Musings and Reflections – end of 2016

      Well, everyone’s doing their yearly roundups and I also thought – why not? Probably a bit late (I was waiting for the 12th episode of 3-gatsu that never came on Saturday so that slightly messed up with my schedule), but as the saying goes – better late than never, even if it looks that in the end I got a bit carried away more than once.

     It seems like the overall consensus opinion was that the last year in general wasn’t something good – not everyone is happy with political situations and just lack of stability in many countries, many famous (and not) people died… Well, to think about the latter one, even if I’m too cynical, there are many famous (and elderly) people so such news isn’t that unnatural. At least I hope that many famous people have been born on 2016. Only confirming or denying that is a bit problematic right now. Thinking more positively, even with all the tensions rising in many of the corners of the world, we still somehow managed not to destroy humanity (even if such a scenario as in Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita is quite compelling). So yeah, everything’s just going on, as it has been, with some bad things happening and some good.

 photo MRy1_zpsib2jyofc.png

     For me the year also was kind of normal, but looking with an optimistic outlook, the biggest change was probably starting this blog (*some applause from behind the scene*) and also getting to read more solid opinions of fellow bloggers than you could ever find in any forum. That also comes with a bit of a cost since frankly becoming exposed to such a variety of ideas not once did I feel jealous of other people’s achievements in mature thinking, analyzing, grabbing attention, managing and growing their blogs, productivity  and many other things. Well, someone has said that for anything you think you do well there are at least a hundred Asian people (with all due respect) that are doing it incomparably better.  I don’t think I’m very distinguishable from many other anime bloggers, but oh well, I’m having fun writing stuff, so I’ll keep doing it and I guess at least the near future is more to the brighter side than not.

     Getting to the anime world in this year, I found some interesting things. I don’t think many people would say that 2016 was the best year in anime history, but looking formally guess which year has the most entries in the MAL’s Top 100? Yep, you aren’t mistaken. And 2016 wins by a large margin, having 16 entries and a cherry on the top of all the list – Kimi no Na wa, while the 2nd place goes to 2011 with 11. Hell, even every year up to 2006 combined has less entries than 2016 alone. I guess looking formally to such a thing won’t always produce very logical results. More people than ever are watching anime and they tend to choose newer shows. As many of the new people are rather inexperienced, there’s a high chance of a particular show to get a good evaluation if a person rating it hasn’t got a very wide context of previous years. Well, I guess no one would rate their first several anime with less  than, say, 8/10 no matter what shows they’d be. I think such shows like Boku dake ga Inai Machi in the list confirm that. Also, second (and later) seasons tend to be evaluated better since anyone who didn’t like the first season won’t watch a sequel and automatically won’t rate it. I don’t say second seasons are bad, they just have a higher probability to be rated more favorably. A huge pile of Gintama on the top of the list, plenty of Haikyuu, Natsume or Jojo affirm that.

 photo MRy3_zpsevyhetah.png

     Apart from getting quite high consensus ratings, many popular shows in 2016 were rather polarizing – Boku dake ga Inai Machi or Re:Zero ignited many debates about their quality. KonoSuba and Yuri!!! on Ice probably were the most original popular anime that offered something rather new and unseen to some degree. For me the most memorable experience came from Rakugo, Fune wo Amu, Flying Witch (and to a lesser degree the 2nd season of Shirayuki) all of whom in my opinion are definitely worth checking. Of course, more and more new shows being produced also means more forgettable anime, but let’s just leave it at that. Apart from new shows, I can say I didn’t waste my year, getting some taste of Jin-Rou, Baccano and Spice and Wolf among others, which I highly recommend to anyone who’s yet managed to escape such great things.  I guess one of my goals for 2017 will be to engage more some older anime and keep seasonal watching to a minimum (though that’s not happening during Winter 2017), as I’m relatively new to anime community and haven’t yet seen such classics as Clannad, Madoka Magica, Monogatari series or Death Note. Well, at least I feel a bit smarter in many aspects concerning anime, getting a bit interested in sakuga, various connections between shows and how they are made, as well as getting into shows that I’d have never myself imagined watching (Yuri!!! on Ice or Little Witch Academia for example). Also I’m very happy to have started gathering a little anime (and stuff) collection that still looks notably meager, but nevertheless gives joy  every time I look at it. Even only some volumes of newly published Nichijou manga are a priceless source of optimism.

 photo MRy2_zpszmtfltrw.png

     So yeah, I guess the last year just more or less normally passed by. Future perspectives are also rather ordinary and we just have to move on to the 2017. Thanks everyone for sticking around last year and I hope the New Year will prove to be exceptionally good in each and every aspect – keep writing, keep reading and have fun!

Advertisements

Musings and Reflections – end of Autumn 2016

     It wasn’t a very outstanding season, was it? It had its fair share of quite original shows (talking about you, Keijo (I don’t even know how many exclamation marks I should add there), among others) but apart from them and some second seasons of already established franchises there wasn’t much that could possibly be remembered for a long time. I picked my shows this season quite randomly but it looks that probably apart from Flip Flappers there isn’t any more prominent show that I should catch upon some time later. Oh well, a pretty peaceful autumn.

3-gatsu no Lion

 photo MRs1_zpsqfbsnnnq.png

     There isn’t much to say since the story is only halfway through. Well, the backgrounds are amazing, as expected from Shaft – you can make countless wallpapers during a single episode. The story could have been more condensed as sometimes a segment or two doesn’t really contribute to the development of the story or the characters. Anyway, I don’t think that anything we’ve seen so far will be that different from what is yet to come. Rei will still struggle, Kiyoko will weave her plots, Nikaidou will occasionally bump in with his unending optimism and unrequested care, the sisters will also continue their daily life without too much worries. The story will probably still use flashbacks from Rei’s childhood and the sisters’ family situation could be explored in more detail. More shogi training with cats. More incredibly unappealing lips. More terrible transitions between heart-clenching moments and comedy. But the show, when it’s being dark, is enjoyable, I can give it that.

      3-gatsu no Lion receives the award of most impressive scenery of the season. It’s usual Shaft – what did you expect?

Natsume Yuujinchou Go

 photo MRs2_zpsp456nbwb.png

     If anyone reading this has already seen at least a couple of episodes of Natsume (no matter from which season), I can just confirm that you know perfectly well what generally happens in this season. Sure, there are some slight developments, Natsume gets to know more people and more youkai, but the general feeling of the series is retained, and thank you very much for that, Shuka. After this studio took over the show from Brains Base the visuals have had a little step back (and there was that special created almost ages ago that had none of the usual Natsume spirit), but everything else thankfully remains the same. I’m not even bothered that there barely is much going on but even stops taken to dig deeper into some of the characters’ pasts deliver just as well as Natsume usually does. Rarely these days shows earn even a third season, so receiving a 5th one with an announcement of the upcoming 6th is a very joyous news. Natsume may not always present anything that hasn’t been seen in it before but even for purely nostalgic reasons this show is very dear to me and I can do nothing but be grateful for what we got.

     Natsume Yuujinchou Go receives the award of the most memorable character of the season – somehow even if there were some quite appealing guys and gals otherwhere I don’t think anyone was relatable enough or provided enough fun to rival Natsume. I guess nostalgic reasons again prove to be stronger than everything else.

Yuri!!! on Ice

 photo MRs4_zpsfdkcuhhr.png

    Yep, the show that will probably define this season for the future anime viewers – an incredible first episode, not that common relationship (in anime that isn’t specifically targeting a certain audience and no one else) growing, and sadly a usual conclusion that didn’t actually resolve anything but got our hopes high for a second season. I truly appreciate what the show was trying to do, but as original as it was, some things weren’t to my liking. Concentrating on figure skating, while outstandingly beautiful, later on gave the animators a bit too much work to do in order to repeat the greatness of the first episode. Also it turned out to get a bit boring – come on, to make guys skating the same programs in six or so episodes consecutively without much else going on in a way that manages to avoid dullness is a devilish stunt to demonstrate. Indecisive ending, comedy not always on point, and ambitious stubbornness to put as much figure skating in as possible no matter the result make Yaoi!!! on Ice slightly less than it could have been. Still, it was something really different from usual light novel adaptations and stuff so despite anything that wasn’t quite as good I must applaud the staff and hope for fruitful future projects.

Fune wo Amu

 photo MRs3_zpsvh30ir9k.png

     Last but certainly not least there’s a show that almost no one watched (thanks, Amazon) and oh boy how much they missed. Sure, guys making a dictionary may be one of the most bizarre and unfit premises to make an anime about. Well, the novel which the show was based on has already received a live-action adaptation, so it’s not that obscure a story. The animation for a studio, whose creation among others was that infamous Aku no Hana adaptation, was unexpectedly well made. Getting a truly capable cast of voice actors and getting Yoshihiro Ike to create a soundtrack just couldn’t backfire and certainly didn’t. As an adaptation of a novel the show could have used one or two extra episodes to compensate for that rather unexpected time jump, but providing a very satisfying conclusion that also for me might have been one of the most emotional episodes of the whole year was more than I could have wanted from not that popular anime. I just hope that Fune wo Amu will eventually receive the praise it deserves, just as Rakugo managed to do to a certain extent.

     It’s yet another season when my favorite anime and favorite OST awards were taken by the same show. Fune wo Amu was the only show this season that managed to wrap everything it started perfectly and even if it didn’t try to be as ambitious as say, Yuri!!! on Ice, it completed its initial goals and out of all shows gave me probably the least things to be concerned about. And go listen to the OST.

     Favorite OP didn’t require much thought to select. Probably the majority of anime viewers will not object that among all the shows this season and not only among these four I watched Yuri!!! on Ice provided something memorable. To get a song in English without a slightest trace of Engrish in itself is an achievement, but the impressive animation of characters with enough weight and expression was just jaw-dropping.


      Favorite ED also was a pretty easy choice. As original or catchy other EDs were, I can do nothing but to give the award to Aimer who once again proves to be the queen of EDs. Natsume EDs always are a thing but just listen to this. Just do. And I don’t have to mention that the ED was solo-animated by Norio Matsumoto. If that’s not impressive, I don’t know what is.

Orange – a mixed bag of everything

 photo O1_zpsdwvd612m.jpg

Studio Telecom Animation Film
Genres Drama, Romance
Source Manga
Episodes 13
Season Summer 2016
Director Hiroshi Hamasaki
Music Hiroaki Tsutsumi
.

      There are anime that by the majority of the viewers are believed to be outstanding in each and every aspect (Cowboy Bebop probably won’t receive much objections) or conversely just don’t have any redeeming qualities (Mars of Destruction, even less objections). Yet, only a handful of shows tend to be well-balanced in all of their departments – for example having a good soundtrack sadly doesn’t automatically grant a good story. For instance my experience with Makoto Shinkai’s films (yet to see Kimi no Na wa.) has been rather ambiguous – the visuals are breathtakingly amazing but the stories often seem quite lacking. In this context Orange looks like a particularly diverse show – the story alone sometimes makes you laugh (sadly, unintentionally) and other times it surprises with wisdom. Other aspects also can be very polarizing in terms of execution. Let’s dig a little deeper and find out about the goods and the bads of this anime.

 photo O8_zpsa4g3luas.png

    Orange starts with a very fantasy-like event – a high-schooler (how else?) Naho gets a letter from her future self, telling about various regrets she came to have. The letter pleads Naho to experience a bit different life – to alter some of decisions that her future self made. Thus Naho would avoid frustration that many times is centered on her relationship with a new transfer student (again, how else?) Kakeru. As you see, the suspension of disbelief must be employed right from the start but hope that everything will be explained later on gives the story a little head start. Yet, in this very place the problems started. As I wrote in my remarks about Boku dake ga Inai Machi, an explanation to some supernatural phenomenon usually is wanted by the viewers but no explanation generally is a lot better than a bad one. And writing stories that involve time travel you have to put a damn much effort to think of at least a bit plausible and believable mechanism. Of course, Orange isn’t a story centered on time travel and it’s just a plot device to get things moving, but the writer looks to have wanted to include an explanation at all costs, and it did cost quite expensively. All the build-up of emotions and the tranquility of the relationships between people get thrown out of the window when Orange tries to invoke all the means that sci-fi can offer – Bermuda Triangle, parallel Universes and stuff – to justify the premise and just wastes time making an effort out of a situation with no possible favorable outcome.

 photo O4_zpsxoojg2nq.png

Another quite huge plot convenience was Naho’s way of reading her letter. It seems that she didn’t even thought of reading the letter whole to the very end once she got it. Yes, Naho herself was troubled for some time thinking that knowing what will happen in the future isn’t right and it only steals the joy of making various decisions but in many instances some drama and uncertainty could have been easily eliminated if only she had had some brains to read everything. Also, it seems like the letter was deliberately made ambiguous with some information withheld and only to be thrown in at the last second. I doubt if anyone truly wanting to give exact instructions how to do something would be so imprecise and wouldn’t think at all about the problems that might arise (and do arise) for the person reading the letter and trying to behave according to the instructions. By the way, why Orange? Why not, say, Banana or Rhubarb? It looks like the author just thought about a cool sounding title and only then was reminded that a title should have some connection with the creation itself. Sure, there is one scene where Kakeru buys Naho some orange juice as she asked when Kakeru was buying things for the whole group, but it’s a one-time-only motive that has no lasting influence.

 photo O3_zpsrrpp3vcf.png

     You can think what you want about the achievements and shortcomings of the story, but the characters do deserve appreciation. To think about it, barely anyone of the main cast is strong enough to carry the show or to be interesting by himself/herself, but it’s actually the whole ensemble of them that provides the best moments. Naho as a lead character is rather dull and could probably be best described as just a normal sweet and hard-working girl. Apart from her failure to read the letter whole from the very start, some pondering about the possibilities and outcomes of changing the future and general concern for her friends, she doesn’t appear to be exceptional in any way from a typical supporting character. Suwa, a sports guy with enough optimistic attitude to be someone to lean upon if necessary, Azu, your pretty much typical genki girl with a knack for making jokes of another guy in the group – not that sporty Hagita – who doesn’t really mind and looks to be enjoying that, and Takako, who usually remains in the background and doesn’t do anything special apart from just being there – that’s the group of Naho’s friends who together make one of the most well-made friend units that I can remember in anime. There are many scenes where nothing special is happening and all the group just talks about nonsense, small things, or just teases one another. You get the feeling that they are really comfortable together and if need be, would do anything to offer any possible help. Then there is also Kakeru, a darker person (well, not only by his appearance), who is instantly picked up by the group and only by his own worries and insecurities doesn’t immediately become one of them as if he had known everyone for all his life. Kakeru has problems, and the show treats them very carefully and respectfully, pointing that in the real world such things are no joke and you may need all your abilities and more to help a person as troubled as Kakeru is.

or_zpsxtn29d5g1

Excerpt from the OP

    The animation is probably the weakest part of the show. The studio Telecom Animation Film previously hasn’t done much worth noticing and worries of many people proved to be justified as the season went by. If the OP of a show gets the best sakuga moments of the show it’s no big deal but when you notice that during the later episodes the OP becomes the only place to look for anything decently animated, there’s a problem. Using slow pans, lots of close-ups and barely anything moving eventually become a standard to be expected of the show and it’s a shame because the story really deserved better. Painfully CG-ish students, sometimes strolling across the backgrounds don’t offer much help, either, as well as characters shamefully appearing off model way more than I’d find acceptable for no apparent reason save lack of time and money. Looking on a brighter side, the visual concept of the show appears to be not that standard. I don’t know how common green jackets are in Japanese high-schools but these, paired with very whitish and washed-out environment, create a noticeable contrast and a memorable atmosphere. The pale surroundings remind me of another show that had quite a similar visual concept – Stein’s;Gate. Oh wait, it turns out that rather coincidently both of the shows share the same director – Hiroshi Hamasaki. I won’t say that otherwise Orange would have been a terrible show, but the presence of this man certainly did a huge favor for the visuals even with the very limited means that were available.

 photo O10_zps4ec7j2to.png

    Speaking about the soundtrack, I must return to the OP. As Orange was the show I started my summer season with, I was thirsty for something exciting and this OP just blew away all my expectations with immeasurable energy and sense of joy with some fleeting moments of sadness. For me Yu Takahashi’s song paired with the storyboarding and directing by the director himself somehow made this OP one of the most memorable of the whole year. The rest of the soundtrack, composed by Hiroaki Tsutsumi, doesn’t contain anything as striking, but as a background music it works really well. I don’t think I’d ever listen to this soundtrack as a piece of art, but sometimes when you just want to create some peaceful slice-of-life-ish atmosphere, many of the tracks work perfectly. As usually in such a show a piano and strings make up the largest part of the sound, also usually supported by guitars and an occasional violin solo. Looking to the soundtrack as a part of the anime, I can confirm that it blends well with the general atmosphere, usually remaining cheerful and managing to offer some seriousness during more emotional scenes.

The OP: 'Hikari no Hahen' by Yu Takahashi

     Orange is a really mixed bag – when it’s good, it’s truly emotional and beautiful, and when it’s bad you just want to drop it and never think about it again. Yet, the show certainly has character. I think the friendship was portrayed very well – the group of friends has a great chemistry, feels very genuine, lively and real, as if you could easily belong to it yourself. The quality of the visuals didn’t do justice for the story and even the story has many things to be criticized for, but it might not always be the case – there are opinions that all the parallel universe stuff could be thought of as a daydream of Naho, and in this way many unsatisfying things would nicely fall into places, but it’s your own choice to think what you will. Of course since there probably are more plot holes in Orange than in a typical colander there still would be things to be disappointed about but at least for me the positives of the show had more weight to keep me watching.

Excerpt from the OST: 'Yell' by Hiroaki Tsutsumi

I believe, this anime is

 2Decent

    Despite all the shortcomings I still think Orange is worth giving a try. Maybe not anime but the original manga, but if you are able not to be bothered too much by all the dissonance of the sci-fi element  (among other things) with the whole mood of the show you could certainly get an enjoyable experience, enriched by moments that call for more thought about living your life in such a way that your future self won’t have to judge your present self too harshly.

Musings and Reflections – Autumn 2016 Week 13

     Quite weird to be writing while a week hasn’t past from the last segment of MR, and even weirder to write only about one show. Well, that happens when everything has already ended and this 2 cour thing hasn’t.

     Anyway, regardless of your celebration preferences, happy holiday season!

3-gatsu no Lion (Ep. 11)

 photo MR13_zpsahinyzkz.png

   So we see the sisters again after some time and I got to say it’s refreshing. When the show isn’t delving into the depths of Rei’s self-centered regrets and internal pains, that’s what I’d like to see from other segments. The comedy this time was very bearable, with only very few times appearing marginally annoying as usual, but the general atmosphere of the Kawamoto house made up for everything that could have been not pleasing. An episode about New Year seems a bit (well, a week) early but the holiday spirit still encompasses the same mood. With the show cutting its comedy and balancing between Rei’s struggles and family life of the sisters, I could see it becoming a great anime. We’ve seen lots of Rei but once in a while getting some strong portrayal of a family that despite some chores being “a pain” still cares deeply for each other is a very welcome sight. Such welcome that it did make Rei smile, and I don’t recall him doing that recently, or, to be frank, at all.

Musings and Reflections – Autumn 2016 Week 12

3-gatsu no Lion (Ep. 10)

 photo MR12.1_zpsz9jluhcm.png

    Much better this time. Now that we can see a fuller picture, the last episode’s silliness makes more sense (even if I still absolutely don’t approve it) as Rei is tested by two very different individuals who both in different ways via Kyoko pressure him to think what is more valuable – their well-being or his own. As I said previously, Rei just has to come into terms with the way things are – not everyone has only shogi in their lives, not everyone tries his/her best and is able to deal with the consequences. Yet, it looks like Rei finally has understood that even if he doesn’t like his predatory (sort of) instincts and actions, he can’t even stay afloat since without shogi he has nothing else. Kyoko’s role in this story remains very interesting – any mastermind toying with someone’s emotions brings more options to the story. Still, I can’t understand why Rei still lets her toy with him – he’s fully aware of Kyoko’s toxic personality so why he’s so attached to her so that he doesn’t  shove her away or start ignoring anything she says? Kyoko’s also interesting in another way – does she really constantly do an in-depth research and analysis of Rei’s opponents just to say two sentences that might or might not make some tiny difference? Is it really worth her time or does she have nothing better to do? On an unrelated note, the visuals looksed extra beautiful, as did the music.

Natsume Yuujinchou Go (Ep. 11)

 photo MR12.2_zpsu6ulrzgj.png

    That was a more or less standard Natsume’s last episode of a season. Nothing much to tell, as always. As much as I enjoyed it, I did that for purely nostalgic reasons, just as happens in the end of every season – there is a little and pretty much unimportant story going around and many of the supporting characters appear to remind of their otherwise not shown existence. Yes, it’s nostalgic to see some of them (and some of the others I don’t even have any recollection of) but I’m not that happy that they show up only to serve as a fanservice (of sorts) once a season. Otherwise the episode was a bit more playful than usual – getting that quite funny and not overlong sketch about Natsume’s fever dream, the two youkai, even if being idiots, showed some compassion and good will. Well, usual iyashikei feeling of the show, good news about 2 specials coming in March and April, and, most importantly the 6th season (that hopefully will continue many storylines from this one) announced – what else could I wish for?

Yuri!!! on Ice (Ep. 12)

 photo MR12.3_zpsng01p4pw.png

    So, the show’s apparently aiming to get a second season, isn’t it? I don’t know what I expected from the finale but I’m quite positive that it was satisfying enough but not really astounding. Probably the first episode set the bar unsurpassably high and other ones were good, might be even great by the standards of other shows, but the effect the first episode had didn’t really appear anywhere else. The fact that Yurio won felt gratifying – Yuri chose to get his strength from emotions while Yurio worked a lot harder (not to mention receiving better coaching from a technical point of view). Overall I think this kind of ending is a bit too vague. Yes, probably everybody wants to see more of Yuris, but I doubt any development Yuri could receive from now on could be as significant to his character as there was already shown. Sure, there are many things left unexplored – the relationship of Victor and Yuri is left open (well, that’s your romance anime for you), Yurio could use a lot more screen time, as well as other skaters. Yet, my opinion remains the same – a second season could be a nice treat but unless it would change the leading character and move the focus from skating performances somewhere else I doubt it could be as successful – it’s very easy to become just a clone with the same performances that could soon get boring despite being technically magnificent. A second season just couldn’t move people as much as this one did.

Fune wo Amu (Ep. 11)

 photo MR12.4_zps3rfyvjm7.png

    It seems fitting that I write about Fune wo Amu last since out of all the final episodes I watched this anime delivered way better than others. The ending felt just like life is – bittersweet, but with enough hope to keep going forward. To think of it, Matsumoto began being featured more only a couple of latest episodes but because of the way others reacted to him, his circumstances and how much he actually meant for the team as well as the dictionary, I just couldn’t not get too emotional. Anime characters not turning everything into an oversaturated melodrama but experiencing pain and sorrow as real people do is no tseen too often. Also, even the tiniest scene showing Nishioka’s family completed his personal story beautifully and also managed to move me quite a bit. The overall ending being very satisfactory actually is no wonder since the anime was based on a novel which didn’t left much space for possible sequels. And that’s quite exceptional thinking about anime nowadays – everyone wants to leave an opportunity to continue a show that could sell well so receiving a complete and satisfactory ending without loose ends has become not that common. So yeah, just watch the damn episode as well as the whole damn show. It’s damn worth it.

Musings and Reflections – Autumn 2016 Week 11

3-gatsu no Lion (Ep. 9)

 photo MR11.1_zps0jgdhtrf.png

     At times like these I really rue myself for not being able to ditch a show and still wanting to know how everything ends, even if it’s becoming more and more unbearable to watch. Yep, it’s my problem, but it’s also a problem for the show if my thoughts about this episode can be easily summarized by one screenshot with a certain line of monologue. You had one job, show. Setting up everything perfectly so that Rei could think about himself and his future as a shogi player, if he really is strong enough to want to win against anyone no matter their personal circumstances and the possible outcome of the match. Yes, there are all kinds of people but if you go such great lengths as reintroducing Kyouko last time and spending 1.5 episode for the whole story, I expect something decent, not just some cringe worthy comedy that (probably) no one requested nor needed. What’s the point in trying to elaborate the old man’s circumstances even after he’s shown to be totally incompetent as a shogi player as well as a human being? Maybe the point was just to make yet another build-up nullifying joke in the very end. You had one job, show. Call me humorless prick but I don’t find that’s funny at all.

Natsume Yuujinchou Go (Ep. 10)

 photo MR11.2_zpsf2iybv4j.png

    As the whole this season of Natsume doesn’t feel more exciting than previous ones, but when you think of it, it covers some fundamental things that have been asking to be talked about for a long time, and does it with the usual grace of Natsume – so far we got the previously unseen elements from the past of Natori and Tanuma, every second with Taki was a joy to watch and now we receive a story about probably the most underrated and forgotten pair of very beautiful characters – Touko and Shigeru. Sure, it doesn’t feel like much was told but even a glimpse of their everyday lives and mindsets that usually get overshadowed by stuff that happens to Natsume is very endearing. The crow may be thought of as a metaphor for Natsume – if he looks alone that doesn’t mean that he actually is, though taking care of it and showing compassion can make a lasting bond. Also I find it heartwarming that as Natsume is always afraid of telling the Fujiwaras about his abilities, Touko, even not knowing anything but only seeing that Natsume gets troubled over something wishes to break that wall. And that would make an amazing episode. By the way, the ED has grown on me so much that I could place it above other EDs to be rivaled maybe only by the first one.

Yuri!!! on Ice (Ep. 11)

 photo MR11.3_zpssp6q9irp.png

    Man, the next week just can‘t come too soon. The last episode being a breather from figure skating worked wonders – every program to me looked fresh enough and as outstanding as ever, even if from the technical viewpoint it may not have been. Cheering for Yuri was very easy and I’m a bit surprised myself for that because even the same program being used again and again every time is depicted just a bit differently so at least this time it still felt fresh enough. To think about it, even if most of other skaters haven’t been given much time to show their characters, pretty much all of them are individual enough to be able to cheer for them, too. I’d have liked to see more Yurio during the whole season, but the earning of his record felt deserved and very right because probably no one else worked as hard as him. Even JJ, whose personality may not be that appealing, despite his arrogance deserved some pity and I felt sorry for his misfortune. Well, generally most of the skaters look like real and relatable people and that’s one of the successes of the show. And this particular episode for me was one of the more emotionally affecting ones, even looking as far as other shows this season. Not to mention that the episode perfectly built suspension to the grand finale.

Fune wo Amu (Ep. 10)

 photo MR11.4_zps5gsrfzv5.png

    Another rather beautiful episode stressing how much work is needed to make a decent dictionary. All those scenes of people at their limit coupled with wonderful music just shine with optimism and passion. Well, the downside of it of course is the overworking and that isn’t strange at all for the Japanese and sadly for the anime industry in particular. Anyway, as the final episode is coming very soon I think we all are ready for it emotionally and in terms of the story. That little blue dictionary actually being the mascot of Daitokai is a very nice touch, bringing that pretty nonsensical segment of the show a little bit closer to the rest of it and in this way the mascot to the viewers really means more than just an anthropomorphized book. I don’t know if I just missed that the last time, but Nishioka looks to have a wedding ring and I’m really happy for him. It’s just a subtle gesture that doesn’t require much effort but speaks volumes. The same could be said about the absence of the grandma. She just doesn’t appear anymore but her fate sadly is quite clear. And that leads to the last seconds before the credits – no one in a room save the photo of Matsumoto and his wife. I’m afraid it means another set of sad moments.

Musings and Reflections – Autumn 2016 Week 10

3-gatsu no Lion (Ep. 8)

 photo MR.10.1_zpsbta54hps.png

    Once again I have to complain about the unevenness of the show. Generally if you want to become really good at something, you have to train especially that skill and commit all your time to it. Otherwise you can master some things each a little bit but that comes with a cost of not being perfect at any specific thing. And that’s exactly what is happening with 3-gatsu. Dancing cats as shogi pieces? Is it a show for preschoolers? I don’t say it isn’t amusing to some extent but there is no way you can combine organically such segments with other darker character pieces like the second half of the episode. Maybe the anime just has too much time to deal with. Well, Kyouko’s appearance moved things a bit and watching her play with Rei’s sense of empathy towards an old man whose long career may come to an end was really entertaining. I guess if you are into sports you just have to accept that if you play, you play to win and that means that someone else has to lose – there’s no other way. If you can’t deal with it, you can’t compete. As someone who doesn’t really feel affection to shogi Rei looks to haven’t been able to deal with it so the next episode should be more interesting.

Natsume Yuujinchou Go (Ep. 9)

 photo MR.10.2_zpsl5qusiyl.png

    During the first moments I wasn’t impressed at all because there have been countless episodes that start by Natsume being chased by some youkai. Nevertheless, now I can count this episode one of the most moving ones of this season and maybe of the whole anime as well. Struggles of the little tsundere youkai must have affected Natsume himself much as he himself balances between the worlds and doesn’t always find it easy to cope with either of them. And we even don’t need to involve Natsume – the episode works perfectly to inspire anyone that hard work will inevitably provide results one way or another. Also, Nyanko-sensei this time did nothing (as he always has been doing for a very long time) but this time it was actually useful, and useful “meat bun” is always a treat. By the way, the anime might as well be called One Punch Natsume because again and again he manages to defeat some youkai almost effortlessly (I wonder whether Natsume is strong after all or the youkai tend to have some weak spot and why Natsume doesn’t use punching as a way out of difficult situations more often). What’s more, connections don’t end here – as some people pointed out, the director of One Punch Man, Shingo Natsume, basically used his book of friends to invite so many talented people to that project. Weird.

Yuri!!! on Ice (Ep. 10)

 photo MR.10.3_zpsl8bbymcd.png

    Finally an episode showing that the staff still know that life of ice skaters doesn’t consist only of ice skating. Ambition is a good thing but when I find myself cheering even if sakuga wasn’t as involved as previous times, there probably is something not quite right with the composition of the show. Anyway, this glimpse to the ordinary life of Yuri and the brief introduction of the last skater was pretty entertaining. I think the rings’ stuff was a bit over the top (oh well, maybe Yuri’s brain has completely turned off before the big event) but the scene of exchange between Victor and Yuri was rather memorable and well made. Returning to the beginning of the episode, for some time it was sort of a recap and it, paired with Victor’s all-knowing voiceover felt a bit out of place, but not as out of place as usual recaps go, so I guess it’s ok. Well, getting a short grasp of air before the final stretch is a good idea and if it pulls out something similar to the first episode, it will be an outstanding final showdown. …And… what am I supposed to think about the ED?

Fune wo Amu (Ep. 9)

 photo MR.10.4_zpsy1xp8tuf.png

    If I have ever forgotten how I love this show, this episode strongly reminded me that. It’s queer how little things that can probably make no sense on their own in a specific context make a huge difference. First, I must praise the soundtrack again and again, especially at times with no dialogue. I’m very confused and enchanted how a simple and almost nonsensical scene of a dude examining a sheet of paper can be portrayed to convey suspension and very uneasy waiting for the results. Kishibe, although introduced only during the last episode seems to have become an established character since I was able to sincerely be happy about her date arrangement. The old guy seems getting frailer and frailer and even if he hasn’t done anything substantial, I’d feel really bad if he couldn’t live long enough to be able to touch the physical copy of the dictionary, speaking about which I’m very intrigued what could be the grand scheme of Nishioka. My guess would probably do something with his girlfriend but who knows. And finally, Majime’s letter once again paired with Nishioka’s wits to take photos of it adds just another opportunity to make my grin that didn’t dwindle all the episode even wider.

Musings and Reflections – Autumn 2016 Week 9

Natsume Yuujinchou Go (Ep. 8)

 photo MR9.1_zpsrrkh8rjp.png

    As someone who‘s still craving for some light cast on the past of Reiko, I can’t really say I was unimpressed by this episode that even failed to feature Natsume himself. Not that it was a bad thing. Still, I can’t remember any other such episode of this show that was a full flashback about some side character. As the series during the first half of the season took a turn to introduce the wider perspective of the world of exorcists, providing more knowledge about Natori and his standing among others is quite a natural thing to happen. I can’t say that the character himself improved or just was transformed in some way but reminiscing his first appearances, Natori started as a lighthearted and outgoing model guy with some powers and unsure allegiances and now finally ended up like a likeable and complicated human being with his own ideas, goals and methods. Seeing how he changed from the start as an exorcist and his first encounters with Matoba (and not in all ways for the best) you can’t not feel at least a little sympathy. Especially when Natori’s own complex beginnings add another layer to his wish to help and guide Natsume.

Yuri!!! on Ice (Ep. 9)

 photo MR9.2_zpszdqpowgj.png

    You don’t need to have a PhD in Physiology to know about a process called adaptation – the body tends to stop paying attention to a repeated stimulus – just like you don’t notice a clock ticking all the time unless you pay attention. And paying attention to Yuri on Ice has been hard for me for some time. To be more exact, last four or so episodes were just the same – the skaters and their programs did change but ultimately the structure of these episodes was almost exact – everyone goes on with their little stories, Yuri has some emotional moment, skates and somehow advances forward. I’m sorry, but you can’t make me not loose attention when so little changes and I’m only told that the stakes are higher. Yes, the animation is still damn good but it also begins to fail to excite me – everything was already done before. Also those two or three shots of cheering public is not enough not to be noticed, even if the shots alternate. The episodes repeat themselves, the story lags and the show really needs something to wake it from this stupor.

Fune wo Amu (Ep. 8)

 photo MR9.3_zpsmw4fo0hk.png

    Since at the moment I’m also finishing Usagi Drop manga, I feel very mistrustful of time skips. Especially when huge story points like the wedding and the beginning of life together of Majime and Kaguya are not shown. I really looked forward to the developments of their relationship so now I feel a little bit cheated. However, seeing how things are now made for a very compelling episode so I can’t criticize it that much. Araki and Nishioka look older (and the old lady could already be out of this world), but everyone else seems to have been left untouched by time. Visual differences are not the only interesting thing – as Nishioka had become a really likeable character I wonder if his relationship is going well but I fear that it might not get enough attention since there is the newbie who may provide an alternative (compared to Majime’s) story of becoming good at the job. Well, it’s an adaptation of a novel so it’s not to be expected that every detail and slightest plot progression (as endearing as it might be) may be animated. The time skip must have been a necessary step to be able to portray the ending of the project but that doesn’t make me very satisfied. Still, I hope there’s lots of good stuff to be told yet and I look forward to it very much.

Musings and Reflections – Autumn 2016 Week 8

3-gatsu no Lion (Ep. 7)

 photo MR8.1_zpsm0l1kvo9.png

     I’m getting completely uninterested with the story more and more each episode. When the start of the episode looked promising I thought that it will be a decent one with an unlikely friendship emerging between Rei and the baseball guy. It’s really a nice idea to show that every person in competitive sports actually has many similarities in mindset and beliefs with other sportsmen even if their sports have nothing in common. Well, it turns out we actually started a random mini arc of teaching how to play shogi. Sure, having a two-cour show (and being Shaft) gives you much time to use as you wish but once again –  I prefer the darker side of the show, or at least something that can play off the personalities of the characters and not just gags about how Rei is a bad teacher and that everything is awesome if you just add some cats. Nikaidou having to comment Rei’s match and shouting everything to a camera (live) in hope that Rei will somehow see that feels artificial. What are the chances that Rei who doesn’t own a TV will watch his rant? And who would invite a mentally unstable kid to comment a live coverage of a match in the first place? Maybe I’m just nitpicking but the show constantly fails to offer me something that would distract me from everything I’m not content with.

Natsume Yuujinchou Go (Ep. 7)

 photo MR8.2_zpsylagbdry.png

    No episode last week hardly enhanced the visuals this time. Yes, some background art was quite stunning but sometimes character designs and the animation were as unimpressive as ever. The story felt a bit cramped – of course there were episodes with random youkai doing some mischievous things but having one stealing the mask just for the sake of it certainly wasn’t as elaborated as it could have been. The old lady also could have used some more interactions and the festival itself as not a very frequent thing could have been used more. I wonder if the original manga story was as tight or did the staff thought it would be better this way. This season’s Natsume looks to be following more action based scenarios and I miss some of the peacefulness of lingering shots and contemplative moments of the previous seasons. Also my guess at the very start that this season will feature more of Reiko’s past seems to have been unfounded. Not that I dislike getting more knowledge about other characters. The show’s good but somehow I still find this season as a whole somehow lacking that special something that used to make the older episodes really amazing.

Yuri!!! on Ice (Ep. 8)

 photo MR8.3_zpswelqxcgv.png

     The story didn’t provide anything exceptional, and even the title of the episode (Yuri vs. Yuri) didn’t live up to my expectations (there was barely any vs.). Well, you can say that the sudden need of Victor to come back to Japan is something and yes, it is (the idea to push Yuri psychologically more is a right one) but the pretext for that isn’t the most inventive. Well, I still enjoyed the episode very much – seems like many of the shortcomings of the animation were eliminated and we are left with some exceptionally charming avalanches of sakuga. Also, it’s still good to see that even if the other skaters are not given much time, their moments are used fairly efficiently by giving each of them some character feature that is very specific and in this way it helps to differentiate between all the characters quite well. Like I said before – every skater has his own motivation and despite being completely different people, they all share love for skating and wish to show it.

Fune wo Amu (Ep. 7)

 photo MR8.4_zpsmrelvvrp.png

    Another Nishioka based episode which is very good despite the fact that it wasn’t shown how Majime and Kaguya did meet up and did do something together. When I think about it, Nishioka may be even more likeable and relatable character than Majime. Yes, there’s nothing not to love about the clumsy hard-working dude but I think it’s easier to understand and connect with Nishioka – the guy as a specialist of relations and connections with everyone that could be needed does an amazing job, also infecting his colleagues with positive thinking. He would be a rather one sided character but his own problems, like how to cope with the transfer situation or how to maintain his relationship a secret, make him far more interesting. And I just can’t even imagine how Majime would cope with whimsical professors, difficult decisions and tons of work to be done almost by himself. Especially dealing with the professors. Nishioka’s perceptiveness and his little mind game certainly made for a really entertaining scene.
By the way, you should (if not must) definitely check post by Kyra from KYRA DESU YO! about the names of the characters of the show.

Musings and Reflections – Autumn 2016 Week 7

3-gatsu no Lion (Ep. 6)

 photo MR7.1_zpso25bhenu.png

     I can say barely anything new compared to previous times. The show is still painful to watch – in more senses than one. There’s still that terrible transition between comedy and serious scenes (the scene after credits or that one with Rei and the teacher illustrates that perfectly) as if the creators are sincerely trying to kill the mood and getting better at it every episode. Rei’s loneliness and his never smiling face are touching, especially when paired with themes like stagnation, when he on one hand is content for he can guarantee his living playing shogi without any passion but on the other hand despises himself for not wanting to move forward while every person close to him strives to make a progress. After a quarter of the show I can say that the lips doesn’t look as bad as they did before – they characterize Rei well, but only him. I think happy people like Hina still shouldn’t have them. I wonder if it was the right decision to only tell that Rei lost two matches in a row but don’t show it. It progresses story a little bit and tries to abandon the rule that something can happen only in flashbacks. It doesn’t negate my idea that apart from the flashbacks there isn’t much interesting and meaningful stuff going on – the next episode looks to feature Hina and that baseball guy getting to know each other better. Oh well, see you in the far future, my beloved serious stuff…

Natsume Yuujinchou Go this time really did show an old special and even if I didn’t rewatch it, I clearly remember it being very weak, repetitive and annoying thanks to those kids. i hope the franchise will never relapse into something similar again.

Yuri!!! on Ice (Ep. 7)

 photo MR7.2_zps5fhdx4o0.png

     The thing that felt out of place more than usual was all those reused cuts. I understand that the amount of work that the staff are trying to force through is unbelievably huge compared to almost any other show. But still the question remains unanswered whether it’s better to try to achieve constant perfection and fail (of course just partially) or to steadily go on within the boundaries of being mediocre with some sakuga moments reserved for special cases. It’s not that I mind reused skating parts very much but when the same shot of clapping audience is presented six, seven or I don’t even know how many times, it gets a bit on my nerves. I’d rather watch the thoughts of the Chinese and Russian skaters look less brilliant and in its stead get at least another angle of clapping public. This episode in terms of structure basically is a direct continuation of the last one and to be frank for now I’m already full of technical stuff. I’m sorry but watching reused cuts with unchanging commentary with only tiniest opportunities for other stuff to happen isn’t the most enjoyable thing ever. Unless it’s consciously made this way so that some extraordinary events would make a bigger impact. But that only would undermine the whole point of making the skating parts well animated. Actually, this was the first time when we got to see what Victor thoughts and to view a situation from his perspective so that moment enhanced his character much. Still, the elephant in the room is still here. Yep, that one. And… I’ve no idea what to expect next.

Fune wo Amu (Ep. 6)

 photo MR7.3_zpsyk4d1zuy.png

    All is good and well but there hasn’t been enough growth shown between Majime and Kaguya. Yes, they get on pretty well and this confession scene was done well (on a side note it’s almost extraordinary that such thing was portrayed in the middle of the show and not in the very end like most anime do) but there just hasn’t been many instances shown where the couple would do something together and develop their relationship – the best I can remember is the arrival of Kaguya, the visit to her restaurant and the Ferris wheel scene. If it were a random high-school show I’d just account this as a mutual fleeting crush that wasn’t developed and will probably end after a couple of days. I guess in the novel there was more of it but sadly adaptations with time limit set in stone have no way of going with the original pace. I just hope that this rush will be compensated by something better that’s worth leaving the development of the relationship rather short. Actually the whole episode felt like a wrap up for the past events and a set up for the future – the relationship of the couple advanced to a new level and Nishioka confessed his situation so the dictionary squad will be forced to respond to it.