Himouto! Umaru-chan Is A True Slice Of Life Series With Plenty Of Laughs (Review)

Anime: Himouto! Umaru-chan (Complete Collection)

Released By: Sentai Filmworks

Release Date: May 30, 2017

Retail Price: $69.98

If you love a good laugh and have a somewhat lazy side to your personality (don’t we all…) there is a quirky anime titled Himouto! Umaru-chan that will surely cater to your needs – much like the series protagonist does for his younger sister with a lack of motivation. From the first glance and through they eyes of those around her, Umaru Doma is the “it girl” to her classmates. Umaru is the epitome of kindness, natural beauty, great fashion sense and even has the brains to back it up as the total package. There isn’t a single person at her school that doesn’t want to be her or be with her, so Umaru has quite a reputation to uphold to her peers. However, there is something different about Umaru that others don’t quite know about just yet, something her brother knows all too well.

This other side to Umaru occurs once she steps in the confines of her own home with her older brother Taihei. When Umaru gets home, her outfit changes as does everything about the high school girl. Umaru places her hamster cloak over her and the entire demeanor changes as Umaru’s voice becomes shrill, she shrinks in size and is prepared to spend all of her time as an otaku who only hopes to play video games, watch television, read manga and consume unhealthy amounts of junk food (if that doesn’t sound like a good life, I don’t know what is.) With two very different sides to Umaru, Himouto Umaru-chan is an anime that promises peculiar hilarity for such differing traits to this beloved persona she has created for herself.

The otaku side to Umaru is additionally loud, obnoxious and very demanding – enlisting the aid of her brother with just about everything. Her brother is the more consistent sibling, proving himself as a hard worker who takes care of his sibling despite her mood swings. He often tries to better Umaru to make her a functioning adult but her intensity makes things complicated to enforce (he typically gives in to her wants/needs because of his soft spot for Umaru.) The two have a humorous sibling repartee that carries the show, but also manages to showcase a dynamic that is becoming all to common with youth of today immersing themselves into their own comfort zone of extravagant media.

The show is very much an episodic story (with the main overarching plot being Umaru’s secretive ways) giving different chapters that tell her unusual story. In one episode, Umaru is binge watching horror films with references to Ju-On and other pop-culture scares. Whether it has to do with manga, movies, or video games, the otaku culture the series recreates is a fully entertaining plot with plenty of laughs to offer the viewers – as long as you have a sense of humor or can relate to Umaru. The episodic nature of the anime series fits the genre perfectly and from beginning to end, using each episode to tell contained stories to further introduce you to this odd sibling pairing and their opposing work ethic.

Sentai Filmworks doesn’t always choose to dub their series, but they made the wise decision to dub Himouto! Umaru-chan in English for this new release. The English voice cast plays a major part in the recurring energy of the lighthearted anime series, with Umaru holding a majority of the weight. Her transition between the coy popular girl to the obnoxious otaku is as if two different people play her entirely – something I found additionally impressive with the new English production. Animation quality in Himouto! Umaru-chan sticks to today’s passable animation where the biggest pros come from those changes we see Umaru go through. The anime isn’t necessarily the most original concept, but it offers a fun take on life-centric stories that will surely find a way to make you laugh about otaku culture.

Overall Score: 8.5/10

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– I sincerely felt bad for Taihei, but I also think he enjoys the quirks of his sister.

– Umaru is two characters in one, both semi-likable and both semi-annoying.

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Ajin Finds Success Despite Using A Different Animation Technique

Anime: Ajin (Complete Collection)

Released By: Sentai Filmworks

Release Date: May 16, 2017

Retail Price: $69.98

When Netflix announced it would be streaming the 2016 anime horror series Ajin – it was met with a vast amount of excitement and anticipation which certainly continued from beginning to end. With the achievement of success becoming very clear, Sentai Filmworks spotted the niche series as a potential staple for their line of genre series and licensed Ajin for a video release of the 13 episode series. To give you a little backstory on the series, Ajin follows Kei Nagai, a high school student whose life comes to an abrupt end in the first episode. What makes this extra peculiar is the protagonist wakes up having regenerated and is the third Ajin in Japan (an immortal inhuman that is a recent topic of interest.)

His identity as an Ajin becomes public knowledge which instantly endangers Kei’s life, adding a bounty to his head and sending many powerful government sects after him. Fortunately for Kei, his longtime friend Kaito is present and helps Kei flee from hunters, police and all of those who may want to obtain the Ajin. The two embark on this hectic new adventure together, trying to keep each other alive and ahead of all the parties that have plans for Kei as the newly discovered Ajin. With the government making moves to control Ajin (including a girl named Izumi who is an Ajin covering Ajin affairs) comes the pro-Ajin movement led by Sato – a former marine who now despises mankind and its sympathizers hell bent on corrupting Kei.

From a narrative perspective, Ajin jumps in head first into the drama and action the series totes in the premise. From the very first moments, you know there is a sense of urgency that follows the plot throughout this tale. Ajin can draw a variety of reaction from the fans of the anime that builds momentum with viewers, but one implausible argument is that the series is slow. The quick pacing could sometimes be a deterrent for some, but Ajin doesn’t feel as if it’s throwing too much conflict at the viewers (more of a surface issue tension that will be elaborated on later in this review.) If anime that doesn’t waste time attracts you, Ajin has plenty of intense instalments to keep you guessing at what could come next – that is except for repeated death and Kei being in danger of course.

As I mentioned earlier, Ajin carries a decent amount of issues and obstacles for its protagonist, but sometimes it feels like a missed opportunity to discuss anything past government conflict, abuse of power and new territory for the primary character who is realizing what it means to be an Ajin as it goes on. Just because it uses tropes that have been seen before doesn’t mean anything especially negative because Ajin is still a series with a lot of significant successes, but in the future exploration of the series and or films should scratch deeper than the surface that we’ve come to know during the initial first season of 13 episodes. By following Kei and Kaito (who have a Tokyo Ghoul Kaneki/Hide relationship) the series does provide an investment worthy thrill-ride to see how they can navigate and overcome the various troubles that are popping up left and right. Ajin offers great potential overall, sometimes it is used to its best and others can leave us waiting for a bigger picture – nonetheless, Ajin is an impressive series that will most likely grow with more time.

The true attribute that sets Ajin apart from other horror animes and many series in general is the animation techniques used to bring Ajin to life. In series like Fullmetal Alchemist, scenes with 3D animation are placed inside to add a different approach – but Ajin is completely done in this 3D animation. If anything, the animation is probably peoples biggest gripe or favorite inclusion to the anime, drawing a polarizing response from anime fans and critics. Initially it was my main hesitation going into Ajin, not having enjoyed the first look at the animation but to be fair, it actually has moments where the creative decision makes sense. Several fights feel like clever pieces to the series where the 3D technique isn’t something that was done just because they could – they want to serve a purpose. Ajin also finds it’s niche in darker tones to fit the grim atmosphere created by death and carnage, even down to the opening and closing themes as evidence that Ajin is created to have a bleak image that is felt from beginning to end. Ajin is definitely an anime that at a glance could certainly be off putting to viewers, but if given a chance you will find there are enough horror, action and conflict to keep you coming back for more.

Overall Score: 7.5/10
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– Ajin deserves credit for changing my initial opinion on the series with its animation (despite me loving the film A Scanner Darkly which held similarities)

– The formula has familiarities to other animes over the last decade but enough originality to keep it from feeling recycled.

‘Yamishibai’ Anime Review

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Anime: Yamishibai Complete Collection

Released By: Sentai Filmworks

Release Date: April 19, 2016

Retail Price: $34.98

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sentai filmworks

The anime series Yamishibai is a selection of short horror based segments that all focus on scary stories of Japanese myths as well as urban legends. These horror shorts are told using something known as kamishibai, a Japanese method of storytelling that depicts various paper scrolls (something that initially sets it apart from horror anime in general.) The different tales detail all entities of the horror genre such as demons, ghosts, hexes (or curses) and a slew of different avenues to explore. The man who hosts this platform of a mini horror theatre wears a yellow mask and holds his kamishibai prepared to get into the eeriest facest of Japan. The series can turn seemingly average objects, or people you may assume are average can have a deep rooted secret that awaits to shock viewers and characters in the midst of the horror series.

The rich adaptation of historical references and myths of Japan is what sets the dark mood of Yamishibai. Even though you may worry about potential cultural disconnects, they do find ways to address the different thematic elements without confusing viewers on the history. The episodes are definitely short (never surpassing a few minutes) but the plot is mapped out enough to keep you mostly understanding the concept as quickly as possible. Something that helps the comprehension is setting the anime series in modern Japan, where certain traditions are shifted better to others’ analysis of Yamishibai. The best comparison that I can use, would be likening Yamishibai to the Japanese equivalent of camp-fire stories. If you go into the series with that sentiment acknowledged, you will have a better understanding of what the energy of Yamishibai tries to capture in its own way.

What makes Yamishibai somewhat creepy is the atmosphere that the series presents. They don’t have too much time to elicit the spooked response that you hope for from a devout horror anime, but the darker ambiance of Yamishibai doesn’t go completely unnoticed. I can’t say by any means that the horror series achieves the success of the prime example of horror, Another – but they do their best to stay in the lane that thrives on scares. The series does stay (fairly) youth friendly, but even then it does have nods to storytelling that can be acceptable to people of all ages. There are moments that would be more than startling to children (without a doubt) from the suspenseful horror that awaits all viewers.

Horror is a delicate genre to take on and even harder to impress the dedicated fanbase, so Yamishibai Ghost Stories deserves some praise and recognition for trying to keep it alive (no pun intended.) It takes different methods of narrative with so many bizarre segments which means that at least one of them should be able to achieve a few moments of unsettling nerves. Even the more average inclusions have an effect from time to time, with the first “episode” including an average woman who radiates an ominous suspicion from a distance or up close. To contrast my previous point, there are certain episodes that don’t contain enough to desire a rewatch, making it slightly disjointed on occasion. Overall, the anime has many more strengths than weaknesses by providing us with a horror laced mood to accompany the twists and turns of Yamishibai.

Yamishibai uses a very different animation technique in opposition of the traditional anime stylings of most series. This anime isn’t meant to have a fluid appearance, instead in captivates with a motion comic direction that can be hit or miss with production. In this instance, the motion comic appeal is fitting (surprisingly) by showing the simplistic designs that are sometimes the most unsettling – whilst embracing a tactical method of scares to unsuspecting viewers. In the beginning, I wasn’t too keen on the concept of animation, but it proved to me that I was wrong about my expectations. The Japanese audio dub in Yamishibai makes the anime series all the more nerve wracking, in a joint effort with the subtle score to establish it as a well thought out anime. If you are a fan of the horror genre and are open to trying something new, pick up Yamishibai on DVD and Blu-ray now!

Overall Score: 7/10

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– This series had fun new ways of trying to incorporate horror into anime, which I can appreciate.

– The short stories varied in terms of enjoyment, but there were enough aspects that stood out for the better.

– I hope that Yamishibai can potentially help with demand for more horror anime, we are seriously lacking!