Ticket Info for U.S. Nationwide Premiere Showing of Mary and The Witch’s Flower

Welcome, all, again.  Just a quick bit of info to pass along to my fellow anime fans: Mary and The Witch’s Flower–Studio Ponoc’s first feature film–will have a nationwide (U.S.) premiere showing on the night of Thursday, January 18, 2018.  This showing will take place only in select movie theaters and will offer a choice of dubbed or subbed, with respective start times separated by an hour.  Tickets may be purchased through the following link: [https://www.fathomevents.com/events/mary-and-the-witchs-flower].  (Just enter your city or ZIP code where prompted to find participating theaters near you.)

Based upon Mary Stewart’s book The Little Broomstick, this is the tale of an adventurous girl who finds a rare and hidden flower that grants magical powers–but for one night only.  What choices will she make?  And perhaps more importantly, what consequences will remain after the magic is long vanished?

As mentioned earlier, this is Studio Ponoc’s first feature film.  But don’t let that make you hesitate–a collection of stellar talent is gathered here!  Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi has been associated with such past projects as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and The Secret World of Arrietty, while composer Muramatsu Takatsugu also scored When Marnie Was There, the previous film directed by Yonebayashi (in 2014).  The voice talent is also top-notch: for example, Mary is voiced by Hana Sugisaki in Japanese and by Ruby Barnhill in English.  This film has every opportunity to be something special, so I plan upon attending this premiere; I hope you’re able to do the same.

Curious but uncertain?  Try watching these trailers:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=888z3ku4t3I
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqUKano2Hm4

AMVs That Really Help Sell Their Anime!

Welcome, all, again, and a merry Christmas and blessed Yule season!  The winter solstice is days past now and the Oak King has ascended the throne, meaning that the days are finally–however imperceptibly–beginning to lengthen.  (But it might still be a good idea to find somewhere warm to spend the next few months!)  The anime viewing seasons are also changing, so I decided to offer this brief, happy post as fodder and filler.  I’ve already discussed certain favorite specific episodes of mine as they relate to my moods, so I thought I might post a few series-specific amv’s (anime music videos) that really capture the spirit[s] of their subject shows.  Have fun watching, then go explore this second-life realm of anime for yourself!

Let’s begin on a high note with Spicy Love, an entry representing Spice and Wolf:

My next offering is a bit more somber, and represents Sora no Woto (Sound of the Sky); please enjoy Dogs of War:

I deliberated a bit with this next choice, as most of the lyrics aren’t in English.  But the mood of the music seems very appropriate to this amv, which itself matches well the overall tone of its show, Flip Flappers.  And removed from the blatant sexuality of the song’s original, official video, the translated lyrics still apply pretty aptly to the show’s story.  Here’s Flipping Illusion:

And for an upbeat ending, my final offering is Notice Me!, representing Gekken Shoujo Nozaki-kun (Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun):

Yes, Seo, it’s over, but there are many more examples of amv’s that really represent well the premise and spirit of specific anime series, not to mention the emotive capabilities of those which gather clips from various series to create their own stories.  Of course, if you’re even reading this, then I’m probably already preaching to the choir. . .but if you somehow haven’t yet explored this side of anime viewing, you should.  Because whatever mood you’re in, there’s an amv for it–probably several thousands.  Now go have some fun!

URAHARA and the Culture of Cultural Appropriation

Welcome, all, again.  Today I watched the twelfth and final episodes of two series which I’ve been closely following this season, KONOHANA KITAN and URAHARA, and neither finale disappointed.  In fact, I feel like I should go back and provide a full review of KONOHANA KITAN, seeing as I only gave some first impressions right after the show began.  It is truly beautiful, both in artistry and story development, and its final episode tied things together in a delicate yet decidedly conclusive manner seldom witnessed in anime.  URAHARA also ended upon a more delicate note than I anticipated, although the closing it provided was far less conclusive.  But taken as a whole, it might be the bravest new anime series in a long while.

URAHARA was admittedly something of an oddity when it began.  Like KONOHANA KITAN, it favors pastel colors, but is drawn in a much less detailed style.  Outlines seem to bleed into each other almost as much as the colors do, even while it seems contradictory to see such a riot of such quiet, muted colors.  And the artwork makes it hard to take the story’s premise seriously: an alien race invades earth and steals its cultural heritage–basically, all of earth’s different cultural heritages.  These aliens, called Scoopers, lack the trait of imagination and so steal others’ creative efforts.  But they hardly look menacing, having the appearance of small UFOs made of cotton candy.  Even their leader, who is introduced incognito but is easily recognized by the overwhelming flags attached, is quite possibly the least-threatening-looking villain in recent memory.  Indeed, the three heroines fighting to protect the cultural identity of their beloved Harajuku are more apt to hug the leading villain than do anything else.  (And they do.  Repeatedly.)

All of which makes this series extremely timely.  This is a show the premise of which is actual cultural appropriation, the literal theft or transfer of culture from its native adherents through the usurped possession and/or control of cultural traditions, icons, artifacts, or other such touchstones.  Consider, for example, the violence that defined the Roman appropriation of Greek culture as Roman power surpassed that of a fading Greece.  Rome might have conquered a huge swath of their known world, but early-on they recreated their own emerging society largely in imitation of Greek ideas and ideals.  The famed Roman poet Virgil even went so far in his Aeneid as to suggest that Rome was founded by refugees from Troy, and that Roman conquest and dominance of Greece was thus part of a divinely sanctioned retribution.   This introduces an important item for consideration: that true cultural appropriation most often occurs through conquest, a situation that offers the even bleaker alternative of eradication.

How very different and severe the term’s proper usage when compared to its current flippant misuse in social media, wherein casual bigotry and prejudice are normalized and even celebrated through the criticism of individuals for fashion (or likewise harmlessly mundane) choices that see them drawing inspiration from outside their native culture; such examples, if anything beyond individual choice, reflect cultural assimilation.  For the first time in history, we have the capability to instantaneously communicate and share with each other worldwide, building bridges and dissolving differences, but instead of pursuing that noble goal you’d rather blast someone for wearing an outfit or hairstyle that s/he isn’t [insert random racial or ethnic identifier here] enough to wear?  Really?  So how very appropriate that a series exploring true cultural appropriation is set in Harajuku, where styles are displayed with the intention of their being appreciated and copied!

Maybe URAHARA had to look harmless.  Maybe it had to be in soft colors and without rigid outlines.  Maybe it had to lull viewers into a sense of the warm fuzzies before it could even hope to challenge them with such a strong but important message: Cultural appropriation is a real phenomenon with real consequences and real victims, so don’t debase the term with your petty personal prejudices!  The world is bigger than you and your opinion.  Or me and mine.  If you want to make it a little smaller, then celebrate our differences by sharing them.  That last bit just might be the moral of this innovative and enjoyable show, and I think that it’s a sentiment even Misa would understand and applaud.

Sadistically Yours, Blend-S

Welcome, all, again.  While my last two posts have covered newly released anime projects, today’s discussion will focus on the series Blend-S, a consistent favorite of mine this viewing season which I nonetheless delayed reviewing as I waited for all of its cast to come into play.  It is high school student Maika Sakuranomiya’s arrival as a new employee at the themed cafe Stile that really sets our story into motion, we having first watched her get scouted by Stile’s manager Dino specifically for the same disturbing scowl that has thus far kept her unemployed.  That scowl has real potential at a cafe that trades on the theme of personality types.

And so Maika finds herself assigned the role of sadist, tormenting her customers with biting remarks, scathing looks, and even the occasional slight that directly affects their orders.  Most of this comes difficult for Maika, who actually has an inherently cheerful and friendly personality.  Her saving grace while in character is a slight airheadedness that couples well with her frightening glare to create a [thoroughly unintended] sense of menace.  Mind you, she does have other complications relating to her new job, most especially her manager’s smothering crush on her–she just has to notice, first.  And she’s certainly the only one unaware of it; her coworkers constantly play off the fact, while her two older siblings, both brother and sister, mistake Dino for her boyfriend.

Maika’s coworkers are also assigned workplace personalities–at least the waitstaff (the kitchen staff’s limited customer contact exempts them).  Kaho is a fellow high school student who plays the tsundere role but who really enjoys playing video games and visiting arcades.  She frequently breaks character to converse with customers about games, but is nonetheless the cafe’s most popular waitress.  Meanwhile, Mafuyu is a petite college student who plays the little sister (imouto) role with customers and the protective big sister role with her growing coterie of fellow waitresses.  Maika’s arrival adds a third waitress, but Dino soon afterwards scouts and hires a customer named Miu to play the big sister role (with customers), creating quite the delicate balancing act as Miu is actually a dojinshi artist who uses her new position to people watch.  And last to the roster is Hideri, an idol character out of whose normal personality a new waitress role is created.  Of course, Hideri’s normal personality–and persona–are themselves manufactured in a desperate attempt to escape farm life by becoming an idol.  This lot sounds almost as convoluted as the staff of Wagnaria!!, don’t they?

Japan’s newest idol sensation, Hideri!

Blend-S has been a joy to watch, and I’m hoping hard for a second season.  The title basically says it all, as the different personalities of the staff blend and clash while they interact on the clock and off.  Physical comedy and snappy one-liners are braced by several running gags, not least of which is Maika’s complete obliviousness to Dino’s pursuit of her.  Meanwhile, the fan service provided (and who wouldn’t expect some, given the formula?) is usually tame but is also served in ample amount.  This show has turned out to be one of the most pleasant light comedies of the season, so make sure you don’t miss it!

Sorcery in the Big City

Welcome, all, again.  The holidays are bearing down upon us, and Christmas parades have begun rolling down city streets.  Is it any surprise, then, that the Christmas specials have already begun airing?  And now there’s a new one to watch(!)–Sorcery in the Big City from producers XFLAG and studio SANZIGEN, the same studio that brought us such amazing works as Black Rock Shooter and Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova.   It began airing on 01 December, and can be seen on either YouTube [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=domEBOCs7hA&t=148s] or Crunchyroll [http://www.crunchyroll.com/sorcery-in-the-big-city], but the English subtitles are better on Crunchyroll.

So, what’ve we got, here?  Well, Akari Kido is an officer of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police who is coming to New York City as part of a police officer exchange program.  She is actually returning to the city where her father served as a police officer, but he was killed in the line of duty on Christmas Eve fifteen years ago.  Now Akari, like her father before her, is protecting its citizens.  But she herself is protected by Apple, the pink stuffed bear that her father gave her the night he died, which she brings with her from Tokyo.  And I do mean protected by, because on her first night back in NYC, things get weird.  A witch/magical girl figure named Liberty flies through the city giving life to toys and holiday decorations, which then wreak havoc.  Worse yet, Apple catches her eye and a wave of her wand, leaving Akari to awaken alone and distraught.

Still, Akari doesn’t have time to mourn this very personal loss, as she soon finds herself facing the mayhem caused by Liberty’s animated minions.  She transitions quickly from traffic control to emergency response, but just how does one subdue such beings?  Her answer swoops in, a super-powered girl in a pink bear outfit whom Akari recognizes as a very changed Apple, but even Apple is overwhelmed by the destructive power of a creature accidentally released by the battle between Akari and Liberty.  Can Apple protect Akari long enough for Akari to protect New York?  You’ll have your answer in just 40 short minutes, so grab some milk and cookies and enjoy watching the Big Apple’s most unorthodox Christmas parade!

The Game’s Afoot! Blossom Detective Holmes

Welcome, all, again.  While it is my purpose through this blog to review anime, it gives me especially great joy when I am also able to help introduce people to new or even emerging shows.  For those of you who have not yet heard, Steve Ahn has released the pilot to his new animated mini-series, Blossom Detective Holmes.  If Ahn’s name sounds familiar, it just might be because you enjoy watching cartoons.  What did he just say?!  Cartoons?!  That’s right, I said it–cartoons.  Working such varied positions as storyboard artist to director, Ahn has had his hand in: [The] Cleveland Show; Ben 10 (both Omniverse and Ultimate Alien Force); Voltron: Legendary Defender; and Avatar: Legend of Korra, amongst others.  And as with that last example Korra, Blossom Detective Holmes has a decidedly anime flavor.

Titular character Skylar Holmes and her friend and assistant Jamie are two young women particularly well-suited to investigating mysteries.  Skylar has an abnormally keen sense of smell that allows her to pluck clues from the air, their combinations gelling into a series of deductions very like those associated with another Holmes.  And also like that other Holmes, Skylar has a tendency to get quite focused on her deductive reasoning, even to the point of becoming occasionally inattentive to other matters.  So when those other matters might mean grave bodily harm or even death, it pays to have someone in your corner–especially somebody like Jamie, who is both brave and loyal, and who additionally possesses a miraculous camera that can teleport the two wherever Jamie imagines them.  Very convenient for our heroines, although the streets of Victorian Stockholm might never be the same.

Now, I honestly don’t know how much I can really take away from a 5-minute pilot.  But I’m already quite comfortable saying this: the characters are engaging and intriguing; the story is fluid and well-paced; and the artwork is a genuine work of art.  It seems that Ahn has recruited some of his colleagues from “the big leagues” to help out with this endeavor.  It paid off, and in spades!    (And I’m not the only one who thinks so–if yet unpersuaded, please follow this link to Den of Geek’s review: [http://www.denofgeek.com/us/tv/blossom-detective-holmes/269274/blossom-detective-holmes-pilot-review].)  So take five minutes of your time and watch Blossom Detective Holmes; Ahn has it available for free viewing until 31 December, 2017: [https://gumroad.com/l/blossomdetective].  Hope you enjoy the show!