Elevens: Yuuki Yuuna, Lie in April

December 20, 2014 1 comment

Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru 11 has the girls debating the merits of obeying Taisha, fighting one another, and reaffirming their bonds. This is all important because at this point in the series, I and perhaps others of us are sort of rooting for the enemy.

Go enemy!  Yay!

Go enemy! Yay!

Well, it’s not a pro-enemy vote as much as an anti-Taisha vote. Like voting for a candidate you don’t like because the other one is potentially worse. The enemy gods are monstrous-looking things, but Taisha or whatever it’s called is cruelly using the girls for its own purpose. To complicate things further, the other side might destroy this world. Nevertheless, Tougou has suffered enough to blow a hole in the wall and let the enemy in; we know who she’s voting for.

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But that’s another thing about this situation. The girls are being attacked by monsters, so all of their actions, for whichever side, is done in the name of their friends, i.e., the Hero Club. Tougou blew a hole in the wall because she wants to spare her friends further suffering. Fuu and Itsuki fight out of love and respect for each other. Yuuki almost gives in to despair before doing a heroic turn late to “rescue” her best friend Tougou.

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Karin, however, has the best moments of affirmation. Never going Mankai before, she does it several times in one dazzling battle against five vertexes, shouting out the Clubs five tenents as she does. It’s a great moment of redemption for her, finally able to defend on the level of the other girls. It’s also the best battle scene yet. Her mankai form, like a many-armed Hindu deity, is the best looking of the batch, even more than Tougou’s. She twists and flings herself in the air, wiping out one enemy after another, losing her mankai, getting it again, shouting those tenents the entire time. Naturally, that god she worships makes her pay dearly, but maybe it was worth the price to be so spectacular for a few minutes. Very good episode, one to go, and I have no idea how it’s going to turn out. I hope the creators do. There’s a lot of things they have to clean up.

Your Lie in April works with the aftermath of Kousei’s performance.

I like Hiroko already.

I like Hiroko already.

Kousei handles it exactly the way he should. He knew he wouldn’t win, but was easily talked into staying for the results, showed off his peaceful face to the uncomprehending, enraged Takeshi (Emi seemed to have a better idea), say a few philosophical lines about continuing journeys, and so moved on. And they set up the stage for the next opportunity for us to watch the boy lose it on stage, a gala event of that other contest. Hiroko, “Japan’s top pianist,” an old friend, and an obviously formidable woman, takes Kousei on as a student. He even makes a confession of sorts–a lovely scene, a pause after he says who he played for, and then the music roars back in.

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Naturally they have to bum us all out with Kaori’s cryptic line to herself about not always being around. Sooner or later the show will make her condition the main story, and I’m not looking forward to it. Not only will it be sad, but it’s not terribly dramatic to have a character up and die because of outside forces while we wallow in bathos. And it’s in poor taste. Maybe it will be a crisis and nothing more, but the more I think about it the more the creators seem to molding Kaori into a Jacqueline du PrĂ©, a brilliant musician who died of multiple sclerosis. I hope not.

Catching up: Shirobako

December 14, 2014 Leave a comment
Misa chooses the path of the penguin.

Misa chooses the path of the penguin.

Shirobako 10 is a relatively calm episode where the studio’s production activities are as hectic as ever, but no one is having a crisis over it. The crises have more to do with Misa at that other job, deciding whether to quit or continue animating tires for three years. As for me, I would have waited until I had worked a year before quitting, because it might look better in the resume, but she does what she has to do. She got to this point after Aoi goes from office to cubicle and gets various life advice on the fly. It’d be an accusation to say the characters always get the advice they need in their life just at the right time; rather, they get the advice they need to make it to the next day, or episode (of Exodus, not Shirobako). The advice of the week is “know where you want to go, and the means to get there will become clear,” or something along those lines, and it inspires Seiichi to finish the storyboards, Misa to resign, AND Honda to become a baker. That’s some advice!

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We also get a documentary bit, like we often do, where Aoi visits the sound studio and is made to make some noises. I like these bits maybe the most, showing how things are done in a production, and if it’s actually glossed over a little, it doesn’t feel that way. I had the same feeling with the voice recording sessions, and the party afterwards. But I figure the show will get intense again next week; they’ve put a countdown toward the final episode (of Exodus, not Shirobako), after all.

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The other two shows I’m caught up with: Lie in April and Yuuki Yuuna

December 13, 2014 Leave a comment

As I wrote before, there are two new (if you can call them that near the end of the season) shows I watch as soon as they come out. One is Your Lie in April, even if it’s often excruciating to watch.

How's the performance going, Kousei?

How’s the performance going, Kousei?

It’s not that Kousei’s troubles bother me. I think they’ve done a nice job of showing off the reason for his neuroses, especially last week, when he finally stands up to his cruel mother and have her promptly die on him, a nice layer of frosting on his guilt-cake. But the show also lays it on awfully thick. Last week we started watching his performance at the contest but they laid on so many flashbacks of cruel women in their wheelchairs, with canes, that instead of the dread of Kousei losing it while playing, we knew it was coming and twiddled our thumbs so he could snap out of it–an episode later. Lovely, a week of waiting, knowing what would happen, and wondering how long episode 10 would wallow in it before something happened.

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As for episode 10, it took forever. We tracked through all the old ground again while he started pounding the keys like he did at Kaori’s recital, then apparently lose interest, then found a reason to play. On and on it went, the friends and rivals watching, shocked, me drumming my fingers … And then he decided to start all over again … While I was glad that the mood lightened, though they insisted on playing the Chopin to the end, and that he’s over this particular obstacle, there’s still the idea that he’s simply replaced the female he used to play for with another, and the new one takes as many pills as the old one did. I’m not sure that’s a progression. Still, I’m glad the contest is over. I wonder if Takeshi or Emi won?

Fuu, the hero of last week.

Fuu, the hero of last week.

Meanwhile, Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru has made itself a nice little puddle of despair for this set of girls. Last week Fuu learned about how the gods (Shinju? Taisha? Can’t figure it out) had set these girls up as sacrifices to itself, in order to protect the world, apparently, and Fuu took it badly, as she should. She had withheld information from the others, and it ended up costing them all something. To her credit, she not only regrets her actions but sets out to rectify it–by going off to kill the gods. She’s stopped by the other girls, who tell her they’re happy to be together, they regret nothing, etc, and completely missing the point that they’ve been duped. Episode 10 is pretty much the same, only this time it’s Togo’s turn to rebel.

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It means a long and partially unnecessary flashback followed by a Sonoko infodump; we already knew much of the backstory, at least the happy-girly part, but it was good to see our suspicions confirmed: she lost the use of her legs from a previous turn as hero. And Sonoko points out some other things, like her arranged family switching , moving next door to YY, and that they’re also now being worshiped as deities while the main deity continues to consume them. Togo is the most sensible girl of the batch, and, believe it or not, the only one who thinks that maybe looking outside the wall of illusion to see reality might be a good thing.

Togo learns the truth.

Togo learns the truth.

It’s not entirely clear to me, but it looks like either there’s an army of vertexes waiting their turn to invade, or they’re just fixing up new versions of the vertexes the girls have already defeated to attack again. In the first case, they’re doomed, and in the second they’re in a never-ending power struggle where they’ll just wind up dying. At this point you have to wonder what the hell the gods are thinking about; are they in a balance that satisfies and feeds both sides at the expense of vertexes and humanity alike? And does it matter? Like Fuu last week, Togo does the right thing and decides to destroy the balance in order to save her friends. I suspect she won’t be so easy to appease as Fuu was, either. She’ll probably fail, but I’m looking forward to what effect she might have.

What I’m watching this season.

December 8, 2014 Leave a comment

Turns out I DID choose a good month to take off. There’s not really much to this season. A couple of new shows are holding up and I’ll watch them every week, but for the most part I’m two episodes behind on just about everything. And when I DO sit down to watch something, it feels more like a chore than normal. I wonder if it was because I was watching not with an eye toward a blog post but more as a simple viewer. I don’t think so. I don’t think I would have wanted to write about most of these episodes anyway.

Amagi Brilliant Park–three episodes behind. Every time I watch an episode I admire its look and count the minutes until the episode is over, and I normally love KyoAni shows. Inou Battle–two episodes. It was more before Makoto’s now-famous rant, and since then the show has become more interesting. I just hope it doesn’t unravel and become a bunch of battles, as much as I like to see action in a Studio Trigger series. Two behind on Twintails as well; I’m watching that one to see if they can actually carry this concept on for a full season. Shirobako–two episodes, even though I actually enjoy it. Trinity Seven–one episode. I like the main character’s mix of earnestness and perversion, though not enough that I can remember his name. Kokkuri-san–FOUR episodes. This is the strange one because I almost always laugh when I do watch. Denki-gai–four, again, it’s a show I actually like. I’m not sure what’s going on with this show and Kokkuri. Maybe I’m hoarding them.

Yet another lovely Mushishi moment.

Yet another lovely Mushishi moment.

There are only four shows I watch on the day, or the day after, the newest episode comes out. Mushishi is the obvious first choice, though it’s had a problem with its recent episodes: they’re all about parents, usually mothers’, troubles with their kids. This week it was lightning boy, last week it was water boy, the week before that the boy was normal but the mother was floating in the trees. It’s getting repetitive. The episodes are still great to look at and have moments that will make you gasp, but that’s average for the series. It hasn’t done something truly amazing for a while. Well, when my only complaint is that a show is just great and not truly amazing, you know it’s still a winner.

William's beside himself.  Get it?  (honestly, what was with that ghost thing this episode?)

William’s beside himself. Get it? (honestly, what was with that ghost thing this episode?)

I’ve also kept up with Log Horizon, a show that has won me over by being consistently interesting, with a few lapses … really, did we need an entire episode for William’s speech? Well, it did bring up some questions about their existence there. William keeps talking about Elder Tale as a game, when, after two years of living in it, you’d think he’d consider it something else, like his life. The show also works as a defense of gaming in general and what a person can learn from one, and since gamergate has nearly turned the word into a pejorative, I suppose it needs some defending. He learned trust and teamwork from the game, or the life, the same thing that Shiroe has decided he needs, the same thing Akatsuki decided she needed in the previous arc. I don’t know that we viewers need to see the same lessons learned from three or four different characters at the same time, but that’s the way the show works right now. Looking forward to their retry next week. Incidentally, Log Horizon is the only anime series I can watch live on TV here (Saturdays at 5:30 on NHK-E), so I try to watch it there first.

Note that Mushishi and Log Horizon are in their second seasons. I think I’ll talk about the two “new” shows in my next post, once I’ve caught up.

I’m taking November off.

November 1, 2014 2 comments

… and possibly part of December too. But I’ll be back for Christmas (starts humming a song, slaps himself).

Why? Oh, various reasons, none of them unpleasant.

Meanwhile, while I won’t be writing, I’ll be watching. And if I am to take a month off this would be a good month to do it. It’s not the most thrilling season of anime I’ve ever seen; I don’t feel compelled to write about any show in particular. Mind you, if I DO have something to say, I’ll write it here (or I’ll reply on some other blog). But don’t count on it. Have a great November!

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Twintails and Yuki Yuna 2-3

October 30, 2014 Leave a comment

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Ore, Twintails ni Narimasu remains amusing through its second and third episodes, even with predictability in the story. The hero(ine) gets his/her powers, then proceeds to get allies with their own abilities. Which was actually episode three. Episode TWO was basically an infodump, a look at this fetishistic enemy, and everyone settling in to Souji’s place for their headquarters, with his mom’s blessing and Aika grumbling next door, so we’re have potential for a domestic comedy as well, one pervier than most. Inevitably, Aika becomes another twintail heroine in episode three after Souji is trapped by the alien of the week (the show actually mentions this concept–it likes to wink at us), but it’s amusing that the witnesses later refer to her as a copycat hero, a good spin to keep a stale storyline fresh. The show’s been pretty good at that so far, e.g. The “What would a guy do if he was in a woman’s body?” question is answered with two girls spying on him, and the answer is EVEN MORE DISGUSTING THAN YOU THINK!

A fair question.

A fair question.

Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru 2 takes care of a one thing earlier than I expected. But first, we get the infodump, Fuu telling us things we already learned in episode one, though this sort of makes it official. It also suggests that these attacks don’t come very often, whereupon there’s the second emergency call in as many days–suspicious. But mainly the infodump lapses into accusations on Tougou’s part: how dare Fuu enlist these girls and put them in danger without warning them, or giving them a choice. And she’s quite right. That this is mixed in with Tougou’s frustration and guilt about not being able to help only adds some depth to the situation. Which leads us to the second part, where THREE monsters attack and Tougou is forced to transform, as I said, earlier than I thought she would in the series.

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I can’t think of another series where a disabled person becomes a magical girl, or the equivalent. It’s very interesting. She has four pointed braces that serve as legs, and they carry her around probably with more ease than any of the other transformed girl moves. There’s no magical life in her real legs–they just dangle below her. Almost as interesting is the change in her attitude. Maybe she’s angry because her friends are in danger, but she puts on a cold-blooded face worthy of Homura. And she kicks ass just as much. There’s also the way she transforms–she seems shocked at first, then in an angry rush (though I could have done without the jiggling). While she goes back to being kind and gentle when the fighting is over, I hope to see her channel that anger again, hmm … maybe in the episode I’ll watch tomorrow …

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Alas, all the anger in episode three is reserved for Karin, the new girl, who knocks off a vertex single-handedly, gives some obvious backstory, and otherwise goes around acting like a tsundere, until she’s softened up by the other girls invading her place on her birthday. It’s all obviously done, insults and grandstanding early on, getting disoriented by the girls’ amused reaction to her (and her avatar getting chewed on by Yuna’s), getting invited to stuff she doesn’t want to do, getting involved against her will, grumbling and then letting out a smile, the whole bit. But her presence does raise a question: if she is indeed an improved, version 1.0 of the ass-kicking girls, with the others as betas, why don’t the rest of them get an upgrade?

Trinity Seven, Shirobako, and Shigatsu … 2-3

October 28, 2014 2 comments
Later the game is Strip Poker.

Later the game is Strip Poker.

Trinity Seven episodes 2 has Arata being observed by Arin as a sort of comic gag, except her reasons are intended to give us backstory. Then we get scene a scene where she’s trapped him (and three girls) in a barrier to see how he will react, sort of a mage testing, since he’s going to be a demon lord (what was that other show with a young demon lord? No, not the one with the baby …), so we can get more backstory, and later on he accidentally causes a reality breakdown that might threaten the entire school. Less backstory there, but the same amount of cult-babble throughout. This show probably uses the same random cult-babble generator as Raildex does. Anyway, he’s about to be killed when he’s whisked off by Yui, a nice girl in some other dimension, where we get more backstory, and then in the next episode he puts all he’s learned together and stops the world from breaking down.

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Sounds like your average fantasy anime, with no real villain yet (interesting). But I deliberately left out the filler, which was a lot of boob and butt shots, references to boobs (by both Arata and the girls), dialogue with double-entendres everywhere, which the show quickly and gleefully points out for us. After the world breakdown crisis they all head to a tropical island and show off swimsuits, or nothing, and one of Arata’s powers has a side effect of destroying clothing. And above all that, Arata’s split personality. On one side he’s an earnest young mage in training who wants his cousin back, who seeks and appreciates the help the other magic people give him. On the other, a rather blatant sex-obsessed adolescent who’s capable of making sexist remarks at anyone at anytime, no matter how serious the conversation. Some of the girls even play along. It gets too extreme sometimes, but I can’t resist the balance of magic show and commonplace lusts this show is chugging out right now. I’ll probably change my mind in a week or two.

Staff meeting.

Staff meeting.

I don’t know if I can handle writing about Shirobako; I’m exhausted just by watching them, especially episode three. As for #2, the madness is set up by the overall director (I still can’t get the names even though they flash them onscreen nearly as often as Kill la Kill did) deciding the main character in Exodus’s fourth episode is all wrong somehow, leading to much hand and neck-ringing from the episode’s staff. It’s a rather entertaining look at creative egos at work, since the episode director takes it as personal affront. Aoi, the newbie, sort of saves the day by leading the chief director to lead the rest into a shared hallucination, well, actually, it’s his passion for the series and the art form coming out. Either way, it’s a great scene.

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The pressure just gets worse in episode three. Basically Aoi runs all over the place getting bits of animation from one office to another, with some people being slower than others, or less reliable. Since she’s in charge of episode four (of Exodus, not Shirobako), there’s a lot of pressure on her. The other characters go about making her life a little better or worse depending on whether the plot needs it. Happy to say, they’re all basically supportive, too. Even the grouchy ones soften up after a moment. It’s her not fault. She’s working hard. And she couldn’t have predicted the ftp and backup servers all going down at once, meaning the other company can’t send their color stills … It’s all crazy, and I’d say it was worth it just for the education of the animation procedure I’m getting, but that all flies by so fast I can’t get a hold of it. It’s worth it anyway, because even though they’re flinging a lot at us they’re making it as interesting and entertaining as showing a workplace can be. I just hope everyone got some sleep after that. One more thing. The details the director wanted changed DO look better now …

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Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso 2 brings us Kaori’s recital, and just as important, Arima’s viewing of the recital. Naturally, she’s dazzling, the audience favorite, and Kaori falls in love with her without knowing that’s what it is. The scene itself is spiced up by a couple other things as well, firstly, it’s not a recital, but a competition, and full of the nervous vibes from both the performers and audience members. So it’s loaded with triggers for Arima. Also, Arima gets a chance to be nasty to Kaori, but decides to be as nice as possible instead, even knowing that her wild playing wouldn’t get her past the prelims (Does the audience favorite award get you to the next round? I didn’t catch that). The performances give off a Nodame vibe, which I welcome, though I wonder if the show is being faithful to the music. And then we get the awkwardness that is Kaori liking Watari, though he’s dating lots of girls that she doesn’t know about, and Arima’s role as middleman, wanting to set her straight for maybe selfish reasons but instead keeping silent for his friend.

Kaori gently helps Arima through his affliction.

Kaori gently helps Arima through his affliction.

Episode 3 is more predictable. There’s no time to consider the ethics of the cheating best friend, and we get a little introspection from Tsubaki, more of a clearing the romantic path for Kaori. But mostly the episode is getting Arima off his butt and on the piano stool as Kaori’s accompanist. I’m not sure whether I like the idea of Kaori jumping in and forcing Arima to deal with a serious issue, but she did lose her accompanist and desperately needs someone to fill in, and Arima’s somehow famous in musical circles (for what?). She might be foolish; she’s now seen his affliction first-hand (in an otherwise cute scene in a cafe), and to expect him to get over it so quickly feels naive, but she’s a wondrous sparkling girl full of life, after all … And the more Arima says no and we go into his head the more we’re on Kaori’s side. Fortunately, Kaori isn’t entirely full of self-pity, so he finally agrees, but it’s a shame that we don’t get to see the performance until next week.

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