Kodama in Anime

Let’s dive into some figures of Japanese folklore and their representation in anime. Today I would like to focus on kodama, Japanese spirits that inhabit trees. Japanese dryads, if you will.

Up until a short time ago, the word kodama immediately made me think of the Ghibli rendering—glow-in-the-dark bobbleheads with wonky heads from Princess Mononoke.

Then I watched Hoozuki no Reitetsu and saw a totally different kodama.

Instead of tiny toy-like figures with asymmetrical faces, I was met with a child-sized spirit with an apron over a kimono and leaves sticking out everywhere. Now, they are both cute, but otherwise rather different. That made me think, what about other depictions of kodama in anime? Continue reading

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結城友奈は勇者である | Yuuki Yuuna is a Hero: 1-3

While searching for kodama in anime, I came across this magical girl series. One middle-school Hero Club usually helps out in their community by finding homes for stray kittens, putting on plays for kindergarten children or cleaning up the shore. As it turns out though, the club has a mission bigger than that.

As always, there will be SPOILERS for the first three episodes!

In the first episode, the girls are chosen to protect the Divine Tree and through that the world. They transform into magical girls and take on their first enemy.

Virgo Vertex

On the other side of the equation are the Hero Club members. Continue reading

Spoon & Tamago

If you enjoy my architectural posts, I recommend you check out Spoon & Tamago.

Spoon & Tamago is a website about Japanese design of all sorts. And architecture falls under design as well. So under the explore tab on their blog you can find categories of various architectural projects.

Since the team all speak Japanese, they can write about Japanese architecture, that has not been mentioned in any English source so far. Unlike my posts that are, due to my poor language skills, born from English and Czech sources.

When the team celebrated their 10 year anniversary last year, they made a short video telling their story.

Their project resonates with me, not only because their work is so meticulously researched and well-written, but also because I strive to make my blog into something similar. Unfortunately I don’t speak Japanese (yet), so I can’t research as well as them, but I aim for a dash of dorry to become an excellent aggregation of posts on Japanese animation and architecture.

Anime Mirai 2015

This is a double review, attempting to highlight the short animations that come out off Young Animator Training Project. In 2015, the project was called Anime Mirai and it spawned four animations. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get all four. Hence it’s only a double review. I’ll try to make it as spoiler free as I can.

Aki no Kanade (アキの奏で, lit. Aki’s Rhythm) – J.C.Staff

It has been 10 years since Aki moved to Tokyo to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a taiko drummer. However, trying to balance work and taiko practice is harsh, and each day is incredibly stressful. One day, Aki receives a phone call. A taiko drum festival is going to be revived after 15 years. Will she be able to come back and give technical guidance?

This is a story of finding lost passion. Before returning to her hometown to train the drummers for the festival, Aki feels like a failure for not being able to live off her drumming jobs. That she still has to keep a second job to pay her bills. But looking at the other drummers in her squad, she’s not the only one.

If you’re feeling lost on your journey and lack the drive and motivation to continue, think back to the things that made you start. That initial excitement and the reasons you have since almost forgotten might spark something. Aki remembers her training and the festivals in her hometown, the way she loved taiko drumming before it became a means of making money. Continue reading

Notes on Mitsuboshi Colors

I wrote about Mitsuboshi Colors in my Winter 2018 Preview I.

I’m expecting a cute slice-of-life, an iyashikei anime. Barely anything will happen… something like Non Non Biyori. Which is a fitting comparison since both are made by Silver Link.

Well, I can certainly say the series did not meet my expectations. There were some good moments, but those could be recounted in a pretty short post. So that is exactly what I’ll do.

Going by episodes, I have two notes on the first one. First off, the anime is very true to the manga. That’s not a good thing, because the manga is rather boring. And second, the CG is awful.

In general, the art style and the animation aren’t exactly stellar. Through out the anime you will see some scenes repeating and a lot of barely modified photos for backgrounds (at stores, the zoo and in the museum). The characters and foregrounds are animated in a very average style, nothing to write home about. There is nothing wrong with any of that, but it sure gives of a lazy/low-cost feeling. Continue reading

Natural Ellipse House

Yet another work of modern Japanese architecture is a Tokyo house that looks like an egg with a hole at the top. It was conceived by two architects, Masaki Endoh and Masahiro Ikeda. Both of these architects are little known outside of Japan, but the building I want to write about today was awarded Rookie of the Year 2003 by The Japan Institute of Architects.

It’s called Natural Ellipse House and it was a built as a four story apartment building of sorts. There were just two apartments, each taking up two stories, and the basement was shared.

I’m using the past tense, because it seems the building is not occupied by the original client anymore. Instead it is used as a hotel! That means that if you’re looking for a memorable place to stay in Tokyo, Natural Ellipse House is one option. Continue reading

ゆるキャン△ | Yuru Camp

Yuru Camp (or Laid-Back Camp in English) aired this last winter. We finished it soon after it aired, but I had been just so busy that I didn’t start writing a review until the summer. So here it is, half a year later.

Rin Shima likes camping, but minds the people, so she goes camping mainly in the colder months. During one of her trips she meets Nadeshiko Kagamihara, a dummy who just moved to the area and wanted to see Fujisan as it’s portrayed on the back of 1000¥ bills. This encounter spurs Nadeshiko to try camping. Together with the (two) members of the Outdoor Activities Club at school she ventures into the great outdoors.

That’s pretty much it. It’s a slice-of-life anime, my favorite genre. After three episodes I was thinking “It’s a nice slice-of-life, though a little stupid. Definitely not a must-watch.” But after the fourth it suddenly clicked with me and the regular length episodes were too short. And less stupid. (Even when they wrapped one of the girls in aluminium, bubbles and cardboard. See episode 4.) From the fifth episode onward it was amazing.

Before hitting the fourth episode I complained to a friend that the anime doesn’t have much to add to my life and he said:

It made you read the manga, mission accomplished.

He was alluding to the fact that a lot of adaptations are made to make the viewers buy the original manga. So as long as it made them read the manga (from a legal source, preferably), it has accomplished what was expected of it.

Yes, I have read a little of the manga in preparation for the review. Compared to the manga, the anime is more, well… animated. Most of the jokes go over much easier in motion, even though the content is pretty much the same.

Word of warning: As always there are spoilers and a lot of screenshots. Continue reading

Yama no Susume: Third Season Ep. 3

My long awaited third season of Yama no Susume (Encouragement of Climb in English) is finally here. I am now on episode 3 and while I had little to note on the first two episodes, this one resonated with me from the first seconds.

Aoi’s mother tells her about the Hanno Alps, which stretch from Mt. Tenran (that the girls have already visited) near Hanno to Chichibu City. Aoi’s itinerary consisted of taking the train from Hanno to Higashi-Agano Station, climbing Mt. Tenkaku and continuing to Mt. Ohtaka. Aoi invited Hinata, but she was busy, so Aoi decided to go by herself.

“I made some for Hinata-chan, too.”
I’m going by myself, though… But Mom would worry if I told her that.

She is absolutely right. My mother also forbid me from going hiking alone when I was around Aoi’s age. For example, if you get hurt, there is nobody to help you or to go get help. Continue reading

4 × 4 House

Tadao Ando (*1941)

Today we’ll be looking at a residential house by one of the leading Japanese architects, Tadao Ando. He is an interesting person—a former boxer with no formal training in architecture is certainly not the kind of man you would expect to win the Pritzker Prize (in 1995). His buildings embody the Japanese idea of zen. They are simple and practical, giving the mind and heart, not just the body, a space to dwell.

In this house, aptly named 4 × 4 House, the simplicity of the construction lets the concepts shine. Firstly, the concept of four. The tiny building is 4 stories tall. Every story has a square, 4 m by 4 m footprint. The structure is crowned by a cube that’s also 4 m by 4 m by 4 m. And, as if it wasn’t enough, the large window, that takes up a whole side of the cube, is divided into 4 equal square sections. (4 m is equal to roughly 13 feet.)

As you can see in the rendition above, the house is quite small. This was caused mainly by the regulations set in place to protect the shoreline, which is gradually receding. Shoreline erosion in Japan is a real problem caused by the real global climate change. Yet I don’t think this limited Tadao Ando as much as it would a Western architect, since the Japanese don’t assume a small house means the owners are poor. For some, living small means living more beautifully. Continue reading