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

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 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 10 December 2018 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 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.

Posted on 19 November 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara

And with this episode, my patience for Irozuku has started to run dry. It’s that, I learn very little about about them this week. The plot is on the standstill and it’s a whiplash that the cliffhanger for last week, namely Hitomi can see in colors, reverses back to the status quo. Which begs me a question on why they did that (gave her a brief moment of colorful sight) in the first place. Since the episode where Kohaku comes back home, all they have been doing are club activities that add next to nothing to the plot, in fact it feels as if our cast is in search for a plot. This week, Irozuku focuses on a side character, Kurumi and her little growing-up crisis. There’s some neat material here and there, as I can relate to her feeling inferior towards her older sister, and her issues of not having anything she could give her all to. But all this doesn’t necessary work out well in the end, given how little we know about her sister, or even herself, for that matter. Irozuku also develops the chemistry between her and Chigusa, her underclassman who is obviously has a thing for her, but the way Irozuku shows it leave a lot to be desired.

This issue is the show’s overall issue. For a show that is supposed to be a character-focus, Irozuku’s cast is underwhelming. They aren’t that deep and they act like one group’s personality most of the time. These characters are given space to develop only when the show decides to do so. Take Chigusa this week for example, normally he’s the most out-there character, but this episode because it’s Kurumi-focus so the show gives a lot of screen time for him and underplays other characters’ involvement. He has some nice chemistry with Kurumi, admittedly, but for me it doesn’t feel enough. That climax where they all run to catch up the ship (when they could easily take the pics on the other side of the bridge), tells you exactly all these problems. The group, smiles as they go along with Chigusa’s sudden decision, and at the end I feel like it wasted its 20 minutes.

Hitomi and Aoi takes one small step forward this week, as Aoi gives her the painting he’s currently working on. I don’t know why the show downplays the moment, and I’m sure as heck don’t know the significance of her telling her friends the truth about her colorblind. Look, she only has two secrets: that she’s colorblind and she comes from the future. When the group acted with little surprise and and treated her literally like nothing happen, I can see that this reveal ain’t going to affect them much. Which brings me to the next point: goddamnit Irozuku, make something, anything, happens. There’s a line between gradually build up and nothing moves at all. Irozuku for now, is too afraid to move the plot forward.

Posted on 12 November 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara

Irozuku takes us to episode 6 for something significant happen, but even then it’s decidedly under-dramatic. This week, we have a whole lot more of magical moments that certainly are the feast to the eyes, and develop many underlying themes of its narrative. The central of the conflict this week is Hitomi and Aoi, as Hitomi unknowingly sucked into his painting world. The result is one of the most gorgeous sequences I’ve seen in recent memories. It’s abstract, it’s colorful and it’s painting-like that opens to a world of of its own. What makes it ticks, in addition, is how well these elements Hitomi sees bode well to Aoi’s creativity struggles. She sees herself in the vast desert, a dead golden fish that signifies Aoi’s creativity block. That fish, as Hitomi soon finds out, was Aoi’s first creation way back to his junior year. She further sees a black figure who literally tries to recapture the fish, as he follows the fish he’s unknowingly sucked into the black hole. Once again, Irozuku triumphs in its visual department that speaks so well to the theme that its writing can’t never match. Indeed, once again, it’s the visual presentation – not the narrative Irozuku has been building up to – that grabs me the most in this episode.

The best scene that comes right to my mind is the image of the black figure. His back bends because of the burden he feels, and as he approaches the dead golden fish, it’s clear that he has lost sight to the big picture. The later magical sequences when Hitomi sees that golden fish again, and suddenly regains her color are also spectacular in every possible way. It’s the narrative that is still not quite there for me. Again, we have another moments where Shou having some time alone with Hitomi, in which again our poor girl Asagi just happens to be there to witness the whole thing. Again we have club activities that move the story very, very slowly. I also feel that Aio’s issues don’t really connect to me on a personal level due to how little screen time we have regarding the boy. Aio’s struggle always have to do with Hitomi’s own growth so he never really resonates to me in any way.

Nevertheless, Irozuku develops that Aoi – Hitomi relationship quite neatly this week. Aoi has his first conflict with our girl, more because it’s too personal for him to face those issues, and it’s clear by now that Hitomi has some feeling to the boy. Later on, when Hitomi runs away (in a stupid manner I have to add), Aoi chases her down and promises he will get over his own issues and shows her his new painting once it’s finished. That promise, I suspect, is what cause Hitomi seeing the world in colors again. As this is the first time for a long while that she’s truly experiencing life. In this case, experiencing first love.

Posted on 5 November 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara

If I have one word that could describe Irozuku so far, it’s “slow-burn”. Indeed we have something burned this week (Hitomi’s failed attempts of making star sand), and “slow” is definitely on the table here. Even to my taste where I much prefer deliberate pacing than bombastic climax in every episode or cheap cliffhanging that anime today is guilty of, usually after finishing an episode of Izoruku I have a hard time recapping what happened in the episode. There are two main themes this week 5 of Irozuku develops, one of them regarding the tangled love interest of several players in the cast, and the other is about the cast’s struggling with their own creative sides. I’ll address both themes later, but first let’s talk about Hitomi. Hitomi has been a mixed bag as far as central protagonist concerns. She has clear struggles, but she remains unclear towards her goals to the point the supporting cast has to take charge, and in most cases, it’s her (young) granny Kohaku. It’s good, then, to see her become more active this week as she’s trying to fit in with this current world: practicing magic again, spend more times with her clubmates and be useful when helping out with her relative’s shop. When it comes to Aio’s pictures she’s no subtle about it, as in many cases she says to him his drawings mean a lot to her. Their scenes together are amongst Hirozuku’s best. It’s intimate, it’s understated but it’s also grounded and magical at the same time. The moments she gives him her star sand this week, it comes so natural and beautiful that it remains a highlight of the episode.

Which bring me to the second point that I’m not quite as enthusiastic, which is the romantic conflicts between the cast, chief among them between Shou, Hitomi and Asagi. It starts with Kohaku’s fortune teller, which (predictably) students line-up to ask about their romances. She tells Asagi that she has bad luck when it comes to romance. Shou has been close to Hitomi to help her out as she’s the new member of the Photography club. I’m not so sure whether he has a feeling for Hitomi (the majority says it’s obvious but part of me thinks he’s just too dense to realize all that. Another cliche trait), but it’s clear that Hitomi doesn’t aware of it and Asagi doesn’t take it very well. She’s angry about him being too considerate as to display all the foods in single brown color (but in truth that effort makes no sense since Hitomi can only see every food in black and white). I must say the part where she confesses to Hitomi that they’re childhood friend and he means a lot to her disappoints me a little, given it’s a very predictable backstory. At the end, she works her courage to ask him to help her on the rabbit postcard, but I suppose we will see more of this plot thread in next few episodes.

The second theme of Irozuku this week fares so much better to me. It’s the cast’s struggle at their arts, be it Aoi who can’t draw the drawings he’s satisfied, to Asagi who is too shy to show her works, to Hitomi tries and fails multiple time making magic star sand. These struggles, just like their teenage struggles of growing up, speak well to Irozuku’s little drama. And it’s a process of hardwork (in Hitomi’s case), and having more confident (in all cases) that they can overcome their own slump. To be fair, for a show with such tender approach, Irozuku doesn’t have its chop for developing special connection between its cast. Apart from Aoi – Hitomi pair and Hitomi – Kohaku pair, they function more as group’s chemistry. If you, for example, pair Kohaku to Aoi or to Shou, you’ll see that they don’t have any chemistry whatsoever. It’s frankly quite a bit of a shame, because I feel the cast doesn’t reach the full potential it could have, and worse some of the developments like this triangle love feels forced. I might ask for a little too much, but it’s only because Irozuku promises quite a lot.

Posted on 31 October 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara

This episode marks an official appearance of Kohaku, and she is indeed brightens the screen and quickly becomes my favorite character out of this series. She’s both an interesting character in her own right (I love how she’s in merge between eccentric and act like an responsible adult), and she fits into the surrounding very well. For a show that has always been slow, she’s a necessary dynamite to blow things up a bit and drives the narrative as the series goes on. For instance, this week, because of her courage, Hitomi finally reveals to her club-mates that she comes from the future. While it’s an opportunity for the show to go all out emotionally, I don’t mind the understated way it addresses at all. Even the cast members don’t seem to be very taken aback by the reveal, which can gives of a bit strange. I really enjoy Kohaku’s little magic shown in this episode, as it feels magical, and what comes afterward, that everything blows up and everyone keeps reminding her of “don’t do anything that involve apologize letter” certainly give a smiles on my face.

There’s also some romantic potential here, chief among them Shou and Hitomi, while the other girl shows sign of one-sided crush to Shou. I’m not sure if it’s a good lake to fish since we know for certain how Hitomi is going to response. It’s pretty confirmed about the pair of glassed girl Kurumi and her underclassman Chigusa, and it’s interesting to note that Yuito shows some feeling towards Hitomi as he’s too shy to call her by her first name. While it’s P.A Works’s template that romance is bound to happen – which I’m not totally keen of – I will reserve my comment until I see how well they develop the romances at hands.

Many have noted the fact that Irozuku lacks punch. Indeed, apart from the fantastic moment at the end of episode 1, there’s little to no big payoff moments. Even in the “big moments” of this episode, namely when she reveals to her club members that she’s from the future & the magic train in the sky, are equally downplayed and mundane. Everything seems slow and understated, and to be fair Irozuku isn’t the best production when it comes to portrays subtle nuances, but it still maintains its own confident step forward. The issue with Hitomi for now is that she doesn’t has enough confident, or finding the true brilliance, in her magic. For Kohaku, she uses magic to bring smiles to people, so what will be the drive for Hitomi to fully embrace her magic?

Posted on 22 October 2018 with categories: Currently Watching:, Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara

Three episodes in, Hitomi finally joins the Photography/ Art club, talking about deliberate pacing here. Irozuku remains a show that still hasn’t totally impressed me. The main issues aren’t in the slow tempo, however. It’s more that Irozuku has a fair amount of cliche plot and predictable storytelling that it fails to grab me as much as it could. Take the Photography members and their love interests, for example. In a P.A.Works fashion there are hints of some potential pairings within this group, although whether or not the president Shou will get interested in Hitomi remains to be seen. The clue we had at the end of episode 2 when he looks at her doesn’t get any development at all this week, which I prefer it that way. Since coming to this world, Hitomi’s mind has always been occupied by the colorful drawings of Yuito, thus some distraction like a third wheel’s romance won’t bode well, narratively speaking.

The main plot of this episode 3 involving Hitomi looking for a suitable club and then assists the Photography club for their events. Due to her colorblind, she takes a wrong star sand, but she still manages to walk on water by her own magic power before her friend Kurumi reminds her so. That moment where she walks in the fog sure is breathtakingly, really, on a production level I have little to no complain. Her friend Kurumi in this episode also walks (this time figuratively) a thin line between ‘tolerable’ and ‘too much’. The big question mark will be the first appearance of her grandma Kohaku – a character whose presence always felt despite she’s currently studying abroad. If I have to guess right now I’d expect her to be airhead and pushy like Haruhi Suzumiya and it’s her who will drives the plot forward from here to the finish line. The question remains whether she’d become too dominant that she’d sweep everyone away, including Hitomi. Hitomi, this is your show, puts more effort to claim it!

After that dreadful fall (which eventually leads to the club’s cleaning pool as penalty), she reveals to Yuito about her colorblindness. He figures it out anyway since he remarks on how different she uses her color. Thus comes an understated but rewarding suggestion from him, join the photography club for monochrome projects. Based on the last event, it’s clear that Hitomi doesn’t lack magic power, it’s her inconfidence and her detachment that mainly cause it so hopefully, little by little, with the help of her friends (and grandma), she’ll come to learn to love herself and love the world around her.

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Serial Experiments Lain is weird. It is a series unlike any other, wholly unique in anime, both modern and historical. Every aspect of it, from presentation to narrative, is best described as an experience. It is because of this that I believe Lain is a must watch, if only to experience a piece of anime […]

Penguin Highway (2018) Movie Review – 89/100

You’re walking along in your neighborhood, going about your daily routine. It’s a fine morning. The sun is shining brightly. But suddenly, you see something strange. You squint your eyes; even rub them, to make sure it isn’t a mirage before exclaiming with excitement, “Oh, look. It’s a bird. No, it’s a plane! No no. […]

One Punch Man Season 2 Anime Review – 34/100

Often at the start of one of these reviews, I will wax philosophical about a series. Attempting to slowly draw you, the reader, in to whatever topic or anime I am discussing in that review. This time, none of that. This time, I have to come out and say from the beginning, that One Punch […]