosing not to use it. Mob is convinced that the powers he has won’t solve all of life’s problems. It won’t get him good grades, it won’t get him a good job, and (most importantly) it won’t get him the girl of his dreams. Mob’s inability to use his powers on even the most menial things really helps put the show into perspective and it makes him one of the strongest main characters of the year.
The show has been crapped on a lot for how it looks at a glance. But, I can assure you without a shadow of a doubt, that Studio Bones has turned ONE’s “unique” art-style into something that reinforces every aspect of the show in a way that’s absolutely convincing that it needs that approach. The music, to boot, helps give a vibe of something almost supernatural but in a way that gets you hyped for the few fights it has. Speaking of, there isn’t much fighting in this show, especially when compared to something like OPM, but they are definitely worth watching. The incredible amount of effort put into those scenes is astonishing, even at first glance. The music completely changes pace and the artstyle changes to blurred, quick movements that’s reminiscent of Samurai Champloo or Cowboy Bebop.
It’s actually hard to -not- recommend this show, unless we’re going on the first couple episodes alone. If I had to venture a criticism, I’d say that it definitely has a strange pace, and Mob never really hits a climax with his powers which really left me wanting at the end. But, against everything else this season, it definitely held it’s own and even beat down the others. Mob suggests an extremely supernatural setting but introduces a main character who’s more human than the people he tries to imitate by hiding his powers. And for all his guff and absurdity, Reigen became a strong father figure and one that not only Mob, but we could look up to as well. Though, being a con-artist doesn’t exactly help that point.
There’s really a lot to love about this show and not much to criticize beyond the aesthetics. If you liked any part of One Punch Man, if you love a good coming of age tale, or stories about a child trying to find just one person to confide in, I will suggest this show. If you like supernatural stuff, if you like action-packed fights, and if you love deep musings that become somewhat existential, I will 100% recommend this show for you, your family, and your friends. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Verdict: Poor Quality Riding on The Coattails of its Legendary Manga Counterpart –
Really, the verdict says it all. If you know anything about anime or manga, and have the ability to read and hear, you’ve most likely heard of Berserk whether in passing or in comparison to something similar. Berserk has achieved an almost legendary status due to how amazing the manga is. Rife with astonishingly detailed drawings and a story to match, Berserk paved the way for how we view the Horror and Seinen genre today. It’s only rival was its anime counterpart, which aired in the late 90’s and whose ending caused children like me to lose their GOSH-DARN MIND. Home to one of the most devastatingly horrific finales known to cinema in its entirety, Berserk destroyed the boundaries of how we see and write anime as a whole.
Skip forward to Berserk 2016, an anime that has garnered enough backlash to give Andre the Giant a broken spine. Berserk been the target of a lot of disdain, and that’s only with the first two episodes! The main complaint most people seem to have, including myself, was how utterly terrible it looked. I’ve never been one of the people that particularly liked 3D modeled animation, but I’ve never been one to scoff at it either. Knights of Sidonia proved that it can objectively pull off a good looking show with that art-style. Berserk, however, seemed like it was either lacking in funds or skilled animators for nearly the entire show. Even from the first episode you can get a dose of its odd body language, strange joint motions, ridiculous facial expressions, choppy animation (both stock and original), and absolutely laughable-looking monsters.
The problem with this is where it comes from. Being compared to the manga means it needs to be able to live up to those standards, and it certainly never does throughout its 12 episode run. But, I can say that the animation does get better near the end, it just never gets GOOD. Even the fight scenes, barring the final fight against Mozgus’ crew, lacked any kind of impact. Everything just felt slow and any feel of inertia was lost in its terribly animated movements and disgustingly panned camera shots. Hell, some of my personal friends, ones who introduced me to the series and current readers of the manga, made a point to mention that the monsters don’t even look scary in the anime, they just look goofy (again, at the beginning). That really draws away from how the show is supposed to feel.
But, I can give the show some credit. Certain parts that centered on Guts being by himself focused on his ongoing battle with undying rage and the thin line he walks of sanity. The soliloquies he’s given really add a lot of depth to his character even if you haven’t seen the original anime or read the manga. They also jump to a second story arc, involving a group of female “escorts”, which introduced a rage-inducing character named Nina. And, while I absolutely hated her guts and still believe that she deserved far less screen time than the main characters, David does bring up a solid point about her growth. She’s a normal person caught in the middle of a fight between demons, herculean men, and murderers, so she acts in a way that a normal person would: Scared and interested in self-preservation. She becomes a very human character who battles with her weakness and willingness to sell out her friends to live and, while I still hate her, she did bring together a good piece of development in an otherwise action-packed show.
Some final thoughts about the last couple episodes had David and I arguing for quite a while: I really disliked the final episode. Objectively, it did exactly what it needed to do: It reintroduced the main villain, it tied up the loose ends of that arc, and led into another one basically making itself an epilogue rather than a final episode of the season. I had some discrepancies with that episode and it’s pacing, complaining that the fighting should have stayed in the previous episode and left the exposition for the finale. David believes it was adherent to the manga, which is important, and that it being split into two seasons means it just has to bear that particular curse of, “see you next episode” without much of a lead in. I don’t particularly disagree with that at all, but I do feel that the last episode was a compilation of winks and nudges with all the discreteness of piano barreling into a glass house. Again, I do believe this is up to the watcher though, I can’t be certain of how good or bad it’s capable of being since I never read that far into the manga.
In short, the show does a lot of things terribly: Animation, character and monster design, movement, music, shot compositions, camera panning . . . I could go on. It wasn’t a good show and I would never claim that it is. In fact, the show most likely would never have been forgiven so many times and offered a second season had it not been the anime of a highly successful manga, anime, and movie series. The one thing I can say is that I’m deeply saddened by how terribly Berserk has been treated this season. I still can’t comprehend who or why anyone thought . . . this was a good idea. The amount of disrespect shown to Miura Kentaro himself probably has poor Gaston turning in his grave.
Ow. That hurt to say.
P.S Remember kids: if there’s no nipple, it’s not a boob! -Berserk 2016