Autumn 2012 – Week 3 Anime Review

This week: the astonishing feminine social constructs of Girls und Panzer, questions about the hologram/clothing systems in Psycho-Pass, the outstanding use of colors in K, and some thoughts on the appeal of the MMOs in Sword Art Online.

An idea came to me the other day that I want to try it here with these Weekly Anime posts.  The notion is to provide my thoughts on which show had the best episode each week and which shows were trending up (becoming more favorable, more enjoyable) and which ones were treading down (getting worse).  I realize that these reviews are more just discussion points I find interesting or remarkable or details I want to expand for my readers, so my opinions on how I am enjoying or feeling about these anime are often omitted or ignored.  With this new feature, it’ll provide just a bit more insight into what episodes I found to be impressive and which ones I found miserable.  Depending on how well this work, it might become a permanent feature to these weekly posts.

Best episode of the week: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

Anime trending up this week: Shin Sekai Yori

Anime trending down this week: Little Busters!

Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! (Episode 3) – Though it may seem that Yuuta has grown up, he really hasn’t.  While it is true that he’s outgrown his ‘chuunibyou’ phase of life, he hasn’t come to the realization that it is alright for others to have it and to respect their wishes.  Everyone else around him, be it other students and teachers, are fine with Rikka playing around in her own fantasy realm.  Everyone is fine with it until it begins to pose a problem (like starting her own club).  The only one who it bothers and who’s trying to put a stop to it is Yuuta.  And for what purpose?  Because it embarrasses him?  Because he can’t find any friends?  All he wants to do is prevent Rikka from entertaining herself in the way she wants.  No one else has a problem with it; everyone else is being an adult about it.  The only one who has a problem with it and needs to grow up about it is Yuuta.

Girls und Panzer (Episode 2) – The social constructs of Girls und Panzer is rather fascinating.  Throughout the anime, we’ve seen the idea reinforced to the characters and the audience that tank warfare is inherently ‘girly’, like flower arrangements and gossiping about boys (though you might argue Saori is like the grunt who walks talks about the girls he sees whenever he’s in port).  However, the girls themselves are not replaced with manly archetypes, behaviors, or personalities; they all have their unique feminine traits and act like normal anime schoolgirls.  The fact here is that it presents to us a society dissimilar to our own where we view tank warfare and militaristic training as characteristically ‘manly’.  Presenting us with such an altered society is remarkable because of its implications and its effects on the characters.  It wouldn’t be as striking or significant if all the girls were acting like men because it wouldn’t be as clashing or different than what we’d expect.  The fact that they’re still anime girls really speaks to how special this setting is.  Also, by introducing these concepts subtlety instead of banging us over the head with it means that it is commonplace and is a part of their history, not some radical and sudden transition in society to give girls the same opportunities boys have.  That highlights the strength of this social construct.  And not only that but it enriches the setting by giving us something that is different compared to our world.  This allows for the setting to be distinctive and different but not exceedingly so, such as if all the girls had manly men personalities.  The net result is a world in which driving tanks is considered ‘girly’ but the girls themselves are not substituted with manly personalities and behaviors and are able to maintain their typical nature and behavior (or at least what’s typical for anime schoolgirls).  This social construct on tank warfare is what makes the setting of Girls und Panzer truly extraordinary and enticing.

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (Episode 3) – What made the third episode of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure so thrilling and motivational is not based through its fantastic action alone, but through its combination with the heightened and urgent drama.  Of times, mediocre or middling anime are able to have equally exhilarating action sequences but they fail to include the drama and meaning behind the fight that truly completes the scene.  What JJBA was able to do was steadily increase the tension over the previous two episodes, clarify everyone’s motivations, and culminate everything together in that climax where JoJo and Dio battled to the death.  Had it just been empty dialogue and meaningless actions before the fight, the fight would’ve been spectacular, but it would’ve left the audience somewhat lacking.  Sure, it’d be fun to watch, but having that detailed and fabulous backstory really made this such a sensational and rousing fight.  Bravo, JJBA, I can’t wait to see what’s planned next.

Jormungand: Perfect Order (Episode 14) – I realize that the characters do have their free-time from time to time but it always seems like everyone is together or at least with another person from their cohort.  Because of that, I’ve always wondered how R finds the time to contact Saw/Bookman and update him on Koko’s whereabouts and activities.  Does he just, like, get up and walk away and go on his phone or something?  Or, like, if they’re driving in their caravan, “Hey, R, who ya texting?” “Uh… no one…” “Like, is it one of us in one of the other cars?” “Uh… no…” “Oh, okay then.” Yeah, not sure how that works, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone like Valmet spying on R to see what he’s up to when he sneaks away from the group and plays phone-tag with Saw/Bookman.

K (Episode 3) – As we’ve seen with K, colors mean quite a bit.  Not only are they the representations and differentiations between clans, gangs, rivals, and powers in this story, but it also goes as far as to describe these people as a literal analogy.  Those who are ‘red’ are passionate and violent, fiery and bloody.  Blue?  Blue is calm, cool, orderly and sexy controlling.  And the others?  There are traits associated with black and white already apparent in Kuro (Black) and Shiro (White).  And not only that, but the colors are represented in their appearance and environments as well.  Be it hair color, clothes, special abilities, rooms/offices, hideaways, marbles, and even in lighting or cinematographic filters, the use of colors to represent and differentiate these groupings is very clear.  And because of this dedication and attention to detail, especially in the visual manifestation of colors, I am thrilled with K.  Anytime an anime puts this much effort into using colors to simply or express details and other clever hints, I can’t help but feel the need to praise it.  K has done a phenomenal job with the colors in this anime, well beyond using it as a naming system for different characters.  I only hope that others recognize this, too, and appreciate as much, if not more, than I do.

Kamisama Kiss (Episode 3) – Often times a romance in an anime feels unbalanced or weighted toward one side or another.  Other times it’s often overpowering, forcing its way into every scene and tainting the other aspects of the plot that don’t pertain to love and its wonderful and perplexing feelings.  Kamisama Kiss, however, has no such issue with either problem because the romance and attraction are secondary to the issues at hand, namely Nanami being appointed a deity at a local temple.  And with this being the first episode directly dealing with romance, that of matchmaking a female youkai with a human teenager, Kamisama Kiss could’ve followed suit with all the other mediocre and lesser anime and been overbearing with its romance and misunderstandings.  But nope.  Kamisama Kiss focused on its story and its characters and used it romance as appropriate.  I’m getting the feeling I’m going to really like Kamisama Kiss if it can continue to develop its romance like this.

Little Busters! (Episode 3) – One of the disadvantages of watching a visual novel adaptation is that you won’t see the completion of everyone’s route.  Because an anime is linear and doesn’t have the time to backtrack and replay itself, fully exploring everyone’s character, you’re stuck with only receiving a part of the story.  Even if the anime does its best to include every detail and every line of every story, it isn’t the same as if you were going down one character’s route solely.  Honestly, I don’t have much experience evaluating the transition of visual novels to anime, but this is how I’ve always felt about them and Little Busters! is no different.  Of course, the flip side to that statement is that we don’t be seeing the boring route of Yuiko, so there’s that as a positive.  God, she’s already a terrible, dislikable character.

Medaka Box Abnormal (S2) (Episode 2) – Yeah, I could totally live in a room with all those cute, chibi things and adorable Medaka dolls.  Yeah, I know it’s creepy, but most of those things were adorable.  Wouldn’t mind having one for myself if they actually made some of the ones with faces I liked.

Psycho-Pass (Episode 2) – It appears as though clothing in Psycho-Pass is nothing more than intelligent holograms.  As we saw with this episode, Akane was able to change between various sets and styles of casual clothes, change her clothes from casual to professional in the middle of a busy public thoroughfare, and don an avatar as a disguise to apprehend a potential criminal.  And while that seems awesome, convenient, and cost-effective, aren’t there some problems with this whole system?  One, what if the system fails?  It seems the only piece of real clothing Akane wore the whole episode were those striped panties she had on after her shower.  If there were a malfunction, a crash, or if someone hacked into that hologram system, I guess we’d be seeing her run around in her shimapan for the rest of the episode (note: since Psycho-Pass isn’t a moe anime, does that mean shimapan aren’t moe now?).  Two, what about regulating body temperature and keeping us dry?  I don’t really see those holograms holding up as the temperature drops or it begins to rain or snow.  The clothes we wear now protect our bodies from the weather and the elements, but I don’t see these holograms doing that unless there’s something we’re not being told.  Or what about spilled food and drinks?  That and with Akane working as a detective, you figure she might wanna wear some body armor or something, too.  Three, and this may only be true with the police avatar, why was it so tiring for Akane to move with it on?  You wouldn’t imagine people would want to wear such a laboring system if the virtual clothes they wore were draining or immobilizing in any way.  And if that’s the case for the avatar system only (which it seems to be), why have that, too?  And one minor point to add onto that avatar system, too, couldn’t people impersonate other people by dressing up like them?  If it’s possible to replicate any type of clothes or avatar, why not mimic other people?  Yeah, there’s a number of problems with that hologram/clothing system.  However, seeing as it’s more a unique detail to enhance the setting, I doubt we’ll ever have any of these issues expanded upon or resolved.

Shin Sekai Yori (Episode 4) – Is it just me or did it seem like the five kids were overreacting to the abstract ancient history that the library was going over?  I can understand that it’d be disturbing or upsetting to hear, but during that lengthy monologue with the library explaining their troubled past and the various human atrocities, everyone seemed to be psychologically unstable and on the verge of breaking down.  Most were wide-eyed, shaking, and clearly unstable.  Really?  From just listening to the library talk about some aspect of a recorded history that was patchy at best?  It bothered me a bit seeing how exaggerated and dramatic their expressions were, especially since they were shown as rational and resilient throughout the other episodes.  It’s true that they live in a sheltered environment and had no real clue of their history, but still, I felt like the whole reaction was too cheesy.  That being said, I did enjoy their timid and frightened nature for the rest of the episode, when the monk was escorting them to the temple and they were fearful for their lives after their powers were sealed.  Now that was an excellent use and representation of emotion.  The dialogue before with the library?  Nah, not my kinda thing, it seems.

Sword Art Online (Episode 16) – Perhaps the greatest interest and intrigue from SAO derives from the fact that we can easily relate to and understand the MMOs that Kirito plays.  It isn’t like all those other anime where people have superhuman fighting abilities or there’s an absolutely unrealistic high school romance (though it’s heading there).  No, with SAO, you can relate to the main character who plays these fun and enjoyable (yes, that’s arguable) video games.  And what’s great about it is that it’s what we want from our MMOs, to actually be in the world and live in it.  Rather than just seeing some character that we control run around on the screen, Kirito is actually the character, running around and doing all the exciting stuff himself.  And it’s a rich and vibrant world full of adventure, friendship, and exploration.  That’s what many of us want from our video games and what SAO delivers to the audience.  And because of this key feature, SAO is enjoyed and beloved by its fans.  Of course, I’m sure we’d all appreciate games that aren’t bizarre death traps or needing to rescue our love from an unending coma, but the life-like MMO interfaces are definitely something that appeals to most of the audience and most of its fans.

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  1. #1 by Xiammes on October 22, 2012 - 11:54 PM

    In Shinsekai Yori, the Scientists hard wired it into their DNA, forcefully making them react in that way. They had strong mental blocks on the idea killing humans, they weed out any defects(the trouble maker in episode 2). We also have the possibility the Library was projecting the images into their heads.

    I personally think it was a tad bit over dramatic, but I can see why.

    • #2 by avvesione on October 29, 2012 - 12:31 AM

      But that’s what made it so questionable. Since we know that the idea of killing/harming other humans is now a part of evolved human genetics, wouldn’t they choose not to believe the library first rather than accept the truths as readily as that and act all scared? Not only that, but it seemed that the examples the library was using were physiological changes in various organ systems (liver, thyroid mainly) rather than psychological changes. Even if their bodies were going out of control due to these evolved mechanisms (which it wasn’t because we saw that happen to the priest who attacked the monsters), it shouldn’t’ve made such a pronounced effect.

      But yeah, those are just my thoughts on it, since I can’t actually prove anything.

  2. #3 by Vincent on October 23, 2012 - 6:26 AM

    In Shinsekai Yori, society has taught the children to never be violent, and has drilled it into them. They have basically been told that violence, rape, etc., are evil acts during their entire life, which is part of society’s way of preventing rogue PK users from appearing, so it came as shock to them that such things could occur. The mental thoughts of humans harming other humans would trigger a weaker version of the death feedback mechanism.

    • #4 by avvesione on October 29, 2012 - 12:35 AM

      I addressed my thoughts on the issue in my reply above, but I don’t think that’s really a justifiable cause for what we saw. If they’ve been drilled into learning that murder and violence is bad, why would they act so shocked and concerned over hearing about it from their history and not question the Library instead? That and the death feedback mechanism really only occurs when they’re actually doing the violence and any activation of it from watching it wouldn’t produce that amount of fear and anxiety.

      But yeah, my thoughts, so maybe it was a bit of that going on but it was way too dramatic during those scenes.

  3. #5 by Joojoobees on October 23, 2012 - 5:10 PM

    I think the new features are interesting ideas.

    I agree with your thoughts on Kamisama Kiss. The other shoujo titles are already starting to seem a bit heavy because they are belaboring the romance angle. Kami-Kiss is putting more emphasis on Nanami’s ascension to goddess. As a result the show is mostly about Nanami struggling to get better at her unusual job (I would say, “growing as a person”, but “person” seems almost opposed to the idea of becoming a goddess).

    • #6 by avvesione on October 29, 2012 - 12:37 AM

      Yeah, I’ve been very happy with Kamisama Kiss thus far and rather happy I’m not following the other shoujo romances this season (for the reasons you mentioned in your comment). It really feels like a complete story, going over everything in Nanami’s life, and presenting it in a way that’s bother entertaining and meaningful. It’s done a fantastic job and might end up being my favorite shoujo anime of all time depending on how it progresses and finishes.

  4. #7 by bobbobsters on October 25, 2012 - 5:05 AM

    In Chuunibyou, it’s not that Yuuta really cares one way or another, at least at first. If you recall, he’s being followed, and in his eyes, blackmailed by Rikka. He’s worried that the things from his past will come back to haunt him as Rikka continues to do all this stuff that reminds him of his, um, creativity.

    For Psycho-Pass, I think that it’s something like a pseudo-solid hard-light that more or less keeps solid objects from moving through it freely. Otherwise, where would Akane be keeping that compact clothes-changeamagig? However, i think the law-enforcement avatars are there for other reasons, one to protect identity a little more than being face-to-face with latent criminals, and it’s tough to wear because they are big harnesses if I recall correctly :/

    Finally, in K, there will be Green as another color, then Colorless. It in fact will be the exact same coloring as MTG (i hope?) because no other system would make me happy.

    • #8 by bobbobsters on October 25, 2012 - 6:24 PM

      Oh, and for Shin Sekai: they are still wearing those stupid hats, thus they are stupid!

      • #9 by Xiammes on October 25, 2012 - 6:50 PM

        Those hats are actually Azerbaijanish, so its actually alot of foreshadowing. They still look silly.

        • #10 by avvesione on October 29, 2012 - 12:49 AM

          If by silly, you both mean awesome, then yeah. Also, thanks for the note on their origin. Going to send my friend to Azerbaijan now to pick me up a few.

        • #11 by bobbobsters on October 29, 2012 - 4:55 AM

          SPOILER: next episode, all hats are off.

    • #12 by avvesione on October 29, 2012 - 12:49 AM

      For Chuu2, there’s that but he seems to have distanced himself from that idea considering that he tags along with her and hangs out with her all the time. If he were truly concerned about being reminded of his embarrassing past, he probably would avoid her at all costs. Even if she brought up moments of his embarrassing past, he could readily deny it and question that silly game of hers. Instead, what it seems he’s doing is that he’s just trying to stop her from having her own fun, especially since she hardly ever brings up his character anymore.

      Actually, upon watching the episode again, she’s wearing her business suit before she changes into her casual clothes and goes out to see friends. I’m guessing that what happens is there is some basic clothing structure that they wear that changes between all these various types, from casual to business to sports to sleepwear. Considering that fact, I suppose I could be wrong in my assessment of the clothes in Psycho-Pass. Then again, there’s nothing to say that the suit she was wearing was a hologram either, so it still goes either way. As for the police avatars, Masaoka seemed to indicate that everyone can wear avatars, referencing that young people should be accustomed to them by Akane’s age. I figure, from that comment, that anyone could use such a system and that it’s not exclusive to the police for identity protection, spying, and defense. And if it’s commercially available like that, why would people use it besides trying to freak each other out or disguise yourself as someone else before committing crimes? Guess I dunno…

      And yeah, we already talked about K, so no more need to go into that for now.

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