Sensory Overload: Anime Fall 2012-Winter 2013

It is officially summer - at least in the Philippines! Come to think of it, February has just begun and the weather already sucked. Some people out there might be celebrating because it means they can already go out to the beach, wear their bikini's, get some tan and surf the waves. While the majority of the Philippine population could only think of that, I on the other hand, would be lamenting the arrival of this most dreaded season. In my opinion, there's nothing like the warm and sticky weather of the tropics to get me down in the dumps. Just thinking about all the grueling headaches and sweats I have to endure for the following months is already driving me mad. I am the one who wants to live in a country with a freezing temperature and yet I am stuck in this part of the world where my only option is it either rains or shines all day every day.

I've been on a lapsed as a cinephile for three months now. Out of all the Academy Award nominated motion pictures for 2012 I have only managed to see two - Argo and Amour. It is pretty obvious that I am not so enthusiastic with movies now as much as in the past. I just could not sit through them any more, especially if the subject matter doesn't really hit me on a gut level. Perhaps that's the reason I have seen Haneke's film and nothing else, because I have to really believe in the film, like we were kindred spirits or something, in order for me to get interested. Maybe for now what I am looking for is something that I could really relate to, in terms of its psychological, philosophical and spiritual context. But do not be misunderstood, I still love the movies. We've been through so much, like lovers struck by a storm, a prodigal daughter running away from her family, or as friend's separated from time, distance and change. Although we've been away for a while I am sure that our regular programming will resume once I get my groove back, because cinema is my true love, and as far as I know about things like love, if what you have is true then it is meant to lasts.

These days my watching sprees are spent on animes. The technology today makes it easy for us to pick up multiple titles all together. Unlike with movies that runs only for 2 to 3 hours, anime is approximately 24 minutes, with at least 12 to 25 episodes worth per season, which means the story has a strong chance to stretch out its potential, to create arcs and to explore each characters not just on the lead one's. Matter of fact, I've been having sleepless nights just to download the latest episodes, considering that my internet connection works best during graveyard hours, it makes me feel like I'm back doing my former job. Being completely immersed, I opened a MyAnimeList account and is actively visiting forums to source out information from other online users. If I have enough cash to burn I would roam the metropolis for Mangas; so far, I haven't reach that phase of Otakuness yet and for now I am just plain satisfied with watching anime's.

I think this is the part where I have to mention and give emphasis to the titles that keeps me wide awake in the wee hours of morning.

Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo has all the staples of a generic Shojo anime, however, there is something special about this series that made it stood out and particularly endearing to those suckers for love stories. But one of the many reasons I chose to stay is because of the pairing between Sorata and Mashiro who never fails to give me goosebumps during their scenes together. In the complex dormitory of Sakurasou each characters, even a world class talent, act no differently from the average type when it comes to love and will do all sorts of foolish things just to be loved. Despite Sorata being "baka" most of the time I appreciate his intuitive efforts in taking care of Mashiro. The issue that most people from online forums have against her is that she is completely incapable of taking care of herself that's why they felt Nanami - with all her wife material qualification - should win the battle over Sorata's heart. These two girls are polar opposites of each other, what Mashiro lacks in household abilities she gains in willingness and initiative to show her feelings towards the person that she likes, whereas Nanami plays the typical 'tsundere' and the hard to get game hoping it would work on her favor. In spite of all its cuteness and its random rom-com inclination the kids of Sakurasou's never forget to remind us "to do what you really want to do, not for anybody else but for yourself."

Bakuman has proven to be one of my favorite slice-of-life anime series with its 3rd and final season becoming more and more intense and exciting, to the point that I could even compare it to watching two of my favorite live action shows such as Downton Abbey and Mad Men. What is so fantastic about Bakuman is the progression of the characters, not just the main but the supporting acts as well, we see their hard work, struggles, rivalries and their friendship, it is inevitable (for us) not to root for any of them to succeed. I also commend how the show doesn't sugarcoat reality, rather it provides us a clear cut story of characters that are not immune from rejection, disappointments and failures, not just once or twice but in innumerable circumstances, and how those challenges makes them shoot for the moon and overcome the odds.

With all the lackluster shows to come out for the winter 2013 Chihayafuru 2 seems to be the exception and the very saving grace for all the many disgruntled anime viewers expecting more after the industry's glorious and pleasing run in 2012. The five episodes so far seems to be more than satisfying, heck, I think it is much better than its first installment. Early on we see our Mizusawa High Karuta team recruiting two new members, managing their priorities and are currently on the verge of facing new and old foes to vy for the High School Competition. Taichi lovers (including moi) of course are expecting his progression from Level B to A and his relationship with (the dense and overly Arata devotee) Chihaya to move forward. But for me the real highlight of this show (besides Taichi) are the Karuta matches; somehow this Japanese sport has worm its way into my heart, if possible, I want all of its episodes to be filled with Karuta matches, regardless of the team and the person playing. Not many anime series can showcase art, literature, romance, high school life and action all into one, most of all inject interest to the uninitiated viewers about a virtually unknown sport except Chihayafuru, Madhouse made it look so damn effortless my eyes are all glued up. More Taichi Saturdays please!

As an enthusiast of science fiction and dystopian universes' -- and as a Philip K. Dick fan to boot -- Psycho-Pass is my ultimate candy treat. Some viewers may have complain about its relative similarities to Dick's work such as Minority Report and Blade Runner, but I don't mind, as long as Gen Urobuchi can bring something new to the table -- something twisted and unexpected. In my opinion, Psycho-Pass is Gen's ode to Philip K. Dick, William Gibson and to other writers and philosophers that may have inspire him throughout the years. He never shied away from mentioning those references in Psycho-Pass, hence he knows we are aware about its resemblance with Dick's aforementioned work, that in my opinion, those apparent similarities were made intentionally on his part. Unlike other anime series that are mostly focus on the viewership of its young audiences Psycho-Pass's bleak and dark premise are for us grown-ups who craves mental stimulation and values quality over quantity from time to time.

Nitroplus science adventure series has taken us in to the world of computer science, psychology and physics with their previous shows Chaos;Head (my least favorite among the bunch, which I describe as "brain damage"), and the mind-blowing Steins;Gate (who takes the bacon for its unadulterated use of time travel). Their latest endeavour, Robotics;Notes, doesn't come short with the thrills as we are introduced into a group of robotics club high school students who suddenly find themselves entwined with artificial intelligence, falling monopoles, conspiracies of world destruction and suspicious deaths of nearby townspeople that may be or may not be underhandedly associated with a cybernetics corporation. I like how the future is depicted in this series, not with all the flying cars and mobile suits that is usually projected by mainstream Hollywood, but everything looks pretty much the same although the technology is really advance and all.

In terms of the story's substance and shock value there are no other series from last year's fall season that can hold the candle to Shin Sekai Yori. Based on a 900 page plus Japanese science fiction novel, Shinsekai Yori is set in a dystopian world a thousand years from now where every human beings are capable of summoning their own cantus (or psycho-kinesis) but are also strictly measured for it - through schooling - in order to keep the peace and balance of their community intact. If you've been reading or hearing about the yaoi and yuri content on the internet do not let that short piece repel you. Although I find the controvesial arc on 'free love' featured in episode 8 interesting and a necessity - to be dealt with - it doesn't really represent the sum of the whole parts of the story. As a matter of fact, the explicit content from the novel was restrained in the anime, the sexual scenes were cut off, no wonder why there are curious netizens looking for the translated version of its novel. I guess in that light, my dissatisfaction stems on the censorship and the underrated reception it receives from broadminded viewers.

More than ten years ago the anime adaptation of Hunter X Hunter by Nippon Animation was released. I am a fan of the series and have seen it religiously as well. However, due to the hiatus of Togashi the story was put on hold, along with the anime. Beginning 2011, Madhouse, the same studio that brought us Death Note, has rebooted the entire series, creating a lot of happy faces to its old fans while introducing the show to a whole new generation of viewers. Although I love the 1999 version, the Hunter X Hunter 2011 is a breathe of fresh air in terms of its animation quality. Because the 1999 edition is mostly hand-drawn via paper and pencil the coloring is much darker and the lines - are thicker. Now those itsy bitsy glitches are resolved by the use of computer and CGI it looks much easy on the eyes and the character movements have become more flexible and lighter. Gon and Killua's adventures transport us into a world of Togashi's infinite geekiness and genius, clearly he hasn't lost his touch, the story is still as magical and enthralling as the first time. What is lacking though is my inability to sing all its praises. P.S. the Killua and Gon moments are more kawai, I am so hooked - they are my dark chocolates.

If Baz Luhrmann's Romeo+Juliet is a cross between a grunge and a hipster's waking dream Zetsuen no Tempest on the other hand is the anime colony playground of William Shakespeare. Not only that, it also made the works of the world's greatest playwright interesting and cool for a current generation inhabited by Twilight and Christian Grey. I am quite positive that viewers were having subliminal urges to read Hamlet and The Tempest while watching an episode of ZnT. Talk about influencing people, this series even accumulated a new set of fans for Beethoven's Tempest Sonata and the Japanese rock band Nothing's Carved in Stone with their fantastic song on the OP. There are more things to like about ZnT, there is the eclectic fusion of magic and mystery, a balancing act of seriousness and comedy, the fight between good versus evil, and the story's crossroad's between love and death. If you crave for an anime that would provide intellectual stimulation, entertainment, action and all the works then this one is for you.

Other titles included on my current watch list:
(From Left to Right) Amnesia, Hakkenden Touhou Hakken Ibun,
Kotoura san, Mondai-Jiitachi ga Isekai Kara Kuru Sou Desu yo?
Magi, Maoyuu Maou Yuusha,
Tamako Market, Vividred Operation

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