‘The Occasional Okatu’ strikes again.

I thought this would be a good time to add to my ”Occasional Okatu” series. Two of these anime are ongoing, and from what I’ve seen so far, well worth watching. There’s also one that was on a while back, and as I recently had the chance to watch it again, I thought I’d pass it along.

First off is the anime that’s already been on, “The Ancient Magus’ Bride” (“Mahoutsukai no Yomein Japanese). This is an outstanding anime on several levels. The artwork is incredible, the characters are more than two-dimensional cut-outs spouting lines, and the world it builds is quite believable. It is set in England, where Chise Hatori, a Japanese girl, goes to be sold at auction. She does this of her own accord, having been shunned her whole life because she can see the spirits that inhabit the world alongside humans. What she doesn’t know is that she has powers far greater than seeing spirits. She has the power to draw magic both from her surroundings, and the magical spirits she can see. There is a price for this gift. Chise, and those like her, rarely live long due to the strain their powers place on their human body. She is bought by Elias Ainsworth, a huge non-human magician who pays a fortune to possess her and her abilities. This seems a dark set-up for a story, but as the characters move forward, both Chise and Elias begin to change. Chise learns that the world is not as dark as her experiences have lead her to believe. Elias, on the other hand, learns what it is to be human, and what it feels like to care about someone else. This is a 24 episode series, so not something you’re going to knock down in an hour or two. That said, it is worth taking the time to watch.

As far as the two currently-airing anime, I’m not really sure which I like better, so I’ll go alphabetically. “Boogiepop and Others” (“Bugīpoppu wa Warawanai” in Japanese) is a story with more sub-plots than I’ve ever seen in an anime. It is based on an earlier anime, “Boogiepop Phantom” from 2000 that I have tried to watch but couldn’t do due to the truly horrible quality of the animation. The story tells of the urban legend of a mysterious figure dressed in a flowing cloak and a tall, odd hat. Some see this figure as Death personified, while others see it as defending humanity from the evil that stalks us in the shadows. The series opens with Boogiepop’s identity being reveals: she is a manifestation of the personality of a high school girl, an entity that emerges when humanity is in danger. If you like dark fantasies where the distinction between the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’ aren’t clear-cut, this is your cup of tea. The artwork is quite good, the characters are interesting, and I think the premise will be engaging enough to keep you watching.

The last anime is “The Rising of the Shield Hero” (“Tate no Yūsha no Nariagari” in Japanese) a dark take on a classic story line: the hero summoned into a video game like world. In this case, four young men are summoned from different versions of modern Japan to defend a kingdom from an impending wave of disasters. There’s a twist that happens in the first episode, when the title Shield Hero is falsely accused of a crime. Thrown out and denied help, yet expected to do his part in defending the kingdom, he takes matters into his own hands. With his powers limited to defense, he buys a slave to fight for him and begins the process of learning how to fight and operate in his new world. He’s not a complete anti-hero, he treats his slave less like property than as a valued helper, but not all of his actions are quite ‘above bard’. The characters development is good for the genre, the story keeps you watching, and while I’m not a big fan of the animation, it gets the job done.

Unlike some of my past recommendations, all of these anime are available through popular sources like Crunchyroll. Like usual, here are links if you want to watch:

“The Ancient Magus’ Bride” (https://www.crunchyroll.com/the-ancient-magus-bride)

“Boogiepop and Others” (https://www.crunchyroll.com/boogiepop-and-others)

“The Rising of the Shield Hero” (https://www.crunchyroll.com/the-rising-of-the-shield-hero)

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More musings of “An Occasional Okatu”

I thought it might be a good time to come back in my role as ‘Occasional Okatu’ with a few anime I really enjoyed watching. Fair warning: at least one of them is not something you’ll want your young children to watch, but for an adult, they all offer something worth the time spent watching them.

First off, the one that you might consider keeping from your kids, “Goblin Slayer”. This anime stirred up something of a firestorm be featuring a rape in the first episode. It is quite disturbing, and some have accused the producers of having it in the first episode to ‘generate buzz’ for the show. Having watch the entire first season (thirteen episode, the last of which became available through the site I prefer just today), I must disagree. The premise of the story is simple, even a bit hackneyed: adventurers battle monsters with magic and their martial skills. Of all the monsters, the ones regarded as the least-important are goblins. The first episode opens with a group of newly-minted adventurers decide to test their skills against a group of what they consider ‘lowly’ goblins. Things do not go as they planned, the group is overwhelmed with all but one member dying violent deaths. That individual, a young priestess, is saved by a man known as Goblin Slayer, because they are the only monsters he fights. From him, she learns that goblins are not minor monsters, and that the only way to fight them is to be as ruthless as they are.

Looking back over the episodes, I think that having that extremely violent scene serves as a wake-up call. Where most adventure fantasies tend to gloss over what really happens in combat, it reminds the viewer that war, and fighting in general, are ugly experiences. There’s more to the story, but I won’t reveal it so as not to spoil the experience for anyone who chooses to watch. Suffice it to say that the characters must face more violence before the first season wraps up.

The second anime is “So Many Colors in the Future What a Wonderful World” (Japanese: “Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara; Iroduku: The World in Colors”). The premise of this anime is a future world where magic still works, even if only slightly. The protagonist is a high school girl who has exhibited strong magical tendencies, but can only see the world in black-and-white. She lives with her grandmother, a powerful witch, who one day casts a spell to send her back in time. Why she does this she doesn’t explain, but her granddaughter finds she’s in the past, at the time when her grandmother was her age. As she tries to adapt to her new environment, she meets a boy. He in an aspiring illustrator, and what is amazing to her, when looks at his drawings, she can see the color in them, and even in the world around her.

On its surface, there are a lot of elements of the old ‘boy-meets-girl’ story line in this anime. But what lies beneath that surface material is something very different. Again, not to reveal too much of the plot, the young woman comes to realize that the reason she cant see color in the world has nothing to do with anything physically wrong with her. Again, I think it worth watching.

The third and final anime is “Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai” (Japanese: “Seishun Buta Yarou wa Bunny Girl Senpai no Yume wo Minai”). If the title sounds odd, it’s meaning becomes clear in the first episode. A high school boy walks into the library where he is stunned to see an attractive young woman dressed in like a Playboy Bunny. Then he realizes that not one of the other people in the library acts like they can see her. He finds out she was a child star, made famous by a series of modeling gigs, and later, by becoming an actress in Japanese TV and movies. But she became disenchanted with that life and retired in hopes of living a few years as a normal teenager. It was then, when she was no longer in magazines and on TV, that she discovered that no one but this one boy seemed to see her. The cause is something referred to as “Puberty syndrome”, and the boy has experienced it in a different form in his own life. They form a bond, and as the story progresses, encounter other who are experiencing this mysterious syndrome.

This has been dismissed as a bad example of the ‘harem’ genre of anime, because most of the other people they encounter who are effected by Puberty syndrome are girls. But it’s not, not really. At its heart, this anime looks at how our efforts to fit in, to live up to others expectations of us, can change us in ways we don’t even realize. It’s worth a watch, in my humble opinion.

If you’re interested, Crunchyroll has both “Goblin Slayer” (https://www.crunchyroll.com/goblin-slayer) and “Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Senpai” (https://www.crunchyroll.com/rascal-does-not-dream-of-bunny-girl-senpai) available. Unfortunately, “So Many Colors in the Future What a Wonderful World” is a bit harder to find, but if you can find it, I think you’ll enjoy watching it.

That’s all for now, and thanks for reading

Further adventures with an occasional okatu

(Well, that was embarrassing! I posted this the other day, and didn’t realize until just now that I’d grabbed the ‘Alpha’ version, the one without included links for more information on these anime. Here’s the version I meant to post, and sorry about the goof.)

A while back, I wrote about anime and how I thought it could serve as a source of ideas and inspirations for writers. Today, I’m going to visit the subject again to do something I don’t usually do: offer some suggestions for folks who might want to explore the subject matter more.

First off, I don’t like giving recommendations. Why? Because like a painting or any other piece of art, what you see, and how you react to it, is often governed just as much by what you’re seeing as it is by your past. Humans see the world through the lens that is their lives, and the things we like or hate (or find useful versus wasteful) are often shaped by our life experiences. So while I might find an anime inspiring, or insightful, or even just plain fun, you might find it anything but. So fair warning: what follows is a sampling of different types and genre of anime that I’ve found interesting enough to view many times. How you react to them may be very different. So, with that fair warning, I’d like to offer three anime I think are worth watching. If folks express an interest, I might write more on the subject and offer other examples.

First up, in my original piece on anime, I mentioned the recent Netflix project “Violet Evergarden”, and it is still one I would whole-heartedly suggest you watch. It is a visually feast that tells a story worth thinking about: what happens to the child soldier when the war ends? There are a number of other anime that touch on this subject, but perhaps the one that does it best, and tells the darkest story, is “Gunslinger Girl”. ( more at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunslinger_Girl) It was among the first Japanese animated series I ever watched, and it remains one I go back to from time to time. In it’s bleak future, the Italian government establishes the innocuously-named Social Welfare Agency as a means of caring for young girls who have suffered terrible injuries, or untreatable diseases. The truth is very different. Using cybernetic enhancements and brainwashing techniques, the girls are turned into assassins. Paired with an older male handler who everyone is told is their older brother, they are tasked with helping the government maintain order by any means necessary. The girls are conditioned to follow their handlers orders, to look on them as if they really were their older brother. But their conditioning doesn’t wipe out all the human emotions, or their response to the way they are treated. The handlers have different outlooks on their charges. Some regard them as partners, worthy of respect. Other see them as victims, innocents being sacrificed to keep the government in power. A few see them as nothing but tools, to be used as needed and given no more regard than any other piece of machinery. The story unfolds like a dark jewel, each episode showing a different facet of what is happening between the girls and their handlers.

My second offering deals with an even darker, grittier future, and it’s the one that turned me into an unofficial okatu, “Cowboy Bebop” (more at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cowboy_Bebop). To call the future it portrays dystopian is an understatement. The Earth’s Moon has been shattered by an experiment in space travel gone wrong. But that disaster hasn’t kept the technology, the ‘hyper-gate’, from being used to move people about the solar system. Far from it. Humanity now lives on Mars and most of the other bodies where it can exist. But the future humanity lives in is one where government is little more than the tool of powerful corporations and criminal syndicates. Roaming between the different colonies are the crew of the spaceship “Bebop”. They are an odd collection: a retired cop, a former syndicate hit man, a woman with no past and a child genius hacker. They make a living by being bounty hunters, or “cowboys” in the current slang. If “Gunslinger Girl” asks what a government will do to stay in control, “Cowboy Bebop” asks what will happen if Libertarians get their way and government becomes effectively ineffective. Rest assured, the result is not pretty, even if there are occasional bursts of black humor to relieve the dark world.

My final offering is sort of a ‘guilty pleasure’ of mine. This one also deals with the idea that a corporation might become so powerful it can take over a government. It’s perhaps my favorite anime, “Sekirei” (again, more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sekirei). While there are dark moments, this anime tends more towards the comedy than deep thought. It’s an example of what’s known as “oppai” anime, “oppai” being Japanese slang for “boobs”. This anime revolves around a young man who,at that opening of the story, has just failed for the second time to get into college. As he’s going home from finding this out, a young woman literally falls out of the sky and lands on him. She has, as you can imagine, a well-developed chest, and she’s in trouble. Two women are chasing her, women who can manipulate electricity at will. The young man helps her escape and finds out that the women attacking her are, like her, beings known as sekirei. There are 108 such beings, he find out, and they were discovered by the man who’s corporation has recently bought the city. He found them in a space craft that man found on a small island. That same spacecraft contained technology he used as the basis for the massive corporation he heads, the one that bought the city. All sekirei have powers, basically super powers, but to achieve their greatest potential they must find an ordinary human and ‘contract’ with them. To seal this pact, they must ‘make contact via the mucous membranes….in other words, they must kiss. “Sekirei” plays to many tropes in anime. The young man eventually meets other sekirei, gathering six women who all vie for his attention (harems are a big thing in anime, for what reason I don’t know). Boobs are a major feature, either on display in skimpy costumes or out in the open. The young man is constantly in a position to take things beyond a kiss….and equally constantly frustrated by circumstances beyond his control. In short, lots of silliness…but at the same time, some profound ideas. The women around the male protagonist are rivals for his affection, yet become friends who will defend each other. Friends forced to fight each other find friendship is more powerful than anything else. Perhaps most important, that no matter how dire the odds, if people stand together, they can accomplish amazing things.

Well, these are my first three selections. Love’em or hate’em, they’re three anime I’m willing to recommend. All of them are available online, so I hope you’ll give them some thought, either for inspiration, or just for plain, simple escapism. If there’s further interest, next time, I’ll dig into the deep reservoir of ideas that anime has in the field of horror and the supernatural.