Orange – a mixed bag of everything

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Studio Telecom Animation Film
Genres Drama, Romance
Source Manga
Episodes 13
Season Summer 2016
Director Hiroshi Hamasaki
Music Hiroaki Tsutsumi
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      There are anime that by the majority of the viewers are believed to be outstanding in each and every aspect (Cowboy Bebop probably won’t receive much objections) or conversely just don’t have any redeeming qualities (Mars of Destruction, even less objections). Yet, only a handful of shows tend to be well-balanced in all of their departments – for example having a good soundtrack sadly doesn’t automatically grant a good story. For instance my experience with Makoto Shinkai’s films (yet to see Kimi no Na wa.) has been rather ambiguous – the visuals are breathtakingly amazing but the stories often seem quite lacking. In this context Orange looks like a particularly diverse show – the story alone sometimes makes you laugh (sadly, unintentionally) and other times it surprises with wisdom. Other aspects also can be very polarizing in terms of execution. Let’s dig a little deeper and find out about the goods and the bads of this anime.

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

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

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

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Excerpt from the OP

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

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

The OP: 'Hikari no Hahen' by Yu Takahashi

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

Excerpt from the OST: 'Yell' by Hiroaki Tsutsumi

I believe, this anime is

 2Decent

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

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Musings and Reflections – end of Summer 2016

The season overall proved to be an ok one. Some shows I liked more, some less, but there wasn’t any that would have made me regret time spent watching. On the other hand, the season didn’t provide any masterpieces. ReLife and Mob Psycho 100 will probably receive my attention some time later as well as Berserk but this one will have to wait a lot more since I’m still catching up with the manga before I’m ready to complete the old series and then move to the new. Now, turning to the watched shows…

Orange

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    I still remember with joy how energetically the show opened my summer season – a very catchy (will come back to this later on) OP, some mystery motives, quite distinctive usage of colors (occasionally washed out scenery (like in Steins;Gate and that’s no wonder since both of the shows share the same director) and extensive green tones everywhere)… Many of the positives remained for the whole show, also Orange managed to create a sense of a very realistic group of friends whose actions between themselves just speak of warmth, trust and just joy of being together. Sadly the studio that made Orange wasn’t that prepared to tackle all the problems – many times production flaws were very visible, lack of more frequent sakuga or pretty easily noticeable CG elements didn’t help either. The story as far as it concerned the relationships between the characters was very enjoyable but the mystery aspect that depended on some sci-fi premises felt very out of place. Where Orange tried, it did well but other times the show could look surprisingly bad. By the way, as far as I understand, the title of the show doesn’t have pretty much any connection with the show itself. Weird.

Tales of Zestiria the X 

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    Oh, Ufotable. Probably much of the budged of the show was spent to put some salt called ‘CG dragons’ in the wound of studio Deen. As it’s the custom of the studio, there’s little that can be criticized about the production. Still, 3D backgrounds didn’t feel that connected with the 2D characters, especially during some early episodes. Yes, everything was beautiful and technically stunning but it’s hard to immerse completely when flat and not flat objects try to convince you that they can belong to the same space. That aside, the story felt not the most impressive and many times reminded me of a standard RPG with characters fighting, walking, talking, doing some other stuff and then repeating everything all over again. I’m not sure that the writers chose the most appropriate way of adapting the original game. Many things got only a small touch of light and you just feel the need of playing the game to know something for sure – the world is vast but getting only hints doesn’t always bring satisfaction. Also, the insertion of a part that was basically the new Berseria game advertisement certainly didn’t help the pacing, overall story or anything else.

Tales of Zestiria the X  receives the award of most impressive scenery of the season. How else.

Amaama to Inazuma 

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    To summarize everything into two words, the show was just a recipe book. It sounds very unfair to demand some action from a slice of life show but Amaama to Inazuma just didn’t dare to stray from its comfort zone. Exploration of the relationship between a father and a daughter sounds good, some life wisdom sprinkled here and there each episode also makes the show more appealing, introducing the viewers to the Japanese cuisine and showing how to prepare the meals again is a positive but when you do only the same stuff for the whole season, want it or not, it becomes painfully repetitive and boring. Even if it’s a slice of life show I’d like some uncertainty about  the next episode, some unexpected events or just the change of the setting. When everything happens over and over again without anything substantial changing, I have to point out that even a slice of real life doesn’t always act according to all your plans and expectations.

91 Days

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     So, the final show of the season but certainly not the least enjoyable. Generally 91 Days is The Godfather: The Animation come into being with some flavor of J.R.R.Martin’s “everyone dies” mindset. Even if it’s possible to define the anime using very little words, watching it proved to be a very rewarding experience. Studio Shuka might not be the one you think about when asked about highest production values (and it certainly showed), the characters tended to be immersed into themselves and rarely showed their true thoughts and intentions but part from that I hardly have anything to complain about. The feeling of a real life when you don’t know for sure which characters are going to survive a single episode felt refreshing, various mind games, even if sometimes lacking a more personal approach usually looked enjoyable enough, the soundtrack gave just the right atmosphere of jazzy prohibition era. The show probably wasn’t the most visually stunning but its setting and stories proved to be more novel and entertaining than many other anime.

91 Days receives the award of the most memorable character of the season, that being Mr. Fango – the spiritual brother of Ladd Russo is very distinct from the entire cast of the show as well as the whole season. You just can’t be any more extravagant and quirky, especially when it comes to food being offered to your guests. If that’s not enough, 91 Days receives the awards of favorite OST  and favorite anime of the season. I guess if you kinda like something, you like it whole.

     Favorite OP not without competition was that of Orange. Contrary to the show actually providing some animation as well as giving energetic, youthful and joyful impression proved to be enough for me to eagerly await it every episode and hum along. OP of Tales of Zestiria the X also had a very catchy song but I take some minimalism rather than a bunch of random action stuff, as cool as it was.


     91 Days would get a favorite ED award but after thinking a bit I decided to trash that away – the shows OP is much more memorable, setting the mood well and giving some insight into the mischievous dealings of the mafia world and unexpectedly changing allegiances. If I didn’t try to like Orange as much as I did, 91 days could have had a total musical victory over the other shows.

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2016 Week 13

Orange (Ep. 13)

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   No surprises this time – the stakes were as high as ever, Kakeru’s life depended on a single moment but it turned out that a long labor and persistence can change even the worst future – everything that have been building up since the start of the show, all the relationships, all the chemistry between the group proved to be crucial for the end result and the story ended in a predictable but nonetheless satisfying way. It’s probably for the best – not the most impressive but well executed ending is far better than half-baked experimental one.  At least as far as the new timeline goes. All the stuff with the letters remained the weakest part but leaving that plot device aside it was a rewarding show. Naho’s (and everyone else’s) courage and care for Kakeru during the last crucial moments were so much more endearing recalling all the growth during all the season. Orange wasn’t the best anime ever, but nonetheless for me it was certainly enjoyable.

Tales of Zestiria the X (Ep. 12)

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    Once again the episode felt like it had too much story to tell and too little time to do that properly. We got a fight, everything was wrapped up, new goals (for the second season) were set but was it an impressive episode? Not really. Sure, Alisha’s scene when she finally saw the Seraphim was a good one, knowing how much she has craved for the coexistence, the animation was as good as always but overall it was just another episode of a decent but not that outstanding show. Somehow I kept remembering Fate series – the boss looked like Berserker and Alisha with Sorey formed a contract not that dissimilar from that of the Type-Moon blockbuster. Well, I still have no idea what that contract will change. Also, I’m not too happy in general since the magic powers don’t seem to be defined in any way so without any limitations it’s hard to tell when the stakes are really high. I guess every single complaint points into the necessity of having played the game.

91 Days (Ep. 12)

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     Probably it was a very fitting ending to the series. The conclusion that even after almost fully executed revenge you don’t really get anything but rather lose some dear people, future prospects and goals was natural and Angelo’s death (I think he died though there possibly can be other interpretations) proved that and showed the meaninglessness of the existence with all the ties cut and precious people wiped out. The soundtrack (except the insertion of the ED that felt a bit out of place) once again enriched the atmosphere and the last track paired with the animation of waves felt like a very satisfying ending, maintaining the mood of the last minutes of the show while also giving you enough space to ponder about everything that happened. Somehow after finishing everything I feel rather melancholic about the show rather than feeling some pity or sorrow – many characters invited their tragic fate themselves and, as sad as it is, karma works.

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2016 Week 12

Orange (Ep. 12)

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    Visually the episode wasn’t anything special (again) but the way it handled itself was pretty interesting. To think about it, the first half really was a recap. Still, telling the story from a different perspective both reminds of the past events before the climax of the story, adds more depth to Kakeru’s character and also shows what happened in the old timeline – it’s a win-win situation for the viewers. Would that recaps were all made by this principle – showing already seen events from a slightly different angle. Naho’s desperation in the old timeline was depicted well as she wanted to reach for Kakeru (who himself didn’t find the right words and right people when they were needed) but ended up full of regrets because of missed opportunities. The OST in this part particularly enhanced the visuals though I can only praise it for the job done during the whole season. The time travelling part again is not the strongest point of the show. It had to be explained somehow and, even if what we got wasn’t the greatest explanation ever, there have been worse tries. Still, it’s really hard to believe how fully grown adults so easily believe in such a pseudoscience and worse, it actually works exactly as they want it to.

Tales of Zestiria the X (Ep. 11)

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   Clearly, everything is set up for the season finale and I doubt there could be done much more from the technical point of view. The battle did receive a lot of attention and it was depicted with enough gravity and sense of something inevitable that you must stop but just can’t. Though the armies could have at least used formations. Leaving the visuals aside, it was not the first time that I felt very disconnected from the show. Probably the middle season by-product of the Berseria commercial didn’t help either. Well, just everyone shouting shounen-esque attack names whose various effects scream of RPG, trying to fight without killing (especially when the fighting is done by two girls against a multitude of professional soldiers) or purifying a fighting field and thus killing both phantoms and soldiers (or knocking them down? If that’s the case then they will start fighting again after regaining consciousness so what’s the point?). Anyway, I did appreciate all the work done to make the episode look as well as it did but I can’t be positive that I liked it much.

Amaama to Inazuma (Ep. 12)

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   Yawn. Yep, the same old formula all over again. Quite unticlimactic as the grand finale, eh? Yes, it’s a slice of life but some closure would have been nice and not an episode that could probably be easily swapped with any other episode. Kotori’s mom finally found time to join the cooking group but apart from a new face it had no effect at all. Some wisdom of life again was sprinkled and, as the saying goes, it was food for thought. Talking specifically about family and relationships felt appropriate knowing that it was the last episode but frankly it was nothing new or unexpected. Tsumugi showed her childish side probably more often as ever but as always all the problems were solved and everything as always ended with a loud “oishi”. I wonder if there was an episode without that.

91 Days (Ep. 11)

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    That was anything if not intense. So intense that there are barely any alive characters left and those alive face not the most pleasant future perspectives. 3 of 4 Angelo’s targets are finally dead though the last two died only by the help of Angelo’s machinations and not directly so it’s only up to himself if he’s able to feel at least some satisfaction about that, if there is at all any satisfaction to be had. It’s obvious that while Angelo so far has executed his plans almost flawlessly, he forgets the most important part of any plan – how  to remain safe and sound when everything’s finished. Even if Angelo will be able to deal with Nero, his perspectives hardly look bright as he has made enemies all around, also after the death of Corteo there isn’t anything or anyone left in the world for Angelo to live for save the revenge. If everything will go well for him I doubt he will be able to live a normal life and something like a suicide can be a probable outcome. That Strega guy wasn’t too happy about being only a nephew of the don so even if he overreacted by ordering the massacre of the Vanettis, everything should be going in his favor, but leaving someone as untrustworthy as Angelo alive could become a problem for him, too. So, the bottom line is that Angelo is on the verge of obliterating all the Vanettis and probably dying in the process – he doesn’t look to care about anything else in the world.

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2016 Week 11

Orange (Ep. 11)

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    After the pretty light-hearted end of the sports festival New Year’s celebration strikes with more emotions and not so bright a future ahead. It occurred to me that the concept of the future in the show portrays it as not having such a diversity as one could think of. There are some milestones (even with identical dialogue) that are reached by very different means. Kakeru in the new timeline is certainly loved more openly and has far better relationships with everyone but when the time comes, everything turns out the same way as in (now) drastically different old timeline. It’s quite counter-intuitive that even when the timelines have diverged, the letters still appear to be a very good source of information. Then is it really worth struggling if after all everything burns down to the same scene where Naho manages to fail? I find it a bit hard to believe that the older Suwa openly questions his past choices when he has apparently a perfect family and would abandon it so easily. Yes, he certainly has a good heart and it shows in the new timeline but in this way he looks not to be cherishing his life at all. A bit disrespectful to his baby and Naho. By the way, Hagita’s officially joined not that populous male tsundere contingent.

Tales of Zestiria the X (Ep. 10)

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     To be frank, I’m disappointed. Shirayuki proved to be a very unprofessional assassin. It’s almost funny when the conversation goes something like “I’ll kill you.” – “No you don’t. Wait, kill me.” – “No, I won’t.” – “OK, pack your things, we’re leaving tomorrow.” Even the identity of the assassin was pretty clear from the start. Other than that, the episode remained uneventful – the last arc with epidemic and stuff got wrapped up and only the introduction of (almost) new character moved the story forward. If a Shepherd takes in malevolence when purifying a human, it would probably makes him more likely to become a dragon (or something like that) himself. It would be a nice twist when everyone would have to fight the strongest dragon of them all. Sadly, as it’s very unlikely, abilities of the animators will have to be shown in some other way. I finally remembered what has been bugging me about Alisha’s character design, to be more precise the hair – it seems that the character designer watched too much Shiki.

Amaama to Inazuma (Ep. 11)

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   Well, to be frank I can’t say much more about the episode that I haven’t said about the last one or even earlier ones. The episodic nature of the show doesn’t allow it to grow, to have character interactions that would be relevant in more than just one episode. Yes, the right atmosphere above all other things could be the thing the staff is trying to achieve but you can do so much without introducing something new. And introducing some variety wouldn’t be so difficult, just try and change the usual (and sadly becoming a bit boring) formula by for example exploring Kouhei’s and his wife’s relationship or going on a trip somewhere or just anything that would change the scene or usual accurately timed cooking and non-cooking segments. Sure, the episode had some funny moments, it was nice to see all the important characters gathered together and Tsumugi dealing with her problems but pretty much everything falls into the category of “been there, done that”. All these ramblings actually are quite irrelevant since there is only one episode left but just for the record – any more of the same formula would definitely make me yawn.

91 Days (Ep. 10)

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     Starting from the end of the episode, I feel quite confused as when I was sitting with an all-knowing grin thinking “there’s no way Angelo will do that” and, well, he actually did. I’m still pondering if everything’s really as it looks or that’s just a false cliffhanger. Either way, the Vanettis will probably get the short end of a stick considering the look on Angelo’s eyes – the sincere smile on his face (I don’t remember him smiling for a long time) wasn’t long-lived. Even Nero seems to have decided to let Angelo choose where his loyalties lie and I’m not sure if that’s the best decision for him to make. Yes, Corteo did turn against the family but maybe it would have been better to persuade him (somehow) and keep Angelo loyal and not angry. Everyone should already know that angry Angelo can do things. Now Nero looks to have chosen his own fate without much hope of reconciling with his new (and probably already ex) best friend. In the end the uncle also chose not to help Angelo so his dreams of power will probably shatter. At this point I don’t even know if I’m more sad about all the unfortunate doings of the Vanettis or disgusted that almost all the members of the family are ready to employ any means available to get more power.

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2016 Week 10

Orange (Ep. 10)

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    Hagita not telling about Kakeru’s ankle problems from the start seems like a plot hole. Does not one person read his/hers letter till the end and share the information with others if it’s Kakeru’s life that depends on it? So, the power of friendship won once again and effort proved to be worth much more than skill and talent. Even if I would have liked a little bit more pompous and emphasized finish of the race it more or less felt like a decent culmination of a few past episodes. Still, the show will need to give a bit more effort to give as strong a feeling as it did in the very start. Animation while not impressive stepped up from the level of bad and hopefully it will manage to retain the quality till the very end. Also, as the competition part ended the story will need some other focus but there’s still very much to be told (like strengthening of the relationship of the main couple as well as some more information about how all those letters came into being) but there’s only 3 episodes left.

Tales of Zestiria the X (Ep. 9)

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    First, for some time already I wanted to give some praise to the soundtrack. This episode and pretty much all the previous ones were really enhanced by the music, especially the battle scenes. The elements of the story still largely resemble RPG – this time it was that tree that Mikleo fought as well as all the wolves. The actual fight with the latter was again skipped for time issues and again I think that pacing this way isn’t improved. If you set up a fight, let it be a memorable one, just like what was done with the dragon (even if the subs had a “drake”, “dragon puppy” still sounds very funny). The cute and weird creature appeared again and this mystery (at least for me who has no knowledge of the game) was explained. I don’t know if we need more comedic elements and especially elements with the accent of Osaka but that will remain to be seen. The one thing I thought about the preview is that Sorey has 3 elemental Seraphs (fire, water and earth) and one place is still left. Well, some characters in the OP still haven’t been featured very much and since Zaveid doesn’t look that promising, I would bet on that hat wearing companion of Shirayuki to make Sorey’s Elemental Squad complete..

Amaama to Inazuma (Ep. 10)

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   If you averaged every episode of Amaama to Inazuma so far you would probably get something very much resembling this. The episode felt very short but despite of that it didn’t feel very inspired, it was just another case of making something that turns out to be great. Probably the only surprising thing was the fact that there hasn’t been a fish-preparing episode earlier. Well, maybe Kouhei just didn’t have enough skills and determination until now but Kotori’s excitement that seemed even higher than usual confirmed that Japanese do love fish. Tsumugi’s wish to play a cat reminded me of Eve no Jikan with a very similar character and that’s probably the best thing I can say this time. Maybe the show just calms before something more exciting as the finale is not that far.

91 Days (Ep. 9)

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    So it was the uncle. Well, it’s probably the only logical answer. Every character who was the least bit relevant to the story either had died or had some alibi. As one of the major mysteries of the show became unraveled, it’s yet to be seen what the uncle is really up to – why would he (if it was really him) invite Angelo by the letter and promise revenge? Maybe he just believed from the start that escaped Angelo could cause some problems some time later and simply wanted to catch him and thus end all possible problems. On the other hand, why allowe Angelo to become so deeply involved with the Vanetti’s business and become a really good friend to Nero? Anyway, the episode very well managed to create sense of suspense (for example Angelo’s anxiety pondering what was Corteo doing and what will become of him as well as with all the Vanettis), of waiting for something to end the calm before the storm. It did end, and even if we got some very important information, many things remain in the dark, so the very last episodes look to be very interesting.

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2016 Week 9

Orange (Ep. 9)

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    Well, the animation… To be frank, it already has been very limited and this time is no different but various non-moving shots, pans and other stuff that I really don’t have much knowledge about compensated for that so the visuals to my eyes wasn’t a big problem. Another thing is when even in stills characters look very misshapen and sometimes even unrecognizable as if the staff didn’t have neither enough time nor resources to do the job properly. Production values this time were probably the lowest and it’s really a shame for the story and its (theoretical) visualization (forgetting some CG students) are clearly above average in my opinion. Yet when shots of quality that appear during the whole episode are so very few, it’s very difficult to concentrate on other things than ugly visuals. Cutting to some chibis, using lengthy stills or simply showing floating text from the letter doesn’t help either. The story, as far as I have noticed moved just a little from the last time – Kakeru and Naho just start to feel a bit closer but nothing substantial really happened. Well, it looks to have been the weakest episode of all. I just hope the next one won’t end up like the last two of Eva.

Tales of Zestiria the X (Ep. 8)

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    It was surprisingly entertaining though I can’t say it was anything I haven’t seen before. A little girl that feels superior to others and uses occasional “baka” from her dictionary (basically Kayo from Boku dake ga Inai Machi) or just a stereotypical cool guy aren’t that rare thing in anime. Yet, the dragon was truly great. I guess that level of animation and detail wouldn’t be beyond par with many examples from video games, TV shows or even some feature films. Somehow all the characters didn’t interact with the dragon physically so 2D and 3D didn’t clash like before. Returning to the new characters, some glimpses of a backstory of Edna didn’t really make me care about her and I can’t say even that about the cool guy. I hope these two will have their fair share of screen time but not as much as in this episode when Mikleo and Alisha (who even had her own backstory episode) barely even show up. Somehow the end feels very far and the potential of the story probably won’t have enough time to become realized. By the way, why does transformed Sorey have to wear high heels?

Amaama to Inazuma (Ep. 9)

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     For the most part the episode was just an animated excerpt from a recipe book with all the instructions voiced perfectly clear and obligatory “oishii” after a few initial bites. The first part about a sleepover in the school also wasn’t anything unseen or just worth remembering. Maybe slight connections with earlier episodes – Kotori’s unending fear of knives and Kouhei’s friend briefly appearing again – added some continuity to the story. Still, it would have been a pretty dull episode if not for the ending. When you think of it, it was a really heartwarming and a bit funny memory from the past and everything was conveyed perfectly – no words were needed and the briefness of the scene made it even more similar to a memory. When the show wants, it can really depict the slightest emotional transitions from the real world, just like Tsumugi’s tears. There’s something very human in the feeling of regret and sadness remembering something or someone that has passed away without any chance of returning during even the brightest memories.

91 Days (Ep. 8)

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     While thinking about the episode during the credits it appeared to me how many people have already died in the show and yet how many possible candidates there still are. Excluding Angelo probably every character could achieve an untimely death one way or another. Well, Fango will definitely be missed. I can’t say that he didn’t deserve it considering his behavior and temper (he basically was treated the same way as he did with don Orco and his henchmen) but it’s still quite sad not being able to see him doing something straight from Baccano anymore. Fango being one of the most memorable aspects of the show I wonder how they will manage to fill the gap. By the way, it looks like the empty week was for the best since the visuals looked as well made as ever. Thinking about Corteo, it was about time some marginal character received the spotlight and the show did well humanizing him. Angelo just has nerves of steel and the right mindset to run some mafia business but it’s natural that not every person can compete with him. Seeing how determined Angelo is I begin to doubt that he would choose his friend over his revenge.

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2016 Week 8

Orange (Ep. 8)

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   Starting with the most obvious unsatisfactory thing of the episode – do you really have to rely on the most cliché scenes when the girl stumbles and the guy catches her and then there’s an awkward moment of silence? Thinking about the relay – isn’t it something related with competitiveness? Yes, the reason for all of the school sports events is to bring enjoyment and team spirit but achieving a positive result against your peers is not the least of concerns. Then is it possible for a group of friends (of whom one doesn’t even know how to run) to monopolize the relay when there clearly are better choices all around? And other students seem to be happy about their diminished chances of winning. Weird. Finally, I can salute the idea that you shouldn’t rely on external influences too much when deciding your choices in life but when the odds as high as someone’s life, wouldn’t it be wiser to at least look for potential helpful advices in the letter instead of blundering blindly around and risking upsetting Kakeru even more? Well, it looks like too many rhetorical questions this time but I can’t omit the last one – if all the friends wrote letters to their younger selves wouldn’t it have been a better idea to write about collaborating from the start? As I said – Kakeru’s life is at stake so not taking every opportunity to improve the situation seems not that smart.

Tales of Zestiria the X (Ep. 7)

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     Actually I’d rather watch another Berseria chapter. The long awaited tornado with dragon within proved to be anything but worth waiting and thinking what will happen. Especially knowing that the anticlimactic part was put after the much more interesting episodes does not make the series more enjoyable by any means. That forest spirit that looked straight from Mushihi (except being 3D) didn’t cause any problems either. Well, even if the thing looks almost like a spermatozoid, I expected at least some fighting. The plot probably progressed far in terms of the original story but the progression didn’t make any impact. The better part is that Mikleo was shown to have more humanity. It’s never easy starting from the virtually the same point and seeing your peers outracing you by far why you just sit pondering what you should do. Making his own decisions and trying to become useful is a pretty mature choice though I don’t know yet if going alone was a wise decision. Still, he’s too important a character to die so one way or another everything will come out alright. On an unrelated note, I’m starting to miss Shirayuki.

Amaama to Inazuma (Ep. 8)

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   I can’t say I’m a fan of seafood and squishy and slimy things in general so this time the food part left me pretty indifferent. The meal looks alright but I’d rather choose something else. Well, that’s just personal preferences. The part that was a bit more to my liking was the idea that some things may need only a bit of patching up and you don’t need to throw them away and start everything anew. In this sense bags pretty much equate to relationships. There are other anime this season (and not this season only) that I enjoy more than this show but I really appreciate the various range of things you can get from pretty much every episode. If you prefer you can watch Amaama to Inazuma only for the cooking part – for learning about Japanese cuisine or just for fun, – you can get some stories about a single parent, about doings of a little girl and what happens when the worldviews of them both clash from time to time or finally you can extract just some sincere truths of how the world works and what should be done in order to become a better person.

     91 Days this time only managed to give a recap, and not the best of its kind. Recaps don’t really have to be a despised thing but when you only manage to glue some footage that doesn’t feel smooth at all and don’t add anything new, you get a thing that is shunned not without a reason. Oh well, maybe this production hiccup will be the first and the last. By the way, the only recap that I can say I enjoyed was that of Kara no Kyoukai.

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2016 Week 7

Orange (Ep. 7)

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    After finishing it I have basically one thought – I want more. It’s not that usual that an episode of an anime makes you both smile and think about almost shedding a tear. And frankly that wasn’t only this episode – strong feelings have been retained for a long time already and there’s very little that I could complain about. One of such things of course would be Naho’s refusal for no apparent reason to read the letter whole. I don’t know what kind of people read their letters only by one sentence at a time and resume only when it’s convenient in terms of progressing the story. Anyway, quite a few meaningful thoughts again could be gathered – like the notion that sometimes it’s difficult to help a person even when you want it very much but you just don’t know the way, don’t know the right words to say. And some words can really make a difference. Well, maybe I’m just still under the influence of watching an anime with something I haven’t seen before that I like it that much and maybe the spell will wear off after some time but for now I’m just happy I chose this show to watch among many others.

Tales of Zestiria the X (Ep. 6)

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   Weird. I don’t know who thought that 2 episode inclusion of practically unrelated stuff into an anime would be a good idea. That is if as the preview suggests, there will be no more Berseria (or Berseria related) episodes. Nonetheless in this way it’s just useless to talk about pacing, consistent character performance and other usual things. I understand that Velvet is the lead and on her own anime it would be at least ok but among other things – random jargon, random pieces of information and random events – it’s impossible to care about her as much as she looks to deserve. Not to mention a random (if that’s not random I don’t know what is) insertion of a witch who works as a comic relief and has a ridiculously long name but is useless at every frame. On itself the episode certainly looked good but my problem with CG still remained. The dragon looks anything but anime material. As in the last episode, the last few minutes were (also pretty random) AMV type of preview of the Berseria game. Again, unforeseen decisions of the staff leave me scratching my head once more.

Amaama to Inazuma (Ep. 7)

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   Yeah, after all, Tsumugi is just a child. It’s good to see (well, not exactly pleasant but rather fair) some domestic arguing that could have easily happened in any family. To make an argument both of the sides don’t have to be completely wrong. Some different perspectives on the same thing, oversights and not common preferences are just the stuff for such clashes, especially when on the one side stands an adult and on the other a child – differences in the worldview, different and incomparable experiences and situations when you can say only “yes, but…” make a very difficult road to understanding each other. Even when situations like this one happily ends with make some food together I’m quite amazed how Kouhei still manages to raise Tsumugi pretty well despite hundreds of problems. Well, I guess in the real world such a family normally wouldn’t be able to live as well but finding joy in little things and somehow living on through various difficulties with a smile and optimism is a strong message this anime carries.

91 Days (Ep. 7)

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    Seems that there is only one true mafia family in town. To be clearer, only one man, and that is Angelo. It’s difficult to guess if he is so smart after all or other guys don’t see a mastermind behind all the stuff and just trust in Angelo and get manipulated, or both. Having started his journey towards revenge on the Vanettis, Angelo looks to have done surprisingly well so far in making all of them suffer (or suffer and die). Family splitting (that of Fio’s and the Vanettis as the whole in the broader sense) looks to be one of Angelo’s better abilities. Especially in Fio’s case the border between good and bad deeds is very blurred and Angelo is getting more and more antihero-ish as the time goes by. When he will finally decide to pay the debt to Nero himself it’s going to be a very difficult time, and for the viewers maybe even more than for Angelo. Well, if he manages to get that far since his road to salvation is still very long – who knows what Fango may do at one point or another, what will don Vanetti do when the situation will become clearer, especially with Corteo who seems to have gotten a hold in the Vanetti family and that may prove to be a serious hindrance to Angelo because Corteo remains the nearest thing to his own family.

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2016 Week 6

Orange (Ep. 6)

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   Again all the conversations between the friends feel so natural. Talking about petty stuff, everyday routines and just joking around sets the atmosphere really well. Hagita’s comment about Azu that without his glasses, his vision is so blurry that she looks like an angel is a great example of that – a tiny remark that in no way affects the story and once again cements the group and the viewer as someone who just might be one of the friends. As for the story developments, it’s still very hard for me to believe that older Naho just wrote “don’t invite Kakeru” and thought that her younger self would do that even not knowing the gravity of the situation. Is it so hard to write just one more line and make the request so much more easily accomplishable? Well, unless Naho had tried that in multiple timelines already and nothing worked – who knows what time travel stuff can lead to? Still, that’s just mine theory and unless it’s dis(proven), it doesn’t smell like a good storytelling. Usually I’m not the one to foretell twists in anime before they happen so the ending grabbed my attention even more. Even if I’m not sure if time travelling mix well with what Orange has already shown.

Tales of Zestiria the X (Ep. 5)

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    Well, I’m confused. Not as confused as when I first watched the episode and went straight to the forums and wikis to find something – anything that could explain what I had seen. It’s difficult not to have the slightest notion about what happened and why when I haven’t played any games of the series and started watching the show on a whim without any previous knowledge about anything in the universe of the story or plans of releasing new games or the ones released. Someone probably has the right to ask why the hell I’m watching it then and why the hell I am even complaining, but albeit I understand that the anime was given green light only as a form of an advertisement in the first place, I believe anime should be approachable to anyone regardless of the source material, either its form or its vastness. Anyway, the setting itself looked pretty interesting, even if the characters looked every bit like they originally belonged to a random conventional fantasy RPG. Still, that, the fact that the new storyline interrupted the old one very randomly and all the technical unexplained stuff (like various kinds of exorcists or whatever they were) aside Velvet could become an interesting character after all.

Amaama to Inazuma (Ep. 6)

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    A party with many people, eh? I’m all in. For some time I felt I was a bit bored because of nothing happening in the field of character development. Not that I expect anything extraordinary to happen – Kouhei will just become a more skilled cook and Tsumugi will appreciate that – that’s basically the outline of all the story. Surely I enjoy interactions between the daughter and the father but it was already time to add something yet unseen. Now when we have five people the need is fully satisfied, even if the latest two additions will not be featured very prominently, as they themselves noticed that they, being a lot better cooks than Kotori, Kouhei and Tsumugi, may mar the enjoyment of doing something by yourself for the first time. Really, when you become adept at something you just forget how everything looked when you started doing it and as it was probably for yourself long time ago, a new person in the field might experience much joy in accomplishing the tiniest feats that you no longer even notice and put very little effort into.

91 Days (Ep. 6)

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    This show and Orange – if they remain of the same quality as they have been, I’ll have a very difficult task to decide which of them I like more. Both feature very interesting stories, even if they are nothing to compare in terms of setting and characters, and suffer a bit because of not that flawless production. By the way, both of the last episodes featured some kind of a twist. The one in 91 days however was resolved and I can only applaud the writers – that’s how you make an imposing mafia related story. Still, I wonder if Angelo really should have told his true name so openly – a stray word from don Orco and all Angelo’s revenge might have gone to the litter bin. I doubt Nero, as trusting as he had become, would have let everything be. The segment with Fango and his cooking preferences probably was a bit over the top. It might have well suited Baccano but it’s not that believable in the more realistic world of this show. Not that I complain – Fango sure is entertaining.