Monday, April 17, 2017

Spring 2017 Anime Digest of Series I am watching with First Impressions

Alice to Zouroku: The story of a tightly wound old man and the magical little the invades his life this is a series that has alternatively heart warming slice of life moments like Zouroku's granddaughter Sanae cooking for and trying to befriend the skittish Alice. to nicely choreographed action scenes in the first episode to long view flash backs of one of the antagonist's past that helps humanize her. The series is a little rough to look at in places but the overall soft character design and muted pastel color scheme makes up for the conspicuous CGI and backgrounds that don't stop moving in one scene in episode one. In short it's a nice series that while it may have it's dark elements still has a heart and knows when to use drama effectively and when to be cute without being saccharine or anodyne Atom: The Beginning: A prequel to the original Astro Boy this focuses on the hardscrabble college years of Drs. Tenma and Ochanomizu it's enjoyable enough but I have never been a big Tezuka fan (his works and those of Studio Ghibli are two of the biggest holes in my Anime library). And watching the first episode I found myself trying to remember the origin story for Astro and trying to rework it back into this series. While it stands on it's own as an interesting meditation on AI and a look at the early years of two iconic characters from Tezuka's "star System" my lack of familiarity with the parent story keeps me from completely loving this as much as I want to. Still the Mecha design is impressive the classic Tezuka character design mixed with soft pastel colors makes this at leas visually nice to look at even if I'm a little on the fence about fully embracing it Berserk (2017): What can I say the first season of this series was on my worst of the year list and this season does nothing to dissuade me from my continued distain for this grim dark power fantasy almost all of the characterization feels shallow and the new Band of The Hawk simply feels like reskinned versions of the old Band of The Hawk. While visually it is still the same garish mixture of CGI and quasi-traditional animation. The only reason I will keep watching it is simply because I can put it on my end of the season worst of list if not worst of the year list. Boruto: Naruto Next Generations: I have never been a huge Naruto fan I have only seen a handful of the Anime series one of the movies and read a sporadic amount of the Manga. All that being said Boruto chronicling the adventures of Naruto's son Boruto as he tries to become a Ninja and gain his Father's attention. I really enjoyed this it captures what good Shonen Manga and Anime can do taking a character and see them grow. While also having the second generation of Ninja the children of most of the supporting cast from the original and despite having to google a few names it was fun to go on that kind of scavenger hunt and learn. Also it looks all shiny and happy while having a refreshing sense of earnestness to it as well. Armed Girl's Machiavellism: there is not much to say here it is a big dumb action series set in my favorite subgenre of big dumb action series the "battling school" story in which one character has to fight a school full of opponents. In this a juvenile delinquent gets sent to a former girl's school and has to fight the all female student council. Some have seen this as sub textual misogyny but I think that's a stretch. That being said the series is looks like the first season of Battle Vixens and plays like the firs arc of Tenjo Tenge wich makes me like it despite bad character animation. Anonymous Noise: An High school romance about music I really only picked this up because Saori Hayami is voicing the female lead. So far with only one episode not much has happened our heroine Nino is an introspective girl who constantly practices her singing hoping to be reunited with her childhood friend Kanade only to do so and than Nino wows everyone in an live performance. While thinking of her other childhood friend Momo. Honestly this has the makings of really good romance if Momo gets some good character development in the next episode. Kanade is a rare example of a well written male Tsundere as he comes off as flustered and a little snarly but not border line abusive. While the ending performance works Hayami is considered one of the better singers in her generation of Seiyuu and while for the most part she is known for either powerhouse ballads or slick J-Pop. Hayami pulls off an anguished and almost wounded performance of some decent J-Rock that shows that the girl with the voice of a princess can pull off an emotional range that works. This series could end up like PG-13 Nana but that's actually a good thing. Kabukibu!: A series about a group of boys who want to set up a Kubuki club in High School feels like is could either end up being Cheer Boys or Meganbu it's not one of the stronger looking series from Studio Deen and all fels kind of aimless but it's a sight better to look at something cheery and goofy after watching Berserk if nothing else. In short it is slight but feels to at least have a love for the thing the charcters are all expressing an intrest in and makes me care. Which is important Kenka Banchou Otome: Girl Beats Boys: A short Anime about a girl who has to infiltrate a school chockablock with Yankees it's badly animated with background characters being barely animated silhouettes it's again another slight series but considering some of the heaver series I'm watching escapeist entertainment is not all that bad and at only eight minutes it's not that much of a comtment. Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt 2nd Season: An continuation of season one of the ONA this continues to have the deeply unpleasant feel of the darker iterations of Mobile Suit Gundam while looking fantastic from an animation standpoint while only so much spit an polish can cover the bleak withered heart of the series. I may joke that it's the series that makes me want to hide all the sharp objects in my house but it honestly captures the moral gray scale of warfare while simply observeing it with no real judgment on either side. A dark moody and haunting depiction of war. Re:Creators: Super meta and clever while at times being funny in a way that only other Otaku would understand it Re:Creators is an exploration of what would happen if fictional characters ended up in reality and by it's first episode it is so far in the front running for best of the season and a slot in my best of the year. Capturing taught action scenes winking references to everything from the Persona game franchise to Light Novels to RPG games. Sakura Quest: A lazy rural series about a girl who tries to find work and gets roped into trying to revitalize a town that has fallen on hard times it looks nice but is so slow and has such one dimensional cast that it all feels kind of meh so it's costing by mostly on visual shine and occasional shenanigans. Sakurada Reset: Overly cerebral this series makes Kana Hanazawa into a lifeless dirge of a character with plot convenient powers and while the writeing does some good things with her inner life it is so ponderously philosophically as to be soporific. Still it feels like it's going places so I'll stick around but so far it is dull with a capital D. Rage of Bahamut: Virgin Soul: A continuation of Rage of Bahamut Genesis this is all swashbuckling action and epic battle with unattained mysteries and an peppy and likeable female lead in Nina the adventurer a great continuation of the first season with enough callbacks to the first season to make it a special treat for fans of the first season. World Break: Set five hundred years after humanity has been eliminated this is a series that has a mixture of sweetness and impending doom with adorable children being possibly used by the beast people in this post apocalyptic world as human weapons. Along with odd bits of humor like a Troll maid who matter-of-factly admits to wanting to eat the protagonist. To flashbacks to centuries past in the protagonist's past. It has the potential to be a solid fantsy on par with last year's Re:Zero. Tsuki ga Kieri: Sweet understated awkward teenage romance with an Dazi qouteing protagonist and a shy female lead this is a series that captures the feelings of the early teen years while neiter doen playing them or making them overly important. With it's muted color palet and insuler dialogue this feels like good Mari Okada. Laughing Salesman New: An strange monkey's paw like episodic series about people who get their heart's desire but are undone by their own overweening desire for things. With an old looking charcter design mixed with odd colorful scenes it makes for a chilling morality tail spun out of the mind of one of the creators of Doramon Grimoire of Zero: Middle brow fantasy described as "Berserk with furries" by an Anon on 4chan is a sometimes funny sometime somber contemplation of fantastical racism and the excesses of organized religion. While also having a thoughtful relationship between the two main characters solid meat and potatoes middle brow fantasy. Simple and economical in it's characterization shile never looseing it's heart.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Best and Worst Anime of Winter 2017

My best of The Winter breaks down as Kemono Friends being the best thing I saw this season another series would at this but I will get to that when I get to the worst of list. Kemono Friends was something I dropped five minutes in when it first came out with it's hideous looking CGI but I Picked back up after I saw it was getting something like four to five threads a day on 4chan and started watching it and I came away charmed, comforted, and emotionally invested. Bad Iyashikei and Slice of Life Anime are the emotional and aesthetic equivalent to doing heroin in that it basicly obliterates any enjoyment of the series and reduces your brain to "mush." Kemono Friends never had that effect I cared about Serval and Kaban's adventures wondered what the world they where in really was and over all felt satisfied with everything when it ended. Kemono Friends may not be a profound series but it is emotionally impactful and for me that means something. Honorable Mentions: Interviews With Monster Girls this is both for the over all kindness of the series and that I could actually see this as an honest representation of an alternate universe treatment of "special needs" students. and having been in Special Education through all four years of High School it all felt eerily familiar to me. KonoSuba Season 2: Season one was my pick for best of the year this season only didn't end up best because Kemono Friends ended up being an all around better show due it's to it's "x factor". In short KonoSuba Season 2 is simply a solid continuation of an already great series and I tend to try and reward out of left field series or originality more than continuations of already good continuing properties. The Saga of Tanya The Evil: This seriously could have ended up being some sort fo weird offensive revisionist history but instead it ended up being a bleak look at war and questions about perception versus reality and the place of logic and instinct in life and ethics. It's not something I expected to enjoy as much as I did because I am not a military Otaku I don't hate military things it's just never been a burning interest of mine. The only thing that keeps this from being higher on the list is that Studio Nut had a few production delays and if these had not been in the series this would have been my best of the season. Seiren: Simply put this is the kind of goofy and cute awkward kind of Romance I like and while parts of it feel like a repurposed version of Amagami SS the sort of bumbling awkwardness is what made this so fun for me. Worst of List this is the one where I fall on my proverbial sword also it's only three because I don't like writing about stuff I dislike as it's frankly draining : #1. Scum's Wish: Let me say up front that I actually liked the ending to this series it gave me an ending to a romance Manga and Anime I have been silently clamoring for, for years. That being said the journey to get to that destination is not worth the trip for me. This for me is something that falls into that rare category of outright offensive Anime and Manga I can forgive something for being technically inept. Yet this series had characters that where so lost in their own heads that at one point they felt dissociated from their own bodies and physical actions it honestly boarded on an kind of solipsism. If you are looking for an kind of atypical romance series that does not feel so in love with it's own characters misery I'd recommend Arakawa Under the Bridge as an alternative. #2. Hand Shakers: This is a disaster in every aspect of the word not even the occasionally Jazzy Hip Hop influenced score of Goon Trax could save this CGI abomination from the slag heap. #3. Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen: Yeah that part of the ending killed it for me this caused the show to suffer what I call "The Identity Crisis Effect" named after the DC Comic that retroactively killed any enjoyment of Silver Age Comics for some fans. This is a term I apply to series that have an ending that retroactively ruin any enjoyment I had of the series. Rakugo may be a technical masterpiece Akira Ishida and Yuu Kobayashi may have turned in some of the best performances of their carriers but ultimately it is all ruined because of one oblique reference the final episode of the second season. If this doesn't bother you or you can like it in spite of this fine but for me it's a solid no you almost had me Rakugo and than you went and pulled that so no just no. Best Seiyuu Male: Akira Ishida despite my problems with the series Akira Ishida turned in a master class of understatement, charm, and world weariness that was a treat to watch each week. Best Seiyuu: This would have gone to Yuu Kobayashi on the strength of her Rakugo performance alone but if episode Eleven of The Saga of Tanya the Evil had not happened and Aoi Yūki had not allowed Tanya's sneering mask of contempt to slip in her line delivery it would have all been Kobayashi's to have undeniably. Yet Yūki won out in showing one of the few truly vulnerable and human moments for the otherwise unflappable Tanya combined with her over all performance which in retrospect had more range in comparison to Kobayashi's which on reflection had one crowning moment of genius after two seasons to work on a character Aoi Yūki had one season to work on a character who was in many ways irredeemably evil and vile. While also having to play on the charm of being a supposedly "innocent" little girl who also has the memories of an older person from an different time period. Aoi Yūki had the harder job and had to make a character who looks like an adorable blue eyed raccoon and make her not only intimidating but worthy of respect and even hard won admiration.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Scum's Wish: Final Thoughts

For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. Galatians 5:17 In the end everyone makes a separate peace with their pasts Hanabi mulls over her feelings about Mugi and wther she is ready for (counting Sanae) third love. While Sanae has seemingly moved on even going through the requisite hair cut. Kanai is deliriously happy with Akane and Akane seems to hve learned to be honest with her feelings and quit putting up pretenses even Moka seems to have reached some sort of closure. Mugi is simply there in the narrative and nothing much is learned about how he really feels after he and Hanabi agree to part ways. Honestly this is the kind of ending I have wanted for a romance Manga for years where the protagonist ends up with no one and instead decides to move on honestly I felt happy Hanabi at the end she came out of the experience she had a more self aware and stronger person. Yet ultimately the journey is not worth the destination while the ending is at least hopeful the ending is honestly better than the main storyline with all it's tawdry excess and solipsistic ruminations on love and sex. I still can't call this series good but it is at least honest even if that honesty is like the honesty of a punch to the face. While I came away actually respecting the series I'll never like it and ultimately it's parts make it worse than the whole.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mobile Suit Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans

Set in a completely different continuity than the Universal Century continuity Iron Blooded Orphans chronicles the story of a group of child workers on Mars who are uses as essentially slave labor by their boss and their latter involvement with the Martian Independence movement it's figure head and leader Kudelia Aina Bernstein and the ensueing fight to protect her and the youth's newly founded organization founded by Orga Itsuka who with the help of his right hand man Mikazuki Augus overthrow their employer and take on a contract to escort Kudelia back to earth all the while avoiding criminal syndicates, space pirates, and Gjallarhorn a corrupt power bloc on earth that put end to The Calamity War centuries ago. Iron Blooded Orphans is not as some have called it Mari Okada's Gundam no it is a Gundam series with some of the worst aspects of Okada's writing soldered on to an Gundam story. From pointless character deaths that confuse something being sad with it being poignant, unresolved love triangles, and themes of family some of these are better done than others the actual skeleton of the idea a rag tag bunch of kids gain access to an old Mobile Gundam Suit from a long ago fought centuries old war. While they try to assert their independence, autonomy, and basic humanity in a society that sees them as nothing more than expendable pawns in games of real politick. Is interesting it's only that Mikazuki has all the personality of a fence post and is only really defined by his relationship to Orga along with his almost emotionless and sociopathic tendencies that make him hard to sympathize with but much like  Eren Yeager in Attack on Titan makes him almost inhuman in fact by the end of the series I found myself more broken up over the death of one of the antagionists than one of the main secondary charcters and even than it all felt so telegraphed as to feel artificial. I am by no means an Okada hater I thought Wandering Son was a truly empathetic portrait of someone struggling with their Gender Identity or that Anohana really got the idea of mourning someone and learning to move on. Yet this is many of Okada's worst traits as a writer combined with cliché Gundam plot elements that felt borrowed from series as different as Gundam Unicorn to Gundam Seed. In fact it could be easy to see Iron Blooded Orphans as an attempt to make a new Gundam Seed for a New Generation. But at least SEED gave Kira some kind of emotional range and the dark elements made sense. In Iron Blooded Orphans the dark elements feel gratuitous and Mikazuki frankly feels like a cipher. In short this is a tiresome and bland Gundam series that has none of the grim seriousness of the original Mobile Suit Gundam, the over the top goofy charm of G Gundam, or the angst and moral conundrums of Gundam Wing. Any of these would be a better choice than this tepid attempt at Gundam for a new generation.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Scum's Wish Episode 11 Review

Akane and Kanai goon a couple's getaway and Akane does some deep soul searching about how she really feels and why she does what she does until Kanai unconditionally accepts Akane and proposes marriage that she accepts. The episode ends with Akane telling Mugi and breaking of their relationship while Mugi confesses that he always loved the "broken" Akane. For a series that has been so much about artifice and presentation over reality and artifice and fantasy over reality and honesty this has to be the most honest episode of the series honestly giving Akane a real human heart and not the two dimensional villain she has been for the first ten episodes. The entire first half focusing on Kanai who is if nothing chivalrous and considerate which baffles Akane and tries to find a way to "corrupt" the overgrown boy scout. IT's kind of funny and sweet to see Akane kind of baffled by the fact that someone would be willing to accept her as she is even if she ends up hurting him. This could all devolve into some kind of codependency or hero complex on Kanai's part but honestly at this point I'll take what ever shred of human tenderness I can get from this series which up until this point has been stifling and suffocating in it's angst leaving the series feeling like an long self indulgent journal entry from someone with no real emotional maturity or someone's idea of what that might be like. Yet it still took ten episodes of wallowing in the stultifying emotional stygian to get to this point and as enjoyable as this episode was as a respite from that. It all feels tonally off and with only one more episode I think everything will end up feeling rushed and while I hold out hope for a conclusive ending I don't know if closure will equal satisfaction or it could end up like season two of Tokyo Ghoul. I don't know I know I'll just be happy this experience is over because it has been one of the most dispiriting experiences watching Anime I have had other than watching Violence Jack