This week: underwater visuals in Tsuritama, the intelligence of the Bentenmaru crew in Mouretsu Pirates, a pattern of storytelling that Space Brothers has been relying on, and thoughts on the finale to The Future Diary.
But first, some information about the anime I’ll be watching this season and the ones I’ll be writing about each week. What’s included in this post that isn’t Future Diary will be blogged this season though the list is always flexible and there could be additions or subtractions in the coming weeks. For now this is the list of anime I’ll be watching and writing weekly things about. Anime that I will continue to watch are Acchi Kocchi and Nyaruko-san. The reason they aren’t included in these posts are that I’ve stopped writing about comedies every week after struggling mightily a few seasons ago with creating commentary that just wasn’t “it was funny, I laugh LOLOLOLOLO!” It’ll be a rewarding challenge to do it but that will be saved for a later date. Anime that aren’t included and weren’t listed above are, unfortunately for fans of those anime, considered dropped at this time (except for those short anime like Gakkatsu, Poyopoyo, Yurumates 3dei, and Record to Randsell Re). The only one that I haven’t fully judged is Mysterious Girlfriend X which I am already behind on and uncertain on. It will fall into one of the three categories once it is watched, but for now, it’s in anime decision limbo or wherever.
And now onto the real substance, the first weekly anime review of Spring 2012!
Future Diary (Episode 26 [Finale]) – Mirai Nikki was an adventure. From its unnerving origins to its blooded and disheartening middle to its thrilling and bewildering conclusion, the anime kept a persistent theme of terror and anxiety throughout. At times it was broken for well positioned humor and timely jokes but the anime did an excellent job at sustaining the fear and disturbing nature it intended from the opening episode. But rather than end on that demoralizing note, we saw a happy ending for the main cast thanks to Yuki’s actions. Rather than continue into another deadly game with similar results, Yuki essentially saved the third world from destruction (he’d make for a pretty decent god in that world, wouldn’t he?) and all for the sake of Yuno. Though the ending couldn’t be happy for everyone, I can’t help but feel that Yuki created the best outcome possible given the nature of the game and the conditions of play. True, the first and second worlds are essentially goners but Yuki was able to save the third despite earning little to no gain through his actions. I see Yuki as a hero without a reward which does add a touch of sadness in the ending but it appears that could change given what happens next. With the inconclusive final scene we saw, we know the anime is not yet over and new project is underway. What exactly happens in this ending has yet to be seen but it will continue The Future Diary for one more go. What happens next is sure to be worth it (if not for me, then at least for Yuki).
Kore wa Zombie desu ka? OF THE DEAD (Episode 2) – So, if I’m to understand this correctly, a crossdressing teenage boy in a pink magical girl uniform with accompanying chainsaw becomes internet sensations and even has a line of designer clothing but no one seems to care about the giant monster that just appeared, tried to kill people, and exploded? Not even a blurb or mention or anything? Well, there were a few live comments on the live feed that acknowledged that Ayumu saved the school but nothing in this episode? I realize this is a comedy and that these monsters have been seen before but the complete lack of attention to it is rather alarming. In fact, the only character that seems to have a brain is Mihara but her lines often come as ‘straight guy’ humor given the context of the scenes with everyone else playing the ‘funny guy’. Actually, I should be most surprised that Haruna doesn’t put more concern into this though she quickly mentions it at the beginning when looking at her broken chainsaw. I wonder if they ever plan to solve the problem of the appearing Megalo or just forget it for comedy and hijinks until they appear again. Actually, looks like the plot is starting up again, so let’s just see what happens here first before worrying about everyone’s lack of distress or comprehension.
Lupin III: Mine Fujiko to Iu Onna (Episode 2) – As an avid fan of Cowboy Bebop, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the shootout in the church from the fifth episode when watching the climax scene of this episode. I can’t be certain if this played homage to Cowboy Bebop or not since that church scene was itself inspired to John Woo films which originally utilized those elements (the romance in the episode seems more John Woo than Cowboy Bebop but this is off the record). Regardless of whom the tribute was intended for, the scene drew instant and vivid flashbacks to one of the most memorable scenes of one of the most acclaimed and respected anime produced. Consider that bonus points for the already well-to-do Lupin III. Not only that but it was the culminating scene and motivation for Jigen who is my favorite among the four main characters of Lupin III. Wow. Yeah, you can tell I’m excited for more Lupin when the first two episodes have impressed and delighted as much as this anime has.
Medaka Box (Episode 2) – We’ve been told that Medaka will hear out the requests of her fellow students but what are the limits to the favors she can perform? I’m assuming she won’t do anything illegal like kill a person, destroy property, or obstruct justice but those would make for outrageously entertaining episodes. Medaka probably wouldn’t do anything she didn’t believe in either but it hasn’t been explicitly stated either, so perhaps she’ll have some moral conflicts when fulfilling a task. And I assume she won’t sabotage anyone or anything either or throw an exam or anything bad either but is that it? Couldn’t you just recruit Medaka and her student government into slave labor every once in a while to ‘help my struggling family’s shop’ or something? And what if you require ‘tutoring’ or something just so you can get close to Medaka (though I could only imagine her enthusiasm and lessons in tutoring might make those who do it regret their word choice) or one of the other students? I am a little curious to see what lengths Medaka will go to fulfill her duty as Class President but I’m sure most of the episodes will be rather ordinary school tasks like maybe a romance one soon or club activities or studying or other boring stuff.
Mouretsu Pirates (Episode 15) – Though watching the high school Space Yacht Club has been wildly entertaining in their mistakes and misadventures aboard the Bentenmaru, it simultaneously shows the level of technical detail and mastery the normal crew of the Bentenmaru has in their pirate ship. The fact that these girls who have successfully piloted a massive space vessel in the past are stressed and being challenged by the Bentenmaru means that Marika’s crew is some of the most talented there is in all of space. It could also mean that the Bentenmaru is rather archaic and the crew knows ancient and obsolete technologies but the fact that the Bentenmaru is one of the best space ships seems to indicate otherwise (or at least that’s what I want to believe). Furthermore, the crew is intelligent enough to know their systems inside-and-out and able to produce manuals in a moment’s notice about their respective positions to novices and allow them to perform their duties to come limited capacity. That’s rather amazing, especially considering how difficult it is the write manuals for novices. I’d also like to attribute some intelligence to the high school girls, too, for understanding and piloting the vessel with the help of those manuals. Though they don’t have the personality for pirating or the experience the normal crew do, they are executing their quite well and having fun at the same time. And isn’t that what piracy is all about? No? Well, at least it makes for entertaining anime, I think.
Space Brothers (Episode 3) – A pattern has been established in Space Brothers, at least one in the storytelling. The episodes begin with Mutta facing another daunting challenge in his quest to surpass, or at a minimum amaze, his overachieving brother. After dealing with the hardships in a largely comical, sometimes depressing fashion, Mutta begins to reflect upon his life and his experiences in search of inspiration to overcome the task at hand. Finding a select nugget from his life, Mutta is able to perform well enough to overcome his obstacle, again with humorous or uplifting undertones, and continue onto the next stage of his journey. While inspirational and damn good method of storytelling, it seems that Space Brothers is relying on this tactic a little too heavily with the past three episodes following this pattern in an obvious fashion. The first episode dealt with unemployment but ended with acceptance to JAXA. The second episode dealt with the pressures of the written exam and interview at JAXA but Mutta succeeded by impressing the administrators by playing around with a screw. And this one, we see Mutta become demoralized by the physical exams but preserve by excelling at the lung function tests. It’s been fine for the first three episodes but I’m curious to see what other storytelling styles Space Brothers has to tell its story. If the pattern continues that’s fine, I honestly do appreciate this format of storytelling, but I may need to reconsider my expectations of this anime if it simply just repeats a style I like rather than branching out and showing us a diversity of styles of storytelling.
Tasogare Otome x Amnesia (Episode 2) – The second episode of Dusk Maiden of Amnesia is evidence to the intelligence and awareness of the director. Rather than start the anime with the introductions, the first episode examined a seemingly average day in the lives of the four main characters and introduced the mechanics and uses of Yuuko being a playful ghost. What resulted was an episode that entertained and delighted the audience. The second episode took a full step back rather than pressing onward from the first episode and showed how the manga originally begins with a series of tedious introductions, rehashed anime humor, and blah blah blah info dumps. As you can correctly assume, I thought the second episode was abysmal. But that’s it, rather than start Dusk Maiden with the standard and clichéd introductions of lame everybody male lead and special sexy female lead, the director saw through the potential catastrophe and began the anime on an exciting and amusing episode that showed what the anime would be rather than showing some unoriginal opening to an anime who’s gimmick is a ghost girl and her mysterious death. Yeah, had we started with the incredibly derivative introductions in the opening episode, this anime would be significantly lower on my list and among my least favorites this season. But it isn’t thanks to the first episode which highlighted the strengths and originality of this series rather than being another stereotypical anime opening of boy-meets-girl. And who do I have to thank for saving this anime from the horrors of mediocrity? Why the director, of course (or whoever decided to go with that first episode first rather than this one), he’s the one to thank! So let’s take a moment to appreciate his foresight for creating a captivating opening and allowing this anime to separate itself from the other high school romances this season.
Tsuritama (Episode 1) – Among the most amazing visual displays of the season were the scenes where Yuki was being drowned by anxiety or pressure. With the brilliant use of water to convey pressure, we witnessed a few spectacles where we could literally see the pressure Yuki preserves through on an embarrassingly frequent basis. But what about those scenes made them eye-catching (imagine pun about catching and fishing now), why were they so appealing visually? We’ve seen anime characters underwater and seen how the art style adapts but that’s not it. And for some, I’m sure seeing obvious symbolism like that makes them happy but not for a simpleton like me. No, for me and I assume many, the fact that the background retained its dimensions and colors is what mesmerized me. Whenever we see anime go below the surface of water, the background becomes a plain and dark gradient which is a realistic depiction of water underwater or we get those cartoony rock and coral and algae and stuff. But here, what Tsuritama does, it shows the dazzling sky, pillowy clouds, and colorful environment through a lens of clear water. If the shot above was not evidence enough, here’s another example. These shots preserve the vibrant, flamboyant, and energized world that makes Tsuritama so appealing and it manages to do so through an entirely different perspective. It’s brilliant. Simply and utterly brilliant. These shots are undoubtedly a favorite of mine and I hope everyone can appreciate the art style and colors used in these shots.
Upotte!! (Episode 2) – LOL MARIO KART! Despite sharing the same character designs and art style as previous Xebec anime like Kanokon and Ladies versus Butlers! Upotte!! does not share the same level of ecchi fanservice as those (nor the number of exclamation marks). In fact, it doesn’t have as much as most Xebec anime, like Softenni or ToLoveRu. True, the whole first episode resolved around FNC wearing a thong and the teacher (thankfully not a main character) often reminding everyone but it isn’t visual fanservice, the type that ecchi anime depend on. Though the second episode had a handful of panty shots, enough to tag this anime as ecchi, it’s surprisingly tame compared to a number of other anime airing concurrently. I had incorrectly assumed that Upotte!! was following the lead of other Xebec anime and would be near the top in fanservice this season but the lack of it has been surprisingly refreshing. That might change when the next episode is a bath episode, a real test to see how ecchi this anime can or will be. I imagine most of the episode will revolve around bathing being the equivalent to cleaning a gun but I’m curious to see how ecchi the visuals will be when they’re given the opportunity.
Zetman (Episode 2) – The use of dramatic poses and stances, such as those showing Jin or Kouga standing in a precise way, add a heroic element to the series and constructs a lasting impact to those scenes. I imagine these shots are straight copies from the manga, largely for the specific pose, the length of the shot (about as long as you’d stare at a full page spread of this scene in a manga), and the lack of motion or dialogue. They’re meant to leave an impression on the viewer, to instill a sense of heroism in the characters when they are portrayed in this way. And they work. These shots are among my favorite in the anime and they are placed at an ideal time, such as the one above where Jin and Kouga are reunited in a collapsing tower engulfed in intense flames. There were numerous shots in this style throughout the episode and I can only imagine they’ll continue to multiply, especially when the heroic nature of the anime expands and the fights prolong and increase. It is truly a testament to the manga by capturing the impact of these stances in this anime.