Summer 2017! Well, sort of…

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If I’m honest…I have to confess that I completely skipped the summer season. I watched just one episode of Welcome to the Ballroom and five episodes of Saiyuki Reload Blast, but I have yet to finish either of them. I also watched two older series, which I’ll comment briefly on below. In the end, the only ‘new’ anime I watched during the summer season were actually the three films that were screened, for free, at AnimeFest in August. But those were their debuts in the West, so they count, right? Read more of this post

Reflections on Spring and Pick that Voice!!

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Well…this sure is late, though there are reasons for it. The biggest one—and this may come as a surprise to some—is that I pretty much stopped watching anime towards the end of the season, and it took me a while to finish even the two spring shows I’d been watching. I’ll discuss the main reason why when I do another of my “where I’ve been” updates, hopefully sooner rather than later. But for the moment, let me just look at the shows I watched before I took off on my li’l US trip. Read more of this post

Reflections on Winter and Pick that Voice!!

Of course, there is one show that will not show up here, because it deserves several essays of its own. But even if we hadn’t had the wonderful story that is Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, winter wouldn’t have been so bad. In fact, the season that has just began looks to be even drier for me. Well, I’ll gladly take the opportunity to keep watching Yamamoto Sayo’s previous offerings, whilst also savouring a bit more of The Eccentric Family!

But before I get to those, here’s most of my winter 2017 viewing experience! Read more of this post

A Love Letter to 2016, postscript: the list…and a brief look at what’s in store for 2017!

And so, that was my 2016 in Anime. I definitely have not enjoyed a year in anime this much since at least 2010—and to be honest, I’m not even sure I enjoyed that year as much as I did this one. I should probably admit that most of it comes down to one anime, and one anime alone. When I started following figure skating a couple of years back, and dove even deeper into it over the 2015-2016 season, I honestly did not expect that I’d be able to marry these two hobbies of mine so soon. So Yuri!!! on ICE was a huge revelation for me, even though I soon found myself in the tiny group within the fandom that loved it primarily as a show about the sport. Despite the production issues that ultimately prevented the show from surpassing Rakugo Shinju as my top TV pick, I will never stop praising Yamamoto-san and Kubo-sensei for the story they set out to tell. But I’ll spare you any more gushing at this point—in exchange for the warning that there’ll be several more thousands of words over the next few months!

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Looking back now, I think I definitely spent quite a few more hours on this hobby this past year compared to the previous one. Although I cut down a lot on my forum participation—the frustrations I started feeling in 2015 only got worse in 2016, though that’s a rant for another day—it wasn’t difficult for me to fill that space. Besides my two trips to Japan, I also found myself translating a whole lot more, what with the On ‘Anime Writing’ project that I launched in April and, more recently, all the Yuri!!! on ICE stuff has been posted both here and elsewhere. I hope you’ve found them useful and, in some cases, fun and amusing!

Many thanks to those of you who’ve read my stuff and left comments and feedback! This kind of effort would not be worth it if you were not around, and I hope you’ve found my posts useful or interesting in some way or other. Thank you especially to the other bloggers and translators I’ve been working with (you know who you are). Translating behind-the-scenes material to share is something that I’ve loved doing ever since I started back in 2010/2011, and I’m incredibly grateful that you’ve helped me get even better translations out there this year. And thank you also to everyone else who’s interacted with me on Twitter and Tumblr, where I’ve had many an interesting discussion. I’m still something of a small fry in this little corner of the fandom, so I’m a bit stunned at how many people followed me…especially since I have some rather unpopular interpretations of a number of popular or critically acclaimed shows! But if you don’t mind that, then I hope to see you around in the coming year as well!

Looking ahead, I do have some rather ambitious plans on the translation and blogging front, including several more editorials about how screenwriting ‘fits’ into the anime production process. Some of it will have to wait until I’ve sorted the non-anime side of my life out over the next few months. But in the meantime, you can expect more YOI stuff…as well as an interview with a pair of veteran voice actors about a show that’s returning to our screens tonight!

And of course, as usual, the list is under the cut! Read more of this post

A Love Letter to 2016, part 12: can you hear A Silent Voice?

Finally, it comes to this. My Anime of the Year is one that I can’t really talk about because so few people in the English-speaking fandom have seen it! It’s been three months already, but each passing day only increases my desire to see A Silent Voice once again.

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Of course, I don’t know if it will have the same impact the second (third, fourth etc etc) time around. I’m also a little wary of building up expectations too high, as you know that there are always going to be people, especially fans of the original manga, who’ll want to see justice done to the parts they liked. To me, however, this film was just about perfect.

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And that’s why my final love letter of 2016 goes to A Silent Voice.

A Love Letter to 2016, part 11: staging love and tragedy in Rakugo Shinju

And here’s the very first show that cemented it’s place on this list, right at the start of this year. As I noted back in April, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū is the first and, thus far, the only anime TV series to which I’ve ever given a full 10 out of 10 rating on MAL. Not because it has the best animation or sound, not because it has the most enjoyable story, and not because it was an entertaining show to partake in as part of the fandom. Rather, Rakugo is one of those shows where all of its component elements—its story, visual style, sound design and entertainment value—all came together in a manner that elevated it far, far above the sum of its parts.

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I would, however, particularly like to celebrate one aspect of anime that I’ve yet to celebrate for any other title on this list. Though relatively minor in terms of the amount of time they would have spent compared to the production staff, the voice actors who inhabited our three main characters are key to Rakugo’s storytelling. It helps that all three of them are amongst the best that the industry has to offer: Ishida Akira, Yamadera Kōichi and Hayashibara Megumi are, in a word, giants. And yet, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Ishida, in particular, deliver a better performance. Granted, I haven’t heard every single piece of voice work that he has done, but as Kikuhiko and the seventh generation Yakumo, a role spanning decades, he’s encapsulated and expressed vulnerability, joy, longing, despair…and so many other emotions. Each time I rewatch any part of the first season, I learn something new simply by listening to what he—along with Yamadera and Hayashibara—has invested into this show.

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And so, my eleventh love letter to anime in 2016 goes to the love triangle of Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū, and I pray that Kiku/Yakumo will find something of solace before the final curtain falls on us later this Winter season.

A Love Letter to 2016, part 10: I want to know your name.

Just three left! I’m embarrassed to admit, however, that your name. nearly didn’t make it onto this year-ender. As I noted a couple of months back, I’ve never been a big Shinkai Makoto fan, largely because his films have always felt somewhat ‘cold’ to me. His latest offering has definitely changed that—after I caught it for the second time when Madman brought it Down Under, it squeezed a couple of the other candidates that I’d been considering off this list. I just loved seeing Mitsuha and Taki find each other once again.

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(source)

** WARNING ** SPOILERS AHEAD **

Read more of this post

A Love Letter to 2016, part 9: 91 Days of pathos

Looking back now, this next pick of mine has not aged as well as all the other shows on this list. 91 Days, which ended just one season ago, left me with a huge lump in my throat as the final credits rolled. However, the sheer level of animation that I’ve treated myself to over the last three months has made even skimming through to find screenshots rather painful.

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What made 91 Days work was probably its writing. Again, this wasn’t always perfect—I remember seeing someone comment, quite early on, that his historian brother was quite disgruntled at the unrealistic American countryside and mafia lingo that the writers had decided to go with. Admittedly, some of the latter could be fixed with a good dub script. If anyone’s seen the Funimation dub, please let me know if that’s worth a watch.

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Where the show excelled, on the other hand, was in the story arcs of its characters. As the Josei Next Door has discussed in great detail over at the Anime Evo, there are a lot of subtle details that illustrate where both Angelo and Nero start from and the lessons that they learn through the course of the Shakespearean-like tragedy that we see them living out over those 91 days. A strong knowledge of Shakespeare will help you pick up on all that subtlety, but even if you’re somewhat lacking in that department—like yours truly—the show packs a powerful punch in its last few episodes.

And so, my ninth love letter I write this year goes to Nero and Angelo, wherever they may be.

A Love Letter to 2016, part 8: and the Euphonium sings again

Moving on to the series that took my AOTY crown last year. This year, I was spoilt for choice with Sound! Euphonium. I really enjoyed the second season, especially the scene in episode 10 where Kumiko confronted Asuka, only to have her own major flaw laid out in front of her. What’s really great about that scene, however, was that Kumiko pulled herself together and said what she really thought, a shift that then continued through the rest of the series in the context of her other important relationships. So whilst certain parts of the fandom railed at various developments in this second season, I absolutely loved what we were presented with, especially from that episode 10 scene onwards.

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However, it was in a little cinema way out in Chiba prefecture that I found the Eupho experience that I remember most fondly from 2016. Two and a half hours out there, two and a half hours back, and about an hour and a half hanging out in a tiny, half-deserted mall…admittedly, the cinema staff were dressed up that day promoting Alice Through the Looking Glass, which was fun to watch. But the real reward was undoubtedly the 103 minutes in that darkened cinema, culminating in a wonderful rendition of “Crescent Moon Dance.” There are no words that can adequately convey what it felt like, but if I had to choose just one, then I’d say that it was, quite simply, overwhelming.

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And so I dedicate my eighth love letter to anime in 2016 to that glorious, ephemeral experience, one that I will cherish for a long, long time.

A Love Letter to 2016, part 7: the Kizumonogatari Inferno

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Next on my list is the film that arguably got me paying a little more attention to sakuga, that is, the animation aspect of anime: Kizumonogatari: Tekketsu-hen. I have to admit: the only reason I sat down to watch this one this year—rather than waiting to watch all three Kizu films at once—was that I found Nekketsu still playing at cinemas when I landed in Tokyo at the end of September. Having avoided most of the promotional material out of a desire not to spoil the experience, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. And this is the main thing I remembered:

Watching Nekketsu straight after that was a bit of a deflating experience, I have to admit. I think I just couldn’t get the impact of this scene out of my head, and I dearly wish I’d had the chance to see it on the big screen. I’m madly envious of all the US fans who got a theatrical release of both films back in October!

In any case, now that the second BD is out, we’re all just waiting for Reiketsu to drop. Japanese fans will get it in just one week! Unfortunately, I doubt I’ll be able to catch it at the cinema this time, and thus probably won’t be able to get hold of that third movie pamphlet to complete my collection. But I’ll still be grateful that I had that chance to see at least one film on the big screen, and hope that Madman will manage to bring all three Down Under one day.

Hence, it’s to the Kizumonogatari films that my seventh love letter of 2016 goes.