Watch or Drop? Is Visual Prison Worth Watching?

Visual Prison - Worth watching?
Is Visual Prison worth watching?

You wouldn’t really think that singing vampires in visual kei inspired costumes could go too far wrong. The visual spectacle alone should be entertaining and if they actually managed to create a half-decent story to hold it together, it would make Visual Prison worth watching. Throw in my love of vampires in fiction and I was definitely checking this anime out.

But did they manage to make me want to keep watching.

Watch or Drop? Rules

Rules modified for the Autumn 2021 season.

  1. The anime must be new (not a sequel or spin-off).
  2. I’ll watch as much as it takes to make a decisionas to whether the anime will be added to the watch/review list or dropped and forgotten. For good.
Visual Prison - Worth watching?

First Impressions of Visual Prison

Okay, ten minutes into the first episode and we’ve had a character catch a train and walk a bit and in between we’ve had him listening to music with cut-aways to a music video, then a band literally drop out of the sky and sing, then another band kind of show up and sing as well.

And for some reason they have swords with microphones on the pommels.

Problem is, once you stop looking at the interesting costumes you realise there’s pretty much nothing happening here other than singing and the performances aren’t interesting enough to make you want to stick around and listen to yet another vampire sing.

Honestly, this first episode of Visual Prison was definitely even less enthused about narrative than I suspected from the write up.

Visual Prison Series Positives:

Visual Prison knows how to pose

If you are after a wide range of hot vampire designs with extremely overdone wardrobes than you’ll probably find exactly what you are looking for here. The character designs are by far the most interesting, if perhaps only interesting, thing going on in this episode.

Now I’ll admit, I did bow out before I got to the end of episode one but that was only because having already determined I was not continuing with this anime my brain went into hyper-critical mode and ultimately it just wasn’t worth spending any longer on it.

So positives for Visual Prison? I’m sure the art-book will end up looking amazing.

Visual Prison Series Negatives:

Visual Prison


Okay let’s just focus in on the swords that are microphones and how awkward and ridiculous that looks. Not to mention, for what purpose?

That anime episodes only have twenty minutes in which to convey anything and half of this episode is gone and I actually couldn’t tell you the main character’s name. Actually about the only name I really got was the front man of the band he liked.

More than that, I was struggling at times to understand how sequences were supposed to fit together. We have these two vampires show up in a helicopter and they are seemingly talking to the crowd but there’s no helicopter noise or excessive wind as there should be if they actually opened a helicopter door and stood there.

They then go through this elaborate ritual where they kind of pay homage to the moon but they clearly aren’t in the helicopter at that point. If anything it was like that nebulous space where Sailor Moon transformation sequences occur, only there was no transformation. Though they did get their sword/microphones. Anyway, after that we’re back in the helicopter and leap out.

I think they then perform on the stage which might be the pop-up one that appeared on the back of a truck but while they are performing it looks way larger.

And wow I’ve listened to three edgy songs excessively laden down with the type of imagery one expects from a high school poet and care not even a little bit about anything going on here in Visual Prison.


Karandi Bored Transparent

I’ll be blunt… No. If I had a choice of watching the rest of this first episode or watching the first episode of Tesla Note on repeat five times, I would not choose to finish watching this episode.

Visual Prison seemed like an apt title. The visuals drew me in but then I felt trapped until I remember I can just close the player.

Images from: Visual Prison. Dir. J. Furuta. A-1 Pictures. 2021

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Karandi James

Given 2021 Series Review: Bringing This Beautiful Story To Life

Given 2021 Series Review

Given 2021: The live action drama version of the boys love story.

In 2019 the Given anime took my breath away and was one of my favourite series for the year. I’d never read the manga, and I will admit, I don’t really ever intend to. Largely because so much of what I enjoyed about the anime was the play between sound, music and colour and I’m just not sure that a static telling of the story could be as involving. So Given 2021 was coming hot on the heels of an anime I’d loved and had some big shoes to fill.

Given 2021

Then again, that isn’t really fair to this live action drama. And ultimately comparing it to the anime is a relatively futile activity because viewers have either not watched the anime or will already be able to make that comparison themselves. What most people want to know is whether Given 2021 is actually worth watching.

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And in all honesty, the answer is “yes, but…”

That ‘but’ is fairly important and yet doesn’t take away from the ‘yes’ part of the answer.

Given 2021

See, the one issue the Given 2021 live action drama cannot escape is that ultimately it is only 6 episodes long. While I recently proposed that an anime like Mars Red would have benefited from being only seven or eight episodes, rather than stretching a full season, the story of Given really did need more time.

We needed more time to get to know these characters and feel their situations. Particularly the supporting cast that really felt just kind of there and the stories they have to tell felt barely sketched in.

However, let’s take this all a bit more logically.

Let’s talk about Given 2021

Given 2021 is the story of Uenoyama (a high schooler who is in a band) who when looking for a place to nap at school runs in Mafuyu who is asleep in a stairwell holding a guitar. After one of the most awkward and yet adorable meetings, which ultimately ends with Uenoyama fixing the broken strings of Mafuyu’s guitar the two end up meeting in the stairwell more often and Mafuyu works to convince Uenoyama to teach him how to play.

All of which is pretty ordinary until Uenoyama hears Mafuyu sing.

Given Live Action Drama - Uenoyama shouts at Mafuyu

Here I will praise the casting of this live action drama over and over again. Sanari, who plays Mafuyu, really does manage to bring everything to a halt with his voice and it really does make you stop and just listen. You can never quite tell if it is beautiful or heart-breaking and it just kind of overwhelms you. That the character only has a few moments where we hear his voice throughout the series in the build-up to the live-performance at the end really works because too much would simply lose the effect.

However, as much as the sound of this character works, and as much as the group of boys in the band kind of come together by the end, for those who are fans of either the manga or anime, there will be a small adjustment period as visually they aren’t quite what you would expect. Then again, they do all at least look like real people and there are no awful wigs in sight (such as the live action Full Metal Alchemist) so maybe we should just be happy. But Haruki at least took some getting used to in this form and he wasn’t really given enough screen time for the adjustment to be smooth.

Given 2021

If I were to go in with no expectations then I’d have to admit, they all kind of worked in their roles. And considering Given 2021 is a dramatic story rather than a fantastical one, turning this story into a live action drama is considerably easier because there are no weird weapons, physics defying movements, or even complex action pieces to somehow bring to life.


About the most action we get is a sequence where one of the characters runs across a bridge while having an internal monologue and while that was nicely done it does mean that this story didn’t come with a lot of the challenges other manga and anime have when being translated to live action.

Though, on that note, I did point out during my episode reviews that while scenes shot indoors were beautifully controlled in how they framed characters and the use of light and colour, exterior shots were a little more hit and miss. Notably when the characters were in a car or on a motorbike, shaking camera and less deliberate shot composition seemed to be on the cards.

Given Live Action - Tokyo Tower

It’s a minor point but an important one when one of the key strengths of this story is in the visuals and sound direction. While Given 2021 takes a different approach to sound to the anime, having more background music and using repeated motifs behind characters and filling silences, it is still a key component in what makes this enjoyable viewing. And they still build up to the explosion of sound that is the live performance. While the song may not be to everyone’s taste, the build up to it and the culmination of the drama of the final three episodes make it one of those amazing television moments that can really sweep you away.

The romance aspect between Uenoyama and Mafuyu is also well built up to, though again it suffers a little due to the short run time here. As much as everything makes sense, it all seems very quick. Though what was perhaps the biggest issue is that Mafuyu’s relationship with Yuki gets so little time and even the montage it does get feels a little rushed. Without this backgrounding, Uenoyama’s presence doesn’t come across as quite so necessary to Mafuyu.

Given live-action episode 6

Also, while we do get the after the performance moment with the two boys, as the series then abruptly comes to an end it feels like things have barely gotten going when the story concludes.

So, while I still think the anime did a better job of telling this story (particularly in giving us the aftermath of the concert), the live action does have a lot to offer. And for those who have never watched the anime, they probably won’t have many issues at all with what Given 2021 has on offer, though they will probably be left with some questions about Akihiko and Haruki because they get seriously left out in terms of any kind of detail here.

Given 2021

What is important is that this live action drama can and does stand on its own and offers a fairly solid viewing experience that you could go in to without prior knowledge. And for those who have read the manga or watched the anime, this is just another version of a story you probably already love.

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

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Karandi James

Given Live-Action Episode 6 Impressions – The Sound Of Tears Yet To Be Shed

Given live-action episode 6

It was always going to take a lot for the Given live-action drama to move me the way the anime adaptation had. Not because this drama has in any way been bad but more because the anime just blew me away and swept me off my feet in a way similar to the way Yuri on Ice had back in 2016. It was kind of like lightning striking and it didn’t seem likely it could happen again.

Given live-action episode 6

Episode 9 of the anime portrayed Mafuyu finally stepping up to the microphone and singing his feelings out and it was one of the most cathartic experiences I’ve ever had watching anime (you know, outside of the graduation ceremony in Angel Beats and maybe a handful of other anime moments that reduce me to tears more or less every time I watch them). While the final episode of the Given live-action didn’t reduce me to tears, it did cause a lump in my throat and I was certainly ready to cheer at the end of the performance.

A strong ending to the Given live-action drama.

I think part of the reason this didn’t quite hit me as hard as it did in the anime is I was well aware of what was coming, which is hardly a fault of this adaptation. Just as manga readers knew the conclusion in the anime. That doesn’t make it less worthy of being watched but it does change the viewing experience somewhat.

given live-action episode 6

On the other hand, I kind off feel like Mafuyu’s performance was even more mesmerising because it was live-action this time around. Watching Mafuyu step up to the microphone and holding our breath as the actor looked like he was fighting his flight impulse was a genuinely tense moment and when he finally opened his mouth the sound didn’t just still the whole audience, it brought me to a stand-still as well.

Where this episode of the Given live-action drama is a little less strong is in the emotions behind the song. While we do get some images of the relationship Mafuyu shared with Yuki, this montage feels a little sparse and honestly a little too short. While this relationship with Yuki has been behind everything it doesn’t feel fleshed out enough in the 5 episodes leading to this performance and visually the scenes weren’t that impressive of memorable.

Given live-action episode 6

But, the band did come together spectacularly after their individual emotional fall-outs in episode 5. Uenoyama recaptured what it felt like to perform for the first time and the smile he had on stage was wonderful to see. Haruki really stepped up and even Akihiko had a smile during the performance.


Of course, timing remains the overall issue with the after song encounter between Uenoyama and Mafuyu being incredibly short and the epilogue focusing entirely on Mafuyu with the rest of the band more or less disappearing.

Which is kind of a shame given Murata actually did attend the performance, made one comment about Mafuyu’s being naturally talented but then we never get to see him with Akihiko afterwards leaving this at a completely loose end.

Given Live-action episode 6

That said, if you are going to adapt Given in 6 episodes, focusing in on Mafuyu’s character, even at the expense of others, is probably the way to go. His character arc from sitting alone in the stairs and holding the guitar to his performance during this episode and facing the death of Yuki is completed and while this final episode leaves me wanting more it is a pretty satisfying way to conclude the Given live-action drama.

Plus, the off-stage moment between Mafuyu and Uenoyama is adorable.

Given live-action episode 6

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

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Karandi James

Given Live-Action Episode 5 Impressions – On The Eve of Disaster and The Broken String

Given live-action Episode 5

The Given live-action drama this week plunges headlong into the drama set up at the end of episode 4, as the penultimate episode before the band’s concert. While I don’t think this episode was quite as strong as the anime had been at portraying Yuki’s relationship with Mafuyu, it does a decent enough job of setting the scene prior to the performance and it certainly makes it clear that every member of the band is currently not in a great head-space.

Given live-action episode 5

The Given live-action drama really explores each boy’s drama.

Haruki is given a bit of a cold-shoulder this week as the anime focuses on Akihiko’s home-life and issues as well as the disintegrating relationship between Mafuyu and Uenoyama as misunderstandings and miscommunications abound. Honestly, it isn’t always comfortable viewing even if the subject matter does feel a bit rushed through in an effort to set up the final episode.

Starting with Akihiko waking up at home and his morning interactions with Murata (who I’m struggling to remember if he even got a name mention in the episode), this episode of the Given live-action adaptation lingers on facial expressions and the distance between characters. We see Akihiko’s obvious distress as Murata drapes himself over his shoulders, the more comfortable space when there is a gap between them, and the long pause before he asks him to come to the concert.

Given live-action episode 5 - Akihiko

That Akihiko is in shadows while Murata sits with the light behind him is obviously not just a coincidence given how light and shadows have been so deliberately used all throughout the series to frame characters and scenes.

Likewise, when we cross to Uenoyama heading to the studio and then roughly playing before sinking to the studio floor, that he is perhaps the darkest spot in the room is clearly not a coincidence.

On that note, this is perhaps the strongest performance by this character yet in the series. Earlier in my reviews of this Given live-action drama I’d made light of his attempts to portray mixed emotions and use deliberate facial expressions and yet here the scene works so well because he isn’t over-the-top. There is pain clear on his face, his breathing is ragged both because of the rough practice he’d just been doing and the emotional overload, and his sagging to the floor, back to the audience, just works.

Given live-action episode 5

Less effective this week is Mafuyu’s performance as he is confronted by an old friend of his and Yuki’s and we briefly see a flashback of Yuki and Mafuyu when they were together. All things considered, it was probably a good move to have the character’s backs to the audience for a lot of this scene because what we did see of them wasn’t amazing.

Fortunately, the inherent drama in what they were talking about still carried the scene, but it was the weakest part of this episode of the Given live-action adaptation.

Given live-action episode 5

All too soon it feels we’re moving on to the rehearsal before the concert and the band sounds amazing but Mafuyu doesn’t sing. Not a peep or a sound.


This leads to a melodramatic show-down between Mafuyu and Uenoyama leading to the guitar falling to the ground and the convenient breaking of the string.

I kind of loved how the two young actors portrayed this moment. Certainly it is over-the-top as they both just stare mutely at the guitar, their breathing heavy, as though the world just ended. While it is a little silly in a live-action version of this, it suitably fits the overall drama of the moment, and makes Haruki’s obvious annoyance with the two so much more fitting as he chides Uenoyama, reminding him that a broken string can be fixed.

Given live-action episode 5

While not the best metaphor in the world, the cohesive nature of the broken string being repaired as the starting point for Uenoyama and Mafuyu’s relationship absolutely works here and Uenoyama’s running to the show is definitely a solid moment for the Given live-action drama.

Now we just have to get through the concert.

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

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Karandi James

Given Live-Action Episode 4 Impressions – Losing The Way

Given Live Action Episode 4 Review

Drama, drama, drama. The Given Live-Action adaptation is pushing the drama up to 11 as band rehearsal falls into a conflict between Uenoyama, venting his emotions, and Mafuyu who is all but shut down, forcing the older band members to intervene. Mafuyu’s disclosure at the end of episode 3 hasn’t left Uenoyama any clearer about where they stand and cracks are definitely showing as the concert looms ever closer.

Given Live Action - Uenoyama argues with Mafuyu

All things considered, Mafuyu has made excellent progress in two months. Later in the episode when he practices guitar alone he’s sounding pretty good (for a relative beginner). That he’s totally blocked on writing the lyrics and doesn’t really even know where to begin is hardly his fault and Uenoyama and the rest of the band’s expectations are clearly kind of crushing him.

The Given Live Action Adaptation sounds amazing.

One thing I did like about this episode of the Given Live-Action drama is that we returned to the girl who told Uenoyama the rumours about Mafuyu. She’s feeling pretty terrible about her actions though part of me thinks her pity party at the bins was more just to get any attention from Uenoyama than genuinely feeling too bad for spreading rumours about Mafuyu.

Given Live Action - Drama

That the scene resolves a potential external conflict for Uenoyama is good. That it is also used to create some artificial drama as Mafuyu also witnesses the exchange from afar is less great given Mafuyu already had enough on his plate.

Still artificial drama and teen romance go hand in hand and this was hardly the most obvious forced plot convenience to be found in such a story. We’ll save that for Gamers with the many ridiculous misunderstandings and plot coincidences that essentially make up the entire story.

The other issue with the Given Live-Action adaptation that becomes a bit clearer in this episode is that t clearly isn’t working on a huge budget. The shaking camera when filming the motorbike on the road was distracting and while shaky-cam can be used to great effect, here it just felt like they didn’t have the right tools to steady it.

Given Live Action - Tokyo Tower

And this episode had a lot of external scenes compared to previous ones. Whether it was Uenoyama and Akihito on the roof with Tokyo Tower glowing in the background or the various car rides home or even Uenoyama taking out the rubbish, these characters spent a lot of time outdoors and it is in these scenes where Given feels less controlled in how it frames its characters.


Of course, the interior scenes were up to the usual standard with some clear attention placed on how the characters sat within the scene and there’s a truly adorable moment toward the end of the episode where Mafuyu, who is asleep, ends up resting his head on Uneoyama’s shoulder.

Given Live Action Episode 4 - Mafuyu sleeps on Uenoyama

The Given Live-Action story here leaves us on a very unresolved note at the end of episode 4 and that’s fine. We’re two episodes from finished and leaving us hanging right now is definitely creating a sense that we are moving forward and that there’s something coming just ahead that is worth waiting for. Anticipation is great and it doesn’t feel like they’ve dropped a cliff-hanger without thought.

I’m not sure how I feel about Akihito’s interference. I know he involved himself in the anime as well, but perhaps because that had 12 episodes and was more spread out it didn’t feel as intrusive. Here it feels like he’s trying to set himself up as some kind of puppet-master and while Mafuyu and Uenoyama certainly needed a bit of a helping hand his manipulations are a little intense in this episode.

Still, looking forward to episode 5.

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

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Karandi James

Given Live-Action Episode 3 Impressions – Rising and Falling Emotions

Given Live Action Episode 3

Carrying on the emotional outpouring in episode 2, episode 3 of the Given live action drama seems determined to cram all the emotional beats of this story in. That is perhaps the downside of this adaptation only having six episodes as we are definitely racing right along through the content with Uenoyama already well along in composing Mafuyu’s song.

Not that there’s anything wrong with this episode it just doesn’t feel like we get a moment to breathe.

Uenoyama - Given live action drama

The Given live action adaptation feels a little rushed.

From the opening where we see Uenoyama doing all-nighters to create the song to match the sound Mafuyu has shown him to the rumours swilling around the school with a short contrast of Akihiko and Haruki’s own dramas before we plunge fully into Mafuyu’s trauma over Yuki’s death it all comes one hit after another with scarcely a moment to digest it. Though this week all the characters are putting in a solid performance in the Given live action so at least none of it comes across as trite.

I’m kind of feeling if I didn’t already know this story, episode 3 might have left me feeling a little confused as it seems like so much happened simultaneously.

Given live action drama - what?

Though, I’m not all that upset that the Given live action adaptation has decided to speed through Kasai’s rumour spreading moment. Rather than focusing on her unrequited crush on Uenoyama we instead skip to the impact her words have on him as he processes what Yuki must have meant to Mafuyu and we see the rift that forms between the two because of it.

It’s a nice contrast to early in the episode where the boys had become close enough that Uenoyama thought nothing of putting his arm around Mafuyu’s should and Mafuyu actually gave Uenoyama a genuine smile.

Mafuyu smiles - Given live action drama

A little more jarring is the Given live action decision to really speed through Akihiko and Haruki’s relationship woes as the audience does get a brief glimpse of Haruki’s reaction when Akihiko chooses to crash in his bed rather than lay out a futon but there’s seemingly no follow up for either character in this episode.


Instead Akihiko ends up providing Uenoyama and opportunity to process his thoughts when he drops around to his house with a recording of the song he’s been working on. From the laptop the sound is small and underwhelming but the promise is there and I’m really looking forward to how the band sounds in this Given live action when they finally take the stage.

Akihiko - Given live action drama

Still, it was an important moment for Uenoyama as he really did need to sort out his thoughts about how he felt when Mafuyu was singing.

Haruki on the other hand tries to offer Mafuyu some advice and Mafuyu, in his most polite way, shuts him down with a simple question.

It’s a powerful moment and reveals more about how Mafuyu is feeling than all the contorted facial expressions ever could.

But if we needed further evidence of the rift opening between Uenoyama and Mafuyu by the end of this third episode in the Given live action adaptation, we get it clearly shown to us as a visual when Uenoyama goes for a nap in the stairwell and ends up beside Mafuyu. Mafuyu talks to Uenoyama about how he’s feeling with the song lyrics and Uenoyama pretends to sleep. In this moment we get a shot of the two on the staircase from outside the building and they look so small, with the window itself dividing them.

Given live action episode 3 - Uenoyama and Mafuyu

That’s something that has remained a strength in Given in both the anime and live action adaptation. Both pay attention to visuals and use framing, light and colour to really tell the story of these boys and to draw the audience into the appropriate emotion.

With three episodes left I am curious to see where the Given live action adaptation intends to end this story but with the speed we’re moving forward I somewhat suspect it will be the concert and I am very much looking forward to that.

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

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Given Live-Action Episode 2 Impressions – The Sound That Shook Him

Given Live Action Episode 2

There’s something utterly heart-warming as this second episode of the Given Live-Action drama kicks off repeating Mafuyu’s comment that Uenoyama was cooler than the light music club. However, unlike in episode 1, here we progress to the next stage of teaching Mafuyu how to play.

The episode quickly progresses us to Uenoyama leaning in to show Mafuyu how to strum and play chords and the scene between the two is pretty adorable. Of course, Given doesn’t leave us at adorable for too long before Haruki and Akihiko return with their comedy routine around people in bands needing jobs.

Given Live Action Drama - Aki and Haruki

One thing the Given Live-Action adaptation struggles with at times are the actor’s expressions.

Throughout episode two of Given’s Live Action we have a number of occasions where the characters need to pull off just the right change in expression. There’s a beautiful scene between Mafuyu and Uenoyama where a slow smile creeps across Mafuyu’s face that is soon mirrored by Uenoyama.


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Equally though, there’s a scene later in the episode where Uenoyama’s actor tries really hard to demonstrate a mix of emotions but mostly looks like he’s contorting various facial muscles. I kind of hope they didn’t have too many retakes on that scene because I can imagine his face hurt after that effort and it really kind of broke the drama of the scene they were trying to create.

Points for effort and all and at last it was obvious what they were trying to accomplish with the scene.

Given Live Action Drama - Uenoyama shouts at Mafuyu

Other than the strumming and a few chords, we actually don’t get to see the band perform or play in episode two of the Given Live-Action story and that’s probably a good thing because it means Mafuyu’s two shining moments, where he sings for Uenoyama shine.

Really, the sound just takes on a life of its own and in amongst an episode otherwise devoid of musical performances it really does manage to stand out. When Uenoyama claims the sound shook him you can really believe it because from such a quiet scene between the two to Mafuyu filling pretty much the whole world with his voice it has much the same effect on the viewer.

And this did lead, in the second instance, to a far more nuanced reaction from the actor playing Akihiko. Rather than the various contortions of the face, he remains seemingly pretty indifferent until the camera focuses down on his cigarette trembling in his fingers. It was an effective way of showing the reactions and worked well with the character.

Given live action - Akihiko

Though while we’re talking about Akihiko, we may as well look at the older pair in the Given Live Action story. Akihiko and Haruki really don’t have a great deal of chemistry so far. Whether they are in the practice room or the scene where Haruki witnesses Akihiko dropping off the girl before borrowing a cigarette, the two work well enough but there’s hardly fireworks going on between them.


While this might work in favour of the electric chemistry brewing between Mafuyu and Uenoyama’s characters, it doesn’t do much for building the whole cast and so far the two older characters have been largely forgettable.

Given Live Action - Title

The Given Live Action adaptation continues to be a pretty solid watch providing another take on a story I loved and I’m really wanting to see the next episode because I am very caught up in this Mafuyu and Uenoyama’s story at this point even if the other characters haven’t quite drawn me in yet. Plus, I can’t wait to hear Mafuyu actually sing a song rather than ‘la-la-la’ even though I know that will be a bit further down the track.

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

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Given Live-Action Episode 1 Impressions – The Sound and Sweetness

Given Episode 1

It’s the arrival of a Given live action adaptation.

For those who followed my coverage of the Given anime series with Irina, you will know we both kind of loved it. So the opportunity to see a live-action version of Given is surely tempting with a vague sense of trepidation in wondering how could it possibly top the amazingly emotive experience the anime already gave us?

Seriously, I have Mafuyu singing his song as a poster on my wall in my study and there he will stay as the amazing and inspirational character that he is.

And the opening moments of this Given Live-Action adaptation weren’t awesome.

Given Live-Action - Uenoyama in the dark

The opening of the anime drew you right in with how quiet it was with the actions speaking for themselves. And then the sound began to build.

But this isn’t going to just be comparing Given Live-Action version to Given Anime version. Honestly, they deserve to be judged on their own merits and once I got over the fact that this wasn’t going to be the anime with real people, I kind of got drawn right in because I’m going to say, I loved this episode.

Given Live-Action, Worth It.

The story begins with Uenoyama explaining how he found and then lost his passion for his guitar and music. It is this disenchanted and kind of defeated character we meet at the beginning who then has a chance encounter with another boy sleeping in the stairwell with a guitar.

Given Live Action - Mafuyu sleeping

Now, I know I said I wouldn’t compare to the anime, but I will remind you that Irina and I declared the stairwell our favourite character at one point in our episode reviews of the anime. And I’m going to say that seeing stairwell-kun in live action was probably the best thing ever. How does one set of stairs have that much personality?

Probably because of the attention to details such as light and shadows as well as colour and textures. Something that has carried over into the Given Live Action version. Even if the first ten minutes there’s so much attention on lighting and this continues all through the episode. That and hands. So much focus on character’s hands.

It definitely makes it a little more interesting to watch.

Uenoyama actually ends up initiating their interactions by critiquing Mafuyu’s lack of guitar maintenance and before he knows it Mafuyu is following him to band practice.

Mafuyu does an excellent job here of looking hopeful and nervous simultaneously and once the band starts playing his expression says it all.

This was something I was worried about as we moved dove into the Given Live-Action and that was that the characters wouldn’t have enough nuance in their expressions to really convey the emotions of each scene. I can assure you, they can.


Of course, Given whether as an anime or as a live action is an anime about a band and music, and also a relationship and the characters and their journeys, but if the music sucks it would be hard to stick around. Fortunately, the band kind of rocked and not just because the whole band sequence was filtered through Mafuyu’s fan-boying.

Given live action band

While the anime is still going to be my go-to for this particular story (it really did take a special place in my heart), I’m really impressed at this first episode of the Given live action adaptation and I am keen to watch the next 5 episodes to see how much of the story they tell and how it plays out with real people rather than in anime.

It certainly seems like a lot of attention to detail was put into the making of this episode and the two boys playing Mafuyu and Uneoyama seem to work really well together. There’s already been a number of scenes that have set my heart fluttering and we’re not even that far into the story yet.

Given live action - Mafuyu and Uenoyama

Anyway, if you checked out this first episode, let me know what you thought and if you haven’t given it a look, it is on Crunchyroll.

Images from: Given. Dir. K Miki. 2021

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song Series Review – A Breath-taking AI Journey In A Brilliantly Crafted Story

Vivy Fluorite Eye's Song - Series Review

From beginning to end, Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song has been a fascinating ride.

Ashley Capes has sponsored reviews of Vivy: Fluorite Eye's Song.

I really can’t thank Ashley enough for choosing Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song as his series to sponsor reviews for this season. While I’d kind of flagged Vivy to check out given it was listed as a sci-fi/action and from Wit Studio (you know they people who brought us Attack on Titan) a few little points were keeping me from just jumping all in on watching the anime.

For instance the description of Vivy as an AI Songstress kind of sent up a red-flag for me. Was this actually going to be an idol anime disguised as sci-fi? And if idol-zombies couldn’t keep my attention I doubted turning the idol into a robot was going to make it any more interesting.

How wrong I was and how glad I am to have been wrong.

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Vivy chooses to continue with the Singularity Project.
Image from Vivy: Fluorite Eye's Song.
Vivy makes her choice.

Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song will potentially be my anime of the year. I am almost certain it will be my sci-fi of the year regardless because I just can’t imagine another story coming out in the same year that feels as cohesive, well planned, and ultimately as lovingly crafted as Vivy. That’s not a declaration that this anime is perfect, there’s definitely flaws and moments that miss their mark, but there’s so much effort put into it that you can kind of forgive its imperfections.

So what is it about?

Essentially we start our story the way so many time-travel stories begin with a vision of a future apocalyptic event and a scientist frantically typing away on a futuristic looking computer and apologising to someone for something we don’t really yet understand.

A vision of the apocalyptic future.
Image from Vivy: Fluorite Eye's Song.
A future we wish to avoid.

However, Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song then takes us back 100 years before this incident where we meet Diva, an AI programmed to sing to make people happy and it is to her that a futuristic program or virus enters allowing Matsumoto to appear before her and to give her a new mission – the singularity project.

Essentially, she now has to change pivotal moments in history to prevent the AI rebellion in the future and save humanity.

In the process of deviating from her original programming, Diva ends up manifesting two distinct personalities and Vivy (previously just a nickname bestowed on her by a fan) becomes her own being.

Vivy giving Matsumoto etiquette lessons.
Image from Vivy: Fluorite Eye's Song.
The Diva comes out.

What follows is a a series of stories that are told over two and three episodes where Matsumoto awakens to warn Vivy of a key moment and to direct her to take action before he goes back to sleep and we then jump into the future again.

While this might have felt disjointed in another narrative, Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song links each of these developments together smoothly and we see in each encounter how their actions have changed, or in some instances not really changed, the future pathway. We also get to see the gradual changes in Vivy herself as she assimilates the experiences from each moment into her programming and by the end of the 100 years we see a far more fleshed out character.

That character development is one of the key strengths of the series.

Without such a protagonist, this story would have felt pretty formulaic and fairly sterile. However Vivy, the autonomous singer and robot tasked with changing the future, is a character who draws you into her story and her inner conflicts. Each mission teaches her something and seeing her in five or ten or twenty years after that mission and realising how it has changed her again is a really rewarding viewing experience.

Vivy working on her song in the archive.
Image from Vivy: Fluorite Eye's Song.
Vivy will show us something we’ve never seen before.

By the time we get to the finale, this is a character who is well and truly dear to the audience’s heart and her final performance is an emotional affair to be sure.

Over the course of the story, Vivy Fluorite Eye’s Song explores a range of themes fairly common for these sorts of stories. The underlying question Vivy is plagued by is what it means to put your heart into something. Unlike so many storeis, in this one we do hear Vivy’s answer that she has come to after 100 years of struggle. It is unimportant whether we agree with the answer, what is important is that the character finds closure in her answer.

There are also questions about AI rights and their purpose. The method by which they complete their missions. There is a terrorist group against AI’s that appear in most of the stories to muddy the waters. Politicians who use AI’s as a platform to raise their status. Individuals who fall in love. Robots who fall into despair.

Anyone expecting a scientific and sterile exploration of artificial intelligence will find all this focus on emotions somewhat distracting, however I found this approach in Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song to be fairly fulfilling. It also made the events and conflicts a lot more relatable to current affairs and various other situations.

Vivy will not give up.
Image from Vivy: Fluorite Eye's Song
Vivy knows her purpose.

However, that doesn’t mean the series just tosses logic to the wind and hope.

There’s a genuine effort to have the events in the story make sense. As questions arise, such as why Vivy was the AI that Matsumoto enlisted to save the future, the series provides an answer of sorts in fairly short order. Most other questions that seem like they might be a hole in the story get given explanations that at least on the surface satisfy and allow you to really just enjoy the story.

And enjoying the story really seems to be a priority for the people crafting it because from start to finish Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song comes across as planned and focused. There’s a clear end point and the narrative arc seems to be perfectly timed to satisfyingly conclude in that final episode.

As much as I loved Vivy, you won’t hear me clamouring for a season 2. This story is done and a most rewarding conclusion it is.

Of course, I wouldn’t object to a spin-off set in the same universe with a different AI at the helm of a different mission… but it isn’t needed.

The island to be shut down.
Image from Vivy: Fluorite Eye's Song.
The story is done (well, his story was at least).

Closure like this feels like a rarity in anime, more so in anime originals, and yet Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song has succeeded beautifully.

Additionally, the anime is beautiful. Visually the futuristic world is interesting and colourful and the AI designs, particularly their eyes, are stunningly details. However the fluid movements of the characters and the animation in general for this series are pretty solid.

The only real sticking point is in some of the more climatic fight sequences where the screen becomes very busy and I regularly described the scenes as ‘messy’ as so many colours and lights danced across the screen that details become lost. This is clearly an aesthetic choice, though it wasn’t one I loved (it does however get across the frantic nature of these conflicts).

Vivy taking on another computer.
Image from Vivy: Fluorite Eye's Song
There’s a look going on here and it kind of works but it is messy.

But I haven’t yet mentioned the sound of Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song.

For a show about a diva, it is inevitable there will be singing, however the way music has been integrated into episodes, conflicts and used as a pivotal plot point by the finale is something that should really be celebrated. The sound direction as a whole was truly masterful with some moments where sound and song were nearly overwhelming and other moments were silence was allowed and quiet contemplation followed.

Voice acting was similarly on point making each character distinct and emotional responses clear. Even the more robotic characters gave nuanced performances that enhanced their characters and really brought them to life.

In case I haven’t already made it clear, I really loved the experience of watching Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song. While there were one or two episodes in the mid-season that weren’t quite as compelling as others, and while there are a few scenes that don’t quite hold up to the quality present in the rest of the narrative, overall this is an anime that has been longingly crafted and is thoroughly enjoyable to watch.

Diva's final song before Vivy returns.
Image from Vivy: Fluorite Eye's Song.
Take a bow.

I can only hope we get more series like this one that feel so focused, well thoughts out, and deliver such a great ending in the future.

I’d love to know your thoughts on the series so be sure to leave me a comment below.

Images from: Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song. Dir. S Ezaki. Wit Studio. 2021.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song Episode 13 Impressions: Let Us End With a Song From The Heart

Vivy Episode 13
Ashley Capes sponsored Vivy: Fluorite Eye's Song.

We’ve reached the end of Vivy’s remarkable journey through time.

Starting a new anime is always a bit of a gamble. Whether there is a source for the story and whether it is finished doesn’t really determine whether the anime will end well as sometimes anime endings are either non-existent, rushed, or just take a huge deviation from any real logic. Original anime are even more of a risk with the stories more often than not collapsing in on their own premise before we reach the end. So how was this final episode of Vivy?

Vivy Fluorite Eye’s Song episode 13 demonstrated to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that the team behind this anime always knew what they were doing. The resolution is so clear and everything is brought together incredibly neatly (perhaps too neatly). Nothing felt like it was rushed or crammed in just so that we could get to an end because the season was over.

What will Vivy do? 
Image from Vivy Fluorite Eye's Song 2021.
‘Now’ is a good question given she’s been here ‘now’ before and it didn’t end well.

At the end of episode 12, Vivy had just been sent back in time to the start of the rebellion. Right from her awakening this time we see the small changes she’s making as the guy who previously got squished by the incredibly polite homicidal vehicle is now pulled to safety. That said, the question remains as to whether Vivy can do what she needs to do this time in order to actually change the outcome.


What follows is what was perhaps the best choices for providing closure that could have been made.

The story splits with Elizabeth, TOAK and Matsumoto storming the tower as they did last time, though in episode 13 they are armed with Vivy’s knowledge of what happened the first time. Vivy on the other-hand makes her slow way (and why she’s not in any hurry is probably the only questionable part here) to the main stage in Nia Land. It is taking us back full circle to her roots where she sang on the small stage, dreaming of being on the main stage.

Vivy is singing her memories.
Image from Vivy Fluorite Eyes Song 2021.
Prepare for the flashback.

Not content with just just giving us a location and a reminder of her initial goal, Vivy also finally answers the question of what it means to put her heart into something. While viewers may not agree with the answer she has found it is more important that after nearly 100 years of searching, she has found her answer.

She steps out onto the main stage with absolute resolve and then Vivy sings her original song crafted from the memories she has made over her extraordinary life.

Vivy singing her heart out.
Image from Vivy Fluorite Eye's Song 2021.
Sing it, Vivy.

What follows is more a montage accompanied by the song. We see the attack on the tower interspersed with Vivy’s memories. Every key scene or character from the prior 12 episodes will make an appearance and while normally I’d count this as a distraction from a final conflict or a last ditch attempt to make me care about a character, here it felt perfectly fitting.

Vivy’s song is made of her memories and her answer that was found through all these experiences. She sings in order to fulfil her initial purpose of making people happy and it is one of the most fulfilling finales I have watched in a long time.

Of course there’s a few moments where you feel the writers really just wanted to have their cake and eat it too. The satellites are already falling and shutting down the system won’t stop that but somehow Matsumoto now manages to essentially collide with one of them and blow it up mid-air in order to save Nia Land from getting vaporised. It’s a little bit much.

Meanwhile, Vivy, having fulfilled her purpose also shuts down as she is connected to the archive and in a logical story that would be her curtain closing. However, in a story about heart and emotions, we get one final scene of her before the end and honestly despite it making no sense at all it made me smile.

Seriously, Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song nailed its ending. I can’t wait to write my full review.

Images used for review from: Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song. Dir. S Ezaki. Wit Studio. 2021.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James