This week: outshining the Sengoku characters in Sengoku Collection, thoughts on the commitment to its plot in Tari Tari, an inability to grow-up in Space Brothers, and what I wish we saw more of in Hyouka.
Tari Tari (Episode 11) – The plot of Tari Tari has remained dedicated to the characters and their individual problems though the recent twist threatens that stability with the school being sold to developers to construct housing for retirees. With only two episodes remaining and the gang determined to hold their own festival, to showcase their remarkable new talents and spirited efforts, I wonder if the plot will turn to one of the students (and teachers) trying to save the school from destruction, to generate an income to stabilize the school and keep it the way it has been for the next generation of students. I certainly hope not given that cheesy sitcom feel to the whole situation, especially since it would ruin the focus of the plot on the five main characters and taint much of the realism in this anime. Honestly, I’d like to see Tari Tari make a statement with this situation, one on the declining birth rate in Japan and the aging population which will require retirement homes, SNFs (skilled nursing facilities), and other specialty housing for the expanding elderly population of Japan. I doubt such a statement will be made given how cartoonishly villainous the developers are, primarily through how the anime has chosen to represent their characters and business model, and how meek and timid the principal is. Then again, stranger things have happened in anime but I would like the anime to not deviate from its chosen path of focusing on the characters and their problems first and foremost.
Sword Art Online (Episode 10) – I fail to understand how the slapstick comedy in Sword Art Online works. For one, the basis of slapstick comedy is the exaggerated physical aspect, one where a character is attacked in such a way that’s either silly or unrealistic. The other is the victim’s reaction, usually some combination of fear, embarrassment, but usually just pain and regret, as a direct result of what the other character did to them. Yet the game mechanics of SAO would prevent this style of humor given its limitations and processes. Any type of punch, slap, or attack would be mitigated by the dueling system and prevent any damage from penetrating into the character’s avatar. Sure, the players can physically touch each other without agreeing to a duel, but Asuna’s punch after embarrassing herself would never land on Kirito, especially since they were in a residential area. The second half wouldn’t register either. Even if such a punch landed, there’d be damage or pain sent to the other player. Without that wacky reaction, the slapstick becomes nothing more than character-on-character violence. In order to have such a comedy system work within SAO, the writing needs to ignore these established rules and work around it to accommodate these jokes. Really, the anime could’ve done without that unnecessary ecchi scene of Asuna in her panties primarily for her to punch Kirito in a slapstick way only to then immediately forget about it and converse with him while she’s naked in bed. It’s like the writers figured the audience would be bored otherwise and decided it needed some fanservice and comedy before returning to the sentimental story between the two lead characters. Too bad that those additions turned out to be the low point of that scene; one, for unnecessary and uncharacteristic fanservice and two, for poorly written and presented comedy.
Space Brothers (Episode 23) – Just gonna throw this out here first before getting into the point of this section but Mutta’s parents are dicks. I hate them. They are terrible people. Terrible, terrible people. Anyway, the point I wanted to bring up based off this episode is how Mutta has never really grown up and this is especially evident when he’s around his parents or his brother. Though he acts like an adult around other adults, he seems to revert back to an even more childish character when he’s around his family, especially while he’s living with them. It makes sense, though, since that’s how he acted while he was living with them for the first twenty-or-so years of his life and that’s probably what he’s most comfortable with whenever he’s with them. I think anyone, especially in their younger adult years, goes through this same process when they return home after a few months or even a number of years. I’m glad to see Mutta’s personality and behavior shift whenever he goes back to be with his parents or brother because it’s a minute detail that seems both realistic and practical to his character. Too bad I hate his parents more than anyone else this season (I think) so even though I do appreciate this aspect, I can never enjoy these scenes because of those two. So glad he’s back in Houston again.
Sengoku Collection (Episode 23) – Though the stars of every episodes are intended to be the protagonists, the Sengoku general of the week, there’s still the opportunity for the modern Japanese characters to steal the spotlight and become this episode’s most entertaining, dynamic, and amusing character. Often times the episodes focus on how the Sengoku characters impact the daily lives of ordinary Japanese citizens, a simple plot that comes across as effective and inspiring, making it easy for these characters to take the focus, especially with their boundless energy, electrifying personalities, and tendency for hilarity. However, that does not discount that the modern Japanese characters can be even more than their historical counterparts which has happened in a few episodes already. However, there is likely no better example to this than Misawa-chan, the preschooler who attempted to defy Tsunehisa Amago in her quest for complete control over the sandbox. I almost felt as if her character was restructured and given more detail and animation after it was determined that Rie Kugimiya would be giving this character her voice. Given the distinguished talent that she is, it’s no surprise to see this character assume such a fundamental role in the episode and really drive the drama, conflict, and comedy at the end. And it’s not like the voice for the Sengoku general, Eri Kitamura, isn’t a renowned seiyuu, too. Perhaps it’s because Misawa’s character was able to be reorganized and molded into something much greater than the rest of the characters in this episode, capitalizing on all the opportunities for comedy and drama at all the right times. Tsunehisa’s character, however, was required by the story to follow a set path and go through a predetermined number of events and conflicts, thus limiting her potential for personality, humor, and ultimately greatness. And while Tsunehisa was a fantastic and remarkable character in her own respect, Misawa stole the spotlight from her and deservedly became the star of this episode. Not that that’s a bad thing, especially since we had two outstanding characters in this episode.
Rinne no Lagrange (Episode 22) – I can’t help but feel that when writers find themselves in a bind, a block, or even a dead end, they seem to rely on the cliché of making one character insane so that way stuff will happen and the story can advance again. And that’s exactly what I think they did with Dizelmine’s character to overcome the ceasefire and return to the story for a proper conclusion. But weren’t there any better options available to return to the story and provide closure on everything? Sure, I realize that the experiments altered his psyche as and caused him to become this uncontrollable, senseless character but that’s something that the writers added to make sure his character goes crazy at some point. They figured the story they had written would hit this roadblock and that there was no other possible way to overcome it besides having him go crazy for no good reason and then start a war all over again. The anime could’ve really chosen a better path for its story than to turn Dizelmine into a lunatic, but I suppose that’s what they all agreed upon and that’s what we’re given. Can’t say I’m too neither excited nor happy to see this development but let’s see how this issue resolves itself before voicing too much dissatisfaction.
Natsuyuki Rendezvous (Episode 10) – Finally returning to its story, Natsuyuki Rendezvous prepares for its finale this week with all the characters coming together and finally having a dialogue about this situation before finishing this story and concluding this anime. However, as I’ve voiced my concerns and irritability over the past few episodes, I believe this is a perfect example of ‘too little, too late’. The anime squandered its opportunity episodes ago by dinking around in some fantasy world and a succession of unnecessarily and inopportune flashbacks, a decision which effectively removed the story and characterization from the anime in favor for some character exposition which has proved to be insignificant and meaningless for the current situation. Now the story has resumed and the characters have gathered together to resolve their respective issues for what appears to be a heartbreaking conclusion to this bittersweet story about a love triangle. But no, I wanted this episodes ago. I needed this episodes ago, when my interest in the series was still high and I was absorbed in the lives and challenges that the characters faced. But no, the series lost that and the anime has leveled out with many of the others in mediocrity. It’s sad to see these events happen, what I was looking forward to the entire series and now, feel nothing more than indifference with a slight of boredom. It really is too little, too late.
Hyouka (Episode 21) – I’ve always wished Hyouka had some episodes that weren’t subjected to trivial mysteries and instead focused on the characters and their relationships with each other as a means to advance their romance or, at a minimum, develop their characters beyond what was established in the first arc of the anime. This wish was effectively granted with this episode, one where the spotlight was placed on the history and current relationship of Satoshi and Mayaka rather than ‘who stole the chocolate?’ which proved to be not much of a mystery. Instead we were gifted a story which examined the strain and hardship placed on Satoshi and Mayaka and why, despite having passionate feelings for each other, they remain separate to this day. And now that I’ve finally had a taste of what Hyouka could really have been, I want more. However, with only one episode remaining (the anime is scheduled to be 22 episodes), I must accept the fact that not every question will be answered nor will the characters and their relationships be as developed as I had hoped. Still, I’m thankful to have received an episode like this, especially since I had given up on this hope many episodes prior when we were subjected to a number of banal mysteries that were focused solely on the situation at hand rather than on the characters themselves. Though there was character development throughout (especially the School Festival arc) and a variety of fascinating and dramatic mysteries, I wish the anime had spent more time on the characters, their lives, their relationships, and everything else than those mysteries that had no bearing on the anime after their episodes concluded.