Opening: Falling in Love Again
I have a confession to make: I’m falling in love with anime again. In the past, I’d seen occasional pieces here and there–like Ponyo, Pokémon (which, to be fair, was a huge part of my ’90s childhood) and Avatar: The Last Airbender–but there were years in between where watching animated films or TV shows was non-existent. (Unless if you count re-watching Disney movies.)
Anime Highlights from 2014
Recently, my boyfriend has helped rekindle my interest in anime. The first piece of anime that we watched together–before we actually started dating–was Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke. I felt blown away by the animation, the story, and the well-developed characters. To the say the least, I love this anime epic action historical fantasy film. *Whew.* Honestly, it’s a wonderful mouthful of genres. I normally don’t cry often when watching films, anime or other. But, while watching Princess Mononoke, I was brought to unexpected tears because of the emotionally gripping scene. This film offers a powerful look at environmental issues without shoving it in your face.
Miyazaki is truly a genius. Last semester, I watched another fantastic anime of his, Spirited Away. This was the first anime that I’d seen in a long time, and was more than glad to return to the medium. (I remembered seeing it in Target ages ago, and how I had been intrigued with the cover of the DVD.) In an Alice in Wonderland kind of way, a young girl’s journey to the spirit world helps her to discover the inner strength that she already possesses. This fantasy film does a wonderful job of commenting on Chihiro’s state in the spirit world, where she transitions from entering as a child and leaving as an adult.
And then there’s Grave of the Fireflies. This film, while it features children, is definitely not for kids.
– from Wikipedia
While there is death abound in this film, there are also gentler moments, like when Seita (the older brother) takes his four-year-old sister Setsuko outside to look at the glowing fireflies.
Grave of the Fireflies is both subbed and dubbed in English.
If you love anime, you should definitely see these fantastic films. Even if you don’t think that anime is for you, the themes, characters, imagination, and historical settings will pull you in and refuse to let go until the end credits.
Before I left for winter break, my boyfriend and I started watching Attack on Titan. We didn’t get to resume watching until January, but the wait was highly worth it. This anime TV series is my most recent obsession.
Here’s a synopsis of the setting, as well as information about the military system that is used to fight the Titans:
Several hundred years ago, humans were nearly exterminated by Titans. Titans are typically several stories tall, seem to have no intelligence, devour human beings and, worst of all, seem to do it for the pleasure rather than as a food source. A small percentage of humanity survived by walling themselves in a city protected by extremely high walls, even taller than the biggest Titans. Flash forward to the present and the city has not seen a Titan in over 100 years. A teenaged boy, Eren, and his foster sister, Mikasa, witness something horrific as the city walls are destroyed by a Colossal Titan that appears out of thin air. As the smaller Titans flood the city, the two kids watch in horror as their mother is eaten alive. Eren vows that he will murder every single Titan and take revenge for all of mankind.
– from the Shingeki no Kyojin wiki
Combating the Titans is the military, which is divided into three branches. Foremost in the story is the Survey Corps, which goes out into Titan territory in order to try to reclaim the land. The Survey Corps are heavily derided in society because of their high casualty rate and little sense of progress. Another branch is the Garrison Regiment, which guards the walls and the civilian populace. The third branch is the Military Police Brigade, who guards the royal family and live a relatively relaxed life. The soldiers use a tethering system called Vertical Maneuvering Equipment which allows them to jump onto walls, trees, or nearby buildings to attack Titans.
– from the Attack on Titan wiki
From the premise alone, you can tell that this show isn’t for the faint of heart. That said, despite the graphic violence–the anime is about fighting and killing these gigantic Titans after all–I love the narrative in this show. It’s compelling, intense, and at times heartfelt.
Attack on Titan features really cool technology which allows the main characters to fly, latching onto buildings, trees, or walls so they can fight the Titans. (In the anime, the Vertical Maneuvering System is called 3D maneuvering gear.)
The 3D maneuvering gear takes about three years to learn. The strength needed to work the gear, as well as the training in 3D, is why the process takes so long. After you train as a cadet, you decide which branch of the military you’re going to go into. Each branch of the military has a distinct coat of arms: a pair of wings, a pair of roses, and a horse’s head. You can choose Survey Corps (wings), the Garrison Regiment (roses), or the Military Police (horse’s head).
Another aspect of the anime that I enjoy is the personal growth that these characters undergo. Eren, to say the least, changes the most as the anime progresses.
There’s also coming of age undertones. Eren, Armin, and Mikasa all have to figure out what paths they want to take after training as cadets. They have to find the courage within themselves to face the Titans. Their experiences with fighting the Titans alters their psyches, sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse.
I also love the music. The score and the openings are memorable, fitting very well with the action and non-action sequences.
Here’s to great anime,