Tuesday, July 3, 2018

5 Underrated Anime Recommendations - Part 1

Here I compile 5 underrated anime into a list. Keep in mind these are series that I've personally enjoyed that I want to share. Hopefully the list is helpful in giving new recommendations :blush:
(These series are not ranked in any particular order)
1. Petshop of Horrors
Genre: Horror, Josei, Mystery, Supernatural
Eps: 4
Aired: 1999
Count D, a pet shop owner in Chinatown, sells rare pets for people longing for something special. Each sale comes with a contract, and if the rules are followed everything will be fine, however, if broken, Count D will not be held responsible for any unfortunate events that may happen. Leon Orcot, a homicide detective, links many odd deaths to Count D's pet shop and intends to find out why.
My Quick Thoughts:
Each episode focuses on a different costumer, so each episode has a different story, which keeps things interesting. With the rather limited amount of episodes that this shows has, it has used its time well by picking interesting stories. Character-wise, despite Count D and Detective Leon Orcot being the main characters,they operated more in the background, while the central characters in each story were the customers with the rare pets. This did come out in 1999 so the animation may put some people off if they are not use to an older style, however I think it works for the genre of the series.
2. Gakkou no Kaiden (Ghost Stories)

Genre: Mystery, Horror, Supernatural
Eps: 19
Aired: 2000-2001
Years ago, all of the ghosts in a haunted school house were banished by a certain student. Now they're back seeking revenge. Satsuki and Keiichirou Miyanoshita, siblings, are recovering from the loss of their mother. They move to her hometown and learn that the local school they transferred to is an old haunted building. They soon discover that the ghosts are real and after them! The series is a tale of the lives of the siblings and their newfound friends as they try to survive the school's ghosts, with a little help from their pet cat.
My Quick Thoughts:
Apart from the infamously hilarious dub, this series is actually pretty good if you watch the sub, as both versions are drastically different. Although it follows the lives of a group a children, it manages to be very entertaining and worth a watch. The sub takes on a more serious vibe, while the dub conveys the general story, but on crack; much like any abridge series you might stumble upon on YouTube. Aside from this, the show is very episodic in nature as the group of children encounter new ghosts each episode. The characters were okay, nothing too special, but that might just be me, as the story was what made me interested in the show. Overall, this show wasn't amazing, but I still very much enjoyed it. 
3. Glass no Kamen (2005) - (Glass Mask)
Genre: Drama, Shoujo
Eps: 51
Aired: 2005 - 2006
Two girls. One dream. And the entire world for a stage.At 13, Maya Kitajima works at a restaurant alongside her bitter mother. When her acting talent is discovered by legendary Chigusa Tsukikage, Maya finds a new future filled with golden opportunity and risks.For Ayumi Himekawa, success has always been assured, yet she longs to be recognized for her own talent and skill rather than by her parent's connections. For both, the ultimate prize is the role of The Crimson Goddess in the play of the name. To achieve this goal, both girls must seek and conquer every acting challenge and push their limits until they're worthy of the part.
My Quick Thoughts:
I'm not always the biggest fan when it comes to drama, but this series had me hooked from episode 1. I very much enjoyed the female lead of the series as form the very beginning you can see how her optimistic personality and and love for acting allows her to break out of her shell, granting her great opportunities. I also found that the flow of the story went smoothly and the character developments amazing. Sure the ending may seem anti-climatic, but then again the the original source material (manga) has been on a hiatus since around 2008, so I'm not mad about the ending that we are given because let's face it, when an anime doesn't have enough source material they need to think of some way to way end it. Despite this, this is such an amazing series that definitely does not get enough recognition. 
4. Eikoku Koi Monogatari Emma (Emma: A Victorian Romance)

Genre: Slice of life, Historical, Drama, Romance, Seinen
Eps: 24 (2 seasons, 12 eps each)
Aired: 2005 - 2007
In 19th century London, class lines are sharply drawn, and the social standing to which people are born dictates the path their lives follow. Emma, an honest and hardworking young maid, never felt her place in life to be a burden. But then she met William, a member of the gentry and the eldest son of a wealthy family. His warm smile and earnest affection threaten to capture her heart...but can love conquer all?
My Quick Thoughts:
It kinda feels like a classical literature that some of you might have experienced in high school (Jane Austen or Charles Dickens anyone? Lol). It's basically a forbidden romance that is depicted in the Victorian era and the series follows this premise plus many hardships. It's a very different feel from a typical Japanese drama anime, which is refreshing, as it gave a more western feel. The characters themselves were also amazing, and were the foundation of this series. It's also refreshing to to see the man court the woman, as a popular troupe is that the woman is chasing after the guy. Overall, if you want something different, maybe try this out! 
5. Michiko to Hatchin (Michiko & Hatchin)
Genre: Action, Adventure
Eps: 22
Aired: 2008 - 2009
In South America, criminal Michiko Malandro breaks out of prison in search of a man from her past. She finds a clue, which is Hana Morenos, a young girl trapped in an abusive foster family, whom she saves. This duo chase their dreams in the land of Diamandra, navigating through many obstacles.
My Quick Thoughts:
Very entertaining series and I absolutely love the relationship between Michiko and Hana. It's adorable! Just seeing an unlikely duo on a journey and seeing their development executed in such a well written way, how can this not end up as a great series? Also a plus, the series have great female leads, a diverse cast, and an overall engaging story. This show also tackles many issues along the way, such the struggles from being on the road, money struggles, the bond between adult and child, and family. This is really a great underrated series.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Manga Recommendation: Kuzumi-kun, Can't You Read the Room?

Genre: Comedy, Romance, School, Shounen
Status: 2015 - Ongoing
Author: Mosco (Story & Art)
"Erika Sakura is the school's most popular female high schooler and only met with envious gazes since she is out of everyone's league, however, she is recently interested in a certain male high schooler who can't read between the lines, Kuzumi. While having a relatinship between the two is out of the question, her unrequited love love will soon change in this romantic comedy. Follow this new inevitably heart pounding, out-of-contact short love comedy!"
I'm sure the trope of a girl being in love with a very dense guy is nothing new, however, this series makes this cliche quite entertaining. Although it is not plot heavy, the shenanigans that Erika has put herself through to get close to Kuzumi is very amusing, and honestly it has made my internally squeal in excitement and wanting more. The characters are also likable, even the love rivals aren't played off as annoying plot-devices that are tossed aside when their job is done. I also appreciate the development that the supporting characters get, such as Erika's and Kuzumi's friends, whom try to help guide these two idiots come together, or at least attempt to. 

As for the leads, Erika and Kuzumi are quite interesting characters. Erika is your typical popular girl, but she's not annoying nor snobbish, just a bit tsundere, which I don't mind because as she develops as a character you can see this trait dwindle. On the other hand, Kuzumi is quite something. He's this short, weird, quiet guy with an obsession with birds. His presence in the manga is funny, as it fits his personality. Kuzumi is one of those characters that may randomly pop up unexpectedly or react unexpectedly, which is appreciated in comedies. Although neither of these characters are exceptionally special, the way the mangaka created and executed them in the story makes them and the overall story interesting. 

Art-wise, the series isn't drawn in any way mind-blowing or intricate, but rather in a cute, clean style that suits the genres and tone that the series carries. 

Overall, I am really enjoying this series and can't wait for the future chapters, as I have been rooting for these two for quite some time. 😀 If you're looking a a quick, amusing read, then this may be for you! 

Overall rating: 4.5/5 (thus far)

If you're interested in reading it, you can legally purchase the digitally translated edition from Yen Press here

10 Underrated Anime with Strong Female Leads in the Past Decade

10 Underrated Anime with Strong Female Leads in the Past Decade

Mikasa Ackerman, Erza Scarlet, Riza Hawkeye, and Nico Robin, are no “Damsels in Distress”. There are plenty of strong female characters in anime, but do all of them get the recognition they deserve? No, not at all. With the countless of titles released each year, it’s no wonder that some never get much recognition, if at all. With the empowering appeal that strong female characters provide, they can make the viewing experience of an anime so much better. So, let’s make this list more interesting and start a countdown from 2017 to 2004 of underrated anime (not including sequels) with strong female leads.

1.      2017 – Princess Principal

Ange le Carré, a genius cold-blooded spy in a steampunk 20th century London, is skilled in detecting lies and quite adapt in telling her own. With her past shrouded in mystery, Ange is an undercover spy who works along side with a group of girls with their own unique set of skills to survive in the dark and dangerous world where a silent war is raging. Not only is Ange difficult to read due to her mysterious aura, but she is a character that is extremely loyal and seemingly accomplishes her missions with ease.

2.      2016 – Izetta the Last Witch

Izetta, the titular main character, at first had attempted to keep her witch heritage a secret, which causes her to become shy and self-cautious, however, upon the outbreak of the war, she breaks her taboo and begins to openly use her powers to aid Princess Finé. Despite the odd nature of seeing a witch riding on an anti-tank rifle, she is an extremely strong ally as she has proven to possess the strength greater than any army.

3.      2015 – Beautiful Bones -Sakurako’s Investigation-

Sakurako Kujou is a mysterious and eccentric woman who collects various kinds of bones. With her deep knowledge of physiology and her keen eye for detail, she makes an exceptional detective. Despite her aloof and superior behavior, she frequently aids the police in their murder investigations. Sakurako is an extremely intelligent women with a strong mind who uses her desire to collect human bones for collection to solve the strange and dangerous mysteries around her.

4.      2014 –The World is Still Beautiful

Nike Remercier is the fourth princess of the Rain Dukedom who has the ability to call fourth the rain, along with being able to manipulate the wind and see through someone’s past. As an independent girl who easily speaks her mind, she takes her responsibility as she becomes engaged to the ruler of the Sun Kingdom, who is someone much different than she anticipated. Despite being a princess, Nike isn’t too keen on following the royal customs and very simplistic and humble. With her fierce nature, she also does not hesitate to take a challenge for the sake of others, especially if her fiancé is involved.

5.      2013 – Kyousou Giga (TV)

Koto is a strange little girl who has seemingly stumbled into the City Through the Looking Glass. Despite being raised by a priest along side her non-human twin brothers, she is anything but peaceful. Upon entering the city, Koto constantly causes mayhem and refuses to leave until she finds the people she is looking for. Even though she is a young teen who makes rash decisions, she has great determination (and strength) in accomplishing her mission.
6.      2012 – Good Luck Girl!

Ichiko Sakura, a high school girl who has the power to absorb fortune energy that makes her seem like the perfect girl, with the beauty and brains. She is spoiled and self-centered, but under those layers she just a lonely girl. Upon meeting Momiji, the God of Misfortune, she begins to make friends and realizing the bonds she makes with others is more important than she once perceived. Not only is Ichiko physically strong, but she continues to fight for those who are precious to her, leading to amazing development on her part.

7.      2011 –SKET Dance

Hime Onizuka is the female lead who was formally a delinquent that has a soft spot for cute things. She is known as the fighter and only female member in the SKET Brigade. Despite being naturally aggressive and a bit cranky, she tries her best to remain optimistic and is overall a gentle soul who is determined to do her best in helping other people. This fierce and loyal young lady is someone you would want as a friend, not an enemy.

8.      2010 – Okami-san and Her Seven Companions

Ryouko Ookami, fierce like a wolf, is a high school girl who fights thugs with her special Neko Neko Knuckles. Although she puts up a tough front to disguise her true, kind and frightened nature, she holds herself together rather well, establishing herself to be a strong ally and friend. As she has been betrayed by someone in the past, she uses that experience to toughen herself up as she solves other peoples problems as a member of the Otogi Bank club.

9.      2009 – Tokyo Magnitude 8.0

Mari Kusakabe is a 32-year-old biker who lives with her mother and daughter. When the devastating earthquake struck, it had prevented her from celebrating her daughter’s fourth birthday. Despite the stress that she endures for not knowing the condition of her daughter and mother, Mari still remains strong and optimistic as she helps Mirai and her younger brother get home safely to reunite with their parents. Now, this is a strong woman, as she not only struggles to become the pillar of strength to a couple of young strangers, but she becomes one without a pillar of her own.

10.  2008 – Michiko & Hatchin

Michiko Malandro is a wild independent woman that has just recently escaped from one of the most heavily guarded prisons in existence for the fourth time. Upon her escape, Michiko rescues Hana from her abusive foster parents by busting through the house with her motorbike. She claims to know Hana’s father, whom she is currently searching for. As this duo is continually being hunted down, Michiko ensures that she and Hana make it safely through the journey. Despite Michiko’s mysterious past with Hana’s father, the strange duo form a unexpectedly strong bond.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don't Have with People You Don't Like Doing Things You Don't Want to Do By Sarah Knight

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don't Have with People You Don't Like Doing Things You Don't Want to Do

Genre: Self Help, Nonfiction, Humor
"Are you stressed out, overbooked, and underwhelmed by life? Fed up with pleasing everyone else before you please yourself? It's time to stop giving a f*ck.
This brilliant, hilarious, and practical parody of Marie Kondo's bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up explains how to rid yourself of unwanted obligations, shame, and guilt--and give your f*cks instead to people and things that make you happy.
The easy-to-use, two-step NotSorry Method for mental decluttering will help you unleash the power of not giving a f*ck about: 
Family dramaHaving a "bikini body"IcelandCo-workers' opinions, pets, and childrenAnd other bullsh*t! And it will free you to spend your time, energy, and money on the things that really matter. So what are you waiting for? Stop giving a f*ck and start living your best life today!"
Since this book is a parody of Marie Kondo's book, you would think that you would have to read it to understand how this book was so. Fortunately you don't have to read it because Knight gives enough context to understand it, though I have read it prior to reading this.

Although I understand the message that Knight is trying to convey to the reader, which is basically to learn when and how to stop giving a f*ck and begin pleasing yourself instead of giving in to pleasing others, I think she tried a bit too hard and her execution feel short. When I began reading it, I was enjoying it, but then as I continued, I began to be annoyed when I realized the repetition of the message, which is to "stop giving a f*ck". It felt like the phrase was being drilled into my head and I got tired of reading the same thing and got bored. To be completely honest, this book could have been written much shorter, then that way I would have enjoyed it much more and it didn't seem like Knight was trying to stretch her message farther than it could allow.

Overall, I didn't particularly dislike this book, but it definitely could have been better. Then again this is just my opinion and someone else probably enjoyed it more and perhaps the flaws I saw may not be flaws to them.

Overall rating: 2/5

Friday, December 29, 2017

Book Review: Beyond the Green by Sharlee Mullins Glenn

**Disclaimer: I received a free electronic ARC for review on NetGalley.**
Genre: Children's Fiction, Middle Grade
"Eleven-year-old Britta's big Mormon family took in little Doria member of the Ute tribeas a baby. Now, four years later, Dori's birth mother, Irene, is ready to take Dori back. Blunt and feisty, Britta is filled with anger. How can Irene claim Dori when she's been gone all this time? Britta will stop at nothing to keep her sister, even if it means running away or failing to see beyond her prejudices."

When I finished this book I was pleasantly surprised that I really, really enjoyed it. 

The story gave a soft 'Little House on the Prairie"-vibe for me because it was story narrated by a young protagonist in a setting from the past that incorporated real historical issues and drama, but told in a way that was easy to understand and flowed quite smoothly. I was even surprised when I read in the authors note that this book was based on the author's real life experience with her foster sister, which makes this all the more better and touching.

I also enjoyed the characters, even feisty Britta, who even I believe might've taken things too far at some points of the story (not just the running away part), but that's okay because she's still young and it adds to her character, which only continued to develop positively throughout the story. I also really enjoyed the family dynamic, from Britta's stern, loving, strong mother, her siblings (including little adorable Dori), and her awesome grandpa. It felt comfortably warm and real. Even the culture of the Ute tribe was great because it was introduced in such a way where it was easy to understand and was not overwhelming. It could have been introduced as an information dump, but luckily it was eased in, as we are learning about it just as Britta was. 

The touching moments with the inevitable departure of Dori, how it affects the family by not only causing grief, but also strengthening them at the same time was also very well written. 

Overall, this was a very enjoyable read that had me shed a tear here and there. 😢

I highly, highly recommend this book to anyone, despite it being targeted towards a younger audience. 😊👍

Overall rating: 4.5/5