Archive for August, 2010

The Sky Crawlers Review – The Earth is Not a Cold, Dead Place

August 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Before we begin, I should make something clear: I don’t like Mamoru Oshii.

Sure, Ghost in the Shell was brilliant, but with source material like that, how can you go wrong? And the weakest parts of the film—namely, the meandering and unnecessary philosophical conversations that went nowhere and contributed little to the film—were pure Oshii excess. The second Ghost in the Shell film, Innocence strayed even further from the source material, and was even worse in terms of tedious philosophizing (and, it should be said, I generally enjoy philosophizing, however pointless, in films).

That said, I really wanted to like Sky Crawlers. It might have something to do with my love of powered flight and fighter planes, a love that got me hooked on anime in the first place (through mecha anime, descended in many ways from the tales of ace fighter pilots and their beloved machines), and the lure of World War 2-era dogfights gorgeously rendered in CG.
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Amagami SS Episode 9 – Unpredictably Predictable

I really should learn to get out of the prediction business. I ended my review of last episode indicating my concerns that Amagami would eventually fall into a rut, with the only real distinguishing factor between the stories being what body part Jun’ichi’s obligatory squicky make-out session would target. This episode, by contrast, completely dumps the previous formula, taking the series in a new direction.

The chronology starts earlier, just after the end of summer vacation, rather than in the winter months closing in on Christmas eve. (This also means the cast is still in their summer, not winter, uniforms, which also impresses the difference between arcs.) There is no starting flashback to the Christmas Eve where Jun’ichi was rejected; we are merely told of it by a quasi-comic narrator whom Jun’ichi occasionally seems able to hear and respond to.
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Perfect Blue – Celebrity Virtue

August 29, 2010 1 comment

Satoshi Kon passed away on Tuesday this past week, of pancreatic cancer. He was 46, which is far too young for anyone to die, but his death is made all the more painful by the fact that he was one of the greatest directors working in animation today.

Kon’s films frequently contain the kind of surreal, dreamlike imagery and nonlinear storytelling that characterize the films of directors like David Lynch, but with a more animated, fantastical approach. He’s the kind of director that is a perfect fit for the anime medium, although Perfect Blue isn’t the best example of that.
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School President is a Maid Episode 20 – Spoiled Princesses

Despite the fact that they are both inherently visual mediums, there are several problems with adapting manga into anime. Long conversations that on the page can accompany a single panel require multiple different shots on the screen to remain engaging. The “gaps” in an action scene that a manga reader is expected to imagine have to be filled in when animated. But the most pressing problem is the time restrictions; anime episodes are 24 minutes with 90 second opening and closing animations and a new episode preview. That’s 20+ minutes a show must cover, regardless of what its source material is like. Normally, this means that two or three manga chapters get put into each anime episode, which perhaps some shuffling around to ensure that the break points seem natural.

School President is a Maid has done a fairly good job with making its episodes feel like unified stories—until now. This episode is quite obviously based on two unrelated stories. And while the result isn’t bad, exactly, it does seem I was premature in calling an end to the show’s stalling on the main plot.
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Asobi ni Iku Yo! Episode 6 – Virtual Lie

August 27, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ll say this about Asobi ni Iku Yo!: every episode is something different. So after ending the decidedly mediocre catgirl religion arc with explosive action scenes, this episode is mostly a fairly normal slice of life episode, or what passes for everyday life when you’re a fugitive living in your crush’s home, which has been converted into an embassy for alien catgirls.
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Shiki Episode 8 – And the Little Children Shall Lead Them

I’m not certain if Shiki has a thematic reason for emphasizing the role of children and adolescents in its plotline, or whether it was done solely for narrative reasons. Ordinarily, the reason is to appeal to the adolescents who make up the show’s main audience base, but this is a show aimed at adults based on a book aimed at adults, so that explanation doesn’t make sense.

A more likely reason is to emphasize the horror elements: that Natsuno and other adolescents are on the leading edge of fighting back against the vampires only highlights their weakness: They lack the resources and authority that adults would have. Likewise, creepy little children are always more creepy for being little children; there’s something about the corruption of what should be innocent and pure to heighten the sense of wrongness about the situation. (Children may not be all that innocent or pure in real life, but we think they should be, and that’s what matters.)
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Ookami-san Episode 6-7 – Crying Wolf

August 25, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m a humble enough man to admit when I’m wrong (sometimes). And I have been known to harshly judge shows that later blossom for a rough first episode. So I’m willing to admit that I was wrong in my initial evaluation of Ookami-san.

I called it “the kind of barely entertaining, empty fluff that the anime industry thrives on,” mostly because I assumed that, like most shows, it would start strong, then take a dive around episode 3 or 4, and carry on at barely tolerable levels of decency until the plot starts to kick in in the latter half of the show’s run. I hadn’t counted on the first episode being one of its weakest, as turned out to be case, and the show to just keep getting stronger.
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