Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso / Your Lie in April

Mild Spoilers Below

This 22 episode + 1 OVA anime series is an exceptionally well made standard romance-drama storyline.

Thinking over it, it has a fairly standard manic pixie dream girl teaches guy life lessons and then leaves plotline but there are key differences that make this anime outshine the standard template of what people typically expect from this series.

1.) The characters are incredibly realistic. Every single character in this anime has a realistic personality, passions, and goals in life. In contrast to the standard story formula, these aren’t cliche. Arima Kousei, the main character, has monologues that aren’t cliche or stupid; they show the introspection and emotional pain of a damaged prodigy whose whole world shattered after his mother’s death and his regretful last words despite her child abuse.

2.) Most importantly of all; there is no forced melodrama to force the story to continue, there is no character stupidity,  and just about everything the characters struggle through is either real life issues that many people can relate to or ambivalence about feelings for long time friends that is just as relatable.

As a result, this anime shines far above the typical cliches and provides some incredible character development and story transition. Despite the seeming haphazardness of the story progression as it immerses us with scenes from past and present in seamless transition to show us the characters thoughts, motives, and struggles; it conducts the immersion brilliantly with a deft hand at picking out scenes that make the classical music scores resonate with the tumultuous emotions given to the audience.

The classical musical scores make the show shine as we’re treated to the inner struggles of artists who play songs to reach their loved ones and to reach audiences beyond language, religion, nationality, age, gender, and all the other social statuses that sever human connectedness. Music is generally portrayed as otherworldly but this anime makes it a point to say that music is just as flawed and human as the people playing the musical scores. Most interestingly, the artist is stated to follow the Dark Path as that is what it is to be a musician despite one’s nervousness at a live performance.

It is explicitly stated, by Kaori, the main heroine, that music is freedom. She explores and showcases the freedom of music by playing musical scores in her own beat and rhythm with her violin.

Kaori’s characterization seems fairly realistic in terms of being selfish and forcefully proactive because of her limited time in life, but unfortunately it’s still the standard cliche of a manic pixie dream girl. But I did really like her character, and the emotional turmoil she went through as her condition (which some viewers have stated resemble ALS) deteriorated and she underwent the operation. The last scene with her was a nice touch for the anime.

Despite Kaori being a manic pixie dream girl, since even in her last words at the end of the anime, it predictably stated that her whole life was about getting to know the boy whose music she admired as a kid; the childhood friend of the main character, Tsubaki, provides better character development overall. Tsubaki’s ambivalence and emotional turmoil is a more realistic portrayal of a female character  facing struggles with her own feelings.

Watari, Arima Kousei’s other close friend, and his rivals Emi and Takeshi, along with Takeshi’s sister Aiza Nagi, and Kousei’s teacher Hiroko, and other side characters have incredible characterization.

I would say that it is a must-watch anime. However, I’m not sure what to score it. An 8 out of 10 or a 9 out of 10 or a 10 out of 10 . . . I’m just not sure. You be the judge after watching it. It’s certainly masterfully written and produced; a great use of standard cliches to make a riveting story and the music composition alone makes the anime standout and shine. Definitely worth your time.

Also, on a more personal note, I really enjoyed how every single one of the characters can be considered ubermensch in the defined term that Nietzsche meant. Following their own self-satisfaction, giving their lives for their art/sport, living as embodiments of art for art’s sake, and struggling and feeling happy with struggling whether it be emotional or physical impairments. Kaori, Arima Kousei, Tsubaki, Emi, Takeshi, Nagi, Hiroko, and all of the other characters all embody the ubermensch philosophy of Nietzsche. Kaori was especially the personficiation; I loved how, despite the tragic circumstances, she gained enjoyment and happiness from finding a purpose in struggling against her condition thanks to Kousei’s words about playing music with her again.It was beautiful and I think it personifies the ubermensch and the theme of the anime beautifully.

Bungaku Shoujo / Literature Girl Film

A surprisingly good film.

Once viewers can move past the abnormal psychological desire of the literature girl, Amano Tooko, eating pages from books to cement her love of them, it delves into a rather intriguing romance story.

Inoue Konoha is a highschooler whose past we slowly uncover and learn about his quasi-friend, quasi-girlfriend Asakura Miu, a girl who attempted suicide in middle school due to the confluence of problems with her home life and the horrifying aspect that Konoha will no longer be in her life in the future. Throughout the film, we discover just how much Miu hates herself and how she deceives and hurts Konoha because she both despises herself and despises the fact that Konoha could leave her. Her ambivalent attitude of love and hate for her only real friend is portrayed incredibly realistically. What I particularly liked was the ambivalence of her character.

Konoha himself seems to hold shame and guilt for winning a book contest which he initially believes stole Miu’s dream and made her commit suicide. In reality, it was because Konoha wouldn’t continue to be her “dog” and stay loyal to her. Konoha’s two other friends, Nanase Kotobuki and Akutagawa Kazushi, are absolutely disgusted with Miu’s manipulative and selfish behavior that continues to cause Konoha severe mental anguish. Konoha is in such emotional turmoil that he shows signs of PTSD and severe anxiety on multiple occasions when thinking over Miu’s attempted suicide. Amano Tooko’s adventuring and chats about her future prospects with college serve to help him stay adjusted and distracted from the tumultuous thoughts about Miu and his deep sense of shame and guilt over what he feels was his fault.

Unfortunately, Tooko herself seems like a cookie cutter version of the manic pixie dream girl. She shows a strong sense of empathy and understanding for Miu’s mental breakdowns and Konoha’s deep regret, but we can only really use that to judge her character apart from her frequent chats about her future prospects and exams. The conversation is usually focused upon Miu or Konoha’s lives and there is much less emphasis on Tooko to really know much about her. Even side characters like Kazushi and Kotobuki seem to show more depth. However, I do feel that the caring and strong demeanor that Tooko portrayed was realistic within the situational contexts of the film; I just wish there was more depth given to her character.

8/10

 

Akagami no Shirayukihime / Snow White with the Red Hair Anime

This is probably one of the best 12 episode anime stories to be made. It makes an engaging and compelling story without any need for grimdark undertones. It just takes a minuscule bit from a fable, Snow White, to tell an original story. There is no prince kissing Snow White; instead it features a pro-active likable female protagonist leaving her country of origin to avoid being the concubine of a misogynistic prince and eventually entangling herself into the life of a prince from another kingdom whom she develops a friendship with. The main character, Shirayuki, eventually works hard to make her own place as a top-notch herbalist in the neighboring kingdom.

Zen, second prince to the neighboring kingdom, is just as likable as Shirayuki and works hard to make his kingdom a safer place. What’s interesting about their character dynamics is that, unlike most anime where characters continuously try to have idiotic slapstick comedy filled with cliches of the female calling the male an idiot and voyeuristic bath scenes, this anime portrays a completely normal, healthy relationship between two characters and it is entirely realistic. Part of the realism is that it’s a normal relationship that naturally progresses to romance and doesn’t have any cliches like “He saved me so I’ll devote my life to him”, or “The power of friendship”, or “It’s a man’s job to protect a woman”, or any other typical, nonsensical anime/pop culture cliche. What binds them together is their capacity for hard work. Shirayuki wants to prove that she isn’t just some lucky girl who is trying to use her friendship with Zen to either marry him or harm him for personal gain. Certain guards and the first Prince have strong misgivings about Shirayuki’s intentions due to assassination and kidnapping attempts in the past. Shirayuki wants to prove them wrong, she wants to feel equal to Zen, and most importantly of all, she wants to work hard and prove to herself that she can be a respected herbalist because that’s her dream goal.

Throughout the anime, we see her strive towards passing her exams and becoming a full-fledged member of the Royal Herbalists in the Castle. Her desire to be of use bears fruit with the fact that she heals a platoon of soldiers on guard at one of the Kingdom’s borders. Zen requires her skills and asks her to come along; her work helps to cure the sickness, find the cause through process of elimination, and she helps give the recovering soldiers medicine for the duration of their eight hour shifts; nearly causing herself to collapse from lack of sleep because she took so much time working on the medicine and holding herself to a timely schedule. This is among many other achievements throughout the anime.

Zen works hard as the second prince to prove that he’s a competent ruler to his brother. He feels some shame for being born into nobility because of a friend in his past remarking jealously about how Zen will never have to fight and kill to survive. He can always expect guards to protect him, a loving home, and food on his plate every day. His friendship and eventual love for Shirayuki is equally compelling to Shirayuki’s own. Just as Shirayuki doesn’t feel equal to Zen, Zen feels that Shirayuki flies far above him in terms of personal strength, commitment, and endurance. While he was born into the life of the castle, she worked hard to achieve her place among the castle’s people, she can always be relied upon to help others in any given situation, and her herbalist skills become increasingly needed to provide valuable medicines for the kingdom. Zen thinks of Shirayuki as a strong, competent, and tireless individual who he’s regrettably entangling into the drama of royal politics. Shirayuki gets placed into physical danger on more than one occasion because of it.

Beyond that though, they both seem to really, really like each other and the chemistry isn’t forced, has no cliches, and just seems so shockingly natural that it wouldn’t be a stretch to call this anime the best romance anime of all-time. Shirayuki does get kidnapped but she fights back and occasionally breaks out of her prisons through her wit alone before Zen and others can come to take down the villain. The stress takes a toll on Shirayuki but thankfully she never becomes bitter because she can rely on Zen as much as Zen relies upon her.

Overall, this anime series gets a 10/10 in my book.

Drakengard 3

An utter waste!

This action-adventure video game is, by far, one of the stupidest experiences that I’ve ever had the displeasure of playing through. It deceptively plays itself off as a mature video game meant for an adult audience but all you’ll find is overly cartoonish depictions of blood spatter as if that makes a game “mature”, pathetic half-assed attempts at humor that are so one-dimensional that you’ll never laugh, and utterly boring, monotonous dialogue that serves no real purpose.

The characters you meet are incredibly stupid and one-dimensional. Most of the dialogue and reasoning for the protagonist killing her sisters are contradicted with shallow depictions of “insanity” to justify the main character’s mass murder. By the end of the main story of the game, you’ll get some vague throwaway line by the main villain about how the main character is trying to “save the world” with no real context as to what is even going on. It’s so vague and poorly thought out that it honestly isn’t even a spoiler.

Most of the “story” of this game is random encounters with monsters, depictions of how “powerful” the main character is, depictions of the abusive relationship she has with a dragon that may as well be her son, and mostly just a bunch of stupid humor that seems out of place, awkward, and poorly formed. The lip syncing in the game isn’t exact to the english voice actors, which may make people believe they were poorly performed. In fact, I had to correct this initial assumption as well. The American voice actors are terrific; the characters, plot, and overarching story are what is total garbage.

Eventually, after the main story is concluded with no understanding of the “mystery” regarding the dragon and the main character, you get the post-game which consists of “alternate universes” in which different events happened. But these too have the same shoddy humor, terrible and meaningless character dialogue, and inconsistent storyline. For example, the ending of Route C contradicts the ending of route A. The Route C plot establishes that a certain character can only be killed by a dragon, but Route A shows us this character dying mercilessly by something other than a dragon. I had hoped for a deeper meaning to this plot beyond the awful humor, but evidently I was duped into believing there was more. The fact the game developers have to rely on multiverse theory just to make the plot look consistent and end-up creating more plot holes confirms that they had no real understanding of what they were doing when making the so-called “story” of this game.

Most glaringly of all, the game relies on artificial attempts at lengthening the game by requiring you to collect all the weapons in the database to even start Route D. This is an obvious and shallow attempt at lengthening the game and the fact they place it upon you in a very last minute fashion with no prior warning shows the depths of laziness in developing this utterly terrible game. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Most of the bosses are rehashes of the initial 3 monster bosses that you fight but with either more defense, a fire gimmick, a quicker attack gimmick that is poorly implemented so that defending oneself doesn’t even work when pressing buttons quickly enough, or a area gimmick in which random, stupid objects serve to stop you from properly veering away from danger as if such annoying blockades serve as extra “challenge” against the same bosses over and over.

Of the four weapon types, one is utterly worthless. Combat bracers have no value whatsoever. Spears and swords are simply better at damaging opponents and utilizing combos; chakrams are adequate for hitting multiple enemies from distances. But combat bracers are wholly worthless and seem like a tacked on gimmick to make the game “edgy” instead of having any real depth like the other combat weapons. The fact you’re forced to use them to do “request missions” that demand only combat bracers against enemies virtually immune to any real damage from such weapons and against archers who can easily hit you if you use the slow, utterly worthless triangle button combos makes this worthless weapon all the more frustrating. It simply isn’t fun and it doesn’t do anything against enemies. Yet again, it seems as if these missions were put on last minute, especially since random and poorly made areas in these particular missions prevent you from hitting enemies and moving about quickly. It is simply a pain to do and has potential to make people quit the game at how poorly designed these particular levels are.

The DLC shows just how much was cut from the actual game to milk people for a few extra monies. Japanese voice pack is DLC? Really?

Overall a terrible experience, don’t bother getting this game.

Corrections: Having played through Route D and got to the True Final Boss, I will admit that the “plot hole” was in fact clarified to my satisfaction, but Route D’s final boss is the worst piece of garbage to ever be made. It attempts to be “artistic” on what is really just lazy game design and not artistic at all. Overall, this game gets a 1/10. I honestly tried to enjoy this game despite the purposeful deceptive marketing on what is really a comedy of action-adventure games and not a serious story, but the true final boss just clinches it. I don’t recommend this game or this series. It isn’t worth anyone’s time.