I’m not sure how many people still follow what I write because the updates have become so sparse, but from may 31st till June 9th, I’m going on a holiday to America and I’ll be visiting San Francisco and New York, so if any of you happen to live there and want to meet up: just go ahead and drop a comment. :)
Well, the only shows that are still set to air are that cats and dogs show and that one Shaft series, but all of the shows I cared about have aired. Here’s a quick spoiler-free overview of the series that I’m going to try and follow, and think have it in them to keep watching in order of preference:
Baby Steps: Very knowledgeable, but it still needs to deliver on the emotional level.
One Week Friends: I’m a bit on the fence on this one, but it has the potential to be really heart-warming.
Knights of Sidonia: Dystopian sci-fi that has an actually good atmosphere. Note that you need to be able to stomach 3D CG to watch this.
Hitsugi no Chaika: Lots of magic this season, but this show did it actually well by putting restrictions on its magic. Beyond that it’s got very good characters and a setting that has quite some potential for an epic yet grounded storyline.
Captain Earth: This show sets itself apart in the writing with lots of references back and forth to keep it interesting and fun. Because of that there is also a lot of potential in the characters.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Not a moment of boredom or waste. Huge heaps of fun returning and the third season looks as strong as the others.
Ping Pong: Awesome animation, but also really well acted characters who are different, yet very fun to watch. Also Masaaki Yuasa took some cues from Osamu Dezaki.
Mushishi: Fantastic return. A truly relaxing and authentic show with deep and intelligent storylines and characters. The best of the best.
These are the series I’ll be looking out for. I have no idea how I’ll cover that in this blog, that’s going to be a matter entirely dependent on how I feel. I’ll try to at least cover Mushishi though. It deserves it.
So what are your favorites of the season after just one episode?
You can’t please everyone. And I don’t usually do this, but I do want to give a bit of an explanation for my last post, the preview, due to the surprisingly large amunt of people putting me down on how I jumped to conclusions for a lot of series, and how I should do more research. To that, I have to say the following:
On general, writing the preview for a large season like this one takes about half a day. Not half a workday, I seriously spent more than half an actual day to write some of my previews. This one was not as large as normal, but I’d still say it took me about 8 hours in total to write. to the pepole claiming that I should do more research: could you please hand me some extra time in order to do the research for EVERY single series that’s coming out? Because it took enough time on its own to write everything there already.
And consider this: I could have left these series out completely, but that’s dismissing them even more. In this preview, I at least tried to write a sentence on why shows don’t interest me (on a personal level), because I at least repsect the series enough to want to do that. And I find it important to be able to see the big picture for a season, so you can try to see a bit of the trends that are going on. There are two types of shows that I don’t include: kiddie shows and sequels of series that I haven’t watched. The only reason for that is that I’ve really run out of things to say about them, and leaving a comment about every single one of them would really just end up with me, copying and pasting the same thing again and again and again.
Of course, doing research is fun, and I really want to be able to continue to do research for the series that really interest me. But here’s the thing: when a show has a tagline that the main character’s sister has the hots for him, I’m instantly turned off and not motivated to do that at all. I know it’s shallow and all, but at this point I cannot give every single show a chance. Because of that, I resort to my own experience and hunches to try and guess which series will be worth my time. (Because yes, this is my blog and I write purely my own opinions and impressions). A big green flag is when the premise of a series excites me. A big red flag is having incest in the premise. Want to know why? Because the last series where I’ve seen incest featured so prominently that was actually good was Koi Kaze. That was a long time ago, especially considering how many incest shows there are!
Let me explain my taste here, and what I’m looking for: I’m looking for the big picture. I’m looking for a series that has a good story, an intriguing setting, solid and fun characters, interesting visuals, great music. A series in which all of this comes together. I’m looking for the signs that predict such a series, and a lack of upright creativity doesn’t spell out much good in that department. If you can’t even think of a solid premise, then what am I to expect of the rest of the series then? Perhaps one good episode or something, but that’s nowhere near enough for that I’m looking for.
You may have a great political plot in your second half, and you may have this really detailed look at tennis, but if the rest doesn’t come together, then there’s just something missing. Of course they are only previews, but that’s why I also always try to watch as many first episodes as possible. I mean if your story is good, but when it’s told in a dry or boring way, then it’s still not really exciting. I love shows that have tons and tons of talking and complex plots, like Mouryou no Hako, the Tatami Galaxy, or Ergo Proxy, but all these series also remembered to have an outstanding presentation, with characters and plots that stood out right from the start.
You have series that take their time in the first half to build up, only to get fired off in their second half. However, you have series that are completely boring in their first half, only to suddenly get watchable in their second halves, and you have series that in their first halves take their time to set everything up and build up some stuff here and there about their stories, characters and setting, and bring everything together in their second halves. The latter is the only one I’m interested in. The build-up paying off.
The difficult part is ofcoure trying to point out these kinds of shows. That’s the thing that makes things really difficult: what shows are really building up to something, and which ones aren’t. First of all it helps if it’s not an adaptation, because especially the lazy manga adaptations have a tendency to just not pay off and end randomly. I don’t like that, so unless I can see a good ending working out, an adaptation, especially a manga or light novel-adaptation gets minus points. These stories furthermore were written for a totally different medium, and they take a skilled writer and director to skillfully make them work as an anime. This is not something that’s given!
Second of all, there is this thing as a solid execution that excuses a lot about a slow pacing. I don’t care how incredibly slow you are, if you’re interesting then I will watch you. A great example of that is Aku no Hana: the pacing was incredibly slow, but due to how well the characters were animated and brought to life, it worked. A lot of Bee-Train series are also great examples: they really use their music as part of the storytelling, and while they have a lot of first halves that are goofing off, they’re actively building their setting and characters in a way that perhaps sounds really boring on paper, but gets the viewer really familiar with them in practice. Plus, say what you want about Bee-Train: their series all start with a lot of creativity. That’s what I like.
But this also goes for things as very good acting, believable characters. Something needs to grab me, and most of the times this isn’t the story, but rathe the way in which it’s told. I know that this sounds a bit against what I said previously, that I want series with creative premises, but that’s the thing as well: there is a deal of subjectivity in here. It’s not something you can explain so easily. On one hand, the story doesn’t matter the most, but on the other hand: there’s not so much you can do when you start off like every other show with a bunch of teenagers who fight with magic and are on a high school.
So yeah, if I insulted your favorite show, I absolutely don’t hate you or anything. It’s just that I don’t like the series, and I’ve been disappointed too many times by similar series to really get excited about it. If you insult me about having a bad taste, then that’s not magically going to change my taste for the better. The great thing about this world is that everyone has different tastes, and this blog really is purely written from the perspective of my own.
Hey everyone, I participated in Deadlight’s podcast again. This time about crappy Fall series that we initially liked, Studio Gonzo and their new film, a video game adaptation, Bayonetta. Listen here!
It took me ages to catch back up on this one. I originally intended to drop it, but then I heard strange positive words about it. Now that I’ve caught up to episode 20, I have to say: whoa. What happened?
The series originally struck me as this decent mecha show that was doomed to not stand out due to characters who were way too busy exhibiting their own quirks. For its first half, it was there, I guess: surprisingly charming, but nothing special, and then its second half came. And it was a bit weird, but it actually managed to improve in every single way. Even the animation.
Seriously, most series have gorgeous first episodes and then settle for this average animation quality afterwards. The cg battles of Majestic Prince have had some really good production values! Not to mention that the fights are all really well directed and intense.
But what really struck me was that I was completely proven wrong about the characters. Episode 19 in particular: oh my god what happened there. I mean, when the kid left on this dangerous mission saying stuff like “when I get back, I’ll tell you my crush on you”, he was obviously setting his own death flag here. But the way it happened. That actually made me teary-eyed.
The character development in this series actually turned out to be really good. It made me really think of how I originally labelled these characters too cartoonish, choosing it over Valvrave, which at the beginning seemed to have more solid characters, and yet the complete opposite turned out to be true. What Majestic Prince actually did was take these quirks and develop them. You have the guy who always wants to be a hero: he still does, but he showed much more stuff about his character, plus throughout these episodes we got to see different sides of what it means to be a hero. The ditzy girl? She’s still ditzy, but she actually got to see the upsides and downsides of being ditzy, she both got in trouble and the spotlight, sometimes thanks to this ditziness, others due to complete other reasons. That’s good storytelling! Compare that to Valvrave, which never really did anything remotely similar to these subtle characterizations and just went for shock value.
The question is: how do you recognize this as early as possible? I mean, there were hints right in the first episode that the charactrs were more than just their quirks, but they were very subtle, and could be very easily confused with a series that just had bad characters. I think that the thing with having quirky characters is that you need to balance things out: you need to know the difference between using these quirks for sympathy, and just using them to be obnoxious. Being creative helps. Having a straight man who is an actual straight man helps too: someone with an actual brain. Good chemistry will also be a hint: see if the characters work well together.
And most importantly: Are these characters one-trick ponies?
Also, did episode 20 just hint at what I thought it hinted at?
Hey everyone, we’re back with another podcast. This time it’s about a director (Seiji Kishi), a writer (Mari Okada) and an animation studio (Bones). It’s about an hour length in total, and in it are Deadlights, Juno, Slashe (Nihon Review) and Mr. Flawfinder (Standing On My Neck). Enjoy, for those of you who are interested.
I really want to apologize for the lack of updates. I’m currently trying to catch up on Uchoten Kazoku’s episodes. I should have an episode review of them ready tomorrow. In the meantime, I’d like to talk about what it means to be blogging, and the moment that every single blogger dreads: the lack of updates. This is a very personal entry, but I hope that it helps both myself and others who are in similar situations. For those of you with a tl;dr mindset: I have no intention to quit blogging; I still really like tihs blog, and nothing about that has changed.
In my nearly eight years of blogging, I have seen a lot of blogs coming and going. In general, the short-lived blogs quit because the author loses interest: it’s a nice little experiment, but either a loss of enthusiasm for anime itself, or the inability to just blog regularly is usually the reason for these blogs to close down. For the longer-lived blogs, the reason usually is that people grow out of anime; they change and the priorities in their lives. I’ve also seen a handful who come back after a hiatus of a few years, but that usually just ends with a few posts.
As for me, I still identify as a blogger. It’s true that we just had the worst Spring Season in the past ten years, and a pretty abysmal Winter Season as well, but I really noticed that that didn’t diminish my love for anime. There were plenty of series that still captured me, ranging from Aku no Hana, Shingeki no Kyojin to From the New World and Chihayafuru. And the current Summer Season is really showing that Anime is far from dead. Series like Uchoten Kazoku, Tamayura, the new Rozen Maiden: I already love them and I really want to cover them.
So yeah, the problem is where to find the time to blog everything. I’ve said before that I’ve been very busy, both with my full time job, and that I’ve got a much bigger social life than what I used to have now. I always was a bit vague on what that actually meant, so let me elaborate a bit on my schedule.
I actually just started my new job last week. It’s a job of 36 hours per week. Mondays through thursday I work eight hours, and on fridays I work half a day. On fridays and during weekends, I usually have some sort of appointment with some friends of mine, or attend some public events that I know that people with similar mindsets attend as well. On weekdays I’m usually at home around 6pm, and done with dinner around 7pm, ideally.
The thing is, that it’s not like I don’t have the time to blog anymore. I know for a fact that if I use my time well, even with all my appointments, I can blog 12 shows per week and even have time for a movie. It’s also not like I don’t have the energy for it. I know from experience that I can get energized while watching a good episode. This season is full of those series! The problem is that I spend way too much of my time on the internet, browsing pointless videos that serve no point whatsoever. I’d say about 20% of it is useful: checking mail, keeping up with friends, that kind of stuff. However most of it is just random goofing off; spending way too much time on facebook, or watching stupid Let’s plays on youtube.
Let me get on a bit of a tangent here, because I also dabbled in a bunch of western games during the past half year. This is sortof relevant to this post, because I noticed that playing these games only increased my laziness in the long run. The thing is though, that gaming nowadays sucks for me. And it’s not like I picked bad ones. I’m talking about games like Minecraft, Civilization, the Binding of Isaac. Games that sound good and full of depth on paper, and I used to be a fan of civilization in the past, but every single one of them gets bogged down by repetition. Minecraft had me mining the same rock for hours after each other. Civilization starts off interesting, until you have to do the same tasks over and over again and games take waaaay too long, and the Binding of Isaac also isn’t really random once you realize that all you’re doing is running through a bunch of rooms and shooting things. It’s also a problem that I’m not good at gaming, so it takes me even longer than the people
Another example of this: platformers. I recently played Rayman Legends, after being a big fan of the first two Rayman series. But there too, the levels just kept looking way too much like each other and halfway through the level designers just give up and start to recycle previous levels. This is the same repetition I see at all kinds of other platform games: everything is just way too similar after playing a bunch of levels. There is way too much repetition and way too little creativity. Even Skyrim got tedious after killing the umpth zombie.
NB: as a honorable mention, these are western games that I do consider to be good:
– Portal: It’s short, witty and keeps you interested; the hype is very annoying, but this is what games should aim to be. And I mean the philosophy of variation, not just literally paste Glados in every game. That totally misses the point.
– Temple of Elemental Evil: a western RPG, half broken without a fan-made patch and a bare-bones story. However, what I loved is what you could completely customize your own set of characters and most importantly: you are encouraged to make these characters flawed and incredibly diverse, making it ridiculously fun to do all sorts of creative things with them, and watch them grow. The only downside: the more characters you have in your party, the less experience you get, the more you need to grind. Grinding is evil!
– Beyond Good and Evil: short game, divided into four arcs. Every arc is different and focuses on a different element of gameplay and has a different atmosphere.
Anyway, repetition. It can be incredibly evil. It can trap you in this routine that you can’t escape from. The more you get used to it, the more you keep looking for options that offer easy kinds of repetition. However, there are enough examples of good repetition. This is the type of repetition that is fulfilling. Think about getting out of bed at the same time each day, doing exercises on a regular basis, spending time on your hobby (in my case blogging). The annoying part is that the evil repetition easily has power over your will and motivation to focus on the good repetition, and once you lose that focus on the good repetition, getting back is impossible unless you put in effort.
You can’t just say “I’m going to do better”. That won’t work, you’ll usually succumb to the evil repetitions usually within seconds. You need to completely change your mindset, and actually DO it, not just talk about it. Acknowledging the problem doesn’t work, while wasting time on the internet I see way too many people just joke about it, without offering any practical hints of how to get over it (9gag is by far the worst offender of this, and everyone should actively block that evil website).
So I was wondering what you guys do in order to get out of a slump? For me, I noticed that with other parts of my life, the concept of fear or impending doom was a good motivator, and at this point in my life I have learned how to turn fear into positive emotions. I haven’t learned how to create it and make use of that, though. Go ahead and share some of your experiences.
Hey everyone, the next few days I will be gone on a holiday to England, including London where I’ve managed to make an appointment to meet up with a few readers and Salisbury, where I’m going to try and get into Stonehenge, although that turned out to be quite annoying to take care of if you don’t have a credit card….
Anyway, I’ll be back later. Take care, everyone.
If you’re interested, go ahead and give it a listen.
I’m currently planning this last minute holiday in which I plan to visit England, and I’m thinking of going to London around July 20th or something. Are any of you in the neighbourhood around that time and would you like to meet up?
Also, there seems to be an anime convention going on around that time. Is that one worth it?