Musings and Reflections – end of 2017

      Well well well, ain’t it an obligatory year-end post, eh? How was the last year? Well, quite normal to be frank. Personally I think I feel just like usual with neither big announcements nor any news. How was it for the anime world? Quite good, I guess. Last year  I found that in MAL Top 100 anime list there were 16 titles made in 2016. This year in that respect seems to be similar – it’s 15. Yeah, people really don’t hype up new shows. Out of these 15 titles only 3 have no connection with earlier entries, that is they are not related to any previously aired show. It’s quite natural that sequels are overrated as they are watched mainly by people who already know they would like it. And you ask what these 3 great shows are? Well, one of them is Violet Evergarden, so technically it’s not even started yet, but it seems like regardless of it’s airing date it will definitely be considered one of the better stuff made by KyoAni. Or at least I hope so. That leaves only 2 anime and they are Made in Abyss and Mahoutsukai no Yome. I’m not so sure about the latter one being one of the greatest anime ever(though it definitely has charm), but Made in Abyss certainly looks so.

Out of everything I’ve watched this year, apart from Made in Abyss the second season of Rakugo, Scum’s Wish and Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou felt like ones deserving the biggest praise. To a lesser degree Natsume and Mahoutsukai no Yome also did many things right. Then there’s Hand Shakers (if you want to have a good laugh), but beware of dizziness watching all these CG chains. So yeah, everything’s looking quite positively as there undoubtedly are many great shows being made right now. It’s very likely that the trend will continue (with Violet Evergarden in the front I hope), so I guess it’s a great time being an anime fan. Yet, you have to be extremely cautious as there’re many times as much bad stuff as there’s good, but in the end if the industry will be able to survive its own terrific pace, us anime viewers won’t be bored any time soon.

     Speaking of non-seasonal anime, last year I wrote that I was (and still am) quite a newby who still hadn’t seen Clannad, Madoka Magica, Monogatari series or Death Note. I guess I haven’t been totally idle since that’s no longer the case for Madoka and Bakemonogatari. As expected, these two shows were something. Also I’m very happy I had a chance to finally savor Monster, Shirokuma Cafe, Koe no Katachi, Flip Flappers and exceptionally beautiful Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni. It might be not as fun community-wise, but certainly far safer to immerse into already tried and tested older anime. So, dear reader, don’t miss out on some great stories that are already waiting for you – seasonal anime won’t escape anywhere. Might as well say the same thing about manga – great stories are waiting. For example try out some Nijigahara Holograph or Pluto that proved to be my favorites this year.

      New Year’s Resolutions? Well, I don’t practice such stuff much, but sometimes it’s good to have a written goal in front of you. A dream would be to find one or two anime worth 10/10. Well, if I’ll be successful reaching at least 350 entries on MAL (right now I’ve got over 250. Not many, not many…), it seems like a more or less doable task. Possible candidates? It’d be cool to finally get to Kimi no na Wa, Anohana and more Monogatari. Some Spice and Wolf light novels are comfortably sitting on my shelf, so there’s another potential direction to take. Also, I’d like to be more consistent with other write-ups beside my episodic Musings and Reflections. It’s quite easy to scribble a short paragraph after an episode of an anime, but definitely not as satisfying as writing something bigger. So yeah, the following year looks to be interesting enough.

     Dear reader, thanks for stopping by this time as well as others. I’m very happy to be a part of this wonderful community of truly talented writers and thinkers (that includes You), and I’m looking forward to the future that looks quite interesting. Happy New Year, everyone! Cheers!


Musings and Reflections – end of Fall 2017

     Well, it had to happen some time. My 6th sense during the start of the Fall season decided to completely turn off. How else could you explain my thoughts that Dies Irae might be decent enough? Thankfully I had enough sense not to choose it but still I ended up watching all this sub-par anime. Kino no Tabi actually never was going to be that good, Ballroom was a choice of my completionist-self and Kujira no Kura was a total fail of judgement beforehand. I should’ve chosen Netjuu no Susume, Just Because or Houseki no Kuni. Might as well do that later, but now’s time to wrap up everything that I did watch.

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou

     After getting Made in Abyss last season and now this one I begin to wonder if moe-blob (literally) shows have become the new standard of quality. As Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou is a slice of life series, it’s hard to tell much about its story, but the execution deserves all the praise it can get. In principle making such a simple idea of two girls travelling alone (for the most time) interesting actually is pretty hard, but the show managed to fill every episode with little events and philosophical ideas so I can’t say I was ever bored. The show’s incredibly good at examining even the most basic of concepts because it’s just nothing else to do and arriving to conclusion that no matter what you do, no matter the circumstances (be they post-apocalyptic or not) there’s still much good in the world and you just have to keep living on. If you do, everything will be ok. When I put it like that, it sounds like a show Kino no Tabi should’ve been (a similar idea alsovcan be extracted from the wonderful film Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni which you should definitely watch). Anyway, you can argue that the color palette of Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou was a bit dull (though that’s understandable considering the setting) and CG wasn’t always top notch, but everything else (including the beautiful soundtrack) worked wonders. It’s just a good show.

     When other choices are as bad as Kino, it’s no wonder that Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou receives awards for having my favourite OST and generally being my favorite show of the season.

Kino no Tabi

    Oh, Kino. I can’t remember when was the last time I was so annoyed by any show. It seems like the old Kino cherry-picked all the best stories while this one let the fate decide what to adapt, and fate wasn’t favorable that day. Well, it looks like even the fate couldn’t have saved it since even apart from the stories there’s nothing to remember. Unless you like pretty bland character designs, sterile environments and yes, sooo aggressive CG sheep. To return to the story-telling, there was very little of it done right. No central theme, no characterization of Kino (who was absent from a huge chunk of the show in the first place), ridiculous decisions and actions of the characters… Sometimes it even seemed like the creators actively tried to portray Kino as someone she clearly wasn’t. Killing people left and right, destroying countries back and forth – is that really Kino? Well, I’m fed up. The show thankfully ended and let’s leave it at that. #KinoHadOnlyOneAdaptation.

     Kino no Tabi receives the random award for being that terrible remake (or whatever it is) of the season that nobody asked nor needed.

Mahoutsukai no Yome

     I don’t have much to say about this one except stating the obvious fact that it’s another good show. I’m still not really buying Chise’s enarmourment and unconditional trust in Elias. A girl whose relationships before where nothing but a total wreck should be more cautious, especially since her benefactor clearly doesn’t show all his cards and isn’t likely to do that anytime soon. Other than that, Mahoutsukai no Yome has been a very pleasant experience. Let alone the setting is nothing but unique, exchanging usual Japanese high school to rural England (with some Iceland here and there). Naturally the magical creatures are also mainly of Germanic (or at least European) origin, so it inevitably feels very original. Chise’s gradual growth and slow coming into terms with her problems by interacting with the mesmerizing outside world is definitely a memorable experience, greatly enhanced by the beautiful soundtrack. If there’s a show about the beauty of magic, this one is at least a strong contender for such a title.

     Mahoutsukai no Yome receives the award for most memorable character, that being Elias. Of course there were others that I loved to love or loved to hate but it’s hard to be as original as a mysterious slave-trader guy with a skull for a head. The show also gets the award for the most impressive scenery despite being strongly contested by Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou and Kujira no Kora.

Ballroom e youkoso

     To summarise it with one word – it’s disappointing. The first cour provided a more or less decent story so to see Tatara demoted to the level of newbie and separate with Mako regardless of how well they clicked and performed didn’t sit well with me. This second cour managed to get deeper into the hearts of the characters and that’s really fine but the problem is that all the characters are either acting off-screen (likable ones) or making the show way worse. Yep, I’m speaking primarily about you, Chinatsu. It’s perfectly alright to have a character with her insecurities and hot-bloodedness but I think that the growth of her bond with Tatara was severely underrepresented from her perspective. And let’s just be frank – Chinatsu especially at the start was nothing but an annoying brat. The show also felt like it had wasted its energy towards the end when this final competition took ages to complete. It was due to all these flashbacks and stuff sprinkled so densely that at some points it did look like the main story isn’t important at all. And for example all the flashbacks concerning Chinatsu and Akira didn’t show how exactly the two became enemies. Yes, it was interesting to see their pasts but in the end we didn’t learn anything substantial, so what was the point again? And finally, I’m afraid there just wasn’t enough dancing. Well, dancing per se. Very few moments made me look in awe to the sakuga and feel that it certainly was cool. Usually two or three-second cuts at best paired with boring commentary from the public – it isn’t anything I’d call an uplifting representation of a thrilling sport.

     Ballroom e youkoso receives the random award of pacing the story so well and showing so much sakuga during dance scenes that I almost fell asleep.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau

      It’s bad. Don’t watch it. At worst case watch the trailers and take a good look at the  amazing art. But do not watch the damn show. Countless characters dying before receiving any development, hell, some even before I realized they were there, and the show naively hopes I’ll cry as much as other characters int he show itself did? Trying to tug at the heartstrings by continuously reminding of the dead waifu of the main guy and pushing a new one in the picture? Nah, not buying it. Continuously inventing new magical creatures, magical phenomena, and no one knows what else without explaining much and making it a coherent world-building? Check. Spending time in order to flesh out the villains but then not using that buildup anywhere? Also check. Well, I just want to forget I spent my time watching this. It’s not worth any more time trying to simply write down more flaws, of whom there’re many. Just take my word for it – this show doesn’t make any sense. Sure, the visuals are beautiful, but everything else – a big nope. Let’s just forget it for good.

     Kujira no Kora receives the random award of providing the steepest slope of  the change of my enjoyment during its run. Only the slope went downwards.

     Favorite OP of the season is that of Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryouko – dabbing aside, it’s pretty catchy (it’s not surprising that a song about moving has such a steady rhythm) and well emphasizes the relationship between the girls and their optimistic stance towards the world. What more could an OP do?

     Favorite ED of the season after some considerations became that of Mahoutsukai no Yome. Again, Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou did an amazing job, but this one was far more different form others in terms of sound that in the end I couldn’t decide otherwise.

Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 12

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 12)

    I guess it’s as satisfying ending as there ever was going to be. The show started with two girls in a snowy field bickering and ended also in a snowy field, but now our pair exchanged confirmations of friendship. Also as in the temple episode it was Yuu who was scared because of the disappearance of her partner, now it’s Chi’s time to get worried. Both girls still remain unhurt and follow their journey upward. It’s clear that the world breaks all around and there will hardly be any way to come back down, so it’s literally the last tour of the girls with its fair share of hopelessness. The scene where the girls found out about the contents of the camera was quite sublime. I’m not sure how one person could’ve placed so much and especially so varied content in one piece of equipment, but it’s a sci-fi series after all. The only weird thing was that when we were shown an orchestra playing, the music (as good as always) featured only a piano. The truth about the blob(-mushroom)-creatures makes sense. Ability to neutralize thermally unstable equipment makes them ultimate weapons as well as ultimate threats to humanity. No wonder that humanity would build statues praising the omnipotent power that may grant peace. Still, any great power needs to be regulated so in this light it’s not a complete mystery about how the world became such a desolate place.

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 12)

     I’m sorry, this is wrong on so many levels. I mean, the whole show wasn’t great but to end everything like this? Ridiculous to say the least. For starters, why is Kino afraid of this sheep army in the first place? It’s not that they were that aggressive, they simply tried to come closer. It’s even weirder knowing that a motorbike should outrun them. And don’t tell me Kino couldn’t just go along the ravine for some time and then return to the road. It’s ridiculous – both the sheep and the choice to leave Hermes and go down. This left car poses another question – would a sane person abandon his vehicle and kill himself for absolutely no reason rather than sitting in the car and playing some sheep-bowling, just like Kino did? This sheep genocide by itself feels incredibly wrong (and I don’t need to be an animal rights activist), especially knowing that Kino could’ve easily avoided doing this. Multiple times. Let’s don’t even talk about the abysmal CG. The very last segment theoretically concluded the whole show and Kino’s ideals but in practice Kino and Hermes just reiterated the same two sentences like 5 times. Shut up already. Thanks. At least I had a blast laughing out of the sheep VA’s.

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 12)

    Is this a musical after all? The song definitely captured the mood but I wouldn’t say it seamlessly transited from Lindel talking to Lindel singing. I can still consciously notice that “oh hey, an insert song just started” and that means the integration wasn’t perfect. On the other hand the OP repeated during Chise’s flight didn’t have such a problem – I just realized in the middle of the scene that it’s actually the OP I was hearing. Well, the flight itself was great. It actually feels something worth of a season finale, both this flight and all the magic during the last episode. You may have different opinions about the show but I think no one can complain about the recent quality of the visuals. It also feels like a season finale because Chise was finally enlightened that her complexes about being unwanted by Elias are largely unfounded. Still there’s lots of space for further developments because I don’t think Chise has already come into terms with her past. She may be able to forget it for the time being and enjoy doing ordinary (or magical) stuff but inevitably I got a feeling that there still is a dark cloud hanging over her. When nothing exciting is happening Chise remains silent and anxious, her past fears mixed with her uncertainty about her future. After this trip to Iceland it looks like Chise is finally determined to breach her current wall of problems, but it will ultimately mean nothing if her past remains veiled and unconfronted.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 12)

     That’s a damn useless ending to a damn useless show. What’s the overall message in the first place? No matter how many people die, you’ll still get a waifu? Really? Well, this episode was just incredibly weird mess of everything that in my mind simply can’t connect the slightest. If we take this show as a story and forget for the time being that it’s just a (pretty bad) ad for the manga, it makes things even worse. What’s even the point in dedicating time for the villain? In the end he only gets a new ship and does absolutely nothing apart from participating in boring political games that mean nothing and talking big, and that also means nothing since at this point it’s only talking. That Masoo guy probably had been given the most time on screen compared to all other deceased characters, so think it only begins to border a minimum time a character must have for his death to have any meaning. Naturally it goes without saying that the episode with Chakuro’s dead waifu (whatever her name was) again felt meaningless. These two dudes trying to rebel at first ended their affair extremely unticlimactically, then resumed it and ended it again. Why feature it then? Lykos randomly getting rocked over the board and being rescued by Chakuro in order to affirm their waifu-husbando relations proceeded without any emotions, high stakes, or to be precise, any stakes at all. The only interesting thing I noticed was the fact that Chakuro writes in Greek letters. But again, it’s just a piece of trivia that has no meaning. I don’t know, I feel that either I’m incredibly stupid and just can’t understand anything about this show, or really it’s almost as a trainwreck  that Kino is. Which makes an interesting comparison – which one of them do I despise more?

Shirokuma Cafe – the ultimate slice of life

Alternative title Polar Bear Cafe
Studio Studio Pierrot
Genres Comedy, Slice of Life
Source Manga
Episodes 50
Season Spring 2012 – Winter 2013
Director Mitsuyuki Masuhara
Music Kenji Kondou

    The world seems to be going faster and faster and it’s become not the rarest sight to observe people complaining about enormous piles of new anime that need to be watched. At this point even the 3-episode-rule looks to consume far more time than an average laid-back person has at his disposal. And that’s to say not even taking into account how many great anime have been made before. If you try to keep up with every single more prominent airing anime you must rule out shortening your backlog by the tiniest bit. Another aspect of watching anime nowadays is the shortening of its length. 2-cour shows seem to be getting pretty uncommon as the market is dominated by 12-episode anime. It’s even getting shorter if you take into account recaps that find their way even in 1-cour shows. In all this light it seems very impractical to talk about some older and lengthier anime. Who has enough time and commitment for Legend of the Galactic Heroes? If we are talking about less prominent shows that aren’t considered milestones or anything, it becomes treading the territory of total obscurity. And it turns out there are some little gems here and there. If you have time and commitment that is.

    Chances are on the Internet you have probably seen some weird images of llamas or belly-dancing bears that look like they could have come from an anime. Rejoice – it really is and that anime is Shirokuma Cafe. The show brings the viewer to its weird world where humanized animals live among humans and nobody finds that unnatural or weird. It’s just the way it is. As one of the main characters Panda (yep, that’s both his name and species. Convenient, isn’t it?) is introduced, it becomes more than clear that such a lazy being can mean only the slowest kind of slice of life series, and 50 episodes of that, to be exact. As usual, such a show takes various real life scenarios and puts them into use, so the only difference from many other slice of life anime is that there characters are mainly animals.

Excerpt from the OST: Odekake by Kenji Kondou

So what would animals visiting a café run by a polar bear (Shirokuma) would do? As expected, all kinds of more or less inconsequential stuff – talking about smartphones, talking about jobs, talking about childhood memories, going on various trips – you name it. There isn’t any overarcing story but from time to time it’s clear that the world isn’t static and among some episodes that can be watched in whatever order there are little stories that provide a clear sense of progression of lives of the characters – for example the misadventures of the love life of Penguin. Still these glimpses are too far apart no to call the show episodic and in the end not everything is concluded the way it could’ve been. There are some patterns in the episodic stories that may look too overused – I can’t even remember how many times Panda had some odd idea fixed in his head and tried to pursue it in his own way (that usually defeats the purpose) before eventually bailing out to start something similar the next episode. Unexpectedly, the show also has an educational side to it – a rare segments tell some details about the making of coffee and somehow I feel weirdly proud to have learned to distinguish some species of Antarctic penguins, so it’s not that everything’s just usual slice of life material.

    Shirokuma Cafe is mainly centered on Shirokuma, the titular owner of the café, and two of his customers/friends – Panda (an embodiment of laziness) and Penguin (pretty much a straight man… ehm… bird). Due to the shows length there of course are many more animals with their own little and quite entertaining stories, but the main trio is never forgotten for long. The animals themselves in Shirokuma Cafe are very similar to ordinary humans – with their own problems, hopes and wishes – the only difference is having tails, flippers, claws and the like. The animality is never forgotten though – a running gag that no one can see how Penguin or Llama gets on a chair in the café may be an example. Such quirks strengthen the immersion and make you believe that if there ever could be a cafe for talking animals, they would behave exactly that.

Perfect excuse

Other quite funny personal characteristics that depend on the physicality of the animals include Llama using a smartphone with his tongue, Sloth being carried on a tree branch in order to go shopping, Grizzly looking for a part-timer for his bar since his winter hibernation awaits. Through all the 50 episodes many animals appear, some of them clichéd like the same Sloth or Turtle who speak unbearably slow. Other may lead unexpected lives like a bunch of porcupines that formed an idol group, but each and every one of the animals gracefully and organically become parts of a bigger picture. The show isn’t completely devoid of humans but they seem to contrast the liveliness of the animals – the two most frequent personae are a waitress Sasako and a zookeeper Handa. Sasako from time to time lets out a funny remark while Handa is best known for having hobbies of keeping everything clean and collecting pebbles. If it sounds dull, it is but for every gag comedy you need some straight characters and these two serve that purpose more often than not. Still, it’s primarily a show about animal interactions so don’t expect anything significant from our humans.

I beg your pardon?

     Apart from the usual slice of life stuff, Shirokuma Cafe also employs comedy (as you probably already guessed), and does that quite a lot. Right in the first episode Panda is forced by his mother to get a part time job. Well, he does that, finding employment in a local zoo as… a panda. Yup, it’s silly, but at least for me it did work brilliantly. The comedy of course doesn’t end here. Shirokuma himself is probably best characterized by his unending puns – purposefully mishearing some words and presenting them visually. As with pretty much all the setting it needed some time to get comfortable with, but once that is achieved, you may find some mild fun. At least a person more or less fluent in Japanese should.  As I mentioned before, many comedic segments come from the animals trying to do human things, and even after completing all the show I can say I’m definitely not tired of the endless inventiveness of the creators in this respect.

A rare sakuga excerpt from the anime; animation by Yoshihiro Kanno

  Keeping a show running for a longer time usually prevents the animation from anything spectacular and Shirokuma Cafe isn’t an exception. Despite the quality and cuteness  of the character designs the visuals look rather dull, although still serviceable. Sakuga is pretty much nonexistent (apart from one or two special occasions) and you have to be happy not to get anyone off model. Still, there’s some movement and in the end the purpose of the story is not to outshine each and every high-budget production but to simply provide some soothing entertainment and essentially it is accomplished. And I just can‘t get Sasako-san from my head. She‘s just one of the most adorable anime girls ever.

 Best girl

    Knowing that Shirokuma Cafe is a very low-key anime you have to wonder how it came to pass that its voice actor cast is nothing short of spectacular. You don’t need to be well versed in such matters to have heard about Takahiro Sakurai, Daisuke Ono, Hiroshi Kamiya, Jun Fukuyama, Rie Kugimiya, Mamiko Noto or Yuuichi Nakamura. Even Mamoru Miyano, Akira Ishida and Tomokazu Sugita make their appearances. From the top of my head I can’t remember any show that could boast of such a cast, and it’s very puzzling. The class of the VAs clearly shows – each of the characters becomes even more distinctive – so much that you could probably easily distinguish, say, Penguin’s voice from any other‘s or from many other anime characters’ in general. The only minor disappointment was Kana Hanazawa’s performance as Panda’s sister Mei-mei. KanaHana is nothing but typecasted for cute little girls but I think such an energetic performance was at odds with the general lazy-ish image of pandas. The soundtrack although quite varied, naturally mostly caters the same palate as the whole show – rarely picking up tempo and relying mostly on simply melodies and few instruments, one of which usually provides the base and the other – the melody. There are enough quirks here and there (an unexpected rap piece for example) but keeping everything simple takes the priority any time. Especially if you have seen the show and remember the themes, listening repeatedly might bring back the nostalgic laid-back feeling so even if it probably won’t be your first choice, there are countless times worse things to listen when you’re stressed.

Excerpt from the OST: Oyasumi, Arigatou by Kenji Kondou

    The EDs and previews of Shirokuma Cafe definitely need to be mentioned. In the previews there are paper cutouts of the main characters placed in some real life locations while the VAs provide voice overs. The EDs move even further – the music in them is basically character songs, but the animation goes overboard – live action, various mosaics, stop-motion technique and other methods are used to create if not the most memorable but definitely particularly unique EDs in anime. Even if you have no wish to watch the anime, do yourself a favor and take a peak at the EDs. Please.

    When you synchronize with the rhythm of the show it becomes absolutely unimportant what exactly happens, though to be frank usually nothing happens at all. You just want to immerse and see more of enjoyable characters bantering around, maybe doing some stuff together and then going back to doing nothing. Eventually you start caring because there are lots of endearing moments scattered here and there – the message of optimism and friendship is definitely there. Shirocuma Cafe may be predictable and incredibly silly at times but at least for me it was just what I needed – a little dose of soothing and mood-enhancing medicine from time to time with fond memories for long.

    I believe, this anime is



     A slice of life for 50 episodes? It’s either madness or a paradise depending on your viewpoint. Anyone looking for upbeat action or impressive story will have to look elsewhere but someone with a simple wish to relax and let all the real life problems disappear for half an hour each time may find the show very appealing. Please try and enjoy!

     Have you perchance seen Shirokuma Cafe? Are you able to tolerate slice of life shows in general? If yes, what are your favorites?

Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 11

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 11)

    Usual dark overtones suddenly got way darker. Even this new Blob-like pet seemed amusing and unsettling equally when it turned out that it can eat bullets. The story then went to emphasize how little we actually know about anything. Well, just look at a human body – we use it every day in countless ways but how often do we start pondering how exactly does it work? What needs to be done in order to simply raise a hand? And that’s juts harmless stuff since the girls involuntarily start playing with guns, big ones. I agree with Chi that to some extent such boundless curiosity (like Yuu’s) is a force that drives humanity forward. Where would we be as a species if there hadn’t been “I wonder what will happen if I do this” moments. Such trait is also very helpful surviving in an apocalyptic setting when you can find useful stuff in weirdest places. On the other hand, such eagerness needs to be controlled – and that’s also a reason why our duo works so well as a pair. Curiosity needs to have its own place and time since doing anything you don’t know about may even be lethal. And Yuu doesn’t even care that much. It’s understandable as it’s very characteristic of her not to care much about anything but also it’s worrying – how many conflicts and even wars were started when one side just didn’t bother to check things out before going full speed? The message probably is that you need to toss both sides of a coin at once – too much anxiety as well as uncontrolled adventurous mood have their costs that sometimes might be rather expensive. The final moments of the episode provided a nice little escalation towards the finale as Chi finally got an idea that the Blob and weird statues might have a connection. Whatever it might be, after such carelessness in this episode I’m worried about Yuu’s future behavior in this nuclear submarine. And by the way what is it doing on a nth layer of a huge city where you should be more likely to found a plain rather that a ship?

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 11)

    If Kino loves to sing so much why haven’t we heard that like ever before? To be frank apart from some nice shots and the fact that Kino looked more cute, there were no things that were more memorable compared to the old version. Well, in principle you just don’t fix anything that isn’t broken. Or if it’s too broken, you fix it until it’s fixed. The new show didn’t do either, so I’m disappointed again. Of course it might be that I’m already prejudiced against the new Kino because of previous episodes, but I’m not the only one who isn’t happy about the way the things go. Probably the biggest problem is that in the original Kino this episode and the one before were shown in a reversed order, and it served far better. This new way makes it far more difficult to see the circumstantial connection between Sakura last time and Kino now. The story isn’t perfect either. When you see a good villain, you at least understand where his motivations come from, even if you don’t agree with him. A bad villain? Anyone that acts like a jerk for no other reason except that the author wanted so. Does it ring any bells already? Seeing Kino’s parents act like they did urges me to drop the show rather than ponder the possible moral problems and implications. There’s just no way I can believe a whole country would happily try to kill a child for one wrong sentence, her parents wholeheartedly included, surgery or no surgery. Well, in reality there might be some communities of some unbelievably mad people but does it make an entertaining story? For me – no, at least not as here.

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 11)

    That’s what I call magic. I’m very glad about the way the show treats all this supernatural stuff. Magic there seems to be almost a separate character who needs to be dealt with and respected. It isn’t inherently good or bad, it just is. For humans magic really should seem wondrous and scary to say the least (just like that Elias’ rage scene – effective beyond a doubt). Magic is something you as a human don’t feel a part of, something you simply can’t understand. The setting itself adds much to this feeling – not using anything remotely Japanese and tapping into old mythologies that have deep roots in the unknown is a perfect choice to evoke this feeling of amazement and awe. Still, I understand that Elias wants to stay clean and not to reveal anything that might scare his bride, but the way he behaves isn’t fair. Sure, technically Chise is bought by him but still if she’s treated like an equal, she has a right to know what kind of person she had herself mixed with. Maybe Elias just doesn’t understand that and thinks that objectively it’s best for Chise to be left in the dark but that doesn’t make him a more likable character. The only thing I’m still really concerned with is the chibi stuff, but you can’t have absolutely perfect episode, can you?

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 24)

    It’s said that all is well that ends well. Technically everything went fantastic for Tatara and Chinatsu, but count me disappointed. For once, I don’t think they deserved to win. Making so many mistakes early on that anyone could see makes it look like you can perform well once or twice, other times fail horribly, and it will still be ok. It’s just weird that apart from Tatara, out of all couples we saw only Kugimiya stumble only once, and there was absolutely no commentary on other pairs. I get that others might have made a millions of mistakes, but please at least show it. Also the situation isn’t perfect considering moral perspective – a pair that’s just formed with no experience in my opinion shouldn’t outperform a returned elite dancer whose skill is unquestionable, even if their performances are comparable. All things considered, a second place still would’ve been a huge achievement for Tatara. Moving on, it’s true that for some people it isn’t meant to become dancers but stating straightforwardly that you may be a pro for 10 years and a newbie might outdance you is just cruel. The same goes with the statement that you can be a god on a dance floor but if a judge is prejudiced against your style – you’ll achieve nothing. So yeah, the judging system seems to be completely broken. Cool. Still, what annoyed me the most was the superposition of the culmination of the competition and the wrapping-up moments. As far as I know, the part “quick” in “quickstep” is there for a reason, so playing a lyrical track over such a dance is nothing but strange. The competition should’ve ended way back so all these acknowledgements that “I love dancing” could’ve been saved for at least one cohesive episode. I’m just not ready to constantly switch between the high-speed pace of the finale of the competition and the slow crawl of various flashbacks and revelations. Say what you will but after all this time I still don’t believe that Tatara and Chinatsu are an efficient pair. At least Chinatsu definitely isn’t anyone I would want to have to deal with. Is it normal to constantly provoke and unsettle your partner by unimportant questions (“Why do you dance?” and stuff) at  moments when you need just to concentrate and give your best in order to achieve the best performance possible?

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 11)

    I’m not even sure writing about the show is worth the time I spend doing it. What’s the point in introducing even more on-time-only discardable characters? What’s the point in showing that the main villain is so devious that he can make a death sentence a blessing for future mischiefs incredibly easy due to absolutely incompetent dudes getting manipulated? What’s the point in having two basically unknown characters start a coup? What’s even the point in stating that the Whale eats people’s lives in order to give them power? I guess everyone assumed so in the very first episode. Of course it might be new that precisely the Whale itself does that but come on – do you need to be incredibly smart to guess that if someone has something but hasn’t got something else, these two things might be connected? I don’t appreciate the fact that the show creates new concepts only when something extraordinary is shown. In other words, there’s no foreshadowing that, say, Ouni is a demon. And these things (let’s say Ouni again) aren’t properly explained. I’ve still no idea what are these beings in the cores of the Whales and what’s the deal with that Neri (Ema or what’s her name) girl. The overall structure also feels questionable. I doubt this new arc of travelling to that other country will finish next time, so that would leave us with 1,5 arc per season. Pretty inconvenient, isn’t it? Especially considering that all these red-shirt characters severely lacked screen time to become important to the viewers. Oh well. At least it won’t be much longer till the end.


Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 10

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 10)

     What. Is. That. Thing. At least I can confirm that it definitely isn’t a cat. What it reminds me of is those weird statues with even weirder looks. I’ve no idea if it’s a coincidence but to worship some animal (if it is an animal after all) may not look that queer if we remember that the Internet is overloaded with cat pictures. Of course it’s difficult to imagine how the creature manages to talk, and apparently does that via the radio. Maybe it’s a futuristic robot-pet? The girls may find no more than they already know but some following episodes should be interesting. Well, there’re only two left so I guess building for some sort of a finale wouldn’t be so strange after all. Apart from the finding of the creature, themes of time and music were examined. I wouldn’t say those segments were the most interesting ones but still the mere fact that the show chose to address them makes it respectable. Probably every person needs a personal Yuu who would question the most obvious things because I think sometimes it’s a very good idea to strip from all your knowledge and experiences and just rethink even the most basic stuff. Just in order to appreciate some naturally occurring things more.

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 10)

     I’m afraid I must say once again that the original did better. Even then I did have a problem with the stupidity of the people who chose rather to die than to live for no reason and, even worse, decided that their children should die also. Because why not? Would a sane parent rather wish to save his child if there’s even a tiniest possibility? Nah, let them all die. It’s not like you can’t move half a kilometer from the danger zone. Oh well. Still, even with this unthinkable element, in the original Kino Kind Country was one of the strongest episodes. Why? It resonated with Kino, and we knew that as well as the reason of it. Back then in episode 4 Kino’s backstory was revealed and it was more than obvious that Kino shares many similarities with Sakura. Sadly for anyone who didn’t know that the story now loses a very important (I’d even say essential and crucial) layer because it’s a particularly rare occasion when we see Kino deeply moved, thrown from her comfort zone completely. For the newcomers it might not even seem like a stand-out episode. And that’s really a shame. The new Kino stumbled also in other ways – Sakura’s favorite place as well as the eruption scene were done far more impressively in the old show, not to mention Kino’s shock. I might not think particularly highly of Kino no Tabi as a story (no matter the iteration) but I certainly believe it doesn’t deserve to get such an adaptation as this one.

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 10)

     I’m quite happy that the show continuously addresses my main problem of the story – Chise being unconditionally attached to Elias even though in theory their relationship shouldn’t work that well. Still, the main point of the episode was the backstory of Lindel and Elias. The first part of it, that is. The introduction of Elias as a black form with glowing eyes in the middle of the storm was very impressive. To be frank, all the backgrounds are worth mentioning. Anyway, I’m afraid that without a continuation there’s little that can be concluded, apart from the fact that Elias and Lindel were very close from the start. There’re also some bits and pieces to be collected from Renfred’s talk with Elias though again I’ll rather wait for the next episode before making any guesses. At least it’s clear that Renfred is also concerned about Chise’s safety (even if for selfish reasons), and that’s quite nice of him. Lindel’s Shishou seems like an interesting character who should appear sometime in the future.

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 23)

     Well, I’m not sure what exactly I want from a sports show but Ballroom isn’t giving me that. This tournament arc is spanning unbelievably long, and naturally to maintain the tension as well as interest in it is also an unbelievably hard task. Once again the present events are interrupted by random flashbacks that sure, make sense and add more to the characters, but I still don’t think it’s reasonable to let them get in the way of the main story. Some other really unnecessary moments also felt like they have no business there. The audience commenting on the dancers came as annoying. Even if the commentators usually are characters we already (should) care about, they rarely say anything important. It’s either so obvious that it would be surprising if anyone couldn’t say the same, or just some old material being reiterated for a thousandth time, just like telling the main difference between Kugimiya pair and Tatara pair. Also isn’t this competition supposed to be of a high level? I can’t fathom how worse everyone must be dancing since our protagonists managed to get into the final after such a terrible performance. The animation noticeably improved and I’m very glad about it. It seems that the final stretch is already there and the last episode should be even better. Anyway, Ballroom stopped to look like a spectacle (if it ever was one) way before and now there’s only iterations of seen things, only with heightened (supposedly) stakes and little, almost unnoticeable changes. I guess the only real benefit of watching this is my growing appreciation of Yuri!!! on Ice. That show had its own fair share of stumbles but I could never say I was that bored or that the skating routines (even if reused) looked repetitive.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 10)

     Sometimes I think whether the show purposefully tries to test my patience. It’s very sad that an adventure that started so well ultimately ended up on the same disappointing level as Kino. Random people having random conversations? Ok, but what of it? I can now remember some of the new faces but I don’t even think it’s meaningful since ultimately everyone still will die horrible deaths. An onsen segment? Seriously? I thought dumb jokes were done for after that but of course not – of course you have to introduce more useless people, and do that in a completely laughable circumstances. And by laughable I don’t mean that it was intended sort of laughable. Decision to introduce a plot twist so that the obnoxious villain remains alive is also questionable. The same might be said about the introduction of the second mascot character. We already had one so why add another? Does a Whale operate better with two of them? Couldn’t that red-haired girl explain everything from the start? It’s frustrating to see the show lose all the focus it had and try so many things (of whom none actually work) in order to drive the story (if there is one) forward. As a side note – do these people bath only when there’s a shortage of water? If so I doubt the overwhelming smell would be that of milk. And in the first place – how often should it rain in the desert for all these people to have enough water? The same goes with food – a population of the Whale is certainly beyond a score or two and that means enormous demand of food, such that I doubt a ship of such size could supply.


Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 9

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 9)

     Getting even more philosophical, aren’t we? I guess it was inevitable that in this futuristic world some robots were introduced. Especially the appearance of the BigGuy was impressive, as the direction from the very beginning emphasized how small the girls are and how huge and claustrophobic the environment is. And then – this enormous robot, clearly seeming hostile or at least not anything you wouldn’t evade. The way Yuu guessed that the SmallGuy would appear with his “Konnichiwa” was certainly predictable but still funny. So yeah, this whole business about defining what life is proved to be one of the most thoughtful episodes of the show. How much a machine should resemble a human being in order to be called alive? Is mindless office work any more meaningful than, say, feeding a single fish every day? The BigGuy also reminded me strongly of Ishii and Kanazawa – he still did his job (no matter that he was programmed to do it and did it not because he was passionate about it) paying no attention to the fact that what he did made sense only in a normal and functioning society while in this post-apocalyptic world there’s no use neither for making maps nor for recycling materials of an unused factory. Even if the demise of the BigGuy was sadly inevitable, the show still proves that no matter the circumstances, life always finds a way. Even among all the destruction the girls are still alive (and quite happy), the fish also lives (for now) as does its caretaker. Well, it’s definitely weird that the show made me care for the fish who was barely here, I’m not even talking about some dialogue or any prominent action.

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 9)

     Well, I’m just disappointed and not even mad anymore. A single episode of Kino rarely feels appropriately long to explore all the ideas it has, and I’m talking about the old Kino. This new Kino is similar, only the ideas are less interesting, that is if there are any. This episode might be a crown jewel of uselessly burning your time without telling anything. So many stories in one episode? Not to mention that they are pretty stupid. What’s the point in spending time on confirming that Kino and Shizu shouldn’t be attacked? We already know that and it’s natural that someone who has some experience can also tell that. Oh well. The president says that the system is perfect but seconds later denies that with his actions. I’ve no idea if it’s theoretically possible to have such a system that could at least decently work – you need enormous amount of work counting the points and in the end they mean nothing. What’s the difference between +100 points and +100000 points? Sure, you may feel better but what of it? Does the president really want to kill if he’s been able to resist it for so long? He’s just nuts, just like any other character from the show. Oh well. The cooking part means absolutely nothing. It may work (only may and nothing more) if I cared about the characters or there would be any connection with other parts of the show. Sadly there isn’t so it remains yet another pointless segment. Oh well. Segment about wishes probably lasted less than to write this sentence so that’s that.  Oh well. The last story at least had an interesting premise. Still, there’s something fundamentally wrong when a human is forced to take a memory erasing drug why a bike can only make a promise not to tell anything. When Hermes told that Kino was her usual self, did it mean that Kino shot lots of people and completely obliterated the country? Oh well…

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 9)

     Some weeks ago I posed a question about the relationship between Chise and Elias. This time Angelica (Ruth to some extent and even Chise herself) basically voiced my concerns. On one hand it can be understandable that Chise inadvertently began to care for Elias simply because in his house she isn’t treated as bad as before. Knowing that doesn’t make it look comfortable, though. Elias hasn’t done anything bad for sure but he’s just been acting as a guardian for Chise, with only occasional (and not that smooth) gestures that suggests that he calls her his future bride not for amusement. Still in my point of view Elias isn’t anyone who would evoke as strong bonding behavior as we clearly see with Chise. Well, in principal I’m not against a girl falling for a guy with a skull for a face but in this case everything almost seems to border Stockholm syndrome. I guess my problem is just that Chise grew fond of Elias too quickly and without anything substantial to justify it. Another gripe is of course that vampire-gal. Yep, more mythological creatures is definitely a good choice, but mythological creatures with barely any clothing? The jokes also didn’t help at all. Well… And it’s not that the little story couldn’t have shown the vampire as someone more mature and dignified. To be frank, that segment by itself felt very unimportant. Of course in the future it may get some meaning but for now, I don’t know. The transition to “Hey, let’s move to Iceland” wasn’t as bad as the first time but still I wouldn’t call it a natural turn of things.

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 22)

     Yep, that was the most likely way to start attending dancing classes. A mad dance teacher sends his cat to gather some new students, yeah. Apart from that the first part of the episode was quite likable. Kugimiya turns out to be not just an average poker-face d villain but a person who had some hardships to deal with, especially when a hope to become an excellent dancer that fueled him for so long turned out to be not as achievable as he would’ve liked. The more general statement that other people also have their personal hells was something of unexpected depth. So everything’s good, but then we return from this flashback to the grey reality. The problem is that this competition already spans too long and various flashbacks (as good as they might be) certainly don’t make everything cohesive. You just have to force your brain to remember at what point we left Tatara last time and it turns out that the completely uninteresting routines continue just as before. I get the point that Tatara and Chinatsu finally synced but giving this revelation several episodes (also filled with flashbacks and stuff) feels too much for me. The competition moves at a snail’s pace and there’s nothing new about the dances – already been there, seen this. Like a couple of hundred times. I reiterated myself a couple of times but doing that after such an episode doesn’t feel that sinful. I guess the Kugimiya part made up for everything else but that still doesn’t make the show as the whole likable enough. Luckily only two episodes are left.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 9)

     The show constantly oscillates between two states – it’s either surprisingly stupid or surprisingly predictable. Needless to say, sometimes it’s both. Another forgettable character trying to avenge his dead girlfriend, another osananajimi that had been red-flagged since his introduction… Come on, don’t just state “this is a character. When he dies, be sad”. Prove me why I should. Villains remain as incompetent as ever. How many trained soldiers do you need to kill a bunch of virtually untrained dudes with no plan? Can’t you just shoot everyone instead of shooting some of them, then fighting with swords, then giving a villain-speech, then again fighting and only then shooting (only one of them)? I guess the pinnacle of unexplainable stupidity was the very end when enemy soldiers on the good guys’ Whale just committed a suicide. Weren’t they successfully wining by far, being convinced that conquering the Whale is the right thing? Then do the job till the very end, dudes… And that was all stupid stuff. Meanwhile the hand-forest provided the weird part. Last time Neri (or what’s her name) did something similar with the good guys’ Whale so does that mean that it will also sink in a minute? What’s with that snail-form object given by the blue multiple-dog-eared spirit? Why would she need to ask a question if she still gave Chakuro that thing in the end? Well, there also was lots of hallucination scenes and I get that they were supposed to evoke some emotions but, well, they didn’t. It’s really sad but also funny seeing how hard the show tries to be the feels-show but fails miserably at that as well as other departments. At least visuals look pretty despite making little sense.


Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 8

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 8)

   After many interesting things the show has shown already it’s natural that some episodes don’t feel as strong though they might be perfectly normal. Yup, this time just wasn’t that impressive. The first segment was probably the most thoughtful one. It’s actually really interesting to take some time to think whether memories have any meaning if detached from a person who made them. Can an object be a sufficient replacement for a person who’s no longer there? Would taking some of these long-forgotten things have been justifiable had the girls taken them if they served no use whatsoever at the time? Is the significance of an object lost when a memory associated with it is gone? So yeah, plenty of interesting material. The second segment left me a bit suspicious about the physics of falling platforms. Still, it was quite a scene after some episodes of rather peaceful wandering around. This incident also made me wonder what’s the overall condition of this huge multilayered city and how can it remain as stable as it apparently is if some of its components are falling apart so easily. The last part with beer felt too stretched out. And I just find unlikely that two survivors in a post-apocalyptic world would try to drink a random liquid. What are the chances that it’s not acetone, methanol, benzene, some acid solution or who knows what even nastier substance?

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 8)

    The show may be made in 2003 or in 2017 but one thing never changes – people remain offensively dumb. I get the idea that someone who‘s totally convinced that he‘s right will never back down on his believes no mater how ridiculous they are. Still that doesn’t make an entertaining watch. And what if Shizu said that he was in fact a biologist or at least someone well versed in such matters? I wonder how all these people manage to justify their convictions that go against everything a middle-schooler should know. And that country seemed to be a rather high-tech one. I could go on a lengthy discussion that concerns other matters like the existence of God or a power like that but there‘s a clear distinction between such situations – you can neither prove nor disprove something you can’t directly measure nor observe* and checking whether there‘s a tiny machine in a human body is an easily doable job. In the end I guess this metaphor lacks enough subtlety to be convincing. Also Shizu‘s final speech left me wondering whether he understood that his words may cause even more people getting mad. The other story (I guess, though it was anything but a story) feels like the creators just had too much time to waste and chose to add some moe because why not. Sure, the dog looks cuddle-able (though sometimes he‘s weirdly off-model) but beyond that there‘s nothing redeemable about it. And Kino again fails to show up making this show a ridiculous case – the more I watch, the less sense the title makes. Well, it‘s just a mess. I can‘t say I expected much of it  but even then it feels disappointing.

*     fun fact – there‘s a theorem that mathematically proves that there may exist some true statement that can‘t be proven. It shouldn’t be taken as an argument of the existence of God in this case, it just tells that we may never know why some things are the way they are.

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 8)

     If I could choose any one episode of this show to rewatch, it would definitely be this one. Let alone the riddance of that first chimera showed how inhuman Elias can be. It‘s spectacular, but I‘d rather stay away from him, simply due to safety reasons. Therefore the fact that Chise still doesn’t look afraid at all makes me again question whether the relationship between the magus and his apprentice is truly normal. On the other hand, this „the beauty and the beast moment“ was kinda heartwarming. Moving on, it‘s a bit disappointing that Chise wasn’t let to show what she can do against that sorcerer, though it‘s clear that it could’ve cost her life. The soundtrack remains on point at all times, so that‘s another enjoyable aspect. There are some tiny nitpicks, and that‘s understandable given how fast the story moved. Chise recovered surprisingly well and surprisingly quickly. The backstory of the Dog guy felt squeezed too much. Yeah, I get the point but just telling that he had a sister who died and was reanimated and was again killed in a span of only several minutes loses some of its impact.

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 21)

     It should be a fine episode for viewers invested enough in the characters but I’m sorry, I don’t feel that way. The episode seemed to be ages long. It’s supposed to be a very important competition but it isn’t. It’s just another chore after so many dances. No matter how you look, it’s still inappropriate and beyond boring to explain the basics of dancing in the 21st episode of show about dancing. For once it cripples the pacing and destroys all the tension and I’m afraid that everything that was told I already knew from before. The second part compensated for the loss of the tension but again, this whole metaphor of kids bursting through doors didn’t really align well with everything happening in the reality in terms of pacing. Once again I may question how it’s even possible to advance so far if Chinatsu only now finally understood that she is a partner and therefore she should act like one. If last time the judges were blind enough to detract only one point, they would be totally incompetent for not throwing Tatara out – even fellow dancers without judging experience can clearly see that that pair isn’t doing well. Also I wonder if it’s really possible to stretch one’s body so much that it becomes extremely loose without any pain or dislocated joints.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 8)

     “I could’ve patted you more?” What? Should I laugh? Are these really the dying words? Of a guy who showed up like an episode ago and now is supposed to be a beloved character whose passing will greatly affect both the protagonists and the viewers? How bad of a warrior you must be if a rural dude sneaks through the middle of your ranks in a plane space and you notice nothing? There were so many of them that Ouni couldn’t even get inside of the circle of these so called professional soldiers without touching them. And did they notice that? Nope… Damn, even Skyrim guards aren’t that bad… What the hell? People are dying and that mad red-head girl is dancing and smiling and growing some ghostly hands from everything? What? Oh, the most obnoxious villain in the history of villains also has a sad backstory of half a minute? Now he’s just a wimping mess, so I’m supposed to care for him too? And no, let’s not kill a guy who slaughtered half the population of the Whale, let’s let him roam around, may he be found by some children and shot in as sad circumstances as possible. A powerful warrior of the Whale has been captured? Kill him! No wait, let me give an info-dump first, then let’s kill him! There just so many wrong things with this show, it’s surpassing Ballroom in terms of being stupid. The perfect scenery can’t compensate  the lack of anything else anymore.