Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 9

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 8)

     It pisses me off that the tournament is made to look like it’s Tatara dueling with the Jerk and their partners (who just can’t keep up with both of the dance geniuses) are there only because the rules say so. Come on, it’s a pair sport, isn’t it? Even Hyoudo who tells Tatara not to dance alone seems to treat women only as if there were some props: “You need to make Mako a better dancer…”. Well, maybe just talk to Mako then, wouldn’t you? She has danced for quite a while and knows everything far better than a plain copycat that Tatara is. As if there is some magical switch that Tatara needs to find in order to make his partner better. And no, Mako has no say in this thing. Why would she? When Shizuku gets in the competitive mood it’s only because she wants to impress her ex-partner, and Mako also does the same exact thing. Even if the show’s focus is rather on the relationships of the characters I think it still should give more information about the dancing itself, not to mention ANIMATING THE DAMN THING! Some of the character interactions this time definitely were expressive but come on, I know that you can make a dancing cut longer than 2 seconds. I understand that Tatara is a beginner and Sengoku also just took a new mentor role (wait, that’s just like Victor from Yuri!!! on Ice) but simply forgetting to mention the importance of stamina is unbelievable. Is Tatara so unhealthy that every single person dancing only loses a breath when he seems to be on the verge of asphyxiation? Stamina needs to be built but didn’t Tatara practice his whole routine even once to see his capabilities? Please tell me what does the show’s fixation on Hyoudo’s mother (well, more often than not a certain part of her to be more exact) gives to the story.

Made in Abyss (Ep. 8)

      I wish the show spent more time revealing how Riko and Reg spent their training days. Apart from annoying flies and that hippo thing (yep, Kou Yoshinari again but as always the monsters get awfully little screen time) the trip seemed to be going rather ok and problems only mentioned could’ve been a good way for further characterization and development. Still, even if the level wasn’t explored to my satisfaction the overall mood of the show has gotten more serious compared to the sunlit school-walks during the first episodes. You really need to push yourself and level up in order to go deeper. The flashbacks a bit humanized Ozen showing her fondness of Lyza, may I guess the only friend she had. The Abyss truly is powerful if it’s able to connect two so different characters who on the first glance shouldn’t have any common points to share. Lyza has been featured quite a lot lately (and only now I realized she’s voiced by Maaya Sakamoto. Cool!) but Riko’s father remains a mystery. Was he truly just a usual bland anime protagonist, loved for his “kindness”? Lyza definitely couldn’t get an overall satisfying friendship from Ozen and seemed to be fairly outgoing person so having lots of very different friends wouldn’t be unnatural but still Riko’s father is another intriguing part of the show.

Re:Creators (Ep. 19)

      Well, that was something. I guess I wasn’t the only one who doubted the show and was if not annoyed then at least disappointed by endless stream of recaps (to be frank it wasn’t bad, but a recap remains a recap) and episode-less weeks. Now I think it was worth it. Animation alone compensated quite a lot of static talking scenes in the past – the show’s really determined to gather all of the fan following it has been slowly losing. When there’s plenty of action scenes Hiroyuki Sawano may feel like a god – he’s in his own territory and even if the insert songs were not unique, their task of pumping excitement up to eleven was accomplished well. Turning now to the meat of the episode, I don’t think Alice’s death was as impactful as Mamika’s. Of course it did give more gravitas to the story, especially when paired with such phrases like “you only have a supporting role in this story”. Nonetheless, I feel that Alice reverted to the rightful side too quickly and almost completely off-screen. After that she was featured only marginally so Alice with a changed worldview wasn’t seen enough for me to start caring about her a lot. Yes, she was a nice girl but not more than that. Her death also brings an ongoing issue – we still have no idea how much the creators are able to influence the ongoing story – did Alice’s creator really killed her off? If yes, then was it done for the approval of the viewers (not the most elegant way of getting that then)? If not, then to what point he has written Alice’s storyline – did the reality negate that? Even if we take another matter – Matsubara was clearly astounded by Selesia’s decision so that would mean that he wasn’t the one who crafted such a twist. But then again – to what point has he written everything and how much freedom do the characters really have? I don’t think Selesia died – killing two pretty important characters in a single fight isn’t as impactful as killing them separately over a longer time. Plus, we didn’t see the pixels that appear when a character dies. Anyway, knowing that Meteora was able to revive Blitz’s kid I wouldn’t be so sad neither about Alice nor about Selesia no matter their fates. Not to mention that Magane and the main guy so far haven’t shown their cards. Still, having ability of revival is a double edged sword and I’m afraid the show may cut itself in some way. Speaking about other matters, there’s still stopping to talk mid-fight and fighting weirdly (why didn’t Selesia and 2nd-rate-Shinji fight Charon together? Don’t tell me two robots (and one of them a giant-ass one) can’t obliterate a single one). I guess that’s just how things in many anime are.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 22)

      It seems like with Erika’s tooth also came out a bit of her childish stubbornness. It’s very true that sometimes any arguments of a third party simply can’t make a difference and only a very close person can help to appreciate other opinions. It’s also a lesson of maturity for Erika – she may as well go and live in Tokyo but even if her mother’s opinion isn’t relevant (probably because of dim future prospects), she isn’t the only one who deeply cares about Erika. The ending also very satisfyingly made things click – ideas borrowed from Warabiya also brought more light to the streets of Manoyama – just the thing Erika wanted. Maybe that also had some effect since in the end (as expected) Erika decided to settle down for a time being and even acknowledged Shiori’s opinion as having right to be valid. Maybe there might have been more to this story but with only 3 episodes left the festival stuff will probably completely usurp the scene. Somehow it’s comforting that as with other two treasures, the search of the Golden Dragon also turned out not be that trivial.

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Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 8

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 7)

    I have to give some applause to the staff for making the Jerk the most unlikable character of the season. Also let’s give another round just for finally giving some lines to Shizuku. Well, I don’t know how the dancers usually communicate mid-dance but constantly randomly changing routines just for fun doesn’t seem like a very smart thing to do. I understand that someone as close to a pro level as Hyoudo might do that but for Tatara who just began dancing in the first place and now participates in his first competition with his first partner – isn’t it too selfish? Or is Mako (and previously Shizuku) just a doll who can (and must) easily say “screw the plan” and mimic anything Tatara can think of? Anyway, what really aggravates me is the use of humor, especially the fan-service-y stuff. Can’t you just stop using it in order to make fun of women? On the other hand, can’t just stop using any humor at all completely? This kind of jokes doesn’t add anything and only breaks the mood and because of that reminds me of my problem with 3-gatsu no Lion. At least that show had some deeper ideas and redeeming qualities. It turns out I was wrong about some decent sakuga appearing because of the competition. When will the show move from such a pedestrian form? Maybe it’s because this competition doesn’t feel like anything special? Yes, Hyoudo’s appearance made everything more interesting but aside from that the rivalry between Tatara and the Jerk doesn’t really interest me. Delving into some speculations, I think that as every shounen Ballroom just loves maintaining status quo and that should mean no change in pairs. I’d wager that neither Tatara nor the Jerk would win – Tatara’s not good enough and the Jerk (or Shizuku more likely) might find some trouble because of Hyoudo.

Made in Abyss (Ep. 7)

    Well, I knew that from Ozen you can expect many things but her brutality against Reg still came as a surprise. As her motivations became clear, Ozen was revealed to be one of the most fascinating characters of the season. Even her longevity and athleticism massively contrasts the frailty of Riko and Reg, but it’s her character that is the most interesting. Ozen clearly enjoyed being adored by Riko’s mother at the time and it seems like the same also applies to the daughter, albeit in a particular not beginner-friendly way. The harshness of Abyss affects its explorers and it’s natural that Ozen has perfected her survival skills and that probably leaves very little space for feelings, leisure time and other privileges of people living on the surface. Apart from immense practicality (as expected from a cave rider), she also possesses curiosity (that wasn’t too pleasant for Reg’s parts) and a particular dark sense of humor. Mix everything and you’ll get a very rough person with whom it’s very hard to live with but once you befriend such a character, the support will never waver if you can just keep up. Meanwhile other unexpected facts were revealed. Riko originally being a stillborn adds more seasoning to her determination to climb down, not to mention the whole existence and working principle of that cube. It appears that Lyza’s grave was actually empty. But then why would she need a grave if she’s alive – there’re better places to keep your stuff, and if she’s already dead (which now seems doubtful) – where’s the body?

Re:Creators (Ep. 18)

     As much as I enjoy Magane’s playfulness I have no idea what was the point of spending half an episode to have her talk to the main guy. Yes, her personality carries much weight but apart from the fact that Magane isn’t inherently bad and just wants to have some fun in her own way that was just empty talking. Yes, she also showed some affection to the main guy because of their apparent similarities but that has little meaning until the main guy’s role in all this event is revealed. It’s very funny how he still is just a discardable self-insert guy and barely a character. Moving on, everyone loves Mahou Shoujo style, I can’t argue with that. Still, I’d be more glad if Mamika was here. Wait, how did Yuya and his opponent got from streets to some Antique building to fight? Am I wrong not to believe that the majority of people do care about the stories they get and look for consistency and inner logic? I can’t grasp that no one would give a damn about Yuya talking about things he has no evidence about and everyone just accepts that. Finally Selesia’s colleague showed up. I wonder what Altair told him to convince him to fight against her comrade. Also, there still remains Alice’s request for Magane to make a some huge mess.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 21)

     Entertaining as usual. It was a bit unexpected that Erika would make such an impact on the story but on the other hand she’s as suitable as anybody to once again make the dilemma of choosing between the country and the city relevant. The theme has been discussed already by the main girls but as those that didn’t enjoy the country at first also had some experience of living in a city, seeing a local who desperately wants to leave brings some new winds. For the main girls it’s like a challenge of another level – at first they needed to get comfortable in Manoyama themselves and since this task has already been accomplished they can try to pass the message to others, even if they are as cynical and stubborn as Erika. The subplot about the last treasure didn’t bring any surprises, only compared to the previous two items everything seems to move too smoothly. Anyway, it was a good chance to add some little details to the supporting cast and the show didn’t miss the opportunity. The festival will probably be the culmination of the show with the girls getting even the most withdrawn residents of Manoyama starting to appreciate the place they live in. Still, what interests me even more than the festival is the final choices of the group – will Yoshino leave or remain for a second term as a queen?

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 7

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 6)

     The Jerk seems to be getting even more unbearable to watch. It seems like he can think only about himself. Why would Mako still want to do anything with that prick of her brother? And isn’t Tatara being a bit unfair, thinking only about how to get Mako to dance with the Jerk and keep him away from Shizuku regardless of what Mako might truly want and what Sengoku has been saying about dance pairs equaling marriage? Also, doesn’t anyone want to know what Shizuku thinks about this whole situation? As if it doesn’t concern her in the slightest. It looks like concerns of many about that role of women in the show continue to have a clear reasoning – Shizuku remains a faceless doll and Mako is treated only as tool to show off for either her brother or Tatara. In terms of sakuga this time was disappointing – too many still frames. As far as I remember, the production for the show has been quite healthy but it’s no wonder if apart from the first episode the animation highlights were as scarce as possible. Maybe all the resources went into the competition next time?

Made in Abyss (Ep. 6)

     Oh, the cliffhanger. That thing (I guess there’s no better word for that creature) certainly is interesting as well as Ozen with her overwhelming presence and more secrets than you can count. The story moves at a fine pace but if the show stops for a while to answer the questions of the Seeker Camp I doubt there will be enough time left to continue the story and reach any satisfying conclusion. The manga is still ongoing so a conclusive ending probably isn’t a possibility, but to add Made in Abyss to the endless heap of manga-promotional-only anime would be a shame. I guess reaching the bottom of the Abyss won’t be the case, especially since quite a prominent character (apparently named Nanachi) according to the ED still hasn’t been introduced. It’s probably too early to think about the ending but seeing how well everything has been developing so far it’s the biggest possible problem that I can think of. Getting back to the episode I have to say that Ozen’s VA Sayaka Ohara is overdoing it. She’s definitely a fine VA but deepening her voice to suit Ozen’s personality feels very unnatural and artificial. Unless the manga stated that Ozen had some problems with her vocal chords. Anyway, someone with a naturally deeper voice would probably have sounded way better.

Re:Creators (Ep. 17)

     When a flying horse is going one on one with a giant robot and their strength seems equal. When a flying horse is able to fly backwards. Yep, it’s pretty, but more than that? Not really. So, everything is broadcasted live, eh? And how does that work? I get that anime characters after their transportation to the normal world are transformed to be like real people but does really no one give a damn that what are they watching suddenly turned from 2D to 3D in their perspective? I think there would be countless hardcore fans that would despise their favorite 2D characters being involved in a 3D crossover. I’m not sure if pointing out clichés like artificially prolonging fights for the sake of the viewers or bringing back dead characters still counts as a positive if the show still use them. Alice certainly has something in her mind but it’s still to be seen what commotion Magane is going to make (if she will though it’s probably unquestionable) and how. So it seems like this birdcage is something like a reality marble, speaking in terms of Fate franchise. When you think about it, is it still possible to fight back Altair even with enhanced abilities if she has endless stock of fanfics behind her? I still don’t really get how characters and their creators’ wishes work in the birdcage. Are the creators able to determine the actions because of this acceptance or is it all just a calculated prediction?

Sakura Quest (Ep. 20)

     I don‘t know who that director  guy is supposed to be but calling those that didn’t make it is anything but ethical. As if it’s not cruel enough for Maki – she thought that maybe after all these times she’ll get to start her dream eventually but it turned out as usual. Anyway, as always even with some difficulties everything ended up quite well with Maki satisfying her thirst for acting and at the same time not abandoning her responsibilities for Manoyama. I wonder why the creators of the show decided to have at least two winter episodes right in the middle of summer. When emptying my backlog I can live with such a discrepancy but it’s more than weird for currently airing shows. Sure, such episodes show that time isn’t static but I just couldn’t shake off a feeling that something’s not quite right about watching snowflakes in the middle of August. Another weird thing was the idea of organizing the closing ceremony. I don’t know how much the Japanese get attached to their schools but come on, it has been 10 years since its formal closing – I doubt many people would still care for that. And why didn’t anyone during all these years managed to take advantage of the fact that the school building might be used for the community of Manoyama?

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 6

Made in Abyss (Ep. 5)

     Reg is damn useful in everything Riko needs. She probably would’ve died hundreds of times was it not some help from him – first of all unlimited shortcuts and now even some bird-frying capabilities. Reg’s showdown even makes me wonder if there’s anything he can’t do. At least from the narrative perspective the fact that Reg has amnesia lets him as well as us discover new and new abilities in a way that doesn’t break the show. With the introduction of these corpse-eaters (no wonder that cry for help sounded somewhat fake) and these sort-of-monkeys straight from Ghibli production the descend in the Abyss gains more and more darker colors – as a monster designer Koh Yoshinari certainly did well. Also it’s proven that even the slightest try to go upwards takes a heavy toll on human physiology. Still, even with lots of theoretical knowledge about the places they are going through, Riko can’t even fathom what actually is to encounter the reality of  the Abyss. I wonder if there will be a point that could break her not very founded optimism. Maybe the new White Whistle character who seems to know something about Reg’s origins may be of help?

Sakura Quest (Ep. 19)

     Not the most impressive stuff so far. In theory the dealings with the festival were connected to the new opportunity for Maki quite well but everything ended up being rather forced. Why would the girls visit the school at night? Joke about mistaking Maki’s dad for a monster probably was the only reason for that, and it’s not the funniest thing in the first place. Chitose bickering with Kadota has also gotten old. I can appreciate the continuity when a sent application (ages ago) finally got a reply but Maki’s reaction to it leaves something to be desired. Of course Maki isn’t a person who would show her emotions on her sleeve but saying “no I won’t” then walking for a bit and changing her opinion “yep, I will” in an instant isn’t the most entertaining thing to watch. Maki having an argument with her dad was a bit frustrating not because of the way it was portrayed but for a simple reason that both of them care for each other but are too stubborn and inflexible to make up even though it would take so little effort. It’s just like in real life some people argue a lot despite having no need to. And that rigidness is annoying.

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 5

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 4)

    Continuing from the last episode – why are there people who seem genuinely surprised that using doubles is forbidden? OK, Fujita was dumbstruck with an opportunity to dance but come on, what did you expect? And WHY DID NO ONE NOTICE? It seems like technically you could exchange a pair of professional dancers with two hobos for one dance and no one would bat an eye. Sure, some time later a disqualification letter might come in but at the moment neither judges nor other dancers would say a thing. It’s very simple – our protagonist needs to try a serious dance floor after all doesn’t he? And Sengoku’s a jerk for not taking any responsibility and blaming everyone but himself. Impulsiveness and gut feeling sometimes might come in handy but such people should either restrain themselves or go out of managing business. The damn necks are so much distracting that I have to remind myself it’s not some weird comedy about giraffe people. On the other hand, it is an unintentional comedy  – isn’t it funny how anticlimactically Hyoudo fell of the stairs? The way of introducing new characters is very shounen. As if anything about the show could be non-shounen.

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 5)

     I understand that having (and getting) a partner whom you trust, depend on and have utmost confidence in is crucial but come on, isn’t it taking a bit too far considering that at this point it’s just some practice we are talking about, not some unbreakable bond for the whole life? As far as I remember, Fujita so far has learned only waltz (because he spent extremely long time mastering it) and now he was supposed to dance a completely unknown dance, and even with a partner? If he made some progression off-screen it would be nice to get to know it, the show’s about Fujita’s progression after all, isn’t it? Yep, cliché “a cute dojikko stumbles and falls on the protagonist and thus a long-lasting bond is created” – check. Sengoku turns out to be not a complete jerk because of disqualifying Hyoudo on purpose but still that doesn’t make him a very likable character. Mako’s brother looks to be another overconfident and arrogant (and annoying, let’s not forget that) dude, almost Sengoku without any brains. For me Ballroom still can’t offer any likable enough characters – Fujita is just too unbelievably talented self-insert without too high IQ, Shizuku is just the perfect partner with only a semblance of a personality, Sengoku, Hyoudo and Mako’s brother hold their head’s too high and everyone else has too little screen time to be that noticeable.  The show just can’t go on without spouting dumb jokes left and right, can it? Is it me or some lip-sync this time was a bit off? Aside from all that, I look forward to the developments in the relationship between Fujita and Mako and all the rivalries.

Made in Abyss (Ep. 4)

     So far everything seems to be going quite smoothly. But if Riko gets distressed over a spider that is a rather simple creature of the first level, what is going to happen once they descend further below? There’s probably a reason why inexperienced whistles aren’t allowed to go deeper. I can understand that Habo got excited to see Reg knowing what he really is but is it a choice of a responsible adult to let two kids go virtually into a certain death, promise or no promise? I don’t know what Leader was thinking (and it bothers me quite a lot) but Riko feels like she definitely has the right answer. The same happened with the letter asking to come down when Riko decided it was written by her mother. Riko may as well be right but having such a companion with practically no cautiousness and only sky-high confidence instead of actual skills isn’t what I’d choose. The parallel between Riko and her toy was fitting – as the toy just flew away and ultimately was caught in a waterfall, so does Riko (also born in Abyss) started a journey down but may soon find that she has less control than she would like.

Re:Creators (Ep. 16)

     This episode in particular as well as some earlier ones (end especially the recap) have gone full meta. It’s interesting how that started to be more prominent in the second cour – the first one was more or like a regular anime albeit with an original premise. It’s like the creators thought “screw the story and let’s just have fun, and we’ll wrap everything up later on somehow”. When I thought only for a second that the onsen scene in a usual anime would’ve been just a lowly fanservice, Re:Creators not only swapped girls with middle-aged men but also addressed the fact itself (well, they got back to the regular fanservice so in the end I guess they just had the last laugh). Pretty much the same goes for discussing 2nd-rate-Shinji’s VA – just like how in Bakemonogatari Senjougahara told that her VA was amazing. Apart from some mild fun in the baths, the characters continue spawn useless sentences that have no meaning. I guess there had to be some transition to the second half but it felt anything but smooth. Someone in YouTube comments have named this show Re:Meteora talking and that isn’t too far of the mark. It seems like the final showdown is coming a bit early, unless it will be too stretched out or something important after that will have to happen. Either way it doesn’t sound too promising. Of course, Selesia’s comrade as well as the new member of Team-Altair haven’t shown their abilities, the MC’s plan remains a mystery as well as the whole principle of how the showdown is planned to go. The crew has been working for some time but we still don’t know anything substantial about what exactly did they do and I feel a bit disappointed about that. Some intermediate results would probably have made the transition a bit smoother. And do I not remember or so far in the series we still don’t have any clue why exactly Altair behaves the way she does with all the ending of the world and stuff?

Sakura Quest (Ep. 18)

     Well, I don’t know if it was a clever foreshadowing but since the very beginning of the episode I was thinking what would happen if any of the villagers died. Eventually I ended up dismissing the idea because that’s not that kind of a show but surprisingly it proved me wrong. Exiting the world when you have finished what you strove for while in the background Beethoven’s 9th symphony is playing – pretty majestic, isn’t it? Otherwise the episode wasn’t particularly exceptional – the pervy oji-san hopefully won’t appear ever again, the problem got solved in quite a plain way as if it was an afterthought and Sanae got a new way to connect with Manoyama. I don’t know, maybe as with the village, there won’t be any hope for Manoyama left eventually as the population inevitably is getting older and young people are migrating out of rural areas. Sakura Quest doesn’t deny that but instead suggests to find some ways to record what has yet remained and possibly to slow down the process of destruction. Even if the girls are working so hard and let’s be frank, the results are only bringing some happiness to the town and not new people, there probably are hundreds of such towns not only in Japan but also in the rest of the world that can’t afford as much manpower (or of such caliber) or other resources to at least stay afloat. And that’s rather sad.

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 4

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 3)

     And you tell me without any blinking that it’s actually possible to use a substitute dancer that looks completely different – hair, height and everything – and no one has any objections? Even the other dancers who should know their pairs fairly well? In a serious competition? Count me disappointed. That’s not all – the silly humor that I don’t enjoy at all was carried over from the last episode, and it certainly didn’t improve. And please explain to me what are the odds that a random dude who just started learning the basics of one particular dance just happens to be available when there are problems for the same exact dance, and manages to offer a more or less decent performance without any training. Suspension of disbelief is necessary for any kind of story but one that should be more or less realistic in my mind has no right to do such things as Ballroom does. Maybe that’s because it’s shounen? At least the show is able to have some fun at itself sometimes. And did I really spot some CG dancers that for CG were particularly good? The continuation of this mini-arc will probably shed some light on what really happened when Hyoudo fell, but it was probably just an accident. Still, pain or no pain, to simply disappear without any notice instead of telling everyone about your situation is at least unprofessional, so to that extent the dudes were right that Hyoudo doesn’t really care that much. To see such a talent behave so illogically would be another mind boggling thing, but as the story goes on, some explanations may rectify it. But not all of the damage that the show has taken is reversible.

Made in Abyss (Ep. 3)

     Clearly not as impressive as either of the previous episodes but I guess later on the weirdness of the Abyss will pay off the debt. Getting emotional so easily and behaving rashly well characterizes everyone as kids that have no idea what is waiting in the depths. Riko’s situation is quite interesting – even if last time she claimed that she doesn’t know her mother at all but despite of that her mom’s fame and glorious image still shapes Riko’s decisions. It could well be possible that if Riko finds her mom, the encounter may prove to be totally different from Riko’s imagination, as any person would be hard pressed to live up to imagination of a zealous admirer. The letter may have nothing to do with Riko’s mom in the first place, but if anyone is as concentrated in doing whatever they like as Riko, there’s virtually no way to dissuade them. Especially since it seems like Riko doesn’t have any other aspirations and goals in life, and to completely change that at the age of 12 is kinda difficult. I’m a bit at loss whether Leader really knew about Riko’s plan and allowed it to be executed. Sure, Riko may be restrained probably only by using some utensils in her torture room but any clearly thinking adult should make sure that kids don’t go into places that have basically “suicide” written on them. By the way, do these squishy things have any meaning? Will we see the stayers-behind again? And should I feel guilty that anytime someone calls Nat, all I hear and imagine is natto?

Sakura Quest (Ep. 17)

     Well, it seems like the real Quest is beginning, with mandatory (almost) evil scientists and stuff. It was a very good idea to include a story about a village even more rural and inaccessible than Manoyama itself, and showing the problems of elder people living here. Such problems are not only confined to Manoyama nor even to Japan, and speaking about them by itself is a positive thing. A decision to make an Internet-generation out of these elderly people might be a good idea and it was fun to watch (especially since they encounter the same problems as everyone – flaming and stuff) but I doubt that in reality everyone would learn so quickly or would want to learn at all. Still, it’s a possible solution, and thanks for that. It’s said that details may elevate a show very high, and Sakura Quest takes advantage of that very well. When the personalities of the characters are already established, it’s very gratifying to see Erika place a glass of water forcefully, to watch Chitose get embarrassed for visiting the old chief (but still do it) or to take a glance at Sandal showing his prowess at shogi or Riri getting in touch with the Spanish. By the way, why the subtitles have “monkeys” instead of “tanukis”?

Re:Creators took a leave this time, so let’s hope it’s for the best.

Aoi Bungaku – can old literature be adapted into an anime?

Alternative title Blue Literature
Studio Madhouse
Genres Drama, Historical
Source Novels
Episodes 12
Season  Fall 2009
Directors Morio Asaka, Tetsurou Araki, Shigeyuki Miya, Ryosuke Nakamura, Atsuko Ishizuka
Music Hideki Taniuchi, Shusei Murai
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     It’s often hard to get a satisfying manga adaptation, and light novels regardless of their quality may prove to be even a harder original source to tame. Still, out of everything that can be printed on paper probably the hardest is to take a conventional novel or a short story and reshape it into an anime, and Aoi Bungaku tries to do exactly that. The catch is that it’s not contemporary stuff it’s trying to adapt, and not even a one novel. Aoi Bungaku actually is something like an anthology of various stories written by famous Japanese who created their now classical works in the first half of the 20th century. For someone like me saying “he’s an extraordinary writer” doesn’t say much (quite shamefully) because sadly I lack that aspect of knowledge about Japanese culture. Still, such name as Osamu Dazai probably is known by many because his fame often seeps into anime and manga as a cultural reference – remember for example the recent Tsuki ga Kirei. All the stories originally were created having in mind a vastly different audience and not only because of a different time period – I guess such genres as a high-school comedy would’ve been inconceivable then. Because of that, adapting long-ago written stories may prove a particularly challenging task. How does Aoi Bungaku cope with that? Well…

Not the most expected OP

      First of all, the structure of the show needs some explanation. Aoi Bungaku is split into 6 completely different stories (though the last two have an artificial connection), and the differences are even more pronounced since each segment was created by different crews. Because of that it’s entirely possible to watch the show any way you like and skip any story you don’t like. Also, it’s uncommon that the show doesn’t have an OP. In its place in a documentary-like segment an actor Masato Sakai (remember the name) introduces the author and some details about a particular story. As for someone with virtually no prior knowledge about the cultural and personal circumstances of the stories, his comments were very helpful and insightful.

     The first story, the longest and in my opinion the most powerful one, is the swan song of Osamu Dazai. No longer human (Ningen shikkaku) tells a tale about sorrows of a man with little social abilities. Youzou gets what he doesn’t need but doesn’t manage to achieve what he really craves, if actually there is something he desires. Constant war with inner ghosts that manifest very powerfully and struggles to decipher if he really is a human and whether he should strive to be one makes it a very personal and engrossing story. A whole new view opens when you learn that Ninegen Shikkaku is the last work of Osamu Dazai right before his suicide. As if it’s not enough, some striking similarities with Youzou’s and Dazai’s lives make it an almost autobiographical and very personal work, a sad confession of a pitiful life. You just can’t sit without thinking “Oh poor poor Osamu…”. The visuals also are one of the strongest in the whole show. It’s not really a surprise, since it was Takeshi Obata of Death Note and Bakuman who provided character designs (he also did that for the third story). To be frank, the very first seconds of the show gave me the idea that it was made by good old Madhouse at its peak, and during all the four episodes the standards weren’t lowered a tiny bit. Every scene conveys the mindset of the protagonist and sustains the heavy atmosphere. Although it’s hard to make a convincing horror anime, Youzou’s inner demon looks terrific. There probably wasn’t a better way to start this show as strong.

      The second story deeply contrasts with the first one in many ways. I guess Tetsuro Araki is more suitable for making action flicks and not philosophical and deep stuff. From the first few seconds it’s clear that Ango Sakaguchi’s  In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom (Sakura no Mori no Mankai no Shita) isn’t going to be a very serious story. The art (character designer Tite Kubo of Bleach) as well as some additions to the story rather look like something Studio Trigger could’ve made and certainly not as a story of an acclaimed 20th century Japanese writer. There lies the biggest problem because I don’t think that was the right direction to take. Sure, some comedy is never a bad thing but particularly in the context of the other stories this one sticks out like a sore thumb. I wonder who thought that a talking boar or such anachronisms like cell phones in a medieval period would be a good addition. Thus such comedic moments completely overshadow the main story which itself doesn’t feel satisfactory. As I haven’t read the original work I can only hope that there were enough explanations why, for example, a rough bandit was so enchanted by a random woman to carry out every single of her sometimes ridiculous orders. Also the central idea of the story that sakuras may be a source of terror in the anime was just left hanging with no reasoning why.

     Next story Kokoro was written by Souseki Natsume. As far as I know, the anime takes some liberties with the story but in the end it pays off. Kokoro is about a friendship of two completely different people and what happens when their interests (of course involving a woman) collide. The first episode dedicated to this story felt too crammed and it seemed that only a surface has been scratched. The interesting part is that the second episode retells the same story, only this time from the perspective of the other friend. It turns out that pretty much everything actually had a different meaning. It’s not only the same situations that can be interpreted in a different manner – the two versions even contradict one another at some points. It’s quite puzzling but also interesting to try to trace everything as it really happened because even the second story that seems to be far closer to the truth may not have been told entirely without any changes. It may not hit right in the kokoro (hehe) but compared to the second story it shines very brightly.

     Then we have yet another work of Osamu Dazai, but this time far more cheerful, though not without some emotions and pain. In its essence Run, Melos! (Hashire, Melos!) is quite simple – it’s following a playwright as he’s tasked to adapt an ancient Greek story to a play. The story concerns two friends, one of whom was sentenced to death but manages to postpone his sentence by giving his friend in as a hostage. The struggle begins when he must return within three days in order to be executed himself and to set free his friend. It turns out that the playwright himself has some experiences that almost completely mirror the story and his memories prove to be too vivid for him to be able to work as always. Despite the simplicity of the story it tackles some fundamental values and shows that the same things that were important to the Greeks haven’t lost their significance. Ryosuke Nakamura’s direction again rises a question why he hasn’t been at the helm of more productions. At least he quite recently got Grimgar.

    The final two episodes are devoted to Ryuunosuke Akutagawa’s short stories The Spider’s Thread (Kumo no Ito) and Hell Screen (Jigoku Hen). The first one concerns a bandit whom a spider tried to save from hell. I think it’s a very common story, at least I have heard it many times before even knowing that there was such a writer. The second is more interesting as it discusses the actions of an obsessed artist to whom no sacrifice seems too painful in order to complete his painting. The stories at their core are very simple, but the director Atsuko Ishizuka of No Game no Life (that’s why there’s pretty colors everywhere) decided to join them together so that they would happen in the same mini-world. To some extent it pays off but in the end there are some inconsistencies left. The first Akutagawa’s story is far more fairytale like and its compatibility with the second one may be questionable. Moreover, the emperor in the first story is held to be the nicest guy in the world but in the last episode this notion just vanishes without a trace. The stories don’t have the complexity of the other ones but their core ideas are still relevant. Also, the first episode provided some nice trippy imagery of hell but the ending of the last story was just an animation fest.

     An interesting thing is that Masato Sakai (remembered the name?) acted as a protagonist or an important character in 5 stories. On one hand, it’s a common thread that unifies the stories. On the other, it wasn’t really necessary. Moreover, having a guy with a melancholic voice voice-act a rough and tough bandit gives not the most convincing performance. Still, more times than not he as well as other VAs did a good job trying to sound not like some anime character but real people. Serious emotions were certainly here and I can ask no more than that.

Excerpt from the OST of Ningen Shikkaku by Hideki Taniuchi

     The soundtrack was composed by two guys – Shusei Murai (episodes 9 and 10) and Hideki Taniuchi (the rest). There’s only a little more that I can say about it because in a very curious way the soundtrack apparently was never released. After some search I found that Hideki Taniuchi was charged with carrying some marijuana and we all know how strict Japanese are with such things. Of course it’s just a supposition that these facts are related and I may never find out why there was no release. Anyway, it’s very unfortunate because the soundtrack wasn’t a bad one. There are some reconstructions of the tracks taken from the series themselves scattered throughout the Internet but it’ll never fully replace nor quality nor quantity of the official release. The soundtrack mainly stays in the background but some of the more lyrical or upbeat themes find their way to the surface. The purpose of accompanying the stories and enhancing the atmosphere are accomplished and while it’s hard for me to recall anything substantial, the soundtrack accomplished its task without any major flaws. Probably the most impressive tracks belong to Ningen Shikkaku since it’s the longest story and has far more contemplative and emotional breathing spaces than any other.

Excerpt from Hashire, Melos!. Animation by Kenichi Shimizu.

     In the end Aoi Bungaku turns out to be a very mixed bag of everything. In principle trying to revive some classics and give them a new coating, maybe tweaking a little bit one detail or another to suit the change of the medium is a very commendable act. Yet, that’s only theoretically since even without the knowledge of the source material it’s obvious that not everything may be translated into animation well in the first place, so inevitably there arise some hard decisions to be made, and not all of the results seem to be on the same level as the original sources. Despite quite huge ups and downs, the positive (without, of course, getting to know about some influential literary works) is the possibility to choose what you wish. If a  full-cour-length show messes up its story, it feels way more important and a sour feeling will mar the whole show but with such a format as Aoi Bungaku chose you can pick up the better bits and come out of it quite satisfied.

    I believe, this anime is

 2Decent

      If you’re still pondering whether to engage Aoi Bungaku, please do yourself a favor and try Ningen Shikakku, that is the first four episodes. If you feel like it, you may check out Hashire, Melos! and maybe Kokoro. For sakuga fans the second half of the last episode is advisable. The whole 12 episode package has some unsavory parts but cherry-picking is of course allowed and you definitely have my recommendation for that.

     Have you watched Aoi Bungaku? Are you familiar with any of these literary works? Do you think it’s possible to have novels (not light novels) adapted into an anime in a satisfying way?

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 3

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 2)

     I knew it’s absolutely necessary not to get hyped too much for Ballroom but still I feel disappointed. Strip off the visuals and give the reigns to Deen or Pierrot and you’ll see that the show is so basic shounen that you can use it as a blueprint for years to come. Sticking to the basics isn’t necessarily a bad thing but apart from the theme originality isn’t something to talk about. A rival that has skills but no passion against a newbie who has passion and some hidden talent, and (so far) an unachievable crush – haven’t you heard anything similar before? And come on, can we just avoid the mandatory toilet-level humor (and major part of all the humor) please? Is it a slapstick comedy after all? Was that “oh no, he went into a wrong changing cabin, and there was a girl changing!” moment truly necessary? The art also was a bit downgraded. It’s natural that some static shots are used because it’s probably theoretically impossible to continue with the production values like in the first episode. Yuri on Ice did outstandingly well in that respect but still it wasn’t a perfect production. Still, even if the static shots are inevitable, their appeal is very low. Despite all these things, making Fujita a visual learner and Hyoudo’s dance near the end definitely were the highlights. The problem is that they were diluted by so much blandness.

     P.S. It’s turns out it was no joke, the episode was outsourced to Pierrot.

Made in Abyss (Ep. 2)

     As expected, the show retains its charm. Reg’s infiltration went surprisingly well. I guess “foreign technology” can lead you anywhere. Unless Riko and Reg will start climbing down, the secret of Reg’s identity doesn’t look to hold that long. Despite quite a cheerful start, some darker elements slowly started to find a way in. I can’t say that the backstory of Riko’s mother (as well as Riko herself) was tear-jerking but the story about a mother that does anything to save her child has some power in any context. Even if Leader denied Riko having some “special abilities”, her eyesight problems might have some meaning in deeper levels. Besides Riko’s mother’s message “come and get me” (maybe because she went too deep and that may border “loss of humanity or even death”?) probably the most interesting part of the episode was Riko’s reaction to the news that her mother went missing. It’s sad that a kid was forced to grow so distant from her parents so that even such grave news mean so little. So far the show seems to know pretty well how to do exposition without getting annoying – even the ranking of the explorers by the color of their whistles was inserted in a justifiable way.

Re:Creators (Ep. 15)

     I don’t know why but the mere notion of an eroge character being thrown into this mess among venerable heroines and twisted villains is incredibly amusing. Knowing what kind of “plot” has much popularity it’s probably even weird that the show isn’t spawning hentai characters like crazy. Could it be that Nishio Ohnishi is a play on Nisio Isin? Well, towards the end I think the pervy-creator jokes were a bit overplayed but just adding such characters to the story brings lots of fresh air. If only the new girl would prove to be useful in some way and not just being a temporary comedic punch bag. Everything else was just a set up for the upcoming events. Altair encouraged Blitz (who seems to regard her as someone in a similar situation like his daughter) and Alice tries to stir things up for some reason by contacting the biggest troublemaker in the world. The episode doesn’t feel as static as the last one but I start to miss some action or just any interaction between the opposing sides. I understand that everything needs time to brew but as clashes between the different philosophies are the most entertaining thing about the show, I just want more of it.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 16)

     I don’t know if it was my mood or what but the episode somehow made me happy. Pretty much all of the jokes landed, especially the last one during the preview. I guess a good thing is that Sakura Quest starts to connect arcs together thus the Spanish are joined with the Sakura pond which is joined with the past events which is joined with the Festival. This way the arcs are still possible but the connections let the story to move forward more naturally. It’s very interesting to finally see that the old chief hasn’t changed at all during the years – writing (and now saying) weird things and in bad ways trying to gather and motivate people. Chitose on the other hand matured a lot but knowing what kind of personality she had in the past adds some depth to her actions and motivations. When you think of it, it’s seems not that common for a place such as Manoyama not to have a festival. The revival will probably last for at least several episodes, especially if at first some things must be gathered, as cliché as it sounds. Still, I would like very much to see something more of the past. Or just to hear the old band reunite.

Scattered Thoughts – tasting Tales of Berseria

     I’m not an avid gamer, and it’s even rarer for me to completely finish a game. Usually I just either get bored with the gameplay or get stuck (and then get bored). That looks completely different from my completionist-like stance towards anime, but I guess I just hope to finish any game I started some time in the future. Considering gaming that have ties with anime my portfolio is even scarcer – apart from some visual novels (still waiting to complete Fate route of Fate/Stay Night and finish several remaining routes of Tsukihime) I don’t think I’ve ever finished anything else, and my only knowledge about Tales series stems from the Zestiria anime, so for me Tales of Berseria is a big deal, so prepare for a lengthy post.

Excerpt from the OST: 'Theme of Velvet' by Motoi Sakuraba

     The story begins in not the most unique way possible – you, and that also means the protagonist Velvet, get your share of peaceful jogging around before being abruptly taken from this pleasant life to another, full of dark emotions and almost no hope. Velvet’s younger brother (as adorable as it gets) ends up being killed and that changes Velvet to the point of her only goal becoming revenge, no matter the means, no matter the collateral damage. As usual with such games, later on Velvet’s quest turns out to be a part of a far bigger problem that is the mandatory saving of the world.

Not that impressive dungeon

     The world provides plenty of beautiful locations – from cities to harbors and grassy plains, from icy landscapes to tropical beaches and volcanoes, though sometimes visual repetition isn’t avoided. Another great aspect of the game is that the story sometimes leads back to some already explored locations that changed from your previous visit – it makes the world more alive. Also a nice idea is that the NPCs over the world discuss the news (that usually are about Velvet’s travels). The facts they usually get wrong but that also enhances the realistic nature of such talks. You feel that it’s important what you have accomplished and you affect the world more than just going to a random dungeon and finding some stuff here that nobody cares about. Despite quite strong world building, when you get down to some caves, dungeons and old temples, the boredom slowly starts to seep in. These confined monster areas feel very much the same, closed by plain walls, one chamber not different by any means from another. There’s another problem with that. The monster areas feel a little too long – each time you start, eager to learn what kind of creatures roam around, but sooner rather than later you just end up mashing the same buttons for the best attack combination.  Later on you acquire more abilities but, as most of early stuff still works reasonably well, I ended up not using much of that.

Button mashing time!

When you have the battle system figured out and the combat has lost its novelty, it becomes a serious chore and the only remedy for that is avoiding the monsters. Speaking about an occasional lack of uniqueness, there is only a very limited number of NPC models and it actually took me a while to come into terms that all these people don’t really travel from one location to another with you but are just a way to cut the costs.  At least if you’re bored, there’s always some mini games here and there so you need only choose between card playing, doing the most damage or improving your reaction time among other things, but it’s only a temporary solution as you inevitably need to return to the main story.

What a bunch of weirdos!

     Staying true to the genre, soon a group of adventurers forms around Velvet, each with his own objectives and problems, but temporary goals still prove to be strong enough to more or less unify them. At this era of the world, most of the seraphim (basically spiritual beings) are bereft of free will, being used only as tools. A little seraph whom Velvet saves from such a fate soon becomes very important to her but Velvet struggles to distinguish him from her dead brother, to the point of also naming him Laphicet, her brother’s name. At first Laphicet was just a doll without any semblance of a character, but his development into someone who can speak his mind and make wise decisions was probably the biggest among all the characters. Laphicet’s emotional change is also helped a lot by another member of the group, Eleanor. The apparent unannounced fight between her and Velvet for the affections of Laphicet doesn’t take much time to get established and that ended up being quite fun. Anyway, Eleanor also has her own goal – being an exorcist and initially opposing Velvet’s movements, she started to question the decisions of her superiors and dig up all the truth about their works. That inevitably led her to become a part of this anti-governmental band of weirdos. Eleanor also has a subplot of recovering from her traumatic family circumstances by herself developing some motherly traits.

A cutscene of a 3D fight in the game...

The two male members of the group doesn’t have much going on – with Eizen constantly looking for his vanished pirate captain (and thinking about his mysterious sister but that sadly didn’t get much time) and Rokurou trying to find and kill his brother. Still, the biggest impression was left by the final member – a witch Magilou. At first she seemed to be one of those immensely full of herself and very annoying characters but eventually I ended up liking her a lot. A character who doesn’t take anything seriously, is able to exploit every situation for her own benefits and is absolutely unpredictable automatically is very charming. Magilou also has a more serious side beneath her wacky exterior and it’s even more fascinating to see it shine from time to time. Every important character (and location) has his own musical theme that well suits his characteristics. There are some interesting parallels between the characters and sometimes it allows for them to reconsider their options, to better understand themselves or just to see how different philosophies might lead to different outcomes from the same starting point. There’s also a negative side to that – too much of even some good stuff may go sour and I don’t even care to count how many different tragic mother-daughter relationship permutations Berseria used.

...and the same fight in the Tales of Zestiria the X anime, only in 2D

     As you see, the group of the adventurers is particularly varied and character designs convey that. Each character has his color code and alone looks at least ok. The problem is when everyone gathers together – the colors clash. It seems like no one bothered to give any thought about visual character chemistry. Cowboy Bebop for example did wonderfully choosing character color scheme that looks good when characters are alone as well as together and with Berseria sadly that’s not the case. There are other things like Velvet’s gear. It’s no doubt that it looks cool but practicality of it is questionable. A fantasy game may get away with a retractable blade on a wrist but even if at first Velvet only thought about revenge I doubt that she would never think of changing her attire into something more appropriate if not more practical compared to her default outfit. Who needs so many extra belts anyway? Continuing about character designs, naturally they change quite a bit between 3D gameplay and 2D skits and the effect is ambiguous. Well, the mere fact that some of the cutscenes are 2D and others 3D feels quite weird. Velvet looks far better in 3D without that so-pointy-you-can-prick-yourself nose. On the other hand 3D Laphicet looks anything but adorable with his too huge eyes that show very little personality which is present in 2D images.

Velvet, rags and belts included. Also a discount on a demon arm.

     Let’s get a bit deeper. Now what I’ll say may sound like a blasphemy to hardcore Tales fans, especially since (for all I know) it might be one of the trademarks of the series, but here it is – the world is not consistent considering its seriousness and believability. One moment you might encounter a very emotional scene with Velvet struggling with her humanity and a few moments later end up collecting lost souls for some crossbreeds between cats and teletubbies. The game lets the player acquire and use various cosmetic outfits, varying form maid or school uniforms to beach clothes, pirate eyepatches and other random stuff. Personally I can’t imagine myself playing a game where a person with cat ears argues about serious battle tactics with a person with a dog’s tale, while a third person with a bikini (leaning against an iceberg) casually observes everything. Of course there’s no need to take advantage of this possibility so that’s not a big deal. Nonetheless, even without believability-bending cosmetic outfits constant encounters with Katz people (and the like) and especially the enormous silliness of Magilou’s companion normin Bienfu in my mind clash very hard with the mere idea of being in a story of saving the world. I understand that some comedy is needed and for the most part it works fine (not to mention that marketing loves mascot characters), but I think that such a foul-mouthed, annoying and just plain ridiculous (not even considering his hat) character like Bienfu adds little to the game. If the game is marketed as a very serious one, exploring deep matters and dark themes, I expect it to retain all these aspects more or less for the whole game, not only at certain times. Well, Velvet herself sometimes seemed to get carried pretty far away from her initial resolve to dedicate all her energy to the revenge. That may emphasize her human side but how much her resolve is worth then? Also laughable seems the scene where Velvet refuses to drink because she isn’t the legal age yet. I appreciate the message but I doubt anything else should feel as out of place as this from the lips of a person who apparently doesn’t give a damn about anything else except her sole objective.

Some drama in a nice field of flowers

     There are also some other dislikeable things. There’s a tiny treason subplot and in terms of the story it should be something big and important but it get brushed under the rug never to appear again. The guilty character doesn’t even get any inconvenience because of that as others just shrug off everything as it is a completely natural thing and nobody needs to worry about that. Another thing concerns the villains. It’s believable that the main one thinks he’s a good guy and it’s possible that to some extent what he’s doing is for the greater good. Nevertheless, his lackeys lack any complexity. Thus all the hard work spent staging Velvet as an antihero feels a bit pointless. I think it would’ve been far more interesting to have Velvet’s opponents better explored or just to make them at least somewhat likable or their actions justifiable. Velvet’s original revenge goal already is sinister enough and going on only because of selfish reasons until the end would’ve created far more complicated conflict. Velvet already struggled to acknowledge that what she has been doing isn’t really justifiable but that was undermined by making her opponents too evil and step by step reshaping Velvet into the herald of good people.

Need some comedy?

     I can’t say the ending was applaudable. At first the lead up to the final battle was rather unsatisfying. It’s natural that games try to hype you up quite a lot before the ultimate fight, but Berseria stumbles a bit in that department. When a character says “let’s prepare for the final showdown” and you do, but then follows a monster area, twice or thrice longer than usual ones (in no area the repetitiveness was so irritating than in this one), and apart from that many map areas that interconnect in various ways made it particularly easy to get lost there. The final fight itself proved to be deliciously challenging, and using some potions became a necessity, and that never had occurred before due to my normal difficulty setting. When the fight ended, there inevitably was an animated wrap-up. I guess its biggest problem was that overall it felt more like a “now go play Zestiria” kind of ending. On the other hand, pretty much the same thing happened to Zestiria’s ending itself – everything was just cut off, and in a completely unforeseeable way. When you get invested in an intricate story, one of the most fun aspects is trying to guess how the characters will achieve their goals (because they always do). All the fun evaporates when the story doesn’t find some clever path that has been hinted through the journey but ends in a Deus ex Machina way because of magic (or some alternative of that, the essence is still the same). You then just think “Oh well, I guess it’s also possible to do that” and go on with your daily stuff. The fate of Velvet was just like that. I don’t know if anything of her ultimate end was said in Zestiria and it would be even more frustrating if the answer is negative. Most of the other characters just went on with their lives almost as if nothing had happened. I can’t really say that apart from Laphicet any of them accomplished much in the first place. A fan of the Tales universe will probably find many lovable points that interconnect both Zestiria and Berseria, and recurring characters are one such thing. Despite the fact that such a connection gives more historical depth for the story, that comes with a price of having less options to wrap Berseria up, and that in my mind turned out to be not the least problem of the game. Maybe making Berseria a stand-alone game would’ve worked better?

Excerpt from the OST: 'Magilou, the great sorceress' by Motoi Sakuraba

     Overall I think I’ll remember Tales of Berseria quite fondly. Thanks, Tales of Zestria the X, for directing my attention to  this game, even if you as a story failed quite a bit yourself. The overarching question of Berseria – whether interests of a single person or society are more important – gives some food for thought and in the end the game provides a definitive answer to that – individuality must always be considered no matter what. Because it’s rather the journey and not the conclusion that counts, the story was engaging enough. Game mechanics may not have been the thing in the world, but as I stayed for the journey and the world, I think my time spent was worth it.I still don’t have the slightest idea what does the name Berseria itself mean (unless it’s a confirmation that Berserk manga will have an ending).

     Some time ago Lethargic Ramblings posted some thoughts on the whole Tales franchise and that, apart from assuring me to write about Berseria, also was entertaining in its own right, so check it out if you haven’t yet.

     Have you played Tales of Berseria? What do you think about it and other games of the franchise?

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 2

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 1)

     Well, it truly is a shounen underdog story featuring Haikyuu. If it weren’t for the visuals I doubt that it would make an interesting premise for me. The way Fujita ended up joining the dance studio isn’t the most believable. I mean what are the chances that a guy who isn’t apparently interested into anything suddenly finds out that he has an irresistible wish to dance? Why not try some sport, volleyball for example, if he has wants to do something? Too many coincidences undermine the idea that a person might need only a little push to get into something if he’s just waiting for the right opportunity to show itself. Also, from where does the devotion to dance all night come – that time it was his only second visit to the studio? I think the story would’ve started in a more powerful way if we had been shown more of what a person Fujita really is before giving him this fascination about dancing. Now we only know that he behaves a bit foolishly sometimes and doesn’t have many interests. As the show at the very start introduced the dancing itself, Fujita has been used only as a shapeless clay and he’ll gain any new characteristics only through dancing. It’s a pity because we’re just thrown into the fray with a loud exclamation “This is the protagonist and you should care!” but so far there’s no reason to do that – he’s just more or less a blank doll until he overgrowns that state but that will happen only through dancing. Speaking about the art, it’s rather astounding. The count of lines seems far greater than only necessary, the movement combines gracefulness with not that smooth but precisely calculated angular movements, the famous giraffe necks also stand out quite a lot. Well, the show has its own aesthetic and it should fit the theme rather well. So yeah, it doesn’t look like the show I would drool over but nonetheless it should be entertaining enough from time to time, especially when the competitions will come.

Made in Abyss (Ep. 1)

     Not bad, not bad at all. The initial stage of the story definitely feels childish but many manga readers only smirk knowingly about that. An unexplored location always is a good start to any kind of story, and also having a character who only recently got attached to a group of local people is a classical way to start everything with a justified reason to explain everything. The info-dump that’s almost inevitable to such kind of stories is kept until the very end, and overall is very limited, so both of these things are positive. The whole location as well as that giant slug monster reminded me strongly of Ghibli production, both by the feelings they evoke and just because of detail put into everything. Shots here and there giving more depth to the world payed off really well, giving more ideas into what kind of place we’re invited and what kind of society exists near the Big Hole. Character designs as well as a guy who’s basically Astro Boy with some Spiderman capabilities may not be the most exciting aspect about the show but again – only the time will judge the end result. Anyway, the premise sounds unique enough, the atmosphere was just brilliant and I’m more than happy I decided to try the show out.

Re:Creators (Ep. 14)

     Millions of questions. How widespread is the knowledge about the creations? Is it wise to tell so many people about the truth and the plan? Also, can the government expect that the anime industry will find enough resources to produce something big and cohesive when already in the real world some animators are dying from overworking? Why does Kikuchihara give a presentations while standing in front of her slides and thus blocking the view? Do we really need another character? Where is Magane? Anyway the meta part of discussing the creative differences and problems of creating such a huge collaboration was quite interesting, though everything once again boiled down to lots of static shots and taaaaaalllllkiiiiiinnngggggg. The creators only showing written ideas to each other and not just simply discussing them by speaking feels silly though of course it’s for the dramatic profit. The same goes for showing a black screen during the main guy’s mysterious suggestion. Regardless of the usefulness of his ideas as far as I remember, he can’t really draw that well so trying to involve a kid with no experience in such a huge project have infinite ways to backfire. And doesn’t anybody need to go to school by the way?

Sakura Quest (Ep. 15)

     To think about it, just the fact that Sakura Quest included a foreigner as a dweller in a rural Japanese town as well as some foreigners that are neither Americans nor Russians (and not English either) makes the show exceptional. As usual, Sakura Quest manages to create some sort of a cliff-hanger so you would eagerly await the next episode, but this time I’m a bit cautious. Earlier such situations were usually downplayed for laughs or just explained in a too normal way – that happened with the ominous dude in the match-making event (oh, but he’s just an ex-boyfriend) as well as the apparent Yoshino’s run from Manoyama just a couple of episodes ago (oh, but it’s just her vacation) or the very question who the Spanish were last week. Maybe this time something that starts interestingly will retain its attractiveness until the very end. Though again, the preview of the next episode showed a picture of a band that apparently consisted of the old chief, the exoskeleton guy and Riri’s grandma, and that looks not exceptionally exciting. I’m not even going to guess what is the thing that was drowned in the pond, it can be anything from a boat to some weird statue but as it’s going to shed some light on the past of Manoyama, I’m all in. Speaking about Riri’s longing for other places than her own town, it’s great how the show manages to weave this thread with the Spanish and the secret in the pond. Even when some other story is in the focus, the girls are not left without some minor but still essential developments, and that’s commendable.