Posted on 31 December 2018 with categories: Anime Reviews, Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara

In the last few years, it’s great to see P.A Works has slowly created their own studio identity, putting more original works with consistent production values. Just in 2018, they produced 4 shows (quite a good number if you ask me), 3 of them were original: Maquia, Sirius the Jaeger and Irozuku. As I said, it’s a encouraging sign to see a studio that has control of its titles, but at the moment they still haven’t reached their full potential yet. The same pitfalls between Irozuku and Sirius the Jaeger, in particular, lies in its writing. They’re unremarkable and in Irozuku’s case, drags on for too long. Irozuku is a show that has a well-realized settings, a solid theme of finding love and gorgeous production, but it’s one of the case where it has no real plot, as a result in the middle chunk it feels as if the cast just wanders around in search for the plot.

You can see that aimlessness from our main lead, Hitomi, who is colorblind, afraid to use magic and shut off her own feeling. When she’s transported back to her Grandma’s timeline, she doesn’t know what her purpose is, or what she should do. Comes the supporting cast from the Art/ Photography Club who has different personality traits, but “surprisingly” always in sync when it comes to group decision. I take it as lazy-writing since at the end of the day, none of the cast raise above their established traits. The addition of energetic Kohaku moves the show forward a bit, but she’s also bogged down by the same approach.

I normally avoid to criticize a show for “nothing happens”, but it’s exactly the case here for Irozuku. The middle portion consists mostly of the cast hang out doing their club activities that both feel random in nature and nothing has progressed whatsoever. Although they spend majority of time together, the chemistry of the cast isn’t necessary strengthened, because they repeat the same atmosphere all over again. Not all of these relationships are one-note, however. Aoi and Hitomi has some neat moments together, as they settle down their own feeling for each other. Kohaku has some solid developments too on how she takes the responsibility of bringing Hitomi safe and sound.

Irozuku is the show that mixes between magic and the normal day lives; and it’s the magic parts that are the highlights of the show. Whenever it comes to these scenes, the visual never fails to impress. Whether they’re colorful fireworks, the magic train or drawing-styles paintings or the sparks of the magic spell, everything looks gorgeous and it’s the visual alone that carries the message more than the narrative. It takes a trip to Aio’s painting with the black figure hopelessly chase the dead golden fish that tells much more about Aio’s artistic struggle than any word can convey. The same goes for Hitomi’s monochrome vision, every time it switches between color to black and white world, we see the world in her point of view and there’s always a hint of sadness carries across.

Thematically speaking, Irozuku centrals on finding your own happiness and love yourself as part of embracing and living the world. Throughout its run, Hitomi progresses from a shy little sad sack to someone who knows what she likes, from a girl who is afraid of her own magic to someone who finds the beauty in magic and the colors in her life. As it stands, I still believe Irozuku would be much stronger if it only had half of its runtime, or had a more solid middle arc. It remains a show that has clear starting and ending point, but don’t know the road the get there efficiently.

Posted on 23 December 2018 with categories: Anime Reviews, Banana Fish, Finished Series: Slice of Life/Drama

Some days, I wonder what it is with America and anime about organized crime. Baccano!, 91 Days, Blood Blockade Battlefront, all set in America, all involving criminal underworlds. Today, I get to add another to that list in the form of Banana Fish. Much more grounded than the others, it’s story dates all the way back to the 80’s. The Vietnam war has recently come to a close, and Organized Crime is being forced to adapt to new times. Banana Fish takes this story and adapts it for the modern age, with smartphones and the Middle East. It attempts to touch on all these weighty subjects and conflicts, but in the end, can only manage a story about two young men, in over their heads.

Welcome to Banana Fish. Lets jump in.

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Posted on 22 December 2018 with categories: Banana Fish, Finished Series: Slice of Life/Drama

Hello one and all, and welcome to the Finale of Banana Fish!

Starting off, let me say, I was surprised with the ending. I will keep the spoilers to a minimum above the ‘Read More’ line, but suffice to say Banana Fish successfully tricked me. I loved it. As far as the other 28 minutes of the episode go though… well, its up in the air. First, I want to direct you to this reddit post, which goes very deep into some symbolism and the dichotomy of Banana Fish. I disagree with it in some areas, but still a good read if you care about the series. Second, to get it out of the way now before I start tearing into specifics, I enjoyed this ending. I would say it was a net positive for Banana Fish. With all of its problems in the second half, at the least we got a definitive ending. Something becoming rarer and rarer these days.

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Posted on 17 December 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara

And suddenly, after weeks of hovering around, Irozuku has some sort of urgency this week. You see, Hitomi’s spell starts to wear off and she only has 2 days left to say goodbye to this world. NOW the cast has some motivation to actually do necessary stuffs before time running out. That means Kohaku has to bare all the responsibility of bringing her back to her time safely, and Hitomi has to sort all her feeling out before the moment comes. Both the visual and the narrative are purposeful this week (something I can’t say for their previous episodes). In specific, the moment where she… whoops… vanishes into thin air, Irozuku makes it feel as if time has stopped. Or the moment later where Hitomi making those paper planes and communicate with Aoi by switching her light on and off, it works because it’s understated. These small moments like this is what Irozuku unfortunately missed during its middle section.

It still comes a bit out-of-nowhere the way Hitomi suddenly disappears and how Kohaku later informs us that it’s a sign that she has to go back home. I mean, we didn’t learn about this Okabe-situation before, and it doesn’t help that the day they want to cast the magic is on the same day with the School Festival. I’m willing to put all these aside, however, because this is the only rare times where I see the cast actually having some purposes. Chief among them is Kohaku, with all the burden of whether or not she can do it, and do it safely. Then it’s also a matter of gathering up the right material, which in this case is the pure magic sand. The rest of the club has some nice development where at first they’re sad to receive the news, but determine to do their best to help bringing Hitomi back to her timeline safely, even if they aren’t gonna see her ever again.

As for Hitomi, she doesn’t take this news too well. She knows it has to be done, but she doesn’t want to leave the world where she has good friends and where she finds her first crush, Aoi. There’s a saying that “either you have a sense of urgency today, or you have a sense of regret tomorrow”, this time both Aoi, and her wanted to say what they feel towards each other. What happens next is that they reach to each other without a single word. As they both race to each other’s house and meet halfway (boy, I’m glad there’s only one route to their houses), and embrace each other in a near-full moon. Time remaining might be too short for the two now, but finally they can be able to express how they really feel.

Posted on 15 December 2018 with categories: Banana Fish, Finished Series: Slice of Life/Drama

Welcome one and all penultimate episode of Banana Fish! This week we lose 2 antagonists, Blanca gets a history and Ash asks for help for the first time. Lets go!

Opening, I have to say, a lot happened this week and Banana Fish just nailed it. No part of it felt particularly rushed or cut. Sure, parts came as a surprise, such as Dino’s fate, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t work. If anything, the surprise of who are final villain is made it work even more. I was not expecting the episode to go down how it did. Of course, I am talking about Foxx and Dino, which I will get into deeper in just a moment. Now, I suppose this justifies Foxx’s introduction so late in the series a bit. I still think that compared to say Arthur or Yut, he is a much weaker villain. I wish he had more time to build his character and threat. But for a narrative surprise? Good enough. Now, onto the meat!

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Posted on 10 December 2018 with categories: Banana Fish, Finished Series: Slice of Life/Drama

Welcome to what is, to me, a very contentious episode of Banana Fish. This time Blanca gets sentimental, Ash learns Japanese, and Eiji sets Ash on a Warpath through no fault of his own. Let’s dive in!

Overall, this was a good episode. It flipped everything on its head and, assuming Banana Fish doesn’t backpedal on it next week, really committed to it. With what has happened to Max and Eiji this week, it goes without saying that stake’s haven’t been higher than when Shorter was done in. Banana Fish also really slowed itself down pacing wise this week as well. For the past few episodes, we have burned through content at a breakneck pace. Freeing Ash, right into another gun-fight, into being captured again. This episode Banana Fish freed Ash and then gave the characters some much needed downtime. Establishing the final stakes and their relationships. With 2 episodes left, to clean up the series and give us some kind of epilogue with the double length finale, this is a good thing. Now, onto specifics!

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Posted on with categories: Currently Watching:, Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara

Irozuku, as meandering as it always is, has some stunning sequences this episode. It furthers proves the fact that 1) the magical sequence is where Irozuku really takes off and 2) its strength always come from its visual department, not in the storytelling. Take the sequence where Aoi steps into Hitomi’s dream, for example. He sees the young Hitomi keeps drawing pictures of her and Mama drifting apart. As he draws several ways of her crossing the middle gap, she silently throws them away – refusing to accept at all. This single scene speaks to her insecurity and her afraid of using magic more than the last 9 episodes had ever conveyed. Or the image of stone-Hitomi gives you a good idea how she blocks away her own emotions. These scenes speak to the same strengths of Aoi’s dream back in episode 6 and I would argue that this is Irozuku at its best.

Another highlight for this week is when the club goes into the drawing that Aoi made. Not only the background designs alone are stunning, but its vivid colors help greatly of making that setting inviting and rich at the same times. It certainly reminds me a great deal of Mary Poppins when our characters flying away by using umbrellas, and the rainbow looks great as well. Before that, Hitomi also shines by committing to practise the spells of transferring them into the drawing/ pictures. Her fallen out/ reconcile with Asami doesn’t do much for me, unfortunately. It’s awkward to begin with, Irozuku approaches it way too clumsily and it has nothing interesting to offer to the table.

We now learn the reason behind Hitomi feeling afraid of using magic. Her mother (which will be Kohaku’s daughter) can’t use magic, which is a rare case in her family. The little Hitomi believes, thus blames herself, that it’s her performing magic was the main reason that her Mom left her. I would say that the stress causes her to lose the ability to see colors as well. It’s a sad little story (albeit still cliche) for sure, and it’s good to see her opening up to Aoi. Now that she can truly express the emotions she kept bottling up inside her, she’s (and by effect, us) facing the more important question: what is her true purpose of going back in this timeline? It’s about the goddamn time Irozuku needs to address it, shouldn’t it?

Posted on 3 December 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara

Another episode, and my disappointment keeps raising up. Irozuku has come to the point where it has to creates its own conflict (all these romance drama), but it’s the development that we already tracked down back in episode 2, and it does a poor job of convincing us to care about these characters. This is all about Shou’s confession this week. Predictably, Hitomi freaks out; predictably, she finds the courage to say no to him and predictably, here he is at the rooftop, screaming his heart out in a typical anime fashion. Irozuku is a show that has solid themes, and has great visual to boost but it has no proper plot to carry the narrative. As a result, more often than not we see the cast doing their usual club activities that could easily interchange with each other, and worse the cast functions more as a single united mind, where passively supporting Hitomi is their default mode.

I blame Hitomi’s insensitive nature in all this. She’s not only clueless about Shou’s interest in her, but she also doesn’t take hint about Asagi’s crush and talks to her about it instead. Great job, Hitomi. So, Shou takes Hitomi out alone for a shooting session, and clumsily (the reason I put it that way is because Irozuku messes up the pacing in this confession scene) asks her out, in which she does the worst possible way, running away from all that. It’s hard to say no to the guy she always looks up to, and it’s also an opportunity for her to really knows who she likes better. Speaking of that person, Aio is a real mess here as he does absolutely nothing, he doesn’t put up a fight, nor does he acknowledge that he also has a feeling for Hitomi. After the rejection, Aio admires Shou for having a ball to confess, and receive rejection and his courage to crying out loud. Both Hitomi and Aoi have a problem of truly expressing themselves, and I figure that the final arc to be them embracing their own feeling to confess to each other.

Not that it’s a high stake to begin with. But for a show that quite literally nothing happens (a criticism that I don’t give very often), it’s a realistic reach for Irozuku. As it stands, I could compress this show into half, or even ⅓ of its length (which is a feature-length film), and it could strengthen the show much better. Irozuku has a clear beginning point A and finishing point B, but it doesn’t know a clear path to go from one point to its destination, so that it wanders around, with a magic wand in one hand and camera in the other, taking aimlessly monochrome pictures as it goes along.

Posted on 1 December 2018 with categories: Banana Fish, Finished Series: Slice of Life/Drama

Hello and welcome to Banana Fish! Apologies for missing last week, but the call of Thanksgiving Turkey could not be denied. This time Eiji fires a gun, Max gets groped, and Ash gets captured. Again. Lets jump in!

To start off, I have to mention it, the elephant in the room, the pacing. My god was the pacing fast. Early on in the series, this was a plus. It never felt like nothing was happening. But the pacing has only increased since then, as we burn through more and more volumes. Episode 20 alone we went from Ballroom Infiltration, to Sewer Chase, to Museum Fight, to prepping a new villain. At the least this should have been split into 2 episodes, so the leads could have time to cooldown between these set pieces. For me, this really hurt these two episodes. Banana Fish was jumping from cut to cut, scene to scene, without any artistry put into it. The tone broke down because of this and became a jumbled mess. Fast is good Banana Fish, but only if you stay in control. And in control, it was not.

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Posted on 27 November 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara

The moment teen-Kohaku came to the picture few episodes ago, I knew that she’d be the one who forces the plot forward, for better or for worse. After a few episodes where she had been just eccentric, this week, indeed, she drives the story by forcing Hitomi and Aoi together to see if it triggers Hitomi’s color sight again. That’s Mari Okada’s level of emotional manipulation there. Well, even I had prepared for it, I’m still a fair bit let down that Irozuku goes to that fashion. That disappointment aside, this week marks the first time Irozuku frames the narrative through Kohaku’s perspective, which further gives us her motivation, and at large her responsibility of sending Hitomi back to her timeline. The problem with it is, nobody, especially Hitomi, knows what they want. As such, the main narrative now feels like a cow running in circle looking for a way out.

This week involves Kohaku who comes to the conclusion that the reason for Hitomi’s colorblind is that she unintentionally casts a spell to herself. That’s a legit reason by all means, and she tries hard to not only resolve her granddaughter personal issues, but also restore her safely back to her world. It’s Hitomi, however, who enjoys this world so much that she doesn’t want to leave yet. This week, the club gives her a chance to take her own picture. If you’re like me, these club activities become somewhat the same now that it’s boring and repetitive. I know I have addressed this issue every week but it’s bear repeating that Irozuku doesn’t have much in terms of actual plot to tell.

Not only Hitomi, there’s another person who isn’t sure of his own feeling. It’s Shou, the Photography president who clearly has some attachments over Hitomi but can’t open his mouth to say this. Regarding this is P.A Works show, this kind of development doesn’t surprise me much but I just wish they tackle it more intimately. There’s just not much character acting, or even character depth in any of these developments. And that’s where Irozuku falters since I feel detached from these characters, as a result I don’t care much whether or not Hitomi can regain her color view. Okay, she will eventually see the world in full colors, so what? Not a big deal at the end of the day.

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