This week: my favorite romance in Sword Art Online, character energy in Sengoku Collection, a change of setting to perhaps revitalize Rinne no Lagrange and, finally, a disagreement I have with Natsuyuki Rendezvous.
Hyouka (Episode 15) – Whether by design or default, everyone turns their attention toward Houtarou. And that isn’t just the audience that’s doing it either, all the characters spend some amount of attention observing our star character and commenting on his abnormal behavior. Despite the fact that every other character from the main cast is waist-deep in a personal problem of their own, the remaining trio of the Classics Club keep a watchful eye on Houtarou and his slow evolution. Why only Houtarou? Why don’t the other students recognize the predicaments that they’re in and work to solve those issues as well? Why hasn’t Mayaka recognized Satoshi’s struggles or Chitanda been eager to help her fellow students with their challenges as well? Perhaps because Houtarou is special to them to a degree that the other students don’t feel for each other? Chitanda always goes to Houtarou for her mysteries to be solved and her efforts in solving the cases are the reason why she’s exhausted and troubled by her role in the mysteries. Satoshi wants to prove his worth in solving the Juumonji incident, so his attention is squarely on outperforming Houtarou. And with Mayaka’s conflict derived from the Manga Club, she suppresses her feelings as best she can, though when questioned by Houtarou, she adamantly denied such distress. I’m certain that, given the deep bonds the students share with each other, that if they were more honest with their hardships that they’d be dealt with by their friends rather than suffering on their own. Nevertheless, it’s strange that everyone keeps observing Houtarou’s activities and no each other’s despite the fact that everyone is going through some form of conflict or another right now.
Natsuyuki Rendezvous (Episode 4) – I haven’t had much reason to complain about Natsuyuki Rendezvous since I’ve found the romance to be fascinating, but the new mechanic that was introduced of Atsushi being able to enter and take over Ryuusuke’s body is something that I personally don’t agree with. While it may ultimately affect the story in a positive sense, able to advance the story quickly while finally providing Atsushi’s stance on the romantic fling with Ryuusuke, I can’t help but feel it’s awkward and unnecessary. Having a ghost come back from beyond the grave to communicate with his wife just cheapens the experience of having a ghost as a love rival in an anime. It’s like the anime gave up and is reversing its plot to accommodate for this scene. ‘He’s a ghost but only some of the time’ is what it feels like. Why can’t he communicate with anyone else or interact with the physical world beyond shaking the store and moving knickknacks around? It’s against everything we’ve seen to date, especially regarding the conflict in this romance which has been so successful to date. Bringing Atsushi back from the dead is an affront to Natsuyuki Rendezvous, in my opinion, though I hope there’s something I can salvage from these scenes in spite of my disagreement with this new direction.
Rinne no Lagrange (Episode 16) – Taking the setting to be among the stars is a wonderful move by Rinne no Lagrange which hopefully will rejuvenate the series and bring it out of this current slump. The start to the second season has been somewhat of a letdown given how the first season ended and the direction the characters and story have taken of late. With the series moving to the outer space, a change of setting is certain to bring a new perspective to the series by giving everything a new backdrop and dynamic to the characters to work with. While Kamogawa has been wonderful as a setting, its gotten somewhat tiresome as of late, much like the plot with the war being eminent for four episodes now, and the cast becoming increasingly static and one-dimensional. With the girls together among the stars, the anime is certain respond. Hopefully there is some positive energy and an interesting story for these characters to work with. And maybe some space battles, too, if we’re lucky.
Sengoku Collection (Episode 17) – With every episode comes a new character and a new personality for which Sengoku Collection to work with. And with that comes energy and innovation, making every episode both delightful and unique. With Liu Bei, currently a maid-for-hire who seeks to improve not only the home but the life of a challenging client, we’re able to see an original character bring their energy to this episode for which to make the anime uplifting and heartwarming. Every character brings something new to the anime given their circumstances and personality, but the end result is always positive energy from the Sengoku characters and a touching story in which they directly involve themselves with the people of modern Japan and their problems. Watching all these individual stories that are only tangentially connected always makes the series so much fun to watch and it’s largely thanks to the way the Sengoku characters interact with our world and the energetic personalities they display. If only more anime could reproduce this satisfying effect…
Sword Art Online (Episode 4) – The innocent and fleeting romance that took place in the fourth episode of Sword Art Online is my favorite type of romance in anime. Not only was the relationship naïve and simple, a momentary crush for Silica after her life was saved by Kirito, but it never dominated the episode nor affected their goal of reviving the feathered dragon Pina. Ultimately, the romance was a consequence of Silica being with Kirito rather than the story itself. Furthermore, it was filled with positive emotion, budding with hope and smiles, and ending with a happy story for everyone involved. The fanservice in this episode was geared toward Silica being an innocent young girl, too, embarrassed at Kirito seeing her panties a few times and not going with the clichéd anime reaction of screaming, calling him a ‘hentai’, and smacking him across the room. It just involved her blushing deeply which is what it should be for someone in that situation and at that age. And with that ending, it left both characters inspired and motivated to continue on their journeys albeit separated from each other given their level and circumstanced. It doesn’t need to drag on in an endless adventure where we know they’ll never end up together like so many harems based their existence on. It lasted just one episode for now and hopefully can be revisited later before the anime reaches its finale. If only more anime had sensible and endearing romances like this, then I wouldn’t be so bitter and spiteful toward the genre as a whole. I might even go as far as to say it’s my favorite romance for the year of 2012, though I’ve been impressed by Natsuyuki Rendezvous, have strong impressions from Chihayafuru, and fond memories of Tasogare Otome x Amnesia. Still, being fourth among an entire year of anime is still remarkable, especially since this was just a crush during one episode of an action/adventure anime. Well done, SAO.
Tari Tari (Episode 5) – If there’s one thing I adore about the art style in Tari Tari is how the emotions appear on the faces of the characters. P.A Works has always delighted me with its unique design of characters and its methodical attention to details, so it’s no wonder I’ve taken such a liking to the way the emotions express themselves on the character’s faces. Not only does the art style look pleasing artistically but it’s done with such aesthetic mastery that it you can instantly understand how they feel. This anime has been full of varying levels of emotions and had conveyed happiness, sadness, anger, frustration, fear, anxiety, and playfulness all through the way the characters are drawn. The appearance on their faces has been a favorite of mine throughout this young season of Tari Tari and something I had to mention before too long. And with this episode showcasing a rollercoaster of emotions, now was as perfect a time as any.