It’d been a while since my last recommendation grab bag, and Crunchyroll have picked up a pile of stellar shows these last couple months, so this week I dove into that pile and emerged with a selection of old favorites. I am very happy to have basically any excuse to rep Spice and Wolf, as the show is pretty much my gold standard for anime romance, and it was also fun to revisit Starmyu’s exemplary performance sequences. I’ve already watched all this friggin’ anime, I might as well try and lead other people to the good ones!
For today’s Why It Works, I focused on how Laid Back Camp manages the very different goals of its Rin- and Nadeshiko-focused segments, an interesting contrast that I felt nicely illustrated the dramatic range that exists within the larger slice of life genre. This discussion actually helped me sort out my own feelings on the genre a bit; I definitely prefer the Rin-style material exemplified by shows like Flying Witch, but can still enjoy really exemplary articulations of Nadeshiko’s style, like a lot of K-On! Always fun to learn something new about your own tastes.
Today on Crunchyroll, I finally took some time to poke at Darling in the Franxx’s big thematic contrast, the conflict between the sterile world of Franxx’s overseers and the intimacy its actual stars attempt to bring to that world. As far as this conflict goes, the show is doing a pretty solid job of establishing a coherently puritanical society, and the ways the kids push back against that order feel natural as well. The main problem so far is that the character writing just isn’t there yet – shows predicated on a concept like this need the “human element” of the kids’ interactions to dramatically sell their perspective, and Franxx’s stars still feel too archetypal to get there. But if Hiro can be turned into an actually compelling protagonist, there could be a reasonable show here yet!
Got another sort of peripheral-to-ongoing-shows article today, considering I already wrote initial pieces on my other two airing Crunchyroll shows, and Franxx hasn’t yet given me enough in-show material to write about. It’s always nice to find a season to rep great old shows, and hitting both Toradora and Idolmaster made me feel pretty good about this one. The nice thing about watching too much anime is you’re always full of recommendations!
Today on Why It Works, I basically went through a craft grab bag of interesting tricks Laid-Back Camp uses to make its wide-open settings feel as familiar and approachable as the classic slice of life club room. The show has a stunningly good control of tone, an effect that’s communally fostered by all its various aesthetic choices. This is a tremendous season for slice of lifes, but even here, Laid-Back Camp feels like something special.
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.
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.
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!
I’ve got a very Preview Week article up for Crunchyroll this week, basically taking a tour back through Trigger’s catalog in the leadup to their promising new creation. Trigger have been an exceedingly hit or miss studio for me, largely because almost all of Imaishi’s dramatic sensibilities are anathema to my own, but the sense of, well, cartoonishness that permeates all their shows seems hard not to love. I love their sense of visual energy and fun, I just don’t love dick jokes and punches quite as much as Imaishi apparently does. That means I’m in a pretty good position for Franxx, considering its own director, and I hope the show turns out well.
I’ve got a big ol’ Anime News Network editorial out for you guys today – my journey through Kyoto Animation, along with a running down of my own top ten shows from my favorite studio! It was really fun writing this piece, as I got to explore more fragmented-than-usual elements of my appreciation for the studio, and spin them into a larger narrative of why all their little choices add up to a studio whose works tend to speak so directly to me. Anime on the whole is often defined by fragmentary strengths, and I’m always happy to celebrate the unique nature of this wonderful medium. I hope you enjoy the piece!