One Year of reading Manga: My Retrospective


Writing about an entire medium is hard.

We are familiar with them pretty much throughout our whole lives, even if we don’t necessarily connect with them immediately in any meaningful way, we generally know of their existence, especially in the case of television, movies, and songs.  To write about your whole experience with a medium, be it film or music, must be emphatically difficult. Not only because mediums by nature are so heavily varied and to make grand statements on them would be largely inaccurate as there’s always an artist who creates the exception to the rule, but also because of how they play a part in our lives. And while there may be a point when someone becomes an outright nerd for some of these rather than a casual fan, it is usually a specific genre most likely which they have been able to connect to, leaving them absent to a detailed understanding of it. Of course, then there are the niche mediums which people are more likely to get into through personal interest, such as comic books and Anime. While we become mildly obsessed with them and they take up a large portion of our time when they do, they can be easier to keep track of. Hence why my Anime List is much more concise than my Letterboxd list.

And this is especially true of the medium which I have most recently sought to acclimate myself to, Manga. I still can’t really write something like the history of the medium or what particular artists in it stand out, as I still lack the proper knowledge on that forefront, but I have gotten into it recently enough to keep track on my own personal history with it in a detailed fashion. I suppose if there’s a purpose to this Article, other than allowing a platform to display some of my brief opinions on Manga since MAL doesn’t allow a notes section on it’s Manga lists like it does on Anime lists, it’s to provide a look into the life and trivial difficulties of getting into the manga, which could potentially provide a guide for any aspiring manga readers to follow while I’m at it.
So, with that introduction out of the way, allow me to take you into the backlog of my roughly one year history with Manga.


Naturally, like many, I decided to start reading Manga because of my interest in Anime. My history with that one may be a subject for another article in the future if I feel like it. Though this wasn’t immediate, as although there was a significant Manga section in my local Waterstones, I was intimidated  by the Right-Left format, thinking I wouldn’t be able to feel accustomed to it. I also wasn’t particularly sold on the uncoloured art of it all. Thinking that I would find a lot of it a chore to read through. Most of all, I just felt that since Anime adaptations for a lot of popular Manga already existed, I could just watch them instead of having to ploughing through black and white pages of it for endless hours. These thoughts now sound hilarious to me by the way, but I’ll get into how much later.

Where it started to change for me was when I watched more and more Anime, beginning to distinguish between titles I liked and those I didn’t like, and my knowledge of the medium expanded. With it came the realisation of how different Anime and Manga could be. The fact that there can be weak adaptations of strong source material, that Anime adaptations can often remain unfinished, and that some Manga titles for some reason or another didn’t and were unlikely to get an Anime adaptation.

Before I had even read anything, I had gathered the knowledge that there were certain titles in the medium which could tackle areas which Anime would only tiptoe around at best due to censorship restrictions. Topics like sexuality, politics, religion, genocide, the human condition, all those cheery topics which made those titles seem more interesting to me at that time than what I was getting out of Anime. That isn’t to say a story handling these topics automatically improves it’s quality, just that it makes for a more immediately noticeable and intriguing from the outset.



Still, I was intimidated by the style of most Manga for the reasons mentioned before. I did once try reading the first few pages of ‘Attack on Titan’ in Waterstones and only stopped because I was stripped of time while I was there that day, so it didn’t really allow for any impression to form on me. The point however which really made me decide that I should really try it out was when I watched Under the Scope’s excellent video on ‘Oyasumi Punpun’, which made me decide to read it, meaning I would also likely have to read other Manga.

Of course, the fact that Manga, especially titles without an adequate Anime adaptation, is difficult to access outside of there without poor scanlations online didn’t help. It was here where I did make my first attempts to begin reading. When I tried this on my computer, I found the task of sitting up and reading the flat screen jarring. I then opted to read them from my iPad instead, since it replicated the feeling of holding a book a lot better.

So, to avoid having to spend a lot on multiple volumes of a single series, I used pirating websites to begin reading Manga. I already planned for multiple different titles to read, but the first one I chose to, before ‘Punpun’ because I felt the high regard it was held in made it too important to experience without gaining an understanding of the medium first hand, was ‘Berserk’. Yeah, not exactly small beginnings there I know.

Keep in mind all the qualms I discussed earlier about reading Manga were ruminating in my head as I began reading this, page by page while trying to keep mindful of the fact that I was supposed to read it from right to left, and soon enough, I found that I was reading it with great ease. It perhaps doesn’t need to be pointed out that on the technical side of things, ‘Berserk’ is an excellent Manga with famously detailed Artwork which really helps to bring a very real sense of weight and gravity to it’s battle scenes. And the  black and white Manga colour pallet adding a physical grittiness to them, as they help to bring out a lot of the dirt from the floor beneath the soldier’s feet, while the strongly defined outlines of each characters ensures that the reader is able to distinguish each and every one of them.


This is just quoting a Wikipedia article of course, since everyone already knows this about Miura’s artwork, but what made an even bigger impression on me was the panelling. The frequent use of large scale panels between pages to display the artwork and the scope of the opening battle (which is repeatedly used throughout the rest of the series, often in more dramatic circumstances but always with a sense of purpose) which helped the task of reading it a lot easier for me, especially with the well placed vertical smaller panels often placed to the side to ensure that these panels didn’t overtake the whole Manga, maintaining a level of balance which keeps the viewer’s attention paid firmly to the happenings of the story.

The other important aspect of ‘Berserk’, and the one which was perhaps most influential in allowing me to figure out my own preferences for Manga I would read later on, was the dialogue. More specifically, how minimal that dialogue was, as Miura is clearly a very visual artist, keeping exposition regarding the narrative to a minimum by having his expository dialogue only appear when it is truly necessary and allowing the imagery to tell the story more freely. This helps each individual chapter of the manga to move along at a constant pace which never feels too slow, something which became apparent to me after I finished that first chapter and continued reading into the next few, which didn’t take as long as I expected because the following chapters were on average only 20 pages in length.

It’s worth noting that I wouldn’t consider myself a particularly quick reader at all. For me, it can often take an extensive number of minutes for me to complete a single chapter in a novel, or an issue of a Western comic book, which is often exacerbated if the format of a particular work does something that throws me even just a bit off and causes me to be not completely invested in it. And this has happened with some manga that I’ve tried out so I won’t pretend the medium is completely guilt free of this either. But the minimalist presentation of reading words that I find to be more prominent in manga than in Western comics (with exceptions of course) was a significant factor in helping me to become more invested in the medium.

The fact that I was able to read through this already long series so quickly was a true sudden joy to me, who was afraid the task of reading manga would take up too much of my busy time, and early on established a definite preference for me for more fast paced yet methodical and picturesque manga which didn’t allow their dialogue to hold the reader’s pace hostage, allowing them to feel weighty and impactful without coming across as overbearing. This is not to necessarily speak for the actual content of such works or their subjective quality being influenced fully by the format in which they are presented, but it was what was finally able to help me latch onto the medium.

Of course, it didn’t take me long to find out that not all Manga was as finely packaged in its storytelling abilities as this, as I found with some of the other early titles I read. The first of these being ‘Madoka Magica: the Different Story’, which I started reading primarily just because I felt I should have a title which was completed which was short enough for me to complete quickly. There were probably shorter titles I could read a lot quicker if I wanted that, I realise now, as the twelve chapters were each longer than what I had recently become accustomed to, and significantly more dialogue driven, which made for a contrast I could quickly distinguish my preferences for format-wise.

Another title I decided to check out early on was ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’. Although I did make a promise for myself to opt away from reading Manga which already had Manga adaptations (this was back then, I may make more exceptions for it now though) I decided to read it because having seen both Anime adaptations I decided this would be the story in it’s definitive form. Having previously heard of how ‘Brotherhood’s early episodes were condensed, which having seen the 2003 version I could easily see, I was struck therefore when I saw that the Manga was actually a lot closer to those early episodes pacing wise than I thought, with the chapters even taking only slightly less time to get through than their respective episode counterparts.

I don’t wish to make it sound as though I’m inherently prejudiced against manga with 50 page chapters, I bring this up mainly because I became caught off guard in the earlier days and something I found I needed to prepare myself for if I wanted to give myself free time for other things. And it wasn’t as though I was completely averse to it, as about half way through my read of it (when I had also found the time to read other Manga in the meantime) I decided to start reading the copies of FMA in Waterstones instead to stop inadvertently providing funding to pirate sites. And I found reading through physical copies made the reading easier and provided it a more satisfying feeling.

It helped that while I was a bit caught off by how weak some of the humour in the series could be early on, that was the point in the story where slowly but surely I remembered why I loved the series to begin with, as the whole mythos of the thing in that extended lengthy climax was truly a pinnacle in narrative structuring, character progression, and thematic conclusiveness. And comparing it with the Anime adaptation, the sense of nostalgia it invoked in me allowed me to understand the appeal of reading manga whose adaptation a reader had already seen, as there is a great comfort in knowing already what path a story takes. As I had already watched ‘Berserk’s Anime, I did have a somewhat similar experience with that, but this time with a cast of characters I remembered more clearly and felt more of an affinity for.

I don’t intend to use this article simply to produce a mini review for every  manga I’ve ever read, but rather as a portrait of how my introduction to the medium shaped my thoughts on it, but then we get to the point where the medium truly became something else for me than a little hobby. That was when I decided to finally read ‘Punpun’. I didn’t quite know what I was getting into, being only vaguely aware of what it was about and that it was apparently adult. Having been around the Wyald arc of the Golden Age saga in ‘Berserk’ at that point, I was firmly familiarised with the medium’s intense ability to venture into extremely hardcore territories than any other work of media which only leave you to speculate on the more graphic segments of its darker material. The fact that the Wyald Arc’s treatment of rape being considered problematic would be a huge understatement is beside the point. The point is that I began reading ‘Punpun’ thinking even with it’s 20 page-average chapters to be something that I would read as an odd experience.

When I did read it, I found myself entranced in it. The story of Onodera Punpun and his longing to be loved and in depth examination of the ugly and selfish thoughts that he and many of the people around him kept with themselves and coped with while wading through the frustrations of adult life in a less than quirky way became something that quickly resonated with me. Something that I used the volume format for to read on average a volume or two in one sitting and managed to complete less than a week after I started because it’s loose yet concise narrative and always engaging developments in where these thoughts that felt to me like they had read my own and understood me while refusing to cater and glamorise those thoughts I felt ashamed of simply caused me to need to know what happened in the next chapter.

Now, I won’t say that Punpun was a whole life changing experience for me personally. I won’t say that it forced me to confront myself in a way that few works of fiction could ever hope to match, whether it be in the portrayal of sexuality stemming from the often stubborn (in his younger years) and self entitled title character, or Seki’s committed faux nihilism which prevents him from trying to aim for something else in life which provides the series with a greater sense of nuance to prevent from being an all encompassing edge fest. I won’t say that it’s portrayal of victims and victimisers was such a hauntingly personal experience for me. I won’t go on about separating my own personal feelings towards it, it is such an objectively excellent work of fiction and one which utilises every component of the manga medium to it’s fullest potential. I won’t say that every single page and panel is infused with such artistic/narrative care that it continuously captivates the reader. I won’t say that it’s artwork is among the most incredible I’ve ever laid sense upon, adding to the intense realism of the whole thing.

I won’t say any of the things that I just said with that whole paragraph. But I will say that on the artwork side of things, one of the many ways it helped me gain a greater interest in the medium was how it incorporated black and white imagery to enhance its artistry. The vast majority of manga is of course uncoloured to allow for faster production, setting it apart from much Western publication and something that I worried when getting into manga would make it less accessible, because the lack of colour would potentially cause the imagery to lack much sense of vibrancy or personality, and while I understood that images without colour could have an enhanced atmosphere, but Punpun in particular showed how it created this sort of ambivalent and un-vibrant environment through such imagery which lends it a strange sense of detached intimacy which is excellent for character drama.

Both ‘Berserk’ and especially ‘Punpun’ showcased how colourless imagery could enhance the intended, often harsh emotions of a scene in a way which, in the case of the latter, spoke to me as both someone who aspires to illustrate despite the results of my work often setting to a less than satisfying standard, it made me come to a realisation. One that would be enhanced when I decided to try out reading more physical copies of Manga and read the author’s notes which were sometimes placed at the ends of volumes (a feature I love when it happens by the way) of how much of an artist’s medium it was. How even in it’s most basic format, manga seemed to me like this gloriously personal experience and one which begot an extensive amount of passion into it, one which even in it’s lower quality could demand more attention from me than most other mediums. One which also presented stories evidently very personal to their respective authors. In other words, it was a medium that I felt was almost made for me, with how it incorporated both visual and verbal information. Through aesthetic appeal which lent it a fine mix of uniformity and diversity to keep me invested in the medium in multiple ways.


The emotional resonance I extrapolated from ‘Punpun’ was again somewhat replicated in Asano’s other work I sought out, specifically ‘Solanin’ which was a lot more down to earth and less gruesome, but no less harrowing. And, since I always half heartedly use money I get for my birthday, having little real inclination to get anything, I decided that since I couldn’t read the sealed off manga in Waterstones, I could use part of it to purchase one of them, so I got Asano’s ‘A Girl on the Shore’, a manga known for it’s extremely explicit sexual content and unforgivingly raw depiction of youthful ambivalence which now has the honour of being the only manga I own an official copy of.

And venturing outside the realms of gritty Seinen, other emotional narratives such as ‘Orange’ and ‘A Silent Voice’ presented a similar emotional intensity which while constructed naturally by their writing, were also enhanced by their liberal use of large panels which enhanced a scene without coming across as needlessly show-offish, and enhanced by the enhanced care of cuteness imbued into their respective character designs, which the comparatively less internally fleshed designs which drawing-wise concentrated more on outlines of their features served to achieve, creatively a more latch-able character for the reader to wish protection towards.


This is what led me to spend a good portion of my time reading Shoujo manga and begin reading ‘Horimiya’ both at Waterstones and online. Though this does bring me to the more complicated process of how I would decide what to read next. Especially given my more recent aversion to the use of pirate sites, I opted to go to Waterstones and see what they had in stock, which had the advantage of changing its selection every so often, allowing me to go there continuously. But it has the natural disadvantage of leaving certain series incomplete, especially the longer running or more recent ones, what with the limited physical space in the shop. This often leads to me completing a single first volume in a single sitting and being left either waiting for the next volume to turn up in the shop which has only occasionally ever happened, or resort to seeking them out online.

It’s a shame too, because the presence of manga in that shop has made the task of deciding what to read easier for me. After all, having been introduced to a whole medium means there are hundreds of titles out there that I still have yet to read after a year, and from that I was able to have a concentrated selection of titles to browse through and pick out what to watch. And from it, I did manage to pick up some decent titles that maybe wouldn’t have been the first things I would read if I had access to every acclaimed title that was considered the ones I should read above all else. This included Junji Ito works, hidden gems such as Kaori Ozaki’s ‘The Gods Lie’, Yuuta Nishio’s ‘After Hours’, and Nagabe’s ‘The Girl from the Other Side’. Each of which may have only slipped past my radar if not for their inclusion in that collection. I even found the time to start reading a cute little gag manga about a Polar Bear in love with a Seal.

But beyond what was available there, I do now find myself having to search beyond that if I really have a desire to read the stuff I’ve put on my Plan to Read list, which for the most part I sincerely do. The list in question is something I built up through the recommendations of people far more experienced than me, similar to Anime I plan to watch, but it wouldn’t feel right if I had to read all of them online. At the same time, I can’t really imagine buying that much manga physically with money, at least not long running series. Any that I buy would likely have to be short ones so I can save money a lot better, even if with how quick I can read a single volume, it often feels like they cost too much to be equivalent to the time I spend reading them but, that’s a whole other issue.

But even with the irritating blocks against my ability to read more, I am honestly still anticipating reading more. As I said before, the format of the medium has resonated with me, and provided me with some of the most intimately touching or at least interesting media I’ve encountered as of late. That’s not to say every manga I’ve read has necessarily pleased me. Reading the original manga of ‘Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid’ only showed me how much the Anime adaptation managed to miraculously improve something which, was just outright trash I’m not going to sugar coat it. Other times when stripped of much else to read, I’ve actively sought out reading trash. Looking at ‘The Water Dragon’s Bride’ in particular. There I go just trying to name check everything I’ve read again. Indulgence aside, I still highly anticipate how much Manga looks set to take up a good portion of my creative influence in the future.

I haven’t even talked about minuscule details such as how often I’ve looked at first chapters of work to get a taste of it before having it fill up my time, or my attempts to latch onto more Manga through connection between authors. Or my attempts to go into older Manga. If we’re talking really old, the oldest would be Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha, which wasn’t as meditative as I anticipated and a bit long for my taste, but certainly had noticeable merit. Or how ‘Forget Me Not’ uses panelling to portray glimpses of psychosexual perversion and internalised misogyny in an  intelligent and personal way. Or the most important thing in this whole journey, the fact that the best Manga genre is of course gay romance. It’s just a fact. All because this article has already gone on for a bit long now, so to conclude I want to say this:

Throughout much of this article, where I’ve mostly mentioned ‘Berserk’ and ‘Punpun’, I’ve possibly given the impression that I’m a violence hungry depression monger only capable of enjoying darkness, and I like to think my negative reactions to the early chapters of ‘All you need is Kill’ would disprove that, but as I said before, the format Seinen manga like this is placed in is what makes it the most easy to read for me. Something further shown by how invested and immersed I manage to be in both ‘Vagabond’ and ‘Golden Kamuy’, the latter of which at the time of writing this article is just a month away from the airing of it’s Anime adaptation, marking for me the first time I’ll see first hand the adaptation of a Manga I’ve already read before, not counting ‘A Silent Voice’ which was less of a direct adaptation of its source material.

And while that could have been a decent place to end this article, I instead want to highlight a panel from Iyashikei, ‘Yokohama Shopping Trip’, the Manga which I’ve put on hold from nearly completing for the purpose of this article and the one which has come the closest to rivalling ‘Punpun’ as my favourite Manga. This is despite the fact that in just about every conceivable way, it’s the exact opposite of ‘Punpun’, showing how much of an eclectic taste I’ve developed in my manga journey. It has the most calm and effectively relaxed tone I think I’ve ever encountered in any work of fiction, it’s artwork is good but only truly “incredible” in a few select panels (including the one I’m sharing), and unlike ‘Punpun’ I can’t say I related to it in any way that I can specifically identify. And yet, my fondness for this wonderful manga perseveres through all of that because it’s melancholy and sense of hopeful sadness is just done so well, and the moment which for me best illustrates not only ‘Yokohama’s strength, but the ability of it’s medium to break through the seemingly impossible to push against its own limitations and create a tangible and harmonious feeling. within the reader.

It’s in one of the very earliest chapters, when Alpha (the extremely adorable main character) is at a meeting with her neighbours, and begins to dance in a drunken haze. That setup may not sound like much, but the following few pages when we see her dance are what make it so special. Movement is of course something which the still images of manga can’t convey in its most complete or absolute portrayal, yet these pages  manage to do so to an incredible effect which only the medium of manga can really achieve. It achieves this through a combination of thickened and vibrant line-work which fluently creates the illusion of movement with just a handful of pictures displayed on large panels which take up the whole page. The artwork in this scene is incredible, what with the shading helping to lend a calming atmosphere to the setting of this scene and use of waving motion lines to display Alpha’s movements during this dance. It’s hard for me to explain how, but this atmosphere somehow actually makes me hear the music that obviously can’t be heard. The angle from which we see Alpha in all her glorious beauty pulls the reader in with her inviting stare towards us. Maybe I could feel this effect because I read it when I had recently had a dance like this but even so, the technical craft that has gone into making these pages so effective is visible.


The scene would certainly feel less immersive if it were displayed say, with a succession of small panels revealing each intricate and animated movement of the dance, so Ashinano’s precise choice to illustrate the scene in this way displays the level of care that an artist puts in crafting how to have a scene affect the reader. But perhaps the most effective thing about these pages are the context surrounding them, which is bookended by an extremely laid back and sombre sense of serenity and quiet mundaneness, all taking place in a world that has experienced the apocalypse. A world where humanity as a whole is on the verge of its last breaths, yet rather than present a sense of dread at this prospect, the people gathered in this scene have come to enjoy and appreciate what life has to offer them, which is part of what make the world of this series so peculiarly inviting despite that context.

Other moments like this pop up throughout the series, these moments of beauty intercutting between the more simple and activity based scenarios of most of the manga (and this is hardly much of a spoiler I think, especially given how early this scene takes place) but this this first example is perhaps the one that has stuck with me the most throughout my journey reading it. It’s a clear cut example of the level of immersion and dedication that the medium is capable of, to make still images come to life. After all, isn’t life what fiction is ultimately about?

Thanks for Reading


The Eleventh & Twelfth Days of Anime: Blergh!

I am still currently planning to release the idea I had for the 11th Article in this series at some point soon, but I did find that it would be better for me to conclude this series now, since it’s already long past the cut-off date anyway. The 12th Article was going to be a piece expressing some of my experience the past year becoming part of the wider Anime community online, particularly showcasing some of the grievances I found can come with it. I ultimately lost my passion to write that Article because a) I already ended up putting some of those feelings into my previous Article anyway, and b) I no longer have the mind set to do it anyway.
So, that’s all I really have to say with this now. Just as I expected, I wasn’t really equipped to write something on  schedule and it isn’t surprising to me how much I failed to fully commit to this project. Still, at least I managed to write some stuff for it. So, I suppose that’s it.

The Tenth Day of Anime: Miss Kobayashi and Me

I realise this Article is coming extremely late. After most people completed their 12 Days posts, and it’s just barely still within the 12 days of Christmas as I begin writing it, I am aware of that. This is why I was so anxious to do these, I knew even when trying to keep Articles short it would still result in getting far behind schedule. Between actually trying to watch Anime (which has taken up so much of my time it’s left me unable to check out other media without the spare time), participating in discussions on Twitter when I can, and my increasing reluctance to get out of bed too early due to the freezing weather and increasing distress towards my home life and self hatred for how critically selfish my own thoughts can make me towards my family life and how it can seem to interfere with my life; it’s harsh.

koThat brings me at the beginning of 2018 to go back to the beginning of 2017, which wasn’t all that dissimilar from an emotional standpoint. At the beginning of 2017, I felt incredibly disconnected with the world, with many friends I got back in touch with the previous year. The political landscape with the electoral success of Trump and Brexit giving rise to the profile of many racist right-wing groups who opposed the existence of me and people I cared about, the resulting discourse from these elections leaving an extremely bitter aftertaste accentuated by the benevolent cold the winter season brings.

Truth be told, my own efforts to try and be more of a centrist (which in my case was mainly a defence mechanism from the environment too not have to definitely be one a specific side, I’m not saying that’s what all centrists do but it was the mindset that I had at that time) are something that I do regret now, and something I do like to think I have moved past. Although I do experience a somewhat similar angst, it is more of a personal problem than it was last year.

It was during this time that I watched Kyoto Animation’s latest slice of life series, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. Like many, I was incredibly touched by that series’ frank look at the lives of stand-ins for minorities trying to commit to the basic task of living in a world which although kind to the viewer’s perceptions due to the calming slice of life vibe established for the series’ decided tone. Only really seeing extremities in glimpses through the dragon’s previous lives, especially towards the end. Coming out at the aforementioned climate of political discontent and more descriptively, hatred for people born into a world that hates their existence, the series works as both a form of delightful escapism for people affected by said climate and as a subtle commentary on acclimating oneself into everyday society under the thumb of it all.

I myself wrote an  Article about the ‘Dragon Maid’ and ‘Interviews with Monster Girls’ while they were both airing. This is an article I ended up losing passion for while writing it as the act of writing an article turns out to be a lot more hard work than people get credit for. Not to mention, the fact that neither series had finished when I was writing it meaning that it was difficult to really articulate a discussion on the themes it presented when it hadn’t yet finished presenting them, and how ‘Dragon Maid’ came out the clear winner of the two afterwards. That article remains something I don’t want to try and repeat, and I decided to write about ‘Dragon Maid’ again for this to append what I did before.

For one, I tried to moderate the political aspects of the article due to my aforementioned weariness of politics at that time, resulting in a rather non-informative analytical piece. By using the words “right-wing” and “Trump” in this article, I’ve at least stepped foot toward more information here than I did in that at least.

More significantly however, this year I created a twitter account which allowed me to become more engaged in Anime discussion, and became more acclimated to the idioms presents in that sphere. Becoming increasingly used to the surroundings and new, generally kind people around me, almost like Tohru in a way, but even more like Miss Kobayashi in how I remained situated generally in the same place, just with different people. At least that’s the comparison I make when reflecting on the series.

Kobayashi’s perspective within the narrative of the series as a viewpoint character, outsider, and generally the moderator to some of the more outlandish set-pieces allows me to compare myself to her position, especially given that this sphere I introduced myself to isn’t always the most welcoming place. Twitter in general isn’t, but on my personal account where I mostly only knew people from school with low follower counts like mine who generally didn’t get into heated arguments (not that I’m condemning anyone for doing that, as they may well be justified in doing so, just the fall back from it has in the past caused intense stress for me).

And Kobayashi’s ability to confront and assure those affected by society’s harsh blowbacks (which I link with said arguments, especially the ones revolving around social politics) was always something inspiring for me whenever I tried to help in those situations. Especially her confrontation with Tohru’s father in the final episode. But though I realise this perhaps sounds selfish of me, doing this usually tended to make my own feelings worse. And I do realise that I’m not really Kobayashi. I’m not strong enough an articulator, and people on Twitter aren’t nearly as stoic or as reserved as Tohru’s father. I’m not just trying to lazily tie my own (or anyone else’s) struggles to the narrative of the series as if that’s the only commentary I can make on it by the way, this is more the type of communication relayed by the series to make its point.


Of course, there are parts of myself I can see in each of the characters.  In Kobayashi I saw the sort of performative and stand-up-ish figure I wished I could be to try and confront the people I despise and comfort the people I love to try and fix all the mental torture that parades social media. Even though in perspective, this is ultimately putting it into the fixture of an egoistic figure I can only aspire to be. Hence Tohru would be the more realistic presentation of me, both someone eager to impress the people they admire (and possibly a bit gay for them as well) and as someone who is often afraid to face the world  head on.

Kanna perchance presents the side of me that focuses on the softer, more wholesome points in life to protect themselves from becoming wrapped up in all the negatives. Elma always represents this with the added detail of how responsibility can sometimes comically seem to interfere with this intention. Fafnir and Takiya out of all the couples in the series present the sense of security I would wish for in a romantic relationship with how caring they are for each other.

And then there’s Lucoa, who I can’t quite say I see myself much in. Well, I suppose I would say my tendency of clumsiness and tendency to use a façade of ignorance and feigned stupidity to try and lighten up my surroundings connect me to her, but her paedophilic actions towards needless to say never sat well with me, and were easily a weak point of the series for me. The series certainly isn’t perfect, neither is life as it is easy to find out.

In that sense, the series’ minor glimpses into daily life and use of dragon characters for stand-ins still works as a meditation on daily life.

The Ninth Day of Anime: Love and Regret are ERASED’s strongest assets

For this entry, and possibly every entry afterwards although I do still intend to keep them short enough for me to write in about an hour, I’m actually going to attempt to write something serious instead of my initial promise that this project would consist entirely of shitposts.

Image result for erased

So, one of the Anime I watched in 2017 was the ultra-divisive 2016 Time-travel/Murder mystery Anime ERASED. I won’t relay my full opinion on the series here, since this isn’t the article for that and also because that’s an awful mishmash of thoughts in my head that also drastically changed in conflicting ways in the months after I watched it. What I will say is that the part of the series that I enjoyed exponentially more than the Mystery side to it, was the lovely coming of age tale/budding romance in the interactions between young Satoru and Kayo which provided much of the emotional core of the series in its first half.

You may make fun of these scenes for the perceived “paedophilia” in them, but when observed through the lens of a story similar to that of ‘Let the Right One In’, where we see the blooming innocence of young love in a world which is less innocent, it gives me an image of how I felt the story would have been significantly improved if it focused more on this aspect. It helps that these are also among the more well directed segments of the series, making expert use of rising camera angles to slowly reveal a new world to the abused Kayo’s vision. This combined with a truly lovely implementation of the series’ Winter aesthetic which pulls us into the cold environment longing for the sense of connection that these two find with each other.

Most significantly, these segments appeal to me directly, partly because of how much I utterly adore the winter aesthetic of the series, but also due to how it reflects my own desire to go back in time and change many things in my own life I wish I could do differently, even with every time travel story telling me how much of a bad thing that would be. I do quite naively wish that I could relive my childhood and develop a deeper connection with certain people in order to try and help myself, and in turn try and help others in the process. This desire is part of what adds to the intrigue of time travel stories of course, and though the conclusion that ERASED reached felt largely unsatisfying for a lot of reason, this brief moment in time during the series is where I felt a deep connection with the series.

Quite appropriately, I write about these moments carrying a deep sense of nostalgia and longing for the past when I watched these moments  without any knowledge to where they would lead (not that the conclusion to child Kayo’s story was as unsatisfying as other parts later on, as seeing Satoru manage to get her away from her abusive household was quite a highlight). The fact that this series is at least something which can be looked back on nostalgically is of course appropriate as it is made to invoke the past and one’s longing to right the wrongs of one’s past. This leads me to the main point I was trying to get to with this article, the OP and ED of the series.

This series contains possibly my favourite OP/ED combination in all of Anime in Re:Re by Asian Kung Fu Generatioin, and Sore wa Chiisana Hikari no Youna by Sayuri. I won’t go into the intricate visual symbolism of these pieces, partly because I’m too lazy and writing this in a hay morning, and also because there are already a stark many analysis’ for  these areas. The significance of having some visual elements make subtle changes as the series progresses (something I always love when OPs do), and the connection between the flat animations of this ED and that of ‘From the New World’ which created a collective geeking out from those invested in A1 Pictures’ production techniques.

Looking at them as music, they also do the serviceable job of sounding lovely. ‘Sore wa Chiisana’ carrying a lingering tone which works well with the cliff hangers at the end of each episode from those creeping shamisen notes. Re:Re may have received some criticism for supposedly sounding too happy for the series’ dark tone, which I don’t agree with at all. Least of all because I would describe it as more “exciting” than “happy”, the rhythm structure of the song connects significantly with the time travel concept through its repeating chorus going back and back again. The fact that Re:Re is a song from 2004 instead of a more recent single adds to the nostalgic sentiments that it conducts when applied to the 2016 series.

This then brings my attention to an aspect of OPs and EDs which is often overlooked, the significance of lyrics. It tends to be overlooked because not all OPs provide translated  lyrics for one, and when left without knowing what the lyrics are most listeners just think of the songs as enjoyable melodies. And indeed in many cases, the lyrics only a vague at best connection to the series they are paired with, as they are typically only paired with their respective Anime series after being released to the general public. As a result, many Anime songs including these ones tend to be love songs at their core, as they’re conventional enough to blend well enough with many different series.

I bring this up in regard to these particular Anime songs however because of how their lyrics which talk of love but also regret of the past (see earlier in the article how such themes reflect ERASED). Specifically, the lyrics sound almost devastatingly precise to the regrets that Satoru feels over losing Kayo, and how he uses his (poorly explained but that’s not the point I want to bring up in this article) time travel abilities to form a deeper bond with her which creates a longing to escape from the cruel environment surrounding them which offers a glimmer of hope in tragic romance stories.

I like this all because, to dumb it down as much as possible, it all feels very Me. Stories of regret appeal so directly to me. And while ERASED itself didn’t focus as much on that aspect as I would have liked, the  scenes involving the two characters, and also the OP and ED of the series invoke such a sweet story that I can make up in my own mind. A story that I quite like.

Incidentally, what inspired me to write this article was a video that encapsulated that idea by melding the OP and ED into a single mix and brought out the more intimate side to the lyrics. I speak of the cover by AmaLee of LieandLee.

I only recently became invested in this channels work, despite knowing of their existence during the time when I more frequently listened to English covers of Anime songs (many of them from lesser known channels) and from what I had seen of her work (mostly the earlier videos) it didn’t seem to stand out that much. How much that has changed, as part of her appeal I’ve found after becoming more invested was how unafraid she is to alter the original compositions and make changes to the songs she covers, which in turn help to create a new perspective on them. A perspective often brought to life through minimalist animation accompaniments in the videos which blend quite well with the music and appropriately look almost like Visual Novel OPs.

And with this particular cover, a notice towards the lyrical significance has been paid in the translated versions of the lyrics. Whether intentionally or not, the lyrics bring out the meaning of both songs extremely well, helped by some dedicated and lovely vocal work. That isn’t to take away credit from the adjustments to the instrumentals, which strip away the Pop Rock sound of the song to begin with a sombre yet creeping clock tick which slowly builds into a melancholic transition point before going into an epic rock soundtrack closer to the original song before it transition into the ED. When it does this, it takes a unique path of seemingly going backwards. Starting with the chorus of the song before fading out with the slow build up to conclude the cover with.

This unique compositional choice does quite a few things. For one, it utilises the choice to mix the two songs into a medley instead of covering them both separately (as she has done with songs from a series before) to focus on the cohesion of the two and their similar lyrical themes. For another, it helps to craft this song its own identity by blending the instrumentals into the same genre so that the two halfs don’t clash with each other, and it allows the song to have its own beginning, middle, and end through the quiet build up and fade out bookending the more dramatic middle portion of the cover.

Most significantly though, it works well with the concept of time travel in how it builds up to something in the Re:Re portion before reversing itself in the reworked structure of Sore wa Chiisana which almost gives the impression that as the singer thinks back on the past, they reverse time with their longing to change it. I know this was the focus when conducting this video because of how the animated clock moving in a counter-clockwise rotation is implemented in the video alongside close up images of Kayo and Satoru looking tired from life.

The artistic choices made in this video are quite a stroke of genius, and also provided me a sense of nostalgia when I discovered it quite recently, and that made me quite enjoy taking the time to write about it for this.

The Inbetween Days of Anime

The  Fourth Day of Anime: I don’t have the strength to continue this.

The Fifth Day of Anime: I don’t have the strength to continue this.

The Sixth Day of Anime: I don’t have the strength to continue this.

The Seventh Day of Anime: I don’t have the strength to continue this.

The Eighth Day of Anime: But nonetheless, I will!

The Third Day of Anime: Three Bald characters in currently airing Anime

This Saturday I noticed a recurring trend between three (really good) Anime I’m currently watching, and these episodes in particular. This being their incorporation of bald characters with designs meant to key the viewer into viewing them as rather threatening figures at first glance, and in each of their most recent episodes, we saw instead the softer side to their personalities, which I decided was interesting enough to waste a whole Article on, because apparently one a day is still demanding too much effort from me.

So, allow me to introduce you to each of these baldies and not really have it lead to anything important:

Junkei-March comes in like a Lion


The only human character and on the list, and thus the only one who would truly fit the classical definition of “Baldie”, the opponent who defeated Nikaidou  was given an all too human backstory after being initially established as a tough, unfeeling archetype, but of course such simplistic antagonists don’t exist in the world of ‘March comes in’ where people each have their own feelings of shame when they do realistically bad things such as undermine the characters we know and love.

And in his case, we learn his intense humanity through his love of pigeons he takes care of and holds a genuine love for them. It’s also hard not to feel for him in this sequence when we also see how his drinking friends make him slightly uncomfortable. For more information on him, take a look at prominent Aniblogger Bobduh’s exquisite recollection of the episode while I just continue to waste your time.

Sensei-Land of the Lustrous


Although we did see hints of a more caring side to the initially stern sensei of the gems in previous episodes, this week’s episode really brought it to the forefront with his interaction with the Lunarian which unexpectedly transformed from a threatening giant monster into a group of fluffy puppy-like creatures.

Within the episode itself, he served as the catalyst for the other gems to become almost absorbed into the larger creature’s form, displaying knowledge on how to tame it which they later denied and became enraptured in its fluffy textures. I can’t quite explain what all of this actually means. I understand what happens to the Lunarian at the end, but as for why it needed the majority of the gems to be hypnotised into hugging it I can’t try to explain to you. But it is the type of unique, oblique visual storytelling which reminds me in some ways of ‘Haibane Renmei’ (one of the reasons I like this series so much).

And while we may not know everything from this, we can confirm that the scenery of Sensei actually hugging the thing is utterly adorable and probably provides them with much needed rest after all those frightening incidents last Winter.

Elias-The Ancient Magus Bride


Perhaps the most well known entry in this list, yet also the one who some may argue doesn’t qualify as a “Baldie” because that would imply having to have hairless skin, of which Elias does not, having an entire coating consisting of just hollow bone. You might (not) think that I’m including him here because his skull is specifically that of a creature similar to a goat, and so if he did have skin he should have hair and yet does not. In actuality, I include him as bald because much of his body consists of thorn branches, which do indeed contain little furs on them like body hairs.

Ok, the actual reason he’s here though is because like others, he was initially displayed as an authoritative, unfeeling, and perhaps even antagonistic figure before a more in depth look into him from his series provided a look into his softer side. In his case, this week’s episode showed both his unfortunate history during his formative years of being hunted and prejudiced against due to his monstrous appearance, as well as his communication with his young apprentice with whom he is able to develop a genuine if unique emotional connection with.

While he may have been the character whom viewers have trusted the longest amount of time out of any of these, it doesn’t spoil the relevance of the most recent episode in developing our understanding of him.


So there it is. I don’t know why exactly the oddly specific concept of “Tough, Bald characters with softer sides they got to display in this episode” was such a recurring theme on Saturday, but I do hope it shows that sometimes kindness and humanity can still be found where we don’t expect to see it. Even in those who keep up an exterior to try and shield that side of themselves from us.

The Second Day of Anime: The total and absolute necessity of Saekano’s Real First episode

‘Saekano-How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend’. A series which leads to a range of responses from “That lame harem anime that was packed with panty shots and nudity right from episode 1” to “By any metric, that was an epic anime! The artwork was consistent from beginning to end, the motion was fluid, and the girls in it were all super cute!” and indeed these two lines from the prequel episode which aired before the main series proper began airing in Winter 2015  would go on to encapsulate accurately the responses toward the series, with some viewing it as a typical harem series, others viewing it as a commentary on the genre.

But going back to this episode specifically, which chronologically takes place after the events of episode 12 and introduces us into the series with this conversation, we get introduced specifically with the perspective of close-up of each of the girls bathing fully naked in a public bathhouse, some carefully placed hands being the only thing preventing it from just becoming an all out Hentai. It is with this introduction that we bare (heh, bare!) witness to the intense sexual imagery (I hesitate from referring to it as “Fanservice”) which defines the series’ harem attributes and causes many to instantly decide if they’ll stick around with it.


And yet, when we actually watch episode 1, following the shenanigans of this cast of characters introduced primarily through narration going out into the country for sound effects and to tease our male protagonist, the episode itself is actually considerably devoid of such scenery. Only a scattering of few close-ups in regard to the girls are displayed and it’s all considerably tame. As we learn as the series progresses, this is largely because of that episode’s chronology within the series, in which the subtle visual display of an increase in sexualisation takes place as our sorely committed 2D Waifu seeker of a protagonist only develops sexual feelings towards each of them as the series progresses.

The main series also trades in the more overt, hijinks driven sense of humour for a more subdued one, which much like the sexuality, becomes more apparent as the series progresses and the characters begin to mix with each other more.


Many people will tell you that because of it’s chronology and painting of the series in such a sexual light, that this was a terrible way to start the series off with, including fans of the series. These people are wrong! The choice to have this be the introduction to the series was actually a fine one, placing the bridge between the first and second season to provide the synthesis of both season’s differences set the general tone of the series, and thus have it be the mental association for the audience. This is perhaps the perviest bit of foreshadowing into the direction the story would go I can think of, but it nonetheless works in hinting towards the sexual heights of the series.


The most apparent change from the main series to this episode is the lack of Michiru in most of the main series, who only comes into the story in episode 10. This left me eagerly awaiting her appearance in the series which helped me to view the minimal tone that the series set for itself with greater ease, as among other complaints the series receives is also the idea that it’s “boring”, which one wouldn’t be a fault for thinking, as it’s focus on a character who by title description is fundamentally required to be dull and slow pace towards the construction of the visual novel being crafted by the team can make for something that can feel like a slog to get through.

This is where the anticipation built by this prequel/sequel episode allows for the series to feel more advanced, as I don’t know if I would have been able to enjoy it as much if I didn’t watch that episode first. And it is because of that built up anticipation that it is recommended ultimately to watch episode 0 first of all. The game may be nearing its end in terms of completion, but the story is just beginning.

My, that was short! Exactly what I intended. Probably not going to get all 12 done though.

The First Day of Anime (or other things maybe): Fuck It I’ll do it After all.

You ever give up on an idea only to then decide at the last minute to go through with it anyway? Well, as the title says, I’m going to do 12 Days of Anime anyway.

If you bothered to read my previous Article which was originally intended to kick-start an Awards themed 12 Days, but ended up proving too much work for me. I have an admittedly unfortunate habit of overwriting Articles, and in this instance, the project I decided on was too ambitious to not take too long to meet deadlines. In fact, I wouldn’t blame you if you only decided to skim through that Article rather than read it, because I found myself struggling to find new and interesting things to say about different OPs, but ended up lacking the substance and focusing too much of my writing capabilities into one insignificant area of each category. This caused the Article to get fairly repetitive and uninteresting after a while.

But anyway, before I get side-tracked by talking too much about how I get side-tracked talking about stuff too much, I write this mainly to announce how though I decided to drop out of this two days before it started, I eventually found the strength to at least attempt it again, this time through a completely improvised plan, where at the time of writing I only have ideas for a few small Articles, the keyword here being ‘Small’. Nothing particularly challenging or ground-breaking from me, because in case you haven’t followed me before, I’m extremely busy.

At the time of writing this, I’ve only just completed my UCAS Applications after revising them, and just had my final day of term in College for the year. While that should provide me ample opportunity to do this with the extra time I’m given, the previous experience has already taken a toll on me.

Sharing screenshots from ‘Just Because!’ Just Because they represent my state of mind while writing this, and I suppose because I should still try to keep the Article Anime related in some way.

At times like this, I wonder why people would even bother to do something like this. Why do they put themselves through this little contest which pushes them to come up with ideas for Articles and write them in a limited timeframe. I mean, I imagine many people probably write them before the deadlines, which I intended to do before all my College work and Anime I still need to catch up on came at me. But the reason I chose to do it personally was because I felt I needed something to get me more into the habit of writing, to try and expand myself, and improve my workflow and thought process.


And my first attempt may have proven futile, but there is always the option to treat WordPress like any other Social Media account and use it to relay that bastion of beer-mindedness, the fine line between unintentional intellect and intended stupidity; the Shit post.

Now that may not seem like a fair description of what I plan to write, as I do still plan to put some effort into making the Articles, and they will have a mostly serious slant to them, but I still call them Shit-posts because of how they will be set up. Mostly in focusing on something insignificant enough to fulfil an Article a day. I like it because it adds something to my insignificant little life, and like many shit-posts, is at least something fun that can keep the poster sane.

Even though I plan to do small things, somehow I bet they’ll still find a way to be hard on me. I don’t even think I’ll manage to fill in every single day for this.


So now that the Fuck Its are out of the way, I shall proceed to do some things, probably! I’m a bit drunk on drowsiness at the time of writing this but let’s go! Go and do things! I still need some time though.

Rushed Article: Openings Presents

This was originally intended as the first in a series of posts I would do for the 12 Days of Anime challenge, but because of restrictions in my time, and the fact I was running so late I couldn’t write any of the other articles in such a limited timeframe, I ended up dropping out of that challenge. my choice on what to do is to make my own version of Anime Awards, in which I will separate different components of the year across 12 Posts to determine what were objectively the best Anime related things in 2017. It’s a nice blend of simple enough to write quickly while also covering enough detail to merit a challenge from me which encourages me to write more.

Of course, by the time this is over, the year itself still won’t be over, which I acknowledge is an inherent weakness in this idea. So, I suppose since the words “…of the year” aren’t mentioned in the title, this can be considered more the Uchi Awards for Best Anime of 95%  of the year I guess! Finally, as this is a tribute for the whole year, a recurring theme in this will be to split the categories between each season of the year in order to a) cover the groundwork of the whole year and spread them out, and b) filter them so that deciding the final winner will be that much easier.

So, I suppose with all that said, I’ve conveyed what I’m doing by this point, I don’t need to expand the intro to be longer than it needs to be, so I’ll get started then.


The Best Openings of (most of) the Year

I love Anime Openings, partly because they’re only a minute and a half long and thus I’m able to view them on YouTube with much more ease than 7 hours of an entire Anime TV series. In seriousness though, this year provided more than ample supply in many a memorable OP, which also allowed me to form my own opinions on how to view and judge OPs, which likely will result in this Article being my favourite to write for this project. I plan to write an entire Article detailing this topic (probably in several months time knowing my average writing speed) but I’ll outline some of my thoughts briefly:
These entries are judged on combinations. Combinations of the intelligence of the visuals, the music, the tone and how it relates to the series it comes from etc.
There is a whole community of channels on YouTube who dedicate themselves to creating countdown videos of OPs, and having looked at a fair few of them myself, I came to the conclusion that my own taste in OPs is radically different from theirs. Many of them seem to base their rankings on details such as how enjoyable they find the song in question (which I also tend to take a different stance on) resulting in many of them being based on a sort of “Epic Feel” type of OP generally acclimated to fast paced Shounen series, popular series basically. Truth be told, while I would be inclined to agree that the majority of Anime OPs are actually good, of the ones I’ve seen at least, which makes sense since in many cases they are an extremely powerful advertisement for a series which can often result in far more effort being put in them than the animation for the main series itself.
Another thing for me, actually watching the series an OP is attached to. This is not something I did for all of the OPs I will mention here, since I already had a busy enough schedule as is, and from what I’ve heard about some of these series, it’s probably better for me to avoid them. However, I have discovered that becoming aware of the context surrounding an OP does help to recontextualize it and can often radically alter one’s perfection of it’s meaning, not to mention that watching a series does help to give a better understanding of the meanings the OP wishes to convey through its use of visual information and tone-setting musical accompaniment.

I describe all this just to give you an understanding of how I’ve chosen to judge the OPs I’m going to be talking about, which should at least give some idea of how I’ve chosen to judge them. That and the fact I feel I needed somewhere to relay those little thoughts of mine down. On to the thing:



Without a doubt, the first season of the year for this category came in full force with easily the strongest selection of OPs of the entire year. There were so many which excelled in what they set out to achieve that I’m stumped in finding where to begin, from ‘Gintama’ season 857 (probably) providing intense energy, ‘Tale of Zestiria the X’ providing a minimal yet sublime call to epic arms, ‘Konosuba’ season 2 delivering the expected wackiness, and ‘Interviews with Monster Girls’ changing the visual on one of it’s characters to signify her development (which I felt the need to inform you of since it was one of the more notable moments in OPs this year). But listed below are the honourable mentions and eventually the king above them all which enters to the OP of the year nominations.

Kanadeai-Itowokashi: Twin Star Exorcists:  Since ‘Naruto Shippuden’s final OP was from Fall 2016, the other long running Shounen series by Studio Pierrot which came to an end this season filled the gap for an OP to start off the year, and did so with gusto. Creating a genuine sense of conclusion by building on the Twin theme established in the previous OPs through the use of distilled black and white imagery (used to exquisite effect in the heavily symbolic previous OP) before the climax in which the two main characters reach out to one another and become consumed in a world of colour as the divide between them shatters into glass. Add into that a frequent use of action-packed zoom shots, parallel environment imagery, and the fact that in a world where most final OPs for Shounen series tend to feel awkwardly melancholic, this OP informed the fans that the battle still isn’t over made it a noteworthy entry and a prime example of all my favourite qualities in an OP.

Itteki no Eikyou-UVERworld: Blue Exorcist:Kyoto Saga: Speaking of shattering glass, the OP to the second season of ‘Blue Exorcist’ which just came and went with little notice but did not only use the visual technique of shattered glass, but even incorporated the sound effect of it into the music, very faintly as the chorus kicks in. I only discovered that while doing my research for this, and it’s certainly dedicated I’ll say. And some excellent use of zoom in shots.

Seija no Koushin-CIVILIAN: All Out!: This succeeds in being a genuinely exciting sports OP by focusing much of its attention to the intensity of the rugby match, introducing us to each character through the perspective of the ball to maintain an exhilarating and enthralling experience of an OP. The impressive thing is that despite this being one of the greatest Sports OPs I’ve ever seen, I still wouldn’t place it in a Top 10 ranking for just this season, it was that good.

Aozora no Rhapsody-fhana: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: Instantly appealing to the series’ irrevocable sense of intensive cuteness with its flying side characters and self cloning main characters. fhana’s always high pitched vocals meanwhile help to express both the silliness and heart of the series simultaneously, with the perfect timing of the chorus with the shot of Tohru looking on romantically in the direction of Miss Kobayashi. And it ends with some choreographed dragon ass rotation.

Onihei~Edo wo Hashiru~-Kouhei Tanaka: Onihei: The instrumental opening to this hidden gem of the season about law enforcement of the Edo era is certainly a less conventional pick for this list. Without poses or a definite chorus, it feels more the opening to a film than an Anime. That intrigue is worthy of mention, but the assorted flutes and shamisen which make up the music make for an action packed opening which excites the viewer along with its added rush through lanterns.

Shiny Ray-YURiKA: Little Witch Academia: The use of night time colours in this ironically bright and optimistic OP is truly lovely. Although maybe not as action packed as one would expect from a series/studio known for its high energy, the animation efforts are placed nicely towards the falling stars which make up the visual highlight of the OP, and along with the happy melody of the song, prepares the viewer to be taken on an adventure filled with childlike glee and wonder.

One Hand Message-OxT: Hand  Shakers: And speaking of comedy, ‘Hand Shakers’ also had an OP which perfectly matched the series’ ability to cause internal vomiting. This isn’t just me picking on an easy target by the way, the OP does at least match its action with the music.
Gekkai Toppa X Survivor-Kiyoshi Hikawa: Dragon Ball Super: ‘Dragon Ball Super’s second OP showcased the ultra-fast paced fist fighting the franchise is known for, making for an exhilarating experience which even I, one of the few people in the world who’s never watched a single episode of any ‘Dragon Ball’ series, pumping my fists in excitement trying to keep up with those of Goku.

Fighter-KANA-BOON: Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans: ‘Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans’ likewise gave an intense and extremely well animated series of robot battles against KANA-BOON’s larger than life vocal work providing a glaring sense of euphoria  and being lost in the moment through the space-like environment Maguro Taniguchi’s voice creates.

MY LIBERATION-nano: Chain Chronicle: The Light of Haecceitas: This Fantasy series embellishes its genre with imagery of battle, elves, mages, and quickly edited actions bits. But where it went further than a serviceable fantasy OP was with a page flipping visual motif which displayed each of the characters by colouring in their pictures while taking a second to land on their pages. The fast pacing of this sequence is incredible to me, and nano’s desperate vocals accentuate the epic motion of the piece, while they sing partly in Japanese allowing me to not notice the terrible lyrics of many other Nano songs. Don’t think I didn’t notice that they didn’t bother to reanimate the text within the book for each separate page though, how dare they not meet a particular standard that I set up for them, you’d almost thing the Japanese animation industry had limited resources or something!

Uncontrollable-Kanako Itou: ChaoS;Child: This OP is littered with intriguing, symbolic imagery which I can’t quite vouch for the nature of since I haven’t watched the series, but it certainly looks impressive. From the disappearing people around a clearly distraught protagonist, everyone looking distraught really, and drowning (wouldn’t be a dramatic OP without some drowning).

Uso no Hibana-96neko: Scum’s Wish: Speaking of symbolism, ‘Scums’s Wish’ was a master in that area as the inkblots which represent with the character’s clouded visions and underlying manipulative nature as they stand in their respective facades overtaking a saturated, pretty colours which represent the facades they each put on. This is also represented by the series’ own trademark, the use of Manga panels to display the different perspectives of society at large and their intimate angst, and the contrast between exterior costumes and interior selves. This alongside flashes of the sexual yet not fetishist imagery relayed through inkblot transitions as we see Hanabi descending head first into the dark abyss, and roses, one of the most heavily used symbols in all of symbolism, and we have an OP which causes one to reminisce about how excellent this series was.

Imawa no Shimigami-Megumi Hayashibara: Descending Stories: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: This OP is probably the prime example for me when I say how gaining knowledge of the context alters my perception of it. I had watched it on YouTube before even watching the first season and mostly took from it a sort of haunting vibe implying a more dramatic tone than the first OP maybe. But when I watched the second episode of ‘Descending Stories’, and was introduced to Hayashibara’s whispering vocals introducing Yotarou’s reluctant shy demeanour as he was replaced by still shots of each of the other characters in tandem with a lingering clock ticking in the background, I suddenly felt a chill down my spine as it occurred to me the stake the Artform of Rakugo was at in the series. And the rest of the OP served to confirm that sense of dread with the emphasis on Yakumo in pitch black, funeral like clothing wandering aimlessly off the edge of a cliff and drowning into despair as Yotarou reaches out to him. All of this serving to inform us of how something is dearly at stake here. To add on further, the second half of the OP is littered with hints to the development of Yakumo’s tragic story, hinting at “that twist” when the music picks up in all its jazz assortments of dark violins and whistling flutes once the scratch touches the spinning record from which Yakumo looks on all the others, with the image of Miyokichi in the centre which then changes as the series progresses. And then the spectre of Sukeroku embracing Yakumo, still haunting him in his old age, who’s eyes change colour to a sinister red whenever we watch an episode in which something is going to happen.  And the final tipoff being the quick backwards play the OP does at the end to imply Yakumo’s coming mortality. All of this makes for one of the most haunting OPs ever made for one of the greatest Anime ever made.

Sayonara Bystander-YUKI: March comes in like a Lion: More than any Shounen OP this year, the second OP to ‘March comes in like a Lion’ made me leap with joy from the moment I first heard those swelling violins introducing us to the panning shot toward the Sumida River skyline. Coming shortly after Reina’s breakdown in episode 12, this informed us instantly of how things were going to be okay for our deeply struggling protagonist. Add onto that a series of shots of each of the side characters building up to the chorus, in which YUKI (a clear nod to her involvement in the previous Chica Umino adaptation ‘Honey and Clover’s OP) uses her unique, twangy vocal style to provide unprecedented high notes the likes of which are like no other high notes I think I’ve seen. This accompanies a sequence showcasing the Shogi element of the series by breaking down the animation into gorgeous rough sketch animations which underline the vulnerability present in each of the players, while advanced 3D Animation is used for the zoom-in on the ultimate player Souya Touji, dressed in blended white traditional clothing to give him a respectable lure to emphasise his difficulty level. And it concludes with a symbolic shot of the family picking up a collapsed Rei form the snowy ground in which he initially hallucinates them as his original family to signify their importance in his life, and shows how his life is on the right track to improvement. This OP is easily the most beautiful of the season, but when it comes to the best…..

Winner: Shadow and Truth-ONE III NOTES: ACCA: 13-Territory Inspect Dept.

It is the view of many that the opening to ‘Cowboy Bebop’ is the greatest OP of all time, and while I’m not sure if I would necessarily agree with that viewpoint, it is hard to deny how much the Saul Bass inspired use of highlighted colour imagery mixed in with a retro Jazz sound which acclimates into the soundtrack for the entire series works. It achieves the job it sets out to do in reeling the viewer into the series through a clever use of intrigue and undiluted coolness that only retro can achieve. I bring this up because the opening to ‘ACCA’, a series which sadly seems to already have been forgotten by most people, draws fairly obvious parallels to Tank! and any OP which has something in common with that is an instant win. But beyond that, this OP impresses from the first note, with the series’ mascot, the red bird on which the shape of the fictional country of the series’ setting is based introducing us to the setting with movements synchronised with the halting sax beats of the song which buildup to a song which defies expectations by introducing a rapper into the mix, and then an autotune chorus which manages to increase the sultriness of the alluring character designs which are one of the series’ greatest strengths. It additionally provides some extra mystique to the effectively implemented still shots of characters given a morally ambiguous design to hint at who the antagonist will be.

This is all conjecture to the real strength of the OP though. Through this season’s diverse mix of intrigue and bombast, retro and technical innovation, ‘ACCA’ stands above the rest through the power of sheer coolness relayed into its atmosphere, making the OP a perfect summary for the series itself. The OP also stands out through it’s song which other than the mix of jazz and hip hop, I can’t really pin anything I’ve heard before that sounds like it, at least not in the way that ONE III NOTES utilises it. Of course, it’s also something I can’t really even scratch the surface of in this already too long section. I still haven’t mentioned things like the use of camera flips, the tonal balance between the moe romance moments involving cake eating and the more mature use of shadows, the use of CGI briefly in some shots to either add dimension to the separate room scenes, the use of cigarette smoke combined with ink blot transitions, the way the credits are integrated into the scenery, the symbolism behind the shot of a puppet king, or the final 10 seconds of music ticking after the final chorus to playfully mislead the viewer into an ending before the words “You gotta use your eyes to perceive the wind” play. The wind in question being a rush of coolness which blows directly into the viewer’s face.


The season which promised to provide the most action packed openings of the year, with the Shounen Saturday double bill of ‘Attack on Titan’ 2 and ‘My Hero Academia’ 2 being the main talk of the season. But it was certainly a busy season beyond just that, with MAPPA set to start a year they decided to claim as theirs with the return of ‘Rage of Bahamut’, as well as subdued dramas such as ‘Sakura Quest’ and ‘Tsuki ga Kirei’. The openings for ‘Atom: the Begginning’, ‘What do you do at the End of the World?’, ‘Grimoire’, ‘Natsume Yuujinchou’, and the other ‘Gintama’ thing just barely missed the cut here, partly because that Winter edition was already too long as it is. So here’s what came into consideration instead.

ID-0-Sayaka Sasaki: ID-0: Referring back to the greatest of Watanabe style OPs, while not quite as minimalist as one of those would be, this OP’s use of colours and scenery shifts portrays a totally delightful montage which, again I can’t quite vouch for the meaningfulness of. What I can say is that while the CGI may be a bit jaunted in places, the energy of the robots help me to feel like they’re sharing in the delight of the OP and all its jazz flavoured psychedelia, which is probably a better use of giant robot’s time than trying to destroy each other.

Don’t-NakamuraEmi: Warau Salesman: But for pure Saul Bass inspiration, look no further than the delicious colour on top of black style that this sinister yet playful to a similarly sinister yet playful series complements. From the noir city lights rotating horizontally across the screen to the cartoonish grin of the main character, this one is a powerful nostalgia trip for the retro lover in all of us.

MIND CONDUCTOR-YURiKA: Little Witch Academia: Although in hindsight I may visually prefer the first OP due to its greater imagistic consistency and darker background conveying a greater sense of atmosphere. That said, it does complement the more action based tone that the second cour of the series aims for, with the faces of the characters informing us that things are about to get serious. The allusion to Chariot and Croix when they were young, and their paralleled rivalry/relationship being signified by the hand holding cut in the middle of the OP, a moment which in addition to making shippers such as myself leap for joy, also expertly signified the theme of new and old with the parallel between the characters and their separate interests on the direction of magic. Climaxing with a lovely rotational shot of Akko transforming to showcase that lovely animation, and a greater variety of movement than the first OP which only becomes noticeable during an awkwardly placed still shot of Andrew, and this OP illustrates the magic of this wonderful series.

Tabiji-MAO: Kado: The Right Answer: Not an OP which is going to win any awards for movement in a scene, but if previous entries have demonstrated; I do like to highlight  OPs which experiment outside the realms of the conventional wisdom for what qualities as a “great” OP. And this highly atmospheric OP with its chilling chorus of choirs set against a bleak backdrop of realistic city shots, and some effective use of drawing illustrations on screen alongside dimmed cosmic lights against a pitch black backdrop. This OP oozes atmosphere all over, making it something which truly stands out in this shounen season.

Baton Road-KANA-BOON: Boruto: Next Generations: The beginning of the continuation of the Shounen that it seems will never actually end in our lifetime after all, this opening partakes in one of my personal favourite elements of Shounen OPs, the “This has too many damn characters” syndrome. I recall the 13th OP  of ‘Bleach’ also boasted this syndrome, but that was the thirteenth opening as opposed to this, the first of a series. Like, Christ! Why?! And the line up of them is impressive enough, as they jump to the screen in front of that face mountain thing.

Gravity Well-SawanoHiroyuki ft. Tielle & Gemie: Re:Creators: Certainly an entry which sought to encapsulate as much about the series it came from as it could, which perhaps explains why it became one of the most popular of the year. Featuring shots of each of the characters placed against backgrounds of the worlds they came from before being flung into ours. This is placed alongside some standard action scenes, including the presence of Magical Girl Mamika which actually doesn’t spoil the imagistic consistency with its pinklaiden backdrop, but instead blends well into the rushes of the chorus. But the main strength of the OP is the symbolism revolving around Altair and the secret held by the main character conveyed through empty glasses and final shot of the desert landscape, which makes for an extremely powerful image even without knowing what it implies.

Morning Glory-(K)NoW_NAME: Sakura Quest: Certainly among the most charming OPs of the year is this narrative driven OP which displays a working day in the lives of it’s young adult protagonists. The bouncy and perky track complements the activities on screen, with Yoshino’s broom work tapping along to the melody, all making for a lovely opening for this Slice of Life/Coming of Age series.

Ima Koko-Nao Tuyama: Tsuki ga Kirei: Sweetness is a phrase which doesn’t even begin to do this OP justice, as the flashes into the lives of the adolescent lovers is certain to provide total diabetes to the viewer. Of course, that alone wouldn’t necessarily be enough to place it in these mentions, as the assortment of clips may at times feel more like a standard AMV than an official OP. Where it became great was in episode 7 onwards, after the two grew more comfortable being open about their relationship, the chorus which had previously been supplanted with a blurry and vague live action footage of a performance theatre, was replaced by a fully animated version of the performance (which would of course become a key point in the narrative), giving the OP a whole new meaning and additionally provides the strongest bit of animation in the OP to convey the individual lives of these two extra-cute protagonists.

Blow out-Konomi Suzuki: Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor: Did you just see how well those still images of characters popped into the screen in a way that didn’t feel lazily done due to how well their appearance synchronised with the fast paced metal beat of the music. Oh, and something about effective humorous imagery and action scenes blended well similar to ‘Gintama’, but yeah that use of still shots was effective unlike in the first opening of ‘Guilty Crown’ where still shots spoil the visual fluidity of the piece, which I only decided to bring up to ruin everyone’s notion of how that OP is perfect.

LET iT END-SiM: Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Souls: Speaking of Metal, this is an OP which is absolutely Metal in how it seeks to create a gigantic and thundering chorus blending low-pitch shrieks, distorted double-track and choir like vocals, and the constantly fast instrumentation which fits the Western Fantasy vibe, along with the distorting colours of red, black, and ash white displaying a grim and action packed setting.

Sacrifice-9mm Parabellum Bullet: Berserk: Next in our section of Metal based action OPs is the opening for the ultimate Metal Album Art series, ‘Berserk’. Starting off with a heavenly choir of electric guitars in unison as the scorching sun rises across the fields, we place eyes upon animation which many say should have been the animation for the main series. I’m not sure if I would be inclined to agree, since part of the strength of ‘Berserk’ is its hyper detailed art style which is part of why it’s so hard to adapt into Anime, so I’m not entirely sure if the pale drawn character art would do much service to the source material, but it does at least get the job done of looking tolerable enough for a panoramic view action sequence. Where it does excel expectations however, is the always powerful reverse symmetry between the white and elegant Griffith, and the dark and brooding Guts. Revealed here through a zoom on the former cutting to an impressive zoom out of the latter, the shot of the Black Swordsman himself standing alone with his sword in the dark is undoubtedly the closest the series has come to matching the tone of the Manga and prepares us to witness something truly spectacular before the actual Anime starts and lets us down from the very first vomit inducing CGI frame.

Shinzo wo Sasageyo-Linked Horizon: Attack on Titan: Concluding the round of Metal based action OPs is of course the signature band of that description, Linked Horizon. Delivering on all the bombastic mix of metal and choir sounds to match the epic, over the top style of the series. Some might say that the OP is too similar to its predecessors, and admittedly this is what I thought when I first witnessed it, but it is distinguished by a few things. First and foremost is the fact that it presents the greatest alternation between loud and quiet out of the trilogy of OPs thus far, and my favourite part of it is the lone shot of the father holding the baby’s hand. This moment of quiet accompanied by an acapella choir is something that hasn’t been done in the previous OPs, and hints at a theme which didn’t actually get expanded upon in the actual season, but it did give us shots of dinosaurs and giant animals to accompany the Titans taking their place as the dominant species, so that’s fun.

Peace Sign-Yonezu Kenshi: My Hero Academia: It would perhaps be a sin to not include the most popular OP of the season here. Coming immediately after he broke through with the excellent ED for ‘March comes in like a Lion’, newcomer Yonezu Kenshi displayed his prowess with inspiring anthems in an OP which perfectly fits the tournament arc. It certainly does more so than Porno Graffiti’s tonally confused track that alternated so frequently between awkwardly stilted minimal piano piece and overblown chorus which still fails to convey a sense of power from last year. And all the happy faces on everyone and exercise montage sequences in the beginning, as well as the extremely well animated shot of All Might leaping through the city skyline helps to bring the OP to life.

Winner: Nasugamama, Sawagumama-milktub: The Eccentric Family

This being the winner against the big Shounen OPs is what I mean when I say my picks are “different”. I certainly haven’t seen as much praise for this OP as it deserves, even among many fellow fans of this wonderful series, which is bizarre to me because it so perfectly encapsulates even wonderful about ‘The Eccentric Family’. Right from that first shot of a lone Yasaburo standing against a morbid grey sky which serves as the aesthetic of choice for an OP which indicates at how this season will touch on the darker elements of the series, but much like the series it never lets this aspect overpower it as the enter the perspective of Yasaburo’s camera through which we see an assortment of effects trickery courtesy of PA Works constant willingness for visual experimentation giving the, the right to describe themselves as “Progressive”. The use of 3D stop-motion photography animation, CGI rising lampposts, and the always effective use of credit integration through it’s vertical-rotational movement alongside the speeding fisheye lens view of the road in the chorus, as well as credits which cast shadows onto the floor.

While many of the characters are presented from what is are obviously clips from the first season injected onto the screen, they’re integrated so well that to dismiss it as “lazy” (my least favourite word when used in a critical context in existence) would be to miss the point, the purpose of them is to provide a sense of nostalgia after the series’ four year absence but also to provide a sense of business to the otherwise empty Kyoto streets, which here make for a delightful image so busy that every time I watch it I always find small details in the background and even the foreground that I missed before, such as Yasaburo in a miniskirt running on top of that fisheye view. The new imagery we get is a celebration of everything that is ‘The Eccentric Family’. All the wackiness and mystique and beautiful Benten flying through the sky brings a moment of wonder to me. And it isn’t just self indulgence which begets my enjoyment, as the photography element of the OP is used effectively towards the end to highlight the three major parental figures in his life.


When the Summer season rolled in with what looked like a promising lineup, the OPs this season proved to be lesser than anticipated, with an overload of simple OPs with only a handful of standouts. That’s not to say certain OPs didn’t stand out for different reasons; ‘Fox Spirit Matchmaker’ for example presented an extremely hilarious mismatch of song and visuals with the most melancholic and outright beautiful song they could have picked being played over action scenes and clips which don’t even attempt to synchronise with said music. It’s hilarious honestly! ‘A Centaur’s Life’s best animation was placed firmly into the OP, and was used mainly for the purposes of an embarrassing fan-service romp which only fits the series as much as anything could for something which put so little thought into the cohesion of its tone. Spring leftovers ended up getting lesser followups to their OPs, and while I actually like the music to ‘Sakura Quest’s second OP, the visuals do feel very half-made. I did like the second OP to ‘Virgin Souls’ at first, until I mentally associated it with the general decline in quality the series itself saw this season. Additionally, we got quite a few beatbox songs as OPs, none of which I’ll put here because they sound like audio garbage (Hitorijime my Hero being the only OP this year I actively skipped). I suppose finally, I should mention ‘Welcome to the Ballroom’ which will not be on this selection for no better reason than I didn’t find the OP particularly investing for some reason. Anyway.

Deal with the Devil-Tia: Kakegurui: Directed by Sayo Yamamoto, this OP for the “crazy lesbians gamblers doing crazy lesbian gambling things” Anime serves as a display for her main trademark as a director, her intense infatuation with the human form in all its detail, creating easily the sexiest OP of the year. Filled with domination, self sex, and highly defined legs in tights, which through Yamamoto’s lens feel genuinely sexy rather than crude or exploitative. Tia’s orgasmic vocals delighting in the torture unfolding on screen only serve to accentuate this.

Trip Trip Trip-ORESAMA: Magical Circle Guru Guru: This OP has a childlike innocence which fits the tone of ‘Guru Guru’ to a Tee. The fast animation rolling with each of the side characters is impressive but also lead me to question how this smaller children’s series by the same studio looks better than ‘Welcome to the Ballroom’. The bright colours and overall sweetness of the main couple shine throughout and give it such wholesome feels.

Symphogear Axis: As the only person among my associates who has yet to jump aboard the ‘Symphogear’ hype train, some of the imagery does look confusing and at times something like what an Anime hater would show to outsiders to give them an impression of how ridiculous Anime is, with its bizarre combination of giant robot fights and exploding love heart bombs. But on the other hand, those are the coolest combination of things you can find.

shOut-SawanoHiroyuki ft. Tielle & Gemie: Re:Creators: While many leftovers, as said before, ended up letting down with their follow up OPs, ‘Re:Creators’ managed to create an OP which surpassed its original by instilling a more epic vibe and greater emphasis on fight scenes while keeping the visual focus on Altair’s story intriguing, with meaning added to it through our applied knowledge of the situation, making her reaching out for her past creator provide a more emotional core to the OP. That said, I wouldn’t say it’s quite the OP of the year like many others have dubbed it, due to a) the stillshots of the new characters, while necessary, do spoil the flow and b) that “Rock/Rock/Rock” in the chorus just sounds silly to me.

One in a Million-Wake Up, May’n!: Restaurant to Another World: The loud and out happiness of this OP feels so lovely in a world where many OPs for fantasy series and even food porn series feel the need to take themselves so seriously. This OP, displaying many a lovely location in the world of the series, and each side character who are main characters in their respective episodes gets the chance to display their happiness at the feast ahead.

BUTTERFLY EFFECTOR-TRUE: Hina Logi: From Luck & Logic: Because why not have a whole OP made out of stop-motion paper-cuts?

Red Doors-TeddyLoid ft. Yoshikazu Mera: 18if: Although the CGI cubes end up having a visually homogenous feel to them after a while, the atmosphere of this EDM track is undeniable.

STEP by STEP UP-fourfolium: New Game!!: The scene where all the girls sing along to the song is so vitally important!

Sora ni Utaeba-amazarashi: My Hero Academia: Hey look at that, first OP. It is actually possible to effectively make a more serious toned Shounen OP for BNHA which manages to feel legitimately epic and dramatic without coming across as overbearing and tonally confused! Who knew?!

Dakara Boku wa Boku wo Tabanasu-WEAVER: Sakurada Reset: Proof that not all of these selections are biased towards series that I watched, the use of white lights polishing the environment to the emotional beats of the track in this OP gives it an intensely polished feel.

Dark Cherry Mystery-Ougi Oshino (Kaori Mizuhashi): Owarimonogatari: Despite the perfection of ‘Owarimonogatari Season 2’, one of the few gripes I had with it was how simple/minimal the OPs felt compared to previous seasons. That isn’t to say any of them are bad, Mayoi Hell’s OP is certainly brings an instant sense of joy to my face, though it’s hard to tell if that’s just because of Mayoi returning to the series. More recently, the Blu Ray for the series gave Hitagi Rendevouz an excellent OP which perfectly illustrated the sweetness of that Arc. But I would still have to say Ougi Dark had the best OP of the bunch. I mean, it’s no Mathemagic, but Ougi’s dance in the dark is a work of art in itself against the funky minimalism of this track. And as a final OP for the series, it is satisfying enough.

Deep in Abyss-Mariya Ise & Miyu Tomita: Made in Abyss: This deceptively bright and cheery  OP for one of the best series of the year begins with a descending Piano spill which makes the viewer feel like they’re descending directly into the Abyss. From that we get happy images of Rem and Riko being cute together, followed by close-up shots of the compass reflecting light, as well as quick shots of the characters who pop up as the series progresses, hinting at the darker elements of the series. And the jingling bell that begins the episodes after it is super effective too!

Hikari Tatsu Ame-Soma Saito: Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu: Not much to say about this one other than how impressive ufotable’s fight scenes continue to be.

Eiyuu Unmei no Uta-EGOIST: Fate/Apocrypha: In the toss up between this and what would be my number 1 of the Season, I chose to leave this one out because it did seem to blend in with other OPs this season, robbing it of it’s own unique identity ever so slightly. Though it did still stand out significantly through it’s alternating thundering choruses and a hauntingly beautiful lullaby melody which gradually builds and builds. This combined with some truly atmospheric imagery manages to make for an exciting OP, and one that stands out even among those of its franchise.

Winner: The Other side of the Wall-Void_Chords ft. MARU: Princess Principal

Ask me another time and this choice may be different, and while ‘Fate/Apocrypha’ may have grabbed my attention more with its atmosphere, the opening notes to ‘Princess Principal’ in all its chaotic glory made for an instant call that I was watching a delightfully over the top romp, and indeed something I wasn’t quite expecting to be as good as it turned out. With MARU’s vocals appropriately emulating the sound of an old James Bond theme, working well with the British Spy concept of the series naturally, this OP is pure energy through and through. With the use of darkened lighting perfectly conveying the more serious side in near perfect conjunction with the character introductions of the main girls displaying the more light hearted side, coming to cohesion through the car leaping through the sky and ejecting them into their defined poses, conveying immense personality into each of them.


Coming at the end of the year, this was possibly the weakest OP wise season. At least, this is what I should feel from the fact it doesn’t have as many OPs that impress me, but at the same time I can’t quite think of any that I actively  dislike. In fact, I found this one had the greatest number of considerations for the list, which I’ll discuss like before. ‘Fox Spirit Matchmaker’ went for a more decisively serious tone with it’s second OP, which while objectively a good OP does rob it of that unintentional hilarity which made the first one stand out. For unintentional hilarity, look no further than the self serious ‘Ousama Game’, which is so overblown in it’s desperate attempt to look edgy that it sort of makes you cry until you see stock Yandere character#8672 tilt her head, eyes dilated as the metal chorus of “This is the End, This is the End” yells in what is meant to be the beginning but never mind. The second OP of ‘Boruto’ was  a little chipper for my taste, while ‘One Piece’s 20th OP does feel a little depressing, not because of the song, but because they’re still doing that needless 2.5 minute thing to continue holding off on Luffy and the Gang actually making it to that titular treasure. ‘Fate/Apocrypha’s second OP was just a fairly standard LISA OP with little noteworthy. Finally, both ‘Osomatsu’ and ‘Shokegeki no Soma’ released new seasons (which I have yet to see due to completing the first season of both much later than I had anticipated), but those OPs did feel like treading old ground for their respective series.

Here-JUNNA: The Ancient Magus Bride: Just barely making its way into the mentions is the most popular OP of the season. The reason being that, while I do think the song is extremely lovely, the visuals feel incredibly uninspired. Like, the whole black background and constant succession of shots focusing on Chise get redundant very quickly, and having frequent movement doesn’t change that no matter how well animated it is. And the final 20 seconds consist of a clip show which while getting recognition from when said clips appear in the series, fails to add anything significant. But again, the song is nice at least.

Invisible Sensation-Unison Square Garden: Welcome to the Ballroom: This OP ups the drama to a significant degree, which helps it to give more of an immediate pull than the first. Most significantly, the song is actually exciting enough to make the viewer want to get up and dance. Dance in the rain more specifically, which is significantly less exciting than portrayed in the OP.

fake town baby-Unison Square Garden: Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond: Might as well get the other great Unison Square Garden track out of the way. Between these songs and the fact they’re going to be doing the next OP for ‘March comes in like a Lion’ next Winter, this was indeed an excellent year for them, and their return to ‘Kekkai Sensen’ brought with it an appropriate amount of energy and excitement for the exciting Anime ahead. While it’s no ‘Hello World’, it still makes up for the less intricate symbolism with basic action, just like the second season itself.

akairo-Civillian: Altair: Record of Battles: This one simply deserves commendation for achieving the near impossible task of actually making ‘Altair’ look even remotely exciting (trust me, it’s not), with those thundering rock guitars maintaining a constant sense of suspense, and a lovely introduction via broken sandglass.

Haruka Mirai-Kankaku Pierro: Black Clover: Utilising that book imagery from ‘Chain Chronicle’, this OP is a visual excitement with its eclectic use of 3D spaces to create some truly wonderful cinematic pieces all for the simple purpose of showcasing its characters,  with some impressive rain effects and colour illustrations to boot, as well as the diverse settings we take along the way.

Aiokotoba-GARNiDELIA: Animegataris: Perhaps not something that should qualify for this due to its beatbox style, something which usually puts me off. But this one has the font of the title bounce along with the beat so well, and with the DJ cat joining along for the fun. The bright and happy colourful visuals add to the fun vibe of the song, and having our main character run away from an assortment of cartoon characters is… You know, why am I describing anything other than MARiA’s beautiful voice. That’s the real star of the show here, displaying her incredible prowess to work within many different genres, her ability to go high and heavy within such a short amount of time, and it’s just something I’m always so in love with.

Saturday Night Question-Megumi Najahima: Recovery of an MMO Junkie: Something Something bright and colourful, I have to complete this sorry. Looks good in HD and those computer sound effects are fun.

over and over-Nagi Yanagi: Just Because!: Among the more emotionally charged OPs of the year, this OP fully encapsulates the frustrations of youth that the series focuses on so. The intricate animation of the series is also in full display here, perfectly bringing to life the emotions of the characters, as well as the wind blowing in their faces crosscutting after the throwing baseball shot which makes the viewer feel cold along with the combination to the series’ Winter aesthetic.

Ryuusei Dance Floor-ORESAMA: Magical Circle Guru Guru: Wasn’t expecting the follow up to the cute and fluffy first OP of this cute series to have such a funky disco beat to it, but it complements the rapid succession of multiple characters which never creates any moments of awkward visual overload  within the sequence well.

Rapture-Panorama Panama Town: Juuni Taisen: A song which starts with a slow build up of confident guitar work which leads into a display of coolness which doesn’t have to rely on action to sell the series, instead focusing on the individual aesthetics of each character under a glamorous glitter light alongside details such as the entire city being turned upside down by their presence.

Flag wo Tatero-YUKI: March comes in like a Lion: Coming back to the exquisite combination of YUKI and ‘March comes in like a Lion’ comes an OP less dramatic than the Winter entry but no less beautiful. Reflective images such as glass and water play a big part in that, but the OP also effectively uses bright lighting to display the positive changes that his new family has brought to Rei’s life. Ironic considering the dark arc that this portion of the series covers.

My Hero-MAN WITH A MISSION: Inuyashiki: The number one of the year for those with more of a tolerance for MAN WITH A MISSION’s vocals than me, so basically everyone besides me (I’m just using this whole article to dispel with my many an OP related hot take aren’t I). But one would be hard pressed to find a more hype OP this season. When it starts with an entire city growing out of a character’s back, and has that be its build up to even crazier imagery, you know it’s going to be wild. With its effective implementation of the Cyborg imagery of the series being used to create whole landscapes and use of ball metaphors to represent the cat and mouse game at play, as well as its effective blend of CGI and handdrawn imagery making for one of the most action packed OPs of the whole year.

Kyoumen no Nami-YURiKA: Land of the Lustrous: Fitting that such a unique Anime would get such a unique OP. This one doesn’t exist to “hype up” it’s audience so much as it exists to acclimate them into the world of the series, one which genuinely feels alien and original as opposed to so many other Sci-Fi stories. The quiet Math Rock sound of the track complements the gorgeous CGI crystal imagery perfectly, almost positioning the viewer somehow into the position of the characters who awaken throughout the sequence.

Here and There-Nagi Yanagi: Kino’s Journey: The Beautiful World: The Animated Series: When I first heard the techno beats of this song in the previews, I wasn’t impressed. I didn’t think it would fit with ‘Kino’s Journey’ at all. I have grown used to them the more I’ve listened though, and techno can indeed be appropriately calm and relaxing. But more than relaxing, this OP is appropriately beautiful, as the production values have been placed wisely to deliver some truly gorgeous imagery to demonstrate Kino’s beautiful world. All the transparent imagery looks impressive as hell and the subtle hints to the main character’s past is only the icing on the cake.

Winner: Ugoku Ugoku-Inori Minase & Yurika Kubo: Girls Last Tour

Although perhaps an odd choice for best of the season, ‘Girls Last Tour’ is without a doubt the most immensely likeable OP of the Fall. Just the mere presence of Chiito and Yuuri is enough to instantly make it good, but the addition of simplistic imagery which doesn’t clash with the more serious greys of the series, but instead complements it’s minimalism. With large circles representing the circling world  they travel, the deceptively small OP is much bigger in its intentions. This combined with a song which builds up slowly to a satisfying and fun chorus which comes complete with their synchronised dance and yes, the dab that caught everyone’s attention, all makes this OP a true standout.


And after all that overwriting which eventually caused this idea to fall apart as an idea for a whole 12 Days, I’ll now reveal which of the four openings which made the best of their season is the best of the year as a whole:

Between Shadow and Truth by ONE III NOTES from ‘ACCA: 13 Territory Inspect Dep.’, Nasugamama, Sawagumama by milktub from ‘The Eccentric Family’, The Other side of the Wall by Void_Chords from ‘Princess Principal’, and Ugoku Ugoku from ‘Girls Last Tour’, the winner in that competition, even with some of the difficulties I had in picking each of those titles in their respective seasons, the choice was actually quite easy for me:

Shadow and Truth-ONE III NOTES: ACCA: 13 Territory Inspection Department

Through all the twelve months, this OP held its strength against them all through sheer force of cool. Through those already discussed colour shifts which offer such wondrous gazes into the lovely world of the series and all its tribute to daily life which just happens to be through the lens of an inspective department who really enjoy their cakes. I didn’t even mention things like how much the white smoke which appears throughout complements the scenery, formulating from the cigarette smoke and the pure white clouds. Each one feeling like a pure white drop of sugar sweetness onto an already delectable OP. By this point I’ve probably conveyed how effective the entire aesthetic of this OP is, and because I can’t gain much by contributing to my extensive habit of overwriting everything I’ll stop now.

Top 10 of the whole year:

  1. ACCA
  2. March comes in like a Lion OP2
  3. Descending Stories: Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu
  4. The Eccentric Family 2
  5. Girls Last Tour
  6. Twin Star Exorcists OP4
  7. My Hero Academia 2 OP1
  8. Land of the Lustrous
  9. Attack on Titan 2 OP
  10. March comes in like a Lion 2 OP1

A Reflection on Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water

I recently saw on my MAL page that I had completed close to 100 Anime. TV Anime to be specific, or what MAL considers to be TV, as I have in fact watched many more titles up to that point. Anyway, I naturally decided to have a specific Anime be my 100th. I did so after I completed ‘Mob Psycho 100’ for the novelty of having an Anime with an OP titled 99 as my 99th Anime; I think maybe about two people were in on the joke. Anyway, after that I then watched the Anime I selected for my 100th; and you saw the title so you probably know what it was by now.


Yes, ‘Nadia: Secret of Blue Water’, the 1990 series that Hideaki Anno directed before he made ‘Evangelion’. Based on a concept for an Adaptation of Jules Verne’s ’20’000 Leagues under the Sea’ in the Mid 1970s by Hayao Miyazaki. Based on how old it is, meaning not many people have seen it, it may seem an odd pick for someone’s 100th. In fact, I conducted a Poll on Twitter in which out of nine voters, none of them had apparently even started let alone seen the series. But of course, my reasons for choosing to watch the series were largely based on ‘Evangelion’ being my favourite Anime and one which does hold a special place for me. And so I thought this predecessor to it seemed like the next logical step. Not to mention, the fact that it had the involvement of the man who many consider the greatest Anime director of all time at it’s conception, and the fact that from what I could tell on the outset it looked like an Adventure series with some philosophical elements and a lighthearted tone, the most easily digestible form of Anime for me personally, and yeah I’d say this seemed like something to pique my interest. And now that I have completed the series, allow me to share my thoughts.

Before we start, just one last point. I pondered whether or not I should bring up comparisons to ‘Evangelion’ or to try and judge the series based on it’s own merit. I ultimately decided on the former partly because that series is much more popular thus serving as an easy way to explain the series to those who haven’t seen it. And, as I found out through my viewing, has a lot more in common than I anticipated with this series. It is interesting to me that ‘Gunbuster’ is what is normally cited as the precursor to ‘Evangelion’ because while they may both be Mecha series with strong existential themes, ‘Nadia’, as we will see shares several plot points and character types with that series, as well as serving as a showcase for the directorial style that Anno would develop for the series. Finally, this will contain some Minor Spoilers for the series, but nothing particularly major, again for people who haven’t seen it. Now, let us begin.

The opening scene of ‘Nadia’ introduces us into the backdrop of late 19th Century Europe, a time of great technical innovation but also militaristic imperialism. This opening narration played over a series of picturesque still paintings portraying chaotic ship crashes serve to illustrate the time period, to foreshadow the mythos behind the series, and serves to introduce the viewer to just one of the themes of the series in the human spirit humanity’s strengths and weaknesses. After that, we get an Opening sequence which, let’s be real here, sounds and looks like a more energetic version of ‘A Cruel Angels Thesis’ with it’s fast editing and happy pop song played against seemingly symbolic visuals across a night sky to prep us for an exciting Adventure series.

That’s certainly what the first episode delivers, as we are taken to Paris during the World Fair through the eyes of Jean, a young boy with a passionate fascination with Science and Inventions going to meet his likeminded Uncle before he becomes infatuated with and meets a mysterious brown skinned girl with a pet Lion cub and a blue jewel on her chest. This is of course Nadia, the title character, and that blue jewel is the McGuffin of the series, the eponymous Blue Water, being sought after by a band of comical villains consisting of Grandis, a feisty but temperamental red head, Sanson, an arrogant thin man, and Hanson, a technical minded large man.

A Clear example of some of the lovely scenery the episode provides. There are many other shots and gifs I could use, but they would fill out the article too much. There really is that much to enjoy from the first episode.

This concept of two children being pursued by villains, wandering off into the larger world, and becoming involved in a larger conspiracy is of course a remnant of Miyazaki’s involvement in the series, as elements of Miyazaki’s own ‘Castle in the Sky’ (one of his underrated masterpieces)  permeate throughout the series. That and it’s lively nature aren’t the only commonality the series attains to Miyazaki as one of the things that stands out about the series from the outset is the impressive Animation quality of the first episode. Although certainly dated by modern standards (that was always inevitably going to happen) when compared to the animation quality of most other series at that time, it’s astonishing to look at how fluid the movements are; whether they be the perpetual motion of the rotational toys Jean holds while exploring the fair, the breakings of the planes in one scene as a display of how limited the technology of the period setting is, or the chase scene which takes place during the climax of the episode. This isn’t even to mention that many of the backgrounds in this episode look gorgeous, really making use of the Parisian setting of the episode.

This liveliness and excitement drawn from the Animation is also contrasted with several quieter moments of contemplation which allows the viewer time to breathe in between so that it doesn’t feel overpowering. These technical qualities combined with a likeable enough cast of characters dwelled from Nadia’s mysterious nature, Jean’s passion and determination, and the Grandis gang’s comical dynamic which informs the viewer of how they are clearly not going to be the main antagonists of the series, and each character’s not yet fully detailed motivation allowing for future episodes to explore them in more depth all helps this first episode to be a resounding success in introducing us to what looks set to be an energetic, world building steampunk adventure series delivered by one of the best studios in the industry.

Of course, as with most first episodes, which generally employ heavy amounts of Sakuga to lure the viewer in, the other episodes take a slight downtoll in the Animation department so as not to overspend the budget, which does result in the following episodes by contrast taking a slower pace. Still that isn’t a criticism at all, as the first four episodes do an effective job of exploring our established characters backgrounds in more detail while also taking them away from their current environments to move the plot forward at a gentle pace and introduce us to more characters.

Although I praised the first episode mostly for it’s technical prowess and excitement, it is actually in the following episodes where what makes ‘Nadia’ special and where the comparisons with ‘Evangelion’ begin. Jean and Nadia’s journey to escape the Grandis gang eventually leads them into the sea, where they discover a quest by the Navy to locate a supposed Sea Monster which they then learn is actually an advanced submarine. This is also where the element of the story being a loose adaptation of ’20’000 Leagues’ comes into play, as that submarine turns out to be the Nautilus, piloted by the stoic and serious Captain Nemo, we’ll talk more about him later, and his crew. Episode 4, which is mostly spent introducing us to the interior of the Nautilus through Anno’s signature silent and suspecting directorial style giving the viewer the distinct impression that something is watching them, the uncomfortable feeling that ‘Eva’ also had. It’s been a while since I watched ‘Gunbuster’ so my memory of it might be a bit fuzzy, but I do remember that series being a lot more direct than ‘Evangelion’ in terms of it’s visual storytelling. Although it did have moments of introspection, it didn’t pertain the same ominous feeling, which leads me to believe that it was during the making of ‘Nadia’ that Anno first developed that element of his direction.

This combined with the largely medical and decidedly non-steampunk imagery of the Nautilus’ interior which Jean himself notes seems alien to him is the first proper indication that this series is something more than what it initially appears, but episode 5 is the true confirmation of this when the two end up on an island which they soon learn is ruled by some sort of militaristic organisation white masks and KKK hoods. Yeah!


And then, they come across the dead bodies of a man, a woman, and a dog, with their child, Marie being the sole survivor. This is the point where ‘Nadia’ becomes a different series. People often talk about ‘Evangelion’  and ‘Madoka Magica’ in similar terms in how they seemingly both start out as conventionally upbeat for their genre, but there always did seem to be something about about ‘Eva’. Technically, ‘Madoka’ also held strong moments of foreshadowing, but it did still seem tonally conventional at the start. The revelation of ‘Nadia’s sudden painting-over of darkness was made much more effective by the fact that it started off as  an energetic and lighthearted tribute to Classic Adventure Novels quickly becomes a study of the human condition.
I’ve been somewhat minimal in describing the main characters so far because I felt that this moment and how it is contextualised within their role as Adventure characters and as children were important, and that their role in the story only came to play at this point.

Jean Rocque Raltique, as mentioned before, is a 14 year old French boy with a love of science and invention, even able to invent miraculous inventions such as a flying machine and a water heater. This puts him at the centre of one of the themes of the series, technological advancement, the ultimate achievement of humanity which around the time of the series’ setting is regarded  as a monumental point for technology. The character’s humanity is encapsulated by his immense passion for such technologies and scientific breakthroughs, as well as his pubescent liking towards the opposite sex, and his backstory. He lives with his authoritative aunt in a house near the coast due to the disappearance of his father who was in the Navy, causing him to grow up in a largely sheltered existence free from harm, much like the protagonists of many popular Adventure novels of the late 19th century. This all gives him a believable purpose to go along the adventure, having a backstory which is just mundane enough to cause him to seek adventure in search of Nadia’s homeland, and his father. I won’t go into where that plot point leads for spoilers.


Standing as the opposite to him is the title character Nadia. In contrast to Jean who holds an intense passion for the world around him which causes him to go on her journey, Nadia is largely cold and resilient in relation to the world around her. This stems from a deep rooted distrust towards adults and modern society in general as a result of her upbringing in the Circus, which the darker elements of are only explored in flashback during the midpoint of the series. Along with her cold and often temperamental nature, she also despises killing in all forms, no matter what justifications it has, whether they be killing animals to eat their meat (resulting in her having an extreme vegetarianism) or killing other humans in self defence, she has an often extremist view against the act of killing in itself, as well as a love of nature which she perceives as being more pure than the destruction caused to nature by human civilisation. This ideology often puts her into conflict with Jean and especially Captain Nemo who at one point kills an enemy in order to protect her, but she refuses to be thankful due to her view that all killing is wrong.

Whereas Jean exemplifies the more idealistic perceptions of childhood, Nadia exemplifies the stubbornness that can come about at this age, but both of them are distraught when their experience on the island shows to them that the world is dangerous, in Jean’s case it becomes shocking because he grew up sheltered from the darker realities of the world, in Nadia’s case because she had hoped to escape from the dangers and depressing parts of the world, in Marie’s case it is shocking because like Jean she grew up with little experience to this side of the world but with the added blow that it more greatly affects her because she has been newly orphaned, and in the audience’s case, it is shocking because both of these characters being so young and realistically so makes their confrontation with such a harsh situation all the more brutal.

This is where the main antagonist of the series named Gargoyle comes in, and his motivation is introduced with Biblical references to the tale of Sodom and Gamora. As an inhabitant of the dead Atlantean Empire, he wishes to destroy humanity using Nadia’s Blue Water jewel which holds the power to do so and reshape the earth in his image to restore the entire planet to it’s former glory. I won’t go into much detail on the story of the Atlantean Empire itself because, again spoilers, but this does bring to the forefront just one of many themes that are introduced in the series.
In fact, the story has many themes in case you couldn’t tell. In addition to the value of humanity, we also get a story of contrasts, whether they be the contrast between idealism and cynicism, the contrast between vegetarianism and carnivorism, the contrast between technology and nature, the contrast of childhood and adulthood, many of which are brought to the forefront by Nadia’s aforementioned conflict in ideologies with Captain Nemo.
This side of the story is where it being an extremely loose adaptation of Jules Verne’s ’20’000 Leagues Under the Sea’ becomes thematically relevant. Those of you familiar with the original character from the novel, or for the more cultured of you, his interpretation in Alan Moore’s ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ will know that the character in his original form was an Indian prince who carried a deep seated hatred of British Imperialism and the direction of the world which caused him to escape into the oceans to build a Utopian life for the crew of the Nautilus. In this version, the backstory is the part which is radically altered, but for a lot of the Anime, the character isn’t all that dissimilar from his original version. The image of a stern and serious leader is projected by him onto his crewmates, but we also see glimpses of his regret over his past which he consolidates by performing on his Organ. His mysteriousness and utilitarian ideology make him one of the most fascinating characters in the series.
Speaking of, although the narrative presents many interesting themes to the table, Anno’s greatest strength as a creator has always been his focus on character. I’ve already gone over some of them, but the large cast of characters really helps to make the world that the series presents feel alive. This is best displayed when they are all united on board the Nautilus in episodes 9-22, the highpoint of the series for me. These episodes take place on board the Nautilus and the places it visits, with all of the main characters fully united. The formula adopted by the series at this point is a combination of Slice of Life elements to help bring to life the setting through the discussions of the characters and their activities aboard and outside the Nautilus ranging from comedic mishaps to serious discussions between them, and of occasional run-ins with the Neo-Atlanteans which raise the stakes of the series whenever they pop up.


It is in the unnerving direction and generally quiet, a capella sound design which coordinates attention squarely onto the dialogues of the characters as they info dump on the technologies and organic life that make up the world of the series, much like Verne’s novel, where the seeds of ‘Evangelion’ are planted. An underlying factor helped by both series’ character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, the designer for many of Gainax’s best titles as well as those of Mamoru Hosoda’s filmography who has a slightly inconsistent if consistently excellent track record of drawing designs which look decidedly distinct from Anime in varying ways.

As the styles tend to shift according to the series, it is difficult for me to properly explain why Sadamoto’s character designs work when there’s technically no real absolute design choice for him. Comparing the fairly cartoonish designs of ‘Nadia’ for example with the more realistic and refined designs for ‘Evangelion’ seems to display only minor similarities in superficial details such as the shapes of their eyes and noses, made more difficult when compared to his Hosoda works which have less edginess in their eyes. That said, I think one thing which remains consistent in Sadamoto’s work, although not a grand observation, is the way in which his designs expertly match the designs for each of his characters. Take Grandis for example, a feisty and often assertive woman who succumbs to falling in love too easily  is given fiery red hair (hey, does that sound familiar?) and is traditionally dressed at first in masculine clothing to reflect her tough attitude despite often leaving her accomplices to do her dirty work for her in which her natural feminine beauty is also allowed to be displayed, which is further displayed when she adopts more feminine, frilled clothing later on to try and attract the attention of Nemo.
Speaking of, Nemo is given a ruggedly handsome but also gruff and elderly appearance to emphasise the fact that he is tough, but also conceals a more fragile side to himself underneath that exterior. Perhaps the most fitting display of how character design plays into the narrative in this chapter of the story is in the design of Electra, who I haven’t really mentioned up until now due to her being one in a fairly large cast. She is the first mate of the Nautilus. Nemo’s right hand girl who often displays a more attentive attitude towards the two children than the captain himself, but like Grandis also harbours an obvious secret affection for the captain which is the source of frequent rivalry between the two. Her character is actually given perhaps the most reserved appearance in the series, often wearing heavy period clothing and a fashionable hair style, as well as often sporting glasses to both inform us of the fact that she is intelligent, and also that she has some hidden agenda.

From a personal enjoyment factor, this section of the series spoke very much to me because of how it synthesized the pre-established themes of nature vs. technology in a way which despite relying on exposition as a praxis, never felt overbearing. The frequent shots of the outside of the Nautilus from which Jean is often of awe toward how humans could create something so great, only to have that contrasted with the larger natural outside, underwater environments displayed in majesty towards the smaller submarine. These were often complemented  by a well researched exploration of marine life to convey the incredible scope of nature and how earthly existence surrounds the characters.

We are handed some lovely bits of Sci-Fi worldbuilding such as the concept of known extinct animals still being alive in the deep sea. As someone who grew up watching the documentaries of Impossible Pictures including the ‘Walking with’ series and ‘Ocean Odyssey’, the fight against the Dunkleosteus felt oddly nostalgic to me due to the fact that I was familiar to this creature which I can imagine being somewhat obscure to most viewers. This and the Antarctica episode in which we are taken along the journey to see displays such as the origin of life served the purpose of releasing an inner child in me in my former love of prehistoric topics. This in the same series that had previously shocked me to my adult core due to it’s dark realisation of the futility of childhood.
Rather than consider these elements to be contradictory, I actually feel they both work well to convey the greater messages of the series of how children are flung into an extremely adult world.

But this section of the series still never loses track of the darker themes such as the concept of when it is ok to take another person’s life such as that aforementioned scene where Nemo rescues Nadia, an episode in which members of the crew are trapped inside a damaged section of the submarine and the characters debate whether or not they should risk their own lives trying to rescue them or leave them to die so  they can advance their mission, or the conflict that arises in the excellent episode 22, in which the previous hints towards the past and what we learn of Atlantis come to the forefront as the Nautilus faces it’s biggest challenge yet from within. I won’t spoil this episode but I will say that it does reveal some of the darkest parts of Nemo’s ideology and how it comes into conflict with Electra, and delivers the strongest episode of the whole series.

The first 22 episodes of ‘Nadia’ were truly an exciting experience for me, laying out the groundwork which would serve to lead us toward ‘Evangelion’ while standing on it’s own as a fascinating journey into life and the human condition through the lens of a slow but methodical Adventure series. That isn’t to say it was perfect; there was the occasional comedic bit amongst the Slice of Life trivialities which did feel ultimately interruptive although I understand their purpose to balance the tone. Towards the end the fractures in the series’ animation which would lead to the infamous bankruptcy of the studio began to show. I also feel like the concept of Race wasn’t expanded upon. We get little tidbits of the main character’s race brought up in the naturally prejudiced environment that 19th century Europe would have provided, right from her and Jean’s first meeting where she assumes he’s only interested in her because of her skin colour. Adding to this is the prejudiced language of Jean’s Aunt in relation to her, and his commentary on the diversity of the crew of the Nautilus and how it strengthens their seemingly utopian existence. These are all things which could help to expand on the series’ commentary of humanity’s flaws since racism is one of humanity’s ultimate failing. Unfortunately, outside of these little moments, the theme is never expanded upon, leaving these moments to feel more odd than meaningful, and also leaving how accepting many of the white characters are towards Nadia and even her developing romance with Jean feeling somewhat confusing, considering that the series did acknowledge the existence of racism.

Although evidently part of where the resources for animation began to lost track, this scene from episode 22 is the best in the entire series, as the rough illustration of this sequence makes the dark subject matter of it all the more haunting. Almost reminiscent of children’s drawing from the massacre in Guatemala which depicted the soldiers who came to take their lives.

But leaving aside my personal political agenda to ruin Anime with race debates, the first 22 episodes of ‘Nadia’ were truly an enrapturing experience; combining harrowing Adventure narratives with philosophical questions which never felt overbearing, imbued with some dedications to scientific realism and world-building in regards to it’s mythos, it’s clearly a series which sought to appeal to a wide audience which is how I can feel comfortable endorsing it, and after that excellent episode I was ready to declare it one of my favourite Anime. That was, until the next episode.
Oh yes, now we have to get into where the series made it’s dramatic decline in quality which brought Gainax to near-bankruptcy. The infamous Island Arc, in which after being separated from the Nautilus, Nadia, Jean, Marie and King end up on a Desert Island where they spend the next few episodes. This portion of the series is generally reviled by those who’ve seen the series due to factors such as how the plot just sort of stops right there, with the villains and the main quest being all but forgotten. This as well as a significant drop in Animation quality leading to some glaring oversights and wasting of resources on seemingly unnecessary scenes which involved using clips from previous episodes. But perhaps the most disliked aspect of this Arc is the formula of it. The series from this point until episode 35 becomes a largely episodic series of skits which sees Nadia’s temperamental attitude reach it’s nadir, resulting in her character becoming unlikeable in several moments, taking her vegetarianism to a new extreme and having her get into a series of repetitive arguments with Jean which greatly irritates the viewer.
This portion of the series is so reviled that many will tell you to just skip it completely, maybe only watching the episode where they reunite with the Grandis Gang in the middle and then skipping to episode 35. This was certainly a warning I saw going into the series, and ultimately decided to ignore to both get the complete ‘Nadia’ experience and see what about these episodes was apparently so bad that even people who liked the last two episodes of ‘Evangelion’ couldn’t muster a defence for them. And I will say that these episodes aren’t entirely without redeeming qualities, specifically there are moments during this arc which serve to advance the romance between Nadia and Jean. These are where I would actually dispel the notion that they are completely “unnecessary”, as in between the end to the first half of the series and the climactic final few episodes, I can actually see the necessity for something similar at least to this Arc to help the audience breathe and delay the time for that big climax.

When it focuses exclusively on that aspect is where this portion of the series is at it’s strongest, creating an occasionally psychological and often sincere portrayal of the pubescent development of love between these two adolescents. Once again, highlighting Anno’s tendency for emphasis on human inflections to add dimension to the scenes, emphasising both their shyness and their agitation. These scenes are unfortunately cut too short to make way for some comic set-piece which always feels more jarring than welcome as it comes after that genuinely great series that I described before. Some may deride the apparent overuse of stories using light-hearted “fun” build-ups made to establish a scene for a more serious and in some cases darker scenarios, but the reason this specific plot formula is so heavily used throughout the medium of fiction is because it is a formula which has been tested and proven to work, as it generally succeeds in hooking in the intended audience so that they can be affected by the story in question. When the series so readily aims itself in for pantomime slapstick in this segment shortly after such a serious segment of the story with which it seemingly mocks as it only becomes apparent how haphazard the experience truly is, it only has the effect of causing the viewer to gradually lose interest and feel like their only obligation to still watch the series while it does nothing to interpolate any sense of enjoyment in them is to see it through to the end, or possibly because it’s an important segment of Anime history (the latter in my case). This isn’t to say that the series from that point onward should have been constant bleakness (nor would I tell a series what I think it Should do), but the comedy in this section of the series was overwrought to find any balance with the preceding seriousness, causing the two tones to becomes at conflicting odds with one another.

Getting high on ‘Shrooms. An accurate depiction of how this portion of the series felt sometimes. More importantly; why was this scene here?!


There is also technically a new character who is introduced in this Arc who some would argue serves no purpose in the grand scheme of things as he doesn’t really do much afterwards, but he is actually given a thematic purpose later on, so I won’t count that as a criticism. But this Arc was a disorienting experience in what had previously been a genuinely great series, where I found myself letting out a sigh of relief whenever any sort of plot development such as their reunion with the Grandis Gang and their inevitable leaving of the island. But after they finally left that Island, things did not improve as we then get treated to the Africa Arc, where any defence I can muster for the Island Arc is instantly vanquished as soon as Nadia is turned into a pining love-struck groupie for a character whose name I can’t be bothered to remember, a tribal member who is apparently able to make her forget about Jean in just two seconds. Added to that the continuing weak Animation, a plot about capturing a diamond which feels even more like filler than all the episodes of filler we experienced previously, and at the very least this Arc was short so I don’t have to dwell on it any further.

Episode 34, bridging the Africa Arc and the climax was undoubtedly the worst offender of this though. It’s technically a recap episode. Or perhaps more accurately a clip show episode which half consists of original material. That original material is too lacing is mostly just a plot about Jean writing a song for Nadia, oh yeah, this is  also a Musical episode. One in which each member of the main cast gets their own song. The songs sound poorly improvised and irritating, mostly serving as character factfiles which don’t inform us of anything we didn’t already know about each of the characters. And the ultimate conclusion of that plot doesn’t lead to anything other than one of the worst Anime episodes I’ve ever watched, and a strenuous experiment in series’ self indulging.

But finally, in episode 35 just towards the end of the series, it finally gets good again! The whole tone quite quickly reverts back to the maturity of the earlier episodes, as Nadia is forced to confront herself and her past. And then, after that bit of ‘Eva’ like dread, the series instead turns into ‘Gurren Lagann’. Dispensing much of its angst to focus on fast paced plot progression by way of a complete makeover in In-Universe technologies to a more pristine and less steampunk aesthetic, and an epic climax which opts to dispense with silly logic and explanation. To give you a hint of how the climax goes, consider the fact that it’s a Gainax Sci-Fi series and, yeah that’s it!


This makeover is even accompanied, similar to ‘Gurren Lagann’, with a slight change in the visuals of the OP despite the song and most of the other visuals remaining the same. I don’t know how common this was in series from that era, but it does feel like something original and revolutionary when it is presented, using the OP as a complementary on the progression of the plot is something familiar to Anime, usually by means of completely replacing the OP while keeping them the same throughout their runtime, but this is an OP which only makes a minor change.

Also feeling revolutionary is the way that the series concludes, as not only does the plot come back and rushing quickly, but it almost seems to change the tone of the whole series to a more hopeful and upbeat one. This is done in a way which doesn’t conflict with the rest of the series, and while I question how appropriate it is as an ending, it does leave me feeling satisfied, especially after that aforementioned timewaster of two Arcs.

While I’m not sure if the rushed nature of these final episodes is the most satisfying ending that could come about for the series, it does neatly wrap it up. We also get an epilogue revealing where each of the characters went afterwards, which does unfortunately remind me that although themes were overseen throughout the series, we didn’t actually manage to get a lot of proper character development, particularly from Nadia who doesn’t really seem to change much throughout the whole series. Also, two characters have a particularly disturbing conclusion involving romanticised paedophilia (seriously WTF!!!!) but other than that it is a satisfying ending overall.

Conclusion; ‘Nadia: Secret of Blue Water’ is a great time capsule from the days of early Gainax, and an integral piece of Anime history as a project from one of the greatest Anime directors of all time which served as the precursor to his Magnum Opus. But ignoring its place in Anime history, the series still holds up well in some regards as a Steampunk Adventure series with speculative elements which allow the series to expand itself thematically beyond the usual fare of its genre at the time. And while it certainly isn’t perfect, what with the filler that comes later on and the apparent lack of character development by the end, the series is still worth watching in my book.


Incidentally, this Article took me much longer to write than I initially thought it would, which doesn’t really surprise me at this point, but I would also like to use the time it’s taken since I watched ‘Nadia’ to add some extra thoughts. More specifically, if you yourself find the more flawed elements of ‘Nadia’ to be a bit grating but still like some of its core concepts I would also like to recommend ‘Made in Abyss’. A series which tackles some of the same themes as ‘Nadia’ (innocent children thrown into a cruel and violent world of adulthood, the fragility of life etc.) and does so in a more competent and cohesive way which doesn’t end up getting bogged down by the sillier elements present in ‘Nadia’. Definitely check it out if you enjoy suffering.

Well, that’s all from me now.