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Fall Anime 2018 Staff Viewer’s Guide

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The fall anime season is well underway and as usual there is a plethora of different shows to choose from.  Many series are well into at least their fourth episode at this point, which means some valid impressions can be drawn, thus far. We’ve compiled a list of the shows the GoombaStomp anime crew has been watching this season and their thoughts on them. While this isn’t all-encompassing, it should be more than enough to help decide the all-important decision of what to pick up. If you’re in need of what to check out this season, look no further than here.

(List in no particular order.)

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai

With a name like that, it immediately becomes rather difficult to take this show seriously. Despite that self-imposed obstacle, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai demonstrates that it’s not just dreaming with its head up in the clouds.

The story picks up with smug high schooler Sakuta Azusagawa encountering the equally smug high schooler Mai Sakurajima… except Mai is in a bunny girl outfit. The titular bunny girl senpai is afflicted by something that comes to be known as “Adolescent Syndrome” which prevents all those around her from perceiving her existence except for Sakuta.

While a term like Adolescent Syndrome seems like something from the overactive imagination of a pubescent high schooler, that’s not to downplay the maturity of the entirety of the script here.

Both Sakuta and Mai are sarcastic to a T yet are still capable of being honest with their own feelings as well as say what needs to be said. The interplay between these two is where the show really shines, with witty remarks mixed with half-truths and double entendres firing off in every which direction that bring to mind the very definition of “Well played.”

The Adolescent Syndrome part of the show, however, is still rather hand-wavy, calling famous experiments and theories into question, such as Schrodinger’s Cat, but never really doing much with them. As it stands, this vaporous affliction will be the main driving force of the drama in the show which may turn out to be a little cheap, but if it means seeing more of the stellar verbal battles between Sakuta and Mai then that’s a price worth paying. (By Matthew Ponthier)

Highly Recommended

Watch on: Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Funimation

Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind

Jojos Bizarre Adventure

A testament to the excellence of experimental storytelling, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure scratches that itch for weirdness. Part five of the Joestar journey, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind (adapted from its manga counterpart, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Vento Aureo) is Giorno Giovanna’s story, an up-and-coming gangster in Naples, Italy.

Oh, and he’s also the son of series super baddie Dio Brando.

Koichi Hirose travels to Italy on orders of Jotaro Kujo. There, he investigates Giorno’s ties to Dio. Meanwhile, Giorno goes about infiltrating the notorious mafia gang Passione to uproot its corruption and defeat its villainous boss.

With crazy Stands boasting popular music names like Black Sabbath and Sex Pistols, dazzling action and animation, and a heavy helping of homo-erotica, Golden Wind is delivering everything fans crave: a little bit of bizarre, a little bit of wow, and a little bit of gay.

What more does anyone need? (By Harry Morris)

Highly Recommended

Watch on: Crunchyroll

That Time I Got Reincarnated As a Slime

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime bucks classic isekai tradition by having its main character reincarnate not as a hero or even as a human, but as a useless slime. It then bucks tradition further by giving said slime god-like abilities that make it a fearsome combatant who literally oozes a terrifying aura.

Rimuru, the newly-reborn slime, can heal wounds, transform, shoot water blades, and so much more. This intense power coming from a boring slime sets the scene for hilarity abound, similar to One Punch Man. Watching a blob become the king of a village of goblins or dismantle an army of wolves is entertaining to watch, even more so with Rimuru’s misunderstanding of how this new world works.

The world itself is different enough from other isekai, with its own weird rules and power structures. Discovering it along with Rimuru is a treat in its own right.

Rimuru’s endless power is already making the show a little hard to watch, however. While the show is primarily a comedy and the godly slime is great at making humorous scenes happen, the narrative is hard to take seriously when every problem can be solved by single character with almost no effort. The opening animation makes it seem like huge battles and dangerous enemies are on the horizon, but it’s hard to imagine anything will be a threat to a protagonist who can cause 34 people to soil themselves with an attack that wasn’t even aimed at them.

This is fun for now, but it might get old if it keeps up. Time will tell if the humor can keep the show going or if the stakes will be raised high enough for the drama to take center stage. Hopefully one or the other, because the show has a lot of potential and it would suck to watch it fizzle out. (By Paul Palumbo)

Highly Recommended

Watch on: Crunchyroll and Funimation

SSSS.Gridman

SSSSGridman

Studio TRIGGER has never been one to play by the conventional rules of anime, for better and for worse. SSSS.Gridman feels like a culmination of the lessons they’ve learned from their myriad of projects and that too, is for better and for worse.

The story immediately picks up with highschooler Yuuta awakening without his memories. He’s taken care of by his classmates, Rikka and Shou, and is able to regain some semblance of stability at school with their assistance.

These slice-of-life segments are where Gridman excels. Cramped camera shots manage to shrink the screen to a smaller size than it actually is. The complete and utter lack of background music emphasizes ambient noises and conversations happening around the characters of interest. A snappy script creates an ebb and flow in conversations that incorporate pauses and silence just as well as quick-witted remarks. All these elements combine together to create a level of intimacy unrivaled within the anime industry.

…But then a kaiju appears (hulking, Godzilla-like monsters) and all those elements go right out the window.

Yuuta’s role is to pilot Gridman, a talking robot that resides digitally within a computer until a kaiju threaten the city. Fights between Gridman and the kaiju are bombastic and over-the-top, and even manage to use CGI in eye-catching ways, but these bouts feel disconnected from the rest of the show.

The issue of the kaiju menace is more or less swept under the rug and as a result, the fights feel like something tacked on because a TRIGGER anime can’t be without them.

Despite that, SSSS.Gridman is still worth checking out due to the sheer brilliance in cinematography on display. The kaiju plotline will hopefully evolve into something more meaningful but until then just being pulled into the same room as Yuuta and Co. is enjoyable enough. (By Matthew Ponthier)

Recommended

Watch on: Crunchyroll and Funimation

A Certain Magical Index Season III

A Certain Magical Index III

Seven years after the conclusion of its second season, A Certain Magical Index III pops up by surprise.

Despite being fifty episodes deep, this story is as undercooked as ever. The battle between science and religion continues, but with little explanation of who’s fighting and why. A Certain Magical Index III’s anchoring point is its cast of unrelatable characters, from the irritatingly immature Index to the zero-dimensional T?ma.

With character decisions and motives that are unnatural and unexplained, forgettable story beats, and a weird peppering of misogyny, A Certain Magical Index should’ve stayed in hibernation.

Hopefully, the upcoming third season of A Certain Scientific Railgun, the superior spin-off series about Mikoto and co., fares better. It’s surprising how much of a difference some semi-likable characters and a half-decent story make. (By Harry Morris)

Not Recommended

Watch on: Crunchyroll and Funimation

UzaMaid!

UzaMaid

Uchi no Maid ga Uzasugiru! (aka UzaMaid) isn’t the most creative comedy to come out in recent years, but that doesn’t stop it from already being one of the most enjoyable. Former Japanese Self-Defense Force officer Tsubame Kamoi is 28, recently unemployed, and has an alarmingly creepy affinity for young girls with white skin and blonde hair. Enter Misha Takanashi, a young Russian/Japanese child who’s closed herself off from the outside world following the passing of her mother. Through a short series of events best seen firsthand, Tsubame inevitably becomes both the family maid and Misha’s babysitter.

Tsubame’s outrageous schemes to get close to Misha and Misha’s complete disgust towards the perverted maid have already inspired some truly laugh-out-loud moments. The show pushes the lolicon angle as far as it’ll go (at one point Tsubame explicitly promises to love Misha “even after her first period”), but everything is portrayed in such an over-the-top fashion that it never comes across as vile or unwatchable.

What’s perhaps most surprising, though, is the amount of heart UzaMaid shows as it touches on Misha’s relationship with her late mother. These melancholy moments of reflection do a great job of balancing out the humor and making viewers really feel for her loss. It’s hard not to cheer Misha on for finally having a woman figure in her life (perverted comments and fantasies aside). I can’t wait to see where the show goes from here—it’s a great turn-your-brain-off, genuinely funny comedy. (By Brent Middleton)

Recommended

Watch on: Crunchyroll

FLCL Alternative

FLCL Alternative

The original FLCL is an absolute masterpiece of animation and storytelling. It strikes the perfect balance between un-fucking-subtle innuendo and thoughtful subtext. Nearly two decades later, the cult classic has returned with two new seasons: Progressive and Alternative. True to their titles, Progressive and Alternative are rock music to their core. There’s a youthful energy that brims beneath, filled with adolescent nostalgia and suburban ennui.

Where Progressive took a more cerebral approach, Alternative makes no attempt at subtlety. It’s a fairly straightforward story of saying goodbye to your teenage years. The show’s efforts to be sincere and wholesome prevent it from being pretentious. Alternative may not be as visually interesting or dynamic as its predecessors, but it makes up for it with strong characters backed up by equally strong themes.

FLCL Alternative follows 17-year-old Kana Koumoto, an average everyday high school student who’s perfectly content with her average everyday life. But as she muses at the beginning and end of the season: “Familiarity can be a novelty.”

Alternative focuses on Kana and her three best friends, each of whom struggle with what it really means to be an adult. Their genuine love and affection for one another gives this season a heart that beats with joy, sadness, and wonder.

There’s a certain indescribable melancholy that comes with realizing you have to grow up. Kana fights against it with all her might, but her journey through Alternative is one of acceptance. Time doesn’t stand still; that’s all the more reason to treasure the time that you have now.

Making her return to the FLCL universe is the peppy pink-haired bombshell, Haruko Haruhara. Unlike her previous incarnations, Haruko this time around is far more mellow and mature. She still possesses the wild sense of Fooly Cooly that we all know and love, but her laid-back demeanor acts as a perfect foil to Kana.

Fans of the original FLCL will undoubtedly compare it to this new season. That’s natural. However, Alternative recognizes that and makes a valiant effort to stand on its own. You, as the viewer, can help it step out of that shadow and give it the chance it deserves. (By Kyle Rogacion)

Highly Recommended

Watch on: Adult Swim

Run With The Wind

Run with the Wind

As far as sports anime go, Production I.G. has quite the reputation with shows such as Haikyuu!! And Kuroko’s Basket under their belts. That expertise comes through in Run With The Wind but the show is held back on the basic principle of its sport of choice: running.

After being roped into moving into a shoddy-looking dorm, university student Kakeru finds out that he inadvertently was drafted onto the school’s newly formed track and field team by its captain, Haiji. The problem being that Haiji and Kakeru are the only ones with any substantial amount of track and field experience.

If anything, Run With The Wind has a colorful cast of characters each with their own quirks and excuses for wiggling out of practice that Haiji is proficient in squashing. Haiji’s dream of taking the team to the top in Japan’s league in 10 short months sounds absurd at best, and that’s reflected in Kakeru’s negative attitude.

It doesn’t help that running isn’t necessarily the most thrilling thing to watch, so Run With The Wind seems to be electing to fill the gaps in with drama. While drama in sports anime can be done well, here we seem to be falling into the tried and true tropes of a brooding protagonist at the top of his game that can’t bring himself to open up to his teammates. It’s a tired formula that isn’t particularly exciting anymore so hopefully, Run With The Wind will be able to evolve past that in coming episodes. (By Matthew Ponthier)

Wait and See

Watch on: Crunchyroll

Bloom Into You

Bloom Into You

Bloom Into You completely shattered my expectations going into the season. Far from a forced yuri romance anime, Bloom Into You has developed its characters with surprising grace and complexity.

Freshman Yuu Koito is devastated that despite wanting to experience love more than anything, she’s simply never been able to. It isn’t that she’s despondent or uninterested; she just doesn’t have those feelings. Meanwhile, the incredibly popular sophomore Touko Nanami has been struggling with a similar issue—no matter who confesses to her or tries to court her, none of them ever manage to make her heart race. Just like Yuu, she takes this to mean that she’ll never fall in love with anyone.

While this setup might seem predictable, what happens by the end of the first episode is anything but. Bloom Into You has had such a strong start to the season because it plays off of what the audience expects and instead gives viewers genuinely heartfelt insights into how different people deal with love. What does it take to get over a rejection, or to close oneself off from the possibility of heartbreak?

Yuu as a protagonist is incredibly refreshing in her emotional strength and honesty. Similarly, several of the supporting cast have already raised profound questions about human nature and why we act the way that we do when confronted with feelings of love or rejection. It’s still early in the season, but I’d wholeheartedly recommend that you keep an eye on this show. (By Brent Middleton)

Highly Recommended

Watch on: HiDive

Iroduka: The World In Colors

Iroduka World in Colors

P.A. Works has always been famous for their ability to take real-life locations and translate them to immersive and compelling anime worlds. Even with that established pedigree, they have managed to outdo themselves with Iroduka: The World In Colors.

A young mage who dislikes magic for an undisclosed reason is suddenly sent to the past by her grandmother for another undisclosed reason. That “past” is actually our time, the year 2018, and our protagonist, Hitomi, has been told to seek out her high-school-aged grandmother in this time period.

The story is told in a very subdued manner and the commonplace magic of this world just as much so. The core mystery of why Hitomi was sent to the past is intriguing enough, but it’s also clear that that plotline will be a slow burn. So far there is very little urgency involved but that’s made up for by the wholesome and heartwarming interactions between the characters. If anything this is more akin to a slice-of-life series with a sprinkle of magical elements.

On a purely technical level, the recreated Nagasaki in the show is absolutely breath-taking. Every building, every sign-post, every plant has been lovingly brought to life through meticulous animation. This becomes even more relevant with the story’s focus on colors, photography, and art, displaying various sceneries and landscapes combined with dynamic camera angles and special effects creating moments that are nothing short of gorgeous. (By Matthew Ponthier)

Highly Recommended

Watch on: Amazon

Ms. Vampire who lives in my neighborhood.

Ms. Vampire is exactly the kind of show you expect it to be, and one that you’ve probably seen before. High school student Akari accidentally stumbles upon a vampire named Sophie, who rather than being a bloodthirsty monster is an all-around chill creature with the body of a cute girl and an affinity for watching anime. An unlikely friendship is born as Akari decides that it’s a great idea to move in with Sophie. The rest is history, or in this case episodes 2-12.

That isn’t to say it’s a bad show, because the setup is ripe for comedy. Ms. Vampire stays surprisingly close to vampire mythos (Sophie doesn’t just “want blood sometimes,” it’s the only thing she can consume), which means the situations are bizarre and follow strict rules. A lot of the best humor comes from exploring the scenario of being a modern-day vampire and all the silliness that comes with it.

There’s a sense of awareness in the show as well, as many of the characters understand the bizarreness of an anime-obsessed vampire and the high schooler who is desperately in love with her. Many of the funniest parts are one-liners and other jokes that make it clear this is not a show that’s supposed to be taken seriously.

What Ms. Vampire is, however, is unremarkable. While funny and worth watching for fans of such series, it’s unlikely to be anybody’s favorite anime ever. Nothing about the premise or execution stand out among other shows that turn monster icons into cute anime girls. Ms. Vampire is a simple slice-of-life that so far hasn’t made any strides to become more than the sum of its parts, but not every show can be a groundbreaking event of the season. For what it is, Ms. Vampire is perfectly fine. (By Paul Palumbo)

Indifferent

Watch on: Crunchyroll

My Sister, My Writer

My Sister My WriterThe premise of My Sister, My Writer will undoubtedly draw comparisons to last year’s divisive Eromanga-sensei—and for good reason. The story sees aspiring light novel author Yu Nagami discover that his standoffish little sister has secretly become a successful author herself. Due to her status as student body president of her school, however, she’s forced to write under a fake name. When opportunities start arising that require her to attend events in person, she recruits Yu to assume her identity.

My Sister shakes things up just enough to be different. Suzuka is popular and has no problem being out and about, but she’s also a tsundere who scolds Yu and gets jealous easily. There’s no significant age gap between Yu and Suzuka, but there’s still a palpable underlying romantic tension between the siblings.

The supporting cast provides some of the most interesting moments of the show so far, but they aren’t particularly original. The duo’s inexperienced editor’s over-willingness to help “inspire” Yu’s writing is silly yet fun, and the emerging relationship between Yu and fellow light novel author Mai Himuro shows a bit of promise.

Unfortunately, there just isn’t much overall quality to be found here. The writing, while serviceable, is terribly uninspired. It’s just enough to keep fans of the genre hanging on, but it relies on familiar tropes and eye candy far too heavily. Similarly, My Sister, My Writer‘s animation is some of the worst that I’ve seen from a modern anime, period. The bland environments, jarring facial expressions and lack of attention to detail in general only get worse with the second and third episodes. The show ends up feeling like a rather lethargic watch hampered by low production values and lazy, minimal effort writing. (By Brent Middleton)

Not Recommended

Watch on: Crunchyroll

Zombieland Saga

Zombieland Saga

“I can’t believe I got tricked into watching an idol show.” – some reddit user

Truth be told, I was kind of tricked as well. Fellow Goomba Stomp writer Matt convinced me to watch it by simply saying “Just do it.” I’d advise you to do the same.

Zombieland Saga follows Sakura Minamoto, an aspiring idol singer who starts off the series dying in a brutal head-on collision. Years later she awakens as a zombie with no memory of her life before she died. She’s quickly recruited (read: forced) by her producer Kotaro into forming an idol group with six other members.

Prepare to kick reason to the curb, as rule-of-cool is the MO here and it works to hilarious effect. Zombieland Saga barrels through its 24 minutes with clever visual gags, meta jokes, and fun character interactions.

What makes this more than a gag show is a diverse cast, each with their own personality quirks. Whether it’s the delinquent biker Saki, the Meiji-era courtesan Yugiri, or “The Legendary Tae Yamada”, much of the show’s wackiness comes from how the characters play off each other.

True to its premise, Zombieland Saga has some genuinely catchy music covering a wide spread of genres. In the first three episodes alone, there’s kawaii death metal, a rap battle, and a peppy idol performance that would give Love Live a run for its money. The show isn’t bound by logic and it revels in that freedom.

MAPPA is quickly making a name for itself with series like Rage of Bahamut, Kakegurui, and now Zombieland Saga. With only four episodes out so far, there’s no telling where this batshit crazy is going to take us. But isn’t that the fun of it? (By Kyle Rogacion)

Highly Recommended

Watch on: Crunchyroll and Funimation

Sword Art Online: Alicization

Sword Art Online Alicization

The Sword Art Online series gets a lot of flak, most of which is justly deserved. This new season has a lot to prove in order to win back the faith of the fans and, to the surprise of many, it’s actually managing just that.

Sword Art Online: Alicization brings back two aspects the series had been missing ever since the original Aincrad story arc back in 2012: genuine world building and genuine mystery and intrigue in said world. The first episode will leave even series veterans taken back and confused as it seemingly “reboots” everything we know about the virtual world. The new virtual world Kirito finds himself in due to certain circumstances is the most realized to date, providing many interesting facets to ponder on.

The world isn’t the only thing that has evolved, as the writing and script have seen a marked improvement over past seasons. Kirito and other series mainstays show a level of maturity that reflects the growth they’ve undergone from the many experiences they’ve had.

It helps that for the first time ever we have a prominent new male character, Eugeo, who plays a pivotal role in the story. He and Kirito quickly form a strong camaraderie and seeing Kirito finally interact with a character on a regular basis that isn’t of the fairer sex exposes new aspects of his personality not seen before.

It seems strange to be into Sword Art Online again, but Alicization truly seems to be taking a step back and reevaluating the hands it can play, and the hand it has played just might be able to start making up for the deficit. (By Matthew Ponthier)

Highly Recommended

Watch on: Crunchyroll, Hulu, and Funimation

As Miss Beezelbub Likes

As Miss Beezelbub Likes

From the cotton candy color palette, to the saccharine dialogue, to the literal fluff-balls that litter the screen in some scenes, As Miss Beezelbub Likes is the definition of “fluff” that invites the viewer to come relax and decompress.

The story technically takes place in “Hell”, but due to the aforementioned features, the setting may as well be a generic fantasy. Beezelbub herself (yes, herself) runs the entire operation but is too lazy and easily distracted to actually get anything done without ample motivation. That’s where out cookie-cutter protagonist, Mullin, comes in to straighten her out as her assistant.

The plot is as non-existent as it sounds which is fine because that’s not the point of the show. The point is to take these big scary devils and fallen angels, like Azazel and Belphegor, personify them as cute anime characters, throw them in a castle and watch them squirm.

The character interactions are rather bare bones and nothing that hasn’t been done before at least a thousand times but they’re still entertaining enough to be serviceable. If you’re looking for a show to turn off your brain at after a hard day at work, you could certainly do worse than this one. (By Matthew Ponthier)

Indifferent

Watch on: Crunchyroll

Ace Attorney Season 2

Ace Attorney 2

Everyone’s favorite Kangaroo Court is back in session! The second season of the Ace Attorney anime is suffering from the same malady it did the first time: There’s no way to fit a whole game’s story into 4-ish hours of anime.

While the story follows Defense Attorney Phoenix Wright in many of the same cases as his third game, it’s more like a light version that shows the major twists without going on red herrings or goose chases. This makes the story much less intricate and interesting than fans of the games are used to.

Even with all that’s been cut, the pacing feels significantly fast and there are massive leaps in logic to get to the conclusions of each trial. Evidence is also way too convenient, as much of the investigating is replaced by Phoenix’s assistant Maya finding things offscreen.

That said, it’s still hilarious. The characters are wackier than ever, and the madness of the cases has already proven to be beyond what’s been seen before. It might be distracting to watch indictments be made with broken logic, but it’s still funny to watch the reactions of the various characters when it happens.

While the story and pacing isn’t as good as it could be, it isn’t bad enough to be off-putting. As a serious and well-thought narrative, Ace Attorney can’t make its case. Where it does succeed is as a comedy where lawyers throw coffee at each other and declarations can literally blow people away. It’s a poor substitute for the games themselves, but it’s a much more manageable endeavor time-wise and the most important bits are still intact. (By Paul Palumbo)

Recommended

Watch on: Crunchyroll

Goblin Slayer

Goblin Slayer

Imagine taking Master Chief from the Halo franchise and putting him in a fantasy setting. Now replace the Covenant and Flood aliens with goblins and you pretty much have the plot of Goblin Slayer. Our protagonist, who’s head is always covered by a helmet and is simply referred to as Goblin Slayer, is on a cold-rage filled revenge quest to exterminate every goblin off the face of the Earth. That’s it, it’s that simple.

The series makes no attempt at being something grander than it is. Even Goblin Slayer himself admits to his motivations being narrow-minded, and even foolish. The bright and upbeat color palette of the world is contrasted against the dank solitude of the caves and other goblin nests the story goes to.

Goblin Slayer has practically become synonymous with the word “controversy” within the anime community in the short time it’s been out. Terrible things happen to good people in this series, such as rape and dismemberment, and is the primary source of the contention surrounding the show. These acts are never glorified in any way, though, and serve to emphasize the grit and unforgivingness of the world. However, it’s also understandable why some may take offense to it.

If you have any interest in a high-fantasy series with a nihilistic outlook on character fates, then Goblin Slayer is worth checking out. There’s no shame in dropping it if it’s content doesn’t sit well with you, though. (By Matthew Ponthier)

Recommended

Watch on: Crunchyroll and Funimation

Double Decker!

Double Decker

The highly dangerous drug “Anthem” is on the rise in the fictional city-state of Lisvalletta and it’s up to detectives Doug Bilingam and Kiril Vrubel to put a stop to it as part of the SEVEN-O Special Crimes Investigation Unit

Double Decker! checks all the boxes of an action-detective series. Each episode is a self-contained contained story that follows a crime investigation to its conclusion with bits and pieces of a grander conspiracy sprinkled here and there. Backstabs and betrayals can be seen a mile away and true culprits are obvious but that doesn’t mean these investigations aren’t a fun ride to be part of.

The city of Lisvalletta has a palpable griminess to it that permeates its streets and buildings. This combined with flashy firefights between SEVEN-O agents and Anthem induced mutants would provide quite the spectacles if it wasn’t for the puzzling use of CG whenever an agent puts on their coat-like uniform. It’s sudden, jarring, and distracts from whatever may be happening on-screen.

The story is told in a playful manner with clever jokes and one-liners being dropped left and right. This all the more emphasized by the eccentric cast of characters, each with his or her own quirks and tendencies that make each feel unique but believable… with the exception of our protagonist. Kiril is downright insufferable at times with his arrogance and stupidity causing more trouble than good. Double Decker! is at a later stage than most other shows this season, so the lack of development with Kiril’s character so far is a point of concern. (By Matthew Ponthier)

Indifferent

Watch on: Crunchyroll and Funimation

Heralding from the rustic, old town of Los Angeles, California; Matthew now resides in Boston where he diligently researches the cure for cancer. In reality, though, he just wants to play games and watch anime, and likes talking about them way too much. A Nintendo/Sony hybrid fan with a soft-spot for RPG’s, he finds little beats sinking hours into an immersive game world. You can follow more of his work at his blog and budding YouTube channel below.

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Anime

‘Promare’ Feels Like the Younger Brother of ‘Gurren Lagann’

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Gurren Lagann is a cult classic directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, and written by Kazuki Nakashima. It has over-the-top action, constant bravado, quotable lines, and non-stop escalation into madness. Subtly is not a common word used in Imaishi and Nakashima’s vocabulary, and luckily, fans of their work will not be disappointed with their newest animated movie, Promare. Hot-headedness (literal and metaphorical) and grandiose speeches are rampant when Promare kicks logic to the curb and goes beyond the impossible in its own unique way. What it lacks in a cohesive story, it makes up for in elaborate visuals, eye-popping action, and charismatic characters.


No matter how many times Spider-Man or Superman saves someone from a burning building, the real heroes are the firefighters; they are the ones on the ground, first on the scene. In the world of Promare, firefighters are not just stopping regular old fires; they are tasked with extinguishing supernatural infernos caused by the Burnish — humans mutated to become pyrokinetics. Called the Burning Rescue, they heroically save any and every civilian threatened by these eternal flames, doing so with advanced gear, amped-up water cannons, and hand to hand combat. In addition, they have high-tech equipment that includes drones, an armory of ice and water-powered firearms, and numerous models of mech suits.

These heroes are tasked to stop the flaming terrorists and the havoc they wreak, and in the first act of Promare, a Burning Rescue team led by a young man named Galo take on one of the most feared Burnish terrorists. They use their pyrokinesis to give themselves black, spiky armour and motorcycles that would make Ghost Rider jealous, and after a rousing success with eleventh-hour powers, Galo floats in his victory. Soon, the more militaristic, anti-Burnish organization called Freeze Force barges in and detains the Burnish, taking some of the credit and diminishing Burning Rescue’s efforts. This testosterone-driven act kindles a small spark in the back of Galo’s head, later pushing him to discover a conspiracy that suggests not all is as it appears to be.

Galo is essentially a carbon copy of Kamina from Gurren Lagann. He’s a shirtless, blue-haired, brash young man who jumps in head first to save everyone, and makes sure he looks cool doing it every time. His peers and rivals mock his intelligence and audacity, but in a rare twist, Galo immediately proves that his not simply all bark; he is also a talented rescuer, and is able to stop multiple Burnish solo. Eventually, he develops a rival with Lio, a blonde-haired, light-eyed, somewhat effeminate villain with his own code of honour. He also runs across Kray Foresight, the governor, who is appreciative of Burning Rescue and all their work. However, though Burning Rescue is comprised of many equally talented members, they are mostly pushed to the background outside of being given a few moments to shine.  

Promare takes advantage of new animation styles, and combines both hand-drawn and computer-animated designs. The vapourwave art style is bombastic and chaotic, while the angular designs of the Burnish’s powers add a little edge to the action scenes, guaranteeing that there is no wasted space on screen. The movie runs from inferno-hot to sub-zero cold with no in-between; one would expect nothing less from Imaishi and Nakashima.

Walking into this film and expecting some kind of subtly, even when it comes to the most mundane of actions, is expecting far too much. In classic fashion, the filmmakers keep making every scene more grandiose and epic. Fight scenes aren’t simply adding an extra bad guy or giving the hero a handicap; everything grows to an exponential scale. The moment you expect that Promare has reached its limit, suddenly everything goes to the extreme. But this does has its disadvantages, as subtly and clear explanations of events go by the wayside. The plot moves fast and glosses over the details of the world, history, and lore. Instead of questioning “why is this weird thing happening,” it’s better to accept that it’s happening simply “just because” — far better to just watch the bonker visuals and series of events. This pacing also makes it difficult for character growth, where relationships are created and destroyed on a whim, yet could have benefited more with extra content. It’s like the difference between the Gurren Lagann series and the movies. Sure, the movies cover a lot of ground, but they are very much more loud, operatic spectacles rather than the growing confidence of a young shy boy into a full-fledged legend.

Promare is certainly a movie that stimulates the lizard-brain neurons. It’s flashy, over the top, and outright ridiculous. The heroes and villains are operatic, and there is no nuance stored anywhere in the character’s development. But that’s why the movie is wonderful; the creators are able to depict these extreme levels of silliness, then lampoon and expand on it. There are even moments where the characters themselves have to acknowledge that this level of weirdness is actually happening. But that’s why this movie is spectacular — it’s loud, it’s big, but it’s 100% unfiltered fun.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on August 4, 2019 as part of our Fantasia Film Festival coverage. 

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Anime

Anime Ichiban 18: Wanna Be KFC’s #1 Fan

The crew combs over KFC, Funimation, and Haruhi in this vibrant and bizarre episode of Anime Ichiban that’s sure to raise eyebrows.

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Hare Hare Yukai

A lot has happened in the anime sphere in the past few weeks with fried chicken attempting to become mainstream and voice actors making dubious sounds. The Anime Ichiban combs over it all while also offering their thoughts on possibilities for disjointed storytelling that Haruhi kicked off thirteen long years ago.

TIMESTAMPS

10:24 – The search for Evangelion’s #1 fan
15:04 – MangaRock going official and rebranding as MR Comics
23:25 – Grabbing drinks with popular Virtual YouTubers
27:43 – Weathering With You continues to be successful and the sky is still blue
31:29 – This week in theater play adaptations
36:13 – KFC’s official dating sim visual novel
52:29 – The Funimation Dragon Ball Z leaks
1:03:01 – The bizarre case of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya‘s broadcast and the possibilities of something similar in the future

TRACKS

Intro – “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis” by Yoko Takahashi (Neon Genesis Evangelion opening theme)
Outro – “Hare Hare Yukai” by Aya Hirano, Minori Chihara and Yūko Gotō (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya ending theme)

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Anime

Years Later And There’s Still Nothing Quite Like ‘Bakemonogatari’

Even over a decade later, ‘Bakemonogatari’ is still one of the most unique experiences anime has to offer.

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Bakemonogatari

Red. Black. Red. Black. Red.Black.Red.Black.Red.BlackRedBlackRedBlack. Studio Shaft and author NisiOisiN forced anime fans to become intimately familiar with these two colors when they aired their surreal exploration into the supernatural, Bakemonogatari. Its bewitching characters, mesmerizing imagery chockfull of symbolism, and avant-garde storytelling manages to take viewers’ imagination and curiosity hostage and never let go. The series is a dreamlike experience that feels as ephemeral as the aberrations it features and to this day, there’s still nothing quite like it.

The trickery of Bakemonogatari begins right from the name itself. The word is a combination of two Japanese words: “bakemono” (化物), meaning “ghost,” and “monogatari” (物語), meaning “story.” Both words contain the “mono” (物) character and can thus be combined into “BakeMONOgatari.” Funnily enough, the same applies to its English translation, “Ghost Story,” which can be written as “GhoSTory,” adding an extra little nuance to the show’s supernatural nature.

Bakemonogatari Hanekawa

Bakemonogatari follows high-schooler Koyomi Araragi who has been left as a half-vampire after certain events he alludes to but never fully explains (that’s a separate series). During his life he encounters individuals afflicted with various anomalies that are often caused by some sort of supernatural apparition. 

On paper, this sounds like your usual high school occult club shenanigans seen in plenty of media even outside of anime. These apparitions, however, are less the kind that goes “bump” in the night, and more manifestations of characters’ various psychological distress, much like the recent Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai. Figuring out the “How” and “Why” of these apparitions is made a captivating endeavor thanks in one part due to Shaft’s animation style and one part due to scriptwriter Fuyashi Tō’s adapted author NishiOishiN’s original novel.

While Shaft had been around for some years and seen some success with shows like Sayounara Zetsubou-sensei and ef: A Tale of Memories and Melodies, it wasn’t until they brought out Bakemonogatari in 2009 that they truly established an identity for themselves that was later cemented with Puella Magi Madoka Magica

All of the techniques that have practically become synonymous with the studio — dramatic head tilts, super zoom-ins, fast cuts, wide-screen aspect ratios, and focusing on inanimate objects instead of characters — materialized in full force and caught many viewers off-guard at the time, and still do. The result is scenes that are stuffed to bursting with visual information to process and take in, not unlike a feverish dream.

Bakemonogatari head tilt

Every shot of an eyeball shifting, every billboard in the background, every cartoonish tangent holds some sort of purpose and meaning towards the emotional state the characters are in and it’s up to the viewers to desperately piece together whatever they can. It’s not uncommon for someone to have their hand hovering over the pause button while watching, ready to stop a scene at any given moment and pick apart everything that would otherwise only be shown for a second. And let us not forget about the aforementioned black and red scenes, which continued to spark endless debate years after the series finished airing.

As if the rapid-fire visuals aren’t enough to contend with, Bakemonogatari’s topsy-turvy script ensures the viewer never quite finds their footing. Characters talk circles around each other, constantly trying to gain the upper hand in the conversation with nary a breath in between. Their dialogue is filled with double entendres, logic traps, and dictionary-twisting wordplay that often leaves the viewer grasping at straws to suss out their true meaning and intent. 

These exchanges demand one’s full attention, which can sometimes be draining. Yet despite that challenge, it’s difficult to not feel mystified by these battles of words that often hide themes of modern societal woes that range from the stress of the city to even religious cults. 

Bakemonogatari

There’s a sense of isolation persistent throughout Bakemonogatari as the only people ever seen are the characters immediately relevant to the story; background characters are nonexistent and only referred to off-handedly. Much akin to a case of Stockholm’s Syndrome, that sense of isolation is amplified through Shaft’s careful and deliberate cinematography and the multi-layered writing that forces the viewer to establish an intimate relationship with the characters, both physically and emotionally. This allows the creation of captivating episodes that sometimes take place almost entirely in a single location like a park or bedroom.

Koyomi interacts with others in completely irrational ways based on our own reality yet it’s entirely consistent and believable within the contexts of the world that Shaft and NisiOisiN have created. That, in turn, creates incredibly dynamic relationships that culminate in one of the most heart-warming, sweet, and iconic romantic scenes in the anime medium. Bakemonogatari makes the viewer work to get to that point, though; this is absolutely not a show one can watch passively while getting ready for bed. Those who put in the effort, however, are rewarded with a visually and mentally stimulating spectacle that leaves a lasting impression for years to come.

Bakemonogatari black scene

Watch Bakemonogatari on Crunchyroll

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Anime

Two Weeks in Japan: A Journey to the Other Side of the World

Whether it’s anime figures, secondhand video games, conveyor belt sushi, or rabid island deer, Japan has plenty to keep you occupied!

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My trip to Japan began in the early hours of August 2nd. Boarding the plane for our 17 hour flight to Tokyo, I already felt the first twinges of culture shock when I noticed how English was no longer the dominant language. But here I finally was, on a plane to a country I’d only dreamed about visiting. After watching a bizarre airplane safety video stylized as a modern dance piece, my group and I settled into the long ride for our two week vacation on the other side of the world.

Did you think I was kidding?

Stepping out onto Japanese soil, we were met with our vacation’s biggest enemy: the heat. We had arrived in the middle of an absolutely awful heatwave and would spend the next two weeks drenched in sweat. Our soft and supple west coast bodies weren’t prepared for the blinding suffocation of Japan’s tropical climate. But we were here and ready to make the most of it.

Welcome to Japan

Our first week was meant to frontload the most touristy aspects of our trip. Nothing embodied that more than our shinobi dinner at Ninja Akasaka, where we indulged in a ten-course meal full of tasty dishes, campy ninja theming, and a baffling magic show that still confuses us. We all agreed that while the meal was pretty good, it’s not something we’d ever pay for again, an opinion that was further solidified when we took our first step into a konbini later that evening.

Convenience stores (“konbini”) will often run cross-promotions with different entertainment franchises. Lawsons, one of the big three chains in Japan, has incorporated the main cast of Konosuba into much of their in-store display.

Japanese convenience stores live up to the hype; they’re on a completely different level from American 7-11s and QuikStops, both in terms of scale and quality. Convenience stores in metropolitan Japan really play up the “convenience” part of the name, with such locations appearing every other block. Near our Tokyo AirBnB, there was a FamilyMart, 7-11, and Lawson on the way to the train station, all within two minutes of each other. While we would of course have our fair share of cooked meals, nothing beat wandering into a FamilyMart at 12 AM and picking up some onigiri and beer for less than $5.

Our first full day in Tokyo we journeyed into the city proper to check out some of the different wards (what boroughs are to New York City). After having lunch at The Pokémon Cafe in Chuo, we headed on over to Shibuya to say hi to Hachiko and walk through the Scramble Crossing, then finished off the day strolling through Takeshita-dori in Harajuku. 

The Pokémon Cafe even featured a surprise appearance from Eevee!
At Kinokuniya (popular bookstore chain) in Shibuya, there was a pop-up gallery featuring merchandise and production work from The Rising of the Shield Hero.

One meal of particular note was our first dinner with conveyor belt sushi which, like most other Japanese cuisine, duly outclasses its American counterpart. While we would eventually visit more standard sushi belt joints where you picked plates off as the chefs prepared them, this one was quite a bit more modern. 

In front of every seat was a tablet, featuring dozens upon dozens of different plates categorized by price and type. All you had to do was select whatever dishes looked appealing, hit the order button, then your food would come out on a speedy little train and stop right in front of you. It was the future and we were all low-key losing our minds. 

Conveyor belt sushi stretched the limitations of how one would define “sushi”, but it was delicious all the same.

For my part, simply being in another country and taking it all in was more than enough entertainment for me. You start to pick up on small peculiarities in culture and behavior, like putting money in a tray when paying for things or the collective sense of organization. It’s these little day-to-day differences that really gave me a sense of perspective and made it abundantly clear that I was in Japan.

Then came Akihabara.

Akihabara, Anime, and All That Comes With It

Let me be fully candid in saying that I went to Japan for three specifics reasons: food, culture, and being a massive freaking weeb. The second I stepped out of the station into Akihabara, or more often referred to as Akiba, was like setting foot on another planet.

Be prepared to hear a lot of J-Pop getting blasted out of multiple different buildings.

I’m used to anime pop-culture in very specific contexts: bookstores, conventions, and awkward club meetings where you’re pretty sure half the members write Homestuck fanfiction. Akiba was the first time I’d ever seen anime media on full display in broad daylight like it was completely normal. Hearing Love Live! songs get blasted out of arcades on the main strip as I walked past trucks advertising waifu mobile games and cutesy maids trying to usher me into stores was a new experience, to say the least.

Sega arcades are honestly kind of underwhelming, as they largely consist of UFO catchers, rhythm games, and cabinets dedicated to mobile games. For more variety, check out Round 1.

There’s a certain degree of nonchalant acceptance in Japan that blurs the line between otaku culture and real life. It’s simply another piece of media that gets enjoyed by all walks of life. It wasn’t uncommon to see older folks or even families browsing the aisles of Animate, a popular store specializing in selling official merchandise for popular series. A store where right next to the popular manga selections was a full table display that featured softcore tentacle shenanigans.

In the streets of Akiba, you couldn’t pass by an arcade or figure shop without seeing some cute anime girl proudly posing in a swimsuit, showing off TnA, or looking longingly at the viewer. And of course, there were sectioned-off areas specifically catering to 18+ interests (sidenote: I’ve never seen so much loli in one place and I really wouldn’t care to repeat that experience). 

The fact that something like Magical Sempai, an anime that relies heavily on over-the-top fanservice, was being openly advertised spoke volumes about the culture of acceptance that Japan has towards sexuality in entertainment.

In due time, however, the overabundant fanservice faded into the background noise along with everything else. Once you get past the initial shock, you quickly realize that Akiba is just one giant mall. There are unique features, like hyper-specific electronics stalls, owl cafes, or vending machines selling porn, but it all boils down to being a place to spend money on your hobbies. 

Where Akiba excels, in particular, is the secondhand market. The stores there are in a constant state of flux, goods passing from one owner to the next. For a Nendoroid collector like myself, it’s fantastic. I managed to pick up six used nendos for under $120 (a steal, considering new ones typically go for ~$50 each). My friend, Grant, picked up a broken Famicom (that he later repaired) and two games for ~$15. If you’ve got a hobby in electronics or anime, then Akiba is the place to be.

While the secondhand market offers cheap finds, some figures can also get excessively expensive. It wasn’t unusual to find figures that went for upwards of $300.
On the top floor of Super Potato, a used video game store, there is a selection of vintage arcade cabinets, all carefully watched over by Snake.

The next couple of days were spent at DisneySea which, to be quite honest, was kind of underwhelming. If theme parks are your thing then you’ll probably get a kick out of it, otherwise… it’s just a theme park. Granted, a really cheap theme park (~$70 for one adult), but a theme park nonetheless. Being there felt no different from being in Anaheim, which is rather antithetical to taking a trip to a foreign country.

Coincidentally enough, something I enjoyed far more than a Disney park was our trip to the Ghibli Museum. Situated in Mitaka, a Tokyo suburb, the Ghibli Museum looks like something straight out of, well… a Ghibli movie. Its multi-colored clay exterior sports colorful shades of yellow, red, and blue with greenery sprawling across the expanse of the grounds. As you pass through the main entrance, a wide wooden floor opens up before you, leading you down a set of polished steps into a massive atrium of winding metal and stained glass. Within its halls lie myriad exhibits, displays, and countless pieces of work taken from Studio Ghibli’s long and storied production history

The exterior of the Ghibli Museum is criminally picturesque…
…as is the interior. It possesses the same timeless feel that the Ghibli movies do, offering you a sense of nostalgia for a time and place you’ve never been to.
Kiki and Jiji!

The museum is a bit annoying to get tickets for, but a visit here is a must for any and all fans of Ghibli movies.

After a week in and around Tokyo, we activated our JR Passes to travel the country. JR Passes are specifically made for foreign tourists and allow them to hop on and off of Japan’s Shinkansen lines (bullet trains) for a given period of time. We had ours active for one week, during which we visited Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima in a series of trips that covered several hundreds of miles. 

Let me take a moment to properly express how incredibly good Japan’s public transit systems are. America’s subway systems and railroads have absolutely nothing on these metros and rail lines. To get from Tokyo in the east to Hiroshima in the west, a journey spanning 420 miles, you take a Shinkansen that will get you there in roughly 4.5 hours. The equivalent train ride in America would take you nearly 15 hours. This is nothing to say of the city-based metro lines which run with an efficiency and cleanliness that makes the NYC Subway look like the public restroom it is.

Not even the Tokyo Metro is free from the waifus. The popular manga series Go-Toubun no Hanayome (The Quintessential Quintuplets) had an entire set of cars dedicated to advertising the five titular girls.

Furthermore, even Japan’s toilets have America beat. Let me tell you, the idea of water being sprayed at my rear was odd at first but it really just makes so much sense. What sounds more disgusting: washing out your hindquarters with clean water or smooshing and scrubbing with toilet paper alone? Yeah.

Public utilities aside, our travels throughout the rest of Japan were probably my favorite part of the trip. As much fun as the dense metropolitan life of Tokyo was, so many other cities offered a greater sense of openness and culture. Nowhere was this more evident than in Kyoto.

Leave Me in Kyoto

As Japan’s former capital, Kyoto is steeped in history. Shrines, temples, and palaces dot the cityscape, tucked away in a picturesque countryside of rolling green hills and quaint neighborhoods. Kyoto was easily my favorite destination and where I learned my most valuable lesson about traveling with a group: make time for yourself.

A shot of the Kyoto skyline, taken from partway up Mt. Inari.

First on the docket was visiting Fushimi Inari-taisha. A popular tourist site, Fushimi Inari-taisha is an ancient shrine dedicated to the fox kami, Inari. Situated at the base of Mt. Inari, its most distinctive feature is its long and winding path of orange-red torii gates and small shrines that lead up to the mountain’s summit. I managed to hike the entire way up, though I was quite literally drenched in sweat by the time I reached the top.

Fushimi Inari-taisha’s famous torii gate pathways. Get there early to avoid the hordes of tourists.

The second bout of solo traveling I had was entirely focused on Kyoto Animation. KyoAni, as many of you might be aware, was the victim of an arson attack back in July. Since then, the outpouring of love and support from fans the world over has been nothing short of astounding. I owed it to myself to visit the studio building and pay my respects. 

KyoAni’s Studio 1 is nestled in a quiet little neighborhood, so the blackened windows suddenly appearing between a row of houses caught me off guard. Despite the sweltering midday heat, there were still handfuls of visitors coming and going. A few policemen kept watch over the area, directing wellwishers and their gifts to the memorial around the corner. I was the only non-Japanese visitor to the site, but in the solemn silence I felt an innate connection with the people around me as they offered their prayers or looked on wistfully at the building. The contrast between the ruined remains of Studio 1 and its peaceful surroundings created a sobering air of melancholic nostalgia that I felt long after leaving.

KyoAni’s Studio 1 lies in the middle of a quiet suburban neighborhood. The scorched remains of the building have since been covered with barricades and tarps, but many visitors still make their way to the site.
Right outside of the studio are some bikes, a basketball hoop, and a small garden with a water pump. The burned-out studio stood in stark contrast to its calm, peaceful surroundings.

Later that day I had a wonderful little encounter visiting Masugata, the shopping arcade that Tamako Market is based on. The similarities between the real life location and its animated counterpart are striking. Years after the show’s debut, bits of KyoAni memorabilia are still proudly shown off here and there. One shop in particular, a fresh fish store at the end of Masugata, had books full of KyoAni staff photos and fan messages. In spite of my broken Japanese, the shopkeep happily invited me to look at his collection, take photos, and leave behind my own thoughts and feelings for the studio.

Shopping arcades like Masugata are extremely common in Kyoto.
The fish store shopkeep has a collection of journals dating back several years. All of them are filled with drawings and messages of love and appreciation for KyoAni.

Altogether my visit to Masugata didn’t last more than half an hour, but it still stuck with me because it showed how deeply KyoAni’s presence is felt at home. The affection the studio has for Kyoto clearly goes both ways. That love and appreciation was especially evident when I made my way further into Uji, the city south of Kyoto where KyoAni is based. 

Many anime fans often go on pilgrimages (“seichi junrei”) to visit locations that featured in their favorite shows. I experienced a bit of it earlier in the trip wandering around the streets of Akiba and remembering all of the famous Steins;Gate scenes, as well as walking through Shibuya Crossing and recalling the hours I’d spent in Persona 5. If you’ve watched Hibike! Euphonium you’ll immediately recognize many landmarks in the city of Uji, as the fictional Kitauji High School is set in and around the area. Although I ran into an hour or so of rain during my walk, I still managed to visit most of the important locations that KyoAni used in the show. 

The city of Uji even put together an official Hibike! Euphonium sightseeing map, so you could visit all of the locations featured on the show in real life.
This bench appears repeatedly throughout Hibike! Euphonium as a place where the characters can talk to each other, ponder a problem, or practice their music.
That same bench in real life.

What was fun to see was that in many of these areas, local shops were proudly displaying Hibike! Euphonium memorabilia, from posters to pilgrimage maps to hand-painted character cutouts. Much like Masugata and Tamako Market, Uji has a relationship with Hibike! Euphonium that can be acutely felt as you walk through its streets. Meandering around Kyoto and Uji explained so much about Kyoto Animation: the area is a series of relaxed, laidback neighborhoods and parks and just oozes pure, comfortable, KyoAni vibes. I ended my pilgrimage along the banks of the Uji River, taking in the serene atmosphere as friends, families, and couples enjoyed their day in the setting sun.

Reconvening with the rest of my group, we ditched metropolitan Kyoto and took a bus out into the densely forested hillsides to stay at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn). We stayed at Yumoto Onsen Oharasansou (highly recommend the place) and were treated to a wonderful hotpot dinner, soothing hot springs, and surprisingly comfy futons.

There’s really nothing quite like grabbing a vending machine beer, lighting up a cigarette, and basking in the calm twilight of the Kyoto countryside. All of the gushing over ryokans/onsens in Japanese media is well-earned; it’s an absolutely sublime experience.

Less than half an hour outside of Kyoto’s city center, our ryokan took a bus ride and a bit of a trek to get to.
The aforementioned wonderful hotpot dinner.

What I had learned in my time in Japan thus far was that three months of casual studying did little to actually prepare me for being fully immersed in the language. Meticulous grammar and obtuse vocabulary don’t matter much when most of your conversations devolve into gesturing and speaking like a toddler. 

Granted, what few phrases I did know managed to help me get by and survive being in a completely different country. Popular tourist spots thankfully have enough English for you to get around without being completely lost, but locals seemed to be appreciative of me making an effort. I felt better about myself after seeing other tourists defaulting to clipped English that clearly went over the heads of whoever they were speaking to. 

Moral of the story: at least try.

Hiroshima and Back Again

Continuing our journey outside of Tokyo, our next big stop was Hiroshima. It was a surreal experience pulling into the city and realizing that much of what I saw had been completely leveled nearly 80 years prior. Visiting the Peace Memorial Park and the A-Bomb Dome was not only somber reminders of the horrors of war, but also of the boundless hope and optimism of humanity moving forward.

Peace Park is a sprawling series of memorials, stone pathways, and patches of greenery that pay deference to the tragedy that struck Hiroshima in 1945.

Hiroshima is a lively city with plenty for food tourists like myself; its local delicacy the hearty dish “okonomiyaki,” for example. In fact, there’s a building called “Okonomimura”, which is categorized as an “okonomiyaki theme park”. Once you step inside you immediately understand why, as dozens of okonomiyaki stalls fill every floor. You really can’t go wrong by picking a random stall, getting in line, and waiting for a seat.

If you’ve ever been to a Benihana’s, then you’ll have a slight inkling of the way okonomiyaki works. It starts with egg mixtures being fried in front of you on a massive table-wide griddle, as more and more ingredients get added. After a mouthwatering culinary show, the entire dish is plopped down in front of you. With spatula and chopsticks in hand, you make your way through the smorgasbord of egg, meat, seafood, and veggies as you drizzle on a variety of different sauces to your heart’s content. One serving of okonomiyaki and a pint of beer will be more than enough to knock you out and put you in a state of bliss.

Okonomiyaki is an incredible dish with a surprising amount of variety. Tailor to your taste!

The day after, we headed to Miyajima, popularly known as “deer island” for its massive population of native deer. After the Japanese wolf went extinct in the early 20th century, much of its prey began to explode in numbers, deer especially. Once you step off the ferry from the mainland and head into the island you see firsthand what exactly that means. 

Miyajima is absolutely crawling with deer, and they’re all hungry little bastards that will come running at the first sound of crinkling plastic. I wish I’d had more time on the island, as there were some stunning temples and enticing mountain hiking trails, but I was happy enough to let the local deer fight for their right to eat out of my hands.

My buddy Michael tries to make friends with a local.

After Hiroshima, our last few days in Japan were more or less free time to bum around as we saw fit. For myself, this meant revisiting my favorite restaurants of the trip and trawling through shops for any last minute merch I wanted to pick up. Soon enough, our day of return rolled around and we made our way to the airport to bid farewell to Japan. Aside from a minor snafu where we ended up getting to the airport a day early, our trip back home was absolutely welcome after two weeks of a rather physically demanding vacation.

Experiencing another culture, getting out of my comfort zone, and going beyond the confines of my daily routine was invaluble. Like many other people, I’ve dreamed of going to Japan for the longest time. It’s no easy financial commitment, to be sure. Airfare and accommodations alone will put a hefty dent in your bank account, much less the cost of food, souvenirs, and miscellaneous expenses that inevitably rack up. However, if you’ve got the time and money to afford it, I can’t recommend a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun highly enough. There’s so much I saw and did over there that not even this nearly 3,000 word piece was enough to cover it. Japan is a country with so much to offer; you owe it to yourself to see what all the fuss is about.

Just uh… don’t go during the summer.

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Anime

Anime Ichiban 17: Be Happy, Watch Anime

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みんなさんおはよう! In our meaty 17th episode, the gang catches up on a lot of different topics. From Three Houses to Kyle’s vacation in Japan to our mutual love of Kimetsu no Yaiba, we had more than plenty to talk about. Hear what life is like on the other side of the world in this installment of Anime Ichiban!


TIMESTAMPS

0:00 – Introductions and Three Houses
15:56 – News: Redline streaming for free on YouTube
18:33 – News: Psycho-Pass stage play
21:54 – News: Dragon Quest V movie and fan backlash
27:18 – News: Weathering With You‘s first month in the box office
30:48 – News: Summer Comiket 96
37:19 – News: The author of Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches and fan input for her next series
39:57 – News: Author of Higurashi collaborating with artist of Clannad for new visual novel
43:30 – Kyle’s trip to Japan
1:10:11 – Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba impressions thus far
1:35:05 – Closing remarks

TRACKS

Intro – “Good Morning World” by BURNOUT SYNDROMES (Dr. Stone opening theme)
Outro – “veil” by Keina Suda (Fire Force ending theme)

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