Hand Shakers – “I can” doesn’t mean “you should”

Studio GoHands
Genres Action
Source Original
Episodes 12
Season Winter 2017
Director Shigo Suzuki
Music GOON TRAX
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     When Hand Shakers aired, it was more than clear that the show was a serious contender to be elected as the worst anime of the season if not of the whole year. Yet, when the show ended, no one seems to remember it anymore. On one hand it barely deserves to be remembered, particularly so when far better shows are becoming forgotten so soon after the end of their airing. Nonetheless, even if you despise Hand Shakers with your whole heart, the show might have some interesting quirks that should be mentioned. Just for the sake of curiosity let’s try to find some good in this mess.

Is it a cooking show?

     And a mess it really is. Hand Shakers is an original series but, as many have pointed out, it’s mind boggling that originality isn’t one of its distinctive aspects at all. Hand Shakers rather feels like yet another light novel or computer game adaptation, just because of the unending feeling that there should be some coherent story around, the world should be interesting but it just can’t escape its embryo stage. Everything begins with the main guy Tazuna whose only characteristic besides being the main character and having appropriate to this rank plot armor is that he can fix things. Tell me it isn’t similar to Shirou Emiya from Fate. Anyway, Tazuna manages to inadvertently awaken a certain girl named Koyori from coma and it just happens that the two of them now become Hand Shakers. That, as an annoying but very convenient scientist dude explains, means fighting other Hand Shakers. The best pair is said to get an opportunity to ask a god (oh well, that escalated pretty quickly) a wish to be granted. It’s not all, sadly. At first it’s told that because of some circumstances Koyori mustn’t let go of Tazuna’s hand because then she’ll die. Oh well. So yeah, we just have a death-game scenario that doesn’t feel that different from shows like Mirai Nikki or the same Fate franchise. The clichéd premise is only the top of the iceberg as Hand Shakers never tries to move anywhere from it. The concept of Hand Shakers themselves is never expanded that much after the initial info-dump as if it was the least important thing in the story. The whole season is spent fighting pairs of villains, defeating them (how else?), then somehow befriending them, spending some time just randomly chilling out and moving on to fight another pair. I’d guess that if everyone would be so thrilled to get their wishes granted, every other episode shouldn’t be about cooking but that’s not the case. There’s even more stuff that is painful to remember – apart from the story that doesn’t try at all to make sense there’s some sisters crazed for their little brothers, bizarre superpowers, characters even more boring or annoying than the main guy – you name it. I can almost bet that any single trope you despise about anime in some form or another is embedded in Hand Shakers.

Where is the focus in this scene?

     Characters definitely aren’t an aspect Hand Shakers can be proud of. As I’ve already said, Tazuna is noticeable only because of the screen time he gets. Tazuna’s partner Koyori is even worse. She starts as a doll character, for some reason unable neither speak nor do a single thing herself. Her main accomplishments through the series seem to be learning how to make a conversation and eat some ice cream. Watching our main pair is as exciting as looking at a robot taking his dakimakura for a walk. Probably the next important character is the scientist guy. Apparently his personality should be akin to Okabe the “Mado-scientisto” from Steins;Gate but the attempt only proves that Mamoru Miyano has a voice and personality so unique that any copycat is destined to fail from the very start. The temporary antagonists sometimes provide a glimpse of some interesting story (for example about an idol that has to deal with the fact that she doesn’t have any audience) but as with everything else, the execution isn’t competent enough. The show just fails to provide a believable world by making pretty much everyone silly or mentally challenged. I doubt that normal parents would gladly approve of their son bringing home a random girl saying “Hey, it just happens that I can’t let go of her hand, so she’ll live with me”. The sense of humor is also questionable. Just take a look at a screenshot below, explaining why the main pair has to help a school festival by making some food.

Whut?

     Say what you will about the generic story and characters but what really sets Hand Shakers apart from other forgettable shows is the visuals. There’s no doubt that much work has been put into assembling the series but sadly it looks like the team consciously thought of every possible way of making the experience less enjoyable. Hand Shakers can be distinguished by constantly and needlessly moving camera (especially in the first part), causing serious disorientation to the point of some people complaining about headaches. Each and every surface, be it a character or a background element, looks very glossy and constantly reflects light rays that sometimes move even when the camera doesn’t. The colour scheme is all over the place – you can expect countless colors, hues and shades at the same time, so it’s even difficult to say what is the most important element in a particular shot (in other words, the staging is virtually nonexistent). To some extent the coloring problem had to be expected since it’s not the first time that GoHands plays with this fire – Mardock Scramble trilogy already showed the root of this disaster. You can have insane amount of colors but it works only in rare cases such as my favorite example Mononoke. The same glossiness also creates a cold atmosphere and characters look more like they are fully CG. And CG itself is also a problem because there’s plenty of it, and it’s not good. The moving chains from the first episode is probably the worst thing in the show you can experience in terms of both making sense and appealing visually. The problem of CG not “meshing” (to quote the show itself) with 2D is also aggravated by the moving camera. The characters, CG objects and backgrounds all create a dissonance between themselves, and that may be even worse than the infamous Deen’s dragon. To return to the character designs, I can call them everything but pleasant. The glossiness doesn’t help, but even without that the same (and bland) face syndrome isn’t a disease GoHands if free from. Much attention was payed to the eyes (it’s an anime after all) but it doesn’t help at all sympathizing with the characters. Koyori rather looks like she could easily be taken as a blind person in another show. If I had to say one good thing about the visuals, some crowd scenes were surprisingly lively. Of course it was just a rare occasion before moving to static crowd shots but when it worked, it seriously looked good.

Excerpt from Hand Shakers

     The music is an interesting thing to talk about because it’s probably the only thing about the show that can’t be bashed right away. More interestingly, the credit for the soundtrack is given to GOON TRAX but its site says that it’s a label, so I can’t even name a single human being who’s responsible for the music in Hand Shakers. The soundtrack itself is composed of tracks that make not the worst playlist to listen to when you do something else. Usually there’s some relaxed piano over a background beat, just the thing you’d expect from, say, a music in the background of some YouTube video. The problem is that there’s nothing more to the soundtrack than these laid back tracks. When the show delves into its more slice of life segments (where nothing happens) such a music fits quite well. On the other hand when pretty much the same tracks are played over more serious battle scenes, it doesn’t “mesh” at all. Overall the soundtrack leaves an impression of being absolutely bland and uninteresting as an integral part of an anime series. At least the ED was quite nice, even if I didn’t care about a sad girl that doesn’t know how to do anything.

Excerpt from the OST: 'There's No Way' by GOON TRAX

     What can I say? For the majority of people Hand Shakers is a “burn it with fire” show, others (for the most part myself included) may find some entertainment for the “so bad it’s good” factor and probably no one will find it enjoyable enough. The story is pretty much garbage but it still has the gall to try to tease a second season by the end. Hopefully that won’t be realized any time soon. Or ever. To think about it, a studio that spends so much time for details and unconventional animation techniques just got incredibly unlucky because of the incompetence to play to their strengths right. Such detailed backgrounds by itself look pretty good, and I think a more experienced studio like ufotable wouldn’t be embarrassed to use such art of such level for their productions. To continue the comparison, ufotable also likes to use some CG space and where the action happens (for example Kara no Kyoukai 5 or Tales of Zestiria the X) and while their CG for me isn’t something that seamlessly harmonizes with 2D stuff, ufotable knows far better when to use their arsenal of means. Employ someone who understands what color design is, don’t be that ambitious, and you might become a half decent studio, GoHands. A writer also wouldn’t hurt.

How about no?

     I believe, that you should just

0

Don’t bother

     I can’t in good conscience recommend the show to anyone unless you’d like to laugh at its incompetence and bad choices everywhere. Even then it might be a very difficult task to endure all that Hand Shakers has to offer. Better stay away from it.

     Did you watch Hand Shakers? Can you think of a single positive point about the show?

Musings and Reflections – end of Spring 2017

     Yet another season has passed and while I can’t say it didn’t have its moments, it’s really hard to single out its key features. Even the huge hits like Boku no Hero Academia and Attack on Titan were only second seasons, and while they seem to had gathered some audience, I can’t say they brought much novelty to the table. Seikaisuru Kado might be a show to check out later on, but I guess I chose my seasonal watchlist pretty well. All of the watched shows somehow feel very similar in terms quality and while their stronger and and weaker points vary a lot, I doubt that any of these will be that relevant two or three years later, though by no means I can consider them bad.

Re:Creators

    I decided to try Re:Creators only because of the staff and some initial warm reactions from some fellow anime fans. What’s it like? Lots of talking, talking and talking. The main guy even after so much time doesn’t feel like he has a slightest reason to be in the series. But it’s not bad. Fictional characters becoming real, bringing with themselves their outlooks on everything based on the stories they were created for, some mystery elements whose explanations (e.g. more talking) are taking forever and are getting more and more complicated… Well, usually it’s fun, especially since Maya Sakamoto’s character is always there to liven up the pace (otherwise dead from talking) and add some more chaos to already not that clear mess of various motivations and goals. I wouldn’t call the show that exceptional but there’re far worse ways to kill your time. Oh, I almost forgot. There’s some talking.

     Re:Creators receives the award of the favorite OST of the season. I can’t say it stood out that much above others but Hiroyuki Sawano is a thing. Or rather the thing. Probably no other music (maybe besides made by Yuki Kajiura) can pump you up that much during an action scene.

Little Witch Academia

     Probably everyone who watched LWA can summarize it in a very short sentence – good, but not enough. It’s almost impossible to top the effect of the original OVA, and the series clearly showed that. I was quite happy when the second cour turned the wheel to a different direction compared to the first one, deciding to scrap episodic nature and add an overarcing story. Some steps towards the finale were rather unimpressive, other times some of the original LWA spirit was just burning through, but in the end the level of excitement wasn’t that high. The side characters more often than not felt abandoned and forgotten, the final goal felt too vague and unimportant for day-to-day use. The last episodes despite trying hard to provide as much sakuga as possible, wrapped everything in not the most satisfying way full of conveniences and a sense of never really providing enough satisfaction.

     LWA receives the award of the most memorable character of the season – Akko showed lots of spirit and to deal with some crushing news she got by the end of the show for her was very hard. Nonetheless our enthusiastic heroine retained her grin and by the effort alone came out on top.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku

     Well, it was just more of Natsume. The 6th season had both great and endearing moments that probably only Natsume can provide, but also the show wasn’t free from less interesting stories. Content-wise this season wasn’t exceptionally better or worse compared to previous ones but what really caught my eye was the presentation. Studio Shuka never has been praised for perfect scheduling and flawless visuals and sadly more times than not it was clear watching Natsume. Characters barely moving, getting off model more than is comfortable to look at and painfully rare sakuga moments often got more attention than all the stories. Sure, Natsume’s source material usually is strong enough to carry all the weight despite the lack of support from the visuals but at this point it needs to be addressed. Such Natsume is better than no Natsume, but come on, Shuka. With some slight but very interesting developments by the end of the show I look forward to the possibility of getting the 7th season very much. Shuka, at least don’t get bankrupt until then.

     Natsume Yuujinchou Roku receives the random award of keeping the top-notch quality for the 6th season, but that only applies to non-moving side of things.

Sakura Quest

     The show was advertised as an anime about girls working, and that’s ultimately what we got. Seeing what problems might a random rural Japanese town face has been very educational and provided enough material for the characters to deal with. It doesn’t look like each of the girls received much focus individually but in the end I became more or less attached to all of them. You can easily believe that such a team could really work someplace and come up with the ideas they do. And there are plenty of ideas, taking advantage of many possible marketing areas – be it local cuisine, crafts or even weirdos (everyone loves Sandal). The novelty of constantly learning new things about  the characters and the town itself, providing an endless stream of various situations and problems a tourism board could have to take on – what else could you ask from a piece of entertainment?

     Sakura Quest receives the award of the favorite show of the season. The competition was very tough but I guess the least flaws and very relatable characters are attributes the show can boast of. Sakura Quest also gets the award of the of the most impressive scenery of the season. Manoyama might be a rather dull town but the girls brought lots of colors. It might be a bit too far-fetched but the attire of the heroins must also be mentioned – someone must’ve spent lots of time designing a multitude of different clothes.

Tsuki ga Kirei

     Oh, the lovable kids. A love story without any hidden twist like “but look, one of them is a zombie (or a vampire)” and staying very close to fundamentals of romance wasn’t probably the most exciting show ever but it did hit pretty much all the points needed to make an entertaining show. I can’t deny that some of the actions of the characters reminded me a bit of myself when I was a school-kid, and that itself makes a show far more relatable. Sure, there were some missteps like CG extras everywhere and very limited animation to save resources for other times that probably contrasted too much to poorer parts of the show. Nonetheless, the story was told, and I’m very glad that it didn’t end like many anime – a kiss and an unfulfilled promise to tell what happened next. The end of the final episode showed exactly that and, when you realize that you care for our couple, feels very gratifying for deciding to stick until the end.

     Tsuki ga Kirei receives the random award of having the most disturbing CG students from time to time.

     Favorite OP of the season was that of Re:Creators. I guess Hiroyuki Sawano is a point that almost automatically throws out any competition, though Sakura Quest this season also got quite a good OP. Sawano’s heavier (compared to usual J-pop OPs) sound paired with some serious-faced character motion scenes creates enough suspense to say that the show means business.

     Favorite ED of the season was that of LWA. Again Sakura Quest again came close but the sheer effort of Masanobu Hiraoka who soloed the  incredible and unique animation and a nice song to go with it – what else can an ED need?

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 13

Re:Creators (Ep. 12)

     It feels like a season finale structurally but there’s nothing of sort in terms of visuals. We finally got a plan and remaining episodes should be devoted to its execution. It turns out the main guy was a bigger jerk than it was clear after the last episode. Of course now there’s nothing that can be changed but if he had so little friends he may have thought of having a close conversation with the suicide girl and sorting everything out, even if it would’ve been pretty painful. Still, the main guy’s only characterization so far remains just the fact that once he behaved inadequately and now is sorry about that. It’s weird that no one in the group looked impressed or just cared enough to offer some help or something.  I’m bothered by the fact that Altair’s fanfics are able to give her new abilities but there’s no similar thing concerning other characters. Don’t tell me a random character without a story receives more fanfics than acclaimed stories do. I still don’t understand how a published book is different from a tweet in terms of getting power. Let’s say that twitter (because of its nature) provides only temporary boosts but are then Altair’s abilities based only upon temporary skills? As far as I understand she was created and became popular via some web platform that isn’t too fundamentally dissimilar from twitter but her powers seem pretty permanent. Well, I’m starting to wonder if I should keep trying to understand everything at all. Some things just doesn’t make much sense. After Alice’s external brains sadly died she looks to be finally taking advantage of her own personal neural network. Nothing too impressive so far but it’s still a step to a thinking personality. I’m almost completely positive that the new guy from the scene after the credits is one of Selesia’s buddies, because in the ED there’s a scene with Selesia flanked by two dudes whose clothing closely resembles the attire of this new guy. If that’s true, some interesting encounters are right on the way. So yeah, let’s go forward with the power of doujin crossovers!

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 25)

     So where do I begin? Starting from the positives, the message that you need to believe and only from that comes the magic is clear and it nicely summarizes the whole show. The final scene where Akko finally learned how to fly also brought back memories from the very first episodes and worked well as a conclusion. I don’t even need to say anything about the animation – it’s obvious how much work was put in. The story though… To think about it, the power of friendship worked too literally and Deus ex Machina moments weren’t scarce. I doubt any self-respecting missile would wait for some witches to talk a bit, then open their tech-support kits and construct a pseudo-reaction-engine-powered-tandem-broom (witch by itself is pretty cool) and start a race. Not to mention that the rocket itself came out of nowhere, and the same thing can be said about that mad broom from the first episodes. Powering up by wearing special clothes isn’t very convincing, as the fact that it took so long for anyone to notice that people’s wills may generate magic. Maybe the whole world of LWA is full of idiots who need to announce publicly that “I’ll start believing these girls” before doing that. It’s jaw dropping how everyone seems to have conveniently forgotten that Croix did some nasty things. Apparently not nasty enough since her role as the main villain was so easily stolen by a random missile whose character was developed using far less time. Andrew was as useful as always, and that means he just provided time for the animators to take a break from hectic movement of Akko and friends. I expected much more from LWA but oh well, it could’ve been way worse.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 13)

     You know the show has achieved its goal when it makes your own emotions align perfectly with everything it tries to evoke. Every single change from total excitement seeing the huge crowd to the horror when the quiz flopped or the TV program finally aired felt like I was watching my own friends succeed or fail, that’s the power of characterization P.A. is capable of. To think of it, it’s definitely sad but inevitable that business world is based on profit and not on good will. TV program just wants as many viewers as possible, and, as the film crew previously, will do everything they can through editing or other means to ensure the success of their own goals regardless of the actual outcomes for anyone else. To be frank, Manoyama isn’t a place whose beauty and other perks come clear at first sight so it was quite natural that the mob just went to see a concert that could’ve easily happened anywhere else. In that regard Manoyama gained only a little profit from a huge but one-time-only surge of people. Yes, it’s still a huge step forward compared to all the Chupakabura marketing before Yoshino came but there’s still a long road to go to get people come to Manoyama because it’s Manoyama itself they want to see. Well, the story of the episode was just like the real life goes on – something might go extremely well but inevitably there will always be many things that can be improved. Sandal again proved to be a weird source of entertainment, trying to go travel to Guam with a random dude.

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 12)

     Damn, that was beautiful. Last time I said that I wanted to know what the far future holds and it seems like someone heard me. I guess the real climax actually was the last image of the show and every single episode, every single scene were only building up to it. You can say that the whole final sequence was too idealistic and very rarely everything ends up so well. On the other hand, the whole show is very idealistic – both Akane and Curly are very down to earth but optimistic human beings, trying as best they can to learn how to live on, and that optimism and hope that everything will be ok drives them on even when some circumstances are not that favorable, such as Curly not passing the entrance exam. As the show tried to be as realistic as possible such an outcome as Curly failing was a natural one – sometimes you just are not meant to succeed no matter how hard you try. The ending sequence was even stronger due to the fact that Chinatsu entered the same school as Curly. Knowing how pushy she has been against her own better judgment I can almost guarantee that Curly experienced some uncomfortable situations during his high school years. Anyway, even if the show tells as that everything ended in a way that’s probably too positive, that heartwarming conclusion made up for many flaws during the whole airing.

Eeeeeeh?

     Well, I’m quite irritated. Imagine yourself finally getting a review finished, with every piece thought out as well as possible. As I tend to stick to some sort of a form while writing reviews, it’s always a good idea to check some older review if I haven’t missed anything. And then, ladies and gentlemen, I imagine splendidly finding that not a single one of images in the reviews is shown. I’ve hosted pretty much everything on PhotoBucket and it turns out they just decided that images can no longer be hosted on any 3rd party website. Of course there’s a way out of it, and it costs only 400 dollars.

     To be frank, when I started, I didn’t pay much attention to what hosting site was the best and for the most part PhotoBucket was doing quite well for me. There was that space limit so inevitably some time in the future I would have had to move somewhere else but there still was plenty of time. Another issue was that PhotoBucket didn’t always wholeheartedly accept my images, maybe it had to something with the fact that I don’t live anywhere near USA. Particularly it was hard to upload gifs but usually with some additional attempts everything would come out all right. More or less.

     So yeah, it turns out I have to move every single image on this blog somewhere else and it’s going to be a huge pain in the ass. Well, at least the images themselves didn’t vanish altogether, they’re only unavailable to view on the blog. It’s quite weird that some of my newer posts have retained their images but that’s only a slight positive.

     Cheers PhotoBucket,  you may as well choke on those 400 dollars but they won’t be mine.

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 12

Re:Creators (Ep. 11)

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

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 24)

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

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 11)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 12)

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

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 11)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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No way this could be a bad guy

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

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Just two robots enjoying an afternoon

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

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A nice background with a part of Naoki Urasawa

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

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

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

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War isn't pretty

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

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Urasawa's art at its best

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

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

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

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The two masters

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

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

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

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

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

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

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 11

Re:Creators (Ep. 10)

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

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 23)

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

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 10)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 11)

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

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 10)

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

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 10

Re:Creators (Ep. 9)

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

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 22)

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

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 9)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 10)

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

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 9)

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

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 9

Re:Creators (Ep. 8)

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

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 21)

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

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 8)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 9)

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

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 8)

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

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 8

Re:Creators (Ep. 7)

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

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 20)

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

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 7)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 8)

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

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 7)

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