Posted on 22 November 2013 with categories: Nagi no Asukara

Well, so I thought that I’d check out what Nagi no Asukara was up to lately, so I set down to watch this. And boy, it actually took a long while for me to actually start the thing. Today I finally managed to finish the latest three episodes because otherwise I’d never be able to move on, but it did make me ask a question: why am I still watching this?

It’s episode seven, so at this point we have a pretty good idea of the nature of this show. For the past few weeks I really started looking at anime in a different way, and I asked the above question for a lot of other series. Is it really worth it to watch so many series that contain such lazy writing that contains so many glaring flaws, just for a few things they do well? The key again is balance. Does Nagi no Asukara have that? I’m afraid not.

The thing with drama is: you take a few ingredients, juggle them together and let them culminate into a powerful climax, with some mid-climaxees inbetween. What Nagi no Asukara does is having way too many of these ingredients, overcomplicating the dish. Every episode it finds some contrived reason to create as much drama as possible, ranging from a love polygon that’s triggered way too easily to people behaving like arrogant pricks who can’t use their head for one second. A bit of this is fine and all, but this just kept on coming with the drama, there was hardly any variation to what went on. It’s all just teenaged drama.

Especially now that Hikaru has developed, things should have been more bearable, since he isn’t annoying anymore and he actually tries to take care of his loved ones, and he actually can shut up at once, but… meh. It’s all just so gloomy. Episode seven with those fishermen for example. That came out of nowhere, but these guys acted just as bigoted as he did a few episodes ago. These three episodes consistently bored me because they had nothing going on here. Only episode seven had something noteworthy when Hikaru and his sister actually left their home. That was something different, but getting less and less sure whether it’s worth it.

I think Mari Okada overshot herself with this series. In this series, and with Sakurasou too by the way, she focuses too much on one-sided drama that is in most cases really quite stupid. Compare that to three series of her that did work: Hana-Saku Iroha, True Tears and Ano Hana. Hana-Saku Iroha knew how to spice things up. It might have been a bit boring around this point, but at least it used this time to show what everyday life is for the cast, so it could use that for some very effective climaxes. The sm-episode came out of nowhere, but it took guts and stood out. True Tears also had lots of drama, but it was calculated: slow paced and it knew exactly what to do to remain interesting, again with great characterization. Ano Hana also had tons of drama at a fast pace, but it also delivered many twists that really got the best out of the characters. The cast was well balanced and every character was different, and the drama kept moving forward. It had strange twists, but these twists went together with the characters. It didn’t throw in stuff for the sake of throwing in stuff like what Nagi no Asukara is doing.

The animation in anime is consistently improving: people are really innovating there to create graphics that are really gorgeous, and you see this more and more. That’s good. Now transfer that mentality over to the writing departments. Force them to think logically about what they’re doing. We need more people like Gen Urobuchi, who are celebrated for their writing talents. There doesn’t seem to be any glamour to the writing business and to be honest, the whole scene seems quite a bit closed off. Because of this you have one group of writers who gets picked over and over to write and adapt these series, and there hardly seems any incentive to attract new talent or cultivate it. That really needs to change, because as I see it, it’s the biggest thing holding anime in general back right now.
Rating: 3/8 (Mediocre)

Posted on 14 November 2013 with categories: Yozakura Quartet

You can really see that Yozakura Quartet is based on a manga that is quite old already: when people think of a high spot in the center of Tokyo, the thing that immediately comes to their mind is Tokyo Tower. Not the Tokyo Skytree. This also is a bit of an example of creators adhering a little too much to their source material. What difference would it have made to the story to update to the new highest building in Tokyo? And yet it would have added quite a bit to the immersion as a nice detail.

Also, you don’t need to foreshadow everything. If your character is like “Ha! I took your course of action into account and therefore I took the necessary precautions for it!”, then that’s awesome. When an old couple suddenly reveals that they’ve been holding onto this really incredible power for years that’s given to her just as she’s going to be beaten, then you really have to build that up well. You can’t just show a bunch of shots of that couple here and there. It indeed signifies that they were planning on something, but not that they were going to pull something so convenient for the plot out of their asses.

Now, this is nit-picking, so let me get to the point: I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a series great, and I’m pretty sure that the answer is balance: a harmony between every single part. And that’s not there for this series. On one hand you can see lots of attention spent on the animation, but not a lot on the script. The characters all have tragic backstories, but there’s not much variety in it. Everyone’s sortof vaguely bothered by “being a demon is annoying”, and lots of characters blend together because of weak characterization. The OVA was short, dynamic and to the point and therefore didn’t have that problem.

But I think a better comparison is with the second season of Birdy the Mighty Decode (not the first, because it didn’t have the incredible animation). Both series have a true master behind the action scenes, however Birdy uses this as a means, while Yozakura Quartet makes it an end. With Birdy the Mighty, you can mention a ton of other reasons to make it worth watching: the character-development, the incredibly dark turns, the way it brought its setting alive, the chemistry and much more. Yozakura quartet… eh… I mean the OVA is awesome due to the characters and the chemistry of the characters, but the TV-series doesn’t have that as much.

Sure, stuff happened in these two episodes, but I’m not really impressed to be honest. There was fighting… and more fighting, but I found the context of it to be rather weak. And it’s not like the conflict is too simple: Kill la Kill has that too. The difference, I think is that that series knows what it wants. It’s also deliberately paced, and knows where to add symbolism where it needs to. The episodes flow right and they know when to show action and when to show building up, instead of showing flashbacks right in the middle of a huge fight, or finding some weird excuse to have a pause in the middle of action (gee, it’s a good thing those monsters don’t attack us while we’re talking, being sentimental, and not keeping our eyes on them). I know, a lot of this is nitpicking, and alone these issues wouldn’t be a problem, but it’s the big picture I’m trying to sketch here.

Another interesting comparison with this series would be to White Album 2. Why? Because both series feature a director who previously was one of the best animation directors for TV-series out there. The big difference is that White Album specifically does not focus on its animation, but more on making the different parts work together. I haven’t completely caught up, but it seems to do a better job. Let me put it this way: if I had to pick one element of these two series that stands out the most, then it’s the animation of Yozakura Quartet. However in terms of the big picture, White Album has it beaten at this point.
Rating: 3,5/8 (Enjoyable)

Posted on 9 November 2013 with categories: Galilei Donna

Oh… the fail. The huge, incredible fail. I was already flexing my muscles when I found out that this episode would be set in the Netherlands… but I didn’t expect that the creators got almost nothing right.

The only thing the creators got right was the names, and they spelled “voor” right.

Questionable but correct was the fact that it snowed. Heck, apparently it’s around January or February when the series takes place. We have periods in which the entire country is covered in snow. Way to go against the stereotypes, I like that. Although I do find it a bit weird that it suddenly out of nowhere started snowing. We’re not particularly colder than the rest of the world here and usually the snow just lasts two months, and even then it’s only a few days at a time. There’s also the way in which everyone just understood each other, but that’s something that all international fiction suffers from. Let’s just assume that everyone’s talking English.

And now for the gross inaccuracies. Let’s start with the architecutre: in the Netherlands, houses can basically be divided into two kinds: old and new. Old is basically the traditional style of housing, while the new is the calculated and well planned home, often built with reddish brick. None of the buildings shown in this episode fall anywhere close to that. I guess they were going for the old look, but they made one crucial mistake here:

Let me tell you, most cities in the Netherlands were built on swamp lands. When homes needed to be built, people would drive huge wooden pillars into the ground for the houses to rest on, because otherwise everything would just collapse on itself. This also meant that most homes couldn’t be built very large unless they have some very solid foundation, wihch is what most people couldn’t afford. Especially combined with the fact that it’s a country with a really high population density: especially in the cities there is not much room. Houses as huge as what we saw there: we only have that in the suburbs, and almost always they are built in a modern architectural style, not some oldish one that you see here. Even the largest houses in the old style are large because they are long. Not wide. When I go on a holiday to a foreign country, I’m always stunned by how big every building is.

Also, the church:churches in the Netherlands are mostly built in an old gothic style. All very old-fashioned, and a typical element of them is that the windows are slightly small. Not huge, like that giant stained glass window we saw here, nor do we have much churches in which the iron beams are plainly visible. Having huge open doors is also just a big no.

Then, the street view: our lanterns nowadays are much more modern: the old style you only see in historical centers like Amsterdam. Also, the creators cleverly managed to mask this with the snow and all, but Dutch streets are nearly always designed to be save: lots of traffic lights, very well defined pavements, lots of opportunities for bikes. I saw no hints of that whatsoever.

And here’s the big one: WHERE THE HECK DID THESE MOUNTAINS COME FROM!? Seriously? We don’t have those in the Netherlands. The single biggest hill we have is about 300 meters above sea level, and that’s in the southernmost part of the country. The other 11 provinces are pretty damn flat here. ESPECIALLY near the sea, which apparently this episode takes place in. Those fancy rocks you see at that beach? Yeah, the rocks we do have are really tiny. Nearly all of our beaches are sandy beaches, follwed by a few sand dunes.

All of this really made me wonder: why am I still watching this? Why am I still going for these kinds of series, when they’re so stupid that they can’t even manage the most basic of research. I mean, Kyousogiga and Samurai Flamenco: I can think of plenty of reasons to watch them. But this…. everything is just average. The drama is all pretty stupid. And I don’t just mean this series, but I’m starting to wonder this about every slightly “good” series. What makes them worth watching if the writers always put so little effort and thought into them?

I want to watch things that can challenge me, however I’m getting more and more the feeling that a lot of the writers are just idiots. Anime has over the past number of years made great strides in terms of animation, but in terms of writing… I’m afraid to say it but things have gotten downhill. There are only a few writers now who can deliver original screenplays, most adaptations are just done lazily. What really is good enough to really be worth your time and attention?
Rating: 2/8 (Awful)

Posted on 30 October 2013 with categories: Nagi no Asukara

Okay, so everyone aside from Hikari: I really like them. Dramatic, perhaps, but they work really well together, and this series has a knack of writing compelling drama for all of them, and this episode continued that trend. This was some really good character buiding here: no character here is completely onedimensional and even the typical high school bullies have a point and purpose, rather than just being the same streetpunks who are inserted for cheap drama, like what you usually see.

And yeah… Hikari. This guy is complicated. Last week he got completely on my nerves, but this time it changed. I still cringed when he zerged those classmates of his whenever he saw the first possible reason to do so, but the thing is that his sensible side is starting to shine through more. Whenever he didn’t go into “angry bear”-mode he too was an interesting member to the cast who plays off very well with the others. He can sympathize with others when he wants to. The whole apology scene was weird, but definitely a step in the right direciton.
Rating: 5/8 (Great)

Posted on 29 October 2013 with categories: Yozakura Quartet

Okay, I’m not going to defend this. This episode was just bad, and I really am not sure what happened here on the production-side, but with this episode this series suddenly lost all of its charm. There were too many signs that showed that the creators didn’t really put much thought into this episode.

Up till now the fanservice was tolerable, but the first half of this episode being nothing but a pointless pool skit? That really was nothing but an excuse to show the entire female cast in bikinis. It’s completely shameless and un-subtle. If you want to do fanservice: make it fit into the story. Don’t just randomly throw in a pool. I might care about the reasons that it was really hot, if only that those reasons were mentioned again, but mysteriously that extreme heat is never mentioned again.

The rest of the episode was just a mess. This kid who is running for major comes in, and thins just start happening for no reason whatsoever, and it’s all just so flimsy. There’s this random politician who yells a lot and the girl somehow gets assaulted by this mechanical thingy out of nowhere. And then Akina suddenly comes with this incredibly dry and soulless info-dump that apparently everyone already knew aside from Kotoha. It both baffles me that they couldn’t just mention this last episode (I mean, what was revealed was a pretty important detail there to just not mention…). Also, why was Kotoha not informed of this? Again, having demons flood into the city is pretty major. A mayor should have no reason NOT to know about this. The reasons the characters mention make no sense whatsoever.

Also, what happened to the background music? It was so well timed previously. And yet here we have this generic goofy music for the silly parts, along with generic broody music for the serious parts. Seriously, what happened?
Rating: 3/8 (Lacking)

Posted on with categories: Gingitsune

This episode of Gingitsune brought a new character, combined with a really annoying chibi-fox who pretty much acts like a cocky little kid despite being eighty years old. It was a really dramatic episode, with a lot of hammy voice actors. And yet somehow this episode managed to bring a few tears to my eyes. I have no idea how they did that…

Seriously, amidst all of the elaborate series this season, Gingitsune really shines in its simplicity. What was this series about? A bunch of kids who ran away from home. And yet, they pretty much did things right here. The guy in any case is a compelling character here: he defied expectatios several times throughout this episode, and he also didn’t waste any time to shed light on some of his backstory.

Gingitsune seems to focus on the saying “there’s more than meets the eye”. Not every character has that (the female lead in particular pretty much wears her heart on her sleeve), but there have been plenty of characters who hide large parts of who they are, either consciously or unconsciously.

With this episode, Gingitsune also took a big step away from Natsume Yuujinchou. What I mean by that is that the youkai in Natsume Yuujinchou have short childhoods, despite having a very slow concept of time. In Gingitsune meanwhile we have this kid of eighty years old running around. And yeah, it’s true that Natsume Yuujinchou is much more refined and polished than this series. But yet I just can’t help but empathize with these characters as well,much more strongly than I anticipated.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 24 October 2013 with categories: Galilei Donna

A building up episode with a bit of action, neither the best nor the worst of its kind, but it did flesh out the characters, and it did so well and quite believably. What struck me here is that this show has very clearly defined the talents of the three main characters, up to the point where two of them were just completely useless now that nothing’s happening aside from some mecha battles, one of them in particular.

Hozuki basically deals with the science and mumbo jumbo in this series: her innocence combined with exploring the supernatural, and she handles the mecha battles. Hazuki meanwhile as the law student handles all of the diplomacy and is the most sensible in that area, keeping everyone together as well. Kazuki meanwhile just seems to excel at hand to hand combat, which there wasn’t anything of in this episode. So she had plenty of time to worry about the unneccessary stuff. It’s quite believably done, don’t get me wrong, but she also needs to get her time to shine after this, in the same way that the creators need to give Hozuki some flaws. Or at least something that doesn’t make her a god-moded teenager here who can do anything.

That’s the one thing that has me rather puzzled: this series went so out of its way to create a diverse cast, and here it has put one in a coma, one doesn’t want to go on an adventure, and one is missing in action for who knows how many episodes. There are two possible reasons for this: building up for later when all hell breaks loose, cleverly holding its cards back, or just making the girls as special as possible.

So yeah, the key is variety. But really: what are they going to do after this? That will be the key. Make things interesting!
Rating: 4,5/8 (Good)

Posted on 22 October 2013 with categories: Yozakura Quartet

Having superpowered characters who are really hard to kill does take away a bit of the tension, but it fits strangely wellin the light-hearted tone of these past episodes. This episode was about the background of some of the characters here, and the nature of the setting of this series. The villain only made an appareance like, once or something?

But yeah, this was solid build-up, because we now have a good grasp on who the main character is like, having bascially the responsibilit of sending demons to this unknown dimension that might not even exist, basically potentially killing them: that’s great conflict, and this episode cleverly showed us how he chose to deal with this by holding out on this until the last moment, and first showing all of the different sides to the issue.

Also, there was that scene with the car that came out of bloody nowhere. That really grabbed my attention for a bit due to how raw the action was. This show is really light, with these sudden dark spots inbetween, and it mixes really well. However, the creators do need to be building up for something: this light hearted stuff is fine and all, but only for build-up. Stuff needs to actually get darker after a while. If only because that will show more opportunities for the animators to work their magic.
Rating: 5/8 (Great)

Posted on 21 October 2013 with categories: Nagi no Asukara

Holy crap, that main character! This episode really was great! I really liked how this episode elaborated on the cultural differences between the fish people and regular humans, and all of the trouble that comes with trying to hook up with someone of the other side. The star crossed lovers here are done really well because of how this episode explored all of the implications it had, and how it involved the perspectives of a lot of different people here: elder, teenagers, adults, students. They showed many sides of the same coin.

But dear god, this kid acts like this angry bear in the way he constantly lashes out at everyone. I mean on paper he’s not a bad character and the point of his character makes sense, but his aggression is just waay overdone. He constantly screams, he constantly acts like he owns everyone, he constantly thrusts his nose into other people’s business. This guy really tries his hardest to be unlikable.

Character-development. The creators are definitely going for that, and I know from experience that Mari Okada can turn annoying characters around. But even then this guy is currently just stomping all over a perfectly fine show and his flaws are just caricatures. On top of that they just hurt the show by turning everyone off of it.

So yeah, unfortunately the creators here have done better. Mari Okada’s script for Ano Hana was much better, because it actually balanced the characters together. The same goes for the first three episodes of Hana-Saku Iroha (despite its really weird third episode), True Tears, The director, Toshiya Shinohara, is a guy guy who seems to need plot twists: that’s where he really knows how to deliver, as shown with Bantorra and Kuroshitsuji II. Nagi no Asukara unfortunately is at the moment too much of a standard series, and while you can see that the creators really try to throw in some good plot twists, the way in which the kids stand in this spotlight only ends up hurting this series.
Rating: 4,5/8 (Good)

Posted on 18 October 2013 with categories: Galilei Donna

In order to be able to watch Galilei Donna, you need to be able to accept the fact that a middle schooler spent three years, cramped up in a basement, constructing a big goldfish airship and mecha including artillery, fancy interface and weapons. This stands out. A lot. Beyond that it’s an excellent thriller though.

Heck, we need more shows with a varied cast like this with lots of different ages together. What I really like is that the family has an entire history behind them already. They’ve basically fallen apart over the years, due to the divorce, the pushy mother and the diverging interests of the three daughters. That’s actually a pretty cool backdrop to start the series with, especially with so much going on here.

The end of this episode really did stress though that this series is about the girls, and not their parents, however I do hope that father and mother are going to be more than just damsels in distress. It’s been so long since we’ve had a series that had divorced parents, but it works so well. Just look at what Noein and Bounen no Xamdou managed to do with them. Here too, they deserve to be actual characters, rather than plot devices who are only important in the beginning.

So far though, I’m excited. There are plenty of series with action this season, but this series clearly stands out with its scope and ambition. It really aims to be a fast-paced and varied thriller, it goes for the epic, and in a good way. I feel that epic is way often abused, just to create some fake tension. It’s easy to give someone enough power to destroy the world. Blah, boring. This show fast-pacedly introduced a story that dates back centuries, it puts the protagonists against an organization that controls the police. The villains feel like a real threat, and the destruction that happens feels real, thanks to the talk about suing these buggers for destruction charges. Galilei Donna understood that, which is a great sign for the future.
Rating: 5/8 (Great)

Shoutbox

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  • Friend
    (Thursday, Apr 17. 2014 12:22 AM)
    @Ninja I took your recommendation, and thus, my Tumblr name is MartaStudio
  • Mikey
    (Thursday, Apr 17. 2014 12:11 AM)
    The second episode of Hitsugi no Chaika was quite good.
  • TheUltimateReaper
    (Thursday, Apr 17. 2014 12:07 AM)
    I lost it when No Game No Life made that Jojo reference.
  • TheUltimateReaper
    (Thursday, Apr 17. 2014 12:03 AM)
    @ninjarealist of course but I find that to be a fallacy in and of itself. @Friend more like whether or not you were one of the idiots 8man talked about. But the show still has the parallels, so I think it was more about if you liked the genuine edge, and the truth to it
  • Friend
    (Wednesday, Apr 16. 2014 10:39 PM)
    SNAFU was one of those shows that hinged on whether or not you related to the main character, if I remember.
  • ninjarealist
    (Wednesday, Apr 16. 2014 09:36 PM)
    @TheUltimateReaper You’re right in the scientific sense of the word animal. However, people have traditionally also used the word animal to mean “non-human”. That’s the way I was using the word. I’m not saying that this kind of distinction is even a good one to make, but it’s central to the psychology of mass murderers.
  • TheUltimateReaper
    (Wednesday, Apr 16. 2014 09:10 PM)
    @ninjarealist human beings are animals though, in short, it’s just idiots thinking they’re better than other idiots, ego, ego, ego
  • ninjarealist
    (Wednesday, Apr 16. 2014 09:06 PM)
    @Aidan The Congo Free State, Columbus, in all these acts of mass murder the perpetrators were able to convince themselves that the people they were killing were sub-human. It’s not hard to slaughter people like animals if you honestly think that those people ARE animals. It’s why discrimination is so evil.
  • TheUltimateReaper
    (Wednesday, Apr 16. 2014 09:02 PM)
    Still ecstatic about SNAFU, and man, No Game No Life is friggen awesome. With ep2 I’m convinced its going to be a wild ride. The tracks are clear, everything is in order.
  • JaK
    (Wednesday, Apr 16. 2014 07:30 PM)

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