As I should have mentioned in my updates post last week, I knew before I even had my future decided that if I came back, it would probably be in early May. I knew that the first anime I’d review would be Berserk, as I did flat out promise it, but I had a lot of ideas swirling around in my head about what my second review should be. For some reason, I was feeling incredibly stupid that day, and I decided to leave my fate up to the internet. I went to the most active Facebook group that I was a part of, and I posted an open poll, asking what title I should hit next.

Now, the option to close out Facebook polls so nobody can troll them is rather recent… I am, at the very least, ONE of the people whose complaints to Facebook lead to this change… But if you’ve dabbled in Facebook polls before, you’d know that the urge to troll open polls has only gotten greater since people were given said option. I knew this, and was fully aware of it, but I didn’t care. I wanted to get trolled. I wanted people to suggest some truly heinous and offensive, or notoriously unwatchable, anime for me to tackle, because I wanted to prove to everyone that I was back and ready for a challenge.

I didn’t add any options myself… I let people add their own options… And thus, I was expecting people to burden me with something like Bible Black, or Twin Angels, or Boku no Pico, or Black Butler… But no, that’s not what happened. I learned a very important lesson that day… Even if you can’t count on people to be assholes, you can always count on them to be stupid. Case in point, the title that won the poll in a landslide, earning at least 4X the votes of the second place option, was Cory in the House. Yeah, if there’s one redeeming quality of the human race, it’s that even when presented with the opportunity to be randomly cruel to someone, they’d still rather be rebelliously idiotic. I don’t know how I wasn’t expecting that.

Don’t worry, my *next* review will be of something heinous.

Now, initially, I was just going to ignore these results, and pretend the poll never happened. The second highest vote-getter was From the New World, a title I actually really like and respect, so I was just going to do that(and I still will, in the future). But then an idea hit me… Fuck it. You guys want me to review Cory in the House, then that’s what I’ll do. It’s an old Disney sitcom that’s only relevant because of a decade-old meme that nobody’s willing to forget about, but doesn’t that, on it’s own, make it part of anime culture? And I’ve reviewed non-anime stuff before, so whatever.

Only, here’s the thing; I’m not going to review it as an anime. I’ve done a little research, and that meta element of the joke has, on it’s own, been beaten into the ground, with nearly all of it’s youtube reviews and Amazon product reviews falling in line, like the very mention of it as an anime is the equivalent of Schwarzenegger impressions… Meaning, it’s a cheap, easy joke that nobody ever laughs at, and it’s rewarding solely for it’s trolling value. Although, I’ve gotta give some credit to the Youtube reviewer who went as far as to connect it to a murder conspiracy. Good effort. No, I decided right then and there that I’d review this title for what it was… An ancient Disney Channel sitcom. Because I hate the human race, and I really don’t think I’ve been showing it enough.

At least, that’s what I thought would happen, but as I would soon find out, this show is really hard to find. There was never a series DVD release, it’s not streaming on Netflix, I don’t have Hulu, and I am NOT resubscribing to TV service just for this. I asked for help online, but of course, all I got in response was trolls naming off anime streaming sites, because you’re all horrible people. I actually checked these sites, too, so I can especially say Fuck you to that.

I eventually found some of the series available on Dailymotion, but in poor quality… Sped up, zoomed in, and all that jazz. I also happened to find one lone DVD that happened to have 4 fan favorite episodes on it, so there, my goal was set. I wasn’t going to watch the full series… I mean, come on, guys, the video quality of that pirated Dailymotion stream is just too painful for me… I was going to watch the pirated first episode, as well as the ones available on the DVD, and hopefully, they’d give me an accurate feel for the series as a whole.

Before we go any further, if there’s anyone still reading at this point who want to make some joke about Cory in the House being an anime, this is where you sod off.  Sod right the fuck off.  I don’t know why I said sod off when I’m obviously perfectly capable of saying fuck, but whatever.  I’m owning it.

Besides, anime is only from Japan, and Cory in the House was animated in America! It doesn’t count!

There, I made a meme joke, and I hope you fucking choke on it.

Anyway, now that I’ve actually watched some of Cory in the House? Well, first of all, you have to take my opinion with a grain of salt, as I only watched the pilot episode and four alleged fan favorites, so if there’s some dark period to the series, I don’t know about it. But from what I did see, honestly, I really like it. I know, right? I’m as surprised as you are. I’ve never seen a Disney sitcom before, outside of the old TGIF line-up, and everything I’d heard about them had prepared me for unlimited cringiness and soulless acting from people who really didn’t want to be there, but I actually enjoyed this.

This is mostly on account of the lead actor, Kyle Massey, who plays the title character, House… Oh wait, that’s Hugh Laurie. Kyle Massey plays Cory, and damn if it if he doesn’t bring his all to the performance. He brings boatloads of energy, charisma and sincerity to the role, so much so that even when the jokes are at their lamest(which, to be fair, happens a lot), he still makes you want to laugh at them. The other main cast members do a hell of a job, too, having a lot of fun with their roles while still putting genuine effort into the material. Some of them were saddled with less than enviable gimmicks, like Jason Dolley, who had to play the stereotypical dumb best friend, but he still came out looking good, mainly due to the fact that his character had the essential benefit of also being laid back and likeable.

I mean, the guy playing Cory’s dad isn’t great, but he’s still way above what I’d normally expect from a Disney sitcom actor.

There are also a few guest stars, particularly in the episodes that I watched, and while they didn’t do anything particularly memorable with George Takei, it’s excusable because their target audience more than likely had no idea who he was. They gave a lot more focus to Raven and The Rock, because of course those names are going to resonate with younger viewers. Rocky had a pleasant reunion with his Game Plan costar Madison Pettis(Who I forgot to mention is also a huge star in this show), and Raven… I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen Raven, but apparently she was psychic? Whatever the case, she put forth just as much effort as Kyle Massey, and the chemistry the two of them together had me rolling.

And despite what I’ve been saying, the writing isn’t all that bad, either. I mean, okay, it’s obviously stupid. Like, dumber than a box of hammers, kind of stupid. But it still kind of works, in it’s own way. One thing I noticed that it’s particularly strong at is the element of planting and pay-off. The Rock episode is probably the best example, as there are almost a dozen things in it that come back later in surprisingly smart ways, but since I don’t want to spoil anything in that episode, I’ll talk about a plot line from the first episode, instead.

Early on, Cory shows us a bobblehead resembling the President, and say he wants to sell them as a product. Now, you might be noticing, this isn’t funny. At all. It just feels kinda weird. Who made that for him, and if he’s that pressed for a get rich quick scheme, how did he pay for it? It’s bad, but due to the show’s strong sense of pace, you quickly forget about it. Or, you would, except that it comes back. While Cory is stuck under the president’s desk(and is forced to lick his hand, pretending to be a dog, which is admittedly painful to watch), his assistant refers to him as “The boy with the bobblehead,” which the president mistakes as meaning that Cory has an actual physically deformed head. That would be funny on it’s own… Congratulations, you saved a bad joke, please teach this art to Mike Myers… But then, at the end of the episode, POTUS gives him a heartfelt speech, detailing his own childhood deformity(just go with it), and without Cory even realizing the mistake, it winds up tying in to the resolution of the episode.

I’m sorry, guys, but I’ve gotta be honest, this show is way too entertaining for it’s legacy to be the fact that a bunch of unimaginative trolls keep dragging it out as a dated meme. I mean yeah, like I said before, I only saw the first episode and a collection of popular episodes, so it goes without saying that I don’t know the series at it’s worst. Hey, for all I know, maybe Donald Trump makes a cameo. It happened in Drew Carrey.

So, to clarify, Cory in the House isn’t quite good enough to justify the hassle you have to go through to watch it, but if you can find a convenient way, go for it. It’s a pretty funny show, and I’d recommend checking it out.

But it’s not a fucking anime.

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At the end of January, due to creative frustration and an over-all lack of hope for the future of this blog, I made the decision to close it’s doors and stop releasing new content. I didn’t know at the time whether I was retiring or just going on hiatus, but I knew that no matter what I did, it was time to take a break, and the 100 review benchmark was the time to do it(I accidentally did 101, but who’s counting).

For the next month and change, I debated with myself where I was going with all this. I’d think about titles I still wanted to review, things I still had to say, chances I was giving up on and all that other fun stuff, but as soon as I’d start thinking about it seriously, I’d come to the same road block: What if nothing changes? What if I go right back into the swing of things, but I never get any further off the ground than I already had?

Around the time of my departure, some bloggers I knew started releasing posts about how hard it can be to blog, and about not giving up, and stuff like that, and while I don’t know if I inspired any of these, I can at the very least say that if I did, then some of them kind of missed the point of why I’d left. One of them said that you shouldn’t judge your work by your follower count, and you shouldn’t set unrealistic goals or expectations for yourself. That’s true, but expecting to break the 100 follower count in less than four years isn’t unrealistic. In fact, taking as long as I did to achieve that mark was kind of an unrealistic failure.

Another post said you shouldn’t compare yourself to bloggers that have been around longer than you… Well, no issue there, because the bloggers I was comparing myself to were all newer than me, and were able to squash my four year subscriber count in less than six months. I think that’s a fair comparison to make.

Anyway, I wasn’t really coming to any decisions fast, but then something happened. It was early march, I was in the middle of a 40 daybreak from anime for this year’s Lent(I played a LOT of Mass Effect Andromeda during this time, which I thought was really cool), and I started thinking about the two quotes I used in my farewell post… “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again,” and “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.”

I then had an epiphany, and it hit me all at once… I didn’t have to give up to try something different. I could keep trying, while changing up my strategy. This, of course, lead to the epiphany that inspired me to post this in the first place: I couldn’t stand the idea of putting in a ton of effort and not getting back great results. I can’t do anything about the results, but what I *can* change is the effort. I’m not getting paid for this, and some of my posts still stand a realistic chance of not breaking into double digit view counts, so instead of giving up or getting depressed, why not just stop trying so hard?

So yeah, I’m back, at least for now, and things are going to change around here. To keep you updated, here’s a brief list of how this blog will work going into the future.

-I will still be posting my full length reviews, and they’ll be just as good as the first 100(really 101, who am I kidding), and possibly even better, with Berserk as an example.

-I will, however, be putting a heavier focus on movies and short-length OVAs, as they take way less time to rewatch than full length series. This may or may not lead to more pokemon reviews, but it will definitely lead to some Studio Ghibli reviews, an area I surprisingly haven’t touched on yet.

-I’ll be cancelling Inconvenient Questions, as it’s insanely time consuming, and nobody cares about it but me.

-I’ll also be cancelling Anime Analogues and A Series of Tubes, because… do you care? Like, seriously?

-I’ll be introducing a few new features designed to take a minimal amount of time or effort, the main one among them being RWBY GRWVZ, which will consist of comedic sketches involving the cast of Rooster Teeth’s web series RWBY. I’ll try to keep the humor accessible, but a cursory knowledge of the series is still recommended before reading them.

-I’ll be cancelling all theme months for the time being. The exception to this is Otakutober, and IF I do Studio Gainax Month again next year, it’ll be the last one.  That’s a big IF, though.

That’s all I can think of to add here. If there’s anything else I come up with, I’ll update this post to include it. Oh, now that I think of it, can anybody explain to me why I keep getting followers from Outlook.com? I’m assuming that’s some kind of spam, but some further insight would be welcome.

Anyway, I’m back. I can’t wait to see you guys next week, and in the meantime, leave a like, leave a comment, follow if you haven’t yet, and show me that you love me as much as I love you.

As far back as anyone can remember, the land of Midland has never been peaceful. It’s unclear how long the Hundred Year war lasted, with kings waging war against each other for territory, and a number of uniquely named mercenary bands fighting on their behalf, but the casualties have been many, and the conflict has only recently appeared to be resolved. You would think that the end of this war would bring piece to midland, but you’d be sadly mistaken, as the rise of a cruel demon king has led to the earth being invaded by terrifying monsters, the likes of which not even the darkest imagination could comprehend, and whom hunger for the blood of men, women and children. It’s a dark time for the human race, one where death waits around every corner, and any given person can become the dripping dinner of a demon at any given moment. We live at their whim. We are their cattle. Among us, there is only one human the demon scourge fears. One they’ll try to kill at any cost, as they know full well he’ll do the same thing to them.

That man is named Guts, and the demons are right to fear him. Towering over other men, covered with battle scars and always ready for a fight, he is almost literally a killing machine. With one eye, a prosthetic arm chock full of demon-killing weapons, and a giant 400 pound sword resting on his shoulder, he travels midland looking for demons to slay. Sadly, he’s not motivated by the survival of the human race… He’s killed more than enough humans to be considered a demon himself. It’s revenge that he thirsts for, and his target is the herald of the apocalypse himself, the Demon King Griffith. See, this isn’t a story about the demon-infested world, but of how that world came about… And these two have a history spanning several years. Once upon a time, Guts was just a wandering soldier, bouncing aimlessly from battle to battle, sort of like a mideval Ronin Warrior. It was his chance meeting with a young Griffith, still just a brilliant, strategic genius leading a fledgling mercenary group, that would entangle his destiny with what he could not have possibly predicted would be the end of the world as we knew it.

It’s been around twenty years since this series came out, and in that time, there’s been an ever-present demand for a new adaptation to be released. There have been a few reasons for this, and I’ll get to one of them later, but the other one… and perhaps the more persistent one… Has to deal with the animation quality of this initial adaptation, and just how dated it looks due to the technical and financial limitations of the time. The truth is, however, the animation in Berserk was bad even back when it came out, and it had it’s pedigree to blame for it’s disaster. It was animated by a company called Oriental Lights and Magic, yes that’s an obvious Star Wars pun, and not only was Berserk their fourth series, but their only other major claim to fame was… You’re not going to believe this unless you already know about it… The Pokemon anime. Yup. They had just gotten started animating the Pokemon anime about six months prior when they decided to try their hands at one of the most infamously mature and intensely beloved manga properties of all time, and God help me, they tried.

I’ve talked in the past about how low-budget anime productions can use a lot of tricks to hide the weaknesses that such a restraint holds over their productivity, and how more experienced observers can pick out these techniques. With Berserk, however, even the greenest of viewers can spot the corners being cut. Right in the first episode, the onslaught of a struggling human settlement is portrayed by static images being either panned across or zoned in and out of while the music plays. The static images look good, like high qualities paintings depicting the horrors of war, so it’s not like any of it comes off as an eyesore, but it does sort of defeat the purpose of animation, which is a word that’s defined as movement. The speed lines are even worse, as they really do drag down the action of a series that’s mostly famous for it’s action. Dialogue scenes are often reduced to a series of talking heads, and when they don’t have any shadows to play around with, these issues are embarrassingly exposed.

So of course, new adaptations came. People got what they wanted, and in a weird sort of twist, they’ve only served to make the original series look better. Yeah, an anime whose visuals were already on the low end of the scale back in the late nineties looks better now than it did when it was new. Thanks to the new adaptations, it’s aged miraculously well. Part of this is due to the new adaptations looking like complete ass… The movies in particular employ extravagant CG, and while it obviously had a lot of money poured into it, they just look ugly and clumsy as a result, with a serious case of Uncanny Valley plaguing all of it’s characters. I haven’t seen the new series, but from what I’ve heard, it’s not that different. A quick comparison between movies that spend a lot of money haphazardly, and a series without much money that had to be responsible to make ends meet, Berserk has actually managed to develop a certain kind of nostalgic charm and respectable sincerity to it’s plethora of visual issues. I won’t go as far as saying that it looks good, but it’s hard to look at the amount of effort and artistry they put into it without cutting it some serious slack.

So the visuals are a mixed bag, but you know what definitely isn’t? The soundtrack. The music in Berserk is almost as famous as the show itself, and with a composer like Susumu Hirasawa behind the wheel, it’s not hard to see why. In addition to Berserk, Susumu has also done the scores for several Satoshi Kon projects… And that alone is a high praise. While his contributions to The Berserk franchise may not be as deep or cerebral as those, they are some of the most epic, powerful orchestrations you’ve ever heard from the medium. The over-all aesthetic of the soundtrack is something akin to what you’d hear in a really inspired opera about King Arthur… Fantasy, destiny, war, the rising tension of a battle that’s about to start, the inner conflict of deceptively complex characters, and none of it sounds like it was just picked for the sake of sounding good. for a few examples, a tune like Behelit is subtle but bone-chilling, while Guts’ theme song, which you’d expect to be some sort of roaring metal anthem, instead sounds like you just entered a fairy sanctuary, and it’s used in scenes where’s he’s most at peace, and we get to see who he is behind the carnage.

The most famous track from this show is without a doubt Forces… Okay, well, the God Hand Remix is the one people seem to hear the most often, but the original track is still the most popular from that release. While there are other tracks that feature vocals, I’m pretty sure forces is the only one outside of the OP and ED to feature actual lyrics. The most famous part is the chorus, which awesomely belts out the phrase HAI EEE YAI FORCES a few time before lapsing into instrumentals, but the interesting this about that is that you never hear this during the series. The song plays once in one of the early episodes, but cuts off right before the chorus can hit. I’m not sure what the history behind this song’s usage must be, but it is weird that the most famous 16 seconds of Berserk’s soundtrack don’t actually make it into the show. To give the opening and ending themes a quick mention, they’re okay. I initially didn’t like Tell Me Why by Penpals, I felt it was too light and upbeat for the material, but it’s grown on me recently. The ending, Waiting So Long by Silver fins, I’ve always been cool with. It’s a cool ending.

The English dub is… Good. It’s not particularly remarkable, as almost everyone across the board does their job competently, with only one or two performances standing out in one way or another. Mark Diraison does a perfectly fine Guts, and while his acting is never bad, the best thing you can say about him is that he has the right voice for the part, as he plays the character with a low, gravely tone that makes him sound appropriately tough. He used pretty much the same voice in his other major role… Oh good lord. He played Zoro in the 4Kids One Piece dub. Moving on, as you damn well should after learning something like that, Carrie Keranen is amazing as the Hawk’s sole female warrior Casca, whose interactions with the other main cast walk a tight rope between her strengths and weaknesses, as she speaks forcefully and proudly as a leader, yet still insecure and full of longing for her unfulfilled ambitions and desires. They’re both better than Kevin T Collins, who plays Griffith in a very hit-or-miss fashion. He has his moments of brilliance, and can be downright chilling even at his charismatic best, but can also sound stiff as a board inbetween.

Those three make up the majority of the show’s dialogue, but there are also a lot of memorable performances in the supporting cast, as well. Rachel Lillis plays a charming, naive young princess who catches Griffith’s eye. Veronica Taylor plays the child version of Griffith, who shows up once in a surreal scene towards the end. I was a huge fan of Mike Pollock in this show, as he plays a recurring antagonist General named Adon, who’s just an arrogant loudmouth over-all, but still manages to become a fitting arch-rival for Casca. It’s very likely he was typecast, as he also played Eggman in a lot of Sonic properties. Famed Goku actor Sean Schemmel takes on several roles, including a low-level hawk member, and if I’m being honest, most of his best lines are bloopers. Actually, speaking of bloopers, those are totally a thing, and while you can find a ton of them on each individual disk, you can find the entire set on Youtube. If you’ve ever wanted to hear Guts do a Shwarzenegger impression, Casca rant in a lisp or Griffith bust out in all his showtunes glory, I highly recommend checking them out.

Berserk is not the only anime in history to be granted a do-over. I feel like this is kind of obvious, but one of the most notable examples is Fullmetal Alchemist, which carried a lot of the same complaints that Berserk did… Mainly, though, it was too different from the source material, and people wanted to see a more faithful adaptation. As we all know, Brotherhood came out to monstrous fame and adoration, while surprisingly, Berserk seems to have had the opposite effect. The movies, as much as people praised the first one, and the 2016 remake, which I’ve pissed people off by calling Berserk Brotherhood, is popularly considered an actual dumpster fire. I have not seen it, but I’ll take their word for it until I finally do. But all of this does raise a very interesting question: If the original 1997 series had so many shortcomings that people demanded a do-over, why are there so many people who still consider it the best version? I mentioned earlier how it’s animation has aged better than anyone thought, but I think there’s more to it.

One of the first problems you’ll hear from people with grievances over the original series is how incomplete it is. Now I’ll be blunt, I’ve only read the first seven volumes of the manga… Give me a break, I’m not a huge manga reader, and there’s like hundreds of volumes… But it’s not hard to see their point, especially since the prologue in the manga was way longer than the one we got for the series before it went back in time for Guts’s origin story. There are other things that were cut, and other changes that were made for the sake of streamlining the story, and while this may be considered a mild spoiler, they cut a part of Guts’s childhood where his guardian sold him for a night with a grown man, who raped him. I don’t think this is a particularly bad cut, though. The story works just fine without it, although it does sorta rob him of a connection he shared with Griffith and Casca. The more obvious change, however, is that the story doesn’t properly end. After a huge climax, it leaves off on a massive cliffhanger, wrapping around to the prologue that we’d seen in episode 1. I don’t personally mind this, but we’ll get to why in a moment.

And if you think the removal of Guts’s pedophilic abuse scene means the series was toned down in any way, you’re fairly well mistaken. I haven’t read much of the manga, so it’s hard to say how far the story truly went with it’s content, but Berserk rests firmly as one of the most R rated mainstream anime in existence. It has just about everything you could want in a mature title, such as blood, gore, sex, nudity, uncompromising violence… It’s oddly light on foul language, I noticed… And it presents all of it with no shame or hesitation. Now, some of you may be asking, so what? The movies did this too. Well, yeah, but here’s where I’m going to be a bit prudish… No matter how far the 1997 Berserk’s content went, it was always, well, tasteful, which is quite a bit more important than you might realize. A long time ago, I ranted hard on Blood C over it’s violence and depravity, and it wasn’t because I have a problem with gore or anything, but because I had a problem with how it was used, and how the series was basically just a vehicle for gore porn.

But leaving the blood splatters behind for a moment, let’s talk about what’s possibly the most controversial and divisive element in any media, nudity. This has always been a weird element in anime, as producers will happily use it to titillate audiences, but they have to bend over backwards to avoid showing certain things… So you get weird compromises like convenient censorship and straight up nipple-free Barbie-doll bodies. You get situations like Sankarea, where it’s okay on some characters but not others. Berserk has nudity, but it never goes too far in either direction. It doesn’t bother censoring anything(unless it had to legally), and it also doesn’t create situations like endless showering and bathing scenes just to push out more flesh coverage. If it’s in the story, it happens, and not one single fuck is given as to how you feel about it. If you’re offended, you know where the fast forward button is. If you’re turned on, you know where the pause button is. It’s not there to please or shock you, it’s part of the story… And that’s how Berserk is about everything, really.

Every single second of this anime is important in some way. Every conversation, every fight, every death(even those involving nameless soldiers and mercenaries), every second of sex and inch of flesh, every single second of material has a direct purpose, such as establishing mood, developing characters and their relationships, communicating details to us, furthering the story and even foreshadowing later events. This is in stark contrast to the Golden Age movies, who valued spectacle over story, and would often gloss over important events in order to, presumably, ‘get to the good parts.’ Like, there’s a moment where Griffith, depressed, making a huge mistake by sleeping with someone he should have stayed away from. The series made no bones about what was happening, but only showed you what you needed to see in order to follow what was happening and appropriately fear the outcome. The movies straight-up presented it as a hot, sexy porn scene, completely missing the point to a confusing degree, and to make matters worse, the same thing happened regarding a rape at the end of the third movie.

I don’t know which version was more true to the books, and frankly, I don’t care. I’m worried for these characters, so why are you trying so hard to make me jerk off? You don’t need to destroy the tone of the story to keep my attention, and the series knew that. And that’s when mature content becomes a problem… When it’s manipulative. If you write something into your story as fan service, with the effect it might have on the audience as even one of your main intentions, all it will be is fan service. The original Berserk doesn’t give a shit about it’s audience, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. It never tries to shock you, or titillate you, or coddle you, or excite you, it’s focus is squarely on it’s own damn story, which is where it should be. If you need boobs and catgirls to get invested, fuck you. If the material goes too far for you, fuck you. Berserk is the story it wants to be, and while that’s not always the best thing to say about an anime… Garbage that wants to be garbage is still garbage… Berserk legitimately is a great story.

And yeah, i know, Berserk doesn’t really have the kind of story I’d normally praise in a review. I’ve made it kind of a theme to talk about metaphors, social commentary, allegories, real symbolic stuff, and as far as I can tell, Berserk doesn’t really feature any of that. It’s a fairly straight-forward story, with everything that’s happening being right there on the surface, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have depth. Whether it was intentional or not, Berserk(at least the parts that made it into this anime) has managed to become something very few anime can actually claim… A Greek tragedy. This ancient style of storytelling takes flawed characters from all walks of life, gives them some lofty ambition to pursue, and then follows them as they put everything they had before on the line, make heavy sacrifices to get within inches of their dream, and then ultimately lose everything when they fail, due in major part to those flaws they just couldn’t overcome. There are countless ways that Berserk stands as the perfect example of this, and it’s unflinching look at pain, suffering and despair only serve to cement it as possibly the greatest Greek Tragedy Anime of all time.

There’s also the dynamic between Guts and Griffith in general, which is probably one of the most important elements of the story, but getting into that would be going WAY too heavy into spoilers, so check out Bennet the Sage’s review if you want to know more about that..

Berserk was originally available from Animeworks, with individual DVDs way back in the early to mid 2000s, and a thinpack that was released back in 2009, all of which are currently out of print, but the thin pack isn’t too expensive online, if you’re bent on owning it.. The follow-up movies are also fairly cheap on DVD, but the 2016 remake, which has just started hitting the shelves about a year ago, is still worth a pretty penny. The original manga is available from Dark horse, and yes, i know it’s just 39 volumes, I was kidding earlier. There are also a few video games, including titles for the Sega Dreamcast and the PS4.

It’s frustrating to see just how close Berserk came to perfection. Much like the hero of any Greek tragedy, it came so close, only to fall to it’s own undisguised, insurmountable shortcomings. Like I said before, I don’t personally mind the cheap animation, but that doesn’t make it any less of a problem, and it was a driving force behind the demand for a reboot. The same could be said for it’s crippling lack of an ending, and while I think the way it wraps around to the prologue ultimately justifies it, I still completely understand how cheated some people feel over it(Unless the ending of the third Golden Age movie is manga accurate, in which case I can firmly say that I’m GLAD it cut off before reaching that shit). On it’s own, Berserk is still such a thrilling and engaging story that I sometimes have difficulty remember which episode I’m watching, as the story flows so naturally from moment to moment that my mind barely registers the episode breaks. I can’t call it perfect, but I can call it one of my favorites of all time. I give Berserk a 9/10.

There’s an old saying we’ve all heard, that goes “if at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” There’s another saying, however, that “The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Somewhere inbetween these two standards, I’d like to believe there hides an underlying truth… That while tenacity is an admirable thing to have, there comes a time when you have to admit to yourself that if something was ever going to be successful, it would have by now.

For me, that truth has recently come to define this blog.

I started The Fullmetal Narcissist in the fall of 2013, because I had just begun writing reviews, I didn’t know anybody who could host or promote my work, and I needed some sort of creative outlet in order to share my work with the world. I promised that I would post a new piece of work every Saturday morning, and while I might have missed a couple early on, having to push one or two of my releases to a Sunday, I’ve generally done a solid job keeping that promise.

The results, however, have been less than impressive. It took me a long time to gain any noticeable ground. It wasn’t until November of 2016 that I started getting more than 1K views per month, and I’m still at a point in 2018 where I might get more than 100 views a day once or twice a week if I’m lucky. On top of this, I have only recently, after just over four years of operation, broke the 100 follower mark… Which I might not have even pulled off if I hadn’t gotten drunk and bitched about my follower count in a comment on someone else’s blog.

In early 2017, my view count started to hit a plateau, getting perpetually stuck between 1.3K a month and 1.6K a month, so I got desperate, and started to pull some shenanigans to bring in more traffic. I printed out business cards(for 40 dollars) and took them to a local convention, where I proceeded to take pictures of people’s costumes, give them a card, and give them a date that their picture could be obtained. I then set up the gallery so that every picture viewed would be an individual view, and the traffic rolled right in… For exactly two days, before dipping back down to what it was before.

Having tasted this massive spike, I began to whore out that post, sharing it on different sites and tricking people into scrolling through by asking “Can you help me to identify these unlabelled characters?” I got views of 3.7K to 4.2K for three months before it slipped down to between 1.8 K and 2.2K, before I stopped pimping that post altogether, and now my views are right back down to the same plateau that they were before. Could I do the photo thing all over again this year, when the convention rolls around again? Yeah, but what’s the point, when I’m still just pulling some shady shit to make it look like my work is more popular than it actually is?

I like being proud of the work that I’ve done. For four years, I’ve written the work that I wanted to write, and I’ve written my reviews the way I wanted to write them, but the only time I’ve felt like any of it mattered was when I was blatantly cheating. I can pull an all nighter, wasting my nights off from work writing a six page essay on whatever title I’m currently fixated on, but once it gets posted, it’ll get maybe 7 likes and a couple of comments before being largely forgotten.

I could try to write new things, but that never works out either. I thought I might have a great idea on my hands with A Series of Tubes, but a year later it’s only been viewed about thirty times. I got really excited about Anime Analogues, especially with the topic of the first one, which was a topic I was genuinely interested in, but since it went up about three months ago, it’s been viewed six times. Yeah, you read that right, I’ve been doing this for four years and I’m still putting out work that only gets viewed six times. This is of course to say nothing of the reviews I’ve written that haven’t even cracked the 30 view mark after being up for several years, or the insanely time consuming Inconvenient questions posts that nobody seems to care about.

Do I think I’m entitled to success, or that I deserve peoples’ attention? No, of course not, I’d never want to be that kind of person. I have plenty of friends and acquaintances on WordPress who are having a much better go of it than I am, and I don’t feel bitter or resentful towards any of them. But I’m also not some pinnacle of congeniality and humbleness who’s going to ignore his own failings and just enjoy his hobby for the fun of it. Because this isn’t fun anymore.

I’m a 32 year old man who just recently started to pull himself out of financial crisis. I’m tired of pulling all nighters for no reason other than ‘the fun of it.’ I’m tired of keeping a strict viewing schedule, and not rewatching an anime once I’ve reviewed it. I’m tired of getting 3-7 likes per post while seeing everybody else that I follow getting dozens. I’m tired of feeling inadequate, like I’m putting time and money into work that’s just not good enough. I’m tired of all my reviews only getting one helpful rating on MAL.

I really hope I’m not sounding ungrateful, here… I do appreciate the people who’ve shown me support, because I would have stopped doing this a long time ago without all of you. There are a handful of people who read, like and sometimes even promote my work, and you’ve helped me through more than you could possibly know. In particular, I don’t think this blog would have made it to it’s third year without Jennifer Paetsch from the Little Monster Girl blog, and I’ve enjoyed getting comments from several others. All of you who’ve found this blog worthy of your time are awesome in my book.

If there is one thing I feel entitled to, it’s this: If I’ve fallen out of love with something that I’m not getting paid for, I have every right to walk away from it. I refuse to let my hobby become a job, because I actually do have a full-time job, and it’s my sole source of income. I’ve been intending to leave WordPress for a few months now, with the only thing keeping me around being my desire to complete 100 anime reviews, which I managed to do last week. Of course, that raises a question, and it’s one that honestly gave me trouble figuring out what to call this post… Am I retiring, or just going on hiatus?

I’ll be honest, I have no idea. It’s possible that all I need is a break, and I’ll be back at full strength after I’ve had some time off to refresh myself. It’s equally possible, however, that I’ve lost interest entirely, and the longer I spend away from this site, the less I’ll want to do with it. One way or another, I’ve been going non-stop, full steam for four years, unmonetized, and it’s time for me to step away. I might be back in a few months, I might be back in a year, I might never be back. There’s one thing I’ll promise up front, though… If I ever do come back, the first thing I’ll review will be the og nineties Berserk.

If you miss hearing me bitch about anime, you can find the link to my Facebook in my Contact page.

Until then, so long, and thanks for all the likes.

Humankind cannot gain anything without giving something up in exchange. To obtain, something of equal or greater value must be lost. That is alchemy’s first law of equivalent exchange. As it follows, there is another law, and one that’s harshly enforced, both by humanity and by fate… No matter how skilled an alchemist may be, and no matter how much they offer up in exchange, they must never attempt to transmute a human being. Yes, it is possible to map out the chemical make-up of a human body… It’s been thoroughly explored, all the way down to the follicles on an average adult’s eyelashes… But there is nothing in existence that can be exchanged for a human soul. To most, this warning would be more than enough to strike fear into their hearts, and make them think twice about putting their lives and livelihoods on the line to bring a deceased loved one back from the grave. For every rule, however, there are people who will be tempted to break it, and to prove themselves above it.

Normally, these individuals are foolhardy, courageous, and naive, believing their abilities to surpass those of others. This is exactly the attitude that one young prodigy named Edward Elric, a child from Risembool, and the son of one of the greatest alchemists alive. With his father having disappeared from his family under mysterious circumstances, and his mother having been taken from him at the whims of a lifelong illness, he and his younger brother Alphonse attempt to resurrect their beloved mother, a venture that costs Ed a literal arm and a leg… Oh, and his brother, whose soul he saves by binding it to a suit of armor at the last minute. Looking nothing like the naive children they once were, both in body and soul, the Elric brothers burn down their house, and set out on an epic journey to restore their bodies to the flesh and redeem themselves for the sin that they’ve committed.. A task that will require the use of a Philosopher’s stone, an artifact of legend whose power is rivaled only by it’s danger… Much like alchemy itself.

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood… Which I’m just going to call Brotherhood, from here on out… Was, unsurprisingly, an effort of Studio Bones. Bones doesn’t always give it’s productions the budgets that they deserve, but most of their titles were directed well enough to compensate for this issue. Some of them use smart editing and enchanting uses of lighting and shading to enhance the visuals, achieving mixed to positive results… I am sad to say, however, the Brotherhood is not one of them. It would be generous of me to say that even half of this anime looked good, but it really doesn’t. It does have some impressive looking visuals… There’s a lot of CGI used for special effects, and it looks competent enough. There are also times when certain shots will have fluid animation, such as most of the fight scenes and a violent riot in the settlement of Liore, but such animation doesn’t come cheap, and Brotherhood’s budget saving tactics are about as blatant as a punch to the face.

Throughout the series, there are constant key frames. For the most part, they stay on screen for two to thirteen seconds, with minimal movement happening in them aside from flapping lips and occasional shifts in posture. Sometimes, it’ll freeze on one character’s face while other characters are talking, so they don’t even have to pay for lip flaps in the first place. This isn’t something that has to be noticeable or distracting under the right direction, but here, it’s just an eyesore. The actual alchemy looks nice, as that’s where the 3D aspect comes into play, but when it’s juxtaposed against the stiff, motionless 2D key frames, the two styles mix about as well as oil and water. A good example of this in the early episodes is when Ed and Al, as children, show off their alchemy to their mom, and she’s momentarily bathed in the glow of their experiment… During which she freezes completely, and then has a minimal reaction. Motion wasn’t necessarily needed there, I mean she was just spectating, but come on, guys, try harder.

And the art, I’m afraid, isn’t much better. The character designs are fine, and they’re accurate to the manga, but they look way too polished and clean, like they don’t exist in any sort of real world. Part of this is the lack of effort in shading, but a much larger part of it is the cartoony direction of the visuals. These characters almost seem to spend more time in chibi and super-deformed mode than in actual, realistic shape, and while I’m sure that’s a huge exaggeration, it doesn’t FEEL like one. The backgrounds are detailed, but for the most part, they feel lifeless, like the characters are just walking around in life size paintings that have no real personality or depth to them. The only other problem that I feel is worth mentioning is the character’s outlines… And I’m not talking about Ed’s hair having light outlines, although that’s the best way to distinguish Brotherhood footage from ‘03 footage. I’m talking about the choppy outlines that persist throughout the series, especially whenever there’s a close-up of a character’s face. To be fair, this really only seems to be a problem on DVD releases, as it was a problem for a LOT of Funimation DVD sets back in the day. The bluray and Netflix releases don’t have this issue.

I decided when I began writing this review that I’d bring up the original 2003 adaptation as little as possible(although, realistically, I’m gonna bring it up once or twice), but when it comes to the music, I did notice what appears to be an interesting role reversal that I can’t help but comment on. The original series had a stellar soundtrack that fit the subject matter of the series to a T, and carried a lot of emotional weight with it, but on the flip side, the opening themes were just generic(but high quality) rock and pop songs that didn’t really tie into anything. They were picked because they sounded good and didn’t feel out of place. The exact opposite seems to be true for Brotherhood, because the musical score is a bit on the generic side, but more than befitting a grand Shonen-Action style epic, and the openings are where the true heart and emotion of the series can be heard. This isn’t a blanket statement, of course… There are some heartfelt tunes in Broitherhood, such as Trisha’s Lullabye, which is used as a beautiful motif throughout the series, but that’s about it.

That’s not to say the music isn’t awesome, of course. In addition to Trisha’s Lullabye and it’s hypnotic vocal track, one of my personal favorites is To Be King, the theme of the character Greed, as it’s tribal theme carries a sort of rebellious pride that suits his ambition perfectly. The openings, of course, blow anything FMA ‘03 brought to the table out of the water. They fit the story so well that some of them, most notably the first one, called Again, can even be identified as coming from the perspectives of certain characters. The animation in these openings is so good that they almost make up for the lackluster visuals that are present in the series proper. I don’t think this was intentional, but the best contribution these openings make to Brotherhood is the fact that the two best ones… The first one, Again, and the last one, Rain, just happened to be placed during the beginning and ending arcs, which were arguably the worst parts, and they managed to get a lot of necessary good will out of me.

When it comes to the English dub… Well, there’s not a lot that I can say about it, and I mean that in the best way possible. I can normally go into an English dub and say whether or not an actor was able to fit the character they were casts as, what they were able to do with it, how they interpreted the roles… I can’t do that with EITHER version of Fullmetal Alchemist, because to my ears, the actors ARE their characters, to the point that I honestly forget while watching the shows that there are even actors involved. To this day, I associate Vic Mignona with Ed Elric, and vice versa. Some of Caitlin Glass’s most diverse performances have been ruined for me because no matter how good a job she does, I can’t stop thinking “Huh… That does NOT sound like Winry.” None of the other characters have this effect on me quite as bad, but the FMA performances they did will always be lurking somewhere in the back of my mind when I hear other work by them. I feel like the reason I experience this phenomena so strongly with Ed and Winry is because of just how sincere and earnest Vic and Caitlin’s performances were.

Speaking of iconic performances, I can think of a couple of actors who were unable to reprise their roles from the first series. Dameon Clarke seemingly retired from anime voice acting two years prior to Brotherhood’s release, and was replaced by J Michael Tatum, who did a stellar job, but was unable to capture the grit and years of lonely pain that had peppered Clarke’s performance. On a much more impressive note is the role of Alphonse, who had a lot of American fans worried when they realized that original actor Aaron Dismuke was too old to go back to the role, having gone through puberty between shows. Through some kind of miracle, Funimation was able to find Maxey Whitehead, who was not only able to perfectly imitate Aaron’s younger voice, but was even able to prove herself a better actor than Dismuke, having of course had more experience than he’d had when taking on the role.

In addition, the rest of the cast is back, slipping right into their characters as though they never left. Colleen Clinkenbeard is still playing both Rose and Riza while successfully sounding like she’s actually two different people, even though one is fleshed out a lot more and the other is fleshed out less. Christopher Sabat is still the most masculine fop you’ve ever heard in what is arguably one of his best roles ever, Major Armstrong, and the scores of roles that Travis Willingham landed between shows have transformed him from a promising rookie to a veteran befitting his strong, resolved character. New characters like Lin Yao, Lan Fan and Olivier Armstrong bring a handful of new actors into the mix, and let’s be honest, no dub has ever been worsened by the addition of Todd Haberkorn, and Trina Nishimura, Stephanie Young. The only disappointing returns are from people like Laura Bailey, Chuck Huber and Sonny Strait, who’s characters have been substantially diminished between shows, and Monica Rial, whose new character May is a lot closer to her usual typecasting than her old role was. I included this in my top ten favorite dubs, and it deserves to be there.

The original Fullmetal Alchemist manga was released in 2001, by the magazine Monthly Shonen Gangan. The series was met with resounding popularity right from the start, and after only two years of it’s ten year run, the demand for an anime adaptation was overwhelming. Studio Bones took up the production, but with the manga not even a quarter of the way finished, they were left with a pretty big lemon to deal with. Fortunately, they were able to make lemonade by writing an entirely new story using the material they were given. The resulting anime was an immediate success, among fans and critics alike, winding up on more than it’s fair share of top ten lists since then. And yet, despite the fact that it was universally loved and critically acclaimed across the board, there was still heavy demand for a more faithful adaptation. Thus, in 2009, only one year away from the manga’s end, Brotherhood was born, and the fandom was elated at the idea that a more faithful adaptation of the original manga was finally being made.

Now there are tons of videos and editorials comparing the two FMA adaptations… I wrote one myself that’s been quite successful… But I’m not gonna do that today. I’m not going to review Brotherhood as a reboot, nor am I going to review it as an adaptation… To be fair, I’ve barely read any of the manga. I’m going to judge it by it’s own merits, as a stand-alone series. Unfortunately, this is going to do it more harm than good, because a good chunk of this show’s early material fucking depends on the added context. Starting with the obvious, the first episode is entirely unique to Brotherhood, and serves largely as fanservice to returning fans, as well as a baffling reintroduction to a lot of the story’s more frequent elements. The episode, I’m sad to say, is horrible, and not just in the way that it fumbled a lot of the biggest reveals and surprises of the early episodes, which were supposed to have massive story-based impacts. It also introduces one of brotherhood’s over-all biggest problems, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

With that out of the way, we’re able to start the series proper… Only I wish this were the case, but it turns out they’re not quite done getting things out of the way yet. I’m not gonna beat around the bush about this, the pacing of the first thirteen episodes or so is abysmally fast. We get to know Trisha Elric for about ten seconds before she dies(I don’t THINK that’s a spoiler), we get almost no material with Ed and Al as children, and it just feels like the writers were bumbling from one important moment to the next, looking to get the viewer up to speed on what they presumably already saw so they could get to the new material. I think I’ve heard that’s exactly what they were doing, but it’s a pitiful excuse for shoddy story telling. It was included for new fans, and rushed for returning fans, trying to please everyone and ultimately pleasing nobody. They don’t even make an attempt at suspense, atmosphere, or any kind of emotional investment, just making sure all the exposition is taken care of, violating the rules of show-don’t-tell to an absurd degree.

The pacing does fix itself once the series recap episodes are over, but by that point the damage is done, and the effects last throughout the series, even during the legitimately good parts, creating some very troublesome problems. For example, Brotherhood has a very weird attitude towards death. In the first episode, an ice and water based alchemist attacks the capital, and he murders two state alchemists in order to show off some of his powers… And these alchemists are disturbingly forgotten immediately afterwards. He’s attacked by Ed and Al, who seem completely oblivious to the fresh corpses lying less than twenty feet from them, and of COURSE this is an appropriate time for the show’s first “LOL, Ed’s so short” joke. Dude, THERE ARE DEAD BODIES RIGHT OVER THERE. They’re also worried about his Ice powers destroying the government, but I’m pretty sure those glaciers were crashing through buildings at one point, and I doubt they were evacuated.

There are four noteworthy characters that die in the first thirteen episodes… I told you about Trisha, but I’m not spoiling the others… And the execution of said scenes makes it seem like we’re supposed to care a great deal about them, but they’re given almost no screen time, and we don’t have enough time with them to build a relationship. This makes it even more uncomfortable when the series corrects it’s pacing, and winds up giving several characters boatloads of extra screen time, despite some of them having minimal impact on the story at best, and with so many of them far overstaying their welcome. I’m sorry, but the fact that Yoki got to live to the end of the series is a slap in the face to one of the most beloved characters in the franchise, whom we were expected to cry over when he died ten fucking episodes in.

And look, before I go any farther, yeah, I like this show. I enjoy watching it. It’s a little on the bulky side, at over sixty episodes, but I have fun with it. The action’s really cool, it has a lot of really imaginative ideas, and I find myself on the edge of my seat way more often than I’d ever like to admit. It’s a good show, so why am I shitting on it so much? Well, there are two reasons; First of all, everything good about it has been pounded in the dirt by now, with over 90 percent of it’s reviews giving it a ten out of ten score, so there’s really no need for me to suck it’s dick. The other reason is that the best things about it are the same things that are awesome about almost every other shonen action series out there… It’s fun, it has great action, and there are a lot of imaginative ideas, and it’s populated by a cast of likeable heroes, detestable villains and hopeful turncoats. Honestly, it has a lot of good qualities, but there’s really not a lot that I can say about them, which is why I’m focusing so hard on the things I don’t like about it.

So on that note, let’s move onto what I consider the biggest problem with Brotherhood, it’s immaturity. It just doesn’t feel like it was written by a grown-up, or anyone who really has anything important to say other than “Hey, guys, look how cool this is!” A big part of this, and possibly the element that irked me the most, is it’s use of binary morality. In Brotherhood, the good guys are all good, the bad guys are all bad, and the only variety in sight is when a bad guy is somehow redeemable, either by the desire to turn over a new leaf or the excuse of not being directly accountable for their actions. Yeah, the original Star Wars trilogy also had this issue, but at least Vader was a complex character with nuanced motivations. Here, the villain is a literal embodiment of evil with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and six of his seven henchman(well, Homunculi) have no motivation outside of serving him and following the sins attributed to them. It’s a story so devoutly based on the struggle between good and evil that at the end, the hero(who has kept his hands insultingly clean up to this point) has to fight the villain in a literal fistfight while his friends and allies chant his name.

And on top of that, there’s very little emotion in any of it, with the exception of any lingering feelings the viewer may have carried over from ‘03(and I’m sorry, but there are gonna be comparisons in this paragraph). There are a lot of ideas, but they’re just ideas, none of which carries any weight outside of spectacle. Seeing Gluttony’s Kirby world is cool, but I’m not gonna remember it in a week. The homunculi actually having a reason to be named after sins isn’t going to affect me like seeing them pursue their own individual goals. Knowing the country is named Amestris, and that there’s another form of alchemy called alkahestry is interesting, but it doesn’t make the world feel more immersive. I feel bad for Winry after being told her parents are dead, but not as bad as if I’d seen her crying over it as a kid. I can root for her to forgive the person who killed them by accident, because come on, it was an accident! But when the person who killed them is someone who was willfully following orders, and has been haunted by what he was forced to do ever since, well, things just get a lot less simple.

Brotherhood is a show full of easy answers that don’t provide any sort of challenge to it’s viewer. The heroes win through virtue alone, with barely any sacrifice. Yeah, that’s right, no sacrifice, in a show whose central philosophy is that mankind must gain through sacrifice.. Minor spoilers here, but take the Philosopher’s stone for example. We find out how it;’s made, and Ed vows to find another way. He doesn’t, but a stone is still handed to him in the final act, consequence free, so he doesn’t have to make any harsh choices. There are plenty of huge moments that are immensely satisfying, like a late showdown between Colonel Mustang and the Homunculus Envy, and a pulse-pounding fight between Hawkeye and Gluttony, both of which I did highly enjoy, but it’s popcorn fare(To be fair, still better than 03’s Robo-Archer crap). The action is great on a shallow level, but the drama and comedy aren’t even that good, due mainly to what I understand to be two holdover elements from the manga.

Brotherhood fails hard at achieving both drama and comedy through it’s own aesthetic choices and sense of direction. It has horrible comedic timing with it’s super-deformed and chibi based humor, which happens way too often to ever land a joke, and to make matters worse, they’re used during scenes that are supposed to be majorly dramatic. When Ed and Al are fighting over the former risking his life to save the latter, I don’t want to see a sight gag. IU want to care. I want to feel something. That’s tonally incompetent to a disgusting level. What’s even worse is when they’re actually trying to convey drama, and they do so with no subtlety, using over-the-top facial expressions, screams, and over-acted reactions that are more funny than sappy. I’ve found Tommy Wiseau’s deliveries more touching. There’s a moment after the failed human transmutation when Ed’s trying to get his brother back where he screams “Alphonse no!” And I couldn’t stop laughing over his face’s resemblance to Wakko Warner burping opera music. This kind of thing might have worked in the manga, but anime and manga are different mediums, which is something I don’t think the people behind this show really understood.

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood was available from Funimation Entertainment on both DVD and Bluray, but unfortunately, all versions are currently out of print. You can still watch it for free on Netflix, but if you’re looking to own the physical copy, you’re gonna have a hard time finding one at a reasonable price. The same thing goes for the 2003 series as well as it’s movie. What you CAN find in print and for a reasonable price are the Brotherhood movie, Sacred Star of Milos, and a couple of okay OVA series. There are several video games across different platforms, and while I won‘t list them all, I personally recommend PS2’s Curse of the Crimson Elixir. The original manga is available stateside from Viz media.

As I said before, I really like this anime. It’s an entertaining show. It delivers hard on action, fantasy and spectacle, but that’s pretty much all it has going for it. Throughout it’s 60+ episode run, it never really shows any signs of the masterpiece everyone likes to call it, and I’m not gonna lie, those first thirteen episodes are seriously difficult to get through. It seems to follow an ideology of virtue and righteousness overcoming adversity, and while there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with that mentality… It is a positive moral, at the very least… It’s still pretty juvenile. In fact, that word pretty much sums up the series… Juvenile. It feels like it takes place in the world as Ed from the 2003 anime wished it was, where good and evil exist on opposite sides, and the whims of fate ultimately favors good people over bad. It’s not deep or complex, but neither are most of the titles in the Shonen Action genre, and those anime are successful for a reason… They’re easy to watch, they don’t ask you hard questions, and they play to your basest ideas of morality and justice. Sometimes, people need an anime like that, and this title delivers. I give Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood a 7/10.

Inspiration can be a fickle thing. The muses may guide our hearts towards a particular passion, but they don’t always stick around to see us through it. As a child, Kousei Arima felt a natural attraction to the piano. He could play music by ear, was a gifted mimic, and had boat loads of potential to one day dominate the instrument. With the help and encouragement of a family friend, Kousei’s mom set him on his desired path, but life as a pianist was harder than he thought. Rather than playing for fun and expressing himself through music, she wanted him to be able to make a living through his music, so she went as hard on her little pianist as possible, going as far as to beat and abuse him if he underperformed or tried to play a piece in his own way. By the time the terminal illness she’d hid from him took it’s toll on her, his passion was gone, replaced with the cold, robotic delivery of one who could deliver a piece perfectly, but found no more joy in doing so. He lost his mother, along with his ability to hear the notes he was playing.

Two years later and about three feet taller(I’ll GET to that), Kousei still tinkers around with the piano, but hasn’t played it seriously, to the chagrin of all who enjoyed his work, or just hate to see him so incomplete. It’s at this point, like all down-trodden men who’ve lost their luster for life, that along comes that one girl to bring color back into his world. Her name is Kaori Miyazono, and she’s a violinist who cares nothing for rules or convention, finding childish but somehow wise joy in every aspect of life, and with this one chance meeting, Kousei finds a new muse… A capricious, cheerful beauty whose revisionist musical performances instantly connect with the crowds she plays for, and whom seems singularly obsessed with performing alongside Kousei, and helping him to relaunch the career that he’d so recently abandoned. But her dedication to helping him to overcome his tragedy hides a secret tragedy of her own, and one simple lie she told back in April will live on to define their relationship as they change each others lives through mutual inspiration.

I haven’t seen everything that’s been produced by A-1 pictures, but I honestly can’t remember seeing anything they’ve done that looked outright bad. Sure, Sword Art Online and From the New world looked a little sloppy at times, resorting to broken character models to show fluid motion at reduced costs, but if that’s the worst they can do, then they could do a lot worse. They seem to take a lot of care with their work, putting an admirable amount of effort into quality control, like letting a low budget get the better of them would be an insult to their pride or something, and if that observation is correct, then I like the way they think. I’ve noticed that they generally have a penchant for putting a lot of energy into special effects, and then using just enough budget saving tricks to compensate without going overboard or letting it become noticeable. Key frames are well drawn and pleasing to the eye, and they feature a little more than just flapping mouths, with occasional shifts in posture to keep the characters expressive.

Of course, there don’t need to be special effects in a show about musicians, right? Wrong. Not only are special textures like water given special treatment, but we often get visual representations of the emotions brought out by a piece of music, which use environmental and 3D effects to keep our attention during the sequence, especially towards the end when Kousei and Kaori are playing together in a fantasy sequence, and the camera liberally revolves around a beautifully 3D animated piano. The characters also have a lot of inner monologuing that’s shown to us in artistic fashion, reminiscent of His and Hers Circumstances, but what I found the most impressive was the actual animation of the characters playing their instruments on stage. I can’t confirm this, but I have heard from a few people that A-1 pictures used a technique similar to rotoscoping, and I feel no justification for doubting this rumor, as every movement of the performing musicians, from fingers on the keys to the way the bow’s movements perfectly matches the music of the violin.

It would be so easy to get away with having a still image on screen while only the performers arms moved, and more intense note being played offscreen while only the audience’s frozen faces of adoration are showcased, but as I said, that would be an insult to A-1. Kousei, Kaori and several others put their entire bodies into their performances, losing themselves in it, and you feel every drop of their adrenaline. Character designs are beautifully polished and easy on the eyes, with it’s only major departure from reality being that the musician characters look a little more distinctive and exuberant than non-musicians, like Kousei’s friends. Well, okay, there is one other unrealistic detail that bothered me a bit… The difference in height between 14 year old characters and themselves at 12 is fucking insane. My jaw dropped when they said that Kousei quit the piano at 12, because he was so short that when he sat on the bench his feet didn’t even touch the ground. I could have sworn he was, like, 6 or something. It’s my only real issue with the visuals, but it’s still a pretty jarring one.

The music of the series… Do I even have to say it? It’s a series about musicians, and you can’t do something like that if you don’t have the knowledge or resources to pull it off, and they seriously pulled it off. Not only is it full of classical music, you can tell the difference in the way these pieces are being played, and the music that is meant to inspire and astound people does exactly that to the audience as well as the characters. From what I gather, Yuna Shinohara, a decorated Japanese violinist who was only 21 at the time, played the music for Kaori, and her wealth of training and experience did not go to waste. I can’t find as much information on Eriko Kawachi, who played all of the piano pieces, which is unfortunate. The show’s actual soundtrack was composed by Masaru Yokoyama, and while it isn’t as memorable or powerful as the character-based performances, it’s still solid and well-orchestrated, so it’s a shame it gets overlooked in favor of the insert tunes.

The English dub was produced by Aniplex, and features a lot of newer actors from this decade, alongside a few industry veterans. I’d like to say these newcomers step up and use this show as a platform to make a name for themselves, but I’d be stretching the truth a bit, mostly on account of the many loops that Your Lie’s text throws them for. Their performances were not consistent, which is a direct result of their material not being consistent, and I don’t really think it was fair for them to be thrown into something this eclectic. For the most part, they do a fine job voicing the characters while nothing’s really happening. It’s just characters talking to each other, sounding like natural teenagers going about their lives. Where they really shine is during dramatic scenes, and ho boy are there a lot of dramatic scenes in this anime. There’s a lot of pain, insecurities, confusion, all of that fun adolescent stuff, but with a much harsher but still believable edge to it once you realize the kind of real life circumstances that they’re dealing with.

While some of these issues may be worthy of an eyeroll from the viewer… Most of the characters who are in love with Kousei fall into this category… They’re going through issues that you probably had to deal with as well, and you can scoff at it from your seat as a grown up, or laugh at how silly it is for this obvious harem to try and be something more, they’re feeling something you’ve felt at some point, whether you remember it or not, and they damn well make you feel it. The exception, where several otherwise amazing actors begin to falter… Is with the gag humor, when the characters go SD Chibi for exaggerated reactions, and I don’t think they were ready to transition the specific roles they were playing into it. Max Mittelman, for example, is one of the best voice actors to come out of the 2010’s, and even though he hasn’t been acting long, his voice control and dramatic chops have landed him plenty of leading roles. He can do comedy under the right circumstances… You’d know what these circumstances are if you’ve seen One Punch Man… But he sounds horrible during the gag jokes.

It’s even worse for Erica Lindbeck, who had a tough job playing such a nuanced character as Kaori, whose happy-go-lucky persona hides a darker interior, and she does a great job of it, but the gag scenes just make her sound like a despicable asshole. Smaller characters face the same issue, albeit on a smaller scale, but the few veterans are able to navigate the minefield a lot more skillfully, like Wendee Lee(Who, in all fairness, never has to do a gag scene), Stephanie Sheh and Carrie Keranen. They have the experience to stretch their roles beyond the appropriate tones, which comes in handy here. The adaptive script is loose, but still accurate enough, and changes the vernacular so everyone sounds more like contemporary English, without ever sacrificing the intent of the text. They make a handful of charming and character-appropriate references, like occasional nods to Charlie Brown and The Phantom of the Opera, although they also use the phrase ‘as you know’ a few too many times. They probably should have changes some of the text, as a lot of it, when translated, sounds weird coming from 14 year olds.

Okay, so, here we are again. It wasn’t too long ago that I was calling out modern anime fans for letting their emotions cloud their judgement, saying that they often give perfect scores to any anime that makes them cry. Seriously, you could give a critic a massage, a home cooked meal and the best sex of their life and you’d still be working harder for a 10/10 than most anime do. Back in 2016, I’d just uploaded my reviews of Clannad and Clannad Afterstory, and I asked social media to recommend an anime that had genuine feels… nothing manipulative, nothing manufactured, nothing too formulaic, just an anime that would touch me emotionally and make me cry with sincerity. The overwhelming answer was Your Lie in April, a show I’d been avoiding due to all of the hype. I finally gave it a watch, and did it stand up as a heartfelt masterpiece, or did it offer the same old same old? Well, to be honest,it’s a little of both. My feelings on this show were mixed the first time around, and the second viewing hasn’t changed that.

Unfortunately, Your Lie doesn’t get off to a great start. The first thing we see is a foul ball hitting our man character in the head, lying on the floor and bleeding with what has to be a serious concussion, but not only does he heal immediately, but he shares the blame for the broken window the ball flew through. That’s not just bad, that’s disturbingly bad. It sets an early precedent for him being a sad sack with no will of his own, which I guess is kind of accurate, but it also makes his closest friend look like a monster for taking advantage of it(Trust me, this feeling is only gonna get worse.) I try to move past this, but almost immediately, it becomes apparent that all three of Kousei’s friends are some of my least favorite cliches in anime history. His two primary friends are Tsubaki and Watari, and they are… Respectively… A childhood friend who’s hopelessly in love with the main character, and a girl crazy guy who exists to make the main character feel desirable in comparison. I am so sick and tired of these two archetypes being stuck in orbit around at least half of the main characters in the medium.

And Kaori’s worse, because she’s a trope that I usually don’t see in anime, and I’m not complaining about that. She’s happy-go-lucky, she’s childish, she’s an enlightened soul who’s able to see all of the simple joy in life, and she comes out of nowhere to dedicate her life to dragging the main male character out of the slumps. She is a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, which is to sexism what the Magical Negro trope is to racism. Granted, she deconstructs the trope a little bit, as she actually has a backstory and a reason to help Kousei, but she makes up for that small silver lining by taking the “Life begins at man” trope to a new extreme, as “Life begins AND ENDS at man.” I’ll give her this, she IS the reason I kept watching the series, as I was entranced by her violin performance in episode 2, and she made me want to keep watching so I could hear more of her work, which sounded even better when she played with Kousei. On top of that, she plays an important… Dare I say instrumental… Role in Your Lie’s deeper themes.

Your Lie in April is a story about inspiration, and it attacks this concept from every possible angle. As annoying and cliched as his friends may be, Kousei is a good character who has a great arc that deals with this theme. He begins as a child, having fun doing something that he’s gifted at, until he stops doing it for fun and starts doing it as a future career, being forced to perfect it and take it seriously by his mother, who pushes him to the point of abuse. She controls his life, making everything he does revolve around the piano, even taking away his cat and abandoning it somewhere so it can’t scratch his hands. He loses the ability to hear the notes he’s playing, and quits altogether to avoid his mother’s tyranny along with the intense pressure she put on him for not being good enough. On the surface, this is a very mature look at child abuse and the way it can have long term psychological effects on the developing mind, such as Kousei’s performance anxiety, and especially the fact that cats pose a trigger for him(And I mean the actual definition of trigger, not the bullshit internet definition), and the abuse in question is realistic, rather than cartoony or melodramatic.

Below the surface, this is a story for anyone who’s ever lost their passion for something they once loved. The idea that expressive and interpretive music is frowned upon, and only literal performances are acceptable in competition, which is enforced by both the competition committee and Kousei’s mother, gives an understandable reason for his loss of inspiration. His music was becoming routine, and pointless. I don’t think his inability to hear the notes he’s playing is realistic at all, but it’s symbolic for that loss of passion. When your work becomes routine, it becomes repetitive, and it finally becomes robotic. When your hobby becomes work, you fall out of love with it, which is why Kaori coming into his life was such a major turning point for him. She showed him that there was another way to play. She inspires him, breathing new life into his abilities, and helps him to separate his passion from the pain and sadness that he’d come to associate it with, and it changes his life in so many ways… He starts playing again, he comes out of his shell, and he even begins teaching a younger pianist… That he winds up inspiring her in return.

They also make an argument that you play even better when you’re playing for other people, and while I’ve never personally agreed with that, they make a compelling case. Your own music, your own performances, are not your only legacy. The music you inspire others with is just as important, as your work also lives on through their work. They make a great point when they say that it’s hard to play the piano when you compare yourself to Beethoven, but it’s not nearly as hard when you remember that Beethoven was once just like you, a rookie trying his best to measure up to the greats who inspired HIM. It’s a shame they had to resort to a manic pixie dream girl in order to pull this off, but it’s largely forgivable, especially considering certain reveals that happen in the final episode. So yeah, this is not a shallow series. There is meat to the story, and something meaningful that you can get out of watching it. I’d be happy to say that the series was also executed well, but sadly, this is where things start to break down.

The text of the series, for example, is severely lacking. The idea of inspiration and Kousei’s character arc are well written and exactly as subtle as it needs to be, but the other subplots… The romantic ones in particular… Are annoyingly obvious, and frankly, kind of arbitrary. I mentioned Tsubaki as a ‘childhood friend’ earlier, and while this should instantly telegraph that she’ll never get her guy… They never fucking do… She does absolutely nothing else to justify her presence. Everything about her revolves around her love for Kousei and why he won’t respond to it. Every aspect of her life ties in somehow to her love for him, and since it amounts to nothing, she could have been written out in the first half of the series. I won’t go into too much detail about the other romantic subplot, or how it offers Watari his only relevance to the plot(although he does have a few moments relating to the theme), but they commit one other huge mistake… They use constant, and I mean constant, voice over narration from the characters as they explain their feelings to the audience. It’s lame, it’s tedious, and it seems to be trying it’s best to keep YOU from thinking too hard about what you’re watching, because it doesn’t want the pointless teenage melodrama to lose it’s effect.

Another huge problem is the gag humor, which feels inappropriate and out of place. It makes the heavier themes of the show harder to swallow, and not just on an aesthetic level. For example: We see Kousei sustain head injuries during two of these gags, that result in him lying on the floor and bleeding out. We also see Kaori hit him right in the crown of the head with an axe kick, driving her heel down into his skull. Now, if these instances didn’t cause any lasting damage, and the people doing it are supposed to be seen as likable, how am I supposed to feel when his mother beats him in the head with her cane? I’ve seen him shrug off shit like that before, so I don’t care. Am I supposed to feel different because of the tone of the scenes? This isn’t the fucking Looney Toons. Hell, even the Looney Toons had consistency. I can’t be expected to believe that a portion of the material shown to me doesn’t count just because the writer was making a joke. That’s disgusting. I’ve complained about Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood making this mistake, but Your Lie is just as bad.

And then you have the plot, which did not work for me at all. Like, I said the themes were strong in this series, but they suffered one major setback. Kousei’s mother physically abused him and forced him to play music the way she wanted him to, all because she thought it was in his best interest. His friends, however, do exactly the same thing. Sure, they might not take away his beloved pet, but they still harass him, assault him, chase him, break into his room and generally act like complete assholes in order to get their way. He warns that his performance might not be good, he falters due to a psychological breakdown, Kaori has Tsubaki and Watari start roundhouse kicking him, and HE apologizes. How are they any different than his mother? Because it’s supposed to be comedic? I’m not exaggerating when I say that most of the interactions he has with his friends make me cringe, with their only justifications being ‘comedy,’ and the fact that they just happened to wind up being right. So the ends justify the means.

And then you have Kaori’s entire plot, which… Okay, I’m going to try not to go into spoilers, but if you’ve seen the show, you know damn well what I’m talking about. And this is the big one, the one that makes everybody praise the show out the wazoo, so I’ll try to be gentle. At the end of episode 4, Kaori faints on stage. At that moment, even though I was trying to enjoy the series despite it’s flaws, I couldn’t help it. I knew where this was going. I said, “Oh fuck, she’s gonna (censored), isn’t she?” I am dead serious about that. The beginning of the fifth episode featured her in the hospital, and folks, I predicted everything. I knew what was going to happen to her, i knew she was keeping it secret, I knew that it was going to be kept deliberately vague all the way to the end, I knew I’d never hear her play again(outside of maybe a dream or fantasy sequence), I knew what her backstory and connection to Kousei was going to be.

Knowing this stuff in advance took a huge damper off of the emotional impact of literally any point of the show. Granted, I did make one prediction that wasn’t true. I predicted we’d never meet her parents, which I wish had turned out true, because her parents are… Brace yourself for this… They’re Nagisa’s parents from Clannad. They are literally that. They own a pastry shop, they’re wacky and over-the-top, they live in said shop, and… Well, there’s one other spoiler connection, but that, along with a painful firefly sequence, made your Lie feel TERRIBLE at foreshadowing. I found myself, in both moments, shouting at my TV screen, “Okay, I get it, she’s gonna (censored), shut the fuck up about it!” So did the big bad tragedy work on me? No, of course it didn’t. The only part I got choked up at was a late scene when a cat died at a vet’s office, because it brought up painful memories for me. Don’t get me wrong, there’s something here, and it does make the experience a rewarding one, but it just couldn’t stick the landing.

Your Lie in April is available as a Rightstuf Exclusive, and I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the price is offensively high. Even on sale as part of the site’s holiday deals, it’ll still costed 130 dollars for each HALF of the series, down from 160 dollars regular price. Used copies on ebay go for as low as 60 dollars for each HALF, and I can not recommend you pay that much for an overrated series. You can watch it for free on Netflix, but if you absolutely need a physical copy, I’d actually go against my better judgement and recommend the Malaysian bootlegs on Ebay, which do come with a dub for a fraction of the official price. The manga is available from Kodansha comics, and volume 1 even comes with a sweet exclusive cover if you get it from Loot Crate. The live action movie is probably available stateside, but from what I’ve heard about it, I don’t care enough to check.

Your Lie in April isn’t a great anime, but it’s also not a terrible one. So, overall, is it good or bad? Well, to be honest, I didn’t enjoy the vast majority of it. I found the gag humor annoying and in bad taste, I found the comedic violence way too similar to some of the tragic material, there are too many cliches, and I caught on to some of the more important plot points way too early to fall for them. Having said that, I can’t say the experience was a bad one. The themes of Kousei’s character arc resonated very strongly with me, as someone who’s currently falling out of love with a long time hobby, and while I found his friends to be wholly unlikeable, his piano rivals were much more interesting, and I actually want to see more of him interacting with them. The final tragedy would have been a lot stronger if it hadn’t been so obvious, or if it at least had a proper explanation, and you can’t possibly deny that the audio and visual production went beyond top notch. It had a lot of problems, but honestly, it’s an okay show. It doesn’t live up to the hype, but it’s worth checking out. I’m being generous here, but I’ll give Your Lie in April a 6/10.

So, how was your holiday? How was your New Years? how was your 2017 in general? Well, mine wans’t any better, which is why I’m glad I’ve got a two week vacation from work coming up in less than two weeks.

If you saw my post from last week, you’ll know two things: I’ve been phoning in my content lately, and I have a brand new kitty stalking around the house. His name is Sgt. Pepper, he’s very lively(cat person talk for annoying) and I’ve done my best to spoil him rotten over the month and a half that I’ve had him.

Why am I talking about him? Because I’m hunched in front of my computer trying to type, and he’s literally draping himself over my shoulder like a scarf right now. Since his claws and teeth aren’t currently digging into me, I’m counting that as a win.

Anyway, the last review that I wrote, which you’ll be enjoying next weekend, was another highly recommended ‘tearjerker’ series, and to it’s credit, I did like it slightly better than Tokyo Magnitude 8.0. But as I sat through it, mystified over the fact that it drew out the sad, devastated tears of so many people, I figured it was way past time that I start telling people what anime gave ME the crippling ailment known as the feels.

The following are ten different anime, both movies and series, that actually made me cry. Technically, this is not my opinion, but pure fact… They made me cry, and in some cases, continue to do so on each viewing. I did, factually, literally cry. If you didn’t experience the same effect, it doesn’t make me better than you… It’s actually completely unrelated to the fact that I’m better than you!

To avoid spoilers, these entries will be brief. I’ll be including any kind of tears, with the exception of anime that made me cry from laughing too hard. That’s not technically a feel.

Let’s go!

10: Cat Soup

While I’m making no bones of the fact that you and I cry over different things, I’ll be the first to admit that this movie is a weird choice. I mean, hell, it’s a weird EVERYTHING. I called it a surrealist masterpiece in my review last spring, and I still hold to that, but thanks to other events that happened this year, it’s become something of a tearjerker for me on a strictly personal note. It’s about one cat traveling to the ends of the earth and defying God to bring another cat back to life, and in the week leading up to that post, I’d been forced to put my favorite pet of all time to sleep after we’d spent two thirds of his life and one third of mine together.

Yeah, remember Shadow, from last week’s post? There’s a good reason I dedicated my review of Cat Soup to him. It’s not a movie most people would get any sort of emotional reaction from… And understandably so… And yeah, this entry is an entirely, objectively personal one, but for me, it’ll always remind me of him.

Oddly enough, so will Kanye West’s Only One.

 

9: Lucky Star

I don’t have to find an entire show emotional in order to consider it a tearjerker. In some cases, it only has to be one particular moment that effects me in a way that the rest of the franchise doesn’t. Lucky Star has one of those moments towards the end of the series, and if you’ve seen the show, you know damn well what that moment was. It involved a special visitor to the Izumi house, and… Heheheh…

Having said all that, yes, I am perfectly aware that the moment I’m describing is not genuine. It exists in it’s own little bubble in the series(even moreso than most of it’s content), it doesn’t really connect to anything, it’s not set up, it doesn’t come back… But I think that’s part of what makes it so effective. It’s completely out of left field, and almost feels like you’re watching a different series. There’s not much else I can say about it, other than your tear ducts don’t stand a ghost of a chance.

 

8: Hell Girl

As I stated in my review back in 2016, this is a show about revenge. Almost every episode, we’re introduced to a villain and a victim, one who does horrible and unspeakable thing to the other, who in turn must suffer. This formula gives us endless opportunities to shed tears over tragic occurrences, as well as tears of joy whenever the aforementioned villains get their deserved comeuppance… Or so we think, until we get an episode where a stalker uses Ai Enma’s revenge services against a nurse that he’s obsessed with so he can send her to hell, kill himself and chace after her there.

Yeah, there’s something for everyone to get disturbed over in this show… The murder of newborn puppies, for example… God, I love how much you can say about this show without really spoiling it. People will be affected by it differently… I’ve been effected by it differently out of my numerous viewings of it… But the one episode that always makes me cry is the one where one of Ai’s former clients, an elderly man whose life is about to end, prepares to meet her for the second and final time. It’s not just a bittersweet time for him, and a huge emotional reveal for the audience, but it actually breaks through ai’s tough facade as well.

But like I said, you’ll find something in this show that’ll tug on your heartstrings. Just trust me.

 

7: Princess Tutu

Ya wanna know what sucks about running this blog? In order to keep up a weekly release schedule for the past four years, I’ve had to heavily restrict my time, and only view what’s necessary. Generally, i’ll watch an anime for a review, watch one or two other anime for fun, and then watch another anime for review, while binging one or two non-anime shows per year. As a side effect of this, I haven’t rewatched a single anime after reviewing it. That’s not an exaggeration, by the way. Look at the list of anime I’ve reviewed, on my Browse page… I haven’t watched any of those shows again since reviewing them. That alone makes me want to cry.

I’m remedying this problem right now, however, and there are two shows I need to rewatch before any others. One of them, that I’m rewatching right now, is Princess Tutu, the magical story about magical stories, and if there’s anyone out there who wants to call me less of a man for loving it and openly weeping through it… Yeah, okay, whatever. It deserves the love, and it deserves the tears. Princess Tutu is a show about characters in a story trying desperately to change their fates, and some of the most emotionally powerful moments in it come from them failing to do so, but succeeding in changing the context of their fates, making for surprisingly bittersweet resolutions.

I first saw this series over ten years ago, and as much as it effected me then, I’m watching it again as a 31 year old and even six episodes in, I’m already feeling choked up for scenes I never felt that way about before, making it officially one of the few anime that was already great, but just got better as I got older.

 

6: From the New World

Hey, remember how we were talking a little while ago about how people all seem to love a good death scene? You know how gut wrenching it is to fall in love with a character, only for them to suffer a tragic end at just the right time to leave us emotionally devastated? Well, try this on for size… How about if some extremely likeable supporting characters leave the show, characters whom you already feel sorry for, and you’re told that they’ve fled for parts unknown, and then it’s revealed a few episodes later(about five years, in the show’s time) that those characters were dead the whole time?

Ho. Ly. Shit. That is not how this is supposed to work. I’ll admit that I didn’t cry the first time I watched this show, but it pulled off it’s twists and turns so expertly and mercilessly that I found myself lying in my bed and staring at my ceiling for hours inbetween episodes. It wasn’t until my second viewing, where I knew where everything was heading, that the waterworks really started.

Right away with this series, I got an uncanny Rainbow Factory vibe, and points to anybody who gets THAT reference. It’s an anime that tells it’s story and makes it’s points better than at least 90 percent of the anime that I’ve seen, and it just so happens to shatter your heart into a million pieces in the process. I highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t already, but if you do, make sure you’ve got some comfort foods and a cuddly pet nearby to help you through it.

 

5: Toradora

Excuse me, Clannad, excuse me, I respect you, I’mma let you finish, but Toradora is one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time! Of all time! Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I don’t actually have any respect for Clannad. Anyway, this is the second anime I’ve reviewed that I plan to rewatch, as soon as I’m done with Tutu. When I reviewed it, back in 2015, I remember saying that it isn’t just great, it’s glowing, and that’s an assessment I still hold to after almost two years of not seeing it.

Toradora is an extremely emotion-driven show, and it’s not to cover up any logic or plot issues like a show that’ll be appearing later on this list. It’s a series about two social misfits who have fallen in love with people that they acknowledge to be way out of their league, and after discovering each others’ unrequited crushes, they make a pact to help each other land their desired partners, who coincidentally happen to be each other’s best friends. I don’t think it’s really a spoiler to say that they’re actually destined for each other, but whether or not they’ll ever realize it is entirely up in the air.

Toradora is a series that pulls off quite a few impressive feats… In addition to deconstructing and subverting a number of romantic comedy anime cliches, it also captures the feeling of teenage romance… That is to say, how it’s awkward, full of fail, and nobody knows what the fuck they’re doing. There are a ton of individual moments in it that constantly leave me in tears, but the one that stands out among the others is a certain scene during the christmas arc… Yes, there’s an entire Christmas arc… Involving what my memory is telling me was a Santa bear costume, but hey, it’s been a few years. Here’s hoping I enjoy it as much next time as I did last time.

 

4: Kotoura-san

Also known in the states as The Troubled Life of Miss Kotoura, I am honestly dumb-founded by how many people have never seen or even heard of this title. It’s one of the best anime to come out of 2013, which was, let’s be honest, a really great year for anime. I love this series with all my heart, and yet it’s so obscure that Rightstuff was selling the bluray box set for only 22 dollars. Don’t get me wrong, I like buying things cheap, but it’s worth so much more than that.

Haruka Kotoura is a mind-reader. As a child, she thought hearing peoples’ thoughts was normal, as she really didn’t have any basis for comparison. She used her new powers to dominate rock paper scissors and blurt out peoples’ secrets to each other, with no idea that these thoughts were supposed to remain private. This not only alienates her classmates, but it even goes as far as to destroy her family and tear apart her parents, who wind up abandoning her. That’s not even the end of her suffering as a child, it caps off with another truly devastating loss… And that’s just the first ten minutes of the first episode.

The rest of the series takes a lighter tone, as she enters high school and transfers into another school… And if i’m being honest, the middle kinda drags… but the deep psychological scars and complexes continue to plague her character as she tries to reconcile her new happiness with the question of whether or not she deserves it, and the final episode delivers a few perfect pay-offs to everything that’d been set up so far. I love the characters in this show, and I couldn’t help but get invested in all of them, especially Haruka herself. Check it out if you get a chance.

 

3: Angel Beats!

Even if I weren’t so ready to admit that I’m a really strange person, you could probably figure it out just from a cursory glance at my work, let alone this particular post. I cry during the weird 30 minute ova where fish eat cat shit. I cry during the moe space olympics(just wait). My tastes are weird, but if there’s one conventional choice that I have to begrudgingly bow to, it’s Angel Beats. I reviewed it a few years ago, and then I spent an entire post-review-post talking about it’s plot holes, and it’s one of my tear jerkers.

For the most part, I cry at the same scenes you cry at. This is a story about teenagers getting a second chance at life to make up for their disappointing childhoods, so of course a lot of them are going to have tragic backstories, but whoever was writing these little vignettes was NOT fucking around. These backstories aren’t just dark, they’re Steven King dark, and not only do they perfectly inform their characters, but they take on new layers on repeat viewings. I’m pretty sure Otonashi accidentally killed his sister and then walked around in public with her fresh corpse on his back.

And yeah, just like you, I get destroyed by that long, drawn-out, cheesy-as-hell graduation scene. I even cried over characters I didn’t like. I don’t get hit as hard by Kanade’s confession to Otonashi as other people do, but that final credits scene where everyone disappears one by one? The post-credits scene at the end, that was probably stolen from the deleted scenes of The Butterfly Effect? I can talk for hours about how stupid this series is, but that’s when i’m not too busy looking around for a fresh tissue. Does it make any sense? God no. Does it have a consistent plot or premise? Fuck no. But like I said in my review, I just can’t stay mad at it.

 

2: Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

In case you were wondering, yes, Angel Beats was a fluke. It’s pretty much the only normal choice on this list, and true to form, let’s talk about a vampire movie from the year 2000. The original movie holds a special place in my heart, but the sequel is about 1000 times better. I haven’t seen it in a while… Which is weird, since I haven’t reviewed it… But I distinctly recall it having a feature that I have never seen on any other anime DVD. On the DVD… At least, on the old DVDs, I actually don’t have the recent release… There’s a top ten list of the fan-voted best scenes of the film.

Now, yes, this does sound like a pretentious and entirely masturbatory move, like they’re patting themselves on the back for a job well done, but what can I say? That list actually captured all of the most memorable and resonant moments, especially with it’s pick of the epiloque as number one. The plot is basically that a vampire has run away with a teenage girl, and the titular D is hired to retrieve her. A mercenary faction is also hired, so things get complicated as they compete for the bounty… And then they get even more complicated when it’s revealed that the girl went along of her own free will, and they’re actually in love. No glamour or nothing.

There’s not a lot that I can say about this movie without giving away major spoilers… You really should just go watch it for yourself, it’s only about an hour long… And while some of my favorite scenes could have probably been cut out, like a horse seller putting his career on the line to defend D while dropping a HUGE bombshell about him, I still enjoy every single second of it. It has a ton of great characters that have a ton of great character, and hell, even the stone cold killer D gets some time to be vulnerable and show us that he has an empathetic side. And yes, of course, there’s that epilogue, which was perfect in just so many ways.

 

And now, for some honorable mentions.

Wolf’s Rain:  While I love and highly recommend this show, I’ve honestly never cried while watching it.

Fullmetal Alchemist:  There’s a funeral scene that gets me a little choked up, but not to any impressive degree.

The Ghibli/Miyazaki library:  I may have cried to a few of these, but I can’t remember, and I’m not going to marathon them just for the sake of this list.

Bunny Drop:  I didn’t cry through this, but I came close when I read how the manga ended.  I mean, good God.

Clannad, Air and Kanon:  You kidding me?

Steins;Gate:  You kidding me?

Another:  Fuck this show.

 

1: Battle Athletes Victory

What’s that? You say that I must have misspelled Your Lie in April? No, I most certainly did not. Just wait until next week if you want to see what my thoughts on that mediocre disappointment were. For the esteemed honor of the most tear-jerking anime that I’ve ever seen, we’re looking back at one of my favorite older anime, which I actually reviewed back in July. I went into great detail about why this series is so emotionally powerful, but to repeat what I said there, it’s a show about truth… Mostly, about different characters having to face hard, challenging truths about themselves and the world around them.

Battle Athletes Victory is a series whose feels just sneak up on you. It starts off really silly and over the top, and while it never actually stops being like that(trust me, you won’t want it to), this stupid show that started off with a bunch of teenage girls racing while rick-shawing giant steel wheels behind them pulls no punches as it examines the psychological issues of it’s cast, all of whom you become intimately familiar with over the course of the story, troubling racism aside. This is a sports anime, and there are stages where only a certain number of athletes can move forward, and very few characters are just inconsequentially written out when they lose or get eliminated.

You feel for all of them as they fall into despair, learn more about their identities, and then grow when the story gives them the chance to redeem themselves. The actual issues they go through can range from the simple, like the happy go lucky girl realizing she cared about winning more than she thought, to the main character who learns that she’s arrogantly using self-doubt as an excuse to sabotage herself. This show does Gunbuster better than Gunbuster. If you’re not in tears by episode five, you WILL be by episode seven, and that’s only the beginning. Every defeat every victory, every obstacle, every breakthrough will tear at your heartstrings in ways you never thought it could.

Now if only they’d release the damn show in a new format. There’s, like, eight DVDs of this, and they’re all wildly out of print. I’m not going to insist on Bluray, but at least a thinpack DVD set would be nice.

And that’s my list. If you didn’t see an anime that you particularly found just joyous or heartbreaking enough to draw your salty drops out, tell me about the shows I missed in the comments below.

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