Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Final Fall Stream 2016 and The Final The Stream: Classicaloid Episode 3

First, as a preface this will be the last streaming post I will be doing as I've loved reviewing episodes week to week I find that others are simply doing it better and while I will continue to review the occasional show as strikes my fancy given the sheer volume of Anime I am watching it watching all of that and writing a weekly review is a bit too much for me so I am retiring The Stream after a good run. Episode three introduces two new Classicaloids Frédéric Chopin who is now a social anxiety ridden Hikikomori who lives in a spare room in Kanae's rental property and Franz Liszt who is now a woman obsessed with love. Again this sort of zany wackiness is par for the course and is something I find enjoyable but those who are bigger fans of Classical Music may again feel this does not take the subject matter seriously but we are dealing with a series that has a Gyoza obsessed Beethoven so I don't think historical accuracy was ever one of its strong points. Visually thankfully this had more movement than last episode and the surreal mindscapes created by the music of the composers are a real visual feast but not much happens other than the introduction of the two new composers and the same comedy beats wich I enjoy.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Fall Stream 2016: Classicaloid Episode 2

Most of the focus is one Kanae for this week's episode as she is still the put-upon straight man fro the wacky antics of Mozart and Beethoven. You think this would make her unlikable but it actually makes her more sympathetic as she has to be the mature one. Especially with Mozart now convinced that she is in love with him until her Birthday comes up and he gets slapped into remembering his musik after he gives a highly inappropriate gift to her. This episode was more of the first the joke about Beethoven being obsessed with Gyoza is still there it makes no sense but logic has never been the strong point of this series ever. While animation is severly limmited with most of it being limited animation stills more as a cost saving measure to the benafift for the flashy musical spectacle towards the end of the series. It's kind of like watching a motion comic but I can understand why it was done. Overall this episode is more the same from episode one and I still enjoy it but anyone expecting a serious treatment of classical music is going to be sorely disappointed as an exercise in anarchic comedy it works as tool of education it is hit or miss.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Fall Stream 2016: Classicaloid: First Impressions

The original production by Studio Sunrise and NHK being directed by Yoichi Fujita was the series I have been waiting months for and it does not fail to impress the story of Highschool students Sōsuke Kagura a wannabe musician and his childhood friend Kanae Otowa who in the process of haveing to deal with her grandmother's home being foreclosed and set up for demolition now has to also deal with two freeloaders in the abnormal personages of Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart who go about wreaking havoc and making a nuisance of themselves. Classicaloid was the I was most excited about haveing waited for months for it to finally be released for Simulcast in the United States and now haveing watched it I am not disappointed in the slightest it is a raucous stew of bright prismatic colors loud physical comedy and absurdity. While the comedy is much the vein of traditional Manzai style humor with Kanae being the put-upon straight man while Beethoven and Mozart wreak havoc and she reacts rather understandably it is the over the top nature of the composer's actions. From Beethoven going on a long impassioned speech about Goyza to the mystery behind them and what they are it is a series brimming with energy while some could say it's overwrought the few downbeat moments of Kanae reminiscing over past memories of her Grandmother or Sōsuke expositioning backstory settle the series and ground it in the reality of the fictional universe. instead of it feeling like a collection of unstructured self-contained gags. Being about Classical music this is one where while I don't know a lot about Classical music I thankfully was not lost completely when pieces were used in the series and overall it also didn't feel like a dry lecture but captured the joy and enthusiasm found in the piece. I have no idea what future episodes hold but if they can keep up this level of enthusiasm and passion combined with visual polish this will be the best Anime of the year.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Legend of The Galactic Heroes Volume 2: Review

Civil War breaks out in both The Galactic Empire and The Free Planets Alliance while shadowy conspiracies and betrayals are carried out on both sides While Reinhard Von Lohengramm is forced to fight against disgruntled Aristocrats who see him as a low-born usurper using his influence to whittle away at their privilege and state in society. While Yang Wen-Li in the Free Planets Alliance is forced to fight a battle with more personal stakes involving betrayal and questions of his ultimate loyalty to a system that feels irrevocably broken. All the While the Phezzan Dominion sets plans in motion to prolong the war for the personal enrichment of its leader Adrian Rubinsky and the shadowy leader of The Church Of Terra a man known only as the Grand Bishop who rules Phezzan from the shadows. If volume one of Legend Of The Galactic Heroes was Yoshiki Tanaka building his world and laying the groundwork for his fictional universe. Volume two takes that fully realized universe and grounds it in a painful stew of cynicism, the horrors of war, and the crumbling of personal ideals and personal relationships in the face of the ambition of others and morally dubious but expedient political and military choices. The use of a two-sided Civil War with Reinhard's forces having to fight reactionary Aristocrats and Yang's forces having to fight a military coup. Allows for the focus to be more on the characters and less on battles or stratagem while the few battles that are mentioned range from epic fights between space armadas that capture the brutality of war with references to soldiers being reduced to space dust or commanding officers committing suicide in the face of defeat to revolts and fragging incidences toward the end of the novel. One of the worst battles in the volume is also the "smallest" in which two of Reinhard's subordinates try to take a corridor in a fortress only be met by enemy forces armed with axes and doped up on Amphetamines and Psychedelics to keep them fighting beyond normal human capacity. Making for a blood-chilling expression of violence made only worse by the fact that you have to imagine it and Tanaka's terse matter of fact prose. Thankfully it's not all blood and battles with Yang being shown to have internal conflicts about his place in The Free Planets Alliance sickened by the cult of celebrity built around him but unable to escape due to The Free Planet Alliance's need of his tactical wizardry in battle . This drives Yang deeper into an ever more introspective mood and a burgeoning alcoholism. With his ward Julian often having to try and get him to taper off or promise not to drink a promise which Yang does not keep with his drinking only becoming worse by the end of the novel yet still able to function. This is the part of the more internal battles of the book as Yang feels like he's betraying his principles by working for such a morally dubious system but is stuck having to fight because even the admittedly corrupt government he defends is better than the Fascistic alternative of the Galactic Empire in his eyes along with his own unwillingness to stoop to the level of becoming a demagogue. While Reinhard also comprises his principles causing a rift with his best friend Siegfried which helps humanize Reinhard beyond his icy genius demeanor. It's this humanizing of Reinhard that is the stand out part for the book while outwardly a seemingly cold and dispassionate person. Reinhard is often times influenced by Paul von Oberstien for the worse given Oberstien's perfectly logical but amoral arguments. Or shown to often be more scrappy and impetuous than would first appear making less an imperious caricature and more a realized person with flaws, loyalties, and vulnerabilities which are welcome since Yang, for the most part, has been the most humanized and fleshed out of the two rivals in the series so far. In short, this dark extremely cynical view of life makes the story while not enjoyable compelling as a study in lost illusions and man's inhumanity to man to discussion the flawed nature of democracy in comparison to Autocracy. While oddly my sympathies were more with Reinhard's forces of nattily dressed Fascists even if I didn't agree with their tactics than the cynical real politic of many in the Free Planet Alliance. Honestly, Yang is the only character that keeps me from completely supporting The Galactic Empire as simply put his arguments are so reasonable and cogent. While Yang and Reinhard get some much-needed development in this volume. Sadly some characters simply feel like plot devices or a way to string the story out for future volumes such as Job Trunicht the cynical and corrupt politician who is only interested in consolidating his own power and using Yang for his own means or one of the leaders of the Military insurrection in the Free Planets Alliance. Or they simply feel like re-purposed versions of other characters like Hildegard von Mariendorf feeling like Reinhard's Frederica Greenhill only more stoical. Or Walter von Schönkopf being Yang's Paul Von Oberstien only slightly more moral than the icy and Machiavellian Oberstien who full disclosure is my favorite character in the series. I can hope volume three develops some of the secondary cast giving them more personality and definition beyond feeling like the same but different in comparison to others In conclusion, this continuation of the saga of the war between The Galactic Empire and The Free Planets Alliance gives more definition to the main characters and Tanaka is not afraid to make the audience uncomfortable or question their presumed loyalties. In parts unremittingly bleak and painfully human it is a story that sadly is still so very prescient and may remain so for the foreseeable future. Neither light in themes or tone Legend Of The Galactic Heroes is a series that feels timeless because the issues it broaches will always be debated and questioned as long as people continue to think.

The Irregular At Magic High School Volume 2: Review

With the fight stopped in volume one Tatsuya now works to figure out what caused the clash between the Kendo and Kenjutsu club while a movement to outlaw or fight for the suppression of unfair treatment and perceived discrimination against course two students and Non Magicians that looks to be fomenting political action and uses Tatsuya's classmate the Kendo club member Sayaka Mibu to recruit Tatsuya into this organization all these political actions lead to an open debate between the student group known as "The Coalition" and The Student Body President Mayumi Saegusa. Only to have the true intentions of the protesters revealed leading to revelations of political gamesmanship, terrorism, and shadowy conspiracies. Volume two draws "The Enrollment Arc" of The Irregular at Magic High School to a close and this is probably one of the more controversial volumes in the series. When the Anime originally ran from April 6, 2014, to September 27, 2014, it was a not too uncommon criticism to pillory the series as being Fascistic or promoting precepts found in Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophical movement (I would say Objectivism is a cult but I digress). Which is frankly baffling to since Rand's philosophy is based on a belief in what she termed "enlightened self-interest" and Mahouka seems more grounded in a philosophy of equality of opportunity and personal responsibility while promoting some kind of Meritocracy . The few speeches Tatsuya gives about equality and it's seemingly ephemeral nature seem pointed at those that want equality without defining what that would look like or take into account difference in ability. Not so much an attack on the concept of equality itself but more the hazy ill-defined use of the term. Philosophical questions about the nature of equality aside. The story itself has more of Sato's penchant for ornate almost byzantine world building with long stretches of the novel dedicated to describing the technical minutia of the magical system which can be soporific for those who would want a more action oriented novel as most of the novel is about Tatsuya trying to cobble together who the enemy is why they are the enemy and finally Tatsuya and his allies eliminating said enemies these parts can feel like they can take you out of the story I think it contributes to the realism of the world and really appreciate that Sato has put in the effort to continue to ground his world in its own fictional reality. In short, it's a very inward-looking and cerebral volume filled with unspoken interior dialogue and perception versus reality being a big theme in the book. With Tatsuya outwardly still being cool and aloof outwardly but inwardly often prone to snarky comebacks and hiding how he actually feels. Which makes me think that some undisclosed future revelation in his past is causing him to hide parts of his personality. This thankfully helps humanize Tatsuya even if it only feels incremental and the only real emotions he shows are towards his sister Miyuki or in bits and pieces with his school friends, in short, he still feels like a man apart craving normality but unable to attain it and driving him ever closer to his Sister. The few "slice of life" moments in the novel are actually my favorite parts of the novel. Be it Tatsuya ordering a cake for Miyuki and both of them enjoying it or the impromptu lunch between Tatsuya, Miyuki, Erika, Leo, and Mizuki in the practical magical test area giving an respite from the dark undertones of the series. While Miyuki is still almost perfect in every way and honestly I like her from her pouty little bouts of hero worship over her brother to her easy friendship with Erika and Mizuki to even the thinly veiled dark side she keeps hidden if anyone dares threaten her beloved Onii-sama. It makes for good layering of her character beyond the Yamato Nadeshiko tropes associated with her. Again this could make her a really flat character but it's this unwavering devotion to Tatsuya and his ideals that make me like her because it seems structured out of a place of for lack of a better term guilt instead of just weirdly obsessive love. The few comedic elements in the novel also help from Mari teasing Tatsuya about "dominating" Sayaka Mibu only to have Tatsuya retort by referencing Mari's boyfriend causing Mari to flusteredly defend her boyfriend. While Mayumi tries to control her laughter and Miyuki starts "leaking" ice magic out of jealousy. Mayumi gets probably my favorite moment in the novel where she shuts down the anti-magic discrimination coalition's arguments using facts, logic, and charm to defeat the ill-defined arguments of the opposition. Also, Sato has thoroughly improved his grasp of writing a fight scene gone are the confused close ups and jumbled descriptions with the fight in the final half being a tense almost execution in an abandoned factory or the school invasion of terrorists with Leo's fight with his close quarters CAD being particularly well wrought as it flows well with descriptive dialogue and action feeling seamless. Sato also has some odd stylistic quirks in his writing such as using parenthesized question marks in sentences. Which at times throws off the flow of the story or simply feels confusing I have no idea why it's done but I find it more baffling than actively bad. Also, a few typos where in my copy which is depressing for a professionally translated and released novel to have but editors and proofreaders are human so it's not that egregious and I'm more bemused than angry about it. While the end of the novel also introduces probably the biggest change in the world of Mahouka with the introduction of The Ten Master Clans a shadowy cabal of Magicians imbued with powers beyond those of the police or the state all while the clans are kept as a kind of stockpile of living human weapons. So while they may wield unprecedented power it is within a context of being trapped in a gilded cage and tied up in internecine political intrigue within the 10 clan system. Making for some dark elements outside of the battles and school days setting of the first novel. In conclusion volume two wraps up The Enrollment Arc neatly while also developing the world more than some would find bearable. Other than the misgivings about the political or philosophical points the novel tries to make I think the world building would be the biggest deal breaker for most as it can feel like it brings any story progression to a screeching halt so things can be explained in depth. Along with the cold almost clinical detachment of the narrative voice. In conclusion volume two of The Irregular At Magic High School improves in crafting action giving Tatsuya more interiority and the few quirky punctuation choices by the author aside. This makes for a smoother reading experience with a less jumbled or confused handling of dialogue. One final note while I normally adore Kana Ishida's illustrations a few of the illustrations included in this volume feel misproportioned.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fall 20116: Plans and Shows I'm intrested In

Fall 2016 is soon to be upon us and with that a whole new crop of shows to watch so now I get to lay out what I'll be watching and or reviewing this year. Of course, this all depends on whether any of these series get picked up legally as I had planned to watch Macross Delta earlier this year but no one picked up so I missed out on it. With that out of the way onto with the show, first is Hibike! Euphonium 2 now I recently finished the first season and really enjoyed it but man fans need to shut up about shipping it sometimes feel like fans would rather use this use this series as a political football or fodder for their fan fiction than discuss the actual merits of the series. I liked Kumiko Oumae as the protagonist in the first season because she is curt, sometimes cold and outwardly harsh while inwardly kind in short, not the normal super moe girl protagonist one sees in Kyoto Anime productions same goes for Reina as well although my favourite girl has to have been Sapphire "Midori" Kawashima. I have no idea what will happen but if the production is as strong as the first I'll be happy I just may have to recuse myself from community discussions of it to keep enjoying the series. Next up is Keijo!!!!!!!! also known as Hip Whip Girl a fanservice heavy Sports Anime about girls who compete in competitions in wich they try to shove each other off a small dais in the middle of a pool using only their "ahem" assets for the purpose of gambling. I don't like Sports Anime as a rule but this looks fun and this has Mao Ichimichi in it and she turned in the only role I actually cared about in the otherwise awful And you thought there is never a girl online? So who know so far it has not been picked up but we will see how it goes. Next is Long Riders! About Ami Kurata a first year Univerity student who becomes fascinated by cycling and ends up joining the long distance cycling club my hope is this could be the next BAKUON!! for me a slight but fun romp also nice to see some College girls in a series instead of the perpetual High School setting. Next is Bubuki Buranki: Hoshi no Kyojin the sequel to Winter's Bubuki Buranki the CGI Mecha series set in a dystopian future this could be bad or really good the first half had impressive twists and good fighting along with a cast the became slowly more layered as the series went on especially true with the villains with Reoko Banryuu being a prime example of this. Next is ClassicaLoid a series about Classical music composers running amok in modern day Japan helmed by staff that worked on Gin Tama and Mr Osatmatsu-San this for me is the original series to look out for in my opinion. It just looks like an anarchic stew of gags and surrealism next is the second of four original series I hope to watch Flip Flappers a Magical Girl Anime from Studio 3Hz about Papika and Cocona two girls who must find a magical crystal in another dimension. Visually this looks stunning so I can only hope the series holds up quality wise. Next is Shuumatsu no Izetta about a world war in wich the last living Witch Izetta uses her powers to defend her friends against the invading armies of Germania although, to be honest much like Keijo I'm watching this more because Hayami, Saori is cast in it than for any real interest in the story as it sounds a lot like Brave Witches the newest entry in the Strike Witches Mecha Musume franchise that I am also watching with a few differences. Next is Soushin Shoujo Matoi by Studio White Fox coming off of Re:Zero White Fox gets to make it's first original Anime a Magical Girl series about a girl who has to exorcise spirits this could be an interesting watch given the elements of Shinto tied into the Magical Girl elements. Last are Gi(a)rlish Number about aspiring Seiyuu with the original concept being written by the author of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU I like Anime that deal with industry aspects and this seems like it could have the potential to be if nothing else fun. Next is Magical Girl Raising Project based a Light Novel series about girls who are forced to participate in a death match to decide who will be the one true magical girl. Now, this looks grim and the fact that the director of Is The Order A Rabbit? is working on it only peaks my interest more. But now the question comes "what will I review?" and The answer is ClassicaLoid as I like the challenge of haveing to absurd comedy as drama and action are simpler genres and Comedy can be so subjective also since Ossumatsu-San was my best of the year for 2015 and I didn't review it reviewing ClassicaLoid will be my way of making up for that. All of that being said again it all depends on if it gets a legal license if it doesn't then I may just go with my plan b wich is something I've never done before and that would be to forgo the entire idea of a seasonal stream and instead review an episode of a random series I'm watching each week that is not part of the Fall 2016 season.

Best and Worst of Sumer 2016

My Best of the Summer goes to Mob Psycho 100 I could not stand One Punch Man so I wanted to see if this was any good or I could just decide One's stuff was not for me. Well, I came away really impressed not so much with the technical merit as impressive as that is. But with the fact that it made me care about characters like the Body Improvement Club or Tome Kurata. Even Arataka Reigen who could have been a grating con man came away as earnest and even insightful. So yes the visual polish is nice but that's really only the surface level of it. The real draw is that I came away caring about almost everybody and I had an emotional connection. As sometimes Anime that are technical spectacle can end up soulless being used just to show off the technique of the animators. Honourable Mentions: Orange: this gets an inclusion in that it nailed the tonal shifts from happy and bright to bleak and introspective without suffering too much whiplash and Yamashita, Seiichirou nailed Kakeru Naruse's [spoiler]depression and suicidal mind set[/spoiler] without making it sound whiny or self-absorbed. Also Hamasaki, Hiroshi's direction deserves to be praised as well. Love Live Sunshine: This is more a personal favourite than anything else as it "stuck the landing" and took a group of new characters and new Seiyuu and overcame the entrenched love of fans of the previous series and made their own statement. Worst: Berserk: It almost feels like everything bad that has been said about this series has been said better but I was never a fan of the original series so my disliking it is not based on complaints about adaptation. No, my problems have to do with its character writing while the animation is the most egregious part of the series. I found the writing to be much worse it felt like an epic fantasy dumbed down to a JRPG style dungeon crawl. Dishonourable Mention: Re-Write I watched this haveing not seen a Key Visual Novel Anime in years and boy did this show me that I am not the same person I was years ago. Rewrite is a tonally confused threadbare and emotionally manipulative tchotchke