Back during Week 10: expanding my theory about the primary and secondary focuses of Hanayamata, an example of the magnificent cinematography in Zankyou no Terror, what made episode 23 of Captain Earth the best in that anime, and the return of the subtle yet sensational running gag in Space Dandy Season 2.
Best episode of the week: Hanayamata
Anime trending up this week: Captain Earth
Anime trending down this week: Aldnoah.Zero
Zankyou no Terror (Episode 8)
Cinematography is often a challenge for anime given the constraints of the medium and the difficult production schedules. Nevertheless, Zankyou no Terror defies these limitations and utilizes various techniques that have led to some dazzling and vibrant shots. For example, in this episode, there was a scene where Shibazaki and Hamura were walking and talking. A good majority of dialogue in anime are shot close-up (tight shots, head shots) where you see a character’s face talking with little to no motion. However, this scene was shot at an extra-wide angle showing a busy road and a commuter train running in the background. Not only does this provide the anime with some diversity in its shots, but it also breaks up the monotony of close-up shots while also providing a dynamic environment, with cars and trains zooming by. And it’s not like there’s any meaning or symbolism behind these cars or the train… it’s just details they added to the anime to improve its quality. And all that without even mentioning the fact that the two detectives are outside the first vertical third (if you don’t understand, look up the Rule of Thirds) of the shot, too. Of course, there are many other notable examples in this episode and throughout the series beyond this one, but this one in particular stood out to me in how it drastically improved the scene. Shots like these and other fine cinematographic techniques are the reasons why I adore certain anime directors more than others. Shinichirou Watanabe has consistently shown a keen use of cinematography in his anime and continues to do so in Zankyou no Terror.
Yama no Susume Second Season (Episode 9)
I understand what Yama no Susume wanted to accomplish with the two Americans hiking Mount Fuji. What they wanted to do with these characters was establish the fact that Mount Fuji is a popular destination for international tourists, not just Japanese nationals. And in a sense, they did just that. But the random lines in English sprinkled across this episode were more unintentionally hilarious than anything else. And I know it gets even better in the tenth episode too, in the hotel room. Those English voices were intended to be another educational point for Yama no Susume, but it quickly turned into the most amusing aspect of the series for me. I hope they continue to make appearances in future episodes.
Sword Art Online II (Episode 10)
Without a doubt, the settings of Sword Art Online are my favorite element of the anime. The diverse and magnificent environments, the social hierarchies in these online communities, the games they play and the people they see… all of this encompasses why I am enjoying this season of Sword Art Online. In particular though, and what I want to focus on this week, are the visuals of these physical (or virtual) locations. I barely mentioned it when complaining about the sheer magnitude of the starting city, SBC Glocken, but I absolutely love the design and how it’s presented in the anime. It’s the same for all the various battlegrounds that Kirito and Sinon fought in, especially the ruins and now the desert landscape. I am confident the anime will continue to impress me with future environments too, once this GGO arc is over… which hopefully is sooner rather than later.
Space Dandy Season 2 (Episode 10)
The best comical feature of Space Dandy is also the most subtle. Throughout the series, there has been a running gag that is hardly ever emphasized, or even mentioned, but has played a key role in a number of scenes… and it was on display again in this episode. What is it you ask? It’s the fact that Dandy has never hit his target, not even once, with his laser gun. Yes, every time Dandy pulls out his weapon, you can guarantee that his lasers will go everywhere except at his target. And this running gag has been used throughout the series, beginning in the first episode when Space Dandy was about hunting new aliens. The fact that this running gag has remained a constant in this series is something that helps connect Dandy between every episode and the series as a whole; it’s one of the few things you can count on in each episode. And whenever we see this ongoing joke, Dandy destroying everything around him but his enemy, I can’t help but laugh every time. It’s an incredibly subtle piece of comedy in Space Dandy but it’s my favorite joke in the series.
Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!? (Episode 9)
Did anyone else notice the dramatic and significant shift in art style and cinematography during the middle of this episode? I’m assuming that this is when Shin Oonuma awoke from his slumber during this series and added his artistic touch, since the use of light, colors and camera angles paralleled his work from his previous anime. Not only was the scene visually impressive with its brilliant art, but the scene felt very odd and out-of-place, not only in this episode but in this series. Really, the animation and art has been mediocre in Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!?, so it was exceptionally surprising to see such a high level of quality and effort put into such a simple scene. It makes me wonder what the series could have been if it had a larger budget… not only to improve the visuals in this series but to extend it to two seasons so that it didn’t feel rushed with multiple scenes cut out. Then again, you can’t help but wonder how every other anime would be different if it had better art and more time to tell its stories, so it’s not like Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!? is the only anime with issues in its visuals and its limited time-frame. Still, I think improves in both those areas would significantly improve the series as these are currently limiting factors in my evaluations for this anime.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders (Episode 23)
Frequently, when older anime are rebooted or when older manga are adapted, the technologies of the previous generations vanish and are replaced by the gadgets seen and used in the present. If you want two recent examples, look at the differences between Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon: Crystal or with Ping Pong the Animation: both anime have swapped their outdated technologies (floppy disks, game consoles) with sleek, modern alternatives. However, JJBA is not like that. Part 3, Stardust Crusaders, is set in the year 1989. And the best way for it to feel like 1989 is to employ the technologies of that era in the anime. Satellite phones for international calls, CRT televisions, the lack of personalized computers, boxy or angular vehicles… just everything feels dated or somewhat antiquated. Perhaps the era would be better expressed if Jotaro and friends were traveling across the globe since the differing geographies and cultures don’t emphasize the technologies or fashion or social aspects as if this anime took place solely in Japan. However, I am fond of how the anime makes it feel like it is in 1989 through various elements in the setting despite some of the difficulties and challenges of doing so.
Hanayamata (Episode 9)
Hanayamata is an anime about yosakoi dance. At the same time, Hanayamata is an anime about everything else but yosakoi dance. That is so say, Hanayamata is about yosakoi dance, but yosakoi dance is secondary to everything else? Confused? Good.
What I mean by these esoteric remarks is that Hanayamata is an anime that focuses on the lives of the girls around the yosakoi dance club. What connects all these girls and is a constant throughout the story is yosakoi dance. However, the anime tends to focus its stories more on the girls, their challenges and how they grow as characters. I alluded to this concept earlier in the season when I explained that Hanayamata was more about forming the club and connecting with the girls than about yosakoi dance… and now I want to expand on that theory. Rather than just being about the club itself, Hanayamata is an anime about the girls who love yosakoi and who dance yosakoi. That doesn’t mean the anime is about yosakoi dance, especially with this episode revolving about the fragmented and estranged relationship between Sari and Machi. That was the primary focus of the episode. But what brought them together? The girls of the yosakoi club, meaning that yosakoi (or rather the club) was the secondary focus of this episode. And really, that has been the pattern of this anime since its first episode; it’s an anime about the girls growing up with yosakoi dance as a secondary element to their stories. So yes, Hanayamata is an anime about yosakoi dance, but this wonderful, imaginative and passionate anime is about so much more.
Captain Earth (Episode 23)
Captain Earth has shown flashes of excellence, but it has never put it together for a full episode before. Habitually, the anime would readily fold on itself through any combination of unceasing and excessive jargon, unexplained or vague story mechanics, dubious character decisions, lackluster fights or any number of other significant issues related to the storytelling or characters. However, Captain Earth managed to forget these traditions and forged an episode that was actually pretty darn great. What I wanted from early on in this series was an explanation and introspection from the villains. I yearned to learn their philosophies, to understand why they made their decisions and why some felt conflicted with their morals and their missions. The twenty-third episode of Captain Earth finally answered some of these queries with each Kill-T-Gang member speaking directly to Daichi. However, what was impressive about this episode is that they spoke indirectly about themselves. Each question they asked was a reflection of their character and the decisions they’re making. It finally gave the characters depth and gave a motive to their actions. It provided context to their characters and we were able to see them as characters and not nameless, faceless villains that fly around in cold, metal mecha in the depths of sublunar space. This is what I wanted all along from Captain Earth, and it finally delivered in easily the best episode of this anime.
Barakamon (Episode 9)
No other episode so perfectly demonstrates the fact that Seishuu is an adult that acts like a kid. The dichotomy of Seishuu’s character is split between the two scenes at the playground and at the river canyon. At the playground, Seishuu was like a child, readily arguing with the older children rather than taking control of the situation like an adult. At the river canyon, Seishuu was like an adult, warning the kids of the dangers of the vine swing instead of being a kid and enjoying it despite its obvious dangers. However, this schism in Seishuu’s character makes him ideal for the anime being how he interacts with the children and teenagers and how he behaves around the adults. This is a pleasant trait to Seishuu’s character that has been employed throughout the series and was particularly noticeable in this episode.
Aldnoah.Zero (Episode 10)
Everything reminds me of Needless. Everything. Don’t believe me? Just ask my one and only friend legions of devoted followers. So yeah, when watching this episode, I immediately was reminded of this outstanding scene.
Too bad Aldnoah.Zero isn’t this awesome. I really, really wish more anime were honest about these ‘fake character deaths’ since they’re played out so dramatically but are usually just awful. And these scenes in Aldnoah.Zero were pretty much awful.
Akame ga Kill! (Episode 10)
Tatsumi’s relic, Incursio, is easily the best relic for him in Akame ga Kill. The villains (Jaegers) now have an identity for Tatsumi, being Esdeath’s ‘lover’. However, Tatsumi will want to keep his identity a secret to them when fighting and Incursio accomplishes that better than any other relic. Not only does Incursio cover Tatsumi’s face, meaning that no one from Jaegers can identify him on the battlefield, but Incursio also has the ability to turn invisible, meaning that there’s another layer of protection in hiding Tatsumi’s identity. This means that Tatsumi will be able to fight without Esdeath and the others knowing who he is or where he is. And this can be extremely valuable later on in the series should he be seen in public by Jaegers or Esdeath; they won’t know that he’s a member of Night Raid because Insursio prevents them from identifying him. It’s almost as if this relic was purposely designed for Tatsumi in this situation since the two fit like a hand in a glove. Not only is this the only relic that hides the face of the user, but it also comes with a cloaking device that hides the user completely. It’s perfect for Tatsumi to hide his identity like he did in this episode against Wave, and I can see Incursio having this continued benefit for the duration of the anime.