Fall 2016 – Week 13 in Review

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We’ve finally reached the end of a great season!

Yeah, I’m actually quite happy to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this season. It definitely wasn’t what I expected it to be, but in retrospect a large chunk of the shows I watched actually did a good job. That and the fact that I entered the season with relatively low expectations. But then there were amazing shows like March comes in like a lion, the venerable Sound! Euphonium, and even the wonderfully inventive Flip Flappers, which I am quite aware received mixed reviews.

So farewell 2016 — you were a shitty year, but at least your anime wasn’t shitty in the least. And also, a slight congratulations to me for finally completing an entire season worth of blog entries for the first time! I honestly wanted to post more editorials and series-specific write-ups, but I guess this continuous stint of writing articles has helped give me an idea of what sort of approach I’d like to take in writing as an anime blogger. Part of the gratitude also goes to the people who have interacted with me and share their appreciation with me.

So yeah, this is the last stint before the new year! No best anime of the year or top 10 anime of 2016 lists from me — I don’t really believe in that stuff. So here’s to more thoughts and more anime for the year to come! But before that, let’s run ’em down one last time for the year!

Sound! Euphonium 2

A part of me felt that this epilogue was a little unnecessary (and even excessive) for the series, but man did it really just throw down all of the feels. In a practical sense, it sorted where the club will be headed now that the seniors are graduating — and I give props to Kyoto Animation for going as far as re-recording the different musical performances with altered instrument setups (i.e. with and without the senior members of the band). These are very small nuances, but it cements this whole idea of generation — of changing seasons, impermanence of structure, and the evanescence of youth. All of these themes culminate into that final scene of Kumiko and Akane at the entrance of the school, a reference to the circular nature of lived experience that is mirrored by the narrative (i.e. it’s the same place where the story begins and ends). Akane is a senior leaving the school, which Kumiko will soon follow afterwards; the school gates serve as both an entrance and exit into adolescence and even the world as a whole. All of this points towards the grandiosity of legacy and the means by which we actually leave a mark in the grander scheme of things. For the Kitauji High School Concert Band, that mark would hopefully be a victory at the National Tournament, but for each individual character, that’s a different story. For Kumiko at least, she realizes that whatever mark she wishes to make, it must be done out of a conviction and resolve to not regret having not done so in the first place — a painful lesson she learned with her sister, and something she doesn’t wish to repeat with Asuka. And it’s this openness that justifies the entire name of the series – SOUND! EUPHONIUM. In fact, the more accurate translation would be “REsound“. It’s a wonderful reminder for us to never lie to the passions that lie within us; to let them be heard amidst fears of not being understood; to constantly struggle with that fear and push towards letting our emotions be heard. Kumiko‘s growth as a character is by far one of the most touching moments in anime I have seen in a long time, making this show one that I will certainly cherish for its wonderful, heartfelt story.

March comes in like a Lion

For some reason watching this episode, I couldn’t help but think about the Sodachi Riddle arc from Owarimonogatari — a show that was (surprise!) directed by none other than Akiyuki Shinbo himself. Rei is moved by the warmth of the Kuramoto’s particularly because he sees the interconnectedness of human experiences in Akari’s projection of loneliness in a warm home filled with family. And the pervasiveness of melancholy in spite of external happiness is the greater underlying threat of depression, which Rei is only starting to understand. It makes him feel like his own personal issues seem petty to the greater majority of people living with their own issues, and so he accepts any warm gesture as a means to cope with his own loneliness. A sort of “solidarity in adversity” by people who are just as broken as he is. But this is where I start wondering what it means for people like Rei to experience warmth despite having a harsh familial upbringing — hence why I thought about Owarimonogatari. In that show, kindness and people of virtue extending aid to the broken are perceived as “too bright”, and this similar concept was even hinted at in the recently released Kizumonogatari: Nekketsu-Hen. And when that brightness is too much to bear, it simply exposes the greater flaws in character that the depressed often prefer not to see. Rei has been a little inconsistent in responding to kindness, but then again, maybe I’m over-analyzing things at this point. Still, it’s interesting to see a more reserved approach to the issue of depression from a director who worked on another work that expressed the same issues in a more evocative format. But even if this is the case, March comes in like a Lion still succeeds in being earnest in its delivery, and by no small feat succeeds in creating a poignant drama full of relevant thematic truths.

gi(a)rlish number

So THIS is Wataru Watari’s answer to the burgeoning millennial problem. It wasn’t the most elegant of answers, but it did bring home some reasonably valid points. Even if it didn’t offer any practical solutions outside of a reorientation of perspective (that is highly dependent on character), the show managed to go beyond a cynical depiction of the obvious flaws of industry and depict a character triumph that is, quite frankly, totally okay in my book! Chitose definitely is one hell of a character, but her representation as the millennial psyche actually makes her all the more relevant to those who just hated her guts. So yeah, this wasn’t the perfect character drama, but it was one very interesting exercise worthy of distilling into an editorial that focuses on the current millennial psyche in the modern day workforce — something I’m planning on getting into come the new year. Look forward to it!

Flip Flappers

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No, this show isn’t last on this list because it didn’t do well. In fact it ended perfectly. The appeal of Flip Flappers actually relies less on its underlying plot than it does on the whole premise and overt narrative that it wishes to express. When you’re not busy trying to make sense of the plot, you actually appreciate the vagueness of the narrative to explore what the possibilities of each of its symbols mean. Just what is the amorphous, you ask? That’s a good question! What IS the amorphous? To you, what do you think it is? I think it’s this sort of open-endedness that allows you to realize what the story means to you, and is in keeping with the spirit of adventure and wonder that is embodied by this show. And even if you’re one of those people who think that an overt plot is crucial in order to make heads or tails of what the show is trying to say, the message actually couldn’t be any clearer: this is a story of discovery in a crazy world full of infinite possibilities. I’m quite sure I’m going to be spending much of the lull between seasons just revisiting and enjoying the world of Pure Illusion over and over again. It was a risky coin to bet on for the show, but Studio 3Hz delivered in spades and showcased a wonderful adventure that just beckons you to discover and rediscover more and more about its magical world full of zany ideas.

 

And that’s that! Happy New Year in advance! Expect a follow-up ranking on all the shows this season followed by a preview of what I plan on watching next season — because there are quite A LOT of them… ugh. Oh well, such is life as an animu fan. You know the drill.

So see you guys around! ciao!

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