Summary: All you have to do to set the scene for Pui Pui Molcar is imagine a world where guinea pigs have evolved into cars. Each short episode follows the adorable guinea pig “Molcars” on a simple adventure, whether it is trying to cool down on a hot day or throw a party without the human of the house noticing.
Pui Pui Molcar is one of the sweetest and most adorable anime I have come across in some time. It is one of those unique ideas that remind me why I love anime. I have explained the premise to a few people and always receive the same blank look, as if to say “Uh huh…”. I love the simple stop-motion animation, which is perfectly suited for the charming Molcars and accompanying humans. I never thought a guinea pig car could express themselves so fully.
You might enjoy this if: You have a young one that you want to introduce to a Japanese show. Pui Pui is a perfect choice for kids. It is quick to finish and allows kids to laugh while learning a simple lesson.
You might not like it if: You want a traditional anime not tailored to children.
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Action, Slice of Life, Retired Yakuza
First Aired: Spring 2021, 5 episodes
Summary: Tatsu, known in some circles as the “Immortal Dragon”, is a retired Yakuza boss that spends his time as a househusband, tending to the everyday needs of his wife and home. Unfortunately for him, the rivals of his past life hold grudges that will not soon be forgotten. Tatsu cannot even go grocery shopping without being recognized by rival gang members, hoping to settle a score. On the flip side, Tatsu is able to utilize the talents gained as a Yakuza to benefit his new profession.
The Way of the Househusband provides an over-the-top Slice of Life comedy where exaggeration runs rampant. Everything Tatsu does is extreme, even a calming yoga class. The side characters, like the rival Yakuza and police officers that remember Tatsu as “Immortal Dragon” provide additional humor as they attempt unsuccessfully to exact revenge on the Dragon. Tatsu and his wife Miku are fun to watch, especially when we get a peek into his past life.
You might enjoy this if: You appreciate an exaggerated comedy where everything is “Extra”. You also might enjoy the episodic nature of the anime if you want to stop for a quick laugh and move on.
You might not like it if: Non-standard anime art styles distract you. This series has been described as a “moving manga”, which can be off-putting to some viewers.
Summary: The series begins with high school student Yuri Honjo fleeing for her life from a masked attacker that just killed a random person. She realizes she is trapped on a high rise skyscraper with no escape. Every entry to the building is locked and the only connection to anywhere else is by suspension bridges from one building to another. There are masked murderers all around and there is no time for hesitation as she must learn the rules of this new world or die like the rest.
High-Rise Invasion immediately thrusts the viewer into a whole new world of mystery and despair. Each masked killer possesses his or her own unique ability, and well-suited name. One of them might be “Chef Mask” while another is “Volleyball Mask”, and their abilities suit them well for murder. I enjoyed the quickly progressing story that contained very little downtime, meaning a lot of fights and action with little chance for everyone to catch their breath. It is fitting for a world full of masked assassins, all searching for the next hunt. In addition to the action there is a decent story to the High-Rise universe, it’s not just a bunch of bloodthirsty cosplayers on the top of buildings.
You might enjoy this if: You cannot get enough of the “Battle Royale” genre, this series has that kind of vibe for sure.
You might not like it if: You despise “fan service”. While it is not the emphasis of the anime, there are a few convenient skirt shots and all that.
Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life, School, Constant Obstacles
First Aired: Summer 2018, 12 episodes
Summary: Chio Miyamo is a first-year high school student that cannot have a normal experience when walking to Samejima Private Academy each morning. She has no desire for crazy adventures, but they seem to find her every day on her way to school. It might be due to her late nights playing video games, resulting in her tardiness leaving the house, but it might also be due to her extremely strange luck. One day she gets caught up with a motorcycle gang, while another day she is stuck in an aggressive game of Kabaddi. What’s Kabaddi? You’ll have to watch to find out!
Chio’s School Road is a lot of fun. Each episode is standard length, but split into two or three mini episodes, each presenting a difficult morning of Chio attempting to get to school on time, despite the constant roadblocks. The animation and soundtrack are nothing special, but the quirky characters the wacky situations that Chio finds herself in kept me watching all the way to the end.
You might enjoy this if: You want a quick laugh the can be digested in ten minutes or less. It is fun to sit and watch one episode and then move on for the day. You don’t have to watch the whole series in one sitting.
You might not like it if: You want a progressive storyline with character development and season-arching stories. With Chio, what you see is what you get.
Genre: Fantasy, Slice of Life, Magic, Witches, Studio Ghibli
First Released: December 2020, 82-minute film
Summary: Earwig, a newborn, is abandoned on the front porch of St. Morwald’s Home for Children, an orphanage. She grows into a young lady at the orphanage, which she loves. She enjoys her caretakers, the fellow orphans, and even the food. Earwig, or Erica Wigg as she is called, gets adopted by Bella Yaga and the Mandrake, witches in need an extra set of hands around the house. Earwig makes the best of a bad situation, keeping an upbeat attitude in spite of Bella Yaga’s rough demeanor. However, it will take more than an upbeat attitude to turn the corner with the grumpy witches.
Earwig and the Witch is directed by Goro Miyazaki, son of Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki. Goro was hesitant to follow in his legendary father’s footsteps, but has now directed three Ghibli films: Tales from Earthsea, From Up on Poppy Hill, and now Earwig and the Witch. This film is the first full 3DCG Studio Ghibli to be released, as well as the first Ghibli to be released since 2014’s When Marnie Was There. The animation is not what you would expect from a Ghibli film and the story is not as expansive as Ghibli’s usually are. If you are expecting a life-changing adventure with world-ending possibilities, like in Princess Mononoke or Howl’s Moving Castle, you will be disappointed. If you go in expecting a simple slice of life story with some humorous encounters, you will be more likely to enjoy it. The characters are fun to watch, especially the interactions between two completely different personalities.
You might enjoy this if: You are looking for a quick and easy watch with low stakes.
You might not like it if: You cannot handle 3DCG, meaning it takes you out of the movie and you are constantly distracted by it. It was jarring for me at first, though I got used to it.
Seven years of anime reviews and over 300 down! I would say it doesn’t feel like it has been so long, but I think back to what was going on in my life when I started this page, and it was completely different than it is now. However, despite all the changes over the past several years, I still enjoy a good anime. I am excited to see where the next several years will take me, and I am excited to keep up with anime along the way. It’s a welcomed distraction from the crazy world out there.
Thanks again to one and all that have been there throughout these past several years. My hope is that these reviews have given you a recommendation for something new to watch, whether it’s your first anime or your 1,000th. Thanks to everyone that has attended our panels over the years. I look forward to presenting them again after the 2020 hiatus. Thanks to my fellow Anime Happy Hour crew for all the laughs. Thanks to Breanne and Max for the constant support. I always get all sentimental with these, I’ll stop for now. Thanks for hanging on while I ramble.
Japan Sinks: 2020 / Nihon Chinbotsu 2020
Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Disaster
First Aired: Summer 2020, 10 episodes
Summary: A major earthquake hits Japan shortly after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Chaos ensues across Japan with new trouble at every turn. The story focuses mainly on the Muto family as the earthquakes occur and the aftermath that follows.
Japan Sinks provides a realistic representation of natural disasters, from the utter destruction to the societal chaos that follows. The series begins with a normal day that is shattered by sudden destruction and panic. People die and things are clearly not going back to normal anytime soon.
The series is directed by Masaaki Yuasa, known for such anime as: Mind Game, Devilman Crybaby, Lu Over the Wall, and Night is Short, Walk on Girl. Yuasa is known for his abstract and experimental animation, but Japan Sinks does not explore his artistic side as much as his other shows. This series differs from many of his other works with its realism, as opposed to the surreal nature of the others.
You might enjoy this if: You are curious to see the devastating power of Mother Nature and the disaster she is capable of.
You might not like it if: Animation quality is a dealbreaker. It is severely lacking in that department.
Note to the Viewer: “Japan Sinks: 2020” is an adaptation of a 1973 novel written by Sakyo Komatsu. It was a wild coincidence because it was released on Netflix shortly after uncharacteristically large earthquakes had hit us where I live. Felt like a bad omen if I’m being honest.
Summary: Throughout history, humans have been at odds with Beastmen, a species able to change shape at will due to their “Beast Factor”. The humans control the world and have forced the Beastmen into hiding. Anima City is a safe haven for the Beastmen to live without having to hide. Michiru Kagemori is unique because she was a human who suddenly turned into a tanuki. Upon discovering she is a Beastman, Michiru flees to Anima City during its 10th anniversary of becoming a city. She quickly realizes the city is the sanctuary she thought it was. She witnesses an explosion in the square and is confronted by Shirou Ogami, a the wolf protector of the Beastmen. Shirou helps her realize she is not an ordinary Beastman. She has to go on a journey of discovery to learn the secrets of her past and who she really is.
The first thing I noticed during BNA is the intriguing world-building. I like the idea of Anima City, a sanctuary for Beastmen. The Beastmen are also interesting, with their unique appearances and abilities. I enjoyed watching Michiru’s journey of discovery as she navigated through the unknown. The battle scenes are high energy and the animation is pleasing to the eye.
You might enjoy this if: You are ready for an anime version of X-Men. The description sounds like X-Men, and that is truly what it is. The Beastmen are persecuted because the humans are scared of their superior abilities.
You might not like it if: You are over anime with every character possessing some sort of special ability.
Summary: Nobu Izakaya is a simple restaurant staffed by two people: chef Nobuyuki Yazawa and server Shinobu Senke. It appears to be a standard Japanese izakaya, but it is somehow mysteriously connected to a medieval city, “Aiteria”, from another world! Even from the other side, Nobu is an unassuming restaurant that does not appear to be anything special at first glance. However, once patrons from the medieval city come inside and taste the delectable cuisine, they are hooked. Nobu is Aiteria’s best kept secret, even though its food comes from modern Japan!
Isekai Izakaya is a perfect example of how anime can create the most appetizing dishes through animation. Watching each episode makes me salivate as I watch the cuisine being served alongside a perfect drink pairing. To top it off, they show a live action version of how to cook some of the dishes from the episode after the credits. If you are an aspiring chef, or a novice looking to learn more, you can learn how to make some of the most appetizing Japanese cuisine.
This series is great because each episode runs about half length of a standard series, which is a good length for the subject matter. The chef cooks delicious meals for the patrons from the medieval world, they fawn over the exquisite nature of it, an amusing side story unfolds, and then the episode ends. It is a formula that I could watch all day.
You might enjoy this if: You are a fan of live action cooking shows and want an anime version of it.
You might not like it if: You want a typical progressive anime story line with drama galore.
Here we are, 300 anime reviews! It’s difficult to believe I have done that many or that I would stick with it long enough to do so. This past year has seen a decline in my frequency of posting reviews due to the COVID-19 pandemic and all the effects of that craziness. Working in healthcare, I have been so busy that it is hard to find time to sit back and enjoy anime like in the “Before Times”. I’m sure we will get back to that point, and I look forward to it. Until then I will keep posting as much as I can, even if it is not as often as I would like. Thank you so much to everyone that reads these. I appreciate your support and the way you make this all worth it.
A Whisker Away / Nakitai Watashi wa Neko wo Kaburu
Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans
Genre: Comedy, Supernatural, Drama, Romance, School, Neko Transformations
First Released: June 2020, 104-minute film
Summary: Miyo Sasaki is a seemingly normal high school girl with energy to spare! She doesn’t have the best home life and focuses her energy elsewhere. She has a crush on Kento, but does not know how to properly convey her love. This changes when she is given the opportunity to don a mask that turns her into a cat, which she can use to her advantage in secretly getting to know Kento. Of course, turning into a cat has its consequences and Miyo will have to make some unique life decisions. Is being a cat really all it’s cracked up to be?
A Whisker Away is one of the latest works of Director Junichi Sato. It jumps off to a quick start, with a quick understanding of how the “Cat Transformation” world works, leaving a full movie to enjoy, rather than questioning what’s going on the whole time (even though the climactic finale is fairly wild). The animation is bright and vibrant during the supernatural scenes and more subdued during the everyday, regular world scenes. I appreciate the variety of color, as it helped differentiate between the two worlds and accentuate the fantastical properties of “Cat World”.
You might enjoy this if: You are a cat person with a deep-seeded desire to see what life would be like through the eyes of a feline.
You might not like it if: Being a humanoid is all you have ever cared about.
Summary: A world has been all but destroyed by meteors. Fast forward to an unknown point in the future and this world is inhabited by humanlike gem organisms. Each one is made of a real gemstone and is assigned a role is protecting the world from the Lunarians, a mysterious species attempting to destroy the gems. Phosphophyllite (Phos), is a fragile gem with the dream of fighting alongside her companions. Unfortunately for Phos, her hardness level of 3.5 is too delicate to be considered for fighting. She is better suited for tasks like compiling an encyclopedia, tasks with little to no danger. Phos is not satisfied with homework and dedicates herself to finding out how she can join her friends on the battlefield.
There is a lot to love in Land of the Lustrous. I love the world they built. The gemstones are unique in their abilities and personalities. Real gems are used and the hardness levels are accurate. They even show different element characteristics during the commercial bumper every episode. It makes the series educational! The jobs the elements have and their relationships are intriguing enough to keep you watching. The mystery and intrigue of both the gems and the Lunarians is captivating in its own right. To add to it, the story itself is fascinating and keeps you locked in. I’m glad I could binge it, because the cliffhangers would be painful if I couldn’t just fire up another episode. It took me a few episodes to get used to the CG animation, but that’s just me.
You might enjoy this if: You tire of humans and want to imagine what another species would do with its own world.
You might not like it if: You cringe at CG animation and can’t focus on the story if you are watching the different animation style.