RRAR’s Top Shows of 2016

As this year closes with continuing technical issues (IT is now convinced my issues have to do with a space anomaly and I have no proof to the contrary), I’ve decided to look over this last year of reviews in an attempt to figure something out that’s been bugging me for months.

What the heck am I even looking for in anime anymore?

Last week Frog-kun posted a piece entitled My Tastes Have Changed and it mirrored many of my feelings on anime as of late. While I don’t share his fondness for Code Geass (lordy I gotta do a review, probably a WZ, for that one), I can completely understand how his feelings towards a show in his past are rooted in who he was in the past and thus how he would feel about it today would be wildly different. While I already mentioned my issues with Crystal, eventually I’ll need to tear into the first TV version of Sailor Moon, seeing as there’s no better picture for how my tastes have changed than my views on the first anime I ever watched.

Frog-kun also mentioned how he wasn’t sure what he was after in anime now, and I gotta say I can empathize. As I went over all the reviews I did for 2016, I noticed just how many I felt were mediocre. Or, more commonly, how many I enjoyed fine at the time, but I have no pull at all to see again. And that’s a big defining factor for me. Would I watch it again? It’s how I can tell the deference between a decent show/movie and a good one, at least for me. A great many shows I wouldn’t ever want to see again. Some I even regret having spent my time on at all. And when I was going over all my reviews I realized that these mediocre shows have a few very important things in common. One of the most glaring being lack of unique characterization and/or development. As a writer, I instinctively crave this element and it’s missing in a vast majority of shows I disliked this year. A great many also lacked the ability/desire, to break free of stereotypes, with not only the characters but also the plots and settings being such horribly bland tropes that the shows ended up blurring together. After a full year of reviews, only four shows stood out to me. And in the spirit of focusing on the good rather than the bad to close the year, as prescribed by Artemis’ Glorio blog post, I’m going to look over these four shows one last time before the year turns. Hey, how about we count down to the best of the year just for kicks while we’re at it?

RRAR’s Top Shows of 2016

Shirobako#4 – Shirobako

While I had some vague notions of what went into anime production, this anime actually busted open the door for me to see just how hellish of a system it really was. I gotta say I commend the studio for having the guts to visually show how exhausting and demanding the industry is, especially considering how little the creators get in return.
That said, these facts alone weren’t what made this show really interesting to me. What really stuck were the characters. While they didn’t appear at first to be wildly different from many other shows, they had one major element that set them apart out of the gate and it was the one element that kept me watching early on before the flow of the show could hook me: the main characters were all adults struggling in their chosen field. That alone was enough to set this show apart from the vast majority of anime cranking out of Japan. They were adults questioning their life choices, their career paths and their art. These were real issues being addressed and I really connected with that, despite the often over-the-top comedy elements that pushed through here and there.
You also got legit character development, with the main lead progressing from someone who became overwhelmed easily to someone who could handle large groups and projects on her own, taking responsibility for her errors and putting her foot down when necessary to get the job done, a feat she couldn’t have done at the beginning.

swr_keyart#3 – Snow White with the Red Hair

We really don’t get enough healthy relationships in anime, especially not in fantasy settings. Which is what made this show stand out so much in a genre that is flooded with similar titles. The old trope of prince character falling for ordinary-positive girl is so overused it’d be painful to see if I hadn’t already become so numb to such things already. But this show managed to do something very few shows have been able to do: maintain the unique identities of both romantic leads outside of one another. In other words, both characters can be pulled apart and remain interesting and continue to development without the other being there. This right here is a sign of strong writing. While you could still nit-pick a few personality issues (Shirayuki is a very cliche character, the always positive, everyone can’t help but love me because I’m a hard worker type), I found myself really enjoying this show during its air time and even now I wouldn’t mind seeing a few episodes again simply because I’m a real sucker for romances where the leads really are supportive and caring friends first and and lovers second. Very few shows seem to be able to get that right.

my love#2 – My Love Story!

Considering how well the relationships in Snow were (above), I didn’t expect to see anything that good again for quite some time. Which is why this was yet another show that caught me off guard completely this year. In addition to showcasing a very unlikely male lead, this show also blind sided you with a female character who wasn’t the shy and pure stereotype she appears to be early on. I could probably make an entire post of that little tidbit there, but for now I’ll just leave that be. This show also focused on an interesting angle for an anime. Instead of a show where we see hours of pining and whining all lead up to a confession for the grand finale of the series, this show has the love interests together as a couple right away. So we get to see what happens after the confession. We see them go through dates, introducing them to each others’ friends, and navigating difficult family and friend emergencies as a couple. These are topics rarely ever seen in anime and I was pretty overjoyed to watch them play out for once.
Also, the main lead’s relationship with his childhood friend is amazing and doesn’t get pushed aside when or while he grows in his relationship with his girlfriend. In fact, the couple have more than a few discussions on their relationship with Takeo’s friend Makoto and how they should include and support him together. As someone who is often the forgotten single friend in many groups, these elements meant a lot to me. This is definitely one show I wouldn’t mind owning. And I don’t say that for many shows these days.

amanchu#1 – Amanchu!

Speaking of shows I wouldn’t mind shelling out cash for, this anime was a pretty big shock to me this year. You always hear about “sleeper” shows that sneak up on you and let me tell ya, this one is it for me. The first episode really didn’t impress me too much, but thankfully the bar on this show rose quickly after that.
The real kicker for me was the second main lead, Futaba Oki, who suffers from anxiety. It’s rare enough to see characters who accurately portray mental illnesses in anime, but this show took it a step further and focused on Futaba’s growing relationship with her very first real friend. As someone who also has anxiety, I not only heavily identified with all of Futaba’s hangups, but I also deeply felt for her concerning her experience with friendship itself. Very few people understand or even tolerate anxiety laden behavior and thus finding support can be extremely difficult. It took me years until I met the two close friends I have now who have kept me going through some of the roughest patches in my life. Before I met them I was always feeling disconnected from those around me. The so-called “friends” I had would often either ignore or mock me when I would have attacks. When I finally met the friends I have now it was like the entire world had shifted. I could breathe. The feelings of love and gratefulness I have for these close friends are feelings I can never put into words, no matter how many times I try. Seeing those feelings of joy reflected in an anime character was nearly overwhelming, but also liberating.
While I think most people would agree that friendship is important, trust me when I say that having support, real support and love, after forcing yourself to “just deal” with the opposite for so long is one of the most amazing and wonderful things ever. As corny as it sounds, friendship really is magic. And this was a great animated depiction of just that.

h3And that’s it for 2016 folks! This year sure has been a hell hole of a ride and 2017 doesn’t look like it’s going to pull much better. Even so, I was blessed to encounter the above shows this year and I do have high hopes for some of the stuff coming out next year. So come what may, here’s to the anime of 2017 and another year of reviews!

 

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The Sunshine and Blogger Recognition Awards 2016

Wow! This year I’ve been nominated for two (!) blogger awards here on WordPress. And seeing as how I have an open article spot thanks to Crunchyroll’s horrid server errors, this is the week to tackle both of these suckers (though if you really need a few recommends for something to watch over the holidays, I shall point you over towards WWW.WAGNARIA!! and Kiss Him, Not Me! for comedy because that’s pretty much all I happily consume in the anime world these days and those two are pretty dang hilarious. OH! And Yuri!! On Ice has some seriously amazing animation. Honestly. It’s worth it just for that, I swear).

recognition-award-logo-2016Alright, let’s take down the more boring stuff, shall we? The Recognition award requires the following tid bits:

  1. Display Award – check!
  2. Thank the person who gave you this award (and include a link to her/his blog). –see nominations below for more info on my nominator, YahariBento!
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started. –might have gone on too long on this one…
  4. Give two pieces of advice for new bloggers. –I’m helpful to no one, let’s be honest
  5. Nominate 15 bloggers –Oh wow uuuuhhh

 

How RARR was Born:
a tale about a survivor of the ye ol’ VHS era

Way, way back (like before there was matter), I had a younger brother. And being the good (usually) older sister that I was, I would always scourge the Internet for reviews on anime before buying it (that’s right sweethearts, no free anime back then. Nope). But way back then, finding reviews, let alone good ones, was a huge pain. Not to mention that they usually only contained the personal opinions of the reviewer rather than any in-depth information on what the show actually contained. And ratings for anime… well, that’s never been all that accurate. It’s actually gotten better over the years (hard to believe, I know). So in the end, I would just watch an unholy amount of shows, either bought on cheap VHS (because DVDs were just starting to kick up, making even hard to get anime tapes cheap) or through Newtype USA (remember that one? Good lord, ADV films….) and get that content info myself.

Fast forward to college and I still did that, even though my brother had been old enough to think for himself for some time. It had become habit. Being a moderator for the Risembool Rangers group was also a factor (I’m now retired as a mod, but still remain semi-active here and there). So when I took a blogging class and had to create a blog, well I figured it was a good time to test out something I had wanted to try for years. My own review blog, with a twist: content reviews. My first posts were graded and originally I wasn’t going to include my personal thoughts on shows at all. But I ended up getting requests to do so from so many classmates that I decided to give it a try.

In the end, I enjoyed what I had made so much that I continued the blog long after the class finished. I’ve been reviewing anime here on WordPress now for years. Though thankfully I did make more than a few changes since graduating college, including better tagging and categorizing systems as well as getting into a far more routine posting schedule. So there you have it.

And I’m pretty sure I broke the rules already by making this too long…

Two Bits for Fellow Bloggers:
What to do and what to avoid, respectively

To Do:
Get ahead! My best months, which often include my best work, occur when I’m around three weeks to a full month ahead of schedule. This means getting the hang of the occasionally glitchy “schedule posts” option on your blog. Trust me though, it’s worth it! Getting sick or hitting a writing block happens. But if you’re already booked for weeks with posts, it won’t hit you as hard. Plus it’s far less stressful. Can’t figure out how to get that far ahead? Try writing two articles to every one. Or use your day off to write three or four at once. And don’t be afraid to look back and ax some of those posts that either don’t get enough traffic or just aren’t working out for your blog in general. Notice how I don’t post Pick of the Month anymore? I figured out over time that it was better for me to focus on writing actual reviews and thought articles than blurbs that do little more than direct you to a new show every month. Especially if that show is new and doesn’t have a review to link back to.

To Avoid:
Don’t be afraid to change your format, schedule or content at any time. It’s easy to think you’re trapped running your blog only one way, but that thinking is perfectionist and will only make writing harder. Make sure you own your blog, don’t let your blog own you! Don’t be scared to take time off when you have to and revamp your site as needed. I have tons of content that went no where because I learned the hard way that it wasn’t for me. I also had times where I would go months without posting here. While I try not to let that happen now, life happens. Let yourself breathe and get through it. Unless your income depends on your blog content (and if you’re reading this, I think that’s highly unlikely), do what you need to. Take care of yourself first. Your blog can wait and so will your followers. I’ve learned that the best followers stick around for you (hey, Artemis and John!).

[I’ve combined my nominations for the Recognition and Sunshine awards below!]

sunshine-blogger-awardBefore we hit a blogging list, let’s take on Artimis’ questions for the Sunshine Awards!

Sunshine Award rules:

  1.  Thank the person who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog. –Again, see nominations below for more intell on one of my favorite followers, Artemis and their loverly blog!
  2.  Answer the 11 questions posted by the person who nominated you. –easy
  3.  Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions. –actually easy this year thanks to the larger list requirement above
  4.  List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post. –this sounds a lot like the Recognition award, but whatever

What was the first movie you ever saw in a cinema?
The Lion King. Interesting first film seeing as it kinda ripped off Kimba the White Lion…
If you could snap your fingers and be super-talented at any one (non-fantastical) thing, what would it be?
Languages.
Is there any food you absolutely can’t stand?
Mayo. So gross.
Based on your own personality, which Stock Japanese Character would you be?
Harem Nanny. It’s horrible, but pretty much. I have little tolerance for people tip toeing around one another so I’d be prone to just annoying the hell out of the main leads if I were in a show.
addamswednesdayAssuming it was totally safe and you had the time and money, where would you most like to spend a week’s vacation?
Because “assuming it was totally safe” is in there, I gotta say Bermuda Triangle. I gotta. Oh! Or in some deep sea exploration vehicle or one of those really fancy hotels where your room is underwater. Ocean life is my jam. Seriously. I research it for fun. I used to do free presentations of marine wildlife for local schools in my state. I love it to death.
What natural disaster is the most terrifying?
Tsunami. It’s earthquake caused and if the force doesn’t damage and/or kill things, the rot or cold might later.
Have you ever broken any bones and if so, how?
Pretty sure I broke my leg after having slipped on a pencil on the ground. Keepin’ it classy.
Even if you’ve only watched a few minutes, what’s the single worst anime you’ve ever seen?
Diabolik Lovers. Satan thinks it’s a “bit much.”
What charity would you donate a million dollars to?
Streetlight USA.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Loud eating sounds. They make my eye twitch. Not even a child shrieking at the top of their lungs is as bad.
Did you ever believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny, or the tooth fairy?
Nope. I was a very practical child, thank God.

(note on nominees: through this challenge I’ve realized that my blogroll needs serious updating {2017 goal!} as most of the blogs I used to follow have been dead for the last few years. As such, I have a lot of new faces down in my nominations. I have read a bit of each’s newer content, however and all seem to be quality blogs! A thousand thanks to Yahari for introducing me to them via her nominations list. I’ll try to give some good, yet brief, blurbs about each to help you see if you might be interested in them as well. I look forward to reading more material from each in the future!)

My nominations for both the Recognition and Sunshine Awards for 2016:

  1. Otaku Lounge – owner Artemis is one of my top commenters and her insight and differing opinions are always pleasant to read and discuss. While she does go over anime and has some truly wonderful posts on streaming shows, she also posts on culture here and there and her info is always explained and researched well. 10/10 recommend!
  2. Pirates of the Burley Griffin – Another faithful commenter of mine for years, John Samuel’s blog is a nerd cash. While anime is a main focus, he does diverge for other nerdy fare here and there. His thoughts are well written and detailed, but not overly so. Like Artemis, this is the kind of no-nonsense blogger I love.
  3. Lost my Thesis – I’ve followed this blog since my early blogging days! They still create wonderful posts on new shows. A very steady anime blog!
  4. 100 Word Anime – If you want to keep up on series that are trending, this follower of mine might have what you’re looking for. Not only do they post their own thoughts on episodes and overall series, but they also link back to other blogs and media posts discussing various shows and opinions.
  5. Yahari Bento! – This one knows their way around the blogsphere! Yahari was my nominator for the Recognition Award and their links to various other bloggers provided me with some great new blogs to follow! In fact, the rest of my recommends list was thanks to them! Definitely check out their various award posts for great blogger lists as well as anime thoughts and reviews.
  6. Otaku Village – Looking for a blog that doesn’t just go over anime, but culture, VA news and more? This is a good start!
  7. Ruminating Scrawlings – Want a reviewer who makes the five star rating system look pathetic? This is your blog! Good in depth reviews and well thought out impression posts.
  8. I Have a Heroine Problem – It’s not what you think! If you want some more feminism and some great analytical looks into female heroes in anime, this is a wonderful blog!
  9. The Josei Next Door – A lovely blog with thoughts on anime. Well thought out layout and posts.
  10. Frogkun – Ever wonder what an official Crunchyroll writer is thinking? Wonder no more!
  11. Treasure Box – Wonderful blog with in depth reviews, not just of anime, but also live action, with references to directors, actors, etc. This blogger knows their stuff!
  12. No Brand Blog – some nice thoughts on posts and experiences from an anime fan who has been to Japan and wishes to pass along their knowledge to future travelers.
  13. Itadakimasu Anime! – I’m so excited about this blog! Food! From anime! Being recreated! I’m all over this!
  14. Anime and Fandom Life – If you’d like some solid anime reviews with no frilly-ness attached, this is for you!
  15. shcboomer’s blog – If you like the review by episode format, along with a great many images, this blog is up your ally!

Questions for my Nominees:
(if you’ve already been nominated prior, feel free to answer my questions in the comments!)

  1. How much has the first anime you ever watched aged?
  2. If you somehow got yourself into working for an anime company, what job would you likely hold? Direction? Production? Cast? Art?
  3. What’s one Japanese dish you’ve always wanted to try but either never got around to trying or are too scared to try?
  4. If you could become a part of a show just long enough to shake some sense into a character, which show and character would you traumatize?
  5. Which anime (or general) trope do you most want to die?
  6. If another season for an old anime long forgotten were to be announced for next year, what show would you most want it to be?
  7. Japanese or Western sweets?
  8. What two unique genres would you most like to see blending well on screen?
  9. Your top show of this year?
  10. Got any New Years/beginning of the year traditions?
  11. On a scale of one to ten (one being “don’t care either way” and ten being “*explicatives while binge eating chocolate*), how done with 2016 are you?

 

And that’s all folks!

Thank you again to both Artemis and Yahari for nominating me for both awards. I don’t interact with the WordPress community as much as I should. Hopefully 2017 can see that change a bit.
Or at least see my blogroll get a much needed update…

The Ancient Magus’ Bride Review

magus-brideStory:
Hatori has nothing. Still in her teens and with nowhere to go, she is bought by an inhuman sorcerer who intends for her to train in magic and eventually marry him. Coming to terms with her new life, Hatori begins her studies and finds comfort in an old picture book from her past.

Violence:
Pretty nonexistent. That said, there are some very scary youkai in this first episode and while no actual violence occurs, the heroine does fear for her life and the chase sequence is pretty scary.

Language:
Nonexistent.

Nudity:
Nothing to report… technically. On the theoretical side, the fact that a young girl, still in high school, is set to someday marry a beast who is likely hundreds of years old… well, that’s kinda creepy. Just sayin’.

Theology/mythology:
Here’s where you make a choice about this one. The are youkai. Also, the, er, creature? Mythological beast? looking after Hatori is a sorcerer. He’s also probably older than dirt. There’s also spells and fairy things and whatnot. If you aren’t chill with any of that, skip this one. There’s no getting around these elements.

Personal impression:
Fair warning right here! This show is actually a prequel to a manga and thus is only set to have three or so episodes total. Released six MONTHS apart. As this is a unique situation, I shall endeavor to create mini reviews for future episodes as they are released, linking back here for the content evaluations (which shall also be updated as needed).
With that out of the way, this is a charming start. Well directed and with solid art, this is one of those titles that’s perfectly content to show versus tell, something I personally appreciate quite a bit these days. Characters come and go naturally and the world feels pretty expensive considering how little of it we get to actually see.
That said, this show also doesn’t seem to be going anywhere as it’s just a warm up for a manga, so plot and character-wise, I’m sad to say that there’s just nothing going on. I can see how they’re setting up for a future story. And if I had the time to go into something like that, perhaps I would. But at the end of this single episode (episode 2 isn’t due out till next year), I just found myself wishing they would spring for a real series rather than yearn for the manga. And I doubt that was their intent.

Personal rating: Young adult

Episodes: 1 (as of posting, stay tuned for future mini reviews for any continuing episodes)
Languages: sub
Official rating: TV14
Genre: Fantasy, romance
Company: Production I.G.
Official streaming: Crunchyroll