Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 7

Re:Creators (Ep. 6)

 photo MR7.1_zpsnfzuxibc.png

     For the whole episode I kept wondering why did I enjoy the new crazy girl character so much and who was the VA behind that. Be surprised (or not) – it’s Maaya Sakamoto. Now I’m wondering how could I fail to recognize her. Anyway, it’s an excellent choice – I can guarantee that the new girl will definitely continue to impress being interchangeably intimidating and casual. It’s a good idea to have such a character who is needed by both sides but has no intention to join either of them. Well, there already was that guy with glasses and a katana, but he looks to have at least some common sense. Common sense would also benefit both fighting sides since a person they were practically fighting for ended up just eating snacks and comfortably watching everything unfold. It was very interesting to see how personalities of the characters (being hugely influenced by their own worlds) lead them through the fight – Alice and Selesia both like fighting more than a decent talk, with the particularly harsh world of Alice contributing to her attitude that surviving must be accomplished by actions, and the sooner, the better. Both Mamika and Meteora are entitled to be the cool-headed ones of their groups, but both are not ready to present their arguments in an acceptable way – Meteora just states facts without any passion just like she doesn’t care but after all she doesn’t really have any evidence that her side is truly right; I doubt anyone (except Alice) treats Mamika seriously, but at least she knows what she wants to choose and eventually she could become a uniting force of all the creations. The full reveal of the truth about the princess inevitably was pushed later on to still have a trump card that keeps the viewers intrigued. Well, I think the characters, their worldviews and personalities in this show are good enough ingredients to cook up something tasty. Especially with Maaya Sakamoto around.

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 19)

 photo MR7.2_zps7pu1sn55.png

    Thinking positively, it’s definitely not too early for Diana to come into the spotlight. In principle she, for a long time having been as close to an antagonist as possible and now still retaining a position of a rival, is more important to Akko than anyone else – Chariot is permanently on a pedestal, Lotte and Sucy don’t accomplish much and only Diana directly pushes Akko to become better. Also, both Lotte and Sucy have already received their episodes so it was inevitable to see more about Diana. All this family situation emphasizes the good traits Diana must have – decisiveness, wisdom and clear vision – they’re also qualities that Akko needs more than anyone else. Adding recurring characters to the episode was a good idea, but so far Andrew hasn’t done anything, so I guess the next episode should use him more. Nevertheless, I find myself a bit confused concerning the setup itself. Why would Diana need to go back right now? If her parents have already died earlier then why Diana isn’t a family head already, albeit unofficially? The succession that needs a ritual that can be performed only rarely is far too inconvenient to be practical. Wouldn’t it be more dramatic if Diana’s parents died only recently and the succession struggle just started? As always there’re some neat ideas but everything feels not that polished and thought out.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 6)

 photo MR7.3_zpsxn8kbwvb.png

      After an episode like that any other show but this one would get a serious bashing for the visual quality. Nobody expects an award winning performance from the series and even less from Studio Shuka, but it’s called anime for a reason so things barely moving aren’t really an option. Character designs could’ve used some polishing also. I’d say the girl Nishimura and Kitamoto were talking to should’ve been the class-rep that also used to have some role, but it’s hard to be sure. And the guy Natsume told about his cat? Is he supposed to be Tanuma or what? Also, I understand that the source material is limited and many better stories have already been cherry-picked for the previous seasons but it’s a bit weird to get such an episode apparently for no reason. Sure, it’s nice to get to know these two guys better, their family situations and general feelings about everything, especially some uncomfortable feeling towards Natsume and everything that happens to him. Yet I think this piece of information feels out of place – the stories clearly happened earlier than the present day events with Natori and stuff and even if important to some extent, these guys were far more prominent in the earlier seasons, so showing Natsume bonding with them would’ve made more sense earlier. But yeah, some side steps and spotlight for background characters in general was a good idea.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 7)

 photo MR7.4_zps8pdufehn.png

   I have an ambiguous feeling about everything that happened. The conflicts were resolved and Maki had her moments that were really great. On the other hand, these very moments didn’t feel to be organically embedded in the episode, the story just didn’t flow naturally. I mean having moments that are really essential for a character interspersed among other totally unimportant stuff just feels choppy. The comedy scenes that usually work for me this time missed the target completely. I also had a problem with the resolve of Shiori’s situation. I can’t say that I understand the characters better than their creators but Shiori not getting embarrassed at all when her lie was exposed and just acting like nothing happened somehow looks at odds with everything we were shown previously. Friendships are based upon trust and I think such type of a person would be more serious and would pay more attention to maintain them rather than not batting an eye when her actions, clearly not beneficial for the group, come into light, even if she had some moral right to behave that way. Also, did you really need burn the whole house and even get a stand-in actor for a scene that lasted like 10 seconds?

      Tsuki ga Kirei decided to take a break this time. Is it really becoming a norm to have a recap after half a cour? Will the bubble finally collapse some day or will we have to stomach recaps every other episode?

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 6

Re:Creators (Ep. 5)

 photo MR6.1_zpsmvamvceg.png

    So it appears we have a Shinji Ikari knock-off guy with even  a worse personality, not to mention him being hypocritical about getting into the damn robot. I wonder if there’s time travel in his story because he doesn’t look the least bit surprised about all this situation. Annoyed, yes, but not more than that. The show’s trying to get as realistic as possible with the premise it has, but the way the government interfered was a bit weird. Not to mention that everybody’s absolutely alright with the fact that there’re damn 2D people come to life, and not some cosplayers or just random madmen. The only exciting thing was the ending with that blue-haired girl, who also did get a few cuts in the first episode. Sadly, apart from that the show can’t get away from its usual style of doing nothing but talking, and talking with little results. I guess this talking is wrestling CG from Tsuki ga Kirei in terms of starting to be annoying. 12 episodes would probably have suited this story better.

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 18)

 photo MR6.2_zpsx9oqsz0h.png

     It’s all over the place, and not for good. It would be silly to expect serious things to happen in a show about witch-girls but some storytelling consistency within the episode as well as in the whole show would’ve been appreciated. It’s just like Trigger didn’t have any ideas what to do with the episode and when everyone was asked about suggestions, each and every one of them made to the final product. Well, of course there’re some nice sakuga moments, Akko was enjoyably being Akko (including the fact that Megumi Han nails the voice acting) and Constanze finally got some screentime so that she would start resembling a character because up to now even her character design spoke only of an easily disposable third rate schoolmate no. 87. But even now there’s not much more that can be said about Constanze. The concept of the Wild Hunt that on itself has enough potential to cover an arc more than several episodes of length was underused in order to put some random mecha. Yes, mecha fighting a kaiju (and that one having physique not dissimilar to a certain angel from NGE) should be fun, but with little buildup it was just there and nothing more. Inconsistent character designs also weren’t a positive highlight. LWA once again offers a bag full of everything but there’s little thought put into making the motives stick together and form a coherent narrative. It’s alright, but knowing that it could’ve definitely been better feels disappointing.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 5)

 photo MR6.4_zpsefwhzvgt.png

     Not the most exciting episode but the payoff with some emotional moments to the point was good enough. Sometimes (and it was this time also) Natsume manages to capture some fundamentally human feelings and youkai, having more concentrated and straightforward emotions compared to humans can really bring home the message. You don’t even need to try hard to find comparisons with the real life as the masked youkai rages and cries in confusion about not being able to get any answer from a person he cares deeply about while the person just can’t do anything about it. Yet, story-wise the most interesting part of course is Natori’s premonition about the Book of Friends. I doubt it will pose any real threat but stirring things up a bit might be refreshing. Also refreshing should be the following episode about two other Natsume’s buddies besides Tanuma. Actually it’s quite funny that the show runs way past its 60th episode and out of its not that large cast there are still some recurring characters that we know virtually nothing about.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 6)

 photo MR6.3_zpsnycw6llj.png

     Guess which shot received the budget of the whole episode? Well, the filming thing came out of nowhere. It felt very different from the usual fare – no more explorations, wanderings around the town to get to know the people. It’s almost amazing how such an event managed to push things forward – Riri got her moment, Maki’s past became a little bit clearer, Sanae was able to take off further from her completed mini-arc, and even Shiori was troubled enough to lie. Speaking about the last fact, it definitely feels wrong to burn a part of a town just for the sake of some self-righteous jerk who doesn’t care about anything (well done P.A., making such an unlikable character so quickly is a feat) even if voice of reason points out differently. There’s no doubt that the director will have much trouble achieving his ends in Manoyama, but far more interesting remains the interplay between the girls and all the bits and pieces about their pasts constantly being revealed. Seeing the chief old dude acting like a perfect zombie I began wonder why did they chose to build a kingdom of Chupakabura instead.

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 6)

 photo MR6.5_zpsycs0ijgm.png

     Nice one. The slow pace with events unfolding at their own speed really suits the show. This episode weirdly reminded me of many things. The parts that were especially slice of life-y looked like something KyoAni could do (if they were broke and desperate enough to use CG), some of the longer “ehhhhh” moments were straight from Nichijou (I guess KyoAni again). Nonetheless the best part was shared with Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo (actually it’s also the only part I really liked about the latter)  – the portrayal of people who no matter how passionate and dedicated are, still aren’t able to achieve their goals on the first try. There are lots of shounen style stories where a protagonist on the verge of failing summons his full might and defeats everyone fair and square without batting an eye, but to watch someone actually failing and having to deal with that looks far more realistic. Of course the protagonists will end up realizing their wishes one way or another, but such moments of total defeat, especially in a show that’s deeply grounded in reality make everything far more relatable. I just have no idea why on earth would anyone think that the skits in the end are anything but a dead weight.

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 5

Tales of Zestiria the X (2017) (Ep. 13)

 photo MR5.0_zpsou3mwhd3.png

      I can’t say the last episode of the series was satisfying, and even more knowing that there was a whole extra month for ufotable to polish every last cut. There’s just so much stuff to be criticized. The final fight was once again very RPG-like, not to mention that its importance was very undermined by two (yep, not one but two) epilogues, featuring so important stuff like forgettable character No. 58 chasing forgettable character No. 143 with a fried chicken. But, yes, the fight. Why is it so normal to fight almost to the last breath but when the opponent is still too strong, the hero just casually changes the gears and manages to end everything even without the Seraphim? Not to mention that the whole idea of Sorey sealing the big bad villain somewhere far away just came out of nowhere. It looks like Sorey just had to wait several years (and in this way technically the deciding battle of the show was fought off-screen) while Alisha and Shirayuki probably got married and stuff, and everything got back to normal. And how about the new shepherd then? Laila clearly got a new one, so is Sorey still a Shepherd? Doesn’t it kinda break the rules? Well, overall it looks like ufotable tried to do their best, but the source material wasn’t the strongest, and just piling everything that seems “cool” (just like playing the second ED and the first OP back to back during the fight, moving the camera and adding tons of effects) doesn’t really offer much depth to the story. CG finally looked like it blended with everything else rather well but that just may be the main thing I’ll remember about the series, and I’m even doubtful about that. But man, the end credits were just HUGE! Did they include even the Janitor No. 29?

Re:Creators (Ep. 4)

 photo MR5.1_zpsqoqimmqz.png

     The ambiguous feeling that I developed for the show continues. On one hand, there are nice bits here and there – for me totally unexpected fact that Meteora’s creator died, humanizing lunch for Mamika and Alice, the idea that there’s a limit of how much unnatural stuff you can bring to our world and that in order to save one world you may need to destroy another. On the other hand, Re:Creators might be just called Exposition: the Anime. I understand that the lore and various hypotheses need to be introduced, but the way it’s done clearly isn’t the most smooth and exciting. The first part moved at a pace of a snail, then it continued, but the visuals randomly changed to everyone eating stuff. Yes, as the scene with Mamika and Alice showed, eating may help as a characterization, but having that while the expository dialogue continues? I don’t know about that… Well, in general episode 4 rarely is as strong as previous three, and even if you can’t say anything really important happened this time, growing numbers on the opposite sides should keep things interesting, provided something other than exposition will start to happen.

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 17)

 photo MR5.2_zpsoimxlnnr.png

      If everything LWA is going to do with the genuinely interesting premise of the second cour is only this, count me disappointed. I guess the magical words lose much of their mystery if they are now thrown around very casually and used without anything as significant and spectacular as for example that hungry ghost that threatened to eat the girls at the festival. Actually, the whole set up of this episode is very week. Fate/Stay Night also used the concept of the Holy Grail, but can you even compare something as omnipotent and mysterious as it in the Nasuverse to this drinking glass with no properties, no history and virtually no significance. Should you introduce an artifact of such importance just in one sentence just like “oh, and by the way there’s Holy Grail around in a nearby school, I guess we can go see it if there’s nothing better to do”? The nearby school itself is just crowded with one-dimensional dudes that of course find so many witches in the vicinity that witch hunting rituals are widely practiced and apparently approved. Andrew is a bit better character, but it’s still a very far road for him to overcome the initial impression of being just an arrogant prick. The episode in its essence is very similar to many short stories of the first cour – something kinda looks like happening though in the end none of it really matters. Well, maybe the lead with problems that Diana’s family is facing will prove to be more fruitful.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 4)

 photo MR5.3_zpsbsthvwvw.png

     Any two-episode stories in Natsume can compete for being best ones in the entire show, and this one also shows potential. There are things that a little bit bother me, but as it’s Natsume, I’m able to forgive a lot. It was about time for Natori to show up, but he did that weirdly on time to save Natsume from a fall, also Natori and Tsukiko managed not to hear Natsume talking with the maid being only several meters away, everybody continues to speak about weird strange presences but nobody even questions if the maid is a human being. Natsume certainly didn’t need to once again bring his backstory with the Book of Friends, at least so obviously. On the other hand, I can’t help but fall head over heels for Tsukiko’s design. Natsume’s character designer Akira Takata has done an amazing job overall (as confirmed by my affection for Taki), and that’s actually no wonder since she has made character designs for Haibane Renmei and also worked on countless shows including Baccano, NGE 2.0, FMAB, GitS SAC, Karas and many others. Anyway, Tsukiko, both by appearance and voice, just encompasses pretty much everything I may find attractive about an anime character. Yep, fanboying mode on when there’s nothing else clever to say.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 5)

 photo MR5.4_zpsw1byqsep.png

      Again I can restate that I really like what the show is doing. There’s definitely some food for thought considering the idea that a person most of times can definitely be replaced but that doesn’t mean that his contribution is meaningless and doesn’t provide something personal and something that no one could ever add, even if it’s not widely recognized or that essential in the grand scheme of things. At that point I think Sanae to me became more relatable and more likable. Previously to me she was more mysterious but now her problems and her personality are much clearer, as more details about her are revealed – her strive to become someone irreplaceable as well as wishes to be wanted and required, to have close friends and family around, to belong somewhere. It was a great moment when she connected with the carver who started in the same way but in the end adapted and fitted with the community of Manoyama. Is the first ship getting the sails ready? Another nice thing in the episode was the fact that there was no single idea generator – the plan was born fitting various parts of sometimes weird thoughts everyone had. I’m very doubtful about the success of this huge project but the start looks definitely promising. Also, not discarding the exoskeleton aspect works wonders for the continuity.

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 5)

 photo MR5.5_zpsia4ow4al.png

    Awkward as hell. Sometimes it’s almost painful to watch the kids getting flustered in completely normal situations. Nevertheless, even if it’s exaggerated, I definitely get where that’s coming from. Teens just don’t have the experience and, as with other new things, look at dating overseriously, thinking too much about details while actually what matters is just having a good time being with a person you like. Going on the internet to search for the dating ideas looks a bit worrying since you can’t really trust anything on such matters and teens may not always be able to judge whether given advice is any good. Also there comes an aspect of trying to live by the rules set by someone else. Well, Akane and Curly finally managed to get some time to talk so the relationship is moving forward. Earlier I thought that there might be some twist about the two other love interests but it looks like the show won’t reinvent the wheel and just will play with awkward situations and misunderstandings in order to give some drama. And I guess that’s fine since up to this point everything’s been working out pretty well. About other things, the music is spot on, and the skits at the end were more bearable to watch than usually. I wonder which search engine is better – Guugle or Yahho! ?

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 4

Re:Creators (Ep. 3)

 photo MR4.1_zps0yqaiepk.png

      I’m getting an idea that the antagonist girl just might be created by the main guy. Or at least someone that he will draw later on will make an appearance. Otherwise the main guy remains utterly pointless. On itself the episode was rather low-key, though there were some interesting ideas here and there. Another café exposition scene is a bit tiring. Another one, examining the possibilities of changing Selesia’s character specifications felt far more dynamic, though too much talking (especially endless explanations of Meteora) was apparent. The failure to make a change was logical since no one knows exactly how world remodeling should work and being successful form the start would be more than lucky. And that’s the main good thing about the show (well, apart from offering an excellent waifu material) – blundering in the dark with no idea what is happening, how and why, trying to get some answers, but it’s not given that the characters will succeed immediately. Little details like Selesia complaining about the lack of smells in her world because the author didn’t think of using the sense that much are always welcome. I guess next time Meteora will meet her creator who looks to be some plump man from the ED. Some screentime for the horse lady would be useful. Or just for anything that would remove some fog from everything that’s happening.

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 16)

 photo MR4.2_zpsums2l2ga.png

      During the episode I was inclined to think everything was very beautiful but the anticlimactic ending undermined much of its actual significance in terms of the grand story. The change of the setting was a good idea since the school grounds naturally have already been explored much. I can’t say Lotte’s place and its surroundings were fleshed out at least a bit but just the fact of getting away from the school is refreshing. Patience and ability to retain a cool head truly is something that Akko lacks very much so a development in this direction could’ve been expected. Akko had to accomplish many tiring stuff but to be frank it didn’t seem that much more than anything else Akko had to do in order to pay for her rashness in the school. Patience during all this long day was only mentioned and even if applied, then only to be played down as a joke, so even if Akko actually learned something, it wasn’t emphasized as much as it should have been and the acquisition of the word looked more than easy compared to all others. This time Akko just had to move her legs and sadly thinking or mental strain just wasn’t necessary. The comedy on the other hand was more a hit than a miss, so overall that’s certainly not the worst episode of LWA.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 3)

 photo MR4.3_zpsukz5mvqg.png

      It’s always good to see characters of previous stories return, even if I can’t say I remember much about Shibata, to be frank. I might be mistaken, but it looks like Shibata doesn’t really have close enough friends for whom he could be able to tell about his own youkai business. If that’s true, it works as another affirmation that Natsume has grown a lot and even surpassed another youkai-seeing person who on the surface looks very outgoing but actually lacks a special person who would be able to listen to his  more intimate experiences. Thinking further Natsume is really an amazing character – despite being looked down for so long he has overcome it without becoming sullen, closed in and angry about everything. He managed to make some more than decent friends, and find a way to speak to pretty much every youkai or at least to deal with them. I guess even Natori (who looks to come back next time) and all the Matobas lack that. Shibata was able to form a relationship with a youkai, but ultimately it didn’t end that well, so the guy was probably left a bit more cautious about his own dealings with youkai and speaking his feelings to others, while Natsume was lucky to find Nyanko-sensei. It also speaks of the charm of Natsume since even that selfish cat wasn’t able to withstand the attractiveness of the pure, honest and caring kid.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 4)

 photo MR4.4_zpsv4bnxxd2.png

      I wonder if every little Japanese town has a dude who constructs exoskeletons. And some kids who decide that combining that with traditional wood carvings might be something cool. Well, when you get invested into something and really believe what you‘re doing, it‘s not easy to look at everything from the perspective of someone totally unrelated and see that some ideas might not be really great. Anyway, out of all the shows this season Sakura Quest speaks to me the most. The manju selling part wasn’t very easy by itself, but it feels very realistic that when the ideas are also needed the hard part starts, and then not everything may be accomplished only by enthusiasm. As with everything else in the town people want their beloved art to remain traditional and unchanged, and no possible change seems to be satisfying. It’s just the same idea that only sticking to the past may look good for now but in the long run you have to change something in order to survive no matter how painful that may be. Ending the episode on a sad note again emphasized that coming up with good ideas isn’t the most easy job in the world. Sanae looks to be upset realizing that not everything goes as smoothly as it should and just moving to the country doesn’t necessarily solve all of her problems. Enough emotional material, some relatable ideas, over the top new guy and remaining question what the girls will do – what else could I wish from as enjoyable show as Sakura Quest is?

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 4)

 photo MR4.5_zpsch6aclz2.png

    The adventure of textbook romance continues just like expected. And what is a textbook romance without some misunderstandings (with even a hint of envy) that actually were integrated pretty well? Just it feels very weird that Japanese students aren’t allowed to bring their cell phones during school trips. Or does it count only for the train ride and during the night? Well, I’d say that during such trips cell phones might become more useful than ever if for example someone gets lost. Maybe the Japanese know better. Crowd scenes with too apparent CG people could’ve been done worse, and the fact that Akane’s friends are actually considerate without being too pushy is another plus as is the lack of heavy melodrama. Sure, the misunderstandings were blown up but it’s good to see that people who are able to text each other quite realistically also don’t start a ruckus with crying and shouting before sorting everything out. Still there’s a long way to go, and the visuals clearly tell that – even if the transient rain stopped as the couple reconciled, there’s still a tree behind them that parts their worlds. But the two lovable idiots are as close to the tree as possible, so the barrier might not last that long.

Scattered Thoughts – laughing at Kite Liberator

 photo KiteLiberator_zps3nsjfato.png

     Western audiences seem to enjoy an OVA from 1998 called Kite. Technically, it’s a hentai, but there exists a shorter version (approximately 45 min long compared to 60 min) that has all that risky stuff cut out. The shorter version somehow ended up being on Crunchyroll, and there’s where I watched it, so don’t expect me to talk anything about hentai stuff. Just for the record, as far as I know from little research, plotwise (not “plot”-wise) the shorter version is as good, and might even be better without mostly unnecessary 15 additional minutes. Well, it depends on your view towards hentai, but that’s not the aspect I want to discuss now.

 photo Kite3_zps6ibkk1b3.gif

     It’s plain to see why Kite managed to earn some fan-following. There’s a certain charm that 80s and 90s OVAs have – that of dark settings, lots of violence, and, in this case, girls with guns. The animation itself with its roughness gives a nostalgic feeling, something distinct form that lighter computer-enhanced art nowadays. And Kite in all these respects feels very much a child of its time, especially knowing that certainly not all old OVAs were good. The idea of having an assassin girl stuck with some pretty bad people might have been developed into something meaningful, but Kite rather spends time for the content that got deleted in the shorter version. Certainly the OVA doesn’t just state the fact “the protagonist Sawa is a killer” and illustrate it with buckets of blood – there’s some stuff to make you think, but in the very end I don’t find it that satisfactory. Why a girl that can shred her opponents to pieces would do nothing and keep getting used in all sorts of ways for some years only to rebel at a random moment? It might have been an interesting character study, but Kite doesn’t bother to offer the slightest idea what really happens in Sawa’s head.

 photo K_zpssi8jhsah.png
And then, 10 years later, there comes a sequel of sorts. Kite Liberator is another OVA, also about an hour-long, but its essence is completely different from its predecessor. Well, I might end up only reciting all the weird plot elements, but as there’s little to talk about characters or themes and I don’t recommend watching it in the first place, I guess it’ll be fine. The director Yasuomi Umetsu probably wanted to make the sequel more diverse to capture more audiences, and in the true 80s and 90s fashion he chose to add some space adventures as well as some cute girls because that’s what people like now. You won’t be the first to question whether space and assassin girls really complement each other that well, but apparently at the time nobody objected.

 photo Kitey_zpsctzstvwj.png

     Going on a little tangent, the animation actually might be the best part of the OVA. Some CG space stuff was so incredibly animated that it can easily best many anime projects that use CG even now, almost 10 years later. Even a Hollywood production might get away using something of this caliber. 2D stuff also most of times worked well, action scenes were done at least competently, though for instance two guys shooting at each other dozens of bullets while being completely unshielded and not even grazing one another is a bit annoying. The character designs are clearly aimed at being as moe as possible and it was also more or less a success. On the other hand, there are some definitely weird cuts that feel like they came from a completely different decade compared to the incredible CG.

Excerpt from Kite Liberator; animation by Keita Matsumoto

     But most of times it’s not the animation that the sequel fails at. As a successor to Kite, the later OVA also features a killer girl, and one that looks somewhat similar to Sawa of the original. Sadly, Monaka of Kite Liberator doesn’t have even the implied depth of Sawa. Can an assassin that appears at the right second to save someone from getting killed be taken seriously knowing that other times she dons her dojikko personality and trips and stumbles and falls down a lot while playing a good student as well as a part-time employee at a maid café? Does killing people during spare time and getting embarrassed over being asked on a date by a policeman twice as old seem normal? There’s a scar shown on Monaka’s back while she changes (the only scene to feature the tiniest bit of nakedness), but that as well as the key question of why did Monaka became a killer in the first place never gets any explanation or even a slightest mention at all.

Excerpt from Kite Liberator

     All the maid stuff and playing clumsy has some charm, and some credit definitely should be given for that because in its own right the cuteness and some light comedy aren’t the worst. But does it mix with assassin stuff well? Definitely not, as neither the space stuff does. In its own right it feels a bit ridiculous, but that’s only the top of an iceberg. It’s known that zero gravity and just the general conditions in a space station affect human physiology, causing some bone and muscle atrophies among other things. So that’s no surprise that some special food forms are being developed to counter that. And then there’s the best part – some specially enhanced curry, paired with the effects of solar radiation have a pretty bad effect – some crew members transform into giant bony killing machines! It just happens that one of them is in fact Monaka’s father! And, of course, he ends up travelling back on Earth only to meet his daughter who has been instructed to kill that weird monster! She succeeds in the end, but wait, no, the dad regenerates, and… that’s the end. Oh boy…

Excerpt from Kite Liberator; animation by Nozomu Abe

     I don’t even have the words to explain how weird, nonsensical and laughable this mess of Kite Liberator really is. The ideas on their own can work, as the original Kite has more or less shown, but one can only guess what food poisoning made the creators make such a mishmash of a plot, mixing every possible idea that can be “cool”. Kite Liberator  for me doesn’t make the slightest sense no matter how I think about it. Also, why name such a project a sequel to the original Kite in the first place? The only thing that connects them is a gun both Sawa and Monaka use. It can be argued that a coworker of Monaka might actually be Sawa, and one policeman also might be a certain reappearing guy but that’s just a random theory from someone who believes that a project and its sequel should have some common points even if they have absolutely no effect on the story.

 photo Kite 2_zpsqgqo0iep.png

     Kite Liberator is one of its kind, and thank goodness that it’s only one. I don’t deem its predecessor particularly good but this OVA is just ridiculous. Watch it only if you aren’t afraid to lose an hour of your life in exchange of the possibility to get some laughs at how incompetent a story can be.

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 3

Re:Creators (Ep. 1)

 photo MR3.1_zps7k4gllnu.png

      According to the general opinion, it’s not the worst show, so I guess it’s worth starting watching it. And, well, it’s certainly cool. To be frank, Sawano’s soundtrack (even if it’s generic Sawano) could make peeling potatoes the most exciting work in the world. And the best part is that other elements also work rather fine. The main guy is a generic one beyond hope, but as Selesia steals the show instantly becoming waifu material, so the lack of male lead so far is not a big problem. The mechanics of anything that’s happening doesn’t make much sense, and technobabble doesn’t help either, but that can be seen as an illustration of the confusion of the main guy. Still, how Selesia can still fly is beyond me. Isn’t she now just a normal girl with a weird outfit (and good physical abilities, but that’s not the point)? Now there’s only hope that everything will be sorted out somehow. Anyway, the animation was on par with Sawano’s abilities, though knowing the studio it’s a bit of a worry whether the quality will be retained. Somehow I was really fascinated by the cut where the camera follows the train crossing barrier and the world turns around as well as another cut where the main guy’s glasses cover a part of the first-person view.

Re:Creators (Ep. 2)

 photo MR3.1.2_zpszcgwhb3g.png

      Not as charming as the first one, obviously, but good enough. The flow of the story doesn’t seem smooth. There’s lots of just talking, not to mention an exposition scene in a café, but some obligatory action is also there. I don’t know why exactly every problem must be resolved through fighting, but maybe that’s just the mentality of Mamika. I can’t deny that seeing her realize that some worlds are harsher than others was a very pleasant moment. Some of the mahou shoujo and the like just have their problems solved too effortlessly. This idea of character ideals and ways of life clashing is an interesting one, and if elaborated, could become a really good character drama, but that looks extremely unlikely. 22 episodes seem like a lot of time, but even now I’m questioning whether having all this huge pile of characters in the OP is a wise thing. Sure, the possibilities are endless, but the road to satisfaction is narrow. Anyway, how is it possible not to be able to tidy a room with some magic, but casting huge shields, flying all other the place and exploding things in the manner of Megumin look like a natural thing? So yeah, there’s WcDonald’s, MgRonald’s, and now even YcDonald’s. What’s next?

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 15)

 photo MR3.2_zpsugvcjh3y.png

      When a character gets so excited in a fight that there’s a need to change the hair color, it means business. It was nice to finally see Chariot as she’s now, and her confrontation with the statues was spectacular, but does really anybody not give a damn that there are teachers fighting in the school property and someone will have to pay for the damage? Jokes aside, the infodump didn’t really give anything that we haven’t already known, that is the need to rekindle the 7 words to restore the magic as it was of old. Such an exposition probably was inevitable, but it’s not the most informative one. When you think about it, it’s very interesting how many common points can be found between Akko, Diana, Chariot and Croix and that there’s almost inexhaustible amount of ways you can pair them two by two. For example, Both Diana and Croix were good at learning, Diana and Chariot had a natural talent, Akko and Chariot want entertainment, Croix and Chariot are condemned for their advances, Akko and  Croix are all for modern stuff as well as innovations and so on, and so on, and so on. By the way, Croix would make a good protagonist of a spin-off series. Or maybe Trigger really has a secret idea to make a prequel about Croix and Chariot? Would watch it.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 2)

 photo MR3.3_zpsvs3yqhax.png
Compared to the last episode and generally everything we know Natsume is capable of, this one felt a bit bland. It wasn’t bad, but I just couldn’t keep my mind from wandering randomly everywhere around, for example pondering what would happen if Natsume and Azumanga Daioh would pair up. The story in the end proved to have that little nostalgic something that has been the heart of the show for so long, but there were other things not that expected. It’s correct that sometimes it’s better not to get involved with youkai, but Natsume seemed to be out of his usual character – a guy who always runs to help everyone around pushing others to do the work isn’t exactly what I would define Natsume as. The two comic relief youkai are standard at this point, but having Hinoe join them undermined her lady-like character, so that’s another nitpick. On the other hand, Nyanko-sensei is more active this season, and even if it’s mostly for comical reasons, the jokes play out pretty well, so getting more screen time for one of the principal characters of the show is always a good idea. The neon flowers were really beautiful.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 3)

 photo MR3.4_zpskbqh2zt7.png

      Well, I think I’m positive that I like the show. The story remains episodic, but it’s nice to see that past events have an effect on the present, just like Yoshino saying it’s manju she loves about Manoyama. The whole notion that the rural communities are dying but every attempt to change something is seen as too radical reminds me of my own country’s problems. Truly the people in their hearts would like to change something, to rekindle the life further from the big cities, but majority of them end up thinking that it’s too bothersome and everything should be alright for the time being, and the future will take care of itself. Speaking about apparent fools, that painter/musician guy is being set up as a pretty mysterious and probably important character. Somehow I get the feeling that the mayor (or whatever is the position of this main old guy) will end up being with Riri’s grandma. Or that at least they have quite an interesting common history. Yoshino’s attempts to understand people and get working as well as her motivational speech added some nice and much needed details to her character, but still the best part about her is her facial expressions.

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 3)

 photo MR3.5_zpsly3rbvbz.png

    Ah, first world problems – knowing how to talk with your crush only digitally and getting absolutely flustered face to face… The episode felt extremely slow, but considering that there’s a confession already, it has moved to the point that some shows reach only after a 2 cour struggle. Maybe it’s implied that there were many more conversations between our couple, but still it looks a bit fast to ask out a girl you have noticed only recently and know very little about. Oh well, maybe it’s just teens and their way of doing things. Last time I said that the show certainly isn’t done by KyoAni and the like, and now some scenes further confirm that. Fingers while texting could’ve used a bit more FPS, people jumping during the track training session look like they have no mass, even the final conversation between Akane and Curly could’ve used some polishing (though more than usual character acting is always a good thing, and this time it was soloed by Ryo Araki). To return to the story, now’s the time for the show to reveal its true intentions, since up to this point everything has been pretty standard. With the confession spoken, and both Akane and Curly also being possible romantic targets from the perspective of others finally the time should come to see whether this show will manage to distinguish itself from any other romance anime.

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 2

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 14)

 photo MR2.1_zpsdjq4mset.png

    That was terrific. The second cour has officially started, and everything’s as good as there ever has been. The OP was surprisingly low-key and just not that memorable, but the ED by Masanobu Hiraoka fully compensated for that by its minimalistic smoothness. The story also advanced rather far by the shows standards. It looks like the main theme of the previous cour – Akko trying to get recognized as a suitable witch – will leave the pedestal for the conflict between the old magic and the new. If it wasn’t clear from the OP, Croix herself showed that she’ll be the main antagonist, but it would’ve been way more interesting if her role wasn’t revealed in such an explicitly boring way. The show so far managed to go on with only slice of life stuff, but it’s great to finally have an antagonist, and one that is able to oppose both Chariot (on a personal level as well as in a fight for the affections of one clumsy witch) and Akko, whose being easily swayed proved to be quite funny and also good for the plot reasons. I guess it would make an interesting dynamic to pit Croix with Akko against Chariot and Diana. Anyway, it was already past time to introduce something new and exciting, and such wonderful world-building ideas like technological magic or a strike by the fairies probably could’ve been introduced much earlier. I guess it’s rather clear that Akko will revive the remaining words and traditions ultimately will win against new technologies, though knowing LWA a kind of symbiotic ending (though with the traditions still in a better position) wouldn’t be totally unexpected. Anyway, the gears finally are turning, and doing that in the right direction.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 2)

 photo MR2.3_zpsdqdcnzaj.png

    If everything will go on just as this week, I’ll be quite satisfied. Yet, probably not much more than that – the show is quite pleasant, but it doesn’t have that punch, that goal in the far horizon that everyone must reach. Sure, being a queen comes with problems, but some larger story and not just episodic running in a circle would be appreciated. On the other hand, the mood is very consistent, the jokes are more or less nailed, the girls start to develop chemistry. It was a good idea to set up characters with very contrasting personalities, but they still need to bond more in order to be able to play off of each other. The personalities of Shiori (cute, fluffy and motherly one), Maki (pessimistically realistic, cool and skillful one) and Riri (individualistic deadpan loli) are already defined and not likely to change. Yoshino still needs to develop into someone more than just “normal” and we’ve seen only glimpses of the IT girl’s true colors. Out of the story I find it a bit hard to believe how easy it was for Yoshino to postpone (indefinitely) her plans to return to Tokyo knowing how much she wanted that. Well, so far there isn’t much going on, but the table is set and the figures can start moving.

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 2)

 photo MR2.4_zpsf9bkkohl.png

    The show certainly won’t be the pinnacle of sakuga. Despite of that, what it is capable of doing, it does rather well. It’s actually quite surprising that something like a sports event that countless romcoms have done and exploited in every possible way in this show doesn’t feel that redundant. Sure, in itself it’s nothing ground breaking, but just following a normal route without twists and turns doesn’t occur that much nowadays. Curly’s obsession with Dazai reminded me of my recent Aku no Hana experience. It’s impossible that Tsuki ga Kirei will venture at least half as far, but it seems like teens fascinated by literature that probably is beyond their mental reach is a thing. If I needed to summarize the characters and their actions into one single word, it’d be “embarrassment”. It seems weird how people can get uncomfortable about slightest details and more or less meaningless situations. On the other hand, I can’t deny that I see a bit of my younger self in Curly and Akane, and it’s funny, embarrassing and even nostalgic. The short stories in the end on the other hand weren’t worth anything.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 1)

 photo MR2.2_zps78bygjln.png

     I think at this point Natsume could get away with almost anything, considering the almost inexhaustible supply of brownie points the show has amassed over its surprisingly long existence. And I’m not saying that because I disliked the episode, or anything. On the contrary, this time also increases the endless supply, providing Natsume at its best – showing how beautiful human connections can be. Tanuma, Taki and  little Natsume seem like they could be a family of their own, and I actually would offer much to be able to see a spin-off about that. Well, for me any second with Taki in is golden. Nyanko-sensei was responsible for an unusually high concentration of actually funny jokes, and, what’s more, he finally starts to get involved as a character and not only as a mascot, which was quite a problem last season. But yeah, the perfect iyashikei feeling has already returned after a holiday, the show is on its own refined, tested and approved track. I wasn’t even aware how much did I miss such simple but effective and heartwarming moments. Weirdly, now I feel both especially excited about the upcoming episodes and at the same time very sad because it means that now I already have one episode less to watch.

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 1

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 13)

 photo MR1.1_zpsca72pnpm.png

     I wouldn’t call this episode anything spectacular among other things LWA has already shown. Even if the ideas this week mostly were iterations of the past, a certain charm of them can’t be denied. It feels a bit strange that Diana even after getting to know Akko fairly well still accuses her of running away. Akko can ruin many things, but only because of her clumsiness and inexperience but never because she lacks motivation. This character dynamic may be necessary to keep such mini conflicts coming, but status quo never has been very interesting. Diana as sort-of-a-villain (because there’s hardly anyone else suitable for that role) Does her job alright, but it’d be interesting to see her finally getting from her high horse and having fun with other girls. Sakuga moments were nice enough, but the story continues to rely on episodic adventures. Maybe at this point I should be content with that, but the wish to see something more profound that probably isn’t even possible to produce for a TV series leaves me wanting something more. Once again, who was the smartass to suggest using “Badcock” as a suitable surname?

Sakura Quest (Ep. 1)

 photo MR1.2_zpsu3hvb32y.png

    As probably everybody else, I expected Shirobako 2.0. And what can I say, it’s not 2.0, but 1.5 could be a decent estimate. The episode didn’t pass in a blink of an eye, but the general slice-of-life-ish atmosphere was pleasant enough. The idea in general to bring a story to more rural parts of the country may play out well, as there should be many opportunities to introduce weird people and even weirder situations. Everyone has seen plenty of anime about life in Tokyo, but shows like Flying Witch bring something new and rather unseen. On the other hand I’ve no idea what exactly Yoshino will have to do, as the possibility of receiving some tourists seems to be close to zero, so it’s still too early to have a good grasp about a show. Occasional humor works fine, Yoshino’s facial expressions are varied and well-timed. It will be interesting to see Yoshino change and probably grow out of explicitly calling herself more than a normal person. Props for already making joke of that, Sakura Quest. On a side note, I realized that I don’t like pink hair. Probably because of that I’m far more interested in Shiori than Yoshino. Weird.

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 1)

 photo MR1.3_zpsolxvgi6x.png

     Everything went pretty much as expected. I can’t say this was the most incredible episode ever, but as a low-key entertainment it kinda works. To see going to the basics and avoiding any complications, enhancements or twists that are now always added to a romance series to make it more interesting feels a bit refreshing, even if the end result is clearly seen right from the start. The artstyle as well as the soundtrack promise a very slice-of-life-ish show, and I’m content with that. Of course the first episode of anything tries its hardest to grab the attention, but if the basic level of everything will be retained, it’ll be a nice and little feel-good anime. There are things to be desired – some students walking can’t deny their CG origin, during the first scene with the girls talking the cuts were extremely fast and confusing, the overall level of embarrassment experienced by the main pair might be a little too high, but I’d rather take the classical romance instead of any stuffed production that deliberately inserts overused tropes. This show on the other hand feels genuine, and even if I can’t say I’m going places because of it, it should prove entertaining enough.

Musings and Reflections – end of Winter 2017

     Probably a bit late because I was completely immersed into that huge triple post about Inio Asano, but anyway. Somehow I ended up watching way more series this season than usually mainly because there was so many second seasons. And more times than not everything went as expected – dull series remained dull, great ones continued to impress. Out of unwatched stuff Maidragon found a way into my watchlist rather quickly, Demi-chan also might be a mild slice of life fun. And I still can’t fathom how it’s possible that more people watched Hand Shakers than Rakugo

Tales of Zestiria the X (2017)

 photo MRs.1_zpsn55r7bmh.png

     It’s not even over yet, but I guess I can at least partially wrap everything up since huge changes are very unlikely . I can call Zestiria one word – mediocre. The first season at least introduced the world and began the journey, but here the story at first didn’t even move and ultimately reached the final battle in a more or less bland way. Rose and Alisha kinda got their developments but in the grand scale of things it hasn’t been important. Who liked them from the start will still like them and vice versa. Sorey remains a protag-kun with an idea that you absolutely mustn’t kill regardless of the circumstances. I guess he’s just been lucky enough not to become burned because of his ideals. Yet. The world sometimes looks interesting and there are hints of mythology and other stuff but that just either is constructed not that firmly or (which is more likely) the show just doesn’t have the will and time to dig deeper and explore the themes that would certainly have enriched the story. Visuals are the part where I can ramble the least, but in the end I don’t think the super clean and almost sterile artstyle with lots and lots of CG (that actually improved over time) is my favorite. The “X” in the title didn’t have any meaning this season, but knowing what was done in the first one, it’s for the better. So yeah, pretty disappointing, though not unexpected.

Tales of Zestiria the X (2017) receive the award of most impressive scenery of the season because 3-gatsu got it last time and LWA doesn’t have Studio Pablo on board.

Little Witch Academia

 photo MRs.2_zpsckkkyli5.png

     Well, for starters the charm of the original LWA, although still present in the very first episodes, didn’t need much time to pretty much dissipate. It’s not a bad show, but having such strong predecessor isn’t working well for the TV series. You can do only so much with limited resources, pressing timetables and other projects in mind. LWA delved too often for my liking into rather unimportant fairy tale material. Character development (of sorts) is there, there are countless shows with way worse animation, the story now also seems to be starting off, but sadly it’s just incomparable with the original OVA. After the first cour it still feels like we have got hardly anywhere from the very start. I don’t know, it’s a good thing we have something like this, but maybe creating something similar and not trying to recapture the same success would have been a better idea after all.

LWA receives the random award of The Best Thing That Happened Though Probably Shouldn’t Have.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka

 photo MR0.3_zps2xllpmjc.png

     Ultimately I’m glad that I decided to stick around. Just as expected Acca provided an interesting character drama and even if in the end all those rumors, speeches and whisperings about the coup lead to nothing spectacular, the interactions between the characters and opportunities for the story to go one way or another proved to be enjoyable enough. Pretty much every character had his/hers own motives and ways of achieving something as well as interplay between so different personalities that weren’t the most predictable was fun to watch.  Only Jean, the titular character in the end still looked emotionless and too stoic to be likable enough. Yes, he’s not a bad dude, but you could as well have a cupboard as a main character. I guess the story not always went in the most logical and expected ways but that created opportunities to more entertaining character interactions and wonderings what will happen next, so in the end I can say I wasn’t astounded by Acca but left satisfied enough.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka receives the random award of But It Was Me, The Show About Bread!!

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2

 photo MRs.4_zps6nvx95iv.png

     Nothing new compared to the first season. Well, nothing new that’s worth much. As a positive point character animation may have been even more of the rails than last year, but apart from that nothing really stood out. As I wasn’t particularly impressed by the first season, and this one also leaves the same impression. The incompetence of the characters feels more annoying than funny, there’s no story to speak about, fanservice again is overstretched too long. Basically the show tried to repeat itself, and it doesn’t even feel novel (maybe except the first few episodes). Even the ending song is almost exactly the same as the last time. Yes, it’s nice, but not as nice as its predecessor.

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2 receives the random award of Being Both The Best And The Worst Comedy Of The Season Because It’s The Only Comedy I Watched.

Kuzu no Honkai

 photo MRs.5_zpsfjlhzddv.png

    I knew from the start what I was getting into because of the manga, so I can’t say there were many unexpected turns. During the later episodes the story might have gone a bit differently, as it felt a bit exhausted because compared to its unconventional start. Moca after all wasn’t as important as she could’ve been, so maybe a little less convoluted emotional dodecahedrons would’ve been a little more elegant. On the other hand, I couldn’t have asked for a better ending, so the overall experience was definitely satisfying. Not to mention that the tackled themes are rather scarce among other shows, so bringing some food for thought to the mainstream audience is an admirable thing. The choice of VA’s and the artstyle was also a big plus – despite lacking heavily animated scenes the show managed to have it’s own identity, and a pleasant one.

Kuzu no Honkai receives the award of the favorite OST of the season. LWA and 3-gatsu also had their moments but both of these didn’t do anything new that they haven’t done before, and Kuzu no Honkai managed to offer a decent score to accompany the misdeeds of its characters. Also the show gets the award of the most memorable character, that being Akane. She’s probably the worst person not only in the show but also in the season but despite of that her manipulations and general character were somehow very enjoyable to watch.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen

 photo MRs.6_zpsrfpcihza.png

    Oh, Rakugo, dramatical life at its best. Just watch it and there’ll be no need for any words to describe the greatness of it. The first season had its ending revealed right from the start, but now there was no way to guess what will happen. The characters that already last year were very dear and exceptionally humane, upon the reappearance could develop further, and they certainly did. Seeing relationship grow between Konatsu and Yotaro (among other ones) provided an endless supply of joy, Yakumo looked like he was really loosing his way of living, and, well, pretty much everything was outstanding. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed the after-death episode, but even with that I guess Rakugo rightfully deserves a place among the best of anime. And not only of this season.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen without a doubt receives the award of the favorite show of the season.

3-gatsu no Lion

 photo MRs.7_zpshkyjuh1e.png

     It ended, but not quite. The second season will probably bring joy to many people, but I feel mainly indifferent. Yes, Rei’s journey was well portrayed, but it wouldn’t be worse without countless meanderings aside and mood-breaking jokes. I can agree that the second cour handles everything way better than the first one (for example the hideous lips), but the show remains the same. I can value the experience of having watched it, but I can’t say I particularly well connected with the characters or enjoyed every last bit of that weird shogi-cat dance. Many things were left hanging, and even if it’s understandable with another season announced, but the closure wasn’t that satisfying, especially given so much stuff that could’ve been removed. I guess I’m just on a different wavelength compared to the show. On a side note, what does the title exactly mean?

3-gatsu no Lion receives the random award of The Most Improved Continuing Show Of The Season.

     …And there’s Hand Shakers. Yes, I endured it and was awarded with some good laughs, but apart from that I can only name the show as having won the award of Being Worst At Pretty Much Everything.

     Favourite OP of the season after some thought should be that of KonoSuba. The song is not that memorable, but it matches the little story that the characters embark on well enough. It’s more cohesive and all out in terms of the animation, and that proved to be enough to best Kuzu no Honkai (despite its song) and Rakugo (despite its symbols). I guess LWA and Zestiria also deserve a sub-honorable mention, but they are just enjoyable, but apparently not enough.

     Favourite ED was more difficult to choose, but Acca came out on top. Izumi Murakami  (who also had some part in that beautiful skating scene in Death Parade) did an amazing job soloing the animation, and the song itself matched the collected mood of the show. Probably not the most memorable of EDs, but it somehow won over the psychedelic ornamentation of Kuzu no Honkai, and everything else was rather forgettable.

Scattered Thoughts – Nijigahara Holograph, Haruki Murakami, and the appeal of Inio Asano (3/3)

     This is the final part of the write-up and it concerns primarily Nijigahara Holograph. The first part about realism in Inio Asano’s works is here and the second about Asano’s dark world might be found here.


 photo Ni1_zpsqnyobefa.jpg

     After all these thoughts Nijigahara Holograph, a manga of only one volume, seems as Asano-ish as possible, but also having its own charm. The manga doesn’t have as much optimism as Solanin, and in that respect it’s more like a similar iteration of Oyasumi Punpun’s world. The limited length doesn’t allow to delve deep into the characters’ inner worlds, but it isn’t that needed since Asano manages to get the message across by using old as ages method of “show, don’t tell”. For example, bruises on an arm of a child in just one panel reflect the relationship with his parents, and as in that case it’s the parents that are the center of that sub-story, the conclusions about them can be made very quickly without any elaboration that needs lots of words. It’s probably for the best since then the readers can come to their own conclusions without being swayed by the subjective thought trains of the characters themselves.

 photo Ni2_zpsmrbf3cpu.jpg

     The reader must be prepared to think also because Nijigahara Holograph is somewhat further from other Asano stories since it contains some unnatural phenomenon – time loops, to some extent repeating events and the mystic atmosphere to create an unsettling mood. Characters live their lives as all normal people do, but you feel that everything is a bit more complicated. As everyday routine in all Asano’s stories is portrayed to be suffocating, Nijigahara Holograph goes further – many entangled lives are meshed into an endless repeating cycle of suffering. Some characters are slightly aware of it, and it’s only more painful. The mysticism is also expressed  visually, as many panels are invaded by butterflies that look like something straight from Junji Ito’s works – being something unknown, incomprehensible, awe-inspiring.

 photo nijigahara_zps9ziuhm4n.png

     Broken characters are inevitably here. What made them that way? Well, just one wrong decision, one wrong step can lead to haunting memories for a long time. It may be thought of as karma at its cruelest – if one gives in to his desires, there will always be a dark shadow hanging over. Even the most normal looking person inside may prove to be not that harmless as there’s a monster in every character of the manga, only some are hidden better than others, but one way or another in the end they come out. It all comes out as an idea that you can’t escape your past – it follows you whenever you go, influencing your future decisions. Another neat idea Asano uses here as well as in Subarashii Sekai is that there are countless unexpected connections between the characters. Take for example a girl working in a cafe owned by the brother of her former classmate. Then one day the cafe is visited by the girl’s former teacher, who also has connections with the owner. The characters themselves might not be fully aware of their intertwining fates, but the connections exist, and in this way past events may have even bigger influence over the future. Also it’s interesting that some events may repeat themselves – not exactly, but enough to be recognized because of some specific prop, character circumstances and so on.

 photo N_zpsrxyiwfcr.jpg

     I know that everything I said is very vague, but just have faith that if you want to experience Asano’s stories but don’t have much time, Nijigahara Holograph may as well be a good start. This manga encompasses many of recurring themes and ideas, also having its own identity and overall working as a good example of what Asano is capable of. It’s rather easy to just skim through the pages getting only a sensation of something half-baked and weird, but I think on a closer inspection there’s lots of interesting stuff to ponder about.

 photo Ni3_zpscv6tmlxm.jpg

     I wish there was even wider knowledge and appreciation of Asano’s works. of course there was that Solanin live action film, but probably it would be naïve to expect an anime adaptation of pretty much anything Asano has written. Well, to think positively, there is a precedent of Aku no Hana getting an anime, and that’s encouraging, since Shuzo Oshimi is another mangaka whose exceptionally beautiful art is able to accompany mature and complicated stories. There is also one interesting connection between Haruki Murakami and anime – Yoshitoshi ABe was heavily influenced by Murakami’s imagery in his Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World when creating the world of Haibane Renmei. The Wall, the Clock Tower, the Library and other things appear in both works and evoke similar feelings, even if the circumstances are completely different. These facts are not much, but stories that invite thinking and reassessing your relationship with the world are slowly getting more appreciation and acceptance through different mediums. Well, you don’t even need to go far, last season’s Kuzu no Honkai provided some interesting food for thought. And what’s more interesting, there exists one photo of Kengo Hanazawa, the author of I am a Hero and a good friend of Asano in Asano’s office. And guess what manga lies on a table behind? No wonder since thematically Umibe no Onnanoko and Kuzu no Honkai have many common points.

 photo Asano_zpsqwdmbm57.png

     So yeah, I guess you have grasped a bit of what kind of person Inio Asano is and what his stories are like. At this point it’s useful to remember Haruki Murakami for a second. Both of the creators wander along existential themes and their characters to some extent are very similar. Why does that appeal so much to me?  I guess because I (as probably everyone) have come to question my place in the world, what am I really supposed to do with my life and whether am I not wasting it and if yes then if it’s really wrong; is it ok to dream knowing that you can’t achieve something you wish for? If not, when is the right time to stop? Should I be content with everything I have or should I try more? And then what would be the point of achieving anything? The answers the readers find may be completely different, but that’s beside the point.

 photo pun_zpsqzpvwafu.jpg

     It’s interesting and a bit disheartening that Asano’s manga is, as he himself put, a blend of things that have meaning and things that have absolutely none. It’s like a gamble trying to guess what the author intended and what he didn’t. Either way even if intended to be meaningless (for Asano), some symbols still can be interpreted. Also, some at the first sight meaningless things might have some symbolism, but knowing Asano, sometimes you just have no chance to guess the right answer. Some ideas are deeply integrated into the narrative, others are there just because Asano wanted to do that for apparently no reason. It’s a bit of a mess, but I’d call it  one of Asano’s strengths – you can achieve many different interpretations, and some of them can be completely opposite to what the author intended, but they nonetheless can be seen as valid in their own right. There are many possible meanings, and you can chose what you like.  An author who makes his audience think about the meaning of the art is automatically a very good one. Every piece of art that encourages you to question anything is a step towards being a wiser person, being able to avoid some of the mistakes of the unlucky characters, and Asano can certainly provide that.

     Have you read any of Asano’s works? What do you think of them?