This week: showing how characters change in Magi, questions on accessing the files in Robotics;Notes, thoughts on Shun’s mask from Shin Sekai Yori, offscreen character growth in Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai!, prioritizing girls over panzers in Girls und Panzer, and questions about unintentional stress, stress relievers and criminalization in Psycho-Pass.
Due to some other deadlines and projects and whatnot, both Magi and Robotics;Notes will be moved here for Week 9 and will return to their individual posts for Week 10.
Best episode of the week: Psycho-Pass
Anime trending up this week: Medaka Box Abnormal
Anime trending down this week: Girls und Panzer
Sword Art Online (Episode 22) – Yuki Kajiura’s soundtrack for has been the one consistent and unwavering strength of Sword Art Online and continues to impress me episode after episode. Although it is nowhere near her greatest works, such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Tsubasa Chronicle, Baccano!, or Fate/Zero, the various tracks match the environment and settings of these fantasy games and have the suitability to be considered video game music. Fulfilling both criteria is certainly difficult since the fantasy aspect needs to appeal that distinct emotion that we understand as fantasy while also pertaining to the video game elements that toy with drama, delight, excitement and adventure. It possesses both elements simultaneously which is why it feels so harmonious and suitable for the anime. Not only that the various songs have lovely melodies which help enrich the scenes on screen and enhance the emotions the characters feel. Really, the music in Sword Art Online is nothing short of fantastic but the respect and recognition its received has been somewhat ignored or overlooked. Perhaps listening to these tracks on their own, without the presence of the anime, will convince more people just how magnificent and outstanding this soundtrack really is.
Shin Sekai Yori (Episode 10) – Shun expressionless, yet influential mask might be the most memorable aspect of this remarkable episode. Its calmness conflicted mightily with Shun’s distress and fear yet its emptiness reflected his state perfectly. Its uneasy stare felt menacing to both Saki and the audience, as if it were constantly observing us despite hints that Shun was looking not as us but beyond us. And the presence of the mask implied that is showed some lingering humanity in what was formally a human but now a fiend (although he still remained a friend). Yes, the mask is truly the centerpiece of the episode and my intrigue in it endured long after the episode ended. Upon some random browsing of the net, I serendipitously encounter what I believe to be its inspiration from a famous National Geographic photograph where a young Nunamiut boy holds up a strikingly similar caribou hide mask. Unfortunately, I am unable to find the significance of the mask or if it truly relates to Shun’s mask in Shin Sekai Yori. Although Shun’s mask appears to be a copy of this original, it is unknown if this is an imitation due to its distinct featurelessness and that it could be copying some other plain mask from some other culture. Regardless, Shun’s mask certainly drew inspiration and appeal from me despite questions and confusion raising from other aspects of the episode.
Robotics;Notes (Episode 8) – When Kou Kimijima encrypted these report files and placed unreasonably specific requires in obtaining them, two questions immediately originate: why and for whom? The first question is why are these files be nearly impossible to access? It’s set-up in such a specific and obscure way that no one will find them by mere accident (the odds are too low) but they’re placed out there so it is possible if anyone knows the specifics. Not only that but they’re laid out in such a fashion that it is incredibly cumbersome or impossible for others to access them, too, such as people for whom these reports are intended. Not only that, but who would need to access them? The fact that these people need the reports means that it should be relatively easy for them to access it since Kimijima wrote these reports for these people. However, now they need to know the specifics to access them, perform them, and then they can obtain the reports. If not, then I’m not sure who these reports were written for or why they’re obtainable through such obscure and difficult methods. And if they’re not intended to be read by anyone else, why even have them out there, to be unlocked through such challenging measures?
Psycho-Pass (Episode 8) – Psycho-Pass raises an excellent point in this episode when a teacher criticizes Kougami’s methods by how it creates unnecessary stress on his students. This raises some questions about the justice system or Sybil system differentiates a dangerous rise in baseline stress and fluctuations or temporary elevations like what occurred at the academy. Depending on the metrics and the people involved, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to believe that some people bounce between high and low levels of stress in a day or a week, especially with the presence of unnecessary stresses or unintentional stress caused by others. Perhaps there are some complex logistical regression equations or random effects models in place to qualify the dangerous from the norm that is just assumed with such a sophisticated system as this. Additionally, a follow-up to this query would be the presence of stress relievers, ones that would help people deal with unexpected spikes in stress. I don’t believe they exist in a commercially available form for a few reasons; one is that Yayoi encouraged Mika, the friend of the victims, to cry so that her crime coefficient would not raise too high, meaning there aren’t any readily available alternatives for victims and bystanders, and that these could be abused to mask the crime coefficients of criminals by being repeatedly used to obtain a socially-acceptable level. Still, there needs to be some way that stress is measured and quantified in this society to account for these spikes and valleys in stress and for it to differentiation between criminal and burdened or anxious.
Medaka Box Abnormal (S2) (Episode 8) – The sudden appearance of six new fights and the return of six fighting characters goes to prove that these upcoming fights will have little impact on the story, insignificant character development but an immeasurable amount of fun and entertaining through more mindless fighting based off gimmicky superpowers. Like, really, that’s all that this is besides parodying the shounen fighting manga when all the characters appear, especially baddies-turned-goodies, at the end for their final fights. And what’s great about this is that it’s here for our entertainment and nothing more. It isn’t trying to be sentimental by showing how nice these people really are or trying to bullshit its way into the story somehow; nope, it’s just here for more random, ridiculous fun in Medaka Box. And this, this irrational behavior by its characters and their sudden, unnecessary reappearance, is just one of the reasons why I continue to find Medaka Box entertaining and enjoyable episode after episode.
Magi (Episode 8) – The unfortunate reunion of Alibaba and Kassim is an excellent approach to show how quickly people can change when placed in different environments. With his removal from the slums and thrust into the life of royalty, Alibaba quickly adapted to his new life and new surroundings, learning reading, writing, swordplay, and such-‘n-such, while Kassim matured as a thief surrounded by inequality and poverty. After a few years, they reunited in their old neighborhood and reminisced over the childhoods they shared together. However, the whole point of this meeting was to show how severely they changed. With Alibaba sheltered and resorting to his amiable personality, he was naïve to see Kassim’s change and neglected to figure that Kassim grew as much as he did during the years spent apart. Kassim, living a deprived life, grew more cunning and bold in his approach to thievery and ruthlessness and used his bond with Alibaba to manipulate him. The result was not what Alibaba had intended and he witnessed his childhood friend ravage and ransack the castle that provided him so much. And though they were friends before, the years allowed each to change and evolve into two entirely different people thanks to the environments they matured in. As intended, the reunion between Alibaba and Kassim shows the stark contrast in how people change as they grow, especially with respect to the settings of where they grow up.
Kamisama Kiss (Episode 9) – Although we like to believe that deities and gods are caring, soothing and comforting beings, Kamisama Kiss has showed us that every one, except for one, is selfish, merciless, and inconsiderate to others, especially humans. The only one that isn’t just so happens to be Nanami, our anime’s heroine. It is rather amusing to note how compassionate and outgoing Nanami is compared to all the other deities, spirits, and youkai in the series. And though everyone remarks that this is what makes her unusual about being a deity, I would disagree and say it’s her caring and loving personality that differentiates her from the rest. Really, compared to everyone else, Nanami is the only one who has genuine interest in others and their problems, even questioning her own and weighing it in regards to others. It’s like Nanami understands what it is that people want from their deities and gods and that she responds to that unlike the rest of the cast which are in constant conflict with each other. It speaks volumes of Nanami’s character that she is the only one like this which makes her even more exceptional as a person and a deity.
K (Episode 9) – K’s pacing and story developments have been the subject of a number of complaints and criticisms. These elements pertain to how the story of K is communicated to us, specifically they just parts of what comprise the storytelling aspect of K. However, I am enjoying both features, particularly with how the story is moving along with the characters presently and having bit by bit about the setting and history slowly added in. Rather than massive infodumps, comprised of dreary exposition or lengthy monologues, K has chosen an approach that has slow, steady progression with the addition of story elements and plot points at specific intervals. For example, it isn’t necessary that we understand everything about the color kings, such as who they are, what they do, or how they relate to each other until the time is right. And when it is necessary or whenever the anime wants to reveal it to us, it comes up at an appropriate time. Really, my fault with the story is that it isn’t terribly interesting thus far, largely because there seems to be so much going on and it feels directionless in how the murder is being solved, so that’s the fault I have with the anime. However, there shouldn’t really be any complaints on its storytelling since it has handled these aspects, the pacing and developments, with exacting excellence.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (Episode 9) – Given the naming system of JJBA, utilizing the names of bands and singers from the 70s and 80s, you wonder if some were given preferential treatment over others. For example, I couldn’t help but notice Styx was a boozing priest with no self-confidence who almost unleashed hell and died a horrific death. Then you have others like Tom Petty (Tonpeti) who is a badass, bearded monk who trains everyone in the ways of the Ripple and fights vampires. Like, you have to wonder if Hirohiko Araki, the author of JJBA, kinda liked Tom Petty more than Styx or something. Well, it doesn’t really matter, but it’s something to think about whenever you see these names appear and why they have these names or how they came about. And with even more names appearing in the next arc, it will only become more fun to speculate.
Girls und Panzer (Episode 7) – One has to question the priorities of Girls und Panzer after an episode such as this. With only about ten seconds of warfare in this episode, specifically the surrender of the Anzio High School, the Italian-themed school whose emblem resembles a delicious pizza, the episode missed out on what seemed to be an opportune battle featuring tanks we’ll probably never get to see again and a cast of bizarre personalities and battle tactics to match. Instead, all we saw were the leader emerge from her tank and yield to despair and regret. Would’ve been nice to see the actual battle, though in all fairness, they must be a pain to plan and animate. Instead, the episode decided to showcase the girls go about their lives at the academy and take on additional responsibilities given the neediness of the other groups. Not only that but there was a short expedition to salvage lost tank parts from around the aircraft carrier that would significantly improve their current models. But without any warfare material, we’re unsure of how useful they were or even what differences they made for the battlefield. It suggests that Girls und Panzer isn’t necessarily as excited or fervent about the military games as I am or that it wants to show every piece of warfare like what I want. However, it still wants to show these details by adding a unique character to head the Italian school and to show the girls getting upgrades to their tanks. However, we don’t get to actually see anything about the new school or the new tanks in this episode since it’s mostly spent around the ship with the girls involved in other activities. There certainly seems to be a disconnect here between the actual panzer part of the anime and the girls part of the anime, so naturally my enthusiasm is a bit shot considering that I’m missing out on my favorite part here. However, I suppose that it’s fair to say that the battles are quite thorough and meticulous, which means that they will be broken-up from episode to episode due to the amount of animation and other work that goes into each battle. Still, I would’ve appreciated something more than just ten seconds, especially with a new school, new tanks, and new upgrades that were showcased throughout the episode.
Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai! (Episode 9) – Nibutani’s willingness to promote the Far Eastern Magical Summer Nap Club (or whatever it’s called) through public demonstration is a tremendous may to show how her character has grown throughout the series. Considering how little screentime she has compared to some of the other characters (and what’s left is her battling with Dekomori), her acceptance of the strangeness and abnormalities of her club and classmates shows how she’s grown despite not having a story or episode to herself or her issue. It’s a fantastic way of showing growth since its apparent (she’s changed considerably since her introduction, no longer artificial or fighting the demons of her past) but it never stole the spotlight from Rikka or Yuuta nor did it divert the attention from the series away from those two to show her overcome this problem. Not only is it good for her but it’s good for everyone and extremely beneficial for the series. Although the comedy between her and Dekomori is bound to take a hit, the two won’t be fruitlessly caught up in those brawls that have no progress to either character or the story. With her maturing now, the series is able to progress further with these characters and Nibutani can now take a more active role with the rest of the cast. It’s quite a remarkable development for a character to develop so readily off screen (and not without reason, too), which is a huge plus for Chuunibyou as it inches closer to its finale.