Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 8

Re:Creators (Ep. 7)

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     Ufotable café, eh? That makes things more interesting, but I expected that such cafés would be not as bleak to look at. Or at least that more people would visit them. Or at least that Mamika and the main guy wouldn’t be so immersed in their conversation and notice that the only customer except them is Maaya Sakamoto. And in the first place what made Mamika think that the main guy knows anything or is connected somehow to the Princess? It’s a nice touch that namely Magical Girl Peace-Keeping Troops try to unite everyone but it just feels like too huge a thought leap. The main guy is weirdly silent considering that the information he knows but somehow refuses to share may have some real impact in order to understand what is happening. Some emotional trauma maybe? It’d better be a good excuse. Exposition again creeps up here and there, as Ei Aoki just loves talking with changing camera angles. Going to the start of the episode, the fight again looked kinda cool but everyone fighting everyone and changing sides every other second wasn’t as impactful as last time. Not to mention that I couldn’t get my mind of judging the chances of someone dueling with a spear against a sword that has far shorter reach and still failing to be effective. But I guess that’s not the point, it’s ensuing drama that matters. But why the hell Alice’s flying horse makes sounds of a chopper?

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 20)

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    Getting to know more about Diana and finally seeing her smile definitely were the highlights of the arc, but ultimately it feels pointless. Don’t you think that we just ended up being in the square one? Diana is still in school, and nobody is the head of the family. So if Diana is willing to go back and leave the matters precisely as they were, why all the determination and urgency in the beginning? Last time somehow I got an idea that Diana’s aunt was trying to usurp Diana’s place as the head of the family, but it turns out that she was only trying to hinder Diana’s attempts. Then again, why the position of the head is so important? We aren’t told that and as seemingly nobody tries to become the head apart from Diana, few years here or there don’t feel like making a huge difference. Moreover, even as the heir Diana did nothing to mend the state of the family (like at least draining the water from the old and oh-so-important library), and she rather easily leaves now, so it further undermines the apparent goal of this arc. Getting everything (almost) work through magic only, and tying it to the overarching plot felt pretty cheap, and it marks yet another LWA episode that allows me to be more annoyed at details in place of being blown away by the spectacular adventures of Akko.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 7)

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      Well, the story managed to capture that special something. Reiko, being virtually the reason of everything Natsume has been thrown into, hasn’t received much screen time yet, and every little detail about her past feels essential. It’s very interesting to see both Reiko and Natsume (well, Takashi, but nobody calls him that) in very similar situations and perceive similarities and differences between them. Reiko clearly is a more choleric person who does everything without much thought but when she needs she can turn pretty much any situation to suit her needs. Natsume on the other hand is more cautious and because of lack of rashness is able to form long-lasting relationships more easily. Reiko also strives to overcome her loneliness but for her it’s more difficult not because she lacks charm but rather she doesn’t believe she can be wanted as a friend for long, so she rather doesn’t pursue to get friends at all. So that’s the good part. The presentation on the other hand… The show never boasted about high quality animation but come on Shuka, at least bother to animate mouths of speaking characters. I can’t imagine how the production is doing if they can’t accomplish even the minimum of 2 frames showing a closed and an open mouth interchangeably. Possibly a recap incoming?

Sakura Quest (Ep. 8)

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     So the last Shiori mini-arc (that I didn’t quite liked) wasn’t all we are getting about the girl. Seeing more Manoyama residents in more detail is a nice thing, though the exoskeleton guy as well as the musician could show up more. Somehow watching Shiori’s family is heartwarming. I guess it couldn’t be otherwise since everyone looks so good-natured, kind and, well, almost fluffy. Setting up a possible relationship (and a serious one considering Shiori’s personality) and having to deal with everything it causes is quite a compelling route Sakura Quest looks to be taking, but the studio shoul’ve reconsidered giving so over-the-top sumo wrestler body to the chef. Shiori taking an initiative is also a welcome sight, as further developments are likely to be coming. Some small details the show places here and there must be appreciated – Maki and Sanae having grown closer after their experiences or Yoshino not even realizing that after all this time she finds that Manoyama has many wonderful things. By the way, I think Sakura Quest have one of the better OP/ED combos this season.

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 7)

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      They *almost* kissed (as is appropriate in anime) but there are much more things to talk about. The new OP looks not bad. I guess that’s an apology for the recap. The first OP was centered on lots (I mean lots) of sakura petals, weird rotoscoping and mostly character close ups that generally introduced them but did nothing more. As we already know what the characters are like, this new OP shows more of them in their natural habitat (Akane running and Curly writing). Also they as well as other characters now aren’t so isolated, smile more and appear in bigger groups. Leaving the OP, it bothers me that earlier during the trip the girls were considerate enough to give Akane some private space even though they knew what she was likely to do. Hira wasn’t on that trip so I find it hard to believe that the same friends would suddenly forget that Akane might have someone else in mind. And that someone else got a really great character moment showing he apparently has balls, something I didn’t really expect. Pretty much everything before that moment was anything but interesting – we have already seen the show trying to force Chinatsu with Curly and Hira with Akane just to create drama. Thankfully it didn’t last long. Still, it’s hard to believe that Chinatsu, knowing full well about the relationship she wasn’t meant to break still tried to steal Curly. Well, maybe that’s just her character, one with pretty short memory and not enough determination to leave things be. …And… I’m sorry, who though that putting such a horrific poster behind a couple peacefully enjoying their time was a good idea? It’s possible that the staff just doesn’t bother anymore, as even after a recap they managed to fail drawing Roman lying on a bed – did no one seriously notice that because of his hear he looks like he has raised his head all the time? Oh well, I probably shouldn’t even be surprised. What’s next – the full-CG final episode made during an all-nighter?

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Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 7

Re:Creators (Ep. 6)

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

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 19)

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

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 6)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 7)

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

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

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 6

Re:Creators (Ep. 5)

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

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 18)

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

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 5)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 6)

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

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 6)

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

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 5

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

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

Re:Creators (Ep. 4)

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

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 17)

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

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 4)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 5)

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

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 5)

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