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~

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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.

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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~

The Garden of Words – 言の葉の庭 – Anime Review – Makoto Shinkai’s Gone Soft!

Makoto Shinkai’s newest work, The Garden of Words, reviewed!! But, a twist–?!

It’s raining outside and I’m coil myself around my sofa cushion. There was a flash outside my window and soon after, there was a faint clap of thunder. I could taste the humidity in the air and smell the scent of wet soil from outside my house. I really hate rain when I was younger, but now, it seems like rain is a welcome friend. I stood up, and walked out the doors of my home. Standing in my yard, I looked up at the grey skies, ignoring the stinging drops of water on my bare eyes and sighed longingly.

 “A faint clap of thunder,
Clouded skies,
Perhaps rain will come.
If so, will you stay here with me?


Garden of Words

Makoto Shinkai’s latest work in 2013, a 46-minute long anime film that as per usual features a lot of spectacularly beautiful scenes and another somewhat realistic romance story. However, the question remains after I watched the movie for the first time, “Has Makoto Shinkai gone soft?”

On one end, we have the usual male protagonist, Takao Akizuki, a typical highschool student who was a delinquent in school. Nope, he’s not the stereotypical delinquent you normally see in anime that sleep on rooftops all the time. This one is one of those delinquents you see in reality, those that comes from financially challenged families that work part-time all the time. Takao has his aspirations too, that is to be a shoemaker. In fact, he’s so engrossed in shoe making, that he literally makes shoes at home. Though he claims that they are no good, he works at it day and night, sketching, sculpting, sewing non-stop. He thinks that school is not what he should be doing and rather skip school than do sit there listening to the lessons. Who doesn’t, though?

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On the other, we have the mysterious women who Akizuki meets and befriends when skips classes on rainy days. She is always clad in office clothes and later, it was revealed that she was skipping work, just like how Akizuki skips school. As the monsoon season drag on, Akizuki meets the mysterious woman almost every day and as in all romance stories, he began to fall in love with her. But, unbeknownst to him, she is actually closer than to him than he had ever imagined…


Like almost all of Makoto Shinkai’s work, at the center of the anime, there is an unconventional love story. Take 5 Centimeters Per Second, for example. There is the two childhood friends who were separated by fate and as time passes, they find the distance between the two of them increasing despite their growing fondness for each other.

In The Garden of Words, it is almost the same but unlike 5 Centimeters Per Second and his previous works, this film has a more satisfying feel to it. I’ll try not to spoil too much for you but forgive me if I let slip too much.

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This film is centered around the themes of love but unlike conventional love, it challenges the viewers’ perception of love. Since Akizuki is still a highschool student, his love towards the mysterious woman who is considerably older than him can cut both ways for many people. While one may feel that relationships like that are impure or unacceptable, he/she may find himself/herself rooting for the duo. The themes of unconventional love rings loud throughout the entire series and despite the main characters’ mutual feelings for each other, they are restricted by the age barrier and their roles in society.

This anime reminds me a lot of GTO which explores and redefines the roles of teachers and students in Japan. What people may call ‘puppy love’ and what is real can be really different in reality. This anime is really bold in exploring these themes and the relentlessness of the main characters in pursuing their happiness is really heart warming.

To date, this anime is one of the most touching and memorable anime produced by Makoto Shinkai, very possibly, even better than his most famous work, 5 Centimeters Per Second. Not only is it the most memorable, in my opinion, it is also one of the most beautifully animated films in the history of anime.

The animation is extremely fluid and each frame was extremely fine in detail. Every rain drop, every ripple, every reflection, every tree, every leaf, every ray of sunlight was so beautifully drawn out. It’s so beautiful that it may even precedes the beauty in real life. You could almost feel the humidity, the raindrops splattering on the ground, it looks so real that our eyes deceive us.

The plot on the other hand, is considerably different from Makoto’s previous work. Unlike his usual slow pacing, this anime’s pacing is quite good and not so slow that you would feel the slowness of the plot. Despite the excellent pacing, I would find the some parts not properly explained as it could have been. Well, basically that’s the only thing I could complain about in this entire anime so that should explain a lot.

One thing worth mentioning here is the fact that Hanazawa Kana voices the “mysterious” woman in this anime. Yes, the one and only Hanazawa Kana. In case you don’t know who she is, she normally voices high-pitched girl characters such as Kuroneko from OreImo, Onodera Kosaki from Nisekoi and Nadeko Sengoku from Bakemonogatari. In consideration of those roles, you would really doubt her suitability in playing a role that is more mature. However, she pulled off a shocker as her voice, though vaguely recognizable, was extremely suitable to this role as a young adult woman in her late-20s. I don’t know how she did it but her voice was deeper and mature when compared to her previous roles.

Apparently, Shinkai chose Kana Hanazawa because who had a very low natural voice, despite typically playing the roles of high-pitched younger girls. One of the things that impressed Shinkai about Hanazawa’s voice was her ability to cover such a broad range of expression and her ability to pull off one of the more complicated realistic elements of the woman’s character that was her sense of purity that her voice convey.


Now, onto the question that everyone has been wondering about: “Has Makoto Shinkai gone soft?”

Why did I suggest a question like that? That’s because in this short 46 minute short film, no one died, fell gravely ill, broke up with girlfriend/boyfriend, died (yes, I know I repeated.) or left to rot in another planet very far away from Earth. Somehow, that’s what we all began to expect from Makoto Shinkai, or rather, sad anime in general. We start thinking that sad anime will think of the most ridiculous or incredulous way to make us feel sad or crack up even if it means coughing up ridiculous settings for the characters to be in.

I mean, it’s anime but it doesn’t mean it has to be ridiculous. In this movie, Makoto has shown us that you don’t need anything fanciful to be sad. In fact, you don’t even need to try. No robots, no afterlife and no freaking balls of life or whatever. Just the smallest things in life, no matter how small or insignificant it may be, it can still touch your heart and make you feel sad inside.

Like the rain, or a simple poem can touch you more than anything fanciful you may think of. As the upcoming Key produced Charlotte nears, I just hope that the production studio will take cues from Makoto’s way of doing things and just keep it simple. Though I doubt it.

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To date, this can be considered one of the most touching stories that has ever come out of Makoto Shinkai’s bag of beautifully animated movies. It has a fantastic plot even though it may be underdeveloped at times, it has great animation as usual and the themes mentioned in this anime will make you cringe and smile at the same time. To top it all off, it has Hanazawa Kana showing us a different side of her normally high-pitched and buoyant demeanour. What’s not to love about it?

“A faint clap of thunder,
Even if rain comes or not,
I will stay here,
Together with you.”

Now, if you will excuse me as I attempt to roll and sleep my hollow feelings away.

Till the next post, then, goodnight.

 

Sadness and Alternate Worlds – Hotarubi no Mori E 蛍火の杜へ – Anime Review

Sorry for the late posting, but anyway, this is the next show with a splendid pile of feels, Hotarubi no Mori E@Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light! That ending though…I can imagine its impact on them fangirls…

Hello, people. Sorry for the late posting and stuff. Blame reality. I haven’t been watching anime properly for a whole week and I did only paperwork for a long, long time. But fret not, for now I am back with a renewed passion to write more reviews for more entertainment!!!

Sad anime is so tiring and draining. watching it either kills me inside or leaves me hanging so I decided to run the sad anime review marathon alongside my regular anime. For today, we have…


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蛍火の杜へ, Hotarubi no Mori E aka Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light is based on a one-shot shoujo manga of the same title.

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It revolves around Takegawa Hotaru, a girl who lives in the city and goes to the countryside to live with her uncle during the summer vacations. When she was six, she entered the forest nearby that was said to be occupied by the mountain god and the spirits and got lost. When she was crying from exhaustion, a human-like entity wearing a mask approached her and comforts her. However, when she attempts to hug him, he dodges her and tells her that if he touches a human, he will disappear. And so, little Hotaru became more fond of the man/spirit whose name was later revealed to be Gin, and proceeded to visit him in the forest everyday of the summer vacation.

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Of course, like every shoujo manga, there’s always a normal looking girl as the main protagonist and the ever-mysterious yet charming male character as the love interest. But unlike typical shoujo, the characters are not exactly too tied up with its usual stereotyping due to the irregular setting. Like the movies by Makoto Shinkai such as 5 Centimeters Per Second or Voices of A Distant Star, the plot of this OVA/short film whose running time is exactly 45 minutes, the problems faced in real life are recurring themes in this anime too, although presented in a less orthodox way. For example, physical distance is the underlying theme as Hotaru is unable to touch Gin and that makes them yearn for each other more.

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In terms of story, plot and development, this anime is one of the most well-developed stand-alone OVAs I’ve ever seen. It’s run time of 45 minutes is utilized to the maximum and every scene and dialogue is used only to present the plot in the best way possible. More about that ending later.

Illustrated and published in the year 2001, the manga was so good that it was considered to be Yuki Midorikawa, the manga artist’s starting point for her best known work, Natsume Yuujinchou. The anime production began in 2011 and top of the class as well. Undoubtedly, this anime has one of the best storylines ever adapted for an OVA and the most depressingly relatable one I’ve seen so far.

Given its length, there is nothing much to talk about this anime. The plot was good, the characters were average, which is understandable given its shortness, the artstyle was quite artistically beautiful although not as stunning as Makoto Shinkai’s work. In short, it was a beautifully crafted animated story with a lot of charm that had a great finishing and is almost flawless in every aspect.

So, you’re thinking: “How is this anime sad?”

I’ll give you a few clues. [Minor spoiler alert]

  1. Gin is not a spirit but somewhat he is somewhat not of the human world. And that thing about him not able to touch humans is true. He also doesn’t age like humans do. In short, he is forever a teenager.
  2. Hotaru is a completely normal girl who like all normal girl characters in shoujo yearn for love as they enter adolescence. But do you think she can withhold herself from wanting to touch Gin?

Lastly…[Really, don’t read this if you still have completely no clue whatsoever to what is going to happen. Ignorance is bliss.]

3. What is going to happen when Gin touches a human?


 

Enjoy your feels while you’re at it! Enjoy your next day rolling on the ground crying, you crybabies!!! *Evil laughter*

Till the next sad stuff, ja ne~~

I can hear them fangirls crying their eyeballs off their sockets already.

Sadness and Distance – Voices of a Distant Star ほしのこえ – Anime Review

The predecessor of 5 Centimeters Per Second, if you’re a fan of the movie, or of Makoto Shinkai, please read on for the review of Voices of A Distant Star! Hoshi no Koe, ほしのこえ!

Can mobile phones work in space?

Duh…of course not! There won’t be any signal to begin with, so how can someone in space send messages from Earth to space and vice versa? I mean, how is it even possible when there are no telecommunication towers??

That aside, we are now entering the:

Feel Zone…

Voices

Like its successor, 5 Centimeters Per Second and Voices of a Distant Star is directed by the same director, Makoto Shinkai. As you should know by now, he is known for his realistic artstyle and slow-paced plot. Of course, it has a minimal plot, but unlike its successor, Voices of a Distant Star is less relatable, has a less engaging atmosphere and ultimately, less sad in a way.

Voices of a Distant Star revolves around Noboru Terao and his friend/classmate, Mikako Nagamine. It is evident in the beginning of the OVA that the both of them have feelings towards each other but for some reason, they never got together. Maybe it’s because of the fact that they weren’t exactly special acquaintances with each other, they merely happened to know each other in school. But when Mikako was enlisted into the UN Space Army and about to embark on a very, very long journey into space, for some reason, the feelings within the two of them grew and as days go by, their hearts become fonder.

UN Space Army? Fighting what? This is where it starts getting a little weird. Apparently, during space colonisation, humans encountered and fought against a group of aliens in a region in Mars named Tharsis, thus the aliens are named Tharsians. Here comes the questions…

Voices 1

Why was a school girl from Japan enlisted to join a top-secret space army at such a young age to fight aliens? Why was there a war with the aliens in the first place? What are they? And the most important question of all, how on Earth can you send an email in space?

Pretty surreal, but that’s what this OVA is centered around: the emails between Noboru and Mikako. Apparently, the farther the distance between the two of them, the longer the time-lag between as the time taken for the email to reach them is getting longer to the point when sending one email takes year to arrive.

For people who is in a long-distance relationship, this anime will ring very much true and will touch their hearts. As for the rest of us, we may have more questions than answers when we finish this OVA. Instead of feeling sad, we may experience confusion and take more time trying to comprehend this story rather than enjoying the story in its fullest.

Like many sad anime out there, shortness helps bring out the atmosphere and the despair of the anime but this OVA is way too short to be able to bring out the despair and tragicness of the story to its fullest, especially when it’s plot is so surreal.

Even though the OVA has many flaws in its presentation, I’d like to applaud the writers for presenting the story through not just one viewpoint like 5 Centimeters Per Second, but giving us the perspective of both Noboru and Makiko, doubling the sadness factor. And of course, Shinkai’s style of art is spectacular as always but the 3D animation feels a little out-of-place though I guess that can’t be helped they were on a tight budget.

All in all, this OVA should be taken as it is: an OVA. Nothing more. Because unlike in a movie, OVAs are too short to give an impact big enough to affect its viewers for a long time. Despite its many flaws, Voices of a Distant Star is a decent effort from Shinkai, and if you can overlook its flaws or you’re a fan of Shinkai’s art or story telling, then this is a great anime OVA that is a must watch. But I must warn you, if you’re not a fan of sad anime, or Shinkai, then I advise you against watching this. It may enrage you further and push away from watching sad anime altogether. You should watch 5 Centimeters Per Second first.

Now, if your perception of sad anime is something like Clannad Afterstory, well, here is a refreshing take on the sad anime genre. Despite its many flaws, it is a watch worthy of your time. Please do watch it.

Voices 2

If you’ve watched this OVA, here’s something about the OVA for you to think about. What do you think the Tarsians are? Why was it when Mikako was obviously overwhelmed by the Tarsian, the Tarsian did nothing to harm Mikako? And towards the end of the OVA, that mystical doppelganger that appeared to counsel Makiko, why did it take the form of a Tarsian? Does the Tarsians even mean any harm to the Earthlings or was it out of strategical convinience that the UN Space Army attack the Tarsians? Could this OVA end up being something like the ending from Ender’s Game?

Who knows, right? So, with mixed feelings, I shall go on to the next pile of feels.

Till the next pile of feels, sayonara.