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 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.