Musings and Reflections – Autumn 2016 Week 8

3-gatsu no Lion (Ep. 7)

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     I’m getting completely uninterested with the story more and more each episode. When the start of the episode looked promising I thought that it will be a decent one with an unlikely friendship emerging between Rei and the baseball guy. It’s really a nice idea to show that every person in competitive sports actually has many similarities in mindset and beliefs with other sportsmen even if their sports have nothing in common. Well, it turns out we actually started a random mini arc of teaching how to play shogi. Sure, having a two-cour show (and being Shaft) gives you much time to use as you wish but once again –  I prefer the darker side of the show, or at least something that can play off the personalities of the characters and not just gags about how Rei is a bad teacher and that everything is awesome if you just add some cats. Nikaidou having to comment Rei’s match and shouting everything to a camera (live) in hope that Rei will somehow see that feels artificial. What are the chances that Rei who doesn’t own a TV will watch his rant? And who would invite a mentally unstable kid to comment a live coverage of a match in the first place? Maybe I’m just nitpicking but the show constantly fails to offer me something that would distract me from everything I’m not content with.

Natsume Yuujinchou Go (Ep. 7)

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    No episode last week hardly enhanced the visuals this time. Yes, some background art was quite stunning but sometimes character designs and the animation were as unimpressive as ever. The story felt a bit cramped – of course there were episodes with random youkai doing some mischievous things but having one stealing the mask just for the sake of it certainly wasn’t as elaborated as it could have been. The old lady also could have used some more interactions and the festival itself as not a very frequent thing could have been used more. I wonder if the original manga story was as tight or did the staff thought it would be better this way. This season’s Natsume looks to be following more action based scenarios and I miss some of the peacefulness of lingering shots and contemplative moments of the previous seasons. Also my guess at the very start that this season will feature more of Reiko’s past seems to have been unfounded. Not that I dislike getting more knowledge about other characters. The show’s good but somehow I still find this season as a whole somehow lacking that special something that used to make the older episodes really amazing.

Yuri!!! on Ice (Ep. 8)

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     The story didn’t provide anything exceptional, and even the title of the episode (Yuri vs. Yuri) didn’t live up to my expectations (there was barely any vs.). Well, you can say that the sudden need of Victor to come back to Japan is something and yes, it is (the idea to push Yuri psychologically more is a right one) but the pretext for that isn’t the most inventive. Well, I still enjoyed the episode very much – seems like many of the shortcomings of the animation were eliminated and we are left with some exceptionally charming avalanches of sakuga. Also, it’s still good to see that even if the other skaters are not given much time, their moments are used fairly efficiently by giving each of them some character feature that is very specific and in this way it helps to differentiate between all the characters quite well. Like I said before – every skater has his own motivation and despite being completely different people, they all share love for skating and wish to show it.

Fune wo Amu (Ep. 7)

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    Another Nishioka based episode which is very good despite the fact that it wasn’t shown how Majime and Kaguya did meet up and did do something together. When I think about it, Nishioka may be even more likeable and relatable character than Majime. Yes, there’s nothing not to love about the clumsy hard-working dude but I think it’s easier to understand and connect with Nishioka – the guy as a specialist of relations and connections with everyone that could be needed does an amazing job, also infecting his colleagues with positive thinking. He would be a rather one sided character but his own problems, like how to cope with the transfer situation or how to maintain his relationship a secret, make him far more interesting. And I just can’t even imagine how Majime would cope with whimsical professors, difficult decisions and tons of work to be done almost by himself. Especially dealing with the professors. Nishioka’s perceptiveness and his little mind game certainly made for a really entertaining scene.
By the way, you should (if not must) definitely check post by Kyra from KYRA DESU YO! about the names of the characters of the show.

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3 quotes in 3 days challenge – Day 2

      Hey everyone! it looks like my schedule got better of me after all. It’s a bit ridiculous to say that I continue the same challenge after a pretty long gap between the posts but oh well, better late than never. So, this day’s quote is

“It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish”  – J.R.R.Tolkien

     It’s probably no wonder that I chose something from the writer whom I strongly admire, but then it may seem strange that it isn’t one of his more famous quotes that involve such serious and complicated concepts as death, destiny, war or peace. I think that of course you need not to forget such things and it is possible to philosophize about, say, destiny for many hours coming up with very different and interesting ideas and encountering many different worldviews. Yet Tolkien is not only about high, proud and majestic things. The Lord of the Rings starts as a The Hobbit finished – with a fair share of fairy tale aspects that, even if diminished later on when the story became darker and solemner, from time to time emerged as a cheerful spark of hobbit-ness.

     This quote, taken from one of such moments that bring warmth to complicated things, that no hobbit is accustomed to, speaks to everyone and I think is quite useful to remember. You can look at it with a mindset of “yeah, you don’t say” but it coming from a man who managed to work a highly demanding job of a professor, to take care of a family or four kids and at the same time to write one of the most influential books of a century among other literary work, it becomes so much more stronger. It’s usually very hard to start something you are not that passionate about and procrastination at least for me can burn many hours that I could spend more efficiently if I would just start the thing as soon as possible.

     On some level the quote can also be treated as a differently phrased Latin sententia “Carpe diem” (that sadly is the predecessor of YOLO) with the meaning to take every opportunity you get and do what you can and especially if you must. I’m just a procrastinator as probably many others are more or less, so once in a while having something to remember that can encourage to get on with anything that needs to be done is welcome.

Anyway, not always everything goes according to keikaku, I mean plan, as I wrote in the first post of this challenge, but if something must be done there’s no better way to than just start as soon as possible and get done with with it. So, dear colleagues, cherish your time and get motivated!

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Now let’s move to the Nominations part:

MOKA from monomania fantasia

I invite you to:

1) Pick 3 quotes for 3 days and write what they mean to you.
2) Nominate 3 different bloggers with no repetitions each day.
3) Thank the person who nominated you.

That’s that. Thanks again, Olga from Middle-earth Reflections!

Musings and Reflections – Autumn 2016 Week 7

3-gatsu no Lion (Ep. 6)

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     I can say barely anything new compared to previous times. The show is still painful to watch – in more senses than one. There’s still that terrible transition between comedy and serious scenes (the scene after credits or that one with Rei and the teacher illustrates that perfectly) as if the creators are sincerely trying to kill the mood and getting better at it every episode. Rei’s loneliness and his never smiling face are touching, especially when paired with themes like stagnation, when he on one hand is content for he can guarantee his living playing shogi without any passion but on the other hand despises himself for not wanting to move forward while every person close to him strives to make a progress. After a quarter of the show I can say that the lips doesn’t look as bad as they did before – they characterize Rei well, but only him. I think happy people like Hina still shouldn’t have them. I wonder if it was the right decision to only tell that Rei lost two matches in a row but don’t show it. It progresses story a little bit and tries to abandon the rule that something can happen only in flashbacks. It doesn’t negate my idea that apart from the flashbacks there isn’t much interesting and meaningful stuff going on – the next episode looks to feature Hina and that baseball guy getting to know each other better. Oh well, see you in the far future, my beloved serious stuff…

Natsume Yuujinchou Go this time really did show an old special and even if I didn’t rewatch it, I clearly remember it being very weak, repetitive and annoying thanks to those kids. i hope the franchise will never relapse into something similar again.

Yuri!!! on Ice (Ep. 7)

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     The thing that felt out of place more than usual was all those reused cuts. I understand that the amount of work that the staff are trying to force through is unbelievably huge compared to almost any other show. But still the question remains unanswered whether it’s better to try to achieve constant perfection and fail (of course just partially) or to steadily go on within the boundaries of being mediocre with some sakuga moments reserved for special cases. It’s not that I mind reused skating parts very much but when the same shot of clapping audience is presented six, seven or I don’t even know how many times, it gets a bit on my nerves. I’d rather watch the thoughts of the Chinese and Russian skaters look less brilliant and in its stead get at least another angle of clapping public. This episode in terms of structure basically is a direct continuation of the last one and to be frank for now I’m already full of technical stuff. I’m sorry but watching reused cuts with unchanging commentary with only tiniest opportunities for other stuff to happen isn’t the most enjoyable thing ever. Unless it’s consciously made this way so that some extraordinary events would make a bigger impact. But that only would undermine the whole point of making the skating parts well animated. Actually, this was the first time when we got to see what Victor thoughts and to view a situation from his perspective so that moment enhanced his character much. Still, the elephant in the room is still here. Yep, that one. And… I’ve no idea what to expect next.

Fune wo Amu (Ep. 6)

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    All is good and well but there hasn’t been enough growth shown between Majime and Kaguya. Yes, they get on pretty well and this confession scene was done well (on a side note it’s almost extraordinary that such thing was portrayed in the middle of the show and not in the very end like most anime do) but there just hasn’t been many instances shown where the couple would do something together and develop their relationship – the best I can remember is the arrival of Kaguya, the visit to her restaurant and the Ferris wheel scene. If it were a random high-school show I’d just account this as a mutual fleeting crush that wasn’t developed and will probably end after a couple of days. I guess in the novel there was more of it but sadly adaptations with time limit set in stone have no way of going with the original pace. I just hope that this rush will be compensated by something better that’s worth leaving the development of the relationship rather short. Actually the whole episode felt like a wrap up for the past events and a set up for the future – the relationship of the couple advanced to a new level and Nishioka confessed his situation so the dictionary squad will be forced to respond to it.

Scattered Thoughts – about the Hype

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     Probably everybody has already talked about hype these days or soon will – it’s a phenomenon you just can’t escape – you either notice it or directly participate in it. My own two cents may not provide any really new points in the discussion about the hype train and I have to confess that my thoughts might be not that different from those people who have already stated their opinions. Anyway, I saw a post by Lethargic Ramblings and though I can agree on many points, there are some aspects that I would like to share my opinion about, mainly about the topic looking from the perspective of the anime community. As Lethargic Ramblings correctly stated, hype of the airing (or soon to be aired) season lets the fandom to understand better which shows deserve at least to be checked out despite their possible future successes of failures. Of course it only works if your own opinion is more or less consistent with the consensus opinion of the community.

     To think of it, on some level hype enables us anime fans to work better as a community. The essence of a community is the ability to have something in common (as the word itself suggests). And if the majority of the fandom because of the hype ends up watching the same three or four shows every season it opens easily perceptible ways to have what to talk about. Otherwise there would be little sub-communities formed around each of the airing shows but as the anime production tempos and extents are getting faster and wider, the possibility appears to have some central shows that everybody watches out of all the anime we are getting and that makes the whole community more united. Well, of course not everyone’s opinions will coincide but just the ability to discuss a certain anime with more people is one of the best advantages of having hyped shows no matter if they turn out to be good or bad by the end of the day.

     On the other hand, frankly I’m not one of the people who would end up watching something just because it’s popular. Yes, sometimes it’s the case (like with 3-gatsu no Lion this season), as the predictions whether a show will be good often have some grain of salt in them and it would be very untrue and foolish to claim that all the hyped showed end up forgotten. Yet, the hype itself must be taken reservedly. Weather forecasts still end up being more times false than a hyped anime turns out to be not that good but buying a cat in a sack also has risks. It’s especially relevant to me since I tend to complete every anime I start (should I be ashamed?) and anyway due to time limits I don’t even watch too many seasonal anime to begin with. What I want to say is that I’d rather watch some old anime that has already proved to be decent rather than experiment a lot and end up having to force myself through something I don’t enjoy. Yes, it comes down to my own mindset and every saner person would undoubtedly drop something that has lost its appeal. Still, the time spent watching the beginning of such anime as well as hopes about it turning out good won’t ever be returned. I think in this case spending your time on some already tested and approved show would be more efficient.

     Of course, getting overboard with shouts that hype is destroying anime and similar stuff doesn’t help the community. Also, as much as old anime need and deserve appreciation, the new series also have much to provide. Probably I would be watching hardly anything airing right now if having to talk to many people about current anime hadn’t been so much fun. Everyone has their opinions and people certainly may get too excited to see everyone watching the newest shows and not paying enough attention to older anime. Being oblivious to any recommendations of others may also be not the wisest decision. No one has any right to feel omnipotent or having superior knowledge/taste and to force anybody to watch (or not) any show but I can imagine that it could be a bit frustrating to see people immerse only in contemporary or older anime and miss opportunities to try something else. Well, everything just comes down to the ability of the members of the community to discuss and share opinions in a civilized way – a person shouting “All your hyped current shows are terrible” is as wrong as the other answering “shut up you elitist prick”.

     While Lethargic Ramblings proposes to ignore any annoying hype haters or excessive promoters (and I completely agree for most cases), I’d add that there could be a grain of salt in many opinions and it should be examined through discussion. Returning to older anime from time to time and skipping a show that you don’t feel is for you on one hand and trying to analyse why exactly some show is so popular  on the other may present you some unexpectedly enjoyable anime to watch. Well, hype may overpraise current airing shows that don’t deserve it and otherwise wouldn’t be watched as much but it also provides many opportunities to find any common topics to discuss about with the anime community. The hype train certainly isn’t the best way to find good anime but as a means to immerse into the anime fandom its worth shouldn’t be underestimated. I guess as everywhere the key is balance – the right combination of currently airing shows to keep up with the state of the medium and a fair amount of backlog stuff that has already been well rated.

Scattered Thoughts – Thunderbolt Fantasy

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     To start with, this is not meant to be something like a review paying attention to every aspect of Thunderbolt Fantasy but just as some (random) thoughts that have crystallized after the watching of the show.

     Well, if you at least sometimes check the news of the anime world, I think it was nearly impossible for you not to notice a strange creation that has appeared out of nowhere and has become quite popular even if now the talks about it are not that prevalent anymore. Thunderbolt Fantasy technically isn’t an anime but nonetheless share many similarities with the medium. The show basically can be summarized with two words – “puppets” and “Urobuchi”. If that doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what will.

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     To start from the very beginning, the puppets came into being in China some hundreds of years ago and spread in the area. The trend reached Taiwan and that’s where the show’s origin lies. A studio called Pili has made such puppets for some time now and it just happened that many of the staff are not indifferent to anime in general. That’s were the second part of the equation comes in – Gen Urobuchi (well, everyone knows who the guy is – Fate/Zero and Madoca Magica speak for themselves) was impressed by the artistic possibilities that the puppets may provide so it was fairly natural for the two parties to come together and do something. The anime-ish side of the show was also bolstered by the composer – Hiroyuki Sawano, best known for Attack on Titan, who agreed to write a score, but frankly I don’t think it was one of his better works – too many reused themes with too little impact.

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     Well, Urobuchi is Urobuchi but for someone who has already savored his style and probably is not unconditionally head over heels about it the main selling point of Thunderbolt Fantasy is the visuals. To a person who is accustomed to watching anime or live action stuff puppets may look very weird. Still, there’s grace and artistry in everything that is done with them. A wooden puppet is made hollow so a puppeteer can mount it on his right hand and with it move the puppet’s whole body, some limited facial expressions included. With his left hand the puppeteer controls the puppet’s left hand so it’s no wonder that all the puppets are left handed and use it with great dexterity. Well, you may say, what about the stunts? There have been scenes in Thunderbolt Fantasy when characters were jumping, falling or just moving in a way that couldn’t been done sitting on a puppeteer’s hand. The answer to that is stunt doubles. Yes, the puppets as normal actors do, did have them. Sounds weird but it’s only natural that a different medium encounters different problems and finds some ways to deal with them. The sets also need to be mentioned. Every smallest prop was handmade and you can probably imagine how much work needed to be done to have a decent looking banana on a decent looking table that would be used just for one scene only. The details, given the amount of hard work that needed to be done are amazing. Of course, as you can see from the first episode and maybe the last, some CG effects were added. The rate of usage of CG never was that high compared to the first episode but some credit must be given to the creators because the effects look fairly organic with the world they appear in. The comparative sparseness of CG lets other aspects of the show to shine – for example the dust that sometimes appeared and many other effects were strictly practical, which on its own is fairly astounding.

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     The visuals can’t be discussed without mentioning the appearance of the puppets themselves. I can’t possibly stress enough how beautifully they are made – every piece of cloth and accessory is polished to the level of brilliance. Every puppet by itself can be easily treated as a piece of art – take for example those wooden heads – each carved with an amazing precision. Sure, some time is needed to get accustomed to the typical movements of the puppets but after that it’s only a joy to watch. At first it was quite difficult not to notice some critical differences between the puppets and anime characters. Well, it sounds dumb since the puppets are real while anime characters are drawn, but let’s compare other differences beyond that. In anime the animators use every possible trick to make the characters move as little as possible and in this way save lots of work needed for the animation. The puppets on the other hand don’t have this in-built limitation – during every conversation they gesticulate very expressively and move much more than you imagine a real person would do. Exaggeration of movements may look odd but after a time you begin to wonder how these wooden pieces of art manage not only look good but also to be so versatile and use every opportunity to show that. Versatility is a good thing but it’s also limited in a way. A puppeteer just can’t move everything and that ends up being the immovability of the lips of the characters. Yes, the lips can move up and down but certainly not at the frequency a normal person would do. Also, the lips look exceptionally huge, almost swollen. Oh well. So there you have it – the characters that move excessively while their lips barely manage to go up and down. The eyes are only able to blink from time to time compared to the huge variety of anime eye expressions. After so many words of praise about a visuals it seems almost inappropriate to mention that in some cases things were too flamboyant for their own good – the mystical sword that is the center of the story looks like the least practical weapon anyone could have imagined.

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     Continuing the thought about the lips, the aspect of language need to be touched. As the company Pili who created the show is Taiwanese, the original language of the show was Chinese and that means Chinese names and stuff. Of course, there was a Japanese dub made after that but one problem was still left and that is names. The mythology of the show allows the characters to have multiple names, all more similar to epithets of the personalities and deeds of the characters than some actual names. But the real problem for me was that I watched Thunderbolt Fantasy on Crunchyroll. There the Japanese dub was used and subtitles were English but oh boy what they did with the names… The dub used the names translated to the Japanese while the subtitles only transcribed the Chinese ones. Well, I’m not even able to read some of the symbols the transcription used and to hear some word, completely different sounding from a written one, was just too much for me. Well, I just ended up learning hardly any names of the characters.

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     To be frank, that wasn’t an issue I couldn’t cope with after all since the story itself wasn’t anything special and I doubt I would have started watching Thunderbolt Fantasy if it were made into an anime. You have a set of pretty ordinary characters – a hero, a heroine, a plotting mastermind whose allegiances aren’t clear, a demon (basically a witch), a bunch from Fate/Stay Night (Archer, Lancer and Assassin) and a villain (with some lackeys) that looks so cool as if to turn any possible male opponent gay. Almost every character is made to be of some use to the story but after all I feel like it was a bit too much of them. Much of the narrative could have been condensed, some of the cast just erased and the time left spent exploring the world. The world certainly looks organic and interesting, having its own history, magic, wars, mysteries… Well, everything that would have been a very enjoyable thing to see more of, especially since the creators are so good at building the environments. The only excuse I could think of is that of course everyone just wanted to show what they are most capable of – as many diverse puppets as possible. The ending seems a bit lacking. Yes, it’s the journey that counts but I would have liked something akin to a climax and not just casually dealing with a final boss in a surprisingly brief battle, even if the story to reach that stage required the whole season. Well, of course opening your Unlimited Blade Works stash ends things quickly but the feeling of fulfillment there has no place. Some traits of the characters and elements of the story speak of a rather mature series, but Thunderbolt Fantasy manages to negate that with shounen-esque special attacks (with their names shouted to the wide world, how else?). Also, sometimes the story would just stop in order for the characters to talk. I wouldn’t call it strictly info-dumping but some scenes would drag for a very long time with nothing happening. However if you are able to withstand that, the fighting segments prove to be very rewarding.

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     If you remove the visuals, the show remains very Urobuchi like – with uncertain loyalties, mysterious characters and the plot that can change drastically any moment. Sometimes even the Urobuchi-layer seems too thin to be able to carry the story. Luckily the visuals are always here to mask any flaws. To be frank, that’s one of those shows that requires your brains to leave some things unnoticed but if you’re able to do that, it’s a real feast for eyes – the technical aspects are amazingly stunning. So yeah. I think it’s beneficial for anyone to watch at least the first episode of Thunderbolt Fantasy – at least to be able to grasp how many beautiful things are possible to be made. To some the fact that it’s a puppet show and not an anime might be a huge turn off but I think that Thunderbolt Fantasy in its essence isn’t that different from the mainstream anime. If you can deal with, say, differences of the style of Masaaki Yuasa compared to any other creator’s, this show shouldn’t be a big problem. By the way, the 2nd season is already announced so now is as good time as ever to sample some unconventional art.

/Much information came from here, but you are still welcome to delve deeper./

3 quotes in 3 days challenge – Day 1

Hey everyone! I got encouraged to try this challenge by Olga from Middle-earth Reflections and I’m very grateful for that. I doubt that there are many people in the anime community that also have strong feelings about J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings his and other writings from the same universe but if you do or just have some knowledge about it, please do check out her blog! And now, let’s get going.

“Only entropy comes easy”  – Anton Chekhov

 For those of you who are not that familiar with the man – Chekhov is held one of the most prominent Russian short story writers and playwrights of the second half of the 19th century. His writings have always attracted me as very sincere, analyzing lush emotions of various people and portraying life that went on in his time. You just can’t remain calm and not immersed as you read about different lives of sad or happy, tragic or even completely normal  people as every one of his characters appears very much alive, humane and moving by their actions and thoughts.

The quote I chose uses the term of entropy and for those of you who aren’t that familiar with it – it basically represents the idea of disorder. The higher the entropy, the more mess there usually is. Technically it’s not as simple as that but you got the idea – unwashed dishes have much more higher entropy than orderly arranged ones in a dryer. I  also must mention the second law of thermodynamics (as complicated as it sounds) – in an isolated system entropy tends to increase. It just means that spontaneously a glass can shatter but it will never come back to its initial form with no external help. Pretty intuitive.

Now coming to the meaning of the quote – you probably clearly understand the essence – everything is this world tends to break down, decay and cease to be ordered and you have to put much effort to achieve anything. When you think of it, it may sound crushing – the Universe itself is trying to negate all your attempts to do anything and it’s no wonder that we constantly need to eat for us to retain our ordered bodies, or, to think more comically, it’s very natural for your desk to become a mess in no time or to lose a sock from each pair – it’s embedded into the laws of nature. Nothing is easy and it requires much energy even to keep things as they are now. Is it discouraging? It may be but nothing said the life will be easy. I think when you make something you can be even more proud of it with the mindset that you gained a small victory against the Universe. Everything is bound to break but isn’t it wonderful that it is possible to withstand this pressure? It’s very easy to become lazy and unproductive no matter what you do but come on – you with your own existence have denied the law of everything breaking down and each thing you do should bring happiness of achievement, of mastering yourself and making your being meaningful.

I don’t know if these thoughts full of physics stuff were of any meaning but to myself they bring some pride and joy that I’m able to, say, escape idleness and write a thing or two about something I like and possibly get my voice heard and make some impact on someone that reads my stuff. Well, that’s the end for today’s philosophical babbles.

Now let’s get to the next part – the Nominations:

Lethargic Ramblings
Karandi from 100 Word Anime and
Kyra from KYRA DESU YO!

I invite you to:

1) Pick 3 quotes for 3 days and write what they mean to you.
2) Nominate 3 different bloggers with no repetitions each day.
3) Thank the person who nominated you.

So that’s that for today. Thank you again, Olga, and I hopefully see you all tomorrow!

Musings and Reflections – Autumn 2016 Week 6

3-gatsu no Lion (Ep. 5)

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   It looks like every other episode focuses on serious stuff and the rest is devoted to comedy. According to that I could probably make a bet that the next episode will not be my cup of tea. However this one… So far the only interesting things have happened in Rei’s flashbacks. At first it was vital to know his present situation – living alone and being friends with the sisters – but after that there has been no developments in the present timeline. Now we got a large portion of Rei’s past revealed and I’m slightly worried that after it’s done there will be no interesting things left in the show unless something really unexpected happens in the present, but that somehow seems unlikely. Returning to the flashback, Rei’s backstory was really well thought out and impressed me. Though to err is human, the adoptive dad certainly would have profited from some parenting 101. The competitiveness between the children looks like a very believable thing to happen in this situation. The comparison between Rei and a cuckoo was strikingly close to the point. Well, all the situation may not be the most probable one but it certainly did add more layers to the character of Rei – having lost also a younger sister, using shogi only as a lifeboat and unintentionally almost ruining a family. As now we know that the girl from the last week was Kyouko and this time her character was established, I’m very interested more than ever to find out how that situation of the last previous really came into being.

Natsume Yuujinchou Go (Ep. 6)

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    Not a very satisfying experience today – the basic plot of Natsume being attacked by a group of some incapable youkai has been done before. Also, the amount of episodes that had a youkai who felt nostalgic about Reiko and ultimately got its name back is probably larger than the amount of episodes that hadn’t. I don’t say that I didn’t like the episode but it failed to feel as compelling as some of the last ones. At least the story had a reasonably weird youkai. Well, during stories like these I wonder if we will eventually learn about Reiko’s husband and their ultimate fate or just remain wandering around until the Book of Friends will be spent. But that’s not likely since during all the five seasons as hard as Natsume has been working, the Book doesn’t look the least bit thinner. By the way, I hope that Nyanko-sensei hasn’t obtained diabetes or something similar looking how obese he has turned. Anyway, the worst part of the episode proved to be the preview. If I get everything right, the next episode will be a special. And not any special but the special that has been made 3 years ago. I’m not even sure if I should be mad or amused to see studio Shuka fail to even make a recap. Well, they certainly need time to polish the visuals and that’s the same issue with all their shows. It’s only a shame that the special itself is too mediocre to be on the level of ordinary Natsume stuff.

Yuri!!! on Ice (Ep. 6)

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    Yes, the show is about figure skating (for the most part) but after seeing it in each and every episode I just don’t feel that excitement that was so profound in the very beginning. The animation is not always as polished as it could be but that’s understandable and anyway, the level of sakuga provided tops many shows this season, if not all of them. Yet, the freshness of seeing an unusual sport being performed for the first or second time is expiring. I appreciate everything (mostly) the show offers but the pattern of seeing characters converse a bit and then go skating is wearing off – of coarse I root for Yuri but that’s probably the most I can say about the emotional part of the episode – it’s hard to imagine the height of stakes when every performer apart from Yuri is a new guy. The episode just feels in a manner of “been there, seen that”. I hope some more drama will be implemented later on and not that kind of flying pants and “my mature appeal *blink blink*” drama. Returning to the point about the other skaters – yes, they were defined very minimalistically, but for the time they got it was done fairly efficiently – the striking differences between the Thai guy, conveying his passion, the carefree American or the gloomy and rather cartoonish Russian are apparent – everybody wants to show their various strong feelings through the skating and that was probably the part of the episode that I liked the most.

Fune wo Amu (Ep. 5)

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    As expected, going against the wishes of your higher-ups usually backfire, but in this case it backfired exceedingly strongly.  I wonder what did Nishioka think would happen when everything had come out to light. Anyway, getting an episode that was centered around him felt fresh and added much characterization that was really needed to see Nishioka not only as a genki guy with occasional comedy relief functions. I’m not sure that the idea of keeping the future transfer is the best but the decision to continue working while he still can and doing everything even more productively and enthusiastically certainly did earn him some brownie points. Still I’m not sure if the dictionary group could even exist without such a guy who has lots of acquaintances and just knows how to get things moving. Majime’s love letter felt a bit too early. Getting to know Kaguya only for some episodes probably shouldn’t evoke love-letter writing from such an old-fashioned guy like Majime. On the other hand knowing that the anime is an adaptation of a novel suggests that having far greater pace is the only possible scenario in order to be able to complete the story. If some plot lines are moving fast, there are still moments of the grace of slice of life – Nishioka’s reading of Majime’s letter for me was one of more peaceful and beautiful scenes of the whole anime.

Musings and Reflections – Autumn 2016 Week 5

3-gatsu no Lion (Ep. 4)

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     As much as I liked the last episode I wasn’t moved at all by this one. It almost seems like every character has a twin that only looks similar but their personalities differ almost completely – one of them is a sad soul, bothered by existential problems and another is a shallow husk suitable only for comedy. Hina was in the spotlight for the majority of time and even if her story was portrayed well visually (well, what else could be expected from Shaft?), it was very far from being original and inventive. Or maybe I’ve just seen too much fleeting middle-school crushes and broken-hearted kids in anime to be moved. Probably the most interesting part was that of Rei’s reaction to the baseball game. He definitely looked envious – maybe not for Hina herself but for the idea of being looked at with such passion. And the flashback teased some colorful times in the past which I hope will be revealed sooner than later. Finally, it looks like Totoro still is an especially iconic being in Japanese culture. Still, Gintama with “Tonari no Pedoro” was more amusing.

Natsume Yuujinchou Go (Ep. 5)

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    I can guarantee that there is nothing more I could’ve wished out of this episode. Returning of Taki itself is a huge plus (I guess I just can’t see enough of her, probably since that beautiful story of her and Natsume raising the youkai child in the last episodes of the second season) but that’s certainly not all. Somehow the reuniting of the two rabbit-rat (or rat-rabbit) like youkai felt genuine and moving, even if their screen time was very limited. And the whole story of the hairy youkai’s attachment to Taki just can’t not affect me. The dilemma whether it is good for humans to be able to see youkai is presented again. I think the answer is not that different from the one I could give about human relationships – yes, sometimes it’s better to not get involved with anyone in order not to get hurt but on the other hand in this way you can’t even know how much do you potentially lose. The ending quite unexpectedly was animated, and animated in a very appropriate way, even if some EDs in the past have been more memorable. Still it’s a huge improvement over seeing just some ornaments. So yeah, for me it was the best Natsume has already offered this season.

Yuri!!! on Ice (Ep. 5)

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     First, I don’t know a thing about figure skating, but is it so uncompetitive that even while making mistakes Yuri can not only get a personal best score but also achieve a place among top ten skaters worldwide? This was said after his short program and even his free program didn’t look to have scored adequately. The same goes for Minami. As far as I remember watching figure skating on TV a time or two, mistakes in the competitions weren’t unheard of but also weren’t that prevalent either, especially talking about better skaters. I guess it just means that Yuri managed to move the judges by his emotional performance. Maybe I’m just not that impressed since all the performances haven’t been as well animated as that one in the first episode. This time characters being of model wasn’t a very rare sight as well as appearing very CLAMP-like – lean characters are ok but stick figures while skating don’t look that good compared to their normal appearance. Animation also felt a bit choppy though it is still better than what we get in many anime. Lastly, I miss Yurio. Of course his comeback will be huge and pompous but his chemistry with Yuri was too enjoyable for it to be exchangeable with some new characters as interesting as they might be (sorry, Minami).

Fune wo Amu (Ep. 4)

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    I can’t remember if there was an anime other than Fune wo Amu I was having so much fun watching since Rakugo. It’s too bad that barely anyone is watching it. Well, what’s there not to like – the soundtrack remains really strong (even if the insert song could have been other than the OP), the voice acting is done as professionally as you could only wish for and that especially goes for the subtle humor, the story has clear goals in Majime’s private life as well as in the dictionary writing business. It may not be the work I’d like to do but I already feel strongly attached to the group and wish them all the success they can achieve. On the downside, the chibi dictionary segment never was that amusing and the show probably would be better without it but that’s just a minor detail. Also I want to mention that when Majime and Kaguya went out, their clothes were of the same colors, only tops and bottoms were inverted. This is a nice touch, meaning that their personalities may be opposite but looking in the bigger picture they complement each other well.