Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 7

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 6)

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

Made in Abyss (Ep. 6)

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

Re:Creators (Ep. 17)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 20)

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

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 5

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 4)

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

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 5)

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

Made in Abyss (Ep. 4)

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

Re:Creators (Ep. 16)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 18)

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

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 3

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 2)

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

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

Made in Abyss (Ep. 2)

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

Re:Creators (Ep. 15)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 16)

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

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 2

Ballroom e Youkoso (Ep. 1)

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

Made in Abyss (Ep. 1)

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

Re:Creators (Ep. 14)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 15)

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

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 1

Re:Creators (Ep. 13)

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

Sakura Quest (Ep. 14)

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

Musings and Reflections – Summer 2017 Week 0

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

Re:Creators

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

Sakura Quest

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

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

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

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

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

Musings and Reflections – end of Spring 2017

     Yet another season has passed and while I can’t say it didn’t have its moments, it’s really hard to single out its key features. Even the huge hits like Boku no Hero Academia and Attack on Titan were only second seasons, and while they seem to had gathered some audience, I can’t say they brought much novelty to the table. Seikaisuru Kado might be a show to check out later on, but I guess I chose my seasonal watchlist pretty well. All of the watched shows somehow feel very similar in terms quality and while their stronger and and weaker points vary a lot, I doubt that any of these will be that relevant two or three years later, though by no means I can consider them bad.

Re:Creators

    I decided to try Re:Creators only because of the staff and some initial warm reactions from some fellow anime fans. What’s it like? Lots of talking, talking and talking. The main guy even after so much time doesn’t feel like he has a slightest reason to be in the series. But it’s not bad. Fictional characters becoming real, bringing with themselves their outlooks on everything based on the stories they were created for, some mystery elements whose explanations (e.g. more talking) are taking forever and are getting more and more complicated… Well, usually it’s fun, especially since Maya Sakamoto’s character is always there to liven up the pace (otherwise dead from talking) and add some more chaos to already not that clear mess of various motivations and goals. I wouldn’t call the show that exceptional but there’re far worse ways to kill your time. Oh, I almost forgot. There’s some talking.

     Re:Creators receives the award of the favorite OST of the season. I can’t say it stood out that much above others but Hiroyuki Sawano is a thing. Or rather the thing. Probably no other music (maybe besides made by Yuki Kajiura) can pump you up that much during an action scene.

Little Witch Academia

     Probably everyone who watched LWA can summarize it in a very short sentence – good, but not enough. It’s almost impossible to top the effect of the original OVA, and the series clearly showed that. I was quite happy when the second cour turned the wheel to a different direction compared to the first one, deciding to scrap episodic nature and add an overarcing story. Some steps towards the finale were rather unimpressive, other times some of the original LWA spirit was just burning through, but in the end the level of excitement wasn’t that high. The side characters more often than not felt abandoned and forgotten, the final goal felt too vague and unimportant for day-to-day use. The last episodes despite trying hard to provide as much sakuga as possible, wrapped everything in not the most satisfying way full of conveniences and a sense of never really providing enough satisfaction.

     LWA receives the award of the most memorable character of the season – Akko showed lots of spirit and to deal with some crushing news she got by the end of the show for her was very hard. Nonetheless our enthusiastic heroine retained her grin and by the effort alone came out on top.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku

     Well, it was just more of Natsume. The 6th season had both great and endearing moments that probably only Natsume can provide, but also the show wasn’t free from less interesting stories. Content-wise this season wasn’t exceptionally better or worse compared to previous ones but what really caught my eye was the presentation. Studio Shuka never has been praised for perfect scheduling and flawless visuals and sadly more times than not it was clear watching Natsume. Characters barely moving, getting off model more than is comfortable to look at and painfully rare sakuga moments often got more attention than all the stories. Sure, Natsume’s source material usually is strong enough to carry all the weight despite the lack of support from the visuals but at this point it needs to be addressed. Such Natsume is better than no Natsume, but come on, Shuka. With some slight but very interesting developments by the end of the show I look forward to the possibility of getting the 7th season very much. Shuka, at least don’t get bankrupt until then.

     Natsume Yuujinchou Roku receives the random award of keeping the top-notch quality for the 6th season, but that only applies to non-moving side of things.

Sakura Quest

     The show was advertised as an anime about girls working, and that’s ultimately what we got. Seeing what problems might a random rural Japanese town face has been very educational and provided enough material for the characters to deal with. It doesn’t look like each of the girls received much focus individually but in the end I became more or less attached to all of them. You can easily believe that such a team could really work someplace and come up with the ideas they do. And there are plenty of ideas, taking advantage of many possible marketing areas – be it local cuisine, crafts or even weirdos (everyone loves Sandal). The novelty of constantly learning new things about  the characters and the town itself, providing an endless stream of various situations and problems a tourism board could have to take on – what else could you ask from a piece of entertainment?

     Sakura Quest receives the award of the favorite show of the season. The competition was very tough but I guess the least flaws and very relatable characters are attributes the show can boast of. Sakura Quest also gets the award of the of the most impressive scenery of the season. Manoyama might be a rather dull town but the girls brought lots of colors. It might be a bit too far-fetched but the attire of the heroins must also be mentioned – someone must’ve spent lots of time designing a multitude of different clothes.

Tsuki ga Kirei

     Oh, the lovable kids. A love story without any hidden twist like “but look, one of them is a zombie (or a vampire)” and staying very close to fundamentals of romance wasn’t probably the most exciting show ever but it did hit pretty much all the points needed to make an entertaining show. I can’t deny that some of the actions of the characters reminded me a bit of myself when I was a school-kid, and that itself makes a show far more relatable. Sure, there were some missteps like CG extras everywhere and very limited animation to save resources for other times that probably contrasted too much to poorer parts of the show. Nonetheless, the story was told, and I’m very glad that it didn’t end like many anime – a kiss and an unfulfilled promise to tell what happened next. The end of the final episode showed exactly that and, when you realize that you care for our couple, feels very gratifying for deciding to stick until the end.

     Tsuki ga Kirei receives the random award of having the most disturbing CG students from time to time.

     Favorite OP of the season was that of Re:Creators. I guess Hiroyuki Sawano is a point that almost automatically throws out any competition, though Sakura Quest this season also got quite a good OP. Sawano’s heavier (compared to usual J-pop OPs) sound paired with some serious-faced character motion scenes creates enough suspense to say that the show means business.

     Favorite ED of the season was that of LWA. Again Sakura Quest again came close but the sheer effort of Masanobu Hiraoka who soloed the  incredible and unique animation and a nice song to go with it – what else can an ED need?

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 13

Re:Creators (Ep. 12)

     It feels like a season finale structurally but there’s nothing of sort in terms of visuals. We finally got a plan and remaining episodes should be devoted to its execution. It turns out the main guy was a bigger jerk than it was clear after the last episode. Of course now there’s nothing that can be changed but if he had so little friends he may have thought of having a close conversation with the suicide girl and sorting everything out, even if it would’ve been pretty painful. Still, the main guy’s only characterization so far remains just the fact that once he behaved inadequately and now is sorry about that. It’s weird that no one in the group looked impressed or just cared enough to offer some help or something.  I’m bothered by the fact that Altair’s fanfics are able to give her new abilities but there’s no similar thing concerning other characters. Don’t tell me a random character without a story receives more fanfics than acclaimed stories do. I still don’t understand how a published book is different from a tweet in terms of getting power. Let’s say that twitter (because of its nature) provides only temporary boosts but are then Altair’s abilities based only upon temporary skills? As far as I understand she was created and became popular via some web platform that isn’t too fundamentally dissimilar from twitter but her powers seem pretty permanent. Well, I’m starting to wonder if I should keep trying to understand everything at all. Some things just doesn’t make much sense. After Alice’s external brains sadly died she looks to be finally taking advantage of her own personal neural network. Nothing too impressive so far but it’s still a step to a thinking personality. I’m almost completely positive that the new guy from the scene after the credits is one of Selesia’s buddies, because in the ED there’s a scene with Selesia flanked by two dudes whose clothing closely resembles the attire of this new guy. If that’s true, some interesting encounters are right on the way. So yeah, let’s go forward with the power of doujin crossovers!

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 25)

     So where do I begin? Starting from the positives, the message that you need to believe and only from that comes the magic is clear and it nicely summarizes the whole show. The final scene where Akko finally learned how to fly also brought back memories from the very first episodes and worked well as a conclusion. I don’t even need to say anything about the animation – it’s obvious how much work was put in. The story though… To think about it, the power of friendship worked too literally and Deus ex Machina moments weren’t scarce. I doubt any self-respecting missile would wait for some witches to talk a bit, then open their tech-support kits and construct a pseudo-reaction-engine-powered-tandem-broom (witch by itself is pretty cool) and start a race. Not to mention that the rocket itself came out of nowhere, and the same thing can be said about that mad broom from the first episodes. Powering up by wearing special clothes isn’t very convincing, as the fact that it took so long for anyone to notice that people’s wills may generate magic. Maybe the whole world of LWA is full of idiots who need to announce publicly that “I’ll start believing these girls” before doing that. It’s jaw dropping how everyone seems to have conveniently forgotten that Croix did some nasty things. Apparently not nasty enough since her role as the main villain was so easily stolen by a random missile whose character was developed using far less time. Andrew was as useful as always, and that means he just provided time for the animators to take a break from hectic movement of Akko and friends. I expected much more from LWA but oh well, it could’ve been way worse.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 13)

     You know the show has achieved its goal when it makes your own emotions align perfectly with everything it tries to evoke. Every single change from total excitement seeing the huge crowd to the horror when the quiz flopped or the TV program finally aired felt like I was watching my own friends succeed or fail, that’s the power of characterization P.A. is capable of. To think of it, it’s definitely sad but inevitable that business world is based on profit and not on good will. TV program just wants as many viewers as possible, and, as the film crew previously, will do everything they can through editing or other means to ensure the success of their own goals regardless of the actual outcomes for anyone else. To be frank, Manoyama isn’t a place whose beauty and other perks come clear at first sight so it was quite natural that the mob just went to see a concert that could’ve easily happened anywhere else. In that regard Manoyama gained only a little profit from a huge but one-time-only surge of people. Yes, it’s still a huge step forward compared to all the Chupakabura marketing before Yoshino came but there’s still a long road to go to get people come to Manoyama because it’s Manoyama itself they want to see. Well, the story of the episode was just like the real life goes on – something might go extremely well but inevitably there will always be many things that can be improved. Sandal again proved to be a weird source of entertainment, trying to go travel to Guam with a random dude.

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 12)

     Damn, that was beautiful. Last time I said that I wanted to know what the far future holds and it seems like someone heard me. I guess the real climax actually was the last image of the show and every single episode, every single scene were only building up to it. You can say that the whole final sequence was too idealistic and very rarely everything ends up so well. On the other hand, the whole show is very idealistic – both Akane and Curly are very down to earth but optimistic human beings, trying as best they can to learn how to live on, and that optimism and hope that everything will be ok drives them on even when some circumstances are not that favorable, such as Curly not passing the entrance exam. As the show tried to be as realistic as possible such an outcome as Curly failing was a natural one – sometimes you just are not meant to succeed no matter how hard you try. The ending sequence was even stronger due to the fact that Chinatsu entered the same school as Curly. Knowing how pushy she has been against her own better judgment I can almost guarantee that Curly experienced some uncomfortable situations during his high school years. Anyway, even if the show tells as that everything ended in a way that’s probably too positive, that heartwarming conclusion made up for many flaws during the whole airing.

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 12

Re:Creators (Ep. 11)

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     First of all, especially because of the OP I start to miss Mamika. I’ve never thought of her as a very interesting or particularly essential character but seeing her all happy knowing how everything ended for her feels sad. The 2nd-rate-Shinji unexpectedly got much screen time, apparently content about his role of saving the world and not bothered anymore by “get into the damn robot”. The conversation later on might become the first spark to ignite the creativity of the main character who still isn’t useful at all. He can’t even draw particularly well, so why is he featured in the show at all? His story with the creator of Altair is finally info-dum… sorry, explained but I still don’t really get the mindset of keeping everything secret. It’s understandable that the main character wanted to escape telling about his role in the story but still. Firstly, if the story of his involvement is complete, it’s hardly him that triggered the suicide of the girl. Yep, he wasn’t the most helpful guy ever but simply being a jerk doesn’t automatically mean he killed her. Also, to a person who doesn’t know anything the main character’s role in the suicide story is extremely tangential so it appears to me that telling everything straight away while omitting his own role wouldn’t have been a very difficult thing to do, especially when there’s a question about safety and lives of many people. That is if the backstory is complete and the main character hasn’t done anything more jerk-like. Either way, he still feels very redundant.

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 24)

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     I’m very sad to conclude that I’m disappointed. The last two episodes raised the stakes pretty high and the first part of this episode just made little sense. Trigger’s approach to make references to their previous works or other phenomena is worth some praise, but this time Chariot’s lightsaber (and other visuals of this kind not even mentioning the tone) just detracted me from the story, making me remember all of the Star Wars stuff, or, even worse, similar stuff in SAO.  Moreover, isn’t using a lightsaber based on magic? So why then Chariot can’t fly but is still able to do something magical? Was the effect of the pollen somehow selective? How (and when) did the two other witches appear in Croix’s tower inclined that she’s the culprit? Isn’t it a bit of a mind leap? When you think of it, Croix by the end had monopolized all the magic (don’t ask me how that works) so what did she try to achieve by all that Grand Triskelion stuff? That should have just reinvited normal magic to the world so as far as I understand there’s no clear profit for Croix. Anyway, her plan didn’t work, but still, getting some sparkles and a bit brighter colors in the world as the reward for the two-cour journey feels like not the best joke ever. Sure, it might be nice to tease the viewers with such a worthless result, but why the buildup then? next we have a random technology randomly morphing into a random dragon. Ain’t nothing too random about that, eh? How did Akko manage to cast the Shiny Arc spell if all of the magic was disabled? The conversation between Chariot and Akko was a nice one, the characters were surprisingly on model in the second part of the episode but that’s not enough for me. If you create some rules, you should stick to them and neither break them randomly because “magic” nor start inventing something new because that’s convenient. By the way, why that Grand Triskelion magic (or whatever it’s called) was sealed in the first place?

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 11)

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     It’s quite funny that even if the story was quite unusual for the last episode of the season as far as Natsume goes, it still managed to insert a montage of various moments between Natsume and all his friends, so the episode ultimately did retain some predictable qualities. While I can doubt of a possibility to capture images of youkai in a photo, that may be the only negative thing I can think of. Leaving some mystery over what really was the old exorcist researching and what exactly was destroyed was far more interesting than an outright victory of achieving the full knowledge would’ve been. Natsume’s ability to deal with the dragon familiar confirmed how much he has grown – it turns out enough respect and persistence can win over everyone. As I thought before, Natori didn’t react that much about the story of the Book of Friends, but a possibility still remains that he may at some point succumb to more mischievous desires, but for now everything remains unchanged. Probably the most surprising idea presented was that of a mysterious male relative of Natsume. Shuka definitely has problems with scheduling and realizing their ideas but I’d offer much to see another season of Natsume elaborating the ancestry more. Reiko and her human relationships have always been an unexplored and very attractive part of the Natsume universe, and such a tease as we now got nothing but screams asking for more. Well, hopefully it can happen, and not in a very far future, and preferably with far improved visual quality.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 12)

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     I guess at this point it’s worth pointing out that Sakura Quest has created its own identity and it’s pretty much not an option anymore thinking it might be just a discount Shirobako. Yep, the shows have similarities, but the scenarios make everything seem vastly different. I’m actually quite amazed that there are still many things you can do promoting a town, and a TV documentary turns out to be one of them. Seeing the girls act too self-consciously but after some time getting more natural in front of the cameras feels very natural itself. I’m still afraid a bit that the TV producer’s ideas how to get more attention might clash with the views of the Tourism Board, but so far it’s just a pleasure to see how everything comes into place and another public event (and a very large one) comes into being. Of course, everything isn’t without problems, but after some considerations it’s gratifying to see that a common goal can make things happen. It’s nice to be reminded that Yoshino has come to Manoyama before as a kid, and that actually might be a story to be told on TV. Yoshino as she is now might not seem like the most colorful person to talk about and it’s hard to pinpoint any specific quality that she gained after becoming the Queen. Nonetheless it’s clear that Manoyama has greatly benefited from everything she has come up with, and, similarly to Akko from LWA, Yoshino’s most important accomplishments might be changes induced in her environment and, even more importantly, her companions.

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 11)

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     At least this time there were no additional skits after the ED. Curly’s clash with his parents was quite well executed. It’s clear that both sides were right to some extent but also failed to completely understand one another. As expected, everything got sorted out completely, even if the change of the mother’s perspective anticlimactically happened off screen. Otherwise it was just a more or less typical episode of the kids trying to do their best. And that wasn’t too exciting to be frank. Everything just went at a pace of a snail. Of course it can be argued that Curly’s and Akane’s relationship is steadily building up, that both of them are getting more and more comfortable being together, their blushing is seen less and less. Gifting something to one another a few episodes back probably wouldn’t have been even thinkable as a remote possibility. It’s nice and all but knowing that everything is just going on normally without many relationship-threatening problems isn’t going to increase my investment in the show. on a side note, I’d very much love to see what would become of such a pair in ten or twenty years.

Musings and Reflections – Spring 2017 Week 11

Re:Creators (Ep. 10)

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      At this point I can describe the show as a fun one, not really exploring every interesting possibility given the premise but nonetheless providing enough entertainment. Everybody fights everybody, Altair spices everything up by ass-pulling a mecha and Magane builds her own force with style. This episode I was particularly impressed by the visuals – CG mechas weren’t that bad, various fire effects were done well, there were some interesting camera angles and, of course, fighting didn’t disappoint. Yet, some details were less compelling. Why does Alice look so confused and surprised when someone she tries to hit actually gets hit? And how many lives exactly do Meteora and Selesia have? Yes, they both are not of this world but general human physiology should work in a same way, at least similar enough to have both them killed instantly. Why was Selesia’s transformation (as spectacular as it was) only temporary? Does that mean that getting a tweet popular gets a character a temporary stat enhancement plus some healing? The mechanics of that (as well as everything that Altair did) feel too shady at this point. But why am I complaining? Meteora will probably spend half of the next episode sharing her ideas how everything works. Another nitpick – why did no one think about calling medics while Selesia was just lying in a pool of blood? Is it normal to try doing something on your laptop that has a pretty low chance of working out before anything else while a person lies nearby with her intestines totally destroyed? Do they think soothing talk works better than some doctors? And the last one – even if these characters are not from this world, shouldn’t a guy with a gun just slaughter everyone else equipped with close ranged weapons? Or at least Blitz could try to snipe everyone in the opposing group if Altair really wants a confrontation. But oh well, drama is needed more than realism.

Little Witch Academia (Ep. 23)

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      A very emotionally charged episode. I’m very happy as it turned out that even after countless episodes of meandering around and without flashy action scenes LWA is able to provide really enjoyable content. Who would have thought that such a fun OVA that the first LWA was turned out to be way deeper and complicated? Starting from the Chariot – Croix conflict, the show elaborated their relationship well enough to highlight multilayered dynamics between the two. Croix even way back had her villainous side, teaching Chariot the ability-stealing magic, wishing to justify that her own way is better and she is a more respectable witch than Chariot even if it was Chariot who was chosen to rekindle the magic. Chariot on the other hand just like Akko didn’t think deeper and therefore was burnt, even so when her own audience began to disintegrate. I guess Chariot’s tragedy is even worse since she just can’t escape her past – Akko with her youthful vigor started going the same way, but Chariot doesn’t even need that – almost every night the Moon is there as an indelible sign of her past life. The only thing of this part that didn’t really sit well with me was the fact that Chariot was a bit absolved from using the special magic by being played by Croix. It’s true that Croix in this way is made a more villainous character, but rather than that (Croix is already established as an evil one) I’d have liked to see Chariot get frustrated enough to find the new kind of magic on her own and learn about the side effects independently some time later. Moving on, not having Akko around for a long time made me realize how integral she is to the show – her silliness practically has been the energy to move every last bit of the story. Having Diana involved was a nice touch and that also tied in the fact that she also was at the Chariot show. Diana is the second most important character of the show, who has to overcome very similar problems that Akko faces, although in a slightly different way. Diana’s importance (to the show as well as to Akko) was clearly shown when Lotte and Sucy ran to her when Akko disappeared rather than getting other closer friends such as Amanda on board. I don’t know how it was possible for Diana to overcome her magical ability loss but I guess it was magical. As Akko’s spirit seems to be fully rekindled, the final confrontation can’t some soon enough.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku (Ep. 10)

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       Didn’t expect a longer story this time. Usually the last episode of a season had been reserved for a little story that would be a pretext to gather many different youkai to have sort of a party and to restate how Natsume has grown and how many friends he has acquired. It appears that the ending of the 6th season (oh dear, it past so quick) will just resolve this story without any parties and celebrations. On the other hand, the fact that Natori finally learned about the Book of Friends is a pretty huge development. It appears that it won’t change character dynamics much as Natori seems to be able to respect Natsume and his possessions. Sure, he might find the Book handy but thinking realistically someone as powerful as Natsume probably is worth more having as a friend rather than an enemy, and that’s not even counting Nyanko-sensei and other youkai friends Natsume has made. So yeah, the time has finally come for Natsume’s secret to come out but I doubt it will change anything. Anyway, longer Natsume stories usually are good and, especially since the next episode will close the season, it should be worth waiting.

Sakura Quest (Ep. 11)

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      In the end, that was beautiful. Still, at first I need to complain a bit that the part with the stalking ex wasn’t that satisfying. Sure, last time it worked wonders when paired with the depressing weather and overall gloomy and mysterious atmosphere, but as everything turned out, it undermines that build up. I understand that Sakura Quest won’t ever throw away the realism for the effect but if you decide to use some creepy dude in a serious setting, you better think something more convincing than a comedic reason. Speaking about other stuff, Riri’s parallel with the dragon legend felt very natural, only the finding of the alternative story and even more the sudden reappearance of the song were too unlikely to be believable. What are the odds that not a single person in the whole town remembers the song, especially since the old chief dude said that he sort of has heard it before? Despite these suspension of disbelief breaking moments the ending had one of the most memorable scenes in the show. It must have been especially hard for Riri to overcome herself and sing publicly, even more since some people were totally unknown to her. Still, she once again proves that she has enough courage and determination hidden inside when there’s a desperate need. I wonder whether I could call Sandal the official mascot of the show. Either way, he seems to have become an irreplaceable asset of Manoyama. More of him, please!

Tsuki ga Kirei (Ep. 10)

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      At first, still the problems with the visuals are too apparent and overshadow the story. Rotoscoping the festival scenes may have been a good idea in general but now they just stand out too much compared to the rest of the scenes. It’s just that the festival stuff and other stuff aren’t that different (not counting the changed location) so that the drastic change in quality could be justifiable. Especially when other aspects sometimes are quite weird, just like some faces of the bystanders in the backgrounds or odd lighting. The story took an unexpected turn, showing that Curly’s jealousy scenes are far more melodramatic than Akane’s. I understand that jealousy is a natural feeling and you may not be able to control it at all, but especially after Akane’s explanation Curly‘s brainpower turned out to be not powerful enough to disable his jerk mode. Well, maybe that’s just youth. Still, even after thinking everything over ignoring Akane though it was clearly Curly who was at fault wasn’t the greatest decision in the history of relationships. Late apologies also mean little. I guess many of the nitpicks about melodramatic stuff concerning this show can be discarded because of the age of the characters but still that doesn’t feel satisfying enough. At least the couple’s relationship seems to have solidified a bit more.