Saturday, September 24, 2016

Summer Stream 2016: Love Live Sunshine: Final Thoughts

Love Live Sunshine is a series that often felt afraid to do anything radically different. Yet ultimately this was a series that made it's characters believable with this the final episode of the first season everything comes full circle. The girls have grown the songs have gotten sharper and more professional and even nice little cameos are in this episode such as Yoshiko, Yoh, and Riko's mothers during the big performance number. It's a little hard to quantify this episode as good or bad I can simply say it was and is impactful. From Yohane being truly thankful to Hanamaru and Ruby to all the girls acting out the entirety of the season before the closing musical number to Chika getting the entire school to shine along with Aqours. It is an episode that is simply a great summation of the series with the Animation direction being on point in the performance sequences along with seeing how all of the Seiyuu have come into their own in particular Aika Kobayashi as Yohane to the point that when Yohane makes her dramatic entrance at the Preliminary I cheered. Simply put this is a series that has meant a lot to me and I can only hope that it is as if not more successful than μ's because Aqours has had to not only prove themselves as their own group but also that they could measure up to μ's. In conclusion, I loved this series it may not have been the best from a technical standpoint or staggeringly unique but nothing else that has come out this year will mean more to me personally Aishiteru Banzai! I wish I could be a little more objective or critical about the final episode but I just can't at the end it is all unconditional love for Aqours and Love Live Sunshine there may have been parts I disliked such as the reusing of the school closure plot element. Yet that didn't change my feelings for the characters or that overall given the somewhat unrealistic expectations of fans and the self-doubt that plagued some of the cast early on. This was a series that did it's best to make me care about everyone and empathize and care about Aqours and their school being threatened with closure. Also as far as personal favorites of the girls go my top rankings never changed throughout the season Ruby and Dia are still my number one and two respectively with Yohane being number three while four was Hanamaru five was Mari, six Kanan, Seven Yoh, eight Chika, and Nine Riko. While MIRAI TICKET the performance song of the episode captures a feeling of hope and inspiration for Aqours making it a fitting closing song to the first season and now it all is build up to the Aqours first Live in February at the Yokohama Arena on top of inevitable subunit singles and Aqours song releases in between February and now. In short, this is a series that honestly "saved" me the music gets me out of the often dark place I am in the community online of other Love Livers helps me feel connected and the loneliness dissipates even if only briefly. SO with that I say thanks to Aqours all the Seiyuu and Aina Suzuki will always be my favorite of them even if Mari is not my favourite Szuki-San's cover of Kouga Ninpou Chou by Onmyouza has to be one of my favorite performances in Anisong and that was before she got cast as Mari. While Aika Kobayashi comes in second as she had almost no prior experience as a Seiyuu and her ability to switch up her delivery of lines, tone, and depth of her voice is impressive. While number three in Seiyuu has to go to the Aqours member who is one of us Kanako Takatsuki "King" who celebrates her Birthday on the 25th of September (Today in Japan)who went from being a Love Live fan to living the dream she is the reason Hanamaru ended up being my number four with her ability in episode four cementing her place at number three for me. Well, that's my top three Seiyuu for no extra charge. Again sorry this was not much of a regular review but it's hard to summarize the totality of what this all means to me so take this as the sputtered ramblings of a fan who only wanted a moment to reminisce over something that gave him joy and with that onward and upward to The First Love neither flag nor fail.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Looking Up At The Half-Moon: Full Series Review

Looking Up At The Half-Moon a six-episode Anime adapted from a Light Novel series by Tsumugu Hashimoto and illustrated by Keiji Yamamoto is maybe more known for its troubled release history in North America than the actual content of the Anime. With it haveing been licensed by Crimson Star Media but scuttled due to the conviction of the company's president than license rescued by Right Stuf. the actual story of two hospitalized teens Yūichi Ezaki who is hospitalized recovering from Hepatitis A and Rika Akiba hospitalized with Cardiomyopathy (the same condition that killed her Father) and their slow dawning affection love for one another after Yūichi is forced to befriend Rika after he is caught sneaking out at night and he gets off on the wrong foot by lying to Rika that he is also a fan of the works of Ryūnosuke Akutagawa and Yūichi tries to make it up to Rika and the two bond over books and small life experiences all the while the specter of Rika's precarious health hangs over them like The Sword Of Damocles. As a romance, this series succeeds I cared about Yūichi and Rika's relationship I was emotionally invested I liked seeing Rika come out of self-imposed emotional isolation the problem is her character arc feels like a boilerplate Tsundere. it's nice to see her come to care about Yūichi or want to experience normal teenage things like going to school. Yet, for the most part, her character is one of belligerent rejection of Yūichi due to misunderstandings or Yūichi being overly passive. Yūichi for his part makes milquetoast look risqué simply running errands for Rika or trying to do nice things for her. This relationship feels organic for the most part unless someone else gets involved and this where the story gets unbelievably dumb in particularly the character of Rika's Docter Gorō Natsume is the worst character in the series a petulant, unethical, and possibly sociopathic man who is never brought task for any of his numerous lapses. His presence in the series is a sucking black hole of writing ineptitude and he makes the entire series worse for it. While I can recommend this series for the romantic element the truncated nature of the story the pushing of suspension of disbelief to it's breaking point and one out of nowhere almost sex scene between Yūichi and a friend of the head nurse make it a series that takes more than it gives. While visually it's a cheap and gross looking amalgamation of cut-rate character designs, sterile lifeless backgrounds and lazy and cheap motion animation. In short, this is a series one can watch and find elements to enjoy but it has such lackluster visuals and Natsume is such a grating character that while I ultimately came away entertained it was with an undercurrent of feeling that a perfectly serviceable romance was hobbled by an almost pathological need of drama for drama's sake in the story. Making this a frustrating Anime to watch that ultimately takes something charming and runs what is good about it into the gorund by poor exicution.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Summer stream 2016: Love Live Sunshine Episode 12

With this episode finally Aqours comes to be their own group and while the struggle to keep the school open looks to be the struggle that may very well bleed over into season two. I'm okay with that because now it will be done on Aqour's own terms, not as a mere μ's fan group. While this ends up being the main thrust of the latter half of the episode it also shows that simply being a popular School Idol group does not mean success in other areas wich leads to the second trip to Tokyo and the final pilgrimage to Otonokizaka Academy. While also haveing enough cute character moments to work as well in particular what stood out for me where the moments with Dia being snubbed by an Aqours fan because the fan has no idea who Dia is or Dia going into full on fan girl mode or being nervous about whether Aqours cleared the Love Live preliminaries. In short, this episode is a great coda to the arc of Aqours trying to find out who they are and it's nice to see the realization from Chika. While overall the story goes to a great place by the end a few rough patches Mari being overly "friendly" Kanan lets hope that the heavy Skinship gets dropped or severely downplayed in season two as it's just not funny. Other than that and really it's more a kind of humor I don't find funny than it being actually bad or Kanan in a swimsuit top but that didn't feel overly leering. Still, a great penultimate episode that shows that Aqours will now stand on their own so here is hoping the last episode both closes this arc and makes a good bridge to the second.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Summer Stream 2016: Loove Live Sunshine: Episode 11

With this episode, a balance between the serious and the comical is sturck quite well with most of the focus being on You and her unspoken feelings of jealousy over Chika and Riko's relationship now that Riko has gone to Tokyo to participate in the Piano recital and minus a member You has to become the stand in for Riko and it's shown that Chika is almost perfectly in sync with Riko's movements in comparison to You. this only makes You more self-conscious and feeling that she is losing her best friend and becoming useless to the group as a whole. Now you could insert some sort of Romantic subtext in here but honestly, that just would feel like fan fiction or "headcanon" and emotional closeness does not always presume a kind of romantic love simply because some fans want it there does not mean it is in the series. If anything as much as this episode is You's episode You, for the most part, can't get out of her own head and it takes Mari to snap her out of it and get You to put her courage to the sticking place. So for me, that was a nice little bit that showed Mari can not only be a fount of Memes, Engrish, and Skinship. Mari can also haveing experienced similar feelings and experiences is able to talk some sense into You as only Mari can. While You try to work up the courage to talk to Chika Riko calls her this was an incredibly smart move on the part of the writers and shows a level of openness and vulnerability in You that is shocking as the cheap hackneyed way to do this would be to drag out the resentment You feels and have it blow up into a fight with Riko instead it's Riko who talks to You and You and Riko talk it out and... Than Chika shows up and the entire episode builds to an honest warm conclusion with Chika not haveing been unaware of Yoh it honestly sets Chika up as the better leader than Honoka. Chika is often times obstinate maybe a little naive but she is amazingly aware of when her friends need to be pushed, supported or constructively critiqued. Chika's growth is honestly the best of the entire cast Chika from the first episode to now has become a leader to be proud of and the icing on the cake of this episode from Shuka Saito giving probably the best performance in the episode if not the series the visual direction with its effortless ability to flip from comedy to drama to use of long hold pillow shots to give a sense of introspection is Omoi Yo Hitotsu Ni Nare as the closing song in the episode from its choreography with one move that will be interesting to see if Saito-San can pull it off live. To the way, Aqours performance and Riko's piano recital are interlaced it make for a performance that shows the unspoken bond of the girls. Things have come to a point that I'm sad that only two episodes will be left in the series until a more than likely Season Two and the First Aqours Live in February. As this is a series that has become stronger as it's gone on and allowed all the charcters to be themselves and not simply retreads of μ's. This is probably the best episode of the series now it's just a matter of if the series can stixk the landing in a satisfying way.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Summer Stream 2016: Love Live Sunshine: Episode 10

After the dour mope-fest of the last episode, this episode has some much-needed fun especially Dia giving Arisa Komiya a chance to be energetic and quick witted and funny in her performance seeing Komiya-San and Furihata-San play off of each other in the beginning shows the cohesion of the Seiyuu as a whole and overall felt authentic. While no real training takes place almost all of the girls with the exceptions of Kanan and Riko are woefully out of shape and haveing to run a Snack bar for most of the episode is the main focus and it lets the personalities of the girls shine through even if like Yohane's Takoyaki it feels more threatening than comforting. While not much in the way of story progression happens the character moments and overall quickly coalescing Aqours makes it probably the most fun the series has been ever.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Knosuba: Full Series Review

Konosuba (shortened version of the title Kono Subarashii Sekai Ni Shukufuku O! translated as Gifting the Wonderful World with Blessings! or alternatively Give Blessings on This Wonderful World!). Was a 2016 Winter Anime release that while being another "trapped in a fantasy world" based on a Light Novel Anime. It was different due to the differences in the characterization and the world along with tone of the story the novel opens up with our protagonist Kazuma Satou dying after attempting to save a girl from what he thought was a truck but turned out to be a slow moving tractor that posed no actual threat to the girl and he subsequently dies from the shock and is laughed at by not only the surgical staff charged with saving his life but also his Parents. This all revealed to Kazuma by Aqua the goddess responsible for ferrying the recently deceased to Heaven or allowing them to reincarnate into a seemingly boilerplate fantasy world complete with an evil Deamon King to be defeated. Kazuma deciding his life was not much to speak of makes the choice to reincarnate into the fantasy realm and being annoyed at Aqua's condescending attitude "equips" her as an item. Much to her consternation and despair. Now stuck with each other Kazuma and Aqua start out simply trying to survive as laborers until Aqua and Kazuma make enough money to cover class registration fees. With Kazuma becoming and Adventurer and aqua due to her overpowered stats a Arch Priest. Until they gather together a party consisting of Arch Wizard Megumin and Crusader Darkness who has great strength and defensive abilities. Alas these two while on paper seem like great additions are broken characters Megumin being proficient in only one kind of magic that is only able to be used once a day then incapacitates her. While Darkness can't hit the broadside of a barn and has "special" interests. So begins the journey of the hopelessly broken party of adventurers while Kazuma bemoans being stuck in a world that is not like what he imagined it to be. Konosuba is in a word mean the series delights in ridiculing everyone from Kazuma being belittled or misapprehended as a brutish pervert to Aqua being a selfish spoiled brat to the party losing in fights with their suffering being the punchline. It's funny but very much in a way that is laughing at others pain or perception versus reality. Kazuma for his part is not a hero in any sense of the word he simply wants to live a carefree life but is saddled with a team of lazy or outright insane teammates. While the series is perfectly happy to subvert and pillory tropes played straight in series like Log Horizon or Sword Art Online. Such as the main character gaining a harem or being an overpowered genius. One could say the series could be perceived as Sexist, honestly considering how much Kazuma is made the punchline or the entire world is held up as broken or that everyone in Kazuma's party is perceivable as "the worst". It's more that everyone is broken and less holding women, in particular, for scorn or for the sake of a joke as it would still be funny irrespective of gender. While Kazuma himself is so often humiliated that he is not held up as something to aspire towards but yet another example of the series holding up the characters for ruthless mockery. While the more traditional elements of RPGs and Fantasy such acquiring skills going on quests are also subverted. Making for a series that is more rewarding for those familiar with the tropes and concepts found in the media it is ridiculing. Yet it still works on its own with odd ideas like a self-powered engine of destruction or a Hostess Club run by Succubus or haveing to fight a horde of flying cabbage so Konosuba avoids simply becoming a pile of solipsistic in-jokes. The animation is honestly crude and looks kind runny with episode nine looking especially off-modal and sharply angular when it's not focusing on jiggling succubus. while the ten episode run makes everything feel truncated especially the finale. In conclusion as a parody of a large amount of tropes found in certain Light Novels, Knosuba succeeds quite well with a cynical take on tired cliches makeing for an enjoyable comedy and an sometimes painful deconsturction.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Summer Stream 2016: Love Live Sunshine: Episode 9

The Third years past is finally revealed all the unspoken feelings come to a head and finally, finally, finally!! Kanan gets some screentime and an actual character arc this also ends up being probably the most downbeat episode other than last weeks. Still, this was a great episode for fleshing out the third year's especially impressive is Aina Suzuki as Mari ranging from a desperation in her voice simply wanting her friends back to anger it's impressive but then again given that in her training as a Seiyuu Suzuki-San was praised by Ryo Horikawa this could be known as well. While the conclusion is a lovely testament to the depths of the bonds of Mari, Kanan, and Dia. Nanaka Suwa as Kanan gives a range of emotions that also impresses and the subtle interplay between Suwa and Suzuki is the highlight from a voice acting standpoint. While this is, for the most part, a episode dealing with the Third Years it doesn't stop from a few entertaining moments with Yohane or Dia regressing to and Ruby-like state when confronted by the second years over the past or the reveal about how Aqours really ended up with their name. Probably the strongest episode of the series and now that the whole group is together now Aqours can attempt the rise from the ashes. Again the visual and art direction works extremely well with the scene of Mari running in the Rain being especially poignant along with the final closing musical number haveing good choreography and showcasing Suwa's strong tenor voice emotion an inward strength and kindness. In short, a solid self-contained story that also builds up the future. With these past two episodes being so strong it may be hard for next week to compete but it feels like the writers have found their narrative footing and this has become finally less about how awesome μ's is and Aqours has come into their own. It took a while but the series has arrived and I couldn't be happier. While always good not the series feels like it's own with each of the girls haveing their own stakes in the game and in short playing at being Idols is over so while the struggle may only now be getting real it is well worth this wait. I had also said in a previous review that Aqours had yet to have a song that felt distinctly their own that song that makes them out well with this episode the insert Mijuku DREAMER has rectified that situation (this is Aqours Start Dash) with stellar solos from Mari, Yohane, and Dia while Ruby gives a clear impactful performance as well. In short, this is their song, not a group trying to sound like the Idols they desire to be like but a group completely and unabashedly themselves.