Broken and Beautiful in Girls’ Last Tour

Girls’ Last Tour captured my attention and my emotions on an intellectual and emotional level to a degree that I rarely find anywhere. Its aesthetic sensibilities call back to shows like Haibane Renmei and Kino’s Journey, with its methodical pace, faded palette and textured backgrounds, the setting almost as intricate as the characters themselves. This paired with its powerful yet accessible philosophical explorations create a show that seems beyond its time. I feel I could return to Girls’ Last Tour years later, that I would really want to come back to it years later, unable to erase the memory of this experience and filled with an unending desire to recapture it.

Girls’ Last Tour may explore these philosophical concepts, but it doesn’t put them on a grand pedestal or attempt to self-congratulate for addressing these subjects, rather they are simply natural topics of conversation that arise from the characters and their situation. How could they not? In this post apocalyptic world, where food is scarce and humans scarcer, Yuu and Chito’s close bond is what gives them the strength to go on. Perhaps I am lonely or sad, they think, but it’s okay, I have you, I can get through this, I can move forward.

Resonating throughout the show is that simple theme. Not giving up, ever pressing onward. Having that goal, that passion that keeps us getting up day after day. Our map, our plane, – surely without failure success wouldn’t be near as sweet?

I work my way up, and now I’ve fallen down. I’m starting over, but that’s okay, I can keep going. Kanazawa felt he’d die if he lost his maps, but he accepts the loss and starts anew, a gentle grin as he parts with our main duo. Ishii’s failure results in her literal fall to square one, yet in the face of despair she smiles, ready to pick up the pieces and start again. Their passion may be an endless bane, but through it all, it is their will to live, their proclamation to the universe and to themselves of their existence.

“Why live?” The show asks. “Why not live?” Is its firm reply. “The sunset’s so very pretty, wouldn’t you agree? Especially with a friend beside you, taking in the warm light in this symphony for the eyes – playful chatter filling the silence and their hearts.”

“Listen closely”, the show tells me. “Can you hear the raindrops falling? The pitter-patter and how it soothes the tired mind, music hailing down from above.” A satisfying rhythm is found in nature’s endless cycle, a timeless gift even in humanity’s last days.

They hear a distant song playing on the radio…it is sad, but still so very sweet. They travel this ruined world, with so much lost… tragic indeed, but still so very beautiful. The endlessly ascending landscapes prove a mirror to our endless climb, as we play along in this sad, joyful, broken, wonderful world.

I take this all in, tears near to my eyes. I’m helplessly captivated as the distantly familiar piano beckons me closer, the bittersweet strings pining away, a gentle song lowering my guard. I’m completely exposed, at the will of this show, as Yuu and Chito’s ambling conversation forms a rhythm of its own amongst the scattered cries of this aged earth. The music of life, the joy of existence, captured so poignantly in this little show that has such a curious lack of noses.

The light around me has turned dark, and beneath the glare of my computer screen, chills run down my spine as I reflect back upon the show. I have to say something, I have to convey these emotions that engulf me so fully. Words will never do it justice, but this, this is all I can do. Just this.


Kor Reviews: Subete ga F ni Naru – The Perfect Insider

Originally Posted January 16, 2015

(This review contains spoilers for the first three episodes)

Whether you personally call yourself a fan of the genre, one must admit that us humans as a whole find mysteries – whether real or fiction – to be deeply engrossing. Once your curiosity is piqued, it’s hard to get it off your mind. We all have a built in desire to know the unknown, to figure out what’s unexplained. The mystery genre of fiction builds off of this simple trait, but there’s a greater appeal. That appeal is that of puzzles, solving a complex problem in order to reach a conclusion. Once you solve a puzzle or the solution is revealed to you, and you finally realize how everything fits together it’s that brilliant “ah-hah” moment that gives incredible satisfaction. Why go on about mystery in my opening statement? Well that’s because I’m reviewing none other than the somewhat divisive A-1 Pictures 2015 Mystery anime known as Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider.


The mystery of Subete ga F ni Naru lies a certain genius named Magata Shiki. Without warning she killed her parents as a child, but was deemed not guilty by case of insanity. Soon after, she disappeared to a small island facility of scientists. However, years later, she begins making public appearances once again. The brilliant university professor Souhei Saikawa is fascinated by her intellect, and his adoring and surprisingly smart student Moe Nishinosono thus decides for their group tour to be to that very island – with the hope that she could arrange another interview with Magata, after her previous solo excursion. When the group arrives at the island, Nishinosono and Saikawa sneak their way off from the campgrounds and get into the labs. While they are on their visit, however, an unexpected turn of events devastates Saikawa’s hopes. The AI that runs the lab seems to malfunction, the doors are opened and Magata Shiki is revealed to be dead. How was she killed? That is the start of this unsolvable case. Video logs of the past 15 years show that the door was not opened until that day, and the AI from all respects should have been completely foolproof to any glitch or virus. Intriguing, to say the least.


One issue in this mystery is that it’s singular. There is one case which is solved over the course of the entire series. While it certainly is an interesting case to say the least, there is a reason that your average running to for a mystery ranges from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. Especially with a locked-room mystery such as this, there is only so many clues that can be found. By its very nature that type of mystery is more small and self-contained, which is fairly unfitting for an 11-episode show. I believe that it is because of this inordinate amount of time there was to fill that there are so many scenes throughout that feel redundant or unnecessary. Be it showing us a flashback to the exact scene we saw a few episodes ago, or a pointless and random bout of jealousy in a character that ultimately goes completely nowhere. I even made a specific note of how almost the entire first 10 minutes of episode 6 were unnecessary. I think the show could have easily been cut down to 7 or 8 episodes and have been far better off.

Though it did overstay its welcome a bit, the mystery itself is a pretty clever one. It’s the type of reveal that while highly unlikely that you would be able to figure it out very far before hand (due to some hints simply being indiscernible from the perspective we’re presented until our detectives figure it out). However there are plenty of scenes that hint towards the solution that in retrospect seem so very obvious, which I would imagine makes for a very good rewatch experience as you pick up on subtle hints that you didn’t notice before.


A pretty major part of what makes this show an interesting experience that manages to hold its audience despite the excessive length lies in our characters – primarily Magata, Saikawa, and Nishinosono. In some episodes the mystery takes a backseat, with the focus shifting towards revealing more about their personalities. Because these three’s thought process is so vastly different from our own, especially with the case of Magata and Saikawa, a good portion of the show’s intrigue comes from wanting to learn why these characters behave the way the do and what their thought process is. A common criticism directed towards this show is that in regards to those two “brilliant” characters, their dialogue on occasion becomes far too psychological and pretentious, even seemingly glorifying indisputably wrong actions. My rebuttal to this argument is that, while these complaints are not unfounded, the show is trying to create a portrait of this genius psychopath whom Saikawa holds in respect as he tries to comprehend her process of thought. It seems they were trying to create that tense yet relaxed relationship between two geniuses, one on the “right” side and one on the “wrong” side. The intention was to create a relationship like that of Moriarty and Holmes or the Master and the Doctor, though it did not have enough build up or explanation to be as compelling and understandable as the aforementioned examples. Ultimately, while Magata is a very interesting character from how broken her perception of the world is, I agree that the perspective from which the characters view Magata is unrealistically positive.


The presentation makes for a lot of whether the show is interesting or not. The exact same conversation presented one way or another could be either fascinating or boring. How does Subete ga F ni Naru fair in this department? It lies somewhere in-between. As I mentioned previously, the show recaps scenes we’ve seen shortly before and generally shows the exact scene with at the most a filter added on top. Often the editing is impatient and indecisive, quickly cutting back between two characters when they are talking. This consistently appears throughout the show and while it may seem a small error in theory it’s very frustrating when one is actually watching it. I would have appreciated it if the camera would just back up and stay still for more than a second. Somewhat in line with this issue is that we far too often see the “here” and “there”, but rarely are shown the actual process of the characters moving between important scenes. This makes everything feel a little stilted and also makes it harder to get immersed and feel like this location is an actual place. It isn’t all bad, however. The character designs and animation itself is very solid, and the use of lighting and color compliments everything nicely. There are a few scenes that frame the shot from a very interesting and enjoyable perspective, and the creative backgrounds used throughout add a bit of extra flair. The soundtrack as well contributes pleasantly to the atmosphere, with a particularly good use of the Prelude from Bach’s Cello Suites No. 1. However, the pieces do have a bad tendency to overstay their welcome, and occasionally border on over-the-top. All in all, though, the OST does its job.

Subete ga F ni Naru, while far from perfect, is still a show I would recommend – especially to fans of drama and mystery. The mystery may be too long, but it’s still incredibly clever. The characters may be a little unrealistic, but they are still very interesting to learn about. The presentation may have issues, but there are still quite a few scenes that really draw you in. Subete ga F ni Naru has those scenes that get you interested, it has those moments in which I was completely invested and immersed. Those moments what makes it a show worth watching.


Kor Reviews: Sakamichi no Apollon

Originally Posted December 26, 2015

Music is such an all-encompassing part of everyday life. Everywhere we go, everything we do, almost always there will be music involved somewhere in it. Music is able express feelings through our ears and straight to our heart, and the way each piece is played and written tells us little things about the author. Where am I going with this? Well, if you read the title, then you know the anime I’m talking about today is Sakamichi no Apollon (or Kids on the Slope) from studio MAPPA. Sakamichi no Apollon notably focuses on two jazz playing friends in the ‘60s, as we watch their struggles with the unexpectedness of life and see it portrayed both in their words and actions as well as through the music they play.

The show begins by introducing us to the pensive teenager Kaoru Nishimi, who by an unexpected turn of events ends up befriending the school-wide feared delinquent Sentarou Kawabuchi. Kaoru soon comes to see that Sentarou is a far softer guy than others would think, and discovers that Sen is also an avid jazz drum player. As Kaoru warily joins in their little band – meeting Junichi, Ritsuko, and Tsutomu in the process – and they begin playing music together, many of the twists and turns that come with growing up interrupt his previously apathetic life.


So how does the show fare? Is Sakamichi no Apollon a brilliant character study, or does it fall flat in its ambitious journey? While the show certainly does succeed in many areas, particularly the audial and visual portions, there’s a good chunk of issues that lie in the story. Sakamichi no Apollon follows the somewhat common Josei-drama style wherein said drama seems to take precedence over all in a fairly unrealistic manner. The way the story progresses feels contrived. Rather than the characters and their life situations driving the story in a way that comes off as logical, most major plot points are clearly designed and break the immersion. Characters seem to just walk into each other whenever it’s convenient for the plot. On occasion characters within the show will act completely irrationally and out of character simply to create conflict and keep the story moving, though half the time this conflict doesn’t really go anywhere. I would have much preferred keeping the focus on these characters when they’re together rather than when they’re being forced apart as the cast does have a nice dynamic. Despite the irritating contrivance of it all, I still found myself invested simply due to caring for the characters.


By far, however, my greatest issue lies in the shows ending, or the lack thereof. After a rather unexpected turn of events, there is a time skip that is covered within a single episode. No epilogue or anything of the sort, it just sort of ends. It barely explains anything and comes of as very unsatisfying. All it really needed was one more episode, even an OVA, and I think the ending would have come off a lot better. Given that it didn’t though, I’d recommend simply reading the last chapter of the manga, as it does fix a lot of problems I had with the show’s ending.

So sure, the story isn’t perfect, but the music and animation come pretty close. While I’ve seen complaints towards the lack of importance that the time period plays in the series, I appreciate it as it gives a nice visual change of pace. We’ve seen the same settings time and again. The ‘60s is a much less common setting for anime in particular, and the art definitely makes it feel real.


From a technical perspective, the animation is downright fantastic. The way characters move is accurate, consistent, and incredibly smooth. Most impressively for me, this show really seems to nail that feeling of weight that is so hard to do properly. As if this weren’t enough, the musical sequences step this up to the jaw dropping level. It’s not all in technicality though, the perspective from which everything is portrayed really does make you feel at home in this world and with these characters. These places become familiar and comfortable, from the slope to the record shop.

In this case, I’ve made special note to leave the best for last. That is, the music. The soundtrack makes for a big part of why the show is as effective as it is. If Samamichi no Apollon were about something else I wonder if it’d even be able to be considered “good”. The show’s musical focus is on that of jazz, and I personally have great respect and perhaps a fair bit of bias towards it as it essentially got me into the genre. You really don’t need to be a jazz fan to enjoy this show, in fact I’m inclined to recommend it especially to people who don’t know about jazz and would like to see what the genre can offer. For the more experienced jazz fans, however, there are little tidbits here and there that are nice to see, such as Sen’s pet pigeon being named Sarah Vaughan.


Aside from its genre, just as music it’s fantastic. The portions of the OST that are for background all serve their purpose effectively. Each piece has a sense of individual flair and memorability, accentuating the scenes they accompany. The compositions for the in-show music performances, much like the animation, take it up a notch. It’s hard to discern whether or not this was intentional, but it legitimately feels like the musicians playing had a deep understanding of the characters they portray. The way the music is played and developed feels unbelievably authentic to the events going on in the story with the characters and their changes. In particular, there is a musical sequence in episode seven where our two main characters perform a medley consisting of three songs previously highlighted. The style of the piece and transitions between songs shows just how much these characters have developed. This scene serves as a highlight to the series and despite not being inherently sad is emotionally provocative. Listening to the piece alone does the job well enough, as it is a brilliant interpretation, but listening to the piece and knowing these characters and their struggles makes it far more powerful.

As a whole, Sakamichi no Apollon is not a particularly strong show. It bears plenty of faults in it’s story and characters, to the point that one could justifiably argue that it is “overrated”. However, there is a reason Sakamichi no Apollon is loved by a fair few. It uses music in a brilliant manner. Many other shows, even those that claim to be focused around music use it merely as a driving point for the story. The music isn’t what makes the show, in fact it could easily be replaced with any other story element that can bring our characters together towards one goal. However, with Sakamichi no Apollon the use of music feels far more sincere. Music seems to course through everything within the show as a truly integral part. That’s what makes this show special. It isn’t perfect, no it’s far from it, but it has those moments of brilliance. It has those scenes that make think “wow”, that touch you to your core. And personally, I think shows that can do that are worth noting, regardless of their flaws.


Kor Reviews: Garden of Words

Originally Written November 23, 2014

Hello everyone, and today I’m reviewing the 45-minute-long Rain and Foot Fetish OVA from 2013, Garden of Words.

Before getting down to my gripes, I’d like to go in depth with the one thing I really loved. The animation. It’s spectacular. I know I say that about almost everything this man Directs, but even more so with this one than the others. I was hard pressed to believe it really could get much better than 5 Centimeters per Second, but it did.


I mean have you honestly ever seen a cup of coffee or a pencil on a notebook look so good? The visuals really set the tone, with it beautifully displaying these rainy days to the point where I was getting the chills. I can honestly and wholeheartedly say It’s easily in the top 5 of the best looking animation that I’ve seen. Not even limiting it to anime, in the entirety of animation as a medium it’s pretty high up there. Those awe-inspiring panning shots were unbelievable. Garden of Words proves that use of CG in anime is by no means a bad thing. It perfectly blends in, to the point it was barely noticeable, and allowed for some really incredible scenes that most likely wouldn’t have been possible without it.

I watched this movie with a friend, and the one thing we kept saying aloud over and over again was “Man the animation though…” I could write page upon page but the only real way to appreciate it is to watch it for yourself and ascertain what you can from the visuals you’re seeing now.

Sadly, I don’t think the story does the art justice at all. Voices of a Distant Star managed to tell a much more complete and satisfying story in but half the time that Garden of Words had which bothers me more than anything. Shall we go over the basic premise and I’ll point out a couple flaws that I had right off the bat?


Takoa Akizuki, a 15 year old, just keep that number in mind for now, is training himself to become a shoemaker, skips out on school one rainy day and is sketching shoes in a garden. There he meets the mysterious woman Yukari Yukino. Without ever arranging to meet, they meet again and again at that garden, but only on rainy days, and their bond gradually grows. Sound like a nice setup, no? Let me point out the number one flaw.

How old do you think Yukari is? 15? 17? 20? She is 27. TWENTY SEVEN. I don’t care if it’s a number, or the fact that they’re both drawn to look like they both in their twenties, that fact alone makes it so hard to immerse myself in this world and feel like it’s real, when if it was someone would be calling the police.

But let’s look past that, for the sake of argument. How do the characters hold up?

Whenever I’m watching a movie or show, in order to determine how much I really care about these people I ask myself a simple question: “If this person died right now, even if it was presented dramatically, would I really care?” And I can honestly say that, for Garden of Words, the answer is no. Even with 5 Centimeters a Second I would’ve felt sad, but for Garden of Words I really have to say not in the slightest. It’s not that I didn’t like these characters to some extent, but they felt very superficial. There was no depth.



Let me give an example: You’d imagine that’d they show us a fair amount of Yukari and Takoa’s interactions in the gardens, right? So we can see how their relationship develops and how they grow closer, along with getting to know them individually better, right? Nope. Almost all of it is quickly glossed over in a montage-like sequence. It almost feels like Shinkai wanted to make this movie with the explicit purpose of making a pretty movie, because so much time is spent on these wonderful panning and still shots of the environment, in favor of actual character development.

The thing is, it felt like there was more. I would say that it’d benefit from a extended length, but for the 45 minutes they did have, there was barely any character development or depth, and while there were many many plot points and reasonings hinted at, they were never fully explored. Even considering the small amount of time they had, they still could have done oh so much more. I can’t relate to or care about characters I barely know, and that is where my main problem stems from. I don’t know these characters, and for me, characters are what I tend to watch a movie or series for. The story was incredibly simple, so it’s not as if I could turn to that instead. It’s a simple romantic setup, and not much more than that. There is some symbolism, but it’s so very obvious there’s no point in even talking about it.

Despite all this, you know what? I still had fun with this film. It’s a very easy movie to watch, just the right level of engaging to not be too mentally stimulating as to require extensive focus, but just enough that you want to watch it the whole way through. Excluding the teacher-student relationship, this, much like a lot of Shinkai’s work, would be a very good example to show people at the very least, just how brilliantly beautiful animation as a medium can get. I’ll quickly comment on the music, since it didn’t really come to mind much. It was alright, though far from the best. I did notice the piano could sound a little unfitting and also a little too loud at times, but I did enjoy the ending song and overall it was fine. While we’re on the topic of audio I’ll also say that the dub, from what I watched of it, was fairly solid, though Yukari’s voice acting was a little stilted.
I rarely say something’s worth watching for the animation alone, but you know what? Garden of Words is. While the story and characters were far from perfect, the art certainly isn’t. It definitely could have been much more, but it’s worth it for the 45 minutes of beauty. 


Kor Reviews: 5 Centimeters per Second

Originally Written June 6th, 2015

Though I generally try to keep my reviews spoiler free, due to the nature of this film in particular, I really can’t properly talk about it in depth without giving spoilers, so be warned.

The story is split into three parts, each of which being easily described in but a few sentences.

  • Part 1, our main character Takaki goes to visit his childhood friend that he is in love with and had to move away from, Akari.
  • Part 2, time has passed, and Takaki is still depressed over his love. Kanae, a friend of his at his school has fallen in love with him, but she quietly accepts that the feelings will never be reciprocated.
  • Part 3, even more time has passed, and along with a slightly odd AMV-like sequence spliced in the middle, we see Takaki pass Akari on the street. He turns to look, but a train passes and she is no longer there. He walks forward, moving on from his past love.

5 Centimeters per Second is a very hard one to criticise. It does so very much right, and overall is a memorable and very enjoyable experience. While it never hit me too much emotionally, it was just engaging enough that I did emote somewhat with the characters. This film excels at setting  the atmosphere. You can feel the chill of the cold winter, the bustle of the train station, the salty spray of the ocean. All of this can be credited to the phenomenal animation, art, and sound design. The realism is stunning, and the character animation is consistent, smooth, and realistic in it’s movement. The beautiful piano soundtrack, that’s nicely simplistic and effective, and the general sound design breathes life into this world.

It feels like it wants to be similar to the experience that Grave of Fireflies evokes, with it’s slow pacing and overarching feeling of realism and sadness, yet I don’t think it quite does so.


Here’s my number one issue with 5 centimeters per second. The running time. Each part feels like a randomly selected episode from a full length show. While some say this anime touched them, it really didn’t affect me on a deeper level, and it’s because love seems to be all there is to this anime. Not that a romance is by any means bad, but in the words of one of Kanae’s friends to her “All you think about is Tohno.” And that was my problem. Love seems to be all these characters are. I don’t want to know if they’re in love, that’s pretty obvious, I want to know the who and the why. You can’t have the slow pacing and focus on atmosphere this film has and have a compelling character relationship on top of it with the short length.

I feel that the balance between characterization and atmosphere could have been handled much better. It doesn’t have sacrifice it’s fantastic tone, but if done right it would have made for a much more compelling and investing experience overall. The separation isn’t near as jarring if you didn’t spend a significant amount of time seeing them together in the first place. We do get a brief glance at that towards the end of part 1, and you know what? I really enjoyed that segment. I just needed more. For instance, there’s a short scene in part 3 where this girl who apparently has been a workmate of Takaki’s during the timeskip confesses that she loves him through a text. The scene didn’t feel meaningful at all to me, as we really don’t know who this character is, even less so than the others. It felt completely unnecessary and pointless.


My one other complaint was that in part 1 especially, the inner monologue was heavily overused. It was using it in the fashion that one would describe things in a book, but the entire purpose of being descriptive is to evoke an image and feeling in one’s imagination, and if you already have the sound and visuals to display what you’re going for, that’s not necessary. It was telling us things that were already or could have been conveyed through the visuals, and I feel if there had been little to no talking whatsoever throughout it would have actually been a more powerful experience, as you would have to piece together the segmented story yourself which would create a more engaging experience and end up getting you more emotionally invested.

The film does though have a fair amount of times where it relies on the visuals, through the moments of silence and atmosphere, and I feel without them it wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as it is. While I am more a fan of more character and story driven shows, appreciating this beautiful art for being just that is something that I can enjoy. The characters and story that go along with it are far from terrible, so they rarely distract from it, I merely feel it could’ve been heavily improved upon.
For what it is, it’s still really good. From the atmosphere set by the sound and animation, to a for once well-handled use of the life-goes-on ending, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience that could easily be rewatched and shared with friends who enjoy the romance genre, anime fans or no.


Kor Reviews: Usagi Drop – Beauty in Simplicity

Originally Posted December 7th, 2015

There’s a certain beauty in simplicity. There’s something inspiring about capturing the raw form of something, stripping away the extraneous elements. Usagi Drop captures the essence of this beauty.

Hey everyone, my name is Kor, and today I’ll be reviewing Production I.G’s 11-episode depression medicine, Usagi Drop. It aired in the Summer 2011 season, and adapted the manga of the same name. But enough with the formalities – let’s jump right in.


Usagi Drop follows the life and bonding of Daikichi Kawachi and Rin Kaga. After Daikichi’s grandfather passed away, he was visiting his mother’s house for the funeral and was shocked to discover a shy young girl hiding from the crowd who he’d never met – this girl, as the evidence suggested, was the daughter of his grandfather and a missing woman they did not know. This strange set of circumstances made it so that during the family discussion no one wanted to take her in. But Daikichi, who has been quietly observing Rin’s kind and innocent nature decides to take her in despite his lack of knowledge regarding childcare. The story follows Daikichi as he learns to care for Rin and as their relationship grows.

Usagi Drop is in many ways a love letter to parenthood. It often expresses fascination with and appreciation for the effort and sacrifice parents give – especially single ones – but also acknowledges how in the end it’s so very natural and worth it all for the parent. The love expressed in the series feels incredibly genuine, when we see how the variety of parents express their care for their children, even if it’s only a brief appearance. The way they talk, the little gestures and facial expressions, all these further contribute to making the love feel real, especially in the case of Rin and Daikichi.


The familial bond that’s formed between Rin and Daikichi is a very satisfying one to watch, and as you see them grow closer – you yourself start to feel closer to them as well. This show makes you pay attention to the little things in life. In Usagi Drop, those passing moments are the most important ones.

What I especially appreciate about Usagi Drop is it’s wise use of speech or the lack thereof. A fairly common trope in anime and pretty much everything is that of a character expressing what’s happening, what they are thinking, or how they feel aloud. While it certainly gets the job done, it hurts the believability of the show and the character because simply put, normal people don’t act like that. Usagi Drop smartly avoids this. Conversations feel like conversations, never exposition or anything of the sort. It also benefits from allowing for those few quiet moments, having something told to the audience through facial expressions and gestures rather than through dialogue.


It helps that the animation is so well directed. It’s not done so in the sense that there are many stand out scenes and moments of brilliance, but rather that it equally conveys everything it needs to in a satisfying and effective manner throughout the show. The character designs are cute and memorable, and the animation of the facial expressions – especially for the kids – is utterly adorable. On a technical level the animation is generally pretty consistent, barring occasional off moments. What’s especially impressive is the use of color. The soft color choices are comforting to the eye and easy to watch, much unlike the widely popular unnecessarily high-contrast with bright coloration used in many other shows. Something of note is that in the beginning portions of each episode before the opening theme, the animation is colored with a very distinct watercolor style. It’s quite beautiful and I imagine they likely wanted to use this throughout the show but the budget didn’t allow for it. However, the short scenes of it we did get I’m quite happy we did.


The series’ soundtrack also supports the pervading theme of gentle simplicity. As you bond with the characters, an emotional bond is also formed with the tracks that accompany those moments. The songs vary from bubbly and rhythmic to mournful and sweeping. In the OST there is often the use of a repeating theme or even single note that continues throughout the whole piece. Generally the instrument choice is sparing, and the technical complexity is rather basic, but this style suits the straightforward honesty of the show well. The notes may not be brimming with intricacy, but they are wisely chosen. Each note has a sense of purpose and identity, and effectively provokes an emotional response, often aided in doing so by its accessibility.

Usagi Drop is short, sweet, and will win your heart over any day of the week. Due to it’s length and design, it’s very easy to watch, and makes for an incredibly enjoyable experience. It even is one of the few shows that makes good use of the life-goes-on ending. Often times this type of ending is used when the show has run out of episodes or caught up with it’s source material, and comes off as frustrating and lazy. However, in Usagi Drop, it proves to be effective. The story isn’t about a final conclusive point, there isn’t really an end goal. The show is about watching relationships develop, enjoying the beauty of everyday life, which is why it’s fairly inconclusive end is still quite satisfying. Granted, there were a few story arcs that ended up being left unresolved because of this, but ultimately they did not play a major enough role in the story to really be a problem. Usagi Drop is wonderfully touching little anime that you’ll remember long down the line for being just that. It hits all the right places, and just does everything well, to the point that it’s hard to find any major faults. Memorable, adorable, and pretty darn phenomenal, Usagi Drop is a fantastic Slice of Life that doesn’t need you to be a Moe fan to fall in love with it.usagi-drop-wallpaper-_

Kor Reviews: Haibane Renmei

Originally Posted October 26th, 2015

Sin, redemption, mystery. A foreign town with abstract rules and hidden secrets, where angelic-looking creatures are born unawares, and attempt to come to terms with this world and themselves. This is Haibane Renmei, the 13-episode 2002 anime from the mind of Yoshitoshi ABe, known for his work on Serial Experiments Lain and Texhnolyze.

Haibane Renmei is certainly a strange beast to discuss. Much is left open to interpretation, and while not quite as bizarre and alienating as Serial Experiments Lain, it’s not a simple show in any respect. The series begins by bringing us straight into the new setting, from the perspective of the newly hatched Haibane, Rakka. She is guided by the other Haibane, with special guidance and care given to her by Reki, the “den-mother” of the Haibane’s house (called “Old Home”).

The first and greatest complaint that many and myself have with the series is it’s excruciatingly slow start. While one would think that introducing us to this mysterious world from the perspective of one who is just as ignorant about it as we are would help to convey the setting in an interesting yet understandably expository way, the start of the series is rather uneventful, and sad to say, uninteresting. This is due in part to many elements. None of the character relationships that empower the show later on have been formed yet, the direction of the animation for the start uses quite a few uninspired camera angles and many budget-saving shots of upper bodies talking. Further, perhaps the largest issue lies in our main character’s initially rather submissive reaction to this place. Why should the audience care, if you’re not doing a particularly convincing job of showing that the characters themselves care.

However, the series’ opening isn’t completely devoid of intrigue. Various scenes and character interactions provide buildup and give glimpses of what is to come, such as the chilling presentation of a Haibane growing wings, and the relatively relaxed mood transitions well into some of the darker parts of the series that are yet to be revealed.

The real strength of Haibane Renmei lies in the relationship between Rakka and Reki, and how those two characters relate to the rest of the cast. The growth in their friendship is believable, and Reki’s experience with trial, her caring attitude, and her hard emotional shell contrast well with Rakka’s naivete but developing desire to help Reki as she sees her more clearly. They are alike many ways and opposite in others, each comforting the other in their emotional struggle, resulting in an incredibly engrossing dynamic that only continues to get stronger and stronger as the show reaches it’s conclusion and more is revealed and introduced. How they talk with one another, how they express their emotions and read the other’s actions feels intrinsically unique to these characters and this series. It’s a back-and-forth that can’t be forgotten, and is a great factor in the show’s effectiveness.

It’s themes of redemption and coming to terms with oneself come towards the forefront as Haibane Renmei continues, however I will leave off touching on it’s more open to interpretation elements for the sake of letting everyone reach their own conclusions, just as the series’ creator and even the Communicator, a character within the show wanted.

Now for the visual side of things. The character designs of course are brilliant as one would expect of Yoshitoshi ABe, with the unique flair he gives his characters. Each design really suits the person, and the designs are strikingly beautiful and memorable. The animation is handled by a little known studio that was open from 1995 to 2006 called Radix Ace Entertainment. They’ve worked on NieA_7, Divergence Eve, and many similarly small projects.

Like ABe’s other projects, this was obviously animated on a lower budget, but unlike Lain or Texhnolyze, it’s a lot less clever in hiding it. The animation spikes and drops as much as the audio waves I see when I record.

One thing is clear. This company can – or could, I should say – animate. There are quite a few scenes, almost entire episodes even, where it sucks you in with engaging perspectives and fluid, lifelike character movements. Hints of this can even be seen in the first episode, with Rakka’s dream in particular. When they make the brilliant art style come to life, it works incredibly well. The problem lies in that that’s not happening constantly. Especially earlier on, the animation is generally decent, though still somewhat choppy or stilted, with a focus on shots that show less movement. On top of that, there are occasional cuts, sometimes several per episode, that I can only imagine are due to poor time management, low budget, or bad outsourcing because they are downright awful, jarringly so and to the point that you wonder how it could possibly get past the quality check. While it’s may not necessarily make up for these failings, as I said before, when it works it works. The final episode along with those leading up to it show a great spike upwards in the animation quality. While there are still a few hiccups here and there they really do pick up their slack. Even the episodes towards the middle and beginning of the series have moments that show this temporary great animation. When the story is showing a really important moment, you can see that the animators or the overseer valued that and made sure it was done with a higher quality.

The one consistent factor throughout is the wonderful background art, which really brings life to Old Home and the many other locations. While the animation is definitely lacking, the overall impression it leaves is positive. Those brilliant scenes, few they may be, leave a much greater impact than the mediocre ones.

How about the music? It’s something I feel is often left out when discussing this show, but Haibane Renmei’s OST deserves far more attention. The soundtrack is stunningly beautiful. Each piece is overflowing with emotion and atmosphere. More so than the background art, I find the music is what truly immerses me in this world. “Breath of a Germ” is regal and inquisitive. “Starting of the world” brings out the feeling of adventure and exploration. “Silent Wonderland” is immersed in melancholic ambience. “Shadow of Sorrow” is mysterious and playful, with a deeper sadness emanating from it. “Someday, Lasting, Serenade” is a beautiful duet reminiscent of Bach’s cello suites and sonatas, being misleadingly simple note wise, but filled with strong tone and powerful emotion. I could go and on about how every single song in this OST is brilliant. Not to mention that as icing on the cake for me, this soundtrack has quite a few songs highlighting the Viola – a largely unappreciated instrument, but a very beautiful one that has a rich, warm tone.

These many exceptional moments truly come to their highlight in the series’ final episode, which is a pinnacle of direction, writing, everything. The way it conveys the emotion of the scene is overpowering, and the ending to it all will leave you in tears. Though whether those be sad tears, happy tears, or a bit of both, I’ll let you find out.

In the end Haibane Renmei has a lot flaws, but it’s rawness, it’s powerful overwhelming emotion far surpasses every potential flaw one could find. Through its outright brilliance in the show’s peaks, it creates a great impact on the viewer, one that won’t quickly be forgotten. Haibane Renmei is a beautiful, euphoric experience that is not merely a show, but a true work of art, a masterpiece.

Kor Reviews: Space Brothers

Originally Uploaded May 27th, 2015

If you ask anyone if they find space interesting, you’ll almost always get a yes in return. The vast unexplored expanse before us, beautiful yet mysterious. So much of our media is filled with stories of space travel. Tales of ‘the final frontier’ and ‘a galaxy far far away’. However, stories relating to space that are grounded in reality are surprisingly rare. And along here comes A-1 pictures’ 2012-2014 adaption of the manga that began in late 2008, **Space Brothers**.

Space Brothers recounts the story of the two siblings Mutta and Hibito Nanba. Long ago as children they made a promise. They promised to become astronauts and stand on the moon together, but Mutta has forgotten his goals while his younger brother Hibito is already fulfilling them. This story follows Mutta’s journey to finally grab hold of his dream, and all the struggles he and his younger brother overcome.

Set in the near future of 2025, it presents new inventions and improvements on the current systems. I won’t lie, I have a pretty small knowledge of the space program and technology behind it, yet just as a person living today, the inventions and technology displayed feels exactly like something that would come out of the near future, some of which is even technology we’re already exploring in present day. It doesn’t gloss over it either, no you get the near-whole experience, in all its *99-episode glory.* -I say near-whole because the manga’s ongoing, and the anime is on hiatus for who knows how long.-

One might think that with 99 episodes of content, it would get boring pretty quickly. While it’s certainly a journey to finish, boring isn’t a word I’d use in describing Space Brothers. It covers such a long period of time that each episode feels brisk, and because the show’s split into arcs with a few intermediary episodes between, it’s quite easy to binge, take a break, and return to the show again thanks to the uncomplicated way it is presented. One issue is that sometimes I’d get a little stuck when the preceding arc was far better than the current one or at least better than the establishing episodes of the current arc, and there would sometimes be a lack of needed tension to keep you engaged.

The characters really are what keep you watching episode after episode.

Each character is distinctly unique, from their personality to their voice to their character design. Some of them are introduced and seem to be offputting or unlikeable, yet as the show progresses more of their personality and backstory is revealed, and you can come to see they’re a lot more than they seem at face value. The way each character is implemented into the story is fantastic, with each person bearing important value to and being connected to other characters in the show. Everyone feels relevant, and through each character we learn things about others. It is true that some characters could come off as irritating, gimmicky, or perhaps even a bit pointless. But ultimately, out of the massive cast I find that the majority were incredibly well characterized. Mutta and Hibito, along with the many people around them who facilitated their growth one way or another, are a major factor in one’s enjoyment of this show.

Our main character Mutta and his story is a very relatable and inspiring one. He pursues his dream after letting the harshness of reality push him away, and takes the steps towards it with hard work, support of his friends, and even a little bit of luck. His personality is a balance of awkward yet hidden wiseness. Mutta’s foolish and simultaneously brilliant. A person whose goal seems accomplishable but not without some effort put in, creating a character that you really want to succeed.

The animation, however, at best is describable as “eh”. It’s not exactly Deen levels of embarrassingly terrible, yet for a lot of the time I’d describe it as below average. The animation of the characters feels stiff, and often the animation itself is inconsistent, leading to some Deen-like expressions and movements. Even excluding that, a lot scenes feel almost purposely framed to avoid showing movement. There are lots of close to the face, standing still, and undetailed far away shots, including the use of some very out-of-place panning still shots. A lot of CG used throughout for the massive machines, planes, etc, but that’s surprisingly not the largest negative. The CG, while by no means impressive nor perfect, accomplishes its goal without feeling too out of place. The CG used during rocket launch sequences in particular felt rather natural. Nothing about the animation overall is particularly remarkable nor offensive. It’s there, it’s flawed, and you kind of just get used to it, which is aided by the fact that this show is not one that is reliant on visuals. That’s not to say it does not have its moments. Particularly during an arc relating to Hibito’s lunar exploration, the animation quality spikes up pretty greatly to meet the increased drama and stakes in stride, but these are but special occasions within the show.

That is the animation. But what about the general aesthetic? Well the character designs are memorable and fun. Each one stands out in its cartoony way, and are unique and diverse as well as indicative of their main character trait. The background art also is well utilized. During your average episode, it doesn’t stand out much, but as soon as the scene hits the sky and beyond it stands out in a brilliant way. For a series promoting space, it certainly does its job and fantastically illustrates the beauty of it.

With music, Space Brothers has some pretty enjoyable Opening and Ending themes, though not all of them particularly memorable. I will comment on the first OP, “Feel so Moon”, which is arguably the best OP out of them all and is the one that defines the show the most. Everything about it is amazing. It starts off with synths and drums getting the “space” feel across right off the bat and leading into a guitar and vocals. After that, it builds up in a way that really emulates the idea of a spaceship taking off, uses a vocal filter with the guitar backing off for the idea of space, and finally builds up once more for the song’s strong conclusion. It’s memorable, fitting, and an enjoyable listen overall. Now for the OST.

Space Brothers’ OST is a very orchestral one, heavily relying on particular themes for each various mood throughout the series. It’s very similar to Chihayafuru’s soundtrack, though not quite as memorable. Each song does a good job of expressing emotion, with a fantastic sense of scale throughout, and the songs come off as sincere. The primary flaw with the soundtrack is simply that it does a lot of things similar to soundtracks before it. The repeatedly scaling strings, the steadily booming brass, the slow note-by-note emotional piano, all of these are very familiar to us, and even if the songs themselves are well-made, this still causes it not to stand out much in one’s memory. These songs sound exactly like the ones I’ve heard in every other heartwarming against-all-odds flick. Except for a select few songs that listening back strongly evoke the emotion of the scene it accompanied, it’s not an OST I’d go out of my way to listen to, as a lot of the pieces have that typical background music style of repetitiveness. This is not to say the OST is a poor one. It certainly does do its job. It well suits the scenes it accompanies, but fails to really go that extra mile in creating a truly memorable and powerful audial experience.

Space Brothers is a series that comes off as both compelling and sincere. The story and characters feel unique yet familiar, and for those 99-episodes, it’s a wonderful friend you can always rely on when you’re feeling down. It’s silly, it’s serious, it’s dramatic, it’s inspiring, and overall it’s just incredibly uplifting. It takes its time and everything about it is definitely a matter of personal taste whether or not it will be to your liking. Despite occasional tonal changes and various surprising events throughout, it still is very much so the same show stylistically from start to finish. With that said, I do urge everyone to give it a chance, even if you don’t usually care for this type of show. Simply put, it’s incredibly enjoyable to watch. Through its diverse, fun cast and interesting story it is a show that despite it’s length, once you’ve finished it, feels like you had just started.

Kor Reviews: Silver Spoon

Originally Uploaded March 1st, 2015

“Don’t look down on yourself for running. Make it meaningful by making something out of it.”

Silver Spoon tells the coming-of-age story of Yugo Hachiken, a studious teenager who enrolls in the agricultural boarding school Yezo High, in order to escape from his parents. There he meets a varied cast of characters, and through his interactions with them ultimately grows as a person. I have a bit of a soft spot for well told coming-of-age stories. I thoroughly enjoyed Barakamon, and Hanasaku Iroha is one of my favorites. Characters are generally what I watch a show for, and watching the MC grow and develop over the course of the series is something I really enjoy.

Yugo Hachiken is a great example of overarching development done right. He’s unique in his own way, and is far bolder than I’d ever be, yet possess just the right personality traits that he’s not only someone you’d aspire to imitate, but also someone you could likely relate to and emote with. Hachiken is far from perfect, which is especially clear at the series’ start. His imperfections make him human, and sometimes those seeming flaws turn out not to be not flaws at all. As the show continues, we’re gradually revealed more information as to why Hachiken is the way he is and what’s shaped his life to this point, from his relationship with his parents to the relationship he has with his friends now.

I will point out that while I really do love Hachiken’s character, I could see that some people might find him a little too perfect in his strong-willed determination, that said, it didn’t bother me personally.

Hachiken is joined by our fairly large cast of characters. Sadly, however, it feels like a lot of the cast didn’t get their proper chance to be fully explored. This isn’t so much due to poor time management, but rather the lack thereof. Quite a bit of time is covered in these 22 episodes, and I wish there had been more episodes inbetween covering the side characters in a bit more depth. I found Aikawa and his determination to become a vet despite his weak heart to be especially interesting, and I really would have liked if that had been explored more. During the second season in particular, two characters besides Hachiken are explored in more detail, that being Aki Mikage, and to a lesser extent, Komoba Ichiro, who while he is a nice, in this respect serves not-so-much as an in-depth character, but rather as an assistant for moving forward Hachiken and Mikage’s development in the latter half of Season 2.

Mikage is a very interesting character. Roughly put, Mikage is very different from what you would first think. She has her imperfections, and by the end of the show I found myself really caring about what happens to her. The dramatic aspects are handled realistically, such that you could really easily see yourself or a friend behaving similarly if you or they were put in her situation, and this makes it incredibly easy to sympathize with her. Even further, I absolutely love Hachiken and Mikage’s interactions, as it hits just the sweet spot at being initially cute and then gradually progressing to a deeper level of trust and true friendship, never falling into the absolutely awful total “blush-frenzy and nothing but” that is so common. If you’ve seen Space Brothers, I’d say it’s somewhat similar to the relationship between Serika and Nanba, though more developed.

What makes Hachiken and Mikage’s dynamic so effective though, is how their character traits and flaws play off of each other. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, with quite a few being on opposite sides of the spectrum, causing this very intriguing back-and-forth of reliability, as they open up to each other and help each other out. My main problem is simply that I wanted more. I feel the show would’ve benefited greatly if there had been more times where we see just Hachiken and Mikage interacting with each other. The show itself is surprisingly fast paced for a slice of life and could have done with some slowing down on occasion. Another factor to this complaint is that their development is interrupted by the rather jarring end to the series. It felt like we were finally getting some further development on Hachiken’s side after focusing on Mikage and her problems for quite a while, and then it just ends out of absolutely nowhere.

That’s right folks, this is a read the manga ending. 😦

Now I’ve rambled on about Hachiken and Mikage for a while (can you tell they’re some of my favorite characters?), but I should at least touch on the story that takes place during the first season, where the predominant focus is Hachiken and his conflicting morals on the farm life. Put simply, it’s really well done. Now that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone, heck the first time I watched it, perhaps be it lack of experience or just mood itself, I found the show pretty boring. Yet even still I could tell I was missing something, that for some reason I couldn’t enjoy it but there was still quality there. Coming back to it quite a few months later, I find that I love this series. How it explores both sides of an issue, but never gives a direct conclusion. How it represents the feeling of working hard for something. How it talks about having a dream and working towards that. How it does everything, really.

me and this show

Now let’s move forward, and touch on the animation for the series. They can make some legitimately good looking stuff, take SoRaNoWoTo for instance, but from what I’ve seen they also have the tendency to have massive quality drops out of nowhere. Silver Spoon isn’t the worst case among those, and for the most part is pretty consistent, but I still will never forgot those horrid CG cows till the day I die. I don’t care that they only used them like twice in the entire show, it was still far too much. Besides that, the general aesthetic doesn’t stand out too much. The art style even in the manga was fairly simplistic, and the anime retains that. The character designs are fitting, though I will point out that Mikage’s face always tends to look a bit “off”, like it’s somewhat out of proportion or something like that. Thankfully though, she’s the only one who suffers from this.

I must give them credit for the animation on the food and animals, because for the most part it looks pretty darn impressive. There’s quite a bit of detail and fluidity, and the use of still shots was rarer than I expected, though obviously not completely gone. Even on the side of the characters, there are select moments where the quality spikes up quite a bit, at the peak moments of the show where it really matters. It’s no Unlimited Budget Works, but for the most part it does the job pretty well.

this actually tastes really good!

I can’t leave off without touching on the music, which is pretty solid overall. The OPs and EDs are all great, particularly the second ones, and the general OST has some pretty good themes. It certainly isn’t the greatest, as sometimes the music felt a little too forceful in trying to convey an emotion, rather than letting the show just portray it well by itself. However, when it does work, it works really well. When the tone of the show and music match, it creates some really touching and downright inspirational moments. The music overall generally does well to fit the setting and it’s mood, and as far as soundtracks go is much more memorable than most. I wouldn’t call it play-on-repeat playlist material, but it’s definitely above average, even if they did reuse the same themes a little too much for my taste.

Overall Silver Spoon is an incredibly captivating and memorable experience, and one that I feel I could come back to again later in life and get even more out of. The interactions, development, and themes present feels real, and it was an unexpected but incredibly welcome surprise. This is one little gem I wouldn’t pass up for the life of me, and one I don’t think you should either.

Kor Reviews: The Melancholy & Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

Originally Uploaded December 25th, 2014 There are some shows that you may watch in passing, but aren’t particularly engaged by, and there are others that you may follow to some degree, but then there are the shows that suck you in from start to finish. Where the world and characters feel so coherent and real that you find yourself completely and helplessly immersed. Shows that when they come to their conclusion, make you feel like something is suddenly missing. This is one of those shows.

Hello everyone, Kor here, and today I am reviewing the Melancholy and Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. Based on the insanely popular series of light novels by Nagaru Tanigawa, It’s spawned many spinoffs, but most notably received an anime with two seasons and a movie, of which I’ll be talking about today. Please keep in mind that I have watched this series twice, both times in the Chronological order, so my review will be based upon that. There really is no series that can quite compare to the feeling of wonderment that this one conveys to me. I mean I’m not the type who binge watches things too often, but with Haruhi it’s near impossible not to. Sci-Fi/Supernatural Slice of Life is rarely done well, yet here it’s perfectly accomplished. The mysterious aspect to the story for once has a pretty major effect on the progression, and the plot has a sense of depth to it. Heck, I could sing praises for how well it succeeds in making an engaging experience all day, but I won’t because that would probably take really long to upload. Now, before I get sidetracked, let’s cover what I consider to be the defining factor in Slice of Lives, the characters.

The cast is actually feels kind of small, sporting 5 mains, though really it’s focused on only two of them in particular, and then there is a near nonexistent cast of supporting characters, many of whom only make one or two passing appearances. For the entirety of show, we follow Kyon, a completely normal high schooler who happens to befriend Haruhi, a girl who unknowingly posses godlike powers, but from whom he and his abnormal club members must hide her ability. Kyon is the perfect character to have at the forefront. He’s far off from the typical dull self-insert character, and is incredibly relatable. His snide remarks are the source of a lot of the show’s humor, and Kyon’s dialogue in general is phenomenally written. He feels like a real guy, and his reactions and inner monologue are largely responsible for this.

Kyon bears a great dynamic with our show’s namesake, Haruhi Suzumiya. It’s hard to say whether love-to-hate or hate-to-love would be the accurate term here, though I’d say both are somewhat applicable. Haruhi is a spoiled, self-important, jealous, and bossy, character, and yet somehow, I loved her. Sure, she has her bad moments, but she has her good ones as well. Her imperfections gave her depth, and made you want to watch her grow and progress. Next up is the ever robotic Yuki Nagato, an artificial life form created by the Data Integration Thought Entity for interaction with humans. She, unlike most of her counterparts, is introverted and rarely shows any display of emotion or care. Yuki might seem like a disinteresting, dull character, but oh is she so much more. From the perspective of someone having finished it a second time, there are so many subtle nods and touches that very gradually develop her character, all of it building up to her brilliant role in the Disappearance film.

Now we have the ever mysterious esper Itsuki Koizumi. Despite being present often, he actually rarely ends up actually doing or saying much, due to the very nature of his character and the many requirements needed for the use of his powers. His sole purpose seems to be to put Kyon on edge, as well as providing the occasional confusing explanation to what’s going on around us. There’s not too much depth to him, though that is kind of the point. I can’t hate him too much either, though, as he’s responsible for some really funny lines and one of my favorite moments in the entirety of the show.

Last, and in my ever-so-humble opinion, most definitely least, we have the quite well endowed and helpless time traveler, Mikuru Asahina. I really couldn’t find any redeeming qualities in her whatsoever. She was even more useless than Koizumi, and her “Classified Information” was annoying as ever. She never stands up for herself, she never develops, and she never really shows any display of having real character depth. There is a particular event that takes place later on that shows she does eventually change, but this was simply told to the audience, we never actually see any of her development take place.

The characters aside, the story holds up pretty well on it’s own as I mentioned earlier. It throws enough curveballs to never get dull or routine. The Melancholy arc is well-paced and satisfying, and the standalone episodes are very enjoyable and oftentimes quite funny. One of my favorites out of those being Live Alive. What I particularly love about the series is how if you pay close attention, there are a lot of subtle character hints littered throughout. However, there are two in the second season that are quite controversial. The infamous Endless 8, and to a lesser degree, the Sigh arc. I’ll talk about them both briefly. Endless 8. Ah, endless 8. A curious bystander might ask what exactly is this “endless 8”? To put in the simplest possible terms, it is an arc in which, due to a time loop, the same day is repeated thousands of times, wherein we see 8 of these repeats. The undiscerning eyes would think each episode exactly the same, and while the story and dialogue generally remains unchanged, all the lines are rerecorded, and it’s all been reanimated, with different shots and small changes. Some are bored by this arc, and others downright hate it, but to be perfectly honest, I didn’t mind it all that much, and I think this is partially due to a couple factors. Firstly, I legitimately really enjoy the Endless 8 episode itself. I find it incredibly relaxing and calming, so watching it several times didn’t hurt me too much. Secondly, I was not one of the unlucky few who had to suffer through watching this on a week to week basis for two entire months, so I can’t really understand the rage that others have gone through. And Thirdly, I really respect them for doing this. Do I think it should’ve been shorter? Most certainly. I’d say that 5 episodes at max would have been more than sufficient for it’s goal. I also think the ending, while in character, was ridiculously anti-climactic, and the misleading “hints” were pointless. When I rewatched the series, I watched just the first and last episode and found it to be a signifigantly more enjoyable experience. That said, enjoyable or no, I do believe that it is important to have watched endless 8 in it in it’s entirety without skipping any episodes at least once. How you feel about it will vary from person to person, but it’s a unique experience that you’ll likely never see or experience anything similar to again, and of which you really should formulate your own opinion on. I particularly like it, and many agree with me on this point in that there are a lot of subtleties to it, and the experience of watching Endless 8 in itself plays into making The Disappearance film all the more powerful.

And then there is the Sigh arc. Haruhi and the group are going to make a movie, and it starts off as a typically fun and energetic arc, but gradually degrades into chaos. There is some very important character conflict that IO think had to take place for development, and while this makes for some of my favorite moments in the show during the falling action, I feel the buildup and events that caused it  in the first place could have been handled much better. Events that in any other episode would’ve been played off as “funny” were handled dramatically, and the climax felt really odd and out of place. I do think the sigh arc was necessary, but it was still very flawed. All of this builds up to the brilliant Disappearance film. It’s really quite the experience, especially since it clocks in at over two and a half hours, but I’d say it’s for good reason. It takes up a more methodical and slower pace than that of the show, but also gives an even bigger sense of depth and realism. While I would say that particularly for one rewatching it, in the first two hours or so, but moreso in the first hour, there are quite a few moments where it feels like the story has slowed down or come to a halt, and other moments of second-hand-shame that made me hide my face and pull myself out of the immersion. The second time around there’s no sense of mystery any longer to keep you fully engaged for those first two acts, so if you’re watching it the first time around I’d say to really cherish that. However, those final forty minutes, much like Clannad’s final episodes, are what makes the film. Forty minutes of brilliance, that the movie and the series have been building up to. The dialogue is phenomenal, the visuals stunning, the music perfect, everything blending together to create some of the most unforgettable moments in all of media. There is a reason everyone says Endless 8 is worth it, just for the movie. I say the buildup was slow, but I think that the buildup is largely part of the reason that the final arc is so intense.

With the story out of the way, let’s discuss the animation for the series. It’s done by Kyoto Animation, who I’ve come to love for their personalized and fluid character animation, and that’s certainly prevalent here. They really make Haruhi’s bubbly personality come to life, and they use a lot of interesting shot framing and perspective. Be it for more comedic purposes, like with Some Day in the Rain, or for a more subtle touch, like not showing Kyon’s reaction to Koizumi’s question in Endless 8. With season one and two, there is a fairly clear boost in the animation quality, which is pretty logical due to their being a three year break between the airing of the them. The differences aren’t major, but mainly consist of some more detailed animation and much better shading. The differences with the film however, are pretty noticeable, though that should be obvious. The Disappearance was a theatrical film, and as such has a much higher level of quality. In the original series, there were moments of pure excellence, where the animation was smooth and near-flawless, such as the famous Live Alive sequence, and the disappearance is loaded with those, particularly during the climax, which is almost entirely that. It’s even more detailed and crisp, and the use of lighting is spectacular, and overall it really helps to convey the atmosphere. My only issue I found is that while it didn’t stand out to me on my first watching session, now I noticed there is some use of CG in both the film and the show. Though it does look somewhat dated, oddly enough it somehow ‘works’ and I never found it too out of place.

The sound as well contributes more than I’d expect to my enjoyment. The series has some very over-the-top themes, which is actually pretty fitting for Haruhi, and while I think that they could be a little too in-your-face at times, they were incredibly memorable, and I found myself humming some of the tunes on occasion, much to my surprise. There’s a broad range of instruments used, which serves to distinguish each song on it’s own, and within the songs themselves they make use of a variety of different styles. A groovy trumpet, methodical piano, comedic drums, dramatic strings, and countless more, there’s quite a bit of depth here, and it makes me very reminiscent of the Hey Arnold soundtrack, which was similarly jazzy and broad in range. And of course you can’t ignore the fantastic vocal songs, the OPs and EDs, as well as ‘God Knows’. All of them are fantastic, but my personal favorite is the very first Opening, as it really encapsulates the aforementioned feeling of wonderment I love so much about Haruhi. The soundtrack to The Disappearance takes this already fantastic standard and goes above and beyond it. An even broader, more engrossing orchestral score that covers so many emotions fantastically, along with expanded and improved versions the themes we already loved so much in the show. I won’t dwell on this too long, as I’ve already talked about it previously, but If I had the opportunity to see any one score live in an orchestra, this one would certainly be up there.

On the other side of the audio, how about the dub and sub of the series? Well both are pretty darn good. Crispin Freeman did a fantastic job on Kyon, which is important considering how that’s where most of the dialogue is coming from. He expressed a really nice range of emotions and honestly is on par and perhaps even better than the original voice actor, Sugita Tomozaku. Wendee Lee did a good job as Haruhi, though you could definitely see that she improved as the show went on, and initially her speech was a little stilted, particularly during the first arc, but that issue was fazed out pretty quickly. However, I don’t think she can really compare to Aya Hirano’s fantastic role. I really can’t judge it much as I don’t speak Japanese, but I’m pretty sure about this. I did really love Johnny Yong Bosch’s interpretation of Koizumi, and I didn’t have any particular problems with the fittingly robotic voice for Nagato. One voice I really disliked in particular was the dubbed voice for Mikuru. It sounded like she was trying to talk an octave to high for her range and ended up whispering her lines, and it just made a character I already found annoying even more so. Overall I would say the sub is better, but the dub is still good enough that if you like watching things dubbed it’s certainly worth a watch, even if only for Crispin Freeman. Haruhi is a franchise that’s become insanely big, and for good reason. It’s a roller coaster ride of craziness, and is one you certainly won’t forget any time soon. Unique and engaging, for all it’s flaws it’s still a fantastic adventure and one I wouldn’t recommend anyone miss out on. I give The Melancholy and Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya the conglomerate score of a 9/10. My recommendation: A Must Watch.