First Impressions: Winter 2016 Anime

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Minor spoilers follow for GATE, Konosuba!, ERASED,  and Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash.

My schedule for watching and reviewing anime has been in a bit of flux since I moved two weeks ago, so there’s still at least one review from the Fall 2015 season incoming. But in the meantime, new anime stops for no one, so without further ado…


 

GATE (Season 2)

GATE Screencap 1

I was quite excited over the last season, and although Season 2 had a couple of hiccups at the beginning that gave me some pause, I continue to be impressed by how enjoyable it is. Even if it was a run-of-the-mill action-adventure (which it isn’t), the characters make it more than worthwhile. But the political side of the show continues to be interesting, and gives GATE some much-appreciated additional depth.

I’ve enjoyed the development given to Lt. Yanagida and the other returning characters, but Kuribayashi is probably the stand-out of the season so far. She has no chill. (Probably because Lelei has all of the chill.)  Continue reading

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Review: Beautiful Bones

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Listening to: Dear Answer – True (Beautiful Bones Opening)

This review is free of major spoilers, in the interests of being helpful to those who are considering watching the show in question.

CONTENT WARNING for some discussion of suicide, abuse, and death.

“Here, beneath the Kujou family’s cherry tree, is a princess who loves bones.”

I’ve always enjoyed a good mystery, and I frequently enjoy anime, but Beautiful Bones was actually the first pure “mystery” anime I’ve watched (for the purposes of this review, we’re not counting The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya as a representative of the genre). So, while I certainly can review it (and am currently reviewing it), I don’t have as much basis for comparison. With that minor disclaimer out of the way, here we go.

Sakurako Screencap 1

This story takes place in Asahikawa City, Hokkaido Prefecture, where a rather odd pair of freelance investigators make their home. The first is Sakurako Kojou, a rather antisocial woman whose consuming passions include sweet desserts, loud music, and painstakingly assembling skeletons for display in her home. The other is Shoutarou Tatewaki, a rather hapless high school boy who serves as Sakurako’s assistant–and sometimes “guardian,” when her eccentricity gets out of hand.

Although their main objective is to find Sakurako more specimens, they frequently stumble across much more sinister situations: cold cases of murder or suicide where Sakurako’s talent as an osteologist shines through. Further complicating matters is Shoutarou’s confusion as to where the two of them stand in regards to each other: does Sakurako consider him a mere nuisance? A convenient helper? Or perhaps, an actual friend?  Continue reading

Review: Comet Lucifer

Listening to: Comet Lucifer (The Seed and the Sower) – Fhana (Comet Lucifer Opening)

This review is free of major spoilers, in the interests of being helpful to those who are considering watching the show in question.

“Both sought to claim the heavens for themselves.”

At the beginning of this past anime season, I began my spiel on Comet Lucifer by comparing it to Code Geass. Now that I’ve seen the show in full, I very much regret that comparison. For one, I may have unconsciously primed myself to expect the show to be much better than it was. The reality… well, perhaps I’m just growing jaded, but we’ll get to that later.

Comet Lucifer Screencap 1

Comet Lucifer takes place on a planet named “Gift,” where a mineral called “giftdium” is a key part of the infrastructure. Sogo Amagi, an aspiring mineralogist, is investigating a rare red crystal when he discovers a mysterious girl named Felia inside. The military shows up to take the girl, who they call “Lima,” into their own custody, but a mecha, apparently summoned by a mark on Sogo’s hand, appears to help him escape with Felia in tow.

After returning together to the city of Garden Indigo, Sogo sets out to find out more about Felia: where she came from, the source of her strange powers, and how to help her to adjust to life on the surface. However, the government is not prepared to let “Lima” go so easily.  Continue reading

Off week

Apologies for the lack of a review today. I had planned to do one, but I ended up spending most of the day working on a cover letter instead. Those things are complicated.

I’ll make an attempt to have one finished by later this week, so as not to deprive the world of my opinions.

Review: One Punch Man

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Listening to: THE HERO!! – JAM Project (One Punch Man Opening)

This review is free of major spoilers, in the interests of being helpful to those who are considering watching the show in question.

“I’m just a guy who’s a hero for fun.”

The quest to become a hero is a common trope in anime, whether your goal is to be a better fighter, a better cook, or simply “the very best, like no one ever was.” But while most anime focus on the journey, there aren’t many that show what happens at the destination. Enter One Punch Man: an alternately hilarious and melancholy look into the life of a hero at the top of his game.

OPM Screencap 3

In the mega-cities of the future, battles between superheroes and supervillains are an almost commonplace occurrence. The Heroes’ Association employs hundreds of costumed vigilantes with varying levels of power, but not every hero is under their jurisdiction. Saitama, a young man who claims to be “a hero for fun,” is one such freelancer, whose incredible strength allows him to end any battle with one punch.

While his power is considerable, however, it doesn’t seem to bring him very much happiness. Bored out of his mind and frustrated at his inability to find a worthy opponent, Saitama lives an uneventful life until the arrival of Genos, a young cyborg who witnesses his strength and begs Saitama to take him on as a disciple.  Continue reading

Space for everyone: On the casting of extras in SW VII

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Listening to: Star Wars Main Theme – John Williams (Star Wars OST)

As you may have guessed from my general habits, I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Thursday night. And let me tell you, it was awesome. The visuals were beautiful without going over the top, the characters were fantastic, the dialogue was not written by George Lucas… all in all, this was the movie we were looking for.

Now, I’m not going to spoil anything, because when else will you get to see a Star Wars movie without knowing what’s going to happen? (Once a year for the next… while.) Nor am I going to write a full review right now–I think I need to watch it at least one more time, to take the edge off some of the excitement and calibrate my critical eye. But I am going to talk about something that made me especially excited, and that’s the casting of background extras and minor characters.

Let’s go back, for a moment, to Episode IV, and take a look at the bit roles. Rebel troopers? All male. Tantive IV’s captain? Male. Imperial officers? All male. Assorted admirals? All male. Death star gunners? Also male. (You see where I’m going with this.) In short, it is assumed that if a character isn’t particularly important, they’ll probably be male.

If we compare that to Episode VII, we see an immediate difference. The first stormtrooper that we hear speak is Gwendoline Christie’s fantastically intimidating Captain Phasma, and her presence as the force’s commanding officer is a major challenge to the assumption of male as default. Later on in the film, a generic trooper reporting to Kylo Ren has a clearly female voice even if her armor isn’t signposting her gender—because in-universe, it doesn’t matter.

There are similar placements of female extras in the background throughout the film, from Imperial bridge officers to Resistance pilots. While (to quote Avatar’s Bryke) I don’t think this was “a slam-dunk victory for representation,” it’s nice to see this kind of intentionality in a film as notable as The Force Awakens. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the films handle this.

A list of excuses

Listening to: Nothing. I am not listening to anything right now.

This blog has fallen uncharacteristically silent over the course of the past semester, and while I would say that I have only myself to blame for that, I happen to have several convenient excuses.

  1. This has been my last semester as an undergraduate; I now have at least one bachelor’s degree.
  2. I’ve been busily writing a 25-page research paper on the interaction of music and drama in Fire Emblem: Awakening.
  3. I joined five musical ensembles. I really should have expected this.
  4. I haven’t had much time to read lately, let alone write.
  5. #4 is partially a lie. I should say that I haven’t been writing anything of substance.
  6. #5 is a blatant lie. Fanfiction is always substantial.

Well, now that I’ve gotten my excuses out of the way, I suppose that, over the coming weeks, I can get back into the swing of… actually doing things that aren’t school related.

Until then, signing off!

The Story of Creation

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Listening to: Aurora – Jeremy Soule (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim OST)

Long ago, so the story went, the Lords of Heaven—twelve ageless beings whose powers and forms were beyond human comprehension—had created all of existence: the world, and all who lived in it. Six Lords had created heaven and earth, the seas and the skies, heat and cold, day and night. These six, the Lords of Earth, Sea, Sky, Ice, Fire, and Light, were revered as the Forgers of the World. The other six Lords—the Creators of Life—had dedicated long labors to populating the world that their comrades had forged. Their early efforts had yielded animals and plants of every shape and size, but still they toiled on, unsatisfied. They were striving towards a far higher goal: the creation of a creature that not only existed in the world, but strove to transcend it.

And so, they created humanity. And for a time, the world endured, and a golden age of peace stretched on for a thousand years.

In the end, this peace could not last. Continue reading

Once more unto the breach: NaNoWriMo, round 2

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Listening to: Prelude – Hiroki Morishita (Fire Emblem: Awakening OST)

Well, I’ve gone and done it now. As soon as midnight hit, I started work on my next NaNo project, a follow-up to last year’s. I’m coming up on 3500 words at the moment, but I decided to take a break from that and say that, yes, there will be much more content incoming. (And at the same time, much less, since I’ll have many other things to concentrate on as well.)

Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of “The Exiles’ Tale (Real Name TBA)”. Enjoy!


Continue reading

First Impressions: Fall 2015 Anime

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Listening to: Itsumo no Fuukei – Satoru Kosaki (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya OST)

Minor spoilers follow for Concrete RevolutioBeautiful Bones, Comet Lucifer, and One Punch Man.

I’ve made my choices for this season’s selections, so let’s hop right into what I think of them so far!

Concrete Revolutio

Concrete Revolutio Screencap 1

A superhero-genre story full of color–both metaphorically and literally. Concrete Revolutio tells the story of a magical girl named Kikko and her colleagues at the Superhumans Bureau. So far, the series is pretty fun, although I was pretty confused initially during the first episode due to the jumping time periods. (“I am twenty years old now!” seems like a weird thing to say when meeting someone for the first time in awhile, but I guess they had to try hard to show time had passed.)

Going back to the color, the animation is spot-on, calling to mind the Silver Age of comic books (or at least, my impression of the Silver Age). It’s simultaneously campy and charming. We’ll see what further fun is in store for our group of superhumans and normals in the episodes to come.

Beautiful Bones

Sakurako Screencap 2

Beautiful Bones is another one of those anime that have a plethora of different, overly long titles (the others are Sakurako’s Investigation and A Corpse Is Buried Under Sakurako-san’s Feet, so I’ll stick with the short one). The protagonist is Shoutarou Tatewaki, a high school student who acts as the assistant to the bone-obsessed Sakurako Kujou. They frequently run across mysteries in their search for bones to study, and Sakurako’s skills always come in handy to solve them.

So far, I’m enjoying the series, although I do have some doubts about the dynamic between Sakurako and Shoutarou. Shoutarou acts as the Watson to her Sherlock, but hopefully there won’t be as much shipping of the two characters involved… the age difference makes it rather uncomfortable.

Comet Lucifer

Comet Lucifer Screencap 1

The beginning of this actually reminded me quite a bit of Geass: the protagonist stumbling from everyday life into a military conspiracy, discovering a mysterious girl, and being saved by a strange power. The giant robot fighting did a bit to reinforce that impression, as well.

Still, while the premise is certainly familiar, I’m more curious to see what the world is like. There seem to be quite a few people with superpowers of some kind, and it has yet to be fully explained how exactly that works out. Hopefully it’s not disappointing.

One Punch Man

OPM Screencap 1

I expected good things from this just from hearing the premise, and I have not been disappointed. One Punch Man is about Saitama (“secret identity” of the superhero One Punch Man), who has the ability to (surprise, surprise) defeat any enemy in one punch. His frustration and ennui with how simple his job has become are used both dramatically and comedically, to interesting effect.

So far the episodes have been very entertaining, though there’s perhaps more gore than I expected at first blush. (One Punch Man’s single punches don’t tend to leave much of their target intact.) Regardless, I’ve had a lot of fun watching this show and I’ll likely continue to enjoy it as it goes on.