It’s the start of February and you know what the means. Really cold weather! If you were unfortunate enough to be somewhere in the mid-west of the United States like myself then you’ve been subjected to some particularly cold weather recently with record lows across the board. But what better excuse to wrap up by the fireplace, warm up some hot chocolate, and watch some anime? The winter season is well underway and just like last time, the GoombaStomp anime crew is here to help in all your viewing pleasures. If you’re wondering what to watch next, then look no further! (This list is in no particular order)
The Promised Neverland
Director: Mamoru Kanbe
Main Voice Actor(s): Sumirie Morohoshi (Emma), Maaya Uchida (Norman), Mariya Ise (Ray)
Tension. There aren’t too many anime that can literally leave me breathless at the edge of my seat, but the stakes The Promised Neverland sets and its impressive cinematography did so masterfully. Part of the reason this works so well is because it completely subverts viewer expectations. If this is a show you think you might be interested in, I highly recommend you go in as blind as possible.
Grace Field House is an idyllic, isolated orphanage. The kids there lead happy lives from when they’re babies until they are cut off for adoption at age 12. Everyone looks after each other, stays fit from running around outside all day after tests, and are treated to nutritious meals regularly. The only thing even slightly out of the ordinary is the numbered tattooed on their necks and the gates they’re not allowed to venture beyond under any circumstances.
Hmm…that all sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it?
The Promised Neverland hits where it hurts, and quickly. The show’s twist is both abrupt and horrifying in a deeply empathetic way. That said, nothing terrible beyond the twist happens immediately; this is a breathtakingly slow burn laid out at an expert pace. Character strengths (and potential faults) for the three protagonists are established early enough to give viewers room for endless speculation as to how later events might unfold. Wisely, the anime showcases both the children’s perspective and that of their opposition in tandem, constantly keeping the viewer thirsty for more knowledge of the world beyond the orphanage’s gate. The end result is a killer of a wait each week between episodes. Don’t miss out on this one. (By Brent Middleton)
Rating: Highly Recommended.
Boogiepop and Others
Director: Shingo Natsume
Main Voice Actor(s): Aoi Yuuki (Boogiepop), Saori Oonishi (Kirima Nagi)
A remake of the original 2000 anime, Boogiepop and Others is a story about things that go bump in the night. Mysterious disappearances and strange behavior are all par for the course in the distinctly unsettling show. While all the stories revolve around the grim reaper-esque Boogiepop, each case involves its own set of characters and Boogiepop is content with leaving it to the humans to resolve their own issues if possible.
In a rather unusual move, Boogiepop and Others premiered this season with two complete episodes at once… and boy is it a good thing it did! The first episode is a whirlwind of information with names being dropped left and right, time suddenly flashing forward and backward without warning, and just general instability. Without the second episode immediately available to help bridge the gap this would have caused quite a lot of reactionary frustration.
This definitely is not a show to watch passively. After getting over the initial shock it becomes apparent there’s a method to the madness and information is presented in this disjointed manner for a reason. All the pieces of the puzzle are there but the show does you no favors in putting them together. Completing that picture, however, is one of the most satisfying feelings I have felt with the anime medium, akin to finally figuring out the solution to a tough puzzle in a game.
Boogiepop and Others certainly isn’t an anime for everyone, but those willing to give it their full, undivided attention will find they are rewarded equally in turn. (By Matt Ponthier)
MobPsycho 100 II
Director: Yuzuru Tachikawa
Main Voice Actor(s): Setuo Itou (Mob), Takahiro Sakurai (Reagan)
Explaining what Mob Psycho 100 is about is easy. Mob is a psychic middle schooler whose intense paranormal abilities are only matched by his unwillingness to abuse them. Every so often he goes on an exorcism with his boss/mentor/conman Reigen. These exorcisms generally involve strange spirits and psychic battles that unfold in silly and imaginative ways. The two – a fake psychic mentoring the most passive, most powerful tween to ever live – set the stage for all manner of silly psychic shenanigans.
Explaining what Mob Psycho 100 is about is a little harder. It’s about individuality and exploring why people are special. It’s about being true to yourself. It’s about jealousy, power, emotion, desire, and so much more. Mob Psych 100 expertly hides an exploration into the human condition in the psychic showdowns between a wallflower human and an evil plant ghost.
It’s hilarious watching Reigen trick people into believing his imaginary psychic powers, but it’s provocative watching him nonetheless be an actual mentor and decent human being all the same. It might be a laugh to watch Mob awkwardly deliver the worst speech in history, but it’s important because it demonstrates his genuine desire to improve himself and not base his entire life around his power. Mob Psycho 100 has a lot of things to say, and only some of them are jokes.
If you can get past the sloppy, crude art style, both seasons of Mob Psycho 100 are well worth the watch. It’s as inventive as it is funny, and it’s got more heart than it has any right to. (By Paul Palumbo)
Rating: Highly Recommended
The Quintessential Quintuplets
Studio: Tezuka Productions
Director: Satoshi Kuwahara
Main Voice Actor(s): Inori Minase (Itsuki), Miku Itou (Miku), Kana Hanazawa (Ichika), Ayana Taketatsu (Nino), Ayane Sakura (Yotsuba), Yoshitsugu Matsuoka (Fuutarou)
How do you make a good harem series? Simple. You try to make a good show. As reductive as that might sound, the truth of the matter is that harem series, by and large are… pretty bad. The Quintessential Quintuplets, known popularly as 5-Toubun no Hanayome, is anything but. It avoids so many of the terrible tropes and story beats that make most harem series fanservice trash.
The Quintessential Quintuplets follows Fuutarou Uesugi, a responsible high schooler whose intelligence is rivaled only by his frugality. Fuutarou’s given a chance to make a hefty amount of money as a tutor, which will help support his poor family living in meager conditions. The catch: his new students are a group of idiot quintuplets that want nothing to do with him or studying. It’s up to Fuutarou to win their trust and help them pass their exams, otherwise he can say goodbye to his paycheck.
While the premise certainly sounds like a typical harem series, Quintuplets goes to great lengths to be anything but. Fuutarou’s unique brand of no-nonsense snark and genuine effort to help the five sisters improve their studies make him endearing and effective as a protagonist. Over the course of the story, he gets to know each of the girls and what makes Ichika, Nino, Miku, Yotsuba, and Itsuki different and unique from the other four.
The only caveat is that the anime adaptation is… not amazing. Its art style can get overbearingly bright and fluorescent, some of the fanservice gags get played on too long, and the animation as a whole is nothing impressive. If you get around to watching the show and enjoy it, I can’t recommend the manga highly enough. (By Kyle Rogacion)
The Rising of the Shield Hero
Studio: Kinema Citrus
Director: Takao Abo
Main Voice Actor(s): Kaito Ishikawa (Naofumi), Asami Seto (Raphtalia)
Be summoned/reincarnated into another world, be gifted some overpowered cheat weapon and/or ability, and go on to save/conquer that world where everything just sort of works out. That is the tried and true formula of the isekai genre that saturates the anime, manga, and light novel mediums and there is surprisingly little deviation from it. Enter Rising of the Shield Hero, an isekai that differs from that formula in all but the fundamentals of being summoned to another world.
Naofumi is a poor soul called upon to be one of the four legendary weapon heroes to save the Kingdom of Melromark from the Waves of Catastrophe. The catch is that he happens to be the Shield Hero and this particular “hero of legend” is one looked down upon with disdain in the kingdom as the most useless of the four.
Naofumi is taken advantage of, dragged through the mud, and left with nothing but the clothes on his back and the shield on his arm to fend for himself in a world entirely hostile to him. Watching him scrape and claw his way up to “rise” from that rock bottom state is what makes Naofumi and his story so compelling to watch. Combine that with the vibrant color palette and detailed facial expressions of Kinema Citrus and the resounding orchestrated soundtrack of Kevin Penkin, and you have an adventure primed to be a memorable one. (By Matt Ponthier)
Rating: Highly Recommended
Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka
Director: Hideyo Yamamoto
Main Voice Actors: Aya Suzaki (Asuka)
There’s been no shortage morose magical girl shows ever since Puella Magi Madoka Magica took the world by storm back in 2011 and Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is the next on the firing range.
The story picks up in the present day after a deadly war against other-worldly demonic teddy bears has been brought to an end thanks to the efforts of a group of magical girls given powers to defend the planet. With the war a few years behind them, some of the magical girls still serve active duty with the military but our protagonist and previous leader of the squad, Asuka, just wants to have a normal high school life. It doesn’t take a seasoned anime watcher to tell that circumstances occur that prevent her from doing so.
Asuka is a surprisingly likable character. Despite her general social clumsiness and serious demeanor due to being removed from normal society for so long, she makes genuine attempts to interact with others. Her straight-forward and often deadpan nature leads to some heartwarming and comical situations.
It’s when the show focuses on the new antagonistic force and the threat they pose when the story dips dangerously close to “trying too hard to be dark” territory. Innocent bystanders are shot in cold blood, ripped to pieces, and crushed to bits so often it becomes gratuitous. The enemy faction is so stereotypically insane that they become boring. There’s still enough intrigue with the story as to be interesting, but as it stands it could easily go one way or the other depending on how much it leans into the psychopathic tendencies of its characters. (By Matt Ponthier)
Rating: Wait and See
Director: Kiyoshi Matsuda
Main Voice Actor(s): Sayori Hayami (Yumeko), Minami Tanaka (Mary), Tatsuya Tokutake (Ryouta)
It’s tough to mess up the structure of a show like Kakegurui. Just like how One Piece consistently ups the ante by introducing more and more powerful foes, Kakegurui thrives on presenting new gambling opportunities with increasingly high stakes. In the first season, these stakes eventually took the form of millions of yen. The prospect of seeing the heirs of Japan’s most powerful families lose it all was thrilling, and made each showdown Yumeko had with the student council exciting in its own right.
Kakegurui xx boasts the same high-intensity gambling bouts as the first season, but this time the stakes don’t feel quite as dire. Instead of forcing students to wager a lifetime of debt or riches, Kirari Momobami is stepping down as student council president and offering her seat to whoever gets the most votes. The catch? Though every student gets a vote, these votes are represented by chips, and they can all be lost or won in official gambling challenges.
The repercussions of having each of the student council members fall to Yumeko in the first season are glaring. Though a new cast of top-tier gamblers has joined the school for this competition, they’re essentially just stand-ins who conform to the show’s tried-and-true structure. Because wins feel somewhat inevitable, the real joy of Season 2 comes from the gambling itself instead of the overarching plot (though that may change later in the season). Nonetheless, Kakegurui’s signature mind games and offputting camera angles shine as brightly as they ever have. If you’ve simply been craving more thrilling gambling scenarios, Kakegurui xx won’t let you down. Just don’t expect too much reinvention. (By Brent Middleton)
You can watch Kakegurui xx when it premieres on Netflix later this year.
Kaguya-sama: Love is War
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Director: Mamoru Hatakeyama
Main Voice Actor(s): Aoi Koga (Kaguya), Makoto Furukawa (Miyuki)
The President and Vice President of an illustrious high school’s student council have the hots for each other and are pretty convinced the feeling is mutual. But because the act of confessing love is embarrassing and a little shameful, Kaguya Shinomiya and Miyuki Shirogane have decided to trick the other into confessing first. Thus, each episode is a new trick, trap, or trauma one is using to corner the other into revealing their feelings. This is Kaguya-sama: Love is War.
It’s not violent or action-packed like the OP and title might suggest, but don’t let that deter you. It is an absolute delight watching the mind games and mental loopity-loops Shinomiya and Shirogane employ to wrangle a confession. Shinomiya might use her wealth to plan a trip to the beach; surely her gorgeous figure will be enough to prompt Shirogane to make a move. Meanwhile, Shirogane might use his new phone to get Shinomiya asking for his number. Regardless, the council secretary Chika will probably ruin both schemes with her naivete and unbreakable enthusiasm. These plans play out as both players frantically adjust on the fly in an endlessly changing battlefield until the day’s outcome is decided. It unfolds like a game of chess, with each move making it more elaborate and more endearing to watch.
Kaguya is laser-focused on this premise; each episode is three of these plans individually taking hold. It trims all the excess from the core shenanigans. This allows it to have a surprising pace and depth in a silly episodic slice of life about a bunch of teenagers too embarrassed to have feelings. (By Paul Palumbo)
The Price of Smiles
Studio: Tatsunoko Productions
Director: Toshimasa Suzuki
Main Voice Actor(s): Yumiri Hanamori (Yuuki), Saori Hayami (Stella)
Tatsunoko Productions is an odd duck in that it is a legendary studio within Japan as one of the oldest anime producers in existence, but not so much outside of the country. The Price of Smiles serves as part of their 55th anniversary celebration and is shaping up to be yet another divisive show.
The Price of Smiles’s hook is that is that it portrays both sides of its space opera war with its double protagonists. Yuuki Soleil is the, at first, bubbly princess of the Kingdom of Soleil who is forced to accept the harsh realities of war. Stella Shining is a soldier for the Grandiga Empire who always has a somber smile no matter the situation. The story is clearly going for the “no one actually wins in war” message and hasn’t done anything to push the envelope beyond that notion yet.
Stella’s segments are the more interesting of the two as she is a genuinely enigmatic character to go along with her diverse squad. The moral conundrums presented to her as an invading force have provided the most compelling moments in the show thus far. Yuuki, on the other hand, is a by the books naive princess who wants to save everyone even when not possible and we’re still waiting for her to show some sort of growth. Her segments also suffer from weird pacing issues, with entire weeks passing in between cuts without notice.
All in all, the story has potential but will ride on how the two girls’ stories intertwine and develop as a result. (By Matt Ponthier)
Rating: Wait and See
Watch on Crunchyroll (subbed).
Studio: MAPPA, Tezuka Productions
Director: Kazuhiro Furuhashi
Main voice Actor(s): Hiroki Suzuki (Hyakkimaru), Rio Suzuki (Dororo)
Part revenge plot, part body horror, Dororo is a thrilling story of reclaiming what was taken from you. Set in the Sengoku Jidai era of feudal Japan, Dororo follows the wandering swordsman Hyakkimaru, and his young companion Dororo.
Hyakkimaru was born grotesquely deformed, missing skin, limbs, and major internal organs. This was the result of his father, a daimyo, making a pact with a horde of demons in order to rule the world. In exchange, each of the demons took parts of his son’s body, who only lived thanks to his mother’s intervention. Years later, Hyakkimaru wanders the countryside in search of demons to slay so that he might regain his body.
Dororo has a distinctly classical feel to it, both in the aesthetic and storytelling. Adapted from the 1960s Osamu Tezuka manga, Dororo captures a sense of overwhelming dreariness and despair. The show is drenched in a sweeping watercolor visual style, with forested, hilly landscapes painted in broad strokes of brown, grey, and green.
There’s a morbid mystery to Dororo that keeps you coming back for more. The fights themselves are often quick and brutally efficient, as much of the narrative focuses on the inhuman horrors of the Sengoku Jidai era. In a world where human ambition can be bought with blood and suffering, Dororo explores what it takes to fight back. (By Kyle Rogacion)
Rating: Highly Recommended
Watch on Amazon Video (subbed).
My Roommate is a Cat
Director: Kaoru Suzuki
Main Voice Actor(s): Kensho Ono (Subaru), Haruka Yamazaki (Haru)
At first glance, it’s easy to write My Roommate is a Cat off as a silly, low stakes slice-of-life. There seems to be nothing interesting going on beyond “This person and this cat just do not get along!” But the story of Mikazuki Subaru and his battle with isolation is a lot more than it lets on.
After the death of his parents, the already introverted Subaru has almost no connection to the outside world. When he then adopts a stray cat – which he only does to break free of his writer’s block – he begins the slow process of reentering the society he left behind. Not only does the cat give him some companionship, but Subaru is also forced to interact with his fellow humans while taking care of his new pet.
Watching Subaru struggle with basic tasks is done less with pity and more with classic humor. It’s a joy to watch him get flustered with the shop clerk at the pet store or his extroverted editor. These lighter moments are balanced just enough with his regret over the loss of his parents and his still active period of grief. There’s more going on in the story than just a goofball not knowing how pets work, even though that’s plenty of the runtime. The cat’s point-of-view segments are a little strange but amusing nonetheless and help to fill out the small cast of characters.
My Roommate is a story focused on the two main characters: A man and his cat. It doesn’t have a lot of high stakes or excitement, but it’s a playful slice-of-life that isn’t afraid to explore less pleasant sides when it needs to. (By Paul Palumbo)
Director: Shouta Ibata
Main Voice Actor(s): Maaya Uchida (Rui), Yoko Hikasa (Hina), Taku Yashiro (Natsuo)
“Just now, I… lost my virginity.”
With no fanfare or corny music, this is the very first line of Domestic Girlfriend and sets the tone for the rest of the show. Our high school protagonist, Natsuo, has hesitantly agreed to have sex with a girl he had just met in order to distract himself from the romantic feelings he has for his teacher. Soon after, his father remarries and, lo’ and behold, the daughters of his now stepmom are that very same girl and teacher, Rui and Hina, respectively.
While the setup sounds like something straight out of an ecchi harem on paper, that is not the kind of story Domestic Girlfriend is trying to tell. Within the first three episodes, it has become abundantly clear that all three characters house their own distinct insecurities. Reminiscent of show’s like Scum’s Wish, the story aims to delve into the irrational, and sometimes ugly, side of love and the struggles that come along with it. There’s a morbid fascination inherent to the story as it’s made very painfully obvious that things will not end well.
All that said, the plot can be a tad too convenient for its own good. Beyond the one in a million chance of a basic setup, there are numerous other events that occur that border on deus ex machina levels of coincidental. It takes away some of the impact of the narrative since the coincidences take away from its believability. Hopefully, those instances become rarer as the plot progresses as the potential for a stellar drama is there. (By Matt Ponthier)
WATATEN!: an Angel Flew Down to Me
Studio: Doga Kobo
Director: Daisuke Hiramaki
Main Voice Actor(s): Maria Sashide (Hana), Reina Ueda (Miyako), Rika Nagae (Hinata), Akari Kito (Noa)
The popular meme that “Anime is trash” is a bit harsh, but absolutely vindicated by shows like WATATEN! Yet, for all the garbage that this loli-loving show is, I simply enjoy the ever-loving hell out of it.
WATATEN!, or Watashi ni Tenshi ga Maiorita!, is a comedy series about Miyako Hoshino, a shy college otaku. When Hinata, Miyako’s younger sister, brings home her friend Hana, Miyako is instantly smitten. With a fifth-grader. A fact that’s persistently brought up for laughs, feels, and everything in-between. The series follows Miyako in her slice-of-life (mis)adventures with her sister and her middle school friends.
Now, hear me out. Yes, it’s absolutely shlock. Yes, it’s a bit creepy. In spite of that, WATATEN! surprised me with how funny it could be. The gags are clever, the comedic timing is superb, and the characters are pretty fun and likable. Naturally, the sticking point of “this is a show about a college student being attracted to a middle schooler” raises all kinds of eyebrows. However, if you can buy into the premise WATATEN! is actually a lot of fun.
What certainly helps the show is that the wonderful studio, Doga Kobo, is animating it. Having done shows like Gabriel Dropout and Love Lab, Doga Kobo has excelled at heightening a material’s humor through excellent visuals and comedic timing.
WATATEN! is certainly not a series I’d recommend to, well, anyone. However, if you’re like me and enjoy moeblob slice-of-life’s, then you might just find this show to be up your alley. (By Kyle Rogacion)
Rating: Recommended (on specific conditions)
Revoked Revenge: Analyzing One of ‘Hunter x Hunter’s’ Most Emotional Scenes
Though Hunter x Hunter is full of striking moments, “Revenge x Recovery” flexes the full strength of the show’s stellar scenario writing.
(Spoiler Warning: The following text contains spoilers for the 2011 Hunter x Hunter Remake. Read at your own risk.)
It’s all too often that the shounen genre gets dismissed for being entirely comprised of childish power fantasies and series you should eventually grow out of. While a youthful sense of adventure and optimism is indeed a core part of the genre’s appeal, it’s also much more than that. The best of shounen tells tales that stick with viewers forever, introduces characters that they can relate to and aspire to be like, and presents dilemmas that can’t just be laughed or punched away.
The 116th episode of Hunter x Hunter 2011, “Revenge x Recovery,” exemplifies this perfectly. The scene (particularly in the second half of the episode) is one of incredible character development and viewer confliction.
Our lovable hero, Gon, has waited months to exact revenge on Pitou for Kite’s death and torturous reconfiguration into a fighting puppet. Usually cheerful and peppy, Gon hasn’t expressed a hint of happiness since beginning the raid of the Chimera Ant king’s palace. All that’s present is a cold, steely determination and unyielding anger. Pitou has to pay…no matter what it takes.
The Fall and Rebirth of Pitou
Gon’s anger isn’t unfounded. For the entire Chimera Ant arc we’ve been conditioned to fear and absolutely despise Pitou. Aside from viciously killing Kite, Pitou has played an instrumental role in planning the mass genocide of the people of East Gorteau. Seemingly only second in power to the king himself, the sheer maliciousness of its Nen made Knov (an elite Hunter on the level of Morel) have a mental breakdown, and made Netero himself doubt his capabilities.
That’s what makes Pitou’s transformation so shocking.
Instead of being greeted by Pitou’s usual coldhearted, bloodthirsty, murderous self, something has changed in it since they last met. It’s completely focused on healing Komugi, the one person who has become incredibly dear to the king. After finding her wounded at the start of the raid, he personally entrusted Pitou with restoring Komugi’s life. Not only did this bring Pitou to tears, but it set Pitou’s priorities firmly in place: put Komugi first and protect her at all costs.
Pitou knew as soon as Gon walked in the room that it was facing an immense danger, but it was already in the process of healing Komugi. Because it couldn’t fight with any hope of winning during the operation (healing requires all of its Nen), Pitou had to make a choice: leave the girl to die, or leave itself helpless. In that moment, bearing the task of healing the very person that the king cared for above all else, Pitou chose to prostrate itself and beg the boys to wait.
The imagery of seeing Pitou laying its hands outstretched in honest concession — this character that was revered since the start of the arc as the most dangerous, bloodthirsty Chimera Ant next to the king himself — is as jarring for the viewer as it is for Gon, who walked in ready to fight for his life. Arguably the most feared character in Hunter x Hunter up to that point is, for once, showing fear itself. Not fear for its own life, but fear for failing in its mission to protect the girl.
It’d be frustrating if this sudden dismantlement of a major villain served no purpose, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. We get a distinct sense that this willingness to throw away its life isn’t just on the biological level of it being faithful to the king, but more so because it wants to see the king be happy. Compared to when Pitou nonchalantly shrugged off the queen’s death dozens of episodes earlier, the fact that it’s literally willing to have every non-essential bone in its body broken to secure the king’s happiness feels like a clear emotional evolution.
Somewhere along the way of seeing how much the king cared for this fragile little human, Pitou began to gain some slivers of humanity as well. What’s more, the act of breaking its own arm as a way to prove its sincerity is a direct parallel to when the king tore off his arm to apologize for trying to cheat Komugi out of a win at gungi. Lessons learned by the king clearly haven’t gone unnoticed.
Gon’s Justified Fury
At this point, the viewer has seen Gon grow over the course of Hunter x Hunter from a naive kid with exceptional physical ability to a bonafide threat. Through it all, though, he’s always been a somewhat tropey “justice above all” main character with a heart of gold. He refuses to let the weak be attacked and won’t allow anyone to suffer — even if they deserve it. His refusal to kill the Bombers at the end of the Greed Island arc is an acute reminder of this.
Suddenly, however, we’re presented with a Gon that feels equal parts familiar and terrifying. This Gon is absolutely consumed by rage and without pity. The fact that Pitou is showing mercy to another human when it attacked Kite without hesitation only fuels the hatred that he’s been harboring for months. This thing doesn’t deserve his sympathy. So what if a third party got injured during our attack? What makes her life more valuable than Kite’s?
As the viewer, we’re keenly aware of Gon’s ear-splitting frustration. It’s ultimately a battle of ideals. What happens when a murderous monster begs for mercy? What happens when your object of so much hatred is caught acting completely selflessly to help someone they love? How can you push the thirst for avenging a loved one’s life aside in respect for the killer’s righteous wishes?
We learn that Gon isn’t yet strong enough to deal with this impossible dilemma on his own. His usually unwavering sense of right and wrong that we’ve seen throughout Hunter x Hunter has been warped, and he’s clearly lost sight of the mission’s goal. Right when he’s about to snap, it’s only by way of Killua that Gon is able to hold himself back.
It’s then that Gon hones in on what we’ve been observing the whole episode: how drastically different their reactions to this situation are from one another. Gon is (as always) wearing his emotions on his sleeve, and instantly became engulfed in his rage towards Kite’s killer. Meanwhile, Killua stood back and calmly evaluated the scene before their eyes.
Killua’s approach reflects his desensitization to killing and death in general, rather than Kite’s death meaning nothing to him as Gon alludes to. He’s shaken up, but he’s more so worried about Gon getting out of control than avenging anyone. Death is something Killua has witnessed (often by his own hand) for years, and as a reformed assassin, it follows that he wouldn’t get worked up over someone doing what he’s done to countless others.
As much as Gon (and, by extension, the viewer) wants Pitou to pay for all it’s done, the more logical course of action is to bring it with them in an attempt to heal Kite. This might be the best chance the boys will ever have of taking out Pitou once and for all, but that was never their real end goal.
It’s heartbreaking to see Gon’s once warm heart turn to ice as he realizes the validity of Killua’s protests. Killua stopped him from acting on his emotions, but he feels the repercussions of that decision in that instant. The pain on Killua’s face as he looks away from his best friend is palpable in a way that only those who’ve been afflicted by similar emotional harm from a loved one can understand. Gon is the one he’s chosen to follow to the ends of the earth, but it’s now unclear how much longer that’ll last.
Hunter x Hunter is a testament to the emotional depth a shounen series can have if enough care is put into cultivating its cast. Not only does “Revenge x Recovery” stand out as a hallmark scene in what’s arguably the show’s best arc, but it also serves as a reminder of how vital meticulous character and scenario writing are. Few have done it as well as Yoshihiro Togashi.
Is Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: “Hinokami” The Pinnacle of its Genre?
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is of the strongest series airing in 2019, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice to ignore it.
(Spoilers ahead for Episode 19 of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba.)
With anime aplenty available to be pumped into our eye holes, it’s tough to sift through the masses and unearth a gem. Well I’ll make it easier: watch Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba! Once in a blue moon something special raises the bar, and Episode 19 “Hinokami” does just that. For those new to the show, however, all aboard the context train.
Tanjiro Kamado resides in a cold but cosy mountain home with his family. One day he nips off to a nearby town, only to discover on return his family’s been massacred by a demon. Tanjiro’s world is turned upside down (not in a literal sense, that tsuzumi dude doesn’t appear for another ten episodes), and adding insult to injury, his sister Nezuko’s been turned into a demon. Whilst retaining her human form, she now craves flesh and evaporates in sunlight. Safe to say, T-dog’s having one of those days. Fortunately, Nezuko’s a one in a million demon that sees the benefits of abstinence from bloodthirsty murder. With her love for Tanjiro intact, they set off to cure Nezuko’s ‘demon-itis’.
One training arc later, and Tanjiro’s nifty at felling demons with a sword. And jumping to Episode 19 “Hinokami”, he’s battling his toughest opponent yet: Rui of the Twelve Moons. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba has crescendoed towards an inevitable encounter with said upper echelon of demons, from ex-Twelve Moon Kyogai, to Twelve Moon red herring Father, to real actual Twelve Moon Rui. He’s the big boss you don’t see coming, and the threat he poses is evident when he shatters Tanjiro’s sword to smitheries with his slice-y dice-y hecka hard webs. He’s a sadistic bastard, forming ‘family bonds’ on fear by torturing his next of kin. Can Tanjiro best someone so strong?
Given Rui’s fixation on family bonds, seeing Nezuko hurl herself into harm’s way to protect Tanjiro from a slew of razor sharp webs captivates him. Witnessing Tanjiro and Nezuko’s legitimate family bond, Rui requests for her to be his sister instead, but spells out his intention to indoctrinate her into said kinship through torturous terror, highlighting his reluctance to renounce his forgery of fake bonds. The dynamic shifts, and Tanjiro has another reason to fight: for Nezuko!
The theme of family bonds is a cornerstone of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, but never has it felt more meaningful than here. From Tanjiro and Nezuko recollecting their childhood and parents’ wisdom, to them collaborating to best Rui; the spectacle sees music, narrative, and animation meld in impeccable harmony. It elicits tears for those invested, and that’s a lofty feat for what’s fundamentally an action sequence. It’s poetry in motion, and sheer art of the highest order, bolstered by eye popping visuals courtesy of Ufotable (turns out when they’re not potentially evading tax they’re driving animation quality through the roof).
If you’ve yet to see Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, do yourself a favour and watch from the start, as isolating this scene in a 360p YouTube video will nullify the narrative context (the weight of which contributes tremendously to the emotional impact). And if you have seen it, I only hope your neck isn’t sore from nodding in agreement whilst reading.
To say it’s exciting to ponder where Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba is heading is an understatement and a half. It’s one of the strongest series airing in 2019, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice, anime fan or not, to ignore it.
Watch Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba on Crunchyroll here.
Anime Ichiban: Brent’s Favorite Ending Themes
Why let opening themes get all the love? Kick back and check out some of the EDs that stand head and shoulders above the rest.
With so many iconic opening themes out there, it can be easy to forget that there’s a wealth of fantastic EDs that are well-worth watching. It might be more tempting than ever to skip endings in the age of binge watching your favorite shows, but there are still a select few that are worth sitting through the credits for. As a follow-up to my list of favorite opening themes from last year, here are my Top 10 all-time favorite ending themes ranked in descending order. Let’s get into it!
10. “Sentimental Crisis”–halca (Kaguya-sama: Love is War, Opening)
Mind games are a core part of Kaguya’s arsenal on the cutthroat romantic battlefield upon which Kaguya-sama: Love is War takes place. In the ED, however, we get a welcome look at what her consciousness is like when she isn’t constantly on guard. What ensues is a surprisingly whimsical wartime adventure that enforces how happy she is to have her close friends by her side.
9. “Waiting in the Rain”–Maaya Sakamoto (The Asterisk War, Opening 1)
Regardless of feelings towards The Asterisk War itself, “Waiting in the Rain” has to be one of the most beautiful ED’s I’ve ever heard. Everything from the soaring strings at the beginning to Maaya Sakamoto’s angelic vocal performance is just stunningly on-point. It’s clear that the visuals didn’t get nearly as much love, however, and the end result is a gorgeous song over decidedly generic (albeit decently pretty) animation. But, you know what? The song is good enough to bring this ED to number nine all by itself.
8. “Spice”–Tokyo Karan Koron (Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma, Ending 1)
Sometimes the simplest EDs end up being the most enjoyable. The first ending of Food Wars! perfectly encapsulates the lighthearted nature of the show with bright colors, a meal between friends, and a smile-inducing theme from Tokyo Karan Koron. While the ED stays true to the anime’s signature marriage of food and fanservice, it’s the last shot of Soma smiling that always warms my heart.
7. “Hoshi wo Todoreba”–Yuiko Ōhara (Little Witch Academia, Ending 1)
Though less extravagant than some of the other EDs on this list, there’s something about the unassuming charm of “Hoshi wo Todoreba” that makes it feel special. The depictions of daily school life, highlights for each of the first season’s main characters, and even the love shown to some of the anime’s more minor personalities are beautifully done here. It manages to flesh out the bits and bobs of Little Witch Academia that we never get to see, making each scene feel like an absolute treat.
6. “Refrain Boy”–ALL OFF (Mob Psycho 100, Ending 1)
For as much praise as Mob Psycho 100’s OP got upon release (and for good reason), its paint-on-glass animated ED is no slouch either. While Reigen was first depicted as a sketchy con man of sorts, the ending theme works to humanize him and make him out to be an everyman whose world suddenly took a positive turn when he met Mob. Reigen’s affection for Mob is real, and this is a genuine (if gentle) reminder of that.
5. “Colorful”–Miku Sawai (Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend, Ending 1)
Like “Waiting in the Rain,” “Colorful” is an ED almost entirely carried by the song itself. In fact, it’s surprising that the ED is so typical for an anime as self-aware as Saekano. That said, the art feels warm and welcoming, and the sequence when the song’s chorus comes in is one of the more fun character highlight reels I’ve seen. If you’re as in love with this song as I am, this remix is also definitely worth checking out.
4. “Cinderella Step”–DAOKO (Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul, Ending 2)
Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul is one wild ride of an anime. The emotional rollercoaster the viewer rides in alongside Nina is full of twists, backstabbings, friends-turned-foes, and vice-versa. That’s what makes “Cinderella Step” such a lovely ED; it’s a dreamy take on the old Cinderella tale where everyone forgets their worries, affiliations, and motives, and simply has fun dancing the night away. Seeing your favorite characters eschewing their rough circumstances and dancing like goofballs is a joy, and the bittersweet end to the season makes it that much more impactful.
3. “Dou Kangaete mo Watashi wa Warukunai”–Yuu-chan (WataMote: No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!, Ending 1)
The visceral relatability of WataMote has touched the hearts of millions of once-high-schoolers over the years. While the anime’s OP is a sonic culmination of Tomoko’s feelings of rebellion and frustration, the ED is much more pleasant of a listen. Both struggle with themes of acceptance and self-doubt, however, with the conversation between her and her mirror (version with english lyrics here) being especially heartbreaking when you sit back and think over where those feelings are coming from. The idea to set all of this to a sequence of Tomoko walking herself through her daily routine via smartphones is rather unique, and was executed perfectly.
2. “Veil”–Keina Suda (Fire Force, Ending)
“Veil” is likely the best (and saddest) ED of the Summer 2019 season. The carefree depictions of Iris’ fellow sisters-in-training are reminiscent of the Little Witch Academia ED mentioned earlier, and makes their fates that much more tragic. It’s nonetheless impressive just how well this ED is able to tell an entire backstory, truncated as it may be. And while there’s no brushing off just how horrible the events illustrated here are, the last scene of Iris readying herself while surrounded by her team does a satisfying job of providing a sense of closure for the viewer.
1. “Hunting for Your Dream”–Galneryus (Hunter x Hunter 2011, Ending 2)
Have you ever come across an opening or ending to an anime and instantly knew that it was one of the best you’d ever seen in your life? That was my reaction when I first saw “Hunting for Your Dream.” It’s the exact type of ED that every shonen anime needs; it reminds you of everyone’s goals, portrays all the antagonists in a boss-like, revered fashion, and just plain gets you pumped for the next episode with kick-ass tunes and exceptional sequencing. The way every episode in the season leads into it creates a supreme feeling of anticipation and excitement, as well. Click here to treat yourself to a typical ending to an episode with this theme.
Videos were uploaded courtesy of the /r/AnimeThemes community
Fantasia 2019: ‘Promare’ Feels Like the Younger Brother of ‘Gurren Lagann’
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.
Fantasia 2019 Dispatch: ‘White Snake’ and ‘The Relative Worlds’
While relatively unknown in the west, the “Legend of the White Snake” is one of the oldest and most venerated folks tales in China, and as such has been brought to the screen and stage numerous times. After all, fables and folktales have proved themselves to be enduring and adaptable enough that the real classics will probably never truly fade from the cultural landscape. Light Chaser Animation’s new telling of the story certainly jazzes it up for modern audiences, with dazzling animation and some modern sensibilities added to the tried-and-true romantic melodrama and high fantasy. While definitively rooted in Chinese myth and legends, the film also seems to be aiming for an international audience, and will most likely succeed in this ambition.
In ancient China, a cruel general versed in the dark arts has begun stealing the life force of snakes in order to aid in the Emperor’s bid for immortality. An assassin is sent in the form of the white snake, Blanca, who like many of her more powerful clan is able to take human form. Blanca’s assassination attempt fails, and she loses her memory in the process. Found by the inhabitants of a village of snake catchers, she soon falls in love with the dashing young Xuan, only to have her former life come back to haunt her.
The main draw for White Snake is the visuals, which are beautifully rendered and absolutely dazzling from start to finish. While the art direction and character designs occasionally evoke North American animation, the vast majority of the film’s aesthetic feels refreshingly unique. While not overly stylized, there’s a painterly quality to the backdrops and locales, with a deliberate use of color and an emphasis on stunning vistas. Creative visual gags abound, like the face-switching demon blacksmith or the spectacular magical battles, which eventually escalate into dizzying fights between giant serpents and legions of warriors made of living, folded paper.
Some of the film’s attempts at humor fall a tad flat, however, particularly when Xuan’s loyal canine sidekick is given the gift of speech for no discernible reason. Parents looking for a fun alternative to the latest Dreamworks or Pixar movie might also get nervous at some of the more risque suggestions, like a near-sex scene or the demon weapon smith’s perilously plunging neckline. But overall, the film is a fun and visually captivating ride which proves that CG animation isn’t just for the West.
The Relative Worlds
Our protagonists sit in a comfortably but blandly decorated living room discussing mass murder. Among them are two alternate-universe doppelgangers and a pair of advanced combat robots that (naturally) look like 13-year-old girls. It’s been determined that an alternate Earth can be saved from despotic rule, and all it will take is a few murders here in our world. “Maybe we should get some food” suggests one character. “Yes, we do not require food, but are capable of expelling waste” responds one of the robots. An upbeat pop tune creeps into the soundtrack, and a montage of our heroes out on the town begins — now that we’re safe in the knowledge that the robots can indeed poop. This scene really encapsulates everything weird and disjointed about The Relative Worlds, an ungainly wreck of a movie with tonal and pacing problems to spare, and little to offer anime fans or filmgoers on the whole.
The action begins (as these things often do) with a pair of ordinary high-schoolers. A rash of unexplained deaths has begun to plague Japan, and the two discover the truth after doppelgangers and robots invade their burgeoning romance: an alternate version of Earth came into existence after World War I, they learn, and on that Earth the shy Kotori is a cruel despot. Jin, the alternate version of her classmate and love interest, Shin, has hopped from one reality to the other to kill Kotori, which will cause her opposite in his own universe to die as well. To counter Jin’s powerful and imposing combat robot, Kotori’s other-universe counterpart has sent her a protector: the diminutive android, Miko.
The Relative Worlds suffers from the odd problem of having too much story, but at the same time being almost maddeningly simplistic. Before the audience can get too confused, a helpful narrator makes his one and only appearance to meticulously outline the premise in exacting detail. Not long after, new information drastically changes the stakes and goals of the movie, in just one of many sudden gear shifts sure to leave audiences with mild whiplash. The film never settles on one set of objectives long enough for audiences to get comfortable, and it feels like a much longer, multi-arc story has been brutally condensed into a cramped 90-odd minutes. The tone veers about wildly, and seemingly important plot elements drop in and out like unwanted guests. In its few moments of clarity, it also mostly walks in the footsteps of films and series that came before, never offering any characters or story beats that won’t feel familiar to anime fans.
While some of the art direction is at least mildly interesting, The Relative Worlds is nonetheless an absolute mess of storytelling missteps that casual audiences will find too weird, and anime fans will mostly likely find derivative and awkward.
Goomba Stomp is the joint effort of a team of like-minded writers from across the globe. We provide smart readers with sharp, entertaining writing on a wide range of topics in pop culture, offering an escape from the usual hype and gossip. We are currently looking for Film, TV, Anime and Comic writers.
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