Shelter (Porter Robinson, Madeon, Toshifumi Akai)

porter-robinson-madeon-shelter-anime

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.

shelter-74
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:

 

Advertisements

Psychic School Wars (Nerawareta Gakuen)

Nerawareta-Gakuen

You’d be forgiven for seeing the title Psychic School Wars and picturing a no-holds-barred action anime. But that’s really not what it is at all. A more accurate title might be Psychic Romance, as this anime is really about love, feelings and romance, with a bit of science fiction thrown in for good measure.

Seki is a simple, messy haired boy with a crush on class rep Kahori. Unfortunately for him, she’s rather taken a shine to the attractive, mysterious new student to their class, Ryoichi. Ryoichi has a real talent for playing Debussy on the piano…and for manipulating people psychically, which he plans to use to gradually bring the entire school under his control.

Other than his using this to make one of the female classmates his psychic servant, we don’t see much of him using his psychic powers to begin with. Instead we see the story focus on the love triangle between Seki, Kahori, and Natsu – Seki’s childhood friend. When Seki embarrasses himself in front of Kahori by leaving his fly open during a conversation with her, Natsu jokingly nicknames him “Mr. Open Fly”. She later reveals in an inner monologue that she’s been alongside Seki her whole life, and is not only literally the girl next door to him, but also figuratively as he remains oblivious to her deep love for him. We see a beautiful flashback of her memories of their time together as kids watching the fireworks together at a festival. The abstract nature of the memory and her romantic feelings are beautifully evoked with a plethora of watercolour effects.

Natsu recalls her precious childhood memories with Seki
Natsu recalls her precious childhood memories with Seki

Yes, as you might have guessed by now, the the shining strength of Psychic School Wars is the breathtaking visuals. Alongside the constant picturesque stream of cherry blossoms, dappled light effects and starry night skies, even the minutiae of day to day life is rendered with exquisite attention to detail such as the fluttering of a paper plane, or the flicking of pages in a notebook.

Personally, we think this anime could have done with more cherry blossoms
Fateful meeting? Check. Outrageous amount of cherry blossoms? Check.

This anime often goes out of its way to create a feast for the eyes, with characters needlessly blowing bubbles outside a rural shrine or riding a glass elevator overlooking a sunset over the ocean (yes, really) just to create dazzling scenes for the viewer. It’s hard not to want to screen grab every moment for posterity, the only downside being that sometimes the scenery porn moments can overwhelm and distract from what’s actually going on. Every moment is a spectacle, which is glorious but also means that the moments that are meant to really be a spectacle have slightly less impact.

How to look pretty while you pine after your crush: an anime 101
How to look pretty while you pine after your crush: an anime 101

Alongside the romance, the anime opens with and repeatedly refers to an ongoing storyline about a debate within the school regarding banning mobile phones. Whilst this seems to be completely irrelevant at first it does eventually play into the larger picture of Ryoichi’s manipulation to a degree, and echoes the ongoing theme of the anime about forms of communication in relationships. The discussion of modern technology as an alienating device is nicely contrasted with Natsu’s memories of communicating with Seki through tin cans and string as a child, and the repeated emphasis on love as being the reaching for a connection is honestly moving. That said and done, the mobile phone discussion quotient is still much, much higher than it really needed to be.

Psychic School Wars takes its time to really get to the heart of the characters, and their connection with each other. When it does, the portrayals of teen love and friendship are genuine and touching in an understated way. The constant presence of dreamy colour palettes and sweet music often reduce the effect of the otherworldly elements of the story, and even goofy comedy can occasionally interrupt any building romantic or supernatural tension. This isn’t a problem if you enjoy the romantic and emotional elements of anime, but when the psychic elements come into play it isn’t always clear who has been manipulated and whether we’re supposed to consider Ryoichi a friend or foe.

Don't hate the psychic player, hate the psychic game
Don’t hate the psychic player, hate the psychic game

The main downside to this anime is that a lot of the psychic elements feel vague and confusing. Just when the story picks things up, it sets them aside to move back to the romance, and sometimes the movement between serious and silly, or sci fi and sappy is strange and jarring and doesn’t quite gel. There are a lot of elements that just aren’t developed in the right way, which is frustrating and confusing.

Psychic powers and romantic angst...but they still managed to fit a beach scene in
Psychic powers and romantic angst…but they still managed to fit a beach scene in

Even if Psychic School Wars isn’t your cup of tea story-wise, if you’re looking for a pretty anime this one is a visual feast. Sometimes it feels sappy and saccharine, but there are enough touching and powerful moments to pack an emotional punch and make this worth your time. Just…don’t expect it to fully make sense.

This Boy is a Professional Wizard

boyisaprofwizard

This Boy is a Professional Wizard is a short anime about hard-working and shy wizard Chiharu who meets outgoing redhead Toyohi at the bar he regularly frequents. Toyohi is instantly smitten and makes no bones about declaring his feelings for Chiharu after their first meeting, and arranging a date with him at the aquarium.

Chiharu takes a little longer to realise his own feelings, particularly as his fellow wizard colleagues are questioning why he doesn’t have a wife or girlfriend. He also feels insecure about himself and thinks he has nothing to recommend him other than his magic, a career which eats up a lot of his time and energy.

boyisaprofwizard2
The bartender ships them already…
boyisaprofwizard3
The cocktails look like starry skies, always a bonus!

This Boy is a Professional Wizard is a sweet and interesting look at insecurity and how it can damage budding relationships. For me, the real stand out feature is the animation style which has a beautiful watercolour effect and often uses many traditional Japanese motifs such as cherry blossoms, Japanese calligraphy and traditional Japanese dress. Combined with the rich and sparkling colour palette it feels like watching a traditional Japanese painting combined with anime, and is worth watching the anime alone to see.

It was also refreshing to see this anime avoid a lot of the cliché seme/uke tropes of yaoi anime – although Toyohi makes all the moves on Chiharu it’s clear he respects his boundaries, and there are no dodgy non consenual sex scenes that yaoi anime is renowned for.

The complete anime of this is only just over thirty minutes long altogether, making it an easy watch for any boy’s love fan looking to try something new but not wanting to commit to a really long anime.