Summer 2012 – Week 5 Anime Review

Some major discussion points from the fifth week of anime: everyone’s curiosity in Hyouka, the fantasy realm side-story in Natsuyuki Rendezvous, and undoubtedly the best episode of anime for the entire year in Sengoku Collection.

Hyouka (Episode 16) – Curiosity is a theme ubiquitous and permanent throughout all of Hyouka.  This is not simply limited to Ms. Curiosity either, the entire main cast has their own individual forms and styles of curiosity which pique their interests, influence their motives, and lead to their actions regarding whatever mystery the team finds themselves submerged in.  While Chitanda’s curiosity is the trademark for Hyouka, clearly the most distinctive, aggressive, and selfish of the four, every character shows curiosity at some point which is what drives the mysteries forward toward their answers and moves the anime along.

For Mayaka, her curiosity almost goes unnoticed because of how introverted and subtle it is.  When searching for the missing doujinshi manga in her room, the one necessary to win over the Manga Club, her curiosity turned toward where it could be or how she could’ve lost such a valuable and cherished work.  She never mentioned it to anyone else, nor elicited the help of her friends like Chitanda does.  And when she does mention her curiosity to others, it’s often of the people she’s presently with, regarding a current issue, and tailored toward questions they can immediately answer.  And not only her questions toward Houtarou like after the film screening, but even when asking Chitanda where she obtained the manga from like in this episode, Mayaka’s curiosity is often delicate and momentary.

Satoshi’s curiosity is derived from his competitive spirit, from some yearning wish to outduel Houtarou in a convoluted mystery.  From this point, Satoshi’s curiosity keeps him afloat in how he’s performed during this mystery, from applying known data to the situation and trying to apprehend the criminal based on his work.  But his curiosity is secondary to the mystery at hand.  His ultimate goal is to somehow best Houtarou in solving the mystery, so he needs to be naturally curious in this case to improve his observation, clarity, and deductive reasoning skills.  You might say that Satoshi’s curiosity isn’t honest like it is for Chitanda and Mayaka.

Houtarou, though give his personality he’d adamantly deny it, has an engrossing and passionate curiosity about him that sometimes rivals or even surprises Chitanda’s curiosity.  In fact, I’d say his curiosity has the most depth of anyone in this anime whereas Chitanda’s has the most breadth (she’s curious about more topics while Houtarou becomes more involved with his curiosity… also, Chitanda relies on others to satisfy her curiosity, so she’s never as involved as Houtarou or anyone else for that matter).  Because of this, Houtarou is often wrapped up in whatever situation he’s in and uses his curiosity to solve the issue immediately, likely so he can return to conserving energy and being lethargic again.  Regardless of such intentions, his curiosity is impressive.  It is important to note his constant attempts at rejection over Chitanda’s curiosities, a repeated feature in just about every episode of Hyouka, is not a rejection of his own curiosities, but that of Chitanda’s.  When he becomes naturally curious in something, though it takes quite a bit to pique his interests, he devotes himself to it showing that he has arguably the strongest curiosity within all of Hyouka.

Natsuyuki Rendezvous (Episode 5) – I almost wish that these episodes, or however many involve Atsushi in Ryousuke’s body, did not have this whole Ryousuke in fantasy land with fairy Rokka as a concurrent side-story.  Even if the whole ordeal relates to the main story in some way or becomes a beautiful romance in its own right, it still reduces the impact and lessens the magnitude of Atsushi’s return to the realm of the living.  I’d rather just have everything in this episode be about Atsushi becoming readjusted to life in Ryousuke’s body while trying to reconnect with his widowed wife.  And just when I’m enjoying myself watching Atsushi encounter hardship after hardship in the real world, never fully enjoying the situation he’s been fortunately found himself in, we’re shifted back to some strange dreamlike sequence with Ryousuke talking to Rokka in a fairy tale.  But where exactly is Ryousuke’s spirit right now?  Is he dead?  And why is it a mimicry of Atsushi’s sketchbooks?  Perhaps this is the purgatory that Atsushi lives in given it is a storybook that involves his wife and his drawings?  But no, he interacts with Ryousuke in the real world for most of the series and haunts Rokka in his own creepy way the rest of the time.  Ugh, I’m thinking too much into the rationale behind such a move, but nevertheless, I’d be happier without such cutaways in this and any future episodes on the subject.  Perhaps I’d be receptive of the storyline if it weren’t concurrent with the Atsushi body-switch, but I have yet to see if I even enjoy the story and its purpose before I can say for sure.

Sengoku Collection (Episode 18) – It isn’t often that you can finish an episode, digest the material a bit, let your emotions return to normal, and still declare what you just watched was the best episode of any anime for the entire year.  Yet, here we are, in the aftermath of Sengoku Collection 18, and I’m not afraid to call this the best episode of any anime for the entire 2012 year.  In perhaps the ~400 episodes of anime watched thus far, nothing really comes close to what this episode was able to do.  If you don’t watch or are considering watching the anime, I cannot recommend this anime enough.  It does have some lesser episodes and even a few misses, but to ignore it otherwise would be a crime given how outstanding it is at times with this episode being the pinnacle of success for the series.  If you have watched it, you know just how magnificent this episode was.  It might not be your favorite or even anywhere close, but for me, this is hands-down the best episode of anime I have watched in well over a year of anime.  Thank you, Sengoku Collection.

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  1. #1 by illegenes on August 10, 2012 - 11:54 AM

    I really enjoyed Houtarou and Satoshi’s conversation in this week’s Hyouka. The use of camera angles came into excellent use here, and I find his struggle to become something more than just ‘normal’ and reach Houtarou’s level really well done? The Festival Arc has done wonders for this show but I’m not sure if they’re planning to keep it going until the end or leave a couple of stand alone episodes for the last part of the show.

    As for Natsuyuki, I’m also struggling a bit because I did enjoy the fact that the show was rooted mainly in realism despite having supernatural elements, but now this whole body-swap has changed things dramatically. While I do like the idea that Shimao can now be able to physically talk and touch Rokka, I do think halving the show into two parts is still overall, very surreal and weird. I think my main problem is that despite all of this, we have seen very little of Rokka’s POV this entire time and I feel like the show is much less about her as it is about the two flawed men who want her for selfish reasons.

    • #2 by avvesione on August 14, 2012 - 12:58 AM

      Seems as though Hyouka will turn back to some independent episodes for a while, which I tend to enjoy for their novelty and amusement rather than their mysteries, before probably arriving at a final arc which brings everything together and concludes the series there. But going back to what you said, the cinematography and directing has been outstanding during this arc, especially with how the story has unfolded and the mystery been actually interesting and stimulating. I doubt the series will maintain this energy and interest, but it certainly made this one of my favorite animes this year.

      While I would enjoy seeing the series through Rokka’s PoV, I’m actually rather happy that it’s done mainly through Ryousuke’s PoV with him trying to win Rokka over despite the presence of a persistent and relentless ghost. However, with the series stripping away its integrity by having a body-switch and playing around in an alternative fantasy land, I wouldn’t mind if the series reached out to Rokka now to see what her thoughts are like. I mean, if they’re willing to take one step over the line, why not go all the way and do it for everyone? I may not be happy, even if it proves to be effective or essential to the storytelling, but at least it will be what the series wants.

      • #3 by illegenes on August 18, 2012 - 5:42 AM

        I’m particularly a fan of how Hyouka’s camera angles are done – it’s very rare to see it performed to that degree, but Hyouka manages to pull it off without seeming overbearing in being an ‘artistic’ show. As for the last few episodes, I would like to have another arc, as the stand alone episodes were the weakest for me, but like you said, I think I’ll watch those for more of an amusement angle than a mystery one. While the writing may have been shabby here and there, at least the animation was consistently solid, and that’s something to praise.

        I think Natsuyuki Rendezvous has leaned toward a more subtle approach to ‘storytelling’ – as seen with taking modern fairy tales and stories and twisting them to fit Shimao’s mindset, but to me, it still doesn’t make up for the fact that most of the time, I’m just hearing the thoughts of two men who desperately want Rokka for their own personal benefit. While Shimao has more of a valid reason to get back Rokka, it still doesn’t make his whining all the more interesting or fun to hear. I think the main problem is that no one has really progressed since Episode 1, and if there’s one thing I do dislike, it’s stagnancy in character and relationship development. This whole body swap arc was differently handled than most and I do admire that, but at the same time, it’s still messily executed in my eyes and we haven’t gained much from it.

        • #4 by avvesione on August 20, 2012 - 9:19 AM

          Yeah, the stand alone episodes in Hyouka offer something different, something more amusing than the story arcs that we’ve come to love. What the stand alone episodes can do are bring some humor into the series, to make us laugh and smile, ultimately showing off how versatile and successful the writing is in this anime. The camera angles have been great, especially with how it shows motion through its wide shots, but it still feels pretty standard during most dialogues which point the camera at the character’s face and watch them speak. Kinda wish they did more during those scenes.

          As for Natsuyuki Rendezvous, I think it’s intended that we only hear the story from the two men who are going after Rokka’s heart. Though it would be nice to hear it through Rokka’s as well, I think her side is supposed to be unknown as it is unknown to both Ryousuke and Shimao as they battle each other and try to extract whatever they can from Rokka in terms of how to win her over. And I wouldn’t go as far to say no one has progressed since episode 1, seeing as Ryousuke now has confidence, is determined to win Rokka, and shows a variety more emotions in response to Rokka and Shimao now than before. For Shimao, he’s actually fighting for his wife now rather than being full of sorrow and loneliness; he’s actually doing something now as a ghost which he never was doing before. And going back to your final point, yeah, I think this body-swap arc has been ill-advised. Not what I was expecting or hoping in terms of its story and characters.

  2. #5 by davidvfx on August 16, 2012 - 10:02 PM

    I wacht the ep 18 of Sengoku collection………(T_T)………… the best ep of anime of YEARRRR

    • #6 by avvesione on August 16, 2012 - 10:23 PM

      I don’t think anyone who watched it would disagree with what you just wrote. Hands down, best episode of the year.

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