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Julia's Reviews on Various Media

Jesus, you’re scary when you’re mad! Haha! I hope you read something good next time to treat yourself.
Oh, believe me, I have, and trust me, I normally don't like to curse. I don't even curse IRL because I feel it vulgar to do so. But even I have to vent sometimes.
This review was originally written on June 27th, 2016.


I give this charming but cliche and flawed moe series...a 76/100!

This season, I had only planned to watch Sailor Moon Crystal and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. But a couple of other shows, this one, Shounen Maid, and a few others, caught my attention, and I wound up trying them out. I'm glad to say, they all turned out good, Sansha Sanyou being one such show. Let's face it, the slice-of-life genre nowadays mostly consists of creators trying to make girls come off as unrealistically cute and moe as possible, complete with squeaky voices, ridiculous storylines, pandering, etc. Granted, not all shows are like this, but otakus have become the primary consumers in Japan when it comes to anime, so from a business perspective, usually businesses go for what they know the audience will consume, whether they put out poor quality products or not. Sansha Sanyou definitely isn't a masterpiece, as nothing will ever be, but thankfully, despite its cliche premise, it manages to be better than most moe slice-of-life shows.

Like most moe shows, there isn't really much of a plotline here. All it's really about is three girls from different backgrounds becoming friends right off the bat simply by running into each other: Yoko Nishikawa, the former rich girl whose father's business became bankrupt and is now poor as dirt (and oddly enough, she adjusts to it pretty well), Teru Hayama, the class representative and cat lover who seems nice but supposedly hides some evil dark side, and Futaba Odagiri, the obligatory cheerful and gluttonous girl who does nothing but eat disporportionate amounts of food. Through random shenanigans, inside or outside of school, they somehow manage to become friends. Joining their circle are Shino Sonobe, Yoko's former maid; Yamaji, Yoko's very overprotective former butler, and sometimes random strangers inside and outside of school, such as the local mean girl Serina and her sidekick Asako. Hijinks ensue.

Okay, I need to get this elephant out of the room right now: Yoko's character design looks EXACTLY the same as that of Sumire Hikami from Aikatsu season three! Same shade of purple hair, same hair length, same eye color, same polite personality, same upper class background, even all the way down to the same voice actresses for the Japanese versions! The only differences are their chest sizes and that Yoko is more haughty and Sumire is more timid! I know Sansha Sanyou's manga came out YEARS before Aikatsu did, but come on, you can't not notice the blatant mirror images the character designs create! It's almost like the creators of Aikatsu completely ripped off Yoko's design to make Sumire, and the fact that the Sansha Sanyou anime came out THIRTEEN YEARS after its manga was created, and a couple years after Aikatsu, doesn't excuse the similarities either, so that has to say something!

Alright, back to the important stuff. The animation is, for the most part, quite good. It's really smooth a lot of the time, especially when it comes to fluid movement, and when characters move, they move. The character designs are a bit more down to earth this time around, and aren't ridiculously exaggerated, from the more restrained hair colors to more naturalistic hair styles and realistic anatomical proportions, which is very refreshing. There is one problem with the animation, though: it's too bright! It's like someone turned the brightness almost up to its highest setting, and I'm pretty sure that amount of brightness can hurt someone's eyes. I personally had no problem with it, and eventually got used to it, but I can imagine others not being able to adjust well to it. The music...isn't much to write home about. The opening and ending themes are far too squeaky and fast paced, but the background music is pretty nice, and set the mood and atmosphere well, though it still isn't particularly memorable. Sorry, but there isn't much to say about it.

The characters...this is a hard one. For the most part, they're arguably a mixed bag. They're not complex or anything like that, but they're decent enough, with some not so well-off exceptions. Teru and oddly enough, the local mean girl, Serina, happen to be the best characters. The rest of them are pretty funny, albeit still bland and not full of much flavor, but decent enough, and they're definitely not bad. However, there are three exceptions: Futaba and those annoying blue haired twins. Futaba is just a non-entity as a main character. Her only character traits are that she's cheerful and loves eating. That's it. There's nothing else to her. Literally ALL she does is act cheerful and eat disproportionate amounts of food in every single episode and doesn't contribute to anything at all, exacerbated by her extremely irritating voice. Seriously, her voice actress sounds like she's trying WAY too hard to sound cute but comes off as grating and shrill instead. Megumi Han can pull it off, but Futaba's seiyuu just can't. But even worse are those blue haired twins who just hate Futaba simply for the fact that she wins all those all-you-can-eat contests and don't have any other personality or character than that. I think the show could have benefitted had those twins been cut out of the story, because not only are they completely useless and annoying, they don't add anything to either the other characters or the story itself. So...Futaba and the Tsuji twins: worst characters. The rest of them are...decent.

The story itself is very episodic in nature and there's nothing to really get invested in. It's just the three girls going through school and life and having fun and being friends. But I can definitely give it this: the situations most of the time aren't NEARLY as boring or ridiculous as those of...I don't know, Kiniro Mosaic. At least the girls act like regular human beings most of the time (sans Futaba and the blue haired twins) and aren't completely made up of pandering moe traits! Plus, the comedy was actually surprisingly good. I have to admit, the jokes about the token sorta-loli maid Shino, who is actually in her thirties but stopped growing, were actually pretty funny and handled very tastefully. I do find the final episode to be...really odd. What was the point of it? Everything in it just seemed to be thrown in there without much thought or substance whatsoever. Oh well. It's better than other final episodes I've seen (Kimi to Boku and Uta no Prince-sama season one, anyone?).

So...yeah, not the best slice of life moe anime out there, but it definitely stands out from the bad ones. If you can get past the bright animation style and some useless characters, it's a pretty good little time killer.
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Alright. Now that I've washed myself of Elsie Dinsmore, I think it's time I review something good. This review was just finished today, though originally started on May 22nd, 2019.


I give this cute book about a girl wanting a home of her own...a 90/100!

Who here has heard of Julie Andrews? If you have, it’s no surprise. She’s become a household name since the 60s. She’s a famous actress and Broadway singer who is very well known movies/musicals such as The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. I have not seen either of those movies, but I know enough about them to recognize the impact they, along with she, made on popular culture. But one thing that most people don’t know about her is that she also happened to write a few books. Some are autobiographies whereas others are fictional books aimed at children. One of those books is Mandy, the subject of today’s review.

Looking at the premise, I wouldn’t blame you if you thought it was cliché and already done to death before. The story is about Mandy, a bright, cheery ten-year-old girl who lives at an orphanage alongside many other kids. As happy as her life is, she still yearns for a home to call her own. One day, while exploring, she finds a mysterious cottage over the wall. Entranced by its beauty, she decides to claim it as her own, cleaning it up and planting flowers around it to make a garden, hoping to make it beautiful. But she finds herself doing things she normally doesn’t do in order to keep it a secret, such as stealing things and telling lies. When things get out of hand, she receives help from a friend she never knew she had.

Stories about orphans are a dime a dozen, and have been done many, many times before. But for me, it’s not about whether the story is original or not, but rather the execution of the story and how its told. While Andrews does make some missteps as a writer, I think she hit a home run with this one. Her prose is still very simple, as a children’s book normally is, but she never skimps on the details. There’s a lot of detailed imagery describing the setting, such as the seashell cottage, the garden Mandy makes, the woods by the orphanage. It’s not Felix Salten level good, but Andrews provides enough detail to bring everything to life without overdoing it, offering just enough to be accessible to both kids and adults without insulting the reader’s intelligence. It helps that she really goes out of her way to put you in Mandy’s shoes, show you what she’s thinking, the processes behind it, and showing why she does what she does and is what she is. I like a writer who can really bring out her character through their thoughts and actions, and she does it splendidly with Mandy here.

There isn’t much I can say about the characters. They’re relatively well written and are likeable enough, though don’t have a whole lot of depth. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in this case, as this is a slice-of-life novel, and the characters act like real people would. I do like that the matron of the orphanage is genuinely kind and caring, only scolding Mandy when she has genuinely done something wrong, and her punishments are always fair, instead of being portrayed as just another stereotypically evil woman who hates kids and gets off on making the main characters miserable. Mandy herself is pretty well written as well. She’s genuinely nice and friendly and acts like a real kid, though isn’t a perfect holy paragon of goodness either. She makes mistakes and does things she shouldn’t, but not without good reason. She always feels remorseful when she does and tries to fix her mistakes. They’re all good, normal people who are realistic and don’t try to be something they’re not. I have to say, despite this being one of Julie Andrews' first novels, she did a surprisingly good job with characterization. There wasn't a single character that I didn't like, and everybody behaves and acts realistically. I kind of wish we got to see more of Sue and the other kids Mandy played with, but Mandy's characters are pretty well done.

Personally, I didn't find much wrong with the novel. I like the prose, but some may feel it's still rather simplistic. If you're a fan of slice-of-life novels, then this'll be a nice little charmer, but these kinds of books aren't for everyone. Not much happens in the book, and despite the plot picking up at the end of the summer chapters, some may still feel that there isn't much of a story. I found it fine, but people all have different tastes. Some may find the ending to be too happy and too pat, but I found it sweet in light of everything that leads up to it. I kind of wish we got to see Mandy doing things outside of her orphanage and garden, like going to school and the things she does there. For me, the novel has a narrow focus, restrains itself, and never tries to be anything it isn't, which is a cute little book aimed at kids. It's far better written than...say, Elsie Dinsmore.

Bottom line, if you want to read a sweet book with your kid, pick Mandy when you get the chance. It's basically The Secret Garden without the bratty kids and the racism. That should tell you all you need to know, and I recommend it wholeheartedly. Kudos to you, Julie Andrews.
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Here's my review of an obscure manga that I'm sure nobody will read. This was originally written on February 4th, 2016.


I give this compelling yet still heartwarming manga...a 70/100.

If there are two genres of anime/manga/any form of media that I absolutely REFUSE to watch/read under any circumstances, its ecchi and porn. Or both in the same package. I don't like porn. I really don't. Seeing people be naked and have sex and do stupid stuff just doesn't appeal to me. It never had, and it never will. Over the top nudity or sexual situations are always a turn-off for me. However, by accident, I discovered the works of Yutaka Tanaka, a mangaka who actually writes very good manga with genuinely interesting storylines, sex and all, and any nudity it has is never played for fanservice or ecchiness, and it doesn't completely take over the story in any way. But so far, I've only read two of his works: Mimia Hime (which I seriously wish would come to the US or at the very least be fully scanlated, too bad neither of those happened) and Ai-Ren. I've finished the latter, and...despite all the praise I've seen heaped on it, I don't find myself loving it.

Far into the future, a grave cataclysm wiped out most of humanity, and there is little hope for the future. One such person, Ikuru, lost his parents in the apocalypse and almost died, had life saving technology not gave him a new body. However, as it turns out, the new limbs that were supposed to save him are killing him instead. In order to live the rest of his life in peace, he requests that he have a special companion to keep him comfortable for his last days. An Ai-Ren, or AGH-RMS, is an artificially generated human created to give comfort to terminally ill patients like Ikuru. His comes in the form of a girl, whom he names Ai. Ai is basically a girly girl: happy, energetic, childish, naive, yet still mature when she wants to be. She helps him rediscover the beauty of life and shows him how everyday things he once took for granted gain new meaning when shared with someone else. However, outside their little world, humanity is on the edge of a potentially unavoidable apocalypse, and there's hardly anything the current generation of people can do to stop it.

If there's one thing the manga definitely has going for it, its the art. The character designs are deceptively simple, but the backgrounds are lavish, detailed, and painstakingly drawn, giving the setting life in this otherwise rather grim world the characters live in. Ai is obviously drawn just like a cute magical girlfriend and Ikuru looks like a regular Japanese man. Other characters have distinct designs as well, and they're simple but recognizeable enough to be differentiated from others, that way readers can easily tell who is who, so nobody looks the same. The setting is very interesting, as it shows humanity trapped on the path of an apocalypse, and we see how people are forced to deal with it, from seeing a strange being called HITO floating in the sky to ruins of what was once a grand, lively civilization. Something like this is definitely reminiscent of most giant robot anime like Gundam or Mazinger Z, but it's rare to see them put in what looks to be a cute slice-of-life/romance/fantasy manga, giving Ikuru and Ai's relationship more meaning in their current circumstances.

I'll admit, while I appreciate that the characters are three-dimensional and different from most anime character archetypes that plague most modern anime, I didn't really find them to be very memorable. They're definitely not bad, no. Ai proves that she's more than just a bouncy genki girl, Ikuru doesn't always sit around angsting about his upcoming death, and his teacher Haruka has a very large role to play in the story's advancement. But I couldn't really relate to them or their struggles. I liked seeing them try to find beauty in a broken world, and I did feel for them when things got bad, but I didn't find myself attached to any of them, especially one woman whose name is Camelo I think, who witnesses the cataclysm and meets with the strange being called HITO in person. I honestly don't see what Camelo adds to the story, and I didn't find her plight to be very interesting. But I do find Ikuru and Ai to be very sweet and even believable as a couple, and none of their romantic progress or actions felt forced, and they do have chemistry, so I can praise Yutaka Tanaka for that.

Unfortunately, as much as I want to love Ai-Ren, as it has a lot of things that really appeal to me, I just can't bring myself to love it. It has a lot of problems. First and foremost are the cryptic, apocalyptic chapters that focus on how humanity got to where it is now. I feel those segments felt slapped on, and it didn't really mix well with Ai and Ikuru's story, and what explanations they do provide make absolutely no sense and are extremely hard to follow, so in a way, it didn't hold my attention, but felt very jarring and distracting. The lack of proper transitions between chapters only exacerbated the problem. While I do appreciate the manga attempting to take on two genres to tell one story, I don't think he did a good job in trying to tie them together in a cohesive, concise manner. But I do appreciate his attempts at doing so. Hey, I'd rather read this than watch Breadwinners or Kanokon or Seikon no Qwaser or anything of the like. Also...the nudity. There's a lot of people getting naked and having sex in this. It's not placed for fanservice or ecchiness, as the main couple having sex is portrayed as being romantic and intimate, and both characters actually want to have sex and Ai is the one who makes the most moves on Ikuru, who doesn't mind being intimate with her, which is a nice change of pace. But again, if you're not a fan of nudity or people getting into sexual situations, then this isn't the manga for you. I appreciate what the manga is trying to do, but the nudity and cryptic storyline about the apocalypse didn't really hold my attention, even though the manga has a lot that really appeals to me, even philosophical questions about what makes us human and whether we're really human.

I love media that has substance. I love how anime and manga are bold and ask questions about life and humanity that makes us think. I love that no matter what, they always want to be mature about their presentation of serious issues, create three-dimensional characters, and show that life isn't always peachy keen. That's what drew me to anime and manga in the first place, even as a kid. You'd think that I'd praise Ai-Ren up the wazoo because it has all of these things that I love in media art forms. Unfortunately, Ai-Ren just kind of fell flat for me. Now don't think I hate it. I actually don't. But I just don't love it. I like it, but not nearly as much as other titles I've seen/read/played. I do think other titles have handled Ai-Ren's concept and ideas better.

It's no masterpiece, but Ai-Ren has a lot to like if you're able to move past the nudity and sexual situations. It may not be for me, but I'm sure others will like it.
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This review was just finished two days ago.


I give this book about an autistic girl who was just diagnosed...a 60/100.

When it comes to fictional media that depict autistic characters in some capacity, there are usually two types of books. There are the books that, while not perfect, go out of their way to develop and flesh out the autistic character in a nuanced, non-stereotypical, realistic, and sensitive way (Examples include A Boy Called Bat, Queens of Geek, Planet Earth is Blue, Anything But Typical, etc.), which show that the author either did a lot of research on the subject, with help from both autistics and researchers on the subject, or are autistic themselves. There are also the books that, unfortunately, take the stereotypical route and depict autistic people as nothing but soul-sucking, life ruining, overgrown man children who throw tantrums 24/7 and dabble in all the untrue stereotypes that continue to stigmatize autistic people today (Curious Incident, the Gone series, Chime, and a few others). I read M in the Middle today, and…while the main character is a relatively well realized autistic character, I found the book to be a huge slog to get through. It’s a shame, because I want to like this book more than I do.

The story centers around M (Her real name is never mentioned), a young girl who was recently diagnosed as being autistic, and she isn’t quite sure what to make of it. But despite her new diagnosis, life is still hard for her. Her parents divorced and they can’t understand her for the life of them, her older brother Toby seems to blame her for their divorce and isn’t around as much, kids are bullying her at school, a person she thought was a friend turns her back on her, and many teachers seem to think she’s just some bad kid who needs to be disciplined and don’t believe she even is autistic, or if they do, think she’s just throwing tantrums and being deliberately rude. M tries to make the best of things, make friends, and fit in like any other girl her age. But things don't always go the way she wants them to, and in the process, she may wind up hurting her reputation and place in school.

I didn’t really like this one, for quite a few reasons. I can basically sum up the whole book, save for the very last third, with one sentence: Everybody hates M and wants to make her life miserable solely because she exists. Rain Reign had this problem, and unfortunately, M in the Middle has this problem as well. In every single chapter, M is either struggling, getting yelled at, being scolded for something by people who are supposed to be there for her or help her, even when she’s doing everything they say, or basically being treated like a nuisance. Even when she manages to find a sliver of happiness, it all gets taken away from her, whether it’s through her own doing or someone else. M is given little to no reprieve in anything, and the few characters who are shown to care for her get very little page-time and disappear after a few chapters. Thankfully, the final third of the book does away with this and finally gives M the gratification she deserves, but I feel it was too little, too late for my liking. There's only so much sadness and suffering one can take!

One of the biggest subplots in the book involves M taking 20,000 pictures of a boy she likes off of Facebook (Someone else posted them on Facebook. M just saved them off of there) and storing them into a folder on a school laptop she uses. Understandably, she’s accused of stalking, even though she isn’t, and gets in huge trouble for it. That part I find understandable, because if someone stores a hundred pictures of a single person on their computer, most people will be quick to assume the person is stalking someone. It is sad that M doesn’t understand what it is, so she was never told doing what she did would be considered a bad thing and has to face the consequences of her actions. By this point in the story, you know enough about her to know she wasn’t trying to hurt the boy she had the pictures of, so you feel for her when she gets in trouble. In that aspect, I can understand why teachers would want to punish her. However, what I find hard to swallow is the fact that 20,000 pictures of this guy even exist at all. I mean, the pictures all take place at one party, and would anyone even take that many pictures of one person in one place and post them all on Facebook at a time? Most kids sharing pictures on Facebook, especially kids aged 12-13, would post at the maximum maybe 40-50 at one time. 20,000 pictures of one person in one place over the course of one day just seems really unlikely from a logical standpoint. I’m an adult, and at most, I only have a little over 2,000 photos on my cellphone over a period of seven years. I think the author or authors did this to raise the stakes for M’s place in the school, but with how poorly written this subplot was, I think all it did was wind up being needlessly melodramatic. It’d make more sense if M, say, got into a physical fight with a classmate or assaulted a teacher or something, as those do happen and would make having M face serious consequences more understandable. I’m not saying M needs to be violent, as not only is that a stereotype of autistic people in itself, but again, having a middle school girl save 20,000 pictures of a single person, all of which were taken in one day and in one place, is not only really illogical, but is way too overblown.

I will say one thing in the book's favor, though: The prose is pretty good, and various sized fonts are used to convey M's emotions, speech difficulties, auditory processing issues, and lingering anxiety, like getting really big when she's hit with a bad memory or when she's about to have a breakdown, or having one word be one paragraph when she's having trouble processing something in her head or showing a downward spiral. The writer does do a very good job at putting us in M's head and showing us why she does what she does without diving into the stereotypes that are all too common when writing about autistics.

The happy ending does alleviate my concerns about this book being too bleak, but after having to dredge my way through nothing but non-stop suffering, sticking the landing doesn’t mean I’ll forget the screw ups in the routine before it. I feel kinda bad for harping on this book so much, as it does do a great job at showing M as a fully realized, three-dimensional person who just happens to be autistic, and her autism is one of the better written portrayals in recent times. Unfortunately, it's just too bogged down by needless suffering and one-dimensional characters who just exist to be cruel to M to truly be something better than it is. I wouldn't recommend this one for the story. If you want to read about an autistic character who isn't being crapped on by everyone around her, go check out Planet Earth is Blue, Queens of Geek, A Boy Called Bat, or Anything But Typical instead.
What do you think of th Atypical Netflix series? I finished season 1 and liked it a lot, but I'm clueless whether it's a good representation of autism.
I haven't seen it, but I've heard it unfortunately still indulges in stereotypes in regards to autism, such as 1. Not knowing what boundaries are, 2. Portraying the autistic person as a burden on their family and supposedly being the cause of all their problems, 3. The mother is so stressed out by him that she needs a support group and an affair just to deal with him, 4. Showing him to be completely oblivious to certain obvious things even though he should be old enough to know better (Like the fact that you should never break into someone's house for any reason), among many other things. I hear the second season rectifies this, but again, I haven't seen it.
Okay, looking forward to your view on it eventually. But in my opinion...

1. Not knowing what boundaries are
Not always.
2. Portraying the autistic person as a burden on their family and supposedly being the cause of all their problems.
Nope. The characters choose to behave that way after not dealing with autism correctly, and they have a lot of problems besides that one.
3. The mother is so stressed out by him that she needs a support group and an affair just to deal with him.
Nope. The support group isn't portrayed as a negative thing, and the affair comes from she being so dedicated from being a mother and not let his two kids grow up.
4. Showing him to be completely oblivious to certain obvious things even though he should be old enough to know better.
This one is too ambiguous to refute, but I'm a neurotypical 23 years old and I don't understand things like what is love or why people like beer.
Time for an oldie but goodie! One of my favorite books! This review was written on February 19th, 2016.


I give one of the most well known books around...an 83/100!

Some of the most famous stories of all time are stories that were written long ago. A Little Princess, published in 1904 by an English woman, Frances Hodgson Burnett, sweeped all nations with its tale of a girl overcoming adversity, poverty, ostracism, abuse at the hands of adults, etc. One of my favorite writers, Adeline Yen Mah, wrote in her autobiography that A Little Princess not only changed her life, but made her realize that adults could be wrong in their perception of children. Stories like that are why I write, even if I'm not the best writer in the world, because stories aren't just tales meant to entertain children. Books and stories and any form of media can have the power to change someone's perceptive and even save lives. To say fiction is just silly nonsense is spitting on the faces of the creators who work hard to bring them to life and inspire others to do great things and even help others. That's what I want to do with my own writing one day: to give someone hope and even inspire them and save them from dark times. Of course, even the best of stories aren't perfect, and A Little Princess, despite its popularity, isn't a masterpiece, as much as we want it to be.

At the age of seven, little rich girl Sara Crewe is sent to England by her loving British Army Officer father, Ralph, to go to a special school for girls so she can have a good education and become a good lady befitting Victorian England of the time. The Seminary for Young Ladies is ruled by a cold, cross woman named Maria Minchin, who doesn't like Sara but thinks giving her what she wants will mean good publicity for her school. Sara becomes popular for her social status and makes all sorts of friends, from the hapless school dunce Ermengarde to little tantrum-throwing Lottie to shy, overworked, and emaciated scullery maid Becky. Her status also brings forth ire, as she is picked on by snob Lavinia Herbert and taken advantage of my Miss Minchin. But Sara remains kind and generous to everyone she meets, excels at school, and is said to receive a massive fortune in diamond mines. However, one day, her father falls ill and dies, and due to circumstances beyond everyone's control, Sara is left penniless. With no known relatives to take her, Miss Minchin is appalled by the amount of debt she's in. Blaming Sara for her plight, she takes everything away, forcing her to become a servant in the school, being treated worse than a slave by everyone around her. Sara tries to survive, but isn't sure if she can do it.

Since this book was written in the early 1900s, pretentious purple prose is inevitable, and while some bits are easy to understand for adults like myself, I don't know if any children, especially young kids from 5-9, will be able to read much of it. While the book is reasonably well written for its time, Burnett spends a lot of time describing London, the skies, the slums, and other things that don't really seem relevant to the story. Who wants to read passages about the colors that the sky changes into or Sara's imaginary names for a group of kids she meets? And trust me, a lot of these passages take up whole pages, two or three at the most. Although, to be fair, it's not nearly as purple prosey as Anne of Green Gables is, and those passages are easy to skim through, unlike, say, The Yearling, which has MUCH more padding and unnecessary passages that it really didn't need. I can see how some of the prose can add to the atmosphere, which is also important in setting the tone, so I guess I shouldn't be too critical.

Even with the prose, the story is fairly simple. Sara starts off rich, loses everything, and is treated worse than dirt by the people around her save for a select few who try to help her out. It's a pretty typical set-up by today's standards, but they say simplicity is golden. One of the reasons the book got my attention is that one of my favorite Chinese writers, Adeline Yen Mah (who actually provides an afterward at the beginning of my copy of the book), explained that A Little Princess had a very profound impact on her as a child. It was a beacon of hope for her during her troubled home life and inspired her to try to overcome adversity. To me, a book that can do that for someone, anyone, is not only something to be cherished no matter how simple or cliche the story is, and the kind of book I would want to write. It's no surprise that A Little Princess resonated with so many people and became as popular as it is. It may be cliche, but it's heart is in the right place, the messages it presents are still relevant even today, and the writer really makes you feel for Sara and the other characters.

Speaking of the characters, they're a bit of a mixed bag here. Sara, for the most part, is a bit of a goody-two-shoes, though she does have her faults, such as sometimes losing her patience and getting annoyed by other people, especially when they interrupt her favorite activities like reading. But they're not that overt, so it can be easy for someone to mistake her for being a Mary Sue type of character (one friend of mine said she seemed too much like she could be the love child of Mahatma Ghandi and Mother Theresa), even though during the time this book was written, people wanted their children to be unquestionably sweet, kind, obedient, and polite to the point of being self-effacing. The other characters are a bit stereotypical. Ermengarde is Sara's friend who isn't as bright and smart as she is, Lottie is the spoiled little brat with her sweet side, Lavinia is the bully, Jesse is her just as mean best friend, Miss Minchin is the mean teacher, Amelia is the nice one but can't stand up to her sister due to being a bit of a doormat, etc. But they're not bad characters in any way. I do feel they could have gotten more development, and I would have liked to see more of them, but on their own, they're still pretty good. But I do think this is because I got spoiled by seeing the 1985 anime adaptation, which rectifies many of the books flaws and gave the characters more screen-time, motivations for their actions, and deeper, extra layers to their personalities. That in itself isn't a bad thing.

Now, you might be thinking that with my nitpicking that I hate the book, right? No, I don't. I actually really like it. Yeah, it does have its flaws, there's no denying that, but that's no reason to kick it to the curb. I have seen various adaptations of it, my favorites being the 1985 anime, the visual novel A Little Lily Princess, and the 1986 British mini series, both of which are not only more faithful to the novel, but add their own elements to it that weren't present, enriching the experience even further. I have seen the 1995 movie starring Liesel Matthews, though it's very different from the book. Still, the book, while not perfect, has a lot to offer, and sometimes we need a good story like this to remind us that life is worth living, even if it can be hard. A lot of the book's messages are not only relevant, but extremely important in today's hard times, as even when life gets really tough and hard to get through, getting through it is the best thing you can do, and the reward you get from it will be absolutely worth it. Just ask Adeline Yen Mah and many others. They can vouch for that.

It may be a bit pretentious, but A Little Princess is definitely a book that deserves its popularity and its place as one of the best children's books in history.
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This review was originally written on September 16th, 2015.


I give this lovely little fantasy anime...a 93/100!

I'm not gonna lie: the anime industry isn't what it used to be. Now, I don't mean to sound like one of those crotchety old people who say "back in my day things were much better!" However, there's no denying it: anime now just isn't as good as it was years ago. True, there were some duds, but creators back in the 70s, 80s, and even 90s were able to churn out many episodes of whatever the heck they wanted, loved doing it, put a lot of effort into them, and as a result, many of them are well known and beloved, with some titles being Rose of Versailles, Legend of the Galactic Heroes, Gundam, the World Masterpiece Theater, Pokemon, Sailor Moon, Digimon, etc. There's a reason they're all so well known and loved, and that's because people back then did everything they could to write passionate, riveting stories with three dimensional characters, and were able to utilize their time and tell the story they wanted...most of the time, that is. Now? Anime only get 11-13 episodes, with the occasional DVD episode here and there, and most of it is just wish fulfillment, self-insertion fare full of cute girls with big boobs, bland guys who get harems for no reason, moe stereotypes, phoned in voice acting, panty shots, questionable writing, stupid plotlines, etc. They make the most money now, and unless the industry changes somehow, I don't see the trend ending anytime soon. However, this doesn't mean quality anime don't exist anymore. There's fewer in number, yes, but they're still popping up despite the lack of success. One of those shows is Snow White with the Red Hair, or Akagami no Shirayuki-Hime...and I'm not gonna lie: this is seriously one of the best anime to come out in YEARS.

The story centers on a young woman named Shirayuki, who is well known for her work as a herbalist and...her red hair. Nobody in her country of Tanbarun has such red hair, and this makes her the center of unwanted attention. When the moronic Prince Raj falls in love with her and wants to make her his concubine, she refuses to let herself be subjected to a cruel fate, so she gives him the middle finger by cutting her hair and runs away to the next kingdom, Clarines, as she has nowhere else to go. While traversing through the forests, she finds herself befriending the crown prince of Clarines, Zen, who offers to let her into his kingdom to protect her from Raj. She isn't quite sure what his intentions are, but she does want to pay her debt to him, so she becomes a court herbalist in his castle. With this, her adventures in the Clarines kingdom begin.

From what I hear, Bones is a very well liked animation company. I've seen some of their works, such as Angelic Layer, the Escaflowne movie, and Ouran High School Host Club. But I wouldn't consider myself a big fan of them. However, I can tell you that the popularity Bones gets is 100% justified, as their work on Shirayuki-Hime has to be one of the best I've ever seen from them. The series has a soft, shiny, serene animation style that blends perfectly with the low fantasy setting, and the architecture design is great. The fluidity of the characters' movements, bird wings flapping, and other things are absolutely sumptuous. Even little things such as a character's hair swaying in the breeze, and tears flowing from someone's eyes are animated with such tender loving care that you can almost feel it. Seriously, Bones. You've earned my respect.

Both the opening and ending theme songs are wonderfully sung and animated, with the first one simply telling its story in little time as opening themes should, and the ending theme adopting a more artsy, Art Nouveau style that still matches the story's serene atmosphere. Both art styles compliment the series well, and the music does its job. The soundtrack itself isn't anything home to write about, but it fits the setting just fine, and I didn't find any pieces that I didn't like. Everything seemed to just fit into place. I did notice one thing about the soundtrack: it's always mellow and subtle, never bombastic, even during compelling fight scenes (and there's only ONE action scene in the entire series, which says a lot about the series and what its like for those new to it). I think the music composers did a good job in keeping the soundtrack like this, as even though Shirayuki-Hime is a fantasy, its more political and character-oriented in nature. There's no slaying dragons, no warring kingdoms, no princesses with magical powers, etc. Nobody said having those things was a bad thing, but nobody said NOT having them is bad, either. Shirayuki-Hime knows what it is: a mellow fantasy story about a commoner girl and a prince who has to deal with his responsibilities.

I know I praise the characters a lot in my reviews of anime, but for me, if an anime doesn't have good characters, then it doesn't win any points for me. Thankfully, Shirayuki-Hime's cast is fairly well rounded and great in their own right, and defy many stereotypes in shoujo manga. Shirayuki is friendly, kind, brave, and not afraid to do what she wants, but this trait can also get her into trouble, and she still has moments of vulnerability throughout the series that keep her from being perfect. Zen is a slightly mischievous and playful prince, but unlike most princes, we see him having to deal with his responsibilities, such as going to territory under his jurisdiction and making peace between countries using whatever methods he can. He is constantly under pressure, and his status as a prince is both a blessing and a curse, as a tragic event in his past involving a person whom he thought was a friend made him realize being a prince has both benefits and drawbacks for not just himself, but others. Seriously, how many cartoons in any country even go into this kind of stuff?! The only shows I can think of that also tackle the issues royalty face are My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and Rose of Versailles. For someone who doesn't know much about how royal business goes in the real world, I think the show did a great job in showing the trials and tribulations a prince (or princess) have to go through in order to fulfill their duties. The other characters like Mitsuhide, Kiki, and Obi are also wonderful in their own right. There's even two guards who sometimes pop up every now and again who have very funny scenes and play off of each other very well. Even minor characters are given complex personalities and serve a purpose in the show, while still managing to come off as...well, people! I wish I could write characters like this.

I personally couldn't find anything the show that I actually hated or put me off. But I know some episodes are very character driven and slow paced, and this isn't a show for people who like high octane action or constant melodrama going on. Everything is presented in a down to earth manner, and there's no dragons or magic or alchemy or anything like that. Plus, I liked the soundtrack, but I wouldn't consider it the greatest soundtrack ever. Not only that, the show only has 24 episodes split into two seasons, and as of recently, there's about 20 or so manga volumes out in Japan so the anime isn't quite able to tell the entire story. But nonetheless, I still find whatever it does tell to be very enjoyable.

If you're looking for a gem in a sea of excrement, Shirayuki-Hime is the anime for you. It's not perfect, but it's a diamond in the rough that deserves all the love and appreciation it can get. You won't regret watching it...but you do require patience and appreciation for atmosphere.
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I LOVE Snow White with the Red Hair! It's so charming and lovely and the characters are fantastic (Obi is my favorite). Definitely one of my favorite anime from the last few years!
I know, right? I saw the whole thing and am collecting the manga as I speak! Which reminds me, I need to finish the English dub.

Anyway, here's a new manga review! This was just finished today but originally started on February 18th, 2019.


I give this compelling space adventure manga from the creator of Sket Dance...an 83/100!

Science fiction is a genre that I've never really found myself gravitating to. Not for any reason or anything, but when I first started getting into anime and manga, no sci-fi stuff really appealed to me. I did watch Gundam 00 when it first came out, but it was filled with incomprehensible technobabble and a bunch of overconvoluted scenarios that made zero sense to me. But then again, I've always been picky about what I read or watch in general. One day, while I was scouring Anime News Network, I came across this review of the first three volumes of a manga called Astra: Lost In Space. My curiosity was piqued, so I rented the series from my local library to see if it was any good. To my surprise, it was, and so much more. While I wouldn't consider this one of my all-time favorite manga for a variety of reasons, Astra: Lost In Space is definitely a new favorite of mine that seriously needs more love, so why not spread the love?

The year is 2063, and the world has gotten to the point where interstellar travel has become the norm, to the point where high school camping trips take place on other planets. Nine children from Caird High School group B-5 have been looking forward to a five-day-long camping trip on the planet McPa for a while, with the added task of taking care of the younger sister of another classmate. But the second they arrive on McPa, a mysterious orb swallows them up and spits them out into deep space, thousands of light years away from home. They manage to find a derelict spaceship nearby, but without a good supply of food and water, they have no chance of survival. As they travel to other planets and find their way back home, questions run through their minds. Why did this happen to them? Could it be a simple accident, or is there something more sinister going on? And who's out there trying to kill them? Is it someone in their midst?

The mystery is the real hook of Astra. It mostly plays out like a lighthearted space adventure manga, and throughout the course of its run, it is. But the questions of what happened to them, who's trying to get them killed, and who the killer among them is the main driving force of the story, even though a lot of it is centered on their planet hopping and trying to survive. Interesting, the adventure/survival and mystery manage to blend surprisingly well, combining the thrill of discovering new planets and the joys, thrills, and dangers associated with them, to the dark, brooding, more emotional aspects with the kids' circumstances, their backgrounds, and wondering just who is trying to get them killed. In terms of the artwork, Shinohara's landscapes are a marvel to look at. Every world the characters visit is unique and full of character, managing to make the environments look both exciting to explore and just a tad frightening. But while the character designs are pretty good as well, Shinohara sometimes struggles with anatomy, with some characters either looking too big or too small for their ages, and sometimes their limbs look weirdly crooked in certain panels.

Worldbuilding is important when making a story, and Shinohara managed this really well too. In every volume, there are pages dedicated to showing floor plans, blueprints of the Astra and what goes where, the various types of space suits the kids wear and their brand names, and even the alien lifeforms on the various planets they visit have a lot of character and thought put into their creation, even the mutant Chocobos they meet on the second planet. The work that was put into making Astra's universe come to life is impressive and it gives everything a much greater sense of plausibility than it otherwise might have had. It helps that every volume focuses on just one world the characters visit, rather than having them jump from planet to planet every chapter, as that'd make it feel rather rushed. The story itself is very tight, with a clear goal in mind, and every chapter does what it needs to do without needing to bite off more than it can chew, and all of them are well paced, never lazing about and dragging something on longer than it needs, while still finding time to let the characters breathe and relax when needed, so no chapter is ever a slog to get through.

In regards to the characters, opinions can be mixed on this one. Let's not deny it, the characters are pretty much stock anime tropes on the surface: The jock shounen protagonist, the pink haired ditz, the whiny tsundere who complains a lot, the shy girl, the edgy Sasuke clone who hates everybody, the pretty boy, so on and so forth. They're all played pretty straight, and the series doesn't really do anything new with these character archetypes, so if you can't stand these kinds of things, then this manga isn't for you. Quitterie in particular can really grate on people's nerves. She's the whiny, annoying spoiled tsundere rich girl who complains about everything and is unnecessarily mean to everyone at first. She does grow out of it starting from volume 2, but I don't blame you for dropping the series because of her alone. Personally, I thought the characters were just fine, and for me, I found the series' other strength is just how these kinds of characters bond, deal with the situations they're in, and how they dealt with bad things in their past. Sometimes there's nothing wrong with cliches if they're used right, and although some characters are rather bland, I still found them enjoyable as a group. Also, Luca is my favorite. He's awesome. Fight me.

The characters aren't the only thing some people might take issue with. Some of the things that happen to the characters can come off as way too convenient for some, and some twists at the end, while they seem awesome on the surface, don't necessarily make sense on an objective level. I won't spoil anything, and I found the many twists the show reveals to be awesome, but others might not and find them too manufactured to be plausible, which is understandable. The manga itself is also very lighthearted, with a lot of comedy. Some of the jokes land, while others don't. Surprisingly, I found even some of the fanservice and associated gags to be surprisingly well done, especially volume 2's spin on one particular fanservice-y trope that I normally absolutely hate with a passion (Y'know, the "guy walks into a girl while she's nude in the bathroom, she gets mad and punches him." That one). It helps that all the characters are confirmed to be 16-17 in-universe, so any additional skeeziness is thankfully avoided, so you don't need to worry about there being any crappy stuff like underwear shots or non-consensual boob grabbing (THANK GOD) in this series.

While not the most original sci-fi manga out there, it's still a fun, entertaining, feel good space adventure, and it needs more love! A review of the anime will come soon after, so look forward to that!
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This review was made on September 14th, 2019.


I give this adorable OVA based on one of my favorite manga in recent times...a 93/100!

Totsukuni no Shoujo, or The Girl from the Other Side: Siuil, a Run, is a manga that's only been around for the past few years, with the eighth volume having just been released in Japan. I happen to own the seven that have been released in the US so far, and since the manga isn't complete, I don't plan to review it as a whole until later. I can say that it's a wonderful, charming, intriguing, even creepy manga that's rich with engaging characters, making fantastic use of its simplistic art style, has a wonderful atmosphere, and the story, while not necessarily epic, has a lot to keep you intrigued. When I heard that a short OVA was going to be made, packaged with the eighth volume, I knew I had to see it. It helps it was made by Wit Studio, who worked on shows such as Attack on Titan, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, The Ancient Magus' Bride, and so on. Now that I've seen it, I admit I'm rather biased on this one, but I can't bring myself to deny it: I think I may have found not only the best OVA to come out in years, but one of my new favorite anime of all time.

This short animation features absolutely no spoken dialogue, using only music, sound effects, and animation to tell its story. Since I've read the manga, I'll fill you in on what's what: The story centers on a young girl, Shiva, and her guardian, a mysterious demonic creature known simply as Teacher. The two live a nice, cozy life in the quiet countryside, but with a catch: Teacher cannot touch Shiva, as he's part of a race of demons that can curse humans just by touching them, so the two live together without any physical interaction between one another. The OVA doesn't adapt anything from the manga specifically, showing just a brief scene of them enjoying their day together, like cooking a meal and reading together. But they do say less is more, and the OVA basically lets the music and the animation tell the story all by itself, and here it works awesomely well.

The animation style, to me can be described as a mix of both...Ed Edd n Eddy and Ghibli's Princess Kaguya movie. Yeah, an odd analogy, right? The OVA has a very distinct animation style, with beautifully rendered backgrounds that make fantastic use of color. The characters are drawn in a shaky, charcoal stick kind of style, and even as they stay still, their outlines are always moving, like Ed Edd n Eddy, but more similar to something like calligraphy on parchment, like Ghibli's Kaguya. The animation basically conveys the characters' personalities and emotions all on its own, from Shiva's dreaming turning from happy and colorful to dark and gritty when she has a nightmare, Teacher and the scenery around him turning into a scraggly, charcoal mess when he finds Shiva is missing and is frantically looking for her, to the dandelions swaying in the breeze, there is not a single wasted frame here, and the OVA has an incredible sense of detail. The nooks in the tables and tupperware, the beauty of a night sky being reflected on lake water, the characters making their own food, and the characters are always doing something meaningful that may not impact the story but brings so much life to them, the setting, and the world it takes place in. I don't have much to say about the soundtrack, other than that it also does a great job at setting the mood of a scene, from frenzied and frantic when Teacher realizes Shiva is gone, to airy and upbeat when Shiva is playing. Pianos and violins are used here to great effect.

Just from the OVA alone, we don't know much about Shiva and Teacher, as they aren't named in the OVA, nor do they talk, but the OVA tells you all you need to know about them through their expressions and actions. Shiva's a cute little girl who loves to play around and Teacher is her dutiful, stoic guardian who takes care of her despite being unable to touch her. They're not particularly complex on the surface, but the animation conveys so much of their personalities with so little, and does it so well, you can easily glean what they're like without the need for dialogue. Plus, sometimes it's nice to just sit back and watch some characters hang out and spend time together, without the need to think too much about anything.

I don't think I need to say much more other than this: Go see it! Now if only it'd be greenlit as an actual anime with longer episodes. Eh, this was great on its own, so I'll take what I can get, and for what it is, it's a wonderful way to waste ten minutes, especially if you're a diehard animation fan.
Update, 11/23/2019: I decided to write a new review for this show and put the old crappy one under spoilers. Reading it again, it really isn't up to par with how I write reviews now, and it's way too gushy and fangirly to even remotely take seriously.


I give this sweet, heartfelt, tear-jerking anime...a 95/100!

Wait, this looks familiar. Haven't I already reviewed this show before? You're right, I did. Way back in 2011, when I was in high school and back when it first came out. But looking at the review now, I've decided to remake the review now that I've watched AnoHana again for the first time in years. My old review of it was pretty crappy and seemed more like gushing and fangirling than an actual review. I think it's high time I rectified this. But my rating and overall feelings toward it haven't changed, as I love this show just as much as I did back when it first came out.

The story is about six kids who were once great friends and spent a lot of time together, having fun and making the most of their happy childhoods. However, one of them, a girl named Meiko "Menma" Honma, dies in a terrible accident, and her death fractures the once close knit group of friends. One of them, Jinta Yadomi aka Jintan, is so affected by Menma's death that he becomes a shut-in, never leaving the house, not even to go to school. He spends his days playing games and generally being a grouch...then one day, years later, Menma suddenly reappears before him, all grown up! Technically, her ghost appears, and after some playful antics, she asks him to grant her wish, but she doesn't remember much about her wish except for one thing: All of their friends need to be together for it to happen. But it's been years since the Super Peace Busters have interacted in any way, with several of them having gone in very different directions in life. Will fulfilling Menma's wish even be possible?

One of the reasons AnoHana, or its full title Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (Translated to "We Still Don't Know The Name of the Flower We Saw That Day"), was noticed in the first place was the programming block it was on, Noitamina. Noitamina is known for having more down-to-earth, realistic anime aimed at adults, some of which include Honey and Clover, Paradise Kiss, Eden of the East, etc. Back in 2011, Noitamina had a brief dry spell as two of their anime, Wandering Son and Fractale, tanked really hard for varying reasons, and AnoHana was made in an attempt to bring in some money and new life back into the block. Thankfully, it succeeded with flying colors, and there are several reasons why AnoHana became so popular with fans.

For one, the animation is quite good. Every frame has a lot of detail packed into it, from the characters' subtle tics to running at full speed. The colors are bright, the setting is well done (and modeled after real locations, to boot!), and the character designs are relatively decent, managing to look somewhat realistic but still anime enough to give it that cartoon aesthetic. Kinda reminds me of early Digimon in a way, striking a good balance between cartoony and realistic. But sometimes I felt the smooth characters and their thick outlines kind of clashed with the blurrier backgrounds. It wasn't bad, but it can be noticeable to the trained eye. The soundtrack is very nice as well, especially the opening and ending themes, both of which fit the show and its themes perfectly. The ending itself is actually a cover of a song done by a group called Zone, and said song was used as the ending theme for another anime. I like this version better, as the vocals aren't as throaty.

Your mileage may vary on the characters. I personally liked them all just fine. I thought they were all three-dimensional, well fleshed out, well rounded, and all have their strengths and flaws that the show explores beautifully. They do seem like typical archetypes at first, but the show fleshes them all out and makes great use of their development over the course of eleven episodes. Even Menma, the cutesy moe girl who seems like she's only there to be cutesy and childish, has her reasons for being the way she is and isn't just there for otaku to jack off to. But while I may feel this way about the characters, others won't, especially since they're teenagers and the situations they get into may come off as melodramatic and forced to some.

Speaking of drama, this show has a lot of it and does everything it can to hit as hard as possible. Again, some people may find this to be one of the show's biggest flaws, and I can somewhat understand where they're coming from. Personally, I found AnoHana's attempts at heavy drama to be meaningful, meant to bring out the best from its characters, and actually makes sense in the context of the story, rather than shows that do so just for the sake of drama like...well, every reality and teenage romcom TV show ever, most of which involve characters acting stupid to create artificial drama or drag it out unnecessarily. AnoHana knows when to use it and when to hold back, and while many say that Mari Okada's writing borders on melodramatic, I found that it makes sense here and was actually used to the show's benefit. So if you like series that are more restrained and composed, you may want to look elsewhere.

But if you want a great emotional roller coaster, this is the show for you. I've rarely come across an anime (Or any anime that's not in the World Masterpiece Theater) that's this well laid out, especially when it has such a small amount of episodes. Moe shows get a bad rep, and for good reason, but this is one of the great exceptions that truly won me over. Seriously, if you want a drama involving teenagers that isn't mind-numbingly stupid or contrived, give AnoHana a shot.

Below is the old crappy review I wrote when I was in high school, written on June 24th, 2011.

But before I start this review, I'd like to tell you all a story. When I was young, I knew a boy named Brandon. He was very physically disabled and had to be in a wheelchair. I don't remember what he had (his mother explained it to me once, but even now I still don't remember), but we went to summer school together (NO, I didn't go because I had bad grades!). His mom and my mom were good friends around that time. But sometimes I had to go to his house for a while. Partly because my mom had to work and she couldn't leave me alone at home so I had to be babysat by them, or because I had to look after him for a while. Sometimes I liked him, and sometimes I was rather annoyed, partly because he often kept calling me over to him to watch scenes from Disney movies (which I dismissed at the time, though not openly). I wasn't MEAN to him, per se, but I didn't know much about disabilities and how different people were back then, and there's just so much of one person you can take in a certain amount of time. Know what I mean? My mom tells me that whenever I got home, I would shout "Free at last! Free at last!" But after we grew up, we never saw each other again. Then when I was in middle school, I found out he died. I don't know how so, but it made me feel a little bad and sad. Even now I wish I had been a tad nicer to him. But what struck me best about him was that he always looked happy, even in hard times. I couldn't understand why he'd be happy all the time, and I wonder if he was happy until he day he died? My dad says that he was happy because he got to live, even though his life was cut short (possibly because of his disability).

That was the memory that this anime, AnoHana, brought back to me. AnoHana is short for Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai ("We Still Don't Know The Name of the Flower we Saw That Day"). Jeez that's a mouthful! It's the story of six kids who drift apart after one of the kids died. Jinta has become locked in his house unwilling to socialize with anyone, Naruko spends most of her time with her trashy girlfriends, Atsumu and Chiriko focus more on their studies, and Poppo travels the world. The sixth friend, Menma, died in a river many years ago, and these characters can't seem to move on!...that is, until Menma's ghost appears before Jinta and asks that he grant her wish. What is that wish? Why is Jinta the only one who can see her? What secrets does everyone else hold in their hearts?

Well, I'm gonna save the best for last and begin with the animation: it's beautiful. I loved it. No frame is wasted, everyone is constantly moving, and even their smallest movements are animated awesomely. Plus I LOVE how the secret base looked (heck, some people in real life are building a live version of it!). The soundtrack...eh, it was nice, but it didn't really stand out to me. But I did love the OP and the ED themes! They fit the show perfectly! I always felt happy whenever I would listen to these songs, as they'd make me forget about stuff at school (on Fridays I would come home and watch this immediately) and draw me into the wonderful world of AnoHana.

Okay. I'm sorry, but I'm saying this another time: THE CHARACTERS!!! I just cannot shut up about these characters! They're perfectly varied, colorful, and wonderful! They're different (one's an airhead, another's a jerk, another's socially inept, another's indifferent, etc.), and they're developed excellently throughout the show. Everyone has their reasons for feeling the way they are (some are plain creepy while some are just natural), and this anime makes sure to juggle their personalities around and make them into perfectly well-rounded characters! Plus the anime makes sure to breathe life into every single one of them. My favorite has to be Menma. She's sooooooo adorable and cute! And I don't mean that in a moe way either! There's one thing that annoys me. Everyone keeps calling this show moe, but quite honestly I DO NOT think this anime is even CLOSE to being moe! Menma's the only childish character in the entire show, and she has perfectly good reason for being so! Other characters in moe anime are moe just for the sake of acting artificially cute because some people think that's a good substitute for character development and nuance.

Ever head the saying "short but sweet"? This little Noitamina title is the best example of that. This anime never wastes any time doing what it wants to do, whether it's moving the story forward or fleshing out its characters. The only real issue I had with the series were some slightly perverted jokes that were rather out of place, but they're only limited to the first few episodes and don't show up again after. Of course, even that's just nitpicking so I'm not going to dwell on them. Plus they're EXTREMELY small so they can be easily forgiven. What surprises me again though is that this is a totally original project. It's not based on any manga, book, visual novel, or any other media. This series belongs in the Anime no Chikara slot, don't you think? Sure it wasn't made in 2010 and sure the timeslot was a flop, but if A-1 Pictures made this back then, Anime no Chikara would probably have been a huge hit! Not that I'm ticked off it's on Noitamina, but you get the idea.

No anime before has ever managed to bring a long lost memory out of me. Not even my number one anime of all time, Shounen Onmyouji, could do that. I am sad that it ended, but it has a special place branded in my heart (and in my top 20 favorite anime). I'm definitely looking forward to Noitamina's summer line up (Bunny Drop and No. 6), along with a bunch of other anime (like Natsume Yuujinchou 3 and Ikoku Meiro no Croisee!!). So, AnoHana is just an adorable, tear-jerking and heartwarming anime about growing up, regrets, letting go of the past, and moving forward in life. Are you human!? Do you have a childhood memory that you want to re-live? THEN GO WATCH IT NOW!!!


Okay, now that that crummy review is out of the way, I'm gonna talk about a more recent aspect of it that appeared in the last couple years: The English dub. Originally, this anime got licensed by NIS America in 2012, and at that time, it didn't receive an English dub. Later, NIS lost the license, and Aniplex of America picked it up and re-released it with an English dub in 2017. Unfortunately, if you want to own the series legally, you're gonna need to sell a kidney in order to do so, because Aniplex of America is notorious for giving their DVDs really, REALLY high price tags. Like, $110 for a 11-episode show and $200 for a 26-episode show expensive. Yeah, it's a rip-off, I know. Thankfully, the dub is available to watch on Netflix for those who have it, so it's much easier to watch it now. Having seen it, I have this to say about it: While it's not without a few hiccups, I think it's a very solid dub overall. The voice actors all give great performances, the standouts being Griffin Burns (Who I never heard of before this) as Jinta, Kaiji Tang as Poppo, and Erica Lindbeck as Anaru IMHO. Some might find Xanthe Huynh's take on Menma to be rather shrill, but I personally didn't mind it too much, and she nails Menma's bratty, childish personality to a T (Though I still think her performance as Maquia is better). Everybody else in the cast give great performances as well, so I think this dub turned out really well. But I am going to dock some points for one thing: In one episode, Jinta and Menma talk about a show they liked as kids, referencing Dog of Flanders, and for some odd reason, the English version has them pronounce the dog's name, Patrasche, as "Pah-Trah-Shah" instead of how I heard the actual Dog of Flanders movie pronounce it, "Puh-Trash." I don't know if the scriptwriters thought Patrasche needed to sound Belgian, since the story was originally written in Belgium, but I just find the pronunciation they went with to be really weird.

I need to sit down and watch the movie some time.
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I’ve glossed over this anime cuz it’s popular (being my realest, hipsterest self) but that was a solid recommendation. You’ve increased my chances of watching it.
Cool! I hope you like it! If not, that's fine, too. I admit, my review of the show is kinda...fangirly, as I was only in high school when I wrote it, so I admit it could be better. I'm normally not into popular anime either, mostly because I feel some don't really deserve it for whatever reason, some flaw that hampers its potential or stuff that really turns me off. I can't bring myself to watch shows such as Haruhi Suzumiya, Love Live, We Never Learn, or Nagi no Asukara, because they play sexual harassment (namely, grabbing a girl's breasts) for comedy, and I've been taught from a young age that doing that without consent is WRONG. I also don't watch real long runners such as Naruto, Bleach, or One Piece, but I've seen all of Aikatsu and I still watch Pokemon, even if I am aware of their flaws. But there are shows that I feel do deserve their popularity, AnoHana being one of them, and again, everyone has different tastes.
AnoHana kinda deserves its popularity. It's the kind of anime that isn't perfect, but the flaws won't really bug you on first watching
This review was originally written on November 18th, 2018.


I give this compelling, somewhat violent shoujo manga about wolves and roses...an 85/100!

Ah, wolves. They've been used in stories and media since the beginning of time. It's not hard to see why: Wolves are cool, scary, violent, and badass. Why do you think the famous fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood has stuck around for over hundreds of years? Lots of books, shows, and video games feature wolves in some capacity. Some manage to use them well, others...not so much. Regardless, wolves and even Little Red Riding Hood in general are many go-to inspirations for a lot of stories we know of today, Beasts of Abigaile being the most recent attempt to use both for the sake of its story. I have to admit, I had low expectations going into this one, and while I do feel some parts could have been explored more or done better, I really like this manga. I kinda wish I had read this when I was in middle school or high school, because it deals with themes of discrimination, classism, bullying, and kindness, something I and many others can really relate to, though whether you're able to handle the often melodramatic and even violent way it portrays them is another story. Yes, don't let the cutesy, sparkly shoujo style artwork fool you, because this manga is straight up violent!

The story centers around Nina Tsukishiro, a young Japanese girl who recently moved to the fictional European country of Ruberia to live with her aunt and uncle for a while. After having endured vicious bullying at her previous school, she's determined to start fresh and make the most out of her new life. But when an escaped convict from the prison fortress Abigaile bites her, she finds herself sprouting wolf ears and a tail! It turns out the convict, Roy, is part of a half-wolf, half-human race called the Luga, once the indigenous people of Ruberia. All Luga are imprisoned in Abigaile, hated, tortured, and abused for their very existence, and trained for a life of slavery under humans. Because Nina suddenly has wolf ears and a tail, thereby making her a Luga in appearance, she's shipped off to Abigaile and treated the same way as the other Lugas. It's a dog-eat-dog world here, and Nina has to do what she can in order to survive in this terrible place, which has plenty of its own ugly secrets under their rose gardens.

If you're expecting Beasts of Abigaile to be a cute, sweet, fluffy shoujo romp featuring cute girls and sexy bishie wolves (Though the manga does have them), this isn't the manga for you. Beasts of Abigaile is extremely dark and violent, both in its themes, atmosphere, and storytelling, especially when exploring the Luga, their hierarchy system, and how they're treated. The characters regularly get abused, beaten, tortured, whipped, ripped apart, or thrown in dungeons for things like disrupting class or even just because you're the weakest and smallest out of them. The Luga all act like wolves and the manga makes no attempt to sugarcoat or romanticize their behavior. The Luga form packs with strict hierarchical ranks, they fight for dominance, they rip each other apart, claws and fangs and all, blood is always shown without the slightest hint of censorship, and the Luga have an insatiable grudge against humans after the latter killed their families and enslaved them ten years before the story begins. All of this forms the entire back bone of the series, and it can get really intense at times. Even so, that's no reason to not check this manga out, because the story is extremely compelling and intense, often leaving you wondering what's going to happen next.

Plus, the art is still pretty stereotypically shoujo, with soft, sparkly, detailed eyes, everybody having poofy hair, the kid characters being cute chibis, and so on. There's lots of large eyes, soft lines and shading, and detailed backgrounds. The manga even has some characters have 70s shoujo style faces and Jojo faces during certain scenes, which make for some pretty cute comedy considering the intense nature of the story. But the mangaka also adds in some fairy tale references in the story, such as having some Lugas wear red hoods and carrying woven baskets when they're out and about picking flowers (Mostly in the first chapter), and there's a lot of rose imagery and motifs. The staff of Abigaile are all evil and predatory in their expressions and body language, and the staff are based on the woodcutter/huntsman in the original fairy tale. The fact that the Luga are subject to the huntsman is a good thematic twist on things.

I'm a little conflicted on the characters. Nina, the protagonist, is thankfully not your typical swooning shoujo girl who's one-note and whose only purpose is to be cute and get with the love interest. Nina is bold, brash, doesn't take crap from anyone, calls out bullcrap even though it gets her into trouble, and isn't going to let people walk all over her. She even willingly fights bullies and abusive teachers with her fists and karate skills. When was the last time a shoujo protagonist actually took control of her own situation and actively tries to fight against her oppressors? She's impulsive and reckless, so she gets herself and others into trouble a lot, which prevents her from becoming a one note Mary Sue. The other main character, Roy, I don't have the same praises for. He's pretty much the typical abusive love interest who hates Nina but at the same time wants to make her into his property, only showing bits and pieces of compassion near the end of the story. Since he's part wolf, it he gets quite physical with her, and I really couldn't bring myself to root for him. The other characters, such as his brother Giles, the omega Poe, and the crossdressing Lugas in Nina's pack fall somewhere in between. Honestly, I think Poe is the best character, and I think Nina should have been paired up with him, because out of all the characters in the story, not only is he the nicest and sweetest, every moment he has with Nina is really sweet, heartwarming, and adorable. Why couldn't he be the main love interest instead of Roy?!

My only other complaints about the manga are that the teachers and prison guards are all stereotypically mean and abusive with nothing else to them, save for one character, and...well, the manga's really short, only four volumes long. I really wanted to read more of this manga and learn more about the world the characters reside in and how the Luga originally came about. But even in light of that, the manga's still very good. The story's always moving at a steady pace, the characters are reasonably flawed but fun to follow, the twists are pretty well done, the art is nice to look at, and it really stands above a lot of the more cliche shoujo manga that plague the industry. I certainly like it.

Overall, if you want a genuinely engaging shoujo manga that doesn't make you want to vomit, try out Beasts of Abigaile if you can.
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