Sekai Seifuku and the Island of Misfit Toys

“So they make it back and when everybody hears their story, they start to realize… maybe they were a little hard on the misfits. Maybe misfits have a place, too.”

My mother loves Christmas. Not for any religious reasons – my family has pretty much always been a bunch of godless heathens. But because it’s a family holiday. Because it means time spent together, and the opportunity to express how much you care about those you love. I’ve always had a loving family, for which I count myself lucky. And one memory I always associate with Christmas is that old stop-motion Rudolph movie, where Rudolph meets an elf who wants to be a dentist and goes on all sorts of strange adventures.

The movie’s pretty great, actually – it’s whimsical and endearing and clearly made with a great deal of heart. But at the center of a movie that with every fiber of its existence wants to stress the importance of being together with those you love, the main characters find themselves visiting a strange place that threatens the exact opposite – the Island of Misfit Toys. On this frozen, forbidding rock, toys gather that have been rejected by the world – toys that don’t fit into the roles they’ve been assigned, toys that fail to live up to their owners’ expectations. Though strange and laden with melancholy, these toys end up gathering together in the wilderness, making a family of their own and awaiting the day the world will accept them once again.

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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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Sekai Seifuku – Episode 11

Alright, very behind, but here I am. The last two weeks have done a tremendous amount of work in pulling this show’s threads together – family, identity, childhood, belief, it’s all lining up and it’s all working great. The Neverland the main characters have inhabited is falling apart under the disapproving gaze of Asuta’s father, and pretty much everyone is fighting back in their own way. Kate’s dream has powered Zvezda’s belief so far, and last episode featured each member of the team in turn sacrificing themselves in service of that belief. On the one hand, this was very generous of them, and demonstrated how much the members of this family care about each other. But on the other, none of them really had a choice – as the Chief glibly stated, he’s only done what promised the greatest chance of survival. All of these characters have been thrown away, but up until last week, Asuta didn’t realize this – he thought he still had power, thought he held the trump card of still being valued. That’s not the case anymore – he is a member of Zvezda through and through, reviled by the real world and given purpose only by the girl who believes he has value in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

Girls, actually. Renge also believes he has value, and unlike Asuta, Renge actually deserted a family that truly valued her. White Light may have lost its purpose and surrendered itself to power for power’s own sake, but it still had a job for White Robin. In abandoning that, Renge may have made the first act of willful rebellion against the defamilyzing status quo – she’s not a misfit, she’s a beacon. That’s interesting, but I honestly hope it’s not relevant – what would it say if the people this inhuman structure valued really were more valuable? Better to be valued by Kate, who sees purpose in everyone, than to be the favorite child of callous, unfeeling parents. Better Zvezda by far.

Alright, that’s enough rambling. I like this show, you guys. Let’s see where it goes next.

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Sekai Seifuku – Episode 10

CONQUEST TIME. Sorry I’m late on this one – I came down with some kind of terrible affliction this weekend, but I think my head is finally clear enough to work through the pain. I’m very excited for this episode – both the preview and the spoiler-happy internet have primed me to expect some crazy revelations, and last week’s episode already displayed the show’s themes coming together beautifully. Masks were flying off left and right, White Light and Zvezda each made their philosophy that much more clear, and Jimon once again demonstrated he’s still not quite comfortable with his new family, even as he deliberately spurns his old one. Jimon’s in the classic protagonist spot here – at the fulcrum of both the show’s two “families” and its ideas on family in general, he’s also the least aware of all the forces sparring around him. He’s the kid caught in the crossfire of a feud much larger than himself. And as the personal is the political in Sekai Seifuku, the squabbling parents hanging over his head might just fighting over the fate of the world itself.

Let’s get to it.

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Sekai Seifuku – Episode 9

Conquest time! Once again, probably gonna keep these notes pretty brief. Depends on the episode, though – if this turns into an incisive exploration of the intersection of family, youthful idealism, and reality, that might not be the case. Anyway. On with the show!

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Winter 2014 – Week 8 in Review

I’m feeling confident in having dropped The Pilot’s Love Song at this point, given what I’ve heard about the last two episodes. As expected, they’ve basically just been focused on murdering all the characters the show introduced to be murdered, all in service of a conflict the audience has no stake in beyond possibly an attachment to the Ramen Kids. Aside from that, I’m feeling somewhat fatigued by everything except the season’s highlights, and this season’s highlights are kind of middling shows anyway. Running it down…

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Sekai Seifuku – Episode 7

I’m kinda planning on dropping this show from weekly posts, but I feel oddly guilty about doing that, so I’m keeping a document open for any stray thoughts anyway. Let’s go adventuring.

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Sekai Seifuku – Episode 6

Alright Sekai Seifuku. You disappointed me last week, but that episode was apparently not written by the series composer/principal writer, so that’s okay. Your premise is still great and you’re still really funny, so one episode where the only takeaway is “Zvezda’s enemies are the opposite of a family” is perfectly fine. Let’s see what you’ve got this week.

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Sekai Seifuku – Episode 5

Well Sekai Seifuku, I hope you’re proud of yourself. You are simultaneously the smartest, most fun, and most emotionally engaging show I’m currently watching. Any two of those, yeah, sure. But all three? That’s just kind of dickish, to be frank. Leave the other shows some room!

Anyway. Episode 3 was brutal/hilarious and episode 4 was silly/endearing, so who knows what 5 will bring. Let’s get to it.

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Sekai Seifuku – Episode 4

Well, let’s get to it. Last week’s episode was easily the best episode of the season to date, but everything else has really stepped it up this week – Kill la Kill, Samurai Flamenco, and Space Dandy all hit very surprising, very encouraging high notes. Will Sekai Seifuku stay ahead of the pack? Stay tuned.

Alright, that’s a kind of crap introduction. In all seriousness, last week’s episode demonstrated some very specific, very important strengths. What were they?

First, that the show’s sense of humor isn’t limited to sitting on a silly premise and some gags – it actually used the premise for satirical ends far sharper and far funnier than anything we’ve seen yet. It wasn’t content to coast on its premise, it actually explored it in a smart, interesting way.

Second, that the show really, really knows how to use the episodic format well. The episode had a theme and story of all of its own, but it also understood the importance of its place in a larger narrative – it provided a great deal of relevant backstory regarding Yasu, Gorou, and Kate even as it went about illustrating its own standalone fable.

And finally, that this show is actually about things. The first two episodes were enjoyable on their own and demonstrated the potential for interesting ideas – number three saw that potential fully, smartly realized. It was a story about the dangers of extremism and the importance of empathizing with even those you disagree with, and its final verdict was we are not very good at doing that. This show’s got bite, and its ostensibly silly premise is ripe for more such angry statements. I’m eager to see what it says next.

There we go. Alright, let’s get to this.

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