Fragglepuss Anime Review 174: Ajin: Demi Human

Ajin: Demi Human

Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans

Genre: Action, Mystery, Horror, Supernatural, Demons

First Aired: Winter 2016, 13 episodes

Summary: Ajin appeared 17 years ago in Africa. These mysterious immortal humans have been labeled as a threat to mankind due to their potential to use their powers for destruction. Whenever an Ajin is found within society, they are to be arrested and taken into custody immediately. The tricky part is how Ajin are considered non-human, but appear human from an outsider’s perspective. Society knows little of the creatures besides their immortality. Some Ajin do not even realize they are monsters until they encounter something that would kill a human and they live through it. Such is the case with Kei Negai, a high school student who gives no thought to Ajin until an accident makes him unable to avoid the creatures any longer.

Ajin uses the classic story of society being indoctrinated that a specific type of abnormality is wrong simply because it is different than the accepted norm (Did somebody say X-Men?). Ajin can be violent, but maybe their aggression is a response to humankind’s aggression toward them. Maybe they are mindless killers, who am I to say? Another classic element is how an unlikely individual, Kei, gets thrust into a situation he was unfamiliar with that will change his life and possibly alter the future of the entire world.

You might enjoy this if: You want to watch a series with a dark storyline that doesn’t shy away from the gritty reality of what a human/demon world would be like. If you’re all about Ajin, there’s a film trilogy that was released after the series.

You might not like it if: Computer generated animation makes a show unwatchable. Once I got used to it I was fine, but I have talked to a few people that said that unusual animation was too much.

Similar Series: Tokyo Ghoul, Akame Ga Kill, Terror in Resonance, Parasyte, ERASED, Death Note, Psycho-Pass

Note to the Viewer: The Ajin manga is punlished in “Good! Afternoon” magazine, which features such series as: Junketsu no Maria, Witch Craft Works, and Occultic; Nine.

AMV – Gorgeous Nightmare by GIOXSI DIOXS

(Warning, the AMV contains spoilers. I figure if you haven’t seen the show, you don’t know what’s getting spoiled anyways, right?)

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Fragglepuss Anime Review 173: Yuri!!! on Ice

Yuri!!! on Ice

Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans and Breanne Evans

Genre: Comedy, Sports, Figure Skating

First Aired: Fall 2016, 12 episodes

Summary: Yuri Katsuki’s window of opportunity is closing fast. Once upon a time he was Japan’s most promising young figure skater. That all changed with his defeat at the Grand Prix Finale, which caused him to retreat to his family home and the comfort of his favorite food, the pork cutlet. Yuri is thrust back in the spotlight when a video goes viral of him performing the routine of world champion Victor Nikiforov. Victor is so impressed by the routine that he offers to coach Yuri. Problems arise when Russia’s figure skating star, Yuri Plisetsky, is determined to win Victor’s attention. Everything is on the line as figure skating prodigies battle it out in the fanciest of spandex!

Yuri on Ice is easily the best figure skating anime I’ve seen. It’s the only one I’ve seen, but still. The story is solid with attention given to character development. I learned and began to care about figure skating when I had never given it a second thought before watching the series. The skating routines are fun, although I must admit it reminded me of Blades of Glory at times. That’s a positive for me though since I thought Blades of Glory was hilarious.

You might enjoy this if: You want to witness a protagonist overcoming adversity and attempting to beat the odds, while finding romance in the most unlikely place.

You might not like it if: You live for the summer: beaches, sun, volleyball, etc.

Similar Series: Free!, Haikyuu!, Cheer Danshi!, Kuroko’s Basketball

Note to the Viewer: Yuri on ICE has won all sorts of awards, including: “Animation of the Year: Television category” at the Tokyo Anime Award Festival and “Anime of the Year” at the inaugural Crunchyroll Anime Awards, showing a global appreciation of the series.

Yuri!!! on Ice Opening

 

AMV – Yuri’s Got Stamina by Victoria Putinski

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Fragglepuss Anime Review 172: The Wind Rises / Kaze Tachinu

The Wind Rises / Kaze Tachinu

Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans

Genre: Drama, Historical, Romance, Studio Ghibli, Flight

First Released: July 2013, 126-minute film

Summary: The Wind Rises is based on the true story of Jirou Horikoshi, creator of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter, the most famous airplane in Japanese history. Since he was a boy Jirou dreamed of airplanes. The dream follows him through disaster, tragedy, and an overall difficult life in the 1920s through the 1940s.

The Wind Rises is directed by none other than Hayao Miyazaki. As such, you know it’s going to be a quality film. The animation is top-notch, even by Studio Ghibli standards. I appreciate the attention to background detail that I’ve come to expect in Miyazaki films. The characters are also well drawn, based on a realistic appearance rather than something cartoony. The music is composed by Joe Hisaishi and has a fitting feel to the film. The English dub utilized such Hollywood talent as: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Martin Short, William H. Macy, Edie Mirman, and Mae Whitman.

Miyazaki once again uses several themes common to his films. The flight motif is obvious, coupled with pacifism. The protagonist is a male and is based in reality, which are both a break from Miyazaki’s standard female protagonist and somewhat fantasy base. I must say that I just adore Miyazaki films, he does such an amazing job with every film he directs. I’m always intrigued to see the Japanese perspective when I watch an anime based in reality. I’ve grown up learning history from an American perspective and am fascinated to learn how other cultures view historical events. Grave of the Fireflies affected me deeply by witnessing a World War II story told from the perception of a Japanese civilian.

You might enjoy this if: Like myself, you’re thirsty for history knowledge. The Wind Rises does not feel much like an anime, but instead a regular film that happens to be animated.

You might not like it if: You are accustomed to the Studio Ghibli fantasy films and a non-fiction style is too much for you to handle.

Similar Series: Usagi Drop, Grave of the Fireflies, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, When Marnie Was There

Note to the Viewer: The documentary film, “The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness”, uses the making of The Wind Rises to show the routine of Studio Ghibli. It goes into the life of the founding directors, details how films are created, and discusses the future of the company.

AMV – Levity by VermillionAMV

(Warning, the AMV contains minor spoilers)

 

The Wind Rises Trailer

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Anime Happy Hour Podcast – Episode 19 – Spring 2017 Anime

Anime Happy Hour Podcast – Episode 19 – Spring 2017 Anime

Podcasters: John Fragglepuss Evans, Breanne Evans, Brittany Evans, Lindsay Starke

In this episode of Anime Happy Hour we look at the Spring 2017 season of anime. We chat about all the series we’ve been into.

Anime mentioned:

Alice & Zouroku

Anonymous Noise

Attack on Titan season two

Berserk season two

Boruto

Eromanga Sensei

Love Tyrant

Clockwork Planet

Kabukibu

We Love Rice!

My Hero Academia season two

Re: Creators

Seven Deadly Sins

What do you do at the end of the world? Are you busy? Will you save us?

World of Yamizukan

Thanks for listening!

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Fragglepuss Anime Review 171: Perfect Blue

Perfect Blue

Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans

Genre: Dementia, Horror, Psychological, Drama, J-Pop

First Released: February 1998, 80-minute film

Summary: Mima Kirigoe has been a member of the J-Pop idol group CHAM! For two years. She’s decided it’s time to move into an acting career, leaving her former life behind. She is ready to shed her idol image and embrace the life of acting, whatever that may bring. Unfortunately for Mima, some of her fans are not willing to accept that.

Mima’s first acting gig is on a crime drama series that makes her quickly realize being an actress is entirely different than singing. With her managers Rumi and Tadokoro by her side, she must embrace the world of acting to succeed. On top of that, an obsessed fan is unable to accept Mima’s change and begins on a nefarious path to stalk her. In case that wasn’t enough, an anonymous website has begun to impersonate her life in intimate detail. Each development causes Mima to become increasingly unhinged and unable to distinguish reality from fantasy.

Perfect Blue is directed by Satoshi Kon, whose works include such films as Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers, and Paprika. It’s easy to see the similarities in his work, especially between this film and Paprika. The psychological aspect of the film was done well. It leaves you guessing as reality becomes undone at an increasing rate. I like this type of compelling show so I was onboard from the beginning. The dark and sophisticated nature of this psychological thriller was just the right amount of mind bend. The violence is intense but it fits the story.

It is interesting to be taken back to the late 1990s and see the infancy of internet culture. Despite being a pop idol, Mima is unfamiliar with the internet. Looking back, the internet was completely different 20 years ago and this film is a reminder of the sinister activities of the past.

You might enjoy this if: You are into psychological thrillers that leave you with a blurred line between reality and delusion. Imagine putting Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan, Mulholland Drive, and Paprika in a blender to create a Perfect Blue smoothie. Darren Aronofsky, director of both Requiem and Black Swan, has acknowledged similarities between Perfect Blue and his films.

You might not like it if: You want to sit down and have a laugh. Not much of that going on here.

Similar Series: Paprika, Akira, Monster, Ghost in the Shell, Millennium Actress

Note to the Viewer: Satoshi Kon directed several acclaimed films before passing away in 2010 at the age of 46 due to pancreatic cancer. He was working on his fifth feature film, Dreaming Machine, when he died.

Perfect Blue Trailer

 

AMV – Split Mind by Cyber-EG

(Warning, this AMV contains spoilers. Don’t watch it unless you’ve already seen Perfect Blue… Or ignore my warning and watch it anyway, what do I know)

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Fragglepuss Anime Review 170: Fuuka

Fuuka

Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans

Genre: Music, Drama, Romance, Ecchi, School, Battle of the Bands

First Aired: Winter 2017, 12 episodes

Summary: Yuu Haruna just moved into town. He’s a normal guy besides being a loner and a lover of technology, especially when it comes to Twitter. What he lacks in social skills he makes up for in expressing his feelings on the internet. Yuu’s love of technology gets him in trouble when he takes a photo to upload which is mistaken by Fuuka Akitsuki as being inappropriate. The situation gets more complicated as Yuu arrives at his new school and sees Fuuka in his class. Life will never be the same!

The series focuses on the characters, from their interaction with one another to flashbacks of how the past caused them to act in certain ways, revealing inner flaws and making them believable. Despite being a seemingly normal high schooler, there is more to Yuu than meets the eye. That also goes for Fuuka, as well as others that are introduced throughout the series. My favorite aspect has to be the characters, from the intensity of their emotions to how they actually express themselves rather than hide their feelings in a locked safe. It drives me crazy how in most anime the characters act so ignorant to romance. “Oh, does this person like me? I had no idea even though all the signs are there” or “I’m in love with this person but I’ll never tell them. I’ll take it to the grave because I’d rather die alone than admit feelings to my true love”. Come on, out with it already. Anyways, this series involves romantic confrontations and I love it!

I’ll admit when it comes to anime I appreciate vibrant animation, and it that regard Fuuka delivered. The screen was filled with bright character colors mixed with a subtle background that made the individuals stand out. I also found the background fitting since the locations are all real locations in Japan, making the subtlety appropriate. Also, any show that features the Hachiko statue at Shibuya Station can’t be all bad and Fuuka has it in the first episode!

You might enjoy this if: You are ready to watch the drama unfold between talented high schoolers!

You might not like it if: You get annoyed when the opening song of a series gets played in the actual show. I think it’s hilarious, but some people don’t go for it.

Similar Series: Your Lie in April, K-On!, White Album 2, Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad, Sound! Euphonium

Note to the Viewer: Once upon a time I watched a series called Usagi Drop, maybe you’ve heard of it. After I finished the series a friend told me, “If you like the anime don’t read the manga”. Curiosity consumed me as I felt the need to ask him how a manga could possibly change the way I feel about Usagi Drop. He proceeded to explain how he enjoyed the lighthearted anime, then was left dumbfounded after reading the dark turn in the manga. I was in shock after he told me. Crazy stuff!

Fuuka is the same way for me. The lighthearted anime is wonderful and fun, but the manga turns an entirely different direction. I’m not to say which is better, but it’s crazy stuff alright.

AMV – Say When by Panta Na Xamogelas

(Warning, the AMV contains minor spoilers)

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Fragglepuss Anime Review 169: Magical Girl Raising Project / Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku

Magical Girl Raising Project / Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku

Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans

Genre: Action, Fantasy, Supernatural, Thriller, Magical Girl

First Aired: Fall 2016, 12 episodes

Summary: The Magical Girl Raising Project is a social game available on all major devices. It’s a simple game of creating a magical girl, fighting monsters, collecting candies, and tending to various duties of the magical girl. The caveat is that 1 in 10,000 players will become a real-life magical girl! At least that’s the promise given by the game that nobody believes. Guess what, the game is telling the truth!

Magical girls have begun to appear one-by-one in the district. As soon as 16 magical girls have been chosen an announcement is passed down that 16 is twice as many as should exist. The number of magical girls must be halved, a solution that will be reached by the girls performing good deeds to collect candy. The girl will the least amount of candy at the end of a given time will lose their status as a magical girl. Rules quickly become twisted as the competitors get violent in order to gain candy. Nobody wants to lose their status and they may end up fighting for their life!

The Magical Girl Raising Project reminds me of shows like Madoka Magica in the way it deconstructs the genre. The characters in the show are a positive due to their differences. Despite there being 16 magical girls, each is unique with their own abilities. The girls share a complex web of relationships and while they are kind and friendly to each other at the beginning, their attitudes change and their inner personality comes to the surface as difficulties arise.

The story is another positive in that nothing is as simple and straightforward as you are led to believe. Plot twists are revealed from time to time and the series does not pull any punches. The one aspect I wish they would have spent more time on was explaining the abilities of each magical girl. With 16 girls possessing unique abilities, some of them seemed vague. Sometimes the best description you’d get of an ability would be the frame cutting to commercial that would state the girl’s ability for two seconds on screen.

You might enjoy this if: You’re in the mood for survival, betrayal, back-stabbing, and a world of “kill or be killed”.

You might not like it if: You prefer a classic version of magical girl, something along the lines of a Sailor Moon.

Similar Series: Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Selector Infected WIXOSS, No Game No Life, Akame Ga Kill, One Punch Man

Note to the Viewer: Be ready to pause right when each episode would cut to commercial. It gives insight to the girls’ abilities.

AMV – Faded by Last Week AMV Nightcore

(Warning, the AMV contains minor spoilers. It’s nothing crazy though)

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Anime Happy Hour Podcast – Episode 18 – Cosplay

Anime Happy Hour Podcast – Episode 18 – Cosplay

Podcasters: John Fragglepuss Evans, Breanne Evans, Brittany Evans, Lindsay Starke

Cosplay is an essential part of every geek convention. In this episode of Anime Happy Hour we chat about why we love dressing up, our dream cosplay, and some of our favorites.

Photos are from Anime Banzai, Salt Lake Comic Con, FanX, and Anime Expo.

Thanks for listening!

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Fragglepuss Anime Review 168: Your Name. / Kimi no Na Wa.

Your Name. / Kimi no Na Wa.

Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans

Genre: Supernatural, Drama, Romance, School, City vs Country Life

First Released: August 2016, 106-minute film

Summary: Mitsuha Miyamizu is a seemingly normal high school girl living an easygoing life in the Japanese countryside. She dreams of living the opposite, a life in the big city of Tokyo, full of locations and activities not seen in the country. Taki Tachibana lives the busy life in Tokyo as a high school student while juggling his part-time job. He has a difficult time keeping up with the high-stress lifestyle.

Everything changes unexpectedly when Mitsuha awakens in an unfamiliar room in Tokyo… It’s her dream. Things are too good to be true as she realizes she’s in Taki’s body! Unbeknownst to Mitsuha, Taki finds himself at the same time living her life in the calm countryside. Naturally they begin to search for one another as well as the reason behind this sudden and unlikely change.

Your Name is directed by Makoto Shinkai who came to fame with such films as: 5 Centimeters Per Second, Children Who Chase Lost Voices, and The Garden of Words. The artwork is beautiful, from the color choice to the characters and backgrounds. The characters are done well. It’s a film, so there is not as much time to dive into backstory and development. That considered, Shinkai does an exceptional job making you care for the characters.

The story allows you to embark on a journey with your two main characters with questions that arise as the film progresses. Time passes and some questions are answered while others are raised. The end left me in deep thought about what has just transpired. How would I react to being placed in their situation? Would I make the same decisions or would I respond differently?

You might enjoy this if: You are in the mood for an emotional roller coaster taking you through the ups and downs or life.

You might not like it if: You want to watch something on the bizarre side, something with more of an “anime” feel to it.

Similar Series: ERASED, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Charlotte, Children Who Chase Lost Voices

Note to the Viewer: In 2017 Your Name dethroned Spirited Away as the highest-grossing anime film of all time.

Your Name. – Official English Dub Trailer

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Studio Ghibli in Western Pop Culture

Studio Ghibli in Western Pop Culture

By: John Fragglepuss Evans

This information was originally presented as part of our Salt Lake Comic Con FanX panel, “Studio Ghibli: Anime that Appeals to Everyone”. Thanks to everyone that attended the panel and my fellow panelists, Breanne Evans, Brittany Evans, Lindsay Starke, and Alec Unsicker.

 

Studio Ghibli is perhaps the most iconic Japanese animation studio, creating such films as Howl’s Moving Castle and the Academy Award-winning Spirited Away. Imagine a Japanese Disney in terms of notoriety. For an in-depth look at the company, check out my post here. 

Ghibli is beloved by countless individuals and has inspired many creators around the world. John Lasseter, chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, stated “Whenever we get stuck at Pixar or Disney, I put on a Miyazaki film sequence or two, just to get us inspired again”. Other Pixar animators have paid equally complimentary to Ghibli’s films.

Several methods how been used to pay homage to Studio Ghibli:

Recreating scenes

A tribute is paid to Studio Ghibli in Bob’s Burgers season 3 episode 25, An Indecent Thanksgiving Proposal. An exact scene of My Neighbor Totoro is recreated using Bob’s animation style and characters.

 

South Park also recreates a Ghibli scene in season 14 episode 12, Mysterion Rises. In the episode Cartman meets a sleeping Cthulhu for the first time and asks its name, much like Mei when she first encounters Totoro.

 

Inserting Ghibli characters as Easter Eggs

Several films and television series have inserted Ghibli characters as Easter Eggs, such as in: Toy Story 3, American Dad, South Park, Drawn Together, Powderpuff Girls, and Gravity Falls.

   

 

Season 3 episode 13 of Steven Universe is titled “Kiki’s Pizza Delivery Service”, an obvious reference to Kiki’s Delivery Service.

 

Jim Kim, character designer supervisor at Walt Disney Animation Studios, drew an homage to My Neighbor Totoro using the two main characters from Big Hero 6, Hiro and Baymax.

 

Full-on tribute

The Simpsons created a unique tribute to Ghibli in season 25 episode 10, Married to the Blob. Homer and Mr. Nakamura to a Japanese bar where they drink Habushu (Snake Rice Wine) and stumble home intoxicated. The streets transform into a Ghibli wonderland, with references to Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Porco Rosso.

 

This next video tribute is not taken from a television series or film, but I wanted to share it because of how creative it is. It is an original creation by French animator dono. It is a tribute to Hayao Miyazaki and uses a mixture of 2D and 3D animation set to music by Joe Hisaishi.

 

Cosplay

If you need further proof of Ghibli’s influence, look to the geek conventions. If you have ever been to a comic con or seen photos of one, you’ve seen Ghibli cosplay. Popular choices include: Howl, Sophie, Totoro, San, Ashitaka, Porco Rosso, No Face, Kiki, and Nausicaä. If you’re lucky you might see a Forest Spirit, San, or Sheeta wandering the convention floor.

Photos taken at: Salt Lake Comic Con, Anime Banzai, and Anime Expo.

It makes me glad Ghibli has a strong impact on Western culture. I adore their films and hope to see more homage as time passes.

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