Belladonna of Sadness (1973)

Golden Age Theater

Belladonna_3460

Belladonna of Sadness

MAL | IMDB

Directed by: Eiichi Yamamoto

Trailer: (NSFW)

Kanashimi no Belladonna (literally Belladonna of Sadness, also known as The Tragedy of Belladonna) is an avant-garde anime film made in 1973 and Inspired By Jules Michelet’s non-fiction book Satanism and Witchcraft (or La Sorciere). The film was directed by Osamu Tezuka’s disciple Eiichi Yamamoto and produced by Tezuka’s studio Mushi Productions.

Tezuka’s company was facing harsh economic realities and he decided to risk everything on a shift into feature film animation. 1001 Nights was successful enough to pay for the second film, Cleopatra/ Tezuka would leave the studio soon after its release though. With writing not just on the wall, but the wall crumbling before their eyes, the remaining staff set out to do something outrageous, artistic, and insane. This was the third film in what is known as the Animerama trilogy, and easily the most influential, Belladonna of Sadness.

If the trailer did not already alert you, the show is incredibly sexual and has multiple scenes of rape. NSFW.


Animation and Feminism Touchstone

The film featured a great production crew, if quite bare bones. Yamamoto had already proven his skill over a decade of work, and would go onto write Space Battleship YamatoSugii would go on to do another GAT feature, Night on the Galactic Railroad. The biggest name from the group however would be the amazing Osamu Dezaki.

Dezaki would launch from this film into one of the most praised career in anime, inspiring legions of followers and famous disciples. Kunihiku Ikuhara would cite Belladonna as his reason for becoming an animator, and his later work Revolutionary Girl Utena was a love letter continuation of the ideas in the film. Miyazaki’s first directorial work framed his lead woman in Lupin III after Belladonna. Takahata would revive the white-imaginative lack of drawing style in his latest works Yamada’s and Princess Kaguya. All three of these directors would also carry the torch of Feminism ideals and strong lead women throughout their careers. The list goes on and on of people inspired by the work, yet it was only in theaters for 10 days.

Belladonna is artistic wonder and inspiration with nothing held back. With twisting 70’s jazz-psych-pop music, the film goes on montage after montage of vibrant, surreal, and sexual explorations. Intercut are deeply sketched, imaginative white-out character scenes played over soul filled Japanese singing. The back and forth of these makes the hour and a half long film that covers a tremendous amount of story.

A scene everyone should see, the spread of the Black Death.


The Sexuality of Self-Determination

Belladonna of Sadness stayed quite true to the original novel it was based on. Dialog was mostly the same and followed a similar structure. The visuals on the other hand decide to work it. Blending a Snow White and Joan of Arc styled imagery throughout the film. With deep lines, faint details, and long pans over Japanese scroll type stories, the film is alive while also feeling like a picture book.

The opening is a water painting style, showing the brilliance and happiness of Jean and Jeanne. They get married and are overjoyed. The funky 70’s music and upward sliding shots give a lot to look at, but also orientate the audience to what will be a long ride of moving camera over long prints.

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The custom in Europe at the time was to pay a levee to the Baron. The man is ghastly, and his lady shows clear malice early on. Her design is a reference to the Evil Queen, seen in Disney works and Snow Queen. This is later referenced again when Jeanne transforms from jackal to black caped woman, another classic imagery.

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After seeing the Lady’s irritation, we find the source. Jeanne is beautiful, and the Baron demands 10x the amount that Jean could offer.The Baron then takes the opportunity to take his ‘King’s Price’ from Jeanne. The whole sequence is intense, but most stunning is the opening moment. I audibly yelled WTF when I first watched the film. Jeanne torn asunder, righteous joy torn apart and thrown to the wind by a cruel act.

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In the aftermath, Jean tries to defend his position and lack of power to save her. This is perhaps the last straw, and Jeanne screams into the abyss, her hair changing color for the first time. We are treated to a fantastically long shot from position of her mirror, as she washes herself and tries to gain composure.

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This all leads into her meeting a Demon in the shape of a penis. Which she stimulates in order for it to grow bigger and stronger. This would carry through the whole film, and mixes the idea of sexuality with an independent mind and confidence. As it grows, so too does her sense of individual right and self-determination. A wonderfully erotic journey that takes it to the absurd, but delivers it in such style.

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Artistic Audience Integration

One of my favorite styles is when animators purposefully leave things for us to fill in. Character acting animation had not taken off in anime at the time, with Horus: Prince of the Sun introducing more social and moral topics only a few years before. Belladonna of Sadness chose to instead focus on the most important set piece of each scene. This creates for an orgasm scene that features only a few lines of a face in profile, or a look of fear outlined only by the eyes.

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This was likely a budget issue that forced the lack of color and filament, but the artists used it to the maximum. They create impressively powerful statements, through finely detailed but minimalist pictures.

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These moments work to both allow our minds to fill in the side information, and put emphasis on areas that are not truly there. Isao Takahata discussed this style a lot in interviews for the recent Princess Kaguya, which used a water color and fluid ‘artist rendering’ style of animation. Its a unique and fascinating way to tell a story. Belladonna also makes use of these whites, to make the happiness of naive marriage and the joy of independance more vibrant in contrast.

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Brutality and Joan of Arc

The brutality of the film is intense. From giant red walls of ripped apart Jeanne, to a montage of rape and beastiality through a forest, to un-filtered hatred. Jeanne suffers pain and suffering that is hard to watch at times.

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What holds my heart together is the transformation and evolution of our dear Jeanne. She transcends the logic of her world through the evolution of thought, sexuality, and scientific thought. The links towards the story of Joan are somewhat vague, but it comes home in the final scenes as Jeanne is burnt at the cross. The final shot of her burning reminded me of The Passion of Joan of Arc.

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Final Thoughts

One of the early full bore explorations of the montage storytelling and a radical change in character design. A sexual and revolutionary work to match the culture clash of the late 60’s in Japan. Both colorful and simplistic.

Belladonna of Sadness is one of my favorites, if you couldn’t guess by now. Some might argue that the music and animation are dated, but watching it today still feels fresh and imaginative. I cannot recommend it enough.

GAT: Mobile Police Patlabor 2

Golden Age Theater

Mobile Police Patlabor 2

Mobile Police Patlabor 2

MAL | IMDB

Directed by: Mamoru Oshii (Spotlight)

We are back in the golden territory again. Patlabor 2 is a magnificent classic that could hold its own with any film today.

Patlabor 2 was released 4 years after the first movie, and Mamoru Oshii had continued to drive digital animation forward. The animation is more crisp and full of motion past what could be done in the first film. Oshii had also seemingly found an interest in the spy thriller dynamic.


A Change in Focus

The Patlabor series had built its reputation based on the action, slice of life, comedy, and large cast interactions. A balanced effort to contrast the Space Opera heavy genre of Macross, Battleship Yamato, and Gundam. The first film, also done by Oshii, had dropped a lot of this in order to dish out the central narrative. It was a good film, but in this second outing Oshii really made what he wanted. He even reset by having a similar military introduction scene during the credits.

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It has been 3 years since the events of the first film, and our cast has mostly moved on to other roles. They still back up our new main focus of the two commanders, but their story is moved out of view. Like poor Ota, having to teach newbies how to fight.
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This serves a great dual purpose. Patlabor 2 can be a stand-alone film without the hinderance of the past unless convenient, and Oshii could question modern Japan’s society in a new context.


Goto’s Spy Diplomacy

The story revolves around a former military trainer, Labor innovator, and love interest of Commander Nagumo. He holds a grudge and uses a series of attacks framed as mistakes to force Japan’s upper management into an odd arms race against itself.

While this is all occurring, our clever friend Commander Goto is on a spy thriller chase to figure it all out. Dealing with a mysterious JSDF spook that is feeding out information, Goto is encouraged into investigating the events without raising a lot of noise. With the help of the Patlabor crew, Goto finds a way to get Nagumo through the battle field to meet our antagonist.

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While Goto takes up a lot of the screen time, this is almost exclusively in long and very slow discussions of the politics involved with the matter, while panning over large industrial districts and aquarium tanks. The scenes are agonizingly slow, emphasising the non-action issues of the Japan society of the time. It draws every moment of tension into it, and just as you think that it cannot be handled anymore, GOTO SNAPS! Then it is a quick, action packed ride to Nagumo’s finale, leaving the audience drained from the experience.

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The Beginning of Ghost in the Shell

While Patlabor 2 is a great movie on its own, the lineage to one of anime’s masterpiece works looms large. Goto and Nagumo are clear starting points for the later duo of GitS, and the social stances against the government does a slight shift into a social AI issue. The changes are big, and the films are both their own work, but seeing Oshii forming this style is very fun.

Nagumo’s journey is pretty stifled in the film, Goto doing most the work of filling air time, but her position within the story is central. From the friendly connected nature with her partner Goto, to the heart torn love of the past, her journey in the film is stunning. Her strength of character is like a bedrock that holds the whole film in place, both hindering and forwarding our plot.

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Final Thoughts

Mobile Police Patlabor 2: The Movie. So far the best film in our Golden Age Theater project, and a solid recommendation for anyone looking for a great spy thriller film. The story is stand alone but knowing the previous works will add to the story as well.

Oshii’s direction, action, animation, music choice, and social commentary are all on point here. Goto and Nagumo hone a crafted central narrative that deals in pure diplomacy and brute force, with no romance and the only love interest is faceless for 90% of the film. Slow paced but fantastic in its control and release. A top notch anime that everyone should see.

GAT: Windaria (1986)

Golden Age Theater

Windaria

Windaria

MAL | IMDB

Directed by: Kunihiko Yayama

Produced in 1986, the film is also known as ‘Once Upon A Time’ and was produced by the great Carl Macek. Windaria is the only full film release from Kanade Productions, a small studio that released a few OVA and one full series. Fujikawa‘s legendary script writing was the basis of the story, but a rare departure for the prolific Sci-Fi writer of Galaxy 999 and Battleship Yamato. Even the director, Yayama, would become famous mainly for his work on the Pokemon animated series.

Windaria can be seen as the attempt to achieve greatness in one area, by many artists better suited elsewhere. Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli could rest easy, knowing that Laputa: Castle in the Sky would come out the same year. Fujikawa needs more time to really explore the ideas he puts forth, and it becomes quite a choppy narrative in Windaria.


A Shakespeare Tragedy

The story is set between two countries on the brink of war, and a peaceful village stuck between them. One pressures and attacks the other, while the prince and princess are in a R&J love story. Oddly, the story marks its focus on a different man, Izu, as main character and the three women that decide his fortune.

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Izu begins as a peaceful farmer with dreams of grand spectacle, something fitting of the Princess that catches everyone’s eye, and for his beloved wife whom he adores. He fights for the Pora, the industrial aggressors, and ultimately wins the war. With gold, parties, and women offered, Izu forgets the promise to his wife. Eventually the country has the last woman attempt to kill him, leading him to run back to Windaria and his wife. She says ‘peace bro’ and dies after his return.

While the story is potent, and interesting when it rolls through, the lack of focus really hinders the experience. For 20 minutes, Izu is left bouncing around the industrial city doing nothing and being held back through illogical encounters. All the while, the Prince and Princess storyline anchors the story. After their ending, we return focus to Izu to wrap up his storyline, but it feels disconnected from the early portion of the film. It just didn’t click for me.


The Better Story

While the story is interesting, this journey that Izu takes is overshadowed by the much more interesting story of the Prince and Princess. Their story of love, determination, tradition, cultural pressure, and political obligation is what carries the first two thirds of the film.

I was captured right from the first moments of the Princess’ run to the ocean, right till their deathly meeting in battle.

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This felt like the true heart of the film, but was cut up between Izu’s arc to the suffrage of both. Their story is disjointed, with central points being covered but reasoning thrown away. The Prince having to turn from the moral objection to war into the powerless ruler of a war machine, is completely brushed aside in the hopes that we’ll pick it up. The Princess also goes from peaceful lover to desperate heroine with very little to tie it together. I wanted more of this and less Izu.

In the same way, the inclusion of the village and giant tree of Windaria seems almost unnecessary. The delivery of the destroyed ocean city was more impactful than the grassy wasteland of battle. Even the war-torn metaphors are delivered elsewhere, like in the literally titled Forest of Doubt.

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Final Thoughts

Windaria is visually quite impressive, and the musical score was fantastic. Even the story can be touching with the seeds of some very great ideas to explore. Ultimately though, it sacrificed too much of both stories for either to work as well as it should. Luckily, Fujikawa has explored these ideas in his other series with a lot more time to show the details.

GAT – Patlabor: The Movie

Golden Age Theater

Mobile Police Patlabor: The Movie

Mobile Police Patlabor: The Movie

MAL | IMDB

Directed by Mamoru Oshii

In late 1988, Mamoru Oshii released a series of 7 OVA running 30 minutes each. By summer of 1989 the series had been remade into Patlabor: The Movie and exploded onto the market, which then demanded a 47 episode full series as a follow up. After the series, Patlabor 2 would take a drastic change in style and would be seen as the blueprint for the later masterpiece of Ghost in the Shell.

Mamoru Oshii had already made a name for himself by working on a few other series, and was in the news fresh from quitting a Studio Ghibli project. His famous love-hate relationship with Miyazaki, centered on what a story should be, likely influenced his hand on the Patlabor series. A call to intrigue and sinister ideals as the natural order, with only humanity and hope protecting us from cruel nature.


Narrative Control

The biggest impact I got from the film was Oshii’s narrative structure and control. Wings of Honneamise and last weeks Macross both attempted to condense a larger story into a shorter film format, using montage and skipping details to crush the narrative together. In Patlabor though, we can see Oshii’s understanding that less can be more. He constructs scenes to imply that there is more behind the curtain, characters with more depth and storylines with comedic tones, while keeping the central detective adventure story intact.

The cold open of the battle intercut with the credits was a relatively new technique back then. David Fincher and the Scott brothers were the only directors making liberal use of it at the time. Oshii nails it though, communicating the power and destructive nature of these machines with the missing pilot.

We have our central plot set up before a word is spoken, and the stakes are shown in brutal fashion.

The first act is a bit heavy on exposition after the impressive start, but the time is used quite well to cement our characters basic qualities. The hot head, the rookie, the captain, and the whole crew are portrayed simply but maintain an air of ‘more’. Unlike Macross, I don’t feel the need to watch the series after this to better understand, I do want to watch the series because I want more to enjoy though. A small, but impressive, difference in end result.


A Change of Pace

Above the acceptance that the film is well made, Oshii’s shift in story focus and mecha use really changed the game. WIth an antagonist that exists only as an ideal, and robots made part of the daily life, the genre of Mecha split again. This isn’t a Space Opera like Macross, and it doesn’t fit neatly into the Super or Real Robot genres that had dominated the industry.

It seems almost absurd that the two key action scenes in the film are centered around the mechs being human. With our hot head firing wildly into a river, negating any control a mech seems to offer, and our final battle that requires our girl to leave her robot in order to win. This acts as a great central point though, that humans can be sinister or good regardless of the tech involved.

It feels very natural, especially considering Japan’s prolific 60’s yakuza and detective films. A detective mystery thriller with police working to thwart an attack, while investigating subterfuge at the highest levels of society. This is the meat of nearly every film Oshii grew up with as a child, and his homage to them with the addition of mechs creates a very natural pairing.


Final Thoughts

The artwork, animation, and directing skills in the film are impressive. The film is one of the first examples of the 90’s aesthetic that would follow, and instigated a lot of it. The story also inspired a lot of the 90’s grounded character focus, leading to Oshii’s own Ghost in the Shell and others.

Patlabor’s story is quite simple and doesn’t have the same grandiose nature of Wings or Macross. The execution and simplicity of its goal are really where it shines though. Working wonders to deliver another Golden selection of film that defined the anime medium.

GAT: Macross – Do You Remember Love?

Golden Age Theater

MACROSS: Do You Remember Love?

MACROSS: Do You Remember Love?

MAL | IMDB

Directed by Shoji Kawamori

The film was released in 1984 as an alternate universe to the original series. The stories follow the same plot line but characters, events, and motivations, are all changed slightly. This lets the film work as a stand alone, and with all new animation it often feels different. On release, the film was seen as the best animation and one of the last Golden Age blockbuster films.

The Macross series as a whole is quite vast, featuring many series and film, including Macross Plus that launched the career of Shinichiro Watanabe. Do You Remember Love acts as the central point of the franchise for introducing the universe and story. The dynamic background animations, smoke and missile tracking, and swirling camera movements make it a pretty fun ride.


A Story of Love?

Macross: Do You Remember Love? is a stand alone film, but it doesn’t feel like it. The story follows a simple love triangle, played out over a grand space battle and the survival of the human race. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t really go beyond that. Small montage moments and lots of action give us the basic premise, but the condensed plot is clear. Major characters of the series hardly require a mention, and our central three serve to frame the action more than anything.

Minmay, a new singer idol, gets caught up in battle and trapped with a fighter pilot named Hikaru. They spend three days trapped inside an engine room, become romantic, and continue dating after being rescued. The two of them get captured along with three other friends by a giant sized race of male green cyborg people!

This leads into the Male vs Female giant armies of death, and Hikaru escaping with his commander. Hikaru and the commander fall in love over the course of a month, return to the ship Macross, meet Minmay, and somehow save the universe while killing everyone.

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Hurray!

A really interesting story that leaves you wanting more can be great, and Macross certainly fits the role. Even if the story is a bit wanting.


A Story of Art

While the story was crushed down to its most basic form, the battles and light show are the real center of the film. Gundam has always been the big name in Mecha, and it is refreshing to see a drastically different philosophy in design.

The film revels in these interesting and mechanical designs of the ships that make the battles feel really large. Each fight feels like it requires more than the screen can handle, while perfectly framing the key moments.

Again the story is too brief to properly build the tension. Even as I watched a fantastic final battle scene, it never clicked that this was the big moment. Hints are within the film, leading Hikaru to battle the champion of the Female Giants, but the film doesn’t have time to let it really sink in.

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Final Thoughts

A beautiful film that suffers from a lack of time. Macross might be better experienced through the series, and the film as a nice visual treat afterwards. The story is a bit lacking in depth, but the action is packed full. A Golden Age popcorn blockbuster.

GAT: Night on the Galactic Railroad

Golden Age Theater

Night on the Galactic Railroad

Night on the Galactic Railroad

MAL | IMDB

Directed by Gisaburou Sugii

Night on the Galactic Railroad (NotGR) is a 1985 film that gained a cult following over the years. Sugii made the film after finishing three seasons of the anime Nine, and followed by three seasons of Touch. He also released Tale of Gengi two years later. Both films are dark, brooding, and moral journies, while the series are light hearted sport romance. An interesting dynamic, but we’re not here for Sugii.

NotGR is a little secret among anime fans, and likely because it is terrifyingly difficult to get into or understand. This is a film that has a firm grasp on what it wants to do, and that thing is not to entertain. It wants heavy atmosphere, philosophy, sadness, and above all else is time. NotGR wants you to sit, fidget, let your mind wander, and then focus again, before it does anything at all.


Setting the Stage

Right from the opening we are hit with this oddly slow and twisty intro to set that idea.

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Opening on the overhead shot of a school, we begin to drift down. Normally you would expect this to be a 10-30 second transition, even for detailed shots, but NotGR takes a full minute. Along with this is a windy, camera twisting, motion sickness ride across the single picture. All to get to the hallway.

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It gave us nothing towards the plot, narrative, setting… nothing. It just wants the audience to understand the ride to expect, like a giant speed bump on the excitement highway. At first it can be quite boring, but by the end it felt perfect.

The tone is set, and we move into the classroom to meet our two main characters Giovanni and Campanella. Gio’s mind wanders as he looks at a map of the galaxy for the first time, halted as kids laugh thinking he’s asleep in class. This turns to establish that Gio’s father has gone North to work and fish, mainly through the children making fun and creating terrible rumors in the way kids do. Only Campanella stands for his friend, silently supporting him in the face of the bullies.

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We go on to see the sorry state of affairs that Gio lives with. Brutally slow and tedious work at a printing shop, tired from the morning and the other part time job delivering papers, he earns just enough to bring food to the table. On the way home, he again drifts into a visual state of looking through the galaxy. This time by staring into a black rock. Then he moves on to return home with food for his mother.

His mother shares in the doubts and rumors about the father, and is so distant as to not even enter the same room. Gio is suffering but his hopes perk up with the plan to retrieve milk and visit with Campanella at the Festival of Lights. The dairy is empty though, save for a creepy old woman.

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Gio is again rejected by his classmates at the festival, and it serves as the final straw. He leaves the village to die alone on a far away hill, suicide through social stigmata. At this moment, Gio’s wandering vision of the universe comes for a third time and he stands before the train. Thus begins the Night on the Galactic Railroad.

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A Spiritual Journey of Lessons

From here, the story goes on through a series of symbolic scenes of the catharsis of death and religion. I thought at first that it was framed around a Buddhist mentality of rebirth, but it also features heavy Christian ideology. Perhaps fitting of a Japanese novelist writing about the death of his sister in 1924.

The episodic parts of the train ride each has some interesting portions to it. Things like the Bird Catcher, who spends his time capturing Herons that turn into candy, but let many of them die as they hit the ground. A wasteful and somewhat cold hearted circle of life.

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The meeting with the humans, also caught within the train of purgatory, are from the Titanic and have such a great little arc. The man who risks life and limb for these children entrusted to him, faced with the reality that separation may be worse than death, and committing to stay with them in the icy waters. The girl, who delivers our central ideal and folklore outlook in the tale of the scorpion.

The scorpion laments his choice to flee from a weasel and die alone in a well. With the idea, ‘My death will be useless and I will be alone’ on its mind, the scorpion wishes that in the next life his body be used for ‘true happiness in the world.’ An outlook of sacrifice, wrapped in a wish to exist fully. Its a nice central point to the film.

The humans leave towards heaven, and Gio tries to comfort his friend. For most of the story, Campanella has been the slightly more mature and effective of the two. Watching his quiet shadow glide alone the story felt saddening at times, but this moment was such a pay off.

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Gio’s affection for his friend is clear, and a great connection is held strong. Unlike Campanella though, Gio’s ticket is a special ticket that would let you enter ‘true heaven’ or any other stop along the ride. Campanella is not so lucky.

The film ends on a positive note, but it delivers a slow and methodical sadness throughout. Its almost exhausting, but the ending shows us why we took the journey we did. A glorious and tear jerking spiritual quest should always be this difficult. So Long, Space Cowboy.

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Final Thoughts

I still prefer director Sugii‘s other work The Tale of Genji, but this film turned out to be really interesting. It was hard to even get into watching, with cat people and famously slow pacing, but I’m glad I did. A good film done in an odd way with solid goals, always fun to find another to add in the collection.

GAT: Wings of Honneamise

Golden Age Theater

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise

MAL | IMDB

Directed by Hiroyuki Yamaga

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise was released in 1987 as the flagship film for the new studio Gainax. The film was written and directed by Hiroyuki Yamaga, a 26 year old upstart looking to make his name alongside a new wave of generational talent. The crew includes some impressive names like  SadamotoItanoMasuoInoueMaeda, and of course Hideaki Anno.

The basic story of a careless man who falls for a female and an ideal she represents, who goes on to do great things. Its pretty standard, but Wings of Honne would try and do more with it. Through a series of montages and sequence storytelling. Wings of Honne expands the stories of the dreaming scientists, political anglings, war, and the human spirit. These sequence are interesting to see on their own, especially the final sequence that aims to make a 2001: A Space Odyssey or Tree of Life type send off.

Final 5 minute Sequence

Series like Ghost in the Shell and Akira hold the title of ‘must see Sci Fi anime’ for good reason. While Wings of Honne is a fantastic artistic and experimental film, this montage style narrative and overly expansive script left a lot to be desired. While the grand picture is impressive, the fine details lacked in a way that the true great films do not.


Love, War, and Human Nature

Shiro, our main character, begins the film as a man leading a bland life. Opening on his admission that he was not smart enough to become a pilot, Shiro has fallen into the Space Force. He is so apathetic that attending a friends funeral seems all too bothersome, and going for drinks with comrades is the only thing to grab his attention. With his friend skipping off to a whore house, Shiro looks around at the all too flashy life around him feeling empty. Everything is sex, bright lights, and indulgence that dulls the senses and from this noise comes a single voice, calling for repentance and acceptance of a god.

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Riquinni is a religious and damaged woman who looks after a similar young girl, and their dedication to the idea of a pure existence catches Shiro’s attention. Through the film, their relationship is tested and shows the pain that can come from the pure ideal. Shiro grows to love Riq, and she becomes the pillar that holds up his drive towards space. Her importance is driven home when he leaves the Space Force the second she calls for help, desperation to save her in his eyes.

Soon after, as he spends the next few days with her and feels like an outsider, he becomes the same apathetic man at the beginning of the film. Though he loves her, the connection between them is distanced and any attempt to bring them closer is rejected. This comes to a boil when he decides to take action, and what is famously known as the ‘rape scene’.

While Shiro is certainly making an aggressive move, the intention and circumstance is often ignored. His soul is eating away at him, facing death likely within the month, and his only connection to life keeps her distance. At his lowest point, he attempts to reach out to form a real connection as defined by the modern humanity, before realizing the moral distance between them. Even the next day, as he attempts to apologize, Riq demands that she was in the wrong for hitting him.

A lot of people in the West have latched onto this single scene. They rarely discuss its important context, or Japan’s cultural position on sexuality includes that includes the idea of a man ‘pushing the woman down’. Not to mention it was the 80’s.

This is Shiro’s darkest moment, and central to closing the arc of his determination.

War

In mirror to this story of love and religion, the world powers work to further their goals. The country’s leaders make corrupt deals with car makers to fund the Space Force, staining the name of these idealistic scientists. Shiro is a slow man, but those around him constantly mention the greed and corrupt nature of those involved. The launch is moved into controversial territory, and made into a pawn to draw war with another country. Finance and power made through blood, a perfect mirror to the peaceful separation of religion.

In the face of these two extremes, Shiro tries to hold the middle ground. Even as his life is threatened by hitmen, he attempts to maintain life.

This serves to help kindle the fire of Shiro’s goal, driving him to demand the launch even as war wages around him.

Human Nature

This is the spiritual core, and moral battle, of the film. While Shiro is captured by the quiet beauty of Riq, and inspired by her view of purity and space, he must also battle the sinful reality of man. This middle ground of the extreme is where we find our true nature of humanity. Funded by greed, driven by war, and inspired by the human drive for greatness,

Shiro uses all of this duality that surrounds him as he reaches orbit to serve as the world’s first astronaut, and quiet observer of the ‘stars of the world’.

A beautiful idea, executed in an interesting way, and animated at the highest level. Wings of Honneamise is not quite a masterpiece, but certainly has a Golden tinge.

Summer Season 2015 Preview

Summer Preview 2015

Here we are again, a new season is upon us and you have no idea what to watch! Here are most (hopefully all) of the series that will air in Summer, minus sequels that should have the existing audience. Enjoy!


Top Picks


Snow White

Snow White with the Red Hair

With some big Manga hype in the hands a solid director who can handle action and slice of life, this series is looking good.

Directed by Mashiro Ando

Directed some really great series like Canaan, Hanasaku Iroha, Blast of Tempest. Ando has delivered some truly amazing work. being a Key Artist for Ghost in the Shell, Jin-Roh, and Metropolis. He worked as a main episode director and storyboard for series like Full Metal Alchemist, Wolf’s Rain, and Medarot.

He also directed the fantastic film Sword of the Stranger.


uushio

Ushio and Tora

MAPAA studio continues to impress in art and style. Great, if flawed, series that really capture the shounen spirit. 

Directed by Satoshi Nishimura

Nishimura has a pretty solid resume directing Hajime no Ippo and Trigun, some top notch series. I think he can bring on some extra skill to add to MAPAA’s line up of stylized series like GARO, Bahamut, and Terror in Tokyo.


Rokka-no-Yuusha

Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers

Likely an entertaining and suprising series. The director of Spice & Wolf will always win me over.

Directed by Takeo Takahashi

Takahashi has directed quite a few solid series, stand out among them is Love Love?, Maoyou Maou Yuusha, and both seasons of Spice & Wolf. The manga is from the same writer as Armed Librarians, which featured some unique powers and storylines.


gang

Gangster.

This could get deep, and action packed, so look out for what might be the mess, or best, of the season.

Directed by Shukou Murase

Murase has made some interesting, if flawed, series like Witch Hunter Robin and the more famous Ergo Proxy. He knows how to play a tone, and handle a gun fight, so this should be a ton of fun.


Prison-School-anime-672x372

Prison School

Manga has some hype, looks interesting. Big hype for a director who rarely does me wrong.

Directed by Tsutomo Mizushima

Mizushima is a swiss army knife. He brought the A game for Another, Blood C, and xxxHolic. Then knocked out some solid series in Witch Craft Works, Girls und Panzer, and to a lesser extent Plastic Nee-san. He also directed two of the best slice of life shows in recent memory, the fantastic Genshiken and Shirobako.


The Entertainment


laplace

Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace

This could be interesting, but likely will fall the way of other works like Danganronpa in disapointment.

Directed by Seiji Kishi

Kishi is an experienced director, but is hit or miss on story choices. Angel Beats, Carnival Phantasm, Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita, and YuYuYu are all good series. But on the flip side sits Assassination Classroom, Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova, Danganronpa, and Hamatora. Ranpo Kitan is looking to fit into the later catagory, but I’ve been suprised before.


Symphogear

Senki Zesshou Symphogear GX: Believe in Justice and hold a determination to Fist!

Ohhhhh baby! See my weekly watch thread, where we’ve been enjoying the previous 2 seasons in preparation. The GLORY, the HORROR, the SINGING! Get hype.

Directed by Katsumi Ono

Ono directed Beast Saga, Hataraki Man, Yugioh Arc-V and 5D’s, as well as the second season of Symphogear.


Chaos-Dragon-Sekiryu-Seneki-

Red Dragon War

This is really happening right? I’m not having some kind of seizure?

Gen Urobochi (Fate/Zero), Kinoko Nasu (Kara no Kyoukai), Iduki Kougyoku (Mimizuku to Yoru no Ou), Ryohgo Narita (Durarara!!), and Simadoriru (member of the Stripe Pattern doujin circle); played a tabletop role-playing game sessions over six days and created material for a seven-volume light novel series.

Directed by Matsanu Matsune

Only credit is Assistant Director on the breif OVA series, Alice in Boarderland. Shou Aikawa brings some interesting Script credits, but working with role playing maniacs might be difficult.


Gate

Gate: Thus the JSDF

Directed by Takahiko Kyogoku

Kyogoku has made a living off the Idol series like Wonderful Rush and Love Live!, so this is a pretty big change of pace. Interested to see how he transitions.


sister

My Two-Faced Little Sister

The searmay show of the season. Cute girls, talking animals, little girl to the extreme!

Directed by Masahiko Oota

Oota has directed the sweet tooth series Love Lab, Minami-ke, Sabagebu, and Yuri Yuri Looking like another series of pure moe greatness.


The Rest


God Eater – Director Takayuki Hirao

The director of Gyo and the amazing Garden of Sinners 5, makes this look promising.

Charlotte – First time director Yoshiyuki Asai.

Asai worked on Captain Earth and Fairy Tale, doing storyboard and episode direction. The manga is from Key, famous for series like Air, Clannad, Little Busters, Kanon, and Angel Beats.

Castle Town Dandelion – Director Noriaki Akitaya

The director of the great Bakuman series.

Classroom Crises – Director Kenji Nagasaki

Nagasaki directed Gundam Build Fighters and No.6. He also worked as episode director for Monster and Gundam 00.

Aoharu X Machine Gun – First time director Hideaki Nakano.

Nakano is a long time ‘One Off’ episode director doing OP, ED, 2 episode arcs, and 3 episodes out of 50, nothing of substance yet.

The Instructor of Aerial Combat Wizard Candidates – Director Takayuki Inagaki

Directed quite a few series, namely Muv Luv Alternate, NouCome, and Rosario + Vampire.

A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist – Director Youhei Sezuki

Sezuki has directed The Hentai Prince, and directed mutliple episodes of Nodame Cantabile.

Everyday Life with Monster Girls – Director Tatsuya Yoshihara

Previous credits are Yoru no Yatterman.


The End

~Monogatari: A Series about Stories

Welcome to the best wide cast, character focused series since Durarara!!

Listed as a Harem, Supernatural, Comedy, many of you could be expected to leave this to the Plan To Watch or Dropped lists without much second thought. You’ve seen harems before, not really your cup of tea right? While this may not change your mind by the end, hopefully you’ll be able to see the many enjoyments Monogatari can bring to the table, and why the fan base is so broad.


A Series about Stories

The beauty of Monogatari is in the “ghost stories” of which it’s based, following standard Japanese folk tales and tuning them into modern day. The specific ghost stories of Crabs, Snails, Monkeys, etc., are all part of the different characters growth, but each has it’s unique study of words and meaning, along side very specific dialog.

Monogatari makes liberal use of director edits

that add to the themes, inspection of language use,

and play with meaning on words that all tie into a larger meta discussion.

Sometimes it also shows a change in narrator, making the entire dialog take on another meaning.

Our main narrative travels through small arcs featuring a Vampire, Crab, Snail, Monkey, Cat, Snake, Pheonix, Bee, and many other side points.

This creates a lovely story about a boy growing up, discovering stories involving girls, while discussing how those stories can be interpreted. While each arc features “fan service” to a varying degree, the story usually twists this to meld with both the MC and the various characters in the arc to find meaning and substance.

This makes way for our meta discussion about stories, how they should go, and the battle between whats true. With our “All Knowing Author”

trying to push their will on the story, fighting against the “Viewer Expectation”

of what the story should be, with the ever present characters and their own ideas.

Speaking of, what was our story again?


Stories Focused on Women

Koyomi Araragi acts as our MC, but his journey always is focused on helping and understanding women. Not an exciting boy, he reads manga, rarely goes out, and has one friend that studies with him.

His life is mostly boring, and it sets the tone for a boy caught up in this world of women that he doesn’t understand. Luckily, during the first arc he is helped and taken under the wing of his mentor.

Que pubesent sexual realization

as he suddenly becomes a boy with a monster inside him. He wrestles with this new passenger and this sudden change in the landscape around women, throughout the series. One of the most interesting lies in this sexual manafestation within him, as at first he is scared of it

and tries to ignore it’s existence,

but soon learns to understand and limit it’s power, while also learning to love this new side of himself.

Each interaction with Shinobu is a multi layered language barrage discussing folk tales, morals, sex, women, weight of power within the relationship, and the perception deception of a narrator. It’s a lot of stuff to try and cover in the breif conversations that they have, luckily Shinobu is a pretty easy going gal.


This sets off a chain reaction, starting with a new woman falling into his life.

She might seem a bit intimidating but this brave woman travels through the story with grace, confidence, and a growing trust.

She has plenty of weight on her shoulders, but she’s no character cut out. Each and every conversation swings in a balance between defensive and aggressive, Tsun and Dere change moment to moment.

This may seem like bad characterization, but it all ties together as we the little moments of pain as she begins to open up and really show those moments of weakness.

In 13 short episodes, she transitions from defensive kuudere, to a real person who found happiness.

Not stopping there, the rest of the show just makes her better and better.


At the same time, Araragi’s only friend begins to unravel.

Spured by multiple issues, she takes on a new attitude that begins to wreak havoc.

Reacting to this new girl in Araragi’s life, she finds herself full of jealousy and attacking him. Fueled by passion, Araragi has to make it clear that she holds no power over his sexual identity and puts a bandage on the relationship.

This leads her take a look at life and go on a personal journey. It comes back again, taking a new form,

but now she is able to rely on her friends to keep her clean, and caught up in some of the other girls stories, she eventually finds a better understanding of self.

She’s not done though, understanding that her journey is just beginning.

Each girl has their own story.

Dealing with past issues of trust,

A need for attention,

Lack of self-worth,

Or finding their own identity…


Koyomi Araragi

The series uses our MC to walk us through the various difficulties one faces when coming of age and tests our personal fetishism.

Life might seem easy with such a fantastic girlfriend, but relationships are not the only challenge one might face. Constantly trying to make sense of this world full of spirits, Araragi uses his words to battle the situations dropped upon him.

He might be a pervert,

but as the series goes on, he matures into the panty dropper he was meant to be.

Araragi has to re-evaluate the relationships he has with these new desires, and hone them to be socially acceptable. Sometimes it’s learning that you need boundries,

to recognize someone’s youth.

That even a pure girl,

can push herself onto you for the wrong reasons, and find struggles she cant escape.

Ex-boyfriends challenge his standing within the story and relevance as the MC.

Other rivals tempt his desire,

and try to destroy him, while facing their moments of weakness.

He finds new battles with his sisters,

before finding a new balance to the relationship, and a better understanding of how to support them.

The story isn’t over yet with Tsukimonogatari recently coming out,

and the upcoming third season will focus a lot more on Araragi’s quest to grow up. We can see this in the first arc already as Araragi’s sex drive is in a powerful battle with this new type of monster, Maturity.

He seems pretty excited about it.


Final Thoughts

What does this all mean? Well that’s for you to discover, but there are many different avenue’s to explore. Not everyone will join us on this journey, but I think we can all appreciate the ride…


If you plan on watching the series, the order of viewing is:

BakeNiseNekoSecond SeasonHanaTsuki

Incase that did not confuse you enough, the Timeline of the story is: (italicized means unaired so far)

*Kizumonogatari* – Neko – Bake – Nise – Second Season – Tsuki – *Third Season* – Hana

Spring Season 2015

Spring Season is beginning, so join me in looking at the people behind all the new shows. No more must we suffer overly condensed snap shots of show pages, updated weekly in a never ending cycle of useless information! No longer will you have to rely on weak genre tags and cover pictures to decide quality!

Shout out to Lupin III, Romantic Comedy SNAFU 2, Nisekoi 2, and Gintama’ for returning series.

Maybe there is someone out there hyped for Duel Masters 11th season so… good for you!?


Hype Train


Kekkai Sensen

MAL

“New York is in a dimention bubble, humans and demons live together, and someone wants that to stop. *Stylish super humans* fight to protect New York from destruction.”

Director Rie Matsumoto made Kyousou Giga

Art Director Shinji Kimura from Tekkon Kinkreet

and Ao no Exorcist Movie.

Animation Director Tekashi Hashimoto. See his 2 MAD’s

Adapting Yasuhiro Nightow’s story (Trigun, Gungrave)

Matsumoto will bring us charasmatic and fluid characters, fighting in glorious detail and causing massive destruction with Hashimoto’s art, back dropped by Kimura’s deep and layered scenery. Nightow has shown some real talent in following a tortured Hero’s Journey. I expect this to be the most interesting of the season.


Ore Monogatari!!

MAL

A romantic comedy with a unique MC. Expect this to be a powerful ride!

Directed by Morio Asaka, the Boss of SoL anime.

Director of Cardcaptor Sakura, Chihayafuru, Chobits, Gunslinger Girl, Nana

Series composer Natsuko Takahashi handled Yuyushiki, Lady Jewelpet, and Tokyo Magnitude

Adapting Kazune Kawahara’s first animation (Tomodachi no Hanashi, Koukou Debut both highly regarded manga series)

Asaka has made a career out of well developed female characters, and it will be interesting to see a romance triangle handled with the girl being an actual person. It looks like it will be quite comedic, but knowing the heart wrenching story of his other works, I’m expecting some Feels.


Arslan Senki

MAL

Arslan’s destiny is to be a ruler, and despite the trials that face him, he must now embark on a journey to reclaim his fallen kingdom.

Directed by Noriyuki Abe

Director of Great Teacher Onizuka, Flame of Recca, Yu Yu Hakusho

Series composition and script Makoto Ueza

Katanagatari, School Days, Danganropa, D-Frag, Akame ga Kill, YuYuYu, Is This a Zombie?


Hype Caboose

These series sit just behind the most interesting series coming out.


Ninja Slayer

MAL

A man seeks revenge against some ninja. That is about it.

Director Akira Amemiya

He made the fantastic, bombastic, low budget thrill ride. Inferno Cop

He is also a dynamic animator:

Trigger Studio… Don’t lose your way?

Dude decides to straight gank some ninja. Amemiya was a lot of the comedic backbone of TTGL, grounding the series more “over the top” comedy throw outs. Trigger is still in it’s infancy, so hopefully budget and time won’t be a huge issue. Expect a satirical, epic pose, ninja joke filled version of Kill la Kill.


Hibike! Euphonium

MAL

A girl joins a Jazz band, meets an old friend as well as new ones. Tea, Music, and Moe begin.

Director Tatsuya Ishihara

One of the *big three* guys at KyoAni. Directed Clannad, Haruhi Suzumiya (series/movie), K-On!, Chuunibyou, and Nichijou among others.

Series composer and script writer Jukki Hanada: Steins;Gate, Yozakura Quartet, many of Ishihara’s works.

These girls play to our hearts and eat cake with tea…wait k-on!?

Yeah, expect a K-on! with band and jazz music. With Hanada on board, I’d expect some heavy drama and conflict later in the series.


Owari no Seraph

MAL

A mysterious virus appeared on Earth which killed every infected human over the age of 13. Now one kid must… fight vampires… to save… people.

Director Daisuke Tokudo first big outting

He worked on a few episodes in Attack on Titan, Tokyo Magnitude, and Guilty Crown

Script writer Hiroshi Seko handled most of Attack on Titan, and parts of Zankyou no Terror.

Adapted from Takaya Kagami’s work. Dark Rabbit and Legend of Legendary Heroes are his other animated series.

Dude in school decides to straight gank some vampire. With Attack on Titan’s extreme use of the extreme, I worry that this might be too over the top.

Action and Fun to be had


Punchline

MAL

Yuuta Iridatsu spirit has been separated from his body. Monogatari without the meta dialog I’d imagine.

Directed by Yutaka Uemura

Second outing as Director, but his previous work has some all star cast

His last work featured Episode Directors and Animators like Yuasa (Everything), Tachikawa (Death Parade), Imaishi (FLCL, TTGL, Trigger Studio), Kobayashi (Beck)

Studio behind Garo, Shingeki no Bahamut, Zankyou no Terror, and Tekyuu

Let the sexy times begin! Based on the studio and previous work, the series may rely on fan service but I expect the story to be quite engaging. Along with Uemura making his first big splash on the scene, this show will probably be a celebration of his imagination. I expect a somewhat surreal journey through fan service town, with characters that have a lot of heart.


Triage X

MAL

Mochizuki General Hospital boasts some of the most well-trained (and well-endowed) nurses in town. Yuuuuuup.

Director Takao Kato
Directed Blue Seed, Upotte!! and To LOVE-Ru

Series composer Katsuhiko Takayama of Mirai Nikki, ef: Tale of Memories, and Aldnoah.Zero

Adapted from Shouji Satou’s work. (High school of the Dead)

A loud, fast paced adventure featuring physics and plot.

Physics

Plot


Senior Studies


Sarusuberi

MAL

The time: 1814. The place: Edo, now known as Tokyo. A story about an Artist and his daughter. Not a lot to say without breaking down the whole story, but it’s a character piece and it will be fantastic.

Directed by Keiichi Hara


The man who directed Colorful, and Crayon Shin-chan.

If you are not already marking this on your calendar, you are no true anime fan. There is not much more to say. Colorful is one of the best films in recent history. Crayon Shin-chan is the launching point of basically every major name in anime of the last 15 years. This will be epic.

Please note that Sarusuberi probably wont actually be available to watch until Fall or later, as smaller movie subs tend to go.


Tamayura

MAL

This is actually a multi-movie finale to Tamayura the original series. Sato is just such a boss, that you should go watch the whole series anyways.

Directed by the incomparable Junichi Sato


Director of such amazing works as Princess Tutu, Phi Brain: Puzzle of God, Umi Monogatari, Kaleido Star, and Aria.


Sophomore Sophistication


Ame-Iro Cocoa

MAL

Aoi’s life gets a lot more hectic, but fun, with a bunch of smexy guys to oogle.

Directed by Tomomi Mochizuki


Worked on Astro Boy 2003, Ranma 1/2. Directed the abysmal Pupa (not his fault), the really great House of Five Leaves

At 2 min per episode, hard to see how this will turn out.


Kyoukai no Rinne

MAL

As a child Sakura Mamiya mysteriously disappeared in the woods behind her grandma’s home. She returned whole and healthy, but since then she has had the power to see ghosts. Now a teenager, she just wishes the ghosts would leave her alone!

Directed by Seiki Sugawara


Director of D-Frag, a surprise comedy hit last year.Also worked on Kids on the Slope and Yozakura Quartet

Rumiko Takahashi is the creator (Inuyasha, Ranma 1/2)


Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku

MAL

Girl joins school club, forced to enter battles with other club reps.

Directed by Tarou Iwasaki

Directed the fuzzy warmth of Isshuukan Friends


Girls and Dungeons

MAL

Dungeons and Boobies, the Anime

Directed by Yoshiki Yamakawa

Director for Little Busters, LB:EX, LB: Refrain, Hells.

This is my own made up title, because screw names this long.


Plastic Memories

MAL

Tsukasa’s position is in the Terminal Service Department where their main job is to recover Giftias that are close to their expiration—it is a graveyard department in every sense. To make matters worse, Tsukasa is ordered to work with Isla, a female Giftia who was never given any responsibility other than serving tea to her co-workers.

Directed by Yoshiyuki Fujiwara


Director of GJ-bu, Engaged to the Unidentified

Script writer Hayashi Naotaka who wrote Steins;Gate and Robotic;Notes series.


Re-Kan!

MAL

The story centers around Hibiki Amami, a girl who can see ghosts and other supernatural phenomena in her surroundings. The story follows her daily life with both her friends and the otherworldly.

Directed by Masashi Kudou

Worked on the Combat Butler series, and Directed the last few installments. Animation Director for Bleach, Planetes, Sabagebu!

Slightly less interesting than Kyoukai no Rinne this season, I think.


Freshman Frosh


The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan

MAL

Follow the silent, and un-interesting Nagato, as she competes for relevance as a MC in Haruhi’s world.

Directed by Junichi Wada
Worked on Gosick

Yes it’s Haruhi’s world, but it’s in the boring one. Not holding my breath.


Yamada-kun and the 7 Witches

MAL

Guy body swaps with hot chicks through kissing… Yup

Directed by Seiki Takuno

First time director, but features the script writer Michiko Yokote
Script writer for Genshiken, Mononoke, Tari Tari, Cowboy Bebop, and a lot more.


Houkago no Pleiades

MAL

The story centers around an afterschool club of magical girls who help recover fragments so that an alien from Pleiades can return home.

Directed by Shouji Saeki

Episode Director and Animation for FLCL and TTGL various episodes. Directed Madoka Box and did a 4 OVA Houkago no Pleiades series already that is pretty easy to find.

Looks uber-boring, but I was never a big proponent of the magic girl shows… so tastes may differ.


Denpa Kyoushi

MAL

After graduating college, he became a NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) absorbed in his anime blog. Unable to watch Kagami throw away his life, his sister Suzune gets him to work at the Ichō Academy she attends. The head of the school’s board, Koyomi Hiiragi, assigns Kagami to his new life as a teacher.

Director Masato Satou on his first big run.

Long time Episode Director for Detective Connan.


Shokugeki no Souma

MAL

Souma wants to cook with her father, but he moves to Europe. Souma’s fighting spirit is rekindled by a challenge from Jouichirou which is to survive in an elite culinary school where only 10% of the students graduate. Can Souma survive?

Directed by Yoshitomo Yonetani

A few of you might know him from Betterman, an interesting depressive/crazy show from the late 90’s.
Worked on episodes in The Big O, Planetes, Doremon, and the recent Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou


Show By Rock!

MAL

A bunch of animal referenced women, together they form the band named “Plasmagica,” and aim for the top of the world of music.

Director Ikezoe Takahiro

Second main series, but I do not know Ozma or Slap Up Party.

Machida Touko brings the Script and Composition (Lucky Star, Wake Up Girls, The iDOLM@STER, Chaika)


Gunslinger Stratos

MAL

Gen Urobuchi

Wrote the original scenario for the game.

This is going to be so bad, can’t wait!


That’s all folks! If I missed a series, it is because your taste in anime is shit. No really, I tried to get everything of note, but if there is a show I missed, feel free to mention it in the comments.