Archive for February, 2012

Hotarubi no Mori e (Anime)

Ever since I read the manga for Hotarubi no Mori e, I’ve been looking forward to the anime film adaptation. It turns out it’s a rather short film (about the length of two anime episodes), but it did a nice job capturing the general atmosphere of the story, which will feel quite familiar to fans of Natsume Yuujinchou (also by Yuki Midorikawa). Hotarubi no Mori e is a sweet/bittersweet tale about a girl who befriends a masked yokai spirit, and the summers they spend together. The addition of color and music makes the nature-filled scenes feel a bit more lively, and the added segments to the film help flesh out the protagonists a bit more. The pacing is light and airy, letting viewers soak in the quiet emotion of each scene.
The story and characters are all kept simple, which allows the film to focus on themes of childhood, adolescence, friendship and romance. It’s all very nice, and I think all Natsume fans will love it. It makes me hope that Yuki Midorikawa will tell more one-shot stories about characters interacting with the yokai world, once the Natsume series comes to a close. I’d find it interesting to get more of other people’s perspectives of the spirits, according to their various circumstances.


Pandora Hearts – Ch 70

So how often does this happen? Where your entire understanding of main characters in a story changes this dramatically? Not too often… Except in Pandora Hearts. XP But really… Wow. I was really stunned this chapter. I mean, I’ve come to expect crazy plot twists that change everything–but this is different. These are fundamental elements of the entire storyline that are being shaken–much like chapter 65, but this time even questions from the very start of the manga are being answered. Themes and core concepts of the plot are taking on entirely new meanings.
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how this massive plot twist fits in with everything we’ve seen this entire series. It goes against everything we’ve understood about several of the characters, and yet I can remember lots of little things that seem to support the dramatic revelations of this chapter. If I go back to the beginning of the series and read through everything again, I’m sure I’ll find many more little hints regarding Oz’s, Alice’s, and Jack’s nature.
So, yeah. Oz is (SPOILERS). For a good long post about this game-changer, check out this blog. (Note that the whole thing is full of spoilers, so be sure you’ve read chapter 70 first.) It’s kind of mind-boggling, just how well Jun Mochizuki has planned out this series. But I really must wonder how Oz will deal with what he’s learned about himself this chapter.
For other things in this chapter… I’m really curious what Gilbert will do next, now that he’s come to realize the truth of his past as well. And will Leo be all right? And I’m still wondering what will happen with Alice? And Vincent? And even Barma, for that matter? Next chapter is going to be big, now that this much of what happened 100 years ago has been revealed. (Though I’m still not certain how everything pieces together. I’m sure there will be more revelations to come soon!)


And So the Waiting Begins…

I’ve completed my interview for the JET Program (Japan Exchange and Teaching), and fortunately I’m glad to say it went well. I spent pretty much all my available time these past three or so weeks preparing for it, so I’m glad I didn’t blow it once it came time for the actual interview.
Everyone was really nice, and the questions were all sensible. I was interviewed by three people together–a return JET and a couple staff members from Japan (and from what I can tell, this seems to be the normal setup). If you’re accepted for an interview in the JET Program, I suggest researching everything you can about it, read your application and essay, and come up with all the questions you can think of that you personally might be asked. Write out all the answers you can think of, and pick out two to three points to focus on (so you won’t be drawing a blank once it comes time for the interview). And then have some practice interviews with friends and family, and let them come up with questions so you can practice coming up with answers smoothly. It’s a difficult thing to do well, especially when you’re trying to be professional and show your enthusiasm as well. You’re going to want to show that you’d be a great choice for the position, so prepare in whatever ways you can–that way you can feel a bit more confident going into the interview.
Reflecting back, I feel really good about my interview. It seemed they all enjoyed my company, and I felt I gave good answers to all the questions. But at the end of the day, there’s no telling what the final decision will be. I will find out in April if I’ll be accepted into the program. While I wait, I’ll be working more on refreshing my memory of all the Japanese I’ve studied, and spending more time learning about Japan from books and on the internet. Perhaps I’ll share a post on some of the study aids I’m using?
I’ll be getting to more anime and manga reviews this week–these past few days were rather busy as I prepared for the interview. But now I can get to all the other things I’ve been putting off… And by keeping busy, the wait for my final verdict won’t seem so long, right?


Steins;Gate OVA

Ah, this was a lot of fun. It was like an extra episode of Steins;Gate! Which is what it was. I suppose there’s no reason for me to go telling people to watch this–if you’ve watched the Steins;Gate anime, you’re going to want to see this.
In this bonus episode, Okarin and Friends go to Los Angeles, which is about as hilarious as it sounds. Though it’s not a major episode in terms of plot, it does clue us in on what all the side characters are up to, and updates us on everything for Okarin and Kurisu to boot. So while the main purpose of the OVA is just to be entertaining for Steins;Gate fans (which it succeeds at), I wouldn’t label the whole thing as filler.
Plus, this OVA might even lead into the story for the movie coming out! I’m curious to see where things will go from here for this cast…


2011 Miscellaneous Favorites

Time for some random fun lists to finish off my 2011 Anime Palooza…

Let’s start with my favorites for voice acting in 2011:

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2011 Favorite Anime Series

2011 was the first year I started to really get into watching anime that were currently airing in Japan, but I have to say–2011 was a fantastic year for anime. There were a bunch of great shows in a variety of genres, which goes to show how diverse and creative anime can be in general. For my favorites of the year, I’ll start with #6 and work my way up. You can probably already guess which ones will be on the list, based on my lists regarding favorite characters. That’s because the shows I tend to enjoy the most are those starring characters I like the most! But now without further ado…

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2011 Favorite Anime Characters

Traditionally this sort of post would be done at the beginning of January, but there were a few more shows from 2011 I wanted to try, which I hadn’t had the time to watch before. I feel ready now, so here is the first of three posts dealing with all my favorites of 2011. Today I’ll focus on characters, next time I’ll pick my top 6 shows, and then lastly I’ll cover a number of miscellaneous fun categories.

Let’s start with my three favorite anime protagonists of 2011:

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Another Valentine’s Day

Here’s some Valentine’s cards I made, for the anime Another! Be sure to give them to all your friends! And make sure you don’t pretend your friends are still alive after they die. (And note that the pics for most of these “cards” are from the sixth episode. Make sure you watch that first before looking at these.)

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Another Posts (Ep 1-6)

My favorite anime of the season is definitely Another, which is turning out amazing in pretty much every way I could hope for. I’m digging the mystery, the horror, the animation, the music, the atmosphere… and even the way things are going for the main two characters! It’s just been a thoroughly engaging series, and I hope the plot for the show’s second half is just as fascinating as the first half.

Though I haven’t written much on this blog about Another, I’ve got words and screencaps a-plenty over at Sea Slugs, and a nice article at YumeState. Here are links to all of them, in case there’s something specific you’d like to check out:

Episodic Reviews: Ep 01Ep 02Ep 03Ep 04Ep 05Ep 06

Article: Shifting Perception of Characters in Another


Bride of the Water God – Volumes 6-8

I’ve gotten through three more volumes of Bride of the Water God, the amazingly well-drawn manhwa byMi-Kyung Yun. The plot becomes more dramatic as gods and goddesses conspire all sorts of things against Habaek and Soah… and though it’s a bit hard to follow at times, I’m still enjoying the atmosphere and character development. I like that we’re starting to get flashbacks showing what happened with Habaek and the mysterious Nakbin, and I’ve even found the subplot involving the shaman girl quite interesting. I also enjoy the Korean poems that accompany the color splash pages at the start of each volume, as well as the (surprisingly hilarious) gag comics at the end (where Yun pokes fun at herself, and the process of manhwa-creating process). But most of all… I’ve loved the art. It’s just wonderful. Here’s some more pages to give you all a taste test:

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Durarara (Ep 1-8)

Now here is an interesting anime. How do I even begin trying to describe what Durarara is about? I can start by saying it’s a very different series, and one that’s a bit difficult to really grasp during the first few episodes. There are lots of characters, and they’re all doing a lot of interesting things… but from episode to episode, I really must wonder where any of this is leading. Hopefully everything will make sense by the end of the series!

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Shifting Perception of Characters in Another

(Note: This post first appeared on YumeState.)

As in most seasons, winter of 2012 has given us a good variety of anime to check out. For comedy I’ve been enjoying Kill Me Baby, and I’ve gotten my slice-of-life fix through Natsume Yuujinchou Shi. But most of all, I’ve been quite pleased with the mystery and horror of Another, which has done an excellent job with not only its atmosphere, but its plot as well. Essentially every scene of this series has fulfilled specific purposes, presenting more pieces of the puzzles and delving deeper into ominous tones and motifs. For this post, I’d like to focus on how the characters have been presented over the course of the series so far, and how Another has managed to effectively alter viewer perception of them without actually changing their core personalities.

Note that there will be spoilers for the first five episodes in this post! Don’t read on if you haven’t finished episode five yet. This is definitely not a series you want to be spoiled for, as the story relies heavily on clever plot twists.

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Hiyokoi

Hiyokoi is a cute and fluffy shoujo OVA based on a manga series. It’s only one episode, and it’s very adorable. Perhaps one day it will be made into a full anime series?
The story is about Hiyori, a student who is both very small and very shy. She was hit by a truck and hospitalized, which resulted in her missing school for a year. Her fear of strangers makes it difficult for her to make friends. When she finally goes back to school, she ends up sitting by Yuushin, a tall boy who is funny and gets along well with everyone in class. Will their personalities clash, or will they become best of friends?!? Of course they’ll become friends–you saw the screencap I posted, right? They’re playing in the snow! This is a wonderfully adorable anime.
It reminds me a lot of the manga I Am Here, and perhaps a bit of Toradora and Kimi ni Todoke as well. If you like any of these things (or shoujo… or high school romance) then you’ll want to give this a go. At only one episode, there’s nothing to lose! Except your time, if you get hooked, and want to read all the manga afterward… (Which I might…)

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Steins;Gate (Ep 17-24)

Spring was a busy time for me last year, what with wrapping up college and all, so I missed out on Steins;Gate despite my interest in its premise. But as they say–better late than never. And wow! Steins;Gate is amazing. If you like good stories with interesting characters, you need to check this anime out. I even feel that Steins;Gate is the sort of anime that the industry has perhaps needed for a while: something that’s not only very well-written and has a fun, fascinating cast–but can also be easily enjoyed by those new to anime. Yes, there are anime tropes that are used in Steins;Gate, but the show does a great job with keeping the characters from going too far with their archetypes. There’s actually some real depth to them, and you really feel for them through their struggles. Which is pretty odd, considering just how bizarre and eccentric much of this cast is. But that’s completely how I feel about it.

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Mahou Shoujo? Mahou Ahiru! AKA Princess Tutu (Ep 1-13)

We can dance if we want to / We can leave your friends behind

Princess Tutu, if you can’t tell by the title alone, is a very… different anime. If I were to explain it, it would go something like this:
Princess Tutu is the story of a crazy old troll man named Drosselmeyer, who is making a story for a number of characters to take part in (or something), and these characters include:

  • Duck – a duck. Who turns into a girl. Who turns into a mahou shoujo. She dances ballet.
  • Mytho – a boy (though you may question this at first). He might’ve been a prince once, but now he’s lost his emotions. His name sounds like Mewtwo. He often wears a short nightgown. He dances ballet.
  • Fakir – a bad boy. But maybe not so bad. He has the best lines in the show. He dances ballet.
  • Rue – a bad girl. But maybe not so bad. She’s the crow princess. She dances ballet.
  • Cat – a cat. And definitely a main character! If you disagree, he will force you to myeaaaaarry him!!! He dances ballet.
  • Duck’s friends – two girls, and they’re crazy. They dance ballet.

I think that about covers it… >_> Maybe…

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Journey to JET

I have a few reviews I’m meaning to write up, but things have been hectic the past few days.
Some great news today, though: I’ve been accepted to get an interview for the JET Program! (I spoke briefly about this in a previous post here.) This program is run by the Japanese government, where a few thousand people from around the world help teach English and other foreign languages at schools throughout Japan. Since things have not been going my way at all job-wise since graduating from college, I saw this as a great opportunity for some financial stability–and of course, a chance to live in Japan.
The application process for the JET Program is pretty grueling, so if you plan to give this a try next year, be sure to keep your eye on your country’s web site nice and early (ie September). And do as much as you can so you have good credentials to put on all the forms. You’ll also need a couple good recommendation letters, so plan on asking multiple people (eg professors and bosses), and giving them plenty of time to write them. Be sure to write a good essay too, describing what it is exactly that makes you a good candidate for the job. Why would you specifically be a good teacher, or a good representative of your country? My opinion is it’s important to be both unique and professional when applying for a big job like this.
The first hurdle is the application, and I’m really glad I was able to get that sent out in time before the deadline. (It came up quite quickly! The window of opportunity was only about a month long.) My next hurdle, of course, will be the big interview at the Japanese consulate. I’ll be sure to prepare for it as best I can. I feel I’m well qualified for this job, so I need to make sure I leave a good impression during my interview. Amongst other things, I’ll be studying as much Japanese as I can… Perhaps I’ll write a post some time on my progress with that. It’s fun, and there are lots of good resources available.


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