With five-plus years of anime-watching (studying, more like!) now in the books, I wanted to write a little essay using clips from the last post’s neglected “mid-tier” favorites from the current Spring Season (and other faves) as examples of why anime is considered great entertainment by so many, to the apparent consternation of so many others. My top shows are obvious showcases and were shown off in the last Post, but I feel that these “less-than-stellar” picks display why the medium is so satisfying. Simply put: there’s something for everyone!
Action-oriented and anti-fantasy? The gritty real-world realism of Jormungand might do it for ya:
Sure, it’s a lot like Black Lagoon, but how is that a bad thing? There are plenty of differences between the two, and since I enjoyed the original tale of a gang of mercenaries so much, it’s easy to see that this telling of a band of arms dealers is a different story entirely. It’s patently unfair to the show’s creators in comparing the two; I prefer seeing each series in its own light without saying “oh it copies this from that show and that from this show, so it’s just a knock-off”. Knock off that type of “thinking” and just enjoy it for what it is, which is “another show” that you might enjoy. I am
Besides, Black Lagoon IS different, as shown in this action-packed AMV which features a great cover of the appropriately-titled (for this anime) “Bad Company”. Revy is such a bad-ass LOL:
For me, the bloom is still very much on the anime rose Despite seeing comments from older fans decrying the lack of diversity and bemoaning the recycling of old plots (which is true to an extent), I keep finding bunches of new series every season that evoke the highest levels of entertainment and satisfaction for me. It requires a little work and research in determining which shows to watch out of the forty or fifty offerings each seasonal season, but armed with synopses, previews, and advance buzz, a lot can be determined about which shows should prove interesting for the upcoming season.
There are always, in every medium, those works that are content to plow the same field over and over, because it’s safe, it sells, and it doesn’t challenge anything. And that’s fine, for those who are satisfied with that. I’m not, and strive to find standouts that are different from the boring norm. And every anime season I manage to find at least eight series worth watching and following over the course of its run. Compare this to a TV season where I’d be lucky to find one or two shows of interest in a whole year. I don’t even watch TV anymore… probably because it doesn’t have shows like Dusk Maiden of Amnesia:
But I have to confess that to my family and friends my interest is still a mystery to them. They’re stuck with a westerner’s casual comprehension of what little anime they’ve been exposed to here, and (predictably) comment on the big eyes, big heads, lip-flapping & etc. and wonder what the draw is. I’m sure this scenario is repeated in many households across the U.S., as so little is known about anime aside from initial impressions from growing up watching the Saturday-morning “cartoon shows”, which the bulk of the country is apparently basing their uninformed opinions on. This is why, despite my heavy reliance on fansubs, that it’s a definite good thing that online streaming sites are offering up more of the better series out there, sometimes with English dubs. At least they’re trying!
So while I have this web-space mainly to support my novel, I’m also using my Blog to shed a little more light on this intriguing subject, and hopefully draw in a few more curious souls to anime, and anime-lovers to my novel, UNBOUND
I believe that there’s a huge potential audience for anime over here, but for two problems: the presumptions of “the masses” (i.e. society-at-large) that it’s for children, and their assumptions that those who enjoy it are somewhat immature. These (let’s face it) ignorant appraisals serve to damper any enthusiasm of fans to share their happiness with others, and further are castigated into silence by their peers who can’t accept it and who might consider them (god forbid) as “weird” for liking it. (Talk about immature LOL) The herd doesn’t like anything different or unusual compared to the “acceptable” fare of the day; in fact, they seem frightened or challenged by it. I say go with what you enjoy and to hell with what others think; it’s your life!
An example of a show I wouldn’t typically watch is Accel World; I’m finding it interesting due to its premise of a “real” virtual world, the use of an overweight and atypical main character (though he’s a tad annoying LOL), and an interesting female lead as well. Note: the following Pig is an avatar in the online game they are playing at, and no actual pigs were harmed during this series. I think.
Another suggestion: We have to resist comparing anime to cartoons, despite their obvious similarities. That being said, in this post I want to differentiate between the two using the following, well, comparisons. (I guess it can’t be helped!) True, they are both animated, but that’s their only connection aside from basic entertainment. Apples and oranges, to be sure. First of all, the budgets are miles apart; one source compares a typical average animated per-episode budget at around $140K and a typical Simpsons episode at around $2 million. So yeah; they’re gonna look a little different and frame-cutting is largely where the difference will lie, as far as the animation goes. But for whatever reasons, I’m finding the character designs in anime MUCH more appealing to my eyes now, and also find that the comic book characters I grew up with don’t come close in appeal. Never would have guessed at this delightful surprise as I used to be one of those “oh the eyes are so big it’s weeeirdd…” guys
Now I know better; it’s all about Feeling It
Here’s a notoriously potent (and classic) scene from Clannad After Story that delivers a one-two punch that’ll knock you right out, if you have any heart at all and allow yourself to feel it. This is probably my most-poignant and moving scene of all the anime I’ve watched (around 300 titles!). It’s extremely spoilerish, so be warned!
I’ll set it up: Tomoya has been an absent father for some time to his five-year old daughter Ushio, who had to be left in his in-laws’ care. Unwilling to ever address or even think about his wife, and troubled by his own disrupted past with his own father, he is “tricked’ into taking a trip with Ushio to his father’s mother’s home in the country, where he realizes that he must reach out to that tiny expectant hand that has missed his so badly. This is a bittersweet snapshot of two estranged people trying to cross a huge emotional gap of absence. And study the expert use of lighting, sets, camera angles, direction, sound, animation, and expression, along with the well-scripted dialogue and the superb voice acting that delivers everything so directly to the heart. No flinching allowed!
It’s a really weird airing schedule this anime season! Since so many Spring series’ airings are scattered between episodes 2 and 5 this week it’s hard to determine where the season’s midway point is going to be, so I’ll just get a jump on it now and tackle the shows I’m sticking with as this season “nears its middle”.
After falling behind (again!) for almost two weeks, I have a boatload of shows to catch up on, and so decided to put on hold (or drop) 4 series that were losing my interest. Since time is in short supply, I find myself looking for any good reason to drop or put on hold a marginal show; there’s just not enough time to catch them all!
Now I know how an Agent feels ;_;
But in sifting through so many shows, one is bound to find a jewel:
So, we may or may not continue Tsuritama (kids and an alien learn to fish), Medaka Box (yet another high-school “problem-solvers” club), Haiyore! Nyaruko-san (I prefer horrifying Cthulu-mythos creatures please, not cute little girls), and Zetman (just didn’t win me over but may try again later).
That’ll leave me with eleven, but I see that the first episode of AKB0048 has just been subbed, so I’ll check that out and see if I can reach twelve. Another idol-based show might be a little much coming so soon (relatively) after The iDolm@ster, but I’ll try anything that looks promising. Several favorite seiyuu are in it (Yui Horie, Yukari Tamura, Mamiko Noto and Miyuki Sawashiro); I always enjoy hearing their takes on new characters. If it’s too girly though I’ll have to pass regardless LOL (It might be a show geared especially towards adolescent girls due to the elevated status of this huge pop merchandising machine, in which case nice, but not for me.)
(EDIT: Apologies for the blank vids below, but a few get yanked as happens A LOT on YT, which goes to show that you should try to watch these asap when posted. You’d think that the Corporations would understand that we’re sharing them to increase their profits, not profiting somehow from “misusing” their Product.)
At this point, the cream of the Spring crop is Fate/Zero, Kids on the Slope, Hyouka, Eureka Seven Ao, and Space Brothers. Next tier of excellent shows are Jormungand, Sankarea, Accel World, and Tasogare Otome x Amnesia. Rounding up the little doggies are Acchi Kocchi and Kimi to Boku 2.
The most pleasant surprise for this music-lover is Kids on the Slope, aka Sakamichi no Apollon. Talk about a breath of fresh air! Set in the mid-sixties, layered with smooth animation (especially the musicians), great characters (with a possible love-triangle in the offing?), and an authentic jazz-drenched soundtrack, Kids provides an intimate glimpse into the hearts of those who love music, specifically, jazz.
My eyes (and ears) popped at the mention of Art Blakey when the record-store owner pulled out a copy to show the MC, a crotchety young fellow into classical piano until he meets the school delinquent who worships at the altar of cool (and is a mean drummer himself). His determination in learning this new, free, method of expression at the piano is wonderful to behold:
The love and respect for jazz is palpable and admirable; highly recommended to those who appreciate and feel the love of music! Throw in the (relatively) placid mid-sixties backdrops, cultural similarities that cross barriers, and such wonderful characters, you’ve got a show you can really dig into with relish, man
Fate/Zero continues its awesomeness previously reported. May not work as well with someone unfamiliar with the story of Fate/stay night, but this is great, epic, storytelling set in an intriguing universe (Nasu-verse) of distinct rules and definitions. The animation by Studio ufotable is top-notch as always, and especially highlighted in the intense action scenes. ‘Nuff said, except for this:
Hyouka is the latest from Kyoto Animation, producers of that blessed (for me and many others) triple crown of Air, Kanon, and Clannad. I’ll basically watch anything they can put together, so that alone is reason enough (until/unless the unlikely event that I get bored with it). Even though Angel Beats! lacked a certain… oh, I dunno… “Key element” (*cough*), it was a fun show, though not anywhere near the dramatic peaks of those three joined-at-the-hip classics.
Here’s a proper (and prim) promotional video, subtitled for your very edification
I know that the entertainment value of a KyoAni series will be high, with little-to-no fanservice or other cheap devices to keep me tuned in, so this school-based mystery might be unique enough to keep me watching. I bet that it will
The 2012 International Saimoe League has just shifted into Serious Business Mode with the first regular-season match starting up today. There’s still some time to vote in the 24-hour voting period, so get thee hence!
This year features separate divisions of newer and older shows, and some interesting exhibitions. Now that all the months of Preliminaries are done with, it’s the start of the grueling Regular Season and its endurance run to the end, months down the line. Do you believe it?
Girls I’m planning on supporting this year include (from the list below): Kyoko and Homura (from Madoka), Kurisu (Steins;Gate), Victorique (Gosick), Menma (AnoHana), Tenshi (Angel Beats!), anyRozen Maidens, Kotomi and Nagisa (Clannad), Holo (Spice and Wolf), Taiga (Toradora), Saber (Fate Stay/Night), Shinobu (-****monogatari), and Shana (SnS). I supported the couple from Another in today’s last exhibition matchup as well.
Here are my votes for this first-of-many matches; some very tough choices to make! But… ya do what ya gotta do xD (The chosen ones are in the dark text)
ARENA 01: Iwasawa Masami [Hasegawa Kobato]
ARENA 02: Tōwa Erio [Sakura Kyōko]
ARENA 03: [Makise Kurisu] Nakagawa Kanon
ARENA 04: Suzutsuki Kanade [Charlotte Dunois]
ARENA 05: [Eucliwood Hellscythe] Gasai Yuno
ARENA 06: [Elucia de Lute Ima] Konoe Subaru
ARENA 07: [Himeji Mizuki] Kōsaka Kirino
ARENA 08: [Yui] Mikazuki Yozora
ARENA 09: [Kirishima Shōko] Kuroi Mato
ARENA 10: Haqua du Lot Herminium [Aragaki Ayase]
ARENA 11: Shimada Minami [Akemi Homura]
ARENA 12: [Irisviel von Einzbern] Kashiwazaki Sena
So go vote if so inclined… and may the best girl win
PS: In lieu of Mirai Nikki‘s separate review post I’ll just say that no, not a masterpiece but a definite 9; enjoyed it but for a few parts which prevented it from being perfect. Still, it was a great ride though!
PS2: Currently sorting through around a dozen Spring shows to review for the belated Spring 2012 Anime Season report. Quite a few good ones, as it turns out, among them Fate/Zero, Kids on the Slope, Sankarea, Eureka Seven Ao, Hyouka and many others! Kids on the Slope is going to be an excellent show, I can just tell. Any series dedicated to musicians with the mention of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the first ep signifies a show with real intelligence and heart, and the animation of the players is beautiful at times. Highly recommended to musicians out there. It’s also called Sakamichi no Apollon; seek it out!
Celebrating a happy eighth birthday for Lily-Doll, the replicant for UNBOUND‘s Lily Godwin!
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” -Albert Einstein
Many people seem to have a hostile reaction toward dolls in general and can’t help but feel “creeped out” by them, no matter what size. Many more simply take them for granted and lump them all into a convenient little pile named “Barbie”, which boys should never play with! To many more rational-minded people, dolls are simply mysterious little (and not-so-little) avatars, and our ancestors’ playthings, proxies, and companions dating back from our earliest cold and lonely nights in the cave. I fall firmly into the last camp. And glad about being out of the cave
This last group includes the more tolerant folks and their attitudes towards life-sized dolls, which apparently begs questions of a different nature from those either curious (a good thing) or judgmental (bad). Honestly, I don’t care about psychoanalyzing the “phenomenon” as it reduces the magic about them, let alone the annoyance of “discussing” the subject with someone already with their mind made up that they’re horrible for whatever trivial reasons. Ever since getting Lily-Doll, I’ve seen plenty of that “doll-magic” and don’t need any “proof” of it, nor feel a need to be convincing about it. And need I add, no Chuckies ever appeared. Seems they aren’t all that close
The magic lies in the bonding, and that depends upon one’s imagination, and how free one is willing to let themselves go. Imagine that you have ownership of a doll. Not a simple, mass-produced one, but a specially-designed doll that you chose every aspect of yourself. It doesn’t have to be life-sized for this experiment; imagine a ball-jointed doll, like Soony here.
Can you get inside her little head? She’s your doll, you should want to! Go ahead; look into her face: Is the doll reaching out to you, but you just don’t know it?
In the second episode of Rozen Maiden Traumend this “relationship” is expressed beautifully by the doll-maker’s assistant, Shirosaki. I’ll even quote my own Blog, from April of last year:
In their second season, the much darker Traumend, Jun is brought to a new dollmaker in town by his female friend Tomoe. The conversation and dialogue in this scene is brilliant, with the dollmaker’s salesperson Shirosaki praising Jun for being interested in dolls despite being a boy, and explaining the dolls’ feelings towards their owner in touching detail. (Apparently the Japanese are much more tolerant and understanding about this than westerners, but it’s still seen as “un-natural” thanks to Society’s presumptuous pre-conditioning.)
Essentially, Shirosaki explains that in spite of appearances, dolls do feel that love bestowed upon them by their owner. Paraphrasing: “It’s not that dolls won’t give love; they can’t. They just sit on the shelf, and no matter how hard they try, they can’t communicate that love to their owner.” And this exchange later, I believe by the doll-maker, Enju: ”The feelings you put into a doll are all the same. As long as you pour love into them, they continue to live. When love disappears, they die. They become lost, no matter who it is.” He cradles his newly-forged doll, smiles at her, and says, “Hello.”
So with that in mind, we’re celebrating Lily-Doll’s 8th Birthday a little late this year, but this comes at an opportune time as there’s a current wave of publicity via the film by Elena Dorfman and Allison DeFren. This, plus the current momentum of publicizing Lily’s story, UNBOUND, after whom the doll was fashioned to promote in the first place, is all very synchronous, and that’s pretty cool
Okay… I’ll say it again: I really hate the term “the doll” when describing Lily-Doll. I’m only using it in deference (as it were) to those who can’t grasp calling an inanimate object a sexually-identifiable term. So they’ll know what I’m referring to and won’t have their little sensitivities become offended by my daring to refer to Lily-Doll as “her”.
"When early youth had passed, he left his cold fireside and alienated home to seek strange truths in undiscovered lands. Many a wide waste and tangled wilderness has lured his fearless steps; and he has bought with his sweet voice and eyes, from savage men, his rest and food." (from 'Alastor, or, The Spirit of Solitude', by Percy Bysshe Shelley,1815)
For info on our novel UNBOUND, please see our website in the Blogroll!