Last week: why the third episode of Space Dandy Season 2 might be my favorite of the year, an analysis on the diversity of rural settings and how the specifics of this are impacting Barakamon, some egregious contradictions with the mecha in Aldnoah.Zero, and some serious questions about the structure and purpose of Night Raid in Akame ga Kill!
Best episode of the week: Space Dandy Season 2
Anime trending up this week: Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!?
Anime trending down this week: Tokyo Ghoul
Akame ga Kill! (Episode 3)
Is Night Raid really an organization designed to overthrow the corrupted government? So far, the structure of this assassin guild has been merely to accept hits on various troublemakers in the government rather than accomplishing their stated goals of toppling the corrupted prime minister and impressionable emperor. Yes, it’s true that all their hits have come against power-drunk and perverted individuals who are abusing their position, but shouldn’t Night Raid be doing this regardless of what their clients are requesting? And why are they even taking hits from ordinary citizens? If Night Raid had an objective and were determined to complete it, wouldn’t they know these targets and take them out before they do enough harm to the empire that people are paying them to kill them? To me, Akame ga Kill! is telling me one thing about Night Raid and doing something else completely different. What we’re told and what we’re expected to believe is that Night Raid is a structured organization that’s unwavering in their mission to depose the perfectly malevolent prime minister and evil emperor. What we see is that Night Raid is an organization that accepts requests from clients to assassination various troublemakers in the government, independent of their conquest of the capital and its culture and doesn’t have the incentive to carry out these missions – or any missions for that matter – on their own. And of course, there are plenty of follow-up questions too, on the structure of Night Raid, such as their intelligence department, how external affairs are handled, and their plan on their revolution and the new government they hope to install following said revolution. However, considering the audience and the primary focus of the show, I don’t think the authors thought too far ahead or cared to implement these details this early in the series. After all, Akame ga Kill! is about pointless bloodshed, sexy anime girls, and not much else.
Aldnoah.Zero (Episode 3)
The Martian technology in Aldnoah.Zero is so amazing that it even has the ability to contradict itself. In the third episode of Aldnoah.Zero, we were informed that the barrier on the Martian’s mecha is able to absorb everything that touches it. That’s a phenomenal power, but the explanations we were provided don’t match what we see in the anime. The error is specifically related to Inaho’s description of the barrier saying that it absorbs matter, sound and light. Really? The barrier absorbs visible light? Then how exactly is the mecha visible when all the light pointed at it is being absorbed by the barrier? If the barrier truly absorbed light, we would actually be seeing a giant black sphere running around save for the two holes in the barrier that allow for it to stand on the ground and receive external communication. The issue with finding its weak point wouldn’t be so difficult then, would it? Aldnoah.Zero further muddles itself by attempting to add detail to the barrier stating that it absorbs electromagnetic radiation. Although the anime was probably focusing along the lines of radio waves, electromagnetic radiation also encompasses visible light, meaning the anime reinforces the impression that the barrier we see would absorb all wave lengths of visible light aimed at it. An additional contradiction comes from the issue of the barrier absorbing matter, as we saw it absorb asphalt, concrete, steel and humans alike. However, if the barrier absorbed all matter, then that would include the air around it. And if the air around the mecha was constantly be absorbed, consistent with what we saw in the last two episodes, then the barrier would be creating a strong pressure gradient that would generate a constantly flow of air toward the barrier. However, we never really saw any vacuum effect or gale force winds as a result of the barrier, leading to another inconsistency from Aldnoah.Zero. However, while there are issues these explanations, I do enjoy the design of the barrier and how it was implemented in the series. To see these mecha pass through buildings effortlessly and have impenetrable defenses helps create the impression of how powerful and menacing these robots are. If only there was some consistency on the issue of its visibility and how it interacted with the air around it, then this would be perfect. But unfortunately, for Aldnoah.Zero, it isn’t.
Barakamon (Episode 3)
Although the rural setting is just one specific type of physical setting in anime, it’s actually an umbrella term that contains a diversity of groupings and styles that cater to the different anime that utilize them. For instance, the rural setting depends heavily on the time period (i.e., technology, architecture), the country (i.e., environment, weather) and the culture (i.e., people and customs). An example of this would be to look at how Mushishi differs from Shin Sekai Yori. Furthermore, a rural setting situated in modern Japan can also be largely influenced by the size of the community or the local communities around it. Think back to how different the physical settings were between anime like Non Non Biyori, Shiki, and Silver Spoon. For each of the anime mentioned in this post, as well as for Barakamon, the specific details of the rural settings are essential to their success. Each setting plays a significant role in helping establish a foundation for which the characters and story can grow from.
For Barakamon, the rural setting is necessary for Handa to reflect on his mistakes and to gain life experiences beyond his normal boundaries. The rural setting also allows for the villagers to openly interact with Handa, often visiting him uninvited but leaving an impression on him and his calligraphy. By forcing Handa in this situation, he is able to mature in the way the author intends. Had Barakamon been set in an urban locale, then the anime would struggle to accomplish two of its purposes, which are to push Handa outside of his comfort-zone and for the community around him to interact with him so freely as a means to influence him and his work. There’s a reason why Barakamon is set in the setting it’s set in. The rural backdrop of Barakamon has allowed the anime to grow in this exact way, and the details and specifics are all intended to have the maximum benefit on Handa, his story and the community around him.
Glasslip (Episode 3)
For once, just once, I’d like an anime where a tight-knit group of boys and girls just remain as friends instead of trying to make everything dramatic with romance and conflict. Really, the last anime I watched that accomplished this rare feat was Acchi Kocchi, the delightful comedy/slice-of-life where the group of friends had fun together every day instead of trying to tear each other apart as a result of a complex and chaotic web of unrequited romances. I’m really hoping that Glasslip doesn’t devolve into that kind of mess and I’m basing this hope in Touko’s ability to see the future as a means to prevent this from occurring. My faith in this anime is in Touko’s innocence and naïve nature, where she will do everything she can, with the help of her ability, to keep the group together as friends for as long as she can. If Touko can do that for the majority of the anime, then I think I’ll probably end up enjoying Glasslip. If not… then maybe I can hope for some interesting developments based on Touko’s ability alone.
Hanayamata (Episode 2)
The visual style of Hanayamata is having a remarkable impact on how I enjoy this anime. If I were to describe this art style, I would first point out that Hanayamata is very cute and that it’s very informal. What I mean by those two terms is that there are frequent changes in character appearance that are both cute and informal, such as going from regular anime faces to cartoony reaction faces, or often taking the next step and turning the characters into full chibi (or super deformed) caricatures. The big, round eyes certainly help, too. And let’s not ignore the use of vibrant colors and warm light which heighten the visual appeal. Together, these aspects are integral in making each episode of Hanayamata both charming and fun, and are significant factors in how I am appreciating this anime. And one key takeaway from having a strong visual style is that they often remain undisturbed throughout the anime, especially a style like this which focuses on cute, chibi characters instead of extensive and impressive animation or sakuga scenes. Hanayamata has been one of the most pleasant surprises this season and a major contributor to its early success is thanks to its delightful and charismatic visual appeal.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders (Episode 16)
“Watashi no nawa Dan… Sutiirii Dan,” was translated to “My name is Dan… Dan of Steel.” Similarly, ‘J. Geil’ was translated as ‘Centerfold’. Of course, we know the true namesakes for these two characters are tributes to the musical artists known as Steely Dan and The J. Geils Band. However, the names are different between the Japanese version and the English translations. It’s a shame that the names of these characters, and potentially many more, need to be altered due to licensing and royalties. It isn’t too surprising considering the issues that would arise from having heroes and villains named after musical groups, but it is unfortunate that the names of characters need to be different between these two version.
Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!? (Episode 2)
Ruthkhania Nye Pardomshiha, more commonly known as Ruth, is the odd one out in Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!? Not only is Ruth the only person not participating in the games determining ownership of the 6-tatami apartment, but her personality and demeanor are a stark contrast from the rest of the cast. While the other characters in this anime are competing with each other and doing whatever they can for any possible advantage, Ruth has constantly displayed compassion and generosity to the five people around her. Look no further than when everyone was having dinner and Ruth volunteered some of her meal because she felt bad about Yurika being left out. No one else wanted to give any food to the starving Yurika except Ruth. Additionally, Ruth is exceptionally benevolent, even to the characters who are enemies of her princess, Theia. It would be logical to assume that Ruth would favor Theia over everyone else, especially since she wants to see the princess succeed, but Ruth is well above that. Ruth is cheering for everyone, evident when she wished both her Highness and everyone else the very best during their card games. Her character hasn’t had much of an impact on the anime thus far, but she is a wonderful change-of-pace compared to everyone else. Ruth helps to balance the anime whenever tensions rise, and she unites the cast together whenever they begin to fragment. She’s a different flavor than all the other characters in Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!?, and she just so happens to also be my favorite right now.
Space Dandy Season 2 (Episode 3)
Not too long ago, back when I composed my reflections of the tenth episode of Ping Pong the Animation, I was fairly convinced that I had just watched the best episode of anime in 2014. It’s amusing to think that just a little over a month later that another episode would prove my confidence wrong.
The third episode of Space Dandy is one of the best episodes of the year according to my criteria. Perhaps the most perfect aspect of this episode was its flawlessly executed story. The plot of episode focused on two independent and simple narratives, with the episode starting a story about feeding Meow and then beginning another about a marooned fish trying to get home. The two autonomous plot lines were linked perfectly and the two were able to build off each other. And simple stories are my favorite in anime since they typically have concise storytelling, appropriate pacing and are free from imperfection and impurities like plot holes and clichés. And it just so happens that both stories in this episode of Space Dandy had outstanding writing, phenomenal structure, fulfilling developments and satisfying conclusions. The episode also featured a remarkable, inspired and artistic setting that heavily influences the characters and their stories. Has there ever been a more unique and thoughtful planet in all of anime? Just recollecting about all the detail and imagination that was put into this setting and how these characteristics factored into the episode is nothing short of astonishing. And let’s not forget to mention the impressive and innovative visual style of this episode’s director, the illustrious and distinguished Masaaki Yuasa (Tatami Galaxy, Kick-Heart, Ping Pong the Animation). How often do you see a sakuga sequence that is done entirely in watercolor paint? It is one-of-a-kind… just like this episode. And all this without even a word on Dandy’s performance. This is truly one of the greatest episodes of anime for the entire year, if not the greatest. Fortunately, when the year comes to an end, I’ll be faced with a delightful dilemma. I’ll be needing to review this episode among several others to decide my favorite of the year. With this, Ping Pong and KILL la KILL to choose from, I’ll be more than happy to revisit each.
Sword Art Online II (Episode 3)
Can we… can we just skip the whole Death Gun story and focus on Shino’s crippling and debilitating fear of guns? To be honest, Shino’s story is infinitely more interesting than some made-up storyline about a guy who kills people in a video game. Seriously, who cares. But Shino’s story… now that’s actually something that has potential. Unlike the main storyline for SAO2, Shino’s story is one that could result in genuine character growth, allowing us to see her overcome her weakness and become a better person as a result. I can’t say I really care at all what happens with Death Gun. We all know Kirito will save the day and prevent him from killing Shino and everyone else. Whoop-de-freaking-do. But Shino’s story is one that could go in any number of directions, including becoming an emotional rollercoaster where her character experiences a number of drastic changes. Now doesn’t that sound like a more exciting story than Death Gun? Yes, of course it does. Now we just have to hope that Kirito solve the mystery by episode 5 and the rest of the series focuses on Shino.
Tokyo ESP (Episode 2)
Tokyo ESP made the right decision. By starting off the anime with an exciting revolution for episode one, Tokyo ESP was able to impress audiences with plenty of new characters, their incredible superpowers and an abundance of action and chaos. The second episode, focusing on how Rinka obtained her psychic powers and how she met Kobushi Kuroi, was quite a bit more tame and fairly standard for the beginning of an anime. To put it plainly, the second episode felt like any other ordinary anime and failed to really distinguish Tokyo ESP from all the other mediocre fighting shows out there. If Tokyo ESP started off with that story as the first episode, with Rinka falling through the floor naked (what exactly was she doing prior in her apartment naked? It’s not like her clothes were on the floor when she got back into the apartment), then I’d have a much weaker impression of the series than I currently do. But no, Tokyo ESP started off in the middle of its story where we know there are espers wanting to overthrow Japan. It helps put the story of Rinka’s origin in perspective and provides weight to her character that would otherwise be unknown without the revolt. So in that sense, I’m thrill that Tokyo ESP started off the anime with such a thrilling and paramount first episode. My only question is how much longer until we get back to that storyline?
Tokyo Ghoul (Episode 3)
The censorship in Tokyo Ghoul is having a negative impact on the anime. Who is it protecting? And what exactly are they trying to protect? The series is about monsters who feed on human flesh. Awesome. It airs at midnight in Japan (at least on Tokyo MX). Okay, so all the kids should be in bed, right? So why do they have to blur the monsters eating human flesh or obscure the entire frame with a giant, black shadow? Is it really that bad? I guess it must be if this, pupa, and a few other shows all succumb to this level of censorship. However, I can think of one thing that would drastically improve the censorship in Tokyo Ghoul while leaving censorship in place: vary up the type of censorship by adding in random beams of light and clouds of steam the next time they wanna censor the characters eating people. I would really, really appreciate it if Tokyo Ghoul did something like that.
Yama no Susume Second Season (Episode 2)
Yama no Susume is part slice-of-life anime, part educational anime, and now part tourism anime. Yes, the first season on Yama no Susume did have some segments that focused on tourism/sightseeing, featuring a handful of landmarks and places of interest around Japan, but it never reached the level of detail that this new season of Yama no Susume now delivers. Whereas the first season would mention or highlight these sights and attractions as a part of their hike, Yama no Susume 2 is offer scenes entirely fixated on the subject of tourism. For example, this episode handled the issues of planning an excursion, picking the appropriate mountain, detailing the transportation routes and providing historical background to the location. With an extended run-time for every episode, Yama no Susume is able to develop on this tourism aspect by offering more information, new depth, and additional context about the various mountains and nearby landmarks of Japan. Yama no Susume has done an excellent job of promoting and publicizing this first mountain, Mitsutoge Mountain, so I’m curious to see how the anime will advertise the other mountains, specifically whenever something bad happens to the girls, such as a storm during one of their hikes or challenges whenever they decide to camp.
Zankyou no Terror (Episode 2)
Was attacking the police department really their second target? To me, the police department is low-reward, high-risk opportunity. I’m still not sure exactly what their primary objectives are, but attacking that single building doesn’t seem to accomplish much except provide a scare and encumber the area’s police. It doesn’t seem to match their earlier goal of trying to pick a fight with the country. On the other hand, you look at the risk involved, and it’s completely irrational. The police department is outfitted with plenty of security cameras meaning that Arata and his motorbike were probably captured by surveillance video (talking at the front desk and parking in front of the police department). And with that footage, it shouldn’t take too long for the police to identify him as a suspect, unlike their previous attack. Then again, maybe that’s what they want this time around, with the first attack being the one to generate the attention and the second one trying to redirect it. Then again, maybe I need more episodes before I try to make sense of this anime.