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Archive for December, 2013

Kyousou Giga

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In the December of 2011, the Kyousou Giga ONA was released. By all accounts it was 25 minutes of colourful, interesting and imaginative confusion and borderline nonsense. I wouldn’t know though; I didn’t watch it. Why not? It was only ever made available in low-definition streaming quality, and as a result looked like ass. For what seemed like a one-off, it didn’t seem worth the trouble for me. But some people were quite intrigued by it, because while it was incomprehensible, it seemed like there was definitely some sort of story there waiting to be told, if only it had more time to do so. And come the following year, a series of shorter ONAs were released showing more of the world from the original ONA as well as some wacky shenanigans and whatnot. It was clearly not the proper story, and it was also only released in eyecancer quality so I skipped over them as well. Still, this little project was generating a lot of buzz, so I was very curious to see what could come out of it.

Flash forward to this year, and Kyousou Giga finally gets a proper TV series! With full-length episodes in real visual quality and everything! Naturally, I took this opportunity to jump into it, and was greeted by a strange, inspired and original story about family, love and rebirth.

Still a little confusing though.

Once upon a time, there existed many realms, and the line between man and god was ill-defined.

Once upon a time, there existed many realms, and the line between man and god was ill-defined.

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Non Non Biyori

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‘Iyashikei’ is one of my favourite subgenres of anime. If you’re unaware, it’s a type of slice-of-life that’s typically more slow-paced, more contemplative, quieter, more peaceful and rife with scenery porn. It’s also often referred to as “healing anime”, which is a fairly accurate description – the point of such shows is to relax the viewer and make them feel more positive and put them into a more optimistic and peaceful state of mind. It can be a bit of a divisive subgenre, as some find the slow pace boring or that the purposeful lack of meaningful conflict renders it pointless, but I myself love it. Non Non Biyori is the latest iyashikei anime to air, and it’s suitably pleasant.

Hotaru is a fifth grade elementary school girl (but looks a fair bit older thanks to her height) who has to move to the countryside due to her father’s work, transferring into the ‘local’ school. Turns out said school literally has a single class, comprising five students – Hotaru herself, the first through third year middle school student siblings Natsumi, Komari and Suguru, and finally the first grade elementary school girl (and sister of the teacher) Renge, otherwise known as Ren-chon. Together (well, mostly without Suguru) they hang out, have fun, and generally enjoy the little things that the countryside has to offer.

Welcome to the middle of nowhere, population: joy

Welcome to the middle of nowhere, population: joy

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I’m a big fan of Hidamari Sketch. I love the positive, relaxed atmosphere. I love the gentle, kind-hearted humour. I love the closeness and warmth between the characters. It’s just a delightful series to watch, a perfect pick-me-up and a great way to raise your mood. As is always the case with these cute-girls-doing-cute-things series the inseparableness of the core characters, the way they are just such good friends, is one of the best parts about it, and a relative constant. Even more so considering they live away from home, together in the same apartment complex; with Hidamari Sketch, there’s definitely this feeling that they’ll always be with each other.

But the fate of any cute-girls-doing-cute-things series that lasts long enough is everyone graduating. It’s always a bittersweet time to see them have to leave their school and the comfortable familiarity and reliability of their friendship there, but there’s also a nice sense of them facing their future together, as they all graduate at once.

Suffice to say, the Sae and Hiro graduation OVA was something I was equally dreading and looking forward to since it was announced early in the year.

But I don’t want these two to leave ;_;

But I don’t want these two to leave ;_;

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Samurai Flamenco was quite the pleasant surprise when it started airing. The story of a young model that had nothing going for him aside for his looks, and yet aspired to be a superhero like in the tokusatsu series he was obsessed with. Well, he also had his incredibly strong sense of justice and amazing perseverance in the face of, uh, being beat up by middle-schoolers. It was an interesting take on the superhero genre, having someone who is just an ordinary man wanting to do some good in the world through anonymous vigilantism, because it examined the expectations and limitations of his capabilities, and the way the public would actually likely react to such an individual.

The inclusion of the 20-something policeman Gotou added a lot in this regard, as being (at least at first) the only person who knew that Masayoshi was doing the whole Samurai Flamenco thing. The two of them bonded over a shared enjoyment of old tokusatsu series, and the contrast between the two – how they both believed in justice and wanted to fight for it, but just took different approaches – made for an interesting dynamic. It also allowed us to see how the police would react to a vigilante, at first condemning but eventually embracing him for PR reasons once it turned out that the public had grown fond of him. And for a little PR stunt, they invited Samurai Flamenco along to a drug sting, obviously only allowing him in once it was safe inside.

Let’s just say it didn’t quite go as planned…

If you haven't watched this series yet, I HIGHLY recommend watching the first 7 episodes before reading ahead

If you haven’t watched this series yet, I HIGHLY recommend watching the first 7 episodes before reading ahead

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As with last year, I took part in Reverse Thieves’ Anime Secret Santa project this Christmas! If you don’t already know, it’s when a bunch of anibloggers secretly gift each other three anime recommendations (obviously with the ‘Santa’ kept secret), with the stipulation that recipients have to watch at least one of them and post up a review.

Last year worked out pretty well for me, as I ended up enjoying two out of the three gifted to me a great deal. This year I received Michiko to Hatchin, Gankutsuou and HeatGuy J. I actually already had Gankutsuou downloaded with plans to watch at some point, and had heard of Michiko to Hatchin already (having passed it up for some reason or another when I was indirectly recommended it a couple of years back), but HeatGuy J was a complete mystery to me. A pretty good spread of familiarity if you ask me, and ideal considering I was going to be watching all three of them, much like last year.

Unfortunately, real life had other plans, and I straight up did not have the time to watch more than one of them. Now that I’m in my final year the uni work got quite heavy, and I was also rocking a pretty bad Dark Souls addiction. Still, I was able to watch one of them, at least fulfilling my obligations! So I’d like to offer an apology to my Santa – I wanted to watch all three of them, I really did! And I’ll get round to them at some point – I have all three downloaded. But maybe giving me three 2-cours series was not a great idea?

In the end I decided to go with Michiko to Hatchin, partially because it wasn’t already on my backlog, partially because the premise sounded pretty cool, partially because it was only 22 episodes, and partially because it was the only available in 720p.

¡Feliz Navidad!

¡Feliz Navidad!

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How do you take a cute-girls-doing-cute-things series that, while possessing a bit of an original setup, is rather unremarkable, and make it utterly unforgettable.

You do what Kiniro Mosaic did.

You make the finale – the entire last third of the episode – into something fucking awesome.

I HIGHLY recommend watching this series for yourself, because half the fun of this sequence is how unexpected it is

I HIGHLY recommend watching this series for yourself, because half the fun of this sequence is how unexpected it is

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Phi Brain S3 has a dubstep eyecatch.

Dubstep. Eyecatch.

WOOOB WOBWOBWOBWOB WOB WOB

WOOOB WOBWOBWOBWOB WOB WOB

I burst out laughing as soon as I saw it in the first episode. I fucking love this show so goddamn much, and this shows just how absurd and amazing it all is and is somehow amazingly perfectly representative of the Phi Brain experience.

The only reason I chose this instead of the hilariously cheesy ED sung awfully by the cast is because this came sooner.

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This moment wasn’t picked because it was outstandingly awesome, inspired some extreme and unforgettable feelings in me, or was some incredible shock; it was simply because it is the most sublime, most perfect moment out of anything I’ve watched this year.

It occurred in the first half of episode 6 of Eccentric Family, a series I greatly enjoyed. The previous episode had Yasaburou end up in a meeting of the Friday Fellows, and had to entertain them while concealing the fact that he’s a tanuki. After the meeting, Benten takes Yasaburou and the professor who loves tanuki’s on a moonlit rooftop run, ending up in a small park above the city streets where all the trees have had their leaves turn red and gold with the changing seasons. And in this quiet and gentle setting, the professor discusses the time he first met Benten, and how she was talking to a captured tanuki.

While a fairly dialogue-light sequence, it is nonetheless where we learn the most about Benten, about her character and her feelings. Considering her status as an enigma, a self-established mystery largely unknowable to anybody, this is obviously hugely important, but curiously her nature is most revealed through what is not said, or at least not directly.

"The moon is pretty, but I feel sad all the same"

“The moon is pretty, but I feel sad all the same”

The professor had stated previously that he loves tanuki above all else, and it is this love that compels him to eat them. It’s a desire to love every last bit of them. So when Benten starts walking away sadly and Yasaburou asks her what the matter is, her reply of “Stay back, or I’ll eat you” is incredibly telling. It was no coincidence that the professor was there with them, and given the context and tone of her voice the meaning is clear, but attention is never drawn to it. We’re never given confirmation, but I can’t see what else it could mean.

This careful, uncertain, and hugely significant reveal is remarkably powerful in itself, being incredibly subdued, but when taken with the composition of the scene – the colours, the lighting, the music, the direction – it just left me feeling… satisfied. Fulfilled. Moved. The only way I can describe it is that it’s sublime, truly, and it was the only moment from this year that I can describe as such with no reservations whatsoever. It was beautiful in every single way it could be.

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Galilei Donna

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No review of a noitaminA series is complete without a discussion about the perceived declining quality in its programming in recent years, is it? Starting with Fractale, there have been more and more series on the timeslot that have not only been mediocre or uninspired, but even outright terrible! Black Rock Shooter and Guilty Crown are easily the worst offenders, but there’s been plenty that just… don’t feel like noitaminA series? Not in the way series during the ‘classic’ era of noitaminA were, at any rate. Psycho-Pass, Robotics;Notes and Silver Spoon are some notable recent examples of shows that, frankly, could have been on any timeslot regardless of how good they may have been; there was nothing that made them feel like a noitaminA show. The most recent season that fits the bill would probably be spring 2012, with the fantastic double whammy of Tsuritama and Kids on the Slope.

2013 in particular had been a pretty concerning year for the previously esteemed timeslot – the winter season was just the second halves of autumn season shows, spring was dedicated to a Katanagatari reairing of all things, and summer only had Silver Spoon (as excellent as it was). But the autumn season inspired some hope that maybe things could change – two completely original series, with imaginative premises and some interesting promo art. One of which was Galilei Donna, a story about the three Ferrari sisters, who are all descendants of Galileo Galilei and end up on international wanted lists quite early on.

Now that feels like a return to the good ol’ days of noitaminA! That said…

Spoilers ahead and why is there a goldfish?

Spoilers ahead and why is there a goldfish?

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Short series – those with a runtime length of only a few minutes per episode – can be a bit of a mixed bag, so it’s always nice when one comes along and turns out to be rather enjoyable.

Super Seisyun Brothers is a slice-of-life series about 2 pairs of siblings, the Saitous and the Shinmotos. Each pair is comprised of a younger brother who’s in high school (Mao and Chika respectively) and an elder, 20 year old sister (Mako and Chiko respectively), with the two brothers and two sisters being each other’s best friends. The Saitous are rather quiet, laid back, relatively sensible and occasionally with their heads in the clouds, while the Shinmotos are loud, energetic, passionate and lovably narcissistic. There’s a really nice duality there, and it adds a really cool dynamic to the relationships. But each of them is very much their own character, and the bulk of the comedy of this series comes from their distinct personality quirks.

And there are a decent number of really good jokes in this series! Things like Chiko being an aspiring manga author while currently being a BL doujin artist, Mako’s surprising harshness with her employer and the two boys never being approached by girls at school by virtue of being too close friends with each other all get a decent amount of mileage over the course of this series, amongst many other jokes and gags. Even though most of the jokes are largely defined by their quirks, it fortunately doesn’t become repetitive or tedious thanks to being too short to milk them to death.

Pretty friends doing pretty things

Pretty friends doing pretty things

The short runtime also means that the pace is kept fairly high, giving the jokes a certain punchiness as a result. But even though it progresses pretty quickly, it still manages to keep a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere. It’s peaceful, upbeat and just really pleasant, qualities reflected in the light, gentle, pastel hues of the art.

There’s also a certain amount of classiness to this series, partially thanks to the aesthetics, partially due to the music and presentation (those cat-based scene transitions in particular). It comes across as a light-hearted, goofy series by someone who’s relatively mature, and that’s quite refreshing.

Sure, it’s nothing particularly exceptional, and its jokes are about as hit-and-miss as you might expect, but Super Seisyun Brothers is really quite pleasant and satisfying, and well worth checking out if you have a bit of time to spare.

7/10

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