Spring2013Brief written at 22:55:29; Add Comment
Brief impressions of the anime of the Spring 2013 season
As before this is my early impressions of the spring's crop of new shows, or at least the small number of them that I've bothered to watch. This time around I've been unusually selective about the shows that I've tried out, so I've rejected any number of things sight unseen based purely on premise descriptions and so on. This may have caused me to miss gems but I haven't really seen any sign of that so far.
(In particular there's a number of action and adventure series that I might normally have auditioned but that I'm actively skipping due to bad reports.)
Hits (so far):
On the edge:
Sadly a miss:
Not for me:
Other shows probably fall into the 'I read bad things about them' category mentioned above.
(This specifically includes Karneval, Mushibugyou, Crime Edge, Red Data Girl, and Arata Kangatari. As always, I may wind up checking out some or all of them out later due to future good reports, boredom with the shows I'm watching, or both.)
ShinSekaiYoriSquealer written at 13:19:45; Add Comment
Some words on Shin Sekai Yori's Squealer
It turns out that I have more to say about Shin Sekai Yori than I've already written. Today is some things about Squealer (aka Yakomaru).
(There are spoilers here for SSY's final arc.)
Winter2013Retrospective written at 23:23:57; Add Comment
Looking back at the Winter 2013 anime season
It's time (and past time) for another look back at another season, following up on my early impressions and my midway views. In fact this is kind of a retrospective on two seasons, since so many of the Fall 2012 shows continued into this season; as such I'm splitting into two parts, one for a handful of this season's shows and the other for the big four heavyweights from last season.
For this season, in order:
In the end I tacitly dropped Hakkenden Touhou Hakken Ibun because I just felt no particular urge to watch any more. This is less a commentary on the show than a commentary on me; my understanding is that it was actually decently good, and it's getting a second season later on.
The fall shows, in order:
If I look only at the Winter 2013 shows, this was a good but not great season. If I throw in the four powerhouses that started in the fall, this is a stunningly excellent season, one that I have no complaints about at all.
ShinSekaiYoriWords written at 20:54:04; Add Comment
Some words on Shin Sekai Yori
My overall summary of Shin Sekai Yori is that it's an ambitious show of an ambitious story that succeeded at delivering on both (although as an ambitious show and story there are bits that people feel didn't work). As a whole the show is a powerful, affecting work with a wide emotional range and a lot of things to think about. My personal view is that the show is very well directed and animated and that its periodic experiments don't take away from that, but I'm not a stickler for traditional animation.
(Shin Sekai Yori also had a great ending episode, one of the best that I've seen. It was surprising, powerful, and well directed all throughout, with pieces that people were quoting and alluding to from the moment it aired.)
I can summarize my overall views this way: if Shin Sekai Yori is not at the top of my 'best N in 2013' list, I'll be very happy because I'll have seen something even better than it in the rest of this year.
Liked: very much.
(There are spoilers from now on.)
One of the things that the show excelled at was taking people doing horrible things and showing us why they had to do them. Pretty much everyone in the show is trapped in situations with no easy or good answers. The result is that, as I wrote on Twitter (spoilers in that conversation), a lot of people in SSY deserve death to some degree and don't to some degree. There are no shining heroes, just people doing the best that they can in a terrible situation. To me this made the characters feel more like people than, well, the protagonists of an anime. Call it a feeling of realism.
One part of this realism is that Saki and Satoru never particularly overcame the fundamental prejudices of their society, even when they were slapped in the face about them. Here I'm thinking particularly about their attitudes towards the bakenezumi (aka the queerats). Even Saki never really treats them as equals or fully people; to me this is particularly striking in what she unhesitatingly and more or less casually asks of Kiromaru in the last episode. Although other people may read the situation differently, to me Saki acted as if she was entitled to Kiromaru's sacrifice.
One of the things I believe about the setting is that Cantus users are dying out over the long term because of what they're doing to their own population level (this may be good news). While their raw birthrate is probably at or above their replacement rate, the problem is that they kill a significant number of their children in childhood. There's no sign that they make up for this with either unusually large families or unusually long lives; if anything, things seem to tilt the other way. I can't remember many mentions of (surviving) siblings in the whole show and the primary cast all seem to be single children.
(In Saki's case it's a plot point that her older sister didn't surive and that this put a great deal of stress on her parents; they didn't seem inclined to have a third child under pretty much any circumstances. My best evidence for people's lives not being unusually long is that Saki initially guessed that the elderly-looking Tomiko was 62.)
Other people have said more about Shin Sekai Yori and done it more coherently than I. See, for example, shibireru darou on episodes 24 and 25 and their roundup. The Cart Driver has a somewhat different take because Inushinde sees more flaws in the show than I do (the flaws may be there, but if so they didn't bother me next to everything else the show was doing).
(I've written less about Shin Sekai Yori than I have about Psycho-Pass because SSY is a better and clearer show.)
Update: I wound up with some more things to say about Squealer, which I put in ShinSekaiYoriSquealer.
PsychoPassNotes written at 15:38:20; Add Comment
Some rambling thoughts on Psycho-Pass and its ending
Almost from the start Psycho-Pass was clearly a show where the ending was pretty crucial and a bad ending would be a real problem for the show as a whole. Did Psycho-Pass come through in the end? My view is yes, although there are people who disagree. On the whole I consider the last episode a good ending although not a great one; to put it one way it was a well done and periodically exciting presentation of the last act of a play that we had all seen coming. There were no big surprises, no last minute shocks, simply well delivered story beats that we had already been (mostly) expecting.
(I'm now about to get into spoiler territory.)
The surface story of Psycho-Pass is the hunt for Makishima; apart from the first episode (which mostly serves as an introduction to the setting and the characters) the entire storyline is driven by his actions and revolves around them. But that's not really what the show's about and I think that how people feel about the ending (and thus the show) will depend on what they think the real story of Psycho-Pass is and that in turn depends on one's view of Sibyl. One view is that Sibyl is an inherently evil system and that the show should be about overthrowing it; this makes the ending at least a depressing one since the system survives and indeed co-opts Akane despite her knowing its terrible secrets. But I don't feel that way about Sibyl. Instead I've come around to seeing Psycho-Pass as fundamentally Akane's character arc, the story of Akane really growing up, maturing, and making her own decisions. This view makes the ending a powerful conclusion to the series because we see Akane come full circle to be a competent character and confident leader.
(I'll be honest; I'm biased towards this view partly because it makes the ending make sense.)
Having said that I don't know what the show really feels about Sibyl by the end. Is it evil but necessary? Flawed but necessary? There's certainly a lot of argument (tacit and explicit) in the latter parts of the show that Sibyl is now a necessity and society will fall apart without it. Also, part of my confusion is that the show and I clearly have rather different opinions on how horrifying the truth of Sibyl's deep secret is.
(This is serious spoiler territory now; I'm about to be explicit.)
PsychoPassSibylView written at 14:26:41; Add Comment
My view of Psycho-Pass's Sibyl System
(There are spoilers here.)
The Sibyl System is at the heart of Psycho-Pass and so I think that how people view it will be at the heart of how they react to the ending of the show. Because of this I want to write up my thoughts.
There is no question that the Sibyl System is flawed; the show goes out of its way to show us that in the first episode. Nor is there any question that it's tacitly oppressive; again, the show makes that clear with things like pervasive surveillance, mandatory treatment if your psycho-pass becomes cloudy, and potential imprisonment if the (flawed) system thinks that you've become merely potentially dangerous. One character has lived his entire life from childhood onwards as what is basically a non-person prisoner simply because the Sibyl System thought he was too much of a latent criminal.
But this brings us to the big question: is the Sibyl System an actively evil thing, something built and operated with malign intent or as a conscious tool for oppression? My view is that it is not.
I feel that Sibyl is fundamentally benevolent and well intentioned. Its flaws are not the result of active evil but (mostly) from being built with imperfect and limited technology; these make it both simplistic and overly rigid and thus inherently flawed. While the system is dishonest about how well Sibyl works and its limitations (and exactly how it works), this stems from good intentions. And generally Sibyl actually works. For the most part it delivers on what it claims to and does so without abuse, and as a result it's welcomed by people. You can argue about whether or not this is wise of them, but to the extent that Sibyl reduces people's free will it's not because Sibyl takes free will from people but because people voluntarily relinquish their free will to something that will do their thinking for them.
(You can argue that some of Sibyl's goals are inherently bad, eg that even if it had certainty that someone would commit crimes in the future they should not be imprisoned now.)
We never see Sibyl make a clear false positive diagnosis of (dangerous) criminality; its bad judgements of that (starting in the first episode) are always rational and driven by clearly limited and rigid views (eg 'too much stress makes people dangerous'). I maintain that we also never see strong evidence that Sibyl is corrupt and is being used to enrich and empower particular people.
(Yes, Sibyl covertly holds important and powerful positions. But there is no evidence that these positions are being abused for personal or group gain; instead, they are simply being used as part of making the whole Sibyl system work.)
To me this makes Psycho-Pass a much more interesting show than if Sibyl was a clear tool for evil and oppression. As it is you can have a real disagreement over whether Sibyl is a good thing and whether its benefits are worth its drawbacks.
(It also gives the show a different perspective, less about outside oppression and more about what people voluntarily do to themselves both individually and as a society.)
KatanagatariEndingBit written at 14:19:29; Add Comment
A comment on Katanagatari's ending
(Warning: there are indirect spoilers here for the endings of both Katanagatari and Haibane Renmei.)
Winter2013Midway written at 17:17:01; Add Comment
Checking in on the Winter 2013 anime season 'midway' through
It's time for the traditional look back at my early impressions of this season. I've delayed this long enough that it's not really 'midway' any more, at least in time. Partly this is because I've been only watching shows slowly myself for various reasons.
This is in order:
De facto suspended:
In (other) series carried over from last season, Shin Sekai Yori, Zetsuen no Tempest, and Psycho-Pass are all still being excellent. They rank ahead of everything from this season except perhaps Sasami-san. If it was not for them, this season would be basically a desert for me.
(I'm not convinced that that would have been a bad thing; if the season had been a total bust I might have dug into Chihayafuru and/or AKB0048, or even some other old shows that I have vaguely queued up.)
Updated: I forgot Senran Kagura. Now fixed.
BestNIn2012 written at 19:32:58; Add Comment
The best N anime that I saw in 2012
This is much like last year's best N, namely what I consider to be the best or the most enjoyable N anime that I saw in calendar 2012 (regardless of when they were made or released). This is much more delayed than usual for various reasons, including that nothing that finished in calendar 2012 really set me on fire the way shows have in past years. I was also trying to make up my mind about how to handle the strong crop of fall 2012 shows that haven't finished yet. In the end I've decided to declare unfinished shows ineligible at least for 2012.
(This is a real pity as it takes out a number of strong shows, one of them (Girls und Panzer) only because they didn't manage to get two episodes finished in time to air them as scheduled.)
More or less in order, at least at the start:
Shows that I consider good but not memorable over the long term:
I wish that I could put Dog Days' into this list with a clear conscience, but I can't because nothing happened in it. I'm not so enamoured of the setting and characters that I was really happy to have watched thirteen episodes of nothing much.
Things that were enjoyable fun and that I want to throw into this entry for various reasons without saying very much about:
Although I saw A Letter to Momo this year I don't think it's good enough to make this list.
(I find it a bit hard to figure out where to place movies in this sort of end of year list. Movies are almost invariably much better made and more interesting than four or five episodes of TV anime, so how do I really evaluate their merits properly?)
In the end I completed 28 series and movies this year. To my surprise this is only slightly less than the 30 from last year; before I actually got these numbers I thought that my watching was way down. I do think that I watched more movies this year than usual (if I'm counting right, six).
InitialDUncertainty written at 18:23:06; Add Comment
Something I never made up my mind about with Initial D
When I was watching Initial D, one of the things I was never able to make up my mind about was whether Takumi's story was fundamentally egalitarian or fundamentally conservative. Explaining this is going to require both some words and some minor spoilers (nothing more than you'd get by reading the Wikipedia page, though).
Initial D is certainly very egalitarian on the surface. Takumi is a (street racing) outsider in an unimpressive car and he beats a whole series of established street racers driving much better cars. Takumi does this by being an excellent driver (and in the initial races by being utterly familiar with his home mountain), but he got his driving skills and local knowledge through literally years of incessant daily practice. Takumi is better because he has worked harder, whether his opponents realize this or not, and a better driver in a good enough car will smoke a not as good driver in a hot car.
(A number of Takumi's early opponents get fairly emotional about what they feel is a total upset to the natural order. How can this nobody in a dinky car be beating them? They're renowned street racers, they have the right car, how come they're not winning?)
But as the series goes on we discover that Bunta (Takumi's father) was himself an infamous street racer when he was Takumi's age. As this comes up in the story, we also have any number of people saying that of course Takumi is good, he's 'Crazy' Bunta's son. Blood will tell, after all. If you've been watching anime for long you've seen this theme before; 'blood will tell' is a fairly major trope (mostly in shonen fighting shows, I think). If we believe 'blood will tell' then Takumi was destined for greatness from the start and someone who practiced as much as Takumi but did not have his blood would always be his inferior. This is fundamentally conservative, not egalitarian; it says that Takumi is innately one of the nobility of street racing, forever beyond the reach of ordinary people.
Depending on where you look at it and what you pay attention to, the anime story goes both ways. As I mentioned, I never was able to make up my mind about what it really was at its heart.
(Of course I am thinking too much about this.)
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