World’s Greatest First Love Embraces Different Depictions Of Love

Anime: World’s Greatest First Love (Complete Series)

Released By: Funimation

Release Date: March 7, 2017

Retail Price: $59.99

Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi, also known as World’s Greatest First Love, is a “boy’s love” yaoi series that shares a universe with the precursor manga/series Junjou Romantica. Both originally began in the early 2000s but went on to be incredibly different series. While Junjou had taken a more explicit turn towards the genre, Sekai tried to keep things filled with romance and make a name for itself outside the shadow of Junjou. World’s Greatest First Love focuses on Ritsu Onondera, a 25-year-old editor for Marukawa Publishing under the Emerald branch opposite a 27-year-old Masamune Takano, the tough editor-in-chief of the publishing company. The major twist between the pair — they actually have more history than meets the eye.

As we begin to learn about Ritsu, we watch his flashbacks that show he fell in love during high school with an upperclassman that seemed unlikely to begin with. The man actually turns out to be Takano, but that is something that Ritsu doesn’t immediately realize from this encounter years later. When Ritsu does recall the brief relationship between them, his old feelings come rushing back and Ritsu has to sort out his take on what they had then and how to move forward. It begins to take a stroll down a path that asks if one’s first love can be true enough to stand the test of time and the changes accompanying it. The series doesn’t only follow the love story of Ritsu and Takano but brings a group of characters in (including two pairs) that have relationship dilemmas or complications to deal with, too.

The dynamic between Ritsu and Takano is certainly the primary struggle of the series, often proposing the infamous ‘will they, won’t they’ shaky ground love stories explore. There may be occasions where it can appear to be repetitious, but with each internal debate comes some growth and recognition — just through slower motion given the two seasons eloted. Of the pair, Takano seems to be the more grounded one, offering fair explanations on past doubts or conflicts with Ritsu usually misunderstanding situations or jumping to conclusions. Some of the issues can spark a variety of thoughts and opinions on what the two have, but the chemistry was something World’s Greatest First Love lived up to crafting for a series that makes a bold title claim. An episode that gives us an idea of Takano’s perspective on a critical moment brings the series full-circle and resolves any questions viewer’s might have about Takano after many chapters covering their journey.

The anime tackles other same-sex relationships, as well, and the most notable is actually between 28-year-old Yoshiyuki Hatori, who is an editor with a secret admiration for childhood friend and manga artist, Chiaki Yoshino. Hatori isn’t as predictable as the other trope-ish characters the genre can contain, and, even though Chiaki is flawed, oblivious and overly flirtatious with multiple people, he can’t help but feel what he feels for the artist. The love triangle may be something that has been covered relentlessly, but this particular trio tends to steal the spotlight from the focal couple. In many ways, Hatori is one of the best inclusions of World’s Greatest First Love, but, with so many characters, there isn’t always enough time to divide between everyone.

The final pairing that plays a big role in the two-season love series is Shouta Kisa, a 30-year-old editor with a reputation for attracting men and a manga salesman by the name of Kou Yukina, who is 21 and a large fan of Kisa’s work. At first, he seems to think Kisa is younger based on appearance, but the two form an unconventional bond where they quickly develop strong feelings that confuse Kisa regularly. The anime series utilizes three very different examples of love that fit the boy’s love genre and (mostly) avoids delving into anything too graphic. Sure, the anime is still a romance/genre at its core, but there are enough roles to have one resonate with you.

The animation includes strong similarities between their characters provided, but the eyes seem to have specified focus with larger attributes and changing through emotional moments. The general art ranges from pastels and spring colors in their offices to more bland settings in the everyday life. Overall, the animation doesn’t disappoint during the two seasons, with a select number of scenes that still stand out as memorable for writing and art combined. The opening and end themes for World’s Greatest First Love become engrained in your memory for creating catchy tunes, and, finally, the Japanese audio of the anime fits uniquely well — with the exception of some awkward moments because of the occasional adult nature. I would definitely recommend World’s Greatest First Love to anime fans who can appreciate drama, love, or open-minded depictions of love stories that don’t generally come from Japanese animation. If you’re willing to check it out for yourself, both seasons are finally available from Funimation on DVD.

Overall Score: 8/10

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

  • I liked that it strayed from Junjou Romantica and surpassed the source material.
  • The lack of spotlight on being provocative should be appreciated.
  • Sekai will probably be the best example of a same-sex relationship (as the central plot in a series so far).
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Kokoro Connect Uses Maturity And Unpredictability To Create A Memorable Anime

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Anime: Kokoro Connect (Complete Series)

Released By: Sentai Filmworks

Release Date: March 14, 2017

Retail Price: $69.98

The anime series Kokoro Connect is one of that is most definitely full of surprises. Initially based on very little information and scarce examples of art, I assumed the series would strictly be a romance with dramatic fragments but Kokoro Connect swiftly puts that theory to rest by involving an otherworldly transition – but before detailing that, let’s begin with the basics. At the Yamaboshi Academy, five young students that have a history of feeling disconnected link up and form the Student Cultural Society (StuCS – but I prefer the lengthy label.) The characters that make up this ‘StuCS’ group are Taichi Yaegashi, Iori Nagase, Himeko Inaba, Yui Kiriyama and Yoshifumi Aoki, each with their own distinct quirk to fairly balance out the well sized ensemble in Kokoro Connect.

Now even though you may be thinking this isn’t anything out of the norm, what sets Kokoro Connect apart from other club/dramedy animes would be the fact that these five soon become subject to a supernatural element that forces the teens to body swap. In the beginning, it seemed as if it were only two, but the series begins to introduce each of them in new ways by swapping bodies and having their feelings and emotions on display for the opposite person. Sure, having a boy/girl switch bodies does indicate their will be some obvious and expected humor (the bathroom bit is something any anime would act on) but it has so much more that it wants to progress through aside from the typical wackiness that ensues in animes of a similar vein.

Kokoro Connect tries its very best to pull from an emotionally rich place with the struggles of not only youth, but love and friendship. Even early into the series, two characters with a connection swap and it becomes a momentary comic relief, but a history of abuse gives everyone else (viewers included) a glimpse at what exists beyond the surface of things for these five. Trust becomes a part of this, with one’s innermost secrets and feelings being able to be accessed or left private, testing the waters of friendship. There isn’t an exact answer to the mystery behind the events in the first place, but it is certainly an evaluation of humanity, bonds, and the way people would handle taking on information that isn’t something we’re supposed to be privy to.

As mentioned, the plot and depth of the series truest concept sets up many opportunities for praise and narrative, but it still finds the time to showcase budding romances. This unwanted closeness tends to ignite a spark in multiple of the five that they already had (just needing a push) setting the table for an extensive melodrama to find its way in the narrative of Kokoro Connect. This aspect of the anime series can be helpful and problematic, by telling a story about love (fulfilled and unrequited) yet the four OVA’s that act as a sequel take more time to deal with than I would have assumed after understanding the bases Kokoro Connect tried to cover. I wouldn’t describe the romantic developments in Kokoro Connect as a bad thing, it just takes appreciating the transitional direction to appreciate the full scope of the series with a lot going for it. By acknowledging real-life anxieties as well as confronting the scope of a healthy or damaging relationship, the maturity in Kokoro Connect proves that genre boundaries aren’t always so black and white.

Animation quality is something Kokoro Connect has down. The characters do have their own small unique traits and artistic separation, but the art uses an entire scene to recreate an emotion behind a character’s mood which is easily one of the major pros to Kokoro Connect. The opening and ending themes contain colorful art that is enjoyable on a recurring basis and the songs add a sense of lighthearted happiness and hope that fit the struggles the five feel in the 17 episodes (if you count the OVA’s with 13 episodes.) There is a background song that plays during the more serious parts of the series and upon every play, I found myself understanding why it was a critical choice to produce a well-planned ambiance with art, music, plot and characters. The English dub was a great choice on Sentai Filmworks considering they are selective and overall, Kokoro Connect had great ambition with only some minor stumbles along the way.

Overall Score: 8/10

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– Yui confronting her androphobia was a brilliant anime plotline that signified something usually unheard of in anime.

– The ending between Taichi and Iori wasn’t expected, but was a bittersweet wrap-up before giving an idea of the future for them.

– I didn’t expect the series to be so philosophical in moments – even with a few select issues, Kokoro Connect was a needed change of pace for genres and its unpredictability was appreciated.

Lady Gaga Radiates Absolute Perfection At The Joanne World Tour In San Francisco

 

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Photo By: Aedan Juvet

 

With more than 10 years in the music industry, five solo albums, 207 awards (474 nominations) and a fanbase that supports each and every career choice she makes, Lady Gaga is a true powerhouse performer that doesn’t shy from creative expression. With her recent release of the album Joanne, Gaga took a different (somewhat softer) path to detail some of her most personal experiences through music that deviates from traditional pop – something Gaga concocted with near perfection. From beginning to end, the album Joanne (her fourth album to go number one on the Billboard charts) hits an array of emotion that touches on love, heartbreak, friendship, self discovery and empowerment in one single body of work that commands your attention through every song. After Gaga released Joanne, she performed at the Super Bowl, completed a role on American Horror Story, filmed A Star Is Born and delivered iconic televised performances that had fans begging to see the pop goddess perform on tour which became a reality as the singer announced the Joanne World Tour.

Initially, the tour sold out in a few minutes and if you were one of the lucky thousands to purchase a ticket – you know (or will soon know) that the Joanne tour is one of Gaga’s most impressive career moments thus far. I previously attended the ArtRave in Las Vegas with dazzling colors and pulse-pounding music, but the Joanne tour created an equally impressive production with an entirely different energy than her past tours. This time around Gaga had no opening act, but did include the Gaga staple DJ Whiteshadow before taking the massive San Francisco stadium AT&T Park. She was quick to address this was her first stadium tour performance in the US (which was met with high energy and the cheers of nearly 40,000 people in attendance) and as the bay area clouds began to roll over the arena, the concert commenced with the rock tinged album opener “Diamond Heart” that solidified she was going to put on a show.

As she completed the song, it led straight into “A-Yo” and the entire audience was on their feet as Gaga effortlessly played guitar and let us know she was excited to share with her friends in New York that she, “was smokin ‘em all in her first stadium performance.” The singer went into the song “John Wayne” with a beautiful fringe leather jacket and vocals that triggered me to sing louder than I anticipated because of the infectious hook and production. In between acts, Gaga left the stage for wardrobe changes and video transitions played that reminded us how the fan labeled personality “DarkGa” was present with an oxygen mask that acted as a drug to the singer, or an edgy Joanne who flipped off the camera while emitting a pink smoke from her vehicle. The videos served as visual transitions to different songs, but the creativity behind them had me begging for more visual influenced Gaga eras to come.

Gaga added the song Scheiße (a fan favorite from Born This Way) which was one she stated changed what it meant to her over the span of her career. She brought out some of her biggest hits (Alejandro, Poker Face, Just Dance, Telephone) to the tour but instead of the traditional arrangements Gaga adds differences to her live performances. While there are singers today who change notes or arrangements because they struggle to match studio development, Gaga is a mega-star who sounds even better live so she challenges herself to find new ways to sing riffs or different keys to make things feel truly unique to the tour – not your typical album sing-along which I respect most.

The New York born singer later belted a few more of the Joanne songs including “Come To Mama” which she stated was important especially today for society’s need to embrace one another without aggression or discrimination. The message had people hugging their neighbors as the singer prompted a few times, making the venue a place of love, peace and acceptance where you could enjoy music and feel comfortable. This message again surfaced when Gaga sang her juggernaut hit “Born This Way” (which by the way was possibly the best I have ever heard, so how does she keep raising the bar?!) and rainbow colors flooded the arena to ensure Gaga’s message of equality she has followed through with her entire career.

When almost reaching the end of her first stadium performance in the US, Gaga delivered the heartfelt ballad “Joanne” that she explained by delving into intergenerational grief that is very much an issue for many after the loss of a loved one. The song was a definitive highlight of her concert, bringing tears from many I was surrounded by (ok…myself included) and again when she serenaded us with “Edge of Glory” from her piano to the stadium lit up with phones like a sea of stars. The emotion was felt from Gaga and the 40,000 attendees, becoming a magical concert that went through a spectrum of music. The singer approached the final few songs with “Angel Down” another pivotal impactful song, then arguably one of her biggest hits “Bad Romance.” Gaga finally performed her Coachella release “The Cure” a summer jam that provides a 90’s R&B touch to Pop and is easily considered quintessential original music – best seen live.

Gaga may have delivered flawless vocals, but her rendition of Million Reasons was the moment that truly struck a chord with the audience as she walked her mother on-stage at her side. She detailed her mother’s crucial involvement in the Born This Way Foundation, resilience, and natural beauty, sharing this pivotal moment in her career with the woman who made her the woman she is. After the proper and heartwarming introduction, the singer songwriter finalized the San Francisco leg of the tour with the song that has become one of her most raw contributions to music (the aforementioned “Million Reasons”) making it a captivating way to finish a concert that already embodied creativity at its finest. If anything can be said about Lady Gaga after this Joanne Tour, it is that she is the voice of a generation, a remarkable singer/performer and an inspiration to many for fighting for her beliefs and a better world. If you want to feel a massive beam of love and musical brilliance in your life, the Joanne World Tour is absolutely the place to be – I would go again and again to watch anything Gaga puts her awe-inspiring energy into.