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Are we really going to drag this joke out? Heh. I guess so.

As far as the genre of Saya no Uta, I'm aware of it being in the utsuge category, I was more referring to the fact that I'm not very familiar with the Lovecraftian category, though my friends are, and they're the ones I've gotten all my info from about it. Hence my comparison of the VN to Lovecraftian themes, since the VN was very clearly influenced by it, right down to each of the endings of the story.

And yeah, there's a LOT of more depressing and disturbing visual novels out there from what I've seen. I don't know if they'll have a strong effect on me, though; going through Saya no Uta has shown me that I have a high tolerance for its intended effects. Might need to break down some mental barriers for them. I'm much, much more susceptible to the nakige genre (in a very good way), as evidenced by my previous write-ups here.

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Oh, I've seen it. Two times. Spectacular movie all-around. Definitely utsuge, and the only one that's managed to get me a little depressed from it so far. Most media of that type make me more reflective on humanity than anything else. Saya no Uta is no different, there.

Edited by HalcyonSpirit

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Welcome back to Halcyon Reviews, the something I just made up now on the fly because why not. We're back to anime for the moment, and in addition to today's review, I have finished another anime and a visual novel and will be writing them up soon. But first, a PSA for any fans of Clannad:

If you're a fan of Clannad, whether it be the anime or the visual novel, it might be to your interest that the spinoff visual novel Tomoyo After: It's a Wonderful Life has finally been translated by Doki Fansubs; you can find the translation patch here. I have not read it yet, but I have heard good things about it... once you get past the beginning of the original version, anyway. Unlike Clannad, there are two versions of Tomoyo After: the original version and the CS edition. The original is an adult visual novel, while the CS edition removes the adult content and adds some extra material. Currently, only the original version can be patched with the English translation, but a CS edition patch is supposedly being worked on as well.

Also of note is that, with the completion of Tomoyo After, Doki is turning its eyes on the original Clannad visual novel. Clannad's currently available translation was not fully completed and was largely unedited by the previous translators, and Doki is taking it up with the intent of finishing the job. Look forward to that in the future if you've been holding back on reading Clannad because of the incomplete translation.

And with that, back to your regularly scheduled review.

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Welcome to the N.H.K.

N・H・Kにようこそ!, N.H.K. ni Yōkoso!

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Psychological

F9ebo.jpg

Welcome to the life of 22-year-old Satou Tatsuhiro. No job. No social life. College dropout. His apartment is his world. He is a hikikomori, an extreme social recluse, and according to him, everything around him is a conspiracy, including why he is a hikikomori. He intends to break free from the conspiracy of the Nihon Hikikomori Kyoukai (N.H.K.), but he is so afraid of the outside world that he dares not step outside except during the night. It seems like he'll never break free from being a hikikomori, but one night he is approached by Nakahara Misaki, a young woman with a project claiming to be able to cure him of his reclusive ways... if he signs her contract.

Welcome to the N.H.K. is essentially a slice-of-life story, but instead of running with the typical high school teenager's mundane activities, it takes the path of exploring some of the hidden social issues in an adult's world. The main character, Satou, represents the extreme of two: social reclusion and lack of gainful activity. The show takes no prisoners, pointing out over and over just how apparently worthless his life while also putting into the spotlight a number of other social issues, not sugar-coating any of it. Yet, somehow, the show retains a mostly neutral tone; it does not pass judgment on the people that carry these traits, merely dragging them out of the shadows, sometimes with comedy and sometimes with drama. In either case, the result is an effective medium for displaying the characters in a natural and flowing manner. Their interactions with each other feel genuine, and in such a character-interaction-heavy show, this is the most essential factor. Each main and secondary character is interesting is their own right, too, and none are one-dimensional cutouts there to simply advance the plot. They feel like they could be representations of real people and real events.

The show carries a certain amount of surrealness within itself. The most blatant are the hallucinations seen by Satou, but it's hard to determine whether he's actually seeing them or if they're just representations of his extreme anxiety. However, most of it comes from the characters feeling that their situation is surreal, rather than the situations actually being so. The show does well to translate the feelings of the characters across to the viewers so that even an ordinary activity for most may feel different or wrong when watching the characters partake in them. The entire show is based around this; it deals with socially-maladjusted people, something most people wouldn't actively imagine themselves being, so the show must do more to create that connection between viewer and character.

The plot of Welcome to the N.H.K. isn't a straight line from start to finish. It doesn't climax where you might think it would, either. Most of the show revolves around Satou interacting and dealing with people from his past. Each of these people from his past have their own storyline, and while they mesh the stories together some, it is mostly a separate affair for each. There isn't a grand closure to any of the stories beyond the obvious main plot, so it ends up feeling less like a typical story revolving around the main character and more like a story which the main character has fallen into and eventually falls out of again. It lends credibility to the realism of the show and its themes. That's where the plot shines the most and where it spends most of its time. It rushes at times, though, but it knows when to hit the drama buttons and when to lighten things up with comedy.

The art and music within the show are a mixed affair. The artwork clearly isn't of the utmost high quality, and certain portions are downright obvious budget-savers. Still, it shines where it counts. The music, on the other hand, is good all-around but overly fantastic. It enhances whatever mood is being portrayed and doesn't become intrusive. The moments when it does take center stage display it with beauty before it quickly take its seat again as a mood-setter.

Welcome to the N.H.K. is a good anime to watch if you like venturing into social issues normally glossed over in anime. It doesn't try to be profound, yet it manages to slip into that territory just a little bit from time to time. It engages the audience with mal-adjusted characters, a feat not easily done, and the issues they face resonate with viewers. The show doesn't try to be the best at any particular aspect of itself, but it crafts them together in such a way that it could be considered a classic in the coming years.

Ratings

Story - 9.0

Characters - 9.3

Artwork - 7.2

Sound - 8.5

Overall - 8.5

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Well, I guess this is the deciding factor for NHK. I wasn't really thinking that I was gonna watch it after seeing the first episode and sorta thinking, "WTF?" I thought it was pretty funny, but I didn't know if I could stick with it, but I have only heard very good things about it. Guess I'll have to carry on. Thanks Halcyon.

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Finished Ryuusei no Rockman; 'twas pretty good. Gonna get started on Ryuusei no Rockman Tribe soon... wonder why they never made one based on Black Ace/Red Joker...

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Well, I guess this is the deciding factor for NHK. I wasn't really thinking that I was gonna watch it after seeing the first episode and sorta thinking, "WTF?" I thought it was pretty funny, but I didn't know if I could stick with it, but I have only heard very good things about it. Guess I'll have to carry on. Thanks Halcyon.

No problem. I'm glad my writeups are being useful in some way.

Truth be told, I was much like you; I initially started watching NHK two months ago, but I only got through the second episode before drifting off to other things. I hadn't sat well with me, I guess, for one reason or another. But trust me, if the initial episodes feel a bit off to you, you're not alone; it was probably deliberately made to evoke that kind of response. It's worth pushing through those few episodes to reach the meat of the show; they set up the tone that the rest of show has a good time playing with.

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And here we are with the second anime series I watched recently that I mentioned before the last review. Nothing more to add at the moment, except for the fact that I feel like I shouldn't be writing these at night when I'm quite tired. I hope it all makes sense because I'm not waiting to post it.

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Black★Rock Shooter

ブラック★ロックシューター , Burakku Rokku Shūtā

Genre: Drama, Action

VblhS.jpg

Synopsis

Kuroi Mato and Takanashi Yomi are two girls that have just entered junior high school. The two meet and, despite their differing personalities, quickly become close friends. However, as personal troubles mount for Yomi, she begins to grow distant and slip into depression. Meanwhile, in a strange, desolate world, a violent battle erupts between two young women, both determined to fight until death takes them.

Within the Black★Rock Shooter franchise there are two anime: the 2010 OVA and the 2012 TV series. The OVA is just shy of an hour long, including the credits, and the TV series consists of 8 episodes. They are standalone works; they both come from the same basic idea and share a few main characters, but the implementation is different in each version.

2010 OVA

The Black★Rock Shooter OVA's storyline is a rather simple one, which isn't surprising since everything has to be contained within approximately 50 minutes. Virtually all of the plot and character elements are found within the real world of Mato and Yomi, rather than the world of Black Rock Shooter; the other world's events are almost exclusively fight scenes and nothing else. Without the inclusion of the other world, there wouldn't be anything really special about this story's plot or characters at all; it would probably be a generic tale of jealousy and redemption. However, the scenes and events in the other world dispersed throughout the story give rise to wondering how the two vastly different and seemingly unrelated worlds and their events are related to each other. We're not given an answer until the final two scenes before the credits, and then everything comes together.

Because of its very simple plot, the value of the OVA rests largely on the fight scenes and how likable the characters in the real world are. The characters aren't bad by any means, just typical. Kuroi is the energetic girl who simply wants to have the people around her smile, and Yomi is the more reserved girl who has to face her own feelings but needs help from her friends. They're certainly likable enough; neither falls to either side of the polarizing spectrum for viewers, so they're essentially safe in that respect. Aside from some rushing due to time constraints, the interactions between them are believable. They behave more or less how you might expect girls at that age might act, right down to some of the single-mindedness they have. All in all, they're good characters, but they're safe enough that they're not particularly memorable.

Within the other world, the main characters are Black Rock Shooter and Dead Master. There's essentially no character development in these two; once they meet in the other world, they're fighting the majority of the time. That's fine, though, because not only does it prevent the viewer from being dragged away from the character development of Kuroi and Yomi, the fight sequences are pretty good. Like with the plot, they aren't particularly special, but they're satisfying. The animation is smooth. The attacks are pleasing to watch unfold. The only complaint is that they're too short. We only ever get about twenty seconds of continuous action at a time, spaced all along the length of the OVA. If the OVA were allowed to be a little longer, and the fight sequences allowed to run a bit longer each time, it would have been great. Still, as it is, it serves as a nice spice to the safety that is the plot in the real world.

The animation as a whole is done pretty well. Time was spent in both the real world sections and the other world sections to get them to look smooth throughout the OVA, as is typical in these releases. The music is rather good, yet somewhat downplayed sometimes. Within the real world, the tracks are mostly slower piano and violin pieces with some minimal orchestra thrown in, while the music in the other world mostly consist of electric guitar and rock music. It always fits the mood nicely regardless. There is one notable exception, that being the nice, groovy beat brought in for the scene montage of Kuroi's and Yomi's first year of school together. That was my personal favorite track, a nice break from the more classical pieces.

Overall, the Black★Rock Shooter OVA is a decent showing. It isn't really something to go nuts about, but it doesn't disappoint either. If you're looking for some action, it has it, and if you're looking for a straightforward story about two young girls growing a friendship and then facing the dangers of jealousy, it has that too. It's a good way to spend an hour without having to face much complexity that would tax your mind.

Ratings

Story - 5

Characters - 7

Artwork - 8

Sound - 7.6

Overall - 6.9

2012 TV Series

The Black★Rock Shooter TV series takes the concept of the OVA and expands upon it in significant ways. Many of the characters from the OVA return and several more are added to round out the cast. However, as already mentioned, beyond having the same framework, the TV series is its own entity with its own intricacies.

The story Black★Rock Shooter is significantly expanded upon in this series from the very beginning. Kuroi and Yomi meet each other, but they do not hit it off quite so easily this time; Yomi seems to want to befriend Kuroi, but resists doing so initially for reasons unknown. These first scenes have scenes of the other world interspaced between them, and the connection between the two worlds is much more strongly hinted at. However, the manner of the connection is unclear until much later on; until then, we're left wondering how the parallel events in the two worlds are actually connected, even though the connection itself is clear as can be. This does help the story along in the real world, emphasizing the conflicts the characters face and sharpening our understanding of the characters' feelings using clear physical representation.

The other world, like in the OVA, doesn't have much of a story to it. What story there is is presented largely in an exposition late in the show. There's not much to it beyond the fighting the characters there engage in. The purpose of the world is explained somewhat, but the main story for both worlds comes from the real world.

Once the first character conflict is resolved,Black★Rock Shooter begins to unwrap a much more complicated plot that ties the two worlds together. It does so somewhat vaguely, but the end result is a good watch. It is, however, confusing, even after the show finishes. By the end, the story made sense to me, yet it still didn't make sense to me as well. I lay blame for this on the fact that many aspects of the other world and how it relates to the real world are left completely unexplained. This is the weakness of the story because the viewers aren't given answers to many questions of why the characters in the other world are fighting, why the other world exists at all, and so on. The show portrays these aspects as important but does not allow us to understand them. Even so, it's an enjoyable story. It even manages to blindside the viewers with two or three twists from out of nowhere, only one of which might seem forced to some people. For one twist, it's only vaguely hinted at by certain shadows and the manner in which some shots are framed, which is interesting. Most people won't ever notice it unless it's pointed out to them.

The characters of the real world are a mixed bag, but they're mostly strong, if a little flat. They're largely defined by one or two traits each, so there isn't too much depth to most of them. Their interactions are well-done, though, providing believable dialogue and actions across the board. Unfortunately the two characters with the most depth don't have as much time spent on them, but this is a necessary evil so the plot unfolds for the viewers properly. The focusing on the degrading mental state of one of the characters was a nice touch, bringing the show out of the mundane conflicts and into a short, stylized look into the mind of a broken individual. It's not very deep, and it doesn't last too long, but it's interesting.

The music in the series is a mixture of piano, acoustic guitar and orchestral pieces. They're done well and used well, though they mostly don't stand out from the show to shine on their own. They're definitely intended purely for mood-setting in most cases. Orchestral tracks are used in the fight scenes as well, unlike the OVA, setting a much different tone. It helps give the viewers a sense that these fights themselves have much more meaning than it might initially seem, which is exactly the feeling that needed to be conveyed. The soundtrack is good, though not as memorable as some other series' soundtracks. The most notable track is the opening theme, which is a song voiced by Vocaloid Hatsune Miku and is perhaps the first anime to feature a Vocaloid in its soundtrack.

The animation is split between the two worlds. The real world is animated nicely, though it does cut corners here and there. It has a simple style to it that is easily worked when needed to provide more complexity for the more emotional scenes. It works well and is animated fairly smoothly. The scenes in the other world are entirely computer-generated in a typical anime style. This is both good and bad. The bad part is that some movements of the characters feel strange and unnaturally smooth, which isn't uncommon in such animations. The good part is that the action sequences are beautifully done. Those are an eyeful to be sure; they don't overdo it with effects, but the effects that are there work wonderfully. Those sequences are smooth and enjoyable. A potential bad aspect of the computer animation is that the characters' faces tend not to show emotion very well, but that is avoided entirely through one of the elements of the plot.

Overall, the Black★Rock Shooter TV series is pretty good. It's not the most profound, nor is it the most action-packed, nor is it the best animated, but it uses what it has rather well to create a well-rounded package that can be enjoyed by most people. The characters are believable and the action is enjoyable. Nothing feels out of place. The story is engaging enough by itself and the few plot twists that are thrown into the mix will catch many by surprise since so little is hinted at beforehand, which helps increase the viewer engagement late into the series further. The confusion regarding some aspects of the story is regrettable, but it shouldn't hurt the enjoyment of the series for what it is.

Ratings

Story - 7.6

Characters - 8.2

Artwork - 8.1

Sound - 7.3

Overall - 7.8

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No comments since the last writeup? Oh well, have another! A visual novel this time, with two more waiting in the wings. I'll probably break those two up with other anime, but I'll first have to actually watch more anime to do that! Such a horrible, horrible thing, I know.

Also, I still really, really need to stop writing these when I'm tired.

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Kira☆Kira

キラ☆キラ

Developer: Overdrive

Genre: Romance, Drama, Music

WdXdM.jpg

Warning: Adult Content

Synopsis

Maejima Shikanosuke doesn't have much motivation; dumped by his girlfriend and forced to quit the tennis club due to health problems, his main activities consist of attending school and working part-time. One night at work, he and his new co-worker, Shiino Kirari, are given tickets to the show of a popular punk band, and the experience motivates Kirari to try forming a punk band with a slightly unenthusiastic Shikanosuke and the members of the Second Literary Club to perform at the school's culture festival. But even after the festival passes, their days as a punk band are not yet over.

Writeup

Kira☆Kira is a story about rock and love. In that order, as far as story progression goes. What starts out as a story with the band as a whole being the main story focus ends up narrowing its focus to the relationship between the reader character, Shikanosuke, and whichever one of the three female leads you end up choosing to develop further: Kirari, Kashiwara, or Chie. It's fairly typical in that regard; the story doesn't break many tried and true elements of the visual novel format and generally stays on the safe side of things. That said, typical doesn't mean boring.

The tone of Kira☆Kira is set fairly early, where we're shown that Shikanosuke and his new coworker end up at a punk rock show and are, inevitably, drawn into that world. In keeping with the music they, and we by extension, heard, the tone of their story is fairly energetic and free, never giving the characters a real moment to rest but far from being breakneck speed. It's a story where decisions are made largely by feeling, emphasizing their brief freedom from their normal life through the second act. This period in the story is meant to bond you to the characters though their experiences and the possibilities they have, both in the band and in their relationships with each other. It's really the small events here that make the story as strong as it is. It appears a lot of attention was given to pushing the right buttons for the reader at the right times so that the energetic pace isn't interrupted. When the story comes back down to 'reality' for the third act, it loses the speed and moves on to slowly bringing the less pleasant aspects of life they were avoiding to the forefront. The drama unfolds very nicely; it never gets to be too much at any one point, usually just slowly climbing that hill before letting you back down – though exactly how it does so is different between the routes. Chie's and Kashiwara's routes, though, are much weaker than Kirari's, who is the main female lead and gets a much larger portion of the drama serving. Her route also does the drama a bit differently; without spoiling anything, her route builds up like the other two, but then throws a curveball and completely changes direction in one instance of the events. It's meant to shock, and shock it does; I had not expected the turn of events at all. The story expects this and doesn't use up all its drama on the spot; it practically glosses over it so that the reader can be slowly drawn down into its depths just as Shikanosuke is. It is done extremely well, and I applaud them for not treading the paths of overly dramatic scenes that many stories use for this particular event. It seemed really odd and disappointing at first, but it really does pay off in the end.

As a final note on that, no matter the reader, it will take at least two playthroughs of her route in order to truly get the full story presented. You'll see why.

This visual novel its own, nice pace that it follows. Much of the time it finds a good rhythm and sticks to it, never missing a beat as it marches the characters along their paths. This sometimes leaves the reader a little wanting as far as details go, but not in an overly bad way; enough to leave you wanting more, but not enough that you become frustrated from lack of knowledge. Later in the story it knows just when to slow things down or speed them up to maximize impact. There's no rush for it to finish, and the reader doesn't feel the need to rush through anything to get to "the good parts"; the story does a good job at keeping the interest of the readers. However, there are a few points in the story, mostly early on, where the pacing just slows to a crawl for a while for no particular reason. It picks back up soon enough, but it does negatively impact the reader's interest during that time. Thankfully it's made up for in the sequences following such slowdowns, and they don't last long enough to frustrate.

The characters of Kira☆Kira, of course, are the main draw. None of them are atypical; you have the slightly unmotivated and disinterested male lead and the three standard female personalities: energetic and somewhat childish, well-mannered and lady-like, and well-rounded and safely down-to-earth. It's not breaking any new ground in this respect. It doesn't have to, either; they're used often because they work. The more detailed characteristics are what make or break them, and in Kira☆Kira, they're brought out largely through dialogue. It's done rather well, too, with very little seeming out of place. The progression of their personalities from beginning to end is laid out very clearly, so nothing comes out of left field. Because of this strength of dialogue that doesn't ramble or get cut short, we're able to connect more closely to their experiences and make us care about their well-being on some level.

The supporting characters are equally strong, though with them it is due to being well-used as supports and foils for the main characters. They're there when something needs to be explained to the reader in a natural way, too, but not used as such excessively. When they disappear, it's usually because they've fulfilled their role, not just because the writers felt like moving on to something else.

The art in Kira☆Kira isn't triple-A quality, but neither is it something churned out of a machine. There's feeling in the art, but it can be obscured a bit by the fact that it can feel a little plastic-y at times. That feeling comes from the apparent shininess of the art and the lack of certain small details in the character models. It might take a little while to get used to, but the art doesn't actually detract from anything. It just doesn't really enhance anything especially well in particular. It's good artwork, regardless, and it does receive good marks for keeping with the largely free-feeling tone of the story in the first two acts and being expressive enough for the final acts.

The music and voice acting are a step above the artwork. The voice acting, like the dialogue, flows freely and never feels out of place. The voice actors were chosen well for their roles (speaking of the PC version; the PS2 port has different voice actors). The music is also well-done. Most of the background tracks are guitar-based, in keeping with the story's theme, and some are rather catchy and may result in foot-tapping or head-bobbing. Where other visual novels might have gone to a more orchestra-based music for some drama scenes, Kira☆Kira continues with the guitar-based music. It gives everything a different feel, but it's a good kind of different that the creators of the visual novel use to their advantage.

Of course, Kira☆Kira is has a heavy emphasis on the music aspect of the story, what with the main characters forming a band, so it's not surprising that there are many full-fledged songs scattered throughout the story. They're mostly heard when, naturally, the band is playing in the story, so this helps a lot in immersing the reader in what is happening. The songs are, however, a fair bit more poppy than the original intention the characters had of forming a punk band, but considering the personality of the lead singer, this shouldn't be unexpected. I'm sure there were marketing reasons behind this as well, but it doesn't hurt the story at all. There are a couple songs in there that get closer to the punk that one might expect from a punk band, so it's not all pop.

Kira☆Kira is one of those works one can be pleasantly surprised by. It doesn't do anything particularly different from other visual novels, but the execution is unquestionably good. It has a few minor problems with pacing, but not so much as to really detract from the experience. It is a visual novel with an exterior that shows little to stand out from the crowd that hides a fulfilling, feeling-filled center.

Ratings

Story - 8.5

Characters - 8.6

Writing - 8.7

Artwork - 6.5

Sound - 8.4

Overall - 8.5

Edited by HalcyonSpirit

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Well, some of you may know I love Manga UK's hyper-violent, profanity-infused, ultra-schlock releases.

That being said, I think I found my next watch:

Containing classic lines such as:

"Eat shit and DIE!"

"Never underestimate the power of Japanese technology, you bitch!"

"WHO'DA FUCK YA THINK YA ARE, HUH? SOME KINDA MODERN-DAY LONE RANGER? WELL NOW YOU GUNNA BE THE DEAD FUCKIN' RANGER!"

"FUCK AND PISS!"

"Hi my name's Angel but don't let that fool you I can be a real bitch when I want to!"

Nothing these days really comes close to how fun the mindless-yet-stylish OVAs of the 80s-90s.

Edited by EC2151

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Is it that time again? Yes, yes I do believe it is. Prepare those onions, because you may need an excuse for the moisture buildup.

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Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai.

We Still Don't Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day.

Studio: A-1 Pictures

Genre: Drama, Romance, Tragedy

Cm8Hc.jpg

Synopsis

A group of six childhood friends have grown apart after one of them, Honma Meiko, dies in an accident. Ten years later, the former leader of the group, Yadomi Jinta, became a recluse due to the grief. One summer day he appears to be joined by the ghost Honma, though he believes her to just be a hallucination. When she asks him to fulfill her wish, he attempts to bring the old group back together, believing them to be the key to fulfilling it. In the process, they are all confronted by their guilt over what occurred that day, ten years ago.

Writeup

AnoHana, as the show's full name is often shortened to, is a very potent story of grief, healing, and the drama that occurs in the transition. It starts out cute and innocent, with Jinta and Honma having the sorts of interactions and awkward situations one might expect out of a lighter series. But by the end of the first episode, AnoHana has shown enough of its cards for you to know that 'light' is not a word it wants to be used to describe itself.

Throughout the story, the center of it all is the death of Meiko that ultimately drove the group of childhood friends apart. Each of these characters has been affected by the untimely death, all in their own way., and they've all changed themselves in their attempts to cope. The reappearance of Jinta in their lives forces the kind of character development many stories fail to achieve. It uses the subtleties to create character depth and help our understandings of those characters without holding our hands and walking us through every detail. This is the strongest point of the series, where the artwork and animation of these people does just as much to explain what's going on just below the surface as anything else. The artwork itself is quite good, blending the characters and backgrounds very well, and though isn't anything that's not been done before, the way it's used is superb. Emotions are conveyed and hidden feelings are hinted at but never explicitly said at any point. Even before anything is revealed about a character, we can see what kind of person they are just from the art and animation.

That so much comes from what's unsaid in this series is what makes it so strong, but the writing of what is said, while still quite good, is a little more of a mixed bag. For most of the show, subtlety and slowly introducing the emotional elements into the narrative is how the tension is built, and this is done well. It doesn't overload the viewer at any one point, allowing one to take a moment to reflect on the characters and their feelings. Not only that, the finely laid dialogue gives an ever-growing sense of those deep undercurrents of emotion that touch upon our empathy. This is an exceptionally good story with good writing in that respect. However, some of the situations the characters have to face do feel a bit clunky, and thus our ability to accept the way things are dealt with is compromised somewhat. It sometimes feels like the writing for the plot occurrences took a hit due to the limited amount of episodes, leading to some events feeling exclusively like plot devices. They are plot devices that work, to be sure, so it doesn't come across poorly, but it is a little sad that they opted not to use more time to work in some slower events to advance the plot. That all said, the clunkiness is relatively minor and will not bother most viewers much.

Regardless of the shortcomings of the writing, the characterizations and the writing combine to form a powerful look at the manners in which grief can affect a person. Left alone, in AnoHana it can cause a person to become one they are not, or combine with other negative feelings to twist their emotions until the person they once were is unrecognizable in the mess. A large chunk of the series is dedicated to exploring these effects, both subtly and explicitly, and also how the healing process can begin in the face of such negativity. The emotions are very strongly expressed in all the characters, growing as they are forced to face them more and more.

This all leads up to the final episode. All pretenses of subtlety and slowly teasing the emotions of the viewer to the surface are dropped right from the start and never come back. It goes straight for the emotional jugular in that final episode with such focus that it creates a bit of a disconnect between it and the approach of everything previous. It feels rushed as a result, with many critical revelations not being made until this episode, crowding the scenes and risking knocking the viewers out of their previous emotional state that the series had cultivated up until that point. Of course, this final emotional strike hits with such precision that it would take a very cold person indeed to not be affected regardless.

The weight of the emotions conveyed in this series is such that, most of the time, it doesn't need music to accentuate it. Most of each episode is spend without any backing tracks, and when music is brought in to bring some additional impact, it does it wonderfully. Especially effective is the ending theme; it can stir emotions alone, and combining it with a particularly strong moment just seems like overkill that one wouldn't want any other way. And finally, while the deeper emotional content is what the series is made for, it is complemented with a nice sense of humor dotted throughout. Some of it even has a darker tint that effectively disarms one's emotional walls at key points in the story.

AnoHana delivers a compact and very potent story that relies just as much on subtle details as it does dialogue and plot to deliver its message. It expects us to reflect upon what we're seeing and not rely on just passively watching the events unfold. While the writing has a few hiccups, the plot and characters pull together with it to produce a well-rounded story with enough emotional impact to put it right up there near the top of the class.

Ratings

Story - 8.8

Characters - 9.1

Writing - 7.9

Artwork - 8.7

Sound - 9.0

Overall - 8.7

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So has anyone been keeping up with the various anime that's come out recently? Anything worth watching? I'm trying to decide on what I want to watch next but haven't had the time to look into it much lately. I of course have a number of series in my back pocket that I'll be watching, but at the moment I feel like watching something that's recently finished.

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Yume Miru Kusuri

ユメミルクスリ ; A Drug That Makes You Dream

Developer: rúf

Genre: Romance, Drama

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Warning: Adult Content

Synopsis

Kagami Kouhei is your stereotypical high school student with good grades and a normal social life, but he doesn't feel fulfilled – at least not until three women enter into his life: Shiraki Aeka, a victim of incessant bullying, Kirimiya Mizuki, the apathetic student council president, and Nekoko, a girl running about the city claiming to be a fairy. Kouhei could ignore them all, but as he gets to know them, he finds them to be carrying burdens greater than their appearances give away.

Writeup

The high school romance story is one of the most played-out setups in the entirety of the Japanese anime and visual novel formats. The reasons for that are many, but the genre is so widespread that the parodies are perhaps just as numerous as the straight renditions at this point. For the stories that play it straight, there have been many plot directions taken to differentiate some stories from the more standard ones. Yume Miru Kusuri is one such tale, told from the standpoint of examining the effects of a few personal and social ills that a teenage student will likely encounter in some form or another. One can get the feeling when reading through the story that the writers intended Yume Miru Kusuri to specifically be relevant to high school students through these issues instead of having them be just another part of the characters. True or not, it does a good job of it. Bullying, drug use and feelings of apathy regarding life are not uncommon issues faced by teenagers.

The story doesn't waste any time introducing you to the various characters, with you running headlong into the first pretty much right away - literally. Once introductions are over and the story starts developing the main character's life, however, everything slows down to a crawl for a while. Not that there isn't any merit or anything interesting in this slow beginning, but it could be been worked through better to avoid feeling slow. It picks up again in a big way all of a sudden once the story wants to dive deeper into the girl you choose; it's the written form of whiplash being forced on the reader. The rest of the story follows the same pattern of quickly switching between slow and fast pacing. The writing itself is pretty good, but the pacing of how often themes and events are dropped on the reader needs some work. That said, once the climax of each story approaches, things seem to settle on a nice stride until the very end.

Apart from the pacing, the writing does manage to do a lot well. The plot and characters are handled with care, never stepping too far into the extraordinary in either direction despite one series of events in Shiraki's route pushing that limit to the very edge. Some things are stretched to enhance the surrealness that the story seems to want you to experience, which in some ways makes it all the more compelling. In addition, the specific problems each girl faces aren't dealt with in a way that seems preachy. The story takes the complexities of the issues and boils them down to their core while avoiding the pitfall of making the solution seem simple; such an impression on the reader, especially one that's dealing with those problems, would definitely hurt their connection to the characters and the problems they face. One thing I would have liked to see more of, though, would be getting into the girls' heads a bit more. We are shown quite a bit in Shiraki's route, but the other two we're told this and that more than we are shown exactly how they are feeling that is driving them to do as they are. That's not an insignificant failing in the writing, and it makes the reader a bit frustrated with how some of the details are glossed over, but not so much to destroy any chance of sympathy and empathy. It just doesn't help to connect these characters and their problems with the reader, which is the entire point of the visual novel - even moreso when dealing with such real issues.

The music does its part in setting the mood. Mostly mellow with plenty of piano and acoustic guitar, it carefully hits upon the mood of the entire story: never really getting outright happy until the end, and often dropping into deep apprehension or somber moods. On the occasions that something truly requires a more energetic feeling or needs a bit more class to match the situation, the music has a few tunes to fit in with those, too. It all comes together very nicely, though the overall instrument choice sounds like it took a page from the cliché-sad-story-music book with the way the music is composed. Not that it's any worse for it; the way it blends into the background almost seamlessly shows how well that style works here.

The artwork is much the same. Nothing extraordinary, and some of the minor stylistic choices might throw one for a loop if they're more accustomed to standard anime style, but it blends into the story nicely. In particular, the color and saturation choices with the art hit all the right feelings. It's mostly downplayed and often cast in hues of blue and violet but will at the appropriate times turn things around with bright, cheerful colors. It is all very well done to emphasize the emotional points without being blatant about it. Some of the subtle changes in the characters expressed in the artwork over the course of the story really help to drive certain emotional spears through the heart without drawing attention to themselves.

Unfortunately, this visual novel has one major flaw in its structure that can really hurt it in the eyes of many readers. When I review stories, I try to ignore aspects of them that have little to no effect on the quality even if I don't like said aspects. I have written about several visual novels prior to this one that have had adult content in them, this eroge aspect to them was never mentioned because its existence was of little importance and, much more importantly, did not get in the way of the reader enjoying the story itself. Whether or not you like such content, it wasn't a prominent aspect and thus could be ignored if desired. Not so with Yume Miru Kusuri. The adult content is still mostly unimportant, but the critical point of not getting in the way of the reader experience is where it fails. Hard. One can still ignore the content, but it pops up so incredibly often that it becomes hard to not be pulled out of the experience and start thinking to yourself, "well, how much longer until this is interrupted by sex again?" In short, the frequency of the adult content can disrupt immersion into the story and the characters, diluting the emotional impact the story would have had otherwise. It's a very significant flaw that only becomes apparent after the first few occurrences, at which point, even when skipping through those scenes from that point forward, the possibility of becoming engrossed with any of the stories is diminished.

As far as visual novels go, Yume Miru Kusuri represents a good story that for many might be crippled by a single critical error in its priorities. The plot stands on its own merits, the characters are still believable in most aspects even at their most outlandish, and the story has a good impact on the reader , but the overemphasis on the eroge appeal hurts the telling of the story and portrayal of the characters significantly. A great many visual novels in the current industry have some sort of adult content, but those that want to tell a great story have to be careful about how much narrative time is spent on such content. Yume Miru Kusuri tries to straddle this line between the adult-content-emphasized and the story-emphasized visual novels unsuccessfully. Even so, it is not a bad read; if the adult material does not suit you, it is completely possible to skip through it and still enjoy the story while missing virtually nothing, but the sheer amount of time taken up by the adult content means it ultimately does not live up to the potential it could have had. The story could have been stronger and had more impact if much of the time used for eroge material was instead used for fleshing out some of the more sparsely explained story elements.

Ratings

Story - 7.0

Characters - 7.4

Writing - 6.0

Artwork - 7.6

Sound - 7.5

Overall - 7.1

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So has anyone been keeping up with the various anime that's come out recently? Anything worth watching? I'm trying to decide on what I want to watch next but haven't had the time to look into it much lately. I of course have a number of series in my back pocket that I'll be watching, but at the moment I feel like watching something that's recently finished.

well neither's finished, but I've been enjoying Chuunibyou and SAO this season

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I recently watched an anime for the first time in a few years. As most of you know, I'm a big fan of superheroes (American comics and Japanese tokusatsu shows). This past NYCC while hunting around for Kamen Rider figures, noticed a crap-ton of Tiger & Bunny figures by S.H. Figuarts (the company that makes really great Kamen Rider and Super Sentai figures). I liked the designs so I decided a few days ago to check out the anime.

If you haven't seen it before it's pretty wild; it deals with the commercialization of superheroes, through corporate sponsorships (company logos on suits), endorsements, and reality-TV marketing. The main guy is Wild Tiger, a been-around-the-block hero who's disillusioned with the commercialization of heroics and cares more about saving people than doing his "job," and him getting saddled with the up-and-coming Barnaby Brooks Jr., a Bruce Wayne analogue who's using the super-heroics industry to find his parents' killer.

The action and animation is excellent and the characters are all really wonderful; all the heroes get some time in the limelight. If you like superheroes and fun action anime, check it out.

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That's not even a sentence. I honestly don't know what you're trying to get across, there.

In terms of anime, I haven't been watching anything recently except Gundam Age (which ended a while ago, but I've still only watched the first third-ish). It's quite terrible, but I'm watching it anyway because I hate myself, apparently.

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You, me, and the hundreds of people who've visited my blog this season.

As much as I hate to admit it since I'm not a big fan of SAO, particularly in this current arc...

NpgXu.jpg

SAO is pretty easily the most popular anime of the past couple of seasons, especially when you take how well it sold into account. A pity about the substandard writing.

In terms of anime, I haven't been watching anything recently except Gundam Age (which ended a while ago, but I've still only watched the first third-ish). It's quite terrible, but I'm watching it anyway because I hate myself, apparently.

I agree, I couldn't get past the first few episodes with their ridiculous requirements for suspension of disbelief. Normally I'm good with that.

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Oh, I didn't mind that at all. I'm a huge fan of Gundam in general -- no, where I lost all hope for it was when the antagonists' motivation was revealed to be nonsensical and it became clear that they were going to rely entirely on shallow rehashes of previous Gundam fare, rather than doing anything new or interesting with the standard formula.

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As much as I hate to admit it since I'm not a big fan of SAO, particularly in this current arc...

NpgXu.jpg

SAO is pretty easily the most popular anime of the past couple of seasons, especially when you take how well it sold into account. A pity about the substandard writing.

Agreed about the writing. It was interesting at first 'cause it was like "Ooo, new action adventure!" but it hasn't failed to disappoint me. I'm still watching to get it over with, but I've already started watching other anime series.

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