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!

Anime Review: Elfen Lied

I just finished this series and to be perfectly honest I don’t know how I feel about it. I don’t hate it, but it was pretty f*cked up the entire way through. I’m going to try something a little different and not spoil too much with this review. However I should warn you now this post will cover gore and some sexually explicit material (seriously most nudity I’ve ever seen in anime). Buckle up.


Elfen Lied takes place in Kamakura and Kanagawa, and focuses on the “Diclonius”, a newly mutated species. Their appearance is similar to humans, but with several differences, namely horn-like protrusions on the forehead and the presence of telekinetic invisible arms called “Vectors”. One such Diclonius, Lucy, is the main character of the series: Initially held in a facility built for experimentation, located off the coast of Kamakura, she manages to escape and wreak havoc, but is injured in the process, an event which causes her to develop a secondary, childlike personality known as Nyu.

Lucy is found by two locals, Kouta, who studies at the local university, and his cousin Yuka. They take her in, and become involved with the numerous, often brutal, attempts to recapture her by a Special Assault Team and a number of other Diclonius, who shift frequently from oblivious to murderous. – Wikipedia


I figured the first thing I should probably cover are the bigger themes in the series —  social alienation, identity, prejudice, revenge, abuse, jealousy, regret and the value of humanity. I’ll do my best to separate these themes based on the characters that exhibit them.

Starting out with Kouta, he seems like your typical student — average in just about every way imaginable aside from his living circumstances. However early on in the series we get the impression that Kouta doesn’t remember his past very accurately, and begin to suspect that Lucy is involved in some way. Much like Lucy having her split personality, this eventually has an effect on Kouta’s character identity affecting his relationships with the other characters.

Other characters like the rest of the Diclonius also experience identity crises when confronting what they truly want vs what they’ve been taught to believe. Are they simply weapons born to eradicate mankind, or are they friends, daughters and possibly lovers? They often experience extreme prejudice whether it be immediate death upon birth, lifetimes spent in total isolation, abusive experiments to test their abilities, etc etc. Because of these experiences, most Diclonius view themselves as the superior race believing humans to be akin to stupid animals in comparison. Initially viewers of this show might only attribute jealousy to Yuka for her reactions to Kouta being around other girls. However, at their core the Diclonius envy the very humans they claim superiority over. They’re jealous of those who can lead normal human lives and wish for a world where they’re not discriminated against.

Abuse in this series isn’t limited to the Diclonius however. We’re also introduced to a young girl named Mayu, a homeless runaway. She left home after being countlessly raped by her step-father and abused by her mother. She also experienced prejudice from strangers because of her appearance wearing dirty and tattered clothing. Until becoming friends with Kouta, Yuka and Nyu, Mayu’s only friend was her dog whom she shared bread crusts with to stay alive.

Lucy/Nyu is by far the most dynamic character in the series however due to her conflicting emotions regarding the value of humanity. As Lucy, she’s an unstoppable killing machine who’s sole purpose is to propagate a new world full of Diclonius and to seek revenge for her mistreatment. However as Nyu, her love for Kouta and their friends creates a real struggle and sense of regret for her character later on. It’s hard not to love, fear and pity her all at the same time.

Plot: 2/5

When I’m completely honest with myself, this show had a very weak plot that was riddled with holes. Characters would act inconsistently, major plot points went unaddressed, and it often felt like gore was a fallback to keep viewers attention. Most characters would act in ways that defy all logic, and for no apparent reason other than to push the plot forwards. Also no one takes that many baths in a 13 episode series!

Character Development: 4/5

I felt the need to include this aspect for the review because although the plot was weak, the show did a great job of making you attached to some of the characters. Whether it be Kouta whom I personally dislike (Love to discuss this with anyone who’s seen the show!), or Nana who I feel had the most progression in the series, everyone had something to bring. It’s only too bad that the writers felt plot holes were necessary to bring all of these character traits together.

Art/Sound: 4/5

I’m not much into gore, but I’ve got to give this show props for doing it well. I know not everything was anatomically correct throughout the show, but they clearly tried harder than most anime in terms of making it feel realistic. This is one of the few anime that deserves the Horror tag its been given. Music wasn’t especially important in this series though the OP was fairly interesting and apparently a bigger deal in the manga as the song Elfenlied plays a somewhat bigger role from what I understand.

Elfen Lied: 3.5/5

I can understand the appeal of this anime to many of its fans, however at the end of the day I could take or leave it. I liked how it approached its themes hold from its loose harem nature. Unfortunately I think I’ll have forgotten most of it in about six months or so.

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!

First Impressions: Elfen Lied

I’ve honestly wanted to watch this anime for several years now, but for some reason never got around to it. I’ve heard it’s a pretty critically acclaimed horror series, but aside from that knew nothing going into it.

The series’ title is German as well as Dutch for “Elves’ Song” or more formally “song of the elves'” and takes its name from the song “Elfenlied”, which is featured in the story. Elfen Lied involves themes of social alienation, identity, prejudice, revenge, abuse, jealousy, regret and the value of humanity. It is also noted for the graphic violence, emotional themes of how the characters change through, and the overall transgressive subject matter of the whole story. – Wikipedia

So yeah about five minutes into this and wow they weren’t kidding about the graphic violence and nudity. I’ve already lost count of how many people have been telekinetically ripped to shreds by this girl, but I feel like we’re past a dozen. I’m left wondering what the deal with the Mew-Two mask is as well as how they could’ve possibly gotten this girl locked away in the first place. We learn her name is Lucy, and she escapes the facility through some deus-ex bullshit door being open, she takes a 50 caliber anti-tank sniper rifle shot to the head, knocking off the helmet and plunging her into the ocean.

Image by Rafa-Oliveir4
Image by M-i-S-T-I-K-A

We’re then introduced to Kohta and Yuka, cousins who apparently haven’t seen each other since childhood along with his little sister Kanae (whom I assume has since died). They find the telekinetic badass Lucy who’s now acting like a small child. Kohta has some kind of PTSD flashback seeing Lucy’s horns, and the pair decide to take her back to his place instead of a, you know, hospital or something… They decide to name her Nyu, since it’s the only thing she says, and she promptly pees on the floor… But it’s alright, I’m rolling with it so far. As they’re eating we see her incredibly docile and receive a bit of a shock when it transitions quickly back to the devastation she caused earlier. We’re informed the SAT (Special Assault Team) will be dispatched to kill Lucy, specifically a Mr. Bandoh, who appears to be just about as deadly as Lucy.

Flip back to Kohta, Yuka and Nyu (going to refer to her by the state she’s in) looking at the shell Kohta’s sister gave him before she died. Nyu breaks it in a misunderstanding and Kohta yells at her to leave. We see that she makes it back to the beach, and the SAT confirms she’d killed 23 people in only five minutes (for those keeping count at home that is indeed more than a dozen). The episode ends with her crying, and if I didn’t absolutely have to go to sleep after writing this I know I’d start binge watching.

I’m definitely impressed with this series so far. I don’t think there’s any way I could’ve predicted what it was going to be about though. It seems so familiar, but distinctively different from anything I’ve seen before. It’s got that older anime style I’m fond of, and looks like much of it’s character design was probably inspired by other series such as Chobits — though it’s certainly possible Chobits wasn’t the original either. I still don’t know what to expect from this series, but I know I’m looking forward to it!

Anime Review: Boku Wa Tomodachi Ga Sukunai (I don’t have many friends)

First things first if you find yourself wanting to watch this show, be very careful of where you watch. I don’t just mean your physical location, though that’s certainly a factor, but the source you’re watching from as well. I found out you might get more than you bargained for if you accidentally stumbled upon the Blu-ray version… Anywho the show is available on Hulu, so if you’re willing to put up with some ads or have an account all should be good. Also here is a link to my “First Impressions” for the show from a few days ago. I feel like it might be helpful before going into this, but it’s really up to you. Now for the review.

Major spoilers ahead!

Kodaka Hasegawa, a transfer student to St. Chronica’s Academy, has found it difficult to make friends because of his mix of brown-blond hair (inherited from his deceased English mother) and fierce-looking eyes that make him look like a delinquent. One day, he accidentally comes across the equally solitary and very abrasive Yozora Mikazuki as she converses with “Tomo”, her “air” (imaginary) friend. Realizing that they lack social lives and skills, they decide that the best way to improve their situation is to form the Neighbors Club (隣人部Rinjin-bu), “an after-school club for people with no friends like themselves”. Other students with various backgrounds join the club: Sena Kashiwazaki is an attractive but arrogant idol who has no female friends and treats the boys as her slaves; Yukimura Kusunoki is an effeminate underclassman who idolizes Kodaka and strives to become manly like him; Rika Shiguma is a genius scientist with a twisted and perverted mind; Kobato Hasegawa is Kodaka’s little sister who generally cosplays as a vampire; and Maria Takayama, a ten-year-old nun who serves as the club’s advisor. The story follows their adventures as the club tries out various school and outside social activities as practice for making friends. – Wikipedia

Oh and one more thing I wanted to point out before we go any further. I’ve only watched the subs of the anime, but I hear the dub is actually really entertaining. I can only imagine with some of the lewd things they force Sena to read aloud!

Now then, as the Wikipedia summary points out above, our harem’s protagonist, Kodaka, is finding it hard to make friends because of this mixed hair and RBF (resting bitch face). I actually found the concept kind of funny because I’ve heard of blond hair being a sign of delinquency for guys in Japan, but I’ve never seen RBF applied to a guy before. To be honest, it wasn’t that believable as plenty of anime guys have naturally meaner faces than Kodaka, but the show does a decent job of exhibiting it when needed.

Speaking of Kodaka, this show introduced a concept in the harem genre I’d never really considered before. Rika actually considers at one point that Kodaka is purposefully acting dense, but is actually fully aware of how everyone feels about him. What’s interesting about this show compared to all the others is that we find out she’s actually right for the most part. The clichéd, “What was that? I didn’t hear you.”, moments are all just his way of keeping things normal and preventing romantic plot developments. I thought this was a brilliant introduction, and it actually makes me wonder if all guys in the genre do the same thing! (Relax I know they’re not real ^_^)

This show also did a pretty good job with the characters in my opinion. Though we don’t see a ton of development, the pacing was much faster than your traditional harem/slice of life. One of the seemingly most important plot points, Kodaka and Yozora’s childhood friendship, gets fleshed out in the first season! The viewer isn’t stuck knowing this information for seasons on end waiting for the protagonist to catch up? What a breath of fresh air! I know we don’t find out until the end of the first season in a two season show, but still it’s a nice change of pace.

By the time we get to the second season, I was actually pretty surprised that I felt conflicted about the romance. Until the final episode of the first season I was kinda hoping for something between Kodaka and Sena. But in the second season Sena doesn’t show much character and Yozora really seems like the right choice. However when it’s revealed that Kodaka’s and Sena’s fathers had arraigned for their engagement when they were young, it really seems like the show was pushing for them. Of course we’re left with a crazy cliffhanger after Sena confesses and we never get a straight answer from Kodaka.

I guess that brings us to a part of the review I’m not thrilled about. It doesn’t look like this series is getting another season, but it desperately needs one. There are numerous, interesting plot points that go completely unresolved. Does the gang go after Yozora after she disappears? Why is Sena’s father so obsessed with Kodaka? Just what the fuck is a yaoi hole?!?… and do I really want to know? It’s looking like I may actually have to read the light novels to get the answers I want.

Did that review sound similar to anything else I’ve reviewed recently? Because it sure as hell reminded me A LOT of Nisekoi while I was watching it. I still don’t know how I feel about that, but so many of the characters seemed interchangeable! Kodaka = Raku plain and simple, Yozora has characteristics of Chitoge and maybe Ruri. Sena has characteristics of Chitoge and Tsugumi, Yukimura = Tsugumi, Rika has characteristics of Tachibana but smarter, and Kobato and Maria are basically like a more forward Haru — though far less mature and honestly the weakest parts of the how. The three main character just happen to have met and been friends/engaged from a young age? Maybe I’m reading between the lines too much, and sure these traits are pretty common, but I just couldn’t get the thought out of my head!

Oh and we also find out that the effeminate Yukimura is a girl after all! Go figure.

Overall this show went way beyond my expectations when I found out what it was. The characters were funny, I was always surprised by the amount of cursing, it was nice to see them all become friends, and I fell in love with the second OP! It was a truly enjoyable watch that flew by before I knew it.

Review Lightning Round!

Plot: 3/5

Quite enjoyable, but too many loose ends. Interesting, but underdeveloped characters.

Art: 4/5

Though nothing special in terms of animation, there were cut-scenes in the show with live action girls with bits of the animation playing on their shirts. I thought this was an interesting element I haven’t seen in other shows.

Sound: 5/5

Dialogue was hilarious, and I hear the English dub is even funnier. I know sound usually has more to do with the actual audio, but I think that was done well too* — tries not to remember the “mooooo” every time Sena’s breasts took up the screen.

Boku Wa Tomodachi Ga Sukunai receives 4/5

I’m trying not to fault the show too much for it’s lack of seasons, but if I were to take that fully into account this would probably have been a 2.5/5. I know it’s usually not the creator’s fault though, and I did really enjoy what they did manage to put out. If you’re a fan of the harem/slice of life genre you should definitely give it a shot!

Now for today’s ending question. Who would you rather Kodaka end up with, Yozora or Sena? Maybe Rika?

Oh hey gifs!

First Impressions: Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai (I don’t have many friends)

I stumbled upon this show while looking for anime to include in my Top 5 Slice of Life post, and immediately thought, “OH HOW RELATABLE!”. I then thought about how sad a comment that was to make, and decided to give the first episode a watch anyway. I was honestly a little disappointed to find out that Hanagai (show’s nickname) was another harem anime. Seriously, I’m going to start getting a bad name around here if this keeps up… (No irony intended!)

The plot focuses around Kodaka Hasegawa, a transfer student to St. Chronica’s Academy, who’s found it difficult to make friends because of his mix of brown-blond hair and an incident on his first day of school. He encounters Yozora Mikazuki a girl who also has no friends aside from an imaginary one. She decides to form the Neighbors Club, an after-school club for people with no friends like themselves. The episode ends shortly after introducing their third member, Sena Kashiwazaki, an attractive but arrogant blonde who’s constantly surrounded by boys.

It’s fairly obvious from the beginning that Yozora and Sena will be fighting the entire series, but it’s kind of difficult to see Kodaka as a potential love interest for either of them. It’s not that there’s anything inherently wrong with him, but more like the concept of the show doesn’t seem good for a harem in my opinion. I mean if you’re just trying to make friends it’s probably best not to go after any of them romantically. That said, this looks like it’ll be a fun series, so I’ll give it a shot until it gets a little too ecchi.

Oh Kami what have I gotten myself into?