Garo Review: The Big Roar

8/10

If you’re talking about the season’s most under-appreciated, you’re sure to have mentioned Garo somewhere in your conversation. No one expected an anime series that could hold itself together, much less walk on its own legs. The series does not aspire to be more than what it is nor does it condemn itself to its own confines. That is exactly what Garo does – and it does so beautifully.

Essentially, Garo is a story about good versus evil. There is nothing special nor wholly new about it, but that is where the show keeps it tight. The series takes us to a fantastical but horrific world of plagues and demons and the protectors who fight against them. We follow Leon, a young Makai Knight, struggling to discern between two ethos: a desire for revenge or the duty to protect. Its narrative may be sorely lacking and at times questionable but it does have an ample amount of intrigue and cleverness. All in all, Garo unfolds a pretty decent and solid story – a tale of discovering one’s duty and purpose.

One of the more striking things about Garo is that it handles the ideals it holds impressively. While they are thriftily given, the ideals never stray too far. Instead of being pretentious and overzealous, they are humble and, more importantly, relevant to the story, something not all anime series can easily grapple with. In the event of introspection, realization, and declaration, the characters never spew out random, nonsensical lines just to sound cool. They say the just right thing at just the right moment while placing importance in saying with simplicity.

The character development during the most part of the series is focused on Leon. His wasn’t a grand, 180 degree turn. It was rather kept simple. The rest have their fair share but it would take only one or two episodes for their development to be completed. At the very least, these characters weren’t used for unwarranted fan service. Though archetypal, each of them remain distinct and memorable.

The art in Garo does well in portraying the setting. The Knights are ornate and flashy but not overbearing; the Horrors are terribly grotesque. I would say it’s all fitting. The music does a superb job in keeping the scenes exciting. The animation especially in the fight scenes are an outstanding feat. The choreography is neat and elegant, fluid and energetic – something one would not totally expect if they’re only seeing Garo at surface level.

To sum it all up, Garo comes as a surprise. It may lack the intricacies and refinement that adorn the bigger anime shows but behind all that it is one daring and remarkable effort.

Shirobako Review: The Little Anime That Could

10/10

One phrase that would perfectly describe Shirobako is simply ingenious. Surprisingly, the series has cleverly put together a lot of elements into one stand-out show. Aside from being an exposition of how anime series are made, it also tells us a cute and charming story all while boasting a splendid cast of characters and vibrant, dynamic designs.

The art in Shirobako is lovely. Although vibrant and dynamic, it is never flashy nor exaggerating. It is clean-cut and simple but more than enough to bring the story into fruition and to distinguish one character from the other. The sound is also kept simple, evoking the right feeling at the right moment. Shirobako couldn’t ask for anything more fitting. The theme songs fit perfectly with the story too: inspiring yet also fun and relevant.  All in all, Shirobako exercised its liberty pretty well regarding its production.

The giant cast of characters actually does not pose a problem for character development and, in general, for the series. During their respective screen times (no matter how little they had), they are well flesh out. The realism they portray is an exceptionally rare feat. They are not archetypal and overblown. All of the characters, especially the five girls, possessed and displayed certain realistic qualities that break free from the confines of typical slice of life anime. The series was careful to not be intimidated by the size of the cast and to handle it with finesse.

We follow the lives of five girls as they struggle to live their dreams in the anime industry and an unlikely animation studio fighting against all odds to produce quality anime. It is a tale of of the creative process, professionalism, teamwork,  and finding one’s motivation. It is amazing to point out that Shirobako‘s core story is incredibly simple yet satisfying. The side stories are also quite enjoyable.

But what makes Shirobako stand out is how it is able to masterfully and effortlessly incorporate the core story, multiple side stories, and a brief but informative look into what goes down in the anime industry into one seamless and fluid narrative without ever losing focus. It is never overblown with the unnecessary. All these elements are treated with careful balance – something not all anime series have – that underlies the show’s ingenuity.

Shirobako is an anime that is “just right”. It breaks one’s expectations without betraying them. You just have to enjoy it as it is as you learn countless things about life, careers, and, of course, anime. The series is a force to be reckoned with and I could easily recommend it to anyone, especially to those in need of a surprise.

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Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! Review

8/10

Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! is a parody on the mahou shoujo genre. The elements it mocks are obvious and the characters actually acknowledge it – unlikely heroes flashily transforming into their ridiculous costumes with out-of-this-world powers battling monsters-of-the-week while upholding their valiant virtues of love and friendship. As a quirky deconstruction of the style, the series manages to pull it off with as few hitches as possible.

Even the construction of the episodes is a parody. It is all in the episodic nature of the monster-of-the-week ploy, leaving a few hints of the over-all plot until unveiling it, albeit slowly, in last few episodes, and, of course, the all-too-grand climatic final episode. It’s not worth enjoying if it is taken too seriously. After all, Boueibu is just a bunch of boys randomly given powers of love to save the Earth from hatred.

The design and animation could have been more flashy – as flashy as Sailor Moon and Free! combined. At the very least, it could be described as fitting to Boueibu‘s identity as a parody of a genre. The surprise, however, is the music. I expected something decent at best but I was amazed at the remarkable effort given to the sound.

Boueibu is what one would call a “basic” anime. While it is “basic”, it nevertheless captures our attention with the charm of its characters and the wit of the script. The combination of the two elements is refreshing despite being only a cover-up for the series’ identity as a parody with nothing else to work on save for the fact that it has magical boys instead of magical girls. It unexpectedly leaves you rolling on the floor or facepalming while laughing at its ludicrousness.

There is an irony in Boueibu in that one would have to take it seriously in order to realize that it’s not to be taken seriously. It serves as an example to the anime audience to remind them of how one can still enjoy a series without taking it too seriously. It doesn’t need you to think about ulterior motives or predict courses of action. Boueibu only requires one to pay attention.

It doesn’t stand out too much but at least it does. Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE! is a half lighthearted and half gut-busting comedy and I easily recommend it to anyone who seeks such.