Magic Tree House (Completed)

magic tree house“Magic Tree House” is an animated movie made by Media Factory, Inc. and is based on the series of children’s books of the same name written by Mary Pope Osborne. The story follows a brother who likes to read books and a sister who likes to explore. One day after school, they follow a strange creature to a tree house filled with books. By reading the books and saying, “I want to go there,” they are transported to numerous worlds and points in time in history.

I was really taken with the high quality animation. I’m not really acquainted with Media Factory, Inc., but I have watched at least two-three anime they produced, including “Soul Eater.” Now that I think about it, the few anime that I have seen from them have very smooth animation, and they’re very good with adapting the style of the manga to the anime. It makes me want to check out the other ones they made, and I’ll probably do that.

There were points in time where I felt that the anime was rushed. It is understandable since there are more than 20 books in the series, and the animators took four of them and jam packed it into a movie. It would probably work better as an animated series, but for a movie, I felt that it did very well. It definitely has an appeal for children, and I quite enjoyed  watching it.

One problem I had with the movie is the voice acting. The voice actress for the younger sister is Mana Ashida, who is a well known child actor in Japan. Even though she is very cute and adorable, sometimes she can be too cute. I was all right with listening to her sugar sweet voice for the first half, but by  the end of the movie, I felt as if I had too much and left with a toothache.

It was, nonetheless, a good movie for children.  I’m not quite sure if the people who enjoyed the books will like this movie, but I’m sure that if they see the quality of the animation they would be at least satisfied.

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Sket Dance

“Sket Dance” is a comedy manga created by Kenta Shinohara, who used to be the assistant of the mangaka Hideaki Sorachi, the creator of “Gintama. It follows a trio of high school students who are part of a club called “SKET-dan,” translated as “Helper’s Club.” SKET stands for Support, Kindness, Encouragement, and Troubleshoot, and the club members solve any problems from finding lost possessions to resolving conflict with comedic flare and extraordinary (and often times shocking) results.

This is one of the popular shounen mangas published in JUMP that I had yet to read until now, and I’m glad that I did. It’s highly entertaining, and most chapters almost always left me laughing until my stomach hurt. I remember seeing updates for this manga and brushed past it because the characters didn’t appeal to me (I thought that they looked plain and normal compared to characters of other mangas and wondered why it was popular), but I feel that I have badly misjudged it. Plain and normal doesn’t actually mean simple and boring, and the storyline and execution for this manga is actually really well done. In addition, each character has his or her own personality and attributes, and you tend to remember a lot of the supporting characters because a lot of the time the personality or the attribute is the joke. While most chapters can be considered as a oneshot, it still connects to each story, so the flow is still smooth. Besides the comedy and the gags, there are plenty of drama and emotional scenes, which add some slice-of-life pieces to the manga.

At first, I had somewhat of a difficult time reading this manga, but after a few chapters, I became more and more interested and read it until the most recent chapter. I never knew what was going to happen, and I can never predict the outcome since it always turned out different from what I imagined. Another thing that I liked about this manga is that it also makes references to a lot of aspects of Japanese culture including comedians, games, and even other mangas, and the mangaka is not afraid of breaking the fourth wall and using a variety of manga styles to heighten the comedy.

All in all, I really recommend this manga. The beginning might be a little slow, but it tends to pick up after a while. Compared to other mangas with other world/universe settings and environments, it’s rather refreshing to read a normal (and yet not so normal) setting.

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Anya Kouro

“Anya Kouro” is a oneshot shoujo manga created by Takagi Shigeyoshi. It is about a high school girl who plays volleyball and is known to be quite loud. She always notices this one boy who would always read the same book at the same page, but he would never actually read it. One day he drops it, and when she tries to return it, he tells her that he doesn’t want it and that she can have it. So she begins to read it and tell him every day about her thoughts and feelings on the pages she read.

The thing that I liked about this story is that it was very simple and that it connected the story of the book with the boy. The way it all connected was very eloquent and very smooth, and it made a lot of sense. It wasn’t boggled down with so much detail, and the tones and the organization of the panels complimented the whole story. It isn’t a typical shoujo manga where the girl suddenly confesses to a guy that she always notices on the commute to or from school. In fact, the girl in this story doesn’t even confess at all. The feeling is conveyed through the pictures.  After reading through it, I felt that it was a pretty refreshing story.

All in all, I really liked it. It was a simple oneshot, and it definitely made an impression on me. I’ve read a few of Shigeyoshi’s other manga, and I liked them. I will most likely check out her other stories.

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Bakuman (Completed)

I intended to post this sooner, but I didn’t think that I would actually be posting this right when the manga ended.

“Bakuman” is a shounen manga written by Tsugumi Ouba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata, the same team responsible for the creation of “Death Note.” It is a slice of life kind of story about two boys who aspire to be mangakas and team up together as writer and artist to make their dreams come true.

I’ve been keeping up with Bakuman even before it became an anime, so I’m very familiar with it. I’ve also read “Death Note” and was pretty surprised about the significant difference between their previous work and this one. I don’t know how they do it, but they make something that you wouldn’t think would work as shounen into a shounen manga. It’s pretty amazing and very creative. I’ve seen some anime and manga with the same setting, but this is the first that actually looks and feels like a shounen manga. It also gives us insight as to what makes a manga and the process behind it, which is pretty cool if you think about it.

One of my vices with this manga, however, is the duration. You have their previous work where there is a single mindset, a single goal that keeps the manga going, but with this one…you don’t know where it will end. It might even keep on going until both main characters reach their dreams or show that they fight on even when they are old in age. While every arc is interesting in its own way, you don’t get a sense of where it will stop. Such is life and its unpredictable ways.

At the same time, I found myself unsatisfied with the ending. Yes, it was a happy ending, but I didn’t expect it to end at such a place. I will not spoil it for those who decide to start reading the manga, so I won’t mention what happens. I just think that they could have gone at least one more chapter with it to tie up loose ends. However, it was not like other mangas where I was very disappointed with the ending. I was actually all right with it. I just think that they could have done something a little more to make it better. It wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst either.

Will I read it again?

Yes, I certainly will. It was very enjoyable, and now that I know where the story ends, I can go back and see if all the pieces fall together. I’ll probably find all those funny parts and laugh at them again. Also, when I first read it, I felt a surge of inspiration and motivation to get me started on something creative or to fulfill my dream. I hope that when I read it again, I’ll have that same feeling. I don’t get that kind of effect with many other mangas or anime, but for this one, it was pretty strong. I have to say that this manga is very inspirational if not motivating.

I would definitely recommend this. It may not be action packed, but it makes up for that in comedy, drama, and that little feeling called passion. You get swept up in that, and it definitely shows in the writing and in the drawing.

I look forward to rereading it again, and I also look forward to this team’s next series!

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Ginga e Kickoff!!

“Ginga e Kickoff!!” is a sports anime directed by Kounosuke Uda. It is about a boy called Oota who, all of a sudden, became the last remaining member of his soccer team. The rest of the members suddenly quit either to focus on entrance exams or for other reasons, and the team was disbanded. Without being disheartened, Oota became determined to find new members and make a team in time for the preliminaries.

I know that I said that I’m not that into sports anime, but I couldn’t help myself when watching this one. This anime is a little similar to “Area no Kishi” in that they both have soccer as its theme, but the latter, I feel, has a more tragic and more mature feel to it. “Ginga e Kickoff!!” is more directed towards children, and because of that focus, I feel that the gags are better executed. It’s a little cliche in some parts, but for the most part, it is quite enjoyable. I even found myself laughing out loud. The characters are pretty consistent and easy to understand, and there aren’t many exaggerated movements. I’d like to see more character development from the other teammates like the ones who are taking entrance exams for middle schools, but I’ll wait and see what happens.

It’s pretty interesting so far. I’ll be waiting for the next episode.

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AKB0048

“AKB0048” is a sci-fi/fantasy based anime that was directed by Shouji Kawamori and Yoshimasa Hiraike. It is about four girls who want to join AKB48 in order to fulfill their dream of being an idol. It is set in a world where entertainment and idols are banned, and concerts are given in secret. The four girls journey into space to join the idol group while learning various things about what it takes to be an idol.

I initially watched it thinking that I was seeing the animated show of “AKB49: Renai Kinshi Jourei.” Imagine my surprise when I realized that they were completely different.

Anyway, this anime is more appealing to little girls and people who follow idols. It’s entertaining, and it’s quite well animated and designed. The pacing is well done, and there were a few parts that were really good in terms of animation and timing. I have to say that I was actually drawn in even though I had a few problems with it. First off, the anime is mainly for product placement, an advertisement for AKB48. While that’s all fine and dandy, it distracts me a little. It’s not like with “Tiger and Bunny” where product placements were everywhere on the heroes’ costumes. No. There is a distinct difference. The product placement is subtle and doesn’t get in the way of the main plot. For this anime, the product placement is the plot. Despite all that, I actually found myself enjoying it. I tend to watch a lot of childish anime just because I get curious as to what they’re teaching/showing children these days. There are also some that tend to be more eye catching and fun. It also helps that I like light hearted anime more.

It was quite fun to watch, but it can get annoying at times. It’s still pretty cute, probably a little too cutesy for some.

(I already finished the anime, so I’ll be posting the finished part of the review sometime)

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Sword Art Online

“Sword Art Online” is an anime based on the light novel series written by Reki Kawahara and illustrated by Abec. It was also adapted into a manga and a game, and the anime is made by the studio A-1 Pictures. It is about a boy named Kirito who buys a newly released game called “Sword Art Online” or “SAO” for short. It is a virtual reality game that one can play by putting a helmet called NerveGear on your head. Kirito was part of the beta-testing for SAO, so he’s familiar with the game. He befriends a guy named Klein and teaches him the ropes of the game, but soon they find out that there is no way out of the game and that they have to fight their way to level 100 in order to return to reality.

Honestly, it was a very captivating anime even by the first episode. The animation was clean, the characters’ movements were smooth, and the backgrounds were gorgeous. I can say that the overall look of the animation was just as good as “Accel World,” but its execution puts it in a higher level. Right from the beginning, it draws you in, and the characters have more depth to them, which surprises me because it is only the first episode. There isn’t anything sad or tragic about Kirito himself that makes you pity him or sympathize with him (not yet, at least. You can sort of tell that he is a pretty lonely guy.), and his character intrigues me. He is pretty smart and knows his games well, so you can expect him to put up a good fight.

I love subtlety. I love that the characters have subtle mannerisms and things because it makes me want to guess their character.  It also helps that Hiroaki Hirata, the voice of Kotetsu from “Tiger and Bunny,” voices Klein, and it makes the anime more enjoyable. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the anime. The plot is something I’ve seen before, but the way that it was presented was actually really well done.

I am really excited for this anime, and I am eagerly looking forward to the next episode.

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