Monday, June 23, 2014

All About Sports Anime!

I'm deep in the midst of working on a panel about sports anime, inspired by my own article about sports anime. While I think I have a basic setup, I want to gather as much information about great sports anime that I've missed.

For now, I've been making a list of "Moments of elation" and "Moments of loss" in sports anime, from Chihaya taking the final card to Seirin's big loss. Basically I'm wondering what moments anyone else has in mind when I say those two phrases.

I'm trying to take from what I've watched, so here's the list of sports anime shows that I've seen:
  • Ace of Diamond
  • Baby Steps
  • Bamboo Blade
  • Big Windup!
  • Chihayafuru
  • Cross Manage
  • Free
  • Haikyu!!
  • Kick Heart
  • Knight in the Area
  • Kuroko's Basketball
  • Ping Pong the Animation
  • Saki
  • Stella Women's Academy, High School Division Class C3
  • Suzuka
  • Touch
  • Yowapeda
But I also want to know what great sports anime I've been missing out on. Got some? Let me know!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Oh right, I went to Anime Central 2014

Day 1:
My first anime convention ever was AnimeIowa 2009, I believe. At a mere 3,000 people, it was a nice introduction to cons at the tender age of 19. Since then, I’ve hit AnimeIowa every year and have been to MAGFest, the music and gaming convention in National Harbor, Maryland, the last two years.

So when I go from 3,000 to 9,000 to 12,000 (the second year of MAGFest) to 30,000 it’s a bit of a shock. That’s nearly three times the size of the previous biggest con I went to and the Exhibit Hall itself is probably bigger than AnimeIowa as a whole.

Hell, there is an entire booth dedicated to gunpla that’s bigger than some of the DVD and manga booths at AnimeIowa (and you can bet I’ll be buying a few gunpla for myself!)

The first day was spent in a car for about six hours, traveling from my humble state of Iowa into the crazy lands of Chicago, Illinois (or at least just outside it). And after that, I spent a lot of time in the Exhibit Hall just trying to take it all in. The first panel I attended didn’t happen until 4:30 p.m. when I hit “The History of Mythology and Manga with Crispin Freeman and Helen McCarthy.” I’ll tell you, if you ever have a chance to see either Crispin or Helen speak, DO IT. They are both brilliant minds and I was lucky to see them. Helen was actually at AnimeIowa in 2010, but I was naive and didn’t know who she was. I missed out on a more intimate venue and I regret it.

The real treat for me was seeing Charles Dunbar do his Kill la Kill panel, this time entitled “Kill la Kill and the Transformation of Old Legends.” I did not only gain a greater understanding of Kill la Kill as a show, I learned about Japanese mythology and history. Briefly, each of these characters represent important mythological figures in Japanese lore and Charles breaks it down brilliantly. I love the show even more after seeing him speak.

It’s a funny story, actually, of how I got into the panel. The room was capped at 60 people (why they were holding a Kill la Kill panel with a cap of 60 is beyond me) and the staff cut off at a certain point in the line, me being last. There were three stragglers who came in after me, so I didn’t end up being last in the room, just last in the line. But I was THAT close to missing out and I’m so glad I stuck around.

Day one of the convention was tiring, mostly from that six hour drive and just not being used to walking around that much. Day two has Wake Up Girls concert in store, so I hope I can get into that too.

Day 2:
I have to say, day two of Anime Central was much better than day one. Not only did it NOT include six hours of driving, but I also knew where a lot more things where. The panel rooms to the left of the Exhibit Hall, more panel rooms a floor above, and that other hotel with things I don’t care about. Oh also that TARDIS.

Ok, I guess the second hotel had one thing I cared about, a Super Smash Brothers Melee tournament. I didn’t get to participate since you had to sign up ahead of time and they were at capacity 10 minutes beforehand, when I got there. It’s a little unfortunate, but when you go from 9,000 people (when I participated in the Melee tournament at MAGFest) to 30,000, I guess you gotta turn people away.

This was also the day I hit up Vertical’s booth and finally bought some stuff. I picked up Twin Knights, finally, after reviewing Princess Knight for Deconstructing Comics a while back. I also got Utsubora, Velveteen and Mandala, and Flowers of Evil volumes 1-3. The former two were on suggestions from contemporaries Chris Kirby and Tom Zoth, so I don’t know what to expect. They like Love Live!, but they also like Milky Holmes. So it’s all over the place.

I don’t go to conventions to buy things though—ok, I don’t JUST go to conventions to buy things. THe main draw for me is the panels. And if I haven’t said just how important it is to see Helen McCarthy speak, then I haven’t done my job here yet. Seriously, go see her talk about stuff. I saw her Anime Encyclopedia panel and just hearing about the publishing world and her journey through it is fascinating.

I also hit up Crispin Freeman’s Q&A panel, which was your typical voice actor Q&A, and the beginning and end of the From the New World screening with director Chris Ayres and Saki actress Emily Neves. The screening just proved how excited I was at the beginning, how much the journey let me down, and how well it ended.

Most important part of day two was that I missed the Wake Up Girls! concert because I lost track of time, and was also picking up some yaoi for a friend back home, but I hear it was awesome. Now I’m bummed I missed it.

Day 3:
I hit two panels day three, same as one and two (I think), but they were back to back, so it seems like it was a lot more panels than any other day.

First off, I saw a previous of Helen McCarthy’s upcoming book, A Brief History of Manga. It looks REALLY GOOD and, from what I heard at the panel, I really want to buy it and read it.

The second panel I hit was Yoshitoshi ABe’s Future of Digital Manga panel. The name is a bit of a misnomer, as it didn’t really have to do with the future of digital manga, but the present. He laid out how he made manga, which was really fascinating. There was also a piece of art he did of Oreimo, drawing Kirino in his trademark style, which was absolutely gorgeous.

After this panel, I finally caught up with Twitter buddy @manjiorin, which marks the first time I’ve met someone online and then met them in person. We didn’t have much time, since we both had our respective things to do at the time, but I’d love to hang out again and especially meet more people at these convention things.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Top 10 Anime of 2013

I watched something like 94 anime that premiered in 2013, most of which were dropped after one episode. But there are standouts, as there always will be. I compiled my list of simply the best stuff I saw in 2013, and then forcibly narrowed them down to 10. It was actually pretty easy until I got to the nine spot. Ten I knew was going to be Kill la Kill and Samurai Flamenco together, simply because they have been great but aren’t over yet so I don’t want to snap to any judgments.

There are also a lot of shows missing from this list. I’d say most notably is Gargantia, which I loved the second half of the first episode and the next two episodes of it very much. But it never really surpassed itself from those moments, and devolved into moe slice of life some of the time.

Also missing are the completely pleasant but otherwise unnoticeably. Stuff like Kotoura-san, Gingitsune, Encouragement of Climb, Love Live!, Stella Women’s Academy High School Division Class C3, and of course Free! Kotoura and Gingitsune were fine, but I can’t say that I ever need to watch them again. They’re the type of show that’s really nice to sit down on a lazy Sunday afternoon and watch at your leisure (except maybe that first episode of Kotoura). Encouragement of Climb was a cute little short, but it suffers from the same problems that Kotoura and Gingitsune did. I probably liked it the most, since the staff behind that really knew what to do with three minutes.

Love Live!, however, is completely something I’d watch again because I have a disease. A disease that makes me love musicals for all their stupid goodness, and Love Live! is a pretty adorable musical, through and through. Plus it has some really catchy tunes in things like “Start:Dash.”

The latter two shows, Free! and C3, are both sports anime that were merely pedestrian. Free! had ulterior motives aside from the sports (like being beautifully animated boys in swimsuits), but it was actually pretty good sports fare. C3 was girls with guns, further promoting gun culture by way of being cute with them (unlike Upotte!, which taught you everything you possibly needed to know about these anthropomorphized guns). But C3 was actually an incredibly fun show that let you escape within the world of airsoft, reminding you and your friends that you should really go do that sometime.

From the world of sequels, The World God Only Knows season three and AKB0048 Second Stage are also missing. I liked the first two seasons of The World God Only Knows well enough, because it was playing with the very idea of a harem. But season three touted that it was indeed Keima that is the only person ever that can do anything and that was a little frustrating. Coupled with the unnecessarily complicated Goddesses stuff, it just didn’t do it for me like the first two seasons did. Meanwhile, AKB0048, helmed by Shoji Kawamori of Macross fame, was never amazing, but was always better than what it deserved to be (which is an advertisement for real-life Japanese pop band AKB48). The first season put us into a dystopia similar to Equilibrium and was incredibly fun to watch the girls try and become members of 00. The second season kept up that rhythm and really made us feel like the girls earned it when they finally were accepted as full members.

The biggest thing I’m missing from here is MAOYU, the show that is directed by the same guy who did Spice and Wolf, Takeo Takahashi, and it shows. The main characters, literally just named Hero and Demon Lord, are even voiced by Jun Fukuyama and Ami Koshimizu, Lawrence and Holo respectively. MAOYU accomplishes so much while just anthropomorphizing these names into well-rounded characters. No one is given a name and we grow to love them anyway.

I also didn’t even watch Tamako Market because I don’t have an Anime Network subscription. And there’s Nagi no Asukara, Yowamushi Pedal, Magi, Gundam Build Fighters, and Ace of Diamond that are still airing. But enough about that. We came here to talk about the best anime of 2013 and dammit that’s what we’re going to do.

Number 10: Samurai Flamenco and Kill la Kill
I knew I had to include these on the list, simply because they’ve been so good through 13 episodes. But they aren’t over yet and they’d likely be higher on my list if they were done with.

Kill la Kill is the next project from Hiroyuki Imaishi and his crew at trigger and it’s swept the anime nation with ecchi cosplay of Ryuko and Satsuki. It’s merits don’t end with the cleavage of the main characters, though. It is an incredibly fun show that is always able to turn the dial up one more level right after you thought it was done.

Samurai Flamenco does the same thing, but in a way different way. We start the show thinking that it’s going to be a straight up comedy about a guy trying to be a superhero, but it quickly turns into an amazing action piece that showcases what Samurai Flamenco and the Flamenco Girls have learned throughout 12 episodes of fun. It continuously turns the idea of the singular superhero on its head and, with its next 12 episodes, promises to turn the idea of the sentai on its head as well (exemplified when all five members come out as Flamenco Red). From content itself, it could easily be my favorite of 2013.

Number 9: Attack on Titan
This is truly the anime that took the world and the internet by storm. Attack on Titan really makes you want to care for the characters and the situation they’re in. But more than that, it is an incredible metaphor for fear. The titans are fear incarnate and we humans can only make coping mechanisms to deal with it (the maneuver gear, the cannons, etc.). It also does a great job at creating character agency for everyone involved, especially Jean, who is the character of the show and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Number 8: Watamote

Otherwise known as Watashi ga Motenai no wa do Kanagetemo Omaera ga Warui! or No Matter How I look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular! It’s mercifully shortened to Watamote and it is a show completely dedicated to exploring the character of Tomoko and why she is the way she is, which is to say relatively insufferable yet completely lovable. She has a crippling social anxiety disorder which makes it difficult for her to even speak to her teachers—or anyone who isn’t her family or Yu, a friend from middle school. Despite this, most of what happens to her is completely her fault for bemoaning the “bitches” in her class or just not noticing the social cues from her classmates that are legitimately trying to become friends with her. It is just an incredible series to sit through that is at once enjoyable, reprehensible, and thought provoking.

Number 7: Flowers of Evil

Undoubtedly one of, if not the, most divisive anime this year, Flowers of Evil is an incredible exploration of a kid that’s just trying to look cool. Unfortunately, his idea of looking cool is reading Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal to impress Saeki and his friends. His argument is that he read this difficult book, thus he must be intellectual. It’s actually much more complex than that, dealing with the stigma of trying to appear normal yet bottling everything else up inside culminating in one of the greatest episodes in anime history. Flowers of Evil is an extremely deliberate series that’s sometimes frustrating in how slow it moves, because you know how good it can be.

Number 6: Silver Spoon

The next big thing from Hiromu Arakawa, mangaka for Fullmetal Alchemist, turns out to be a pleasant little farm story about a city kid who goes to an agricultural school in Hokkaido. Much of the story is said to be based on Arakawa’s own life, as she grew up on a farm herself. What the show does is showcase what it really means to grow, kill, and then eat livestock for a living, which is not as glamorous a business as it sounds (and it didn’t sound very glamorous to begin with). Watching Hachiken, who is both a great audience surrogate and an amazing character in his own right, grow to love a pig, buy the pig, and then eat the pig is one of the most emotional moments of the year and perhaps the greatest love story of the year…

Number 5: Genshiken Nidaime

…Right behind the unrequited love of Madarame to Kasukabe, which is years in the making and provided me with my number one episode of the year. Genshiken picks up right where the second season left off (Nidaime in this translation I guess means generation? But Crunchyroll translated it as season, which confuses everyone). Ogiue is going out with Sasahara, who’s working as an editor at a manga company. Ohno is still in school, trying to get through her last year, and Tanaka is still supporting her from the sidelines with his own work. Kugeyama has largely fallen off the big anime scene, as he’s working his own office job now. And Madarame…Madarame is the tragic guy who just can’t leave his former club behind. But we’re glad he’s around. New club president Ogiue and new members Hato, Yoshitake, and Yajima work well off him, not to mention returning champion Sue. For fans of the first two seasons, Nidaime is a great continuation and gives us precious little time with the characters we’ve already grown to love.

Number 4: Kyousougiga

I didn’t believe this would be as good as everyone said. I didn’t believe that the mess of a first episode was actually a brilliant how-to on how to tell a story (along with the subsequent episodes, of course). But I finally visited it and, with a few days off from work this week, finished it in two days. Its first episodes are an amazing clinic in how to tell a non-chronological story and its next episodes are a great example on how built up can lead to payoff. Those first few episodes gave us near perfect character agency for everyone involved in the finale and it only made that finale more potent as a result.

Number 3: Gatchaman Crowds

Like Samurai Flamenco, Gatchaman Crowds threw the idea of a superhero out the window and rewrote the How to be a Superhero manual. Main character Hajime asks such pressing questions like “Why do we have to wear the mask?” “Why do we have to keep our identities secret?” and basically all the other why questions you could ask a superhero. They’ve been answered hundreds of times in various media, but why not just have the people help you fight the bad guy instead of going it alone? Crowds is certainly the greatest deconstruction of the superhero idea in 2013, and we were lucky enough to get two great ones.

Number 2: Chihayafuru 2

I quickly fell in love with Chihayafuru after its bold move to do a two and a half episode flashback at the very beginning of the series. But what this did was make us completely in love with Chihaya, Taichi, Arata, and their struggles. Chihayafuru, like the best sports anime, gives us a great sense of what our characters are trying to achieve. It’s an amazing to see Chihaya succeed with her friends, like she did back in sixth grade. Or to see her fail and lock herself in a closet after a huge loss. Or cry after seeing her dad finally have a book full of newspaper clippings for Chihaya and not just the older sister Chitose. Chihayafuru is a show that is incredible at building up its characters to succeed and finally watching them succeed. But it’s also great at building them up to succeed and watching them fail. Both sides of the coin, both in karuta and their own lives, are explored and it makes this show one of my favorites of all time, much less of 2013.

Number 1: Eccentric Family

How do I even begin to describe one of the greatest anime in recent memory? Eccentric Family does a great job at just letting us steep in the lives and the world of these characters in beautiful Kyoto. Someone like Yasaburo is allowed to always be calmly at center stage, yet never sure of what to do. Oldest brother Yaichiro has to act like the man in the family even though he is clearly not prepared for the role, still struck by the loss of his father. Yajiro is even more tragic, having been the last person who saw their father before he died and now relegating himself to a well, forever transformed into a frog. And little Yashiro is just trying to keep the family together in any way he can, even though it’s on the verge of falling apart. And their mother is acting as this big woman, when she truly isn’t; she puts on the best fa├žade of them all and acts strong to convince her kids, and more importantly herself, that she doesn’t just want to cry over the loss of her husband.

But it isn’t all sadness over their loss. The show actually empowers each and every character, yes ever Yashiro, to great heights by the time its final episode rolls around. Giving us the second best episode of the year, fourth best opening theme, and fourth best ending theme of the year, Eccentric Family is a show to lose yourself in. The lives of the Shimogamo family and the world of the tanuki they live in. And that’s not even mentioning Benten, who would win best female character were it not for Tomoko.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Anime Secret Santa: Gunbuster review, part two

I took a bit of a break, and I’ve still got Kyousougiga to watch as well as Kamisama Kiss. Plus, Dumbing of Age isn’t going to read itself. But I’m back on the Gunbuster train.

Thankfully, the show itself took a bit of a break too. Ten years have passed since they left school and old classmates are instructors now and even have kids. It’s crazy what ten years can do to your old high school friends. I don’t know yet; I just went to a student-organized five year reunion with my friends, so who knows what’ll happen to all of us in five more. But enough about that, we should be talking about anime. 

I’m actually glad I accidentally spread this review over two parts, because it’s in these last two episodes that I realize what Hideaki Anno and his crew at Gainax were trying to do with this entire show. Anno, just like with His and Her Circumstances (at least the parts he worked on it) and Evangelion, is trying to create an incredibly humanizing piece of fiction, in Gunbuster and Evangelion’s case set in this superb world of robots and bouncing boobs.

The dichotomy with the robots provides a great contrast with everything else that’s going on around them. By all means, robots should not exist in this show and it could, in fact, work both without them and the aliens that they’re fighting. The way that this story is framed, of distance between friends and loved ones, is Voices of a Distant Star before Shinkai even thought about making it.

What created the agency for these characters was things like seeing Amano 15 years later meeting Noriko six months later. Or even before that when Noriko saw Kimiko 10 years later. The execution of seeing them together after that extended absence was maybe what Voices was missing that Gunbuster did not for me.

In those moments, it set up the final conclusion’s emotions so much better than any of the fantastical/science fiction elements could have alone. Anno knows that it’s his characters that drive the story and he characterizes them spectacularly. Noriko has grown so much, yet she looks exactly the same as when we first met her. Amano is still the strong young woman she was, but she’s matured in ways much less tangible and evident without looking just a little bit below the surface. And Jung Freud provides the perfect third wheel to the duet of Gunbuster pilots because of her lofty personality and little intrusions/insertions into the story. Jung’s introduction provided us with Noriko in space for the first time, then gaining friends, then growing stronger for the sake of humanity.

The sixth episode, in typical Hideaki Anno fashion, quickly runs out of budget and, in fact, is animated almost completely in black and white. The only color sequence is at the very end when Noriko and Amano return home.

I spent the first four episodes just having fun with being immersed in the world of Gunbuster and into the mind of a younger Hideaki Anno. But the fifth and sixth episodes convinced me that the man knows how to weave a story and how to write characters. He sometimes struggles with story, as this was way too sprawling for what I ended up taking out of the series (which was the relationship between Noriko and those on Earth and how being separated affected her), plus we didn’t really find out anything about these aliens that attacked aside from that they are evil. But we arguably don’t learn that with Evangelion either and that was fine.

Now, if only Hideaki Anno always had infinite money or money management skills for his animation budget.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Anime Secret Santa: Gunbuster review, part one

I don’t have much of a reason to write here anymore, because I’m too damn busy writing for the Fandom Post or on Twitter. But I always try to throw a few first impression reviews at the beginning of each season and I’ll occasionally rant on about what happens to be on my mind. I rarely have the attention span to want to sit down and do a whole, cohesive article though. I also don’t have the time, working 9–5 and writing for aforementioned places.

But the Reverse Thieves’ Anime Secret Santa project was solicited and I answered the call. I got the three shows back, and they were: Irresponsible Captain Tylor, Black Heaven, and Gunbuster. Black Heaven is that show with the clip I like to make fun of and Tylor is 26 episodes, so the obvious choice was Gunbuster, the six-episode Gainax OAV from 1988 that marked the directorial debut of Hideaki Anno of Evangelion fame.

Ah the joys of watching shonen action heroes improve in an instant. In a mere month, protagonist Noriko Takaya goes from worst to second with the help of the Coach. You see, Noriko was selected for a special mission out of the entire school, likely because she’s a little bit genki. The coach, Koichiro Ohta, is one of the survivors of the Luxion, on which Admiral Yuzo Takaya died.

The first episode was quite humorous, with giant robots taking the roles of humans in the typical comedy scenes. In one, the high school girls snicker at Noriko as she jumps rope instead of practices inside of her robot. When the resident onee-sama steps in, they all run away saying “Excuse me!” in typical anime girl fashion. It’s moments like this that immediately set the stage for what the show’s lighter moments will be.

But this shonen training montage wasn’t all for naught. Noriko proves that she does indeed have the potential that the Coach said she did; though where he saw that potential is very, very up in the air. She pretty much masters the basics of moving that robot along with a Lightning Kick that drops the supposed second best in the school.

By the second episode, they’re in space and faced with Jung Freud, a not-so-subtle reference to the famous psychologists. She acts as a nice foil to Noriko for a while, but her formerly tough exterior is melted away almost instantly, and possibly disappointingly. She challenged ace student Kazumi Amano to a battle, where they duke it out and find that the other ain’t so bad at fighting after all.

The beef of the second episode is with an exercise where Noriko and Amano have to travel light speed. The ramifications of it are that they’ll leave and come back two months after they leave due to light speed travel being all science-y and such (I don’t understand it, pretend to understand it, or even know if Gunbuster is portraying it correctly or not). Nor do I care because they’re 12 seconds late in returning, thus they spent four more months gone than they expected.

On the trip, they see the shambling remains of the Luxion. Noriko, emotional, jettisons herself from her rocket and boards the ship. Two days had passed on the ship’s time since the attack and she just wanted to find her father. When she gets to the bridge and it’s gone, it is the best moment of the series thus far and I think it’ll have a hard time topping that in terms of emotional impact.

I assume running into the Luxion was unexpected, but it meant a lot for Noriko, who not only missed her own birthday by four months, but Jung Freud’s as well. More importantly, she grasped at a sliver of hope that was barely even there and lost it all when that door finally opened. Seeing her recovery from that will be paramount to her growth as a character, and it’ll be extremely interesting to see what Anno—who, of course, later proved his storytelling chops dealing with emotional trauma like this with Evangelion—does with it.

It’s in the third episode that things really start moving. Noriko is finally faced with a loss that weighs heavy on her heart, not only as a human being but as a pilot. Amano has chosen to un-team up with Noriko, believing that Noriko is too inexperienced to be of any real help. This turns out to be true when she teams up with Smith Toren, named after the translator of the same name. When the two go out on a mission, it turns out bad for Noriko. Her job was to defend Smith, but she failed. He was lost in the battle and they’ve since gone warp speed away.

This is the kind of loss that a TV show almost needs to have to make us really sympathize with the characters. Noriko has had it relatively easy thus far, given her rapid growth and Lightning Kick to the second best. She was high on that, but still knew her relative inexperience is a hindrance. But just how much of a hindrance she would only find out on the battlefield, where Smith could have just as easily been Amano or Jung Freud. And then what?

Noriko, emotionally and physically drained by this point, sees the coach and the presumed Gunbuster robot and breaks down. She’s crying, but she doesn’t want to give up and that’s the best part about it. She doesn’t want to give up, she wants to try harder to make it so this never happens to her again. I admire that out of a character, to be so transparent, and the moment has convinced me that Gunbuster is more than just fun robot show.

With episode four, I can see where Hideaki Anno’s seeds are for Evangelion. Noriko’s entire arc in this episode is basically the same arc as Shinji, just their reasons for not wanting to fight are different. I’m inclined to believe more in Noriko’s arc than Shinji’s because we’ve been around her for longer than Shinji by this point.

But looking squarely at Noriko, she’s grown leaps and bounds in just one episode. She’s still distraught over the loss of Toren Smith (and aren’t we all) and she’s going through some serious PTSD just by being in space. She gets over it with sheer willpower to help those that are literally dying around her and it’s quite uplifting to watch.

To do so, the titular Gunbuster robot is finally unveiled and it is quite amazing. I wish I had a toy of it in my hands right now, but that would make typing a little harder.

The introduction of Gunbuster—superimposed against Amano and Jung Freud’s robots to perhaps look much larger than them (or maybe it is actually larger? I assume it’s larger)—is among the great moments in Gainax badassery. Not only did this spell the “death” of the Noriko of the past, it’s a cool giant robot!

Gunbuster has, thus far, been really fun. I’ve only put it off this long because there’s no legal way to watch it. But, given that this secret Santa told me to, I finally have the opportunity to pirate it and feel a little less bad. I’ve got two episodes left, but I’m SUPPOSED to have it up by today and I’ve just been busy playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution or reading Dumbing of Age or tweeting on twitter. Things have got in the way and I will finish it, and post the rest of the review. But until then, merry Christmas to those who celebrate and happy holidays to those that don’t.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Fall 2013: Kill la Kill

Kill la Kill is meant to entice, it's meant to excite, and it's meant to entertain. It does both better than any show thus far this season (and probably will be better than any show this season). Backed by new studio Trigger (Little Witch Academia) and veteran key animator and director Hiroyuki Imaishi (Gurren Lagann, Panty and Stocking), Kill la Kill had a lot of expectations going in and it's lived up to just about every single one. Let me put it this way: In its opening scenes, a student is brutally, viciously killed at the hands of the disciplinary committee head. It is beautifully animated and visually striking; more importantly, it perfectly sets up the world in just three minutes or so.
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I could mention that Kill la Kill fails to fully flesh out any one character beyond their basic archetype. I could mention that Kill la Kill fails to set up the villain as anything more than "the villain." Or I could mention how Kill la Kill is beautifully, stunningly animated. How the main character, Ryuko Matoi, is one of the more interesting characters thus far. See, she's on a mission of revenge, searching for the man (or woman, as it were) who killed her father and took the other half of the scissors she wields. As it is the first episode, the characterization is light, but the execution is fantastic. She is at the same time charging into her vengeance and stepping lightly around it (exemplified with her reticence and then embrace of the new uniform she wears).

Speaking of those uniforms, they are a brilliant plot device. It sets up a very visible hierarchy that cannot, under and circumstance, be challenged. Even the school principal says that Satsuki Kiryuin, the student council president and main antagonist, controls the school by way of her mother. The uniforms are stacked what seems like five tiered: Satsuki's unform at the top, three star, two star, one star, and zero stars. Matoi's new threads are at least better than the two star Goku uniform, but we have yet to see whether it eclipses three.

Kill la Kill is most certainly (one of) the show to watch this season. I'll likely be jumping up and down in joy during the final, epic climax.

Rating: 5/5

Fall 2013: Nagi no Asukara

PA Works' latest outing, Nagi no Asukara, is immediately visually stunning. It looks like a normal place, but their home is actually underwater. Fish swim around the people and Hikari swims around to get where he's going faster.
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The mythology they're building in the show is really interesting. It's built upon everyone once living in the sea and then shedding a sort of skin to only live on land. The two factions, of course, warred after the split (and will likely war at some point in the show). The war is exemplified quite perfectly by a simple fishing boat picking up Manaka, one of the girls who live underwater and one of  the main characters.

The underwater people even have a god - rather a scale of a god - that watches over the folks underwater to make sure they don't get into any trouble. The god, of course, curses Manaka for being a little cheeky. Though the god was being much more cheeky.

The same complaints I had for those stupid fanservice shows still holds true here; characterization was relatively weak, but definitely more there than in the bait shows. What's got me hooked (pardon the pun) is the setting. An underwater setting where humans live is extremely intriguing and the animation is absolutely gorgeous. PA Works is still among the best when it comes to backgrounds. I'm excited to see where this goes and hopefully where the characters go.

Rating: 3.5/5