Spring 2014 Anime Season: First Impressions, Including Haikyuu, Black Bullet, and Captain Earth

Who says this season won’t be any good?

After a lackluster winter season (though Japes and Goldy found some bright spots in it), the spring is offering some really enjoyable series of it’s own.  Usually, I’m able to cull out all but 3-4 series immediately, focusing on just those, but this season promises to make it hard on me to decide which shows to watch!

Captain Earth

Earth Engine Impacter

Art by 狐憑き (Pixiv ID 42730014)

Well, I have to say – my curiosity is definitely piqued.  The first episode of this sci-fi series from BONES (and the creators of Star Driver) was thick with content, so much so that I swore I was watching something an hour long.  And yet, the episode never lost me.  I was almost beside myself with how much this series seemed to rely on excellent ones from the past, like Eureka 7 and RahXephon, but by the time it ended, Captain Earth had taken a host of familiar elements and offered something compelling – the feelings of adventure, which I find so rare in anime.

Verdict: I’m in!

Isshuukan Friends

One Week Friends

Art by coma (Pixiv ID 42777163)

Boy tries to make friends with girl.  Girl says no.  Boy works hard to become friends.  Girl befriends boy.  Girl forgets boy.  On Mondays, repeat.

With a storyline similar to 50 First Dates, Isshuukan Friends looks like it’s going to be a very emotional series.  It’s the only one I was really looking forward to this semester, and based on the first episode, I don’t expect to be disappointed.  I really enjoyed the art style, the characters, and the way the series is already hitting the right emotional notes.  I can’t wait to see episode two!

Verdict: I’m in!

Baby Steps

Eiichirō Maruo

Art by アガハリ (Pixiv ID 30281964)

Sports anime.  Check.  Romantic element.  Check.  Relateable protagonist.  Check.

Baby Steps starts us a year after the events of the series, showing our hero playing well in a tennis match.  Then the episodes moves back in time to show him as the overachiever who does his best at school without passion or meaning, only with discipline.  But meeting a beautiful girl and trying out her passion, tennis, is seemingly going to change him.  The first episode was a lot of fun – it hit all the right strokes (har har) without going overboard in any of the ways that would turn me off (see my discussion of the steely bodies in Haikyuu!!).

Verdict: Will be watching episode 2

Black Bullet

Enju Aihara

Art by ジョン (Pixiv ID 42804916)

The opening episode of this futuristic action-thriller was almost jarring as it jumped between an almost epic story to a silly romcom.  But it all kind of worked together well, matching the demeanor of the main character, who seems to be trying to develop in his own right, out of bitterness toward a more normal life.  That normal life, of course, includes an underage girl whom he protects (and who is in love with him).  This is anime, after all…

Verdict: Will be watching episode 2

Haikyuu!!

Art by 豚カツ (Pixiv ID 29958530)

Art by 豚カツ (Pixiv ID 29958530)

I did not expect a whole lot lot from this series, but found myself really enjoying the opening episode.  I haven’t watched more than maybe half a dozen sports series, so I don’t have a great feel for the conventions of such shows, but it looks like they’re in full force here, with volleyball taking the place of baseball.  The twist at the end of the episode feels Cross Game-ish (not to worry – it’s not that twist), and the main character is similar to Mihashi, but with far more confidence (and a little more gas).  Also, there was a really lovely montage showing our protagonist training and gaining his teammates.  I don’t like how the characters go crashing all over the court and rise like they’re DBZ characters, but otherwise, color me intrigued.

Verdict: Will be watching episode 2

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Untangled: Christian Panel at an Anime Con

One of my favorite parts of administering this blog is occasionally receiving emails from our readers.  A week or two ago, we received a request from Michael.  Here’s how he began:

Hi, I am so blessed to have found your blog, and here’s why. To keep it short, I am a Christian in Miami, FL and just went to my first anime con (Animate! Miami) in January and felt from Holy Spirit to bring Gods Kingdom to our otaku/video game culture[...]I submitted to do a panel at the biggest con in FL, Supercon. I want to do a panel about spirituality and anime but focusing totally on our Father God and Christ, and the impact God has on anime in general…

A lot of times, I don’t have a good answer for our readers.  But thankfully, I now have a little insight into this request after recently conducting a panel at IKKiCON, the anime convention in my local Austin community.

Michael went on to write the following:

I am making my presentation and wanted to get your much needed advice. I want to connect with the Christian otaku community and get ideas as to how to make this presentation great and an opportunity to bring souls to Christ.  Any advice or suggestions as to which amines I should focus on, or maybe just topics I should stick to? I have to present for an hour, and will throw in some games too to keep it interesting.

Michael, thanks for coming to us with your question – I’ll help you as best I can!

I think you first need to consider who your audience is, if you haven’t already.  It seems like you may be wanting to focus on Christian otaku.  In that case, you might consider that your audience will be unique – you may have a mix of those of different religious backgrounds who attend, not only within the Christian tradition, but possibly others who have an interest in religion.  I also found that a number of young people, attending with parents, came to my panel.

If you intend to make the panel evangelistic in nature, aimed at non-Christians, I would definitely think about what it is I can offer my audience in terms of my topic.  As with Paul and his teaching on being everything to everyone, your panel should appeal to anime fans, offering them something about anime that they can learn from and/or be entertained by.  Otherwise, they may feel they’re getting the old bait and switch, which might accomplish the opposite of what you intend.  Even if you carefully weave a gospel presentation into your panel, some will be offended and most may not be open to it.  In that case, I might suggest passing them to another resource they could consult, whether it’s your own or another, when they get home from the con and think back on your panel.

And I’ll mention one more consideration – this one on a more general level.  Others who visit our blog (and even a couple of other writers) have more to offer in the way of tips, but I’ll offer just this one – time flies when you’re doing your panel, so if you’ve packed your 60 minutes to the brim, you probably won’t be able to cover all that you’ve wanted.  Adjust accordingly.

Good luck on your panel, and please let us know how it goes!  And for all those reading this post, what advice might you also offer Michael?

If you have a question for us, please click on the “Ask the Staff” button on the top menu of our blog.

Winter 2014 In Review (Part Two)

TWWK: Yesterday, Goldy and Japes started their review of Winter 2014’s anime. Today, our reviewing pair join together to judge shows that they both watched this past season.

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! Ren

Love, Chunibyou & Other Delusions – Heart Throb -

Goldy – [8/10]

In the past, I’ve praised Kyoto Animation for creating love stories without going all out shoujo drama, and while they did an excellent job with season one of Chuuni, I had my worries about the second season.
Where could they possibly go with this? Thankfully, my fears were unfounded and the second season delivered a brilliant performance, including all the familiar characters facing their weaknesses and even including some new ones. I like to see characters grow in stories, moving forward despite knowing their faults.
The main story, the relationship between Yuuta and Rika progressed rather well from last season, I thought. It grew at their own pace, which in itself was a beautiful and heart warming thing. I think the two still have a long way to go in understanding each other better, but sometimes baby steps are better than nothing.
I’m a sucker for an excellent love story, though.

Japesland – [7/10]

It took me quite a while to decide what to score Chuunibyou this time around (I rated season one an 8/10), but ended up landing on the 7/10 that you can see above. While I love this series, including this season, I found it hard to rate it anything higher than a 7 considering how little it had to offer beyond what was in the first season. With the exception of a fantastic new character, Shichimiya Satone, the vast majority of the emotional buildup found in this season was also found in the first season. Don’t get me wrong, I loved both, but I was hoping to see either something new, or perhaps something at least a bit more progressive than what KyoAni had to offer us this time around.

With all of that said, however, season two has left me eagerly awaiting a (perhaps more fulfilling) season three. Like Goldy indicated above, baby steps are better than nothing, and KyoAni definitely did not give us nothing.

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Winter 2014 In Review (Part One)

TWWK: Winter is typically a slow season for anime, and it looked like more of the same going into this past season.  But how did winter 2014 really pan out?  Between our resident anime addicts, Japes and Goldy, almost every anime of note was covered, and over the next two days, they’ll let you know their views on high points and low this just-completed season.  Today, Japes and Goldy review series that only one or the other watched, and tomorrow, they join together to review shows that they both viewed.

Goldy:

Noragami - [9/10]
Noragami

There are usually a couple series I watch every season that surprise me; Norgami was the lucky one this winter. I jumped into it without thinking much about it beyond “this animation style looks cool and the head guy is wearing a scarf, so it must be good! :D”
While the “main character is wearing a scarf so it must be good” theory doesn’t always ring true for every anime you will come across, Noragami never failed to make me laugh, gasp in suspense and worry over the characters, make my eyes even water a little (especially that finale), and my heart warm at the sweetness of the friendships between all the characters.
Though don’t mistake my tone, Noragami was far from a happy sunshine and rainbows comedy. In fact, it reminded me a bit of the route that the manga/anime Rurouni Kenshin took (“the reformed murderer” in simple terms). There is something very serious and contemplative and even sometimes a bit frightening about the story of Noragami. At the end of the day, even through all the sweet and fun times to be had, you need to face consequences of your actions.
I would recommend Noragami very highly.

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Anime Today: Idols in Ishinomaki

As it stands right now, anime is currently in its transition phase from the winter 2014 season to the spring 2014 season, and this in-between phase makes it difficult to analyze much of what is currently happening aside from overall series or season reviews. However, just recently I decided to pick up yet another current anime, bringing my winter 2014 anime count up to 16. And that series is Wake Up, Girls!.

While Wake Up, Girls! has been an entertaining watch, I found myself extremely happy to have waited until just the past few weeks to pick it up. If you’ve been following Beneath the Tangles or my personal blog in the recent past, you are probably aware that in early to mid-March I spent about ten days in Japan on a ministry team. Much of our time there was spent in the Sendai area, the area hardest hit by the 3/11 tsunami, and coincidentally where Wake Up, Girls! takes place.

As I just mentioned, Wake Up, Girls!, at least as far as I was as of the time of writing, has been a quite enjoyable watch. However, as with anything, having a personal connection makes it that much more fun… even nostalgic. Seeing familiar sights in Sendai has been an intriguing experience that I have had yet to feel in the context of anime, which is significant in and of itself. More than simply that, though, the personal connection goes even further and more specific, and that is all thanks to episode three and the character, Minami.

Wug Minami Katayama

Art by 馬の助 (Pixiv ID 40903644)

In order to provide a bit of context for what I am about to explain, the Miyagi prefecture, of which Sendai is the capital, was the area of Japan hardest hit by the 3/11 tsunami. Even though it has been more than three years now since the triple disaster, the damage done is still visible and affecting thousands of Japanese. In particular, the Japanese government set up numerous temporary housing units in order to provide living quarters for, especially, the elderly Japanese (especially women) whose homes were destroyed, leaving them displaced. With nowhere to live and no consistent source of income, many of these people have resigned to a lonely existence in a cramped living space with nothing to live for day to day. Having seen this in person, the situation is heartbreaking.

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Perspectives in Servant x Service

Servant x Service  follows five civil servants working at the welfare department of  a ward office. The show is strongly reminiscent of the British comedy The Office. Maybe it’s because college graduation was four years ago for me, but it was kind of refreshing to see an anime set in an office instead of set at school.

Although I’m not a civil servant, my jobs, present and past, usually involve  customer service situations similar to the ones in Servant x Service. I could definitely relate to a lot of them.

Like this one…

nn

Yep.

And this one…

n

Oh yes.

and ESPECIALLY this one….

nnnnn

For all eternity…….

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Take Four – March 2014

Hanamonogatari Announcement and Promo - Kaze

hanamonogatari
Art by koflif

Hanamonogatari was announced to air as a 5 episode series after Nisekoi finishes. At 5 episodes, at least it won’t be getting the Neko Kuro treatment. This will bring a close to the adaptation of the 2nd season of the Monogatari series. The 3rd season of books is also nearing an end as the final pat of Owarimonogatari is slated to release early April, leaving only one volume left. However, if Nisio’s history with these novels is indicative of anything, we can probably expect several books, delays, and potentially even more volumes before the series really comes to a close. Regardless, the real question on all our minds is, of course, when will they give us Kizu?

kenshin and shishioShishio Revealed in New Rurouni Kenshin Live Action Film Trailers – TWWK

I’ve still yet to watch the first live-action Rurouni Kenshin film, but I couldn’t pass up mentioning that the trailers for the next two movies, opening on August 1st and September 13th, respectively, in Japan, feature that bandage villain among villains, Shishio!  I’m definitely excited to see the Kyoto Arc brought to life, as it remains my favorite shounen quest/journey/tournament arc in anime.  And judging from the positive response to the first film, there’s high hopes that these remaining ones will deliver!  Check out the trailer below:

A New Vocaloid Game… Without Miku! - Japesland

vocaloid

Art by 野々原K

If you haven’t noticed yet, I am an unabashed Vocaloid nut. While I don’t have the time (nor, sometimes, the energy) to stay up with all of the popular producers or voice banks being released, I am always excited to see new Vocaloid announcements. Additionally, I have been hyped for months about the new Project DIVA game, F 2nd (which just released last Thursday and finally arrived at my post office on Monday). Needless to say, I was not expecting another company to begin a new Vocaloid-centric rhythm game any time soon due to the competition, but lo and behold, a game featuring one of my favorite Vocaloids was announced! If you are not familiar, I recommend checking out some songs using IA’s voice, particularly those in the Kagerou Project written by one of my favorite producers, Jin (Shizen no Teki-P). Imagination Forest is a good place to start, and I hope it gets you as excited as I am for this new release!

Nanoha Series Get Blu Ray Releases – KazeNanoha BD

All 3 Nanoha seasons will finally be getting blu ray releases near the end of this year. While I do admit there are flaws with the show, I am still a huge fan of the series, so I greatly look forward to seeing this iconic series getting some nice animation upgrades. Granted, I am one of many fans who believe the movie adaptation of the first season is superior in every way, animation included; however, I will no doubt be re-watching the later 2 seasons when they become available.  Of course, I recommend people to join me, as Nanoha A’s is pretty much the pinnacle of the Mahou Shoujo genre (another reason for my dislike of the Madoka fanbase, although the crossovers were quite amusing). There’s also a new movie in the works that’s supposedly coming out this year, but not much news on that front.

Something More: The Trinity in Lagrange and Season End Reviews

With the anime season coming to an end, it’s the usual time for wrap-up posts on the series we’ve been watching the last three months.  Most of our links this week are to reviews of full series or of recent episodes:

Jonathan provides his usual insightful commentary as he reviews Noragami, including some notes on Shinto religion. [FunBlog]

D.M. Dutcher watches Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne, and is surprised to find “even minor Christian themes in what looked to be a disposable robot anime.” [Cacao, put down the shovel!]

Rob continues his anime reviews from a Christian focus, with posts on recent episodes of Engaged to the Unidentified [Christian Anime Review], Chuu2 [Christian], and The Pilot’s Love Song [Christian].

Manga Hero put together a good list of links to help discerning viewers decide whether or not to watch the new Noah film. [Manga Hero]

As part of the Something More series of posts, each week Beneath the Tangles links to writings about anime and manga that involve religion and spirituality.  If you’ve written such a piece or know of one, please email TWWK if you’d like it included. 

 

Inari Konkon Koi Iroha and Accepting Who You Are

Digging deep (but not too deep!) into my past, I remember wanting to be like someone else constantly. Because to me, I was dorky, not pretty, and not interesting at all. It was not that I wanted to be like a particular someone, but more like “popular like this inariperson”, “friendly like that person”, or “have red hair so the guy I like will like me back”, etc.

Granted, while this is more of a teenager problem, I think it can still haunt some of us older people who try to call ourselves grown-ups.

In Inari Konkon Koi Iroha, which finished early this past week (and I’m glad I was encouraged to stick with it), Inari struggled with accepting herself as she was. She wanted to be someone else. So thus, she wished to change. And while we in the real world can’t wish away our own appearances, her wish actually came true! But it had disastrous consequences that caused more trouble than it was worth. And even when Inari had the power to change into any person she wished, all her problems were still very far from being solved.

In the end, her answer was staring her right in the face, she just had to see it.

What was her answer? Accepting herself like she accepts others. Inari was always willing to look for the best in everyone but herself. And while the power she was given didn’t make her life any better, it did help her see the big picture and gain confidence in being herself and no one else.

For a short series of 10 episodes, Inari Konkon was a heart warming and fun story. And while it’s something most of us hear all the time, it’s always good to be reminded that it’s okay that you are you.

You are you and that’s awesome.

x5yd1yli copy

 

Nisekoi, Episode 11: Of Maybachs and Love Languages

Although I was less than thrilled by the the unoriginality of Nisekoi near the season’s beginning, that was mostly because I’ve so enjoyed the show that I want it to be more than it is.  And as it progresses, I’m liking it all the more.

In episode 11, the main characters finally get to know a little bit of what we as the audience have known for a long time – that either Onodera and Chitoge may be Raku’s promised girl (or, a la Love Hina style, I’m guessing they both are).  Onodera reveals that she may be during her date with Raku as the two look for a birthday gift for Chitoge.  The birthday girl starts to reveal as much at her actually birthday.  So while the birthday could have been the centerpiece of this episode, it’s the reveals that take center stage.

That’s not say, though, that the birthday isn’t played up for laughs.

Art by 山吹色 (Pixiv ID 36738768)

Art by 山吹色 (Pixiv ID 36738768)

The invitees and other adore the yakuza heir with birthday gifts, the most notable ones being a Chitoge-like gorilla from Raku and a Maybach from Claude.  The earlier is accepted warmly by the Chitoge, while the Maybach is rejected because, in her words, “I can’t even drive.”

Claude is deflated.  I know the feeling.  In fact, lots and lots and lots of guys know the feeling.  Just as many guys (maybe a smaller percentage of otaku than the general populace) try to help their beloveds by attempting to fix their problems, they also try to make their significant others happy by doting on them with gifts.  Sometimes it works, but often it doesn’t – at least not with the gusto that the guy would expect.

I’m guilty of this, too.  When my then-girlfriend used to get down, I would try to solve thing by buying a gift.  And not always with a super expensive one, like Claude’s – I would sometimes sacrifice, whether it meant by going well out of my way or having to use creative muscles I didn’t think I had – to buy or make something that would uplift the soul.  And though I wasn’t outright rejected like Claude, the bright smile I hoped to see wasn’t always (or usually) forthcoming.

I later realized that a lot of this had to do because her love language and mine weren’t the same.  The concept of “love languages” is central to the teachings of a Christian counselor, Gary Chapman.  He identifies five:

  • gifts
  • quality time
  • words of affirmation
  • acts of service
  • physical touch

While we can feel love through all these avenues, we typically feel most loved by one or two.  And chances are that your loved one and you have different love languages.  So if yours’ is “acts of service” and you try to serve your girlfriend, whose love language is quality time, you might not be “filling her love tank.”

It’s a simple idea, but one that my experience, and those of many of my friends’, has rung true.  And it’s a deeply meaningful and powerful idea to demonstrate in a relationship, because not only does it help the one you love be happier, it also helps you demonstrate love by sacrificing to shower the other with the affections they would like, even if that style doesn’t come naturally to you.

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