Fall 2017 – Presents Presented Passionately
The Best Christmas Gifts of the Fall Season
By: Head Writer – J.R Tafoya
Hello again, my little Giga-Landers! J.R here to great you with a slightly late Christmas present of this Fall season’s anime in review!
Our first gift comes from Yours Truly, Mahoutsukai no Yome! A gift littered with fantastic animation, loads of feels, and modern fantasy so great, you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life. This particular present is a popular one this season, and all the kids want it. But, that’s for good reason as it extends past a normal fantasy anime and delivers something on a much grander scale worth of being one of the top gifts this season. Secondly, a present from our dear Bryan,a “cake” by the name of Net-juu no Sususme. This bounty is a treasure trove of cuteness and feels that’s sure to fill a hole in your heart yearning for a comedy/romance with an adorable relationship that’s sure to get you to clutch your chest more than once. With our greatest “cake” of the season going to the protagonist of this show, it hits how with a large crowd (a personal note, anyone fond of Blend S will surely like this show as well). Lastly, we have an offering from our beloved Dustin that is Garo -Vanishing Line-. This benefaction looks like a standard “tokusatsu-styled anime” on the outside, but breaks the mold of Hero shows and becomes something much greater, a gift you will learn to appreciate much more as time goes on.
Though, as the first and last of these are still on-going, they tend to be fairly heavily opinionated by myself with some facts thrown in to prove a point. While I’m not particularly used to commentating on shows that are still airing, I’ve given it my best show! However, be aware that my opinions suck almost as much as I do!
All three of these presents are fantastic as I recommend them all highly. As the wind beneath your wings and the weed killer in your garden of anime, I present to you Fall’s anime reviews! You’re welcome!
Mahoutsukai no Yome
(The Ancient Magus Bride)
Verdict: HOW DOES KISS WITHOUT LIPS!? –
Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but I would like to mention that my pick (this show) for the season has become something of a hit this Fall! Not to say that’s rare, but me being right about something is like a customer NOT blaming you for all of the world’s problems. It’s like getting a two yolks in one egg. It’s like seeing an unforecasted meteor shower! . . .Ok. I’m saying it’s extremely rare. But, hey, the Law of Odds had to come in effect some time!
If you haven’t read my extremely extravagant article here already or, I don’t know, been on the internet at all lately, Mahoutsukai no Yome has been raising a lot of heads lately for several reasons. We center on our young protagonist, Hatori Chise, who is in the care of the great mage Elias Ainsworth. As an apprentice – and obviously bride-to-be – to this hermit-like mage, Chise has come to learn about the world of magic and what it means to be a “Sleigh Beggy”. However, being labeled as such garners the attention of certain spirits and demons who prey upon the poor young girl as if she were a delicacy. Here, we enter the world of magic.
One of the things that makes this anime so fun is that learning about magic isn’t some kind of college-length lecture we need to take notes on. We only know what we need to know which makes the show much more interesting because: 1) The anime is no longer prone to overly lengthy exposition and 2) It puts the mystery back in magic, something almost every other show has completely erased (the mystery, I mean). The fact that we’re only given the same information as Chise and that we aren’t force-fed a lot of unnecessary information, makes it so the magic of this world stays shrouded in this haze where we aren’t sure how weak or strong it can possibly be. This in turn keeps us in suspense as we learn just how beautiful, or just how devastating using this particular tool can be. I feel that a Full Metal Alchemist dog-girl-homunculus joke here would be in slightly bad taste, but you can expect much the same and worse from some of the anime’s more devious antagonists.
One of the best subjects of Mahoutsukai, and the reason I find it so completely enthralling, is the relationship between Chise and Elias. Having been thrown away by friends and family alike, Chise very obviously suffers from deep seated Abandonment Issues and constantly shields herself from possibly being betrayed by someone else. What makes this so real is how the anime portrays this; they don’t have some long exposition about what abandonment is and why it’s bad, or flat out tell us to our faces that’s what’s wrong. As my friend David once wrote, “No one in good taste would ever write ‘Roger is sad’. They would lead us to believe this through dialogue and how he’s acting.’ Mahoutsukai no Yome doesn’t scream at the top of its lungs that Chise has emotional problems, it leads us to these conclusions using a unique brand of story-telling and very precise body language. Though, her thirst for life and love aren’t completely gone as she teaches Elias what it means to be alive and to help your fellow man. Completely unaware of emotion or human nature at all, Elias unknowingly reaches out to Chise for this information and, just maybe, for the sensation of that warmth himself.
I would like to mention, as a bias, that I absolutely adore the artwork in this show. Like I mentioned before, you’d have a hard time convincing me the landscapes in this show weren’t location-scouted by they animators themselves. Everything in this show just feels so real, and that includes the artwork. From the standard lone house on a hill, to the rolling fields and rocky mountains, to the statuesque trees growing from the corpses of dragons, nothing drawn feels out of place in this show.
For many reasons, among our anime-picking-crew, this shared the #1 spot for most of us. Very likely because of its modern fantasy setting ranging from Shakespeare to Gaelic mythology, Mahoutsukai uses many different mythologies in a way that makes them feel like they belong specifically to this show. Going so far as to portray the fairies as jerks and cats like benevolent guardians, this anime turns its eyes away from “standard” or well-known folklore and delves deeper into more extravagant and lesser known ones to make something much more interesting and unique.
The best part of this show is how relatable Chise is to the viewer. Her actions generally always make sense to us, the watchers, and given the same situation, you’d likely find yourself doing or thinking something similar to her. I’m going to assume that most of us have never been thrown away like trash or haven’t experienced the kind of fear that Chise has on a constant and daily basis for several years at a time, but the way this anime can make you feel like you’re in that situation, despite being an on-looker, tells volumes of its writing. Even some of the most mundane declarations by our main cast can feel like a heart-wrenching revelation in many cases. Hell, the third episode had me clenching my chest in pain at the passing of a monster that helped Chise see how lucky she really was, just because she had the ability to move.
All in all, I highly, and I mean highly, recommend this show. It has something for almost everyone: modern fantasy, mythology of the more and lesser known kinds, romance, drama, excellent animation, touching stories, and loveable, relatable characters. Although I’m just reiterating what popular youtubers and bloggers have likely already stated, Mahoutsukai no Yome/The Ancient Magus Bride is absolutely something you should be watching. Given how beautifully it’s been handled so far, I can see the next 12 (or so) episodes being even better. My #1 pick for the season.
Do yourself a favor and at least try it out, you’ll only need three episodes to know where you stand.
Net-juu no Susume
(Recovery of an MMO Junkie)
Verdict: May Need Heart Replacement After it Explodes From All the HNNNNNGS You Have –
Net-juu shared the top spot (in our anime picking crew) for anime of the season this year, but it’s easy to see why: we’re all weird manly-men who like things that are cute. Simple. However, this brings up a strange question: While all six of us loved the anime, shows like this (e.g romance/slice-of-life/comedy) tend to be fairly overlooked and are deemed “unworthy” of ever being the “best anime”. While I am on the fence about that particular comment (that I made myself), I can assure you I thoroughly enjoyed Net-juu.
From my all too personal initial review of this show, we know that our main character Morioka Moriko (Morimori-chan) has chosen the NEET life. You could say shes the Elite NEET! (play laugh track). We get to see Morimori playing her cute online game with her adorable friends while having a precious relationship (sort of) with someone in the *gasp* real world! On the surface, this looks like another one of your run-of-the-mill slice of life shows, and it’s easy to see why from the first couple episodes (and also my description). However, what the show explores tends to be a bit deeper than any normal comedy and delves slightly deeper into the drama/romance side of things.
Morimori, having suffered a work life that sent her into a spiraling depression, had regressed into an online life where she could see people, without having to actually “see” them. She never let her online relationships get past a shallow friendship sans for one person: A character named Lily. A cute girl with a bright and outgoing personality who played a support role to Morimori’s (male) offensive one. Lily was a pillar of support for Morimori that she was never aware she needed. As the polar opposite of the real life Morimori, Lily became the gateway to the mental and emotional recovery of a woman who’d been spurned by the Japanese working society that favors work over workers.
However, we find out later . . . or if you’re smart like us, extremely early on, that Lily is none other than the young man, Sakurai, who had elbowed Morimori in the face and sent her to the hospital. The show finally begins as Sakurai begins to piece together specific bits of information to find out that his online character’s (Lily’s) partner in the game is his crush Morimori (Hayashi). And the show takes off on a rocket to greatness from there.
While it doles out a heaping helping of cute cake-ness (a “cake” being the anime term for a middle-aged woman who has already established herself), Net-juu delves deeper into the inner workings of a shut-in’s mindset. Morimori became a NEET for a reason, not just because she didn’t want to work, but because of her waning self-esteem that had taken a fatal blow at some point in her life. Remember when I talked about not getting all the information in my Mahoutsukai review? Net-juu takes a similar approach as Morimori treads around her personal issues with a mixture of trepidation and fear, we are only given tiny bits of information on what happened to her, the rest is easy for us to deduce. The anime makes good use of “a story left untold” by letting us fill in the blanks ourselves, because we’re not all idiots who need to be told everything.
Again, what makes the anime so great is how believable and relatable the characters are. In my initial review article, I gave entirely too much information about myself going through a similar scenario depicting that it’s fairly easy to fall into a NEET lifestyle given the right conditions. Morimori’s lack of self confidence and anxieties are true to character because, as most of us are gamers ourselves, we may have some of the same negative qualities. One specific scene in the show where Morimori happens to meet Sakurai in a thrift store was very telling as well. The “anime” thing happens where someone compares the two to a cute couple; entirely expecting them to get embarrassed and deny the accusation, Morimori instead runs away in an anxious fit. Her reasoning is because she believes herself unworthy of someone else’s affection and too disgusting to be loved. While that’s entirely untrue as I would love and protecc Morimori myself, it brings a lot of life to a character we thought was just the butt of a lot of jokes until then. Sakurai himself is the opposite in that he can speak to people, but letting them know his real thoughts (or confessing for that matter) becomes something that causes him to be apprehensive. In these two characters, we can see the mentality of the B-type personality that many of us (nerds) have, and it speaks volumes for the character writing itself.
All in all, Net-juu was a stellar show about an adorable cake and beta-male couple that made you clench your chest because of how often you were screaming “HNNNNNNNNG” at how cute all their interactions or dialogue were. It’s definitely cute, and I can’t express how well that works for the anime in the long run, not only for the moe-factor, but to help endear us to the characters. But, the show was relatable to a point where it almost hurt to admit and I love the show for that. If you want a fantastic comedy/romance/slice-of-life to sit down with, you need not look any further Net-juu. You will not be disappointed in how amazing and fun it is.
It was a #1 pick for us for a reason and a fantastic choice by young
Lumpia Fenrir Bryan.
Garo -Vanishing Line-
Verdict: Secret Good Anime of the Season –
When Garo started this season, I wasn’t expecting much more than a “Monster of the Week” format with some character development sprinkled in every few episodes. Hell, I mentioned it in my initial review that I was surprised it had an overarching story as that surpasses most “hero anime” (or Tokusatsu in general) written . . . in the history of film. However, Garo seems to be taking a crack at a more proactive approach while still adhering to the Tokusatsu formula, making this something much more than “just another hero show”.
For those who have never heard of the “Garo” series before, it started as a live-action Tokusatsu show; Tokusatsu being anything live-action that uses specific special effects (e.g Power Rangers or Kamen Rider or Godzilla). Garo always centers on the Golden Makai Knight who is tasked with finding, and killing, monsters known as “Horrors”. Horrors feed on the negative emotions of people and, once that negativity hits a boiling point, possess the human and permanently corrupt their mind, body, and soul. Once a Horror, a human cannot be turned back or saved, and so the Golden Knight must find out the source of the Horrors, or the reason they are gathering, and expunge it before it kills more people.
Garo -Vanishing Line- focuses on the Golden Knight named Sword who is investigating Russell City for leads on something called “El Dorado”. With his Makai Alchemists (helpers of the Makai Knight), Sword has found that the Horrors of Russell City are after a young orphan named Sophie, and attempting to whisk her away to “El Dorado”.
What surprised me . . . Well, surprised everyone about Vanishing Line, is the end of the first arc. Normally, like I mentioned, hero shows tend to have a Monster of the Week, some other characters sprinkled in, and a final battle where the power of friendship saves the world. However, this anime takes a much more realistic approach to the idea of fighting monsters in a crowded city. Every story told leaves a lasting impression as we see families torn asunder by a loved one taken by a Horror in a moment of weakness, homes lost in the ensuing fights, and lives forever ruined by the terrors wrought by these monsters.
Around episode ten, just when you think the anime is about to get stale, Sword gets in to his first serious fight of the show. An action-packed episode with hand-to-hand combat and weapon fights with choreography that makes your heart jump from your chest in almost every exchange. It was nothing short of a work of art that made watching the show worth it, just on that fight alone. Prior to this fight, Sword had never been in his suit for more than a minute or so and it basically only served to point out that the fight was coming to an end as he would fell the monsters in a single cleave. However, in a fight against something on the same level as him, the action became much more real and the story told between two fighters, in one scene, was beautiful, if not poetic.
These superhuman fights did have a toll on the city, though, and the ensuing episodes focused on the people rebuilding their city, rather than the main character looking for revenge. Hell, several scenes tore my heart straight from my chest and proceeded to stomp on it as it brought back similar scenes from horrific events in America’s own past. The normal “super-powered anime fights” that raze cities really have an effect in this world, and rebuilding the damage done by both the good guys and bad takes its toll on the innocent bystanders in a way that we don’t often (or ever) see in Hero shows.
This, to me, signifies one of many things. First, that action/hero shows CAN be good, this is a thing (and I am excited for it)! And also that the genre as a whole is evolving. There are many of us, like Dustin who picked this show, that still love Tokusatsu and Hero shows with all our hearts. It’s a nostalgic and powerful feeling watching justice triumph over evil in a way only a hero can. However, Vanishing Line has taken the genre in a fresh, new direction that not only focuses on the hero and his fights, but the people that those very fights affect. Sword is as strong as he’s going to get, we’re told that several times. What sells the show (besides that amazing fight) is the side characters that are impacted by all the fighting and killing. In Gina’s own words, “you can’t save the heart of men by killing a monster, only their life. What they do with their life afterwards is entirely up to them.” It proves to me that they know that killing a monster doesn’t solve all of life’s problems: it won’t bring back the dead, it won’t fix the city, and it certainly won’t make someone’s life turn around.
Garo -Vanishing Line- is a unique take on what a “hero” can really do in a world of monsters and gives us, as watchers, a new point of view to consider the genre from. Against a lot of the other action series airing this past Fall, Garo stands out as a winner for single-handedly shifting and evolving the paradigm and letting it grow with us, the kids who grew up with Hero shows. We can still enjoy our Tokusatsu, in anime form, even now and even though the show is still on-going, I hope that this signals a change in the action/seinen genre, and lets us know it’s capable of growing and maturing along with us.
A fantastic pick by Dustin for anyone who needs a good action/seinen/drama anime to watch. This show started as something very ordinary, but instantly became a top pick in our group after one specific episode. It became a “secret” good show! The hero bits are just icing on the cake. Come for the heroes, stay for the action and story.