Fragglepuss Anime Review 221: Descending Stories / Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju

Descending Stories / Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinju

Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans

Genre: Historical, Drama, Rakugo

First Aired: Winter 2017, 12 episodes

Summary: Yotarou is an ex-convict, fresh out of prison, on the search for a rakugo master to take him as an apprentice. He finds master Yakumo, who is hesitant to take him on. Yotarou’s persistence pays off as Yakumo accepts him and teaches him the ways of rakugo. The series follows these two and those around them as they tell stories about their past as well as classic rakugo tales.

Descending Stories will teach you the art and form of rakugo, which is a classic form of Japanese entertainment where a lone storyteller sits on a stage and tells their tale. The only props they are allowed to possess are a paper fan and a small cloth. The rakugo artist depicts a long and complicated story which often has more than one character. The difference between characters is depicted through the artist’s pitch, tone, and turn of the head. I was not familiar with rakugo before watching the series and it taught me a lot. The episodes contain rakugo artists telling full stories which sometimes last almost half an episode. It’s easy to see how the show is trying to teach the art of rakugo, not dramatize it and make it something it’s not.

You might enjoy this if: You love Japanese culture and are always looking to learn more about it.

You might not like it if: You want to watch something with a faster pace. The episodes will move by at a snail’s pace if you’re expecting a lot of action or jokes.

Similar Series: Your Lie in April, Mushishi, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Millennium Actress, Miss Hokusai

Note to the Viewer: The manga series was published from 2010 – 2016 and is compiled in ten volumes. Also, if you’re interested in rakugo and are visiting Japan, there are still places you can attend a performance. There are even some izakaya (Japanese Pubs) that host rakugo performances.

Descending Stories Opening

 

AMV – Art is Not Dead by Marcelo

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Fragglepuss Anime Review 220: In This Corner of the World / Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni Plus the Four-Year Anniversary of Fragglepuss.com!

It’s The Four-Year Anniversary of Fragglepuss.com!

Before I get into the anime review I just wanted to throw out a few thanks. I’ve been posting anime reviews for four years now and I wouldn’t still be doing it without the support of so many people. Thanks to everyone that’s read the reviews, even if it’s only been a single one. Part of the reason I started reviewing anime was to give suggestions on what to watch based on what you enjoy. If a single person has watched an anime based on one of my reviews, I’m happy.

Thanks to my fellow Anime Happy Hour podcasters and panel crew: Breanne Evans, Lindsay Starke, Brittany Evans, and Alec Unsicker. Not only do they give me hot tips on quality anime to watch, but they are so fun to chat anime with and keep my interest piqued on everything geeky.

An extra special thanks to Breanne, who has always been so supportive in all I do and always pushes me to do the things I love.

One last shout-out goes to the members of the SLC Anime group. We’ve been meeting up and chatting anime for almost four years now. I’ve watched several anime that I would not watch otherwise due to suggestions from the group. I wouldn’t have watched Madoka Magica if not for the group, and now it’s one of my favorite anime.

Here’s to another year of reviewing anime!

 

In This Corner of the World / Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni

Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans

Genre: Historical, Drama, Soul Crushing

First Released: November 2016, 126-minute film

Summary: Suzu Urano is an innocent and loving child growing up in 1930s Hiroshima. She loves drawing more than anything. We follow as she grows up and moves to the small town of Kure, marrying Shuusaku Houjou. Suzu lives with Houjou and his family as the 1940s dawn on them and Japan is at war. Life becomes increasingly difficult for Suzu and her new family. They are simply attempting to survive as rations lessen and air raids increase. In 1945 intense bombings reach Kure with devastating consequences for Suzu and family, forever changing their lives. Suzu survives through an impossible situation that would have destroyed others beyond repair.

In This Corner of the World is a homework movie, meaning it’s one you need to watch once in your life. The message is beautifully told and makes you feel for the people that were involved, but it’s difficult to watch because it’s so real. The content is heavy and cruel while accurately portraying the horrific events that occurred during World War II. The scenes in the film are based on old photos, documents, and memories of living people that experienced the bombing in Hiroshima. The story is emotional in the way you watch Suzu grow up from a small child to getting married and moving away. The bulk of the story is in 1944 and 1945, but the film begins before and ends after that time.

The film is beautifully animated, with nature and traditional culture being contrasted with cruel and horrid war. Green fields are turned into burnt bombing grounds and houses are reduced to rubble. The artwork is mainly hand-drawn, with limited CGI with the background of some battle sequences. The characters also bring out contrasting sides of the film and show the way war affects people. Suzu remains incredibly positive, especially considering the circumstances, while others become distraught or downright angry at the situation.

You might enjoy this if: You are ready to watch World War II from the perspective of a Japanese civilian that is just trying to survive. The film gives a moving message about persevering in an impossible situation when there’s little you can do. It’s not a war film, it’s focused on being a story about everyday life struggles. It just happens to be set during wartime, when the struggles are the most intense.

You might not like it if: You are not emotionally ready for this type of film. It rightfully has a significant amount of sadness and heartache. You’ll be shedding tears by the end and should be in an emotionally ready place to do so.

Similar Series: Grave of the Fireflies, The Wind Rises, Miss Hokusai, Giovanni’s Island, Your Name, Millennium Actress

Note to the Viewer: In This Corner of the World won the Best Animation Award at the Japan Academy Awards in addition to countless other accolades.

In This Corner of the World Trailer

 

AMV – What About Us by Lust Music Videos

(Warning, the AMV contains spoilers. Watch the film before the AMV)

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Fragglepuss Anime Review 219: Pop Team Epic / Poputepipikku

Pop Team Epic / Poputepipikku

Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans

Genre: Comedy, Parody, Short-Form, Bizarre Skits

First Aired: Winter 2018, 12 short-form episodes

Summary: Two high school girls with short attention spans find themselves in the most ridiculous situations. Popuko is short-tempered while Pipimi is the voice of reason, which isn’t saying much since they are both absurd.

Pop Team Epic is a skit anime based on a 4-panel manga. You can tell by the way the skits are organized. They come hard and fast with little to no continuity. The series is completely off the wall and leans on meta humor for its comedy. You’ll quickly notice how the animation in Pop is basic, from the chibi protagonists to the downright cringy “Bob Epic Team”. The creators are obviously going for that style, which works for the nature of the show. I can see it being extremely polarizing and you’ll know if you love or hate it by the end of the first episode. The opening song is good, real trippy.

You might enjoy this if: You’re an otaku or just way into anime. If so you’ll understand a lot of the references, otherwise, good luck!

You might not like it if: Fast-paced absurd skits based on deep anime cuts sounds painful. They never slow down to take a break and there’s mature content. Don’t watch if you’re not ready for an anime version of Tim and Eric: Awesome Show Great Job.

Similar Series: Mr. Osomatsu, Space Patrol Luluco, Gintama, Himouto Umaru-chan, Nichijou – My Ordinary Life

Note to the Viewer: There are two versions of Pop Team Epic. One version has a voice cast with Popuko and Pipimi being voiced by females, which is already bizarre based on the content. If that version isn’t strange enough for you, the other has Popuko and Pipimi voiced by males with deep voices. It kicks it up another notch. To top it off, every episode both the male and female voice cast is different.

AMV – The Golden Girls by maboroshistudio

 

Pop Team Epic Opening Theme

 

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Fragglepuss Anime Review 218: Evil or Live

Evil or Live

Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans

Genre: Horror, Drama, Psychological, School, Sociological Study

First Aired: Fall 2017, 12 episodes

Summary: A new kind of disease has been spreading among young people. Following prolonged periods of internet usage, sufferers develop a pathological dependence on the internet. Experts have named this disease “Internet Addiction”. In order to get these addicted youngsters back on the right track and reform them into independent, self-respecting adults, the Elite Reeducation Academy, a civilian educational facility, was created. It is a place to help young people to grow up right. Hibiki has been sent to the academy to recover but quickly learns the facility is nothing more than a prison with cruel treatment and no chance of escape.

Evil or Live uses the topical problem of society being addicted to the internet and turns it up to 11. It’s relatable because it’s true that we are all dependent on the internet, some more than others. I use it every day at home and at work. Without it my job would be impossible to do. After the basis of the story, the anime ceases to be relatable. The way it’s carried out is intense to say the least. Teens are sent to an internet rehab facility that uses unconventional methods to “cure” them, which are both cruel and comical in a way. The series toes the line between comedy and horror, creating a dark comedy with some decent characters to follow. The art is not the best I’ve seen, but it’s serviceable.

You might enjoy this if: An internet-rehab/torture camp sounds intriguing.

You might not like it if: You are a stickler for proper animation. If you are bothered by low budget animation, Evil or Live might drive you crazy.

Similar Series: Prison School, Tokyo Ghoul, Deadman Wonderland, Btooom!

Note to the Viewer: The opening theme is Soredemo Boku wa Ikiteriru (I’m Still Alive) by Normcore, which I thought was pretty good.

AMV – Nothing Can Save Me by Dario99AMVs

 

Evil or Live Opening – Soredemo Boku wa Ikiteriru (I’m Still Alive) by Normcore

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Fragglepuss Anime Review 217: Gabriel DropOut

Gabriel DropOut

Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans

Genre: Comedy, Demons, Supernatural, School, Angels

First Aired: Winter 2017, 12 episodes

Summary: Upon graduation in heaven, angels are sent to Earth for their residency to learn firsthand about humans and guide them toward the correct path. If the angel is successful in their Earth residency they are awarded full-angel status, complete with wings and everything. This year’s top graduate, Gabriel White Tenma, is sent to Earth with an incredible mindset to be an amazing angel that will help all the humans. Trouble hits Gabriel almost immediately as she discovers video games, which cause her to do a 180 with her life. She becomes addicted to games and loses sight of her goal. The apathetic Gabriel has now proclaimed herself a Fallen Angel. It’s up to her friends to remind her of why she’s been sent from heaven and what she needs to do if she hopes to return.

Gabriel DropOut is hilarious, starting with the characters. Gabriel is relatable in the way she plays video games and slacks off in a way I wish I could if I didn’t have responsibilities. The demon Vignette is responsible in looking after Gabriel, which is ironic due to a demon taking care of an angel. Satania is ridiculous, Raphi is fun, and Tapris is enjoyable. The animation is fine, it’s bright and flashy which fits the tone. The opening theme is Gabriel Dropkick by Miyu Tomita. It is crazy and fits the show’s style.

You might enjoy this if: You can’t get enough of the video game otaku genre.

You might not like it if: You see someone slacking off and are the type to tell them they need to stop wasting time.

Similar Series: Himouto Umaru-chan, The Devil is a Part-Timer, Nichijou – My Ordinary Life, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt

Note to the Viewer: Gabriel DropOut is directed by Masahiko Ohta, the same as Himouto Umaru-chan, so when you notice the similarities between the two series it will make sense. Both are produced by Studio Doga Kobo, which has brought us series like New Game, Plastic Memories, and Lovely Muuuuuuuco!

AMV – Hello Kitty/Kawai by Darkside AMV

 

Gabriel DropOut Opening

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Fragglepuss Anime Review 216: Devilman Crybaby

Devilman Crybaby

Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans

Genre: Action, Horror, Demons, Supernatural, Possession

First Aired: Winter 2018, 10 episodes

Summary: Akira Fudo is informed by his best friend Ryou Asuka that the demons will revive and reclaim the world from the humans. As the humans do not stand a chance against the supernatural power of the demons, Ryou suggests fusing with a demon. Akira becomes Devilman, with the power of a demon and the heart of a human.

Devilman is some of the most intense storytelling I have witnessed in a while. Watching the first episode gives you the perfect example of what the series has in store. The graphic imagery is a lot to handle, but it makes sense for the show. I love the shifts in animation for some of the scenes that add to the dark events transpiring. The characters are another positive, from Fudo’s development to the rapping minor characters that add to the story. If I had to choose a negative from the series, it would have to be the English voice acting, which didn’t do it for me. Fudo’s voice reminded me of the standard English male protagonist dub and didn’t fit the character. I’m always open to listening in both English and Japanese, but Devilman was better in Japanese.

You might enjoy this if: You can handle extreme visuals and tonal change. The series is intense in more ways than I can explain but director Yuasa uses the intensity in an appropriate manner to tell his story.

You might not like it if: You don’t want to watch a significant amount of blood and sexuality through a drug-inspired lens. There are several graphic scenes that involve all manner of imagery not appropriate for children.

Similar Series: Ping Pong: The Animation, Hellsing, Akira, Perfect Blue, Sword of the Stranger, Re:Zero Staring Life in Another World, Neon Genesis Evangelion

Note to the Viewer: Devilman is directed by Masaaki Yuasa, well known for his unique art style that peppers surrealist art with a standard animation style. If you appreciate his style, you should watch some of his other work. In addition to anime series runs, he has directed individual episodes of series that had a surreal tone, including the Adventure Time episode “Food Chain” and Space Dandy’s “Slow and Steady Wins the Race, Baby”.

AMV – Unstoppable by Abunai AMV

(Warning, the AMV contains some spoilers and a lot of violence)

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Fragglepuss Anime Review 215: Sword of the Stranger / Stranger: Mukou Hadan

Sword of the Stranger / Stranger: Mukou Hadan

Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans

Genre: Action, Adventure, Historical, Samurai

First Released: September 2007, 103-minute film

Summary: The time is during the Sengoku era. The place is Japan. Kotarou and his dog Tobimaru steal from others to survive. They are constantly on the move, running from assassins sent by China’s Ming Dynasty. During their travels they run into the Ronin Nanashi who has taken refuge in a rundown temple. A fortuitous situation occurs when Nanashi helps Kotarou, who was poisoned. After recovering, Kotarou offers Nanashi a gem in exchange for bodyguard services. The three travelers embark on a danger-filled journey to make it past the Ming Dynasty’s warriors.

Sword of the Stranger is beautifully done. The story is well told with its mix of character building and action scenes. The battle sequences are stunning, especially the climax at the end of the film. I was hesitant at the start, especially when I realized it was about going on a journey, but it told its story well and left me highly satisfied. The animation and soundtrack set the scene and suck you into the story, adding to it and making it feel like you’re in historical Japan.

The director, Masahiro Ando, is not well known for his works, but has worked on a lot of other anime. He worked in the animation department in Ghost in the Shell, Cowboy Bebop, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Neon Genesis Evangelion.

You might enjoy this if: A well-told journey is just what you’re looking for.

You might not like it if: You are averse to violence and bloodshed. There’s a decent amount of anime-style blood throughout.

Similar Series: Blade of the Immortal, Ninja Scroll, Rurouni Kenshin, Princess Mononoke, Claymore, Berserk

Note to the Viewer: Sword of the Stranger was nominated for a plethora of awards at film festivals around the world. It won the award for Best Animated Feature at FANTASPOA (International Fantastic Film Festival of Porto Alegre) in Brazil. It was considered as a nominee for Best Animated Feature at the 81st Academy Awards but did not make the final cut.

AMV – Devil Inside by DabFr

(Warning, the AMV contains spoilers. They won’t make sense though if you haven’t seen the film)

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Fragglepuss Anime Review 214: Persona 4 the Golden Animation

Persona 4 the Golden Animation

Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans

Genre: Sci-Fi, Adventure, Mystery, Superpower, Supernatural, School, Video Game

First Aired: Summer 2014, 12 episodes

Summary: Yu Narukami has just moved from the hustle and bustle of the city to a small rural town away from it all. He moved in with his uncle for family reasons and he’s about to be the new transfer student at Yasogami High, which is a big deal considering the monotony that takes place in the small town. It seems that as soon as Yu moves into town strange occurrences start taking place. An unusual channel airing late at night? A murder most foul? What’s next?

Persona 4 the Golden Animation differs from the 2011 Persona 4 anime series by focusing on a new character from the PS Vita port of the game, Marie. The show follows the same crowd from a different perspective than the original series. The animation is crisp, which I’ve come to expect from the Persona series. The soundtrack is quite good, especially the fitting opening that reintroduces the main characters every episode. I appreciated it because I’m always forgetting names. The Persona series always focuses on characters, and they worked in this anime, from the personalities to the developing relationships between them.

You might enjoy this if: You are into the Persona series. I started in Persona 5 and have been working all around since then due to my newfound love for the series.

You might not like it if: You have enough on your plate already without having to get familiar with another 10 anime characters.

Similar Series: Danganroupa, Steins;Gate, Devil Survivor 2 The Animation, Death Note, Durarara!!

Note to the Viewer: If you want to do a full dive into the Persona universe, there’s plenty to keep you occupied. For Persona 4 you can:

  • Start by playing the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 PS2 game
  • Move onto the 2011 anime series based on the game
  • Watch the 2012 film, Persona 4: The Animation -The Factor of Hope-
  • Play the PS Vita game, Persona 4: The Golden Animation
  • Finish with the anime, Persona 4: The Golden Animation
  • When you want a break, you can play the Persona 4 Arena fighting game on arcade, PS3, or Xbox 360
  • You can also play the dungeon-crawler Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth
  • If you’re feeling up to it, find the rhythm game Persona 4: Dancing All Night for the PS Vita

AMV – A Love Like War by Kenzz

(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 213: Full Metal Panic!

Full Metal Panic!

Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans

Genre: Action, Military, Sci-Fi, Comedy, Mecha, Fish out of Water

First Aired: Winter 2002, 24 episodes

Summary: 17-year-old Sousuke Sagara is a sergeant working for Mithril, a private military organization tasked with ending worldwide terrorism and other threats to peace. He has been ordered to protect against a potential threat to Kaname Chidori, a high school student with extraordinary potential that believes herself completely ordinary. Chidori is unaware of the situation and Sousuke must remain anonymous as to not raise questions from the other students. The problem is how Sousuke was raised in the military system, possessing little knowledge of the average high school life! This may be his most difficult mission yet!

Full Metal Panic blends military action with high school comedy in a way you wouldn’t think possible. The two genres don’t sound particularly compatible but Full Metal pulls it off. The animation is well done for what it is. It has the look of 90s anime where noses still existed and the hair had more detail. The opening and ending songs are a good listen and held my interest at the beginning and ending of each episode. The distinct and unique characters are the highlight of the series. Chidori and Sousuke’s contrasting personalities complement each other well and the supporting cast adds to the show.

You might enjoy this if: You are into anime that takes you on a journey all over the place, from high schools to hostage situations.

You might not like it if: The plot sounds too farfetched and you want something down to Earth.

Similar Series: Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, Mobile Suit Gundam 00, Irregular at Magic High School, Aldnoah.Zero, Ranma ½, Neon Genesis Evangelion

Note to the Viewer: Believe it or not, Full Metal Panic is coming back after a decade of being off the air! The anime will premiere April 2018 and will be a continuation of the original story.

AMV – [CLASSIFIED] by drgngrl

(I’m putting it on here even though it’s a season two AMV because I really enjoy it and it was what first piqued my interest in the series after watching it at the Anime Banzai contest)

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Fragglepuss Anime Review 212: Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles / Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san

Ms. Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles / Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san

Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans

Genre: Comedy, Food, Slice of Life, Ramen

First Aired: Winter 2018, 12 episodes

Summary: By day Koizumi handles herself well at school. She’s polite, punctual, and takes her studies seriously. By night she unleashes an entirely different side of her personality! She loves ramen and is always in search of a tasty bowl. She’s not picky with the ingredients, she is always willing to taste an unconventional dish with unusual additions. She has her favorite restaurants but also continues her search to broaden her ramen knowledge.

The title says it all, Koizumi Loves Ramen. This series gives in-depth explanations to the merit of various ramen dishes, from the basic parts of a normal ramen bowl to unusual ramen that includes ingredients like pineapple. Several classmates attempt to befriend Koizumi by eating ramen with her, where she explains the pros and cons of the ramen they’re consuming. The animation and show itself are nothing groundbreaking, but the explanations of ramen are so involved it merits a watch. Who knew there could be so much complexity to a dish?

You might enjoy this if: You want to learn more about ramen, from the intricacy of the broth to the precision of the noodles. Nothing happens by chance in a perfect ramen dish, it is all carefully planned and carried out.

You might not like it if: You assume the only type of ramen noodles are the cheap kind you buy at the store for 20¢ a package.

Similar Series: Wakako-zake, Dagashi Kashi, Neko Ramen, Tonkatsu DJ Agetarou, Food Wars, Ramen Fighter Miki

Note to the Viewer: Koizumi Loves Ramen is produced by Studio Gokumi, which was founded in 2010 after members of Gonzo’s Studio Number 5 left to start their own company.

Ms Koizumi Loves Ramen Noodles Trailer

 

AMV – I Really Like You by Anime Girl

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