Kunihiko Ikuhara: The Intro is Never the Beginning

hisui_icon_4040_round Sarazanmai just kicked off and it is 1000% Ikuhara from the start and shows no signs of stopping. At this point you can pick out some of the major themes he is going to examine and guess and some others but betting on details specifics is a fool’s wager. Heck, even after an Ikuhara show has finished fans will be debating points about it until the end of time. I myself have watched the first episode of Sarazanmai three times in an attempt to try to find some of the obvious threads to pay attention to as well as hopefully catch some of the more subtle paths as well. I did notice something I was not excepting that gave me a new insight into Ikuhara as a storyteller.

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Obligatory Valentine’s Day Related Post: Our Favorite Couples of 2011

Ah Valentines Day. A time for anime bloggers to write about romance and dating. As I understand there are also other rituals involved with this holiday but I am not privy to such mystical secrets. So we present to you our favorite couples from 2011.  As with every year with anime there are a fair number of very standard romances, some bizarre ones, some Tomino styled ones, some that never go anywhere, and even some dreadful ones. We both selected a pair that we though were both well written and entertaining. Feel free to comment below on who you would pick from 2011 as well.

Looking at our picks, I realize both of them have pretty sad ends. They aren’t bad endings, but they are melancholy for sure.

Ringo and Shoma (Mawaru Penguindrum)

I won’t say they are the best couple. That is just crazy talk. Everyone in Penguindrum is a crazy messed up person with more baggage than an airport. But Ringo and Shoma are a very fascinating couple and that alone secures their place in my favorite couple spot of 2011. They started off as strangers both obsessed with different goals that happened to be more interconnected then they first assumed. Ringo is an obsessed stalker devoted to seducing the man her sister loved at any cost. Shoma is equally obsessed with trying to find the Penguindrum to save his sister but is amazingly passive in his attempts to accomplish his mission. As the series goes on they both learn from the other as they grow as a couple. Ringo sees the folly in her single-minded devotion and Shoma learns that he must make a stand to get what he wants. Their wildly divergent personalities oddly complement each other. There are several major complications that keep them part when their pasts are revealed but it does not stop them from coming together in the end. Although their time together as an actual couple may be short, it is unforgettable. Their story engaged me and added to the story despite their major dysfunctions.

Jintan & Menma (AnoHana)

From the very beginning we know that the story in AnoHana is going to be a bittersweet one full of the ups and downs of childhood and all the regrets that go along with it. Menma died when everyone was very young and it blew apart the circle of friends, but Menma’s spirit brings them all back together to confront each other and the future. Jintan and Menma’s love is a simple one, afterall it comes from a simpler time, yet because of the tragedy it has distorted everyone’s relationships thereafter. There is a moment between Jintan and Menma that moved me so completely that it is probably why I picked them above all others. They are sitting at the table, like they have so many times before, but now the weight of the past has started to come down and the barrier cracks as Jintan talks about granting Menma’s wish and her disappearing. It was amazingly heartfelt and open. I could literally see Jintan realizing he loved her. Jintan is stuck, but he doesn’t understand why, he has simply put away the past instead of acknowledging it. With Menma’s appearance the wheels start to turn ever so slightly, I find his emotional journey just as compelling as this impossible romance.

The Speakeasy #025: The Flying Penguin, A Revolutionary Girl Utena & Mawaru Penguindrum Discussion

Drink #025: The Flying Penguin,
A Revolutionary Girl Utena & Mawaru Penguindrum Discussion

Kunihiko Ikuhara is undoubtedly one of our favorite directors so it seemed only fitting for us to devote a podcast to two of his most recognizable masterworks. For each show we brought on a guest to talk with us a bit about the selected show. We started with Clarissa from the Anime World Order podcast to chat about Revolutionary Girl Utena. As she recently did a paper for grad school on the show she seemed the only logical choice for a guest to talk about pink-haired crossdressers. After that we talk with Patz from Insert-Disc about Ikuhara’s recently concluded work, Mawaru Penguindrum. With both titles we do an in-depth analysis of characters and themes and don’t hold anything back on the spoiler side of things. If you have not finished either series be warned that we give away pretty much anything that could possibly be. If you want a review just know that both shows are 100% recommended so you can just watch them and then come back and listen to the podcast.

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And now your helpful bartenders at The Speakeasy present your drink:

The Flying Penguin


Pour 1.5 ounces each of Vodka, White Rum and Gin into a highball glass over two ice cubes. Add a good spash (approx .25 ounces) of angora bitters and swirl with a metal stirring rod. Add 5 ounces of Pink Grapefruit Juice. Add 1.5 ounces of sugar syrup. Slice a fresh lime into a slice approximately 1/2 of an inch wide. Cut in half, squeezing one half directly into the drink (then drop the squeezed lime half in). Make a small nick 2/3rds of the way up the second halfof lime and use to rim the glass then as a garnish. Include a metal stirring rod.