BEM (2019)

Remakes of classic shows feel risky, since time can divest modern audiences of context, and of course tastes around art styles and technological advancements change the visual landscape so quickly.

And here we have BEM, a remake created as part of a 50 year anniversary, and so the characters have been around a little while 🙂

Doubly so, that risk I’ve been thinking about seems to stand true for an international audience unfamiliar with the original (which was definitely me) but I took a chance on BEM because I like the supernatural and science-fiction genres.

And while I haven’t seen the 1968 nor the 2006 versions of BEM, I’m quite curious to do so now.

At the core of the series is a struggle for identity and belonging, combined with the Pinocchio quest – a favourite plot in anime for decades.

Here’s a quote adapted from wiki on the premise:

Even though Bem, Bela and Belo (three yokai) are often abused and discriminated against by other human beings due to their appearance, they still strive to protect the human populace of their city from other monsters, one day hoping to become human beings in return for their good actions.

On that note, the theme of ‘becoming human’ is one I craved a little more of in the anime* but it’s definitely present, as the three leads each face doubts about their desire to change.

While they explore the dream, there is a ‘monster of the week’ episodic feel to the early half of the anime, giving us time to get to know the yokai, and I probably enjoyed these episodes better in part because when the ‘big bad’ was at last revealed and brought in to the narrative, it was maybe a little late. She had less impact for me.

On the other hand, the designs were memorable and the action was fun and the themes of discrimination were welcome (depressing as they could be) as it added another aspect to the anime. In this, I imagine there’s a clear link back to the original, surely.

But getting back to the idea of risk, another thing I noticed were the 1960s kinda character designs that remained.

I reckon the artists would have wanted to update things without destroying the original designs.

To me it worked overall for sure, but two things struck me – the most obvious being Bela’s change from adult to teen, and the second being the occasional character like the bowling ball bad guy, who felt kinda goofy.


Those issues aside, I finished the short anime interested in more and enjoyed it enough to seek out the film BEM: Become Human, which luckily enough at the time, AnimeLab had on hand.

3 Stars

*The movie definitely does explore this theme in more depth and the animation budget seemed a bigger too.

(Also, I enjoyed the OST from Soil & “Pimp” Sessions, the themes most of all I think).

Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation (Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru)

Beautiful Bones: Sakurako’s Investigation (Sakurako-san no Ashimoto ni wa Shitai ga Umatteiru) 2015

I probably made a bit of a mistake by reviewing this series a fair while after finishing it – I forgot to take notes right after too, so I’m hoping I remember things clearly nevertheless.

Beautiful Bones contains a lot of aspects I enjoy; episodic mystery, slow-reveal backstory, a clever but odd-ball lead, a bit of drama and humour too, and of course, lovely visuals. I wasn’t watching seasonal anime back in 2015 and so this was an anime I’d heard about but not seen until earlier this year.

Okay, as I sometimes do, I’m launching into dot points now, starting with a random list of things I enjoyed:

  • Sakurako and Shoutarou have a good dynamic, the mis-match adds both drama and humour with young Shoutarou having to be the responsible one at times
  • I enjoyed the specific (if morbid, I guess) forensic elements about bones
  • Gran is a stand out 🙂
  • The source of the cursed painting was a great reveal
  • Interesting to see the ‘beautiful but cruel’ character type in Sakurako softened by her obsession with osteological matters
  • Features some tough themes
  • Settings were detailed and lovely, as were objects (it’s always interesting to see just how much of budgets in other shows seem to be devoured by action sequences)

In contrast, I did have three quibbles to note:

  • Because Beautiful Bones is only one short season, the main villain never quite goes beyond “lurking menace”. Excellent set-up for a future season though… should one ever occur
  • Feels like the ED overcompensates for not being able to put heaps of fan-service in the actual show
  • In regard to the final episode – I think I like it, even though I might not have been satisfied. Sakurako’s past and present were just about converging but without enough episodes not much came of it, and so the conclusion becomes about resolving a different problem. Without spoilers, I think it still gave a sense of closure to the season but I was expecting something different.

So, should you check this series out one day?

Well, if you like any of the things I’ve mentioned further above, and if you can accept an ending that doesn’t deliver many answers, then probably yeah 😀 I’ve not seen anything else from Troyca but to me everything looks great.

Beautiful Bones is hardly an old series either, and so it’d be easy enough to find. I will add that, despite the young co-lead, the anime is obviously not aimed at younger audiences.

4 Stars



The Wonderland (Bāsudē Wandārando) 2019

Even as I type this, I’m sick of my own go-to thought being something like ‘compare this one to Ghibli’, because that’s lazy of me.

Moreover, Studio Ghibli hasn’t released a non-CGI feature for six years or so. And nor do they own ‘awe and whimsy’. No studio does, of course! (Having said that, I know Wonderland has been compared to Ghibli and Miyazaki films in particular.)

But it is different in terms of tone and execution.


The Wonderland is an old-school portal fantasy (or ‘Isakei’ to use the anime lingo) where characters are led into a fairy-tale world (rather than a game), which makes sense considering that it’s based on a children’s story from 1988*.

And the world that Akane and her aunt must save is a real draw for me since it’s got plenty of surprises and fun, whimsical settings, characters and moments. There’s also a classic ‘reluctant hero’ plot and it’s nice to see Akane quickly become less selfish as the story progresses.

(Of course, there’s an understandable reluctance – being asked to save a magical world you never knew existed would be worrisome to say the least).

As much as I enjoyed most of the film, there was something missing from the narrative. Perhaps strong ties to the central problem Akane is being asked to solve? Or maybe I wanted more from the villain too?

Still, the art and animation was beautiful and Chii was an interesting addition to the leads, and so I didn’t mind. And there were funny moments to balance the menacing ones too (without spoilers) like with Akane and the cats or Hippocrates’ transformation.

The Wonderland is aimed at younger audiences but it’s not G-rated either, so there’s violence but I don’t actually remember blood. Having noted the target audience, I found it interesting that an adult from the real world was allowed to come along for the adventure, which is kinda rare in YA fiction.

Directed by Keiichi Hara, (Miss Hokusai), this adaption was only released a few years ago now but I don’t remember hearing about it, not back then and not very often now either. I’m curious if anyone else had a chance to see it?

Maybe 4 Stars is a little generous in terms of a rating but for me, in a visual medium the visuals sometimes make up for other issues 😀

*Chikashitsu Kara no Fushigi na Tabi (Strange Journey from the Basement) by Sachiko Kashiwaba

Tiger & Bunny

Tiger & Bunny (2011)

Ah, superheroes who have problems beyond saving the world.

This is an ‘old’ series now, (first airing back in 2011) featuring a lot of comedy and action, typical of the genre, and both things that are definitely pluses for me. Having said that, my knowledge of superhero texts is very much limited, and to decades past, so I won’t be trying to contextualise things here.

I ended up binge-watching large chunks of the show because the story beats were spot on, and I was quickly invested in the world and the human struggles of the leads.  

Kotetsu is my fav, not just because I like Hiroaki Hirata’s work or the buddy-cop arc with Barnaby, but because Kotetsu pushes back the hardest against the corporations and their vacuum of values.

And while half the time you watch the anime you’re shouting at Kotetsu to do the right thing by his daughter, he’s definitely the kind of guy who will live up to his own convictions.

If you haven’t seen Tiger & Bunny but are planning to, I think that if you’re like me, before you get invested with the characters you’ll be hooked on the world itself.

The superheroes are basically competing with each other to maintain their corporate sponsorship, and so there are constraints placed upon them beyond the scope of their powers.

Commercial pressures and obligations to their ‘owners’ weigh heavy and so you have the heroes doing product placement and side projects to generate revenue for the corporations. It’s a bit like Idol + Superhero, something I personally hadn’t seen a whole lot of before.

A few quick dot points before I wrap up the review:

  • I hope Lunatic gets some more time in the new season as he is an interesting antagonist
  • Transforming the word ‘Barnaby’ into ‘Bunny’ is pretty good 😀
  • The slow thaw between Kotetsu and Barnaby is another high-point in the storytelling
  • Great opening theme song
  • The CGI hasn’t aged too much
  • I really liked the sleek mech-costumes for our leads too

Tiger & Bunny isn’t flawless of course (very few things are, right?) and there are a few cheap shots at the expense of Fire Emblem’s homosexuality, even sort of painting him as a harasser, which sucked.

You’ve also got the typical anime/superhero costuming which is both a plus and a minus – thinking about Blue Rose or Barnaby here I guess, but neither are one-note characters and there is a kind of ‘equal opportunity’ approach to fan service at times, lol.

Overall, plenty to enjoy if you like the genre and I’m definitely seeking the films next.

4 Stars

Gingitsune

Gingitsune (2013)

Okay, time for a short-ish review!

I know I’ve said this before, but sometimes I dislike using the word ‘sweet’. Mostly because I worry that it has dismissive connotations or that it suggests a lack of tension, or stakes. And that’s not the case in Gingitsune for me.

Maybe ‘feel-good’ or ‘uplifting’ is better for a description of tone in this short series? If I was pressed in terms of genre (beyond supernatural or fantasy) I’m thinking of that blurred line between Slice of Life and Drama.

The main draw for me was the grumpy-but-caring Gintaro (messenger to the fox god Inari) and his relationship with heroine Makoto, the young shrine maiden. Their quarrels and triumphs were great and Gintaro’s obsession with oranges was always funny.

I also enjoyed the Shinto aspects. I’m not very familiar with that cultural aspect of Japan at all and so it was great to learn a little about it, even in the fictionalised context of an anime.

Notwithstanding the tediously jealous Hura, the characters are all cute and fun and I liked the episodic nature of the stories too, along with those beautiful backgrounds – of which I’ve shared only a few.

So, if any of the above sounds like your thing and you’ve not come across Gingitsune before then consider finding it because I reckon it’s pretty great 🙂

4 Stars

The Other Top Ten?

Last year I was doing posts for a so-called ‘liquid’ top ten, meant to suggest that it was kind of a flexible, ever-changing list etc etc

Maybe a year or more after starting the posts I think there’s not enough movement for me to make them quarterly… however, what about numbers 11 – 20?

Well, today is one post about those anime 🙂

(You can click here to see the most recent Top Ten and some of the parameters I set for myself but below is for different shows).


The Other Top Ten (11-20) But Not Ranked


Megalobox (+ Nomad) (2018 / 2021)
Samurai Champloo (2004)
Full Metal Alchemist (2003)
Haikyuu!! (2014)
Ushio & Tora (2015)
Pyscho-Pass (2012)
RahXephon (2002)
Witch Hunter Robin (2002)
Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad (2004)
Vision of Escaflowne (1996)


Now, maybe I’m cheating by counting ‘Megalobox/Nomad’ as one entry, but I see them as two parts of one story (obviously) and so I’m keeping them in 😀

Perhaps later I’ll do a few thoughts on each (if I haven’t already done so before). Maybe framed around why they didn’t quite make it to the Top Ten, rather than too much on why I like ’em.

And like last time, I’m always looking for classics to add to the list and so if anything you think I’d like is missing, I’d love to hear about it!

Ride Your Wave (Kimi to, Nami ni Noretara)

A quick review for Ride Your Wave (Kimi to, Nami ni Noretara) 2019.

Romance is one genre that I don’t have a lot of knowledge about so I can’t compare Ride Your Wave to many other films but I definitely enjoyed it. Maybe in part due to the fantastical elements that supported the romance?

That said, the central romantic plot certainly has a few twists and turns and one complication seems like the kind that would definitely end a relationship… but without spoilers, Minato and Hinako do remain connected afterwards.

Throughout Ride Your Wave there’s plenty of drama, not too much angst and enough funny moments to balance out the sadder parts too. I also enjoyed the kinda gangly character designs, they stood out for me, adding to the sense of characters fumbling through their relationships.

I do remember beginning to see Yōko as a complete villain but she’s not one dimensional.

At the end, there’s a big, pretty exciting final set-piece and it really extends the surf theme while neatly marrying in the fire-fighting – probably my other favourite aspect. (And the summer setting is both warm, bright and most welcome when I think back on it, especially as winter is really digging in here at the moment).

I haven’t seen much by Masaaki Yuasa yet (just ‘Happy Machine’ from Genius Party), and I really enjoyed Ride Your Wave, so I will definitely seek out some of his other films now too.

4 Stars

Brave 10

Brave 10 (2012)

Brave 10* was definitely fun but maybe not super-memorable.

Or at least, it never got a chance to become too memorable for me – since as with a lot of anime series that are only 12 or so episodes long, there’s just not enough time to tell those stories with a more epic scope.

And Brave 10 was leading up to some bigger conflicts for sure but it only had time to present an opening salvo.

Still, the season is not given an awful cliff-hanger ending, so if you want a short, supernatural ninja series with a lot of action, some angst and a conclusion, then Studio Sakimakura/TMS Entertainment definitely deliver.

I know I haven’t actually said much about the story or characters but to be brief – in Brave 10 a wandering ninja ends up protecting a shrine maiden who is more than she seems and in time there’s a shift toward the ‘drawing the team together’ plot, in order to prepare for a big struggle that sort of occurs.

And while Saizō wasn’t as interesting as some of the other characters, I liked Yukimura a lot and I know his role would have expanded in future seasons, so that’s a shame. (On the note of characters I can’t figure the motive behind the story playing coy with Kamanosuke – for laughs or to kinda rebel against social labels?)

To switch from my regrets to a positive, I do like costume dramas (and other historical elements) and in Brave 10 certainly Isanami and Yukimura (among others) get to show off their threads. Overall, I shouldn’t complain precisely, as I certainly finished the anime and would have watched more to hopefully see Yukimura’s plans come together.

3 Stars

*Drawing from the ‘Sanada Ten Braves’.

Abandoned #10 (Lupin III Part 4, Space Adventure Cobra, Cannon Busters, Space Dandy & The Future Diary)

While I procrastinate/struggle to finish my Perfect Blue review I thought I’d whip up another of my ‘Abandoned’ posts 😀

Standard disclaimer as usual: not ruling out one day returning to any of these… one day, someday etc etc

Lupin III Part 4

This one is probably not deserving of being in the list – just feel like I need to finish Part 2 and Part 3 before I start the Italian Adventure.

Space Adventure Cobra (1980s series)

I was enjoying the tweaking of ‘We Can Remember It for You Wholesale’ in the first episode, but maybe I actually spent too long comparing the series to the film, which seemed stronger overall.

One day I reckon I’ll finish this.

Cannon Busters

I wanted to like Cannon Busters more than I did but I think I only reached episode 3.

The setting and characters, the premise, even the very vague Trigun-feel to some aspects, all of those things should have been something I’d enjoy but I’m having trouble putting my finger on exactly what didn’t work for me.

Another case of my own expectations getting in the way? It might have been the writing itself actually… I’m still thinking about it now.

Space Dandy

I didn’t actually finish episode one here. I was thinking of a single word to describe why I didn’t keep going, and maybe it’s because Space Dandy struck me as ‘juvenile’.

Usually, I really enjoy parodies and I’ve loved every other work by Shinichirō Watanabe that I’ve seen, and so I really feel like I ought to give this another try in the future.

The Future Diary

The concept really caught my attention – different people having access to their own or other folks’ futures but only seeing ahead for a few minutes at a time.

It seemed like a great way to keep a lid on the naturally occurring difficulties with time travel stories but by the end of the first episode I realised the structure was probably going to be a ‘plot-fodder’ one, with a heap of disposable characters.

(And by ‘plot-fodder’ I’m doing a silly opposite of ‘plot-armour’ :D).

Kokkoku

Kokkoku (2018)

This time, I want to start the review by saying that I wish there had been a bit of extra foreshadowing leading up to the ending to Kokkoku

….but that’s about it when it comes to aspects I remember feeling disappointed over.

Kokkoku: Moment by Moment is a mix of mystery, science-fiction and maybe even supernatural suspense, and is one that plays out in a relatively small setting; just a few homes and streets, really.

And that narrowing of place and space adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere that quickly builds as each episode raises the stakes for the Yukawa family. To contrast this sense of the ‘small’ is a somewhat large cast, with the intersecting goals of a fair few characters meeting and clashing in a supernatural cage of disturbing stillness.

But I’m jumping around a bit I think – to finally maybe give context to what I’ve said above, I’ll share a blurb adapted from Wikipedia:

The anime tells the story of Juri Yukawa, who during a kidnapping of her nephew and brother, discovers that her grandfather can stop time using a mysterious stone and more, that he can move freely when time is standing still.

It’s a premise that suggests the kind of child-like fantasy of youth – ‘what if I could go anywhere or do anything without anyone seeing me?’ etc etc but Kokkoku shows a far more lonely and troubling place at times.

And from that rescue attempt mentioned in the blurb, the audience gets to learn a lot about Juri and her grandfather especially. I wouldn’t say the show is a character study though, as there’s plenty of plot-based tension when the Yukawa family discovers that other, more unsavory people hold the same ability.

It was nice to see a range of faces and character designs too, compared to say the generic choice of only having young, flawless heroes (as in a lot of anime over the decades) but the thing I liked the most here was probably the uncertainty. I was rarely confident about exactly what would happen next, which was fun. 

Due to all the time the characters spend in stasis, I guess calling Kokkoku a ‘time-travel’ story isn’t quite right, but the principle is the same – the anime is exploring time and our relation to it.

Kokkoku also felt like it made room for a few moral questions but the speculative elements are the main focus. I also liked the kinda muted colour-scheme Geno Studio* used too, which added to the sense of realism within the unreal.

But I think I’ve rambled long enough – maybe I won’t watch this every year like some other favourites, but I’m glad I’ve seen it 🙂

4 Stars

* Perhaps best known for Golden Kamuy.