Himouto! Umaru-chan

himouto

Umaru is seen by many as the perfect high school girl: beautiful, kind, excellent in academics and athletics, exceptional in every way. However, that’s mostly just an image she’s putting on. When she gets home, she turns into a completely lazy slacker that just watches anime, plays games, and lazes around, completely taking advantage of her older brother, Taihei, who she lives with in order to not have to actually do anything. Her brother who is incredibly diligent and hard working, while putting in effort into trying to set her straight, isn’t very good at it. This set up leads to an interesting web of relationships developing between both of them and number of other characters, including Umaru’s friends, Ebina a transfer student from the country, Kirie a girl that is incredibly socially awkward, and Sylphinford a princess like girl that views Umaru as a rival, as well as Taihei’s coworkers, leading to a number of interesting stories.

***

Himouto is an anime that doesn’t particularly have any sort of overarching plot. Rather, each episode is made up of a number of small segments, sometimes connected, sometimes not, that are amusing on their own. What makes these so amusing is that the cast of characters involved is fantastic and the various relationships they have with each other is perfect for leading to a lot of interesting but hilarious situations. Umaru and her friends, including Ebina, Sylphie, and Kirie are all pretty unique characters that are adorable in their own ways and mesh together really well. Taihei serves as an incredibly strong contrast to Umaru, and the relationships his coworkers Bonbo and Alex have with their sisters serves as a very good contrast to the relationship between Umaru and Taihei. Furthermore, though she doesn’t get much time Kanau is really interesting as well. All in all, this sets the stage for a great number of amusing skits that are pretty varied, including skits ranging from those that are actually a bit heartwarming to those that are just blatant nonsensical parodies, which is enough so that there’s good pacing. However, because its like this, it should be noted that while we do learn more about the characters as the show goes on, there isn’t really that much change or development in any of the characters or their relationships, which at points felt kind of like a bummer.

The OP is incredibly fitting and designed solely for this anime. ED and soundtrack were decent. Art style and animation get a bit awkward due to chibi Umaru at points, but overall is decent. Specials were also amusing and very different.

Relaxing and funny anime with an adorable and super interesting cast of characters though not much of a plot.

8/10

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White Album

whitealbum

Touya Fujii is a college student that is also going out with the up and coming idol Morikawa Yuki. Due to how busy Yuki is, as well as do to how discrete they must be due to her status and other circumstances involved, this turns out to be a very difficult relationship. Furthermore, Touya also has to deal with relationships with a number of other characters, many of which are what he calls his goddesses, women who help him majorly in unexpected ways, and to whom he feels obligated to repay. These include Ogata Rina, one of the top idols who also works at the company that Yuki does and watches over her, who despite apparently being thought of by her brother and company head as having reached the end of her progress, continues to try to rise to greater and greater heights. There’s also Sawakura Misaki, who has long been crushed on by Touya’s friend Nanase Akira, who wants to be a writer, but due to various circumstances with a sketchy peer named Tamaru ends up being put into difficult situations. Another is Touya’s childhood friend Kawashima Haruka, who lost her brother and ended up seeing Touya as a replacement. There’s also Haruka’s eventual friend Mizuki Mana, a girl who is from a rich family with parents that are never home, that ends up getting tutored by Touya. There’s also Shinozuka Yayoi, Yuki’s manager, who seems to see him as a hindrance and wants him to stop seeing Yuki, going to extreme lengths to push him to do so. And lastly, there’s Matsuyama Menou, a very strange girl part of a competing idol unit, that seems to be interested in a number of things very different from being part of the actual unit, and seems to have some sort of relationship with Touya. All of these various characters end up creating a complex web of relationships around Touya, that he ends up caught in, and must navigate his way through.

***

“Can a relationship between a regular college student and an idol singer survive? That is the question that White Album tries to answer.” Wait, what? No it isn’t. I don’t know where that description came from, but that’s not what White Album is about at all. Sure, that serves as part of the backdrop originally, but it quickly becomes obvious that’s just the setting for a plot that is focused on something completely different. White Album is about how relationships are really complicated, and at some level make no sense, often being just as composed of misunderstanding and deceit as actual substance, but they are what they are, and are still worthwhile, even if they are in many ways fake or not really leading anywhere.

White Album has a plot composed of a large number of plot strands, most of them centered around Touya’s relationships with various heroines. These strands cross quite often, weaving a web that gets more and more connected as it goes on, but also becoming more and more complex. Part of the reason they feel so complicated, is that the plot and themes heavily rely on subtleties, with a lot of major plot points, connections, and themes being implied and in the background rather than in events actually happening or being explicitly explained through internal monologues. That gives it somewhat of a unique feeling, but at the same time ultimately requires a lot more attentiveness on the part of the viewer as well as the ability to make long reaching connections in order to completely understand whats going on. It’s almost entirely character focused with the events clearly being more of a motivation in carrying forward characters rather than the plot itself, and it has a number of interesting heroines so that works to some degree. Rina, I especially liked, though all of them are likable enough. The protagonist on the other hand is… awkward. He makes sense eventually, but he’s someone that’s just all around very difficult to figure out, and to some degree even when you do figure him out, he’s not very likable. There’s some level of going towards redemption arc for him towards the end of the anime, but it really doesn’t feel justified, and overall the ending feels quite abrupt and not satisfying at all, in part because key portions are heavily implied, or possibly left open to interpretation, which is something that I think worked fine for most of the anime, but really fell apart at the end because this was an anime that definitely needed a solid ending to wrap everything up, which it didn’t deliver at all. Now, that’s not to say the plot was entirely awful, there was a lot of good surrounding the heroines, their relationships with each other, and their growth, so all in all its a worthwhile ride. But the overall package centered around Touya was heavily lacking.

There’s some decentish comedy in the series, though it absolutely isn’t a focus at all. The setting is certainly interesting, being about the music industry but in a way that isn’t overtly cheery nor overtly sleazy. The time period is also quite important, as the level of communications, which is no cell phones and rare car phones, turns out to be quite important to a large number of plot points. There are three different art styles that seem to be used. One that’s pretty standard anime, which is decently animated and there for the vast majority. One that is like a painting, with often very few frames of animation, which looks quite nice. And lastly there’s something that feels half way between the two, which felt awkward. However, the largest issue is that there seemed to be no tying theme behind when the alternate art styles were used that I could ascertain, with the styles seemingly used wherever the staff thought they would look nice to use I suppose, which is fine in a way I guess, but also quite random. Another stylistic choice they used was at various points using text on screen to show Touya’s thoughts, which I believe was used to much better effect as it added a great amount of emphasis. And another text related choice was to have episode titles that were more like philosophical quotes, which set the tone quite nicely. The general soundtrack was quite strange, using a number of themes that you wouldn’t traditionally think fit what was happening on screen, but did manage to in a way. The insert songs on the other hand were all quite nice, as you should expect from a music focused anime. The first OP and the EDs were decent in terms of audio, though not as good as the inserts, however the first OP was incredibly lazy in terms of visuals, and the EDs were only OK visually. The second OP I quite liked all around though.

A show about relationships with a good supporting cast and really good music, though a terrible protagonist and a weak ending.

7/10

Charlotte

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Yuu Otosaka is a high schooler that lives with only his younger sister Ayumi, who he cares for dearly, in a tiny apartment. However, he has big ambitions. The source of these ambitions is in part that he has a special power, that he can possess people, though for only 5 seconds at a time. This would seem somewhat useless, but Yuu is quite cunning, and uses these for a variety of uses, such as cheating on exams to the point of being the valedictorian, and setting up a situation where he saves a girls life so that she falls in love with him. Things are going pretty well.

However, that changes when he runs into Nao Tomori, who sees through everything about him, and corners him completely, forcing him and his sister to switch schools to Hoshinoumi Academy, where he’ll have to become part of the student council. It turns out that he’s not the only one with powers, but rather that powers appear in a number of youth all over Japan when they’re going through puberty and disappear when they get out of it. The academy is a school dedicated to watching over those with powers and those that may develop powers, because there are other organizations out there capturing power users and using them for experimentation.

The student council is responsible for tracking down power users and confronting them, much like what happened with Otosaka, and now he too must take part in this along side the other council members. These members include of course Nao, who can turn invisible but to only one person at a time; Takajou, who can move his body at super speed but unfortunately still retains the same speed of mind making the speed pretty much impossible to control; and eventually Yusarin, who can kind of channel the dead and even their powers, which include manipulating fire. They start off dealing with a variety of power users, and coming together closer as a result, but eventually things start getting much more complex, as Yuu learns more about the organization backing the Academy, and comes into conflict with other organizations of power users.

***

Charlotte has supernatural elements and they are what almost entirely drive the overarching plot forward. There is some great action, and the power use does end up being really cool, being down right amazing during the finale. However, the core of the story is much more down to earth in being about the relationships between the various involved characters, first off between Yuu and his younger sister Ayumi, and then Yuu and Nao. The former while being a bit awkward in general terms, manages to be handled tremendously well with key events being given the attention they deserve and hence having a tremendous amount of emotional impact, even if they were to be reversed later on. The latter is the cornerstone of the series and in an overarching way develops tremendously well. It involves a good amount of character development on Yuu’s part, as well as Nao being developed to have a lot more depth to the viewer as the series went on.  However, I feel there were major issues in pacing. The first half or so of the series felt pretty slow and wasn’t all that interesting, feeling like a setup that was taking too long. However, after episode 6 things got much more interesting as the pace picked up tremendously, though arguably to the point that it felt rushed. The ending is absolutely fantastic, but it feels like there were things that needed to be developed more, especially regarding the relationship between Yuu and Nao. The place of their relationship in the ending is still incredibly strong, but at the same time it felt like there needed to be just a bit more background for it to manage to have the impact it felt like it should have. Lastly, the OVA after the end of the series was off, and felt rather pointless in light of the ending, and would have been far better off just being thrown into the main series with the other first half episodes sped up.

The animation and art were pretty good. The soundtrack was decent. The OP/ED were pretty good, though I found the OP pretty strange at first, especially the visuals.

A really strong story centered around character relationships with supernatural elements as a back drop, though one with bad pacing such that it has an incredibly slow first half and rushed second half.

8/10

Death Parade

deathparade

After people die, their souls are either reincarnated or cast into the void. This decision is made by arbiters, human like entities without emotion that cannot die, who play games with these souls to bring out the darkness in a soul and judge its worth. Decim is such an arbiter operating out of the bar Quindecim. However, he comes upon a soul that he cannot judge. Normally, the memories of the souls are wiped a bit, to hide the fact they died, to be able to force them in order to play the games where they will be judged. But she seems to remember that she’s dead. And hence, cannot be judged. Decim’s boss, Nona, decides that instead of sending her back, wiping her memories, and judging her, instead Decim will judge her anyway, by first taking her on as an assistant, who will help her judge various other humans. Decim agrees, and ends up being effected tremendously by her, ultimately questioning how they make judgement at all, just as Nona intended.

***

Death Parade is incredibly stylish, the style being somewhat whimsical while also being quite dark. It has moments that are quite comedic, while also having ones that are quite disturbing.  The closest I can describe to its sense of style is Tim Burton, though it certainly has a completely different flare to it as well. The character designs also unique around those lines. As for plot structure, there are a number of separate judgement, and each one pretty much has a very different tone, and hence in terms of tone, it shifts around quite a bit. Some episodes are incredibly dark, some are adorable, some are peaceful, and some are epic. Still, they don’t feel completely disconnected. There are two main overlying plots, one with Chiyuki’s judgement and one with Nona’s plans. The one regarding Chiyuki’s judgement ends with considerable impact, in a way that’s bittersweet, and fits with where it was going. The one regarding Nona’s plans however does not and doesn’t seem to go anywhere. Decim certainly gets strong character development, but with the scale that it seemed to be going at, I expected a larger impact, which never quite materializes.

The OP/ED are really great when you get used to them, the OP especially being fantastic in both visuals and music. The soundtrack is decent. The art style and animation are quite unique and good.

An anime with a number of interesting stories with a very unique but well done style.

8/10

Erased (Boku dake ga Inai Machi)

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Satoru Fujinuma is a 29 year old man, who has the power he calls ‘revival’. When something bad is about to happen or happens, revival sends his consciousness back, allowing him to fix whatever occurred. These generally only involve a couple minutes, however when an especially horrible event occurs Satoru is sent back 18 years to when he was an elementary school student. The horrific event taking place 18 years later seems to be connected to the traumatizing event that happened much earlier, when a number of children around his town were killed with the blame being placed on one of his friends, and Satoru was left feeling responsible for his inaction. But this time, he is determined to tackle things head on and change the future. And hence he immediately tries to become friends with Kayo Hinazuki, the first to die in the previous timeline. Kayo is a girl who even independently of the murders is going through an incredibly difficult time due to her mother’s abuse, resulting in her having an anti-social personality, however that makes Satoru even more determined, not just to save her from the murderer, but from everything else as well.

***

Erased is an incredibly suspenseful and intense anime, the type that you just need to keep watching without stopping once it really gets going. And it has a tremendous amount of things going for it such as having a lot of great characters, Satoru’s mom standing out among the side characters especially. There’s a lot of character and relationship development as well as many other moments and sequences that are tremendously beautiful and awesome to watch, in part due to the good use of subtle elements and reuse of motifs. However, as the anime approaches its ending, I had a major problem with the direction it took, that I feel could be rooted down to finding the anime so amazing for very different reasons from what seemed to be the actual focus of the author was. For me, what made the anime amazing was Satoru’s desperate attempt at rescuing Kayo, with all the twists and turns that took, and all the intense emotional moments and character development that came about as a result of it. The serial murderer aspect and revival were a good back drop to that, escalating the stakes and providing further grounding for Satoru to be able to and have the motivation to act. But the core of the story from the outset was saving Kayo. However, the anime actually goes in a very different direction, with most of the anime being Kayo’s arc, but then her disappearing from the plot and relationship web of the Satoru completely and abruptly, and the true focus of the plot turns out to be Satoru connection to the the murderer. I felt everything after Kayo left was a mess and not only not what I wanted from the series, but also not really good at all either in terms of quality. And then it all comes together for an  an ending that definitely has closure, but is still a complete train-wreck and something I was entirely unsatisfied with.

The art and animation are very solid. The soundtrack was fantastic. The OP/ED were great.

An anime that has a lot that I really liked, but then went in a completely different direction leading to a disappointing end.

8/10

Kakumeiki Valvrave

valvrave

Earth and it’s colonies which extend as far as the moon are divided into essentially three groups: ARUS, a republic based on the Western ideals of liberty and justice; Dorssia, an authoritarian government with a strong focus on having a military to stand up to ARUS; and those that are unaligned, primarily JIOR. ARUS and Dorssia are currently in conflict in what isn’t quite a cold war but has not descended into total war quite yet.

Haruto Tokishima is a student at the boarding school Sakimori Academy on a JIOR orbital colony, not caring much for the war, and worrying more about his friends and his childhood friend that he wants to confess to. However, he’s is thrown into the fight when Dorssia invades them, killing many in the process. Haruto, thinking this his closest friend has been killed, ends up jumping into a strange mech, the Valvrave, hoping for revenge, however, the mech turns out to be stranger than he expected, and far more powerful than anything that Dorssia has, leading to him successfully fending them off. However, the mech has strange effects on him. When an invading Dorrsia special operations soldier, L-elf, tries to kill him as he gets off the Valvrave, it turns out that he has changed tremendously, to the point that he may no longer be human. Meanwhile, JIOR falls completely, and a number of political complications with ASUS arise, ultimately resulting in the school cell of the colony separating from the main colony, and declaring its independence as its own nation. Furthermore, L-Elf defects to them as well, with his own goal of bringing about a revolution, and they are forced to accept them into their ranks due to him being a strategic and tactical genius. Hence, under assault from Dorssia, the students of Sakimori Academy plot out their own future.

***

Like Code Geass and Aldnoah, this seems to have the same dynamic of their being two somewhat opposing main characters on opposite sides of a conflict with abilities such as being great mech pilots and tactical geniuses distributed among them. However, it differs in that it abruptly changes to them being on the same side. And then it continues changing abruptly continuously throughout. Its changes direction and tone constantly throughout the series, never really honing in on any point, and just haphazardly touching on random events without any sort of structure or any logical pacing. For example, it seems to go through a tremendous number of anime cliches in quick fire succession at the start, to the point that it isn’t clear whether its being serious or is downright parody. As another example, there are a couple romance subplots with Haruto, but none of them ever reach anything close to a conclusion. It’s completely and utterly ridiculous, as is Haruto’s character in general, and all the characters actually. There’s a very interesting cast of characters in this, many of them falling into tropes, but still having some resemblance of originality, but the issue is that despite that, none of them are likable at all. The only characters I can say I liked even a little are L-Elf and Saki, but even with them I was tremendously disappointed. This may actually be because there is such a large set of characters, to the point that none are focused on enough, and the development of relationships between them follows no rhyme or reason. That combined with what seems like a plot they were trying to forcibly push through, despite it not making any sense at all for characters to behave in such ways results in most characters being inconsistent train wrecks as the show pushes past the first half. Another issue is the constant tone shifts. It has completely abrupt tone shifts that just feel awkward. They don’t make you feel any more strongly about ongoing events, as abrupt tone shifts are usually intended, but rather just make you feel annoyed. And lastly there is the ending. Throughout the anime there are a number of flash forwards, showing the future. One would expect there to be some clarity regarding how they get to that future by the end of the anime. However, there absolutely is none. The ending is a mess that doesn’t clarify anything, leaves almost every subplot unresolved, and somewhat solves some of the main plots through rushed incredibly short segments. It’s not satisfying in the slightest.

Now while the plot, characters, and story of the anime leave a lot to be desired, there are some good things as well. The mech combat is really good, and the Valvraves have pretty good designs. The OPs and EDs are pretty good as well, though the soundtrack is only decent. The art and animation are also solid. The comedy isn’t that great though.

A mech anime that seems to have potential, and certainly has some good moments especially in the first season,  but that eventually falls apart under its own weight.

7/10

The first season was fine other than it left so much unresolved, but the second season completely jumps the shark and is very inconsistent with the first, especially that ending. So to split by season, first is 8/10, second is 6/10.

Nagi no Asukara

naginoasakura

Hikari is a somewhat hotheaded boy. Manaka is a girl that generally goes along with others around her. Chisaki is a very level headed and mature girl that’s very kind. Kaname is similarly mature boy, though one that’s more distant. The four of them are childhood friends that live under the sea. The legend goes that long ago everyone lived under the sea, however, a group of people moved to the surface, and with time lost their ability to live underwater. Those that remained were known as the sea dwellers, and those that went to the surface came to be known as the surface dwellers. With time these groups came to develop a distrust for each other, and though still interacting on peaceful terms, a gap still remained between them.

The four friends are thrust into this gap when due to various circumstances they are forced to go to school on the surface. There they must face a number of issues ranging from discrimination from other students to Hikari’s sister, Akari, falling in love with a surface dweller. They also encounter a number of people that they grow close to, such as Miuna, the daughter of the man whom Akari falls in love with, or Sayu, Miuna’s best friend. But most importantly may be Tsumugu, the somewhat aloof son of a nearby fisherman, who Manaka seems to fall in love with. As a love polygon already existed in the group of childhood friends, this ends up making things even more complications and causing quite the conflict. However, before this can be properly resolved, an event occurs that tears up all of these relationships, causing all of them to confront each other in new ways, sometimes rebuilding old relationships, and sometimes building entirely new ones.

***

This anime went very different from how I expected it to. It starts out as a story featuring a simple love polygon that begins to get more complex. It also features various themes about getting along with others that are different as such in the background. This is for the most part nothing too unexpected. And that’s certainly not to say that it’s bad, rather it does a pretty good job at this, just there’s nothing surprising about any of it, and there’s a general feeling about where it’s expected to go. It goes nowhere near that however. At about the half way mark, a major event occurs, that forces a time skip essentially, but a pretty complicated one, that ends up changing the relationship dynamics entirely. And with everything reshuffled, that’s where things begin to get really interesting. It makes a lot of love related points that are very different from your standard ones, the strongest and most impactful of which is most likely that love always has value, both love that is eternal and love that changes. While doing this, it shows characters developing in incredibly interesting ways, with relationships that are just as interesting, with a fantasy story in the background that raises the stakes when necessary and leads to incredibly fast development. All of this comes to a solid ending, with a love polygon that ended up quite a bit more complicated than I expected, and that ended quite a bit differently than I thought it would, though it had me guessing to the end. I’m somewhat bitter about it though, as it seems the only character that didn’t find love was my favorite. There are some issues in that it feels somewhat forced and convoluted at times, and there are points that I felt it were moving too slowly, but overall the whole experience for lack of a better word was quite beautiful.

The designs in general are pretty good. How there were two design schemes, those underwater and those above, really added to that though, and combined with the animation results in it overall being quite eye catching. The animation was quite good. The soundtrack was great and OP/EDs were good, with all of this fitting the show very well, though I feel that there wasn’t any specific track that was exceptionally memorable.

A beautiful story of a love polygon that evolves very differently than expecting, resulting in something quite different and impactful.

8/10