Anime Lounge #23: Avatar: The Last Airbender Book 1

Series: Avatar: The Last Airbender

Episodes: 1 to 20

Premise: The Avatar, a being who can channel the four elements – air, water, earth and fire – is missing, and the Fire Nation is dominating the world in their absence. Teenagers Katara and Sokka stumble upon the mythological teenage boy Aang, who had been thought lost 100 years earlier, and free him. He joins with the brother-and-sister duo to master the four elements and save their world from the Fire Nation’s tyrannical leader, Fire Lord Ozai. Along the way, they must dodge the Fire Nation’s crown prince Zuko, who struggles to regain his honor under pressure from his father.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. Avatar is stunning in its world building and investment in character depth. You’ll get hooked quickly on the mythology of the Avatar and how Aang will save the world.

Breakout character: Zuko. Though he struggles in a fruitless quest dealing with honor that he didn’t lose, you come to realize that the fire-bending master is not the true villain here.

Where it’s going?: Aang will learn to master all four elements and will struggle to save the world while dealing with the grief of losing his people. It’s a fascinating journey to see just how much all the characters will grow in bending and otherwise.

Anime Lounge #22: Horimiya Episodes 1-12

Series: Horimiya

Episodes: 1-12

Premise: An outgoing girl (Kyouko Hori) notices a shy boy (Izumi Miyamura) in her class and wonders why he doesn’t have any friends. At the same time, they meet outside of class when Miyamura looks completely different. Their friendship blossoms and eventually they confess to having feelings for each other. Where their relationship and that of their friends and acquaintances takes them is the meat of the story.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. Outstanding visuals and a mature story about the feelings of young people becoming adults makes for a compelling anime. The intro theme is also fantastic.

Breakout character: Izumi Miyamura. He goes from super shy guy to outrageously cute pierced and tattooed guy every day and settles somewhere in between. His glow up is amazing once he develops confidence.

Where it’s going?: The relationship between Hori and Miyamura intensifies, and it’s obvious this will lead to marriage down the line. The fun will be in getting there. There is a second season announced, so we will see more of their relationship progress over time.

Anime Lounge #21: Cowboy Bebop Episodes 1 – 12

Series: Cowboy Bebop

Episodes: 1 to 12

Premise: Space bounty hunter Spike Spiegel is always in search of his next target, and he finds unlikely helpers in retired cop Jet Black, the mysterious Faye Valentine and later legendary hacker Ed and the scientific genius pupper Ein. Spike must confront his past — running around in the mafia — in order to move forward with his future. How he does it to start leads to more questions than answers, ending with his first confrontation with former friend Vicious.

Is it worth watching?: YES. This is one of the god-tier anime that every new anime enthusiast should be required to watch. Production values, voice acting, cool characters and an awesome soundtrack … this anime has it all.

Breakout character: Faye Valentine. Yes, it could be all of the characters, but Faye definitely stands out. You want to know her deal, why she can’t remember anything and how she will ever get herself together. And then you find out later in the series, and it’s like, wow. The payoff for Faye is amazing, and you still want more.

Where it’s going?: Spike has to take on Vicious once again, reclaim his honor and handle unresolved business. He’s taking the crew along for the ride, and where they end up is the mystery.

Anime Lounge #20: My Hero Academia Season 1

Series: My Hero Academia

Episodes: 1 to 13

Premise: A young boy, Izuku Midoriya, from Japan lives in a world where at least 80 percent of society is born with some type of extra special ability, called quirks. Quirks are used by a segment of the population to fight crime, and Midoriya idolizes the world-famous All Might, the No. 1-ranked hero. After a chance encounter with his idol, quirkless Midoriya begins to train with All Might to gain his passed-down quirk One for All. Midoriya’s journey to becoming the No. 1 hero is chronicled as he joins U.A. High School and learns the true meaning of becoming a hero.

Is it worth watching?: YES. We love the X-Men, and My Hero Academia is basically an anime version of the Marvel staple. If you love super-powered antics, compelling heroes and villains and tight, deep writing, My Hero Academia is a phenomenal choice. It starts a little slow, but once it gets going, it gets GOOD.

Breakout character: Todoroki Shoto. In the first season, it’s all about the dual-natured boy who wields fire and ice as one quirk. He seems frosty at first but his introduction is nothing short of dazzling, and he quickly becomes a favorite because of his power and stoic expression. Iida Tenya and Midoriya are close in terms of engaging. You want to root for both characters as they grow. All the teachers are top-notch characters as well, but Shota Aizawa aka Eraserhead is our favorite. He stands out from the pack in terms of his cool but basic costume and the sheer strength of his quirk Erasure, which nullifies quirks within his vision range until he blinks.

Best episode: Episode 5: What I Can Do For Now. Midoriya has already entered Class 1A by passing the entrance exam, but now he’s in the big leagues and has to demonstrate what he knows about One For All. The cool thing about this episode is, while Midoriya knows he doesn’t have control over the quirk just yet, he doesn’t give up. In fact, he tries hard enough that Aizawa-san realizes that he’s trying to get the quirk together. Aizawa has enough foresight to realize that Midoriya doesn’t have control because he likely wasn’t born with it like the others in his class. Thus, he starts becoming suspicious but curious enough to allow Midoriya to continue in the class. This shows growth for all involved in just five episodes.

Where it’s going?: As Midoriya gets more comfortable with having the ultra-powerful One for All, look for the stakes to ramp up for Class 1A as they train to become heroes.

Anime Lounge #19: Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi Propose Hen OVA

Series: Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi Propose Hen

Episodes: 1

Premise: This is the OVA follow up to the goings on in boys’ love series Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi. In this short episode, one of the crew working at Marukawa Publishing is getting married and the entire shojo manga department, Emerald, is invited. During the proceedings, Onodera and Takano interact with guests and each other. It comes to light that Takano has a certain thing on his mind.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. If you’ve watched all other seasons of Sekai-ichi Hatsukoi — which you should have — this is a delightful treat. It’s a cute sort of wrap up showing just where everyone is now.

Breakout character: Takano Masamune. He always stands out as one of the main characters but here he is just too delicious in his hinting.

Best episode: N/A

Where it’s going?: Even though it’s not what you’d expect for Takano and Onodera after some time away, it’s obvious that their relationship has progressed. Hopefully, in the future we will see something along the lines of Onodera and Takano getting married as well.

Anime Lounge #18: Death Note Ep. 6 – 12

Series: Death Note

Episodes: 6 to 12

Premise: A young man named Light Yagami is bored and incredibly gifted mentally. He’s looking for things to do outside of hacking the national police database and is preparing to go to law school for a career in criminal justice. One day, while in school, he happens to notice a strange book appear outside. He opens it and finds a shinigami, named Ryuk, that’s bound to follow the person who finds it. Light’s discovery and subsequent dealings with Ryuk and his Death Note begin the twisted tale of justice as a means to an end.

Is it worth watching?: YES. This is one of the best anime to be released in the past 20 years. It’s got everything you could want: Suspense, drama, several murder mysteries, a plot that makes you question life choices and characters to root for.

Breakout character: Misa Amane. Say what you will about the second Kira, but she is the breakout star here. She immediately makes an impact on Light, good or bad, and she joins the story permanently at a crucial time.

Best episode: “Overcast,” Episode 7. Light finally succeeds in convincing the watcher that he has always had less than noble ideals as he commits a shocking murder. Not only is the person he murders shocking, but also the way that he kills the person using the Death Note shocking: He causes them to commit suicide with his written command. This was the point at which you ceased to sympathize with Light in any way, but it now makes an interesting mystery even deeper because it’s now a race to see just how long Light will get away with his crimes as Kira.

Where it’s going?: The heat ramps up on Light as Kira, as he will have to juggle discovering there’s another Kira, L’s continued investigation and his life otherwise.

Anime Lounge #17: Junjou Romantica 2

Series: Junjou Romantica 2

Episodes: 1 to 12

Premise: Junjou Romantica is broken up into three storylines: Romantica, Egoist and Terrorist. Romantica is the story of main couple Misaki Takahashi and Akihiko Usami, who are brought together by Misaki’s older brother, Takahiro, so that Akihiko can tutor Misaki for college entrance exams. It happens that Takahiro announces at the meeting that he is getting married. Akihiko and Misaki are upset for different reasons: Misaki, because it means he is losing his brother somewhat after the death of his parents; Akihiko, because he is in love with Takahiro. Romance commences, with a reluctant Misaki along for the ride. Egoist focuses on Nowaki Kusama and Hiroki Kamijou’s developing relationship. Nowaki is considerably younger than Hiroki, who is a classic Japanese literature professor. Thus, their relationship centers on their everyday struggle to be a couple on equal footing. In Terrorist, Yo Miyagi and Shinobu Takatsuki become reacquainted after the end of Yo’s marriage to Shinobu’s sister. Shinobu is in love with Yo, but Yo doesn’t take him seriously. The resulting relationship between the two is interesting and deals with their pasts as brothers-in-law and their age difference. One protagonist in each couple knows of another in another couple. For example, Akihiko was in a relationship with Hiroki and Hiroki works with Yo.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. If you love romantic stories, this is probably for you. A word of caution, though: If you do not like yaoi, do not watch because the series’ relationships are all between men. If you are comfortable with it, you’ll come to love the characters and their relationship struggles.

Breakout character: Misaki Takahashi. He finally starts to come out of shell and become a little more open in his relationship with Akihiko. Instead of super shy and awkward Misaki, he’s a little more comfortable with being in an openly acknowledged relationship with Akihiko.

Best couple: Misaki and Akihiko. Despite their weird quirks, and them being the main focus, they are the most endearing of the three couples. Hiroki and Nowaki are the most serious, and Yo and Shinobu are the most realistic of the three. Misaki and Akihiko also happen to be the most fun of the three couples.

Where it’s going?: The three couples have issues to work on separately, but most importantly, Misaki’s time with Akihiko will be coming to an end now that he’s approaching graduation … or will it?

Anime Lounge #16: Kaichou wa Maid Sama Ep. 13-26

Kaicho wa Maid Sama wraps up love saga

Series: Kaichou wa Maid Sama

Episodes: 13 to 26

Premise: Misaki Ayuzawa is the student council president at a formerly all-boys high school. She also works at a maid cafe on the side to earn money to support her family. Misaki has problems relating to the male members of her class so she comes off a little more than brusque and overbearing. One of her classmates, Usui Takumi, happens upon her by chance as she’s being intimidated by a group of men. It just so happens that he comes to her rescue as she’s working so he learns her secret. Thus, begins the saga of Misaki and Usui, she trying to keep her secret and he trying to get her to open up to him. It’s obvious from the beginning that Usui is in love with Misaki but she’s about the only person in the cast that doesn’t realize it.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. The humor makes up for the slow pace of the story, but the payoff at the end of the series is worth waiting for over 26 episodes.

Breakout character: Misaki Ayuzawa. She’s the lead in this romantic comedy so she should be standing out at some point. Ayuzawa comes into her own by the end of the series, and you see her development as the main character come along nicely.

Funniest episode: Episode 26, “Too Cruel Ayuzawa & Usui the Idiot!” Not so much funny as it is a great way to wrap up the story in the anime adaptation, Episode 26 is one of the best payoff scenes in a recent anime. The way the story comes together to the inevitable finale — which you knew was coming after the first episode — is well done and satisfying.

Where it’s going?: This is the finale for the series but the story continues on in the manga with a nice epilogue.

Anime Lounge #15: Yuri on Ice!!

Get ready to skate

Episodes: 1 to 12 (all)

Premise: Professional figure skater Yuri Katsuki is in a career slump, suffering his worst defeat during the Grand Prix. Yuri’s confidence has hit rock bottom and he’s thinking of giving up and quitting skating for good. But he’s visited by his idol, fellow skater Victor Nikiforov, after a video of Yuri performing Victor’s signature routine goes viral. With Victor’s tutelage, Yuri works to get back into performing with a renewed vigor. Yuri’s efforts to become something better and his work toward developing relationships and confidence in his work and himself are documented.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. The story is hilariously played out, from Yuri’s struggles to stay in skating shape to his awkward attempts at befriending fellow skaters. The serious side of the story is also worth noting as it showcases what pressure to succeed can do to even the most confident of us all.

Breakout character: Yuri Plisetsky. The other Yuri, known as Yurio, is good and he knows it. He manages to steal every scene he’s in, whether he’s impressing with his brilliant skating prowess or creating a new depth of rudeness to everyone around him.

Funniest episode: Episode 10, “Gotta Supercharge it! Pre-Grand Prix Final Special!” The end of the episode reveals the motivation for Victor to come to Japan to train and teach Yuri. The scene is shown through flashbacks and gets increasingly funny as it goes forward. Yuri’s convincing of Victor to train him is right in line with their relationship: Surprising yet obvious.

Where it’s going?: With the end of the first season and Yuri’s move to St. Petersburg, Russia, to continue training, the ending was left open for a future sequel season and there is a movie in production. That season has been announced, so it remains to be seen just where Yuri’s career will take him and what he will have finally accomplished in his renewed state.

Anime Lounge #14: Death Note Ep. 1-6

Death Note-animeAnime-LoungeSeries: Death Note

Episodes: 1 to 6

Premise: A young man named Light Yagami is bored and incredibly gifted mentally. He’s looking for things to do outside of hacking the national police database and is preparing to go to law school for a career in criminal justice. One day, while in school, he happens to notice a strange book appear outside. He opens it and finds a shinigami, named Ryuk, that’s bound to follow the person who finds it. Light’s discovery and subsequent dealings with Ryuk and his Death Note begin the twisted tale of justice as a means to an end.

Is it worth watching?: YES. This is one of the best anime to be released in the past 20 years. It’s got everything you could want: Suspense, drama, several murder mysteries, a plot that makes you question life choices and characters to root for.

Breakout character: There are four: Light, Misa, Ryuk and L. Each of the four is central to the story and yet, all manage to steal the show in their own way.

Funniest episode: Episode 1, “Rebirth.” The opening episode finds Light interacting with Ryuk once he obtains the Death Note, which is hilarious for several reasons. Light doesn’t seem to be that enthralled with a death god near him and he immediately uses his powers of deduction and reasoning to come to several conclusions about the Death Note and its usage. Their interaction is always fun and serves to set up the way the rest of the series flows ultimately.

Where it’s going?: Light is in control for the first few episodes. He’s still learning the ropes with the Death Note and understanding how it works, and what kind of justice he can enact: Righteous or malicious. How Light continues to succeed in staying hidden and not getting caught is the name of the game going forward. It’s worth it to watch to see just how Light stays ahead of the game and avoids suspicion from the most talented investigator in the world, L.