The Song We Heard When We Were Young: Solanin

“Solanin” is the correct title for this story – but I’ll get to that later. First, as these things generally go, I should lay out some context.

Written and drawn by Inio Asano when he was around twenty-four years old, Solanin is roughly as twenty-four years old as any story can be, complete with faded jeans and tacky shoes and shirts you probably should have left at college. The story’s protagonist is Meiko Inoue, a girl stuck in a job she hates a year and a half out from an aimless formal education. Her boyfriend Taneda lives in her apartment with her, not because this is a considered long-term arrangement, but because his part-time design work doesn’t pay enough to cover rent. Meiko is stressed about her work, but doesn’t see any alternatives; Taneda is supportive to a fault, but insecure about his own expectations and about what Meiko wants him to be. Together they are nervous and unsure and basically the same as any other young person who feels like this can’t be what adulthood is really like.

Continue reading

Active Raid – Episode 6

Active Raid pulled off a pretty great episode this week, indulging in some classic giant robot love and putting the show’s themes to work. It was clearly a canned genre story, but there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as the ingredients are good and they’re mixed together well. And here, the archaic but compelling nature of giant robots fit perfectly into Active Raid’s usual mix of idealism and pragmatism, offering fun dramatic highlights and plenty of melancholy thoughts on dreams and aging. It wasn’t an overwhelmingly great episode or anything, but it was heartfelt and well-told. More of this please!

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

Continue reading

ERASED – Episode 6

This week’s ERASED wasn’t a highlight, but it was still a strong episode, and perhaps most importantly it was the series’ most thematically cohesive episode yet. ERASED has been a show that more often than not rides wholly on execution to carry its general thriller narrative, but this episode connected Airi’s past to Satoru’s current circumstances and the overall climate of fear pervading this show, making a compellingly uncertain case for trust in the face of danger. In spite of being another outsourced one, this episode also worked well enough aesthetically – the red eyes remain a bit much, as I talk about in my review, but otherwise there was a solid sense of understated menace running through most of these scenes. ERASED is holding strong.

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

Continue reading

Hyouka – Episode 16

Episode sixteen opens with Satoshi prepping himself for his great mystery adventure. Having resolved last episode to finally come out ahead of Oreki for once, he arrives at the festival bright and early, only to see that the newspaper has already put out a call for any would-be detectives. Over at the current events club, where the next Juumaji theft is theoretically scheduled, the floor is lousy with self-confident schemers and bored sleuths. Satoshi is ready to shine in a way only he can; but then his annoying rival gets a call, and Satoshi learns he has once again been defeated. Shots are framed to avoid his face and emphasize his powerlessness, as his “that was pointless” echoes his feelings on the magic show fiasco. Satoshi may have finally decided he’s going to commit to something, but that doesn’t mean the world is willing to play along. Sometimes you just can’t win.

Continue reading

A Silent Voice, Volume 5 – Review

Dear lord this manga is good. Stepping back and looking at it, this is probably the single best media object I am currently engaging with. I guess you could make an argument for Rakugo being a more holistically impressive production, what with its gorgeous combination of direction and storytelling – but when it comes to character work, dear lord does Silent Voice blow everything else out of the water. This is a phenomenal work, every single volume continues to impress, and I am so god damn excited for Yamada’s adaptation. This is pretty much a genie-wish production here. Please, please, please be at least half as good as you could theoretically be.

Er. Anyway. You can check out my actual potentially informative review over at ANN, or the ol’ chapter notes below!

Continue reading

Winter 2016 – Week 5 in Review

I hate to say it, but this was not a good week in anime. Everything beyond Rakugo Shinju and ERASED has been kinda iffy this season, but this week, not only did ERASED put out its worst episode by far, but both Dimension W and KonoSuba were so bad that I’m probably dropping them until further notice. I was already sort of on the edge with both of those shows, and it honestly wouldn’t take that much to convince me to give KonoSuba another episode, but when half the shows you’re watching disappoint you, it’s not a good scene. ERASED in particular was a real disappointment – the show’s existing issues of overselling dramatic peaks and just being too much of a boilerplate thriller took over entirely this week, leaving me with an episode that felt more silly than dramatically effective. But that said, there were also highlights to make up the difference, and I can always use the time saved to work on more Current Projects! Let’s start at the top and RUN ‘EM DOWN.

Continue reading

One Piece – Volume 2

With Zoro now on the team, One Piece’s second volume digs into a longer narrative on just one island, as Luffy and Zoro wander their way into the territory of Buggy the Clown. The first volume of One Piece was a collection of scattered small adventures, stories reflective of the clear Toriyama influence that still shows through in moments like the early dragon-ride coloring image. There’s still more of that here, from the wild expression work and character designs to the slapstick and word game silliness that flavors Buggy’s entrance. But we’re already stepping into longer narrative territory, and though One Piece is still a generally light and very readable production, it’s also starting to demonstrate some interesting thematic teeth.

Continue reading

UQ Holder, Volume 2 – Review

Love Hina was a legitimately formative experience for me, and Negima! also an off-kilter favorite, so it was pretty much inevitable that I eventually check out Akamatsu’s most recent manga. Unfortunately, so far this investigation has not been rewarded – UQ Holder has been a slog, frankly, possessing none of the creativity or hooks that made his last work fairly reliably rewarding. And this one doesn’t even start off pretending it’s a harem – it jumps straight into shounen territory, but that shounen is just not at all entertaining. Negima! has demonstrated Akamatsu can do some fantastic things in this genre, so hopefully UQ Holder finds its feet eventually.

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

Continue reading

Hyouka – Episode 15

With the over-the-top cooking competition over, you might think Hyouka would tune its energy level down to something approaching the regular level. Well, Hyouka is going to have none of that – this fifteenth episode is just as self-consciously dramatic as anything else the show has done, exploding with dynamic poses and wild angles and unexpected fantasies. With the show focus expanding far beyond Oreki, the storytelling moves outside of his monotone affectation as well, expressing the worlds of Chitanda, Mayaka, and Satoshi in their own brilliant purples and oranges and greys. It’s an affectation fitting for this arc’s new focus – with the thief Juumoji now having declared his intentions and laid out his modus operandi, Hyouka is turning towards its first self-conscious, overtly fiendish, catch-me-if-you-can mystery caper. Magic acts and phantom thieves and heated negotiations form the narrative bulwarks of an episode packed with more drama than the show’s ever seen.

Continue reading

Dagashi Kashi – Episode 5

Dagashi Kashi was generally enjoyable again this week, if not so consistently funny that it actually felt shorter than twenty minutes like last week’s. I frankly kind of expected the show to peter out in the style of the third episode, and rely on a bunch of unfunny repetitions of the same one or two ideas – but the show is both varying its style of humor and actually making its characters more likable by the episode. Both Kokonotsu and Hotaru have exceeded my expectations as characters, with Kokonotsu in particular going far and above the general “straight man MC” template I’d pinned him for. The show is warm and funny and easy to watch – it’s not great television, but it’s never something I feel bad about watching.

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

Continue reading