The Most Beautiful Thing | Violet Evergarden: The Movie

I love reviewing movies, but sometimes I feel like I can’t review the things that mean the most to me. How stupid is that? I’ve been doing this for almost four full years now. My greatest pride and joy has been putting into words why things do and don’t work from my perspective in the hopes that people who aren’t film critics but merely film enjoyers can appreciate things more.

But sometimes when I love something so much, I can overhype it. It happens all the time. Something will come along that isn’t just a great movie. To me, after I’ve watched it, it’s THE great movie. And if I hype it up too much, will people not feel the same way I did? Will they not cry as hard, or smile as brightly when it’s over?

I’ve decided that I can’t undersell how a film made me feel though. After all, I have the words to explain what about this film made me love it. And I can’t get too worked up over whether or not everyone who reads my thoughts will feel the same way I do. This is a review, but more importantly, it is an account of how Violet Evergarden: The Movie made me incredibly happy. And I hope it can make you happy too.

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Takeshi Koike’s Lupin the Third

Ever since 1967, Lupin the Third has been a staple of Japan’s animation culture and one of the most storied and recognizable icons in the international market’s perception of anime. Despite having persisted in so many different iterations by so many different teams, it was only in preparation for this very review that I watched a Lupin anime all the way through for the first.

Why? I’m not sure. It’s a certified classic, and it isn’t as though I couldn’t have gotten into Part IV or V, both of which aired within the last few years. Not to mention Sayo Yamamoto’s critically acclaimed series, The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. Yet it was a story set in the same continuity as that last series that truly caught my eye.

Takeshi Koike is insane. I say that lovingly as a man who loves his 2009 film Redline, which was famously in production for seven years. Koike is a frenetic and wildly imaginative director and when he has the freedom to direct and do character designs, his style treads this line of adult maturity and wild cartoonish exaggeration so well it becomes a dimension all its own. So when I asked myself “where the hell has he been lately?” I was pleased to find the answer in the form of Lupin.

From Telecom Animation Film and TMS Entertainment, this is Takeshi Koike’s Lupin the Third, a bold vision of a beloved classic that just so happens to be my first true entry into this series.

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Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress is Probably Better Than We Give It Credit For

Imagine: It’s 2013. You’re Tetsurou Araki, the famed director behind Death Note and Highschool of the Dead. Now, you and WIT Studio, the offspring of Production I.G., have blown the minds of anime fans new and old with an adaptation of Hajime Isayama’s manga, Attack on Titan.

The problem: You adapted too much of what was already written and there’s not nearly enough content to make a second season immediately. People are frothing at the mouth for more and you want to give it to them. That’s when a script by Ichirou Ookouchi and Hiroshi Seko catches your eye.

It’s similar to Attack on Titan, but only on the most surface level. It’s about humans surviving in walled cities against a horde of monsters with a specific weak spot. However, the setting, technology, aesthetic, and philosophy behind the action are a beast of their own. There’s something here. An opportunity to do what Attack on Titan did, with the same people, unconstrained by the wait for source material.

From director Tetsurou Araki and WIT Studio, with music by Hiroyuki Sawano, this is Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, the anime that was meant to surpass Attack on Titan.

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The ‘Given’ Movie was Just What I Needed

Back in May, I reviewed Given and concluded that it was precisely the kind of fun that I needed in my life. It was also a sign of more normalized, modestly budgeted LGBT anime on the horizon. And if the fancy title card for publishing company Blue Lynx at the beginning of Given‘s movie was any indication, they’re getting bigger and bigger.

I don’t think this will be a very long review primarily because this wasn’t a particularly long movie. I wouldn’t even bother calling it a movie. It was was more of an OVA. The budget didn’t necessarily increase. The CGI during performance scenes wasn’t great but wasn’t terrible either. This was more of what I liked and for a casual viewing on a Saturday night, I wasn’t disappointed.

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‘Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?’; The Best Series You Didn’t Give A Chance

How many shows have you passed on because you figured they “weren’t worth your time?” What were the factors that contributed to that impression? Was it a lack of interesting marketing? Was it the style? Or did you buy into the narrative being thrown around that a show was “trashy”?

In 2015, I watched YouTuber Demolition D+’s video on the Spring 2015 anime season and delighted in his humorous appraisal of that quarter’s entertainment. The headliner for the video was Is It Okay to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, or, DanMachi as it would come to be abridged. Demo called it an SAO clone and I didn’t so much as bat an eye because I was laughing so much.

But then the second season aired in 2019 and friends who watched it told me about the show’s world and how it was actually pretty fun and that I should give it a chance. By this point, I’d already accepted that SAO wasn’t as bad as we all thought it was, so who was I to turn down an opportunity to prove my misconceptions wrong.

After watching all three seasons of DanMachi, not only am I shocked as to how anyone could have compared this to SAO beyond the leads sharing the same VA, Yoshitsugu Matsuoka. The art styles aren’t even that similar. More than anything, I’m angry that I didn’t watch this sooner.

This is DanMachi, my new favorite fantasy anime.

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[Repost] The Great Pretender Review: Cases 1 through 3

The following is my review of Cases 1 through 3 of The Great Pretender that I wrote for Anime Quarterly back in September. If you like what you read and are interested in reading more by the AQ crew and me, be sure to bookmark AnimeQuarterly.com and make it your next frequent stop for anime news and reviews. Also, help us grow by supporting us on Patreon.

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Beyond The Boundary | Kyoto Animation Unleashed

My heart has belonged to Kyoto Animation for a long time. And their shows have always looked good – that’s not even a faintly nuanced observation. The 2010s was the advent of an in-house style that helped forge their identity without ever feeling like a stagnant or limiting trait of the production house. Be it the character work by Miku Kadowaki, Futoshi Nishiya, or others, the character art is something that hasn’t quite been matched by another studio.

Even before their in-house style became synonymous with their identity, their artwork was rarely a sore spot in the final product. However, how well do we regard the actual “animation” of Kyo Ani’s works?

Pretty well as a matter of fact. Consistently. From Liz and the Blue Bird to Silent Voice, I’ve praised the subtle character movements and facial twitches that create the small reveries of human pathos. Occasionally, these dramas or slice-of-life comedies might even present an action scene. Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid had ridiculously bombastic action and even Clannad had a pretty dope fight scene. However, I get the feeling that when people say that Kyoto Animation has great animation, they actually mean “great artwork.” It’s worth distinguishing between the two.

I don’t think any show from the studio has consistently reminded me of how great their animation talent is more than one particular show. If you would permit the generalization, the average viewer may not stray close to offering a critique of actual animation outside of shows or genres that incentivize consistent motion in their presentation. Hence why most people, regardless of their inclination to media criticism, often praise the animation of the hottest shonen/action series.

Following that line of logic, this week’s review is an action show with plenty to gush over. Beyond the Boundary – Taichi Ishidate’s directorial debut – is one of my favorite works by Kyoto Animation, and what I believe to be their best-looking show. Or rather, it is the most consistently upfront with what the studio is capable of, both in TV and film.

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A Project Itoh Retrospective, Part III – Genocidal Organ

Part I – The Empire of Corpses

Part II – Harmony

I find it amusing that the Project Itoh films adapted Itoh’s novels in the reverse order of when they were released. While that wasn’t the original intention, as the release schedule was different before The Empire of Corpses‘ announcement, it nevertheless became this way.

Empire was a mere concept of a story never completed by Itoh himself before he lost his battle with cancer. Next, Harmony, the tale of medical dystopia, was written amid Itoh’s cancer treatment. Genocidal Organ might not have a clear parallel to Itoh’s plight, but it was his first and most prominent written work. Through this film project, it’s almost like Itoh was becoming alive again.

That said, the film was hardly as optimistic as such a claim would imply. Genocidal Organ is a militaristic sci-fi drama that dissects the mind of soldiers in a future where they can be made to feel nothing. The influence between Itoh and the works of Hideo Kojima is plain as day and this story arguably goes even harder in portraying the horrors of modern warfare than MGS4 did.

This film was also delayed from late 2015 to late 2017 as Manglobe went bankrupt and production resumed under a new studio. The production problems combined with the long wait meant that the film project lost steam while the expectations grew larger for those still anticipating it. When all was said and done, was Project Itoh a success?

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A Project Itoh Retrospective, Part II – A Review of Harmony

Part I – The Empire of Corpses

Rarely in discussions of book-to-film adaptations am I in a position where I’ve read the book. Most times I come at those discussions from a neutral standpoint, weighing the deviations vs the quality of the work. Additionally, the difference between the two mediums has to be accounted for. Some things work better in a book and some things work better in a movie.

The only work by Satoshi Itoh that I’ve read is Genocidal Organ, his first and most famous novel. I read it in anticipation of the delayed animated film. Part of me felt like I should indulge in the original material after the second film in the Project Itoh trilogy left me disappointed. From Studio 4°C, this is Harmony.

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