Recommendation Roundup, November 2019, pt. 2

So, we’re going to pick right back up from where we left off last time, with a bunch of anime I’ve been watching lately cause it has been a good year for me for anime.

So, without any further ado, in no particular order, let’s go!

No Guns Life

So, as a giant nerd, I regularly receive emails from both Crunchyroll and Funimation, two streaming services for anime, highlighting upcoming shows. And a lot of the time, because anime is so ridiculous, I’ll send my brother (not an anime guy) screenshots of the emails, talking about how ridiculous a show’s name or premise is. A prime example would be Fire Force, the email for which seemed to feature a weird guy without shoes and a ridiculous smile, a mostly-naked-for-no-reason cat girl, a witch, a nun, a guy with a light saber, and a couple of other weird looking people all in firefighter clothes.

But the funny thing is that a lot of the time, if I actually give those same shows a shot, they’re actually REALLY good. Fire Force being one main example.

No Guns Life is another example, mainly because the main character, Juzo Inui, has a gun for a face. That’s right. A gun. For a face.

But also, the show is AMAZING. For one thing, the art style is absolutely gorgeous. For another, the premise hits that semi-pulpy, bachelor detective fighting the evil corporation sci-fi vibe that just drives me wild (think Bladerunner or Ghost in the Shell adjacent). The premise is that Juzo Inui, an “extended” (someone with cybernetic parts that extend their capacity beyond normal human abilities), takes on cases to solve problems with other extended. He has a tenuous alliance with the powers that be to ensure that if his cases don’t go according to plan, he doesn’t get into too much trouble, and is happy eking out his existence in such a manner. Then one day, a boy with mysterious powers to control extended reaches out to him for help, claiming to have been illegally experimented on, and the show goes on from there. It’s got a neat premise, is absolutely gorgeous, and the characters are fun and engaging. I’ve got to say it’s easily one of my favorite shows I’ve seen all year.

Also the main theme, though it runs a little long in the show itself, is amazing.

Special 7: Special Crime Investigation Unit

Special 7: Special Crime Investigation Unit is one I found via Hulu’s recommendations after watching No Guns Life (good job Hulu, who is actually responsible for a couple on this list). The premise is that rookie copy Nanatsuki Seiji gets co-opted into the Special 7: Special Crime Investigation Unit (Special 7 from here on out) after getting tangled in one of their cases. The unit itself is dedicated to hunting a terrorist group known as Nine, who worship dragons. Though mostly a police procedural show, it has the added twist that this is an urban fantasy setting, with elves, dwarves, vampires, homunculi, magic, and more. What’s nice about it though, is that it doesn’t go too hard on the fantasy part. Magic is under tight government control, and though members of other species/races show up and are included in the unit, they aren’t super goofy or ridiculous–or even all that obvious. Though they might have cultural differences or some powers, they aren’t super over the top. The show has a nice animation style, is self-assured about what it is and sticks to it, and also has some nice humor to it, primarily through the interactions of Nanatsuki and Ichinose, his somewhat reluctant partner/mentor.

Cells at Work

So this one kind of feels like an honorable mention, but for the sake of honesty, I’ll include it. Cells at Work is a show about the lives of the various cells in your body, from the main two characters, Red Blood Cell and White Blood Cell (the best cell, in case you were wondering), to platelets (the main one looks exactly like me from when I was little, FYI), Killer T cells, dendrites, macrophages, and more. Each episode features them battling some new condition, from the common cold, to allergies, to heat stress, and more. The show has a weird Magic School Bus meets Dragon Ball Z meets Battle Royale vibe, but is also really educational, often pausing to explain who different cells are, what we know about them, and what they do. It’s a little hard to place or recommend because I’m not always sure how to describe it (seems like it could be an educational show for kids a la a more grown up Magic School Bus, but then White Blood Cell will just go to town knifing up a bacteria or they’ll start screaming mild obscenities at the germs, which could just be a translational thing, and then I’m not sure what to say), but if you want to learn a little more about your body with some good humor and a mostly likable cast, this could be a good fit for you. It’s also fun because once you start watching, you start thinking about what these characters might be experiencing inside you every time you sneeze or get sick or whatnot. I will say one flaw about it is that because each episode is based on a specific malady and the main characters are all cells, it’s a little hard to get much traction as far as a plot or character development through line. They do have a few flashback episodes to explain what happens to cells as they grow up, and there is an epic two-parter for a really serious injury, but it’s not like the cells are ever going to fall in love (despite White Blood Cell being an absolute bae) or go on some grand adventure to fight an evil wizard or something. It ends up giving the show a sort of stilted feel sometimes, because the characters by nature can’t grow as much as you might hope they could were they not, you know, human body cells, but it’s still educational and fun to watch. And, as an allergy sufferer, I have to say, that episode is brilliant.

07 Ghost

So, this is a weird one. Because in a lot of ways, it’s not that different from your usual anime in this genre. The premise is that Teito, an angry young military student with a terrible past, discovers that he’s actually a prince from a destroyed kingdom, has access to a super-powered artifact, and must now choose between choosing light and the power/love/trust of his friends or darkness and revenge for his destroyed loved ones. As with many anime, it has a really convoluted religious system, gets super abstract and nonsensical by the end, and has a bunch of random stuff thrown in for apparently no reason (for example, the organ-player at the church where most of the show takes place is a mermaid).

However, what I like about it is as follows:

  1. The majority of the show takes place in a church, and the picture of that church is actually sort of accurate. The nuns live quiet lives cleaning and helping the poor that come to them, the bishops help with those activities and services, when the church is attacked they turn to prayer, and they welcome Teito in and give him asylum when he has nowhere else to go. Now, I will say that that’s about where the similarities end, what with the mermaid organ player, the shape-shifting of several of the bishops into sort of angel/demi-god/servants of God, their understanding and completion of what are essentially exorcisms, and the weird Judeo-Christian-Greek-Roman-Buddhist-etc. religious mix they’ve got going on for the actual theology, but to have most of the show take place in a church and to see similarities and differences was fascinating. And, since a lot of animes feature churches in a sort of religious fanatic/snake oil salesman/corruptive light, seeing one that was actually good and trying to do good in ways that sort of line up with what Christianity really should line up with was neat, differences aside.
  2. Three dreams. So, this was a cool thing where in their theology, God basically has each soul tell him three dreams they’d like to accomplish before they die, but then when they’re actually born, they forget what their dreams were, so life is all about discovering the three things you were sent to do, and when they’re done, you can die peacefully and return to God. Those who turn to evil to get their dreams faster lose their souls to said darkness. Does it hold any theological water? No. But it is fun to think about, was a unique twist, and actually held some sway in the actual plot, so that was nice.
  3. Emotional depth. The characters in this show actually felt things quite strongly, and while I was watching, so did I. While some of it was fairly cheesy or cliche, it was still Very well done.
  4. Frau. Frau is one of the three bishops featured in the show, and while he’s definitely the bad boy of the three, with some issues that really should be addressed for a bishop (naughty magazines, for example), he’s also complex, intriguing, and an all around the cool guy. The story of how he got to be a bishop was particularly interesting–including his current, somewhat antagonistic relationship with God, and he also brought out some of the best bits of humor and fighting in the show. Of all the characters, he was definitely my favorite.

So yeah, ultimately not necessarily an objectively good show, but definitely one I really enjoyed, if for unconventional reasons. Also, please go look up pictures of Frau, because he’s amazing and I basically either want to be him or be his friend at the very least. I couldn’t find a good video of the opener that I felt good about posting here copyright wise, so that’s why I didn’t bother to include that here. It’s worth watching if only for Frau and the ridiculous notion that the top of a giant spire would be a comfortable place to sit (spoiler: it’s not).


Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now. I hope you enjoy these if you look them up, and if you have any thoughts on them or other recommendations for shows for me to check out, please let me know in the comments below. If you want more recommendations, or updates on my life, faith, or writing, please feel free to follow me using the links in the sidebar or below. Thanks for reading!

Recommendation Roundup: November, 2019, pt. 1

Hey all,

I’m still in processing mode from a lot of things, and as we’re heading into the busy season of the year, it may be a while yet, but I did want to get at least one post up soon (how are we so far into November already??), and since I’ve been sick the last few days and binging a lot of shows, I figured I’d just go ahead and share what I’ve been watching. Warning, this is definitely going to be a special, anime edition of recommendation roundup. But also, this year has been a great year for anime for me, so there’s some great stuff in here. Oh, and P.S. no, I didn’t watch all of these just in the last couple of days. These are actually from several months, haha.

So, in no particular order:

Fire Force

I know I mentioned this one in my last recommendation roundup post, but since it continues to be great and is still ongoing since my last post, I figured I would recommend it again. The premise is that as people have started to spontaneously combust, special fire soldiers must track down the cause, with different fire companies being controlled by varying religious, military, and commercial funders. The show centers around Company 8, whose purpose–besides finding the source of the combustions–is to investigate the other companies and make sure they’re on the up and up. The show is absolutely beautifully animated, funny, and has a great plot. As I mentioned before, do watch out for some pervy humor, but that’s actually lessened a lot since the show’s start, so that’s great news. Since the opener is so gorgeous and the song is so fun (great band overall, FYI) I’m gonna go ahead and re-add that here.

Bem

So, this one surprised me a little. I found it because it came up as a suggested show related to one of the ones above (Special 7, I think?) on Hulu, and since the main character looks SO COOL, I figured I’d give it a try. Turns out, not only is this a reboot (one of many, this being a 50th anniversary from the original series from 1968), it’s actually a rapid departure from the old style of the show, which up until this one had a much more 60s almost Hanna Barbara vibe, so far as I could tell at least from pictures. I haven’t actually seen any, so I can’t speak to the tone (let me know if you have!). Anyway, this time they went a completely different direction, with something closer to a jazzy, noir-y, night club feel, and even had what appeared to be a nod to the famous painting “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper in one of their episodes.

“You know, the diner one.”

Combine this with the fact that the premise of the show is that three humanoid monsters protect a city that despises them in hopes of one day becoming human themselves, and you can see why this is naturally VERY MUCH my vibe.

That being said, I will say the show does have some pretty serious flaws, mainly having some trouble getting a strong plot through line (especially in the beginning), lacking some emotional depth some times, a few elements that go unresolved, and an ending that in classic anime style goes a little abstract/off the rails. It is still fun to watch though, especially any time the main character Bem is on screen (such intrigue. Swoon, haha), and I’m hoping that if they get a second season (which I hope they do), they’ll be able to dive deeper into some of the elements that didn’t seem to get quite enough time in this one (mainly some inter-character relationships, the main character himself, their histories, and the mysterious Dr. Recycle, who does illegal human modifications). To give a taste of it, here’s the intro, with the three monsters being Bem (the hat guy, also the coolest, also the one with the prettiest, most attractive eyes ever), Belo (headphones kid), and Bela (side pony-tail schoolgirl). Oh, and fun side note, because some of the villains in the show are actually pretty silly, especially given the otherwise more serious vibe of the show, it also kind of has this weird like, 90’s kids show vibe to it a la Gargoyles (yeeeessssss) and Batman the Animated Series, which is both kind of weird but also great.

Black Bullet

So, turns out this one actually came out in 2014, but was so popular, they’re actually going to come back for another season hopefully next year. It, like Bem, also has some flaws, but I also just really liked it. The premise of the show is that some weird virus thing turns people into monsters, and the only ones who can fight them well are super-powered little girls born of women infected by said virus. The girls pair up with people who basically take care of/control them and together they protect humanity. As to flaws, there are some bits of humor that toe the line, some plot holes, and some times when the characters/tone felt really inconsistent, but because it hit that sweet spot of techno-magic and thriller for me, I still really enjoyed it. And, Enju, the little girl who partners up with the show’s main protagonist Rentaro is also super adorable, so that helps too.

Do I understand why Enju uses such large and weird hairclips? No. Do I still adore her? Yes.

To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts

To the Abandoned Sacred Beasts is a show about Hank, a super soldier who can turn into a monster and hunts down his fellow super-soldier friends as they start to lose themselves to their monster forms, and Schaal, the daughter of one of said monsters who is determined to discover the truth about Hank and his mission. Pros about it are a cool premise, some really pretty fight scenes, and a cool twist on mythology, in which many of the creatures are based off of traditional mythic creatures or monsters (the way they handle the minotaur and vampire in particular were pretty great). Flaws include a certain lack of emotional breadth in some of the characters to start (cough cough, Hank, cough cough), some fairly trope-y character types, and the fact that ultimately, some of the monsters are doomed to be a little silly. There are also some structural gaps in the plot that were a little disorienting, but overall, it was enjoyable to watch and as the characters developed more, I did start to care more. Schaal in particular is great and more complex than the others from the start.

So, there are still four more shows, I wanted to share, but since this post is already getting pretty long. We’ll be saving those for next time. In the meantime, please enjoy these! Thanks for reading!


So, how about you? Any good shows you’ve been watching lately? Let me know in the comments below and if you want more content like this, or updates on my life, faith, or writing, feel free to follow me here using the links in the sidebar or below!