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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[Opinion] Everything that’s wrong with Card Captor Sakura Clear Card

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I consider myself fortunate for not being able to watch Card Captor Sakura Clear Card consistently over the past Winter 2018 season; and the only reason why I couldn’t watch it as often as I should have was because I was studying for a board examination. But again, it would appear that I was lucky that that was the case, and for all intents and purposes this “luck” was for all the wrong reasons. Because after binge watching the show, it has become clear to me that Clear Card is a painfully slow show that probably would have been nothing but intolerable if I were to actually watch it as it aired. And I would’ve been fine to have just left it at that, but the truth is I am quite the Card Captor Sakura fan, and I can’t help but feel frustrated in the many missed opportunities that the series had to shine as a pseudo-reboot of sorts. For a franchise that I pretty much grew up with, it is with both love and hate that I tear this season’s offering apart in the first Opinion article for this blog.  Continue reading

[Editorial] Stepping out of the Anime Closet

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Midday at a coffee shop. Two hours into the most boring transcription on viral uncoating and mechanisms of anti-retroviral drug resistance in HIV (as if it couldn’t be any more boring than that) and I was desiring a break. Anything to breathe some color into the monochromatic cloud that had seeped its way into the establishment like a dense thicket of smoke from some unknown source. I had recently updated my copy of The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls: Starlight Stage for the on-going event, so I figured it a great opportunity to let out some steam through some furiously timed button mashing. In goes the headphone jack into the audio jack of my cellphone and on goes the game, only for me to realize that the jack wasn’t all the way in. And to my horror, the opening fanfare blared out of the built-in speakers at full blast:

AIDORU-MASUTAA-SHINDERERAA-GAAAARUZU-STAAARAITO-SUTEEJI!!!

The shrill tone of teenage girls shouting full blown Engrish resonated from my spot in the center of the cafe, and all eyes were on me. The monochromatic haze was replaced with an even heavier hue of red, and my face was flush and salmon. I tried not to seem fazed — nonchalant almost — to the point that I acted just as offended as anyone else in the room (although in retrospect, I never did look at anyone’s reaction — I just assumed they were offended in some way). And just like that, my break came to an abrupt end as I decided to clear out the jumbled color space of the now red-heavy cafe back to a stale monochromatic grey. Continue reading

NisiOisiN and the deconstruction of language: a primer to discussing Owarimonogatari

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That’s an intimidating title, I know. In many ways, NisiOisiN’s approach to psychoanalyzing human behavior is no less complicated, owing to his strong grasp of the Japanese language and the ways by which he manipulates it in order to subsume the many “apparitions” that pepper his thematically chaotic stories. Be it a story about a young girl pushed to the brink of desperation due to a life of domestic violence, or the fantastical pursuit of an object of affection that transcends time and even death itself, NisiOisiN has always approached his stories through the thoughtful deconstruction of the language of his characters, introducing a thematic “object” that is subject to identification as the show unfolds. And this need to “identify” is central to the existentialist dilemma of “knowing thyself”, as is exemplified by the many arcs that focus around specific heroines and the “apparitions” of which they are tasked to come to terms with.

But this is where we run into the main issue of NisiOisiN works: its reliance on the deconstruction of language — and not just any language — but the Japanese language. Here, I discuss some of the paradigms of NisiOisiN that will allow us to gain a better understanding of the context behind his manipulation of language, which will hopefully serve as a useful primer for the upcoming episodic review articles I will be writing on Owarimonogatari. Continue reading

Anime and the Love of Headphones 4

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Hey guys! It’s been a while, but time for another segment on Anime and the Love of Headphones! In this installment, we take a look at one particular pair of headphones featured in the first ending theme of the Spring 2017 anime Sakura Quest! Continue reading

[Editorial] Anime for the Uninitiated

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“Hey, you watch anime, right? What’s a good recommendation?”

It felt like some kind of trap. Having just returned from a 10-hour stint in the laboratory, I wasn’t prepared to answer that sort of question. If anything, it felt like an ambush after having opened the door to the game room in a humble effort to see if anyone was around. True enough, there they were: two of my flatmates — one sociologist, the other a philosopher — sitting in the middle of the room, listening to the strained screams of a desperate Kirito slaying a wolf in the open fields of Aincrad as the closing act of the first episode of Sword Art Online was flashing across a 52-inch television screen.

“Yeah, I’ve never watched much anime before, and this was what he suggested I watch.

As if searching for a response, the philosopher seemingly scanned my expression, which was a mix between exasperation and confusion. On the one hand, there was the desire to throw out a random title and retreat out of sheer exhaustion from the toils of the day that was — a well-earned pint of Guinness and a soft pillow was a tempting prospect at that point — but at the same time, I was pondering why on earth anyone would recommend Sword Art Online as an introductory title to someone so obviously uninitiated to anime in the first place. Continue reading

Bakugo VS. Uraraka: The Heroic Attitude and Anime

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It was probably only a matter of time until I’d find myself writing this article. Since its premiere back in the spring of 2016, My Hero Academia has always proven itself as a different breed of superhero shônen battler, particularly for combining its strong core thematic on the heroic attitude with its strong ensemble of character archetypes that drive this idea forward. And given its context in the academic setting, it sets itself up for a useful comparison between heroism and the intellectual model of the mind. In other words, the world of My Hero Academia is one where heroism is quantifiable in terms of both academic and social merit. This is the reason why Deku’s character resonates with us not simply due to his underdog nature, but also because of his heroic attitude that exemplifies the true qualities of the hero we all aspire to become. And by extension, we realize that regardless of our situation, we all can become heroes in our own way.

And this is the reason why Uraraka is so enamored by Deku — his tenacity to pursue a goal as lofty as becoming the no. 1 hero in spite of his own insecurities is nothing short of amazing. And though Uraraka might not be privy to the sort of circumstances that surround Deku’s own inherited quirk, she nevertheless resonates with his desire to become a hero, and so she associates herself with him if only to try and have some of that heroism rub off on her.

Which is why I believe episode 22 of My Hero Academia was the catalyst for making me put thought to screen. The heroic attitude, which I keep alluding to even in my old entries on this show, was on full display throughout the episode; it rocked my perceptions of what a shônen battler can achieve, and gave me an entirely new sense of respect for Uraraka as a whole, and the sort of message she conveys to us as viewers. Continue reading