2014 – the year in anime

Series

Ashita no Joe 2, episode 24
Ashita no Joe 2, episode 24

Ashita no Joe 2 (1980-1981, 47 episodes)

So my favorite anime of all times, about the young boxer Joe, came to an end. I watched it for over 2 years, patiently waiting a month or two for each new subbed episode. Yes, it’s my favorite anime, but it’s also my favorite expression of art of any genre that I’ve experienced in the last years. People who dismiss anime for whatever childish reason don’t know what they’re missing.

Hunter x Hunter (2011-2014, 148 episodes)

The ultimate adventure anime, which I started watching after having bought the figure. It’s the longest series I’ve ever watched, and I must say it was brilliant from beginning to end, with some dips of course. Again, the deepness that emerges in seemingly superficial entertainment is amazing.

Yowamushi Pedal (2013-2014, 38 episodes)

The road bike manga, which I incidentally found in an Ueno bookshop in January 2013, turned into an anime in October 2013 – when I lived in Japan. But since I didn’t have a TV, I didn’t start watch it until I came home. It’s a very entertaining anime and the bike races are wonderfully rendered.

Ginga e Kickoff!! (2012-2013, 39 episodes)

During the Fifa World Cup I watched this upbeat anime about a gang of 11 and 12 year olds playing football (soccer) together. Very fun and uplifting.

Shinjuku station plastered with Free! billboards in December 2013.
Shinjuku station plastered with Free! billboards in December 2013.

Free! (2013, 12 episodes)

It’s one thing that sports anime featuring male actors become popular among girls who fantasize about what they do together – that’s the case with both Yowamushi Pedal and Kuroko no Basket. But swimming anime Free! made that funny bonus the main idea. I didn’t like, though the concept of women objectifying the hunks in the anime and putting words in their mouths that no guy would say is quite fun. Like the straight women’s version of the straight guys’ “lesbian porn”.

Watashi ga Motenai no wa Dou Kangaetemo Omaera ga Warui! (2013, 12 episodes)

It’s supposed to be a comedy about a girl who constantly fails at being popular in school, but I found the whole thing pretty depressing.

Also began watching Kuroko 2, Yowamushi Pedal 2 (which is still ongoing), Welcome to the NHK (very good so far, look forward to the other half of it), and Saint Seiya. Continued watching some Sailor Moon R and Ranma ½, rewatched Puni Puni Poemii. Dropped Code:Breaker and some others.

Movies

Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

A very sweet movie about three homeless people who find an infant in a pile of trash on the street, and set out to find its parents. A bit like Karl-Bertil Jonsson in style, but much better than that moral lecture of course.

Perfect Blue (1998)

By the same director as Tokyo Godfathers: Satoshi Kon. This one about an singing idol girl who switches career to acting and things go wrong. Very dreamlike, strange and at times extremely violent – one scene still sticks in my mind (unfortunately). Mr Kon apparently died in cancer in 2010, only aged 46.

Garden of Words (2013)

A slow-tuned love story, extremely beautifully made.

Akira (1988)

I watched this classic movie after having read the first volume of the manga. Impressive.

 

Saint Seiya

seiya_pegasus

Yesterday I watched the first episode (of 114) of Saint Seiya, a famous anime from the 1980s. It reminded me of a male Sailor Moon, or a science fiction version of Ashita no Joe (no other relation than that some of the fighting scenes seemed inspired by this legendary anime – and now that I check, I realize that Saint Seiya in fact is directed by Shingo Araki, who had his breakthrough with Ashita no Joe!)

I loved it from the start. It’s hard not to when it starts with an intro like this:

When evil reigns on earth, hope will appear: Saints.

Long ago Goddess Athena was protected by a group of boys. They were called Athena’s Saints.

The boys used their bodies as their weapons: Their fists could rip the sky. Their feet could split the ground.

Now, these boys full of bravery, spirit and strength have been reborn on Earth – as Saints.

The protagonist is Seiya Pegasus, 13 (pictured above). He is 165 cm tall and weighs 53 kg. And now that I added the picture, I realize how much he looks like Joe. This is gonna be good.

My first capsule

I’ve slept in a capsule twice, in Kyoto (October 2011) and Morioka (January 2013), but I’ve actually never bought the little capsules that you get from vending machines in Japan. Tonight I met with a mangaka in Kichijouji, and afterwards we went to the local Animate store. But they had just closed (kind as they were, they said: “if you know what you want, you can buy it quickly”, despite it was five past eight). While waiting for the elevator I spotted this capsule machine with Kuroko’s Basket nendroids. I put in 200 yen in the slot and out came a capsule containing one out of six possible characters…

P1100664

P1100668

P1100669

P1100670

(Yes, I got Kuruko himself, the main character and my favorite, obviously.)

Anime: いちご100%

Ichigo 100 % is a mainstream harem anime, meaning the male protagonist is constantly approached by sexy females. High school student Manaka Junpei has to choose between four girls who all declare their love for him. He struggles to keep sane and not get aroused, but is constantly placed in challenging situations. It’s both fun and sweet. And actually, it’s the first time ever that I see an erection bulge in a mainstream anime. It happened in the “onsen episode” of course.

I was recommended the series by my Japanese friend, who used to read the manga in Shounen Jump. My friend was a bit surprised that an “etchy” manga like that was published in a boys magazine, but apparently it was within the borders of what was okay.

What I like most about anime is the reality aspect. I don’t like SF, but I don’t mind SF aspects of an anime that takes place in contemporary Japan. Since Japan is such an extremely homogenous society, watching realistic anime lets you get a quite accurate glimpse into it. It always gives me a little kick to recognize something less obvious than the konbini (convenience store) chains. Like the design of stamps or brands of notebooks.

In Ranma½ and Ichigo 100% I noticed that they use the same kind of blue plastic stool in the baths, despite Ranma½ was made in the 80s and Ichigo 100% in 2005 (the anime). I think my host family had the same kind of little plastic stool, though I don’t remember the colour; the traditional Japanese bath setup seems to be as rigid as the stroke order of a kanji. Here are the two scenes with almost 20 years in between them:

Ranma ½ vs Ichigo 100 %: Same blue stool in the bath!

Another very rigid setup is that of the school. All animes have the same ring signal, just like all schools in all of Japan, I suppose. The same ringing is used in the opening and ending of my favorite Japanese radio show: ハイスクール (High School) on FM Tanabe. And the school buildings seem to have exactly the same design all over Japan and in all anime. Quite a nice design actually, with windows spanning over the whole facade. But that’s another post.

I liked Ichigo 100%. It’s very well drawn and romantic, but mostly frustrating, since nothing really happens; as soon as Junpei is going to kiss someone, you know that they will be interrupted in some way. It’s in the genre. Some screenshots below. Notice the beautiful anime sky. And the characteristic nosebleed trope.

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Ranma ½

I’m currently watching Ranma ½, a popular anime that ran in 161 episodes from 1989 to 1992.

A Japanese friend recommended it to me. He said he read the manga when he was nine. It was on the border for what a nine-year-old was allowed to read – it was embarrassing to “be caught” reading it – but still the manga was included in Jump, the mainstream boy manga magazine.

Ranma ½ is a light anime. The main character Ranma turns into a girl when water is poured on him. His father turns into a panda. In the stills below, from episode 9 and 10, a new character, Ryuuga, turns into a little pig. (Girl-Ranma saves herself from his attack by sprinkling water on him, thus making him transform.)

But despite the gag factor, the story also has depth, like when the main female character Akane burst into tears at the chiropractor’s office in episode 9. Unexpected (she’s a hard tomboy) and logical at the same time, just like a good script should be.

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Anime: 男子高校生の日常

男子高校生の日常クリアファイル

I found out about 男子高校生の日常/Danshi koukousei no nichijou/Daily lives of high school boys at Tokyo Anime Fair, which I visited with my friend Freija in March 2012. That’s where I got those nice marketing クリアファイル (clear files). I just love those. The plastic. The design. The boys.

Each episode is made up of a number of separate comical sketches from, well, the daily lives of high school boys.

It’s an easy watch and quite entertaining, especially since I like realism. And when anime is realistic, it’s super-realistic; it says BOSS on the coffee cans, they eat their onigiri and 7-Eleven sandwiches on the riverbanks, and they order from colorful plastic menus at their local family restaurant. It’s almost like anime realism is a sport; how detailed can you go? I’m impressed when it even says “Campus” on the notebooks – if you’ve been to the stationary departments of Yodobashi or Tokyu Hands, you know what I mean. Since most Japanese’ lives look very much alike, it must be extremely easy for them to relate. For me, it’s the excitement of getting a peek into the extrapolated daily lives of the Japanese, paired with the thrill of recognising parts of it.

However, since there is no overall story in 男子高校生の日常 (since it consists of shorter shetches), I never really got hooked on the series, never longed for the next episode.

I also thought the boys’ voices sounded a bit too old, as if a bunch of guys my age were voicing the teenage characters. Which seems to have been the case (see the list of characters below). I guess not all anime can be voiced by actual 14-year-olds.

 

Tadakuni

Tadakuni (タダクニ)

  • Age: 15-16
  • Height: 170 cm (5’7″)
  • Voiced by Irino Miyu (入野 自由), age 24

 

hidenori

Tabata Hidenori (田畑 ヒデノリ)

  • Age: 15-16
  • Height: 175 cm (5’8″)
  • Horoscope: Virgo
  • Voiced by Sugita Tomokazu (杉田 智和), age 32

 

yoshitake

Tanaka Yoshitake (田中 ヨシタケ)

  • Age: 15-16
  • Height: 172 cm (5’7″)
  • Horoscope: Virgo
  • Voiced by Suzimura Kenichi (鈴村 健一), age 38

 

president

President (会長)

  • Student Council President of Sanada North High.
  • Voiced by Ishida Akira (彰 石田), age 45

I’m at episode 8 of 12 now, watching an episode each night, sort of. And I love the ending theme. It always makes me smile:

Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba!

男子高校生の日常 is extremely popular in Japan and was voted the best anime of 2012 in a recent internet poll. Which also adds to my excitement; to watch something mainstream for a change!

弱虫ペダルのアニメを待ってるんだよ!

yowamushi_pedal

去年の十二月に上野の本屋で偶然に弱虫ペダルの漫画を見つけて買った。自転車乗るのが大好きなので、その漫画が自然に好きだった。今、アニメを待ってるんだよ。

それに、友達は「茄子 アンダルシアの夏」をおすすめした。あのアニメも面白そうだね。

二月に四方山哲さんの同人誌の「自転車男子に花束を」を読む事が出来た(リンク)。辞書の必要があったけど、出来たよ。^^

今夜アニメの黒子のバスケを見るつもりだね。

一緒に走ろう!Let’s ride on a bicycle together!