Anime Review: Handa-kun. The comedic nonsensical “prequel” to Barakamon.

I don’t think I mentioned this in my Barakamon review, but I actually started watching Handa-kun before realizing it was a prequel. In fact I think I only found out about the show from this gif;

Japan has been fooling us all along!

That gif is actually a great example of what you can expect from the show, and to be honest if they’d dropped the idea of it being a prequel I think it would’ve made a better standalone show. Also if you’ve got the chance to watch it with the English dub, I’d highly recommend it! I only got to see the first 2 episodes that way, but I think it definitely helps with the comedic elements listening in one’s native language. At least as far as Handa-kun is involved.

Hated by everyone around him, Sei Handa goes about his high school life regarded as an outcast—or at least that’s what he believes. In reality, Sei is the most popular student on campus, revered by all for his incomparable calligraphy skills, good looks, and cool personality. However, due an endless series of misunderstandings, Handa perceives the worship he receives from his legions of fans as bullying, leading the school’s idol to shut himself off from the rest of his classmates.

But distancing himself from his peers doesn’t deter them from adoring him; in fact, his attempts at drawing attention away from himself often end up unintentionally converting even the most skeptical of students into believers. Fashion models, shut-in delinquents, obsessive fangirls, and more—none can stand against the brilliance that is Sei Handa.

[Written by MAL Rewrite]

Handa-kun has a lot of things working for it as a comedy with a funny implementation of breaking the fourth wall in the first episode, two “straight-man” characters to balance most scenes, and a variety of crazy Handa-obsessed students in every episode. However it’s when viewing it as a sequel to Barakamon that things start to unravel. In that light, Handa’s best friend, Takao Kawafuji, is actually kind of the villain of the show in a way. We learn it was because of his jealously of Handa that he told him everyone hates him. He then delights in Handa’s suffering while telling himself he’s reveal the truth some day. The show also loves to remind you it’s a prequel by showing you that Handa is allergic to cats as frequently as possible, and I don’t ever remember Handa being this dense in Barakamon.

All that said, I found the show pretty enjoyable for the most part. It’s only 12 episodes, and I managed to binge the first 10 in one day, however I did get a little bored with the show towards the end. The side characters such as those in, The Handa Force, really make this show what it is — in that way I guess it is like Barakamon. Much in the same way that Handa is always misinterpreting everyone else around him, they also misinterpret him and somehow become better people for it… Or much much worse as one girl nearly kills herself early in the show and becomes somewhat of a hitman/bodyguard for Handa shortly after.

 

Image from Jeroz on Reddit

To a degree Handa has this affect on almost every character including, or should I say mostly, those who hate him. Everyone in the Handa Force except for Yukio disliked Handa in the beginning — usually as the result of some kind of misunderstanding. Of course this being a comedy, reason goes out the window as the characters all ultimately “understand” how much Handa has “helped” them, and thus devote their lives to him. So is it really any surprise this concept gets old after a while?

But yeah, it feels a little dishonest to refer to this show as a prequel when it’s so loosely connected. Handa’s personality might be the biggest common denominator between the two series as his paranoia and otaku nature still shine through. However the insanity in Handa-kun is unparalleled even by Naru in Barakamon, and I feel like that really says something. Overall I’d say both series are worth the watch, and I’d even say the order I watched them is probably better. However I can’t stress enough that you shouldn’t go into either series carrying any expectations from the other.

This review felt a little light on substance, but sadly so did the show in many ways. However as far as visual gags go this show was a winner!

SEE YOU ANIME FANS …

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Anime Review: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

Featured Image from SteamyTomato or maybe JWALL? Also just noticed the Funhaus logo on the mug ^_^

What a sweet and fun series! No wonder I finished all 13 episodes in less than 24 hours! I briefly mentioned yesterday in my First Impressions post, but I only really started this series because I saw a cosplay by Jessica Nigri as Lucoa and felt like giving it a shot. Haha that sounds a little worse than it actually is, but I don’t regret it one bit! This slice of life, fantasy, comedy is my favorite type of thing! The only downside is that there’s no second season… yet?

As office worker Kobayashi gets ready for work, she is greeted by a large dragon right outside her front door. The dragon immediately transforms into a young human female in a maid outfit, and introduces herself as Tohru. It turns out that during a drunken excursion into the mountains the night before, Kobayashi had encountered the dragon, who claims to have come from another world. Subsequently, Kobayashi had removed a holy sword from Tohru’s back, earning her gratitude. Having no place to stay, Kobayashi had offered to let the dragon stay at her home and become her personal maid, to which Tohru agreed. As Kobayashi had forgotten her drunken offering, she is initially reluctant to allow the dragon into her home despite her previous promise, but a mix of guilt and the usefulness of Tohru’s dragon abilities convinces Kobayashi to accept her. Despite being efficient at housework, Tohru’s unorthodox methods of housekeeping often end up scaring Kobayashi and bringing more trouble than help. Additionally, Tohru’s presence attracts other dragons, gods and mythical beings to her new home. – Wikipedia

Plot: 4/5

Being a slice of life, I wasn’t really expecting all that much plot progression from this series. In fact, I was a little surprised that most episodes did seem to build on one another and we learn bits and pieces about each character. We’re often only hinted at their pasts however which really makes me want to read the manga! I would be willing to bump the score if a second season is made.

Art: 4/5

While there wasn’t anything wrong with this series’ animation, there wasn’t a whole lot that stuck out really. It’s receiving a higher rating than I would’ve otherwise given for branching out with character models a bit. Most of the girls are actually thicc (lol may be the first time I’ve actually used that term) instead of the typical stick figures, and one of the dragons, Fafnir, takes a human form that greatly resembles Sebastian from Black Butler! I also think the show did a great job with the design of their dragons. I don’t typically like dragons besides the shenlong or tianlong kind with the long bodies, but this show made them look really cool!

Characters: 5/5

Seriously I loved all of these characters! The only possible exception would be Miss Kobayashi’s cowoker, Takiya, who goes full otaku with the spiral glasses and buckteeth from time to time. However every other character had their own traits that made them quite lovable. Fafnir for his hikikomori game-obsessed lifestyle, Lucoa for her succubus-like advances on her master, Elma for her passion for food, Kanna for her innocent childish behavior, Tohru for her love for Kobayashi, and Kobayashi for her umm… back pain? Kidding kidding! I actually loved Kobayashi’s character because she proves to be such a kind-hearted, mothering person. She’s always looking out for Tohru and Kanna and they look out for her in return.

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: 4.5/5

I just couldn’t bring myself to leave it at four. This series may not be for everyone, but I certainly enjoyed it. I’m actually hoping to find the Japanese manga so I can enjoy reading it while learning the language. Hopefully that doesn’t ruin the fun of reading it, but we’ll have to see. Anyway, if you’re a fan of slice of life, easygoing anime, you can’t go wrong with this show!

First Impressions: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

When this show first popped up about a year ago I started seeing some awesome cosplays of it, but never knew the name. Fortunately Crunchyroll is always promoting different stuff, so it just kind of popped into my view and I decided to give the first episode a try. It was amazing to say the least. This comedy/fantasy series is bound to make you laugh, and I suspect it’ll get fairly deep at times.

We’re introduced to Miss Kobayashi, “a normal programmer and office worker who suddenly finds herself living with a dragon after removing a divine sword from it on a drunken night.”. The dragon in question, Tohru, “a female dragon of the Chaos faction who is capable of utilising magic to perform such tasks as “perception-blocking”, repairing damage she may have caused, or transforming into a human girl. After her life is saved by Kobayashi, she falls in love with her and starts living in her flat as a maid.”. In the first episode alone we’re treated to several days of their lives together as Tohru learns more and more about the way humans live, often consulting her dragon friends for help over the phone. She’s got that funny clueless character which is nicely combated with Kobayashi’s straight-man act.

I’m getting ready to binge this series, so it shouldn’t be more than a few days before the full review is out. Of course that’s how most of my First Impressions have been going lately huh? ^_^

First Impressions: Barakamon

I originally set out to watch Handa-kun, the comedic spin-off, when I realized Barakamon was the original show. The concept seemed interesting enough, and from first glances I think I’ll really enjoy it.

Seishū Handa is a pro calligrapher, despite his young age. When the elderly curator of an exhibition criticizes his calligraphy for being too unoriginal (“like a textbook”), Seishū gets angry and punches him. Because of this, his father sends him off for a retreat on Gotō Island, near Kyūshū. There, he meets the colorful villagers, interacts with them, and begins to find his own style.

The title of the series means “easy-going person” in the local dialect, and in the beginning of the series Handa is anything but one.

The first episode introduces a fairly common entertainment trope in which someone from the city has to rough it in the boonies. They’ve got a different dialect, their technology is outdated, and they have a small child called the “village scamp”. I very quickly got the same vibes from this show as I did Your lie in April, though I suspect this show won’t be quite as emotionally charged — at least not with the same emotions. Honestly the first episode of this series could’ve been a standalone animation if they’d wanted it to be. We get conflict, change, and by the end could’ve had conflict resolution. That said I’m looking forward to seeing the rest.

What do you think of Barakamon or Handa-kun? Preferences?

Short Anime Review: Shirokuma Cafe (Polar Bear Cafe)

Shirokuma Cafe is a slice of life, slapstick anime that uses Japanese wordplay as a convenient way to help teach Japanese. It’s primary audience may child younger children, but for someone hoping to learn the language it can be a valuable show to watch. The story focuses around the everyday lives of a group of animals mingling with humans at a café run by a polar bear.


Main characters

Polar Bear (シロクマ Shirokuma)
Voiced by: Takahiro Sakurai
A polar bear who runs Polar Bear’s Café, which serves organic foods and drinks and is popular with both humans and animals. He has a habit of making bad puns with his customers and friends, just for the amusement of hearing their retorts. He was born in Hudson’s Bay, Canada.

Panda (パンダ Panda)
Voiced by: Jun Fukuyama
A lazy, somewhat dimwitted, and kind-hearted giant panda who works part-time at a zoo. He enjoys lazing around and eating bamboo and only orders iced coffee at the café until Polar Bear adds bamboo to the menu only for his sake. He is obsessed with all panda products and has a tendency to point out his popularity at the zoo and his own cuteness.

Penguin (ペンギン Pengin)
Voiced by: Hiroshi Kamiya
An emperor penguin (コウテイペンギン Kōtei Pengin, also his legal name) and a frequent customer of the café and friend of Polar Bear who generally orders a cafe mocha. He generally serves as the tsukkomi to the antics of Polar Bear and Panda. He has a crush on another penguin named Penko, and eventually upon learning that Penko has six sisters identical to her, he ends up dating them all. However, Penguin’s inability to get their names right sets off a chain of events that lead to them dumping him.
Sadly couldn’t find a good gif for Sasako
Sasako (笹子)
Voiced by: Aya Endo
A human girl who works at the Polar Bear’s Cafe. She used to live in the same town as Llama and her hobby is to take rides on her bicycle. Although not fond of scary stories, she’s great at telling them, even making Mr. Handa faint of hearing it.

– Wikipedia


Overall the show is cute and easygoing. My favorite character is by far the polar bear, though he has a grizzly bear friend that I enjoy as well. I can’t necessarily say the show has taught me a ton of Japanese as I’ve already taken quite a few classes in the subject already, but I would say it’s akin to a Japanese Dora the Explorer. So if you’re looking to kill some time and expand your vocabulary, I’d recommend checking it out on Crunchyroll!

TV Review: Master of None (Season 2)

Nothing but spoilers ahead!

After all this time we finally have the second season of Master of None available on Netflix! I’ve enjoyed most of Aziz Ansari’s work, except maybe his role in the last season of Scrubs, and I remember binging the first season of Master of None like there was no tomorrow. Season two is quite possibly better than the first, and starts out with Dev in Italy in a black and white neorealism style exploring the city of Modena.


After traveling abroad, Dev (Aziz Ansari) returns to New York to take on challenges in his personal and family life, a new career opportunity, and a complex, developing relationship with someone very meaningful to him. – Netflix


The first two episodes in Italy were beautiful and was a great chance for Dev to show off his Italian. We also get to see the character Arnold again when he drags Dev along to his ex-girlfriend’s wedding. Plenty of laughs and cringe packed into those two episodes!

In the third episode ,”Religion”, we’re reintroduced to Dev’s parents (Aziz’s actual parents) as well as some family friends and a portrayal of Muslim life in America. Or at least a portrayal of two pseudo Muslims eating their bodyweight worth of pork and trying to hide it from their parents. I actually really enjoyed this episode because of how relatable it was. I was raised in a Catholic family and was pretty devout for most of my life. However as I grew up and apart from Catholicism, I felt the need to hide it from my family just like Dev. Eventually I realized I shouldn’t pretend to be someone I’m not, but just like in the episode I could’ve probably been more respectful about it.

The next episode, “First Date”, starts off in a way familiar to a lot of people with women using a Tinder like application and deciding wether or not to match with Dev. This episode probably draws a lot from Aziz’s book Modern Romance which admittedly I’ve only read a few chapters of. It was still fun to see several first date tropes shown through what seems like one date but the women kept changing. Some of the dates went well, some were an absolute train wreck, but none really led to anything great. As playful as an episode as it was, it also makes you reflect on how the dating scene has changed so much with the influx of new technology and our changing society.

In, “The Dinner Party”, Dev takes Francesca, a friend he made while in Italy, to a dinner thrown by his celebrity chef boss for the show Clash of the Cupcakes. The pair hit it off really well to the point Dev’s boss even advises Dev to make a move on Francesca. Dev informs him that she has a boyfriend, but his boss insists that Dev should act on his feeling for her. After dropping her off at her hotel room, the camera stays focused on Dev in the taxi for an excruciating amount of time. It’s a very real, very relatable scene where you can see him fighting with himself internally about what he should do, and you can’t help but hope that he’ll tell the driver to turn around or at least call or text her. Instead Dev does what most of us would do and goes home. Heartbreaking but realistic.

“New York, I Love You”, follows the story of several different types of people in New York. Some are work in hotels, some are deaf, some are East African cab drivers. Each story is different, but make up the key reasons New York is such an amazing city. This episode offers a lot of perspectives that are rarely, if ever, shown on mainstream television. The episode wraps up very nicely bringing everyone together in the end watching the same movie.

We get some real plot development with “Door #3” when Dev gets an offer to host Clash of the Cupcakes for another seven seasons. Considering his feelings towards the show — lukewarm at best, he’s hesitant and honestly wants to do more with his career. This episode is great because we also get to see more of Brian and his dad for a whacky adventure, and Dev pitch a new travel show to his boss.

“Thanksgiving” starts out with a flashback of Dev as a child with one of his early girlfriends (actually his friend Denise) and her family. We get a picture into the black community’s thanksgiving and interestingly a young Indian boy’s take on it. As the episode progresses it skips forward several years to when Denise first comes out to Dev as a lesbian. The time skips from there show some of her relationships and her family’s reactions towards them. It was a rough journey but in alls well that ends well, and this episode ends beautifully and hilariously. Probably my favorite in the season… thus far.

The next episode “Amarsi Un Po'” is a true work of art. Francesca comes back into the show with her now fiancée and Dev decides he’s going to go for it. The two exchange A LOT of flirting, and she really doesn’t seem all that interested in her fiancée. After a convenient string of events involving a snow storm, the pair end up in Dev’s bed after a very romantic night. They don’t have sex, but from that point on Dev knows he has to confess to her. However after that night it’s all cold vibes from Francesca, and Dev pries until they’re both very aware of the situation. He confesses he loves her during a helicopter ride around NYC and she says she probably loves him too.

Episode ten, “Buona Notte”, the season two finale shows the filming of an episode of BFFs “Best Food Friends”, the show Dev and his boss are working on. He’s finally got everything he wants, except Francesca. I don’t want to spoil too much from this episode, but I will say the cinematography is something you don’t typically see anymore. If television was this emotionally strong I doubt I’d typically be reviewing anime. Admittedly I wasn’t expecting to see H. Jon Benjamin and Raven Symone in this episode, but it certainly led to an interesting twist, among others, that I imagine will strongly affect season 3.

But come on that callout to “That’s So Raven” was classic.

Ultimately this episode is something most of us can relate to — even with a vague ending. Now I feel like I should start to get more critical about my rating system, because I give Master of None

a simple 5/5

It’s beautiful and a must watch.

Anime Review: Samurai Flamenco aka The Anime That Could’ve Been

I was actually at an anime club when I first saw Samurai Flamenco. The name turned me off to the show, but after watching the first episode I was hooked. The first six episodes were very relatable as the main character finds his path as a hero in the “regular” world. However from episode seven on, the show takes a supernatural turn with monsters, aliens, and more as the show goes on. Personally, I preferred the show when it was more realistic.


Masayoshi Hazama: a man who has become a superhero “by himself” with no superhuman powers or any sort of high-tech conversions, NONE!! Hidenori Goto: a cop who found out the true identity of “the superhero” by a strange twist of fate and thus constantly gets in trouble thanks to Hazama, the superhero. This is the story of the birth of a true hero featuring these two young men with a touch of comedy and serious drama, while they come face to face with hardships as they search for the true meaning of becoming a hero of justice in this world


Episodes 1-6 Deserve a solid 5/5
Episodes 7-22 Deserve 3/5

What’s so amazing about the beginning of this show is that it’s almost like a Japanese Batman. The show really takes a tumble after episode seven, but does manage to find some footing around episode fourteen. It takes a while, and to be honest it never revives the beauty of the first six episodes; And while I liked the ending I found it anticlimactic and lacking. Literally if they’d cut out all the supernatural episodes I would have given this show a solid 5/5. Supernatural anime are fine, but I really felt this show mislead the audience in a negative way. I would say that this show is worth watching, but that it has a very shaky plot. What started as an interesting Japanese version of Kick-Ass quickly turns into a generic version of Power Rangers. Literally…

Honestly I was so disappointed by the sudden plot change that although the rest of the story would’ve been funny on its own, I knew it wouldn’t live up to its dynamic start. Unfortunately, the letdown is so severe that I can’t even justify averaging the scores to give this show a 4/5.

With a heavy heart I give Samurai Flamenco

3/5 Fan Girls

That said, the show did have some pretty funny moments later on.

Huh.. I just realized this is my second review of a show with “Samurai” in the title.