Wew. I was gone for longer than I thought.
So I was planning on spending a peaceful spring break with nothing but a book and my animu, and along comes one of my publishers asking for a last-minute “save” on a manuscript for translation. There goes my plans for some “me-time” during the break. Although I was able to avoid any unnecessary distractions since my roommate technically “loaned” my Switch from me. He’s busy trying to pull out the Master Sword in the Lost Woods, even though he only has five hearts. Silly sod.
And that brings us to week 4, but I guess it hasn’t been that long since my Side B releases under week 3 have aired, so I’m gonna wing it. Nothin’ gon’ stop this ‘ere train, ya hear! *shakes fist violently*
So let’s do this!
Tsuki ga Kirei
The overall production of this show has been nothing short of excellent. In particular, Tsuki ga Kirei does an excellent job of establishing the psychological spaces of each of its characters by using a lot of smart camera angles, as well as utilizing limited amounts of narrational cues. Although some of these lines aren’t really necessary at times, the show fairs far, far better than other shows in this general sketch like Scum’s Wish. And I’ve mentioned in the past how Scum’s Wish gets a pass for its excessive use of overt narration over the characters own physical expressiveness. And I think this is what elevates the production of Tsuki ga Kirei well beyond its simplistic premise. After all, if you’re going to make a story about two hyperaware middle schoolers, then you have to make their lived experiences feel engaging. And the best way to make this engaging is to elicit a direct emotional resonance from the viewer. Kota’s hesitancy to ask Akane how her track meet went, and the looming thought of the implications of a third party snatching her away from him, make his situation seem more dire than it’s thought up to be. I’m sure we’ve all felt this sort of emotion before when we were navigating the emotional effects of adolescent love, and what subtle cues from our object of affection actually mean. Akane’s habit of staring at Kota when he’s “messing with the boys” is so carefully illustrated and framed that you can almost feel her inner self trying to dissect what it is that makes her so drawn to this individual. And this brings me back to how this show effectively uses space to clearly identify the worlds that both Akane and Kota occupy. And when they finally sit beside one another, their awkwardness negotiates the same space that they occupy, making their encounter feel both natural and engaging. If anything, this show sells itself not by the brilliance of its concept, but rather the magnificence of its execution. If you’re into cinematography and elements of visual direction and space, then this show will definitely keep you well entertained. I’m all for a simple story if it’s presented in a way that is refreshingly natural — and by golly, does this show have it.
KADO: The Right Answer
I dunno, but something about this shot is just so amusing.
Anyway, I was honestly impressed with this week’s episode of KADO, given that it’s probably the first example of “technobabble execution” done right. In fact this was what worried me about the show’s general direction since the beginning of its run — how to go about explaining the mechanics of this world without creating an overarching plot that allows itself to exist as a matter of necessity rather than a consequence of the plot. This is the very reason why “technobabble” is so common in sci-fi shows. Because unless the canon is established before hand or through some other peripheral means (i.e. Star Wars, Startrek, etc.), the exposition will end up sounding like a random assortment of technical terms that simply serve to justify a plot variable, without having any real consequence.
This is the very reason why I absolutely despised the exposition in Dimension W way back in Spring of 2016. But take note, “technobabble” isn’t the same as using highfaluting jargon to create immersion and authenticity — if done right, you get shows like Aldnoah.Zero for example — but returning to KADO, we actually get a weird mix of technobabble that is allowable to some extent because it is framed in an “encounter with the third kind” sort of context. What this means is that we share in the overall obliviousness that the show’s world is trying to establish, and the overall effect of this is that the characters become far more relatable despite having very little amounts of characterization. But whatever characterization is present is used in a very efficient manner, as seen when Tsukai let’s off a little chuckle after Shindô quickly dismisses a discussion with ZaShunina regarding the word “fregonics”, since it would wind up another discussion on the accuracy of words. These little bits of smart dialogue make what is supposedly technobabble actually engaging — even believable.
I’m very much enjoying how this show feels very confident in the sort of worldview it’s trying to build — and I haven’t even gotten into how it brings up some philosophical points regarding human behavior. But suffice it to know that this show has got me really impressed thus far. If you were on the fence for this one, I seriously think you ought to give it a try.
Natsume Yûjinchô Roku
I’m sorta enjoying the fact that this current season of Natsume Yûjinchô is featuring some thematic cohesion early on in its run. And I deliberately keep repeating the term “thematic cohesion” when talking about this show, because that’s the only reason why multiple seasons of this show exist in the first place. For shows of this format, at least, the lack of a definitive end goal (i.e. slay the dragon, bring peace to Hyrule, etc.) means that the only differentiating factor between seasons is the ultimate message it is trying to portray. The previous season focused on the theme of “objects of affection” — examining what it means to hold someone dear to you, and the means by which we go about expressing that affection beyond the platonic. This, however, was unfortunately garbled about with a messy first half, and only fully explored in a far clearer format in the second half.
For this sixth season, the franchise is starting to take a more introspective approach into the character that is Natsume, and we see this in his own self-projection when trying to help out the Stonewasher. This overarching theme, however, felt a bit forced when tied in with the episode’s own catharsis (i.e. reunion of the Stonewasher with his pupil), but the overall feel and depth of examination of Natsume’s character felt consistent with what the show’s pedigree implies. It wasn’t the best of episodes, but I give it credit for remaining consistent with what has thus far been established in the season. So here’s hoping they continue this consistency throughout the remainder of this season’s run.
Vinegar Vomit. 🙂
So far, I guess you can say that this show is doing “okay” as far as a fantasy show is concerned. I’m not totally sold with the whole “these girls are weapons” schtick, but at least the exposition felt reasonably okay. But what perhaps struck me in this episode was when Willem explained the mechanics of dug weapons, and how the girls actually WERE excellent weapons. It seems like the show is trying to show that weapons in themselves do not necessarily cause destruction; rather, are directly tied to the people that utilize them. It’s like saying nuclear missiles are the same wherever you place them — it’s just a question of which country is the one pulling the trigger.
But of course, it’s far more complex than that, and the show’s insistence on using cute girls as its anti-thesis is perhaps its own meta argument against Willem. At the very least, I appreciate how Willem acts his age and doesn’t get flustered with Chtolly’s childish (and selfish) request. It’s an interesting jab at the overly dramatized “I’m gonna die, give me something to remember you by” schtick, but I think what sold it for me is how Willem still granted her request, but in a way that made it clear that it was of his own volition. He wants these girls to understand the meaning of the choices they’re making. And for that reason, this show continues to impress me despite some of its narrative flaws.
It’s easy to call out the cast of Sakura Quest as being caricature-ish at best, but I believe the show’s strength lies in its ability to convey its message of “finding one’s purpose” precisely by using these character tropes. Yoshino is obviously a depiction of the disillusioned millennial, and her struggle in the initial interview regarding the merits of Manoyama reflect her own disengagement with the town she supposedly represents. And it’s amusing how Yoshino’s initially confident tone (reading off of pre-scripted lines) suddenly reverts back to perfunctory answers like that seen in job interviews. And this lack of change pushes her to actually challenge people’s opinion of her — that she doesn’t really care about Manoyama. Although it’s true that she doesn’t care much for the city, she can’t say the same for its residents. She genuinely feels some degree of emotional attachment to the people she’s interacted with. And although that might seem somewhat selfish and shallow, it’s enough to make her openly honest about the reality of Manoyama’s tourism board campaign. Honesty as a currency for moving people is a great contrast to Yoshino’s job-interview-like attitude at the start of this episode, and it’s also interesting how the show clearly points out that honesty isn’t always the best approach. I like that tempered sort of stance because it shows that Sakura Quest is critically aware of how Yoshino’s character, as a member of the millennials, reflects upon people who aren’t a part of her generational group.
Although ridiculous when looked at in general, I’m very pleased to see Sakura Quest being a well-constructed character drama that actually utilizes character tropes effectively. It’s still a question as to whether or not its current approach will translate to a success this season; will it be like girlish number in that regard? I surely hope so.
Little Witch Academia
So the previous episodes that opened the second-half of Little Witch Academia’s double-cour actually established the main plot, having Akko go out and revive the lost words. I actually really liked how episodes 14 and 15 recapitulated Akko’s experiences and made them more relatable in a “moralistic” sense. But episode 16 takes the more cartoony route to depict a moral story that is both simplistic and inane. Granted this IS being presented as a cartoon, I just felt that the overall tone was too lax compared to what was established before it. As a result, this inconsistency makes the whole production feel a little meh. Although I’m not denying the moral lessons being touted by the show this far into its run, part of me really wishes that the show be more consistent with the overall tone it’s trying to achieve. And I guess that’s been the general problem with Trigger productions — how to maintain artistic freedom in plot delivery without inadvertently altering the tone that would cause viewers to not take the show seriously? That’s a hard pickle to swallow, and I honestly don’t know the answer.
There’s something really odd about this show and how it decides to insert adolescent troubles into an elementary-school girl’s shell. I honestly find Alice’s entire emotional journey both incredible and ridiculous. Then there’s this whole friendzone-ed rebound nonsense in the form of Yuzu. I mean, really? Is that how you create dramatic tension? It’s true that this isn’t anything new as far as romantic dramas are concerned, but was this the best setup they could think of? What a tiring episode to have to chug through.
The shows in this half of the season are actually quite impressive. So how are you guys fairing so far three weeks in to Spring 2017? Do share your thoughts and comments down below! Until next time, Ciao!
Good point about Yoshino representing disillusioned millenials. I’m starting to have an idea for a blog post and it’s thanks to you!
It really does seem like Side A has less to offer compared to Side B. Guess we will have to see if that remains the case.
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Haha, glad I was able to inspire you in some way. 🙂 I look forward to reading that article of yours!
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