This week: explaining why what we’re watching now is Samurai Flamenco “B”, the contrast in perspectives between Kaiki and Araragi in Monogatari Series Second Season, analyzing the various time periods and settings shown in Magi: The Kingdom of Magic, and recognizing why Little Busters! Refrain is performing much better than its first season.
Best episode of the week: Monogatari Series Second Season
Anime trending up this week: Gingitsune
Anime trending down this week: Galilei Donna
Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta (Episode 8)
The antagonists of Yozakura Quartet play a very meaningful role in the story of this anime. However, one could argue that the main story of this anime, the one regarding the merging of the human dimension with the youkai one, could probably continue unabated if the villains of this series were simply omitted. But if that were the case, the anime would be completely different and a much lesser anime than it currently is. Why? Well, without the villains of this anime, the series would be largely without conflict. Without a challenge or conflict popping up every so often, the heroes of this story would continue to lollygag around, relaxing and enjoying the tranquil days of their youth by eating ramen, going to festivals, playing video games and patrolling the city while singing mindless songs. To put it bluntly, the anime would be nothing without the villains. It would be meaningless. It would be pointless. And even with the peril and uncertainty of the merging dimensions, there would be no urgency by the cast and the whole issue would likely be solved without much duress. It’s the villains who are putting things in motion. It’s their actions which provide a purpose and meaning to this anime. Without them, the story and anime could survive, but it would be so incredibly weak and tepid that it wouldn’t even be worth watching.
Samurai Flamenco “B” (Episode 8 2)
Yup. We’re not watching Samurai Flamenco anymore… we’re on the second episode of a new series, Samurai Flamenco “B”. Or something. Or whatever. I’m not really good with clever names for things, so I’m giving it something as effortless as “B”. But to be honest, it’s really quite appropriate since it has that “B” feel to it now with this cartoony action, these asinine villains and ridiculous plot that came out of nowhere and makes no sense. Literally, these episodes are the “B” of Samurai Flamenco, and I’m refusing to treat the first half (the superior half) as the same anime as what we’re watching now. I’m not bitter or anything (maybe not bitter, but frustrated is a good word), but there’s no other explanation for this. It was smart and now it’s just stupid. It had style and now it’s just stupid. It had a theme, a resolve and a drive but now it has nothing. The disparity is so stark between the two halves that you’d have an easier time comparing two different anime together than the first part and second part of this anime. There was literally a schism in the series and, unfortunately for us, we’re in the “B” side of things now. And to be frank, the “B” side sucks. It’s like the series has started over for me with the “A” side being complete and earning high marks. As for the “B” side… let’s just see how low this side will go.
Monogatari Series Second Season (Episode 22)
The contrast between Kaiki and Nadeko couldn’t be more blatant. You have a wonderful villain, a grim, gray gentleman who is calm and calculated and doesn’t care much for anything and a naïve, jovial and irrational god-girl who is excited to meet her first believer. And while I could continue on this simple observation that I enjoyed so much in this episode, I’d rather take a step back and look at the huge contrast between Kaiki and Araragi as protagonists. Rather, the perspective of Monogatari is vastly different between the two. Whereas before, with Araragi as the male lead, he plays into the personality of the girls he talks to and plays off their behaviors for jokes and trying to sound cool. With Kaiki, he dominates the conversation with his suave and confidence. Here, the difference is seen in how the other characters affect the protagonist which leads to different levels of friendliness, humor, and of course, sexualization. And the sexualization of the series couldn’t be more different between the two. When Nadeko was talking about wearing nothing but a pair of buruma (gym bloomers) and her sukumizu (school swimsuit) around Araragi, Kaiki silently commented to himself how awkward he felt… which much be incredibly awkward for Kaiki to feel awkward. Had this been Araragi instead, you can guarantee he would’ve obsessed over it like the lolicon he is. And it’s not just the dissimilarity in these styles either but also in how the two characters value these conversations. Kaiki was there to obtain information and make an assessment of Nadeko and this is probably similar to how he sized up Senjougahara and Karen and all the middle school girls before him. Araragi actually enjoys the company of the girls he’s with and is willing to listen to them, another reason why he is as popular as he is with the female cast of this series. The differences between the two could continue further, but these are the main details on how I view these two as different. Rather, it’s a pleasant change of pace to have Kaiki and Tsubasa take over as the leads in the Monogatari Series, allowing us to witness the series through the eyes of two brilliant characters. These changes in perspective have gone a long way into making this sequel my favorite one in the franchise.
Magi: The Kingdom of Magi (S2) (Episode 9)
With Alibaba’s trip to the Roman Reim Empire, another vibrant detail of the setting of Magi is revealed to us. However, with each new distinctive location comes another headache when trying to pinpoint what era of our world’s history that Magi parallels. Although we don’t explicitly know what time period the characters are in, based on the cultural and societal details of these settings, we see Magi range from 80-200 AD (the time the Coliseum was completed till about the time Gladiator fights decline) to the Islamic Golden Age (~700 AD, when One Thousand and One Nights took place, or really where most of Magi derives its lore from) to even the most recent event with the seafaring pirates and cannons in that reflect the pirates of the 1700-1800s. That is to say, the time period that Magi is in spans nearly 1700 years of our own history, and this is negating the indeterminate period that China Kou is in which could possibly predate Rome Reim by several hundred years. Then again, you figure is going for a ‘Greatest Hits’ of world history with its fantasy setting, so trying to determine a specific, real time period is likely impossible. Then again, I didn’t say it was fun trying to figure it out either.
Little Busters! Refrain (Episode 9)
Why has the second season of Little Busters! been so much better than the first? While I do miss a majority of the female cast in Little Busters!, I can’t help but notice that the anime is noticeably better now that it’s focusing on Riki and the core of the Little Busters! group. Although I’m a little upset that it had to come to a series reset to get to this stage, I’m gleeful that Little Busters! Refrain is now focused on its characters and making progress with each and every episode. Nothing feels drawn out or overdramatic or emotional. Everything feels… well, right for a change. The significance and weight that they’re adding to the characters has gone a long way and I think this is partially due to cutting off some of the fat in the series which were the overabundance of girls competing for screentime and causing the anime as a whole to suffer. You don’t often see an anime make a huge leap in quality and performance over the original (in fact, it’s usually the other way around for me) but Little Busters! Refrain has done just that. After being disappointed and frustrated with the original, I’m happy to say that the sequel of Little Busters! is one of my favorite anime of this season.
KILL la KILL (Episode 9)
When thinking of an ecchi/fighting anime, clothes destruction quickly comes to mind. After all, it’s an easy way to demonstrate both fighting and fanservice, to have the girls’ skimpy outfits become even more revealing once they begin to take damage combinded with the fact that they’re ‘showing’ the girls take damage (without resorting to blood or other violence). But for KILL la KILL, there is only a minimal amount of clothing damage. And when it’s infrequently performed in the series, it’s done all at once when a fighter loses a fight. Furthermore, the clothing destruction isn’t only limited to those in sexy schoolgirl uniforms either; there’s been more clothing destruction for the guys than girls in KILL la KILL. So is it odd that KILL la KILL is an ecchi/fighting anime unlike so many others?
Well, instead of having mindless, senseless clothing destruction like so many other ecchi/fighting anime, KILL la KILL’s system makes sense on various levels. For one, the Kamui (Godrobes/God Clothes) are made entirely out of Life Fiber and aren’t exactly destructible like the paper-thin clothing usually given to girls in fighting anime. And when the clothing destruction occurs, it isn’t without reason… or rather for more of a reason than showing some panties or boobs or something. Rather, it’s a mechanism of how Ryuuko feeds Senketsu additional Life Fibers. By stealing these from the clothes of the other Goku Uniforms, Senketsu is powering up at the expense of a little nudity and fanservice. And to be frank, what would clothing damage do to Ryuuko or Satsuki? I mean, their outfits are already revealing enough. Any damage to their already scanty uniforms might reveal a toe or heel or shoulder or something. And is that an effective way to show damage? Or have any marginal effect on fanservice? No, the system in place of clothes and clothing destruction for KILL la KILL makes sense. KILL la KILL doesn’t really need any more clothing destruction than it already has, and on top of that, what we do see actually makes sense within the context of the series rather than being an excuse for easy fanservice.
Gingitsune (Episode 9)
Do the heralds in Gingtsune do much of anything? Besides lazing around, napping and complaining, they really haven’t done much of anything. Sure, they’ve solved a few inconveniences (or caused a few, like those monkeys), but they’re really just… useless. Like, what is their importance to the series? Or better yet, what is their importance to the shrines? I’m sure Makoto would do just fine if she were a young shrine maiden without the help of Gintarou. And the same thing for Haru. And really, the same for any herald we’ve seen thus far. And even if something significant happens, what capacity will they be able to help? It’s not like their essential or anything, unless something else supernatural or divine shows up to cause a conflict. Really, what is the purpose of their role in the series? And although this really doesn’t detract anything from the series for me, it is something I’ve found myself curious about, especially after an episode about Haru like this.
Galilei Donna (Episode 8)
I’ve always adored personal tidbits and details in anime, ranging from character’s quirks to favorite foods to things that they hate and beyond. In Galilei Donna, my favorite character traits are how the sisters all have specific, individual nicknames for each other. The girls never call each other by their real names, helping reveal an interpersonal and emotional connection between the girls. Whether it’s Hazuki calling her youngest sister ‘Hocchi’, Kazuki using ‘Hocchibi’ or Hozuki calling her older sisters ‘Haa-nee’ and ‘Kaa-nee’, the sisters of Galilei Donna add this tiny detail to demonstrate how close they are as a family and how they depend on each other. It really doesn’t add anything to the story, but it’s a detail I can’t overlook nonetheless. I’m always happy to see little qualities like this in anime, showing thought and effort to make the characters seem more human than just another anime stereotype.