All posts by Nefarious Reviews

Notes from the Garden of Lilies – Manga Review

Japanese Title: Zenryaku, Yuri no Sono yori

 

Similar: Flower and Stars

Cirque Arachne

Strawberry Shake Sweet

 

Genre: Yuri Comedy

Length: 2 volumes

 

Positives:

  • The dynamic between the two girls is great.
  • Protagonist Yuri is an amusing, well-rounded character.

Negatives:

  • Nothing.

Yuri has always been teased for her mean-looking eyes, which made her into a tough girl who is defensive about any comment against her. On the other end of the spectrum is Fujiwara, the popular girl beloved by all and considered the nicest person in school. Yuri is suspicious of her, for she doesn’t believe anyone can be that nice – she must be a fake! Yuri secretly writes yaoi manga and bases one of the domineering characters on Fujiwara. However, when Fujiwara finds her notebook after class one day, Yuri must suffer her kindness lest she reveal her hobby to the school.

Upon first starting Notes from the Garden of Lilies, I rolled my eyes – another fawning over the rich girl story. Great. To my pleasant surprise however, it deviated from the cliché by first-chapter’s end into something rather enjoyable. This surprise stems largely from the loud-mouthed and brash Yuri who is infuriated by Fujiwara’s insistent kindness, which is hilarious. On the surface, Yuri sounds the same as Yuzu from Citrus, a character I had little praise for in that review. Yuri succeeds where Yuzu failed because of her consistency. Yuri is always suspicious, even when grateful for Fujiwara’s help in a bind. The change to friendship is gradual and not a pinball machine of indecision as seen with Yuzu.

I had fun reading Notes from the Garden of Lilies and wouldn’t have minded if it were several volumes longer.

Art – High

Good art with a nice level of textures and shading.

Story – Mid-High

A humorous story between a loudmouth and a nice girl…suspiciously nice…

Recommendation: Read it. Yuri and Fujiwara’s story is a fun one.

(Find out more about the manga recommendation system here.)

Epitaph – Manga Review

Japanese Title: Epitaph

 

Genre: Yuri Supernatural

Length: 1 volume

 

Positives:

  • None.

Negatives:

  • Vague storytelling.
  • Art looks half-finished.
  • Lifeless, frankly.

Epitaph is the story of two undertaker girls who carry out the final wishes of their clients as a means to pay rent. They are dubbed the ‘angels of death.’ Despite this macabre title, Epitaph is neither chilling nor engaging. The narrative is just about completing menial wills and paying the bills.

It isn’t pretty to look at either with the inconsistent art. The clothes and eyes are detailed and shaded while the hair and skin look like draft sketches. I don’t like the characters looking eight years old either.

This lifeless manga isn’t worth your time.

Art – Low

Incomp—

Story – Very Low

Nothing to it.

Recommendation: Don’t bother. I found nothing noteworthy in Epitaph.

(Find out more about the manga recommendation system here.)

Citrus – Manga Review

Japanese Title: Citrus

 

Genre: Yuri Romance Drama

Length: 3 volumes (ongoing)

 

Positives:

  • The art is good.

Negatives:

  • Love interest Mei is a soulless character.
  • Doesn’t evolve after a few volumes.
  • Takes the student council seriously.

(contains mild nudity)

Citrus starts with the usual clichéd setup of a girl, Yuzu, moving to a new prestigious high school where Mei, a girl of high status, is admired by everyone and obviously the love interest. Student council president Mei clashes with the fashionable Yuzu over her permed hair, makeup and dress sense, all against the rules of this conservative school. Yuzu rebels, butting heads with Mei at every opportunity, even going so far as to insult the school principal, Mei’s grandfather. However, that first school night, Yuzu learns that Mei is her new stepsister since her mother remarried. Hate and attraction mix, turning to confusion for Yuzu.

While I can’t call the premise boring, I can certainly say so about the characters. Yuzu is inconsistent as she jumps between love and hate at the drop of a hat whenever the writer finds convenient, whereas Mei is plain boring, one-note. The writer didn’t seem to know how to create a cold yet interesting personality. Mei isn’t serious; she’s just boring, boring as waiting in line at Disneyland. This lack of rounding in the characters creates a superficial relationship, as we have no reason to believe they would be interested in each other. I am still not sure what attracts them.

If the author plans ahead for the rest of the series, Citrus has the potential to become something good. For now, give it a try to see if this manga interests you.

Art – High

The quality of the art is good, but there seems to be only three locations in the story, so there isn’t much to see.

Story – Medium

There are the grains of something good here, but an unprepared writer lead to a stagnant story.

Recommendation: Try it. There is little awful in Citrus, so you may enjoy it.

(Find out more about the manga recommendation system here.)

The Garden of Words – Review

Japanese Title: Kotonoha no Niwa

 

Related: 5 Centimetres per Second (same director)

Voices of a Distant Star (same director)

The Place Promised in Our Early Days (same director)

Similar: Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light

 

Watched in: Japanese

Genre: Romance

Length: 45-minute movie

 

Positives:

  • Heartbreakingly beautiful art in every aspect.
  • Rain and thunder ambience that creates an absorbing atmosphere.
  • A subtle soundtrack of piano and violin to fit the emotions.
  • The details in the animations.

Negatives:

  • Too short, making for an abrupt ending.

The Garden of Words is the latest in visual master Makoto Shinkai’s library of anime. Just like 5 Centimetres per Second, The Garden of Words more than lives up to Shinkai’s legacy of pushing art to the limits in anime.

This time we see Takao, a high school student, who skips school during the rainy season to sketch under a gazebo in a Japanese garden park, where he meets older woman Yukino. She drinks beer all day and mountains of chocolate. The two start meeting in the park regularly, knowing that the other will be there when it rains and slowly begin to talk to each other. She has problems at work to deal with while he wants to become a shoemaker, hoping to have a more fulfilling life. Though what will they do when the rainy season ends?

I can’t get the art out of my head – it’s so incredibly beautiful. To see how much attention to detail the artists put into the work is mind-blowing. There are no shortcuts here. Greens and greys dominate the colour pallet, invoking beauty and a sense of sorrow at the same time, a loneliness in pursuing what one finds precious. Everything from the rain to lightning is stunning. When the wind hits the rain…chills, my friend…chills.

The little things make this art a cut above the rest. My favourite detail is the reflective distortion for every single raindrop hitting the water. There are even things that most people wouldn’t pay attention to like clouds of different sizes and distance moving at varying speeds. Even the lightning has full animation; rather than flashing a single frame, the artists animated the growth of the lightning across the sky. Phenomenal.

The sound effects match the visuals with an orchestra of rain, thunder and wind, one of the most pleasant sounds on Earth. A few music pieces accompany the ambience to great effect. Piano plays in an agitated manner, getting faster with the rising desperation of Takao, until violin comes in for the uplifting moments. The only flaw in terms of audio is the voice work. It isn’t bad by any means – good, in fact – but the limited scope of the narrative and sombre mood doesn’t allow for much range or a variety of expressions.

The Garden of Words is very much a short story in scope; two protagonists, each with a thread, entwine their lives with one another. Takao’s brother is ancillary to Takao himself, acting as a father figure simply to avoid Takao being a lone child. If Takao were older, I believe Shinkai would have cut the brother – that’s how small a part the supporting cast plays. Shinkai is known for stripping his stories down to the bones, which is great when wanting to focus on a single topic, but does result in a limited scope. Here, the focus is on loneliness and finding comfort in an unlikely place with unexpected results. We don’t see a whirlwind of emotion, two strangers caught up in a romanticised drama woven from their desire to find comfort in the company of a stranger. No, these two are subtle in their interactions, slowly building up to heightened drama as they deal with their problems. In short, for the narrative to grip you, this focused storytelling has to be your cup of tea. Takao and Yukino will either captivate you or bore you – nothing in between.

If I had to level a complaint against The Garden of Words, it would be towards its length. The story feels like it ends much too soon. It needed at least another fifteen minutes to get the full message out – ideally, twice the total length for some in-depth exploration of the characters and their lives. (Or am I just saying that as an excuse to feel more of the atmosphere?)

The Garden of Words nails atmosphere at a master class level with its art and audio mixing, and is a must watch for any pluviophile, even if the story isn’t particularly to your tastes.

Art – Very High

One of the most beautiful pieces of art put to screen.

Sound – High

I could listen to the stormy ambiance forever. Good voice work as well.

Story – High

A heartfelt story of moving forward in life. Shame about the length.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: A must watch for 45 minutes of your life. The Garden of Words is a film for those looking to relax and listen to the sound of rain.

(Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: 

Fluid AnimationGreat MusicStunning Art Quality

Negative: None.

Murciélago – Manga Review

Japanese Title: Murciélago

 

Genre: Yuri Horror Action

Length: 3 volumes (ongoing)

 

Positives:

  • A unique and interesting character. Certainly weird.
  • Some great dark humour.
  • A lot of work went into the artwork, and it shows.

Negatives:

  • The whimsy can get in the way of depth.
  • Risks getting repetitive if the writer doesn’t introduce an objective beyond killing bad guys.

(contains nudity and sex)

Meet Kuroko, a serial killer responsible for over 700 deaths and new employee of the police to deal with other dangerous criminals. Along with her young handler, Hinako, they drive around the city in a Lamborghini Murciélago (hence the title) to hunt the most psychotic of bad guys. Luckily, Kuroko is more psychotic than any of them and Hinako, despite her cuteness, isn’t flustered by the excessive violence; she’s more concerned with how much Kuroko’s damages will cost the city. Kuroko is certainly one of the stranger manga characters out there and a yuri nymphomaniac.

Murciélago is for those who like violent action mixed with dark humour. There is even a murder party where all the scum and villainy are invited. I found it humorous.

Outside of its art, Murciélago’s greatest strength is the insane premise. Criminal hired by the police isn’t a new concept, but I have never seen it employed in such a psychotic manner. Murciélago never takes itself too seriously, which is great for the humour; however, I do worry that it will hinge too much on ‘weirdness’ in the long run, losing depth as a result. That said, three volumes in and it looks good.

Art – Very High

Great art that never feels repetitive. Fully detailed environments, many degrees of shading, expressive, and interestingly weird character designs.

Story – High

A serial killer who kills other criminals with dark humour and whimsy? Entertaining.

Recommendation: Read it. If you can handle gore and excessive violence, then Murciélago is worth your while.

(Find out more about the manga recommendation system here.)