Hello, I’m a Main Character (The Beginning of Something Great?)

Hey, people.

I’m sorry I haven’t been around for a week or so. It’s just that I’ve been working on a new project. Um…it’s not a big group project or anything. It’s just that I’d thought I’d let you guys read about it first.

Just a few days ago, I’ve had this short writing prompt and pretty wild ideas came to mind. I started writing and after a few rewrites, I thought, “Maybe I’d start writing fiction and stuff.”

I’m going to check and see if this would be the start of a great idea, or just another one of the many “great” ideas I’ve had throughout the years. Now, I am not a writer, nor do I want to be a full time one. I just write for fun, but if this little writing idea gain some traction, I may continue to expand on this idea.

Mind you, this is just the prologue, so if there’s things you can’t keep up with, I hope you will understand.

So without further ado, please. Enjoy.


Hello, I’m a Main Character

Prologue:

Rays of sunlight shine past the thick, dense canopy of the tropical rainforest and onto my face as I carefully navigate the rugged terrain of the forest floor. I quickly shield my eyes from the blinding beam using my hand and with my other hand, swat a pesky insect hovering just inches from my ear.

‘Annoying insects,’ I mumbled to myself as I hopped over yet another huge chunk of tree roots in front of me.

I hear another incredible roar into the distance and a faint rumbling in the same direction. How many stupendously loud roars have I heard just today I wonder. It’s been three hours since I have crash-landed on this mysterious island when my plane was attacked by a mysterious winged beast. I have no idea where am I but I am sure that this is not a good place to be right now. I had heard many rumours about a place like this.

Originally, there was a top secret laboratory on this island, funded by a megalomerate company to revive cold-blooded creatures of old. That company constantly denies such rumours and reports of terrible winged beasts and vague silhouettes spotted on satellite images on the island, and the fact that no one in the mainstream media actually said anything about those rumours probably means they have been bribing the media too. And to think that I am now witnessing something like this firsthand: it is actually quite exciting.

Another ray of light penetrated through the thick canopy above and temporarily blinding me, once again forcing me to shield my eyes with my hand. Increasingly frustrated by the discomforts of the tropical forest, I reached towards the backpack on my back and fished out a bright yellow cap that had the words “Devon Corp.” sewn in red on it.

I started to adjust the slightly flattened cap when I heard faint rustling behind me. I stopped in my tracks, focusing instead on the origin of the sound. There were plenty of false alarms before this, but there wasn’t any actual contact with living monsters of any sort, it was usually just falling twigs and branches. This, however, felt different. The rustling was a little muffled, meaning someone or something seems intent on moving as softly as possible. Avoiding detection, perhaps?

After a few short and tense seconds, I hear another even softer rustle, this time to my right.

‘It’s fast… Wait, no, it can’t be that fast… Maybe I’m being surrounded?’ I thought.

I started to look around me. “I’ve noticed you, now then what are you going to do?” I whispered softly, as if speaking directly to these creatures lurking in the shadows.

In this instance, three possible scenarios floated into my head. The most plausible scenario would be that they would search for an opening, waiting for me to drop my guard and lunge at me. This is a favourite strategy used by a great number of predators that work in teams. Hyenas do it. Wolves do it all the time. Animals can be a great deal more patient than humans, and this could work to their advantage but if I have a faster reflex than they do, I could turn the tables on these predators. I could even pretend to drop my guard, luring one of them to attack me, then immediately stunning it with a quick strike at its eyes, soft underbelly or even the joints on its limbs.

They could also reveal themselves to me, hoping to size me up. I am after all, a foreign target that could be hiding an ace up my sleeve. Animals would obey their survival instinct, and even great white sharks tend to nudge or nibble targets that its not familiar with before going in for the kill. The last possible scenario, the least plausible but yet, the most dangerous one, would be that they would all lunge at me at the same time, leaving me with no room to escape and no chance to fight back. I shudder at the thought.

However, what they don’t know is that I am the main character. Nothing can happen to me, the main character of this whole situation, so this gamble will pay off. It will definitely pay off.

With a quick glance, I surveyed my surroundings, taking note of the few odd clusters of roots on the ground. I sure as hell don’t want to trip and fall on one of those during the imminent skirmish. That would be embarassing, not only tarnishing my reputation as a reliable main character, but also losing the faith of my audience. That would also mean certain death, but as a main character, I know that won’t happen.

I drop the cap I have been holding and slowly started to take off the backpack I have been carrying throughout these 3 hours. My back feels a little sore, but I relinquish the thought of being able to duke it out with these unknown, fearsome predators of old.

They are taking quite the amount of time waiting, they must be waiting for an opportunity to strike. The first scenario I pictured earlier must be coming true. If so, I must cut short this unnecessarily long, drawn-out scene and give them a “opportunity” to strike.

I calmly unbuckle the straps keeping the backpack firmly on my back, swung the backpack to the front and drop the backpack at my feet. “Come on, take the chance. My back is completely unguarded. Come on, attack me.” I whispered, to myself.

And for the cherry on the cake, I slightly drooped my head. To a normal human being, this slight gesture wouldn’t mean anything at all, but to animals and experts in body language, this meant that I have dropped my guard. For the predators surrounding me, it meant an opportunity, a chance. It meant dinner is served, but to me, it meant they have fallen into my trap. The one and only me.

Within few hundreds milliseconds, the crescendo of rustling began behind me. The sound of a run-up signifying the imminent attack and the beginning of the end. For them, of course. Within that few hundred milliseconds, I too started to prepare. I pushed my heels outside, bent my knees slightly lower and tightened my grip on the strap of my backpack.

Here it comes.”

I spun around and in that brief, tense moment, I saw it. The monster’s outline resembled that of a raptor. I have seen creatures like those in encyclopedias and in a few movies about dinosaurs. In fact, the local newspaper had a featurette about dinosaurs just yesterday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the national museum. I’ve been there once, and it reeks of dust, old books and boredom. Now, if only the dinosaur skeleton were alive, maybe I would gain more interest in that derelict place.

Ahem…back to the story.

Anyway, the dinosaur lunging at me had a wide, gaping mouth that was large enough that it could fit my entire head in it. It also had large claws on its shorter forelimbs and as I suspected, a white softer-looking underbelly that wasn’t covered in scales. It had a murderous glint in its yellow reptilian eyes and those eyes met mine. I couldn’t help but grin. I’ve won.

With a sudden heave, I swung the backpack as hard as I could at its giant head and felt it make contact with a thud. The backpack must have weighed at least 15kg or so, and my swinging added just enough force to change the raptor’s trajectory just slightly to my right. I would imagine a raptor would weigh about as heavy as a fully grown grisly bear so I was prepared for this huge bulky creature flying through the air at me. I wasn’t aiming to launch it into a tree or anything, my only goal was to stun it, nothing more.

I dodge to my left, making sure not to trip over a giant cluster of roots there, while unholstering the army knife at my side. Holding the glintering knife blade-first, I darted at the raptor that had just landed on its side, stunned by my previous attack. The creature is undoubtedly stunned, however it still had its animal reflexes and when it caught me running up at it with the corners of its eye, swipe its claws at me. With a quick dodge, I evaded its half-baked attack and sunk the blade all the way into its chest. Without a moment’s hesitation, I dragged the knife across its exposed underbelly, splattering its internal organs and entrails all over the forest floor.

In a few brief seconds, the raptor was dead and I now stand victorious over this fallen creature, covered in lukewarm, purplish blood of this extinct cold-blooded predator. I look around and saw its comrades surrounding me. They look confused and lost, torn between whether to continue to hunt this foreign target for food or to flee after witnessing the death of their comrade. I’m not about to leave things to chance, so I quickly let out a shout, as loud as possible.

Now this is a gamble. This group of raptors will most definitely feel threatened or challenged by my shout of victory. Depending how high up the hierarchy this dead raptor is, the group may decide to flee or to attack in response to the challenge. I would prefer the former a lot more, but I don’t know which side the coin will fall on: heads or tails?

One of the raptors began cawing loudly, and soon, one by one, the rest of the raptors started cawing as well. Then, it dawned upon me: they are part of a larger group and they are calling for help.

Oops.”

*

Daniel! It’s time to go to work!”

Mum’s loud voice woke me up from my daydreaming and I look at the digital clock hanging on the wall above the door. It reads, twelve past twelve at noon. “Sugar Honey Iced Tea,” I mumble under my breath as I heaved myself of the bed while putting away yesterday’s newspaper and my smartphone.

I chuckle at that subtle reference to the obscure Madacasgar joke I just made. My life would probably make a great book, or TV series or even a film. I mean, I’ve seen some pretty average stuff get turned into entertaining shows, or novels that were quite popular. I mean, The Big Lebowski wasn’t exactly the most intriguing of stories and Lebowski “The Dude” isn’t a character that is extraordinary in any way at all, yet he and his film rose to great fame. My goodness, that monstrously lazy slacker of a character even inspired a religion. A religion! Would you look at that! I swear, Mr. Strickland would see McFly in an entirely different light if he took just one look at The Dude.

I fumble for the keys to the office on my table, and after a good thirty seconds of putting away DVDs, stationary utensils and newspaper cuttings, I find them hidden behind a handwritten list of GTA cheats.

Man, I’m gettting old,” I said to myself as I crumpled the paper into a ball and threw it at the wastepaper basket near the door. “Guess I won’t be needing that anymore. I have Google now.”

I stuff the keys into my pockets along with my wallet, which was lying on the ground by the table, and my phone on the bed. I skip down the stairs into the dining hall where Mum was getting ready to holler one more time at me. I pat her on her shoulder, and she spun around, wide-eyed.

Mum stands at around one fifty centimeters, which is pretty short even for a Chinese like herself. Despite that, she can be pretty darn fierce when she wants to. I do still remember all those years ago when I would cry and cry whenever she forces me to practice the piano. Her hair was black with a shade of brown and her face was wrinkled, worn out by the unforgiving nature of time and parenthood. God knows how much she has been through, taking care of the bratty child I used to be.

Her lips parts slightly and I immediately pat my pockets where the keys are, emitting a ringing sound. “Couldn’t find the keys,” I said.

Seemingly satisfied with my answer, she gestured at the bathroom to her right. “You’d better go take a shower,” she said, with a hint of frustration still in her voice. “You’re not early, you know?”

Alright,” I mumble at her, as I stride past her and towards the bathroom. I try to slide the bathroom door open but it was locked. “Mum,” I raised my voice, so that she can hear me. “Someone’s using the toilet.”

It must be your dad. Go do something else.” was her reply from the kitchen.

I walk towards the living room and launch myself at the couch. I look up at the analog clock hanging on the wall above the 42 inch LED TV. The minute hand was pointing towards the space between 2 and 3, and the hour hand at 12. It’s 12.15 already, and I haven’t bathe. Not that it matters, I’m sure Mrs. Yeow wouldn’t notice me being late five minutes or so. She never does, since she won’t be there till at least three in the afternoon.

I hear the sound of the bathroom door sliding open, and I roll off the couch, only to drop to a push-up position and do 3 push-ups before rising to my feet. Gotta maintain my fitness after all.

Dad’s out of the bathroom already,” came my mother’s voice again, this time echoing from the kitchen through the hallway.

Coming,” was my reply.

*

The loud and constant clattering sound of me typing on the keyboard shatters the eerie silence of the office. There is no one around yet at this time. I glanced at the time displayed at the corner of the computer screen. It read: 1:48.

Only nine minutes before this place becomes noisy, huh?” I said to myself. “Better enjoy this silent ‘alone’ time then.”

I lift my eyes from the keyboard and rest my head on the armchair. I begin spinning the chair slightly around and I hear a creaking sound coming from beneath the chair. The shaft of this cheap armchair must be increasingly worn-out. It’s already wobbly and if I don’t support it with my own two legs, it will tilt slightly to the sides, which makes things even more uncomfortable for me.

I remember Mrs. Yeow telling me how this chair is not worth the money because its quality is terrible and wouldn’t last more than a year. Well, she is the boss of this small tuition centre and has a stable income of about ten thousand caps per month. She could have at least splashed a little more cash on an armchair for the part-timer that helps her deal with obnoxious bratty highschoolers, ever changing schedules of the tuition teachers and the chores of managing the accounts. A proper good-quality armchair that could easily last five years would cost a hundred caps at most, which is probably only ten caps more expensive than this cheap armchair she bought online.

Well, there’s no point in crying over spilt milk.”

I look around at the small, narrow office. The walls are painted with a nice cheerful blend of bright green and yellow and is separated by walls and a sliding window from the hallways leading to the classrooms. Even the office table and cabinet are green and yellow in colour, which is a far cry from the drab, dreary white and brown colour schemes of the hallways. Despite its bright and cheery colour scheme, the office is a terrible workplace. It is narrow and uncomfortable, not to mention that people could peer inside through the window and look at what I am doing.

I pluck my phone out from my pocket and “slide to unlock” the phone. The time, according to my phone, is 1:55, then out of habit, I glance sideways at the time displayed on the computer and it read, 1:53. Sorry, computer. The only time I trust is the time on my phone.

It’s about time, huh?” I grumble softly as I stand up to prepare the rooms for the classes. This tuition centre is a hotspot for students whose high school is a five minute walk from school and has free Wi-Fi. Some come here to wait for their tuition classes to start, some come here to meet up with friends and some others come here to just lounge around at the lounge room which is open to all students.

It’s been four months since I’ve graduated from the high school near this centre, and three months since I’ve started working here. And since then, everyday is the same. I wake up and after breakfast, relax in my room, watching anime and Youtube until noon, then get ready to go to work to earn some extra cash until nine at night. Then I head home, watch some TV then sleep at ten something. Sometimes, eleven.

I’ve always look at my life as a story and I am the main character of this story. And every good story must have few things: a fascinating plot, relatable characters and intriguing settings. So, if my story is going to be a good story, I would need to escape this hellishly boring cycle of a life I now have. But how?

My phone rang and a notification popped down my screen. I read the notification and became confused with what I just read, or rather technically speaking, what I didn’t read.

That notification was blank. Blank, white, empty.

I started to think about all the things that could go wrong if I tap on that notification. Tapping on it may transfer me to a online HTML page that could link me to a Trojan Horse virus that could corrupt my phone and cost me hundred of caps worth of repair fees. Or it could be a new form of bank fraud that would send my banking details to a hacker who would wire all my hard-earned money to his or her account.

But… my phone’s data roaming is off and I am not connected to any Wi-Fi network. There shouldn’t be anything like this if I am not connected to the Internet. And the notification still isn’t going away after five seconds. What does that mean? A virus? Bank fraud? What is it?

I stare intently at this white blank notification that appeared just five seconds ago. What is going on?

The logical thing to do is to lock the screen and leave the phone alone. To go turn on the air conditioning in the classes. To go turn on the microphone and the sound system in the classrooms for the teacher. But, deep down, I want to tap on that notification and see what happens. My heart yearns for something to happen, though deep down, I do not think anything fantasical will happen. I mean, what could possibly happen if I tap on that notification? This is not an anime, this is not Harry Potter, this is real life. You won’t get whisked away into a magical faraway land. You can’t. I’ve got a lot to lose and nothing to gain.

Nothing.

I looked at the time again. It’s 1:54. I don’t know exactly how much time has past, but it sure felt like an eternity. Why? Why am I drawn in by this strange blank notification?

You know what?” I said to myself.

Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your, opinion.” I put down the phone.

Man.”


I’m sorry for the cliffhanger, but I’m still toying with the idea and see how it goes. I myself don’t what’s going to happen, and if I get a good enough response, maybe I would write some more. I don’t want to feel like I’m fishing for support from the Internet, but this idea is still in its infancy. It may not feel original or it may not make sense at once, but I hope if I continue, I can produce a great story. Right now, I’m contemplating whether to develop this into a story like Re:Zero, or to stick with realism, or even better intertwine the two possibilities and blur the line between reality and fiction.

Just in case you didn’t, I’ve also hid few elements while writing, mainly references and clues to how the story will progress. And if you have ideas you’d like to contribute or suggest, feel free to comment below. If you like and enjoyed this, do spread the word of mouth and I hope you will visit again.

Till the next one, cheerio.

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Barakamon – Review – I Love Calligraphy! だいすき!

“投桃报李,千里鹅毛,

                       相逢恨晚,礼尚往来;

先生小姐别生气,明天带你去看戏,

             我坐椅子你坐地,我吃香蕉你吃皮。 ”

-施海梁 上

The title above is a click bait, and plain bullshit, because I hate calligraphy. I don’t care, alright?

Do you know just how irritating it is to a 7 year old kid to write good calligraphy? With a calligraphy brush?? With “proper” technique??! For goodness’ sake I can’t even hold my pen steady at that time! I just can’t appreciate calligraphy,

Hhhnnnnnnnnggggghhhhhhhh!!!!!!!
Hhhnnnnnnnnggggghhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

I’m sorry. I know, it’s somehow shameful for an Asian like myself to not do proper calligraphy after 8 years of school syllabus featuring Chinese calligraphy, but I don’t care. I have since thrown away my bottle of ink, destroyed my calligraphy brush (Ah, sweet vengeance…) and burned the limitless amounts of calligraphy training books. I sincerely apologize to my teachers who taught me calligraphy, but nope. I don’t care if we Chinese use to write on bamboo stalks or papyrus paper hundreds of year ago.

And 3 – 4 years after smashing my calligraphy brush with a sledgehammer, I will now be reviewing an anime…about calligraphy.

*Rage intensifies*


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Handa Seishuu is an up-and-coming young, talented calligrapher. He is also handsome, charismatic and unfortunately, a complete klutz. His brash attitude and emotions get the better of him one day, when a critic calls his work “conformistic” and “unoriginal”. He punches the critic and as punishment, he gets exiled to a rural island, far away from his home in Tokyo. Now far away from the comforts of his home while being surrounded by new faces: weird, energetic villagers, he must overcome his own flaws while rediscovering his drive for the art of calligraphy.

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Now, in this review, I will have to ditch my usual plot, settings, characters and, animation and sound format, as I feel it will obscure me from properly explaining the pros and cons of Barakamon.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s begin.


First off, this is a slice of life anime. Slice of life is a phrase used to describe depiction of mundane, everyday lives of characters. What all good slice-of-life anime should have in common would be slow pacing, quirky comedy and most importantly, entertaining settings. However, in recent years, the entertainment value of slice-of-life anime decreases as writers conjure up more and more ridiculous settings in an attempt to keep things fresh, while forgetting the ultimate purpose of entertainment itself in the first place. In fact, some even resort to ecchi, or cute girls, just to keep the sales ratings up. While this phenomena isn’t exactly new in anime, I still find this tactic terribly distasteful nonetheless.

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In that light, Barakamon is in my opinion, the best slice-of-life anime to date. (Tanaka-kun Itsumo Kedaruge being a close second, review here) Why, you ask? Allow me to explain.

1) Entertaining Premise

The majority of Barakamon is set in the rural Gotou islands, away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. The islands are inhabited by old-fashioned people who are sheltered from modern society, thus they do not have the same character traits we would come to expect of our characters. The characters are friendly, very lively, unlike our main protagonist, and have an air of innocence around them. For example, towards the end of the first episode, the villagers go over to the main protagonist’s house to help with his settling-in at his house, much to the surprise of Handa himself. These characters live idle and carefree lives, set the tone of the story, and play a part in the anime’s narrative about life and idleness.

Not only are the characters carefree in nature, the accompanying art style and the backdrops are done with mild watercolour colours with smearing effects, giving off a really tranquil and serene vibe. This artstyle is a breath of fresh air, when compared to the bright, contrasting colours in anime today.

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2) Great, Believable Characters

Barakamon is a slice of life anime, therefore unlike shows of other genres, the characters in this anime don’t have interesting backstories or elaborate narration to explain their motives. Normally, these characters would serve as simple plot devices or comedic relief that don’t really feel like real people. However, most of the characters resemble real people, despite some of them having limited screen time. Take for example, one of the non-recurring characters, Yasuba, an old lady who appears just to deliver a few lines of profound insights on life. Despite her limited screen time, her character design and development feels so real as her actions dictate who she is. The show doesn’t only rely on quirky character traits to draw the audience in, but use subtle hints like actions and narration to help develop the character.

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One standout character would be Kotoishi Naru, a 7-year old child who befriends Handa, the main protagonist, in the beginning of the show. She is a child, through and through, therefore she acts like a child. Brash, loud, naughty, everything you would come to expect from a child. Despite her childish nature, she still plays an integral part to the story. She is what I would call the personification of the carefree nature of the Gotou Islands. She barges into people’s lives without second thoughts, is highly energetic and lively, and provides the unpredictability of a child in the story. There is never a dull moment when Naru is around, which is why this 7 year old child is undoubtedly the best character in the anime.

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The main protagonist on the other hand, feels the most unrelatable in the beginning. He is personification of modern society: shut-in, unsociable, selfish and cold. However, as the story progresses, he is able to grow as a character too, eventually becoming the Sensei the rest of the cast know and love. The only problem I would have with this character though is that sometimes his motivations is not understandable, especially towards the end of the show. At times, he says one thing and yet, does the other, and that kind of ruins the show a teeny bit for me.

3) Good Writing and Pacing

While most slice of life anime these days tend to wander off into nothingness, this show didn’t feel like it was meandering. In fact, it had a slight sense of urgency as the show gives us a glimpse into the life of a calligrapher. He lives and breathes calligraphy, and when he is unable to produce a decent work of art, he becomes desperate. In a sense, that tiny detail in the mostly irrelevant plot is able to give the show it’s drive and propel the story forward.

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I also enjoy the one piece of art per episode format. By the end of each episode, Handa produces a piece of calligraphy which summarizes the events and his emotions throughout the episode, which makes the calligraphy part of the show a lot more enjoyable then I thought it would be. However, towards the end of the show, the writers ditch this format in favour of the plot. The last two episodes quickly loses steam as the show becomes something new altogether. I understand this sudden change in pacing is required to move the story forward, but I felt it could have been a lot better if it was tweaked and modified a little.

Conclusion:

All in all, Barakamon is a masterfully done slice-of-life anime with enjoyable settings, entertaining comedy that didn’t always relying on quirky character traits and an eye opener into the world of Japanese calligraphy. And of course, how can I end a review about Barakamon without mentioning the best child character ever: Kotoishi Naru. Seriously, I would say the show is worth watching just because of this 7 year old child. Despite a few minor setbacks in the writing department, Barakamon is still one of the best, if not THE BEST, slice-of-life anime in the world.

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I’m going to give Barakamon a rating of:

8.51 (Great)


I started watching this show because Handa-kun came out this season, but to be honest, I’m don’t see much of Barakamon in this prequel. The comedy feels somewhat forced and I find the lack of interesting characters really saddening. Is it going to be another slice-of-life comedy anime set in high school? ‘Cause I feel like that’s going to be boring.

Anyway, I’m halfway through rewatching Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin, so I can finally give a decent explanation as to why I thought it is the most underrated anime of all. Also, this season’s Alderamin in the Sky is also pretty underrated too, though that’s to be expected because of it’s long name and seemingly bland character design.

Anyway, till the next review, cheerio~

ReLIFE – Review – Fruitful Second Chances

The world of adults are terrifying. As a grown-up, you have so many things to deal with: societal pressures to conform to, seemingly insurmountable living expenses, and most horrifying of them all, the complex and evil human nature. You no longer can call people out for things you think is wrong, nor can you be free and do whatever you like. In other words, you have to grow up. To survive the world of adults, you must become an adult yourself. But, must you really change? Can’t you just be yourself? Is it really a good thing to be an adult?

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How’s that for something to think about when you go to work today?


ReLIFE is an anime adapted from the ongoing webcomic of the same name and all 13 episodes were aired on Japanese national TV on the 1st of July. It is directed by Tomo Kosaka, who has been a episode director on Axis Power Hetalia, and is produced by TMS Entertainment, which incidentally also producing Orange which premieres this season. It has been quite widely anticipated by Western fans on the Internet, and after finishing the show, I now know why. (Please don’t read it up on Wikipedia, there are a lot of spoilers there.)

Summary:

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ReLIFE revolves around a jobless 27 year old man named Kazaki Arata, who is struggling to make ends meet after quitting his job just after 3 months. Due to him quitting his job after such a short period of time, society do not think highly of him and thus, he is unable to acquire a job easily, so is forced to take up part-time jobs to make ends meet.

However, his job predicament soon ends when he is greeted by a mysterious man, Yoake Ryou who claims to be from the ReLIFE experimentation program. This experiment is aimed to reestablish NEETs (Not in Education, Employment and Training) and shut-ins into society, and to reinvigorate people who has lost faith in society. Yoake offers Kazaki with a second chance at life: a pill that will make him look younger by ten years and a contract to attend highschool for one year as a student. In return, his living expenses will be reimbursed in full by the program and depending on how things go, he may even be offered a job after that one year period.

Relife 1

Down on his luck and failing to find a job, he hesitantly accepts the offer and attends the third year of highschool as a normal 17 year old student. Along the way, he makes new friends, relive his highschool life and maybe, even find out what went wrong in his life.

Plot:

Have you ever had the feeling that something is terribly wrong with the society? First of all, how is it that our one and only life becomes secondary to earning money? Why is it that our happiness, our life becomes dependent on numbers in your bank account? In the corporate world, hardworking individuals can become tools to be used to achieve a certain goal, and when that goal is achieved, people get brushed aside like they don’t matter.

In the face of society, we need to wear a mask to hide our feelings from others, because somehow, our happiness has become dependent on society’s perception of us. What’s wrong with that, though? Everyone does that, so why shouldn’t we do that too?

This show explores the root of this sort of crowd mentalism which dates back to the later years of our school life. It doesn’t depict adulthood as a utopian, happy world, but a dark and grim reality. In the show, as Kazaki relives his school days, with the experience he gained from adulthood, he draws various parallels to his own adult life and provides the viewers with some commentaries about larger-than-life topics like bullying, faith and even suicide.

However, the show isn’t just all serious, because all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. (Pardon the Shining reference)

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This show has a lot of lighter moments especially in the beginning of the show, and approaching the end of the show, it becomes heartwarming as we watch these youthful highschoolers live their lives to their fullest, thanks to the constant, subtle meddling of Kazaki.

So is the plot any good? It is, in fact, it’s great. I really enjoy the exploration of much mature and hardhitting themes in these shows, as well as the comedy in the show. The innocent nature of the plot contrasts with the darker, more gritty themes, and the result is thought-provoking and at the same time, heart-warming.

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But if there’s one thing I could complain about this show, it’s that the writing of the show tends to meander from time to time and the transition from one perspective to another isn’t as smooth as it could be. For example, when we are watching the show from the eyes of Kazaki, the show may switch pace abruptly and the viewers need to switch perspective to that of a highschooler or risk not getting the full picture. I was watching the fourth episode and to the end, I noticed I was missing out and I had to rewind to 8 minutes earlier to rewatch things.

Settings:

The hyper-realistic themes of ReLIFE would normally requires some hyper-realistic settings, right? Actually, that’s not quite the case, in fact, the writers of the show have made it very clear that this show is a fantasy. They do not intend to talk about nor explore how the pill from the ReLIFE lab can change the anatomy of the body to make it look younger. That’s because there is no such thing and is an excuse to bring the main protagonist into the world of highschool.

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The fantasical setting may tick some people off, because “it’s not real”, but then again, hey, this is TV we’re talking about, right? When is it supposed to real, aside from National Geographic and the History Channel? The show doesn’t try to sell you the idea of a magic pill, but rather focuses on the themes of friendship, adulthood and growing up. So, in a way, it’s effective enough to give the show a sense of urgency, but not ridiculous enough to throw you off the show altogether, in which case I think is good thing.

Characters:

For this show to work, first and foremost, the characters must work, and they work, to some extent. Kazaki, the main protagonist, is a highly relatable person. He is an ordinary person who is hardworking, sociable and generally a good person, but due to a traumatic experience, he loses confidence in himself and loses faith in the world. He constantly questions himself and tries to look for the “correct” answer, even though he very well knows there is no certain correct answer. He is the character that anyone who has experience adulthood can cast him or herself into. He is by no means dumb or insociable, but he is unwilling to open himself to others, though as the story progresses, he begins to open up his emotions to people surrounding him.

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The next most interesting character would be Hishiro Chizuru, a honour student who tops her grade academically but lacks social skills. Her chemistry with the main protagonist is likable and as the show progresses, she begins to change due to her interactions with the main protagonist. The duo easily carry the show, and their chemistry is also the best in the show.

Despite these two good characters, the rest of the characters lack depth. The most obvious would be Rena Kariu, as she is just plain stubborn and at times, downright annoying. She is extremely competitive, stubborn but actually just plain confused deep down inside. However, her stubbornness is unreasonable most of the time, and no clue is offered as to why she acts in such a way. She is also given the most screentime compared to most of the supporting cast but honestly, I just couldn’t relate such a character.

Though, the rest of the characters may not be good, intriguing characters, but they do serve to move the story forward so, it’s okay to have them around.

Graphics & Soundtrack:

This is easily one of the most departments that I have a problem with. For such a character driven show, it is paramount that the characters themselves be well-animated. However, the details given to the show’s characters are limited especially the facial expressions. They have little variations and the character animation is kind of stiff. Aside from that though, the visuals themselves are bearable and are quite good in fact, especially the backdrops.

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Music is not one of the show’s strong points. The soundtracks have little to no variations, resulting in somewhat cheap sounding soundtracks, they are very limited. Most of the tracks use keyboards and strings, and one or two tracks have drums in them, but that’s it. They aren’t simple enough to be considered simplistic, but definitely don’t have the complexity of other, more musically-capable shows. I do enjoy the opening theme “Button” by Penguin Research quite a bit though.

Conclusion:

A show that has a gripping plot, intriguing settings and hard-hitting themes, only to be bogged down by meandering focus, mediocre visuals and less than stellar supporting cast, ReLIFE is the show everyone is and should be talking about. It perfectly illustrate how well anime, as a medium, can tell great stories. However, I would have preferred it if ReLIFE is made into a real life drama. It would have made more sense given its larger-than-life themes and people would take it much more seriously.

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Even though I say this anime is not the best thing ever, it is, at its core, a great story about adulthood, change and the societal worries we all face in our daily lives.

After meticulously calculating the points awarded for story, settings, character development, graphics & soundtracks, and of course, my personal enjoyment, I shall award ReLIFE with a rating of:

8.32 (Near Great)


After watching a compelling show like that, even I am forced to reconsider myself, am I living my life to the fullest? To be honest, I don’t know, though although it would be meddlesome, I would ask that you watch it too. It’s not like you’ll cry or anything, but it will make you think. Hard.

Have you watched this show? What do you think about it? Comment below and I will see you in the next review. Ciao~

Koutetsujou no Cabaneli – Review – Rail Wars! (Literally)

When Studio WiT announced Koutetsujou no Cabaneli, everyone was thinking that this show is another Attack on Titan rip-off. But, in actuality, it is not. It is actually a…

attack on titan

Highschool of the Dead rip-off…

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Guilty Crown rip-off…

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and most importantly, a Train Simulator 2014 rip-off, complete with $3000 worth of DLC, sold separately from the game itself.

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Oh…Tetsuro Araki…how far you must have come…


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Koutetsujou no Cabaneli is a 2016 anime directed by Tetsuro Araki, famous for his work with Guilty Crown, Highschool of the Dead, and the most famous anime to date, Attack on Titan. If you ever watch anime aside from long running shounens like Naruto or One Piece, chances are that you have watched his work at least once. And this show is his second anime work that gives him free rein, Guilty Crown being his first. This means that this show is essentially Tetsuro‘s brainchild, and boy, can you see it clearly more than ever. So, is it a good thing, or a bad thing?

Let’s talk about it.

Summary:

A mysterious virus began infecting industrial revolution era Japan and transforms ordinary people into undead creatures known as Kabane (lit. corpses) with increased regenerative abilities and superhuman strength. The only way to kill these undead creatures is to destroy their hearts. Either that, or you can just behead them, or flatten them with trains. Um…more on that later.

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Unfortunately for the survivors, it is not an easy task since the technology they possess do not have the necessary firepower needed to penetrate the steel cages surrounding their hearts, and most melee weapons and the steam powered rifles are not effective in dealing with Kabane. Enter Ikoma, a lowly steamsmith who is hell-bent on ridding the world of Kabane. In order to do so, he and his pal, Takumi, began doing their own research on these Kabane and even invents a more powerful weapon, the piercing gun.

One day, an armored locomotive called the Kotetsujou docks at the fortified station Ikoma and his friends are residing in, a day earlier than expected. Something happens along the way and soon, Ikoma and company board the Kotetsujou to escape the station under siege.

Plot:

If you have watched Tetsuro Araki‘s work, namely Guilty Crown and Attack on Titan, you will have known what to expect. This show is by no means original, in fact, if you have been watching anime for sometime, it will not be a breath of fresh air for you. There are a number of recycled plot points and feel somewhat disjointed at times. At one point, it feels like Attack on Titan, then the next episode, it feels like Highschool of the Dead, then the next episode Guilty Crown. I don’t quite mind if the plot has been recycled or unoriginal as long as it’s a more refined version, Koutetsujou no Cabaneli is a more polished version of all of the aforementioned shows.

But, it is none of those shows. Attack on Titan has amazing action set-pieces and intriguing lore about its settings, HoTD is a fun, ridiculous ride that doesn’t take itself seriously and Guilty Crown is a gloriously, well-animated and spectacular mess.

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For one, KnC doesn’t try to establish its own identity, but tries to achieve a goal that wasn’t really there to begin with. It tries to deal with the clutter-filled plot of AoT, except that it’s plot is different from the plot of AoT. It tries to right the wrongs of the questionable main protagonist from Guilty Crown, but it itself is not Guilty Crown. It tries to bring in themes of fear like HoTD, but at the same time, tries to talk about family bonds and political stability.

The plot is way, way too ambitious that it left way too many blanks for the audience to fill, and that leads to unrelatable characters, a plot riddled with plot holes and a show that strives for the best but didn’t quite reach the height it aimed for.

Oh, can I talk about the ending? It was rushed, anti-climatic and so uninspiring that it made me wanna cry. Is it trying to build up for another sequel or something? What happened?

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Settings:

Same problem here. There are way too many blanks left for the audience and we are left to our own imagination most of the time. First of all, what are Kabanes? In the first few episodes, we are told that they are drawn by blood, so technically speaking, if you don’t spill blood, you will have no problem, right? No? Okay, so they are very difficult to kill, right? But, you can run over them with trains, decapitate them, shoot them with guns that will kill them with three or four shots. You don’t need a piercing gun like Ikoma‘s that has a very limited range to kill them. So, they’re not scary? Plus, I’m sure by the Industrial Revolution, we are advanced enough to understand the anatomy of the body to know that viruses travel through the blood stream. So, how is it that no one but a steamsmith realized that you can still live even if you have been infected? What about gunpowder? Gunpowder was invented in the 9th century in China, so why didn’t they come up with cannons and whatnot?

So many questions, but no answers. In short, the settings are riddled with so many holes that the possibly interesting lore gets bogged down entirely.

Characters:

*Sighs* So much potential wasted.

Ikoma is a good character, at least to me. That’s because I recognized his motives and understood how his mind operates. However, the show doesn’t explain that to viewers, not even briefly. For example, in the first episode, Ikoma was trying to stop the bushis, the soldiers from killing a supposed infected person. I was watching with a friend, and that scene drew two different responses from the two of us. I was rooting for Ikoma while my friend was literally screaming for the bushis to hurry up and kill the infected person. I’m sure many people have the same reaction as my friend, and if your reaction was like him, chances are you didn’t quite enjoy this show.

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There are too many things left unexplained to the viewers, and it relies on a matter of perspective as to whether or not you will enjoy this show.

But, if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that the rest of the characters had next to no character development. No backstories, no depth, and as the story progresses, they all get sidelined and nothing interesting happens to them. Even Mumei, easily the best character in the show was, by the end, sidelined to being a mere damsel-in-distress just because the plot requires it.

Graphics & Soundtrack:

Now, if there’s anything you should watch this show for, it’s for the visual spectacle and the awesome music. The show delivers in the visual department, and boy is it amazing. The visuals team use an unorthodox contrast of bright colours and shades of grey to deliver stunning backdrops, as well as to capture the haunting, steampunk version of Industralized Japan. A lot of effort has been put into this show to make it this beautiful and I have to say, this show is absolutely stunning.

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Oh, have I mentioned how much I love Aimer? No? I love Aimer, how about that? Her style of music and the songs she sings normally have a really melancholic and atmospheric feel to it. Add Sawano Hiroyuki to the mix and you will have a really awesome soundtrack. In fact, I can go out on a limb here and say this is better than Guilty Crown‘s soundtrack and if you’ve watched Guilty Crown, you know how high a standard GC’s soundtrack has. Though, Egoist’s opening theme wasn’t as great as I thought it would be.

Conclusion:

A show that essentially bit off more than it can chew, Koutetsujou no Cabeneli is not necessarily a bad show, it’s just that it didn’t exactly reach greatness like everyone thought it would. It does have a few plus sides, like good pacing, intriguing characters and great visual effects. However, don’t expect another phenomenal Attack on Titan, in fact, it would be better if you prepare yourself for another Guilty Crown.

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After meticulously calculating the points awarded for plot, settings, characters, graphics & soundtracks and my personal enjoyment, I present to the rating for Koutetsujou no Cabaneli:

7.92 (Good)


So, there you have it. I am still looking forward to the spring season with– wait, ReLife released all its episode yesterday?? Wait, where can I watch it?! I’m gonna watch it and enjoy it (I hope).

Either way, what do you think about Koutetsujou no Cabeneli? Did you like it, or not? Also, what do you think about the new spring season? What shows are you hyped up for? Let me in the comments section below and I will see you in the next review! Ciao!