So… I haven’t really been writing much other than Vampire Detective. It’s pretty much the only Korean drama I’m caught up on week after week. I’m woefully behind on other shows, and it’s mainly because I’ve been on a bit of an anime binge lately. I have not watched so much anime since probably high school, and I must admit there’s a bit of a nostalgia factor for me here. (Oh the days when I wanted to learn Japanese!)
So what anime have I been watching? Well.. here goes…
One Punch Man – Season 1
One Punch Man is the anime that a lot of people have been talking about in the past few months. It’s a superhero anime where heroes co-exist with humans and save them from all evil, whether it’s a petty thief or a mutant beast. There is a league of superheroes, and our protagonist, Saitama, is not a part of it. He wants to be though, but he isn’t as well known as the other heroes. It’s a bit ironic considering he’s also the most powerful of them all, having the ability to knock out all of his enemies with one punch.
The wonderful part about this is that Saitama is also your typical guy next door. He did nothing but train for several years to become the hero he is today, and cannot resist a good sale at the supermarket. He finds himself having a protege in the form of a cyborg-human named Genos (who’s really more cyborg than human), and the two of them battle random evil monsters that wreak havoc in Japan.
It’s a bit of a “monster of the week” kind of show as Saitama tries to join the league of superheroes. He barely scrapes by though, as he’s super strong but also super dumb, and ends up at the lowest tier of the League of Superheroes. (Meanwhile Genos is at the top because he’s a cyborg with a computer in his head.) It’s one of the frustrating things about this series: everyone does not value Saitama in the same way the viewers would because we know he’s better than all the superheroes combined, and yet they look at him like he’s at the bottom of the pile. I remember feeling very frustrated because it’s really an underdog story that goes to the extreme of making the biggest hero the underdog. Granted he’s not that smart, but not everyone has to be freaking Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne to be number one either.
At the same time, it’s a really funny drama and I love the animation used for this show. At times gritty and raw with its rough sketches, it also makes Saitama look very cartoonish with his round bald had and overly simplified facial features. I love how they change the characters’ looks from their “everyday expressions” to their hardened, heavily shaded “warrior expressions.” The interstitials, which are a part of every anime, manage to be interesting with the stylized renderings of all the characters and making them look like the old iPod ads of yore.
I enjoyed this series enough that I’m looking forward to a season 2. But it’s the show that I watch because I’m jumping on the bandwagon here and everyone said it was great – not because I was personally interested in the story to begin with.
Haikyuu – Seasons 1-2
This anime has changed my life. Sort of. I’m a huge volleyball fan already as I play in a league with other strangers and friends in the city. (Nothing official, it’s one of those places where adults gather for fun and play since they don’t have a school to fund their hobby.) So it was only natural that I would check out Haikyuu. And boy oh boy do I love it.
The anime follows two first-year high school students who were enemies in junior high: Hinata Shoyo, a short volleyball prodigy, and Kageyama Tobio, a genius setter. And when I say “prodigy” and “genius,” I mean it. Hinata has the talent of jumping really really high, which makes up for his super short stature. Kageyama is so good at setting that he can be sometimes too good for his hitters, who will miss his sets.
The two of them end up in the same high school, Karasuno, which used to be an elite school until their coach retired and it fell from grace. The volleyball club is made up of a bunch of strong-willed third-years who are seriously the best, some quiet second-years who quietly support the team, and boisterous first-years. Hinata and Kageyama are forced to work together for the best of the team, and they discover that they’re actually the most powerful duo, going up against other teams that are ranked so much higher than them… and beating them.
Once again it’s an underdog story, but it is far more gripping than One Punch Man. Here, you really want Karasuno to succeed and for all the team members to improve in their skills tenfold. In One Punch Man, you know the character will succeed but he has a hard battle in convincing everyone to respect him. The artwork is more conventional but the way that the sport is drawn is so thrilling. Sports anime (and dramas) can be pretty inspirational for me since I end up wanting to play the sport that the characters do, and it’s kudos to the artists who make the sport look so interesting. In addition, all the characters have a life of their own and it’s great to be able to juggle so many different characters and give them all a time to shine – or at least their own story arc. I find myself caring a lot for the characters, and I once nearly cried out when one of them was hurt.
This series is a little longer, at 25 episodes per season. I marathoned through both seasons in a couple of weeks and now I’m experiencing a heavy withdrawal. But I am considering a re-watch of the show, especially since it’s light, fast-paced, and incredibly entertaining.
Food Wars – Season 1
If there ever was an anime for food porn, this would be it. Food Wars, or Shokugeki no Souma, is an anime about aspiring chefs in an elite culinary academy (while they are of high school age). It’s all about challenging each other to make the best dish possible, and plenty of duels happen in this series. Yukihira Souma, the protagonist, is the son of a diner chef who learned how to cook beside his father. The two of them constantly have cook-offs where Souma consistently loses to his father, and also challenges on who can make the most disgusting food combination in history. The thing about this show is that in order to visualize the ecstasy one feels in eating Souma’s food, the anime literally depicts… sexual ecstasy.
I was definitely weirded out at first by seeing men and women go naked and writhe with pleasure when eating Souma’s foods, but after a few episodes I have to admit I was desensitized to it and it happened a lot less as time went on. Anime certainly has their way of sexualizing all the females in the show anyways. (I appreciate that it’s not the case in Haikyuu.) Instead, I started salivating for the food along with them. Literally this show is food porn, and it does certainly depict really delicious dishes. I know it’s a cartoon and just a drawing, but food can be so pretty!
Once again, it’s an underdog story here, as Souma does not come from a good pedigree as his other classmates. He comes from old-school diner cooking, which all of his classmates look down upon since they came from Michelin-rated restaurants. In addition he aspires to have a seat in the Elite Ten, the ruling body of the academy, and the only way to get a seat there is to challenge one of the Elite Ten to a cook-0ff. And that’s easier said than done. Souma has a huge uphill battle to climb, as sometimes you doubt whether he can really win the challenges with his dishes. After all, his classmates are all equally, if not more, talented as he is. But you really want him to succeed, and eventually that becomes the driving force for why I kept watching the anime.
Gate – Season 1
I’m currently in the middle of watching this particular anime now. Gate, which has an insanely long title of “Gate: Jietai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri,” is a fantasy adventure anime about a homely otaku who puts his hobbies before his job – that of a soldier in the army. When Tokyo is attacked by invading, strange forces, Itami Yoji jumps into action and saves thousands of lives from being massacred by the invaders. The invaders entered Tokyo through a mystical gate, which leads into a new world that is centuries behind modern-day Japan in terms of technological advancement. But it is also a new world where magicians, elves, dragons, and gods and goddesses co-exist with humans.
Itami is promoted (not by his choice) and leads a troop in the Special Region. There he befriends a few refugees: a magician named Lelei, a demi-goddess named Rory, and an elf named Tuka. With his troop, Itami also assists in leading peace negotiations between the Special Region and Japan, but not everything is as it seems. Itami is the kind of guy who doesn’t interest himself with politics; he’d rather just do the bare minimum in his job and then do whatever else he wants. But he does change and becomes more proactive as his friends find themselves in danger.
I really liked the first part of season 1 because it was a “fish out of water” story that had a lot of interesting characters to meet and a semi-interesting story arc. The politics of the modern day world play some part in the show, but not so much that it becomes annoying; Americans and Chinese governments are vilified while the Japanese government tries to keep the Special Region for itself to exploit. What was really fun to see was how Itami would find himself in the middle of all the politics, but not be completely aware of the ramifications of his actions and words. He’s a fish out of water in both the Special Region and in Japan.
But by the latter half of season 1 (or, if it could be called season 2) the politics ramp up and we see more of how the empire works in the Special Region. And, it’s not as interesting to me. I want more of Itami and his friends and troops. I want less of Princess Pina (the only royal who actually wants a peace treaty with Japan, but is somewhat ridiculous as a character) and her royal family (which include an abusive and racist crown prince, and a wily, war-mongering king). I guess I’ll have to watch more of this to see how the anime resolves itself, as it is a bit too early to judge what kind of anime this show intends to be.
Verdict (so far): 6.5-7/10
Update: I finally finished Gate. The politics really ramp up as a civil war breaks out in the Special Region, and while we do get some episodes that try to just focus on Lelei or Tuka, they all get inevitably tied back up to the civil war. The show rushes the final episode quite a bit, but I’m ok with not having another season for this show. It’s not worth it for me, especially when it paired up an adult Japanese ambassador with a 12-year-old heiress romantically. But even with all the changes that Itami Yoji goes through, he manages to still be the adorable otaku I fell for in the first episode. As long as he doesn’t end up with any of his wards.
Final verdict: 6.5/10
And finally, I just started watching Erased, which also goes by Boku dake ga Inai Machi. It’s a murder mystery where a young man with the ability to go back in time is suddenly transported to when he was 10, and must stop his classmate from being kidnapped and murder in order to stop his mother from being killed in the present day.
So yeah – anime is currently my life right now. And eventually I’ll probably get back to Please Come Back Mister.