When watching recent episodes of Wake Up, Girls, a series about a struggling Sendai-based idol group of the same name, I could not help but think that I was watching a show that made the experience of watching idols feel much more like watching a sport than pure entertainment. While the sense of conflict around anything I-1 Club related is clearly exaggerated for dramatic reasons, it adds a needed element of comparison that makes the rest of the show.
2013 was definitely a show filled with many shows of assorted variety. It probably says a lot that I can think of tons of shows of appalling quality yet struggle to come up with more than one show that I genuinely loved. Anyway, let’s rank these things and move on with out lives in 2014 because that’s truly for the better.
This was a strange year for the fact that there were three series with a very strange common element. Yes, judging by the title of this post, they all have to do with demon kings venturing over to a different world and having to deal with the economic consequences of their actions. Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, Hataraku Maou-sama and Yuushibu deal with this concept in different ways even as they are filled with light-hearted moments throughout. For the purpose of this post, I’ve decided to evaluate them on how deeply they get into the realm of economics.
In the last couple of spring and fall seasons, Fantasy Anime League has taken place on MAL. While some people out there take this deadly seriously or devote entire pages of coverage to how they are doing in that particular edition, I haven’t much talked about my own entries into the competition. That’s because I enter each time without any sort of clue what the hell I’m doing.
During the course of a normal year watching anime, I drop a lot of shows. It ends up being about 9 out of every 20 from my reckoning. That said, I make many, many mistakes in the eyes of my readers, followers on twitter, or people who even think of the name Emperor J. That includes those who have lived in mountain monasteries their entire lives and have no concept of blogging in their minds. So to further their confirmation bias of my taste, I present to you the list of my worst drops as rated by MAL and other comments throughout the year.
“No man really knows about other human beings. The best he can do is to suppose that they are like himself.”
― John Steinbeck, The Winter Of Our Discontent
I suppose I should preface this season preview post as coming on the basis of a rough couple of weeks personally and an evening of impromptu off-road driving. Anyway, winter usually is a dead period for my anime viewing and because of the quote I used above I can only suppose it is the same for you my lone reader. I’ve been in the anime viewing business for a long time, so I’m going to spend the time reflecting on all the great anime that I watched in the winter season of 2004. That’s because everyone gets jaded and remembers how good things were, right?
Let’s see, there was Paranoia Agent, Kon’s TV masterpiece which was surreal and filled with important social commentary at the same time. That really wouldn’t come to air now would it? Then I also watched, what was it…
The winter of 2004 was shit.
By most reasonable subjective measures, the eroge adaptation Walkure Romanze is not a very good series. It’s so derivative that it could also be considered Infinite Stratos with horses and armor in place of personalized mecha suits. The harem lead in this piece, Takahiro, is just as overpowered as Ichika is in that series and just as oblivious to the emotions of others, but still has all the girls after him for pulling off moments of brilliance. That’s not what I’m here to talk about in this post, though. Instead, there is an incredible (by the standards of harem anime) attention to detail in the show’s universe that is undermined by the quality of everything else.
Infinite Stratos at its best is a whimsical harem series with a bland protagonist who comes good in spots and the real focus is on the girls who have affection for him. This formula worked well enough in the first season for the fact that it kept the story and character development as simple as possible. With enough demand for more IS, a second season was ordered up and ready to go into one of the most packed seasons in recent memory. I wouldn’t be the first person to say that it has been a disappointment even by the first season’s low standards, but why did it have to be this way?
So it’s that time of year again where I am legally obligated to point out how long this particular blog has lasted. It’s now reached the point where in many nations I would now be qualified for citizenship for simply being able to hold down a job and not commit any crimes that would see me deported. The caveat to that being that I’m working in the aniblog fast food joint washing dishes while others who emigrated with me are now captains of industry.* That’s enough for the depressing bits in this post (and the many other drafts that are far worse than that you will not see). Instead, I’m going to keep things simple with five things I’ve learned since this blog started.
There’s a key transformative moment in the 5th episode of White Album 2 when the 3 characters that are the focus of the love triangle at the center of the story begin to care about each other as a group. Setsuna and Haruki leave their own classes in order to console Touma after she ran out of class with the score she was working on. Up until that point, these were largely characters that were acting as individuals acting on their own teenage hormones or path of least resistance. So what changed?
Since there’s little in the way to talk about this week from the currently airing shows, I embarked on an experiment yesterday. By MAL’s reckoning, I’ve dropped 362 series and those would have been for a variety of reasons. So what would happen if I gave some of these shows another shot? In all seriousness, it sounds like a better idea than talking about every show that I have dropped this season. So how would this experiment go?
The third episode of Outbreak Company finally sees the protagonist of the series, Shinichi, come under real threat in dealing with the culture of the new world he finds himself. In the episode, the school that he had built to spread otaku culture with the backing of the Supreme Ruler Petrarca was taken over by a reactionary faction that opposed the existence of the school and how it affected the balance between the three races of the Holy Eldant Empire. Eventually a bit of modern technology and magic get them out of the crisis, though not without consequence. After three episodes, I’ve felt the desire to chime in on how this series has dealt with cultural assimilation.
If I’m perfectly honest about the last week of the season, most of the final episodes I saw this week ranged from poor to mediocre. There were maybe two that I enjoyed, but I think that seems to be a theme lately. Put the climax of the story in the penultimate episode then just throw something together showing the cast having fun in the last episode. I get that it’s really just to sell the discs to the hardcore fans. I only finished 10 shows this season which was a bit lower than normal. I now present what I made of those 10 series that made up my summer.
The last episode of Kiniro Mosaic made the series a rather interesting subject on the topic of adaptation. The series has been very much a 4-koma adaptation in nature with the start and end being anything but. In the process, there were 3 very different stories told throughout the course of the series; daily life as fantasy, daily life and pure fantasy. The separate parts are well enough constructed that they can be completely isolated from each other in my view, but its really the ending which grabbed my attention.
Katsuragi Keima for most of the time I knew his existence as a character from The World God Only Knows‘s universe was a fairly average harem lead noted for his lack of affection for any other human beings. He viewed people very much like characters in the visual novels he played; either they were characters he had to conquer and pursue down their various routes or they were simply mob characters that could safely be ignored most of the time. This served him quite well in his job helping Elsie capture loose spirits that inhabited girls with gaps in their hearts since he could follow them. There was still a big question the remained with this approach. What would Keima do if he found himself affecting a girl’s genuine feelings?
If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying. – Mark Grace
The critical moment in the 8th episode of C³-bu comes when the protagonist of the series, Yura, reacts to being struck by a stray shot from a member of the Meisei team by continuing to fight and winning the battle and tournament for her team. The nature of the victory represents a pivotal moment in the development of her character going forward, but how does it reflect human nature in this circumstance? Additionally, what can we learn about Yura as a character in figuring out why she acted the way she did?
Back when I was really intensely studying such things, the ideas of “soft power” and in particular “Cool Japan” were popular in the international political scene. The idea for those who don’t know is that by spreading one’s culture around to other countries and gaining a foothold there, it can have longer term positives as the perceptions of one’s country becomes positive as a result. You can see this in the present day in American movies being rushed into Chinese cinemas with added footage specially for that audience and to ease it past the censors there. Then, of course, there’s the repeated attempts to try to sell anime and manga to Western audiences over the years with mixed success in the case of Japan.
Shinobu goes to live with a family in England for a short period of time where she meets a girl her age named Alice in the first episode of this series. The episode details the gaps in communication between the pair when they are in England since they are only capable of saying “hello” in the others language. Shinobu departs to finish middle school back in Japan and on one spring day in high school, she has a surprising new classmate from abroad.
First of all, the level of detail that went into this episode was really good on all fronts except for one. That they use Japanese voice actresses for the English speaking parts is not surprising, but there’s no attempt to even make them sound like they are from the southwest of England. Also, you may question the fact that the family in England seems to speak perfect Japanese, but upon visiting the website seen in the credits for the bed and breakfast on which that part of the episode takes place, you would see they heavily market to Japanese visitors. There’s also a lot that goes into that quintessential stereotype of Japanese families in that shoes get taken off immediately upon entering a home. Shinobu delights in being able to walk around in an English home with her shoes still on. She carries that over to school at the end of the episode when she commits the faux pas of all faux pas.
Where this series really shines is in breaking down cultural barriers. Shinobu starts as the Anglophile on a bit of an adventure. She spots Alice as a cultural curiosity for having blonde hair. Alice sees Shinobu as the girl who looks like the Japanese doll in her bedroom that speaks a weird language. Eventually, they grow close enough to communicate at a basic level just by doing things together.
When the story skips forward, Shinobu is still an Anglophile even if she can’t read a bit of English. Alice, meanwhile became a full-blown Japanophile in the most uncritical way possible. She came to Japan having learned the language in their time apart and taken the stereotypes of Japan uncritically to be true. Since the two of them will now be living together, it will now be about breaking that down Alice’s perceptions of Japan just by spending more time together.
Yes, ultimately this is a story about having one’s perceptions about an exciting new world being destroyed. Fortunately, it’s replaced by the close friendship that comes from experiencing those things with someone close to you. Where this show will fail or succeed is in how well the material transitions from being about Alice’s reaction to experiencing realities for the first time to how well she has adjusted to life in Japan. If it goes horribly wrong, this could be the worst sort of laughing at foreigners show that frequently gets heaps of criticism. For everyone’s sake, I want this series to succeed in just that transition.
Reasons to Continue Watching
- High quality production
- Excellent attention to detail
- Not above mocking the absurdities of British and Japanese culture.
Reasons to Watch
- Hopelessly naive characters
- Stereotypes used for comedic effect
- The English speaking scenes are still awkward despite their best efforts.
My Verdict: Yet another good surprise this season, which may turn out to be better than previous summers. The potential for disaster is here whenever you make cultural clashes the subject of a series, but in this group of characters I’m willing to trust it for now.
The daily lives of three different people from different worlds in Kyoto come together in the first episode of Uchouten Kazoku. The story basically breaks down into a fairly simple show about the lives of these characters. There’s Yasaburou, the third son from a tanuki family who can excellent control over transformations, Akadama, who Yasaburou takes care of and is a tengu who is no longer able to fly, and finally Satomi, better known as Benten who is the object of Akadama’s one-sided affection and is a human with mystical abilities. Beyond that, this setup lets the characters run the show.
When I had a first look at this for the season preview, my expectations weren’t high. A bunch of mythical creatures living as people doing normal things ranks pretty low on my excitement level charts. Plus, the character designs are rather unique since it appears that they have taco-shaped ears. In addition, it looks like it was done on the smallest budget P.A. Works has ever put into a show. The only saving grace could be the substance of what was being adapted. So it’s a pleasant surprise to be able to say that I was pretty well blown away by this first episode.
I say that because this is a story that is very open to interpretation. It can be considered an allegory of aging where Yasaburou is developing his abilities, Benten is older and most powerful and Akadama longs to be able to do what he was once able to do. It can be a study of the student-teacher dynamic where Akadama opened up the world to Benten only to be betrayed and so spends his time belittling the abilities of Yasaburou, who is desperate to impress him. It’s a story of unrequited loves for Benten. It’s also a story of characters who live outside of the bounds of their own cultures. Benten shouldn’t be able to fly as a human, Yasaburou should not want to be as human as he is and Akadama should not be the tengu without the ability to fly.
These three characters feel like they are part of a twisted family. They inflict pain on each other and love each other the same even though they can’t go back to how they were in earlier days. Both Benten and Akadama feel like characters who have been through a lot with the scars of past traumas still haunting them after they have long passed. Yasaburou will be dragged into that world kicking and screaming because he’s too close to them that his life is part of theirs. On character depth alone, this is the best first episode so far this season.
Reasons to Continue Watching
- Character depth
- Incredibly open to interpretation
- A feeling of the fantastic in everyday living
Reasons to Drop
- Character designs take a lot to get used to
- Not a lot of actual events happening
- Too into itself
My Verdict: This would be a strong candidate for surprise show of the season. I guess the key to making a P.A. Works show work is to strip excess from the budget. How good would straight voice acted storyboard have been?
Two Sengoku-era heroes meet for the very first time in the opening episode of samurai action series. After a brief prologue where both men are looked upon as gods, we get back story on how they first met on the battlefield and then their first fight together. What you need to know is that Kanetsugu is the serious one and well respected for his expertise as a general. Keiji, on the other hand, is very eccentric for his time, but he is also an absolute monster in battle. This series will essentially become the story of how the two of them came to be legendary in their time.
I’m going to start with the production levels on this episode. A lot of the effort went into the scene where the two protagonists meet. The sound of Keiji’s biwa along with sakura petals flying through the air created a very interesting mood. The change in tone as Keiji anticipated Kanetsugu’s desire to attack was also well illustrated. However, for the most part, the production levels were pretty poor. Keiji and Kanetsugu seemed to vary in height from anywhere from 6 feet to 12 feet tall while their necks were as thick as the waste of one of the prostitutes they were sitting in front of. In fact, it sort of felt like I was watching Sengoku Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure at times.
That’s where the real problem with this first episode was. For all the eccentricity it was trying to portray in Keiji’s character, it never felt all that interesting. Even if he’s able to use a Stand, it didn’t do a good enough job at keeping me awake. It actually took 2 attempts to watch this episode because I checked out 6 minutes in the first time. Kanetsugu, meanwhile, was just a passenger in the opening installment. Occasionally riding on his 12 foot tall horse, but more generally providing exposition.
Reasons to Keep Watching
- A non-genderbent Sengoku-era story
- Has a JJBA-lite feel
- The protagonists feel larger than life at times
Reasons to Drop
- The amount of money that went into the production looks minimal
- Lots of nothing happening
- Feels like it took twice as long to watch as it actually did.
My Verdict: Really too uninteresting for me to continue watching. I know I dropped JJBA really early when that aired, but the first episode there had me slightly emotionally involved. This one just washed over me and not in a good way.
This is probably the first post where I’ve actually tried to get assistance from other people in it’s creation. For the most part this is just a fairly standard preview with my opinions in it plus some other information. I wish I could have been a bit more creative with that, but I can only work with what I’ve got.
This edition of Pointless Debate was inspired by the Animusic Tourney being conducted by the members of the Anime Instrumentality blog. Nominations recently opened up on the tournament blog with fans able to submit a list of up to 15 songs for consideration. These will ultimately determine which ones make it and the tournament seeds if you get the gist of it. I did make my 15 selections which you will get at the end of the post, but the story I want to tell is how I ended up there. Continue reading
Photo Kano on first glance doesn’t appear to have much in the way of substance. In many ways, it looks just like an adaptation of a console dating simulation would expect to look. There’s a bunch of girls at a school who all have a connection to the main character that happens to be key to solving their individual personal issues. In that sense, there isn’t much in the way of wiggle room in telling the adapted story. In the case of Photo Kano, that’s nowhere near the truth.
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since, “Son, don’t go to anime conventions. They just drain your money and prevent you from having the advantages that you should have over others.”
And so it was that I set foot in the terminal at Logan International Airport on a sunny Thursday morning. My mission was clear, try to find a guy who looked like he had endured a bus ride from Reno to San Francisco then a flight to New York and then to Boston without sleeping. No small task considering how many people do that, it must be in the tens. Anyway, in a flannel shirt, this driver of carts greeted me and we went to claim my luggage. Baggage claim is always a strange experience every time I’ve come across it. It’s not the unusually shaped bags or anything, its the fact that random people seem compelled to intervene and keep the luggage moving smoothly around the mechanical loop. It’s not like anything is going to break.
A bus to a train station, a conversation with a creepy old dude obsessed with a hockey game from 7 years ago (We won, get over it), a couple of trains and a short walk later, we arrived at a shady hotel. The overworked staff let us check our bags because the third member of our party was still in the middle of attempting to break an historic record. So off we went to Five Guys where I told stories of my brief period of writing for a college newspaper while sitting directly across from a clipped story written by the rival campus rag. Also, there was a scene from Jormungand set in a Five Guys, but you probably knew that already. A couple hours of messing around with fat pigeons who were going aggro at each other and imagining a fountain swallowing the parents of the eager man guarding it and our party grew to three.
Since he booked the room and all, it’s worth mentioning that he also drives carts, but neither of them was that Irish bloke everyone associates with cart driving, or Lelouch. Since he insisted on it, he will be referred to as Dr. Gonzo. An ironic name considering the relative lack of drugs and booze in the rest of the story, but that’s what he wanted. After checking in to our room, I glanced around at what we would be spending the next 4 days and 3 nights in. Artwork removed from the walls? Check. Ceiling plastered over from a massive water leak? Check. Cramped bathroom that smells of cat urine? Check. A solid 2-star hotel this was.
The fourth member of our party arrived later, with a basketball and tons of hairspray in bag. As I’m trying to withhold identities here, there’s really no sufficient way I can identify this person without giving away their identity, so you in the audience will have to figure out who I’m referring to. That’s how I challenge my readers.
Off we went to the real hotel to collect the badges for the convention all while laughing at people who camp out on day 0 for hours when just a couple of hours later we were in and out within 5 minutes, those suckers. We were joined by a vowel-less writer from that aniblog tournament winning blog thing everyone forgot about from last year. We went to a restaurant where I was conquered by a calzone as large as my head. It was a disgraceful defeat as the other two who had ordered the same thing finished them.
A terrible sleep followed a night of watching the Bruins lose. A good thing I had brought my pillow too, so I could sleep on something that didn’t feel like a sheet wrapped around unclean balls from a Chuck E. Cheese ball pit. I had my own breakfast, then when that wasn’t adequate I was dragged to the Prudential Center where we could enjoy it’s finest Mexican specialty restaurant, Qdoba. Dr. Gonzo wanted a pale imitation of his native food as well. Their strongest salsa left me yearning for the Mexican restaurants of home, which actually tried to put flavor in their salsas, but it filled me up nonetheless.
And so it was off to the convention proper, where after passing through some really half-assed security the group went to the mecha gone bad panel. It was really just typical terribad moments from the genre, nothing entirely special apart from the Gurren Lagann clip as it actually aired in the US. Mmm, Quizno’s. We also ran into multi-site podcaster and Idolm@ster fact checker, oh what do I call him here, FC, for Fuck Comcast, since it screwed up appearance on FAP.
After that was a split up was a trip to the dealer’s room. The very place my father had once warned me about. It just sucked up my wallet’s contents with these 4 inch tall figurines proving too much to resist. However I was able to negotiate the prices down using a technique I learned from a trip to a games convention in March. Find flaws in the packaging that you don’t care about and try to knock some bucks off. It secured me 3 things that would just spend their days silently staring back at their owner with the names of Shiori, Kanon and Charlotte. Oh well, money going away from me. It wouldn’t be the last time.
Later the bad touch panel duo joined our now 6-person party at the hotel. The rest of the day passed in a bit of a blur as I was feeling kind of odd. It was well enough that I was capable of handling the bar food and overpriced brews that I ordered there and also stalked Boston Globe writer Dan Shaughnessy, who was plugging his book on a man who couldn’t find a baseball stadium he lived mere blocks from. There was conversation of dubs that had been lost to time, accounting tricks to somehow get a profit, Sword Art Online being set to be the most popular piece of fiction on the planet and of wishing of having the money to fly off to Brazil next summer. Still have to qualify for that one first, though. Also someone spent actual currency buying Love Love, that poor man. Then there was the visual-kei band, whose mixture of guitar riffs from the early-80s got tiresome quickly, and people sat down at their new stuff.
After another terrible night of sleep, it was a cold day in Boston Saturday. This was convenient as I was also developing a sinus infection. Really? Thanks, Boston weather. Not much to say about this day until the afternoon. I ditched everyone and did what I considered to be the proper thing, watching the Champions League final. I couldn’t miss the hipster’s team of choice fall to a noble 2-1 defeat to Bayern Munich. Poor Dortmund, about to have their team torn apart. Regardless the lack of a way of cooling a liquid dictated that I drank a 6-pack over the course of the match.
Later, I met with the group and we recorded a podcast that was abruptly ended by [entire section removed for references to an unhappy event that revolves around someone else having too much to drink (No, not me.)] Back to the Five Guys for more food and then it was off to the bad touch duo’s panel on bad touching. It was informative I suppose, but then I was fully feverish at this point. Back to the hotel and then to sleep where apparently a 3 hour drinking session was commencing in the hotel lobby and in the bathroom to our particular room. The back of the toilet proved to be the only useful part of the room as it turned out in the end as it was able to cool cheap wine well enough.
The final day brought me face-to-face with 2 particular quandaries. Was the final visit to the dealers room going to ruin me and is my local walk-in clinic open on holidays? Those answers were as Yozora, Yukimura and ugh, Cecilia proved yes and yes. The rest of the day was spent trying to survive the trek back to the train platform, then the transfer to the other train and the good byes to everyone who I had met on this journey. Finally, I made it to the airport 4 hours and 5 minutes before my flight was supposed to leave. If you know anything about TSA rules, you would realize that’s 5 minutes too early.
How to kill that much time? I suppose that was the reason why I brought my Vita. They do exist in the wild, really. And I still needed some food and there was a place that had a turkey and brie on flatbread sandwich. Why does this exist? It should have been too niche to be a thing. Finally, it was on to the plane where I would be pursuing the Triple Crown on my Vita before pain aplenty on landing. If you’ve ever flown with sinus issues, you’d know what I mean.
So some lessons I learned from this trip. Consumerism is destroying modern society, conventions like this are increasingly becoming places for old men (no, not really old except for the cool old dude at the bad touch panel) and the weather in Boston typically sucks. This convention is in March next year, so nor’easter it is. Physical media as far as anime goes seems to be waning as streaming seems to be the only way to get consistent revenue. Which means what is left is overpriced trash series, overpriced mediocrity that was being promoted like hell and overpriced crap that was meant to be exclusive. As for the illness, I was able to see a doctor and get some medication. Also, mall food court food in general sucks beyond a single meal. Enduring it 3 days in a row ruined my stomach, as well as the burgers and fries and sodas. I should just buy normal food. Next time I guess.
Special thanks to: Dr. Gonzo and the Other Non-Irish Driver of Carts, Unnamed Roommate, The Bad Touch Duo, Vowel-less Writer, Podcaster A, The Girl Whose Panel I Missed on Saturday Because of the Football, The Popee Cosplayer Who Gave Out LoGH trading cards, that Texas-based Entertainment Company Who Gave Out Free Stuff, that Japanese Company that has no Idea how Markets Work (the consumerism part above) and you readers who remarkably put up with the stuff I post year-after-year.