Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 10

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 10)

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

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 10)

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

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 10)

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

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 23)

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

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

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


Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 9

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 9)

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

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 9)

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

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 9)

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

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 22)

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

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

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


Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 8

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 8)

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

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 8)

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

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

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 8)

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

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 21)

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

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

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


Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 7

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 7)

     For a show that’s about nothing, this one certainly is enjoyable. Nothing happens but it’s totally alright. Walking a lot and baking bread can be described in a few words but as strange as it is, almost half an hour of it didn’t bother me at all. Right from the get go when a close-up of Chi is shown, we immediately recognize that she’s balancing, remember that she’s afraid of heights and wonder what kind of situation the girls are in. It’s surprisingly informative given that we see only Chi who moves only a little, and the surroundings remain shaded. Well, the surroundings. It’s quite funny because I remembered that ancient Windows screensaver with constantly moving 3D pipes. I’ve already said it, but continuity in slice of life shows usually is a great thing, and Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou manages to provide that. One or two references to past events don’t steal much time but instead make the story far more grounded. These loaves of bread for example – we immediately recall all the characters that we’ve seen so far plus that fish. The last one (Chi-shaped) also references that weird stone statues, so it’s both a reference and a comedic moment. For such a show various details are invaluable and I’m glad that this anime understands it well.

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 7)

     I can’t say I hated the episode but it certainly wasn’t likable. To start from the beginning, it’s not the first time that Kino in a show called Kino’s Journey plays a third-rate supporting character at best. In principle the show is not about Kino but about various countries that she experiences but only Kino is a tie between different episodes. The only way a viewer can be kept engaged is to find some likable people in the show, and the old anime tackled that way better, devoting an episode to Kino’s backstory. There however it’s not the case. For the newcomers to Kino’s world Kino probably seems a very bland girl whom it’s extremely hard to root for because we just barely see her and when we do, she only shoots people. This problem is even more acute with Shishou. There’s no indication whatsoever to who she might be to Kino and why should we care for her in the first place. I don’t even have to say that the older Shishou had a far more dignified presence in the old show – in this one she seemed just like an old hag. Again, why should I invest my time into seeing adventures of an old hag when she was young? Ok, moving to the actual episode. I can’t say if that companion of Shishou really did something illegal or he was just framed but the rescue operation was incredibly off-putting. First of all, was it really a better choice to stay back rather flamboyantly instead of running right away or hiding in some place? Yep, that ultimately let the pair to regain their valuables but that came with a cost of maiming people. I can’t stand this stance that if Shishou didn’t kill people it’s completely ok – she just brutally crippled a couple dozen of them. Do you really think it’s justifiable to make lots of people disabled only to get some of your stuff back? I don’t even mention how incompetent the police was. Come on, there’s only a couple of dudes (with overpowered shooting ability but that’s beside the point). How can you maintain public order if you lose all your morale and run away after a few bullets strike your shield? You have these huge shields for a reason, dammit. And don’t even tell me it’s actually “bad guys saw that they were doing wrong, repented and did wrong no more. The country prospered and everyone was happy”. Including lots of people in wheelchairs, yeah.

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 7)

     Whoa, a pretty great episode. I’ve been waiting for that Dog-guy to appear for some time (well, since the OVAs) and appear he does. To be frank, each of big-and-unnatural-dude-shows-up moments were very powerful. At first the presence of the Dog felt mysterious and dignified – just what you need for a memorable arc, but only after a short while that spider-like creature attacked Chise. I remembered that amazingly animated spirit-boar from Mononoke Hime, and that alone speaks of quality. Humanizing sorcerers was also a right choice – a great opponent always should have his own problems and be relatable to some extent. And it’s so simple but effective – one short scene that lets you think what would’ve happened if not that Alice girl but Chise herself had been bought by the sorcerer. It’s a bit sad to say but the two above mentioned mystical creatures (as effectively as they were presented) were overshadowed by Elias. It’s no wonder that such a being has problems being a human. Well, it might just be his exterior and inside he’s just indifferent and calculating person, but at least the fact that he’s distressed enough to become like this speaks that he does value Chise maybe not as a fellow human yet  but as an asset that he’d rather keep undamaged to say the least. I wish more episodes had such strong moments when I can forget the comedy scenes that thankfully weren’t added to this arc (yet). Also the setting is as beautiful as ever. So yeah, eagerly awaiting the next ep.

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 20)

     The episode was divided in two parts and the first one was not that bad. More insights into Akira’s past make her a far better character. Still I’m disappointed that we didn’t see how exactly Akira turned from a shy and envious admirer to a snake-tongued villain. There had to be some specific point that made her start actively bullying Chinatsu. Akira still cares about Chinatsu and I find it weird that even after all these harsh words she still hopes that Chinatsu will see her not only as a worthy competitor but also as a friend. Also it’s suspicious that Chinatsu at one point just ignores Akira and later on cheers on her. Not to mention that some time ago when Akira was first introduced, Chinatsu clearly was very susceptible to Akira’s manipulations. To put it in other words, major developments happening off-screen and not being consistent in terms of relationships are problematic if you want to have a good story. Anyway, even with everything I’ve said already, the second part was played mainly for the comedy, and not the very best one. Akira’s clinging to Chinatsu, her partner’s daughter’s behavior, all that pseudo-yaoi Hyoudo stuff – it all feels out of sync with the more or less emotional and serious beginning. Also, how can Tatara be sad that he lost one mark in the round? Seeing how many mistakes they made I’m even surprised they advanced at all.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 7)

     Well, that was actually boring despite the grandiose music. You can try as much as you will but nothing will matter if the characters aren’t likable enough (yep, I’m repeating myself but only because Kino no Tabi has the same problems), and that’s the main issue. Some guys like Chakuro and Lykos are ok but no more than that. On the other hand that pink-haired dude is so obnoxious and hateable that no matter how likable, no one can evoke equal amount of positive emotions. Everybody else are simply discardable. As with the first slaughter, when you know what to expect, everybody except Suououououou, Chakuro, Lykos and Ouni were already red-flagged even before the expedition began. And to be able to guess that correctly is boring. Was I meant to care when that old guy who some time ago preached mass suicide was killed? Why all the tears, I might even be content that there will be less characters with questionable decision-making skills. All these fight scenes don’t look particularly inspired. What’s so interesting in a fight when you can’t see anything? And people are just running here and there without any thought of taking a cover. Well, the expedition itself wasn’t that better. I appreciate that the show at least tries to rectify the power misbalance by stating that Whalers’ Thymia is far stronger but come on, how can a bunch of rural dudes who started training mostly a week before smash the whole security of professional soldiers and escape with only one minor wound for the whole team? Well, in the end the expedition ended exactly how it was meant to so at least that makes sense. What to expect the next episode? Lots of deus ex machina moments. I’m afraid that the good dudes (as many as they are left) will end up being victorious but only because Chakuro will do something heroic and that singing mystery girl (the song was nice but kinda out of place) will pull some totally unforeseen trick. Why did I think that pretty visuals would mean a decent story at the beginning of the season? By the way, now I begin to wonder how is it possible for all this greenery to exist on the Whale considering all these frequent sandstorms.

Kino no Tabi – it’s old but is it gold?

Alternative title Kino’s Journey
Studio A.C.G.T.
Genres Drama, Slice of Life
Source Light novel
Episodes 13 + OVA + 2 films
Season Spring 2003
Director Ryuutarou Nakamura
Music Ryou Sakai

    Why do people create imaginary worlds and stories? The answer would be because they think our own world lacks something. It might be that a person just wants to experience an alternative choice in his life or to see what would happen if some specific conditions would be provided. It doesn’t change the fact that even those stories that have very little in common with the everyday world are still built upon the rules that we know – sometimes they are altered, sometimes completely broken or created anew, but the fact persists. Then a person (other than the creator) who wants to experience such a new world needs to know what are the rules there. And because our world inevitably is the reference, the imaginary world by default works just like our own, unless stated otherwise. And that’s a statement I want you to remember because this time let’s delve into the world of Kino no Tabi (the old one), similar and yet vastly different from our own.

     The basics of an adventure story is to make someone travel somewhere and encounter some interesting people along the way. Kino no Tabi plays right into this vein – the protagonist Kino spends her time visiting various countries and noting their differences. The creator of the original light novel series Keiichi Sigsawa loves to travel himself and usually does that on his motorcycle so inevitably his heroine Kino does the same. The unusual thing is that Kino’s motorrad Hermes (yep, that’s how it’s called) talks from time to time. I don’t know how it’s portrayed in the light novels but judging from the anime, there’s a possibility that Kino’s wrong in the head (no wonder concerning her troublesome past) and because of that she imagines a completely normal machine talk. Sure, it’s only a minor possibility, but I can’t remember any scene where Hermes would have said anything important to any third party that Kino couldn’t. It’s never directly addressed, so think what you will. Still, Hermes only exists to keep company for Kino. To some extent it was a smart choice to have a talking motorbike – in this way Kino has someone to talk to but on the other hand Hermes doesn’t look like anything human so in that sense Kino still travels alone, so generally Hermes is there just to make Kino talk and express her opinions.

    As the story is episodic, the characters constantly change so it’s crucial to form a bond with anyone featured more prominently in order to connect with the show. Apart from Kino there’s only Hermes that may remotely be called a character. And it’s a talking motorbike, yeah. Even then Kino remains a mystery to me. Many people have compared Kino no Tabi to Mushishi and not without a reason. In both series the protagonists mainly act as lenses to enable the viewers to see their respective worlds. Sure, there’re huge differences as Ginko tries to help people while still hiding his personal thoughts and Kino usually is just an observer, trying not to interfere with anything. To measure anything you inevitably need to interact with it and as Kino usually avoids that, I’ve only gathered the tiniest and often contradicting impressions of her. One time Kino may ponder if it’s alright to kill some rabbits in order to feed a few famished travelers, a bit later she can actively make dozens of people (and maybe more) fight in a death match, so I just couldn’t form a consistent opinion on her – does she value life? Why is she behaving the way she does? Only a few times Kino formed a connection with other people and I can assure that during these times she was the most relatable and human. And I rather watch a show about humans and not some undefined entities that only observe. Especially if what they observe doesn’t really make sense more often than not.

      Now we come to the main point I have against Kino no Tabi – there’s not enough proof that all the different countries in Kino’s world work otherwise than countries in the real one (and why is that). You come expecting normal people who are able to think and come up with logical answers to their problems but it isn’t the case. People in Kino’s world are prone to be extremely oversimplified or just transformed in such a way that for me most of time they’re not even recognizable as people that I could relate to or care about their stories. And that’s even worse than, say, in a typical harem anime where no character can break from stereotypes. Kino typically spends an episode (or even less) in one country but in each and every one of them apart from one or two forgettable supporting characters other people make up a mob, a mass, devoid of personality and smarts. The simplifications of people, employed to act as devices for portraying specific ideas, don’t allow a single person from the mob to behave the tiniest bit differently compared to the majority. I don’t think it’s very realistic to travel to, say, Sweden and find that everybody is named Olaf, likes to play ice hockey and has a pet squirrel named Thor. Even worse, the mob usually acts in unbelievably dumb ways. For example (and beware of spoilers), two countries decide that rather than warring between themselves they would save some lives by regularly massacring a third underdeveloped country as a kind of sport. That way, everyone is said to be happy in these two countries because no more people are killed in war and they’re able demilitarize quite a bit. Why doesn’t anyone remember the land that the countries initially quarreled for anymore, why neither of the countries takes an opportunity to destroy the other one if the opponent’s power is diminished, why the people of the third country simply endure being massacred and neither retaliate nor leave is beyond me. And wasn’t a more simple choice JUST TO MAKE PEACE? It’s probably the worst I’ll remember about Kino no Tabi, but it’s just plagued by such more or less illogical complications that sure, do serve the exploration of thought provoking ideas, but on the other hand throw away all the relatability and realism. Maybe I’m an idealist, but come on, people can’t be THAT retarded, can they?

   Another interesting aspect of Kino’s world is that it’s very segmented. There’re practically no ties between the countries. It’s quite strange to have countries with hover-boards and also countries where a mere wish to invent something is frowned upon. Well, our world isn’t that different at a first glance, but I guess even someone living in the farthest corner of the world has heard that planes do exist. Technology usually like to spread, countries also tend to conquer as much territory as they can but in Kino no Tabi the countries are rather more like city-states that have no plans to expand, open trade routes or just explore further from their thresholds. I find that strange and it only adds to my confusion that Kino’s world initially seems just like our own but is certainly not. I guess if an animal has cat ears, cat nose, cat paws and even behaves like a cat, it should be a cat but in this anime even an object having all external human characteristics feels nothing like human.

    Sometimes it’s clear that the anime was adapted from a light novel, even if at the time light novels weren’t as popular as they are now and the market wasn’t oversaturated with similar stories with little artistic quality. Why does Kino always have to ask if she can ask a question? It’s pretty annoying to say the least. Annoying as well are the questions exactly repeating the statements (just like “I’m a plumber” – “Oh, you’re a plumber, right?”). It might work to start conversations in the light novel but in the anime it definitely feels wooden or at least outdated. After all it’s sort of understandable since at the time typical anime used to be that much slower paced.

Excerpt from the OST: some track featuring Pachelbel's Canon in D

   Kino no Tabi also definitely looks like it was made quite a while ago. The visuals do nothing but scream about belonging to early 2000s. Character designs can be very simplified, as much as something come straight from some Masaaki Yuasa work, only the animation isn’t as impressive. Kino herself looks very bubbly and gender neutral (which has some point), far from Kino in this new ongoing reimagining of the story where the protagonist didn’t manage to withstand the attack of moe. Having nothing but pastel colors and especially many browns might make the old Kino look muddy but usually the show just feels cozy. Well, mostly color-wise, because there definitely are some unsettling stories. Still, the overall aesthetic is a consistent one, and that’s for the best. If we discount that weird scanline filter. You know what I mean.

   Moving on, it’s difficult to say anything about the soundtrack because it hasn’t been released for some reason. Yep, there’re some bits and pieces scattered on the Internet but even so I’m not inclined to spend time looking for it. As far as I recall, the soundtrack was good in a sense that it seamlessly fused with the stories, that is it wasn’t noticeable at all. On the other hand a great soundtrack should be able to stand its ground alone and be an equally important part of the story, and I can’t say that about Kino no Tabi. The single memorable scene sound-wise was when the famous Pachelbel’s Canon in D was used. That music may suit pretty much any non-action scene anywhere so it fit here well also. It’s just funny that a single more prominent track wasn’t made by Ryou Sakai who’s responsible for the whole soundtrack.

    If you haven’t seen enough of Kino, it’s not over after the TV series – there’s also an OVA and two films (each half an hour long). The OVA is half an episode long and feels different from the main show only because of that. Just like the creators at the last second found out that what they had made doesn’t extend to the full length and then nobody had any idea what to do with the remaining time. The first film defers from the usual formula by being sort of a prequel. Remember girly Kino with long hair and a dress? If you liked that, the first film is a must. It’s interesting to see how Kino started travelling but as with the TV series (as well as the OVA), the mob just isn’t smart at all. It’s nothing but annoying when people are so pedantic that a problem (that can be lethal to someone) isn’t dealt with properly with only because some in this case ridiculously unimportant rules say so. The second film signified the first time when Kino no Tabi left its initial studio – it was produced by Shaft and it feels hardly like a Kino. The character designs are updated (Kino’s coat is very battered for example) and Kino looks far more mature. The story also isn’t anything to write home about. It has some interesting elements but in the end it’s unfinished and feels just like the rest of unsatisfying episodes of Kino. As you probably know the ongoing reimagining of Kino no Tabi is also an option, but at least for now its quality doesn’t feel that satisfying.

Updated Kino from the Shaft film

    It’s immeasurably hard to tell a story that has some philosophical elements that would be thoroughly examined only in one episode, a decent wrap up and relatable characters included. Probably each episode of the series could be extended to its own separate show because the ideas behind are truly capable of that. Now it’s sadly quantity and not always quality. For me simply abstract ideas weren’t enough – they only can reach a viewer when they are organically embedded into the world of the story, and that’s precisely what I feel the anime lacks. Almost every episode I can summarize in a way of “Oh, that’s a rather interesting thought… but why the hell is that person so dumb?..”. I guess if Kino had been less of an enigma and the inhabitants of the countries had been less simplified, it would’ve been a show to my liking. Still, I must acknowledge that there’s a gold nugget in probably every episode, only it’s covered with a huge layer of dust. It’s up to you whether you have enough commitment to find it and not be too judgmental about the dust.

    I believe, this anime


Could’ve been worse

     I think Kino no Tabi is worthy to be experienced. Sure, there are many more enjoyable shows but if you find yourself drawn to some deeper stuff and have some free time  – do try out the show. Despite my rather harsh opinion many people appear to have enjoyed Kino no Tabi quite a bit, so at least in order to broaden your general knowledge of anime the show is recommended.

     Have you seen the old Kino no Tabi? Are such older shows able to stand the test of time? How do you think the old show compares with the new anime?

Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 6

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 6)

     Well, I guess this show slowly becomes my favorite out all the other seasonal shows. It’s only a second human that the girls encounter so that should make this episode special. And it definitely feels special because there’s so much stuff you can read out. Ishii is a nice parallel to Kanazawa – both of them are very passionate about what they’re doing but this world isn’t really a place to pursue such hobbies. All of Ishii’s work similarly to Kanazawa’s in the end is lost but both of them are able to acknowledge that and move on. It can even be said that Chi and Yuu were the catalysts that saved both Kanazawa and Ishii from continuing their passions and in that way set them free. Stories of these episodes nicely mirror the main idea of the show – you can do all you want but sometimes it’s not meant for you to succeed. Nevertheless, there’s still hope, there’s still life after a failure. Again it’s very striking how the girls are able to live in such a world and not be crushed by it. Especially Yuu seems absolutely content with what she has and there was not a single time that she really understood what her saying “hopeless” truly means. When you think of it, it’s truly amazing how positive the show is despite featuring such a dystopian setting.

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 6)

     To me the episode seemed heavy-handed. The idea was pretty clear but the robe of this metaphor wasn’t flawless. For example, it’s obvious that these merchants must be portrayed as evil as possible because then it’s more powerful when the slave-girl’s beliefs are tested. Still, I think that the authors went too far by making the merchants unlikable. It’s fine and commendable when you create a truly hateable character but is it really the goal of the show to annoy me so much that I would consider skipping the episode  altogether because of that? Yep, that horrible brat was something. I’m also confused about the stance of the merchants towards the slave-girl. Everyone detests her to the point of thinking of killing her for fun but then isn’t it strange that some dudes try to talk to her like a normal person and even suggest fighting them from time to time? The slave-girl herself seems to be pretty stupid. I can take that she doesn’t know how to use a rifle but asking others how to die? Well, if she truly wished for that, there’s lots of those hideous CG plants around, please turn on your brain and take a bite or two. Irony aside, still it was a fine episode. Struggles of beliefs that tell to die with physiological urge to survive was portrayed pretty nicely. I only doubt that the last segment showing the future was really needed. It’s ok to know the girl survived but leaving everything ambiguous and a road of self-discovery still ahead also might have been a decent choice. It’s a little nitpick but lines like “as you know” should be banned entirely from every single storytelling medium. And you know you have a problem when the main character of the show barely shows up and is never missed.

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 6)

     At this point I’m concerned about the relationship between Chise and Elias. It’s ok that both of them feel comfortable with it but for the viewer who knows how real relationships should work it doesn’t really feel right. The problem is that Chise doesn’t know better and thinks that everything she gets from Elias is enough and everything’s ok. For her it may seem so but Elias himself confessed that he doesn’t know how to emphasize with humans and therefore everything he does for Chise is just a calculated wish to get some perks for himself. Elias is using Chise plainly for his own amusement to perform an experiment and it’s doubtful that he feels anything real for her. Yet. So yeah, Chise might be happy that she found a shelter but it’s not real, there’s no heartfelt emotion from Elias’ part. Chise deserves far better than this. The other thing I want to talk about is of course Titania and Oberon. The Queen’s entrance surely felt polished and majestic (though was it really necessary to focus on her chest?). Oberon on the other hand didn’t feel dignified enough to be a king. I understand that Fairies might have a more playful side to them but I’m not sure that it should come in the way of making them look kingly. Fairies by definition should feel nothing like humans do so including these chibi comedic moments virtually destroys all the presence that impressive Titania’s coming in had. Again and again the show seems to be doing the right thing, but not right enough to become truly great.

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 19)

     Oh well, a backstory of a character I don’t care the slightest. Of course, some yuri-style infatuation always spices things a little but was that really necessary? The main story concerning this oh-so-important competition barely advanced and having such a slow pacing certainly doesn’t add any tension or excitement. Akira’s backstory might have been justifiable if she had been shown more previously. Now she’s just a random girl that once was friends with Chinatsu and now just teases her and tries to destroy her psychologically. Why should I care how did she become like that? She’s just an obstacle Chinatsu needs to overcome and nothing more than that. It can be argued that the flashbacks also gave some light to Chinatsu but I don’t think we understood her any better – she always has been that tomboyish gal with some attitude. Well, I can’t really make these accusations since the flashbacks shouldn’t be over – we still don’t know what exactly made Akira so bitter that she forsake her adoration of Chinatsu and instead started causing problems. The background music that appears at various unimportant moments have come to irritate me because of being repetitive. Ideally a double-length show should have a double-length soundtrack. There’re other aspects I’m not happy about so adding music to the list would be very sad.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 6)

     A pretty typical calm-before-the-storm episode. It’s a halfway point and the show dares to introduce a flashback in order to flesh out a sort-of-important character? Well, you’re late. At first it was interesting to see Ouni as a mystery but slowing the preparation for the fight down even more with some backstories that doesn’t do much good isn’t what I want. This is exactly the same problem I have with the latest Ballroom episode. That Ouni’s friend was fleshed out more but what are the odds that he won’t end up being killed during the invasion? The show loves giving some random dudes minimal characterization, then assuming that it’s enough, and then killing them and hoping for some impact. The same red flags apply for those girls that tried to be nice to Lykos. At least the mood was kept just right as the crew were anxiously waiting for the attack. This all slice of life stuff didn’t feel right paired with the tense atmosphere and while I’m sort of not happy about that per se, in the grand scheme of things it makes sense. But a national celebration of throwing sand? Have you ever tried pouring send left and right into the eyes of random people? Who got the idea it would be fun? Chakuro’s motivations remain his dead waifu and his new sewing tsundere waifu which feels quite flat. Well, it doesn’t matter because many will die horrible deaths and any peacefulness will be retracted from the story for a few upcoming episodes.


Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 5

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 5)

     And I thought that it can’t get even more low key. From now on any time I need to relax I know for sure what to watch (and which episode). The girls from time to time say that they should hurry lest their food finished and it seems that they have some final goal. Yet even reminders that they shouldn’t stay in one place for long don’t seem to work. And why should they? The girls are having a good time enjoying every single minute of their journey. That by itself is fairly optimistic because anyone would be hard pressed to laugh in such a gloomy environment with lots of destruction left and right. So I guess it makes me appreciate such commodities that I have – a roof above my head for someone else might seem a luxury. The third part of the episode also nicely connected with the first one – you don’t need much stuff in order to play and create a pleasant moment or two, you just have to think. The naïveté of the girls and their ability to enjoy the world as crumbled as it is something to think about. Let’s don’t forget to take a breather from everyday hustle and enjoy life as much as we can.

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 5)

     A bit unexpectedly I liked the episode more than previous ones. Well, it wasn’t that impressive but at least there weren’t as many problems I usually have with the show. The idea of the first part was very bare-bones – people make their heroes what they want them to be and not what they were. Maybe some elaboration would’ve made everything more enjoyable but probably the source material also didn’t dwell that much on this notion. The second part however went further than merely stating an idea. The story, albeit predictable, felt far more touching than usual Kino no Tabi fare. Once again it’s hard to get invested into characters you see so briefly (this time even less than for an episode) but this sort of a tragedy of the Eyebrowless Dude and the White-haired Woman (how old is she by the way?) did manage to show how unlucky some people might be. But then there’re some questionable details. First of all, why would the king send his own daughter to spy? Isn’t that too dangerous? Then why would this girl keep lying after her return to her lover? Wasn’t it easier just to tell “I’m back but the people hate me so let’s move out together quickly and secretly”? And then comes the big reveal that the Dude himself was lying. I understand that it might be comfortable for him but come on – shouting “Where’s my lover?” everyday should be pretty exhausting if he’s truly right in the head and she’s right here. Maybe the problem the show addresses is that sometimes we get sort of comfortable in situations that can be so easily changed for the better but we just don’t even try. Still, the metaphor is handled a bit too heavy-handed because I don’t really see the point in both of the lovers lying to each other when they can easily throw their disguises away and be far more happier. On a side note the white forest with red leaves definitely looked impressive.

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 5)

     Well, it was heavy. I guess out of everything we’ve seen so far this episode has to be my favorite. The story itself is just sad because anyhow you look at it, you can’t really judge that Matthew guy. Sure, looking at the final result he definitely wasn’t an angel, but where exactly is the boundary you can’t cross in order to save your loved one? The visuals also nicely accentuated the uncomfortableness of the story, starting with that disgusting Elias’s lick. Well, it somehow was the most unpleasant thing I saw probably the whole week. Somehow. Details like what was left of Mina slowly dripping from Matthew’s hands made another nice touch with the anime probably overpowering the manga. This whole expedition for Chise should’ve been particularly hard because a whole multitude of beings either chose to die or ask to be erased completely without any regrets. For anyone troubled as our protagonist coming into terms with death is a very hard task. At least Chise now clearly values life, something she wasn’t able to do before. No wonder since awkward gestures and just weird behavior of Elias still makes Chise feel very valued, and that poses a question what was her life before. After everything I still have an inquiry – what of the present sorcerers? Were they really necessary apart from trying to plant an idea into Chise’s head that what she feels is nothing more than a Stockholm syndrome? And what, they just left? I guess it definitely won’t be the last time we see them but having someone antagonistic for once ended too anticlimactically.

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 18)

     You know this competition is completely different from others because of the dramatic dressing. Let’s talk about synchronizing everything for the common goal. In the very beginning the announcer tells to prepare for tango, the background music also picks up tango rhythm, Chinatsu wears a red dress and everything seems to heat up. And then she tells that she’s cold which is completely at odds with both the visuals and the sounds. Sure, this line is insightful but I think that it’s a horrible choice to place it here, where after a motivation speech (which also associates with hotness) the pair could have gone to give their best performance. Also after such a tension-building segment the announcer strikes again with “Hey folks, next is waltz”. Waltz definitely isn’t a dance where you need all this heat and tension so the initial building up seems to be for nothing. Still worse, the real tango comes later on. If you start with tango, you build everything for tango and show the tension as much as possible, not jumble between different moods. Even if getting into sync for our pair was the most important thing of this episode, it was attenuated by all these comedy moments (various families coming to watch) and all the commentary of Hyoudo and the lot. I don’t know if there’s a better way in principle to show both the dancing and its commentary but endlessly cutting back and forth gets repetitive real quick and also steals lots of attention from the focal point – the dancers and their emotions. In the end it feels like just another competition among other competitions, with the stakes being as low as ever.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 5)

     “We will absolutely sink the Whale and kill all the people on it. Oh no, a girl got an arrow to the knee. To the infirmary, quick!” Argh. Please don’t change your opinion like socks, you are leaders of the society or are you not? Oh well, as much as I do enjoy the visuals, there’s constantly something wrong with the story. Well, it’s not always something as bad as inconsistencies but just some not that believable decisions. What’s with the mindset “I’m so ashamed that I must ask poeple to fight for their lives”? Come on, you’re on the same boat – you either fight or you die. As Suouououou said, there should be something else about the attackers because total destruction on a basis that someone else is just different seems pretty weak. I guess the most interesting part was when that Neri girl proved to be something different from an ordinary human. It appears that the Elders knew about that so if Neri opposed the sinking from the start, why didn’t she say anything directly? Or did she want to remain concealed as much as possible? Well, there might be some logic to this one (and others) but at this point I’m not buying the story. It’s just too complicated when it has no need to. At least that that one-eyed gatekeeper is voiced by Hiroshi Kamiya so that’s another plus to the show.

Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 4

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 4)

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

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 4)

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

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 4)

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

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 17)

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

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

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


Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 3

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 3)

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

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 3)

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

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 3)

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

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 16)

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

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

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


Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 2

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 1)

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

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 2)

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

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 2)

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

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 2)

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

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 15)

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

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

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