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Anime Recommendation: Shadow Star Narutaru

Shadow Star Narutaru-written by kireblue-

Narutaru is one of those series that is hard to put into words. It’s about an energetic thirteen year old schoolgirl named Shiina that finds a mysterious star shaped creature called a “dragon child”. She names this cute and cuddly creature Hoshimaru and decides to take it home with her. And even though Hoshimaru seems to completely lack emotions, personality and the ability to speak; it becomes obvious that it is not only peaceful, but also “somewhat” intelligent and legitimately loyal. As the story progresses, Shiina comes in contact with more and more children that have companions of their own, and it soon becomes clear that most dragon children have almost no free will at all. In a sense, they are not even individuals. They are only extensions of their owner, and act on whatever thoughts and emotions that are going through their master’s head. But unlike everyone else, Shiina and Hoshimaru seem incapable of making such a deep mental connection. This actually turns out to be a great advantage for Shiina, and saves her from the burdens of having a dragon child. Normally, whenever a dragon child is attacked, all the pain that it receives is transferred to its owner. Since the dragon children are immortal, this allows for its owner to feel a seemingly infinite amount of pain without actually dying. This enormous drawback seems to be the only weakness of the group of teenagers that have developed their dragon children, and seek to use them and their destructive powers to conquer the world. So basically, it’s up to Shiina and Hoshimaru to stop them by whatever means necessary. And sometimes, the means are pretty extreme.

Now, if you think that I just summed up the basis of the story, you are completely wrong. Really, the storyline has little to do with the overall plot. Out of the 13 episodes of the series, only the 1st 1/2 of them relates to what I just described. And to make matters worse, most of the plot is never even explained. It’s like the director had a plot in mind, finished half the series, decided to change the plot without changing the previous episodes, but lost interest in the new plot and decided to make a series finale that has nothing to do with either of them. The fans of this anime are desperately crying out for a season 2, but there is currently no word on whether there is even one in the works. And since this anime came out quite a few years ago, as sequel seems unlikely.

But even though the storyline lacks completion, this is still a pretty good anime. Anybody that’s seen this show will tell you that the story isn’t what makes it special. What makes Narutaru good is that everything about this show from the opening song to the ending credits screams out that it is meant for little kids. The shocking truth is that this is one of the most “NOT FOR KIDS ANIME” that I have ever seen. The violence in this show is so disturbing that I can’t recommend this show to anyone under the age of fifteen. For example: The scene towards episode 12 was just so violent that when I saw it, I was literally frozen with disbelief. Even though the violence was not directly seen, it’s impossible not to understand what happened. After seeing what the characters are capable of doing, you feel compelled to watch the next episode because you actually have no idea what to expect. The fact that Shiina seems to be one of the very few mentally stable characters in the series opens the door for the unimaginable to happen. The show’s unpredictability is actually the main reason why I enjoyed watching it. Even though I wish that more of the plot had been explained, I can honestly say that Narutaru is a great anime series. All that it needs is a second season that expands on the existing story, and I would definitely list it as one of my favorites. But like I said before, this is not a show for kids. The human children remorselessly direct brutal murders, terrorist attacks and mass genocide while the creatures unemotionally stab, poison and slaughter people as young as twelve years old. This is definitely one of those shows where you have to mentally prepare yourself before you watch certain episodes.

Anime Recommendation: Tonari no Seki-kun

Tonari no Seki-Kun

-written by GuntherAMVs-

Tonari no Seki Kun is one of the more inventive, unselfconscious shows I’ve seen. After running across a video of it’s opening (in which the main male character, in a demonstration of meta-animation at its finest, literally draws and processes the opening credits while the opening of the show is occurring), I immediately fell in love with its light-hearted mood and nearly pointless antics.

On first glance, it functions much like Hetalia Axis Powers in that the episodes are short, nonlinear, and often circulate around a single plot for seven minutes of animation or so. Also like Hetalia and other series of short episode length, Seki Kun is a comedy. The two main characters, Yokoi and her frequently distracting classmate Seki-kun, engage in an almost Abbot and Costello act during lecture or extra-curricular activities at school.

One of the most interesting mechanics of the show is the dialogue. Seki-kun does not speak, and instead the viewer must rely on Yokoi’s frantic inner monologues and observations in order to understand the evolution of both characters. Often Yokoi’s personal views distort the image of what she sees, yet the show manages to walk the tight-rope of subjective and objective accounts with an acrobatic ease.

While Tonari no Seki Kun has no overarching plot-arcs or greater purpose besides making the viewer laugh, I thoroughly enjoy the series. The episodes are short, to the point, and every single one reveals just a little more about the two lovable, quirky characters who not only tolerate one another, but bring out one another’s best (at the most inopportune times!).

Happy watching~!

Anime Recommendation: Hunter × Hunter

Hunter X Hunter

-written by l33tmeatwad-

Hunter x Hunter has been twice adapted to anime from the manga written by Yoshihiro Togashi. While both adaptations of Hunter x Hunter are very good, I definitely recommend watching through the first one before watching the most recent version which is currently airing in Japan. The original anime was forced to end after catching up with the manga and would have OVA releases once enough new material was produced. Due to the length of the next story arch and period of time between the last OVA and when they would have had enough material to continue it probably seemed best to completely reboot the series. I was excited to see a reboot as I knew it would cover the new material.

In Hunter x Hunter being a hunter is not what the English word would lead you to believe, they can have a career in a variety of different fields and the status of hunter gives them access and privileges that normal people would not have. The story centers on a young boy named Gon who decides to become a hunter like his father so that he may track him down. As the story develops a variety of new characters are introduced and most end up befriending Gon due to his charming personality. The most addictive part about this series is how your view of everything changes as things are revealed and it leaves you with more questions that need answering. The world in this series is very complex and makes it hard to really explain the series without giving away major spoilers so I will simply encourage you to give it a try so that you can experience it with a fresh point of view.

While watching through the new series I noticed huge chunks of the original were cut to help speed the series along, which is very similar to what happened with the FullMetal Alchemist reboot. While the material that was cut is not necessary to the overall storyline, it really lacked that depth and character development that really added charm to the characters. Whether you chose to watch the original or the reboot, Hunter x Hunter is an amazing series that will have you captivated with the world that Yoshihiro Togashi created.

Anime Recommendation: Ōban Star-Racers

Ōban Star-Racers

-written by StarTrinity009-

In order to convey just how moving this show was for me growing up, I would probably have to write you a small novel. I would have to express just how my home situation was at the time, as well as how Ōban’s heroine inspired my AMV alias. I would have to reminisce about painstakingly adjusting the lighting in my living room, minutes before the next episode aired on Jetix, so that it would be just right before Ōban’s US opening “Never Say Never” slowly filled the room with excitement. For me, Ōban Star-Racers was my middle school equivalent to the original Pokémon and Digimon. It changed who I was and who I want to be. Hence, after struggling to write this recommendation for months, I know I can’t communicate to you, in a mere blog post, just how wonderful and unique and special this show is in my eyes. However, I can at least tell you what you need to know and invite you to strike up a conversation with me about one of the most underrated anime of the 2000s.

Ōban Star-Racers is so incredibly underrated that it almost brings me to tears. Many anime fans do not even realize that it is an anime, or if they do, they are almost always turned off by Oban’s unique character designs. Yes, they do not have obscenely pointed noses like the grand majority of anime characters. Get over it! You are missing out on a great coming of age story from…guess what?…a teenage girl’s perspective that is not put out by Studio Ghibli. Eva, the heroine of Ōban Star-Racers, has a development that is not subtle or symbolic like many other shows. She is also not a magical girl and doesn’t rely on a boy to save her. She is instead a pissed off teen, who breaks out of boarding school to find the dad who has basically abandoned her since she was five. She finds him, but he does not even recognize her. So while enduring a complex blend of fright and desolation, Eva fakes her identity and creates the alias Molly. As Molly, Eva follows her dad and his racing team to the great race of Ōban, where she progresses from a mechanic to the pilot for the Earth team. Being a representative of Earth in a race that only happens every 10,000 years makes Chihiro’s responsibilities look like every day chores.

Besides Eva being awesome, you may want to know some more general things about the show. I will save you the trouble of going to Wikipedia or AnimeNewsNetwork by mentioning a few key points. Ōban Star-Racers is a French/Japanese anime, which was co-directed by Savin Yeatman-Eiffel and Thomas Romain in 2006 (the same year I started posting my videos to YouTube). Savin wrote the entire script, while Thomas co-created the character designs. It would behoove most of you to recall that Thomas Romain was also the character designer and original creator of Code Lyoko. If you enjoyed Code Lyoko as a kid as much as I did, Ōban Star-Racers is going to have a stronger appeal. I promise you. Much like Code Lyoko, Ōban Star-Racers has a powerful message about young people taking responsibility at all costs. This applies not only to Eva but other young, supporting characters as well. The setting also follows a similar trend as Lyoko in that it suspends the viewer between reality and an imaginary world. We meet all kinds of aliens and are exposed to their very different cultures and racing styles. Yet despite this, we are always brought back to Eva’s relatable quest of finding a family again.

This quest is framed for a younger audience (i.e. 8-16 year olds), but the framing does not affect its overall appeal. Regardless of nostalgia, re-watching Ōban Star-Racers again as a 20 year old still left me full of feels. In an anime era where we are more easily recognizing stock characters, Ōban Star-Racers could really freshen up one’s anime schedule. As the characters develop, the show is progressively more heartwarming and will leave you wanting more. After 26 episodes, Ōban Star-Racers concluded in a well wrapped up manner, but gosh darn it, what I would give for a second season of this show… but, for whatever it’s worth, to all you Kill la Kill fans out there, Eva is without a doubt Ryuko’s predecessor. That should be yet another reason to be desperately interested in Ōban Star-Racers.

Anime Recommendation: Steins;Gate


-written by snapxynith-

Our hero Rintaro Okabe, resident mad scientist and dabbling romantic, leads himself upon a quest against the “organization”. Conspiracy around every turn, he fights with the might of his inventory of Future Gadgets. In his search for discovery behind the mysteries of Phone Microwave and the gel bananas it produces, he stumbles upon curious phenomina that begin to radically alter his world and the fantasy he thought to be only playing. With a murder on the horizon, odd changes to his city, and curiouser events popping up every minute, what is a mad scientist to do?

As we follow him, we find that Rintaro must not run but fight against the rages of time and inevitability to bend the bounds of causality, not for the world, not for justice, but for love and friendship.

Steins;Gate is a series with twists, turns, and rich character development honoring the visual novel it works to adapt to the screen. This series is great in small stints or marathon doses and with the recently added movie, this series gives potential fans even more reason to jump on the bandwagon. Steins;Gate comes with 24 episodes, an OVA, and a sequel movie to the series to keep the fun coming.

Anime Recommendation: Hyouka


-written by GuntherAMVs-

If you can’t tell from all my Hyouka-related antics, this anime is one of my favorite anime of all time. I saw it recently, but it quickly worked its way to the top of my list. I am someone who loves romantic comedies and slice-of-life shows, so I was eager to test this anime out. However, it performs its genre in an innovative way that challenges some of the stereotypes I have seen in other anime of its stock.

The show is paced slowly, and functions a lot like a tame crime drama. Four friends end up in a club that is about to expire due to lack of interest, and they band together to solve somewhat mundane mysteries around the school grounds and community. The main character is a stoic, introverted male, and the anime is often filtered through his perceptions—usually resulting in the overly energetic female lead being playfully villainized as a threat to his “low energy” way of life. Because the show is segmented based on each mystery, there is little overall plot advancement. The true incentive to watch all the episodes is to see the growth of the four friends.

Hyouka has a well-defined cast; each of the characters weakly reflects their respective stereotype, but overall represents a stand-alone, unique personality. For example, Satoshi (the secondary male lead) may represent the “joker” character, but he also harbors deep feelings toward others that he keeps hidden by smiling. The viewer learns more and more about each member of the cast the longer she watches. Furthermore, Hyouka does not focus readily on romance between the characters. What sexual tension develops is believable and often overshadowed for the sake of individual growth. I myself am an avid Houtarou x Chitanda shipper, and I do respect the show’s choices surrounding the couple. I shall say no more, lest I spoil something!

Happy viewing~!

Anime Recommendation: Urusei Yatsura

Urusei Yatsura

-written by l33tmeatwad-

Urusei Yatsura was adapted to anime from the popular manga series of the same name created by Rumiko Takahashi, who you may recognize as the creator or InuYasha or Ranma ½.  Similar to other series by this author, it focuses more on introducing eccentric characters and the interaction between them as opposed to being centered around a main storyline.  This style of show makes it easy for anyone to jump in and enjoy at any point.

The show starts off focusing on a perverted young man named Ataru Moroboshi who was randomly selected by aliens to fight on behalf of everyone on earth to determine the fate of everyone.  Initially he refuses, but after finding out his opponent will be Lum, the beautiful daughter of the alien ruler, he agrees.  After using underhanded tactics to win, Ataru accidentally says something that Lum mistakes for a proposal and she agrees to marry him.  Despite his initial refusal to actually marry her, she ends up living at his house and he often will display jealousy if anyone attempts to steal Lum away from him.  As the series progresses new characters are introduced and each episode is filled with quirky situations that end up being blamed on Ataru.

Overall Urusei Yatsura is an enjoyable series and the character interactions make it a joy to watch.  While it is a great show, it is definitely best in small doses as trying to marathon it may create a sense of repetitiveness when watching. With 195 episodes, 6 movies, and OVAs as well you will definitely have plenty to enjoy with this series.

Anime Recommendation: Dennou Coil


-written by kireblue-

Dennou Coil is by far one of my favorite hidden gem series. The story takes place in Daikoku City, which is the world’s #1 source of advanced technology. The setting is somewhere in the near future where the physical and virtual reality cease to be individual spaces. In this series, the virtual world and the real world are almost perfectly fused with each other and can be viewed through AR (Augmented Reality) glasses.

It follows the adventures of a group of elite super hackers that that use their not so expert detective skills to unravel the infinite number of mysteries that surround their half real/ half virtual city. Although some of the members of the Coil Cyber Detective Agency aren’t identified in the beginning of the series, you are immediately informed that there are currently nine of them. The hilarious part is that most of them are under the age of 13. Yeah, that’s right! This show revolves around an elite hacking society of twelve year old children. In their world, AR technology is so easily accessible, that its actually very believable that children would readily adapt to and eagerly explore it. And even though the concept of a bunch of little kids committing acts of cyber terrorism on a daily basis may seem a little ridiculous, this show does a very good job at making it enjoyable. It’s especially hilarious whenever they walk down the street and get attacked by the virtual police called Satchii that are designed to destroy any illegal software, hardware or viruses that it sees. Satchii can’t really hurt the children, but it’s lasers have the function of overloading their AR glasses and leaving them in a completely exhausted and stupefied state (kinda like Ash whenever he gets shocked by Pikachu). This also causes them to lose large amounts of data and the virtual treasures that they find within the city.

Although the main characters often face great peril when confronted with zombie-like viruses called illegals, it all seems pretty inconsequential when you consider that simply taking off their glasses will fix many of their problems (in the same way that simply turning off the television will cause a scary movie to end). But a very powerful moment in the later half of the series serves as a clear reminder that the main characters are just kids. When two of the main characters get cornered, and it seems like there is no way out, they consider taking off their glasses. But they realize that their virtual and physical world are so entwined that taking off their glasses won’t actually cause the monsters to go away. They’ll simply lose the ability to see their attackers. And not being able to see them would be even more frightening. I feel that this scene is actually a perfect example of why the series is so believable. The mindset of the main characters are very similar to a child that has difficulties differentiating real life from the world of a scary movie. And in their case, the two worlds are pretty much identical and equally real. This actually becomes a very major theme and plot element towards the end of the series.

Since the basic functions of the AR glasses that the children use aren’t really that more advanced than the AR features of a Nintendo 3DS, the show is very easy to understand, and the plot doesn’t get boggled down with unnecessary tech-babble. And as the main characters start to unravel the urban legends that plague the town’s history, their battles become more and more life threatening. Also, the constant reappearance of the numbers “4423” seems to be at the center of everyone’s back-story. Hey….doesn’t that seem like LOST?

Dennou Coil is a 26 episode series that’s animated by Madhouse Studios, and has a mellow art style that looks wonderful. I highly recommend everyone to check out.

Anime Recommendation: Galaxy Fraulein Yuna Returns


Ayuki Shinbou’s second attempt at creating Madoka Magica
-written by snapxynith-

Part of the unwalked path of anime, Yuna came to be as an excuse for Mika Akitaka to draw girls in power suits and his own flavor of Gundam while poking at magical girl tropes in a tongue in cheek manner. The original series focuses on the ever optimistic girl who literally has no evil in her heart. Ayuki’s direction of this sequel focuses on the problems of having a girl of pure light in a very dark world and the problems with being a magical girl. This is the second time he worked with that scenario, the first being Devil Hunter Youko.

You can see many of the visual conventions of Shinbou still growing in this work but for the most part the anime stays within the boundaries of the mid 90s production tropes. Especially the higher budget layover from the 80s, missing the classic budget saving animation tricks he started implementing in the studio SHAFT.

I would recommend Yuna to anyone wanting a walk down anime history lane to watch the progression of magical girl deconstruction.

Anime Recommendation: Mawaru Penguindrum

I Love the Word ‘Fate’
-written by irriadin-

It’s not a particularly well-known series, despite being helmed by Revolutionary Girl Utena’s Kunihiko Ikuhara, but Penguindrum is a series that should not be missed. It is a markedly weird journey of a family of siblings: brothers Shoma & Kanba and terminally ill sister, Himari. This show pulls no punches; Himari dies in the first episode. BUT! She is resurrected by a mind-controlling hat that informs the brothers that they have to find the mystical penguindrum, or Himari will die for real. Suffice it to say, the rest of the show continually serves up increasingly stranger and stranger plot twists, right up to the powerful finale.

More than just a thriller, however, Penguindrum delivers in other areas as well. It is a very complex series; if you’re getting sick of superficial shows with little to no depth, you’ll be very pleased with Penguindrum’s vast reservoir of symbolism and theme exploration. While other shows might be designed more or less by a group, Ikuhara’s auteur influence is felt in every frame, every color chosen and every bit of written dialogue. All the attention given to Penguindrum doesn’t quite coalesce into a masterpiece, but it does produce a stand-out work MORE than worthy of being seen by anyone at all interested in anime.

Watch Penguindrum. It is a unique, exotic experience with intriguing characters, fantastic art direction and a compellingly tragic story. While I was initially off-put by the peculiar weirdness of the show’s presentation, by the end I was riveted and completely invested in Shoma, Kanba and Himari’s struggles. You may not love Penguindrum (though I did), but you’ll never forget it.