Posted on 28 February 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, Fate/Extra Last Encore

So we have basically established that the events of Fate/Extra’s game story did in fact happen as Maximilian has a flashback to the point where he lost in Fate/Extra’s game. So it is rather odd that I still can’t make much sense of the plot here. What I can gather is that he was somehow revived as this floors master and effectively decided to throw away his chivalrous attitude and focus on killing a master to advance up the floors. However because he is a previously deceased master he can no longer advance up the floors but Robin and him still kill masters because…then they don’t lose? What is this motivation here? Are you telling me these two killed people for a thousand years only because they were sore losers? Yep, I think it’s time to admit it. The honeymoon period is over and I have started to lose a lot of interest here. So far the main drawing point of this series has been the mysterious nature of it’s plot but there’s a point where it’s too hard to care about something when you end up with more questions than answers. Not to mention the mystery is primarily presented through massive amounts of exposition and the characters just remain uninteresting. The only other drawing factor is the action which once again has a servant be taken out anticlimactically by Nero. The way these servants just go down so fast has started me making a pet theory that they all have pretty much given up over the thousand years and just let nero win, which would be delightfully cathartic if that was the case. Nero has previously staged fights in her life where the fight was rigged so she would win and the idea of her victories in this war being nothing more than servants just letting her win would be so suitable. Ultimately meaning she’s not really that strong a servant and is just getting full of herself.

The annoying factor is that the fights so far have a great setting for a showdown with the Sniper battle with the master and Robin hunting in the woods are great setpieces for an epic battle. These floors make for explosive battlegrounds for these servants to wreak havoc and yet the battles often just feel like they are cut off too soon with no real satisfaction. Topped off with the fact that Nero is the only one in danger here as we have more or less established that Hakuno cannot be killed. His dead face powers are far too vague at the moment as it’s not even clear if he can activate them at will or why he’s keeping them secret from Nero. What these powers can even do is a mystery as he somehow materialized a gun to shoot max and I don’t know if that’s part of his powers or not. It doesn’t matter if Hakuno gets shot by Max, he won’t die so there no real tension. Sure Rani can die but quite honestly who cares about Rani? She was introduced last episode, has the emotional range of a teaspoon and has done nothing but spout exposition. Am I supposed to be sad when she gets shot and dies? But this could be another trend with this shows formula as I recall Rin being on the bottom floor as Shinji flooded the city, meaning she could be dead. But then who is the Rin at the end of this episode you ask? Well I have gotten fully on board with the Rin is Tamamo in disguise theory. Though I think that only applies to the Rin that traveled up the elevator with them and then mysteriously disappeared during the events of this little skirmish.

Regardless despite this info I just find myself rather…apathetic. Tamamo fans might rejoice if she shows up but I don’t particularly care if she shows up or not. Fanservice can only go so far and I need something to get me interested here. The characters are not doing it for me cause our main heroine has nobody to work off besides the soulless husk that is Hakuno and everyone else just feels like exposition devices. The action scenes are lacking so no eye candy to keep me interested either. My point is, I want to care. I want to like this show, I want it to not be as disappointing as the other non Ufotable Fates have been. I remember referring to UBW with disappointment during it’s airing but over time I think it did a better job than Apocrypha and Extra here. As far as I see it, this show needs something to grab my interest again, perhaps a new character to join our duo to make their interactions more fun to watch? Maybe give Hakuno a bloody personality? Perhaps an upgrade to the fight scenes? Or maybe we can stop being all mysterious here and start telling the audience just what in the holy hell is going on, or at least a framework that allows for us to start making theories. What I don’t want is another Nero bath scene, another encounter of the new master and servant antagonists only to be interrupted by some new random serventless master who takes in the two, followed by another barrage of barrels of exposition, with another anticlimactic final confrontation while leads to the elevator and wash, rinse, repeat. As a wise man once said, Variety is the spice of life.

Posted on 27 February 2018 with categories: Finished Series: Adventure/Fantasy/Science Fiction, Mahoutsukai no Yome

Hello and welcome another episode of Mahoutsukai. This week it makes the best of a bad narrative decision, introduces more tertiary characters and sprints through story arcs like nothing. Lets jump in!

Starting off, I am a bit disappointed in how quickly the auction/dragon bit was resolved. Its as if Mahoutsukai can’t let any given story or arc last longer then 2 episodes. At this point Mahoutsukai is less of a drama and more a “monster/problem of the week” type show. That might be an unfair criticism, as many drama such as Rakugo, Steins;Gate and Your Lie in April also lack the typical “arc” format. However in those the story always seems to make sense, it… it flows, for lack of a better word. One event always lead into the next. In Mahoutsukai just feels like its moving from one story beat to the next, trying to hit all the notes it can along the way, without considering how those beats link up. Regardless how good those stories are alone, they often don’t fit together well.

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Posted on with categories: Currently Watching:, Darling in the Franxx

Today on Darling in the Franxx…a beach episode. A beach episode. Really? I mean i suppose even one of my favorite shows, Gurren Lagann, had a beach episode but in that case the story wasn’t taking itself too seriously so it was fine. It even took shots at the concept by having the main fanservice girl go conservative and disappointing the crew. Here though, Darling in the Franxx can’t seem to find a level between being serious and not taking itself seriously. I mean we are in a mostly destroyed world where humanity lives in rolling plantations but there’s a small patch of land with foliage and a beach to have a beach episode. The group has swimsuits despite not having an ocean or a indoor pool at their birdcage. We have the boys getting all excited by swimsuits and asking about kissing, alongside confirmation of humanity abandoning cities to ruin and foreboding dark tidings. I feel conflicted on this show, truly. Based on what I have seen so far I can say it does have merit but alongside that merit is is the ridiculous and similarity.

I had to stop myself rolling my eyes at having the council of Papa Seele declare being surprised about Hiro being her partner(Despite evidence that was the case) and then declaring that Zero Two would bring him to the Grand Crevasse to start human instrumentality or whatever they are calling it in this one. These guys don’t really add anything, they just sit around, reference vague terms and twiddle their thumbs assuming that everything will work out exactly as planned with no effort on their part. Just like Seele. If they are to be here then let them have a presence or at least some meaning on the plots events. So far they are just there to justify the plot contrivance of not getting Hiro in the Franxx sooner.

Another issue potentially rears its head as I fear that this series may be on the verge of developing Kiznaiver syndrome. Wherein the plot is derailed by introducing various love triangles and troubles which proceed to dominate the show with frustrating love antics. In this episode i am already seeing a chart forming with various lines of who likes who. Kokoro appears to be forming feelings for Mitsuru while Futoshi clearly has a bit of a thing with her and Mitsuru seems to be forming some kind of trust between his old partner Ikuno. Zorome and Miku seem mutual though both wouldn’t admit it. Meanwhile Hiro digs Zero Two, Ichigo digs Hiro and Goro has pretty much confirmed that he likes Ichigo though seems unable to recognise his own heartbreak. We got a whole host of feelings and whatnot that could be easily escalated into teenage love troubles as people pine about senpai not noticing them while simutanously lacking the balls to take the indicative to confess. Made all the worse by these kids clear lacking sex education and you got a big boiling pot of teenage angst just ready to overflow. So I am hoping they take a more ambitious route instead of resorting to shipping wars. Like i don’t know? Start killing them off one by one? Ah even that might be a bit on the predictable side.

The most interesting aspect of this episode is the discovery of the town and the kids reaction to it. This could end up being these kids version of the data creature in From the new World, something which throws off their worldview. We do see Kokoro take a book that looks to be about raising babies so I am guessing that would lead to her getting some big questions. Zero Two appears to know the most about the situation and remarks about the city being abandoned. Note her choice of words isn’t evacuated but instead suggesting that humans willfully left the town to rot. Biggest theory I have now is of humans migrating to some sort of data like existence and abandoning physical living together. Hence what the kids protect are actually giant servers containing the virtual population. Thus these mecha pilot kids may be the only real true humans on the planet. These spects interest me about Darling in the Franxx and despite misgiving this could still go in a interesting direction provided the writer takes the opportunity. Though it’s still going to be hard to put forth a serious plotline when we got mecha controlled by female asses.

Posted on with categories: Currently Watching:, Junji Ito Collection

Well I don’t know what kind of production trouble hit Deen, but this was the worse animation of this show to date. Honestly this was near the level of just having powerpoint animation as still frames were abundant and any scenes with animation were made far away enough to excuse lacking detail. There is a scene with clowns running on stage and I swear their running animation is literally three frames. So yeah this series has hit a new low despite the stories being relatively interesting. Our first story details a woman with amnesia who has her former fiance attempting to get her to accept his proposal and remember him. However the woman is clearly rattled by the mans strange sickly father and her nightmares involving giant centipedes. The final twist is stranger than her imagination as the man brings her with him to his father’s death bed only to see him getting devoured by some strange centipede creature. Turns out that seeing this creature is what caused her to be traumatised enough to lose her memory and to make matters even more strange the strange caterpillar creature is actually the collective brains of all the man’s ancestors. So it is family tradition that your brains eaten and joined with all the other brains in the centipede creature. Making for some kind of immortality as all the brains ingested appear to still has sentience. Makes for a decent scary story but it does have its share of holes, such as why is it that the man somehow thought she would change her mind on marrying him if she saw the caterpillar creature again. This one also has a non-ending as the woman just gives up on running away and is presumably…forced into the family? Hard to justify why the entire family is on board with the whole centipede eating your brain thing. I mean you can claim insanity but even the insane have some logic.

The second story was on the weird side as the circus has come to town and men from all over come to see the beautiful tightrope walking girl who captivates all that see her. However the show gets progressively more disturbing as the performers each die horribly during their acts.The level of nocalanence the ringmaster presents to each of their bodies getting dragged off stage makes this seem like a common occurrence. Ultimately it’s revealed that the top performer in the circus gets to marry the beautiful tightrope performer and each performer is gearing to win her affection. Though it’s a scam as the ringmaster appears to have some supernatural ability to sabotage performances so they have gruesome results. At the end of it all the ringmaster states that all the performers are dead and asks for volunteers from the audience with the prize of winning the tightrope girl as their bride. I was originally thinking there might be a bait and switch when the tightrope girl started claiming the ringmaster was a demon collecting souls for I thought it was rather on the nose to declare the supernatural entity. If anything I originally pegged the girl as the demon for she’s the one attracted the men to the tent in the first place by walking around town before the show. However it does appear to be that simple and I really question the logic the male characters show here.

I mean it could be there is some sort of spell keeping them blinded with love and stopping them seeing the trick to it all but I don’t think that’s quite the case. I mean the girl straight up tells the trapeze artist, whom she seems to have genuine love for, that if he tries to perform that he will die and the ringmaster has sabotaged the act somehow. But he’s like “No, I will perform perfectly, have no fear my love!”, thus the trapeze breaks and he falls and dies. Almost comical the timing of it. The final clown at the end with his oh so brilliant plan to announce running away from the circus, by shouting it up to the girl while the ringmaster was quite literally right beside him was just…really I am not sure we can blame magic on that level of stupidity. So we are well past the halfway point of this show and we can be pretty sure this is what we are going to get for the remainder. It appears that Junji Ito’s works just are not suited to the animated medium, or at least they won’t be getting a fruitful effort any time in the future. We have an anime for those not particular interested in reading manga but honestly the manga is just the better option as you get these stories with better artwork and more details that the anime cuts out. But I will say that Ito’s work very much is a matter of interesting ideas not quite fleshed out into full stories even in manga form.

Posted on 26 February 2018 with categories: 2011 Anime Retrospective, Chihayafuru, Kami-Sama no Memo-Chou

If you want a comparison to psgels’ reviews:

Chihayafuru

Heaven’s Memo Pad

Chihayafuru (Madhouse)

Chihayafuru is a sports show that done right. Moreover, it combines many good aspects of both josei and sports, making it thrilling to follow, while provide enough growth and conflicts for the main characters to achieve. Let’s me first point out how niche this sport Karuta is (and all the more reason to applause the show for bringing this niche sport to mainstream audience). Karuta is the sport that embrace the old to the modern Japan, it has a mixture between sport and poetry, it can be play competitively by people of all genders (can you think of other modern sports that allow this?), and lastly, unlike shogi players where they are full-time professional, all karuta players – even the Master and the Queen – aren’t. Most of them have office job or currently in college/ high-school. The latter, in particular, is one of the reason that make Chihayafuru interesting. For you see, people come to this sport purely by their passion. Chihayafuru’s core theme is the exploration of discovering and following your own passion. Each character has their own reason to play karuta, but they share the same love for the sport and it’s inspirational to see the team keeps trying their hardest and keeps improving themselves for the thing they love.

Chihayafuru also benefits from the fact that it understands sports, in general. I have some sports background so trust me when I say this: unless you’re incredibly talented, losing is always your best mate. You tend to lose way more than you win. And losing freaking hurts. EVERYTIME. In addition, your number one opponent is always yourself. Through the course of this season, Chihaya loses lots of times, some of them she was expected to win but failed due to her own lack of confidence. The show understands that losing is a natural part of the game, and never shy away from that. Secondly, I’m really digging how Chihayafuru underlines the fact that each player has their own karuta game; as in you can see their own personality reflected through the styles they play. Chihaya is quick-tempered; she’s born with fast style and quick reflex. Taichi relies more on his memory, while Desktomu uses statistic and analysis and Kana through her knowledge of the one hundred poems (if I were to approach karuta I’d be like Kana, as the “competitive” part is my least concern). These styles fit the personality of each player and as a whole, it’s a firm reminder that there is multifaceted approach to the game and more than once Chihaya learns how to improve her game by observing the good quality of other players.

It helps that the josei part of the show, the undertone relationship of the three mains, remains as a backbone and never overwhelm the whole show. At least for now the romance is kept at the right balance, while allow our characters growing, both in the game skills and in their maturity. I still don’t buy much about the affection of Chihaya towards Arata but I can live with that. If I have one main complain, however, it is that because the sports drama is so well done, when Chihayafuru tries to create its own conflict, it usually falls flat. At the top of my head I could name 2 instances like that (the bully act when they were primary schoolers – actually this show has a very insensitive depiction of bullying; the little drama of Desktomu trying to quit in the middle of the tournament). Other mild complain I would have is how the show can be damn overbearing at times with so much tears. I’m starting to wonder whether it caused by the source materials or by Madhouse volume up the emotional response.

All in all, Chihayafuru is a clear winner. The pacing and the production are top notch, the matches are exciting and thrilling and the characters are relatable with both their quirks, their chemistry and their deep. This is one of those rare show that has universal appeal, given I can pretty much recommend Chihayafuru to any other viewers, anime fan or not, without much hesitation. Can’t wait to watch its second season.

Rating: 83/100

Heaven’s Memo Pad (J.C.Staff)

Well, I’m thoroughly bored.

And I already put aside many of its obvious issues (like NEET detective agency – yeah it doesn’t make sense to me. Or after finishing the show I still don’t get the title at all. I know KamiMemo explained it somewhere but I failed to grasp it).

But let’s be positive. I will address many of the show’s strengths first before touch upon its problematic parts. The production values of this show are surprisingly above par for a low-tier title. The art settings remain its best assets. Each of the setting has a personality of their own and I certainly remember the ramen store, Alice’s room and even the garden rooftop fondly. I also like the way each case takes up usually about 2 or 3 episodes, which for me is a right length to introduce, develop and resolve each case (Un-Go suffered from this). The actual cases are a bit mixed though, as I only enjoyed the first and the last cases. Each arc revolves around a character in Narumi and Alice’s circle, so it’s a good opportunity to flesh out the said characters too.

Or so I thought.

Here’s the biggest issue with KamiMemo: All the characters feel pretty empty. You often see how I complain about characters betraying their own personality, right? Now, this is the exact opposite problem. All the characters of KamiMemo have significant traits that made them stand out at first glance, but they keep that same lines of thought for an entire season and thus they become a bunch of cardboards who say “cheese”. It feels to me that I was reading some typical Visual Novel about stereotyped stock characters. Take Doki Doki Literature Club, using those empty lines with a purpose. In this show they serve no purpose other than making the characters look cool. And cool dish gets cold really fast without any substantial support. As a result, it’s hard to care for any of the character, and it’s a big bummer because those cases based around those said characters. The main duo Alice and Narumi, likewise, still feel very plain and her tsundere act is not something that I need to see again. Alice sounds pretentious all the time and Narumi always shines when the plot calls for it; which again are just plain weak and terrible.

The actual cases themselves, are nothing worth bragging about. It’s neither realistic, nor well-made enough. Many contrived details in the service of moving the plot forward, many big words that trying too hard to impress and Alice has overpowered ability so that when she’s on board, everything is pretty much solved without much sweat. I figure the reason I like the first case is because the cast still feels fresh and I believe the last case redeems the show a fair bit (look, KamiMemo, at least Ayaka has some deeper level). KamiMemo still works as a mild mystery detective case, and the presentation is competent enough to keep viewers engaged, but the serious lack of well-developed characters makes it hard to invest to the show on deeper level.

Rating: 71/100

And done. Tell me your own thoughts on Chihayafuru and Heaven’s Memo Pad if you have seen either of these. Next post, to celebrate one of the most anticipated sequel of next season (no, not Legend of the Galactic Heroes), we will head back to the future for Steins;Gate and its diary in the future Mirai Nikki. Should be a fun ride, Doc. Till then.

Posted on 24 February 2018 with categories: After the Rain, Currently Watching:

Dang it, this episode. Before you know it, a typhoon comes right in sweeping everything away. At first few minutes no one would never have guessed Ameagari evolve in such a complex way, even though we still know next to nothing about that Chihiro person. How should I take on the action of Kondou hugging his underaged employer while they’re alone in his house? I don’t know and none of the main duo seems to know either. But first, let’s tackle the episode’s earlier conflict. When Kondou is increasingly bothered by the book by that Chihiro person, Tachibana keeps blurting out about how wonderful a person Kondou is. Kondou knows he is everything but, so he straight up cuts their conversation short with “you don’t know anything about me”. He doesn’t mean any ill, but there’s a lot of truth behind that statement. The truth remains that they live in a different lifestyle that it feels like they live in two different worlds: Tachibana with her high-school life and lives in the centre of Yokohama, and Kondou lives alone in the crappy apartment trying to make ends meet and raise a kid. Even such a simple topic like a chatroom apps for staffs would remind her how difference a gap between her and the middle-aged Koudou is.

Moreover, Tachibana for the first time feels some resistance from her manager, and it pains her that she might become a nuisance to her crush. That thought totally wrecks the poor Tachibana (and I always think Tachibana isn’t the kind who let her personal feel affects her work) to the point she comes into his apartment, in the freaking typhoon, to… what exactly does she come into his house for? The depressed girl announces that she wants to know more about him, echoing her lines in last few episodes. But Kondou has his own reasons for feeling irritated with all the praises Tachibana says about him. For him, Tachibana holds the idealized version of him that he knows he never going to be. The version that everything about him, although flawed, is kira kira in her eyes. But maybe it’s her who sees through him, it’s her who see many great characteristics from the wear-down, failed and awkward middle-aged man. He doesn’t feel that Tachibana is a nuisance. Quite the opposite that it’s her youthfulness reminds him of many feeling he thought he had forgotten, in which he’s grateful.

Seeing the crying Tachibana, in the moment of brief black out (which unassumingly creates a perfect mood), he hugs her – the first physical contact between them, all the while thinking to himself that he “will close my umbrella and get wet in your rain” – whatever that means. Is it then, the fleeting feeling of love from Kondou? It’s hard to pinpoint, and I’d argue that it’s best not to delve into it too much. The hug, even as a friend or more than that, is still just a hug (we just know one thing for sure that’s is how Kondou transferred his cold to poor Tachibana). Everything in that moment is perfect, from the music, to the lighting and the atmosphere. Definitely one of Ameagari’s best moments to date. We also have quite a treat to see Tachibana again fantasying about that moment hugging Kondou… naked. Gosh, those developments could easily become distasteful and too much in other series, so why on earth Ameagari delivers them so heartfelt and graceful here? As our commenters point out last week, the manga will end soon so there is a high chance Ameagari will finish as the manga approaches its last few chapters. Completed story is always a plus for me and judging how Ameagari performs so far (in other words, flawlessly), I have my high hope that we will have a satisfying ending waiting ahead.

Posted on with categories: Currently Watching:, Violet Evergarden

It’s a full-blown soap opera in this week’s Violet Evergarden, in more ways than one. On one side of the coin, we have a playwriting and a process of bringing a children story to life, the story that tied very well to his feeling towards his deceased daughter. On the other side of the coin, this week marks a clear improvement for Violet’s emotional growth and put a catalyst into her personal arc. It’s the goddamn time that Violet need to learn about the death of Gilbert, but then why make him only disappearing huh? Learning and accepting the death of her love and moving on will be Violet’s own personal growth from this point on. One thing we did learn from Hodgins is that it’s Gilbert who pushed her away before the bomb exploded and saved her life. Violet Evergarden often deals with loss, and more specifically, the loss relationship between parent and their child. For once I believe that theme is appropriate within the settings of Violet Evergarden, the post-war era where there is a clear gap between young and older generation; the settings where the consequences of war still somewhat linger around, like in the form of the robotic Auto Memory with mechanical hands.

This episode is an adaptation from the very first chapter of the light novel, but if you catch on KyoAni’s pattern by now, yeah, they alter a lot from the original story. The playwright, for example, is completely original and it’s one of my favorite part of this episode. Maybe it’s just me who like children’s story but I like what we heard about their story so far: a girl who fight monsters, befriend with all kind of friendly spirits and she must get home because her Dad is waiting at home. Well, what makes this story resonates lies in how well it connects to Oscar’s own story. He’s not alright to begin with, he’s now in a pitiful state, drunken and messy. The play is obviously inspired and modelled after his lost daughter, and he determines to write a story to finish her one-day wish that he’s always longing for. In one of the show’s most beautiful moment, Violets cross the lake by jumping and hopping from fallen leaves on the lake. Oscar’s story is compelling in its own right, but this climax further elevates the drama and strengthen the emotions in the best possible way.

Violet is surprisingly active and expressive throughout this untitled episode. Not only she cares for the play she transcript (She actively asks how the story will go. The old Violet wouldn’t even care to bother), she expresses empathy towards the main character of the play. Empathy plays another big role in Violet Evergarden, as the whole premise is about learning other people’s feeling through the power of writing. It also struck me how the plays from Oscar personally parallel Violet. The play at the beginning ends with “I must live with my sin now for the rest of my life”, and Violet experiences exactly that. She has grown to realize the bad seed from her time at war, killing off countless people, ending countless “one day” dreams. She comes to feel the pain of her own action, and plus to the fact that now she realizes Gilbert is as good as death, it further pushes her into some sort of despair. That isn’t bad by any means, given at least she has a strong feeling towards something. This episode is a clear step up from last week and for me easily the strongest episode to date, coupled by strong visual presentation and a neat story, even it still feels heavy-handed at times.

Posted on with categories: A Place Further than the Universe, Currently Watching:

Aah seasickness. It sure brings back some memory. I remember once I got so sick on the boat that I still had that hangover feeling several days afterward where every food into my mouth tasted like cat food. But enough about me and let’s talk about this week’s Universe, where our girls experience the toughness of Mother nature for the first time, even before setting foot into Antarctica. This episode of Universe tackles two main ideas: the huge gap in physical and mental preparation between our girls and the rest of the crew; and those hardness the girls experiencing right now is relatively nothing compare to the South Pole. But what makes it tick is how Universe does it light-heartedly, all the while still serious enough to let the drama sinks in. The girls’ interaction remains a pleasure to watch, as those little silly moments still strengthen each of the girls’ personality. I’m still pretty much on board with this trip.

In the first half, we follow the girls adjusting to the life on board. Filming, doing a kitchen hand, following the crew’s daily routine (and it’s a harsh daily routine to boost, with all the timing and heavy workload). The girls find themselves out of their depth with all the running, weighting lift and only barely makes it there. And they were merely the preparation for the Antarctica trip to come. And things turn out even worse when the seasickness begins to kick in. Speaking of which, seasickness is a clear symbol to show how inexperience our girls are and serve as a great contrast between them first-timers to the rest of the team. Throwing up, unable to sleep, unable to eat, throwing up again. Les miserablés. And that’s not to mention the situation will eventually get harsher. The strong wind current and waves also cause the boat rocking, 50, 60 degree (That’s why we all need a hammock chair to prepare for these kind of situations). And all that was still relatively a child’s play compare to the extreme weather in Antarctica.

The girls have it worse, but they’re even more frustrated to see other crew members seemingly don’t affect by these conditions at all. As Yuzuki puts it, they have “different kind of organism”. Yeah, the idea of high school girls going to the South Pole is kinda fantasy-filled and unrealistic to begin with, but Madhouse team understands it and makes that premise utterly believable and relatable. It’s never easy for mere high-school girls to participate such a life-changing event without learning the hardness of all this. The girls feel themselves hard to keep up with everything, let alone contributing to the expedition team. But as Mari says it firmly in the end. It’s not that they don’t have a choice, it’s more like they always have a choice but they chose to go through all this. It’s just a change in the way you look at it. I’m quite surprised myself that Universe takes a sweet time in between (after their Japan’s stage, before the South Pole destination) but it’s a journey story and I enjoyed the journey thoroughly so far. Now the icebergs are in sight. Welcome to Antarctica, the place of true South where the sun rises and sets only once a year; and no official time-zone occurs given all lines of longitude emerge there. In a way, that makes the place timeless, doesn’t it?

Posted on 21 February 2018 with categories: Finished Series: Adventure/Fantasy/Science Fiction, Kokkoku

Hello and welcome to another bi-weekly checkup of Kokkoku. This time we have one episode of action and mystery, while the other is the first dud of the season for Kokkoku. Apologies in advance, this is going to be a shorter one as there simply isn’t much to talk about. Lets jump in!

To start off, Kokkoku has been flagging recently. The cliffhangers for instance all fall short, as immediately upon starting the next episode they are resolved. Its like Kokkoku is afraid to leave the fate of its characters in question. Atleast in regards to the main cast. Then since this cliffhanger is over, Kokkoku chooses to throw more trouble Tsubasa’s way as he gives in to Stasis and slowly becomes a Handler. Really, if he was going to get pushed out or needed to be in danger, why not just continue it with the knife fight? I recognize that mystery of the Handlers and how Sagawa is planning to use them is central, but I don’t see the point of Tsubasa’s conflict anymore. The only interesting thing that can still happen to him would be for another spirit to choose him.

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Posted on 20 February 2018 with categories: 2011 Anime Retrospective, Hourou Musuko, Tiger & Bunny

It bares repeating for those of you who don’t know:

– For rating, I will use psgels’ 100 score system, but keep in mind that my barometer might be different than his. For instance, I consider 60/100 (not 50) as a line between mediocre and passable shows. 75/100 to 89/100 are recommended shows and from 90/100 upward are the masterpieces. In some rare occasions, I will include plus (+) and minus (-) but remember that they don’t have anything to do with the quality of the shows. (+) is awarded for shows that address the gender role thoughtfully, including shows that have strong feminine message. (-) is casted for shows with insensitive treatment to gender roles.

– There will be mild spoilers, as I will address the main theme of each show.

Wandering Son (AIC)

Boy, I know I’d come to enjoy this series given its thoughtful subject matter, but I’d never expect the show gets under my skin the way it did. Wandering Son turns out to be even better than what I expected. Yes, they nail it on the struggles transgender youth must face during their puberty, but at heart this is a coming of age story about coming to term with their own identity. Crossdressing is a way for the kids to express who they truly are, the self that they feel most comfortable with. One thing that struck me the most is how simple the show seems to be, but it’s anything but. From the soft watercolor background, to the simple and plain character designs (those are in the service of the show, as the main leads have their asexual appearances), to the way the story focuses on slice-of-life drama, to the equally soothing soundtrack. Everything seems light-weight at first glance, but inside it, there are many complex relationships and even more complex narrative. The transgender aspect never becomes to preachy or heavy-handed, for once, and the show makes itself clear that it never judges any of these characters. It’s just simply a normal growing up tale from a boy and his friends, nothing more, nothing less.

I also appreciate the anime for the fact that it left out entirely the first section of the manga, so many drama and characters have already been introduced before we get to know them. Fear not, since everything we need to know about the characters and their dynamic are showed and hinted subtlety over the course of its run. For me, the best parts of the show aren’t the subject matter it deals with, but the rich cast and their complex dynamic together. Take the latter for example, many characters form a very special relationship to each other (many has complained the characters behave too mature for their age, which I digress. We need more of these). And it’s these special bonds that made every single one of them interesting. Take Chiba’s love for Shuu: doesn’t matter how he changes, he will always be the special person to her. The same can be said for Yuki and Takatsuki. It often feels like they reach to a mutual understanding that other people can’t never comprehend. And I suppose sharing the same deep bonds as these makes up the reason why they can always rely on each other, even overcome their own issues to reach out for each other.

Shuu and Takatsuki made up two strong protagonists for this show, both because they’re trans who bothered by their own biological bodies, but also their special bond as well. Noted that while Wandering Son deals heavily in transgender issues, all the romantic relationships in the anime are heterosexual – most notably, Shuu and Anna’s love. Why? Because, of course Shuu loves her. Not in a physical attraction sense since I guess Shuu would never desired to kiss her, but in the intimacy sense where he loves her and cares for her like a sibling love. Is it make their relationship weird? Maybe. But it’s powerful nonetheless. Although I already enjoy the first half of the anime well enough, where they focus on the kids and their gender-bender Romeo and Juliet play, the second half is when Wandering Son hits me real hard. Insecurity plays another major role to these kids, as they are constricted by social norms, by the code of rules that dictates how boy and girls should wear and behave. Takatsuki comes a long way until she decides to cross-dress as a boy to school, but Shuu has it much harder by trying the same thing. The escalated tension when Shuu gradually believes that he should dress up in girl’s uniform because he feels comfortable doing so is one of the moment so powerful that it won’t leave my head anytime soon. It’s one hell of a statement right there and it’s more compelling than any LGBT campaign because it comes from very personal lenses.

As a side note, despite people often complain the show for the lack of proper closure, for me it ends in the best possible way. In that final moment, Shuu literally takes a step forward to the stage. That single image can signify many things: that he’s taking anew step towards the spotlight with his new body; that he finally let the dark and bullied past behind; that he moves on to the next puberty stage of his life. Shuu and his friends continue to live on beyond the scope of this little story.

Rating: 92+/100

Tiger & Bunny (Sunrise)

It’s amusing to note that these two shows received the same rating 87.5 here in by psgels, my opinions on these two couldn’t be more varied. Let’s start from its best components first, Tiger & Bunny is the show that has novel concept, a commercial Superhero reality TV show in the neo-modern city that looks like a glamourous version of Gotham. It’s a pretty cool idea and moreover, the concept of commercial superheroes and their ability “NEXT” have potential to develop into heaps of interesting scenarios. It helps that the show makes these superheroes and their moves as flashy and over the top as possible. Another plus for the shameless corporate sponsorship’ logos that pop up in the team uniforms. Flashiness and cool factor have never been this appropriate. The art design is awesome, especially the city itself that feels lush, noisy but gritty at the same time. The production values, for the most part, fulfil their roles quite remarkably. The fights are dynamic, and those action sequences are always damn fun to follow to say the least. The CG department, however, is wacky and looks out of place whenever the two leads are in the combat suits. Take Tiger & Bunny as a purely action show, it certainly satisfies your cravings.

But Tiger and Bunny is more than a mindless action show. It consistently develops into overarching arcs with more serious tone, and that, my friend, is where the show becomes hit and miss. On positive notes, these arcs make Tiger and Bunny more ambitious than your normal Superhero show and the main leads do grow a bit in their character development. The titular Tiger and Bunny, in particular, share some solid chemistry together. The show, on the other hand, has the Western Superhero and Hollywood as their inspiration and it unfortunately inherits the stupidity of Hollywood’s script as well. There is little to no grey area, the heroes are mostly your hero of justice and the villains get more and more evil as the story progresses. I don’t mind about some casual plot holes or some character inconsistencies because… you know, ACTION show, but the last arc, in instance, is so ridiculous and laughable bad that I have to mark the show down several notes. In this last arc, the whole superhero team suddenly becomes puppets with no personality, or even worse, betray their own personality. Kotetsu is being hunted by the police and being broadcasted live, and suddenly, all these developments are set aside for some more plot twists that go nowhere, fighting with Barnaby for no good logical reason and some other bullshits about androids. And I can never get why the main antagonist thinks it’s such a great idea to brainwash dozen of superpowered and influential people, instead of just eliminating Kotetsu in silence.

Character-wise, I regret to say that although spending 25 episodes with them, at the end of the day I don’t know, or care much about them. Both Bunny and Tiger are your stereotyped JUSTICED superheroes, with Barnaby’s backstory is the one we all heard before (Batman, anyone?). Other heroes each have their own episode that flesh them out a bit, but still ain’t enough to make them stand out at all. Villains are over the top in a no-good way and Lunatic (an anti-hero of sort) has never developed into his full potential. Overall, Tiger & Bunny is an adequate take on the same old Superhero genre that make some good use of the old ideas, especially in their brilliant main concept. The mixture of buddy actions, hero of the week, drama make this show consistently entertaining to follow, despite more often than not they follow the same old formula that been around since the creation of Western Comic.

Rating: 78/100

Welp, turns out I finished these two faster than I originally planned. Have you watched either Wandering Son or Tiger & Bunny? What is your take on those shows? Next time, we will meet a girl who plays karuta and a girl who is a NEET detective. Yep, I will review Chihayafuru and Heaven’s Memo Pad. See you in 2 weeks or so (this time is for real). Until then.

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