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My Hero Academia Season 1 Review

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Hey everyone, it’s Kernook here. Today I’m going to begin my review journey through the My Hero Academia series. Some of you may know this title as Boku no Hīrō Akademia.

I’ll be starting at season 1. Over time, I’ll slowly move my way through all of them. Super hero anime quite like this one are particularly hard to find. It’s worth the effort to re-watch the series and gather my thoughts accordingly.

When it first released I was dubious. I wondered if the series would be another sub-par shounen romp. Thankfully, it really isn’t. Like most anime fans out there, I’m always searching for new anime to watch. While I certainly prefer older anime from the early 2000’s and the 1990’s, I jumped on the bandwagon for My Hero Academia fairly quickly.

I must say, I enjoyed season 1 for all that it had to offer. This 13 episode masterpiece won’t leave you hanging for more. There are plenty of seasons to pick up after you finish this one.

I don’t think I have to tell you that this series is worth the watch for any fan of the hero’s journey, which Deku, our main protagonist displays in spades. Really, I think that’s the most compelling part of this anime; Deku himself and the wider world he faces down.

We can thank  Studio Bones for its high value production quality and intelligent fights. That certainly helps a lot too.

The Basic Story

The world is dominated by two main types of people. Those with powers named “Quirks” and those who don’t have that power. The series is fairly utilitarian. It boasts the concept that a person should do what they most excel at to benefit the wider community. It isn’t a dystopian world though, far from it.

Our main protagonist is a run-of-the-mill guy named Izuku Midoriya, nicknamed fairly early on as Deku. That’s what I’ll be calling him from here on out, by the way, Deku…

This middle school kid has a dream to become a hero. There’s just one problem, Deku doesn’t have a Quirk of his own. Within the series, this excuse happens to be handled this pretty believably too. We get a solid medical explanation in a flashback scene.

During a doctor’s appointment Deku is told he’s absolutely unable to develop a Quirk. The doctor, almost cruelly tells him that he could never become a hero. Those around Deku tell him this continually, believing he should find a new goal in life.

This headstrong boy refuses to believe he can’t become a hero. He absolutely won’t give up his dream for anything. Now I’ve discussed the powerful storytelling found in Deku as a character. If you’re interested in that, check it out here.

The majority of the first season is about challenging the preconceived notions you might have about “hero shows” like this one. Deku spends his time facing adversity, his own mental struggles, and the preparation he needs to take in the power “One For All”. That particular Quirk belongs to All Might. After Deku proves himself, All Might decides to pass it on to Deku.

Note: Not all quirks can be passed on, but “One For All” can be.

Deku dives into his efforts head first at nearly every opportunity. He’s so engrossed in the training it takes to become a hero. You truly do want to root for him. The bond he makes with All Might is really a special thing. It reminds me heavily of Kakashi’s bond with Team 7 of the Naruto series. His role is almost paternal. This bond between them deepens from mentor and protege into teacher and student once Deku is accepted into the “UA” high school.

What makes My Hero Academia  knows exactly what story it’s trying to tell. It doesn’t deviate from the core themes. The series carefully balances humor with emotion, but the story is also tight paced and full of action where it suits. Better yet, the character conflicts hold their own emotional weight.

One of the best characters to facilitate the emotional conflict for Deku is Bakugo. He might come off as your average bully, but there’s more going on under the hood with this character for sure. Even early on, you can see that in spades. While Bakugo’s rage at Deku certainly feels a bit misguided at times, the emotional warfare feels realistic to the universe.

Yet, what would an action series be without stellar fights?

Animation

The animation won’t do you wrong. The combat feels weighty, the animation itself is very slick during the fights. The characters don’t “float” where there shouldn’t be any floating to their movements. All of the Quirks suit the characters well, even if we don’t fully understand the complete magnitude of these powers. Bakugo’s explosions feel bombastic. Todoroki’s ice powers feel layered and amazing.

Combat choreography isn’t something a screen shot can adequately depict. This is a series you have to watch to fully appreciate. I should call it raw magnitude. Well and truly, the fights are raw magnitude for a lack of a better description.

The attention paid to the tiny details really shows how much care the animators put into this series.

Final Thoughts

Honestly, this is a solid first season to a pretty good shounen anime over all. In my opinion, it’s also one of the best seasons because of how clean and concise it is.

There are so many anime in this genre that feel clunky or overdone. I promise you, My Hero Academia comes out of the gate strong. It doesn’t feel clunky in the slightest. Shounen anime often feel like a dime a dozen, but My Hero Academia feels like more than that.

The first season is only 13 episodes long, you could binge watch the first season in a single weekend with time to spare. The ending is wonderful too, paving the way for more great seasons down the line.

With the strong introduction of the main cast, and a few decent villains like Shigaraki, there’s a lot to like here. I often return to this first season for the tight writing, punchy characterizations, and compelling storytelling. If you haven’t seen this series, you probably should.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

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Review: A Little Snow Fairy Sugar

Hey all, this is Kernook here. Today we’re going to talk about a series that’s gentle and easy to watch. However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows either. Sometimes this anime is a little bitter-sweet and contemplative above all else. While it touches on the subject of loss, you’ll find the themes to be easily digestible and never too dark.

Today I’m talking about A Little Snow Fairy Sugar. Please don’t forget to follow this blog and out social media for more content.

Before I dive into the series, let’s talk about the usual technicalities. As of right now the series can be hard to find. You can rent or buy it digitally on Amazon Prime. I’m not sure if you can locate it anywhere else. I still have my old DVD copies so that’s how I watch the show.

Speaking of that, the series was originally released on DVD in North America by Geneon Entertainment.  Sentai Filmworks partook the license later on. The animation was done by J.C. Staff, for better and for worse. For the time it was pretty decent, average at the very least. That said, it hasn’t aged well.

Thankfully, the character designs by Koge-Donbo save this problem. The characters are wonderful. Let’s dive into the meat of the show properly.

This is a short 24 episode series, centering around the main protagonist, Saga. She’s an interesting girl. She likes to have everything organized to perfection. To some degree her this nearly obsessive character flaw stems from hardship, but I’ll get to that later. Saga lives with her grandmother in Muhlenberg, Germany.

Side note: As far as I can tell, this is a fictional place. It isn’t real. Although interestingly enough, there was actually a man by the name of Frederick Muhlenberg. If what the urban legend says is true, then that is the guy who prevented German from becoming an official language of the United States. This is the sort of thing you find while researching for blog posts, I swear. Tangential learning, everyone! Anyway, I digress.

At the time the series begins, Saga is 11 years old. She goes to school and keeps a part-time job at the “Little Me” coffee shop. As a hobby she visits the local music store to practice playing her late mother’s piano.

As you can see, Saga’s life is entirely ordinary with nothing out of place. One day during a rain storm, Saga encounters Sugar, an apprentice Season Fairy. As you can guess, everything neat and orderly in Saga’s life goes completely askew as soon as she meets Sugar.

The seasons and weather such as snow, wind, rain and the sun are controlled by these little creatures. Also as expected, we find out that these little buggers are entirely invisible to humans. Saga can see Sugar. That is the crux of the show. The next thing Saga knows, she’s befriended the adorable little pain-in-the-butt. The general story goes like this…

In order for Sugar to become a full-fledged Season Fairy, as an apprentice she must first journey to the human world. These little fairies have a lot to learn during training. Naturally this causes problems for Saga as she tries to keep the little snow fairy out of trouble. 

A Little Snow Fairy Sugar is full of simple everyday adventures, nothing more, nothing less. All in all, this show is light and airy. It’s a breath of fresh air, really… however there’s a few sad little elements too. Beneath the overtones of gentleness and spunky characters, the series has a very clear and honest tone.

You see, ultimately this is a story about life and loss. Growing up can be awkward and painful. This show speaks to that in a very real way. Really, the themes are about letting go of the past. The sincere friends and beloved family that we inevitably and tragically lose can’t put our lives at a standstill. We don’t get the time back after those emotional ties are gone, but we have to move on.

In this way, you might say A Little Snow Fairy Sugar is very similar to Sweetness and Lightning.

Although the series never beats you over the head with this concept, it is a pervasive theme. A Little Snow Fairy Sugar heavily and constantly implies that Saga can see Sugar because of her own childhood traumas. This is concept lampshades further due to the memory of Saga’s deceased mother.

Saga’s constant recollections of the woman speaks volumes. In some facets this is her journey of personal catharsis after grief.

Saga needs to learn to move on with her life. The show makes it clear. Every week, she visits her mother’s old piano. To her, this is the replacement for a gravestone. As I said above, she is an obsessive type character. Her routine visits are deeply tied to her emotionally.

There comes a time when Sugar finally discovers what she needs to know. That’s it, her training is done. She can go back home, if she only wanted to. She doesn’t want to return to the fairy realm. If she did that, it would mean leaving Saga behind forever.

This is a wonderful series, and it certainly is worth your time. The series is certainly aimed at a slightly younger audience. Adults may not get the same sort of benefit or enjoyment from the series. A middling or younger teenager would likely benefit best. That being said, the series is kid friendly and that makes for wonderful family viewing.

If you’re an adult anime fan that requires anime appropriate for small children around, this is reasonable viewing. Honestly, if you like these kinds of stories, the series will probably be a solid choice for you regardless of age.

Importantly though, it won’t offend the sensibilities of small children and it won’t be so absolutely annoying that older kids flat out hate it. It’s certainly aimed at girls more than boys. That being said, I know a lot of boys who do like it, so don’t let that stop you.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

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Anime Review: A Place Further than the Universe

Hey everyone, it’s Kernook here with another anime review. Today I’ll be discussing A Place Further than the Universe.

Looking back, the year of 2018 was a very strong year for anime. We had amazing contenders in the anime line-up every season, with plenty of content to choose from. From series like Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online to Cells at Work! and My Hero Academia Season 3, it was difficult to pick and choose what anime to watch that year. There were just so many solid choices to pick from that it was hard to go wrong.

One of the most notable anime of that year is A Place Further than the Universe. It’s also known in Japan as Sora yori mo Tōi Basho. The series was released in January of 2018 and finished around March of that same year. Written by Jukki Hanada the series started off on a strong foot for that alone.

For those of you who may not know,  Jukki Hanada also did the writing for such anime as Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl and the 2011 Steins;Gate series.

A Place Further than the Universe was directed by Atsuko Ishizuka, who is also known for his work on the design production and storyboard for Monster. That’s another anime I’ve reviewed on this blog, and find it to be one of the best classics that anime has to offer. As far as his directing skill is concerned, you may also know him from such anime as The Pet Girl of Sakurasou and No Game No Life.

Monster – You Have To Watch This Thing

What you can expect is a story that is very well written, with characters that are as multidimensional as any anime could ever offer. What you’ll find here is a truly mature anime. It is one that is certainly worth your time to give it a try.

I’m hesitant to say that A Place Further than the Universe ticked all the boxes for me. I deeply enjoyed it, but it would never make a top ten list for me. I’ll explain why near the end of the post. For now what you need to know is that the series is certainly noteworthy and you shouldn’t bypass it. If you like cute girls and slice-of-life series and you haven’t seen this anime, go watch it.

To me, this anime is required viewing, because it sets the baseline of what a serviceable anime really needs to be across the board. I think I just don’t hold the series to quite the same level of prestige because 2018 was such a strong year to begin with. It was an amazing year of anime, hands down.

If you doubt that, you were either under a rock that year, or you missed out on some really solid series someplace. Alright then, with that out of the way, onto the meat of this review.

The plot is simple enough, I suppose. Four girls, one big journey with a slice-of-life feel and a coat of cut girl paint. You have a character named Mari Tamaki. She’s a second-year high school student who wants to make the most out of her youth. The thing is, she’s a bit of a coward and she’s usually too afraid to step out of her shell. 

One day, she meets Shirase Kobuchizawa, someone much more brave and with big ambitions. She’s been saving up to travel to Antarctica. It isn’t just a pipe dream. It’s a goal with emotions attached, since mother disappeared three years ago. These two characters are eventually joined by two other girls, Hinata Miyake and Yuzuki Shiraishi. These four eventually make their way to the Antarctic.

It’s a simple series, with simple elements. The plot itself isn’t contrived, thankfully. It isn’t bombastic and it isn’t flat out stupid. What is very nice about the show is that it has 13 episodes. That’s just long enough to tell this story in a fulfilling way. The series doesn’t overstay its welcome and it doesn’t draw out nonsense plot elements to the extreme.

Honestly, I’d say the series could have used a few more episodes, even if just one or two. It is a packed series from start to finish. That’s a good thing, a very good thing. You’ll probably be left wanting for more after the series concludes and I think another episode or two would have given it just a little more room to breathe. Honestly, even without extra content, this series stands as a hallmark of a great anime.

When you get the benefits of a fulfilling ending and you still crave more, that’s when you know the series goes on a top ten list someplace.It might not be in my top ten list for anything particularly, but to say this anime is anything less than steadfast is a direct injustice. I’ve watched a lot of series across many genres, and every single thing this series does, it does very well.

The pacing is where it should be for a series like this. It’s the sort that slowly builds, but it is also tightly packed with key character moments. That’s the main draw of this show after all. It isn’t about the adventure itself, but rather our four main protagonists and what it means to them. They need to work hard to get to the Antarctic.

This isn’t an adventure where they sit around on their hands doing nothing but giggling their way through the show. Although I would say it is about cute girls, they’re not always doing cute things. Sometimes they’re put to real work, and the trip is occasionally far from glamorous. There are scenes where they even acknowledge that the cramped spaces they’re shoved into could be problematic for them.

These girls are multi-layered and very compatible on screen together, but they know they can sometimes clash in ideology too. It isn’t heavy handed, but there’s a real down-to-earth mentality used in this show. Unlike a lot of the other slice-of-life series you may come across, there’s not a lot of mindless or useless fluff. The character moments always feel as though it has been planned to enrich the story. These girls are all very likable and that helps too.

As a general rule, the series wants the girls to be fun-loving and adventurous. We see this most of all. They’re not dimwitted, and they’re not trying to do something entirely idiotic. Honestly, I just can’t praise A place Further than the Universe enough for this aspect alone. The series really hit it out of the park with these characters.

We get the same compelling banter between them that you’d expect from high school girls, but you also get some real heart and soul out of them too. The series hones in upon their dreams, fears, aspirations and insecurities. Frankly it does a phenomenal job of letting viewers get to know each of the four girls. At the same time, the series isn’t interested in cramming contrived emotional stupidity in front of our faces… when there is an emotional outburst, it means something valuable and important to the wider story.

We never lose out on that wider narrative either, nor the unpredictability of the adventure they’ve embarked upon. There are obviously a few small layers of drama, but it’s perfectly fitted for the story at hand. The series focuses deeply upon forged friendship, and facing tragedy.

As I said above, Shirase’s mother went missing three years prior to when the series actually starts. That’s a plot point that adds a layer of emotional gravity and uneasy tension to the journey. Also, the fact that they’ve got some measure of adult oversight and supervision means that the story is believable for these four high school students.

They travel with the Civilian Antarctic Observation Team, so as an adult watching this series, you’re not going to be raising an eyebrow. There’s no need to sit there wondering how in the hell these four girls are going to pull this trip off without suspending disbelief. It is a very believable story with a very steadfast component of grounded and logical plot elements.

You’re going to get an ending to this short series that’s about as complete as you could hope to expect for a 13 episode runtime. The plot ties up nicely, what isn’t addressed doesn’t need to be, and there’s a satisfaction to the ending. That entire final episode leaves you feeling justified for having enjoyed the show. There’s no need to point at the manga and say “finish the story there” although, there is a manga too and it is worth the read as well.

I’ve not said one single bad thing about this series, because there’s nothing bad to say about it. The visuals are solid, the soundtrack works well, the story leaves you fulfilled. So, you may be wondering if I’ve lost my mind. You may be wondering why, in spite of the fact I praise so highly, that it wouldn’t sit on my own personal top lists for anime?

It’s not groundbreaking, that’s why. I wouldn’t have it on my list, because it didn’t knock me out of my seat the way others in the genre have. I was thoroughly entertained, but I can’t say that I was surprised or taken aback by this anime in any meaningful way. I’ve seen a lot of shows like this, or similar to it. I’ve seen the basic idea of a journey like this one a billion times over.

While the characters are a home run out of the park, you’ve still seen these archetypes before a billion times over too. Honestly, I expect anime like this one to have strong characters, because if it didn’t, it would be a failure of a series. The characters are what matter, they’re what make the story being told amazing. If you watch animated series like this enough of the time, you come to hold a baseline expectation of what that sort of anime should be.

Let me be absolutely clear; A place Further than the Universe is everything an anime like this should be. It ticks all of the boxes in a way that any anime fan should demand of a high quality slice-of-life series. That’s exactly what this series promises.

It promises high quality animation and sound design. It promises to be exactly what it advertises its story to be. It upholds that standard throughout its runtime, and never once do you feel stolen from as far as a quality experience is concerned. However, although it holds the high quality standard, I personally don’t feel it surpasses the standard.

Maybe I’m just a jerk, but I expect a high standard of grounded, down to earth slice-of-life series. This one touches upon and continues to uphold that high standard baseline of quality anime. You’re just not going to find anything new here or something that challenges your notions of what a series like this one should be like. To me, it’s not a revolutionary series, if you’d think of it that way… and my top ten lists, those ones have to rip me right out of my seat and knock me down.

To me a top ten list is the best of the best. A Place Further than the Universe doesn’t quite match that. However, it would likely sit someplace on a top twenty which is far from an insult. Trust me, watch as many anime as I have, and so long as the anime makes the top fifty it’s a damn good show… two decades of anime watching does that to a person, honestly speaking.

So, there you have it. Watch this show if you haven’t already. A Place Further than the Universe sets the baseline of what we should all be expecting from our slice-of-life anime series. Quality characters, interesting visuals, a great story and one that wraps up nicely at that.

If you want to see another review of this series, from someone other than myself, perhaps check this one out written by NEFARIOUS REVIEWS. I thought it was a good review of the anime, maybe you will too.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

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Anime Review: Zombie Land Saga Season 1

Hey everyone, it’s Kernook here! It’s time for another anime review. Today we’re diving into an off-kilter idol anime with more than a few quirks. Zombies, singing and more, this is one weird show.

Yep, that’s right, I’m talking about Zombie Land Saga. I am going to try to be as objective as I can in my review of this anime, so I’m not going to needlessly bash the unholy crap out of it. That being said, I flat out do not like this show, and you will never convince me to like this series.

Why? Well, that’s strictly a personal taste in media. I actually loved it on the first watch, believe it or not. It was second and third watches through that left a foul taste in my mouth. Retrospection made me realize just how much I actually disliked it.

On the surface level it has strong animation, decent music, and a fairly strong cast of characters all things considered. So yeah, as much as I don’t like it, the series is far from “bad” on its face, trust me on that.

If it was just awful by nature, I’d bash the series in every unrepentant way possible. There’s no need to do that, because it is more or less a solid show, aside from a few very pointed gripes that ruin it for me on a personal level.

I’ll be fair to the show, but please be fair to me. You’re not expected to agree with me.

As I’ve stated before, one of the key ways I build a “watch list” every season is to pick at least one anime I know I probably won’t like. The link for that post is down below, for reference.


As a refresher for the rest of you, every season that my watch-list isn’t bursting at the seams, I tend to choose an anime or two that I know I’ll probably hate. I do this just to give it a try. As an anime fan, I find that to be a fundamental part of personal growth and broadening my horizons.

I have been pleasantly surprised in the past by this method. On occasion I do get hooked into a series and I truly enjoy it.

This doesn’t always happen though, and Zombie Land Saga is a good example of when that doesn’t work for me. I don’t mind some idol anime, but really if I’m going to enjoy an anime that contains idol culture something more along the lines of Perfect Blue suits my personal tastes far better. Normally though, I’ll go for grittier band anime like Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad or Nana.

So, with those upfront caveats out of the way, let me attempt to review this thing as objectively as humanly possible.

This is only a review of season one, as I absolutely see no reason to ever watch season two.

Zombie Idols

Okay, strap in and suspend your disbelief right here and now. That’s the only way to make it through a series like Zombie Land Saga, because as much as it’s a commentary on idol culture itself, it’s also occasionally stupidly funny for the sake of it.

When a fandom affectionately names a speeding truck, yeah, you know this is not a series that you should take seriously. Honestly, the fandom’s beloved “Truck-kun” likely has one of the single most hilarious moments in the first episode, not going to lie.

The first season of Zombie Land Saga came out in 2018, during a mild lull in the hype that was idol anime. They were a dime a dozen by this point, but the series promised to offer typical fans of the genre something different.

Directed by Munehisa Sakai and written by Shigeru Murakoshi, this is not their best work for reasons I’ll get into when I discuss the plot.

The music is notably credits two different contributors. The first is Yasuharu Takanashi. This is a composer I actually really enjoy, known for his other musical talents with shows like Naruto Shippuden, Hell Girl, and Ikki Tousen. The second is Funta7 a Japanese rock band that has made themselves a rather decent fan following by writing music for anime such as Zombie Land Saga.

The anime has several good qualities, particularly when it comes to the cast of characters and the representation of the transgender community within it. I can honestly say most of these girls are compelling enough on a surface level to make you want to know more about them instantly.

I can’t speak for season two, but as far season one goes, Lily is by far one of the best written transgender characters ever to be seen in anime. I will stand by that without question. Her existence isn’t defined by her gender performative actions, or her occasional lack of them. We aren’t beaten over the head with the concept either. Lily is who she is, and that’s the way life is. It’s that simple, and I can’t praise that enough.

The fact she’s transgender at all is merely accepted as a fact of life. Her existence is constantly validated by the fact that no one surrounding her makes a huge or complicated ordeal out of it. By and large, the characters don’t find her identity to be an issue at all.

That is worthy of merit for a discussion of representation in anime. Lily deserves a blog post all of her own, because I can count on one hand the number of prolific transgender characters that resonate well within the confines of anime. Lily’s identity is as strong and unquestionable as any other core character within Zombie Land Saga, without being overbearing or seeming like virtue signaling.

One of the nice things about Zombie Land Saga was that it held true to its promises about being different than typical idol anime fodder… at least, at first. Later on it really drops the ball on this, but I’ll speak more on that later.

The series begins with the same sort of cynical outlook that Perfect Blue has. Showcasing the drawbacks of the industry in almost every way. The girls in the series are ones who either want to be idols, or were famous at one point in their lives, only to end up dead in some way or another.

Being brought back to life, these zombie girls are objectified by their producer Tatsumi Kotaro, a guy that literally is just flat out crazy. When he isn’t acting criminally insane, he’s a pure eyesore on screen. He’s played off for laughs, but seriously, it can be hard to find humor in him, at least for me.

The abuse going on in idol culture is no laughing matter. This guy is the long running joke that really isn’t funny. He’s actually one of the reasons why I came to hate the series.

This deconstruction of typical idol anime really is a smart way to do an idol series though, right down to the asshole producer with more ego than common sense.

Tatsumi seeks to revitalize the very fictional “Saga Prefecture” in Japan by putting together the all-zombie idol group, because apparently that won’t just shock and terrify the entire world…

Actually, that’s a commentary that occurs in the first episode when a poor police officer lodges a bullet right into the newly minted zombie girl, Sakura Minamoto. Needless to say, that’s just more proof that the majority of the strong content is in the front of the anime, not the back of it.

Now is around the time when I would discuss the plot, but sadly, there really isn’t one. This is where the series begins to have some real problems.

Revive Idols & Bury the Plot

This is not an easy issue to pin down, but we don’t we have a plot in the first place. I can’t even pin down why we don’t have a plot for the anime. We just don’t, or if we do, it isn’t objectively functional beyond a certain point.

Seriously, did Tatsumi leave leave the story in the ground or blow it to smithereens? Did the show runners just shout “Idol!” really loud into the air, causing a huge scramble during production?

I really do have to ask. What happened here? What impossibly large brain fart caused the plot to go missing?

I just don’t understand how that could even happen. We have in front of us an anime bursting with serviceable animation, decent music, and a fairly strong cast of characters… but we have no actual plot to tie everything into a nice little package. For some people, myself included this will be a huge issue for the show.

First of all, Zombie Land Saga isn’t clear about what the “Saga Prefecture” needs to be saved from, or why anyone needs to save it in the first place. Why bring that up if you’re not going to detail that out? How in the world do idols even “save” anything if the situation was that detrimental in the first place.

You could argue that the vaguely hinted at debt crisis to the prefecture is the problem. However, that’s subtext at best, and you have to dive deep to look for it. The idea of having more idol groups to boost the economy in the area could have some merit, I suppose. Unfortunately, when you have to use that kind of slow and meticulous logic, it clashes with the confines of the show.

Suspending your disbelief matters here, and the lack of a plot is something you will have to shrug off.

The other option for plot only really works when subversion is at play. The fact that Tatsumi is a just a raving lunatic remains a far more plausible conclusion by its nature. Either way, we don’t really get an answer for why these girls have to be in this situation in the first place, only that they do.

All other idol anime have a clear goal, dream, or plot driven reason for why things happen. This series just doesn’t, and while it could also be a subversion of the norm, it is not the best choice from a narrative lens.

Thankfully, on the first viewing the spectacle and novelty of the series allowed me to overlook this. There’s a real charm here, the only issue it doesn’t last after the first time through.

Any subsequent viewing made it impossible for me to ignore the continually obvious lack of plot. Worst still, it’s even more obvious the more times you watch it, which is why I won’t ever watch this show again.

I’m not saying there needs to be a deep or complex story. I’m saying there needs to be a story in the first place to tie up those random plot threads. Otherwise the series comes down to strictly the core cynicism I stated about the show above, and that outlook is a very bleak one.

Speaking of that core cynicism, in the second episode there is an actual rap battle that really highlights all of the things this anime could have been. It’s gritty, it’s punchy, and above all it is very entertaining.

The only issue is, the anime didn’t put its bets on the places it worked, and it lost its way a few times in later episodes. The girls eventually find a fulfillment in being zombie idols, but there was no real weight to that decision, so it’s hard for me to really accept it.

I just don’t find that conclusion to be satisfying on its own. Cynicism and subversion are very strong building blocks to great anime, but they are not the only ones you require unless you’re going to unflinchingly stick to that core ideology for entire series.

To think that was all this show aimed to be, would be rather insulting because it doesn’t stick to that theme. However, we can’t discuss this series without a firm look at its subversive elements, either.

Subversion Takes Center Stage… Until It Doesn’t…

Zombie Land Saga makes you believe it will be nothing but subversion when you get right down to it. The characters, the comedy, the practice montages, and the performances on stage, all of it…

At the start, subversion is all we really get, and its all we ever really need. The anime has one single ethos; to comment upon what it means to be an idol. Subversion and satire of idol anime and the idol industry at large is the main goal of the show.

Early on, the series dives into those concepts so heavily, you just can’t look away from it. Even the characters themselves often come down to subversion of usual tropes found in idol anime.

The fact they are even zombies at all, but don’t naturally air that to the public, is a direct satirical commentary on the idol industry. It basically spits upon the near puritan and painted on culture that surrounds the people involved.

Even the lack of any real plot can truly just come down to “because Tatsumi said so” if subversion continued to carry the heaviest theme in the show. As an idol, you do what you’re told, and that’s the way it is. Objectified, because you are expected to conform to a point beyond reason.

The idol world is often insidious by its nature, but that nature is so grotesque that we don’t often care to think about it. Zombie Land Saga forces you to see the direct metaphor. Furthermore, it doesn’t mind being offensive to get the point across. It never crosses a line, but it isn’t kind in its critiques, either.

Sadly though, the series doesn’t cling onto that cynical metaphor, and eventually the zombie girls decide to work together. They decide to be the best zombie idols they can be, and this is where all of those early episodes give you a bait and switch.

There comes a time when that far more cynical satire is replaced for normal comedic situations. Over time, the subversive performances are forgotten. Instead, we just get more idol anime fare like the rest of the shows out there.

After Zombie Land Saga replaces some of that cynicism, we get some real nicely thought out character moments and decent backstories.

Sadly though, I just don’t think it is enough to carry the show at that point. That’s why the lack of plot I mentioned above bothers me so much. It only really works when you cling onto subversive elements like a vice, but the show doesn’t do that all the way through.

There comes a time that Zombie Land Saga becomes just another typical idol anime with zombie paint over the top of it. While there is nothing wrong with that, in my opinion it doesn’t live up to the genius satirical comedy that preceded it.

In short, this is why I came to hate the series. It really is a letdown for me as I see so much wasted potential.

Final Thoughts

The best thing about idol anime is to find a character you want to follow and invest yourself into them. You want to watch them succeed. This isn’t too unlike how fans often treat idols in real life. However, following an anime character that avidly typically harms no living, breathing person. After all, it is only an animated character, and there’s a bit of silver lining to be found in that.

Zombie Land Saga has an incredibly strong cast, and really after the satire dies out, that’s the only thing this anime really has going for it. The songs are good, but only because of the characters themselves.

The songs are extensions of these characters, brought to life by their emotional investment in what being an idol really means to them. Each girl has a different answer to that. Those themes are expressed though their personal conflicts and their unified performances on stage. The songs would not hold up well if the girls singing them weren’t characters we cared about.

To me the ideal viewer of this show is what I like to call a “popcorn anime fan”. That means it caters to fans that don’t want to think too deeply upon the anime they’re watching. They just want to watch it and enjoy it. There are a lot of people like this out there, and I myself have a few “popcorn anime” I thoroughly enjoy.

I wouldn’t even call this anime a guilty pleasure, because like I said, there’s nothing god awful that’s wrong with it. There’s no reason to feel guilty about liking this show. However, there’s plenty of reasons to hate the show too, and there’s nothing wrong with that either.

Zombie Land Saga is an incredibly well made series, at least up until it isn’t. I think the first three episodes are the strongest over all. Episode eight is also a noteworthy one.

All-in-all, it’s fine until you try to really dig into it. While some people probably could, that reach would be limited. I’d argue that only the most staunch idol fan base, or those who have a deep knowledge of idol culture itself would be able to truly study this anime intellectually.

I’m no expert, therefore for me the series misses the mark after the satire slowly dies out. There’s just not enough for me to sink my teeth into without doing a true deep dive on the minutia of details idol culture has to offer, and I just don’t care enough about the series to do that.

If you like idol anime though, Zombie Land Saga is a series you absolutely have to watch at least once. Give it four episodes at the very least, simply for the subversive elements and commentary alone. I’d say that for a fan of the genre it would be considered required viewing, and probably a touchstone for the fan base itself.

For me though, the anime is just mediocre and it can’t live up to my personal test of time. I should never have watched it multiple times, but I did and that perspective is what ruined the experience. To me a good anime is one that I can return to no matter what, and I won’t be returning to this one. Therefore, it fails the most important test I have when measuring for a quality standard.

Fans of the series are entirely entitled to disagree, as there may in fact be something in the series that speaks more deeply to them than t ever could for me. That’s the beauty of anime as an art form. At the end of the day I stand by the ideology that anime will always be artistry, and therefore even an anime that is not for me is capable of speaking to a great many people.

This has been Kernook of “The Demented Ferrets”, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. If you liked this content, please be sure to check out some of our other content below.

I’ll see you next time…

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Anime Review – Your Lie in April

Hey everyone, it’s Kern here. Today I’m reviewing a drama anime, before I do though we should define the difference between drama and melodrama.

Drama is a noun. In the context of this review it means to express an exciting, emotional, or unexpected series of events or set of circumstances. Melodrama is also a noun, but it means to sensationalize a dramatic piece with exaggerated characters and exciting events intended to appeal to the emotions. Sensational means over the top in this instance, but unless you’re Penny Polendina from “RWBY” sensational doesn’t always mean its good.

Actually, I’d argue that most bad drama anime are accidentally melodramas by their nature. Good melodrama is even more difficult to write than drama itself. For example Oniisama e, also known as Dear Brother is a melodrama anime done right.

Unfortunately, crappy drama anime are dime a dozen, melodramaticin all the wrong ways to a fault, and searching for cheap ways to pander to the viewers because that’s the easy thing to do. We’ve all seen them out there.

Every year more mindless drivel gets released only to be forgotten. To be honest, good drama anime are very difficult to come by. That’s why Your Lie in April is an important anime to discuss.

It isn’t a melodrama by its core nature, and it isn’t particularly bombastic either. At the end of the day, Your Lie in April is very well written drama anime.

Your Lie in April or Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, released in 2014. It was directed by Kyōhei Ishiguro and written by Takao Yoshioka. The studio that worked on this dramatic title was A-1 Pictures, so you know going in that the music is going to be amazing and the animation quality isn’t going to flounder under its own weight.

There is plenty of media for this series, including manga and a light novel, as well as an OVA. I’ll just be focusing on the anime though.

For me personally, it wasn’t the hardcore gut-punch that many claimed it to be. That being said, it shouldn’t be overlooked or bypassed. To even think otherwise would just be flat out stupid, because there are so many things this anime gets right.

A Simple Story Done Right

Your Lie in April isn’t about complicated interwoven narratives. It can’t carry the same sort of gravitas that some other great anime can. It doesn’t need to do that, and it doesn’t attempt to be more than it is. I can really respect series that understands the core messages and themes it conveys.

Let’s be honest, painting a narrative that encapsulates themes of traumatic experience and coming of age concisely and consistently isn’t always easy. These are teenage characters, but Your Lie in April manages to handle the story incredibly well.

It’s a simple story filled with complicated emotions. It isn’t anything more than that, and it doesn’t want to be. Therefore, what we have instead is a true series of heartfelt emotional turmoil, and the process of overcoming it.

We follow a boy by the name of Arima Kōsei, who is as troubled as could be. After his mother’s death, he lost his love and passion for the piano. He can’t even listen to the sound of his own playing without being bogged down by the emotional weight of it all. Suffering a mental breakdown at a young age, two years later he still struggles with his trauma.

At the beginning of the anime, about halfway into the episode Arima describes how he experiences the world. To him it is a place full of monotone. The vibrancy and thrill of life itself is something he just can see for himself anymore. This is a metaphor for a slew of deeper issues, but on a surface level saying he’s chronically depressed isn’t an understatement.

The catalyst for his emotional levity comes in the form of a young blond haired girl named Kaori Miyazono. She is a skilled violinist with a free spirited personality and a passion and flair for music arts.

Kaori lacks a fair amount of restraint, and Arima observes she has a bit of a violent personality at times. Regardless of that, he’s very interested in her. Kaori’s musical talents and her outlook on life are the influences he needs the most. She lacks his stringent views of the musical arts and she fills a void in Arima’s creative ability.

Slowly and with no small amount of effort, Kaori revitalizes Arima’s love of music. Through her, he begins to see music as an outlet he needs. Slowly, the world becomes a vibrant place for emotional and personal growth once more.

See what I mean? Your Lie in April has a simple and uncomplicated plot. As you can probably guess, this means the anime needs to dig deep to be fully enjoyed. The plot is an emotional journey of the soul itself, a story of triumph over trauma… or in some cases, acceptance over grief.

It’s not groundbreaking by any means, and I’d hesitate to call the series foundational to the anime medium, because it isn’t those things. That being said, the anime is a beautifully told story. Concepts of love and the desire for hope are focal points for the characters. It is what drives the plot forward.

Familial love, romantic love, a passion for hobbies and interests, and a love for life itself trickles into the narrative commonly enough. Hope for the future is what blend the ideologies of these youths together.

Love in spite of trauma and hardship. Love in spite of grief, and love clung onto tightly even when letting go of the past, are all themes well represented here.

Hope and inspiration are the balm for Arima’s traumatic past and his emotional burdens. The healing powers of music plays a strong role here as well. Showcasing that for some people, music is not only a talent, it’s a legacy.

There is also a thick layer of metaphor here, as music is used as a way to connect these characters. It gives us a deeper clarity to who these people really are. Rather than having a character simply go on long and cumbersome diatribes, music becomes the looking glass that allows us to really see beyond their carefully constructed masks.

To be clear, every character has one one these masks, the “lie” you could say. Even the free spirited Kaori is not exempt from this. She has once too, and it is just as tragic and cumbersome as Arima’s own.

The cast is huge. Since the anime is only twenty-two episodes in length, many don’t get the time they deserve. This isn’t too awful though, as the series was never meant to hold aloft a complete medley cast of characters.

At the end of the day only two characters really matter, Arima and Kaori. Everyone else just functions as plot threads to build the world these characters inhabit. Many of the side cast don’t get fully completed stories, and since the plot is so centrally focused anyway, it doesn’t rightly matter.

However for all of the good things this series does manage to do well, there’s just one way it entirely fails in every way possible.

Repetitive Trauma: Eventual Desensitization

Trauma is not a one-size-fits-all narrative lens. After an emotionally crippling experience, recovery has highs and lows. Recovery isn’t easily attained, meaning cycles of repetition can occur. Even though it is very factual to life, generally speaking it isn’t very satisfying to watch.

The cycle of trauma is a vicious one. When poorly handled, it can come off as overbearing. As fans, we usually expect better of protagonists by default and that doesn’t help. We want to hear stories of victory, but in some ways this is a story about loosing more than winning.

By its pure definition, trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. That means it sinks into a person with a vice-like grip. You don’t just get over it. That’s not how deeply seeded trauma works.

There is a “two-steps-forward and one-step-back” mindset that hard hitting emotional trauma causes. Recovery itself isn’t a linear path. Enter in Arima to that cycle of repetition, and we can see where this causes the main issue I have with Your Lie in April.

Arima is incredibly human for his depiction of circular patterns of thinking. He has a tenancy of falling back down into his own poor mental state.

Several times in the show we see how this impacts him emotionally. There is no question about how heavily it weighs down upon his poor self-image. We can’t avoid the topic, the anime won’t let you.

Although, to a point touching upon his trauma happens too frequently. It’s easy to get bored with him or to lose any ounce of sympathy you have with him. A huge part of that comes down to his constant inner monologues.

His struggles would negatively impact anyone, but especially a boy like him. We don’t need that point beaten into us, yet it often is.

While many characters use music to truly express themselves, there are times the thick and heavy mental state of the characters does that job too. Particularly where Arima is concerned, it can be too much.

I praised the show’s ability to use music as a means of emotional expression and metaphor. That’s because when those moments don’t happen, we get the exact opposite.

Sometimes it seems like the series thinks it needs to beat the point of his anxieties into us, because we’re too stupid to figure it out on our own.

When inner monologues do happen, they’re long and almost too heavy handed. Sometimes it detracts from the musical piece on stage to have the monologue laying so thickly over the top of it. This isn’t a psychology or sociology anime. In the attempt to make Arima feel more like part of humanity, what we have instead is a loss of that human nature itself.

In a way, that’s almost genius. No, I’m not kidding. Listen, it doesn’t matter if we want to admit this or not. It is pure fact. Arima is the personification of what trauma does to a person when left untreated. He should have gotten the help he needed long ago, but he didn’t and what we see is that result. Trauma harms his way of thinking in different ways, damaging the greater logic he needs in order to see his own self-worth.

As much as it sucks to realize this, that holds true to reality. This is why so many people just don’t recover from emotional strain in real life. Even when they think they are on the road to recovery, they can be proven wrong, and it can resurface or come back with a vengeance.

Across several episodes, Arima describes playing the piano as if being under water. The sound dulled, or at times he’s down so deep he can’t hear it at all. While these moments showcase his true anxieties well, it comes so often that it can feel like you’re watching versions of the same scene over and over again.

The issue is though, real life trauma and creative narrative stories don’t always mix very well. This isn’t a true story. These are characters and this is an anime. We need to be able to see the humanity in the characters too, not just the mental struggles they present to the story.

Your Lie in April is not anything like Anohana, that’s for damn sure. This is why it lacks the emotional gut-punch for me. We lose the character Arima to his own brain more times than not. Their mental diatribes lack parts of the core human experience. Notably, it and quite sadly, it lacks any real catharsis.

It gets to a point where I just don’t care about Arima, because I feel like he’s a character better suited to far more heavy handed series. Your Lie in April isn’t by its nature a dark series. It’s emotional, sure, but it’s not dark and gritty.

There’s too much poorly placed comedy to really draw me into a darker narrative. The over all tone of this series doesn’t suit a darker narrative anyway. tragic storytelling is not the same as dark storytelling.

All-in-all this is the largest issue in the series and for some it could even be a deal breaker. I know several people who dropped the show because of Arima alone midway through.

Honestly, that’s a real shame because Kaori’s story is just so damn good in the second half to a point she nearly steals the show, and for good reason.

Speaking of Kaori, by now you’re probably wondering why I am avoiding saying too much about her. Well, I wish I could say more on that, but I won’t.

No, really, I can’t dive into that, because it is way too fundamental to the story to speak at length about it. I don’t want to spoil her story arc for those who haven’t seen the series. I want you to watch it and see it for yourself.

What I will say is that Kaori is the reason you watch this anime. Her message, her emotional traumas, and her bond with Arima aren’t things you just pass up. All of it is just just too good, and it will kick your ass emotionally more than Arima alone ever could.

It also finally gives Arima the catharsis he’s needed for the vast majority of the twenty-two episode run time. So yeah, sorry, can’t spoil it. You’ve got to experience it for yourself.

Final Thoughts

Yes, there are many flaws with this show. Even so, it doesn’t diminish that Your Lie in April is one of the best drama anime out there. While it doesn’t usually portray as melodramatic, it can toe the line sometimes.

The series is also possibly one of the best examples of how real trauma manifests in a person. The series explains why it is not so easy to move beyond it. The show fully displays those difficulties even when its a hindrance to do so.

That legitimate “two-steps-forward and one-step-back” traumatic cycling is very hard to find in any anime series. Usually it just isn’t done well. Normally it has some supernatural or magical component to it… or there are time skips clogging the recovery itself.

Your Lie in April offers that distinct personal looking glass of that trauma inwardly. On top of that, it manages to do it in a fairly digestible way. Completely accessible for teenage viewers and with a core theme that suits reality. Often times people in mental health recovery programs take up the arts as form of healthy outlet. Arima’s coping skills through music are very reminiscent of that, even though music is part of his trauma in the first place.

It’s a messy message to send, I won’t deny that. However that alone holds true too. Trauma will never be clear cut, and it would be impossible to avoid the triggers that cause trauma for your entire life. Learning to move above and beyond that will never be simple. One day, you need to find the way to cope with it, or you’ll just continue to suffer.

Arima learns that the hard way, but it is a lesson we all come to learn in our lives at some point.

Kaori’s involvement in his life, and his newfound love of music isn’t a cure-all, and that’s the key. Thanks to Kaori’s influence and using music as a touchstone, Arima finds a way to deal with his traumatic life experiences in a helpful and meaningful way.

Now, are there better depictions of this sort of theme out there? Sure there is! However, all of those better examples I come up with aren’t as easily accessible to viewers, or they’re filled with concepts just aren’t useful for younger teenagers.

Your Lie in April doesn’t shy away from emotional difficulties, but I’d never say the anime goes too far down the rabbit-hole either. It can be heavy handed, but I wouldn’t call it nightmare fuel by any means.

This strong balance makes it one of the best drama anime out there that focuses on traumatic life experience. If that sort of thing interests you, then you have to watch this anime and come up with your own opinions. There’s no question about that.

This has been Kernook of “The Demented Ferrets”, where stupidity is at its finest, and level grinds are par for the course. If you liked this review please be sure to check out similar content down below, plus a few announcements of upcoming anime review content.

We have a lot of great review content coming up in the following weeks. The Patreon exclusive poll has some results in for one game review and one anime review. If you want to help decide content going forward, becoming a patron is your way to do that.

Anime: Zombie Land Saga in the first week of June.
Game: Valkyria Chronicles for the PlayStation 3 also in the first week of June.

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Anime Review: Claymore

Warning: The anime I am reviewing today is called Claymore. It is rated TV-MA (Mature Adult). Therefore, it is not suitable for young viewers. The series contains adult themes.
Mature Content: Without question Claymore has graphic violence and gore. Children are absolutely mistreated emotionally and physically in the series. A male character flat out states he intends to rape an adult woman.
Kern’s Disclaimer: This is not just a typical hack-and slash action show. It should not be treated like one. Know that going into it. One more time for the people in the back. This anime is NOT for young or impressionable viewers. If you have delicate sensibilities regarding the content warnings above, maybe just don’t watch this anime. I won’t be held responsible if it triggers the absolute crap out of you.

Did you read the warning? I put that there for a reason, so you better have read it. There is some content in this anime that even gets to me a little, and I’m no snowflake. Anyway, if you didn’t heed that warning, that’s your problem now. I did my due diligence as far as I’m concerned. Assuming you did read it from this point on, let’s get started.

Hey everyone, it’s Kernook here. Yeah, it’s time for another review. Today I’m going to talk about an anime that isn’t perfect, in some ways it isn’t very good at all, however in others it truly shines. I have always enjoyed it, despite its many flaws. There aren’t many series quite like it in my personal opinion. This anime is called Claymore.

Now, depending on your particular tastes in anime, there’s no shortage to pick from nowadays. As fans, our choices for solid anime has never been better. However, if you were a fan back in 2007, you know that the anime fandom was quite a bit different.

We didn’t exactly get the same flood of series that we do nowadays, and while we got a plethora of great shows over the years, fans had a tendency to cling onto their chosen favorites for just a little while longer. Mostly this is because a favorite and beloved anime was just harder to replace.

This is especially true for anime that deviated from the normal offerings of a yearly line-up. Yes, I do mean yearly, because back then full seasonal floods were just harder to find legally. We still had a lot to choose from, but nothing like the magnitude we do today.

Needless to say, when an anime manages to hold my interest for any length of time, I am impressed. This one stands my test of time. Claymore lingers in the back of my mind as a series I can fondly recollect, to me that is vastly important.

It was directed by a lesser known man by the name of Hiroyuki Tanaka. You may not have heard of him, because although he occasionally deals with extremely popular anime, he rarely dabbles in positions widely acclaimed by the anime fandom at large. Funnily enough, he would later have his hand in shows like Attack on Titian as an assistant director.

Dark World Done Right

Claymore is the sort of series that demands a particular attention to detail. There’s a lot of carefully embedded themes that help to build the lore and law if its world.

Animated by the studio Madhouse, it stands the test of time, more or less.

Even when the scenes do look dated by today’s standard, I’d never think them awful. The series is packed with action, and dips in quality do happen from time to time. This is not their best work, but it’s certainly not terrible either. Corners were cut, but never in a way that makes you truly cringe.

There’s a real sort of grit and grime that allows this series to age very well. When it wants to look beautiful or captivating, it does. Red pools of blood can shimmer in the darkness like a dark omen in one moment, while in the next a moonlit sky can softly drape across the land. There’s a duality here, layered in a way that only an anime like this can really pull off.

This is a historical, nearly medieval world. As many anime tend to do, it takes place in an alternate universe from our own. Plenty of sinister little truths lurk behind every corner, and emotional levity comes in small doses. All of this is encapsulated with a sunning soundtrack that is perfectly fitting for the themes at play.

Due to the existence of monsters known as Yoma, the people in this world are tormented and live in fear of their existence. This stands to good reason, as Yoma tend to feed off of humanity. They are quite demonic in behavior, but not necessarily in appearance. You see, not all Yoma make themselves obvious. Yoma can live among humanity, blend in as a human and act as a human might.

Yes, that’s right. These aren’t your typical monsters under the bed. Yoma can live among humanity, and might linger there without being found. How do they do this, you ask? Simple, a Yoma can take the form of any human that they’ve eaten. So long as they’re careful and calculating, an unsuspecting village may never know a Yoma lives among them.

Due to this, Yoma are not to be pitied. They are inhuman creatures, often posing a great threat to society and therefore they need to be expunged.

This is where the Claymore come in to the narrative and the plot begins in earnest. Claymore are the ones that take down these beasts.

Warning, there are spoilers beyond this point. If you don’t want spoilers, just go watch the show (provided you keep in mind the warning I gave above). Go find it, and watch it. it’s on Funimation, and I think maybe Hulu. There is an actual age gate on the anime on most reputable websites. That means you’re going to have to actually log into the website, like Funimation for example, just to watch the series. Anyway, with that said, let’s continue on.

The Story

Dotting the landscape there are sleepy little towns that would otherwise be peaceful. However, the townsfolk have come to the conclusion that a Yoma lives among them. This poses two different threats. The first is that Yoma would eventually eat them if it continued to live there. The second is that the townsfolk would have no real way to detect the Yoma hiding among them. For all they know their best friend or loved one could be the Yoma simply hiding its true form.

There is really only one way to deal with a Yoma, and that is to hire a Claymore. Now a Claymore is many things, all of them equally as deadly as the Yoma themselves. You see, these women are half Yoma, half human hybrids. Even when they sustain incredible bodily damage that would kill a human, they don’t easily die. Normally they heal right on the spot. For example, even while impaled like this Claymore is below, she is still fighting fit to take down her enemy.

They’re created and trained by a mysterious group known only as “The Organization” an otherwise nameless entity. As far as these women are concerned, they may as well be entirely removed from humanity itself.

A Claymore is created by cramming the blood and flesh of a dead Yoma into a living, breathing, human female. This combination slowly turns her into something not quite human, not quite beast. They’re given their names because of the swords they wield, and the fact that they’ve completely renounced the concept of a peaceful human existence.

They are not to trifle in human affairs, kill humans (even when those humans are bandits, thieves, and murders themselves), or in any way think themselves as equal to humanity. There is no exception to these rules, and a Claymore that defies them will be hunted down and killed by her own kind.

Assigned by numbers denoting their skill, they are considered mere monsters, even when it is clear that they are not entirely like the humanity they vow to protect.

The fate of a Claymore is hardly peaceful, and usually ends tragically. Anyway you look at it, their mere existence is rather lonely and their fates promise to be the selfsame as the Yoma themselves. If a woman becomes a Claymore, her days are numbered and that’s just a cold hard fact that these women accept. They understand that this is the way of the world, and will not change.

The story one follows one such woman. A fairly young one at that. Her name is Clare, and as a Claymore her job is to dispatch where she is told to go, and slay Yoma that put humanity in danger.

She is a person of very few words, favoring action over mindless diatribe, and because of this her speaking lines are rather limited, despite how central she is to the story and overall plot of the anime. This is not a disservice to her character. In fact, I’d say this is a marked improvement over the typical protagonist that doesn’t know how to shut the hell up.

Clare acts decisively, with brutal skill in combat and a very clear-cut view of the world. Clare is many things, but she is no pushover.

She is not to be trifled with as far as humanity is concerned. Now unfortunately whenever you have an incredibly self-assured, competent female protagonist, running around in a world full of monsters, you also tend to have the jackass male sidekick.

You know the kind I’m talking about…

They’re usually worthless, and often times beyond help. These are the sort of guys you want to hit with a hammer, because they could not possibly survive in the world that surrounds them in any meaningful way. There’s just no way that the world would not eat them alive.

Well, sorry to say it, but we have one of those, yet again. His name is Raki and he is young, stupid, and you could get the same characterization out of a little lost puppy on the side of the road. Actually, that’s likely an insult to puppies, my apologies. Not even his own village likes him, he’s exiled from it.

In any case Clare saves Raki from the Yoma that she was hired to kill, and begins to teach him the ways of the world. This is the lens in which the entire series hinges heavily on from this point. Monster fights, traveling the world at large, and Clare trying to keep Raki out of harms way.

When I mean that this is the shows core themes, I’m not kidding. When we aren’t following Clare and Raki, We’re following a different Claymore named Teresa and through that lens we’re shown Clare’s backstory. In these flashback episodes of sorts, we come to find out Clare’s past isn’t incredibly dissimilar from Raki’s own.

She was once a human girl with no place to turn, and traveled with world with Teresa. As a child, Clare was enamored with the concept of becoming a Calmore, not fully understanding the terrible life they tended to lead. After a rather gritty and sorrowful series of events, Clare is left alone in the world again. She decides to become a Claymore herself, just like the woman who had been trying to raise her.

All in all, the plot is serviceable, and outside of Raki, the cast is generally well rounded when they show up. Now sadly, as many series tend to do, it deviated strongly from it’s manga in the ending.

If you are a written media purists, this will no doubt make you want to throw your chair at your nearest screen. For the rest of us, the ending isn’t amazing, but the journey proceeding it is well worth it regardless.

Final Thoughts

Claymore is not without flaws, and it makes some very questionable choices on occasion. There are times that you can only be brought to wonder what drove such narrative decisions forward. The inclusion of certain small details and the firm exclusion of others can make the show sometimes feel a bit muddled. It is never for very long, but this is something to keep in mind.

Honestly, in my personal opinion the show is at its best in the flashback episodes of regarding Clare and her upbringing. If the show contained more of that, it would probably be better off.

Furthermore, Raki acts like a small boy, a mere child. Yet, he is quite clearly a teenager. The average viewer wouldn’t be wrong to expect better of him.

I was certainly very disappointed by the lack of a decent male lead. I’m not saying he needed to be a bad-ass, but his lack of emotional maturity is completely agitating. He can be prone to complaining, and crying. For some, it might actually be a deal breaker. He is that bad, and I will not defend him.

This brings me to my last thought. Claymore is a mature story of losses and grievances. These women live within a society that just doesn’t have any room for compassion or understanding. Each Claymore has her own reason to become one, or at the very least, a reason to exist in spite of being one. The world they live in lacks emotional warmth, and their eventual deaths promise to be violent ones.

These are themes that constantly pervade the narrative, so while this ensures awesome fights, it also promises bleak outlooks upon their world at large. If you like dark story telling, this anime has that. You can dip into the waters of cynicism as much as you like.

In my opinion, the ideal viewer for Claymore would probably be a person able to handle mature themes and dark world building, set in an almost medieval society. The series is age gated by most reputable places, and has some blood and carnage, so that part matters. Secondly, this ideal person would also need to be in favor of a strong female protagonists and supporting cast. Overlooking the walking insult that is Raki, decent male characters are few and far between.

Lastly, an ideal viewer would likely be one that hasn’t read the manga before. The deviations are just enough to be agitating. This is a series you want to watch first, and read the written material after.

In the end, if you’re the right kind of viewer, I think that Claymore is certainly worth your time. The series has plenty of heart and soul, but it’s also a bloodbath in combat scenes.

I return to it from time to time, and I don’t regret it when I do. It is far from perfect, but the journey is enjoyable. I return to it from time to time, and I don’t regret it when I do. It is far from perfect, but the journey is enjoyable.

However, if you expect the hero to always win, with no trauma or strife, find a different show. This is not the one for you.

You can check out some of out other anime related content below. I hope you find something you enjoy. Also, please consider supporting us on Patreon. It keeps the blog advertisement free, and allow Kreshenne and I to produce more content for you to enjoy.

This has been Kernook of “The Demented Ferrets”, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll catch you in the next post.

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Review: The Promised Neverland

Hey everyone, it’s Kern here. Before I begin, I want to make it clear that I will be discussing The Promised Neverland anime at length. I will not diving deep into the manga on this review. I will be mentioning it, but not actually reviewing it. The written media for this series is amazing, and quite frankly it needs it’s own spot here on the blog.

The reason the anime for this series is so good in season one isn’t the same reason why the manga is also wonderful. They are very different ways to enjoy this story, and it would diminish both works to compare them in a single review.

This is not an anime made for young viewers, and thus some of the themes depicted in the series might be considered disturbing. That is the nature of this anime, you have been warned.

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The Promised Neverland is a story that caters to older viewers who enjoy darker tales. It isn’t squeamish about cutting to the core of emotional uncertainty. It doesn’t pull any punches either. This anime is terrifying due to the nature of its implications.

What makes this series so good, is that it doesn’t try to craft a narrative too big for its own good. With tightly packed pacing, it manages not to feel rushed. The themes are dark, but I see no reason to sugar coat things. The anime isn’t subtle about it, so I won’t be either.

The majority of this story revolves around children being raised to be consumed like cattle. This is contained in a society that no longer runs on the strength of mankind alone. Intelligent demons inhabit the world, and they eat humans. If that bothers you, don’t watch this series.

Anime like this one has the gift of animation on its side. If this were a live action, I wouldn’t be able to watch it. The show would border on the line of too inhumane, and absolutely revolting. The fact that it is an anime lends a certain power to its creation, and more accessibility because of it.

After all, not everyone reads manga. There are anime only fans out there, and this first season offers plenty to enjoy for those who like this sort of unsettling story.

That being said, if you do read manga, don’t bypass this one. The Promised Neverland has one of the richest experiences in the written media that I’ve ever come across.

The Story: Removing Childlike Innocence

The general idea of the plot is as trite as you’d expect it to be, if you went by the simple plot synopses. This anime is far from trite and doesn’t much care who it offends as it spins its twisted tale of an orphanage gone wrong.

Basically these seemingly orphaned children are raised at an isolated and incredibly idyllic facility. This place is known as the “Grace Field House”. Unfortunately a few of the smart children discover the secret of this orphanage. It’s not a paradise, it’s hell on earth. With demons running society, their sinister reason for existence soon becomes clear.

These children are raised for purpose of becoming meals, no better than pigs to the slaughter. They’re killed to become food.

This is what they were raised for. Terrified of this, the children of the orphanage rally together in order to escape. This is not made easy. Their caretaker, who they call “Mama”, grew up in a home not unlike this one. She knows all of their tricks, and it becomes a battle of wits to see if the children can escape successfully or not.

Ultimately this the main drive of the story, at least so far as the first season is concerned. The entire thing is wrapped in beautiful animation. The atmospheric soundtrack truly distinguishes itself fittingly in the world of the show. If you’re an anime only fan, the show won’t do you wrong.

The series is directed by Mamoru Kanbe and written by Toshiya Ono during season one. You can clearly see the love and care poured into the series by the team at ColverWorks.

I know many find the manga to be far superior when it comes to the story and how it plays out. However, I’d beg to disagree. It comes down for a simple question for me. Ju

It’s certainly a psychologically bent show, but in what way is it best enjoyed? This brings me to the crux of many disputes regarding the anime. Do you want it to be a horror or a thriller?

The best choices really comes down to that.

Horror or Thriller?

The Promised Neverland is both of these things, but when it comes to the anime it is far more a thriller than it’s manga counterpart. The manga is more terrifying, each turn of the page offers a better shock value.

I couldn’t possibly bring myself to care about that, but I can see the appeal. If you want The Promised Neverland to feel more like a true horror story, you should read the written media. If you want it to feel more like a suspenseful thriller, the anime is superior in every way.

The anime itself takes a different approach. It isn’t trying to shock or awe you with every narrative twist and turn. Rather, it places these plot twists in front of you and asks you to absorb them quickly. Instead of initial shock, you’re expected to keep up with the anime. You don’t have much time to analyze every tiny detail on screen.

The manga asks you to savor every moment, the anime pushes you along for the ride. In that way, viewers are more akin to the children trapped in the orphanage.

For the characters, there is no time to over think every little detail, and outwitting their “Mama” becomes a constant chore. It means the difference between life and death.

For the viewer, the anime offers feeling of urgency that is controlled and contained as every second ticks by.

Written media just can’t promise to provide the same inherent urgency on rails. That all comes down to the pacing of a reader. Faster readers will blow through the content very quickly, and if you’re like me that’s a downfall.

Therefore, the anime experience is one I find far more enjoyable. I get more out of the vocal acting, musical composition, animation style and general pacing of the show than I did from the horror aspect of the manga itself.

Now let me be clear, when it comes to story line, that is entirely a different issue. As of season two the story-line diverts heavily. It has split the fandom in ways season one never did. If you want the full manga story-line, you will not find that in the anime as of season two. You must read the written media to fully enjoy that side of the story.

This is why I must also separate the reviews for this series. Season two is still ongoing, and that’s a discussion for another time.

Characters: Wonderfully Conceptualized, Poorly Executed.

For me, the characters are the worst part of the series in absolutely every way. Characters are handled a little bit better in the written media, but not much. The anime has character failings in spades, and I can easily explain why.

There are many characters in this anime. During season one, most of them are under the age of eleven.

There are only two adults that have any reasonable merit in season one, and both of them are villains. The rest are demons that rarely have screen time at all. What this does is put the viewer into the mind of childish fears and ambitions to resist against authority.

Yet, this series was not made for children. Therefore, typically it would be hard to relate to them as an adult viewer. Only a story appealing to a true sense of danger would give a viewer something to latch onto.

You either have a concept of empathy and recall what childhood was like, or you don’t. You must suspend your disbelief that these young kids could outsmart and outmatch their greatest danger in season one.

Mama Isabella was groomed for her position at the orphanage. She was militantly raised to be superior in every way.

All in all, there’s two choices. Allow the kids to win the day, or let them all die and become demon chow. We know the show isn’t going to murder them all off, so plot armor it is!

This is just another tired old trope to be honest. I find it a little lazy. Especially when it comes to the way certain events play out. Mama Isabella can cripple these children thoughtlessly, and flat out does do that to one of them.

The whole idea behind the “Grace Field House” is that children are the most flavorful and delicious when they’re raised in a happy environment. Free of extensive emotional turmoil. This house provides some of the best human meat available.

Well, that just craps all over the idea that you could break a little girl’s shin, now doesn’t it?

By the time the children are ready to escape, they’ve seen enough of what hell on earth looks like. With that kind of emotional upset, they certainly wouldn’t taste very good. They’d likely be no better than scrap meat at this point. This is what I mean by you just have to suspend disbelief.

Other than the narrative of the world itself, you’d simply watch the show for the sake of hoping the children would be okay. Frankly, that’s a piss-poor narrative to strive for. After all, the main three children aren’t exactly easy to relate to. I doubt many of us were the brightest, most athletic, and top of our class as children.

Thankfully, the anime seems to understand this.

The story appeals to a near parental urge to hope these children beat the odds, but this is still a dystopia and the viewer knows it. Connecting with the characters becomes even more difficult if you think they’ll end up dead and turned into food.

So, to me the characters are flat out the weakest thing this series has to offer. Are they awful? No, not at all. However, they aren’t in the least bit relatable either.

We see this in anime all the time though, and it’s just the way things go. It’s not a deal breaker, it’s just a fact of this type of story.

In Conclusion

The Promised Neverland is a good series, but it is not a masterpiece. I love it, and I do highly suggest it to fan of darker storytelling. It’s great for what it is, but you’ll have to forgive it for what it isn’t.

That said, there is a lot of baggage that you see whenever you pull off the “fan goggles” and really look at the series maturely. It doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, like other anime of its type.

The series has flaws, gaping holes in logic, and a habit of being so far up it’s own ass with its narrative, that it doesn’t see any of it. It’s trying to tell a mature story, but in some ways it’s so childish in its handling of serious situations that it feels like an “edge-lord” tried to write it.

That being said, it’s still vastly entertaining. I know I sound almost ruthless in my critiques, but that comes from watching way too many anime in my life and knowing what I like.

I like The Promised Neverland, and it is completely worth your time to give it a try. However, it won’t ever be an anime that sits proudly on my open shelf. Nope, it’s in an old VHS/DVD cabinet. That’s where I store the majority of the shows that I don’t re-watch very often and have no desire to display.

A word of advice. If you’re going to watch this series, don’t look for any real depth. The character moments can be contrived at times, and others they’re just flat out stupid.

This is a pop-corn anime, philological horror or not. For me, that’s all it can ever be. The thing is, I’m perfectly fine with that. I enjoy this series, and I know others will too.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

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Anime Review- Bartender

Before I begin this post, please understand that today I am reviewing an anime that contains a bar and the one thing that usually happens in bars. Namely drinking… lots of drinking… hence this warning up top…please do not ignore this warning.

I do not advocate addictive and damaging behavior that sometimes revolves around drinking and drugs Therefore, if you are an alcoholic that struggles with sobriety, or you are easily triggered into wanting a drink based on the content you consume, please bypass this post. Sobriety is not always an easy thing to commit to, so every day sober is a day of victory.

You have now been warned. If you read beyond this point, you will be reading a review of Bartender an anime based around a bar and the lonely souls that wander in.

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Bartender stands out as a refined slice-of-life series for older viewers. It isn’t your standard formula by far, and it doesn’t pretend to be.

It is soft and sophisticated without being obnoxious. Themes are sometimes vague, but not needlessly obtuse. Character stories are personal and often layered in simple but deep symbolism .Ideally a viewer would take the time to savor this series. It’s only eleven episodes long.

So, why do I give this show such high praise? Simple, I enjoy anime that doesn’t try to cram itself into the typical mold. Bartender stick out to me as an anime that doesn’t feel like an anime. It certainly is an anime, to be sure. Still, it lacks a lot of the mindless slapstick humor and overblown gags that make anime what it is.

Even anime aimed at older viewers can take a nosedive into childishness on occasion. While that can be fun, that can also get old fast. This series doesn’t do that. Bartender understands that it’s trying to cater to a more refined and thoughtful audience. That’s strictly what it does.

I highly suggest watching this series if you haven’t. There isn’t much conversation around this series, and since it’s a bit older it seems to have gotten buried under a flood of other anime over the years.

This is a crying shame to me, because Bartender is without a doubt a solid entry for an older viewer who doesn’t know what anime is, or may even be adverse to it. This is easily a gateway anime for someone over the age of twenty-five because it lacks many of the overblown tropes you often see in the medium.

It’s perfect for a viewer that has grown tired of the anime that continue clogging the typical seasonal line-up. Experienced anime fans may not have heard of this gem. Non-anime fans may be drawn to its down-to-earth representation of the characters and its story driven focus.

So with all of this said, let’s begin the review.

A Bar That Speaks to The Soul

Bartender first began as a manga in 2004, written by  Araki Joh and illustrated by Kenji Nagatomo. Now I won’t be speaking about the manga here, but as you can clearly see, written media is available for this series if you care to look for it.

Now, I will say this; the manga has clear story arcs. The anime is far more episodic in nature. Although it still contains vignettes about one or more of the characters, it doesn’t have as clear a structure or pacing as the written media.

There is also a live-action drama of Bartender that was released in 2010, but it is a bit harder to find. That said, if you’re trying to get someone who is completely opposed to anime and manga into the series, the live action is the perfect entry point.

The anime released in 2011, directed by Masaki Watanabe, and written by Yasuhiro Imagawa.

No matter what form you choose to enjoy the series in, the basic idea is still the same. There is a bar hidden deep in the alleys of the Ginza district. The bar’s name is Eden Hall. This quiet and lonely little bar is run by Ryuu Sasakura.

Ryuu is thought of as a bar-tending prodigy, widely acclaimed to the point his name precedes him. Rumor has it that he mixes the most incredible and prolific cocktails that anyone has ever tasted.

There’s just one little catch. The bar isn’t open to just anyone. Eden Hall chooses who happens to find it, and who enters its doors.

Customers from all walks of life and different backgrounds come into this bar seeking answers to life’s problems. Ryuu, being the prodigy he is, always knows the ideal cocktail to serve to his guests. This combined with his wisdom allows him to console and guide each afflicted soul that enters Eden Hall.

Knowing this, you can see how the series might come off as dry or bland in some places. You’d be right. It’s intended to be a soft-spoken series. Full of careful contemplation and a plenty of soul searching.

The entire series in wrapped up in wonderful animations and lovely music that can stand on its own merits. Even now, it stands the test of time, no question about that.

A Few Caveats

Number one, the themes may pose a problem. The general ethos of the anime can be thought of as problematic. The general idea is that the right drink, at the right time, is the perfect way to start an earnest inward conversation.

In other words, when a character drinks, they can find the answer to their problems within themselves. This frames the beverage as a looking-glass of sorts. I gave a warning above, but I’m going to cram it here too. If you have once had a drinking problem, or still do, please consider bypassing this show.

Each episode features cocktails that are made with love and care by Ryuu to serve to his guest. They’re poured, mixed, and served in a way that is pleasing to the eye. Given how tempting the animation makes these beverages look, a viewer may end up wanting something similar as well.

It’s very pretty to look at. The animation is stunning, but that’s both a bonus and a drawback when your talking about substances and ways to possibly abuse them.

Characters that come into the series are the sort that have baggage. They talk about their problems, they reflect on the issues at hand, and then have a drink over it. It’s not always portrayed as healthy, either.

The second issue is that it caters to a very specific type of viewer. It is calm, quiet, and methodical. If that isn’t the type of series you like, you’ll get bored fast. It is full to bursting with careful reflection and character stories that linger in subtle ways. That being said, this isn’t an anime about mind games, and there are no plot twists that leave your jaw hanging on the floor. That’s just not the sort of anime this is.

Final Thoughts

Bartender is without question one of the best anime you can find that isn’t on the beaten path. It’s stunning for its time visually, and each piece of music is just as carefully crafted as the series itself. A lot of love and care went into this show.

I find that Bartender is not necessarily for fans that want mystery and intrigue. Rather, the show is best suited to someone who enjoys a good character study without being mired down in endless drivel. Overall, due to the episodic nature of the series, no character lingers too long to outstay their welcome at Eden Hall. Ryuu is certainly entertaining on screen as well, rounding out each episode in a way I found fitting.

So, my conclusion is that you should watch the series if you can. Just be aware of the themes. Do yourself a favor and don’t try to binge it in one sitting. That doesn’t bode well. I’ve tried, and I love the series but even I can’t do it.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

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Anime Review: Perfect Blue

Hey everyone, it’s Kernook here, and it’s time for an anime review. Today I’ll be talking about Perfect Blue. Before I do that, though, I’d like to discuss the director behind the work very briefly.

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Satoshi Kon was a master in directorial design. He took to his craft with a keen eye for detail. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2010, leaving behind his works of art as a legacy to the anime industry.

In brief summary, Kon’s works are noteworthy to say the least and each of them are particularly unique. Frankly, his productions are incredible, even if they aren’t exactly mainstream media.

The fact of the matter is, most of Satoshi Kon’s greatest works are way ahead of their time thematically. They challenge viewers, and often require more than a single viewing.

Satoshi Kon combines the art of anime with his ability to craft an interesting narrative. His works are often saturated with several layers of metaphor to drive his stories forward. In order to completely catch every minor detail he skillfully embeds into his works, it’s best to watch them at least twice.

Fandom: Satoshi Kon

His aspiration in life was to become an animator, but thankfully he blossomed well beyond that. In his career he was credited for being an animator, screenwriter, manga artist, and a director.

In 1997, Satoshi Kon had built quite a name for himself. His reputation grew quickly. His ability to craft compelling stories gave him an edge in the anime industry. In the 90’s animation was striving to do new things, and he was just the sort of person able to utilize his skills to the fullest potential. In collaboration with the studio Madhouse, Satoshi Kon was able to direct his first feature length film; Perfect Blue.

Satoshi Kon’s First Film: Perfect Blue

Originally, Perfect Blue was a fictional novel under the name “Perfect Blue: Complete Metamorphosis” written by Yoshikazu Takeuchi.

The animated adaptation does make a few narrative changes, so keep that in mind. There is also a second novel named “Perfect Blue: Awaken from a Dream”. Both are worth a read if you love the Perfect Blue series.

As of writing this review, you can find both books on Amazon, same with the film.

Perfect Blue is a psychological drama. Its themes are heavy and introspective. It dives feet first into the darker aspects of what it means to be a Japanese idol, and the implications of that choice.

Thanks to its deep narrative and chilling atmosphere, it will be an unsettling animated movie for some viewers. This is by no means a children’s anime.

Perfect Blue was originally released in 1997, but in 2019 it was remastered. Now there is a blue-ray edition of the film as well. There is a dub and a sub of the series, and both will serve you well. Though I must admit, I do prefer the sub slightly over the dub.

Spoiler warning: From this point onward, there will be spoilers for the animated adaptation of Perfect Blue. You have been warned. This is a film you may want to watch before you see the spoilers.

Perfect Blue tells the personal story of a Japanese idol named Mima. She’s established and fairly successful, but she believes that she can do better. Therefore she decides to leave her singing career behind, choosing to become an actress instead.

Quite quickly, she manages to get a small role in a murder mystery series. Unfortunately, that’s when things start to go horribly wrong for Mima, and it’s the crux of the entire movie.

Now, there is something to be said about idol culture, and the mentalities surrounding it. Japanese idols are a strange concept to anyone unfamiliar with it. In truth, westerners don’t have a one-to-one comparison for idol culture, so can be hard to describe.

Basically, a Japanese idol is a teenage girl or a very young woman who fits into a societal mold. These girls are dressed up in cute outfits in order to sing, dance, and perform for their fans. Furthermore, idols are expected to behave in a certain way. They have plenty of rules to follow, and they don’t have a lot of personal freedom. Idols are meant to encourage and inspire their fans, maintaining a perfect image for the general public.

Perhaps the nearest comparison I could make is the old days of the Micky Mouse Clubs, but even that falls on its face because idols are usually not children. Rather, they are late teens or young adults.

A somewhat sinister fact to this is that normally these girls don’t come from prominent families. Most of the time, they’re nameless and unpopular at first, rising to stardom because that’s what idol fans like to see.

This cultivated narrative suggests to fans that anyone who tries hard enough has the chance to be an idol themselves. Perfect Blue portrays the dark side of idol this particular type of idol culture.

Mima can’t just leave her identity as an idol behind. As much as she might want to, Mima can’t escape who she was, or the image she portrayed. In a way you could say she is a slave to her fans.

One fan in particular starts retaliating when she decides to start acting. This new role takes away from her purity and innocence that an idol should portray. Due to that, things become dangerous very quickly for her. Sadly, this also trickles down to those she’s associated with.

As people in Mima’s social circle end up being murdered, Mima must learn to cope with these new dangers. To make matters worse, Mima has trouble coming to terms with her professional career.

She believes she making the right choices logically. Emotionally though, those choices aren’t fulfilling in the slightest. They just don’t excite her like she thought they would. Instead, she ends up just going through the motions of daily life, feeling almost numb to her success.

She doesn’t voice this outwardly as she much as she should, keeping it to herself. Inwardly, she feels as though she needs to live up to a certain expectation, and since she was once an idol, this is no surprise.

As Mima’s career path shifts, so does she as a person. She constantly finds herself placed in very uncomfortable circumstances . As dark realities start drifting to the surface, she struggles to find her footing as an actress.

Mima is forced to act out scenes for her television series that she isn’t comfortable with, and she attends photo shoots for magazines that contain nudity. This goes against Mima’s formerly squeaky clean idol identity. Sadly, she conforms in spite of her discomfort with it all.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, there’s one more detail to this sordid puzzle. A detail that truly makes this animated film something truly haunting.

Mima isn’t necessarily in her right mind. Instead, she begins to hallucinate. Her former idol identity manifests in front of her. This image begins teasing her, taunting her, and asking her to dive deeper into her own depression. This image begins to ask Mima if she’s living the life she really wanted for herself.

It happens more than once. Each time this happens, it’s rather disturbing, both to Mima and to us, the viewers.

The vision of her idol identity keeps appearing and toying with her at every opportunity. It’s as if Mima is slowly going mad. At one point Mima even sees her idol identity sitting in the back seat of someone’s car. A point that I’ll come back to later.

The mental spiral continues to get worse for Mima. She begins passing out during the day and waking inside her apartment. She has absolutely no recollection of how she got there. She begins to see photos uploaded to a fan site that she doesn’t recognize and she begins to question herself, feeling as though she’s losing her mind.

The most disturbing part of all of this is that the television series that Mima has been working mirrors this. It has all of the same basic story beats. This gives viewers several narratives layered with complex implication and metaphor.

As we watch Mima struggle, we’re inclined to wonder about who she is as a person. We’re brought to wonder just how much of her life is a fabrication, and how much of it is real. Viewers are encouraged to question the stability of Mima’s mind, and what she sees as reality.

Frankly, all of these contextual pieces would be terrifying on their own. However, mixed together the way that they are, it is truly unsettling in all the right ways. The themes linger long after the anime has been turned off, and that’s by design.

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Perfect Blue’s Perfect Metaphors

Satoshi Kon knew how to get his point across. He understood the fine lines of media, and how to make them work in his favor. He approached Perfect Blue with a firm understanding of what he wanted to do, and how to get it done.

The meticulous editing and scene changes found in this film are some of the best I’ve seen in anime. The film relies heavily on implication and juxtaposition to carry important scenes forward.

One moment, she’ll be standing over a dead body in a scene she’s acting out.

In the next, she’ll be standing in front of an audience, preparing to perform.

These scenes compare and contrast two stressful situations for Mima. She’s wearing the same expression in both moments, but one is much more horrific than the other.

As I said above, viewers are encouraged to question her sanity and what she believes to be real. This is one key scene, among many others, that truly contextualize Mima as a character.

It’s at this point I’d like to remind you of two other important scenes. One is the scene about the photos on the fan site she found. As I said above, she has no recollection of the pictures that were taken of her. However, the clothes are certainly in her closet, even if she can’t remember buying them.

The second scene is of the moment she see’s her idol identity sitting in the passenger seat of someone else’s car. She can’t deny what she saw, but even she can admit the entire idea is pure insanity on its face.

As Mima questions herself, viewers are asked to question her as well. As the concept of reality shifts around her, we begin to see that not everything is as it seems. We realize that her experiences are not trustworthy.

We can’t help but question which of the experience she’s having is the real one. Maybe only one situation is, maybe they both are, or perhaps it’s all just a fabrication of a very ill mind. This brings me to my next point…

Who exactly is Mima?

Mima’s Conflicted Identity

Throughout the film, it becomes clear that Mima isn’t being entirely honest with herself, or those around her. As I stated above, she truly struggles to find her place in life.

She’s not a happy person, at least not professionally, socially, or emotionally. She lives a very complicated life, with several facets of her personality being hidden away from the public eye.

Mima lives a double life. It may be two sides of the same coin, but that is a very isolating thing to do. We see this play out in the film.

It’s arguable that her supreme sense of isolation leads to her unhealthy mindset and warped perception of reality. It’s also arguable that she’s isolated purely because her perceptions are warped to begin with.

Viewers will never truly know the answer, it’s left strictly up to interpretation.

Mima is rather lonely in the privacy of her own apartment. Meanwhile, her idol persona is outgoing and charismatic. Lastly, her actress persona is someplace in the middle of the other two.

These conflicting identities lead her to a crisis of sorts. At times, it seems as though the idol personality within her is trying to break lose. It seems to gain a personality of its own. The way it seems to harass her is another question in and of itself.

Are these her own personal thoughts of self hatred given form? Or is the idol within her becoming it’s own split off personality, separate from Mima as a person? Or is she simply a ghost of who Mima once was?

Once again, the answer is not so clear. While it’s true this isn’t likely a purgatory of sorts, the trials placed in front of Mima are no less troubling.

Most of what viewers see is through the eyes of Mima, and what she goes through in daily life. With these many personas in constant conflict, her personal identity gets lost in the shuffle.

It’s anyone’s guess. That’s what makes this film so good. You could debate this endlessly and never come to a final answer.

Has Perfect Blue Aged Well?

Perfect Blue was originally released in 1997. In some ways it is a product of its time. When it comes to the world itself, it shows its age in spades. Decor looks dated to be sure, and that says nothing about the world during that era of time.

Electronics in the film reflect the era of the late 90’s. As a result, so do some of the conversations in the series. For example, there’s a scene where Mima learns how to use the internet for the first time.

Televisions and computers are the sort that you would find in the late 90’s. What was once top of the line equipment now looks like a relic. If anything, I do appreciate the little Mackintosh logo at the bottom of the computer and on the box. There are plenty of little nods like this all over in the anime.

If you are old enough to remember the 90’s these are neat little additions. I’m sure that in the 90’s additions like this helped the narrative to be more immersive.

As far as the actual animation goes, it holds up quite well, even in it’s original state. Thanks to the blue-ray remastering of the anime, those who want high definition certainly have an option too. The soundtrack to the show is as haunting as it is beautiful. Each track melds into scenes flawlessly, building tension and atmosphere when it needs to.

Final Thoughts

Perfect Blue is not an anime film for everyone. In fact, I personally believe a good number of people won’t like it at all. It can be hard to recommend to the average anime viewer.

It isn’t a relaxing show, and it has some pretty brutal pacing. That, coupled with its dark and sinister themes, lead to a very complex and morally grey narrative. It is a thriller, and that can’t be understated.

The film relies heavily on its psychological drama to carry the story forward. Many scenes are purposefully unsettling, and Mima is an enigma by nature. Several questions are left unanswered and up to interpretation.

The ones that will be answered, may not be satisfactory or to your liking. That’s just the nature of this film, and Satoshi Kon’s directorial style in general.

That being said, Perfect Blue is by far one of the most compelling anime I’ve ever watched. There is so much to unpack about the world, Mima, and the concept of idol culture in Japan. If you can tolerate the concepts in the anime, you may find a real gem here.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

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Anime Review: Fruits Basket (2001)


Hey guys, it’s Kernook here. Back in the early 2000’s there were plenty of great anime out there for seasoned anime fans. Today we’re going to talk about one of those anime; Fruits Basket.

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The anime industry continued to grow at a steady rate. Thanks to the wider range of anime coming to the west, the medium attracted plenty of newcomers to anime fandom.

Gateway shows began flooding out of the woodwork for a new group of fans to latch onto. Few shows exemplify this time in anime history better than Fruits Basket.

The anime was approachable, and that made the show extremely popular for a huge number of people. Even if you haven’t seen the anime yourself, chances are good that you’ve at least heard about it.

At the time of its release, Fruits Basket was a simple story with a lot of heart and soul. It was easy enough to digest for the casual viewer. However, it has deep characters that help carry the narrative of this slice-of-life show. The show has many core themes that qualify as tragic, but the healthy dose of comedic levity makes the tragedy palatable.

Unfortunately, the anime paled in comparison to the written material. The story was changed in a few key ways, and went on to go unfinished. Fruits Basket ended after a short twenty-five episode run with an unsatisfying ending that had fans of the show begging for more.

Thankfully in 2019, fans got their wish. Fruits Basket is being entirely remade with the full story left intact. The first season of the remake aired in 2019, and it was everything I expected to see and more. In light of this, I decided to watch the original Fruits Basket made in 2001 in order to do a proper review of the old show.

More Compelling Than You Might Think

Fruits Basket is an anime based off of a manga of the same name. Directed by Akitaro Daichi and animated by Studio Deen, the anime is a slice-of-life series. The series has both a sub and a dub. Either of them will serve you well.

I’ve seen both, and I prefer to watch the subbed version. That said, the dub cast manages the English adaptation well.

More importantly, if you are a dub fan, you have more to look forward to. Most of the 2001 English dub cast reprise their roles for the 2019 remake. I’ll review the 2019 remake of the series once the entire series finishes to completion.

For now the 2001 iteration of Fruits Basket deserves to be remembered fondly for what it brought to the table. It wasn’t a perfect series by far, and there were some issues with it.

The musical quality in Fruits Basket is about what you can expect for the early 2000’s. It isn’t completely amazing. I certainly don’t listen to the soundtrack on its own. That said, it functions, and melts into every scene the way it should.

The animation is much the same. It isn’t amazing, it doesn’t stand the test of time in the slightest, but it functions. Even if we were back in 2001, I’d be hard pressed to say that the series is beautiful or stunning visually. It just isn’t now, and it wasn’t back then either. That said, it doesn’t need to be.

Fruits Basket isn’t about impressive visuals or musical talent. Instead, the series offers an emotional journey. That is where the series excels. If you’re looking for show that can offer an emotional experience, Fruits Basket is the show for you.

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The Story: Heart and Soul

The series is tragic, but it never feels too depressing. In fact there is plenty of levity to be found within the confines of despair.

The series follows a girl named Tohru Honda as she bumbles her way through life. She has a part time job and attends high school.

At the start, Tohru speaks about her deceased mother who passed away off-screen a few months before the series begins. Tohru’s father passed away when she was still just a little girl, so now she’s mostly on her own.

The loss of her mother completely up-heaved Tohru’s life. Not only was it sudden, since her mother’s death was caused by a car accident. It was also a turning point for Tohru that happened off screen. After her mother passed away, Tohru moved in with her paternal grandfather.

With such a positive and important influence that Tohru had in her life taken away from her, she strives to do everything she can to make ends meet on her own. Tohru had always been fairly independent to a degree, but now with both parents gone, this is exacerbated.

Her need to be successful weighs on her, because she doesn’t like being a burden to others. She will go to great lengths to be an asset. Occasionally, she actually becomes the burden she doesn’t want to be. This flaw of hers is very problematic for her.

We even see this in the beginning of the show.

She’s living in a tent in the woods. Why? Well, her grandfather’s house is under renovation. He’s staying with people that don’t tolerate Tohru. She claims that she doesn’t want to cause problems for her other relatives.

Though she has great intentions, she has lied to her grandfather, saying that she’s staying with a friend. In truth, she just doesn’t want him to worry about her. In spite of her loss, Tohru is an optimist. She doesn’t let the weight of her grieving weigh her down.

The woods just so happen to part of the Sohma family property, Tohru doesn’t know that. While she’s walking to school one morning she passes by the front of a house. She stops to look at the small figures that have been freshly painted.

These little figures are replicas of the Chinese zodiac. She comes to find out that one of the boys living in the house is Yuki Sohma, a classmate at her school. The other person living there is Yuki’s older cousin, Shigure.

Later, a storm strikes a tall hill near Tohru’s tent. Rocks fall down, completely destroying it. Tohru has nowhere to go. Her lie of good intentions caused this.

Taking pity on the homeless girl, Shigure invites Tohru to stay with him and Yuki at the house. She agrees, offering to do the cooking and cleaning as a Taking pity on the homeless girl, Shigure invites Tohru to stay with him and Yuki at the house. replacement for rent. Eventually another Sohma family member, Kyo, joins the household.

The anime largely revolves around life within this newly formed family unit. There is no shortage of individual character stories. Supporting characters have time in the spotlight too. Each episode usually introduces a new Sohma family member, and a personal problem along with it.

So what’s the meat of the story then?

It just so happens that some members of the Sohma family has a curse upon them. These cursed few are also members of the Chinese zodiac.

When someone of the opposite gender fully embraces a cursed Soma, they turn into their animal counterpart.

This is where a large part of the humor comes into play. However, for the Soma family it comes with its fair share of emotional turmoil as well.

The anime is rather episodic in nature. None of the plot points overstay their welcome. This makes for quick patterns of trauma and catharsis. Due to the way the series is set up, Fruits Basket is easy to consume. After a few episodes, long running plot elements begin to fold in-between each episodic arc in order to carry the narrative forward.

Below is a gallery of several characters, each of them compelling, but they aren’t the only ones.

As you can see, the large cast is as different as they are robust, and this is only a small sampling.

The only problem is, with the series being twenty-five episodes long, some of those arcs don’t end in a satisfying way. You would need to go read the manga to fill that void.

The 2001 iteration of Fruits Basket only covers the first part of the entire narrative. Therefore if you watch it, you’ll be getting an incomplete telling of the story.

Final Thoughts

The series has a lot of heart. It’s well written and the core themes revolve around the concept of family. Fruits Basket stands out to me in a way that few anime can.

These characters come from broken homes and painful pasts. In spite of this, the series never feels like a drama or tragedy. The fact that it could, and the core weight of some of the themes is what lingers after the series ends.

I think of this scene, a picnic at a grave. Simply because Torhu’s mother would have wanted then to have a good time is a great example of levity in darkness.

That being said, the series doesn’t age well. If you want a polished series, the 2019 version is the better option. The original Fruits Basket was released back in 2001, and it shows its age in all ways.

From the music, animation, running gags, and common tropes, this anime is like a time capsule. It perfectly preserves what slice-of-life anime was like in the early 2000’s.

That alone might be a reason to go back and give it a watch. The problem is, I have trouble saying that you’ll actually like it.

The reason that it was so popular in the past just doesn’t hold up anymore. The reason that I’m still fond of it now comes strictly from nostalgia.

The standards of anime production in recent years has skyrocketed. I think that makes a huge difference.

Just look at this 2019 poster of the new iteration and retelling, you can see the jump in quality. Fruits Basket has a new breath of life now, and the 2001 anime just can’t compete.

For this reason alone, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend the 2001 version of Fruits Basket 2001. Now there is a better alternative. That said, I won’t say not to watch this version of Fruits Basket, either.

I think that regardless of its age, we as a community have a lot to thank the series for. It wasn’t meant to be a “land mark” show in anime history. Yet, that is exactly what happened. It became greater than I think it was ever intended to be.

It bridged a huge gap between anime and non-anime fans. For many people, it was the first anime they ever watched that wasn’t on prime time network television. That’s the crazy thing.

Networks could have stuck it on a Saturday morning cartoon line-up right along with Sailor Moon or Pokemon. That’s how consumable it was. If that alone doesn’t merit a little respect for this version of the anime, I don’t know what does.

Honestly, thinking about all of that really is amazing. I’ve got to say, Fruits Basket 2001 is still pretty cool. Even if it is only for the nostalgia trip.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

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