Monday, November 12, 2012

El. Psy. Congroo

I am glad that I'm having time to rediscover my Otaku ways. It's not that I ever stopped liking the culture but I used to be more fanatic about it. At least, from the aspect of manga appreciation. Friends who have been to my room would probably understand, having seen how probably half of my bookshelf is filled with manga. I used to make regular pilgrimages to shop(s) in Petaling Street to buy the latest volumes of manga I was following. Malaysia also has this magazine reminiscent of Shouen Jump where a few manga titles are "serialized" so new chapters of the mangas are out each week.  There used to be a pullout in the Star called Otakuzone. I normally get news of the latest manga/anime there, the pullout's no more though. And as I turned to the internet for faster updates on manga chapters, the passion somewhat died down until my only routine was reading the weekly chapter updates online.

(Fortunately)some college mates were fans of One Piece and it made finally start on the series. Seeing that it is probably the one of the mos popular mangas of all time, really would be a shame if I never gave it chance. I initially had reservations about the somewhat eccentric artstyle but after you start following the series, you notice the great detail Oda(mangaka) puts into his art, not to mention the brilliant story-telling. After A2, I started following Katekyo Hitman Reborn, which just ended recently. (And pretty abruptly too. Though it does seem that there's nothing to cover anymore..., I think there were still some loose ends.) To mark a return to Otakudom, I even visited Animangaki. Planning to head for Comic Fiesta later this year too.

As for anime, I've started watching a few series too. Frankly, I'm not a fan of adapted anime, mainly those adapted from mainstream shounen manga. The anime rarely compares to the manga(except some rare few) and viewers constantly have to sit through fillers. I've watched 2 of 2011's most acclaimed anime and am currently following another series which just started airing October this year. I've enjoyed the two anime from 2011(very much) so I think I shall do a write-up about them.

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai
The title translates into "We Still Don't Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day" though everyone just refers to it as Anohana for short. This tells the story of a group of childhood friends-the "Super Peace Busters" who after the death of one of their own, Meiko Honma, start to drift apart during the ten years leading up to the start of the anime. The main protagonist, Jinta, once the smart and charismatic leader of the group has stooped to the life of a "hikikomori", which is a recluse that stays holed up at home. One day, he sees the apparition of his long dead friend, claiming that her wish has not been fulfilled, resulting in her inability to pass on.

 The Super Peace Busters- Then

The anime is 11-episodes long but has managed to bring enough development for the characters. With the reappearance for Menma (Meiko's nickname), Jinta is forced to reunite with the other members of the Super Peace Busters to try and figure out her wish. Throughout the show, we see how each member comes to terms with the feelings and emotions that have been suppressed since even before Menma's death(except Poppo, who I think didn't have as much backstory). It's a story that would constantly tug at the heartstrings of those more emotional. Now every time the ending theme plays, I get all melancholic because the instrumental versions comes on at almost every emotional scene in the show. One peeve though would be the nicknames. The Peace Busters refer to each other with portmanteau of their names ie. Menma is derived from Meiko Honma, so it would be a bit confusing when you're just acquainting yourself to the characters.

And Now.

I remember seeing a friend of mine post a status last year about how he finished the series, and though I did nothing about it immediately. The name stuck and a year later, I've decided to watch it myself. Right now, I'm still suffering a withdrawal. Fortunately, there are many spin-offs to satiate my longing for more of this anime. Steins;Gate is an anime revolving around time travel and subsequently, the consequences from it. One of the many strong points of this anime is its cast of characters. The main protaganist, Okabe Rintarou, is a self-proclaimed 'mad scientist", constantly spouting delusional made-up conspiracies as well as monologues with his cellphone. Some may tire of Okabe's antics but there is of course more to him than the arrogant, flamboyant disposition he gives out.As the series progresses, we too see Okabe develop as a character as he faces the outcome of his experiments. The seiyuu contributed tremendously to the success of the anime by giving life to an array of characters with distinct personalities and backgrounds. Mamoru Miyano gives Okabe his eccentricity (Trivia: He is also the voice of Yagami Light from Death Note,Riku from Kingdom Hearts and Suoh Tamaki from Ouran). We also have Shiina Mayuri, Okabe's happy-go-lucky childhood friend who has a deeper understanding of everything going on than made out to be, Makise Kurisu, a prodigy, initially cool and level-headed, she soon warms up to Okabe and the gang.

Being 24 episodes long, Steins;Gate takes a while to build up, but viewers should be patient, the climax does come and rather shockingly too. Before that, the stories mostly revolves around the introduction of characters, most ending up as Laboratory Members of the Future Gadget Lab that Okabe founded, as well as the building up of the basis of time-travel, which might be a bit confusing if you plan to analyse it more thoroughly once the anime is over.

Though it falls mainly in the sci-fi genre, Steins;Gate has a mix of everything and balances it out perfectly: a blend of drama and comedy, a bit of action, friendship and even hints of romance. The art is clean, yet I admit, that of the visual novel which it was adapted from(Anohana is an orginal anime btw)  is much more stunning. Story was brilliantly told, and everything connects eventually. Its position as one of the great animes of 2011(or maybe even all-time) is duly justified.

P.S: Japanese seem to like their portmanteau nicknames, or maybe it just so happens in these two anime. Mayuri refers to herself by Mayushii and to Okabe as Okarin (much to his irritation).

Our 8 lab members. Okabe far right with his cellphone, Kurisu with the red hair and Mayuri with the blue summer hat. 

If you do start watching these two anime now, it'll be perfect timing to welcome their respective movies next year! Steins;Gate is scheduled to have an original movie in Spring 2013, and Anohana has one planned for Fall 2013.