Posted on 20 February 2018 with categories: 2011 Anime Retrospective, Hourou Musuko, Tiger & Bunny

It bares repeating for those of you who don’t know:

– For rating, I will use psgels’ 100 score system, but keep in mind that my barometer might be different than his. For instance, I consider 60/100 (not 50) as a line between mediocre and passable shows. 75/100 to 89/100 are recommended shows and from 90/100 upward are the masterpieces. In some rare occasions, I will include plus (+) and minus (-) but remember that they don’t have anything to do with the quality of the shows. (+) is awarded for shows that address the gender role thoughtfully, including shows that have strong feminine message. (-) is casted for shows with insensitive treatment to gender roles.

– There will be mild spoilers, as I will address the main theme of each show.

Wandering Son (AIC)

Boy, I know I’d come to enjoy this series given its thoughtful subject matter, but I’d never expect the show gets under my skin the way it did. Wandering Son turns out to be even better than what I expected. Yes, they nail it on the struggles transgender youth must face during their puberty, but at heart this is a coming of age story about coming to term with their own identity. Crossdressing is a way for the kids to express who they truly are, the self that they feel most comfortable with. One thing that struck me the most is how simple the show seems to be, but it’s anything but. From the soft watercolor background, to the simple and plain character designs (those are in the service of the show, as the main leads have their asexual appearances), to the way the story focuses on slice-of-life drama, to the equally soothing soundtrack. Everything seems light-weight at first glance, but inside it, there are many complex relationships and even more complex narrative. The transgender aspect never becomes to preachy or heavy-handed, for once, and the show makes itself clear that it never judges any of these characters. It’s just simply a normal growing up tale from a boy and his friends, nothing more, nothing less.

I also appreciate the anime for the fact that it left out entirely the first section of the manga, so many drama and characters have already been introduced before we get to know them. Fear not, since everything we need to know about the characters and their dynamic are showed and hinted subtlety over the course of its run. For me, the best parts of the show aren’t the subject matter it deals with, but the rich cast and their complex dynamic together. Take the latter for example, many characters form a very special relationship to each other (many has complained the characters behave too mature for their age, which I digress. We need more of these). And it’s these special bonds that made every single one of them interesting. Take Chiba’s love for Shuu: doesn’t matter how he changes, he will always be the special person to her. The same can be said for Yuki and Takatsuki. It often feels like they reach to a mutual understanding that other people can’t never comprehend. And I suppose sharing the same deep bonds as these makes up the reason why they can always rely on each other, even overcome their own issues to reach out for each other.

Shuu and Takatsuki made up two strong protagonists for this show, both because they’re trans who bothered by their own biological bodies, but also their special bond as well. Noted that while Wandering Son deals heavily in transgender issues, all the romantic relationships in the anime are heterosexual – most notably, Shuu and Anna’s love. Why? Because, of course Shuu loves her. Not in a physical attraction sense since I guess Shuu would never desired to kiss her, but in the intimacy sense where he loves her and cares for her like a sibling love. Is it make their relationship weird? Maybe. But it’s powerful nonetheless. Although I already enjoy the first half of the anime well enough, where they focus on the kids and their gender-bender Romeo and Juliet play, the second half is when Wandering Son hits me real hard. Insecurity plays another major role to these kids, as they are constricted by social norms, by the code of rules that dictates how boy and girls should wear and behave. Takatsuki comes a long way until she decides to cross-dress as a boy to school, but Shuu has it much harder by trying the same thing. The escalated tension when Shuu gradually believes that he should dress up in girl’s uniform because he feels comfortable doing so is one of the moment so powerful that it won’t leave my head anytime soon. It’s one hell of a statement right there and it’s more compelling than any LGBT campaign because it comes from very personal lenses.

As a side note, despite people often complain the show for the lack of proper closure, for me it ends in the best possible way. In that final moment, Shuu literally takes a step forward to the stage. That single image can signify many things: that he’s taking anew step towards the spotlight with his new body; that he finally let the dark and bullied past behind; that he moves on to the next puberty stage of his life. Shuu and his friends continue to live on beyond the scope of this little story.

Rating: 92+/100

Tiger & Bunny (Sunrise)

It’s amusing to note that these two shows received the same rating 87.5 here in by psgels, my opinions on these two couldn’t be more varied. Let’s start from its best components first, Tiger & Bunny is the show that has novel concept, a commercial Superhero reality TV show in the neo-modern city that looks like a glamourous version of Gotham. It’s a pretty cool idea and moreover, the concept of commercial superheroes and their ability “NEXT” have potential to develop into heaps of interesting scenarios. It helps that the show makes these superheroes and their moves as flashy and over the top as possible. Another plus for the shameless corporate sponsorship’ logos that pop up in the team uniforms. Flashiness and cool factor have never been this appropriate. The art design is awesome, especially the city itself that feels lush, noisy but gritty at the same time. The production values, for the most part, fulfil their roles quite remarkably. The fights are dynamic, and those action sequences are always damn fun to follow to say the least. The CG department, however, is wacky and looks out of place whenever the two leads are in the combat suits. Take Tiger & Bunny as a purely action show, it certainly satisfies your cravings.

But Tiger and Bunny is more than a mindless action show. It consistently develops into overarching arcs with more serious tone, and that, my friend, is where the show becomes hit and miss. On positive notes, these arcs make Tiger and Bunny more ambitious than your normal Superhero show and the main leads do grow a bit in their character development. The titular Tiger and Bunny, in particular, share some solid chemistry together. The show, on the other hand, has the Western Superhero and Hollywood as their inspiration and it unfortunately inherits the stupidity of Hollywood’s script as well. There is little to no grey area, the heroes are mostly your hero of justice and the villains get more and more evil as the story progresses. I don’t mind about some casual plot holes or some character inconsistencies because… you know, ACTION show, but the last arc, in instance, is so ridiculous and laughable bad that I have to mark the show down several notes. In this last arc, the whole superhero team suddenly becomes puppets with no personality, or even worse, betray their own personality. Kotetsu is being hunted by the police and being broadcasted live, and suddenly, all these developments are set aside for some more plot twists that go nowhere, fighting with Barnaby for no good logical reason and some other bullshits about androids. And I can never get why the main antagonist thinks it’s such a great idea to brainwash dozen of superpowered and influential people, instead of just eliminating Kotetsu in silence.

Character-wise, I regret to say that although spending 25 episodes with them, at the end of the day I don’t know, or care much about them. Both Bunny and Tiger are your stereotyped JUSTICED superheroes, with Barnaby’s backstory is the one we all heard before (Batman, anyone?). Other heroes each have their own episode that flesh them out a bit, but still ain’t enough to make them stand out at all. Villains are over the top in a no-good way and Lunatic (an anti-hero of sort) has never developed into his full potential. Overall, Tiger & Bunny is an adequate take on the same old Superhero genre that make some good use of the old ideas, especially in their brilliant main concept. The mixture of buddy actions, hero of the week, drama make this show consistently entertaining to follow, despite more often than not they follow the same old formula that been around since the creation of Western Comic.

Rating: 78/100

Welp, turns out I finished these two faster than I originally planned. Have you watched either Wandering Son or Tiger & Bunny? What is your take on those shows? Next time, we will meet a girl who plays karuta and a girl who is a NEET detective. Yep, I will review Chihayafuru and Heaven’s Memo Pad. See you in 2 weeks or so (this time is for real). Until then.

Posted on 31 March 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews, Hourou Musuko




The past season had three series that really stood with head and shoulders above the rest. They were all genuinely good and took their genres into new and fresh directions. Hourou Musuko takes a look at cross dressers. Most of time when they’re portrayed in a medium, they’re portrayed for laughs or flamboyance. Hourou Musuko however is entirely built around showing the issues that boys who feel like they are girls (and vice versa) run into while growing up. And it does so brilliantly.

For starters, this is one of those series that has a slow pacing, yet somehow manages to make a ton of stuff happen in each episode. It’s full of subtlety, and because of this it can get a ton of genuine drama out of the characters using its limited time of only 11 episode excellently.

This show actually made quite a bold statement by not animating the first X volumes of the manga it’s based on, but instead starting somewhere in the middle. The great thing about this show is that despite this, it still doesn’t feel incomplete. Characters sometimes refer to things that have happened to them in the past, but it’s apparent enough to the viewers to figure out what happened. This method gave the characters both a rich past and future and it gives the impression that there really is much more to them than what we see in the series. It’s a terrific way of characterizing them, and the entire cast of this series pretty much feels incredibly genuine and believable. Oh, and finally we’ve found another show that takes a realistic look at romance, as opposed to the overly sappy view you see in nearly every anime.

It’s a series for which I’ve had hardly anything to criticize for. The story is perfectly balanced, the plot twists are amazing in their subtlety, the cast is amazing, the animation brings both the cast and setting come alive and there is hardly anything that this show does wrong. If I had to nitpick at something then it’s that the characters are portrayed a tad too mature for their age. But so what? This is a wonderful portrayal of growing up. The cross-dressing is only a tiny part of this series. There’s so much to this show, and it’s only 11 episodes long.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Wonderfully subtle, with some amazing plot twists.
Characters: 10/10 – Amazing portrayal of young teenagers growing up,and their issues dealing with it. Wonderful development.
Production-Values: 8/10 – This show is really good at far away shots, with restrained animation, still bringing its cast to life.
Setting: 8/10 – Excellent portrayal of a school in japan. This show knows how to ring its environments to life.

Suggestions:
Aoi Hana
Asatte no Houkou
Sasameki Koto

Posted on with categories: Hourou Musuko



Okay, so this was supposed to be episode 12, even though it was labelled everywhere in the episode as episode 11. It contained no recycled material whatsoever however, so I guess it’s safe to assume that it was really episode twelve. I’m not the only one who is a bit confused, right?

In any case, this was an excellent closure to an excellent series. Even with an episode cut out, Hourou Musuko felt like it had no weaknesses whatsoever to me. It consistently engaging, from start to finish. This episode really ended at the perfect point, with Nitori’s voice changing. It denotes the start of a huge change for him. The time where his body starts changing has finally arrived, and within a few years, he’s going to make the decision whether or not to get surgery.

And yet there was so much more that happened in this episode that developed so many other characters: Doi, Chiba, Takatsuki, Anna: this show took its chance to give all of them even more development than they already had.

Overall, Hourou Musuko understood what it means to be a Noitamina series: you only get 11 or 12 episodes, and that’s the length that you have to work with. They took an excellent part of the manga and made it feel like a complete story: characters have lives that continue on both before and after this show takes place, and yet the series feels complete. I especially loved that talk that Nitori and Anna had, right before the play started.

I’m looking forward to next year’s Noitamina. C is bound to be awesome. Even Kuchuu Buranko, Kenji Nakamura’s least impressive work, was really enjoyable and interesting. Anohana meanwhile is one of those shows that doesn’t seem to belong in Noitamina at first sight. Along with Hana Saku Iroha, it’ll have to take Hourou Musuko’s place as the serious teenaged slice of drama of the season. If they’ll end up as well balanced and written as Hourou Musuko, we’re really in for a treat here.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 25 March 2011 with categories: Hourou Musuko



I am confused here. Basically, this link explains how this week showed a compilation of episodes 10 and 11, with the real episodes 10 and 11 being released when their DVDs get released. that’s nice and all, but what the heck is next week’s episode going to be about? The preview says that it’ll be episode 11 again. If I had to guess, then that will probably be a compilation of episodes 11 and 12. AIC probably ran into some delays in the same way that Madoka Magica has been delayed.

Setting that aside though, this episode was brilliant. It was just an amazing aftermath to last week’s episode and made even better by a time skip along the way that showed Nitori actually growing up. The condensed nature of this episode left out quite a bit, but the added a whole bunch of new stuff to this series. Never did this series address Nitori’s anxieties and the people who make fun of him so directly. This episode rocked because it did a truckload of new things for this series, and yet nothing felt out of place. Or apart from those guys who confessed to Takatsuki, perhaps.

Overall though, this has been an excellent season, and it has set the bar for the rest of 2011 very high in terms of romance, comedy and mahou shoujos. Hourou Musuko, Madoka Magica and Level E: all have just been brilliant. Hourou Musuko took a while to get going, but it can really call itself equal to Aoi Hana: they’re both amazing series, but both are in their own distinctive ways.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 18 March 2011 with categories: Hourou Musuko



The drama in this episode was just utterly brilliant. It’s where everything comes together, the build-up is really paying off and the characters start to change even more. Doi turned out to be a wonderful addition to the cast here.

This was a terrific example of the heights that subtle drama can reach. The entire episode was quiet, but so much was going on. The red thread was Nitori doing the impossible and coming to school in his girl outfit, being nudged by Doi in order to do this. It brilliantly made use of his insecurities as a girl in a guy’s body. It all culminated wonderfully until the climax of this episode.

Now, there still is the matter of that ending. This is a manga adaptation after all and I still haven’t forgotten the cheap way in which Kuragehime ended its run, but if that ending is good then this really is an excellent experiment of Noitamina to try and focus on series with a different group of lead characters (unlike Fractale for example). Noitamina is a very double-edged sword, but those who understand its limits (like the creators of this series seem to do) can use it to air some of the most wonderful series.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 10 March 2011 with categories: Hourou Musuko



This is something that has been baffling me for years now: why are romance shows so scared to show people in an actual relationship? I mean, the climax of 60% of all romance series is the confession, and 30% just refuse to end without anything happening between the lead couple, having them remain forever in this “yes we’re in love but not actually dating so that we can have harems and love triangles forever”-type ending. That, while you can definitely get some good drama out of a relationship, which is what this show is currently doing brilliantly.

Nitori vs. Anna made this into a really excellent episode. There is some uncomfortable tension between them, but it’s the healthy kind of tension that still leaves plenty of room for them to grow either closer or further away from each other. It’s not cheesy in the slightest, and it’s definitely been one of the most down to earth portrayals of romance in quite a while, even though we’re talking about middle schoolers here.

That little shot of Chiba, Takatsuki and Nitori together when they were younger was a great little addition, by the way. This really was an episode of nostalgia as well, with both Nitori and Takatsuki trying to move on in their own ways. Nitori by exploring other sides of romance, Takatsuki by growing her hair a bit and trying to make up with Chiba again. If I have to critique the creators for one thing, it’s that they show a tad to little of Chiba when she’s not near Nitori. In this episode for example Takatsuki told Nitori that chiba was behaving normally again, but we unfortunately didn’t get to see those scenes.

Instead, we got this former bully. Now, with the way in which bullies are usually portrayed in anime, this guy is a HUGE improvement. He’s bratty, but in a subtle way and he’s definitely having an impact on Nitori. Whether it’s wise to introduce a new character three episodes before the ending is a different story, though.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 3 March 2011 with categories: Hourou Musuko




Hourou Musuko… just surpassed itself. Seriously, this episode was better than any of the previous episodes so far, and convinced me that the creators know what they’re doing. Finally we have another romance that tries to portray love realistically, and FINALLY we have another series that subverts the “lead characters are soul mates” trope.

While Fractale is currently showing just how much of a double edged sword the Noitamina timeslot can be, Hourou Musuko just nailed it. This is the part where we really get to the interesting character development. Nitori suddenly deciding to date Anna was a brilliant move. He’s actually moving on, after being rejected by Takatsuki and exploring the different sides of love, with someone completely different from the one who was first made out to be his soul mate.

It’s here where the power of this show really shines. This show has lead characters, but beyond that the creators make sure to give each of the characters a down to earth portrayal, and it’s not unfair towards anyone: the scenarios are written so that nobody really gets the chance to devolve into a stereotype, even the energetic girl has subtle different sides, miles away from your usual cliched energetic girl. This episode showed the subtle side of this show at its best.

The oddball here is Chiba, who seems to have a lot of issues throughout the series. She’s a great source of drama, and yet she doesn’t devolve into cheese. It’s hard to make a character like her believable, but I think that the creators did it by having her constantly tell how she feels, and what she thinks.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 24 February 2011 with categories: Hourou Musuko



Usually when an anime shows its characters perform a play, it’s a real highlight. This time though, it’s the aftermath that really caught my attention. The play itself was rushed through and didn’t have much impact, but the impression it left on the different characters was what really caught my attention in this episode.

The big strength of this show is how it’s able to breathe life in a relatively large cast in a relatively small amount of time, and this all came together in that aftermath: just about everyone had something different to say about it and experienced something different, from Saori’s subtle compliment to her co-star to Nitori’s sister commenting how he just wrote himself into the story.

As for the “school festival”-part of this episode, it really was the standard fare that you always see in those kinds of episodes: a huge crowd, a cafe and a haunted house. It’s more realistic than usual, but still it reminded me how the slice of life isn’t why I’m watching this show. Instead, this is all about its characters, and whenever this episode built further upon them, it was really excellent.
Rating: ** (Excellent)
On a side-note: I’m currently experimenting with a new imagehost: upl.co. Has anybody ever had any bad experiences with them? Like, them deleting images or something?

Posted on 17 February 2011 with categories: Hourou Musuko



I do think that this series is overestimating the acting capabilities of children. I remember when we at elementary school (elementary school in the Netherlands usually lasts from the age of five till the age of eleven or twelve) got to participate in the school plays, we didn’t really know anything about proper acting and understanding your character. We mostly practiced saying all of the lines correctly and the choreography (a lot of the plays we did back then were musicals), while practicing this over and over again. Seeing people completely caught up in their role with even the right theatrical gestures, intonations and movement is perhaps a bit beyond random kids.

The creators nailed the drama, though. The scene in which that guy randomly blurted out Nitori’s secret was really well done and involved a lot of different characters who were at the scene. It also really shedded some more insight about how Nitori feels about his identity, and how Takatsuki helped him in the chapters that the series skipped over.

Saori meanwhile got the bitchy character right. Throughout the entire series she’s being strange and trying to stand out, but she does it in this subtle way that doesn’t make her annoying, yet uses the drama that she created well. And at the same time, her character is far from one-dimensional so she doesn’t end up as your typical stereotype weirdo.

As for the Romeo and Juliet play.. yeah, it had it coming that some lead characters would end up playing Romeo and Juliet. Seeing two random classmates play those roles would perhaps have been interesting in a longer series, but with eleven episodes this series really needs to take every chance it has to build further upon the main characters. At the very least we didn’t get the corny solution of Nitori and Takatsuki playing the lead roles, and the current state of events did lead to some interesting drama that again brought some more life to the characters.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 3 February 2011 with categories: Hourou Musuko



I’m also watching Kimi ni Todoke at this moment. And really, the difference here shows when a series actually has characters who openly know that people have a crush on them. It makes for much more interesting drama here, beyond the usual “when in God’s name will they ever find out that they’re into each other!?”

This episode was mostly building up. Those episodes are rather dangerous in a Noitamina series of only eleven episodes, but this episode still added a lot of stuff to the series here. It established that both Saori and Shuuichi are too stubborn to give up their crushes. I also like how they are constantly talking about this and their feelings, instead of keeping it all cropped up. And I mean, they’re teenagers so they’re bound to be impulsive and strange at times, but in the same time I like how Nitori wants to be a girl, not just for the sake of this crush, but because he really feels like he is born in the wrong body.

I also like how the problems that Yoshino has aren’t some kind of mirror of Shuuichi here. They both have to deal with growing up physically, but she is far less bothered with hormones and love than Shuuichi is.
Rating: * (Good)

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