This week: an analysis on the subtitle of Aldnoah.Zero and the meaning of fiat justitia ruat caelum, thoughts on the rigid, formulaic pattern of storytelling in Barakamon, the lack of character independence and the emphasis of friendship in Glasslip, and looking at the difference (if there is a difference) between Lisa and moe anime girls in Zankyou no Terror.
Best episode of the week: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders
Anime trending up this week: Yama no Susume Second Season
Anime trending down this week: Tokyo ESP
Akame ga Kill! (Episode 6)
I don’t expect much from Akame ga Kill!, and I highly doubt the series will adequately cover the problematic morals and nonexistent ethics, but I’d be euphoric if the series spent time on the fact that no one is good in Akame ga Kill!. Shounen anime often struggle with discourse or narratives on complex themes such as morality, instead often dumbing down the situations to simplistic and powerful quotes about justice, friendship and other boring buzzwords or by making their villains hilariously one-dimensional and unbelievably unrealistic. And with Akame ga Kill! apparently drunk on action and gore, I doubt the anime is worryingly concerned with any issues on morality or integrity, especially when the cast is trying to brutally murder each other because ‘those other guys are bad’. But still, the anime can point out the fact that both sides are wrong, and that’s what I want from Akame ga Kill!. I’ve been a little less than pleased to see Tatsumi join Night Raid without so much as a single thought and that no one in Night Raid is questioning their methods, their activities and their results, but there’s a slight sliver of hope that the series will arrive at this conclusion at the very end, with either Akame or Tatsumi reflecting on their lives. However, considering the difference in length between the manga and the anime, I doubt we’ll see that ending anytime soon. Still, the only intelligent discussion I want from Akame ga Kill! is for the characters to realize their faults.
Aldnoah.Zero (Episode 6)
The subtitle for Aldnoah.Zero is Let Justice be Done, Through the Heavens Fall. The subtitle is a direct translation of the Latin phrase, ‘fiat justitia ruat caelum’. The meaning of this phrase is that justice is absolute and must be realized regardless of the consequences. It is also known as Piso’s justice, based on the story of Piso’s judgment of a soldier who was ordered to be executed because his partner had disappeared. The story continues with the partner appearing at the execution, thus prompting the centurion to halt the execution and seek Piso’s new verdict. But despite the fact that the partner was alive, Piso ordered all three to be executed since the first soldier’s sentence had passed, since the centurion failed to perform his duty at the execution and since the partner caused two innocent men to die.
Although Aldnoah.Zero is not that cruel or merciless, we witnessed fiat justitia ruat caelum in this episode with the King of Vers, Rayregalia Vers Rayvers, declaring war on Earth despite the evidence that the princess, Asseylum, was found to be alive. Not only was the original sentence of war carried out despite proof that it was wrong, but we see Slaine, the one who presented this knowledge to Rayregalia, face some repercussions as well. The events in this episode and the previous episode are strongly derived from this maxim and help provide meaning to the tagline of this anime. What we’re seeing now from Aldnoah.Zero, with the war continuing and Slaine fleeing, are the results of this justice. Oh, and the Heaven’s Fall part of the subtitle? Yeah, that was the name of the devastating event when the first Martian robot landed on Tanegashima 15 years ago. And as the anime continues, we can expect more material related to this subtitle too, especially with Slaine and Asseylum still alive. How this will all tie-up and resolve still remains to be seen, but understanding this subtitle and its meaning is essential to understanding the message, the morals, and the story of this anime.
Barakamon (Episode 6)
A situation arises: Seishuu is in a rut; the locals are annoying him; he needs to write on a boat. The situation is connected to an underlying challenge for Seishuu; he’s lacking inspiration; he’s lacking motivation; he’s scared of messing up the boat. The situation leads to Seishuu doing something different: his perspective is shifted by Naru, Seishuu watches the locals at the beach; Naru messes up the boat for him. And the result of said situation parallels Seishuu’s growth as a calligrapher and as a person. But oh, does Barakamon feel very rigid, structured and formulaic. In fact, it’s not Seishuu’s calligraphy that feels ‘textbook and lifeless’ as was the opinion of one critic, but it’s the storytelling of Barakamon that is very textbook and lifeless. Every episode of Barakamon repeats this same pattern but with marginally different variations in content. And while this isn’t a necessarily bad pattern of storytelling to follow, each episode feels very automatic or mechanical, like it’s the same story told over and over again but with a view, a beach and a boat serving as the prop. I want the stories in Barakamon to feel more natural, to feel more genuine, and to flow independently from the rest. I want each new episode of Barakamon to feel different than the rest. Fortunately for me, most episodes are distinct in terms of content, significance and character growth, and that’s what makes Barakamon one of the better anime this season. What would help make it one of the best anime of the season is changing the stiff and formulaic pattern of storytelling.
Glasslip (Episode 6)
Besides Kakeru, no one seems independent in Glasslip. Yes, the characters all have their own individual traits and personalities, but they seem to always function as a group or units of a group rather than as separate, discrete people. And though Glasslip is an anime revolving around keeping this clique of friends together as they’re slowly drifting apart, it is fascinating to see that everything they do is in relation to someone else in their group. Kakeru acts as a brilliant contrast to the group, not only in how he interacts with them but how he acts independently of them. In fact, you can see it start to rub off on Touko now with how she is utilizing her ability, but it’s still in relation to the group that she’s trying to preserve. And this observation is not so much a knock on Glasslip considering the content and the story, but rather something the series has done well to emphasize. Seeing the characters interact with each other like this helps stress the importance of their friendships and reinforces Touko’s mission of keeping everyone together. The group mentality has been a point of emphasis for Glasslip, and the fact that all the characters, minus Kakeru, are dependent on each other is a marvelous way of showing us their cherished friendship.
Hanayamata (Episode 5)
Hanayamata isn’t an anime about yosakoi dancing; it’s an anime about forming an afterschool club on yosakoi dancing. Or, at least after five episodes, that’s the way it seems given the content of the anime and the story thus far. With the club finally established, now we can finally begin to understand yosakoi dance, from the choreography to the music to the costumes and to the culture. And, of course, the ultimate goal of the yosakoi dance club is to witness Hana, Naru, Tami and Yaya expressing themselves through this highly active, highly energetic medium. With the entire series up to this point about forming the club and the challenges Hana and Naru faced, we can hope the remainder of the series addresses these other topics with careful attention allocated to the characters and their emotional attachment to this form of art. I can’t wait to finally see all the beautiful choreography and animation that’s been promised each week with the dazzlingly and charming dances in the opening credits.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders (Episode 19)
One of the most challenging aspects of the JJBA anime is replicating the quality and detail of Araki Hirohiko’s original artwork. David Productions has done a phenomenal job with the artwork in this season of JJBA. Perhaps the most notable examples are the profuse and innovative use of colors. The anime has been exceptional in this regard to bringing the environment to life and when adding a visual component to the tension and drama of the situation. Moreover, still frames of character faces have a vivid amount of detail in their appearance and scenes with motion or animation show a respectable amount of detail, especially during fights and other memorable moments. I have always been fond of the art in JJBA and wanted to take a moment to voice my appreciation of how David Productions is handling this anime adaptation.
Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!? (Episode 5)
Let’s just pretend this episode didn’t happen. And after what happened in episode 5 of Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!?, it shouldn’t be too hard. First, the villains that appeared have no connection to the story or any of the characters. Not before this episode and probably not again after. Even better is that they were entirely forgettable, without any memorable characteristics or jokes. Okay, we’re off to a great start. That storyline of ghosts being bought and sold? Yeah, that’s not going to have an impact on the series going forward, so we can forget about it, too. Any character growth that happened in this episode? Again, nope, nothing significant anyway. Sanae was pretty friendly with Koutarou before the ending of the previous episode, so everything that happened in this episode with the two working together just placed them back to where they were at the end of episode 3. And it’s not like any of the other characters did anything substantial… well, we learned they suck at fighting super powerful ghosts, but we can ignore that, too. Wow, it’s like this episode almost never happened, right? But what about the charm that Sanae wears? Okay, yeah, something minor did happen with this episode, but that was content that could’ve taken 2 minutes at the end of the fourth episode and that likely won’t come up again until the end of the series. So yeah, if we just follow these short and simple exercises, it’s like this episode never existed!
Really, this episode was incredibly unimaginative and woefully derivative. The content jumped and scenes were cute entirely, not to mention that it took until the middle of the episode to induce the main villain despite appearing at the very beginning. And nothing in this episode will have any impact or consequences moving forward since the storyline and characters were entirely isolated from everything else. It could have and should have been reduced to only a few minutes of content and have replaced some of the beach time in the previous episode. The fifth episode of Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!? was a waste of time.
Sabagebu! (Episode 6)
Comedies are my favorite genre of anime, and I am thrilled with the humor, characters, art, and stories present in Sabagebu!. These and many other factors are what combine to help make Sabagebu! potentially my favorite comedy of the year. However, one characteristic that might be unnoticed or ignored is the fact that this anime does not have a narrative. Every segment of the anime is different, unique and independent from the last. Yes, the stories build off each other and relate to past events, but there is no central storyline about Momoka or Miou or anything about the Survival Game club. Everything is random, and that unpredictability creates a particular draw for Sabagebu!. Without needing to cater to a story or a narrative, Sabagebu! is free to do what it wants, and this is a trait common in many of my favorite comedies, such as Kill Me Baby, Nichijou, Joshiraku, Renkin Sankyuu Magical Pokaan, and Daily Lives of High School Boys. It’s a trait that isn’t essential or necessary for me to adore a comedy, but it certainly helps when the humor is always the primary focus and that a storyline or plot isn’t anchoring down. The lack of a central story or narrative in Sabagebu! is actually one of the better aspects of this anime and a substantial reason why it’s one of my favorites.
Space Dandy Season 2 (Episode 6)
Why do we register known aliens? Known aliens? Oh, you mean like that Cloudian? That alien being that many in the series already knew about, that seemed to have a constant stream of knowledge about where they live and how they act and what they do. Yeah, why would we need to register him when we already know so much about him and know where to find him and whatnot? Hmmmm…
Tokyo Ghoul (Episode 6)
What is anti-ghoul technology? What is it specifically about these weapons that makes them ideal for fighting ghouls? And why doesn’t every officer that hunts these monsters have these weapons handy? I am truly curious about these weapons, especially their origins, and I hope to find out more as we learn more about these special detectives.
Yama no Susume Second Season (Episode 5)
There has been a considerable increase in the amount of fanservice between the original Yama no Susume and this sequel. The first and fourth episodes featured bathing scenes with the onsen scene featuring Aoi embarrassing herself in front of her friends in the large, open bath. Then this episode featured two separate scenes of Aoi and Hinata pulling down each other’s skirts and revealing their panties for all the world to see… except, of course, for the viewers. And though these two examples are far from every ecchi anime, the first season of Yama no Susume never really had any scenes like this. Perhaps one rational is that Yama no Susume was always intended to have this mild level of fanservice yet never could include it due to the limited runtime of the first season. Another explanation could be that this season wanted to add a bit more flavor to the series than the first season and thought that off-screen or censored fanservice was the right path. Whatever the reason, there is still a considerable amount of fanservice in the series where there wasn’t fanservice before. It makes me curious to see how the series will play this angle moving forward, especially since hot springs resorts are synonymous with mountains in Japan. I highly doubt the series will venture far past the boundaries set by the fourth and fifth episodes, so really the question moving forward will be the frequency of fanservice in Yama no Susume.
Zankyou no Terror (Episode 5)
Imagine a girl, will you, in an unnamed anime. She’s a student, of course, and at school, she is quiet and reserved. That doesn’t mean she’s inactive or indifferent since she expresses energy and positive emotions around her friends. And she’s super cute, too, especially since she’s always in that school uniform with a miniskirt, so it’s a bit of bad luck that she’s a bit of a klutz and is undependable. And unfortunately, she’s not the kinda anime girl who cooks super-delicious cuisine but the kind that… well, do we really need to go any further? Do you have an idea in mind? Do you have an image of what she looks like? If you guessed Lisa from Zankyou no Terror, then you probably cheated and read ahead guessed right! And if you guessed any type of generic, moe anime girl, then you also guessed right!
At this point, in Zankyou no Terror, the fine line that divides the two is in the art and character design. If Lisa’s hair were any bright and brilliant color of the rainbow and if her eyes were huge and round, then maybe, just maybe, there’d be no difference between her and any type of moe anime girl. But because the art, character design, story and themes of Zankyou no Terror as so much more mature, we really don’t see Lisa as much of a moe character despite possessing many of the same attributes and personality traits. In fact, that paragraph that started this Zankyou no Terror review was written about Naru from Hanayamata, not Lisa (yeah, go back and reread it). But what separates the two at this point are two aspects: their respective art styles are vastly different and Naru has considerably more depth and complexity than Lisa at this point despite Naru being moe and Lisa being more mature. Now this isn’t to say that Lisa is moe or is destined to be undeveloped as a character, but that, at this point, she is akin to a moe character, just from a different visual perspective. It is a bit of a criticism on Lisa’s character to this point considering her importance and prominence in the story, so hopefully the series will begin to develop her character soon since the series is reaching and surpassing its halfway point with episode six.