Looking back on 2014, appendix: the list

Although it feels like I’ve seen a lot more this year than in previous years, when I actually went and tallied it up, the total was about on par with what I covered in 2013. I’d like to proudly claim that I’ve added nothing to my backlog either, but that’s not strictly true, since I’m hoping to catch up on Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter [Sanzoku no Musume Ronja] and Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works as their second halves get underway… There are also a few others that I’m still considering, such as Knights of Sidonia, so they might just show up on the backlog next year, unless I’m able to get to them…

Nevertheless, I’d definitely seen enough to have some difficulty in selecting my list this year: 9 were lock-ins, and three spaces were up for grabs. In fact, I was still mulling over them as I finished three series that I hadn’t been so sure about, over my first real Christmas ‘break’ in four years (i.e. I wasn’t working in retail this year!). In the end, in terms of anime, I still settled for series that I’d watched at a more leisurely pace over the year, even without interacting that much with other viewers on them; obviously, something about the way that I pick what to watch is still working for me. There are shows that I somewhat regret not keeping/catching up with, but even though I can’t see myself remembering 2014 as a great year for this hobby of mine, ultimately, I’ll be quite happy to look back and see these 12 memories.

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who’s dropped by, hung around a bit, perhaps even taken the time to comment this year. Whilst I would probably be writing about my hobbies anyway, it’s the people I interact with who will always challenge me to read more widely, with the goal of always improving the quality of my writing and analysis. So thank you for your support and encouragement, and for challenging me to keep re-examining my arguments. And I look forward to seeing you again sometime this year, if what I write about still happens to interest you too.

And without further ado, here’s the list. Read more of this post

Looking back on 2014, part 12: the end of an era

In all honesty, could it have been anything else?

If I look back on the time I’ve spent in the ACG fandom so far, Kishimoto Masashi’s Naruto is arguably the one work that has never been too far from my mind. I may have paused my reading of it from time to time, but it would never be long before I would pick it up again. And whilst I agree with some of the common complaints about how long it dragged on for, or how irritating certain characters could be, I’ve never really given up on seeing this through to the end.

And now that the main story has ended – and it is certainly very weird not to be sitting down to a new chapter of Naruto every week! – I can say that I’m glad I stuck with it. Read more of this post

12 days bonus: some actual ‘moments’ I loved

Many of the memories I chose for 2014 ended up being themes and experiences that I dwelled on, rather than moments that just stay with me. I wonder if this might not have happened if I had actually kept up with my reviews properly…but that’s not going to do anything for my list this year. So, in just before I reveal what I regard as the most important thing that happened in my ACG appreciation last year, here are three ‘proper’ moments of shows that just missed out on the list this time around:

Rurouni Kenshin: Flames of Kyoto

Seeing this fight on the big screen was just fantastic! In fact, I really liked this second film – if I hadn’t gone on to see the third one straight after that, I think this would definitely have made it onto the actual list…

NB: There’s more to the fight, of course, so please watch the film!

The Circumstances of My Home’s Bathtub [Orenchi no Furo Jijou]

I’m with Tatsumi here – it’s hard not to fall in love with Mikuni ♡ !!

Tsukimonogatari: Yotsugi Doll

Saitou Chiwa ♡ And this is the problem when a show is broadcast at midnight on the final day of the year! Maybe I should just reserve a spot every year for Monogatari!

Until tomorrow then! Can anyone guess what my final post will be about? Well, I don’t think any of you reading this will have read much of my livejournal…so probably not… ^^;

Looking back on 2014, part 11: and the anime of the year is…

Silver Spoon [Gin no Saji]

If someone were to accuse me of giving Silver Spoon my ‘Anime of the Year’ award simply because I didn’t know what to highlight about it for this celebration of 2014…that would certainly have a degree of truth in it. I had wanted to return to Hachiken’s assertion that he would keep thinking about what it means to be raising animals for food, but that’s a scene from yesteryear.

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I… I…ca…

And then I also remembered the other things I loved about the series:

  • Its eccentric cast of characters
  • The hijinks of boarding school: whilst some things are unique, teenagers will be teenagers
  • The appreciation of fresh food and how absolutely delicious it is
  • The challenges that farmers in Japan face in trying to make a living (for all the criticism that people have of Japan’s protectionist practices, I honestly wish that more people would decide to buy local produce where possible. I know that some things really aren’t practical — for example, trying to grow fruit in an arid country – but I do think that some home grown food is worth protecting!)
  • All the events and incidents that show how people grow from facing challenges head on, and trying to work out what they can do with what they’ve gotten.
  • The fact that this series managed to get me to try cracking a raw egg over steaming rice…and absolutely love it!
I’m with you there, Hachiken! うまい!!

It’s really difficult for me to pin down why Silver Spoon has sat on the back of my mind all year, because there is so much to like about it (and more). If there’s anything that could make it better, it’s a sequel. So here’s to hoping we get one!

12 days bonus 3: the Sawano-Shimura tag-team!

Sawano Hiroyuki, who’s responsible for the music, posted a rather cute A/Z pun on twitter to welcome in the new year… And Shimura-sensei couldn’t help herself:

“Happy NeVers Year!!
I look forward to working with you a-Slaine this year! (just j/k!)”

And I obviously couldn’t help myself either… orz. Shimura-sensei has posted a whole lot more art than this though, so do check her tumblr out!

12 days bonus 2: an impossible request

Here’s Shimura-sensei’s countdown for today:

T-minus 6 days!

And here’s what Yuki actually wanted to do…

Read more of this post

12 days bonus: Merry Christmas! from Shimura Takako

Told you that A/Z disrupts my posting rhythm!

(Admittedly, this was more because I forgot to add this to yesterday’s post… ^^; )

Inko and Inaho ♡

“Um..Inaho…are you sure you’re ok with this?
It’s fine. I promised I’d wear it if I lost at rock, paper scissors, after all…
But even then…it’s like you have nothing to say about it at all…
Well, other than it being a little breezy, it’s not really inconvenient or anything.
That so…”

And here are the others Shimura-sensei posted
over Christmas and Boxing Day:

Read more of this post

Looking back on 2014, part 10: succumbing to the marketing machine

If there’s one series that’s disrupted my posting rhythm over the last three months, it can only be Aldnoah.Zero. I did enjoy the first cour as it was airing, but I really did not expect to follow it that closely as we waited for the second season that begins next Saturday night. Whilst the ending to the first half was arguably calculated to have viewers itching for any bit of news they could get their hands on, the atmosphere in the English-speaking forums was actually putting me off.

On September 29, the marketing machine ramped up again…

But then the A/Z marketing machine grabbed hold of me and just didn’t let go. The first hook was Director Aoki Ei’s appearance on the radio show the week following the airing of episode 12, where he made some interesting comments on the creation of the characters and story, and also on the path it would subsequently take. Admittedly, interviews alluding to the same developments had already been distributed throughout Japan, but I only found out when I went looking for them over the last two months or so. So what was the key difference? Well, I happened to be in Japan over the fall…

But even then, I really didn’t have a clue as to what was going on. Read more of this post

Looking back on 2014, part 9: I’m a human being, just like you!

It’s frustrating…this was my last chance!

The first cour of Your Lie in April (aka KimiUso) has had an incredibly mixed reception. At one extreme, some of the key musical moments are absolutely glorious; at the other extreme, a lot of people both in Japan and overseas have been taken aback by the bullying and abuse that the main character, Arima Kousei, has been subjected to. There has also been a backlash amongst Western anime fans over the messages that the show seems to be backing with regards to musical genius and gender. I, too, was somewhat uncomfortable with the comic violence, though perhaps I am slightly more forgiving about how it’s used in ACG media than other people are. And I won’t lie: watching this show immediately after Psycho-Pass each week made its bright cheeriness more enticing than it might otherwise have been. But with regards to at least some of the complaints and criticisms, I personally feel that viewers have tried to judge this story far too soon. Every step in Kousei’s journey back to the stage so far has revealed more and more details about why he stopped playing two years ago. And as he tells Aiza after his messy return performance, he’s still in the middle of that journey: I honestly think that we should allow him to find more solid ground before we make up our minds on the messages that mangaka Arakawa Naoshi is trying to convey.

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We lost… I’m so frustrated that we lost!

That’s basically how I’ve been approaching this series, and at the end of this first cour, I would say that KimiUso isn’t about Kousei overcoming abuse and bullying to stand on stage again: it’s about him stepping out of the role that everyone else had pigeoned him into, that of the emotionless, technically perfect ‘human metronome’. And that’s why Kousei’s realisation in episode 11 is the moment I hold above everything else so far, for it speaks to what makes us human: the desire to rise from failure and try again.

I’m a human being, just like you!

Looking back on 2014, part 8: the noitaminA café ate my weekends!

Merry Christmas!!
p.s. here’s a look at some of the other postcards you could have gotten from this Christmas campaign…

If you’re a noitaminA fan, then this is one experience you really shouldn’t be missing when you make it to Japan. Perhaps you’ve heard of the noitaminA café – there’s one in Osaka as well, but the main one is at Odaiba, an artificially constructed island in the Tokyo Bay area that has become a well-known leisure area. It may in fact sound familiar, for you’ve probably heard of the life-sized Gundam that hangs around outside Odaiba’s Diver City. Furthermore, this island is also the location of Tokyo Big Sight, the convention center where Comiket is held twice a year. However, though I do still want to check Comiket out at least once, I think that my favourite place on Odaiba will always be the noitaminA café. And one thing that I would say defined my stint in Japan this year involved tripsing out there to watch the two noitaminA series each week! Read more of this post