The Garden of Words Review: Makoto Shinkai’s Most Beautiful Film.

4 stars
Aside from Your Name, the Mokoto Shinkai film I have heard the most praise for is The Garden of Words.
And, with me quickly becoming a Shinkai fan after loving both Your Name and his most recent film, Weathering With You, I knew I had to check it out.
Now, when I started watching, I was surprised at the short runtime the film, which is only 46 minutes, but my concern about this quickly faded with the first few shots of the film.
It was at this moment when my jaw hit the literal floor.
I know that I, and many others, have said way too much that the animation of Shinkai’s films are jaw dropping but, honestly, that statement is entirely warranted when it comes to The Garden of Words.
I would go as for to say that this film is not just Shinkai’s most beautifully animated film but one of the most beautifully animated films I have ever seen.
It is so amazing that I actually mistook a shot of a branch hanging over the water to be real initially.

real or animation.jpg
Does this look real to you? Because it did for me for a couple seconds.

But enough gushing about the animation; what about the story?
Well, it could have been very easy for The Garden of Words to stumble with this.
The anime follows a 15-year-old student named Takao Akizuki (Wataru Sekine) who meets a 27-year-old teacher named Yukari Yukino (Kana Hanazawa) at a lakeside garden in the rain.
The two begin to meet in the same place whenever it rains and Takao soon begins to develop feelings for Yukari.
This could easily have made the film weird for me.
If you read my review of Violet Evergarden, you know the only problem I had was that the relationship between the titular character and her love interest, Gilbert was pretty problematic due to the fact that Violet is only 14, and Gilbert is 29.
I could have easily had the same problem with The Garden of Words, considering that Takao is both a year older than Violet and also that Yukari is a teacher at his school.
Thankfully, though, I did not find the depiction of Takao’s feelings for Yukari to be problematic because Shinkai depicted them as that, problematic.
The problems of the connection the two have is perfectly portrayed by Yukari’s sad past, which should leave those watching who support a romance between the two knowing that if that did happen it would make trouble for both of them.
As a result, The Garden of Words depicts a somewhat tragic romance story that fully realizes and plays into its complicated nature.

complicated.jpg
The growing bond between Takao and Yukari is sweet, endearing, and (thankfully) complicated.

Coming back to the short runtime of the film, I think it would be interesting to see what the anime would be like if it had been longer.
It works fine as it is but I feel like I could have related to the characters and their struggles more if Shinkai had extended the runtime a bit more and given us more scenes between the two.
Still, The Garden of Words is another great Shinkai film, and one with such a focus on feet that it made me feel like I watching a Tarantino movie… only, you know, without the bloody violence.
And, while I do not find it as enjoyable or moving as Your Name or Weathering With You, its animation is absolutely spectacular.
If you like to analyse the standards of animation you need to watch The Garden of Words because (even though this has been said to death by this point) your jaw will hit the floor.

Psycho-Pass 2 Review: I Think my Hue Just got Clouded.

two-and-a-half-stars
Oh boy, where do I begin with Psycho-Pass 2?
Coming into the second season of this series I was quite concerned, given what I had heard about it previously.
I hoped that what people had told me about this season would not be the case and I would find it just as fantastic as the first Psycho-Pass.
Unfortunately, this did not happen for me because, in this case, the general consensus about Psycho-Pass 2 is absolutely right.
The second season features Akane Tsunemori (Kana Hanazawa) and the MWPSB as they attempt to track down a criminal mastermind, and his large amount of followers, who is, for some reason, able to bypass the Sybil System.
What’s that?
That synopsis sounds almost exactly like the plot of the first season?
Well, you are certainly right because Psycho-Pass 2 has almost the same beat for beat story structure as season one, only in a much more condensed format, and almost anything new added ultimately fails.

Kamui
The story of Psycho-Pass 2 is very similar to the first season. This time with a very watered down villain.

It is incredibly obvious that there was a different team working on this season than the first one, with Kiyotaka Suzuki stepping in as director.
Right from the get go everything feels different, from the way shots are composed, to the lighting, which just makes something seem off.
There are a few great shots here and there, but these are few and far between.
Getting down to the story of Psycho-Pass 2, along with replicating much of the story from the first season, it is also full of massive plot holes and inconsistencies.
The backstory of the villain, Kirito Kamui (Ryohei Kimura), is so ridiculous that it requires a massive suspension of disbelief that I just could not muster, no matter how hard I tried.
Speaking of Kamui, he is also a terrible villain with unclear motivations, and an incredibly bland design you would expect to see in a background character.
He is not the worst character of the season though.
No, that award goes to Mika Shimotsuki (Ayane Sakura), a detective working with Akane who is one of the most aggravating characters I have seen in an anime in a while.
She is arrogant, hypocritical, and her actions by the end of the season make her completely unlikable in every way.

Mika.png
Mika is the worst character in the entirety of Psycho-Pass. She makes a terrible first impression and only gets worse as the season goes on.

Psycho-Pass 2 feels like it has no idea what it wants to do with its characters from the first season as well.
Akane’s arc is a replica of hers in season one, Nobuchika Ginoza (Kenji Nojima) has no arc to speak of, and, apart from some brief instances, Shinya Kogami (Tomakuza Seki) is not even mentioned.
Thankfully, not every character is badly handled because there are a few new ones I actually found myself enjoying, like Sho Hinawaka (Takahiro Sakurai), and I did appreciate the way the series brought back Joji Saiga (Kazuhiro Yamaji).
So, there are some good things about Psycho-Pass 2, with how it handles some of its characters and a few scenes and specific shots.
However, the negative far outweighs the positives for the season with its plot hole fueled story that just seems like a retread of the first season, mostly boring and sometimes terrible characters, and a less striking cinematic feel.
Psycho-Pass 2 is a very underwhelming experience compared to the first season and I would recommend skipping it.

 

Psycho-Pass Season One Review: Criminal Commentary at its Best.

4 and a half stars
Crime Dramas are some of the most loved and successful shows on television so it was natural for anime to take a stab at it.
But with Psycho-Pass, the genre is taken a step further with Science Fiction, Cyberpunk elements incorporated to make for a great piece of commentary on criminality and justice.
Directed by Naoyoshi Shiotani and Katsuyuki Motohiro, The series is set in a future where Japan is ruled by the Sibyl System, which scans people’s mental states to see if they could potentially become a criminal.
If a person registers as a latent criminal through the System’s scanners, they will either be arrested or killed, depending on the situation.
Those who are not killed are either confined or given the chance to join the MWPSB as Enforcers to work under the detectives and hunt down their fellow latent criminals with high Psycho-Pass readings.
One detective, Akane Tsunemori (Kana Hanazawa), is new on the job and thrust into a world of extreme violence where the system pulls the trigger.

Akane.png
Akane taking on a job as a detective forces her to change, from a naive newbie, to a hardened detective in some great character development.

For this review, I will be solely focusing on season one rather than the entire series.
This is because I have heard season two is disappointing in comparison with the first, and since I love season one so much, I do not want it to reflect too negatively on my review of it.
Season one of Psycho-Pass is nothing short of a powerhouse season, with an amazing story, characters and commentary.
The story is absolutely enthralling with its various violent and disturbing cases that push the main characters to their very limits.
However, this also makes Psycho-Pass not for the faint of heart because of the messed up things in this series.
For example, episodes six to eight focus on a teenage serial killer at a girl’s school and this provides some of the most disturbing things I have seen on screen in a long time.

creepy.jpg
The serial killer episodes from six to eight are the scariest in Psycho-Pass for me, with one of the darkest female characters I have ever seen.

With these constant moments of human depravity, it is no wonder the characters struggle so much, especially Akane, who changes from a naive girl to one of the strongest characters in the series, over the 22 episode season.
We can also see how the cases have affected her fellow detectives and enforcers, with Shinya Kogami (Tomokazu Seki) being a particular focus on how these cases changes a person.
The series even shows how the criminals are affected by the laws, with destroying the system being the main villain of season one Shogo Mikishima’s (Takahiro Sakurai) goal.
Mikishima is a great villain, with a scene between him and Akane in episode 11, “Saint’s Supper,” making him one of the most interesting characters in the series.

Mikishima and Kogami.jpg
Not only is Mikishima a fantastic villain, but his conflict with Kogami is set up and executed perfectly.

Both those on the side of the law and those against it come together in Psycho-Pass to create some truly great commentary on criminality and the justice system.
We see the extreme flaws of the Sibyl System and what it pushes people to commit, and yet, it is the only thing keeping order in Japan.
This commentary makes Psycho-Pass a very thoughtful series.
The season is so good that I only have one problem with it, and that is episode 12, “Crossroad of the Devil.”
This episode focuses on the backstory of a side character Yayoi Kunizuka (Shizuka Ito), who I never found to be all that interesting.
On top of this, her backstory does not serve much of a point in the series.
I felt it would have been better giving a backstory episode to Mikishima, or, better yet, Shuesi Kagari (Akira Ishida), who could have used one, considering where the writers take his character.
Still, even though I did have problems with “Crossroad of the Devil”, it is just a single episode so it does not completely damage my opinion of the anime.
Psycho-Pass is a great anime with some excellent commentary on criminality and the justice system.
It just might be too extreme for some people.
Enjoy it… if you have the stomach to.