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Archive for July, 2010

Amagami SS Episode 5 – When Your World Gets Turned Around

My coblogger noted in covering Tatami Galaxy that an advantage of rebooting a timeline every arc is that you don’t need to take the time to establish what you’ve already established. Amagami is no Tatami Galaxy, so there’s more repetition here than was needed, but this episode doesn’t have a single repeated scene from last time. Where the timelines diverge between arcs isn’t shown—I don’t think the show cares enough to establish such things—but it’s clear the setting has changed ever so slightly.

This arc’s girl, Kaoru Tanamachi, needs little introduction to those who have been watching through thus far. Jun’ichi’s friend since middle school, she spent most of the first arc acting like “one of the guys” (and was almost always in the company of Jun’ichi’s other, male, friend Masayoshi). Her relationship with Jun’ichi was playful and easy-going, featuring antics such as tossing stuff at each other in class and occasionally showing affection through headlocks. That relationship is still there, but a few small changes in how it’s depicted makes a world of difference.
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Shiki Episode 3 – Inviting Evil

Well, I’m not quite sure why Funimation delayed releasing the third episode of Shiki for a week, but it was worth the wait: This episode not only corrects my main complaint from last time (the absence of the Kirishikis and the lack of creepiness in general), it goes the extra mile in building a sense of dread at the likely fate of our protagonists. We only have one more death this episode, but new victims have already been singled out.

The death is very important, finally revealing to the audience what was only suspected before: Vampires have come to town. They may not go for the neck, or kill their victims in the act of feeding, but despite these and other discrepancies from the usual model, they are certainly the charismatic yet creepy bloodsuckers of yore. And they are at this town to stay.
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Asobi ni Iku Yo! Episode 2 – Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

July 29, 2010 Leave a comment

So, the first episode established a fairly good setup for the rest of the series: there are three secret organizations trying to get their hands on Eris, and key members of all three have an interest in Kio, the boy she’s living with, who remains ignorant of their secret identities. In most shows, that would be enough for 13 episode of conspiracy, hijinks, and light romantic comedy action, as the organizations scheme to get their hands on Eris, the girls try to keep their identities hidden from Kio, and Eris tries to be as bouncy and cheerful as possible while possibly developing some sort of romantic connection with Kio.

That might even make for good anime: it’s a solid enough premise that a team of good writers and animators could turn into something special. But Asobi isn’t content to be so simple. Instead, the show goes in a wildly different direction, complicating the girls’ relationship with their respective organizations and generally making things more complicated in two episodes than I ever thought it would be.
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Time of Eve – Robot Rights and Wrongs

Science fiction is often used to test or explore social questions: What would a society in space look like? How would technology x change the way we live? By looking at possible futures, science fiction authors often make explicitly political points about the present.

Science fiction in anime also asks questions: How many missiles can we plausibly fit on one space fighter? What are cool ways we can destroy planets? Are alien chicks hot, and are cross-species unions fertile? (To be fair, these are also the questions James Cameron asks, and he—much to my annoyance—is very popular world-wide.)

Time of Eve, a short anime “mini series” released streaming in late 2008 and 2009, falls firmly into the first category of science fiction, making it an outlier for the medium. Moreover, it approaches its subject matter with knowing references to classic works of science fiction, while at the same time broaching new questions that previous writers didn’t really consider.
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Senkou no Night Raid Episode 8 – (Atom [Splitting) Up the Party]

Well, it looks like I have to break out the Wikipedia magic again, as Senkou no Night Raid continues to introduce historical figures and events into the main plot line. This time we have the formation of Manchukou, the introduction of the puppet emperor Puyi, and the members of the Lytton Commission. What happens in the episode, however, has nothing to do with the actual historical record.

Rather, the show is going ahead with its particular plot line, that of nationally known “prophets” showing up at crucial turning points of history and of Isao’s band of freedom fighters/terrorists agitating for an independent Asia. The events of Night Raid don’t directly contradict real life events, but they don’t particularly relate to them either.
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Occult Academy Episode 3 – Who Knows Who Cares

July 26, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve given it some leeway for the first two episodes, but now I have to ask the big question: what the heck is Occult Academy about?

It’s maintained an odd, offbeat tone throughout but, let’s be honest, it’s not very funny, even by the low standards of most not-very-funny “comedy” anime (although this episode has a few exceptions). Like most anime, it has a fairly high concept premise, but that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. There’s the sinister conspiracy apparently responsible of the death of Maya’s father, but the first episode spelled out pretty clearly that the rest of the administration was involved with that, so who cares?
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Amagami SS Episode 4 – Unearned Happiness

With the first arc completed, there’s now confirmation on how Amagami intends to handle the relationships between Jun’ichi and his romantic prospects. Rather than have him balance them all at once (in classic harem fashion) or go through one after the other in a slow progression of failures leading to ultimate success (which was my hope), each girl is going to get her own arc that matches her route from the game, with a hard reset between them. It’s sort of like Tatami Galaxy, except Jun’ichi doesn’t learn anything new each time.

That setup is fine, as far as it goes, even though it makes the plot for each arc remarkably less complicated. The “problem” with this approach is that it means every girl’s plot will resolve successfully—regardless of whether that makes sense in context.

I’ve been arguing from the beginning of the show that Morishima’s relations with Jun’ichi were not precisely healthy, which made a trainwreck seem increasingly likely. But Jun’ichi losing out would be fine only if his failed relationship would then lead to greater maturity the next time around. With a hard reset, there is no next time around, so there’s no point not to go for the happy ending. Besides realism, of course, but who watches anime for that?
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