Posted on 3 August 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews, Showa Monogatari




Anime is dying? Hah. As long as series like Showa Monogatari keep getting released, I refuse to believe something like that. Showa Monogatary may have a few production issues, but I just have to praise the guts that the producers had to actually dare and release it. Here we have a series wit no moe, no bishies, zero fanservice, no pandering and no overblown action. Instead of aiming at teenagers, kids or otaku, Showa Monogatari is aimed at a 50+ audience, portraying the life of an ordinary family in 1964.

Now, this is a slice of life series, so it obviously isn’t for everyone, but I do have to warn people that it’s not what it seems at first sight, because this show has something very misleading about its premise: Kouhei, the rather annoying 9-year-old lead character. Because of him, this show will at first seem like a kids’ series where we see yet another coming of age story of a young boy growing up somewhere. This is not what this series is about, though.

Kouhei is just a member of the cast here. There are a number of episodes that revolve around him, but there are also plenty of episodes that don’t, and instead develop the rest of the cast: his older brother, sister, parents and grandmother. All of them together end up as a charming and down to earth family with real problems, challenges and characteristics. Every character in this series is flawed and this show actually does quite a good job to develop everyone.

This series does have its production issues, though. The animation is quite poor and the direction feels rather mellow throughout the entire series. The worst is Kouhei’s voice actor, though: this guy can’t act for the life of him, and will ruin any dramatic scene he’s involved in. It overall is a series that feels like the production was rushed, and that the creators didn’t get time to make everything click and mesh together, and present things well, because it’s very rough around the edges.

The problems that the cast face are very realistic, but at the same time the creators do force their drama. It’s again one of those cases that has a lot of flaws, yet does a number of other things right, because the cast here remains well developed. In the end though, it does lack a bit of staying power.

Storytelling: 8/10 – The direction could have been stronger, but this one is well balanced and very realistic.
Characters: 8/10 – Well developed cast, but sometimes very badly acted.
Production-Values: 8/10 – The animation is really jerky, but the background art is very accurate. It really feels like 50 years ago.
Setting: 8/10 – Very interesting premise, historically accurate and realistic. Very authentic.

Suggestions:
Furusato Japan
Rail of the Star
Ushiro no Shoumen Dare

Posted on with categories: Showa Monogatari



Okay, so it turns out that the final episode of Showa Monogatari aired quite a while ago. Nobody just bothered to release it aside from a random upload on Megavideo. the long wait wasn’t really good for my appreciation of this series: looking back, the previous episode actually left a lot to be desired due to both Kouhei’s acting and pulling a sickness bomb for the final climax.

This episode meanwhile didn’t really feel like a climax. It was interesting though, because of how it forced some of the characters to think about their futures. Ironically though, Kouhei still is a pretty flat character, but thankfully he didn’t play the biggest part in this episode.

Overall, the biggest flaw of this series is the way it presented itself: the script is good, but the way in which the characters are presented, and acted lacks ways that catch your attention and end up memorable. This is indeed tricky to do with a slice of life series, but also probably the biggest reason for why this series got ignored so badly, aside from the chronic lack of moe.

Overall, Showa Monogatari was good, but not up to the standards of Wao World. Their other movies, helmed by their flagship director, did have a strong direction and focus, starting off slow and continuing to build up to a great climax where not drama stood central, but performances. Furusato Japan still was the best at this.

Now all that’s left is the movie, and do note that that one’s being created by a different staff compared to the TV-series. The director is someone who normally does just special effects or producing, so who knows what kind of things will result from a director like that
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 8 July 2011 with categories: Showa Monogatari



So here too we’re nearly at the end. Unlike what I expected, it’ll focus on Kouhei’s father. It makes sense: it’s what this entire series has been building up for, but that does mean that his brother did not really get the time to show off his character. I really thought that he too would get an arc like Yuuko’s, but it pretty much stopped after his date failed.

This episode was build-up to that finale, along with Kouhei’s best friend suddenly announcing that he’s moving far away. That’s the thing with this series: every character’s story is linear, apart from Kouhei, whose is episodic. The stories around him are the least coherent. It’s an interesting mix, that would have worked if the acting was better.

The same acting also got in the way of this episode. I mean, having a friend move far away again is a situation that a lot of people can relate to. The acting during the goodbye scene though was just really bad. Especially Kouhei hammed it up, but the other kids also delivered cringe-worthy performances, and this is both in terms of the voice acting and the animation. What was meant to be a tearful goodbye ended up looking rather silly.

This episode also may have dropped the sickness bomb a bit too often when it kept hinting to both Kouhe’s father AND grandmother’s health. His father was the first to collapse, but I’m not sure what Grandmother’s health is really going to add at this point. I do like how this series keeps fleshing out all of its characters while building up to the finale, though: this episode again left no character really ignored. That’s pretty good, especially since it has been doing this consistently.

Father’s sickness has potential, though. It’s obviously a bit forced, but with the right character development it can make for a nice finale. But do give Kouhei a small role. That yell at the end of this episode felt so disinterested that I’m pretty sure that his voice actor is being forced by his parents to perform this and would rather be doing something completely different.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 29 June 2011 with categories: Showa Monogatari



Okay, so I know that this isn’t getting subbed and all, and the fact that it has only one cute girl and no hot guys were bound to make it ridiculously ignored, but seriously: someone sub this. I know the acting isn’t at its best, but I keep seeing more and more people who want realism in anime. This is by far the most realistic series of the season!

It’s surprising how few anime seem to focus on bad boyfriends, the only recent one that I can think of right now is Colorful. Are moe girls really that pure that they only attract guys with no personality or something? While previous episodes of this show may have been a bit overacted, this episode hit all of the right notes: it never was too dramatic, and yet it revealed that the guy that Yuuko had a crush on was both a criminal and cheating on her. It’s not like these problems resolved themselves in 50 years time in Japan, right?

This was a pretty great portrayal of the teenaged years. It had angst, but this didn’t come with the cliches that you usually see in anime and it really was about problems that anyone could have had. I really liked this conclusion to Yuuko’s arc. I imagine that the final two episodes will be about Kouhei’s brother. He’s been strangely ignored during the past few episodes.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 14 June 2011 with categories: Showa Monogatari



And with this we’re finally done with the preview episodes, and it’s finally time for this series to wrap itself up. The big focus on this episode was Yuuko. My memory may be a bit fuzzy on this point, but I’m surprised that she still stuck with that guy after he failed to take her to that love hotel. It’s a major episode that shows her getting in trouble by stealing something from a store.

Seriously though: the drama in this series is really down to earth. First of all the big drama of this episode didn’t revolve around the world getting destroyed or somebody dying, but instead on someone stealing a record from the Beatles. This show actually succeeds in creating good drama from that, but what’s even better is that this episode also succeeded in delivering some good drama on something even more mundane: Kouhei’s father having a terrible day at work. Whereas the foreshadowing of Yuuko’s adventures could have been a bit more subtle, her father’s bad temper has been around the entire series and this episode showed really nicely the troubles he has controlling this, alongside raising a teenaged daughter at a difficult age and a son as he hit the bratty age.

Speaking of which: Kouhei was in the background again with his tasks mainly reduced as a narrator, foreshadowing for other characters and trying to draw his father for homework. This is where he fits best. The drama around him has by far been the least interesting of the entire series, so it’s always good to see the focus on the rest of the cast.

Also, it’s been five months since this show debuted, with only one episode subbed. With Hyouge Mono I can understand the delay: it is really complex to understand. But seriously: the dialogue in Showa Monogatari is not difficult and quite easy to understand.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 25 May 2011 with categories: Showa Monogatari



I still think that the EDs for this series are a very nice touch: showing a different classic song from those days really makes this series even more authentic than it already was. It’s one of the few EDs this season that actually tries to add something to its series.

In any case, I really liked this episode. Half of it was about Kouhei, and the other half about Yuuko. Kouhei surprisingly had his best episode so far, which probably had a lot to do with the fact that he wasn’t alone in this episode: his part was about his entire baseball team. The story about bullying was surprisingly well done here, and it was worth seeing all those kids together. As a group, these kids really are a great character here.

Also, it was a nice touch to show an earthquake there. I suspect that this series was talking about the 1964 Niigata Earthquake, of a magnitude of 7.5. Yet again: it’s impressive to see how well the creators are trying to make this series blend in with the actual history, not to mention that it also was a nice touch to show all this through the eyes of a child, who couldn’t grasp the consequences of such a thing yet.

The next two weeks meanwhile will be the remaining two preview episodes, and with this episode everything nicely falls into place. First of all, this episode really shows the events that lead up to Yuuko’s date going wrong. Also, the fact that within two episodes we’re going to skip to the summer holidays really point to the fact that the creators are intending the 1964 Olympics as the finale of this series. A great idea. It’s especially going to be good for Kouhei’s brother: his storyline can’t be wrapped up that quickly, and something tells me that the creators were intending to put more of Yuuko in the first half, and more of him in the second half of this series.

Also, this episode had a slightly different animation style than usual. The drawings were messier, but at the same time there was more movement and the camera angles were much better than usual. I’ve always found that movement and details have a higher priority than consistency, so this is a change that I liked quite a bit. Ideally you’d of course want animation to both have a lot of movement and be crisp at the same time, but Wao World unfortunately doesn’t have the best animators.

On a side-note: that pool! It’s hard to imagine, but were pools in those days always that filthy?
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 16 May 2011 with categories: Showa Monogatari



Okay, so as it turns out episode four did not take forever to show up as a raw. It was just on a hiatus for a week. Then, the fifth episode that aired a week ago was one of the four preview episodes and now we finally can get to some more new content with episode six. Seriously, I have never seen a show with such a complicated airing schedule since the time where one of our Dutch television stations suddenly decided to air the final episode of Medabots’ Second season in the middle of its run…

In any case, half of this episode was about Kouhei destroying windows while playing baseball. Aside from being about Kouhei, it was also one of those “been there done that”-scenarios. The only fresh thing is that he just kept on going even after things went wrong two times. It’s typical and I can understand the nostalgic reasons for putting this in, but I was already bored by the “broken window-plot” when I was a kid myself. It’s probably because I couldn’t relate to it at all (I grew up in a small village, so there always was enough room to play and not bother adults).

The rest of this episode was really good though. This time it was about the business of Kouhei’s father taking a nasty hit when they get conned. They lost a lot of money with it and therefore really needed to put in effort in order to prevent to not fall down into debts, and at the same time it was nothing major: it’s a thing that could have happened to anyone; both today and back in those days. It’s also here where Kouhei’s antics made the most impact (heck, he’d been destroying windows at such a stressful time).

I think that Kouhei is at his best when he’s in the background, pretty much like what his sister was in this episode. She had this nice subplot about reading a sad novel ad popped up twice or trice, was nice to see, got fleshed out a bit, and then disappeared a bit. Kouhei also had these kinds of episodes for him, and that’s where he really works as this nice annoying brat. The stories around him though… they just don’t feel as interesting as the rest of the cast.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 4 May 2011 with categories: Showa Monogatari



Ah, finally this thing appeared. It’s about bloody time. Seriously, I have been blogging anime for a long time, but I’ve only encountered one show where the raws took even longer to show up (some of the episodes of Porfy no Nagai Tabi). This series is not a kiddie show! It actually has very good characters!

In any case, this episode mostly shed lights on what would happen to Kanako in later episodes. In terms of romance, it was actually pretty good here. I mean, in this episode she fails, but she does actively try to ask him out. It’s not like she’s in denial about her feelings. It’s refreshing to see a romance that is more about the question “when will he/she grab the courage to confess”, rather than “when will they realize they’re into each other”. It’s also interesting how in the future episodes, she still is struggling with her feelings later on with the series.

Also, in this episode Kouhei wanted to watch a show called 8 Man. Yeah, that 8 Man. Heh, I nearly forgot that this took place in the year after the debut of Astro Boy.

On a side-note: it’s ironic that Kouhei’s friends have better voice actors than him.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on 12 April 2011 with categories: Showa Monogatari



So, just to make sure I went back to the episode 01 that aired a week ago. It’s completely new again. Stop being so confusing with your episode numbers!

So, to recap:
– The episodes 03, 05, 08 and 09 that aired during the past week are the same as episodes 01, 02, 03 and 04 that were released as preview episodes back in January and February.
– The episodes 01 and 02 that aired during the past two weeks have new content.
– Do not ask me why the creators found it a good idea to just randomly select four episodes and reshuffle them into preview episodes.

It feels a bit weird to watch this opening episode while already having seen five other episodes, but it does fit as an opening much better than the “fake” first episode, which did bring in a lot of random drama around Kouhei and his father. This episode introduced all of the characters, it established Kouhei’s father as someone with anger management problems despite his good intentions, we finally see Kouhei’s sister’s crush formally introduced. And to my surprise that bearded guy from episode two is a recurring character. Seriously, he looks a bit like a rapist or something…

Strangely enough, this episode had exactly three shots where the animation was much, much better than the rest of this series. It’s really obvious that this was meant to be the first episode, which baffles me even more that they didn’t use that animation for the first preview episode. I mean, isn’t the entire point of spending a lot of the animation budget on the first episode the fact that it’s supposed to improve the FIRST impressions? It defeats the purpose a bit to use this as a fifth impression…

Now, because it was meant to introduce everything, this episode probably established the least in comparison to all of the other episodes. Most of the things introduced were already established in the episodes that preceded it, and it never really got to look at the characters in-depth. The previous episodes were all wonderfully varied and all had their own focus, so this episode wasn’t among the best of this series.
Rating: * (Good)

Posted on with categories: Showa Monogatari



Um… yeah. Can someone explain the bizarre airing schedule of this series?

I mean, I don’t get it anymore. Showa Monogatari aired its first four episodes back in January and February. First episode 01 was released, then episode 03 followed, then 02 and then 04. That already was confusing in itself, but I just assumed that this series would just air normally during this spring season. I was planning to just pick it back up as soon as episode 05 aired.

And yet, this week baffled me when suddenly episodes 5, 8 and 9 popped up from nowhere. Those turned out to be episodes 2, 3 and 4 of earlier. Here we meanwhile have episode 2, which turned out to be a completely new episode. Then the day before yesterday we also suddenly got treated to episode 3. I haven’t checked it out yet (too busy!) but what the heck is that one going to be? Showa Monogatari has by far the weirdest airing schedule I’ve ever seen. Never have I seen an airing schedule that was so much over the place.

This episode by the way was really good. Again, this show isn’t about Kouhei, the young kid. He may get a lot of airtime, but this episode was much more about his brother and his sister. Even his father showed something new about himself. Especially his brother got a great episode. Being outright rejected on his first date, that’s really something you don’t see often in anima that highly adheres to the concept of “true love”. And yet at the same time this series has a lot of different romances here: Kouhei’s parents’ marriage was really traditional, while his sister seems to be in a completely different situation with that guy she likes.

I also like how this show isn’t afraid to get a bit corny when it comes to the entertainment of that era. That dance party for example looked really silly when looked at with a modern eye, and the same goes for when everyone suddenly started singing. And yet, those things probably were the most normal things of entertainment in the eras before mass communication.

Oh, and the reunion also explained quite a bit of something that happened in episode four surrounding Kouhei’s brother’s friends. This was the episode that was meant to set that up, and I really suspect that there will be more episodes that are going to focus around him, trying to find a place in society. This episode also gave a lot of meaning to that particular episode as well. The production values may not be good, but it knows how to tell a story.

One thing that I don’t agree with is to have Kouhei’s parent’s background episode air after this episode. I especially liked how this episode told more about Kouhei’s father and how he grew up. I really like the idea of first showing him in his late teens, only to go for him in his early teens afterwards.
Rating: ** (Excellent)
EDIT: I just watched that mysterious episode 03 that popped up the day before yesterday. It’s episode 01 again. What the…?

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