Winter 2013 – Week 4 Anime Review

senran_kagura-04-mirai-serpent_academy_for_girls-shinobi-ninja-villain-jet-gothic_lolita-nekomimi-eye_patchThis week: Shiori’s social anxiety in Tamako Market, the non-existent character development in Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, how the Sibyl System has changed perception in Psycho-Pass, and questioning Hibito’s actions in Space Brothers.

Best episode of the week: Chihayafuru 2

Anime trending up this week: Space Brothers

Anime trending down this week: Maoyuu Maou Yuusha

 

Chihayafuru 2 (Episode 3)

chihayafuru_2-03-taichi-tsutomu-nishida-chihaya-tsukuba-team-mizusawa_karuta_club-high_school_tourament-matchAlthough neither Sumire nor Tsukuba have fully adjusted to karuta yet, it felt incredibly rewarding and reassuring to watch them participate in the team matches for the high school tournament.  Both players were figured to be handicaps for Mizusawa, especially with Sumire still memorizing all the poems and Tsukuba transitioning from ‘second verse karuta’ to ‘first verse karuta’.  However, thanks to some ingenuity and thoughtfulness from Tsutomu, both of the new members were able to play in their first matches despite still being novices to the game.  Although neither character played any meaningful role in the matches, you could see how much each character learned and understood through playing against a real opponent in a competitive match.  Not only that but their appreciation for the game, as well as the other club members, grew exponentially as well.  You could literally see these characters mature through the two games.  The whole experience was meaningful, encouraging and above all, made the episode a satisfying one to watch.

chihayafuru_2-03-sumire-kimono-hakama-traditional_japanese_clothing-karuta chihayafuru_2-03-tsukuba-glaring_eyes-tongue_out-scary_face-comedy

 

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (Episode 16)

jojo's_bizarre_adventure-16-lisa_lisa-teacher-mentor-beautiful-sparkles-shining-lipstickSeeing as Caesar acknowledges Lisa Lisa as his teacher/mentor, it seems surprising that he seems so unfamiliar and unaware while under her training again.  Even if he mastered the basics of the Ripple under her tutelage, you’d figure he’d know more about her training methods or even her top assistants, Loggins and Messina.  It’s not like he’s unfamiliar with the Hell Pillar Climb either, yet he seemed genuinely surprised at everything occurring around him.  He really shouldn’t be reacting this dramatically if he’s already completed some training under her, knows about her methods and is familiar with the local training grounds.  It makes you wonder just how much training he has had under Lisa Lisa and how much further he can go to master his Ripple.  On top of that, just what exactly was he training for when he left her academy with only the basics?  I’m really curious about the previous training experience and what exactly Caesar hoped to accomplish with such a limited mastery of the Ripple.

jojo's_bizarre_adventure-16-joseph-mask-ripping_shirt-training-ripple-badass-awesome jojo's_bizarre_adventure-16-caesar-novice-rookie-training-smile-gesture

 

Kotoura-san (Episode 3)

kotoura_san-03-haruka-funny_face-shock-dread-horror-fear-shaking-blue_with_streaksWhile Kotoura-san has numerous positives and deserving merits, I have found one simple, recurring element that is hands-down the single best aspect of this delightful anime.  Shown time and time again in every episode, Haruka’s various faces and eccentric facial expressions continue to win me over without any hint of fatigue or failure.  Not only are all her faces incredibly cute, which fit the theme and appropriateness of this anime, but these reactions play an essential role in expressing her character.  And when she isn’t being adorable or humorous with these faces, she’s using them to express her feelings visually, reinforcing her characters as one overcoming a distressing childhood of anxiety, depression and loneliness and transitioning to one teeming with happiness, vigor and optimism.  There is some real meaning behind these faces, more than just being appealing or funny.  It this duality in her facial expression, the simultaneous cuteness and characterization, that I find exceptionally charming about Haruka in Kotoura-san and it has quickly become my favorite feature of this anime.

kotoura_san-03-haruka-funny_face-blush-reaction-shock-surprise-comedy-cute kotoura_san-03-haruka-serious_face-telepathy-esp-psychic-mind_reading-troubled-blank_stare

 

Maoyuu Maou Yuusha (Episode 4)

maoyuu_maou_yuusha-04-maou-boobs-fanservice-surprised-blushI would say that the character development in Maoyuu Maou Yuusha has come to an immediate halt but that would imply that development was occurring prior.  The fact is, no one in Maoyuu has grown or matured since their introductions with the exception of Maou who has seen minimal character progression across these fundamental episodes.  At this point, Yuusha is still indecisive, unproductive and regrettably confused and frightened by boobs, Maid Chou is still insightful while remaining remarkably cold and distant, the older sister Maid has received an education but has achieved nothing with it, and the remaining cast members have been given an insufficient duration of screentime to note any discernible growth or maturity.  For Maou, her development has been largely on her dysthymia and perseverance but both trace their origins to her unrequited romance with Yuusha which continues to frustrate and disappoint.  And though there has been progress on her part, her body insecurity continues to be perplexing, especially since it has no role in the story of her character besides BOOBS again and again.  I pray something jarring happens quickly, something to shake the foundation of this series and show the characters what an amazing influence they are having on the world.  Additionally, something needs to happen to correct the “romance” since it’s been stagnant and abysmal to date, much like the character development for Yuusha.  Maybe he’ll finally realize and appreciate all that Maou has done for him and mankind and treat her as she deserves.  But then I might be happy with Maoyuu, and we know that this won’t be happening unless some significant changes occur.

maoyuu_maou_yuusha-04-onna_kishi-female_knight-blonde-braids-swordsmanship maoyuu_maou_yuusha-04-maid_ane-older_sister_maid-serious-troubled-thinking

 

Pscyho-Pass (Episode 14)

psycho_pass-14-kougami-city-lights-society-urban-metropolis-night-crimeIt’s rather fascinating how myopic and blind the society has become in Psycho-Pass.  Rather than looking at people for who they are and what they are, scanners swiftly analyze whatever brain material is accessible through their detectors and assign some values based on a scale of pretty colors and arbitrary numbers.  Through acceptance and acquaintance of the Sibyl System, people have begun to rely on these readings and expect the Public Safety Bureau to facilitate peace and foster security in this sheltered society rather than to look, think and feel for themselves.  It leads me to wonder if others around the world are like this too, or if such a system exists in Japan only.  Not only that but does such a system exist in rural environments, too?  Do other systems have similar but slightly different Psycho-Pass systems with differing data points, formulas, sensors to better tailor their local population’s psychological activity, the regional laws and the capacity of which their police force operates?  If so, how do these various populations and societies function with their civil justice systems and are they as intolerant as the citizens under constant observation of Sibyl?  I’d love to see how outsiders would respond to this system, these crimes and life in general under these conditions.

psycho_pass-14-shion-doctor-smoking-cigarette-computers-lipstick psycho_pass-14-akane-dominator-sibyl_system-psychoanalysis-society-crime

 

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai (Episode 3)

sasami_san@ganbaranai-03-tsurugi-shaft_head_tilt-looking_back-forest-environment-nature-light-green-atmosphere-settingAnother episode of Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, another comment on the mesmerizing and dazzling aesthetics and animation.  The focus this time is on its vividly detailed environments, particularly the forest that Sasami and Tsurugi visited on their way to the Tsukuyomi Shrine.  The way nature is illustrated in this anime is absolutely breathtaking with an assortment of colors, lighting and details to portray a genuine world that’s rich in vibrancy as it is in vegetation.  It’s that intensity and enthusiasm and clarity in its composition that gives it such an astounding, gratifying feeling when watching the characters wander through it.  These backgrounds translate to us an atmosphere or a mood and the theme employed in the forest was one of tranquility and reassurance.  And while it’s well below the extraordinary level of Makoto Shinkai, it’s well above the median for scenery and environments shown in TV anime.  The only other show that comes even remotely close to this masterpiece is Shin Sekai Yori which has utilizes its own unique style for its horde of ecosystems.  Hopefully the anime shifts its developments to the world outside Sasami’s bedroom because I’m beginning to favor it more than the serene and fuzzy watercolors that saturate her comfort-zone.

sasami_san@ganbaranai-03-sasami-forest-environment-nature-trees-green-colors-lighting-aesthetics-background-pajamas sasami_san@ganbaranai-03-mika-shrine_maiden-tsukuyomi_shrine-ruins-destruction-background-environment

 

Senran Kagura (Episode 4)

senran_kagura-04-mirai-serpent_academy_for_girls-ninja-villain-skirt_lift-space-magic_skirt-gothic_lolita-eye_patch-nekomimi-umbrellaWhether by design or simply by execution, the villains of Senran Kagura are easily the superior characters of this anime.  It isn’t an issue of some character designs being better than others or anything like that but that their personalities and motivations seem stronger, more consistent and generally more entertaining.  The five ninjas of the Hanzou Academy all have something that’s limiting their character or preventing them from being as enjoyable as they should be.  For example, Ikaruga never fails to nag on the other girls when they’re trying to have fun, Asuka and Hibari seems to be hesitant and lacks the resolve and determination to improve as a ninja, and Yagyuu could use some screentime away from Hibari to give herself some necessary freedom to improve upon her individuality as a character.  The five ninjas of the Serpent Academy for Girls don’t have this issue, at least not now judging by their appearances in their limited screentime; instead, these girls are fun, confident and independent as characters and have yielded some of the most stimulating and pleasing scenes of the anime thus far.  Judging from the preview of the next episode, it seems that these girls will be given more of a commanding role in the episode and be given the chance to have a real battle rather than these minute skirmishes which, although have been exciting, have been way too short.  As long as these villains continue to appear and wage their war on the Hanzou Academy, then Senran Kagura is certain to improve.

senran_kagura-04-hikage-serpent_academy_for_girls-ninja-villain-glare-snake_tongue-awesome senran_kagura-04-katsuragi-hanzou_academy-ninja-injured-battle-damage-torn_clothes-fanservice

 

Shin Sekai Yori (Episode 17)

shin_sekai_yori-17-saki-adult-26-mature-beautiful-gorgeousWhile Saki has always been a mature individual, whether she was 12, 14 or 26, Satoru has grown from a rather juvenile troublemaker into a knowledgeable and understanding adult.  It is true that both have grown over the course of the series as it has transgressed through 14 years, but the development of Satoru has been much steeper, much more noticeable and somewhat more meaningful.  Saki has always been an accountable and stable as a person than Satoru but she’s learned to control her emotions as the years have gone by.  Satoru, in addition to controlling his emotions like Saki, is much more responsible and dependable now, especially when contrasting himself against the 12-year old Satoru that we witnessed at the beginning of the series.  The two kids are adults now and, though they’ve spent time apart, they seem to have a similar emotional level now and an understanding that never existed before.  It’s as if Satoru finally caught up to Saki as a character which is something that should be exciting to watch as the anime continues forward in this era.

shin_sekai_yori-17-satoru-adult-26-smile-reunion shin_sekai_yori-17-yakomaru-squealer-queer_rat-buck_teeth-evil_eyes-villain

 

Space Brothers (Episode 42)

space_brothers-42-hibito-astronaut-space_suit-helmet-looking_back-decisions-life_or_deathWatching Hibito wander away from Damien and Gibson, to be alone by himself during his final moments on the Moon, has and will continue to bother me.  The primary concern over this action is that he’s leaving Damien unsupervised after doing everything he could to save his partner.  Hibito labored so hard to protect and ensure Damien’s survive yet, after returning to the surface and stabilizing his body temperature, Hibito decides to up and leave.  Damien might still need some assistance, especially if some of Hibito’s actions were miscalculated or incorrect, meaning that everything he did could be in vain if Damien suffers a complication while waiting for help to arrive.  Another issue with Hibito’s abandonment is that he doesn’t try to drive Gibson to where rescue help is heading.  Though it is true that Hibito is unaware of the situation due to his busted communicator, he should figure that they are on their way to either his current location or the spot where they descended off the cliff.  If he makes both locations the same by returning to the spot where the rover crashed, then he’d be increasing his chances of survival by making the rendezvous point the same for both situations.  Not only that but Gibson could be detected too, since it emerged from the crevasse, meaning that it could be remote controlled to drive them to the arriving rescue team.  With only 10 minutes of oxygen remaining in his suit, Hibito could increase his chances for survival since he’d be returning in the direction of help, too.  Instead, Hibito decides to spend his final minutes back in the crevasse, looking up at the stars in a turn-of-events that seems contradictory to has been the established character and personality of Hibito.

space_brothers-42-hibito-astronaut-space_suit-lights-helmet-hand space_brothers-42-damien-astronaut-space_suit-looking_up-glowing-bubbles

 

Tamako Market (Episode 3)

tamako_market-03-shiori-tamako-friendship-shy-holding_hands-conversationMost anime utilized shyness and nervousness in a character to make them more appealing, charming or, in some way, more desirable to the audience, helping to reinforce and solidify their specific character archetype as a cute, quiet, shy girl.  Unlike most anime, Tamako Market employs Shiori’s shyness as an actual issue with her character and creates a story about her shyness problem.  In fact, it is structured as more of a mild case of social anxiety disorder, a condition in which she experiences some form of distress and fear from social stimuli that inhibit certain aspects of her daily life.  It doesn’t manifest in the form of panic attacks, sweating or any physical symptoms, but it’s clear she has some psychological blocks that prevent her from interacting in the way she wants and without feeling this nervousness.  The story of this episode focused intently on how Dera, Tamako and the Usagiyama Market were able to have a positive impact on her anxiety through their encouraging exchanges and delightful encounters.  The outcome of this approach is that Shiori was able to overcome her barrier and step above her anxiety.  Prior to this episode, could never muster more than a glance or stare in the direction of Tamako and her friends.  Instead, after the inspiring conversations with the various characters of this enchanting community, Shiori was able to thank Tamako for her generosity and that she had a wonderful time with her.  She was able to make some progress in overcoming her social phobia and it is attributed to how Dera, Tamako and the shopkeepers responded to her.  So while a majority of anime use shyness solely for making a character cuter or more moe or for something amusing, Tamako Market crafts an endearing story around this personality trait and shows how it is a problem for Shiori and how she overcomes this frightening psychological obstacle.  Of course, one conversation over coffee and music won’t be enough to cure her completely of her nervousness, so hopefully we continue to see her character grow and mature as the anime continues and Shiori becomes integrated into the market community.

Also, anyone else notice during Shiori’s meeting with Dera that she caught the birdie with her badminton racquet?  I know, it’s stupid, but I still laughed.  I hope you did, too.

tamako_market-03-dera-bird-mochi-fat-blush-romance-feathers tamako_market-03-shiori-shy-anxiety-mirror-talking_to_herself_confidence-bathroom

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  1. #1 by Errant Princess on January 31, 2013 - 9:30 AM

    What I most enjoy about reading other people’s reviews is that they notice stuff I never would. For instance, even though I am highly familiar with it I never picked up that Shiori of Tamako Market could possibly have social anxiety. I am also keen on Space Brothers, but I never once judged Hibito for wandering off and leaving Damian there to fend for himself. Man, what gives?

    • #2 by avvesione on February 4, 2013 - 2:41 AM

      It took me a while but after thinking about Shiori for a while, I thought Tamako Market did a fantastic job utilizing her shyness as a focus point for her character and for her story. It was when when I tried to write about it that I realized she might have social anxiety which I thought readers (such as yourself) might find interesting. So then, it became the topic of my little review for this episode. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      As for Hibito leaving Damien, I suppose there could be the factor that he doesn’t want to have Damien watch him die when there’s nothing that he can do for him… but still, I would’ve thought Hibito would have stayed with him to take care of him until he knew help would arrive and that his efforts (and his death) were not in vain.

      • #3 by Errant Princess on February 6, 2013 - 10:18 AM

        I do enjoy reading your posts, so thanks for writing them!

        Anyway, while I was pleased with how they handled Shiori’s shyness in episode 3, I do think some factors of Tamako Market aren’t working out quite as well. The bird is getting kind of old even though he was my favorite part of the first ep, and I am still not quite sure what the point is to the story but it is good at the small stuff.

        Space Brothers is almost like the total opposite of Tamako Market in many ways. I mean, my heart almost can’t take the level of intensity of late. They really dragged that whole “will he or won’t he?” scene out there. I love it, but it was very stressful.

        • #4 by avvesione on February 6, 2013 - 2:07 PM

          Personally, I think Tamako Market would be better without the bird. Dera doesn’t really add anything significant to the series and I think most of these storylines would be better with just normal people doing normal things instead. So I share your opinion on that issue.

          Yeah, Space Brothers has been excellent these past few episodes with how its portrayed and handled this drama. It’s quickly become one of my favorites of this young season, so I’m a bit weary or concerned with what will happen next now that it’s just about over. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next with Mutta now.

  2. #5 by Joojoobees on January 31, 2013 - 4:47 PM

    I wouldn’t be that hard on Hibito, given his circumstances. Even if we assume it to be a selfish or foolish act, it comes at a time when most people would give up hope of rescue. I’m certain I wouldn’t be calm enough to think I should spend the final 10 minutes of my life watching over someone else.

    I completely agree with you about demon boobs and the missing guy. The most complex and interesting character, so far, is the head maid.

    I was very pleased with the way things worked out in the first two rounds of the Regionals in Chihayafuru. The new characters have already had more true growth than I am anticipating we’ll get in a whole season of Maoyuu Maou Yuusha.

    • #6 by avvesione on February 4, 2013 - 2:46 AM

      Idk, I suppose you’re right, but I think it wasn’t in Hibito’s character to walk off like that after he spent so much time and effort into saving Damien. I would’ve thought he’d stay with him to make sure that he’d be alright or that he could at least take care of himself so that his efforts (and his death) were not in vain.

      As for Maoyuu, do we completely agree? I’m sure we agree on the complete lack of character development but the head maid is one of the worst characters in this anime (okay, this is up to personal preference but she irks me like no other). I’d say Maoyuu, the older sister maid and even Onna Kishi are better characters than her.

      Yeah, Chihayafuru has done an excellent job of integrating the new characters in and finding roles for them immediately as supporters (for now). I can’t wait to see what happens when either of them beat out Kana or Tsutomu for the starting lineup. I hope there’s some drama within the club over that (and not over the romance that pretty much defines Sumire’s character right now) and that it happens somewhere in the middle. Chihayafuru has been outstanding thus far and for good reason.

      • #7 by Joojoobees on February 4, 2013 - 4:11 AM

        On Maoyuu: I’m ready to pan the characters across the board. The head maid at least makes it up to one-dimensional (she is stern and loyal), but that isn’t the kind of complexity that makes a character compelling. The problem is NONE of the characters surpass that. I’m not specifically arguing with your choices, I just think this show ranks at the bottom for creating interesting characters. Even most gag shows end up with characters that are more complex than this.

        • #8 by avvesione on February 4, 2013 - 4:44 AM

          Ah, okay, I see what you’re saying now in regards to the head maid. Still, I’d say a few other characters parallel her in terms of dimensionality, such as the other two maids (older is ambitious, compassionate but fearful while the younger is silly, happy-go-lucky and naive) and are more pleasant to watch. Maybe it’s just me but I think the head maid is my least favorite characters in Maoyuu…

  3. #9 by Marina on February 1, 2013 - 4:06 PM

    I really appreciate that Chihayafuru doesn’t rush the improvement of its characters. While I love game anime like Shion no Ou, Hikaru no Go, and Saki, it always seems like they rush new players into being these awesome competitors. The handling of Karuta Club’s newcomers has been really great so far in this aspect.

    You’re making me want to change my mind about dropping Sasami-san, all for art! I just couldn’t stand the sister-brother relationship that was slapped in our faces in the first episode, and the chocolate scene was just too over the top for me. I heard there was some plot improvement after that, but I’m still hesitant to give it another chance with all the other shows I’m watching.

    I also agree that Kotoura-san has been a pleasure to watch these past weeks, and I take similar joy in Kotoura’s expressions that I can’t help but laugh at the tricks her friends play on her and her ESP abilities. I just wish the grandpa had stayed far from the line and not joked about his granddaughter the way he did *shudder*

    Thank you for your thoughts on Space Brothers. Going back to think about it, Hibito’s actions at the end really are odd given his earlier determination to save Damien. Regardless of how much oxygen he had left, he should have had the foresight to know that the others would come to the point of their disappearance and start heading that direction, if only to shorten the time of rescue for Damien’s sake.

    • #10 by avvesione on February 4, 2013 - 2:55 AM

      I believe one of the reasons why Chihayafuru has handled these new introductions and developments so well is that it has quickly found roles for these characters within the club, with other characters and within the story itself. Since they’re able to integrate so nicely with every aspect of the anime, everything else comes easy. That and when we spend time with each character, it doesn’t feel forced or awkward or anything negative, but rather that it’s something that’s needs to happen in order for the characters or the story to progress. It’s done a fantastic job with these characters.

      You’re not missing anything in the way of plot or characters with Sasami-san but I feel that the art alone, is worth it. I have noted a few other people who hate the sister-brother relationship (myself included) but it’s something I can ignore or dismiss, so it’s not really a problem for me. You might wanna try the second episode sometime just to see how it is for you since it’s much better than the first (less brother, less sexualization) and it might sway your opinion on the anime.

      Yeah, the expressions and her friends treat her is both fun and heartwarming, especially considering her life before meeting these friends. I’m still a bit behind on the anime, so I’ve only heard about this most recent episode… but yeah, it is regrettable it went in that direction…

      My friend and I have had a few arguments about his actions and his decision to wander off from the edge of the crater, so it’s not a clear-cut black-and-white issue of doing something right or wrong. Still, I’m on the side that I don’t feel that it was right of him to do that or that it was his character making the decision. Still, it’s an extreme situation and that was his decision, so maybe it says something about his character that he’d do something like that. Either way, glad to hear you and I think alike on this issue.

  4. #11 by mwnanamai on February 2, 2013 - 12:36 AM

    You are not the first person to note that the antagonists of Senran Kagura are cooler than the protagonists, their design and personalities are really good indeed.

    One reason for that might be that because Senran Kagura that the videogame had to make the enemies design and personalities appealing for the gamers because the appeal is “Hot Women fighting off”, so we were spared the goofy creppy antagonists of other anime series.

    Talking of Maou and Yuassha … funny that the fan service has more character development than the anime : The difficulties of having big boobs.

    http://i.imgur.com/aaY2m.jpg

    • #12 by avvesione on February 4, 2013 - 3:00 AM

      Yeah, I know the second game for Senran Kagura followed the villains as the main characters, so I guess I share the opinion as quite a few fans of the franchise. Either that or the game designers knew that the villains were all well-designed and interesting characters from the start and had planned for them to take the spotlight from time to time. I’m leaning toward the latter half with fan response reaffirming their decision to give the enemies their own game but I don’t know this specific case, so maybe it’s the fan response and popularity that gained them so many fans. Either way, glad to know there’s people out there with good opinions on characters and what makes a fun antagonist!

      As for Maoyuu, that’s a cute comic you linked. I noticed it didn’t have any mentions of back pain since that’s one that always comes to mind with gigantic boobs.

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