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Lostorage Incited WIXOSS

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The first WIXOSS series – the combination of Selector Infected WIXOSS and Selector Spread WIXOSS – really surprised me. It was far better than I expected, with heavy atmosphere, strong characterisation, and a genuine sense of dread. Expectations were low – it was essentially a Madoka-like trying to hawk a trading card game – but it surpassed them with ease.

It was a complete, self-contained story with a very specific concept closely connected with the premise of the card game itself. It didn’t leave room for natural and constructive expansion – so I was left wondering what Lostorage Incited WIXOSS would actually be accomplishing when it was announced. What direction would it go in? What would it try to do differently? Can it make itself stand out from its predecessor? Or, more likely, would it be stuck in Selector’s shadow, existing as an uninspired continuation of the TCG’s marketing? Mari Okada’s absence only raised concerns further, as her mark was all over Selector in a very positive way.

The good: it quickly made itself clear that it had few to zero links to the original beyond roughly the same premise. It was at least leaving the original alone, and trying to stand as its own thing. The bad? Well…

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Yuri!!! on Ice

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If the ‘fujoshi-friendly’ sports anime genre hasn’t reached its logical conclusion with Yuri!!! on Ice it is certainly working its way there. Kuroko no Basket, Free!, Haikyuu!! and many more all depict male relationships with heightened emotion, intimacy and intensity; the close trust and fierce rivalries in  sports provide a natural framework for this. And with those levels of emotion, intimacy and intensity, it becomes easy for fans to read romance and love into those relationships if they so choose – hence their large female and gay male fanbases. The attractive, athletic schoolboys certainly don’t hurt either!

But those romantic readings are still just fan readings. They’re no doubt at least somewhat intentionally cultivated, but there’s no real canonicity to it, and it’s far from a narrative focus. They hint and tease, but leave anything further to your imagination.

And then along comes Yuri!!! on Ice and blows the doors wide open by making every implicit allusion an explicit action, by putting a heavily and overtly romantic lens over the entire show, by dropping damn near every semblance of ambiguity and leaving only the most negligible semblance of plausible deniability (and grasping on to that requires a far greater reach than the alternative). And it does all this while being a damn good series about a washed-up figure skater working to become a world champion under the tutelage of his lifelong idol!

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I usually try to end 12 days of anime with a moment of personal importance, with reflection on the self and honesty. Ain’t got something like that this year! Not that there weren’t moments or series like that, but none I could really talk about in depth. So let’s do the next ‘me’ thing after that and gush over KyoAni.

Hibike! Euphonium 2 has been stellar. I keep notes over the year to remember key scenes or events I might want to talk about during these 12 days and I ended up with 4 for Hibike! Euphonium 2 alone. I probably could have justified adding a few more to that as well. And it hasn’t even finished yet – as of writing, there are still 2 episodes to go! The finale is going to pull out something, I know it, but even so there is a huge amount I could talk about.

(Oh yeah, MAJOR spoilers for Hibike! Euphonium 2 ahead)

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It’s Anime Secret Santa time again! This is the fifth year I’ve participated in the Reverse Thieves organised project, and it’s always a blast. I get to anonymously recommend three shows to someone, and likewise receive three anonymous recommendations, with the only string attached being that I have to watch at least one and have to write a post about it.

This year, in part thanks to receiving two movie recommendations (oh my god THANK YOU Santa!), I watched all of them! And thus have reviews for all of them as well! What recommendations did I receive? Well…

  • Adolescence of Utena
  • Colorful
  • Beck

A pretty exciting selection all around if you ask me. I had extremely vague plans to watch Colorful and Beck at some point, so this way I’m actually getting around to them which I’m really grateful for, and Adolescence of Utena is a film I didn’t plan on watching but was excited to see regardless because it’s related to the masterpiece that is Revolutionary Girl Utena, a series I loved (and incidentally received as a “not an official recommendation but you should watch it anyway” recommendation for Secret Santa back in 2014!). None of these necessarily came out of left field, but at the same time I wasn’t entering any of them with trepidation – so right off the bat it was a pretty great set of selections.

So let’s get on with the reviews!

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I’ve mentioned before, but I play Cardfight!! Vanguard. Have done for approaching 2½ years now, and have spent several hundred pounds and countless hours on it.

It may soon become “played”. Bushiroad, the game and the community surrounding it are not going places that fill me with hope, and my interest is dropping like a rock.

Given how much energy and passion I’ve put into it in the past, and given that it has an anime and mostly anime-style art, I felt this warranted a post.

(Warning: this post is long, unnecessarily  and makes no attempt to make sense to people who don’t also play this crappy anime card game)

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I mean, this year started well! The Neo Nectar support in set 6 helped the clan tremendously, and given the Ahsha deck is one of my main decks I was thrilled to have that much needed boost in consistency and power. Then they announced Fighter’s Collection 2016 and with it the introduction of G guardians, a much needed boost to the defensive side of a game where aggression was getting a bit silly that also represented an opportunity to bring in a bit more interactivity (which it did in many cases after this first batch)! And then I went to Springfest with a bunch of friends for a team tournament, where we placed 30th out of 54 – not too bad for a first tournament, even if my deck dragged us down (I personally went 2-4…). It was looking like such a good year for Vanguard for me!

But then came the summer…

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If you follow British anime licensing companies on social media, you will have inevitably been inundated with constant, endless reminders throughout November that, yes, All the Anime are distributing Your Name in the UK in select cinemas (book tickets now)! As annoying as that got, I was still excited. Makoto Shinaki is one of my favourite directors, Your Name had opened to rave reviews and box office records in Japan, and I would get to watch it before many others! So excited, even, that I booked tickets back in September when tickets were first made available. I mean, there was a showing in a town close to me, and it would be subbed! Of course I was going to go.

You can probably tell what happened. I double-checked when I booked the tickets that the showing was subbed. Checked at every stage of the order process. I had full confidence. Hell, one of my housemates joked as we were walking across the car park about it being dubbed instead, which I quipped back with “do you think I’d even be here if it was dubbed?”. Well, we got in sat down, and with anticipation and excitement in my heart… I heard English.

Oh dear.

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I love emotional art and art about emotion. Two of my favourite music genres are post-rock and emo, which hit both points plentifully. In particular I’m drawn to explorations and depictions of depression (hence emo). For these reasons March Comes in Like a Lion has been perfect for me.

The sincerity, warmth, intimacy and sensitivity it has while exploring the characters emotions cuts right to my core. Every single element that the series can use to focus and isolate a particular feeling to express it as purely as possible is used, and the results are profoundly moving.

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