Tag Archives: slice of life

Dennou Coil

Dennou CoilType: TV Series
Episode Count: 26
Genre: Sci-Fi / Slice of Life
Vintage: 2007

Version reviewed: Japanese, Subtitled
Date of Review: 13 Feb 2017

Grade: A+

What if Studio Ghibli made a series like Lain?

Plot Summary
It’s the year 2026. The world has two layers: the physical and an augmented cyber layer, which can be seen and interacted with by wearing special glasses. Soon after moving to a new town, sixth-grader Yuko loses her Pet dog, which is not a real dog, but an AI which lives in the cyber layer. As she tries to find her lost Pet, she meets Fumie, another sixth-grader. Fumie offers to help Yuko find her Pet, but at a cost. Yuko doesn’t understand how Fumie wants to be paid as it’s some sort of cyber currency, but she agrees anyway. Fumie is searching for an Illegal AI, and these Illegals seem to be related to a string of recent Pet disappearances. As Yuko joins Fumie on her mission, so too begins her journey into the augmented cyber world and all of its dangers.

The Review
It took Dennou Coil a mere four episodes to take its position amongst my all-time favorite anime series. Not bad for a series I knew very little about but had been anticipating for at least five years, if not more. Dennou Coil isn’t quite cyberpunk, but it’s about as close as you can get without the dystopia. Science fiction in a plausible real-world setting is usually a fair bet for me, and Dennou Coil certainly lived up to my expectations.

There are a few other things which made Dennou Coil a series I took to very quickly. Yuko is voiced by Fumiko Orikasa, who is one of my favorite seiyuu. Speaking of characters, I also like the character designs quite a bit. Taking Yuko as an example again, she has a very unremarkable appearance (quite a “normal” looking girl), but it is her simplicity which only adds to her charm. In what seems to be a recurring theme, this is at least the third series I’ve become quite a fan of which has the combination of elementary school children in a slice-of-life series with science-fiction elements – Figure 17 and Noein being two other notables.

I mention Studio Ghibli in the opening to this review, and by that I refer to the “feel” of the series. That said, there were some parts of the series early on which reminded me of My Neighbor Totoro, of all things! The main character Yuko has a four-year-old sister named Kyoko, and their dynamic reminds me of Totoro‘s Satsuki and Mei. There were also small creatures which reminded me of the sootballs. Back to Kyoko for a moment, she is a clever little thing, but still very much a toddler. She goes around calling everything unchi, which will become your new favorite Japanese word, and that will be weird. Look it up, if you dare. Anyway, the comparison to  Ghibli also works on a technical level, since Dennou Coil is animated by none other than Madhouse.

Most series of this length go through a change about midway through, as the larger story becomes the focus once the character building is complete. Dennou Coil is no exception, but the way it handles the transition is much more subtle. Often, the transition point is fairly easy to detect with a major event changing the course of the story. Dennou Coil’s change in course is much less obvious. The story does take the expected turn, but it happens so gradually that only once it has made progress in the larger arc do you realize that the laying of the groundwork was finished a while ago. Maybe I’ll see it more on a rewatch, but for my first viewing, it had happened before I realized it. There is also a great thing that the narrative does towards the end of the series which I don’t see too often. Early scenes become familiar in a new context, to give a cryptic clue. There is also an episode which is remarkable at hiding its true purpose until it gets revealed in a most surprising way. The storytelling in Dennou Coil is expertly crafted.

It has been a while since a series pulled me in the way Dennou Coil did. I think A Certain Scientific Railgun was the most recent one to take me completely by surprise like this, until now. While watching Dennou Coil, it felt like I was back in my early days of discovering anime watching Serial Experiments Lain for the first time. Dennou Coil touches on some of the same themes that Lain did nearly ten years earlier, but in a different way.

For as long as I’ve been a fan of anime and with as much as I have seen over the years, I am sometimes unsure if that sense of wonder is still out there in something I haven’t seen yet, waiting for me to find it. With Dennou Coil, I have found it once more, and then some. This is a series which has joined the company of some of my all-time favorites, including Revolutionary Girl Utena, Figure 17, Serial Experiments Lain, and Haibane-Renmei. If you want a perfect blend of science fiction and slice-of-life, Dennou Coil will show you how it’s done.

Advertisements

Sketchbook ~full color’S~

Sketchbook ~full color'S~Type: TV Series + Specials
Episode Count: 13 + 6
Genre: Slice of Life / Comedy
Vintage: 2007 / 2008

Version reviewed: Japanese, Subtitled
Date of Review: 31 Mar 2016

Grade: A

The grammatically incorrect apostrophe appears in the title card for this series, and all promotional materials, so that is how I have presented it here.

More slice of life perfection.

Plot Summary
Sora Kajiwara always carries her sketchbook wherever she goes, in case she sees something she wants to draw. A shy and quiet girl, she is part of the Art Club at school and, when not chasing cats, enjoys her days with her two best friends: Natsumi and Hazuki.

The Review
Once more, a slice of life series proves to be as difficult to review as it is simple. While preparing for this review, I did find something interesting out about Sketchbook, which only confirmed something I’ve long suspected in general when it comes to anime. As I watched the original Japanese commercials promoting the series, I noted the time it aired: around 1am. There are indeed anime series produced with the intention of airing them during the dead of night, and in the case of Sketchbook, that makes full sense with how it is paced and presented. At such a late hour, sometimes you just want something which doesn’t require recalling intricate plotlines. Sketchbook is as easygoing as an anime series gets. Watching it is quite relaxing indeed.

Sketchbook has no overarching story to speak of. Even the passing of the school year doesn’t really play into it, other than showing what kinds of things the characters can do depending on what time of year it is. As usual with slice of life shows, it’s the cast which propels the show, and Sketchbook’s is a fun one. It begins with Sora (voiced by none other than Kana Hanazawa), who is shy, quiet, and just a bit spacy. She is easily distracted by cats, and they are her favorite subject to draw. She also has her own unique trademark of a vocally reinforced double nod. This comes as little surprise, being a series directed by Junichi Sato, whose leads often have their own peculiar little phrases.

The rest of the cast is equally fun to watch. Sora’s friend Natsumi is easily excitable and loves puppets, always bringing a pair with her everywhere she goes. Completing the main trio is Hazuki, who is always minding her change purse and acting as the voice of reason. Later on, they are joined by a Canadian girl named Kate, who amuses with her somewhat broken Japanese. The Art Club’s faculty advisor Hiyori is your standard lazy adult, always wanting her students to have fun even if she can’t afford to give them proper outings. She also loves chickens. A lot. I also enjoyed the just plain weird upperclass students Fuu and Ryou. There’s also the dark Kokage, who has an interesting sense of humor. All of these characters and more (including side stories featuring talking cats) make the world of Sketchbook a delight.

The DVD release of the series also includes six short picture dramas which tell their own side story. These are done in an animation style recreating paper puppets on sticks, making them fun to watch as well.

Sketchbook ~full color’S~ is a great little series, even if it has an unnecessary apostrophe in its title. Slice of life fans don’t need to be sold on it, as it’s a sure bet. If you haven’t gotten your fill of high school art students from Hidamari Sketch, Sketchbook should be next on your list of shows to watch.

YuYushiki

YuYushikiType: TV Series
Episode Count: 12
Genre: Comedy / Slice of Life
Vintage: 2013

Version reviewed: Japanese, Subtitled
Date of Review: 13 Apr 2015

Grade: A

Another satisfying helping of 4-koma based comedy.

Plot Summary
Yui, Yuzuko, and Yukari have just begun high school and are trying to decide which club to join. They discover the Data Processing club, which currently has no members, and save it from elimination by joining it as a trio. It’s not so much about what the Data Processing club does – which turns out to be mostly looking things up about a randomly chosen daily topic on the internet and summarizing their findings – but the daily lives of the three girls at school and elsewhere.

The Review
If you’re already a fan of 4-koma based series, what are you waiting for? YuYushiki (pronounced yew-YEWSH-key) will be a fine addition to your anime library.

For the benefit of everyone else, a fuller description. YuYushiki is 4-koma based slice of life comedy, so it’s certainly nothing new. What could this series possibly do that hasn’t been done before? I couldn’t tell you definitively, as I have not seen every 4-koma based series ever created, but I can tell you that YuYushiki struck me as fun and original.

As always, the cast is key in a 4-koma, so allow me to introduce you to them. Yuzuko (pink hair) is the spazz. She’s also easily distracted by cats. Yukari (purple hair) is a rich girl, but she’s no snooty ojou-sama. In fact, she is more of a space cadet than anything else. Finally, there’s Yui (blonde), the voice of reason and sanity. In addition to the main trio is their homeroom teacher Yoriko, though rather than addressing her as sensei, the girls call her Okaa-san (Mom) because of her gentle nature. Soon they also make friends with another trio of girls in the class.

YuYushiki is about girls in their school club, but the Data Processing club isn’t where most of the activity in the series takes place, nor is the humor computer-based, so as long as you enjoy good comedy, there are no obstacles in the way in terms of subject matter. What can be found in plentiful supply in YuYushiki are wordplay and puns, which are some of the most challenging things to convert from one language to another. Somehow, it seems to work, as I quite enjoyed the many times when linguistics were the source of the jokes. Much of the humor in YuYushiki is derived from Yuzuko and Yukari acting like Tweedledee and Tweedledum and/or tormenting Yui as Yui tries to knock some sense into the two of them. Often literally.

…and that’s all there is to it. Another in a long string of 4-koma based slice of life comedies, YuYushiki still manages to bring something good to the table, and I certainly look forward to revisiting the Data Processing club someday.