Summer 2012 – Week 8 Anime Review

This week: Natsuyuki Rendezvous is losing me, a curious and disorienting visual effect in Sword Art Online, my love for those amazingly animated “explanation sequences” in Hyouka, and yet another remarkable aspect of Sengoku Collection.

Reversing the order of anime this week, thus giving the shows that begin with the letters at the end of the alphabet some enhanced exposure.  Also, took last week off because the Mid-Season Review occupied most of my free time, so yeah.

Tari Tari (Episode 9) – The writing in Tari Tari is at its best, not when it’s staging scenes of intense emotional pressure on its characters, but through the casual dialogue between the club members.  The interactions between these students, primarily the passive-aggressive back-and-forths and the side-conversations on personal matters, give the dialogue a realistic feeling to them while also being entertaining, too.  Taichi’s constant and often ignored interjections on badminton are a perfect example of this aspect of Tari Tari.  Not only is it believable that a passionate badminton advocate would try to draw attention toward his interests at any moment he feels it being threatened (often by Konatsu’s promoting of the choir aspect of their club) but the fact that it’s immediately ignored generates some humor into his interruption.  Not only that but the fact that he doesn’t make a big deal about it, whining and whatnot, means the conversation goes uninterrupted and ends up feeling both informal and natural.  It’s the same when Sawa or Wakana are playing around with the other members, stretching the truth or adding side commentary or when Konatsu tries to stimulate the group and they all resist her as best they can.  This aspect of storytelling is a frequently overlooked or missed area in many slife anime and the writing suffers when conversations seem irregular or strange.  Thankfully, Tari Tari has endearing exchanges between its characters which help enrich the plot and the experience of watching and enjoying this anime.

Sword Art Online (Episode 8) – Whenever the point-of-view switches from third-person to Kirito’s first-person perspective, the camera sometimes shows the world through what seems to be a full-frame fisheye lens (though it looks to be a regular shot with a circular blur on the edges, so not a true fisheye effect).  This seems to be only used whenever Kirito is scanning the environment (looking for the rabbit) or gauging his opponents (sizing up Kuradeel before the duel), so it doesn’t appear to the default view of how the characters see the world.  But still, it’s a frequently used method of viewing the world and the perspective is somewhat disorienting and unnatural.  I couldn’t imagine living in a world where sometimes your eyesight changes to such an abnormal and complicating view.  It strikes me as odd every time I see it, something so atypical about the way the world looks whenever the camera shifts to Kirito’s eyes.  And though one may adjust to the perplexing view, it still seems strange to see the world this way when assessing the objects in this world.  Nothing truly important or educational about the anime but something I want to draw attention to, just to see what others think about this effect in Sword Art Online.

Sengoku Collection (Episode 21) – Though I realized early on that certain episodes of Sengoku Collection were based-on or parodies of famous movies, such as Roman Holiday, Bowling for Columbine, Back to the Future, Alice in Wonderland and with this one being 2001: A Space Odyssey, it never donned on me until recently that every episode is in some way a retelling of a movie, television series, or literary masterpiece.  It amazes me how this anime is able to incorporate such a diverse arrangement of movies to tell each story and use each character.  And while some may dismiss the anime by saying it lacks creativity for using the work of others to describe itself, I find it more impressive that they’re able to take these works, stylize it to fit the atmosphere and ambiance of the anime, and do it all in the limited timeframe that the anime is restricted by.  Additionally, its able to use characters from other episodes, retain the same Sengoku dynamics between characters, and still keep the original storyline of Sengoku Collection alive (Nobunaga taking all the treasures from all the other generals).  The storytelling in Sengoku Collection has always been impressive considering the differences in style and format, but now there’s some logic and reason behind each of these episodes as well as how they all fit and flow together.  Just another awe-inspiring aspect of Sengoku Collection for me to discover this week.

Rinne no Lagrange (Episode 20) – Four weeks ago, during episode 16 of Rinne no Lagrange, I happened to snap a random screenshot with a girl in her swimsuit, eating yakisoba outside the beach hut during Yurikano’s sudden embankment to the beach in her Vox (or Vox-like mobile armor).  The girl, on the screen for less than a second, turned out to be the focal point of this episode, Reiko Miki, a first year student with a passion for giant robots.  It was merely a coincidence I took that screenshot, mainly because I found her expression to be amusing and I always find short, black hair to be cute on a girl, but there was no indication or hint that she’d actually become a named character and have an episode all to herself later on in the series.  So not only was I surprised to see her again but even more so on what a character and episode it turned out to be.  It certainly is a remarkable turn-of-events to see a simple, nameless background character turn out to be one of the most entertaining and humorous characters in this series.

Natsuyuki Rendezvous (Episode 8) – Though I’ve already established myself against the whole “body-swapping and fantasy-world” arc that Natsuyuki Rendezvous is dragging its feet through, it now has attained a new level of annoyance considering that this has been going on for way too many episodes now.  The dynamic between the three characters before was fascinating, especially considering how Ryousuke had these unique challenges and struggles with each, but now he’s been effectively removed from the anime and the current plot.  Sure, it is doing wonders for Shimao’s character development (proving he’s a dick for not telling Rokka what’s going on and leaving her with only questions) and putting Rokka through emotional torment, but it disturbed the best thing about the series which was the relationship between the three characters.  Putting Ryousuke in this sketchbook fantasy land has done nothing for his character.  There has been no development on his behalf, only some incredibly meta conversations from the mangaka telling Ryousuke what he needs to do and outlining everything for him to get back (when there is absolutely no way he or the reincarnations of Rokka would know otherwise).  And the effect of the fairy-tale universe has been even worse on the story.  Ryousuke isn’t more determined to chase after Rokka now after spending time in purgatory and these cutaways are just interrupting whatever’s going on in the real world (though that too has never been consistent since there’s been constant interruption for the various flashbacks).  The series has already begun to lose me when it drifted into this fantasy realm and it has been steadily been getting worse as this storyline has progressed.  I wonder if there’ll be some moment soon when the anime loses me completely…

Hyouka (Episode 19) – Whenever the characters, often Houtarou, are explaining the details of their theories, the animation switches between a broad range of styles that detail and illustrate their ideas.  This change of art style and animation are always done in an amusing manner and showcase the diverse talent that exists within the confines of KyoAni.  So while the anime dazzles with its brilliant array of detailed backgrounds, incredibly charming character designs, harmonious animation, I can’t help but feel the talents of this animation studio are on display whenever the anime switches over to these explanations.  Why?  Because unlike the rest of the anime which have characters in a photorealistic environment, the creativity of the director and animation staff are put on display in how they showcase the visualization of these discourses.  Not only that but they’re free to use whatever style they feel comfortable with, so it comes off as an innovative way to narrate the character’s thoughts on an issue.  Not only that but these segments never show a decrease in quality, though novice fans might consider that approach since it isn’t always as pretty or detailed as the rest of the anime.  They are truly remarkable and entirely essential shots in the anime and one of my favorite aspects of the aesthetic masterpiece that is Hyouka.

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  1. #1 by Joojoobees on August 30, 2012 - 3:13 AM

    Natsuyuki Rendezvous – I’m not entirely convinced that the fundamental concept was sound (meaning introducing the ghost). Essentially fiction is about showing how people react to various situations. By having a ghost character, the reactions and motivation was already a bit off the rails. Can we really say that Ryousuke would act as he is shown doing when the ghost is around? If we can’t believe that, Ryousuke seems to be acting out of character, and the ethical choices depicted are invalidated. But the ethical quandaries themselves make it difficult to believe ANY choices made: e.g. Should Ryousuke have let the ghost possess his body? That’s a stupid question, because ghosts don’t exist.

    The fantastical elements of this show (from the start) seem to undercut the significance of any of the characters or their actions, which is a shame, because there are times when the characters (especially Rokka) seem very believable, and to have real problems. The questions she has about what she should do are legitimate, but then we introduce the “but what IF your dead husband’s ghost …” clause. In logic, P -> Q is always true when P is false. Ghosts don’t exist, so predicating other statements upon FALSE will always be trivially (insignificantly) true.

    • #2 by avvesione on September 6, 2012 - 10:28 PM

      I like with anime, or pretty much any fiction, there needs to be some level of disbelief going into the series. If everything were normal people acting normally in whatever random situation, then it would be mundane and uncreative. What Natsuyuki is attempting to do with its supernatural romance is to add an imaginative element to the series to give it some innovation to the typical love triangle genre that dominates the romance genre in anime. It hasn’t been perfect but it’s done well to enhance the emotions and create a story that’s worthwhile. My problems with the series stem from its writing and storytelling, a jumble of flashbacks and side-stories that distrust the main story and prevent continuity and flow to establish. It degrades the series every time we are thrust into some other scene where the anime uses it to explain something trivial or to justify their emotions further. That and the storybook world is dumb, I’ll give you that.

      • #3 by Joojoobees on September 7, 2012 - 3:21 AM

        I don’t think so. I think the imaginative aspects in fiction tend to work best when they can be accepted as allegories for things real humans can experience. In that way disbelief about the particulars of the situation can be suspended, but the deeper issues about human nature and the ethics of the situation are still meaningful to the reader/viewer.

        Take Muv-Luv, for example: It is full of made up stuff about monsters and battle suits, but the core of the story isn’t really related to them. It is all about how people get along. What does our nationality mean for who we are, and how we interact with others? And puncturing the myth that, if the Earth were to be attacked by extra-terrestrials, we would all come together and defend humanity. The fantastical stuff is in the background, but the ethical issues the viewer is asked to engage with are relevant to human experience without space monsters and giant battle suits. The fight against the aliens could be any challenge that reason says SHOULD unite us.

  2. #4 by timeoftheday on August 30, 2012 - 11:06 AM

    I agree about Natsuyuki Rendezvous. It’s slipping into mediocrity.

    If it doesn’t recover soon, in two years time, I will remember it as the anime that taught to spell “rendezvous” and that’s all. XD

    • #5 by avvesione on September 6, 2012 - 10:29 PM

      At least it will be remembered for something which is better than a number of other romance anime I’ve watched over the years.

      But yeah, mediocrity sounds about right for Natsuyuki right now.

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