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.

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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.

 

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 13

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 12)

     Surprisingly unoffending start of a new arc. The beginning nicely mirrored the very start of the show, confirming that Tatara now has some friends who may help him, even if they’re Jerks. Yet, there’s only a small step from mirroring to being plain and predictable. You see a class full of unimportant and bland characters and one girl just happens to be a redhead. In a queue only one person wears a hood, and a red one. What are the chances that it’s not a coincidence? Everything else was just a basic episode of Ballrooom, fanservice and awkward moments included. And you tell me that if the Jerk wanted to scream at Tatara so much, he still waited for a convenient opportunity to say what he thinks face to face? And then he nicely reminds me why I hate him and why my opinion of the show itself isn’t the highest. At least Shizuku finally got some lines. Seeing Sengoku dance (finally) was impressive due to the animation but only because it actually was animated. Other than that, it’s just preparations for the new girl and the Jerk trying to act less like one and at times even succeeding. I certainly hope that these developments will have a positive impact because I’m quite fed up with the usual stuff.

Made in Abyss (Ep. 12)

     All the bad stuff now seems far away and the atmosphere has returned to its initial state when Abyss still seemed quite easily conquerable. The episode is mainly spent wandering around and not accomplishing that much so I’m inevitably both missing any more defined immediate goals and at the same time eagerly awaiting the last episode that should be a 1-hour special. Again a segment about life on the ground level was incorporated but I’m not sure what for. Such scenes appear from time to time enough to question their purpose but not frequent enough to form a separate storyline. As far as my general anime knowledge goes, supporting characters don’t get elaborate designs just for the sake of it, and that girl from the caravan certainly looked impressive, so maybe there are some things brewing high above Riko’s grasp. Either way, I wished that these parts would be either cut if they don’t lead anywhere or alternatively a new separate storyline may be established, obviously stating that what happens on the ground is important. Far below Nanachi shows her tender side a bit more, giving a feeling that ultimately she’s just another normal girl, albeit strengthened by the cruelty of Abyss. Getting flustered over her cooking being questioned or sitting in amazement after Reg’s showdown cuts some mystery from Nanachi’s character but certainly makes her personality seem more appropriate to her external fluffiness. Also props for the animation. The movement of that almost unseen fabric was quite well done indeed.

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 12

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 11)

    Well, where do I start? The fact that Tatara’s stamina was the main issue isn’t surprising. Rather it’s strange that the audience might be transformed from complaining about pain in the eyes watching couple No. 23 and in a matter of seconds almost giving a standing ovation for the same guys. The award ceremony again demonstrated the sexual inequality – couple’s prize there clearly represents the ability of a man (and there’re 7 awards) and only one woman gets an award for her prowess. It’s another story that the judges are either incompetent idiots or just trolls because for No. 23 to win Mako should’ve dressed in darker purple or in red. Also the random appearance of the award for the best girl (yep, that’s what it was) comes out of nowhere. Previously I thought that in order to keep status quo neither the Jerk nor Tatara would win, but it turns out that both of them winning is also an option. And then it means that it’s a tie and neither of them has the upper hand. So why then it’s implied that Mako will get back to being the partner for the Jerk? Come on, countless times it has been said that their builds are incompatible, not to mention the kind treatment that the imouto gets. Asspulls aren’t the right way to advance the story, sorry. The school scene after the credits also came out of nowhere. The animation again could easily represent the whole show – there’s a 7 second cut of incredible quality followed by countless still images. The music didn’t help either – there’s just a jarring disconnect between the good and the bad. True, this episode provided more movement than usual but please, can you make at least one episode that could be even remotely close to Yuri on Ice?

Made in Abyss (Ep. 11)

     Is it really implied that that blob thing might be Lyza? Just as Nanachi explained, everyone is told that she’s dead but her body wasn’t there, and now there’s this thing, showing some interest towards Riko. And Riko must be surprisingly lucky to get into the hands of someone that knows how to deal with injuries better than a shocked robot. Nanachi has something in common with Ozen – both feel very confident and look like they have perfectly adapted to their living conditions and to some extent look down on others that have far less experience. I think that if Ozen needed some supplies she could’ve easily sent Reg on a similar quest, also adding some not that absolutely necessary items to fetch. At least Nanachi seems to be far more approachable. Other than the story, the music once more gave the so needed mood of uncomfortable hastiness when Reg was gathering stuff. The theme played in Nanachi’s house also sounded distinctive enough. And the backgrounds again. It took me only a second but I think I fell in love with the spectacular (albeit filled with graves) Nanachi’s backyard. It feels even more like a safe haven than Ozen’s camp. What I didn’t appreciate was the butt-medicine as well as other jokes of the same level. At least it was clear it’s to be expected since there have been instances of such things earlier. Once the show finishes I’m definitely picking up the manga and it’s extremely likely I’ll catch up in one go no matter how much reading it will take.

Re:Creators (Ep. 22)

     Exactly like the whole show, the last episode is a mixed bag. Well, there weren’t many things this time that were done wrong, there simply were things that were left unfinished. Altair is barely mentioned and her abilities left unexplained and I certainly am not content with getting just “she’s omnipotent”. The episode also lacked Magane quit a lot. And now I’m not even sure if I’m totally dumb or there really was not even a mention about her once the main dude summoned Altair’s creator. Ok, Magane may have just infiltrated the society and nobody saw her ever after but come on, at least address that and don’t stand there happy saying that everyone has left while one of the most entertaining characters haven’t even showed up. The whole departure business also seems weird. It’s told that this mega-doujinshi everyone created is seen as a canon so if Selesia will be alive in Matsubara’s future writings, then isn’t it also true for all of the other creations? Looking this way, the characters that were transported to the normal world were just copies from the ones in the stories and the originals are still safe and sound in their own worlds, fully capable of continuing their own quests. So then what’s the point of returning? And how would you return? What will these new copied characters do if their places are already occupied? Also because the doujinshi was canon the original characters also should know everything that happened. Among these questions I still must find a place to praise the decision to leave Meteora at this world. But again, her game already has its own Meteora so she isn’t at all needed there, as aren’t any others. I guess going through the gate simply means committing a suicide then. By the way, knowing Meteora’s character I doubt her story would be very interesting – too many info-dumping and overlong talking scenes. If it’s implied that it was actually her who wrote Re:Creators, I can understand it because sometimes it’s inconceivable how uneven and full of holes the show has been. It’s certainly easier to believe to have been written by a newbie than an acclaimed mangaka like Rei Hiroe.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 25)

     “I wanna wasshoi!” Seems like the gene pool of Sandal’s hometown has some interesting talking patterns to offer. That as well as other tiny little touches made the goodbyes quite emotional. I don’t think I appreciated enough all the minute details that added up through this half a year to make me attached to the characters and feel rather sad knowing that the girls inevitably were going their separate ways and the project had fully run its course. It can be argued that the very last segment concerning the future of Yoshino didn’t need to be shown and some ambiguity probably would’ve been alright, or that the episode itself somehow felt a bit uneven and bumpy. Still, the conclusion is very fitting – it’s far better to end things on a high note when everything’s going well and there’re some hopeful future prospects than try to elaborate the story further and risk getting repetitive and boring. These lines that applied to the show itself also work well in Yoshino’s perspective. Manoyama has clearly learned much and even if some changes are more on a mental level and the number of immigrants may be as low as ever, the journey still ended right when it needed to. It’s very fitting to see so many people enthusiastically bidding Yoshino goodbye, especially as it contrasts with a shy and quite uncomfortable welcome ceremony way back. I’ll miss you, show.

Scattered Thouhgts – why did Gyo fail?

     First of all – why is Gyo important? It isn’t, really. Still, there are a number of reasons why Gyo is worth investigating. For once, Junji Ito is a name you probably encountered if you’ve had any opportunity to familiarize with horror manga. Despite being popular, the only Ito’s work that has received an anime adaptation remains Gyo (which is interesting by itself), and Ito’s relation with anime remains relevant because of the new adaptation of some of his stories that has been announced some time ago. Returning to Gyo, its anime adaptation was made by ufotable, and that’s another interesting fact since at the time it was made the studio was just starting to build up its fame – Kara no Kyoukai movies weren’t as known and Fate/Zero had started half a year ago, but in times of Steins;Gate it was crucial not to be a studio known only for one good anime. Other ufotable’s projects had been even more obscure, so Gyo was a perfect opportunity to show off technical capabilities and affirm the name of the studio as one among the best in the industry. Still, the result seems to be rather frowned upon, so there arises a question – who’s at fault – Junji Ito or ufotable?

The former dental technician - sensei

     Junji Ito is an acclaimed mangaka and arguably one of the best in making horror stories. To be frank, that’s not really the truth. The truth is that Ito is incredible in thinking up how to mess with everyday world in order to bring horror elements and create an ominous and very unsettling atmosphere. His realistic and detailed drawings (especially all the unnatural and monster stuff) make every story far more disturbing. Still, the problem is that even if Ito knows how to get everything started, it seems like he has no idea how to conclude anything. More often than not the horror elements are so powerful that they sweep the ordinary world away and we get effectively an apocalypse. The characters usually are just left hanging with no clear conclusion when the things get so bad there’s no way of returning to at least a partially normal living conditions. On the other hand, Ito’s short works tend to stop right after the climax and thus leave some space to ponder what happened and what might happen next. It turns out that developing a story and providing a resolution sometimes is a worse choice than leaving an open ending exactly after the big reveal or a strong horrifying moment.

A walking fish?..

     Gyo in this context isn’t an exception. I guess the mystery of what exactly the horror elements are in this case is explained right away so it doesn’t really count as spoilers, does it? Anyway, you have been warned because the pleasure of seeing dead fish walking on seemingly mechanical legs is a pleasure you can’t miss. Ito has confirmed that Steven Spielberg’s Jaws had been a huge influence on him. Ito just came to think that a more terrifying thing than a shark in a sea would be a shark that can walk on land. And walk on land it does. A story seems pretty basic as a couple of tourists in Okinawa (at first) – Kaori and Tadashi – start observing weird things and how they get out of control in a true Junji Ito fashion.

...yup, this walking shark...

     Why Gyo fails as a satisfying manga mainly rests on the choice of trying to explain the strange phenomena. It could be argued that characters also aren’t that good, which is quite true, especially in Kaori’s case. The girl mainly spends time in a neurosis state arguing with Tadashi quite annoyingly. Yet, I think that it at least gives some uniqueness as a fighting couple isn’t what you usually get as the main characters in any manga. Especially when things escalate you can’t really accuse anyone of acting the way they do – human tolerance to weirdness and horror isn’t infinite after all. Still, let’s leave the characters aside because the pseudo-scientific explanation that hardly feels plausible with the best wishes overshadows everything else. Of course you have to have germs that were secretly cultivated for military purposes. Even if that was an alright explanation, there’re still many things left in the dark – for example how does the gas produced by the germs can make dead bodies move in a non-random way and pursue people? Do the mechanical legs multiply? The story finally lost its momentum near the end when a totally bizarre and pretty random circus scene was inserted that doesn’t really feel like being from the same story and that is another recurring flaw of Ito’s manga.

...and a walking arm?

     Ito usually gets inspired by random daily events that are only a bit unusual or unexpected, be it a thought he had, a shop window he saw or a woman that looked in a particular way. Ito then takes these elements and works them into being more unsettling, not necessarily trying to make a horror manga. Such stories sometimes form larger narratives but as the mangaka doesn’t usually try to think particularly good ways to connect them, the end product might become anything from the cohesiveness of Uzumaki’s everything encompassing spirals to disjoint and having very little common elements stories like Black Paradox or Gyo itself.

The quite famous Amigara fault

     To go off on a tangent a bit, there are two short stories included in the published Gyo volumes. The Enigma of Amigara Fault is probably the most well-known and regarded  as one of the better of Ito’s works, examining the claustrophobia and at the same time morbid fascination with confined spaces. The story also can be a perfect example of Ito at his best – not trying to explain stuff too much and just leaving everything at the climax. Nevertheless, it’s the other story that appealed to me almost infinitely more than Gyo itself – The Sad Tale of the Principal Post spans only 4 pages and is impossible not to spoil but it shatters all of reader’s expectations and masterfully provides a totally unexpected conclusion which by its ridiculousness is able to overcome its unbelievability. It’s only 4 pages, please go and read it.

The new Kaori with her red-shirt...I mean red-skirt...
anyway, it's the new Kaori with her new friends

     Let’s now leave the manga and jump right to its anime adaptation, though in some respects it can hardly be called one. The first minutes of the anime already present plenty of differences – Kaori is the only main character (Tadashi’s left in Tokyo which means we hardly see him at all) and it’s two of her friends that the girl starts experiencing the fish attack. As the story moves on, it becomes clear that for the most part Kaori’s and Tadashi’s original roles are swapped. The couple’s struggle to survive gets transformed into quite a simple story of Kaori trying to find her boyfriend in all the confusion. Along the way she’s helped by a random journalist because you can’t have a story without a male lead, can you? Naturally you begin to wonder why there’re so many changes introduced. To some extent it’s understandable because having a strong female lead usually is commendable but the way it affected other parts of the story makes it barely Ito’s Gyo. And all these changes just seem pointless. Why would you introduce new characters and split the original experiences of Kaori and Tadashi when there was a completely normal and reasonable story in the manga? Also, the anime tried to appeal to all sorts of audiences, and that means that the horror isn’t the only thing you get in Gyo. The thing is that the anime in the beginning didn’t shy away from including fanservice, and fanservice of the most ridiculous level – Gainax jiggles, obligatory pointless sex and a woman getting undressed while trying to escape some nasty pursuer. Moreover, the said woman (try to guess which of Kaori’s friends she is) was just an original character made specifically for that purpose and Junji Ito could never have drawn anything like that. But even fanservice isn’t consistent – the creators forcefully added new scenes but somehow missed a shower scene in the original manga, and that scene even had some justification for being there.

Run, Forrest, run!

     When you watch the anime, you find some certain elements of the manga or scenes that clearly were inspired by the original Gyo, but in any case it remains only elements and the essence is lost. In such a case a walking octopus among all these fish becomes a pretext to introduce a tentacle scene. You know, tentacles? Any spirit of the manga and any element that makes Ito’s works recognizable as his own just simply vanished. At least in one respect the anime was equal to its counterpart – the questions concerning the mechanism by which the fish can walk, some other over the top moments involving the gas and a seemingly incomplete (although completely different) ending leave a lot to be desired.

Ito's stories never end well, do they?

     The animation belongs to an interesting period in ufotable’s history. Character designs try to be somewhat close to original manga ones but ultimately they end up being far more simplified and vastly different from the beauty of Ito’s art. At least usual Ito’s same-face-syndrome has been taken care of. The designs also are quite fluid – one moment you can even start guessing whether some rotoscoping was involved and other times you can wince uncomfortably at the seemingly unfinished product. Anyway, the designs come from a period when ufotable still cared to draw not as-pointy-as-you-might-prick-yourself (Tales series) noses, if any noses at all (Fate series). The backgrounds signify the point when the studio started moving to its present aesthetic, that being 3D more times than not, and that 3D looking quite lifeless and at odds with the 2D characters. Some 3D elements in Gyo look surprisingly well-made, as ufotable’s 3D department in general is quite adept at what they do, it’s just that it doesn’t really mesh with the 2D stuff. The studio might be excused because at the time of making Gyo the 2nd season of Fate/Zero was also in works but that’s only a fool’s argument. Even if 3D was done far better, I still think the story of Gyo was just more suited to be told in manga form. Bright colors clearly doesn’t retain the same ominous atmosphere that a usual black and white manga panels are able to achieve.

Psychedelic, but not that disturbing after all

As you see, Gyo is plagued by all sorts of trouble, and some of them came from Junji Ito himself while others were added by ufotable. Ito’s prime concern is to create unsettling imagery and what becomes of it and how it can be incorporated into a story (that should have an ending) seems to be of no bigger concern to him. It’s as likely as not that the longer stories of his will feel cohesive and finished and that is the main problem with his manga. Ufotable changed quite a lot in its anime adaptation and few of these changes were for good, or at least necessary and logical to begin with. From a historical perspective it was quite fun to see how a transition from the old ufotable to the new glossy aesthetic plagued by post-production gradients looked at some point. But yeah, Gyo makes little sense and even somehow you became interested in this cheap horror flick, go read the manga, especially the short stories.

     Have you ever encountered Gyo at some point? What do you think about Junji Ito’s storytelling and current aesthetic of ufotable?

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 11

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 10)

     The Akagi siblings’ history was revealed but I still see the Jerk as the Jerk. Only Mako’s wish to be paired with him now may be viewed in the light of knowing that she wants to perform so well that her skills would help her brother to win, and in that way she may repay her debt of having him agree to dance with her at the very beginning. Anyway, the episode felt extremely long and boring. This tournament arc is almost endless – I have no recollection about its start and no idea how stretched it’s going to be. And why is that? I guess one of the reasons is that the stakes are extremely low. Any shounen fight needs some struggling against the odds and it applies to a tournament arc even more. And what would happen if Tatara lost? Nothing, really. Sure, he’d be a bit upset for a day or two and the pairs would remain as they are. And what of it? Tatara should be happy that he managed to get an experienced partner at all in the first place, the Jerk has already shown what he thinks about Mako’s gratefulness and Mako-Tatara pairing is better because of their physicality. I don’t care what the Jerk wants or needs and the less I see him the happier I am. Finally Shizuku only now starts to develop a personality so I can’t say I care about her in the first place. Also I doubt she’ll remain with the Jerk once Hyoudo will get his leg healed. So yeah, it even looks that Tatara would gain more if he didn’t won this competition. So what’s the point in elaborating every single second of dancing? It’s getting anything but interesting. There was nothing really bad about the episode, it just didn’t have any highlights, animation (as always) included.

Made in Abyss (Ep. 10)

     Well. The episode. Right. I can’t remember when was the last time I watched anything like this. Anything as immersive, anything as dark or anything as well-made. Going out of the state of being absolutely astounded I can gloat a bit because I totally called that Riko will have to suffer physically. Still, I had no idea that the magnitude of the suffering would be as high. As if for every last bit of luck the pair already had Riko now needs to pay with her own blood, interest included, and that makes Reg as stressed as ever. Never has he looked as human as now. Don’t mention Reg’s arms and you’ll have no way of proving that he’s a robot. The visuals also definitely need mentioning. At first the surroundings were quite impressive (I wonder how the creators manage to think of so many different locations that change very organically) but it was the painful segments that stood out incredibly. Going extra miles in showing, say, Reg’s trembling hands, unstoppable bleeding and claustrophobic close-ups make the episode stand out by far compared to pretty much anything you can think of this season, and even longer than that. It’s just becomes excessively painful to watch. Still, Nanachi wasn’t impressed. It was actually a perfect time to introduce a new character – Ozen was already left, the pair received some time alone and now the things may liven up a bit once more. Nanachi as a being fully deserves an episode named after her – her origins, abilities and story are very intriguing, and Shiori Izawa found the right voice for the character. I also have to praise the scene were Reg applied first aid to Riko. Probably any other anime would’ve made Reg blush and shy away from a kiss but Made in Abyss once again treated the matter maturely – a life is far more important than aggravating and out of place anime-isms. Overall, it was just an excellent episode. I guess even after five or so years if I remember the show, it’ll be these very scenes that will be the most vivid. May we talk about saving anime again?

Re:Creators (Ep. 21)

     Knowing how dissatisfied I have been with some of the episodes and just ideas in general that the show chooses, I must say that everything is wrapping up pretty well. Last episode it seemed to me that it wasn’t possible to get a cohesive ending at all and now I stand corrected. Still, there’re things I’m not happy with. That Setsuna girl was created by the main dude, and he did that only basing everything on his memories. And let’s remember, he knew her for quite a short while, plus during the very last months he had absolutely no contact with her. So how authentic is this creation? It seems like the main guy was incredibly lucky theorizing how Setsuna must have felt, and that was a very far shot. Making a character that resembles an actual girl when you hardly spend any time with her and have no way of knowing what she thinks of sounds too good to be true. And Altair was surprisingly eager to swallow the bait, even knowing that everything was a sham. Maybe the real Setsuna died cursing the world and Altair and everything and everyone, spewing bitterness left and right. Who can tell? Well, on the other hand Altair wanted to know her creator in the first place so even a fake one might be better than no one. But still, Altair also had the right to react something like “you try to manipulate me? I’ll destroy you even more painfully!!”. The new Setsuna and the old one are completely different people – the former being just someone who the main guy wants her to be regardless of the actual person. Considering that, it was a gamble that ended surprisingly well. And why did the main guy loose his calmness? He already had broken down saying almost the same exact words. And getting emotional because he liked his creation and she forgave him is a bit too narcissistic, isn’t it? Also, why did Setsuna need to die once more? None of the other creations were affected by their story elements that were yet to happen. I hope the final episode answers the question about the mechanics of Altair’s entry into the world. If it turns out that she summoned other characters only because of her omnipotence, count me disappointed. And please let Magane do something. She’s severely underused.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 24)

     This episode and the final one probably should’ve aired as an hour special considering all the wrapping-up work that has already begun. In many cases the episode emphasizes how much everyone has grown and how better are the decisions that need to be made. Setting up such comparisons naturally adds some continuity and for a longer than one-cour show it’s always a welcome sight. Yoshino has already completed her arc of consciously deciding that a country isn’t that bad and this time she strengthened the notion by adding that the appeal of any job in any place also depends on the person himself and his outlook on everything. The crew as a whole used their knowledge not to trust TV producers who ultimately care only for their skins, and rejecting such an offer is even more important because the festival is being held for the locals as previous events proved that a transient surge of people doesn’t do any good in a long run. The scene also signifies a point when the old chief finally comes into terms with the notion that traditions aren’t necessarily a bad thing and in order to protect Manoyama as it is he needs to preserve what already makes Manoyama unique and any extra-weird initiatives (especially chupakabra related) might not always work. It’s also a bit odd but heartwarming to see the chief finally getting an idea that actually (and finally) might be a useful one. Other than that, exoskeletons and various returning people set a stage for a memorable last episode, reminding about all of the journey. I’ll be sad when the show ends. I guess the most thing I’ll miss will be the weirdness of Sandal. Just remember “watashi no roots”… As always he’s on a completely different level than anyone else.

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 10

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 9)

      A shounen protagonist performs normally but then comes a special move with a name that nobody understands! The same problems remain. Tatara improvises on the spot and Mako who should be “the flower” is forced to run after every single random wish of his. It’s ok that she’s able to do that but how a fresh pair in their first competition is able to perform like that? Also, I don’t understand what was the point in changing the music during the waltz routine. Yep, the new track was far more suspenseful and fitting but it’s not even a waltz anymore, is it? How then the visuals are meant to synchronize with the sound? There are countless ways of shifting the tone of a simple waltz music to suit the needs (I’m talking about you, ED) but nope, the show chose the easiest way. Hyoudo’s mom and Sengoku explaining stuff during the dance feels very awkward. They know all this stuff – why would they need to rethink up to the basics? I’m also still puzzled by the fact that Sengoku explains the rules of the competition to Tatara only during the competition. The audience voicing everything that’s clearly told visually can get very annoying. Also annoying is  endlessly repeating“make me bloom” and stuff. I got that the first time, you hear me? And that was the last episode, and that was already enough. I ponder how the show is going to continue since Tatara already seems like the best dancer in the world. There’s just no way for him to improve, and he only recently started dancing. On an unrelated note, with all these head tilts I wonder how this anime would look in Shaft’s hands.

Made in Abyss (Ep. 9)

     Not bad – a whole level per episode, and quite an eventful one. However, the scene in the beginning featuring other kids from the orphanage felt out of place. Yes, it reminded us that they still live high above and that was relevant during the hallucination scene but still. Anyway, for Riko it was a very healthy experience not to rely on Reg too much. Still, I’d expect that after all these events she’d become a little more cautious, but at this point I doubt even a serious injury could restrain her that much. At least Reg should address the issue that she wonders into nests of predators, moves him even after being told not to, finds some animal-eating plant that’s actually also an animal (I guess?) and stuff. So far luck has been incredibly on Riko’s side but I wonder how long that can be until she breaks a leg or gets her arm bitten off. The Abyss won’t go easier on the pair I presume. Getting back on the surface seems absolutely out of question since a mere hundred meters (or so) proves to be an incredible challenge compared to the vast height of roughly 6 kilometers to the ground level. A few fight scenes as expected were animated well enough but these cutesy cat-like creatures at certain moments were too CG. I wonder what fan reaction would’ve been if the show actually ended with Riko coming up with her mother and it had been actually Lyza who found her. In such a case the director should be given a medal for trolling and financial support to make any anime he would like.

Re:Creators (Ep. 20)

     Well, I don’t buy it. It’s a mess all around. What’s the point in all of the buildup if you still are going to throw omnipotent characters all around and revive anything you can? Probably there’re many people both in the anime and in real world that approve of such twists but I’m definitely not one of them. In principle anything that is omnipotent is boring as hell because it can win against anything. The idea of two omnipotent characters fighting or someone reviving dead people like crazy (come on, then let’s go from the beginning, starting with Mamika, Alice and Selesia) is in theory just a deadlock for any story. Escaping such a deadlock is even worse, so say what you will but my acceptance got as low as it can. I don’t even want to think why they got Altair’s creator involved at all if everyone thought that making Altair’s copy was a perfect plan. The whole idea of Sirius negating Altair is also shady to say the least but I can’t say anything because we have damn omnipotent characters. And why did Altair became so popular in the first place? How does a random scribble become more popular than decent characters in widely known stories? Is there a precedent for that in the real world? Please name any such character more popular than, say, Goku. And why doesn’t anyone else have these fanfiction abilities? And one more – I don’t really get how Altair is planning to destroy everything, why does she need so much acceptance and why doesn’t she just kill everyone with her pinky? I probably could think a thousand more damn questions and some of them might be unfair or plain wrong but I just got a bit emotional because for me everything just doesn’t make any sense.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 23)

     Somehow the problems encountered in this episode seem to be very artificial. Well, more like artificially implemented. First of all I doubt there would be only one shop whose owners wouldn’t live on the second floor. For the movie arc quite a few empty houses were found so why there’s only one suitable shop in all of the town? Also, if that Akiyama guy was burnt only because of monetary reasons and he is conscious about that, isn’t it possible for someone else to be a witness in any financial transactions? Chitose herself could’ve easily given her word that Akiyama would only need to give the keys and receive the money without being concerned at all. Come on, if you’re so cautious, ask for a lawyer and make a contract. If a shop is able to withstand the competition in Tokyo, they probably mean business. I was also annoyed by the final few minutes when the incorporation plans were revealed. That bigger city came out of nowhere. Why we haven’t heard about it until now if it’s so big and growing that Manoyama could stand in a way of it? Well, the first problem could’ve been easily resolved only by decent arguments and no such fuss, and the second one just came out of nowhere. Sure, the girls need some stuff to take care about for the show to be interested, but please make more effort in thinking everything up. By the way, it’s admirable that the characters try to reach decisions that would benefit each and every one of Manoyama’s citizens but actually that’s the drawback of democracy – you either end up being in a deadlock because the opinions of some people are simply incompatible or you have to stay with the majority in order to accomplish anything but that at the same time inconveniences the minorities. Any way you think, it’s not an option in order to run a town smoothly.

 

Light Novel Corner – Baccano! Vol. 1 The Rolling Bootlegs

     To start from the very beginning, on this blog I’ve been mainly sharing my thoughts on various anime and just occasionally glossing over some manga. Recently this trend was challenged by a random post about a JRPG. Still the main focus remains anime and it only happens that sometimes I feel a need to share my opinions not about a particular anime itself but about its sources. It’s no secret that nowadays it’s almost exceptional to get an original anime – manga adaptations have been an ongoing trend for a long while but another similar tradition hasn’t been represented on this blog in the slightest, and that is the popularity of light novels. Without much search it seems to me that light novels aren’t that widely talked about, so there’s a niche that could be filled. On the other hand, reading isn’t something you can do easily while eating your breakfast or multitasking in other ways so the audience of light novels isn’t that big. Usually the interest declines once the anime adaptation ends (more often than not in not the most satisfying way) and a statistical person even with the best wishes to know “what happened after that?” gets his hopes smashed by unavailable (or available but in a pretty bad fan-translational way) and often enormously long series that keeps growing every second month or so. Recently there has been some quite convenient improvements in the sense of availability but it’s still a big investment to get into any light novel series. So yeah, the niche seems to be here and as someone who doesn’t shy away from a decent read, I thought that giving an opinion or two about some quite well known (or not) light novel series book-by-book wouldn’t hurt, especially if you as myself want to know what really happened next, even more so if an anime adaptation left you unsatisfied. And even among rather well-received anime adaptations I doubt there has been many series that fans craved to be translated more than Baccano!.


Author Ryohgo Narita
Illustrator Katsumi Enami
Genres Action, Historical, Supernatural
Published 2003 (JP) / 2016 (EN)
Pages 224
.

     The first volume of the series, subtitled The Rolling Bootlegs, wastes little time to throw the reader right into New York City of 1930. As expected, gang business takes a prominent place in such a setting but on the other hand it’s balanced by other elements, such as unexpected inclusion of things like an elixir of immortality. Probably a third of the appeal of the story comes from the fact that such a weird combination of ideas actually was made to work. The Rolling Bootlegs basically examines the idea of what would happen if alchemy truly existed in the Prohibition era.

   Still, it’s not the story that makes Baccano! unique. The Rolling Bootlegs has quite a few quite diverse characters and naturally quantity and quality are interchangeable. The characterization is minimal but often strong enough to leave deep enough impression so that the reader won’t begin to wonder why everyone is so one-dimensional and more often than unchanging. There are some noteworthy individual characters like Firo, a young almost-member of one gang, Szilard, an old evil dude, Ennis, his homunculus (that meaning an artificial human that can be mind-controlled), Dallas, a wealthy thug, and Isaac with Miria, a pair of ridiculously lucky idiot bandits. The level of characterization can be seen from the mere fact that Isaac and Miria have a single wiki page dedicated for both of them. Some cheesiness in such motives as “I was looking for you because you were attractive” also must be pointed out. As you see, characters come a dime a dozen and limited length of the volume doesn’t really let to explore much, especially since the web of interconnections takes some time to be established. Generally that’s not a problem because the characters are just tools for the story to evolve. Sometimes you can wonder if the story isn’t a character itself – wickedly pushing one character or another in a particular way so that all the individual little stories intertwine into one giant intricate web of coincidences. And that’s the biggest charm of Baccano! – as you run through the pages you aren’t that interested in the fortunes of most of the characters – the main question remains how everything will continue to develop and what will come out of different encounters between the characters.

     Characters themselves might not be aware of all the connections and coincidences and it gives the reader even more satisfaction when you can sit on your high (and all-knowing) horse and smirk because you get that two characters that for example crossed each other at a street had far more in common than random passerby should have. Knowing the full story when the characters are aware only of some parts of it somehow is very satisfying. However, that feeling is restrained because some remarks by the narrator point out that he knows even more than the readers.

“We’ve robbed eighty-seven places, and in all that time, have I ever put you in danger?”
“About eighty-seven times.”
“…………”
“…………”
“There, you see?! It’s not even a hundred yet!”
“You’re right! That’s amazing!”

—Issac and Miria being Isaac and Miria—

     One thing I was left wondering about was the nature and summoning of the demon who granted the immortality elixir. Sure, it was portrayed to be an extraordinary event but also it was given only the smallest part of the book and its purpose was only to justify having immortal gangsters. Still that leaves a lot of unknown during this earliest time period not to mention the idea that a demon can so easily manifest to people. All these problems and lose ends basically arise from the limited space of the genre – I’m sure sooner or later Ryohgo Narita will be (or have already been) forced to elaborate aspects of the story that need that and at the same time can provide some entertaining story material.

     As a starting point of the long series (Baccano! as of now has 22 light novels and it’s not finished yet) the first novel isn’t the best example of how you should do it. The Rolling Bootlegs can even be viewed as a self-contained story that doesn’t absolutely require much more exploration. The mindset of the grand story in the first place is just portraying a segment of characters’ lives and they naturally extend more than can be stuffed into a one specific story, so inevitably some minor quips are here. Still, the main plot is resolved (the culmination was enormously and unexpectedly lengthy though) and even the very ending is a few words short of “and they lived happily ever after”. This stand-alone quality doesn’t retract anything from the bigger picture, it’s just not a very usual way of wrapping up things when everyone wants to grab attention and make enough space for future sequels at the same time strongly hinting at them.

     I guess some words about the relationship between the light novels and the anime need to be said. The anime adapts first few novels but there the storylines are all intentionally mixed up. On one hand you get even a better impression about the hectic swings of fate but for me it felt a bit too confusing. You need to pay all your attention not to get lost between the storylines, even though by themselves they are fairly simple and linear. Shared characters, especially when you still aren’t familiar with them, suck you into a mess that’s quite hard to disentangle. I’m not even talking about the first episode that screamed “hey, I’m complicated, hey, sucks to be you, hey!”.

“Quietly, the spiral of destiny turned.”

—The Narrator knows it all—

     Another quite apparent difference is that the novel uses a framing story that is absent from the anime – a Japanese tourist just hears the story from a certain someone. The fact that the whole immortality (and fast wound healing) is talked about in the framing story detracts some of the mystery elements that surrounded the anime where a fresh viewer didn’t know that he could expect such things. To be frank, it’s a bit weird how matter-of-factly immortality, alchemy and summoning demons is presented. I think in this case I prefer the more subtle reveal of everything in the anime. Compared to the realistic world of 1930s (minus immortality but that isn’t a game-changer) the fact that you have to use demons (do demons ex machina exit?) to justify the core events of the story feels like pushing too far, especially since at least at this volume no demon has any prominent role at all.

     Reading Baccano! makes it very clear why the genre is called light novel – the text easily flows through your eyes and you’re left with a wish to get more of the same but after some time you begin to feel like having eaten some fast food – it was tasty but still not the best food in the world. To be praised and remembered, Baccano! needs to elaborate its characters, maybe offer a longer story and some explanations about elements that were just glossed through.

 I believe, this light novel is

 2Decent

     Should you read it? If you enjoy insanely paced fast-food books, yeah, definitely grab a bite. Still, it’s not as attractively complicated as the anime seems to imply. Nevertheless, reading enjoyment at least for was certainly there, and not only because I want to know the source material well and then take advantage of the opportunity to know what happened after the anime ended.