Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 7

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 6)

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

Made in Abyss (Ep. 6)

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

Re:Creators (Ep. 17)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 20)

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

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 6

Made in Abyss (Ep. 5)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 19)

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

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 5

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 4)

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

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 5)

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

Made in Abyss (Ep. 4)

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

Re:Creators (Ep. 16)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 18)

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

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 4

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 3)

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

Made in Abyss (Ep. 3)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 17)

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

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

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 3

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 2)

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

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

Made in Abyss (Ep. 2)

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

Re:Creators (Ep. 15)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 16)

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

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 2

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 1)

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

Made in Abyss (Ep. 1)

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

Re:Creators (Ep. 14)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 15)

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

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 1

Re:Creators (Ep. 13)

     Ain’t it meta when an episode starts with words that in order to defeat Altair much stronger plot progression is needed? And it actually turns out to be a witty recap.  By definition recaps aren’t an exciting thing to watch, especially since I wasn’t prepared for one. Nonetheless I can do nothing but applaud the creativity with which the episode was constructed. One way of creating a good recap is retelling everything with plenty of new footage, but making one full of meta and jokes also turns out to work well. Who else than Meteora can once again talk about everything? To some extent the recap emphasized some of Meteora’s relationships, such as her respect for Selesia. I wonder whether the real Meteora also has some secret wishes to be the hero she portrays herself as or it was just a deviation from the norm because it should’ve been funny. To some extent it was. Justification why the recap happened (and the whole idea of breaking the 4th wall) probably were the highlights. Even Rei Hiroe got some rocks thrown at him for too intricate character designs. Well, overall as a DVD special this recap was a good and innovative one but as a normal episode – not that impressive.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 14)

     Why is it that a second OP always seems worse than the first one? This one isn’t bad but doesn’t have the same energy and sense of constantly moving forward. To some extent that suits the episode when three girls take a break from Manoyama. Only Riri and Shiori still work and encounter these Spanish people. Even if I would, I couldn’t possibly think of anything more random. This joke as well as others landed pretty well. Well, concerning the Spanish, I have a premonition that Sandal has (or will have) something to do with that. Anyway, the episode still concentrates on the other three. All of them are unable to completely forget their job and try to remember all the ideas their old friends talked about and decide if something could be used in Manoyama. Also, none of them were that happy at the very beginning being stuck in the middle of nowhere but now only Maki hesitates (still, she hesitated but didn’t accept instantly) when someone suggests putting their jobs at the Tourism Board aside. It’s just like a little confirmation that the girls have grown to like Manoyama as well as each other’s presence and despite having their own lives and interests still try their best for for the town.

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 0

     I can barely remember the last time I was this unexcited about a new season. Last one was plagued with sequels and this one just fails to intrigue me. Yes, there are some tried and tested leftovers left that should provide enough entertainment but other than that… Usually there’s at least several shows that look exciting either because of their premises, their studios or just some particular creators. This time? Not really. Apart from a few only mildly attractive ones there’s lots of light novel adaptations (particularly those that deal with isekai), some romcoms, shounen battle series or silly comedies but I feel that I’ve already seen enough not to fall for anything particularly hard. On the other hand since I’ve become part of this community fairly recently, there’s lots of good stuff stuck indefinitely in my backlog, so this summer might be a perfect time to experience some classics that I feel uncomfortable for not having watched yet like Madoka Magica. Also it might be a good time to get into Monogatari franchise. So yeah, let the backlog season begin!

Re:Creators

      Re:Creators didn’t have any break so the story continues as if there was no change in seasons. The group came up with a plan to stop Altair and all the remaining episodes (weirdly only 10 of them) will probably tackle that. Well, it’s nice to have some direction where everything is going, even though some yet unseen fictional dudes will probably appear and make everything more messy. I just expect more talking (quite a lot actually) and some cool fights. The continuation of the story that makes sense would be welcome. Tying all the loose ends and explaining all the mechanics of fictional characters appearing in the real world might become a huge problem for the show, but we can only wait. Anyway, Hiroyuki Sawano should be at his best, as well as Maya Sakamoto’s lovely Magane, and that’s a lot.

Sakura Quest

      Again, I doubt a second cour will be that different from the first one. Stakes may become higher, Yoshino might have more trouble acknowledging everything good she has brought to Manoyama, but the same pace of having two or three episodes for one mini-arc should remain. As there are 5 main girls it’s natural that their charatcers are still very much in need of exploration and though they all had their moments and did experience some changes, undoubtedly there’s still much room for new stories to be told. The fact that Yoshino has been to Manoyama in her childhood might gain more significance, the backstories of the girls also could be expanded much more. If everything will go as it has been, I’ll be more than content.

     Apart from these two that I’ll definitely continue, Fate/Apocrypha looks like just another random spawn of the franchise that has little meaning to me now because I’m still determined to finish the original visual novel one day.  Princess Principal has Yuki Kajiura on board and I don’t even know how much stuff I’d need to watch in order to understand Owarimonogatari. Only these four might look more promising:

  • Ballroom e Youkoso looks exactly like Haikyuu and seems to aim to appeal to the Yuri!!! On Ice audience. It’ll probably be the flagship of sports anime and end up being not a bad one, just very sports-anime-like nothing innovative apart from the setting.
  • Kakegurui looks like another anime set in a high school despite having nothing really to do with it. Over the top (almost Shokugeki no Soma level) reactions are guaranteed, but it might just end up being an ad for the manga.
  • Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu distinguishes itself only because of ufotable. I still have respect for them but the CG road the studio chose isn’t something I like that much. Some scenes definitely will be nice and all but considering that it’s a game adaptation I don’t have much faith. Especially after God Eater and Tales of Zestiria.
  • Made in Abyss is still shrouded in mystery (for those as myself who haven’t read the manga) but there are rumors that this show isn’t what it seems – cutsy character designs don’t automatically mean a harmless story.

    As always I’ll just wait for the reactions of the community. Well, it might be not a forgettable season overall, but I think the choice to pay more attention than usual to older anime might be a better one than blindly plunging into everything that statistically should be only of average quality.

     Have I missed anything prominent? If you have any recommendations since it’s clear that I could use some, please share!

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?