[Side B] Spring 2017 – Week 8 in Review

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I feel just as helpless as Hanamori at this point.

Yesterday had me working in the lab for half a day, and today I just spent a good 12 hours on one experiment, only for much of it to be mostly meh. Why does RNA have to be such a finicky molecule?

But yeah, who cares about what happened to me these past few days, all that matters is the animu. Yeah, I know — but at least I can sleep to the fact that the shows this week in Side B were pretty okay in their own right. It’s not enough to make me go “wow” or anything, but it’s enough to make the frown of a bad day do a little uppity-up and make me forget about the worries that bog me down.

So let’s do this, week 8 of the Side B shows, coming right up!

Natsume Yûjinchô Roku

I don’t think I ever recall a full episode of Reiko other than the occasional side-story that explains how she outsmarted a spirit or two in the Book of Friends. In fact all stories of Reiko have always worked insomuch as they offer a contrasting point for Natsume’s own lived experience. This has been a haphazard sort of ordeal for the series for as long as I can remember, and I recall mentioning in previous reviews that Natsume Yûjinchiô Go suffers from utilizing recollections of Reiko more for its nostalgic merit (on the part of the spirit-of-the-week).

But this episode is markedly different in that it maintains — you guessed it — thematic cohesion with the season’s focus on the home as a metaphorical representation of the self. In particular, the act of visiting is presented as a point of reflection that allows the different characters to act as a surrogate for the viewer. In this episode, Reiko enters the woods, which is home to many spirits that greet her as one would expect an outsider to greet someone they are skeptical of — but Reiko’s lived experience has always been one of isolation and indifference. This is why all previous recollections I have of her have always been about her outsmarting spirits, which only serves to project her own inner closure towards true friendship with any one spirit.

Which is why I found this episode quite refreshing when Reiko’s own actions reflect upon a greater bond that is formed not just simply out of reciprocity, but of affection and endearment. Her mere presence and self-composed attitude is what moved spirits to accept her, to the point that they understood the logic of her words, and the integrity of her purpose. She wasn’t out to make any friends, but her own character opened the doors of the woodland spirits to accept her as their own — and this is something Natsume realizes quite painfully, since Reiko’s own experience has always been about living in a house with the doors all closed. Because Natsume had experienced the same sense of isolation despite living inside a house, but he never once considered it to be a house of his own.

Which is why at some point, he knows (even without saying) that Reiko accepted the proposal of companionship at some point in life, otherwise he wouldn’t be here today. It’s this parallelism to his own lived experience that makes him long to know more about Reiko — because it’s in learning about her life that he realizes how far he’s come, and to what extent he truly feels proud to have been the grandson of such a wonderful person.

 

Tsuki ga Kirei

The first thing people might say when they see episode 7 of Tsuki ga Kirei is that it’s a whole load of emotional manipulation, but I’ve kinda grown sick of that term since that’s the goal of pretty much any romantic drama out there. So if anything, this show really DID do a job of working those feels in me — that sense of dread that Akane and Kôta are slowly getting pulled apart by the forces of the world. But what’s interesting about all of this is that this was portrayed (and I’ve said this over and over again) with a brilliant use of indirect and direct framing, as well as the effective use of space. You simply feel the tension when it’s there, and then when they finally get together, that knot in your throat is released in a deep, satisfying sigh.

But perhaps what intrigues me more is how the show does not pander to the viewer through the use of excessively dramatic visuals. Most of it is situational — there are no filters or excessively dramatic musical cues — most of the emotional energy is directed through the varied use of angles and character placement. Which is why there’s this lingering feeling that something’s not right in their relationship. That they’re connecting on a level that feels driven less by passion than it is simply their fixation for one another. And this is interesting, because Kôta imagines himself as a modern-day Edogawa Ranpo caught in the clutches of “love”. Akane, on the other hand, just realizes she acts differently and can’t stand to see other girls fawn over him. And I don’t blame their helplessness at being normal when they’re with one another — that’s totally normal when relationships start! But the way this show is framing their relationship makes me feel like there’s more emotional manipulation just lurking in the background. Call me a sap for things like this, but we all know why we’re watching these shows in the first place, so sue me. But yeah, given how this show has presented itself thus far, I’m pretty much ready for anything Tsuki ga Kirei plans on hurling my way.

 

Sakura Quest

Have you ever tried land-locked salmon, grilled with salt, with some cold sômen in the mountains of Japan during the summer? Holy shit, it’s the best thing ever. Check out Sandankyô Gorge in Hiroshima Prefecture — you won’t regret it.

Advertising aside, this was a pretty satisfying episode for Sakura Quest this week. There was a pretty clear direction for this episode in highlighting Shiori’s reluctance to head a project for the tourism board as a reflection of her own insecurities, but what really did it for me was how this insecurity was expounded on through the character’s interactions with Shiori’s family. In particular, Shiori’s dad had an interesting discussion about change, and how it is normal to fear change — but it’s something we all have to come to terms with when the moment comes. Her father might not have said it directly to her, but he knows for a fact that her children will leave them — either for career or for marriage — but knowing that, he still allows them to pursue what they want because that’s his role as a father. No matter how much he would want them to stay with them, he knows that he has to accept this change.

And Sayuri expresses this sentiment in terms that Shiori could actually understand. Shiori expresses that she never considered the thought of change because she thought things would stay the way they are, but Sayuri explains that that is probably because their parents allowed them to live a comfortable enough life for them to pursue whatever it is they wanted. But then the show goes on to a segment where Shiori realizes that her sister and Kumano might have actually liked one another in the past, but due to some misunderstanding, were not able to actualize their own feelings for one another.

And though this is probably speculation at this point, I believe Shiori’s sudden forwardness comes from this idea of not missing out on an opportunity to reach out for the change that is right in front of you. It’s about not having regrets for not having been able to do something given you had the opportunity. It goes beyond far more than her own personal desires to keep things in the status quo — that’s something she learned when a house she grew up in was burned down for the sake of production — rather, it’s a change for something beyond her, for the sake of the town she loves so much.

 

So good on Shiroi and her sudden epiphany. Now I only hope that they reconcile this change with the board of merchant’s insistence that excessive tourism is as good as abandoning tradition. It’s a tightrope sort of topic to have to deal with in a show that is pretty much screaming “life in the city is a dehumanizing experience, live in the mountains!!”, but yeah, who are we to complain at this point.

 

Little Witch Academia

Holy shit, she actually smiled!

Yeah, I’m a sucker for Tsundere characters. And I’m not talking about the tropey “…and I’m not doing this for YOU” shtick that plagues anime in general. Character progression that leads to depth and catharsis is essentially a hallmark of good story telling, and I have to say Little Witch Academia accomplishes this surprisingly well given its using a pretty standard premise from the get go. There’s nothing totally mind blowing about Diana’s sudden tenderness of character, but it’s the means by which the show utilizes this to add depth to her character that makes her less an anti-foil to Akko and more a self-composed representation of tradition in the midst of a modern world.

I’ve always been a little iffy about this show’s depiction of magic as a blatant argument on the threat of excessive modernization, but Diana and Akko being the union of tradition and modernity makes for a more convincing argument. Although it’s true that Akko gets away with most of her antics by her sheer tenacity of succeeding, that in itself does not invalidate her own worldview. Indeed, Diana is the first to accept that Akko is amazing when she accomplishes things in the most unorthodox methods possible. And it’s perhaps this very unorthodox nature that makes her distance herself away from Akko.

But perhaps the reason why Diana is enamored by Akko is due to the fact that she sees a bit of herself in Akko. And even Akko gets a hint on this when Matthew shares the story about Diana losing the ability to use magic when she was young, and how Diana did everything she could to regain her powers. It’s this same innocent belief of being able to accomplish anything you put your heart into that betrayed Diana all the same when her aunt came into power, and is perhaps the reason why Diana denies everything about Akko, because accepting her would be tantamount to denying her own worldview.

Which is why I believe people like Akko — ridiculously optimistic and hell-bent on succeeding, even when it isn’t likely — are important for people like Diana. And likewise, why people like Diana — pragmatic, self-composed, and astute towards any given situation — are just as important for people like AkkoTradition and modernization can both benefit from one another; just as Diana and Akko can do so much more when they’re working together.

 

KADO: The Right Answer

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These guys have a very direct sense of humor.

Kidding aside, I think I’m starting to get a little jaded on this title, and I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s because the plot progression is slowing down, up to the point that they even inserted a random summer festival segment with Tsukai in a Kimono (not that I’m complaining). But if the point was to show that ZaShunina is empowering things outside of the bureaucracy to decide on behalf of humanity — the scientific community, and now the media — then I think that was something that could have been paced a bit better.

But really, now it’s a question of what would humanity do if it had the ability to stay awake all the time? KADO‘s characters are starting to hit that slippery slope of evaluating humanity by “efficiency” and the “benefits of not sleeping” as if sleep in itself were some inherent imperfection. And that’s not to say that humans are “perfect” to begin with, but it’s this notion of “perfecting” humanity that becomes problematic. And I think it’s from this perspective that I’m beginning to understand Tsukai’s apprehensions with regard to accepting ZaShunina’s proposal with the Wam in the first place. It’s the proverbial “deal with the devil” so to speak. At what expense of our “humanity” are we trading in exchange for the ability to remain awake, without the need of sleep? And along those lines, what more could be taken that could be deemed as unnecessary as sleep?

I recently experienced a slippery slope argument like this when I read an article about scientists being able to grow a pre-mature lamb in an artificial womb (made of a plastic bag), and that they were able to deliver the lamb to term. I thought it was amazing, but some people started bringing up all sorts of concerns regarding where this technology would take us — all the way up to a Matrix-like future where people are just born out of pods.

Now that might be exaggerating (and to a certain extent it is), but I think after watching this episode of KADO, I can start to understand where such a sentiment is coming from.

 

SukaSuka

Vinegar vomit. 🙂

Well, yeah… So I guess this was a slice-of-life episode this week? To be fair, it was pretty okay, and there was enough foreshadowing and suspense to suggest something insidious is brewing in the background with Chtholly’s sudden change in hair color. But I guess you could say everything was pretty much functional at this point. I did enjoy the little bit of dramatic release when Chtholly broke down in tears after realizing she kept her promise to return to Willem, and there was a similar bit of satisfaction to see Willem act a bit more like himself and actually console her in a way that doesn’t gratify his own obsessiveness over her. So I guess all that’s left is for this show to proceed with its exposition regarding the beasts and who these new girls are.

 

Fukumenkei Noise

The circle triangle is now complete.

Yeah, pretty much expected. I’m still not convinced by the show’s whole need to oversell its drama, but I CAN say I’m convinced that Alice is as dense as a bag of lead. Yuzu must be RIDICULOUSLY in love with this girl if he’s able to put up with the kind of (ill-spirited) nonsense that Alice throws at him. But this is a youth drama, so that’s pretty much standard fare, especially since we’re trying to build a love polygon here, goddammit!

Anyway, I’m kinda looking forward to that band showdown. At least I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.

 

 

Wow, I had quite a lot to say this week. But I have a feeling I’m gonna have a lot to say about the next week, because man the shows are (strangely) starting to get good. But damn, I have so much lab work and papers to write, why??? Anyway, hope you enjoyed reading these thoughts. Any thoughts you’d like to share on anything we discussed this week? Do feel free to share them below in the comments. Until next time, ciao!

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