Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Winter Stream: Yurikuma: Episode 3

With this the series takes on questions of social isolation, revenge and the indavidual versus society while the idea that that the bears are alternatively in love with and hateful of humankind, it's a dark place as the series is still showing the dark side of a friendship that feels overly idealized in Kureha's reminiscences of Sumika. While Lulu and Ginko are caught in battle to eat Kureha with Yurizono being the other. Still it's a lot to take in and the over all unhappy themes of mob mentality and love being a destructive force is still being shown. Deeply unpleasant still this is a series that requires much thought, yet it's thoughtful in it's execution of something so unpleasant.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Winter Stream: Idolmaster Cinderella Girls: Episode 3

With this Rin, Mio, and Uzuki get read for their first concert as bakc up dancers for Mika Jougasaki and despite some forced humor involving Miku not accepting the three as they are still "new" (combined with some poorly hidden professional jealousy). ALong with some cute charter moments in wich Rin, Mip and Uzuki bond with Anastasia a half Russian Idol constantly worrying about her Japanese pronunciation. This is all about the thrill and fear of that first big show wondering wther you're going to screw up and the fear of haveing so much on you're shoulders. It's all captured quite well while the center piece is Mika's performance of Tokimeki, thankfully it's all fluid none of it looks off model or conspicuously CGI while overall this continues to feel like a series that uses Rin as a audience surrogate and it tends to make her a little more withdrawn which some could see as boring or shallowly written yet I find that she's not just happy with being famous a plus as it feels like there is a goal that she has set and is working towards it. In short this is very much the same ethos as old sports Anime and Manga where one wins by sheer work and determination it's refreshing. While the gaggle of Bishojo may turn some off this is a series that still seems deadly serious about what it's trying to portray and is not lost in simple fan service or knowing references to the source material.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Winter Stream: Yurikuma: First Impresions

Yurikuma is a dark look into a world fraught with sexual obsession unrealistic romantic ideals and the sacralization of Lesbianism in Yuri Manga nad Naime as somehow more "pure" than heterosexual relationships. The bones of the story is that of a school in wich Sumika Izumino and Kureha Tsubaki are friends and tentative lovers. In a world in wich man eating bears who have gained rational thought now crave human flesh. Visually there are nods to everything from Magical Girl transformation sequences,Argento's Suspiria in the layout of the school and even Ikuhara's previous work Penguin Drum in the court scenes. Character wise no one is that likeable Sumika *spoiler* probably the most bland but conventionally likeable character is dead by the beginning of episode two. while Tsubaki has become obsessed with her own grief and thirst for revenge meanwhile the two transfer students Ginko Yurishiro and Lulu Yurigasaki are secretly bears in fact two other characters are secretly bears as well. Large parts of this seem to paint a rather unpleasant picture of sexuality as primarily about mutual obsession or literal or figurative devouring of the beloved. The fact that this is a series that uses Yuri tropes to shine a light on such uncomfortable aspects of the sexual brokneness of mankind is a little bit special as often times Yuri sinks into the Maria-sama ga Miteru line of thinking where it's all an almost purified "love" that is not sexual or even romantic or if it is it's sold as some kind of greater love such as Plato taught about "platonic love". For Yurikuma to show that "the emperor has no clothes" that yes lesbian relationships can be as mutually destructive and obsessive as heterosexual relationships is brave. In short this is a work that demands attention and is a work that will have as many interpretations as interpreters as each new episode is released.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Winter Stream: Tokyo Gohul A: Episode 2

No one is whole in this episode Touka is studying to get into University (Ken's University) while the CCG forces dealing with the ghouls are haveing to deal with massive losses and questions about the real idenity of the enigmatic Ghoul know only as The One Eyed Owl. Also Akira Mado the daughter of (slain officer and senpai to Amon) Kureo Mado arrives. Akira is brusque, cold and professional to the point of being socially alienating although a little bit of banter with the off kilter Juuzou shows that hse's more than a one dimensional "ice queen". Asami Seto does a good job capturing the cold and aloofness in her voice. While Amon tries to bond with her both in trying to be a good Senpai and to do right by his former partner. Meanwhile Ken seems to have become fully integrated into Aogiri all though the question of his real loyalties still remains unanswered there are small slivers of hope that he has not been completely won over or gone so "deep cover" that he can't come back. With arresting visuals that say more about his isolation and personality change than words ever could Shui Morita sets up a haunting scene toward the end of Ken making a cup of coffee just like how Yoshimura showed him only to rush off leaving it unfinished when Ayato collects him for the ensuing battle. It's a small moment but this episode was full of small movements and moments that say a lot from Yoshimura having two rather expensive looking cups set in front of him as if he's waiting for someone. A long pause focus shot on Touka waving goodbye to Yoriko who is still convinced that Touka and Ken are a couple where as it was funny in the first season it's down right sad now. From a film stand point this is a series that you can mull over with questions like "what did that shot mean?" A episode that's more quiet than the first but none the less haunting and thought provoking.

Winter Stream: Yatterman Night: First Impressions

Much like the reboot of Gatchaman that was Gatchaman Crowds, Yatterman Night takes the basic premise of the series and reworks it with this the protagonist Leopard the daughter of a widowed member of a clan descended from the Dorobow Gang who were the vilans in the orginal series. The subversion of making the titular hero of an Anime series the vilan is an interesting subversion and overall characterization is a solid understanding Leopard while still very much a child at nine years old. Is interesting to see a relative innocent with a very black and white sense of justice, have her ideals thrown into disarray. While the symbolism of the Yatter Kingdom is fraught with all kinds of dark questions about religion as a tool for social control. In short for an series that is a revamp of an old Anime franchise this is something to think about and wonder at when it comes to the theical concenrs and quetions of what is and is not right.

Blog Update: Two New Additions to Winter Stream Review: Yatterman Night and Yurikuma Arashi

I know I said I was only going to review two series for winter but these two seemed like I could say something or at least cause me to think deeply about what I watch. So first up Yatterman Night which is an anniversary project celebrating the 40th Aniversery of Time Bokan. Second is a series I flat out refused to watch when it was first announced and that's Yurikuma Arashi the latest work by Kunihiko Ikuhara, now I've attempted to watch Utena and Penguien Drum but Utena was only watchable in the awful CPM dub streaming and Penguin Drum was so desne that I stopped intending to pick it up latter when I could get a actual copy of it on DVD and never got around to it because life is what happens when you are making plans. As is Yurikuma is about the war between man and bears who have now gained human intelligence this is going to be a dense heavily symbolic slog but I've watched and enjoyed Lain and Habene Renmei so I figure I'll be able to say something maybe not as nuanced or deep as some but I'll have something to say so here goes.

New Classics: Serial Experiments Lain

Were to begin with this series? it's a information dense cyber punk look at questions of humanity, man's relationship to technology and AI. Also it straight up predicted a lot of the problems with the internet such as the moral decay that online anonymity brings the seeming connectedness and isolation that the internet brings. All wrapped up in an arresting and alienating art style thanks to Yoshitoshi ABe's character design and the odd cinematography of director Ryūtarō Nakamura. With camera tilts uncomfortable close ups of characters eyes and Chiaki J. Konaka's dense writing filled with references to the birth of the internet the philosophical concept of "god". It's a series that does not give up much of what it's trying to say it's never really pretentious or pedantic simply slowly paced in the second half while faster in the first showing the alienation of the protagonist Lain Iwakura and the outer life she lives it's a cold bleak existence filled with emotional neglect from her parents and nary a bit of human kindness. While the questions of what the internet is doing to people, and the use of "psychic experiments" make it seem dated. Still that something could essentially predict the problems in the Internet is a marvel. While the color pallet is muted with sickly greens sterile grays and the hum of computers become a droning background noise.In short this is a series that makes for a hard watch as it's not easy or digestible yet feelings are conveyed and while this could be seen as an influence on The Matrix (it even says so on the box for the blu ray DVD combo pack). Lain is it's own thing and while deeply unpleasant in many places it's a series that exists as a much needed cold shower for the overly euphoric technophiles in society. With that it will always be a relvent if not necessarily timely series.