Hey everyone, cherry blossoms are blooming here at the Crunchyroll offices as we get set for the spring season! In the meantime, we've got our annual Global Shinkai Day happening again, so don't miss your chance to view some of Makoto Shinkai's films on Crunchyroll for a limited time! Be sure to check out the trivia contest for a chance to win some awesome autographed prizes! Crunchyroll is excited to be at Sakura-Con again this year, so for those of you heading to Seattle at the end of March, don't forget to visit our booth!
It's that time of year when the cherry blossoms are blooming, which means Global Shinkai Day is back on Crunchyroll! Get ready for a whole weekend of celebrating director Makoto Shinkai's films, from March 15-17, available for ALL USERS WORLDWIDE (ex Japan).
It isn’t unusual for anime adaptations to be highly anticipated, but few have ever been as ridiculously hyped up as Little Busters!, and for good reason; not only is it based on a visual novel developed by renowned studio Key, but it is written by Jun Maeda of Angel Beats! and Key visual novels fame. With such a production staff, expectations included an outstandingly moving tale of friendship, romance, laughter, and tragedy. Does Little Busters! deliver? Yes, but with a twist that makes it unique from other Key works. Little Busters! explores many atmospheres that tie together to create an emotional journey of friendship, and with a variety of both male and female characters alike, it feels relatable on both an emotional and experiential level while still having a spark of anime fantasy to it.
The plot of Little Busters! seems fairly simple at first; five childhood friends, who call themselves the Little Busters, are now second-year and third-year high school students that want to have fun together for the last time by forming a baseball team. Riki Naoe must find other students to fill the empty slots on the team, but at the same time, he and fellow Little Buster Rin start to receive, via cats, letters that tease at revealing a secret behind their world. The real story in Little Busters! lies in learning more about the characters’ personal stories while, on the side, discovering a greater truth.
The emphasis on characters in Little Busters! is unique for an adaptation of a visual novel; instead of romance being the central theme, friendship takes on a new importance, which allows Little Busters! to create a larger range of atmospheres and thus a more complete environment. The anime starts off especially lighthearted and almost in the slice-of-life genre. The jokes, reminiscent of the style from late 1990s anime, improve with each episode and both showcase the bonds between the characters and deepen the tragedy that seeps into their lives. By gradually delving into the characters’ backstories and problems, Little Busters! sheds any hints of it being a gag anime and dives into both internal and interpersonal drama. The sadness is so well-crafted that Little Busters! progressively reveals itself to actually be a tragic, but inspiring anime. It truly tests how far the cast will go for their friends, and with that fantastical touch that marks Little Busters! as an anime, the theme of friendship shines through and creates that emotionally moving story that has made Key visual novels famous.
The story couldn’t create such an impact without a lovable cast, and Little Busters! is distinct from others of its genre in how it accomplishes this. Rather than just many female love interests and a single male protagonist, there are several male characters that exist as more than just comic relief. Not only does this create a fresh cast, but it is easier to care about these characters on more than just a superficial level. The protagonist is also atypical; rather than a sardonic, hardhearted male, Riki Naoe is an innocent, boyish teen that both helps his friends and requires help from them due to a medical condition. It’s a refreshing change that makes for a more compelling protagonist easier to attach ourselves to. The rest of the vast cast, with their extremely exaggerated personality traits, make their friendships much more lively and charming. Even if one doesn’t care equally for every character, the characters’ impacts on each other are endearing. This develops the bond between the characters and the viewers that is so crucial to create such an inspiring series.
A key ingredient to creating a series as inspiring as Little Busters! is its relatability. With such a vast cast in both numbers and personalities, there should be at least one character people can identify with on an intimate level, which makes both the joyful and tragic moments that much more powerful. Even if such a character doesn’t exist, one can at least identify with their realistic experiences. Moving to a foreign country, denying the death of someone close, anxiety about the future, narcolepsy, the types of experiences the characters encounter is broad enough that there is almost certainly something for anyone to empathize with, which increases the anime’s emotional strength. As well, the fact that Little Busters! doesn’t forget that the main characters are all still just teenagers, unlikely to be as cynical and pessimistic as many anime make them out to be, is revitalizing and relatable to our own high school days; many teenagers still have some innocence and want to enjoy their time with their friends rather than brood incessantly, and Little Busters! remembers this well.
While seemingly just a slice-of-life anime at first, Little Busters! is about friendship, overcoming hardships, and the loss of innocence. While its first episodes are lighthearted, it gradually becomes darker and more tragic as it tests friendships. The great variety and depth of both male and female characters creates a realistic setting, and this ultimately makes Little Busters! an anime people can connect with on multiple levels. With the sparks of fantasy behind this, these elements tie together to create a powerful, emotionally moving journey. Now, are you ready to join the Little Busters?
I recently had the chance to watch Encouragement of Climb and was pleasantly pleased by what I viewed. The series consists of very short 3-minute interval web-isodes, and under such constraints for time, the emotional depth conveyed is far beyond that of some standard length series. Our protagonist is Aoi Yukimara, a socially awkward high school student who's obsessed with indoor activities (i.e. arts and crafts and knitting.) But she didn't used to always be this way, and that's where our story truly begins.
As the series progresses, memories flood black, and I am reminded of being a whimsical child once, an invincible being incapable of fallacy, completely carefree because the world was for my taking. Life was all about having fun and relinquishing all responsibilities to adults. For Aoi, childhood revolved around being daring--mountain climbing with her friend Hinata, and reaching new heights on the jungle gym. One day her fearlessness gets the best of her when she falls from the jungle gym and breaks a bone. It was from that moment on that her life took a 360 and she slowly socially declined, afraid to do anything risky and practically shuts down. That is, until Hinata reappears and brings back the warmth and color into her decayed life.
Good friends don't come around often, and when they do, you're blessed. Hinata's determination and relentless pestering causes Aoi's defenses to crumble piece by piece. She is what a friend should be: encouraging, supportive, and annoying! She eventually convinces Aoi to go mountain climbing again despite Aoi's best efforts to thwart her off. When our introvert climbs Mt. Tenran with Hinata, a mountain akin to a moderately inclined hill, she realizes the hike isn't as dangerous as she had anticipated. Both friends share sandwiches and enjoy tea at the summit of the mountain. As the run rises over the horizon, Aoi remembers the promise she made to Hinata when they were children, an innocent oath to return to the mountain top again some day. She decides to continue mountain climbing, to make more unforgettable memories.
Ever the energetic and quirky friend, Hinata, encouraged by Aoi's sandwiches, decides to host a mountain cooking showdown using just a kocher, a small pan mountaineers often bring on their backpacking journeys. Aoi goes grocery shopping and realizes she enjoys planning for these climbing trips, and that she's having fun doing things other than knitting. Later that day, Aoi makes paella, a rice and shrimp dish with bouillon soup seasoning. Hinata makes penne with mushroom sauce, which ends up being concocted from a frozen meal, unlike Aoi's, which was all made from scratch. The evening concludes with dinner made by Hinata's dad, another humbling memory that Aoi will treasure.
As humans we make friends and embark on journeys in hopes of creating memories that will last us a lifetime. We cherish loved ones, reminisce of past times, and live for the moment. It's a general rule of thumb to live without regrets, and Encouragement of Climb explores that theme remarkably well. Aoi and Hinata's relationship will withstand the test of time, and due to Hinata's friendship, Aoi's life is restored to its former glory. A clandestine love for exploration will bind these two friends together. Definitely a must watch series!
I will try to summarize what I know about Hakkenden: Eight Dogs of The East as succinctly as I can. This series is about a boy named Shino Inuzuka and a cadre of good looking, gentlemanly, super-powered cohorts pursuing eight gems related to an old legend. The reason to find these gems seems to be that, well, they belong together. Likewise, they are somehow related to a princess of an ancient age who united all of Japan, and her eight, previously-accessorized warriors.
The gems seem to have paired off before being lost to the ages, each pair coming under the possession of two extremely close and unusually handsome gentleman. The first pair to emerge was lost by the protagonist, Shino Inuzuka, and his friend, Sosuke Inukawa, after having been lost during a tragic backstory...
Five years before the story begins, Shino was given the sword (crow? crowsword?) Murasame by Rio Satomi, a member of the church, to save Shino and his friends Sousuke and Hamaji from perishing in a fire. The terrible artifact is known to take a spiritual toll upon its wielder: in this case, preventing Shino from experiencing the terrors to toil in his awkward tween years forever. In exchange he has been given an awesome (illegal) tribal tattoo from which a crow can rip through his skin and then either transform into an authentic battle-ready katana or stick around and eat all his food while loudly squawking.
Sosuke’s spirit was fused with that of their pet dog, which he can now turn into at dramatically appropriate times.
In the setting, the church (Christianity, I guess?) is trying to hide the fact that, although their God is real, so are all the other deities from other religions. In fact, the church is hunting down these other deities and spirits to incorporate their powers into itself. Strangely, this doesn't make them the villains, at least not right away. Instead they politely request Shino’s aid. In a meeting they persuaded Shino to attend by kidnapping his childhood friend, Hamaji, and proceeding to treat her very politely for several days, despite her negative attitude.
Despite the cast's genteel dispositions, it appears many are spoiling for fights but can’t seem to find a suitable excuse to hurt anyone. Admittedly, there seem to be few villains running about; Shino eventually encounters two other gem-bearers, Genpachi Inukai and Kobungo Inuta, who have been able to transform into Japanese demons ever since an incident back during their time in the military.
The two seem to be tied up in some unpleasant business with an extremely unpleasant, Sasuke-voiced shinto priest who has been shoving demon bugs in peoples' brains. Still, none of them can find a compelling reason to pursue him until he tries to anger Genpachi by revealing his embarrassing backstory, forcing him and his brother to rip the man’s arm off. Later he meets his final end as a consequence of superficially harming Hamaji’s face.
Sponsored by Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3
NARUTO SHIPPUDEN Episode 303: Ghosts from the Past
Shikamaru, Choji, Neji, and Kiba find themselves up against some familiar faces from the past. The Sound Ninja Four have been brought back by Kabuto’s Reanimation Jutsu, and they are ready to seek vengeance.
Hunter x Hunter Episode 69: A X Heated X Showdown
Gon and his friends have teamed up with Hisoka and Goreinu to challenge Razor again. To round out the party, they recruit Team Tsezgerra. Their preparations allow them to breeze through the first few matches, but then Razor challenges them to a game of dodgeball.