Kino no Tabi – it’s old but is it gold?

Alternative title Kino’s Journey
Studio A.C.G.T.
Genres Drama, Slice of Life
Source Light novel
Episodes 13 + OVA + 2 films
Season Spring 2003
Director Ryuutarou Nakamura
Music Ryou Sakai
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    Why do people create imaginary worlds and stories? The answer would be because they think our own world lacks something. It might be that a person just wants to experience an alternative choice in his life or to see what would happen if some specific conditions would be provided. It doesn’t change the fact that even those stories that have very little in common with the everyday world are still built upon the rules that we know – sometimes they are altered, sometimes completely broken or created anew, but the fact persists. Then a person (other than the creator) who wants to experience such a new world needs to know what are the rules there. And because our world inevitably is the reference, the imaginary world by default works just like our own, unless stated otherwise. And that’s a statement I want you to remember because this time let’s delve into the world of Kino no Tabi (the old one), similar and yet vastly different from our own.

     The basics of an adventure story is to make someone travel somewhere and encounter some interesting people along the way. Kino no Tabi plays right into this vein – the protagonist Kino spends her time visiting various countries and noting their differences. The creator of the original light novel series Keiichi Sigsawa loves to travel himself and usually does that on his motorcycle so inevitably his heroine Kino does the same. The unusual thing is that Kino’s motorrad Hermes (yep, that’s how it’s called) talks from time to time. I don’t know how it’s portrayed in the light novels but judging from the anime, there’s a possibility that Kino’s wrong in the head (no wonder concerning her troublesome past) and because of that she imagines a completely normal machine talk. Sure, it’s only a minor possibility, but I can’t remember any scene where Hermes would have said anything important to any third party that Kino couldn’t. It’s never directly addressed, so think what you will. Still, Hermes only exists to keep company for Kino. To some extent it was a smart choice to have a talking motorbike – in this way Kino has someone to talk to but on the other hand Hermes doesn’t look like anything human so in that sense Kino still travels alone, so generally Hermes is there just to make Kino talk and express her opinions.

    As the story is episodic, the characters constantly change so it’s crucial to form a bond with anyone featured more prominently in order to connect with the show. Apart from Kino there’s only Hermes that may remotely be called a character. And it’s a talking motorbike, yeah. Even then Kino remains a mystery to me. Many people have compared Kino no Tabi to Mushishi and not without a reason. In both series the protagonists mainly act as lenses to enable the viewers to see their respective worlds. Sure, there’re huge differences as Ginko tries to help people while still hiding his personal thoughts and Kino usually is just an observer, trying not to interfere with anything. To measure anything you inevitably need to interact with it and as Kino usually avoids that, I’ve only gathered the tiniest and often contradicting impressions of her. One time Kino may ponder if it’s alright to kill some rabbits in order to feed a few famished travelers, a bit later she can actively make dozens of people (and maybe more) fight in a death match, so I just couldn’t form a consistent opinion on her – does she value life? Why is she behaving the way she does? Only a few times Kino formed a connection with other people and I can assure that during these times she was the most relatable and human. And I rather watch a show about humans and not some undefined entities that only observe. Especially if what they observe doesn’t really make sense more often than not.

      Now we come to the main point I have against Kino no Tabi – there’s not enough proof that all the different countries in Kino’s world work otherwise than countries in the real one (and why is that). You come expecting normal people who are able to think and come up with logical answers to their problems but it isn’t the case. People in Kino’s world are prone to be extremely oversimplified or just transformed in such a way that for me most of time they’re not even recognizable as people that I could relate to or care about their stories. And that’s even worse than, say, in a typical harem anime where no character can break from stereotypes. Kino typically spends an episode (or even less) in one country but in each and every one of them apart from one or two forgettable supporting characters other people make up a mob, a mass, devoid of personality and smarts. The simplifications of people, employed to act as devices for portraying specific ideas, don’t allow a single person from the mob to behave the tiniest bit differently compared to the majority. I don’t think it’s very realistic to travel to, say, Sweden and find that everybody is named Olaf, likes to play ice hockey and has a pet squirrel named Thor. Even worse, the mob usually acts in unbelievably dumb ways. For example (and beware of spoilers), two countries decide that rather than warring between themselves they would save some lives by regularly massacring a third underdeveloped country as a kind of sport. That way, everyone is said to be happy in these two countries because no more people are killed in war and they’re able demilitarize quite a bit. Why doesn’t anyone remember the land that the countries initially quarreled for anymore, why neither of the countries takes an opportunity to destroy the other one if the opponent’s power is diminished, why the people of the third country simply endure being massacred and neither retaliate nor leave is beyond me. And wasn’t a more simple choice JUST TO MAKE PEACE? It’s probably the worst I’ll remember about Kino no Tabi, but it’s just plagued by such more or less illogical complications that sure, do serve the exploration of thought provoking ideas, but on the other hand throw away all the relatability and realism. Maybe I’m an idealist, but come on, people can’t be THAT retarded, can they?

   Another interesting aspect of Kino’s world is that it’s very segmented. There’re practically no ties between the countries. It’s quite strange to have countries with hover-boards and also countries where a mere wish to invent something is frowned upon. Well, our world isn’t that different at a first glance, but I guess even someone living in the farthest corner of the world has heard that planes do exist. Technology usually like to spread, countries also tend to conquer as much territory as they can but in Kino no Tabi the countries are rather more like city-states that have no plans to expand, open trade routes or just explore further from their thresholds. I find that strange and it only adds to my confusion that Kino’s world initially seems just like our own but is certainly not. I guess if an animal has cat ears, cat nose, cat paws and even behaves like a cat, it should be a cat but in this anime even an object having all external human characteristics feels nothing like human.

    Sometimes it’s clear that the anime was adapted from a light novel, even if at the time light novels weren’t as popular as they are now and the market wasn’t oversaturated with similar stories with little artistic quality. Why does Kino always have to ask if she can ask a question? It’s pretty annoying to say the least. Annoying as well are the questions exactly repeating the statements (just like “I’m a plumber” – “Oh, you’re a plumber, right?”). It might work to start conversations in the light novel but in the anime it definitely feels wooden or at least outdated. After all it’s sort of understandable since at the time typical anime used to be that much slower paced.

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Excerpt from the OST: some track featuring Pachelbel's Canon in D

   Kino no Tabi also definitely looks like it was made quite a while ago. The visuals do nothing but scream about belonging to early 2000s. Character designs can be very simplified, as much as something come straight from some Masaaki Yuasa work, only the animation isn’t as impressive. Kino herself looks very bubbly and gender neutral (which has some point), far from Kino in this new ongoing reimagining of the story where the protagonist didn’t manage to withstand the attack of moe. Having nothing but pastel colors and especially many browns might make the old Kino look muddy but usually the show just feels cozy. Well, mostly color-wise, because there definitely are some unsettling stories. Still, the overall aesthetic is a consistent one, and that’s for the best. If we discount that weird scanline filter. You know what I mean.

   Moving on, it’s difficult to say anything about the soundtrack because it hasn’t been released for some reason. Yep, there’re some bits and pieces scattered on the Internet but even so I’m not inclined to spend time looking for it. As far as I recall, the soundtrack was good in a sense that it seamlessly fused with the stories, that is it wasn’t noticeable at all. On the other hand a great soundtrack should be able to stand its ground alone and be an equally important part of the story, and I can’t say that about Kino no Tabi. The single memorable scene sound-wise was when the famous Pachelbel’s Canon in D was used. That music may suit pretty much any non-action scene anywhere so it fit here well also. It’s just funny that a single more prominent track wasn’t made by Ryou Sakai who’s responsible for the whole soundtrack.

    If you haven’t seen enough of Kino, it’s not over after the TV series – there’s also an OVA and two films (each half an hour long). The OVA is half an episode long and feels different from the main show only because of that. Just like the creators at the last second found out that what they had made doesn’t extend to the full length and then nobody had any idea what to do with the remaining time. The first film defers from the usual formula by being sort of a prequel. Remember girly Kino with long hair and a dress? If you liked that, the first film is a must. It’s interesting to see how Kino started travelling but as with the TV series (as well as the OVA), the mob just isn’t smart at all. It’s nothing but annoying when people are so pedantic that a problem (that can be lethal to someone) isn’t dealt with properly with only because some in this case ridiculously unimportant rules say so. The second film signified the first time when Kino no Tabi left its initial studio – it was produced by Shaft and it feels hardly like a Kino. The character designs are updated (Kino’s coat is very battered for example) and Kino looks far more mature. The story also isn’t anything to write home about. It has some interesting elements but in the end it’s unfinished and feels just like the rest of unsatisfying episodes of Kino. As you probably know the ongoing reimagining of Kino no Tabi is also an option, but at least for now its quality doesn’t feel that satisfying.

Updated Kino from the Shaft film

    It’s immeasurably hard to tell a story that has some philosophical elements that would be thoroughly examined only in one episode, a decent wrap up and relatable characters included. Probably each episode of the series could be extended to its own separate show because the ideas behind are truly capable of that. Now it’s sadly quantity and not always quality. For me simply abstract ideas weren’t enough – they only can reach a viewer when they are organically embedded into the world of the story, and that’s precisely what I feel the anime lacks. Almost every episode I can summarize in a way of “Oh, that’s a rather interesting thought… but why the hell is that person so dumb?..”. I guess if Kino had been less of an enigma and the inhabitants of the countries had been less simplified, it would’ve been a show to my liking. Still, I must acknowledge that there’s a gold nugget in probably every episode, only it’s covered with a huge layer of dust. It’s up to you whether you have enough commitment to find it and not be too judgmental about the dust.

    I believe, this anime

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Could’ve been worse

     I think Kino no Tabi is worthy to be experienced. Sure, there are many more enjoyable shows but if you find yourself drawn to some deeper stuff and have some free time  – do try out the show. Despite my rather harsh opinion many people appear to have enjoyed Kino no Tabi quite a bit, so at least in order to broaden your general knowledge of anime the show is recommended.

     Have you seen the old Kino no Tabi? Are such older shows able to stand the test of time? How do you think the old show compares with the new anime?

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Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 6

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 6)

     Well, I guess this show slowly becomes my favorite out all the other seasonal shows. It’s only a second human that the girls encounter so that should make this episode special. And it definitely feels special because there’s so much stuff you can read out. Ishii is a nice parallel to Kanazawa – both of them are very passionate about what they’re doing but this world isn’t really a place to pursue such hobbies. All of Ishii’s work similarly to Kanazawa’s in the end is lost but both of them are able to acknowledge that and move on. It can even be said that Chi and Yuu were the catalysts that saved both Kanazawa and Ishii from continuing their passions and in that way set them free. Stories of these episodes nicely mirror the main idea of the show – you can do all you want but sometimes it’s not meant for you to succeed. Nevertheless, there’s still hope, there’s still life after a failure. Again it’s very striking how the girls are able to live in such a world and not be crushed by it. Especially Yuu seems absolutely content with what she has and there was not a single time that she really understood what her saying “hopeless” truly means. When you think of it, it’s truly amazing how positive the show is despite featuring such a dystopian setting.

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 6)

     To me the episode seemed heavy-handed. The idea was pretty clear but the robe of this metaphor wasn’t flawless. For example, it’s obvious that these merchants must be portrayed as evil as possible because then it’s more powerful when the slave-girl’s beliefs are tested. Still, I think that the authors went too far by making the merchants unlikable. It’s fine and commendable when you create a truly hateable character but is it really the goal of the show to annoy me so much that I would consider skipping the episode  altogether because of that? Yep, that horrible brat was something. I’m also confused about the stance of the merchants towards the slave-girl. Everyone detests her to the point of thinking of killing her for fun but then isn’t it strange that some dudes try to talk to her like a normal person and even suggest fighting them from time to time? The slave-girl herself seems to be pretty stupid. I can take that she doesn’t know how to use a rifle but asking others how to die? Well, if she truly wished for that, there’s lots of those hideous CG plants around, please turn on your brain and take a bite or two. Irony aside, still it was a fine episode. Struggles of beliefs that tell to die with physiological urge to survive was portrayed pretty nicely. I only doubt that the last segment showing the future was really needed. It’s ok to know the girl survived but leaving everything ambiguous and a road of self-discovery still ahead also might have been a decent choice. It’s a little nitpick but lines like “as you know” should be banned entirely from every single storytelling medium. And you know you have a problem when the main character of the show barely shows up and is never missed.

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 6)

     At this point I’m concerned about the relationship between Chise and Elias. It’s ok that both of them feel comfortable with it but for the viewer who knows how real relationships should work it doesn’t really feel right. The problem is that Chise doesn’t know better and thinks that everything she gets from Elias is enough and everything’s ok. For her it may seem so but Elias himself confessed that he doesn’t know how to emphasize with humans and therefore everything he does for Chise is just a calculated wish to get some perks for himself. Elias is using Chise plainly for his own amusement to perform an experiment and it’s doubtful that he feels anything real for her. Yet. So yeah, Chise might be happy that she found a shelter but it’s not real, there’s no heartfelt emotion from Elias’ part. Chise deserves far better than this. The other thing I want to talk about is of course Titania and Oberon. The Queen’s entrance surely felt polished and majestic (though was it really necessary to focus on her chest?). Oberon on the other hand didn’t feel dignified enough to be a king. I understand that Fairies might have a more playful side to them but I’m not sure that it should come in the way of making them look kingly. Fairies by definition should feel nothing like humans do so including these chibi comedic moments virtually destroys all the presence that impressive Titania’s coming in had. Again and again the show seems to be doing the right thing, but not right enough to become truly great.

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 19)

     Oh well, a backstory of a character I don’t care the slightest. Of course, some yuri-style infatuation always spices things a little but was that really necessary? The main story concerning this oh-so-important competition barely advanced and having such a slow pacing certainly doesn’t add any tension or excitement. Akira’s backstory might have been justifiable if she had been shown more previously. Now she’s just a random girl that once was friends with Chinatsu and now just teases her and tries to destroy her psychologically. Why should I care how did she become like that? She’s just an obstacle Chinatsu needs to overcome and nothing more than that. It can be argued that the flashbacks also gave some light to Chinatsu but I don’t think we understood her any better – she always has been that tomboyish gal with some attitude. Well, I can’t really make these accusations since the flashbacks shouldn’t be over – we still don’t know what exactly made Akira so bitter that she forsake her adoration of Chinatsu and instead started causing problems. The background music that appears at various unimportant moments have come to irritate me because of being repetitive. Ideally a double-length show should have a double-length soundtrack. There’re other aspects I’m not happy about so adding music to the list would be very sad.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 6)

     A pretty typical calm-before-the-storm episode. It’s a halfway point and the show dares to introduce a flashback in order to flesh out a sort-of-important character? Well, you’re late. At first it was interesting to see Ouni as a mystery but slowing the preparation for the fight down even more with some backstories that doesn’t do much good isn’t what I want. This is exactly the same problem I have with the latest Ballroom episode. That Ouni’s friend was fleshed out more but what are the odds that he won’t end up being killed during the invasion? The show loves giving some random dudes minimal characterization, then assuming that it’s enough, and then killing them and hoping for some impact. The same red flags apply for those girls that tried to be nice to Lykos. At least the mood was kept just right as the crew were anxiously waiting for the attack. This all slice of life stuff didn’t feel right paired with the tense atmosphere and while I’m sort of not happy about that per se, in the grand scheme of things it makes sense. But a national celebration of throwing sand? Have you ever tried pouring send left and right into the eyes of random people? Who got the idea it would be fun? Chakuro’s motivations remain his dead waifu and his new sewing tsundere waifu which feels quite flat. Well, it doesn’t matter because many will die horrible deaths and any peacefulness will be retracted from the story for a few upcoming episodes.

 

Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 5

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 5)

     And I thought that it can’t get even more low key. From now on any time I need to relax I know for sure what to watch (and which episode). The girls from time to time say that they should hurry lest their food finished and it seems that they have some final goal. Yet even reminders that they shouldn’t stay in one place for long don’t seem to work. And why should they? The girls are having a good time enjoying every single minute of their journey. That by itself is fairly optimistic because anyone would be hard pressed to laugh in such a gloomy environment with lots of destruction left and right. So I guess it makes me appreciate such commodities that I have – a roof above my head for someone else might seem a luxury. The third part of the episode also nicely connected with the first one – you don’t need much stuff in order to play and create a pleasant moment or two, you just have to think. The naïveté of the girls and their ability to enjoy the world as crumbled as it is something to think about. Let’s don’t forget to take a breather from everyday hustle and enjoy life as much as we can.

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 5)

     A bit unexpectedly I liked the episode more than previous ones. Well, it wasn’t that impressive but at least there weren’t as many problems I usually have with the show. The idea of the first part was very bare-bones – people make their heroes what they want them to be and not what they were. Maybe some elaboration would’ve made everything more enjoyable but probably the source material also didn’t dwell that much on this notion. The second part however went further than merely stating an idea. The story, albeit predictable, felt far more touching than usual Kino no Tabi fare. Once again it’s hard to get invested into characters you see so briefly (this time even less than for an episode) but this sort of a tragedy of the Eyebrowless Dude and the White-haired Woman (how old is she by the way?) did manage to show how unlucky some people might be. But then there’re some questionable details. First of all, why would the king send his own daughter to spy? Isn’t that too dangerous? Then why would this girl keep lying after her return to her lover? Wasn’t it easier just to tell “I’m back but the people hate me so let’s move out together quickly and secretly”? And then comes the big reveal that the Dude himself was lying. I understand that it might be comfortable for him but come on – shouting “Where’s my lover?” everyday should be pretty exhausting if he’s truly right in the head and she’s right here. Maybe the problem the show addresses is that sometimes we get sort of comfortable in situations that can be so easily changed for the better but we just don’t even try. Still, the metaphor is handled a bit too heavy-handed because I don’t really see the point in both of the lovers lying to each other when they can easily throw their disguises away and be far more happier. On a side note the white forest with red leaves definitely looked impressive.

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 5)

     Well, it was heavy. I guess out of everything we’ve seen so far this episode has to be my favorite. The story itself is just sad because anyhow you look at it, you can’t really judge that Matthew guy. Sure, looking at the final result he definitely wasn’t an angel, but where exactly is the boundary you can’t cross in order to save your loved one? The visuals also nicely accentuated the uncomfortableness of the story, starting with that disgusting Elias’s lick. Well, it somehow was the most unpleasant thing I saw probably the whole week. Somehow. Details like what was left of Mina slowly dripping from Matthew’s hands made another nice touch with the anime probably overpowering the manga. This whole expedition for Chise should’ve been particularly hard because a whole multitude of beings either chose to die or ask to be erased completely without any regrets. For anyone troubled as our protagonist coming into terms with death is a very hard task. At least Chise now clearly values life, something she wasn’t able to do before. No wonder since awkward gestures and just weird behavior of Elias still makes Chise feel very valued, and that poses a question what was her life before. After everything I still have an inquiry – what of the present sorcerers? Were they really necessary apart from trying to plant an idea into Chise’s head that what she feels is nothing more than a Stockholm syndrome? And what, they just left? I guess it definitely won’t be the last time we see them but having someone antagonistic for once ended too anticlimactically.

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 18)

     You know this competition is completely different from others because of the dramatic dressing. Let’s talk about synchronizing everything for the common goal. In the very beginning the announcer tells to prepare for tango, the background music also picks up tango rhythm, Chinatsu wears a red dress and everything seems to heat up. And then she tells that she’s cold which is completely at odds with both the visuals and the sounds. Sure, this line is insightful but I think that it’s a horrible choice to place it here, where after a motivation speech (which also associates with hotness) the pair could have gone to give their best performance. Also after such a tension-building segment the announcer strikes again with “Hey folks, next is waltz”. Waltz definitely isn’t a dance where you need all this heat and tension so the initial building up seems to be for nothing. Still worse, the real tango comes later on. If you start with tango, you build everything for tango and show the tension as much as possible, not jumble between different moods. Even if getting into sync for our pair was the most important thing of this episode, it was attenuated by all these comedy moments (various families coming to watch) and all the commentary of Hyoudo and the lot. I don’t know if there’s a better way in principle to show both the dancing and its commentary but endlessly cutting back and forth gets repetitive real quick and also steals lots of attention from the focal point – the dancers and their emotions. In the end it feels like just another competition among other competitions, with the stakes being as low as ever.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 5)

     “We will absolutely sink the Whale and kill all the people on it. Oh no, a girl got an arrow to the knee. To the infirmary, quick!” Argh. Please don’t change your opinion like socks, you are leaders of the society or are you not? Oh well, as much as I do enjoy the visuals, there’s constantly something wrong with the story. Well, it’s not always something as bad as inconsistencies but just some not that believable decisions. What’s with the mindset “I’m so ashamed that I must ask poeple to fight for their lives”? Come on, you’re on the same boat – you either fight or you die. As Suouououou said, there should be something else about the attackers because total destruction on a basis that someone else is just different seems pretty weak. I guess the most interesting part was when that Neri girl proved to be something different from an ordinary human. It appears that the Elders knew about that so if Neri opposed the sinking from the start, why didn’t she say anything directly? Or did she want to remain concealed as much as possible? Well, there might be some logic to this one (and others) but at this point I’m not buying the story. It’s just too complicated when it has no need to. At least that that one-eyed gatekeeper is voiced by Hiroshi Kamiya so that’s another plus to the show.

Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 4

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 4)

     You know it’s a decent slice of life show when nothing happens but you still feel content and would love to watch the next episode immediately. What makes this one work? Character dynamic, for instance. Even during everyday situations Chi and Yuu have something to talk about, to reference their immediate past or to blabber anything that comes to mind but the subtle sense of humor, variety of topics, specific character traits of the girls and, of course, brilliance of the VAs make it a very pleasant experience. Character animation as always also plays a big role in making the characters dear and relatable – just like that moment when Chi doesn’t forget to check if Yuu’s hair looks alright before taking a photo. The second part succeeded mainly because of the setting – the temple sure felt mysterious, with all these weird and slightly unsettling statues built everywhere (but who the hell would build one straight in the middle of a road?). The scene when Yuu finds herself in the dark impressed me quite a bit – claustrophobic shots and tilted angles sure makes you as well as Yuu (pun intended) feel uneasy. So yeah, even though the story is very laid back and almost unambitious, there’re many little things that make it endearing.

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 4)

     For the whole episode I kept that Tiffany (or what’s her name) expression which exactly describes my level of excitement. Well, let’s talk about relatable characters. Shizu? One episode (and a tiny bit of another) isn’t enough to make me care about. He’s just a bland righteous guy without anything else going about him for now. Kino? It was portrayed that Shizu’s choice to remain with the people rather than oversee them was a sound and empathical one, so should I like Kino because she chose the opposite? I guess it leaves Riko, and he’s only likable because he has a cute face. Right. Also, there’s too much idiots everywhere. The fact that the people chose not to leave the ship was kind of a point so that’s fine but the AI… How can an AI decide that it’s not safe to land because some other people might attack but it’s perfectly ok to sail a sinking ship? It’s not that there’s lack of manpower so what kind of AI would manage to overlook the fact that the ship is barely floating when there’re certainly opportunities to fix it? Whoever did the programming screwed up hard. And you tell me that on this whole ship there wasn’t a single person who would take care of Tiffany since she was born because she wasn’t related to anyone? I don’t know, maybe I have a too idealistic view on the humanity but come on. While I appreciated that Shizu and not Kino was the center of the story, the explanation that was info-dumped by Hermes near the end threw away all the good work building a nicely flowing story. To sum up, it’s just another half-assed attempt to give some possibly interesting ideas an embodiment. Oh well.

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 4)

     Somehow any time an anime ascertains that mages and sorcerers are completely different and one shouldn’t confuse them by all means, I’m forced to laugh. In this show they seem pretty similar so far and only their goals (whatever they might be) differ. Anyway, a story about cats seems fitting concerning all this magical stuff, though it’s still not clear why precisely cats have to oversee that region and what’s the point of having them in this particular story in the first place. Still, such a bizarre idea of a cat country was implemented in the usual world quite nicely – a cat may have an owner whom she looks to be taking care of (which also sounds funny). Also at this point I have to mention how much I do love the locations – it’s a real refreshment after so many uninspired high-school related anime. All the other stuff, concerning that sick girl and her husband and the sorcerers remains unclear. I just hope that the next episode will sort things out, kidnapping Chise, throwing her into the lake and, of course, Chise’s visions included. By the way, doesn’t it look familiar? The previous arc also had Chise kidnapped by a flying blond person who in the end threw Chise into a lake. Well, let’s hope that the best moments of the arc are still awaiting.

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 17)

     I appreciate all the effort to make Tatara-Chinatsu relationship deepen but it didn’t make a really interesting episode. All I could think of was the fact that Tatara and Chinatsu just don’t mesh. Why force the thing then? Mako was clearly happy with Tatara and she has the skills to be a great partner. She also is still physically incompatible with the Jerk. I’ve said that already quite a lot but is there really a point in not separating for our main couple? I bet Chinatsu even would be happier with the Jerk. Yes, sometimes it’s good to aim higher and overcome some pretty difficult obstacles but that only makes sense if there’s some achievable goal so that you won’t have to try to break a brick wall with a needle, and that’s precisely how I’d describe the progress of Tatara’s and Chinatsu’s pair. Meanwhile the onsen part provided as always completely unnecessary fanservice. At least it gave some spirit to otherwise not that interesting bickering, shouting and all the other drama stuff. Maybe if I cared more about the characters it would’ve been a more meaningful character-building episode but oh well.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 4)

     I guess great visuals don’t always come with a great story. Well, it isn’t bad, but certainly not on par with everything else. I’m just skeptical. An adventure story like this generally should be fun but some elements don’t sit that well with me. I guess till the very end I’ll remember the slaughter of the undeveloped characters and how pointless it felt. This episode provided something similar though of a smaller scale – Chakuro heard that the Whale would be sunk and that apparently only the elders are ok with that so isn’t there a point in telling everyone and trying to do something collectively? I don’t mean anything like an outright revolution but I hope that guards are chosen not because they’re dumb so some talk possibly could’ve persuaded them and no fight would’ve been needed. And what kind of guard is that captain? What’s the point in a guard who himself chooses who to let through and who not based only on his own gut feeling? Another thing that didn’t sit well with me is that after that hallucination scene and a moment with his dead waifu (I guess it will be Chakuro’s motivation for the whole season) Chakuro so quickly gets a new one who previously wasn’t important to the story at all. At least she proved to be useful but jokes concerning her feel a bit at odds with the grave atmosphere of the story. Well, maybe not grave but at least serious. It shouldn’t be a harem story, you hear me? By the way, I like Lycos’ logic – “we came to slaughter everyone on that other Whale and that’s reasonable but we didn’t plan to attack you lot, sorry about that, our bad”.

 

Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 3

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 3)

     Just like I expected – something new happens (that is the new character (voiced by none other than the notorious Akira Ishida if my ears don’t lie) appears) and the girls get a goal, no matter that it’s temporary. These additions come at just the right time when the overall tone is established and some developments can start to appear. Thematically the episode comes very near to Kino no Tabi and its existential problems – what can you make of a man who wanders making maps that no one needs? The episode also provided some very nice moments – Yuu insisting that she doesn’t love food above all else and in the end giving some to the mapper (and in turn receiving a similar gift from Chi) was very heartwarming indeed. At this point it’s also appropriate to address the CG. Sure, when it’s only the vehicle, it’s fine, but if any of the characters also appear in CG, particularly when, say, Chi (CG) is driving and Yuu (2D) is standing nearby, it’s quite difficult not to cringe. The collapsing building also looked rather unrealistic. To be frank, the whole idea that a usual glass and metal structure could fall down and still basically retain its form sounds as fantastical as a pair of dragons. P.s. I feel for you, Chi. #FearOfHeightsForLife.

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 3)

     Basically my reaction to the episode was “yeah, so what?”. Sure, some people may be bothersome but do you need to create a whole episode about it? For me there just wasn’t anything that interesting about it. The last episode about the Coliseum had a negative impact on this one – I’m afraid there’s still no reason for me to like this new Kino, as after effectively butchering a whole country last time she didn’t get any brownie points in this episode. Yes, her purpose for the most part is to be a bystander, an observer, but somehow Kino from the old show had something likable about her and I can’t say anything similar about the new one. An idea about a moving country is an interesting one, but it seems like the attitude of its residents would benefit from some empathy. Is it normal to just go trampling everything with a stance of “we just don’t want to turn around so move away. We’ll destroy your crops and buildings and stuff but we’ll be quick about it. And, yeah, by the way, we’re kinda sorry about that. See ya!”. Also the whole thing of such a huge machine stopping in order to take in a single stray traveler seems like a terribly inefficient use of power. So yeah, it just wasn’t an interesting episode. I can’t say it was bad but if the show wants to reach the quality of the old Kino, it needs to do far better than now to breach my indifference.

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 3)

     I’m still not comfortable about how quickly the action moved to Iceland without any set-up or narrative reason. Yet, the episode finally managed to strike the right cord. Examining such fundamentals as cycle of life and death or a place in nature of any living creature calls for discretion and subtlety and I think the show nailed it. Especially for Chise it should be very uncomfortable to see how peacefully the dragons are able to view the fact of death and leave present life without regrets. Chise’s past hasn’t been shown fully yet but her mother’s death probably was one of the defining events of her life making her as she has been before meeting Elias – lonely, full of regrets and without much inclination to live. This meeting with the dragons should teach Chise a bit of coming into terms with the inevitable and living her life to the fullest. Sure, it might not be a sudden change but I feel that she placed this message deep inside to let it grow. The old dragon itself was portrayed very impressively – from the moss to the peeling scales, not to mention his whole size. The idea of death immediately giving life to another being speaks of a fundamental truth and also suggests that every experience, be it pleasant or not, has some meaning, even if you can’t understand it at the moment. Just as Chise’s painful past made it possible for her to become who she is now and pursue a happy future.

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 16)

     Quite unexpectedly I have barely any negatives to say about the episode. That grand prix part felt like anything but a grand prix. Technically it’s supposed to be a competition above all other competitions but it looked even duller than anything we’ve seen already. Please use the competitions sparingly – no anime can be alive let alone interesting using only half-baked tournament arcs. The four-legged thing reminded me of Junji Ito, so Tatara’s confusion about it was quite well portrayed. I wonder why anything similar didn’t happen with Mako if they were synced so perfectly. The other part of the episode also quite well portrayed the building stress when Tatara and Chinatsu tried to force things, even when it’s clear that they’re incompatible right now. Wouldn’t it be a better choice to split up? Also I noticed that Chinatsu changed her personality since her introduction. At first she was that arrogant and bratty gal who can’t be wrong and looks down on any lame dancing dude. Now she’s just hot-headed but also able to listen to Tatara’s opinions to some extent. I’m not sure the change was gradual enough but it’s definitely better not to see that initial Chinatsu ever again..

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 3)

     Well, come on, you see an exhausted person, possibly your friend who might as well have easily died by now, and you say what? Of course – “what happened to your clothes?”. The show’s first episode was very impressive but after that it certainly didn’t get better. Lack of establishment and build up to this slaughtering came back to bite once more. No matter how hard Kujira no Kora tried to evoke empathy, it failed. Come on, I’ve barely seen these people each like for 20 seconds at most and now you expect me to care? That one is dead and this one, the chieftess and that another guy are also dead, what’s that to me? What was the point of having so many characters appear and share the screentime if many of them already died and died without any effect on me? This whole military operation is also a bit fishy. If this army came to eradicate that other ship then why would they start killing everyone on this one? And, stranger still, why would they suddenly stop? Not to mention that the military is pretty incompetent, conveniently stopping and sparing some certain characters. Also, we saw what Ouni, Chakuro and Lykos can do when they concentrate and become determined to fight till the end – the military guys are beaten like no big deal. In the first episode it was told that 9/10 of all the population can use this Thymia (and Chakuro is even counted as being pretty inept at it) so why aren’t the military guys being ones completely wiped out? I’d think a score of competent Thymia wielders could destroy everything to dust. And of course we get an obnoxious villain character with an obnoxious hair color. Don’t tell me these military guys are supposed to be lacking emotions because this dude clearly doesn’t. Oh well, I guess I should lower my expectations quite a bit as our unlikely hero motivated by his dead girlfriend together with a new girlfriend, a fragile wise man and an antihero with a dark past (and dark hair, of course) will try to save the nation, destroy the villains and get their revenge. How original.

 

Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 2

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 1)

     After still having an empty slot in my seasonal schedule I decided to choose this one, mainly because it felt the most original and unlike anything I watched recently. That is if some parallels with Made in Abyss are dismissed. And there are parallels for sure, quite a pleasant soundtrack by Kenichiro Suehiro of Re:Zero not being the least important. Still, character designs are the most apparent, but in this show they stay even more stylized so it’s very difficult to read the girls’ emotions and to get attached to them. Nevertheless, the voice acting by Inori Minase and Yurika Kubo is of the highest caliber, instantly building some chemistry and making the characters quite interesting after all. The elephant in the room still is the setting and all the related questions – what happened? why are the girls travelling? where? who are they? And so on and so on and so on. As an introductory episode this one was fine for it passed in a second but I have some concerns about the future. Something else must be introduced because mindless roaming around with nothing else to interact with will get old pretty soon,  no matter the loveliness of the interactions between the girls. That new element might as well define the real value of the show.

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 2)

     Well, poor Akutagawa didn’t deserve to be burned. Anyway, the second episode felt pretty much the same as the first one, and I must say I liked the atmosphere. The setting remains intriguing, especially with some of girls’ history hinted at, but once again it’s the characters that carry the show. The girls have differentiated a bit more, with Chi  looking more and more serious and calculating while Yuu just does what she wants most of times. It’s a classic example of how well such a character dynamic might work – the girls don’t do anything significant and just travel somewhere but their conversations, albeit inconsequential, still prove to be quite enjoyable. I wrote that so stylized character designs make it harder to relate to the characters but now it’s clear that it’s compensated by the ability to apply squash and stretch very organically. The end product just makes you feel the diverse temperature range the girls’ experience, right to every single unconscious movement and reaction. I still await some goal in this journey but so far even without that the show clearly works well indeed. Bonus fact: the ED was soloed by the author of the original manga – tsukumizu, – who’s not an animator by all means. Impressive.

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 2)

     At first it must be said that this arc was also adapted by the old anime. I didn’t like this story that much while watching it back then and this new adaptation certainly didn’t improve my opinion about it. The old show dedicated whole two episodes for this arc (which was quite exceptional) and now everything is crammed into one. I can’t say the older version provided much detail about the participants of this tournament but at least it attempted to. I’m not even talking about about Shizu’s role – I’ll forget him after 2 seconds. Even more, now we get some laughable villains that are incompetent enough to bring anything but guns into a gunfight. The fact that Kino doesn’t need to do anything to win adds neither enjoyment nor any characterization for her, especially since she wanted to fight in order to test herself. The older show apart from having Kino seriously make an effort to survive also took some time to present the country itself and the darker aesthetic suited the place far better than this sunshine-and-flowers color scheme. I understand that Kino’s point in making everyone fight was to emphasize the idiocy of such rules the country has but does it make me like Kino? No thanks, I prefer to have nothing in common with people who don’t bat an eye while making others kill themselves. In this context Kino is no better than the old king.

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 2)

     The show has all the credentials to be great but somehow I fail to find it as captivating as some others of the same genre – for example I needed only a few seconds to confirm my affinity to Flying Witch. Well, it’s probably just the initial stages where the setting and principal characters are introduced without much space for development of the relations. Chise still remains a bit confused and cautious girl, Elias also retains his distance for the most time and others so far had barely any time to become more prominent. Especially later on there might arise a problem concerning the jokes. Now some of them already don’t land and once they become an integral part of the show (well, it’s very likely) I’m afraid that their novelty will no longer manage to compensate the fact that the jokes don’t really mix well with the rest of the show. You know, chibis and stuff. Another thing that might be considered a problem though more than that it just confused me a lot – why would you suddenly move to Iceland and start some business with dragons? A new character was just introduced and moving so quickly to a place that couldn’t be more random and doing so in the final seconds of the episode just feels incredibly weird. But once again, I guess I just need time to get accustomed to the show and after that Mahoutsukai no Yome will have much to tell.

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 15)

     Forget the animation, please at least do the basics. Very few scenes were anything that you could call above average and the rest was, well, barely serviceable, and that only with increased tolerance levels. Is it just me or there’s really something wrong with the show despite the fact that its scheduling should be alright? And on top of that it’s I.G so there shouldn’t be that many problems, right? Once again I was just bored. Sengoku failing (sort of) a competition? Oh well, that happens. Tatara changes his dancing school? Ok, that’s understandable. No big deal. There’s just hardly anything or anyone that I could make a connection with so nothing feels exciting. As far as I remember, during the cup match against Shizuku and the Jerk, Tatara and Mako made a good impression on everyone, just as if they were on a comparable level. So why then we are again and again told how bad of a dancer Tatara really is? It just doesn’t seem right. The time division between the training and competitions also feels weird – as if the only visible progress is made only during the actual tournaments. The training that should comprise the larger part of the development of any sportsman here is hardly shown at all and there’s no end to competitions that feel way too repetitive. At least the sexism in the sport was addressed. Tatara chose the right side but it looks like you can’t win unless you conform. And if that’s the problem with the ballroom dancing in the real life I guess I’m very sad about it. …And what the hell was that sekuhara scene for? Seriously…

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 2)

     The things are clearly escalating and I’m quite conflicted about that. On one hand it makes things far more interesting with endless possibilities in the future but there are also some concerning things. I think the peaceful society needed more time to settle in. In other words, the characters are just established and I’d preferred more time to get invested into them before everything changed and Fire Nation (with clown masks) attacked. There are lots of characters and even though showing that everyone might be important in this little society is nice, I can’t remember many names or see how relevant is some guy giving flowers to a chieftess that just gave an infodump meant for the audience and certainly not for anyone else. These little scenes about different people also make the episode feel very segmented and lacking a central storyline. The time could’ve been better used emphasizing principal characters and their relations. The problem of not making me care enough is made clear when this blond girl apparently saves Chakuro by blocking the fire. Yes, I remember her face but without the fact that she started to envy Lykos for getting more attention from Chakuro, I can’t say anything else about her and therefore care for her. Her apparent death thus is completely wasted. The new elements introducing some magical source that eats human emotions and a bunch of really evil guys from the preview of the next episode also don’t look very comforting. The show just feels like someone was really impressed by Shinsekai yori and tried to emulate that. Anyway, the visuals retain their polish and pretty much every other frame might be used as a screenshot. I don’t even need to say a thing about that locust swarm.

 

Musings and Reflections – end of Summer 2017

     Well, better late than never. I guess  if we choose to forget Made in Abyss, the season was quite bland. Yes, there were some ok shows but in the grand scheme of things very few series might stand a chance against the tide of time. From the shows that I missed only Princess Principal and Tsurezure Children seem to be worth noting but again, there still are vast numbers of older shows that deserve more attention by far. I guess summer seasons by default tend to be less memorable.

Ballroom e Youkoso

     Even if the show started the new arc before the end of the season, I guess it’s more appropriate to say some words only about the first arc. The biggest effect Ballroom has had on me is quite weird – I started to appreciate Yuri!!! on Ice more and more. The latter sure had its problems but it’s not even comparable with Ballroom – despite being tagged as a sports anime the series barely has any dancing. Sure, there are some incredible sakuga moments but if you can appreciate only 10 seconds through 2 or 3 whole episodes, there’s something not right about it. The story itself is very basic and filled with endless tropes. I probably don’t even need to mention the way Ballroom treats its female characters. I’ll somehow finish the second cour of the show but it still borders the category of “things that wasted my time”. Even after so many episodes I’m not sure I understand mechanics and technicalities of ballroom dancing better, and that should tell something about taking advantage of the setting. Or not.

     Ballroom e youkoso receives the random award of giving more attention to the necks of the characters than the actual dancing. Come on, show, it’s supposed to be called animation not without a reason.

Made in Abyss

     Well, I can only say that if you haven’t watched it go and do it right now. Even the mere idea of exploring a huge hole feels far more interesting than pretty much any story tied with high school but that’s the least I can say about it. Incredible backgrounds, more and more unforgiving nature the deeper we go, unsettling monster designs by Kou Yoshinari, very fitting soundtrack and many other things make this anime worth your time. There are some minor quips here and there – some out of place jokes, a bit uneven end after the culmination during the memorable episode 10, the the fact that the story extends far after the end of the show, but these things aren’t that important after all. Made in Abyss offered a truly amazing adventure story, one that I’ll remember for quite some time. And, taking advantage of the situation, I must thank a fellow blogger Kyra for recommending the show. Thanks a lot!

     My appreciation of the show makes it very unsurprising that without any comments I give Made in Abyss awards for having the favorite OST, the most memorable character (that being Riko), the most impressive scenery and , of course, the favorite show of the season.

Re:Creators

     The second cour was vastly different from the first one. Especially towards the end Meteora’s talking scenes were fewer (thank goodness), and more and more action was present. The recap episode and some scenes here and there implemented many meta elements so considering them and the story in general I can certainly praise the anime for its uniqueness. Nevertheless, being unique doesn’t necessarily mean being good. The show spent a lot of time building everything up but in the end there still was a need to pull an unlooked for twist because the expected strategy didn’t work. That’s ok but felt underwhelming nonetheless. I guess you can’t do anything when you have omnipotent characters that solve all your issues. Also, having such a handy character like Magane and just forgetting her for the most of time feels like a grievous sin. The main guy could’ve been cut completely and the show would’ve been so much better – in the end it was Magane’s power that saved the day and the main dude never did anything noteworthy. The show for the most part certainly was fun and ideas about celebrating creativity and emphasizing problems that creators face are commendable but pacing at times, magic without clear rules and still unexplained plot holes leaves me rather disappointed.

     Re:Creators receives the random award of losing itself in meta so much it forgot to wrap everything up. I still can’t forgive severely underusing Magane and not giving her storyline any conclusion.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 24)

     Nothing to write home in terms of animation, but the narrative of Sakura Quest in its second cour tried to make little stories more connected, implementing everything into the grand arc of reviving the festival. Still, as in its first season, Sakura Quest has been that kind of show that seems to unfold very slowly, taking time to observe the characters and even more slowly bit by bit change and mature them. In the end it turns out that the characters were truly lovable people, someone you’d love to have as friends, someone you’ve grown to like and appreciate, someone whose company each and every week seemed to be a usual and normal thing. And that only becomes clear once everything ends. I don’t know what kind of slice of life show I need to pick up to be able to fill up the hole that suddenly appeared after the show ended. It’s definitely that Sakura Quest ended while it still had something to say and it didn’t end up being dragged and over stretched. That story is ended. It’s sad but inevitable. Let’s move on.

     Sakura Quest receives the random award of actually having an ending. Too often these days shows only work as an add for some manga or light novel series that extend far beyond the reach of an anime.

     As in the previous season, favorite OP  was that of Re:Creators. It took some time to get familiar with it but again, it’s Hiroyuki Sawano, so what else did you expect?

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     How surprising, Made in Abyss triumphs in another category, grabbing the award of the favorite ED of the season. Not particularly memorable, but cutsy characters reminding of the whole journey and thus providing even more contrast between the layers of Abyss is a decent mix.

Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 1

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 1)

     The new look of Kino certainly needs some time to settle in. It‘s quite funny that even though the VAs are completely different from the first show, their speaking manner remains virtually the same. It feels like both Kino and Hermes have acquired some throat problems along the way but apart from that they sound exactly like before. Anyway, the general feeling of the story remains and I’m very happy about that. It could’ve been an amazing episode if not for the usual sprinkle of “Kino logic”. First of all, isn’t it too convenient that the gatekeeper emphasized that anyone might get killed in the country but said nothing about killing still being a crime? And no matter how well you try to explain that killing isn’t prohibited but also punished, it still just makes a logical loop with no satisfying ending. I mean, when the blond guy got hot, everyone decided to kill him because of the law, but it still should count as a wish to kill, shouldn’t it? As always, the idea is interesting but there’s no way that such a dumb law system could actually exist in the real world. One final quip – I understand that when Kino encountered the second guy with the horse near the end, it was supposed to mirror the first encounter, but still I believe that mirroring something shouldn’t mean just copying and pasting some CG that didn’t look that good in the first place.

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 1)

     As expected, it should be a fine show, especially since I’m already familiar with the OVA. The introductory episode on the other hand concerned me a bit. The way Chise became an apprentice was glossed over really quickly without sufficient explanations of how Chise became a person who would willingly sell herself in this day and age. To be frank, I doubt anyone would even consider a possibility of selling himself as an alternative to a suicide. The way everything unfolded didn’t look the slightest as an introduction to a slice of life series. I mean a girl is sold as a slave to a weird dude who calls her his puppy, forcefully bathes her and later on decides to wed her. I know only one genre where such things happen and it certainly isn’t slice of life. But yeah, knowing the context makes me feel far less uncomfortable about all this. The second part started showing more of the world of magicians, and that was fine except I’d rather have such a story as a separate episode because it did steal some time from the first part. At this point I can only tell that the possibilities are endless and, as the introductions are apparently almost done, it’s up to the show itself to prove its worth.

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 14)

     Well, we got a catfight there and that yet again reinforces the statement that Ballroom doesn’t know how to make a decent female character – neither a bland sheep nor a violent, scheming and arrogant creature with whom no one would like to have anything in common. After the fight Chinatsu again showed her stiff neck pushing Tatara into teaming with her for real. And that didn’t add any enjoyment because I don’t particularly like either indecisive characters or indecisive real life people. Sure, you can have some time choosing but everything should have boundaries – you can’t quick smoking if you once in a while decide that one or two cigarettes won’t do any harm. And Chinatsu does exactly that – she balances between her drive to dance and choice to quit everything for good. It wouldn’t be so bad but she changes her attitudes more often than socks. To some extent Tatara behaves exactly the same – he understands that at this point Chinatsu isn’t a suitable partner for him and teaming up is forceful without even a possibility to click as well as Tatara was able with Mako. Yet the wish to have a partner forces Tatara to accept Chinatsu’s offer and thus condemn himself to constant stress and yielding his positions. Come on, let’s think logically. Chinatsu, please decide and don’t falter causing trouble for everyone. Tatara, calm down and find a suitable partner, or at least define your partnership with Chinatsu. Even if it’s clear that the  pair will grow to be effective later on, I still can’t approve of their lack of spine – complaining without trying to change anything isn’t doing anything. Meanwhile the competitions are taking too much time. It feels like training isn’t needed at all and Tatara and Chinatsu developed their partnership only off-screen. The fact isn’t helped by the usual lack of lengthy sakuga scenes. Maybe the competitions would have more weight if they happened less frequently? Now the show feels like one big tournament arc. An interesting thought – as Tatara and Chinatsu need to sync together, I guess some exercises that in NGE Shinji and Asuka did would be welcome. To be frank, that single montage somehow seems to have more spirit than this whole show.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 1)

     At first let’s talk about the art because it’s clearly the most impressive thing so far. The backgrounds stand out even so much that sometimes it seems that they overshadow everything else. Made in Abyss could boast about impressive visuals but this show aims to surpass that. The watercolors and outstanding amount of detail may even raise a question whether the backgrounds have received the most attention compared to each and every possible aspect of the show. Character designs match the backgrounds surprisingly well – each character has his own color code and even this multitude of colors looks well when put together which isn’t the most common thing nowadays. Yes, character faces aren’t that memorable but at least everything else definitely leaves an impression. The concept of rock ships, sand oceans, mystery girls and the unknown hasn’t bought me yet but as any adventure tale it has enough time to prove itself. I’m not entirely sure that the tiny joke segments match the tone of the show but at least they aren’t annoying. There were some slips story-wise as the beginning felt like Chakuro just randomly needed to run around and give us a tour and nobody paid any attention about bringing an unknown mascot chipmunk to the Whale. Still, as of yet the show has me intrigued. The animation itself might be lacking but the stylishness is very compelling regardless of how the story will turn out, and it can go oh so many ways. One of them leads to becoming a carbon copy of Shinsekai yori – the setting, mysteries and to some extent character designs show some similarities.

 

Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 0

 

     Once again sequels comprise the most prominent part of the already started season. Everyone wants to see again the effects of some exceptionally tasty cooking, to get depressed over shogi game or to return for the n-th time to a weird setting of feudal Japan for some reason invaded by aliens. As always, there’re some new typical shounen shows (I wonder if Black Clover will prove to be even more generic than Ballroom), pointless manga adaptations (Inuyashiki manga only started well), obligatory full-CG experiments and much stuff that doesn’t look either too good or too bad. Sometimes it’s good to have a clear leader like One Punch Man once was but even among many shows of lower profile this season looks to be a bit stronger than the last one. That is if any show proves to be at least half as enjoyable as Made in Abyss was. So yeah, let’s get through a few shows that for me look quite promising.

Kino no Tabi

      As I’ve recently finished the original show, it’s very tempting to see how some years can change the original concept. I’m probably with the minority since I wasn’t too impressed with the stories but still the show felt original and thought-provoking enough for me to decide to try the new one. The PVs weren’t impressive as CG was too apparent and character designs were too moe-ized. The director of the first show Ryuutarou Nakamura sadly isn’t among us anymore so many changes are inevitable but it still might prove to be mildly entertaining. At least Kino no Tabi as a story has proved that some mind-racking is definitely needed and that also means interpretations and discussions which by itself is a very cool thing. Let’s hope that the denizens of Kino’s world will be at least a bit less dumb than before.

Mahoutsukai no Yome

     What do you get when you mix Natsume Yuujinchou with Akagami no Shirayuki-hime? Yep, that’s the show. Mahoutsukai no Yome provides a main character with problems almost exactly like those Natsume has, only a tad harsher, and it just happens that the heroine has some nice red hair. The 3-episode OVA already showed the capabilities of the staff and elevated my opinion of the show from “might try” to won’t miss”. Especially the backgrounds were particularly lush and detailed, animation also was if not jaw-dropping at times then at least comfortably above average. The only thing that might go wrong seems to be the story, as towards the OVA I stated to doubt that dramatic advancements were unfolded that satisfyingly. Anyway, the OVA showed just a tiny bit of the backstory of the heroine so the main ride still remains to be evaluated but hopes are certainly high for this one.

Ballroom e Youkoso

     The show that I’m least content with but I guess if I started it then I’ll just need to finish it somehow. The first huge arc has already ended and some directions for the future are becoming clearer. I’m not sure if adding a tsundere-ish (from getting extremely flustered to arrogantly criticizing our main guy Tatara) character is the right ingredient for the show to move forward. Well, if that somehow means that we’ll finally get some dancing scenes that span longer than 10 seconds and that women will finally be treated appropriately, that’d be only good news. But for now we need less annoying characters and more story progression that doesn’t feel like Tatara in one episode is the king of a ballroom and can do no wrong and only a few weeks later it turns out that he still hasn’t learned practically anything and was able to participate in a serious competition only because he’s as shounen main character as possible.

     As always, I’ll add another one or two shows to the simulcast queue as the firsts episode will start to air and it’ll be possible to judge the shows not only based on their staff lists. Quite intriguing pseudohistorical circumstances of Dies Irae or colorful and not too bad CG of Houseki no Kuni (studio orange, what else did you expect?) among a few others could stand out but more serious candidates would be

  • Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou – childish character designs worked for Made in Abyss, right? I don’t know if there’s such a trend in the manga industry but anyway White Fox usually is a thing and a queer dystopian setting might prove to be fun.
  • Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau –  sounds quite vague but its visuals certainly catch an eye. That paired with some decent staff (at first glance) also could prove to be a decent investment of time.

     And that’s about all. Of course there’re more than plenty shows to chose from and unexpected bloomers are always welcome but I guess the amount of interesting-before-airing shows isn’t too high after all.

     What do you plan to watch this new season? Has any show so far surprised you yet in any way?

 

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 14

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 13)

     One word that summarizes my opinion about the episode is “annoying”, and annoying as hell. The episode was centered around Chinatsu and I’m already fed up with her arrogance to fear the upcoming episodes. If I hadn’t already named the Jerk “the Jerk”, I’d gladly place the name on our newest heroine. Chinatsu seems a stereotypical tsundere (it’s a plain shounen so what did you expect) to the point of being almost unbearable. She may not like Tatara as a person or have some tear-jerking backstory but that doesn’t matter to me now because I can’t justify her behavior by any means. What’s her problem? Making fun of a sheep like Tatara isn’t commendable in the first place but then completely changing her stance when Sengoku’s girl is around and becoming this flustered and clingy girl isn’t anything I could easily stomach. Maybe there really are such people like her but anyway, why should Tatara try to pursue specifically her since even he himself is observant enough to know that Chinatsu means only trouble? Isn’t there any free girl who could at least decently dance apart from that redhead with attitude problems? Tsunderes in principal possess too contrasting sides of character but Chinatsu’s case makes me particularly annoyed. If you wan’t to dance then just dance and be grateful to a guy who offered a hand so what’s this stuff of looking down on him? Well, in the first place from where did all these Tatara’s problems with leading came if he did fairly well with Mako who certainly knows how to dance? Countless times it was said that she and the Jerk aren’t compatible, and the same can be said about Tatara and Chinatsu, only in terms of character. Of course later on they’ll learn how to sort out their differences but it’s still very grating at this point. And Tatara’s also an interesting specimen – ain’t it creepy to analyze girl’s spines during random lessons? Well of course she has a long neck, it’s I.G, isn’t it? Anyway, Chinatsu didn’t breach the ongoing trend of too stylized women in the show – they’re either complete lambs whose interests mean nothing or violent (and self-contradicting) jerks whose arrogance is very hard to stomach.

Made in Abyss (Ep. 13)

     If the finale of a show must wrap everything up and work as a particularly strong concluding statement that emphasizes the main thoughts of the show, Made in Abyss doesn’t qualify as having one. I’d say that the emotional peak was achieved in the episode 10 when things for Riko turned sour. This episode tries to repeat the strong emotions, and Nanachi’s plead to stop for a second before Mitty is fried was a very powerful moment. Still, for once, the show had already done something pity-evoking. Also, Nanachi’s backstory (as interesting as it was) spanned far shorter than Riko’s journey so it’s inevitably harder to care as much for Mitty.  The backstory also gives some clues for the future prospects of the travelers as we are told that this Bondrewd guy isn’t the nicest one and he still probably awaits somewhere in the deeps. Nanachi’s decision to end Mitty also marks a point when she’s able to leave her old problems and possibly confront their cause. It’s even a bigger moment for her considering how big of a graveyard she has outside her backdoor. I guess Nanachi’s choice to leave all these years of hope for Mitty to go waste shows that she was affected psychologically as deep as Riko when she got her near-death wound. Of course, the most interesting part and that is the journey even further down and the developing relationships between Riko, Reg and Nanachi are left to enjoy only for those who read the manga. Random not that appropriate jokes were pretty bad considering that only a few minutes before there was an emotional scene. By the way, the ascending balloon scene was very beautiful and fitting, reminding of all the journey of the group so far.