Spring 2014 – Week 11 Anime Review

gochuumon_wa_usagi_desu_ka-10-sharo-chiya-chino-tippy-kokoa-rize-comedy-chibi-laughing-embarrassed-cute_eyes-maid-kimono-uniformsBack sometime, whenever week 11 was: questioning whether Ginko is happy or not in Mushishi Zoku Shou, why the infamous grins in Akuma no Riddle were perfect, examining the contrast between the different Kaoris in Isshuukan Friends, and a candidate for the best episode of anime of the year from Ping Pong the Animation.

Best episode of the week (and maybe the year): Ping Pong the Animation

Anime trending up this week: Mushishi Zoku Shou

Anime trending down this week: Soredemo Sekai wa Utsukushii

 

Ryuugajou Nanana no Maizoukin (Episode 10)

ryuugajou_nanana_no_maizoukin-10-nanana-ghost-mystery-purple_hairAlthough it’s been established at the beginning that Nanana was murdered, there’s reason to speculate that there may be more to this story than what we’re being told. As of right now, there has been little information on the cause of death (what killed Nanana) or possible culprits or even motives for murdering this bright and delightful teenager. Additionally, with all the fantasy and magic occurring as a result of Nanana’s treasure, what’s not to say that Nanana’s ghostly form is a side effect of one of those very treasures? Or maybe Nanana saw the bleakness in her endeavors, that no one went to her island for fun and adventure like she had hoped and that everyone was competing against each other for greed and selfishness, and took her own life (oh, how I’d love this anime if it were to become dark like this at the end). But really, we don’t know anything about Nanana’s death but we do know a lot about the magic attributed to the artifacts that are present on Nanae Island. And given Nanana’s connection to the island, the treasures and the fact that she’s the only ghost we’ve seen, there’s probably something going on that is more than a simple murder mystery. Unfortunately, with only one episode left, I doubt we’ll ever learn what happened without having to pick up the light novels.

ryuugajou_nanana_no_maizoukin-10-ibara-vice_president-bodyguard-unrequited_love-hopeless-comedy-smile ryuugajou_nanana_no_maizoukin-10-tensai-master_detective-smile-confident-hat-golden_eyes

 

Ping Pong the Animation (Episode 10)

ping_pong_the_animation-10-kazama-hoshino-dragon-peco-semifinals-giant-imagery-intimidation-symbolism-table_tennis_matchThe table tennis matches in Ping Pong have been the greatest thing of any anime this entire season, with this episode being the pinnacle, the unquestioned best. Not only was this episode free of flaws, but the indisputable passion, the mesmerizing kinetics and the exceptional imagery were all conveyed in the captivating animation and extraordinary art work that made this episode unforgettable. It was truly a remarkable experience, and I am confident we have a strong candidate for the best episode of the year, too, with Ping Pong episode ten.

ping_pong_the_animation-10-hoshino-peco-paddle-ball-rubber-return-indent ping_pong_the_animation-10-kazama-dragon-sweat-emotion-passion-determination-pencil_lines-shading-dramatic-awesome

 

No Game No Life (Episode 10)

no_game_no_life-10-jibril-fluegel-angel-wings-cute_ears-flustered-round_eyesIt seems as though all the nations and federations in No Game No Life are that of the same people. Whenever we hear of another country, it’s not that it’s a nation that has different cultures or economies or technologies or geographic location… but instead, it’s that of a homogeneous race. When talking about the nation of elves or the nation of werebeasts, Sora and Shiro and everyone else are pretty much just saying ‘elves’ and ‘werebeasts’ instead. That leads to the question of whether there are any nations where different races live and cooperate together. You figure with each race having certain specific attributes that some intelligent nation would identify their weaknesses and cover it by inviting different races together to build a stronger empire. Or what about someone establishing their own country and inviting neglected or unhappy members of different races together in the name of freedom and equality? Or not even that, what about collaborations between the current countries as they are now? For example, suppose one of the other nations coveted the technology of the werebeasts and wanted to provide capital or labor or something in exchange. It’s rather odd to see how isolated each of these races/countries are and how there is little to no cooperation between each other. To date, the only nation that really accomplishes this is Imanity and they only have an elf and a Flügel. It’s no surprise that Sora and Shiro are able to capitalize on this diversity as they’ve utilized their special abilities to their advantage.

no_game_no_life-10-feel-elf-spy-friendly-long_ears-warm_smile-pattern_eyes-long_blonde_hair no_game_no_life-10-izuna-werebeast-kemonomimi-fox_ears-tail-cute_eyes-quiet-determined-blush

 

Mushishi Zoku Shou (Episode 9)

mushishi_zoku_shou-09-ginko-waking_up-sleepy-confused-curious-turtleneck-western_clothesIs Ginko happy? Mushishi is a series that focuses primarily on Ginko’s influence on the people around him with only a handful of episodes focusing on him as the main character. Even then, the episodes are chiefly on the subject of how Ginko is affected by various mushi rather than his history, what he’s thinking or how he plans his adventures. And given how well he hides his emotions, if he has any beyond that blank gaze, it’s hard to say if Ginko is happy with his life and is satisfied with his work. That’s not to say he isn’t giddy or relieved when he cures a stranger of their ailments or resolves an issue between man and nature, but the satisfaction he feels is fleeting and he immediately shifts back into straight-faced Ginko as soon as he turns his back and wanders away. So is Ginko happy in the traditional sense? He’s certainly content and calm, two words I would use to describe Ginko before even thinking of the word happy. But, if Ginko weren’t happy with his life and his work, wouldn’t you figure he’d do something different with his time? Given his interest in mushi, he could devote his life to studying them alongside Tanyuu in the Karibusa family archives. He could also become a mentor to novice mushishi and transfer his knowledge to a new generation of healers. Ginko could also raise awareness of the dangers of mushi to the communities, in a role similar to modern public health. The point here being, there are plenty of other things Ginko could be doing with his life, with many related to mushi and utilizing his knowledge and professional skills. Still, the fact that he continues to wander from area to area and heal those who need his skills shows that he finds fulfillment and value in his work. It may not translate into happiness for Ginko and he may not display his emotions as such, but it points to an indication that Ginko is happy with his life. So returning to the question posed at the beginning of this review, yes, I would argue that Ginko is happy, though you wouldn’t guess it from looking at his face.

mushishi_zoku_shou-09-ginko-straight_face-blank-emotionless-thinking-white_hair-green_eye mushishi_zoku_shou-09-ginko-confused-staring_at_his_hand-comedy-blank_gaze

 

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders (Episode 11)

jojos_bizarre_adventure_stardust_crusaders-11-kakyoin-polnareff-friendship-smashing_his_face-blood-dramatic-silly-comedyOne aspect of JJBA that makes it one of my favorite anime is that it manages to be both dramatic and silly simultaneously. It’s a quality that’s difficult to execute and largely depends on the cast of characters, the humor and the context of the scenes or the story. However, JJBA rises to the challenge and accomplishes this demanding task rather effortlessly. Perhaps the most integral aspect of achieving this feat is that JJBA knows that it is silly and that it embraces this characteristic. With its knowledge of the shounen/fighting genre, JJBA is able to exploit the quirky personalities of its cast and the diversity of the stands (and fighters) to create a genuine and amusing parody of the genre. And rather than shy away from this aspect or have it take backseat to the story, JJBA portrays this as a foremost aspect of the series, which provides both charm and entertainment. However, JJBA knows its boundaries and doesn’t go overboard with its silliness either. Instead, it balances itself nicely between the two spectrums of being silly and being serious and with a tip to one side usually means a tip back in the other sometime shortly thereafter. That is, when it gets either too silly or too serious, it often will correct itself with some humor or something meaningful before too long. As a result, JJBA has quickly become a personal favorite due to this outstanding feature of the franchise.

jojos_bizarre_adventure_stardust_crusaders-11-hol_horse-emperor-stand-gun-cowboy-assassin jojos_bizarre_adventure_stardust_crusaders-11-hanged_man-stand-mummy-stare-knife-glass

 

Isshuukan Friends (Episode 10)

isshuukan_friends-10-kaori-no_memories-cautious-apprehensive-distrustful-shy-timidThe contrast between Kaoris is quite amazing. With normal Kaori, you have a sweet, thoughtful girl who’s bright, cheerful and engaging, which is astonishing considering she’s gone years without strong social interactions and was probably the target of bullying because of it. That’s right, you have the Kaori of the past, the suspicious Kaori who cannot recall memories of her friends or others around her. This default nature is the complete opposite of normal Kaori, where she’s cautious, apprehensive and distrustful. And all because of her memories. And only because of her memories. To see the contrasting personalities of Kaori, especially in an episode like this so late in the series, is nothing short of remarkable. These default personalities are so unlike, yet they belong to the same person and are both natural for her. It’s amazing what something simple like information can do to a person and how that can translate into how others react or interact with them. And after experiencing normal Kaori for so long, to go back and see the progress that she and Yuuki have made is truly heartwarming and inspiring. There’s no doubt that watching Kaori grow as a person is my favorite aspect of this anime and witnessing scenes like this is a reminder to how much she’s grown and matured over the course of this Isshuukan Friends.

isshuukan_friends-10-hajime-transfer_student-memories-history-mystery isshuukan_friends-10-shougo-calm-cool-listening-drinking

 

Captain Earth (Episode 11)

captain_earth-11-lappa-pitz-space_squirrels-pink-blue-meeting-sniffing-tails-cuteSo what’s up with these squirrels from outer space? From what we’ve seen of Pitz and Lappa, the two brightly-colored, this-can’t-be-good-for-camouflage squirrels, they’re able to accurately predict future events of immense Orgone energy disruption and communicate with humanoid aliens by squeaking like a children’s plush toy. So besides their usefulness to the plot and making Hana and Setsuna seem cuter by companionship, what’s the real deal with these creatures? I’m really curious if there are more of these things in outer space and if we’ll get a color-coordinated sentai team of them before too long. But the main question I have regarding these fluffy, little things are in regards to how they predict Orgone energy and why they’re able to communicate with Hana. What is it about them that allows them to be used as reliable instruments to predict future events? Did they obtain this trait through evolution or were they toyed with like so many other characters in the series? The follow-up to that is then how Pitz is able to communicate to Hana… or maybe I should be asking how Hana is able to understand Pitz. There’s clearly something going on with these squirrels and these girls now that we’ve seen two pairs now. And since we’re not even at the halfway point in the series, I’m really curious to see if there are any secrets or surprises regarding these seemingly innocent space squirrels.

captain_earth-11-setsuna-lappa-hibiscus-flower-smile-happy captain_earth-11-hana-pitz-space_squirrel-friendship

 

Akuma no Riddle (Episode 11)

akuma_no_riddle-11-nio-assassin-judge-shaman-evil_grin-shark_teeth_smile-evil-dramatic_lighting-red-amusing-funnyWithout a doubt, the most memorable aspect of this anime will be all the times the girls made their amusing ‘evil grins’, complete with the jagged shark teeth and special lighting effects. A part of me wishes these grins weren’t so over-the-top, that they were more subtle or cunning, especially since most of the faces made didn’t fit the characters, their personalities, or how they were supposed to be super assassins. No, those evil grin faces were hilarious and easily became a talking point for the series, especially early on. Although they served no real purpose for the anime besides making the characters look slightly more villainous, these enjoyable smiles are probably what I’ll remember most from this anime whenever I think back to it. That’s not to say this anime was without its strong points or that I didn’t like it – quite the opposite, really, with it being among my top anime for the season at this point – but that the evil grins with shark teeth were so out-there that it created an unforgettable quality for this series. Had these faces only happened once or twice, it wouldn’t have had the same impact, but Akuma no Riddle employed this technique in virtually every episode and often multiple times. It was this constant emphasis on these ‘evil grin’ faces that helped create this fond memory of the series. I’m still not quite sure why they were used in Akuma no Riddle, but I am thankful they used them.

akuma_no_riddle-11-nio-assassin-judge-friendly-laughing-playful-outgoing-happy akuma_no_riddle-11-tokaku-assassin-reflection-mirror-angry-deceived-shower-naked-fanservice

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  1. #1 by Artemis on June 29, 2014 - 3:03 PM

    Now that I think about it, one of the (many) reasons I was so happy with episode 10 of Mushishi Zoku Shou, particularly as a final episode for now, was that it shows Ginko with some very genuine emotion both on his face and in his actions right at the end. I won’t say anything more specific than that in case you haven’t already seen it for yourself, but suffice to say it felt really nice to see such a joyous and immediately human emotion-driven response from such a normally reservedly calm character.

    • #2 by avvesione on June 29, 2014 - 3:22 PM

      Yeah, I actually got the idea for this review after watching Mushishi Zoku Shou 10 and then used it for this episode (I’m typically up to date on shows, just very, very behind when writing about them). I’ve always enjoyed the Ginko-centric episodes of Mushishi and found that one to be one of the best episodes between the two season. His reaction and reflection at the end were a great way to finish up this half of the series and I’m looking forward to the two special episodes that will air in August before it returns again in October.

  2. #3 by Joojoobees on June 29, 2014 - 5:50 PM

    Re: Ping Pong. I also think the show did a good job of shuffling around the characters, so that we ended up with an unexpected ending. There was a point in the series in which I had really written Peco off. In general I would say the series really used the cast of characters quite effectively.

    • #4 by avvesione on July 3, 2014 - 2:00 AM

      Yeah, the way Ping Pong utilized and developed its players is just one reason why I found the anime to be so stimulating and enjoyable. I felt the same way about Peco early on with his character being somewhat annoying but growing to like him as he began to grow. Glad to hear you have similar thoughts to mine!

  3. #5 by LGM on June 29, 2014 - 6:43 PM

    “That leads to the question of whether there are any nations where different races live and cooperate together.”

    Wow, again you shocked me with your deduction skills. You really never seen the LNs before?

    Two reasons why there’s none of those things, 1st are rankings & maybe even racism. You want to work with other races? It will probably end up as masters & slaves if how the elves’ & were beasts’ behaviours are anything to go by. How do you make sure the other races won’t betray you when they can?

    2nd, (this can be consider as spoiler for season 2 if there is one.) there are already an horrible example of 2 races trying to work together but one shoot the other race in the foot & make them slaves when they win the game rather then tie as agreed on.

    • #6 by avvesione on July 3, 2014 - 2:06 AM

      Nope, I haven’t read the LN for NGNL, so I’m happy to hear that what I’m thinking of is along the lines of what the series has planned for the future.

      I’m not surprised to hear that many of the races don’t work together and that they’re all segregated like with what we’ve seen. There is quite a bit of racism in the series, and it’s largely derived from their rankings, so there’s that, like you mentioned. So to see Sora and Shiro gather the different races together makes me happy to see them collaborating and covering their weaknesses with each others’ abilities. And as for the humans and the elves, it makes sense that there’d be that power-gradient between the two where the elves would just dominate the humans and have no need for a relationship.

      Interesting to hear about the two races that failed to work together. I did take a quick look at the list of the 16 races earlier, and I’m interested to see what happened there and how NGNL will utilize that history in its story.

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