Tag Archives: slice of life

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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Let’s Talk Anime: A Centaur’s Life

Hey all, it’s Kern here, and it’s time to talk some more about anime. This one is a bit of an odd one, A Centaur’s Life.

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A Centaur’s Life, is also known as Centaur’s Worries or Sentōru no Nayami. The manga came out for this series back in 2011 and it is still ongoing in 2022. The twelve episode anime was released back in July of 2017 and finished in September of that same year.

Now, to be quite honest with you, this anime is a bit strange. The manga it’s based on is a bit strange too. During the time it was all the rage, releasing with other series of its type; monster/animal girls became a somewhat common trope. The series acted as a curiosity of sorts, earning viewers because of it’s rather odd nature.

That being said, the series is primarily focused upon slice-of-life elements. Set in a world where all people are hybrids of various sorts of fictional creatures such as centaurs, it follows the everyday life of Hime, a… well you guessed it, a centaur. She’s a high school student and the series follows her and the lives of her classmates. In general the general themes of the show covers problems and challenges that Hime and people of other hybrid races like her might face day-to-day.

A Centaur’s Life also contains mildly placed hints at a possible romance between the main character and one of her female friends. Personally, I could take or leave that aspect, it’s cute I guess… but it’s not something I was invested in.

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The other major component of the plot revolves around the political reality of this world, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Now, you might think that the political intrigue will heavily influence the main character’s life in some sort of darker way, but from what we get in the anime that just isn’t the case.

The series boasts a few rather totalitarian themes about forced equality between various mythical races. There’s a tone of extremely harsh penalties of for any discrimination… and while the series isn’t too heavily focused upon it, it does come up enough to be jarring. Even what seems to be children’s books have a weird political bent to them. As though something like democracy is little more than a fairy-tale.

Add onto this that in the twelve episodes, the pacing continues to be slow and unhurried, and the tone feels off somehow. In a way, it’s almost as if the series forgot that it was supposed to be a slice-of-life… but I digress.

In general, the show pieces together a school life story that jumps the shark. A Centaur’s Life is riddled with cases of extreme propaganda, hard pressed security details, and a world that almost seems dystopian despite the slice-of-life tone the series works so hard to convey. It truly gives viewers an unsettling feeling that something very nasty is going on under the surface that the show refuses to truly address deeply.

That being said, A Centaur’s Life isn’t awful… it just don’t know what it seems to want to be as a series. Perhaps the manga is better, but I haven’t read it and I really don’t plan to. The show itself has a few elements I wish had been explored further, and I’m not entirely sure that it would ever make a top ten list of mine, or anyone that I know. It’s not among the worst I’ve seen, but certainly cannot stand as one of the best.

The last episode especially fell flat upon its face, containing absolutely no substance to speak of. To say it was unsatisfying is an understatement, but let’s be honest a lot of anime have that problem. This is certainly one where they want you to go and read the manga, and anime like that become a pet peeve of mine.

A Centaur’s Life had a lot of original and bold ideas, but I’d say that’s the largest problem it had. There were just too many to focus on one aspect, and therefore it all became wasted potential.

Is it worth a watch? Yeah, actually it’s worth streaming it at least once. The experience is worthwhile, because the series does display a few interesting qualities. Does it belong on your prized anime shelf? Probably not, and truth be told if it hasn’t been forgotten about by the masses already it will be in a few more years. It just can’t live up to the test of time.

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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Nuptial Letters: Gold Heart, Silver Chain Precursor #1

Author’s Note: I cannot promise you the most brilliantly written story on the planet, it won’t be perfect, it’ll have its own flaws. What I can say is that this story will offer a bone to chew and food for thought. If that’s to your liking, you may find something of worth here.

This is a precursor to my serialized fiction releasing on this website on May 4th, 2022. I hope you enjoy this tiny glimpse into the fictional world I’ve created, as that’s what this primarily is, just a hint of world building for you all.

Do bear in mind the totality of the story tags found within this fictional universe.

Genres (so far within the totality of the universe): Romance, Slice-of-Life, Drama, Fantasy.
Tags (so far within the totality of the universe): F/F, M/F, Mature Sensual Content, Mild Fantasy Violence.

Totality Rating: This serialized content is “Mature” due to romantic overtures between adult women and use of hard language (cursing/swearing). No severe warnings currently apply to this fiction. Warnings will be added on an as needed basis.

Nuptial Letters: A Gold Heart, Silver Chain Precursor
Setting: The Black Causeway

Atop a formation of boulders lining a sea of inky black liquid, a woman sat with a pen in-hand. A pad of thick paper rested in her lap as she acted as a scribe, detailing her thoughts. They were as complex as a puzzle, but as simple as nature itself. A quandary and mystery rolled into one.

To my dearest Valda,

The moon shines brightly on this night, its glow reminds me of you. A sea of endless stars twinkle in your image. Tiny fractals cutting through the depths of the universe, just as you have cut through me. You’ve left behind an imprint, Valda…

It is one that I couldn’t hope to cast aside. Even if I wished to remain a solitary entity, joining souls is the Arvad way of existence. It is time for me now, I feel that ancestral urge within my being. An Arvad that does not act upon that calling, withers away to return to the elements once more, so they say.

Maybe it is true, perhaps that is what I am feeling tonight. The calling of my element, of the shadow, warning me that I shall be returned to it, if I cannot find a presence upon this land to be as one with...

With a tongue peeking out to wet her lips, Blair sighed softly. She felt that a hesitating pulse would be of a rather profound company at this moment. Sugar-grey eyes blinked back a salty sting, because she knew it was not folklore. No, it was the truth. Arvad were primordial, but they were not everlasting. They were given form by the desire of loved ones, parents who wished for a child like themselves. Yet, they could not maintain a bodily form forever, never upon their own merits. Smearing the sweat from her palm onto her tunic, she continued her letter.

It has been a month now, since we collected and crested upon that dance floor. In one single night, one of your kin, became one of my own. On that same night, I felt this distant unease that your presence so swiftly soothed…yet, to me the passing time feels like a vortex between yesterday and an eon ago.

I recall the celebratory drumbeats ringing in my ear. The shimmer in your eyes that night were like the stars above. The way that the flickering firelight played against them, just as the twinkling stars play against the swath of Basa, lighting the way across the lands. It looms within me so perniciously now, a thought that ghosts across my hands and my heart.

Her time was almost up. She could feel it, and her parents concerned themselves over it. Once an Advar came of age, a mortal soul had to accept them. A mortal had to give them a reason to walk the vast tapestries of Basa. She needed a tie to the mortal realm before she became nothing more than scripture… but to tie her soul to that of another wasn’t an easy thing. Convincing a Cadfan or Aasa to join souls with hers would promise their own ties to the shadow, and upon their deathbed, they too would become an Advar like herself.

Fated to an eternity as an Advar… with no afterlife to hope for, or cling onto… just a life of wandering the lands, and little more. Could she truly ask that of anyone? To be bound and unified endlessly like that?

I am happy to report that we have finally finished our business in the volcanic circle. My father says that we should begin our journey northbound. In general, it seems to be raining as we traverse the rocky channels of the Blackened Causeway. It is an arduous task. The tar pits in this region are just as I remember them; inky blackness and dead foliage as far as the eye can see. An endless vortex of searing blackness.

I’ll have you know, that there was an overflow recently. The tar has blackened the pathway once more with its wet and sticky ichor. This is a desolate place indeed, not even our best horses care for it. Northbound journeys tend to take some time though. I have come to expect the mutterings of the pack mules as they continue plodding along in the mud and muck.

I have often wondered, Valda, why do collections of your people see fit to inhabit places such as these? It cannot simply be for the highly priced commodities you see fit to barter with, can it? Although I can ask that, you’ve never been to the volcanic circle before, have you?

I wouldn’t blame you, if you haven’t.

Blair swallowed back a lump in her throat, she felt it stood to reason why she would be so greatly disliked, and why most of the Advar had the same issue. Flame, liquid, land, light and shadow, it didn’t matter. They were all outcasts, every single one of them. That was the way of the world, echoed as it was through the souls of the elements.

To befriend and Advar, to love them, that was not often seen as a natural thing.

Personally, I have never cared for the ash looming so predominantly here, not the heat that never ebbs. The wretchedly thick scent of sulfur burns my nose. Alas, here I am, burying my face beneath my cloak as grey water falls from the sky. The water stains upon the paper can be blamed upon that, but perhaps that is a comfort to you. At least you know that you are always persistent in my thoughts… distant and dreary although they are.

I have to send this letter now, before we take our leave from the outpost we’re currently residing in. I am afraid I’ll be out of a serviceable reach for quite some time. I’ll let you know when we re-settle. Until then, I’ll send you letters at every trade post and village that we pass by.

Wait for me, Valda.. and while you’re at it, just agree to marry me already. I know of your fondness for me. The way your hand fits in mine goes without saying. You belong at my side, in your heart of hearts, you must know that by now.

Fondly awaiting the day when we shall meet once more,
Blair Blodwyn.


Setting: The Vamon Coast

“Princess, another missive for you…”

“It had better damn-well be important,” Valda replied softly. She didn’t bother to look up to the servant. “If it isn’t, cast it into the fire. If it is, place it upon the table and leave me to my thoughts.”

“As you wish, Ma’am.”

She could not be bothered with the man disrupting her now. She was too busy penning a letter of her own. Delicate fingers plucked up the paper, scanning her words.

Salutations,

I’ve received what I hope to be every one of your letters. I don’t believe there could be one missing, but one can never be too sure. The carriers often have difficulty traveling about this time of year, what with the snow, and all.

Esoteric banalities of my feelings for you aside, you know that I cannot simply agree to marry you. You have to pass the approval of the eldest in my family line. Royal blood is not so quickly cast aside to the likes of an Arvad, much less an Arvad woman… the Birendra name is one not to be sullied by unfortunate blood. What could be more unfortunate than that of a woman without lands to call her own?

Oh, now I know how that sounds. I most certainly do not need a several page diatribe from you in return. Particularly never upon the merits regarding the Arvad way of life. I know just how deeply connected your people are to the ebbs and flows of the greenest pastures and deepest forests. The elements that so bind you, you would never be able to part with.

Ah, yes now, that is the problem, I’d say.

Of course that was the problem, and it prevailed in her mind for the reason why her family might decline. She thought on this, reconsidered her words, but there was no kind way to gentle her thoughts in the matter. As a Cadfan woman, she was lacking. She couldn’t do battle the same as her elder sibling, she could not bring herself to be conniving like her younger sibling, the best of the saboteurs. She could only do what was expected of her, and what was expected was to be of support to a noble lineage.

Sighing to great length, she looked up to the painted image upon the wall. The likeness of herself and her family hung there. Her father, once a principled and proud man, was also the relaxed sort. Temperance firmly in-hand. He could no longer speak on her behalf. If he could, he likely would have waved his large hand and sent her on her way. He would have blessed her to live a life as she saw fit… her elder sibling was not so easy-going.

Even the Aasa have kingdoms and villages to call their own, Blair. It is true that eons of war and separation have made them detest our ways, generally speaking… yet, it is the Arvad that continues to face the utmost scrutiny. That said, my betters have agreed to have a nuptial meeting with you… that is all they have agreed upon, mind you… I suppose it is the best we can hope for.

The best, and the worst, a fact Valda had to keep in mind.

It was not the fact that Blair was an Advar that posed the issue, no, far from it. Her elder sibling was also bound to an Advar after all. It was that Blair did not intend to settle, or to live the Cadfan way of life. Who knew what would come of this meeting?

You really are something of a ragamuffin, Blair… always complaining about the way we Cadfan enjoy our idle luxuries. You should know just as well as I do that we aren’t so affected by the locations we inhabit. That would be exactly why we call them our home in the first place. It would be completely preposterous to think otherwise.

No, I have never been to the volcanic circle. I have, however, heard wondrous things. The power plants are reliant on the volcanoes there. If only we in the northern and southern tips could harness that power for ourselves, we’d be much better off. Alas, unlike the searing heat centralized to Basa’s center, we know only the bitter cold bite of a never-ending winter… it gets colder by the day it seems. There is no useful seismic activity for us to draw upon, either. Only the whims of the winds and waters that pass us by.

Then again, we are a people that do not travel much. We have so little use for wandering a landscape that hardly welcomes us. In fact, quite frankly I should think that you’re a fool… why even take an interest in me? It makes such little sense when you are such a restless person.

I will await your missive once again, I hope your ensuing travel doesn’t take an eternity.

Cordially yours,
Valda Birendra

End of Precursor…
Precursor #2 will be released April 20th, 2022
Precursor #3 will be released April 27th, 2022
Chapter one to be released May 4th, 2022


Go to Precursor #2 (does not release until April 20th 2022)

Further Author’s Notes: This was only a small taste of a very long story, and for what little it provided you, I hope that you enjoyed it. If you like my written work and want to support me, there are ways to do so down below. This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets.

Side note, that tar pool was originally a picture of a tree that I liquefied in a paint program. I just farted around a bit to make it look that way. Patreon supporters got to see it days ago as a sneak peak… there will be more sneak peaks/artwork, and world building showcases for anyone of the right Patreon Tier.

With your contributions, you make our efforts possible. Thank you for supporting our content. Patreon supporters receive access into our official Discord server, and a few other perks depending on the tier. If you don’t care for Patreon, and don’t care about perks, you can always support us through PayPal too… links below.

Those who join via Patreon get special perks, such as extra content, quicker updates, and more.

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To Our Supporters

Thank you for helping us to enrich our content.

Patreon Supporters:
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($25) Premium Ferret: None.
($50) Round Table Ferret/Fluffy Ferret: Josh Sayer

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: 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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Anime Review: Sweetness and Lightning

Sweetness and Lightning is a slice of life series that aired in 2016. At its core there’s a story about family, grief, and finding a place to belong.

These themes are wrapped up nicely in a show that centers around the heart of every home, the kitchen. On the surface, this is a cooking series. Beneath that, each dish that the characters make provide catharsis for their struggles.

The anime isn’t dark by any stretch of the imagination. In spite of the themes surrounding it, the series is very upbeat. The writing is masterful, but it’s not deep. Each emotional issue is handled maturely, but, the series itself can easily appeal to almost all ages. At the end of the day, the story is about familial love, and finding comfort in places that the characters would least expect them.

The anime is an adaptation of a manga with the same name. The adaptation is true to its source material, diverting only slightly when the narrative demands it. Those occasions are rare, minor, and actually make the anime a better viewing experience. The subtle changes aren’t always easy to notice, and that’s the way it should be.

The twelve episode series follows two very different family dynamics. It focuses on both equally, but, one family stands out more.

The Inuzuka Family

The first family is a father and daughter. Kōhei Inuzuka is left a widower after his wife’s passing. His daughter, Tsumugi Inuzuka is still quite young. She’s only in kindergarten, and therefore she’s solely dependent on her dad for almost every need. Kōhei struggles with the demands of being a single parent.

Working a full time job as a teacher and seeing after his youngster are large emotional commitments. He is not a homemaker, and he has no idea how to fill the void his wife left behind.

The Iida Family

The second family follows the Iida family. Kotori is a student in his class. She spends a lot of her time alone, both at home and at school. She’s a loner by choice and routine. Her mother is often away, having a very small role in the anime. The absence of Kotori’s mother is a driving force for her loneliness in the series.

Kotori has a passion for food. Since her mother is an acclaimed celebrity chef, she knows her way around the kitchen. However, her incredible fear of knives keeps her from enjoying that passion to the fullest.

Mundane Life

This is not an action filled series. It is not full of suspense or plot twists. There are not a lot of over the top “anime style” gags, and you won’t find many standard tropes clogging up the anime either.

Even among the slice-of-life anime often provided to fans, this show is something that might appeal to a “non-anime” fan due to its down to earth nature.

The series asks its viewers to sit down and enjoy a relaxing story. Sweetness and Lightning is episodic, and mundanity is literally everywhere.

This is a series that finds its excitement by characters interacting within the confines of every day life. Each struggle begins and ends with one key component; the family dynamic.

The story opens with the the facts of life at the Inuzuka home in plain view. Six months before the series begins, the love of Kōhei’s life passed away. He’s still grieving, and trying to make ends meet. As a single father, this is no small task.

Kōhei has no idea how to cook, and so he lives off of ready made meals, serving his daughter the same. These foods aren’t healthy. Often times, they aren’t even tasty. His wife had been the one to make the family meals, but with her passing it now falls onto him.

Kōhei fails to keep a largely stocked kitchen, and can’t prepared the dishes his daughter loves to eat most. Worst of all for him, his daughter often comments on this.

While still grieving himself, he feels incredibly guilty that he can’t live up the memory of her mother.

Tsumugi obviously misses her mom, but the concept of death is a foreign concept to the little girl. She can’t quite grasp it, and the way she mourns reflects this. Everything is in the little details for her. She complains that meals have become different now. She gets upset with the changes in her routine.

The things her mom used to do are now in her father’s hands, and Tsumugi has to cope with those changes. It’s all very age appropriate, and fits the narrative well. It never comes off as “too much”, and it isn’t overbearing either. There are plenty of scenes that follow her day-to-day life too, and the conflicts that she runs into. Both at school and at home.

To that point, I want to reiterate that Sweetness and Lightning is a very down to earth series. Tsumugi is a little girl, and she acts like one. She can be very bright and cheerful. However, like all small children Tsumugi throws her fair share of tantrums too.

She’ll pick at her food, or reject it entirely. She’ll babble nonsense, or fight back a little when she’s scolded by her dad.

She is a very accurate depiction of a child. If you don’t like children, this aspect could easily get on your nerves. Tsumugi is such a major character in the anime that you can’t avoid her. She has way too much screen time to be ignored.

Unlike other family style anime that may have a child in it, this series focuses on those complexities. Kōhei’s personal story is about the difficulties of being a parent. Tsumugi is her own unique character, and she does challenge her father.

Meanwhile, Kotori is an average teenage girl. Her passion for cooking aside, she can be a bit of a wallflower. She does have one close friend her own age named Shinobu. The character makes occasional appearances every now and then.

Other than that, Kotori mostly spends time on her own. As an only child of divorced parents, she’s used to being independent.

The only interesting character quirk she has is a terrible fear of knives. She managed to cut herself pretty badly as a child, and the fear of knives persists because of it. Other than that, Kotori isn’t very interesting on her own.

What truly uplifts Kotori as a character is the way she interacts with Tsumugi and Kōhei.

The student and teacher dynamic between them slowly shifts into one of friendship. At the high school, Kōhei maintains his position of authority. After school hours, he begins to treat Kotori as an equal.

The way that Kotori proves herself capable of assisting with Tsumugi helps to lessen the divide between them. As the series goes on, the way these two families merge help to fill the respective voids between them.

The Kitchen: The Heart of Every Home

Obviously, if you don’t like anime centered around cooking, you won’t like this. A vast majority of the scenes take place in the kitchen. It focuses on how meals are prepared, and the steps it takes to make a home cooked meal. Learning these basic steps remain the foundation of the series as a whole.

Kotori’s mother owns a restaurant, although it usually remains closed. Through a series of events, Tsumugi acts as the balm to eventually tie this odd trio together. The three of them end up gathering regularly at the restaurant, learning to make home cooked meals. They eat together and treat each other as a family.

As the characters spend more time together, old pains begin to lessen significantly. The two broken families start to redefine what it means to be a family in the first place.

The teacher becomes the student, perhaps the only actual plot twist in the show. Still, it’s no surprise to the viewer. Kōhei learns his way around a kitchen with Kotori’s help. She knows more than he does, and it’s good that the dynamic shifts here. It shows that the characters mutually respect each other.

With all of her mother’s recipes at her disposal, they work together to make each dish. Kotori finds comfort in spending time with Kōhei as well. She also gets along well with Tsumugi, eventually treating her like a younger sibling.

There is a saying that families are made around the dinner table, and this anime examines that. As time goes on, more friends join in on the nightly gatherings, forming strong bonds.

Although nothing inappropriate ever goes on between Kōhei and Kotori, the connection they build runs deep. You could choose to see something beyond a platonic friendship if you wanted. However, the anime only provides minor subtext for that. You’d honestly have to be looking for romance in places that it just isn’t.

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Kotori’s emotional state shifts as the series progresses. Shinobu, her best friend even takes notice. She states that Kotori seems to be at her happiest whenever she’s cooking food and eating with the Inuzuka family.

Kotori’s mother eventually meets Kōhei and Tsumugi. She finds herself grateful that her daughter found such good people to have in her life and encourages their time together to continue.

The changes over time for Kōhei and Tsumugi are also noteworthy. Kōhei becomes more capable as a father. When he finds himself lacking, Kotori helps to influence the way he deals with his daughter’s outbursts. Tsumugi becomes happier in general, and truly enjoys her time spent with Kotori.

Final Thoughts

If you don’t like anime with kids actually acting according to their age, skip it. Tsumugi is unavoidable as a character. She is a child, and she unequivocally acts like it.

On the other side of the coin, if you’re looking for a romantic series with a significant age gap between the characters, this is not it. You’re going to have to look hard for that subtext and frankly there are just better anime out there for that sort of romantic entanglement.

Sweetness and Lightning is about family, the cultivation of strong familial bonds, coping with loss, and overcoming grief. These are the themes that make the cooking aspect of the anime so powerful. They are the absolute core of everything, without fail.

Trying to take any of that out of context, for any reason, probably won’t serve you well.

The animation in the series is good, and holds up adequately enough. Like all anime that revolve around food, the animation sees a spike in quality when meals are displayed.

Some of them look good enough to eat, and appear more appealing than their real world counterparts.

The musical design is spot on, and enjoyable. Like the series itself, it doesn’t try to be over the top. It won’t stand out over the scenes, and I don’t find it memorable outside of that. The music only serves to be complimentary towards the series. The opening and ending songs are enjoyable for what they offer, but, they won’t make any of my top ten lists any time soon.

The anime leaves these two families as fast friends. There is subtext that the two might become one later down the line. However, that isn’t written in stone. The subject of romance itself is not something that is heavily addressed, and that’s fine. It shouldn’t be.

The anime never pulls a “Usagi Drop” moment either, and Kōhei’s friendship with Kotori is respectful at all times. It never crosses into questionable territory or inappropriate power dynamics.

Sweetness and Lightning is everything the title says. It is a very sweet series. The darkness that comes with it doesn’t overtake the series as a whole. Instead, the sadness is brief, but carefully included. The anime strives to tell a simple story, with a simple conclusion.

In the end, it provides strictly what it promises, and very little more.

It doesn’t necessarily fall into the “cute girls doing cute things” trope, and I wouldn’t call it a “healing” anime either. I didn’t feel refreshed or renewed after watching it.

The fact is that slice-of-life is its nearest comparison, but that’s a lackluster description of the series too. None of these categories do the show the justice it deserves.

Although I enjoyed it, and I would watch it again, for me it’s just a popcorn anime. The series is addictive in the moment, and its very easy to consume. The episodic nature makes it a joy to binge watch. This, coupled with the fact that it’s only twelve episodes long makes it an ideal choice during a lazy Saturday afternoon.

It’s a tame viewing experience. Those qualities make Sweetness and Lightning a top contender for family style anime of this nature.

If you’d like to see a few other reviews on the topic I’d say Them Anime and Lumi has you covered for more opinions on this wonderful series.

In the end, I would say that Sweetness and Lightning is merely a story about life. It doesn’t go anywhere particular, and it doesn’t need to. There are very few anime that can put so much heart and soul into such a mundane story. That alone makes it worth a watch if you like shows that center around family dynamics.

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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