Adapted from Keiko Suenobu’s manga “LIFE,” this drama delves into the dark side of high school life. The story focuses mainly on bullying, but the manga also touches on subjects such as self-mutilation, suicide, and rape. Kitano Kii stars as Ayumu Shiiba, one of the students bullied by a group of classmates led by Ayumu’s former friend, Manami Anzai (Fukuda Saki).
Titles: ライフ, LIFE, Raifu
Genre: School drama
Viewership ratings: 12.2(Kanto)
Broadcast network: Fuji TV
Broadcast period: 2007-Jun-30 to 2007-Sep-15 (ep5 Aug-4)
Air time: Saturday 23:00
Theme song: LIFE by Mika Nakashima
Bullying is a vicious cycle. Once you get caught in it, whether you’re the bully or the bullied, it’s really hard to get out of. Such is a truth exposed by the drama LIFE or Raifu.
Like many live-action adaptations of manga, the drama isn’t 100% faithful to the original source by Keiko Suenobu. One of the changes I noticed was the downplay of sexual abuse and self-mutilation in the drama, which was understandable. If they portray it exactly the way it is in the manga the viewers might think the drama is too extreme, so the changes are acceptable. Even with such differences, the drama is still able to give off the same feel from the manga.
I haven’t read the manga for a long time but watching the drama reminded me of all that I felt when I was still reading the manga. LIFE is such a “roller coaster” of emotions for me. It’s not hard to be so emotionally invested in a story such as this, because you’ll be exposed to such a cruel world that actually exists in real life. A lot of people, usually parents and teachers, think that bullying is not a big deal and is a natural part of school life. What these people don’t realize is that bullying can take on many forms, that it’s not just physically hurting someone, that it’s not limited to a school setting, and that bullying can seriously affect the lives of both the bully and the victims. These things are usually overlooked in real life but in the drama LIFE, the viewers are shown that it is what it is, and a great deal of that is shown through the characters.
Each character effectively represents a different aspect of bullying. There are the victims who are constantly treated as lesser beings and always driven close to giving up, but somehow are able to stay resilient and become stronger. The bullies, who never get tired of picking on their victims to satisfy their insecurity, loneliness, hatred, selfishness or their other personal reasons. There are also the “bystanders” who only sit and watch either in fear of becoming victims themselves or simply not wanting to be involved. All these characters give off a powerful impact to the viewer with their individual personas and of course, the acting.
Overall, the acting is commendable. I thought that the casting for some characters were a bit questionable (since some of them look too old for the role, or not pretty or handsome enough) or underwhelming (such as Seki Megumi as Hatori Miki), but for the most part I really liked the casting. Kitano Kii as the lead did a good job portraying Ayumu, and she fitted the role well, but she could’ve been a little bit better. As Ayumu she was very charming and likable, but for me she wasn’t totally convincing the entire time. Sometimes it just felt like she wasn’t giving her all in scenes that required her to be more intense, and sometimes her acting just seemed really corny.
For me the bullies were more convincing actors. They played their roles well that I started to really hate their characters. They all did a good job showing how mean they are even with just the subtle smirks on their faces they get from the satisfaction of hurting their victims, especially Fukuda Saki as “queen bee” Anzai Manami. She was good at being sweet and angelic one second, then mean and bitchy just like that. I also really liked Midori, Manami’s spunky, outspoken sidekick, who stole the show from her sometimes.
The theme song is by multi-talented and beautiful Mika Nakashima. Her song “LIFE” could not be anymore appropriate for the drama. The song is sang beautifully in her signature husky voice and the lyrics really go well with the story, talking about gaining courage and loving and believing in yourself, emphasizing the self-empowerment aspect of the drama.
As much as it is a story about self-empowerment, I do think that LIFE is also somewhat an exposé of the harsh realities of bullying, making the show of social importance as it is of entertainment. A word of caution though - considering some of the themes tackled in the story, it might not be appropriate for younger audiences. Still, as something that you can enjoy watching and at the same time be inspired and learn a lot from, LIFE is truly a noteworthy show.
Story - 9
Characters - 9
Acting - 9
Music - 9
Enjoyment - 10
Overall - 9/10
A-Channel depicts the daily lives of Run, Tooru, Yuuko and Nagi in high school. The natural airheaded Run spreading her liveliness and indiscretion is just a small part of the four girls hectic life in high school.
Alternative Title(s): Aチャンネル
Published: Dec 2008 to present
Genres: Comedy, School, Slice of Life, Seinen
Authors: Kuroda, bb (Story & Art)
Serialization: Manga Time Kirara Carat
Cute manga is cute. There’s no other way to describe it.
Like other slice of life, seinen manga about a group of high school girls, the story is as simple as it gets. If you leave it like that, chances are the manga will become really shallow, or maybe even drab, so you’ll have to make up for it by making it special in another way. In A Channel’s case, that is accomplished by having really cute characters.
A Channel’s characters are your usual, cookie cutter moeblobs drawn in the same style we see a lot in recent seinen anime and manga, except with a little more detail.
From right to left, first we have Nagi, the voice of reason of the group, who slips now and then. Yuuko, the shy, innocent girl with the dynamite body. Run, the blonde clumsy airhead. Finally, Tooru, the short and silent tsundere. Though not the most original set of characters, they are all still likable. My personal favorite is Tooru.
You might find yourself remembering Lucky Star or Azumanga Daioh while reading this manga, because just like in those two, the story in A Channel progresses as the four girls go through their daily routine, experiencing common activities and events in a high schooler’s life. The manga is also in a 4-koma (4 panel) format, so each story ends quickly and doesn’t drag on.
Even though it is listed as a comedy, from what I’ve read so far I don’t think it’s that funny. As I was reading the first 12 chapters, I only found myself chuckling once. Either it’s not funny enough or I’m just hard to please. Still, I do think that it’s worth reading.
If you’re a fan of Lucky Star or Azumanga Daioh or slice of life, seinen manga or anime in general, then A Channel should not be ignored.
Story - 7
Art - 7
Character - 7
Enjoyment - 7
Overall - 7/10
During a fiercely hot summer in Sotoba, a peaceful and quiet village with a population of 1300 people, a series of bizarre deaths begin to occur. At the same time, a strange family moves into a long abandoned mansion in the region. After supposedly visiting this strange family, the fashionable Shimizu Megumi goes missing and the entire village goes out in search for her.
Status: Finished Airing
Aired: Jun 27, 2010 to Dec 30, 2010
Producers: Aniplex, Daume, FUNimation Entertainment
Genres: Mystery, Horror, Vampire, Supernatural
Duration: 22 min. per episode
Rating: R - 17+ (violence & profanity)
Vampire anime has never been my cup of tea. I’ve seen a fair amount of such anime and for me, they usually turn out to be really corny (such as Dance in the Vampire Bund), boring (such as Shingetsutan Tsukihime), shallow and chockfull of fanservice (Rosario + Vampire) or just plain lame (Black Blood Brothers). I’ve gotten tired of seeing vampires presented to be as majestic, perfect, idol-like creatures, leading glamorous lives and just happen to suck blood for nourishment. Are vampires really monsters, or just sissies?
Then I saw Shiki.
It’s surprisingly good. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece but it’s interesting, not to mention actually quite frightening, as horror stories should be. The first few episodes hint on what is happening, but you’re not completely sure what it is until the characters discover it for themselves. Because of that the pacing is quite slow for the viewers, but for the characters it’s actually timely and realistic.
Speaking of the characters, there are a lot of them and as expected with a large cast, development is hard to manage. There are some characters who disappear from the story for a bit, and when they come back, clearly a lot happened but not a lot about it is said so you’re left to ponder on it. There are some scenes that I would have liked to see, and I’d like to give some examples but I’ll leave it at that to avoid spoiling anyone.
Fortunately though, the most interesting character in my opinion is the one who is most developed, and that is the doctor Ozaki Toshio. You get to see a lot of what is going on in his mind - what he discovers as the story progresses, how he deals with it, what kind of person he is, etc. I really think his character is very fascinating, and will make you think what you would do if you were in his place. How far will you go to survive? Ozaki and the other characters all answer that question in their own way as the story progresses.
It’s generally a likable cast, and the voice acting only makes them even more so. Among the roster of the voice actors chosen for this anime, I noticed that a good portion of them are relatively new/under the radar, including the young and promising Yuuki Aoi. Regardless of tenure, all members of the cast, even those with the smaller roles, are good, capable and convincing.
What isn’t entirely convincing though, is the art. Sometimes the facial expressions of the characters are too exaggerated, that it seems fake, such as this scene:
I get that she’s really happy to see Natsuno, but I don’t think she’s that happy.
The character designs in general are a little cartoony, with the weird hairstyles and all, but only for the more dominant characters. The lesser characters look more subdued.
The gore seems a bit over the top too, but I think it’s acceptable in this case because it’s part of the story-telling.
Overall, the art is okay. The visuals really compliment the story. It’s a little inconsistent now and then and the colors clash sometimes but I like how they went for something a bit more colorful, because usually with horror anime the visuals are dark and gloomy.
As for the music, I think the soundtrack is very well done. From the subtle sound effects to the background music, it all really contributes to the feel of the story and makes each scene more special. The OPs and EDs are very good too. I really like the first OP, “Kuchikuze” by rock band Buck-Tick. I think it really goes well with the series. The vocals are really good, the lyrics relate to the story and it’s quite catchy and memorable.
I think the main reason why I like Shiki is because it’s not shallow like most vampire anime. It allows us viewers to think, instead of blinding us with how “cool” vampires are. Sure, vampires are amazing beings with many traits and abilities that normal humans don’t have, but they are still monsters, and to survive, they need to feed on humans. If you think of it that way, vampires aren’t really that cool, huh? It seems that in the latest vampire anime, as well as in general media, they fail to emphasize that in their representation. Thankfully, Shiki does well in that aspect and in many others. If you don’t mind gore and you want to watch a horror anime that’s a little more deep than the usual, then surely Shiki is for you.
Story - 8
Characters - 8
Art - 7
Sound - 8
Enjoyment - 9
Overall - 8/10
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