Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 12

Re:Creators (Ep. 11)

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     First of all, especially because of the OP I start to miss Mamika. I’ve never thought of her as a very interesting or particularly essential character but seeing her all happy knowing how everything ended for her feels sad. The 2nd-rate-Shinji unexpectedly got much screen time, apparently content about his role of saving the world and not bothered anymore by “get into the damn robot”. The conversation later on might become the first spark to ignite the creativity of the main character who still isn’t useful at all. He can’t even draw particularly well, so why is he featured in the show at all? His story with the creator of Altair is finally info-dum… sorry, explained but I still don’t really get the mindset of keeping everything secret. It’s understandable that the main character wanted to escape telling about his role in the story but still. Firstly, if the story of his involvement is complete, it’s hardly him that triggered the suicide of the girl. Yep, he wasn’t the most helpful guy ever but simply being a jerk doesn’t automatically mean he killed her. Also, to a person who doesn’t know anything the main character’s role in the suicide story is extremely tangential so it appears to me that telling everything straight away while omitting his own role wouldn’t have been a very difficult thing to do, especially when there’s a question about safety and lives of many people. That is if the backstory is complete and the main character hasn’t done anything more jerk-like. Either way, he still feels very redundant.

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 24)

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     I’m very sad to conclude that I’m disappointed. The last two episodes raised the stakes pretty high and the first part of this episode just made little sense. Trigger’s approach to make references to their previous works or other phenomena is worth some praise, but this time Chariot’s lightsaber (and other visuals of this kind not even mentioning the tone) just detracted me from the story, making me remember all of the Star Wars stuff, or, even worse, similar stuff in SAO.  Moreover, isn’t using a lightsaber based on magic? So why then Chariot can’t fly but is still able to do something magical? Was the effect of the pollen somehow selective? How (and when) did the two other witches appear in Croix’s tower inclined that she’s the culprit? Isn’t it a bit of a mind leap? When you think of it, Croix by the end had monopolized all the magic (don’t ask me how that works) so what did she try to achieve by all that Grand Triskelion stuff? That should have just reinvited normal magic to the world so as far as I understand there’s no clear profit for Croix. Anyway, her plan didn’t work, but still, getting some sparkles and a bit brighter colors in the world as the reward for the two-cour journey feels like not the best joke ever. Sure, it might be nice to tease the viewers with such a worthless result, but why the buildup then? next we have a random technology randomly morphing into a random dragon. Ain’t nothing too random about that, eh? How did Akko manage to cast the Shiny Arc spell if all of the magic was disabled? The conversation between Chariot and Akko was a nice one, the characters were surprisingly on model in the second part of the episode but that’s not enough for me. If you create some rules, you should stick to them and neither break them randomly because “magic” nor start inventing something new because that’s convenient. By the way, why that Grand Triskelion magic (or whatever it’s called) was sealed in the first place?

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 11)

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     It’s quite funny that even if the story was quite unusual for the last episode of the season as far as Natsume goes, it still managed to insert a montage of various moments between Natsume and all his friends, so the episode ultimately did retain some predictable qualities. While I can doubt of a possibility to capture images of youkai in a photo, that may be the only negative thing I can think of. Leaving some mystery over what really was the old exorcist researching and what exactly was destroyed was far more interesting than an outright victory of achieving the full knowledge would’ve been. Natsume’s ability to deal with the dragon familiar confirmed how much he has grown – it turns out enough respect and persistence can win over everyone. As I thought before, Natori didn’t react that much about the story of the Book of Friends, but a possibility still remains that he may at some point succumb to more mischievous desires, but for now everything remains unchanged. Probably the most surprising idea presented was that of a mysterious male relative of Natsume. Shuka definitely has problems with scheduling and realizing their ideas but I’d offer much to see another season of Natsume elaborating the ancestry more. Reiko and her human relationships have always been an unexplored and very attractive part of the Natsume universe, and such a tease as we now got nothing but screams asking for more. Well, hopefully it can happen, and not in a very far future, and preferably with far improved visual quality.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 12)

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     I guess at this point it’s worth pointing out that Sakura Quest has created its own identity and it’s pretty much not an option anymore thinking it might be just a discount Shirobako. Yep, the shows have similarities, but the scenarios make everything seem vastly different. I’m actually quite amazed that there are still many things you can do promoting a town, and a TV documentary turns out to be one of them. Seeing the girls act too self-consciously but after some time getting more natural in front of the cameras feels very natural itself. I’m still afraid a bit that the TV producer’s ideas how to get more attention might clash with the views of the Tourism Board, but so far it’s just a pleasure to see how everything comes into place and another public event (and a very large one) comes into being. Of course, everything isn’t without problems, but after some considerations it’s gratifying to see that a common goal can make things happen. It’s nice to be reminded that Yoshino has come to Manoyama before as a kid, and that actually might be a story to be told on TV. Yoshino as she is now might not seem like the most colorful person to talk about and it’s hard to pinpoint any specific quality that she gained after becoming the Queen. Nonetheless it’s clear that Manoyama has greatly benefited from everything she has come up with, and, similarly to Akko from LWA, Yoshino’s most important accomplishments might be changes induced in her environment and, even more importantly, her companions.

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 11)

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     At least this time there were no additional skits after the ED. Curly’s clash with his parents was quite well executed. It’s clear that both sides were right to some extent but also failed to completely understand one another. As expected, everything got sorted out completely, even if the change of the mother’s perspective anticlimactically happened off screen. Otherwise it was just a more or less typical episode of the kids trying to do their best. And that wasn’t too exciting to be frank. Everything just went at a pace of a snail. Of course it can be argued that Curly’s and Akane’s relationship is steadily building up, that both of them are getting more and more comfortable being together, their blushing is seen less and less. Gifting something to one another a few episodes back probably wouldn’t have been even thinkable as a remote possibility. It’s nice and all but knowing that everything is just going on normally without many relationship-threatening problems isn’t going to increase my investment in the show. on a side note, I’d very much love to see what would become of such a pair in ten or twenty years.

Scattered Thoughts – what do you get by mixing Urasawa and Tezuka?

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Pluto vol. 2 and Astro Boy vol. 3, both covers feature Astro Boy

     Let’s think for a bit about various remakes, reboots and reimaginings concerning our community. Probably what first comes to mind is the constant stream of news that one anime or another is getting a live action adaptation. And we all know what the general opinion about such stuff usually is – “Oh god why? Not another one!”. Technically, these cases aren’t really remakes, as it involves changing the original medium. Anyway, it’s not unheard of for an anime to get a true remake, as usually it either takes advantage of new technical capabilities (NGE) or, more importantly, also changes the story because the original anime wasn’t very satisfactory (for example FMA or Fate/Stay Night to some extent). Sometimes remakes as well as unending sequels are also used to rekindle interest in long-running franchises such as Sailor Moon. But have you ever come across such a phenomenon in the manga world? Naturally, it’s not common since drawings don’t age as fast but that doesn’t mean that such things don’t exist.

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Osamu Tezuka among his works and a post stamp showing him with Astro Boy

     Let’s move on to the mandatory appreciation sentence about Osamu Tezuka – there probably hasn’t been a more influential person in anime and manga history and there will never be. The details of the history of manga and anime are an interesting topic by itself but it concerns today’s theme only a little. Many of you probably already know that Tezuka was heavily influenced by Disney animation and American comics of the same time period. Tezuka started imitating characters and stories available for him in pre-war Japan, little by little moving on to find his own voice. For a long time his character designs and characters themselves remained very Disney-like, just the right stuff for uncomplicated stories that usually fall into contemporary family friendly slice-of life comedy genre. As Disney and generally all of the Western animation up until now has concentrated on providing entertainment for younger audiences, Tezuka in his time managed to move on. His manga gained more depth (both visually and story-wise), more complex themes such as psychology of human mind and social problems started to appear. Tezuka’s medical education also became an influence to his manga and it wouldn’t be too bold to say that medical schools became more crowded because of his art. Tezuka deserves all the credit for influencing the general look of modern anime, more cost-effective outlook on the animation production compared to the Western animation and most definitely types of stories that both manga and anime tend to tell.

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No way this could be a bad guy

     It’s probably impossible not to have heard anything about Astro Boy or as it was called originally Tetsuwan Atom, meaning Mighty Atom. Tezuka’s famous manga series about a little robot dealing with various usually robot-related problems in a superhero way have received many adaptations, first being live-action tokusatsu series in 1959. The first anime series in 1963 despite featuring some really limited animation also deserves a mention since it was directed by Tezuka himself. Astro Boy franchise proved to be particularly alive and influential, promoting Tezuka’s visual style and forming both anime and manga mediums for years to come. Yet, I don’t consider myself a huge Tezuka fan. The only Astro Boy related material I’ve consumed (that is specifically for this post) is The Greatest Robot on Earth arc from the manga. This arc seems to be among the most liked, and not without a reason. Generally the arc (as I guess more or less the rest of the manga) never really gets out of its simplified storytelling with inconsequential conflicts and not the most believable character actions and motivations. It’s crucial not to expect many deviations from a tone and style that would appeal to children. Most of characters appear to be one-dimensional – for example the evil ruler behaves the way he does because he’s just evil. Some of the choices of the story are questionable if anyone wants it to be realistic – characters fight, then reconcile, then fight again while maintaining a semi-friendly relationship, help one another or just decide to postpone a fight for silly reasons such as not being allowed to fight because someone just said so.  Fighting seems to be the main factor that decides if someone is better than someone else. Even if sometimes some other characteristics are said to be important, ultimately it’s fighting that answers all the questions. The overall mindset of the manga can be clearly illustrated by an example when the bad guy saved Astro Boy and then Uran, Astor Boy’s sister, gave the bad guy some stickers as a reward. Oh dear. The artstyle further emphasizes not the most serious nature of the manga – the cartoonish origins of Tezuka’s style are clear. Both characters and backgrounds appear to be very flat, techniques that are more known to be used for American comics such as squash and stretch are used in many occasions. That works for little comedic moments but also undermines the stakes of the story. For me it felt quite weird – as if I was reading comics knowing that it was actually a manga.

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Just two robots enjoying an afternoon

     Nonetheless, Astro Boy also gives some food for thought, mainly through the main antagonist robot Pluto who is told to destroy all of the most powerful robots, Astro Boy included. Pluto constantly emphasizes that he doesn’t want to fight Astro Boy and does that only because he was programmed so. That creates sort of an inner conflict and ultimately makes Pluto not as much as a villain but more of a tragic character who isn’t fortunate enough to be able to behave the way he would like to. Even so, Tezuka’s shounen world is able to give chances to Pluto to overcome his programming sometimes when it’s convenient to the plot. Ultimately, the story has some interesting aspects but I don’t think you miss anything skipping this arc unless you’re interested in the history of manga.

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A nice background with a part of Naoki Urasawa

     At this point Naoki Urasawa comes into the picture. One of the most prolific mangaka of our times, author of such masterpieces as Monster. I don’t think much is needed to be said about him because his works speak for themselves, being far more accessible than some part of Tezuka’s dated legacy. Having admired Astro Boy since his childhood and possibly naming his protagonist in Monster after a character in Astro Boy, Urasawa opted to rework the The Greatest Robot on Earth arc into something completely different. If you more or less know anything about Urasawa’s style, you should be at least mildly interested – Urasawa’s realism and deep interest into the psychology of the characters at first glance shouldn’t mix well with full of conveniences and very childish Tezuka’s creation.

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An improvement in art of Gesicht, though the handshake remains the same

     It turns out that Urasawa’s end product named Pluto has very little in common with its predecessor apart from the some general plot points and various not necessarily Astro Boy related Tezuka references. To some extent recreating the story and giving soul to the characters wasn’t the most difficult task because Tezuka’s pace was just insane. The original arc’s length doesn’t comprise a full volume while Pluto tells the same story through 8 volumes.  The change of pace can be illustrated by the fact that the first powerful robot to be destroyed – Mont Blanc – in Tezuka’s version appears in only 2 pages but instead of that Urasawa elaborates how Mont Blanc’s destruction affected everyone else in the world – lots of tears, funeral and stuff. That’s a very characteristic feature that makes both versions different. Tezuka just can’t stay in one place for a longer period of time wishing just to continue the story so that the readers won’t get even a slightest chance to be bored. On the other hand Urasawa spends a sufficient time to portray every character as realistically as possible, building relationships and pondering how each of the events concerning really powerful and known robots would affect everyone in the world. To make things more interesting, Urasawa also shifts the main character role to a robot detective Gesicht who received barely any time in Tezuka’s version. Another difference is that Urasawa’s version of the story has far more mystery elements. Tezuka showed the main antagonist from the get go, while Urasawa delayed its complete appearance four fifths of the total length of the story. Needless to say the effect is stunning.

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War isn't pretty

     One huge addition in Pluto is the idea of a past but still quite recent conflict that affected pretty much everyone in the story and shaped their motivations. It’s not hard to guess that United States of Thracia declaring a war to Kingdom of Persia because the latter allegedly constructed robots of mass destruction is connected to the Iraq War. Regardless of what you think of it, Urasawa makes himself clear considering his stance toward the conflict – war can accomplish absolutely nothing. Such moments like when one of the most efficient killing machines wants to learn to play a piano just scream about the meaninglessness of war. The said background then is used to make the characters more connected to the world they’re in. In Pluto every of the most powerful robots gets his own story, sometimes made of vague hints of Tezuka’s version. For example Epsilon at first was just a cautious Australian robot who for some reason cared about some kids. Urasawa expands Epsilon into a person who declined to participate in the Persian war and rather became a caretaker of some of the orphaned kids from the same conflict. This Epsilon is naturally being looked down on for that but just as is with humans, rejecting a fight doesn’t necessarily make you an irredeemable coward. Other robots also receive various motivations such as behaving because of the love of one’s country, developing a healthy rivalry, or just wishing to live the most fulfilling life possible.

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Urasawa's art at its best

     The original Astro Boy had ideas about robot rights and how life would be when there’re robots everywhere. As with everything else, Urasawa expands the idea. The end result is a really interesting world where robots are still bound by strict rules not to lie and not to kill humans but on the other hand they are conscious. Robots try to mimic lifestyle of humans, forming families, adopting robot-kids, in other words just pretending to be what they aren’t. It’s fascinating that the act of crying for a robot might ease a little a great pain, even if the robot has no idea why and how. The portrayed state of society is also thought provoking because robot rights and stuff are still a fairly new concept, evoking even secret anti-robot movements, clearly bearing significance to racial discrimination. One of the most tranquil moments in the early chapters came when Gesicht came to announce the death of a police robot to his wife and experienced her subtle response to that. A little later this scene was heavily contrasted to another one when the same killed robot after some scientific examination was just scrapped into trash with other ordinary junk. Some robots might even feel complicated emotions and be just barely distinguishable from humans but it’s a no brainer for the government to play with robot memories if it suits the needs. Also, if ordered, a robot must kill his fellow robots no matter his own thoughts. All the rules concerning robots and general understanding are just not yet developed enough to make them truly equal to humans, and such a theme is always intriguing to explore.

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Epsilon turns out to be reincarnated Johan from Monster, but only visually

     As well as the story, the art of Pluto is very much Urasawa-like. Perhaps sometimes even a bit too much Urasawa-like. Gesicht’s personality and appearance to some extent resemble inspector Lunge from Monster, but Epsilon is just a twin to Johan (not to mention that both of them are good with kids). Technically that means Nina Fortner, and that’s also pretty much true. Other than that, it’s a usual wide range of facial features that Urasawa excels at. While Tezuka’s character designs are very simplified in order to suit the cartoonish style and various squashing and stretching attempts, the same can’t be said about Pluto’s cast. For example it’s clear from the first panel that there’s something ominous and sad about dr. Tenma even if you don’t know anything about his own story (that actually is quite sad. Check out the origins of Astro Boy if you will). Having more realistic versions of the characters let the reader connect more with the story via many subtle facial expressions that weren’t possible to portray through the cartoonish Tezuka’s designs. To overcome the nature of Astro Boy’s essence, sometimes inventiveness needs to be employed. In Pluto all the powerful robots look precisely like humans, even Astro Boy himself possesses a body of a normal boy. But while in Tezuka’s version two of the most powerful robots were especially inhuman and machine-like, Urasawa decides to make these shapes into mechas wherein actual human-like robots may sit. The locations in Pluto also received more focus – you can easily tell that characters live in an organic world where some technology is present but it doesn’t overshadow the story itself while Tezuka’s world didn’t seem to be that different from our own.

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The two masters

     Probably the only thing that I wasn’t particularly happy about Pluto was the ending that felt too brisk. The story had been woven for a long time with much interest being waken about some certain characters and it feels slightly disappointing when you find out that not all backstories and motives will be told. Yes, it’s a great way for each reader to find his own answers but some clarity and as detailed elaboration as other characters had received would have been welcome.

     Well, the most important difference between the two manga seems to be that Astro Boy was created to suit needs of children – to fascinate them with unusual stories, to let their imaginations run wild with all the possibilities that the future may hold, to show a clear sense of justice when the good guys win and the bad guys are not made fun of but rather being reprimanded, getting embarrassed over their deeds and, if possible, turning to the good side. On the other hand, Urasawa is one of these kids who were touched by Tezuka’s stories and that enabled him to make a new rendition of the same story, only transformed to suit the needs of a more mature person. The mere built-in ability of the story to be transformed speaks much about the deep ideas that Tezuka has hidden in his manga, but it took another master to entangle them and make them presentable mixed with some other expanded statements.

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You don't want to make a robot policeman this mad

     If it wasn’t clear enough up to this point, I’d highly recommend reading Pluto. It’s a sad story about some part of sentient people being discriminated, having a clear anti-war message and delving into the human psychology that’s made even more interested because of the fact that the majority of the analyzed characters are robots. Moreover, the story was already created way before Urasawa even got the idea to start Pluto and that let many details to be put into the beginning of the story that aren’t that comprehensible from the very start and become clear only gradually. It also means that the manga has a high rereadability value, and it’s definitely worth it. Pluto is a very interesting story, combining wonders of a more advanced version our world with deep human drama. The idea to push Astro Boy himself into a supporting role in order to give the spotlight to a more tragic and mature character worked wonders to the story. I think you could enjoy Pluto better without any prior knowledge about the Astro Boy franchise but that doesn’t mean that even a die-hard fan wouldn’t find any unforeseen twists.

     As I’ve already said, Astro Boy is incredibly famous, which might be illustrated by, say, current airing Atom: The Beginning anime. Nonetheless, just recently Pluto has also been noticed – M2, the new studio of legendary Masao Maruyama is going to adapt the manga into an anime series. Don’t miss it!

     Have you read Astro Boy and/or Pluto? What are your thoughts about Tezuka’s and Urasawa’s styles in general? Don’t be shy and please do share your experiences!

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 11

Re:Creators (Ep. 10)

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      At this point I can describe the show as a fun one, not really exploring every interesting possibility given the premise but nonetheless providing enough entertainment. Everybody fights everybody, Altair spices everything up by ass-pulling a mecha and Magane builds her own force with style. This episode I was particularly impressed by the visuals – CG mechas weren’t that bad, various fire effects were done well, there were some interesting camera angles and, of course, fighting didn’t disappoint. Yet, some details were less compelling. Why does Alice look so confused and surprised when someone she tries to hit actually gets hit? And how many lives exactly do Meteora and Selesia have? Yes, they both are not of this world but general human physiology should work in a same way, at least similar enough to have both them killed instantly. Why was Selesia’s transformation (as spectacular as it was) only temporary? Does that mean that getting a tweet popular gets a character a temporary stat enhancement plus some healing? The mechanics of that (as well as everything that Altair did) feel too shady at this point. But why am I complaining? Meteora will probably spend half of the next episode sharing her ideas how everything works. Another nitpick – why did no one think about calling medics while Selesia was just lying in a pool of blood? Is it normal to try doing something on your laptop that has a pretty low chance of working out before anything else while a person lies nearby with her intestines totally destroyed? Do they think soothing talk works better than some doctors? And the last one – even if these characters are not from this world, shouldn’t a guy with a gun just slaughter everyone else equipped with close ranged weapons? Or at least Blitz could try to snipe everyone in the opposing group if Altair really wants a confrontation. But oh well, drama is needed more than realism.

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 23)

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      A very emotionally charged episode. I’m very happy as it turned out that even after countless episodes of meandering around and without flashy action scenes LWA is able to provide really enjoyable content. Who would have thought that such a fun OVA that the first LWA was turned out to be way deeper and complicated? Starting from the Chariot – Croix conflict, the show elaborated their relationship well enough to highlight multilayered dynamics between the two. Croix even way back had her villainous side, teaching Chariot the ability-stealing magic, wishing to justify that her own way is better and she is a more respectable witch than Chariot even if it was Chariot who was chosen to rekindle the magic. Chariot on the other hand just like Akko didn’t think deeper and therefore was burnt, even so when her own audience began to disintegrate. I guess Chariot’s tragedy is even worse since she just can’t escape her past – Akko with her youthful vigor started going the same way, but Chariot doesn’t even need that – almost every night the Moon is there as an indelible sign of her past life. The only thing of this part that didn’t really sit well with me was the fact that Chariot was a bit absolved from using the special magic by being played by Croix. It’s true that Croix in this way is made a more villainous character, but rather than that (Croix is already established as an evil one) I’d have liked to see Chariot get frustrated enough to find the new kind of magic on her own and learn about the side effects independently some time later. Moving on, not having Akko around for a long time made me realize how integral she is to the show – her silliness practically has been the energy to move every last bit of the story. Having Diana involved was a nice touch and that also tied in the fact that she also was at the Chariot show. Diana is the second most important character of the show, who has to overcome very similar problems that Akko faces, although in a slightly different way. Diana’s importance (to the show as well as to Akko) was clearly shown when Lotte and Sucy ran to her when Akko disappeared rather than getting other closer friends such as Amanda on board. I don’t know how it was possible for Diana to overcome her magical ability loss but I guess it was magical. As Akko’s spirit seems to be fully rekindled, the final confrontation can’t some soon enough.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 10)

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       Didn’t expect a longer story this time. Usually the last episode of a season had been reserved for a little story that would be a pretext to gather many different youkai to have sort of a party and to restate how Natsume has grown and how many friends he has acquired. It appears that the ending of the 6th season (oh dear, it past so quick) will just resolve this story without any parties and celebrations. On the other hand, the fact that Natori finally learned about the Book of Friends is a pretty huge development. It appears that it won’t change character dynamics much as Natori seems to be able to respect Natsume and his possessions. Sure, he might find the Book handy but thinking realistically someone as powerful as Natsume probably is worth more having as a friend rather than an enemy, and that’s not even counting Nyanko-sensei and other youkai friends Natsume has made. So yeah, the time has finally come for Natsume’s secret to come out but I doubt it will change anything. Anyway, longer Natsume stories usually are good and, especially since the next episode will close the season, it should be worth waiting.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 11)

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      In the end, that was beautiful. Still, at first I need to complain a bit that the part with the stalking ex wasn’t that satisfying. Sure, last time it worked wonders when paired with the depressing weather and overall gloomy and mysterious atmosphere, but as everything turned out, it undermines that build up. I understand that Sakura Quest won’t ever throw away the realism for the effect but if you decide to use some creepy dude in a serious setting, you better think something more convincing than a comedic reason. Speaking about other stuff, Riri’s parallel with the dragon legend felt very natural, only the finding of the alternative story and even more the sudden reappearance of the song were too unlikely to be believable. What are the odds that not a single person in the whole town remembers the song, especially since the old chief dude said that he sort of has heard it before? Despite these suspension of disbelief breaking moments the ending had one of the most memorable scenes in the show. It must have been especially hard for Riri to overcome herself and sing publicly, even more since some people were totally unknown to her. Still, she once again proves that she has enough courage and determination hidden inside when there’s a desperate need. I wonder whether I could call Sandal the official mascot of the show. Either way, he seems to have become an irreplaceable asset of Manoyama. More of him, please!

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 10)

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      At first, still the problems with the visuals are too apparent and overshadow the story. Rotoscoping the festival scenes may have been a good idea in general but now they just stand out too much compared to the rest of the scenes. It’s just that the festival stuff and other stuff aren’t that different (not counting the changed location) so that the drastic change in quality could be justifiable. Especially when other aspects sometimes are quite weird, just like some faces of the bystanders in the backgrounds or odd lighting. The story took an unexpected turn, showing that Curly’s jealousy scenes are far more melodramatic than Akane’s. I understand that jealousy is a natural feeling and you may not be able to control it at all, but especially after Akane’s explanation Curly‘s brainpower turned out to be not powerful enough to disable his jerk mode. Well, maybe that’s just youth. Still, even after thinking everything over ignoring Akane though it was clearly Curly who was at fault wasn’t the greatest decision in the history of relationships. Late apologies also mean little. I guess many of the nitpicks about melodramatic stuff concerning this show can be discarded because of the age of the characters but still that doesn’t feel satisfying enough. At least the couple’s relationship seems to have solidified a bit more.

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 10

Re:Creators (Ep. 9)

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     So that’s what kind of a show it is. I guess Mamika had accomplished as much as she could and her disposal might truly be more beneficial than a continued existence. Mamika brought her doom herself for not using her brain so it’s also fitting to show that foolish behavior has its costs. Also it proves that characters can die, and that always makes things more interesting though I doubt we’ll be seeing any more of this stuff. Anyway, Mamika was the only one restraining Alice. Even a try to to talk some sense into her now is not going to work as Alice now more than ever is going to rely on her muscles rather than brains. Magane staged everything pretty nicely and even though there aren’t any more easily manipulative characters left, she still may cause some havoc, being probably even more dangerous than Altair. Sota’s breakdown wasn’t as effective as it would’ve if he had been established as a more prominent character – now he’s just a random dude without any observable character traits who has done something wrong. For a side character such a story might work but he’s not interesting enough to make me care about him. Once again, „talking“ should’ve been counted into the cast as one of the most important characters. Overlong discussion scenes with nothing happening and various characters voicing out every single thought they have doesn’t feel too exciting. Well, I don’t have a problem with lots of talking per se but there’s just too little information transferred by too many words.

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 22)

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     Now we’re talking. Wish every single episode of LWA was as impactful as this one. The fact that Chariot’s magic came from absorbing magical abilities from others changes pretty much everything, giving another layer to Ursula’s character, complicating relationship between her and Akko, and probably most importantly giving Akko much to think about her passion, her abilities (or lack of them) and just generally what she wants to do with her life. I wouldn’t have said that such a show could throw a twist like that but that’s certainly for the better. Akko might need some reassurance from her friends and especially Diana should feel indebted to her. Andrew (well, he and Akko surely look well together) is still being prepared for something prominent and everything just looks a hundred times more interesting. The idea to slowly evolve the escalation of the football match (I guess the Japanese wouldn’t mind another war between the English and the French) from a merely noticeable side event to quite a huge threat works well establishing continuity. The other aspects of the show also seem to have picked up the pace – soundtrack always remains on point and animation looks sharper than usual – that’s Trigger we love. I only wish that the remaining episodes would retain the quality.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 9)

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     I still think that this season especially compared to the first ones isn’t as strong, but the last few stories have raised the bar higher. Not all youkai are trying to meddle with humans or take advantage of other youkai and such endearing stories like the one in this episode feel special for their gentle sadness, inevitability of loss and just simple kindness shown to others. To me the most memorable moment was when the mask apologized for having caused concerns. There have been lots of youkai only for comedic relief but there also exist some that deeply respect other beings and just try to live on continuing to fulfill their duties as best they can. The story also ties beautifully with the last episode, confirming that love between a human and a youkai in the end gives a lot of pain. Dolls and masks probably are the closest real things to be placed in the “uncanny valley”, resembling something alive but also not showing any apparent emotions thus becoming pretty scary and creating suspense. And, as Natsume remarked, the scariest things are those that are unknown and unexplainable. Nyanko-sensei feels like he has no longer the slightest wish to eat Natsume and become the owner of the Book of Friends. It’s not a big development but compared to the first seasons Nyanko-sensei has become an irreplaceable and absolutely harmless friend of everyone. Especially Taki.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 10)

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     …And how did it get so quickly to be an almost a mystery horror story? Well, actually this change of style brings much novelty to the already known setting with its pretty much unchanging atmosphere. By itself the episode was only a setup with the girls doing their everyday stuff, except this time Riri has been brought to the center of the attention. I think it’s a very effective way to get to know the characters better – every girl gets her own episode or two and then lets someone else to get the spotlight. Thus the rotation of the characters ensures that each and every one of them are constantly developed and no one is forgotten. It’s quite sad when you think of it that not only one town but even its neighbors burst with excitement when just three potential wives come to take a tour. Is the demographic situation in the rural regions of Japan really that bad? It’s interesting that as we are approaching the mid-point of the show there’re still things to show about Manoyama that make it unique. At first there were wood carvings, then some specific food arc and now we even came into contact with dance traditions and local deities. Incredible how many distinctive characteristics a place can have.

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 9)

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     Well, I can’t say the episode was particularly exciting. Slowly deepening the bond between Akane and Curly is a good thing but I feel that there was too much reiteration of already established ideas. Besides the new fact that Akane might be moving (not the most original idea, eh?) everything has been already shown. Yes, slice of life isn’t a bad thing but a little variety wouldn’t make things worse – we’ve already seen Curly being reminded to concentrate on his studies as well as the couple messaging each other. The track meet also served little purpose since there are many ways to use time more efficiently in order to show that the couple became closer. The episode wasn’t truly boring but there neither was anything to call it a worthy addition to the story. Weirdly first few scenes featured quite expressive character animation, but it slowly died down to the usual trend. Speaking about trends, it’s true that the development of the relationship hasn’t been too fast but I’m beginning to doubt if the show will be able to advance the story much further than we are now and wrap things up accordingly. It’s enjoyable to watch everything unfold but plot hasn’t progressed much from the very start. Tsuki ga Kirei might end up being a nice show that actually accomplished surprisingly little.

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 9

Re:Creators (Ep. 8)

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     Just some quick thoughts about the OP – pretty much all the characters have a cut with some posters of themselves. Only Meteora and Blitz are exceptions which means (at least for the former one) that the creator is dead. Also, most of the posters are vertical and only Magane walks over hers which symbolizes what she has done to her creator. Well, everything might be interpreted differently, but this idea just popped in my head. The main guy got some encouragement from Meteora but I’m a bit surprised that it was precisely her that the main guy talked to. I think if you want to tell something delicate to one person of a group, you should choose one who might understand you the best and be able to comfort you. Yes, Meteora did that but could the main guy expect that form her rather than from Selesia who seems pretty much as clever and as involved in planning and stuff? The show finally used a technique known as “show” after endlessly talking about how terrible Alice’s world is. And it doesn’t look particularly horrible, just your average dark fantasy stuff. There are other new bits and pieces uncovered but again it’s interspersed with lots of talking. From all of the characters that have appeared Altair seems the only one who hasn’t got a true story about her, well, a story that would be massively appreciated and professionally continued. Well, she also seems like the one who started summoning everybody else. It’s true that her author’s own story isn’t the most cheerful one but that still doesn’t explain the mechanism of why everything that happens does it that way. I wonder if plot armor is something characters can take with them when they arrive to the god –world. My take would be that yes, for better or worse. If not then Mamika’s plan is a stupid one. There was always a possibility of getting killed (and a damn high one) and getting killed achieves nothing. Oh well…

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 21)

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     One of the more cohesive episodes lately. It had its own story but that was also seamlessly entwined with the overarching narrative not to mention the revealed backstory elements of Croix and Chariot. Of course, as many other episodes, this one could’ve used some more time to explore the relationships between the characters and to emphasize various themes more. For example the rift between Akko and Ursula was particularly brief so albeit the resolution was very poetic and fitting, the buildup wasn’t as elaborated as I would’ve wished. With 4 episodes left I guess it’s a bit early to throw everything into the fray for one final showdown with Akko succeeding in retrieving the last word (with Diana’s help of course), defeating Croix and having some closure in the matters of meeting with Chariot. Andrew still is shown as a potential meddler in the stuff of the witches, Lotte and Sucy (not to mention the other girls) weren’t as involved as of late, Diana and her lackeys also should show their friendlier sides. So yeah, there’s still lots of stuff to be told. I’d guess the next episode could be centered around some silly matter (like Jasminka (or what’s her name) – I don’t recall her having the spotlight episode) and then finally going to settle everything during the last two or three episodes.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 8)

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     I didn’t really know what I expected but at least this episode didn’t left me with bleeding eyes due to the crashing production, and no one can do that as Shuka does. The story by itself wasn’t anything ground breaking – there have been countless attempts in many anime (and not only) to portray a romance that on the surface doesn’t make much sense and can end up only hurting the lovers. For the limited time it got, I guess the classical love story did its job quite well and managed to make me feel for the characters even if I know there’s almost definite probability of never seeing them again. Kaoru’s determination and the thought that there actually might be no right answer after all were key points emphasizing the qualities that Natsume has always been strong at. There have already been some stories about such human and youkai relationships in Natsume but I guess this time is special because Natsume himself is made to think about his own relationships. It’s actually amazing that in an anime about a teen boy through the whole 6 seasons (but it’s only a second year of high school, eh?) there hasn’t been a steady romance subplot (if we discount that class-rep thing in the early seasons that ended before really beginning). This shows how many possibilities there still are to develop the story further, and that’s not even mentioning all the Matoba rivalry stuff, Natori discovering the Book and getting all the side characters some more time to shine. So yeah, the episode was simple but powerful enough to get its message through and also to remind how much time we have spent with Natsume and how much still may be left, and that’s a good thing.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 9)

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    Not the most interesting stuff Sakura Quest had come up with up to this point. The side story with Shiori’s sister and the bear-chef ended in a somehow bland way. Well, personally I’d double- or triple-checked whether everything’s correct if a person I liked invited me on a date but I guess there’re all kinds of people. In retrospect it was probably inevitable that the chef would show interest to Shiori’s sister rather than to Shiori herself, knowing that such girl-power shows rarely break a convention not to feature any prominent male characters that would distract with possible romance subplots, though I wouldn’t object if Sakura Quest brought some romance to the story. This Shiori’s mini-arc as well as the first one ended fairly quickly although she had some moments to show her determination and the way she does things, though I wouldn’t say that her mini arc was as impactful as the ones Sanae and Maki had. Last time I complained about the absence of the exoskeleton guy and here he is. Yet the stuff that Yoshino thought up looked silly, weird and almost disgusting and certainly not a fun thing to do. I guess the kids liked that but especially more conservative residents of Manoyama probably were not particularly impressed.

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 8)

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     Well, I’m just sad because the show clearly deserves better than this kind of animation. The backgrounds several times were detailed enough not to let down a film production, let alone a TV anime. Of course the CG parts clashed with the 2D stuff but I think it’s 2D that’s a problem. Furthermore, characters appearing off model so that it’s hard to recognize them from their faces alone and choppy animation overall is just too distracting to leave time to care about the story. Yes, our couple have bonded enough to be more or less comfortable around each other but everything I’ll remember from this episode will be the lack of quality in the visual department. That and totally unnecessary short stories in the end. Someone working with the composition of the show could have thought of an extra scene or two because as things are now, the show is just wasting its time. Who even cares what a third rate couple that’s absolutely unimportant to the main characters does after school? They don’t even deserve to have me memorize their names. I guess the skit about Curly’s parents was at least partially funny but other ones don’t add anything to the show. I think Akane’s foot problem could interfere with her running thus inviting more drama later on. If that’s the case, it better be good in order to withstand the poor production values.

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 8

Re:Creators (Ep. 7)

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

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 20)

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

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 7)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 8)

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

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 7)

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

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 7

Re:Creators (Ep. 6)

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

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 19)

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

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 6)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 7)

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

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

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 6

Re:Creators (Ep. 5)

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

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 18)

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

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 5)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 6)

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

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 6)

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

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 5

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

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

Re:Creators (Ep. 4)

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

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 17)

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

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 4)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 5)

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

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 5)

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

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 4

Re:Creators (Ep. 3)

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      I’m getting an idea that the antagonist girl just might be created by the main guy. Or at least someone that he will draw later on will make an appearance. Otherwise the main guy remains utterly pointless. On itself the episode was rather low-key, though there were some interesting ideas here and there. Another café exposition scene is a bit tiring. Another one, examining the possibilities of changing Selesia’s character specifications felt far more dynamic, though too much talking (especially endless explanations of Meteora) was apparent. The failure to make a change was logical since no one knows exactly how world remodeling should work and being successful form the start would be more than lucky. And that’s the main good thing about the show (well, apart from offering an excellent waifu material) – blundering in the dark with no idea what is happening, how and why, trying to get some answers, but it’s not given that the characters will succeed immediately. Little details like Selesia complaining about the lack of smells in her world because the author didn’t think of using the sense that much are always welcome. I guess next time Meteora will meet her creator who looks to be some plump man from the ED. Some screentime for the horse lady would be useful. Or just for anything that would remove some fog from everything that’s happening.

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 16)

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      During the episode I was inclined to think everything was very beautiful but the anticlimactic ending undermined much of its actual significance in terms of the grand story. The change of the setting was a good idea since the school grounds naturally have already been explored much. I can’t say Lotte’s place and its surroundings were fleshed out at least a bit but just the fact of getting away from the school is refreshing. Patience and ability to retain a cool head truly is something that Akko lacks very much so a development in this direction could’ve been expected. Akko had to accomplish many tiring stuff but to be frank it didn’t seem that much more than anything else Akko had to do in order to pay for her rashness in the school. Patience during all this long day was only mentioned and even if applied, then only to be played down as a joke, so even if Akko actually learned something, it wasn’t emphasized as much as it should have been and the acquisition of the word looked more than easy compared to all others. This time Akko just had to move her legs and sadly thinking or mental strain just wasn’t necessary. The comedy on the other hand was more a hit than a miss, so overall that’s certainly not the worst episode of LWA.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 3)

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      It’s always good to see characters of previous stories return, even if I can’t say I remember much about Shibata, to be frank. I might be mistaken, but it looks like Shibata doesn’t really have close enough friends for whom he could be able to tell about his own youkai business. If that’s true, it works as another affirmation that Natsume has grown a lot and even surpassed another youkai-seeing person who on the surface looks very outgoing but actually lacks a special person who would be able to listen to his  more intimate experiences. Thinking further Natsume is really an amazing character – despite being looked down for so long he has overcome it without becoming sullen, closed in and angry about everything. He managed to make some more than decent friends, and find a way to speak to pretty much every youkai or at least to deal with them. I guess even Natori (who looks to come back next time) and all the Matobas lack that. Shibata was able to form a relationship with a youkai, but ultimately it didn’t end that well, so the guy was probably left a bit more cautious about his own dealings with youkai and speaking his feelings to others, while Natsume was lucky to find Nyanko-sensei. It also speaks of the charm of Natsume since even that selfish cat wasn’t able to withstand the attractiveness of the pure, honest and caring kid.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 4)

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      I wonder if every little Japanese town has a dude who constructs exoskeletons. And some kids who decide that combining that with traditional wood carvings might be something cool. Well, when you get invested into something and really believe what you‘re doing, it‘s not easy to look at everything from the perspective of someone totally unrelated and see that some ideas might not be really great. Anyway, out of all the shows this season Sakura Quest speaks to me the most. The manju selling part wasn’t very easy by itself, but it feels very realistic that when the ideas are also needed the hard part starts, and then not everything may be accomplished only by enthusiasm. As with everything else in the town people want their beloved art to remain traditional and unchanged, and no possible change seems to be satisfying. It’s just the same idea that only sticking to the past may look good for now but in the long run you have to change something in order to survive no matter how painful that may be. Ending the episode on a sad note again emphasized that coming up with good ideas isn’t the most easy job in the world. Sanae looks to be upset realizing that not everything goes as smoothly as it should and just moving to the country doesn’t necessarily solve all of her problems. Enough emotional material, some relatable ideas, over the top new guy and remaining question what the girls will do – what else could I wish from as enjoyable show as Sakura Quest is?

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 4)

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    The adventure of textbook romance continues just like expected. And what is a textbook romance without some misunderstandings (with even a hint of envy) that actually were integrated pretty well? Just it feels very weird that Japanese students aren’t allowed to bring their cell phones during school trips. Or does it count only for the train ride and during the night? Well, I’d say that during such trips cell phones might become more useful than ever if for example someone gets lost. Maybe the Japanese know better. Crowd scenes with too apparent CG people could’ve been done worse, and the fact that Akane’s friends are actually considerate without being too pushy is another plus as is the lack of heavy melodrama. Sure, the misunderstandings were blown up but it’s good to see that people who are able to text each other quite realistically also don’t start a ruckus with crying and shouting before sorting everything out. Still there’s a long way to go, and the visuals clearly tell that – even if the transient rain stopped as the couple reconciled, there’s still a tree behind them that parts their worlds. But the two lovable idiots are as close to the tree as possible, so the barrier might not last that long.