Posted on 29 October 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Flip Flappers

Nothing much has happened to Flip Flappers this week, which I can really summarize the plot in one sentence: Cocona and Papika live together for a while and they spend their time getting foods and taking baths and sleeping together. In fact, there’s not much to say in this episode. This is so far Flip Flappers’ most mundane and ordinary episode and frankly compare to the first three episodes it’s a clear step down, but then again you can’t expect a show to hit home runs week after week.

As you probably know me I’m never a big fan of forced plot so forcing the two girls to stay together until they can sync again doesn’t bode well for me. It seems really like a plot excuse to gather them together and worst of all, in this episode all the girls do is just hanging around in search for the plot. Now I never mind the fact that the show keeps us in the dark regarding Flip Flappers world but this is the first time I get the feeling they don’t give us enough info because they have little to say. Usually for an episode that supposed to be a break between two big episodes, they can either fleshing out the world, giving more context to the side characters, or deepening the main characters; unfortunately, this episode achieves none of that. Cocona and Papika’s chemistry just isn’t strong enough to carry the whole episode and as a result the story feel drags at times; there’s no real urgency to the plot and little ‘world-wonder’ like we encountered previous episodes.

In any case, this episode still gives some more insights (albeit very little) to work with. We have an extended dream of Cocona this time that she was in a floating boat with a mysterious woman (a nod to the very well usage of optical illusions) and for now I’m guessing that the mysterious girl is another version of Cocona. To align with her masked persona last week, Cocona might be a girl with many faces, because she doesn’t have any real identity to begin with so she’s easy to be manipulated into other personalities. This series is going to be Cocona’s journey to find her real self. On other notes, I found it rather amusing that Papika seems to un-noticed the art-club unnamed girl again, that made me feel like that art-club girl is some kind of a ghost/ spirit (or mushi if I let myself loose). Cocona gives a bit of context on her lost parents and her wish to meet them again. As of now all I think of is her parents’ death/ disappearance might be a result of one of the Pure Illusion world, so she might actually get to meet them later in the Pure Illusion reality.

At least, the girls were sucked into another Pure Illusion world so I know in next episode we will have a good time. It might sound harsh of me regarding this episode but it is simply because at this point I have a high expectation for Flip Flappers. I get to Flip Flappers expecting to experience something unique and I know the show is capable of delivering that, so spending an episode to see those girls just hanging around and waiting for the plot to kick in is simply not good enough.

Posted on 28 October 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Sound! Euphonium 2

This week Sound Eupho goes full-blown drama, exploring the struggles from Yoroizuka towards Nozomi. As a result, this episode is the show’s most emotional resonance, but at the same time is the show’s most straight-forwards in terms of plot. What you see is what you get, but the drama is resolved so well that I’m pretty happy with how all this played out.

It’s interesting to note that for how much the show set up this little drama, the conflict reaches its peak from something completely incidental, at first glance. Nozomi, upon hearing about Yoroizuka’s oboe criticism, decides to see her… to say hi, that’s enough to swell Yoroizuka’s emotions up and explode like a torrential rain. This turn of events might seem a bit randomly at first, but take a closer look and you can see their situation has been in a crumble ground that it’s a matter of time for that relationship to collapse on themselves. Before going to Yoroizuka’s point of view, let me raise this: people might think that Nozomi doesn’t really consider Yoroizuka as her friend because after she quit, they cut off their communication, which is something a close friend wouldn’t have done. Yeah, Nozomi might be a bit insensitive but truthfully, she did all that because that’s who she is. Who would blame her for that? She said that she didn’t tell Yoroizuka she quit because she didn’t want to drag her friend into the whole mess, which for me is fair enough.

In fact, it’s Yoroizuka who had a problem and the show highlights her issues quite effectively. Since Nozomi left the band without telling her, she felt left out. Nozomi had always been a precious friend to her, being the one who introduced her to play instrument. Yoroizuka fears that facing Nozomi again, she’d be rejected and that feeling keep boiling up inside her to the point that she gets sick just from listening to Nozomi’s sound. That is indeed scary when one’s too dependent on their relationship to others. For around a year she has been playing music for Nozomi and therefore overlooked Yuuko’s friendship and her enjoyment to the band. The visual alone conveys many feelings by the way they frame the characters, like how the show underlines Yoroizuka’s fragile emotions by displays her shutting herself up, literally, under the desk; or when Yuuko tears fall into her face (sharing the pain) and later when Yuuko literally knocks some sense out of her and raising her up to the bright sunlight. The drama sure is overloaded but the visual language is still as sensitive as ever. I have to give Yuuko an extra praise since this season she’s growing to be a very carefully constructed character (despite being very unlikable in first season) and I’m glad that she and Natsuki returning to tease one another again.

But the last five minutes of the show, right after the drama ended is when Sound Eupho returns to its dense storytelling. Asuka again proved to be a genius in pointing out the worst in people by commenting that Yoroizuka’s obsession to Nozomi is due to the fear of being alone, and afterwards making friend with Yuuko as an insurance, to which Kumiko completely disagrees. Asuka has been the most complex character of the series and the scariest thing about her is even when she’s putting up a front, she always makes sense. I doubt that her decision not to allow Nozomi back to the band is only because of Yoroizuka (well, mostly but hardly the only reasons). What she says might not be what she truly feels and I love to see how the show manages to crack into her true personality. Overall, while I think going for heightened drama is not the strongest suit (that would be the show’s emphasis on little moments) and the conflict was resolved a bit too quickly for my taste, it’s still a very well-executed episode. At least now we can move on to the Kansai competition and it’s time to give more spotlights to other members of the cast. Give me more Reina please!!

Posted on 25 October 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Occultic:Nine

This week on Occultic;Nine…stuff happens I guess? In watching this i am getting reminders of Chaos;Head in a lot of ways. Now the Chaos;Head anime was a mess but the visual novel actually started really well with a lot of intrigue before D-swords were introduced and the whole narrative just became a giant nonsensical mess.  There are some common elements here as in Chaos;Head there was a murder influenced by a goth punk singers lyrics who was then claimed to be a prophetic. Here we have a murder influenced by a manga doujin where the mangaka claims to see in dreams. In Chaos;Head this whole prophetic singer thing just turned out to be a waste of time because it turned out the singer was batshit insane and the similarity to the murder was just pure coincidence. I feel this thing with the mangaka girl is going along the same vein. Basically  that she sees stuff in her dreams and pretty much has nothing to do with anything. I at least see the Occult part of the title is starting to appear with demon creatures and ghosts and whatnot, though I doubt we’ll be seeing even half the stuff in the opening.

I will be blunt and say I have little interest in what’s happening here. I can follow it though that certainly is a challenge but I find this show is trying to peak my interest by withholding its cards. So this episode we get a bunch of people acting suspiciously and a bunch of questions raised. Thing is I don’t care about these people and I am certain that any of the questions raised here will not have satisfactory answers. You may say I am speaking too soon and that I really could be surprised by what this show does with all this, and frankly you are right. However when looking at what is presented I see no possible way this is going to make any real sense. We already have the Occult involved so any mystery this series presents can pretty much be explained with “A wizard did it”. The idea of someone masterfully planning the suicide of over hundred people sounds like one hell of a feat in a story without the supernatural. However here Demons probably Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Booed them and they went and killed themselves. This series is trying to establish a massive conspiracy with connections everywhere in this mystery but the problem with that is that to make it all sound convincing and not contrived you need to be a damn good writer.

Ryukishi is one of the few who can build a massive intricate mystery without it feeling contrived and even he needs to cheat every now and then. It’s easy to build suspense and intrigue with questions but eventually you need to answer those questions. This is generally the point where everything falls apart. Here we have a murder where the victim had a key hidden as a tooth in his mouth which is connected to both a Doujin artist and a girl who set a curse on the victim using some sort of devil creature(Girl was also sent the victim’s scalp in the mailbox) along with a mass suicide, people who seem to be involved with secret organizations, a self proclaimed NEET who isn’t a NEET getting instructions from a toy doll that seems to know everything, the murder victim researching into Nikola Tesla and some Phantom plane, and a weird boy who abducted the friend of a popular fortune teller girl. Tell me honestly, do you think there is a way to tie all that together without resorting to something dumb? Because I certainly doubt it.

Posted on with categories: Currently Watching:, Magical Girl Raising Project

Guess I gave Ruler a bit too much credit than she deserved. I still think in her own way she did care about her team but she had a much bigger ego than expected when you see her real self. Ruler has the problematic nature of overestimating her own worth and in doing so pushes away others under the guise that they are not at her level. Problem is that when you push away everyone you have no one who can point out your own faults and thus never improve as a human being. Ruler was a big shot at school but when she entered the working world she started bottom of the rung and was doing pointless odd jobs. Seeing as she had the ego the size of a small continent this naturally didn’t sit well with her and she used her Magical girl identity to flatter her ego. It’s funny when you think about it, she couldn’t rule the world of adults so instead she chose to rule over children. Truly she was petty creature which doesn’t deserve much sympathy as she killed off this episode.

Much like my opinion of 91 Day’s I am not fond of putting someone in the spotlight in the exact episode they are killed off or involved with a twist. To the viewer it then becomes obvious that whoever gets backstory is going to die and thus ruins the surprise of the episode. I knew that with Rulers attitude that it was really only a matter of time before she was killed off and the coup d’etat was really inevitable. However I didn’t expect it to happen this quickly and the way she was killed was rather unexpected. I don’t mean that I didn’t know Swim Swim would betray her as I pretty much pegged that by the last episode. I even was right on the money about Nemurin being the one to inspire the revolt in the second episode. But Swim Swim, despite the very silly name, could be turning out to be a very interesting villain. Despite her magical girl appearance, Swim Swim is very young and is quite intelligent as seen by how she purposefully distributed the stolen candies from Snow White in a manner that would leave Ruler in last place.

But what makes this interesting is that she didn’t kill Ruler because of hate, or because she saw her as a poor leader. In fact she seems to hold great respect for her even after ending her life. Basically it seems that she was following Rulers teachings in that all the members of the team should strive to become her. However in Swim Swims mind this meant that she can’t become Ruler if Ruler is still around. Thus logically Ruler must be eliminated. So in Swim Swim’s mind she sees this as carrying Rulers torch and quite honestly this makes Swim Swim rather scary. She’s young, smart, and can kill without remorse but is also highly impressionable. She is working with an entirely different ruleset and morality. She spent a large amount of time with the worst role model and now could start a bloodbath while seeing nothing wrong with it. I originally pinned Calamity Mary down as the villain for this arc but right now it could be possible Swim Swim is the true villain.

As for other matters the writing continues to not really be on the level of quality it needs to be on. Souta really should have known better to run off after the twin angels when he knew they worked in a team. I also find his power to be a little too on the nose. An expanding sword? Really? We all know exactly what that symbolises and quite frankly the show does as well. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he holds the sword directly in front of his crotch. The action scenes lack real excitement though it could be just this fight that wasn’t particularly exhilarating. Souta has pretty much confirmed that he will be acting as Koyuki’s protector in this fight which makes me fairly certain that he’s going to die. We have another Magical girl targeting Snow White and it looks like everyone is dividing into factions as Top Speed and ninja magical girl meet up with the nun magical girl. This series still does have the potential to deliver on it’s premise and we have enough of a build up to really get started. I hope it can at least live up to the magical girl battle royale it is promising as we have far too many Dark Mahou Shoujo failures.

Posted on with categories: Currently Watching:, Drifters

After two episodes of pretty solid quality I happen to notice this episode took a bit of a downturn in animation. Though to be fair this was the most action focused episode yet which strangely didn’t feature our main trio. Instead we get introduced to the other protagonists and our main antagonists. We also get some clarification on just what is going on here. Basically historical figures called ends have been thrown into this world and have decided to kill everything. In order to combat them a magician’s organization is trying to gather Drifters who also happen to be historical figures. The main difference between the two seems to be that Drifters are taken to the world before their death while ends are transferred after they die. They also seem to have died rather tragic deaths and unlike the Drifters seem to have supernatural powers. We got a lot of new faces here and chances are you don’t know the half of them. On the drifter side we got two cowboys with Butch Cassey, the Sundance Kid and a Japanese fighter Pilot from WWII by the name of Naoshi Kanno.

On the ends side we got Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova who you likely don’t recognize but there was a Don Bluth film called Anastasia which took the cliff notes on her and tried to turn it into a Disney knockoff. Basically she was princess who was killed by the Bolshevik secret police and there were long rumors that she didn’t really die in the attack. Seems to be hints that the man with her is Rasputin. We have Toshizou Hijikata, vice commander for the shinsengumi who died during the boshin War. And we have the most surprising of the bunch with Joan of Arc who seems to have not taken her being burned alive all that well. I certainly remember raising an eyebrow when I saw Joan of Arc acting like a psychopathic pyromaniac but seeing as being betrayed and burned alive would likely be fairly traumatic experiences, I say it might be rather reasonable if she didn’t take it well. Last but certainly not least we have the Black King, a mysterious figure in a white robe whose identity has yet to be revealed. There are theories of course and boy, is there one most interesting. Mainly because of the scars on his hands and the religious nature of his declaring this war a crusade there is speculation that the black King is a certain religious figure. If Hirano decides to go there and make it THAT person, then quite frankly this story will gain a whole new level of amazing. Quite honestly there is a distinct possibility that he just might do it and there are hints I have seen which seem to confirm it but at this moment in time the Black kings identity has not been specifically confirmed.

I honestly felt the pain of the magician commander as the other world soldiers started bragging about how there wall is undefeated and invincible. Yep, and they said the Titanic was unsinkable and look where that got them. These guys were cannon fodder the minute they started laughing off the enemy and I hold no sympathy for them, as any man that laughs at Hannibal deserves such a fate. It was nice to see Scipio defend him as he was his major rival and even if he pissed himself in front of a crowd thanks to old age, the man still rode war elephants over the alps. He deserves massive respect for that. But man I laughed when he reacted to Butch and the kid pulling out a gatling gun and his first words were “Give me that, I am gonna destory rome with it!” because goddamn, Hannibal really would have said the same thing. I think that’s what’s really going to carry this series, just how these characters are going to play off each other and their own history. After all it was a powerful moment when Naoshi Kanno decided to fight off the Dragons because their attacks reminded him of the US bombings of Tokyo. Still I am a simple man and I see dragons fighting WWII airplanes with blood and carnage everywhere. Quite frankly, I don’t know about you but I am having a blast.

Posted on 24 October 2016 with categories: 3-gatsu no Lion, Currently Watching:

Another week, another touching little stories from Rei and his friends. Still follow the same structure as previous 2 weeks, we have the first half of Rei competing against Harunobu, his lifelong rivalry (or so that guy thought), and the remaining half of Rei visiting the three sisters on the last day of Obon festival. Unlike last week where we had the first segment to illustrate Rei’s ordinary professional shogi life, this week’s first section actually has a bit of context behind it. Actually, we have A LOT of context here. We have a whole flashback on the very first time they played together as a kid, narrated by the older Rei now that feel wholeheartedly personal. While the last episode framed Harunobu as a noisy and a bit annoying kid, this week shed a lot of new lights into his characters. He was, and still is, never a match for Rei’s shogi skills, but his determination to fight till the very end is something that feels resonant to Rei. I like how the show keeps cutting back to the flying balloons, and Shaft keeps focus on liquid-dropping motifs (be it big tears that like in manga, sweating, or bubbles on cold drink). The show successfully parallels that kid’s match with the current match in order to show us that the determination, the pure joy of facing off each other would never change, and will continue to be for the rest of their careers. It then turns out that Harunobu has been ill and in the hospital since he was a kid, that adds depth to this characters now that we realize his enthusiasm is not something that easily gained, considering his sickness.

When Rei meets up with the sisters that night, it’s a last day of the Obon festival. On that day, they bid farewell to the deceased ancestors and hope they will be safe in the afterlife. From the look of it I guess the sister’s grandma and mother had been passed away for 2,3 years. Long enough to not overly depressed by it and can carry on the ritual like usual, but soon enough to still feel sad and melancholy. For Rei, he lost his parents from way too long that he eventually shut his emotion off and forget about them in order to carry on. Now I see the connection between him and the sisters and why the sisters treat him like their family. Losing parental figures sure is tough and they eventually share the same pains of losing someone closed to them. But it becomes a habit that when we’re together, we smile and keep looking ahead, and hold that grief feeling to ourselves. That’s why Hinata walks off to the bridge and then outbursts hold so much emotions. She’s always an emotional honest character and carry the weight that burdened on her shoulder is too much for her. At least she can cry her heart out and that is something Rei needs to learn too.

After each viewing, I eventually check out the manga up to where the show had covered to see how closely the adaptation is, and for that Shaft has been followed quite faithfully to the source material. There are many important scenes that they actually adapted literally frame-by-frame from the manga. I previously said that I enjoy the Shaft’s editing for this series, and this episode again show their strengths towards editing: not that smooth editing but quick, sharp cuts to the motifs of the shows: last few weeks we have water bubbling and this week we have quick cuts to the flying balloons or the sun. In addition, there are some Shaft-ness moments that basically remind us this is Shaft’s products. Yes, we have some head tilts and I love to see some Nozomu-sensei imitations here but ultimately, they do it just about enough, without distracting the story. The sound design also deserves a special mention that feel lively, and that soaring scores really bring out the sadness and sorrow without again never really stand out. Great stuffs. Overall, Shaft have been given this show an excellent treatment.

But if I have to compare the manga and the show right now, I feel the manga fare better for me, which is strange because I consider Shaft adapting the manga quite effectively. So why is that? For me, the manga achieves something really simple but direct and honest, and that’s freaking hard to do. Take a scene where Akari explains about the cucumber and eggplant as the “horses” to bring the ancestors to their former homes and backs; while in the anime it feels like she’s giving information for us to process, in the manga I actually feel the sadness behind the talk. Chica Umino is ultimately a character’s writer, as opposed to say Gen Urobochi who famously known for his theme-ridden story and his world-building, or Mari Okada for her heightened drama (I don’t know why I bring up those two honestly, they aren’t even mangaka. Must be Freudian slip). Well, when a mangaka includes the character’s name into the chapters it means that those characters are her privilege and she really cares about her characters. Those characters were given more depth with such honesty that it never feels forced or calculated. I have gotten to the stage where I don’t pretty much care about great plots, shows with deep meaning or profound theme, all I care is characters that feel like real people that I feel invested to, and to witness how they grow overtime. I can safely say that 3-gatsu no Lion achieves that, and that alone is good enough for me to keep recommending this show.

Posted on 22 October 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Flip Flappers

Flip Flappers again raises the bar of what is expected of them, as this week the show goes even much trippier than the previous two weeks, and much darker too. They break out even their own formula, starting this episode right in the middle of desert wasteland. While this episode certainly reminds you a lot of other shows (to namelist: Mad Max, Fist of the North Stars, a bit of Star Wars, the fights of FLCL, the transformation of Sailor Moons (with fairy wings), the Super Saiyan powered-up, and whole other real life, historical references that I will discuss later), it still maintains its own personalities, runs its own beats, being busy with its own aesthetic and as a result Flip Flappers just gets weirder and more awesome. This is hand down its best episode so far.

In this episode, Flip Flappers decides to go to new direction. Instead of half-Cocona in her daily school, half-Pure Illusion worlds, they jump straight into the middle of Pure Illusions world. I love how things just got escalated very quickly in this episode in terms of plot, and because we have no idea about that world, the show freely twists our expectations of what about to come. We first follow Papika as she was abducted by the rare race with pumpkin-like faces. We see them as a potential threat for Papika until we see how they live an old but civilized, peaceful lives. Then, Mad Max-style gang of bandits attack the village and take their water. Their biggest, bad-assed guy challenged Papika and it all turned out that they’re no match for her. Then revealed their boss who is none other than Cocona, in mask. Then when that fight between two girls are done, we learned that Cocona has been manipulated by the girl in black. Then they nearly lose their lives to beat that monster, just so the other group comes in and kills it in 3 seconds. And the three people in that other group are just some pawns for something much bigger. You get what I mean? Flip Flappers keeps … well… flipping our expectations around that except from knowing Cocona and Papika will be alright, we can’t never tell for sure what going to happen. Everyone is not what they seem (clued in Cocona’s obaa-chan here, her detached response gives me a chill, I wouldn’t be surprised if she turns out to be some sorts of villain), and everything is not what it seems; they are the only rules of Flip Flappers.

Apart from its aesthetic which is already mesmerizing and overwhelming, the amount of symbolisms here in Flap Flappers is just way toooo much. But that’s why I love it. As one of our reader pointed out before, Uexekull is a reference to Jakob von Uexküll, a biologist who actually influenced some areas of philosophy like Phenomenology (study of the structures of experience and consciousness), which is kind of related to Pure Illusion experience. The chanting of Asclepius from the other organization is come from the god of healing Asclepius in Greek mythology, which also appropriate since Cocona was in that place that resembling strongly to the ruined Greek buildings, but I’m still not sure why they use that reference though. The antagonist girl, who I don’t know where the show inspires of, clearly symbolizes something lustful, decay and manipulation. The robot TT392 proves again to be the most human character that we’re all can related to well, as he spiraled out of control when seeing naked girls and basically was volunteered to be the sexiest girl’s servant at all cost. At least I know that what I would do too. And there is one thing you should learn for the next Pure Illusion trip Cocona and Papika: make the hole on the ground, that’d save you a lot of trouble.

I have mentioned last week that I think Cocona and Papika both the represent the dual side of girlhood. Well, I still stand by that because the theme of duality is still going strong here. Cocona was manipulated to fight against Papika because she’s unsure about her shelf, she wants to break out from that shelf (the feeling of wanting to punch Papika). Moreover, sexuality theme again popped up here, last week it was to control your desire, this week lust is hindered everywhere, from that infamous dark scene, to the fact that the fragment is located in Cocona’s thigh; and isn’t it the girl’s transformations represent their ultimate purity? Also, their hair change to other’s counterpart colors after transformation, and their transformation names Pure Blade/ Pure Barrier support that duality theme as well, as do you see any fighter without either blade or shield? Also, it is interesting to note that the FlipFlap organization is designed as some kind of broken down lab sciences, while with the other organization, it looks like a cultish group. Kinda huge leap from the groups that share the same objectives don’t you think?

Here’s one of my theory about the nature of Pure Illusions. It might represent the state of mind, the characteristics of one particular characters. In the first episode it’s Cocona’s version, as a result we have a winter snowy landscape (because she’s coldhearted), no people around (because she’s lonely). In the second episode it’s Uexkull’s, so the girls transform into bunnies, the colors are overloaded (indicates that it isn’t human visions). If we follow that sense then this episode is from the characteristic of Papika, which kind of make sense because of her hotheaded nature (desert), her outgoing traits (this is the first Pure Illusion world that we have other people, other races, and more spectacularly they are not one but 3 races), and the red desert that align with her hair colors is a dead giveaway. But I agree that this is kind of stretching the idea and somehow if they have indeed done it that way then I feel they are limited to themselves. The fun here in Flip Flappers is to sit back and enjoy the imaginary washes over you, and you just keep your eyes peeled and follow their sense of madness logic because you know it gonna be a fun ride.  I have fastened my seatbelt, now take me to wherever you want to go, Flip Flappers!!!

Posted on 20 October 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Sound! Euphonium 2

This week, we follow an almost 24 hours of Kumiko practicing music, Kumiko interacting with other members, Kumiko having a sleepless night in a band camp, and that’s basically it. In a very Sound Eupho’s way of storytelling, there seems to be not much going on, but this episode actually lays a lot of groundworks for the future drama of this season. This is essentially a set-up episode, but boy; does the execution shine through that make me completely hooked.

First, let me talk about Kumiko as a protagonist first. The show tells the story squarely through the point of view of Kumiko. It literally means that she appears in almost every moment of the show. We follow her every step, we see what she sees, we hear what she thinks. It’s actually a huge burden on her character, because if she’s not interesting enough, we will have a hard time getting on with her behaviors and thus could potentially bring the show down. Moreover, unlike most main characters in that situation who usually drive the plot themselves, Kumiko is passive. She was dragged to join the musical band, and then got swept away by the enthusiasm of the band. She’s even insensitive with the feeling from her surrounding, like she flat out rejected Shuichi (her childhood friend who also plays on the band), or never seems to comprehend Reina’s thoughts. Yet I believe she carries her roles very well. She has that cynical side of her, and her flat delivery (kudos to the voice actress here) both reflects really well her personality, and somehow adds charm to her character. She’s not a perfect person and that precisely why she’s believable in a way actual people behave.

Most of the drama this episode heads towards Yoroizuka’s issues (an emotionless girl). Although everyone agrees that her oboe skills are excellent, she can’t express herself very well. That problem echoed her confessions to Kuniko last week: that she doesn’t know why she keep competing, even though she’s clearly not enjoy playing anymore. In addition, when Kumiko confronts the always-scary Asuna, it is then revealed that the main reason Asuna refused Nozomi from coming back was because of Yoroizuka. She gets sick when hearing Nozomi’s sound and she can’t seem to operate when Nozomi is around. I suspect this was because of Nozomi’s very promise (to win a competition in high school) that put Yoroizuka in a trance, but I’m sure we’ll know the answer in next episodes. The message here is clear: Yoroizuka needs to open herself up in front of Nozomi, that coming event will both decide if Nozomi gonna be back to the band, and Yoroizuka’s solo performances issues. Neat tricks, Sound Eupho! Suddenly everything tied up to a neat package.

Upon seeing Niiyama (the female instructor) together with Taki-sensei, Reina, feeling insecure, couldn’t stop herself to ask for their relationship. This is for me the only clumsy part in this episode, as it feels very forced the way Reina stormed through everything to ask Taki about his affairs. Again, Kumiko is the one who get the real info dump: Taki had been married but his wife passed away sometimes ago. Taki almost gave up on music after that, but eventually he decided to teach music in this high school. Remember last week when he mentioned with a smile that he has no family right now so he spends most of his times for works? This competition training is a way for him to get his head out of his trauma. That’s a good character’s development and I’m amused to see how the show develops this little drama to its full extend. But please don’t make Reina confessing her affection to him. I just dislike it if the show goes to that path.

From last season, the question of pushing the band into competitive level has been addressed many times (pushing the band into competitive level means that those who play music just for pleasure will be left out. Hard but true), in this season again those questions become a central theme: Is competition fair at all? Do the players really enjoy competition? Kumiko receives different opinions from her peers, they are after all depend on each player’s perspectives. Yoroizuka explains that competition is to unfair, because all the hard works are being judged by something intangible: gold; silver; bronze; ranking, and playing competition is a pain for her. Later, when she asks Yuko (a girl who adored Kaori) that very same questions, she argues that trying to become better is worth more than doing nothing (like last year’s drama), but the competition assigns superiority (I like how she described it!) means that most of the time the end results justify the mean. Lastly, Reina says that she likes competitions and only winners get to say that judging music using ranking is worthless, because if losers say that they are nothing more than, well, sore losers. Those arguments all make sense and I’m glad that the show goes that far to explore different angles from the girls. This is a very solid Sound Eupho episode because they successfully plant all the drama seeds for this season, now let wait and see for all those seeds to blossom.

Posted on 19 October 2016 with categories: Anime Reviews, Orange, Reviews by SuperMario

What would you do if you receive letters from your future-self saying that you can change your future? That’s exactly what Naho experienced as she obtains ones from herself 10 years later that urge her to look after her new friend and prevent him from committing suicide. The premise, I agree, is hardly anything groundbreaking, but it functions well as a romantic drama anime. And orange is exactly that: a romantic drama anime. We have tons of romance developing between the leads Naho and Kakeru, and even more time focusing on the depression of Kakeru and the group’s attempt to save him.

The very central theme of orange is the sense of regret. Kakeru always feels regrets over his mother suicides, blaming himself for what happened and the thought of continue to live on proved to be too much for him. Moreover, it’s the adult counterpart that hold that same sense of regrets and griefs towards what they could do in the past for Kakeru. If they were more attentive, they could’ve realized his inner struggles. If they helped him out when he needed the most, chances were, he could’ve survived. Should’ve known better. It’s that regret sense that carry the weight in Naho’s, and eventually Suwa’s and the rest of the group’s actions and make their efforts feel grounded and genuine.

But that’s not to say that their efforts were executed flawlessly. The show’s at its best when the group confronts Kakeru to say out loud his issues, to really share his troubles to his dear friends. Kakeru always puts up a mask in order to cover his troubles, mostly because he believes he could drag the group down, and partly because he fears that he’d be rejected. By making him to be honest to himself, he knows that he can rely on his friends and that’s what save him in this new timeline. But orange feels forced whenever the group tries to recreate a perfect happy time for Kakeru; be it their fireworks night, his birthday, their relay match. Although those moments come from good intention, I can’t help but feel uneasy the way the group manipulates the outcomes so that little Kakeru always feel happy. Is it fair for the guy to receive too much without give anything away? Is that selfless love that you protect your loved ones from being hurt really the best possible outcomes? Hell, NO.

Although Kakeru and Naho share some good romantic moments together, it is Suwa who become the show’s best character. He’s in a complex situation since he decides to support the leads all the way, despite his own feeling for Naho. Sound cliché I know, but what make his character works is that Suwa is an observant, sensitive and highly emotional intelligent than the rest of the group. On the other end of the spectrum, Ueda is really a bad-written character. Orange clearly doesn’t think too highly of her, so the show frames her in a biased and negative light, it’s sad because whenever she appears on screen, she becomes a sore thumb to an otherwise solid cast. The rest of the cast share a natural, lively and effortless chemistry, but they are not the deepest bunch of characters you will ever witness. In fact, in the second half, the amount of time spent on the group trying to help Kakeru overwhelms their own character’s development.

In terms of production values, orange remains a very strange shoujo adaptation. The show has an above-standard quality in terms of direction. The director Hiroshi Hamasaki (who most famous for his Steins;Gate) elevates the show by his sensitive directing, which many scenes convey smartly the emotions the show want to make. The show, on the other hand, was done on a shoestring budget, as a result in a middle part the production values took a huge downfall, the characters are often off-model and those insignificant parts are treated equally messy and off-putting to the point that it brings the whole production down. This is a shame because this is a kind of budget that orange doesn’t deserve to have.

Despite a huge leap in quality, orange at least ends in high note, as the conclusion successfully ties up loose end and gives up a satisfying emotional ride. With the main theme about trying your best in order to have none regrets, it’s more about the ride, how to get there rather than the results, yet I have a feeling that orange focuses too much on the outcomes. To say all that, the ending was executed fairly well that I’ll complain no more. Overall, despite the huge decline in terms of production values in the middle part, and some thematic issues, orange is what it is- a solid entry of shoujo romance drama anime. Anyone who expect more from it will end up being disappointed.

Posted on 17 October 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Occultic:Nine

After a disastrous first episode that has likely pushed away a number of viewers, Occultic;Nine decides to slow down it’s pacing to a more acceptable degree which is a good move. This does make the show much more watchable as the dialogue isn’t running off like a machine gun and we can actually take a moment to get invested in the plot and characters. However here comes another problem, namely the plot and characters. The actual story itself has some interesting points being it’s about a large cast of characters who all seem connected to the murder of an occult professor. But the way this show decides to tell this story is akin to a 5 year old on a sugar rush. It seems to be pulling inspiration from Narita’s Durarara and Baccano in that the story involves a large cast which the story switches between. However Narita’s characters were distinct enough to latch on to and he usually had his story in arcs with scenes that transitioned into each other with ease.

Occultic;Nine doesn’t have either of those things, it’s characters are visually distinctive but not personality distinctive. For one I actually confused the occult blogger with the boy detective that appeared at the start of this episode because besides one being a detective and the other not, they are basically the same character. A fast talking Otaku with short hair. Other characters have quirks but lack something to make them really stand out. For one Ryouka just seems like a less ditsy, much higher stacked version of Mayuri and by god if this…thing doesn’t make me question why I am watching this every time I see it. I am hardly a man who values realism in my anime but I have a hard time believing breasts of that size don’t snap this girl’s spine in two when she stands upright, let alone while dancing around the room. To me, too much of anything good or bad can turn something grotesque. However seeing how much fanart she has got already, perhaps my opinion is in the minority.

Generally in a TV episode there are two plots running. An A plot and a B plot. The A plot is generally the main draw and the B plot acts as less important story to give time in between acts. Occultic;Nine on the other hand has an A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H plot running in parallel and never give you time to breath. There’s the blogger who stumbled on a murder and is ordered to put out a tooth which is actually a hidden key.(Look at that screenshot up there, think that can fit in a human gum? Short answer, no. Long answer, HA! Hell no.) There’s a detective who is investigating the murder and is involved with some secret organization.(Good thing he erased the victim’s last dying message where he wrote “CODE” as if the police saw that it would surely give away…something. I mean what code are we talking about here? C++? JAVA? Python?) There’s a girl who has a business of cursing people with some demonic entity she has with her. There’s a girl who tells fortunes on the internet with daddy issues. That same girl and another girl are testing Curse girl’s abilities. There’s a guy with daddy issues. There’s another story about a girl who was so obsessed with her brother that she lived with his corpse. There is just far far too much going on here and none of it is given the time needed to really flesh it out.

It’s just a hailstorm of events thrown at the viewer without cohesion. And if that sounds like a complete narrative mess already then it only gets worse for believe or not, these events are not even thrown at you in order. Much like this series jumps between characters without warning, it also happens to jump to different times and you may not have even realised it. It’s hard enough piecing together just what is happening without having to worry about when it is happening as well and I certainly say this, for the love of god fire the director. Maybe if you hire someone who has an idea of what he is doing this mess can be salvaged but that of course would only be temporary. I know how this writer works and I know that whatever explanation for everything going on here is going to be utterly nonsensical and mind numbingly stupid. But hey, i am in this for the long run so throw whatever you got at me Occultic;Nine, you may even surprise me.

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