Roving Thoughts archives


Brief early impressions of the anime of the Fall 2012 season

As before, here are my impressions of another season's first few episodes, or at least of the shows that I've bothered to watch. I'm reusing the same format as last time and for the same reasons. This time around I'm trying to be harsher than usual because my goal is to only watch anime that I'm going to really enjoy; I have enough other things competing for my time.


  • Magi - The Labyrinth of Magic: So far this is a straightforward adventure story but I'm finding it nicely done. It's not deep but it's enjoyable. One reason I like it is that it has that rarity in an action show, a strong female character who is going to be one of the main protagonists.

  • Shin Sekai Yori - From the New World: This is this season's deep and serious show (well, the successful one). It's well done and interesting so far, with intriguing mysteries and decent characters. Bits are a little bit clumsy but I'll forgive them since the rest is so good and interesting.

  • K: After the third episode I've become convinced that this show is consciously trolling us, setting up cliched situations and characters only to deliberately do the opposite of what we expect. It's great (assuming you like that sort of thing, which I do when it's done well).

    (A smarter person would have become convinced after the ending of the second episode. Or even during the second episode.)

  • Zetsuen no Tempest: What I like most about this show is the main characters, who are much more interesting, complex, and nuanced than the usual run of the mill spuds in your typical action anime; I look forward to the show exploring them more. As an action anime it's otherwise decent (and enjoyable) but ordinary.

    (It's worth mentioning that the action seems well animated and well done, since a lot of alleged action shows cheat massively on this.)

  • Girls und Panzer: This surprised me by being much more interesting and enjoyable than I expected (once I was persuaded to give it a try by all sorts of praise in the anisphere). It's not exactly deep and you really don't want to think about the setting, but it's quite fun so far. While it could fumble things, I suspect that the staff has enough of a handle on what's fun about this setting to keep things going for its entire run.

    (The protagonist has some sort of tragic past lurking in her background, but this seems to be mandatory these days.)

Either this season is really good or my attempt to be strict about what I'm going to watch is an abject failure so far.

Need to see more of because I can't make up my mind:

  • Robotics;Notes: After two episodes, I would have to describe this as quiet. It isn't as flashy and splashy as the other series and it's not moving as fast; that makes it easy to overlook and to discount. It's well made but the characters are perhaps a little too stereotypical and predictable for their own good; still, they have a certain amount of depth and interest to them. At this point I don't doubt the quality of the execution in the show; I expect it to be solid throughout. I just don't know if it's going to wind up going anywhere interesting.

  • Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo: After the first two episodes, I was going to brush this show off as not sufficiently good to overcome its fundamentally generic premise. Then the third episode came along and at least temporarily upended all of that by not taking any of the easy, cliched approaches to its up-till-then stereotypical situations and in the process injecting a bunch of brutal honesty into the proceedings (and changing our view of at least one character). This burst of maturity and solidity may well fade into a predictable heart-warming resolution of the current plotline, but right now there's at least the chance that this show is going to do something genuinely unexpected and unusual. I'll watch the next episode and see how it goes, although I don't have really high hopes.

    (This did get adopted from a light novel, after all. The chances of a a successful light novel series doing something genuinely daring and unusual are low.)

On the edge:

  • Ixion Saga DT: This is totally not taking itself seriously at all; it's full of slapstick and other deliberate comedy, all of which is well enough done to amuse me. But it hasn't had many jokes so far and if it runs out of decent ones, that's it. The third episode was kind of marginal, so I don't know how long I'll last with it.

    (Even if it doesn't fumble the jokes, if I was being sensible I should probably stop watching it as not quite sidesplittingly funny enough to justify the time. But it's so hard to stop watching things that are entertaining but not hugely so.)

    One fundamental difference between Ixion and K is that K is playing things in a straight-faced deadpan, while Ixion wants to make sure we know things are funny. This is one reason K is better.

  • Psycho-Pass: This is a great example of copying the superficial form of good things without understanding what makes them good, since it's clearly trying to be Ghost in the Shell and various SF films. It aspires to be deep and serious and meaningful, but Shin Sekai Yori has at least twice its depth (with characters half the age). The second episode was mostly an extended and clumsy info-dump, and the characters are mostly a collection of predictable cliches (like the old man who's world-wise and cynical because hey, he's old, right).

    Oh, and apparently we're likely to have a patented Gen Urobuchi shock surprise turn at some point, where everything turns dark(er) and what ideals we've retained are betrayed and we see characters destroyed and so on. My anticipation for the brutality is palpable.

    (That was sarcasm. This is the Internet, so I want to make sure people understand that.)

    I don't know why I'm leaving this marked as on the edge instead of a miss. I guess I'm not quite ready to give up on the dream that this could be good.


  • CODE:BREAKER: I want to like the setting, the plot, and the idea of the characters because all of them sound promising. In practice I've ended up completely uninterested in the actual characters and what happens to them; they're boring (and sometimes stupid) and I just don't care about any of them.

Not for me:

  • Chousoku Henkei Gyrozetter: I watched the first episode for some reason and while this is not bad as such it's also not appealing enough to get me to watch another episode given that I am very much not in the target demographic for this show. What I find most interesting about it is the ending animation, which is worth watching once to see the logical result of the availability of computer-driven CGI character dance animation (as seen in, eg, the IM@S games and the Pretty Cure ending animations) when combined with CGI models for other things. Like, oh, your show's giant robots.

    That's right, CGI giant robots doing an idol dance routine (complete with the hand gestures). You know you want to see it. Here, have a link for your convenience.

  • Kami-sama Hajimemashita: This is perfectly good shoujo romantic comedy and seems decently well done in the two episodes I watched. But it's not striking enough to overcome the fact that shoujo romantic comedy is pretty much just not my thing.

    (Sometimes a romantic comedy show is striking enough, so I keep watching one every so often to see if this one clicks. Kami-sama seemed promising since it had the supernatural element, but that wasn't enough to overcome the relatively ordinary feeling situations.)

  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: I'm just not in the mood for MANLY SHONEN ACTION this season; I couldn't even make it through the first episode of this when I tried (I gave up at the point where Dio leaps from the carriage). It doesn't help that Jojo's is painting with a brush so broad that it's more of a roller.

  • Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai!: This is probably the season's most praised and well-respected show that I have no interest in at all.

    The animation is spectacular though (from the Youtube clips I've seen). Someday someone will assemble a clip show of all of the striking fantasy bits.

Actively passed on (that I feel like mentioning explicitly):

  • Busou Shinki: I might give this a try if it was about the shinki fighting, but apparently this is mostly a comedy anime about them doing housework and getting themselves into trouble. So, no. Pass.

    (One of the reasons that I'm passing is that I have a very bad reaction to the whole anime habit of taking warrior women and turning them into cute dojikko who can't do things and get themselves into trouble.)

    It's a real pity, though; some of the combat sequences look pretty spectacular. I reserve the right to change my mind about this later. Maybe I'll experiment with fast-forwarding through all of the boring and irritating bits and just watching the fights.

  • BTOOOM!: Another entrant in the 'trapped protagonist forced to fight for his life' genre that I've decided I have no interest in.

  • Little Busters!: I believe that I've liked exactly one Key-derived anime, and in that one I didn't like the half of it that everyone else apparently did.

    (I liked the modern-age parts of Air but not the flashback to medieval Japan; the former were interestingly different, the latter were all too ordinary fantasy Japan.)

Mentioned for completeness as still continuing: Sword Art Online. The execution continues to be decent enough (and entertaining enough) to overcome all of its flaws.

(I can't count Eureka Seven AO as 'continuing', since it doesn't have episodes currently airing; we're just on hold for the concluding two episodes in November.)

anime/Fall2012Brief written at 22:55:49; Add Comment


Bokeh in anime: selective focus, blur, and the anicamera

SeHNNG recently wrote about the anicamera, the imaginary camera that 'films' anime. As it happens I have an interest in this area, so today's topic is the interesting issue of out of focus blur in anime.

(Well, interesting to me, partly because I'm an amateur photographer.)

Most anime scenes have everything in focus (what photographers would call infinite depth of field). This is the natural look of painted and drawn art and what we think of as the conventional way things are, but it's not entirely realistic; real cameras and lenses can at best fake it, and film usually doesn't have everything in focus this way even if we don't consciously notice when we're watching. However, every so often anime likes using selective focus with areas deliberately out of focus, sometimes together with shifting the focus from one person in the scene to another to draw your attention along with it. In this as in much else anime is consciously emulating film cinematography, which uses selective focus and focus changes for very similar reasons.

Back in the days of physical cels, my understanding is that this selective focus was achieved when the cels were filmed. Instead of stacking all of the cel elements that made up a shot right on top of each other, you'd add some sort of spacers to separate some cels from the others and then focus the camera on the particular cel you wanted in focus; the cel to cel distance was enough to throw the others at least somewhat out of focus. In the new modern world of digital animation with no actual camera creating the final shot, selective focus is presumably created by selective deliberate blurring of appropriate digital layers in the image as it's composited together.

This is where we get to talk about photography (and cinematography) with physical lenses. One of the things that (some) photographers care about is bokeh, the characteristics of the out-of-focus blurred area of a picture. Different lenses can give you quite different bokeh; some are considered good and smooth, others bad and harsh. Back in the days of physical cels, the blur you got in a selective focus scene was determined by the lens used in your rostrum camera; you got whatever blur the lens gave you and that was that. But in the new world of digital animation, the blur you get is created by software. And software can do whatever you want.

Which brings us to the interesting bit. Now that the anicamera is fully virtual and all software, someone has to actively decide what the out-of-focus blur will look like. The bokeh of a selective focus anime scene is now entirely up to the people creating or using the software. So I wind up wondering things like whether some directors deliberately try to make the blur look natural (or to emulate a specific camera lens or look), if people painstakingly emulate the specific out of focus look of traditional cel animation rostrum cameras, or if the programmers just do a simple generic image blur and call it a day.

So far I don't think I've seen any anime that's deliberately done a high-bokeh scene, one where almost everything is thrown out of focus (the current common cliche for still portraits and certain sorts of lazy artsy photographs, and sometimes seen in films shot with DSLRs). It may come someday, though, especially if this look enjoys a burst of popularity in film cinematography.

(I suspect but don't know for sure that physical cels couldn't do this sort of drastic out-of-focus areas. Software almost certainly can if someone wants to create it, especially if the scene is being partly created in 3D and then flattened during compositing.)

anime/AnimeBokeh written at 20:43:38; Add Comment

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