Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hanasaku Iroha

Hanasaku Iroha is a slice of life anime series.  It follows a 16 year old girl named Mastumae Ohana.  At the beginning of the series, Ohana’s mother has run off with her current boyfriend to escape his debt, abandoning Ohana.  Ohana has no choice but to leave her friends in Tokyo, including her best friend Kouichi who just confessed to her, and go live with her grandmother in the country. 

Ohana’s grandmother owns and runs a ryoukan, a traditional Japanese hot spring inn called the Kissuiso.  The Kissuiso dates back to the Taishou era and has been in the family for generations.  Ohana’s mother wanted nothing to do with the inn, so she left home early, leaving her brother to learn about running the inn from their mother.  Ohana’s grandmother is not welcoming when Ohana arrives, having disowned Ohana’s mother, but hires Ohana as a maid at the inn to allow her to earn her keep.  So Ohana embarks on a career working in a hot spring inn .

This is a coming of age anime series.  Ohana gets off to a rocky start with pretty much everyone at the inn.  Besides being a little bit irrepressible though, Ohana is very realistic and level headed due to having to take care of her extremely flighty mother all her life.  So Ohana decides to work at fixing herself and her relationships with the people around her, and to do her best to keep the inn running smoothly.  She bounces back from essentially everything thrown at her throughout the series.   

Besides Ohana’s mother, grandmother and uncle and his wife, the other characters in the series are the other employees of Kissuiso. These characters include the other maid, Nako, the head waitress, Tomoe, a jack of all trades handyman they call "Beanman", and the kitchen staff, who are the main cook, Renji, his assistant chef, Tooru, and a kitchen understudy, Minko.  Ohana, Minko and Nako room together.  The three of them also go to school with Yuina, the daughter and heiress of the Kissuiso’s rival inn, Fukuya.

The plot of this series is basically about everyday events as Ohana and the other characters interact.  Interspersed with everyone becoming comfortable with each other along the way, there are family squabbles and boyfriend rivalries and threats to the Kissuiso staying open.    Ohana is not the only character who grows as the series goes on – essentially all the characters do in some way or another.  

The characters in this series are easy to like and the story is interesting enough to keep me watching it.  I enjoyed pretty much everything about this series, the animation style, the music, the plot.  The only thing I was less than thrilled about was the ending.  In the end, the Kissuiso is closed and everyone scatters to various other lives.  It’s about relationships and moving on with your life.  They talk about re-opening the Kissuiso one day and everyone wants to help when that happens, but it’s a kind of “life goes on with us all separated” ending.  I like endings better where people stay together.   Other than that one thing though, I definitely recommend watching this series. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

MekakuCity Actors

I recently finished watching MekakuCity Actors.  I have to say, I liked this series, probably because I spent most of it wondering what was going on.  I’m fond of unique plot lines that have me guessing, and this one had that in spades.  Also, it’s just really bright, colorful and pretty much quirky all the way through.  So I liked it. 

The series starts out with two episodes that seem unrelated, and both of which leave you wondering what the hell is going on – and what is this series about?!  The third episode ties the first two together seamlessly and begins laying out the main characters and the plot line.  The main characters in this series are a group of seemingly unrelated kids who each have a special power related to their eyes.   They stick together in a group they call Mekakushi-dan, and watch out for each other.  When they find another kid with a power, they include him/her in their group. 

The members of Mekakushi-dan at the series start are: Kido, who is considered the commander and whose power is Concealing Eyes – the ability to hide herself and other people and things from view; Kano, whose power is Deceiving Eyes – the ability to cause people to see him and anything in contact with him as what he wishes them to see;  Seto, whose power is Stealing Eyes – the ability to read other people’s thoughts; and Marry, whose ability is Eye Contact – the ability to paralyze people when she makes eye contact.  Marry also has Combining Eyes – the ability to merge all the other abilities.  These initial Mekakushi-dan members are missing their original leader who died, Ayano.  Ayano’s ability is Favouring Eyes – which allows her to project the feelings of other and onto others.

 Other kids with powers who join Mekaushi-dan along the way include Momo, whose ability is Drawing Eyes – the ability to focus everyone’s attention on herself; Hibiya, whose ability is Eye Focusing – allowing him to see distant objects from an aerial view;  Shintaro, whose power is Retaining Eyes, allowing him to remember all the pasts, Honoha, whose power is Awakening Eyes – the ability to live in an ideal body instead of his frail one, but without his memory, and Takane whose power is  Opening Eyes – the power of immortality – and she spends the first half of the series as a computer program called Ene. 

Although the kids of Mekakushi-dan seem unrelated which each appearing to have a story, they’re actually all connected.   At the end of each episode, after the ED theme song, is a short vignette about a little monster who roams the earth searching for a place to live and for love and a family.  For most of the series these ending short stories seem totally unrelated to the story plot line, but in fact they are an integral part of the plot.  

The bottom-line plot of this series is actually pretty complex.  It goes like this:

The little monster turns out to be the heart of the plot.   She finds a man in her travels who accepts and loves her and they have a daughter named Shion together.   The nearby villagers don’t accept her and they capture and torture the man to find out where she is so they can kill her.  The little monster feels like the man and their daughter can never be happy while she exists, so she transports herself to a universe of unending torture so they can be free.  Over time Shion has a daughter of her own, named Marry.  Villagers still torment them both, and when Marry and Shion are killed and join the original little monster in her hell, the original little monster gives Marry her power, the power of combining all the powers, and Marry is released back into the everyday world.  She meets a boy who introduces her to the outside world and Marry begins to make friends. 

This Marry is the little girl Marry who is a members of Mekakushi-dan.  The powers that each member has are actually pieces of Marry’s power.  If a child dies on a certain date, they are transported to the other universe and return with a power which is a piece of Marry’s power.   Each of the members of Mekakushi-dan, with a piece of the total power, becomes a friend of Marry’s. 

Also involved with this group is Ayano’s father, who is a teacher.  He is killed with his wife in a landslide, but comes back with a piece of the power.  He is possessed by an evil being from the other universe, who is trying to collect all the various pieces of Marry’s power together (thus the various kids), in order to sacrifice them to grant Ayano’s father’s wish to bring his wife back to life.  If all the pieces of Marry’s power are together, that wish can be granted, but at the cost of the members lives.

Ayano figures this out and commits suicide, being transported to the other universe in order to prevent all the pieces of Marry from being collected.  The teacher/evil being then changes his plans and instead of granting Ayano’s father’s wish, he maneuvers Marry into a wish, that she can stay with her friends forever.   Each time Marry is threatened with losing her friends, she absorbs/combines their powers and resets the world again, allowing the evil being to keep living forever and keep collecting the kids with Marry’s powers.  Ayano, Shintaro and Honoha figure out these plans and thwart them.  In the end, Marry gets to stay with her friends and everyone survives except the evil being.

See?  Complex plot line.  It’s more than a little amazing that they get it all in in 12 episodes.  I suspect I’ll need to go watch the whole thing again to pick up all the nuances I missed the first time through.  It’s easier to pick up on things once you know basically what’s going on, but I do like a plot that keeps me guessing.    And the series is entertaining enough to be worth watching again.  

Sunday, July 6, 2014


Karneval is another short series, 13 episodes, that could easily have been a longer series.  It’s an adaption from a manga, and both the manga and the anime series are seriously gorgeous.  It’s worth watching just for how beautiful it is.  The basic setup of the series is fairly unique also, and the music is pretty good.  And although there appears to be plenty of back-story and plot involved, as you would expect from a manga adaption, some of it never gets explained.

Karneval’s two main characters are a young boy named Nai and a teenager named Gareki.  Nai is a child-like, na├»ve boy who is being held captive in a mansion at the start of the series.  Gareki is an untrusting, unfriendly teenager who has a way with mechanical things.  Gareki steals from the rich to make a living, and is in the process of robbing the mansion where Nai is being held when the series starts.  The two meet and although Gareki doesn’t like being around other people, he has a soft spot for Nai.  They end up traveling together.    

The mansion turns out to be owned by a Varuga.  Varuga are former humans who have been treated with animal/creature DNA and have become monsters as their human DNA is overwhelmed by the creature DNA.  They, and an organization named Kafka, are the bad guys in the series.  They are always causing some sort of trouble and needing to be fought.

Besides Nai and Gareki, the good guys are members of Circus.  Circus is a defense organization working for the government, that deals with cases involving the Varuga, and also comes in when the regular police/defense forces are inadequate.   They all wear a Circus ID bracelet that gives them powers or enhances their powers. The members of Circus also put on circus shows for the general public as an apology for scaring and/or hurting people as they perform their duties.  The members of Circus in the series include the personnel from two ships.  First Ship Captain is Tsukitachi, and his main fighters are Kiichi and Jiki.  Nai and Gareki are taken in by Second Ship.  Second Ship Captain is Hirato.  He and his fighters Yogi and Tsukumo watch out for Nai and Gareki throughout the series.

Nai doesn’t have many memories of his past except for being cared for by a man named Karoku.  He has been separated from Karoku and is searching for him, with only a bracelet, which happens to be a Circus ID bracelet, to help him find Karoku.  Gareki agrees to help him.  Along the way, you find out that Nai is a part human/part creature being himself.  The creature part is a little bunny-looking thing called a niji.  So Nai is a constructed person, but unlike the Varuga, his different DNA is co-existing.  That means he is actually a new species rather than either a human or a monster.   Nai fascinates a government doctor named Akari, who helps as well as studies him.

This is the bare bones of the plot and set-up.  The series has some short story arcs in it, but ends leaving a LOT unresolved.  Because of that, the ending is a little frustrating.  Perhaps they’ll make another season and continue it.    If you watch it though, enjoy the animation style and prepare to be left hanging.