As winter comes, there are a lot more sniffles around the office where I work. I’ve had a sore throat the last few days, the lady in the office next to me spent the whole today clearing her throat constantly, and our office manager is once again going around telling the story of when our company was a lot smaller, and everyone in the office was sick or home with a sick child.
There are a lot of single mothers where I work, and they spend much more of their time off caring for sick children or taking them to the doctor than they take off for their own reasons. I’d never thought about it much, other than to roll my eyes at the extra work I’d have to do because one of them was home with a sick kid.
If you had asked me about it, I’d probably have agreed, purely on an intellectual basis, that being a single mother is substantially more difficult than just being single, or having another partner to help take care of children. Thinking about all the time and energy that went into taking care of you, you can kind of map that onto the average amount of free time someone who works a full-time job has on any given day, plus the additional expense of all the stuff kids need and want badly enough to whine about, and realize that working full time and being the sole caretaker of one child, let alone several, is a pretty tough job.
Well, having taken a season break after wrapping up their lovely but ultimately flawed Gosick, it looks the animation studio Bones is ready to try their hand at another mystery series, this time set in a near future Japan. And like with Gosick, the mystery trappings of the show are just that: trappings. It’s clear that the heart of the show is elsewhere.
I suppose that’s a good thing, because if Un-Go was meant to be a mystery series, it fails horribly. Thus far the mysteries have been mostly predictable and easily solved (particularly in the second episode). The feeling of a just resolution that comes from seeing the guilty be caught and punished is also absent, for the guilty more or less get away with it. This show is not about crime solving because solving crime is about discovering the truth. This is show concerns itself with a more basic question: whether it is possible for the truth to win out in an age of mass media and government manipulation.
I wrote yesterday about a series that I went into with extremely low expectations, and how I was thus pleasantly surprised when it turned out not to be the bottom of the barrel sort of show I anticipated it would be. Mashiroiro (“Pure White”) Symphony is another show I thought would be utterly wretched, and, to be fair, it’s not. It’s not particularly interesting or innovative, or even worth your time. But it’s not flat-out offensive, which is a shock in itself.
The basic premise is that Shingo Uryuu’s school is closing down, in preparation for a merger with a local all-girls academy for the elite. That by itself should set off multiple warning bells, partially because it would make absolutely no sense for a school whose reputation is built on providing a female-exclusive educational community catering to the upper crust would let in plebeians of any sort, much less male ones. But aside from destroying the school’s brand, it also offers a hackneyed excuse to get Shingo into a female-heavy classroom with an opulently wealthy setting.
Manga and anime based on collectable card games are traditionally one of the bottom feeders of the industry, used to boost some commercial product. Slightly above CCGs that are games based on non-athletic sports, from shogi to go to puzzle solving to, now, karuta, a traditional Japanese card game with several variants. These sorts of themes are tricky for animators to properly utilize. Done wrong, as was the case with shogi in Shion no Ou, and viewers can’t grasp even the basic mechanics of the game, much less understand the strategy or depth of play involved. Unlike athletic sports, cerebral games are remarkably difficult to capture in a visual medium.
However, when a series gets one right, as Hikaru no Go did with go, an entire generation of Japanese can relearn the virtues of a traditional game. A quick glance at Chihayafuru’s wikipedia page confirms that the manga did that with karuta, providing some hope that this show would be one of the better examples of the genre. Add in the fact that the original manga was published for a josei audience, and that hope of quality became an expectation. I’m happy to say I was not disappointed.
Given the close relations between the Japanese anime and video game industry, it’s sort of curious that so few games (that aren’t visual novels) get an anime port. This goes double for games like the popular Persona series, which seem tailor made from a tv adaption. With the games sporting cut scenes that basically are anime clips, and the voice cast for Atlus games often staffed with A-level voice talent, porting the games over entirely seems like the most obvious thing in the world.
Until this season, however, the only Persona anime made was a spin-off of Persona 3, which had only a tangential connection to the original game. That is clearly not the game with Persona 4: The Animation, whose very title tells you this will be a direct adaption of the most recent entry in the franchise. Given the Persona series, and software producer Atlus more generally, has always been respected on the story front, this shouldn’t be a bad thing.
At the same time, watching the first couple episodes makes me wonder if the creators of Persona: Trinity Soul didn’t have the right idea. That series, as I said, was a loosely related spin-off, but that gave the story a freedom to be better aligned with the needs of a tv format. Persona 4 isn’t ditching any of its heritage. And that could wind up being the albatross around the show’s neck.
Funimation spent 2010 simulcasting every noitaminA show it could get its hands on, which gave us gems like Tatami Galaxy, Shiki, and Princess Jellyfish. This year, the company has been much more selective about its simulcast choices in general, including with the noitaminA block. It selected the high-concept sci-fi dystopia series with thinly veiled social commentary over the carefully crafted character drama in winter and spring, and didn’t even pick up the dystopia show in the summer. That last decision was wise, as No. 6 was the worst noitaminA show we’ve had in years, but Fractale and [C] were also far weaker than their less political counterparts.
Guilty Crown is the latest show set in a dystopian future; here Japan has been taken over by a shadowy multinational organization and a band of resistance fighters seeks to liberate the country. One would think that Funimation would still be a bit shy of this sort of series, given how their last picks turned out, but instead the company is doubling down on their pick, running ads on anime related websites about how Guilty Crown is “the most anticipated new series” of the season.
Given the show is vying with the swan song of one of the most iconic series of the past decade, and the lavishly produced prequel of the popular Fate/Stay Night, that was and is a rather grandiose claim, but it may well be true. The more amazing fact is that all that anticipation looks to be justified.
Anime genres are fairly well established by now; so are the medium’s target demographic audiences. The interesting part is when and how genres one would expect to appeal only to one type of demographic are directed at, and succeed at drawing in, an entirely different clientele. The shift in magical girl shows from being targeted at pre-teen girls to college age men is one of the most obvious shifts of this type.
Mostly, these shifts come from adapting a type of genre meant for a young audience to an older one, trying to match the change in tastes and emotional development one would expect (or hope) a grown-up audience would have. The recently finished Kamisama Dolls gave an example of a shounen genre being adapted for a seinen audience, not just aging up the characters, but also the content.
These are the sort of shifts that make sense. The shift represented in You and Me (Kimi to Boku) does not make sense to me: The show takes a concept that looks, acts, and feels like it was meant for a classic shoujo, or even josei, audience, and pitches it at the shounen crowd. I’ve doublechecked, and the original manga was and is still running in a shounen magazine alongside several action series, and is obviously popular enough to get an anime adaption. I have no idea how this happened. Maybe it has something to do with the fact the series is just plain good.