banner image, art by Akihiro Yamada for the lightnovel Twelve Kingdoms

Second manga I've read by Minoru Furuya, the first one being Himizu. I have to admit I liked Saltiness a lot more!
Saltiness tells us a story of a true and honest local small town weirdo, Takehiko, who above anything only wants happiness for his younger sister, Ai. His sister works as a teacher in the local middle school, and they both live with their grandpa. Their childhood is quite depressing which probably attributed to Takehiko being the way he is, but he makes no effort to change. UNTIL... his grandpa accidentally lets it slip that he talked with Ai about her marrying and moving away, and she says she will probably never find a partner because of her brother being who he is. So, as any loving brother would do Takehiko sets out on an adventure to Tokyo to make money, win at life and find Ai a husband and ensure her happiness lmao. The story is stupid and wacky, and Takehiko is the "idiot with good intentions that manages to always mess shit up" but with a twist, he's quite good at manipulating people and has a pretty magnetic personality.

The art definitely has improved compared to Himizu. Himizu was by no means bad, but at times the characters would look pretty disproportionally buff and big. I feel like Furuya's recognizeable style stayed (I kind of grew to like the exaggerated faces now, they're also a bit more toned down...) which is nice. General panelling and physical comedy and stuff is really well done. I also really loved all the creepy monster designs. Lastly I think this manga really excels at character interaction and silly communication. I don't know, I just love random haha humor sometimes.

I'll always enjoy stories about people that live on the margins of society because they'll always include... depraved characters..., and it's nice that the story being told here isn't completely doomer tier despite it including the usual philosophizing about life and society.

This anime has been staring at me from my plan to watch for at least 8 years since it begins with "a" and is always the first one to show up. I had no idea what I was in for, and I was pleasantly surprised! Aoi Bungaku consists of 12 episodes, divided into 5 adaptations of Japanese modern literature classics. "No Longer Human" by Osamu Dazai, "Under the Blossoming Cherry Trees" by Ango Sakaguchi, "Kokoro" by Natsume Soseki, "Run, Melos!" by Osamu Dazai, "Spider's Thread" and "Hellscreen" by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. Each story has a different artstyle, and the character designs were provided by big names (especially at the time it came out) like Takeshi Obata and Tite Kubo.
All of the stories were written in a ~30 year period after the first world war and as such most of them deal with the concept of fast arriving modernity vs. tradition which reflects the general vibe in Japan at the time. Well I'm simplifying it a bit but that seems to be the most common theme along with an individual's stance towards his nation, loneliness, love and regret.
Out of the five, I enjoyed Kokoro and No Longer Human the most. Kokoro I believe was the most uniquely presented story (all of them take a lot of liberties with the story - of course since they're so short! I've seen people get all negative about it which I don't get), consisting of two episodes that retell the same events but from different perspectives. The two perspectives are entirely different - even the environment and the weather seasons, which reflect the inner worlds of the two protagonists. I think the two episodes take a different direction from the original work (I never read it, but I did have it summarized to me at some point) and put their own spin on it but in the most meaningful and interesting way.

Complete spoiler about Kokoro below, where I talk about the plot and character impressions:

So the story revolves around Sensei, who is the main protagonist in the book, K, his frighteningly stoic and strange friend whom he invites to live with him in the boarding house and whose perspective we get to see in the second episode, Ojousan - the girl they both fell in love with and lastly Ojousans mother, the lady who rents them the rooms.

From the first episode we get the impression that Sensei is kind and a bit awkward and indecisive, while K is scary, imposing, almost like a feral animal. All of K's interactions with Ojousan in the first episode are like something from an ugly bastard NTR hentai storyline and Sensei gets angry that K is stealing his love interest away from him so he decides to finally confess to her. K ends up talking with Ojousans mother about how she purposefully set K and Ojousan up to make Sensei confess his feelings as he was too indecisive before. This breaks K's heart and he kills himself. Sensei ends up marrying Ojousan.

In the second episode the story is a bit different. K is actually shy, awkward and kind while Sensei is cunning, annoying and is low-key flaunting his wealth status over K who is poor. The part about Ojousan being set up with K is true, but as we know it seems her mother was goading her to do it to make Sensei jealous. Despite that she ends up actually falling in love with K and urges him to run away with her and to meet up at the train station before it's too late. As K is getting ready to leave to the train station, he has the talk with Ojousans mom. In this episode she says things differently. She tells him he should plan on moving out to make room for the newlyweds, teasing him. Sadly, it seems like it was too late and Ojousan never managed to come as Sensei probably proposed to her at this point. K comes back to the boarding house and kills himself.

I was unsurprised, but still disappointed to see people blaming Ojousan for being a thot heartbreaker or whatever. This was clearly your typical wrong place wrong time love story (between K and Ojousan) which ended sadly. A lot of people complained about how the episodes aren't just from different perspectives, but are entirely visually different with a lot of differing dialogue too. But frankly, I enjoyed it. I watched this under the assumption that the first episode, being from Sensei's POV, obviously couldn't have objectively and accurately retold moments where sensei wasn't present (like the few moments between K and Ojousan where he looks like a creepy fucker) and the convo between K and the mother. It's not rare to see people have low media literacy but maaan. Disappoints me nonetheless. The visual differences were also great representations of inner worlds, mental states, whatever. It was a good touch.

All of the other adaptations were also pretty good, but haven't left too lasting of an impression. Still I recommend you give the whole thing a watch.

Another Plan To Watch entry is DOWN!!! Ok, my mind went through a rollercoaster of "should I keep watching?", "should I drop this?", "no, I'll continue", "no, I'll drop this" like never before. For me to properly talk about this anime, I'll describe the whole first episode because it's an amazing set up for a disappointing first half and good second half.

The story begins with a conversation between Sasshi and Arumi, two childhood friends. Sasshi is a 12 year old boy and a huge nerd. Arumi is clearly the straight man in the duo. Arumi and Sasshi's families both hold businesses in the Abenobashi shopping arcade in Osaka which is set to be torn down soon. Arumi's family has the Pelican Restaurant and Sasshi's had the Turtle Bath which closed down (there also used to be Tiger's Gold Coin Dumplings and Dragon's Wooden Clog Shop, all 4 of them representing the Four Gods). Arumi is moving away soon because her dad wants to realize his dream of going to Hokkaido and becoming a chef, but her grandfather wants to keep the restaurant running. Sasshi is clearly depressed about that because he doesn't want her to leave. In the middle of the episode the pair and their families talk about some past family drama, like Sasshi's grandma being really good looking, crushing on a different man, and Arumi's grandpa also having a thing for Sasshi's grandma. We also find out that the man his grandma was crushing on was the one responsible for the development of the arcade, some 50 years ago. Skipping to the end of the episode, a cat climbed on top of the Pelican mascot and Arumi's grandpa tried to shoo it away, falling down along with the sign in the process. Upon the destruction of the Pelican (the last god standing), Arumi and Sasshi get transported into another world.

The first episode of this anime is, in my eyes, phenomenal. Such a good premise, likeable characters, great atmosphere. Everything you need to know for the rest of the anime is perfectly laid out here. I love when stories interweave family relations, older + young generation crossing paths, that kind of stuff. Truly the perfect set up episode.
But then... The next few episodes were really not my thing and I'll say why for a few reasons. The anime went full gag style comedy for 4 episodes straight. And while I know perfectly why that happened (I'll talk about it under spoilers), it got tiring reeeeeal quick. We got the usual Gainax, oh yeah did I mention this was a Gainax/Madhouse production?, REFERENCES humor but in a very exaggerated fashion + extremely juvenile in your face fanservice in the form of a character called Mune Mune, a mysterious woman neither Sasshi nor Arumi are familiar with. So by episode 4 and 5 I was struggling. Like it's fine for an episode or two, but it really went on longer than I expected it to. But then... episode 6 happened, and then the anime got really interesting again. After that there were a few more episodes that I wasn't a huge fan of, but the ending and the story-relevant episodes more than made up for it... I guess.

Minor story spoilers below, I won't be spoiling anything that would completely kill the point of watching the anime lmao:
So there's an, of course, story related explanation as to why there was so much fanservice. All the worlds Arumi and Sasshi end up in are actually a figment of Sasshi's imagination. Why that is, I won't tell you here, but it does put things into perspective (as much as I hate to admit it, and to be fair, fanservice is still annoying fanservice even if there's a reason for it). He's a horny 12 year old who plays VNs, is obsessed with weapons and likes chinese kungfu movies, dinosaurs and anime... So all the worlds will reflect that. This very much reminds me of FLCL and the y'know, METAPHORS... In his desperate attempt to not go back to the real world so Arumi won't have to leave him, he subconsciously traps them in these worlds. There's a whole OTHER layer to this that I didn't expect frankly, but it still boils down to the same point, which is a theme you often come across in other Gainax anime of the era - some people don't want to live in the real world and do everything to escape it, something something otaku. He's a child that's refusing to grow up.

Ending spoilers here, sorry about the spoiler-ception:
And this leads us to the ending, rather, the last few episodes of the anime. We find out that the man Sasshi's grandmother Mune was in love with is actually the mysterious sorcerer both Sasshi and Arumi have been bumping into in those fantasy worlds. Yes, that is Mune Mune the fanservice lady - Sasshi was told by someone in his family that Mune was super hot so he imagined her as basically the sex symbol lmfao. The man reveals to Sasshi that he is an onmyoji, which is like a court exorcist/medium/mystic of Heian era Japan. Except he wasn't any onmyoji, he was the famous onmyoji Abe No Seimei. I'll skip over his backstory but it turns out him and Mune had a child, Sasshi's dad. Sasshi inherited Seimei's powers and the reason why the world transportations were happening was because Arumi's grandpa died when he fell in the first episode and Sasshi didn't want to deal with that reality. From then on Sasshi tries to become a respectable onmyoji who will be able to transport them into a real (there's a difference between real real worlds that are almost like alternate timelines, original world and fantasy worlds) world where Arumi's grandpa is alive. In the last episode Sasshi finally decides he will transport him and Arumi to the original world, but he notices that Arumi is crying, probably because she realized her grandpa will be dead, and for the last moment he hesitates, wanting to go to a world where her grandpa is alive after all. So then he transports them, not into the original world, but a possible fantasy world where Arumi's grandpa is alive, Arumi never goes to Hokkaido, Mune Mune is alive and happy with Seimei who she's been chasing this whole time. Basically, the ending isn't clear on whether Sasshi managed to transport them into a shoddy fake world or a real alternate world but one thing is clear - in the end, he couldn't deal with reality and he refused to mature. I actually think the ending is very bittersweet, but also pretty open ended and hopeful. A lot of people criticize the ending for being an extreme copout, but I think they missed the point? It's not a cop-out, and it's not a "happy" ending. Just like all the funny gag episodes before, this world is also not real, and it isn't the original world. It just means that Sasshi didn't yet succeed in his mission of facing reality.

So yes, how do I speak about the ending in a spoiler free way... Hm.. I think the ending was bittersweet and VERY misinterpreted by most people online whose opinions I've read. As far as Gainax endings go, this one was actually wrapped up in a good way but you need to pay attention to the rest of the show to understand why it isn't a super duper happy positive ending. I guess the funny gag anime parts managed to steal people's attention or just lower their expectations of how much brainpower they'll have to utilize, I don't know. What I do know is that episodes 2-5 made me want to drop it due to sheer amount of fanservice and I can see some people also expressed the same sentiment. I don't blame them for doing it, even though powering through it is kind of worth it in the end. Had I been in a slightly more sour mood, I would've dropped it myself, but that good first episode really kept me from doing it and hoping there would be more to it than just funny references and silly toilet humor and bouncing breasts.

I was in the mood for something overly dramatic, elegant and passionate and Osamu Dezaki never fails to deliver on that, so this entry from my PTW finally got its turn.
This 4 episode OVA seems relatively unknown to the larger public, especially when compared to the rest of Osamu Dezaki's repertoire. In fact, the manga this was adapted from doesn't even have the mangaka listed on MAL, which is kind of sad, but also MAL seems to generally be lacking these days. I just hate the modern anilist ui so much I don't want to use it, despite the database being better lmao. Anyway, you could also call this OVA one of the first anime aimed strictly at adult women due to its themes, nudity and character age. Josei manga definitely has existed since the 60's, but as far as I've noticed, no strictly adult stories have been adapted up until this point.
Akiko from Kasei Yakyoku
The story has two main characters, young women who just turned 20. Akiko, who is a rich heiress set to marry a bank mogul's son, and Sara, her maid and close friend. Both of them are drenched in ignorance of how the real world works, but due to her upper class lifestyle Akiko is definitely the one who's lacking more life experience. Despite her wealth, Akiko's views on class and gender roles fall in the line of thinking of "Atarashii Josei", a movement that sprung up in Taisho era Japan. I first remember reading about this in Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style, but here's another interesting article on the matter.
Akiko from Kasei Yakyoku
It's a shame that other manga/anime from this era rarely, or rather never, mention this movement in any way. General youth movements all over the world in the 20's are pretty interesting to learn about... I feel like it took an insane amount of boldness to go in a different direction back then. Anyway, like any respectable new woman, Akiko believed in free love and free marriage, aka being able to marry out of love and not be forced into an arranged marriage, as was expected from an upper class lady. Sara on the other hand, is a little bit more pragmatic and grounded. She envies Akiko for her wealth and status and expresses it freely to her. She longs for financial stability. In her desire for freedom, Akiko concocts a convenient plan for both her and Sara getting what they want (read: what Akiko assumes they want). During her birthday party - Sara will pretend to be Akiko and sleep with her bank mogul fiancé, and Akiko will go on to meet a mysterious Yakuza man she fell in love with. After that a lot of drama ensues, neither plan goes accordingly and the two friends end up parting ways and their fates intertwine with the two men in unexpected ways. To top it all off the end of the third episode comes right out of left field if you're lacking in awareness of important events in Japanese history like I was, and the last episode ends on a wistful note.
Akiko from Kasei Yakyoku
Maybe a lot of ideas expressed here are quite outdated by today's standards, but I really enjoyed this anime anyway. Akiko, despite being ignorant, perhaps spoiled, changing her mind, mulling over things too much, took control of her life and expressed a degree of selfishness that is rarely ever forgiven to a woman. I guess if you put it into Current Day lens, she's still chasing after a man and is potentially ruining her life, and I'm sure something negative could be said about extreme individualism, but I think rebellion against societal expectations takes precedence in this instance. It's important to contextualize properly, which is something I think many people lack nowadays in any type of online discourse (why do I feel the need to mention this? I guess I'm just too bitter recently). For example when you compare her to Taka, the Yakuza she fell in love with, you probably resented him less while watching this anime, even though he too is a very selfish man - but he is allowed to be that way. This type of archetype is commonly treated as an anti-hero, or even as a protagonist, without people hating on their characterization. But to be a selfish woman is often something to be laughed at and to be judged, and I feel like this anime does Akiko justice in that department, as in, we're not viewing her through a negative lens. Maybe my bias is getting in the way though, you be the judge!
Sara from Kasei Yakyoku
I haven't given Sara a lot of attention in this review, despite her ultimately being the protagonist with more screentime. That's because truth be told, she's a little bit boring. Not in a bad way, but she is a very common type of female protagonist. She's poor but has beauty recognized by everyone, she's a victim of her naiveté, she's devoted to her family... Despite these common qualities she does stand out in certain ways, she isn't reluctant in standing up for herself, and she is also allowed to be selfish and chase her own happiness, but all of that combined does make someone that is a bit too perfect. I do enjoy her general cool-headedness, and despite this work being a total melodrama she doesn't throw any tantrums and isn't portrayed in a "hysterical" fashion that could come across as misogynistic. Still, she didn't captivate me as much. I did however find her ending to be handled really well.

My final thoughts - this was a really good melodrama and I think it's well worth a watch, especially if you like Osamu Dezaki and the work he did with shojo classics like Oniisama-e and Rose of Versailles. Being only 4 episodes long it doesn't overstay its welcome with a massive cast full of intricacies and stories that are hard to follow, neither does it feel too short and unfinished because the plot is contained to a few key characters and they all get their arcs.
Ok the show that probably got the most attention for the past two seasons. It garnered a lot of hype, but also indifference. For once I can say.... I liked the flavor of the season a lot, and I'm glad I picked it up. But before I go into why I like it, I'll get some critique out of the way.

I wanted to say this since I basically started watching, and then someone on an anime thread in a place I frequent said the same thing so now I don't feel that ORIGINAL anymore but it has to be said... The character design in Frieren kind of sucks. It's so BLAND AND BORING. It's also, sadly, the type of artstyle you only need to take a brief glance at and immediately clock that lolifags will jump on it. Like the type of guy that responds to everything with a smug anime girl attached, is obsessed with headpats, feet, touhou and osu... You know the one. The type to say "I want to pat Frieren's head...", "I want to smell Serie's feet" or, "Bros, do you think Fern would let me sniff her armpits?". The type to post his battlestation on /g/ and the type to say suspiciously pedophilic comments about his little cousin. Yes I based this off of a particular person but I've encountered at least 10 copies of him throughout the times. Now this sucks because the amount of coomerism in this anime is really.. 0 or almost 0 at least, it stays low key when it does show up. Yeah there's a few head pattings, two scenes that linger on bare feet slightly more than what's reasonable and one or two very inoffensive yuri bait moments but I wouldn't say it's anything pearl clutch worthy. Regarding the character design being boring - I'm not really sure why that is, but it comes across as so uninspired to me. First of all I really hate the growing trend of uwu small and cute elves. Hate it, perhaps even more than mommy type huge tittied elves because at least those tend to have some elegance to them coom aside (it's just my bias for tera elves jumping out even though their breasts are larger than their heads and they move like water balloons I'm sorry feminism). Really I just wish we went back to graceful, long and skinny elves. The only character type I liked regarding designs was the one of Fern/Ehre/Edel. These three have a pretty similar thing going on and whatever it is I like it. Dresses and capes are a good combo. But whenever short skirts or just slightly more revealing clothing is involved like with Lawine, Kanne, Laufen, Aura, Übel the fits look sooo empty and lifeless and uncoordinated idk how to describe, just so boring and weird with boring color schemes. Specifically with Kanne, this is a weird petpeeve of mine but I absolutely despise the ultra cropped top x low waist shorts combo and it's SO common in anime. Nobody wears that shit irl it always makes your back/torso look weirdly long. The cropped top should at least be slightly above the belly button or the shorts should be more high waisted to balance it out. It's just such an annoying fashion trope and I've been noticing it for YEARS in anime. I also really disliked Methode's outfit, off white cape, frilly white top, black corset with beige accents, black shorts, maroon tights, black boots. Why the need for two different light colors as a top, and then dark colors as the bottom part of her fit? It's so random. The art style is so SIMPLE which is nice! But then the character design is just ??? worthy. Weird styling choices everywhere. I could go on and on, especially with Aura and Übel as well... Men are treated better when it comes to fits in this anime, but nothing to write home about.

Ok, phew, got that off my chest. Been holding it in for months now so it feels good to have finally said it.

Another critique, this one I don't agree with at all but I want to address because I've been seeing it pop up here and there. The characters are boring, lifeless, unemotional. Allegedly. Frankly, I wouldn't even take this seriously had I not see it come from mouths of people I kind of expected more from. This is just quintessential "I'm so used to anime catering to turbo autists with extra exaggerated expressions and speech that anything more subdued reads as lifeless to me". No seriously, you're either autistic, or suffering from extreme anime induced brainrot if this stuff reads as emotionless to you. Not to mention... Frieren is supposed to be kind of emotionless and that's the point of her journey but... she still has a distinct personality??? Is iyashikei too much for the modern anime watcher's brain?

I like stories that deal with the passage of time. It's why I really, really liked the first half of the first season of To Your Eternity, until it turned into whatever it is now. Having a protagonist that lives forever is a fun gimmick and can be used in interesting ways, and I think what Frieren is doing is pretty good. Her being the one to usher in the age of humans with Fern, and eventually getting surpassed by her is something I didn't fully expect as the story progressed. Frankly I was fully prepared for the story to fawn over Frieren the whole time. Anyway, besides the character design I can't really say anything negative about this anime. I was into it from the beginning until the end, the score is really good and memorable and I can't find which but one of the melodies really reminds me of the Hobbit theme from lotr which I think is a sweet reference. It might not be the most philosophical and deep anime out there but idk I enjoyed it through and through. It's simple in its message but it conveys it well. It's a good, solid show.
I watched this for an anime club I'm in... and I liked it! I heard a lot of good things about Hinamatsuri over the years, both for the anime and the manga. It's a shame it didn't get a second season, I've had the manga on my ptr since it finished in 2020 though so maybe I'll finally read it...
Hinamatsuri is a comedy about an alien girl with super powers called Hina, who crashes into a yakuza's house and the yakuza guy (Nitta) ends up adopting her. At first you get the feeling the story might go in a total "she's a loveable but extremely destructive dumbass and Nitta needs to learn how to deal with that" direction but the character growth is actually really satisfying and with the addition of so many entertaining characters the story and their dynamic never get stale. Best way I can describe the setting is that it's an idealized world where everyone knows of bad things that happen, but the really bad things never actually happen, in a way. The adults in the show are absurd and unreliable or just plain evil. This allows for the comedy to build up and it leads to frankly insane and hilarious situations which could never happen irl because... bureaucracy, laws and common sense. But if you suspend your disbelief by the right amount I think the show becomes great. Now I went online and read some convos about the anime and holy shit people were PISSED at some characters for being bad people when like.. everyone is ridiculous in this anime you're not supposed to take it seriously! Yeah Utako forced a kid into child labor and to run away from home but there's 0 repercussions for it because the anime has been completely unrealistic from the start omg!! And the pure ridiculousness of these characters allows for the stupidest shit and twists to happen.
My favourite character was Hitomi, all plot lines with her were 10/10, stupidly funny.

This anime is very positive in a way I can't explain properly, so if you want to watch something lighthearted, entertaining and funny - go ahead. It's kind of similar to Gintama, Daily Lives of High School Boys and Saiki in terms of humor. It's very idealistic in many aspects but that's fine, it never claims or tries to pretend it's portraying real life. What if we pretended that homeless men aren't dangerous at all and that the yakuza are actually just a nice group of bros and went along with it?
Along with Frieren, Kusuriya was probably one of the most talked about shows of the past season(s). It's a chinese court drama type of story (although not entirely serious or heavy), with a pretty unique main character. The female mc stands out because she's smart, cunning and emotionally intelligent without being overly interested in romance - despite the anime clearly having a shojo feel to it. When it comes to media that is mostly aimed at women instead of all audiences, it's kind of hard to find female main characters like that. I guess this is also a general thing - when it comes to media that is heavily one gender oriented the mc usually feels like too much of a self insert, but I digress since the manga adaptation is coming out in a seinen magazine so this rule doesn't apply anyway.

I'll keep this review completely spoiler free due to the freshness at the time of me writing this. I think as an episodic court mystery story Kusuriya functioned really well. The main cast and their dynamic is likeable, and the mystery surrounding the highest of the officials and some of the main characters has still not been revealed in the first season. The pace of the show was good, but I have to admit I lost the plot nearing the last few episodes because.. I have no idea, I think I was half absent during one of the crucial episodes after Lakan appeared and then the end of the season didn't hit me as hard. Or actually, I was paying attention but I took a 3 week break from watching the show because I was busy or something. That's my personal issue with seasonal anime, sometimes I just lose the plot because I delay watching it for a bit and by the time I realize I'm not fully aware of what's going on I'm already 2 episodes past that point and too lazy to come back to it. I didn't have this issue with Frieren, because it's way less dialogue heavy and therefore more suited for a weekly watch. This was completely on me though, not the shows problem at all lmao.

There's two weird... complaints I have with this anime. Why do all of the prostitutes (aside from one plot related one) have absolutely comically huge breasts? Having humongous breasts is not a requirement to be a prostitute, as I'm sure we all know. It just took me out of the show completely, especially considering the fact that this anime really handles talking about prostitution and various horrible things that come with it with absolute grace.
My second complaint is the freckles. Ahh the freckles, why do they have to be fake! Why are we so afraid of putting "ugly" (for the time period) features on our main characters! I guess Maomao being smart enough to make herself look unappealable does show us just how far she thinks things through to stay unnoticeable, but still, she shows her intelligence in so many ways. Whatever, this is a really minor complaint about an otherwise really great main character.

I liked the silly little chibi comedy parts, it feels like that's something you don't come across as often nowadays. This anime is pretty lighthearted overall, and therefore loveable and easy to watch. As far as Fall 2023 goes, it's not my favourite because I enjoyed Migi to Dali, Pluto and Under Ninja more but among the most hyped things I think it was the best one.