Gamers!

Keita is a teenage boy with a one track mind – games, games and more games! He overlooks socialising and hobbies in favour of pursuing his hobby so is taken aback when pretty, popular academic Karen Tendou asks him to join her Gaming Club. To her shock he turns down her offer as he prefers to play games for fun and not in a competitive way.

“I’m just a girl…standing in front of a boy…asking him to play video games with her.”

I had expected Gamers! to play out with Keita joining the club, getting to know the other members and attempting to win Karen’s affection, so I was happy when everything was turned on its head so spectacularly. Keita is nonplussed by turning down Karen’s invitation and is socially inept enough that he doesn’t realise he’s done something radically against social norms by rejecting a girl much higher than him in the school social hierarchy. He also doesn’t realise how much he has embarrassed Karen with the rejection. Things get hilarious pretty quickly when another popular kid, Tasuku confronts him about his behaviour in what turns into an over the top melodramatic slanging match on a bridge.

Gamers! continues to play with expectations as we see Karen completely fall apart over Keita. She falls for him hard, and is completely reduced to cartoon ashes, a sparkly eyed gooey mess or a jealous monster over Keita’s interactions with other girls and his utter obliviousness to her feelings. In fact, the show sets up such clear roles and types for each character with the sole purpose of destroying these setups. I really enjoyed this ‘in your face’ method of letting the audience know that comedic chaos is about to unfold in the very first episode.

All’s fair in love and games

Although gaming is continually mentioned and referenced throughout the anime as you’d expect, there’s a smaller focus on it than I had thought, and really I’d define Gamers! as a romantic comedy. The show sets up increasingly more elaborate and wacky misunderstandings between characters, who think X is dating Y when actually Z is dating Y and X wants someone else altogether. Although it seems over the top, it works really well a lot of the time as each character has their own foibles – Karen’s pride, Keita’s inferiority complex – and these form the heart of misunderstandings and miscommunications just as you’d see in real life.

Gamers! is a sweet anime packed full of laugh out loud moments, and romances you’ll want to root for, even if only for more humourous moments.

Gamers! is now streaming on Crunchyroll.

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New Game!

Aoba is fresh out of high school and greener than green when she starts her first job at the game developer Eagle Jump. Inspired by a game she loved as a child she is thrilled to find out she’ll be working on the sequel. But with such zany colleagues she’s in for a heap of wacky misadventures along the way…

As someone who is a few years into the working world, I immediately recalled and related to the feelings that New Game! immediately conjures up as we see Aoba meeting her team and adjusting to their quirks, trying to work out when to ask for help and how to do it, and feeling excited about her first paycheck. Each episode focuses on a different topic with titles such as “What Happens if I’m Late to Work?” and “That’s How Many Nights We Have to Stay Over?”. You can dip in and out of them if you just want some light office-based humour but you’re likely to enjoy it more if you watch them chronologically as the series also charts Aoba’s adjustments to adult and working life and it’s enjoyable watching her learn and grow as she takes advice from her teammates.

I enjoyed how realistically the office environment is rendered, admittedly with some otaku feeling touches to the environment. There are multiple shots of Aoba looking at her computer clock across the episodes, a really simple but effective way that I found made me feel more immersed in her working life and routine. I think this is the first anime I’ve ever seen that features an office environment for most of the scenes and the little touches are really nice and really help give the impression of a creative company’s working space.

New Game! renders a colourful but realistic office environment

The relationships in New Game! also feel natural, with Aoba quickly finding her place amongst her female colleagues in spite of a few newbie mistakes like locking herself out of the office every time she goes to the bathroom because she forgot her key card. The humour flows nicely, with some one-off gag moments that remind you that the anime is based on a four panel manga, as well as some more cleverly built up jokes – there is a great one in particular where Aoba walks in on her colleagues in a compromising situation, but it’s too good to spoil here!

New Game! also makes a few nods to yuri relationships in a way that repeatedly threatens to cross the line into something explicit, but then always wimps out at the last minute. It’s perhaps unsurprising that an anime so exclusively about female friendships and relationships would hint at this to try and widen its audience but also bewildering at times when moments are created then not built on any further. There are also light fanservice-y moments in general with the odd butt close-up but it’s so infrequent and brief that it never feels like you’re watching a fanservice anime.

“What do you mean our romantic relationship can only be implied?!”

I’m really enjoying this anime and definitely recommend it. New Game! offers a sweet and happy story about a young woman’s first foray into the working world, and as she pursues her dream it’s impossible not to remember being the newbie and find yourself rooting for her every step of the way. With a great assortment of characters and genuine laughs I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a funny anime set in the working world that offers up lots of great office humour.

Hanayamata 

Naru is a self-labelled “average teen” who wants to shine but feels inadequate next to her gorgeous, popular, in-a-band friend, Yaya. A chance encounter with a mysterious blonde girl called Hana at a shrine leads her into the world of yosakoi, a traditional Japanese dance.

In spite of its cutesy graphics, Hanayamata adds some emotional depth from the first episode which I was pleasantly surprised by, and we see the main characters struggle with their insecurities and fears in an understated way. Naru, for example, agrees to join Hana’s Yosakoi group but only as an assistant at first, betraying her anxiety that she isn’t a good enough dancer to “dazzle” and be worthy of the group. Tami is a well-behaved daddy’s girl who chooses to break away expectations from of her to join the group, and Yaya in turn battles with her own jealousy as she sees Naru step out of her insecurities and start to believe in herself again.

Hana’s motto – life’s too short not to be happy!
Although I was impressed with Hanayamata’s commitment to clear-cut character motivation and insecurity from the beginning, it did then move back to comfortable and cutesy territory once this had been established. Some of the scenes are excessively sentimental – Naru gives more than one emotional speech about how much yosakoi means to her, and how much her friends mean to her, which might be more powerful if it was more than five episodes in, but luckily a lot of the more sugary emoting is usually balanced with some light comedy. Perhaps because of the solid character establishing at the beginning, even the simpler scenes in Hanayamata feel weighted enough to avoid slipping into pure fluff territory.

It’s tough being the only glass half full member of the group sometimes
For me, Hanayamata is a nice “middle of the road” sort of anime. It offers enough character depth and drama to avoid floating away on its own fluffiness, and Naru’s stage fright and insecurities will be easily understandable and relatable to many. But it is still a fairly lightweight cutesy anime about five girls embracing friendship and a new passion. If you’re looking for something with pretty shoujo style animation, silly comedy and engaging main characters it’s definitely one to put on your ‘to watch’ list.

A Girl on the Shore – Inio Asano

Koume is feeling pretty blue after her crush, the local playboy Misaki uses her for his own sexual pleasure then dumps her like a hot potato. She turns to Isobe, a boy who has always had a thing for her, looking for some rebound sex. In spite of Isobe’s declared intentions, Koume isn’t interested in a relationship with him, so the two step into uncharted waters of sexual exploration with each other instead.


Koume and Isobe’s relationship is dysfunctional from the outset as they navigate what is the first ongoing sexual relationship for both of them, complicated by their jealousy. Isobe also hides a dark secret which is compounded by Koume’s lack of regard for him into anger and destructive behaviour.

From reading the summary of this manga I had expected some kind of love story, so I was surprised to find more of an anti love story. Koume uses Isobe with no respect for his feelings at all, and Isobe is violent towards her when she angers him. I didn’t feel fully sympathetic for either character, which was jarring at first, but once I got used to it, it was also a refreshing change to read such flawed, selfish and complex characters.

Although this story wasn’t what I expected there is a lot to praise about this manga. I found it enjoyable to read a manga that neither puts sex on a pedestal of “that special perfect first time” as many shoujo manga are apt to do, but displays it with an openness that is never pushed to salaciousness, right down to the artwork even displaying pubic hair, a rare occurrence in manga and anime. The artwork style is also really interesting, and the photo realistic backdrops are impressive to pore over.

A Girl on the Shore is a great story, but the ending felt rushed for me in comparison to the emotional buildup. Isobe is shown to be struggling with depression to the point of suicidal thoughts, and yet after a pivotal moment when Koume worriedly searches for him in a rainstorm, he is revealed to be totally fine, with no satisfying emotional payoff for how he overcame his personal demons.

On the whole I enjoyed this story overall and would recommend it if you’re looking for a complex teen relationship story. Inio Asano presents a dark and flawed portrait of his characters, and it’s really something you can get stuck into.

Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club

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Hiromi has moved to the beautiful coastal town of Kamakura, a city just south of Tokyo that is filled with temples and hiking trails. She plans to ride her bike to school but is a little rusty on the basics, and fortunately bumps into a fellow classmate Tomoe who offers to help her relearn.

As Hiromi meets more of her classmates they discover that they all have an interest in cycling, and decide to form a club. Their cycling journeys and quest to secure a budget for the club (they have to prove themselves worthy first) form the basis of this anime.

If you haven’t already guessed, this is a light and fluffy anime through and through. I have never watched a sport anime before, it was the clean art style and soft bright colour palette that drew me to this show. It’s easy for anyone that isn’t a sporty person or expert on cycling to get into this show as it makes it very accessible for the viewer. Hiromi and her friends are newbs to the cycling world and much about the best bicycles for them to use and the correct cycling technique is covered both within the anime, and within a real life featurette at the end which provides extra hints and tips for any budding cyclists.

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Hiromi and her friends have fun riding around Kamakura
This anime is cute and enjoyable – for me the highlights are seeing the sights of Kamakura gorgeously rendered with lush greenery and stunning blue skies and learning about cycling. But there’s nothing to make it a stand out anime – I’ll openly admit that couldn’t tell you the names of all of Hiromi’s friends and the anime doesn’t do much to create any in-depth personalities for them. Nonetheless this is a fun and cheery anime so if you’re looking for a fluffy sport anime it’s a definite contender.

Yugioh! The Dark Side of Dimensions

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I am a huge Yugioh fan. The series was the bedrock of my childhood. I would spend hours playacting as the characters with my sister, to the point where we had moulded them to our own and created our own stories. So it was with some excitement that I sat down and prepared to watch a brand new movie, and I was not disappointed!

Dark Side of Dimensions picks up where our characters had been left off. Pharaoh Atem has ascended to the spirit world, leaving the Millennium Puzzle in pieces, and Yugi is missing him but carrying on with his life and thinking about life after high school graduation with his friends Tristan, Tea, Joey and Bakura. Things are not set to be peaceful for long though as Seto Kaiba seeks to reassemble the puzzle and challenge the pharaoh once more, and a mysterious man named Aigami has a special interest in Yugi…

The movie gets off to a very cheesy start as Yugi meets up with his friends for school, almost introducing them one by one. I was afraid the dialogue would be as slow and corny throughout the rest of the movie as it was in the scene in which Yugi and his friends discuss what they plan to do with their lives after high school, but their responses are effectively a quick way to get the essence of their character for anyone who is coming into the movie with no prior knowledge of the story. I was also pleased to see that whilst the character styles had been updated a bit, it wasn’t so much as to lose the heart of the original character designs.

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“Hey Yugi, does my hair look slightly different than it used to or is that my imagination?”
The antagonist for this movie is Aigami, a blue-haired bishie boy who takes an interest in Yugi and his friends. I instantly warmed to him, because he was a fairly understated villain, which is probably a good thing with Seto Kaiba’s planet-sized ego already filling the screen on a regular basis. Aigami’s backstory is nicely tied in to the character of Shadi and how one character acquired their Millennium item. Aigami has his own kind of magic which he can use to create special “dimension” duels, which makes duelling him all the more complex and difficult for Yugi and Kaiba.

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Aigami – not your average bishie
So what did I enjoy so much about this movie? The humour was a big one, and I was pleasantly surprised by how often I laughed. Eric Stuart is on brilliant form as Seto Kaiba, with so many hilarious lines referencing his own colossal ego, and a great one in which he refers to painstakingly recreating the pharoah’s “perfectly coiffed” hair for a simulation duel. The movie makes numerous hilarious nods to the fandom as well, with Bakura’s acknowledged entourage of fangirls (“it’s the accent”), Joey dressed as a dog (again) and more over-the-top Seto Kaiba behaviour (Space elevator? Check. Casually jumping out of a moving jet? Check.)

Although there’s much that feels comfortably familiar, it also feels like characters have grown a bit too. Yugi is the heart of the series and he gives a gentle and touching speech at the beginning about missing Atem, but we nonetheless see him go on and do battle with Seto and Aigami on his own as brave as ever. Even when not mentioned, Atem’s absence is very much felt, and as Kaiba seeks to reconstruct the puzzle we wonder if we will see a return of the figure everyone is missing so much.

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Yugi may be one Pharaoh down, but he’s stronger than ever
I won’t spoil it, but the ending of the film is touching, and ends on the most thrilling tease of what I hope will be the start of a sequel movie or anime series. Even if it doesn’t, Dark Side of Dimensions reminded me of what I really love about Yugioh, and it’s vastly superior to its two predecessor movies (in my opinion). If you’re a fan it’s a must-see, and if you’re brand new to the Yugioh world, why not give it a try?

My top ten My Little Pony songs

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Alongside anime I’ve always been a huge fan of Western animation, including My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. There are so many things I love about this show but for this post I thought I’d focus on one thing – music. I’m always impressed with the variety of music MLP offers, from soulful ballads, to upbeat numbers, to dramatic duets. Read on to find out my top ten favourites and why I think they’re some of the best…and a great reason to watch this fantastic show.

10. At the Gala

This was the offering for the finale of the first season of My Little Pony. It was the first time we saw MLP doing some really fun things with each pony’s personality in relation to music, and I love the way the mane six’s themes join at the end.

9. Hearts Strong as Horses

“We’re kinda short, but so what? We don’t get defeated/We could take a little break but, we don’t need it”. This song really sums up the Cutie Mark Crusaders perfectly and it’s my favourite of their songs with so much boundless optimism!

8. B.B.B.F.F.

This is a short but sweet introduction to Twilight’s older brother, Shining Armour, with a really nice emotional key change.

7. Battle – Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks

Kazumi Evans adds a feisty edge to Rarity’s vocal style to transform into the captivating villain Adagio Dazzle in this rocky number. It’s a really fun song designed to seduce us into embracing our darker, more selfish side with a strong hook.

6. This Day Aria

Not only is this song a magnificent duet of good versus evil, it makes a meta joke, as it musically uses a “deceptive cadence”, which is a clever reference to the evil Princess Cadence. The theme of a female villain and a wedding feels similar to Disney’s Little Mermaid, in a good way.

5. The Spectacle

My Little Pony proves they can do techno-pop with an effortless Lady Gaga-esque song that I think could easily been a chart-topper if it were released mainstream.

4. The Magic Inside (I Am Just A Pony)

Another musical turn from Lena Hall who casts off her “razzle dazzle” from my favourite song in fifth place, and offers a raw soulful piano ballad with some moving vocals. Just don’t ask how she’s managing to play piano with hooves…

3. What More is Out There – Equestria Girls: The Friendship Games

The entirety of The Friendship Games is one brilliant song after another in my opinion, so it’s tough to pick a winner, but the song that stood out for me is Twilight’s hopeful ode to a new beginning. It starts humbly and builds into something to rival any Disney number of a heroine eager to start their journey. Unlike some of the cutesier MLP numbers it asks bigger questions that anyone could relate to – “Will I find what I’m looking for if I just do it on my own?”

2. The Midnight in Me – Equestria Girls: Legend of Everfree

I could sing this ballad all day. It’s a shame that Daniel Ingram’s full length version didn’t make it to the film, but this one minute and thirty seconds packs a punch, and is a pretty powerful metaphor for depression at that…

1. Pinkie Pie’s Smile Song (Come on Everypony Smile, Smile, Smile)

My number one has to be Pinkie Pie’s Smile Song! This is the first song I heard that I felt sounded like it could be a full song in its own right outside the context of the show, and it really cemented Pinkie Pie as my favourite character by so brilliantly encapsulating what a huge heart she has. I challenge you to watch it and not, well, smile!

There are so many other My Little Pony songs I love that I couldn’t fit on here. Which ones do you love? Leave a comment below and let me know!