Spring 2014 – Week 7 in Review

Some strong episodes and some weak ones this week, but fortunately the shows that could really be damaged by a weak link (Ping Pong, One Week Friends) came out swinging. Running them down…

Hitsugi no Chaika 6: We finally reached Toru’s first turning (Toruning) point this week. Initially, Chaika offered him exactly what he thought he wanted – a return to clear goals and violent living, where his identity as a saboteur was once again worth something. But this week, Red Chaika offered him an even better version of that deal, forcing him to make some actual decisions about who he really is. Kinda funny that I just released a post on characterization wants versus needs, because this is a pretty classic example – what Toru wants is to simply return to a time and lifestyle where he could have purpose without deeply questioning anything, but what Toru needs is to find a newself-image in a time of peace. And his original Chaika is offering him that, and subconsciously he knows that – but self-reflection and growth are tricky things that don’t come about just because you realize they’re needed. Toru’s a good guy though, and his struggle has never been an overwhelming one – he makes the forward-thinking call, and stays with the person who he actually cares about in a non-saboteur capacity.

Also, this show has way better action sequences than Kill la Kill or Fate/Zero. COME AT ME, NERDS.


Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders 6: This week’s greatest moment was likely when the orangutan, the first villain unable to explain his own superpowers, thoughtfully fetched a dictionary to explain his powers anyway. The narrator went ahead and explained his powers as well afterwards, but it’s nice to see villains respecting the common courtesy of Jojo-battles, even if they spend the rest of their time leering at naked children. It’s also very considerate of the narrator to elaborate on what triumphant giggles mean in orangutan-speak!

Man, there sure was a lot of naked little girl in this one, though. That was pretty creepy!

Jojo's Bizarre Adventure

Knights of Sidonia 6: I feel like the world tells this story so much better than this story does. That’s not really meant as a slight – this show’s narrative is perfectly fine, even if the romance drama and dark council stuff is all kinda played out. It’s just that the atmosphere and sense of passive story imparted through the sets and variables of this world are so good, really – they steal the show every episode. I really liked the huge, impersonal memorial this episode – the shot as the protagonists were leaving really ground in the sense of sterility and isolation in this place. And I also liked Hoshijiro’s “it really feels like home!” contrasted against the vast, dark, empty cafeteria. While the sinister council provides a pretty on-the-nose example of that “to what lengths will humanity give up its humanity to survive” theme, I find the passive vastness and emptiness of this world to be a much stronger reflection of what these people have given up, and what they still have left.

Also, that ending! Brilliant stuff. I talked in the third episode about how this show understands that combat isn’t a series of super-awesome action scenes – it’s short and brutal and over before it begins. Well, you can’t really get much more “over before it begins” than this ending, huh? No resolution, no catharsis – you’re just left with questions and emptiness, like Tanikaze himself. A perfect choice.

Knights of Sidonia

Ping Pong 6Once again Ping Pong gets a full post. This was probably my favorite episode so far, and that song sequence in the middle is going to end up one of my top anime moments of the year. What a beautiful, heartbreaking, heartwarming little show. Wenge is the best.

Ping Pong

One Week Friends 7: This show is very dangerous. Pretty much every scene is endearing, but my favorite this week was easily the slow, rambling scene after Hase admits he thinks Fujimiya is cute. Fujimiya just sitting there in stunned, happy silence as an unrelated exchange whimsically played out before her was a lovely, very relatable detail that I’m actually surprised I haven’t seen more often. Well, not actually that surprised, considering how bad anime characters are at revealing their feelings – but it should be more common, and it was handled really well here. Nobody drew attention to it – the camera simply hung close to either Fujimiya’s face or back, letting her contented silence speak for itself. It’s kind of funny how many romcoms just basically skip the “rom” entirely, and jump characters from bickering acquaintances to lovers in maybe the last half-episode. Not so here – we’re seeing characters fall in love.

One Week Friends

Captain Earth 7: So now Pitz dictates when the bad guys are going to attack? It’s like they’re making fun of exactly how arbitrary the actual plot of this friggin’ show is.

Yeah, I couldn’t make it through this episode. Maybe I’ll pick it back up if people say it improves, but currently it feels like it’s just wasting my time. The characters exist in a world-vacuum and aren’t even all that interesting anyway. Sorry, Captain Earth. It’s not you, it’s… wait, no, it’s totally you. Try harder!

Captain Earth

20 thoughts on “Spring 2014 – Week 7 in Review

  1. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – One Week Friends is going to kill me with its cuteness.
    Also – picked up watching Chaika, don’t regret it at all. It’s actually a very good example of how to balance everything in a story: action (something it does very well), character development and humour. And, of course, our coffin-bearing lead is adorable.
    Looking forward to seeing what happens next!

  2. I want to like Captain Earth so damn much… but the show is making this difficult. I actually think there’s some great stuff there – it’s just that it’s pieced together so disappontingly.

    • It’s frustrating. I really love the angle the show seems to be taking on adolescence and parenting, but it’s just hamstrung by what seem like amateur mistakes of plotting and pacing. That shouldn’t happen!

      • If you’re looking for a replacement for Captain Earth, I would recommend Mekakucity Actors. I feel like this show is hammering my brain.

      • Coming to this late, but…

        “[Captain Earth is] just hamstrung by what seem like amateur mistakes of plotting and pacing. That shouldn’t happen!”

        Are you sure about that? Because this is show reunites a lot of the creators behind Star Driver, and that show had exactly what I would describe as amateur mistakes of plotting and pacing right until the very last episode. I am beginning to suspect Yoki Enokido is actually seriously overrated; while he has been a part of amazing shows like Utena and FLCL, those also had extremely talented directors who have done equally great shows without him. When Enokido works without someone like Ikuhara, Anno, or an Anno protege in the director’s chair you get things like Melody of Oblivion.

  3. Really do hope that Chaika buckles down into its characterization down the near future line the way it did with this episode. All these little bits of insight dropped here and there, with everyone mainly playing off of others, mainly Toru, sometimes to create introspection, sometimes to drive the plot, much of the time to have witty and hammy fun, but there’s not really a full-esque statement of anyone’s motives yet outside of Toru and maybe Akai Chaika. I especially like how the show’s using Frederica’s potential as an mischievous outsider rather than just otaku bait to prod out and provoke critical thought.

    I’m also inclined to agree about that point about Chaika’s animation as well. It’s smart in the sense that it feels every move is a calculation that the characters would do as opposed to something the animators designed, refreshing in the sense that there’s always something new about each fight scene, a new hidden implement, a new impromptu tactic, that invokes the grandeur of spectacle without breaking suspension of disbelief, and, even more importantly, feels decisive and, consequently, weighty. Kill La Kill forgoing consistent budgetary pacing lead to very significant drops in animation at times in addition to heavy reliance on stock and stills, and a philosophy on spectacle that’s mainly creep, creep, creep, that tends to make the tension either duller or exhausting to watch. Fate/Zero’s, at least for the first half, was mainly dedicated to posturing within its fight scenes, with little left to really elevate the non-fight segments, something that bothered me personally, what with the lack of urgency required in a war as historically deadly as the one everyone in the show liked to espouse, but at the very least, regarding Saber’s and Lancer’s first duel, one could argue the reason why is because of how set Saber and Lancer are in their chivalric ways which, juxtaposed to the Saber’s and Lancer’s second and final confrontation, are meant as means of pointing out how ridiculous that first antagonistic encounter was to begin with.

    • Weight and conscience calculation are definitely the name of the game. Both KLK and Fate/Zero feel very focused on posturing, as you say, and I feel that robs them of any real tension or momentum. Chaika’s fights are all momentum, their beats land one after another in a very readable way, and their articulation is very consistent.

      That point about Saber and Lancer’s dual may be fair, but I feel it’s still just poor drama. If they wanted to articulate that, they should have done it in a way that made dramatic sense and didn’t lead to full episodes of posing and empty words.

      • Oh no, the staff’s intentions of Fate/Zero might have been to shoot that scene and others in that way to some degree, but the staging felt too artificial and indulgent for me to fully buy into it. Your reaction to that was probably similar to mine’s when I first watched it.

  4. Chaika has been well balanced from the get go but it’s progressively getting fun too. I wasn’t expecting that! The step-incest gag falls flat for me but thank God they’re not dwelling on it much. I love the fact that they never fight out of dumb bravado and keep it to a utilitarian but still nicely choreographed minimum. Though to be fair, a sophisticated fight sequence could feel out of place in KLK anyway, since like TTGL it depended more on a vivacious pomposity than smarts; it’s just that unlike its predecessor it was not spectacularly good at it enough to overcome the inherent challenge.

    Captain Earth… Like you I just dropped it halfway through the episode. I’m somehow not bittered by it though, I decided maybe I’m just not in the target demographic and that’s it. It feels like it’s carefully honed for a particularly young group of people for whom Captain is their first foray into the mecha genre. One thing that still bugs me though is the excessive nomenclature. Why the need to name EVERYTHING? Livlaster, Machine Goodfellow, Kiltgang, Ego core, Earth Engine… I mean, Livlaster is a laser powered car key and “Machine Goodfellow” (what?) is just a glorified cockpit and nothing more. For them to have a meaning in a narrative, even inanimate objects first need to earn their rights to have a name, I think. Captain’s sloppiness just makes me appreciate Eva more.

    • I think Kill la Kill actually does have a couple solid fight scenes – they’re just interspersed with a lot of nonsense ones. Episodes 5 and 6 both had great finales, for example.

      And yeah, Captain Earth has waaay too many Proper Nouns. You’re right, that stuff needs to be earned.

  5. Cpt Earth suffers from the classic problem of the worldbuilding being vacuous, producing (a) no urgency, and by consequence, (b)no relation to the characters whatsoever.
    They could fix it by having one of the aliens crash-land onto Daichi’s hometown and obliterating it, I suppose.

    I’m going to contest that Fate/Zero bit, because when Fate/Zero isn’t spouting waves upon waves of verbal exposition, which unfortunately is not common, the action is better than Chaika’s, because it looks better, and people actually die. Otherwise not.
    The reason I say this is because Chaika’s action scenes contain random inserts of stupid, and never give you the visceral ‘cards on the table, gloves removed’ feeling a good action scene can. They lack heft.

    • Considering what Captain Earth seems to actually care about, I feel like the best solution would be to go in the other direction, and make the audience care about the protagonists’ domestic life not because the characters keep saying they care about it, but by actually showing more endearing interactions between the characters.

      As for Fate/Zero, that’s actually pretty much exactly my problem with it relative to Chaika – weight and stakes. The fight with the old hero in the second episode was a progression of small traps that all made sense. The later fight on the bridge in that same episode was completely readable as two physical combatants trading a series of definable blows. Even the fight with Frederica had back-and-forth. I didn’t really get that feeling from Fate/Zero – it didn’t feel grounded.

  6. On Sidonia: I think we’re going to see the fight next episode, based partly on the preview. I certainly hope we do; unless they diverge significantly from the manga, some of the things that happen in the fight are pretty important. Why not put it in this episode then? I’d guess partly space for it and partly tension and doom.

    On the fights in Chaika: I’ll disagree. Chaika’s action sequences are prefectly well staged and decently well animated but they aren’t as visually spectacular as Fate/Zero’s (which are also decently staged) or as viscerally, emotionally impactful as I found Kill la Kill’s. Chaika is still significantly better than many other shows at staging good action sequences (eg you can actually follow the action, it makes sense, and it’s interesting), but that doesn’t make them amazing.

    (Chaika’s action sequences are generally better animated than Kill la Kill’s, but that just goes to show the distinction between good animation and visceral impact. Kill la Kill had ‘whoop it up’ visceral impact down pat despite animation that sometimes wasn’t.)

    PS: my beef with Fate/Zero’s fight sequences isn’t anything about how they look, it’s that I mostly don’t care about what happens in them because I don’t care about most of the characters. I don’t think that they’re amazing, just basically as competent as Chaika’s but with much more of an animation budget.

    (Apparently action sequences are something I have definite opinions on.)

    • It’s really the staging I’m talking about here. KLK has great visual style, and Fate/Zero looks, well, expensive, but I think on sheer choreography and creating an action sequence you can follow in a coherent dramatic fashion, Chaika has them both solidly beat.

  7. i love hitsugi no chaika i approve this anime , the action scenes are pretty good and well edited but it can’t surpass fate/zero’s action scenes NO WAY , and yeah fo KLK also , you must feel the epicness of the show .

    • Does Fate/Zero has exploding Unicorn’s (and Cockatrices’) guts, though ?

      Haven’t watched F/Z, but I like Chaika’s battles.
      It can’t be compared to KLK, because it doesn’t have the same goal. KLK is… pure shounen. It’s spectacular and teh outcomes depends entirely of the plot’s goal.
      Chaika’s are… more “thoughtfull”.
      Those guys are professional warriors, and you can actually feels it.
      It understand it’s not entirely about strength, but also about experience and skill.

      I thought it would just be a well-made show, but it is pretty great.

  8. Pitz isn’t exactly an ordinary rodent so it makes perfect sense.

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