If you haven’t noticed (which you probably haven’t because no one reads this blog), I haven’t posted much recently. I’ve been watching anime. A ton of anime. The desire to binge swept over me in March like something I’ve never felt before and every second of my free time was filled with a variety of different shows (or P5, obviously). In four weeks I watched seven anime and three movies. BAM. I impress even myself sometimes. So I thought I’d do some mini reviews in case anyone needs a good rec.
Movies first! The TV series are here!
3/5: Summer Wars
This wasn’t my first time seeing this movie. I watched it with my siblings in high school when it aired on Toonami. They loved it so much, they bought it on DVD. I wasn’t as impressed. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was a good movie, exciting, funny, constantly pushing forward. But it didn’t connect with me as much as director Mamoru Hosoda’s other film that I had seen (The Girl that Leapt Through Time is one of the greatest animated movies ever made. Fight me). Maybe it’s because I was comparing the two, but my thoughts on Summer Wars were lackluster for years. My second watch-through was much, much better.
The main reason for that is Koi Koi. In Summer Wars, Koi Koi, a tradition Japanese card games using a special deck of flower cards, is a huge plot point. Characters have meaningful conversation while playing Koi Koi. The final dramatic battle is a game of Koi Koi. So when three months ago, my friend from the gamer orchestra told me he had a Hanafuda deck and wanted to use it, I knew just the game we should learn to play. We learned Koi Koi and loved it. After playing is for a few weeks and buying my own deck, I proposed we watch Summer Wars so he could see it in action. And man, does knowing the game really add depth to the movie. So much of the movie’s symbolism and unspoken relationships can be traced in the games they play. It was eye-opening. And the movie is incredibly fun to boot. I have seen it before, and I was still cheering on King Kazma and laughing with the family. It took over five years but Summer Wars finally grew on me.
8/10, family fun, something for everyone!
3/9: Full Metal Alchemist (Live Action)
I try to go in to live action anime movies with an open mind. For Ghost in the Shell and Death Note, I went in expecting absolutely nothing and was pleasantly surprised. I am one of the only people I know that enjoyed the Ghost in the Shell movie. Yes, the acting was a little flat but I actually liked some of the changes they made and could appreciate the detail that went into the new additions. Death Note I was less enamored in but was still pleasantly surprised; it was a really good B-movie. I watched it with my friends and we had a great time. Misa’s change was super cool and near the end I couldn’t predict what was going to happen. I was on the edge of my seat, just like I was read the original. There are plenty of problems with the movie, but people need to lighten up. It was as entertaining as it was flawed, and there’s something to be said about that.
Unfortunately, I can’t find anything nice to say about the Full Metal Alchemist movie.
Well, I’m an optimist so maybe I can. The costumes where pretty cool. And the decision to film in Italy was a great choice; the environments were spectacular. But everything else, from the bad wigs to the bad acting to the absolutely horrible plot decisions just destroyed the film. If you want to be a carbon copy, do it. Don’t do it halfway and then use the other half of your effort to destroy a near-perfect story. Ghost in the Shell and Death Note stood out because they tried to be their own iteration of their respective media, even if they did fail in some places. FMA tried to recreate the anime without much creative spin (except in all the wrong places. Tucker? Envy?) and ruined itself.
4/10, would not recommend, would make eyes bleed.
3/20: In This Corner of the World
What a movie. I wasn’t expecting much from it, having heard almost nothing about this little gem on the internet. I only knew that it was good. I wanted to go see it when it aired in US theaters, but I couldn’t get there so I was pumped when it came out on Netflix. I have an anime podcast with my brother (Anime Doubleplay, hit us up) and I think what I tweeted on that account really sums up the film for me: “In This Corner of the World broke my heart softly. A great, quite film.” I would describe it as a mix of Grave of the Fireflies and Miss Hokusai, a telling portrayal of World War II Japan told in small but impactful vignettes. Like Miss Hokusai, there was no major, driving plot. It just followed the life of a girl going through the ups and downs of living. But see the progression of how her life changes from normal to war-torn is incredibly effective. It happens so slowly, but when you look back it feels like the blink of an eye.
There’s one major scene that stood out to me that I want to discuss quickly. Hopefully, I’ll be able to write a post about it one day. In all the anime portrayals I’ve seen of Japan losing WWII (what a spoiler, I know), all the characters are relieved that it’s over. They lost, but they can rebuild. They lost, but they can go on with their lives again. Suzu is not this person. She's the outlier. This fun, creative, quiet girl gets mad. She’s furious and angry and upset. “We’re still here!” she yells, “We can still fight! Why did we surrender?!” When she hears the radio broadcast, she runs out of the house and starts to weep. Japan fought with unspeakable violence only to lose to it; she wishes she died in the war, it would’ve saved her from realizing her honorable, loyal Japan fell to violence as easy as it raised it. It is a beautiful, raw moment in a beautiful film— one I have never seen anywhere else.
8.5/10, wow wow wow, unexpected good, not for those who like intriguing, eventful plots, pensive in its slow storytelling but highly effective.
Those are the anime movies I watched this month. I was about to watch Sleeping Princess but then something came up so I hope to tackle that in April. Check out the tsunami, the main portion of the anime flash flood: all the tv shows I watched. Get pumped. It's right here!