Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 4

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 4)

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

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 4)

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

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 4)

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

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 17)

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

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

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

 

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Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 3

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 3)

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

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 3)

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

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 3)

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

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 16)

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

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

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

 

Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 2

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 1)

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

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 2)

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

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 2)

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

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 2)

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

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 15)

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

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

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

 

Musings and Reflections – end of Summer 2017

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

Ballroom e Youkoso

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

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

Made in Abyss

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

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

Re:Creators

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

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 24)

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

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

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

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

Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 1

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 1)

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

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 1)

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

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 14)

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

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

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

 

Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 0

 

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

Kino no Tabi

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

Mahoutsukai no Yome

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

Ballroom e Youkoso

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

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

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

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

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

 

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 14

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 13)

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

Made in Abyss (Ep. 13)

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