Flying Witch – the brilliance of Slice of Life

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Studio J.C.Staff
Genres Slice of Life, Supernatural
Source Manga
Episodes 12
Season Spring 2016
Director Katsushi Sakurabi
Music Yoshiaki Dewa

     An anime that belongs to slice of life genre is difficult to make. It sounds very easy – just tell what happens every day and that’s it, right? Nevertheless, not every show has that special something that makes seemingly boring or just not that inspiring things into a spectacle you want to watch and enjoy. Sad as it is, our usual lives tend not to be comprised of stuff that is worth telling as a story and something memorable happens only rarely. What to do then? Many great slice of life shows that don’t pursue any continuing narrative either build colorful characters or manage to include some particular quirks to their stories, something that make them stand above their counterparts. The real mastery then is to mix those quirks within mundane activities of the characters. This way we have ridiculous situations of Nichijou, multitude of wondrous youkai in Natsume Yuujinchou, parental learning moments in Usagi DropFlying Witch, though probably not able to boast the perfection of some of the greatest anime, stands near enough and wastes no time telling what its special quirk is.

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    As with most of slice of life anime, the set-up of Flying Witch isn’t anything complicated – Makoto with her cat Chito-san arrives to live with her cousins Kei and Chinatsu and their parents in the snowy Aomori prefecture. The unusual thing is that Makoto practices to become a witch but this part of the set-up isn’t remembered as often as you would think looking at the title of the show.  Not that I complain since there’s lots and lots of things to do in Aomori apart from witching. Makoto with Chito-san explore the surroundings and, as her relatives live pretty close to nature which means a bit of farming and stuff, she wholeheartedly takes up every opportunity to enjoy her staying and experience things she hadn’t before, even if they are such small and forgettable like tasting some random vegetable found by a roadside. Of course, cooked.

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     Things changed a bit when the Fire Nation attacked, I mean, Makoto’s sister Akane began visiting her. Akane being a professional witch (I guess it’s genetics after all with all the witches in the family) didn’t miss opportunities to teach her kouhai about some simple stuff. Of course, when she wasn’t sleeping. Or drinking. Anyway, witchcraft in the anime is only a secondary focus at best so don’t expect any ground breaking or time bending magic tricks. It’s well tuned with the atmosphere of the story – some walking paper cranes, ghosts working in a café and just all around pleasant and friendly stuff that makes you a bit amiably surprised and refreshed (if you ever were) from gardening, farming (talk about using the setting efficiently), cooking, exploring and just slice-of-life-ing. That’s one of the strengths of Flying Witch – the balance between occasional unexpected supernatural incidents and comfortable life at a beautiful place doing whatever the heart’s desire is. The only thing that a bit bothered me is that some of the characters or phenomena of the witch world didn’t receive as much attention as they (I think) would be able to withstand. I don’t say that the composition of the show was lacking – you can only put in so much content into a 12 episode show. Still, there are many things left that I would like to see more and to know more about. I guess this problem can be at least partly attributed to the fact that the anime is an adaptation. The mangaka probably plans her stories so that they would provide just the useful information at a time and wouldn’t leave her with less ideas that are being prepared for the future. To please the thirst for more there’s only two choices – embrace the manga or not that hopefully wait for any news of the possibility of a second season.

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     Usually in any anime you can’t rely only on the setting and the originality of the premise. That’s where the characters come in and even if I can’t claim that Flying Witch has a very memorable cast, the dynamics between the characters and some of their individual quirks make it a good watch. There’s nothing much to say about Makoto herself, only that she is a pretty normal girl, a bit absent minded sometimes (and because of that relying on her cat) but trying to do her best. Chito-san behaves like an ordinary cat with all the catlike mannerisms and that further gives some strength to the realistic part of the show which is balanced by frequent Makoto’s interactions with Chito-san as if she was just another human. Maybe our witch just knows her cat perfectly but that certainly adds some sense of magic to the atmosphere. Other secondary characters worth mentioning are Chinatsu – a kid that behaves like a kid. As weird as it sounds, it’s not that usual in anime with a few exceptions (that are getting more frequent with Amaama to Inazuma and others). You can’t not smile when Chinatsu reacts to something with all her childish soul or just idealistically and enthusiastically tries to pursue something. Makoto’s sister Akane is another character worth mentioning, being totally unlike her sibling – outgoing and energetic (when she’s not sleeping) world class witch full of weirdest ideas. The cast’s strength lies in the interactions between themselves, the strong sense of kinship and mutual reliance, just like you would want to have in an ideal family. Also, it’s remarkable that even if Flying Witch tells episodic stories, the characters, even less prominent ones, retain their memories of recent matters. There’re many instances of episodic shows whose order of episodes you can change without any impact, but this one not only adds just a little bit more to the realism using recurring characters and reminiscences of past events but also makes the grand story more cohesive.

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Excerpts from the anime

    Let’s move to the visuals, where one big part of the greatness of the show lies. Talking about the character designs I just don’t know how to define what actually makes them look very pleasant, but it really does. It was probably the first few seconds of the PV of the show that I, still don’t knowing basically anything about Flying Witch, thought “Hey, I could watch this”. The designs somehow just add much to the soothing, relaxing, comfortable and warm atmosphere that is one of the strengths of the show. Another huge positive comes from the backgrounds. When you watch the anime you can’t not notice that the surroundings seem somehow different from usual cardboard cutout buildings and streets. The reason of this is the hard work of the staff – the town where everything happens actually exists, and that is Shimoyuguchi near the castle town of Hirosaki in Aomori prefecture. There was a series of articles on Crunchyroll (here, here and here) about that which you should definitely check. Of course anime makes every place look way flashier and brighter to accommodate to the general feeling of the show but many actually existing buildings and places enhance the sense of location many times and, even if it’s not the thing you notice very easily, make you far more attached to the show.

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    As with the character designs, I fell in love with the soundtrack from the first glance. I can’t remember how long ago it was that some first notes of the first track paired with the visuals would move me so much. The general mood of the soundtrack remains very light, simple and laid back, as expected of a piano, some strings and woodwinds for the most part. The beautiful main theme reappears at various moments in different arrangements but the lack of complexity isn’t a bad thing. Sure, many people probably won’t be compelled to listen to the soundtrack all the day but as an accompaniment for the story it works well. Still, for me especially the main theme and some other jazzy tempered tracks are some of the more beautiful musical pieces of the year.

Excerpt from the OST: 'Kowata Makoto' by Yoshiaki Dewa

     Flying Witch is an easy anime to miss if you prefer something that has action and high stakes. Still, I highly recommend to dive into the heartwarming greatness of iyashikei and enjoy small beautiful things that happen every day. In this perspective Makoto, who begins her explorations of tiniest joys of a more rural setting than she (and probably the viewers) is accustomed to and Chinatsu who still views the world as a place full of wonder and happiness are the best characters the show could have had. Some little and innocent magic tricks and the queerness of the world of witches renew the enjoyment when you begin to get comfortable with Makoto’s everyday cooking and farming, accompanied by the soundtrack that could compete for the best aspect of the show – it’s very pleasing that all those parts comprising the show really work together to reach one goal – the brilliant atmosphere.

     I believe, this anime is

 3
Good

     Of course it depends on your preferences but if you are not indifferent to the slice of life genre or just want to have a calm and soothing experience, look no further – Flying Witch is just for you.

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Musings and Reflections – end of Spring 2016

     It wasn’t a bad season and even if no show managed to charm me as Rakugo of a previous one did, still it was pretty good. Probably the biggest hit (that I haven’t watched) besides Boku no Hero Akademia was Re:Zero that really looks good enough but I’ll refrain from any comments and intentions to watch it (or not) until it ends. Of other shows that didn’t catch up my eye at the start of the season probably only Tanaka-kun sounds interesting enough to try it out. Speaking about the shows I did watch…

Sakamoto desu ga?

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     I went into the show expecting a few things and Sakamoto desu ga? delivered that. Basically it was just one cool guy acting cool, and when some other people in the show saw that and though “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we make him do something uncool?”, it actually made the protagonist look even cooler, if that’s possible. The formula with slight variations remained for the full cour, but I can only applause the mangaka for thinking up many very different scenarios to tell virtually the same thing. Personally I just didn’t find all the jokes very funny and the whole repeating idea, even if very diversely portrayed, after several episodes ceased to be that interesting – pitting anyone against Sakamoto was doomed from the start since the result was always very clear. Sakamoto being this perfect guy didn’t really make me care about him and hardly any other character was interesting or at least not too simplified. These and other things make me think I’ll just forget the show next week even if it had its moments.

     Sakamoto desu ga? receives the award of the most memorable character (guess who) of the season.

Joker Game

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     Who doesn’t fancy a cool looking show from the period of WWII? One of the better aspects of watching anime is that you can approximately see how people lived in Japan during certain periods of time. Joker Game grabbed the idea and sometimes made it really interesting to watch but those pleasant moments were diluted by other not so good stuff. Spy stories generally are a very captivating thing to experience but the show managed to keep the viewers fairly bored. Changing the whole cast nearly every episode is a very dangerous gamble at best of times and that paired with stories that don’t form a cohesive and engaging narrative or some plot armor for the good guys doesn’t look like a mix for a good show. Not to mention that all the spies looked pretty much the same. And come on, if you have some cool dudes, why wouldn’t you use them all together? Composition of Joker Game wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen. After the second episode all the episodic stuff began quite unexpectedly with all hopes for a single but good story fainting, the ending felt like a random episode from the middle of the show and it itself wasn’t that great. I guess even Production I.G sometimes blunders.

Koutetsujo no Kabaneri

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     Koutetsujou no Kabaneri was fun. Certain elements of many aspects of the show had flaws but how couldn’t it be fun to watch people running and slaughtering zombies even if they form some enormous piles hugely reminiscent of Titans of a certain other show. Things that deserve applause are plentiful. Let alone the artstyle from character designs to lush backgrounds, no shyness of blood and gore, maybe not the most original but nonetheless quite intriguing setting. The first half of the story did surprisingly well introducing everything and especially portraying mistrust and fear based selfishness to the point of stupidity among people that must worry almost every second about their lives. Later on the villain that had gone nuts was introduced and that felt pretty generic considering all the available possibilities concerning the setting. Ultimately if more battered, all the important characters felt pretty much the same after the first half and after the whole show. Looking how much effort was put into the show I guess the staff are hooping a green light for a second season and well, if they get one and come up with some engaging story, I’m all in.

Koutetsujou no Kabaneri  receives the award of most impressive scenery of the season.

Flying Witch

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     It’s not that often that a show grabs me right from the first second (especially with the soundtrack) and practically holds its place the whole time. Flying Witch did exactly that and I’m quite amazed it did. It’s very difficult to make a slice of life show have that special healing ingredient, but I believe the mix of mundane tasks, setting in a countryside (and mainly not in a high-school for once), and a bit of friendly magic tricks works perfectly. As the genre suggests, everything goes on pretty slowly and all the details about dealings of everyday life steal much time from potential expansion of all the magic stuff. Again, that either tells to go and find the manga or just hope for another season. To be frank, the show feels a bit like an introduction to all this world with witches and stuff and one or two extra episodes about exactly that certainly wouldn’t have spoiled anything. But I can’t complain. Interactions between characters that genuinely feel like a true family with everyone’s little quirks, likes, dislikes and preferences make a very compelling work of art.

     Flying Witch receives the award of favorite OST  and favorite anime of the season.

     Favorite OP without much thought was that of Sakamoto desu ga?. The animation without much sophistication emphasized once again who’s the best guy, but the chosen style and very unpredictable song stood out among all the other OPs.

     Favorite ED must be that of Koutetsujou no Kabaneri. I’m definitely not alone who just enjoys the voice of Aimer. Flowing peaceful images pretty much worked as a contradiction and deepened the effect of all the bloody events of the show. Plus you can’t be amazed by the quality of the images, especially that of Mumei. Even if it looks almost like a very elaborate fan art.

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2016 Week 13

Koutetsujou no Kabaneri (Ep. 11)

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     Eye candy – that’s what the episode was. Wit Studio just knows how to visualize elevated emotions. The soundtrack also managed to deepen the meanings of the scenes very well. Sadly the story is not so polished – somehow the fact that Ikoma after his fall is not only safe and sound but he even hasn’t lost his glasses makes all his emotions feel a bit stale. Biba somehow managed transform from very dangerous and therefore bound and guarded prisoner to unbound controller of the scene, as if not one guard was able to escape all the panic and deal with him. Some effectiveness was lost transitioning from “gotta save everyone as fast as possible” to “nah, I’d rather cut my hair”. Anyway, with all pros and cons, the show deserves praise for being enjoyable. I’m already in my mind savouring all the visuals of the culmination. Even if the story’s end fails to impress, it’ll certainly look pretty damn good.

Sakamoto desu ga? (Ep. 11)

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     I’m very unsatisfied. Just how dumb people must be to want to go one-on-one with Sakamoto after countless times of failure? Why would anyone guess that a slightly melting snowball has some gunpowder within? Quite weird that we didn’t get a whole shot of Sakamoto’s snowman (I guess, snowwoman), if she was that big of a deal. Directing is also a bit lacking – any motion is just minimal and you can clearly see that it’s pretty much just manga panels with very little motion added. The whole episode is just a slow build up so Acchan could face Sakamoto (and lose miserably – how else?) thus maintaining Fukase as a grand villain who uses others to achieve his goals. Still, we have already seen countless times how Sakamoto overcomes everything and anything, so even starting to develop possible matches is leading virtually nowhere. I just haven’t seen anything that would point into Fukase being the least bit dangerous for Sakamoto or Acchan being even marginally competent to do anything. Oh well, looks like the next episode will be the last.

Flying Witch (Ep. 11)

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     I don’t know what the writer was thinking (and eating) to come up with a living (I guess?) and flying whale made of rocks that used to have some people living on it. Nonetheless, it was quite stunning. Even the CG of the whale looked pretty well. Yes, you can perceive that it’s not hand drawn, but it blended well with everything but gave the whale some otherwordly quality. I guess these days when CG still can’t replace the usual animation, it works the best when used to emphasize some creatures or things that are a bit alien to the majority of the setting. Speaking about other things, bringing Anzu back was a great idea – this town is just too small for all the characters not to run into each other from time to time. The episode managed to include moments of everyday life and some magical stuff – the main qualities that make Flying Witch a bit unique compared to other slice of life shows.

Flying Witch (Ep. 12)

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     Well, not very finale-esque, but I guess that’s only appropriate for a slice of life series. Many of the side characters earned a glimpse though overall nothing exceptional happened. Some fabric shopping and sewing looked very mundane, but that was bested by another appearance of pretty random creatures – earth fish that can also be air fish and like sake with some snacks. You probably can’t get more random than that. It would be hilarious if they can’t live in water. Still, weird as they are, they fit in the world of the Flying Witch and organic atmosphere which the show can clearly boast of is one of the crucial characteristic of a slice of life series. The show ended, but shots during the end-credits just screamed asking for a one more episode dedicated to the festival. And not only that – a second season would be a great present for anyone who enjoys healing anime and manages not to see Flying Witch as boring.

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2016 Week 11

Koutetsujou no Kabaneri (Ep. 9)

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      Biba’s philosophy has been grounded by his actions, but I’m not sure if his perspective makes any sense. Yes, he’s a bad guy and I don’t agree with him, but his position doesn’t sound like it makes much sense, even in his point of view. Ok, he’s grudging over some past thing and because of that all the genocide should be seen as a revenge. Still, if he’s up to destroying all the cities, where would his resources come up from? How come none of his subordinates think anything about killing fellow humans and styling it as a liberation? Is it really worth to set Mumei against Biba himself – some brotherly love filled words and probably he would have had one more Kabaneri at his side. I’d think it as an advantage, even if Biba doesn’t give a fig about her. By the way, how could a giant pile of dead bodies smash down a brick wall? Well, all the action was here, but the progression of the story somehow didn’t move me very much. After all, all the massacre we have seen before and this episode brought in very few new developments. Probably setting Biba up as someone more of a tragic hero and not a mad villain would have been a more interesting choice.

Sakamoto desu ga? (Ep. 9)

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     To be frank, I was bored. Comedy wasn’t the shiniest thing this time and apart from that… Well, I guess finding out how some girls (and Kubota, how without him?) met Sakamoto again speaks about his originality and not that ordinary way of thinking when it comes to helping others, but we’ve seen that. Yes, it may be cute, or worth some applause, but Sakamoto has done way more entertaining deeds than that. Moving to the second part, was I supposed to get emotionally invested into some middle-aged housewife chasing high-schoolers? Changing genders by different clothing without anyone noticing is possible only in fiction. And really, what was the use of this segment? Watching someone showing some restraint towards something they shouldn’t do seems a good idea in theory, but I just don’t care about our housewife. Sometimes the show manages to throw some quite well made  a tad emotional stuff or some ideas about morality between its usual bits of comedy, but this time I’m sorry – for me it didn’t work.

Flying Witch (Ep. 10)

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     I must be in quite a grumpy mood this week, for even my favorite show of the season didn’t manage to impress as much as always. Somehow I just felt disengaged, especially in the first half. I think the best Flying Witch has to offer is interactions between its characters (which of course were present this time and were pretty enjoyable), some light-hearted comedy (which was not that apparent) and all the everyday life of a small town with all the nature and some magical stuff around. All these things were absent from the first half, so maybe that’s why it felt a bit filler-ish. All the apple-tree narrative was a lot closer to my liking, as all the lush scenery got time to shine, but it wasn’t really something as interesting as many things we have seen before. Only 2 episodes are left and I’d appreciate very much something a bit bigger in scale, to make a finale to be remembered, if it’s possible while not straying too far from the usual mood.

Joker Game (Ep. 11)

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     For once Joker Game showed that the life of a spy isn’t always rose-colored. Even if that comes from a fairly unpredictable accident and not from some professional hazards. Also, another quite satisfying piece of news is some scraps of the true backstory of Yuuki. As if the show itself has finally thought that cheating its viewers isn’t the best way to attract them. On the other hand, I’m not totally convinced that all of this story could possibly happen in the real life. The show loves conveniences, and this time wasn’t different. I doubt that German agents would have searched all the body thoroughly and missed the microfilm. What about Yuuki coming directly to retrieve it? Would he do the same thing for another spy half a world away? And all the circumstances that allowed him to see the body alone are very fortune based. Yet, aside from all those ramblings the episode had its own flavor and wasn’t my least favorite one.

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2016 Week 10

Flying Witch (Ep. 9)

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     And that was as good an episode as any. Despite the episodic nature, I really appreciate all the ties that connect separate stories together – some reminiscences about the last episode, an appearance of Inukai and a mention of the Mandrake this time. Quite funny that all these ties add a lot of realism to a show whose main character (and not her alone) is a witch. This week all the events weren’t that memorable, but all the little scenes and funny outcomes made up for that more than enough – chemistry between Al the hamster (or whatever he is) and Chito, Akane’s sleeping poses and all the part about Nao being Kei’s girlfriend, pretty useless gifts from Burkina Faso, even the breast size joke somehow didn’t feel out of place and that doesn’t happen that often. Well, if you need an example of a healing anime – you need not look any further. I just would like to know at least something more about all the witch stuff.

Joker Game (Ep. 10)

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     There have been worse episodes. As even the poorest attempts of overarcing plot were buried last week, we are back at one-story-at-a-time format. The whole time is spent digging the backstory of Yuuki, who is the most recurring character and practically the best we could hope to get in a place of a protagonist. Still, an old menacing guy who just sits in the shadows and appears only to give a dramatic speech and show that it’s him behind all the spies is not what I would call a very likeable character whose backstory would be worth investigating. Yes, it makes more sense emotionally than to have a backstory of any of the spies, but still. And, when the end of the episode comes, it appears that all the things that were being dug up during this whole time may or just simply may not be true. Talk about rewarding experience. Yes, it shows how Yuuki has planned everything and that he’s a spy-god but come on. As a side note, by the end I somehow felt a bit fond of this Westerner spy and somehow was relieved that he pretty much escaped. Well, it’s virtually impossible to see him again. Oh well.

     On a completely unrelated note, these past weeks have been quite full of various things for me to do and that doesn’t look likely to change for some time. Sad as it is, watching anime has taken probably more than a back seat in my schedule, but everything passes away sooner or later, so as soon as free time is back on the menu in larger portions, my blogging activity will resume. Especially since I’ve been gathering some ideas for a while that just need to be elaborated and written down. Well, have a nice day!

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2016 Week 9

Flying Witch (Ep. 8)

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     I didn’t expect a continuation from the last episode, but it happened, and as always, it wasn’t a disappointment. Well, it was not as interesting an episode as the last one for sure – the setting stayed the same, some random hosts and guests appeared and I would have loved to learn a lot more about those instead of just seeing them. I guess at this point the mangaka was still building up the world with many future possibilities so more characterization will be left for manga readers only. Well, not that I don’t enjoy the show. At least it was good to hear some references to past events – Harbinger of Spring and  the Mandrake incidents both. The fox scene was made a lot funnier to me by one particular song that also questioned the sound of fox-speech. I wonder if the mangaka has heard it.  The part after credits felt a bit random, but maybe that’s just Akane for you – playing with enhanced food coloring and stuff.

Joker Game (Ep. 9)

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     I bet there was hardly a single person who would have questioned the survival of the D-Agency. As always, whatever the opponents think, Yuuki and his lads are just a step (or maybe more like a mile) ahead. Yes, it’s cool to have some intelligent spies, but when they succeed no matter what there’s no joy of accomplishment. I certainly wasn’t rooting for the other agency, but neither did I for Yuuki’s guys. Well, maybe a little, but just because in terms of likeable, charming and fascinating characters D-Agency scores 1% compared to 0% of their opponents. It’s not that I feel the need to empathize with the Agency, the show just mildly suggests that “well, if you have nothing else to do, then maybe, just maybe, you could like them. Please?”. Conveniences don’t help either – how would the “student” have known exactly what antidote to take? And that he needed an antidote or not say, a bullet-proof vest? I guess that was Joker Game probably at its worst. Surely next week there will be an improvement, right? Right?

Koutetsujou no Kabaneri (Ep. 8)

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      The conflict appears and escalates. A bit more about Mumei’s past is revealed, but even if she wholeheartedly accepted Biba’s philosophy back then, it doesn’t seem very bright of her to follow him unquestionably even now. Yes, he (in her thought) made her strong and therefore alive. Yet, Mumei has traveled a long way with the Koutetsujou crew and actually helped them. Her role as a bodyguard in this light doesn’t really follow the philosophy that only strong survive and you must become strong yourself to remain alive. Mumei has shown that she is not the most clever girl, but doesn’t her beliefs and her actions feel contradicting? Blindly serving a man and unquestionably following his orders while his reasoning doesn’t really work? If the brother himself was such a fan of strong people, why his whole train is not stuffed with Kabaneri? We know who the villain is, but still Ikoma’s judging a person only by one action without any context wasn’t the smartest decision. Apart from all the tension the most interesting thing for me will be the unveiling of what exactly happened all those years ago that made Biba wanted dead.

Sakamoto desu ga? (Ep. 8)

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     Somehow this week I wasn’t drawn in at all. No matter what villains the show will try to throw at Sakamoto – be it his classmates at first, Mr. 8823 later and now this Fukase guy – there’s no question if they all will be defeated. Yes, there’s some intrigue in how exactly that will happen, but still, any attempt to build any suspense is doomed from the start. Yes, the series is a comedy and I know that logic is not the main aspect, but for example, those two bad classmates behave like a bunch of idiots – why would you blurt out anything before even looking who stands behind the door? Hayabusas’s rescue party appeared out of nowhere, not to mention no one even spotting Sakamoto’s disguise as a tree. I get it, that’s exactly the point, but that’s just not my kind of humor – it’s more silly than funny. The show is really difficult to become invested emotionally in when the main guy is just an all-perfect alien and among others there’s just hardly anyone with either enough brain or enough characterization. There’s just no one for me to cheer on, to identify as or just to feel like a friend with. I guess I just have a different mindset than any of them.

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2016 Week 8

Flying Witch (Ep. 7)

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     Well, I got all emotional and very subjective suddenly. If anyone has forgotten how great anime (in general) is – that’s the very show to rekindle the love for the medium. Doubtlessly Flying Witch will remain my anime of the season (almost) no matter what. Slice of life by definition is a very down to earth genre and to make it as enjoyable as this episode was is an achievement. I just don’t have any complaints – music got much time to show its character, transition between the two parts was very smooth, all the jokes worked, Chito-san got a bit of spotlight, a shy character was treated very professionally… All of the main characters from time to time are shown to have some random but very believable personality quirks and even if I can’t include (so far) any of them as belonging to my favorite character list, but together they make one very realistic and endearing cast. Well, I just like this show. Very much.

Joker Game (Ep. 8)

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     As happy as I am because Joker Game finally showed some signs of escaping episodic storytelling, I can begin to question overall structure of the story. Yes, now it’s still too early to judge, but it doesn’t seem like the wisest decision to have some stand-alone type of episodes between the introduction (formation of the D-Agency) and the other important point of the overarcing story – that is the rivalry with the other spy agency. All those episodes from 3rd to 7th just showed that pretty much all the spies look like brothers and they are some damn good spies. I believe that going head on from the formation of the Agency to the rivalry part would have been better, since if our guys want to come out on top, they have to give their best. This way we would still have seen the point that spies are cool, but the point would have been integrated in the story and not just left floating without much reason. Speaking about this episode – it just worked as an introduction of the other Agency, some typical spy stuff happened and I still can’t say that I care for anybody out of all the characters. By the way, those chess pieces clearly weren’t the best CG I have seen.

Koutetsujou no Kabaneri (Ep. 7)

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     A pretty weird episode to be frank – not one Kabane showed up and we even had some sort of a festival. Apparently they still exist in that world. Considering all the plethora of action during earlier episodes, some still water here may mean that everything that’s left will be one huge ride till the very end, with a possible conflict between Mumei’s brother and Ikoma. It looks like even if the story is told through Ikoma’s eyes, Mumei is closer to being the main character with all of her complicated history and relationships. The show probably has too much to tell (especially about the whole world, not just the dealings of the main cast) for a one cour. Another thought – Ikoma’s lost a bit of cool thinking. Yes, it’s well and good to think big and dream of reconquering all the land, but is it the least bit possible? The show itself showed how stations are lost and how do you restore them when some damn titans are roaming around? Well, he may as well be head over heels for Mumei, talking about growing rice and stuff.

Sakamoto desu ga? (Ep. 7)

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     It’s quite odd to think that some under 18 kids would rather try to rent some juicy DVDs instead of going to some certain sites on the Internet. It appears that the time setting of Sakamoto desu ga? isn’t that contemporary. Anyway, again and again the dude shows how to deal with things, even if it requires some hypnotic abilities (I don’t know how a normal person would have mistaken his drawing for an “Alex” watch). Speaking about ages and appearances of people – it is very interesting how certain shows portray people of the same age – we have to go no further than this show and, say, Nichijou. It’s quite a shock when you notice that both shows happen during the 1st year of high-school. Returning to Sakamoto, the second half used the main guy just as a device to explore a bit deeper theme than usual – sacrificing something for another person, and, albeit it was just a tiny stray from shouting “Sakamoto’s cool!”, it was welcome as something a bit different.

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2016 Week 7

Flying Witch (Ep. 6)

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     Finally an episode about doing magic, not just fooling around. Well, not that I complain. The magic itself was no big deal, but this way it works better with the light slice of life setting – a little and funny spell with a subtle impact, but a spell nonetheless. It may have looked silly, for it was silly, but that’s just what a character like Akane would do while teaching magic. Using Chinatsu as a device to show the trick is a logical idea, since Makoto clearly is on an advanced level, and Chinatsu is as knowledgeable in witchcraft as the audience is. Again the show makes a joke (speaking about the final one) that was coming miles away, but still was funny, and that is quite an achievement. Still, the best thing I can say about the episode is the whole cosy atmosphere in the family. Everyone trusts each other enough to be themselves and just make up a very believable ensemble of happy cousins and siblings enjoying their life.

Joker Game (Ep. 7)

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     I’m slightly surprised how a single episode with pretty basic characters managed to be impactful after all. Joker Game can be a good show when it wants to. There were episodes  in the past that featured quite tragic characters, but I’m not even sure why especially this one just struck into the right place. Maybe it was some Enigma references, maybe for once  there was a clear outdoor setting, or just the girl was behaving very childlike. It just worked. Well, if I’m to nitpick, there are some details – like recognizing a person (who’s definitely no elf) from his ears or just a clearly loving mother abandoning her child so easily. Yes, she’s guilty, but how would anyone find that out? Maybe she’s afraid that she would blurt out her being a spy anyway, but entrusting her girl to a complete stranger just doesn’t sound like a very motherly thing to do.

Koutetsujou no Kabaneri (Ep. 6)

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     Week after week Koutetsujou no Kabaneri remains the most stunning visually of all the shows I watch this season. Not to underestimate other aspects, but everyone at Wit Studio clearly does his/hers best. After such episodes I think it’s no strange thing that Attack on Titan got delayed. It’s quite amazing how even the CG is pretty well made. Yes, there is that shounen element when heroes get almost crushed by stones and even mention that it hurts or get almost eaten by Kabane (also, weird that Kabane didn’t bother to finish Ikoma off) and after some 15 minutes jump around energetically like nothing happened. Yes, they are supposed to be able to recover quickly, but come on, how quickly you can recover your stomach that’s eaten through? Also, I’m not sure how Ikoma always gets away so easily with a gun that can counter only one Kabane at a time and it takes time to aim and shoot, while during that other Kabane can pretty much devour him from head to toe. Still, the fight was very good looking, Mumei looks like she learned her lesson, what else could I wish for?

Sakamoto desu ga? (Ep. 6)

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     First thing I noticed – the music this time was just spot on – both marching theme and slower and subtle melodies during the second half really improved the episode. Speaking about the stories, they were nothing exceptional considering what we have already seen –  just usual mildly amusing and not too boring stuff. Somehow this time stories felt a bit more personal and therefore a bit more enjoyable. However, when the girl was showing her photos to convey the ghost’s feelings, her photos managed to change their orientation with a guy next to Sakamoto appearing in them (or not) because of that. Also, Sakamoto’s  writing after the credits was in a pretty broken Engrish, if I read that correctly. So he does have a flaw after all! Well, overall we just saw more inhumane feats of the guy and I’m pretty content, even if the show doesn’t feel like the best comedy ever.

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2016 Week 6

Flying Witch (Ep. 5)

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     Well, the episode this week could easily stand for a definition of the slice of life genre. The whole time was spent just tracking Chito-san, walking, observing surroundings, walking again and just doing nothing. I can’t say that it made the most exciting time of the week, but as a random laid back experience it wasn’t bad. Yes, I would love to get more story and I probably will, since there are still some characters in the OP that are to be introduced and all of already introduced ones still haven’t been explored that much. Akane slept through the whole episode and I really can’t blame her. Still, I can only applaud the cat-ness of Chito-san, from his walking style to climbing trees or going around in a circle thrice before finding the best position to roll for a nap near Chinatsu. He may not have the voice and more edgy personality of Sakamoto-san form Nichijou, but well, I just can’t escape noticing their similarities. It’s not that often to see a cat that genuinely feels like a character.

Joker Game (Ep. 6)

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     I’m more content with this episode than the last one, and the story seems more interesting and engaging, but some things just appear to mar overall enjoyability. Speaking about flaws, I doubt it’s so simple to keep an alive pigeon hidden in your jacket (even so when the costume looks just perfectly sewn for a lean guy) unless the spy is missing a few ribs. Not to mention that pigeons just love to leave plenty of droppings everywhere. Having your safety depending on one little bird that can be lost or just killed very easily doesn’t seem that reliable. And one last thing – why would the conductor after the assassination change into some civil clothes and after some time change back again into his uniform? Apart form all these things and a strong wish to have known all the characters better, somehow I find a strange pleasure in the Japanese’ thwarting some plans of the Soviets. I guess the fact that the Soviets had done some nasty things to my country transcends even to the enjoyment of an anime.

Koutetsujou no Kabaneri (Ep. 5)

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      …And I just don’t know how to take that ending. Attack on Titan (Made of Zombies) now really looks like a decent alternative title for the show. Somehow the episode felt a bit like a slice of life – nothing that important happened, but I feel pretty content about that. Yes, the crew needed to clear another obstacle, Mumei again behaved not that refined, and that pretty much is it. Somehow I’m troubled how Mumei looks to have immense martial ability but fails miserably in the psychological field, while Ikoma, who still may not have grasped all of his new abilities and stuff that being a Kabaneri comes with, feels a lot more grounded and just knowing what to do. It appears that Mumei (as probably everyone else) has some dark past that turns out her brain off and enhances her stubbornness just to prove what she’s capable of while caring not a fig about feelings of the others or just simple and pretty logical thinking. Of course, this provides a huge possibilities of growth, but the series must do something more to make Mumei not just an arrogant fighting brat.

Sakamoto desu ga? (Ep. 5)

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     First, structurally there could have been some wiser choices made, as now the main story spans more than half of the time but less than a full episode, and other little sketches before and after it doesn’t make much sense and looks like they were put there just to extend the episode to the normal length. Apart from those filler-ish things, I quite liked what Sakamoto desu ga? had to show this time. Even if “lending a face” doesn’t sound that natural in English as it probably does in Japanese, the joke as well as others (especially that one with the teacher’s haircut) were some decent grinning material. Mr. 8823 himself was shown to be more complex character than just a typical king of the delinquents, having some honor and respect for others that can at least be a fair match to him. Was the episode ground-braking? No, but it was entertaining enough and probably one of the better ones of the series.

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2016 Week 5

Flying Witch (Ep. 4)

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     First and foremost – the scenery is damn beautiful. Every sakura petal seems to have received a special treatment, and it perfectly accompanies light, cheerful and relaxing mood of the show. While previous two episodes were made of two unrelated segments each, this one tells one cohesive story, and I think it’s for the best. Yet another character is introduced, but this time she shows more personality than the other two did in their respective episodes and the series also manages to include Akane, Makoto’s sister, again, which helps the show’s cohesiveness. Flying Witch achieves just the right balance between the viewers’ interest about the new girl, some pretty random (or sometimes expected, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing) jokes, eye-catching surroundings, warm interactions of already familiar characters and some little insights into their personalities and, of course, some pretty half-baked magic, that provides probably my favorite scene after the mandrake from the first episode. Well, I just can do nothing but like the show.

Joker Game (Ep. 5)

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     Again an episode with pretty much no one to be called a character even marginally. It’s not a new thing in the series, but this time the story itself wasn’t that unique and interesting, so some other not so shiny features were a bit more apparent. There were some instances of not that believable outcomes in the past, but this time coincidences were pretty hard to stomach for me. I doubt anyone would feel safe to bet that an escaped spy would randomly find just the right door when he just seemed to have come to a dead-end. Not to mention that apparently no one bothered to question why a certain door in the citadel of spies has such an obvious marking on it. And if that’s not enough, a certain double agent came to the rescue just when he was needed. After that, I’m not even impressed that he managed to get to search the exact corridor and do that alone. Who sends searching for a dangerous person solitary men in the first place? On an unrelated note, the show used to portray characters quite realistically. That is, until now. Who came with an idea to have such a deformity of a character design that the English spy-daddy is?  I guess, Joker Game can be blamed for many things, but some of them came from the source material (and its type) and there’s nothing to be done about it, for better or worse.

Koutetsujou no Kabaneri (Ep. 4)

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     Well, nothing too impressive in the story department this time. Looks like everyone finally decided that Kabane and Kabaneri are pretty different things after all and the latter are worth to have at least some faith in. To the whole taxonomy of Kabane and their like a sword-wielding (and not badly) type was added. I won’t be surprised if it’ll turn out to be an intermediary species between Kabane and Kabaneri. The ending of the episode looked as if it could be a half decent ending of the whole series. Does it mean that a new arc will start? Possible, and it wouldn’t be too unwelcome. To be frank, the episode may be memorable only for a nice OST and fighting scenes that probably is the best thing Wit Studio can offer. However, albeit animation was nice, I think a bit fewer camera movements and choreographic feats for the sake of them would have made the scenes more immersive. Still, more times than not I can’t complain.

Sakamoto desu ga? (Ep. 4)

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     I guess for me the show has already showed pretty much everything it could. I appreciate that all the stories (this episode and other ones) manage to differ from one another and achieve the ending by various sometimes really original and amusing ways. Nonetheless, the end result is always the same and, to be frank, after 4 episodes of it I’m feeling a bit tired of that. Well, I think I remember pondering the same thing about the manga, and even if many details escape me now, the story with Hayabusa (that is, the content of the next episode) was somehow different in a good way. Considering another topic, the OP seems to have been growing on me. I guess I just like that artstyle and music that progresses very randomly, but, of course, in a cool way (pun intended). Suddenly I got an urge to relisten both of the Nichijou OPs.