Saturday, July 23, 2016

Summer Stream 2016: Love Live Sunshine: Episode 4

Turns out I was right as this episode focus on first years Hanamaru Kunikida and Ruby Kurosawa with parts of the episode told from Hanamaru's perspective while also highlighting the training process that the members of Aqours have to go through while also dropping hints at some sort of shared past between the third years. The parts that focus on Hanamaru and her thoughts are the strongest part of the episode showing a withdrawn and bookish girl who is also fearless in defense of her friend Ruby's dream to be a school idol. While Ruby still retains an element of her shyness it's not as seemingly crippling as it was in the first three episodes. with Ruby even standing up to her sister the often intimidating Dia and declaring her intentions. While also it's shown that Dia loved School Idols as much as Ruby at one point and Ruby has been repressing her love for School Idols out of concern for her older sister's feelings wich at this point are still unexplored but it shows an empathetic side to the shy first year that makes her strong in her own way . It gives some interiority to Dia while Ruby also thankfully gets some agency in her decisions making the foregone conclusions of their eventual membership emotionally honest. In all the personalities of all the girls have coalesced nicely and none of it feels stuck in a holding pattern. The series is taking its time to build the mechanics of the group. While laying hints at future story arcs and characterization. Leaving it all very focused while also allowing for a pace that makes nothing feel rushed. Visually the use of light and shadow impressed in setting the mood and creating atmosphere, in particular, Hanamaru's return to the Library feels almost like her regressing to the withdrawn and introverted state she has been in most of her life. While opening the episode with a flashback from Hanamaru's diary is an impressive use of multiple viewpoints for narration. This is a nice touch as it helps not only develop other characters but keeps it from being stuck in a static narrative form that can leave the story feeling stale. With an impressive use of visual direction and real heart, this episode continues the strong run of the first three episodes. While episode five The Fallen Angel Yoshiko Yohane Tsushima gets her time to shine and that will be as enjoyable if not more so as Aika Kobayashi gets an actual amount of lines to use since sadly she's been underused since Yohane hasn't been in any of the episodes much. While speaking of the Seiyuu Kanako Takatsuki as Hanamaru deserves especial recognition in this episode for being able to pull off so much different emotional tones and moods from resignation to happiness to a wistful stoicism all in one episode it's impressive while also keeping the small verbal tics and dialectal eccentricities in Hanamaru's speech compared to standard spoken Japanese. While Ai Furihata wrings every ounce of sweet shyness out of Ruby while also showing a sensitivity and inner courage that often feels belied by her shyness. As a final note, Hanamaru's character arc and admiration of Rin brought back memories of episode five "A New Me" in season two of the original Love Live School Idol Project Anime with its focus on Rin's insecurities and self-consciousness about her lack of feminine charm. While Hanamuru's problems seem more basic connected around an introverted personality and a feeling that she would rather see Ruby shine. It's a another nice tip of the hat to the original series and bridging of the continuity

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Summer Stream 2016: Love Live Sunshine: Episode 3

With this episode, Mari Ohara is finally introduced and thanks to Aina Suzuki's line delivery Mari is every bit the over the top English blurting eccentric while also being made the director of the school because her family gave a ton of money to the school. Mari sets up a challenge for Chika, Riko, and Yō to fill the gymnasium fo their school. This leads to them haveing to go out and canvass the city with flyers with Yō being the only one to really succeed while Chika inadvertently comes off like a school bully and Riko is so nervous she tries practicing on a poster. until the day of the big performance and the gym is barely full with lights going choreography on point the newly minted Aqours gives their all in what could very well be their first and last performance. With Anju Inami giving a performance that impresses with its emotional nuance and range from the bright hope in the lyrics to the desperation and sadness in her voice when it feels like all is lost when the power and sound system go out due to a broken power line. To finally the goal being met by the last minute save from Chika's older sister and another School helping drum up support while Dia helps out with a portable generator then proceeds to remind Aqours that they only met their goal because of the previous success of other School Idol groups and the good will of the town. Chika freely admits this in a moment of earnest humility leaving Dia speechless. It's another great character moment while the interactions between Mari and Dia hint at a closer relationship than first appears. While performance animation is crisp with movement and slight subtleties of articulation such as pivots and hand motions are noticeable. While there has been little focus on any of the first years Yohane is there noticeably inconspicuous while Kanan simply listens outside in the rain hinting at maybe some past friction with the other third years. Again this is all speculation but little things like this are nice giving room for thought on why this shot and not that one. While Yō is hinted at being extremely popular given early popularity polls and the center election for wich she got first place in this could all be an inside joke on the part of the screenwriter. Things are now set in place and moving forward I'll only wonder how Dia is going to be won over and Ruby will be able to overcome her crippling shyness along with the mysterious past that the Third years seem to share. Hard work and their struggle to gain a reputation along with members is the goal of Aqours. Let the real battle begin I say for this is a fight that will be arduous for the girls and it will be fraught with unknown quantities. I'm looking forward to it while Shuka Saito (Yō Watanabe's Seiyuu) apparently has a solo in the next episode wich I will be especially interested in seeing how that goes. In short, another episode that captures the ethos of the series rightly while not feeling stale

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Summer 2016: Intial Thoughts on what I have seen and personal choices

Well the Summer 2016 Anime season is upon us and I've made som choices as to what to watch as well as choices on how I spend my time online more on that later but first the Summer season. Now I had said I'd be watching Masou Gakuen HxH and one episode is all I could take from cheap looking character design to a lame world invasion plot that's been done before, in short, it felt like nothing more than prurient soft-core pornography and one episode is all I could stomach. While Thunderbolt Fantasy was technically impressive but emotionally sterile with a plot line that from the first episode things might change but I don't know since I won't be watching it that felt reminiscent of Chaos Dragon wich I liked enough but was not that good. So I bailed on that while the first episode of the second cour of Active Raid is barely adequate and only held together by the relationship I have with the characters from the first season while the new characters seem one-dimensional "tropey." While Berserk looks awful the story is still good at capturing what people loved about the original while also expanding the story. So Berserk will live or die by its writing because the visuals are atrocious CGI that would have been unacceptable in the late 90s. Speaking of shows that look like they belong in the late 90s Cheer Boys it looks like an early Digipaint series comparable to the quality of Kite Liberator or Texhynolyze still it's an enjoyable look at an underrepresented competitive sport with a group of likeable college age guys and thankfully it does not wallow in the hot-blooded emotions found in sports anime for the most part. Instead focusing on the characters and trying to establish a team. Some of the story elements feel hackneyed like one of the characters deciding to do Cheerleading as a way to commemorate his dead parents but all and all it's winsome and doesn't feel like I'm trying to be sold on how "awesome" the thing the characters are doing is. While Orange I read and loved the entire Manga so watching it animated is a treat while the subtitle script Crunchyroll is using is different in parts than the translation Seven Seas had no one is bad as far as the Seiyuu go Kana Hanazawa is her regular good to great self and everyone else is good yet not as noticeable yet it all depends on if any of them can nail the big speech in the second half wich I will wait to see. While Hamasaki, Hiroshi as the director originally struck me as an odd choice given that he works he is most known for are the infamously bloody and dispiriting Shigurui and the first season of Terraformers. His fingerprints are all over it from the quiet minimalist set design to the hot whites and muted color pallet and sharp angles in characters posture. So while it may be an odd choice for a Director Hamasaki has enough skill and native talent to make something great if he is allowed to work freely. While Momikuri is a cringe-inducing look at obsessed love as a comedy that could get old fast while the visuals are cheap and ugly reminding me of Haiyoru! Nyaruani. Even Galko-Chan looked better than this so eh I hope it gets better. While I am still probably one of the few if only people watching Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn RE:0096 the Tv edit of the Gundam Unicorn OVA and I enjoy it but it's more something I watch for the Mecha dogfights as Banagher gets pretty passive and annoyingly stuck to an unrealistic moral code and honestly the members of Sleeves make for more interesting characters. Finally speaking of another Sunrise show we come to Love Live Sunshine... Wow! I did not expect to love this as much as I do now I was never the biggest μ's fan as at the time I had no real access to the music or translations of the interviews or character pieces in Dengeki G's Magazine. I have that now with Aqours and I've fallen headlong into the world of Love Live Sunshine from buying all the sub-unit singles and making my own fan-book to signing up for a premium membership on Daisuki so I can watch it as it comes out. While the series it'self is great I could say more but my long reviews of the series say more than enough on my feelings about it. So moving along I'm off of 4chan while I honestly like the idea of an anonymous image board where people can discuss their interests haveing been on A for a couple years now I finally just decided to quit as it's a draining unpleasant place where people who should be old enough to know better are simply petty and cruel to each other for no real discernable reason. Compounded with the fact that the last Love Live Sunshine thread I was in was nothing more than garbage posts, sexualizing Riko and You and overall just being a cluster fudge of meanspiritedness. On top of the fact that when I listed my results from the Love Live Idol sorter I got called a "cerebral reject" because Hanayo was higher in my ranking than Eli or Nico and Ruby being so high in the Aqours ranking wich leads into another thing it seems that the new sport in Love Live threads on 4chan is to bash Ruby which since she is my favorite girl stings a little along with people still perpetuating the calumnies against Nitta Emi (I could go into greater detail but I wouldn't want to inadvertently perpetuate it by mentioning it also frankly it makes me sick that people who profess to be fans would do this sort of thing) and it's all just too sad and juvenile to make me want to continue being on 4chan for any length of time. So consider this my sayonara to the image board as it's just too stupid and mean-spirited for my taste.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Summer Stream 2016: Love Live Sunshine: Episode 2

While part of the episode is Chika still trying to recruit Riko and this leads to some comedy a large part of it is Riko struggling with insecurities and feelings that she can not continue playing piano as whatever joy she got from has been lost in creative writer's block this leads to the centerpiece of the episode a piano version of Yume no Tobira performed by Seiyuu Rikako Aida with a heartbreaking tearfulness that shows a maturity beyond her young years. It shows Riko as in many ways a very self-deprecating but also hard working and driven girl for the episode. While Dia is still very much the foil for Chika's dreams of School Idol stardom. It's not for the reasons we were lead to believe in episode one out of a disdain for Idols as frivolous or vacuous no, in fact, she is actually kind of a μ's Otaku grilling Chika on everything from set lists, performance venues, and even choreography to correcting Chika's mispronunciation of μ's name as "u's". Now other than the name pronunciation and the blind guess of Akihabara in μ's going against A-RISE in the first Love Live so I have no room for being smugly condescending when Chika can't rattle off the facts that Dia takes as common knowledge. Honestly this could have made Dia even more of a bitter pill but it comes off more as misplaced passion and enthusiasm for the beloved group than a sort of elitism I worried that Dia would end up becoming a sort of Strawman of obsessive Idol Otaku much in the same way how Superboy Prime was a strawman of obsessive comic book fans. Thankfully her point can be seen and while she is still harsh it doesn't completely make her unlikeable. While Ruby and Hanamaru are briefly in the episode and Yoshiko is awol after slipping into her Yohane persona during class introductions. Ruby thankfully has seemed to at least trust or stand to be around Chika also Chika luring Ruby out with a sucker is cute and Hanamuru trying to control her verbal tick of saying "Zura" in her sentences are cute little moments that help lighten up the mood from the semi-serious Riko storyline. Overall the episode has the right mixture of comedy and drama and while the group has not been formed yet letting the personalities of the cast shine through is a wise move allowing μ's fans to get to know the new girls while also allowing for continuity between the series. I myself was late to "the party" on Love Live so I don't have as strong of an attachment to μ's as some would or feel that the legacy of μ's is being jettisoned for the sake of the novelty of something new. I simply want to grow more to love the girls in Aqours as much as the old school μ's fans love them. This series is giving me that with each episode the personalities become richer and little bits of the people they have become more apperent from Yoh's love of uniforms wich is another funny part of the episode to Riko's obvious fear of Chika's large dog. The world is being built and it feels effortless wich is good as it could be easy to overwrite it while Chika is inspired by Honoka she is not a Honoka clone Chika is sometimes easily distracted but also a hard worker her simply trying to cheer up Riko without trying to recruit her after numerous efforts to just that speaks volumes to her character it's a subtle amount of empathy that the scriptwriter should be commended for including. Still, a series that gives me the chills at not only its sunny optimism and comedy but also at the hints of character drove depths and questions of motivation.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Summer Stream 2016: Love Live Sunshine: First Impressions (Episode One)

As a first episode, this works so well introducing the new cast and showing the influence of Muse introducing us to Takami Chika (Inami Anju) the upbeat but normal girl who is inspired by seeing a live performance of Muse to try and become a School Idol just on pure guts while her friend Watanabe You (Saitou Shuka) tries to help her out while neither are successful in getting anyone although three first years Kunikida Hanamaru (Takatsuki Kanako), Kurosawa Ruby (Furihata Ai), and Tsushima Yoshiko (Kobayashi Aika). Seem like the first prospects but with Ruby's crippling shyness Hanamaru being withdrawn and haveing a speech tick while Yoshiko insists on saying she is a fallen angel named Yohane. It seems like it's going to be harder than expected to find new club members. Not helping the matter is that Student Council President Kurosawa Dia (Komiya Arisa) is vehemently opposed to the idea of a School Idol club seeing it as flippant. With a lack of members and the Student Council President's opposition all seems lost for Chika until she meets Riko Sakurauchi (Aida Rikako) a girl from Tokyo who knows nothing about School Idols and has concentrated on composing music. Chika gains thankfully one more member when You decides to join splitting her time between the Idol Club and the Swim Club. With the episode ending with Riko now being a new transfer student and Chika trying to get her to be a School Idol with her and Riko declining. Other girls are briefly introduced such as third years Mari Ohara (Suzuki Aina the most talented of the Seiyuu in my opinion) and Kanan Matsuura (Suwa, Nanaka)with Kanan being friends with Chika and Mari back in Japan after two years abroad. Things are being set up for the forgone forming of Aqours but it's the journey to that destination that works allowing little character moments from Dia's mask of icy superiority breaking when she slams her fist on a desk for emphasis only to hurt her hand. Or Hanamaru and Yoshiko being reunited with Yoshiko trying to play at being the dark fallen angel. It's all fun and every girl is endearing in their own way while the overall ethos captures what was good about the original while not being a retread of the original it's still too early to figure out if the songs will be as memorable as Wonder Zone, Snow Halation, and No Brand Girls were for Muse. But so far musically everyone is on point it's now just a matter of getting everyone together. Visually the animation is all clean and sparkly with not an out of place frame and the character CGI in performance pieces has finally been fixed so it doesn't look like badly rendered CGI sprites from a 90s JRPG wich is what kept me from completely loving the original series. While I'm rather forgiving of the voice acting as most of the cast is extremely new with this being their first ever role or first major role. Aika Kobayashi being the only weak performance (not even bad really) but given that her only previous experience were two Ending Theme song performances it's not bad just feels off given Yohane's dark overlord performance although I do have to give her credit for dropping the octave in her voice when she performs as Yohane and bringing it back up as Yoshiko comparable to Kugimiya, Rie's performance in Queen's Blade as Melona but not as deep and honestly the more I watched it the more it grew on me. It gives a hint a subtilty in her acting that I hope gets refined and shown more in future episodes. I'm however hopeful for episode two. In short, this is everything a Love Live fan could want from a new iteration of the franchise it's just a matter of the Seiyu gaining experience and good song choice being made because everything else is on point.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Thunderbolt Fantasy joins the Crunchyroll Summer Simulcast and Simulcast Updates

Gen Urobuchi is known for his philosophical often dark Anime and Visual Novel works well Crunchyroll just licensed his latest work and it is a puppet based live action series. That is one of those sentences I never thought I would have to write but here we are. Needless to say, I will be watching this with rapt attention as I love good puppetry but also I'll have to adjust what I will and won't review so I'm knocking down what I'm reviewing to only Love Live Sunshine as I think Love Live Sunshine is more than enough if I have to review something. Also added the Anime Momokuri about an awkward romance between two High School students and Cheer Boys about a group of cute but quirky boys on a Cheer team. So it's epic fantasy with puppets, cringe romance, dark fantasy, and Pop Idols man Summer is shaping up to be a trip so only Love Live Sunshine is getting reviewed but that's more than enough.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Spring Stream 2016: Hundred: Final Thoughts

With this, the series comes to a wrap and honestly it's nothing special tropes that have felt done a hundred times characters that are written as to be so stupid as to not notice the obvious and a twist in the plot involving the main villain that simply makes her look petty. Honestly while not awful this is forgettable while the monster design is interesting otherwise character design is weak. So with lack-luster writing a ;lackluster color pallet and cheap plasticine it's not the worst thing I've seen this season but it's just forgettable.