Thirty Day Anime Challenge: Days 13 to 17

FMAbrotherhood

Earlier this month I was reading Matt Doyle’s excellent blog. He had just completed a Thirty Day Video Game Challenge. That reminded me that I had yet to finish the anime challenge I started way back in July. Oops! I better make some long overdue progress on that by answering a few more questions today. For those of you who only subscribe to this site for reviews, and therefore have no interest in this series, I recommend that you check out these reviews penned by other bloggers instead…

Anime: Sword Art Online (Season Two)
Manga: Black Butler
Movie: Aquaman
Video Game: Pokemon Red/Blue

DAY 13: CHARACTER I AM MOST SIMILAR TO

I pretty much resemble any anime character who is a stereotypical geek. Perhaps you could compare me to a male version of Moriko Morioka, as I stay indoors all day, am terrible with face to face interactions and often play characters of the opposite sex in video games. I once asked a friend what animated personality I remind them of. They said Master Roshi, as I am a bald headed pervert. Can’t argue with that logic!

DAY 14: ANIME THAT NEVER GETS OLD NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES I REWATCH IT

These days I don’t have enough free time to re-watch shows. Just keeping up with the current season’s anime (and older stuff that I want to check out) is a big enough struggle. Many moons ago however, when I limited my anime viewing to DVDs, I wasn’t averse to watching a series multiple times. One particular box-set that got a lot of mileage was Full Metal Alchemist. No matter how many times I watch FMA it never gets old.

DAY 15: FAVORITE ANIMAL SIDEKICK, PET OR SUMMON

I had to rack my brain to come up with an answer for this one. Generally I am not a fan of mascot characters. You can blame eighties cartoons for that. Back when I was a kid, the cartoons I watched often featured comic relief mascots who were super annoying. Anime critters aren’t all bad though. I recently had fun traveling with Pikachu in Pokemon Let’s Go for example. After much thought I am going to pick Taromaru, the pup from School-Live. He’s very cute and played a big role in the show’s emotional finale.

DAY 16: ANIME WITH THE BEST ANIMATION

There were many contenders for this category. Garden of Words has some exceptional visuals, as does anything that has Studio Ghibli’s name attached to it. The last Madoka movie is also worth mentioning, due to a particularly impressive fight sequence. All those nominations however have the benefit of a motion picture budget backing them up. With that in mind my vote goes to Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works. Who knew that a TV production could look so amazing? One could say that Ufotable’s artists brought their A-game to the (ufo)table in that series.

DAY 17: FAVORITE SUPPORTING MALE CHARACTER

I had to think long and hard for this one. Nothing immediately came to mind. Most of my favourite male characters, from the world of anime, are protagonists. Although I suspect a better answer will come to me later, I’m going to go with Akio Furukawa from Clannad. His childish antics make me laugh, as do the scenes were he gives Tomoya a hard time. Akio isn’t a one note comedic character though. During tough times he acts as a second father to Tomoya and is selfless when it comes to his family. This is evidenced by the reveal that he abandoned a career in acting in order to support his daughter. Instead of the stage he now works as a baker. The family business depends on him because his wife hasn’t got a clue when it comes to recipes. Octopus tentacles and bread do not make for a tasty combo.

 

Review of From Up on Poppy Hill

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From Up on Poppy Hill (known in its native Japan as Kokuriko-zaka Kara) is an animated movie based on the eighties manga penned by Tetsuro Sayama. This Studio Ghibli feature is directed by Miyazaki, but don’t get too excited because the man at the helm is not Hayao, but rather his far less talented son Goro. Poor Goro will forever live in his father’s shadow… although on the plus side he does kick arse in Mortal Kombat.

Set in sixties Yokohama, the movie revolves around the teenage romance between Umi Matsuzaki and fellow high school student Shun Kazama. Umi is mature beyond her years after spending much of her youth raising her siblings in the absence of her parents. Umi’s father sadly died during the Korean War whilst her mother is presently abroad studying medicine. This leaves Umi following a busy schedule composed of schoolwork and helping out with chores at her grandmother’s boarding house. Shun, who is the son of a tugboat captain, writes for the school paper and is presently fighting against the school board who are proposing to demolish his dilapidated clubhouse.

Most of the movie deals with Umi and chums trying to convince the powers that be to spare the aforementioned clubhouse, by restoring the structure to its former glory. There’s also the small matter of the romantic chemistry building up between the leads, although a surprising revelation later in the flick seems to scupper any hopes of the two getting together. For a brief stint I was wondering if the creators would have the courage to explore what would have been a controversial love story, but in the end they decide to take the easy way out. Just as well as I doubt Disney would have localised the movie in the States had Ghibli opted to go with a questionable courtship.

Although I was impressed by how well Ghibli’s talented artists managed to recreate sixties Yokohama, whilst watching the movie I couldn’t help but yearn for a more colourful and whimsical setting. A dreary harbour town cannot compete with the dazzle of something like Spirited Away’s world, which may explain why Poppy Hill isn’t as memorable as other features in the Studio Ghibli library. Out of the handful of Ghibli films I have watched I would have to say that From Up on Poppy Hill is the one I have enjoyed least. That’s not to say that it is a bad movie though, as even a mediocre Ghibli movie is a darn sight better than your average cartoon.

I think I would have preferred the movie if the characters had a bit more personality. Everyone is so polite and courteous that no one really stands out. There’s not even an antagonist to root against, which is a shame. The script could have easily been livened up if the chap advocating the demolition of the clubhouse was a colourful moustache-twirling villain. All my misgivings aside, I still think the movie is worthy of four stars. The writing is solid, the voice acting is good and as you would expect from Studio Ghibli the movie is saturated with impressive artwork. Anime fans should appreciate From Up on Poppy Hill, but it’s too slow paced for kids. If you want to keep the young-uns entertained I would suggest buying one of Gibli’s grander offerings instead.