It’s been a busy week for me in many ways, and I intend to drop a lot of these shows anyway, so I haven’t caught up on everything I blogged last week, though I have started three new shows. Stella Jogakuin Koutou-ka C³-bu has been dropped, because it can make fun of K-On! all it wants but it had a full episode to show me why it was different from that show and all it could come up with is mock battles instead of eating cake, and while that’s definitely an improvement, it’s doesn’t make the whole thing feel much less vapid and uninteresting.
Danganronpa is stalled for now. I already had every reason to believe it would be bad from the first episode, and the aniblogosphere’s general disapproval for the second episode isn’t helping my motivation to catch up. As for Free, I probably won’t talk about it most weeks since I’ll be typing up enough words about it for the Friday posts. WataMote I am still interested in, but I haven’t gotten around to the second episode just yet. Basically this week’s round-up will mostly be a run-down of the shows I didn’t get round to or were not yet out last week.
Monogatari Second Season – 2
It occurs to me that Shino, Shaft, and Nissioissin can, to a certain extent, abuse the Monogatari franchise all they like. I’d be surprised if they didn’t know full well that for all the franchise may do wrong, this is the only place we viewers can get the unique blend of elements the series offers, and for that reason alone many of us will keep crawling back despite our misgivings.
Over the past two episodes of this new Monogatari series my jaw has remained quasi-permanently ajar, just because of how darn pretty everything is. Visual direction is important for any visual medium, but particularly for animation, I feel, and the Shinbo-Shaft team still knows how to deliver spectacularly in that regard. The combination of their animation style, Nissioissin’s pretentious dialogue, and the meandering, oft-symbolic flow of the narrative is still something very special and thoroughly unique within the anime industry.
That said, the more Monogatari they make, the less unique it will be, and the holes in the formula only become more apparent. One interesting character revelation in particular was hammered into us this episode. Hanekawa’s eating habits and what they reveal about her could have been a nice bonus for those paying close attention, but the long, drawn-out conversation that followed just felt like Nissioissin patting himself on the back for how darn clever he is, and that really ruined the moment for me.
So how was the actual episode, style aside? Yeah, it was alright, things are moving at about as fast a pace as anything does in the Monogatari universe, and the change of perspective they’ve introduced is still as refreshing and engaging as it was last episode. The interesting parts are still broken up by jarring, laughably silly moments of fanservice, but at least Shinbo has the common decency to give us fanservice that is actually sexy, rather than the standard ecchi show route of having a guy plant a face into an unsuspecting girl’s chest and expecting that to be somehow titillating. I don’t want to give Monogatari’s less savoury aspects a free pass, but it’s hard to worry about it too much when everything else is solid.
Sunday Without God – 1
I’ve written more than enough about Monogatari, above, and Silver Spoon, below, so I’ll try to keep this brief. Interesting setting, nice animation (it’s Madhouse, of course the animation is nice), and a cool premise. Unfortunately nothing much else about it feels right. The character designs are horribly generic, as is the dialogue. The drama is horrendously heavy-handed, and none of it is presented with the sort of weighty, contemplative manner that would befit the setting of a Godless world without death.
The main character shows no signs of being anything other than a cutesy, do-your-best, tragedy magnet, but then again, what do you expect? She’s a loli, and this is exactly why having a loli as a main character is a bad idea, it seriously undercuts the potential for character complexity.
So yeah, some interesting ideas, but very little indication that any of the thematic potential will be fulfilled. I’ll stick with it for now and see where it goes.
Silver Spoon – 1
You know, having personally grown up in a semi-rural area, I find it hard to associate with the idea of a boy entering senior school being shocked at finding out eggs essentially come out chickens’ arses, so the central conflict of this episode really didn’t resonate with me at all.
To be honest though, even if I found that associable, I still don’t think I would have been impressed with the first episode of Silver Spoon. The basic premise is fine, good, even, but the first episode just felt dry and uninspired. I think it largely boils down to this show not having the balls to be subversive in any real way. Having a city kid be shocked by the realities of agricultural life is a great opportunity to break down some of the hypocrisies that are weaved into the everyday life of most people, especially those who’ve spent their entire life in urban areas.
Obviously there’s only so much you can do in the first episode, but someone will have to give me a refresher, because I clearly missed the memo somewhere along the line that said you had to be neutered and unadventurous when setting the scene and introducing the characters. That one moment with the decapitated chicken was a step in the right direction, but they didn’t even really linger on it long enough for it to have much effect, nor did it come up again in the episode. Instead they just hammered it in over and over again that life for our protagonist is gonna be tough.
So there’s no sign that Silver Spoon will be either insightful or particularly challenging, but more and more I’m coming to the conclusion that that is fine just so long as a show can be funny. Unfortunately Silver Spoon isn’t that, either, and not for lack of trying. Maybe the comic timing is off, maybe either Arakawa or A-1 Pictures just don’t get how to do comedy, don’t know what the reason is, but I didn’t find it at all amusing. Just pointing at something incongruous isn’t a joke in and of itself, a lot of anime would do well to remember that.
Gatchaman Crowds – 1
Kenji Nakamura is a fascinating director responsible for a range of eclectic works. To my knowledge he’s only ever really hit his stride and produced something truly great once, but what he works on is guaranteed to at least be unique and visually arresting. His productions are characterised by vibrant colours and stark contrasts, and the last thing he worked on, Tsuritama, was a joy to watch, if a tad forgettable all up.
Gatchaman Crowds appears to be a show with an impressively bland premise. Secret Power Ranger like warriors fighting bad aliens, with a good alien commanding them, saving humanity from the shadows etc etc you’ve heard it a million times before. Nakamura’s visual direction would make it entertaining enough, but the quirks and twists on the formula used here are what really give me hope that this series may be something a little more interesting than the basic setting would suggest. Our main character is a ditz that exudes the kind of camp, bewildered joy at the unfolding series of events that I suspect we, the viewers are meant to be experiencing ourselves. You turned my soul into a notebook that gives me super powers? AWESOME. Certainly makes a stark contrast to shows like Madoka, and I think it reflects how hollow the usual angst we see surrounding these kinds of shows really is.
There’s gratuitous English, funky music, vibrant colours and silly super powers. Sometimes a little flair and self-awareness is all it takes to breath a bit of life into a tired idea.