i had the most intense half year ever

​“We became friends because we had babies at the same time. There was no other connection; I was much older than her.
It was the beginning of June and I was driving home. I saw the ‘new couple’ who had just moved to the neighborhood. I noticed that she was also very pregnant. I said, Hey, when are you due?’ We were due within a couple of weeks of each other.
A year later, I drove by her house. There were all these cars there in the middle of the day. I texted her and said, “Is everything okay?’ She said, ‘It’s not.’
​When I was in high school, a friend of mine got cancer. It scared me and I didn’t know how to deal with it. So I kind of disappeared. I always felt bad about that, and I promised myself that if I ever had the chance again, I’d do it differently.
So when Leah said, ‘I have cancer,’ I thought, ‘I can do this.’ I remember texting her, ‘Listen, if you ever need someone to talk to, I’ll be there for you. I won’t hold back, I’ll ask questions, but I’ll stay emotionally detached. If I’m being too intrusive, tell me and I’ll step back.’
She said, ‘Okay.’
That was the beginning of the most intense friendship I’ve had. Sharing fear and hope, the stresses of marriage and family—all of it—became a deep well of emotion for us.
I still have that first text on my old phone, ‘Is everything okay?’ I’ve never deleted a text with her over three and a half years. The last one says, ‘I will miss you, my friend.’ There are thousands in between.
At her funeral, I told the story of how we met and that first text ‘Is everything okay?’ I mentioned the promise I gave her to stay emotionally detached. Everybody laughed. There were tears rolling down my face.”

Portsmouth, RI

The Moonlight Witch’s Top 10 anime of 2015: Part 2

6 One Punch Man 

If you’re reading this list you’ve probably heard of One Punch Man already. It’s kind of hard not to have heard of by far the most hyped and loved anime of the fall season. And it’s not hard to see why One Punch Man is so popular. Lavishly animated by some of the best artists of the anime industry One Punch Man is worth pointing out not just as a good show but also as an excellent example of what anime itself is capable of doing. 

The series has a simple and interesting enough premise. A lot of anime run into problems with power creep when the protagonists just keep getting more and more powerful and the writers having to keep upping the ante. One Punch Man, however, starts at the other end of the spectrum by focusing on a protagonist who has already become so powerful that he can take down any enemy with a single punch … And the result is that he is entirely bored with life since his job has become so easy and routine.

It’s fun to find shows that require a lot of attention and analysis but it’s just as rewarding to watch a show where the main purpose is simply to keep the viewer as entertained as possible. That’s not to say that One Punch Man doesn’t have it’s own themes or anything interesting to say - far from it. But it’s nice to find a show that’s largely about simply having fun.

Coupling it’s stunning animation and direction with likable characters  and a good sense of humor One Punch Man is worth a look for any superhero fan whether they are interested in anime or not. The show isn’t without its flaws (the humor can get a little stale, there is a huge deficit of female characters and one side character is a tired gay panic stereotype) but One Punch Man is fully deserving of its reputation and a must-see for any anime fan.

5 Akatsuki no Yona

Akatsuki no Yona was a show that caught my interest right from its inception. Action shoujo with strong female leads has always been a favorite genre of mine and Akatsuki no Yona looked like a worthy addition to that. The first few episodes largely confirmed my expectations - Akatsuki no Yona was a fun but not particularly original show that I would enjoy but would probably not be particularly appealing to anyone who didn’t have an interest in the genre.

Hoo boy. Was I ever underestimating this show. 

Akatsuki no Yona’s strength is that it starts off good and then just keeps building and building as it goes along. Every time I thought it couldn’t possibly get better it did, and several times in its second half I had to briefly stop to recover from whatever intense moment had just happened. Akatsuki no Yona’s beautiful art and stunning music serve it well in what is ultimately one of the most secure shows of the year. Above all this is a show confident in itself and in its cast an ability which serves it well in some of it’s most poignant emotional moments and quiet character scenes.

Above all else the show’s development of its lead character impressed me. Female orientated shows with a majority male cast often fall prey to disappointingly tired sexism with the lead character being treated as nothing more than a damsel in distress tossed around by the male characters. However Akatsuki no Yona handily avoids these pitfalls. Even when Yona herself is little more than a spoiled princess with no talent for fighting or understanding of the world the show refuses to make her nothing more than an object by showcasing her strong sense of will and her determination to protect the people she cares about. Even though by the end Yona is still far from the physically strongest of the characters she’s unquestionably the hero and her strong will makes her an exceptionally compelling one.

With it’s slow steady pace and a strong focus on character development Akatsuki no Yona has distinguished itself as one of the best shows of the year and a show worth a look even for someone who doesn’t have an interest in the genre. I’m still hopeful for a second season but even without one Akatsuki no Yona is an excellent show.

4 Shirobako

Shirobako was an interesting show for me. I didn’t watch it while it was first airing, instead picking it up once it had finished after hearing all the positive press. For the first six episodes, it didn’t really grab me. It was a slow and methodical show without any big action scenes or tense dramatic moments and I had serious difficulties telling the characters apart. 

Then around episode seven something happened. I just couldn’t stop watching. I think I finished the rest of the show in a single day. Shirobako is the kind of show that at first your kind of puzzled by why everyone likes it so much, and then you fall into it completely.

A show about something as simple as producing anime doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that would inspire such attention. In fact, it sounds rather like the kind of thing that would either be drearily dull or fall into mediocre slice of life shenanigans. But Shirobako is neither of those things. 

What is it is a strong and powerful drama that expertly captures the lives of it’s characters and makes you live along side them engrossing you in their joy’s and troubles. It’s also an achingly honest work that captures both the ups and the downs of industry life. It’s light on the strong dramatics and overblown theatrical moments, instead focusing on small frustrations and disappointments, Shirobako is both painfully realistic and touchingly optimistic in its portrayal of everyday adulthood and I defy anyone not to be a blubbering mess by the end.

And above all else it presents a wide and well-developed cast who you can cheer for, roll your eyes at and above all enjoy spending time with. It takes time and patience to get into Shirobako but the end result is well worth being a part of one of the best shows, not just of the year but undoubtedly of all time.

(part one) (part three)