Posted on 18 May 2013 with categories: Uchuu Kyoudai

This episode really showed one of the advantages that a series with an old cast brings: everyone has already had extensive backgrounds. Mutta: he has had a whole career in car design already. He knows how to design stuff like that, and he thinks like an engineer. This is much less apparent in series about teenagers who went through a lot less passions in their lives.

Pico also is getting together. We had his introduction and backstory already, and now it’s time to add some emotion in him. This show does it by pretty much establishing that even though he looks like he doesn’t care, his engineering heart can’t hide the fact that he has enthusiasm for his job. I especially loved the cliff-hanger of this episode. Something will happen next episode!

The rest of this episode was a lot of robot building. Oh, and those very nostalgic fishing games that I loved playing when I was a kid. It really shows that this series did its research, and I like that a lot: the kinds of shows that are able to teach me things.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 15 May 2013 with categories: Chihayafuru

Don’t get me wrong, this finale is amazing. But I can only see an incredible cliff-hanger coming ahead at the end of this series. Chihayafuru was lucky to get a second season. But a THIRD? It will need it though. This entire second season was just one giant build-up for the what’s left to come.

I mean, don’t get me wrong: the second season so far has been fantastic. Every match has been awesome and the finale of the team matches is quite possibly the best yet. But none of the things that we were hoping for has happened yet! Arata and the Queen have pretty much been sitting around doing nothing, and that king guy is nowhere to be seen either. Oh, there were hints. The build-up for these guys is beautiful. But that only works if we’re ever going to get there!

Slow pacing… it is a double edged sword. You can see that with both Chihayafuru and Space Brothers here. I really don’t mind this series taking its time. Both series are absolutely brilliant at building atmosphere and keeping me at the edge of my seat for episode after episode. However, that is just the storytelling. The way they test my patience with recaps, on top of recaps at the start of each episode is counter-productive. This is the wrong use of flashbacks!

Oh, but really: these two episodes were glorious. Chihayafuru has completely nailed the tournament arc. It understands that you can’t just show stronger opponents and just expect things to work. The key is spicing things up. Making every match different and unique. This show managed to do that in so many different ways: every character is evolving, every opponent is different, every theme is different. But really, the finale. It didn’t have intimidating opponents that were different from every other opponent so far, it also used the Queen brilliantly. And Chihaya’s injury. Holy crap that made this match intense. Now that I think about it: the team matches really are the meat of the second season. They are what symbolizes Chihaya’s growth, since with this, she pretty much won’t be able to participate in the individual matches.

There is this big theme of loneliness hidden underneath these team matches, visible with the top players. I mean, I said that Arata and the King and the Queen have been sitting around doing nothing. The only reason why this bothers me is my impatience (in a good way!). This show likes to dance around the issue, but it does paint that threesome to be really lonesome. This point was the first time at which this really came to the surface. But while just about every other character in this series is chock-full of team spirit, they don’t. That contrast is stark, and I love it.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 14 May 2013 with categories: Hataraku Maou-Sama

This was a very typical episode for Hataraku Maou-Sama: really good jokes, but lots of cliches. I’m not sure whether I’m the only one in this, but there are a number of cliches that just… annoy me when they’re being used in the first place, especially when they’re being played straight like what Hataraku Maou-Sama does. I don’t have this with all cliches, but things like the haunted school-building, or the cute girl that just falls on top of the male lead. They were especially annoying because in the context the creators could have chosen from a ton of other alternatives. This is a show about working life. Why do you have to stuff a school in there?

Nevertheless, I love the sense of humour of this series. This episode had quite a few points that just made me laugh out loud. This both goes for the characters goofing around while living their lives, to the jokes that are well built up at the end; yay for Checkof’s anatomy model.

As for the actual character build-up… I feel like the character-development is a bit stiff. Especially with Lucifer: he like, completely changed character there. But the rest of the cast as well could be a bit more dynamic, to be honest. I hope that this will come soon, because this would really spice up this how. Especially if the change is interesting, rather than just go with the expected. This show has the talent for that.
Rating: 5/8 (Great)

Posted on 13 May 2013 with categories: Shingeki no Kyojin(Attack on Titan)

While watching this anime, I realize how devious it can be to compare the anime and manga adaptations to each other. They may have the same story, but the anime and manga of Shingeki no Kyojin are completely different in terms of atmosphere and pacing. The manga moves ridiculously fast. The anime on the other hand takes its time. At the beginning of this series, I made the mistake of expecting the exact same feeling as what I got in the manga. No. That’s impossible to create. The anime just needs to shine in its own way!

And it does, actually. This episode was nearly entirely dedicated to Mikasa and Eren’s past (although the prelude about Armin was also really good). This is the sign that the two of them are very much not normal. Especially Eren: what other kid just straight up murders people by pretending to be innocent? At first he was just your regular bratty kid who wants to fight, but with this, he became more than just that. An extreme version of that trope.

Another big theme here is: people in power are assholes. The question is what this show will do with it. At the moment it feels a bit typical, but this series can really shine by pushing this into the extreme: what if that extreme bigotry of the elite would really get tons and tons of people in trouble and killed? More often than not this trope is used to create cheap drama (because hey, we hate rich people being an ass!), but there is some gold lurking underneath that crap.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on with categories: Aku no Hana

Aku no Hana is about the secrets that we all try to hide from each other. How a person may protect him or herself with layers. Kasuga was the most apparent example for this, but Saeki also of course has this. Whether this is as extreme as Nakamura seems to suggest in this episode is a matter of time, but she sure gave Kasuga quite a scare with it.

Now, is Kasuga a hypocrite or not in his actions? Is he running away while refusing to believe that Saeki might enjoy sex? Is that some sort of defence mechanism in order to prevent himself from going crazy, or does he genuinely believe that Saeki is as pure as a goddess? I also don’t think that Nakamura is right either: on one hand she rocks for trying to peel away the layers that Kasuga puts up. But in her mind, people are either normal, or incredible perverts. No inbetween.

Another thing I noticed in this episode: this series really likes to play with the reflections in people’s eyes. I’m not sure whether this is an artefarct of the rotoscoping or not, but it has a really interesting effect. Anime is famous for its eyes and all, but I still love the attention to detail that this series puts into the movements of the eyes of its characters.

This show may be rotoscoped and low-budget, but what I’d still love is if it were influential. I’n not asking people to take over the rotoscoping. Instead what I hope is that animators of series with bigger budgets will take cues from the nonverbal communication in this series, and let themselves be inspired by it.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 12 May 2013 with categories: Spring 2013 Kaleidoscope

#1: Valvrave The Liberator – 04: Just… wow. Don’t get me wrong, this episode was incredibly cheesy. But at the same time it was just florious with how much confidence it brought that plot twist of its. I guess this is what I meant by this series just going over the top: screw logic, and just focus on creating as much fun as possible. So far, this is what Guilty Crown should have been: the male lead is the only one with special powers, and he just uses them to screw everyone who is against him over. The big potential pitfall right now is the characters. These types of series also seem to think that you don’t need characters to remain entertaining, but the whole trick of making these series last is by keeping them interesting. Otherwise it’ll just get boring!

#2: Hunter X Hunter – 77: I still find the ant designs to look a bit silly (a minor detail perhaps, but it does screw a bit with your first impressions), but I like the idea behind the Chimera ants a lot. The way in which they continue to evolve. And again, it’s completely different from any other arc in Hunter X Hunter before and I really admire that for a shounen series. But do the villains have actual emotional depth? There’s one way to find out!

#3: Yahari Blahblah (I still refuse to use the whole title of this show until it gets actually really good) – 04: What I liked about this episode was the use of that one really popular guy. It was a bit of a narrow-minded episode, but it raised some good points for the characters. At the very least, I’m really glad to see that this didn’t turn out to be yet another one of those brainless school series, but that it actually tries to bring some substance in, even though it’s got a bunch of cliched and annoying characters.

Other Notes:

Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge – 04: Now I see! The thing with this series is that the story is crap, yet the characters and the atmosphere are charming. This may seem negative, but it is what keeps me watching. I couldn’t care less about those killing thingies or whatever plot there is supposed to be, but the creators gathered together an interesting cast that stands out. There are some weird things though. Like that girl who got stranded in this episode. I’m not sure what to think of her.

Posted on 10 May 2013 with categories: Hataraku Maou-Sama

In terms of execution, this show is brilliant. Random action at this point doesn’t really interest me at this point (you can blame Jojo for setting that bar so damn high), so I feared that this series would put the focus too much on them. But this pleasantly surprised me with really good comedy. This show plays with all of the tropes associated with these fight scenes. Amidst fighting for the death the characters are just running back and forth from home to get a special cape, or the main character being annoyed that he’s just playing a minor character. And the delivery just rocks. The creators here really understand comedic timing.

But I still wonder: would this series really have been any different if the main character was the Easter Bunny who for some reason angered a bunch of angels? I mean, on one hand it’s refreshing and all to see an evil overlord just living everyday life and all, but I just don’t get how the same person would have created an army to conquer and slaughter thousands. I miss background on who he was before he came to earth. And for example, what does he need the power to create this barrier for if he’s aiming to destroy stuff?

What I now hope is that the series doesn’t lose this as it goes on. Like, the characters suddenly get more and more serious as the series escalates. Keep the comedy and the chemistry between the characters. That’s what makes this show so good. Being epic is perfectly fine to make things exciting, but put the comedy first, and the epicness third.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 8 May 2013 with categories: Shingeki no Kyojin(Attack on Titan)

When I read the first chapters of Shingeki no Kyojin, it really struck to me that this would be impossible to animate. Thankfully Production IG got Tetsuro Araki to make up for a lot there, but even with him behind the reigns there are scenes that just are so difficult to translate right. The biggest example of that is at the end of the episode.

We see Eren lie on one roof. Across the street there is a giant who swallows Armin whole and closes his mouth after that. The next scene Eren suddenly is on top of that giant’s mouth pulling Armin out of it. That scene is so complex, but it worked in the manga because there was no animation, so also no real timeframe in which everything happened. I see no way in which this anime would have been able to do that scene right, while also keeping as true to the manga as possible. The solution would have been to just rewrite it to make sure that it works.

Nitpicking aside though, the rest of this episode was just wonderful. I mean, the other scenes in which the giants just completely slaughtered Eren’s team were done brilliantly. It was a total chaos, and yet the giants just kept appearing from out of nowhere to crush everyone. It was so different from normal anime that also feature battles against really big things, that just stand around doing nothing and waiting for the heroes to make their move.

And don’t get me wrong here: the end of this episode was the point at which I only really got addicted to the manga. Before that it was also just building up and I wasn’t really sure what to think of it. And Eren becoming lunch for that giant, it worked really well. That was one heck of a cliff-hanger that you really don’t see often!
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 7 May 2013 with categories: Aku no Hana

There are times when the characters in this series don’t have faces. But holy crap: when they do, their facial expressions and nonverbal communication here is just stunning. If I had to pinpoint the thing I like the most about this series, then it would be that: the subtle cues that the characters give each other that say so much more than what mere dialogue could have done.

Nakamura in particular is just brilliant at this. I just love how her mood changed over the course of this episode, from excited, to disappointed, and then back to excited again. The way she just looked down upon Kasuga was really expressive. She, more than anyone else in this series, has presence.

As for Kasuga, it’s always difficult to write a very flawed character. You need to know the difference between being flawed, and just completely stupid for the sake of the plot. The key for that is balance, and believability. And Kasuga indeed is not normal. I suspect very much that he has some sort of autism, or at least I suspect so considering the way he so passionately talks about books, and how he is socially awkward. And for that I too have to congratulate the creators, because for me they managed to make him believable enough to completely draw me in here.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 6 May 2013 with categories: Uchuu Kyoudai

Storytelling is a matter of balance. Not doing too much, and not doing too little. At one point, Space Brothers managed to nail that balance perfectly. I wasn’t bored for a minute and it stood consistently among my favorites. I think the height was where Mutta heard that he got to be an astronaut.

The pacing already was a bit wonky during Hibito’s arc, which took a bit too long, but really: that desert arc was just not good. They spent ages in there, and what was it all for? A bit of development for Nitta, plus the cast fot fleshed out a tiny bit (but way too little for the standards of this series). Not to mention those huge amounts of recaps. What was supposed to be a small build-up arc took bloody ages to get finished. I don’t care whether this is for its timeslot or manga. The creators could have easily just made a second season in 2014 or something. This decision to keep going really brought down this series.

Episode 56 thankfully picked up things again, and it’s now up to that druk Pico guy to make up for all of those mistakes. This episode made a good start, but they’re not quite there yet. I like the whole story around the malfunctioning parachutes, and how they’re really going in-depth to how the acident could have happened (using Hibito as the next one to use that system also really helps). I also like how the current assignment requires everyone to use their own unique talent (like Mutta with his automobile experience). Now get the pacing of this arc right!
Rating: 5/8 (Great)

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