Must-see anime – Gin no Saji

You’ve seen one. You’ve seen them all.

That’s a claim that can easily be made about most anime belonging to the same genre. There are certain “rules” which authors adhere to. Sometimes they bend them, sometimes they flat out break them, but still the rules are there.

Gin no Saji follows Yuugo Hachiken, a boy tired of trying to live up to expectations he cannot meet. He decides to enrol in Ooezo Agricultural High School, a boarding school in the countryside, as a means to escape the stress brought upon by his parents and his lack of direction. For more adverbs and adjectives visit: myanimelist.net.

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What you might call “rules” of a slice of life anime are present in Gin no Saji. But it’s not the rules that really matter, do they? It’s the characters’ originality and plausibility, the setting in which those rules are being applied.

I’m a sucker for anime in which nothing really happens. And when I say nothing, I mean nobody saves the world, establishes new world order or reinstates the balance between the universes – basically your average slice-of-life is my cup of tea. And Gin no Saji is at the same time average and extraordinary, which is a combination I really enjoy because it is not easy to pull it off.

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Gin no Saji is about friendship, limitations and about having good fun while trying to become a better version of yourself – as much as life will let you. However, all of these usual topics are dealt with while our protagonist Yuugo and his motley crew learn how to make bacon and cheese, while taking care of pigs and cows and learning all there is about horses.

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Somehow, the agricultural setting manages to make all those usual slice-of-life tropes shine brighter and make you laugh and care even more. A must-see for anyone who enjoys slice-of-life. Really.

HOWEVER !!!

If you don’t like/eat meat I think it might be better for you to skip Gin no Saji.

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Also, if you do like/eat meat and have issues with where it actually comes from, you might find some parts of Gin no Saji not-so-nice.

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This post is about Hajime no Ippo, it really is. Mostly.

This is going to be a really long post. So, here’s an executive summary for you: Hajime no Ippo is one of the best animes I’ve ever seen. Now look at the pretty pictures and then go watch Hajime no Ippo. Oh yeah, also, you should watch Haikyuu!

I’ve been watching anime since 2004. I’ve chosen this year somewhat arbitrarily because it’s the year I’ve started to differentiate anime from other forms of animation. In 2004 I’ve seen the ever amazing Escaflowne, Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, Rurouni Kenshin Reminiscence and Berserk. These five are still  my favourites.

I’ve dabbled in most genres, but I have never ever made an attempt at sports anime. The idea of watching +25 episodes in which dudes reach bankai in football or tennis sounded as appealing as, well, as this:

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However, I’m not hardcore (in some cases this is bad, in this case it’s good). So, under the influence of Tumblr people, once it came to choosing a sports anime to watch (not my idea), I’ve suggested Kuroko no Basuke, which turned out to be your typical shounen ai with “level-up” available in almost every episode.

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It was cute and fun to watch, even though it was too intense (yes, there is such a thing). The fact that a single game spanned through four or five episodes was really just a little too much.

The real epiphany hit with Hajime no Ippo which is now a proud member of “The 2004 Club” (it’s my club, it does not need to make sense to you). The idea that an anime about boxing could even apply for membership has never crossed my mind. But the perfection of Hajime no Ippo is indisputable.

It kept me at the edge of my seat during every single match. At one point I was yelling angrily at the television and Ippo. Ok, more like at ten points, and more like at Ippo, Takamura, Kimura, Miyata and Date. Even Aoki.

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I loved every single character and the fact that each one gets enough screen time and attention. The relationships between them are developed with care and love. There are no fillers, and once the fight is announced it happens within an episode or two. What you would call a filler in a “normal” anime cannot be called a filler in Hajime no Ippo, because trust me – you’ll watch it with the same interest and be as engaged as if you were watching the main event.

Yes, they do defy the laws of physics but somehow the fact that everything gets explained on the sidelines makes the gravity-defying fighting spirit – convincing.

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Hajime no Ippo is like every other anime, but yet it is unlike most. It takes all your usual tenets like the importance of friends and family, dedication, practice and spirit but it never goes too far. It doesn’t even go near the edge – it doesn’t really need to because it’s got you on the edge.

Now let’s review some stellar moments in Hajime no Ippo which are only marginally related to boxing.

Like crazy karaoke.

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Encouragement through di*k references.

Oh this is truly a pun contest.

Fishy talk.

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Now, you thought that was it, did you? Well, if you’ve come this far, kouhai, let’s touch upon yet another sports anime which I heartily recommend (as heartily as I recommended Hajime no Ippo).

This time it’s Haikyuu! an anime about volleyball.

Yes, I know. Who cares, right? Well you should. Because this one comes very close to Hajime no Ippo with animation, character development and plot.

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I loved the fact that, even more than Hajime no Ippo, Haikyuu is not an anime about one talented person with god-like tenacity and dedication. It is not even about the members of one team, it is primarily about volleyball, about the importance of team work and about how a team can become more than the sum of its members’ strengths and weaknesses.

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Even though Hajime no Ippo is without a doubt superior, Haikyuu! resonated with me more because growing up I loved team sports, and I have dabbled in handball for five or so years. I was reminded of the sense of purpose and focus you have as a part of a team working to achieve a common goal. Being prepared to shed and spill blood, with wanton disregard of personal well-being – only to get there. I also remembered the unequivocal and heartbreaking realisation that, sometimes, all you’ve got is not enough when faced with a superior opponent. However, you sure can have a lot of fun trying.

One of the reasons I loved Haikyuu! is because the character development is awesome, and it resulted in one of my favourite anime scenes ever – and this is a side-character we’re talking about.

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P.S. Neither Hajime no Ippo nor Haikyuu! are completed and the fact that they are awesome nonetheless speaks volumes.

Sorry for this crazy post. It’s been more than two years since I’ve last written a post about anime (or manga), which means that it has been two years since I’ve have been enthusiastic about an anime (or manga).

I thought about condensing the post and making it readable to someone other than me, but when it comes to anime and my emotional response to it, it’s almost impossible to control.

 

Mangas For Girls – Recommendations

Manga: Nishiki-kun no Nasugamama
Author: Shiraishi Yuki
Chapters: 5
“Classic” shojo: cute & short. Loved the characters, the story is as simple as it gets. Worth the while.

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MangaMy Girl
Author: Sahara Mizu (aka Yumeka Sumomo)
Chapters: 10

My Girl is a story about happiness, sadness, loss; about being a parent, being a child, being old… In ten short chapters we follow a bitter-sweet story about a young man who finds out he has a five year old daughter. My Girl will make you sad, it’ll make you think life is unfair, and it’ll make you realize that life is beautiful if you know where to look and if you don’t give up.

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MangaYuru Koi
Author: Yoshino Aki
Chapters: 5

Yuru Koi covers three simple love stories. They’re not unrealistic, and there’s a reason for that double negative – you can imagine something like that happening, but still… The art is very good, smooth and clear,, however it lacks in the “disambiguation” department, a frequent ailment which comes to the fore when a manga has multiple stories about different characters – which end up looking the same and are hard to tell apart. There were some actual “tokidoki” and “awwwwwmoments in this one – which is why you really have to read it.

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Manga: Ike Ike! Sakura
Author: Nagae Tomomi
Chapters: 4

During this quest to find good and great mangas for girls, I’ve discovered a new mangaka to follow, Nagae Tomomi. Be sure to check her out. Ike Ike Sakura! is a story about a silly girl determined to get busy with Shuji, a guy she met on a train. Sakura is very good at saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing and getting herself in a world of confusion and trouble. Ike Ike Sakura! is surprisingly relatable, particularly for girls who know how difficult it is to say the right thing and be cool. Also, this is not shojo, it’s smutty josei.

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Manga: Happy Rush
Author: Nagae Tomomi
Chapters: 5

Happy Rush is a story about Natsumi, a girl  working as a real estate agent. This manga is a bit different, because even though Natsumi is crazy about Toujou, her superior, it’s not really about love but about her becoming good at what she does. It’s really funny and cute, as are most Nagae Tomomi’s mangas. Really loved it.

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Manga: Sora Log
Author: Mitsuki Kako
Chapters: 15

Here, we follow Hikaru, a weird girl who has a thing for sky, stars and Minato Asou. Hikaru is clumsy, but opinionated and ballsy – alltogether extremely likeable. Minato is not a bully, but he’s tall (mostly not dark) and mysterious, with a bad rep (a must!). As is the case in most Mitsuki Kako’s mangas, there is a bit of drama and misunderstanding in Sora Log, however these are not dragged out, unconvincing conflicts based on the idiocy of protagonists. The main conflict is a bit far-fetched, but it’s over in a jiffy so you end up willingly suspending your disbelief. All in all, I loved Sora Log as I have loved each and every manga spawned from Mitsuki Kako’s pen. It is beautiful and dynamic, cute and it induces involuntary grins.

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How I Got Cheated by a Manhwa (Dangu)

WARNING: What follows is another post in which I go apeshit about being cheated out of hours of my life. Before I go apeshit, I’ll sum up the issue: DO NOT READ DANGU (a.k.a. Shaman Warrior).

Manhwa: Dangu
Artist/Writer: Park Joong Ji (CURSE YOU!!!)
Genre: Seinen, Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Mature…
Status: Completed (MY ASS!!!!!)

But really? What the fuck. You cannot, cannot just decide and call something finished. Prerequisite of something being COMPLETE is for it to be complete, whole, entire, unified… There’s this fine line between being cancelled and complete – it’s about the size of the San Andreas Fault.

Can you honestly tell me, Park Joong Ji, that this is the way that you decided to end your story? No you didn’t. Someone made you randomly stamp END?

There are reviews saying Dangu is “awesome”, “great”, “epic”… But how? Here I am, feeling cheated and people out there actually enjoyed it.

When you write a character with special abilities, isn’t it customary that, after building up expectations about that special ability, you SHOW that special ability to its fullest?

This was a marketing move to boost sales, wasn’t it? Because nobody is going to buy a cancelled manhwa. No matter how awesome the parts of the incomplete whole are.

Ok, yeah. The art is amazing. The fight scenes are drawn with unimaginable fluidity and attention to detail that you can almost see the characters gliding through the pages. Additionally, unlike Gantz (couldn’t even finish this one) and Wolf Guy, the female character isn’t a useless heap of boobs and ass. She kicks ass. But you cannot tell me this is completed!

If Park Joong Ji avoided one of the common manga/manhwa pitfalls (getting too busy with side stories) would he have finished it properly?

All in all, it was a pretty good read until the very last page. Kept me interested and every once in a while I would *gasp* at the artwork. The only thing that I found lacking (aside from previously mentioned side stories) is the fact that the focus was largely on fighting and spilling blood all over the place. Normally, I don’t mind that, but I felt there could have been a bit more plotting and political intrigue.

The recommendation stands. Don’t read it. You’ll only feel cheated. Here’s some stuff that might make you disregard my advice.

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Ultimate Shōjo Experience! with pictures

What is it that makes Skip Beat! the ultimate shōjo experience?

  1. Hot, tortured male protagonist;
  2. Adamant, gutsy female lead; only slightly clueless;
  3. Opportunity to act on mutual attraction without changing the underlying friendly relationship necessary to continue the story = catharsis without main conflict resolution
  4. Love triangle, sometimes square, occasionally pentagon; plenty of jealousy;
  5. Secret past, part of which is shared by protagonists;
  6. Female lead kicking ass of bitchy female characters we love to hate;
  7. Various impediments of psychological and social sort standing between protagonists;
  8. Familial relationship between characters;
  9. No character is beyond redemption (most often through interaction with female protagonist).
  10. Multiple bishies

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Writing about Skip Beat! is a really arduous task, having in mind that it’s an ongoing manga (since 2002). Nonetheless, I feel that my previous mention did not do it credit.

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In short, Mogami Kyōko is in love with Fuwa Shō and she is prepared to devote all of her being to his happiness and comfort. However, once she learns he is an exploitative asshole, Kyōko decides to lock up her feelings and exert vengeance upon Shō.Through sheer stubbornness and monomaniacal focus, Kyōko enters the world of show business. Why? Because she is determined to dethrone Shō, who is no.1 pop idol in Japan.

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Tsuruga Ren, as a more mature and experienced man is juxtaposed to Shō. And even though Kyōko is largely concentrated on her vengeance, caring very little about her acting career or anything else, in time this changes. Ren comes to the forefront, first as a role-model, and then as something more. Kyōko starts to see past her obsession, past Shō and towards a future of self-realization, instead of a future realized through someone else.cain_heel_by_carly4015-d66uqjtKyōko and Ren are both actors, members of LME agency – something Nakamura Yoshiki uses to torture you with, employing endless role-play routines in which you do not get what you want, but somehow you manage to get close enough.

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Delayed gratification? I dunno. I’m pretty much prepared to believe anything Tom Hiddleston says. If me wait. Me going to get cookie.

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 I keep wondering just how much of this Guilty Pleasure business is related to latent masochism? To illustrate, it took 12 years for Kyōko and Ren to kiss (although, technically, it was not a kiss between Kyōko and Ren). The greatest problem of them all is that Nakamura-sensei can keep on doing this shit until all the fans of Skip Beat! shrivel up and die of a serious case of unmet expectations. But I have learnt my lesson.

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I’m aware that, led by cookie-logic, I might sit and wait, telling myself: “If me wait. Me going to get Tom Hiddleston” which is highly unlikely and would be very inappropriate. Yet, when Skip Beat! is concerned, I’m ready to accept cookie-logic and let it guide me.

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What is your ultimate shōjo experience? 

A/N: Ok, so maybe I’ve exaggerated with all the pics. I pulled them from carly4015.deviantart.comkir-tat.deviantart.com, and fanpop search. When I exaggerate, i EXAGGERATE, so here’s some more.

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A pudding can go on a vacation, yet why can’t I?

Earlier I wrote about Josei Hell, and said I regretted nothing. Shuukatsu – Kimi ni Naitei is one of the reasons I think my trip into hell paid off.

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I hate to admit just how much I enjoyed this manga because it makes me feel immature and too girly to suit the self-image I have built over the years. Honestly, I adore this manga. It’s a perfect little love story about two university students. With real depth and emotion, it also comes with a decent story about growing up.

It’s sweet as hell, yet not so much as to give you cavities. It has all those clichés I hate to love, but with a twist that reminds me why I love them.

Shuukatsu – Kimi ni Naitei is a perfect tool to sweeten up your day and make you feel good, not to mention it poses some important questions.
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A/N: Please click the following link to find out how you can help thousands of people who lost their homes in the Balkan floods (May, 2014). Thank you!

Windows 4 Manga

Some time ago, I researched and reviewed free manga-reader apps for all those strugling to keep it free and still enjoy a reasonably pleasing experience. This was back in the day when I was limited to iPhone 4s and an Android operated tablet.

I’ve decided to invest in this:

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Asus T100

Motivation behind the investment was primarily irritation with dragging a heavy Lenovo laptop around. I love the Transformer. It is light, battery-life is awesome. The keyboard is heaven once you adjust to it. Sure, apps are shit, and I don’t use them at all, but when it comes to work, Windows is where I feel safe.

I almost forgot to make my point: if you want the best, hassle-free and free-of-charge manga reading experience, buy a Windows operated tablet, visit Manga Traders, forget about the apps and simply enjoy.

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Read this

Manhua in a Nutshell: The Other Side of the Mirror

The Other Side of the MirrorThe Other Side of the Mirror v01 c02 - 054 is a story about two people who got lost. Through unfortunate events their lives become connected and somehow they manage to find a way to keep going, with a chance of actually reaching happiness.

I decided to mention this manhua in a separate post because I found the art beautiful and slick (albeit somewhat western) and because the story was not happy-go-lucky and carefree, but rather dark and foreboding.

What The Other Side of the Mirror lacks is attention. Tackling shattered dreams, betrayal and salvation in another needs a bit more consideration in order to avoid looking botched. Additionally, eight chapters are cut up with unrelated stories which for me were not “extra” but a violent and unnecessary intrusion into the flow of the main story.

Not a bad read. Could be better.

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A/N: Please click the following link to find out how you can help thousands of people who lost their homes in the Balkan floods (May, 2014). Thank you!

Welcome to Josei Hell

Two weeks ago I have embarked upon a journey to ascertain the real difference between Shoujo and Josei manga. Shoujo is supposedly targeted at younger female audiences while Josei is intended for +18 female readers. I’ve read enough Shoujo mangas, and all I needed was several Josei titles. Looking through completed titles sorted by user ratings seemed a sure thing.  Having no problems in differentiating Seinen and Shounen, I thought that with a large enough sample it would take only a bit of time.
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Well, for starters, finding a readable Josei manga proved nearly impossible. Due to sheer idiocy of “plot”, stupid premise and lack of good art that might incite me to overlook said idiocy I’ve tried and failed at Hapi Mari, Gold, Aisuru Hito, Kimi no Sei (the list goes on but these are the titles I haven’t summarily executed). This lead me to a conclusion that Josei as a genre has some serious issues which in turn made me draw some conclusions I will not share here. I know a far-fetched idea once I start entertaining it (usually).

As I am stubborn and quite adamant at finishing what I’ve started, I have actually come to several other conclusions (full of those, yes) based on partially reading previously mentioned titles and seven titles I’ve actually read.

CONCLUSION: There are three main differences between Shoujo and Josei.

1. Josei often includes sex, as in sex plays a more important role in the story than love and friendship. This being said, it does not mean it’s more mature and serious. It often adds to the general silliness of the plot.
ExampleHapi Mari
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2. Characters are as old as the targeted demographic, meaning they are mostly working women in their late twenties or university students.
Example: Midnight Secretary
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3. Quality Josei is often about the maturation of the female character, something like a bilgundsroman. Whether it’s grappling with the transition into adulthood or simply handling changed life circumstances, one of the biggest differences between good Josei and good Shoujo manga.
Example: Delicious Relationship
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Of course, dipping into a large enough pool does leave you with a few pearls which make it worth the while (one of which is the above mentioned Delicious Relationship). I will nutshell (150 words or less) a couple later on this week.

The important thing is…

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