Crime Edge 4, Inoue Kikuko as Snack’s Mama, jazz pianist!

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The Severing Crime Edge episode 4 now is having Inoue Kikuko (aka Onee-chan) as Mama of Velvet, a snack bar! Snack Bar, or just “snack” in Japanese, is a type of bar where the female owner, so called “Mama,” is going to have conversation with you. And then, you can sing karaoke if you want. Mama is a jukujo, or more likely, bimajo! And she plays jazz piano! Continue reading Crime Edge 4, Inoue Kikuko as Snack’s Mama, jazz pianist!

Hataraku Maou-sama! is a solution to Chuunibyou.

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Chuunibyou, originally stipulated by Dostoyevsky, recently talked by our Anime Diet philosopher, gendomike. And Eric Hoffer too, an American philosopher, talks about it. Oh yes, “17 forever” by Inoue Kikuko, Tamura Yukari, and Horie Yui is basically the same kind as chuunibyou, puer aeternus. And Hoffer laments the American youth’s immaturity. Continue reading Hataraku Maou-sama! is a solution to Chuunibyou.

Spring 2013 Anime Audio Overview!

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Warning: Spoilers abound! 

It’s time for our semi-regular tradition of Ray and gendomike talking about the current season! This time, instead of a preview, this is an overview of what’s already airing for the past few weeks—in other words, our opinions are actually based on something other than pure speculation :) We used the AniChart as our guide, going day by day through the following shows, accompanied by links to their legal US streams as well as any articles written about them already:

Yes, there are some notable omissions, such as Shingeki no KyoujinRailgun S2, and others. We can’t watch everything you know. :) It’s a raw, unfiltered recording, so get ready for some true blue fan talk.

Enjoy! Leave us any comments in the section below.

Bridging The Gap: Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo – That’s A Bummer…

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When we last left Tokyo-3, the world had suddenly reached critical mass as one Shinji Ikari took it upon himself to break the confines of possibility to rescue a thought-lost Ayanami, to the impending destruction of all around them. But alas, Third Impact is thwarted by the surprise appearance of one Kaworu Nagisa, who contends that this time, it is he who will grant the always hapless Ikari “Happiness”. Flash forward, and Ikari is now at the center of a spectacular rescue in orbit by Mari, and a now one-eyed, and very much alive Asuka. It is after this that Ikari comes to realize that he had been in suspended animation for roughly eleven years, and that the world and friends he once knew have taken an almost completely new tack. With the newly-formed organization, WILL-E, Misato, Ritsuko, the lieutenants, and the rest have taken it upon themselves to rebel against Shinji’s ever resolute father’s still forging-ahead NERV. And this is far from all, the boy’s role in what could have spelled the end for all involved has made for some startling new revelations involving his choices, and everything he holds dear.

Only made worse by the turn that he may have in fact, done all of this before..

Enter Evangelion: Shin Gekijyoban “Q”, part three of the four-part Rebuild Of Evangelion film series.

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Things I Liked About Evangelion 3.0
1. The Bold Setting

The choice to break completely free from the confines of the familiar is among one of the most exciting things about the whole affair. It’s no secret that this is very much what has kept me most involved in these films since 2007. If there is anything that Evangelion has successfully offered up in regards to lasting impressions, it’s in the design works of the world, its characters, and the overall texture. And in the case of Q, we have a bounty of spaces and ideas to play within during its running time. While the previous two largely flirted with bringing the design aesthetics into The Oughts, there was still quite a bit of retro-future still working as a mid-1990s filter for consistency. And here, we get ships, buildings, entire geographic structures & machines with an almost fine art feel coming off of it from nearly every frame. It, along with the film’s aggressive editing all proves intense to the point of fetishistic at times, and often dizzying to absorb in one sitting. Q wants to be an explosion of pure-anime nuance, and while other elements may lack, it is here that the film impresses.

2. The Animation

Since the film was delayed a few times during its troubled production, there are action sequences here that are about as dumbfounding in their animated prowess that it could only have been made by obsessives. From the disorienting, and eye-raping rescue sequence at the opening, to the bizarre finale, there are details that will perplex, and perhaps inspire those into the integration of computer, and old fashioned cel animation. Cameras do the impossible, while titans and aliens clash, leaving little to chance. Clearly, extra time was devoted to making this an ultimate demo reel for some very talented artists under Anno & Tsurumaki’s wings. It’s like Disney on a bad trip.

3. Shiro Sagisu’s Score

With sounds ranging from the operatic, to the quietly emotional. Sagisu unleashes his greatest arsenal here, while not forgetting what I consider to be major characters in the Evangelion universe, the lone piano and brass. It’s clear from the offset, that this is Evangelion with all the stops ripped out as familiar themes(From even more Gainax/Anno collabs- As 2.22 contained a lot of Kare Kano, there is a lot more updated non-Eva stuff this time. )  weave into some truly evocative refrains, and updates to previous movements. The addition of electronic pulsing, raging guitar, and the return of the lonely analog sounds from the original series makes for a bit of an emotional ride outside of the film. It’s easy to see how many rushed to catch the film in theatres just for the packaging alone.

 4. The Promise Of Upping The Ante (Between Generations)

The idea that one generation of Evangelion seems primed to duel it out with the previous is a compelling impetus for this series. Q is the unveiling of a deep divergence, and as such, it surely has the feel of creators more than ready to take their classic into uncharted territory. The challenge (of course), is figuring out how it can rival the original whilst making a name for itself by itself.

5. The Cast

As always, one of the biggest highlights of the Evangelion franchise is the cast. And here, there’s zero exception as everyone brings their game to the event. Still shocks me to this day how much Megumi Ogata, Megumi Hayashibara, and Yuko Seki still sound their parts after all these years.

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What I Didn’t Like?

Just about everything else..

Let’s call this as it all really has been, a battle of wills (both for and against) between father and son.

To the complaints that immediately arose from early screenings, on one hand, they seem to be right on the mark declaring the film overwrought and more than a little strange considering all that had come before. On the other, I can see what was the creative germ was for such a choice. To do away with the TV series’ voice-over therapy session, and to present Shinji in a world that literally doesn’t need him, is a conceptually visceral one. It’s only that when the film is tasked with giving us more in regards to the whys, hows, and whos, that the whole thing feels less like a continuation of the series, and more like a crew yearning to do something else.  It attempts to be the more contemplative section to the series, but frankly isn’t patient enough to follow through. Rebuild Of Evangelion, if taken as a four-section story, we are at what is meant to be gap between the second and third acts (often known as “triumph of the villain”, with Shinji being his own worst enemy), and as such, it requires some much-needed information regarding the world we are now in, and the status of all the major characters. And even though Shinji’s meeting and subsequent burgeoning relationship with the ever mysterious Kaworu Nagisa is given a fair amount of coverage, there is nowhere near enough granted to anyone else. Things just happen, and we’re expected to follow along without any real context.

In all fairness, the setting choice is something that Anno & Tsurumaki have tackled before. In fact, thrusting the world forward near the finale is something of a GAINAX staple that goes all the way back to Top Wo Nerae!’s last two episodes. Even Imaishi’s Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagaan resorts to this flash-forward technique. (Sagisu’s gargantuan renditions of tracks first used in the latter section of Fushigi No Umi No Nadia should prove to be the largest tip-off) This is perhaps the first time in which it is employed with Shinji’s (and in turn, some fans’) villification in mind. Instead of discussing his neuroses, and legendarily touchy relationship with his reality, we are dropped willy-nilly into a world that  is the polar negative of the one he chose to undo, thereby illustrating his growing need to become something he had such a hard time grappling with back in the original timeline. It’s a purgatory of his own making, and the entirety of 3.0 is merely a shallow representation of it, punctuated by two grand scale action pieces that seem far more interested in the engineering wizardry of the staff than in telling a comprehensible story. The machine fetishization leven in these sequences are so detailed, and even surreal that while all of it unfolds, one realizes that so much more story could have been covered. (shades of STEAMBOY) There is even this lingering feeling that this was not the film as initially planned. The whole affair feels like a troubled production, real-life natural disaster notwithstanding.

Another film that comes screeching to mind, is Back To The Future II, which also dealt largely with awakening to a parallel world that houses the protagonist’s worst possible fears. In the world of Evangelion, even doing nothing remains a choice. And what we have here is the end result of several iterations, temporal choices that have led to this point where virtually every road going forward presents unwelcome consequences. The caveat here, is that there is no simple Macguffin with which our heroes can find themselves out of this bizarro realm.

Another of the most important casualties this series of films has yet to avert, has been that of the characters. While many might point out that with a film, it is expected that many would get short shrift in the name of pacing, it troubles me that so much of these movies offer up so much time to action, and so much less about character motivation, and expect spectacle to compensate. In classic summer movie fashion, this is rarely to never the case. And with a story as often technical and operatic as Evangelion, it’s a little sad to see such a rich cast get whittled down to a mere series of inflated cameos. It doesn’t help that everyone’s motivations have been changed without us understanding anything, but it only gets worse as new crises keep coming up, offering up very little in the way of consequence, or hint as to where these new aims are coming from.

The biggest offender of this is in the character of Mari, who has been fun to watch in action, but since her introduction in 2.0, has yet to show any agency but to be another figure to sell to the maniacal. With small hints, leading to a bizarre speech last time, to merely playing support to eyepatch Asuka, we continue to get nothing about her and her role in the greater scheme. While some fans may wish to point out that there is one more movie, to not do this in TWO films is pretty suspect. It only makes her look that much more superfluous. It’s pure pander-bait, and not the kind of thing one does in a big film series that seeks to be both grand and personal.

And speaking of pandering, this is pretty much where much of the biggest issues I have with Q reside. Instead of offering up a more dramatically sound summation of where Shinji has led us and his friends astray, once our lead meets the ever-angelic Kaworu along with a strange-behaving Ayanami with NERV, the film almost screeches to a complete stop–for fujoshi-baiting of the most egregious kind. From their initial meeting, to the beautifully animated piano duet, the oozing of the doujinshi-fueled grue puts the off-putting product-placement to complete shame. Had they figured out how to integrate their meeting with more actual story from both sides of this newfound conflict, it all might have been fine. But as it is, it’s largely distracting, and nowhere near as functional as it could have been. It seems to know what buttons it wants to push, and it’s clearly not buttons of those who prefer a little more meat to these fancy bones. It’s relentlessly disingenuous to the point of almost hearing the director(s) asking us “HAPPY NOW?” to the plunk of Comiket change.

 

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But therein lies perhaps the saddest part of the whole Rebuild affair; that we are one film away from a series that wants to be a revealing status report on the minds behind one of the most important animated series of all time, as well as a commercial blockbuster. And as it stands, this has been the feeling that has dogged me since the first film. That the packaging offers up plenty of bang for the buck, but that it never settles down long enough to actually chew on its own ideas in service of making its points. One thing the original series was so astute about, was in how they made it clear that the trappings were nowhere near as important as what was going through the minds of all that were experiencing these psychological trials together. Evangelion at its best was always about relationships, and the blockage that can happen when intentions diverge harshly, even between family. Now Q was delayed, partially by the tumult caused by and around the Tohoku quake, and subsequent tsunami, and nuclear disaster. And as such, we can cut a tiny bit of slack in knowing that some things are unavoidable. But this can’t fully be what was initially planned. There is very much a feeling that the Rebuild series could have gone in a very different direction (the Next Episode break at the finale of 2 offered up some dramatically unique things). It all feels like a general throwing up of well-animated hands.

I have come to peace with the idea that the original Evangelion series was a failure that exceeded expectations, and worked simply because it was a deeply personal reflection of one person’s struggle against personal demons and production ennui. This time, we have a failure that just attacks without provocation, focus, or reflection. While I applauded when Anno & crew split off from Gainax in the name of creative freedom, this all feels reflexive, and not as impassioned about context so much as fan-jerking. Where the original stumbled almost- ungracefully towards a memorable conclusion, the new just falls flat on its face – and that makes me sad.

Cutting the Way Into a Story: Severing Crime Edge 1-3

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What a name!

Liking to cut hair as a hobby is strange, and probably stalker-ish, but don’t let it put anyone off of watching The Severing Crime Edge, a Spring 2013 anime that is streaming on Crunchy Roll. With this review there has been three episodes made available.

High school student Haimura Kiri ends up getting off at the wrong stop after school and finds himself at a mansion on the end of the last bus stop. With his family inherited scissors, he loves to cut people’s hair. He meets Mushanokuji Iwai, who is a girl that lives at the mansion with very long hair that magical regenerates every night.

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*Allow me pick up your hair*

With their meeting, begins a game that would draw Kiri into becoming a courtier of sorts. Iwai is known as the current Hair Queen, and with her death comes the fulfillment of wishes to people known as authors. Each Author owns a cursed “killing goods” that provokes the authors to become psychotic murderers.

So after the first episode begins the task for where Kiri discovers his abilities to protect his “instead” (reason for him to not become a psychotic killer)…

The second episode introduces more of the series supporting character… and the third episode involves some nudity.

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Fulfillment

Kiri has a weird hobby, but he has a great career ahead of him as a hair cutter and partner/companion/lover to Iwai?

First Look Fair: Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet 1-3

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Those of us who became fans in a different era—say, the late 1990s and early 2000s—remember that different sorts of stories were the norm in anime. There was a lot more adventure and sci-fi, for one; while Evangelion introduced theretofore unknown levels of artsiness, psychological drama, and pretentiousness, anime had yet to shift over to an overweening emphasis on slice-of-life, school life, and fandom self-metajerk. In fact, it’s worth remembering that the earlier episodes of Evangelion were well-animated, straightahead episodic mecha action, with only hints of the chaos to come. What drew me in was both the compelling way these traditional elements were presented as well as the deftness with which Shinji, Misato, and Rei revealed their characters.

The same feeling is coming over me with Gen Urobuchi’s newest, and in some ways most surprising, project, Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet. I get the feeling that this might not only be a potential classic, it could be a new gateway anime for another generous of fans.

These are tall claims to make for a series that’s only broadcast three episodes. There are many ways that Urobuchi and director Kazuya Murata (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Movie, Code Geass; see our interview with him at Otakon 2011) could screw this up. Urobuchi’s trademark descent into despairing angst simply may not fit this story, though there are indications that this may not be the case. The storyline could get dragged out or needlessly complicated, like Code Geass (the recent Valvrave the Liberator is already showing signs of following suit), though with only 13 episodes planned, there’s not much room for that.

So far, though, not only has Gargantia avoided these traps, it’s done well simply by embracing the basics: smooth pacing, likable characters, and enough plot mystery to keep the viewer interested in what comes next.

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The excitement begins with the first half of the first episode, which features well-animated space battles deliberately reminiscent of Gunbuster: ships firing fusillades of lasers at giant, plant and insectoid aliens, with swarms of mechs and aliens locked in brutal hand-to-tentacle combat. This sends an immediate signal that Gargantia intends to stand on the shoulders of its forebears, and this impression is no lessened when the action shifts from space to the watery Earth where mecha pilot Ledo is stranded. Bright shades of Nadia, Gurren Lagann, and even the works of Studio Ghibli (particularly Castle in the Sky) are evident in the character designs, settings, and overall tone. Though the Earth is in a post-apocalypse setting, with no land to be found, it is still brightly-colored and cheerful compared to the grim “service guarantees citizenship” world Ledo comes from.

Part of the show’s success too is how quickly those worlds are established. We find out much about Ledo’s universe not just in the first fifteen minutes of the series, but also in the way he and his mecha interact with the Gargantians: he has no idea what to do with fish or meat, “thank you” has no translation in his culture, and he cannot understand why total annihilation of the enemy is a problem. Remarkably, the show decently balances the perspective of the more casual, civilian-like attitude of Gargantia and the militaristic perspective of Ledo. While we sympathize with the Gargantia’s more “humane” approach, one easily understands the seeming rationality of Ledo’s point of view, and it is not one devoid of sense or restraint either: he frequently has to tell his mecha computer to stand down. He can be dialogued with and convinced. He is, after all, still human.

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And that’s the thing: there’s a human warmth to the storytelling in Gargantia which comes out in the likability of the characters and in the smaller moments. They show the whole gamut of emotions, from fear to curiosity to joy to gratitude and surprise. The nearly uniform despair of the majority of Madoka, as well the flatness of Psycho-Pass, are nowhere to be found here. It does this without surrealism, name dropping in the dialogue, or other superficial trickery. There are occasional bows to fan-servicey convention, particularly with the Pirate Queen Lukkage and her sidekicks, but it’s hardly a big deal compared to the show’s other virtues.

Gargantia is not only proof that Urobuchi can tell a straightforward story well, but that there is still life in this sort of storytelling. That so much of online fandom is excited by this show suggests that it’s relatively rare and deeply appreciated when it appears. Quality tends to be—see Sturgeon’s Law—but this, along with the ongoing Yamato 2199, signals hope in sci-fi adventure stories as a viable, relatively mainstream avenue for anime to reach audiences.

While Evangelion’s unique weirdness and intensity was what made me stay a fan, it had to hook me first. Here’s hoping Gargantia will offer similar pleasures along the way.

Chihayafuru 2 Episode 15: No Matter Where I Stand

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At roughly $30 billion a year, revenues of the pantsu industry surpasses the market capitalization of Time Warner, Sears and Dell. Sometimes I wonder how the prevalence of pantsu affects youth in the same way watching Gundam might but that’s beyond the scope of this discourse.

Not it’s not. There’s always time and space for pantsu. But first Kana-chan.

I am in love. She is incredibly mature for a high school student. And I am not talking about her humps Monsieur LaMoe. Her motives for lying beguile her age. The rationalization behind deceit fascinates me immensely. I actually make a hobby out of it. It amuses me when one argues that deceit does not constitute lying. While technically true, the distinction is facetious. However, lies are not all made equally.

The worst lies are the instances where we lie to ourselves. It could be cognitive dissonance or pretending to be someone else to impress a potential lover or a lifelong pursuit of a false passion. Lying is cowardice.

Lying is also courage. I previously mentioned my favorite scene from Moulin Rouge. The capacity to deliver that lie and betray every iota of truth for love is definitely something I can’t trust myself to accomplish.

A tweet lingers in my mind and heart as I struggle to write this.

https://twitter.com/2DTea/status/325507353690636291

I had wanted to respond to 2DT regarding packing fake abs to swim at Fanime. Now it’s evolved into an entire post. While flat abs certainly holds sex appeal, I long for a wider acceptance of beauty. It’s not a stretch to suggest that context influences perceptions of beauty not unlike lying. Just like lying isn’t inherently right or wrong, a certain physical characteristic should not be considered beautiful or otherwise by default.

In this episode, we literally saw Shinobu in her underwear. The show somehow insists in making her… weird and their choice in doing so via pantsu begs a question. Why is her pantsu weird?  Lingerie primary serves the male gaze and the status quo reinforces a narrow ideal in pantsu styles. I am hoping her underwear sparks a catalyst for more refreshing approaches.

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Through Older Lenses: Yamato 2199 Episodes 1-3 – The Long Journey..And Then Some.

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After nearly a year of theatrical releases (which are continuing as of this date), as well as sell-out launches on home media, Yutaka Izibuchi’s big budget update of Uchu Senkan Yamato has finally come to broadcast screens via MBS(Mainichi Broadcasting System). A penultimate evergreen of televised and theatrical anime, the classic space epic has seen itself celebrated and reinvented more than once before, but never with such grandeur, and such a sense of momentum this side of the original movie releases that began back in the summer of 1977. It’s safe to say that I have been following to the best of my ability, the parade and anticipation of this particular run as the original series remains centrally important to my own interest in anime as a medium, and as a lover of classical science fiction. Not unlike globally acclaimed phenomena such as Lord Of The Rings, or even Star Wars, the tale of Yamato’s great gamble to save the blue Earth is possibly Japan’s most universal, and even perhaps most personal legend brought to cel animation. So it goes without saying that in this era of a jazzed-up Star Trek, a few words would inevitably have to be shared about this update.

So what I propose, is not a simple episodic review column. But more like an overview of episode clusters, where this new legend can be seen with fresher eyes, without the ever present spectre of the original series hovering over. We’ll be giving impressions on the series in the format in which they were shown to audiences in Japanese theatres. As an enduring lover of the original, it feels only appropo that we peer into this alternate telling of the search for Iscandar as one would look at how a modern artist would pay tribute/respond to a legendary painter, or even musician. With openness to new voices, and a reverence for what the current world has to offer a familiar mythology. The original Yoshinobu Nishizaki/Leiji Matsumoto saga will always be, but Yamato:2199 must stand on its very own, and to that, let us commence.

The last time I had written a little on the series, it’s no exaggeration to say that I was more overcome by the sheer magnitude of the event. It’s fair to say that for me, it was something of an oasis to consider the return of Captain Okita, and his gallant crew to the animated world. So what I hope to do, is to do away with mere nostalgia clouding my sight, and just call it as a singular new event all its own.

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For those unfamiliar, Yamato weaves the saga of an ongoing mission by a select number of brave souls tasked with taking a once lost battleship deep into space in hopes of saving Earth from relentless radiation attacks by the fearsome alien force known only as Gamilas. Their only lead, an alien transmission, offering plans for a device capable of cleaning the planet’s surface. The only problems? Distance versus time. Roughly one hundred days remain before certain ahnilation, and the Gamilas armadas aren’t letting the intrepid crew of the Yamato have an easy time of seeking the planet, Iscandar. The place in which the humanity’s apparent salvation resides. It is in the determined spirit of one Captain Okita, and the fortitude of his diverse & largely youthful crew, that what remains of the human race must depend. But the journey is fraught with perils and unknowns. Worse yet, time is running out.

The story begins..

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Episode 1: Messenger From Iscandar

Opening at the Second Battle Of Mars, where we are thrust headlong into the conflict which gives us our first glimpse of the aging captain, his relationship with one Captain Mamoru Kodai, and the fate of the Yukikaze. The confidence in which this opener establishes itself is the kind of surehandedness that is often rare by anime TV standards, and deserves recognition, even if it seems on the surface as simple and atypical of an establishment scene. So much is employed here, that it’s very apparent that this project is looking to be remembered as a labor of love. The almost old-fashioned romance of naval conflict is paid tribute as the Gamiras advance takes its toll on the human forces, leading certain characters toward what seems to be an inevitable conclusion. Taking an almost cel-animation aim toward the CG makes for an interesting marriage of schools that leaves both good and not so good impressions. (which I’ll get to later) The drama of the sequence is only made more potent by knowing that the real purpose of this battle is in the name of a mission in order to retrieve a message from an alien emissary.

Young officer, Susumu Kodai, and his optimistic buddy Daisuke Shima are on the surface of Mars, awaiting first contact while unbeknownst to them, the UN Cosmo forces keep the enemy at bay above. Even as Kodai and Shima find themselves capable of merely retrieving the message, the female alien ambassador was unable to survive her ship’s descent from space. Compounding matters, is the revelation that Kodai is unaware that his elder brother , the captain of the Yukikaze, is on the verge of meeting with destiny. Lives and discoveries converge, and a mild glimmer of hope for a dying planet finally seems within reach. That is, if the younger Kodai can keep his composure toward longtime veteran, Okita regarding the fate of the Yukikaze. Instantly, we have a classic father/son conflict amidst this galaxy-spanning conflict, and we have a shining tribute to anime at its most romantic.

The initial episode has quite a deal to lay out for viewers, and for the most part it gels tremendously by weaving heavy animation detail with impeccable writing and direction. While perhaps not the kind of storytelling more current anime fans may be accustomed to, its pretty refreshing to experience an A to B story executed in such a deft manner. It’s all deceptively simplistic, and yet that’s something most appropriate for such a tale. With effective speed, we are given glimpses into the world, while offering up classic character archetypes and conflicts with equal ease. If anyone gets short shrift in this initial episode, it is perhaps the role of Yuki Mori, who is now of greater import in the chain of command. Turns out they resorted toward making her yet into yet another quasi-tsunderoid, which is kind of a shame. It’s a mild misstep that could be rectified in future installments, but it kind of stands out as a bit of a step-forward-step-back for a character that deserves a just a little more complexity.

In all, Messenger is a solidly executed pilot episode that dodges the many pratfalls that to this day dog most initial installments.

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Episode 2: Toward A Sea Of Stars..

Upon discovering that the Gamilas have been reconning the Earth for what seems to be the remains of a long-ago sunken battleship, it is not long before all eyes turn to the hulking Yamato as the one last possible savior for the once blue planet and its inhabitants. Meanwhile, on Pluto..military leaders of the Gamilas have their worries confirmed, and chart a course to destroy the newly dusted off and retrofitted Space Battleship before it even leaves the ground. Meanwhile, the mission begins as we learn that the deceased alien ambassador Starsha left with the humans, a message containing their offering of salvation lying 168,000 light years away, within the Large Magellanic Cloud–The planet, Iscandar. Another revelation is dropped upon us that Starsha had originally sent her sister, Yurisha a year prior in secret with plans for the Dimensional Wave Motion Engine, to be used within one specially fitted space cruiser, good enough to handle the difficult voyage ahead.

Thus, the long ballyhooes Izumo Plan suddenly transitions into..The Yamato Plan.

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Yes. Exposition heavy, and plot-obsession is on call for Sea Of Stars, which gives us an even better glance at who will become our respective crew members, and their positions with impressive brevity. There’s clearly so much to be told in this telling, that it becomes expected that things would be rushing toward the manning of the ship, and as such, we only spend so much time with even major characters at this point. Kodai & Shima are tapped as important personnel, while we get more of a clearer look at the diversity, and breadth of those who have loved ones staying behind. If there is any real trouble with this episode, it’s that it never gives enough temerity to how desperate the situation is on a more personal level. The crew just needs to assemble and get going, so we get often all-too-brief looks at family members who’s lives will be hanging in the balance. Worthy of note, we get our first real moments with Engineering Head, the old-fashioned Tokugawa, and Science Chief & Second In Command, Sanada (Who remains a favorite in the original,btw), and we do get another quiet moment between Kodai and Okita before things start intensifying again as the Gamilas attempt to stop the Yamato from beginning its mission.

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In summation for this one, there is simply so much foundation to lay out before launch. And that’s kind of amazing that it works at all.

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Episode 3: Escaping The Mars Sphere

After proving its mettle on the ground, the Yamato and her crew are quickly faced with staunch resistance by the Gamilas as they make their first attempts at warp speed, leading them into a trap. A trap called Jupiter.

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Shooting face first into pure business, action and heart..Mars Sphere is pretty much classic space opera of the first order. With the crew knowing full well that their gift from Iscandar must be used to its fullest potential, they are also mostly young and unsure of what to do with their newfound power. On one hand, we have the abiltity to achieve Faster Than Light travel, which can allow them to reach Iscandar in under (hopefully) one earth year. And on the other, which comes at the latter half of the episode, they also have in their grasp, a weapon of terrifying power. On top of all of this, we are given a brief look into the world of the Gamilas, and the reality that not everything in this conflict is as simple as rudimentary good vs. evil.

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It’s a pretty busy episode that eases nicely into an old school quest series format by offering up equal doses of action and exposition, topped with a great understanding of the sentiments that made the original so powerful. We finally see what the Yamato is truly capable of in more than one way, which offers up some more than welcome subtext as the cast fills out a few more new vital spaces in the crew. We are better introduced to Technology Department head, Niimi, who’s vital to this episodes expositional needs, doles out the science of FTL travel, while the clearly pilot-like Yamamoto is deferred to an accounting desk (in a half-clever setup for future episodes). We even finally get our first real meeting with the IQ-9 robotic unit most affectionately known as Analyzer, a plucky, often humanlike machine with a deep need to prove his worth on the ship. Once the Yamato completes their first jump, and the ship & crew finds themselves eyeballs deep in Gamilas territory, the series essentially slams the pedals with tension, and enough introspection on the crews part to make this more than an authentic nod to elder lovers of anime storytelling. (Strange how this can be seen as refreshing now, but it is.) Kudos also go to a series that takes the extra time to quiet moments such as Yuki honoring the lost, as other main characters consider the temerity of their mission as they gaze out onto the once vibrant blue planet.

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And while the initial three episodes of Yamato 2199 bring with them much to celebrate, there are small things here and there in which I hope are given additonal consideration. Primarily, when considering the state-of-the-art, the presentation can be seen as both a gift and curse. Mostly in the way that most modern anime produced with heavy CG and cel-shaded coloring, there is a high emphasis on fine details which wasn’t nearly as possible in the past. Mechanical and costume designs are nothing less than top notch. The flip side to this (of course), is a lack of painter’s grit. There is something we simply cannot achieve in the current state, which is a loving sense of the handmade. Something I feel is essential in creating a sense of human warmth to the more somber aspects of the story. As well-composed as this series is, it can be a little more clinical than preferred. I understand that this is merely me being nostalgic, but there is something deeply impactful about the handmade that is a massive part of Yamato’s enduring appeal. Do I believe it is still possible? Probably not yet. But it does feel as if cast and crew have been more than ready to dish out the best product imaginable with this opening trio.

The only other real gripes I have at the moment (of course-again), is in the new crew members. While it is definitely welcome to consider new and important roles on the ship being undertaken by women, it does reek of the times, and it never really figures out a way to write itself out of this. Izibuchi has been capable of creating believable female characters in positions of high responsibility before, but here it almost cannot override a sense of business obligation. And while Yamamoto’s role setup is an interesting one that could go into some positive places for the series, one cannot help but feel like it’s business as usual(IE-Mari & the cult of Pizza Hut/Lawsons) with these new characters. Thankfully, we have yet to see Analyzer’s less than flattering sides, so there is still a bit more worry regarding this. Even in the far future of 2199, certain acts should be considered criminal.
Ensign Harada had better watch out..

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Adventure in wisdom!

Chihayafuru 2 Episode 14: People Would Always Ask If I Was Pining for Someone

Chihaya

There’s a popular doctrine stating that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. I disagree. My tenth grade World Civilization teacher explained his reasoning in one of the many after school chats we had. Even if something is not broken, there is always better. Of the numerous things we talked about, this one particularly stood out because it changed a paradigm at the onset of my blossoming intellect.

This is especially true in writing. I am a terrible writer as most of you noticed by now from my blogging Chihayafuru. It’s a challenge. And it’s very discouraging at times when I read others’ creations with words. Just last night, I felt sick upon reading “…irresistibly human“. The mastery demonstrated to capture and express so much more in that succinctness rivals that of 2DT. It makes me feel hopeless.

Yet I am reminded that there are countless other writers that are better than Lauren and 2DT. So what makes a certain piece of writing better than another? After all, it’s just a certain arrangement and combination of chosen words. How does one improve that? I  ponder that each week as I humbly request your audience.

To be specific, how do I translate ALL THE FEELS I have for Chihayafuru onto paper? It’s not just cliche to express that there are no words for the rush of euphoria that comes with watching each episode. It’s an unacceptable surrender to the philosophy bestowed all those years by my teacher. That said, there are no words for the closing scene involving Kana-chan =P

Kana

I still lack an answer.

There is one thing that I am certain of though. Good writing transcends the topic at hand. The expression of a particular thought and idea does not stand alone in a vacuum. Everything is interconnected more or less. Good writing bridges the world around us.

Perhaps my readers can help me improve my writing.

Like team karuta, everyone brings a different perspective to the game. The same holds true for writing. I have a tendency to write through a lens of gender politics and this episode baited me with Porky’s exclamation of “I will treat her like a boy” which I had to fight to decline. I am really asking. You can’t see it but my fist is as tight as Chihaya’s.

Fist

Black Day, reprise…

Black Day again… Another black noodle, and another dokupe... In the Japanese year of 2673 (The year of our Lord, 2013). This day of infamy seems to be eternal recurrence. And how do I sever it and liberate meself from screaming, “Riajuu must explode!“? This chain of Goddess of Liberty was severed, but that chain now binds me. So, I need the Excalibur or Kusanagi to cut off this chain. But I can only buy a knife from a dollar shop like Daiso. Yes, that’s what low wage proletarians can only afford.

Sacred sword from Daiso to sever eternal recurrence.
Excalibur from Daiso to sever eternal recurrence?

But this knife can’t cut anything, except for peeling the skin of an apple. Oh yes, a Meiji man’s way to describe saudade or sehnsucht. Eternal solitude, eternal singledom, but Speedwagon was also a bachelor his entire life, so it’s okay to celebrate Black Day!

So, I just let Megurine Luka sing the anti-Valentine (anti-riajuu) melody to celebrate our status of kimo-ota.

Viva Black Day!