Aaaaand I’m back! Unfortunately, my time and energy have been lacking at times over these last few months. Which means I’ve been sitting on these mini pieces for a while. Instead of letting them disappear into the void, I decided to touch them up and put them all together. So here it is: a couple of cool things that I was up to at various times from July to October.
In an effort to clear up the ol’ backlog, I watched a lot of Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou. Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou – or KareKano – has haunted me for years. I adore pretty much every part of it, but I can never quite finish it. It’s so funny and warm and beautifully intimate. KareKano is a tale of love, and how it allows us to show our most honest and vulnerable selves.
Yukino and Arima are image obsessed teenagers in an image obsessed society. Yukino thrives on the attention of being a beloved model student, and finds self-worth in it. Meanwhile, Arima maintains a similar image to escape the shadow of his tragic history of parental abuse. Deep down, both of them are as messy and flawed as any other teenagers. They both discover each other’s flaws, and eventually fall in love with the authentic person behind their public masks.
They learn to be more honest with themselves, and in turn have to deal with the consequences of losing face in the Japanese schooling system. Teachers try to intervene with their relationship when their grades fall, and peers who were more attached to the idea of them as model students alienate them. But they remain committed to each other. Over time, they foster connections with the family and friends who stand up for them. The people who see them for who they are and appreciate them.
KareKano also has an all-star cast and crew. A golden era Gainax crew composed of Hideaki Anno and Kazuya Tsurumaki among others elevates the material. At times it feels like a transition between the intimate human framing of Evangelion and the wackier stylings of FLCL. It can bounce a lot between the serious drama and the silly gag presentations, but it happens to be really good at both of them. Its characters are as funny and charming as they are beautifully layered.
It features a lot of brand new voice actors, and brings amazing performances out of all of them. Atsuko Enomoto as Yukino is a particular highlight. She bounces gracefully between the elegant facade, the hilarious shrieking gremlin and the vulnerable young girl underneath all of that. Chihiro Suzuki is similarly stellar as Arima. We also get the debut role of Mayumi Shintai as Tsubasa, which was a welcome surprise to me.
It’s a shame that the KareKano anime was mired in production issues and seems relatively forgotten. It’s a hidden gem from a studio at their absolute peak, and one of the best romantic comedies I’ve seen from the medium. In spite of what I’ve heard about the last stretch, I’m excited to see where this goes.
In other news, I finally got around to Deltarune Chapter 2. It’s always a delight to sink my teeth into anything Toby Fox makes. Despite the looming presence of Undertale and all of its choices and endings, it’s nice to see Toby try his hand at this (comparatively) more straightforward narrative. Beneath the banter and irony infested online humour, there’s a real sweetness and sincerity to these characters. He allows them to show weakness and grow and admit that they care for others. It can be difficult to balance that flippant comedy with dorky sincerity, but once again Toby Fox manages it beautifully.
Deltarune also manages to synthesise nostalgia for retro games with modern design philosophies. It brings together JRPG, bullet hell and even Punch-Out inspired mechanics through its battles. At the same time, it infuses those battles with narratives, managing as many emotional character moments as hilarious bits of comedic farce. I’m glad that we recognise more than ever that video games can tell amazing stories. Stories that can be very funny as well as being moving. Stories that can span from major console games to retro indie games.
Deltarune has shaped up to be a very promising project. Between making this game on his own terms and collaborating more and more with Nintendo and Hololive among others, Toby Fox has been busy leading his best life. So I’m content to wait however long it takes to get the best version of Deltarune.
Lycoris Recoil was an incredible delight. I was blown away by how consistently polished it was from start to finish. The dynamic between Chisato and Takina is so moving and heartwarming. There’s few things better than seeing a lovable dork warm the cold heart of a hardened badass. The supporting cast is also full of super endearing characters. Special shout-out to the resident gremlin hacker Kurumi.
Lycoris Recoil is also filled to the brim with incredible action scenes. They’re loaded with fun and suspense, while also having character nuance and a wonderful sense of space. The environment often plays a part in how action sequences play out, and the characters involved show their personalities and motivations in how they fight. To top it off, the action scenes are just cool as hell. The comparisons to John Wick were surprising when I first heard of them, but it’s very fitting.
At first, the timing of Lycoris Recoil seemed unfortunate. Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated not too long after the show premiered. It was thought by some (myself included) that this show depicting gun violence and terrorism in the cities and suburbs of Tokyo had no chance of getting to the end of its run fully intact. Thankfully, it did. Not only is it fully intact, but it also turns out to be quite topical. It often sheds light on the anger and violence underneath the surface of Japan’s image as a peaceful society, drawing attention to the issues and conflicts that led to real world incidents like the Abe assassination.
I wouldn’t say it’s a perfect series. The dabbling in fanservice in the first half isn’t too egregious, but it’s a tiny bit distracting. I’m also a little sad to see them not quite pull the trigger on Chisato and Takina as a couple (here’s hoping for a second season that’ll do that). Besides that, Lycoris Recoil is amazing at pretty much everything it does. One of the absolute highlights of this year in anime.
That’s it for now! As always, it would be nice to get into the habit of doing a lot more posts here. Whether or not that happens, only time will tell. I have a couple things in the works that hopefully won’t be far away. Until then, I’m out.
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