Musings and Reflections – Spring 2016 Week 4

Flying Witch (Ep. 3)

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     Yet another heartwarming episode, just as expected. Preparing to grow some vegetables and stuff is the right way to use the rural setting efficiently. Some fun with the pheasant, whose charms even a grown man can’t escape and other mild jokes didn’t make me laugh, but just maintained a stable level of amusement. Considering the second half, Flying Witch was almost exact as the last week – a pretty random guest appeared, and left without accomplishing anything special. In a way, the appearance of Makoto’s sister was more interesting, and not because of her family ties, as doing some witchcraft, as the sister herself pointed out, remains a path that hasn’t been trodden too often as of yet. This, of course, provides more entertainment and what else can I wish for? To think about it, the episode can be summarized just in a few words – farming + a visit of Makoto’s sister, but I am a bit puzzled myself how everything just happened on in its own pace without being boring or somehow unenjoyable. Still, something more about the mechanics of witchcraft would be welcome.

Joker Game (Ep. 4)

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     I’m quite conflicted about this episode. Maybe I was just being inattentive, but it was not the easiest plot for me to follow. Character designs, while pleasant enough, certainly did not improve the experience when it came to the most simple of things – the distinguishing of the characters – till the very end I was unsure if the real spy was the officer, or someone else, or this episode just weirdly avoided the initial spies and just randomly injected a new protagonist. The plot felt a bit convoluted, or at least didn’t seem to run as smoothly as it could have. I understand that the episode had a decent story, but somehow I wasn’t that invested in it. After all, the characters showed up for the first time so their development was nonexistent and I just don’t even want to mention that evil grin when the villain’s plan was uncovered. I want to like the show, but it’s getting harder to do that. It has some cool stories to tell, but the telling itself doesn’t seem the most eloquent and engaging one.

Koutetsujou no Kabaneri (Ep. 3)

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     So, Kabaneri are not part humans part zombies, but also part vampires after all? If Kabane need blood to survive, how do they manage that when humans are fenced away from them? Do they bite one another? Or do they, since they shouldn’t produce any blood being dead? So why do Kabaneri need blood? Wouldn’t some glucose be better? Well, it’s probably a thing called magic, but I really would be grateful if later on all this stuff was explained even a bit, unless it’s just a big red herring. Another thing that bothered me a bit was the characters. First, I must give the show much credit for portraying the atmosphere of distrust towards unfamiliar things very well, but I just don’t particularly like or care about the main guys. This was only the first time Ayame did anything thoughtful, Ikoma without his backstory remains just a pile of potential (not a small pile, but let’s be realistic, he hasn’t done anything significant either, apart from becoming a Kabaneri). Mumei seems to have the most spirit, but her attitude and arrogance aren’t that attractive. Also, that mysterious thin shawl that magically releases her power doesn’t make much sense for now. As there’s a long way ahead I hope much of these things will get some explanation, but now I’m not that satisfied.

Sakamoto desu ga? (Ep. 3)

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     I guess I wasn’t really in the right mood while watching this. Yes, the ideas are pretty neat and witty, but apart from that… It’s funny to see that even when being used by a bully Sakamoto manages to accomplish everything with style and finally even to improve the bully himself, though that wasn’t handled in the most believable way in my opinion. Kubota’s mother’s affection as an idea also works well, but the whole realization of it certainly does a better job in manga, when you only need to show one specific Sakamoto’s hiding place at one panel and it tells everything you need to tell, while anime as a medium doesn’t work that well in portraying repetitive actions when smoothness of animation simply isn’t needed. The outcome also was a bit weird, but oh well. I’d have probably been more entertained if I haven’t already read the manga. Some jokes work only for the first time.

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Momo e no Tegami – almost Studio Ghibli-esque, but..

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Alternative title A Letter to Momo
Studio Production I.G
Genres Drama, Slice of Life, Supernatural
Source Original
Episodes 1 –  it’s a film after all
Season Summer 2011
Director Hiroyuki Okiura
Music Mina Kubota

     Anime industry just loves adolescent people. Why? Partly because they comprise a huge chunk of the audience so self-inserting is easier that way, but that’s probably not all. Young people are more interesting in a sense that they encounter many problems for the first time in their lives and deal with them in ways that sometimes are very creative. Also, during that age a person shapes his personality that probably won’t change that drastically for his whole life. Considering all that, it’s nothing strange that many anime stories deal with coming of age themes and necessity to adapt to difficult, unexpected and often unwished changes. As there is no shortage of such tales, naturally some are better than others, some lack some specific ingredient, some manage to resonate well with the viewers, others – not that much. Knowing all that, where does Momo e no Tegami stand– a film whose technical details may catch the eye right on?

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     The story isn’t complicated at all – you just have an ordinary girl Momo, whose shyness gets in a way of making friends, moving with her mother to the country because her father died. Momo doesn’t feel very comfortable there, even if her grandparents try to be as hospitable as they can and some local kids would like to know a new person a bit better. And then Momo begins seeing youkai. If that doesn’t sound the least bit of Studio Ghibli-ish, I don’t know what would. A girl as a protagonist, ended up in a place where the forces of nature are very strong and even the spirit world becomes graspable by hand. I don’t even know how many Ghibli films would fit this description. Still, whether Ghibli youkai would be friendly or not, mysterious entities or just cute little thingies or beings of awe, they always seem to be otherworldly, something entirely different and incomprehensible to humans. Here, however, youkai look far down to earth – it would probably have worked as well with some human characters, weird as they were. Apart from having ability to be invisible and kind of helping Momo in the end (I guess it can be argued that the help wasn’t that crucial), all three of them remain just supporting characters, nothing more. This may be a very long shot, but I’d have probably liked the film more if there were actually no youkai. If executed well (and I know that the director is certainly capable of that) the film would have been a realistic, mature and possibly sad story about a girl trying to solve her problems. Now apart from some pretty flat comic relief and the ending that wasn’t really called for, the youkai side of the story doesn’t look that absolutely necessary. The ending itself was not really to my liking either – I can deal with suddenly going from the climax to the resolution without a clear understanding how exactly everything played out, but the final need of the film to leave absolutely no loose end nor any ambiguity and bring a totally happy ending looks quite childish. Some things just can’t be amended and as sad as it is, it’s for the good of the characters and their growth, even if the story doesn’t continue to that point.

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     As the story can be thought of as a tale of maturing of Momo, she gets the majority of the development, but that isn’t anything ground-braking, just usual better understanding of herself and her family (in this case, her mother and her way of dealing with Momo’s father’s death), befriending other children of the neighborhood and understanding that you should think everything through before you say anything. Apart from Momo (and her mother), other human characters pretty much just were here to give a background and illustrate the peaceful life of a small town. The whole mood reminded me of Mamoru Hosoda’s films, and Momo herself gives the vibe of Makoto from Toki wo Kakeru Shoujo (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) and I’m not even sure why. The three youkai of the film are a different sort of creatures.  I understand that they are supposed to be mischievous, selfish and mean, but I just can see barely any redeeming qualities of them. You can have many flawed characters and usually that’s a good thing, but even then they should be at least a little bit sympathetic or pitiful (like the whole cast of Neon Genesis Evangelion). Here I just see a bunch of random guys that do nothing until they come into trouble themselves. Maybe their incompetence was meant as a joke, but I’d rather look elsewhere – without atmosphere braking farting jokes. Probably the best I can say about them is that one of the youkai looked like a twin of Gollum form The Lord of the Rings, and another probably was some long lost cousin of Kimura from Azumanga Daioh.

Excerpt from the film; animation by Akira Honma

     The visuals is probably the strongest part of Momo e no Tegami – Production I.G again shows what they are capable of. The director Hiroyuki Okiura previously worked on Jin-Rou, as well as done some key animation under Mamoru Oshii and Satoshi Kon to name a few. Character designs were also done by him, so the quality and his realistic style were apparent. The backgrounds didn’t leave a lasting impression, nor did everything provide that sense of direction or carefully and masterfully built world that Ghibli films do. Nonetheless, even quite bland scenery had its moments and basically stayed just a scenery to give all the spotlight to the characters, whose movements, while nothing ground-braking, were perfectly smooth and, well, beautiful to watch.

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     The soundtrack, as the visuals, prefers to stay in the background and just give some light and often unnoticeable touches to convey the mood. Listening to the music alone was a very pleasant task and I was quite astounded how many of the tracks were just too faded in the film to be noticed. It’s very difficult to single out anything as pretty much the whole soundtrack remains very homogeneous, calm and soothing. The composer Mina Kubota specializes in exact same airy and atmospheric music where piano usually gets the leading role, so I have no complaints, except maybe the lack of something truly memorable and outstanding.

Excerpt from the OST: 'Shio Machi no Shima e'

Excerpt from the OST: 'Mimamori Gumi no San nin'

     Unexpectedly through the whole writing I have mentioned many an anime, and to think about it, it’s quite natural – Momo e no Tegami is no bad film by all means, but it just hasn’t got strong enough voice to become truly exceptional. Everything is just good – the story and the characters and the soundtrack and everything else – but not something you would remember for a long time. Yes, emotions were portrayed very well, the director has seen to it, but some nitpicks here and there don’t let me think of this film as something that can seriously rival Studio Ghibli production.

     I believe, this anime is

 2Decent

     If you need a not too complicated film that the majority of the time stays lighthearted, and can overlook some random and not that sympathetic youkai, you came to the right place. The film is not perfect, but for a lazy, relaxing and unimposing Friday evening you could chose far worse anime to watch than Momo e no Tegami.

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2016 Week 3

Flying Witch (Ep. 2)

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     That’s what I call the essence of atmospheric slice of life. Nothing happened but to be frank it probably shouldn’t have. So far it’s perfectly fine to rely heavily on simple and meaningless interactions while just spreading peacefulness all the way. Yes, I’d have liked to know more about the Harbinger of Spring, but as it (or he, or she, or whatever) shows up in the opening, the future should hold some more appearances of it (or whatever). The second half, almost taken straight form a cooking show, once again reassured that  the right atmosphere is the thing that the show knows how to achieve. Just some simple smiles because of some pretty random dish and Chinatsu again making quite priceless facial expressions is enough to relax and enjoy the tranquility of each passing moment.

 Joker Game (Ep. 3)

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     Some things can be expected of a historical series, but I definitely wasn’t expecting the Spanish Inquisition to end up in France. It looks like there is no other way to use all the spies efficiently than to make the story very episodic. Joker Game is far from the embellishment of episodic storytelling like, say,  Mushihi, but, well, it sort of worked. Yes, the characters were just there, without much time to get developed and become cared for, everything just worked out a bit too well to be true, some characters clearly weren’t thinking what they were doing, but, on the other hand, maybe that’s good, as humans rarely get enough time to think and sort things out in times of war. Probably more interesting to me was just the whole mood, an opportunity to see how a Japanese person could have thought about all the stuff happening around the world during the WW2 and the notion that ideology of the nation doesn’t necessarily agree with every individual’s thoughts and deeds, no matter how devoted he is.

Sakamoto desu ga? (Ep. 2)

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     That was mildly amusing and pretty much the best I could hope out of the show – some humor sprinkled here and there, nothing too complicated to follow and just a simple laid back atmosphere. This episode was less shiny than the first one, but I believe it contained a little bit more. The message of the first half – don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself – is simple enough, but easily comprehended, while the second half showed that Sakamoto isn’t just a good looking guy with some aristocrat-like manners – he’s got sense too, enough to amusingly and creatively connect not that friendly people. Also, it’s not that conventional for the anime industry to show some darker sides of school life, not just everything being shiny and moe so that’s another plus. On an unrelated note – with every anime I’m getting more and more amazed and fond of the versatility and craft of Akira Ishida (here he voices Kubota). Just an unbelievable guy.

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2016 Week 2

Flying Witch (Ep. 1)

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     I just had noticed that I lacked some not that ambitious slice of life show that would just be here for some half funny laughs and maybe some moe-ness, so I decided to give Flying Witch a go. Oh boy, that probably was the best decision in the whole season. I’m maybe too excited but really none of the other first episodes resonated with me so well. To be frank, it’s just that – some laughs and pretty laid-back characters of whom the heroine happens to be a witch. Yet, the soundtrack grabbed me straight on and I just couldn’t resist grinning like an idiot for the whole time. The show is nothing but atmospheric and that is precisely what a slice of life show must be. And when everything looked as calm as a still water, the mandrake scene appeared. I guess it’s an achievement to be able to make something look disturbing but not off-putting at the same time. Sure, there is much left to be desired like the whole explanation about the witches but I have confidence in J.S.Staff.

 Joker Game (Ep. 2)

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     The second episode was naturally not as impressive as the first but it wrapped (I guess) this mini-arc pretty nice. It appears that Sakuma begins to see that sometimes some spying abilities really prove to be useful and maybe it’s not a coincidence that he himself was chosen to assist the spies. Maybe this revelation of his capability came a bit too suddenly and unexpectedly but probably anyone would start to think once they realize a possibility of committing harakiri as an alternative. Anyway, what quite puzzled me was the amount of time spent on flashbacks. Come on, do you really need that after just one episode? And I highly doubt that a sentence “You began to ask questions” really needs to show a flashback of the exact questions being asked literally just 3 minutes ago. Well, as the setting has become familiar as well as some characters, I think it would be time to delve deeper into the lives of the spies themselves. Probably one episode for one guy could be a reasonable decision.

Koutetsujou no Kabaneri (Ep. 2)

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     It’s quite weird – I thought the episode finished way too early but now I can’t really say much about it as it turns out not much happened. I guess its purpose was just to show how kick-ass character Mumei is and to reveal that there exists something like intermediary species between ordinary people and Kabane, or in other words, zombies. I can’t say it’s cheap, but a girl that does physics-bending stuff and complains afterwards that she could certainly have done better is a trope material as well as having some form of creatures in- between normal people and monsters so that they fight to protect the people but are shunned because of their abnormality. I don’t say these things are bad per se because it’s only up to this story to take its own path and deal with the world it creates, but sadly when tropes are established, they tend to stay away from more original ideas and just do things that have been done before, and better.  Still, my curiosity about this world remains as well as the wish to know more about the characters and their stories.

Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou – a comedy not for everyone

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Alternative title Daily Lives of High School Boys
Studio Sunrise
Genres Comedy, Slice of Life
Source Manga
Episodes 12
Season Winter 2012
Director Shinji Takamatsu
Music Audio Highs

     It’s always a very difficult task to evaluate something whose quality is determined by the ability to make people laugh. Everyone just has a different taste of humor and I believe among all the means of entertainment – be it anime or something else – comedy is the genre whose scions are the most difficult to evaluate collectively as good or bad. Even a person with no interests in, say, action stuff can at least appreciate the aspect of something just being spectacular, but with comedy there is practically no middle ground – it’s a hit or miss.  To be frank, Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou was almost entirely a miss for me, though that doesn’t automatically make the show bad or mean that anyone won’t enjoy it. It just wasn’t for me, even if the first episode looked as promising as almost any anime, but the momentum didn’t last that long. Anyway, let’s dig a little deeper and find out why exactly it didn’t work that well.

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     If Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou was a child, its parents would definitely be Nichijou and Gintama. The basic premise of the show is very simple – you just can’t be more simple than some people (in this case – high-schoolers) doing some random and occasionally funny stuff. Sounds very similar to Nichijou, and not only because of the name, doesn’t it? I have a suspicion that, as Nichijou manga started few years earlier, Yasunobu Yamauchi, the author of Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou manga, may have been more or less influenced by it. Anyway, the similarities stop short pretty quick as Nichijou is an anime with girls in the center, its tone is far less sinister and finally it has more typical slice of life moments and doesn’t rely too much on the humor. Speaking about the humor, that’s where the Gintama part comes in. After all, it’s not that strange as both shows share the same studio, director and some of the voice actors among other similarities. As I’m not one of the biggest Gintama fans (it’s just not a particularly funny show, though it certainly has some hilarious moments), it’s quite obvious why Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou proved a little too hard to stomach for me. Well, a healthy dose of toilet and underwear type of humor can be funny enough but there it looked a bit overdone, overused and more silly than funny. Moreover, the show felt overstretched more times than not since all the setting up of a joke took serious chunks of time and when the final moment of retribution would finally come, it just won’t pay off accordingly. It’s like hearing of an enormous and vast beach nearby and after arriving there it turns out to be just a sandbox, and not a particularly spectacular one. Of course, the anime had some very well made sketches (probably the best ones were those of the Literary Girl) but most of the time a poker face was very easy to retain for me. Also, Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou strongly promoted the feeling of comradery, the bro-code, when a person would do a silliest thing in the world no matter what if it only would help his friend. As one of the overarcing themes of the show, this one was executed really well and even if in some instances pretty flat jokes were used, I still can and must appreciate what was achieved.

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     Sadly, characters aren’t the most interesting part of the show, either. At least the series itself is fully aware of that as at one point it even claims that you don’t have to learn the names of the characters – it’s not important. Well, that can be taken as a meta-joke but I’d prefer to become at least a bit attached to people whose daily lives are shown and of whom I’m supposed to laugh at and to be invested in. The three main guys are distinguishable probably only by their hair color and their voices. Maybe it was meant to have many self-insert characters, but either way it didn’t work that well. Speaking about the supporting characters, there’s a bunch of other pretty much faceless guys that barely can be described in one sentence. And that bunch is not small – there’s even a case of introducing some new people only so that they can be mistook for the main guys. It’s not a bad feature by itself as Baccano! did pretty well with an exceptionally huge cast, but for it to pay off you need those characters to be characters and use them, not just tell one or two jokes and return them to oblivion. Another serious drawback was the depiction of females. I understand it can be argued that as the show lets us see the world as those particular high-school boys see it and it’s just a matter of perception, but I must disagree. I fail to remember any female character in the show that wasn’t shown to be aggressive (in past or present), more or less dumb or just incompetent. Probably there were some, but it seems that those girls just didn’t have enough screen time to show their true characters. Yes, it definitely looked refreshing during some early episodes when you can relax from usual moe types and damsels in distress, but later on it just dragged the show down. Every girl that has more screen time than five minutes was shown as unstable, often prone to fighting and being, well, very unsympathetic. I agree that some characters of this sort could be ok, but if each and every girl is like this… I’m sorry, I’d better watch something else, with more variety.

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     Speaking about the artstyle, it wasn’t anything notorious. Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou tried to put all the weight on the comedic side of the show, so there were no, say, planet destroying screams like there were in Nichijou. Soft colors matched slice-of-life-ish atmosphere, and scenes near the river, that were meant to be a parody of romantic stuff, even looked beautiful. As far as character designs go, I’m not so positive. Well, they were exceptional enough so that you can easily distinguish the show from probably any other anime. Yet, as large a cast as it had, Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou just didn’t manage to make the characters stand out in their own world. Many a time I kept wondering if a glimpsed person has been there for the whole time or just showed up and will never be seen again. Still, the problem was way deeper with girl characters. Almost every guy seemed to have countless sisters portrayed without showing their eyes and, as I already mentioned, had almost exact personalities. That also applied to many other females of the show. The constant portraying of people without eyes probably is a bit too much. Yes, they look very non-human (which clearly female characters are supposed to be like), but what of it if it carries no emotional weight? One or two eyeless characters should have been more than enough, not almost all of them.

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     As music for Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou was created by Audio Highs, the same person to work with Gintama, we can add another common point between the two of them. Even if there was hardly any song that I would listen constantly outside of the show (OP and ED included), the soundtrack did what it should have. The same laid back aura of Gintama was welcome here as well, so I think soundtrack was probably one of the stronger parts of the series. By the way, J. Pachelbel’s famous Canon in D was used and was used effectively enough.

Excerpt from the OST: 'Danshi Koukousei to Yukai na Nakama'

     After all, everything I can say about Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou is that you should try it yourself to see if it’s for you. Practically, it’s Gintama in high school without its serious arcs and flamboyant setting. The characters were harder to become acquainted with than first episodes of Shirobako, but the development part didn’t even start. The show has its own more sinister than usual slice of life comedy anime niche and looks to be quite respected within the community, but I don’t harbor very warm feelings towards it. Well, it just proves that barely any comedy can be for everyone.

     I believe, this anime

1

Could’ve been worse

     Even if this show isn’t for me, it can easily be for you. Yes, it’s not perfect but it has its own charm that can definitely appeal for many people.

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2016 Week 1

     Generally I don’t particularly like anime episode reviews as I think it’s not right to pass a judgement on something that has yet a chance of changing for better or worse, though more times than not some early episodes set the tone for the whole show so strictly that changing the mood or style usually backfires with more viewers lost than gained. Still, I think some remarks left about specific events or just neat ideas may prove useful later as through the whole 3 months of the season many details become forgotten. Also, it’s really interesting to see later on how the characters made their first impressions and how general opinion about the show changed through all the weeks. Considering all that, I’ll just try to write some random (or not) thoughts about some anime that I decided to watch as it airs.

     Well, to be frank I somehow remain a stubborn completionist, even if there were times when one anime or another managed to bore me almost to ditching it. Yet, I tend to finish what I started, so some serious filtering goes through my mind before each new season. Because of that, I decided to wait and see what will become of such shows as Mayoiga (30 characters sound like a sure path (or worse – trainwreck) of uncharacterization or thoughtless killing) or Boku no Hero Academia (I had my fill of superheros for now because of One Punch Man and Concrete Revolutio). That doesn’t mean that the shows are not that good but I just don’t plan to get involved unless they (and some others) prove to be something really special. So, let’s get started.

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Joker Game (Ep. 1)

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     Production I.G usually means business and this time it wasn’t an exception. Actually this show probably was the first one that I decided to watch this season and so far I’ve got very few complaints about it. Historical spy thriller always sounds impressive and the execution wasn’t dragging it down for sure. It might be difficult to portray everything with historical accuracy and remain right morally as Japan in the period of WW2 as a nation wasn’t the most peaceful and blameless. Also, it’s not that conventional to see someone look at all spies with contempt and accuse them of cowardice as usually they are portrayed as either complete heroes or villains. The suspense was building up steadily the whole episode so next time looks to be interesting. The art tends to avoid bright colors and it fits the atmosphere. The American guy stands out in that aspect – generally more bluish tones make him truly look like a foreigner, like a person who doesn’t really belong there. The only real drawback that I could spot was uncharacterization – even Sakuma who looks to be the protagonist wasn’t given much chance to show himself, not to mention all the spy guys. Yes, they don’t know each other’s true identity but I hope there will be some developments in this area. Now we just get 8 dudes that the audience simply doesn’t care about. If this changes, Joker Game would be a very solid show. For now everything is just building up, but it seems to have lots of potential.

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Koutetsujou no Kabaneri (Ep. 1)

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     Even I haven’t watched Attack on Titan yet (I’ll definitely will be doing that in due time), some minor footage seen is enough to confirm what everyone is talking about – this is the same show, only with trains and zombies. What grabs the eye first is the art which is gorgeous without a doubt. Well, some things are more gorgeous than others and I could definitely see that the two girls whose faces were given especial polishing won’t die for many an episode. The other thing probably is the graphic violence. Well, what did you expect of zombies anyway, even if they decide to run or walk slowly depending on the dramatic circumstances? The spreading of zombie-virus and trying to stop it certainly looks convenient and not that realistic but oh well, what realism can be expected when zombies are roaming everywhere? Apart from that, the show is actually a real fun. The story is yet to be established but the setting is already pretty clear with its steampunk-ish post apocalyptic atmosphere and with some medieval Japanese seasoning. For now everything looks great and it’s only up to Wit Studio to maintain the quality (the visuals alone would probably make this show at least watchable) and tell a compelling story.

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Sakamoto desu ga? (Ep. 1)

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     I’m already familiar with the manga so this show hasn’t surprised me yet. Basically this episode was just an elaboration of one simple statement – ‘Sakamoto is cool. Deal with it’. The show doesn’t try to tell a story, it just plays with different scenarios to make Sakamoto even more cool. Well, I got to admit that the results are quite unexpected and therefore comedic. The humor may be hit or miss but I find it maybe not hilarious but amusing enough to keep watching and not complaining about the time I spent doing it. The animation isn’t an achievement but just works fine to be able to convey the stories of the sketches. Basically if you liked this episode it’s pretty much safe to say that you will probably like the rest of them, even if there will be some a bit longer stories involved. For me it will just be that random laid-back show that can be watched without much thinking just to get some smiles.

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     So that’s it for now. I’ll probably add one or two shows to this section next time. Some others that are already airing also may catch my eye, but I’ll probably stick to no more than, say, 5 or 6. So yeah. Have a nice day!

Suisei no Gargantia – a mix of everything that, well, quite works

Alternative title Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet
Studio Production I.G
Genres Action, Drama, Sci-Fi, Slice of Life
Source Original
Episodes 13
Season Spring 2013
Director Kazuya Murata
Music Taro Iwashiro
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     Would you be hyped if Production I.G announced a new anime that has a giant robot? Not enough? What if the composition of the series and some scriptwriting would be done by Gen Urobuchi? I believe many, if not the majority of anime viewers would at least check it out. Yet, the spring season of 2013 also had Shingeki no Kyojin, Hataraku Maou-sama! and Oregairu to offer among others, so it’s not really a surprise to see that Suisei no Gargantia hasn’t created a large fanbase and isn’t the show to be talked about very frequently. So, is it worth checking out?

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     Behind the two lead characters in the key visual of the series looms a giant robot so naturally many people  thought that Suisei no Gargantia would definitely be just another usual mecha show, maybe, knowing Urobuchi’s involvement, many characters will die horrible deaths. The first minutes of the show didn’t surprise anyone – massive space battle where no viewer can understand what’s going on wasn’t offering anything new. Well, at least the animation was decent – it’s Production I.G after all. Nonetheless, as our main character soldier Ledo woke up from artificial sleep after some trans-galactic travel (the battle didn’t go very well), all the mecha-ness disappeared. By the end of the first episode Ledo finds out that he and his robot Chamber have arrived to planet Earth – long lost to the civilization that Ledo is from.  The Earth is quite flooded – everyone lives in fleets made of many connected ships and boats. So ended the first episode that managed to unnerve many people – some loved the first part with the mecha battle and complained about nothing happening towards the end of the episode. Others conversely preferred that more peaceful and atmospheric part while murmuring about almost senseless beginning. It turned out that as the parts of first episode looked like day and night, the whole series also had some segments that screamed of either slice of life or action. Slice of life segments came first, as Ledo (and Chamber) tried to adapt to the living in the fleet named Gargantia, while trying to grasp the differences between his own very organized and strict civilization and this happy-go-lucky style of life that local people like the lead heroine messenger girl Amy led. At first it may seem quite pointless to throw away precious time that could be used for mecha fights and stuff, but in the end the peaceful time spent on Gargantia was crucial to Ledo’s decisions in the later episodes when all the action and drama began. It could be argued that even in terms of slice of life the show uses its time inefficiently – there is an episode (and a bit of another one) that is just filled with mild fanservise. It’s possible to think that it was meant to show Ledo’s development from a Rei Ayanami type of person to a more humane one, who is able to feel at least something when some girls start dancing in the attire that is quite revealing. Everything just boils down to personal preferences, but clearly the amount of fanservice was a bit bigger than the plot needed. That aside, a big praise must be given to the creators who thought that after Ledo arrived to the Earth he would need some time to learn the local language. Such details really add to the realism of the whole story. The later part of the series focuses mainly on action with some twists, but it’s nothing really Urobuchi-like as the amount of dead characters doesn’t reach your typical Urobuchi level. It isn’t unheard of to make a story that doesn’t belong to just one genre and changes throughout the season, yet it isn’t such an easy job to make everything run smoothly. I believe the transition from the first action sequence into the peaceful slice of life environment was done pretty well, but the opposite didn’t look that effortlessly to me. Still, both parts were quite enjoyable and, even if some things in the story aren’t that original or unguessable, everything was executed pretty well.

     As far as the characters go, the cast isn’t that big and diverse. The main focus of Suisei no Gargantia is to show Ledo’s development from soldier that knows only war and drill to a decent and humane person. Also, there is Chamber. Normally a robot wouldn’t be considered a proper character, but it just happens to grow and change throughout the series as well as his pilot does, even if it’s barely noticeable. There’s nothing really exceptional about all the supporting characters (who actually look pretty flat and aren’t that developed through the series, though it doesn’t really grab much attention as a negative trait and sometimes might even work as a contrast to Ledo’s changing) – we have some girls (suitable for fanservice, how else?), some wise old men, just everyday workers and one particular character who caused me many a headache for being an idiot. Well, I can believe that in the whole enormous fleet there should be some idiots around but when the idiot starts giving orders out of the blue that go against the basic common sense and everybody has absolutely no problem with that and just happily complies, I start to lose patience. Also, there’re some inconsistencies like changing the view whether killing could be justified, or simply conveniently forgetting that people that didn’t mean anything good at first place later shouldn’t be trusted.

Excerpt from the ED; animation by Yoshimichi Kameda
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     If there are some problems with the story and characters, there hardly could be any complaints about the visuals. The character designs look really refreshing after all the high-school stuff that just overflows the market. The colorful clothing that sometimes resembles some Native American trends, sometimes goes with the full Hawaiian look, looks well with the whole setting and vibrant backgrounds. If I have to condense all the artstyle into just one word, it would definitely be ‘colourful’. Sometimes bashing almost all the colors together looks like a true nightmare, other times it can turn into the absolutely amazing gem that Mononoke (not that Princess one) is. Suisei no Gargantia manages to use all the means and effectively make a pleasant almost heaven-like atmosphere. When it wants, it can transform and do a great job representing darker themes and more complex character emotions than just happiness. Still, at times I just began to ask how the same show can capture such a great shot one time and some episodes later look like there was no effort put in drawing faces. Nonetheless, more times than not animation was done really well as far as I can tell. The Mecha parts (yes, there are some, but clearly not enough to call the show full-mecha) done by CGI also didn’t look like abominations from hell, and that is something even in this day and age.

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     Another thing that is crucial to the success of the show is music, though sadly it is often overlooked. Even when the story of Suisei no Gargantia wasn’t going that well, the music kept me just glued to the screen (well, actually to the headphones). Taro Iwashiro, who hasn’t done that much anime work, managed to capture the right atmosphere perfectly, be it a battle theme or just a calm breeze of the wind. Not to mention that a symphonic orchestra used to its full potential is a rear sight in the fields of anime soundtracks. I believe that the music of Suisei no Gargantia can rightly be called the best part of the whole show, and would not be shamed after comparison with even the best live-action film scores or works by Yuki Kajiura or Youko Kanno.

Excerpt from the OST: 'Before Proceeding'
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Excerpt from the OST: 'I Like the Ocean Breeze'

     Gen Urobuchi’s name attached to the show may have done more wrong than right, as this isn’t your normal UroButcher series. Suisei no Gargantia tries to combine slice of life elements with some action later on and even if has some mecha elements, they are really not the center of the story. After all, it was quite a fun ride, not to mention that it was wrapped pretty well, and even if the show isn’t flawless and pacing clearly isn’t the strongest part, Suisei no Gargantia was entertaining enough, and in the end that’s all that matters.

     I believe, this anime is

 2Decent

     There are shows that are certainly better. Also, the themes and the whole changing of the style thing might not be for everybody, but I think it’s worth checking out, at least for the soundtrack and beautiful scenery.

So it begins…

Hello there!

     As dull as it sounds, just another month begins, with it begins just another anime season and with it I’ve decided to start this little experiment of mine. So far I’m not even sure what the nearest future holds since I’m not really good with planning and committing to something whose length, clear purpose and outcome is not that determined after all. Well, I’ll just try to be as honest as possible while writing and not to ditch this project just after a few weeks. Let’s hope everything ‘ll come out just fine. See you.