This week: one of the primary reasons why Shirobako is one of my favorite anime of all-time, questioning other factors outside the arbiter’s control in assessing souls in Death Parade, contrasting the younger and older pilots in Soukyuu no Fafner – Dead Aggressor: Exodus, and my issues with the overpowering symbolism in Yuri Kuma Arashi.
Best episode of the week: Death Parade
Anime trending up this week: Shirobako
Anime trending down this week: Gundam Reconguista in G
Yuri Kuma Arashi (Episode 11)
Symbolism to a story is like seasoning to a steak. The story is the body of an anime, the substance which we consume and digest. Symbolism helps to enhance the story by providing flavors, textures, and helps to improve the story. And like a steak with too much seasoning, I feel that a story with too much symbolism is a shortcoming for an anime. The reason why I bring that up is that I feel that the symbolism is too overpowering and too dominant in Yuri Kuma Arashi, and that the content of the story is overshadowed as a result. As a result, many of the developments in this anime, especially in respect to the obsession of true love, feels artificial or forced. It feels unnatural. And in respect to this issue, I think a more direct approach to the heart of the story would have resolved this issue. Given the simplicity of the story and the subject of love, I think less symbolism would have done more for Yuri Kuma Arashi than what we’ve received. Then again, it’s hard to judge how less symbolism would fair in an anime like this when the symbolism is so prevalent and essential in an anime like this. Still, I feel that there was too much of an emphasis on symbolism in Yuri Kuma Arashi and that it detracted from the story and the anime as a whole.
Soukyuu no Fafner – Dead Aggressor: Exodus (Episode 12)
The contrast between the older generation of Fafner pilots and the young prodigies that are replacing them is remarkable in Soukyuu no Fafner. The anime has done an outstanding job articulated the differences in the mentalities and behaviors between the cautious and resilient experienced pilots and the passionate and unsophisticated crew of teenagers back on Tatsumiyajima. Hell, it even goes down to the subtle details, like the difference in the bands on the fingers of the experienced pilots and the untainted fingers of the new crew. Furthermore, it helps that the two sides are fighting different campaigns and that we’re able to see the two fight independently of each other, thus leaving each group intact and allowing us to see the personalities of the two groups separately. Perhaps no aspect is more dissimilar than how they respect the power of assimilation and how they fear it or do not fear it. This point has been made especially clear with the emphatic turn-of-events recently with the teenagers now experiencing adverse and horrific symptoms associated with assimilation. You wonder if they’re developing these problems because of how they act, especially since the other pilots in Asia have been largely unaffected by assimilation. It also makes you wonder how these teenagers will change in order to overcome these obstacles… or if they’ll ever be able to overcome them. Soukyuu no Fafner has done a marvelous job with these two groups of pilots and the contrasts in their personalities, and with another season of Fafner ahead, I’ll be curious to see what they do with these two groups, how they’ll grow, and what they’ll do when they come together again.
Shirobako (Episode 24 [Finale])
What makes Shirobako one of my favorite anime of all-time is that it does something distinctive that virtually no other anime can claim. No, it’s not because Shirobako was a perfect ambassador of the anime industry, consistently enlightening us of all the various subjects within individual episode production and anime series production with both humor and significance. And no, it’s not because the anime was relatable or relevant to anyone with a job, with topics from the anime industry being generalizable or familiar to its workforce audience. Those are both strong points, but it’s something that comes even before suggesting those two reasons. In fact, I’m rather surprised that this meaningful and influential aspect of Shirobako hasn’t been highlighted or emphasized more within the online anime community. What makes Shirobako one of my favorite anime of all-time is that it is written from personal experience – that the stories, subjects, and themes of Shirobako are written from the lives of the people in the anime industry.
There’s an ageless quote for writers to “write what you know”, meaning to write from individual experiences, from your emotions to your events to your knowledge, your background, your history; essentially, to write from your life. Often, anime are not authored from this perspective… unless I’m missing something and there are many in Japan who pilot mecha or fight youkai in their teenage years only to move on to manga or anime in young adulthood. The opportunity is rare because so much of anime is fiction and is regularly composed to be little more than wish fulfillment and instant gratification without a true sense of conflict or struggle. Shirobako is not like that. In fact, it’s the opposite of that. Shirobako is written from personal experience, with its hardships, its failures, its triumphs, and its enjoyment all derived from people who are currently working in the anime industry. It’s essentially a mirror for these people, an anime that acts as a reflection of their experiences, their emotions, and their lives. And because Shirobako is written from this perspective, it feels genuine and honest. There’s a certain specific quality to Shirobako that makes it essentially unmatched within anime, and it’s all expressed exquisitely through this charming and delightful show.
What I love and cherish about Shirobako is that it is an expression of the anime industry from the perspective of the anime industry. It’s unlike any other anime because it was written by the people of the anime industry, who live and breathe in the anime industry, and who want to tell a story about their experiences within the anime industry. And because of that, because it’s written from personal experience, Shirobako became that perfect ambassador of the anime industry and is relatable to anyone who has a job. It’s because the authors of Shirobako wrote what they know about that makes Shirobako one of my favorite anime of all-time.
Kantai Collection (KanColle) (Episode 12 [Finale])
Although I am impressed with the number of characters they were able to fit into Kantai Collection, not to mention the amount of screentime and lines a number of the minor characters received, I am a bit frustrated that there weren’t more characters from the game in the anime. While I understand the constraints and the limitations inherent with a 12 episode anime that features a single story, I would’ve thought the anime would feature more appearances from the franchise. Then again, considering that there are roughly 200 girls, it would be a bit too much, but Girlfriend (Kari) was able to accomplish roughly 80 voiced characters, so why not Kantai Collection? Then again, with a second season announced, I figure Kantai Collection 2 can build off what we saw in S1, especially with the introduction of Taihou at the end. Maybe it’s only a question of time, at this point, before the anime can introduce some of its other popular characters like Bismark, Tenryuu, and the submarines. Considering how I feel wanting on that issue, I guess that means I’m already looking forward to Kantai Collection 2.
Kamisama Kiss S2 (Episode 11)
The main character of Kamisama Kiss is indeed Nanami, but of all the primary characters in the anime, we know the least about her. Thankfully, the anime is ending this second season with a chronicle about her past for Tomoe and us to observe. I actually expected more on Nanami by this point in the series, especially since her homelessness was a major reason on why she’s a Land God at the Mikage Shrine today. We really don’t know much about our protagonist, so it’s rewarding to end the sequel on a story about her past as a chance to develop her character. Additionally, it’s also a chance to develop the neglected romance between Tomoe and Nanami since Tomoe will be able to learn about Nanami’s past and also why she does not want to get married to anyone. I actually wish more of Kamisama Kiss were related to Nanami and Tomoe since the other stories this season felt empty compared to what we saw in the original season. That is to say, the series lost its charm and failed to develop its romance with this sequel, making it feel like a missed opportunity than anything else. This story on Nanami’s past is the last chance this season of Kamisama Kiss has to provide adequate development to its central characters and central themes, so hopefully it can recapture the magic and end on a pleasant note. So far, it’s off to a good start…
Gundam Reconguista in G (Episode 26 [Finale])
Do the characters of Gundam G even know what was going on? Can they even begin to explain what happened? From the start, Gundam Reconguista in G’s story felt like a mess. And as the anime progressed, it only got worse. In addition, many of the actions and reactions of the characters made no sense, and the logic employed throughout was ridiculous. I can’t tell if anything meaningful happen or if any of the storylines that were brought up were resolved. Every episode felt so distant and so disconnected from each other that I’m struggling to understand what just happened during these 26 episodes besides ‘there was a war over space batteries’, and even with that, I don’t know what happened or who won or why they were fighitng. This is the worst storytelling I’ve ever, ever seen in an anime.
Durarara!!x2 Shou (Episode 12 [Finale])
Say, if all the crazy stuff happening in Durarara!! is all contained within Ikebukuro, what’s going on in the other regions of Tokyo? Are they just as strange? Are they just as lively and energetic and bizarre? After all, we’ve seen a number of gangs and supernatural beings in this series come from elsewhere to be in this anime, so there’s reason to suggest the outside world is just as bonkers as Ikebukuro. Celty might be the best example in Durarara!!, but this season’s new characters, like Chikage from Saitama, Vorona (or is it Varona?) and Sloan from Russia, and even Akane, are all from outside Ikebukuro. We rarely venture outside the borders of Ikebukuro, so excuse me for being curious of the monsters and mythos that might be having fun in Ginza, Shibuya, and Asakusa.
I’ve always wondered that about Durarara!!, why Ikebukuro? Why this specific district in Tokyo, especially when so many of its characters are from outside its borders. And why don’t these conflicts spill outside Ikebukuro, too, how is everything in Durarara!! all within Ikebukuro? Although this season of Durarara!! has come to a close, there will be another 2 cour over the next year that I hope address this question of its setting and more specifically, why Ikebukuro. I’m not sure whether we’ll receive an answer or not, but I hope to learn more about this city, about its people, and why everyone and everything in Durarara!! takes place solely within Ikebukuro.
Dog Days’’ (S3) (Episode 12 [Finale])
The relevance of strength and power has always bothered me in Dog Days. Given that there are now so many characters with so many backgrounds and so many abilities, it makes sense that they have to balance the newfound strength and abilities with stronger characters for the fights to be fair. I mean, the action in Dog Days would definitely suffer if Sharu, Leaf, and Verde all lost after one attack. Then again, it seems kinda strange to see these Heroes and princesses and body guards as the strongest people in the world continue to get stronger and continue to struggle against random opponents. I mean, given the Divine Sword that Shinku wields, you figure he’d win every fight with just that. I mean, in the first season, he did just that with just that one tool. Then, in the second season, he received a Hero Crystal and is even more dominant. Now, in the third season, he and Gaul need to team up to defeat one demon. It really doesn’t make sense how strong these new characters are compared to everyone else when we’ve been demonstrated how powerful they are already in previous seasons. Then again, it falls back on the point of wanting to make the battles meaningful and entertaining, so there needs to be some level of equivalence for it to work. Nevertheless, it’s an issue that bothered me more than anything else in this season of Dog Days, so if that’s the worst issue on my mind, I guess you could say this season was a success after its extended absence.
Death Parade (Episode 12 [Finale])
One of the central themes of Death Parade was how to appropriately evaluate a person’s soul. Death Parade brought up a number of issues with its system on how to measure a person’s wholesomeness, primarily through Chiyuki’s contrasts with Decim and how to map emotions and experiences to good and evil. The purpose of the arbiter system in Death Parade was to keep a stable methodology between arbiters by preventing them from obtaining human emotions and beginning to measure souls differently. This consistent argument, between human emotions and not, led me to ponder my own questions of how this system operates and how other issues inherent within the system would lead to inconsistencies in its outcomes.
For example, does a person’s outcome, whether being sent for reincarnation or destined for the void, matter on their arbiter as is, such as between Decim and Ginti? What about when a person sees an arbiter, such as how they differ in evaluating their 10th client or their 10,000th client. How much influence does their opponent have, over their outcome, such as if they’re paired with someone more pure than they are or more evil than they are? How much influence does the game have, such as experience or knowledge or motor skills and hand-eye coordination? I truly wonder how these variables effect how a person behaves and whether these are aspects are accounted for when an arbiter makes their final decision. Of course, all this is beyond the scope of that central theme on humans judging other humans, but it’s still fun to consider the constraints and limitations of their system within their universe and how it affects their ability to find the absolute truth in each soul.