Give me back my dumplings, and nobody gets hurt.
No seriously, someone jacked my dumplings in the freezer over the weekend. I was planning on saving those for dinner tonight, so I ended up having some instant noodles, instead. Sheesh, what a douche.
Anyway, food grudges aside, the last two weeks in Side B was a bit weird. I know it’s been quite obvious that I’m a bit biased towards this side because the shows contained in it are generally much better than Side A, but the shows that were doing pretty well started to veer off track a little, while the not-so-good ones actually faired a bit better. All-in-all, you could say that each of the shows evened things out, making for a generally satisfying two weeks. Not bad — I was just about to knock one of the shows off of this list, but it actually proved itself worthy of a little more attention.
So yeah, let’s not spoil things and just run straight to it!
Natsume Yûjinchô Roku
I guess you could say that I was rather fortunate to end up watching episodes 5 and 6 of Natsume Yûjinchô Roku in one sitting, given it was a two-part story that focused on a character from the previous season. I’m very, very impressed at this show’s ability to maintain a strong sense of thematic cohesion throughout the first half of its sixth season run, which is something I’ve mentioned repeatedly was the major failing of its previous brethren. In particular, it’s interesting how Natsume has been visiting other people’s homes as a sort of metaphor towards him moving in a centrifugal manner to further discover what it means to “connect” with others in his given context as a person who can see things others cannot. It’s a very mature tone that adds consequence to his occult-centric misadventures (and unceasing habit of postponing the release of names from the book of friends for whatever reason).
And keeping in line with this sort of focus, Natsume and Natori’s relationship is probed further when they help solve the serial haunting of an ex-exorcist’s mansion subject to the mischief of the latter’s previous familiars. It’s interesting to see Natsume and Natori clash in terms of ideals — the meaning of honesty and the means by which it affects those on the receiving end of such “honesty”. Natsume’s initial attitude lies along the lines of “ignorance is bliss”, and that saving someone the anxiety of knowing something they’d rather not is tantamount to protecting them. But Natori’s blunt approach reveals Natsume’s own ego-centric nature of playing the battered hero. Natsume’s own lived experience has inadvertently caused him to close himself towards others under the guise of saving them the hassle of having to deal with whatever occult-nonsense Natsume ends up attracting.
But Natsume ends up realizing a deeper reason for concealing the truth, or in the case of these two episodes, a greater reason to reveal it despite people wanting to maintain the status quo. In the case of the former, Natsume does not wish to divulge the secret of The Book of Friends because he fears what this would do to him and his relationship with Natori. And he tests this by using the example of Taki’s talisman, which was immediately declined by Natori as “taboo”. For the latter, Natsume understands what all of the events means to the people involved because he has become more attuned to the emotions of the parties involved; case-in-point that of the familiars and the ex-exorcist. Fear of knowledge of the truth can definitely freeze one into inaction, and it’s Natsume’s innocent yet clear grasp of what it means to reveal the truth that actually leads to a conclusion.
So yeah, all of this in two episodes of what was essentially a brilliant re-capitulation of not just Natsume’s own lived experience thus far for this season, but also of many themes brought to light from previous seasons. This was, truly, a great two weeks for Natsume Yûjinchô, and I’m more than happy to be able to place it at the top spot for this week’s review.
Tsuki ga Kirei
It should come as no surprise that Tsuki ga Kirei continues to be consistently excellent at what it does. I’m still very impressed with the show’s remarkable grasp of character space and placement — but I won’t re-iterate what I’ve already gone over and over in previous posts. Instead, I’d like to focus on how the introduction of a third party might seem like a tired dramatic trope, but Chinatsu’s confession is executed so thoughtfully, I can’t help but find it a very natural thing to happen. This show isn’t here to promote a dense protagonist in the form of Kôta who just so happens to have girls literally fall all over him. In fact, both Chinatsu and Akane seem to be at a loss as to why they are attracted to Kôta in the first place. For Akane, at least, her motivation is depicted as a phenomenon of sorts — the quintessential problem of “love at first sight”. It’s intentionally meant to make no sense, but the feeling is given the appropriate weight of believability thanks to Akane’s awkward need to hide it from her peers. And this is totally understandable for her character given she’s what you could call an introverted extrovert — someone who is outwardly motivated, but deep inside is beset by emotional hurdles and anxieties that force her to promote an image of self-composure. This is the reason why she can’t openly admit to her inner circle that she has no interest in her male running mate in the track club, or that she’s actually no longer single.
And this is where Chinatsu’s complication actually adds some needed introspection for Akane and what Kôta means to her in the first place. Chinatsu fell for Kôta simply because she was curious, and that curiosity bred a feeling of attachment through the random encounters and pseudo-adventures they had together. Even she frames her emotions as a “guess” of sorts (i.e. “I THINK I have a crush on him”), which makes Akane feel somewhat challenged by that prospect given she probably hasn’t even given the idea much thought. In fact, has Akane every REALLY considered the emotion of falling in love with a boy and what that means? She’s been so pre-occupied with wanting to talk with Kôta — going to the extent of consulting weblogs dedicated to romantic relationships — that when she’s confronted by Chinatsu’s direct announcement of feelings, makes her own situation feel trite; almost like she cheated in becoming Kôta’s boyfriend the way she did.
And this is precisely why I love this show. Everything I’ve been discussing has been portrayed with the bear minimum of dialogue. What has pushed all of these emotions is mainly thanks to the brilliant framing and character direction. I swear, if you haven’t watched this show yet, please do. You may not be a sop for romantic themes, but trust me; after watching this show, you very well might just consider jumping on the bandwagon. And trust me, there’s really nothing wrong with that. So long as you enjoy what you’re watching, you’re free to watch whatever the hell you want. This show should definitely be one of those.
KADO: The Right Answer
To be honest, I was rather intrigued with KADO’s proposition at the end of Episode 5 when it showed the Japanese government’s decision to reveal to the entire world the method of creating Wam. By utilizing Dr. Shinawa as a metaphorical representation of the scientific community and its potential of creating revolutionary technologies, the show proposes that the major hindrance to human development is government oversight. To some extent, this is somewhat true in light of events in our recent history. And so ZaShunina’s proposal is that the “right” answer is for man to decide what to do with the Wam — an opinion that is contrary to Tsukai’s insistence that the Wam should never have been given to humanity. Now here lies an interesting bouncing of ideas between what is essentially an existential dilemma of the “virtuous” and the post-modern ideal of a “moral-less existence”. I’m in no position to actually argue on those points, but the show is trying to insist that there IS a correct answer to each of its proposed existential dilemmas — in this episode, that the choice to forward human development should not be left at the hands of a governed super-structure (i.e. the United Nations); rather, it should be a choice of humanity, itself. The prime minister makes his view clear when he states that the technology itself is not to blame for its own potential misuse — it is the choice of humanity. Declining the potential gains of a revolutionary device out of sheer distrust for the human race is, indeed, a highly pessimistic view of reality, but is something that is not unwarranted given humanity’s penchant for starting wars given an adequate pretext.
Which is why I commend this show for presenting characters that have such high hopes for humanity. It’s refreshing given the negativity in a majority of popular media. But interestingly enough, the world of KADO responds to this over-optimism with the reveal in Episode 6 that only two other people in the world have successfully produced Wam, but with a less than 0.0001% chance of efficiently re-creating it. The world also doesn’t dwell much on the repercussions this has caused for humanity, and instead moves on to more human-evolving-talk from the cryptic ZaShunina. It eventually came to the point that I started to grow weary of the technology-toting alien — enough to make me distrust his true intentions. And I think that’s what makes this show such a great watch despite some glaring weaknesses in its moral arguments. It isn’t out here to prove that its worldview is correct — it’s simply showing how its characters are coping with these situations and acting accordingly. Whether or not we agree with them seems to be part and parcel of the viewing experience. And for that, this show still continues to be an indispensable part of my weekly viewing.
Little Witch Academia
It was about time Studio Trigger decided to throw in ridiculous mechas and drills into another of its franchises. And whenever they do, things just come out bangin’. Granted that this episode was ridiculous from start to finish, it actually worked well enough to be entertaining, whilst effectively promoting a basic moral of “no man is an island” and pushing forward the brewing plot surrounding Professor Croix. On those notes alone, I think this show did pretty well this week. But despite this, the overall execution of Little Witch Academia has been admittedly lukewarm. It’s not the most mesmerizing of franchises like, say, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, but that’s a pretty high bar from the get go. As far as this title is concerned, however, I think it hits a sweet spot for anyone into this sort of thing. I’m just glad it’s starting to stick with its guns to deliver a show that is distinctly in a league of its own. And for that, I really can’t fault it at this point. So yeah, keep doing what you’re doing, I guess.
I was just about ready to ditch this show, until Episodes 4 and 5 pretty much explained all of the character backgrounds necessary for me to make sense of this hodgepodge of emo teen nonsense. To be honest, the premise of this show is actually legitimately interesting. Yuzu’s connection to in NO hurry to shout; and the motivation behind creating it finally makes sense, as is Alice’s determination to sing her heart out to reach an unfeeling Momo, who turns out to be a stuck-up prick with a massive ego trip. These characters are functionally broken enough to warrant this shit-pickle of a love triangle they’ve found themselves in, but I think what ruins this otherwise promising narrative is the terrible execution. Much of this first half was spent over-dramatizing simple conflicts for the sake of creating dramatic tension, which inadvertently caused some character confusion, like me thinking that Alice was an ill-spirited “slut” who has no mercy for her clearly friend-zoned bestie. But hey, we’re half-way through and I’m actually excited to see how Alice figures her way out of this shit fest for a change. And I’m actually invested in seeing Momo get knocked down a notch or two for being the self-conceited brat that he is. If I’m this fired up to see these characters get messed up, then that could be a sign that I’m actually enjoying this show, right? I dunno, I still have mixed feelings on this one. I honestly think this sort of story deserves a better production than this. But oh well, beggars can’t be choosers, so I guess I’ll just shut up and enjoy the ride.
Vinegar vomit. 🙂
I’m thoroughly convinced now that the direction of this show is being rushed, given I’m seeing a lot of character inconsistencies and misplaced dramatic exposition. I mean, why should Willem be so invested in Chtholly when all they’ve ever really done together is spar and share a night under the stars? Sure, he experiences some of his past emotional luggage with Chtholly by virtue of transference, but is that enough to make him do a mad-dash-glomp on her in a public place? It seems wildly uncharacteristic of the otherwise composed Willem, unless I’m missing something.
And then there’s the mess of Episode 5, which at one point appears to be a socio-political discussion into the internal affairs of a city-state experiencing the threat of armed resistance and the role of the military in such matters… before suddenly becoming a random slice-of-life about said city’s amazing shawarma and tourist spots. And then we all find out it’s because Willem was using someone as bait to do what he was otherwise not supposed to do as a person of uniform. Wow, talk about a rebel.
But I guess the saving grace of this episode was Chtholly’s astute dissection of what makes Willem tick. It’s a bit ill-spirited of him — and he’s well aware of that fact — but Chtholly seems to be open to the fact that she can accept him for that because he loves him as a whole. It’s nice to see a very open confession without all of the romantic fluff that is usually attached to things of this nature, and for the purposes of this show, makes sense. At least there’s more emotional attachment for Willem now towards Chtholly since it’s clear that she understands him in a way that mirrors his own previous love interest (or at least who I think is his previous love interest). Forget about him being a grown adult who isn’t fazed by the approach of dug weapon-yielding adolescent fairies — this is Anime we’re talking about, son. ‘Bout time you get with the program.
Sakura Quest flanks the bottom of this list not because it did bad per se; rather, there isn’t really much for me to say about it at this point. I don’t want to say that I think it’s stagnated — rather, I think I’m just not so attached to the story as I would have hoped. For these past few episodes, at least, the show has focused on its individual heroines, but at the same time keeps Yoshino in the periphery as a sort of spectator, often having her throw out random, quirky comments that sometimes comes off as overdone. I mean, I understand how bringing back each individual character’s past to haunt them is the obvious thing to do in order to bring about some sort of catharsis in their character, but I feel like the central point of this show (i.e. Yoshino’s role in all of this) is starting to be lost. She was supposed to represent something about a young adult journeying beyond the humdrum of industry whilst finding herself — instead, she’s been relegated to an observer’s position with a more or less passive outlook. I mean, Sanae pretty much figured out her issues on her own, with Yoshino basically piggy-backing on the former’s points of epiphany. Heck, the same might just happen to our Oden Detective come the next episode. So unless Yoshino starts playing a more active role in realizing her own self-worth in this otherwise ridiculous town in the boondocks, I’m afraid to say that this show will start to become a huge waste of time.
Whew, I think I wrote waaaay too much this week, but I think that’s only because the shows in this block give me more to think about. Any thoughts you might have on any of the shows you’re watching above? Do share your comments below. Until next time, ciao!