Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song

Vivy made me wonder whether great art, exhilarating fight sequences, catchy songs and fun costume changes with engaging characters were enough for me to say yep, 5 stars – even in spite of some disappointment with the plot.

Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song (2021)

(In the end, it doesn’t matter whether I finish the review with a 4 or 5 star rating, or any other number, but apparently I enjoy overthinking and so I’m still not sure about a score :D)

Anyway, getting back to Vivy itself– if you’ve been craving time-travel science fiction and action that looks great (with an interesting compression of a 100-year timeline) then there should be more than enough to keep you watching.

And there was for me – I looked forward to each new episode and in addition, it was really fun to see the show via Karandi’s posts too.

Ah, the wrist-grab trope

Occasionally, I felt some of the jumps in time were a bit sharp and Matsumoto can be hard work to listen to, though those were minor issues for me. Again, I personally find it easy enough to overlook aspects I didn’t enjoy when the visuals are great and WIT studio lives up to their reputation here, I reckon.

While there are a few threads / mini arcs that I preferred over others, I think I’ll quickly mention some fav scenes or smaller aspects instead:

  • The robot welcome in the factory stood out, nice way to humanise them and also kinda manipulate the audience
  • The ‘falling’ fight scene in episode 9 is pretty ace
  • Gradual thawing of Vivy’s personality works really well
  • OP is a cool song
  • I also enjoyed the little bit of exploration around possible rights/privileges of non-humans (robot marriage etc)

Without spoilers, there was a particular point toward the end where the choices of characters (and connected time-travel difficulties) gave me fair pause, and some disappointment there did impact the finale for me.

However, I wouldn’t say I felt the same level of disappointment as with say, The Promised Neverland or Wonder Egg Priority.

And in spite of the issues I had with the last few episodes I liked that time-travel wasn’t something that solved everything neatly, often when Vivy and Matsumoto took action, they found changes harder to make than planned.

In the end, Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song is definitely a show I’d like to add to my collection one day, no doubt about it.

4 Stars

Wonder Egg Priority + Special (Wandā Eggu Puraioriti)

Wonder Egg Priority (Wandā Eggu Puraioriti) 2021

I wrote some of this review not long after the end of episode 12 and it really feels like so much depends on the OVA…

Wonder Egg Priority should feel familiar but also new and exciting at the same time. Everything is intense too, whether it’s the colours, action sequences or storylines, all with that familiar CloverWorks feel.

And while there are a certain amount of ‘power of friendship’ moments the themes are overall dark and at times, maybe handled bluntly – but I wonder how I’d feel, if I were young right now and struggling with tough issues, to see an anime like this that showed kids fighting back, how cathartic and hopeful it might be.

If you decide to watch Wonder Egg here’s a bit of what to expect as per the plot adapted from Wikipedia:

Ai Ohto, a junior high school student, is temporarily not attending school following the suicide of her close friend Koito Nagase. During a late-night walk, Ai finds a gachapon machine that dispenses a “Wonder Egg”. That night, Ai gets drawn into a dream world where the Wonder Egg cracks open to reveal a girl, whom Ai must protect from a horde of monsters called ‘Seeno Evils’.

Ai is an engaging lead and the bonds she forms with her friends are the highlights, even over some fantastic fight sequences and unanswered questions that pull you along. I wanted things to work out for her and the team by the end of the series, a sure sign that things were working as far as I was concerned.

But certainly the show hasn’t satisfied everyone.

A few months ago (at the time of writing this review) there was a bit of online dribble re: ‘casuals’ and the magical girl genre. For me, if you use the word ‘casual’ to disparage someone, I know I never have to take your opinion seriously, because who cares how someone is introduced to an anime or a genre?

Or a game, or an album, or whatever.

… and so I’ll just move right along.

Another thing that I really enjoyed about Wonder Egg Priority was the roster of villains. [Spoilers below]

For me, there are three to choose from in Wonder Egg Priority; a pair and two individuals.

I’ve probably quoted the adage that ‘a hero is only as good as the villain’ in a review before, and Acca and Ura-Acca are indeed bad news; a pair of sock-puppets skillfully manipulating vulnerable kids who enter their desperate circle of selfish madness.

But you are given a chance to understand why they are villains at least, just like the glimpse we get of the ‘role models’ for poor Rika – someone who demonstrates the sad truth that people who are abused can become abusers themselves.

Frill is the villain with the least amount of screen time, and while her role in the present of the anime remains unclear, her flashback episode is certainly memorable. In fact, that single episode is as confronting as any other in the series can be, and remains one of my favourites, both visually and in terms of having a self-contained storyline.

I believe I might purchase Wonder Egg one day, because I liked enough of it to do so, and I don’t want to reduce this show to its flaws because, it’s a lot more than that.

However, I can’t finish the review without mentioning the special.

… and I don’t want to pile on here, but boy, after a 25+ minute recap at the beginning, my expectations did plummet pretty swiftly.

The final episode (delayed during the original run of the show) definitely achieves a label of ‘unforgettable’ for me.

It disappointed a lot of folks of course, and I found it hard to separate my negative feelings in general, from what the story was actually showing me in episode thirteen.

The special does offer an ending and follows through on some of the earlier foreshadowing, but also raises new plot points perhaps a little too late. I will address one criticism I’ve read about the special, which is that Rika abandons Neiru too quickly, when she learns that her friend is AI.

To me, that behaviour is 100% consistent with a character that called an overweight fan a ‘wallet’.

Thinking back, I don’t think I actually enjoyed the episode very much but I’m glad there is an ending.

Because like so many viewers, I grew to wonder just how much abuse were staff members being put through by the industry (and us as fans?), both via criminal working conditions and unrealistic expectations?

And now I think to myself, should I even keep consuming media that is so obviously burning out artists left, right and centre? I have no answer and being powerless to change things is not an enjoyable feeling. And it’s in so many industries too, certainly not just anime.

Until things change, I should do more to support artists directly – just have to figure out how.

Wonder Egg Priority might end up being remembered more for its heroines, or for the special, or maybe as a show that highlights awful, awful working conditions in the animation industry and for me, I definitely end up associating it with all three when I think of it now.

It feels like over the next few decades (and now of course), it could be regarded as more than the sum of its flaws.

Nasu: Summer in Andalusia (Nasu: Andarushia no Natsu)

I end up spoiling the ending to this OVA just below these first pics, and so if Nasu is on your list then maybe read no further! Otherwise, I’m going to mention probably my fav part about this cycling drama, which is something that happens at the end.

Nasu: Summer in Andalusia (Nasu: Andarushia no Natsu) 2003

Nasu follows pro cyclist Pepe over the course of a single race on the day his older brother marries his ex.

The narrative describes this as Angel having ‘stolen’ Carmen, though she seems perfectly happy – but what I enjoyed was the fact that at the end of the anime Pepe obviously hasn’t forgiven either of them.

Is it petty of him? Warranted maybe?

I can’t decide, because in the OVA I suspect we don’t get the full context (compared to the source material perhaps) but I was sort of pleasantly surprised that there was no use of the ‘forgiveness no matter what’ theme in Nasu.

(And apparently I was so surprised that I’ve got another paragraph about it below, lol.)

It’s possible I expected that trope to appear due to the unwavering support Pepe receives from everyone while he races through the hills outside, and eventually through his hometown, in a compelling race featuring multiple threads. But the theme didn’t show up and I thought that was an interesting move, story-wise.

But getting back to the race itself, it’s not just Pepe vs the other riders, it’s Pepe vs the oppressive heat, vs his own limitations, vs his dream of escape, vs his lingering resentment and even the threat of being fired by his sponsor.

At only 45 minutes long I never felt a lag and throughout the OVA, the art and animation both felt top notch with a nice blend of 2D and subtle CGI to keep things dynamic perhaps – especially once the race hits town.

You’ve probably noticed from the screen caps that there’s a fair Studio Ghibli feel to the colours and character designs, and that might be because Kitarō Kōsaka* directs, and aside from that, his experience really shows in every aspect of the anime.

As a bonus, while knowing nothing about pro cycling prior to watching, I learnt a little during the course of the anime, perhaps enough to better understand a real life race were I to watch one.

Having said that, I don’t think you need to be a cycling fan to enjoy this – it’s a great, short drama with a vibrant setting and tension-filled race…

… and yet, is the cat really called Negro?

4 Stars

The Daughter of Twenty Faces (Nijū Mensō no Musume)

The Daughter of Twenty Faces (Nijū Mensō no Musume) 2008

This (loose?) adaptation of Edogawa Ranpo’s ‘Kogoro Akechi’ detective stories really becomes two different shows for me, with the first third being far superior. Not that the last half or ending is poor, but the focus becomes a bit muddled I reckon.

But is any of it outright ‘bad’? Not at all.

And I think if you like adventure stories and heists, then The Daughter of Twenty Faces should do the trick. (It also has plenty of daring escapes and fun action sequences from late 2000s-era Bones too.)

Thinking back, I remember that the first episode almost had me give up on the show – I won’t spoil why, but pay-off is worthwhile, I reckon.

In fact, the anime throws out a few twists and turns as you follow the clever Chizuko through the post-war Shōwa era on her quest to find the truth about the mysterious benefactor who operates as something of a surrogate father.

Twenty Faces and his crew, especially Ken, stand out as co-leads/supporting characters (and so does Tome, perfectly demonstrating heroism without brawn) and as much as I enjoyed the surprises and larger scope of the story, I’ll probably watch this again one day for the characters themselves.

[Spoilers below]

When it comes to a few things that stand out as disappointing, I will say that the decision to simply do away with almost the entire cast after about episode 6… well, I’m still of two minds about it.

Clearly, it works wonderfully to force Chiko to become more independent but it seemed also a way to place her into a generic school setting, to make sure certain manga arcs could be animated?

It really slashed into the tension and introduced tangents that weren’t as interesting to me as the main storyline.

My subtitles were a little hit-and-miss too, so I didn’t quite pick up on the full dialogue toward the final few episodes, but one day a re-issue might sort that out 😀

Despite my grumbling about those issues, I liked The Daughter of Twenty Faces due to the characters and the storytelling, and still find myself wondering how it was received ‘all the way’ back in 2008.

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

Yugo: The Negotiator (Yuugo: Kōshōnin)

Yugo: The Negotiator (Yuugo: Kōshōnin) 2004

I think all lists that include ‘smartest anime character’ should probably have Yugo in them. And maybe lists ranking ‘most resilient’ ones too for that matter.

Because boy, Yugo really does get put through some tough times here – especially in the first negotiation (episodes 1-6).

But before I continue I’ll include a quick premise from Wikipedia:

The series follows Yugo Beppu, a hostage negotiator, in various cases around the world. Having both a very tough body and determination, and his keen insight, Yugo often goes to great lengths to rescue those he was asked to help.

Yugo doesn’t feel like a typical anime to me. Perhaps it’s due to the settings and its lead character, Yugo, or the overall tone.

I think there’s a carefulness to the show, or a sense of deliberation; the action is often (but not always) more a battle of wills and mental resilience, which sometimes translates to a more static camera but that’s not a drawback for me at all. It allows for extra focus on character, on motivation and even ideology.

All of which I really enjoyed!

Another thing I loved about Yugo: The Negotiator was the fact that the anime gave me a glimpse into other places and times – Pakistan and Russia in the 1990s, though due to the subject matter, it certainly won’t come across like a travel show.

Based on the manga from the 1990s by Shinji Makari and Shuu Akana, Yugo: The Negotiator is basically historical fiction now, so it addresses specific conflicts and events from the past.

It seems very well-researched too, although I didn’t search long and hard on that note – but I did find this great post which talks about representation in the Pakistan arc, which left me curious about thoughts on how the anime depicted Russia too*.

To switch to things that stood out in a less positive way, I did find the OP and ED perhaps a bit too upbeat but maybe that’s a purposeful contrast?

If you get a chance to watch Yugo, you’ll note that each arc is handled by a different studio – G&G Direction and Artland, resulting in a fair contrast in art styles between negotiations.

On one hand, with G&G Direction in Pakistan there’s a real sense of intense, oppressive heat with a lot of overexposed-looking shots and more washed out colours, whereas the episodes by Artland in Russia are more vivid. There are subtle differences in design too.

Those things weren’t enough to hamper my enjoyment but they’re definitely noticeable.

I finished Yugo very keen to see more negotiations too but that’s probably impossible, whether in anime or manga form… unless I learn to read Japanese. Maybe one day!

Big thanks to Curtis at Iridium Eye Reviews for reviewing this here because without it, I doubt I’d ever have come across this seemingly little-known anime.

5 Stars

*Curtis’ review has a lot of great insights and also some interesting analysis of differences in the details of the script/dub too.

Mirai

Mirai (2018)

This film was kinda hard work.

It’s a family drama with a few fantastical elements but I felt mostly like I was locked inside the tantrum of one small boy for most* of the movie.

Having said that, there are a few wonderful forays into other places and times that expand the setting and add whimsy and also pack emotional weight as well… but for too much of the running time I found myself sitting through scenes of Kun’s jealous whining. (And yeah, he is just a little kid struggling with change, as is the whole family, but I didn’t enjoy it much).

Elsewhere the gender stereotypes are perhaps a little dull and I didn’t finish the movie feeling particularly uplifted, which is something I’ve come to expect from Mamoru Hosoda films. (Having said that, quite obviously not every single film he or any other creator makes has to be uplifting at all.)

Mirai is still visually beautiful and I really enjoyed the variety in the sort of single setting of the home, but the highlights for me were the scenes where Kun meets and learns about his grandfather – I’d watch a whole anime about that in a flash.

Not my favourite Mamoru Hosoda film by any stretch but it certainly might be your thing.

2 Stars

(Cool to hear Tatsuro Yamashita in the opening though).

* Of course, I am exaggerating when I say ‘most’ but it was too much for me.

A-Z Challenge: “N” is for Noragami (2014)

Noragami

This is (another) show that I wanted to tick off my A-Z challenge list and so I’m glad I’ve made a bit more progress on the challenge there, but sadly, it seems that maybe Noragami is a show Bones has abandoned.

I guess the audience didn’t love it enough to buy the merch or other physical items, and obviously, the studio has to follow their cash cows in order to stay afloat in a crowded marketplace… but I left season two of Noragami ready for a third and it probably won’t happen, which bugs me.

Nevertheless, that’s the way it is.

And I should switch to the things I liked about those two seasons – while also attempting to complete a short review for a change 😀

Noragami mixes supernatural action with comedy and drama in an urban (but not grimy) setting that’s kinda shown via the rooftops and telephone wires as much as the shrines and streets, which I loved.

For me, the creatures and magic were always fun and I liked the designs for both them and the humanoid characters, but I think the characters themselves were my fav aspect.

The pacing and reveals (especially around Yato’s past) and storytelling did the work of keeping me hooked, and while I probably enjoyed the first season’s main storyline slightly better, I got a lot of satisfying answers in the second.

The contrast between Yato and Hiyori as leads works a treat for me but I think maybe I was drawn to the side-characters as much as those two – even the sullen Yukine, who is given a nice arc, and is actually a pivotal character that I could have really disliked, but I ended up pretty keen for him to succeed.

I haven’t said much in the way of specifics here perhaps… and so here’s one I wanted to mention: the hierarchy of Gods and the way they operate within the bounds of the human world was a big hook for me.

Hmmm, now that I’m just rolling off things I enjoyed, it might be time to wrap things up and just mention a few last aspects – Ebisu had an interesting close to his storyline, and while I would have loved more from Kofuku and Daikoku, I did get to know a reasonably large cast, which gave the show plenty of variety, I reckon.

If you like action, comedy and supernatural elements around Gods and related deities then this might just hit the spot.

4 Stars

[This is the latest entry in a challenge (that I hope to one day finish), where I have set myself the goal of watching something for each letter of the alphabet – you can see the list over here if curious].

Toward the Terra (1980)

Toward the Terra (1980)

I tend to really enjoy stories that feature big concepts – especially imaginings of the future, and Toward the Terra features both of those things.

While it’s a generational story that skips a few years here and there, the beginning especially gives us a look at an unsettling ‘utopia’, a place boasting order and health but a place where a character might say something like “I’m sick of boys, let’s get a girl next time” and this statement would be perfectly normal.

The repressive society featured in Toward the Terra isn’t the main focus precisely, but it is the structure that our Chosen One (Jomy) must rebel against.

Ultimately, the story is a far-future struggle between humans and Mu (Mu are humans who can use psychic powers) and while the film does feature space battles and struggles, it’s not so much a war between equal and opposing sides, it’s more like a brainwashed humanity seeking to commit genocide upon the Mu.

It can be pretty grim – and while the ‘80s designs and animation might not make some of those things seem as visceral as modern shows could, it’s still compelling.

For me, the time skips I mentioned before suggest that this adaption would have worked really well as a series (and twenty-seven years later maybe it does :D), allowing the story to further explore things like Jomy and Physis for one, but beside that and similar issues related to the huge story and limited running time, I enjoyed Toward the Terra plenty.

4 Stars

Casshern Sins (キャシャーン SINS) (Extra Post)

Here I wanted to share a few more images and go over two things that I mentioned last post, in a tiny bit more detail. It seemed best not to have that post drag on any longer, and so this second post might be better.

First, I’ll include an example of the fight sequence style, second will be that ‘cracking’ effect and as it turns out there’s a “thirdly” further below too – I might just share some final random shots I liked.

So, this one is something you’ll see both Casshern and Lyuze do fairly often – leaping over enemies and tearing into them on the way down, and often wide shots aren’t the focus but instead it’s POV shots looking up.

The sequence will finish with the sliced-in-half moment, as another Redshirt robot bites the dust. (I should have included the preceding moment for this sequence, but it turns out I missed it).

These impact shots are always fun too.

For the second thing I wanted to note, a quick quote from the previous post:

(Sometimes the sharp, ‘snapping’ approach to the Ruin (for robots at least) made me wonder whether Land of the Lustrous and their shattering crystals were accidentally foreshadowed here, which was fun.)

It’s great detail but obviously these stills lack a bit of impact without motion or sound involved, but you get the idea.

And finally, just a few bits and pieces from different parts of the series with a note or two, mostly stuff I wanted to include before but again, I didn’t want that first post to run forever.

I wish this had been followed up a little more in the story.
Sometimes the colour changes to something far warmer than the usual wasteland. Elsewhere, greens are usually avoided.
This song was pretty cool, with the multi-tracked vocals by voice actress Nami Miyahara.

Not precisely the villain, but definitely one of the bad guys, Braiking Boss in his 2008 form and classic form below.

And there we go – second post on Casshern Sins completed!

One day, I’ll link back here when I’ve found and seen the 1973 series, or perhaps I’ll be able to locate the OVA from the 90s first.