Posted on 13 May 2018 with categories: 2011 Anime Retrospective

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Before we get to the reviews this time, there’s something that I forgot to mention in the first few posts. In order to come up with the shortlists, I used the information mainly from anichart, MAL’s seasonal anime and this very site’s monthly summaries from psgels, along with some first impressions over ANN. Turn out the most informative source out of these was psgels’ summaries, given not only he covered a large amount of shows, but I can also keep track with how he felt about these shows over time (if you’re still reading this blog psgels, you have my gratitude). The other sources miss out many shows (imagine my frustration when I realized Gosick isn’t listed over anichart). It would help me greatly if any of you readers know some reliable sources concerning anime shows that air in every year. I’ll be very appreciated.

psgels only checked out the first 3 episodes of THE iDOLM@STER, so here is his review for Usagi Drop. Let’s the game begin

THE iDOLM@STER (A-1 Pictures)

Arguably one of the finest specimen when it comes to idol anime, THE iDOLM@STER takes almost no time to introduce us a whooping… 13 rising idol girls, each tick the box of your typical anime archetype and there are several insert songs within an episode, so that there’s always something for everyone. Mild sarcasm aside, this is a show whose appeals are too clearly-defined that just by first few episodes you can easily tell if it’s for you or not. In term of quality, it has fair shares of good and bad. Some might point out the refreshing documentary-style the first episode employs, but for me it further underlines many of the show’s core issues. The said documentary style where the girls answer to some text questions further reminds me of its gameplay mechanics. In addition, the show introduces a very plain self-insert male character who only goes by the name “Producer” and if you take away his eagerness towards helping the girls out, he has no distinct characteristics. The 13 female idols (well, more like 12 + 1, you’d know what I mean if you watch it), on the other hand, may seem overwhelming at first, but each of them has their own personality and has their own growth to develop. These growths can be small for some characters, but most of them are well-developed and in the end, just watching those girls bounce off each other and give some interesting different dynamic when pairing different girls make all their time together such a fun time to watch.

THE iDOLM@STER divides neatly into 2 half, first cour about the 765 Pro when they are at the bottom of the food chain and the latter half about them when the girls are already famous. There’s one thing that you need to know that THE iDOLM@STER plays more like an… idolized version of becoming idols. There are issues and hardships along the way; but noting is as dark as Perfect Blue and the show tends to resolve those conflicts by the sheer optimism power from the main cast. In THE iDOLM@STER, you can see those girls doing many idols activities beside singing like joining a cooking show, having their own air show, or even playing with children. The main theme is not much about following your dream (which it has a fair share of, but Love Live claims the spot there), but more about seeing these team idols as family members and the studio as a home to go back to. At that, it produces some nice, warm moments where the cast, despite their busy schedule, still tries to make time for each other. There are some character-focus episodes that leave more impact than others, chief among them the wedding-photoshoot turns runaway bride madness or the air show that put our idols into some pretty hilarious moments.

The show falls apart, however, whenever the main villain shows up and gives 765 Pro a hard time. He’s the kind of antagonist that the show doesn’t need and the way the show frames him as overly cruel make him a badly-written character all the way. I find myself quite surprise that I enjoy the last arcs when the show goes a tad bit more serious because those reflect the characters’ issues quite well without betraying their own developments. In terms of production, while the actual animation is just average, it more than makes up for it with expressing character expressions and the flat-out impressive hand-drawn performance sequences with many earworm songs to enjoy. Makes me clearly see the difference with today idol shows where they try to cut down the cost with those CG dance sequences. THE iDOLM@STER is, without a doubt, a production that is created with a lot of efforts and cares. While it’s pandering with the mainstream’s taste for mainstream attention, its appeal is so well-defined (I reckon its appeal is similar to K!On) that if you don’t mind 13 girls coming at you at the same time, you’ll have a good time with it.

Rating: 74/100

Usagi Drop (Production I.G)

In a medium that a bit too obsessed with high school settings and teen romance, the topic of raising a child is rare, and to be as good and realistic as this is nothing short of extraordinary. It takes two complete strangers starting on a new phase of their lives together to underscore what parenting and childcare really like. While I have some minor qualms about Usagi Drop: the show ends inconclusively, many life-to-life issues are deal with, but quickly get aside once they resolve the issues (like Daikichi’s job or Rin’s daycare issues) and mostly the financial situation is never a big issue, those complaints are quickly tossed aside compare to the show’s strengths. The main, main, main weapon of Usagi Drop is the solid dynamic of Daikichi and Rin – two lovely individuals in their own rights – and witness how they begin to trust each other and enjoy the time together. Rin is pure bliss. She’s mature, well-behaved and smart for her age, but she isn’t without her own personal problems. Abandoned by her real parents (in one of a grounded depiction of immature mother in the medium), she always has a fear being left alone in the world. And for a girl her age she faces those issues surprisingly well.

But Usagi Drop also nails it at depicting how Daikichi evolves as a father figure. He handles the situations like an adult, he sacrifices many things so that it can work out better for him and Rin. In addition, since he’s inexperienced with this whole raising-a-kid thing, he’s panicking over littlest things. A cold from her makes him nervous, every small aspect that he has no idea to he’d call over his relatives for help. It’s hard to raise a child, that’s for sure, then you realize that every parent has been through those very same situations, and it adds a lot of extra weight. This show, in a way, is a celebration of parenting, of every father and mother out there who deal with nameless listless jobs every single day, most of their efforts never get noticed.

Visual-wise, the pre-opening segments use a crayon-tinted style, which really fits the nature of this show. The atmosphere it produces is strong and solid, plus its resemblance to real-life parenting that make Usagi Drop one of the best slice-of-life show this genre has to offer. The cast all act so natural that you would see these kinds of characters in your real life. In this heart-warming world, not only Daikichi learns from his peers and his family to deal with all the situations, but he also learns from Rin, and likewise, Rin learns from him, and they grow a great deal together. The fact that it ends open-ended also speak a lot to its theme, that parenting is a work that can’t finish in a day or two, but it’s a lifespan process, and both Rin and Daikichi are just in their beginning of the process.

Note: Despite knowing what infamously happens in later volumes, I’ve made up my mind to read the rest of the manga at some points in the future. The time jump might very well contaminate my feeling for Rin and Daikichi, but I don’t want to be the one who says I’m uncomfortable without reading it and seeing for myself first. So yeah, at least I’m prepared for whatever comes, let it come.

Rating: 91/100

With these reviews done, I regret to say that this 2011 Anime Retrospective will be on hiatus for a foreseeable future. I’m enjoying watching and reviewing them by all mean, but lately, I’ve been thinking about making a movie blog, given my root has always been about cinema. If it ever happens, rest assured that I’m not leaving this site. I’m still pretty much up to weekly reviews, but side-project like this will have to put into the sideline. Currently, I want to do some movie projects first before coming back to this one (I know, BIG TALK since the blog doesn’t even exist yet. It’s just me and my blind enthusiasm at this point). I’ve received healthy responses from you guys for this project – which I am very grateful – so, thanks again for supporting this project after all this time. I’m still intended to come back and finish this so until then, I suppose. Arigatou.

Posted on 25 March 2018 with categories: 2011 Anime Retrospective, Yumekui Merry

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Here’s psgels’ original review of Yumekui Merry (he hated Working’s guts, which is fair enough)

Now, to the main meal:

Working’!! (A-1 Pictures)

Fans from the first season (like me) will have a lot to like in this second attempt of Working. The comedy is pretty consistent throughout its course, some are even sharper than the first. As Working is a character-driven show, the humor works mainly because they always stay true to the characters. Even they manage to get way with humor that has creepy and unsettling details (a groper or a kidnapping for example. What cut the edge is that those accusations are probably true), and even repetitive gags still provide good laugh because they’re well-timed. This second season also works better as an ensemble cast. I don’t enjoy that much when the last few episodes of the first season focused on Souta and Inari, for example. Here each member of the main cast receives a spotlight, they make a good use and explore one of the cast’s main trait (my favorite is how useless the manager is). Moreover, pair them up and any random pair has their own appeal. If you wonder the chemistry of between some unlikely pairs (like Souma and Inari, Satou and the Manager) would be like, you won’t be disappointed here.

The settings of Working are even more minimum this time. Except from couple gags from Souta’s house and certain alley on the street, all the events happen within the space of this family restaurant. There are some new members (3 and a half to be exact) and each of them add their own weirdness, in other words, charms to this likeable cast. My favorite new addition is the cameo Otoo’s wife. Short but sweet. She’s the nuttiest case of all. Souta’s family members, while in the first season feel like they are from different show, become an ingrate part of this season, especially whenever they appear at the restaurant or meet with the other employees.

But the most drawback aspect of Working still lies in its format and structure: it’s a middle-season sitcom comedy. I’m glad that there is a strict continuing to the plot, but I can’t say the same to the relationships’ development. The cast is still at the same place they start off the season, and when Working actively stall some plot progression (like the encounter of Yamada’s siblings), it feels rather irritating. My feeling is that they’re playing too safe with these relationships that afraid to break the status quo. How about progressing those relationship and make the cast deals with it? Furthermore, the humor don’t work when the show pushes too hard. Like I mentioned earlier, I still feel uneasy with the way Souma tries to separate Aoi and her brother, or when Aoi forces Otoo to sign the adoption paper. In the end, all of its issues have more to do with the structure. It’s the middle of the pack so understandably, plot doesn’t move much forward. Aside from that though, the quirky characters still rule the day and the humors still as sharp as ever.  This will be one of a rare franchise that I’ll be sad to see it ends.

Rating: 78/100

Yumekui Merry (J.C. Staff)

Well, I might be the only one who thoroughly enjoy this, considering how lukewarm Yumekui Merry received in its run (the director himself even admitted so). Straight to its most impressive parts: the visual direction is pretty awesome. The background arts for each of the dream world is distinctive, varied and has a lot of personality. There are plenty of creativeness in shot selection and the fight sequences, although limited, are animated fluidly. The characters are expressive and while those character designs fall into the tropey side, at least here they stand apart from each other. I guess those shot angles can be a hit and miss for other viewers, but for me I can feel the staff putting their efforts to make something different. The eye-popping visual reminds me a fair bit of Flip Flappers, which I absolutely adore. The score, however, remains unconventional and while sometimes it works well, other times it feels too alien with the screen. All in all, the visual presentation of Yumekui Merry is more experimental than your usual anime dose, but with so much love, skill and attention put into it, it remains gorgeous, distinctive and inventive.

Yumeikui Merry deals with dream as its main theme, but don’t expect any serious exploration to the nature of dream and such. It’s more concern with fighting the dream demons who use human as their vessel; and explore many interesting cases around that. I enjoy the way the show builds its characters. Those pairing between the dream demon and its human host have their chemistry, and I also prefer the way the show keeps using these characters after their case is done. The cast, consist of two mains and several friends surround them, have time to build up their characters slowly and gradually by the final arc I am pretty invested into their development. The main duo, namely Merry and Yumeji, have great deal of development (especially the former) and their chemistry together holds up as the story progresses. I don’t really like the depiction of some of the villains, however, especially the last bosses since the show makes them overly heartless and psycho without fleshing them out.

Now, the most criticism this show has lies in its original ending. As of its airing, the manga was still running (it’s still running NOW), so the anime creators figured that it might be a better idea to have their own way of to end the show. The reception of this ending was poor, citing the lack of conclusive ending, rushing towards the plot and plot holes as the main issues. I have a different opinion. Sure, it could’ve been better, but just like how I feel about the anime-only characters and its original ending in Blood Blockade Battlefront, this one I can see how the show properly builds up its arc towards the ending. Take an original anime character Chizuru for example, her characteristics are clearly defined, she supports the plot well and in the end her arc aligns with the climax pretty well. I can see some plot threads left unexplored (like all the development regarding Yumeji’s literature club members), and it is indeed rushed, but I am satisfied with the way this show wraps up. My overall feeling to Yumekui Merry is the same as Princess Principal from last year: brilliant in parts, stylist and excellent art and animation, but having a lacklustre closure that hopes for the next season that never come.

Rating: 82/100

Again, I’d like to hear your thoughts about those shows. The next one gonna take awhile, since I want to spend some time to catch up with those Netflix shows, plus the next season coming up means that realistically, the next one will be up after the First Impressions period. Next post, I’ll investigate a show about a bunch of faceless aliens and a show about a cute little rabbit, yep, the IDOLMASTERS and Bunny Drop will be up next. See you then, folks.

Posted on 12 March 2018 with categories: 2011 Anime Retrospective, Mirai Nikki, Steins;Gate

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As per usual, you can check out psgels’ original reviews right below:

Steins;Gate

Mirai Nikki

Steins;Gate (White Fox)

It’s hard to discuss about Steins;Gate without mentioning its current legacy. Both tremendously popular among anime fans, as well as being a critical acclaimed hit, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to see its name among the list of modern classics. In a way, it’s part of the point of this retrospective: to form an opinion of a show in today’s lenses, and Steins;Gate, as I put it simply, stands the test of time. Having said all that, with this re-watch I can clearly see the strengths, and the shortcomings of this behemoth and while my grade remains the same as the first watch, my admiration of it has lessened somewhat. The main issue this show has lies in the way Steins:Gate can’t escape the convention of Visual Novel. The first half, in particular, paces significantly slow BECAUSE it tries to pair Okabe up with various different girls. Many of them, especially Nyan-Nyan and Feminine Boy (and just right after Wandering Son, this depiction of trans person leaves a bitter taste here) don’t feel like they belong to the main story at all and as a result they were discarded quickly after their arc is over. Moreover, the “mission” mechanic is so apparent later on when Okabe has to solve these challenges in order to advance the plot. It would’ve been fine but when he asks a girl to give up his father (yeah, really!) or goes to a date in the middle of high-stake drama (what the heck!), it just feels more silly than appropriate.

The second issue I have with Steins;Gate this time around is the comedy. Considering the drama to come, I have a sense that some of the comedy feel just off and don’t blend well with the whole picture. Okabe’s eighth grade syndrome is lousy and makes little sense in this second viewing to the point I had to wonder why any character needs to take him seriously. All the ecchi jokes just fall flat and like I mentioned a paragraph above, the recurring gag involving Luka’s gender is worrisome. There are some plot conveniences regarding Okabe’s ability as well (he happens to both create a time travel machine AND remembers all the time lines. Well?), but I’m not going to fault the show for that. On a positive note, I like the wash-out visual palette of this show and as a whole White Fox does a decent job production-wise.

What Steins;Gate compensate for those issues, however, is the brilliant and certainly inspiring execution of time-travel subject. Time travel has always pique my interest so naturally I have seen a fair bunch of them, and even then Steins;Gate still makes it right at the top. Those time-travel theories are well-researched and all the decisions they made make sense to me. Steins:Gate also explores the possibilities of time-lines and how small change from the past could lead to completely different outcomes to the future. Add those several times and the mystery, as well as the implication just keep tangle up like a giant spider web, but never at once the show loses its direction or confidence. The alternate time-lines have some well-thought-out outcomes, and all the plot progression is believable and relatable. My hat off for one of the best writing in recent years.

But I wouldn’t rank this show so high if all it does is well-research implication of time-travel, it’s the drama that makes this show so gripping, thrilling and ultimately rewarding. Okabe gets himself pulled into some serious conflicts, and the more challenging the conflict, the harder he pushes himself. The harder he pushes himself, the more we relate to his problems. He and Kurisu also have to go through some tough but believable development and I don’t kid myself when I feel I would behave just like him if I was in his situations. The stakes keep getting higher and the price paid just keeps piling up, but in the end I can safely say that Okabe has one of the best character development I’ve seen in a while and the cast has a varied personalities but each one of them reveals their deeper side throughout the course of the anime, and every pair have some sort of distinct chemistry that make them feel like a part of this lab club. The sequel will be out next season so finger-crossed that it can deliver the same magic as its predecessor.

El Psy Congroo

Rating: 93/100

Geek’s Corner: As I mentioned that time-travel is one of my favorite topic, allow me to throw some recommendations on the subject. Normally, the impact from time-travel can splits into 2 theories: 1) the consequences will happen in the same timeline, hence what you change in the past will directly result in what happening in the future (simple example would be: someone broke the vase, you time-travel to find out just to realize it was you who break it) and 2) the consequences will create a parallel timelines, and with the butterfly effect will result in complete different outcomes. Steins;Gate falls into latter category and I’d suggest checking out Primer and The Butterfly Effect if you want more of this theory. (Primer is your definition of mind-fuck indie film but it is hailed as one of the most realistic depiction of time travel. The director himself is a physics so he knows what he was talking about). For the first category, you can watch 12 Monkeys or the Spanish movie Timecrimes. They’re all rewarding, I assure you.

Mirai Nikki (Asread)

Here comes a show that *nearly* blows up on my face. I always have mixed feeling on shows about survival game from a bunch of psychopaths trying to outsmart the others. They provide some great entertainment, mind you, but with the plot-ridden development containing many quick twists and turns, the story can go off the rail very easily. Mirai Nikki has some good premises, about a group of 12 participants using their own future diary to kill each other. Seeing the show as a pure thriller, it was a bumpy ride with a small dose of ups and a big bag of meh. In the bright side, most of the cast fulfils their role. They’re nothing stellar, mind you, but at least they aren’t thrown-away characters. I like the fact that some characters, especially Ninth, are not one-off character but change her own role rapidly throughout the story; others like Seventh pair or Fourth use their time on-screen sufficiently. In the negative side, the story does get dull as it speeds on with plot holes, an intolerable plain male lead, some stupid decisions AND WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT ENDING? I mean, the show really falls apart in the last few episodes with the world-blending subplot.

In fact, what keeps me engaged to Mirai Nikki is Yuno and her obsession with Yukko. She’s the star of the show and basically delving into her insanity is the one pleasure of watching this show. She’s the glaring example of yandere at its most fully formed and normally yandere traits can be really off-putting, but here in Mirai Nikki, she fits in with the theme like a glove. Mirai Nikki works as a construction to how an unhealthy relationship is form and developed, the way Yukko agrees to be Yuno’s boyfriend just so that she can protect him, to her over-reliant to him because she needs someone to obsess over. I also appreciate that while other shows display yandere character as normal at first and then imply something wrong within her, this show makes it clear from day 1 that Yuno is one insane bastard, yet Yukko still feels safe enough to get drawn to her. It’s the reason why the plot twist near the end works for me, but the same can’t be said with the redemption part in the last episode. You telling me she can go soft and learn happiness? LIKE HELL SHE CAN. It’s better she’s insane and stays insane.

I also feel like Mirai Nikki has a love/hate relationship (mostly hate) towards its female characters. In the show, female characters are often repressed by the power of men (Sixth and Ai from Seventh are rape victim for example, or how Ninth is chained up by Twelfth), and Yuno is an female empowerment symbol of a girl who takes matter into her own hands, a girl who would go extra length to be together with the one she loves. The issue with that view is that, there are hundred better ways to present women in repressed situation without relying on rape (I ask myself why rape? WHY), or occasionally show them in nude for no apparent reasons. Even with Yuno, as empowered as she is, still functions for the sake of one boy so for me it’s just the bad representation of female characters as a whole. As a sum up, Mirai Nikki has some thrilling premise and it’s still fun to watch crazy characters blow up other characters, moreover Yuno is the poster girl of Mirai Nikki (Boy. She deserves to be remembered fondly), but with the terrible whiny useless male lead, plot inconsistency that comes to pieces like a shattered glass and a closure that is just downright terrible, it just barely crosses the passable line.

Rating: 63-/100

Welp, what do you think about those two shows. I bet you have lots to talk about Steins;Gate and Yuno, right? Shoot them down in the comment. Next post, I will have a light watch with Working!! 2 and Yumekui Merry. Ideally, I’ll have the post ready before the start of next season. Till then, guys.

Posted on 26 February 2018 with categories: 2011 Anime Retrospective, Chihayafuru, Kami-Sama no Memo-Chou

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If you want a comparison to psgels’ reviews:

Chihayafuru

Heaven’s Memo Pad

Chihayafuru (Madhouse)

Chihayafuru is a sports show that done right. Moreover, it combines many good aspects of both josei and sports, making it thrilling to follow, while provide enough growth and conflicts for the main characters to achieve. Let’s me first point out how niche this sport Karuta is (and all the more reason to applause the show for bringing this niche sport to mainstream audience). Karuta is the sport that embrace the old to the modern Japan, it has a mixture between sport and poetry, it can be play competitively by people of all genders (can you think of other modern sports that allow this?), and lastly, unlike shogi players where they are full-time professional, all karuta players – even the Master and the Queen – aren’t. Most of them have office job or currently in college/ high-school. The latter, in particular, is one of the reason that make Chihayafuru interesting. For you see, people come to this sport purely by their passion. Chihayafuru’s core theme is the exploration of discovering and following your own passion. Each character has their own reason to play karuta, but they share the same love for the sport and it’s inspirational to see the team keeps trying their hardest and keeps improving themselves for the thing they love.

Chihayafuru also benefits from the fact that it understands sports, in general. I have some sports background so trust me when I say this: unless you’re incredibly talented, losing is always your best mate. You tend to lose way more than you win. And losing freaking hurts. EVERYTIME. In addition, your number one opponent is always yourself. Through the course of this season, Chihaya loses lots of times, some of them she was expected to win but failed due to her own lack of confidence. The show understands that losing is a natural part of the game, and never shy away from that. Secondly, I’m really digging how Chihayafuru underlines the fact that each player has their own karuta game; as in you can see their own personality reflected through the styles they play. Chihaya is quick-tempered; she’s born with fast style and quick reflex. Taichi relies more on his memory, while Desktomu uses statistic and analysis and Kana through her knowledge of the one hundred poems (if I were to approach karuta I’d be like Kana, as the “competitive” part is my least concern). These styles fit the personality of each player and as a whole, it’s a firm reminder that there is multifaceted approach to the game and more than once Chihaya learns how to improve her game by observing the good quality of other players.

It helps that the josei part of the show, the undertone relationship of the three mains, remains as a backbone and never overwhelm the whole show. At least for now the romance is kept at the right balance, while allow our characters growing, both in the game skills and in their maturity. I still don’t buy much about the affection of Chihaya towards Arata but I can live with that. If I have one main complain, however, it is that because the sports drama is so well done, when Chihayafuru tries to create its own conflict, it usually falls flat. At the top of my head I could name 2 instances like that (the bully act when they were primary schoolers – actually this show has a very insensitive depiction of bullying; the little drama of Desktomu trying to quit in the middle of the tournament). Other mild complain I would have is how the show can be damn overbearing at times with so much tears. I’m starting to wonder whether it caused by the source materials or by Madhouse volume up the emotional response.

All in all, Chihayafuru is a clear winner. The pacing and the production are top notch, the matches are exciting and thrilling and the characters are relatable with both their quirks, their chemistry and their deep. This is one of those rare show that has universal appeal, given I can pretty much recommend Chihayafuru to any other viewers, anime fan or not, without much hesitation. Can’t wait to watch its second season.

Rating: 83/100

Heaven’s Memo Pad (J.C.Staff)

Well, I’m thoroughly bored.

And I already put aside many of its obvious issues (like NEET detective agency – yeah it doesn’t make sense to me. Or after finishing the show I still don’t get the title at all. I know KamiMemo explained it somewhere but I failed to grasp it).

But let’s be positive. I will address many of the show’s strengths first before touch upon its problematic parts. The production values of this show are surprisingly above par for a low-tier title. The art settings remain its best assets. Each of the setting has a personality of their own and I certainly remember the ramen store, Alice’s room and even the garden rooftop fondly. I also like the way each case takes up usually about 2 or 3 episodes, which for me is a right length to introduce, develop and resolve each case (Un-Go suffered from this). The actual cases are a bit mixed though, as I only enjoyed the first and the last cases. Each arc revolves around a character in Narumi and Alice’s circle, so it’s a good opportunity to flesh out the said characters too.

Or so I thought.

Here’s the biggest issue with KamiMemo: All the characters feel pretty empty. You often see how I complain about characters betraying their own personality, right? Now, this is the exact opposite problem. All the characters of KamiMemo have significant traits that made them stand out at first glance, but they keep that same lines of thought for an entire season and thus they become a bunch of cardboards who say “cheese”. It feels to me that I was reading some typical Visual Novel about stereotyped stock characters. Take Doki Doki Literature Club, using those empty lines with a purpose. In this show they serve no purpose other than making the characters look cool. And cool dish gets cold really fast without any substantial support. As a result, it’s hard to care for any of the character, and it’s a big bummer because those cases based around those said characters. The main duo Alice and Narumi, likewise, still feel very plain and her tsundere act is not something that I need to see again. Alice sounds pretentious all the time and Narumi always shines when the plot calls for it; which again are just plain weak and terrible.

The actual cases themselves, are nothing worth bragging about. It’s neither realistic, nor well-made enough. Many contrived details in the service of moving the plot forward, many big words that trying too hard to impress and Alice has overpowered ability so that when she’s on board, everything is pretty much solved without much sweat. I figure the reason I like the first case is because the cast still feels fresh and I believe the last case redeems the show a fair bit (look, KamiMemo, at least Ayaka has some deeper level). KamiMemo still works as a mild mystery detective case, and the presentation is competent enough to keep viewers engaged, but the serious lack of well-developed characters makes it hard to invest to the show on deeper level.

Rating: 71/100

And done. Tell me your own thoughts on Chihayafuru and Heaven’s Memo Pad if you have seen either of these. Next post, to celebrate one of the most anticipated sequel of next season (no, not Legend of the Galactic Heroes), we will head back to the future for Steins;Gate and its diary in the future Mirai Nikki. Should be a fun ride, Doc. Till then.

Posted on 20 February 2018 with categories: 2011 Anime Retrospective, Hourou Musuko, Tiger & Bunny

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It bares repeating for those of you who don’t know:

– For rating, I will use psgels’ 100 score system, but keep in mind that my barometer might be different than his. For instance, I consider 60/100 (not 50) as a line between mediocre and passable shows. 75/100 to 89/100 are recommended shows and from 90/100 upward are the masterpieces. In some rare occasions, I will include plus (+) and minus (-) but remember that they don’t have anything to do with the quality of the shows. (+) is awarded for shows that address the gender role thoughtfully, including shows that have strong feminine message. (-) is casted for shows with insensitive treatment to gender roles.

– There will be mild spoilers, as I will address the main theme of each show.

Wandering Son (AIC)

Boy, I know I’d come to enjoy this series given its thoughtful subject matter, but I’d never expect the show gets under my skin the way it did. Wandering Son turns out to be even better than what I expected. Yes, they nail it on the struggles transgender youth must face during their puberty, but at heart this is a coming of age story about coming to term with their own identity. Crossdressing is a way for the kids to express who they truly are, the self that they feel most comfortable with. One thing that struck me the most is how simple the show seems to be, but it’s anything but. From the soft watercolor background, to the simple and plain character designs (those are in the service of the show, as the main leads have their asexual appearances), to the way the story focuses on slice-of-life drama, to the equally soothing soundtrack. Everything seems light-weight at first glance, but inside it, there are many complex relationships and even more complex narrative. The transgender aspect never becomes to preachy or heavy-handed, for once, and the show makes itself clear that it never judges any of these characters. It’s just simply a normal growing up tale from a boy and his friends, nothing more, nothing less.

I also appreciate the anime for the fact that it left out entirely the first section of the manga, so many drama and characters have already been introduced before we get to know them. Fear not, since everything we need to know about the characters and their dynamic are showed and hinted subtlety over the course of its run. For me, the best parts of the show aren’t the subject matter it deals with, but the rich cast and their complex dynamic together. Take the latter for example, many characters form a very special relationship to each other (many has complained the characters behave too mature for their age, which I digress. We need more of these). And it’s these special bonds that made every single one of them interesting. Take Chiba’s love for Shuu: doesn’t matter how he changes, he will always be the special person to her. The same can be said for Yuki and Takatsuki. It often feels like they reach to a mutual understanding that other people can’t never comprehend. And I suppose sharing the same deep bonds as these makes up the reason why they can always rely on each other, even overcome their own issues to reach out for each other.

Shuu and Takatsuki made up two strong protagonists for this show, both because they’re trans who bothered by their own biological bodies, but also their special bond as well. Noted that while Wandering Son deals heavily in transgender issues, all the romantic relationships in the anime are heterosexual – most notably, Shuu and Anna’s love. Why? Because, of course Shuu loves her. Not in a physical attraction sense since I guess Shuu would never desired to kiss her, but in the intimacy sense where he loves her and cares for her like a sibling love. Is it make their relationship weird? Maybe. But it’s powerful nonetheless. Although I already enjoy the first half of the anime well enough, where they focus on the kids and their gender-bender Romeo and Juliet play, the second half is when Wandering Son hits me real hard. Insecurity plays another major role to these kids, as they are constricted by social norms, by the code of rules that dictates how boy and girls should wear and behave. Takatsuki comes a long way until she decides to cross-dress as a boy to school, but Shuu has it much harder by trying the same thing. The escalated tension when Shuu gradually believes that he should dress up in girl’s uniform because he feels comfortable doing so is one of the moment so powerful that it won’t leave my head anytime soon. It’s one hell of a statement right there and it’s more compelling than any LGBT campaign because it comes from very personal lenses.

As a side note, despite people often complain the show for the lack of proper closure, for me it ends in the best possible way. In that final moment, Shuu literally takes a step forward to the stage. That single image can signify many things: that he’s taking anew step towards the spotlight with his new body; that he finally let the dark and bullied past behind; that he moves on to the next puberty stage of his life. Shuu and his friends continue to live on beyond the scope of this little story.

Rating: 92+/100

Tiger & Bunny (Sunrise)

It’s amusing to note that these two shows received the same rating 87.5 here in by psgels, my opinions on these two couldn’t be more varied. Let’s start from its best components first, Tiger & Bunny is the show that has novel concept, a commercial Superhero reality TV show in the neo-modern city that looks like a glamourous version of Gotham. It’s a pretty cool idea and moreover, the concept of commercial superheroes and their ability “NEXT” have potential to develop into heaps of interesting scenarios. It helps that the show makes these superheroes and their moves as flashy and over the top as possible. Another plus for the shameless corporate sponsorship’ logos that pop up in the team uniforms. Flashiness and cool factor have never been this appropriate. The art design is awesome, especially the city itself that feels lush, noisy but gritty at the same time. The production values, for the most part, fulfil their roles quite remarkably. The fights are dynamic, and those action sequences are always damn fun to follow to say the least. The CG department, however, is wacky and looks out of place whenever the two leads are in the combat suits. Take Tiger & Bunny as a purely action show, it certainly satisfies your cravings.

But Tiger and Bunny is more than a mindless action show. It consistently develops into overarching arcs with more serious tone, and that, my friend, is where the show becomes hit and miss. On positive notes, these arcs make Tiger and Bunny more ambitious than your normal Superhero show and the main leads do grow a bit in their character development. The titular Tiger and Bunny, in particular, share some solid chemistry together. The show, on the other hand, has the Western Superhero and Hollywood as their inspiration and it unfortunately inherits the stupidity of Hollywood’s script as well. There is little to no grey area, the heroes are mostly your hero of justice and the villains get more and more evil as the story progresses. I don’t mind about some casual plot holes or some character inconsistencies because… you know, ACTION show, but the last arc, in instance, is so ridiculous and laughable bad that I have to mark the show down several notes. In this last arc, the whole superhero team suddenly becomes puppets with no personality, or even worse, betray their own personality. Kotetsu is being hunted by the police and being broadcasted live, and suddenly, all these developments are set aside for some more plot twists that go nowhere, fighting with Barnaby for no good logical reason and some other bullshits about androids. And I can never get why the main antagonist thinks it’s such a great idea to brainwash dozen of superpowered and influential people, instead of just eliminating Kotetsu in silence.

Character-wise, I regret to say that although spending 25 episodes with them, at the end of the day I don’t know, or care much about them. Both Bunny and Tiger are your stereotyped JUSTICED superheroes, with Barnaby’s backstory is the one we all heard before (Batman, anyone?). Other heroes each have their own episode that flesh them out a bit, but still ain’t enough to make them stand out at all. Villains are over the top in a no-good way and Lunatic (an anti-hero of sort) has never developed into his full potential. Overall, Tiger & Bunny is an adequate take on the same old Superhero genre that make some good use of the old ideas, especially in their brilliant main concept. The mixture of buddy actions, hero of the week, drama make this show consistently entertaining to follow, despite more often than not they follow the same old formula that been around since the creation of Western Comic.

Rating: 78/100

Welp, turns out I finished these two faster than I originally planned. Have you watched either Wandering Son or Tiger & Bunny? What is your take on those shows? Next time, we will meet a girl who plays karuta and a girl who is a NEET detective. Yep, I will review Chihayafuru and Heaven’s Memo Pad. See you in 2 weeks or so (this time is for real). Until then.

Posted on 12 February 2018 with categories: 2011 Anime Retrospective

It’s me, Mario again, for an update of the 2010 Retro Summary. Like I mentioned last time, 27 shows were watched, eliminated/picked based on how much I like to follow them till the end.


SHOWS THAT WERE DECIDED BY THEIR PREMIERE EPISODE:

10 shows are eliminated, while 4 shows are picked during this period.

IS: Infinite Stratos: Easily the blandest debut for this 2011 retrospective, thank you IS (short for It’s Shit) for making my job of dropping shows fairly easily.  Right at the beginning we have a fight that we have absolutely no idea about, all the girls flash their moves and the main guy finishes it off. Then my little interest is drained when I learn the facts that 1) this mecha fight is supposed to be a sport game and 2) somehow our main IS the only male who can drive this thing, make him an automatic winner in girls’ eyes. I dropped out this one fast. OUT

Kore wa Zombie Desu ka?: I find the whole premise dull rather than funny, and the show already features a girl naked in several occasions, which never is a good sign. A main guy is having a harem of eccentric and downright annoying girls, while himself doesn’t fare much better to stand out. OUT

Mayo Chiki: The fact that right after just one day since I watched this I have a hard time recalling the plot should tell you how much I care for this show. Let’s see, a guy who “by chance” sees a crossdressing girl in her underwear, grabs her boob and that said girl vows to kill him before comes to live with him. Nah, nah, NAH. Why do you have to rely on such cliché crap, anime medium? OUT

Kimi to Boku: This one is more “cute boys doing cute things” and I must admit I’m not within the target demography for this. There are some strong moments about friendship but I have a hard time caring for any of those guys, especially the male lead. The animation is especially lackluster. Dropped. OUT

Beezebub: One of two shows about the son of Great Evil messing up with simple daily life. It has some amusing laugh and that kid is a delight but is it good enough for me to burn through its 60 episodes? No, Also I find the humor a bit bland at times. OUT

Ben-To: Only anime can make a series out of such ridiculous premise: about a bunch of “professional hunters” who hunt… half price bento in a supermarket. And because it’s anime, characters are the types you’ve seen in other shows before, the action and the violence are over the top and ridiculous. I’m in a camp who buying a full price bento anyway so I guess I don’t see the appeal of this show. OUT

Phi Brain: This first episode plays out well the puzzle aspect of the show, otherwise it’s serviceable. If it was a current seasonal show I can continue to watch it, but for the purpose of this summary there are literally 30 plus other shows that worth watching more. I still don’t really like the main lead, who is your typical shounen protagonist that can easily leave his friend behind in the quest of becoming stronger. Another problem with this show is with the guy who already overpowered like this, it takes out all the suspension the puzzles might have had. OUT

SKET Dance: The last two shows are a good example of using a “false protagonist”, that is a main guy who becomes less relevant as the episode goes on. I found this SKET club rather charming with formulaic team members: a brain – a muscle – an info guy but the case in question in this episode leaves a lot to be desired. For once, I don’t buy the bullying aspect at all and that machine voice from the info guy gets on my nerve every time. Could be a decent watch but once again it just doesn’t stand out enough for me to spend time watching 77 episodes of it. OUT

Yuru Yuri: Like the title suggests it’s yuri banter all the way. I like some of its satire aspects, like the fact the main character is constantly ignored for her lack of presence. Or the yuri banter can get out of hand in a hilarious way. Still, there is no real plot and that is a huge issue since it sometimes feels it goes nowhere. Not cute enough for me to spend more time with, it seems. OUT (more…)

Posted on 10 February 2018 with categories: 2011 Anime Retrospective

Hey folks, welcome to another one of my attempt to catch up with the old shows. First of all, my thanks to all of you readers who gave a kind support for the 2010 Summary. Truth be told I a bit hesitate to start it over again, given I fully aware of how massive and time consuming this project going to be. But damn, I guess I’ll try my hardest until real life commitment has an upper hand, right? I won’t rush anything this time, so it’ll end when it ends. Unlike last year where I wrote it in one supermassive black hole post, this time it’s my intention to semi-review shows every few weeks, so you guys can stay up to date to the progression of this summary. For future reference, you can look for this little project under the “2011 Anime Retrospective” tab.

To keep things short, here’s what I’m about to do:

  • MAIN LIST – These 26 shows are the ones that I will 100% follow in full (20 new shows and 6 sequels)

Winter:   Madoka – Wandering Son – Level E – Gosick – Supernatural the Animation – Kimi no Todoke 2 – Mitsumodoe 2

Spring:     Steins;Gate – AnoHana – Nichijou – Tiger & Bunny – Hanasaku Iroha – Hyouge Mono – Kaiji 2

Summer: Mawuru Penguindrum – Usagi Drop – The Idolmasters – Ikoku Meiro no Croisee – No.6 – Natsume 3

Fall:    Hunter x Hunter – Chihayafuru – Fate/Zero – Mirai Nikki – Bakuman 2 – Working 2

 

  • QUALIFYING LIST – And below is the list of another 27 shows that I intend to give them some episodes-treatment before settling down for another 10 shows

Winter:   Fractacle – Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? – Beezebub – Yumekui Merry – IS: Infinite Stratos

Spring:    C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control – Ao no Exorcist – Deadman Wonderland – Shouwa Monogatari – Hen Zemi – Sekaiichi Hatsukoi – SKET Dance – Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko – Moshidora

Summer: Mayo Chiki – Yuru Yuri – Dantalian no Shaka – Kamisama no Memochou – Blood-C – Kamisama Dolls

Fall:    Guilty Crown – Haganai – Un-Go – Tamayura: Hitotose – Ben-To – Kimi to Boku – Phi Brain

 

  • MOVIES – I will watch 5 out of this list

A Letter to Momo – Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below – From Up On Poppy Hill – Hotarubi No Mori E – Tezuka’s Buddha – (The Princess and the Pilot) – (K-On  the Movie)

Next post, I will give some quick comments for shows from the Qualifying List based on their first few episodes and form the full watchlist for the 2011 Summary.

And it’d be more fun if you guys can jump in as well. For example, if you find any show that I’ve missed out, shoot up in the comment below, I can give it at least a check-up, because put it simply, I don’t want to miss a thing.

Bye for now, see you in a few days for the next post.

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