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

Deca-Dence (Dekadansu)

If you are super-keen to see what I thought about specific episodes of Deca-Dence I was writing weekly, back when the show aired, and those posts start over here. (That first post contains a few predictions, of which I was half-correct about from memory.)

Deca-Dence (Dekadansu) 2020

Here, I’ll say that I really enjoyed Deca-Dence.

It had lots of things that I seek in a show; science-fiction, action, secrets and even a tiny adventure feel (sans exploration). Of course I liked the characters too, as people such as Natsume and Kaburagi were easy to root for in their fight against an unjust system.

Really enjoyed the setting too, despite some elements that seemed to clash…

Deca-Dence was popular during screening – a bit polarising also – and so if you haven’t had a chance to see it yet, and you’ve also somehow managed to avoid spoilers, I wanted to mention that I’ll have some below.

Plenty of us have expressed disappointment over the big reveal.

The vivid clash between art styles that becomes clear once you see the truth about the cyborgs and their cruel ‘game’ was a surprise for sure. In time, I guess I did adjust to the visuals but it really did take a few episodes. The cute designs and flat or bright colours maybe functioned as a disturbingly cheerful veneer, but for me it did undercut the tone of the story too.

There was also a storytelling choice that I still can’t decide how I responded to – namely, when the audience got the truth vs when our main POV character Natsume was let in on the game.

I think it would have hit me harder if I’d learned what was going on when she did (around episode 9 or so I think) but on the other hand, there was a different tension afforded to me after learning what was going on so early in the series. I was a few steps ahead of Natsume and that caused different worries and so I was still engaged.

And in the end, I thought Deca-Dence was heaps of fun both to watch and to write about.

Even if I still want a sequel series to see our heroes go out and explore the world, there’s definitely a clear and satisfying resolution to the Deca-Dence, so if you take a look you won’t be left hanging after episode 12.

(And Pipe is cute too.)

4 Stars

DECA-DENCE (12)

Deca-Dence 2020

Yay for a big finish!

So, whether some things were easy to predict in the finale doesn’t matter so much to me, since they were fun, and I got an upbeat ending too! Plus, my curiosity is high now, upon seeing the changes in the aftermath.

Interestingly, I enjoyed this ending more than that of the other show I’m currently writing about on an episode-by-episode basis, which is No Guns Life.

I am also (due to the length of time and repeat exposure perhaps) growing accustomed to the visuals of “Tanker + Cyborg within the one frame” now, so I guess I’m onboard fully, despite much initial resistance 😀

And, based on the ending, I can see room for more story and I wonder if – based on this interview that Lyn mentioned to me on twitter, maybe a film sequel in the future?

(It was fun to review a seasonal show as it streamed, but I don’t know if I could handle doing two this October. Maybe just one will be enough :D)

BECK (Mongolian Chop Squad) Bekku

Beck (Mongolian Chop Squad) 2004

For a while there I was on a real supernatural binge but I soon shifted to quite the nostalgia trip, hurling myself down memory lane.

So far, that has involved watching a lot of 80s and 90s anime but more specifically, a lot of coming of age things. Last month that included Kids on the Slope and Almost Famous and more recently, I’ve finished Beck (Mongolian Chop Squad).

Here’s the premise from wikipedia:

[Beck] tells the story of a group of teenagers who form a rock band and their struggle to fame, focusing on 14-year-old Yukio “Koyuki” Tanaka, who until meeting guitar prodigy Ryusuke Minami was an average teen with a boring life.

Poor Koyuki – that absolute joy, right before bitter misfortune.

And things for Koyuki definitely do get more interesting – he goes through all the classic coming-of-age storytelling markers; love, betrayal, doubt, loss, jobs and success. And because he’s a nice kid, the significant musical success he achieves doesn’t leave him with a monstrous ego. (There are also plenty of scenes showing Koyuki and the band putting the work in, which is great).

Beck uses a fair amount of serial storytelling, but it is all leading to something big – it’s more the sub-plots which have that feel. And there’s a good share of school drama on hand but the music and interpersonal relationships within the band take more of a front seat. Secondary, is probably the stop-start, romantic sub-plot, between Koyuki and Maho.

[Minor spoilers from here on in]: The episodes build really well to the big festival, where one of the more feel-good scenes happen, and it was interesting to see that uplifting conclusion undercut by the ‘break up’. Of course, there was time for another shift in the storyline but because I’d grown to care for the characters, I wished that the tour had been more ‘on screen’ rather than shown in montage, but I can see, since the anime only had one season, that the tour had to be compressed.

Time to switch to dot points:

  • I’ve seen a few complaints about the character design in my reading up on the series, but I think they’re distinctive, even if the animation doesn’t appear as seamless as in other shows.
  • Pretty much everything about the band feels spot on – players moving in and out of the group as ‘real life’ pressures kill dreams, the rivalry with other groups, the small steps with first gigs, the hard work that has to happen, it’s all there!
  • For those of you who dislike love triangles, Beck almost has one, but it’s more of a bittersweet realisation of change, and it gets ‘solved’ in a sensible way, which I liked.
  • Saitou provides most of the comedic moments – he’s hyperbolic and at times a bit ‘off’, but has more than one dimension at least.
  • Since Sakuishi’s manga started in 1999 you’ll probably note a lot of references to 1990s rock and metal music throughout, and RATM fans will see more thanone clear homage too, all of which was fun to pick up on.
  • Koyuki might seem a little meek in some ways… and yet, he’s really not, especially if you consider the swimming pool and the Dying Breed gig for just two examples.
  • In terms of the sub vs dub, I think most folks will enjoy the songs more in the dub.
  • Related to this, I like the way that some of the English that Maho and her friends use (and her brother at times) isn’t always given subtitles in the sub. That way, if you don’t speak fluent English, just like Koyuki, then you’ll experience the same uncertainty he does, which is an important part of the romantic sub-plot.
  • While Leon is supposedly the film’s primary antagonist, I think the real villain just might be Ryusuke, whose secrets and tantrums often threaten band and even the lives of his friends. Seriously, he has redeeming qualities but oh boy.
  • And yeah, part of that last one is me wanting teens to act like well-adjusted adults, when it’s never that simple when you’re growing up; it’s hard work, and more, the mistakes the characters make fuel the story and the drama after all 🙂

Okay, I’ve likely missed some things I wanted to mention but I think that’s enough for now.

Ultimately, I doubt I can fully separate my memories and associated feelings around being young and playing in bands with the show itself – but even if you’ve never joined a rock band, Beck will probably still satisfy so long as you enjoy coming of age/teen dramas (and hard rock and certain metal sub-genres in general).

Thanks to Curtis for the reminder about this series too!

5 Stars

Review Count: 147 (I thought I might mark my 150th review, so I’m counting down at the moment).

DECA-DENCE (11)

Deca-Dence 2020

Stakes are definitely getting higher – as they probably should, now that the season draws closer to its end.

And while the new Gadoll threat brings with it not just echoes of the God Warriors in Nausicaa, but also a horde of offspring to trouble the Tankers and Gears alike, I still found myself enjoying the comedic bits most.

Again, I’m hoping that next season there will be a chance for characters to explore a bit but for now, it feels like the episode is using the pause before the big showdown to offer a few light moments.

Kurenai’s drinking was one of course, and the mistaken identity moment, but I’m mostly thinking about Natsume and her reaction to seeing the cyborgs, plus her attempt to imagine what Kaburagi really looks like. I won’t spoil it here, but I definitely laughed.

(It was also satisfying to be offered a small resolution for he and Minato, and I remain very curious about Jill’s past. Ready to see how the gambit she and Kaburagi have come up with plays out too.)

However, I spent a bit of time after the episode thinking about stuff ‘behind the curtain’ as it were, re: the way both Natsume and the viewer are being eased into the eventual moment when she and Kabu finally meet face-to-face.

I still think the two art styles are not complimentary… but this interview with some of the Deca-Dence team explains nicely why the ‘cute’ choice was made, and intellectually I like the reasoning, but at a gut-level I feel the clash between the two styles.

Anyway, to finally get to the point – I like this episode’s approach to revealing the cyborgs for several reasons, one because we get to see Natsume process the idea of cyborgs in general first, and two, this implies that she won’t have to ‘waste’ time doing too much adjusting when she does see Kaburagi in the next episode, which I think will need to pack a lot in to set up the next season.

And finally, I liked it because this way, we didn’t have to rush her onscreen response to the cyborgs either, as might have happened if it was part of the final ep.

A little sad that next week is the final installment for now, but also feeling a touch relieved because I don’t know if I’m cut out for reviewing multiple seasonal shows at once 😀

DECA-DENCE (10)

Deca-Dence 2020

Another short post – I’ve little to complain about, an episode to take stock and to process things is exactly what I was hoping for.

And as you may have seen elsewhere online, this is a classic shot from the car – I couldn’t avoid including it 🙂

Ultimately I don’t think I have much to say again – after the reflection, things started to build up again, especially at the end, with a new rather large threat. I was also excited to see that there was time for a little back story re: Natsume’s father, something I’ve been curious about for a long time.

I remain hopeful that next season there will be some exploration of the real world – maybe that’s the end point here, as whoever survives what’s coming, set off to find something else?

DECA-DENCE (9)

Deca-Dence 2020

Since I’m so far behind this week, I think this will be a far shorter post than usual when it comes to me and seasonal shows!

So, a big moment at the end of this episode, with a fair bit more action than we’ve seen lately, which was fun. And while I felt bad for Natsume, who will surely struggle to deal with the truth, I wonder if there are any big reveals left for the viewer?

We’ve been ‘ahead’ of the human characters for a long while now, so I’m interested to see whether the show will instead serve up some shocks for the cyborgs.

For instance, has this storytelling structure now lulled me into a false sense of confidence? I think I know what’s going on because I seem to know as much as Kaburagi, who in turn knows more than the humans… and then, suddenly when he gets hit with a surprise, I do too?

I feel a cruel cliffhanger coming at the end of this season!

DECA-DENCE (8)

Deca-Dence 2020

Apologies – it seems I have little insight to offer, and not much in the way of predictions either, but I’m still enjoying the series more than enough to keep watching.

Reunions are always fun – and in this case there was a bit of humour too, but I think my favourite part was the new menace Hugin gained via his avatar. Both his speed and posture really added something that was missing from his box-like cyborg form. (And Jill obviously has a few secrets too :)).

It still feels like there’s plenty of scope for multiple seasons here, so I really hope that’s possible because the team of heroes have more than enough in the way of challenges building up now, as pressure is starting to build from multiple angles.

Meet Minato

DECA-DENCE (7)

Deca-Dence 2020

Again, it’s early in the season for me to make any kinda claim, but this one feels like a real stand out episode.

It felt like a great mix of action, intrigue and character development and even though I didn’t dislike the last episode, I enjoyed this more. Perhaps due to all the time spent with the humans. (Related, I have some lingering apprehension toward the moment Natsume meets cyborg-Kabu).

It was also interesting to see the fear and/or cowardice play out in Natsume’s friends and acquaintances. And maybe I’m being a little hard on those characters, but the restoration scene was uplifting, and a great contrast for Kaburagi’s frustrations.

Keen to see how his plan works out, and what obstacles are thrown in his path. (I have also come to believe that my hope for our heroes to go out and explore the world is probably not on the cards, I think this season will be focused on the fortress.)

DECA-DENCE (6)

Deca-Dence 2020

In an inversion for the season so far, it’s Kaburagi’s world where we spend most of our time with episode six.

And it’s the grimier, ‘shittier’ part of the neon-toyland that he must deal with now, after facing some consequences. Whoever has intervened on his behalf has me curious too, wondering and hoping that it’s someone we haven’t met yet.

Plenty of tension too and next week should be fun to see him do his best to get things back on track.

It was nice to catch a glimpse of the Gadoll production too, where we also met some sort of creep. Feels like he’s a secondary antagonist… but we’ll see!