Hello everybody! This year, I’m very excited to be introducing a few new series to the blog, one of which being my Manga & Anime Review series (you’ll get to discover the other new series very soon!). As part of this new series, I’ll publish monthly posts here on the blog, with non-spoiler reviews of all the manga that I read and all the anime that I watch over the course of a month.
I actually decided to start this series largely as a way to encourage myself to read more manga and watch more anime in 2021. Although manga and anime are things that I’ve been passionate about for a very long time, I didn’t really read or watch much of either in the past year. I think you’ll probably understand where I’m coming from when I say that my mind just wasn’t into it last year. In 2021 though, I really want to go back to my otaku roots and I’m definitely looking forward to discussing about anime and manga with you guys!
Here are the manga and anime that I will be reviewing in this post:
Manga: Ao Haru Ride
Anime: Blood+, No.6
Feel free to scroll down to the titles that interest you the most ^^
Ao Haru Ride by Io Sakisaka
No. of volumes: 13
Status: Completed (April 2011 – May 2015)
Official synopsis: Futaba Yoshioka thought all boys were loud and obnoxious until she met Kou Tanaka in junior high. But as soon as she realized she really liked him, he had already moved away because of family issues. Now, in high school, Kou has reappeared, but is he still the same boy she fell in love with?
My review: If you’re looking for a good shojo manga, especially if you’re new to the genre or you don’t read a lot of it, this is definitely one that I recommend you pick up. The art is amazing and I really liked the characters. Our main character, Futaba, is very relatable and endearing. Like most of the characters in this manga, she definitely has flaws and a large part of the story, aside from the romance and the relationships, focuses on her journey as she grows as a person. Kou, the other main character and Futaba’s main love interest in the series, is not your typical perfect, dreamy manga boyfriend. When we meet Kou in the beginning of the series, we find him in a very difficult place emotionally and mentally. His struggles with what he’s dealing with propel him to push people away and to make rash decisions that usually end up having negative consequences. He also displays a lot of immaturity in the beginning. However, over the course of the series, we see him learn to cope with the things he’s grappling with, and grow more mature over time. His character growth was very well written and nicely paced, allowing for a lot of well developed character development.
Another aspect of the series that I really enjoyed is the relationships between the characters. Aside from Kou’s and Futaba’s storylines, we also follow the stories of their classmates. I liked how everyone’s character arcs were developed over the course of the series and I really enjoyed the friendship that develops between the characters. Their friendship felt genuine and heartfelt. Honestly, the friendship between the characters was probably my favorite aspect of the series.
The romance is unfortunately where my enjoyment dwindled a little. While the manga is certainly full of cute, romantic scenes and little moments that will definitely give you all the feels, I had some issues with the main romantic plotline between Kou and Futaba. My main issue is to do with the pacing. I honestly feel that this manga could have been a few volumes shorter. While the first few volumes are full of fun banter and cute moments between Kou and Futaba, as the story progresses, things really get to a standstill with the development of their romance. There is a lot, and I do mean a lot, of unnecessary drama that unfolds between them, mostly due to misunderstanding and a lack of communication between them. Despite my issues with the pacing though, I still enjoyed the series, mostly because I binged it over the course of 3 days. However, had I had to wait months in between volumes, I probably wouldn’t have had the drive to finish the series. So if you’re planning to read this manga, I would definitely suggest you binge the volumes.
Overall, while I do think Ao Haru Ride has its flaws, it’s still a very enjoyable romance/slice of life shojo manga and I would still recommend it to readers who are fans of the genre or who want to give the genre a try.
No. of episodes: 50
Status: Completed (October 2005 – September 2006)
Synopsis: Saya Otonashi is a seemingly ordinary girl living a mundane life with her adoptive family in Okinawa City. In fact, her only peculiarities are suffering from anemia and being unable to remember any of her life beyond the previous year. However, Saya’s forgotten past quickly comes back to haunt her—one night, she is attacked at school by a creature that feeds on human blood. Just when all hope seems lost, a mysterious man named Haji appears and fends off the creature temporarily. But when her rescuer forces her to drink his blood, Saya suddenly enters a trance and slays the monster with ease, using her own blood as a catalyst.
Saya then learns of an organization named Red Shield, founded for the sole purpose of defeating the hellish beasts. Now Saya and Haji must work together with Red Shield to fight these fearsome monsters and unlock the secrets to the girl’s past. (Source: MyAnimeList)
My review: I really enjoyed the anime’s unique interpretation of vampire lore. The premise is also pretty cool. Unfortunately, this was a bit of a miss for me, mostly because of the poor execution of an otherwise interesting premise. This anime is 50 episodes long and sadly, a good chunk of those episodes kind of feel like filler content and do little to move the plot forward. While I did enjoy the story for most part, there were a lot of overly convenient plot developments, as well as some glaring plot holes that I just couldn’t look past.
Overall, the side characters were pretty interesting. The main character though, really frustrated me. Saya, who originally suffers from memory loss, finds at the beginning of the story that she’s actually a skilled warrior whose unique blood gives her the ability to kill monsters (not a spoiler – that’s literally the premise of the anime). However, Saya struggles a lot to be the fearsome warrior everyone expects her to be, largely because she has no memory of that time of her life, save for traumatizing flashbacks that terrify her. Now, I totally get that. It would be confusing and downright terrifying to be in her shoes. Not to mention that she clearly suffers from trauma and PTSD. However, the story does little to address those things properly and instead, because of how poorly her character is depicted, Saya comes off as weak and whiny in most of her scenes. And once she does open up to her new reality, she ends up making a lot of bad decisions that put the people around her in peril, often in situations that could have totally been avoided. She also gains a very narrow-sighted view of things, which I thought was very frustrating, and acts rather selfishly throughout the series, especially towards her companion, Haji.
Now Haji though, was amazing. His character was the saving grace of this anime for me! Not just because he’s absolutely gorgeous (which he totally is), but also because he’s a total badass. Now, I can’t tell you much about him without spoiling certain things, but I can tell you that his scenes, both his fight scenes as well as the scenes that depict his backstory, were some of the best in the anime.
Another aspect of the anime that I liked was the art and animation. Visually, Blood+ is a beautiful anime, with elaborate background designs and interesting character designs. And while there isn’t anything particularly special about the animation, the fight scenes though are done really well.
So overall, while Blood+ does have a cool premise, I thought the execution of the plot, as well as the development of the characters, were rather disappointing. However, because there aren’t that many vampire anime out there, I would still recommend this anime to fans of the genre. It’s in no way one of the best in its genre, but if you absolutely love vampire anime, I feel that you should at least give this one a try.
No. of episodes: 11
Status: Completed (July 2011 – September 2011)
Synopsis: Many years ago, after the end of a bloody world war, mankind took shelter in six city-states that were peaceful and perfect… at least on the surface. However, Shion—an elite resident of the city-state No. 6—gained a new perspective on the world he lives in, thanks to a chance encounter with a mysterious boy, Nezumi. Nezumi turned out to be just one of many who lived in the desolate wasteland beyond the walls of the supposed utopia. But despite knowing that the other boy was a fugitive, Shion decided to take him in for the night and protect him, which resulted in drastic consequences: because of his actions, Shion and his mother lost their status as elites and were relocated elsewhere, and the darker side of the city began to make itself known.
Now, a long time after their life-altering first meeting, Shion and Nezumi are finally brought together once again—the former elite and the boy on the run are about to embark on an adventure that will, in time, reveal the shattering secrets of No. 6. (Source: MyAnimeList)
My review: While I enjoyed the story, it did feel pretty rushed. 11 episodes is just too short to do justice to a sci-fi/dystopian story like this. Perhaps due to the overly fast pacing, there were a lot of plot developments that felt too convenient. Also, there were not enough explanations given with regards to the world and the society in which the story takes place. The barebones of a really cool and complex world are there, but because there are so few episodes, we never really get to explore this world properly. And it’s a shame too, because from the little we see of it, the world in which this story is set, is pretty cool.
The characters though were amazing. I loved both of the main characters, Shion and Nezumi. They both have interesting backstories, as well as satisfying character arcs. I also really enjoyed the relationship that develops between the two of them. If you don’t know, No.6 is a Shounen-ai/BL anime and while romance is not really the main focus of the story, the anime does portray the growing romantic relationship between Shion and Nezumi pretty well. We do get several cute and heartfelt scenes between the two of them over the course of the episodes. However, because of how short the anime is, we don’t really get to see as much of their relationship as I would have wanted.
The art and animation in this anime are also really good! This is just a beautiful anime to look at. The character designs are really nice and the backgrounds for various scenes are very elaborate, with really interesting use of color and gradients. Overall, this is a stunning anime visually.
Although the story did feel rather rushed, overall I enjoyed this anime quite a bit. I loved the relationship between the characters and thought the world was pretty interesting. This is not exactly an outstanding anime, but it’s definitely worth a watch.
What I’m currently reading and watching
Manga: I’m currently halfway through Happiness by Shūzō Oshimi. It’s a vampire manga series and although it’s rather grim, I’m enjoying the story so far. Also, the artwork is stunning. I should have a review for this manga series ready for next month’s Manga & Anime Review post, so look forward to my thoughts on that!
Anime: Since the two previous anime that I watched were rather serious in tone, I wanted to watch something lighthearted and fun next. So right now, I’m currently watching Phantom in the Twilight. Although it’s marketed as a reverse harem story, I honestly wouldn’t call it that because it’s way more original than the stories that you usually get in this genre. The characters and their relationships are also pretty well developed. I have only 4 episodes left, so I’ll definitely have a review for it in my next Manga & Anime Review post.
I’ve also been re-watching the first season of the original Sailor Moon anime. Sailor Moon is my all time favorite and I’ve been meaning to properly binge the whole anime, including all 200 episodes and the 3 movies, for a while now. I have watched most of the series before, but I’ve never actually binged the whole thing in a continuous stretch. I’ll probably be watching it over the course of a few months in between other anime series and once I complete it, I’ll of course include a review of it in one of my Manga & Anime Review posts. However, since Sailor Moon is an old favorite, I can already tell you that it’s an amazing anime and if you’ve never watched it, you should definitely give it a try. The manga is also really good!