shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
Anime Review: Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu LOVE! / Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!

In this amusing parody anime, five high school boys in a club unwittingly find themselves meeting an alien wombat, who transforms them into magical boys, male Sailor Moon-esque members: they’re trapped in the outfits of an Earth Defense group and forced to say ridiculous lines against their will. Amusingly, they decide to make the best of their new situation, attacking evil with the power of love.

Of course this includes much suggestiveness and fan service, like bathing together, cuddling, and tickle fights. Oh, and the code phrase to launch their powers is “Love Making.”

While the anime is simplistic and often shallow, it is nonetheless ultimately quite sweet and helped lighten my mood whenever I watched it. Recommended for fans of light shounen-ai (like Gakuen Heaven).

More anime reviews here!
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
Anime Rec: One Punch Man

In this absurd parody of superhero stories, our bald hero Saitama has a major problem: no matter how huge or grossly overpowered or disgustingly evolved or city-destroying his opponent is, Saitama can always defeat them with, of course, just one punch.

Together with his cyborg protégé Genos, we follow Saitama and feel his growing frustration with the state of affairs: when he performs an amazing feat, he can get no satisfaction from it because the public and the Hero Association never give him credit for his achievements as a hero. Eventually you do feel really bad for the non-hero public who live in these cities (from “City A”-“City Z”) that are repeatedly invaded by monsters.

Recommended to fans of anime like Hunter x Hunter, One Punch Man features a cast of colorful characters and a world that gradually grows more complex.

There are also some fantastically funny moments when Saitama is thinking absentmindedly about food in the middle of what would otherwise be intensely serious battles.

This anime was lots of fun and has great potential with its characters’ backstories (like Sonic, an ultrafast ninja criminal), so I hope it will be renewed for more than 12 episodes in the future!

More anime recs here!
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
Just finished uncontrollably binge-watching an adorable animated show on Cartoon Network, and I wanted to share it with everybody!

The show is called Steven Universe and is about a boy named Steven, who lives with his three badass adopted space alien moms (called “crystal gems”: Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl) in a beach house. (You can listen to the theme song here on Youtube.)

Steven’s biological mother was also an alien, but his dad was a normal human, which makes Steven half-gem, half-human. Corrupted gem monsters are constantly attacking them or causing chaos in their town of Beach City, so everyone’s hands are full protecting Steven (and earth!) from evil creatures and discovering if Steven has powers like his biological mom.

Steven, our protagonist, is a relentlessly positive sweetie pie who fully embraces his femininity and always encourages everyone around him. But the supporting cast easily hold their own. Living with Steven are three characters who seem like types at first but are slowly revealed to be very complex individuals: Garnet is the mysterious badass of the group, Amethyst is the fun but reckless one, and Pearl is the detail-oriented worrier. As the show progresses, we learn more about the residents of Beach City and gem culture on their Homeworld, which our crystal gems have chosen to leave.

Oh, and did I mention that the show is created by a woman (Rebecca Sugar), the first such show on Cartoon Network, and the majority of the cast are female characters of color? Well, technically the gems don’t have bodies because they’re gems, but all except Steven present as female and use female pronouns, and I think all the gems and many of the Beach City residents are voiced by female actors of color.

Not only this, but while being funny and entertaining, the show itself is also positive about bodies of all different shapes and sizes (and numbers of limbs), strongly values LGBTQ relationships and polyamory, gives positive examples of men valuing women’s ideas and interests, explores the problems with racism and class systems, values fandom, points out how much fun subtext is, reveals the power of music, and above all values love.

Speaking of love, I haven’t even mentioned fusions yet, which are possibly the best part of the show. Fusions happen when two gems meld together into one bigger gem that combines their personalities and strengths. But in order to fuse, the two gems first have to agree and dance together…which is always done in a very sexy way.

These fusions-as-sex-metaphors are handled so brilliantly, allowing a huge amount of shipping moments and revealing that there are at least two canonical lesbian couples on the show and probably many more. Believe it or not, parts of this cartoon show have tragically even been censored in different countries (including the UK) for the same-sex sensuality of the fusion dances. The issues of “forced fusions” and one gem “tricking” another gem into fusing come up later and are handled very well.

So if you’re looking for something to watch, I hope you consider supporting this very special animated show (one option to buy the episodes is on Youtube here but there are other places depending on your country). So far there are 2 seasons of episodes at 11 minutes an episode—short and breezy!
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
I've seen it now!!!

No spoilers version: saw it, loved it, can't wait for season 4!!!!!!!!!!

Spoilers version:

Spoilery version )
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
A guide for me to keep track of everything. Please ask if you’re interested in any of them! :)

Previous years: 2013, 2014

::: Animation :::


  • The Book of Life (about Dia de los Muertos)

  • The Good Dinosaur (did not enjoy the awkward psuedo-Western style)

  • Inside Out (sweet but could have been more well-thought-out)

  • Minions (dull)



::: Documentaries :::


  • A Brief History of Humankind with Dr. Yuval Noah Harari (a brilliant free online course)

  • Antarctica: A Year on Ice

  • Chai Jing’s Review: Under the Dome—Investigating China’s Smog

  • Cowspiracy (about how intensive animal farming is the #1 cause of global warming—really!)

  • Danny (about Newfoundland Premiere Danny Williams)

  • Generation Earth (about global technology)

  • Generation Like (about social media)

  • Gideon’s Army (about public defenders)

  • Gimme Shelter (about the state of animals in shelters)

  • Happy Valley (about Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno, and the Penn State child sexual abuse scandal)

  • Her War: Women vs. Isis (about the inspiring female division of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units fighting ISIS in Syria)

  • The House I Live In (about the “war on drugs” and how many lives it’s ruined)

  • The Imposter (documentary with shocking twist)

  • India’s Daughter (about a brutal rape/murder and its impact on India)

  • Inside Hurricane Katrina (National Geographic)

  • Inside North Korea (National Geographic)

  • Ivory Tower (about higher education in the U.S.)

  • League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis

  • Living on One Dollar (about extreme poverty in Guatemala)

  • Lost Garden: the Life and Cinema of Alice Guy-Blaché

  • Ocean Giants

  • Particle Fever (about the large hadron collider)

  • The Search for General Tso (about Chinese immigrants in America)

  • Secrets of China (BBC documentary with Billie JD Porter)

  • Secret State of North Korea (Frontline report)

  • Sharks of the Mediterranean

  • A State of Mind (about two gymnasts in North Korea preparing for the Mass Games)

  • Steve Jobs: the Man in the Machine

  • Stop Cutting Our Girls (about female genital mutilation)

  • Tell Me and I Will Forget (about violence and paramedics in South Africa)

  • To Catch a Trader (about insider trading)

  • Virunga (about the national conservation park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo)

  • The Waiting Room (one day in a public hospital)

  • Walking With Dinosaurs (Sea Monsters, Land of Giants, The Giant Claw)

  • Women Aren’t Funny (about female comedians with Bonnie McFarlane)

  • The Wonderful World of Cats (with Joanna Lumley)



::: In-Theater Movies :::

  • Ant-Man (I still got a train wreck, just not the one I was expecting)

  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (lackluster for me)

  • The Big Short (a movie that will make you even angrier at those who caused the 2008 recession)

  • Black Mass (with Johnny Depp and Benedict Cumberbatch!)

  • Crimson Peak (the acting and special effects were great, but I felt the writing was pretty lazy)

  • The Danish Girl (very moving and should get acting awards)

  • Ex Machina (very creepy)

  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (enjoyed!)

  • Insurgent (part 2 of Divergent, many plot holes but I enjoyed it. Some very good female characters in particular, which is great to see in a Young Adult film)

  • Jupiter Ascending (great ideas, but so much wasted potential)

  • Jurassic World (so much fun!)

  • Mad Max: Fury Road (wonderful world-building)

  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (lots of fun)

  • The Martian (very well done)

  • Mr. Holmes (with Ian McKellan)

  • Selma (about Martin Luther King, Jr.)

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (a step in the right direction for the franchise but still pretty dumb)

  • Terminator: Genisys (I liked the family drama but not much else)

  • Tomorrowland (very inspirational message)

  • Trainwreck (Amy Schumer is hysterical)

  • The Walk (mmm, vertigo)


::: Other Films :::


  • American Sniper (more subversive than I think people are giving it credit for)

  • American Ultra

  • Beasts of No Nation

  • Bridge of Spies (with Tom Hanks)

  • Bring It On (fun 2000 movie)

  • Chef (with John Favreau)

  • The DUFF (didn't enjoy)

  • Fifty Shades of Grey (I…didn’t hate it and thought it was intriguing?)

  • The Gamechangers (with Daniel Radcliffe about the Grand Theft Auto videogames; very muddled production)

  • Get Hard (with Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell)

  • The Grand Seduction

  • Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas (cute, and Aubrey Plaza is funny)

  • Hercules (2014, with Dwayne Johnson)

  • It Follows (brilliant horror)

  • John Wick (very good action movie; the doggie made me cry though)

  • Love and Mercy (moving film about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys)

  • Mad Max (1979; ummmm, avoid)

  • McFarlane, USA (with Kevin Costner; actually decent)

  • Magic Mike XXL (couldn’t get into this despite liking the first one)

  • Malcolm X (1992, with Denzel Washington)

  • Margin Call (about the 2008 financial collapse with a fantastic ensemble cast)

  • The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (the first one was much better)

  • Paddington (unsettlingly creepy animation)

  • Pitch Perfect 2 (unnecessary but fun)

  • Rhymes for Young Ghouls (about the horror of residential schools on Native American reservations in Canada)

  • Rosewater (directed by Jon Stewart, about journalist Maziar Bahari’s imprisonment in Iran)

  • Saving Mr. Banks (very touching movie about Mary Poppins)

  • Speed Racer (very strange; great cast, including Roger Allam! But Rain steals the show)

  • Spotlight (about the Catholic sexual abuse scandal in Boston)

  • Spy (with Melissa McCarthy; I liked how it subverted the spy genre)

  • The Theory of Everything (moving, but I preferred the more limited scope of Hawking)

  • The Triangle (a twist that leaves you thinking for days)

  • True Story (with James Franco and Jonah Hill)

  • Under the Skin (creepy movie with Scarlett Johansson)

  • The Wedding Ringer (hysterical movie with Kevin Hart)

  • Wet Hot American Summer

  • What If / The F Word (middling romantic drama with Daniel Radcliffe)

  • What We Do in the Shadows (hysterical vampire mockumentary)

  • Whiplash (fascinating)



::: Film (Non-English) :::


  • Audition (Japan, horror that leaves you thinking for days)

  • Battle Royale (Japan, basically The Hunger Games before that was a thing)

  • Mongol (Kazakhstan)

  • Monster Hunt (China; adorable mpreg and gender norm subversion—really!)

  • Ringu (Japan; I preferred the U.S. version)

  • A Tale of Two Sisters (superbly creepy film from South Korea)




::: TV / Drama :::


  • 12 Monkeys (drama based on the excellent movie)

  • The Ambassadors (with David Mitchell and Robert Webb)

  • Brooklyn 99 (amusing but drags a bit)

  • Casual Vacancy (actually fixes most of the problems in the book!)

  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart/Trevor Noah (where I get my news; I miss Jon Stewart so much!!)

  • Empire (fantastic music record company show)

  • Fresh Off the Boat (amusing comedy)

  • House of Cards

  • How to Get Away With Murder

  • Inside Amy Schumer

  • Jessica Jones (excellent!)

  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (took me forever to recognize Sebastian from Sherlock as Strange!)

  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (brilliance)

  • Mad Men (final season *cries*)

  • Marco Polo (review here)

  • Must Love Cats (Animal Planet)

  • The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore (eventually gave up on this one)

  • The Wiz! Live (I like the casting but the new music wasn't that good)

shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
THIS IS GLORIOUS AND EVERYONE SHOULD WATCH IT IMMEDIATELY!!!

A fantastically well-made triple-crossover between London Spy, Skyfall, and Sherlock. Be sure to watch to the end.



You're welcome in advance. :)
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
Fanvid rec for anyone who hasn't seen it yet!

It’s such a wonderfully done fanvid! A must-see for Sherlock fans AND Hamilton musical fans, the perfect crossover that shows that “maniacal but fun” edge in both Moriarty and King George from Hamilton.

You’ll Be Back by [livejournal.com profile] daasgrrl

Title: You’ll Be Back (from Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda, sung by Jonathan Groff)
By: daasgrrl
Length: 3:18
Fandom: BBC Sherlock
Characters and/or pairings: Sherlock/Moriarty
Warnings, kinks & contents: Slash, canonical violence
Notes: I blame shadowfireflame, who first said “hey, have you heard about Hamilton”? and clevermanka, who followed up with, “I love this song, check it out”.
Summary: The madness of King Jim.

shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
Finally got to see Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet in the movie theater and really enjoyed it!

Benedict shines as the lead role in this fantastically accessible (and abridged, even at 3 hours!) adaptation of Hamlet, screened by National Theatre Live to movie theatres around the world. The gloomy, atmospheric setting within a dark Victorian mansion is a gorgeous stage for this tale of grief, murder, and insanity.

Like with all his roles, Benedict throws his soul and body completely into the character and actually does so in a way that make Shakespeare’s timeless words seem fresh and relevant, lending poignant or funny new insights with a pause or a turn of phrase—silence often speaks louder than words here. His Hamlet goes on a character journey from depression to pretend madness to actual insanity and all the way back to having his reason returning when it’s too late and his and his uncle’s destructive actions have unraveled everyone’s lives.

I appreciated his takes on the famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy, the “Alas, poor Yorick” scene, and especially the surprisingly moving scene where he says to Guildenstern, “Do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe?”

All the cast was great (like Ciarán Hinds as Claudius), but particular standouts to me were the female characters (Gertrude and Ophelia, played by Anastasia Hille and Siân Brooke), whose stories are given weight and solemnity as they are subjected to tragedy due to the men in their lives.

An amazing performance, and I’m so glad they broadcast it so I and others not in London could watch it!

More reviews of BC's films here.
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)


AAAAAAAAAH THIS LOOKS SO AMAZING AND INTENSE!!!!! The hat scene!!!

Is it Christmas yet?!?!
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
I just saw the movie Black Mass, starring Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, and Benedict Cumberbatch, all of whom were excellent. The movie doesn’t cover much new ground but really showcases Johnny Depp’s amazing transformative abilities and star power; he has so much charisma that it was hard to take my eyes off him.

This was not your typical gangster movie but rather a relentlessly dark psychological portrait of James “Whitey” Bulger, a notorious South Boston criminal, and the way he successfully manipulates the FBI for years starting in 1975. Johnny Depp looks amazingly different (as always with Mr. Chameleon!), with the balding hair and these ridiculous light-blue contacts, and his looks really accentuate his ice-cold demeanor, which gets colder and more murderous as the movie goes on. But for all that I knew his character is evil, I really couldn’t help but be fascinated by him. The tension in some scenes is just off the charts because you never know if or when he will turn the tables on another character, and the stakes are so high. It reminded me more of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy than Goodfellas.

Benedict has a small but powerful role as Whitey’s younger brother, state senator Billy Bulger. While his character is quite subtle and understated with his JFK-like Bostonian 1970s accent, I liked the small moments of clever wickedness that shone through, where you can see some similarities between the brothers. It was intriguing watching how Benedict’s character manages to deliberately steer his life around having an older brother who’s quite literally a murdering psychopath kingpin. I'd have loved to see a movie just about the brothers' complex relationship. Benedict’s last scene with Joel Edgerton was one where the sparks really flew and you could see his quiet menace.

All in all: definitely recommended!

More reviews of BC's films here. :)
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
Right off the bat, let me say that I blame [livejournal.com profile] daasgrrl and her fantastic Sherlock Mycroft/John/Sherlock threesome crossover with League of Gentlemen, No Place Like Home (or, Return to Royston Vasey) for everything that happened next. In that story, Mycroft and Sherlock are originally from Royston Vasey and take John on a very surprising (and sexy!) trip home for Mummy’s birthday, where they interact with all sorts of strange characters.

Curious about the in-jokes in the story that I’d missed, I decided to check out the show League of Gentlemen, quickly devoured it all, and became a bit obsessed with the creators, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith (and Mark Gatiss, obviously). (Jeremy Dyson is also one of the League but is a writer instead of a writer/performer, so I don’t feel like I know him as well.)

How to describe shows these men produce? To quote [livejournal.com profile] daasgrrl, “While notionally a comedy, The League of Gentlemen is dark, twisted, and frequently tasteless…” Psychoville, which just stars Pemberton and Reece, is very similar. At its most basic, The League of Gentlemen reminded me frequently of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, except with more of an emphasis on the horrific than the comedic, though it is supernatural horror-comedy with three actors playing recurring characters, frequently in drag. There are a lot of LGBTQ themes, as well, which I enjoyed—though, warning: like all their themes, they are handled deliberately tastelessly. I originally enjoyed this because of Mark Gatiss’ involvement, but I ended up staying because once you can get over a knee-jerk reaction to the grotesque characters, I found their stories addicting. So here are some reviews:

League of Gentlemen—Royston Vasey is a small British town populated, it seems, almost entirely with people who are insane or sociopathic, and generally who have very bad personal hygiene standards. But something happened as I continued to watch: for some of those characters I initially found despicable, by the end of the third season, I was actually starting to be on their side and actively rooting for their happiness. It’s like the writers turned the tables on me every time.

Psychoville—This show is quite similar to League of Gentlemen, except with more of an overarching storyline. I suppose it’s most similar to the third season of LoG. Mark Gatiss even has a lovely Sherlock Holmes-themed cameo in episode 4! Also, for you Sherlock fans playing along, Amanda Abbington has a cameo (I think in episode 2?) as a mother trying to organize a fun birthday party who has to deal with a mentally disturbed clown.

Inside No. 9—the newest series written by Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, each of these twelve 30-minute episodes is an unsettling standalone story with a twist at the end, each taking place in a location called No. 9 (a house, an apartment, a dressing room, etc.). Unlike LoG and Psychoville, there is less comedy in these stories, as well as much less drag or LGBTQ themes (except for one notable episode!). Some episodes are much better than others—I like “Sardines” and “Tom & Gerri” best. The quality ranges from mildly distressing to flat-out disturbing, but all had me thinking about them for days afterwards. I’d say of all of them, I liked this series (two seasons) the best because of its sheer capacity to surprise me.

If you like this sort of British comedy, I enjoyed the work of another comedy troupe, the people who made Little Britain (though on my first try, I couldn’t get into that one), Matt Lucas and David Williams. Their sitcom Come Fly With Me, about the hapless employees of an airport, reminded me very much of Cabin Pressure. Lots of tastelessness and characters in drag.

I also liked the creepy seven-episode series Black Mirror, which has standalone stories that reminded me of Inside No. 9. If you want to watch that one, people suggest skipping the first episode and coming back to it later since it has an implied scene in which the Prime Minister is coerced into bestiality to appease terrorists. I found this episode to be one of the most harrowing of the series, though. But of them all, by far the best is the seventh episode, the Christmas special “White Christmas,” starring Jon Hamm. There are so many twists and turns and shocking developments, all leading to a profound message.
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)


Please watch this video about child refugees, with an introduction by Benedict Cumberbatch. Donation information is at this link.
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
Another story that unexpectedly blew me away:

Breakable (117,629 words) by MissDavis (missdaviswrites on tumblr)

John/Sherlock. In this epic story, John ends up paralyzed from his lower torso down after a random falling accident during a case. But while technically, John is the one who is injured here, truly this is hurt/comfort of the best kind for both of them, but especially for Sherlock.

Oh, man, this story was amazing. I’m in love with Sherlock’s characterization here and how John’s paralysis affects him emotionally as well as John. The angst is fantastic.

There are some hauntingly beautiful scenes and images here: Sherlock sitting on the floor of the hospital while John’s speaking to his doctors, Sherlock’s relationship with Mycroft, how Mycroft, Lestrade, and Mrs. Hudson stage an intervention to get Sherlock to take his meds, everything with the airbed situation. And Donovan! I loved the way she was presented here. But then there are fun things like all the wheelchair sex.

Insta-favorite!
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
OH MY GOD AN MPREG MOVIE, I HAVE TO SEE THIS MOVIE, GO CHINA!!!



And it's breaking all sorts of records. Fascinating.
shadowfireflame: (Kuroshitsuji)
Anime Rec: One Outs

Since I'm apparently on an anime kick recently and finishing up a few, let me present one of the most underrated anime I’ve found: One Outs.

It’s almost a sin to call this a baseball anime, though I suppose that is technically true. But it’s really a battle of psychological warfare with one ultra-cool antihero. The Lycaons are a professional baseball team who won the championship in distant memory but have recently been ranked last. Tokuchi Toua is a pitcher whose skill is not so much in pitching as it is in gambling and analyzing his opponents’ weaknesses. Discovered in a gambling den, Tokuchi arranges a special contract with the team where he gets paid for each out he provides—and pays them for each point he allows.

Tokuchi has what may be the coldest, most calculating eyes in anime. He’s a conceited nightmare: smoking and sleeping openly in the dugout, not bothering to practice, wearing his cap backwards, seemingly bored with everything—and yet he manages to unite his team behind him and be a true ace. I loved him instantly. It’s a delight to see everyone initially fail to take him seriously and then slowly come to realize what a grave mistake they’ve made in underestimating him. This is truly an anime of epic mind games: Tokuchi vs. everyone, and the enemies can come from anywhere, including within the team itself.

I’d recommend giving this anime at least three episodes to get going, because once the street gambling ends and the actual baseball begins, it’s engrossing and kept me guessing what clever maneuver Tokuchi would come up with next to thwart rival teams and even the owner of Tokuchi’s own team. After a while, I even started to like that stupid overbearing infodump narration. The problem with this anime, though, is its lack of character development (partially because we never get into Tokuchi’s head and only see him from an outsider’s perspective). But maybe it’s more fun that way, watching Tokuchi psychologically manipulate his opponents. I found myself laughing aloud at his cleverness and sheer audacity. Needless to say, I’d love a second season.

More recs here!
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
Anime rec: Haikyuu!!

Volleyball anime! In junior high, prodigy volleyball spiker Hinata and “king of the court” master setter Kageyama are rivals on the court, only to find that in high school, they’re on the same team (Karasuno) and have to work together now.

I love the relationship between Hinata and Kageyama, with Kageyama’s mysterious past, and how everyone always underestimates Hinata, who’s short but can jump very high (“Hey, I’m here, too!”). They’re such a good duo, each filling a void for the other. The dynamics between them and the other team members are great, as well: intense at times but very funny.

This was the loveable sports anime with a strong relationship at its center that I was missing after the fantastic Ookiku Furikabatte (baseball) and Free (swimming).

Also recommended for those who like this sort of thing: Yowamushi Pedal (biking) and Diamond no Ace (baseball).

More recs here!
shadowfireflame: (Kuroshitsuji)
Anime Rec: Love Stage!!

In this hysterical boys’ love anime, college student Izumi is the youngest member of the Sena show-biz family—the only member who is not interested in being in entertainment: awkward, with paralyzing stage fright. As a child, due to a casting emergency, Izumi ended up in a wedding commercial with his family and a little boy named Ryouma (Izumi played a girl and Ryouma played a boy), and now they’re reuniting for a 10th-year anniversary.

Like most anime in the BL genre, there is a disappointing undercurrent of homophobia—but unlike most, this anime has that at the beginning and then Ryouma accepts that he’s in love with a guy and that his feelings transcend gender. Like many BL anime, there is an assault scene—but unlike most, the perpetrator realizes what he’s done is deeply wrong and takes every step he can to sincerely apologize and undo the hurt he’s caused.

Both the leads are very appealing, and the supporting characters are all wonderful, as well: Izumi’s doting parents and wonderfully supportive brother, long-suffering manager, school friends, and manga crush (magical princess Lala-Lulu). Parts are exceptionally funny, like Izumi’s hopelessness at drawing manga. And I love the exploration that sex and relationships need work and aren’t always perfect on the first try.

More recs here!
shadowfireflame: (Kuroshitsuji)
Anime Rec: Steins;Gate

College student Okabe Rintaru (alias Hououin Kyouma and voiced by my favorite seiyuu Mamoru Miyano, whose brilliant performance carries the show) is a self-styled mad scientist running a lab out of his apartment. One day, he and his friends realize that they have accidentally created a time machine out of their microwave by turning bananas into green goop.

While at first, this series is fun and silly, as it progresses and the butterfly-effect consequences start stacking up, it gets very dark indeed, with shady organizations and murder and PTSD.

By the end, I loved all the characters, and each has surprising depth and talents: Okabe the increasingly conflicted protagonist, Mayuri (the innocent cosplaying heart of the series), Daru the super-hacker, Kurisu the girl genius, Ruka who wishes he were born a girl, Suzu the part-timer who works downstairs, Moeka who only talks through texts, Feyris the cat-lady, Mr. Braun the landlord, and Nae (his daughter). Somehow the folks working on the particle collider at SERN are the bad guys.

But no matter how convoluted or intense the plot gets when they mess with different timelines, the focus is always on the characters’ relationships, and it will eventually become clear that it features one of the best love stories in anime ever.

Don’t forget to check out the accompanying movie Steins;Gate: Fuka Ryouiki no Déjà Vu.

More anime recs can be found here!
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
Anime Rec: Hunter x Hunter (2011)

In a world with magic, steampunk, and select modern technology, twelve-year-old Gon and his friends are determined to achieve various goals by becoming Hunters, for which they need to pass the fiendishly difficult and incredibly dangerous Hunter Exam.

This series is compulsively watchable and addicting, even at its length of 148 episodes, and it’s all in the characters: the idealistic but practical Gon, the wryly playful Killua, the scholarly and thoughtful Kurapika, and the impetuous Leorio. Side characters are given similar consideration and depth, like Hisoka the creepy “Joker” character and a ton of other “enemy” characters (like the Phantom Troupe, other Hunters, and even the Chimera Ants). Just finding out about characters’ specialized fighting abilities (through a power called “Nen”) is totally fascinating.

At first, you think this is a really happy series, full of fun and silly things where fights are easily won without any sacrifice on the protagonist’s part. And then little by little, some really seriously dark material starts to creep in, and you see how messed up this anime can get, with torture, murder, hypnotism, child abuse, insanity, imprisonment, genocide, and gladiatorial fights to the death. The art lulls you into a false sense of security that hides the dark themes to come.

However, the dark events are a double-edged sword for this anime, and my main complaint is that the anime does not treat the often devastating collateral damage to civilians or bystanders with as much gravitas and angst as it treats damage to the heroes and their loved ones. I never thought I’d be requesting characters to feel more overwhelming angst or guilt in my entertainment, but parts of this anime feel so strangely unreal without it. As I said before, the anime is chock-full of random acts of shocking violence, but they are only occasionally treated as such by any of the main characters.

Minor unnamed characters are constantly dying or being tortured in horrific ways. In one scene, an extra suddenly and without warning becomes a double-amputee for a minor infraction (he bumped against someone without apologizing), and not only is he never seen from again, none of the other characters present do anything more than basically shrug blithely and go back to their conversation. I found myself wondering, “Did that just happen?!”

I would compare this anime’s world-building to Fullmetal Alchemist, but I find it impossible to imagine FMA’s characters dealing with something like that in such a bland way—if Ed Elric saw an event like that, he’d be shocked to the core and angsting about it for months! So while Hunter x Hunter has the potential to really explore the depths of the human psyche, it too often squanders great opportunities in favor of simply moving the plot along.

That said, even with the darkness, the anime does have plenty of heart, with its main theme being the power of friendship and determination. Beware: the first few episodes are not great, so definitely give this one time to get going. Because it will. By the end of the last arc, I was stunned at the incredible journey I had just taken with these characters.

More anime reviews are here.
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
Anime Review: DRAMAtical Murder

In a dystopian cyberpunk society, the streets are controlled by gangs with special tattoos who play Rhyme, a street cyber game. Aoba is not a member of any team, but instead has amnesia and intermittent migraines after a mysterious accident.

Aoba is surrounded by his grandmother and a team of hotties who seem to know more about him than he does, and everyone in Aoba’s life is protective of him, from the street gang leaders, his boss, his grandmother, to Ren, his cute “AllMate” companion puppy.

Ultimately, the worldbuilding and the homoerotic tension carry more weight than the plot, which feels aimless and confusing (like, 90% of the dialogue is characters saying each other’s names). But I enjoyed it anyway because the anime has such heart and is very sweet.

The anime is based on a BL (boys’ love) game/visual novel, but the anime is not explicitly gay, unfortunately.

Recommended for fans of Togainu no Chi (I reviewed that here), which was made in a similar way (based on a BL game made by the same company, Nitro+CHiRAL).

More anime reviews here.

May 2017

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