Brave 10

Brave 10 (2012)

Brave 10* was definitely fun but maybe not super-memorable.

Or at least, it never got a chance to become too memorable for me – since as with a lot of anime series that are only 12 or so episodes long, there’s just not enough time to tell those stories with a more epic scope.

And Brave 10 was leading up to some bigger conflicts for sure but it only had time to present an opening salvo.

Still, the season is not given an awful cliff-hanger ending, so if you want a short, supernatural ninja series with a lot of action, some angst and a conclusion, then Studio Sakimakura/TMS Entertainment definitely deliver.

I know I haven’t actually said much about the story or characters but to be brief – in Brave 10 a wandering ninja ends up protecting a shrine maiden who is more than she seems and in time there’s a shift toward the ‘drawing the team together’ plot, in order to prepare for a big struggle that sort of occurs.

And while Saizō wasn’t as interesting as some of the other characters, I liked Yukimura a lot and I know his role would have expanded in future seasons, so that’s a shame. (On the note of characters I can’t figure the motive behind the story playing coy with Kamanosuke – for laughs or to kinda rebel against social labels?)

To switch from my regrets to a positive, I do like costume dramas (and other historical elements) and in Brave 10 certainly Isanami and Yukimura (among others) get to show off their threads. Overall, I shouldn’t complain precisely, as I certainly finished the anime and would have watched more to hopefully see Yukimura’s plans come together.

3 Stars

*Drawing from the ‘Sanada Ten Braves’.

B: The Beginning – Succession

B: The Beginning – Succession (2021)

I’m not sure how to write about this short season…

It seemed like the prologue to a bigger story to come, and at the same time, like an epilogue to a bigger story that had already been told.

Which it basically was.

In terms of negative aspects, first up is that fact that I didn’t enjoy the side-lining of Keith Flick* for pretty much the entire series. Maybe it’s like Superman needing kryptonite. If a character is too smart, it can be hard to surprise them and so dramatic tension is cut.

While the political intrigue was an interesting extra facet this time around I think it maybe took the place of a compelling villain, but since this season seems to function as something to tide folks over, I should probably hold back on judging too soon.

Things still look great and there was plenty of dramatic lighting and warm colours, along with some exciting action sequences, but overall I’m still finding myself a bit disappointed.

Having said that, I’ll still watch more episodes if they appear one day and it was nice to see Izanami return.

So, maybe 3 stars, I guess?

*I’m also wondering if Keith’s past with his adoptive sister is going to be explored or whether it’s just some run of the mill shock tactics stuff?

The Way of the Househusband (Gokushufudō)

The Way of the Househusband (Gokushufudō) 2021

By now, I think folks seem to have moved past some of the general disappointment surrounding this adaptation of Kousuke Oono’s manga. I can’t compare this with the original but if you’ve never read the manga then the anime might actually be a good introduction? Maybe? I don’t know.

Admittedly, I was expecting something quite different myself but I think that’s because Netflix did an exceptionally poor job of establishing expectations with its promo.

For context, if you haven’t seen The Way of the Househusband then imagine a manga with a little bit of movement, sound and colour and you’ll get a fair idea.

It’s pretty funny too 🙂

Although the bulk of the humour comes from the premise of a former Yakuza bringing his deadpan menace to the domestic world, because each episode is so short, the joke didn’t wear out its welcome for me. (I don’t know if I’d enjoy longer episodes as much, but I am definitely going to watch the next series.)

One highlight for me was Kenjiro Tsuda, one of my fav voice actors, and someone who I think is perfect for Tatsu. Another joy was his wife Miku, who’s probably the standout character from the show’s small recurring cast.

Now, if you’re on the fence about this series because the premise isn’t quite enough or you expect more animation maybe, I don’t know if I can convince you to give it a shot.

But if you also enjoy sight gags, slapstick* and hyperbole (so, the Comedy genre :D) then The Way of the Househusband might still satisfy. It’s also very digestible in terms of length per episode, so if you don’t have a lot of time and feel like something light this could be perfect.

4 Stars

*Perhaps best exemplified by the chapter where Miku’s dad tries to play catch with Tatsu, poor guy

Perfect Blue (Pāfekuto Burū) 1997

Perfect Blue (Pāfekuto Burū) 1997

Not for kids, obviously.

As a side note, I found it surprising that here in Australia my DVD release (the uncut version) is rated MA rather than R, which would be more in line with the rest of the world.

Which I guess is meant to be a segue into a point about content – Perfect Blue is a psychological thriller featuring early internet culture and horror elements, a fair amount of gore and sexualised violence. There are other films out there that are more full-on but this is still a confronting adaptation*.

It’s also compelling on every level; from the intertwined elements of narrative, character, and sound to the visuals and the script and acting – I feel like it’s hyperbolic of me to say, but it’s probably a masterpiece.

I know that’s a loaded word but I can’t give everything I review here a rating of 3 or 4 stars, can I? 😀

So, preamble aside – I should mention the premise finally:

The film follows Mima Kirigoe, a member of a Japanese idol group, who retires from music to pursue an acting career. As she becomes a victim of stalking, gruesome murders begin to occur, and Mima starts to lose her grip on reality.

And that blurring of reality and fantasy when I first saw the film was so immersive, and I love it now too, even though I know what’s going on when it comes to those subsequent viewings.

I was definitely wrong in my prediction about who was responsible for the murders when I was younger. But if you’re quicker than me, you won’t need any second or third screenings to see all the clues, because they’re nice and clear and so the truth doesn’t seem like it comes from out of no-where. There’s no cheap, empty twist.

Lot

But I hope if you have never seen Perfect Blue that you still experience a bit of surprise at the ending.

And if you were inclined to watch this film more than once, I hope you also get a chance to focus on the mechanics. I won’t go deep into the production and story elements but I want to use just two classic examples, editing and camera/point of view, to discuss how effortlessly Perfect Blue establishes that feeling of unreality and positions the camera as an unreliable narrator.

[From here, I think it’s possible to see and/or infer spoilers, so tread with caution]

Editing first.

Onscreen, we are shown Mima as the following over the course of the story:

  • Idol turned actress/centrefold
  • A character on drama Double Bind
  • Blogger from ‘Mima’s Room’
  • Murderer

However, the intercutting between scenes, locations and roles is often done without viewer cues for time or space.

This is one way that Perfect Blue visually represents that blurring between real and unreal. And when the cutting-rhythm between picks up its pace to show Mima’s state of fear and disorientation, the same effect is cast onto the viewer too.

Here, I’m thinking especially of a long sequence in Mima’s room where she’s waking up over and over when the frequency of cut becomes fast as 2 to 3 seconds compared to maybe an average of 5 or 6 seconds elsewhere. Obviously, it’s not a strobe effect (not yet) but the audience doesn’t get a lot of time to interrogate what they see. Instead, you’re dragged along, just as unsure as Mima is about exactly what’s real.

On to camera!

Camera (and its role in creating point of view) when it comes to storytelling is clearly a very versatile tool.

But I want to focus on when it presents as ‘objective’ and ‘omniscient’ by nature of its ability to see and show things beyond what a main/point of view character perceives.

Again, as with the editing** what I’m always thrilled to notice here is how unreliably the camera operates in the film.

Kon takes advantage of our assumptions. Firstly, if we are shown something on screen that Mimi is not aware of then it is true. This is definitely a feint but it’s aided by the storyline and the idea that the camera is objective – the idea that it shows us, the audience, truth.

We see what Mima cannot see/remember, even if Mima is not involved in events because we need that extra information to think that we’re ‘ahead’ of Mima, that we might know who the killer is and why they kill.

Secondly, we assume that we’re generally riding along in Mima’s point of view during the film. This is another natural assumption. It’s her story, her struggle, and we spend the most amount of time watching her, invested in her life. When the narration moves beyond Mima and her immediate surrounds, it’s almost always to show how other folks are interested in Mima.

These assumptions help the camera to operate in that sly way of the unreliable narrator.

In a movie asking us ‘what is real?’, the scenes it chooses to show us are often clothed in Mima.

When we witness Mima murdering the sleazy photographer and right after see her inability to recall how bloody clothes appeared in her wardrobe, we accept that what we’ve seen is truth. After all, Mima has been having trouble keeping track of reality and we know she deeply resented filming the rape scene at the club. Of course Mima is somehow involved in the murder! And yet… just because the camera showed us something from ‘her point of view’, doesn’t mean we must accept any of that at face value.

I hope I was able to explain what I saw in those elements, as it stands that’s probably giving a bit much away re: spoilers, if you’ve never watched the film. If you have seen Perfect Blue, then you doubtless know what I’m talking about there.

Okay, so moving on from production and story elements now, I want to write about one of the major themes, and also quote Kon’s related remarks.

The exploitation of pop idols is one theme that runs through the movie but perhaps not in a didactic way – at least, not via dialogue. Perfect Blue is still a psychological thriller rather than being a drama or documentary, but the entertainment industry and related obsessions are key to everything that happens.

I suppose you could argue that putting a naive singer through such horrors is in and of itself a heavy-handed comment on the industry but it doesn’t strike me as a lie either. Pop idols (world-wide, not just in Japan) are certainly regularly exploited. (Here’s a much better article on the film and topic).

And Horror can not only function to illuminate the evil that humans are responsible for, but become cautionary too. For me, the story of Perfect Blue has that effect.

Getting back to my opening comment, I want to repeat the idea that this film isn’t for kids. Sexual violence is a significant part of the plot. It’s used as a weapon by the entertainment industry, almost as a way to tarnish Mima’s reputation and inflict self-loathing and doubt (and thus, presumably, later make her much easier for the industry to control).

In fact, the writing of the rape scene into Double Bind isn’t really considered a decision worth involving Mima in, the scriptwriter and director are more worried about her agency’s reaction.

The same violence is also both a threat (and action) from a certain character and shot in such a way that definitely evokes terror. (And so if you know that’s something you don’t want to see then skip Perfect Blue.

Satoshi Kon himself seems to be of two minds about the club scene from Double Bind especially. The special features on my disc include interviews and lectures and in one part, he is looking back on the film from years later, which I found very interesting:

“At the time, it was supposed to be an OVA. We didn’t know it was to be released in theaters. So we thought we had to make it stand out as much as possible. OVAs don’t get a lot of publicity. So I thought we should have a graphic scene, but I went too far.”

and

“But this scene was too graphic. When I saw this blown up on a threater-size screen, I ended up looking down.”

These quotes make me wonder exactly how much pressure the industry and OVA-era forms put on creators, as well as performers? Is Kon suggesting that he might have made a different version of the same story if he directed it during a different time, after becoming so well-known?

Impossible to know, of course.

Now, I can’t miss an opportunity to mention Darren Aronofsky.

You might know his films, two of which are Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan. In the same interview/lectures I mention above, Kon mentions that Aronofsky wanted to remake Perfect Blue and you can see here a famous homage(?) from Requiem for a Dream and if you are familiar with the premise and tone of Perfect Blue then you’ll be right at home with Black Swan.

I’m not as well-read on this issue as others out there but Kon didn’t seem to be too impressed himself.

And finally now, I should mention that nostalgia plays a roll in how much I enjoy Perfect Blue. Both for a time when the internet was young and for something I first saw long ago. (In terms of the technology aging, I think it’d be fun to update things with today’s technology if this film were ever remade).

To my eye, pretty much everything looks top notch from Madhouse in terms of the animation and backgrounds etc but if you’ve been raised on modern, bright anime then the colours here may feel a little dull (which adds to the realism of course).

I don’t want to forget mentioning Masahiro Ikumi’s disturbing score, which will probably echo in your head for a while after watching the film – especially Virtual Mima. Some parts evoke a real clash of analogue and digital and it’s all drenched in tension 😀

This has turned into one of the longer reviews I’ve written for quite a while and so I think it’s time to wrap things up, otherwise it’ll never end.

I think this might be Kon’s best film although my favourite of his is probably still Paprika, but if you’re seeking something equal parts confronting and compelling, then Perfect Blue is probably worth seeing at least once.

5 Stars

*Pāfekuto Burū: Kanzen Hentai as written by Yoshikazu Takeuchi.

**Costume plays a really big role here too.

There are

WordPress is (for whatever reason) not letting me add captions to the images but I want to note a couple of things – the ‘anime billboard/poster’ is funny and I noticed that like in many other films from Satoshi Kon, film-making itself is once again referenced in the story.

The recurring reflection motif is sometimes very ‘upfront’ like in the first image, and other times a little more subtle like in the image two above.

The amount of clutter in a lot of the rooms really adds to the sense of claustrophobia that develops in some scenes.

I also eventually noticed just how often the camera shows us Mima from behind, hiding her face and expression, maybe obscuring her relationship to the Mimi who torments her?

Thanks again to everyone who voted for this one back here 🙂

Popular Reviews from the Last 6 Months

This is a post where, as suggested, I highlight some reviews that have been popular in the previous 6 months. (Last time around I also did a post that was more like just my favs from each month but I’m a bit busy at the moment :D).

Below can be found those posts that got the most traffic – though I may or may not have done the best job in expressing myself in them.

(Once again, I’m still not ready with my ‘Prefect Blue’ review but I’m making tiny strides!)

December – Sword in the Stone

January – Nadia vs Atlantis

February – Update (+ Guessing Game)

March – Trigun (The Gung-Ho Guns Arc)

April – Karakuri Circus

May – Ergo Proxy (Collaboration) :)

I was interested to see that my Nadia v Atlantis post still gets some attention and that a Guessing Game post got in there too 😀

Thanks for reading!

Ashley

Ergo Proxy (Collaboration with In Search of Number Nine)

Very excited to kick off this collaboration with Iniksbane at In Search of Number Nine, since we’re writing on one of my all-time favs, Ergo Proxy!

I’d put off reviewing Ergo Proxy for a long time but being able to work with Cameron took a bit of the pressure off, and I’m really happy with what we came up with. Thanks to Cameron’s awesome posts over the years, I’ve been introduced to a heap of great anime – and one that comes to mind instantly for me is Rahxephon

But getting back to Ergo Proxy, we’ve split the posts between our blogs, so below you can read our review conversation and next up is our analysis post over at In Search of Number Nine – link to follow once we go live 🙂

But now, let’s begin – and Iniksbane’s up first:

Iniksbane: I’m curious when and where you first encountered Ergo Proxy? I have a little bit of personal history with this show. I initially saw the first episode at Otakon in 2006, and I was blown away by how this show looked. Sure. There were other stylish shows that I had seen, but between the austere sci-fi setting and the voice-over, I was intrigued. 

I’m not sure if I would say I was hooked, but I was interested in learning more. 

This show holds an important spot in the anime distribution history in America in that it was one of the final shows that Geneon released. Pioneer and then Geneon were responsible for distributing a lot of the more unusual anime, stuff like Ergo Proxy, Serial Experiments Lain, Haibane Renmei, Paranoia Agent and Gankutsou, to name a few.  The End of Geneon USA – Anime (bellaonline.com)

This was around the time I started blogging as well. 

It was the start of the change of the anime industry in the U.S. Within a year or so, ADV would become Section 24. They would eventually start rereleasing anime under Sentai Filmworks, but that would take some time. 

Bandai Entertainment, the American distribution arm of Bandai in Japan, held out until 2012, but they ended up shutting down as well. Bandai Entertainment to Stop Releasing New DVDs, BDs, Manga – News – Anime News Network

Funimation ended up being the last one standing. They emerged with all of the Dragon Ball Z money. 

But I remember feeling lucky that I got my copy of Ergo Proxy. 

In my notes, I noticed that the show has a 4.5 out of 5. I find that interesting because it wasn’t a beloved show at the time of its release. I’m glad that it’s found an audience 15 years later. 

Ashley: Wow, that’s pretty awesome that you got to see the opener at a convention! 

I remember being only generally aware of Ergo Proxy back in the early 2010s and sometimes seeing it on informal lists here and there afterwards, it seemed like a real favourite for a lot of people but at the same time, not a series that was well-known, yeah.

I reckon I first saw a preview, probably on a DVD of another show and that got me searching for the series, thinking I ought to finally track down a copy and see for myself what it was like. (That copy was the Funimation reissue).

Glad I did too :D.

Iniksbane: What did you think about the show when you first watched it? What do you think of it now? I’ve heard another review of this show that divided it into three parts and said the beginning and the end were weak, but the middle was great. 

I’m not sure I remember much from my first time watching the show, I remember the quiz show episode and the one where they were stuck, and I vaguely remembered Iggy’s fate. 

Honestly, this time through, I liked the beginning. I loved the middle episodes, and I am still torn about the ending. 

To give you some to react to, I thought the first few episodes moved fast enough to set up what happened after they started the journey. I don’t feel like it wasted any time, or rather I felt like it spent enough time doing what it needed to. 

The show really kicks it into high gear once they leave the dome. I found Hoody’s story arc engrossing. I liked the interplay between Daedulus and Raul.

The conflict between Iggy and Re-l was great. In particular, I love the line, “You don’t get to write me off just because I’ve gotten complicated.”

Although Vincent is strangely hands-on with Re-l in a way, I wasn’t comfortable with and didn’t understand. I wrote down in my notes that Re-l attracts creepy stalker guys. 

My biggest problems come in the last three or so episodes. I’m still struggling with what they were trying to do there. It’s the only part of the show that felt self-indulgent. The show would have these long panning shots without anything going on. Raul and, to a lesser extent, Daedalus felt like non-entities at that point. 

It’s not a bad end, but it felt a little lackluster in comparison to some of the frankly brilliant stuff they do in the middle.

Ashley: That’s interesting re: the review you mention. For my first viewing I had the opposite response, to me during some of the middle episodes it felt like the tension was beginning to fall off. I remember preferring the beginning and ending parts.

And yet, on subsequent viewings those middle stretches contain some of my favourite moments. A bit like you, the ending is the part that I now wonder about. I wish it had been expanded for a few more episodes at least.

When I finished Ergo Proxy the first time I remember feeling like I had to immediately go and watch the first few episodes again to catch the foreshadowing I’d missed. Viewing it now feels like watching familiar, (and some) beloved characters fighting against cruel manipulation and that abandonment you mention below, I feel like I can focus more on character and less on unravelling the plot.

I guess like a lot of post-apocalyptic/cyberpunk fiction the fear of what humanity cannot control does seem to motivate a lot of characters and I like how that played out in Pino’s character, since she humanised the robots who are ‘infected’ with the Cogito Virus. (Maybe a bit like Robin from Witch Hunter Robin?)  

Iggy stood out for me too – poor guy, Re-l seems to treat him as a punching bag at times. Agree that Re-l is definitely a magnet for those sorts of fellows.

I also agree that Daedulus and Raul had some great scenes together but that the narrative seems to abandon them by the end, which was a real shame. Again, maybe just a few more episodes and that ending could have given them more time too?

One thing I think about the show now compared to the first time I watched it, is I realise more just how long the audience is kept in the dark in terms of piecing the bigger picture together, which is mostly only lurking behind the smaller investigative events for a fair while.

Iniksbane: Do you feel like the show succeeded with its more surreal aspects? So I’m leading a little bit here, but I felt this show was good at adding weight to what are largely surrealistic episodes. 

In particular, I pointed out in my notes that I liked the library episode. In particular, I said  One of the things about this show is just how surreal it is without losing all of its footing in “real” life. The bookstore in the middle of the wasteland is the height of that weirdness.  

This is also true with the episode Ophelia, as they are in the dome with the grocery store, and they keep running into a proxy that could copy other people. I don’t know if it’s the Hamlet reference, but I think the episode succeeds in making me realize that the proxy felt lonely but was so scared of being lonely that she killed everyone. 

Ashley: The Ophelia episode was one of my favs, absolutely – the surrealism throughout that plot was ace. It’s interesting how well those episodic sections of the series operate to build tension, expand the world and delay the answers everyone is seeking. 

It also fit right into the unsettling tone – sometimes it’s almost absurdist, which kinda built upon the unease for me.

And I know what you mean, the further into the show you get, the clearer it becomes that the Proxies are desperately unhappy or lonely, often broken by their roles. I especially felt bad for the Disney Proxy who was maybe doing a better job at protecting his charges than what we see in other domes.

Iniksbane: What character moments/episodes stood out to you? I’m curious. I liked two episodes in particular. One was the quiz show episode because it’s such an unusual way of getting exposition across. 

I also really liked the Disney episode. One of the characters I felt like got shortchanged in the early episodes was Pino. She seemed a lot like a cute mascot girl, but that episode gave me a sense of who she was. She really is a nice person who wants to help people. She was just a child in danger of getting thrown away. 

There is another moment that I like in the last few episodes after both Re-ls reject Daedalus. He says, “When I look into her eyes, I want to see my reflection.”

This is one point I probably should make about those last few episodes. I do think they’re messy, but there are a lot of great moments. At one point, we see Raul limping down the street, and there is a voiceover from Pino. 

Re-l has a monologue where she says, “Once this clockwork paradise bored me. So I prayed for change. Any change. I now have to wonder if those awful prayers were the catalyst that woke the sleeping Ergo.”

Ashley: Pino really became a stand out character for me too, yeah. Seeing her learn and grow as the series went on, and that Disney episode is a highlight for her – I love the teacup scene for a lighter moment, and there aren’t tonnes of them in the show, huh? 

Agree on the game show episode – Ergo Proxy just cuts in on a lot of those episodes with zero transition, and so I remember experiencing a bit of whiplash at first, but when I watched it again I thought it was a pretty cool way to deliver exposition.

I think the first episode is one of my favs – I finished it with so many unanswered questions and was immediately drawn in by the detective/noir stuff. Upon re-watch, Monad’s struggle takes on a different tone too but above all, I think it’s the action sequences as they punctuate the investigations. They feel pretty explosive and fluid too, like a good chunk of the budget went into hooking the audience with that ep.

Next up for me was probably the Ophelia episode. I really enjoyed being confused at first, and then once I figured out the team were being manipulated I was suddenly second-guessing everything I saw, that was fun. 

Visually too, the emptiness and all the wide shots, or the reflections and mist, it all made for heaps of memorable compositions. The atmosphere and symbolism around duality is pretty strong here too and Pino’s ‘cooking’ is a nice little moment of levity.

Iniksbane: According to an ANN interview, the series composer Dai Sato said they wanted to “create an image somewhat like a darker breed of American superhero.” Do you think they succeeded? Do you think that is a worthy goal? Link to the article. Interview: Dai Sato – Anime News Network

Ashley: That’s really interesting – although, I probably don’t know enough about superhero texts to offer an opinion on Ergo Proxy’s success in reflecting that… but I think it’s fascinating that the end result made me think of things like Tim Burton’s Batman films from the 1990s.

Good question, I think maybe it is worth trying because it might end up in something really distinctive. So, to bring in superhero stuff to a noir/cyberpunk/dystopian story resulted in Ergo Proxy so that’s pretty cool. And that ‘darker’ idea seems clearly realised, as it feels like most characters are anti-heroes, villains or at least always at cross-purposes throughout the series. (Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit there though).

Iniksbane: Most famously, the show used real philosophers’ names along with referencing Descartes’ “Cogito Ergo Sum,” do you think this worked? I remember this being the most significant sticking point with Ergo Proxy. To put it kindly, people thought this show was up its own butt.

Even Sato, in that same ANN interview, said, “I thought that project was a little too fast-paced. We had a lot of ideas and things we wanted to incorporate that we couldn’t fit.”

As a story, I think you can completely ignore this point, and for the most part, the story stands on its own. I’m not sure if I remember the names of the philosophers that are referenced, and I don’t think it bears looking up. 

That said, thematically, I think the ideas of self-determination and free will are core to what the show is going for. And here is where I’m going to dip a bit into spoilers. 

Raul starts off the show talking about people filling their assigned roles and has a deterministic outlook on life. But by the end of the show, he’s trying to fight against Ergo Proxy. He rejects the “God” of their world. 

In particular, Raul tells the regent, “You have spent your existence seeking a god that betrayed you. I am free of your illusions.”  

This back and forth between fate and free will is a recurring theme in the entirety of the show. I feel the show solidly lands in favor of free will, but there is a lot of plot driven by characters who believe they are fated for destruction. 

So I guess I will end this with another question. Where do you think the show lands on that theme? 

Ashley: I think the individuals in the Collective could have been called anything and it wouldn’t have made any difference, definitely.

I don’t recall their dialogue as distinctive or even suggesting any of the curiosity you’d expect from a philosopher – by which I guess I meant, they pretty much towed the line and never seemed to question their own part in the dome and the greater plan. (Admittedly, they weren’t infected so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised).

For the theme, those final shots seem really defiant so that especially makes me think the show comes down on the side of free will. Bleak as it can be, and even with all the collateral damage. 

You mentioned Rual and I think he’s a perfect example of a character playing out the tension between those themes – he’s got quite a lot of development too, swinging from sympathetic and less so and then back again, from antagonist to maybe a supporting protagonist which I found interesting since Vincent/Ergo Proxy isn’t strictly a hero or even an anti-hero, I think.

Or at least, not until the end perhaps – when I guess his resolve is channelled along the lines of free will being worth preserving?

And done!

Hope you enjoyed this post and that you’re ready for the next part, which you’ll soon be able to read over at In Search of Number Nine 🙂

Abandoned #10 (Lupin III Part 4, Space Adventure Cobra, Cannon Busters, Space Dandy & The Future Diary)

While I procrastinate/struggle to finish my Perfect Blue review I thought I’d whip up another of my ‘Abandoned’ posts 😀

Standard disclaimer as usual: not ruling out one day returning to any of these… one day, someday etc etc

Lupin III Part 4

This one is probably not deserving of being in the list – just feel like I need to finish Part 2 and Part 3 before I start the Italian Adventure.

Space Adventure Cobra (1980s series)

I was enjoying the tweaking of ‘We Can Remember It for You Wholesale’ in the first episode, but maybe I actually spent too long comparing the series to the film, which seemed stronger overall.

One day I reckon I’ll finish this.

Cannon Busters

I wanted to like Cannon Busters more than I did but I think I only reached episode 3.

The setting and characters, the premise, even the very vague Trigun-feel to some aspects, all of those things should have been something I’d enjoy but I’m having trouble putting my finger on exactly what didn’t work for me.

Another case of my own expectations getting in the way? It might have been the writing itself actually… I’m still thinking about it now.

Space Dandy

I didn’t actually finish episode one here. I was thinking of a single word to describe why I didn’t keep going, and maybe it’s because Space Dandy struck me as ‘juvenile’.

Usually, I really enjoy parodies and I’ve loved every other work by Shinichirō Watanabe that I’ve seen, and so I really feel like I ought to give this another try in the future.

The Future Diary

The concept really caught my attention – different people having access to their own or other folks’ futures but only seeing ahead for a few minutes at a time.

It seemed like a great way to keep a lid on the naturally occurring difficulties with time travel stories but by the end of the first episode I realised the structure was probably going to be a ‘plot-fodder’ one, with a heap of disposable characters.

(And by ‘plot-fodder’ I’m doing a silly opposite of ‘plot-armour’ :D).

Back Arrow (Bakku Arō) – Collaboration with Lita Kino

Morning all!

I’m excited to share another collaboration – this time on Back Arrow, where Lita Kino and I ask each other about the first three episodes. (Spoilers – we think you should check it out :D)

Thanks to Lita for diving in to Back Arrow with me too! If you haven’t already (or even if you have) you should visit Lita here at Anime Corner 🙂

Lita: Thank you Ash for the opportunity to collab with you. Even though our first idea went to pot. I really hope people give Back Arrow a try because I think it’s a great first time show for people who don’t watch mecha or wish to try to because it’s so less serious and more emphasis on fun with itself.


Ash’s Questions

1. What were you expecting before going in to ‘Back Arrow’?

The only expectation I had was a strong western setting terms of the background terrain, costumes etc. There was nothing I would ask for. I wanted to watch this not just because it’s mecha and I love it. Reminded me so much of Gun x Sword while the western settings are similar for me, Back Arrow is a curveball thrower. This series portrays itself as primarily fun majority of the time, this is something distinct within the first three episodes, it establishes. Introduction of the main protagonist Back Arrow arising from Rakuho, suffering amnesia with only memory of coming from beyond the wall.

Instead of this moment drawing on Back Arrow’s unfortunate circumstances with strong emotional emphasis. Back Arrow decides to go beyond the wall, without worrying about anything else. All the people from Edgar village staring at this strange man, butt naked. You feel like you are following an idiot of a protagonist and it works brilliantly for this series. It’s hysterical the first three episodes have been. I love series that serve up from what you expect like this, Back Arrow doesn’t pretend to be anything else. 

2. I was curious about how you’re responding to Shu after these first 3 episodes? Definitely feels like he’s holding the most back.

Shu is just full of mystery but he is an amusing man. Making a copy of the royal records had me laughing, but he is a man of science. That instinct and drive to do what it takes to grasp his goals. There is an underlying motive here but damn he is amusing. 

3. How are you finding the designs of the suits? (I’m getting a slight Power Rangers feel, which is fun.)

I LOVE this series concept regarding it’s mecha suits known as Briheight’s. The design of them reminds me of Gridman’s from SSS.Gridman but with a funky take. Concept of wielding these mechas based on your conviction is cool, each Briheight I’ve seen so far, really reflects the pilot as a person and personality. Mixture of conviction and becoming a pilot’s reflection, these mecha’s are definitely unique. This is another realm into the connection between man and machine. 


Lita’s Questions
 

1. We have a tradition of the main protagonist who has amnesia at the start. Normally there has been a strong emphasis and heartfelt plea at the start, also determination to discover who they are again. But we have a very lax protagonist who is just taking everything in hindsight as it comes. It’s this a refreshing approach to this protagonist tradition?

I think so, yeah. There’s sort of a refusal of the Call to Adventure – Arrow just wants to get on with own quest for the Wall and I’ve found that interesting. It feels like he’ll soften over time, but kicking off with an amnesiac who doesn’t seem to be very worried about that memory loss is interesting. Instead, he just dives into any situation with blind faith. Or conviction 😀 

2. I have yet to complete Back Arrow yet but the western centre reminds me so much of Gun x Sword. Been a long time since a western themed mecha has appeared. I think the outskirts of rocky and dune sand, the bright western costume designs look great. Do you think the western feel is there for Back Arrow?

It reminds me of Gun x Sword too, which makes me pretty happy. (In fact, the moment I saw Elsha and Atlee, I felt like two halves of Wendy had appeared onscreen :D). 

Agree! It feels like it’s been quite a while since a mecha show featured the western setting and isn’t it perfect for allowing the colours of the Briheights to pop too? I love the tropes I’ve seen so far, the village in distress, the stranger arriving to help etc. Really hoping they continue and that there’s a focus on stand-offs and duels.


3. I looked on MyAnimeList and this series has been rated 5 out of 10. I wonder if this is because people were expecting a series western here but the plot is pretty loose and so are the characters. This series is about fun 80% of the time, not what anyone was expecting. Do you like the loose fun factor here and the plot is throwing curveballs of absurdity as to where it may go? 

I wondered about that too. If I think about something similar in tone from Kazuki Nakashima, like TTGL perhaps, then that show’s already 14 years old – that’s pretty much an entire generation ago, I guess. 

And so maybe significant portions of current audiences just aren’t used to a show like Back Arrow?

Loose and fun is a pretty perfect description, yeah and maybe people did want something different? For me, I’m loving every second of how over the top it can be and I’m really looking forward to more curveballs, yes! For one, (I’m very curious about the Granedger and wonder what surprises it’ll hold in store.)


So, folks – tell us, are you watching Back Arrow? Planning to perhaps?

If you’re already watching it, how are you finding it so far? (Beyond the first three episodes the show continues to do more absurdist stuff and raise the stakes on the action too, I’m still enjoying it a lot for sure :D)

Something good to say about 5 anime I didn’t like that much…

Irina over at I drink and watch anime came up with a cool tag which I thought I’d try – I probably mentioned a few good things about these texts in my original reviews, but I’ll try add to that today 🙂

(The shows/films might be familiar, as I’ve listen them before.)

Fractale

I’ve said before that I thought the tone was wildly uneven in this series (among other things), but what I did enjoy was the unabashed adventure feel combined with airships – that’s always a plus for me.

My theory is that any kind of steampunk/airship aspects are going to please me thanks to JRPGs from the ’90s and so Fractale had enough of time spent flying around that I can definitely mention that as a plus.

Like the Clouds, Like the Wind

Maybe I’m being a bit hard on this one – in terms of the heading of this post – because I liked this plenty… but the ending was so rushed and compressed that I felt a little sad at the end.

On the other hand, this has a fair few stand-out character designs from Katsuya Kondō (familiar to Ghibli fans no doubt) and so watching it offered feelings of familiarity.

Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise

Ah, a space-race film with animation so good that it nearly sank Gainax before the studio took off.

I exaggerate a little I guess, but it is really grand – fluid and detailed, there are so many stunning sequences throughout. I love the assassination attempt or the race to Riquinni’s place to mention just two. (The world-building is pretty ace also).


Children of the Whales

The art style I liked a fair bit – and maybe the obvious work placed into developing how an isolated society might operate, though maybe the credit there goes to Abi Umeda’s manga?


I might add to this if I finish more anime that I don’t really enjoy – but for now, this is what I’ve got!

Seen any of these?

Karakuri Circus (Karakuri Sākasu)

I think Karakuri Circus oscillates between kind of a wild mess on one hand and more compelling flashbacks on the other.

And maybe a third thing: action with fun puppet designs.

Okay – a fourth thing too, which is fan-service, but the main point I’m trying to make is that this series was all over the place for me.

And yet, I finished it and I know that’s because early in the anime, the narrative flings the main cast apart and so I spent the following episodes basically waiting for them to reunite. Before I get to why, here’s a quick synopsis of the manga via Wikipedia:

[Karakuri Circus follows] Masaru Saiga, who inherits a massive fortune and aspires to become a puppeteer; Narumi Katō, a kung-fu expert who suffers from Zonapha syndrome (a strange illness that stops his breathing unless he makes people laugh*); and Shirogane, a silver-haired woman and Masaru’s caretaker who controls the puppet Harlequin. They must fight against the battling automatons (auto-mannequins) and save the world from the Zonapha syndrome.

As you can probably tell, it hits a lot of notes you’d expect from a shonen series but for me, the puppet aspect made it stand out. And the first four episodes felt like they were building to a big, cohesive revenge story with high stakes… but it didn’t quite work out that way.

When I realised that Kazuhiro Fujita was behind Karakuri Circus** I was pretty excited, since I’d enjoyed Ushio and Tora a lot. Studio VOLN produced both anime (and is currently looking after Back Arrow) and so I was expecting a bright, clear-looking adaptation and visually it’s exactly that. Fujita’s character designs are bold and plenty of the bad guy-designs are inventive but most of my criticisms landed on the story and structure.

Obviously, the art of adaptation is not a simple one. At all. Condensing a 9-year manga down to 30-odd episodes? Suffice to say that I’d find that extremely difficult.

Still, the amount of times a character slid into the story and then had their backstory dropped in right after seemed jarring. Each time it broke rhythm and the building of tension, and with such a large cast, this didn’t really allow many folks to get fleshed out as much as I’d have liked.

Connected to this, for each flashback arc there were a few episodes of cohesive narrative that sometimes took over from the ‘main’ storyline. Karakuri Circus is a complex story connected across hundreds of years and using reincarnation links everyone nicely, but what I found was that I became more invested in those flashback episodes.

That became a problem for me because it made it hard to return to whatever Masaru, Narumi and Shirogane were up to in the present.

And worse (again, in my opinion) was the fact that each of the three leads spent so little time together, a problem especially after those opening few episodes suggested a vital connection between them. Instead, over time, it seemed that their importance to each other almost became hypothetical.

Well, that might be an exaggeration but let me try to explain.

In the beginning, Masaru, Narumi and Shirogane operated almost as a cautious, small familial unit and the interpersonal stuff, their struggles and triumphs, were just beginning. I was interested.

However, due to the characters’ inability to benefit from much screentime together, they were each robbed of much chance to develop and resolve their relationships and issues. Instead, it felt like the narrative drove them apart and then worked fairly hard to keep them separated (at least in part) to delay an eventual reunion. [spoilers below]

But when they finally did come together melodrama kinda interceded on behalf of Narumi and Shirogane and forced them into this odd stand off. (On the other hand, Masaru makes some memorable sacrifices for those two toward the end of the series there).

Sadly, having spent a fair few episodes telling myself ‘things will pick up again once the leads are back together’ was perhaps naive in hindsight, since there are no guarantees in life nor in fiction 🙂

Still, I certainly did like some things:

  • the puppets and their designs
  • the flashbacks featuring Masaru’s grandfather
  • the Francine storyline
  • and Masaru’s growth as a character.

So, after all the grumbling about Karakuri Circus I’ve just done, I will say that the hints of a pretty compelling saga are clear in the anime.

Maybe it’s just not possible to compress something so large down to two seasons?

3 Stars

* In the anime, the Zonapha syndrome is explained a little more but it still always strikes me as unintentionally comical.

**Interesting to compare this to the Puppet Princess OVA which is almost like a warm up in some ways.