DECA-DENCE (12)

Deca-Dence 2020

Yay for a big finish!

So, whether some things were easy to predict in the finale doesn’t matter so much to me, since they were fun, and I got an upbeat ending too! Plus, my curiosity is high now, upon seeing the changes in the aftermath.

Interestingly, I enjoyed this ending more than that of the other show I’m currently writing about on an episode-by-episode basis, which is No Guns Life.

I am also (due to the length of time and repeat exposure perhaps) growing accustomed to the visuals of “Tanker + Cyborg within the one frame” now, so I guess I’m onboard fully, despite much initial resistance 😀

And, based on the ending, I can see room for more story and I wonder if – based on this interview that Lyn mentioned to me on twitter, maybe a film sequel in the future?

(It was fun to review a seasonal show as it streamed, but I don’t know if I could handle doing two this October. Maybe just one will be enough :D)

BECK (Mongolian Chop Squad) Bekku

Beck (Mongolian Chop Squad) 2004

For a while there I was on a real supernatural binge but I soon shifted to quite the nostalgia trip, hurling myself down memory lane.

So far, that has involved watching a lot of 80s and 90s anime but more specifically, a lot of coming of age things. Last month that included Kids on the Slope and Almost Famous and more recently, I’ve finished Beck (Mongolian Chop Squad).

Here’s the premise from wikipedia:

[Beck] tells the story of a group of teenagers who form a rock band and their struggle to fame, focusing on 14-year-old Yukio “Koyuki” Tanaka, who until meeting guitar prodigy Ryusuke Minami was an average teen with a boring life.

Poor Koyuki – that absolute joy, right before bitter misfortune.

And things for Koyuki definitely do get more interesting – he goes through all the classic coming-of-age storytelling markers; love, betrayal, doubt, loss, jobs and success. And because he’s a nice kid, the significant musical success he achieves doesn’t leave him with a monstrous ego. (There are also plenty of scenes showing Koyuki and the band putting the work in, which is great).

Beck uses a fair amount of serial storytelling, but it is all leading to something big – it’s more the sub-plots which have that feel. And there’s a good share of school drama on hand but the music and interpersonal relationships within the band take more of a front seat. Secondary, is probably the stop-start, romantic sub-plot, between Koyuki and Maho.

[Minor spoilers from here on in]: The episodes build really well to the big festival, where one of the more feel-good scenes happen, and it was interesting to see that uplifting conclusion undercut by the ‘break up’. Of course, there was time for another shift in the storyline but because I’d grown to care for the characters, I wished that the tour had been more ‘on screen’ rather than shown in montage, but I can see, since the anime only had one season, that the tour had to be compressed.

Time to switch to dot points:

  • I’ve seen a few complaints about the character design in my reading up on the series, but I think they’re distinctive, even if the animation doesn’t appear as seamless as in other shows.
  • Pretty much everything about the band feels spot on – players moving in and out of the group as ‘real life’ pressures kill dreams, the rivalry with other groups, the small steps with first gigs, the hard work that has to happen, it’s all there!
  • For those of you who dislike love triangles, Beck almost has one, but it’s more of a bittersweet realisation of change, and it gets ‘solved’ in a sensible way, which I liked.
  • Saitou provides most of the comedic moments – he’s hyperbolic, but has more than one dimension at least.
  • Since Sakuishi’s manga started in 1999 you’ll probably note a lot of references to 1990s rock and metal music throughout, and RATM fans will see more thanone clear homage too, all of which was fun to pick up on.
  • Koyuki might seem a little meek in some ways… and yet, he’s really not, especially if you consider the swimming pool and the Dying Breed gig for just two examples.
  • In terms of the sub vs dub, I think most folks will enjoy the songs more in the dub.
  • Related to this, I like the way that some of the English that Maho and her friends use (and her brother at times) isn’t always given subtitles in the sub. That way, if you don’t speak fluent English, just like Koyuki, then you’ll experience the same uncertainty he does, which is an important part of the romantic sub-plot.
  • While Leon is supposedly the film’s primary antagonist, I think the real villain just might be Ryusuke, whose secrets and tantrums often threaten band and even the lives of his friends. Seriously, he has redeeming qualities but oh boy.
  • And yeah, part of that last one is me wanting teens to act like well-adjusted adults, when it’s never that simple when you’re growing up; it’s hard work, and more, the mistakes the characters make fuel the story and the drama after all 🙂

Okay, I’ve likely missed some things I wanted to mention but I think that’s enough for now.

Ultimately, I doubt I can fully separate my memories and associated feelings around being young and playing in bands with the show itself – but even if you’ve never joined a rock band, Beck will probably still satisfy so long as you enjoy coming of age/teen dramas (and hard rock and certain metal sub-genres in general).

Thanks to Curtis for the reminder about this series too!

5 Stars

Review Count: 147 (I thought I might mark my 150th review, so I’m counting down at the moment).

DECA-DENCE (11)

Deca-Dence 2020

Stakes are definitely getting higher – as they probably should, now that the season draws closer to its end.

And while the new Gadoll threat brings with it not just echoes of the God Warriors in Nausicaa, but also a horde of offspring to trouble the Tankers and Gears alike, I still found myself enjoying the comedic bits most.

Again, I’m hoping that next season there will be a chance for characters to explore a bit but for now, it feels like the episode is using the pause before the big showdown to offer a few light moments.

Kurenai’s drinking was one of course, and the mistaken identity moment, but I’m mostly thinking about Natsume and her reaction to seeing the cyborgs, plus her attempt to imagine what Kaburagi really looks like. I won’t spoil it here, but I definitely laughed.

(It was also satisfying to be offered a small resolution for he and Minato, and I remain very curious about Jill’s past. Ready to see how the gambit she and Kaburagi have come up with plays out too.)

However, I spent a bit of time after the episode thinking about stuff ‘behind the curtain’ as it were, re: the way both Natsume and the viewer are being eased into the eventual moment when she and Kabu finally meet face-to-face.

I still think the two art styles are not complimentary… but this interview with some of the Deca-Dence team explains nicely why the ‘cute’ choice was made, and intellectually I like the reasoning, but at a gut-level I feel the clash between the two styles.

Anyway, to finally get to the point – I like this episode’s approach to revealing the cyborgs for several reasons, one because we get to see Natsume process the idea of cyborgs in general first, and two, this implies that she won’t have to ‘waste’ time doing too much adjusting when she does see Kaburagi in the next episode, which I think will need to pack a lot in to set up the next season.

And finally, I liked it because this way, we didn’t have to rush her onscreen response to the cyborgs either, as might have happened if it was part of the final ep.

A little sad that next week is the final installment for now, but also feeling a touch relieved because I don’t know if I’m cut out for reviewing multiple seasonal shows at once 😀

DECA-DENCE (10)

Deca-Dence 2020

Another short post – I’ve little to complain about, an episode to take stock and to process things is exactly what I was hoping for.

And as you may have seen elsewhere online, this is a classic shot from the car – I couldn’t avoid including it 🙂

Ultimately I don’t think I have much to say again – after the reflection, things started to build up again, especially at the end, with a new rather large threat. I was also excited to see that there was time for a little back story re: Natsume’s father, something I’ve been curious about for a long time.

I remain hopeful that next season there will be some exploration of the real world – maybe that’s the end point here, as whoever survives what’s coming, set off to find something else?

DECA-DENCE (9)

Deca-Dence 2020

Since I’m so far behind this week, I think this will be a far shorter post than usual when it comes to me and seasonal shows!

So, a big moment at the end of this episode, with a fair bit more action than we’ve seen lately, which was fun. And while I felt bad for Natsume, who will surely struggle to deal with the truth, I wonder if there are any big reveals left for the viewer?

We’ve been ‘ahead’ of the human characters for a long while now, so I’m interested to see whether the show will instead serve up some shocks for the cyborgs.

For instance, has this storytelling structure now lulled me into a false sense of confidence? I think I know what’s going on because I seem to know as much as Kaburagi, who in turn knows more than the humans… and then, suddenly when he gets hit with a surprise, I do too?

I feel a cruel cliffhanger coming at the end of this season!

DECA-DENCE (8)

Deca-Dence 2020

Apologies – it seems I have little insight to offer, and not much in the way of predictions either, but I’m still enjoying the series more than enough to keep watching.

Reunions are always fun – and in this case there was a bit of humour too, but I think my favourite part was the new menace Hugin gained via his avatar. Both his speed and posture really added something that was missing from his box-like cyborg form. (And Jill obviously has a few secrets too :)).

It still feels like there’s plenty of scope for multiple seasons here, so I really hope that’s possible because the team of heroes have more than enough in the way of challenges building up now, as pressure is starting to build from multiple angles.

Meet Minato

DECA-DENCE (7)

Deca-Dence 2020

Again, it’s early in the season for me to make any kinda claim, but this one feels like a real stand out episode.

It felt like a great mix of action, intrigue and character development and even though I didn’t dislike the last episode, I enjoyed this more. Perhaps due to all the time spent with the humans. (Related, I have some lingering apprehension toward the moment Natsume meets cyborg-Kabu).

It was also interesting to see the fear and/or cowardice play out in Natsume’s friends and acquaintances. And maybe I’m being a little hard on those characters, but the restoration scene was uplifting, and a great contrast for Kaburagi’s frustrations.

Keen to see how his plan works out, and what obstacles are thrown in his path. (I have also come to believe that my hope for our heroes to go out and explore the world is probably not on the cards, I think this season will be focused on the fortress.)

DECA-DENCE (6)

Deca-Dence 2020

In an inversion for the season so far, it’s Kaburagi’s world where we spend most of our time with episode six.

And it’s the grimier, ‘shittier’ part of the neon-toyland that he must deal with now, after facing some consequences. Whoever has intervened on his behalf has me curious too, wondering and hoping that it’s someone we haven’t met yet.

Plenty of tension too and next week should be fun to see him do his best to get things back on track.

It was nice to catch a glimpse of the Gadoll production too, where we also met some sort of creep. Feels like he’s a secondary antagonist… but we’ll see!

Kids on the Slope (Sakamichi no Aporon)

Kids on the Slope (Sakamichi no Aporon) 2012

No preamble here, just two (and a half) reasons on why this short series joined my top ten the other month.

Kids on the Slope is a great romance with very few instances of manufactured drama, which is really nice in a genre that sometimes suffers from such contrivances. In a way, the series is almost about the cruelty of youth, where the sweeter, coming-of-age elements are contrasted with the mistakes that are all too easy to make when you’re trying to figure things out.

I found myself quickly invested in the lives of Kaoru, Sentaro and Ritsuko, and I wanted them all to end up happy. (I was even able to almost remember how it felt to be that young and unsure).

The second reason will probably be no surprise: the music – both literally, and the way it forms part of the storyline and a bond between characters. If you enjoy jazz, especially (but not only) Hard Bop or the Cool sub-genres, along with the piano of Bill Evans, this will definitely appeal. And yep, Kids on the Slope is another collaboration between Shinchiro Watanabe and Yoko Kanno, but the OST isn’t as eclectic as say, their work on Cowboy Bebop.

Instead, I think Yoko Kanno looks after most of the incidental music and motifs, whereas a pair of young (certainly back in 2012) musicians perform the jams and standards. And the rotoscoping really shows fantastic fluidity in the performances – I’ll share one of the highlights at the end, but maybe if you want to see this series skip the youtube clip because it’s far better in context. (Elsewhere, the story really captures what it’s like to play in a group, another memory the anime managed to activate for me.)

And finally the ‘half’ reason!

Most of what I’ve talked about seems to be nostalgia, but it’s not just my own I guess – Kids on the Slope takes in a historical setting: sea-side Japan in the 1960s, and is fairly dripping with a nostalgia that I obviously cannot truly experience, but which seems to be captured so well in the settings.

5 Stars

DECA-DENCE (5)

Another short write up for today.

Deca-Dence 2020

Cliffhanger ending, nice!

Other than that fun moment – which is textbook ‘weekly’ storytelling – it was nice to see some satisfying action but also poor Natsume’s reaction to the big reveal behind the other big reveal.

I liked the slight ‘widening’ up of the world here, and so I remain hopeful that she will get the chance to explore later on.

It’s probably far too early in the series to say this, but I wonder if a few minor characters have been a bit forgotten? For instance, someone like Fennel. Is he relevant or not really? If he is, I’d like for episode 6 to check in with him, otherwise, I guess it’s all good 🙂