Posted on 31 July 2018 with categories: Banana Fish, Finished Series: Slice of Life/Drama

Welcome to another week of Banana Fish! I don’t have any clever hooks for this one sadly, it’s just too good to lampoon. This week we have more attempted prison rape, both of which end badly, and more info on the elusive Banana Fish. Lets jump in!

So general stuff out of the way first, Banana Fish continues to nail the pacing. So far, it never feels like nothing is happening, like a scene is just filler. For example, comedy. In a lot of anime there are little gags thrown around to keep everything light. Most don’t mean anything at all, and are often an entire scene. Banana Fish uses comedy to bookend its more serious scenes, to signify that we can relax for the moment. Like Shorter revealing himself as the waiter at the restaurant. Or the Afro Prisoner barging in on Max and Ash. The comedy doesn’t exist for the sake of the gag nor are they sprinkled throughout to just to keep the tone light. I love how Banana Fish’s comedy actually serves a purpose. So yeah, I gushed on its writing, lets get into the actual meat now shall we?

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Posted on 30 July 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight

Well, we have a slower week of Revue Starlight compared to the first two episodes, mainly because the first half is more about setting up the girls’ dynamic than introduction. It’s not a complaint, either, since this week we see the girls go for different pairing, as a result they create a more complex web of relationship now. The audition duel this week is a classic “two steps forward – one step back” for our main Karen, as she fight the Top Star and realizes how much of a gap between her and Maya Tendou. If I have one issue during the episode, it seems so random that Karen fights with Maya because there’s no proper setting up prior to the underground audition. Other things stay ambiguous without any actual explanation and so far I pretty enjoy those. There’s apparently another duel happening simultaneously with Karen’s fight, for example, but for whatever purpose and even what those fights even mean remain a mystery.

But in this episode 3, we learn a lot about other cast members of the Starlight team, so let dig it up. First, we have Banana who steps down of the acting role in pursuit for production design. I suppose we learn more about this development once we get into her episode. For now though, it feels like a set-up to get every piece into place. On other notes, we get a better look at the duo Kaoruko and Futaba, but amusingly when they’re separate. Futaba, the most boyish character of the group, is the only member who aware of Claudine’s struggles to surpass Maya, as we see last week she lost to the fight against Maya. That, however, doesn’t explain why they battle at the end of the episode (another note: Futaba uses an axe as her weapon, an interesting choice). At the same time, Kaoruko proves to be more than her sleepy, spoiled appearance, as the way she talks signify that she’s a calculated, and maybe a bit manipulative character. The character that receives the least treatment so far is Hikari. We don’t pretty know much about her apart from her tsundere act which kinda get on my nerve in the beginning of the second arc.

I also noticed there’s a theme for each audition’s sword fight. Last week, it was “Revue of Desire”, this week, it’s a “Revue of Pride”. Now whether it’s mean those are the themes of the week, or about the personality from a character Karen has to fight is up in the air, but I’m leaning more about the latter. Maya is full of pride, and the main conflict between her and Karen is mostly about the idea of every woman for herself (Maya) vs I fight for me and my partner (Karen). The visual motif of the fight shows how out of depth Karen is compared to her opponent. Maya is always stationed at a higher place, and everytime Karen tries to climb up the ladder, she immediately fails. This fight also serves as the reality check for Karen, that in order to achieve her dream, she has to put more efforts. In addition, Hakari isn’t pleased at all the way Karen put everything down the line for her sake. It means nothing for Hikari if Karen is the sole person who work for the goal. Despite it’s a less dense episode compared to what we had seen so far, it’s still a pretty good week for Revue Starlight, all things considered.

Posted on with categories: Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro, Currently Watching:

Like Hinamatsuri last season, I wouldn’t have expected that Chio-chan having an “arc” for their side-characters; the “supporting casts start to grow whereas the lead stays the same” bit. This is the third week in a row we encounter Andou, each time he’s in different position (not to mention that Chio is the very core behind his life-changing events). What I like most about his character is how in these three appearances, we see him get sucked in three very different scenarios. While the first two display him as a badass gangster, this episode shows a more vulnerable side of him. I mean, trying to act cool as soon as he sees Chio? Boy, he’s like a teenager. Despite knowing the truth about Chio faking her badass persona, he grows even more fond to the girl. Is there, as Manana suspects, a romance going on between this former biker and Chio? I suspect Chio-chan will flirt with the idea in upcoming events.

One thing about Chio-chan that I don’t expect when I saw the PV though, that it’s much more slice of life and mundane than flat out over-the-top hijinks. These events that Chio face on her commute to school are something we could experience ourselves (well, if you walk to school that is). The whole delivering newspaper affair, for example, is something you might do if you sure is amusing. The jokes about people making a big fuss out of delivering papers late hit home for me. In particular, “I already knew that on TV news”. I find the part where Chio ninja-jumping up the stair a bit over the top, but overall it’s a fun ride from start to finish. The most important thing is that Chio’s enthusiasm once again changes Andou’s mind about keeping up with the job. It might be simple like what she said: even if the job isn’t for you, if you’re really into it you might find a joy for the job.

Another strength of Chio-chan is the dynamic of Chio and Manana, which they have a natural forth-and-back that these exchanges themselves can carry the show along. Their banters about “what they want to do once in their life” are just so relatable and progress so naturally (regarding Chio’s: well, smoking don’t make you look cool but returning the litter sure is). You can see right off the bat these girls act their age with their social awkwardness, as well as their bratty attitude. Another “man of the moment” is the teacher/ security guard, who is sharp at one moment and oblivious the next. It’s a good characteraction from him, as he stands out in a good way. As a whole, Chio-chan’s adventures on her way to school is not as crazy as I thought it would be, but it’s hella more relatable. Chio-chan might think she’s an below-average girl, but she’s one of the more vivid portrayal of high school girl I’ve seen in awhile. I’m happy to follow he aroundr, hopefully the cast will expand more in later weeks. As the last note, Hey girls, is there any other method of greeting tour friends that don’t involve one rolling down the ground in public?

Posted on 28 July 2018 with categories: Finished Series: Mystery/Suspense, Steins;Gate 0

Another week, another lackluster episode of Steins;Gate 0. This time the plot moves almost unnoticeably forward, Daru gets a date and Suzuha gets some melodrama. Lets jump in!

So basic stuff first, Steins;Gate 0 is really slowly become a Slice-of-Life. At this point in the previous series, we had stakes, bad guys and literal lives hanging in the balance. Right now in Steins;Gate 0, we have Daru’s love life. Don’t get me wrong, I like that we get to see these kinds of things. I like that it isn’t all Okabe all the time. But right now the ratio of actual plot to side-story stuff is way out of whack. We got one, maybe 2, very tiny advances/hints to the main plot this episode. Everything else was just sort of melodramatic filler, especially Suzuha’s flash forward/back. It simply feels like we are still sitting in limbo though, waiting for something to happen. It doesn’t help that currently the only “active” plot thread is “She Who Will Not Be Named” (Starts with a K).

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Posted on 25 July 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, Satsuriku no Tenshi

I still file this anime under the category of interesting but flawed as it does hold elements that make it stand out but there are significant cracks forming in regards to the characters and lack of context for the setting. Rachel, or rather Ray as she was nicknamed in this episode, has officially run her suicidal gimmick into the ground that even Zack is wondering why she keeps reminding him to kill her. T his episode did bring out an interesting point in that she doesn’t want to be killed by just anyone and for some odd reason seems to place her trust in Zack. But the really interesting factor was that what made her ultimately decide that Zack was the one to kill her was that he swore to god that he would. This has been a bit hinted at before but it seems that Rachel is very religious, in that she stated that she cannot kill herself because God deems it wrong. Likewise here Zack didn’t seem to put too much thought into the statement but Rachel latched on to it with a maddening degree. I am interested in just who Rachel was to provoke these responses but her character as it stands now is still a bit one note.

Ever since losing her will to life she has based the entirety of her persona around being suicidal and while this has opened up a nice dynamic with Zack, it basically means that she reacts to everything with deadpan stoicness while only showing emotion in regards to anything that could lead to her death. So when Zack is out of the picture and it’s only Rachel and the newly introduced Psychopathic Edward talking, the dialogue felt it was running in circles. A constant back and forth of debating whether Edward has permission to kill Rachel or not that just kept circling and even when she finally made up her mind Edward just kept hammering the point home of how much he wanted to kill her. This kid wasn’t all that interesting character wise but I do feel like there is underlying symbolism in his desire to give her a grave. Going through each floor there does feel like there is a connecting theme and I do love that the grave he so miraculously prepared was where he was killed with his casket being closed by a falling tombstone. If I had to make my own theory I would say that each floor represents a place of death and Rachel is unknowingly conquering death so that she can finally die.

The game logic of the world is once again at work with what looks to be a clear boss encounter as well as some rather game like moments such as Zack breaking a human sized hole in the wall. Which certainly is odd what he had to use a pickaxe to break graves in the last episode because he didn’t want to break his scythe. Rachel’s logic when she comes up with solutions for problems certainly feels less like human ingenuity and more like a player with a walkthrough. How exactly did she know that the kid has a remote as I certainly didn’t see him press anything to make the lights go out. Not to mention I just already assume these characters have some supernatural control over their floor as we haven’t exactly established ground rules on what they are capable of. If you were to analyse it you can certainly start poking some holes in this series and I fear it may go down the route of Fate/Extra last encore where it depends too much on the mystery of the setting to engage you while the characters remain rather underdeveloped. Well in that regard this series isn’t at least shoving paragraphs of expository speeches down our throats and Zack still remains a pretty fun and interesting character.

Posted on 24 July 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, Hanebado!

Hanebado goes full drama this week, in fact it’s so dramatic that it sucks out all the fun of it. Hanebado just doesn’t know how to handle over-the-top character, resulted in them riding the plot in a contrived fashion. Last week we had Kaoruko who is basically a sore thumb, this week Conny serves basically the same purpose – a destined rival to Ayano. The show doesn’t reveal it yet, but it’s quite clear she’s the girl that Ayano’s mother trained, and judging from the way she was looking for a match against Ayano, I can say that there’s some jealousy issue here (most likely: “you’re a prodigy, Conny, but your sister’s Ayano was more of a natural talent” kind of stuff). In any case, Conny wants to showcase how much she wants to take down our girl that she effectively goes against the spirits of double match and even the spirits of sport itself. In a double, teamwork is one of the most important factors. Playing solo not only shows how short-sighted you are, but also inform us that you don’t respect the sport. Damn, I might sound harsh here but it’s irritating to see a character tries to make her point by stop playing altogether. You leave a bad taste to my mouth, Conny.

The pacing of this episode, likewise, is way too slow. It takes a while until the match begins and they even cut the first Nagisa’s match. Everything feels forced from the get-go, start with the club finds out about the other school’s team, to getting Ayano to supermarket so that she can meet Conny, to the dramatic way Connie acts (dropping the coins, really? It’s so cliché now). There are two more potential conflicts rising. One of them is about Isehara, the younger sister of the team, who seems to have a beef with Ayano. I’m guessing for now it’s because everyone regards the lefty as talent that it annoys her, not from jealousy but more about recognition issues. Second, Ayano is trying hard to harmonize with the team. Both of these plot threads don’t particularly excite me to be honest. Hanebado works the best when it can integrate personal drama into the sport. Last week’s Elena feeling left out, for example, sheds another angle to her relationship with Ayano. Using bold characters who force her way into the story just ain’t gonna make it. To make it worse, the match animation doesn’t wow you like it did in the first few episodes.

I swear it’s the curse of the 4th episode in effect (usually when the show is at its lowest point), but I’m a bit worried that this going to be the direction Hanebado will take for the rest of the season. Nagisa this week is relegated to one-note character, Ayano has a compelling backstory but her bland personality can’t carry the show, and all the subtlety in characterization the show did so well in first few episodes is replaced by contrived Drama (with a capital D – also stand for Dumb Danish Damsel or Do Double Deferently!!!). I hope it can turn around because this episode becomes something that I fear the most: a generic high school sport anime.

Posted on with categories: Currently Watching:, Shoujo☆Kageki Revue Starlight

Please check out the Starlight theme to get in the stage-dueling mood.

This show climbs up to be my favorite show of this season. It has all these elements that personally are my cup of tea: many layers of symbolism, a surrealism sense and a stage duel set piece that is even more impressive than an actual action show.

Disguised itself as an idol show with Love Live-esque character designs, the first half of the first two episodes could fool viewers thinking it’s a harmless idol girls, until the surreal part comes in and sweeps everything out of its way. In retrospect, I couldn’t think any better way to turn the Idol genre inside out than this. In the genre, girls with different personality working together for the same goals, and they regard each other like a family members. Revue Starlight put them against each other instead, making it a whole lot more complex in character motivation and interaction.

But that was just an on-the-surface part of this show, so let’s dig a little deeper. What I love the most about Revue Starlight so far, is its sense of surrealism and its heavy use of symbolism. The way the show uses symmetric images and put Karen right there in the middle, for example, suggest that she’s the one in the central (ground zero), the place where the lead role usually occupy, and signifies that she’s the one who brings the cast altogether. Many have said that Revue Starlight taks an inspiration if Takarazuka theatre, and at the same times criticize some traditional aspect of it. Karen (or BaKaren), is a stark contrast to what the Takarazuka build around, and to a larger degree what this Starlight audition is for. The audition is about exclusion to pick out the top star, yet she wants to include everyone together. In Starlight, the girls fight for themselves, yet Karen fights for the shared dream of her and Hikari. The talking giraffe asks her to leave when she entered the audition ground for the first time, yet she basically gate-crashing the audition. She has a great role so far that compatible to Utena’s role in her series. And that isn’t a far off comparison either since the ballet duel reminds me strongly of Utena duel, for good reasons.

I also like the theme of individualism in the focus of unity. Like the way Revue Starlight shows their costumes are mass-produced or the use of mannequin. To become a star, they need to stand out from the rest. And the girl Junna really shines throughout this two episodes. She’s in the position where she’d devote every effort to become a main star, yet she knows doesn’t matter how hard she tries, she can’t close the gap to the top stars. I reckon that her arc is basically done now that she accepts “her lose”, but knowing this show I know she won’t get sidelined in the service of the plot. We have a total of 9 girls in this series but judge from the way this show treats Junna, I have a good faith that Revue Starlight will develop them thoroughly.

In addition, the stage duel is simply stunning. It’s bizarre, yet gorgeous to look at and it has so much personality on its own. Now, it’s when the surrealism really kicks in. Many of its images: like talking giraffe, Karen get pushed down the Tokyo tower, might or might not be real. But it makes sense. You could take the stage duel as a battle to survive, as an audition,as a performance all you like and it still works. As a final notes, there’s some hints that we’ll have yuri undertone and for that I say: Bring it right on.

Posted on with categories: Grand Blue

When picking series to cover for an anime season I admit that there are certain series that I pick up solely due to my familiarity/love with the source and as such little thought goes into the choice itself besides the desire to cover it because there is no one else on the team that know this story better than you do. Grand Blue was one of those series for me and the minute it was announced to have anime adaption I pretty much decided to cover it then and there. The reason I bring this up now is to try to justify what I about about to say next as when I sat down to do a write up of this week’s episode, I immediately realized that I effectively decided to fight a dragon with a wooden shield and a toothpick. I likey mentioned this before but allow me to mention it again, out of all genres of anime, comedy is undoubtedly the hardest to blog. For while personal opinion of anime is highly subjective, comedy is situationally subjective. To clarify let me say that I think Team America is a pretty funny movie, I mean the America Fuck Yeah has pretty much become synonymous with overzealous ridiculous American patriotism and the puppetry tech on display was truly impressive.

But one night in college myself and a large group of people decided we were going to watch Team America and when we did not one person so much as chuckled. The movies jokes were met with deadening silence and I truly believe that regardless of what comedy was on screen it would have died in that atmosphere. Likewise once upon a time I found Mel Brooks Men in Tights and the first Austin Powers hilarious but in my later years I went back and rewatched them only to wonder just what I found so amusing about these movies in the first place. The point of this long rambling session is that I have effectively taken the position of trying to explain to you lot just why this show is funny which is a factor that can change drastically very easily. Besides, if you have to explain the joke, then it’s not funny anymore.

So let me procrastinate by talking about the adaptation itself. So far I would say the adaption of Grand Blue is serviceable but there is a definite feeling that the jokes are working in spite of the animation direction rather than because of it. This feels like a budget effort as this is the first show of a budding studio and perhaps I should have considered that the Director has done Gintama so naturally he would know how to do comedy within a budget. After all how many bloody episodes of that show are out? Willing to bet that the show is far from an animation showcase. The big offender her is the titan face moments were they effectively use still frames instead of actually animating it which results in Iori and crew turning into cardboard cutouts of attack on Titan rejects at times. This is one of the strengths of manga that the artstyle can change so drastically for comedic effect without feeling jarring and the change can really hyper exaggerate the characters feelings, hence upping the comedic effect. In anime however this change is basically watching a animated character briefly turn into a still image and break a viewer’s immersion. What worked in manga does not always work in animation and therefore the purpose of an adaptation is to make the story work within the medium. Adaptation decay is often an inevitability but the anime should bring something to the table to make it a viable or preferable alternative to just reading the manga.

So rambling segways aside, what happened in todays episode of Grand Blue? We have three main parts here, one is Iori attempting to convince Nanaka that he is a grown adult so he can go out drinking with the guys who are meeting up with a woman’s university He is attempting to do this by decorating his room which of course has disastrous results. The second part is Teaching Iori to get used to being underwater with equally disastrous results. Finally we have a trip to the Aquarium which Chisa set up for Iori to understand the appeal of diving. The last part was a more serious aspect of Grand Blue which admittedly does feel rather hollow, almost as though going through the motions because we need Iori to get interesting in diving so that he stays in the club and has more wacky hijinks. Sadly a scene was cut during the water training where Iori and crew proceed to suplex each other into the water titan faced while Iori thinks “Fuck diving”. Not sure why they cut that out, makes me smile just thinking of it. Some jokes hit like Nanaka bringing up to Iori that despite living there for three days he still didn’t know where his room is because he’s getting plastered every night. Others sadly feel a bit flat as I remember grining harder when Nanaka congratulated Iori for wearing clothes for once. I feel like more of an effort should be put into presenting the punchlines as in the manga they were very snappy and caught you off guard but in the anime the build up is too obvious and the payoff too drawn out. So far this adaption is proving okay but not circumventing the counterargument of “Why not read the manga instead?”

Posted on 23 July 2018 with categories: Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro, Currently Watching:

I have a feeling that Chio-chan is trying to test me. “You said you like me, huh? This is the real me, see if you can take it”. Well, I think what happened in the second half is bound to happen anytime. After all, we had the OP that pretty much setting up for this. Bouncing boobs, some panty shots, it’s written by a hentai artist himself (I “researched” his hentai works and apparently this guy has a thing for loli). You know which scene I’m talking about right? Yep, it’s the scene where Madoka, the kabaddi’s captain, gropes on another girl and refuses to let her hand off. The groping as playing for laugh is a NO NO in any situation, same sex or not, yet part of me still think Chio-chan gets away with it. Now, I’m torn, because I find it hilarious from start to finish. It’s unexpected the way things turn out and that is precisely why this show brings so much fresh air. Kabaddi…Kabaddi…Kabbadi

Take the first segment for example, it’s a continuation of Bloody Butterfly affair last week, now Chio just comes across Andou who is visibly shaken by his encounter with Chio, and tells the rest of his gang how fearsome she was. Now, normally comedy show would milk the misunderstanding aspect, like having Chio bluffs her way out again in a spectacular level. Here we have Chio telling Andou the truth about the incident. The whole joke here is the way Andou and the gang repeat that lame name “bloody butterfly” in a straight face numerous times, and it takes a toll towards Chio’s below-average philosophy. The confession, in turns, both impresses and shames the reformed yakuza even more. And he can’t go back to his words anymore, so he actually keeps the game going by going over the top. I didn’t expect that Andou would become a regular cast member, but now he shares such a nice chemistry with Chio and I can’t wait to see how their relationship will eventually turns out.

I swear the whole thing revolving around Kabaddi is just flat-out hilarious. Chio might regards herself as below-average, but this segment in particular suggests that it might not be the case. If she tries hard enough she can be amazing. I don’t know about you but now I’m sure interested in Kabaddi now. But what I found interesting is the way the issue escalate in seemingly random fashion. At first, we have Chio performs some random assassin moves she learns in her games (haha, this girl!), then it quickly turns into she’s hyper and just doing some random moves while chanting Kabaddi (obviously have no idea about the sports), then the ACTUAL kabaddi captain shows up and forces them to play tag kabaddi with her and Yuki. There’s just loads of Jojo references here, and the way Chio corporates this game into her gaming mode is priceless. Chio’s OP as heck, but to a degree that just make the game more awesome. I’m still not sure how I’m supposed to regard Madoka’s character. It’s meant to be the way to turn her character upside down, that despite she always says she loves the sports, the true reason comes from the more perverted side of her. Sure, I have no qualms with yuri tone, and I found the way Chio did all that was refreshing. But groping….

So,back to first question. Can I take the show for what it is? Alright, I give in, for now. Just don’t go overboard with it, Chio-chan.

Posted on with categories: Banana Fish, Finished Series: Slice of Life/Drama

Heads up Yuri on Ice, your place as the top homosexual romance anime is being challenged. This week Banana Fish charms us with a new character, disgusts us with a glimpse of prison life and teases us with a growing relationship. Lots to love, so let’s jump in!

So general stuff first, Banana Fish is moving pleasantly fast. The pace is juuuust right. Everything feels like its happening at a reasonable time, no characters are just sitting around waiting. Even Ash, in prison, is actively making things happen. There’s not a dead moment. It makes Banana Fish a treat to watch. Like My Hero Academia, it makes a 25 minute episode feel like it past in 10, though for different reasons. Banana Fish also does a good job with the music, which I only just noticed this week. The music from so many scenes just worked, it wasn’t intrusive, and when there was no dialogue it was catchy. I don’t know what it is lately, but anime in general seem to be stepping up their music game. But, general stuff done, let’s get to what you really want to talk about this week. The meat, pun intended.

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Coming to Kotobuki, there are lots of aspect that catch my attention: it’s from a famed director Tsutomu Mizushima who can turn the most trashable and genre-able concepts into something intriguing; it’s an CG show about air pilots: it has extended aerial combat set-pieces. Watching it till the end, I have to tip my hat […]

Kemurikusa (2019 Winter) Anime Review – 79/100

Kemurikusa is your very definition of an overlooked gem, one that never really gain much discussion anywhere, but one that has a distinctive style from an up-and-coming auteur who has full control of his projects. Coming to Kemurikusa, all the attention it has came from the fact that it is created by TATSUKI, a mastermind […]

Mob Psycho 100 S2 Anime Review – 87/100

Upon finishing this series, the only question on my mind was how many animators did Bones sacrifice on ONE’s altar to achieve this. Following their prior season, Mob Psycho 100 Season 2 continues Bones adaptation of webcomic and manga author ONE’s 4th work, Mob Psycho 100. ONE has also authored the critically acclaimed One Punch […]