Simoun – Episode 7

Let’s continue our journey through Simoun! Episode six was one of the most important episodes so far in a viewer-investment sense, as it gave us some desperately needed insight into the feelings of Para, Kaimu, and even Neviril. After several episodes of feeling stranded in something close to a dramatic stasis, we now have an emotional understanding of not just those three, but also Limone and Aaeru, meaning we can meaningfully perceive the dramatic push and pull of their various desires. On top of that, Para is actually working on the same side as Aaeru now, and has given Neviril her blessing to find a different pair. Simoun has been a slow burner ever since its dramatic first episode, but it feels like things are finally coming together now, and Neviril may actually come out of her shell. Almost all of these characters bear some kind of trauma that inhibits their freedom, but now that we actually understand their feelings and goals, it’ll be much easier to sympathize with their struggles. Let’s get right to it!

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An Anger Most Beautiful: Belladonna of Sadness

Belladonna of Sadness is a film that would not be made today.

Partly this is due to its unique artistic genesis. Though Osamu Tezuka certainly wasn’t the first to create anime, it was his low-image-count innovations and ridiculously cutthroat episodic pricing that allowed it to become a commercial TV medium. You can thus almost blame Tezuka for some of the massive limitations the medium still suffers under, from its criminally depressed animator wages to its emphasis on cost-cutting at the expense of the final product. Tezuka’s innovations were often mercenary ones: “how few frames will it require for this to present the illusion of movement? How much of this episode’s animation can be stored in the bank for later episodes?” Much of what would become anime’s recognized “visual vocabulary” was built out of necessity, choices made to mitigate the artistic limitations of these harsh restrictions.

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Winter 2018 – Virtually Every First Episode Retrospective

Hello all, and welcome to the season premiere retrospective! As usual, this is the post where I, having watched nearly every single premiere for ANN’s preview guide, now break them all down into categories based on their relative watchability. It’s looking like this will be the season of comfy, what with the majority of my passing-grade selections all fitting into different shades of slice of life, but there’s still plenty of anime to enjoy even under the iron gaze of the moe police. I’ll be offering increasingly brief summations of my thoughts on the various shows right here, but if you want more exhaustive thoughts, I have a review of basically all of these shows available over at ANN – just click through the title and search for Nick Creamer’s thoughts, that asshole is me. You can also just check out the overall list if you’d like, which is available right here. And with all that preamble covered, let’s not waste any more time in getting to the good stuff. Here’s my Winter 2018 Virtually Every First Episode Retrospective!

Oh wait, one last note. Since this is apparently the season of fuwa fuwa, all of my show tiers will this time be represented by their most appropriate Chaika gifs. ALRIGHT LET’S GO!

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Chihayafuru – Episode 22

Let’s dive right into Chihayafuru number twenty-two! Last episode turned out to be one of my favorite episodes of the show so far, with both Chihaya’s development as a player and Ririko’s story as her opponent offering strong and emotionally charged drama. “Creating opponents that you also want to cheer for” is pretty much a given when it comes to strong sports drama properties, but by the end of last episode, I was actually tearing up over how Ririko’s efforts reflected her coming to love herself. Ririko’s appearance also made for a clear parallel with Chihaya, her own former play weaknesses embodied in the play style of her opponent.

It was also just very satisfying seeing Chihaya legitimately grow as a player, internalizing the lessons of both her teachers and former opponents, and turning that into a more well-rounded approach to karuta. Chihaya has earned this level up, and I’m excited to see how Chihaya Mk. II plays against her upcoming challengers. Let’s get right to it!

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March comes in like a lion – Episode 35

Though Trump’s active presidency has reduced some of the humor of dril’s “Trump has no time to fuck” tweet, rest assured, I am feeling exactly that tweet at the moment. Still buried under preview week work, still got many projects to do today. What’s this post about? March! Right, March had an episode. It was fine. Here’s my review, and you can check out my notes below. I’M OFF!

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Hunter x Hunter – Volume 34

Hunter x Hunter’s thirty-third volume was entirely dedicated to establishing the base conflict of the Dark Continent arc. Even with a full volume worth of board-adjusting and exposition, those chapters still felt like they were bursting at the seams with pure information. The king’s declaration, and his alliance with Beyond. The Hunter Association’s reaction to that announcement, and their conscription of Kurapika and other potential allies. The background interference of Ging and Paristan, and the concerns of the larger scientific community. The introduction of the king’s succession war, and Kurapika’s subsequent enrollment in the youngest prince’s service. All of that served as meaty but ultimately passive setup, setting the stage for volume thirty-four to come barreling out the gate with the true start of the arc.

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Why It Works: Five Things I Love About A Place Further Than the Universe

Welp, bit late in getting this one on the blog, mostly because I’m still swamped by preview week work. I basically took all the craft stuff I found most compelling about A Place Further Than the Universe’s first episode and formatted it into a munchable listicle format. Alright, off to my next piece!

Five Things I Love About A Place Further Than the Universe

Simoun – Episode 6

It’s time to return to Simoun! Episode five represented a key turning point for the show, in that it was the first time one of our protagonists actually decided they want to do something. It initially seemed like Aaeru would be the driven, goal-oriented character who pulled the rest of this team along with her, but as episode four revealed, the reason she was actually so insistent on becoming a Priestess was because she too was trapped by uncertainty, and unsure of who she wanted to become. With Neviril also paralyzed in the wake of her former partner’s death, the show was left with essentially no one to push the narrative forward – fortunately, Limone was able to step up and remember the passion that sent her down the path of a Priestess in the first place. Limone doesn’t seem like the kind of person who’d care that much about shaking other people out of their insecurities, but with Chor Tempest now back on active duty, I’m guessing at least her and Aaeru will continue to keep things moving.

That said, I don’t know if this is the kind of show that could comfortably transition into a quasi-monster of the week mode. The plain fact is, this show’s two biggest weaknesses are its CG ships and its generally poor direction (along with some misguided music cues). You can construct an action sequence to minimize the awkwardness of questionable CG, but I don’t trust this director to manage that. Episode five demonstrated the problems there: Limone’s character turn came off well enough, but the actual fight was almost incoherent. We’ll just have to see how Simoun handles itself as Chor Tempest returns to battle. Let’s get right to it!

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March comes in like a lion – Episode 34

March comes in like a lion returned this week, offering some welcome narrative progression in Hina’s school bullying arc. I was kinda hoping that Akari would really let the bully’s mom have it, but in retrospect, having this be the moment where Hina steps up to care for her sister was pretty much the only way this could have gone. Hina’s actions here were a perfect progression of her growing strength, while Akari clearly needs to learn that her promise to her mother doesn’t mean she has to do everything herself. A fine episode on the whole.

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

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Chihayafuru – Episode 21

Let’s get the heck back to Chihayafuru! Our last episode saw Taichi at one of his lowest points so far, vainly scrambling to catch up to Chihaya and then promptly being sidetracked by Arata’s return. The episode demonstrated a real danger of slipping back into mopey Destined Karuta Buddies territory, but Taichi fortunately realized that he’s actually happy to see Arata returning, meaning I’ve got reasonable hopes we won’t be returning to the romantic sulk-fest tone. Chihayafuru’s shoujo romance plot is far and away its weakest material, and Arata has unfortunately not gotten much of an opportunity to do anything outside of that particular dramatic mode.

I’d love to see Arata himself playing in a challenging match, but I get the feeling we’re still some distance away from allowing Arata to show competitive vulnerability. Arata’s demonstrated plenty of emotional vulnerability, but as a karuta player, he remains more a summit to aspire to than an active competitor with his own strengths and weaknesses. But even if strong Arata material is still some distance away, with last episode having represented something of a cooldown from the previous tournament, it’s likely we’ll soon be gearing up for our next big matches. Let’s get right back to Chihayafuru!

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