Posted on 27 December 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews, Aoi Bungaku



My favourite show of the season? Definitely. Aoi Bungaku provides an awesome closure to this decade in anime with a collection of six beautifully told stories. Every single one with its own director, style, atmosphere, focus, graphics, soundtrack, themes and stories. It’s a really big experiment, that worked out wonderfully well.

No Longer Human is a wonderful character-study with a powerful and well developed main character. The visuals look like a non-action version of Kurozuka in a way, but with even more detailed art. In the Woods, Under the Cherries in Full Bloom proved to be a great combination between comedy and mindscrew, and it really had the director of Death Note and Kurozuka in its element with its Bleach-like character-designs. Kokoro is probably the least impressive of the six shorts. It’s based on a very nice idea of varied perspectives, but it’s a bit cheesy in its execution. It’s certainly not bad, though.

Hashire, Melos! Is just incredible. It’s done by the director of Mouryou no Hako, and the dialogue is just as deep and detailed as it was there. On top of that, the animation is utterly fantastic. Characters move wildly and even the slightest movements are incredibly detailed, and it gives the characters so many powerful emotions. A Spider’s Thread in its turn is a simple but all around enjoyable and tense story with great screenplay. Hell Screen then continues to close off with a huge bang with a great and powerful mindscrew, combined with a really strong direction, soundtrack and visuals.

And seriously, it’s amazing how much talent Madhouse managed to stuff into this series. It has a total of five directors, and four of them are absolutely brilliant in what they do, and have their own styles and their own brilliance. The animation is just amazing, especially in Hashire, Melos!, and definitely the best of this season, and not to mention that every single story looks unique with its own distinct set of graphics. Even Hi no Tori (which had a similar formula) had at least similar character-designs!

The depth of the characters varies from simple (Spider’s Thread) to elaborate (Melos, No Longer Human), but nearly all of them make impact. And heck, even if you don’t like one story, there’s always the next one that turns out to have a completely different focus. As much as the fansubbers will hate it, I’d love to see more series like this (imagine for example if other studios would attempt this as well). This collection of adaptations of literary works manage to fit in the stories pretty nicely in these relatively short amounts of episodes: some of the stories have been changed here and there, but it’s been done with conviction.

Storytelling: 10/10 – Powerful and gripping in six different ways.
Characters: 9/10 – Amazing characters, especially for short stories.
Production-Values: 10/10 – Detailed animation, incredibly imaginative visuals for every six of the stories.
Setting: 8/10 – Not the main focus, but solid.
Posted on with categories: Aoi Bungaku



Wow. What a way to end this series. What an incredible mindscrew of a final episode. Seriously, the visual direction of this episode was the best out of all the Aoi Bungaku episodes, even as the soundtrack. I commented a few weeks ago the the director of the final two episodes was a completely new guy, so it really could get anywhere. During A Spider’s Thread, he already showed that he’s solid as a storyteller, and it was very entertaining and intense to watch. But seriously, with this episode he really showed that Madhouse has yet again struck gold.

The setting for Hell Screen is actually the same as with A Spider’s Thread, only the mood, atmosphere, direction and soundtrack are completely different. This episode was much, much darker, despite the at first misleading dark colours. I like how this episode uses a part of the build-up of the previous episode: in there, the king was shown as a bit cocky, but basically as the good guy. In this episode however, it just turns out that he’s a huge bastard. It’s the same that Kokoro used, although with less cheese.

The main focus of this episode was on the lead painter for the king, who is tasked to draw a chamber that has the essence of the city. He ends up wanting to show his anguish at the king’s actions that he decides to draw hell itself, however he he just can’t seem to get the right inspiration. Eventually this spirals so much out of control that the king burns his daughter, which in turn gives him the right inspiration. It’s a bit hard to believe, but then again, it was written by a guy who apparently afterwards committed suicide.

I personally loved how the build-up throughout the episode eventually culminated into that climax. I wouldn’t call this as good as Hashire Melos, but I’d definitely count it among the highlights of this series.

Overall, there should be more anime like this. This series has been utterly amazing in so many different ways. I’d rank the six stories of Aoi Bungaku like this (from least favourite to most favourite):
6. Kokoro
5. Spider’s Thread
4. In The Woods…
3. Hell Screen
2. No Longer Human
1. Hashire, Melos!
But more on that in the actual review.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on with categories: Aoi Bungaku



This post is going to be short, since I’ve got a certain episode 12 that I’m really looking forward to, but damn, that was intense. The fifth story, The Spider’s Thread had only one episode to work with, but it used it really well and turned it into not just a visual feast, but also one heck of an intense experience.

For the most part of the episode, I was wondering where it wanted to go, but the final minute everything made sense. Throughout the episode, you really get the idea what’s going on inside the mind of a killer, someone who has no regards for human life, and is just out there to have fun and kill people. He’s very much a person who’s sick in his head.

The main point about this story is that after he dies, he gets one chance to get out of a hell that will probably mean an eternal time of torture for him. And yet he blows it, both by the weight of his sins and because he still doesn’t want to repent for his sins. It’s obvious that the original writer was a devoted christian, but it’s nonetheless an interesting story.

What I liked most about this episode was the screenplay, though. It’s done by a guy who didn’t do anything before this, but the way that the visuals and the music, the poses and the art enhance the story is really well done. It’s that what really impressed me about this episode and made it so powerful for me. It’s not the best instalment of Aoi Bungaku, but really: I don’t have any complaints whatsoever.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 6 December 2009 with categories: Aoi Bungaku



That was absolutely amazing. Oh my god, Aoi Bungaku was already my favourite series of this season… and this episode just blew every of its episodes so far out of the water. What a roller-coaster of emotions this turned out to be! Ryosuke Nakamura. That’s one name to remember, because this guy is destined for greatness.

Unfortunately, he’s also destined for unexposure in the western anime fandom because his series are just so damn hard to translate. Why are there still no subs of episode 9 out at this point, even though the previous episodes were subbed without any problems (in fact, even the double-episoded feature of episode 7 and 8 got out faster than this). It’s the same with Mouryou no Hako: we’ve got ourselves an absolutely fantastic director here, and yet because his dialogue is so damn complex it takes much longer for the subs to come out!

In any case, enough ranting and onto this episode. Just when I already thought that the previous episode was full of emotions, it was nothing when compared to this one. The whole story by Osamu Dazai came together wonderfully. Thoughout a majority of the episode, you keep wondering why his friend abandoned him. When the answer finally comes, the shock hits hard, and yet it makes complete sense: the guy was about to die from heart failure. Especially after all of the things that the lead character called this guy for betraying him.

But the visual direction was absolutely amazing. The animation was just incredible, and especially the part where Melos is fighting on the desk, as the main character is writing his story is nothing short of gorgeous. Anime animation cuts corners?! Hah, this episode has so much emotionally powerful movement in it. THIS really shows what you can do with the animation medium.

And to think that Aoi Bungaku still isn’t finished. The wait is going to take two whole weeks, but after that we’re going to see two stories adapted at the same time. I have no idea what to expect from that. The director is going to be someone completely new, and I have no idea what to expect from this guy. Again, this is a great gamble by Madhouse by putting a new guy in front of such a big project, but who knows? Perhaps they found themselves yet another talent here.
Rating: **** (Fantastic)

Posted on 29 November 2009 with categories: Aoi Bungaku



This is it: THE chance for the director of Mouyou no Hako to show that he’s not just a one-trick-pony, but instead an incredible director. And oh my god, he really showed the latter. Madhouse have truly truck gold when they found this guy, because this episode was one of the best episodes of Aoi Bungaku yet!

You can really see his style from Mouryou no Hako flow through into Hashire Melos, the work he’s adapting. The sakura trees are there, the heavy use of lighting, and the protagonists also are quite similar in appearance, and both novel authors. Heck, it even has the same soundtrack as Mouryou no Hako. This episode satisfied my inner Mouryou no Hako-fanboy, while delivering its own strong story that aside from these things, doesn’t rip it off in the slightest and stands strong as a gripping episode.

The scenes in the theatre were a very nice twist: basically this episode told two stories: one story about the author of a novel and his best friend, an actor, and one story, which he’s currently writing. Interestingly enough, Masato Sakai who has been voicing all of the leads of Aoi Bungaku so far, ends up voicing Melos: the lead character of the play. I love how in this way, the creators are playing around with the concepts of “lead characters”.

But yeah, what makes this episode stand out is its sense of dialogue. It’s passionate, detailed and brings out the best of the characters. There’s so much emotion put into it, yet none of the lines are delivered cheesily.

And then the animation! It’s by far the best animation of Aoi Bungaku yet, and that in an already excellently animated series. This episode doesn’t have the best eye-candy, that’s for In the Forest. Instead, the characters move SO incredibly fluently. when they move, their entire bodies move, rather than just a limb, or some very minimal movement during just a short scene. The animation here is detailed and really brings the cast of characters to life.

There was one scene though in which this didn’t apply. I’m not exactly sure what happened there, but the part in which the lead characters’ friend comes crawling from under the bed lacks this detail, and therefore ends up a bit weird.

I’m not sure whether I understood everything in this episode, but the main storyline seems to talk about two friends who live together: one is a scriptwriter, the other is an actor. The scriptwriter is seen writing the story of Melos, the lead character of the play. At a certain point, his friend suggests to go to Tokyo, because his father would not allow him to continue acting. When the lead character is boarding the train, however, he is betrayed. The episode ended a bit too soon for me to actually make out how and why, but I expect the next episode to delve into that one.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 22 November 2009 with categories: Aoi Bungaku



Holy crap, a double feature of one of my favourite currently airing series. Can things get any better? Episodes 7 and 8 animate the story of Kokoro. I’m not going to bother making separate entries for these two episodes, because they were bundled together as one. And really, Kokoro is just as good, if not better than the previous stories!

During the first half, it might seem a bit like a step down in comparison to In the Woods and No Longer Human, in which we have this lead character who lives together with a woman he likes, and he then invites a friend of his to live in his house, to study with him. This friend quickly steals the girl he likes away. For the most of the first episode, it’s a bit too one sided.

Then the second episode starts, and the fun begins, and the story gets a completely different dimension.

The second episode actually shows the same story from the perspective of the friend. While he was this big brute who took advantages of women in the eyes of the lead character, his real character is completely different. What an awesome idea, and it’s really well executed. This episode is really about love and prejudices, and what they can do to people who normally would just hang out peacefully together. Because they only know part of the story, people’s imaginations start filling in the blanks. Notice how some details of the story differ from the perspective of both of them: the parts in the first episode in which the tall guy was alone simply are what the lead character thought that he was doing at the time.

The rest of this series’ schedule also seems to be a bit weird. Hashire Melos! seems to air regularly during the next two weeks. After that, there is a break of TWO WEEKS, until the second day of Christmas, at which both the final stories will air. I really love the tight schedule of the past few weeks: sundays have always been a blast thanks to this series, but those two weeks are probably going to be one hell of a wait for the final two stories.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 15 November 2009 with categories: Aoi Bungaku



Seriously, are there no bounds to this series’ awesomeness? In this episode, Aoi Bungaku yet again surpassed my expectations, it was nothing like any other series of this show so far, it was full of the most awesome graphics, and the direction was just incredible. And then to think that there still remain four stories left! What the bloody hell do the creators have in store for those?

This episode was just crazy. But when I say crazy, I mean that in a Madhouse sort of way. This ranged from those small jokes as the cow people enslaving the humans and the old lady who thought she smelled her old husband, to the lead character cutting off even more heads, so that the lead female could play with them like dolls. What the hell?1 the final scene, in which the lead character runs into his feared cherry blossoms, freaks out and strangles her to death was incredibly intense. No Longer Human was very subtle in showing the mental decay of the lead character, but here it’s totally different. The mental delusions of this guy are in your face, but also absolutely beautiful and full of eye-candy.

This story really strikes me as a very critical look at the traditional roles of the male and females. It’s overblown of course, but the lead character just keeps killing people for the woman he loves, until the past finally gets the chance to bite back. It portrays these values as utterly ridiculous.

What also makes this series pretty unique is that the longest stories aren’t saved for last. If this already was a mindfuck, then I really don’t know what the creators have in store for the final two episodes, which if I’m not mistaken are going to be two stories of just 20 minutes.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 8 November 2009 with categories: Aoi Bungaku




Oh, I love this. The various adaptations are really all going to be completely different: different graphics, different soundtrack, different OP. The only thing that’s the same is the ED. This episode was awesome, but for totally different reasons as No Longer Human was. What he hell have I just been watching?

This arc features the adaptation of “In the Woods Beneath the Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom” (which I’ll just keep abbreviated as “In the Woods” from now on. Instead of the serious No Longer Human, this short takes a more light-hearted approach. At first this worried me a bit, but the deadpan humour of the lead guy was hilarious. You hardly ever see good deadpans in anime, but I really like that type of humour.

The story in this was just… weird. Which made it even better. Here we have a rugged bandit whose skills are second to none. He lives with a bunch of women he captured. His latest addition is very spoiled and bratty, so she doesn’t want to live together with them. However, the lead guy is in love with her. so what does he do? He kills off every woman but one. What?!

This episode just oozed style. Is this really an adaptation of classic literature? I can really hardly tell. The creators of the anime added the funky atmosphere, a terrific set of voice actors, a bunch of insert songs, seamlessly integrated with the story and an MP3-player. I’m not kidding. Beats me where this guy got the batteries from.

And the graphics! This episode was a visual orgasm beyond belief, and Madhouse have truly outdone themselves yet again! Some of the backgrounds looked truly fantastic here, and this definitely was the prettiest episode of this season.

Seriously, why aren’t there more series like Aoi Bungaku?? This is just utter brilliance, and you can see that the creators are throwing in lots of stuff and ideas to spice up this episode. You could see that they had a lot of fun adapting this work. I love the idea of the little specks of blood on the camera when one of the guys was killed. The pacing, the timing, just about everything felt right in this episode.
Rating: *** (Awesome)
OP: Funky, catchy and gorgeous visuals. Fits the story perfectly.

Posted on 1 November 2009 with categories: Aoi Bungaku




What an amazing conclusion to the No Longer Human story. The past four episodes have really been storytelling at its finest. This episode yet again pushes the characters into an entirely different direction, and it’s really been character-development after character-development for the entire story.

This episode fast-forwards a number of years. So the lead character? He got married to the girl with the red umbrella. His friend? He has grown up a lot. He’s no longer the punk who drags the lead character into the wrong business, but instead has decided to join the army, leaving his wild years behind.

At first sight, the lead character seems saved right now. He has stopped drinking and fooling around with women thanks to his new wife. The seemingly limitless amount of trust she has for him really helped him get himself together. Or so it seems. I’m not sure whether she got raped or whether she was fooling around with someone behind his back, but nevertheless, their balance gets broken abruptly when he finds out.

But even before that, it becomes clear that even though he may have left his old habits behind, he still hasn’t fully healed. Especially when he finds out that his father died, he doesn’t care in the bit, and it becomes painfully clear that he’s still living inside a fantasy world, refusing to simply grow up because his profession as an artist and storyteller doesn’t require him to do so. Eventually however, he breaks down and takes an overdose of some sort of strange type of pills. Again, he survives. But barely.

The part that impressed me the most comes next. Despite how the guy has broken down, and proven that he’s a huge failure as a human, the two women he lived with still don’t mind. What they see is a guy who definitely has problems, but despite that is an incredibly nice guy. Even though they probably know nothing about him, yet want to be with him again, that was so heart-warming.

Okay, so No Longer Human was amazing. What’s next? The rest of the series is going to be filled with three more stories of two episodes, and two of only one. Their short length is either a blessing or a curse, but let’s see what they can do with their limited airtime. I really like the set-up of random stories though: you’ll never be able what to expect, but the writers are totally free in what they can do with it, or in this case which stories they can adapt. This is another reason why this series is superior to Kuchuu Buranko: those random stories all were written by the same guy, based on the same formula. With Aoi Bungaku however, this series is promising to become incredibly varied.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 25 October 2009 with categories: Aoi Bungaku



Oh my god, No Longer Human just keeps getting better and better. This isn’t just a great adaptation, but also an adaptation that makes optimal use of the fact that it’s adapted in a media that also uses music and graphics. From the perspective of someone who hasn’t read the novel, setting aside some of the scenes that were cut, I think that this really was the best possible adaptation that it could have hoped for.

It’s also amazing how much stuff the creators managed to squeeze just into one episode. It feels like the creators got two episodes’ worth of content in just twenty minutes. This series just hopped from one tense situation to the next, with an eerie silence in between. This episode really was a roller-coaster ride.

The plot of this episode was also far more subtle than I imagined. I originally thought that this episode would see the beginning of a mass murderer, but instead it’s about someone who’s struggling with his own sense of humanity: he still blames himself for having survived that double suicide back then, and because of that he never really allows himself to bond with his new wife and daughter that he found, who were really nice enough to take him in.

While he’s got a great daughter, and a girlfriend who supports him all the way (she even managed to find him a job as a manga author), he instead hangs around in bars, visits prostitutes and gets drunk. Especially after the rumours start floating around that he’s a killer he starts to get out to drink even more. On top of that, his old friend keeps returning to remind him of the past he’s trying to leave behind.

And then comes that saleswoman, who meets him as he lies in the snow after a particular rough night. Here I thought that the entire setting was trying to be as dark and gritty as possible, and then she comes. She refuses to believe the words of a hopelessly drunk guy, and instead fully trusts in his kind nature. That his story about having failed a double suicide was just a story he made up because of his talents as a storyteller as a manga author. While on one hand, she;s obviously wrong, but what counts is that trust she has in him, at a time and place you’d normally suspect people to just turn a blind eye and walk away…

Anyway, long story short: awesome series; watch it. Especially now that subs are actually coming out fairly steadily, against all my expectations.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

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