Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 8

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 7)

    I have to give some applause to the staff for making the Jerk the most unlikable character of the season. Also let’s give another round just for finally giving some lines to Shizuku. Well, I don’t know how the dancers usually communicate mid-dance but constantly randomly changing routines just for fun doesn’t seem like a very smart thing to do. I understand that someone as close to a pro level as Hyoudo might do that but for Tatara who just began dancing in the first place and now participates in his first competition with his first partner – isn’t it too selfish? Or is Mako (and previously Shizuku) just a doll who can (and must) easily say “screw the plan” and mimic anything Tatara can think of? Anyway, what really aggravates me is the use of humor, especially the fan-service-y stuff. Can’t you just stop using it in order to make fun of women? On the other hand, can’t just stop using any humor at all completely? This kind of jokes doesn’t add anything and only breaks the mood and because of that reminds me of my problem with 3-gatsu no Lion. At least that show had some deeper ideas and redeeming qualities. It turns out I was wrong about some decent sakuga appearing because of the competition. When will the show move from such a pedestrian form? Maybe it’s because this competition doesn’t feel like anything special? Yes, Hyoudo’s appearance made everything more interesting but aside from that the rivalry between Tatara and the Jerk doesn’t really interest me. Delving into some speculations, I think that as every shounen Ballroom just loves maintaining status quo and that should mean no change in pairs. I’d wager that neither Tatara nor the Jerk would win – Tatara’s not good enough and the Jerk (or Shizuku more likely) might find some trouble because of Hyoudo.

Made in Abyss (Ep. 7)

    Well, I knew that from Ozen you can expect many things but her brutality against Reg still came as a surprise. As her motivations became clear, Ozen was revealed to be one of the most fascinating characters of the season. Even her longevity and athleticism massively contrasts the frailty of Riko and Reg, but it’s her character that is the most interesting. Ozen clearly enjoyed being adored by Riko’s mother at the time and it seems like the same also applies to the daughter, albeit in a particular not beginner-friendly way. The harshness of Abyss affects its explorers and it’s natural that Ozen has perfected her survival skills and that probably leaves very little space for feelings, leisure time and other privileges of people living on the surface. Apart from immense practicality (as expected from a cave rider), she also possesses curiosity (that wasn’t too pleasant for Reg’s parts) and a particular dark sense of humor. Mix everything and you’ll get a very rough person with whom it’s very hard to live with but once you befriend such a character, the support will never waver if you can just keep up. Meanwhile other unexpected facts were revealed. Riko originally being a stillborn adds more seasoning to her determination to climb down, not to mention the whole existence and working principle of that cube. It appears that Lyza’s grave was actually empty. But then why would she need a grave if she’s alive – there’re better places to keep your stuff, and if she’s already dead (which now seems doubtful) – where’s the body?

Re:Creators (Ep. 18)

     As much as I enjoy Magane’s playfulness I have no idea what was the point of spending half an episode to have her talk to the main guy. Yes, her personality carries much weight but apart from the fact that Magane isn’t inherently bad and just wants to have some fun in her own way that was just empty talking. Yes, she also showed some affection to the main guy because of their apparent similarities but that has little meaning until the main guy’s role in all this event is revealed. It’s very funny how he still is just a discardable self-insert guy and barely a character. Moving on, everyone loves Mahou Shoujo style, I can’t argue with that. Still, I’d be more glad if Mamika was here. Wait, how did Yuya and his opponent got from streets to some Antique building to fight? Am I wrong not to believe that the majority of people do care about the stories they get and look for consistency and inner logic? I can’t grasp that no one would give a damn about Yuya talking about things he has no evidence about and everyone just accepts that. Finally Selesia’s colleague showed up. I wonder what Altair told him to convince him to fight against her comrade. Also, there still remains Alice’s request for Magane to make a some huge mess.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 21)

     Entertaining as usual. It was a bit unexpected that Erika would make such an impact on the story but on the other hand she’s as suitable as anybody to once again make the dilemma of choosing between the country and the city relevant. The theme has been discussed already by the main girls but as those that didn’t enjoy the country at first also had some experience of living in a city, seeing a local who desperately wants to leave brings some new winds. For the main girls it’s like a challenge of another level – at first they needed to get comfortable in Manoyama themselves and since this task has already been accomplished they can try to pass the message to others, even if they are as cynical and stubborn as Erika. The subplot about the last treasure didn’t bring any surprises, only compared to the previous two items everything seems to move too smoothly. Anyway, it was a good chance to add some little details to the supporting cast and the show didn’t miss the opportunity. The festival will probably be the culmination of the show with the girls getting even the most withdrawn residents of Manoyama starting to appreciate the place they live in. Still, what interests me even more than the festival is the final choices of the group – will Yoshino leave or remain for a second term as a queen?

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Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 7

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 6)

     The Jerk seems to be getting even more unbearable to watch. It seems like he can think only about himself. Why would Mako still want to do anything with that prick of her brother? And isn’t Tatara being a bit unfair, thinking only about how to get Mako to dance with the Jerk and keep him away from Shizuku regardless of what Mako might truly want and what Sengoku has been saying about dance pairs equaling marriage? Also, doesn’t anyone want to know what Shizuku thinks about this whole situation? As if it doesn’t concern her in the slightest. It looks like concerns of many about that role of women in the show continue to have a clear reasoning – Shizuku remains a faceless doll and Mako is treated only as tool to show off for either her brother or Tatara. In terms of sakuga this time was disappointing – too many still frames. As far as I remember, the production for the show has been quite healthy but it’s no wonder if apart from the first episode the animation highlights were as scarce as possible. Maybe all the resources went into the competition next time?

Made in Abyss (Ep. 6)

     Oh, the cliffhanger. That thing (I guess there’s no better word for that creature) certainly is interesting as well as Ozen with her overwhelming presence and more secrets than you can count. The story moves at a fine pace but if the show stops for a while to answer the questions of the Seeker Camp I doubt there will be enough time left to continue the story and reach any satisfying conclusion. The manga is still ongoing so a conclusive ending probably isn’t a possibility, but to add Made in Abyss to the endless heap of manga-promotional-only anime would be a shame. I guess reaching the bottom of the Abyss won’t be the case, especially since quite a prominent character (apparently named Nanachi) according to the ED still hasn’t been introduced. It’s probably too early to think about the ending but seeing how well everything has been developing so far it’s the biggest possible problem that I can think of. Getting back to the episode I have to say that Ozen’s VA Sayaka Ohara is overdoing it. She’s definitely a fine VA but deepening her voice to suit Ozen’s personality feels very unnatural and artificial. Unless the manga stated that Ozen had some problems with her vocal chords. Anyway, someone with a naturally deeper voice would probably have sounded way better.

Re:Creators (Ep. 17)

     When a flying horse is going one on one with a giant robot and their strength seems equal. When a flying horse is able to fly backwards. Yep, it’s pretty, but more than that? Not really. So, everything is broadcasted live, eh? And how does that work? I get that anime characters after their transportation to the normal world are transformed to be like real people but does really no one give a damn that what are they watching suddenly turned from 2D to 3D in their perspective? I think there would be countless hardcore fans that would despise their favorite 2D characters being involved in a 3D crossover. I’m not sure if pointing out clichés like artificially prolonging fights for the sake of the viewers or bringing back dead characters still counts as a positive if the show still use them. Alice certainly has something in her mind but it’s still to be seen what commotion Magane is going to make (if she will though it’s probably unquestionable) and how. So it seems like this birdcage is something like a reality marble, speaking in terms of Fate franchise. When you think about it, is it still possible to fight back Altair even with enhanced abilities if she has endless stock of fanfics behind her? I still don’t really get how characters and their creators’ wishes work in the birdcage. Are the creators able to determine the actions because of this acceptance or is it all just a calculated prediction?

Sakura Quest (Ep. 20)

     I don‘t know who that director  guy is supposed to be but calling those that didn’t make it is anything but ethical. As if it’s not cruel enough for Maki – she thought that maybe after all these times she’ll get to start her dream eventually but it turned out as usual. Anyway, as always even with some difficulties everything ended up quite well with Maki satisfying her thirst for acting and at the same time not abandoning her responsibilities for Manoyama. I wonder why the creators of the show decided to have at least two winter episodes right in the middle of summer. When emptying my backlog I can live with such a discrepancy but it’s more than weird for currently airing shows. Sure, such episodes show that time isn’t static but I just couldn’t shake off a feeling that something’s not quite right about watching snowflakes in the middle of August. Another weird thing was the idea of organizing the closing ceremony. I don’t know how much the Japanese get attached to their schools but come on, it has been 10 years since its formal closing – I doubt many people would still care for that. And why didn’t anyone during all these years managed to take advantage of the fact that the school building might be used for the community of Manoyama?

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 6

Made in Abyss (Ep. 5)

     Reg is damn useful in everything Riko needs. She probably would’ve died hundreds of times was it not some help from him – first of all unlimited shortcuts and now even some bird-frying capabilities. Reg’s showdown even makes me wonder if there’s anything he can’t do. At least from the narrative perspective the fact that Reg has amnesia lets him as well as us discover new and new abilities in a way that doesn’t break the show. With the introduction of these corpse-eaters (no wonder that cry for help sounded somewhat fake) and these sort-of-monkeys straight from Ghibli production the descend in the Abyss gains more and more darker colors – as a monster designer Koh Yoshinari certainly did well. Also it’s proven that even the slightest try to go upwards takes a heavy toll on human physiology. Still, even with lots of theoretical knowledge about the places they are going through, Riko can’t even fathom what actually is to encounter the reality of  the Abyss. I wonder if there will be a point that could break her not very founded optimism. Maybe the new White Whistle character who seems to know something about Reg’s origins may be of help?

Sakura Quest (Ep. 19)

     Not the most impressive stuff so far. In theory the dealings with the festival were connected to the new opportunity for Maki quite well but everything ended up being rather forced. Why would the girls visit the school at night? Joke about mistaking Maki’s dad for a monster probably was the only reason for that, and it’s not the funniest thing in the first place. Chitose bickering with Kadota has also gotten old. I can appreciate the continuity when a sent application (ages ago) finally got a reply but Maki’s reaction to it leaves something to be desired. Of course Maki isn’t a person who would show her emotions on her sleeve but saying “no I won’t” then walking for a bit and changing her opinion “yep, I will” in an instant isn’t the most entertaining thing to watch. Maki having an argument with her dad was a bit frustrating not because of the way it was portrayed but for a simple reason that both of them care for each other but are too stubborn and inflexible to make up even though it would take so little effort. It’s just like in real life some people argue a lot despite having no need to. And that rigidness is annoying.

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 5

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 4)

    Continuing from the last episode – why are there people who seem genuinely surprised that using doubles is forbidden? OK, Fujita was dumbstruck with an opportunity to dance but come on, what did you expect? And WHY DID NO ONE NOTICE? It seems like technically you could exchange a pair of professional dancers with two hobos for one dance and no one would bat an eye. Sure, some time later a disqualification letter might come in but at the moment neither judges nor other dancers would say a thing. It’s very simple – our protagonist needs to try a serious dance floor after all doesn’t he? And Sengoku’s a jerk for not taking any responsibility and blaming everyone but himself. Impulsiveness and gut feeling sometimes might come in handy but such people should either restrain themselves or go out of managing business. The damn necks are so much distracting that I have to remind myself it’s not some weird comedy about giraffe people. On the other hand, it is an unintentional comedy  – isn’t it funny how anticlimactically Hyoudo fell of the stairs? The way of introducing new characters is very shounen. As if anything about the show could be non-shounen.

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 5)

     I understand that having (and getting) a partner whom you trust, depend on and have utmost confidence in is crucial but come on, isn’t it taking a bit too far considering that at this point it’s just some practice we are talking about, not some unbreakable bond for the whole life? As far as I remember, Fujita so far has learned only waltz (because he spent extremely long time mastering it) and now he was supposed to dance a completely unknown dance, and even with a partner? If he made some progression off-screen it would be nice to get to know it, the show’s about Fujita’s progression after all, isn’t it? Yep, cliché “a cute dojikko stumbles and falls on the protagonist and thus a long-lasting bond is created” – check. Sengoku turns out to be not a complete jerk because of disqualifying Hyoudo on purpose but still that doesn’t make him a very likable character. Mako’s brother looks to be another overconfident and arrogant (and annoying, let’s not forget that) dude, almost Sengoku without any brains. For me Ballroom still can’t offer any likable enough characters – Fujita is just too unbelievably talented self-insert without too high IQ, Shizuku is just the perfect partner with only a semblance of a personality, Sengoku, Hyoudo and Mako’s brother hold their head’s too high and everyone else has too little screen time to be that noticeable.  The show just can’t go on without spouting dumb jokes left and right, can it? Is it me or some lip-sync this time was a bit off? Aside from all that, I look forward to the developments in the relationship between Fujita and Mako and all the rivalries.

Made in Abyss (Ep. 4)

     So far everything seems to be going quite smoothly. But if Riko gets distressed over a spider that is a rather simple creature of the first level, what is going to happen once they descend further below? There’s probably a reason why inexperienced whistles aren’t allowed to go deeper. I can understand that Habo got excited to see Reg knowing what he really is but is it a choice of a responsible adult to let two kids go virtually into a certain death, promise or no promise? I don’t know what Leader was thinking (and it bothers me quite a lot) but Riko feels like she definitely has the right answer. The same happened with the letter asking to come down when Riko decided it was written by her mother. Riko may as well be right but having such a companion with practically no cautiousness and only sky-high confidence instead of actual skills isn’t what I’d choose. The parallel between Riko and her toy was fitting – as the toy just flew away and ultimately was caught in a waterfall, so does Riko (also born in Abyss) started a journey down but may soon find that she has less control than she would like.

Re:Creators (Ep. 16)

     This episode in particular as well as some earlier ones (end especially the recap) have gone full meta. It’s interesting how that started to be more prominent in the second cour – the first one was more or like a regular anime albeit with an original premise. It’s like the creators thought “screw the story and let’s just have fun, and we’ll wrap everything up later on somehow”. When I thought only for a second that the onsen scene in a usual anime would’ve been just a lowly fanservice, Re:Creators not only swapped girls with middle-aged men but also addressed the fact itself (well, they got back to the regular fanservice so in the end I guess they just had the last laugh). Pretty much the same goes for discussing 2nd-rate-Shinji’s VA – just like how in Bakemonogatari Senjougahara told that her VA was amazing. Apart from some mild fun in the baths, the characters continue spawn useless sentences that have no meaning. I guess there had to be some transition to the second half but it felt anything but smooth. Someone in YouTube comments have named this show Re:Meteora talking and that isn’t too far of the mark. It seems like the final showdown is coming a bit early, unless it will be too stretched out or something important after that will have to happen. Either way it doesn’t sound too promising. Of course, Selesia’s comrade as well as the new member of Team-Altair haven’t shown their abilities, the MC’s plan remains a mystery as well as the whole principle of how the showdown is planned to go. The crew has been working for some time but we still don’t know anything substantial about what exactly did they do and I feel a bit disappointed about that. Some intermediate results would probably have made the transition a bit smoother. And do I not remember or so far in the series we still don’t have any clue why exactly Altair behaves the way she does with all the ending of the world and stuff?

Sakura Quest (Ep. 18)

     Well, I don’t know if it was a clever foreshadowing but since the very beginning of the episode I was thinking what would happen if any of the villagers died. Eventually I ended up dismissing the idea because that’s not that kind of a show but surprisingly it proved me wrong. Exiting the world when you have finished what you strove for while in the background Beethoven’s 9th symphony is playing – pretty majestic, isn’t it? Otherwise the episode wasn’t particularly exceptional – the pervy oji-san hopefully won’t appear ever again, the problem got solved in quite a plain way as if it was an afterthought and Sanae got a new way to connect with Manoyama. I don’t know, maybe as with the village, there won’t be any hope for Manoyama left eventually as the population inevitably is getting older and young people are migrating out of rural areas. Sakura Quest doesn’t deny that but instead suggests to find some ways to record what has yet remained and possibly to slow down the process of destruction. Even if the girls are working so hard and let’s be frank, the results are only bringing some happiness to the town and not new people, there probably are hundreds of such towns not only in Japan but also in the rest of the world that can’t afford as much manpower (or of such caliber) or other resources to at least stay afloat. And that’s rather sad.