Archive for the ‘Anime’ Category

The Rehabilitation of Tanya the Evil Part 1: the Empire

April 15, 2017

The English title of this anime: The Saga of Tanya the Evil is, to my way of thought, a misnomer and misleading. It pre-judges the character, and primes the viewer for one interpretation of her actions. The Japanese title Yojo Senki (幼女戦記), Young Girl’s War Record, is more neutral, but not as clickable. The anime is the story of the impact of this girl on a war, and vice-versa. Because of the title, most commentators assume that both Tanya and the Empire are evil. It’s not that simple. Let’s take the Empire first.

At a high level, the world of Tanya is an alternate universe to our own. It is 1925, and Europa is sliding into a war similar to WWI, with some elements of WWII.

(more…)

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2017 Part 2

April 10, 2017

I tried some other shows, when Crunchyroll finally broadcast them. Some didn’t fare as well as others.

Hinako Note: Country girl comes to the big city to go to high school. Is better at talking to animals than people, and has a tendency to freeze with her arms out straight, like a scarecrow, when flustered. Sounds like a good way to get your pockets picked. Meets four other girls in her dorm and at some point they will decide to put on a show (it’s too far to use my father’s barn). Would have been a soothing slice of life, if it wasn’t for the eternally squeaky voices and the stupid scarecrow shtick.

Eromanga Sensei: Japan is full of middle- and high- school students making a living as light novel authors and mangaka, which is good for their futures because I’ve never seen one do a lick of homework. Even primary school girls can make it big, drawing erotic art for magazines and LNs. Presumably, they get their subjects from various online websites — although some 12 year olds take selfies of their butts and use that as the basis for drawings they post online, and tell me how that doesn’t violate half a dozen laws.

It should not be all that rare, then, for the 12 year old little sister to turn out to be the one who is drawing erotic art for the 15 year old big brother’s best selling novels. Think, Oreimo with a business relationship.

Tsugumomo: The story of a mama’s boy with an obi fetish — he carries his late mother’s obi everywhere, even to school. Thirty seconds into the main story, they’ve already hit two classic anime tropes, the accidental boob clutch followed by the accidental panty shot, with extra points for chaining the events. Two minutes after that, Our Protagonist is subject to attempted tentacle rape from a marauding wig, but is saved by the Goddess of the Obi, Tsugumomo (つぐもも) which, as far as I can tell means next generation peach. She subjugates him, moves in, shares the bath, shares the bed, hogs the Playstation. Meanwhile, his little sister, who wants to share the bath, share the bed, and to hell with the Playstation, is getting suspicious.

TLDR — Anime I never finished, Spring 2017

April 7, 2017

There are some anime that are so off-putting that there’s no reason to invoke the three episode rule. The four anime that follow might not be bad, but they are certainly not my cup of tea.

1. The Royal Tutor: There’s a new tutor in town. Looks like a kid but is a grown man (there’s lots of hormonal balance mutations in Japan). Tutor to four princes, of various degrees of snottery, apparently born 9 months and 15 minutes apart. Oldest one looks like a romance novel cover, and talks like he’s lost one too many mace battles. Shorty Tutorpants will outsmart them all — and of course, that’s the problem.

2. Akashic Records of Bastard Magical Instructor: There’s a certain kind of character, with too high an opinion of themselves and hair that won’t stay off of their forehead. A simple three-finger toss of the hair and the head will unerringly identify them. This one’s an incompetent cad. Unless they are planning on doing a body swap with Oda Nobunaga in Episode 2, I see no possibility of redeeming this train wreck. Did I mention the female student uniforms make KanColle look like nuns?

3. GranBlue Fantasy: Generic girl-with-powers escapes from secret lab. Lab is in a Pilot’s Love Song-style Airborne Battle Cruiser. Girl lands near generic village. Generic boy finds her. They, and her generic (female) knight companion, are surrounded by troops from the ABC, led by generic foppish captain with a falsetto voice. Generic ending with Boy merging life forces with Girl, beating the snot out of the Troops and heading off for a Secret Location known only to everyone in the village. Generic.

Paul Robeson sang “Joe Hill” next to this cottage

4. Silver Guardian: While the scantily-clad maidens of the Maidenly Academy for Young Maidens sleep quietly in their maidendorm, a boy is fighting for their survival, unbeknownst to all but the maidenly dorm mom. When the pyramidical tomb he is guarding is surrounded and attacked by thousands of undead, he does the logical thing by taking out his magical swords and attacking the throngs in front of the stonepile, evidently forgetting that there is a back entrance. In fact, there’s a front entrance that’s left unguarded while he’s half a mile away, whacking off zombie heads. Fortunately, the zombies are missing, you know, brains.

OK, I lied. They’re bad.

Anime Postview: Winter 2017

April 5, 2017

This is not a real review of the anime season just ending. Instead, it’s a look at how well I did in my Winter 2017 Preview, which you might want to look at first.

It was a fun season, but not because of any of the shows I picked back in December.

Ones I said I WILL WATCH:

Chaos;Child didn’t last even one episode. Confirmed my suspicion that anime with a semicolon in the title are not worth watching.

Fuuka lasted two and a half episodes. All the characters are self-centered snots, and I never did like “let’s form a band” anime anyway.

Little Witch wasn’t available. It’s streaming on Netflix and we don’t subscribe.

Ones I said I MIGHT WATCH:

Kuzu no Honkai wasn’t available. It’s behind the Amazon double paywall.

Seiren lasted four episodes. It’s a pale reflection of its predecessor.

Dragon Maid Finally, a show worth watching. Among the top two for the season.

Ones I said I WON’T WATCH:

ACCA. I tried it. It was actually pretty good but couldn’t hold my interest for some reason. Maybe later.

Minami K. Quick peek confirms — worse than I thought. Given their demonstrated levels of intelligence, I’m surprised they can balance on a tricycle.

Marginal. No idea. I didn’t even try it. Idols.

So, there we are. Of the six that I checked out, one was worth watching. Of course, there were four other shows that didn’t appear in the preview, for some reason, that turned out to be pretty good: Monster Girls, Tanya the Evil, Gabriel Dropout, and Konosuba 2. So the season wasn’t a complete loss.

Anime Preview: Spring 2017

March 15, 2017

Unlike some others, who use knowledge of the source materials, close observation of the previews, and who actually read the press releases, I’m going to base mine on just the title and the cover art, and maybe a bit of the blurb. Consider yourself warned. If you want a real preview, pop on over to AniChart.

First, let’s say what’s normally not in here. Sequels to stuff I didn’t like before (Berserk 2), most kids stuff (Snack World), anything with idol in the description or Re: in the title; movies and OVA’s.

WILL WATCH: The the cover art is properly enticing, so I definitely will watch at least the first three eps.

Also includes second seasons.

Saekano 2

Doing for gal-games what Shirobako did for anime

Uchouten Kazoku 2

Benten disturbs the peace of Kyoto’s shadow world of tanuki and tengu

Shuumatsu Nani

After 500 years, the fashion industry still hasn’t solved the problem of hats.

MIGHT WATCH: The cover art is not too off-putting, so I might watch it.

Nanatsu no Taizai

Lucifer tempts people with his bosom

Sekaisuru

Cosplayer attends college. Note: Sekai means world, and suru turns any word into a verb, so Worlding?

Tsuki ga Kirei

Boy stalks girl beneath the cherry blossoms

 

 

WON’T WATCH. The cover art / title / blurb tells me more than I ever wanted to know on the topic.

Dungeon ni Deai

Warrior babes invade dungeons wearing bikinis

 

Love Kome

Five bishies who really love their rice

Tsugumomo

Boy falls in love with his mother’s scarf

Sakura Quest

80 years after Sakura Taisen, the demons are reduced to rural mascots, and the Teikoku Kagekidan is now a locodol group

Warau Salesman New

Them teeth

…and 41 more that didn’t even make the “I won’t watch” cut.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished: Seiren

February 18, 2017

A lot of anime are adaptations of Visual Novel originals. The problem with adapting  a VN into a twelve-episode anime is that they almost all are multi-track — work you way through while romancing girl A, then go back and do the same with girl B. The question for an anime studio is, how do we handle this during an adaptation?

One way is to pick one girl and follow her to the end, with all the other girls having walk-on parts. Clannad is a good example. The upside is, the story can devote twelve whole episodes to the budding romance. The downside is is, everyone who likes girl B, or C, or …. will be disappointed.

A second approach, call it the Kanon model, is to keep one girl on the main track, even if it disappears into the background for a bit, and give the other girls their own arcs, without ever promising them romance. This requires a certain skill in balancing the screen time and keeping the main heroine as the obvious favorite.

Finally, we have the omnibus approach, famous in Amagami and Photo Kano, and (this season) Seiren. Each girl gets a turn at romance, and after three or four episodes rides off into the sunset with the protagonist. Then we reset, and go through the whole thing with some new girl. It’s like a collection of short stories instead of a novel. The problem with the omnibus approach is twofold, or maybe three.

photokanogirls

First, they are short stories. There’s no depth, no chance to develop characters. The four episodes tend to run to a pattern: boy meets girl; boy and girl hit it off; boy and girl encounter insurmountable relational problems; boy and girl decide to get married.

amagagamigirls

Second, they use the same cast in different roles across different arcs. It’s kind of an ensemble production — like some of the old Murder, She Wrote programs, where the bad guy one week is an old family friend the next. It’s not just that the main heroine changes, that’s to be expected, it’s that our protagonist’s male friend one arc is a complete stranger the next one. Or maybe they play video games one arc, and the next one he’s off on the soccer team. It makes for a certain mental whiplash.

seirengirls

After a while, they all look alike

Finally, and this is a particular problem with Seiren, the protagonist might or might not be the same personality from one arc to the next. In Amagami and Photo Kano, the protagonist was the same person, with the same goals and hangups: in Amagami, he was recovering from having been stood up for a Christmas Date; in Photo Kano he was a camera nut. In each arc we get to see alternative ways he can work through his life problems. In Seiren, he’s a different guy each time.

This season, Seiren is sandwiched in between Tanya the Evil and Demi-chan, and it doesn’t really fill an anime-watching need.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished: Yozakura Quartet

February 6, 2017

Yozakura Quartet
A one cours anime from 2010. Not so much bad as very much not my demographic. Two-thirds of a century ago, maybe, but now, if I had the ability to try-before-buy (say, via Crunchyroll or Funimation), I would not have bought it.

On second thought, no — it’s bad. It’s about a group of humans and half-demons who bond socially to fight other half-demons (the anti-social ones) to drive them to the other side and to protect the six sacred sakura stumps that (sortof) guard the town from demons.

I guess you’d call this a shonen fighter, appealing mostly to middle-school boys, because every episode features a battle of some sort. The trouble is, all the fights are the same: each protagonist takes turns fighting the demon, instead of ganging up on them; everyone spends most of the time talking, and the demons spend their talk time gloating; and about a third of the combat dialogue by the protagonists involves shouting the name of one of the others (the one who is currently getting the individual snot beat out of them).

The spikey hair is a dead giveaway

The spikey hair is a dead giveaway

The art is crude, and the animation is minimalist. The funniest scene was when the womanising land god who looks after the town (but doesn’t actually do anything to protect it) visits the festival to see if there are any pretty girls to romance, and runs into a couple of 70 year olds who fondly remember dallying with him some decades earlier. Always embarrassing.

It was not available for preview on Crunchyroll or Funimation, but there had been some good reviews on-line, back in the day (and one of the characters was voiced by Sawashiro Miyuki), so when it came on sale on Amazon a couple of weeks ago, I bought it. I made it halfway through Episode 7 and gave up. Life is too short, and Amazon Prime is streaming Highschool Of The Dead.

Shirobako and “cuts” in anime

January 20, 2017

This is mostly based on information found on Sakuga Blog, and is presented separately here, primarily as a way of organizing my own thoughts on the subject.

If you have watched the meta-anime Shirobako, you know that cuts are the International Standard unit of measure in anime production. In Shirobako, almost every animator assignment is based on cuts, and the difficulty of an assignment is rated in how heavy (complex) the cuts are. So, like Noah and cubits, my first questions what’s a cut?

I have been looking for a definition of the word ever since Shiro came out. Finally, Sakuga Blog has one, with a couple of really good examples:

Cuts in anime are basically the same as shots in movies – continuous looks at the events. Multiple of them are used to comprise a sequence, and they can be short or long depending on the type of scene (though the latter are rare, since anime’s production model would require a single animator to handle way too many consecutive keyframes). The easiest way to explain them is through examples, so let’s take a look at two recent uploads on the booru: this upload is composed of three cuts (0:00 – 0:09, 0:09 – 0:12, and 0:12 – 0:23), while this upload is one single cut. Another way to think about it is simply the “camera” switching to another position; a cut can move the POV, but it ends the moment it cuts to a different one.

So, if I understand the process correctly, the director sketches out the start of each cut as part of a storyboard:

We'll need 100 horses

We’ll need 100 horses

Then the key animators draw major changes in the positions of characters within a cut

shirobakokeyframe

And finally, the in-between-ers draw each frame of the 24fps animation to move from one position to another, and color and backgrounds are added.

shirobakofinal02

So this (non-Shirobako) sequence, from the Sakugabooru blog, looks like it shows development of a single cut. The original storyboard and key animation are at the top, at the bottom, you have the in-betweens drawn in and the background, with the final coloring.

Anime I’m watching — Winter 2017

January 17, 2017

Not counting OVAs or shorts, AniChart shows 50 anime airing this season. I started out watching 15, which rapidly dropped to eleven worth mentioning, and has now levelled off at six. Three are slice-of-life “monster” comedies, two are isekai, and one is a straight high school harem romance.

Demi-Chan wa Kataritai — Monster girls go to high school. Unlike Monster Musume, the previous entry in this genre, the girls are not part of a harem, and they are not oversexualized. The male human POV character is an adult teacher, who pretty much acts like one. The number of monster girls is limited: student vampire, snow maiden, and dullahan; math teacher succubus. So far, we’ve only gotten a look at the vampire and dullahan. They are typical high school girls, sometimes mischievous, sometimes prone to getting a crush on their teacher.

The Japanese seem to be fascinated with the dullahan concept, the headless horseman of Irish folklore. Last year’s Konosuba had one who was an evil lord*, while dullahan Celty was one of the stars of Durarara. Demi-chan treats it more like a disability, addressing questions like, what happens when your body is at home but not close to the toilet, while your head is on a date, drinking soda?

If you spend too much time saying goodbye, some of you can miss your train

If you spend too much time saying goodbye,
some of you can miss your train

Things may heat up next week, when we learn about sex and the single succubus.

Kobayashi-san’s Dragon Maid — All about, well, Kobayashi, and her live-in maid, who is also a dragon. As with few other shows, this is about adults, who work, and drink, and have a life, and don’t go to high school. The lead human, Kobayashi, reminded me a little bit of Kaoru, from I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying, even though the character designs were quite different. It turns out that both of these anime were based on manga by the same author, Cool-kyō Shinja. So far, it’s slice-of-life, with dragon jokes. Also maid jokes.

dragonmaid01 dragonmaid03 dragonmaid02

Gabriel Dropout — Not exactly a monster, Gabriel is an angel, tops in her class at angel middle school, who is sent down to Earth to go to high school and live with humans and learn about them. Unfortunately, she gets enamoured of computer RPG’s, and by the end of the first episode is well on her way to dropping out and becoming not only a NEET, but evil**.

In some ways, she’s a typical high school girl who, for example, doesn’t want to leave any witnesses to an unfortunate teleportation event with her pantsus.

Collateral damage

Collateral damage

Konosuba, Season 2 — A second season for the high school boy who died and was reincarnated in a fantasy world with the mission of defeating the Demon King. He’s still teamed up with a set of companions who are powerful but useless — water goddess who can do a fan dance with water, explosion wizard who can produce only one blast a day, masochistic knight who can take loads of punishment but can’t hit anything with her sword.

The default facial expressions

The default facial expressions

Seiren — High school harem romance, in the Amagami SS tradition. It’s based on a visual novel, so there’s multiple girls to pursue. It’s in omnibus format, which means that instead of picking one girl, the way Kanon and Clannad do, the 12 episodes are really three short stories of 4 episodes each, so the protagonist can win three different girls. Think of it as parallel universes.

Three of these girls will be the lucky winner. More, if there's a second season

Three of these girls will be the lucky winner.
More, if there’s a second season

The Saga of Tanya the Evil — A first season for the salaryman who died and was reincarnated in a fantasy world after getting into an argument with God over whether he exists or not. Since he’s applying his former-life cuthroat-management techniques to his new situation, this has been called the Moshidora of reincarnation anime.

Izetta, she ain't

Izetta, she ain’t

He ends up as an evil***, magic-using warloli soldier who is trying to establish a place for herself in the rear echelon of a war very like WWI. Of course, all her efforts only make her a hero, likely to be pushed into the front lines.


* How evil? He used to bowl his head down the hall so that it came to a stop looking up a maid’s skirts. You don’t get much more evil than that.

** How evil? More evil than the demon student who threw a plastic bottle in the recycling without removing the cap.

*** How evil? Evil enough to get it into his nickname.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2017 Part 2

January 15, 2017

It’s a long weekend, so here’s the second increment of stuff I’m no longer watching.

ACCA — Late 1930’s European feel to this one, or maybe immediately post-war, despite the computers. Official in the auditing branch of the nationwide public services organization gets involved in complex intragovernment plot. Uniforms scream “Nazi SS”, but the reality (at least, below the scheming leadership) feels more like a normal government bureaucracy/police procedural. Looks to be targeted at a very adult demographic. For some reason it just couldn’t hold my interest, and the fact that a map of the continent they are on looks exactly like a chicken has nothing to do with it.

We'll arrest the ... usual suspects

We’ll arrest the … usual suspects

Masamune-kun’s Revenge — Spoiled boy decides to get back at spoiled girl who rejected him in grade school by romancing her in high school and rejecting her once she falls for him. Spoilers say his clever plan collapses when they end up falling for each other. Neither one of them is the kind of person you’d want on your friends list.

Chaos;Child — OK, I admit it. Every semicolon anime since Stein’s;Gate has been confused, poorly organized, and overly gory, with totally unrelatable characters, and C;C maintains their record, unblemished.

SpiritPact — Insufferably dense idiot dies and is offered a perpetual job working for an insufferably smug exorcist fighting evil demons who are the suffering souls of the newly dead. Suffering.

Minami Kamakura … Bu — High school girls cycling club, best described as a 12-episode ad for the Kamakura Chamber of Commerce. Characters are squeaky-voiced idiots and the plot is non-existent, but the artwork is pretty.

Looks like parts of Germany

Looks like parts of Germany

REGRETTABLY ABSENT

I’m not watching these, not because they are not good, but because they are not available to me. Now that anime has grown enough to be of interest to the big boys, instead of being a niche for otaku, the majors are shouldering their way in, looking for a slice of that $60 a disk anime pie. The business model seems to be to pay lots of money for the cream of the anime crop, leaving sites like Crunchyroll with Hand-Shakers, and other dregs.

Netflix, of which I am probably the only person in Christendom who doesn’t have a subscription, has licensed Little Witch Academia.

Amazon has come up with a double, maybe triple, whammy. 1. They have an exclusive license to a big chunk of Noitamina’s catalog, 2. It’s behind the Amazon Prime $100/year paywall, 3. and the Anime Strike $5/month paywall. Depending on their marketing plan, some properties (Great Passage) may be available in other countries (UK) before they are available in the US. In addition to GP, this season’s batch includes Scum’s Wish and Onihei, as well as the ever-popular Vivid Strike (OK, so maybe not totally cream).

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2017 Part 1

January 13, 2017

So far, the Winter season of 2017 has given us a disappointment in almost every genre.

Hand Shakers — Clueless HS student forced to fight unknown enemies for unknown reasons in intersecting parallel dimension. Male combatants evoke their combat prowess by fighting hand-in-hand with a female counterpart. Or sometimes foot-in-crotch. Characters are animated in 3DCG by a team that never looked at what either the backgrounders or the special effects parts of the team were doing. Plus, they know nothing about the physics of fluid-filled spheres.

Remember, it's not assault if she sounds like she's enjoying it.

Remember, it’s not assault if she sounds like she is enjoying it.

Akiba Strip — Poor man’s Ikki Tousen. Protagonists beat the outerwear off demons from an intersecting parallel dimension disguised as beautiful girls, who then get all burned up over it. In most cases, the outerwear barely covers the underwear, so the exact destruction mechanism is as obscure as the reasoning behind the existence of this show.

Remember, it's not assault if they're demons in disguise

Remember, it’s not assault if you claim they’re demons in disguise

Chain Chronicles — Multiple multi-racial armies assault insanely-evil-mage-king’s castle in a bid to get a small group of heroes inside to kill the IEMK and recover a magical tome. Heroes choose the heroic option and attack IEMK one at a time. Heroes get their collective ass handed to them. Final tug of war between IEMK and his insanely-evil-mage-king’s-daughter over magical tome ends with the book being torn in half. After which, all the MMRAs, along with the IEMKD and the halfbook ride slowly away. To be followed by ten episodes of recriminations.

Good thing none of you is smart enough to sneak up on me through the smoke

Good thing none of you is smart enough to sneak up on me through the smoke

Schoolgirl Strikers — Not-exactly-magical girls (see Luck and Logic) travel to an intersecting parallel dimension to fight monsters that look like they were the result of a failed genetics programming algorithm for generating monster art.

We're not magical girls. Don't call us magical girls.

We’re not magical girls. Don’t call us magical girls.

Fuuka —  Group of students decide to start a band, unfortunately in this dimension. Others have done it better.

I know! Let's put on a show! We can use my father's barn!!

I know! Let’s put on a show!
We can use my father’s barn!!

The financial side of anime

January 3, 2017

Over on Sakuga Blog there’s an interesting article on the financials of the anime industry. It appears to be based primarily on sales and so forth in Japan, with one chart on international revenues. The recent trends seem to be up, which is encouraging. The trends in home video, however, are down, and likely to continue that way. Which is sad.

Home video refers to physical purchase of DVDs and BDs, as opposed to streaming. The big differences are, of course, instant customer gratification and zero inventory requirements for streaming, with production delays and inventory risks for disk production.

I prefer physical disks for my favorite shows. Streaming is a problematical solution, because of licensing restrictions and changes in business models and marketing strategies. If I have a disk, I own it forever. If I have a streaming subscription, I ‘own’ the anime until it ages out.

In terms of packaging and delivery, the Japanese model has been to release disks with only a few episodes on them, at what Americans used to consider exorbitant prices. For example, right now on amazon.co.jp, volume 1 of Shirobako (three episodes, roughly 72minutes of programming) costs ¥5400 (a reduction from the original ¥8400), or about $0.64/minute. The article talks about how this is slowly changing, to a business model with more episodes per disk. What the article doesn’t address is the transfer of Japanese program packaging and pricing into the North American market.

For example, in the U.S., as recently as 2008, highly rated shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion or Mushishi would sell as full series boxed sets for about $50 for 650 minutes, or $0.08 per minute. Now, Nekomonogatari White is selling what equates to less than half a season (5 episodes, 125min) for $80 for the BD version. That’s also $0.64 per minute. And the much less highly rated Saekano (How to raise a boring girlfriend) is selling in single episode sets at about a dollar a minute in Japan, with the first six episodes on BD in the U.S. going for $0.64/minute.

My forecast is that sales of physical disks in the U.S. market are likely to drop much more than in Japan, given both the increased availability of streaming and the higher price per minute of the disks. I guess the anime sales departments right now are testing the price elasticity of demand, and will have to learn through experience if the increased revenue per disk will offset the decline in unit sales.

Anime Postview: Fall 2016

December 29, 2016

This is not a real review of the Fall anime season. Instead, it’s a look at how well I did in my Fall 2016 Preview, which you might want to look at first.

Overall, it was a pretty thin season, with only about six out of sixty shows falling into the watchable category. No particular standouts, except that everybody but me thought that Yuri On Ice was wonderful. I thought what I watched of it was pretty good, but it just didn’t engage my interest. Maybe not enough yuris.

So, how did I do on my Will Watch group? Looks like I’m two out of three for this one, if you count meh as an acceptable rating. Touken Ranbou turned out to be SwordColle — a bunch of bishies who used to be swords.

Fast talking high school student with his own anti-occult website turns out to be a ghost who doesn’t know he’s a ghost in a crowd of other ghosts, solves a mystery about ghosts and thwarts the plots of an evil emperor to control the afterlife using ghosts. Surprisingly subdued climax.

From a straight mechanics standpoint, things went too fast for a subtitle-reader to follow. I had a choice of reading the bottom of the screen, or seeing what was happening on the rest of it. Too many expository dumps. Monogatari could pull it off. Not so the ; gang.

Otherwise, imaginative use of ghosts.

Occultic;Nine

Cast of Lost Village ends up in a library. Adds semicolons to their list of personal phobias

———————————————

Shuumatsu no Izetta

Don't worry. Love will break our fall. ———————————————

Yep, Witches und Panzers. Great premise — witch fighting WWII — squandered on poorly structured plot and non-useful fanservice, with hokey post-ending  ending. Potentially one of the best of the Season, it turned out to be merely entertaining.

After all, how often do you get to see a cute, red-headed witch flying around on an anti-tank rifle?

 

For the  Might Watch group I pulled another two out of three as well. Keijo was just too too silly, with too many butts and too many boobs, and too much sports. Probably was a favorite in the frat houses.

A random crawl through psycho-space. Think, FLCL meets Magical Girls.  Friend of a girl’s mother from her past rescues the girl from her mother in an alternate dimension that somehow interacts with this one. Probably my favorite new show of the Season, which shows you how thin the season was.

The graphics make you feel like you’re lost in Mandelbrot’s sink trap.

Flip Flappers

Girls who are too poor to own stockings, and have to dress in tea towels find happiness in floral displays———————————————

Brave Witches

Girls who are too poor to own underwear bravely fly combat missions at 25,000ft. Huddle together to keep warm———————————————

Can’t go wrong with a Strike Witches spinoff. This one is set in the NorthEast Theater and features lots of flying over snow-covered terrain in their pantsus. The character development side concerns itself with the efforts of Karibuchi Hikari to prove herself a worthy replacement for her sister.

If you liked Strike Witches, you’ll like this one. Not great, but entertaining.

As for the Won’t Watch group, I think I can say I’m three out of three. Well, Long Riders was on a different channel, and I never looked at Tiger in the Hole!. On the other hand, everybody in the world liked Yuri, but I like my yuri with more girls in it. So, maybe two out of three.

That gives me four out of six, or maybe six out of nine. The Federal Reserve should hope they get that many forecasts correct.

Not included in the Preview, because it was a sequel, was the second season of Sound! Euphonium. Excellent, but not as good as the first season. Did have a marvellous episode that was almost all straight music. Way, way too late I found this site, with commentary by a professional musician.

Anime Preview: Winter 2017

December 6, 2016

Unlike some others, who use knowledge of the source materials, close observation of the previews, and who actually read the press releases, I’m going to base mine on just the title and the cover art, and maybe a bit of the blurb. Consider yourself warned. If you want a real preview, pop on over to AniChart.

First, let’s say what’s normally not in here. Sequels, particularly to stuff I didn’t like before (Super Lovers), most kids stuff (Kemono Friends), anything with idol in the description, movies and OVA’s.

 

WILL WATCH: The title or the cover art is properly enticing, so I definitely will watch at least the first three eps.

Chaos;Child

The semicolon series discovers alliteration

The semicolon series discovers alliteration

Fuuka

The cast of Mekakucity Actors is reunited and goes on tour.

The cast of Mekakucity Actors is reunited and goes on tour.

Little Witch Academica

Cute girls doing cute things on broomsticks

Cute girls doing cute things. On broomsticks

 

 

MIGHT WATCH: The cover art is not too off-putting, so I might watch it.

Kuzu no Honkai

The title seems to translate as

The title seems to translate as “a formal meeting about hanging chad”

Seiren

If Kimikiss and Amagami had six cute daughters...

If Kimikiss and Amagami had six cute daughters…

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maidragon

Cute girl has cute dragon as her cute maid. Cute.

Cute girl has cute dragon as her cute maid. Cute.

 

WON’T WATCH. The cover art / title / blurb tells me more than I ever wanted to know on the topic. Marginal #4

Brought to you by the Crayola Company

Brought to you by the Crayola Company

ACCA: 13-ku

Any anime where the summary is three paragraphs of org chart should not be allowed

Any anime where the summary is three paragraphs of org chart should not be allowed


Minami Kamakura

Girls und Bicycles

Girls und Bicycles

…and 30 more that didn’t even make the “I won’t watch” cut.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2016

October 17, 2016

A second pass through the season drops some more.

March comes in like a lion: A prequel to Your lie in April, shows Arima Kōsei when he was going by the name of Kiriyama Rei and making a living playing shogi instead of being a piano player. No indication as to how many of the cute girls he’s involved with will die of AWD (Anime Wasting Disease).

March

March

April

April

Occultic;Nine: The guy who gave us the excellent Stein’s;Gate, and then missed with a long string of other semicolon stories tries again. Weird occult blogger accretes a team of weirdos to solve weird mysteries. The character designs tell you all you need to know. Weird.

If those buttons go, we're all gonna;die

If those buttons go, we’re all gonna;die

ClassicaLoid: Think vocaloids with better composers but worse directors. Beethoven, Mozart, mechas, and a construction crew all dance while their house plays musique.

You should see who's dancing with the secretary bird

You should see who’s dancing with the secretary bird

Drifters: Great warriors of history pulled into alternative afterworlds to fight the Enders. Think, Death Parade meets Nobunaga the Fool.

L to R we have: Shimazu Toyohisa, the protagonist, Oda Nobunaga, the famous pirate, and Nasu no Yoichi, the trap

L to R we have: Shimazu Toyohisa, the protagonist, Oda Nobunaga, the famous pirate, and Nasu no Yoichi, the trap

TL:DR — Dropping my shorts, Fall 2016

October 11, 2016

So, not all the mediocre, bad, or just plain uninteresting anime comes as long-form 23min episodes. Much of it now appears as short features, as if the creators knew the worth of what they were doing and wanted to minimize the impact on humankind.

Four that were just dumb:

Cheating Craft: How to cheat on exams, with the usual perfunctory "This is bad" warning.

Cheating Craft: How to cheat on exams, with the usual perfunctory “This is bad” warning.

Soul Buster: Cardfights between the souls of ancient Chinese warriors. Like Ikki Tousen without the fanservice.

Soul Buster: Cardfights between the souls of ancient Chinese warriors. Like Ikki Tousen without the fanservice.

Kiitaro's Yokai Diary: Sibling rivalry over household chores ignites demon wars. As usual.

Kiitaro’s Yokai Diary: Sibling rivalry over household chores ignites demon wars. As usual.

Miss Bernard Says: How many book references can you fit into three and a half minutes?

Miss Bernard Says: How many book references can you fit into three and a half minutes?

Two that were bound to offend somebody:

To Be Hero: Eight minutes of toilet jokes

To Be Hero: Eight minutes of toilet jokes

My wife is the student body President: Eight minutes of boob jokes.

My wife is the student body President: Eight minutes of boob jokes.

And one that could have been a contender:

Old woodblock drawings as anime. Good idea, poorly executed.

Sengokuchojyugiga:Old woodblock drawings as anime. Good idea, poorly executed.

Happy Birthday Haruhi

October 8, 2016

HaruhiSuzumiya02According to the light novel, Haruhi Suzumiya (涼宮ハルヒ Suzumiya Haruhi) entered North High in April of 2003. Other sources report that her birthday was October 8th, so she presumably was 16 in 2002, and so was born in 1986. That makes her 30 years old today. She’s now an adult, middle-aged, having graduated college nine years ago, probably married Kyon, and now has a couple of kids, named Natsu and Aki. How fleeting are the days of youth.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Fall 2016

October 3, 2016

It’s always a relief when I can clear my calendar early. The first week isn’t over, and already I’ve dropped four anime, and two whole categories! The first thing to go is, Time Travel!!

Touken Ranbu.
Remember that show with girls who were the embodiment of boats? The one that all the boys loved? Let’s do one for the girls! We can have boys, who are the embodiment of … of … swords! And nobody will know it’s a ripoff, because we’ll have them fight to preserve history, not to avoid it! That’ll fool ’em! And we can have thousands of bishies, because there were thousands of swords.

And there's seven more, even cuter!

And there’s seven more, even cuter!

It will make for a complex anime, but we can start with an eleven minute expository dump, and have them clean off in the bath afterwards.

Your purification ritual lacks dignity

Your purification ritual lacks dignity
(and your towel is much bigger than necessary)

And since all that the girls really want is good artwork of cute boys, we don’t have to spend money to make exciting action scenes, just lots of closeups.  And these swordboys will have a leader, who you will never see, so that every girl can pretend it’s her. And, here’s the best part — we can call it SwordColle!

We can’t?

Time Bokan 24
You know, I’m thinking that time travel might be the Next Big Thing, now that little sisters have had their run. Remember last season, where that girl went around propositioning various great names from history? Suppose we get ahead of the pack and do another one for kids. We can make it the usual [insert name here] schoolboy, who is one of the few who can survive a time leap, because time means nothing to him, just look at his tardy record!

Another high impact moment

Another high impact moment

And then we’ll have an evil publisher trying to keep the time travellers from finding out what the real history was, so they don’t have to rewrite the history books, and issue new editions, and make everyone throw the old ones away and buy the new ones, and thus have a perpetual income stream. No…wait.  Well, they’re just kids, they’ll never notice.

And nobody else will even think of doing a time travel anime this season!


The second category to drop is another duo, all about Survival Games.

Bloodivores
So, here’s the high concept: it’s a cross between Deadman Wonderland and Blood C, only it’s four vampires (mutated virus vampires, the other kind are so 19th Century), in a prison full of monsters. We’ll hoke up some reason for them to be in there — betrayed by a parent in the government maybe. We won’t need a lot of logic in the first episode. The government can tag everyone with the vampire virus (with flashing dog collars), but they can’t quarantine them, or find a cure, or a way to suppress an attack of vorishness. And when they’re on a bank heist, their masks can be plain sunglasses.

Our stylish Oafly-Stump sunglasses come in transparent, eyeshade, and opaque.

Our stylish Oafly-Stump sunglasses come in transparent, eyeshade, and opaque.

I know it’s stupid, but later on we’ll have lots of big insect monsters (ignore the mass square laws) and vamp on vamp action, so no-one will notice.

Magical Girl Raising Project

OK, I know the How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend project was not well received, even though some people liked it. But that doesn’t mean we can’t reuse the name. This will be infinitely better. Squeaky-voiced middle school females (and one secret gender-bender!) get recruited as Magical Girls, and then (due to budget cuts, or something), they get told they have to have a 50% RIF.

Good evening! Which four of you will I have to kill before the season ends?

Good evening! Which four of you will I have to kill before the season ends?

And since Magical Girlhood is an organization you can’t resign from, because they don’t exist, the only way out is feet first. That’s a lot of feet.

The kids will just love this one!

The kids will just love this one!

The wrong way to watch anime

September 28, 2016

Isaac Akers, over on Crunchyroll, has a column on the right way to watch anime, with the conclusion that there isn’t one.  I was intrigued, because there’s an old SDLC saying, that there’s no one right design for a computer system, but there are many designs that are demonstrably wrong. Could we say the same thing about anime?  I was in the midst of constructing a wonderful house of cards around this idea, when an old SF memory brought them all down.

Back in the mid-80’s, there was a spoof in an April edition of, I think, Analog magazine. It was an announcement for a new game, a game called Life (not Conway’s, but real life). They talked about possible adventures on a water-world with multiple continents and thousands of cultures, and an expansion pack to extend the game to the planet’s airless moon “as soon as we straighten out some issues with a subcontractor”.

The takeaway line, which has stuck with me to this day, is this:

In Life, you set your own victory conditions.

You get to set those conditions, and you get to decide if you have won.

What has this to do with watching anime, aside from the fact that for many, watching anime is Life? Just this. Akers categorizes ways of watching from super-casual entertainment to hard-core critical. More detailed categories are possible, mostly as an extension from that line. You could watch it for the artwork, for the fashions, for the furnishings, or for clues on how to act around girls (or boys). You could study Ikki Tousen and InuYasha intently in order to gain a better understanding of the Warring States period, or hang on every word in The Gokusen and Saikano to improve your Japanese pronunciation. In all of these, as in all of Life, you decide on the victory conditions, and you decide if your anime-watching was worthwhile.

There’s no right way to watch anime, and there’s no wrong way, either. The only requirement is that your watching remain true to its purpose.

Anime Worth Watching — Summer 2016

September 24, 2016

Amanchu
Futaba is a shy young girl who comes to a small coastal town from the big city, meets an outgoing classmate and a caring teacher, and learns to come out of her shell by learning to SCUBA dive. A quiet, feel-good, sort of an anime. Like Flying Witch, but with a little more personal drama. If you liked Aria, you will like this one — it has the same director, the cats look the same (i.e. totally un-catlich), and the lead cat is even named Aria.

Futaba and Friend, and cat

Futaba and Friend, and cat

The Ancient Magus’ Bride OVA

First of three 20-minute episodes. Prequel to the manga, which might mean we’re getting a full season anime. Chise is a young girl from an uncaring home who ends up living with a sorcerer, who just happens to have an eland’s skull for a head. Visually very pretty, with interesting magic and magical creatures. Their household is Chise, the Magus, Ruth (a black Flat Coated Retriever who eats at the table, just like humans), and a bonnet-wearing maid who has remarkable skills in tomato stacking.

The girl, Ruth, the maid, the Mage

Chise, Ruth, the Maid, the Mage

Opening scene looks like a foggy Victorian London, but in a later shot you can see The Eye.

ancientmaguslondon02

I liked the manga enough to buy the first volume when it came out. There’s two more 20-minute episodes in the OVA series, and then we’ll see.

So, there were a couple of good anime this summer, but Re:Zero was not one of them (some people liked it). I’ve mentioned it before, and I only mention it now so that I can include a picture of Rem, the Best Girl. Flawed hero learns his way around a new fantasy world by continuously being killed and respawning back at earlier save points. Falls in love with Emelia, main heroine, just because. Rejects Rem who really loves him, because he’s fallen for Emelia, who never contributes much to the story and doesn’t think much of him until the last episode, when his heroism and kindness turns her low level disdain into love, which I’m sure will last.

Rem

Rem

Emelia

Emelia

Which one would you chose?

That’s it for the summer. Pickings were slim enough that I rewatched GaruPan, Shirobako, Flying Witch, and Taisho Baseball Girls.

Flying Witch Soundtrack

September 21, 2016
They did the best they could with what they had

They did the best they could with what they had

Are you a fan of the anime Flying Witch? Then you’ll probably like this CD, available from Amazon, but be aware that half the tracks here cannot be found in the anime. On the other hand, if you are unfamiliar with the anime and are just looking for some interesting Japanese music you will find that most of the tracks are too simplistic, too Western, and there’s only one J-pop style vocal.

The problem is, there’s only three or four points in the whole series with anything like an extended musical sequence. The OP and ED, of course. The ED is on this CD (track 44), the OP is not, probably due to licensing issues (the series composer wrote the ED but not the OP). Then there’s the music backgrounding the opening train and bus ride that bring Makoto into Aomori (track 2), and the minute-long sequence in Episode 2 accompanying the arrival of the Harbinger of Spring (track 28).

Arrival

Arrival


Variations and extracts of these composition appear in a number of other scenes. Other than that, the music in the anime tends to come in short sequences of from 30 seconds or so, to as few as eight notes each. The CD extends most of these to a minute or a minute and a half. The way this is done is to start each track off with a teaser, mentioning the anime tune, then transition to an extended introduction (in a vamp-’till-ready style), and finish with the music from the anime (track 17). Sometimes the lead-in contains all the anime bars.

Harbinger

Harbinger

Some of the tracks are variations on the original themes. Others are totally new compositions. While the anime music tends to have a country/folk feel to it, with acoustic guitar, flute and recorder, the variations, well, vary. Harp, honky-tonk, light jazz, all put in brief appearances,  in many cases sounding somewhat new age, when it’s not sounding turn of the century before last.

Other than the OP, all of the music is by Dewa Yoshiaki (出羽良彰). There’s a total of 41 tracks and 72 minutes of music, plus three tracks of voice acting “mini-drama”, with Makoto talking to her cat familiar Chitose. All told, you are probably paying $2/minute for music you can identify in the anime. I thought it was worth it. If you want to listen to excerpts from the various tracks, you can find them towards the bottom of this page on the amazon.co.jp site. Or search for “ふらいんぐうぃっち CD”

1. Mini-drama 1
2. Makoto Kobata
3. Dangerous person
4. Kikikaikai
5. Sense of direction
6. Nano-san!
7. Loitering, and enjoy
8. Loitering is a panacea
9. Magic classroom
10. Soothsayer
11. Mai national bird
12. Leisurely sponger
13. Blue forest
14. Haruno Mountain
15. Clear, sunny
16. Training
17. Flying Witch
18. Dream and roadside of happiness
19. Eye-catching 1
20. Mini-drama 2
21. Dream of the witch
22. Witch
23. Tail Keru
24. Found
25. Run away
26. Tito’s
27. Strange creatures
28. Spring
29. Become a witch!
30. Stupid
31. Tohoho
32. Wandering witch
33. Sister witch
34. Dog witch
35. Inukai’s
36. Queen of the Night
37. Apricot
38. Magic of nightfall
39. Cherry colored landscape
40. Konkurushio
41. Flying whale
42. Eye-catching 2
43. Mini-drama 3
44. Everyday magic
Flying Witch ending theme

I placed my order on the 16th, and Amazon Prime delivered it from Japan on the 20th. It was bubble-wrapped inside a bubble-wrap envelope, but the shippers still managed to break the hinge on the CD box.

GaruPan and Shirobako, Part 2

September 18, 2016

Four years later, I’m still finding out interesting things about both of these anime.

In the first season of Shirobako, the director almost craters the project because he keeps changing the scenario and pushing the envelope on how they portray the characters.

Now, I find that Mizushima Tsutomu, the director for both Shirobako and Girls und Panzer, was the cause of the delay that pushed the ending of GaruPan from December, 2012 to March, 2013, and for the same reason. Here is a translation of his blog entry on the topic.

Anime Preview: Fall 2016

September 3, 2016

Unlike some others, who use knowledge of the source materials, close observation of the previews, and who actually read the press releases, I’m going to base mine on just the title and the cover art, and maybe a bit of the blurb. Consider yourself warned. If you want a real preview, pop on over to AniChart.

First, let’s say what’s normally not in here. Sequels to stuff I didn’t like before (Bubuki Buranki), most kids stuff (Nyanbo), anything with idol in the description, movies and OVA’s.

 

WILL WATCH: The title or the cover art is properly enticing, so I definitely will watch at least the first three eps.

Occultic;Nine

Cast of Lost Village ends up in a library. Adds semicolons to their list of personal phobias

Cast of Lost Village ends up in a library. Adds semicolons to their list of personal phobias

Touken Ranbu

Extended family moves down from the trees, takes up living on rooftops. Plans to evolve into garden-shed-dwellers next.

Extended family moves down from the trees, takes up living on rooftops. Plans to evolve into garden-shed-dwellers next.

Shuumatsu no Izetta

Don't worry. Love will break our fall.

Witches und Panzers. Don’t worry. Love will break our fall.

 

 

 

MIGHT WATCH: The cover art is not too off-putting, so I might watch it.

Flip Flappers

Girls who are too poor to own stockings, and have to dress in tea towels find happiness in floral displays

Girls who are too poor to own stockings, and have to dress in tea towels find happiness in floral displays

Brave Witches

Girls who are too poor to own underwear bravely fly combat missions at 25,000ft. Huddle together to keep warm

Girls who are too poor to own underwear bravely fly combat missions at 25,000ft. Huddle together to keep warm

Keijo

World-class gymnast who is too poor to go to college enters swim suit competitions

World-class gymnasts who are too poor to go to college enter swim suit competitions

 

 

WON’T WATCH. The cover art / title / blurb tells me more than I ever wanted to know on the topic.

Long Riders

Girls und Bicycles. Not the David Carradine version.

Girls und Bicycles. Not the David Carradine version.

 

 

Tiger Mask W

Fursuit guy gets a job at The Tiger's Hole, has problems with his love life

Fursuit guy gets a job at The Tiger’s Hole, has problems with his love life

Yuri on Ice

Lesbians trapped in male bodies enter skating contests

Lesbians trapped in male bodies enter skating contests

…and 59 more that didn’t even make the “I won’t watch” cut.

What anime am I watching, Summer 2016?

July 22, 2016

Having been down on a bunch of shows, let me tell you about what’s good what has kept my interest. There’s a number of highly thought of shows this season, but for some reason, none of them resonate with me. Right now there’s only four that I’m watching.

Amanchu! In the quiet, ‘healing’ tradition comes a story about how a shy transfer student to a high school by the sea learns to fit in by way of scuba diving and a whacky friend. So far, it’s more Aria than Girls und SCUBA. The girl is well presented and believable. The friend is over-the-top. Her most common face makes her look like one of the elves in Humanity Has Declined.

One of these girls is having way too much fun

One of these girls is having way too much fun

ReWrite  Typical VN-based high school harem hi jinks. Our Hero joins the Occult Study Club because, well, that’s where the oppai are. Gets involved in various occult happenings. What I like about it is that it keeps throwing in twists. Like when they catch the tsuchinoko monster that’s been seen around campus, and it turns out to be a rubber dummy being used as a tsuchinoko lure by another occult seeker.

I suppose you ladies are wondering how you all came to be in the club

I suppose you ladies are wondering how you all came to be in the club

ReZero HikikoNEET gets transported to a fantasy world. This is a two cour series that started last Spring, so we’re on episode 16. Proto-agonist Subaru (yes, it’s , the same as the car, and the same as the Pleiades/Seven Sisters constellation) keeps getting horribly deaded, respawning at an earlier place and time. In the first season he came over as well-meaning, if a little dense and hot-headed. In the second season the heat and density reach stellar-core proportions. So far, he still has the two maid-demons (demon-maids?) on his side, but in the latest episode the Main Heroine has dumped him for being as crazy as a bag of cats. Oh, and everybody has died. Horribly.

Post-respawn awakenings can scare the maids

Post-respawn awakening screams can scare even demon maids

Planetarian Lonely robot keeps watch over a dying planetarium in a dead, post-apocalyptic city. Is befriended by a junk dealer. It’s sweet and sad and reminds me of There Will Come Soft Rains.

Even though we only have electricity for one week, every five years

Even though we only have electricity for one week, every five years

Flying Witch Yes, I know that’s last season. I watched then, also. Very much slice of life. Country-style OP and ED and BGM. Good characters, good art. I’ve marathoned it twice, so far, and plan a much longer essay, later.

It looks like fun, but it can be painful, until you learn the trick

Well, where did you think they came from?
Besides, they’re on sale

But since I’m watching it this season, it counts.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2016

July 14, 2016

Tales of Zestiria the X: Is that X the unknown, or X, the queen after Zestiria the IX? Or maybe it’s a date on their calendar?

Court astronomer has been using his telescope to observe local weather, and in no way is he peering into bedroom windows. Maybe he should be the court meteorologist. Anyway, he sees an unmoving dark cloud (does that make it climate?) over in the next county. Princess sends court climatologist and her trusted companion to find out what it is, and then leads out a patrol of her own to find the trusted companion when they don’t come back two minutes later, because rulers of countries always have time to act like platoon leaders. Encounters ninja-shaped aliens. Finds out that the cloud is of geological origin, not climatological. But before she can find the court climatologist to tell him of his new title, the geology becomes a little unsettled and everybody but her dies. Then it gets weird. Later on, there may be sheep.

Normally, you build a dome that will protect all of your 100cm refractor

Normally, you build a dome that will protect all of your 100cm refractor

The acting is over-wrought, the art is crude, and the animation is clunky. And they don’t know how to build observatories.

Qualidea Code: Highly accomplished team member refuses to cooperate with his team-mates when defeating the pink, boob-shaped alien invaders because they’re almost as dumb as the aliens. Team-mates refuse to cooperate with other teams because they have other highly accomplished members who aren’t him. Competition among the teams for accomplishment points (always a bad thing) leads to the destruction of both the aliens and a vital causeway.

Because crenellated walls are the best way to defeat airborne enemies

Because crenellated walls are the best way to defeat airborne enemies

The art is OK, the characters are the usual range of emotional types (defined by hair color), and the plot is clunky.

Ange Vierge: Highly accomplished team members clash with less highly accomplished team members when defeating the black, dildo-shaped alien invaders. Spend the rest of the episode naked in the bath, naked in their quarters and naked in the office, bepestered by lens flare. Decide that the best way to improve their accomplishment levels is to break into naked competitive teams (always a good thing).

If you think the lens flare is bad, just wait for the steam

She must have very sexy elbows

The plot is minimal, the interpersonal interactions are contrived, and the camera work is clunky. The characters are well rounded.

This is the last TL:DR of the season, I swear. Next week, I answer the question every one of my reader is asking — So, what is he watching, anyway?

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2016

July 7, 2016

Sweetness and Lightning: Hey, have you noticed how well food-porn shows are doing right now? And how much people like smart, energetic little pre-school girls?  We could so clean up with a show that combined the two!

His idea of a child's balanced meal

His idea of a child’s balanced meal

Yeah, but there’s got to be more. If we don’t want to look like Barakamon with food, or Wakakozake with kids, or Gourmet Girl Graffitti with parents, we need something with an edge.

What about making it a single parent, a widower? One who can’t cook?

I don’t know, Japanese are reluctant enough to get married already. We don’t want to give the impression that marriage involves a 50/50 chance of death. I mean, think of all the other single parent or missing parent shows out there. In how many anime do you even see a parent, anyway? Whatever happens to them?

Yeah, but that gives us an opportunity to add a romance angle. You know, like, he’s a school teacher and there’s this girl who’s in one of his classes that keeps coming over to cook. Not just romance, but underage, inappropriate romance!

And she can’t cook either! And they learn together! Sweet lightning, that would work! But what should we call it?

Taboo Tattoo: Guys, what is Miyata thinking? We’ve already got Amanchu, Saiki Kusuo and Food Wars on our plate, and now he wants us to do this Tattoo thing? Even Miyamori Aoi couldn’t find enough animators to save us!

だいじょうぶ, だいじょうぶ. It will be OK. We’ll just use a generic highschool boy develops superpowers plot. Throw in a blonde foreigner and a boobified childhood friend who can cook (maybe we can recycle some outtakes from Food Wars) and the thing writes itself. No need to spend time on the animation, just use dark blobs and speed lines. This will be bigger than Dai-Shogun!!

Take that! You secret tattoo-wielder!!

Take that! You secret tattoo-wielder!!

Momokuri: OK, we’ve got one more 24 minute hole to fill in the schedule, and nobody willing to do it. TMS is busy playing mortician for D.Grey Man while murdering ReLife, and KyoAni is prepping for a second season of Euphonium. Even J.C. Staff is wrapped up in their Tattoo blockbuster thing.

What about recycling something from last years Internet-only ONA programs? Like Momokure. Yandere girl stalks younger boy. I mean, all the episodes are done, it’s cheap, it has low bandwidth, and it already has a 7.2 rating from people who watch anime on their smartphones. What more could you ask for?

Such a cute boy!

Such a cute boy!

 

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Summer 2016

July 6, 2016

The first two programs I dropped were not even on my season preview list.

D.Gray-man: Boy who hunts soul-sucking demons teams up with sister of soul sucked brother. This is a 2016 continuation of a 2006 anime. The current release starts at Episode 104, but Funimation has posted everything, starting from Episode 1, which is what I watched. Too dark (as in, no light in any of the scenes). Too cartoony (as in, everybody is overacting, even by anime standards). Too much 2006 style art (as in, c’mon, it was made in 2006!). Bottom line: I don’t plan on watching a 103-episode prequel.

Would I lie to a policeman?

Would I lie to a policeman?

Berserk: Another resurrection of an earlier era (2008), only this one doesn’t have any prequels available. Demon-haunted man with a big sword and a tiny tattoo fights skeletal demons in a dark forest. Too dark (as in, no light in any of the scenes). Too cartoony (as in, it looks like it was drawn by US comic book artists). Too much CGI (as in, c’mon, it was made in CGI!). OK, too much bad CGI.

And the skeletons move like stop action from a '60's Voyage of Sinbad

And the skeletons move like stop action from a ’60’s Voyage of Sinbad

Re:Re:Re: Only one of the next three was on the list, but that’s OK, ’cause I only dropped two.

ReWrite: Double length into to a VN adaptation because they had to introduce all the girls who are going to fall in love with Our Hero. As usual in these things, the girls are more interesting than Our Hero, but the art style is from the early naughties VN genre and the magical hijinks that are meant to be ominous are silly instead. As in, magical witch girl secretly enters Our Hero’s room at night, slides up under the covers with him, and bites him … on the arm. She also stabs him with her ribbons.

I will so report you to the teacher!

I will drop you from the Konohana Lucia path and force you into the Bad Ending

ReLife: NEET takes a pill that makes him look young again. Re-enrolls in high school, and immediately forgets how to behave. The only saving feature is that the representative from the company that talked him into taking the pill (as an experiment), looks like Koizumi Itsuki from Haruhi Suzumiya, so it’s nice to see that he got an interesting job after college (probably still working for the Organization). I tried reading the manga, and dropped that too.

My Organization wants you to take this pill

My Organization wants you to take this pill

ReZero: This started in the Spring season, but it’s a two-cour, so it still counts. NEET gets transported to a fantasy world in the first of a double episode (1A, 1B) opener. Keeps getting killed and respawning back where he first appeared, but it takes him a while to figure it out. In fact, at the end of 1B he still hasn’t. Since the respawn point is at the same time as well as the same place, it’s like a time loop anime as well. So everything he does based on prior knowledge means the future is different from that point on. Impresses the girl, gets killed; misses meeting the girl, gets killed; catches up to the girl, she doesn’t know who he is.

Three minutes in and already he's adapted

Three minutes in and already he’s adapted

 

This is the only one I’m continuing to watch.

 

Anime Postview: Spring 2016

July 3, 2016

This is not a real review of the Spring anime season. Instead, it’s a look at how well I did in my Anime Preview.

Of the ones that I said WILL WATCH, I’m two for four.

Screenwriter Okada Mari said that “It’s a show that should give rise to the reaction What the hell is this!?”, and it does. Lots of folks didn’t like it (and some do), but lots of folks don’t have the patience for a show where half the fun is in the way this totally incompatible group starts off discussing a plan, and then spin off half a dozen conversations with no relevance to the plan, or anything else. If you’ve ever been in a business meeting, you know what I mean. BTW, mayoi is the same word that Monogatari uses for Hachkuji Mayoi — the lost snail.

2. Mayoiga The Boys on the Bus, headed for the Hotel California Directed by Mizushima

2. Mayoiga
The Boys on the Bus
 Headed for the Hotel California
Directed by Tsutomu Mizushima

My candidate for best show of the season, and possibly the year, is a feel-good, slice of life anime. No conflict. No drama. No plot. You just find yourself smiling at the end of each episode. It’s based on a slow-output manga, and they used up perhaps two-thirds of the existing source, so it will be a couple of years before a sequel. That’s OK. I’ll wait.  

4. Flying Witch But it’s so much more comfortable to take the bus (Have you ever tried sitting on a broomstick for four hours?)

4. Flying Witch
Have you ever tried sitting on a broomstick for four hours? I’ll take the bus

The other two in this category were on feeds that I don’t get, so they don’t really count, right?

In the MIGHT WATCH category, I’m one for four.

Bakuon was not strong enough to maintain my interest, Kumo Miko died even earlier, and Kiznaiver was just bad. The only one I finished was the non-harem (he’s already got the girl) gamers in highschool. He should have known they were females from the beginning, when they all stood around gossiping while he was being pounded into thin paste by a monster.

4. Negote no Yome... Magical girl goes to high school, decides to start her own SOS club

4. Negote no Yome…
Highschool boy finds that all the guys in his MMORPG are girls, and they go to his school!

Of the shows that I said that I WON’T WATCH, I didn’t, and I’m glad. So I’m four for four there.

Meanwhile, there was one show that that I didn’t list that I DID WATCH and I’m happy I did.

Steampunk. Zombies. On a train. With old fashioned samurai. What’s not to like? This one turned up on my Amazon Prime list. Good thing it was subtitled, or I wouldn’t have watched it.

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

So, I guess you could be conservative and say I’m three for seven. Interestingly, all of them except Kabaneri are on Crunchyroll.

Anime Preview Summer 2016

June 15, 2016

The Summer of 2016 looks to be a dull one, anime-wise. Fortunately, I’ll be travelling a lot and won’t get to see much of it.

Unlike others, who use knowledge of the source materials, close observation of the previews, and who actually read the press releases, I’m going to base mine on just the AniChart cover art and maybe a bit of the description.

CUTE GIRLS: Most of the shows fall into the cute girls category, and the only thing that differentiates them is how many girls there are.

Magus One girl meets horny skeleton

Magus
One girl meets a skeleton

Mari Waka Two girls do time travel

Mari Waka
Two girls steal a star-gate

Amanchu Three girls do flamenco

Amanchu
Three girls learn flamenco

Kono Bijutsu-bu Four girls do art

Kono Bijutsu-bu
Four girls do art

Ange Vierge Five girls play cards

Ange Vierge
Five girls play cards

Rewrite Six girls live in a tree

Rewrite
Six girls live in a tree

Love Live Sunshine Nine girls do music

Love Live Sunshine
Nine girls chase pigeons

Tsuki-uta Twelve guys present all those girls

Tsuki-uta
Twelve guys present all those girls

BUT THERE’S MORE TO LIFE THAN GIRLS: Four non-cute anime that I probably won’t watch, either

91 Days A whole academic quarter under the Classics mafia

91 Days
A whole academic quarter with the Classics Mafia

Fukigen na Mononokean The road to Fuji-San is beset with demons

Fukigen na Mononokean
The road to Fuji-San is beset with demons

Cheer Danshi Anime's first big Hollywood musical

Cheer Danshi
Anime’s first big Bollywood musical

Handa Kun God has an ahoge

Handa Kun
God has an ahoge

So that’s it. 91 days of nothing to see here, move along.

The trains of Shirobako

June 12, 2016

So, what’s with it with Shirobako and trains, anyhow? Train references keep cropping up at the most unusual times. If they had brand names, I’d say it was product placement, but these don’t. It’s as if director Mizushima wants to create a drinking game or something, or maybe because he thought it up while riding on a train.

It starts in Episode 1, where the first shot you get after the beginning of Exodus, the anime-within-the-anime, is of a train, possibly a track maintenance train, pulling into a station. It’s not mentioned in any way, and the next shots are of the various Musashino Animation people with Exodus playing in the background.

Just doing a little maintenance. Nothing to see here.

Just doing a little track maintenance.
Nothing to see here.

Jumping ahead to Episode 10, we have college student Imai Midori, soon to be known as Diesel San, researching a question about trains for Miyamori Aoi

Jane's Book of Trains

Jane’s Book of Trains

She tells her that the only diesel train running on the line is a track maintenance train. If it was a reference to the train in Episode 1, then that was the only shot of what was going on in Exodus.

ShirobakoEp10TrackMaintenance

Next, Miyamori Aoi heads to Sawara Studio to deliver a musical instrument, and gets roped into providing all sorts of sound effects.

Give me a monster roar that's just a little sexy

Give me a monster roar that’s just a little sexy

The sound editor mixes in a train sound to Miyamori’s gaaow give it a little ballast, or something.

Nothing says feminine ferocity like a train

Nothing says feminine ferocity like a train

Finally, in the last episode delivery montage in Episode 24, we have Okitsu Yuka driving past a train on her way to her destination

Welcome to Japan Rail

You may be fast, but we are cute

Whether it’s a product placement, or a JR homage,

Welcome aboard Japan Rail

Welcome aboard Japan Rail

…or maybe somebody’s daughter, it’s a fun and unexpected aspect of my favorite anime.

Comments on Comments on Shirobako

June 5, 2016

Author has an interesting pair of comments on Japanese cultural aspects of Shirobako over on ani-nouto. He appears surprised that anyone would want him to blog about them, and seems to think they are obvious, but I can assure him, and you, that they are anything but.

The first is the phrase “make a living at X”, which in Japanese comes out as “eat by doing X”. Crunchyroll has the direct translation, but the US release blu-ray uses the English term.

Or even make a living at...

Or even make a living at…

The comment-worthy aspect of this is the dropping-the-donut scene where the rookie loses it, and old-hand Yasuhara-san catches and eats it.

The other point was a deconstruction of the 3rd Flying Girls Squadron author comments about the manga representing his inner turmoil. The discussion is more complex and nuanced than the “making a living” comment, so I’ll just point you at the original page.

The point of all this is that to understand socially-based content from a society as different as that of Japan requires multiple translations, and expert commentary. I noticed the frequent references to eating, but didn’t really map them to making a living, and even when I did, I didn’t pick up on the other aspects. That’s what makes watching anime so much fun, and so confusing.

 

 

 

 

Anime worth watching, Winter, 2016

May 14, 2016

Running a little late on this one. What shows did I think were the best of the season just ended, half a season ago? In my postview I listed, briefly, how my predictions went. But which of those were really worthwhile?

First of all, a disclaimer. Erased and GenRaku (on Crunchyroll) and Grimgar (on Funimation) were all critically acclaimed. I liked the first episodes. I just was never in the mood to follow-up, so I can’t include them here. Maybe this summer. Herewith, the four:

Gate, Season 2: Fun premise, mediocre ending.
I called Season 1 An Akihabara Otaku in Emperor Augustus’ Court, after the Mark Twain novel. Season 1 was last Summer, so it’s a split-cour program.

Magical gate opens up in downtown Tokyo, leading to a land of dragons and elves and a Roman-style (down to the armor) empire. JSDF establishes bridgehead there, and proceeds to wipe the floor with the natives, while an otaku recon force leader establishes good relations with the elves and wizards and loli-goddesses. Season 2 focuses on internal politics of the empire — peace factions, war factions, scheming crown princes, upright crown princesses, Rasputainical rabbit-girls, and so forth. Some continuing coverage of otaku-san and his harem, but those episodes feel a lot like filler.

JSDF drops in

Next out, the headmaster’s Ferrari!

The original web-pub and manga were panned as overly militaristic and nationalistic. I don’t think the anime was, because it was in a long tradition of what if modern x went back to the past stories. Not just Twain, but de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall, The H. Beam Piper / John Carr Kalvan series, Eric Flint’s 1632 series, Frankowski’s Cross-Time Engineer, and the film Final Countdown, to name a few.

Fighting withdrawal

Fighting withdrawal

Only at the end, with bombastic music and heroic vignettes does it live up to its jingoistic billing. Combined with the rushed, Shakespearian (well, Elizabethan)-style tying up of all the plot threads, where everybody gets married to everybody else and our otaku returns to Akihabara, the ending is where the anime falls severely down.

A lot of that going around this season

A lot of that going around this season

There’s more to the source manga, and the ending leaves room for a third season, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!
The ‘trapped in a fantasy world’ trope is now mature enough that programs can enjoy playing off established plotlines, knowing that viewers will get the joke. in KonoSuba, the hero dies in this world and is offered the opportunity to be born in a fantasy world, with one artifact from this one. The artifact he chooses is the very goddess who is offering him the choice.

The goddess can't hold her liquor

The goddess can’t hold her liquor

The world has the typical RPG accoutrements — guild hall, quests, adventurers, and so forth. Our Hero assembles a team of incompetents and mental cases to fight their battles with hordes of flying cabbages and herds of giant frogs.

And the rest of the team is incompetant

And the rest of the team is incompetent

Fortunately, the minions of the Demon King are just as incompetent as Our Gang. It’s only a ten-episode cour, and the ending is a set-up for a possible second season, so that could happen.

But so is the opposition.

But so is the opposition.

Myriad Colors Phantom World
This is Kyoto Animation having fun. No great depth. Monster of the week. Bit of drama at the end. Gorgeous artwork.

Reality is what you make of it

Reality is what you make of it

Unreality starts to bleed over into the real world. Specially talented highschool students are recruited to fight the phantoms. First episode sets the scene by requiring the busty lead girl to out-limbo a bunch of dancing telephone poles. Male lead can summon up demonic monsters for assistance, and we find that Cthulu looks like a cute beach toy, and Marchosias, the hell-hound, is a puppy with angel wings.

The Elder Gods Awake!

The Elder Gods Awake!

Each of the haremettes gets an episode of her own, including the Tinkerbell-sized Ruru. Or maybe it’s Lulu.

Aokana: Four Rhythm Across the Blue: No, I don’t know what the name means, either.
A typical “going to Koshien” highschool sports story, only in this case, the ‘sport’ is two-person flying competitions, using special antigrav shoes. There’s the usual sub-plots of the former champion who can’t bring himself to fly again, and the team that has a new, but unsportsmanlike, tactic. The first sub-plot never gets resolved (leaving space for a second season) while the resolution of the second, and the winning of the regional championship, form the exciting finale.

Mano a Mano

Mano a Mano

First of all, I really like flying anime — Porco Rosso, Strike Witches, Last Exile, Princess and the Pilot … OK, not Pilot’s Love Song. AoKana is a well done flying anime, that doesn’t use aircraft. Instead, they wear flying shoes, like the god Mercury, only without the snakes. Game tactics are some combo of block your opponent, tap the turn pylon, or slap your opponent’s back. The sport is a series of 1v1 encounters, so flying skill is more important than teamwork (although there is a ground controller, who says useful things like go faster!).

Dogfight!

Dogfight!

And Second, they really make you feel like you understand what’s going on. You can’t, because the action is twisted to fit the plot, but you think you know.

What other anime would define the technical aspects of the Low Yo-Yo maneuver?

What other anime would talk about the technical aspects of the Low Yo-Yo maneuver?

 

TL:DR — Anime I never finished (and don’t intend to), Spring 2016

April 19, 2016

So here’s my first cut at cuts. One or two eps was all it took for these to drop off the radar.

Anne-Happy: Three girls try to find happiness in a class full of losers. Too much ‘cute girls doing cute things’. What the British would call twee.

None cuter, and we know it

None cuter, and we know it

Twin Star Exorcist: A pair of high-powered 14-year old exorcists get told they need to start making babies to save the world. He’s a whiner. She’s inept. Chief exorcist is a con-man. Strange mix of well done backgrounds and secondary actors, combined with cartoony main characters.

More like grade-schoolers

More like grade-schoolers, really

Pan de Peace: As I thought. Cute girls doing cute things… with bread … manages to be boring, even when limited to three minutes.

There's another three minutes of this

There’s another three minutes of this

High School Fleet: GaruPan meets KanColle. High school girls operate automated warships, get involved in some sort of high level government plot. Alternates between too many shrieking adolescents on the bridge, and not enough really good CGI warship shots. I continue to watch, but I fast forward through the dialogue.

The fleet sorties!

The fleet sorties!

Anime Postview, Winter 2016

April 17, 2016

This is not a review of the Winter anime season, quite. Instead, it’s a look at how well my preview of the Winter season worked out. TL:DR is that I scored 3 out of 4 on all three areas, sortof. Here they are, under their original headings:

WILL WATCH: Shows I planned to watch, based on the cover art alone. I got three out of four right. Gate, Dagashi Kashi, and Phantom World were all good, or at least watchable. Haruchika, not so much.

MIGHT WATCH: Shows I thought might be worth watching. Three out of four again, except that I dropped the ball on two of them. The ten-episode Wonderful World was watchable, in much the same way that Phantom World was — they were both well executed examples of standard anime fare. Erased and Rakugo were widely praised, and I really liked the first episode of each, but I just never was in the mood for watching the rest.

WON’T WATCH: Shows with off-putting cover art or storylines. Yet another three out of four. Of course, it’s hard to say that I made the right choice in not watching something if I didn’t watch it and so can’t tell if I shouldn’t have watched it or not. Number four was Oshiete, Galko-chan, and I did watch it and it was funnier than it had any right to be, given the fact that it was built around girls talking about stuff that embarrasses guys.

ALSO WATCHED: There were a few shows that didn’t fit on my Winter preview that I ended up watching anyway. I guess I’m also three for four on these.

Aokana, the high school flying circus, I will discuss elsewhere. Good, solid anime, with some fun flying scenes. Recommended.

Tabimachi Late Show was a four-episode, seven-minute, minimalist series. As one commenter said, he’d seen manga that had better animation. To me, it looked like they just used the key frames, with no in-betweening, but that’s because I’ve been watching too much Shirobako. In any event, they were four unrelated stories that were by turns some combination of sweet, spooky, and enigmatic. Recommended. Episode 3 highly so.

She and Her Cat, as told by the cat. Another four episode, seven-minute series, but with much better animation and an actual story line. Bittersweet ending (watch through the end credits). Recommended.

Ojisan and Marshmallow was yet another short, about a fat, middle-aged guy who likes marshmallows, and a cute girl who likes him. As bad as it sounds. Why did I watch it? I don’t know. The harder question is, why did I admit to watching it? I don’t know. Stop asking questions. Go away. Go make some s’mores.

Shirobako news

April 9, 2016

Shirobako, my favorite anime, right after GaruPan, just won the Tokyo Anime Award Festival prize as the best Television Animation of the year, and, in a panel held as part of the program at the Festival, the various producers of Shirobako (including the CEO of P.A. Works) said, more or less, that there might be a sequel “If we could decide on a theme.”

ShirobakoAward

One of the things that director Mizushima seems to be good at is starting you off sceptical and then pulling you in to the story. Those who watched the first episode of Girls und Panzer and thought it was just about fanservice, with tanks, were soon proven wrong. Likewise, it’s interesting to follow the consciousness-raising of an Anime News Network reviewer, going from a bemused first episode discussion of moe slice of life in the workplace to cheers and tears at the final episodes of Shirobako. I have high hopes for his current cast-of-thousands Mayoiga: Lost Village.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished (but mean to), Winter 2016

April 5, 2016

Usually, shows under the TL:DR header are stinkers. These are not. They are well done, (mostly) well received, and the first two probably would have worked as mainstream live action programs. So why didn’t I finish them? I don’t know. Anime Ennui? Being at a point in my intellectual development where I would rather watch Galko Chan? One day, I plan to watch these all the way through.

ERASED: Time travel murder mystery. Well done setup, despite the done-to-death hero found bending over victim with bloody knife plot device

Showa Genroku: Trying to make it as a vaudeville storyteller in the ’50’s. First episode was excellent. Demonstration of how a rakuga works was fascinating, as well as funny.

Grimgar: Being an adventurer in a fantasy game is all fun and, well, games, until you actually have to murder a poor solitary goblin in cold blood. Psychological study masquerading as a trapped in a video game anime.

Dimension W: The least satisfying and most traditional anime on this list. Former enhanced government warrior searches for unlicensed maguffins energy coils, dragging along an adopted gynoid, which is like an android only with gynaecological aspects. Good adventure, good characters, worth coming back to. Someday.

Yokohama Shopping Trip

March 31, 2016

From 1994 to 2006, Hitoshi Ashinano wrote 140 chapters of a manga titled Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, or Yokohama Shopping Journal, known in the West as Yokohama Shopping Trip. It’s set in a Japan of the far future, when sea levels have risen to cover most of today’s cities and humanity has declined to a tiny remnant, quietly living amidst the ruins.

The water's gotten higher since last time

The water’s gotten higher since last time

Strange creatures have appeared — fungi with human faces; flying fish adapted to life out of the water; the Mikago, a human-female-seeming creature that lives in the coastal forest and appears only to children, and the Taapon, a never-landing stratospheric flyer. In addition, there are robots, what would have been called androids, before Star Wars perverted the label. They are constructed humanoids. Indistinguishable from humans, they eat and sleep and excrete and are immortal. Yokohama Shopping Trip is this new world as seen by one of the early model robots, named Alpha.

Alpha's world

Alpha’s world

The story is best described as a post-apocalyptic  slice-of-life. The pace is calm, slow, lethargic, even glacial. A whole chapter might be dedicated to making a cup of coffee, or driving to the seashore to watch the street lights light up along a highway that is now under water. Alpha runs a coffee shop out at the end of a disused road through an abandoned countryside.

At the end of a disused road.

At the end of a disused road.

Every now and then there’s a visitor. Every now and then she hops on her scooter, and drives into what’s left of Yokohama (the hillside suburbs, mostly), to buy more coffee beans.

Yokohama Shopping Tower

Yokohama Shopping Tower

Her friends include a couple of other robots, an old man who runs a nearby gas station, and his grandchildren. There’s no drama to speak of.

At one point, she decides to see more of the world, and spends a year walking around central Japan, rarely getting out of sight of Mt. Fuji. In the end, she returns to Café Alpha.

Café Alpha

Café Alpha

Wikipedia says there were two OVA series, released under the title Quiet Country Café. The disc labelling is obscure, and even the sellers are a little confused about what they have. I have an all region copy of the second OVA, with English subtitles (ISBN ending 5045). The copy I have is a single disc, two parts, each of four x eight-minute segments. That’s 64 minutes total, or about three regular anime episodes. I also have a Region 2 copy of Part 2 of that OVA, Japanese, no subtitles (ISBN ending 003997). Finally, I have a Region 2 copy of the first OVA, Japanese, no subtitles (ISBN ending 704054), also about 60 minutes. So I have one more disc than I need, and one of the discs I do need for a full set is Japanese only. Fortunately, it tracks the manga very closely, and so I can get the gist from there.

The sources selling them are not always clear if they are selling the Region 1 version, with English subtitles, or Region 2, with no subtitles, so be careful.

The anime is just as slow as the manga, and even more enigmatic. There’s no overlap between the two OVA’s, and because of the slice of life format there’s not much continuity within them. If you haven’t read the manga, you will miss out on half the references. Minor characters from the manga (Taapon, Misago, the pilot) make cameo appearances, seemingly for the sole purpose of satisfying the fans.

The Taapon gets a cameo

The Taapon gets a cameo flyby

Other elements are touched on, but not developed (in the second OVA, we don’t find out that Alpha is a robot until the second half, her friendship with Kokone is never expanded), or ignored (Who/where is her “owner”? What does ownership mean under these circumstances?).

The artwork gets a B. It looks like watercolor on textured paper. The colors are muted. The depth/distance effects are often based on multiple layers, like an elementary school paper art project. It would make a nice wallpaper, but it doesn’t make the countryside a character, the way Non Non Biyori does.

The music is mostly acoustic guitar

The music is mostly acoustic guitar

It’s been compared to Aria as a feel good anime, but I think it’s closer to Non Non Biyori. It’s very quiet, very rural, and, to the extent that there are characters, character-based.

Friends

Quiet friends

Anime Preview: Spring 2016

March 18, 2016

Unlike some others, who use knowledge of the source materials, close observation of the previews, and who actually read the press releases, I’m going to base mine on just the title and the cover art (thanks, Zana), and maybe a bit of the blurb. Consider yourself warned.

First, let’s say what’s normally not in here. Sequels to stuff I didn’t like before (Asterisk, Kyoukai no Rinne), most kids stuff (Futurecard Buddyfight), anything with Macross in the title, movies and OVA’s.

WILL WATCH: The title or the cover art is properly enticing, so I definitely will watch at least the first three eps.

1. Kuromukuro Haruhi Suzumia and a buffed up Itsuki Koizumifight the ghosts of ancient mechas

1. Kuromukuro
A slimmed down Haruhi Suzumia, a buffed up Itsuki Koizumi, and some new girl fight the ghosts of ancient mechas

2. Mayoiga The Boys on the Bus, headed for the Hotel California Directed by Mizushima

2. Mayoiga
The Boys on the Bus
 Headed for the Hotel California
Directed by Tsutomu Mizushima

3. Shingeki no Bahamut Hentai anime girl brings her own tentacle

3. Shingeki no Bahamut
Demon girl brings her own tentacle

 

4. Flying Witch But it’s so much more comfortable to take the bus (Have you ever tried sitting on a broomstick for four hours?)

4. Flying Witch
Have you ever tried sitting on a broomstick for four hours? I’ll take the bus

MIGHT WATCH: The cover art is not too off-putting, so I might watch it.

Girls und Motorcycles

1. Bakuon
Girls und Motorcycles

2. Kiznaiver Our bond lets us share wounds to promote world peace.Did I mention it's my period this week?

2. Kiznaiver
Our bond lets us share wounds to promote world peace. Did I mention it’s my period this week?

3. Kumo Miko Didn't we do this one with a big fox last year?

3. Kumo Miko
Didn’t we do this one with a big fox last year?

4. Negote no Yome... Magical girl goes to high school, decides to start her own SOS club

4. Negote no Yome…
Magical girl goes to high school, decides to start her own SOS club

WON’T WATCH. The cover art / title / blurb tells me more than I ever wanted to know on the topic.

1. Pan de Peace Girls und Pan

1. Girls und Pan
Not all loan words are English

2. Gyakuten Saiban Phoenix Wright struggles to exist in a world without competent barbers

2. Gyakuten Saiban
Phoenix Wright struggles to exist in a world without competent barbers

3. Super Lovers If the FBI finds this in your cache you are so going to jail

3. Super Lovers
If the FBI finds this in your cache you are so going to jail

4. Kamiwaza Wanda Small boy learns to urinate action figures

4. Kamiwaza Wanda
Small boy learns to urinate action figures

…and 44 more that didn’t even make the “I won’t watch” cut.

Shirobako, the Blu-Ray

February 21, 2016

Sentai Filmworks has released Season 1 of Shirobako on blu-ray and DVD. I am a big fan of the series (I’ve watched it four or five times now on Crunchyroll) so of course I pre-ordered it, and just now finished my sixth runthrough. It’s interesting to see the Sentai translations compared to Crunchyroll’s. At the start of Episode 1, for example, Taoru* describes the first episode of Exodus, the anime-within-an-anime as being a purification for the director, while the Sentai translation says it’s a clean slate. The reference being to the director’s previous disaster with an anime titled Jiggly Heaven, and the actual word, I suspect, having some sort of Buddhist association. On the other hand, Sentai translates  one character’s pronunciation of our protagonna’s name, Myamori, as Meow-mori, which it definitely is not (besides, in Japan, cats say nyan, not meow). Once nice addition is that Sentai provides translator’s notes, explaining some of the in-jokes (and there are many).

The story is, of course, great. It’s about adults, solving adult problems. It’s a primer on how anime is made. It’s directed by my favorite director, Tsutomu Mizushima (of Girls und Panzer fame). So what’s not to like? Well, the story is great, but the delivery leaves something to be desired.

First of all, it’s subtitled only. I don’t mind, but my wife (and other acquaintances who are not so much into anime) much prefer dubbed. Second, surprisingly, the video quality is not as good as the Chrunchyroll SD transmission. I paused both on my home television, and switched back and forth. The Blu-ray is noticeably fuzzier than the streamed version. It’s not so bad as to be unwatchable — in fact, it only detracts if you’ve seen the streamed version — but it really is inexcusable, particularly for a product that costs $60 for a one-disk program. Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of the marketing companies, and the only alternative is to not own a copy.

Season 2 is scheduled for release in May, 2016, and I’m going to pre-order that as well.

*Unlike many first names in this series (Aoi means Blue, for example), I can’t find a meaning for Taoru, but Taoru-san is how restaurateurs refer to cockroaches when the customers are listening.

Dropping my shorts

February 19, 2016

I have nothing against short-form anime, as such — defining short-form as say 10min or less in duration, including OP and ED. One doesn’t expect much depth, or things like character development. They are easy to watch, because they don’t take much time, so you don’t feel your life is slipping away. The interesting thing about the format is that they are extremely hard to get right. Robert Heinlein once said that the hardest story he ever wrote was for use as advertising copy in a technical magazine, and it had to fit in one page-long 2″ column. Good ones are very very good — Wakakozake, and Aiura, and … nothing else…come to mind. Bad ones range from meh to terrible. I just dropped two of them:

Meh

Sekko Boys. A one-joke anime that ran out of steam.

Sekko Boys. A one-joke anime that ran out of steam.

Terrible

J.K. Meshi. 3/4 terrible jokes. 1/4 terrible food.

J.K. Meshi. 3/4 terrible jokes.
1/4 terrible food.

Shirobako Names

February 14, 2016

In the English-speaking West, the practice of giving meaningful first names has mostly died out. We generally don’t name kids Temperence or Praise-God any more (although Buffy the Vampire Slayer had Faith, Harmony, and Willow — with a brief appearance by Aphrodesia). In Japan, it is still the case that first names can be meaningful words. Here’s a small set drawn from the main characters in Shirobako. The names are in Japanese order, last name first:

Miyamori Aoi — Blue
Sakaki Shizuka — Peaceful
Tōdō Misa — Beautiful-sand
Imai Midori — Green
Takanashi Tarō — No meaning by itself, but ‘Tarō-san‘ is a code word restaurants use for cockroaches
Andō Tsubaki — Camillia
Iguchi Yumi — Helpful-still (yes, it’s the word for dream, but the kanji are different)
Satou Sara — Sal tree, important tree in both Hindu and Buddhist religions
Hiraoka Daisuke — Big-help (love is daisuki)

TL:DR — The Muv-Luvs

January 15, 2016

Once upon a time, almost fifteen years ago, there was an adult visual novel called Muv-Luv (マブラヴ, although in one place it’s reported as 真愛, or True Love)* Originally, it came out in three vaguely related parts. Muv-Luv Extra is a straight highschool harem VN. Muv-Luv Unlimited has the protagonist wake up in an alternate world where Earth has been invaded by aliens. Muv-Luv Alternative is Muv-Luv Unlimited with the protagonist sent back in time to save the Earth. Got that? Good. Now ignore it.

We're the girls who play high-school sports

We’re the girls who play high-school sports

We're the girls who fight

We’re the girls who fight

The franchise spun off a bunch of manga, which inspired a couple of anime — Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse, and this year’s prequel, Muv-Luv Schwarzes Marken (Black Mark, as in blotted your copybook). I started watching M-L:TE because I read the description of M-L:SM which said it was set in the GDR in 1983, and that sounded interesting. Boy, was I wrong.

We're the girls who defend the Earth

We’re the girls who defend Asia

We're the girls who defend the GDR

We’re the girls who defend the GDR

Both are straightforward mecha vs alien anime. In both, the aliens — that look like mecha/monster hybrids — cover the earth from horizon to horizon and are pretty much immune to all weapons except those on the mechas.

<rant>And why doesn’t anyone think to retrofit existing systems with mecha-grade weapons? If armor works on a mecha, it can be bolted onto a tank. And if a mecha can carry a blast-o-matic beam rifle, why can’t one or two of those be stuck on a tank? Or a fighter jet? And another thing. Why aren’t we just using nukes on the screaming hordes of godless aliens? It’s not like there’s anything left once they’ve overrun a patch of ground. And it’s not just these shows. Most mecha combat anime have the same problems.</rant>

The big difference between the two anime here is that M-L:TE is trying to be a romance between the Japanese protagonna, and the Japanese-American assigned to her unit, while M-L:SM is a mystery about a girl who looks like someone’s little sister. Oh, yeah, the Stasi are every bit as much a threat to our protags as the aliens are. In any event, there’s lots of shouting and angst and going off the deep end half cocked. It confirmed why I don’t like these shows.

I watched through seven eps of M-L:TE while waiting, and then one of M-L:SM, when suddenly I realized that I needed to prep for my colonoscopy.
————————————–
*The name is a little confusing. マブラヴ transliterates as maburavu, which could be mab love, whatever mab is. 真愛 translates as true love, which is pronounced ma ai. I should note that the original author is notoriously bad at English.

Wakakozake Season 2, The Live Action Drama

January 12, 2016

I loved Wakakozake, the anime short about an office lady and her after-office love affair with food and drink. Two minutes was just the right amount of time to introduce us to the context, the food and drink, and the pshhhhuu!

Season 1

Season 1

In “Season 2” it’s now ten times as long, and it’s live action.* How do they fill the extra minutes? Well, they do two cafe visits instead of one, they show the details of how the food is made, and they are visiting actual cafes, ones that a tourist could hope to find. Outside the food arena, they felt they needed to bump up the “drama” aspects, so we see more of Wakako’s travails at work, and some chef/apprentice interactions, as well as some footage of her walking to wherever she’s going.

Season 2

Season 2

It’s…not bad…but I don’t think I’d continue to watch it if I hadn’t seen Season 1 first. The premise really isn’t strong enough to hold up a 20min show, and pshhhhuu! doesn’t work as well when it’s a real person saying it. On the other hand, one can learn about Japanese cafe etiquette, and there’s some nice short cooking hints on how to dismember a mackerel and respectfully hash a daikon, and who doesn’t need to be reminded how to do that now and then?
—————————————
*The manga came first, in 2011. Then Season 1 of the live drama, in January, 2015. The anime ran starting in July of 2015, so the two are essentially separate.

TL:DR — Anime I never finished, Winter 2016

January 9, 2016

One week in, and already I’m trimming the fatuous. Well, after watching Shirobako, I have vowed never to accuse anyone of producing crappy anime again. Everyone, I’m convinced, produces the best possible product they can, within the constraints of time and budget and staff and source material. What I will say is that many studios don’t produce anime that holds my interest, possibly because, as a fat, old, Euro male, I’m not the target demographic. So, I’m trimming the ones that don’t inspire me on first look, and will likely not get a second one.

Active Raid: Jolly band of misfits operate experimental mecha to fight crime. They are called the Special Public Security Fifth Division Third Mobile Assault Unit Eight. So, 3+5+8 = 16 = 4+4+4+4, which in Japanese maps to Die Die Die Die.

We could have done a second season of Twin Tail, but no...

We could have done a second season of Twin Tail, but no…

Divine Gate: Superhuman humans using magical tools called Drivers fight over the Gate to the Worlds Beyond. Super-powerful boy-girl team trains at special school for super people. Emotionally-scarred super-loner with depressing past and even super-er powers gets added to their team. Super.

Too bad it's Divine Gate, and not Divinegate

Too bad it’s Divine Gate, and not Divinegate

Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju: Ex-con decides on a new career as a radio-hall storyteller, just as television becomes popular. Enters into a menage-a-trios with a woman who is also an aspiring ragkugoka, and her dead father.

Oh, I thought you said Joshi Raku

Oh, I thought you said Joshi Raku

Luck and Logic: Superhuman humans using magical tools called Logics fight monsters that come through gates from the Worlds Beyond and take possession of non-super-humans. Non-super humans. Non super…nevermind. Super-powerful boy-girl team trains at special school for super people. Jolly band of super-powerful magical girls cooperate to take down monsters. There’s a little sister. Super.

We are not magical girls. Don't call us magical girls

We are not magical girls. Don’t call us magical girls

BBK/BRNK: Super-loner with depressing past, depressed at having misplaced his little sister, assisted by jolly band of misfits with super-powers based on magical tools called Bubuki (BBK), plans to restart antique super-mecha called Buranki (BRNK) to fight super-oppressive government. Super.

...or is it a Buranki? One hangs down from the roof of the cave, right?

…or is it a Buranki? I can never remember which is which. One hangs down, right?

Anime for the new year: Get in the robot, Shinji!!

January 1, 2016

NGE-EVA01_in_TokyoThe Fall and Winter anime seasons that we are transitioning between right now mark the 20th anniversary of the TV debut of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Our Internet was out over the Christmas break — snow broke the DSL phone line* — so I hauled out the DVDs and did a marathon rewatch. Actually, it was mostly an original watch. I had viewed the first few episodes some years ago, but dropped it because of excessive angst. I also watched the first of the theatrical reboots, Evangelion II.5, You Can(Not) Be Serious, and didn’t bother to buy the second one. Now I am older, with more intestinal fortitude. Also, the snow is hip deep on a tall giraffe, and there’s nothing else to do. Well, cable is still working, so I guess I could have watched the Harry Potter Möbius reruns. But I didn’t.

The 1995 ** series is important in the history of anime because it changed the way we looked at giant robots, red-headed tsuntsuns, and damaged girls with blue hair. There’s been a whole generation of comment between then and now, and there’s nothing new I can add. So I will content myself with recording my impressions.

Just a flesh wound. I've had worse.

Just a flesh wound. I’ve had worse.

Starting with characters, we learn in the first five minutes of Episode 1 that Shinji is an insecure whiner with daddy issues. And after ten hours of alternating robot fights and whining, we get two episodes of pop-psychology designed to drive home the fact that Shinji is an insecure whiner with daddy issues. To top it off, the final four episodes show us that it’s not just him. Evidently, a job skills requirement to work at NERV, particularly as an EVA-insert is that you have parental abandonment issues and deep feelings of insecurity. None of the people involved could have passed the clearance requirements to be groundskeepers at NSA.

From a visual standpoint, even after twenty years, the series holds up surprisingly well. The future technology (2015!) still looks OK** and the robot fights were good (while Gainax had the budget to produce them). The artwork gets a B by today’s standards, which is pretty good for a series that’s older than most people watching it. The animation budget obviously ran out towards the end, and we were presented with minute after minute of stills-with-voiceovers. In one scene, in Episode 22, they evidently ran out of money even for seiyus, so Asuka and Rei stood ignoring each other in an elevator, silent and unmoving in a single still frame, for a timed 51 seconds — an eternity in a 25 minute anime.

I don't know, what do you want to talk about?

I don’t know, what do you want to talk about?

The ending was disappointing. Yeah, Shinji saves the world by grabbing the boy he loves in his EVA-fist and thumb-popping his head off like it was a matchstick, but that was episode 24, and we had two more that were presumably intended to be about the triumphal Human Instrumentality Project and the Third Impact, but instead sputtered out in a pop-psych post-amble. Not only did HIP-3i not happen in the anime, it didn’t happen in real life, either.

NGE should be required watching for anyone who complains about Western films and books appropriating other countries’ culture and symbology. The whole pseudo-mystical reasoning behind the existence of the Angels and the EVAs and the NERV organization and the Human Instrumentality Project is one giant raid that runs through Western religious tropes, looting and pillaging. From the Prophecies of the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Martini Fork of Longinius, director Anno picked whatever sounded good to him and stuck it in. Not that I’m complaining, mind you — sauce for the goose, and all — it’s more feeling embarrassed for him. I guess that’s much the way members of non-Western cultures feel when watching a Swedish actor playing a Chinese detective in a film story by an American from Ohio, or watching the fake kung fu in old David Carradine TV reruns, or listening to Yoda’s fake Asian sentence structure. To top it all off, the sound track is all Western classical music, mostly Beethoven.

To Conclude: I enjoyed the robot fights. I suffered through the mysticism. I gritted my teeth through the angst. But the part that made me smile was five minutes of the last episode, the ones that showed Shinji what an alternative world could be like, with childhood friend Asuka, new transfer student Rei, and sensei Misato. I’d watch a full season of that any day.

Late on the first day of class!

Late on the first day of class!

—————-
*Obviously, it is working again, but it went out on Christmas Eve morning, and the phone company doesn’t work on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Saturday, or Sunday.

** Also the year that the anime movies Whisper of the Heart and Ghost in the Shell came out.

***Except for the mobile phones and the cassette tapes

Twelve Days of Anime 12: GaruPan and Shirobako

December 25, 2015


Girls und Panzer
was arguably the best anime of 2012. It was an anime-original that was well-written, respected the topic, and devoted a lot of effort to obscure details instead of fanservice.* Unfortunately, it was beset by production problems that forced it to issue two “recap” episodes. True to form, director Mizushima dot-numbered them and extended the run time of the series, instead of trying to pass them off as real episodes. For the second recap, Episode 11.5, they actually had to stick in a three-month hiatus, which drove the ending from December of 2012 to March of 2013 (and incidentally made it impossible for it to gain the recognition it deserved, because it missed the deadlines for 2012 awards, and people couldn’t decide if they should list it as a 2012 or 2013 production). What was bad for the anime was good for the fans, because the director’s decision to honor quality over schedule ended up delivering an outstanding product.

GaruPanEp5.5

Part of the production problems may have been due to the failings of the studio. Studio Actas is evidently a small operation (they don’t even have a Wikipedia page), that had never before been lead on any big project. Their ANN Encyclopedia entry shows them acting mostly as an outsourcing studio, doing “In-Between Animation”, and “Production Assistance” and the like, admittedly on a long list of projects. Another part may have been a personal failing on the part of one individual. This was hinted at by some of the online discussion.

Skip ahead a year, and director Mizushima Tsutomu is working on a new anime original at a different studio: Shirobako, at P.A. Works. P.A. Works appears to be a much stronger studio than Actas. They are credited with such hits as Angel Beats!, Hanasaku Iroha, Another, and Eccentric Family. Their contribution to Shirobako was “2nd Key Animation, 3DCGI, Animation Production, In-Between Animation, Key Animation (ep 1-5, 7-8, 17, 19, 21-24), Production”. What links the two anime is that Shirobako is about the process of producing an anime, and the trials and tribulations involved, and GaruPan is a good example of what happens when production goes wrong. Evidently, two of the things that can seriously damage a production schedule are failure of the Production Assistants to do their job, and failure of the out-sourcing studios to deliver on time.

In Shirobako, the problems start out in Episode 1, when the obnoxious, loud-mouthed, Production Assistant Takanashi Tarō** admits that key frames for an upcoming episode are not finished yet, and that he has no idea when they will be.

...and there's no plan for them ever being finished!

…and there’s no plan for them ever being finished!

One can just imagine Mizushima rubbing his hands with glee at the thought that everyone in the industry will know just who “Taro” is, and how badly he screwed up. And the white-sidewalls half-Mohawk haircut is just a courtesy extra.

In the second cour of Shirobako, Mizushima takes on non-performing outsource studios, when the appropriately named Studio Taitanic (a stand-in for Actas?) fails to come through.

It's 11AM and why are you asleep on the floor?

It’s 11AM and why are you asleep on the floor?

Their work is shoddy, they are late on the schedule, and their episode director suddenly quit. Fortunately, Musashino Animation is able to place a key worker on location with them. All is well with Shirobako, not so much with Garupan.

Shirobako has been praised as an accurate, if rose-tinted, look at the anime industry. One reason for the accuracy is that the director had just lived through a gauntlet of industry pitfalls.***

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*Two examples from episode 2: the school Headmaster’s car, which gets crushed by a tank, is a million-dollar Ferrari F-40. This is obvious to all Ferrari aficionados, but goes unremarked in the anime. Similarly, if you read Erwin Rommel’s book The Rommel Papers, his rapid advance across France at the start of WWII was almost halted because a Panzer IV got stuck on a bridge. In the girl’s first exercise, their Panzer IV gets stuck on a bridge. Nobody mentions Rommel.

** Tarō-san is a code phrase that restaurant workers use to reference cockroaches when the customers are listening

***Gauntlet of pitfalls. Yes, I know. Sad, innit?

Twelve Days of Anime 11: Fall Season Postview

December 24, 2015

Back in September I posted a totally subjective look at what shows I was considering for the Fall, 2015 season. Out of the eight I was planning on watching, with some level of confidence, three turned out to be movies (and not offered on either Crunchyroll or Funimation), two I dropped, either because of quality or boredom, and three I watched all the way through. What were the three?

Subete ga F ni Naru – Perfect Insider
A very European Art Film experience, with unlikable protagonists, stilted conversations, and inexplicable motivations. I probably won’t buy the DVD, but I may well marathon it next summer.

Beautiful Bones – AKA Bones-the Anime.
Contrived relationships and simplistic mysteries, so, not very much different from standard network TV. Last program was an unabashed setup for an as-yet second season. I’ll rewatch it sometime.

Owarimonogatari
Combined with Monogatari Second Season (which was actually about the third season’s worth of programming), this makes a fitting end to the series. All we need now is to have a season that shows how all this got its start.

Of the ten I swore I’d never watch, I actually tried watching six of them. Five confirmed my good taste. The other one was good enough in a better than marathoning Strike Witches way that I stuck with it.

Utawarerumono
So far, it’s a period costume harem anime, with a good-natured, laid-back hero and a bevy of nekko-mimi females to be entranced by him. It’s a two cour show, and this first season just laid the foundation. Pleasant enough, but not outstanding.

So that was it. Four shows. Two updated at midweek, two on the weekend. An exceedingly thin season, and hardly enough to keep me occupied. I filled in the time by watching Serial Experiments Lian

Twelve Days of Anime 10: Supporting Characters

December 23, 2015

A while back, I did an item on secondary characters, what Hollywood calls supporting actors — people like Walter Brennan, Thomas Mitchell, and of course, John Malkovich — identifying those I thought deserved a spin-off anime of their own. For this tenth of my twelve days I thought I’d bring the list up to date, with one entry from each year since I wrote the original, in 2012. Of course, there are some constraints. It had to be a show I watched. It had to be a character who obviously had a backstory, not told in the original anime, and it had to be a character who could stand on their own.

Beyond the Boundary 2013

Beyond the Boundary
2013

Ayaka Shindō: she’s a kitsone yomu who runs a photo shop as cover for her yomu-stone evaluation business. How did she get a job working for the anti-yomu Spirit League? What does she do when she’s not buying yomu-stones? Does she really do gravure-idol photoshoots on the side?

Kawai Complex 2014

Kawai Complex
2014

Nishikino Mayumi: a 29-year old office lady who has terrible luck with men, and who tends to get drunk every time she breaks up with her current boyfriend. What’s life like in a standard Japanese office? Where does she find all these losers?

Overlord 2015

Overlord
2015

Sebas Tian: the dragonoid butler and leader of the Pleiades Combat Maids in this trapped-in-a-MMORPG anime. What’s his relationship to all the other butlers named Sebastian in the BL literature? How does he look with his shirt off? What exactly do he and the Pleiades get up to when Heinz Own Goal is out of the castle?

Twelve Days of Anime 9: The incomparable Sawashiro Miyuki

December 22, 2015

MiyukiSawashiro

I first encountered Sawashiro Miyuki when she voiced Claire, the independent-minded high school senior in Red Garden. I was not into tracking voice actors at that point. In fact, I’m still not one who checks to see who all the seiyu are before deciding what anime to watch. But I remember being struck by Claire’s voice, a resonant contralto, and her control over the range and overtones. It wasn’t until I watched Bakemonogatari, and found myself impressed with Suruga Kanbaru’s voice that I checked to see who the seiyu was, and followed the notes back to Sawashiro. Now, one of the things I do at the start of every anime season, when I’m deciding what to watch, is go to her Wikipedia page to see what she is acting in. I don’t always follow up, but it’s one of my guideposts. Herewith, some of the characters she has voiced over the last ten years or so.

Monogatari series 2009-2016

Monogatari series
2009-2016

Kanbaru Suruga: one of the strongest characters in a long-running series replete with them. In any survey she’s likely to be in a three way tie with Hanekawa and Senjogahara for Best Girl, and a three-way is just how she likes things. Sawashiro turned in outstanding performances in Hanamonogatari and Owarimonogatari, capturing the strength of feeling and emotion of the character. Of course, none of those clips are available on-line, but here’s a clip that captures Sawashiro’s work today.

Wakakozake 2015

Wakakozake
2015

Wakako Murasaki: The only character in an ultra-short anime that shows her adventures in Japanese fast food restaraunts. The format won’t let us find anything more about her. What about the rest of her life as an office lady? What about the rest of her free time? Why is she still unmarried at 26, the dreaded christmas cake age that implies one is past one’s sell by date?

Blood Blockade Battlefront 2015

Blood Blockade Battlefront
2015

Vivian: A cheerful counter waitress in a fast food joint in Helsalem’s Lot. Every other episode her cafe gets destroyed by monsters or giant mechas or something, but she always drags herself out of the ruins and carries on. She watches out for Leonardo but doesn’t seem to have a boyfriend of her own.

Witch Craft Works 2014

Witch Craft Works
2014

Medusa: The original Medusa, whose glance can turn one to stone, so she’s been imprisoned in a blindfold for decades. Breaks free and comes to the Workshop Witches town. Very powerful but has very bad judgment when it comes to selecting her minions.

Monthly Girls Nozaki-Kun 2014

Monthly Girls Nozaki-Kun
2014

Seo Yuzuki: A hard-charging tomboy with a gorgeous singing voice, she’s aggresively oblivious to her impact on the world around her. What’s her home life like? Will she and the Theater Club president ever become a couple?

Maoyu Mao Yuusha 2013

Maoyu Mao Yuusha
2013

Female Knight: Once an adventuring partner of Hero, now she’s the head of a nunnery, with a part-time job of sword trainer for Demon Queen and the occasional gig as leader of national armies. Said she’s happy to be a simple, devoted, knight-in-service to Hero, but if that’s the case, why did she try to slip into his room late at night in her negligee, with a trayful of tea and cookies?

Kokoro Connect 2012

Kokoro Connect
2012

Himeko Inaba: Dominant character in the Cultural Studies Club. Provides confident leadership and advice, but all the while is beset with confidence issues. Steers Taichi into a relationship with Iori, until she realizes that she loves him as well. What changes will the OVA bring?

Lupin III 2012

Lupin III
2012

Fujiko Mine: Lupin’s romantic interest and rival in crime across decades of the franchise. If either is in trouble, the other will be glad to help, as long as they are the one to make away with the swag. The latest Lupin gives her equal billing and equal screen time.

Highschool Of The Dead 2010

Highschool Of The Dead
2010

Busujima Saeko: a slightly twisted swordswoman who enjoys the violence, but worries that it makes her less suitable as a wife. Her first name is pronounced ‘psycho’.

Durarara!! 2010

Durarara!!
2010

Celty Sturluson: a headless wraith from Ireland, who rides a horse/motorcycle steed through Akihabara, looking for her head, and a boyfriend. Hard job for a seiyu to pull off, because, you know, headless. First season ended with her finding that the head she found was not the head she was looking for. Move along.

Kannagi 2008

Kannagi
2008

Aoba Tsugumi: the traditional childhood friend of our harem lead Mikuriya Jin. She wakes him up in time for school, brings him meals, and clashes with shrine goddess Nagi. The one-season series ended before we could find out which girl gets him.

Red Garden 2006

Red Garden
2006

Claire Forrest: strongly independent girl (her family is rich, but she will have nothing to do with them). One of the dominant personalities among the Dead Girls. In the OVA, 400 years in the future, she’s still driving her ’88 Olds. Here’s a clip of Sawashiro’s work ten years ago.

Twelve Days of Anime 8: Will the real Oda Nobunaga please stand up?

December 21, 2015

Everyone with the slightest interest in Japanese history is familiar with the name Oda Nobunaga, the warlord who ended the Warring States period and started Japan on its way to unification. Even moderate otaku should also be familiar with the name, because the Japanese anime industry can’t seem to get enough of him. The problem is, no-one wants to base an anime on anything approximating an accurate retelling, everyone wants to tell their own counter-factual version of the tale.

Back in 2013, ANN listed seven Nobunaga-associated anime: two with space aliens, two gender-benders, one Pokemon, one Nobunaga-the-demon-king, and one Nobunaga as the boss of the main character, who is a politician addicted to tea. Since that list was compiled, we’ve added three more: Nobunaga replaced by a modern highschool boy, Nobunaga the soul inhabiting a modern highschool girl, and Nobunaga pals around with Joan of Arc while riding a da Vinci mecha and fighting Julius Caesar.

This one

This one

Not this one

Not this one

What I’d like to see is a straightforward period-costume piece. I’d even be happy with some fantasy elements, maybe a female childhood friend from Owari Province, and of course the many haremettes he meets as he proceeds with his conquests. You could even let him keep his hair.