Category Archives: romance

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

Season review: Anime Finally Portrays Gaming in All Its Glory

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I’ve seen all sorts of animated shows with video games or video game characters. However, I’ve never seen a truly accurate portrayal of the video game community. Most of the time, the hardcore players appear as obsessive hermits who stay at home all day.

That’s why the Sword Art Online anime is a breath of fresh air. It portrays the gaming community in brutal honesty, as they form close friendships in a mystical online adventure game.

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The whole first season of Sword Art Online just seems to show everything wonderful about the world inside video games. In fact, almost the entire show takes place inside a virtual reality online game, called Sword Art Online. The main character, Kazuto, is just a typical high school boy. When he wears his virtual reality headgear, he becomes a super-powered knight named Kirito in the video game world. He befriends a wide range of unique characters who are all seeking escapism. They learn to trust each other, battling evil bandits and various other monsters.

Sword Art Online just seems to hit all the right notes from the beginning to the end, but the show is also about escaping the video game world. As great as the video game world is, Kazuto and his friends are also trapped inside the game. Sword Art Online was deceptively designed to trap people inside the world for life, unless someone actually defeats the final boss. If any of their video game characters die, then they die in the real world as well.

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The world of Sword Art Online is set in Aincrad, a Medieval world of green pastures with a tall tower. Most of the drama focuses around the adventurers as they attempt to reach the final floor of the tower. However, the real charm in this show involves the romance between the main character, Kazuto, and a girl named Asuna. At around episode nine, Kazuto is almost killed by a sadistic traitor in their guild. From this point on, Asuna knows that she just cannot leave him behind.

In fact, most of the storyline focuses on the deep relationship between Kazuto and Asuna. Their life in the virtual world allows them to do many things that might be too risque in the real world. They marry each other and sleep in the same bed. They take a honeymoon vacation. They even adopt an orphan girl named Yui. Their love life is almost too beautiful to leave behind.

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This anime is a perfect representation of how video games allow people to socialize with each other in unique ways. It isn’t completely flawless, though. The story loses part of its charm at around the halfway point, after Kazuto manages to escape from Sword Art Online. Without giving away too many spoilers, I’ll just say that the story doesn’t end after he escapes from that world. He has to enter yet another video game world.

The show tends to repeat many of its themes, especially in the second half of episodes. The story still maintains its high level of excitement through every single episode, but the final battle is rather disappointing. I was expecting tons of fireworks and intense sword action at the end, but most of the intense action at the end actually happens in the real world. Don’t get me wrong–the ending was a thriller in itself. However, it all just could have looked a lot more epic.

I still loved Sword Art Online, though. It is one of the best television shows I’ve ever seen about video games. The storyline probably could have been refined a little more, but the characters were very memorable. In fact, everything in the show is bursting with vibrant colors and gorgeous background artwork. In my opinion, it was my favorite show of 2013. The best anime shows are all about wonderful memories. Sword Art Online is just chock-full of some of my favorite characters of all time.

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Filed under action, best, MMORPG, nudity, romance, sex, shonen, Sword Art Online, Uncategorized, video game, violent

Season review: Superheroes of Science and Catholicism

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A Certain Magical Index seems like a typical shonen anime at first. A simple-minded boy hero uses his powerful hand to protect innocent people. However, the whole story is far more complicated.

A Certain Magical Index somehow spins the strangest conspiracy theories of religion into a fascinating science fiction thriller.

This particular anime comes up with enough wild ideas to keep people guessing about what happens next. It has everything–psychics, a group of sorcerors in the Catholic Church and an story that has something to do with a collection of forbidden books. The first season of A Certain Magical Index simplifies these mysterious topics by using ordinary characters who we can relate to.

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The main character of this anime, Toma Kamijo, looks like a typical high school dude. He wakes up in his dorm room and discovers a girl dressed as a nun, lying on the railing of his balcony. The girl, named Index, asks Toma to help defend her against a group of magicians. She reveals to Toma that her mind contains photographic memory of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a collection of 103,000 magical books that were banned by the Church of England.

Although Toma doesn’t really believe Index, he offers her a quick meal before he leaves for school. When he returns, he discovers Index’s bloody body lying on the ground. A shrewd magician named Stiyl confronts Toma and explains that his partner unintentionally hurt Index. Stiyl claims that his group actually intends to protect her.

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Toma doesn’t buy this confusing explanation at all, especially the sorcerors injured the girl in such a brutal fashion. After defeating Stiyl, he decides to try everything he possibly can to save Index’s life. Thus, Toma gets wrapped up in an epic battle to protect the innocent girl, Index, from the evil sorcerors of the Church of England.

Although I summarized the basic plot of this series, the entire story of A Certain Magical Index is a little convoluted. I really couldn’t predict where the storyline was headed, because each new story arc makes everything even more complicated. Every episode was fascinating, though. Each character seems to have their own twisted backstory about how their powers evolved.

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People really have to watch A Certain Magical Index to see the characters. These heroes have some of the coolest-looking abilities I have ever seen. My personal favorite is Mikoto Misaka, a powerful psychic with the abilities to shoot electricity. In the first episode, she demonstrates that she can shoot coins at supersonic speeds. Although she is a close friend to Toma, her heated arguments with him often turn into spectacular battles that are fun to watch.

Of course, Toma is clearly the hero of the show. He can cancel out nearly every attack with the power of his hand, the Imagine Breaker. Somehow, his hand can absorb nearly every attack that hits him. His friend, Mikoto, often gets jealous of him, because he can block all of her attacks. However, their friendship reaches a surprisingly touching moment halfway into the first season.

Although some story arcs of A Certain Magical Index are downright confusing, science fiction fans will still love the characters in this intellectual series. The battles between the characters are incredible displays of superhuman power. The conspiracy theories conjured up in this anime epic are also undeniably intriguing. In fact, the ideas in this show will make people ponder whether there really is a dark magical secret hidden deep inside the Catholic church.

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Filed under A Certain Magical Index, action, fighting, future, mystery, romance

Anime slipstream: The World God Only Knows

Elsie and Katsuragi in The World God Only Knows

Elsie and Katsuragi search the city for a girl with a loose soul.

The World God Only Knows adds a clever twist to the romance genre by turning a video game otaku into the hero. This review covers the first season of 12 episodes.

Although this series doesn’t add anything especially new, the clever combination of character types really set this apart from the same old boring romance stories. Unlike Toradora, this series is a breath of fresh air and it never follows the same redundant formula.

It opens with a high school boy named Keima Katsuragi. He proclaims himself as the god of conquests for his ability to make any girl in a video game fall in love with him. When he receives an e-mail challenging his reputation as the champion, he accepts the request. Unbeknownst to him, he actually ended up accepting a contract with Elsie, a young demon from hell.

Katsuragi must now help Elsie capture loose souls from other girls. In order to release the loose soul from the girl’s body, Katsuragi must make the girl fall in love with him. If he doesn’t help Elsie, a ring around his neck will explode, blowing his head off.

Katsuragi meets Mio

Katsuragi encounters the flustered Mio as she leaves her low-budget apartment.

Despite the grim premise, this show is an well-produced romantic comedy that works on many levels. Katsuragi and Elsie meet a wide variety of girls who fit many of the stereotypical anime roles. For instance, he starts a relationship with a snobby rich girl who acts like very much like Toradora. He also makes a goofy J-pop idol with a taser gun fall in love with him. Half of the fun in this anime comes from witnessing how Katsuragi will manage to attract these weird girls with social issues.

The two entertaining lead characters also take over the show with their unique personalities. Katsuragi is an geeky mastermind who acts as ridiculously cool-headed as Lelouche in Code Geass. His partner, Elsie is an airhead who has plenty of bizarre magical tools that make this show much more unique than one might expect. For instance, her skull hairpin hums whenever it detects a loose soul. She can even use her mystical scarf to manipulate the surrounding environment to her partner’s advantage. She even cooks bizarre food for her partner with the decapitated demon parts in the underworld.

The first season is a fun journey through plenty of satisfying romance stories. It’s a shame that all the girls lose the memory of their boyfriend after Elsie captures the loose souls. All of the girls are surprisingly well-developed as anime characters. I would have liked to see how a long-term relationship with Katsuragi would play out.

Thankfully, Elsie and her partner carry a pretty strong chemistry to make up for the short story threads. I’d definitely like to see how the plot plays out in the second season. This is definitely one of the hottest new shows to watch out for. I’m sure that many anime publishers will want to bring this show to the United States as well.

Image courtesy of photobucket.com

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Filed under romance, The World God Only Knows

>DVD Review: A Complicated Bundle of Love

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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.

Watch the series at hulu.com.

Images courtesy of photobucket.com

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

>DVD Classic: Koi Kaze

>“Koi Kaze” is an incestuous romance series viewers will either love or hate, but regardless, the cinematography is incredibly beautiful.

The story follows Koshiro Saeki, a Japanese businessman working for a wedding catering company. Brooding over getting dumped by his girlfriend, he catches the glimpse of a beautiful high school girl. She drops her wallet on the way out of the train, so Saeki returns it.

He hardly expects to run into the schoolgirl on the way from work to an amusement park. With the reserved tickets he receives from his boss, he takes the girl out for a date and falls in love with her. However, he doesn’t even expect that she is his little sister, and that she will be living with him at home with his father. Saeki now has to agonize over suppresses his feelings for his sister, Nanoka Koshinata.

Although the manga tends to keep the incestuous drama to a minimum, the anime plays out the drama to a disturbing climax near the end. It’s one of the most difficult anime to watch, and opinions of the series will likely remain sharply divided.

However, the real draw of this series is the cinematography. Everything from the gentle cherry blossoms in the opening to the light pastel colors is beautiful. The music also manages to carry the tone of the series incredibly well, transitioning from moody synth crescendos to cute, childish piano passages.

Probably the most appealing character is the businessman’s little sister Nanoka Koshinata. Her voice actor, Yuuki Nakamura, plays her with lovely innocence and never overextends the drama. In fact, she plays her so well that viewers will agonize over the illicit relationship at the end.

Image courtesy of stochasticmanga.wordpress.com

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Filed under incest, romance, romantic, sex

>DVD Review – Nana meets punk rock

>The “Nana” anime charges up this coming-of-age manga with loud punk rock, and emotionally moving dialogue that everyone will fall in love with. This review covers the first box set of the series.

Ai Yazawa drew the manga which the anime is based on. Like her previous series, “Nana” features plenty of mature sexual situations and dramatic dialogue about lost love. However, the anime escalates the power of this manga with an edgy punk rock atmosphere.

The story involves two characters, who happened to meet each other on a train to Tokyo. Their first names are Nana. Though they are completely different types of people, they get along instantly. Although they separate, they meet once again by sheer happenstance when they are looking for an apartment to live in.

Sure, it’s just a coincidental meeting, but the price is reasonable if they share the apartment. So by complete luck, the two Nanas become roommates and best friends.

Although this is a fictional anime about two strangers becoming close friends, the story involves more than just two girls. They each have bad luck in finding boyfriends who stay committed. Nana Komatsu is a polite-mannered girl whose boyfriend doesn’t have enough time to see her very often. Nana Osaki is an orphan whose boyfriend left her to make a name for himself as a rock star in Tokyo.

The series is a masterpiece in its message of feminism and independence. Although there’s plenty of emotional and sexual romance in the beginning, it’s clear from the beginning that both Nanas really want more out of their love life. Economic freedom. Independence from the typical family lifestyle.

The series actually draws plenty of comparisons to “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” an anime by Hayao Miyazaki where a girl must face the nitty gritty difficulties of life, such as saving money to buy groceries instead of fancy clothes. The only big difference is that both of the Nanas’ coming of age involves a punk rock band.

However, “Nana” is even more based on slice-of-life experiences in Japan. In this anime, the city of Tokyo is alive with sexy rock stars and cross-dressing fashion styles. At the same time, there’s trendy, cute girl-like decorations for the trendy Nana Komatsu. And there’s also a slew of economic pressures involving Komatsu’s shopping sprees.

Certainly “Nana” will probably be the most eclectic of all the anime series this year. However, it conveys a universal theme involving characters who are missing the love they had as a child, as well as characters who push forward to find that love.

My only grudge with this box set is that it doesn’t hit its big emotional peak yet. Most of the intense angst and frustration was purposefully left until box set two. However, this first box will definitely satisfy fans of the manga, as well as anyone else who loves punk rock, sex comedies and intense drama. In other words, there’s something for everyone. This is a must-have for everyone to watch.

Cool features:

  • Interview with Nana director Morio Asaka
  • Clean opening and closing sequences.

Minor setbacks to the series:

  • The English dub is great, but the voice actor for Nana Osaki doesn’t sound nearly as cool and mature as she should be. Then again, I have my biases. Call me un-American, but our United States female rockers don’t act as mature as Japanese female rockers. If you think I’m wrong, just listen to this clip by Jinn and see for yourself.
  • There is a point in the anime where the director decided to rehash some of the events in episode one. Although he touches it up with new revelatory scenes, it could have been touched up somewhat.
  • The last episode in this box is one of the dreaded recap episodes, where the characters review everything that happened in the previous episodes. Feel free to skip it if you wish.

Image courtesy of photobucket.com

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Filed under comedy, Nana, Nana Komatsu, Nana Osaki, romance, shojo, shoujo, shoujo beat