Where to Watch Kdrama Now That Dramafever.com is Closed

If you’re like me, maybe you were suddenly shocked when you went to watch this week’s episodes of your favorite Kdramas only to be met with the disastrous news that Dramafever is now and forever shut down for good. Dramafever owned the majority of “Exclusive” titles that could only be viewed by having a premium membership on their site.

Furthermore, Dramafever handled their shuttering of their service so poorly it makes my skin crawl. I had 4 episodes left to watch in one such “exclusive” series… But Dramafever.com did not even have the decency to email or alert their PAYING premium subscribers about their plans to end their service. Had they sent out an email a week or even 48 hours in advance, fans would be far less pissed than they are right now. Because that way, we could have at least finished watching whatever show we were in the middle of watching at the time.

To top it off, I have heard rumors on other sites, that Viki tried to purchase the “exclusive” rights from Dramafever for many of their shows before the closing of the site, and they were denied. I have heard other rumors and rumblings that Warner Brothers who purchased Dramafever just one year ago, has plans to bring out their own streaming service similar to netflix or disney, and that is why they do not want to release the rights to their shows, because they will capture some audiences who will pay to join their streaming service just for their kdrama fix. But that is merely a rumor… So in the meantime, what are the fans of Korean Pop Culture left to do? There already exists a number of alternatives to Dramafever, but none were quite as good in my opinion, and with Dramafever having several titles on lockdown, many fans are left feeling upset that they can’t see how their favorite dramas end.

I have compiled a list of places to watch Kdrama, but many do not have the exclusive Dramafever titles. However, there are a few pirate or fansites that have managed to scrape content from Dramafever over the past 9 years, so if your drama wasn’t a currently airing drama, there may be hope for you to find the drama on this list.

For me, I ended up purchasing a DVD on Ebay of the drama I was trying to finish. I liked it enough to own it anyways. I wonder if I will be disappointed in the quality of the translation. I guess we will find out once the DVD arrives in the mail. Earlier, a few weeks ago, I had added this very DVD set to my Amazon wishlist in preparation for the holiday season and people inevitably asking what I’d like for Christmas. At the time – prior to Dramafever closing – the DVD set was 20-30 bucks… However… 3 days after Dramafever shut down… It’s now $74. I found mine on Ebay, for $34 (close to the price Amazon had it for prior to the shutdown) However, it said 10 people were watching the listing and very few in stock. I struck immediately buying it in an instant.

KDrama are already obscure and hard enough to find. There are special sites like PlayAsia, but they are pricey, and older dramas that are out of print are notoriously hard to find. I have heard that the reason they are so expensive is because they are illegal in North Korea, and they think the high price tag will detour people from purchasing them there in that country. But it does make it difficult for fans who legitimately want to purchase and support their favorite series.

Still, your best bet is to buy the DVDs NOW, before prices go up even further – especially if your drama of desire is one that Dramafever had exclusive rights to.

I purchased Goblin on Ebay, and would recommend checking there first since it was much cheaper than Amazon, and both are usually cheaper than PlayAsia.

Speaking of Amazon, they fed most of their “Prime Video” streaming Kdrama through a partnership with Dramafever – I checked there to see if I could watch Goblin since I am a Prime Video customer. It still comes up in the search results, but it says this video is currently unavailable.

If anyone has enough money to pick up the licenses, it’d be Amazon – but will Dramafever let the licenses go? The future is unclear at this time as to what will happen to Dramafever’s exclusive titles.

If you really don’t want to purchase the DVDs, there are still several options for you to watch KDrama, it just may mean that you have to give up the drama you were watching and find something new to watch instead.

Here are several websites and apps, to get your Kdrama fix. As always please practice safe browsing – I cannot vouch if these sites are safe, and many streaming sites are notorious for having malware. I take no responsibility and am not affiliated in any way with any of the following sites. I can vouch that Viki is safe, but I have not yet tried these other sites.

Alternatives to Dramafever:

Be sure to read the whole list – the best ones are not necessarily at the top, as I’ve researched and written this post on the fly.

Viki Rakuten – Viki is a good site with Roku and other popular streaming media player apps available. Or you can watch it right on your computer. It is free with ads, or you can purchase a Viki Pass to gain premium access without ads. They have thousands of Kdrama, but they do not have Dramafever’s exclusive titles. They do have exclusives of their own though (So I have already subscribed to them for that) And after Dramafever’s closing, they were able to arrange a partnership with Kocowa, which gives them rights to many series on popular korean broadcasting networks such as KBS, SBS, and MBC. However, shows like Goblin, are still not available in North America due to Dramafever holding the license.

Asiancrush – Haven’t tried this one yet, I saw they have a Roku Channel, so that’s a plus for me. I had bought a Roku just for Dramafever when they mysteriously cancelled their playstation app earlier this year. My first sign that something was up with Dramafever was when I went to turn on my Roku this week and it said channel no longer available – thinking they had just cancelled their roku app as they had done with their playstation app, I went to their website and was shocked to see they had shut down.

OnDemandKorea – is another “new and noteable” roku app – I have yet to check it out, I’m not even sure if it will have English subtitles, but here’s hoping. You can also watch kdrama on their website.

Netflix has a small but growing collection of Kdramas, and also has exclusives created just for them – I have found most of their kdrama exclusives to be a bit cheesy but that’s just me – you might like em, so check it out, especially if you already have a netflix subscription – As other bloggers have pointed out, Netflix makes you wait until the series has finished airing in Korea, before adding it to their platform for North American viewers. – And in some cases they buy rights to a show and do not release it at all.

Amazon Prime may still have a few kdrama available, but they lost the majority of their catalog when Dramafever closed down this week.

http://gooddrama.net – has a lot of ads, probably malware… But they DO have a lot of the previously “exclusive” Dramafever titles. Use at Own Risk. Also similar sites over the past 2-3 years have been issued cease n desist orders such as dramafire, dramacool, dramanice, etc. So watch it while you can, before it gets taken down too!

http://newasiantv.ch/ – Have not used prior to just clicking around for this blog post – it has been around since 2015. Seems cleaner/less ads than the one above. Still quite a few ads – They do have Goblin among other Dramafever “Exclusives” with English subtitles. The site seems slow, video stutters a bit. Might be worth checking out if you’re wanting to watch a Dramafever Exclusive title. – As mentioned, a lot of these sites are being shut down, so watch while you can!

http://kissasian.sh/ – This site is sister to kissanime – the kiss family of sites are very popular with fans – and also very dangerous – they are often spoofed with different domain names like kissanime.ru (I believe that one is the official real one) vs kissanime.me (a clone site full of malware and viruses) (i believe or I could have it backwards lol). A quick google shows similar case in store for kissasian.sh – I got the url from mydramalist forum, it was kissasian.ch which redirected me to the sh… They do have Dramafever Exclusives like Goblin, but they have tons and tons and tons of popups and popunders and banner ads… Seriously Use At Own Risk

Youtube can be a good source of Kdrama, but they get taken down super quickly! I was issued a cease and desist  even for making a music video using clips of one Kdrama, Angel Eyes. And Youtube isn’t the easiest to search, and quality isn’t the highest. You also run into scams such as click here to watch this video which take you to unsafe malware full sites.

https://www.kocowa.com – This looks like a nice clean site with no ads and no bullshit – They also now have a partnership with Viki as I mentioned at the beginning of the list. They offer networks such as SBS and MBC. They do not have any of the Dramafever exclusives.

Hulu has quite a few Kdrama but they are hiding from you. If you look at Genre, you won’t see Korean right away, however a page DOES in fact exist for it… You can bookmark this page and hope Hulu doesn’t change their page structure lol. https://www.hulu.com/genre/korean-0ad5098f-58aa-41ae-baf3-1292970bf8c8

http://www.dramawall.com/ – has a lot of ads – and their search function absolutely does not work. They may or may not have dramafever exclusives. I type in Goblin into search and it instead lists every show, over 200 results, and Goblin isn’t on the first page – so if I had to guess, I’d guess it does not work and that they do not have dramafever exclusives and therefore would not recommend this one.

https://tubitv.com/category/foreign_favorites/s/korean_drama – looks like a nice clean site but they do not have the Dramafever exclusives either.

https://www.hancinema.net/korean_drama_Goblin.php – Hancinema may have some Kdrama, but as you can see, they do not host their own shows, and their links are still pointing to sites such as Dramafever and others which have long since been shut down.

http://www.koreantvshow.com/ – seems clean but does not have dramafever exclusives.

http://www.dramago.com – Has a lot of ads but does have the Dramafever exclusives. Use at own Risk, also as I’ve mentioned many of these sites are being taken down at a rapid pace, so hurry and watch your show before it’s gone.

https://viewasian.tv/country/korea/ – Has a lot of ads – but appears to have most of the Dramafever Exclusives. I did notice that for Goblin they only list 16 episodes when there are in fact 18 episodes… and it is a series that is 2 years old… so it’s not like they’re waiting on episodes to air… so it may be hit or miss in which dramas you’ll be able to watch there. And I’ll reitterate that these sites that do have the exclusives are being banned and removed quickly, and as more people ask, and more people answer with blog posts like this, these sites will be at greater risk of being discovered and removed.

https://www.viu.com/ – This one is not available in North America, but looks like a really nice clean, legit, and free way to watch Kdrama. Their site says “Stay Tuned” so maybe we can hope for a North American release in the future.

https://dramafull.com/ – This seems like a beautiful clean ad-free site – Sadly they do not appear to have the Dramafever exclusives either.

http://reddit.com There is a certain reddit user who has made a certain channel that they ask not be shared outside of reddit — if you feel brave you can go search there (on reddit). I just discovered it when researching this post so it’s not impossible to find on your own. I will not link here – and will not give you link even if you ask me, because this person has so kindly made his site adfree and in HD and it does have the Dramafever exclusives. 🙂 It is very nice.  Let us hope it lives a long time and does not get taken down by oversharing and/or cease and desist orders.

Where to Watch Kdrama Now That Dramafever.com is Closed was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

Advertisements

Every Studio Ghibli Film Ranked From Best to Worst – Top 10 Studio Ghibli Films – The Best Studio Ghibli Films – The Worst Studio Ghibli Films

Much like our recent list of the best and worst Disney films, here is a list of the best and worst Studio Ghibli films. Disney owned distribution rights for awhile for several Studio Ghibli films, but I think that has since changed hands to Gkids. Many people who love Disney films also love Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli Films; after all, they have a lot in common with each other. Both studios rely mostly on making films from well known children’s literature and fairytales. Both studios have a very recognizable animation style. And both studios excel at creating stories that the whole family can enjoy together, cartoons that appeal to young and old alike.

I was surprised there’s not as many Studio Ghibli films as I would think. If you’re wondering why Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is not on this list, that’s because it’s not actually made by Studio Ghibli. This actually gives me an idea for another blog post maybe something along the lines of “10 Anime Movies You Mistake for Studio Ghibli Films.” I can think of 3 or 4 right away without much effort. Nausicaa being the biggest “WTF, Really?!” moment of the bunch. There’s also Wolf Children, My Summer with Coo, Nadia The Secret of Blue Water, and a Letter to Momo which all seem to share Studio Ghibli’s art and story styles. More recently there’s Mary and the Witch’s Flower which I’ve yet to watch but am really looking forward to because of the “Ghibli Vibe”.  Although different in style, you might also mistake other recently successful anime films such as Ko no Katachi and Kimi no Nawa as Ghibli films because when most people think of successful feature length anime films, they immediately think of Studio Ghibli.  I’m also surprised there’s still quite a few legit Studio Ghibli films which I have yet to watch – I will include those at the end of this article. As there’s only a handful of them, I plan to try to watch them and come back and edit my rankings asap.

Here are my picks for best and worst Studio Ghibli films – what are some of your favorite and least favorite Ghibli films? Leave a comment below!


Best and Worst Studio Ghibli Films:

Ponyo

Ponyo is sorta Ghibli’s Take on the whole Little Mermaid thing. It’s a very original and creative take on it, with a lot of imagination and charm. Its charm and originality are what lands it at first place on my list of favorite Ghibli films. Ponyo is a fish like creature who gets caught by a young boy, Souske, who keeps her as a pet. She begins to fall in love with her new master, and as she grows, she becomes more and more human-like. Her transformation causes an inbalance in the sea which creates a Tsunami. Ponyo and Souske must work together to save their village from the Tsunami, which also tests their love for one another, If they can find unconditional love, Ponyo will be able to remain a human with Souske, or else she must return back to the sea. – If you also love Ponyo, check out Lu over the Wall which I reviewed here. It’s very similar and also very cute!

studio ghibli couple GIF


Kiki’s Delivery Service

Kiki’s Delivery Service is definitely high on my list of favorite Studio Ghibli movies. It features a strong female lead, Kiki, a young witch who is leaving home for the first time, as is customary for young witches when they “come of age” (which is at just 13 years old). Each town can only have 1 witch, and Kiki must strike out to find her own place in the world – quite literally. Taking only her father’s radio, Mother’s Broomstick, and Jiji, her black cat, she sets out on a grand adventure. She struggles at first, an allegory to how we all must struggle to find OUR place in the world. This makes the film so relateable, and the characters are so likeable, that who can’t help but to just love Kiki’s Delivery Service? – Did you know that Kiki’s Delivery Service is actually based on a book by the same name? You can grab the book over on Amazon. It’s out of print and expensive now sadly. https://www.amazon.com/Kikis-Delivery-Service-Eiko-Kadono/dp/1550377884

kikis delivery service majo no takkybin GIF by Maudit


Spirited Away

This is one of Studio Ghibli’s best known, and most well loved, featured films. It was the first anime to ever win an Academy Award for Best animated Feature Film. I believe to date, it’s the only Japanese anime to have ever won this award. It beat out numerous other animated films that same year including Disney and Dreamworks. It’s the highest grossing film of all time in Japan, and even beat out Titanic. In 2016 it was voted as the 4th best film of the 21st century which made it the highest animated film on the list as chosen from more than 170 film critics from around the world.

Just because something wins lots of awards though does not necessarily make it a great film — but Spirited Away does indeed fall into the category of greatness. I feel that the success of Spirited Away is due largely in part to the emotional attachment the audience develops towards the young pure hearted characters, as well as the fantasy setting, which is set in a realm of spirits that’s mysterious enough to be edgy/creepy for older kids/adults, while not terrifying like Mononoke, and attention to detail through story writing, the excellent music score, animation, and voice acting.

studio ghibli flowers GIF


When Marnie Was There

When Marnie Was There is also based on a book by the same name. https://www.amazon.com/Marnie-There-Essential-Modern-Classics-ebook/dp/B00KA11ZI0/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=&dpID=51FrFUXIjEL&preST=_SY445_QL70_&dpSrc=detail This Studio Ghibli adaptation rates higher for me than it does for most other people because I love my grandma so much, which made the bond that the main character shares with her own grandma overwhelmingly sweet and sentimental to me. Everyone loves their grandmas right? But mine is literally like my favorite person in the whole world. So this film really hit me right in the heart. I could watch it over and over and probably still cry each time. Love the song at the end of the credits too. I related a lot to the main character too who is always alone / lonely as I was similar to that growing up. She’s also interested in art like myself, and has a great imagination. Really, just on a personal level, out of all Ghibli films, this one is by far the most relatable to me, even though it’s still a fantasy movie about a ghost :).

when marnie was there GIF


Howl’s Moving Castle

Obviously, Howl’s Moving Castle is based on the very well known series of books by the same name https://www.amazon.com/Howls-Moving-Castle-Diana-Wynne/dp/1442008431 – Though only very, very, very loosely based on this source material… In the original book, Sophie is very sarcastic and independent – She literally doesn’t give a flip about anyone or anything. In both versions they are pessimistic and feel they have no control over their fate, but in the book that quickly changes, and we witness Sophie become more responsible for her own actions and feelings. Sophie in the book also discovers pretty early on that she has magic powers. Howl in the book is a total playboy. There’s no war in the book. The villains are different too. In the book the main villain is the Witch of the Waste who is scorned by Howl rejecting her romantically and is looking to create her ideal mate by piecing together several different men, including the missing prince and Howl’s pretty face. Some find the book to be very funny, while others find it to be dry, because British humor is often very dry indeed. The idealistic love between Sophie and Howl in the film is quite different in the book. The two argue and break up and make up over and over throughout the story. The biggest difference is definitely in the titular character of Howl. In the book we see much more of Howl. Early on in the book it is difficult to like or sympathize for him as he is so vain and breaks so many hearts. But as the story unfolds, we learn the truth is that he is afraid of letting others close to him because he is in fact very sensitive and fragile and a very warm and loving person as well, and instantly we learn to not judge others, Everyone is going through their own struggles in life, and both Howl and Sophie have a lot of demons inside of themselves that they must face, which sadly is a lesson that the film doesn’t care to impart to the audience. In the film Howl instead is scarcely seen as he flies off to fight wars that don’t exist in the book. In the book, he is from modern day Wales, and has found a door to Sophie’s time and world where he has chosen to stay to study magic. This time traveling is completely omitted from the film, just as is equally omitted Sophie’s magical abilities. Instead, in Miyazaki’s version, it is Sophie who we see “time traveling” as she learns about Howl’s past. Miyazaki’s goal was to create a film that shows how love makes life worth living, while the original author’s goal was to create a story about a strong willed female mage which challenged gender and societal stereotypes. Both stories are equally charming in their own unique ways. Miyazaki’s interpretation of Howl’s Moving Castle is romantic and full of charm and innocence and still quite engaging in its storytelling and plot devices. There are some who complain that too many liberties were taken which deviated from the author’s original work, but one could also argue the same is true of Ponyo which is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid or any number of Ghibli or Disney works that are based on books before becoming films.

studio ghibli howl GIF


Whisper of the Heart

studio ghibli GIF

This is a lesser known Ghibli film based on manga of the same name about a young girl whose only passion is reading, and a young boy whose only passion is music. They are both outcasts and self isolated because they pour 100% of their time into their chosen hobbies. Both wish to drop out of school to pursue their passions full time. And neither one of them really get along with each other when the film first starts out. What I really enjoyed about this film is watching the characters change their thoughts and beliefs, about their passions, but also about how they perceive other people. They also discover they have a lot in common and both help to inspire one another to chase their dreams. Initially they view other people or other responsibilities as a hindrance, taking away time from their passions. But they learn that instead, other people add to your experiences and make life sweeter. Both characters yearn to grow up and become adults, but both are only grade/middle school students. They have a lot to learn. And as the film ends, we watch just how much they’ve matured over their summer. They learn to make time and space in their lives and hearts for other people while still each holding tightly to their dreams of their future. The original manga has not been licensed for US release. There is also a sequel manga that follows the characters as they prepare for their college entrance exams. https://mangarock.com/search?q=Mimi%20wo%20Sumaseba


Grave of the Fireflies

my neighbor totoro GIF

This film is sad AF!!! There are some who will not like this film because of it being so sad. And also others who will not like this film simply because it portrays the real life events of the bombing of Hiroshima. Japan is the only country to have been nuked by an atomic bomb and the US the only country to have released an atomic bomb. Never again has such a weapon been used in combat because of the devastating long term and long range consequences that spring about from such frightening weaponry. This movie depicts the suffering and harsh realities of the war and subsequent bombing of Hiroshima. Obviously, war and decisions made by a country’s government, is a very politically charged issue. And many lives were lost on both sides of the war. So much suffering occurred that it’s still a tense and delicate subject to people on both sides of the war still today even in modern times. It is hard to watch this film, and even harder to see their suffering, and know that “we” (as a nation / group of nations) caused that suffering) even if it was perhaps necessary at the time of these events. It still doesn’t make you feel good realizing what you’ve unleashed. I’ve seen documentaries with actual real life footage of the victims, I’ve seen them peeling burnt flesh from survivors’ bodies using chopsticks, I’ve seen footage of their shadows burned into the walls, shadows of children playing at playgrounds, shadows of mothers trying to protect their children in their arms. But I’ve also seen movies on the other side of the issue too – Many US lives were lost in the bombing of pearl harbor; many other lives were lost around the entire world from Hitler’s atrocities, and so on. In war there is no clear cut good / bad decisions. You do what you feel you have to do to protect your country and its people, and in bombing Hiroshima, the US was trying to do just that, although it tragically resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent Japanese civilians… such as the two depicted in this Studio Ghibli film… We watch them live fearfully, and with not enough food to eat, without any parents to take care of them, and we watch them suffer, fall ill, and struggle at every turn. We watch their own family and friends turn their backs on helping them and realize they have nowhere to go or turn to – an important – although equally political – message in our own modern times with issues with refugees and so on from our modern day wars. To quote the videogame Fallout “War Never Changes” – that’s why a film about a decades old war is still compelling and relevant and relatable in modern times. One of the interesting things about this film, is gaining a new perspective on the war and circumstances around the war. Sympathizing with our “enemy” and seeing just how similar we are, despite hundreds or thousands of cultural differences, at the end of the day, we each love our families, and would do anything to see to it that our families are happy, healthy, safe, and cared for. There is no way to watch this film without crying and forming an emotional connection with the characters. The ability to evoke such deep emotion is a testament to the quality of this film. It is an artful masterpiece with fantastic writing, character development, and storytelling.


Laputa Castle in the Sky

hayao miyazaki GIF

I just watched this movie last year as part of Studio Ghibli’s and Gkids Ghibli Fest which brought many great Ghibli films to the theater – some for the first time in theaters within the US. I loved this movie. It had great action and a great love story. A lot of things in this film reminded me of my favorite Videogame, Lunar Eternal Blue which I reviewed here and cosplayed as here. Maybe it’s the girl and her pendant, her mysterious origins/past, her dramatic entrance, or the floating city in the sky, or maybe it’s the awesome epic love story. The lengths that both male characters go to in order to protect the person they love – and to help the girl they love complete her mission, or the way in which both film and game are so rich in lore and history and create a strange mashup of fantasy and technology creating a timeless story, that feels like it could take place equally conceivably in past, present, or future. Laputa Castle in the Sky is very action packed and fast moving, but yet, since it centers on these two characters and their love for one another, it can capture audiences of any age or gender.


The Cat Returns

the cat returns ghibli GIF

This is a sequel or Spin off based on Ghibli’s earlier film, Whisper of the Heart. I enjoyed Whisper of the Heart more than the Cat Returns, despite my huge massive never ending love for cats. Unlike the author’s own sequel to her manga, this story is not related to the two main characters of Whisper of the Heart, but instead focuses on the story that was inspired by the cat-like doll, nicknamed Baron as he searches for his lost love Louise, who was taken from him by Muto. Despite the name of the film, and it actually really being a sequel, the title is still slightly confusing. A better English title would have been something along the lines of “The Cat’s Reciprocation” or “The Cat Returns the Favor” but that doesn’t really have the same “ring” to it. Perhaps the perfect title should have been “The Cat’s Reply” which could not only mean to “return the favor” but also foreshadow Haru’s ability to speak with cats. Haru saves a cat one day, who wants to return the favor by offering her the prince’s hand – err paw — in marriage. Haru is flustered both by the cat’s proposal and his ability to talk. Cats around her begin acting strangely, bringing her gifts and tokens of the prince’s affection. Haru is cat-napped and taken to the world of cats where she is pampered and treated like a queen. She is given feasts and entertainment and more lavish gifts. As she begins to enjoy her time in the cat world, she begins to turn into a cat. The Baron warns Haru that she will become a real cat, and forget her human self if she does not immediately leave the cat world. The king and prince orchestrate obstacles and distractions to lengthen Haru’s stay in the cat kingdom, knowing that once she is fully a cat, she will become the Prince’s Bride. Will Haru forget her true self and live happily among the cats? Or will she escape and reclaim her place among the humans? Many people think this film is based on the Manga by the same author of Whisper of the Heart, but actually the Ghibli film came first, and the author enjoyed it so much that she made a manga based on the film – kinda neat, right? 🙂 Usually it’s the other way around.


The Secret World of Arietty

studio ghibli GIF

Studio Ghibli’s “The Secret World of Arietty” is based on a popular children’s book, The Borrowers by Mary Norton. This book has entertained children for several generations. But it’s also a book (and film) that can be enjoyed by the whole family, young or old alike. My grandmother told me that it is her favorite book, she told me she first read it when my mother checked it out of the library. I too read the book when I was younger, and I also enjoyed many other film and tv adaptations and similar books and movies and tv series such as The Littles and The Indian in the Cupboard.

The Borrowers and The Secret World of Arietty give you a glimpse at a hidden world right under our noses. The Borrowers are a tiny race of miniature humans who live in our walls and gardens and live off of things we waste or take for granted. If you ever notice a button or a needle is missing, you can bet it’s been “Borrowed”. Of course the human world presents many dangers to Arietty, she must be careful to not be discovered by the humans who could capture her and keep her as a pet or science experiment. At the same time she must be aware of her surroundings at all times. She could get swept away by just a small trickle of water, or mistaken for a mouse and gobbled up by a cat, or crushed underfoot by a horse and carriage. Arietty is of course not afraid of the human world, and instead intrigued by it. She finds the human world fascinating and impossible to resist. Especially when she meets and falls in love with a human boy who is equally fascinated by Arietty’s world. The story teaches us that even though our lives may seem dull and mundane, that all it takes is a change of perspective to be reminded how wondrous life truly is.


The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Ghibli used an unusual art style in this anime, making it quite different from any of their other films. Their intention was to create an anime that looked like ancient Japanese calligraphy paintings and wall scrolls. The tale of Princess Kaguya was unfamiliar to me, but very familiar and loved in its home country of Japan where it is known as the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. This legend has been around for over 1,000 years! It is most famously presented and passed down through ancient Japanese paintings from the Edo period which is what influenced Ghibli’s character and art direction in this film.

I’m not a huge fan of the art style in the anime, and even some of the customs/traditions of the Edo period which the film accurately depicts like women painting their teeth black – SO eww. Interestingly, little has changed as I know even now it’s generally considered to be “unlady-like” for a woman or girl to smile widely thus showing her teeth. That’s why there’s two emoji’s ^.^ and ^_^ – the first one is a feminine emoji and the second is a masculine emoji. I learned that years ago when I used to chat with people all over the world and was told about my “improper” use of the “^_^” emoji. Although I still use ^_^ all the time, and I consider “^.^” to be more of a “playful” smile, sorta cattish or impish or mischievious, or maybe a smile that seems like it has a secret, a smirk or a giggle behind it, where as I feel ^_^ is just pure joy/happiness/amusement/laughter.

Anyways enough about Emoji’s – lol. The strange art style and questionable fashions/traditions of the Edo period are really the only reason this film doesn’t rank higher for me. I do agree that the film looks just like the historical paintings… but it’s just not my tastes personally… That said though, I am extremely fascinated by the story and legend behind this film.

The legend states that an old man unable to have children of his own, found Kaguya one day while cutting bamboo. When she first appeared she was only the size of his thumb, but she rapidly grew much faster than other children. The bamboo cutter took the baby to his wife, where they raised her lovingly as their own child. Ever since Kaguya appeared in their lives, every time the Bamboo cutter would go to work, he would find gold coins in the bamboo stalks and soon the family become very rich. Although initially the family wishes to protect Kaguya’s innocence and youth, it is not long before word spreads of the beautiful young woman and many princes appear to seek her hand in marriage. Kaguya tasks each prince with impossible tasks, knowing they cannot be achieved, because she wishes to remain with her family and maintain her independence. One by one each prince fails to win the hand of Kaguya. Time passes, and eventually the Emperor comes to see the beautiful Kaguya. He falls in love instantly, but Kaguya tells him they cannot be together because she is not from his country. They instead become friends and remain in correspondence. As time went on, Kaguya began acting strangely, especially on nights with a full moon. She would cry and cause her parents to worry. She later reveals to them that she is not from Earth and must return to her home on the moon. The Emperor, as well as her family, do everything they can to try to hide and protect Kaguya who does not wish to return to the Moon. Kaguya wants to remain on Earth. In the end, however, Kaguya must go back to the kingdom of the Moon and leave her beloved family and friends.

Studio Ghibli’s version of the tale differs in some areas – The Emperor in the Ghibli version is more obsessed with Kaguya and Kaguya wants absolutely none of it because she’s in love with a simple boy from her childhood whom her father deems is not of high enough rank for her hand (who never existed in the original legend). In fact she is so repulsed by the Emperor that she cries when he touches her and discovers she has a secret ability to disappear at will. These details were made up for the Ghibli version only. Also at the end of the Ghibli version, Kaguya looks back onto the earth with a longing and sad gaze, even though her robe of feathers was to strip her of all of her memories of her time spent on Earth, the look on her face implies that her feelings and attachments were so strong that she could not forget the people of Earth. – This also is made up in the Ghibli version. In the original legend, Kaguya does in fact forget everyone when she returns to the Moon. In the original legend, the Emperor is so saddened by Kaguya’s death (or disappearance whatever you want to call it) that he orders his army to climb to the top of the mountain “closest to heaven” – There he wishes to burn a letter from Kaguya in hopes that his love and feelings for her will rise with the smoke from the letter and reach her on the moon. He also wanted to burn the elixir of immortality that Kaguya left him because he did not want to live forever without Kaguya by his side. Wikipedia states that the Japanese word for immortality “Fushi” is what Mt. Fuji’s name was derived from. And that the kanji characters for the mountain mean “Mountain abounding with warriors” which is said to denote the Emperor’s army who burnt the letter. The legend also says that the smoke from the letter still rises today (when the legend was created, Mt Fuji was an active volcano and hence produced smoke). I think the original legend makes for a very beautiful unrequited love story, where in Ghibli’s version the Emperor is the main villain whose appearance is what drives Kaguya to pray to the moon for help, after which her people come to “rescue” her from the Emperor. Quite a different take on the tale. I know Japan’s long history and traditions with their Emperor’s being near godlike status, so it’s odd to see a film from Japan depict in Emperor as a villainous character, especially given that in the original tale he was so pure and chivalrous and so in platonic unrequited love / mutual friendship with Kaguya throughout much of their lives.

I can’t remember where I read it now, (I’ve tried searching) but I read a few years ago that there are many scholars who believe that the legend of the Swan Princess / the Swan Lake Ballet is derived from the much older Legend of Kaguya. The main themes are very similar. This wikipedia article gives you a glimpse at the “Legend” of the Swan Princess The “Legend” is apparently much older than the ballet itself.

Here are a few of the similarities:

In these “Swan Maiden” tales, an unmarried man steals a robe of swan feathers from a woman in order to keep her from “flying away” – The maiden then bears children by this man. At some point the children come across the robe their father has hidden, or they ask their mother why she is always crying and go find the robe for her. As soon as she is given her robe she ascends to heaven without any hesitation or thought or attachment for her family or life as a human. Regarding those she leaves behind, wikipedia says this: “Although the children may grieve her, she does not take them with her. If the husband is able to find her again, it is an arduous quest, and often the impossibility is clear enough so that he does not even try.”

Kaguya is pursued by many unmarried men. She is given her robe of feathers when she ascends to the moon, and thus this ascending into the sky, can also be like “flying away”

Kaguya begins crying “always” uncontrollably near the end of her tale and her family always asks her what’s wrong / show concern for her.

Kaguya is given a robe of feathers which allows her to forget her time with her human family and friends so that she has no attachment or regrets leaving them (obviously Ghibli changed this part with one final glance back to Earth from their version of Princess Kaguya)

Kaguya’s family does grieve her but she cannot take them with her.

Kaguya tasks her “would-be” husbands with impossible quests – Even the Emperor himself cannot win Kaguya’s hand. After her disappearance, he sets out on his own arduous quest in the legend which would become the legend and folklore around Mount Fuji. 

The wikipedia article also states that “The swan maiden has appeared in numerous items of fiction, including the ballet Swan Lake, in which a young princess, Odette and her maidens are under the spell of an evil sorcerer, Von Rothbart, transforming them into swans by day. By night, they regain their human forms and can only be rescued if a young man swears eternal love and faithfulness to the Princess. When Prince Siegfried swears his love for Odette, the spell can be broken, but Siegfried is tricked into declaring his love for Von Rothbart’s daughter, Odile, disguised by magic as Odette, and all seems lost. But the spell is finally broken when Siegfried and Odette drown themselves in a lake of tears, uniting them in death for all eternity. While the ballet’s revival of 1895 depicted the swan-maidens as mortal women cursed to turn into swans, the original libretto of 1877 depicted them as true swan-maidens: fairies who could transform into swans at will.”

Kaguya has a special relationship to the Moon (symbol of the night).

The Emperor loved Kaguya (not as apparent in the Ghibli film, but VERY apparent in the original legend where he burns the letter and the elixir of life.)

In burning the elixir of life, he gives up immortality so that he can (one day) rejoin Kaguya in death.  

The Lake of Tears could signify how the Emperor wept for Kaguya (or in Ghibli’s case how her parents wept for her). 

The ability to transform into swans at will could be inspired by Kaguya’s ability to disappear at will. 

There is another tale from Japan with themes similar to Princess Kaguya, Tsuru no Ongaeshi, or the Crane Wife, about a crane who is caught in a trap. She is set free by an elderly couple and to repay their kindness she arrives as a human child, claiming to be lost. She asks them if they would take care of her as their own daughter, and the elderly couple happily agrees. To repay them for their kindness she begins to weave beautiful fabrics which she makes by plucking her own feathers. The fabrics sell for a lot of money and make the family very wealthy. She warns them they must never look in the room as she weaves. But overtime, curiosity overcomes the couple and they steal a glimpse only to find a crane and not a human in the room. With her identity revealed, she tells the couple she had hoped to always  remain their daughter, but she must now return to being a crane. In other versions of this legend, it is not a couple, but a young man who saves the crane disguised as a human. The two soon fall in love. In some versions he is sick and so the crane plucks her own feathers to make the fabric to sell for money to get medicine to save her husband. In other versions the husband is alive and well, but the crane becomes increasingly ill as she continues to pluck her feathers. As she plucks her last feather she must return to being a crane and leave her husband behind as the husband vows he will never forget her.

(source: Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsuru_no_Ongaeshi)

The legend of Kaguya predates the legend of Tsuru no Ongaeshi. You can already see how the folk lore was shifting but still similar to the original tale of Kaguya. From here, the similarities between Kaguya and Swan’s lake are even more apparent.

Obviously both Swan Lake and Tsuru no Ongaeshi feature a bird who has turned human.

Swan Lake’s maiden has lost a robe of feathers, while the Crane Wife has lost her feathers while making robes.

In relation to Kaguya, Once their true identities are uncovered they both must return to their former selves/worlds.

Also in relation to Kaguya, the main character is raised by or falls in love with humans – she then asks them to raise her as their own child. When she is leaving she tells them she never wanted to leave and always wanted to remain their child, but that she has no choice now. In the version with the husband, his vow of never forgetting her, could be similar to the Emperor’s love for Kaguya in the original legend and the lengths he went to even after her death or disappearance to prove his love and rejoin her in death.

As you can see, I had the most to say about Kaguya, despite it not being my favorite Ghibli film, but because of the interesting ancient legend on which it, and many other fairy tales, are based. The Legend of Kaguya predates all other tellings of similar nature which makes it even more interesting from a historical point of view.


Princess Mononoke

I dunno, Princess Mononoke honestly scares the hell out of me… Even looking at this gif scares the hell out of me… This movie is so unsettling… and it’s even “worse” dubbed – because then the lip syncing is all off and then it’s just even more eerie AF…. I think Princess Mononoke definitely has a good story… and it is no doubt beautiful…. and probably Ghibli’s most successful / well known film – I own it, I “like” it (even though it honestly gives me nightmares) – but damn son…. this movie just ain’t right lol…. Am I the only one that finds this movie just INHERENTLY creepy? It’s not even the infamously excessive amounts of blood and violence… it’s little things like this creepy-ass mother bugger right here….

studio ghibli GIF


Only Yesterday

I thought this was a little bit of a bore. I generally love slice of life and romance films. I’m not sure why this one missed the mark for me. The story is told by a middle aged woman as she looks back on her childhood / early adulthood and reminisces about summers and her first love. Even though the majority of the film felt a little slow – I really really really really REALLY loved the later parts of the film — Especially the ending — One of the most memorable endings of any Ghibli film — or any film — ever. So good. I think overall though, the story suffers from some pacing issues and the constant back and forth from memories/present day. There are cute parts, sweet parts, dramatic parts, but in some ways it just felt like it dragged and droned on and on… That ending though… so emotional!! Loved it.

studio ghibli GIF


My Neighbor Totoro

If you care to read more about My Neighbor Totoro – I did a review after attending the Gkids theatrical release last year. Read my Review of My Neighbor Totoro here.

As for how it ranks against other Ghibli films… Sorry Totoro – cute as you may be – and having owned the film as a kid, and seeing it again recently in theaters – I still love you for how cute you are, and the memorable characters – dust bunnies, cat bus, Totoro himself — but Totoro there’s just one problem, there’s just not much really happening in your film. One interesting theory suggests that the girls are actually dead, and that Totoro is a Shinigami (a spirit that only children can see which will guide them to the afeterlife. A sort of Grim Reaper that usually takes the form of animals or stuffed toys etc) – I think this theory could be plausible. And it would definitely make the movie a bit more interesting. Like Princess Mononoke, parts of Totoro are (perhaps unintentionally) Creepy AF!!… Also after seeing it in the theaters – Catbus has balls… just saying…. WTF? lol. XD Nothing like sitting in one of the front rows and seeing huge Catbus balls in my face as he leaps through the sky. – I have heard that Pompoko also features cute characters with huge balls lol. (though I haven’t seen it yet). Anyways, despite Totoro being the iconic mascot of Ghibli, basically equivalent to Mickey Mouse for Disney, the movie just isn’t that great. I love it for the heartwarming sweet characters, but yeah that’s about it. And the juxtaposition between the beginning and 2nd half of the film, is just kinda creepy. (although admittedly, that’s when things pick up rapidly and get more interesting.)

Studio Ghibli GIF


From Up on Poppy Hill

This film is absolutely beautiful to look at (Just look at the ambience in the gif below, how it perfectly captures the glow of the street lights and sunset) — But that’s about the only nice thing I can say about this film. I found it to be the most boring Ghibli film of all time. — But actually after reading Wikipedia to refresh my memory of this film (I only watched it once, and years ago) — I dunno – the plot sounds interesting to me; I may give this one another watch. The only thing I remembered from the film was the children trying to save their school and club house – which I think took up 90% of the film – and this part was boring to me, watching them clean and repair the building – etc. It just felt dull. I never felt like I cared about any of the characters, and therefore also never cared about their school or club house… But after reading Wikipedia it seems I missed the point of the film, which is a complicated love story. The two below fall in love, but find out that they may be siblings. I won’t say if they actually are – Wikipedia can give you that answer if you’re curious – Anyways the two struggle – first avoiding each other, then trying to remain “just friends” because of their situation – and then deciding that even despite their situation that they will embrace their feelings for each other. Another wiki dedicated to all things Ghibli says that the two also learn the “full story of how their parents met, loved, and lived”. This piques my interest even though after reading wikipedia I now know all of the details and don’t really need to watch the film – I still may rewatch this – and if need be, adjust my rankings of it because the drama honestly sounds like it’d be right up my alley, and that animation is just so pretty.

studio ghibli GIF


Ocean Waves

Well here is my least favorite Ghibli film… I hate it for one reason – The main girl is a total B-… She has NO redeeming qualities, NO remorse for her actions, and she does NOT change her ways or grow as a person at all. She remains this same horrible terrible crazy B– of a person…. But yet the main character falls in love with her and basically bends over backwards, throwing money and time and his emotions etc at this girl… and for what reason? But I know sometimes love and life are like this. Sometimes nice people get sucked in by people like this. Or sometimes love is just so unexplainable and inexplicable that we don’t really know WHY we love some one… Clearly she has no qualities that should make anyone love her. She is manipulative, cold, greedy, and just crazy. I can’t stand her… I want to scream and shake the main character’s shoulders like hey wake up, this girl is not good for you!!… But nope, in the end, they get their “happy ever after” – Man, way to romanticize abusive relationships. Domestic, Emotional, and Verbal abuse does not deserve to be twisted into some grand fantasy romance like this… I just can’t get on board with the characters in this film… They may be the most realistic and adult like of any Ghibli characters…. but I can’t believe how she treats him. Begging / Stealing money, Playing Victim all the Time, Dragging him and parading him like a trophy in front of your friends, Then turning your back on him, etc…. We do see that she is ostrichsized by her classmates too near the end for her behavior being called to light — and I get that the main character is Mr. Nice Guy and feels bad because suddenly she has no friends and everything… And he is also in a similar situation because of rumors that she and her friends started after their trip… but dang… I dunno he’s just TOO nice to her. She really doesn’t deserve someone as good as him. And it makes me mad. LOL. — I guess it’s still an interesting film… I definitely remember it and feel very very strongly about it… so there’s that at least… The movie and the characters are unique… and memorable… just not in a good way LOL.

ocean GIF


Studio Ghibli Films I have yet to watch – In no particular order:

  • Porco Rosso
  • Pom Poko
  • My Neighbors the Yamadas
  • Tales from Earthsea
  • The Wind Rises

Every Studio Ghibli Film Ranked From Best to Worst – Top 10 Studio Ghibli Films – The Best Studio Ghibli Films – The Worst Studio Ghibli Films was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

Windaria Anime Movie Review

Title: Windaria

Alternative Title: Once Upon a Time

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Action, Adventure

Release Date: 1986 (Japan initial release), 1992 (US, (VHS) first US release), 2004 (US re-release (DVD) with title change)

Where to Watch: I don’t support piracy here, but as a heads up, ALL of the “US Releases” of this film are very severely edited. And YES, that includes even the subtitled versions! I highly recommend that you watch the original Japanese version at least once before passing judgement on this beautiful movie. Of course, I grew up with the VHS in the 90s, and I STILL loved even the heavily edited dubbed version of the film way back then. Last year, I finally got the chance to watch the original Japanese version. A lot of content was cut from the English version, including significant amounts of story content. They change the order of certain scenes, remove most of the violence (and drugs and sex) and have completely re-written the script of the original film to better suit an American audience (where cartoons were (and still are) primarily intended for children). Also all of the music is different in both versions, although it’s very good in both versions as well. Still the overall theme and plot and moral of this heart breaking anime remains the same in both versions. That’s why I really recommend you to try to watch the original film – and then still go ahead and buy the English DVD or VHS to support the creators :). I’m not going to tell you where to find the original online, but you can find it if you look. And then you can purchase the Windaria North American DVD here.

Geeky: 3/5 The music is beautiful, but the artwork is very outdated (losing 1 point). Interestingly enough, the Japanese DVD includes 2 versions of the film, 1 being a “pilot film” where the animation and coloring style is different. (I have never seen this version). Despite the outdated artwork, the character designs are cute and memorable, I often think someone working on Pokemon drew inspiration (perhaps even subconsciously) for fan-favorite Eevee from the little pet squirrel/cat like creature in this film. The story is dark and full of action (and sex and drugs and gore in the original Japanese version). Therefore I feel this film would appeal to all geeks regardless of their genders. I’m removing one more point for the heavy handed editing of all of the US versions of this film. It’s been almost 15 years since the film has been brought to American audiences (for a 2nd time) – so perhaps some day we will see a company pick up the license for this film and do it justice with a more faithful English adaptation.

Sweetie: 5/5 – The story is soul crushingly sad. If you like sad anime, this is for you. Both versions of the film, even the mangled US version(s), still show the tender love stories of the central characters, and demonstrate the costs of war and greed. I happen to be a fan of sad love stories, and this particular anime reminds me of almost a Romeo and Juliet type of fairy tale, 2 lovers who can never be together, and 2 other lovers who have everything but still manage to mess everything up in the end. It’s also a story of regret, love, and greed. It imparts morals to the viewer, to value the love you have or else it may slip away. And that even if you are poor, if you have love, you can be happy. Or you can overlook the happiness you have right in front of you and only realize what you have once it has slipped away. The emotionally engaging story is also heightened by a fantastic music score which further draws the audience into the film.

Overall: 33/45 73% C “Good Anime for Girls”

Story: 9/10 – I removed a point again for the poor handling of every commercially available North American release of this film. Otherthan that small complaint, I give the story 10/10. Even the badly edited version. I loved the anime back in the 90s, and I still love it today. It’s a tale that withstands the tests of time. Universally relateable to anyone who has loved and lost.

The story of Windaria intertwines the fates of 2 very different couples. One couple is a princess and prince from neighboring kingdoms. As tensions mount between the kingdoms, and war seems inevitable… Can their love survive? The other couple lives in a small farming village caught between both warring nations. Their village has remained neutral for years, but as war descends around them, can that peace last? The people of the neutral village are poor, but live happy lives not knowing the tragedies of war, and protected by spirits who live in a giant tree. But can people be influenced to take a side when wealth and adventure knock on their door? How will the war change the lives of the people in this tiny village?

Everything is connected, and you cannot escape war. You can’t remain neutral. You must make a decision and take a risk. What will you risk? Will you risk your life? Your love? Your Home? And how will the war change you? Can you return to your old life after the war ends? Will there even be anything left to return to?

Windaria examines all of these heavy hearted deep thinking questions.

The setting of the story is also very intriguing. We have 2 nations at war. The haves and have nots. One kingdom has plenty of water and wealth and prosperity. They control the flow of water to the neighboring nations. The other nation does not feel they have enough water. They are not nearly as wealthy or powerful as their political neighbor. The lands between the two nations are full of magic and mystery. There is a river where people go crazy and see horrors which are merely reflections of their own fears and feelings, there is the giant magic tree which protects the neighboring farming village, and there’s the ghost ship which takes souls to the other side.

Interestingly enough, although the setting and time of this anime appear to be fantasy based, there is no magic or “fantasy”, instead we see a strange blend of technology in a fantasy world. Airplanes, motorbikes, guns, grenades, tanks, etc.

Characters: 7/10 – I’ll be honest here, it is REALLY hard to like the main character of this film. He is a giant D-bag. Not even gonna lie. You’re going to hate him. He rather have drunken sex and spend all day exploiting his power to get more drugs and wealth and concubines, than return to his girlfriend even after the war ends. It’s not until his own life is in danger that he flees and comes back to his village… or what’s left of it anyways. – Maybe at the end, he has a change of heart, but that doesn’t make up for what a huge D he is in the majority of the film.

The first 15-20 minutes of the film, they build this character and his love up to have this idealistic beautiful love. Everyone in the village recognizes the love between this pair. They are utterly adorable together. They have it all. But that’s not enough for our main character.

In stark contrast, his lady love waits patiently for his return, even when the rest of her village leaves and tries to get her to come to safety with them. This made me hate the main character even more. And when she forgives him for everything, that too amplifies my anger at this character.

But I suppose this is the point of the entire movie. It still isn’t easy to watch or to like, sympathize, or side with the supposed main character of the film.

Our other 2 main characters are considerably more likeable. They are victim of circumstance. They never get a choice in the events happening to them. They are bound by duty. They don’t get to choose a peaceful life of love – which puts into perspective even more, the stupidity of the main character for never realizing the happiness he had back in his own village.

The relationship of the prince and princess is doomed from the start, however, they often dare defy the duties and responsibilities forced upon them, and meet in secret anyways to profess their love and promise each other that one day they will be together. I have never really been 100% sure about the end of their relationship. I can’t tell if what she did was intentional or accidental like perhaps she was playfully chasing and playing with his gun / flirting around. Or if perhaps, she felt the weight of her duty, and decided to put her kingdom above her love and pull that trigger to once and for all, end the war. Either way, their relationship ends in spectacular Romeo and Juliet fashion.

 

There are a number of minor characters too with very intricate and detailed back stories, including a “crazy” woman who never talks to anyone as she waits for her love to return. Her love chose to become a captain of a ship taking souls to the other side. The captain cannot leave his ship for a specified number of years. (I believe it was 10 years? I can’t recall right now).

At the end of the film, we see that our main character wishes to become the captain of this ship to follow his lady love to the other side. (This is more clear in the Japanese version of the film). The crazy woman and main character both meet in the end (I think maybe the main character was contemplating jumping off the cliff) and he sees the crazy lady still there, waiting for her husband to return. So he resolves also to wait for his love as well. (although I’m pretty sure she can never come back – although a lot of Asian religions believe in reincarnation and so perhaps it is that which he is waiting for, or for his own life to end so then in the afterlife, they can be reunited.) This shows how much thought went into even the most minor of characters to make them have heavy plot focus.

Art: 2/5 – The artwork is dated, because this anime is from the 80s. On almost every website I’ve visited in the past, this anime has horrible reviews. I feel it’s not judged fairly and people are overlooking the beautiful love stories and tragedies and focusing solely on the artwork and animation quality. The character designs are still cute though, and some of the background environments are very pretty. But overall, I’d tend to agree the animation is not clean enough and the character styles are outdated by today’s standards. That still never detracts from my enjoyment of this film.

Music: 5/5 I love the music in Windaria. Both the Japanese and English tracks fit perfectly with the themes and scenes of the film. The music carries much emotion and helps tell the story, complementing the action scenes, and especially painfully highlighting the sad tragic scenes of the anime. I especially love the vocal tracks.

Voice Acting: 2/5 I really dislike both the original Japanese, and the English voice acting of most of the characters. I guess it’s typical for how old this anime is, but almost all of the performances were cringe-worthy. That’s even more reason why someone should pick this license back up and bring in a fresh English cast. The story is so good, and the performances here just do not do it justice at all.

Overall: 33/45 73% C “Good Anime for Girls”

Windaria Anime Movie Review was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

This Is US – Season 1 and 2 Review

It’s not often that I choose to write about (or really even choose to watch) American television. That’s because in my opinion, the writing in American drama is often inferior and the characters not as emotionally engaging as Asian dramas. Season 2 had already started when I finally got around to watching Season 1 of This Is Us, the show that would change my opinion of American Dramas. – Don’t get me wrong. I love me some drama regardless of what country it originates from.. but I distinctively recall for example, when “Fault of Our Stars” came out, how much praise it was being given, as being the saddest movie of all time, ever, by radio and TV critics and movie-goers across our nation. I watched the film and was left feeling, mostly, nothing at all. That’s IT?! I thought to myself as I contemplated the movie for the next few hours. Sure it was “sad” – but these people (who praised the film so heavily) have clearly no idea what a “sad” movie even is. Go watch a Kdrama, and then come back and tell me “Fault of Our Stars” is still the saddest thing you’ve ever watched. When it came to American dramas, they seemed to fall into one of 2 categories, smut filled soap operas that never end (versus the concise, beginning, middle, end, 24 episode formula of most Kdrama), or into a predictable, but enjoyable, feel good romantic comedy chick flick (where a happy ending was almost guaranteed). It’s rare to find a “serious” American drama that can evoke the same empathy and sympathy and devastation and heart ache that most Kdramas can cause the audience to feel. “Fault of Our Stars” (as well as “The Notebook” and other similar films) attempt to create a sad love story, but still I’m often left feeling less emotion than I expected (although admittedly, “The Notebook” did have both myself and my best friend running to the restroom to grab tissues as we started sobbing at the ending).

Anyways, this post is not about Kdrama, nor is it about “Fault of Our Stars” or everything that American TV / Cinema does “wrong” when it comes to writing an emotionally moving film…

This post is about “This is Us”, the drama that would change my opinion of everything that American TV / Cinema does “wrong”. I remember for months seeing previews, and being like oh yeah, I want to watch that, but pushing it off on the back burner as my back log of things to watch, games to play, and things to do IRL grew longer and longer. Over the next several months, “This is Us” was often discussed in the office where I work. This increased my curiosity and desire to sit down and binge watch it.

And from the first episode, I was not disappointed. It grabs you in. It had twists and turns and unconventionality. It took place in Pittsburgh (being an hour north of there (and soon to move within minutes of the city, this made it even more relateable to me). It was not the typical white-wash American sitcom family. Here was a family of mixed races, tackling some serious dark and depressing issues. Alcoholism, Drug Addiction, Infertility, Adoption, Weight Loss, and a very dysfunctional family. A family with real problems, problems with their marriage, problems with their careers, problems with their kids, problems with their family members.

It was raw, it was personal, it was unlike anything I had ever seen on American TV.

I binged through the first two seasons over Christmas break.

And the series returns tonight 01/09/18 with new episodes.

I won’t reveal much in this review about the story thus far in the first 2 seasons. I think that part of the success of this drama is how it throws some amazing curve balls at you and completely blindsides the heck out of you, which heightens the emotional impact so much more. In fact, the first episode might be quite confusing at first. The entire series is told through jumping here and there from past and present, including different periods in the past, and different families and perspectives and characters and it gets complicated fast. Everything is connected. It’s one of those shows you can only really appreciate and enjoy by watching from the very first episode, and never skipping a single show. The more you watch, the more everything begins to make sense, and the more invested you become in continuing to watch what happens next.

Anyways I’m obviously a fan of this series. It is with love and respect for the amazing writing (and music score, and acting, and pretty much everything) that I write this review.

Title: This is Us

Network: NBC

Length: 43 Minutes per Episode, Currently 2 Seasons with new episodes airing tonight 01/09/18.

Genre: Drama

Where to Watch: This is Us Seasons 1 and 2 are available on Hulu

Geeky: 3/5 This drama is likely to appeal more to girls than guys, due to the fact that it is not an “easy” show to watch. It’s not the type of show you come home to, put on, and mindlessly just enjoy. It requires critical thinking and piecing together the puzzle pieces from episode to episode as complexity grows each week. There are conflicts, but they are matters of the heart, struggles of human kind, and society as a whole. You will not find action and excitement here; however, Pittsburgh locals, and Steelers fans, or anyone dealing with dysfunctional family problems will relate easily to this series.

Sweetie: 5/5

Overall: 72/80 90% A- “Excellent Drama for Girls”

Concept: 10/10 The concept of the story, the way everything is interconnected and woven together, the excellent writing, acting, music, and execution, the loveable but flawed characters, and how relatable it all is makes the concept and overview of this series easily a 10 out of 10.

Story: 8/10 – The story can be confusing if you jump in mid-season, and it can even be confusing for long time fans. There are many questions left unanswered, and to find those answers, the story skips and hops all over in piece meal fashion. One moment, the big 3 have not even been born, you’re watching their parents in their early 20s, the next moment, the big 3 are about 10 years old, then the next moment they are days old, then the next moment, the big 3 are in their 30s. This would be the only complaint I could give as to the story.

Now for what the story does right, it tells us a story about a middle class northeastern family from Pittsburgh PA. They love the Steelers, they love going out to the bars in downtown Pittsburgh, taking their kids camping in the woods, fishing, hiking, celebrating the holidays Christmas, Halloween, Birthdays, and all, and the realities that come with life in Pittsburgh, PA such as shoveling their cars out from 6 feet of snow, the attitudes regarding racism and the roles of gender etc in the workplace back in the 70s and 80s in Pittsburgh’s prime.

But this isn’t just any other American family. This family is different.  A white family raising a black kid, a black kid searching for his birth parents, a community that judges the family from all angles. A family that lost a child, but gained a child. And a family raising 2 remaining white babies along side the black baby. The saying “Love Makes a Family” has never been more true than it is in this drama.

But even parents with the best intentions and pure love for each other and for their children still make mistakes. Some of those mistakes we can never recover from. Some of those mistakes will cost some members of this family their lives. And other mistakes will cause members of this family to spend the rest of their lives searching for answers.

With each surprising plot twist and turn, we learn more about this unconventional American family. What mistakes did they make, what secrets do they hide, what went wrong? And above all, the love the family has for each other, the love that exists despite all of these devastating mistakes, the love that exists even beyond death. Love, self love, self identity, sacrifice, marriage, careers, raising a family, the struggle is real. We feel their struggle, that’s why we keep watching. We want to see how they overcome the pitfalls of life that so many of us face also in our own lives.

Characters: 9/10 Dysfunctional is the word I would use to describe this family, or in fact every single character within this drama. That’s part of what makes this series work so well. It plays on our sympathies, it makes the characters raw, real and relateable.  Addiction is also a central theme. Whether it’s Jack and Kev’s alcoholism, Randall’s Obsessive Compulsion and Anxiety, or Kate’s weight problems. These characters are flawed. Sometimes those flaws can be presented a bit heavy handedly and repetitively, which is the only flaw I could give to the unique cast of characters.

It’s also interesting how the characters cannot “escape the sins of their fathers”. Just as Jack resented his father, he turns out to be the same in many ways, and Kevin realizes he too is exactly like them. And even though Beca hates her mother, thinks she expects too much and is controlling, Beca turns out to have the same expectations and behaviors towards her own daughter.

In this way we are shown, no one is perfect. Parenting is not easy. It’s easy to judge what our parents do wrong. It’s easy to blame them for messing up our own lives. But in the end, we control how our future looks.

The big 3 are at different stages in their lives. Randall is married with 2 beautiful children and a loving wife. A successful career and big house. Kate is slowly climbing out of her past problems, she finds a new man, which brings new challenges, but she also finds confidence in herself and realizes her dream to pursue her career and goals despite her age and appearance. Kevin is perhaps the most flawed of the big 3. He is unable to handle relationships, unable to feel anything, he has burred his emotions for so long concerning tragic events in his past. He has messed up his career, and now has to start over from nothing. He will try desperately to cling to the past, and still not acknowledge his problems. Those problems will grow when addiction enters the picture, and just when things seem to be going well for Kevin they will all fall apart again. Similarly, Kate in season 2 is going to have a huge upswing of luck, prosperity, and achievement, only to lose it all again.

Life is full of ups and downs. It’s this roller coaster ride that keeps us watching each episode. We begin to care more and more about the Pearsons because of how raw and real and flawed the characters are.

There’s much more to it than I have revealed here. Like I said, the best part is to watch and be shocked by each new rise and fall.

Casting: 9/10 – I think the show is well cast. My only small critique, and coming at it from the angle of my blog being for young teen/young adult women, is I would have liked Kate’s love interest to have been more handsome. I feel like in American film/TV it is really common to see a fat male character with a beautiful wife, but it’s far less common to see a fat female character with a fit husband. It’s almost taboo in American society to see this combination. And as a fat girl myself in real life, dating currently a fit guy, it’s a match I would like to see depicted more on American TV. Stop perpetuating the misconceived notion that a girl is only as good as her weight. Stop perpetuating that a fat girl can only ever be worthy of being with a fat guy. This isn’t true. Slender guys, Muscular guys, all different types of guys, like fat girls too.

Yes, being fat is unhealthy, and seeing Kate’s struggles with her weight, infertility, and struggles with her pregnancy, all hit very close to home for me as well, since I also have fertility issues due to PCOS.

Anyways, you can hate on me, and call me out and say by my criticizing Kate’s love interest simply because he’s bald and fat, that I’m a hypocrite, because I’m saying then a Man is only as good as his weight – and that’s not really true. that’s not my point or what I’m trying to say, but I think many readers may view these comments as such attacks. I think the character that Kate’s husband plays is smart, funny, and genuinely sweet and a great person. Kate is lucky to have him. Kate would STILL be lucky to have him even if Kate was a size zero and he remained overweight. The scene in the coffee shop where he gets to announce their pregnancy is maybe my favorite scene in the entire series. His love and devotion for Kate is demonstrated time and time again. They are possibly “America’s Sweethearts”.

People like him are hard to find in ANY shape size color or whatever. And the actor playing him does fantastic so this isn’t about his ability as an actor either.

But in a show that CONSTANTLY pushes the envelope on touchy sensitive issues such as alcoholism, domestic abuse, drug addiction, homosexuality, racism, discrimination, etc, It seems like a missed opportunity to push another issue, by giving Kate a partner that would be unconventionally acceptable by society’s standards for a “fat girl”.

As a fat girl myself, and now recently dating a fit and active guy, I am well aware of society’s view of what is “acceptable” for a “fat girl” when it comes to dating. 9 times out of 10 when we go out, the waitress assumes it’s separate checks, even if we go there often, even if I’m cuddling, rubbing his back, flirting, or etc, obviously we are together and out on a date. I’m well aware too of the looks and stares we get when we go out. And probably of the whispers and other comments made behind our backs. And this is in part shaped by what we see on TV. Society doesn’t hold those same misconceptions for an overweight man with an attractive female.

We laugh it off, because who are they to judge us, our happiness, our relationship, our compatibility. But still, Hollywood could be doing more to break down these stereotypes and barriers. They could pair a fat girl with a hot husband. They could cast a fat girl in a main role, and NOT make it about her eating addiction and weight loss, they could, but they don’t, and This is Us is no exception to this.

What we see in the media, also shapes our realities. Hollywood should have a responsibility to do more to stop sexism, racism, and stop hate against people on their weight, religion, sexual orientation, or any other “less desirable” (as perceived by society “norms”) traits.

Randall and Kevin would both be considered hot or attractive, and what do they get, hot wives/girlfriends (although Kevin’s relationships are a hot hot mess).

And yes, Kate does have a wonderful happy loving awesome relationship. That’s wonderful, but why pair the only fat chick in the sitcom, with an equally fat guy? Also why make Kate’s who character so obsessed with her weight. Calling attention to how it’s such a huge negative thing. Meanwhile in countless other sitcoms we see fat or ugly men with smoking hot wives. Let’s reverse that stereotype just one time. I want to see a serious tv series like this, with a very overweight actress such as Kate, with a happy, healthy relationship, with a man that society would deem to be “above her station” and a character who is confident, happy, and content with her body size/shape and just owns it. Yes, we all know that being fat is not healthy, it affects your life in numerous negative ways, from fertility issues such as what Kate has, to heart disease, diabetes, and just lack of energy/stamina. We don’t need a TV show to remind us of this (because society reminds us of this every day). Instead what we NEED is a TV show to show us some kindness, some hope, some ray of light, in a world with very few “role models for fat girls”.

I am here to tell you, that even though TV will never show you that “ray of light” it exists. It’s real. There are REAL men, fit, athletic, muscular, handsome, sexy men, who love big girls. Who love and RESPECT big girls, who love you for you, for the person you are inside. Your heart, your mind, your unique wonderful qualities that make you you. As well as loving you for your curvy body. Loving, loyal, devoted to you.

Do you know what my boyfriend told me on our very first date? He told me all of the reasons why he liked me / was interested in getting to meet me / know me better. Because I’m different from other girls, because I’m real and genuine, and loving, and kind hearted. Because I’m myself, I’m not fake, I’m not shallow, I never judge others. I accept and love and support him. But also he genuinely likes and is attracted to big girls. I’ve seen photos of his exes, and they were even bigger than me. So it’s not just him saying that to please me. As unbelievable as it may be, there are fit guys who love big girls. And not only because they are big. But for all of the reasons that make them a wonderful person. Relationships shouldn’t be superficial. (so once again you might be calling me out here with my critique of Kate’s boyfriend in This is Us because he DOES treat Kate like the queen she is no matter how big he or she are.) But so could any man, regardless of his weight. Why only show fat actresses with fat men? When will hollywood realize that a woman’s value is more than her dress size. I have a wonderful relationship with a fit muscular guy and I’m a 200 lb girl. We share some things in common, but we also show each other new and interesting things, and take interest in each other’s interests. We have never spent a weekend apart ever since we first met, almost 6 months ago now.

I still think every time I go out with my boyfriend that I have the best looking guy in the room, or even in the world. And I find it unbelievable. Why? Why am I always so surprised and thankful and feel so shocked? Because of society’s norms, society’s expectations, society’s judgements. And what forms and shapes those judgements is the media. Magazines, movies, TV shows. We grow up looking to those. It’s a subconscious thing. You can deny it all you want and say you’re not superficial, but the truth is, you don’t even realize how it is shaping your judgement and notions.

Fat women often cast as sidekicks, comic relief, never taken seriously, never in a lead role, never in a “fairytale” type romance with a “prince charming”. If anything at all, paired with a man who society would equally judge and find fault with (at least their outer appearance).

I guess my bottom line is this… They could have written the character of Kate’s husband the EXACT same way, kept ALL of the scenes exactly the same, showing his silly side, his love for Kate, his willingness to let go of any pride or the lengths he would go to to publicly display his love for Kate, Kept all of that, and just cast someone better looking in the role – he still would have had the same qualities that make us love their relationship so much. While no longer perpetuating the stereotype of a fat girl not being able to have a happy relationship like this with an average or even handsome guy. Cast her with someone like Kev or Randall and then we’d REALLY have a show that pushes the envelope.

Acting: 10/10 – The show is emotionally engaging because not only of the excellent writing but the equally believable and convincing acting.

Music: 10/10 – I love the ending theme as well as many of the other tracks used throughout this drama. Many fans have asked repeatedly for Jack’s theme to be released on itunes store. As of yet it does not appear to be available for purchase. Take a listen below to Jack’s Theme.

Visuals: 8/10 – The nostalgia of the 70s 80s, and 90s are depicted through the different time skips back through the story. Although the show is a drama with no special effects or big budget visuals, the show does an excellent job of depicting life in western Pennsylvania. I would know since it is also my home.

Overall: 72/80 90% A- “Excellent Drama for Girls”

This Is US – Season 1 and 2 Review was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

My Neighbor Totoro Ghiblifest 2017 Anime Movie Review

I went to see My Neighbor Totoro subbed last night as part of the 2017 GKids Studio Ghiblifest. The theater I went to seemed to have a fairly good turnout for the show, but not as popular as the theatrical SailorMoon Release which I reviewed here (dub) and here (sub)

Still it is nice to see anime getting more coverage in theaters. I drove almost an hour to go see Totoro, but it was still closer than the nearly 2 hour drive I made (twice) to go see Sailor Moon. It’s also awesome to see old anime like Totoro from the 80s and SailorMoon from the 90s finally on the big screen!

The excitement of seeing such childhood favorite films on the silverscreen inspired me to want to do a review for Totoro today.

Also be sure to check out the Studio Ghiblifest home page, there will be other Studio Ghibli films in theaters all summer long, with the next one being Kiki’s Delivery Service on July 23 (dub) and 24 (sub). I like Kiki’s Delivery Service so much, that I might just go to both of them :).

Onto the review:

Title: My Neighbor Totoro

Studio: Studio Ghibli

Release Date: 1988

Genre: Slice of Life, Adventure, Fantasy

Geeky: 2/5 This film is beautiful to watch, even now, 20 years after its initial release. But plot wise, this is a very slow moving film, slow and uneventful for almost the entire film, and then insanely rushed in the last 10-15 minutes of the film. Actually the ending feels really disjointed from the rest of the film and you can read about that under the Conspiracy Theory below. The languid plot and ending that feels out of place make this a hard film to like, unless you’re watching it for the beautiful backgrounds and cute characters. Systematically though, I can’t give it high “technical” points due to the poor writing.

Sweetie: 4/5 Like most Ghibli films, this is super charming with a lot of heart. It depicts every day life of two little girls living in a new home in the forest with their father as they wait for their mother to return from a hospital. The girls encounter magical creatures, and those creatures are super adorable to boot. Blending slice of life in traditional Japan in a quiet countryside rural village, alongside the mystical and fantastical secret world that only the girls can see, and all the new magical friends they make, this tale is full of sweet cute moments sure to appeal to anyone looking for a kawaii cute family friendly and feel good anime. — It loses one point because there is no plot or character development. Unlike other Ghibli films, this one just never seems to get off the ground or accomplish much.

Story: 6/10 The story is a slice of life look at the life of 2 very young girls. Their mother is sick in the hospital with some unexplained illness, and their father has just decided to move the family to a new home in the country, thinking the fresh air from the trees would be good for his wife once she returns back home. While exploring their new surroundings, the two girls stumble upon a magical creature which they dub Totoro. Their father says Totoro is a very old forest spirit, and the father, along with Totoro, teaches the young girls to love and respect nature.

Characters: 9/10 The real reason to watch this show is because all of the characters are cute, unique, heart warming, and funny. Not just the adorable Totoro and his friends, but also the human children. The anime puts a lot of work into making us like and care about the girls and their father. In fact, the entire film, until the very end, is just day to day stuff that the girls find exciting about their new home, or sharing loving family moments with their father. — That said, unlike most Ghibli films, there’s really no character “development” the characters do not change much at all throughout the movie. This, combined with a very slow moving plot, makes the anime feel slow and sleepy at times.

Conspiracy Theory: If you’ve already seen the film, here’s something you may be interested in reading. There are spoilers below here, so proceed at your own risk.

End of Spoilers.

Artwork and Animation: 10/10 The backgrounds are lovely and all of the character designs are imaginative, quirky, and cute. Totoro has become so iconic that he is now the mascot for Studio Ghibli and known around the world.

Music: 10/10 I don’t really love the opening song. However, I do super love all the background tracks throughout the film. The ending theme is also catchy.

Voice Acting: 10/10 The two sisters are adorable and precocious. They give very believable performances with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Totoro’s well timed animal sounds are quirky and cute. And the father and mother both sound very sincere and loving. Granny sounds old and slightly scary, but also warm and loving as well.

Overall: 51/60 85% B “Very Good Anime for Girls”

PS: If you enjoyed Totoro also check out Wolf Children and My Summer with Coo

My Neighbor Totoro Ghiblifest 2017 Anime Movie Review was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

Sekai Project Visual Novels Featured in New Humble Bundle

Sekai Project is one of many companies localizing Visual Novels into English. And for the next 2 weeks you can get 17 Sekai Project Visual Novels for $12. That’s less than $1 a game. (or pay less and receive less games) And it supports charity too! Feel good and score some awesome Visual Novels with the new humble bundle.

https://www.humblebundle.com/sekai-project-bundle

Pay just $1 to receive:

Fault Milestone 2
KaraKara
NekoPara Vol 0
Ame no Marginal – Rain Marginal

Beat the average (currently $10.16) to receive:

All of the Above PLUS
NekoPara Vol 1
Idol Magical Girl Chiru Chiru Michiru Part 1
Marcissu 10th Anniversary Anthology Project, Plus Season PASS DLC
Fault Milestone two side:above
Sound of Drop -fall into poison
Highway Blossoms (a Yuri game (girl x girl game))
Japanese School Life

Pay $12 to receive it all:

All of the Above PLUS
NekoPara Vol 2
Wold End Economica – Complete Edition
Idol Magical Girl Chiru Chiru Michiru Part 2
Memory’s Dogma Code:01
Robot Double – Before Crime After Days Xtend Edition
Sunrider: Liberation Day – Captain’s Edition

That’s a whole lot of visual novels for not a big price! I only had 3 of these currently in my collection (and almost all of them wishlisted). I am super excited about this bundle and can’t wait to start playing.

Robot Double sounds incredibly interesting to me from the brief description. It states that unlike traditional Visual Novels, there are no clear cut choices, but instead you control the story purely through your emotions.

If you’re interested in grabbing this bundle for yourself, check out https://www.humblebundle.com/sekai-project-bundle.

Sekai Project Visual Novels Featured in New Humble Bundle was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

Koe no Katachi Anime Review

Title: Koe no Katachi

Other Titles: A Silent Voice, The Shape of a Voice

Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Slice of Life, Drama

Studio: Kyoto Animation

Based on: A Silent Voice manga by Yoshitoki Ōima

Length: 2 hours 9 minutes

Release Dates:

Theatrical Japanese release: September 2016

Theatrical world-wide release: June 2017

DVD Blu Ray Japanese Release: May 17, 2017.

(no date announced at time of this blog post for an English DVD / Blu Ray Release).

Koe No Katachi a Silent Voice Review

Geeky: 4/5 Gorgeously animated and very true to the original story within the manga. It does lack action and move at a sometimes slow pace and deals with heavy and unpleasant themes at times.

Sweetie: 5/5 The transformation of the characters and values of friendship, love, redemption, and need for connection, are all highlighted in a tale that shows the coming of age of a group of adolescents.

Overall: 48/60 80% B- “Very Good Anime For Girls”

Story: 9/10 Koe no Katachi is a coming of age story wherein we witness the growth and life changes which shape and change the nature of relationships between a group of friends, enemies, and lovers. The story centers heavily around 2 youths, Ishida Shoya and Nashimiya Shoko, and their classmates. When the film starts, they are in elementary school, and by time the film ends they are seniors in high school.

Koe No Katachi a Silent Voice Review

Shoko is a deaf student who transfers in to the class. Shoko is the only student with a disability, and none of the staff, students, or teachers are prepared or equipped to deal with her. As a result, Shoko becomes the victim of bullying, with Shoya largely being the ring leader behind her tormenting.

When it is discovered that Shoko has been bullied by her classmates, the other students and staff all blame Shoya which results in then his being bullied. The bullying continues throughout highschool as well, leaving Shoya with zero friends, and afraid to get close to anyone. Shoya even considers committing suicide to escape the bullying.

He runs into Shoko in his senior year of high school and immediately begins a plan to befriend her, having felt guilty for bullying her when they were younger. Shoya has been studying sign language and is now able to easily communicate with Shoko. He asks if they could be friends, the same thing she asked of him when they were little.

Koe No Katachi a Silent Voice Review

Shoko has grown stronger and has many friends already, but she blames herself for breaking up Shoya’s group of friends and for Shoya’s years of being a victim of bullying. The two forge an unlikely friendship, both hating and blaming themselves for their past interactions.

Shoya has grown and matured, and not just out of his feelings of guilt towards Shoko. Early in the film he befriends a male classmate who is also being bullied. This leads to Shoya’s first friend since elementary school.

Even Shoko’s sister who is very over protective of her, comes to accept Shoya when she realizes how much he has changed, and encourages him to date Shoko.

Shoko wants to help repair the friendships of Shoya’s childhood friends so she begins gathering the other students, some of which still resent Shoko and Shoya. There’s even a bit of a love triangle when Shoya runs into an old classmate, Ueno, working at a cat cafe.

Koe No Katachi a Silent Voice Review

However, everyone is still haunted by their pasts. Shoko and Shoya both struggle with thoughts of suicide and guilt throughout the entire film. Eventually though, the two begin to develop feelings of love for one another as a result of their newly formed friendship, but even that love may not be enough to save them. (You should watch it for yourself if you want to know! 🙂 )

It is a touching and moving story. School bullying is a huge problem in both Japan, as well as North America, and it does often lead to an increase in child and teen suicide. Therefore, these themes and characters feel real, raw, relateable, and brimming with emotions.

The manga goes a little bit further than the anime by showing what happens after high school to most of the friends in this story. However, the movie is a faithful adaptation of the manga given the time constraints of the format (taking several volumes of manga and condensing down into a 2 hour film).

Koe No Katachi a Silent Voice Review

Characters: 7/10: It can be difficult to watch a show as “heavy” as this at times. Almost of the characters are bullies and/or the victim of bullying. The main character and his friends are not “nice”. Even after they mature, many of the characters remain self-interested and shallow.

However, seeing Shoya’s transformation, and character development throughout the film from a bully to being bullied, and then to finding love and friendship is really the highlight of the film. Well that, and just how cute and unique of a character Shoko is.

It does a good job of showing both the home life, school life, and recreational life of the group of friends. Even the minor characters, such as Shoko’s sister and grandmother are well fleshed out.

Koe No Katachi a Silent Voice Review

Art: 10/10 – the anime is gorgeous to look at, especially some of the lovely backgrounds such as the koi pond, fireworks festival, or starlit skies. The character designs are cute and distinctive, from Shoko’s utter adorableness, to Shoya’s unkempt “I don’t care” attitude (messy hair, tag always sticking out of his collar, etc). Even the supporting cast has unique well defined designs, from their height, weight, hair, or fashion, all making them more memorable.

But perhaps the most interesting thing here is that they have actually animated some sign language scenes between the characters. Unfortunately I don’t sign, so I can’t comment how accurate the animations were, but it was still an interesting touch none the less.

Music: 4/10: I felt the music was very hit or miss for me. The opening theme song is an old (70s or 80s I think) American rock n roll song, which isn’t to my taste and didn’t seem to fit the theme or characters. The other music was not very memorable.

Koe No Katachi a Silent Voice Review

Voice Acting: 9/10: I dunno if Shoko’s voice actress is actually deaf or suffering from hearing loss, but the actress definitely has a speech impediment – whether that is real, or fake, I can’t tell. Other films and TV series, such as Switched at Birth have used deaf actors and actresses before. If she is not deaf, then that’s even a higher testament to her acting ability since she is able to keep the speech impediment consistently throughout the film.

This does make her hard to understand at times. The version I watched was likely fan subbed and not the official translation. The writers tried to characterize Shoko’s speech impediment even in the subtitles, and at times, I found myself feeling as frustrated and confused as the other characters trying to understand what she was saying lol. She still sounds cute, and her speech impediment plays an important part in the story.

The other characters are equally as well cast and really bring the characters from the manga to life on the big screen.

Overall: 48/60 80% B- “Very Good Anime For Girls”

Koe no Katachi Anime Review was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

The Red Turtle Anime Review

I just purchased and watched “The Red Turtle” last night. The silent animated feature length film was done, in part, by Studio Ghibli, famous animators of feature length family favorite anime films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Ponyo, and The Cat’s Return, just to name a few.

I have to admit, I didn’t really do my research on this title (and didn’t realize it was a silent film until I began watching it), but every time I saw a preview, I just wanted to see it oh so badly. When I realized I could buy it for only $10 more than the “rental” price ($15 vs $5) I immediately purchased it.

For about the first 20 – 40 minutes of the film, I felt disappointed and disinterested; that quickly changed as the plot began to advance, and by the end I was so emotionally invested that I was crying.

Read on for the full review below.

Title: The Red Turtle

Studio: Studio Ghibli

Release Date (theatrical limited release) : January 20, 2017 (dvd / bluray) : May 2nd, 2017

Length: 1 hour and 20 minutes

Geeky: 3/5 – The beautiful artwork has a story book like quality while the musical score helps covey the feelings of the wordless cast of characters.

Sweetie: 5/5 – Without any voice, this movie still manages to tell an uplifting, wholesome, sad, touching, and romantic tale. This film reminded me of the Song of the Sea (which I also HIGHLY recommend and will eventually get around to reviewing). It also reminded me of a silent “Little Mermaid”. Or a little of the Tom Hanks “Castaway” film or Swiss Family Robinson.

Overall:  42/50 84% B “Very Good Anime For Girls”

Story: 8/10 If you’ve watched any of those films, you can guess some of the themes present in the Red Turtle, a story about a man shipwrecked on an island trying first to leave the island, then coming to accept his new life and live off the land.

There’s really several stories within the story here if you’re paying attention. At first, it is just the man and the sea and land and creatures there of. But a miracle occurs one day, turning a lonely devastated man, into a protector, caregiver, lover, and eventually father.

It’s a very circle of life tale. You watch all of the characters as they age, grow up, grow old, while witnessing their triumphs and struggles as they evolve and grow.

Although there are no words, and it takes some getting used to (at least for me; the only other silent film I’ve ever liked is Wall-e.), if you keep watching, you will eventually fall in love with the characters, and by the end it will leave you in tears, as it did for me.

It does start slow. I think the first 30ish minutes of the man being alone on the island could have been cut down to about 10-15 minutes and still conveyed the same point, that he is unable to leave the island, that he is angry, cold, bitter, and vengeful, etc. — Still after the appearance of other humans, we witness how their love for him changes the man into a much different and better person.

Characters: 8/10 : The characters have no names, and no real back stories. It’s never explained exactly how or why things happened the way they did; whether that was intentional to allow you to insert yourself into their shoes, or just the nature of the silent story telling format, it doesn’t matter because the characters are still incredibly real, raw, and full of emotion and personality even without back stories and without voices. I felt an immediate connection to the characters and felt myself emotionally invested and caring about what fates and circumstances fell upon them.

Animation: 8/10 – Although it’s not done in any kind of “traditional” anime style (big eyes, fantasy hair colors, etc), it still has charm. The sea, the starlit sky, the forests, the land, and even the characters. This film had to rely 50 / 50 on music as well as animation to tell the story. The characters’ movements had to convey their emotion. This is no easy task, yet it is one that this film excels at. Whether it’s capturing the curiosity of a small child, the desperation and isolation of a lonely man, the love and tenderness of a woman, or the animals who share the island with the small family, there is no shortage to emotion and charm in the animation.

Music: 10/10 – Think of this as basically Fantasia meets the Little Mermaid. The music score, when music is present, is vital in telling the story. Many times throughout the film there will be little to no music and only ambient noises and sound effects. This makes the power of the instrumental musical pieces even more powerful when it is used to convey the emotions of the cast or even the power of nature itself.

Overall:  42/50 84% B “Very Good Anime For Girls”

The Red Turtle Anime Review was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

Big Fish and Begonia Anime Review

Overview:

Big Fish & Begonia (also known as Da Yu Hai Tang) is not technically an anime since it is from China instead of Japan; however, it is a beautifully animated fantasy adventure with a lot of heart. The quality of the animation is on par with Disney or Studio Ghibli.

The story has a few plot holes and pacing issues, but overall, the emotional impact of the story telling makes this film a must watch. The story may feel familiar if you’ve watched Disney’s the Little Mermaid, or another Chinese animation from the 90s, Chinese Ghost Story. Despite the similar concepts, Big Fish & Begonia still manages to add its own unique twists and takes on concepts of forbidden love and reincarnation.

Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Big Fish Begonia Anime Review

Review:

Title: Big Fish & Begonia (Da Yu Hai Tang)

Release Date: July 2016 (China) (Not yet licensed for North America)

 

Production: Bejing Enlight Media

Geeky:  5/5 – The production values are top notch. The quality of the animation, music, and acting are all on PAR with Disney or Studio Ghibli. Many consider this film to be the “dawn of animation” in China. It took 12 years to complete, and the level of dedication, time, care, and skill that went into making this film really shows.

Sweetie: 4/5 – I did decide to deduct one point for a few major plot holes and pacing issues. However, the themes of love (often times unrequited), life, death, and reincarnation make this film very “sweet” indeed. I was not expecting to cry as much as I did by the end!

Overall: 47/55 85% B “Very Good Anime For Girls”

Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Concept:

Concept: 10/10 I am in love with the concept behind this film. I am a huge fan of Chinese Ghost Story and also the Little Mermaid.

I even prefer the old 80s Japanese version of the Little Mermaid over the Disney one (blasphemous, I know, right?). Don’t get me wrong, I love Disney’s Little Mermaid too. But the reason I love the non-Disney version so much is because of how sad it is.

Spoiler for the Japanese Little Mermaid below:

Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Big Fish Begonia Anime Review

I know this sounds horrible to some people who always insist on watching movies with a happy ending, but I’ve always loved tearjerkers, even as a child. There’s just something so touching and sweet about this tragic tale. It also happens to follow the original story more closely as well.

So if we combine that 80s Little Mermaid with Chinese Ghost Story, we get something very similar to Big Fish & Begonia. Chinese Ghost Story is another beautifully animated Chinese film. (The animation was done by a Japanese studio). The story involves a young man who finds himself lost in a literal “Ghost Town”. All of the city’s inhabitants are spirits who have passed over. There, he meets a beautiful woman who also happens to be a ghost. Eventually the two of them fall in love; however, the only way for them to be together is for both of them to reincarnate back on earth.

Story:

Story: 7/10 The story of Big Fish and Begonia revolves around Chun, a young girl who has just become an adult in her society. Chun is from a mystical world. The movie describes the world by having Chun narrate that they are not gods, nor humans, but “others”.

In this mystical world, all adolescents become dolphins and journey to the human world for 7 days as a right of passage. During this time if they should come into contact with humans, they will not be allowed to return back to their own world.

Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Big Fish Begonia Anime Review

However, a sea squall occurs which traps Chun in a fisherman’s net on her last day on Earth. The past few days, she has spent observing the humans and their world, especially one young human who loves the sea. This human sees that Chun is trapped in the net and swims out to save her.

Although he is able to free Chun from the fisherman’s net, he drowns in the storm. Chun tries to save him, but is only able to retrieve his ocarina. Chun can’t forget the young man or his grieving family even when she returns back to her own world.

Chun discovers that there may be a way to revive the young boy and return him back to his world. She trades half of her life in exchange for his. In doing so, she also irreversibly links together their two souls. Should one of them perish, so shall they both. To complicate matters, his soul must remain a fish until returning back to the human world. In Chinese legends, there was a big fish who could fly through the skies. Thus Chun names him after the fish of legend, Kun.

Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Big Fish Begonia Anime Review

Many sad things happen along the way, but Chun resolves herself to complete her mission, even if it costs her her own life. As much as Chun cares for Kun, there’s another character who equally cares for Chun. He is her childhood friend named Qiu. With the same resolve that Chun takes to protect Kun, Qiu takes similar resolve to protect Chun, also willing if necessary to trade his life for hers.

Overall, I really enjoyed the film and loved the concept and story. My complaint with the story is the introduction of minor characters halfway through. They abandon certain concepts they have introduced, and create inconsistencies and plot holes. Here are a few examples.

1.) In theory, Chun should not have even been able to return back to her world. Contact with humans was forbidden. Yes, her world begins to suffer, and everyone turns against her. But, when the film starts, her mother warns her not to let the humans see her and tells her that another girl just took the journey and was unable to return for breaking this rule.

2.) At one point, a villain will escape into the human world. (You’ll know what I’m referring to if you watch the movie). After escaping into the human world, we never see or hear from this villain again. You would think it had some motive for wanting to go into the human world and that some consequences may occur in the human world as the result of introduction of this character. We’re never shown exactly what those consequences are.

Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Big Fish Begonia Anime Review

3.) When returning to the human world, all memories are supposed to be erased; however, that doesn’t seem to happen. There’s also the issue or significance of the necklace that Chun is wearing at the end, that I don’t recall being explained. It seems the creators want your attention to be called to the necklace from the swinging and shining animation and camera zoom and pan given to that scene. What significance exactly did the necklace hold?

This next bit might be a Spoiler for the end of Big Fish and Begonia

Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Characters

Characters: 8/10 Qiu makes this film for me. He begins as a bit of a child-like impish, practical jokester. By the end of the film, he has matured so much, and sacrifices so much as a result of his love and desire to protect Chun.

Chun likewise grows as a character, with her resolve to protect Kun. She goes against her elders, her mother, the people of her village. She is shunned as a result of breaking the laws of her people. While it would be easy to harbor a grudge against the people who have cast her out of their tribe, she instead endeavors to help them when tragedy befalls their home.

Chun also realizes what she was warned, that we cannot ever truly atone for our sins. As a result of helping Kun, other people begin to suffer. She realizes the weight and consequences of her actions; however, it is too late to change course.

Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Big Fish Begonia Anime Review

Qiu learns a similar lesson. He asks how to save and help Chun, but the answer he receives eats away at him. He asks a shopkeeper if he has anything that can make him forget his sadness. The shopkeeper offers him a drink, but he warns it will also take away his happiness. He learns that in order to have happiness, you must also experience sadness.

The minor characters are also sources of wisdom and have a lot of heart, especially Chun’s grandparents who help her even after their own death.

I did deduct 2 points because there are some characters that are forgotten and abandoned, and even Kun himself feels underdeveloped as a character. It was hard for me to like the relationship of Kun x Chun because so much more development had been put into Qiu compared to Kun.

Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Big Fish Begonia Anime Review
Production Value:

Animation: 5/5 This is one of the most beautifully animated films I have seen, not just from China, but from anywhere. It blends beautiful 2D and some nice 3D animation techniques. The fantasy world and characters are all unique and mesmerizing.

Voice Acting 5/5 Big Fish and Begonia is a very emotional film, and to pull that off, it makes use of talented voice actors who can capture and convey their feelings of love, guilt, grief, and despair.

Music: 3/5 Music also has a Disney-ish feeling and helps tell the story. I especially liked the song during the ending credits. There a few Disney-ish feeling “song/dance” skits, which can sometimes detract from the mature and dark feeling of the film; these are brief, but not as well handled in my opinion as similar scenes in Chinese Ghost Story, which makes great use of music interludes to tell their story. The music also doesn’t feel that memorable in Big Fish and Begonia, but it is overall, quite lovely.

Overall: 47/55 85% B “Very Good Anime For Girls”

Big Fish and Begonia Anime Review was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

Beyond Two Souls Similarities to Stranger Things

I just did a guest post over on thenerdmentality.com regarding my thoughts on the PS3 game “Beyond Two Souls“.

Did you know this game has many things in common with the TV Series “Stranger Things”?

For example, both Beyond Two Souls and Stranger things focus on a young girl with strange powers. In both cases, they are raised by a government figure who at first treats the girl as if he was their father, in order to gain the girl’s trust and help her learn to use her powers. In both cases, the government uses the girl to open a portal to the other side which has unintended consequences of letting spirits cross over into this world. Also in both cases, the girl runs away, only to be hunted relentlessly by the government throughout both stories.

As for the actual gameplay, story, graphics, and soundtrack itself, and how it compares to Quantic Dream’s other games such as Heavy Rain, why not head over to thenerdmentality.com and check out my full review of Beyond Two Souls.

Thank you to the nerd mentality for letting me guest post for you guys, and thank all of you readers for looking!

Beyond Two Souls Similarities to Stranger Things was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News