Would A Yokai Turn You Into A Tree?|Gegege no Kitarou|Anime Review

An obnoxious YouTuber accidentally releases a centuries old spirit who wreaks havoc in the Shibuya and Ikebukuro districts of Tokyo. All for views. He is then turned into a tree along with other helpless souls whose noses stuck to their phone screens. If only things like this happened in real life to Yt click-baiters, the earth would be a much greener place. (well, technically purple since that’s what color the trees leaves were…but you get my meaning)

Welcome to the Spring 2018 Anime Season!

Gegege no Kitarou (ゲゲゲの鬼太郎 ), or Kitaro of the Graveyard is a 2018 anime based on the 1960s manga series created by Mizuki Shigeru. The opening song has a very old-timey feeling to it, reminding me a lot of an episode of Mushishi. It also has elements of my all-time favorite show, Natsume Yuujinchou, but strangely enough it reminds me the most of my favorite manga – Aku no Hana. I’m positive I am making this association due to the unsettling atmosphere and Papa Medama, who is quite literally a talking eyeball with legs.

The series starts off with a group of middle school friends. There is a set of siblings, the big sister of the group and her neighbor. They are discussing the current events and Mana-chan is defending her neighbor from callous comments made by the siblings. For some reason, I thought the nameless youngin would be our main character. I’m still surprised he wasn’t even consulted or brought along on Mana’s later adventures. His grandparents seem to frequently tell him folklore stories about youkai, and he is the reason Kitarou is able to be summoned. He could have added something to the conversation, but I digress.

Kitarou is a youkai in humanoid form. His name seems to obviously draw on The Adventures of Kintaro, the Golden Boy folklore legends. His father Medama is a small red eyeball with a body. Not sure of his backstory yet, but it would be interesting to find out if somehow his power had been diminished and that is the reason for his small stature. In Shinto culture, spirits and kami (or gods) derive power through prayer. In Natsume’s Book of Friends there is a common theme of divine kami leaving our plane or yokai losing power due to the newer generation’s lack of prayers. The deities are sustained through the older era’s prayers, and slowly as they die off their power is relinquished.

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After the inciting incident with the YouTuber, residents of Tokyo are being turned into trees indiscriminately. Well, I shouldn’t say that because there seems to be a theme emerging concerning the divide between the digital age and traditionalist era. Those who stopped to take photos for Instagram and other social media were planted with seeds of the vampire tree by Nobiagari.  Turning those addicted to their phones into vampire trees seems to suggest that modern digital culture can literally suck the life out of you and turn you into something hollow. Although trees do still have roots – a connection. In a vague interpretation, the spirit could want people to reclaim their link with the earth.

Mana seems to ask a message board for the location of the Yokai Mailbox to summon Kitarou and receives a reply. The group arrives at a street with high foot traffic and many office workers wrapped up in their own lives. Down a shady back alley is an old dingy straw mailbox reminiscent of Gassho-style farmhouses. I keep wondering if Mana saw the black cat above her on the pipes. The cat later turns into a rodent who turns into a bird who delivers the message to Kitarou. As promised, he appears to her at dusk with the “clop clop” of his geta signaling his arrival. In spirituality, dusk and dawn are attributed to sacred times; as is midnight or three a.m., which is commonly referred to as the witching hour depending on who you ask.

This kicks off Mana’s supernatural adventures and her belief in yokai, which grants her the ability to see them. Kitarou tells her countless times that there is more to this world, even if you can’t see it. Before being saved from Nobiagari’s seeds, she can only see a faint outline of the creature. After spending more time with Papa Medama while his son is incapacitated, she is able to see more than a faint outline. Although not stated in the anime, I believe spending time with the spirits also aided her new ‘gift’.

The contrast between generations is something that will definitely keep me watching this show. The technology age does have enticements with the ease of accessibility to virtually anything, but there are many drawbacks. Mana doesn’t remember or know how to write a proper letter before summoning the yokai. I admittedly cringed at this, before realizing that these kids probably were born in the early 2000s. I was born in the 90s, a time where landline telephones were still a thing and the internet consisted of AIM chatrooms and spaceship dial-up internet sounds. It makes me wonder how different our realities would be if we did remember the stories our grandparents might have grown up on. Would it change how we interact with the world? Or would things stay the same?

If you watched the first episode, how did you like it? Have you read The Birth of Kitaro? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more anime reviews. It’s a new season, and we’ll have a few more coming for you all!

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Why Recovery of an MMO Junkie Starts a Positive Discussion|NEET in Anime

I may have fallen back into hell. No, I am certain I have. It’s been over a year since I’ve watched an episode of anime, and I have finally sunken back into the familiar world that carried me through a million and one troubled times. So, do you want to know the first anime I’ve watched – now that I am back into my addictive abyss? Read on, my fellow anime enthusiasts.

Recovery of an MMO Junkie [ ネト充のススメ], or Netojuu no Susume is an anime I’d heard whispers of back when I was actively not watching anime. For reference, I was working almost every day surrounded by Japanese culture, Japanese people and Japanese food – I felt like I was in an actual anime. I was living my best life, as a shoujo maiden running for the train with toast in my mouth each morning. Okay, the toast thing is an exaggeration but the shoujo maiden thing is totally legit.

I love the ‘video game within an anime’ or virtual reality genre. It started with the first season of Sword Art Online, transcended with Accel World, fell off a bit with No Game no Life and still rests somewhere between hoping for a season 3 of Log Horizon and occasional rewatches of Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash. Maybe it’s because I actually love real life virtual reality; maybe it’s because I desperately wish to play an MMO with friends on Discord. Either way, I was really surprised at how fast I got invested in this show.

Have I also mentioned that I enjoy NEET characters? For those of you who might not know, NEET stands for Not into Education, Employment, or Training. It’s usually people in their late teens to even later twenties in anime, but statistics from the Japanese government suggest that those in their forties could even be qualified as NEETs. However, these individuals are usually not included in surveys – causing the overall number to be lower when it really may be much higher. These people tend to live with parents or alone in their own apartments, being supported by said parents or relatives. Some are self-sufficient, but this is not always the case. NEETs and Hikikomori share the traits of not liking to leave the house, as it gives them anxiety. They would rather order things online and have them dropped off in front of their doorstep, and do not socialize much. Many indulge in their hobbies, but some not even that. I have a demur enjoyment of learning about all aspects of Japanese culture, even the taboo bits that are usually hidden away.

We’re still getting to know one another with this new blog, but I’m really into this type of stuff. The subject of hikikomori in Japan interests me. It’s more of an interest in those people’s lives and how society perceives them, which although different from NEETs, episode two seems to focus on this subject based on the teaser preview. Our main character Morioka is a self-stylized “chosen NEET” who has retired from office work and honestly, I cannot blame her. The rat race is exhausting. I went from high school to college to internships all the while holding jobs without a break; until now that is, and let me tell you – I’ve been overwhelmed by having so much free time for the first time in literally eight years. Time to watch Netflix, time to watch my backlog list of films, anime, read manga, read books, finish reading the ASOIAF series. I think what really resonated with me in the first few minutes of watching this show is that Morioka jumps up hearing her alarm in a panic before realizing that she doesn’t work anymore. I still get anxiety anytime I hear my alarm go off…those are real feelings in our society today that I’m sure anyone reading this can relate to – whether it be an alarm for school, college or a job you’re not too fond of.

Morioka – which I am using her last name because it’s simply how I’ve grown accustomed to referring to anime characters and real-life Japanese people – reinvents herself as a turquoise haired male named ‘Hayashi’ in an MMO called Fruits de Mer. She is a newbie to the game and is kinda trash until she finds help from an angel in pink named Lily. Lily is actually an office worker, or 会社員 named Sakurai Yuuta. The two quickly hit it off, and through a somewhat nonchalant passage of time it’s almost Christmas and the Guild Master (Morioka joins a guild at some point, again super nonchalant passage of time) tells Hayashi that there is no romance allowed in the guild. Hayashi acts kind of dense and the episode ends with Hayashi and Lily exchanging gifts in a tree watching the stars at night. Romantic, but it was even more romantic that earlier in the episode the two (unbeknownst to them) met in their real-world avatars.

Maybe the camera panned in a confusing manner intentionally, but it seemed like when Morioka and Sakurai were in a discount Lawson’s together, the Fruits de Mer points card she was buying caught his attention. (Lawson’s is a popular convenience store chain in Japan, known for delicious chicken.)

The pair tries to purchase the same piece of konbini chicken, which happens to be the last. Sakurai recedes his offer, and Morioka leaves embarrassed. Again the passage of time is vague, but it seemed like she hadn’t left the house for at least a few weeks. Morioka upgraded her PC setup, but as I mentioned earlier she could have simply ordered it online. Her fridge was completely empty, but we have no determinate of how much she eats daily to calculate the exact amount of time she’s been NEET.

I enjoyed the first episode much more than I expected to, and I hope Morioka – rather Hayashi- has a supportive group of friends in regards to her new lifestyle choices. I will keep watching, but I wanted to make a first impressions post as I will most likely write more about this show.  It’s only ten episodes and seems to have an unaired eleventh episode special according to my anime list. I’ve had a habit since before film school of binge watching shows, even staying up all night to finish a season (here’s looking at you, Riverdale) but I am going to try my best to pace myself. I’ll share more thoughts on this show after I finish the series, but for now I’ll leave our conversation of NEETs here.

If this post got you interested in the series, feel free to check out Netoju no susume. 1. and Recovery of an MMO Junkie: The Complete Series [Blu-ray] by using these links. It supports the series and also helps out the site at no additional cost to yourself!

Have you seen Recovery of an MMO Junkie? If you could play any game for an extended period of time, or enter any video game – what world would you choose? Leave your thoughts in a comment below, I’d love to hear from you! Be sure to follow us for more episode reviews (also analysis of NEET and hikikomori in anime) in the future!

(I will let you know which game I’d like to live in when I make my after-show post)

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Are You Living a Rose Colored Life? | Anime Episode Review

The Springtime of Youth. A Rose Colored life. These are phrases that are meant to encourage and inspire at their core. Usually found in high school anime, characters wish to write their own stories – create memories before their lives shotgun into the unknown. The Springtime of Youth also reminds me of Rock Lee’s ridiculous Naruto Spin-off show, but today we’ll discuss something different. Another show that takes this philosophy to the next level. Read on, and be inspired.

Oh, it really has been too long. Taking a break from anime for over a year makes you somewhat forget exactly why you watched in the first place. It all blends together, a huge amalgamation of jumbles in your mind. Then you see something, cliché or cheesy as it is – and deep down you feel it. “This is why I watch” you say out loud, suddenly self-conscious sitting in your room; in the library at school; on public transit.

The Springtime of Youth is something always covered in anime. Or to live a “rose coloured life” is the goal of an apathetic high school student who you know is the main character because they have a window seat in the classroom. That feeling when you’re young that anything is possible and that you only have a certain amount of time to achieve it before it all slips away. Before jobs, college and other things where suddenly it’s no longer acceptable to have fun. To be curious, to laugh, to do something crazy. It’s a common fear of working years towards a goal, only much later in life to realize it was all for naught. Regret, not taking the chances you wished you had because of fear. I felt all of this with a cliché shot of two characters who do not know one another sharing the same space. One character is preoccupied with their current task, and the other character stops to look at them. This is where I got hooked.

A Place Further Than The Universe [ 宇宙よりも遠い場所], Uchuu yori mo Tooi Basho is aptly named. The episode begins with our main character, Tamaki Mari, having a dream that illustrates her fears. In the dream she is a child, playing with a boat in a basin of water.  She’s in an empty plane of what looks like an endless, colorless beach; alone and engaged in her activities. Later on in the episode she explains that she wants to live a fulfilling life, but she is utterly afraid. Tamaki finds an old notebook of things she planned on doing once reaching high school and cries that she hasn’t completed them yet. The next day she tries to go on an unplanned adventure by ditching school and “walking opposite the usual way”, but she chickens out and goes to school. Her close friend supported her, but it just wasn’t enough.

After she chickened out, she happens to run into the girl who is about to change it all for her. The girl with the long black hair and 1 million 円. Some circumstances work out under what I’d like to think of as fate, and Tamaki is able to return the money to the mystery girl because they attend the same school. We never get the mystery girl’s name or a proper introduction, but we learn her life story. Her reputation proceeds her.  Kobuchizawa Shirase’s mother was some sort of Arctic researcher and went missing when she was younger. Kobuchizawa saved up money working part-time jobs to go to Antarctica to find her, and even tried to start a club to find support. In most school anime we find that you need at least four club members for it to be official (Free! Iwatobi Swim Team, Hyouka, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Charlotte, Doki Doki Literature Club….etc.)

 

No one supports this girl. She is a second-year student who doesn’t seem to be interested in preparing for entrance exams, has no friends, and seems too eager about going off to the end of the known world. Everyone thinks she’s crazy. She is almost bullied into giving some of her money away, but Tamaki comes along at the right time with a distraction. Kobuchizawa thought that the teachers really did find out she’s walking around with a million yen and got scared.

In Japan, many high schools see their students as a reflection of their reputation. Some schools even enforce the uniform dress code outside of the classroom. If a student, say does something unsavory like get into an argument with a jerk from another school – a person of authority (let’s say a restaurant manager) could step in and reprimand them by reporting it to their school. The school would discipline the students as would the parents most likely. I’m not sure if Kobuchizawa lives alone (we haven’t heard anything about her dad yet) or with relatives, but in a Japanese societal context you can begin to understand why she is such an outcast. Her (parentless) situation could also explain why she has the freedom to do this. This is not to say that all Japanese parents are stuffy and care about what others think, but it seems to be a dominant cultural trait to not “cause trouble” for yourself or your high school. (College I believe is much different.)

To Tamaki however, Kobuchizawa is a dream. A chance to change her life. A chance to support a fantasy that involves everything in her vague sense of adventurism. Kobuchizawa mentions that she is used to people disappointing her and letting her down, but still hands Tamaki a flyer for a boat show. It’s in Hiroshima and they live in (I’m assuming) rural Gunma prefecture.

When it’s shown that although scared, Tamaki decides to take the step forward and runs into Kobuchizawa while she’s entering a train car to look for a seat…her smile was everything. I literally felt like jumping up and cheering. They tried taking pictures of Mount Fuji and ate onigiri on the ride to Hiroshima. I’ve heard that bento are best on long train rides (they couldn’t afford the expensive ones on board), and that you should buy one before boarding.

Many bigger stations in Japan also have vending machines and sometimes small food stalls where you can purchase sustenance before your ride. I imagine that when I finally do get to Japan, I’d like to do as they did. I’d buy my bento beforehand however, with a drink from a vending machine and I’d ask a conductor which side fuji-san would appear on our ride.

The episode ends with the two girls in Hiroshima, looking at the Shirase. I wonder if Kobuchizawa was named after the ship, or vice versa. Either way, I will continue watching this show and give a review of my final thoughts in a post at a later date. It seems that the girl working in the konbini, Miyake, will join the group next episode. There was a No Game No Life poster in the store and it seems Ishizuka Atsuko directed that show as well as this one.

I feel very hopeful and inspired after watching this episode, so I wanted to share my first impressions. Too many times in my life I’ve gotten scared to try something new and later came to regret it. Or I tried something and it didn’t work out because I didn’t try hard enough. I once had a YouTube channel I loved that didn’t work out. For a very long time I thought I just wasn’t good at it, and I stopped making videos about things I loved. Now I started this blog, and sometimes I doubt myself but I want to make this work and create a fun place where people can talk about their passions and build a community. It’s going to be a lot of work, but sometimes even the smallest things can keep you going. Small things like A Place Further Than The Universe.

Have you seen this anime yet? Did you watch No Game No Life? One more question – If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go and why? Tell us about it in the comments, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to share the article & follow us for more inspiring anime!

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(I would go to Iceland btw. I’ve always wanted to see The Northern Lights. Maybe I’ll go soon…)