Land of the Lustrous (Hōseki no Kuni)

Land of the Lustrous (Hōseki no Kuni) 2017

Land of the Lustrous seems to be cited fairly often as a show that can change minds when it comes to anime and CGI.

I guess I’m fairly hard on CGI that I feel isn’t integrated all that well with trad techniques in the anime world, but I wouldn’t consider myself as the sort that would instantly dismiss a text due to its use of CGI either.

All of which is to say that I didn’t need convincing 🙂

The blend is great and so visually Land of the Lustrous is beautiful – the colours are vibrant and the ‘shatter’ effect is heaps of fun. Having comparatively less detailed backgrounds and settings really added to the contrast too, from the grass, to the sea and the snow. I felt bad kinda looking forward to how (visually at least) each stroke of misfortune might end up looking for the characters.

Others have said more interesting things about the visuals than I have and I doubt I’ll add anything ground-breaking about the story or characters either, but while the anime features lots of action-sequences, Land of the Lustrous is definitely character-driven.

Everything revolves around Phos and her struggle to find purpose. Many of the disasters that strike her community (generally a cyclical war between three cultures) come from her failures, choices and desire to do what’s right.

Creator Haruko Ichikawa has also given Phos plenty of great lines when it comes to injecting the comedic element, which definitely kept me smiling.

There’s also clear development for our lead character too – actually, let me pause for a sec. I’ve said ‘her’ before but in fact, Ichikawa describes the gems as being genderless and suggested as much to the translator for the English release, so it’s they for Phos and co, and maybe sometimes in the original some masculine pronouns are used too – but my Japanese is non-existent, really, so I can’t be sure.

If you like a mystery woven in around an interesting and (for now?) narrow setting, then Land of the Lustrous should also satisfy on that level. I don’t want to go into too much detail now, due to my usual fear of spoilers, but I’m keen for a second season so I can learn more!

And not just about the main storyline and the history of the gems, or the master’s connection with the invading Lunarians, but also folks like Padparadscha who I hope has a main role in the future.

Not sure whether Orange have more Land of the Lustrous on their plate for the near future, but I’m definitely keeping an eye out.

5 Stars

Cool hair – so much of anime is about hair, I think.
I guess (visually at least) ‘LotL’ has some fanservice re: costume and framing, but it’s not really the focus overall.

Astra Lost in Space (Kanata no Asutora)

Astra: Lost in Space (Kanata no Asutora) 2019

At a glance I guess Astra could be mistaken for a light comedy or teen romance set in space… but there were definitely a few surprises in store for me.

I had this on my list after folks started talking about it a while ago, and I’m glad I finally got around to watching this series – there’s heaps of things I enjoyed; fun characters, the trials of being lost in space, adventures to new planets, a ‘one of us is a traitor’ plot-line and some big science-fiction twists.

There were also plenty of comedic moments too, even a bit of fourth-wall stuff, which is always a plus. It is anime, so of course there’s an obligatory beach episode but if I’m remembering correctly, it operates to lull you into a bit of a false sense of security in regard to what’s due to follow.   

Now that I’ve come this far, I’m finding Astra: Lost in Space hard to write on without kinda giving certain things away, so I’ll finish this short review by saying that Kanata is an obvious fav, and Aries jumbling up her words is always cute, but best overall moment from a character is probably Zack’s declaration of love.

Maybe take a look if you want a space adventure with some fun twists and reveals.

4 Stars

A Liquid Top Ten (2020, Quarter Four)

December is here (somehow)! Hope you’re all safe – I’m back with an update to my Top Ten… which is to say, I’m updating some things that are lurking just beyond and I also have one ‘shuffle’ change 😀

As usual with these posts you can click here for a preamble along with the parameters (no films etc etc) and also some reasoning re: why I included the ten titles I chose back in quarter one.


The List – Quarter One

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
The Big O (1999)
Trigun (1998)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight (1998)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


The List – Quarter Two

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
The Big O (1999)
Trigun (1998)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Kids on the Slope (2012)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


The List – Quarter Three

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
The Big O (1999)
Trigun (1998)
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Kids on the Slope (2012)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


The List – Quarter Four

Cowboy Bebop (1998)
Ergo Proxy (2006)
Mushi-Shi (2006)
Trigun (1998)
The Big O (1999)

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit (2006)
Steins;Gate (2011)
Neon Genesis (1995)
Kids on the Slope (2012)
Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (1990)


Just some shuffling up there, reflecting no doubt, my semi-recent re-watch of Trigun.

But in the beyond, where other shows are jostling for position in my mind, there’s also something I missed in the past, which is Land of the Lustrous which is not just visually amazing but features a really fun mythology and plenty of memorable characters too.


(Still!) Outside the List (for now)

This (unranked) list includes shows that I reckon are pretty close/could well sneak into the top ten one day. Again, the longer I do this, the more I’m finding a lot of this process relates to mood as much as anything else. I still suspect that this is where most of the changes will occur over the years.

Land of the Lustrous (2017)
Samurai Champloo (2004)
Full Metal Alchemist (2003)
Gunbuster (1988)
FLCL (2003)
Haikyuu!! (2014)
Ushio & Tora (2015)
Pyscho-Pass (2012)
RahXephon (2002)
Witch Hunter Robin (2002)
Ghost Hunt (2006)
The Great Passage (2016)
Dororo (2019)
Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad (2004)
Vision of Escaflowne (1996)


As before, I’m always looking for classics to add to the list if anything you think I’d like is missing, just lemme know 😀

Thanks for reading!

The Promised Neverland (Yakusoku no Nebārando)

The Promised Neverland (Yakusoku no Nebārando) 2019

As I’ve said before, I don’t mind being a year or two behind the pace when it comes to new shows because I tend to miss both the hype and the reactionaries.

However, I did catch on that a lot of folks enjoyed this when it came out, and I can now add myself to the ranks.

The Promised Neverland is edge-of-your-seat stuff, with memorable characters and formidable villans indeed, with a largely dormitory setting that manages to have enough variety to keep things interesting visually, but also, retain a heavy sense of claustrophobia, I reckon.

While it’d definitely be safe to say that this is a horror anime, and that it has a few other genres mixed in, I think psychological thriller/suspense is probably the one that jumps out at me. Very few characters have clear motives and it seems like everyone is, at one time or another, keeping secrets.

It was nice not to know exactly how something would play out, as well as be surprised a couple of times too. I can see how ‘Mom’ was voted as a fav villain and while I was hoping for a different resolution to her storyline, I remain excited for the delayed second season early next year.

I don’t want to write too much more, in fear of spoilers or hints, in case anyone is planning on watching The Promised Neverland but I will add that if you’re not keen on seeing kids suffer – a lot – then maybe give this a miss. Having said that, it’s not relentlessly grim… but it’s no walk in the park, that’s for sure. Cool opening theme too!

5 Stars

(Mamoru Kanbe also directed ‘The Perfect Insider which could be said to be in the same ballpark re secrets, mystery and suspense).

Note: I should have mention before, but Sister Krone’s design is not great. She’s an actually character with a mini arc but design-wise, yeah, too evocative of minstrel shows.

Weathering with You (Tenki no Ko)

Weathering with You (Tenki no Ko) 2019

I watched Children of the Sea a little while ago, and afterwards I stuck with the aquatic-theme for a couple more films. One of those movies was Ride Your Wave* while the other was obviously Weathering With You, which I’ll write about now 😀

I’m also going to kick off the post with something different compared to my usual review structure, and share this from director Makoto Shinkai:

“I thought, ‘Should I make my next film so that I don’t anger more people, or should I make a movie that angers them further?’ And I chose the latter.”

Here, he’s talking about Weathering with You as per a quote that appears in this Variety article, and I was really interested in the context around that statement… but I’ll actually come back to it later. I guess I’m raising it now to frame the idea that Weathering with You is maybe more reactionary than a lot of his previous work – and that’s probably not a surprise, considering the enormous success of Your Name.

If you haven’t come across Weathering with You yet, it’s a teen drama/romance-fantasy told in a wonderfully ‘saturated’ way, and I didn’t really mean for that to be a pun.  

I guess what I mean is that Shinkai’s fascination with and also his devotion to water, light and colour certainly continues: everything looks so beautiful, whether it’s CGI or traditional animation. In fact, you could argue that it’s crushingly beautiful, and the detail – the atmosphere, the way you really sink into the setting, it’s all quite dream-like in a way.

[Spoilers from here on] For me, the visual elements are enough to compensate for what seemed like a slightly less cohesive story overall. Something about it didn’t quite pull together as neatly as say, Your Name (or his older films) and I wonder if I needed just a few more scraps of info re: what main character Hodaka was running from, for one. Feeling suffocated by a place – I buy that 100%, but maybe just a little more on specifics at home?

I also craved some extra follow-up on a few threads by the end and I’m not sure Hina turning her back on all technology for three years feels right? Related, would Hodaka not have attempted to contact her in some way (and vice-a-versa)?

Apologies, but I’m going to jump around again as I want to mention some other things that I enjoyed, before eventually circling back to Shinkai’s quote.

Firstly, I thought it was fun to see Mitsuha and Taki from Your Name – they don’t show up in flashy, attention-grabbing cameos, it’s far more low-key and maybe somewhat connected to the Variety quote above. 

Suga and Natsumi were actually my fav characters in Weathering with You, especially Natsumi and her motorcycle, but in contrast, one of the more serious moments I enjoyed was when poor Hodaka is making his earnest promises in the hotel. Moments like that in the film, when you’re young and your conviction is stronger than your ability to make things happen, I thought were nicely done.

For some reason I’ve ended up reviewing Weathering with You before Your Name. And while the order of reviews hardly matters, I think it’s hard not to compare Weathering with You to his older work – either as a progression or a reaction.

I’ll try to expand on that – when I think about colour and tone here, it seems there’s a growing warmth clear to Weathering with You and Your Name, especially visible in the extra moments of levity and hope that I see onscreen, but which don’t appear as often in prior works perhaps.

For instance, The Garden of Words and The Place Promised in Our Early Days are obviously still beautifully coloured, but they feel more melancholy overall. (And certainly Children Who Chase Lost Voices strikes me so).

…or maybe I’m remembering the colours wrong?

In any event, I’m finally getting closer to that quote (I promise) with a note about the ending first. Here’s a quick summation of the film’s conclusion:

After Hina chooses to sacrifice herself in order to save Tokyo from drowning, Hodaka fights his way above the clouds to see her, eventually bringing her home. With her return comes rain that, over the next three years, displaces millions (maybe kills folks too?), and changes the entire city. Hina seems to have been praying, trying to stop it – maybe the whole time – whereas Hodaka reflects that change is inevitable. After this, the two get a personally uplifting reunion.

Now, what I haven’t been able to decide is whether the ending is nudging us toward letting him off the hook re: taking responsibility for changes to the city and all the displaced people? Because there is a bit of time spent on that reflection, time that I took as Hodaka justifying his choice to himself (and maybe us too) via words that others had offered.

Obviously, it’s not so simple – because Hina deserves life too; and it’s a rotten choice he’s faced with.

Doubtless we’re meant to tackle the theme and decide for ourselves, what should Hodaka have done? (Even Suga goes back on his bitter wish).

And perhaps, if real life is about meeting challenges (and not being able to ‘magic’ them all away) then does the ending constitute a bit of authorial messaging? I think it’s clear that Shinkai wanted to bring attention to rising sea levels, and so what seems like a sad ending is probably the only way Weathering with You could have concluded.

So, thinking of Shinkai’s quote and his desire to anger people again – I wonder if this overt message at the end is two things: a sincere concern about climate change, but also a reaction to some criticism aimed at Your Name, where folks** didn’t like the idea of a natural disaster used for entertainment?

Because here is an even bigger natural disaster that is also used in the plot of a teen romance, and maybe within that choice, there’s some hope that in such a popular film, a lot of people will pay attention to the problem being raised… almost like a gauntlet being thrown down?

Ultimately, I hate to drift too far toward autobiographical criticism, nor assign motive to someone else’s work, but in this case I feel like there’s room – especially with that quote and having a little bit of context around Your Name.

4 Stars

* Sharing another collaboration soon! 🙂

** Wish I could find specifics on the response.

I feel like I’ve seen awesome close-ups of writing in more than a few Shinkai films now 🙂

Dororo (2019)

There are a few gaps when it comes to my knowledge of Osamu Tezuka’s works beyond Astro Boy, which is something I’ve been wanting to fix for a long while.

Being well-aware of his other stories but only having having seen a few or just bits and pieces over the years has been kind of frustrating, especially when it comes to finding a copy of Phoenix 2772 🙂

However, when I started Dororo I didn’t realise that the anime was the second adaptation of Tezuka’s manga, so that was a fun surprise! And even through the grimmer, more splatter-filled 2019 series probably doesn’t look like it on the surface, I think there are both character design and story-telling aspects that reveal the source material.

Dororo is a classic underdog story, with both Dororo and Hyakkimaru up against a harsh, unforgiving world – and that’s just the humans. The demons are bad news too, but the duo prove to be a match for the things they face. And while what they face can be, at times, a monster of the week, Hyakkimaru’s quest to restore himself provides a narrative link looking forward, while Dororo’s past offers a similar thread of consistency.

Perhaps the injustice Hyakkimaru must face, and one that certainly had me onside with him right away, was the nature of his birth. After all, not only does his father sacrifice his organs and senses, almost his entire body, in exchange for prosperity, but nearly everyone around Hyakkimaru chooses to overlook the father’s cowardice, instead turning their blame on a more convenient target.

Part of why I watched 4 or 5 episodes each night (more than I’d planned :D) was that injustice, but knowing Osamu Tezuka’s storytelling, there’s no simple answer. There is a cost to Hyakkimaru’s restoration, so Dororo has more than one good moral dilemma.

Reading up on the reception, I see that one criticism aimed at this modern adaptation is that compared to the manga, ronin Hyakkimaru has so little dialogue that it is harder to connect with him as a character. I half agree. On one hand, it meant that the ending had a little extra impact, on the other, it meant that I missed out on hints of how he was dealing with everything.

To compensate, we learn a lot about Dororo throughout – so I was happy with the trade off, myself. In terms of the ‘modern’ violence, I did take a quick look at the manga in an attempt to compare and maybe it’s partially colour, movement and sound that makes the show feel more violent?

But getting back to the anime, I wanted to quickly share a few favourite aspects – one being the pre-Jaws moments but I also really enjoyed what felt like a nod to the ‘hidden Ainu treasure’ trope, along with Izume or Jukai as characters. ‘The Story of the Jorogumo Silk Spider’ was another favourite; it had a few twists and a non-typical ending perhaps.

I suppose that in some moments, the character design might bring to mind that late 1960s look, especially with Mio and the golden horse to give two examples, and I wondered whether they ‘fit’ the grimmer aesthetic of things elsewhere, but I can’t really complain since I liked it all.

Oh, and when folks joke about Hyakkimaru being the original ‘demon slayer’ there will be aspects that appeal to fans of both shows, at minimum the historical setting and the slicing up of monsters, however the two are obviously different in a lot of ways.

Really enjoyed Dororo and I’m keen to find the first anime one day too.

4 Stars

Review count: 151 (Dororo was the ‘runner up’ in the little vote I had for the 150th review)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) (Season 2, 12)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) 2020

Okay! Another series final – this time No Guns Life wraps up and I’m left kinda desperate for a further season one day.

I feel that mostly because all 24 episodes of No Guns Life seem to be set-ups for something that cannot possible happen within 24 episodes.

There’s just so much more story! And I fear I won’t get a chance to see it. (Especially because I don’t have the shelf space to start collecting the manga, and thus my hope is that Madhouse green lit more.)

Ultimately, I didn’t enjoy this ending episode as much as I’d hoped – but that doesn’t mean I thought it was bad, not at all. (It was interesting to get some backstory on Pepper for instance).

And there was a bit of welcome focus on comedic stuff and the switch in colour palette was refreshing, but the finale wasn’t an explosive finish, even if I appreciated an important reveal in there.

Still, as I said before – I really do want more No Guns Life one day.

Abandoned #8 (.hack//sign, Black Cat, Buddy Complex)

Generally with these posts, I don’t rule out returning to the shows featured (unless I say so specifically for an individual title) so I’ll include my usual disclaimer, maybe I will return to these three, who knows? 🙂

It’s also just a short post this time around, after my previous monstrous list!

Black Cat

I’m actually 9 episodes in but I just sort of drifted away and haven’t returned yet. I was enjoying it, but basically, I remember thinking that there wasn’t enough Sven!

Buddy Complex

This seems bright and fun, and I like mecha a lot, so I probably could come back to this but somehow, despite an action-packed episode one, I wasn’t hooked. (Early signs of wonky charactarisation with Hina perhaps.)

.hack//sign

Long been aware of this classic isekai and I finally gave it a shot the other day. I like Noir from the same studio and loved the world and the set-up here, along with hints that the pacing would be a little different, but after a whole episode of the insufferable Tsukasa I just couldn’t go on.

But because it feels like he’ll have a good character arc, I think I could return to this one day for sure, but only when I have more energy for that kinda lead character.

Arrietty (Kari-gurashi no Arietti)

Arrietty (Kari-gurashi no Arietti) 2010

Before Hiromasa Yonebayashi became a founding member of Studio Ponoc, he was working at Ghibli on a lot of their blockbuster films. Arrietty was his debut as director, with a screenplay that Miyazaki adapted from The Borrowers. (Another example of his interest in storytelling from the UK).

This one is not in my top five Ghibli films, but I do prefer Arrietty to Yonebayashi’s other feature for the studio, When Marnie was There.

Ultimately, what keeps this one from climbing up the ranking in my mind, is the ending, which felt a little flat compared to the rest of the film… but I won’t try to claim that it’s a bad ending, because that’d be an exaggeration, I reckon.

What I loved most was the clear ‘world-within-a-world’ that existed in the film, with the borrowers having not only their own home and cast-off possessions, but that different perspective on human homes.

It’s a warm, intimate world where little is wasted and ‘simple’ tasks take on more epic dimensions – like that first quest for sugar. (Those scenes show the same beautiful attention to detail Ghibli is known for, mirrored in the natural world too, but for me I think of the house most whenever I remember Arrietty.)

I won’t ramble on much longer, but the tension between the Arriety and Sho’s storylines eventually meeting is great, and I always find it sad but sweet when he tries to switch the kitchen around. But of course – in the end, he cannot help Arrietty and her family, as the power of one small boy cannot fully stand up to the cruelty of the adult world.

Still, Arrietty isn’t a tragedy, so there’s an ultimately uplifting ending in store if you’ve never seen this one 🙂

4 Stars

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) (Season 2, 11)

No Guns Life (Nō Ganzu Raifu) 2020

After a fairly large recap for an intro, and a bit of recapping within that kinda impacted the pacing for me, the fight between Juzo and Seven kicks up a notch or two.

At the same time, there was a little widening of the focus to bring in other players too, and to give Pepper a chance to make a mess of things.

Maybe there are a few cracks in Seven’s resolve too, enough to weaken him – but I think the most important thing I picked up with episode was basically confirmation that those two have essentially gone rogue.

Not much else that I think needs highlighting for me, other than my feeling that the over-sized arms as weapons could be a touch comical… but then, is it really any more odd-ball than guns as heads?

Nope 😀