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animewatch: 2009

17 Jan

skip beatsurprisingly, despite my unpredictable schedule (and erratic viewing habits) for most of the year, i actually managed to finish more anime shows/features than ever before. it didn’t feel that way, believe me. i always seem to be on a lookout for something to whet my appetite — and despite the piles of duds that i had to suffer through, sometimes i got lucky. (note that not all of these entries were released in 2009. some of them came out a few years ago but were only made available to me recently).

rather than spew them out randomly, i will list these shows based on how much i liked (or, in certain cases, loathed) them.

Shows that will probably make my List of Favorites:

  • Ichigo Mashimaro (series & OVAs)
  • Skip Beat
  • The Girl Who Leapt through Time (film)

kannagi anime

Great finds

  • k-ON
  • Natsume Yuujinchou
  • Kannagi
  • Toshokan Sensou
  • Bamboo Blade
  • Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea (film)
  • Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (ssn 1 & 2)
  • Ghost Hunt
  • Paprika(film)
  • Minami-ke (seasons 1, 2 & 3)
  • Noein
  • Detective Conan films 9 to 13
  • Genshiken

girl who leapt through timeShows that were basically OK

  • Higurashi no Naku Koro
  • Moyashimon
  • Natsu no Arashi
  • Shugo Chara
  • Vampire Knight
  • Earl and Fairy
  • Special A
  • Slayers Premium
  • Himawari
  • The Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok
  • Tales from Earthsea (film)

Shows I’d rather forget

  • Akikan
  • Tokyo Marble Chocolate
  • Hetalia Axis Powers
  • a few more that i didn’t even bother watch after the first episode

as you can see, the shows that highlighted this year for me were Skip Beat (i hope they will air season 2 this year), Ichigo Mashimaro, The Girl Who Leapt through Time (first time i lined up for an anime film), Toshokan Sensou, Paprika, Bamboo Blade and Kannagi. overall, this has been a good year, because even though it was a challenge to sift through piles of really crappy stuff, i managed to find a few winners. i hope 2010 will be just as  good or — if my luck holds — even better.

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miyazaki’s Kiki’s Delivery Service

30 Sep kiki's delivery service

Kiki’s Delivery Service ] is another winner from a stable of Miyazaki gems that i shall never tire of watching.

this coming-of-age film centers on Kiki, a young witch-in-training who sets out for a city/town of her choice and learn to live and manage her way around ‘normal’ people (sort of like a finishing school before young trainees can actually concentrate on the serious business of practicing their craft).

kiki & jiji

with her familiar (a spunky black cat named jiji) in tow, Kiki finally decides to live in a seaside city because she has never seen the sea before. after a shaky start, she finds lodging and part-time work with a kindly bakeshop-owning couple. meanwhile, she has her hands full as she tries to get her fledgling business off the ground: delivering packages/parcels by air — courtesy of her broom. at first, city folks are amazed to see a young witch at their midst, and would often watch in fascination as she goes off into of her delivery trips. eventually, they grow used to her presence.

kiki & her broom

after a while, kiki’s business begins to thrive. she also manages to form bonds with several people: ursula, a young reclusive artist who lives in a remote village; tombo, a young boy of her age who is passionate about planes and flying; oku-sama, a rich and elderly customer.

tombo of KDS

soon enough, however, kiki undergoes a crisis of confidence that shakes her to the core. at some point, her self-doubts begin to affect her ability to fly and this leads her to question her choices. how she resolves this setback and finally regain her confidence is handled by Miyazaki et al. (Studio Ghibli) with delicacy and bittersweet detail — it’s the kind of stuff that inexplicably tightens your throat long after ending credits had rolled.

kiki & her aerial ride

with Kiki’s Delivery Service, miyazaki once again validates his deft touch in dealing with issues that confront young people who are in the brink of adulthood. nothing really earth-shaking or emotionally shattering happens in this movie, but you can easily empathize with the characters. the european setting has a comfortable, nostalgic feel to it. for some reason, there is something captivating about seeing life’s wonders and terrors from the vantage point of a young girl who is desperately trying to hold on to her broom as a source of comfort, security, and ultimately, strength.

the hunks & babes of final fantasy

7 May

 

for sheer looks and celluloid magnetism, who could resist these gorgeous babes and hunks? i know they’re excellent fighters and all, but to me it hardly mattered at all. as soon as i saw them, i knew was gonna love the premise regardless of how strange or outlandish it would be.

cloud2

hey, this is the final fantasy universe remember? those guys over at square enix and their affiliates couldn’t have just churned out and recycled those many multimedia versions of this very popular and highly profitable franchise if they had no serviceable backstories to fall back on.

aeris

and me being a dyed-in-the-wool fan of fantasy/sci-fi books and movies and all, it wasn’t much of a stretch.

rinoa

suddenly it wasn’t just about the games anymore. i realized that i had began to care more about what happened to cloud strife, aeris gainsborough, tifa lockheart, et al. 

squall

rinoa 1

then FF VIII came barging in, with much improved graphics to boot. i had my gutstrings torn to shreds by the struggle that squall leonhart and rinoa heartilly and their little band of fighters went through (who naturally managed to look great while doing it, too).

yuna

same with tidus and yuna in FF X. i felt somewhat robbed when the ending didn’t even bring the kind of closure i craved. the producers sort of rectified this with FF X-2, but there were so many changes that sometimes it feels like you’ve wandered into a different story.

yuna&tidus

and then there was advent children. i think that graphics-wise it’s the best animated film i’ve seen so far. it was nice to see cloud strife again, although i still grieve about aeris‘s fate. tifa looked great and vincent valentine was cool (this guy wears his inner torment like an impenetrable cloak). as usual, i hated it when the ending credits began to roll. i wanted the story to go on and on until i was ready to move on…

cloud&tifa

oh well, at least i have their images indelibly printed in my caffeine-addled brain.

 

miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro

16 Feb

this is a fond glance at a well-loved anime classic…

The other day, while I was rearranging my CDs, I stumbled across an old anime favorite (Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro) that got mixed up in the pile by mistake. Without further ado, I popped it in my player.

totoro1.jpg

As the familiar strains of the upbeat opening song wafted into my tiny living room, I was once again gently reminded why I (and thousands of other viewers) like his films so much. As nostalgic trips go, this film is note-perfect for its insidious charm that soothes you down like a comfortable pair of slippers.

Among Miyazaki’s animated films, I’ve always found My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro; 1988) the easiest to relate to because, notwithstanding its supernatural elements, the story is essentially grounded in reality (with subtle autobiographical brush strokes) and takes place in a sleepy rural setting.

The movie has no overt violent scenes, which should make this animated feature fairly suitable even to young children, although it does deal with the threat of loss and pain as only a child can sense it. The film teems with childlike wonder, discovery and ready acceptance of extraordinary incidents. Basically, it’s one anime title that I’d be pleased to recommend to anyone regardless of his/her age.

hayao31.jpgThe animation, as expected for a Studio Ghibli offering, is top-notch, and the characters are well delineated. The story focuses on two young girls who, along with their father (a college professor), move into an old country house — a quaint, rustic structure complete with cobwebs, rotting posts and rattling windows — in order to be near the hospital where their mother is being treated. In one of her rambles, 4-year-old Mei (and later, along with the her older sister Satsuki) stumbles into the slumbering guardian spirit of the forest — a huge, cuddly, bear-like creature called Totoro, who’s apparently only visible to young children…

Without giving away the rest of the story (I really don’t want to spoil the experience for those who still haven’t seen it), there are several items in this film that should be fairly obvious to a Miyazaki enthusiast. The main protagonist is a young girl (or in the case, girls) who’s learning to grapple with the complexities of life (a recurring theme in many Studio Ghibli films such as Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Laputa Castle, Porco Rossi, etc.). There’s also an endearingly clumsy young boy, Kanta, who shows an abiding interest in planes/aviation (Kiki’s Delivery Service, Laputa Castle), a trait that Miyazaki shared as a child. This movie likewise highlights, in unobtrusive but touching instances, the way the Japanese show respect for their old and the ‘natural’ spirits around them.

totoro31.jpgI don’t know how much of what is shown in My Neighbor Totoro actually reflects Miyazaki’s childhood, but I’ve read somewhere that he was quite close to his grandmother and that his mother had also suffered from a serious ailment (TB) which required a lengthy hospital treatment. He’s known to care deeply for his female relations and I think it shows in the way he presents his female characters, even those who are initially perceived as the villainess of the piece.