This week: Shiori’s social anxiety in Tamako Market, the non-existent character development in Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, how the Sibyl System has changed perception in Psycho-Pass, and questioning Hibito’s actions in Space Brothers.
Best episode of the week: Chihayafuru 2
Anime trending up this week: Space Brothers
Anime trending down this week: Maoyuu Maou Yuusha
Chihayafuru 2 (Episode 3)
Although neither Sumire nor Tsukuba have fully adjusted to karuta yet, it felt incredibly rewarding and reassuring to watch them participate in the team matches for the high school tournament. Both players were figured to be handicaps for Mizusawa, especially with Sumire still memorizing all the poems and Tsukuba transitioning from ‘second verse karuta’ to ‘first verse karuta’. However, thanks to some ingenuity and thoughtfulness from Tsutomu, both of the new members were able to play in their first matches despite still being novices to the game. Although neither character played any meaningful role in the matches, you could see how much each character learned and understood through playing against a real opponent in a competitive match. Not only that but their appreciation for the game, as well as the other club members, grew exponentially as well. You could literally see these characters mature through the two games. The whole experience was meaningful, encouraging and above all, made the episode a satisfying one to watch.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (Episode 16)
Seeing as Caesar acknowledges Lisa Lisa as his teacher/mentor, it seems surprising that he seems so unfamiliar and unaware while under her training again. Even if he mastered the basics of the Ripple under her tutelage, you’d figure he’d know more about her training methods or even her top assistants, Loggins and Messina. It’s not like he’s unfamiliar with the Hell Pillar Climb either, yet he seemed genuinely surprised at everything occurring around him. He really shouldn’t be reacting this dramatically if he’s already completed some training under her, knows about her methods and is familiar with the local training grounds. It makes you wonder just how much training he has had under Lisa Lisa and how much further he can go to master his Ripple. On top of that, just what exactly was he training for when he left her academy with only the basics? I’m really curious about the previous training experience and what exactly Caesar hoped to accomplish with such a limited mastery of the Ripple.
Kotoura-san (Episode 3)
While Kotoura-san has numerous positives and deserving merits, I have found one simple, recurring element that is hands-down the single best aspect of this delightful anime. Shown time and time again in every episode, Haruka’s various faces and eccentric facial expressions continue to win me over without any hint of fatigue or failure. Not only are all her faces incredibly cute, which fit the theme and appropriateness of this anime, but these reactions play an essential role in expressing her character. And when she isn’t being adorable or humorous with these faces, she’s using them to express her feelings visually, reinforcing her characters as one overcoming a distressing childhood of anxiety, depression and loneliness and transitioning to one teeming with happiness, vigor and optimism. There is some real meaning behind these faces, more than just being appealing or funny. It this duality in her facial expression, the simultaneous cuteness and characterization, that I find exceptionally charming about Haruka in Kotoura-san and it has quickly become my favorite feature of this anime.
Maoyuu Maou Yuusha (Episode 4)
I would say that the character development in Maoyuu Maou Yuusha has come to an immediate halt but that would imply that development was occurring prior. The fact is, no one in Maoyuu has grown or matured since their introductions with the exception of Maou who has seen minimal character progression across these fundamental episodes. At this point, Yuusha is still indecisive, unproductive and regrettably confused and frightened by boobs, Maid Chou is still insightful while remaining remarkably cold and distant, the older sister Maid has received an education but has achieved nothing with it, and the remaining cast members have been given an insufficient duration of screentime to note any discernible growth or maturity. For Maou, her development has been largely on her dysthymia and perseverance but both trace their origins to her unrequited romance with Yuusha which continues to frustrate and disappoint. And though there has been progress on her part, her body insecurity continues to be perplexing, especially since it has no role in the story of her character besides BOOBS again and again. I pray something jarring happens quickly, something to shake the foundation of this series and show the characters what an amazing influence they are having on the world. Additionally, something needs to happen to correct the “romance” since it’s been stagnant and abysmal to date, much like the character development for Yuusha. Maybe he’ll finally realize and appreciate all that Maou has done for him and mankind and treat her as she deserves. But then I might be happy with Maoyuu, and we know that this won’t be happening unless some significant changes occur.
Pscyho-Pass (Episode 14)
It’s rather fascinating how myopic and blind the society has become in Psycho-Pass. Rather than looking at people for who they are and what they are, scanners swiftly analyze whatever brain material is accessible through their detectors and assign some values based on a scale of pretty colors and arbitrary numbers. Through acceptance and acquaintance of the Sibyl System, people have begun to rely on these readings and expect the Public Safety Bureau to facilitate peace and foster security in this sheltered society rather than to look, think and feel for themselves. It leads me to wonder if others around the world are like this too, or if such a system exists in Japan only. Not only that but does such a system exist in rural environments, too? Do other systems have similar but slightly different Psycho-Pass systems with differing data points, formulas, sensors to better tailor their local population’s psychological activity, the regional laws and the capacity of which their police force operates? If so, how do these various populations and societies function with their civil justice systems and are they as intolerant as the citizens under constant observation of Sibyl? I’d love to see how outsiders would respond to this system, these crimes and life in general under these conditions.
Sasami-san@Ganbaranai (Episode 3)
Another episode of Sasami-san@Ganbaranai, another comment on the mesmerizing and dazzling aesthetics and animation. The focus this time is on its vividly detailed environments, particularly the forest that Sasami and Tsurugi visited on their way to the Tsukuyomi Shrine. The way nature is illustrated in this anime is absolutely breathtaking with an assortment of colors, lighting and details to portray a genuine world that’s rich in vibrancy as it is in vegetation. It’s that intensity and enthusiasm and clarity in its composition that gives it such an astounding, gratifying feeling when watching the characters wander through it. These backgrounds translate to us an atmosphere or a mood and the theme employed in the forest was one of tranquility and reassurance. And while it’s well below the extraordinary level of Makoto Shinkai, it’s well above the median for scenery and environments shown in TV anime. The only other show that comes even remotely close to this masterpiece is Shin Sekai Yori which has utilizes its own unique style for its horde of ecosystems. Hopefully the anime shifts its developments to the world outside Sasami’s bedroom because I’m beginning to favor it more than the serene and fuzzy watercolors that saturate her comfort-zone.
Senran Kagura (Episode 4)
Whether by design or simply by execution, the villains of Senran Kagura are easily the superior characters of this anime. It isn’t an issue of some character designs being better than others or anything like that but that their personalities and motivations seem stronger, more consistent and generally more entertaining. The five ninjas of the Hanzou Academy all have something that’s limiting their character or preventing them from being as enjoyable as they should be. For example, Ikaruga never fails to nag on the other girls when they’re trying to have fun, Asuka and Hibari seems to be hesitant and lacks the resolve and determination to improve as a ninja, and Yagyuu could use some screentime away from Hibari to give herself some necessary freedom to improve upon her individuality as a character. The five ninjas of the Serpent Academy for Girls don’t have this issue, at least not now judging by their appearances in their limited screentime; instead, these girls are fun, confident and independent as characters and have yielded some of the most stimulating and pleasing scenes of the anime thus far. Judging from the preview of the next episode, it seems that these girls will be given more of a commanding role in the episode and be given the chance to have a real battle rather than these minute skirmishes which, although have been exciting, have been way too short. As long as these villains continue to appear and wage their war on the Hanzou Academy, then Senran Kagura is certain to improve.
Shin Sekai Yori (Episode 17)
While Saki has always been a mature individual, whether she was 12, 14 or 26, Satoru has grown from a rather juvenile troublemaker into a knowledgeable and understanding adult. It is true that both have grown over the course of the series as it has transgressed through 14 years, but the development of Satoru has been much steeper, much more noticeable and somewhat more meaningful. Saki has always been an accountable and stable as a person than Satoru but she’s learned to control her emotions as the years have gone by. Satoru, in addition to controlling his emotions like Saki, is much more responsible and dependable now, especially when contrasting himself against the 12-year old Satoru that we witnessed at the beginning of the series. The two kids are adults now and, though they’ve spent time apart, they seem to have a similar emotional level now and an understanding that never existed before. It’s as if Satoru finally caught up to Saki as a character which is something that should be exciting to watch as the anime continues forward in this era.
Space Brothers (Episode 42)
Watching Hibito wander away from Damien and Gibson, to be alone by himself during his final moments on the Moon, has and will continue to bother me. The primary concern over this action is that he’s leaving Damien unsupervised after doing everything he could to save his partner. Hibito labored so hard to protect and ensure Damien’s survive yet, after returning to the surface and stabilizing his body temperature, Hibito decides to up and leave. Damien might still need some assistance, especially if some of Hibito’s actions were miscalculated or incorrect, meaning that everything he did could be in vain if Damien suffers a complication while waiting for help to arrive. Another issue with Hibito’s abandonment is that he doesn’t try to drive Gibson to where rescue help is heading. Though it is true that Hibito is unaware of the situation due to his busted communicator, he should figure that they are on their way to either his current location or the spot where they descended off the cliff. If he makes both locations the same by returning to the spot where the rover crashed, then he’d be increasing his chances of survival by making the rendezvous point the same for both situations. Not only that but Gibson could be detected too, since it emerged from the crevasse, meaning that it could be remote controlled to drive them to the arriving rescue team. With only 10 minutes of oxygen remaining in his suit, Hibito could increase his chances for survival since he’d be returning in the direction of help, too. Instead, Hibito decides to spend his final minutes back in the crevasse, looking up at the stars in a turn-of-events that seems contradictory to has been the established character and personality of Hibito.
Tamako Market (Episode 3)
Most anime utilized shyness and nervousness in a character to make them more appealing, charming or, in some way, more desirable to the audience, helping to reinforce and solidify their specific character archetype as a cute, quiet, shy girl. Unlike most anime, Tamako Market employs Shiori’s shyness as an actual issue with her character and creates a story about her shyness problem. In fact, it is structured as more of a mild case of social anxiety disorder, a condition in which she experiences some form of distress and fear from social stimuli that inhibit certain aspects of her daily life. It doesn’t manifest in the form of panic attacks, sweating or any physical symptoms, but it’s clear she has some psychological blocks that prevent her from interacting in the way she wants and without feeling this nervousness. The story of this episode focused intently on how Dera, Tamako and the Usagiyama Market were able to have a positive impact on her anxiety through their encouraging exchanges and delightful encounters. The outcome of this approach is that Shiori was able to overcome her barrier and step above her anxiety. Prior to this episode, could never muster more than a glance or stare in the direction of Tamako and her friends. Instead, after the inspiring conversations with the various characters of this enchanting community, Shiori was able to thank Tamako for her generosity and that she had a wonderful time with her. She was able to make some progress in overcoming her social phobia and it is attributed to how Dera, Tamako and the shopkeepers responded to her. So while a majority of anime use shyness solely for making a character cuter or more moe or for something amusing, Tamako Market crafts an endearing story around this personality trait and shows how it is a problem for Shiori and how she overcomes this frightening psychological obstacle. Of course, one conversation over coffee and music won’t be enough to cure her completely of her nervousness, so hopefully we continue to see her character grow and mature as the anime continues and Shiori becomes integrated into the market community.
Also, anyone else notice during Shiori’s meeting with Dera that she caught the birdie with her badminton racquet? I know, it’s stupid, but I still laughed. I hope you did, too.