For Week 4: adoring the transformation and westernization of the setting in Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu, the authenticity, weight, and significance of battles in Hai to Gensou no Grimgar, why the letterbox formatting is my favorite directing decision of Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, and disruption in the sense of community in Durarara!!x2 Ketsu.
Best episode of the week: Boku Dake ga Inai Machi
Anime trending up this week: Hai to Gensou no Grimgar
Anime trending down this week: Dagashi Kashi
Boku Dake ga Inai Machi (Episode 4)
Among all the remarkable directing and aesthetic choices in Boku Dake ga Inai Machi, none are more prominent or ubiquitous than the 2.35:1 letterbox format for the 1988 scenes. Whereas most anime are now produced in the ordinary 16:9 widescreen format, Boku Dake ga Inai Machi alternates between the conventional 16:9 format for scenes in the present (2006) and the unfamiliar, cinematic 2.35:1 format for the past (1988). Furthermore, there are other directing and aesthetic changes that occur between the two settings, but none are more anchoring or pronounced as the aspect ratios. While countless anime take a similar approach in alerting colors, lighting and cinematography between differing timelines, none has taken the same novel approach as Boku Dake ga Inai Machi and used a cinematic format to differentiate between eras. Without the letterbox format, I’m certain that Boku Dake ga Inai Machi would have been successful in representing the past, but the unusual aspect ratio gives it an entirely different feel and helps cement the difference between the past and present. To me, the letterbox format in Boku Dake ga Inai Machi is the most striking and significant aspect of the directing to me. Given how underutilized this cinematographic element is, I am ecstatic to see it being used here and used with a purpose. Boku Dake ga Inai Machi certainly has many other directing and aesthetic elements worth discussing, but none are as fascinating to me as the widescreen formats that we’ve seen between the settings of 1988 and 2006.
Dagashi Kashi (Episode 4)
So…. is that it? Is Dagashi Kashi just one joke, repeated a handful of times each episode, with miniscule variations in delivery but the same swing-and-a-miss conclusion? I get it. Hotaru loves candy, Kokonotsu misinterprets everything Hotaru does as sexual, Saya is jealous, and Tou is an idiot. Is there anything else this anime can do besides candy-related humor? Don’t get me wrong, I’m still enjoying Dagashi Kashi, but the question is how much longer will I enjoy it? I found the first two episodes to be enjoyable, but I’ve noticed my interest and engagement wearing with these last two episodes, and I don’t think Dagashi Kashi has anything planned to recover from this downward trend. It’s almost like the beginning of the series was a sugar high, and now the rest of the series will be the sugar crash.
Dimension W (Episode 4)
I’m not really sure what to think of Dimension W now, what with the gradual change in its comedy and fanservice. After the first episode, I set myself in for a serious, sci-fi, action-adventure between a misfit combo of an old guy who hates technology and a cute, robot-girl sidekick. I didn’t expect that Dimension W would have more naked robot girls than all of Koukaku no Pandora, but it managed to do that in just this episode alone. Now that’s not say that Dimension W is awful; I still and watching it and enjoy it, but these last two episodes of Dimension W feel like a completely different anime than the first two episodes.
Durarara!!x2 Ketsu (Episode 4)
One of the most brilliant aspects about Durarara!! is the size of its cast and its sense of community and social structure. Durarara!! is entirely about a living, breathing city that’s half-populated with weirdos and half-populated with monsters. But as the series has progressed, the characters are starting to feel more and more isolated, as if they’re being grouped into islands with little contact with the other cohorts in Ikebukuro. That may be true given the progression of the story and what is entirely necessary from the storytelling perspective, but I would like to see more interactions between these groups, even if it were merely to be the characters walking past each other on the street during scenes or being in the same restaurant. Of course, that might seem odd considering the size of Ikebukuro and the number of people everywhere, but it would be nice to see some of the other characters who have played smaller roles be featured more considering that this anime is about community and society in general.
Hai to Gensou no Grimgar (Episode 4)
Hai to Gensou no Grimgar is quickly becoming the surprise of the season given how genuine and heavy the anime feels. While I still have a few issues with the series, the positives are overshadowing the negatives, especially in regards to the fights between the characters and the goblins. Not only do the fights feel honest and authentic, with kills coming from hitting vital points rather than reducing hit points to zero, but the scenes feel heavy, with a sense of purpose and being. That and those swords actually carry weight, with how they swing them and how they defend in the fights. You would actually guess they’re made of a heavy, durable metal and not light as a twig, as you might guess from other fantasy anime. But perhaps the greatest aspect of Grimgar, to date, is that death feels substantial and significant… no, let me start over: every death feels substantial and significant. What strikes me as remarkable about Grimgar is that even the monster deaths feel weighty and meaningful. It’s not like other fantasy anime where no one really reflects on the monsters they just killed, there is legitimate thought and feeling behind every action on the battlefield. As a result, Grimgar is astonishing me with its unexpected detail and complexity in battle, and is becoming one of the better anime this winter.
Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! (Episode 3)
After being introduced to Megumin and Darkness, numbers 3 and 4 of our main quartet, I’m beginning to wonder if I’d prefer the anime with just Satou and Aqua together than the four main characters together. To me, I enjoyed the simple chemistry between Satou and Aqua, especially with how the two were dysfunctional together at best. Now with Megumin and Darkness, there are more connections, jokes, and material between the characters, but it lessens the wonderful and blessed relationship that Satou and Aqua shared. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t necessarily remove Megumin and Darkness (well, I’m lying, I would remove Darkness), but I wouldn’t have them be part of the main group and just be axially helpers who follow them around and join in their misadventures from time to time. Then again, I’m only three episodes in (in reality, I’m up to date, but for the purposes of reviewing this episode), so I’m not really sure where this anime is going or what it hopes to achieve with these characters. All I know is that I miss the engaging relationship and humor between Satou and Aqua from the first episode and hope that we get it again soon.
Koukaku no Pandora (Episode 4)
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (Episode 4)
Easily my favorite aspect of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu is seeing the gradual yet radical transformation that Japan experienced from pre-WWII to post-WWII. The change in the setting is beautiful and mesmerizing, and particularly how nonchalant the characters are over the westernization. Take a look at the backgrounds and you’ll notice changes in architecture, advertising, transportation, and clothing. Take a look at the technology and the modernization of Japan, with electricity and mechanics becoming widespread. Look at just about everything in the setting of Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu and you’ll see the shift from traditional Japanese society to a pre-modern Japanese humanity. It’s absolutely breathtaking, especially for someone like me who adores the settings of anime more than just about every other aspect. I honestly can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a setting as much as this, and I am truly thankful that Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu has depicted such an important and momentous era in Japanese and world history.
Utawarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen (Episode 17)
What I’ve been hoping since the beginning of Utwarerumono: Itsuwari no Kamen is that the sequel will provide answers to the original Utawarerumono. The original anime certainly had a more engaging story and narrative than this sequel, but the ending felt chaotic and rushed, and never left me satisfied or appreciative of the story, setting, or characters of Utawarereumono. Since finishing the finale of the original almost a decade ago, I’ve always wanted more to the anime, and in a way, a proper conclusion to one of my favorite anime of the 2000s. To say this sequel has been disappointing would be an understatement, but there is still hope it can achieve this very simple and significant goal to me. And with this episode dedicated to the setting, history, and story of Utawarerumono, my faith is restored just enough to think it might actually achieve what I truly want from it. Whether it meets that goal or not still remains, but there are plenty of episodes to address and answer my questions that were left unanswered from the original anime many years ago.