ERASED – Episode 5

ERASED finally had an episode where its weaknesses sadly overwhelmed its strengths. That likely comes down to the fact that this was apparently an outsourced episode – left to a new studio with very few credits to its name, it’s very easy for ERASED’s delicate balance between atmosphere and theatrics to lean into either melodrama or monologue-heavy doldrums. So I guess the good thing about this episode is that it reminded me how difficult it is to actually pull off a show like ERASED when it’s working? That’s an awkward silver lining, but I’ll take it.

You can check out my oversized review over at ANN, or my episode notes below!

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Active Raid – Episode 5

Active Raid had another episode in what is turning out to be its usual pattern – fairly boring episodic thriller, reasonably compelling worldbuilding/thematic background details. These procedural plots just wholly lack the creativity, narrative momentum, or aesthetic execution to sell their own stories, but the most of the ways they reflect on this show’s world are pretty interesting. Active Raid isn’t really a good show, but it’s the kind of mediocre show I don’t have any trouble watching, because the stuff it’s bad at is the stuff I don’t tend to prioritize anyway. It’d be nice if all these neat little ideas had a story that could actually support them, but I wouldn’t be watching anime if I didn’t like broken stories that still have glimmers of beauty in them.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my episode notes below!

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Ripples and Shadows in Angel’s Egg

Angel’s Egg has a firm reputation as one of the premier “anime art films,” for whatever that’s worth. In anime fandom, it doesn’t really mean much; fans have a tendency to scorn the unfamiliar, and when you get to the kind of visual storytelling or narratively disruptive scene-setting that are often part and parcel with “arthouse film,” people who are into anime for the girls or robots tend to check out. “Pretentious” is the word – a word that in fandom dialect has come to mean anything outside of the familiar, and when your “familiar” is almost strictly genre fiction for teenagers, the Other can be a fairly broad place.

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Winter 2016 – Week 4 in Review

Things are still settling to some extent here in the fourth week, largely due to the fact that a full third of my current watch group consists of comedies. Comedies are tricky, and comedies are inconsistent, and comedies have much less of a tendency to settle into a reliable groove than most genres. So while Rakugo and ERASED continue to be excellent week after week, this time Konosuba was pretty terrible, while Dagashi Kashi was actually consistently funny. Other than that, I’m beginning to lose patience with Dimension W – the show is reasonably watchable, but absolutely nothing beyond that, possessing virtually no personality and being more interesting as a demographic artifact than an actual piece of media. Grimgar, on the other hand, is all personality, personality to a fault, and that actually makes it my third-favorite show at the moment. All that and more in this week’s Week in Review! Let’s RUN ‘EM DOWN!

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Hyouka – Episode 14

Hyouka’s fourteenth episode opens with a set of slow, silent establishing shots, evoking all the hushed solemnity of a funeral. The first line tells us the reason for this framing, as Mayaka’s “I couldn’t find it” is contrasted against the disappointed faces of her underclassmen. Blinding morning light from outside casts the manga society in unnaturally gloomy shadows, and Mayaka’s face is deliberately hidden for two shots before she becomes visible only when she prostrates herself before her classmate. Close, shakey-cam, bokeh-heavy shots of the victorious party are followed by a transition to Kouchi’s feet, sticking us directly in Mayaka’s position. But surprisingly, Kouchi doesn’t rub her victory in Mayaka’s face. Instead, she simply drops the issue, telling Mayaka to get started on the posters with an “is that all?” tone. And then Mayaka realizes her supposed enemy remembered the manga title.

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My Monster Secret, Volume 1 – Review

Back to the manga review grind, with a new release that arrives in the wake of the summer anime – My Monster Secret, the more conventionally (and googlably) titled localization of Actually, I Am…

I enjoyed the few episodes of this show I watched, but not enough to continue – it struck me as the kind of wacky comedy that would actually come off as more enjoyable when I could burn through the gags at my own reading pace. The manga somewhat bore that impression out, though it also made it clear that the adaptation had made a number of its own improvements – namely, getting the initially rough art up to a higher general standard of character designs, and also cutting some very weak early chapters. But those issues aside, this was still a reasonably charming and very breezy read. It’s nice to have some popcorn manga around.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my chapter notes below!

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Dagashi Kashi – Episode 4

Dagashi Kashi really surprised me this week. I’d expected the show to be no more than reasonably pleasant from start to finish, with some occasionally effective jokes – but this episode was actually funny, featuring confidently constructed half-episode conceits with strong fundamental ideas and consistently inventive comic flourishes. The second half’s silly race in particular was one of the better-executed comic sequences I’ve seen a while now, offering both many incidental gags and a strong fundamental absurdity that the show wisely avoided actually pointing out. Having Kokonotsu actually be willing to play along with Hotaru’s schemes pretty much instantly improved this show, and I hope they maintain a real friendship going forward.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my notes below!

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Eureka Seven – Episode 1

When I initially opened the Current Projects, er, project, one of my biggest concerns was that everyone having their own favorite shows would mean I’d end up watching a whole bunch of solitary first episodes, which as a general rule don’t tend to give you a solid impression of a series. I’ve largely avoided this issue so far by skipping between the most consistently funded show and smaller self-contained projects, but with Hyouka support slowing down a little, I’ve decided it’s time to skip around a bit and charge at some of those first episodes head-on. So how does Eureka Seven pan out?

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Active Raid – Episode 4

Very little to report for this episode of Active Raid, unfortunately. The show itself is in a holding pattern of sorts (aw yeah, dunking on the episode by making use of its title, classic critic trick), slowly elaborating obvious relationship beats and generally just idling until its main narrative can actually start. Active Raid’s episodic stories are just not interesting, and that becomes a real problem when any given episode fails to entertain in other ways. Hopefully the characters actually learn to work together soon, because their bickering is not particularly engaging, but they’d probably work pretty well as friends. Or failing that, just give Asami and Rin the spotlight again – they’re way more interesting than this episode’s leads.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my notes below.

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Genshiken Second Season, Volume 7 – Review

Yep, Genshiken has somehow shifted into full harem mode. I don’t know how we got here, I don’t know why this happened, but this is where we are and I guess I gotta make the most of it. Genshiken is still very acute in its small character moments, but the overall movements of this plot have basically shifted the series into a fundamentally different genre/world space than it previously occupied. We’re in anime-land now – there are things characters do because they’ve learned all their social cues from anime, and there are things characters do because they are anime characters, and Genshiken has floated majestically from the first category into the second one. I can’t say I’m happy about it, but it is what it is.

You can check out my full review over at ANN, or my chapter notes below!

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