Shelter (Porter Robinson, Madeon, Toshifumi Akai)

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I’m all about my pretty anime, so when I saw the above image while browsing Crunchyroll, and read in the description that it involved a futuristic sci-fi storyline, I was sold. I didn’t realise until clicking on it that it was actually a music video, and not a full length anime!

Six minutes long, the story follows Rin who lives in an incredible simulated world. Through a tablet device, she can draw whatever landscape she wants, and it will be beautifully rendered before her eyes. But she is sad and lonely, continually checking her tablet which reveals it has been a long time since she received any messages.

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Is a limitless world really heaven when you have no one to share it with?

Pairing a vibrant electronic dance track with the endless visual wonders that anime can achieve is a match made in heaven and they fit so well together that if I had found the video elsewhere I would have thought the music was created especially for the animation. This is a gorgeous watch – Rin is delightfully drawn, with big sparkling eyes and an equally beautifully world she moulds at her fingertips, allowing us to marvel alongside her at the northern lights, cerulean blue skies with thick fluffy white clouds and impressive cliff tops. The cherry on the cake is the more humble but still beautiful Japan she came from, shown through an emotive family montage (as well as the classic cherry blossoms).

It’s such a shame that Shelter isn’t a full length movie, because it is a triumph. At 4 million views on Youtube already, I’m clearly not the only one who thinks so! Watch it below and experience the beauty yourself:

 

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Death Note

I have never fully committed to reading Death Note, but I was recently gifted the first six volumes of manga and decided to read them on holiday. If you’re even a little bit into manga and anime it’s very unlikely that you won’t have at least heard of Death Note as it’s very well known and has received multiple awards, meriting its own anime, live action movies and even a musical. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s a synopsis below:

Light Yagami is a highly intelligent teenager. So intelligent that he’s bored with life. When he picks up a mysterious black notebook one day called the Death Note and discovers that it can kill people provided he knows their face when writing their name down, he takes it upon himself to rid the world of the immoral, corrupt and criminal. When another gifted teenager who goes by the alias ‘L’ realises what is happening he offers his own impressive intellect to the Japanese police and sets out to track down the mystery killer, who the world calls “Kira”.

Death Note is an addictive read from the outset. Light is a classic psychopath, with all the charisma and hubris that makes his ruthless determination to outwit L and the police to “rid the world of evil” all the more compelling to read. L also has all the appearance and characteristics of an unhinged genius and his tendency to perch on chairs and eat as many sweet treats as he can get his hands on provide much needed visual light relief against the dark subject matter of death and crime.

They do say power goes to your head...
They do say power goes to your head…

Death Note isn’t a standard cat-and-mouse story because Light is hunting L as keenly as L wants to catch Kira, and Light isn’t afraid to risk nail-bitingly bold manoeuvres like telling someone he’s the killer only seconds before they’re meant to enact a plan he wrote into the Death Note. L isn’t afraid to use risky and outlandish strategies either, and even approaches Light directly and asks for his help to defeat Kira despite harbouring a suspicion that Light is Kira. The manga also throws other interesting elements into the mix such as Light’s father being captain of the police force, and the unexpected appearance of another Kira.

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L upholds a lawful justice system

The stakes get ever higher as L and Light battle for the upper hand which means some improbable plot devices are used, but L and Light’s intricate thought processes add gravitas which help keep the narrative grounded as they constantly analyse and dissect how Kira would act, L to catch him and Light to avoid suspicion.

Light’s relationship with Ryuk, the shinigami accompanying the Death Note is also enjoyably unique, with Ryuk standing back and silently watching Light’s decisions with the Death Note, occasionally revealing something about its workings, or just comically twisting about if he’s denied apples for too long (apples are like crack to shinigami). It’s refreshing to see that despite the shinigami having terrifying appearances, they are rational, feeling creatures and sometimes seem more human than the humans.

Death Note is an absorbing read that proves itself worthy of its cult status with all the melodramatic plot twists and intellectual ponderings that only the best of manga can pull off.

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Code Geass

When I originally heard of Death Note it reminded me a lot of one of my favourite anime, Code Geass. Both stories feature two lead characters with opposing morals, one of whom has a supernatural element to help them fulfill their goal. I think one of the reasons I prefer Code Geass is that the central characters are given strong backstories and motives for their moral stances, so if you like Death Note, definitely give Code Geass a try.

Yaoi manga reviews (Even So, I Will Love You Tenderly/Ten Count/Flutter)

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Even So, I Will Love You Tenderly – Kou Yoneda 

Harumi falls hard and fast for Ryo when they meet at a bar. But Ryo is straight, or is he? When Ryo finds himself attracted to another man, Harumi realises he has a chance – and he has to take it.

I really enjoyed this manga’s style. The urban city life of late night bar conversations and falling asleep on the train richly evoke the life of young Japanese professionals, and Harumi is a great character, covering his emotional vulnerability with wit and self deprecating humour even when alone.

The dialogue is informal and flows easily, especially between Ryo and Harumi during the love confession. Their push and pull of feelings is really interesting and moving to read as they try and cross the divide of gay and straight. I even laughed out loud during the love scene as Ryo’s approach is hilariously awkward and feels refreshingly human. I would definitely like to read more manga from this author.

10/10

Ten Count (Volume 1) – Rihito Takari 

Don’t be fooled by the sexy cover art and “Explicit Content” warning, volume one of Ten Count is quite a refined, slow placed affair. The story follows polite and dedicated corporate secretary Shirotani whose life is turned upside down when he meets Kurose, a counsellor who accurately diagnoses him on the spot as a man struggling with germophobia and OCD.

I’m not sure if it was an intentional attempt to avoid controversy on the author’s part, but the manga seems to aim to skirt around the ethical issues of a counsellor and client falling in love as Kurose from the beginning decides to counsel Shirotani outside of a professional setting, not asking for any fees and stating that he wants to be Shirotani’s friend. All the same their relationship remains largely professional, with Kurose outlining a ten-step program for Shirotani to work through.

I found Ten Count to be in some respects almost as rigid as Shirotani’s secretarial suit and gloves. His mental illness felt well portrayed as the story nicely balanced his triumphs and setbacks, complete with the physical symptoms and traumatic flashbacks and his relationship with Kurose is well realised but both Kurose and Shirotani’s emotions and interactions are often subdued which makes it harder to connect with their characters and relationship at times. Nonetheless this a very elegantly drawn and told story and I would consider reading the next volume to see how Shirotani overcomes his condition.

7/10 (but there’s room to grow in later volumes)

Flutter – Momoko Tenzen

Asada is always spellbound by a handsome coworker he sees every morning on his way into work. When the two are paired up on a project, he can’t believe his luck. The manga is quick to blur the lines of their professional relationship when Asada goes drinking with Mizuki and wakes up at his house the next morning, and then ends up going to see a movie with him.

Flutter unfolds as a pretty standard romance, with the obstacle to Asada and Mizuki’s relationship being one of Mizuki’s old flames, a university professor. The art style is also very typical for yaoi with angular faces and large broad bodies, but the expressions are well conveyed and the story flows well with no panel ever feeling flat.

Flutter doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary for a yaoi manga, but it does it well so if you’re looking for a typical boy’s love read, give it a go.

8/10

 

N.B. Another thing I enjoyed about all of these manga is they all steered clear of the seme/uke stereotypes yaoi is known for in which an older/more masculine man pursues and seduces a younger/more feminine man often in a disturbingly non-consensual way (Junjou Romantica, I’m looking at you).