Final Thoughts on Summer 2016

Welcome to the final seasonal post for a good long while.

We've been doing seasonals since the site first launched, but it's no longer feasible. Staff has left for various personal reasons, and we're reaching the point where most of us can't handle the load because of conflicting schedules. My hell semester alone this season has caused so many delays. I've also felt that general quality of reviews has weakened as we've been so rushed, and I've been more interested in long form articles anyways. The spark just isn't there right now. So, I've decided to end seasonals for the time being.

That's not to say we won't be giving updates on currently airing stuff. Staff has pretty free reign to write whatever, and I'll definitely be doing my own season premier impressions on my own blog, but organized reviews of airing shows is stopping for a bit. Expect to see more proper articles on the site from writers besides Zach, and bigger projects from me.

But for now, let's finish up this Summer season at long last. What was good? What was bad? What was meh? What was put into production hell? Well, let's start with the massive pile of dropped shows first.


Mamoru Hosoda Month-The Boy and the Beast

For those unfamiliar, here’s the introduction, as well as Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. For everyone else, welcome to the finale!

Earlier this year, roughly January or February, Mamoru Hosoda’s latest film, The Boy and the Beast, was announced for a North American release under the FUNimation/GKids label. Unfortunately, the situation got complicated with Canada. Initially slated to be licensed via GKids, it fell through entirely. The film was picked up by Mongrel Entertainment, but was to be screened in a limited run in subtitles only. It bypassed the TIFF Bell Lightbox, aka Toronto’s arthouse theatre, entirely, with the only showing it being well out of city limits. It didn’t even end up mattering, as the film was slated for a DVD release in early-June, less than one week after its Canadian release.

I’ve already discussed my frustrations with this. I’ve mentioned in detail why this upset me in another pice for Infinite Rainy Day. I, therefore, won’t repeat my thoughts outside a reminder of how irritating it was. That having been said, I’ll be retreading my earlier review’s thoughts and ideas. I normally try to avoid that unless I have something new to add, but I re-watched this movie for the sake of this series and feel it necessary. Besides, time has warmed me to the film somewhat.


Double Review: Xenoblade Chronicles X/Trails of Cold Steel Chapter 1

A double game review is an odd prospect, especially on an anime blog, double especially given the length of the two game adds up to a solid week straight of playing without rest, and triple especially as these came out the past holiday season and are yesterday's news. I think it's important to give these at least another look if nothing else because they take so long, I don't know how many of the people who spear-headed the discussions actually finished them. Xenoblade Chronicles is on so many greatest and most essential RPGs of all time. And it deserves it. It is a glorious combination of Western RPG conventions with JRPG aesthetics, incredible music, a wonderfully imaginative setting, and addictive gameplay with a ton of exploration and almost thousands of quests. The one thing people neglect to mention is the last two hours are one of the most insane string of revelations ever seen. It doesn't so much go off the rails as the rails are vanished into another dimension and the train is placed in a limbo of last-minute R.L. Stine twists. Don't worry about me spoiling a five-year-old game because even if I gave you the direct text, you would punch me in the face and say the beginning of my fan fiction where I'm trying to warp time and space to get Fiora to bang my Mary Sue character needs a shit ton of work. It's on the Wikipedia page if you must know.

This isn't really a criticism as I pretty much love it when writer/director Tetsuya Takahashi's projects go completely mental. Xenosaga Episode III is one of my top five games of all time because it let go of the middlebrow anime space opera Namco wanted to make mad cash off of (...It didn't really happen) and became a story where Mary Magdalene's body is given a upgrade to evil cyborg with a breast cannon that requires her top be unhooked to use. The American censorship even takes it to another level where young Shion is shouting, "Put it back!" as she holds a ripped out body part of one of her parents... only THERE'S NOTHING THERE! It's amazing and I find the ending to Xenoblade Chronicles similarly enjoyable as a "?!" punctuation to a remarkable game.

My point is: Do you ever hear anybody bring the ending up? Think if Chrono Trigger had the revelation that Lavos is actually the warped body of Crono after a time machine accident sent him to the darkest corner of space at the beginning of time and its entire mission was to delete his horrid existence while simultaneously creating it by mistake. The power of the, "What the hell?!" shouts would register on the Richter scale. The speed in which the modern world takes, processes, and leaves behemoths that take 80+ hours to complete misses out on some rather important details, and I'd like to bring a review where the player actually got to the plot point where they explain why the aliens are trying to exterminate humanity.

So, uh, what's with Coldy over there? Well, Trails of Cold Steel is the follow-up series to Trails in the Sky, part of Falcom's ambitious (and confusing) Legend of Heroes family of games. The first chapter of Trails in the Sky was released to near universal praise, plenty of press, and made more than a few best-of lists for the year. All of that said, it makes perfect sense that when its sequel series that refines the aspects that made its sister series a hit while at the same time implementing aspects from acclaimed franchises like Persona... it was completely buried by an avalanche of holiday releases and scarcely heard from. You know that list of RPGs you MUST play that's been bothering people on Facebook? The website put Trails in the Sky on the list and didn't even LOOK at Cold Steel. Right. I think it deserves far more than that.

Back to the 130-hour leviathan...


Mamoru Hosoda Month-The Wolf Children

For those who unfamiliar, my introduction can be found here. Parts 1 and 2 can also be found here and here. Moving on.

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time opened my eyes to the possibility that someone other than Hayao Miyazaki could direct brilliant anime films. It was a real surprise, and I’d end up watching it several times before buying it. Summer Wars, while a slight downgrade, was also great, proving Mamoru Hosoda wasn’t strictly a one-trick pony. I’d routinely be critical of it, even mocking it on my Twitter handle, but I also ended up watching it several times before buying it. By the time The Wolf Children was announced for a Western release, I was more than excited.

I ended up pre-ordering the DVD immediately, seeing as the film never made it to theatres in Toronto, yet ended up getting an early showing via, once again, illegal streaming (I was desperate, cut me some slack!) It was the day of my Winter exam in my final course of university, and I was anxious for some motivation. I watched the film literally 2 hours before I had to leave, packing up right as it ended. To say it was good is an understatement. To say it blew my mind is probably more accurate.


Fushigi Yuugi (TV)

Sit down, everyone, because I'm going to tell you a story.  Long ago in the dark days of the mid-90s, if you wanted to enjoy a bit of shoujo in the United States you had to work for it.  Sure, there was Sailor Moon on TV, but if you didn't go for magical girls your options were mostly limited to whatever VHS bootlegs you could get your hands on.  Even the manga world didn't have much to offer until Mixx Magazine came along.  Knowing that, it's pretty easy to understand how a series like Fushigi Yuugi could get popular. It was a series about a girl getting sucked into another world and having adventures with a bunch of pretty warrior boys. With elements of fantasy and romance, it was all but made for teenage girls to throw money at it.  Teen girls did indeed throw lots of money at it, which not only proved there was a market for shoujo in the States, but made creator Yuu Watase a wealthy woman in the process.  For many years Fushigi Yuugi had a reputation as one of the go-to titles for introducing people to anime, much less shoujo anime. 

I was not one of those girls, though. Having gotten into anime in 2010, I knew Fushigi Yuugi only from its reputation.  It was that reputation that led to pull this series and its two OVAs up on Crunchyroll one dull day.  That dull day turned into many days, considering that I had 52 episodes to cover and 13 OVA episodes on top of that.  Nonetheless, I preservered in watching the entire thing.  Having watched the entire franchise now, I'm honestly baffled by its past popularity.  Were shoujo fans truly so desperate for material that they would get invested in such a cheap, schlocky, convoluted, and downright offensive show like this?


Mamoru Hosoda Month-Summer Wars

For those who are unfamiliar, here’s my intro and review of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. Everyone else can continue with this piece.

Right after finishing The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, I was enthralled. I had to see more from this director! Fortunately, the opportunity was waiting with that g1 review that led me here via another Mamoru Hosoda film: Summer Wars. The movie seemed to be well-loved, although not to the same extent, so why not? A good movie is still a good movie, and if people were singing its praises it was worth checking out.

So I did. The method of watching wasn’t ideal, I didn’t know what constituted as illegal streaming in 2011, but I was desperate. As expected, the results paid off. Mamoru Hosoda had proven he wasn’t a one-trick pony if he could make a follow-up almost on-par with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time. I didn’t like it quite as much, but how could I? Every director has to have a lower-tier film, this happened to be Hosoda’s.


Otaku Queer: Chikane Himemiya

Well, since I gushed about a queer character last time, I figure it's time to get more critical with the next subject. However, I wanted to stay positive, so I decided to go with a character I really like, yet is so horrifically mishandled that I can't believe someone allowed her to exist like this. For this installment, I'll be going over the messy history of one of the most mishandled characters I have ever seen, Chikane Himemiya.


Mamoru Hosoda Month-The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

I’m assuming you’re caught up, right? If not, click here for my mission statement.

Anyway, onto the review!

My relationship with The Girl Who Leapt Through Time goes back to the days of ScrewAttack Version 4. I’d recently become a die-hard anime fan, and I was seeing which directors tickled my fancy. Some, like Mamoru Oshii, bored me to no end with Ghost in the Shell, while others, like Satoshi Kon, I respected, yet never got the appeal of. No director grabbed me quite like Hayao Miyazaki did, leading me to wonder if my excitement was doomed to backfire. That changed when I discovered this film.

It was pure chance that I found it, having seen a review of another movie by Mamoru Hosoda from a fellow g1 who’s now a contributor at Infinite Rainy Day. The premise intrigued me, so I looked it up on Rotten Tomatoes for further info. Once there, I was surprised to see that Hosoda had not only worked on the Digimon franchise, but also had two films under his belt. Deciding to go chronologically, I picked The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, found it in 8 parts on YouTube and gave it a go. I haven’t looked back.


Mamoru Hosoda Month-Introduction

A stubborn and impulsive teenager jumps into the air, rewinding time to fix her mistakes. A family gathers around a computer, desperate to fight an AI hell-bent on destroying the internet. A young mother moves to the countryside to raise her halfbreed children shortly after her lover dies in a tragic accident. A recently-orphaned boy runs away and learns martial arts from a humanoid bear. Time-travel. Virtual worlds. Motherhood. Adolescence and manhood.

Welcome to the world of Mamoru Hosoda.


Bookwalker Manga Sampler

Bookwalker is one of the few digital manga sites of recent years that could be considered a success.  It started merely as a digital spinoff for Kadokawa with only a barely localized site and a handful of titles to its name.  These days they've got partnerships with Viz, Seven Seas, Yen Press, and other notable manga publishers and their digital manga offerings represent one of the biggest and most diverse selections to be found.  While digging around in their library, I found a trio of food-themed manga that practically begged to be examined for our most literal Manga Sampler yet.

Bookwalker Manga Sampler: Ekiben Hitoritabi, Shiawase Restaurant & Seiwa High School Bento Club!