Musings and Reflections – Winter 2017 Week 7

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka (Ep. 6) 

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    If ACCA’s ultimate goal is to confuse the viewers, it’s already achieved. The story clearly isn’t very hard to grasp, but I have no idea what each of the characters thinks and what can be expected further on. Grossular has been portrayed as a guy who seriously could be the main antagonist, but now he’s been made a good guy? Sorta? But he kinda denies that? Well, ACCA is a game and even if we are halfway (possibly) through, the cards in each of the players hand are not shown, unless it’s only a quick glimpse that may or may not provide worthy information. Mauve also gets into that imperceptible category, organizing her own intelligence unit and moving behind the shadows no one knows what for. It’s just as everyone is expecting a huge firework and they know that the fire is already ignited but it’s unclear from which side the explosions will start. And that big thing will probably determine the overall reception of the show, and that’s a good and also a bad thing. We have a fair amount of buildup, but the outcome is likely to be binary – either everything will surpass the expectations or will die slowly and inconclusively like a forgettable firework.

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2 (Ep. 6)

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    Once again a pretty unremarkable episode. Sure, it had its moments of usual goofy animation that were exceptionally well made, but the story is not going anywhere. I understand (as Kazuma finally does) that the original goal of defeating the Big Bad Demon has lost its importance, and Kazuma more or less enjoys his current life. It’s still weird that even Aqua, who explicitly states that (although she also doesn’t really hate her new life) she wants to regain her status as a goddess, doesn’t push the group to go on, at least to move somewhere from the town where level 1 adventurers start off. The little (mis)adventures of the group certainly have charm but for me it’s starting to feel rather pointless. Characters also miss every opportunity possible to move on, and that’s to some extent understandable since the whole appeal of the show is based on the twisted characters and their inter-play. Still, I’m starting to lose interest in the same joke being played over and over again. The last part with Kazuma dying again felt a bit rushed and not very characteristic of our main dude – Kazuma usually shows that he has at least some capability to think, but this time he just somehow lost that ability just because someone began doing something to his body, which shouldn’t concern Kazuma in any way since he’s already dead and had apparently decided to move on. Such moments feel like a rather crude attempt to maintain status quo by all means, denying any possibility of character or plot development.

Kuzu no Honkai (Ep. 6)

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    It’s nothing short of amazing that Kuzu no Honkai continuously manages to move forward and avoid any apparent hiccups. The pace is also well-maintained, and as this episode marks half-seasonal point, the show also has already covered approximately half the manga. Getting into the episode itself, Hanabi realizes what she has done when Ecchan was unleashed. Still feeling lonely, Hanabi understands that now even Ecchan is beyond her grasp as just a friend without any ulterior desires. Ecchan sees no stopping points, and even pushes Hanabi further down, so that she would remain the only person that cares for Hanabi. Hanabi tries to get some satisfaction from going the Akane route, even if she’s able to understand that she differs from Akane by still caring about others. Hanabi wants to enjoy what’s she’s doing but ultimately there’s no joy to be had, only internal denial. Sure, Hanabi has some talents at seducing, but without satisfaction there’s no point in them. Also, she should be aware that in any kind of relationship (even a day-long) you have to give something in return, be it your body, emotions, or anything else, and Hanabi clearly isn’t ready for that. What’s even more frustrating, Hanabi doesn’t even know that the guy she’s hitting on doesn’t even interest Akane anymore because he stopped being exploitable.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen (Ep. 7) 

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    So, we get some clarifications about the death of Sukeroku and Miyokichi. The story Yakumo told certainly didn’t involve any stabbing, and his decision to take all the blame and thus save Konatsu from her memories of her involvement is an honorable one. Still, all those stabbing circumstances would benefit from more light shed on them. But when I think about it, I feel that now we have moved too far away in time from the death scene, and revealing everything now may be a bit late – every character has already moved on, as well as the viewers. Every now and then having Yakumo see some ghost of Sukeroku is fine and encouraged, but getting the truth so late diminishes its impact on the principal characters. Anyway, at present Yakumo starts to feel exceptionally old, since the ability of one thing that he could do properly is leaving him. It will be interesting to see if Yotaro’s knowledge about Yakumo’s real past will have any effect on the old rakugoka. At least Yotaro is smart enough not to tell a secret that doesn’t belong to him to Konatsu, but the moment between the couple was very nice.

3-gatsu no Lion (Ep. 18) 

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   I could probably best describe my feelings towards the show and this episode in particular by one word only – indifference. Apparently many people enjoy 3-gatsu a lot, but I fail to find enough relatable material. It might be expected after all, since I’m lucky to have never experienced depression, o just anything as hard as Rei had and still has to overcome. When relatability isn’t the main virtue, what is left isn’t that much. Of course visuals maintain the quality that is expected of Shaft, the usual motivating messages are also here, but everything else just doesn’t resonate that much with me. The argument by Nikaidou and the other dude was the same like the last time, and as a person who doesn’t understand shogi I got the point already, so I don’t think there’s a need to reiterate the same thing. As far as Shimada is concerned, I’d very much like to see some his internal thoughts, as so far he’s just portrayed as a good sensei character. It was heartwarming to see Hina worrying about Rei’s well-being, but did Rei really need to overreact so much when someone just asked who his sister was?

     Anyway, this time I must leave Zestiria and LWA for the next week, since I’m going on a trip and so far I’ve no idea how much anime (if any at all) I’ll be able to watch during it. Still, the season certainly provides some entertaining material, so it’s only a mater of time when I’ll be back on track.

Little Witch Academia (I+ II) – more than Harry Potter: The Anime

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Studio Trigger
Genres Action, Drama, Slice of Life, Supernatural
Source Original
Episodes 1+1 (both OVAs or films, or whatever)
Season Winter 2013 + Autumn 2015
Director Yoh Yoshinari
Music Michiru Oshima

     My case with Trigger anime has been quite a weird one. At first  I was very annoyed by the countless ads of World Trigger anime on Crunchyroll – at some point it seemed that there were virtually no other ads out there. It’s quite a shame that I managed to confuse a name of an anime with an entirely unconnected name of a studio. The ads certainly didn’t pique my attention, but then I learned of Kill la Kill, and that did. Yet, I researched it rather poorly (at first confusing it with Akame ga Kill, dammit) and stopped after quite quickly getting an idea that it’s only a weird ecchi show that doesn’t interest me at all. Knowing that Trigger branched of Gainax did give some brownie points but experiencing a short by Hiroyuki Imaishi in Nihon Animator Mihonichi (ep. 14) I was just disgusted by the sheer vulgarity of it. Despite all these things eventually I decided to try some rather neutral Trigger stuff, as Little Witch Academia has been praised by a lot of people and it seemed no way that it could be a hentai. Yet…

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     Just kidding. It’s definitely not a hentai (though I wouldn’t be surprised if someone has made some hentai after LWA). Stupid jokes aside, to clear some points, this post concerns only the original LWA as well as its successor LWA: Mahoujikake no Parade and not the (currently airing) TV series. Now fairly popular franchise began with “Young Animator Training Project” (aka “Anime Mirai” at some point), which also was the reason for Death Billiards (and consequently Death Parade) among other stuff to come into being. As it was a success, a launched Kickstarter project – pretty unusual for an anime, eh? – became funded in no time (to be more precise under 6 hours) and so we got a sequel to the first OVA. And even later came the TV series, but that’s not the topic today. Why is LWA interesting? For starters, there aren’t many anime whose stories have so little in common with anything Japanese. Name the heroine otherwise and you have a script for a Disney production. Well, if you can imagine the world of Harry Potter genderbendered and made into an anime, you would get the general atmosphere pretty well. To be frank, even some story elements have similarities – for example the adversary of the good kids is a white-haired person from a family with a long lineage. It’s not only that. Near the end of the second LWA there is something straight from Satoshi Kon’s Paprika. The creators themselves acknowledged that they had various influences that made LWA what it is. Should it bother a random viewer? Definitely not, as even if LWA isn’t the most original piece of art (though such a story in anime is pretty novel), it was made with love and watching it is nothing but fun.

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What is it about then? A young girl Akko after seeing a really impressive (no kidding) performance of magic by one particular witch, becomes infatuated with the stuff you can do and energetically (as always) decides to go to a magic school. Her problem is that she has no knowledge and obviously isn’t as skilled in all of the witch-y things. Getting a protagonist to overcome such problems is a basic premise of many shounen anime, but what makes LWA stand out is the execution. Especially the first OVA is incredibly tight paced – every single frame is thought out and couldn’t be removed by any means. The creators already confessed having to cut lots of stuff due to the expected limited length. Still, the OVA doesn’t last even half an hour (which passes in an instant) but you feel that the material could have been spread out into a full feature film using a more relaxed and therefore probably less charming approach. The second film continues the doings of Akko and her friends, expands the universe, but isn’t as entertaining as the first one. The story becomes less tight, there are fewer new exciting locations, the characters start some inter-conflicts and that slows down everything quite a bit. After all, it’s almost inevitable that a sequel isn’t as unique as the original material. Still, even if it doesn’t manage to reach the heights of the first LWA, for every fan of the franchise (and not only) it’s much recommended.

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    About the characters of LWA I have written a bit here. To think about them in a broader scale, they don’t really stand out. Especially in the first film, when the pacing lefts almost no space for a breather, the girls are presented really quick and then only their actions speak for them.  You have the enthusiastic Akko, who loves magic with every cell in her body but often screws up only because, being from a non-magician family, she has no idea how things work. Akko’s sidekicks Lotte and Sucy, being a normal girl and a pretty typical witch respectively, provide some character dynamics and catalyze some drama in the second film. Diana, whose family is apparently very proud of their ancestry with many generations of witches, acts as an antagonist in the first film, but sadly doesn’t retain any more prominent role in the second, which is a shame. The second film also introduces three more girls that have some minimal impact on the story, but don’t do anything special. When you think about it, the character aspect of both shows may be a bit lacking, but after so much that happens you just don’t care about it. Also, another perspective was provided by the director himself – Akko symbolizes a new animator coming into the business, without a clear vision of the real work he has to do, and that not always is as interesting and easy as he thinks. Everyone, with Diana acting as an embodiment for them, despises such a carefree attitude, but ultimately Akko finds her place in the community. Sure, this allegory isn’t apparent if you don’t know about it, but it‘s a nice little touch, giving the franchise a new meaning.

Excerpt from LWA: Mahoujikake no Parade; animation by Yuuto Kaneko

    Doubtless the animation is the most enjoyable part of both of the films. You can only wonder how much passionate work was put into every single scene and how effectively everything came out to be. The director Yoh Yoshinari is known for being a perfectionist to the bone so working under him probably wasn’t the least stressful work on Earth, but despite that the end result is nothing but gorgeous. It’s easy to recognize Studio Trigger behind the work because of the character designs and especially character animation. Such exaggerations in it not always work well with me, but this time I was only astounded how well it reflected the characters and their emotions. Forget the usual anime trend of only lips flapping – there everything is moving and characters are as expressive and dynamic as anywhere. You can probably make a whole sakuga guidebook just from the first LWA. The animation wasn’t the only thing to stand out in the department of visuals – Studio Pablo did a wonderful job (as always) providing backgrounds – vibrant, colorful, and beautiful beyond any doubt.

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     The soundtrack is another aspect linking LWA to the Disney productions very tightly, and at the same time being close to Ghibli soundtracks. That’s no wonder since the composer is Michiru Oshima, who usually handles orchestral music very effectively. Just look at her portfolio that contains FMA (the first one), Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei (that is Tatami Galaxy) or Akagami no Shirayuki hime. Orchestral pieces provide an airy atmosphere with enough quirks to mirror the misadventures of Akko. Having a full orchestration also gives a feeling of something removed from your daily life, just like a fantastic fairy tale with a usual “once upon a time”. A more minimalistic soundtrack (maybe just usual piano and strings) would have made everything look way more familiar, but now there’s a sense of wonder and also curiousness how anime girls can be mixed with classical Disney atmosphere, and the most important thing is that the mix really works.

Excerpt from the OST: 'Chariot's Theme' by Michiru Oshima

    At this moment the new TV series is still ongoing but I think it’s safe to say that the short length of the previous installments to the franchise was a positive attribute. Of course, there have been many anime shorts that waste the time they’re given, but LWA is not the case. When the creators have thought out the universe and the story that they want to tell really well, and it turns out to be longer than intended, as painful as it might be, generally cutting some material works way better than having to stretch everything out. Also it’s notable that TV series has a whole different timetable so not very satisfying strategies as outsourcing become inevitable. I guess it’s just my slight concern that the TV LWA so far isn’t doing anything more impressive than its predecessors (though it also has its moments). Knowing that the first and second LWAs look even more beautiful, full of freedom and devoid of limitations makes them a really enjoyable experience.

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 I believe, this anime is

 3
Good

     I think that for any anime fan LWA (especially the first one) is a must watch. I can’t remember when was the last time that so much fun was so tightly packed and delivered with amazing animation. Well, it’s Trigger at its best. If you have been burned out because of too many boring anime or just want to reignite your love for the “Chinese cartoons”, LWA is as good an option as you are ever going to find.

Musings and Reflections – Winter 2017 Week 6

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka (Ep. 5) 

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     I hope ACCA still knows that there’s a story to be told. Everything moves just so very slowly. Well, I don’t really mind that. Sure, everything that happened could be summarized in just a few words, but it was enjoyable enough. It looks like Jean actually had no idea that Nino was spying on him. Well, that got cleared out with Jean ending his friend’s (?) job with some unintentional help of his sister. Quite characteristically, Jean really doesn’t give a damn about anything. I wonder if there actually is anything that would make him emotional. All the stuff with the coup remains incredibly shadowy and practically any character could stand behind it.  I don’t even try to count how many factions that try to get some benefit for Jean there really are. Watching the episode another thought came to me (and apparently everyone also notices that) – the show spends weirdly much time for talking about bread, eating bread, admiring bread, spying for bread and so on (edit: please repeat the sentence with other kinds of food). It’s not just for fun, it also to a certain extent works as characterizations of the districts. I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to have so many of them, but world building certainly was there and so far seen districts are more or less easily recognizable. Still, some action wouldn’t hurt. Especially when there’s Shingo Natsume on board.

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2 (Ep. 5)

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     If it‘s a comedy show then it‘s too bad because I didn’t even grin for the entirety of the episode. The fact that everyone is incompetent in some way has been stated countless times and you can do so much variations of the same theme. Sure, the play between Kazuma and Darkness and later on Darkness and that demon guy was fine, but not really anything memorable. At least Darkness resembled her previous form when she was still something more than a fanservice object. But why is she suddenly able to hit objects? The demon guy was rather uninteresting with his mad scientist attitude and not much power of thought. Apart from other cliches it’s almost unremarkable that Darkness remained alive even after bombing that previously had managed to destroy a castle or that robot spider. What was that talisman really for? With or without it the demon guy still remained in Darkness and it provided nothing to the story that also was pretty pointless. At least the animation throughout the episode was rather good.

Kuzu no Honkai (Ep. 5)

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    Falling further down. Both Hanabi and Mugi try to fight loneliness in their ways, not being satisfied by their fake relationship, but in the end neither Ecchan nor the senpai provide any salvation. For Ecchan Hanabi is unable to feel more than pity and friendliness, and Mugi’s senpai sees in him nothing more than a physical body. The main pair wants to experience pleasure but it doesn’t feel satisfying emotionally without a special person. Eventually Hanabi and Mugi reconcile as neither of them has any other person with whom it would be possible to speak about everything, including their frustrations for love, even if it means having to consciously maintain some distance between them. It’s revealed that Akane’s “hobby” may have come from her too determined life as she strives to do something interesting, and playing with Hanabi (and generally with anyone who may be easily affected) seems to be one of such things.  I guess if Akane hadn’t experienced that emotion of not wanting to be exploited early on, she easily could have gone a very different way and found something else that she would truly like. Well, it looks like the ways upward are still not available for anyone.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen (Ep. 6) 

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    I can do nothing but be deeply moved by Rakugo once again. When the market is overflowing with generic high-school stuff and bland self-insert characters such a show like Rakugo that manages to portray more complex feelings than a struggle to get a girlfriend are a goldmine. As expected, the episode finished incredibly fast. The health problems of Yakumo have really shocked the world of the show. Even if now Yakumo appears as an old man full of regrets and sometimes pretty annoying, it’s plain to see how important he is to the others as well as to the whole show. Yakumo’s problems are also nicely paralleled with the plans of renewing the rakugo hall. Yotaro’s Inokori was painful to watch since his mind was definitely not with the audience, but it shows how much Yotaro has grown – prom a former arrogant inmate to a performer who can do his job despite of his own problems and his wish to be heard and praised by Yakumo.  I don’t think Yotaro has yet found such a refined form of rakugo as his master, but he can (and eventually will) be a worthy successor. By the way, does anyone know how many hundreds of years is Matsuda old? He was already an adult when Yakumo was a kid.

3-gatsu no Lion (Ep. 17) 

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     I’m a bit surprised how much I enjoyed the episode. Everything just flowed really nicely and, apart from usual comedy that I would like to go away and other little things, it was really enjoyable. Souya’s soundless appearance was very effective (but they needn’t voice that out later). He probably has faced the same problems as Rei, and because of his status has no one to seriously compete with, to strive for something, or just doesn’t have normal understanding friends beside him. If Rei stats to focus only on shogi and rejects his close relationships it’s very possible that he might become just like Souya. But I think Rei’s admiration of him isn’t strong enough, and he has experienced tender care of his friends, so I’d say he’s bound to become a more normal person than Souya. When the part concerning Kyouko began, I started thinking that for a very long time she has maintained the same attitude and just remained a pawn to be thrown at Rei so that he could lose his balance. Now eventually we get a bit deeper. It’s very interesting that both of the (sort of) siblings still care about one another and Kyouko at times manages to revert to a normal girl, even after all the mess she makes in Rei’s life. At the moment I’d guess that Rei, as damaged as he is, is far more stable and happy than Kyouko. It looks like the girl doesn’t even have anyone (apart from Rei) to rely on.

Tales of Zestiria the X (2017) (Ep. 6) 

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     As expected from ufotable, the purification scene was amazing – the special effect for once felt perfectly aligned with 2D characters and, well, if you saw the scene, you know, and if you didn’t, definitely do. Alas, everything else was far less enjoyable. The tie in-with Berseria was done far better than in the first season (though I doubt that’s all of Velvet Crowe we’ll see, judging from her appearance in the OP), but without any more elaboration it doesn’t feel like a solid world building. And, as far as I remember, during the Berseria episodes everyone had their emotions, so I don’t really know what to think about it. Anyway, the whole business with Pendrago was only the purification scene, and, as good as it was, I don’t think it deserved the buildup it got previously. I seemed like a pivotal point in the story, but it turns out to be just a trip to do a five minute ritual and come back. Shirayuki recovered surprisingly fast and completely ditched her previous beliefs rather easily. And what’s with that power that a squire of a Shepherd gets? Why then Alisha is free to roam where she wills when Sorey definitely needs some help? Even if he needn’t that, shouldn’t Alisha be doing something about the malevolence instead of focusing on her political career (which no doubt is also important, but still…). Speaking about Alisha, how does that spirit-phone work? Apparently you can get the number wrong, if Sorey needs to confirm that it’s him on the other end of the line. Anyway, why such a way of conversing isn’t used more often? If a mere squire can call Sorey in that way, why not the Seraphs? Or is it another case of “because it’s magic”? I’m not even surprised that Sorey adopts the usual trope of a Protag-kun to deny the need of help in every way possible. And doesn’t it bother anyone that there was a huge-ass dead dragon in the church?

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 6) 

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     If Trigger is the studio that is going to save anime, I doubt that LWA  (as of yet) is something that will be the saving show. As last time, LWA tells an episodic story (that may yet start a whole arc) without doing anything truly spectacular. Of course there are positives – Akko’s ears and nose definitely works for the rabbit-girl (and other types of animal-girl) lovers, some flashbacks were interesting (though I have no idea how and why Akko saw what she did, though it was pretty charming), and Akko finally showed more emotions than being enthusiastic or angry. On the other hand, the sakuga moments weren’t as plentiful as there could’ve been and the fact that Akko would somehow make a metamorphosis of the famous guest was obvious right from the start. The new guy behaved just like a male version of Diana with no love for magic. Well, the show isn’t bad, but I guess it’s still running on the dividends from the OVAs. It just doesn’t feel as free and energetic, which of course is to be expected from a TV production, but still…

Musings and Reflections – Winter 2017 Week 5

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka (Ep. 4) 

    Even when the main story doesn’t break any records on fast pacing, the show is confident to offer a side story that doesn’t really add much to the main picture. Sure, you could argue that now we better understand the problems of the country, its diversity and also get some insights into Jean’s personality, but that sounds much more significant than what we in fact got. I doubt that such a secluded district is possible in the first place. It’s hard to keep technical advancements from people especially if they don’t refuse them. That little coup felt like a game – the first guys’ coming to Jean who was standing too far away to understand the slightest thing of their speech, and obviously asking if he didn’t hear what they talked about their coup is ridiculous. At least Jean’s deadpan manner and collected actions once again proved how cool-minded he is and that he’s very suitable for his job. Nino showed up for a bit, some chairmen exchanged a few words but I guess I wasn’t that interested in this episode after all.

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2 (Ep. 4)

    Well, I’m disappointed. People sure do have different tastes and this time KonoSuba provided exactly the opposite of what I might enjoy. Overall Darkness is the weakest character of them all. Only the end of the first season showed some possibilities of her becoming something more than an embodiment of M. It turns out that even her revealed descent adds nothing more and even in an episode whose center should be Darkness, the real center is only a part (technically two) of her body. And that’s quite sad. I understand that you can throw millions of words arguing that it’s a satire, and no one should by all means take things seriously but I find nothing funny there. Only the cheapest kind of ecchi and pointless fanservice. Aqua behaves as annoyingly as ever, Kazuma’s actions, while always very selfish, now doesn’t even attempt to make him the least bit likable or enjoyable to watch. After the last season’s episode about the succubi and the OVA I thought that there’s nowhere lower to fall but it seems that’s not true. I just don’t see any point in unfunny jokes, mindless fanservice and characters that actually would be better off executed. Well, that’s just me. Moving on.

Kuzu no Honkai (Ep. 4)

    To sum up, everyone just delves deeper into their personal scum-ness. Akane reveals more of her true face and her intentions towards everyone. She’s the closest person to an antagonist the show’s going to get, and while I definitely don’t approve of her actions, I understand that someone like her could truly exist, striving to play with people and to prove to anyone that she’s the best at it. Later on Hanabi and Ecchan try to experiment a bit, and both of them think that they’re using their partner and while it’s not a good thing to do, they’re too weak to resist it. And technically they’re both correct. I guess if Hanabi has to end up with someone, developing feelings for Ecchan would be the best route, but as stubborn as she is, that’s not the most likely outcome. I have mentioned before, but the problem of changing the POV characters remains. I surely isn’t anything significant, but such a relic from manga when you can be definitely sure when one chapter ended and another began shouldn’t be so notorious. Well, as the manga loves to have monologues, there’s just no way around it. To end things more optimistic, the soundtrack once again provides a score with every note deserving to be praised.

Also, be sure to check amazing analysis of Hanabi’s and Akane’s names by Kyra.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen (Ep. 5) 

    Man, that was so powerful and masterfully done, I almost don’t have words to say. First of all, once again my habit of never skipping an OP payed off since Sukeroku’s (the old one’s) eyes being red did heighten the stakes. It looks like Yakumo bit by bit has come to cherish the fact that he’s not the only rakugoka in the world, albeit he’s still the best one who holds the reputation of rakugo at a somewhat exalted level. Yakumo is happy that Yotaro’s efforts don’t let rakugo to be forgotten altogether, but still feels that the old kind of rakugo is only alive as long as he lives himself. It was interesting to see the differences between the outlooks on rakugo by the two rakugokas – Yotaro finds it fun and just wants to tell the stories not worrying about his own image, while Yakumo, who was involved in rakugo stuff not by his own will, achieved everything by hard work and does everything perfectly, but without getting much for himself, apart from gaining recognition and praise. The performance of Yakumo was one of the stellar scenes from the whole season, wisps of smoke foreboding something not that cheerful. Again the story a Yakumo tells is very tightly tied to his own feelings and present situation, a parallel that the show constantly uses perfectly. Seeing Miyo as well as Sukeroku after a very long time was really effective, bringing the realization how long Yakumo lived alone without anyone whom he could’ve called a close friend. The episode and also all these clues from the OP confirm that things are really not looking well for Yakumo. The next episode just can’t come too soon.

3-gatsu no Lion (Ep. 16) 

    3-gatsu continues with its stable above average performance. I’m glad that the mood changes now are not as jarring as they were near the start. Now usual moral message is also present – this time it’s the idea that humans should rely on other humans and expect to be relied on. It looks like Rei has already learned not to stay hidden in his shell all the time and to seek people and their help. After all, there’re many people that care about him and are ready to offer some help. Even the chemists – people with whom Rei has virtually nothing in common – can be a source of human connection, profiting both sides. The soundtrack also played not the smallest part in making the episode fairly enjoyable. Apart from all the good things, the shogi-heavy part for me was a bit too technical. I guess the cat-lessons were not enough to make me understand what exactly all of the players were discussing about. I get that actually that’s some trivial stuff that everyone has his own opinion about but for someone with little interest in shogi tactics it’s rather boring.

Tales of Zestiria the X (2017) (Ep. 5) 

      I think this I liked this episode best of all Zestiria this season so far. The continuing fight from the last time again showed ufotable’s capabilities in animation, although everything ended too quickly for all the buildup it got. That’s a bit undermining, but as anime villains that are told to be “maybe” dead rarely actually are, there might be another encounter with that possessed guy. And couldn’t someone at least checked if he was really dead? Moving on, Shirayuki sure received much food for thought. Usually when you accomplish something that you waited a long time for, there might come a sense of being goalless and directionless, but Rose isn’t even sure if she actually succeeded, and if she did, were her actions justified. Well, Sorey surely disapproves of Rose’s actions, as any evil will bring more malevolence so it’s just a feedback loop.  Yet, he fails to provide any alternative decisions to this very situation. Sure, as every anime protagonist is certain, killing is bad at any situation, but maybe what Rose did was a lesser evil? Sorey just can’t spread happiness in the whole world and solve every single conflict with no blood spilled. Still, Rose, also stunned by the malevolence ghosts in that very beautiful riding scene with the soundtrack precisely on point, feels shaken to the core. It will certainly be interesting  to see what conclusion she will come to.

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 5) 

     I don’t know if knowing beforehand that this episode was fully outsourced had much to do with my opinion about it, but it certainly wasn’t the best episode of LWA. Giving more screen time to Amanda was a good decision, as she can rival Akko with her stubbornness and that offers some fairly enjoyable scenes. Still, the story wasn’t very impressive. Well, I don’t expect anything covering dark themes, existentialism and other similar stuff but this episode felt a bit too simple. The ending was particularly disappointing – the heroes get some unexpected help that saves at first hopeless looking situation. All is well and good but sadly the real world debts don’t get cancelled so easily. I’d very much preferred something involving hard work covering for the borrowed funds or just, well, anything but the conclusion we got. Returning to the outsourcing, even if there were some nice sakuga moments, overall it just didn’t feel like a Trigger show with its signature deformed character animation and over the top action scenes. Well, that’s the price to pay for getting a TV series. By the way, I didn’t know that that rich dragons work with Word, Excel, or, dear me, Internet Explorer…

Scattered Thoughts – Hanabi, queen of complicated relationships

     Only rarely anime romances stray away from the usual formula that ultimately ends the story with a shy kiss or just the joyous action of holding hands. Sure, it’s the ride that matters but sometimes you just want to get something that goes beyond the everyday tropes. And so to the fray comes Kuzu no Honkai with its straightforward breach of the usual barriers. It can be that only the bare fact of showing the more mature side for me acts as a factor making the show look very good. Sure, you can argue that you don’t need to go that far and introduce so many difficult relationships without (possibly) enough time to explore all of them, but I want to overlook that. It’s another question how much realism is in the story, but regardless of the answer I’m very glad that I started watching the show, and not the last positive factor deciding was the complexity of the relationships between the characters and their exploration. You needn’t look far – the very main girl Hanabi can be an example of the mess that happens between people. Let’s stick with her and dig a little deeper.

Before going further I must say that all the thoughts crystalized after the fourth episode of Kuzu no Honkai so in the long run not every idea may retain some meaning. And, of course, beware of spoilers.

Narumi

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      Hanabi’s childhood friend, being a pretty much your usual osananajimi character, isn’t the most interesting guy ever, and he states that himself very clearly. Hanabi’s infatuation with him could be thought of as a whim of her childish side, but she truly believes her love. As far as osananajimis go, Narumi isn’t the worst of them all – he had plenty of time to take care of young Hanabi, standing as a big brother character, which makes Hanabi’s choice of her significant one a bit weird. Yet, I can totally believe that her helper, savior and friend at some point in Hanabi’s head became someone more important in absence of other suitable guys. Another factor that got the pair closer was the fact that they both have incomplete families, so sticking together seemed a logical choice. Thinking about the situation now, Hanabi still firmly believes her love, though so much time spent with Narumi treating her like a little sister has made Hanabi’s wish of being together seem more like an unreachable fantasy. She would like to get a resolve, but the fear of being rejected (especially since Narumi has shown some interest in Akane), leaves Hanabi pondering that after all she could live with her unspoken feelings, if only Narumi wouldn’t be snatched by someone else. Yet, even the appearance of Akane didn’t push Hanabi that much – she tried doing something, but that was not enough. Also, Hanabi still doesn’t want to lose her brother but that’s a price to pay in exchange for the possibility of getting a lover, and the price still looks too high.

Moka

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      Thinking about Hanabi and Moka is very interesting because these almost non-interacting characters have strikingly similar stories. Moka, just like Hanabi loves a more mature guy whom she has known for a very long time, but the guy sees her only as a sister because he already has someone else in mind. The main difference then between Hanabi and Moka is that the latter one isn’t afraid of expressing her feelings. I think that to a certain extent Hanabi, being a more cautious person, looks up to that but also at the same time despises Moka’s actions since she’s so childishly persevere even if her love is unrequired. This makes Hanabi feel that her choice of not approaching Narumi may be the right one, as Mugi certainly isn’t very comfortable and happy about Moka’s advances and generally being a nuisance. From here flows some part of Hanabi’s harshness towards her almost-rival – she understands that it isn’t very fair of her to do so, but even if Hanabi would concede the rights to Mugi, Moka would hardly be able to form her dreamlike relationship. Harsh treatment also drives Moka away from Mugi, so that suits both Hanabi and Mugi in retaining their relationship. Yet, the most significant factor is that Hanabi actually enjoys being superior, thus becoming similar to Akane. Moka’s helpless shout that Hanabi only uses Mugi isn’t wrong per se, it’s just that Mugi also uses Hanabi for the same reason, and for such a girl like Moka their actions probably would be incomprehensible, even if she understood them.

Mugi

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     It all started with a simple wish by both sides to be able to talk to someone about their unrequired feelings and to get rid of loneliness. Mugi was already familiar with his past senpai’s stance of being just friends with benefits and nothing more, so he was content just sharing a secret with someone who also needed some help in the same department. Hanabi, being less experienced and more strangled by her loneliness initiated the relationship on a whim almost as a joke, but Mugi complied, suggesting that they’d think about each other as a substitute. The relationship ended up being one where you can talk about your problems, knowing that the other doesn’t care very much, and also get some material to imagine what a true relationship would feel like, even if at some moments both Hanabi and Mugi just want to see the world burn. Akane getting along with Narumi bolstered the pair’s bond, as their problems became mutual. When Hanabi eventually learned what a person Akane is, her frustration became even bigger – she is unable to reach Narumi while the attachment to Mugi was achieved incredibly easily. If the one Hanabi loves had been Mugi, she would be already happy. Hanabi wishes she could behave so casually with Narumi without her fear of being rejected. Also getting more intimate with Mugi is far simpler than with Ecchan. Both are able to be what they truly are without being forced to behave as best they can in front of their special ones. Even if in the future the couple will be able to become to each other something more than a substitute and a makeshift friend, now Hanabi is aware that she is still rather independent and doesn’t want to force all her problems and thoughts on Mugi. Hanabi feels that for her Mugi is needed (as she is for him, though probably to a lesser extent), but if things change, she won’t hesitate to ditch him aside but now Hanabi still cares enough not to share the least bit of Mugi with Moka.

Akane

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     Hanabi’s relationship with Akane is very ambiguous. These two don’t cross their paths very often but with Akane’s advances towards Narumi the conflict is inevitable. At first, Narumi’s affection alone was enough to make Hanabi annoyed and worried, but it turns out there are bigger problems. Akane, being a master player guessed Hanabi’s feelings, while an accident at a diner revealed Akane’s cards to her counterpart. Thus both of them are aware of each other and are willing to have a game. Hanabi’s resolve to somehow eliminate Narumi’s and Akane’s relationship after learning about the latter’s behavior doubled, but what really shocked her was that Akane’s motivations are exactly opposite to her own (that’s also fitting as Hanabi is dark haired and dresses in darker colors). It was unthinkable for Hanabi to see that someone could so openly go against her own idea that unrequired love is gross and, well, really unrequired, as Hanabi herself has felt by her inability to respond to Ecchan. Akane sees Hanabi’s situation as an opportunity to show her superiority, to win someone and feel better than a girl she bested. That little talk before the bell rang told Hanabi a lot, and to some extent made her admire Akane a little as someone who can make her prey hers without a blink, while Hanabi isn’t able to get what she wants. To Hanabi’s disgust, she realizes that she actually likes being superior to Moka and in that regard the biggest difference between Akane and Hanabi is the former’s experience.

Ecchan

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     Ecchan’s confession for Hanabi was very painful. Her only present close friend without Ecchan is only Mugi, so any change in the relationship between the two girls risks destroying that cherished friendship. Hanabi is alright with calling herself scum for loving without an answer but she’s unable to retain her way of thinking or to add such label to Ecchan. Hanabi also feels left out as Ecchan, as well as Narumi were all able to confess while she doesn’t have the courage. As with Mugi, everything would be so easy if only she could see Ecchan not as a friend. With Ecchan’s confession the friendship inevitably was changed, and Hanabi feels sorry for Ecchan, wanting to comfort her and to be able to answer her, but that’s not possible. Ecchan sees that, but, being desperate, pushes forward. The outcome is very sorry – Ecchan can get the false joy of being closer to Hanabi than ever but knowing that it’s a lie. Hanabi still wants to give everything she can to Ecchan knowing that’s never going to be enough. She could exchange Mugi for Ecchan, but Hanabi isn’t willing to see her only real friend as a substitute for someone thus further destroying everything that their relationship still had.

Hanabi

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     As basically every character in Kuzu no Honkai (except Akane) Hanabi is very frustrated and unable to reach a certain person. Her other relationships are just a mess of entangled feelings, mixed between other characters, so I guess I can say that it has realism. Sure, you probably won’t find such a rich web of motives, wishes and actions very often, but it feels real enough. As Hanabi’s other relationships are basically houses of cards, some already crumbling and others not even built, she views herself very critically and is unhappy by choices she is given and outcomes of her decisions. It’s not very often that an anime character would be able to accuse others of something, and then to be able to understand that she’s actually the same and after the realization to be able to live with it. Hanabi despises her inability to overcome the fear of being rejected, wanting to continue the stalemate situation with Narumi, wants to help Ecchan, but understands that there’s nothing she can do, tries to drown her frustrations in the toxicity of the relationship with Mugi and overall sees no light in the end of the tunnel. Akane’s coming shakes her world to the core, as Hanabi with a possibility of losing Narumi realizes her similarity to a person she hates the most, and as with everyone else, our inexperienced girl just sinks more and more.

Even if I have read the manga, I eagerly await the upcoming episodes as Kuzu no Honkai continues to execute almost perfectly. Do you think my thoughts were more or less on point? If you have any insights, please share!

Musings and Reflections – Winter 2017 Week 4

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka (Ep. 3) 

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    The episode for me passed incredibly fast.  I guess such stories with many characters meddling in the same mess when you can’t be sure of anything are really entertaining. Jean seems to have come to like Mauve quite a bit, and the prince (baka oji can’t not remind me of Gintama) showed some interest in Jean’s sister, so these things could complicate the already intricate story. I wonder if Jean really has no concerns that Nino manages to get appointments to the same important places Jean gets to visit, but with such a story and such characters you can never know for sure. So far the only big concern (apart from yet another “as you well know…”) could be only the ability of the story to end in a satisfying way so all the loose ends would be tied, all the motivations of the characters would be explained and the final conclusion would bring no wish that things had gone differently. Speaking about the animation, the characters that appear further away still look pretty bad but if that’s the price to pay for an enjoyable story – so be it.

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2 (Ep. 3)

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     Not that impressive episode after all. Well, by all means not bad, but just not feeling as fresh and as interesting as some of other stuff KonoSuba has already offered. As flawed as they are (seriously, some of their actions make them look more scum than characters of Kuzu no Honkai, and that’s something), the members of the gang could seriously show some compassion towards Darkness and be a bit concerned how she’s doing. Again, all we get is a little scene that’s almost reused material from the last episode with absolutely nothing new. An exploration of a dungeon was meant to happen as we already know what kind of world this is and it’s almost weird how long such aspect had been put off to the future. Quite unexpectedly Aqua really behaved rather well, and Kazuma rightly noticed that, but still her ego is sky high so moments of her being actually useful and likable were pretty brief. Apart from that the exploration wasn’t that interesting. The very end of the episode didn’t shy away from reused jokes that for me weren’t that funny even for the first time. The best thing about them was their novelty and without that they feel quite dull, just like the whole episode compared to more enjoyable stuff that the show is capable of.

Kuzu no Honkai (Ep. 3)

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     Well well well, the show continues to deliver so I yet again have nothing to complain about. The pacing looks very good – the episode covered lots of material without feeling either rushed or stretched out. The soundtrack continues to be very strong, providing overall very airy atmosphere and just the right amount of playfulness when Hanabi with Mugi encountered Akane late at night. Mugi is given some backstory elements and also his character trait of trying to think best of people is showed. Well, what else can you do when your heart against a better judgement follows not that a savory woman whose true colors are finally revealed? Hanabi faces more and more problems – wishing for Narumi to be happy (even if not with her after all) but also seeing what kind of person Akane really is, trying to sort out her own feelings as well as being dumbfounded that her only friend doesn’t think the same way that Hanabi looks at her. In this case it’s even more complicated since Hanabi is content with going against her own ideology that pursuing people out of selfish reasons is despicable but to see  Ecchan as scum as Hanabi calls herself is far harder. Also it’s very hard not being able to comfort her while being with Mugi doesn’t pose much problems. Maybe that’s because Hanabi thinks she could (and ultimately will) ditch Mugi anyway, but Ecchan isn’t someone you could easily scrap so risking their friendship to become even more complicated doesn’t seem (so far) an option for her.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen (Ep. 4) 

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     Amazing. I’m immeasurably happy that this season has offered two really brilliant shows – just when I’m stunned by a really enjoyable episode of Kuzu no Honkai, there comes Rakugo and manages to top it. A little time skip actually made sense – the little kid learned to appreciate rakugo just in the same way Konatsu did when she was young. It was very heartwarming to see Yotaro and Konatsu acting like a real family despite not having married out of love. That care for each other, even if usually masked by bluntness or just tsundere-ish behavior, runs deep and, as the boy looks happy enough, helps to form an actually decent family. Yotaro behaves as rashly as ever lead by good intentions (also as ever) to give Konatsu an opportunity to perform rakugo. Her smile after that was probably the highlight of the whole anime season. Konatsu’s stance towards rakugo for me feels very relatable- you pursue a thing for a long time and, seeing it as unachievable after a time just make peace with it and when unexpectedly an opportunity arises to actually achieve it, you back off. Well, at least Konatsu did try performing and managed to get a job that’s as close to rakugo as it can be without angering Yakumo. With Konatsu’s performance, Yakumo must feel being attacked from all the sides for his wish to leave rakugo as he found it – sterile, perfect, but dead. It’s going to be a very interesting struggle to see if anyone has enough determination to overcome Yakumos’s stubbornness. Bonus fact – the episode taught me where did the long name used in that funny FMA sketch with Scar and Bradley attempting to fight come from.

3-gatsu no Lion (Ep. 15) 

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    Nothing impressive, just pretty much the usual stuff this time. The only idea worth noticing was that you need to have someone better than you to be able to work and get even better without looking down on your weaker opponents. After all, there will always be at least 10 Asian people who will do better at something you’re best at. Anyway, as Kyouko for me is the most interesting character, I was glad to see her, and also even more glad once she more or less got what she deserved. Sure, she’s as troubled a person as Rei but that’s a very poor excuse to cling to Rei in order to have someone easily manipulated, ensure that he’s as pressured as possible and cry when he tries to leave. I guess Rei understands what he means to Kyouko but that’s also a poor excuse not to break all his ties with her. That’s just as toxic relationship as some examples in Kuzu no Honkai. The whole “very important match” vibe didn’t really affect me – yes, Gotou is unlikable enough, but Shimada hasn’t been here for enough time for me to start cheering on him. Also it probably doesn’t even matter since in the finals the white-haired dude could probably roast either of them. On an unrelated note, I just realized that Gotou looks (and to some extent behaves) exactly like an older version of Ladd from Baccano.

Tales of Zestiria the X (2017) (Ep. 4) 

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     Just like the last week, if you choose to ignore some questionable things, you can have a decent time enjoying the episode. For starters, Shirayuki in her wedding dress is a type of fanservice that I can gladly enjoy, the fight scenes in the end were very well animated with 3D incorporated also rather well, the soundtrack certainly did its job. Edna’s feedback about being redeemable knowing her own history was a nice touch. Anyway, you have to overlook some things if you strive for realism – a girl knocking out full-armored guys isn’t something likely but anyway, it certainly does look cool. Of course there are other things – that one big castle tower just couldn’t exist above the water supported by those tiny pillars, a decent assassin shouldn’t miss her nemesis’ vital point. After all, why do you need people to assassinate someone? Wouldn’t it be better if Dezel alone came and silently killed anyone needed? He’s practically invisible and I’m not even mentioning his powers. Anyway, it was quite fun so I guess I can’t want anything more from the show.

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 4) 

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     Compared to the last week’s bombastic episode this one logically looks very subdued, but the little side story still is able to carry the weight even with the absence of real highlights of animation. The story itself was pretty heartwarming and I got to say that the idea of a book continuously changing its authors is an interesting one. The writer didn’t leave an impression as a person, but using her as means to tell that no matter what you do, there always will be someone not happy about it, did manage to get the point through. As other family friendly ideas of LWA, this one about doing what you like and keeping it alive no matter what fits the show’s mood. I’m a bit surprised that Lotte proved to be such big a fan of a random book series, but I guess everyone is passionate about something. Akko looking for the writer in the most unlikely places and Sucy constantly getting distracted by mushrooms provided just the right little touch of comedy. Also one of the teachers being the clock tower was really funny. Returning to the story, it also works as a commentary about the light novel world – some series are really being printed in no time but the contents are not that great. As the fans in the show, real people get passionate about the silliest things that make no sense, but LWA in the end confirms that it’s nothing to be ashamed for – just enjoy what you do and move on.

Musings and Reflections – Winter 2017 Week 3

     Well, I’m certainly not early this time, but I guess better late than never, as the saying goes.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka (Ep. 2) 

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     Things are getting more complicated ergo more interesting. Nino being a spy wasn’t expected. Yet, he still seems friendly with Jean and I doubt that Nino has spied on him during all the time of their friendship. Then either there was a specific event (which is interesting) that lead Nino to betray Jean, or Nino is playing double (which is more interesting) and that I find to be more likely. Just because Jean doesn’t look like such an oblivious guy as Nino tells the superiors. Actually, it’d be rather fun if Jean is actually planning a coup d’état. The incident with the lighter I find weird – how Nino (for I guess it was him) knew who grabbed it and where exactly that person was? I don’t remember the rookie policemen showing the lighter to everyone he met. The rookie might not be a bad person, just a pretty dumb one, and it’s possible that he’ll eventually team up with Jean. Well, probably more with Jean’s sister, but anyway. Mauve is also a player that isn’t transparent at all but somehow I’d rather see her in a positive light. And I’d definitely rather see her (and others as well) being a bit more detailed and on model more than just in close ups. That’s some quite unexpected quality hiccups from Madhouse. Showing a school trip when children get some history lessons is not the worst way to do exposition. Certainly not as bad as it was last time, but still, it feels not that organically embedded into the story.

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2 (Ep. 2)

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     AAAAAAAAAHMegumin? Was pretty good. Some other early jokes about the toads as well, but especially the bath scene, prologue to it and all the implications later on were more of a miss for me. I just don’t find that stuff particularly funny. Didn’t find in the 1st season either. Nothing unexpected about that. The absence of Darkness was felt more than I would’ve imagined but as I never liked her M tendencies much (per se as well as because for the most part that was the only defining factor of her character) and Megumin’s efforts were enough to keep everything going on. The show proved that Darkness still isn’t a character without whose appearance KonoSuba would break. As for all the Yunyun stuff, it was breaking (of sorts) the continuity. Well, technically it’s ok that we now see Yunyun as for the first time and such introduction is all she needs, but she was already introduced in the OVA. Yes, there it was said that everyone has met her before, so the OVA still fits in the timeline, but it’s weird that part of the story was told in advance without reason at all (except all the OVA-ish material. You know what I’m talking about) and now Yunyun gets a second introduction. Probably the best part was the ED. Felt like it was mimicking the success of the first one, but by itself it was one of more memorable this season.

Kuzu no Honkai (Ep. 2)

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     I guess I’m at that stage of liking an anime that it can do almost anything and I’ll still be head over heels for it. I’m not even sure what exactly makes Kuzu no Honai to me as exciting as Rakugo, and at certain times even more. Everything just clicks and I hardly can think of anything that I’m not happy about it. Finally seeing Ecchan animated was big joy since she’s my favorite character, probably for being the most relatable (not that I share her sexual preferences towards the same sex) and having the least characteristics of scum from the whole cast. Haruka Tomatsu sounds just as I imagined Ecchan would, so that’s another big plus. Moka also made an appearance and, as in the manga, while her pure side is still overshadowed by her possessiveness of Mugi and kina tsundere-ish character, Hanabi being able to show who’s the boss felt very satisfying. Well, in general I’m not very into loli characters, especially as annoying as Moka was in the beginning. Thinking about the structure, I guess it worked better in manga when a character had his/hers POV chapter. Now it’s still good, but cramming multiple different POV segments together isn’t as smooth. Also, the scene that ended the episode might not have been the best one to do so. In the very manga it was a bit confusing when everything that we saw happened and only then all the stuff leading to it was explained. Well, it’s not bad, but I doubt it was best way to leave everything at such a cliffhanger.  By the way, Ecchan’s cat sounds hilariously annoyed for some reason.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen (Ep. 3) 

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   Yotaro achieved something big this time. The fact that he actually went into prison for something he hadn’t done slightly undermined his turning from a (sort of a) gangster to a harmless rakugoka. But that doesn’t really matter since he was able to project his grudge for the imprisonment in a way that let him to ride the same wave and talk as bravely as he could about Konatsu to the Mr. Yakuza. He probably knows better than anyone what a wrong step and anger of a real gangster could do to him. As he said himself, to Yotaro this moment could prove to be crucial in finding his own way, understanding why he wants to do rakugo. It looks like at the moment he really likes what he’s doing – earnestly practicing, appreciating Yakumo’s skill, sheltering Konatsu from any connection with not the best public, learning to find wisdom and courage in rakugo itself. Konatsu saying to her kid that Yotaro is the dad was very beautiful – she finally looks to be appreciating Yotaro’s effort. The writer guy I still don’t completely trust. Sure, so far he’s been only helpful but digging into the past that may probably be left alone might not be the best idea. By the way, someone on reddit found out that Yakumo’s performance was made to emulate Sukeroku’s not just by it’s spirit.

3-gatsu no Lion (Ep. 14) 

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     Now I partially understand how Rei feels since I completely misjudged the show myself. And that’s really for the best. As dumb comedy which I still can’t stand remains pretty sparse, this season so far looks a bit better than the first one. Sure, Rei overreacts, but what can you expect from such a damaged human being? He’ll probably eventually decide to join the workshop and learn from this mistake, but the realization of the mistake itself was portrayed very well. I guess I’m happy after all that the show decided not to pursue the shounen-esque “revenge on Gotou” path, but on the other hand this all Gotou stuff remains unresolved. The guy probably got a good laugh out of Rei’s misery but some conflict in the future is still bound to happen, and the situation working as a build up to it might not be as convenient as this time. So yeah, that was quite an episode. But I still can’t believe how Rei managed to misjudge such a good player. He even was higher ranked than Rei, so do they give ranks for nothing? Yes, Rei was all emotional, but still.

Tales of Zestiria the X (2017) (Ep. 3) 

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     Is it me, or the backgrounds this time were particularly vibrant and well-made? Overall the show remains a harmless mix of many things. A fight that was quite beautiful, but without much emotional stakes? Check. Overstepping any possible conflict between Sorey and Shirayuki, even though the ending of the last time was quite handy for a clash between them? Check. Reassuring the loyalties and getting some philosophical input? Also check. The episode felt like a closing of a mini arc, with Sorey having to travel somewhere while at the same time dealing with everyone’s intentions to profit from him, Alisha (though I’m not even sure whose side on are those guys fighting her. Is an official coup d’état?) finally showed up and also got her plans straight. Well, some soothing atmosphere that stayed during the majority of the episode wasn’t a bad thing, as well as the action bits, and I guess I’ve eventually learned to appreciate what the show has to offer, without expecting any great storytelling deeds or just everything making complete sense.

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 3) 

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    LWA once again does what it does best – family friendly entertainment with no too high stakes or philosophies, but with enough pure fun and enjoyment. The main girls stay true to their characters: Akko, as Diana confirmed, has passion if nothing else, Lotte tries her best without standing out and Sucy proves to be even scary when there’s something she craves. As expected, the other 3 girls finally make their appearances and also don’t stray anywhere form how their characters were defined in the second LWA film. I find myself completely enjoying the sense of humor paired with a good balance of slice of life and very Trigger-like action that the show manages to offer. You can’t at least grin when it turns out how Akko at first was supposed to complete her part of the course without being able to fly. Her relationship building part with her broom also looked funny. Well, the episode crammed much into its time and achieved probably the closest level of enjoyment since the first film (even if there Akko’s first flight was even more impactful).

Musings and Reflections – Winter 2017 Week 2

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka (Ep. 1) 

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      It’s an interesting feeling I got from this episode – everything is portrayed cheerful enough – lots of bright colors, people eating cakes and stuff at 10 o’clock, but there is also a feel of suspense, of something not being quite right. I would’ve expected something more spectacular out of a Madhouse production in terms of animation and backgrounds, but everything is kept to the minimum, and quite a stylish minimum at that. Jean’s never more open than half-closed eyelids make him rather emotionless, but as the first case showed, he’s quite efficient at his work. I wonder if he’ll be as efficient finding out that the white-haired guy is a villain and there’s something shady brewing on. I don’t know if it was a good idea to flood the viewers with a ton of characters who might not be that important from the very start, but only time will tell what was right. It looks like it won’t be a visually very exceptional show and its enjoyment will more or less depend on the characters and the fulfillment of the police-mystery-drama kind of story. Well, you have me intrigued a bit. Props for that. The only rather absurd thing was the exposition introduced by the ridiculous “as you know,…”.

Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2 (Ep. 1)

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      Contrary to my initial thoughts, I quite liked the episode. Starting from the good things, the animation (when it happens) remains one of the stronger aspects, giving enough unexpected sakuga moments or inventive cuts. Megumin’s explosions with that impact frame were as beautiful as ever. The idea to have all of Kazuma’s sins accounted during a trial works as a genius way to remind everyone about the events of the first season without giving a straight and boring recap. Actually, it needn’t be viewed as a recap – KonoSuba always knew how to tie various elements of the story together so that any event might be influenced by something that happened before, and that’s some strong world-building. Yet, I don’t quite appreciate the story. It again feels that everything happens because the author tinkered it this way and not because the story was so tightly knit so that it couldn’t have gone any other way by itself. The idea of using a polygraph certainly made moments for jokes (that were amusing), but I don’t think everything should have gone to the court as I doubt the authorities would have done anything once Kazuma started shouting “I didn’t do the right thing and I’m worthy of an execution” and the polygraph started dinging like mad. But of course he didn’t think of that. The OP looks as good as the first one, with the same mindset of telling a random story of endless failing and an ultimate success by the unlikely heroes.

Kuzu no Honkai (Ep. 1)

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Certainly the episode didn’t attempt to save the anime, but it was good enough to keep me intrigued, even if I know the source material fairly well. Probably the biggest difference between Kuzu no Honkai and any other anime with romance in mind is getting things develop further than your generic romcom usually does. Holding hands and a kiss at best is not the line Lerche shies away to cross and go far over it, and I think that generally it’s a very healthy thing for the industry. How the story will get developed remains to be seen, but so far it’s got potential. There’s little sakuga, but the backgrounds paired with the appropriate colors give very airy and romantic atmosphere with hints that it’s not going to keep normal. Character designs are to my liking, especially the eyes, and the voice of Chika Anzai as Hanabi is nothing more I could’ve asked. The OST also started very strong. To think about it, there isn’t much that makes this show exceptional. The major point being the story, rather an attempt to look at things from a more mature angle gives hope but still it’s very easy to break this story with lack of subtlety. But for now the future is bright. Not for Hanabi and friends – for us viewers.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen (Ep. 2) 

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     It’ very nice to finally see that Yotaro is more than just a guy with unlimited optimism and not enough thought not to undertake as desperate measures as he did. Developing the fact that he has been in a prison, and apparently was worthy of it, is a very good way to start adding more layers to so far not that multidimensional character. I’m quite surprised that Konatsu actually agreed to marry Yotaro. Well, she, and especially her son will need stability and that’s probably the best choice regardless of her own feelings. As Yotaro is bothered by his past, Konatsu also has some skeletons in her closet, and more information about her child’s father may strongly affect all the family. Yakumo, whose problems so far concerned primarily the future of rakugo, will have to somehow deal with the writer. Every character has some things in their past that they wish to escape but as Yakumo said, they need to face their sins. These words are said also by Yakumo to himself, as Sukeruku’s ghost isn’t likely to have left. So yeah, many interesting conflicting situations are being set up and the next episode (and all the others) can’t come soon enough. Concerning the OP, Yakumo’s really determined to reject all the help everyone tries to offer and that segment with Sukeroku opening his robes was truly great. Because of that as well as that candle I think the show will end with Yakumo’s death.

3-gatsu no Lion (Ep. 13) 

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      Recap in a letterbox format is still a recap, albeit kinda sweet, but the fact will not change. It probably was Shaft’s way of distributing resources so that Smith-san would receive some character animation (that actually wasn’t the best I’ve seen) and to console everyone because of struggling production. Sure, it was quite amusing to see how Smith eats. His movements did add some details to his character, but was it worth the time? I don’t think so. If you want me to feel something for him when he battles Gotou, I need something more than a little breakfast scene straight before the big event. And up until now Smith being a guy used only for some comedy doesn’t help either. Just please – if you want to make a likable supporting character, start from the very start and don’t throw all the characteristics at the last moment with the intention that I’ll suddenly start caring about him. But again, the breakfast scene wasn’t bad, especially with the music accompanying it. Also the track during Smith’s match built the suspense in a right way. Again, not that it was really necessary since everyone knew that Rei will have undoubtedly face Gotou himself. Rei’s match featured some nice effects and during the latter half our protagonist looked unsettled about his chances which isn’t that frequent thing to see, which is nice. Once again, not that it matters. He’s the protagonist. He has to face the villain.

Tales of Zestiria the X (2017) (Ep. 2) 

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      Looks like some alcohol shared can make quite hostile people friends, and maybe even more. I guess the transformation of Sergei from a self-righteous guy into a subdued follower was rather quick, but in terms of storytelling inevitable since now those “good” knights opposing “bad” knights make the conflict far more massive than a random guy with some merchants (even though they are something more than that) versus everyone else. Seeing Shirayuki almost lose her composure wasn’t the most expected sight to see, and as her friend seems to have turned into a demon of sorts, it will be far harder for her to deal with it. Another conflict is about to happen between Shirayuki and Sorey because of that tornado made by her personal Mr. Wind Seraph. All these things were a nice preparation for the future events, and as the assassination of the bishop from the previous episode remains fairly relevant, the story looks to have enough material to keep things interesting. On a slightly unrelated note – do you expect me to believe that a random pit opened in a random place after a random explosion just exactly in an empty confined platform covered with only grass that stands there for no reason at all (well, not the grass, the platform)? By the way, where’s Alisha?

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 2) 

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    With the conversation between Akko and Diana in the diner it’s become very obvious that the TV series attempts to be a remake of the original film, only greatly expanding things. Similarities with Harry Potter are even more obvious when you think that an antagonist (for now) is a white-haired person from a wealthy and established family with some attitude. I was quite surprised that in the very episode she appeared Diana understood that there are things she better not play with and that some people may do better than her, but everything was left quite open. Still, I doubt that the way everything is unfolding Diana will manage to oppose Akko for more than say 2 episodes before some real antagonist arrives, for example that dude from the OP. But for now the show seems very comfortable telling little side stories and becoming more familiar with the surroundings while introducing the characters. It shouldn’t be long until the other 3 supporting girls will make an appearance. In the ED Ursula is very friendly with the main trio, but I think her involvement will be postponed until a villain, that Akko has no way of dealing with alone, will appear. Ursula may probe Akko a bit for now but even now she would really profit from some of the outgoing energy Akko has, which, quite comically, may have come at least partly form Shiny Chariot herself. The scene where Akko tried to do magic so hard that a little tree on her head shed a leaf was hilarious.

Scattered Thoughts – Character similarities in Nichijou and Little Witch Academia

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     Quite an unusual topic, isn’t it? Everything began when a few days ago I was travelling a bus and just randomly thought about the two original Little Witch Academia films (that I will finish writing about sooner rather than later hopefully) and at the same time my thoughts were meandering around a certain 3×3 that I made, which (of course) contained Nichijou. As I’m not the best person to think about two separate things at the same time, everything got a bit mixed up and I ended up with some striking comparisons. It’s probably not a big deal, but I still wanted to share it.

     As far as I know, both of the original creators of their respective shows – Keiichi Arawi of Nichijou manga and Yoh Yoshinari of LWA – have no more or less noticeable ties so unless Yoshinari has come across Nichijou at some point (which in itself would be interesting), there’s some intriguing character archetypes thing going on. I probably needn’t say that the context in which the characters appear is also vastly different – Nichijou primarily concerns various unordinary things happening among very down to earth stuff for the sake of a good laugh, while LWA, which could be far easier compared to a hybrid of Harry Potter and Disney films, just tells a story of an ordinary girl among magical stuff.

Round 1 – Yuuko Aioi and Atsuko Kagari

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     As Akko undoubtedly is the single protagonist in LWA, Yukko shares a lot of screen time with other characters, but she still remains the central piece of the show, through whose eyes we see many of the unordinary situations. Is there some better unifying aspect? Yes, there is. Both of the heroines share the same slightly tomboyish attitude and unending enthusiasm in situations like organizing a festival or trying to make a certain poker-faced friend (and not only her) laugh. Akko as well as Yukko (man, now I notice that even their nicknames sound surprisingly similar) will do anything to achieve what they want, even if neither of them may possess the skills needed for their goals and often end up messing something up – be it broom-riding or remembering your homework. Both of the girls depend very much on their friends and in dire situations expect to be helped as conversely they would undoubtedly help others in need, yet the endless enthusiasm sometimes gets in a way and prevents them from seeing the right choices in their relationships. Yukko differs from Akko by having more thoughtful moments which for example include making some poetry, albeit it might not be in a very self-aware way. Still, Akko has yet a vast story to be told about her, so some more pronounced artistic abilities may yet breech the surface.

Round 2 – Mio Naganohara and Lotte Yanson

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     It wouldn’t be unfair to say that both Mio and Lotte are the most normal ones out of their respective groups. As LWA isn’t that generous in giving enough time to the supporting characters, there isn’t much information about Lotte, but again it’s enough to find some similarities. Both of the girls usually end up helping their energetic friends – Akko and Yukko – while on their own performing quite well on the academic level. Apart from being sincere, Mio with Lotte shares a passion for some art – in Mio’s case that’s drawing some yaoi manga, in Lotte’s – far more sociably acceptable singing. Both girls appear to be optimistic, but sometimes their tender sides show up and make them the most sensitive among their friends. Mio’s own specialty is her crush on Sasahara, but Lotte wasn’t given time for that. Yet I’d bet that if some suitable guy shows up any time soon, she’d be the first to fall for him.

Round 3 – Mai Minakami and Sucy Manbav…Manvab… Manbab…whatever…

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     If I had to describe these two in one word, it would be “brains”. Mai and Sucy share their quietness and huge academic potential, but their friends probably would feel a bit safer if these two wouldn’t be so advanced compared to the base level. Because of that Mai and Sucy never lose a chance to have some fun (as they understand it) at expense of their energetic friends – Mai is a perfect embodiment and definition of the concept of a troll, getting Yukko in all kinds of weird situations, while Sucy does endless magical experiments that usually end up affecting none other than Akko. Nevertheless, both Mai and Sucy, as the rest of their groups, deeply care about their friends and when in great need, throw away their almost jerk-like attitudes and come to help, and not only because without their friends there would be no one to make fun of. Also, Sucy seems very interested in various poisons, as much as Mai likes carving Maitreya statues.

Round 4 – what else? 

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     There the most striking similarities end, and mainly due to LWA being rather short and content with using primarily the three main characters through both of the films while others receive (if they do at all) the spotlight rather rarely. Yet, one particular quirk or another shows up, so some comparisons, even if very approximate, still can be done. Thus Diana from LWA, having a role of an antagonist, may represent Nakamura the science teacher in Nichijou, though the latter is far less arrogant, but as well as Diana actually is a good person in heart. In terms of a more delinquent-like person who likes to keep everything in control, we have Amanda and Sakamoto(-san). Constanze and Hakase, both being not that tall, share a love for various technology related things and construct lots of gadgets (be it a random robot or Nano), Hakase also could represent Jasminka because of their love for some good meal. Nichijou, telling more ordinary stories (well, on the surface level), doesn’t have such an inspirational person as Shiny Chariot in LWA, but Takasaki-sensei partly occupies the niche as someone who was good at something (that being Igo Soccer) earlier but now everybody has forgotten it, though at times he reuses his old knowledge.

As you see, the farther we go, the more obscure the comparisons become. As I said, it’s partly due to the fact that LWA has given very little time to the supporting cast, and, after all, Nichijou and LWA are two completely different shows, so total match between them would be more than ridiculous. Yet, the great similarities at least between the main three girls of the show are more than apparent. To think about a wider perspective, even in such a classic as Azumanga Daioh you could combine the traits of the main characters to get almost the same result as with Nichijou and LWA. Thus Yukari-sensei, Kagura and Tomo take the place of the energetic character, Sakaki and Nyamo combine to make up a rather normal with a secret passion, Chiyo becomes the smart one whose usage of some poker-face comes from Yomi. But it’s not only possible with Azumanga Daioh. Another possible candidate – Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun is also not proof to character tropes – Nozaki gets the role of the smart deadpan character, Chiyo is a normal one and Mikoshiba occupies the vacant enthusiastic type.

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     I think it’s just a matter of randomness that I started noticing common things between Nichijou and LWA because character tropes are a very widely spread phenomenon. Still, these two shows appear to have a very deep running character similarity that transcends all the huge differences between the worlds both of the stories take place in. I’d even say that if both shows exchanged their main three girls, their respective stories still might develop fairly fine, almost as if nothing had happened. I guess the conclusion could be that no matter the circumstances, to have a believable and pretty much self-sustained source of character interactions, particularly in the slice of life genre, you only need three main characters – one too enthusiastic, one normal, but not really, and the third – an intelligent person with a knack for making fun of people.

Musings and Reflections – Winter 2017 Week 1

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen (Ep. 1) 

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     Well, that was exactly the Rakugo I remember and am fond of. The introduction breaking the fourth wall using rakugo itself was inventive, useful and smart. Some new characters were introduced, so it would now be Sukeroku Jr.’s story while Yakumo sits in the background, grumbling that Yotaro, despite being his disciple, actually chose a path of Sukeroku. The characters we are familiar with are still the same and though it’s a bit odd to them older after so much time has passed but anyway it’s a joy to hear once again Akira Ishida and Tomokazu Seki. It’s just a well-made first episode – everything is reintroduced, some directions of the story are provided, such as the relationship between Yotaro and Konatsu, Konantsu’s child’s father’s absence as well as the question how Yotaro will be able to carry Yakumo’s weight, restating the importance of rakugo while not straying from all the traditions that Yakumo is so fond of. Some comedic moments were also to my taste, so I just can rejoice and eagerly await the following events, as well as the new OP and ED. Man, it’s so good that Rakugo is back!

3-gatsu no Lion (Ep. 12) 

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    Pretty much everything went just as expected – Rei’s existentialism plus dumb comedy here and there. Rei finally realizes his need for a family and his disgust with his own meager flat with no such warmth that the sisters share. By the way, why did he took off his glasses before starting eating noodles? As last week there was no episode, Shaft stuffed this one with their usual quick cuts that try to instill some movement into a still scene but especially this time all these cuts as well as other artistic stuff just didn’t seem to have any real purpose. Well yes, they are Shaft and they do what they want regardless if it makes sense or not. Speaking about that Gotou, did I misunderstand something or it was really told that he’s married, but at the same time he’s sort of a boyfriend for Kyouko? The new OP seems a lot more cheerful than the old one and it exchanges Rei’s deep loneliness with the smiles of the sisters. Not sure if I liked it – Bump of Chicken had done a decent job after all. The ED visually is more appealing than the last one but again I’m not yet sure about the song. Bonus fact – every time I hear “benkyou” in anime I can do nothing but remember Golden Boy.

Tales of Zestiria the X (2017) (Ep. 1) 

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    Another show with no big surprises. I can’t say that my memory is very fresh from the last cour, but this episode cleared it quite well. Also, seeing more Shirayuki is always a treat. To think about it, she even felt more of a protagonist than Sorey, doing all sorts of stuff here and there, from trading to assassinating. While the prospects of the story remain very vague, the ultimate goal of fighting the dragon is still here, and for now we’ll have to be content with dealing with those soldiers, more trading, some stuff about those statuettes, possible outcomes of the assassination and, more interestingly, with the story of the Shepherd before Sorey. Looks like a normal outline for a season. The blend of 2D and 3D was achieved quite well apart from just one or two short scenes, and that is encouraging. The new OP, while not as electrifying as the first one, for me looks visually superior – without throwing everything at you randomly with the mindset of “look at me, I’m so cool”. There was Velvet Crow in the OP, so sadly some Berseria promotion is within the range of possibilities. Well, as a first episode of a season, it was rather uninteresting, but as episode 13 it wasn’t the worst – probably saving resources for some fights. Ok. By the way, where’s Alisha?

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 1) 

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     Once again pretty much expected fair. Basically the first episode showed that the creators are willing to throw away the stories that both of the previous films used in order to construct something hopefully more cohesive, but it remains to be seen if it will be effective enough. So far the story hasn’t got that extra-tight pacing that the first film got, but as for a series, it was a decent start. Characters remain the same – over expressive Akko, sincere but clumsy Lotte and jerk-as-always-but-only-on-the-surface Sucy. Animation didn’t get me absolutely excited, but it definitely surpasses your standard anime. The only thing that could go wrong at this point is the story. Yes, introductions are fine, the newcomers to the anime will get the point, but as very close to the world of Harry Potter as it is, the show doesn’t avoid getting the main characters lose their way because of malfunction of magical traveling and ending up in a mysterious forest that is forbidden to enter because of various genetically modified objects, in this case, one that saved its life running from KFC. Overall, not that climactic episode, but the show is definitely worth savoring, even if only for the animation.