Catching Up On Anime – May 2015

Two of these post back to back? What is even happening lately? A lot. I got a new PC, one that can actually run videogames, and I played a lot of those. Not helping that this post is late because not only have I been watching too much anime, I’ve been watching a lot of anime that is hard to do justice in a combined monthly post.

This is going to be a long one.

As always, if you want to read last month’s post to compare how I previously felt about a series or see what else I’ve been watching lately, you can read last month’s report here.

[HorribleSubs] Fate Stay Night - Unlimited Blade Works - 19 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.10_[2015.06.03_21.01.20]Fate/stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works

Ufotable’s rendition of the Unlimited Blade Works route in Fate/stay Night is, so far, an excellent version of this story, but it isn’t flawless by any means. Keep in mind, I’m part of the anime-only audience for this show, as I haven’t experienced the visual novel and my only previous experiences with the franchise are Deen’s original anime and Fate/zero.Yeah, I’m horrible I know.

The reason I’m explaining my position is because I’ve seen other anime-only people write in-depth about the flaws of UBW, and the way they tackle the series makes it very clear that they don’t understand what the show is or what it is trying to do. Judging the Fate series as a straight-up shonen fighter and complaining about the lack of action scenes right out of the gate is a very bad way to start your review of a series that isn’t trying to make that the main focus. That said, I do understand that feeling of frustration at both the lack of fights and the underwhelming delivery of a few of the recent ones when looking at the way Ufotable has presented the show so far. The fights are the carrot at the end of the stick, causing most of the audience to stay until the end, even if the fights aren’t resolved by the raw power of the people involved, but by their arguments and their resolve on a slightly deeper level. Not having played the VN, I can’t say for sure, but I would put this down as a result of being based on media format that branches off into different paths based on your choices.

In a weekly 20 minute format, this can make the show feel drawn out and slow, as if nothing is happening, even as moral boundaries are set and expanded, and characters are defined and grow, each and every week. The problem isn’t Ufotable and their version of Unlimited Blade Works, the problem is the narrative isn’t fitting the format. It might not even really be that, as I’m sure most of the problems people are having with the format are going to disappear when binged after it finished airing.

As for the actual story, I’m not that big a fan of any of the characters besides Lancer. Although I do have to admit I like the dynamic between Emiya Shirou and his future self, something that especially comes out all the stronger for having Fate/zero’s Emiya Kiritsugu in the background.

The series is almost over, but I think it’s safe to say that this will be the best anime version of an original Fate/stay Night route.

[HorribleSubs] JoJo's Bizarre Adventure - Stardust Crusaders Egypt Arc - 45 [720p].mkv_snapshot_02.53_[2015.05.29_22.14.45]JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders Part 2 – Egypt Arc

Where did it all go so wrong for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure? Was it the start of Part 3? It was, wasn’t it? Already one of the weaker parts of the manga, David Production’s exaggerated take on the manga artstyle and lack of movement to really underline the (lack of) detail is not looking too good, especially not with the underwhelming introduction to DIO’s World.

I don’t even know where to begin here.

At the start of the anime, I’d expected the change in coloring at the start of every conflict to tie into the DIO fight and have him appear in full color at night through it. The clunky animations didn’t seem that big an issue, as they were sure to be saving their budget for the big blowout at the end. These would have all been understandable choices. Instead, DIO’s bright color scheme is not only working against him as he constantly looks covered in mud, his features make him look like a Kakyoin alternative costume. The longer this goes on, the more I’m hoping David Production is staying away from JoJo Part 4: Diamond is Unbreakable. The problem isn’t even that JoJo Part 3 is bad, the problem is that JoJo Part 1 and 2 had such a stellar presentation that it’s just unbelievable how hard the ball is being dropped in the one story arc that should have been all about strong visual presentations as there isn’t really much else going on with it in terms of writing or characters.

[HorribleSubs] Shokugeki no Soma - 09 [720p].mkv_snapshot_13.17_[2015.06.01_23.24.49]Shokugeki no Soma

You ever envisioned food being so bad that it is literally sexually assaulting you? Ever had a meal so good you actually had an orgasm over it, right there at the table? If you have, or would like to experience this, Shokugeki no Soma is the show for you.

My only point of reference for cooking anime being Yakitate Japan, I somewhat knew what I was expecting going in. As much as you can expect anything from the complete absurdity of this show. I know there will be people angry by default at it for being a fanservice show. And yes, it does go both ways with the fanservice as men do get naked and have absurd responses too. The thing that really gets to me in this show is that the language used to describe the food after tasting is actually a lot more in-depth than anything you’ll hear in an actual Japanese cooking show, where everything is just really “Ooiiishiiiii!!” according to the idol of the week. I know that’s an odd thing to focus on in a series like this, but I don’t care.

[HorribleSubs] Punch Line - 08 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.58_[2015.06.05_15.27.35]Punch Line

I’m surprised I haven’t been called out on watching two fanservice heavy shows this season by anyone, as I usually stay away from them. My problem with those kinds of series isn’t the inclusion of fanservice of them being “pervy” or “gross” like most people opposed to them, it’s that in most cases, the shows is about them and it’s just not that appealing to me as a center point as I can just turn on porn instead if I want that. I previously wrote that Punch Line’s entire concept was so insane that I had to watch it, and I’ve since learned that the guy who made it, Uchikoshi Kotaro, was behind the Zero Escape series. Which not only explains the absolutely crazy plot, the focus on psychological and spiritual powers, but also the gas masks.

Not sure what to make of the “BIG PLOT TWIST” that changes everything, or at least, the reaction to it, as there were two major ones back to back and most people I’ve seen mention the big twist want to stay quiet on it for others to experience it themselves. One was obvious from the start, and the other changes nothing about any of the characters in the show unless you’re an internet crusader trying to score social justice points.

That said, Punch Line is one of the better series currently airing and I’m really enjoying it.

[HorribleSubs] Arslan Senki - 06 [720p].mkv_snapshot_17.25_[2015.05.16_06.09.11]Arslan Senki

This show is a really big disappointment, and I think Digibro really hit the nail on the head as to why it is one while examining other Tanaka Yoshiki series, even if he mainly focused on what makes Legend of the Galactic Heroes work so well from an animation standpoint. I won’t go too in-depth about Arslan Senki and urge you to watch that video instead.

I do want to point out that there are small glimpses of greatness with the characters and writing at times. It clearly a product of Yoshiki Tanaka, and I’m tempted to read the Arakawa Hiromu manga adaptation to see at what step towards anime it went wrong, as I get the feeling that while the manga did oversimplify everything about the story, it at least was a good telling of it for the format, while the anime is another story of the production crew following the manga panels to the detriment of the product.

[gg]_Anime_Mirai_2013_-_Little_Witch_Academia_(BD,720p)_[9E6DE408].mkv_snapshot_18.08_[2015.05.19_02.01.46]Little Witch Academia

At this point people are probably aware of my dislike of Trigger as a studio, and my disdain of Hiroyuki Imaishi as a director. For a second, I thought I’d finally found my one anime by him that I enjoyed, but then I learned he had no real involvement with this project. Good on you, Trigger, for finally saving anime with something that’s actually good without relying on cheap nostalgia to engage your audience every step of the way. Also, good on you, everyone on Twitter that told me to watch this. I was wrong in ignoring it for so long and I’m happy I finally saw it.

Trigger announced a full movie sequel recently and I can’t wait to see it.

[Mazui]_Katanagatari_-_12_[32DE9A50].mkv_snapshot_42.27_[2015.05.18_07.03.22]Katanagatari

Nothing I can say will ever do this show justice. This month’s post was largely delayed because of Katanagatari and the stellar finale to the series. I’ve been scrambling for words for over a week now, and they’re just not there. I could tell you what I like most about it, but there’s a lot of things I like most about it. It was a great ride from start to finish, but then at the end it just delivers what I would consider the best finale in anime.

But that’s not even entirely the point. Katanagatari doesn’t just go out with a bang. It doesn’t have the one big flashy thing. Katanagatari is one of the most consistent series from beginning to end out there. The unconventional format, 12 episodes, each about an hour in length, not only allows for good character development and strong buildup throughout the series, but it also allows the series to have a fully fleshed out story arc within each and every episode. In a time where most studios don’t seem to know what to do with the 12 episodes they have for their season, it’s refreshing to see a series take an extended take on the format with no wasted movement anywhere to be found.

I don’t mean that in a sense that the series has no filler or downtime. There is a lot of downtime in Katanagatari that helps set the mood, the characters, and the plot. There’s a lot of comedy thrown in that helps you grow more attached to the characters on their journey. There’s a lot of everything in each episode that helps bring it all together in a larger experience without sacrificing overall focus.

Not only that, but in terms of animation quality it is one of the most consistent series out there. While at no point extraordinary or of a higher quality than other shows, it does beat most of the series with higher quality animations with a stronger sense of consistency than them. Unlike, say, Trigger, who will blow your mind with superb animations next scene, but then get stuck with 2 frames of animations per second because they ran out of money only moments later.

Shichika starts off as your typical aloof main character, but by the end of the show he really ends up going far beyond not only my expectations, but also what I could have hoped for in a main character. My only regret in Katanagatari is not having more Katanagatari left to watch after it was over, and when a series gives you that sort of feeling, you know it was a good ride.

Watch Katanagatari. You owe it to yourself.

[OZC]Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam E50 'Riders in the Skies'.mkv_snapshot_19.53_[2015.05.08_20.42.26]Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam

As I’m still going through the Gundam franchise, I’m already starting to feel the sadness of there never really being another Zeta Gundam ever again. It is, for me, the definitive Gundam experience. Everything aligns, and works. There aren’t too many shows where I would admit that the things I don’t like about them are there for a very good reason for them being there. In Zeta Gundam it largely comes back to how it utilizes its characters to tell a story.

Katz Kobayashi is a terrible character and I hated him every step of the way. Remember that, I’ll get back to it very soon.

Kamille Bidan’s deep and multi-layered character compellingly contextualizes the rest of the experience; Making it truly memorable. He’s the centerpoint of the series, and instead of being a protagonist that overcomes the odds at all turns, he’s a young ambitious kid who got involved in a war that has nothing to do with him for the wrong reasons. Quattro Bajeena, a veteran of the war in the original show is originally introduced as an ideal soldier figure to Kamille to strive to become. Along the way, Amuro Ray, the protagonist of the original show, is brought in as a mirror to Kamille as to what he could become if he takes the wrong route or reflects on his choices badly during the current conflict. After the war, Amuro gave up on himself, never getting over that war brought into his life, denying himself of his own enjoyment of it. In the meantime, Quattro, better known to Amuro as Char Aznable during the war, is blinded by his own ideals and ego. Somewhere along the series we see Kamille dealing with situations better than Quattro did as part of his growth throughout the series.

In the middle of all of this, we have Katz Kobayashi, a different path Kamille could have taken. Katz is insubordinate, hot-headed, and too young to fully understand the reality of his own actions. In a lot of ways, he’s a lot like Kamille was at the start of the series, and him repeatedly fucking up shows just how far Kamille has come.

The reason I’m explaining this is because this is the kind of writing Zeta Gundam has. The appeal of the series, and also the reason why shows like this probably won’t be made again any time soon. Characters aren’t just there going through their own arcs individually, or there to point out the differences between him and the main character. All the characters reflect back and forth on one another. Just like Amuro and Quattro’s presence have meaning to Kamille’s character, they off-set each other as well as they do someone like Katz, especially in Amuro’s case. There is a whole web of characters being analyzed, not by having it made clear through dialogue, but by their sheer presence and smaller interactions. Creating a sense of depth that even most book series with larger casts of characters never quite achieve quite as well.

8905-episode-001-prelude-zz.avi_snapshot_19.08_[2015.05.09_02.07.47]Mobile Suit ZZ Gundam

I got through 2 episodes and then decided this just wasn’t for me.

The first episode was a clipshow about Zeta Gundam and a trailer for the second episode. The second episode was the real first episode. When your entire first episode doesn’t even really contain actual content, I’m just not interested. It’s not helping that the second episode wasn’t all that great either. It’s probably a passable show, but passable isn’t good enough when you’ve just finished Zeta Gundam. Maybe I’ll give it another chance in the future, but as for now, I’m fine with skipping it entirely.

[OZC]Mobile Suit Gundam Char's Counterattack 720p Rerelease.mkv_snapshot_00.51.50_[2015.05.10_05.59.27]Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack

Not as bad as some people make it out to be, but it feels like a missed opportunity. Char was supposed to be in ZZ Gundam, but his time was cut from the show when it became clear he was going to have his own movie. The movie in the meantime, seems to have been made with the idea that ZZ Gundam was going to set up the events that transpired in this movie because going into it you get the sense that there’s a lot of information missing as it essentially starts off right in the middle of the second act.

What we got is a confusing but very good movie that is a disappointment if you consider it’s supposed to end the story for two of the most iconic characters in the franchise. Character motivations aren’t just hard to grasp, they’re simply never explained, although reading supplementary information about the movie does help with that.

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