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Anime Review 2020 Round-up I


Anime Review 2020 Round-up I


Mr Ajikko (1987, Sunrise)

Young middle schooler, Youichi Ajiyoshi lives alone with his mother, working hard to keep their humble restaurant "Hinode" running after the father passed away. The regulars call him, "Ajikko" due to the excellent food he makes. One day he meets Genjiro Murata, "The King of Cuisine" who established Japan's largest culinary organisation, "Ajioh (Emperor of Taste) Culinary Association" that all chefs around the country look up to. Despite the run down state and the unruly look of their customers, The King does not discriminate and chooses to taste food at the establishment. Not many chefs manage to impress him with their culinary skills, let alone a child who never learned how to cook the proper way. However, after being impressed by his prodigy cooking skills, Ajikko is invited to the Ajioh organisation. Ajikko turns down the offer as he wishes to continue protecting his late father's business and cook as a free chef.

However, Youichi tends to always help others in need and never backs down from a challenge, letting him contiually be challenged by chefs who do not believe in his talent. He soon finds himself caught up in the feud between the Ajioh Cook Association and the Aji Shogun Group, discovering his father too was once caught up too.

This is one of those shows I grew up watching but never got to see the whole series so, it was great when I learned this show got an HD remaster like many classics and, has a great mix of comedy and trivia about cooking. I'm certain it'll be more enjoyable than Food Wars: Shokugeki no Souma for those of you who don't like excessive male oriented fan service. They're extremely rare; probably around 3 - 5 scenes out of the entire series and even they're very mild.

Interestingly enough for the Hong Kong, Cantonese dub I watched some screens full of Japanese text were edited out. Usually they just edit out the male oriented fan service.

It's not a short show at 99 episodes but you'll enjoy every episode as you watch Youichi grow, helping friends while being supported by them. It's not completely focused on cooking with plenty of character development. It has some cheesy lines but it's a got a good balance of comedy, moving stories and trivia. It's probably one of the rare shows that just keeps the same OP and ED for the entire series too... Well, the ending's photos change depending on the story. Episode 53 - 59 features Hong Kong, some using photos as backgrounds instead of renders.

Interestingly enough this is also the same studio that produces the Gundam series as well as other classics including City Hunter.

The siblings that help Youichi out, Mitsuko and Shigeru Yamaoka are both original characters to the show too while in the original Manga, Youichi just faces his battles alone. I guess if they kept it as it was in the Manga it would be a bit lonesome and they actually kind of become the comic relief of the show. The show also only covers the first season of the Manga and not the second when Youichi has a son.

Mister Ajikko

Worth A Watch

Worth A Watch

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (2019, Ufotable)

One snowy winter on a New Year's Eve, sharp-nosed Tanjiro Kamado decides to do an extra round of selling coal so that his family could enjoy a full meal, only to return to to find his family massacred. Only one of his sisters Nezuko survives but her wounds had been exposed to demon blood and she herself had been turned into a demon. A Hashira, a top ranking demon slayer Giyu Tomioka soon arrives at the scene. Tanjiro desperately pleas to him not to kill her and after Nezuko showed some form of human emotion, the hunter decides to take a risk. Giyu tells Tanjiro where to find a man who might know how to return her sister to human form. Soon, Tanjiro is training himself to join the Demon Slayer Corps himself, hoping to gather information to help his sister and avenge his family.

Watched this because of the hype and also partly because Ufotable usually does some really good animation; mostly for video games most notably "Tales of" series before animating more popular works such as Type Moon's Fate/Zero and Garden of Sinners. When I heard the show was about siblings out on the search for a cure, it reminded me of Full Metal Alchemist.

First episode made quite an impression. Didn't drag out just straight to the plot and most of the show sticks to that short pacing which also means it kind of felt like a JRPG at times where Tanjiro meets a new powerful demon, learns their attack pattern, unleashes moves and wins. Not much of a build-up which feels like those JRPG to Anime adaptations where they just briefly show a location before the boss fights. There's hardly any downtime to flesh out the world and characters. Tanjiro makes a few too many silly reactions and the training he goes through is paced so quickly you don't really feel the hardship other than his desperation to revert his sister.

The lore isn't very deep so there's not much of a world setting. It feels like your average action show tied together with the siblings as a simple plot. No twists, no surpises, just simple plot with likeable characters.

However, there are the odd good moments with a bit of Garden of Sinners vibe with its dark mysterious atmosphere coupled with Ufotable's great art work. It also does slow down and gets better towards the end of season one, letting you appreciate how much effort the characters are putting into their struggles.

Art and animation is fluid and detailed as with most of Ufotable's work. There's a lot of gore and jokes can be quite dark as they are mixed in between the gore; plenty of blood and decapitated heads. Like the other Type Moon works, music is once again by Yuki Kajiura as you'll recognise her folklore style music right away. The show also seems to have a very large dynamic sound range where audio is quiet most of the time but during battles it gets really loud.

See how long you can stand the whining loud Zenitsu for... Funnily enough, his voice actor Hiro Shimono also plays Jean from ACCA-13. What a difference in personalities. Takahiro Sakurai's cold voice as Giyu wasn't hard to recognise since it sounded like Cloud from FFVII although he also played Suzaku from Code Geass.

Season one covers roughly up to volume 6 of the Manga and just missed the recommended because most of the show was like an JRPG but, as you get through to the last quarter you want to see more and how the siblings and new friends fare in their quest. The show has good morals despite the violent fights; always have compassion and never abuse power.

Watch it for the cute siblings, art and fluid battle scenes. Don't miss the mini shorts after the ending theme.

The movie Mugen Train which covers volume 7 and 8 of the Manga wasn't too bad... If it wasn't for the cast and quality animation I think I would have snoozed through most of it because the scenario setup is so familiar. Nice Hashira back story again though and the wrap-up was what makes Kimetsu great. They probably decided to turn the arc into a movie because there really wouldn't have been much to make a series out of. Maybe an OVA but they already knew they've built good expectations from the show to capitalise on it with a limited movie instead. Nice Hashira back story again though.

Was quite nice to find the movie somehow ended up on the Playstation Store's video section at the same time it was screening in the US. Don't know if it was a blunder or was it to let people enjoy the movie at home while the pandemic was still going.

Kimetsu no Yaiba

Children of The Sea (2019, Studio 4C)

Ruka was mesmerised by the sight of a sparkling giant whale that sung a song before it disappeared before her while she was young in a local aquarium. One summer when she was bullied and feeling down, she goes to the aquarium and meets a boy who she called, "Umi-kun (Little Sea)". He and his brother Sora (Sky) were raised by dugongs and for some reason, both of them had to stay moisturised to stay on land. As Ruka's father and team investigate why this was, Ruka and Umi become close. Later strange phenomena start to happen as the whales change the very song she and the brothers had once heard.

It's a very familiar summer, high school students off on a magical adventure kind of setting in Anime. I think the mystery element gets dragged out too much. It keeps hinting something big "festival" is about to happen but it never does and just keeps teasing you with strange new events. Even when it finally does it felt a bit like the last two episodes of the Evangelion TV series.

A different movie once said the oceans are the final frontier as it's as unexplored as space is and I think that's part of the theme here other than the usual you're not alone message.

The art is rough but gives it this folklore vibe to it with a few surreal moments. It does a wonderful job of animating sea life as I watched which could be compared to those nature shows where they show large shaols of fish swimming. Even though the 3D stands out a bit too much the sea life animation makes up for it. Music's great too and happens to be composed by Joe Hisaishi better known for his work with Ghibli such as Kiki's Delivery Service and Totoro.

A bit of an odd movie this one.

Children of The Sea

Worth A Watch

Promare (2019, Trigger)

A series of mysterious "human combustions" occur around the world causing what was now known as the "Great World Blaze" and today, a team is formed to tackle such situations Burning Rescue Team. Galo Thymos is the latest hot-headed recruit who is always ahead of himself and it manages to help him capture the leader of the Mad Burnish Terrorists. After being rescued by the governor, he had aspired to become like him a hero. However, when the leader of the Mad Burnish escape and Galo meets Lio once again, he sees a different side of the Burnish and starts to rethink his ways.

I enjoy quite a few of Trigger's shows such as Kill La Kill and Darling in The Franxx. However, I'm not a fan of its cel-shaded 3D animation style this time.

The story is as far fetched as with Trigger's other original story shows but its action scenes are as captivating as ever. Galo just reminds me of Kamina from Gurenn Lagann, both blue-haired and hot-headed. Funnily enough the character designer Shigeto Koyama did help with the design works book for that show.

If you enjoy the usual silliness, fan service (it's actually really mild in this movie) and action oriented Trigger story, you'll enjoy this.


Worth A Watch

SSSS.Gridman (2018, Trigger)

Yuta Hibiki has a case of amnesia who finds himself waking up in the home of Rikka Takarada, one of his classmates. Other than that, he had no memory of who he was at all. Fortunately his friend and Rikka are both kind enough to stay by his side while he worked on regaining his memories. However, Yuta was seeing things that his friends weren't such as silhouettes of Kaijus, giant monsters in town and an alien being named "Gridman" was calling out to him from an old computer in Rikka's family junk store. Thinking it was just a hallucination, Yuta tries to get on with his forgotten life but soon finds he must fight as Gridman to protect the world while his friends support him through the computer.

Watched this because of the hype knowing that it was a collaboration between Trigger and the Tsuburuya Productions "tokusatsu (special effects)" team best known for their Ultraman franchise. You'll even notice the resemblances between Gridman and Ultraman. Since it it was a Trigger show, you'd be expecting some fun silly action show and you're not far.

At first it seems like your run-of-the-mill transforming superhero show but, as you watch on you can see they've taken the show further as Yuta and his friends discover that only they remember what happened after every attack so there's plenty of mystery to pique your interest even if the superhero idea isn't your thing any more. While Yuta and his friend are excited about becoming superheroes, the easy-going Rikka just wants to get on with her everyday social life. There's an interesting twist on the villain too.

If you watch closely you can see a lot of attention to detail despite the superhero-like setting and the twists just continue through the short season. It picks up quite a bit half way through as mysteries are cleared up. There's a part of it that feels like Haruhi in a way. Maybe with a bit of Evangelion even.

Direction's quite good in that only those associated with Kaijuus or Gridman can see the giant silhouettes looming around the skies. It's quite a surreal world setting. There are moments that seem surprisingly everyday but make quite a big impact, enough to make you care about the supporting characters. The studio must be fans of Juroku-cha which I had when I was at Takyama because it keeps making an appearance.

And fan service? It's Trigger so yes there's your usual fan service with a whole swimsuit episode.

The only downside for me is the Ultraman hommage during the fights which were fun when I used to watch as a kid but not not quite as fun to watch now. Evil monster shows up, unleash your cheezy move, strike a victory pose kind of flow. So the show's great with Trigger's usual dynamic characters in it until you get to the actual battles. Fortunately Trigger's touch and the added mysteries make up for it.


Worth A Watch

Penguin Highway (2018, Studio Colorido)

Aoyama is a young elementary school prodigy who has a habit of studying and explaining everything in great detail. Once he grows up, he hopes to marry one of the local, not-so-serious, busty dental assistants that he has a crush on. One day, he comes across a group of penguins at a vacant lot while heading to school. As such, he decides his latest project is to study and investigate the origin of the mysterious penguins who doesn't seem to have escaped the local zoo or transportation. He dubs the project, "Penguin Highway", the name given to the route that all penguins follow when migrating. As Aoyama investigates further spurred his scientific curiosity, he and his friends are lead from one mystery to another. At the same time, strange events start to happen around their town.

The cute name and vibrant poster art might make it look like another kid's movie with talking animals but it's quite misleading. It's very misleading just like Madoka Magica and Made in Abyss' promotional images look.

Backgrounds are beautifully done with lots of detail and rendering. Quite a few studios fail at blending in the 3D models but they do it quite well in this movie. The art's clean filled with bright vivid colours which goes with the silly plot. Hell, the characters don't even have proper names; just first names or something generic like "Onee-san".

Based on a sci-fi novel of the same name by Tomihiko Morimi, I wasn't expecting the boob jokes as the title sounded like something fun aimed at kids but, I guess that's what Anime/Manga aimed at the male audience always have. It's not done in the usual fan service way with accidental groping etc, just camera shots focused on breasts.

There's basically a hint of shotacon which it's the male version of lolicon, older women attracted to little boys. As young Aoyama strives to become a good man and takes every chance to impress Onee-san, she reproaches with flirty lines. You'll notice she addresses him as "shounen (young man)" instead of the usual "-kun" suffix. The romance element would work well with the distracted boyfriend meme... It's an odd relationship between Aoyama and Onee-san.

Even though the rating is "G" suitable for all it's demography is more for teenagers really as it's described as a "youth fantasy". Probably why it got a 12 in the UK. I think this one of those titles that could have been great such as Yu-no only to be ruined by silly jokes at the wrong moments.

That said, it does start to get serious despite our cast of aspiring young scientists. A fun fantasy adventure movie.

Penguin Highway


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