Masquerade KISS – Yuzuru Main Story

I started reading a couple of chapters of Yuzuru’s route a while ago, but it did not hook me enough to bring me back when I got busy. Recently, Love 365 held a 12-day special campaign where wait times between chapters were eliminated, and finally I was motivated to schedule in some reading time.

The route turned out to be really good! And it wasn’t because I personally liked the guy (I prefer more assertive, less tsundere types), but because the writing was great. The story had a good flow, and since Yuzuru was a man of such few words, it allowed “Mikoto” to really show some personality and sass. I thought their relationship felt more honest than the other routes, even though obviously, secrets and deception were part of the game. The ending (regular one – I did not shell out for the Super Happy End) rated high in the feel-good department as well.

This route had some nice, unique backgrounds. The music was the same as in the other 2 stories.

To sum up, I felt the MC and Yuzuru had enough believable chemistry in their fake-love-turned-real story that I’m willing to forgive the not one, but two coincidental meet-ups, and call this route the best of the 3 in Masquerade KISS!

Sound! Euphonium The Movie ~Our Promise: A Brand New Day~ (Hibike! Euphonium: Chikai no Finale)

Released 2019

This feature film, a direct sequel to Sound! Euphonium 2, stars Kumiko as a second year and introduces several new members of the Kitauji High School concert band club. It is lovely and will likely satisfy fans of the 2 preceding TV series.

But that, of course, is not me. As I have previously and recently stated, I watched, but wasn’t terribly excited about Sound! Euphonium season one. I never got around to watching season two. I enjoyed the side story film, Liz and the Blue Bird, somewhat. So keep in mind that my perspective might be considerably different from that of a true fan.

The first half of the film seemed to have an odd fixation on monikers. More than one character took issue numerous times about being called by surname instead of given name, or nickname instead of proper name. I found it a little weird that such a big deal was made out of it, and I guess I didn’t really understand the significance of it all.

The second half tackled the theme of talent vs seniority when selecting musicians for their club’s competitive performance, which is familiar territory for Sound! Euphonium viewers.

It’s obvious that a great deal of love, attention, and budget was put into the band’s final performance, which was easily the most impressive scene of the film.

Even though “finale” is in the title, the series is clearly not over; in fact, the ending teased a possible season 3.

Why did I go out of my way to see this, you might be wondering? The main reason is I believe in supporting anime screenings when they come to my local cinemas. The second is my sister is a slightly bigger fan of the franchise than I am (though not enough to get through season 2!) And finally, with the horrific tragedy that just occurred at the Kyoto Animation Studio, I’m especially keen to give the company some support right now.

The screening we attended was the English-dubbed version, which was rather a surprise to us in the audience. I’m not a dub hater, but it does take some getting used to; and some of the wording and intonations sounded awkward at times.

Toronto Japanese Film Festival 2019

TJFF 2019 took place June 6 to 27. I attended only 2 screenings this year, the opening night murder mystery, MASQUERADE HOTEL, and train-themed drama, Our Departures. Both films were excellent, with great scripts and equally great acting.

MASQUERADE HOTEL

Released 2019

Police detectives go undercover at a fancy hotel after deciphering a message that a serial killer’s next target will be at that location. Hotel supervisor Yamagishi is tasked with training Detective Nitta to be effective and convincing as front desk staff, but their backgrounds and personalities are very different and they frequently butt heads. Gradually, over the course of multiple subplots, they learn to appreciate each other’s input and become better at their own jobs from the experience.

The details of the crime investigation were too complicated for me, so I didn’t feel that I completely understood it. Also, if it were not for one lucky coincidence, they might not have identified the killer in time.

On the plus side, I related very strongly to the depiction of the hoteliers’ dedication to their work. My own job also has a significant customer service aspect. I am a bit of a workaholic who constantly strives to help my clients and make them feel comfortable, so that stuff really clicked with me.

Our Departures

Released 2018

Akira’s life is uprooted after the loss of her husband. Only 25 years old, she suddenly finds herself a single mother with no home and no steady income. After connecting with her late husband’s estranged father, she decides to follow in his footsteps and start a career as a railway driver.

This film is quite the tearjerker, more than I expected. Obviously, there’s the death of the husband, but beyond that, it’s the subtle ways that Akira and Shunya are affected by what’s happened, even as they do their best to move forward, that’s affecting. No one would fault Akira for feeling sorry for herself – she definitely did not sign up for this – but she doesn’t wallow in self-pity. However, there’s a moment when another character shows her kindness, and that was when the floodgates in my eyes couldn’t hold the onslaught any longer. If you have a chance to watch this, be warned!

Mid-Spring 2019 Anime Ranking

It’s a very light season for me this time. (Spoilers below up to the stated episodes for Demon Slayer, The Rising of the SHIELD HERO, and Ace of Diamond.)


01. Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) Season 3 (ep. 50-55) – All the years of buildup has led to this. We are finally getting some answers to the ongoing mysteries, many of which date back to the very first season, which aired in 2013. Our main group of characters is front and centre for the action now and every episode is concise and riveting. We are really going places – even to the Basement!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


02. Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba (ep. 1-10) – The very best gory shounen series avoid falling into grimdark by balancing the heavy stuff with healthy doses of smart humour. Demon Slayer follows in this tradition, making it a fun show to watch despite all the tragedy and violence and horror. Incidentally, Attack on Titan is another great example, even if it hasn’t been very funny lately, for obvious reasons.

Though the art style is a bit of a departure from recent ufotable productions, the animation quality is reliably stunning.

What’s more, the characters are well-written and the family bond between Tanjirou and Nezuko is touching. When, in one of the early episodes, eldest brother Tanjirou expressed his desire to give to his sole-surviving sister all the things he would never be able to give to his other siblings, it just broke my heart.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


03. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind (JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken Part 5: Ougon no Kaze) (season 4) (ep. 25-33) – Bucciarati and co. are getting closer to uncovering the Boss’s identity, but the price they pay is steep. As for the new villains, Doppio is insanely nuts while Secco and Cioccolata are insanely frightening.

Can we give a medal to Mista’s stand, Sex Pistols? Those hard-working little guys are big heroes!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


04. The Rising of the SHIELD HERO (Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari) (ep. 13-22) – Pacing-wise, a couple of the battles dragged on a bit too long this cour. And asking the Heros to get along and work together is still like pulling teeth.

At long last, it was nice to see Naofumi finally get some vindication, while Malty was exposed as a liar and schemer. Not sure it makes sense she’s still allowed to roam free and continue attempting to harm people though…
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


05. Fairy gone (ep. 1-9) – It’s a little slow-moving and convoluted at times, but I’m still enjoying the show and its fantastical post-war European-like setting. Some of the characters have laughably weird names, though, such as Free Underbar and Bitter Sweet!
(streaming at FUNimation)


06. Dororo (ep. 13-21) – Still kind of hit or miss for me. Again, the underlying family drama and nice-looking art are great, but the monster-of-the-week episodes, such as the ones featuring the shark demon and the creature that caused people to speak in opposites, still leave something to be desired.


07. BUNGO STRAY DOGS (ep. 26-34, or Season 3 ep. 1-9) – It would probably have been better if the events of the previous seasons were fresher in my mind. As it is, it’s a little difficult to keep track of the now huge cast of characters and all their motivations. In spite of that, I’m enjoying it okay.

Kudos to the show for producing yet another amazingly attractive opening sequence, again featuring stunning plays on light and shadows.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


08. Ace of Diamond (Diamond no Ace): Act II (season 3) (ep. 1-10) – Admittedly I am no expert in sports nutrition, but I do have some general background in health, and I wonder about the dietary requirements for the team members. Of course it’s important that they eat enough even if they’re too tired to feel hungry, but can choking down 3 bowls of rice really be good for anyone?

Anyway, Act II has been less interesting to me than some of the previous material because of the early focus on new characters rather than our leads Sawamura, Furuya, and Miyuki (although it’s getting better – Sawamura gets to pitch!) Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of recap, but that’s not really anything new.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


09. Fruits Basket (2019) (ep. 1-10) – Honestly, I was never a super huge fan of the original anime, but I remember enjoying it enough to be curious about this new and improved reboot. I’m maybe a little less tolerant of plot contrivances than I used to be (of course, there’s always a reason for Tohru to accidentally turn the Souma guys into their zodiac forms), and I still find Kagura to be annoying as heck, but on the whole, the show is fine as light shoujo entertainment.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)

Liz and the Blue Bird (Liz to Aoi Tori)

Released 2018

This Kyoto Animation film has the same setting as the Sound! Euphonium anime series. However, the focus here is on two other members of the music club, while the leads from the TV series hardly show up at all.

Ultimately it is a simple story, but told with a lot of nuance in the relationship between the two main girls and a lot of detail in the glorious animation. Speaking of animation, the parts recounting the fairy tale of “Liz and the Blue Bird” (the musical piece the band was rehearsing and a story the girls were fond of) had a whole different look, somewhat evoking the whimsical feel of a Studio Ghibli film.

I personally found the movie to be a little bit plodding, which was also my complaint about Sound! Euphonium. But at least here it’s dragged out to 90 minutes instead of 13 episodes. Additionally, Mizore and Nozomi are a more likeable pair than Kumiko and Reina. Therefore I was able to enjoy Liz and the Blue Bird regardless of the fact that I wasn’t crazy about the original series.

Era of Samurai: Code of Love – Okita Souji Main Story

Okita’s main story is part of Love 365’s Free Titles promotion until the end of the month, so I decided to check it out. Okita, of course, is a skilled and ruthless swordsman of the Shinsengumi. The MC is a medic girl who is taken in by the Shinsengumi after some bad guys attack and destroy her home.

I thought Chapter 3 was too soon for the MC to be lecturing Okita about the value of life and wrongness of murder. He’d been a killer long before they met and they barely knew each other at this point. In fact, there was a very real chance she could become his next victim at any time. If they were becoming friends or considering becoming lovers, that would be a reasonable time to bring up that impediment to their relationship. Lecturing a stranger just seems cluelessly naïve and frankly dangerous.

Anyway, it was an enjoyable Shinsengumi period-drama even without the love story. As for the romance, their lives were so different; I didn’t see how they could truly understand and comfort each other. But whatever, it was still a decent little fantasy.

Masquerade KISS: Kazuomi & Kei Main Stories

One of the titles from Love 365’s otome app, Masquerade KISS features only 3 suitors and a MC who is an undercover secret agent. I recently read Kazuomi’s and Kei’s main stories concurrently; Kazuomi because he interested me, and Kei because his route was new and free to read without wait times. Normally there is a 5 hour delay between chapters if you’re reading for free. Being new to Love 365 and its Love Choice system, I read both stories completely for free just to see what it is like.

Kei, as expected, was not really my type. Guys with a tendency to lock you up are inherently kind of creepy to me, no matter how good looking or otherwise gentle they may be. I did like how he and “Nagisa” sort of became partners in crime. However, the early and middle sections were pretty slow moving, so I’m glad I was able to marathon several chapters at a time while reading his route.

Kazuomi was definitely more appealing to me, arrogant on the surface, but actually a good guy deep down. I found it believable that “Arisa” gradually came to admire him and feel reluctant about her assigned mission.

The same jazzy soundtrack was used in both routes, and it set a distinctive mood for these stories of love and deception. I particularly enjoyed the piece used in the ominous scenes; it sounded pretty to me.

The biggest factor that drew me in to Masquerade KISS was the smart and confident heroine. That said, I was a bit surprised that she was never suspicious about being tracked or bugged, even though it seemed strange to her that her boss always knew where to find her. Well, these are stories that are told in 26 very short chapters. They probably needed to keep the narrative moving and there was no time to make things more complicated.

I might go back and read the third guy, Yuzuru’s route eventually.

INUYASHIKI

Released 2018

I have not read the original manga series, but I did enjoy the 11-episode INUYASHIKI LAST HERO anime from 2017. This live-action INUYASHIKI movie features a great cast, including Noritake Kinashi and Takeru Satoh in the lead roles. The acting is good too. The ending is a departure from the way the anime went. I don’t know which version is more faithful to the original.

I’m not fully convinced that there’s an anti-ageist agenda going on, but the movie is certainly an effective illustration of how wonderful or frightening great power can be, depending on who wields it.

Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel – I. presage flower & II. lost butterfly

Released 2017 and 2019, respectively

Prerequisite: Fate/stay night original series and/or Unlimited Blade Works or other familiarity with the franchise prologue.

Strongly recommended: Fate/Zero.

The Heaven’s Feel movies offer no recap of the events that start the story, including the initial attack and introduction of Saber, other than a brief montage in presage flower that’s more artistically evocative than explanatory. It is assumed that you have seen it all before, and will make no sense if you haven’t.

Heaven’s Feel is Sakura’s route. We had a glimpse of Sakura’s traumatic childhood in Fate/Zero, and her story definitely needed to be told. Unfortunately, Sakura’s quiet personality makes her kind of weak as a main character.

As expected, these films (parts I & II of a trilogy) are stunningly gorgeous, the best-looking rendition of Fate/stay night yet. While presage flower provides some set-up, lost butterfly features extended battle action scenes. By the end, a lot of troubling revelations come to light. I’m definitely looking forward to the final film, although I don’t really see how this can end well.

Mid-Winter 2019 Anime Ranking


01. THE PROMISED NEVERLAND (Yakusoku no Neverland) (ep. 1-10) – The kids at Grace Field House make the shocking discovery that their loving orphanage is in fact a farm for raising yummy children to serve as demon food. The clock is ticking as they try to find a way to escape, but with such insurmountable obstacles in their way, and no way to know what lies outside, the odds are against any of them making it out alive.

THE PROMISED NEVERLAND is as thrilling as it is artful. It’s great to see Emma, Norman, and Ray’s ingenuity and friendship. Their situation is looking dire, to say the least, but man am I rooting for them to succeed.

The OP by UVERworld is pretty awesome too. I’m personally not a huge fan of most of their works, but every once in a while, they will surprise me with something unique and hooky; and “Touch off” is one of those songs.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


02. Mob Psycho 100 II (ep. 1-10) – Fans of sakuga are obviously loving this series. For me though, the real draw is its main characters, Mob and Reigen; they are so complex and well-written, and completely lovable in spite of their flaws.

Episode 7, which focused on Reigen’s humiliating downfall, was a clear highlight in storytelling. He is such an interesting person, first of all; plus the arc was ironically funny at times, and painful, and ultimately uplifting too.

The big battle arc, beginning in ep. 9, gets pretty complicated real quick, with multiple factions and too many characters in the mix. It’s still good, but I enjoyed the earlier character-driven episodes more.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


03. The Rising of the SHIELD HERO (Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari) (ep. 1-10) – I don’t particularly consider myself a fan of the genre, but I will pick up an isekai-adventure series now and then. This is definitely one of the better ones that I have seen.

It’s interesting that even though this alternate world uses some obvious game mechanics, it is stressed that the effects of a person’s actions are real. Completing one task doesn’t mean all the work is done, as unintended consequences may occur, and economics come into play too.

Malty (Myne) and the Spear Hero are a little overplayed in their villainy and ignorance, respectively, but the main characters, Naofumi, Raphtalia, and Filo are sympathetic and likeable enough to sell the show.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


04. Domestic Girlfriend (Domestic na Kanojo) (ep. 1-10) – A teenaged boy suddenly becomes step-siblings with both the teacher he has a crush on and the random girl he once had sex with. Such a trashy premise sounds like it would have to be a train wreck. However, Domestic Girlfriend plays things straight, and seriously considers the implications of its odd scenario on the lives of Natsuo and the sisters.

Unpopular opinion, but for the record, I’m Team Hina – because that’s who Natsuo really liked all along. Plus, they get along well and have some actual chemistry together. However, even if their being statutory siblings isn’t an issue (I think it shouldn’t be), their ongoing relationship as student-teacher is a huge red flag. By all indications, Hina is an excellent teacher; it would be a shame for her to put her career at risk. If they’re both serious, they really need to put the brakes on the romance until after he graduates.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


05. Dororo (ep. 1-10) – This is a dark, but nice-looking show which combines historical realism and folklore. A young man named Hyakkimaru hunts demons in order to reclaim the parts of his body that were sacrificed at his birth.

The little kid who is the title character is sweet and precocious. I’m not that into the primarily monster-fighting episodes, but the ones that focus on Dororo, Hyakkimaru, and Daigo’s family are pretty good.


06. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind (JoJo no Kimyou na Bouken: Ougon no Kaze) (season 4) (ep. 13-22) – The stands have gotten so complicated by this point that I don’t even bother trying to comprehend them all. The guys however, being stand users themselves, are really good at catching on to stand abilities, even though they can be really dense when it comes to other things. Good thing the selective stupidity of JoJo’s characters is well-established! It’s fabulous and you gotta love it.

It’s strangely easy to forget that Giorno is the main character of the show when Bruno is so clearly the driving force and leader of the group.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


07. My Roommate is a Cat (Doukyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki, Atama no Ue) (ep. 1-10) – I’m not really the target audience for cute pet or slice of life shows. The gimmick here is that part of each episode is told from the point of view of Haru, the cat. Beyond that however, there’s an overall story showing how she sets off Subaru’s personal development and his coming to terms with the loss of his parents. It is surprisingly affecting.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


08. KAGUYA-SAMA: LOVE IS WAR (Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai: Tensai-tachi no Renai Zunousen) (ep. 1-10) – Plenty of awkward romance shenanigans in this anime about a couple of over-achieving high schoolers who stubbornly refuse to reveal their romantic attraction to each other. The episodes typically play out in several short vignettes and they are often very funny. Sometimes though, I do want to just smack these two – they take their games so far that it’s never gonna work out for them, ever!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


09. MEIJI TOKYO RENKA (ep. 1-10) – There’s very little real plot, mostly just lightweight content of the main girl’s interactions with the various male cast in this time-travel reverse harem anime. Just to give you an idea, the overarching storyline seems to be the search for a missing cat! Fortunately Mei is pretty likeable and charismatic for a heroine of this type of show and the episodes are moderately enjoyable.

Since we’re doing this, for the record, I’m Team Syunso. I really do not feel the attraction between Mei and leading man Ougai. It seems to me she clearly has better camaraderie with Syunso. Heck, I’d even ship her with the cross-dresser more easily than with Ougai!
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


10. B-Project: Zecchou*Emotion (season 2) (ep. 1-10) – Sometimes the real drama doesn’t happen until after the ending credits roll; that’s an indication of how (not) packed with plot this idol series is! Fortunately, Zecchou*Emotion is pretty good at presenting its characters, and it can be adequately entertaining just watching the guys interact with each other.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)


11. The Morose Mononokean II (ep. 1-8) – I was satisfied with the original series when it ended, but it’s the sequel, so we’re back. This time, it’s a little less yokai-of-the-week and a little more about the Underworld’s issues about Ashiya, the reasons of which are yet to be disclosed to the audience and to Ashiya himself.
(streaming at Crunchyroll)