Spring 2014 – First Impressions, Part Two

This season is way too good. The shows I was hesitant about are great, the shows I was confident about are fantastic, and pretty much every genre I like is being represented. I haven’t even gotten to Mushishi yet, either! I’ve fortunately found a couple shows I can actually drop, but honestly, it’s looking like it’ll be really tough to maintain my cynical hipster cred this season. Damn you, anime.

Incidentally, I’m also heading off on vacation starting tomorrow, so this will likely be my last post until next week. I’ll also be kind of limited in my ability to respond to comments in that time, but don’t worry, I will get to them when I can. Anyway, on with the shows!

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Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – Episode 2

Management: I didn’t really intend this to be so brutal, but now that it’s finished and I’m looking over it… yeah. This one’s kinda merciless, and posting it makes me a little nervous. I don’t mean to directly attack anyone with this piece – it’s mainly about being aware of the subtext of media, and not letting things that appeal to our base needs trick us into bad attitudes. I wrote it both because I find the psychology of media interesting and because I think Mahouka is a perfect representation of some of media’s more questionable powers. If you like Mahouka, that’s totally cool, I’m not saying you’re wrong to enjoy it. If you’d rather have something more positive, please enjoy this delightful gif and check back next time.

There are a number of different ways to approach criticizing a text. You can criticize the beauty of the execution itself – how it obeys certain agreed-upon rules of aesthetic execution, and how it exists purely as an object to marvel at. You can try to put it in a given historical or social context, or explore the life of the creator to see what demons the text may be working to exorcise. You can isolate certain details, or try to fit the overarching structure into a certain aesthetic or psychological framework. You can talk about themes, both intended and unintended. You can work off your gut, your training, or some arbitrary ideal of perfect beauty.

Normally, I try to come to shows open to however they may strike me. If a show strikes me as entertaining, I’ll try to critique it as entertainment. If it strikes me as insightful, I’ll try to engage with its insight. All of this is deeply colored, of course, by my own priorities – I wouldn’t recommend myself as the premier source for critiques of action shows, for example. But Mahouka already seems like it will reward one specific, fairly compelling exploration, and so that’s what I’m probably going to focus on here.

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Kill la Kill and Grounded Conflict

So. Kill la Kill.

Alright, I guess we gotta start this one right at the beginning. Kill la Kill is the first full-length production by Studio Trigger, a new studio whose claim to fame is sucking Gainax dry of all the talent they had left during the Gurren Lagann/Panty and Stocking era. Or, well, at least the one piece of talent most closely associated with that era - Hiroyuki Imaishi, the director of both those shows. Imaishi’s style, frenetic and impressionistic and somewhat uniquely indebted to western cartoons, is really friggin’ popular - Gurren Lagann in particular is one of the most beloved shows in the western fandom, and in spite of its recent mud-dragging, the Gainax name still conveys nostalgia and magic for a lot of fans.

So Kill la Kill came out of the gate with some pretty heavy expectations on its shoulders. With the writer and director of Gurren Lagann reunited for a show that gave every indication of being as hot-blooded and stylish as its predecessor, it’d be difficult for any show to really please everyone.

Fortunately, Kill la Kill is extremely good at pleasing people.

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Spring 2014 – First Impressions, Part One

A new season is upon us! That’s always pretty exciting, and this season in particularly looks extremely strong. So let’s start with that wonderful seasonal ritual of finding petty reasons to drop shows so our lives aren’t consumed by anime altogether. Hurray!

Incidentally, in light of my recent Samurai Flamenco essayMr. Justice will be handling all final assessments of this season’s new shows. PREPARE FOR JUSTICE.

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Sekai Seifuku – Episode 12

Sorry I’m so very late on this one – I decided to space out the finales of the three shows I’m writing essays for so that I’d actually have a first draft of each done before I checked out the finale of the next, and Sekai Seifuku unfortunately drew the short straw. That’s not its fault, though – of the three (Kill la Kill, Samurai Flamenco, and Sekai Seifuku), I’d say this is easily the best show, and I’m very excited to see it end. All of its ideas and characters have bounced off each other, exposed new reflections, and finally come together, and it’s looking like everything will end with the father who spurned his family and the little girl who accepted everyone into hers. A bright spot in a very lousy season, Sekai Seifuku has always maintained a great sense of wonder and magic buoyed by both a general atmosphere of melancholy and the sharp edges of the truths it’s toying with. I’ve come to really care about this family, and though the show itself is basically a living demonstration of how often families don’t work out, I’d like to see a happy ending for these characters.

So let’s conquer the world.

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