Seraph of the End Season One: Part Two


Seraph of the End
is a title I’ve been especially fond of since Weekly Shonen Jump started publishing the manga in English a few years back. When the anime aired back in 2015 I regarded it as one of my favourites for the year, and now I’ve gotten the chance to sit down and rewatch the second half of this series.

As a general note, this review contains spoilers for both parts of Seraph of the End. If you missed the review of Part 1 written by my good friend and coworker, Joshawott, you can find it here.


This part of the series kicks off with Yu and his comrades being sent on a mission in Nagoya, however this is after the higher ups interrogate Yu to determine if he’s working with vampires. Part 2 of
Seraph of the End is heavily dedicated to exploring the relationships between Yu and Captain Guren and Yu and Mikaela, but that’s not to say there isn’t plenty of time for some fun vampire hunting. This part also gives us some focus on the vampire society and works to develop them as characters.

The mission Yu and his team are sent on with Guren and other members of the Japanese Imperial Demon Army is to kill numerous noble vampires, who have been spotted in the area. It’s a life-or-death mission and sadly it doesn’t always go to plan – but thanks to our team’s misfortunes, we’re given some remarkable action sequences as the humans fight for their lives (more on those in a minute). On the flip side, the new perspectives on Mikaela and the vampires leaves us to ponder if they’re really the bad guys in this world, especially as it becomes clearer that the Imperial Demon Army is up to no good.


While I usually wouldn’t go too in-depth into the end of a season, I want to talk about a couple of episodes closer to the end of this set because they really made the series for me. Episode 21 sees Mikaela finally find Yu and his team and features some truly stunning animation as Mikaela storms through hordes of enemies to reach his long-lost family. The scene is set to a remix of the first ending for the series (“scaPEGoat” performed by SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:Yosh), and between that and the way the camera pans in and out, the sequence looks fantastic. I’ve watched a lot of anime by
Studio Wit but I think this scene stands out as some of their very best work to date. It’s animated, choreographed and executed extremely well and I cannot praise the scene enough for the lasting impact it left on me as a viewer.

The other episode I want to talk about follows directly afterwards . It’s titled “Yu and Mika” and largely focuses on an exchange the two have, in private, away from the battle raging on elsewhere. It’s the first real interaction the two have had since Yu escaped from the vampires as a child and at this point, after suffering a mortal wound which requires human blood to fix, Mikaela is struggling with the decision to remain as he is or become a full vampire. The two argue and bicker and the conversation flows so naturally, and is filled with so much emotion, that it really stood out to me and remains one of my favourite episodes. I’d usually talk about voice actors later on but today I’m going to break my usual trend and mention that Miyu Irino (Koshi Sugawara in Haikyu!!, Ritsu Kageyama in Mob Pyscho 100), who plays Yu and Kensho Ono (Takato in Charlotte, Slaine Troyard in Aldnoah Zero, Phichit Chulanont in Yuri!!! on Ice), who plays Mikaela, both perform exceptionally well for these scenes. I rewatched the scene in English, French and German and none of those dubs even held a candle to the emotional weight that the Japanese VA’s put into their take.  


As previously mentioned, animation for the series has been handled by
Studio Wit and looks really nice. Action scenes were always detailed and fluid, and even the scenes where the characters just stand around talking look great, thanks to some exceptional work on the backdrops. Wit have gone for a pastel-shaded effect for the backgrounds, so they always look very detailed, which it means any action scenes played out against them looks even better than usual. It creates a nice contrast between the smooth, neatly drawn characters and the messy, less detailed backgrounds. It’s a style I really like and would enjoy seeing more of from the studio.


The music for the series has been handled by Hiroyuki Sawano and is fairly impressive. It’s full of piano and orchestrated arrangements which really work with the tone of the series, but as mentioned earlier the track that I especially like is the remix of the previous ED for the series. I do have to admit that a lot of the music for Seraph of the End reminded me of the work of Tomoki Miyoshi, who provided the music for the I Am Setsuna game released last year, which is by not a bad thing but means that it didn’t seem as unique to me as it should have done. The opening for this set of the anime is “Two souls -towards the truth-” by fripSide and the ending is “Orarion” by Nagi Yanagi. Both tracks are rather forgettable but work within the context of the show (and at least the animation is very nice for both).

This release comes to the UK thanks to Universal, who have been nice enough to provide AnimeUKNews with a full retail set for our review. Thanks to that I have all of the extras for the release on hand, and what a nice collection it is! Seraph of the End Season One: Part Two is available on both Blu-ray and DVD and the physical extras include four trading cards, a poster depicting the art on the cover of the box, a set of 12 3D stickers (which, it has to be said, are really cute), four artcards, and, if that wasn’t enough, a 31 page booklet! The set is well, made with the trading cards and artcards being produced in a thick enough grade that I’m not too worried about them bending. The stickers being 3D is a welcome touch and although (as is usual with stickers) I don’t actually want to use them for anything, they’re at least more fun to look over than stickers normally are. It’s worth pointing out that the booklet contains a gallery of the end cards for each episode, which I like a lot.

Physical extras aside, this set also contains clean opening and ending videos, as well as a
Seraph of the Endless bonus episode/special, trailers for the series, and music clips. My only real complaint about the release is that the box is top-loading and I know that many members of the community commented about this with the previous release. It’s something Universal are apparently looking into for future anime sets but at least in this case I’m glad it’s consistent with the previous release. It’s also nice that the spine doesn’t make it clear that this is a DVD set as my version of Part 1 is a Blu-ray, so despite being different formats at a glance you wouldn’t know any different.

Seraph of the End is a remarkable shounen series. While the season doesn’t conclude the whole story because the manga is on-going, it ends in enough of a satisfying manner that it’s easy for me to recommend. If you’ve watched the first half and enjoyed it then you certainly won’t be disappointed here – and if you didn’t then what are you doing reading this? Go and buy Part 1 right now!

Winter Season 2017 – First Thoughts and Impressions

Suddenly it’s 2017! As we sweep up the pine needles and polish off the last crumbs of Christmas cake, the first episodes of the new and continuing Winter 2017 series are appearing. Is this going to be as good a season as Autumn 2016? Which series are worth your time? (Especially if you made a New Year’s resolution to waste less time watching duds ‘in case they get better next episode’. We’re all been there!)

So, never fear; our writers at AUKN are here to share their thoughts and make recommendations. Agree? Disagree? We’d love to hear what you think too.

Demelza:

The Winter season always tends to be quite hit and miss for me. I try a bunch of shows, drop the majority, and then gain a few favourites that are no doubt forgotten about by the end of the year. It’s a harsh time for new anime to be released, but I think maybe this season is different.

This winter marks the return of one of my favourite shows from last year, KonoSuba. If you read my review when the series finished (if not you can find it here), you’ll know that I am a huge fan of the anime and the first episode of Season 2 hasn’t let me down so far! Our quirky band of heroes have gotten themselves into trouble yet again and between their over-the-top reactions and the mock Ace Attorney court session, it’s clear that this season is going to be just as fun as the last.

Away from KonoSuba I’d have to say my favourite new show is Fuuka. It’s a series that tells the story of a young kid, Yu, who spends all his time on Twitter and not really interacting with the world. One day he runs into a girl called Fuuka who changes his life forever! At heart the series sounds like your usual slice of life affair, but I’m a huge fan of the manga and can safely say that it’s not as generic as it sounds. The manga eventually evolves into a heavy focus on music (something I’m sure regular readers will know I love), and between that and the very sweet love story it tells I encourage everyone to give it a chance.

While I’m here I’d also like to give a mention to Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid which is the latest adaption from studio KyoAni. Despite my love for KonoSuba, I actually don’t like comedy all that much and so I was surprised to find that I could stick out a whole episode of this series and like it enough to want to watch more. The animation isn’t quite as good as the usual anime put out by the studio, but the story and heartwarming cast certainly more than make up for that. If there was anything that I could recommend to basically anyone, then I think Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is probably it. The series definitely had the best opening episode of the season, besides KonoSuba of course.

Ian Wolf:

For me, the title to keep an eye on this season is the one that has been the most highly anticipated: the return of Blue Exorcist.

It’s been a while; the last outing was the feature film that premiered back in 2012, so it’s been five years since we last encountered Rin Okumura, the trainee exorcist who is still hoping to kill his father – who just happens to be Satan.

The last series finished with Rin’s family history being exposed to the rest of his classmates at the True Cross Academy, thus meaning that everyone around Rin now distrusts him due to his dad being their sworn enemy. Also, Rin is having trouble keeping his demonic powers under control. In this second series, things are made even worse when one of the members of the Knights of the True Cross turns traitor and steals a valuable artefact that in the wrong hands can spread disease. This means that Rin’s class have to travel to Kyoto to stop things getting worse, staying at an inn run by the parents of aggressive classmate Ryuji Suguro.

It is probably worth looking over the first series again as there has been such a gap between the two, but if you enjoyed the first one then the second series should provide you with plenty of action and intrigue.

The other series I would recommend, like Demelza before me, is Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. For the uninitiated, the story revolves around Miss Kobayashi, a systems engineer and secret otaku who gets drunk one night and bumps into Tohru, an injured dragon sleeping on a mountain. Kobayashi helps her, and suggests that she should come and stay. To her shock, Tohru appears the next morning, dressed as a maid and in a human body (if you ignore her horns and tail). Now Kobayashi has to try and cope with living with a mythical beast in her flat.

Having previously reviewed the manga I can say that there is plenty going for it in terms of humour. Fans of yuri may like it too, although people might be put off by fan service. For example, the first scene in which Tohru transforms into her human guise features some “boing-boing” sound effects as her boobs move. This might be surprising as the vast majority of the series has little objectionable content. I’ve enjoyed it so far, and I like the rather pastel-like art style they have used.

IncendiaryLemon:

As with the start of the majority of seasons, the Winter 2017 was one in which I was looking forward to very little, by pure virtue of not having heard of any of the upcoming shows before. Despite this, however, the  season is actually looking to be pretty good, at least going off the first few episodes of the series I have picked up thus far.

The only series I was actively anticipating in advance was Gabriel Dropout. I’m a huge sucker for Slice of Life comedies, and as soon as I saw the key art for this show, I knew I had to watch it, and its first episode didn’t disappoint. Gabriel Dropout comes courtesy of Doga Kobo, the studio that also produced the excellent New Game! last year, as well as a bunch of other great comedies such as Monthly Girls Nozaki Kun and Himouto Umaru-chan. The premise is a fairly simple one: a bunch of Angels and Demons are sent to a school on Earth in order to learn about human life, and antics ensue. Whilst the school-based SoL comedy isn’t exactly untrodden ground, the first episode managed to have me laughing throughout and has some pretty great gags, the funniest of which involves teleportation and which I dare not spoil here. Gabriel Dropout comes highly recommended if you liked any of the shows I listed above from Doga Kobo.

Another season highlight for me is Kyoto Animation’s Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. Kyoto Animation is easily one of my favourite studios, with an astonishing track record of outstanding series such as K-On, Free! Iwatobi Swim Club, Nichijou, and my personal favourite show of last year, Sound! Euphonium. Dragon Maid appears to be a bit of a departure for the studio, which tends to focus on high school-based shows, and it’s a change of pace that’s appreciated. The focus in this show is the titular Miss Kobayashi, an average office worker, who, in a drunken stupor, enlists a dragon to be her personal maid. Much like Gabriel Dropout, this is another comedy that had me laughing along for the entirety of its running time, and the art is brilliant, as you’d probably expect from KyoAni. Add in a smidgen of yuri teasing, and you have an anime that is certainly one of my personal highlights of this season.

Venturing out of the comedy genre, the anime that’s piqued my interest the most so far would have to be ACCA 13. Going by Episode 1 alone, it’s actually very hard to tell in which direction this show is going, as the majority of the episode was world building; however it appears to be quite unlike anything else airing this season, or at least that I have seen. The show is almost entirely dialogue based, not unlike something such as Monogatari, but yet still remains very engrossing. It also has a unique art style that instantly grabbed my attention, and is animated by another personal favourite studio of mine, Madhouse. It’s actually quite hard to talk about, as little has happened just yet, but if you are looking for something that isn’t a light comedy series with a bunch of cute girls in it, this is probably one to watch.

Sarah:

ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.

If you’ve read or watched the anime versions of Natsume Ono’s distinctive manga (Dead Leaves, Ristorante Paradiso) you’ll know that you’ll be in for a very different viewing experience in ACCA. Set in Dowa, a Ruritanian-ish European kingdom (check out those moustaches and uniforms!) it introduces us to Jean Otus, the vice-chairman of the inspections department.  Nearly a century ago when a coup d’etat threatened the peace of the thirteen territories, the syndicate was set up to protect the peace. Nowadays, the members of Jean’s department are more concerned with the cakes they’ll be eating for their morning snack break, so maybe it’s not surprising that there’s talk of disbanding ACCA. But the king is not getting any younger…is this really the right time? Something sinister is probably underway…but what? Directed by Shingo Natsume (One Punch Man) the series has a distinctive, primary-coloured palette (and is faithful to Natsume Ono’s stylish character designs). ACCA is unusual enough to hold the attention – but not, so far, to engage the heart. Jean makes a curiously unengaging central character: enigmatic and cool, smoking expensive cigarettes… However, the next episode promises to introduce another central character, the motorbike-riding reporter Nino, and, as I have faith in Natsume Ono’s works, I’m intrigued enough to return to see what happens next. You’ve gotta love a series where the character profiles tell you each person’s favourite snacks! (Jean’s are white bread and strawberries, btw.)

The best anime drama for many viewers last year was the first season of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu and the second season Descending Tales has been hotly anticipated (certainly by me). Based on the prize-winning manga series by Haruko Kumota, this twisted and insightful tale of two proponents of the ancient story-telling performance art of rakugo battling the tide of twentieth century popular culture, was notable for its depth of characterization, voice acting and unique blend of music and visual art. We rejoin the story in the 1980s where Yotaro, the reformed yakuza turned professional storyteller, has taken the stage name of Sukeroku, in homage to his master Yakumo’s dead friend and contemporary. He’s also married – in name only – Sukeroku’s daughter Konatsu to protect her and her illegitimate baby son (father unknown, at least to us at this stage). Debts to the dead and a complicated web of feelings among the living overshadow the lives of the three main protagonists – and the dying art of rakugo underscores everything they do. Should it be allowed to die out as a historical irrelevance? Or can it be made meaningful to a more modern age and revived? The new OP, sexily, slinkily sung by Megumi Hayabashi, offers a striking and chilling foreshadowing of what’s to come. Not to be missed!

And it would be remiss of me not to mention the arrival of the third season of Yowamushi Pedal  – the first time any episodes of this iconic sports anime series has been made available in the UK (someone will correct me if I’m wrong…) I’m delighted to be able to watch it at last, even if it means coming in late. Perhaps Crunchyroll will bring us the earlier seasons as well now.

Rui:

I was dreading this season at first when Crunchyroll started off by announcing a selection of similar-looking school comedies. However, it’s turning out better than I thought. The best news of all is that hardly anything is locked away from the UK this time around, with the big villains of the season being Amazon for locking two interesting titles (Scum’s Wish and Onihei) behind their Prime paywall. The possibility that they might soon start charging even more for this service with the rollout of their premium Anime Strike subscription (US-only, for now) is worrying for many of us wanting affordable access to legal simulcasts.

Like the other staff members above, I’m very interested in the continuation of the absolutely sublime Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu and also looking forward to seeing where ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept. goes after that very stylish beginning. The biggest surprise of the first episodes I’ve seen so far has been Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, which was much wittier than I’d expected from the premise and a real gem.

MARGINAL #4 key art

Another surprise for me was how watchable the first episode of this season’s idol title MARGINAL #4: Kiss Kara Tsukuru Big Bang ended up being. We had no fewer than three new seasons of big idol-related titles based on games aimed at the female audience last season, and in my personal opinion neither Dream Festival nor Magic-kyun Renaissance really succeeded in offering anything unique enough to dislodge the massive Uta No Prince-sama anime series from its throne. I was expecting MARGINAL #4 to fall by the wayside too – ever since its original debut as an audio series it’s been a direct attempt to cash in on a popular genre – but it neatly sidestepped direct comparisons to UtaPri by focusing on the boys’ silly school lives and idol careers rather than anything too complicated. It’s like an irreverent parody of K-On! blended with the flash of Love Live!, and the humour is so goofy that I think it’s going to work.

Like Rejet’s previous anime projects (Diabolik Lovers, Dance With Devils), MARGINAL #4 is mostly designed to promote the core series and the constant stream of expensive music/situation CDs which come out month after month, so even if the comedy starts to flag it’s a given that the concert scenes will continue to have great music. I’m a sucker for a good concert, and the hope that the (superior) senior idol group might actually be allowed to sing on-screen in a later episode will no doubt keep me pinned to the series all season long.

So my apologies go out to this season’s anime selection; I was too quick to judge at the start. My top titles this winter are all very different from one another so I can’t wait to see which of them still have my attention in a couple of months from now.

Cold Cobra:

Well, like a lot of people here there isn’t a large amount of options screaming at me, at least not at the moment. The series that I’m most interested in is Chaos;Child, mostly because I really enjoyed Steins;Gate and remember liking the possibly overly-gory but nonetheless interesting murder mystery Chaos;HEAd, the series this is a direct sequel to. The first episode was actually a two-parter… sort of as the first half recapped the cases in Chaos;HEAd. The actual first episode is a good start; the unpleasant murders and the mystery surrounding them barely gets going, but in a good way. The lead character, Takuru Miyashiro, and his merry band of high school newspaper club members are a fun bunch, though maybe not anything groundbreaking in terms of character type. So lots of mystery in the air and things to reveal. It could be a great ride, or it could sort of slowly degrade into confusion and end in an unsatisfactory manor, which happens often when an anime is based on a branching paths visual novel. Fingers crossed for the former rather than the latter!

The return of Blue Exorcist and a second helping of Tales of Zestiria the X should provide some entertainment in the coming weeks, the previous parts showing some promise in their genres, but that’s it so far this season. Very bare, but that does tend to happen in the Winter season.

Invaders of the Rokujyoma!? Complete Collection Review

My final anime review of 2016 was none other than Fullmetal Alchemist Part 2, and so going into 2017 I wondered what title I’d be tackling first. Something fantastical set in an alternate universe, with heroes straight out of my favourite stories? Or perhaps a slice of life/romantic series to warm my heart in the cold winter months?

Well, actually, I was completely off the mark, and instead I’m here reviewing the harem series Invaders of the Rokujyoma?!.

Invaders of the Rokujyoma!? tells the story of Kotaro Satomi, who thinks he’s found a bargain when he moves into Room 106 of Corona House – only 5,000 yen a month in rent! With a part-time job at an archaeology site and a friendly landlady in the form of Shizuka Kasagi, Kotaro believes that he’s going to live out his highschool years peacefully and content. What he doesn’t know is that Room 106 is said to be haunted, and all who’ve lived there previously have ended up fleeing the scene, scared out of their wits. The place being haunted isn’t the only problem either, as suddenly strange females begin appearing one by one with desires to claim the room for themselves. It seems that Kotaro may have found himself in quite a predicament…

Kotaro is first visited by Sanae Higashihonogan, the notorious ghost haunting Room 106, who begins to fight with him over which one of them should live in the room. It’s not long before they’re interrupted by the appearance of a magical girl, Yurika Nijino, who wants to occupy the room due to the high levels of magical power within it. If that isn’t enough, Kotaro is then visited by Kiriha Kurano, who is a descendant of the Earth People and wants to take over the room as the first step in invading the surface. And just when you thought things couldn’t possibly get worse, our cast is invaded by Theiamillis Gre Fortorthe (later shortened to Theia), an alien princess who wishes to claim Room 106 for herself in order to prove herself as a worthy successor to the throne.


After the room is almost destroyed during the squabbling over who should live there, landlady Shizuka goes into a rage and punishes Kotaro and the girls. After making repairs, she lays out a contract instructing that the debates over the room must be conducted peacefully. To determine who will obtain the room (without destroying it in the process) Kiriha proposes that they should decide through games.

I’d explain more about the games but by the fourth episode the series starts to move away from the girls wanting to claim the room and instead focuses on their daily lives, so I shall skip forward a bit instead.

Earlier I labelled Invaders of the Rokujyoma!? as a harem series, and while that’s true, it’s not the kind of harem series that I usually dislike. As the girls spend time living with Kotaro they all become fond of him, but it’s not played up to an extreme level as in some other anime. While the girls are fond of Kotaro, only one of them truly appears to have any romantic feelings towards him. It makes the whole thing a lot more watchable for me as I’m not usually someone with a lot of patience for a series such as this, and it ends up being fairly enjoyable for what it is.

The series is split into arcs focused on each of the girls, taking a deeper look at their reasons wanting Room 106. This does mean that if you don’t like one of the girls, their set of episodes will be fairly uninteresting (for example, I wasn’t fond of Theia and therefore I found her episodes boring) but it gives Invaders of the Rokujyoma!? the chance to develop its characters fairly well. I haven’t come away from the anime feeling like I didn’t know any of the main girls and, actually, while they were all very one- dimensional in personality (we had the clumsy one, the quick to anger one, the smart one…) they weren’t a bad cast. I even managed to become quite fond of Sanea!

The anime is based on a light novel series that is on-going in Japan and currently sits at 23 volumes. As the anime is only 12 episodes, it will come as no surprise to anyone that it doesn’t really have a satisfying conclusion. There is a lot more to this story than what we get to see in the adaptation (the final episode makes this quite clear), and it does feel throughout the shows run that two semi-important characters are pushed to the sidelines: Harumi Sakuraba, who is the president of the school knitting club that Kotaro is part of at school, and Kenji Matsudaira, who is introduced as Kotaro’s best friend. Despite the two being large parts of Kotaro’s life, it feels asif we never get to know them properly. In some respects I feel like this could be because Sakuraba becomes more important to the plot in later volumes of light novels, but I think in Matsudaira’s case the issue really comes from the series introducing him as a ‘best friend’. Had he simply been dubbed as just a friend, I might not have noticed his absence so much.


The series was handled by animation studio Silver Link (who I’m quite fond of for their adaption of Strike the Blood) and their work here is passable. Character designs and the overall style is smooth but I can’t help but feel that the anime was a low budget affair. It was aired in Japan in July 2014 but despite that, the animation looks a good couple of years older, which is a shame as some of the battle scenes dotted throughout the story were animated much better in comparison. It’s not bad animation but it’s nothing special either.

Invaders of the Rokujyoma!?’s soundtrack is provided by Ryosuke Nakanishi, who has also provided soundtracks for High School DxD, Kuroko’s Basketball, and Sakura Trick. While the work on display here didn’t really stand out and certainly isn’t memorable away from the series, it’s not a bad soundtrack within the context of the show. The opening is called “Koukan win-win Mujouken” by Heart Invader and is a fairly generic song both musically and in its animation. The ending is “Love is Milk Tea”, which is sung by the voice actresses Aoi Yuki and Ayana Taketatsu. This seems odd to me as the two only had minor roles in the series as Kiriha’s servants/battle drones but as far as the ending itself goes, it’s certainly a nice piece.

Speaking of voice actors, I’d like to drop a mention to Eri Suzuki (Hikari Kohinata in Amanchu!, Chinatsu Kuramoto in Flying Witch), as I really enjoyed her work as Sanae. The character is quite emotional and flips into various different emotions quickly but she’s also a lot of fun and very energetic, which Suzuki gets across wonderfully. The other voice actor of note for me is Yuichi Nakamura (Greed in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Gray Fullbuster in Fairy Tail, Guren Ichinose in Seraph of the End), who plays Kotaro. I always find it fun when such a prolific actor does a series like this and gets to let loose with a slightly less serious character than those they’re usually cast for. Nakamura provides a fun performance, even if it might not be as intensive and interesting as some of his other roles.

This release comes to the UK thanks to MVM Entertainment, who have released the series on both Blu-ray and DVD. The release contains all 12 episodes in Japanese with English subtitles and the only extras to speak of are clean opening and ending videos as well as a scattering of trailers. This release is subtitle only as an English dub has not been created for the series.

Overall Invaders of the Rokujyoma!? was an enjoyable start to my year. It might come from a genre of anime that I’m not a huge fan of, but it manages to be interesting enough so as not to matter. The series may not end in a satisfying manner but it’s a fun ride all the same, so it’s worth checking out if you like this kind of thing.

Yuri!!! On Ice wins all the Crunchyroll Anime Awards it was nominated for (so far…)

In Crunchyroll’s first ever Anime Awards, figure skating series Yuri!!! On Ice is on course to make a clean sweep and win all seven of the categories it was nominated in, winning six with one yet to be revealed.

So far, the series has won “Best Opening”, “Best Ending”, “Best Animation”, “Best Boy” (for central character, Japanese figure skater Yuri Katsuki), “Best Couple” (for Yuri K. and his Russian coach Victor Nikiforov), and “Most Heartwarming Scene”.

The series is also up for “Anime of the Year”, but this is not yet been announced. The winner will be revealed live at the Crunchyroll Anime Awards party on 28th January. However, Yuri!!! On Ice is almost certainly favourite to win if the other results are anything to go by, with the show winning all but one of its prizes with over 50% of the vote. The one that didn’t, “Best Animation”, won with 49% of the vote.

Elsewhere, the only other series to win more than one prize are time-travel murder mystery ERASED for “Best Drama” and “Villain of the Year” (not mentioned here to avoid spoilers, scroll down to results to see name) and supernatural comedy Mob Psycho 100 for “Best Action” and “Best Fight Scene”.

Meanwhile My Hero Academia won “Hero of the Year” (for Izuku “Deku” Midoriya), RE:Zero took “Best Girl” (for Rem), and Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto! picked up “Best Comedy”.

The nominations for the final award, “Anime of the Year” are (in alphabetical order) ERASED, Joker Game, Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, Mob Psycho 100, My Hero Academia, RE:Zero, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju and Yuri!!! On Ice.

Full Results (contains spoilers)

Hero of the Year

  1. Izuku “Deku” Midoriya (My Hero Academia): 32% (38,325 votes)
  2. Satoru Fujinuma (ERASED): 28% (32,869)
  3. Mob (Psycho Mob 100): 24% (29,159)
  4. Mumei (Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress): 7% (8,346)

Other: 9% (10,281)

The number of votes cast: 118,980

Villain of the Year

  1. Gaku Yashiro (ERASED): 33% (35,805)
  2. Yoshikage Kira (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure): 33% (35,390)
  3. Tomura Shigaraki (My Hero Academia): 18% (19,129)
  4. Biba (Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress): 9% (9,775)

Other: 7% (7,794)

The number of votes cast: 107,893

Best Boy

  1. Yuri Katsuki (Yuri!!! On Ice): 58% (83,485)
  2. Arataka Reigen (Mob Psycho 100): 17% (25,043)
  3. Izuku “Deku” Midoriya (My Hero Academia): 16% (22,563)
  4. Yakumo (Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju): 3% (4,217)

Other: 8,890

The number of votes cast: 123,891

Best Girl

  1. Rem (RE:Zero): 60% (66,441)
  2. Ochako Uraraka (My Hero Academia): 15% (16,282)
  3. Nico Niiyama (Kiznaiver): 10% (11,625)
  4. Mumei (Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress): 8% (8,376)

Other: 8% (8,648)

The number of votes cast: 111,372

Best Fight Scene

  1. Shigeo vs. Koyama from Ep. 8 (Mob Psycho 100): 40% (38,255)
  2. Deku vs. Kacchan from Ep. 7 (My Hero Academia): 25% (23,630)
  3. Mumei vs. Kabane from Ep. 2 (Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress): 18% (16,910)
  4. Altland vs. Moss from Ep. 32 (Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans): 8% (7,475)

Other: 9% (8,844)

The number of votes cast: 95,114

Best Animation

  1. Yuri!!! On Ice: 49% (68,535)
  2. Mob Psycho 100: 28% (39,766)
  3. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress: 12% (16,764)
  4. Flip Flappers: 6% (8,525)

Other: 4% (6,122)

The number of votes cast: 139,712

Most Heartwarming Scene

  1. The kiss from Ep. 7 (Yuri!!! On Ice): 55% (74,617)
  2. Kayo’s first homecooked meal from Ep. 9 (ERASED): 31% (42,092)
  3. Kakeru and Suwa learn to understand each other from Ep. 4 (Orange): 7% (8,987)
  4. Makoto flies over her new home from Ep. 12 (Flying Witch): 4% (5,319)

Other: 3% (4,750)

The number of votes cast: 135,765

Drama of the Year

  1. ERASED: 51% (46,528)
  2. Kiznaiver: 22% (19,597)
  3. Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju: 17% (15,698)
  4. Joker Game: 5% (4,413)

Other: 5% (4,637)

The number of votes cast: 90,873

Best Couple

  1. Yuri and Victor (Yuri!!! On Ice): 69% (99,194)
  2. Saturo and Kayo (ERASED): 14% (19,377)
  3. Katsuhira and Sonozaki (Kiznaiver): 8% (11,133)
  4. Luluco and Nova (Space Patrol Luluco): 5% (7,347)

Other: 4% (6,082)

The number of votes cast: 143,133

Best Comedy

  1. Haven’t You Heard? I’m Sakamoto!: 36% (33,102)
  2. KONOSUBA-God’s blessing on this beautiful world!: 33% (30,174)
  3. Keijo!!!!!!!!: 16% (14,692)
  4. Space Patrol Luluco: 9% (8,567)

Other: 6% (5,472)

The number of votes cast: 63,850

Best Action

  1. Mob Psycho 100: 36% (33,460)
  2. My Hero Academia: 25% (23,402)
  3. Drifters: 21% (19,362)
  4. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress: 13% (11,848)

Other: 6% (5,769)

The number of votes cast: 93,841

Best Opening

  1. Yuri!!! On Ice: 57% (80,882)
  2. Mob Psycho 100: 23% (32,225)
  3. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress: 7% (9,863)
  4. Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju: 3% (3,663)

Other: 10% (14,115)

The number of votes cast: 140,748

Best Closing

  1. Yuri!!! On Ice: 56% (71,144)
  2. Mob Psycho 100: 19% (24,754)
  3. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress: 9% (11,208)
  4. Space Patrol Luluco: 6% (8,048)

Other: 10% (12,221)

The number of votes cast: 127,375

Grand total of votes cast: 1,492,547

A Silent Voice joins The Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2017 line-up!

Every year The Japan Foundation offers a list of Japanese films for new audiences to explore, and not long ago their latest line-up was revealed! Here’s a look at what they have in store.

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One Piece, Collection 14 Review

Episodes 325-348, may contain spoilers.

On the day I was born, the nurses all gathered ’round;
And they gazed in wide wonder at the joy they had found;
The head nurse spoke up and she said leave this one alone;
She could tell right away that I was bad to the bone.”
– George Thorogood

A quick look at the DVD cover will reveal that this collection of One Piece is very special, as at last we see the debut of the final (at the time of writing) member of the Straw Hat Pirates.

However, we don’t see him right away. Following the conclusion of the “Water Seven” arc, the collection begins not with Monkey D. Luffy and his crew, but with his older brother Portgas D. Ace, who has tracked down Marshall D. Teach, aka Blackbeard. Blackbeard, a former member of the Whitebeard pirates of which Ace is also a member, is now wanted for murdering another Whitebeard pirate and stealing a Devil Fruit: the Dark-Dark Fruit that allows him to control gravity. Thus a battle between his crushing powers and Ace’s control of fire begins.

But this is just one episode. After this, and perhaps not surprisingly following the massive “Water Seven” arc that preceded it, there is a “filler” arc. Here, the Straw Hats find what appear to be an abandoned group of fishermen who were attacked by a group of pirates. They go to help, with Chopper tending to one member of the ship’s crew who is on the verge of death. It is discovered that this is not a crew of fishermen, but the “Phoenix Pirates” who have suffered the greatest of humiliations: having their Jolly Roger flag stolen. The man being tended to by Chopper happens to be their despondent captain, Puzzle the Phoenix. The Phoenix crew try to poison the Straw Hats, but they easily spot the trick and the Phoenix pirates tell them all that has happened.

Then, what appears to be a group of marines arrives. Fortunately, new crewmate Franky is able to use the modifications on the Thousand Sunny to help both crews escape, such as turning the ship into a super-fast cola-powered paddle boat. Unfortunately, it turns out that the marines are fake, and the pirates find themselves in an arctic region governed by a family of bounty hunters, the Accino family. The head of the family, Don Accino, likes to collect pirate flags and is responsible for the theft of Puzzle’s flag. The family then steals the Straw Hat’s flag, meaning that the rest of the crew have to try and get it back before Luffy finds out.

After this escapade (and a one-episode filler of spoof superhero “Chopperman”), the Straw Hats find themselves on the move again, and spot a barrel that is supposedly offering food and drink to the god of the sea. Luffy opens it to reveal the barrel is empty, except for a flare that is fired. The crew then find themselves blown into the dangerous and perpetually-dark Florian Triangle. Here they encounter an old, wrecked ship, which has only one resident on it: a rather pervy skeleton with a huge afro, singing to himself. Luffy, Sanji and Nami climb on board to investigate, and Luffy is so impressed by him he instantly offers the skeleton the chance to join his crew, which the skeleton, named Brook, appears to accept.

Brook tells his story, about how the crew for whom he was a musician were attacked by a much stronger force, but he survived by eating the Revive-Revive Fruit, which allowed his soul to return to the living world. But as the Florian Triangle is so dark, it took a year for his soul to find his body, by which time all that survived were his bones and hairdo. Brook also reveals that actually, he cannot join the crew, because someone has stolen his shadow. He can only live in the dark Florian Triangle, because if he is touched by sunlight he will be destroyed. Luffy decides to help Brook find his shadow again.

However, the Straw Hats find that the boat has somehow arrived on an island, which Brook knows to be the ghost island Thriller Bark. Brook leaves the rest to try and find his shadow on his own, while Nami, Usopp and Chopper venture out first, onto an island that is full of ghosts and zombies. There Chopper learns to that the island is reportedly the home of Dr. Hogback, the greatest doctor in the world, but they eventually learn that his experiments have a dark purpose.

Concerning the first arc in this collection, it is not that bad as far as filler stories go. The main entertainment comes from the rest of the crew desperately trying to prevent Luffy from realising that their flag has been nicked because of all the problems that would follow caused by him. Thus you end up with action and fight scenes being mixed in with some rather farcical comedy.

On the downside, neither the Phoenix Pirates or the Accino Family are really that remarkable. Out of the Phoenix Pirates, the best one that comes across is the cabin boy Jiro, the only member of the crew that seemingly hasn’t given up on finding the flag again. Meanwhile, in the Accino Family, Don Accino has a Devil Fruit power, but his Hot-Hot Fruit which allows him to raise his body temperature to up to 10,000 degrees feels too similar to Ace’s Flame-Flame Fruit.

In the Thriller Bark arc, the main point of interest is Brook. With him now in the show, it feels as if we have made a big development. The whole unit is finally here. Although, it has to be said he doesn’t appear that much in the first part of the arc. It mainly features the regular Straw Hats venturing onto Thriller Bark and battling the evil monsters on the island. These range from a zombie that Luffy attacks by simply pushing it back into his grave; ghosts that cause anyone they pass through to feel instantly depressed; and a gigantic bridezilla boar-zombie who tries to attack Nami whom she sees as a rival for the zombie she loves – but Nami gets out of it by claiming to be a crossdressing man.

One other detail of note is of cultural differences. The main fights the Straw Hats have on Thriller Bark are with these zombie creatures, but rather than in the west where they are killed by going for the head, they are instead frightened by fire. Thus all the really successful attacks are coming from cowardly Usopp using his “Exploding Stars”.

In this collection there are extras including episode commentaries, interviews with Luci Christian (English voice for Nami) and Stephanie Young (English voice for Nico Robin), and the really long textless openings – as there are no endings except for a “To Be Continued” caption and details of the next episode. Among these openings include a new one, “Jungle P” by 5050.

The Heroic Legend of Arslan Part 2 Review

Contains spoilers for The Heroic Legend of Arslan Episodes 1-13

After finding refuge from the Lusitanian forces in the fortress of Peshawar and reuniting with his allies Kishward and Bahman, Crown Prince Arslan, along with his small party, soon find themselves embroiled in a new conflict between brothers Prince Rajendra and Prince Gadhavi, who are warring to determine who will succeed their father as the king of Sindura. Realising that an alliance would boost his numbers and help him to retake back the Parsian capital, Arslan soon agrees to aid Rajendra. However, standing in the way of Arslan and the throne are villainous double-crosses, spies and countless battles. The young prince has come a long way, but will he fall at the final hurdle?

The Heroic Legend of Arslan Part 2 is the latter half of the 2015 adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa’s manga series of the same name. A few months back, when I reviewed the first half of Arslan, I felt fairly lukewarm about it, having complaints about both the story and characters. However, since then I have actually warmed up to this show a fair bit, and having finished it, I can safely say my overall impression is largely positive.

Since it had been a while since I watched the first half, before embarking on the second half, I went back and rewatched the initial 13 episodes to refresh myself before moving on to the remainder of the series and I found myself enjoying it a lot more the second time around. In my review of the first half, my big complaint about the story was the fact that it didn’t really go anywhere and was rather meandering, and whilst I think that in terms of progress alone, not a lot does happen, the second time around, I really came to appreciate the politics within the series. Not only does Arslan show the politics between the warring kingdoms of Pars and Lusitania, but also the internal conflicts and struggles for power, which I found to be very enjoyable to follow. This focus on politics continues into the second half of the series, and is just as entertaining as it was in the first half, as we see the conflict between the various leaders within Pars debate whether Arslan is right in wanting to free all the slaves, as well as a power struggle amongst the Lusitanians as the Arch Priest Bodin battles the king’s brother, Guiscard, for power. It isn’t all just politics though, as we also get a lot of action in this half of the series, a fair bit more than in the first 13 episodes, and it’s just as good as it was before. Not only do we get some fantastic large scale clashes on the battlefield, but we also get a few sublime one-on-one confrontations, the best of which comes in the penultimate episode as we see Daryun take on Prince Hilmes.

If I had to pick one major flaw in the plot in Arslan Part 2, it would have to be with the whole Sindura storyline. Whilst it isn’t a bad arc in terms of pure entertainment value, packing in great amounts of the politics and action that I love about the series, it is ultimately utterly pointless in the grand scheme of things. After the arc ends, the characters are in an identical place to where they were when it began, and almost nothing has been gained nor has the story progressed in any manner. All that we get out of the 5 episode arc is a new character joining Arslan’s party, Jaswant, who is incredibly dull, and barely gets a few minutes of screentime after the Sindura story is finished. This entire story could have been cut with no real great loss to the overall plot, and I think the show would have been much better for it. Only adding to my annoyance at this pointless tangent, is that the ending of the show is inconclusive. Yes, there is a short sequel series, which I can only assume finishes off the story, but if the Sindura arc had just been excised, they could just as easily have finished it here.

Another big complaint I had in my review of Part 1 was with the characters, and unfortunately, my opinion hasn’t really changed. Even in this second half, we still see very little in terms of character arcs for most of the main cast. The exception to this is the titular Arslan, as we watch a fairly naive young boy turn into a suitable ruler who learns from his experiences on campaign. Barring that, the rest of the cast lack any kind of real depth or development. The biggest offender is Daryun who is entirely defined by his loyalty to Arslan. Admittedly, Daryun is somewhat of an exception, as the rest of the characters are at least likable and some, like Gieve and Narsus, are actually rather fun. In terms of new characters that show up in Part 2, my favourite is probably Alfreed, a tribe girl who is insistent on marrying Narsus. Not only is she instantly likable, she has some good chemistry with both Narsus and Elam, which adds some levity to what is otherwise quite a serious show. Another new addition is Jaswant but, as noted earlier, he is such a non-presence, he is barely even worth a mention.

Animation and music are consistent with the first half of the series, and, as before, I was quite impressed with both of those elements. Liden Films and Sanzigen continue to create some breathtaking battles that blend together traditional 2D and CGI animation, and the score by Taro Iwashiro is as great as ever. From Episode 14 onwards, we hear a new opening song from Nico Touches Walls (who provided the brilliant second opening song for Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood) which is quite good, and is probably on a par with the first opening, which, much like the show as a whole, grew on me upon revisitation. 

The English voice cast also remains quite stellar, and is, in my opinion, preferable to the Japanese. Not that there is anything wrong with the Japanese audio at all, but with a high fantasy series such as this, I simply think that the English language is more fitting considering the European inspired setting. Both the English script and voice cast do a fantastic job, with the kind of dialogue and inflections you’d expect from film and TV series in this genre outside of anime, and it really helps with the immersion. Leading the cast as the titular Arslan is Aaron Dismuke, whom you may know as Alphonse from the 2003 version of Fullmetal Alchemist. There are also good performances from Jerry Jewell, Ricco Fajardo and Christopher Bevins.

Universal’s release of The Heroic Legend of Arslan Part 2 is just as jam- packed with high quality physical extras as the first part was, including 12 art cards, character cards, a double-sided poster and a 100 page booklet, which contains character information, artwork and interviews with the creative staff.

In Summary

Whilst the conclusion to The Heroic Legend of Arslan may not be perfect, mostly due to 5 episodes being wasted on a rather pointless side story, I found myself enjoying this second half, and the series as a whole due to the excellent action sequences, as well as the engaging political aspect.

©2015 Hiromu Arakawa, Yoshiki Tanaka • KODANSHA/ “LEGEND OF ARSLAN” Project Committee,MBS. All Rights Reserved. Packaging Design © 2016 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Manga Entertainment Brings Saban’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to the UK for Home Video!

It’s nearly time for the new adaptation of Saban’s Power Rangers but now Manga Entertainment have stepped up their game with a very special license.

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Feature: A Guide to the Odagiri Effect

AUKN Banner (Ian Wolf's Feature)

“If men knew all that women think, they would be twenty times more audacious.” – Alphonse Karr.

It is a question that many anime fans have asked themselves: what is it about high school male sports teams that make them so sexy? This is also probably going to be the first question put to me, if I should ever end up in court about why so many sports anime have a “special” following, in which most people think the characters are gay, and why there is so much fan fiction about these youthful characters.

The answer is something called the “Odagiri effect”, which has been around for a while, however little has been written about it in-depth. This is something that is worth looking into as it deals with many of the most popular anime series around, and it is something that has begun to influence British media as well, but no-one has talked about because so many mainstream TV critics have never heard of the term. But first…

What is the Odagiri effect?

The Odagiri effect is a phenomenon first seen on TV where a show gets a surprisingly higher-than-normal number of female viewers, because they find the male actors or characters in a show attractive.

According to The Dorama Encyclopedia by Jonathan Clements and Motoko Tamamuro, the term is named after Japanese actor Joe Odagiri, who starred in the 2000 children’s superhero show Kamen Rider Kuuga, about a masked motorbike-riding superhero. The producers noticed that the series was attracting two main audience groups. One was children, which isn’t surprising as that was the target audience. The other group was surprising: women around the age of 30. The producers discovered that these women, most of whom were mothers, were tuning in to see the rather sexy Odagiri in action.

Thanks to his performance, Odagiri went on to have a successful acting career, while the producers of the show repeated the success in the next series, Kamen Rider Agito, which had three male actors as the leads. It did attract the women, although many men disapproved of the way the show was being changed. [p. 182]

Does the Odagiri effect happen in British TV?

Yes, but because so few people have heard of the effect, most are unaware of it. There is one British TV show where a sexy male actor has boosted the viewing figures considerably: Poldark, starring Aidan Turner.

When the series began, most of the papers at the time were reporting about how many women were tuning in to see musclebound Turner and his topless scything. It was so popular, that in a 2015 poll by the Radio Times, this topless scything scene was voted the top TV moment of that year. This year, another topless Poldark scene, in which Turner is seen in a tin bath, came top of the Radio Times’s poll for the top TV moment of 2016.

Interestingly, coming third in the same poll was a scene in The Night Manager in which Tom Hiddleston’s bare backside was briefly on show, so we can see the Odagiri effect here too. Even more interestingly was what came fourth in the poll, which was Poldark again, but for something that caused a lot of anger among female viewers, as the moment was where the character of Poldark appears to commit rape. I’ll be returning to this later, but as we are an anime website, let’s turn to the animated art form.

Where can you see the Odagiri effect occurring in anime?

In my personal experience, when I first began getting into anime properly in the early-to-mid 2000s, I came across a show with a surprisingly large female audience: Hetalia: Axis Powers.

The wartime comedy manga which began in 2006 has a considerable female following, which is odd for a series featuring moe anthropomorphic stereotyped personifications of the nations of the world fighting in World War II. Presumably the women were attracted to the use of pretty boys – “bishonen” – as the main characters.

It seems that any anime with bishonen is likely to experience the Odagiri effect. According to Lauren Orsini, these tend to fall into two particular groups of anime shows: sports series, where you have athletic characters who obviously need to keep fit and look in shape in order to perform well; and musical idol series, concerning the interactions between the male characters in each group.

However, it isn’t just limited to these kinds of anime. You can arguably see the Odagiri effect in other kinds of anime too. For example, take Cute High Earth Defense Club LOVE!, the series that parodies magical girl shows by featuring magical boys. Like the traditional magical girls, the boys are obviously made cute to appeal to audiences, but you also have the added bonus of the rather too-cute outfits that give the characters both extra appeal and comic value.

How do fans change the way the series is seen?

This is where things seem to get really interesting.

Let’s create a hypothetical example. As the main type of anime involved in the Odagiri effect tends to be sport, we will make a fake sports anime. I’m going with cricket as there not that many anime that cover it (it appears in Black Butler which is set in Britain, and baseball anime Star of the Giants has been adapted to cover cricket for the Indian market, but that’s about it).

Now, let’s imagine that this cricket anime follows a boys’ school cricket team, and you have all the students who make the team there, training, playing etc. You have all these fit guys in the show, so the Odagiri effect takes place and women start tuning in. However, because this is an anime, it is a fair bet to say that some of these women watching are fujoshi: yaoi fans, interested in male homoerotic anime. There might even be some fan service design to appeal directly to them.

Because of this, you then get the fujoshi tuning in because not only do they find the characters sexy, but they are also thinking that behind the scenes something else is happening, and that the characters might be “getting it on”. This leads me to reveal why I’ve chosen cricket as my hypothetical choice, because let’s be honest, in terms of cricket and double entendres, you have a lot to play with. We can all enjoy the sight of leather on willow, while the balls knock into those massive stumps. You would certainly need to have a long leg then, but things might be too kinky in cow corner.

Anyway, getting back to the main point. We have the large collection of women fans, and some of those are fujoshi who are of the opinion that the characters may be gay. Some of them may even be making yaoi fan works like dojinshi and selling them on. Because you have this possible homosexual element, you also attract male yaoi fans – fudanshi. Then on top of that, you may also attract men who are gay, but are not anime fans.

How has the Odagiri effect changed anime?

The main change is that now many anime are now exploiting the effect. As sports anime are my own particular area of interest I will stick to examples from here.

While my first personal experience of the Odagiri effect was in Hetalia, arguably the first sports anime to have been influenced by it was The Prince of Tennis; the manga began in 1999 and the anime in 2001. Although it started soon after the effect was noticed, it ran for so long that there was going to be some influence.

It seems that Kuroko’s Basketball was the first sports anime where the effect began to be seen, and then the swimming series Free! really began to push things with the Lycra-clad main characters, all of whom had girly names. Even coach Gou doesn’t make any attempt to hide her muscle fetish. You get even more body-tight Lycra in cycling series Yowamushi Pedal, but if leather is more your thing, you always have motorcycling manga Toppu GP.

Even making up an entirely new sport doesn’t stop the effect from taking place. Take Prince of Stride, for example, which covers a sport that is a kind of relay parkour. The fact that you happen to have the main female character giving out information in a position that is officially called the “Relationer” certainly sparks a few thoughts along the lines of, “Yeah, and we know what sort of relations too.”

However, there is a big issue when it comes to these shows: because these are mostly school sports teams and most of the characters are under 18, there is the whole question of legality. It is fine under Japanese law because there are few laws covering this kind of thing, but in the US and UK it is obviously more of an issue. There are obviously older characters in these series too, so it all depends on who is depicted. In terms of adults in sports anime, there are still some examples such as the Breakers, the all-male cheer leading team in Cheer Boys!!, which on the downside is one of the most unintentionally camp anime ever made – but on the upside, it is set in a university rather than a school, so at least all the main characters are adults and thus there are no legal issues in terms of any yaoi activity.

In the last anime season, there have been four different male sports anime series on the go: the long-running volleyball series Haikyu!!; football-based series DAYS; rugby anime All Out!! which attracted plenty of comment before it began due to the promotional poster featuring a particularly handsome backside; and the series that got everyone talking…

The Odagiri effect and Yuri!!! On Ice

Come on, if we are talking about homosexuality, sports anime and a large female following, we had to get to here sooner or later.

Any anime fan that has been following the events of recent months will be more than aware that this season we got a sports anime where the gay stuff was no longer just in the minds of the viewers. OK, it might have stopped short of actually showing a kiss fully uncensored, and Yuri and Victor may not actually say “I love you”, but even I, with my Asperger’s syndrome and thus my difficulties in understanding relationships and people’s reactions at face value, can tell that Yuri and Victor are gay. Whether it was the original kiss scene, the exchange of rings, Victor crying at the thought of the relationship ending or something else, Yuri!!! On Ice gave us the closest depiction of a same-sex relationship in a sports anime yet seen. There are also a relatively mature couple, as both characters are in their 20s.

However, there are still plenty of people out there who say that the whole relationship thing is speculation, and still refuse to believe Yuri and Victor are a couple until they actually admit it. Why? All the evidence clearly shows they are gay. Whenever someone has suggested that they are not, they can’t provide any evidence to support themselves other than the fact that Yuri and Victor never actually do “it” on screen.

Let me put it this way: all the evidence points to the fact that Yuri and Victor are gay and in a relationship, although the characters themselves have not admitted it – in the same way that all the evidence points to the fact that Monkey D. Luffy from One Piece will probably get a heart attack or bowel cancer from his almost exclusive meat-only diet before he ever becomes King of the Pirates. How much more proof do you need in order to be totally convinced? It couldn’t be more gay unless there is a second series and end up calling it something like Yuri!!! Again On Ice, for the sole purpose for giving the series the acronym “YAOI”.

There is one other thing that makes Yuri!!! On Ice stand out in comparison to most of the other series mentioned. One of the reasons why this series appeals to women is that it is actually made by women: namely director Sayo Yamamoto and writer Mitsurō Kubo. The reason so many women like this series is because the people making it know what women want because they themselves are women.

Overall, the series has sparked up debate about the depiction of homosexuality in anime and the media in general. Many were pleased to see the relationship, but some were critical of the fact that the relationship was not realistic enough, which leads me to the next point.

Is the Odagiri effect good or bad?

Well, the effect is certainly good at pulling in viewers. Some series have increased debate among the depiction of sexuality in anime. But the Odagiri effect has its downsides too.

The main one of these is that anime such as these, and yaoi in general, do not depict homosexuality realistically. For example, yaoi manga often feature rape. While a more mainstream show like Poldark that features male/female rape scenes will usually result in complaints from angry viewers, a yaoi that depicts male/male rape is often more accepted. A study back in 2008 by Dru Pagliassotti, Better Than Romance? Japanese BL Manga and the Subgenre of Male/Male Romantic Fiction, published in Boys’ Love Manga: Essays on the Sexual Ambiguity and Cross-Cultural Fandom of the Genre, which she co-edited with Antonia Levi and Mark McHarry, found that out of 391 people responding to a survey on Boys’ Love (BL) / yaoi manga: “fifty percent thought that rape, explicit sex, sad endings, physical torture, ordinariness, bed-hopping, cruel heroes, and weak heroes were all acceptable in BL manga. Of the remainder, twelve percent said that rape should never be included in BL” [p. 67-68].

Another issue is the fact that there is a difference between how different audiences react to a show. To reference another section in Boys’ Love Manga, Alexis Hall in his study Gay or Gei? Reading “Realness” in Japanese Yaoi Manga, looks at the ways that we western audiences read yaoi in comparison to how it is read in Japan. He talks about one gay man, who thinks his views on yaoi are more valid than most yaoi fans because he is the sort of person depicted in the works. However, this man is American and not Japanese, so does that mean that in the context of reading a yaoi manga or anime that sexuality is the most important thing rather than ethnicity? [p. 217] It is safe to say, that I have been guilty of doing this myself.

We may think that we are more forward thinking than the Japanese in terms of gay rights because we have things like gay marriage, but for most of history it has been Japan that was more forward thinking because for most of the time they were no laws prohibiting it. [p. 218] In the 1960s, the Japanese weren’t imprisoning gay people like we British were doing at the same time. It’s just that at present we are currently being more progressive.

There is also the one other, big, glaring factor relating to whether the Odagiri effect has a bad effect or not which is this: the fact that we are talking about it in the first place. If this was the other way around, and that we had noticed there was an observable effect in which men were more likely to watch a TV show if there women actors or characters were sexy, we would probably be saying that this was sexist, or for that matter that this is something that actually goes on all the time anyway. We can probably come up with a massive list of TV shows, films, adverts, books etc. which have used sexy women to try and make men watch or read them. Reversing that and naming things that use attractive men to get women to engage with them is harder.

You also got the fact that because these shows are relying on a male cast to get women to watch them that these shows are perhaps not going to be the most feminist programmes around. It is hard to imagine any of them passing the Bechdel test.

What does the Odagiri effect say about ourselves?

What we are actually kind-of saying to ourselves when we observe the Odagiri effect is: “Wow! It turns out that women have some kind of sexual desire! I never realised that before. Turns out that women quite like men who are sexy.”

If you can get a positive out of this you could say the effect has pointed out that there is actually a lack of cultural material, across all media, that is aimed at women. The fact that this effect occurs points out that we need to do better, because whenever something using the Odagiri effect does gain the public’s attention, it shows that there is a gap in the cultural market that is now being filled.

For instance, let’s take another example of a work that became surprisingly popular with women: Fifty Shades of Grey. This is something that we have been repeatedly told that we are not meant to like: it’s sexist, poorly written, an inaccurate portrayal of a BDSM relationship etc. But let’s examine it more closely. For starters, Fifty Shades is fan-fiction. It began as Twilight fan-fiction, so it has connections with yaoi fan works based on sports anime. Like Yuri!!! On Ice, it is made by a woman for women.

Also, as is common with the Odagiri effect, the media were reporting on the surprising number of women who were buying it, even though it was supposedly a bad book. I would argue that women were going out to buy the book because there was so little else like this that was aimed at them, even though everyone else thought it was terrible. See also the Muslim community and Citizen Khan.

The point is this: it doesn’t matter if you are getting a thrill from Yuri Katsuki, Ross Poldark or Christian Grey. What matters is that people can get some enjoyment out of what they like.

What can we conclude from this?

Personally speaking, my main hope is that the Odagiri effects will be discussed wider afield, especially in the more mainstream media as it is something that seems worthy of discussion, on the grounds that it is of interest to those who work in TV, to feminists and to the LGBTQ+ community.

Also, while acknowledging the whole problem of being a western observer wishing to impose his views on a Japanese art form, it would be nice to see anime cover homosexuality more realistically. We may not get to see that in Yuri!!! On Ice, but perhaps the next generation of anime shows might cover it more in-depth.

Yuri!!! On Ice is thus more of a stepping stone to something that is perhaps going to be greater. I do suspect that there will be a second series, possibly to tie in with the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, which may explore Yuri and Victor’s relationship more fully.

One other thing to conclude is that there needs to be debate on the relationship between TV and women in general. We can conclude that little TV caters for women, and women appear to be on TV less than men, especially in formats such as comedy – a recent study shows that there has never been an all-female comic line-up on a panel game on British TV since 1967, and only once on radio during that time.

This gets to something that has annoyed me in recent weeks concerning Yuri!!! On Ice. I know there are plenty of people who are sick of the show being discussed so much, at least in our anime bubble. The big problem however is that I don’t think Yuri!!! On Ice is being discussed enough by mainstream media. If you look up any list of “The Best TV Shows of 2016”, the lists are totally dominated by shows that are in English. I’m not saying Yuri!!! On Ice should be in these best show lists, I’m saying that they need to come out of their bubble and we need to come out of ours. It feels as if mainstream TV critics can’t be bothered to watch shows “in foreign”, and the only way they would be interested is if there is some sort of British connection, like a guest appearance from some British skaters. Mind you that’s no bad idea: I for one would love to see Torvill and Dean skating just before Yuri and Victor.

Really though, we need to make more of an effort to cater culturally to women, across all forms of media.

We should also keep eye out on some anime coming out later this year in terms of the Odagiri effect striking. Two series that spring to mind are another pair of sports series, Welcome to the Ballroom and DIVE!! – both of which are being turned into anime in the summer, and both of which cover activities that already have LGBT stars: thank you Bruno Tonioli and Tom Daley.

Review of Nerima Daikon Brothers

Look at the darkest hit musicals – Cabaret, West Side Story, Carousel – they are exuberant experiences. They send you out of the theatre filled with music.”
– John Lithgow

While anime has covered many genres, one of the genres it has not delved into that much is the musical. Yes, there have been plenty of anime about music and bands such as K-On! and Love Live!, but in terms of a traditional musical, in which the characters often randomly burst into song, this is much rarer. One of the few examples is the comedy musical Nerima Daikon Brothers.

Set in the Nerima ward of Tokyo, the story focuses on a musical threesome. The central figure is Hideki, who owns his own field growing daikon (if you are not familiar with them, imagine a turnip that’s exactly the same shape as a thingy). His ambition in life is to build his own concert dome where he and the rest of his band, the Nerima Daikon Brothers, can perform to the locals. However, he is too poor to do so.

The other members of the band are Ichiro, the band’s straight-man who works in a host club. He is able to make just about anyone fall in love with him by giving them a slap across the face, but his main love is for small furry animals. The other brother is actually a female cousin. This is Mako, a former idol from Okayama (she still has the accent) who Hideki is in love with. Mako constantly points out to him that they cannot marry because they are cousins – although Ichiro frequently points out that under Japanese law, marriage between cousins is legal. Mako is actually in love with Ichiro thanks to his slapping. There is also arguably a fourth member of the band; Pandaikon, a small panda that is constantly eating Hideki’s daikon, but is spared by Ichiro thanks to his love of animals – a love that almost borders on the bestial.

In each episode, the trio are constantly trying to find a way to raise the money to build their concert dome. This normally leads them into conflict with several villains who are trying to make a quick buck (or rather yen) for themselves, so the Brothers are constantly in need of things to fight back and take the bad guys’ money. The person they go to is the owner of a rental shop – who is actually the show’s director Shinichi Watanabe reprising a role he previously played in surreal comedy Excel Saga. He offers the band useful tools in exchange for a song (actually it is always the same tune, but with the words tweaked every time to suit the situation).

The band’s schemes normally cause more damage than they’re worth, and their schemes later fall under the suspicious eye of local cop Detective Yukika Karakuri, a woman armed with all sorts of crazy gadgets. At first she suspects the band of being up to no good, but as the series goes on she ends up admiring the group, and Pandaikon especially, going crazy for him every time he touches her. Ultimately, the roots of all these plans find their way to the very top of Japanese society, including the Prime Minister – by which I mean a direct parody of then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, looking like a lion.

Obviously the music is the main appeal to the show. The music is great, full of funny numbers. These include not just the songs towards the rental shop owner, but Hideki expressing his love for Mako, Mako expressing her love for Dom Perignon champagne, and Ichiro expressing his disturbing love for Pandaikon. Some viewers may get tired of the fact that some of the tunes are used over and over again, but at least the dialogue is changed to suit the situation. The opening title song, “Ma·Ji·Ya·Ba” is wonderful, and one of the extras is the live-action music video performed by the actors. However, on the DVD menu this is seemingly hidden away, accessed by scrolling down the bottom of the menu on Disc 1, and the icon selecting your choice is not over any text. I slightly unsure as to whether this is an Easter Egg or just shoddy menu design. You also get the textless opening and closing, as well as episode commentaries on both discs.

The other main draw is the comedy, which differs from most comedy in anime in that quite a lot of it is satirical. For example, the character based on Prime Minister Koizumi looks like a lion because in real life his hair was described as looking like a lion’s mane and he embraced it. The character’s plans are to privatise the whole of Nerima, a reference to his then-real plans to privatise Japan’s postal service. All these topical references will fly by the average British viewer unless you look everything up, but on the surface there are still loads of laughs.

One example occurs in the very first episode. Ichiro is harassed in his host club by a gay customer who is a band manager, where all of the subtext indicates that he is giving Ichiro a hand job (cue lots of cutaways to sausages as Ichiro groans). Later on, the whole band meet the same manager, where Hideki tries to impress the manager similarly, with his thingy being represented by a daikon. This routine is based on an actual boy band manager, Johnny Kitagawa, who was once subject to claims that he had sexually abused the boys he managed. Thus you can either laugh at the satirical comments made against Kitagawa, or at some gags about wanking someone off.

I would definitely recommend giving Nerima Daikon Brothers a watch, partly because it differs to most anime in several ways: there are very few musical anime, very few satirical anime, and very few anime that can make you laugh as much while also providing you with rather catchy tunes.