Musings and Reflections – end of Fall 2017

     Well, it had to happen some time. My 6th sense during the start of the Fall season decided to completely turn off. How else could you explain my thoughts that Dies Irae might be decent enough? Thankfully I had enough sense not to choose it but still I ended up watching all this sub-par anime. Kino no Tabi actually never was going to be that good, Ballroom was a choice of my completionist-self and Kujira no Kura was a total fail of judgement beforehand. I should’ve chosen Netjuu no Susume, Just Because or Houseki no Kuni. Might as well do that later, but now’s time to wrap up everything that I did watch.

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou

     After getting Made in Abyss last season and now this one I begin to wonder if moe-blob (literally) shows have become the new standard of quality. As Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou is a slice of life series, it’s hard to tell much about its story, but the execution deserves all the praise it can get. In principle making such a simple idea of two girls travelling alone (for the most time) interesting actually is pretty hard, but the show managed to fill every episode with little events and philosophical ideas so I can’t say I was ever bored. The show’s incredibly good at examining even the most basic of concepts because it’s just nothing else to do and arriving to conclusion that no matter what you do, no matter the circumstances (be they post-apocalyptic or not) there’s still much good in the world and you just have to keep living on. If you do, everything will be ok. When I put it like that, it sounds like a show Kino no Tabi should’ve been (a similar idea alsovcan be extracted from the wonderful film Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni which you should definitely watch). Anyway, you can argue that the color palette of Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou was a bit dull (though that’s understandable considering the setting) and CG wasn’t always top notch, but everything else (including the beautiful soundtrack) worked wonders. It’s just a good show.

     When other choices are as bad as Kino, it’s no wonder that Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou receives awards for having my favourite OST and generally being my favorite show of the season.

Kino no Tabi

    Oh, Kino. I can’t remember when was the last time I was so annoyed by any show. It seems like the old Kino cherry-picked all the best stories while this one let the fate decide what to adapt, and fate wasn’t favorable that day. Well, it looks like even the fate couldn’t have saved it since even apart from the stories there’s nothing to remember. Unless you like pretty bland character designs, sterile environments and yes, sooo aggressive CG sheep. To return to the story-telling, there was very little of it done right. No central theme, no characterization of Kino (who was absent from a huge chunk of the show in the first place), ridiculous decisions and actions of the characters… Sometimes it even seemed like the creators actively tried to portray Kino as someone she clearly wasn’t. Killing people left and right, destroying countries back and forth – is that really Kino? Well, I’m fed up. The show thankfully ended and let’s leave it at that. #KinoHadOnlyOneAdaptation.

     Kino no Tabi receives the random award for being that terrible remake (or whatever it is) of the season that nobody asked nor needed.

Mahoutsukai no Yome

     I don’t have much to say about this one except stating the obvious fact that it’s another good show. I’m still not really buying Chise’s enarmourment and unconditional trust in Elias. A girl whose relationships before where nothing but a total wreck should be more cautious, especially since her benefactor clearly doesn’t show all his cards and isn’t likely to do that anytime soon. Other than that, Mahoutsukai no Yome has been a very pleasant experience. Let alone the setting is nothing but unique, exchanging usual Japanese high school to rural England (with some Iceland here and there). Naturally the magical creatures are also mainly of Germanic (or at least European) origin, so it inevitably feels very original. Chise’s gradual growth and slow coming into terms with her problems by interacting with the mesmerizing outside world is definitely a memorable experience, greatly enhanced by the beautiful soundtrack. If there’s a show about the beauty of magic, this one is at least a strong contender for such a title.

     Mahoutsukai no Yome receives the award for most memorable character, that being Elias. Of course there were others that I loved to love or loved to hate but it’s hard to be as original as a mysterious slave-trader guy with a skull for a head. The show also gets the award for the most impressive scenery despite being strongly contested by Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou and Kujira no Kora.

Ballroom e youkoso

     To summarise it with one word – it’s disappointing. The first cour provided a more or less decent story so to see Tatara demoted to the level of newbie and separate with Mako regardless of how well they clicked and performed didn’t sit well with me. This second cour managed to get deeper into the hearts of the characters and that’s really fine but the problem is that all the characters are either acting off-screen (likable ones) or making the show way worse. Yep, I’m speaking primarily about you, Chinatsu. It’s perfectly alright to have a character with her insecurities and hot-bloodedness but I think that the growth of her bond with Tatara was severely underrepresented from her perspective. And let’s just be frank – Chinatsu especially at the start was nothing but an annoying brat. The show also felt like it had wasted its energy towards the end when this final competition took ages to complete. It was due to all these flashbacks and stuff sprinkled so densely that at some points it did look like the main story isn’t important at all. And for example all the flashbacks concerning Chinatsu and Akira didn’t show how exactly the two became enemies. Yes, it was interesting to see their pasts but in the end we didn’t learn anything substantial, so what was the point again? And finally, I’m afraid there just wasn’t enough dancing. Well, dancing per se. Very few moments made me look in awe to the sakuga and feel that it certainly was cool. Usually two or three-second cuts at best paired with boring commentary from the public – it isn’t anything I’d call an uplifting representation of a thrilling sport.

     Ballroom e youkoso receives the random award of pacing the story so well and showing so much sakuga during dance scenes that I almost fell asleep.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau

      It’s bad. Don’t watch it. At worst case watch the trailers and take a good look at the  amazing art. But do not watch the damn show. Countless characters dying before receiving any development, hell, some even before I realized they were there, and the show naively hopes I’ll cry as much as other characters int he show itself did? Trying to tug at the heartstrings by continuously reminding of the dead waifu of the main guy and pushing a new one in the picture? Nah, not buying it. Continuously inventing new magical creatures, magical phenomena, and no one knows what else without explaining much and making it a coherent world-building? Check. Spending time in order to flesh out the villains but then not using that buildup anywhere? Also check. Well, I just want to forget I spent my time watching this. It’s not worth any more time trying to simply write down more flaws, of whom there’re many. Just take my word for it – this show doesn’t make any sense. Sure, the visuals are beautiful, but everything else – a big nope. Let’s just forget it for good.

     Kujira no Kora receives the random award of providing the steepest slope of  the change of my enjoyment during its run. Only the slope went downwards.

     Favorite OP of the season is that of Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryouko – dabbing aside, it’s pretty catchy (it’s not surprising that a song about moving has such a steady rhythm) and well emphasizes the relationship between the girls and their optimistic stance towards the world. What more could an OP do?

     Favorite ED of the season after some considerations became that of Mahoutsukai no Yome. Again, Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou did an amazing job, but this one was far more different form others in terms of sound that in the end I couldn’t decide otherwise.

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Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 12

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 12)

    I guess it’s as satisfying ending as there ever was going to be. The show started with two girls in a snowy field bickering and ended also in a snowy field, but now our pair exchanged confirmations of friendship. Also as in the temple episode it was Yuu who was scared because of the disappearance of her partner, now it’s Chi’s time to get worried. Both girls still remain unhurt and follow their journey upward. It’s clear that the world breaks all around and there will hardly be any way to come back down, so it’s literally the last tour of the girls with its fair share of hopelessness. The scene where the girls found out about the contents of the camera was quite sublime. I’m not sure how one person could’ve placed so much and especially so varied content in one piece of equipment, but it’s a sci-fi series after all. The only weird thing was that when we were shown an orchestra playing, the music (as good as always) featured only a piano. The truth about the blob(-mushroom)-creatures makes sense. Ability to neutralize thermally unstable equipment makes them ultimate weapons as well as ultimate threats to humanity. No wonder that humanity would build statues praising the omnipotent power that may grant peace. Still, any great power needs to be regulated so in this light it’s not a complete mystery about how the world became such a desolate place.

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 12)

     I’m sorry, this is wrong on so many levels. I mean, the whole show wasn’t great but to end everything like this? Ridiculous to say the least. For starters, why is Kino afraid of this sheep army in the first place? It’s not that they were that aggressive, they simply tried to come closer. It’s even weirder knowing that a motorbike should outrun them. And don’t tell me Kino couldn’t just go along the ravine for some time and then return to the road. It’s ridiculous – both the sheep and the choice to leave Hermes and go down. This left car poses another question – would a sane person abandon his vehicle and kill himself for absolutely no reason rather than sitting in the car and playing some sheep-bowling, just like Kino did? This sheep genocide by itself feels incredibly wrong (and I don’t need to be an animal rights activist), especially knowing that Kino could’ve easily avoided doing this. Multiple times. Let’s don’t even talk about the abysmal CG. The very last segment theoretically concluded the whole show and Kino’s ideals but in practice Kino and Hermes just reiterated the same two sentences like 5 times. Shut up already. Thanks. At least I had a blast laughing out of the sheep VA’s.

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 12)

    Is this a musical after all? The song definitely captured the mood but I wouldn’t say it seamlessly transited from Lindel talking to Lindel singing. I can still consciously notice that “oh hey, an insert song just started” and that means the integration wasn’t perfect. On the other hand the OP repeated during Chise’s flight didn’t have such a problem – I just realized in the middle of the scene that it’s actually the OP I was hearing. Well, the flight itself was great. It actually feels something worth of a season finale, both this flight and all the magic during the last episode. You may have different opinions about the show but I think no one can complain about the recent quality of the visuals. It also feels like a season finale because Chise was finally enlightened that her complexes about being unwanted by Elias are largely unfounded. Still there’s lots of space for further developments because I don’t think Chise has already come into terms with her past. She may be able to forget it for the time being and enjoy doing ordinary (or magical) stuff but inevitably I got a feeling that there still is a dark cloud hanging over her. When nothing exciting is happening Chise remains silent and anxious, her past fears mixed with her uncertainty about her future. After this trip to Iceland it looks like Chise is finally determined to breach her current wall of problems, but it will ultimately mean nothing if her past remains veiled and unconfronted.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 12)

     That’s a damn useless ending to a damn useless show. What’s the overall message in the first place? No matter how many people die, you’ll still get a waifu? Really? Well, this episode was just incredibly weird mess of everything that in my mind simply can’t connect the slightest. If we take this show as a story and forget for the time being that it’s just a (pretty bad) ad for the manga, it makes things even worse. What’s even the point in dedicating time for the villain? In the end he only gets a new ship and does absolutely nothing apart from participating in boring political games that mean nothing and talking big, and that also means nothing since at this point it’s only talking. That Masoo guy probably had been given the most time on screen compared to all other deceased characters, so think it only begins to border a minimum time a character must have for his death to have any meaning. Naturally it goes without saying that the episode with Chakuro’s dead waifu (whatever her name was) again felt meaningless. These two dudes trying to rebel at first ended their affair extremely unticlimactically, then resumed it and ended it again. Why feature it then? Lykos randomly getting rocked over the board and being rescued by Chakuro in order to affirm their waifu-husbando relations proceeded without any emotions, high stakes, or to be precise, any stakes at all. The only interesting thing I noticed was the fact that Chakuro writes in Greek letters. But again, it’s just a piece of trivia that has no meaning. I don’t know, I feel that either I’m incredibly stupid and just can’t understand anything about this show, or really it’s almost as a trainwreck  that Kino is. Which makes an interesting comparison – which one of them do I despise more?

Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 11

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 11)

    Usual dark overtones suddenly got way darker. Even this new Blob-like pet seemed amusing and unsettling equally when it turned out that it can eat bullets. The story then went to emphasize how little we actually know about anything. Well, just look at a human body – we use it every day in countless ways but how often do we start pondering how exactly does it work? What needs to be done in order to simply raise a hand? And that’s juts harmless stuff since the girls involuntarily start playing with guns, big ones. I agree with Chi that to some extent such boundless curiosity (like Yuu’s) is a force that drives humanity forward. Where would we be as a species if there hadn’t been “I wonder what will happen if I do this” moments. Such trait is also very helpful surviving in an apocalyptic setting when you can find useful stuff in weirdest places. On the other hand, such eagerness needs to be controlled – and that’s also a reason why our duo works so well as a pair. Curiosity needs to have its own place and time since doing anything you don’t know about may even be lethal. And Yuu doesn’t even care that much. It’s understandable as it’s very characteristic of her not to care much about anything but also it’s worrying – how many conflicts and even wars were started when one side just didn’t bother to check things out before going full speed? The message probably is that you need to toss both sides of a coin at once – too much anxiety as well as uncontrolled adventurous mood have their costs that sometimes might be rather expensive. The final moments of the episode provided a nice little escalation towards the finale as Chi finally got an idea that the Blob and weird statues might have a connection. Whatever it might be, after such carelessness in this episode I’m worried about Yuu’s future behavior in this nuclear submarine. And by the way what is it doing on a nth layer of a huge city where you should be more likely to found a plain rather that a ship?

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 11)

    If Kino loves to sing so much why haven’t we heard that like ever before? To be frank apart from some nice shots and the fact that Kino looked more cute, there were no things that were more memorable compared to the old version. Well, in principle you just don’t fix anything that isn’t broken. Or if it’s too broken, you fix it until it’s fixed. The new show didn’t do either, so I’m disappointed again. Of course it might be that I’m already prejudiced against the new Kino because of previous episodes, but I’m not the only one who isn’t happy about the way the things go. Probably the biggest problem is that in the original Kino this episode and the one before were shown in a reversed order, and it served far better. This new way makes it far more difficult to see the circumstantial connection between Sakura last time and Kino now. The story isn’t perfect either. When you see a good villain, you at least understand where his motivations come from, even if you don’t agree with him. A bad villain? Anyone that acts like a jerk for no other reason except that the author wanted so. Does it ring any bells already? Seeing Kino’s parents act like they did urges me to drop the show rather than ponder the possible moral problems and implications. There’s just no way I can believe a whole country would happily try to kill a child for one wrong sentence, her parents wholeheartedly included, surgery or no surgery. Well, in reality there might be some communities of some unbelievably mad people but does it make an entertaining story? For me – no, at least not as here.

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 11)

    That’s what I call magic. I’m very glad about the way the show treats all this supernatural stuff. Magic there seems to be almost a separate character who needs to be dealt with and respected. It isn’t inherently good or bad, it just is. For humans magic really should seem wondrous and scary to say the least (just like that Elias’ rage scene – effective beyond a doubt). Magic is something you as a human don’t feel a part of, something you simply can’t understand. The setting itself adds much to this feeling – not using anything remotely Japanese and tapping into old mythologies that have deep roots in the unknown is a perfect choice to evoke this feeling of amazement and awe. Still, I understand that Elias wants to stay clean and not to reveal anything that might scare his bride, but the way he behaves isn’t fair. Sure, technically Chise is bought by him but still if she’s treated like an equal, she has a right to know what kind of person she had herself mixed with. Maybe Elias just doesn’t understand that and thinks that objectively it’s best for Chise to be left in the dark but that doesn’t make him a more likable character. The only thing I’m still really concerned with is the chibi stuff, but you can’t have absolutely perfect episode, can you?

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 24)

    It’s said that all is well that ends well. Technically everything went fantastic for Tatara and Chinatsu, but count me disappointed. For once, I don’t think they deserved to win. Making so many mistakes early on that anyone could see makes it look like you can perform well once or twice, other times fail horribly, and it will still be ok. It’s just weird that apart from Tatara, out of all couples we saw only Kugimiya stumble only once, and there was absolutely no commentary on other pairs. I get that others might have made a millions of mistakes, but please at least show it. Also the situation isn’t perfect considering moral perspective – a pair that’s just formed with no experience in my opinion shouldn’t outperform a returned elite dancer whose skill is unquestionable, even if their performances are comparable. All things considered, a second place still would’ve been a huge achievement for Tatara. Moving on, it’s true that for some people it isn’t meant to become dancers but stating straightforwardly that you may be a pro for 10 years and a newbie might outdance you is just cruel. The same goes with the statement that you can be a god on a dance floor but if a judge is prejudiced against your style – you’ll achieve nothing. So yeah, the judging system seems to be completely broken. Cool. Still, what annoyed me the most was the superposition of the culmination of the competition and the wrapping-up moments. As far as I know, the part “quick” in “quickstep” is there for a reason, so playing a lyrical track over such a dance is nothing but strange. The competition should’ve ended way back so all these acknowledgements that “I love dancing” could’ve been saved for at least one cohesive episode. I’m just not ready to constantly switch between the high-speed pace of the finale of the competition and the slow crawl of various flashbacks and revelations. Say what you will but after all this time I still don’t believe that Tatara and Chinatsu are an efficient pair. At least Chinatsu definitely isn’t anyone I would want to have to deal with. Is it normal to constantly provoke and unsettle your partner by unimportant questions (“Why do you dance?” and stuff) at  moments when you need just to concentrate and give your best in order to achieve the best performance possible?

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 11)

    I’m not even sure writing about the show is worth the time I spend doing it. What’s the point in introducing even more on-time-only discardable characters? What’s the point in showing that the main villain is so devious that he can make a death sentence a blessing for future mischiefs incredibly easy due to absolutely incompetent dudes getting manipulated? What’s the point in having two basically unknown characters start a coup? What’s even the point in stating that the Whale eats people’s lives in order to give them power? I guess everyone assumed so in the very first episode. Of course it might be new that precisely the Whale itself does that but come on – do you need to be incredibly smart to guess that if someone has something but hasn’t got something else, these two things might be connected? I don’t appreciate the fact that the show creates new concepts only when something extraordinary is shown. In other words, there’s no foreshadowing that, say, Ouni is a demon. And these things (let’s say Ouni again) aren’t properly explained. I’ve still no idea what are these beings in the cores of the Whales and what’s the deal with that Neri (Ema or what’s her name) girl. The overall structure also feels questionable. I doubt this new arc of travelling to that other country will finish next time, so that would leave us with 1,5 arc per season. Pretty inconvenient, isn’t it? Especially considering that all these red-shirt characters severely lacked screen time to become important to the viewers. Oh well. At least it won’t be much longer till the end.

 

Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 10

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 10)

     What. Is. That. Thing. At least I can confirm that it definitely isn’t a cat. What it reminds me of is those weird statues with even weirder looks. I’ve no idea if it’s a coincidence but to worship some animal (if it is an animal after all) may not look that queer if we remember that the Internet is overloaded with cat pictures. Of course it’s difficult to imagine how the creature manages to talk, and apparently does that via the radio. Maybe it’s a futuristic robot-pet? The girls may find no more than they already know but some following episodes should be interesting. Well, there’re only two left so I guess building for some sort of a finale wouldn’t be so strange after all. Apart from the finding of the creature, themes of time and music were examined. I wouldn’t say those segments were the most interesting ones but still the mere fact that the show chose to address them makes it respectable. Probably every person needs a personal Yuu who would question the most obvious things because I think sometimes it’s a very good idea to strip from all your knowledge and experiences and just rethink even the most basic stuff. Just in order to appreciate some naturally occurring things more.

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 10)

     I’m afraid I must say once again that the original did better. Even then I did have a problem with the stupidity of the people who chose rather to die than to live for no reason and, even worse, decided that their children should die also. Because why not? Would a sane parent rather wish to save his child if there’s even a tiniest possibility? Nah, let them all die. It’s not like you can’t move half a kilometer from the danger zone. Oh well. Still, even with this unthinkable element, in the original Kino Kind Country was one of the strongest episodes. Why? It resonated with Kino, and we knew that as well as the reason of it. Back then in episode 4 Kino’s backstory was revealed and it was more than obvious that Kino shares many similarities with Sakura. Sadly for anyone who didn’t know that the story now loses a very important (I’d even say essential and crucial) layer because it’s a particularly rare occasion when we see Kino deeply moved, thrown from her comfort zone completely. For the newcomers it might not even seem like a stand-out episode. And that’s really a shame. The new Kino stumbled also in other ways – Sakura’s favorite place as well as the eruption scene were done far more impressively in the old show, not to mention Kino’s shock. I might not think particularly highly of Kino no Tabi as a story (no matter the iteration) but I certainly believe it doesn’t deserve to get such an adaptation as this one.

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 10)

     I’m quite happy that the show continuously addresses my main problem of the story – Chise being unconditionally attached to Elias even though in theory their relationship shouldn’t work that well. Still, the main point of the episode was the backstory of Lindel and Elias. The first part of it, that is. The introduction of Elias as a black form with glowing eyes in the middle of the storm was very impressive. To be frank, all the backgrounds are worth mentioning. Anyway, I’m afraid that without a continuation there’s little that can be concluded, apart from the fact that Elias and Lindel were very close from the start. There’re also some bits and pieces to be collected from Renfred’s talk with Elias though again I’ll rather wait for the next episode before making any guesses. At least it’s clear that Renfred is also concerned about Chise’s safety (even if for selfish reasons), and that’s quite nice of him. Lindel’s Shishou seems like an interesting character who should appear sometime in the future.

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 23)

     Well, I’m not sure what exactly I want from a sports show but Ballroom isn’t giving me that. This tournament arc is spanning unbelievably long, and naturally to maintain the tension as well as interest in it is also an unbelievably hard task. Once again the present events are interrupted by random flashbacks that sure, make sense and add more to the characters, but I still don’t think it’s reasonable to let them get in the way of the main story. Some other really unnecessary moments also felt like they have no business there. The audience commenting on the dancers came as annoying. Even if the commentators usually are characters we already (should) care about, they rarely say anything important. It’s either so obvious that it would be surprising if anyone couldn’t say the same, or just some old material being reiterated for a thousandth time, just like telling the main difference between Kugimiya pair and Tatara pair. Also isn’t this competition supposed to be of a high level? I can’t fathom how worse everyone must be dancing since our protagonists managed to get into the final after such a terrible performance. The animation noticeably improved and I’m very glad about it. It seems that the final stretch is already there and the last episode should be even better. Anyway, Ballroom stopped to look like a spectacle (if it ever was one) way before and now there’s only iterations of seen things, only with heightened (supposedly) stakes and little, almost unnoticeable changes. I guess the only real benefit of watching this is my growing appreciation of Yuri!!! on Ice. That show had its own fair share of stumbles but I could never say I was that bored or that the skating routines (even if reused) looked repetitive.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 10)

     Sometimes I think whether the show purposefully tries to test my patience. It’s very sad that an adventure that started so well ultimately ended up on the same disappointing level as Kino. Random people having random conversations? Ok, but what of it? I can now remember some of the new faces but I don’t even think it’s meaningful since ultimately everyone still will die horrible deaths. An onsen segment? Seriously? I thought dumb jokes were done for after that but of course not – of course you have to introduce more useless people, and do that in a completely laughable circumstances. And by laughable I don’t mean that it was intended sort of laughable. Decision to introduce a plot twist so that the obnoxious villain remains alive is also questionable. The same might be said about the introduction of the second mascot character. We already had one so why add another? Does a Whale operate better with two of them? Couldn’t that red-haired girl explain everything from the start? It’s frustrating to see the show lose all the focus it had and try so many things (of whom none actually work) in order to drive the story (if there is one) forward. As a side note – do these people bath only when there’s a shortage of water? If so I doubt the overwhelming smell would be that of milk. And in the first place – how often should it rain in the desert for all these people to have enough water? The same goes with food – a population of the Whale is certainly beyond a score or two and that means enormous demand of food, such that I doubt a ship of such size could supply.

 

Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 9

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 9)

     Getting even more philosophical, aren’t we? I guess it was inevitable that in this futuristic world some robots were introduced. Especially the appearance of the BigGuy was impressive, as the direction from the very beginning emphasized how small the girls are and how huge and claustrophobic the environment is. And then – this enormous robot, clearly seeming hostile or at least not anything you wouldn’t evade. The way Yuu guessed that the SmallGuy would appear with his “Konnichiwa” was certainly predictable but still funny. So yeah, this whole business about defining what life is proved to be one of the most thoughtful episodes of the show. How much a machine should resemble a human being in order to be called alive? Is mindless office work any more meaningful than, say, feeding a single fish every day? The BigGuy also reminded me strongly of Ishii and Kanazawa – he still did his job (no matter that he was programmed to do it and did it not because he was passionate about it) paying no attention to the fact that what he did made sense only in a normal and functioning society while in this post-apocalyptic world there’s no use neither for making maps nor for recycling materials of an unused factory. Even if the demise of the BigGuy was sadly inevitable, the show still proves that no matter the circumstances, life always finds a way. Even among all the destruction the girls are still alive (and quite happy), the fish also lives (for now) as does its caretaker. Well, it’s definitely weird that the show made me care for the fish who was barely here, I’m not even talking about some dialogue or any prominent action.

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 9)

     Well, I’m just disappointed and not even mad anymore. A single episode of Kino rarely feels appropriately long to explore all the ideas it has, and I’m talking about the old Kino. This new Kino is similar, only the ideas are less interesting, that is if there are any. This episode might be a crown jewel of uselessly burning your time without telling anything. So many stories in one episode? Not to mention that they are pretty stupid. What’s the point in spending time on confirming that Kino and Shizu shouldn’t be attacked? We already know that and it’s natural that someone who has some experience can also tell that. Oh well. The president says that the system is perfect but seconds later denies that with his actions. I’ve no idea if it’s theoretically possible to have such a system that could at least decently work – you need enormous amount of work counting the points and in the end they mean nothing. What’s the difference between +100 points and +100000 points? Sure, you may feel better but what of it? Does the president really want to kill if he’s been able to resist it for so long? He’s just nuts, just like any other character from the show. Oh well. The cooking part means absolutely nothing. It may work (only may and nothing more) if I cared about the characters or there would be any connection with other parts of the show. Sadly there isn’t so it remains yet another pointless segment. Oh well. Segment about wishes probably lasted less than to write this sentence so that’s that.  Oh well. The last story at least had an interesting premise. Still, there’s something fundamentally wrong when a human is forced to take a memory erasing drug why a bike can only make a promise not to tell anything. When Hermes told that Kino was her usual self, did it mean that Kino shot lots of people and completely obliterated the country? Oh well…

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 9)

     Some weeks ago I posed a question about the relationship between Chise and Elias. This time Angelica (Ruth to some extent and even Chise herself) basically voiced my concerns. On one hand it can be understandable that Chise inadvertently began to care for Elias simply because in his house she isn’t treated as bad as before. Knowing that doesn’t make it look comfortable, though. Elias hasn’t done anything bad for sure but he’s just been acting as a guardian for Chise, with only occasional (and not that smooth) gestures that suggests that he calls her his future bride not for amusement. Still in my point of view Elias isn’t anyone who would evoke as strong bonding behavior as we clearly see with Chise. Well, in principal I’m not against a girl falling for a guy with a skull for a face but in this case everything almost seems to border Stockholm syndrome. I guess my problem is just that Chise grew fond of Elias too quickly and without anything substantial to justify it. Another gripe is of course that vampire-gal. Yep, more mythological creatures is definitely a good choice, but mythological creatures with barely any clothing? The jokes also didn’t help at all. Well… And it’s not that the little story couldn’t have shown the vampire as someone more mature and dignified. To be frank, that segment by itself felt very unimportant. Of course in the future it may get some meaning but for now, I don’t know. The transition to “Hey, let’s move to Iceland” wasn’t as bad as the first time but still I wouldn’t call it a natural turn of things.

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 22)

     Yep, that was the most likely way to start attending dancing classes. A mad dance teacher sends his cat to gather some new students, yeah. Apart from that the first part of the episode was quite likable. Kugimiya turns out to be not just an average poker-face d villain but a person who had some hardships to deal with, especially when a hope to become an excellent dancer that fueled him for so long turned out to be not as achievable as he would’ve liked. The more general statement that other people also have their personal hells was something of unexpected depth. So everything’s good, but then we return from this flashback to the grey reality. The problem is that this competition already spans too long and various flashbacks (as good as they might be) certainly don’t make everything cohesive. You just have to force your brain to remember at what point we left Tatara last time and it turns out that the completely uninteresting routines continue just as before. I get the point that Tatara and Chinatsu finally synced but giving this revelation several episodes (also filled with flashbacks and stuff) feels too much for me. The competition moves at a snail’s pace and there’s nothing new about the dances – already been there, seen this. Like a couple of hundred times. I reiterated myself a couple of times but doing that after such an episode doesn’t feel that sinful. I guess the Kugimiya part made up for everything else but that still doesn’t make the show as the whole likable enough. Luckily only two episodes are left.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 9)

     The show constantly oscillates between two states – it’s either surprisingly stupid or surprisingly predictable. Needless to say, sometimes it’s both. Another forgettable character trying to avenge his dead girlfriend, another osananajimi that had been red-flagged since his introduction… Come on, don’t just state “this is a character. When he dies, be sad”. Prove me why I should. Villains remain as incompetent as ever. How many trained soldiers do you need to kill a bunch of virtually untrained dudes with no plan? Can’t you just shoot everyone instead of shooting some of them, then fighting with swords, then giving a villain-speech, then again fighting and only then shooting (only one of them)? I guess the pinnacle of unexplainable stupidity was the very end when enemy soldiers on the good guys’ Whale just committed a suicide. Weren’t they successfully wining by far, being convinced that conquering the Whale is the right thing? Then do the job till the very end, dudes… And that was all stupid stuff. Meanwhile the hand-forest provided the weird part. Last time Neri (or what’s her name) did something similar with the good guys’ Whale so does that mean that it will also sink in a minute? What’s with that snail-form object given by the blue multiple-dog-eared spirit? Why would she need to ask a question if she still gave Chakuro that thing in the end? Well, there also was lots of hallucination scenes and I get that they were supposed to evoke some emotions but, well, they didn’t. It’s really sad but also funny seeing how hard the show tries to be the feels-show but fails miserably at that as well as other departments. At least visuals look pretty despite making little sense.

 

Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 8

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 8)

   After many interesting things the show has shown already it’s natural that some episodes don’t feel as strong though they might be perfectly normal. Yup, this time just wasn’t that impressive. The first segment was probably the most thoughtful one. It’s actually really interesting to take some time to think whether memories have any meaning if detached from a person who made them. Can an object be a sufficient replacement for a person who’s no longer there? Would taking some of these long-forgotten things have been justifiable had the girls taken them if they served no use whatsoever at the time? Is the significance of an object lost when a memory associated with it is gone? So yeah, plenty of interesting material. The second segment left me a bit suspicious about the physics of falling platforms. Still, it was quite a scene after some episodes of rather peaceful wandering around. This incident also made me wonder what’s the overall condition of this huge multilayered city and how can it remain as stable as it apparently is if some of its components are falling apart so easily. The last part with beer felt too stretched out. And I just find unlikely that two survivors in a post-apocalyptic world would try to drink a random liquid. What are the chances that it’s not acetone, methanol, benzene, some acid solution or who knows what even nastier substance?

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 8)

    The show may be made in 2003 or in 2017 but one thing never changes – people remain offensively dumb. I get the idea that someone who‘s totally convinced that he‘s right will never back down on his believes no mater how ridiculous they are. Still that doesn’t make an entertaining watch. And what if Shizu said that he was in fact a biologist or at least someone well versed in such matters? I wonder how all these people manage to justify their convictions that go against everything a middle-schooler should know. And that country seemed to be a rather high-tech one. I could go on a lengthy discussion that concerns other matters like the existence of God or a power like that but there‘s a clear distinction between such situations – you can neither prove nor disprove something you can’t directly measure nor observe* and checking whether there‘s a tiny machine in a human body is an easily doable job. In the end I guess this metaphor lacks enough subtlety to be convincing. Also Shizu‘s final speech left me wondering whether he understood that his words may cause even more people getting mad. The other story (I guess, though it was anything but a story) feels like the creators just had too much time to waste and chose to add some moe because why not. Sure, the dog looks cuddle-able (though sometimes he‘s weirdly off-model) but beyond that there‘s nothing redeemable about it. And Kino again fails to show up making this show a ridiculous case – the more I watch, the less sense the title makes. Well, it‘s just a mess. I can‘t say I expected much of it  but even then it feels disappointing.

*     fun fact – there‘s a theorem that mathematically proves that there may exist some true statement that can‘t be proven. It shouldn’t be taken as an argument of the existence of God in this case, it just tells that we may never know why some things are the way they are.

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 8)

     If I could choose any one episode of this show to rewatch, it would definitely be this one. Let alone the riddance of that first chimera showed how inhuman Elias can be. It‘s spectacular, but I‘d rather stay away from him, simply due to safety reasons. Therefore the fact that Chise still doesn’t look afraid at all makes me again question whether the relationship between the magus and his apprentice is truly normal. On the other hand, this „the beauty and the beast moment“ was kinda heartwarming. Moving on, it‘s a bit disappointing that Chise wasn’t let to show what she can do against that sorcerer, though it‘s clear that it could’ve cost her life. The soundtrack remains on point at all times, so that‘s another enjoyable aspect. There are some tiny nitpicks, and that‘s understandable given how fast the story moved. Chise recovered surprisingly well and surprisingly quickly. The backstory of the Dog guy felt squeezed too much. Yeah, I get the point but just telling that he had a sister who died and was reanimated and was again killed in a span of only several minutes loses some of its impact.

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 21)

     It should be a fine episode for viewers invested enough in the characters but I’m sorry, I don’t feel that way. The episode seemed to be ages long. It’s supposed to be a very important competition but it isn’t. It’s just another chore after so many dances. No matter how you look, it’s still inappropriate and beyond boring to explain the basics of dancing in the 21st episode of show about dancing. For once it cripples the pacing and destroys all the tension and I’m afraid that everything that was told I already knew from before. The second part compensated for the loss of the tension but again, this whole metaphor of kids bursting through doors didn’t really align well with everything happening in the reality in terms of pacing. Once again I may question how it’s even possible to advance so far if Chinatsu only now finally understood that she is a partner and therefore she should act like one. If last time the judges were blind enough to detract only one point, they would be totally incompetent for not throwing Tatara out – even fellow dancers without judging experience can clearly see that that pair isn’t doing well. Also I wonder if it’s really possible to stretch one’s body so much that it becomes extremely loose without any pain or dislocated joints.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 8)

     “I could’ve patted you more?” What? Should I laugh? Are these really the dying words? Of a guy who showed up like an episode ago and now is supposed to be a beloved character whose passing will greatly affect both the protagonists and the viewers? How bad of a warrior you must be if a rural dude sneaks through the middle of your ranks in a plane space and you notice nothing? There were so many of them that Ouni couldn’t even get inside of the circle of these so called professional soldiers without touching them. And did they notice that? Nope… Damn, even Skyrim guards aren’t that bad… What the hell? People are dying and that mad red-head girl is dancing and smiling and growing some ghostly hands from everything? What? Oh, the most obnoxious villain in the history of villains also has a sad backstory of half a minute? Now he’s just a wimping mess, so I’m supposed to care for him too? And no, let’s not kill a guy who slaughtered half the population of the Whale, let’s let him roam around, may he be found by some children and shot in as sad circumstances as possible. A powerful warrior of the Whale has been captured? Kill him! No wait, let me give an info-dump first, then let’s kill him! There just so many wrong things with this show, it’s surpassing Ballroom in terms of being stupid. The perfect scenery can’t compensate  the lack of anything else anymore.

 

Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 7

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 7)

     For a show that’s about nothing, this one certainly is enjoyable. Nothing happens but it’s totally alright. Walking a lot and baking bread can be described in a few words but as strange as it is, almost half an hour of it didn’t bother me at all. Right from the get go when a close-up of Chi is shown, we immediately recognize that she’s balancing, remember that she’s afraid of heights and wonder what kind of situation the girls are in. It’s surprisingly informative given that we see only Chi who moves only a little, and the surroundings remain shaded. Well, the surroundings. It’s quite funny because I remembered that ancient Windows screensaver with constantly moving 3D pipes. I’ve already said it, but continuity in slice of life shows usually is a great thing, and Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou manages to provide that. One or two references to past events don’t steal much time but instead make the story far more grounded. These loaves of bread for example – we immediately recall all the characters that we’ve seen so far plus that fish. The last one (Chi-shaped) also references that weird stone statues, so it’s both a reference and a comedic moment. For such a show various details are invaluable and I’m glad that this anime understands it well.

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 7)

     I can’t say I hated the episode but it certainly wasn’t likable. To start from the beginning, it’s not the first time that Kino in a show called Kino’s Journey plays a third-rate supporting character at best. In principle the show is not about Kino but about various countries that she experiences but only Kino is a tie between different episodes. The only way a viewer can be kept engaged is to find some likable people in the show, and the old anime tackled that way better, devoting an episode to Kino’s backstory. There however it’s not the case. For the newcomers to Kino’s world Kino probably seems a very bland girl whom it’s extremely hard to root for because we just barely see her and when we do, she only shoots people. This problem is even more acute with Shishou. There’s no indication whatsoever to who she might be to Kino and why should we care for her in the first place. I don’t even have to say that the older Shishou had a far more dignified presence in the old show – in this one she seemed just like an old hag. Again, why should I invest my time into seeing adventures of an old hag when she was young? Ok, moving to the actual episode. I can’t say if that companion of Shishou really did something illegal or he was just framed but the rescue operation was incredibly off-putting. First of all, was it really a better choice to stay back rather flamboyantly instead of running right away or hiding in some place? Yep, that ultimately let the pair to regain their valuables but that came with a cost of maiming people. I can’t stand this stance that if Shishou didn’t kill people it’s completely ok – she just brutally crippled a couple dozen of them. Do you really think it’s justifiable to make lots of people disabled only to get some of your stuff back? I don’t even mention how incompetent the police was. Come on, there’s only a couple of dudes (with overpowered shooting ability but that’s beside the point). How can you maintain public order if you lose all your morale and run away after a few bullets strike your shield? You have these huge shields for a reason, dammit. And don’t even tell me it’s actually “bad guys saw that they were doing wrong, repented and did wrong no more. The country prospered and everyone was happy”. Including lots of people in wheelchairs, yeah.

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 7)

     Whoa, a pretty great episode. I’ve been waiting for that Dog-guy to appear for some time (well, since the OVAs) and appear he does. To be frank, each of big-and-unnatural-dude-shows-up moments were very powerful. At first the presence of the Dog felt mysterious and dignified – just what you need for a memorable arc, but only after a short while that spider-like creature attacked Chise. I remembered that amazingly animated spirit-boar from Mononoke Hime, and that alone speaks of quality. Humanizing sorcerers was also a right choice – a great opponent always should have his own problems and be relatable to some extent. And it’s so simple but effective – one short scene that lets you think what would’ve happened if not that Alice girl but Chise herself had been bought by the sorcerer. It’s a bit sad to say but the two above mentioned mystical creatures (as effectively as they were presented) were overshadowed by Elias. It’s no wonder that such a being has problems being a human. Well, it might just be his exterior and inside he’s just indifferent and calculating person, but at least the fact that he’s distressed enough to become like this speaks that he does value Chise maybe not as a fellow human yet  but as an asset that he’d rather keep undamaged to say the least. I wish more episodes had such strong moments when I can forget the comedy scenes that thankfully weren’t added to this arc (yet). Also the setting is as beautiful as ever. So yeah, eagerly awaiting the next ep.

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 20)

     The episode was divided in two parts and the first one was not that bad. More insights into Akira’s past make her a far better character. Still I’m disappointed that we didn’t see how exactly Akira turned from a shy and envious admirer to a snake-tongued villain. There had to be some specific point that made her start actively bullying Chinatsu. Akira still cares about Chinatsu and I find it weird that even after all these harsh words she still hopes that Chinatsu will see her not only as a worthy competitor but also as a friend. Also it’s suspicious that Chinatsu at one point just ignores Akira and later on cheers on her. Not to mention that some time ago when Akira was first introduced, Chinatsu clearly was very susceptible to Akira’s manipulations. To put it in other words, major developments happening off-screen and not being consistent in terms of relationships are problematic if you want to have a good story. Anyway, even with everything I’ve said already, the second part was played mainly for the comedy, and not the very best one. Akira’s clinging to Chinatsu, her partner’s daughter’s behavior, all that pseudo-yaoi Hyoudo stuff – it all feels out of sync with the more or less emotional and serious beginning. Also, how can Tatara be sad that he lost one mark in the round? Seeing how many mistakes they made I’m even surprised they advanced at all.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 7)

     Well, that was actually boring despite the grandiose music. You can try as much as you will but nothing will matter if the characters aren’t likable enough (yep, I’m repeating myself but only because Kino no Tabi has the same problems), and that’s the main issue. Some guys like Chakuro and Lykos are ok but no more than that. On the other hand that pink-haired dude is so obnoxious and hateable that no matter how likable, no one can evoke equal amount of positive emotions. Everybody else are simply discardable. As with the first slaughter, when you know what to expect, everybody except Suououououou, Chakuro, Lykos and Ouni were already red-flagged even before the expedition began. And to be able to guess that correctly is boring. Was I meant to care when that old guy who some time ago preached mass suicide was killed? Why all the tears, I might even be content that there will be less characters with questionable decision-making skills. All these fight scenes don’t look particularly inspired. What’s so interesting in a fight when you can’t see anything? And people are just running here and there without any thought of taking a cover. Well, the expedition itself wasn’t that better. I appreciate that the show at least tries to rectify the power misbalance by stating that Whalers’ Thymia is far stronger but come on, how can a bunch of rural dudes who started training mostly a week before smash the whole security of professional soldiers and escape with only one minor wound for the whole team? Well, in the end the expedition ended exactly how it was meant to so at least that makes sense. What to expect the next episode? Lots of deus ex machina moments. I’m afraid that the good dudes (as many as they are left) will end up being victorious but only because Chakuro will do something heroic and that singing mystery girl (the song was nice but kinda out of place) will pull some totally unforeseen trick. Why did I think that pretty visuals would mean a decent story at the beginning of the season? By the way, now I begin to wonder how is it possible for all this greenery to exist on the Whale considering all these frequent sandstorms.

Kino no Tabi – it’s old but is it gold?

Alternative title Kino’s Journey
Studio A.C.G.T.
Genres Drama, Slice of Life
Source Light novel
Episodes 13 + OVA + 2 films
Season Spring 2003
Director Ryuutarou Nakamura
Music Ryou Sakai
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    Why do people create imaginary worlds and stories? The answer would be because they think our own world lacks something. It might be that a person just wants to experience an alternative choice in his life or to see what would happen if some specific conditions would be provided. It doesn’t change the fact that even those stories that have very little in common with the everyday world are still built upon the rules that we know – sometimes they are altered, sometimes completely broken or created anew, but the fact persists. Then a person (other than the creator) who wants to experience such a new world needs to know what are the rules there. And because our world inevitably is the reference, the imaginary world by default works just like our own, unless stated otherwise. And that’s a statement I want you to remember because this time let’s delve into the world of Kino no Tabi (the old one), similar and yet vastly different from our own.

     The basics of an adventure story is to make someone travel somewhere and encounter some interesting people along the way. Kino no Tabi plays right into this vein – the protagonist Kino spends her time visiting various countries and noting their differences. The creator of the original light novel series Keiichi Sigsawa loves to travel himself and usually does that on his motorcycle so inevitably his heroine Kino does the same. The unusual thing is that Kino’s motorrad Hermes (yep, that’s how it’s called) talks from time to time. I don’t know how it’s portrayed in the light novels but judging from the anime, there’s a possibility that Kino’s wrong in the head (no wonder concerning her troublesome past) and because of that she imagines a completely normal machine talk. Sure, it’s only a minor possibility, but I can’t remember any scene where Hermes would have said anything important to any third party that Kino couldn’t. It’s never directly addressed, so think what you will. Still, Hermes only exists to keep company for Kino. To some extent it was a smart choice to have a talking motorbike – in this way Kino has someone to talk to but on the other hand Hermes doesn’t look like anything human so in that sense Kino still travels alone, so generally Hermes is there just to make Kino talk and express her opinions.

    As the story is episodic, the characters constantly change so it’s crucial to form a bond with anyone featured more prominently in order to connect with the show. Apart from Kino there’s only Hermes that may remotely be called a character. And it’s a talking motorbike, yeah. Even then Kino remains a mystery to me. Many people have compared Kino no Tabi to Mushishi and not without a reason. In both series the protagonists mainly act as lenses to enable the viewers to see their respective worlds. Sure, there’re huge differences as Ginko tries to help people while still hiding his personal thoughts and Kino usually is just an observer, trying not to interfere with anything. To measure anything you inevitably need to interact with it and as Kino usually avoids that, I’ve only gathered the tiniest and often contradicting impressions of her. One time Kino may ponder if it’s alright to kill some rabbits in order to feed a few famished travelers, a bit later she can actively make dozens of people (and maybe more) fight in a death match, so I just couldn’t form a consistent opinion on her – does she value life? Why is she behaving the way she does? Only a few times Kino formed a connection with other people and I can assure that during these times she was the most relatable and human. And I rather watch a show about humans and not some undefined entities that only observe. Especially if what they observe doesn’t really make sense more often than not.

      Now we come to the main point I have against Kino no Tabi – there’s not enough proof that all the different countries in Kino’s world work otherwise than countries in the real one (and why is that). You come expecting normal people who are able to think and come up with logical answers to their problems but it isn’t the case. People in Kino’s world are prone to be extremely oversimplified or just transformed in such a way that for me most of time they’re not even recognizable as people that I could relate to or care about their stories. And that’s even worse than, say, in a typical harem anime where no character can break from stereotypes. Kino typically spends an episode (or even less) in one country but in each and every one of them apart from one or two forgettable supporting characters other people make up a mob, a mass, devoid of personality and smarts. The simplifications of people, employed to act as devices for portraying specific ideas, don’t allow a single person from the mob to behave the tiniest bit differently compared to the majority. I don’t think it’s very realistic to travel to, say, Sweden and find that everybody is named Olaf, likes to play ice hockey and has a pet squirrel named Thor. Even worse, the mob usually acts in unbelievably dumb ways. For example (and beware of spoilers), two countries decide that rather than warring between themselves they would save some lives by regularly massacring a third underdeveloped country as a kind of sport. That way, everyone is said to be happy in these two countries because no more people are killed in war and they’re able demilitarize quite a bit. Why doesn’t anyone remember the land that the countries initially quarreled for anymore, why neither of the countries takes an opportunity to destroy the other one if the opponent’s power is diminished, why the people of the third country simply endure being massacred and neither retaliate nor leave is beyond me. And wasn’t a more simple choice JUST TO MAKE PEACE? It’s probably the worst I’ll remember about Kino no Tabi, but it’s just plagued by such more or less illogical complications that sure, do serve the exploration of thought provoking ideas, but on the other hand throw away all the relatability and realism. Maybe I’m an idealist, but come on, people can’t be THAT retarded, can they?

   Another interesting aspect of Kino’s world is that it’s very segmented. There’re practically no ties between the countries. It’s quite strange to have countries with hover-boards and also countries where a mere wish to invent something is frowned upon. Well, our world isn’t that different at a first glance, but I guess even someone living in the farthest corner of the world has heard that planes do exist. Technology usually like to spread, countries also tend to conquer as much territory as they can but in Kino no Tabi the countries are rather more like city-states that have no plans to expand, open trade routes or just explore further from their thresholds. I find that strange and it only adds to my confusion that Kino’s world initially seems just like our own but is certainly not. I guess if an animal has cat ears, cat nose, cat paws and even behaves like a cat, it should be a cat but in this anime even an object having all external human characteristics feels nothing like human.

    Sometimes it’s clear that the anime was adapted from a light novel, even if at the time light novels weren’t as popular as they are now and the market wasn’t oversaturated with similar stories with little artistic quality. Why does Kino always have to ask if she can ask a question? It’s pretty annoying to say the least. Annoying as well are the questions exactly repeating the statements (just like “I’m a plumber” – “Oh, you’re a plumber, right?”). It might work to start conversations in the light novel but in the anime it definitely feels wooden or at least outdated. After all it’s sort of understandable since at the time typical anime used to be that much slower paced.

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Excerpt from the OST: some track featuring Pachelbel's Canon in D

   Kino no Tabi also definitely looks like it was made quite a while ago. The visuals do nothing but scream about belonging to early 2000s. Character designs can be very simplified, as much as something come straight from some Masaaki Yuasa work, only the animation isn’t as impressive. Kino herself looks very bubbly and gender neutral (which has some point), far from Kino in this new ongoing reimagining of the story where the protagonist didn’t manage to withstand the attack of moe. Having nothing but pastel colors and especially many browns might make the old Kino look muddy but usually the show just feels cozy. Well, mostly color-wise, because there definitely are some unsettling stories. Still, the overall aesthetic is a consistent one, and that’s for the best. If we discount that weird scanline filter. You know what I mean.

   Moving on, it’s difficult to say anything about the soundtrack because it hasn’t been released for some reason. Yep, there’re some bits and pieces scattered on the Internet but even so I’m not inclined to spend time looking for it. As far as I recall, the soundtrack was good in a sense that it seamlessly fused with the stories, that is it wasn’t noticeable at all. On the other hand a great soundtrack should be able to stand its ground alone and be an equally important part of the story, and I can’t say that about Kino no Tabi. The single memorable scene sound-wise was when the famous Pachelbel’s Canon in D was used. That music may suit pretty much any non-action scene anywhere so it fit here well also. It’s just funny that a single more prominent track wasn’t made by Ryou Sakai who’s responsible for the whole soundtrack.

    If you haven’t seen enough of Kino, it’s not over after the TV series – there’s also an OVA and two films (each half an hour long). The OVA is half an episode long and feels different from the main show only because of that. Just like the creators at the last second found out that what they had made doesn’t extend to the full length and then nobody had any idea what to do with the remaining time. The first film defers from the usual formula by being sort of a prequel. Remember girly Kino with long hair and a dress? If you liked that, the first film is a must. It’s interesting to see how Kino started travelling but as with the TV series (as well as the OVA), the mob just isn’t smart at all. It’s nothing but annoying when people are so pedantic that a problem (that can be lethal to someone) isn’t dealt with properly with only because some in this case ridiculously unimportant rules say so. The second film signified the first time when Kino no Tabi left its initial studio – it was produced by Shaft and it feels hardly like a Kino. The character designs are updated (Kino’s coat is very battered for example) and Kino looks far more mature. The story also isn’t anything to write home about. It has some interesting elements but in the end it’s unfinished and feels just like the rest of unsatisfying episodes of Kino. As you probably know the ongoing reimagining of Kino no Tabi is also an option, but at least for now its quality doesn’t feel that satisfying.

Updated Kino from the Shaft film

    It’s immeasurably hard to tell a story that has some philosophical elements that would be thoroughly examined only in one episode, a decent wrap up and relatable characters included. Probably each episode of the series could be extended to its own separate show because the ideas behind are truly capable of that. Now it’s sadly quantity and not always quality. For me simply abstract ideas weren’t enough – they only can reach a viewer when they are organically embedded into the world of the story, and that’s precisely what I feel the anime lacks. Almost every episode I can summarize in a way of “Oh, that’s a rather interesting thought… but why the hell is that person so dumb?..”. I guess if Kino had been less of an enigma and the inhabitants of the countries had been less simplified, it would’ve been a show to my liking. Still, I must acknowledge that there’s a gold nugget in probably every episode, only it’s covered with a huge layer of dust. It’s up to you whether you have enough commitment to find it and not be too judgmental about the dust.

    I believe, this anime

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Could’ve been worse

     I think Kino no Tabi is worthy to be experienced. Sure, there are many more enjoyable shows but if you find yourself drawn to some deeper stuff and have some free time  – do try out the show. Despite my rather harsh opinion many people appear to have enjoyed Kino no Tabi quite a bit, so at least in order to broaden your general knowledge of anime the show is recommended.

     Have you seen the old Kino no Tabi? Are such older shows able to stand the test of time? How do you think the old show compares with the new anime?

 

Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 6

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 6)

     Well, I guess this show slowly becomes my favorite out all the other seasonal shows. It’s only a second human that the girls encounter so that should make this episode special. And it definitely feels special because there’s so much stuff you can read out. Ishii is a nice parallel to Kanazawa – both of them are very passionate about what they’re doing but this world isn’t really a place to pursue such hobbies. All of Ishii’s work similarly to Kanazawa’s in the end is lost but both of them are able to acknowledge that and move on. It can even be said that Chi and Yuu were the catalysts that saved both Kanazawa and Ishii from continuing their passions and in that way set them free. Stories of these episodes nicely mirror the main idea of the show – you can do all you want but sometimes it’s not meant for you to succeed. Nevertheless, there’s still hope, there’s still life after a failure. Again it’s very striking how the girls are able to live in such a world and not be crushed by it. Especially Yuu seems absolutely content with what she has and there was not a single time that she really understood what her saying “hopeless” truly means. When you think of it, it’s truly amazing how positive the show is despite featuring such a dystopian setting.

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 6)

     To me the episode seemed heavy-handed. The idea was pretty clear but the robe of this metaphor wasn’t flawless. For example, it’s obvious that these merchants must be portrayed as evil as possible because then it’s more powerful when the slave-girl’s beliefs are tested. Still, I think that the authors went too far by making the merchants unlikable. It’s fine and commendable when you create a truly hateable character but is it really the goal of the show to annoy me so much that I would consider skipping the episode  altogether because of that? Yep, that horrible brat was something. I’m also confused about the stance of the merchants towards the slave-girl. Everyone detests her to the point of thinking of killing her for fun but then isn’t it strange that some dudes try to talk to her like a normal person and even suggest fighting them from time to time? The slave-girl herself seems to be pretty stupid. I can take that she doesn’t know how to use a rifle but asking others how to die? Well, if she truly wished for that, there’s lots of those hideous CG plants around, please turn on your brain and take a bite or two. Irony aside, still it was a fine episode. Struggles of beliefs that tell to die with physiological urge to survive was portrayed pretty nicely. I only doubt that the last segment showing the future was really needed. It’s ok to know the girl survived but leaving everything ambiguous and a road of self-discovery still ahead also might have been a decent choice. It’s a little nitpick but lines like “as you know” should be banned entirely from every single storytelling medium. And you know you have a problem when the main character of the show barely shows up and is never missed.

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 6)

     At this point I’m concerned about the relationship between Chise and Elias. It’s ok that both of them feel comfortable with it but for the viewer who knows how real relationships should work it doesn’t really feel right. The problem is that Chise doesn’t know better and thinks that everything she gets from Elias is enough and everything’s ok. For her it may seem so but Elias himself confessed that he doesn’t know how to emphasize with humans and therefore everything he does for Chise is just a calculated wish to get some perks for himself. Elias is using Chise plainly for his own amusement to perform an experiment and it’s doubtful that he feels anything real for her. Yet. So yeah, Chise might be happy that she found a shelter but it’s not real, there’s no heartfelt emotion from Elias’ part. Chise deserves far better than this. The other thing I want to talk about is of course Titania and Oberon. The Queen’s entrance surely felt polished and majestic (though was it really necessary to focus on her chest?). Oberon on the other hand didn’t feel dignified enough to be a king. I understand that Fairies might have a more playful side to them but I’m not sure that it should come in the way of making them look kingly. Fairies by definition should feel nothing like humans do so including these chibi comedic moments virtually destroys all the presence that impressive Titania’s coming in had. Again and again the show seems to be doing the right thing, but not right enough to become truly great.

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 19)

     Oh well, a backstory of a character I don’t care the slightest. Of course, some yuri-style infatuation always spices things a little but was that really necessary? The main story concerning this oh-so-important competition barely advanced and having such a slow pacing certainly doesn’t add any tension or excitement. Akira’s backstory might have been justifiable if she had been shown more previously. Now she’s just a random girl that once was friends with Chinatsu and now just teases her and tries to destroy her psychologically. Why should I care how did she become like that? She’s just an obstacle Chinatsu needs to overcome and nothing more than that. It can be argued that the flashbacks also gave some light to Chinatsu but I don’t think we understood her any better – she always has been that tomboyish gal with some attitude. Well, I can’t really make these accusations since the flashbacks shouldn’t be over – we still don’t know what exactly made Akira so bitter that she forsake her adoration of Chinatsu and instead started causing problems. The background music that appears at various unimportant moments have come to irritate me because of being repetitive. Ideally a double-length show should have a double-length soundtrack. There’re other aspects I’m not happy about so adding music to the list would be very sad.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 6)

     A pretty typical calm-before-the-storm episode. It’s a halfway point and the show dares to introduce a flashback in order to flesh out a sort-of-important character? Well, you’re late. At first it was interesting to see Ouni as a mystery but slowing the preparation for the fight down even more with some backstories that doesn’t do much good isn’t what I want. This is exactly the same problem I have with the latest Ballroom episode. That Ouni’s friend was fleshed out more but what are the odds that he won’t end up being killed during the invasion? The show loves giving some random dudes minimal characterization, then assuming that it’s enough, and then killing them and hoping for some impact. The same red flags apply for those girls that tried to be nice to Lykos. At least the mood was kept just right as the crew were anxiously waiting for the attack. This all slice of life stuff didn’t feel right paired with the tense atmosphere and while I’m sort of not happy about that per se, in the grand scheme of things it makes sense. But a national celebration of throwing sand? Have you ever tried pouring send left and right into the eyes of random people? Who got the idea it would be fun? Chakuro’s motivations remain his dead waifu and his new sewing tsundere waifu which feels quite flat. Well, it doesn’t matter because many will die horrible deaths and any peacefulness will be retracted from the story for a few upcoming episodes.

 

Musings and Reflections – Fall 2017 Week 5

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (Ep. 5)

     And I thought that it can’t get even more low key. From now on any time I need to relax I know for sure what to watch (and which episode). The girls from time to time say that they should hurry lest their food finished and it seems that they have some final goal. Yet even reminders that they shouldn’t stay in one place for long don’t seem to work. And why should they? The girls are having a good time enjoying every single minute of their journey. That by itself is fairly optimistic because anyone would be hard pressed to laugh in such a gloomy environment with lots of destruction left and right. So I guess it makes me appreciate such commodities that I have – a roof above my head for someone else might seem a luxury. The third part of the episode also nicely connected with the first one – you don’t need much stuff in order to play and create a pleasant moment or two, you just have to think. The naïveté of the girls and their ability to enjoy the world as crumbled as it is something to think about. Let’s don’t forget to take a breather from everyday hustle and enjoy life as much as we can.

Kino no Tabi (Ep. 5)

     A bit unexpectedly I liked the episode more than previous ones. Well, it wasn’t that impressive but at least there weren’t as many problems I usually have with the show. The idea of the first part was very bare-bones – people make their heroes what they want them to be and not what they were. Maybe some elaboration would’ve made everything more enjoyable but probably the source material also didn’t dwell that much on this notion. The second part however went further than merely stating an idea. The story, albeit predictable, felt far more touching than usual Kino no Tabi fare. Once again it’s hard to get invested into characters you see so briefly (this time even less than for an episode) but this sort of a tragedy of the Eyebrowless Dude and the White-haired Woman (how old is she by the way?) did manage to show how unlucky some people might be. But then there’re some questionable details. First of all, why would the king send his own daughter to spy? Isn’t that too dangerous? Then why would this girl keep lying after her return to her lover? Wasn’t it easier just to tell “I’m back but the people hate me so let’s move out together quickly and secretly”? And then comes the big reveal that the Dude himself was lying. I understand that it might be comfortable for him but come on – shouting “Where’s my lover?” everyday should be pretty exhausting if he’s truly right in the head and she’s right here. Maybe the problem the show addresses is that sometimes we get sort of comfortable in situations that can be so easily changed for the better but we just don’t even try. Still, the metaphor is handled a bit too heavy-handed because I don’t really see the point in both of the lovers lying to each other when they can easily throw their disguises away and be far more happier. On a side note the white forest with red leaves definitely looked impressive.

Mahoutsukai no Yome (Ep. 5)

     Well, it was heavy. I guess out of everything we’ve seen so far this episode has to be my favorite. The story itself is just sad because anyhow you look at it, you can’t really judge that Matthew guy. Sure, looking at the final result he definitely wasn’t an angel, but where exactly is the boundary you can’t cross in order to save your loved one? The visuals also nicely accentuated the uncomfortableness of the story, starting with that disgusting Elias’s lick. Well, it somehow was the most unpleasant thing I saw probably the whole week. Somehow. Details like what was left of Mina slowly dripping from Matthew’s hands made another nice touch with the anime probably overpowering the manga. This whole expedition for Chise should’ve been particularly hard because a whole multitude of beings either chose to die or ask to be erased completely without any regrets. For anyone troubled as our protagonist coming into terms with death is a very hard task. At least Chise now clearly values life, something she wasn’t able to do before. No wonder since awkward gestures and just weird behavior of Elias still makes Chise feel very valued, and that poses a question what was her life before. After everything I still have an inquiry – what of the present sorcerers? Were they really necessary apart from trying to plant an idea into Chise’s head that what she feels is nothing more than a Stockholm syndrome? And what, they just left? I guess it definitely won’t be the last time we see them but having someone antagonistic for once ended too anticlimactically.

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 18)

     You know this competition is completely different from others because of the dramatic dressing. Let’s talk about synchronizing everything for the common goal. In the very beginning the announcer tells to prepare for tango, the background music also picks up tango rhythm, Chinatsu wears a red dress and everything seems to heat up. And then she tells that she’s cold which is completely at odds with both the visuals and the sounds. Sure, this line is insightful but I think that it’s a horrible choice to place it here, where after a motivation speech (which also associates with hotness) the pair could have gone to give their best performance. Also after such a tension-building segment the announcer strikes again with “Hey folks, next is waltz”. Waltz definitely isn’t a dance where you need all this heat and tension so the initial building up seems to be for nothing. Still worse, the real tango comes later on. If you start with tango, you build everything for tango and show the tension as much as possible, not jumble between different moods. Even if getting into sync for our pair was the most important thing of this episode, it was attenuated by all these comedy moments (various families coming to watch) and all the commentary of Hyoudo and the lot. I don’t know if there’s a better way in principle to show both the dancing and its commentary but endlessly cutting back and forth gets repetitive real quick and also steals lots of attention from the focal point – the dancers and their emotions. In the end it feels like just another competition among other competitions, with the stakes being as low as ever.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau (Ep. 5)

     “We will absolutely sink the Whale and kill all the people on it. Oh no, a girl got an arrow to the knee. To the infirmary, quick!” Argh. Please don’t change your opinion like socks, you are leaders of the society or are you not? Oh well, as much as I do enjoy the visuals, there’s constantly something wrong with the story. Well, it’s not always something as bad as inconsistencies but just some not that believable decisions. What’s with the mindset “I’m so ashamed that I must ask poeple to fight for their lives”? Come on, you’re on the same boat – you either fight or you die. As Suouououou said, there should be something else about the attackers because total destruction on a basis that someone else is just different seems pretty weak. I guess the most interesting part was when that Neri girl proved to be something different from an ordinary human. It appears that the Elders knew about that so if Neri opposed the sinking from the start, why didn’t she say anything directly? Or did she want to remain concealed as much as possible? Well, there might be some logic to this one (and others) but at this point I’m not buying the story. It’s just too complicated when it has no need to. At least that that one-eyed gatekeeper is voiced by Hiroshi Kamiya so that’s another plus to the show.