Thursday, February 25, 2021

Anime Roundup: Big Name Edition

That's right, it's another edition of Anime Roundup! This time, I'll be talking about some heavy hitters that, if you're even on the periphery of anime fandom, you've probably heard of before.

Attack on Titan
This one could also qualify for my previous Anime Roundup post in which I listed shows that I initially gave up on but then gave another chance to, because I actually tried watching it back when I first really started getting into anime but then stopped because of what I at the time called its "unrelenting bleakness." After I finished watching the Korean horror drama series Sweet Home, however (which you can hear me discuss with my bandmates from Second Player Score in Episode 69 of our podcast), I decided that there was no way this show could be bleaker than Sweet Home, so I restarted it, and behold! It was so much fun that, like a Titan eating humans, I consumed the whole 25-episode first season (which is all that's available on Netflix) in a matter of days. I now see why it's so popular, and I may have to sign up for Hulu just so I can watch the rest of it, dangit.

Demon Slayer
I had heard that a movie based on this series (a direct sequel to the first season) became the highest-grossing anime film of all time after it was released in Japan in late 2020, which is even more impressive when you consider that it happened IN THE MIDDLE OF A GLOBAL PANDEMIC when going to the theater is generally not a thing. So, naturally, I was excited when I saw that it - the series, not the movie - was coming to Netflix. And wow, let me tell you, it did not disappoint. About a boy who wants to become a demon slayer after his family is killed by a demon (except for his sister, who is turned into a demon), its particular blend of action, drama, humor, and gore is right in my sweet spot (although the supporting character Zenitsu is more than a little annoying at times). Also, the whole "nine Hashira" and "twelve Kizuki" thing makes my inner nerd squeal with delight. So now my only question is HOW CAN I SEE THE MOVIE??

One Piece
This show, about a boy with Mister Fantastic-like powers who wants to become the next King of the Pirates, is based on the best-selling manga of all time. Personally, I don't quite get it (I know, all you One Piece fans out there are like, whaaaa?), but I've only watched a relative fraction of the zillion gajillion available episodes so far, so perhaps it's a slow burn like many other shows I grew to love over time. I'm still plugging away at it, because if and when it ever does really take off for me, I will have an enormous catalog to enjoy.

Neon Genesis Evangelion
A classic from the mid-nineties, I'd heard that this show basically jumpstarted the entire anime industry at a time when interest was starting to wane. I thought, "but it's just a standard mecha show with giant kid-piloted robots fighting giant monsters, right?" Uh, wrong. After watching stuff like Kill la Kill, Gurren Lagaan, and Madoka Magica, you'd think I would have learned my lesson by now. Anyway, once I realized that this particular edition of Anime Roundup was starting to take on the "big name" theme, I decided to check this show out, since it (and a couple of related feature-length films) was readily available on Netflix. And...well, holy cow. HOLY COW. Not to give anything away, but from the early episodes where the show was just establishing its premise, you could already tell there was something different and groundbreaking about it. Even moments that were supposedly lighthearted still had a subversive undercurrent of dread and foreboding - a sense of "there's something not quite right here." It's also so thematic that you could probably write a college dissertation about it (and I'm pretty sure some folks have). On top of that, great pacing, terrific character development, lots of action, and some downright trippy sequences make this one required viewing for any anime fan.

Your Name
This is a full-length feature (not a series) that is the third-highest grossing anime film of all time, behind only the aforementioned Demon Slayer movie and Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away. And also, it is positively mind-blowing. Ostensibly a romantic dramedy on the surface, it blends a bunch of other tropes and genres in a way that you think wouldn't work at all, but it totally does, creating something that is far greater than the sum of its parts. I won't spoil anything even a little bit, but let me just say that watching this film was like a religious experience for me. It's only 107 minutes long but it feels like the journey of a lifetime (in a good way). My one complaint is that I could only find it in either English dub or Japanese with no subtitles, so I went with the dub version (curse my limited Japanese-language skills). By the time I was halfway through, though, I was so enthralled that it didn't matter. If you've been following this blog for a while and you feel like your taste in movies is anything similar to mine, do yourself an immense favor and watch this film as soon as you possibly can.

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