The state of Noitamina and Thermae Romae

It’s fair to say that, critically, 2011 was a poor year for Noitamina and (with Guilty Crown in tow) is currently at its lowest ebb. It’s now suffering from an identity crisis, no longer the bastion of josei anime it once was. Chihayafuru is a good example of what’s meant by that; a series that would be a shoe-in for the old Noitamina, but that now, especially in comparison to Guilty Crown, just underlines the confusion one feels about its current state.
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The interconnectedness of anime, and adieu, my beloved Oscar

Watching anime is like connecting the dots of a picture; one leads to another, forever changing the picture’s shape. Some dots are out on their own, but others are connected to everything else, making the overall picture that much clearer in my eyes. One obvious example here is Mobile Suit Gundam, the first real-robot anime, another is NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind. Anime such as these I’m proud to say I’ve seen, because they forever shape my understanding of the medium today. I realise what I’m doing here is advocating watching anime for educational purposes, which might not seem fun (I mean, this stuff is supposed to be fun, right?), but if a series is as revered today as it was in 1980, I find it’s safe to assume that it’s also pretty good.
In October of 2009, I started watching Revolutionary Girl Utena. One year later, almost to the day, I started watching Star Driver. In my mind, these two are connected. Although Star Driver is a much less serious (and, if truth be told, inferior) series to Utena, there are some obvious similarities. By way of the process described above, then, in April of this year, I also started watching 1979’s The Rose of Versailles. Utena led me forwards to Star Driver, but also backwards, to The Rose of Versailles. Such is the journey of an anime fan.
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Middle-aged men drinking tea

Hyouge Mono, who would’ve known? Koichi Mashimo is regarded about as highly for his directing prowess as Bee Train are for their animation. Which is to say, not very highly at all, so I can’t really blame you for glazing over a late-to-the-party series like this, but as any right thinking English gentlemen will tell you, tea is what our great British Empire was built upon and, well, most of what I knew about Hyouge Mono before it aired was that it somehow involved tea. Colour me curious, then, and lo and behold, word begins to trickle down that Hyouge Mono might actually be worth watching after all.
Firstly what’s important to note is that this is a series produced and broadcast by Japan’s BBC-equivalent NHK, bringing with it a higher profile than Bee Train’s typical fare and, therefore, probably more money for animation. It shows, as this is easily the best animated series I’ve seen from them.
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The tide of violence

Thorfinn the Viking

I’ve read only 26 chapters of Vinland Saga so far but its quality is such that I have to admit it’s already one of my favourites.
Thorfinn is the main character, an Icelandic warrior joined with a band of Viking mercenaries sailing the seas of Europe and sacking the villages and cities of Norman France and England. His talent as a fighter is chilling, if just because he’s still just a small boy!
This had me hooked straight away. You have this kid (a rag-doll, really) fighting in a bunch of gruesome, heavy battles, cutting the throats of soldiers and decapitating their Captains for the rewards.
It doesn’t shy away from the violence or cruelty of the infamous era of the Vikings, but there’s more to it than just brutality.
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