This week: issues of diplomacy in Magi, unintended hilarity in Robotics;Notes, questions of love in Shin Sekai Yori, Speedwagon’s unappreciated knoweldege and observation in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, the two distinct art styles of Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, and some remarkably brilliant writing and storytelling in Kotoura-san, Senran Kagura, and Zetsuen no Tempst.
Just a quick note that I decided to drop GJ-bu after the second episode. The main problem with that anime is that there’s no real reason to watch it; nothing about that anime is original. The set-up is unoriginal, the characters aren’t unique or interesting, the comedy is nothing more than recycled jokes (it’s bad when you know the punch line for every scene as soon as they start), and there is no plot in this anime. Everything about this anime is derivative and after two episodes, it doesn’t appear that this will improve. It does have some redeemable values but not enough to entice me to keep watching. Dropped.
Also, since I forgot this last week:
Best episode of the week: Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo
Anime trending up this week: Kotoura-san
Anime trending down this week: Robotics;Notes
Chihayafuru 2 (Episode 2)
One of the central themes in the first season of Chihayafuru is how every member of the Mizusawa Karuta club found their own unique love and own distinct motivations for joining and playing karuta. This essential element has returned again for the two new members, Sumire and Tsukuba, who are discovering their own reasons for playing karuta. Again, we, along with the characters, are learning of how different backgrounds and differing perspectives of the game bring this diverse set of characters together for a game of cards and poetry. Given that Tsukuba is experienced at Second Verse karuta from his native Hokkaido (fascinating stuff), the series has decidedly focused on Sumire who still doesn’t understand why she wants to play this game besides trying to nab Taichi as her new boyfriend. I’ve always found these stories where characters discover something new about themselves to be quite inspiring and rewarding, so returning to this theme again so early in the sequel to Chihayafuru is a fantastic way to begin this story again and to introduce the two new club members.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (Episode 15)
Despite Robert E. O. Speedwagon possessing minimal fighting qualities (well, anymore considering he did fight Jonathan back in episode 2), he certainly is observant, knowledgeable and quick when it comes to understanding these battles and how enemies use their attacks. It always seems that Speedwagon is the first to recognize and understand each of an opponent’s attacks, which explains why he’s always shouting and showing more emotion than JoJo or Cesaer; Speedwagon knows just how powerful and deadly these attacks are just from a fighter’s pose and preparation. And given that these are often the first time we’ve seen these fighters, their styles and their techniques, it really speaks to Speedwagon’s observation and intelligence. Although his character can no longer fight in battle, he is still a valuable character to JoJo because he can see everything and understand it before anyone else. The only question left for him now is if he can see why kids love Cinnamon Toast Crunch?
Kotoura-san (Episode 2)
The writing for Kotoura-san is simple, straightforward but amazingly efficient and effective, making the story somewhat light and meaningful without ever becoming too convoluted or unnecessarily complex. For example, take Yuriko’s character and how well her character is designed and how it performs. Yuriko wants to world to recognize and appreciate ESP powers since her mother was a revered psychic. However, Yuriko and her mother faced constant doubting, torment and harassment that her mother was eventually driven to suicide. Wishing that the world would understand psychics, Yuriko is promoting ESP with her club and cajoles Haruka to join and to use her powers as a surrogate to provide recognition to her mother. However, when Haruka receives the same harassment as her mother did and ends up indirectly harming her new friend in Haruka, Yuriko relives that familiar pain that she experienced watching her mother be bullied. Everything about her story is present, ordered, connected and appropriate and we have an excellent understanding of Yuriko’s character, her motives, her challenges, and how she’s growing as a person. Her purpose in the story is apparent as well, being one to show to Haruka that there are people who appreciate psychic powers and how they can be fun and useful. Like, everything is there in her story and her character. It’s fantastic at how comprehensive and thoughtful the writing is in Kotoura-san and how successful it is at communicating it to us. It is an excellent example of how to use storytelling and characterization effectively in an anime.
Little Busters! (Episode 15)
Ever since the beginning of Little Busters!, I’ve always thought that Riki would make a great trap. I never expected that we’d actually get an episode like this where he’s invited over to a sleepover in the girl’s dorm and is forced to put on one of Yuiko’s uniforms (question: did he get to keep his own underwear or did they supply the panties too?) as part of the festivities. Well, we finally got to see Riki crossdress as a girl and it turned out to be pretty fun and entertaining (and not totally fanservicey or sexual either). Not only that but it made all the girls around him more fun, too, such as how everyone else teased him or how Mio kept taking pictures. I kinda hope he dresses up like that again since that was actually one of the best episodes of Little Busters! yet.
Magi (Episode 14)
Considering how lengthy and elaborate diplomacy and negotiations are and how intricate and tangled the situation is between Balbadd and the Kou Empire, seeing Alibaba and Kougyoku Ren finish their conference in the matter of minutes is nothing short of surprising. However, when examining each as representatives of their nations, with Alibaba being a temporary leader of Balbadd following the coup and with Kougyoku disinterested in marriage and conquest, it’s not shocking to understand that they both wanted to end the talks here and focus on other immediate and pressing goals. It will be interesting to see how the remainder of this conference goes considering that Sinbad is requested in the Kou Empire’s capital to discuss the debts that Balbadd owes Kou and how the Seven Seas Alliance will handle incorporating Balbadd when Kou seems to be keen on annexing the port nation as a gateway to the southern seas. Maybe we’ll find out eventually but it seems like the story will part here with Aladdin taking Morgiana back home to her continent and with Sinbad traveling to Kou for some continuing negotiations.
Maoyuu Maou Yuusha (Episode 3)
What makes Maou’s reformation (har har) possible is some part her privilege of class, some part her astute education and even some part her charming and tranquil appearance. However, what allows her to educate, innovate, and enact this transformative campaign is through her wealth and how it allows her to concentrate on her objectives without worrying of her finances. Maou’s fortune has not been touched upon nor discussed to this point but you must figure that she possesses immense wealth considering that Maou and Yuusha have lived in that manor for a year now. It is worth noting that with Maou’s insight and fiscal understanding, she must have enough finances to complete this endeavor or she never would have started it, meaning there is plenty of money left for the events to come over the following years. However, just what exactly is her wealth? One has to wonder if the riches are being funneled through the backdoors of the Demon Kingdoms to finance her adventure (without the knowledge of the leaders or the common folk) or if it was already transferred to her estate in preparation. It is doubtful that the series will ever cover the finances of Maou, (where it came from, how its being spent and her returns on these investments) but it is something to think about, especially when you consider how economics is a fundamental role in this anime, and it seems that Maou has broken the system with her mysterious, infinite wealth, removing the obstacles and challenges of costs for the convenience of the story elsewhere. Maybe instead of all this agriculture and reeducation, Maou could just buy everything she wants with her immeasurable fortune and solve things that way.
Pscyho-Pass (Episode 13)
Will Sibyl ever be perfect? It was a point of emphasis in this episode, brought up during the conversation when discussing the possibility of the almighty criminal justice system Sibyl being ineffective or flawed when faced with a potential lawbreaker. If you think about it as it is, the Sibyl system is far from perfect, though as it is, it is an ideal system. One reason why it is not perfect is that it requires detectives to operate these Dominators and to seek out the criminals for Sibyl to judge them with. If Sibyl were perfect, it wouldn’t require humans to act as the middleman in this operation. However, if that were the case, Sibyl would still be imperfect. Another reason is that humans, and mankind as a whole, are always changing and always changing in different directions and in different ways. Sibyl as a system would need to account for these changes and need to anticipate, recognize and understand these changes and implement updates to itself to match this evolution. But wouldn’t this require human input or some other exterior system separate from the core Sibyl System to perform this duty? Or, taking another approach to the problem, wouldn’t the perfect system be on in which crime is always prevented or never occurs? As it stands now, discussing the perfection of Sibyl is a laughable matter since the structure of the system and its role in society show various weaknesses and faults. Hell, remember back to the beginning of the series where the industrial site governed by the Ministry of the Economy jammed the frequencies of the Dominators so that Sibyl wouldn’t work in that facility? Yeah, how’s that for your perfect system? As long as there are humans around, Sibyl will never be perfect.
Robotics;Notes (Episode 13)
Okay, did anyone else find it hilarious when Frau was showing Kai all those secrets and clues hidden in the leaked video of the Gunvarrel finale? Like, okay, finding all those subliminal messages isn’t hard because I often go frame by frame to find the best screenshots for my fanservice folder for this blog and adding those images in to the video could be detected by any keen observer or zealous anime fan. But then taking these images and denoising them and correcting for levels to get completely different images is a too bit much. Who would ever think of that? Then finding the alphabetical letters hidden in each one? Finding a random link on a dead blog from 4 years ago? And then using these letters, typed in the correct order, to access this hidden website with a mysterious jpg of someone’s notes about world domination? Okay, the whole thing brought to mind two hilarious videos about how ridiculous and unrealistic these situations are. Not only that but the two people who are onto this mystery are the people who figure it out and then use that information to their advantage. It’s laughable is what it is and it doesn’t really help Robotics;Notes with its lethargic and vague storyline. Then again, this is an anime where we’re supposed to believe a secret organization is taking over the world with a robot anime… Oh well. The one positive from this is that I haven’t laughed this hard during a Robotics;Notes episode in a long time, so at least it did that.
Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo (Episode 14)
If you know me well enough, then you’ll know that I am very specific and selective whenever it comes to romance in an anime. Nine times out of ten or more often, I will not enjoy the romance or subtle attractions or relationships in an anime. More often than not, that’s the case for Sakurasou, too (just check my post from last week on this anime). However, that doesn’t mean that my opinion is negative all the time which happens to be the case for this episode. The three/four individual romances illustrated throughout the episode showcased some brilliant writing, genuine emotion, and proved some authentic and unforeseen development that allowed each to progress in a way to show the characters grow and mature. I found this episode to be easily the most enjoyable and most meaningful of Sakurasou because it finally understood how to demonstrate its romance and make it worthwhile and rewarding to watch. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the anime revert back to its usual self in the following episodes but at least I can appreciate this episode for what it was able to do and hope that a similar one, or perhaps an even better one, will appear sometime soon.
Sasami-san@Ganbaranai (Episode 2)
There are two distinct art styles employed in Sasami-san: the one used in Sasami’s bedroom and the one used outside of it. And although I raved about and still adore the art style within Sasami’s bedroom, that is the fuzzy, warm and comforting watercolor aesthetic that dominates the background and permeates through the characters, I prefer Sasami-san to have the outside world art style more. While it is true that the bedroom art style is unique, distinguishable and meaningful (it certainly is expressive for a setting to have a specific art style!), I prefer watching Sasami-san with the crisp, clear and meticulously detailed visual style that predominates the appearance of the outside world. It’s just that intense detail, gorgeous scenery and use of shapes and colors is something that I’ve always loved and appreciated in anime. It invokes more emotion from me than the soothing, tranquil interior of Sasami’s bedroom which is certainly saying something. Not only that but the characters appear more vivid, too. It is a visual masterpiece and, aided by some masterful cinematography, I find myself wanting to see more of the outside world rather than staying boarded up in Sasami’s bedroom with Sasami. The one clear advantage that the art style of Sasami’s bedroom has over the outside world is that it allows for more creativity and fun as seen by all the different designs Sasami’s character went through while panicking over the arrival of the Yagami sisters. Regardless of personal preference, the art and animation of Sasami-san are always picturesque and stunning, making every scene and every shot a heavenly delicacy for our eyes to savor. [On an unrelated note, anyone else notice that Kamiomi started with 20 HP but died to a 2 HP attack? Poor guy has no luck at all…]
Senran Kagura (Episode 3)
Considering that this is an ecchi fanservice anime, it is somewhat surprising to see such an emphasis on character backstory and development in Senran Kagura. You’d figure with an anime that exists solely for being sexy and having fun, there’d be no character development of any significant or notable merit. Yet, in the third episode of Senran Kagura, the anime focuses on Ikaruga’s past and her family in a simple though hurried fashion. The story wasn’t handled particularly gracefully and felt incredibly rushed, but it was straightforward and effective at expressing Ikaruga’s dilemmas and incorporated in a way to link Yomi’s attack with her troubled family and with her newfound appreciation for her friends at the Hanzou Academy as her ‘family’. Yeah… Senran Kagura did a fine job of using a character’s backstory to connect various points in the storyline together and do so without wasting too much time or making it unnecessarily complicated. Not only that but there was plenty of action and fanservice in the episode to please the majority of the audience, too, though the action has been somewhat deficient and the comedy completely underwhelming. Still, I find it impressive with how Senran Kagura used some unexpected character development to its advantage and did it effectively, too.
Shin Sekai Yori (Episode 16)
After reading Maria’s farewell letting and evaluating her choice to flee with Mamoru rather than return home with Saki, one begins to question who she loves more: Mamoru or Saki? It would be unfair to use this episode or this arc by itself when analyzing their relationships since the characters have been together for years and been through so much. Additionally, there are other factors that influenced Maria to flee besides her love for Mamoru and her love for Saki. Still, it does raise some questions and makes you pause and think for a moment who she loves more. I’m not going to lay out my thought process here but I will take a stab at it and say that Maria loves Mamoru more than Saki despite their intimate and sexual relationship. I’m interested to hear what others think about this question.
Space Brothers (Episode 41)
After Mutta arrived at JAXA and was briefed on the situation currently affecting his brother on the Moon, I found his advice to be very presumptuous. His suggestion was to send the remote controlled vehicles to a distant side of the crater figuring that Hibito would find a slope in the crater, hike up the side and emerge there. Mutta’s thinking, however, is full of assumptions that would otherwise be unknown to him. For starters, neither of the stranded astronauts have contacted the Moon base or NASA, so it is unknown whether Hibito is well, injured or unconscious. Who knows if he’s able to move or how much he’s able to move after that crash. Next, Mutta and JAXA are using a 3-D scale of the crater to evaluate their plans. Hibito, however, does not have the map and does not know which is the best route to take out of the crevasse. Another assumption in Mutta’s plan is that Hibito is the one leading the duo out of the crater. If both were alive and well, then Damian would have some input in their rescue situation and they may not necessarily decide on the same path out of the crater; they could be scaling the walls instead of walking out. There are many more assumptions in Mutta’s advice that is not necessarily correct, but for the sake of this story and this anime, Mutta seems to know exactly the right situation and how to fix it accordingly. Too bad NASA has standard protocols for situations like these and is following them based on the limited information they have. I’m not saying that Mutta’s input is necessarily wrong, it’s just given the lack of information and the stress of this situation, Mutta made an presumptuous but lucky guess on what NASA should do next.
Tamako Market (Episode 2)
The themes of community and entrepreneurship are quite strong in Tamako Market. With the opportunity of Valentine’s Day approaching, Tamako’s idea of decorating the stores, selling festive merchandise and promoting the market through a video advertisement, shows how the community functions effectively as a whole but with individual input and participation. While each individual has their own personality and motivations, they’re often seen together as a group, like during the meeting, or working alongside each other, as they did with each participating in the Valentine’s Day celebration together. Not only that but the innovation and participation by the vendors shows some entrepreneurship in this anime with each business taking on various tasks to differentiate their businesses for the holiday in hopes or promoting new business and hopefully profits. Though the episode did not focus on each endeavor pursued by these characters, the commercial that was produced by the kids was an effective substitute. Not only that, but considering how strong the community theme is in this anime, showing a handful of examples means that it effectively shows everyone without wasting too much time going over every unique case. As the anime continues, these themes should continue to be in the forefront of this anime or should be, at least as long as this anime stays in Usagiyama and not that mysterious tropical locale.
Zetsuen no Tempest (Episode 14)
Zetsuen no Tempest is clever in is presentation of the Mage of Exodus and how it really is unknown who this mysterious individual exactly is. With Hakaze’s group, it seems like Megumu is the enigmatic mage given his abilities to wield magic. From Samon’s perspective, though, it is actually Yoshino who is the mage and that the Tree of Exodus is using him to deceive Hakaze and eventually get back at the Tree of Genesis. The episode provides thought and clues that could lead to both but the call at the end to Evangeline seems to dispel the notion of Yoshino and place it solely on Megumu. However, that cannot be confirmed given Samon’s theory, so should it eventually pivot back around and it turns out that Yoshino is the true Mage of Exodus, then the whole bait-and-switch in this episode was executed to perfection. Not only that but should it turn out to be someone completely different, then this episode was done brilliantly though quite deceivingly since it never directly hinted at any of the other characters as possibilities in this puzzling search. Guess it’s only a matter of time before we find out for certain just exactly who the Mage of Exodus really is.