Summer Split Two — #2: Jumping over Hurdles

SummerSplit1_2

Summer Split continues! This week – bizarre Japanese mythology, school milk fiestas, and troubles in the lovesphere?

Stella Jogakuin-ka C3-bu Episode 4

illegenes: There’s been a lot of buzz regarding the latest C3-bu and how it diverges from the original manga material. Some claim that this was GAINAX’s intent all along and the manga was even just a ruse to draw people into the series for adaptation, while others are just suggesting that the entire thing is nonsense and this is just GAINAX being…well, GAINAX. Whatever the reason may be, there is one fact: this week’s C3-bu was not manga adaptation, and completely jumps on new material.

Is this for better or worse? I can’t exactly say for sure, but what I can say is that this episode didn’t take the fun out of C3-bu for me, so I’m still planning on watching it. Seeing how Yura has polished her strengths and overcome her weaknesses with simple charm and grace is a reason I even bothered to watch C3-bu, and the show hasn’t changed that. The episode combines a bit of Matrix, Japanese mythology, and plenty of imagination to keep me engrossed for 20 full minutes. Was it slightly cheesy? Yes. Was it brilliant? Definitely. Yura’s imagination finally coming into life in the form of a Reality Marble was really fascinating, and while I hope C3-bu doesn’t take a large leap into supernatural elements, I think a bit of dabbling does coincide with Yura’s vivid passion to daydream and take imagination into the battlefield; a trait that would usually be considered as useless but is used to Yura’s advantage as she can ‘see’ the world in a different way that fits her standards. I give points to GAINAX by giving us a new spin on the training episode that we often see in anime, and I hope they continue to keep making C3-bu interesting and fresh every week like they’ve done for the past few.

Rozen Maiden Zurückspulen Episode 4

illegenes: Would you all take me seriously if I said Rozen Maiden was the one show I looked forward to the most? Probably not! But it’s true, don’t get me wrong – Uchouten Kazoku may be the best show of the season for me, but Rozen Maiden is the most surprisingly good show here, keeping me on the tip of my toes, eagerly awaiting what’s to come in next week’s installment. There is something sincerely charming about the show and how it manages to flow between the elements of fantasy and the elements of slice of life, creating a delightful mix of the two. Whether it takes the form of Jun’s dreams and conversations with Shinku, or the dialogue between Jun and his coworker (girlfriend) , the show is smooth, light, and entertaining.

Whereas the previous two episodes of Rozen Maiden focused on an older Jun’s life and how he struggled with depression, this week’s episode focuses more on the interaction between Shinku and Jun as he tries to keep his job going, go to college, and figure out what’s going on in the other universe. We get a little more light shed on the situation: younger Jun is trapped in Kirakishou’s alternate reality with several of the other dolls.  What I do enjoy is how the show doesn’t switch to younger Jun’s role in that reality; rather, it focuses on older Jun and keeps the audience in the dark as much as he is. It keeps the suspense real and captivating.

The heart of this episode is the interaction between Shinku and a different Jun; one she doesn’t really recognize, and you can tell she almost misses the younger Jun by the way she talks and acts. It’s a nice touch of subtlety that I enjoy watching.

Shinku apparently has the convenience of summoning another doll self (the one that exists in this world) and sends her Rosa Mystica here. The problem is that there’s a time limit to her stay in another body: seven days. While this sounds intense, it does give me a sense of comfort, because one worry I had for Zuruckspulen was whether it would have a complete story when the manga was still running. Seven days sounds like an appropriate amount of time for the show to cover in another 9 episodes, as long as it starts picking up the pace and making the plot intensify little by little – something it already has the knack of doing, so I’m not worrying too much.

Gatchaman Crowds Episode 3

gallifreyians: Kenji Nakamura has chosen to explore the modern identity of Japan with respect to the internet in Gatchaman Crowds. Initially I couldn’t decide if the show was dedicated to deriding the phenomenon of the internet or praising it, what with all of the dearth of both criticism of things like gamification and praise of social networking — then I realized that this was the point. Gatchaman isn’t going to dabble with a plethora of themes or half-heartedly explore whatever Nakamura wants to; Kenji Nakamura is going to stick to his guns and build Gatchaman Crowds around the core themes of the internet, gamification, and social-networking.

And to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The promise of the idea of Gatchaman that has been built up over these past few episodes is too much, too big, too great, to pass up. If enough time is invested into the exploration of these themes and if that time is well spent and executed with the proper directoral skill, Gatchaman Crowds could easily be a 10/10 for me. Those are quite substantial if’s however, and while I think that given the past episodes we are on the road to success, I do have some major qualms about the skill of Kenji Nakamura.

Nakamura’s lastest anime was Tsuritama in the spring season of 2012, and it is the failure of that anime that really makes me question wether Nakamura can do Gatchaman justice. By the end of the show it was entirely evident that Nakamura had segmented the show in two: the first nine episodes were devoted to the characters, with the last four being reserved solely for plot developments. While not necessarily a bad choice, it wasn’t a good one either — as a result, the ending of Tsuritama was rushed and distant from the character arcs of the first nine episodes. Not only that, but the themes and motifs established in the delightful first handful of episodes were quickly dropped and became irrelevant by the end of the show, hardly getting the kind of exploration that they deserved.

Hence my fear for Gatchaman Crowds. Kenji Nakamura does not have the best track record when it comes to the narrative construction of his shows, and a little more than a year how much could he have really changed and improved as a director? While I have the highest of hopes for this series, being the optimist that I am, the future of Gatchaman is really up in the air.

illegenes: Like an onion, Gatchaman slowly peels off its outer layers as we start getting some of the juicier tidbits for what lies ahead. This doesn’t take the form of some mass conspiracy, revealed in Game of Thrones format, but rather a comical plot that takes place at school. In the form of milk. Yeah, you heard that right. This episode could have aptly been called Disastrous Milk.

I do like the idea and even appreciate it in theory – displaying some of the strengths of the mass public when they get together, united by a superior and vast technological interface, all the while giving off hints about how GALAX isn’t necessarily the most appreciated innovation on the block. Setting the conflict inside a school would be appropriate to involve the main cast and learn more about how GALAX functions on a mass level rather than an individual one (though we see that too, with Professor X in the earlier part of the episode). My problem is that while on paper, the idea sounds amazing, it’s a bit of a mess when actually executed. The problem with Gatchaman is that there’s far too much going on for me to pay attention to everything, and so when you’re trying to set up this idea that relies on slow pacing and intensity, crowded execution messes up the result. And thus, instead of having this really brilliant setup on our hands, we have a tangle of ideas and halfway said messages and in the end, the issue is that I can’t make heads or tails of where Gatchaman is going and what it’s truly trying to get at. The large – and I mean, extremely large – assumption that a director of a milk company would be so arrogant to purposefully let spoiled milk enter school grounds (despite officers and everyone else telling him to dispose of it) seems like such a big flaw in the plan when Gatchaman relies on well-played cards. Forget the convenience of that one school being Hajime’s school; a detail I can forgive when the show is about interconnectedness in the first place. It’s just that when everything else in the world of Gatchaman doesn’t rely on convenience, the one blip of information that does really stands out, and that’s what happened here.  There’s also the jarring mix of comedy with information; we have Hajime and Sugane’s antics which are fun to laugh at, but they are weirdly dissonant in comparison to the news of the prime minister stepping down, or Rui’s discussion of how not everyone is warming up to the idea of GALAX being used in their life.

I do enjoy Hajime’s interactions however; she reveals a lot of insight about the limitations of certain characters’ points of view in a very…eccentric but direct fashion.

It really has to do with how Gatchaman is trying to bring things together, but has so many strings to attach at the same time that it becomes a bit of a mess in the beginning. There’s no doubt that when things do converge – which is soon, betting on how this week ended with our first confrontation with the alien – that the explosion will be excellent and well worth it, but I do wish the pacing beforehand was better.  What matters the most for me however, are the final results; Gatchaman is promising in that aspect, which leads me to hope that the later episodes will be much more well executed than this one.

Kimi no Iru Machi Episodes 2-3

illegenes: Kimi no Iru Machi has a problem.

It’s not like I take issues with KNIM‘s characters or plot – the idea is decent enough, and I do enjoy the main protagonist and his interactions with the other girls in the city. But as the show took a step back and gave us two weeks’ worth of flashbacks, it occured to me that there is an increasingly large fault in Shigeyasu’s direction. It’s not necessarily his visual counterpart; KNIM uses a variety of colors and while the vivid pinks can sometimes be a little disorienting, it’s not distracting me from the story in any way. The voice acting is sometimes a little forced, but it’s bearable and I can distinguish who is who quite easily.  The biggest problem with Kimi no Iru Machi is the writing and pacing.  What’s being said and what’s being shown are two very different things, and it causes a very powerful sense of dissonance that keeps me from being engaged in what’s going on.

 

Shigeyasu’s style is meant for introspection, prolonged thoughts and moments, and the beauty of those moments on a microscopic scale. It works perfectly for Casshern Sins which focuses on those moments and how delicate they are to the human condition. But here, in Kimi no Iru Machi, it just clashes directly with the kind of writing done. Not only is KNIM fast-paced; it’s disjointed and crammed. One moment turns into the next in a blink of an eye. There’s little transitioning, and thus it really feels like I’m watching 4 volumes of manga being packed into three episodes. None of the characters are really defined by key moments, thus wasting Shigeyasu’s artsy direction and becoming a clutter of pretty, but ultimately empty, moments.

It’s a shame because despite all the wars and fandom battles, I think KNIM has some really great touches to it, and could be something more than just a hastily put together anime about romance and relationships. I won’t start any finger pointing, but with bias set aside (hopefully) I don’t think the problem is Shigeyasu – it’s the time constraints, and I can only wonder how this severe handicap is going to affect the rest of the show.

Advertisements

Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s