We all know and love Masao Maruyama for his dedication to Studio Madhouse however we won’t talk about the Dark Days for him. Yes, the productions he lead were successful there however he left Studio Madhouse because the work environment there is in the title of the name…MADHOUSE. There have even been reports of them working one of their interns 94 HOURS A WEEK! Clocking in at 376 HOURS A MONTH! And not even getting paid for overtime!! Some of their workers have been known to sleep for days in the week at the studio… So my boy Masao took his exit and created MAPPA.
This is actually one of my favorite, if not my all time favorite, production studio out there. MAPPA is known for being a little different from the crowd. A lot of their stories are known to be unique and have a different approach on storyline versus other studios out there. However, what I’ve come to witness about MAPPA is that they do not let the obscure approach take away from their storytelling. No matter how odd the characters are or how obscure the story is, MAPPA always maintains a natural storytelling aspect about them. All of their stories have been intimate and have shown the true complexities of humans. And even when they do make a comedy, like YURI!!! ON ICE, it still contains raw human qualities and storytelling that keeps you puled in. Another reason why I admire MAPPA is because they have made series such as YURI!!! ON ICE and Banana Fish. Series that actually tell the stories of queer folk, cover LGBTQ+ related topics, and actually take the leap to have two guys kiss on daytime television.
With that being said I will be looking into some of the MOST POWERFUL PRODUCTIONS THAT HAVE COME FROM THE WOMB OF MAPPA!
Kids on the Slope
Starting with a classic! Sakamichi No Apollon, otherwise known as Kids on the Slope.
Who doesn’t love jazz music and story of learning how to love yourself!
Kids on the Slope centers around the story of introverted, classical pianist (aren’t they all) Kaoru Nishimi, who just arrived in a rural town in Kyushu to start his first year of high school. He didn’t have high expectations this year to make friends or fit in because he has moved so much. That is until one day he has such a crippling anxiety attack that he runs to the roof to escape the overstimulation of his classmates. There, at the roof doorway, is where he meets the notorious Sentarou Kawabuchi. Sentarou is a known delinquent around town and most people would never imagine a rough, tough guy like him ever befriending meek, tiny Kaoru. But it does happen, however, Sentarou heroically saving Kaoru from a gang of bullies on the roof wasn’t what brought them together but their love for music.
Sentarou’s love for jazz inspires Karou to learn more about the genre, and, as a result, he breaks out of his shell and makes his very first friend in Kyushu. From there, the two begin to have after-school jazz sessions in the basement of fellow student, Ritsuko Mukae’s family owned record shop. Throughout this story, we see him beginning to feel joy from playing music with Sentarou and being happy that his talents are bringing people close to him.
Let me tell you something. This anime won’t really make you cry, but it will give you this warm feeling. It’s one of those anime that is so nostalgic and makes you feel good. To this day, I still find myself singing the OP of the series and it just takes me back. The OP has this warm, happy to live life and make friends kinda feel to it. And that is definitely what this series is about. The journey of friendship, love triangles, music, and three kids who go to school on a large slope and how they were brought together by their appreciation for jazz.
I give this series:
Kakegurui & Kakegurui xx
Alright, time to change gears!
Everything about Kakegurui is the complete opposite of Kids on the Slope.
There’s still a jazz influence but now add a high school built for wealthy students to compete in CRAZY HIGH STAKES GAMBLING and all the yandere girl action you can get!
I repeat… if you are a fan of yandere, Yumeko Jabami will be wifey goals for you!
By day, Hyakkaou Academy is your everyday private school, but by night… it is a gambling den educating the students in the art of high-stakes gambling and master manipulation. It’s a place where the weak and timid shall fall and the bold (slightly insane) risk takers will trample over the bodies of the weak.
And then there’s Yumeko…Beautiful, seemingly naive, however that is a card she definitely plays to her advantage. Yumeko is a newly enrolled transfer student at Hyakkaou who wastes no time diving in the pool of sin. Her opponents underestimate her until she reveals her true nature. A nature that isn’t playing to win… but for the thrill of gambling. The thrill to see how far one can push another person before they snap, how much money she can throw down in one turn, how much risk she can take! And she isn’t afraid to do these things. For Yumeko, the higher the risk, the funner the game. Even if it means losing your life. That is why she is called a Kakegurui. Otherwise known as, compulsive gambler.
This definitely gets a:
in my book!
THIS HURTS! For those of you who don’t know… Banana Fish is my favorite anime of all time and I have the tears to prove it!
Please! YOU HAVE TO WATCH BANANA FISH!!
IT WILL FUCK YOU UP! That’s just a warning! You will probably cry for a week like me… DEMO the themes and storytelling in this show is superb! There are themes in this series and manga that are so relative to what is going on now in the world, it will really impact you. Suicide, human trafficking, sexual abuse to minors, understanding sexuality as a young man, LGBTQ+ related issues, how childhood traumas really impact someone as they age, mental disorder…I’m telling you this anime covered EVERYTHING that was near and dear to my heart.
This story centers around a runaway named Ash Lynx, who was picked off the streets of New York City at the age of eleven and raised by a mafia don named Dino Golzine. Ash was given everything he wanted however that came with a price of Dino sexually abusing and raping him on multiple occasions for six years. Now 17 years old and the leader of his own gang, Ash encounters a man on the streets collapsing in front of him muttering the words “Banana Fish”. These words sound awfully familiar to him. Those are the same words his brother who has remained in a coma since his return from the Iraq War mutters. Ironically, Ash ends up getting his hands on the mysterious drug “Banana Fish”, however, his investigation is hindered when Dino sends in his men to retrieve the drug from an underground bar he used as a hideout.
At the bar, Skip, Ash’s friend introduces him to Shunichi Ibe and his assistant, the wonderful, wonderful, heart of gold, Eiji Okumura, who are Japanese photographers who are reporting American street gangs. However, their interview was interrupted when Dino’s men stormed into the bar, shot the place up, and kidnapped Skip and Eiji. Now, Ash is fired up and goes to where Dino held the two captive imprisoning himself in the long run. Luckily, my boy Eiji had some athletic abilities that allowed him to escape, come back to the hideout with help, and save Ash. This is how their relationship starts.
Ash was so surprised at the fact that someone helped him without wanting something in return (a sexual act, money, etc.). That someone actually looked at him as a normal person and not feared him for the “monster” he was. From there, we see the relationship between Ash and Eiji blossom into something Ash never dreamed he would have. A person in his life that wasn’t afraid of him or trying to use him. However, now that Dino knows who Eiji is, he isn’t letting him or Ibe get off that easily. Ash sees it as his duty to protect Eiji from Dino’s hands even if it means putting his life on the line, end Dino, and stop the distribution of Banana Fish.
This story has so many twists and turns and tests of love and self-strength that I am sure it will have you on the edge of your seat. What I respect most about this story is how progressive it is. The manga was written in 1985. Yes! The story between the love of two boys was created in 1985 and had so many themes still relevant to this day. It was way ahead of it’s time which was why it makes more sense for the anime to be made in 2018. Also, kudos to MAPPA for the kiss scene that baFA-ffled me!
And he used tongue! Thank you Jesus we live in 2019!!! This was another reason why I love this show! I was like, “Episode 1. I’m interested. Episode 2. This is deep. Episode 3. TWO BOYS KISS INTENTIONALLY…NEXT EPISODE!”
Another aspect we have to admire about the series is that, everything had a purpose. Every detail in the show had a purpose. From why the drug was named Banana Fish, to why Ash calls himself Ash LYNX, to how his fucked up childhood caused him to have so much depression and mental disorders, to why every episode was titled after a famous book. It is Grade A writing!
You know I’m going to give this:
So on a much happier and even gayer note than Banana Fish…we have Yuri!
If you want to laugh and say, “Awwww! Kawaii!”, the whole time then this a great anime for you.
This is another BL from MAPPA that had fans cheering GO! YURI! GO! in 2016.
After his embarrassing defeat at last year’s Grand Prix Finale, Yuri Katsuki, Japan’s once most promising figure skater, returns home to think about his future since he is terrified to show his face in the rink again. Being at the age of 23, his time as a skater is winding down quickly, meanwhile his love for pork cutlet bowls is winding down his athleticism. But all of that changes when a video of Yuri performing a routine previously executed by five-time award winning Russian skater and his skating idol, Victor Nikiforov, suddenly goes viral. Although, Victor doesn’t show it, he becomes inspired by Yuri take on his routine and abruptly shows up at Yuri’s family owned onsen. Yuri, not expecting Victor to be there, walks in on him having a nice dip in the onsen, and with no second to waste, Victor stands up triumphantly in all of his flamboyant, naked glory offering to be Yuri’s mentor. (Trust me… I didn’t spoil a thing for you. You will still be baffled when you see it in person. Plus, it gets funnier and cuter from there.) Of course, being his biggest fan (and having a crush on him) he eagerly accepts his offer, kicking off his journey on making it back to the world stage. Yuri Katsuki has regained his love for skating and is now determined to win the Grand Prix but there is fierce competition out there, especially up and coming Russian pro figure skater Yuuri Plisetsky who is adamant on defeating Yuri and winning Victor as his coach.
With this new mentorship, we see something spark between Victor and Yuri. Something that actually inspires Yuri to win. As the two work together the closer they become, and Yuri realizes, he doesn’t want to win this for himself but for Victor.
This series is soo cute and sooo funny thanks to our blunt Russian skater over here always flirting with Yuri in the most absurd ways possible. But don’t think Yuri is the innocent Japanese boy…Oh no!! Wait until you hit the end of episode 10. I was bafaffled at the “drunken athleticism” Yuri acquired.
I am giving this:
This series has some pretty powerful and thought provoking writing. I will say if you aren’t a fan of violence then this may be crossing the lines for you as it made me (a Hellsing Ultimate lover) a bit disturbed.
This story follows a man named Ichirou Inuyashiki, a 58 year old man who has it rough. Dealing with severe health issues and a wife, daughter, and son that shun him. And it just gets worse from there. After an examination, he was diagnosed with a terminal cancer giving him 3 months to live. You’d think something like this would bring his family closer to him but no. They just ignore him per usual which causes him to have an emotional breakdown and run into the woods.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. “Aww. Poor guy. I bet this is going to be a story of how he battles cancer and finds happiness in the darkest times!” Yeah…No. That is definitely not the case. So after he runs into the woods to have his breakdown, a light flashes and a UFO crashes into Ichirou. From there his body was rebuilt into a cyborg. No! More like a mechanized weapon with the power to take out an army and heal cancer. This was a bit weird for him but it ended being his saving grace. That same night he inadvertently saved someone’s life thanks to his mechanized powers. From there on out he starts to use his powers to save many more lives. Just like Ichirou, we find out that another person was involved in the UFO accident as well. High school student Hiro Shishigami, however, he is using his new powers for the complete opposite reasons of Ichirou, and that is to bring his darkest impulses to life. Kill to make him feel alive. Now, Ichirou sees it as his duty to put an end to Hiro and his malicious deeds!
Honestly, when I first saw this series, I couldn’t for the life of me get past the fact this teenage boy is just nonchalantly walking into peoples’s houses and killing the family without any qualms whatsoever…and then walking back out with a smile on his face like nothing ever happened. Literally murdering men, women, children, babies… Like dude! What is your motive? Then after diving into the psychological aspect of the series around episode 6, I realized…there was no motive. This boy is just insane.
There are many reasons why I recommend this series. One of them, is the fact that you have a unique protagonist and a unique anti-hero all in one series! Not everyday we are given a protagonist that is almost in his sixties, nor are we given an anti hero who actually has some mental deficiencies. Which leads into another reason why I love this show so much and that is because our anti-hero, “HIRO” (love the play on words) actually tries to right his wrongs but is still seen as the bad guy because his disorder caused him to act maliciously. Hiro was never the kind of guy to kill with a motive or because of a vendetta. He did it because he lost all of his thrill of living after the UFO crash. He is technically dead and is literally a robot with no soul, so he began to act out on his deepest, darkest impulses to feel human again. You don’t typically find this level of psychology displayed in a character. Honestly, I am not surprised that this is a MAPPA production. Because MAPPA is known for their psychological works and their stories with heavy meanings and sometimes trippy visuals.
Throughout the series, the old saying “you reap what you sow” really does kick in for Hiro and it makes it kind of hard for you to hate him for what he’s done. His actions will have results but they aren’t the results any of us see coming.
My rating on this series:
It’s Japan’s Warring States Period, Lord Daigo Kagemitsu’s land is undergoing a drought, his people have lost faith in him, and poverty is everywhere. To protect his people and his honor, Daigo made a pact with 12 demons stating he would offer them anything in exchange for a prosperous kingdom. Not too long after, Lord Daigo’s wife gave birth to a child, however, this child was born malformed with not even the skin on his body. Daigo realized this is the price he had to pay for the successful kingdom, so he sends one of his servants to kill the infant. Fortunately, the servant sets it adrift in the river giving it a second chance in life.
It wasn’t too much longer, the malformed infant was saved by a medicine man giving the child the tools he needs to survive and fend for himself as he ages. The boy lives and grows with no ability to hear, see, or feel anything but he discovers in order to gain his senses back, he must defeat the demons that took him for sacrifice.
Years later, a young mischief, Dororo, encounters a mysterious, mute, but badass “Hyakkimaru”, whose arms are blades and whose blind eyes gives him the superb ability to sense demonic aura. The pair of castaways now stick to each other and fight for their survival in this demon infested world.
This series is pretty solid in terms of storytelling. When it came out, it soared the charts and landed in one of the top anime to premiere in 2019. I personally enjoyed seeing the journey of Hyakkimaru and how he regains his senses. I also loved getting the insight on how his mother who wanted to bare him and his father who casted him away feel in the current day. Are they filled with regret? Are they worried? Baring a malformed Hyakkimaru actually did some serious damage to the family causing a lot of tension and hatred within their future son .Mainly because that was a skeleton they tried to hide in the closet , but every secret is bound to come out one day.
My rating on this series is:
Terror In Resonance
Now this series has to be another one of my favorites by MAPPA. And believe it or not this is the highest rated and most popular anime the studio has created! Following, the lead is of course, YAOI!!! On Ice. Everything happened so fast in this series though and it felt like the part of my life I spent watching this was like a ghost. But it was so good while it lasted.
Painted in red “VON” is what remains of a terrorist attack on a nuclear facility in Japan. The government is left baffled by their inability to act and the police have no trace as to where the perpetrators are. That is until six months later, a bizzare video was released to the internet featuring two teenage boys in masks identifying themselves as “Sphinx” challenging the police and threatening to cause destruction across Tokyo. With the public in panic and law enforcers desperate for leads, Nine and Twelve, the two boys behind the masks are determined to pull the trigger on this society. They should not be alive to this day based on their horrid upbringing, yet they stand tall adamant on making the world sees its corrupt ways and the deception that lies in the darkest parts of Japan. However, they do this all in hopes of burying their own truth.
Not gonna lie, this is another rip your heart out and cry for a bit anime. The writing in this series is very poignant and dived into the mental facets of 9 and 12, survivors of a human experimentation project they were apart of in their youth. They are intelligent and have soaring IQs however what they went through really fractured their outlook on life so much they wanted to be messengers for the world. We all smile and laugh in our daily lives ignoring the fact there is a dark, cruel side to this world that people are unwillingly involved in. That is where Sphinx comes in to play. Nine and twelve pretty much just wanted to expose the government and the world for what it really is. Are they successful in this endeavor? Or does everything they have worked for fall right in front of them?
I admire this show sooooo much. I’m giving it a:
Thank you for reading! What are some of your greatest series made by MAPPA? How do you feel about the list! Hope you had a great time and remember: Stay fierce, stay awesome, and stay you! Itekimasu