March comes in like a Lion – Episode 1

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“Some shows are simply meant to be in the animé format.”

Whether or not you agree with the production values of recent film adaptations like Full Metal Alchemist is one thing, but it can be said that certain tonal qualities are best conveyed through animation alone. Director Akiyuki Shinbo is perhaps a good example of how best to convey emotional head spaces through the use of a wide gamut of animation spectacles. In ef: a tale of memories, for example, the use of light and shadow helps convey the duality of perceptions (i.e. there are always two sides to a story), and the means by which stories have varied interpretations depending on the characters telling them. Arakawa Under the Bridge juxtaposes its nonsensical comedy with questions of metaphysical unease  by utilizing various types of animation styles aligned with the supposed seriousness of a given sketch. This same style of “serious humor” juxtaposed with inconsequential gags is even seen in Sayonara Zetsubô Sensei. And when he isn’t dealing with humorous themes, his varied use of space, facial close ups, and camera swings help to elevate dramatic sequences, as is seen in the more serious moments of the Bakemonogatari Series; even thematically focused shows like Puella Magi Madoka Magica are elevated to a level of seriousness that perhaps is not initially expected based on the appearances of its characters alone.

In fact, there are a lot of shows under the director’s belt that show a distinct style of animation and direction, perhaps not unlike an auteur. Indeed, there is a certain deliberateness to the director’s selection of themes to portray, which for many reasons makes it feel appropriate that Akiyuki Shinbo should pick up a series as nuanced as March comes in like a Lion. And in no small way is such a happenstance more meaningful than in the realm of animation. I will say this once, and probably several times more — but March comes in like a Lion was simply meant to be graced by such a skillful director in the animated format. It seems that whatever advantages there are to be gained through animation — be it in the visualization of mental concepts that simply cannot be fathomed through live-action cinematography alone — all of it was consolidated and brought to life through the artistic methods of Akiyuki Shinbo. And no less are the words “Some shows are simply meant to be in the animé format” any less true in the first episode of this remarkable show.  Continue reading

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Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV – Episode 2

Episodic reviews for this show is a little silly given the gap between episodes, so we’ll chill for now and just talk about thoughts on this one.

To be honest, I’m a little confused on what image this game is trying to portray. For instance, I visit a local video game shop and run into something like this:

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The first thing that comes to mind is a boy band concert. Heck, I almost dismissed it as something along those lines the first time I saw it. The other thing that comes to mind is Continue reading

My Hero Academia – Episode 6

I think I’m beginning to understand what people mean when they say that the pacing of My Hero Academia is very slow. In retrospect, it would seem that MHA has achieved very little come the mid-point of its season. We got two episodes worth of background on what drives Deku (yes, I’m adapting his moniker, and for good reason as we see later), another episode on him training up in order to receive All for One, one episode for the entrance examination, and now two episodes that basically follow the formative “rites-of-passage” for Deku and his fellow superhero classmates. That certainly sounds like something that could have been condensed into half the number of episodes, but for what it’s worth, MHA has remained consistent in highlighting its core values to the point of excess. Episode six continues this trend, now pitting Deku directly against his childhood friend Kacchan.

But then the episode ends.

It’s a little frustrating, but oh well. What can you do? This is a major serialization we’re talking about, so the decision to drag out the show is probably standard play when it comes to translating it into the anime format. I’m probably not in the best position to comment on how well this translation is going given I haven’t even read the source material, but perhaps what I can (and will) focus on instead are the themes of formative education — a central theme that I believe deserves a little in-depth discussion.

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Joker Game – Episode 5

Joker Game‘s inherent weakness in characterization becomes apparent in this particular episode, which returns its focus on a specific spy as its central figure in the narrative. The fact that this was about a spy’s worst nightmare — getting caught by the enemy — means it is a very weighty theme that often implies a certain amount of investment in the captured party. In the case of this show, however, that weight could not be felt no thanks to the anonymity of our spy-of-the-week. I can’t even remember his name, and the only thing that I was thinking about when he got caught was “okay, so he’s gonna find a way to escape.”

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My Hero Academia – Episode 5

I recall saying last week that I was worried about MHA’s approach to depicting modern education as a subjective paradigm that, for the sake of narrative progression, favors the situation of the protagonist over the world-view with regard to “evaluating what matters most”. For one, the entrance examination of U.A. Academy did not disclose an additional factor for acceptance — the “Rescue” component — which, when you think about it, makes it more “real world” in terms of evaluative approach. But the reason why educational systems clearly state criterion for acceptance is primarily due to standards. When those standards are vague (or deliberately not disclosed), the result is a confused student who feels cheated.

Tenya reflected that sentiment somewhat when he saw the true hero in Midoriya. “True” here being a pretty charged word, because MHA has always focused on contrasting the popular worldview of heroes being “superpowered individuals” against its own proposition of a “heroic personality” that underscores heroic intention. But this “heroic personality” falls flat in the absence of “heroic action”, and so the examination clearly recognizes that the former cannot be measured by procedural duty (i.e. defeat x-number of enemies). Instead, it “measures” this personality through decision-making processes in a situation-based context (i.e. surprise enemy attack). In short, they didn’t break any rules here just to give Midoriya an excuse to enter the academy. It simply showed that Midoriya DOES have what it takes to be a hero in terms of attitude (and possibly even strength), but the one thing that he lacks at this point in time was control and resolve.

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Joker Game – Episode 4

I hinted in my last review that Joker Game’s current style of self-contained vignettes could run the risk of becoming stale. That and the fact that each individual spy is obscure to begin with, owing to lukewarm characterization that does not guarantee any emotional investment. Thankfully, episode 4 showed the type of narrative flexibility the show is willing to show in order to push its spy stories forward. And indeed, these are the type of spy shows that anyone into the drama will definitely enjoy. In this particular episode, the spy is primarily out of the picture, as the story is told from the perspective of a “guest” detective for the purposes of this short story vignette.

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My Hero Academia – Episode 4

We hate to be judged.

We hate to be placed in a strict rubric of standards that dictates our worth and what it is we are capable of achieving.

That’s the goal of standardization. Or at least in the context of MHA episode 4, the goal of standardized examinations. And you can’t help but accept the fact that standards are necessary in order to maintain a certain level of quality. Variation is difficult; conformity is desired. To a certain extent, it makes sense — both in the academic sense and even more so in the heroic sense. The practical examination in the U.A. entrance exams basically distills the “essential” qualities needed for heroes in high-tension situations in a quantifiable manner that can serve to rank students for acceptance.

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