When I first started watching The Ancient Magus’ Bride on Crunchyroll, I was struck by how it began. Here was a protagonist so far in the depths of despair that she seemingly sold herself in auction to whoever might have her, reasoning that at least someone in this world would want her, and coming to the conclusion that whatever might happen, it would be a marginally better alternative to suicide.
This setup exists in the manga as well, to the extent that some fans call it “Stockholm Syndrome: the series.” The protagonist is bought at auction by Elias the powerful mage, he takes her to his house calling her his bride, and so begins the series. I could see this critique: for the first several episodes, Elias occasionally remarks to be careful, that he owns her. Chise, the viewpoint character, seems to have no sense of self-worth and constantly demeans herself and her actions.
It was not just other women who voiced this concern: there were men too, who viewed the dynamic between Elias and Chise as abusive. It reminded them of Beauty and the Beast, they said: the captive rationalizes the abuse, and falls in love with her captor. They did not want to see it past the first couple of episodes, male and female alike.
And yet, it still seemed to me Chise had agency. She was in the depths of severe depression and was considering suicide. The animation did not show her full story right away, but we saw her contemplating suicide from a school rooftop before making the eventual choice to take buyers on their offer: in the manga, and as details of Chise’s life in the anime slowly are revealed, we saw that not only had her magical status brought her abandonment and despair up to that point, but we saw Chise making a bargain with the auctioneers. In fact, in the story, she pocketed half her selling price, which came to 2.5 million pound sterling. While yes, she was acting out of self-destruction, she retained some degree of agency in doing so. More to the point, the series asked for the viewers to at least have some empathy with Chise in this: viewers did not need to support her self-destructive decisions, but were asked to try and understand what may have led Chise to believe that it was the only option left to her.
I have dropped off the face of the planet, in the face of reality and real world. But I still wanted to let people know that I am mindful of some series for when I have a limited time,to watch. So I wanted to speak about my adoration for Wakakozake. This series was added to Crunchyroll’s streaming catalog around Summer 2015.
Crunchyroll has the anime, and two seasons of the live action adaption streaming. So if they have the third season, you’ll expect me to think about the term, Pshuu!
Wakakozake is a story of Wakako Murasaki who is a 26 year old office lady with a desire to drink and search for places to eat. The entire series is about her visiting different eateries after work and drinking alcohol of some type of food. So for the foodie in people, what is there not to love?!
So Wakakozake doesn’t necessarily speak much about the preparation like it is seen in cooking shows or contests, but in the anime and the live action. There is a monologue of Wakako’s inner thoughts as she enjoys the food, and speaks like an amateur food critic.
So for people who like to share thoughts about food, there is Yelp and there are blogs. There is subtle difference between the anime and the live action, because in the anime, viewers see her enjoying the food. In the live action, it turns into subtle food advertisement, that I am unsure if the manga would have this trick. I have seen this in manga form from Fumi Yoshinaga’s Not Love But Delicious Foods. In the live action, the same treatment for introducing restaurants can be found in Kodoku no Gourmet. But it can be said that for the inner foodie, there is such a reaction such as pshuu… which gets animated quite nicely in the show. I am going to sign off on now, and just think about the next experience I have in eating Japanese cuisine!
It’s quite possible that Crunchyroll has hit the record for the most anime simulcasts in a given season. The legal streaming service for anime & Asian drama was able to gather a total of 34 new anime simulcast titles, not including the 10 ongoing series that will be carried throughout this season.
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
-Isaac Asimov, Runaround (from I.Robot 1942)
Having missed Yasuhiro Yoshiura’s indie production, Pale Cocoon upon its release in 2004, it was possibly intentional on my part to ignore the man’s works until I had a full on chance to see where he began. And to see that he had also been involved in numerous support roles in recent shows including Rebuild Of Evangelion, it only felt right to finally dive in, and see where he stood amongst other indie luminaries such as Makoto Shinkai. How little I knew how much I wold actually grow to admire his potential after finally seeing Pale Cocoon for myself. Even if it is a pretty scrappy piece of work, and offers little to grasp onto writing-wise, I was impressed by his visual style, and wish to tackle some heady science-fiction regarding human neglect and its will to better grasp the hows and whys. So finally, the chance came to explore his first full-blown series experiment in the form of a six episodes that were released as online only.(streaming for the series began with episode one in October of 2008, and streamed the finale in September of 2009) Unsure of such a proposition, there indeed was a little worry on my part going in, but it can now be safely said that Yoshiura has himself a compelling creature in the form of Even No Jikan. And as of this writing, the series has not only completed its brief run, but has also experienced a theatrical version run earlier this year. And there are few shows today, so willing to merge the shell of anime & the thoughtfulness of good science fiction that this comes as a grand exhale of minty cool in an era bereft of anything but disparate gimmicks.
Rikuo Kikuhara is a high schooler, living with his often away from home parents, an older sister seemingly residing in the family living room, and with Sammy, dutiful home servant. Only it seems that her daily activities aside from the requisite cooking, cleaning, and shopping expected of androids of her type, has been found unaccountable over several instances of time outside the house. Shopping and errands are taking an unrealistic amount of time. No explanation forthcoming, and troubled by a bizarre message in the Sammy’s data logs, Rikuo takes it upon himself, along with mechanically prejudiced classmate Masaki to trace the servant’s steps to discover the truth behind her mysterious disappearances. No sooner do they come across a doorway in an undisclosed alley, leading the duo to Eve No Jikan (Time Of Eve) a hidden cafe especially designed for both robots and humans to co-exist calmly, welcoming new customers with a sign signifying the cafe’s singular rule: “There is to be no discrimination between robots and humans”
It is here that Rikuo & Masaki begin to meet the cafe’s few patrons, and within six brief episodes, explore their own feelings on a world populated by machines from those created by man, and those self-made by a society afraid of its own shadow. The social implications of a populace surrounded by subservient creations has been a staple of not merely anime, but of literate science fiction for well over several decades now, and Yoshiura’s short series is definitely another in this pantheon, but has an interesting distinction in how it treats the subject matter with an unexpected reverence for Asimov’s concerns, and places them in a more intimate setting. Watching the complete series, there are only five settings throughout the entire project, the majority of which takes place in Eve No Jikan as the undisclosed nation outside brims with a growing miasma of prejudice against the mechanical whom have comfortably nestled into every part of the societal body. Many stories have covered this material before, but to take the quiet , kuuki-kei approach is a novel one closer in tone to an episode of The Outer Limits than Blade Runner, that is, if TOL had an episode comfortable with a cup of coffee and good conversation.
Each episode centers on Rikuo’s reaction upon getting to know each patron on a new level, as the publicly mandated “haloes” are removed, and the machines take on a more relaxed, almost human form in the safety of the cafe. Among the unique visitors to the establishment are chatty Akiko, enigmatic couple Koji & Rina, playful child Chie and her elder guardian Shimei whom each bear a tale placing pre-established beliefs into question. All the while, a world less understanding in the form of the little known, but media strongarm movement known as The Ethics Committee is making moves against robot-safe regions known as Grey Zones in greater metropolitan areas. The contrast between Rikuo’s growing understanding of a changing world, as well as the building tension within the less-than receptive Masaki (who’s background makes for an interesting, albeit simplistic counterpoint) make for a quietly escalating war of notions on what it means to integrate our mecha brethren into our daily lives.
And even as these oft-told stories have indeed been a part of anime & manga for quite some time, Yoshiura’s take is a much more a thinly-veiled look at the modern japanese experience, than another robot parable for the ages. As Rikuo begins to peel past the layers of what he had once understood about his world, it is clear that he himself has long put away vital feelings in order to better align with the group dynamic. From seeing how Sammy regards her so-called owners with respect, and maybe even adoration, Rikuo starts to see the blurring of any lines that had once been placed there by a young public, unsure exactly why it felt so compelled to create simulacra capable of expressing what they themselves cannot. In the ideal eyes of cafe hostess Nagi, empathy akin to hers is something often placed aside in the outside world, and has helped fashion an environment where dependence on the indirect nature of the masses has no application. From the glowing haloes hovering over the heads of programmed servants outdoors in a grand means to delineate human from machine makes for an interesting look at aesthetic dependence in hopes of maintaining an image of order in a time where so many are in fact not on any grid whatsoever. The self-imposed denial of externalized feelings has been relegated to prime status, as progress marches on with a public trapped in an eternal adolescence, completely unsure of what to make of the new world they have created.
It is also telling in the series how machines are often treated with the stressful disdain of meaningless objects, while those closer with their mechanical counterparts are being seen as a social anomaly. Rikuo’s growing respect for the folks of Eve No Jikan runs counter to popular belief, and thus brings some burning dilemmas to light in what could easily have been another CG-laden blob of nonsense. Much like the id-pressure valves video games can offer us, it is easy to succumb toward objects with the same kind of general disregard, but as Eve No Jikan displays (as did sections of The Animatrix-most notably Mahiro Maeda’s The Second Renaissance), the treatment of those who share a resemblance toward their creators gives us a stark look into our disconnected natures. So just as the show helps us better see the robots as potentially sympathetic creatures with personalities & frailties of their own, it gives us a more contextural view of this dilemma than merely fiery violence, and robogore. More interested in the subtle, Yoshiura’s theme playfully shows us more than tells. Something that is also refreshing in anime series of this kind. There is even room for sly humor when an outdated pre-humanoid model shows up, demanding the treatment given to any patron, nasty glitches and all.
Despite the budget upgrade from Cocoon, the series is clearly done with limited means, and takes full advantage with some often lovely production savvy that can compete with some of tv’s strongest works over the last decade. At times it’s a lovely mix between 3D and 2D, and offers some lush images rife with a muted coffee color that invites a more relaxed atmo, perfect for the stories inherent. Also worth nothing are fine performances by Rie Tanaka, Kenji Nojima, & even Ritsuko Akagi herself, Yuriko Yamaguchi who bring an almost retro-feel to the proceedings. There are also weaknesses as the pacing at times feels a little unsure of itself early in the series, but soon after, it begins to pick up once the writing becomes a lot more comfortable with the setting. It becomes clear later on that there were characters they were much more interested in exploring come later episodes.
So all in all, the world of Eve No Jikan seems ready to expand into other areas as it all ends on an incomplete note. Whether or not this comes to pass, I personally am fine with brevity. But the series does offer enchantments few shows can with such a limited budget. There is truly a large scope outside the walls of this place, but perhaps it is up to us to fill in those gaps with what it is we intend to bring to the discussion.