Thursday, November 23, 2017

Original Anime : An Insight


Anime these days are getting far more predictable than it has ever been in the past. Nowadays, studios and companies just choose to adapt a light novel or a manga, or even a popular video game to the animated form we all know as anime. Thanks to the rise of several small studios and several remaining anime studios in japan, now we have over 30 titles airing each week, with most of them the adaptations of such, and to the ire of some people,some of these adaptations are not animated up until it’s completion, making it an incomplete anime.

However, in the days of old, this was definitely not the case. Back then, it was original anime work after another, and most of them are making an impact in their own notable way. But, the number of original anime are waning in this present day. This is a shame though, since I really love original anime, as there are ups to them, and downs as well. 

Take a look at Neon Genesis Evangelion and Gakkou no Kaidan. While the first one I mentioned immediately comes to mind and does not need much explaining, one might wonder what is the second one that I have just mentioned and perhaps, needs a lot of explaining to do.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is a mecha anime centered around religion, which made headline back in the mid of 90’s era and was that era’s most popular anime show according to some sources and nowadays, it is known as a franchise instead of an anime series, branching out to so many merchandise and other forms of media.

The other one is Gakkou no Kaidan. There are several incarnation with the same title as this one, but the one I am trying to explain is the anime series that aired around 2000, known in the west as Ghost Stories.  It revolves around a group of students trying to solve mysteries around the ghosts within their neighborhood, or something like that.

Neon Genesis Evangelion was wildly popular during it's airing and began a franchise.

Whereas Gakkou no Kaidan flounders before, during, and after airing.

Both are original anime works, and there are plenty more of original anime back in that era, and I wanted to emphasize on both of this anime. Despite their status, one of them is very popular and managed to spark a media franchise, while the other one just fade away and be classified as obsolete right about now. Those examples are the future of original anime work, when they are succesfull and when they are less successful.  I shall delve into that more.

And at this opportunity, I would like to offer my own insight regarding such matter. Why is the number of original anime works decrease with each year pass, and what is the ups and down that the original anime have over their adaptation counterpart?

First of all, original anime is a good thing. It allows a more creative outlook and directions, which is not limited in what an adaptation should have. They  normally had vision of what this anime hold for both the studio and the audience in the future, clear goal to fulfill, and a more freedom.  

However, with freedom comes responsibility. Despite the freedom that an original anime work presents a studio, that particular studio should be careful on what they adapt. Does this kind of theme already exist in the past? Do we go with cliché or do we innovate? Should we trust this work with a rookie animator or ask the veteran to do the job altogether? Do we put in a lot of budget or not? Those kind of decisions will be the gear that an original anime need in order to be good and capitalize on their status.

Second of all, An original anime work that is announced, either on a magazine, social media, or TV altogether will come across as an unknown entity to most of the audience and will make them spin their head and asks question of what this anime will bring about. In this case, a studio will need to make sure the trailer is good so that the viewer will bat an eye on this series, before putting on a good first episode in order to land some audience.  In short, a good marketing is what an original anime need. In short, they need a very good marketing campaign.

Wake-Up Girls! is a prime example of an anime getting a great marketing campaign, in which it was thrusted upon by it's sponsor and was trusted as a good franchise. However, it's lackluster success was due to the fact that the idol market was already dominated by both Love Live! School Idol Project and Idolmasters. People have been saying that the franchise itself is okay, but it is not enough to compete with the already existing idol franchise juggernaut.

Wake-Up Girls was given a fairly large faith by it's producer and that was a good thing.

First impression is very crucial for everything, and that includes anime. If the first episode comes bad, then that anime is bound to be a failure. However, a first episode done right will make the audience understand the anime and therefore, want to continue watch this series. Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress managed to do a very great first impression when it debuted, mainly due to the fact that it was helmed by the studio which was responsible for the production of Shingeki no Kyojin, with many people liking the atmosphere and the plot it serves to the audience.

Thirdly, it needs to have something to hook up the audience. Be it a popular writer or director, popular studio, or even popular seiyuu. Seiyuu is one of the most important thing for an original anime in my opinion, as by putting a well-known seiyuu on an original work might put that original anime on the radar of the fanbase of the said seiyuu. K-Project also managed to land several audiences by putting in a lot of superstars in the show. Several articles in the web even describes the project as being filled in with ensemble stars of the anime industry.

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica managed to hook up the audience in the third episode, when the unexpected happen, which sends the public crazy and looking for answers. According to the recently-airing anime Anime-Gatari, this is called the Three-Ep cutting, where most anime had their turning point in the third episode and this will be the episode where the audience might choose between sticking with the anime or drop it altogether.  However, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica does so at the third episode, and there might be plenty people who dropped the series early due to the lukewarm first impression.

The Three-ep cutting was one of the main trope that original anime needs to avoid.

And the hardest downside of this all is the fanbase.  An original anime could not best even a less anticipated adaptation of a less-popular anime as that adaptation surely has a fanbase going within them. Would you watch an adaptation of Addicted to Curry?  Or would you rather watch an original anime regarding cooking? Addicted to Curry is a not-so popular manga series, yet it still has some fanbase and, as a result, the number of people who would prefer this adaptation over the original anime centered around cooking would be higher.

Over the years, there are several varieties of original anime work. Most of them are decent, but few of them are bad, and even less of them are memorable enough that it created a franchise. In this decade, let us compare 3 original anime. Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Tsukigakirei  and Samurai Flamenco. There are distinction clear as a day between the three anime. The first one is wildly popular, the second one is mildly popular, and the third one is a trainwreck. I choose those three title simply because I have watched them all and can offer my own opinion regarding this matter.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica, helmed by Gen Urobuchi, who was noticeably popular as a novelist, yet a little bit unknown to the anime audience, proved to be a highly-succesfull anime which received a universal acclaim from almost all people around the globe, despite it’s status as an original anime. It even grows into a franchise today that has spawned manga adaptations, games, and more. More importantly, it elevated Gen Urobuchi’s status as a writer. Without Madoka, there is no way that he would helm the production of Kamen Rider Gaim and many other work. This shows how much important Madoka is to the anime industry, and the impact that an original anime could have if it could be successful. Madoka contained many elements that were notable, yet alien at the same time, during much of it’s airing, such as a deceiving mascot, darker theme, innovative enemy designs, and many more that makes it a success. This underlines the factor of freedom that I mentioned earlier regarding  an anime.

Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica was a wild success.

Tsukigakirei comes across as a decent original work, in my opinion. I try not to be biased, since this is one of my favourite anime. Tsukigakirei  was announced and not that many people bat an eye to this original work, frankly because it is an original work and contains not that much big-name seiyuu on it’s project. I myself was surprised to learn about this anime, and I even learned about this anime just one week before it is going to air. However, when the anime is finished, it was decent. Not good, not bad, just fine. Yes, it is really great for me, but what about some other people? To me, this comes as a revolutionary title for middle-school romance, yet to other, this is just a run-of-the-mill romance anime. It was decent but not enough to spark a franchise in my opinion.

Tsukigakirei was good while it was running, but that was it.

And last but not least, let us speak about Samurai Flamenco. Unlike Tsukigakirei, I learned about Samurai Flamenco through a news on Anime News Network regarding this anime and their innovative take on tokusatsu genre and was going to be made by Manglobe, the studio that was responsible for The World God Only Knows and the third and fourth season of Hayate no Gotoku. The announcement was surprising since not many anime wants to adapt a tokusatsu-like show, given the success of the tokusatsu genre. The unique take on this genre and the inclusion of Tomokazu  Sugita was my reason for trying this series out, and the first impression was done magnificently, as the theme and conflict got myself hooked to the series, until it finally implodes by itself, due to several innovative attempt which jumbles the series and, ultimately, prove their downfall. One can’t help but wonder that this series might have been one of the factor that Manglobe has finally closed it doors now. 

Despite all the potential in the world, Samurai Flamenco imploded before it even finishes.

Before we finish up talking about the series, I want to bring about my opinion regarding Tamako Market. Tamako Market is an original anime work made by none other than Kyoto Animation. Before they made this anime, KyoAni has had their prior entry in the original work, the Munto project which was really bad in my opinion. Perhaps they would like to reinvent their original anime entry? Nonetheless, despite their best effort, Tamako Market was not able to capitalize the studio’s popularity to the fullest and was branded as an okay anime by most critics, myself included. However, there are something that the studio looked over from Tamako Market and feels that they could improve upon the predecessor. And as a result, KyoAni decided to make the sequel for the show, Tamako Love Story. The movie-sequel removed most of the issue presented by the TV series and instead, focuses on a more different theme altogether, the romance. And as a result, Tamako Love Story proved to be more successful than it’s predecessor, with many critics agreeing on that statement, myself included.

That is all regarding what I think about the original anime works. With the number of airing anime each week exceeds almost 30, the number of original anime in them are waning more and more. This is almost  a reverse situation of what had happened in the past, evident by the number of popular original anime works that sparked a media franchise and still be known up to this day, even though two decades has past. There are several factors that an original anime might need to fulfill in order to be successful, but ultimately, that is up to us, the audience, and the ones behind the scene whether or not the original anime will be succesful or not.

The future might or might not be bleak for the original anime.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Notice of lack of activity

Hi to the readers of this blog.
First and foremost, thank you for continuing to support this blog by reading this blog, even though the recent update was two weeks ago.

Truth of the matter is that i am in the middle of a crunch time of my college-works, and almost found myself no time to write an article for the blog. Thus, if you are waiting for an update, then i am very sorry to make you wait.

I don't have any plans to scrap this blog though, as i am having fun thinking up and writing some new ideas for the blog and let everyone knows what i am thinking. However, due to my college commitments, i might have to limit my time in creating an update. Thus, i think an update will come up around once every 2-3 weeks, starting now, and each month will only have 1-2 updates.

My currently plan for another blog post is the review for the currently-airing Himouto Umaru-chan season 2, which i shall post when it is over, an opinion about original anime, and a year-end review of 2017 regarding anime, which will come at the end of the year. Beyond that, i have no idea what will i write.

Thank you for continuing to read this small blog. Please continue to support me by clicking this blog every now and then. Cheers.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Anime Review : Amagi Brilliant Park

Amagi Brilliant Park
“Just another day in the office for Kyoto Animation, it seems.”

What is Amagi Brilliant Park?

The series follows Kanie Seiya, who was forced to take the reins of a manager in a run-down theme park, which is in dire need of management change and guests in order for it to remain relevant. Kanie would then unravel his talents in this theme park to try and turn around their fortune.

So, what do I think of it?

Kyoto Animation has this habit of plucking a light novel out of nowhere and adapt it, turning them into a sensation overnight. Most of their selection were normally based on the entry for their award which is rarely to never being handed out to any participant, but at least the honorable mention received an adaptation. While many light novels that they adapt suddenly becomes popular, such as Chuunibyo demo Koi ga Shitai or Free, to which both series was recognized for revitalizing the genre, not all were as succesfull as them. Example for this are Musaigen no Phantom World and Kyoukai no Kanata. Both are action-oriented light novel of which Kyoto Animation’s touches convolutes them into one gigantic mess rather than giving them a noticeable limelight.
And what about Amagi Brilliant Park?

Amagi Brilliant Park, or Amaburi in short, is one of those KyoAni’s work that is neither good nor bad, just fine. KyoAni did not bother with the source material too much and the story remains the same, unlike Chuunibyo and Free, of which source material was only used as a base for a much more original works in the form of adaptation. Yes, Chuunibyo and Free’s adaptation totally differs from their original source material, which in turn, did more good to them rather than harm.
Perhaps it is the lack of change in the source material that did nothing to this series. Or perhaps the removal of more darker content? I’ll get to that later.

Amaburi contains all the aspects that KyoAni is adept at on many of their works, such as the exceptional camera works, beautifully-animated characters, and gorgeous visual. Not to mention the jazz-like music that is used for some of the BGM which I truly enjoyed hearing and totally fits the respective scene as well.  Those aspects adds to Amaburi’s brilliance in execution. But, the problem is not that.

Amagi Brilliant Park looks beautiful in and out.
And the plethora of unique characters also adds to the charm to the series, for better or worse.

The plotline were too shallow if I do say so myself. Kanie, the protagonist, were tasked to turn around the fortune of a rundown theme park, which is going under in any fleeting seconds it passes, and brings at least 500.000 guests in just 3 months or so. That seemed impossible to achieve, but since we’re in anime, it could happen.

There are mostly no other conflicts other than the penultimate episode, in which the park is just a shy-away from being safe, and was able to achieve victory in the climax. It was enganging and brilliantly-done, but it was just that. That episode is the only conflict-heavy plotline which does not linger on character development episode.

Speaking of episodes, most of the episodes do not dwell much on the progression of the story, and could be seen by some as just a filler episode which acted as a spin-off to the main plotline, such as the recruitment of Dornell and Ruby Dragon, the summer pirate attack [Which serves as the fanservice episode as well], or the Kanie got sick episode. Honestly, despite all seriousness, it just has this vibe of being a filler episode.

Most episodes mostly serves as a comedy instead for story progression.

Though the character development episode is always great, which is normal for Kyoto Animation.

Each episode are treated with a light comedy that lets us chuckle a little. However, when Tiramie and Macaron are in an episode, then expect it to be a comedy-driven episode, since their appearance is enough to merit any episode they’re heavily featured in a comedic one.

Though I must say that the character-driven episodes are more interesting to watch and as enganging as the penultimate episode. Since this is KyoAni’s trick of the trade, it could easily be seen as to why these kind of episodes are well-done are enganging. It serves as a great way to make the audience connects to certain character and actually care about them.

Though if there’s something about the character  that I am willing to complain is that there is too much character  crammed on this series. The main characters are limited to just Sento, Kanie, Latifa, and to certain extent, Moffle. However, the side characters are too numerous to list, and because of that, most of them were not able to gain their character-focused episode, most notably Tiramie and Macaron.

Speaking of which… The reveal of the main antagonist is somewhat predictable, since he was the one who antagonize Kanie and the park silently during his appearance, and to be honest, his maniacal face was just too generic and just like how other antagonist got their face in most of KyoAni’s work.
In terms of character, the main character are well-developed for the audience to enjoy and connect with. Kanie, despite his narcissism and arrogance, has his reason for staying like that, and the fact that he is resolved to save the park and Latifa is just great. Honestly, his bonding with Moffle is one of the best scene that this series has to offer.

Latifa was good too, except for most of the time she is bedridden. I liked the fact of how KyoAni played the audience, teasing the ship between Latifa and Kanie due to what happen in the first episode, only to shift it as something like a brother-sister relationship, as after Latifa was saved by Kanie, Latifa has this vibe of seeing Kanie as a big brother, and the same can be said to Kanie. And his ship was, hopelessly, with Sento.

Sento is introduced as a deadpan character who has a hard time expressing her emotion, which led to her charm, to be honest. At certain times, she had hard time making certain remarks or expression, causing an awkward yet hilarious scene, and that is why the heartsleeve fruit episode was so remarkably funny, since KyoAni nailed her deadpan humor.  And unlike Latifa, her obvious romantic feelings she had for Kanie is as clear as a day during the penultimate episode and the OVA. Her backstory is also well-done, since she was portrayed as a military who was forced to take the reins of a manager and led the theme park to the brink of extinction, something she was ashamed of and why she thought Kanie could help.

Latifa's character was mildly explored in the series.

As well as Sento, though she has more appearances to her name than Latifa.

Not to mention her muskets were subjected to the comedy. While great at first, those musket shots are becoming repetitive by the 5th-6th episode to be honest, and those who received are either Macaron, Tiramie, or Moffle.

And Moffle was a great character too, though he got relegated to just side-character duties at certain events, which might hurt his credibility a little, since he is dubbed the three stooges by Kanie. Nevertheless, his defensive behavior towards Latifa and how he respects other character is great. And since he got more screentime than any other side characters, it is fair to say that he is a main character.

And the comedic antics he shared with his stooges, which is Macaron and Tiramie, serves as the best bit of the series to be honest. 

Despite serving as a good punchline, the musket became repetitive later.

The comedic routine that these three performed are the best of the series.

For trivial purposes, I’ve read a thread in the internet of how the names of the three main characters are a play for a much-more relevant singer. Kanie Seiya is Kanye West, since the Seiya had a character for West in the japanese. Isuzu Sento is 50 Cent, for the same reason. And lastly, Latifa is Queen Latifah. And even the antagonist got the same treatment, in the form of Chris Tucker. Trivial things, but it was nicely done by the author.

Speaking of author, then we return back to it’s roots. As I said before, there are changes made for the adaptation that is questionable in my opinion. Some of the changes were Latifa’s blindness and how the penultimate episode and the climax chapter is being played, in which the light novel were more oriented to a dangerous crime, in which Moffle had a hand in helping out. The light novel  were much darker than the adaptation, which is somewhat the main attraction point of the series, but KyoAni had to adapt them out. Perhaps it is to fit certain audiences? Who knows.

If you are curious on how the penultimate and climax is different, then read this passage, if not, just skip it altogether and continue one paragraph below. Spoiler Alert. In the anime adaptation, the two soccer clubs were just looking for a stadium to play, in which the theme park offers their stadium in exchange for visitor, whereas in the light novel, Kanie and Moffle worked together to make sure the stadium got burned a little bit and become unusable for the soccer match, allowing the match to be played at Amaburi. The light novel offers more suspense and darker approach, but most of them were adapted out in the adaptation, which is a shame for me.

The bonding time between Moffle and Kanie were great, but far less darker than in the source material.

And like I said before, the visuals were great. Characters are animated beautifully and gorgeously drawn. It is clear that KyoAni totally put their effort in animating the best visual possible, as most of the audience seek a better visual to a better story, they said. Camera works were also great, much like the usual of what KyoAni normally does. And lastly, the entire Amagi Brilliant Park was great sight to behold, the background was well-drawn and beautiful to stare at, totally complementing the series.

Voice-acting was good too. All of the voices totally fit their character. However,  if asked who was the one doing the best work in this series are Macaron and Tiramie voice actors for me. Ryoko Shiraishi and Ai Nonaka put on both of their comedic best in this series. While sounding adorable at times, their antics are somehow backed by their voice.

And since the English dub was released already, I was able to see just how much the English dub fare in this series. And for me, the magic of voice that Tiramie and Macaron had in the japanese version was gone in the english dub. They both sounded too forced, and especially Tiramie, who sounded too high-pitched. However, while the dub was not that great, one of the characters totally stood out as the best, Sento Isuzu. Sento’s voice in the dub was somehow spot on,  correctly capturing her deadpan humor and behavior, as well as her maturity. While there are some questionable moments in her english dub, the dub was nevertheless far superior than her japanese voice in my opinion.

Sento provided the best voicework in the english dub.

All in all, Amagi Brilliant Park is a good series, held back by one factor which it totally lacks, good plotline. It is satisfying, but most of the episode felt like a spin-off rather than how it actually weighs in the story, since most of them were too goofy. Characters were okay too and the comedy was fine. Despite the KyoAni’s factor, which improved the series as a whole, it could still not enough to make this anime being called either good nor bad.

I had a hard time figuring out the audience for this series, since it is laidback at times, but not too laidback. It does not contain any action, but had the suspense of one for some reason. I guess the comedy, and especially, the KyoAni factor is the two main factors of how this anime received so much coverage back when it was airing.

And I especially had a hard time figuring out why that OVA-bound episode are aired as the final episode.

However, we all can thank Amagi Brilliant Park for finally getting Kyoto Animation out of their in-house work and finally adapt outside work, such as Hibike! Euphonium and Kobayashi-san chi no Maiddragon.

The Good : Beautiful animation, as expected of KyoAni’s works. Comedies are lighthearted, but can be wacky good at times. Great character-focused episode. Most episodes are slow, so it can be easily enjoyed. Great theme. Sento’s English dub.

The Bad : Shallow storyline, dependant on one main factor. Too much character. Some darker content are cut in the adaptation. Most episodes felt like a filler.

Highlight moment : Moffle and Kanie’s bonding scene. The penultimate episode.

Final Score : 3 out of 5. Good show, but not good enough. 


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Manga Review : Gakuen Alice

“A thrilling roler-coaster of dramatic emotion which is surely going to embedded on your heart for the rest of your life.”

What is Gakuen Alice?

There exist an academy which houses those with special powers called Alice. Mikan Sakura, an elementary student of a countryside village forces her way to the academy to finally meet her best friend, Hotaru Imai, once again. However, there is something sinister hidden beneath that cheerful academy...

And what do I think of it?

First and foremost, the images of each pages of manga are from the website, so credits to them. I actually owns the entire volume of Gakuen Alice from volume 1 to 32 in my own language, but is too lazy to scan them all by myself.

Gakuen Alice is my personal favourite, my all-time best, and there is nothing I want to shower but praise to this godsend of a manga series. However, while reviewing this, I shall try to keep my personal taste in mind and be as critical as I could be. And of course, as spoiler-free as possible, though it might be hard to do so, and alas, you have been warned of a spoiler-alert in this paragraph. 

However, there is nothing I can say but praise at this point, since this manga series covers just about, well… Everything…

Comedy, check. Drama, check. Character development, check. Romantic progression, check.  And this comes from a manga that was originally created and marketed just for laughs, as apparent from volume 1-5. However, despite the cheerful and comedic setting of the manga, even as early as volume 2 has already planted the seeds for dramatic purposes that will eventually be realized in the later volumes.

However, by the time it came out, one could not stop but wonder how this manga series is attempting to mimic a particular wizardy school. Thankfully that approach was abandoned as the series progresses.

The manga opens with Mikan Sakura trying to stop Hotaru hopelessly from transferring to the Alice Academy. However, she was powerless as Hotaru was actually trying to save the school Mikan enrolled in the countryside, and thus, Mikan decides to follow Hotaru to that academy and meet her once again.

Her objective sounds totally idiotic, but it is the drive that keeps her motivated all the time, wanting to see her best friend once again. And the main theme of the manga, for the entirety of it’s run, is the importance of friendship to everyone.

At first, early volumes focuses on how Mikan and Hotaru interacted with each other in the academy, all while several comedic routines and goofing off happened at chapters after chapters. While it is focused on becoming a comedy series, there is a hint of seriousness planted in several chapters, most obvious on the whole volume 3, where Natsume, the male lead was kidnapped and Mikan seeks to save him. This only lasted for a volume, but it shows how the tone immediately shifts.

And several more comedy-focused volumes later, we come to volume 6, where the comedy was nowhere to be found and the manga goes full-blown action-like drama, where Mikan is trying to save her best friend. This whole arc focuses for an entire 3 volumes before it is finally resolved. Oh, and the author didn’t even hesitate to kill off a side character that was made for this arc and has finally gained the trust of both the reader and the cast. It was a shock to behold, and of course, a precursor of what to come.

The manga starts off goofing around from volume 1-5.

I don’t know whether it was Higuchi Tachibana’s storytelling prowess or the kind of write-as-you-go-along, but she displayed a masterclass story-telling in each and passing chapters, hiding all of the necessary details behind all the comedy antics and routine, it was a spectacle to behold, or more precisely, to read.

The author tried to return the series back to it’s roots, judging by the return of several setting such as the Central Town and the sorts, however, despite the comedy return, it could no longer contain the comedy as the dramatic tension would soon gave rise and, finally, paved way for a shift in tone, from a comedy to a drama, and lastly, tragic drama.

This new approach of tragic drama was really remarkable if I do say so myself. In my previous article, I mentioned how a shift in tone could change a series entirely and actually put Gakuen Alice as an example, and through this shift in tone, Gakuen Alice is changed forever. There is literally no way that people, who read Gakuen Alice from start to finish, remember Gakuen Alice as a comedy series as they would surely remember it as a tragic drama.

The comedy was later abandoned to a focus of a more drama-driven story.

Each plot would give rise to a new conflict, and before it was resolved, another conflict come and goes, before everything was partially resolved, albeit tragically. I was speechless whenever the conflict was resolved.  Truly a writing masterclass there by Higuchi Tachibana.

The best arc that the manga has to offer is arguably the Time Travel Arc, where Mikan and company are travelling through time and visited the past of her mother, where we learn the hardship and suffering that she has to go through before finally having to part with Mikan. It was painful, yet it truly builds the character of her mother perfectly. And she was so embedded to me that when the twist happened, I couldn’t stop the tears flowing from my eyes, despite the fact that I re-read the series just to review the manga.

Time travel arc lets us know how awesome Yuka is.

Speaking of characters, there are four main characters in this series, Mikan Sakura, Hotaru Imai, Natsume Hyuga, and Luca Nogi. 

Mikan is the main character and the central character, where the story revolves around her. When I say revolves around her, it truly revolves around her, where the story only moves if she gets involved and how people wanted to use her for their own ends. Her characterization was one of the best I have ever seen, as she matures as the series progresses. Once a childish girl who thinks of nothing but playing around, by the time the series is nearing it’s climax, her character has matured into that of a strong girl who is no longer reliant to others and instead, help others. Well, she is reliant since her power is useless, but in terms of character, she is the one who built the character of others.

Next is Hotaru Imai, my favourite character. Ever since she debuted, I know that there is something special on her, and yes, she showed a tsundere-like behavior where she constantly tortures Mikan, but secretly cares for her. She wished Mikan to always smile, even at the most dire of times, which is the thing that helped Mikan endure all the hardship that comes to her. And I also liked the fact that the author never forgot her special ability to procure useful gadgets at certain times, and the author even used that ability for several sticky situations, which helped her character to not being classified as useless. She can fight with her invention, mind you.

Then there’s Natsume and Luca. While Luca is nothing special, as he is just there for the sake of being there at times, Natsume is the most developed character in the series, aside from Mikan. While never discarding his sinister nature, he developed a caring personality for others and has his own way to deal with things, which makes him all the more popular to the audience. No wonder he kept netting the top spot at every character poll.

Oh, another thing I liked from the characters is the fact that the author has this tendency of rehashing several side characters into spotlight. The prime example of this is Mr. Bear, who was originally treated as a side character with violent tendency, especially towards Mikan. However, as the series progressed, this particular teddy bear became a valuable ally to Mikan and at certain point, so attached to Mikan that it refused to part with her. It was a moment for this side character that I could never forget.

There are plenty of characters in this series, so much that perhaps not everyone got their limelight. However, at least they served a purpose I think. As usual, whe speaking of characters, I’ll just limit myself to the main cast and several side characters. 

While the main cast is awesome, the side character is just equally awesome as well.

Despite the praises that I showered to this manga series, there are dozens of complaints that go along the way too. Nothing in this world is perfect, and it is for this manga as well.

First and foremost is the design of characters. While the author tried hard to differentiate each characters, I couldn’t help but notice similiarity in several characters, especially in earlier volumes. Some characters would resemble another, which makes it very hard to tell who’s who at first.

And secondly, and this is perhaps the biggest of my complaint, is their age. Mikan and company are still at elementary grades and is still around 12-13 years old. Thrusting them in such a complicated storytelling raises a question or two regarding morality, in my opinion. Sure, this is a manga series, where anything happens, but I just couldn’t help but notice this feeling that it is more proper that if they are at least on either middle or high school, instead of just still in elementary school. Even the newer characters introduced for the newer arcs are either in high schools or are already an adult, so… Yeah, there you have it. Last but not least, sometimes they [The kids] just looked like they're adults already.

Their age was a bit questionable to be honest.

And also, people might found it too complicated to swallow, as several dialogues are too long that the balloon to hold them are not wide enough, and therefore, forcing the text to be put into a very small fonts.

I liked the drawing style, as the manga focuses not only drawing a highly detailed expression and  character design, it also focuses on delivering a beautiful background scenery that is totally a bliss to look at. I was in awe on how much details was put on the background, such as lamps, furnitures, and even leaves. 

The great effort put on drawing the background was great.

If there’s anything I don’t like from the style is the fact that the manga has a hard time rendering a wound, opting to just use a simple saturation on the face or body, or even clothing, with bloods to signify that the character is hurt badly. And the worst example has to be Persona’s power. His alice is called the “Corrosion” alice and is used to corrode things badly until it dies, and when someone is affected by it, the manga opted to just either brushed the affected body with black saturations or just blackens it completely. It looks pretty bad and lazy in my opinion.

And lastly, the volume length of the series, which is just over 31, suggested that the series is pretty succesfull enough in Japan that the magazine greatly supported it up from start to finish.

All in all, Gakuen Alice is a terrific manga series masterfully authored by Higuchi Tachibana, who knows what to do and what to expect from the manga. It starts off very light and funny, but slowly alters it’s own genre and, in the process, rends the heart of those who read it. It is a mixture of thrilling and fantastic ride, where the ride is bumpy, but leads to a very great destination. There are several flawed things, but those trivial things could not hold back this great manga series from being so awesome.

This manga is highly reccomendable to those who seeks an emotionally wild-ride, but at the same time, can stomach the complicated settings and backstory it holds. Casual manga reader could read this series, but it is not advised, as they might found themselves scratching their head by the time they read volume 6.

Such a great manga series… Thanks for the ride. After re-reading it, I could not help myself but wonder what’s next in store for Higuchi Tachibana. Hopefully, that spin-off of this series would be reelased in my country, but I am not crossing my fingers.

The Good : Tragic drama tension somehow intensifies the series. Wonderfull story-telling which paid off long-term. Phenomenal character development. Beautiful backgrounds. Utilizing the cast fairly. Setting is unique. Tremendously-done plot twist that might caught people by surprise.

The Bad : The main characters’ age does not seem to fit the dramatic tension for some reason. Several characters look the same, save for several intricate details to help differentiate them. Texts are sometimes too long and too much. The style of implying wound is bad.

Highlight moment : Time-travelling Arc. Z-infiltration Arc.

Final Score : 5 out of 5. Even it’s many flaws cannot undo it’s masterclass writing. I don’t think there’s any manga that can top this series for me. Oh, and this is the first time I handed a series a perfect score.

All good things must come to an end, and than you for this wonderful series.