Category Archives: masterpiece

Anime review: Inspiring Musician Love Story That Starts With a Lie

yourLie1Your Lie in April starts off as a simple boy-meets-girl romance with musicians, but it quickly turns into a intensely emotional roller coaster. Don’t be fooled–this show is a heart-wrenching drama about a friendship that turns into an uplifting commitment like no other.

At first glance, this show moves at a snail’s pace. The first episodes slowly introduces us to a depressed pianist boy, Kousei Arima, who struggles to maintain a normal life after his mother’s death. He was a child prodigy who played at classical music competitions. His mother trained him constantly to become one of the best pianists, but her vicious drills traumatized him to the point where he just couldn’t play the piano anymore.

The girl next door, Sawabe Tsubaki, is Kousei’s childhood friend. She thinks that a girlfriend could raise his spirits and possibly motivate him to play the piano again. She invites Kousei on a date to meet up with their other buddy, Ryouta Watari, and his new mystery date. Little does Kousei know that this meeting would change his life forever.

Ryouta’s new girlfriend is Kaori Miyazono. She’s a virtuoso violinist who often gets criticized for improvising too far from the written sheet music. She invites her friends to watch her performance at a classic music competition in Towa Hall. Kousei is quite impressed with her playing, but he keeps his distance from her. After all, Kaori seems to act as if she likes Ryouta. However, Kaori actually has a big-time crush on Kousei.

yourLie5One day, Kousei meets Kaori on his way home from school. Kaori says that she is waiting for her boyfriend, who seems to be running late. She decides to use Kousei as her new substitute date. Kousei has reservations about this outing, but Kaori clearly wants to know more him. She wants to know more about his life as a virtuoso pianist and why he suddenly stopped playing.

The entire show is focused on the growth in the relationship between Kousei and Kaori. Although they are both amazing musicians with incredible chemistry together, their whole relationship is peppered with personal struggles. Kousei constantly tries his best to deal with his traumatic memories with his mother. Throughout the series, Kaori also has plenty of medical emergencies that force her to more of her time in the hospital.

As the story slowly unravels over the course of the series, we learn that Kaori is struggling through one of the most difficult moments in her life. Although I really can’t reveal anything else about the story, I will say that their relationship is strikingly touching, heartbreaking and emotional.

yourLie4Even if the ending of the story is somewhat predictable, the voice acting in this show is exceptionally poignant. The animators somehow struck a delicate balance in texturing the episodes with just enough tragedy and compassion to make everyone shed tears of joy and sadness. If anyone only has enough time to watch one anime this year, be sure to watch Your Lie In April. It is definitely one of my favorite shows of the year, by far.


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Filed under masterpiece, music, romance, slice-of-life, Your Lie In April

>DVD Review: A Complicated Bundle of Love


If anyone is struggling to find a decent romance anime, there’s one show that they absolutely have to watch.

Season one of “Honey and Clover” is a powerful love story that is guaranteed to keep everyone emotionally attached until the very end.

It starts off as a simple slice-of-life about a group of art college friends: three guys and two girls. The guys consist of a first-year student named Takemoto, a sixth-year slacker named Morita and a fourth-year senior named Mayama. The girls consist of a young prodigy named Hagumi and a beautiful third-year pottery student named Ayumi Yamada.

At first, the story becomes a simple snapshot of daily life for these college students. As they grow older, they become more and more romantically attached. Yet, they all have a tough time confessing their feelings for each other, because they don’t want their group of friends to break apart.

Although the plot is as simple as a light romance could get, the dialogue is remarkably rich with pent-up emotion. Viewers will immediately get hooked into heartbreaking relationship between Yamada and Mayama. Yamada can’t help falling in love with Mayama, even when he starts to live in the apartment of another close friend named Rika.

The dialogue may seem innocent in the first few episodes. By episode 18, though, Yamada’s emotions get the best of her when she runs away in tears. The entire series is filled with many difficult situations of unrequited love. These characters must wallow through these flooding emotions, struggling to find a new meaning to their lives.

To tell the truth, I can’t believe this group of buddies could ever manage to stay together for two seasons. Thankfully, they never don’t really take these pressing relationships too seriously. The director, Kenichi Kasai, has an incredible knack for making every comedy sequence as epic as possible.

For example, episode eight includes an especially agonizing Twister game. It starts out as an easy game. Near the end, though, all the characters are goofily breaking their bones from playing the game. The animators execute everything in this sequence with quick slapstick timing. They manage to make everything as ridiculously painful as possible, without ever crossing the line of extreme violence.

It’s a bizarre series of wacky humor with unbearable waves of moving emotion. “Honey and Clover” is probably one of the best and most realistic anime love stories ever made. The protagonists are charming. The warm visuals are soothing. The dialogue hits people where it hurts.

As painful as it is to watch, this show is more about the characters’ journeys rather than their relationships. “Honey and Clover” proves that sometimes it takes a little tough love for people to grow into mature adults.

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Filed under comedy, honey and clover, masterpiece, romance, romantic, shoujo

>Code Geass season two: The sacrifices for an ideal world


To tell the honest truth, I didn’t expect much from “Code Geass” when I first started. There’s no way anyone can ever believe a story about a teenage brat who wanted to destroy the fictional country of Brittannia.

I was dead wrong. Code Geass is a virulent vision of destruction and mayhem, all for a much greater good. As illogical as the show turns out, no one can deny its brilliance.

The second season, R2, begins as an awkward slice-of-life story with the main character, Lelouche Lamperouge. He apparently lost all his memory of everything that happened in season one. He doesn’t remember his rebel army, the Black Knights. He doesn’t remember C.C. or anything about his Code Geass. And for some reason, he has a little brother following him around, named Rolo.

Although the environment drastically changed, the Black Knights still manage to remind Lelouch of his original mission. With the help of the immortal girl named C.C., Lelouch regains his memory and his ability to use the power of Geass. He has the ability to command people to do whatever he wants, by using the Geass power in his eye.

I had a couple gripes about the story as it meandered through a cast of new characters. For instance, the show almost spent too much time at a boring party with Brittannian nobles and a frightened Chinese princess.

Thankfully, the director has a keen way of keeping people interested, even when the anime plods through dull side stories. By the time people reach episode 14, they’ll understand that this piece of animation is a frightening masterpiece.

We weren’t meant to really hate Lelouch. No one can deny that he’s an egocentric villain, but even when he kills all his best friends, he never does it intentionally. He always tried his best to keep them away from his megalomaniac complex.

I admit that the last few episodes are almost bombastic to the point of disbelief. No one would really wish to reduce the world into an intercontinental war of improbable proportions. Still, this show wasn’t meant to turn into a satirical comedy. It was meant to reveal all the hypocritical qualities of the shonen anime in its rawest form. Although it plays out like a big, delusional fantasy devised by some otaku nut, it truly defies the philosophical boundaries of anime.

The intellectual battles in season two take on a much shrewder persona than in the previous season. Lelouch battles against selfish, obstinate dictators who wish to keep the people of the world stuck in the past or the present. For some reason, they all intend to create a worldwide apocalypse as part of their master plan.

Thankfully, Lelouch has better plans. He wants to turn the world into a safe place for everyone to live. He lives up to this promise, even to the very end.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell anyone whether he’s really honest about his intentions. I will say that this anime will always keep people on their toes. No one could ever anticipate this show’s crafty ending. I’m still amazed that the director, Goro Taniguchi, had the brains and the drive to create such a wonderful cast of characters.

It’s an understatement to say that this is one of the most important anime shows of our time. “Code Geass” is an epic that we deserve to revile and rejoice in. It’s possibly the most volatile thing I’ve ever seen and it’s a fantastic piece of art.

Director Goro Taniguchi will probably never create a better anime than this one, but I don’t mind. This show is nearly impossible to top, in its scope of haywire chaos and demolition. If you’ve got the guts, watch every episode of this anime. You absolutely won’t regret any second of it.

You’ll probably cringe a lot though. This show has tons of explosions.

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Filed under action, Code Geass, masterpiece, R2, season 2, shonen

>DVD Classic: Never-ending Adventures in J-pop worlds


“Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi” will astound anime fans with a journey that literally takes two young kids on a never-ending trip through the Japanese pop culture universe.

This series has had an awkward release history in America. Although it first aired in 2003, it took two years until Geneon released this series in the U.S. Even then, I don’t think this show received the attention that it truly deserves.

Thankfully, ADV Films re-released this series last year. I had the fortunate thrill of seeing it on The Anime Network’s website. To say the least, this is one of the most creative anime shows I’ve ever seen.

The show begins in the Abenobashi shopping district in Osaka. Two teenagers, Satoshi “Sashi” Imamiya and Arumi Asahina, are spending their last summer playing in the empty streets. Their parents’ businesses were forced to close, as part of the redevelopment of the Abenobashi shopping arcade. Unfortunately, Arumi’s family is also planning on moving to Hokkaido, as soon as her grandfather closes his shop.

Their summer of fun takes a tragic turn, when Asahina’s grandfather almost dies after slipping on his rooftop. Asahina’s entire family is planning on moving to Hokkaido as soon as he recovers. This could be the last day that Sashi and Asahina can play together.

On that day, though, the town completely turns upside down. The group of elderly people exercising in the park transforms into mushrooms. The buildings fall apart like cardboard cutouts, revealing a magical role-playing video game world in some European pasture.

Thus, the two children begin their treacherous journey through the magical other-dimensions of Abenobashi.

This series is amazing for its immensely inventive visuals. The show jams in an astonishing load of parodies on video games, robot television shows and martial arts series. Anime fans are bound to laugh at anything and everything.

They’ll especially enjoy the insane antics in the third episode, where Asahina loses her panties to a goblin creature. Near the end of the episode, the goblin somehow turns into the mask for some gigantic robot ship with a demon head. And for some reason, that head still has Asahina’s panties on it.

“Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi” is literally as unpredictable as episode five in FLCL. It is riotously funny, like a hyper episode of Shin-Chan. Yet, there’s also a subversive tone of despair throughout the journey. As much as Sashi enjoys the Abenobashi worlds, the two kids are still trapped inside these wacky J-pop dream worlds with little hope of reaching their home.

I have yet to reach the ending, but this series is truly buried treasure. Unfortunately, I’ve heard that most of the special DVD features are only in the individual volume boxes from ADV. Regardless of which set you buy, you have to see this series. It’s one of the few shows that will make anyone laugh.

Even if the English dubs put in some awkward Western cowboy accent for the main characters, this is series is golden. Check it out at least once, because you won’t regret it.

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Filed under comedy, fan service, fantasy, Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, masterpiece

>Streaming video review: The "Durarara!!" Gang Wars


“Durarara!!” leads anime fans into an entertaining world with one of the deadliest political dramas between high school kids.

You heard me right. High school kids involved in a frightening battle of wits and violence.

The first 12 episodes were a simple introduction to the different gangs of Ikebukuro. The series starts as an unusual story about a Celtic fairy known as a Dullahan. The fairy is searching for her head, which was shipped into Japan in Ikebukuro. Although many of the characters tried to hunt for the head, most attempts have failed.

The head was traded amongst many hands, including a pharmaceutical company. However, the head has now reached the hands of Izaya Orihara, a shrewd entrepreneur. Orihara heard that the only way to awaken the Dullahan’s head to its full potential is if he starts a violent battle. His vague plan is to start a big gang war in Ikebukuro between three gang leaders.

However, these gang leaders are not people you’d expect to rule the underground world of Ikebukuro. No, these leaders are simple kids, each of which have different philosophical views of their typical lives.

There are a few spotty moments, especially during episodes 16 and 17. The director has a difficult time explaining the entire origin of the slashers that are appearing in Ikebukuro. Celty and her friends learn that the slasher’s code name on the Dollars chat website is Saika. At this point, the show takes a complete turn from a mystery show to a horror series, involving an army of zombie-like people invading Ikebukuro with knives and swords. Fortunately, the zombie invasion ends once the leader awakens to her powers. And yes, the leader is a high school girl.

Certainly the story will not make very much sense at first. When the pieces come together though, you’ll find that this is a dark piece that depicts the social war between three gangs. The leaders are caught in a desperate struggle to stop the onslaught of brutal attacks and murders in the city. The war is ironically created by a shrewd trickster, whose intentions don’t clear up until the very last episodes.

This is possibly one of the greatest shonen anime shows ever made, for its depiction of how political leaders are nearly unable the power to stop the incoming contagion of violent warfare. The anime studio, Brains Base, deserves high praise for using its incredible animators to create a world that completely redefines how we depict reality with two-dimensional drawings.

This is a must-see series. Even though you’ll never know why all these superheros are all living in Ikebukuro, you will have to see this series, because it will keep you on the edge of your seat.

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>DVD Review: Gurren Lagann – Drilling to a new tomorrow

Part three of “Gurren Lagann” ends with a spectacular battle that trumps all others as the most visually explosive two hours of destruction, sacrifices and joy.

Considering how simple the story has progressed, there isn’t too much to explain about this robot show that hasn’t been explain in previous posts. After Gurren Lagann literally stopped the moon from colliding into the Earth with a drill, the spaceship is now headed deep into space to defeat the Anti-Spirals. The leader of the Earth-bound Spiral army, Simon, is hell-bent on saving the world from destruction and saving his girlfriend from the opposing army.

Of course, an epic anime battle takes place with people sacrificing their lives. Like “Wolf’s Rain” and many other shonen anime shows, this robot series ends with plenty of people dying to help the heroes in their journey. As sad as I was to see these guys out of commission, they didn’t go without a good fight.

The storyline for the last two episodes takes a complete twist into the alternate dimension realm. The characters literally get sucked in alternate realities, where they are living completely different lifestyles. When all is said and done though, this is a distraction that is blocking the heroes path of ultimate destiny.

To say the least, the last episode is a surreal, otherworldly battle. The unnamed Anti-Spiral demi-god literally throws the Gurren Lagann through galaxies and supernovas. After a certain point, I thought this cosmic battle of gigantic proportions would never end. Honestly, it was almost too much adrenaline for me to handle.

When all is said and done though, the series is a worthwhile journey. The animation studio, Gainax, managed to cram in a dense amount of abstract visual symbolism. It is a bizarre, symbolic battle against the self-enclosed alternate worlds that we immerse ourselves in. It looks very much like an epic battle against our universe of worlds within the television.

Most importantly, this series is all about the difficulties of adolescence. Simon has to make one especially big sacrifice in the last episode before growing up into an adult. For a series about the excitement of childhood and growing up, “Gurren Lagann” has some of the most touching, tear-jerking moments. As much as I loved the violent orgy of battles, this show is most memorable for its courageous characters, who worked hard to find some inner peace within themselves.

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>DVD Review: "Soul Eater" ends on positive note


The final part of “Soul Eater” rehashes the anime theme of courage repetitiously, but the fights are unusually fun to watch.

While this finale tends to follow the conventional formula for a successful action series to the very end, the images and voice acting performances are more surprising than you’d expect. Sure, the protagonists mature like ordinary teenage superheroes. However, the last fights are worth watching for the visual symbolism.

If anyone hadn’t seen the previous box set, the good guys’ organization, the Death Weapon Meisters Academy, has been looking for the all-powerful device known as The Brew. The members are also trying to defeat Arachnophobia and kill off the elusive villain, Medusa. Most of all, they want to vanquish Asura, the demon god who wants to consume the world with his madness.

Admittedly, this is almost too much ground to cover in one box set. And by the final three episodes, it looks like the animators ran out of time to develop an epic ending to close out the series. Our main hero, Maka Albarn, literally fights the final battle in the simplest manner possible.

Considering that Maka is the ultimate witch hunter, you’d expect that she would use her super-powerful slash technique with her scythe. But without giving anything away, let’s say that the final battle turned out even more silly than I expected.

While some people may find themselves disappointed that ending isn’t as thrilling as “Gurren Lagann,” I’m sure that enough fans will enjoy the final battles. The battle with Medusa was quite possibly the one of the best fights I’ve ever seen in a shonen series. Crona and Marie finally get the chance to give Medusa the punishment that she deserves.

Best of all, the story reached a satisfying ending that was better than many other shows can own up to.

Let’s not forget that Maka takes center stage throughout most of the series. She manages to take many challenging roles throughout the story. She protects her friends like a caring mother. She carefully discerns whether villains are trying to deceive her. She lives up to the legacy of her mother as a witch hunter.

Most of all, she acknowledges even though she is afraid much of the time, she takes matters head-on, no matter how many times her friends are dying. “Soul Eater” is literally one of the most empowering series, with intentions that stay clear throughout its run.

Even if it is completely predictable as a shonen (guy’s) action series, “Soul Eater” is an effective series with some of the best acrobatic fights. The battles symbolize the self-conscious anxiety within everyone, which people can overcome with courage. While the show feels like it was geared more for kids, it still packs quite a punch. Literally.

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Filed under action, Asura, Maka, masterpiece, shonen, Soul Eater