Posted on 19 November 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Sound! Euphonium 2

After spending the first half of this season for second year drama and the regional Kansai competition, it’s only natural for Sound Eupho to turn their focus on the third-year students now. After all, National competition will be their last performance, so there’s a lot of meat to invest on. Now we know more about Asuka’s issues, her mother is an uptight parent who wants her to concentrate more on the entrance exam and forces her to quit the band. Apparently, her mother thinks the band is just a distraction towards whatever goals she wants Asuka to achieve because she “knows” what is best for Asuka. Well, I don’t need to point out the problem with this attitude, instead I’ll tell you a story that I know in RL. A friend of my friend (so I don’t personally know her) had her parents divorced when she was young and her mother forbid her to meet the father out of her own hatred. In high school, she decided to secretly meet her father by telling her mom she’d walk home that day and planned to meet him in front of school’s entrance. Unfortunately, her mother spied on them so as soon as the two met, she detested by jumping into the running car and of course that event scarred the girl for life (true story!). My point is this, when parents dictate their child into such extreme without considering the child’s own feeling (the same case here with Asuka), things bound to get more disturbing. There’s still something that only hinted very slightly in this episode about Asuka and her mom’s relationship. Her mom tells her that Asuka playing instrument is to get back at her, it might mean that Asuka’s father also played instruments before. We don’t know either what Asuka wanted to talk to Natsuki about, but really the way she acts like nothing wrong happened even though everyone knows how dire her situation has been actually signaled that she’s in deep trouble right now, and I know things will get worse later on.

Haruka and Kaori likewise have a good amount of development this week. Despite being a band president, it’s obvious that Asuka has more of an influence band members than Haruka and even she knows that she isn’t leader material. But that’s not to say that she isn’t a good leader and this episode really articulates well her characters and her personal struggles. First, the absence of Asuka leaves a bad mood to the band, so for once she stands up in front of the band and asks them to trust the senpais and keep moving on. It wasn’t a very good speech (but she’s never a good speaker to begin with), but it was the right timing to encourage the band to focus on their playing. Moreover, she was asked by Taki-sensei to performing solo, which of course made her nervous. She’s always good at staying behind the scene and supporting the band, so to become a center of attention isn’t really her thing. But she has grown too. She has grown to start embracing the leader role, be more comfortable with her own self-esteem, and that solo part really shows how far she has developed as a character throughout the series.

Now, to the time shift “one month has passed since Asuka stopped coming to the band”, it’s nice for Sound Eupho to focus on a specific narrative issue, but for me the show has always shined on making the band club as real and relatable as possible, and that included the messiness in narrative. In real life, issues and events come as random as the weather, some issues we already anticipated beforehand, some we don’t. That is why I really enjoyed the randomness and messiness of last weeks’ many dramas, because it feels like the very world we live in. Now, we just passed a month without any real moments, in expense of showing Asuka’s issues, and that take away the “real life” the show has built up to. I mean what’s about Kumiko’s relationship with her sister at that time? What about any other band member’s interactions? This is not their fault obviously as shows need to have focus drama and I frankly would do the same if I were in their position, but the point being I hope that they don’t push up the drama in the sacrifice of the naturalness of the show.

Everyone who watching this show know that the production values are overall top notch, even comparable to the quality of feature length movies; but here I want to press how attentive to details this show is. I’m not the man who judge the quality of the music played by the band, but by reading analysis from someone who used to play in an actual concert band (I’ll give you the links if you guys ask for it), most of the musical was played correctly, even down to the fingering, the notes they play, the position of the hands and bodies were all executed perfectly, and for me that’s just insane. KyoAni not simply done their research, but it feels like they animating the real concert band performing. The more I read about how correctly each segment played, the more I am blown away. Imagine they made it right for the whole 10-minutes performance by all the instruments played, now imagine they even got it right when the band practiced throughout this one and a half series-length. As it become a norm that the production quality would drop significantly towards the middle part in anime world, KyoAni’s consistency towards the quality, plus their willingness to get ever minor details right that frankly put other productions into shame. They set a high standard on how production quality should be and I don’t think there is many productions out there that could come close to it.

Posted on 15 November 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Magical Girl Raising Project

Hardgore Alice really lucked out in regards to Magical girl abilities as he pretty much has the perfect ability for making her the most dangerous thing in this battle royale. I do wonder what happens to her phone though when she gets ripped to shreds. Calamity Mary’s whole gauntlet of trying to kill Alice. She quite literally tried everything in regards to killing her from encasing her in concrete to trying to dissolve her in acid. Either way it looks like Calamity Mary’s ability is being able to pull out any weapon she needs. I at least appreciate that Mary liked Magicaroid enough to actually seek revenge for her death and Fav is certainly showing that he’s willing to bend the rules as long as he gets something in return. Mary didn’t specify just what job she would do for Fav for the information on Hardgore Alice but it could be related to her calling out Ripple at episodes end.

We also get a look into a character’s backstory. I originally thought it was Calamity Mary seeing as the entire first half was dedicated to her but it seems that it was instead Ripple, the Ninja magical girl who hangs out with Top Speed. I do like Ripples style as her backstory was gearing up to be a typical abused child story but she’s got moxie. The characters around her are playing the usual fair of being bullies why too obnoxious to be considered believable but the minute they go too far she shows them she ain’t going just let them walk over her. Especially love how she dealt with her mother’s new husband. I was really dreading the direction that was going but the minute the man showed his intent Ripple was like “Oh, hell no!”, kicked his teeth in and announced that she was going to live on her own. I have serious respect for this girl but it’s clear she doesn’t hold her mother in high regard. In some ways she may be seeing Top Speed as a kind of surrogate mother as she does tend to act like one. I doubt Top Speed gave Ripple her real age as she did mention drinking alcohol and Ripple pointing out that she would be underage for it as well.

Of course if you were following the trend of deaths so far then it’s a safe bet to assume that Ripple is the next one to die. After all, anyone who gets a flashback is generally the one to end up dying in this show. I would like for the show to break this pattern and instead have someone else get taken down because unpredictably would be a great asset to this show and that’s sadly getting ruined by how telegraphed the deaths are. It’s also sad that most of the people who die are those with the most development so far. I think characters are starting to get fleshed out a tiny bit in the case of Swim Swim, Alice and Mary. Through not really enough to make me care whether they live or die. Though I must admit that I find Alice’s current relation to Snow white interesting. Snow’s clearly terrified of her but Alice seems to genuinely want to help her. After all she did spend six years of her live to buy that rabbit’s foot only to give it to Snow White. Her nature does make her seem suspicious and pretty dangerous, especially the stiff undead movements. However I am guessing Alice is a Snow White fanboy(Confirmed to be a girl by last week’s mid card which pointed out that she lives with her aunt and loves stuffed bunnies.), and considering her abilities she would certainly make for one fantastic ally for this Battle Royale.

 

Posted on with categories: Currently Watching:, Drifters

Well those soldiers deserved to die much more unpleasantly but at least the deed is done. Though I do find it interesting in how Oda interfered with their execution to prevent Toyohisa from giving the order to kill them. The funny thing is that this effort didn’t seem to be made in order to save Toyohisa the guilt of killing unarmed men or to save the men but instead Oda wanted to take on the dirty job of killing them so the act wouldn’t sully Toyohisa’s position when Oda pushes him to become the leader. Much to Oda’s dismay, Toyohisa hands the reigns of leader over to the elfen chieftain on the grounds that if he did lead the elves, then eventually the time would come when their arrows would be aimed at him. Though regardless they look to be playing a pivotal role in the army. In other surprising revelations, it turns out that the master race bigots of Orta was set up by Hitler. HItler can’t seem to be satisfied with screwing one world up, he has to go and wreck another. We won’t be seeing a climatic battle between evil Jesus and anti-hero Hitler(…I actually kinda want to see that.) as according to the Octobrist agent, Hitler has once again killed himself. It’s up for debate whether he did genuinely kill himself or if he was more likely assassinated. Still I did see someone theorize that perhaps when seeing that he was repeating history he decided to off himself which I find a more poetic end. It is rather funny that none of the Drifters recognise Hitler because he was after their time.

Speaking of Drifters I think the roster has a bit too much Japanese representation. We got a grand total of five Japanese representatives on the drifters side with the main trio, the fighter pilot and the navy admiral. The ends even have two Japanese figures and from the looks of it the Octoberist leader looks to be another Japanese figure. There are other historical figures that I really think are unrepresented in media. For one I think Admiral Yi would have made for a better sea commander and I would have loved to see famed Finnish Sniper Simo Hayha, Aka The White Death who would make a perfect counterpoint for Anatasia of the ends. And if you were going to pick any World War II fighter pilot then why not Erich Hartmann? I feel he would be a much more interesting choice than Kanno Naoshi. But who know, maybe later in the story they might show up. Not sure what to think about the transvestite count that’s shown up in Orta, for one I find it odd that Hitler would choose to work with such a guy and he seems to be mainly a comic relief character in a story where the comedy is certainly falling flat. Overall I don’t see him as much of a worthwhile addition at this point as at most he has pointed out that Orta seems to be doomed that’s to overextending its armies which I believe was also a mistake that Hitler made in WWII as well. The black king drops more hints to him being Jesus by referencing Jesus cursing a fig tree for being barren(Got to admit, not his most graceful miracle.) and it looks like Joan the pyromaniac is coming to take on the Drifters. Considering their army is just getting set up this likely won’t end well.

Posted on 14 November 2016 with categories: 3-gatsu no Lion, Currently Watching:

Okay, I think I need to let this out first: What is that screenshot right at the end of preview chapter? I know some other mangaka draw this (Like Miura did in the first episode), but this image of big boob Akira is totally inappropriate with the show. This is a total disaster if you ask me.

This episode takes an unflinching look into the mind of Rei again, but unlike last week where the events were already happened in his past, this episode concentrates squarely on his inner thoughts: on how he perceives the world. The main strength of 3-gatsu no Lion has always been the way the show dig deep in Rei’s insecure self, and this episode really takes a step deeper and darker. While his past is certainly tragic and compelling, if the show relies too heavily on his past to draw sympathy from us, it won’t go anywhere because Rei doesn’t progress. Instead, this episode focuses on Rei’s attitude towards the past and how it affects him even now. Kyouko abusive voice again lingers in his heart, basically devalued his self-worth, but the sad thing is he’s submitted to it. He’s afraid that he doesn’t belong anywhere, this again reflects on his complicated relationship with shogi. Last week, we learned that he chose to play shogi not because he loved it, but because he wanted to spend more time with his father, and later as a ‘contract’ to get out of his trapped life; this week he sheds another light to it: he’s into shogi as a place where he feels himself belong to. But does he really feel belonging? As he continues to swim over countless waves to reach its destination, he begins to lose sights on the big world around, on his next stop. He reaches the island, he reaches his goals but now too afraid to make any more move. That is one hell of depressing thought.

The introduction of Touji Souya, a current meijin (one of the most prestigious title in shogi) serves as a great reference to Rei. The two of them share many things in similar: they are both become shogi professional shogi player when they were middle schools (the 4th and 5th people who do so), and their playing styles are strikingly similar as well. All those players who became professional in middle schools would all later become masters (including Souya), and that made Rei feel pressure towards those “achievements” that the shogi world expected of him (curiously enough when you realize his adoptive father never really give him that kind of pressure). His recent losing streak certainly brings him down and that again made him afraid whether or not he’s worth it. Well, that kind of pressure is not what he needs to care, but thankfully the teacher Hayashida was there to cheer him up. He, along with the three sisters, are the friends that Rei really need to bring him out of his depressions. I am really amazed that the show goes this far to bring out the dark inside Rei, we get to know him better and better now and he becomes one of the most fully realized characters that I’ve encountered in recent years. Thank you Chica Umino!

Speaking of her, I think I need to address on the comedy of this show. Many people complain that the comedy is the weakest part of the show, but for now I interpreted it differently. When you really think about it, for a quiet, slow coming-of-age story, voicing over the cats (and dogs) don’t really make much sense, but here it’s working. The thing is those light moments aren’t supposed to be humorous, or to get chuckles from us, but they serve as a cute, light-heart moments to balance out the dark, heavy inner Rei. There are some comic relief moments, sure, but their main objectives are to contrast with the lonely world of Rei, not for comedic effect; thus to judge it based on its poor ‘comedy’ doesn’t really ring true for me, because it isn’t strictly a comedy.

Lastly, this episode is a perfect example to dissect how well Shaft adapting this manga. When you really look at it, Shaft is one of the most unlikely studio to adapt this story. Of course Shaft is talented enough to bring the right pace and feel to the story, but being Shaft, sometimes they have to make somethings stand out. And stand out is the worst enemy for this kind of slice-of-slice show. With this episode, their marks are all over the place with varying degrees. When Shaft dwell into the mindscape of Rei, the visual language is easily the most striking 3-gatsu no Lion could ever have achieved. A small figure swimming in a dark red ocean, or the very next scene when Rei arrived in a blue island, are Shaft at their finest and those choices fit the theme perfectly. The close-up shots while in a conversation between characters and the head-tilts, on the other hand, are distracting the flow of the story and standing out too much and that were rather mediocre choice. All these cutesy moments are hit or miss at the moment: sometimes it works; sometimes not but I especially enjoy the sound designs of those sequences (like the part when Hina says something unintelligible “Zumomomo” and then run off). All in all, this episode got to be the darkest episode of 3-gatsu no Lion, as it never afraid to show the dark depressing side of Rei and for that I really appreciate it. Rei is a very flawed kid, but that’s exactly why he feels exactly like a human.

Posted on 13 November 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Occultic:Nine

Forgive me for my recent laziness in covering this series. I would like to give you a proper excuse as to why I have been slacking in my coverage of Occultic;Nine but in truth it really is due to a complete lack of interest in my part. My previous episodic reviews have been heavily negative and when tasked to yet again complain about how this show just isn’t interesting I find my motivation just isn’t there.I mean sure I could complain about how the blogger constantly tries to use the tooth key on every lock he finds when just looking at the lock itself would tell him if the key would fit. Seeing as the key is a lever lock type so using it on a lock clearly intended for a standard Pin tumbler lock key is just pure stupidity. There also isn’t any real need for him to find out what it unlocks in the first place as getting involved gets him closer to being arrested, though quite frankly it’s a miracle he hasn’t been arrested already. Then there is the professor who decided the best way to hide information was to fill in the dots on his ceiling to match baudot code and decided the best way to inform people of this was by writing code with his last breath?

One, isn’t there a much easier method of hiding information? Two, wouldn’t you run out of space on your ceiling if you have to write 256 names and some obscure number? Three, what is the point of writing 256 peoples names on your ceiling in the first place? If you want it found then use it to explain the entire situation to them. There’s no point in being obtuse with those whom you intend to have find the message. Then there’s the point of Ryo-tas being a complete worthless character and the detective kid who seems to only go up to people, talk nonsense for an extended period of time, reveal who he is, what he knows and then walks off having learned nothing. See…just pure complaining. Constant complaining is what these episode reviews would be and despite this I appreciated that the show was at least trying to repair the damage done from episode one and at least on some level trying to set up a coherent interesting mystery. Failing at it of course but at least trying. Then episode six happened and I felt compelled to write about this.

I am flabbergasted at what I have just witnessed as it is a repeat of the failings of episode one on a much grander scale. Sudden spitfire dialogue is back and the pacing is screwed to high heaven as we are overloaded with so much information that I wouldn’t be surprised if viewers were brain dead by episodes end. This episode wasn’t just a trainwreck be story standards but a visual trainwreck as well. The editing was scatterbrained and there are just decisions with have me confused as to why anyone in their right mind would consider it acceptable. We have one certain scene were the detective kid is once again acting coy, then shooting off what he knows only to run off having learned nothing. Yet when he is explaining everything he’s investigating, for a straight minute and ten seconds the camera spins in place.

It’s disorientating, annoying and has nothing to do with what the scene is trying to convey. Most of the episode followed a pattern of slow pans that when on for far too long follow by a sudden influx of jarring shot changes. Episode five had an equally weird moment of when the blogger walked into the professor’s room and for some reason they flipped the camera upside down. To highlight the ceiling? Then why follow that with 90 degree flips and having proceeding shots being slanted. What on earth is that supposed to convey? The director seems to be experimenting with shot style but frankly there are certain rules on how to set a scene for a reason. Breaking the 180 degree rule tends to leave the viewer disoriented and considering how much you are demanding they keep up with here that is a serious fault.

So suddenly we have we have Kotoribako and if you have no idea what that is then don’t expect to know by episode’s end as the first minute and a half proceeds to shove information about it down your throat at the velocity of a rocket. Suddenly this thing which was never mentioned before has become the centerpiece of the plot. This is giving serious deja vu of how the D-Swords hijacked the plot of Chaos;Head.(All that stupid nonsense for what is essentially a crappy Zanpakuto) Anyway we also have a sudden Illuminati that has also never been mentioned appear and start pointing out how the mass drowning was some attempt to create some kind of human Kotoribako and….sorry if I didn’t quite get it as my brain was really genuinely struggling to keep up with the sudden influx of information. Either way I don’t think it makes any sense. The creepy boy also seems to be creating some human Kotoribako while mouthing off the defense of infancy as an excuse as to why he can’t be held accountable for murder.

Thing is that defense only works the murderer in question doesn’t have the emotional maturity to determine the wrongness of the act. Considering that the first thing you do when confronted is mouth of the defense of Infancy that clearly shows you do know what’s wrong about the act therefore rendering your excuse complete moot you idiotic troglodyte. But hey he’s a demon child or whatever so it doesn’t matter either way. Thus we have the final twist of the episode and it’s the big one that it’s apparently been building up to. The twist is that….everyone’s dead! Yes, it appears the majority of the cast has been dead all this time and I just…really can’t care anymore. This is one of those twists which upon reveal seems shocking and interesting but when you sit down and really think about it the less sense it actually makes. I don’t know what this show is trying to accomplish anymore and it just seems folly to even try. I plan to finish it but my episode reviews may be more sporadic in regards to it. As you can see, my enthusiasm is at rock bottom when it comes to this.

Posted on 11 November 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, Flip Flappers

This episode was magnificent. I always know that Flip Flappers is capable of being inventive, but I’d never have thought that they can pull an episode that emotional satisfying, while never swing away from its main adolescence theme. Moreover, the execution is both awe-inspiring and ambiguous. Seriously I think this series is like a stairway to dreamland, with each step we reach a new high bar and the ambition is getting higher and higher. What’s await us in the destination then? Hell if I know but I am enjoying in every steps they made so far.

First, I actually think it’s a very good idea of Flip Flappers to use its transformation sequence as a transition between the real world and Pure Illusion worlds. We don’t really follow their every Pure Illusion world either so the creators have more freedom to put on whatever they like. In this Pure Illusion for example, Cocona and Paprika have to fight with the multi-eyes spider-inspired monster with its colorful threads, but the important bit is what come afterwards. For the first time, there is an abnormality in this Pure Illusion world – there is an entrance to someone’s memory (So, what exactly is Pure Illusion anyway? Someone’s streams of consciousness? And the fragment? Their memories?); and the rest of the episode goes to completely different fashions than previous ones, instead of seeking for the fragments, they digging deep into someone’s consciousness.

The theme of identity again is apparent in this episode, as the two girls both play the same person: Iro the kid and the plot involves her trying to get her name remembered again. That kid doesn’t have an ideal family life to say the least. Her parents just plainly neglect her, she’s confined in her room, where she keeps drawing as passing time. They even go too far as commenting her drawing “weird”, discourage Iro to paint. She finds herself happy with another parental figure: Obaa-chan (hmm, I can draw a line between this Obaa-chan and Cocona’s grandmother here), who spends the time with her, cares for her and teaches her happiness. The fear of losing someone dear to you because they forget who you are (the theme of insecurity) is pretty poignant. The symbolism of nail polish is pretty dominant in this episode. Nail polish, apart from being closed to oil-painting; is also a part of growing up, when at that stage one start to grow self-esteem and attractiveness. I say this episode’s main message is about kid’s development through family issues and the story about Iro and Obaa-chan alone is solid enough on its own because of its emotional resonance.

But the execution is what make this episode stand out. By making Cocona and Papika keep changing roles (but we mainly followed Cocona’s narrative), this episode both maintains its dreamlike structure, and speak well to the theme as well. There are always two versions of young Iro life: an orange-heavy, happy life with Obaa-chan and the blue, almost empty world in her house. Whenever she feels blue, herself painted in blue, as did the world around her (the world has consumed her). The highpoint of this is when she realizes that Obaa-chan forget about her, she turns into blue while the surrounding is still orange bright, stressing her confusion and sadness. The sequence that show her parents in a really trippy, Masaaki Yuasa-inspired art style with very rough, scratchy designs is another highlight of this episode. God, apart from the show usual experiments with colors, this episode shows their willingness to experience with the art styles as well, and boy how it paid off.

Overall, I had believed that the show could never top last week’s quality but it succeeded. This episode has to be the most heartfelt moments Flip Flappers ever commit itself to. Paprika and Cocona’s journeys proved to be everything I could ask for in an adventure: inventive and ambiguous but never forget to be fun and entertaining and always stay true to itself. Remember I said that I have my title for AOTY? Well, at this rate Flip Flappers has a real shot to challenge that top spot.

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

After the performance in the Kansai competition, we get to a breather episode this week, meaning that there is no actual band training this week, instead we have school festival (geez, how many KyoAni’s school festivals have we witnessed already) and a stormy night where many things happened. Apparently, the show moves to the next arc of the season (we have a full color opening now. Love it), so it’s time for the show to focus on more characters’ development, and there are handful of character’s development to be found in this episode.

Now, let’s talk about Asuka first. Since the last few episodes we’re getting closer to the real Asuka, as there were many instances she dropped her mask and even said out loud what she really thinks. She might be one of the most complex characters in this series (the way she hides her real personality deep down inside), but that doesn’t mean she’s the most interesting characters out there. If the show fails to bring us into her perspective, we have nothing but the cheery, annoying fake Asuka. It’s about goddamn time now to get into her character arc. From the look of it, there seems to be a woman (presumably her mother) who might be the key to open Asuka’s inner mind. She has that strict look so I’m guessing without context for now that she doesn’t like Asuka to spend time playing in the band and that lead to Asuka having some responsibility issues, but I’m sure we will get the real answer soon enough. From what we did know about her characters though, she has a cynical outlook to everything and it’s always a question whether she really cares about the band and the performance at all. At the moment, it becomes clearer that she concerns about the performance and wanted to try her best for her last high school competition. Look like next episode will focus on her issues and I really hope the show will take proper time to heighten the drama, not to resolve it too quickly like that Yoroizuka arc. Speaking of which, am I the only one who found Yoroizuka’s affection to Nozomi very unhealthy? And after all that big talk from Yuuko about the problems of leaning too much to Nozomi, and that Yuuko treats her like real close friend (unlike Nozomi), she just basically devoted herself to Nozomi? (oh, and Nozomi seems to be back to the band without any more fuss. Good for her). Talking about creepy!!

Taki-sensei also get a good amount of development this week, as we realize how much he still loved his wife and where his determination come from. It’s good to see that Hashimoto-sensei and Niiyama-sensei back to help the club band as I mentioned before that they can still support Taki and through them we can know more about the past of Taki, but their immediate return made the whole farewell sequence last week feel rather pointless. The teacher himself sure doesn’t feel at all comfortable to talk about his wife or his past, and his conversations with Kumiko later in the car; while awkward, still deepen his narrative. There are only hints throughout this episode but it seems like this is Taki and his wife’s anniversary day, so even with the typhoon on its way, he still puts on his wedding ring and goes out the storm to buy her flowers. Even later when Sapphire conveniently points out the meaning of those flowers, the message is still beautiful. He, more than anyone else, really wants to take the National golds for his late wife and now understand that we can root for him. But still chasing the ghost is kind of problematic itself, right? Talking about problematic, yeah they really go for Reina’s affection to Taki. While admiration is certainly more of the case here, she’s actually capable of pushing things too far and I don’t really like that direction at all. Feel like she’s smashing her head against thick wall in this case.

And finally, this episode gives some more conflicts to our main heroine as well. I’m really glad that Shuichi is back (well, he never actually gone) after a rather muted last arc. The relationship between Kumiko and Shuichi still in its awkward phase, which is fairly normal for kids with opposite sex that age. Kumiko might be insensitive towards Shuichi, but she actually needs some interactions with boys (especially at friends level) once in a while. Focus too much on training and girls will do you no good Kumiko. I love their brief time together so I hope we will get to see more of them. Secondly, her home drama seems to take its turn now as her sister declared that she’s quitting college for reason yet to explain (well she doesn’t need to explain to be honest). As I had been through uni I know that the drop rate is always high and many of my friends eventually dropped out so this gives me no surprise. But it will affect Kumiko as she always looks up to her sister and now with this happen they get themselves into high-tension mode. It’s good to shake things up a bit for our Kumiko so I don’t mind some little drama and romantic plot revolving around her.

Sounds like I have complained a lot in this episode but truthfully I enjoyed the hell out of it. As a breather episode, there is not a lot happening but I love how all the little dramas are set up. Sure, they feel unfocused at times but that is precisely why it feels like the world we live in (now the more I think of it the more I don’t like that Yoroizuka’s arc): randomness but ultimately true to life.

Posted on 9 November 2016 with categories: Currently Watching:, OVAs and Movies:, Zaregoto Series

Another NisiOisiN’s light novel series adapted by Shaft?

Count me in as I admit that Monogatari series is one of my beloved shows. Well, certainly one of the shows that I spend the most time with. I always love the writing of NisiOisiN, and I understand that many of his trademarks are not for everyone: his long, rather meaningless chatter banter; his sexual overtones and his rather oblivious main boy protagonist could easily turn readers off; but the things I love the most about his writing is that he cares for his characters, they are flawed people but they’re always growing, and his arcs have a tendency to end strong, indicate that he understands his stories well (something quite frankly I have my doubts on the majority of anime out there). Zaregoto appears to be his first writing efforts back when he was… 21 years of age and we already encounter many of his usual quirks here. Shaft adapting this anime meaning that we have a lot of impressionist backgrounds, scenes that call attention to itself and the visual switches freely depending on the mood of the scenes and most noticeable of all heaps of frantic editing. To say all that I’m not here to compare this one with Monogatari series (even if they have the same overall feeling and that male protagonist is so far another version of Araragi-kun), so I will try my best to shut any of the comparison from now on and just talk about Zaregoto. Now, let’s begin:

Zaregoto presents the many settings in which an unnamed protagonist (I, or li-chan) has to encounter and the mysteries he eventually has to resolve. This OVA will focus on the first book of the LN series, titled The Beheading Cycle: The Blue Savant and the Nonsense Bearer which take place in an isolated island, owned by the lady Akagami (who is cursed with a disease that cause people want to kill; as a result she was exiled to that island). If I have to comment on the characters of Zaregoto in this first episode, I’d say that they are completely over the top. After all, they are all geniuses to begin with. And of course, genius people all talk like their heads are in the clouds. The show followed our MC interact with each of them through a one-on-one fashion. Through his eyes, we have encountered 4 of them so far and each of them have their own voices. With this episode’s main focus is to introduce the cast members, they already add something to the overall picture. But like one of the character already addressed, what they appear so far isn’t their true self, or rather, what his current impressions about them are all wrong.

I’m rather curious on the notion of “genius” because firstly the cast members are exceptional in varying fields: one is an engineer, the others range from academic, chief, artist to fortune teller. They don’t really have anything in common except they’re extraordinary in what they do. In relation to others, they don’t really see eyes to eyes in most of things as the academic girl and the artist girl hated each other guts (and I love the irony in naming as of course the 7 chosen people among the chosen have to be named The Seven Fools, right?). Another interesting point around that notion of genius is in many instances, the blue hair girl Tomo is addressed as Blue savant. Now, in contrast to prodigy, savant is actually a developmental disability and most of people who have savant syndrome suffer brain damages. The most distinguished features between those two often are by their IQ. People who have savant syndrome has low IQ overall but they possess exceptional skills in other areas. Also, the first part of our MC talking with some strange woman is about that very theme of being genius: because they are a prodigy, they unintentionally trample others without knowing the consequences of those actions. The theme of genius is set up nicely so far so I’m eager to see how they make use of its theme in later episodes.

Shaft’s styles in this anime have been solid as expected. I actually like the wide ranges of worlds/ territories settings in Zaregoto and this setting of an isolated mansion is overall impressive. In some parts of this episode, Shaft uses panning shots to both keep the conversations as its main focus, but slowly shifts our attention to other characters. For symbolisms though, while I’m pleased to see each female characters have their own coloring (you can see for yourself in those screenshots), I’m not so sure the use of variations of chess in this episode. We know that the academic girl talks about shogi, but in the beginning scene the boy and that strange woman are sitting in a ordinary chessboard. Hmmm. Maybe our MC’s just meant to be a pawn in that chess? His clock was stopped at one time by someone and I think it could be an important detail for later episodes. Anyway, the big event (the murder) is yet to come so this episode mainly introduces the cast to us. In that vein, I’m quite satisfied with the execution of this episode. The only downside would be we have to wait for another month to catch up, but I have my fingers crossed that the wait is worth it.

Posted on 8 November 2016 with categories: Anime Reviews, Reviews by SuperMario, Thunderbolt Fantasy

Sometimes you dread for the current state of anime: high school settings, cute girls, fan-service jokes, idol madness… that you wish for once to see something different, and out of nowhere an oddball like this just pop up: a wuxia puppetry show influenced by Taiwanese glove puppetry written by Gen Urobuchi. The sheer fact that it was greenlit at all was mind-blowing enough, but the most absurd things was the audience it aimed: the anime medium. Because no matter how you look at it: this isn’t an anime at all. Well, not even an animation to begin with. I’m not going to detail about it as I already addressed it in my weekly post. The fact that this is a wuxia puppetry show already makes it a unique show among anime world and all the more reason to watch it. But on top of all that, the show’s writing and execution are really excellent and refreshing. If the show just relies on its gimmick of being a puppetry show, it will fall apart very quickly, but Thunderbolt Fantasy understands that their characters are the real stars of the show, so they spend a huge amount of them talking to each other, explore their philosophy of life and the campy dialogues are entertaining and humorous.

Set in a fictional Eastern Asia settings, the show tells a story of a merry band in the quest to retrieve a legendary sword that was stolen by Mie Tian Hai, a skilled swordsman with a history of black magic. Our MC Shang Bu Huan is a mysterious swordsman who came from another area, that’s why he doesn’t know much about this place and thus got tagged along to the quest by Gui Niao, a cool-head strategist and the bunch of misfits including the naive guardian girl, the One-Eyed archer, the young Spear-wielder, a demon necromancer and the bloodthirsty assassin. The group, each has their own unique appearance and personalities with different set of goals head up to the Seven Sins Tower, and there were double-crossing, triple-crossing, blood-splattering, heads rolling and even demons, undead, skeleton birds join in along the way. Indeed, half of these characters here are easily villains in other story and the fun here is to see their huge ego crashing with each other.

Because this is a puppetry show, there are many elements that you won’t find in other anime. The characters, for example, have very static faces. Especially when they are in close-up, it’s hard to tell apart what they are thinking because of the lack of expression in their faces, but this issue actually works in the show’s favor, for how else would one portrait a group that double-crossing is the norm? Second, the practical effects are truly what set it apart from other anime. There is little amount of action for a true-action show, but when the action kicks in, it’s a feast to the eyes. Bloods squirming all over, bodies blowing up, heads rolling that you can actually feel the weight of the blood dripping are refreshing to say the least. Lastly, I have to highlight the costume designs because they really go all in for the costumes to make the characters as distinctive and stand out as ever.

The characters themselves is easily the show’s best strength. Each character is elegantly designed and all of them have their own unique mannerism, assisted greatly by the use of puppetry, something that ordinary anime usually lack. My favorite characters in that vein is the demon lady Xing Hai, as whenever she talks, it feels like she’s singing and whenever she walks it feels just like she’s dancing. Like Mayoiga, those characters all have interesting traits and utterly over the top but here in this show they can actually get loose and carry the story. Like for example, the show spends half an episode for Sha Wu Sheng the Roaring Killer Phoenix challenging Mie Tian Hai (and then loose despite knowing it all), simply because these characteristics are unmistakably Sha Wu Sheng. In Thunderbolt Fantasy, those characters embrace their roles to the bitter end. As a main character, Shang Bu Huan is like our blank-state who unfamiliar to this world (like ourselves) and he’s being the most sensible person in this whole madness. I particular love his stunning reactions every time something absurd happens. Moreover, he bounces off other characters very well, creating a rather great chemistry between them and the dialogues maintain the campy sense that so entertaining to watch. There are pure gold moments throughout the series like when Shang Bu Huan talks to each member of the group to find their real motives, or simple quick remarks like “the temple smells offensive” or even “it’s already a sitting fight before the sword fight” because of course they’re too awesome to fight it normal way. Like a puppetry show, these characters are just there to perform their larger-than-life roles, but they perform it so well that I have a very good time following them.

But this show is not only about characters having fun, there is a theme for the show if you want to look deeper. The notion of the sword is both mentioned various times throughout the series and the show twists that notion around quite wonderfully. In this world, swords represent power of destruction. Mie Ting Hai seeks out the most famous sword because he believes his technique deserved the best. The demon Yao Tu Li was put to sleep for 200 years because of the sword. The characters kill off hundreds of people through their swords… As long as you are good at swords, you have the ultimate power in this world. But not for our two mains Shang Bu Huan and Gui Niao. In fact, the series showcases two extreme spectrums from Shang Bu Huan that go directly against with the above notion. The “sword’ that Shang Bu Huan always carries around is just a piece of wood painted silver, because he doesn’t want to cause more deadly troubles with the swords, but when in needed, he could pull out 36 legendary swords (that he said he was about to expose them, sly guy!) to send the monster to the black hole (quite literally!), Gui Niao also hates using swords as a mean of killing. The legendary sword that everyone seek in the end was destroyed meaninglessly.

Thunderbolt Fantasy is the most entertaining series you will encounter this year. Plain and simple. Urobuchi writing is excellent in this show, both leaving enough room for the group to act, and maintaining the plot that both is fast and unpredictable, but always makes sense and a lot of fun. It appears that we will have an entirely new cast on the second season, plus our mains Shang Bu Huan and Gui Niao and if that’s the case then I’m totally on board. After all, Shang Bu Huan’s only weakness is his trust towards people and Gui Niao happens to be the master of manipulation; so I’m eager to see how our MC get himself dragged into Gui Niao’s little scheme next time. Like this first season already demonstrated, the world is simply too small for the two of them.

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

Looks like this show has taken my previous advice and decided to up the kill count. This time we have two casualties.(Yes, two. Not three) The first is Shou, Koyuki’s protector who seems to have underestimated the fight he was in for and Cranberry has killed him. The fight itself I think could have had more flash to it which is something of a problem with all the fights in this series. Either poor direction or lacking animation make these fights less exciting that they should be but even then maybe the reason the fights are not engaging is that the characters just don’t have enough to them to make the fight exciting. In all honestly I seen this kids death coming the moment he swore to protect Koyuki but it really is a shame that he died just when Koyuki was considering him boyfriend material. If it’s one trait that this show needs to get rid off it’s showing flashbacks of characters who will die in the episode. Today’s episode had two flashbacks showing just who was going to die. The end of the episode showed that it would be to this shows benefit if the deaths were more unexpected as shown by hardgore Alice’s decapitation which really did catch me off guard. Still it looks like Alice lives up to her name and can survive having her head chopped off, making her a zombie magical girl. Well…it’s was bound to happen sometime and the sad thing is she isn’t the first one if you take Mahou shoujo of the end into account. But the ability to heal from wounds like that would be a serious boon in this battle and she should make for a good ally for Koyuki if that is her intent.

So Magicaliod was a homeless girl who just so happened to become a magical girl by using a second hand phone. It’s a pity she died this episode as I was just starting to like her but I guess that is a big fault in this show. Whoever gets developed also gets the axe. it’s nice to see Koyuki break out of her no violence policy and move in a more interesting direction. The girl needs to break out of being a dull character and start getting more interesting. Carnberry at least seems to have gotten more development as we learn that this elimination round was due to her and some contract she has with Fav. It’s possible she works at the company that makes the game or the game itself is some sort of magical construct. Either way it does seem like Fav’s intent is to raise strong magical girls and this whole ordeal is some kind of spartan training for something bigger. Overall I find his methods highly questionable as Snow white is at the top of the charts and she certainly isn’t what I would call powerful. Though Fav seems to be more interested in entertainment that his objective. I did like when he stopped adding pon to his sentences and his voice took on a layer of malice. Overall it seems this duo will prove to be the main antagonists for this particular arc but with Swim Swim still around that could change.

Speaking of Swim Swim, their group looks to have nabbed Fav’s latest offerings of special items in exchange for lifespan. These weapons are likely to give her team the edge while giving Koyuki a nice moral dilemma. It is interesting that she did in fact press the button to exchange five years of her life for weapon. If Swim Swim’s group hadn’t grabbed the item first she might have regretted that choice. But damn Swim Swim when for the 25 year one without hesitation. There is something seriously wrong with this girl and even she herself mentioned that it wasn’t that she wasn’t scared of losing what could be a quarter of her lifespan. Again it was her weird sensibility of following Rulers example. This is getting more interesting but this show does lack something to make it truly good. At the moment it is passable but the action scenes do lack impact, the characters don’t have enough development to make the situation compelling and the story so far has been a bit too predictable.

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