[Review] Flying Witch – Finding Magic in the Mundane

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The slice-of-life genre is often a difficult genre to justify. Its lack of plot and overt conflict often make events seem inconsequential. Even in the presence of a convincing premise, the short nature of its production often makes it far too difficult to establish any substantial character development outside of a deepening appreciation of each character quirk out of sheer familiarity.

But every now and then, there are those slice-of-life shows that defy convention and deliver an uplifting experience that actually DOES feel consequential; that actually DOES establish substantial character development despite a limited single-cour run. And the number of shows that have been able to achieve such a level of polish are few. The last show I can name with confidence capable of delivering such a spectacle was ARIA, which in many ways achieved its bit of character development by virtue of its three-season run.

And then along comes Flying Witch — a series that reinvigorated my belief in slice-of-life shows being capable of actually being more engaging than even the most adrenaline-packed action shows out there. Indeed, Flying Witch did just that, running up alongside shows like Macross Delta and My Hero Academia during its Spring 2016 run. And it comes as no surprise that I dubbed it best show of Spring 2016 — an assertion that isn’t without bias, but is one that I would like to believe isn’t too farfetched. Like I said as early as the first episode of this show: Flying Witch is the best feel-good show I’ve seen in a long time– and I firmly stand by that statement.

That, in itself, is saying a lot.
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your name. – Review

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When faced with a Makoto Shinkai work, I often find myself preparing for it in ways more than one. On the one hand, there’s the excitement of witnessing an animation spectacle that is, arguably, one of the most beautiful of its kind. But at the same time, there’s the dread of having to deal with whatever feels there are to be had. Coming from Shinkai’s previous works, I’ve always been a little confused with regard to the author’s position on human relationships and the ways in which the world conspires for or against our visions of the “ideal” (embodied in the platonic). The short film 5 cm per second, for example, serves as an elegy to a failed relationship and how unspoken words and inaction hinder us from attaining this “ideal”. In contrast, the theatrical short the Garden of Words answers the former’s lack of action with an outspoken expressiveness that challenges the societal structures that keep us apart. But even in the latter, Shinkai ends on a leitmotif of time and distance — that all relationships are still subject to the forces of a world that can ravage such emotional connections with an unforgiving arm.

And so I steel myself for yet another answer to Makoto Shinkai’s long string of spatially troubled relationships. Indeed, your name. appears to be, if anything, an answer to that same question regarding the value of relationships — of bonds and connections — in a spatially disconnected world. And it does so by opting for a more fantastical depiction of love that involves people switching bodies, traversing through different time periods, and defying fate. If you’re thinking that sounds a bit ambitious at this point, then you’re not alone. But regardless of the devices used this time around, was Shinkai’s answer to the question in your name. a satisfying one? Let’s find out. Continue reading

Spring 2016 – Week 5 in Review

This wasn’t one of the strongest weeks for spring, which is quite surprising given the shows have actually been doing fairly well. In fact, this season has turned out to be one of the better seasons as of late. At the start, there weren’t even any signs that the season’s offerings would do as good as they are doing now — that and the fact that genre spread is quite diverse. It’s going to be interesting looking at how these shows will fare in the mid-season review, which is — wow, next week? Holy crap, time flies when you’re having too much fun.

And fun we shall have! Here’s this week’s week in review! (NB: I might not have mentioned it before, but I’m starting to order the shows in this list based on my overall impression for the week, meaning the best shows appear first, and the not so good shows round up the end. Anyway, enjoy!)

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Spring 2016 – Week 4 in Review

There was some misunderstanding over at Crunchyroll, hence my writeup on Asterisk War didn’t get published in time for the April 27 edition of the Crunchyroll Takeout. Oh well, no biggie. I just decided to edit it up a little and post it here. But the process of reviewing Asterisk War actually made me realize how well-constructed it was as a battle show, and so if you have yet to pick up the show and are looking for a reasonably competent battle anime to watch, then by all means watch this show.

Otherwise, the fourth week was pretty much the settling period for most shows. It’s that sort of tentative period before the mid-season where shows have gained a rather comfortable rhythm for themselves, not opting for anything too daring (or too risky either, for that matter). So just how did the shows fare? Read on!

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The Asterisk War – Review

This article was originally for publishing on the latest edition of the CrunchyRoll Newsletter, but due to some issues, it was not released. Currently talking to them about it, but I spent too much time on this piece to not have it released. Anyway, here goes…

School battle anime premises are nothing new. In fact, the genre itself is littered with titles like Highschool DxD, Trinity Seven, and to a certain extent the Fate Stay series, and maybe even When Supernatural Battles Became Commonplace (AKA Inou-Battle). Asterisk War is no stranger to such titles, which makes it run the risk of anonymity in an otherwise saturated playground of shows. And it didn’t help much either that its first cour was placed directly alongside evil look-alike Chivalry of A Failed Knight, whose premise, main character pairing, and even general background were almost eerily similar.

And my initial misgivings about the series in general were predicated on the fact that the show does little to convince the viewer that it is anything BUT just another battle show with harem-esque trappings. Indeed, Ayato — the ostensible protagonist but otherwise skilled swordsman acting as the knight-in-shining-armor-type hero — is surrounded by anime-trope favorites. There’s Julis, our resident tsundereSaya plays the role of the taciturn kuudere; Claudia is our well-endowed student council president, complete with hidden agendas and a predilection towards sexual harassment; and finally Kirin as the bashful but similarly well-endowed lolita character. This alone puts the show and its premise in a seemingly uninspiring light, and if we were to judge shows like this on sheer “pleasure factor” alone, Chivalry of a Failed Knight would undoubtedly win through its sheer audacity and shamelessness.

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Spring 2016 – Week 3 in Review

I’m wondering if I should retime these week-in-reviews to mid Wednesday to accommodate the first half of shows, then a second week-in-review to handle the remainder. Because as it stands, there are just so many shows on my watchlist, that these week in reviews are getting really long. And that’s troublesome because there are times that I have quite a lot I want to say about certain shows, but I have to limit myself in the interest of not boring you to death.

And it didn’t help much that this week had lots of shows giving pretty good arguments to warrant further watching. It’s been a solid season of anime thus far, and majority of the shows that have been shaved off of my list were pretty easy to let go of. The remainder, not so.

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Any, enough of that. Let’s do this! Continue reading

Spring 2016 – Week 2 in Review

Or week 2-3… I dunno. I’m confused as to when a week starts for this season of shows since there are some shows that have only just started on their second episode, while others are already on to their third. Anyway, I decided to just go with every Monday for a week in review once all shows have had their shows out.

The second week of any season is usually the weeding period. Shows that made their mark on their premier episodes pretty much nailed it again the following week, while those that were a little iffy remained their iffy selves… and then there were those that just bit the bullet and faded off into obscurity. But a couple shows remain wild cards, and probably for good reason. That said, let’s do this!

N.B. – Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress was cancelled last week due to the Kumamoto quake. My condolences go out to the people of Japan, especially to some friends who live in the Kyuushu area. Continue reading