Last week: examining why Momoka dominates the comedy in Sabagebu!, a justification for why the educational segments in Yama no Susume Second Season are so enjoyable, enjoying the use of parallels in Zankyou no Terror and not understanding Japanese calligraphy at all in Barakamon.
Best episode of the week: Aldnoah.Zero
Anime trending up this week: Barakamon
Anime trending down this week: Captain Earth
Akame ga Kill! (Episode 2)
Akame is black. Leone is yellow. Mine is pink. Lubbock is green. Sheele is purple. Bulat is silver. And Tatsumi is boring brown. It’s a good thing that Tatsumi isn’t black or green or purple or something because otherwise, he wouldn’t have a position in Night Raid. Hey, maybe the only reason they offered him a position is because they had an opening for ‘brown’.
But seriously, the choice of colors in Akame ga Kill! has certainly been interesting, if not slightly remarkable. For starters, the main characters of Night Raid are virtually defined by their distinctive hair colors. Not only do they each have their own primary color, but their wardrobes match their hair color, too, with coats and dresses and gloves matching the owner’s hair color. It certainly makes it easy to learn who the characters are and how to differentiate between them, especially since these colors align with their personalities to a certain degree. However, while it is terrific way to start an anime, helping the audience adjust to and learn who the characters are, it is also a step in the direction of shallow character development and can even lead these vibrant and color-coordinated assassins to be one-dimensional. As the characters mature and develop over the course of the series, watching appearances change would to help symbolize growth, especially if they begin to shed their colors and don different outfits or even different hair colors. However, for a shounen fighting anime like Akame ga Kill!, there’s a sinking feeling that these characters will remain like this for quite some time, especially the secondary characters. I do appreciate the anime starting us off with a colorful cast to help us learn who everyone is, especially when there are 8 new characters to introduce, but this plan could also backfire on the anime if Akame ga Kill! fails to develop each of them properly.
Aldnoah.Zero (Episode 2)
You can tell that Gen Urobuchi is being nice – or maybe he’s trying to lull us into a false sense of security – with this second episode of Aldnoah.Zero. Yes, there’s already been an ‘innocent’ death or two (or maybe two million) thus far, but there could have been plenty more if Urobuchi wanted it. Provided that we’re only two episodes in and that the action didn’t really start until this episode, there has been ample opportunity for Urobuchi to have disposed of an entire cast of throwaway characters. To date, only the unfortunate Okisuke has departed us, but it easily could’ve been more. For example, there easily could have been one or two during Rayet’s rescue mission. The end result of the scene was for Rayet to survive and escape, but she could’ve been coupled with some other nameless, faceless and unfortunate cast members to make her rescue more intense and dramatic. Additionally, Yuki could also have been killed (or another nameless character in her spot depending on how essential Yuki is to the plot moving forward) as early as this episode, too. In what would’ve been a tragic turn of events, she would have easily died had her mecha been too large to fit in the tunnel during the chase sequence. Imagine what would’ve happened to Inaho and the others if the head of Yuki’s mecha hit the top of the tunnel and she was stranded outside, all alone? There easily could’ve been more deaths in this second episode if Urobuchi desired it, but the casualty list is relatively small if we’re only counting characters that had faces and lines. But maybe that’s what Urobuchi wants and this is part of his plan to lull us into thinking the cast is safe. Perhaps this low death-count is just an outlier for what will happen later on in the series and that Aldnoah.Zero will be his most heartbreaking anime yet. Or maybe… just maybe he’s trying to trick us into thinking he’s doing that, when in reality, there won’t be many deaths in Aldnoah.Zero after all. After all, it’s certainly a possible explanation after watching this episode. Then again, there’s evidence it could go the other way, too…
Barakamon (Episode 2)
To me, calligraphy has always been synonymous with elegant and harmonious writing. Whenever I think of calligraphy, my mind conjures an image of an olde English lettering with defined and artistic characters that were gracefully crafted with magnificent and clear pen strokes. And if I continue to dwell on the subject, I begin to think of different writing styles with creative twists and loops and other motifs and even to some that incorporate various colors, textures and patterns into the script. So whenever I watch Barakamon focus on Japanese calligraphy, an art where creativity and passion define quality, I find myself a bit perplexed. Although Seishuu’s works are filled with emotion, the characters appear messy and chaotic, and this is something that’s completely contrary to what I am accustomed to whenever I evaluate calligraphy. There’s this definite difference between Western calligraphy and Japanese calligraphy that has developed itself into a barrier to me, something that’s preventing me from fully understanding and fully appreciating the art and culture that is Japanese calligraphy. And it’s not like a switch that turns on and off. Though I do see some artistic merit in Seishuu’s work, I feel as though I’m not on the level as everyone else in Barakamon. Whereas Seishuu and the others might drive themselves insane over a 13-stroke kanji for ‘comfort’, I find myself thinking, “ok… that’s nice… he wrote ‘comfort’ and now there’s paint everywhere”. To me, I just don’t get it, but as I continue to watch Barakamon, perhaps I’ll begin to develop my own appreciation for Japanese calligraphy. I guess you could say, after writing a post on the subject of Japanese calligraphy, I am already off to a decent start.
Captain Earth (Episode 15)
There has yet to be a good fight in Captain Earth and there probably will never be one. The mecha battle at the end of episode 15 was a clear offender of shounen fight syndrome, an unimaginative pattern of predictable events that is the epitome of horrendous writing, and the series of fights on Earth that began back in episode 8 unfortunately peaked in episode 8 when Taichi battled Zin. With episode 16 hinting at a return to space combat, easily the worst kind of battles in Captain Earth, I am beginning to think we’ll never see a good fight in this mecha anime. Although the battle animation is respectable during these action sequences, nothing about the battles is memorable nor are they exciting or interesting to watch. A significant reason is that there is no weight or suspense with these battles. You know that if Taichi loses or whatever, that the Earth is dead. Well, with 10 episodes to go, you know they’re not going to lose… and if they do, you know there’s Teppei is going to teleport in to save the day or Hana will summon her superpower Blume to blast away whatever. It’s dumb. And unfortunately, it has resulted in lame battle after lame battle. Really, Captain Earth has a multitude of forgivable mistakes… but for a mecha anime to never feature a single memorable fight is one that cannot be ignored. Fortunately for Captain Earth, it has 10 more chances to change my opinion, but given the track record of the series thus far, I wouldn’t bet on it.
Glasslip (Episode 2)
With P.A. Works, there’s always a male transfer student and there’s a good chance that he’ll be the main character, too (except, of course, when he isn’t). In Angel Beats!, you had Yuzuru. With Another, there was Kouichi. Tari Tari was a little different, but you still had Wein who was definitely important. And in Nagi no Asukara, you had both Hikari and Kaname. Now, with Glasslip, we have Kakeru, a male transfer student who is certainly making his presence felt after just a few simple conversations. I’m not sure if this is pure coincidence or a sign that P.A. Works has an unhealthy thing for male transfer students (6 characters in their last 8 anime), but it is something worth mentioning given the uncanny frequency in which male transfer students play a leading role in a P.A. Works anime.
Hanayamata (Episode 1)
How often do you see fireworks paired together with cherry blossoms? The majority of fireworks in anime are featured during the summer months, often coinciding with matsuri or summer festivals. However, in the first episode of Hanayamata when Hana is mesmerizing Naru with her charm, you can clearly see fanciful fireworks in the night sky alongside cherry trees in full bloom. And since we know the anime is starting at the beginning of a school year in Japan, we can pinpoint the time to be the first week of April. From what we know about basic biology and Japanese culture, April matches up well with the blooming cherry trees… but what about the fireworks? Well, unlike the United States where fireworks are used on only two occasions, fireworks are used around the year in Japan to celebrate local and national festivals. And while most of these festivals happen during the summer, it’s not uncommon for fireworks to be on display in other months, too. It is rare, but it is not impossible. And considering the significance of that scene at the shrine, maybe the added scarcity of the fireworks helped captivate Naru that much further. After all, the entire scene was enchanting, and the fireworks helped add a delightful accent given their colorful and fascinating appearance.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders (Episode 15)
The character dynamic in Stardust Crusaders is somewhat bewildering. At times, you’re aware that Jotaro, Joseph, Kakyouin and Polnareff are all together. At other times, it seems like it’s just Polnareff. Or it’s just Jotaro. And while this is appropriate most of the time, especially whenever the characters are isolated, it still doesn’t explain why some characters seem to disappear. For example, in this episode, Joseph and Kakyouin were forgotten until the very end. In Singapore, Avdol, Joseph and Kakyouin hardly did anything. And when Joseph was struggling with the Empress, we hardly saw Jotaro or Kakyouin. It’s not so much a complaint of the series or the storytelling but more an observation that the series focuses so intensely on these characters that the others fall into the background. It feels fragmented. It doesn’t feel like they’re all traveling together and that it’s all one unified story. Right now, these monster-of-the-week episodes feel like a series of separate stories that utilize each character independently of the last; we really haven’t seen many stories where the cast members need to cooperate with each other. However, that’s the way the story is told right now in JJBA and a result of having so many Stands and so many different fighting styles. Fortunately, the pattern was broken with the sixteenth episode, so this doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue right now nor do I envision it to be one once the Stardust Crusaders reach Egypt.
Persona 4 the Golden Animation (Episode 1)
Who was the person that looked at Persona 4 and thought, “you know what, this isn’t anime enough. We need to make this more anime.” Because, really, I have no other explanation for them to add in a tsundere character and to add in someone voiced by Kana Hanazawa. But hey, at least they saved time and energy and made it one person. Still, I thought Persona 4 was pretty anime already but, after just one episode, you can tell that it is nothing compared to Persona 4 the Golden Animation.
Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!? (Episode 1)
Oh right, all these girls are appearing in Satomi’s apartment only after he fell through the floor and landed in that magical shrine. So that’s what they’re all after, right, something about the power he inherited then? After all, Satomi couldn’t see Sanae in his apartment until after that event (you could see her reflecting in the window when Satomi was on the phone) and it was after that point when we first saw Yurika spy on him when he was walking to school. Maybe all these girls aren’t so much interested in Satomi’s apartment as they are in him and the power he inherited from that underground shrine. Then again, there has only been one episode, and there’s plenty more to explore once the actual story begins in the next episode.
Sabagebu! (Episode 2)
Momoka is a truly remarkable protagonist. Thanks to her arrogant and violent personality, Momoka dominates the comedy in Sabagebu!, and she easily stands out as the star of this anime. It is because of her heartless and unforgiving nature that she’s able to stand apart from her peers and contrast them to create this lasting impression. For example, Momoka straight-up punching Urara in the morning is one scene where Momoka made a simple moment a memorable one. Additionally, Momoka gunning down her friends after they surrendered during their playful contest was another instance where Momoka shines her brightest as a character. And that’s not to say the other characters don’t have their moments, too; Mio and her zealous passion toward survival games is easily second. Mio has had a number of unforgettable moments in the anime thus far, but she doesn’t dominate the anime like Momoka. And considering how often I’ve found myself laughing at Mio’s jokes, it speaks volumes of Momoka’s character. The other three members of the survival game club haven’t made much of an impact, and the only other character remaining is the narrator, a faceless voice who has had some amusing moments but is clearly third behind Momoka and Mio. To put it plainly, this anime would be nothing without Momoka. She is certainly the most valuable aspect of Sabagebu! and simply one of the most fascinating protagonists in anime this season.
Space Dandy Season 2 (Episode 2)
Although many of the attributes of Space Dandy could be defined as ‘extraordinary’, I believe the label does best to describe the creativity in this anime. Yes, though the animation, the characters and the humor are all extraordinary too, it is the creativity in Space Dandy that drives every episode and unites the series as a whole. Just look at the diversity between each episode, from the aliens, to the planets, to the stories and even to the emotion and feeling present in every episode. It’s the creativity in each episode that provides the charm, excitement and adventure to Space Dandy. And it is because of this creativity that has allowed Space Dandy to thrive as an entertaining anime. Furthermore, the creativity does more than just influence the settings and the stories. Every aspect about this anime, including the animation, the characters and the humor, all originate from this creativity, and all the inspiration and innovation in Space Dandy is derived from this ingenuity. It is thanks to this extraordinary and remarkable creativity that has made Space Dandy such a fun and unique anime to watch.
Sword Art Online II (Episode 2)
When, if ever, has Sword Art Online focused this much on a character not named Kirito? While the first season of SAO focused squarely on Kirito and his adventures in two virtual MMOs, the second episode of SAO 2 took a completely novel perspective as we followed Shino’s character, Sinon, around in Gun Gale Online. The episode primarily focused on her adventures as a hired gun with a pretty snazzy and rare sniper rifle. From this episode, we were able to establish some understanding of GGO and were provided valuable insight into Shino before she ever meet Kirito. It seems to me that with this episode, we’re able to establish a better baseline for Shino’s character and that this sequel to SAO is treating her character better than any other female character. Of course, with 22 episodes remaining, there’s quite a bit that will change between now and then. However, I am encouraged by this episode for stepping away from Kirito and providing us with a glimpse of a character outside his extensive social network. Of course, this dynamic is bound to change once Kirito makes contact with Shino, but at least we know the anime is trying something different with this season as compared to season one. Hopefully we’ll receive this insight later on with the other female characters too, especially if Kirito and Shino are the only ones in GGO and Asuna and the others are staying in ALO.
Tokyo Ghoul (Episode 2)
Tokyo Ghoul has attempted to define the parameters of a ghoul’s diet with this second episode. In case you weren’t paying attention to all the foods that Ken vomited in the past two episodes, I’ll save you some time and list you the food that won’t cause him to vomit: human flesh and coffee. So all these ghouls, every day, all they do is eat human flesh and coffee? Apparently that’s it or what we’re told to believe. But what is it about human flesh and coffee that they’re able to consume? What makes human flesh different from beef or chicken or… maybe even something more similar to humans like chimpanzee or gorilla? What is it about the composition of protein that causes ghouls to reject similar meats in favor or human tissue? And what about coffee makes it unique, too? What about similar beverages, such as cola or tea? Or what about a beverage that is consistent with the contents and composition of human flesh? You know, have a drink that has some protein, some fat, some carbs and electrolytes in it? I am really curious at what ghouls can and can’t eat now, especially since the series spent so much time explaining this topic to us and providing so much detail. I truly doubt the series will ever reach a level of discourse that satisfies my knowledge but I do feel confident that we’ll address this point again in the future, especially after covering the topic extensively in these first two episodes. But until then, I’m going to ponder some of the other possible things a ghoul could eat or drink.
Yama no Susume Second Season (Episode 1)
One of my favorite aspects of Yama no Susume is also one of the most endearing and charming, and they are the educational tidbits present in every episode. Seeing as the anime’s story revolves around introducing Aoi to the world of hiking, camping and mountaineering, it makes sense to have moments where the other girls help explain new portions of this hobby to her. For example, this episode was the first time we saw Aoi set up a tent, an essential component for whenever she goes camping for the first time. Additionally, the episode focused on preparing curry, going step-by-step and even revealing some secret ingredients. And while these segments are not the most exciting or even educational to some, they do provide an honest and sincere angle to the anime. The anime genuinely wants to see Aoi develop as a hiker, as a camper and as a mountaineer and the anime is spending a significant portion of its content on explaining these essentials to her. And as a result, the anime feels very real and very engaging. One thing that would put this quality over the top for me would be to see Aoi utilize this knowledge in later episodes, such as where to set her tent up so that the pegs can be driven into the ground properly or how to maintain a tent in a storm. Of course, with 24 episodes in this season, it might be a while before we see Aoi and the others on any important mountain.
Zankyou no Terror (Episode 1)
The parallels demonstrated in this episode of Zankyou no Terror provide optimism that this anime will be one of the most expressive, meaningful and perceptive anime of the year. What do I mean by the parallels? Well, one of the most obvious ones was between Lisa at the pool and Lisa jumping down to Touji. The first scene at the pool showed Lisa reluctant to follow her ‘friends’ commands and jump into the school swimming pool fully dressed. What this scene demonstrated was that Lisa was unhappy with her current relationships, that she felt she didn’t belong and that she was bullied as a result. She could change this all if she jumped, meaning that she’d commit to these friendships and become a part of their clique. Fast-forward to the end of the first episode where the scenes are similar but the situations are completely different. Here, Lisa is also unhappy with her situation but has the opportunity to jump and join with Arata and Touji. And because of how she noted Touji’s warm and Arata’s cool, Lisa decided to jump, meaning that she was committing her life to join up with Nine and Twelve. Moreover, there are parallels elsewhere in the anime too, with some of the more apparent being the symbolism of the terrorism and another being social hierarchy, specifically in how Arata and Touji are social outcasts and want to remain social outcasts. Because of these various details, I have found reassured hope in this anime and the writing that it offers. I am hoping to see the anime expand on these established lines as well as generate new parallels within itself and to the modern world.