Beyond the Boundary Review

Story:
Akihito is a sophomore in high school who loves girls wearing glasses. A lot. Which is weird enough all on its own, but he also happens to be an immortal half-youkai. When he meets a young female Spirit Warrior, whose blood is cursed, his casual life is destroyed as first one dangerous youkai and then another begin popping up in preparation for the biggest danger of all: Beyond the Boundary.

Violence:
Because the heroine in this show uses her own blood as a weapon, there is, obviously, quite a bit of blood. Most of the time, however, the show grazes over anything graphic as her blood is usually fashioned into a blade or somesuch thing, which really isn’t all that bad. The worst the show gets is a few characters getting stabbed and her blood losing its shape and spraying all over. Defiantly YA, but nothing unusually bad.

Language:
A few b-words, but not often. Expect the usual d-mns and sh-ts for a YA anime title, not excessive, but not non-existent either.

Nudity:
Another shock! Maybe Japan is toning it down a bit. Although this show has a lot of opportunity for panty shots and such, they don’t take it. There is one episode with a few shower scenes, but nothing except backs and shoulders are shown. One male character likes to tease Akihito by touching his waist, but like most things in this show, it’s for comedy’s sake. Just like that same character’s fetish about his sister. Rest assured, we’re spared any serious attempts on that.

Theology/mythology:
If you don’t know what a youkai is, check this article out and then come back here. Are you cool with that? If not, drop this show. This series is in a world where youkai, which in this show are often embodiments of people’s negative feelings, are fought by Spirit Warriors. It’s an unavoidable part of the show. Of course, there’s no reference to God or how the world came to be like that, so don’t worry about universal implication. It’s a show that simply focuses on where it is. There are monsters that need to be defeated. Pretty simple, actually.

Personal impression:
I really enjoyed this show. It’s by far one of the best of the year. It has amazing comedy and appropriate darker elements. And, thankfully, one doesn’t really destroy the other. They mostly balance out. The art is amazing, the characters fun and deep, the story pretty straight forward at the start, but complex enough to throw a curve ball or two. The music is pretty good as well, the ending theme especially so.
The only real issue I had with this show was the “human” villain’s motive, which didn’t really make any sense at all. We never find out why he wanted the whole world to blow up. I mean, you’d think you’d have a reason for wanting something like that. But we never know, which kinda irritated me at the end. Also, although I loved the stylistic symbolism at the very end, it is a bit confusing and doesn’t really say for sure who lived and who died. If those kinds of endings bug you, I’m not sure you’ll leave the last episode as a happy camper. But word on the street is that an OVA is in the works, so there’s hope for more answers in the future.
If you like quirky characters, some dark end of world stuff, dream-like parallel worlds and such, you’ll probably adore this show just as much as I did. Just don’t hold out for a kissing scene. This ain’t that kind of show. Just sayin’.

Personal rating: Young adult

Episodes: 12
Languages: Sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Action, comedy, fantasy
Company: Sentai Filmworks
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll
Screenshots:
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Extra: The Liebster Awards

Considering that I’ve never really advertised for this blog, I’m not only pleased, but very grateful to have so many following the posts here. Not to mention all the wonderful people who like and comment, discussing issues further, telling me their own thoughts on these shows and expressing their excitement for possible future seasons of the proud few shows that break the cycle of predictability and climb into our hearts. As this is the last Extra post before New Years, I wanted to be sure I thanked each and every one of you who continue to encourage me in this endeavor and remind me that, yes, there are intelligent and wonderful anime fans out there and thus I need not give up on humanity just yet.

But now you’re probably wondering about the title of this post. Well, considering my site’s small size and voice, I was extremely surprised to find that this blog has been nominated for the Liebster Awards, an award with the purpose of informing the blogging community of little known, but well crafted, blogs with less than 200 followers. So here’s a big shout out to John Samuel, Captain of The Pirates of the Burley Griffin blog for nominating this blog. Thanks, Capt!
The main rules are simple enough:
1. Link back to the blogger who nominated you
2. Answer the 11 questions given to you by the blogger who nominated you
3. Nominate 11 other bloggers with less than 200 followers
4. Go to the blogs you nominated and notify them of your nomination
5. Give your nominees 11 questions to answer.

So here be my answers to the nerdy questions of the week!

  1. What is the best installment of an anime/manga franchise you don’t like?
    I might get flamed for this, but Gundam Wing. I adore the show. The political side was extremely well written and the characters were fun to watch and interesting. Although I’ve attempted to get into the other, more “solid” by fan standards, Gundam series, they’ve either been too slow, too desperate to please all the people and thus have no clear aim (Seed, pretty much) or have unlikeable/whinny characters. If you’re gonna give someone a rare and powerful mobile suit, they need to be competent and well trained. Otherwise I’m checking out episode one.
  2. all girlsWhat is the worst installment of an anime/manga franchise you do like?
    Last Exile: Fam. The Silver Wing. By far the worst sequel I’ve ever seen. Aside from it’s extremely small and confusing connections to its predecessor, Fam. The Silver Wing ended up with a case of anime amnesia, forgetting why fans loved the first series and rewriting everything to revolve around a entirely female cast in the hopes that moe alone would save them. It didn’t. The poor writing, painful forced “sympathy” for the villain (who was totally a mass murderder without regret until the end) and shallow characters worked to make this a massive let down for long time Last Exile fans. In the end, the steampunk visuals were all that this show had. And even then it didn’t live up to the series’ long held reputation.
  3. Give your favorite genre a reality check.
    I’m not sure if this is what you mean, but I’ve often commented on the shoujo genre’s various elements, mainly the ones that give me a cramp from rolling my eyes too often. Most central to this idea is my post on “bad boy” love interests. I also commented on some of the more recent, and dangerous, plot devices being used (cages and rape are not cool, people). These are things that would make any real woman call the cops. Immediately.
  4. Princess TutuName one (and only one) change you’d like to make to one anime.
    You’re killing me. Alright, I’d love to know more about Ahiru/Duck’s past in the series Princess Tutu. As the series currently stands, it is told she has always been a duck. However, it is also hinted that she might have come from “outside the story.” Also, she has no parents or memories of her past before becoming a girl. She’s also the only duck in the entire town. Even the pond she seems to live at contains no other wildlife. There are theories that Drosselmeyer wrote her in from one of his other works, meaning she is magic in and of herself. But nothing is ever confirmed and we’re just left without any knowledge of exactly who this girl – er, duck – really is.
  5. Name the most annoying anime character ever.
    Tough call there. Now I hate to pick on a show I reviewed so recently, but I honestly can’t come up with anyone worse at the moment. So it’s gonna have the the main male lead, Nai, from Karnival. Honestly, he has more whine than all of France (see what I did there?). Few things make me curl into a fetal position more than excessive whining punctuated with constant “um”s and “er”s.
  6. .hack//RootsName the anime character you’d most like to slap.
    I’d think that’s usually attached to the last question. But perhaps the above character could benefit more from a beating… Or simply being dissolved into thin air. Anyway, aside from every wishy-washy female lead in shoujo anime that just sits there while people harass her, I’d probably give a solid slap to Haseo from .hack//Roots. Dude, get a spine or just stop playing an MMORPG with PK capabilities. Honestly. If you don’t like it, don’t log in.
  7. Name the animation studio you’d most like to slap.
    Bandai. They came to America, treated our market as if it was identical to Japan’s, ignored social media outreach, gave up on America when sales dropped (mainly due to piracy, although the previous points were serious factors as well) and dropped hundreds of classic and timeless titles, not even allowing half of them to legally stream. Brilliant job, Bandai. I love it when companies give internet pirates ammunition. And by “love it” I mean hate it. A lot.
  8. relenaName your favorite anime hero or heroine.
    I don’t like “or.” So how abouts I make this an “and” question and include a dude and a lady? Edward Elric and Relena Darlian. And for one massive reason, too. They both were committed to doing what they felt was right, even if that cost them their lives. They looked at life honestly, no matter how ugly the picture. True heroism.
  9. Name the best anime villain.
    I think that depends on your definition of “best.” For laughability, I have a special place in my heart for Prozen from Zoids. If you mean “good” as in interesting, well Izaya from Durarara is pretty hard to predict. I enjoyed watching him weave in and out of the story. It’s too bad most villains these days aren’t written out as complexly. Villains have goals too. And they aren’t always black and white. Heck, the “enemy” in Princess Tutu wasn’t at all what anyone even expected, to say nothing of “it’s” goals.
  10. What is the most epic scene in anime?
    I was on the edge of my seat for the entire fight between Roy Mustang and Lust in the new Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood series. Very well done tension and energy.
  11. What is the anime with the best background music?
    I’m torn between Trinity Blood and Black Cat. Both have unique soundtracks blending piano, chorus and electronic sounds that, unfortunately, never made their way to the US and are little known.

Continue reading “Extra: The Liebster Awards”

News: Death of the “website” info

Back in the day, companies made a big deal of a show, many creating individual websites for them (some using fancy flash and everything). But I’ve noticed over the last year just how few shows have individual sites anymore. In fact, usually FUNimation is the only company left with specific pages for their shows.
Considering how many sites report on shows these days, with Anime News Network being the largest, companies have gradually realized how much pointless work goes into these individual pages. And thus, as nice as many of them were, series’ sites have met their end.

And so has that bit of info in my reviews. But I just couldn’t make that spot bare, so we have a new, likely more useful, addition. Company. This will tell you who has the current rights to the anime in America. If you live elsewhere in the world, my apologies. However, due to quite a few licenses being streaming only now, more often than not you might find that the company owning the show might work in your country as well. It’s still not as universal as I’d like, but we’re making some progress in the right direction.

In any case, I hope this info helps, although I will warn that if a review was posted years ago, you best double check. Anime companies are not immortal over here. The licensing just might have changed.

Karnival Review

Story:
Nai doesn’t really feel like he has any purpose in life aside from one. He must find a long lost friend who appears to have been abducted for unknown reasons, leaving behind only one clue: a bracelet with a ID belonging to the nation’s top defensive agency known only as Circus.

Violence:
Blood is in this show, but thankfully not in chilling amounts. The worst set of episodes deal with one character and his sister who get caught up in the middle of a killing spree by a monster. Blood from the bodies of the dead cling to their hands and clothing, making for the most graphic aspect of this show. It’s also worth noting that some “human” characters turn into monsters and, while they tend to be predictable transformations, they’re a bit ugly to behold. This section alone marks this show up to a YA rating, although the violence level isn’t as extreme as it sounds. We’re spared any graphic close ups of wounds and such, after all.

Language:
Gareki can let some choice words fly here and there, so in addition to the usual sh-t and d-mns, expect a few b-words sprinkled around. Noting frequent, but it’s there.

Nudity:
Another strange pass. This series really doesn’t have any nudity problems at all. Shocking really, considering how flippant Japan has been with fanservice lately. But I’ll take what I can get. So aside from seeing some bare stomachs and cleavage when characters are in costume (there’s also a scene in a play where a villain character insinuates the heroine of the play must get in bed with him or die. Thankfully nothing happens), this show is clean in this area.

Theology/mythology:
If the idea of magical creatures with special powers unnerves you, this isn’t your show. It’s set in some magical world where various creatures exist with unusual properties. They are then used to make special equipment for Circus members or, worse, fused with humans to create monsters. There’s no religious implication, and even the moral aspects of this are glazed over.

Personal impression:
Meandering disease. More recent shows have had this illness than I care to keep track of. Much like Eight Dogs of the East, this show does indeed have a plot. But the characters consistently seem to forget that and just wonder about doing whatever, only bringing up their supposed goal during pointless conversations with themselves or in pointless conversations with bespeckled characters who are such painful clichés, it’s a wonder I made it through all thirteen episodes without having my eyes permanently rolled back inside my head. The fact that the main character is one of the most whiny male characters I’ve ever heard doesn’t help matters.
As for animation and music, both are decent enough. The artwork is pretty highly detailed for a show with quite a bit of fighting. In fact, the line count is to such an extent that I wondered, more than once, what audience this show was aimed for, giving me deja vu of Letter Bee. The music was mediocre, as is typical for most shows now.
I wish I had some good points to make, but aside from some of the cute mascot characters aboard the ships, this show just doesn’t have anything to offer that another show hasn’t done better. And the fact that it ended with some major plot elements left untied means that it’ll be needing more than its current thirteen episodes to actually wrap up. If you don’t mind your heroes being either super whinny or super dense (or both), you might find this show more tolerable than I did. Otherwise, this might just be a solid skip.

Personal rating: Young adult

Episodes: 13
Languages: Sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre(s): Fantasy, action, adventure
Website: http://www.funimation.com/shows/karneval/anime
Legal streaming: Hulu
Screenshots:
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Extra: We’re more than a single emotion

(Warning: this post contains thoughts on characters from Chihayafuru and thus might have a light spoiler hidden here and there)

Finding solid female characters in any form of media can be a struggle. But anime is probably one of the more difficult categories. This is in part due to the far slower progress of feminist movements within the country, but the biggest immediate reason likely has to do with the lack of female writers and directors within the industry (not that Hollywood is winning any points in this area either, mind you).
Now this is not to say that men cannot write believable female characters. By no means. It’s just far harder to do so. The same goes the other way, of course. It’s harder for a woman to write a believable male character. The reasoning should be pretty obvious. Writers can write a far more realistic story based on things they are more familiar with rather than things they are not.

Which brings me to the surprise that is Chihayafuru and the females characters found within. Considering that this show is technically labeled as a shoujo title (although it’s also marked with two other major genres), I really wasn’t expecting anything fresh in it’s characters. I’m happy to report that, for the first time in many moons, I was wrong.
So let’s talk about Chihayafuru’s main female characters, shall we?

First up is Chihaya Ayase herself. She’s loud and generally air headed about anything that isn’t Karuta. And thus, right from the start, we see a huge difference in this heroine from other shoujo heroines. She’s legitimately clueless. Honestly. Not just clueless here and there when it’s convenient for the writers. She honestly doesn’t pick up on the feelings of others easily, if at all. Just about the only thing that makes her a shoujo heroine is that she has more than one guy who likes her. But with two full seasons down, she still has yet to even consider having a relationship with anyone outside of Karuta. She’s completely focused on her own passion for this Japanese poetry game and you could say that the game itself is her true love.
This is not to say she’s a horribly absent character emotionally. She’s very kind and compassionate as well. But it takes her longer to pick up other’s emotions and her own usually circle back to, yes, Karuta. She also has a bit of a complex about her older sister, who often gets all the attention in the family. But thankfully, in this area as well she remains unpredictable, for she never holds it against her sister and instead continues to support her despite being largely ignored herself.
Chihaya is not defined by her romantic relationships with the opposite sex either, but by what she truly loves and wants to do with her life (although, comically, she struggles to figure out how to apply her passion to a real life job for her future). She’s a female character that doesn’t need a male character to stand. Her admiration for Akira is tied directly to Karuta and it isn’t until the near end of the second season that the smallest thought that her feelings could be deeper even occur to her. Not that the thought sticks. Karuta still rules her and soon she sees him for what he is to her: a rival in Karuta. That’s all.

Next is Kanade Oe, a very strong female secondary character. Now on the surface it seemed like she might end up as an excuse for a big chested character. And yes, I’ll admit, that trick is played a few times. But not often. In fact, her chest size really isn’t even mentioned for quite some time. But what is mentioned is her own passion, which exists in traditional Japanese clothing and the history surrounding it and classical poetry. Her nerdy knowledge of literature really drew me to her as a character, especially as I’m a literature major myself. And, like Chihaya, she’s devoted to her own passion in life rather than throwing herself at any male character that shows any interest in her. Just like the lead of the show, she isn’t defined by a romantic love interest, but by her goals and passions. Her reveal that she wishes to be a reader rather than just a Karuta player later in the series made me more than a little happy. Finally! A girl with a goal!

This brings me to the last female lead in this show and one that doesn’t appear until season two. Sumire Hanano, who is actually one of the most complex female characters I’ve seen as of late. At first, as usual for many female character introductions these days, I feared she was a stereotypical popular girl type who would end up as little more than a catalyst for furthering the incredibly slow shoujo element to the series. I was wonderfully wrong! This female is very stuck on romance and looking good. Very much so. But she’s realistically written that way. She’s more in love with the idea of love, rather than an actual person. She honestly believes that she needs to fall in love as soon as she can and experience love quickly as beauty fades. She knows youth lasts only a moment and thus flings herself into romance with little thought at all as to the other side’s opinion on that matter. At least, she does at first. Over time, she begins to enjoy other aspects of life and slow, very slowly, allows her makeup covered mask to drop. But her passions and life views are still strongly obsessed with love and romance, compelling her to notice the relationships around her and the poems in Karuta very differently from her comrades.

It’s refreshing to see female characters with personal goals and agendas outside of ordinary romance clichés. Women are not defined by a single emotion: romantic love. Some of us do indeed fall in love. Some of us do not. Some of us don’t even register romantic love as something to think about. Regardless, we’re not simple and should never be written as such. We’re human begins. And humans are always complicated things.

Chihayafuru Review

Story:
Chihaya Ayase found her passion in grade school thanks to a bespectacled classmate whom everyone else shunned. Years later, Chihaya finally enters high school and attempts to start a team up for Karuta, a game using Japanese poems, memory and speed. She dreams of becoming the Queen of Karuta and being reunited with her old team mates from grade school. But time has changed them all and they each have a long way to go before they can hope to compete for the Master and Queen positions.

Violence:
You won’t find any real violence here. A few injuries from the game, mainly jammed fingers. Nothing graphic.

Language:
There’s nothing really in this section either besides the occasional d-mn and sh-t.

Nudity:
Again, nothing too major in this section. Aside, of course, from one of the female characters who has a large chest size. A few jokes are made, naturally. Also, there is a male pervert later on in the series that thinks about chest sizes quite a bit. Nothing graphic, and it’s played for comedic effect, but it’s still inappropriate.

Theology/mythology:
Aside from a discussion about the difference in two words where “gods” were in the examples, there’s nothing to note here.

Personal impression:
I usually don’t like “sport” anime, which is where this mainly falls. But thanks to the characters being interesting enough, the breezy pacing and the touching scenes here and there, I really came to love watching this show and finished both seasons in record time. Although this thing is tagged with no less that three major genres, rest assured that the shoujo aspect usually takes the back seat and is actually well handled. Romance only comes into play at logical moments and the feelings are complex due to the rivals past relationship with one another.
As for the animation and such, well it probably leans more towards shoujo art style overall, but it’s toned down a bit. The music is fitting, although not too outstanding on its own. It’s the characters and their more complex relationships with each other that keeps this show moving.
So if you like slice-of-life, card sports and shoujo combos… Ok, this might be the only one like that. But, anyway, if you like any of those you just might find you enjoy this show as well. Just be prepared for some tears here and there. And probably more seasons in the future as season two by no means wrapped things up.

Personal rating: 10+

Episodes: 50 (includes seasons 1 & 2)
Languages: Sub
Official rating: TVPG
Genre(s): Sports, slice of life, shoujo
Website: n/a
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll
Screenshots:
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