Roving Thoughts archives


A (qualified) defense of Arpeggio of Blue Steel - Ars Nova

I have been rather down on Arpeggio so far but its ending actually managed to change that; not because the ending is great by itself but because it forced me to change my idea of what the show was about. I still don't think Arpeggio is great but for me it is now somewhere on the decent to good line.

(My reconsideration started from the thought that the ending felt pretty satisfying, and then I wound up thinking why it was that way despite what happened in it.)

On the surface Arpeggio presents itself as the action-adventure story of Chiyaha Gunzou (and his ship and crew) making a dangerous trip from Japan to the US to save humanity and fighting their way through the Fleet of Fog to do this. This is what you'd expect from the premise and from the presentation of most of the episodes, although as time goes by you may notice a certain amount of digressions from this straightforward plot. As this action-adventure story the show is, well, competent but unexciting.

But this is not really what Arpeggio is about. It's really about the ships of the Fleet of Fog (and Iona, I-401, Gunzou's mysteriously renegade ship) and most especially the battleship Kongou, leader of the hunt for Iona and Gunzou. They are the real protagonists of the show and the most interesting characters (not Gunzou or his crew); as a result of this, they get all of the character development and the ending of the show is a resolution of Kongou's story. This whole aspect is actually decently interesting, affecting, and well done, with some real twists to it. It's also not obvious as the show played this aspect reasonably subtly (by my standards, and admittedly I can be kind of oblivious to things).

As a straight up action-adventure story of the I-401's trip from Japan to the US, Arpeggio is kind of a bust; it has acceptable battles but it's no Girls und Panzer or Yamato 2199 (and the ending is going to disappoint you). As an action-adventure character story about the ships of the Fleet of Fog, it's actually reasonably interesting and decently done and the ending fits. As a result I now have a rather better opinion of the whole thing than I did before.

anime/ArpeggioDefense written at 00:57:17; Add Comment


Why I have a very bad view of Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh (also ANN, MAL) is a 2003 anime series with a distinct and somewhat offputting art style and a bunch of reasonably interesting characters and things going on. That's about all you can read of this entry if you want to avoid spoilers, but this is one time I think that you should embrace them even if you're planning to watch the show and read on.

(If you don't know Gilgamesh and want to follow the rest of this entry I recommend reading the summaries above. Note that the Wikipedia page has full spoilers for the ending.)

I'm generally not someone who is deeply sensitive about endings. It's not that I'm indifferent to their quality, but by and large my feeling is that even a bad, disappointing, or incoherent ending merely makes the overall show unsatisfying; the good work that the show did before its ending remains even for endings that you can't just basically ignore outright. I also have no particular problems with non-ending endings (I've long since become inured to incomplete works in all mediums), although of course I prefer ones that feel complete. As a side note I find this a useful attitude to cultivate because many shows have problems with their endings.

(My standards for what makes an ending feel complete is probably different from most people's, but that's another entry.)

Gilgamesh is a very, very big exception. It has the worst ending I can remember watching, an ending that is so bad that it retroactively tainted and ruined the rest of the show for me. Even today it makes me angry (never mind what it did at the time). This is not because the ending is technically bad; it is perfectly coherent, well animated, relatively easy to follow, and so on. The problem is what the ending of the show actually is and there are two parts to that.

Throughout the run of Gilgamesh the show built up the question of why things in the Heaven's Gate facility happened as a big mystery (which always risked ordinary disappointment). The lesser problem with the ending is that the show gives this mystery the most asinine and petty explanation it could, and does so out of the blue. It turns out that all of the massively big events underlying the show happened because of (drum roll please) love and jealousy. For extra points, the character involved had no idea of this and the show doesn't give us any hints until this is sprung on us at the last moment. It is a giant 'was that it?' moment and probably the most unsatisfying explanation for a big mystery that I've ever seen a show pull.

The greater problem with the ending is that the show goes on to give us a 'rocks fall, everyone dies' ending in which the world is destroyed and the protagonists along with it. All of the protagonists' heroism to date in working against that is useless; they lose. In fact they are quite literally slaughtered, one by one, often in cruel and deliberately humiliating ways. The show is clearly not happy to just kill them, it wants them to suffer on the way down. This sort of death is an excellent way to make me hate a show.

(It is not quite carnography because the show doesn't lovingly dwell on the blood and carnage of their deaths; in fact I remember it as relatively antiseptic as far as that goes. It just wants to grind into us that the characters are totally ineffective at resisting their deaths even when, where, and how they had previously been shown as competent, and sometimes to humiliate the characters in the process.)

Oh, and all of this comes out of the blue. There are no real hints in the show about either part of the ending, nothing to prepare us for the joke of the ultimate cause and the total bleakness of the ending. My memory is that up until basically the last episode it looks like we're on track for a good ending.

This is cruel nihilism on an epic scale. I've never seen a show extend such a giant middle finger to everyone watching as Gilgamesh did and as a result the ending utterly ruins the show for me. It's impossible to think back to what happened before with any good feelings, partly because the protagonists spend all show fighting against this ending and I know that they are just going to their deaths.

(The middle finger is much worse than End of Evangelion and comes much more out of nowhere.)

anime/GilgameshBadView written at 14:15:43; Add Comment


Who is to blame for a badly written show that's based on a light novel?

Kyoukai no Kanata has not been a particularly well written show and it recently concluded with an ending that's fairly broadly considered unusually tacky and bad (personally I wasn't bothered too much but I had low expectations). However all of this got me thinking.

Kyoukai no Kanata is by KyoAni and we've been blaming them for its writing flaws (partly because KyoAni has done excellent work in the past), but it's based on a light novel series. It seems highly unlikely that KyoAni made up a number of the major problem elements, especially the ending of the series; that pretty much has to come straight out of the light novel. Can we really blame KyoAni for 'bad writing' when the bad writing comes straight from the original source and KyoAni's choices are to use it or to come up with anime-original material? In a real way, KyoAni's only choices were to animate Kyoukai no Kanata, terrible writing and all, or to pass on it entirely. We can blame them for choosing bad material in the first place but perhaps not for writing as such.

(This is especially so when one of the reasons that light novels, manga, and so on are used as sources for anime shows is to increase the sales of the original source. I expect that this works much better when the show sticks to the original material instead of inventing its own, and as a result the production committee is likely to be fairly against anime original material.)

But wait, there's a wrinkle here. The Kyoukai no Kanata light novels are actually published by KyoAni themselves and the anime itself may be an entirely KyoAni product without outside sponsors. At the least this gives KyoAni much more knowledge and influence over the adaptation process (although not necessarily total control, since the novel's author might still object to anime-original material) and also much more control over whether it got animated at all. Does this increase their blame for the bad writing? Should it also make us view them more cynically on the grounds that they probably animated this not because it was particularly well written but because it would sell?

(Let's skip over them publishing the light novels, because as far as I can tell almost all light novels are as bad as this one probably is.)

I don't have any particular answers here, just things I'm thinking about. Oh, and the obvious note: nothing about this means that KyoAni is excused in general for making a disappointing show with bad writing. It just changes what sort of blame I'll give them. If KyoAni didn't really write the show (or the flawed bits), the sort of blame changes to 'doing a straight adaptation of a bad work' and perhaps this is less of a failure than doing a terrible job of scriptwriting.

anime/AdaptationBlame written at 15:21:58; Add Comment


My memorable anime from 2002

I've got to say: 2002 was an awesome year for anime, or at least for the type of anime that I really like. Several of the standouts from this year are more like 'extreme standouts that are among my classics list'.

See the initial 2000 entry for the full background. I'm doing this based on the show's start date and memorable is not the same as either good or significant. Date information comes from Wikipedia and Anime-Planet.


  • Haibane Renmei: This is where I drag out the big guns and call HR 'numinous'. It is many things, including a character study (of several characters) and a study in how not answering our questions can make a show better. As I've written before the climax of the last episode had me genuinely tense and terrified, which is very rare.

  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: SAC is my favorite work out of all of the GitS I've seen and I feel also the best; everything came together right. That makes it not just excellent but awesome, full to bursting of so many great things and great moments and great characters. It is the essence of cyberpunk, boiled down until it is as beautiful and as brain-bending as it should be.

    (Very few shows could set an entire episode in an online chatroom and pull it off, but SAC manages the trick.)

    And oh, the Tachikomas. They're the best characters, really.

  • Princess Tutu: This starts out as a magical girl story with ballet and classical music and fairytales, which is already awesome, and then goes sideways repeatedly. It never takes the easy way out and is the better for it. And the technical execution is marvelous, full of little touches in directing and animation and beautiful, emotional dancing (which is far from trivial).

    If you don't mind some spoilers, watch this Princess Tutu AMV. The show is as excellent as the music video, which is high praise because the music video is stunning.

    (I have a high resolution copy of this AMV saved on my disk and I watch it periodically. That's how much I love it.)

  • Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi: Gainax cuts loose and takes an extended tour through a whole collection of genres in pursuit of a funny and touching story. Abenobashi is frequently crazy, usually amusing, and just generally excellent. The answer to what's going on genuinely caught me by surprise and I'm still not sure if the ending is a happy one or not.

Ordinarily memorable:

  • The Cat Returns: This is Ghibli at their most straightforwardly charming and accessible.

  • Full Metal Panic!: The characters carry the show, especially Sagara Sousuke. It isn't flawless but when things go well, it really delivers. There is a good reason that people want more of it.

  • Saikano: Watching Saikano is one gut punch after another; it's a well done work but also an inevitable tragedy from start to finish and there are no happy endings here. I can't imagine rewatching it but it has totally stuck in my mind ever since I saw it the first time. Watch it for people finding and taking what joy they can in the face of an inevitable, slowly creeping doom.

    (You know, that describes life in general. We're all going to die sometime; it's what we do on the way there that matters.)

Honorable mentions:

  • Naruto: Naruto is the best long-running shonen fighting show that I've watched and it held my interest for what was a remarkably long time, all things considered. For all of its bad traits, it delivered a lot of memorable interesting characters (and sometimes it even let the female ones do things) and good, affecting fights.

    (Naruto is not the best shonen fighting show I've watched; that would be Soul Eater.)

  • Onegai Teacher: I remember this fondly for various reasons, including the novelty of a reasonably well done love story which benefits from shoving the protagonists together first and then letting them gradually fall in love with each other later. It is not flawless by any means.

Sadly RahXephon does not qualify for this entry.

Things from 2002 that I want to see and am going to real soon now, honest:

  • Azumanga Daioh: Another casualty of disappearing anime clubs, so I've seen only some of the early episodes. I know, I need to fix that.

Things I want to see are here in large part because I expect that when I see them they'll be good enough to place into at least the ordinarily memorable section. Some I rather suspect will be standouts.

Sidebar: things that stubbornly stick in my mind

Aka 'shows that I feel like saying something about'.

  • Kiddy Grade: This isn't exactly a good show; among other things it has all sorts of flaws with pacing. The frustrating thing is that it also has all of the ingredients it needs to be great. I love the characters, the setting, the premise, and many other things about it, just not the execution.

    (Even the core plot is fine.)

  • Macross Zero: Beautifully animated but ultimately about as hokey as you'd expect. Still, beautiful. And it features a cameo by Earth Girl Arjuna (the TV show).

    (I'm so much of an EGA fan that I not only immediately spotted the cameo but was able to place just which EGA scene it came from.)

  • Tenshi na Konamaiki: This is a shoujo show that starts from an interesting premise with a bunch of nice characters but (from what I remember) then spirals off into the usual flaws of a relatively long shoujo show. It's probably a good thing for my fond memories that I watched this through an anime club and so only saw a limited amount of it.

I think my dividing line between 'honorable mentions' and 'shows I remember and want to say something about' is whether I'd recommend other people consider watching them. But who knows. This whole series is a work in progress and I figure stuff out as I go along.

anime/Memorable2002 written at 18:30:49; Add Comment

Some reactions to RahXephon

I finished watching RahXephon last night and I want to jot down some reactions while they're fresh in my mind. First, one striking thing about the show is that it was almost compulsively watchable. I ran through episodes at a really high rate (for me), often watching four or five at once until I ran out of time, and there was almost never a time where I didn't want to watch the next episode.

Overall I feel that RahXephon is a good series that is somewhat let down by its ending. Not that the ending is bad or incompetent, but it's merely ordinary; weird but reasonably explicable stuff happens, the show waves its hands a bit, and there is a nominally happy outcome. In retrospect, even before the ending the show lacked the vital spark necessary to lift it above merely competent and good (Shingu has that spark, for example). With that said there's plenty of decent stuff in the show; there are appealing characters, an engaging presentation (as mentioned), and the show can be clever and subtle when it wants to be. I do like how a number of things become clear in retrospect, including Haruka's activities in Tokyo Jupiter in the first episode. I certainly don't regret watching it.

(While the epilogue confused me initially I did wind up sorting out what was going on and who was who, although the show seems to have gone out of its way to be a bit confusing.)

There are unpleasant aspects, though. In particular an awful lot of people die over the course of the show, especially at the end in a very End of Evangelion-esque sequence that's essentially pointless. The show dangles a bunch of mysteries in front of us that it doesn't explain at all. There is a core romance in the show that I found both somewhat unrealistic and somewhat disturbing.

After thinking about the ending for a while, sorting out more or less what's going on in the epilogue, and reading spoilers in the Wikipedia entry, I think that it's a happy ending and a decent one, one that resolves what became the core issues of the series. I don't think that it's very exciting or very powerful (this may be a generic failing with 'reset' style endings). The sequence of emotional development and so on that led to the ending is okay but again not something I found exciting or powerful; it was more an affirmation of what the show had developed than anything more abrupt.

I wish it was possible for me to watch RahXephon without thinking about the long shadow of Neon Genesis Evangelion. As I put it on Twitter I strongly believe that they're quite different stories, but the two shows are definitely playing in the same territory and I couldn't help but compare and contrast them as I was watching. I know that 'a better Evangelion' is apparently something that Izubuchi was aiming for but I don't think that's how RahXephon came out, except very broadly.

(I could write an entire entry about RahXephon versus Evangelion and I probably will at some point.)

Liked: Yes.
Rewatch: Unlikely.

Sidebar: Some notes, especially on the ending

There are big spoilers here. In general the Wikipedia entry clears up several things if I trust it.

  • I saw people wondering why Mishima Reika showed up to work for Isshiki Makoto when he was commander of TERRA. My view is that she showed up for the same reason as she had earlier; she wanted to hang out around Ayato and 'working' for TERRA was a convenient way of doing so. She disappeared again when there wasn't any point to this.

  • Reika doesn't actually exist as a normal human person. I maintain that this is clear from her first appearance in the first episode (and other events in the first episode go out of their way to reinforce this). She is effectively a manifesting spirit or the like. Most people magically remember or forget her because that's what she wants.

  • Ayato clearly returned at least some dead people back to life when he re-tuned the world, in particular Asahina. I'll assume that he revived at least everyone he knew about, so Souichi is alive again (Wikipedia states this outright but I don't believe we have any evidence for it in the TV series unless I missed something in passing).

  • The 'Dandelion Girl Coda' post re-tuning part of the last episode is first in the current time, showing a married Haruka and Ayato (although he wears his hair very much like Itsuki) and baby Quon, and then in a flashback to when Ayato and Haruka first met before the series started (that explains the whole picture motif). I assume that Haruka's question about the painting is rhetorical and she knows perfectly well who and what it's about.

    This is not at all clear in the show and I've read people who think that something else is going on. However I think this version is the simplest answer.

(It's not clear to me if adult Ayato's voice is provided by Itsuki's VA. Maybe I was mishearing, but his voice in the modern day segment didn't really sound like his voice in the rest of the show.)

anime/RahXephonReactions written at 14:28:27; Add Comment


My memorable anime from 2001

See the initial 2000 entry for the full background. I'm doing this based on the show's start date and memorable is not the same as either good or significant. Date information comes from Wikipedia and Anime-Planet.


  • Spirited Away: See my discussion of it in my favorite Miyazaki movies.

  • Earth Maiden Arjuna (or Earth Girl Arjuna): This has so many excellent aspects to it that it's a pity its environmental message turns people off. It has great secondary characters (including one who gets both excellent lines and an entire episode that was apparently so controversial that it couldn't be aired on TV), beautiful character focused episodes, and it never shies away from showing just how difficult and isolating it is for the heroine to be so strongly environmentally aware; it never pitches its environmental message as at all easy. (And I love the music without reservation because it hits my buttons just right.)

    It has always amazed me that Arjuna was actually licensed in the US, partly because of the environmental message and partly because it's so much a subtle character drama instead of anything more active (yes, despite the periodic quite nice action scenes).

    By the way, Arjuna is a Shoji Kawamori project. (Yes, I'm trying to get you to give it a chance.)

  • Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars: This is an excellent show, as plenty of people will correctly tell you. I had some reactions when I finally saw it.

  • Alien Nine: I'm not sure that this is a good show as such (for a start it doesn't so much end as stop abruptly in the middle of something). What makes it so memorable is that it's so harrowing once you start paying attention and it's chock-full of interestingly weird science-fiction concepts (especially for alien creatures). You can read more about it here and also see Scamp's longer writeup.

Ordinarily memorable:

  • Animation Runner Kuromi: This is a very interesting and apparently extremely true to life look inside the anime production process. It's also touching, periodically funny, and full of small details.

  • Read Or Die (OVA): The first OVA is the distilled and turbo-charged essence of a particular kind of wild, supernatural action-adventure show. Crazy things are happening all of the time, one on top of the other, right from the opening moments. The other two OVAs can't top it or fully keep up the momentum and so mostly serve to finish off the story, but this in no way diminishes the sheer impact and momentum of the first OVA.

    (The subsequent TV series is in an entirely different genre.)

  • Millennium Actress: I'm not as taken with this film as some people are, but it's still an excellent film. Mind you I've only seen it once; possibly I should rewatch it.

Honorable mentions:

  • Cowboy Bebop: The Movie: I'm docking this memorability points because it was basically a big episode of the TV series. It doesn't stand out beyond 'hey, a chunk more of Cowboy Bebop'. That's still nice but it's not really earth-shaking.

  • Super GALS! Kotobuki Ran: This has frenzied energy and a quirky charm, but it's possibly a good thing that I only saw part of it; all 52 episodes might be a bit too much. I'm still amused by how the theoretically highly rebellious Ran always came down on the side of propriety when the dust settled.

Things from 2001 that I want to see and am going to real soon now, honest:

  • Angelic Layer
  • Figure 17

  • Noir: This is yet another show that the local anime clubs started showing just as they started collapsing, so I've only seen a number of the early episodes.

  • Popee the Performer: Due to Shinmaru at The Cart Driver. He inspired me to check out the first episode and yes, it's my kind of comedy. I just have to watch the rest of it someday.

Things I want to see are here in large part because I expect that when I see them they'll be good enough to place into at least the ordinarily memorable section. Some I rather suspect will be standouts.

anime/Memorable2001 written at 16:53:24; Add Comment

My views on character death in anime

I'm not one of the people who insist that their favorite characters can never die, because that's absurd. I don't even demand that characters get heroic ends or 'good deaths' or the like, instead of petty casual ones; the furthest I'll go is to say that a character's death should fit in with the feel of the show, but that's just good writing in general. However there are a number of ways for a show to anger me (sometimes very much) with character deaths:

  • When the deaths are mostly carnography. Some people are repulsed by carnography but I think I've become sufficiently numb to it in anime that it's mostly just a boring waste of time. Sometimes what I see as excessive brutality will get under my skin, though.

    One example of general carnography that comes to mind is the opening of the first episode of Elfen Lied, where a bunch of people are bloodily slaughtered for writing motives that I won't speculate on.

  • When the deaths are part of a giant middle finger extended to the audience by the show's creators. Often this also involves carnography, because you might as well make the audience even more angry at you by 'lovingly' dwelling on the deaths of characters that they like.

    Perhaps the most famous example of this is much of End of Evangelion, with the slaughter involved in the invasion of NERV Headquarters and so on.

  • When the death is just a cheap and lazy way of injecting (melo)drama into the show by having a shocking event happen that's sure to get an emotional rise out of the viewers. Deaths, like plenty of other shocking events, are easily (and frequently) exploited by bad writers.

    I will pick on Muv-Luv Alternative: Total Eclipse's second episode for this; in it, a whole bunch of people we spent the first episode getting to know are slaughtered in battle one by one so that we can understand that this is war and war is serious brutal business and so on. The final death was impressively melodramatic. I had a bad reaction to this.

There are any number of ways to make characters deaths be simply bad writing without rising to the level that irritates and angers me the way that the stuff above does. If I can see the death coming a mile in advance because the show has lovingly tripped a whole series of death flags for the character, well, that's cliched writing (sometimes it can be appropriate for the show's genre, although I'm sort of making excuses for the show here). But it doesn't irritate me more than any other form of bad writing and it generally won't cause me to bail out of a show on the spot.

(This issue of anger-inducing character deaths is going to come up in my 'memorable anime from 200x' series of entries, so I might as well explain my views in advance.)

anime/CharacterDeathViews written at 13:23:54; Add Comment


Memorable anime from 2000 (for me)

For various reasons I feel like looking back at the anime from the first decade or so of this century, year by year (partly because I by and large now have a certain amount of distance from it, since I saw most of it years ago). I can't possibly do my usual 'best N I watched in' style of entry for old years because I have no idea what I actually watched back then, so the best I can do is look at what (first) aired in those years and that I still think is memorable or notable. This is a personal version of memorable and as such will skip some famous works that I personally didn't watch or that didn't stick with me in any particular way.

(For example, InuYasha started in 2000 but I never really watched it. Love Hina is also a 2000 series, I saw all of the TV show, but I don't think it's memorable for me in the way I want to cover here.)

Note that memorable does not necessarily mean good and there's at least one series that's going to cause me to froth mightily when I get to its year. For the most part this will be anime that I've seen most or all of. I'm taking date information from Wikipedia (which turns out to be a bit incomplete) and Anime-Planet.


  • FLCL: I have nothing to say about this that other people haven't said better, except that watching it cold was a very trippy experience that probably can't be duplicated today (by the time you see it you'll likely have heard at least something about it).

  • Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade: This is an amazing movie. I have nothing coherent to say about it and others have written lots about it anyways.

    (Wikipedia doesn't list it as a 2000 movie because it was released in France in 1999. It was released in Japan in 2000 so it counts for me.)

Ordinarily memorable:

  • Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust: This was epic in a good way with all sorts of nice action scenes and some reasonably affecting characters.

  • Blood: The Last Vampire: This was an excellent little unpretentious movie for what it was. I still have fond memories of several scenes (including one genuinely funny stereotype-puncturing one). It spawned a whole series of other works that I am progressively less fond of.

  • NieA_7: This is a less well regarded Yoshitoshi ABe work but I enjoyed it a fair bit. It is slower and smaller in scope than his other works but no less charming.

  • Escaflowne (the movie): Oh boy. The TV series was fine but the movie version of the story was kind of a trainwreck, with changes left and right. I once had a lot more opinions about this but they've faded with time.

Honorable mentions:

  • Ah! My Goddess: The Movie: I was actually surprised to realize that I remember quite a lot from this film, including a quite nice race scene. It's well done and a quite good distillation of the essence of AMG.

  • Initial D: Extra Stage: I get to count Initial D in this because Extra Stage aired in 2000. Extra Stage is a nice little side story focusing on some of my favorite secondary characters.

  • Android Kikaider: This takes an old Japanese tokusatsu show and turns it into a surprisingly affecting psychological thriller that's lovingly drawn in an old-school style to boot.

Things I haven't seen:

  • Banner of the Stars: I've seen Crest of the Stars and have always wanted to watch more, but Banner fell into the 00s gulf in my anime watching.

There are a number of other shows from 2000 that I have definite and often fond memories of but that I don't think are memorable enough for me to say anything about here. An incomplete list is Boys Be..., Yami no Matsuei, Gatekeepers, Gravitation, Hand Maid May, Kazemakase Tsukikage Ran, Love Hina, and Vandread.

(Some might be more memorable if I had seen all of the show instead of just parts.)

Sidebar: Me and incomplete or missed series from the 00s

The early 00s have a lot of incomplete series for me because I fell out of watching anime for a while. At the start of the 00s I was watching anime through various local anime clubs, but around here they steadily withered away as digital fansubs grew (which was kind of sad to see). For various reasons I didn't make the transition myself right away and only started watching anime on the computer rather later on. So there's a bunch of series that I saw some but not all of through an anime club before the anime club closed down, but I never went back to watch the rest of.

(And a certain amount of series that aired then, I missed at the time, and I've never gone back to watch since.)

anime/Memorable2000 written at 13:51:15; Add Comment


An appreciation for Kyoukai no Kanata episode 10

By my standards, Kyoukai no Kanata is not a particularly great show on the whole (cf). But I had a very positive reaction to episode 10 and today I feel like explaining why I feel that episode 10 is an excellent single episode and in fact retroactively improves the whole show.

(There are spoilers in here, especially by the end. Also, if you want an idea of what actually happened in the episode see eg Bobduh's coverage, which of course contains full spoilers.)

Episode 10 is excellent in not one but two ways, in both its narrative structure (and associated directing) and in what it reveals about one character. I'll start with the narrative structure because it has fewer spoilers. Previous episodes have been mostly told straightforwardly as linear stories. Episode 10 could have been done the same way but instead it opts for an indirect narrative using three independent strands of story, all braided together in a way that builds up to the dramatic revelation and climax. It is this braiding that is the really powerful part, as both secondary stories are woven into the mix to make us more and more unsettled with the main strand.

And that is the real goal and excellence of the narrative structure of this episode. All of its directing tricks are deployed to show us, right from the beginning, that something is up. Things are wrong and we feel that right from the beginning when the episode starts well after the cliffhanger at the end of episode 9 and in fact completely ignores it. All through the episode the directing works to unsettle us, as it does things like cut to the inexplicable and odd third story just when we're getting comfortable and quietly uses inappropriate background music during what should be cheerful moments. All of this sets us up for the climactic reveal, both giving it extra punch and making it so that the reveal is not a complete and disconcerting surprise from left field.

When a show does this sort of thing there is a delicate balance between shoving things in our faces in an obvious way and doing it so subtly that people miss it totally, making the climactic reveal terribly disconcerting. Kyoukai no Kanata hits the balance excellently.

(It also doesn't overstay its welcome. Although I'd remembered it as running through the entire episode, in checking Bobduh's coverage again I see that the major reveal actually happened a bit less than halfway in.)

The other way that episode 10 is excellent is that it reveals Mirai's backstory. Well, that's a completely inadequate way of putting it, so let me phrase it better: the show forces us to completely re-evaluate Mirai's character in light of what it reveals. The Mirai we thought we were seeing from outside over the past nine episodes is not the real Mirai. The real Mirai is a lot more complex and interesting than what we thought and in the process much more morally grey. In the process the show retroactively mostly but not completely justifies a number of Mirai's more obnoxious traits and strengthens the links between her and Akihito. To push the point home the show reruns a number of earlier scenes (sometimes from slightly different angles) and leaves us to reinterpret Mirai's reactions in them in light of what we now know.

(In retrospect the show did this sort of character reveal once before, with Akihito.)

Sidebar: Where this episode's revelations fail

The revelations about Mirai can be used to justify a certain amount of her early moe clutziness on the simple ground that this was not actually clutziness, it was Mirai flinching away from genuinely killing Akihito (especially as she began to know him). But early Mirai was too moe-clutzy for this to fully pass muster and it can't explain why she couldn't even bring herself to hunt dreamshades. Mirai the killer makes cutely clutzy moe 'can't bear to fight dreamshades' Mirai even more bogus than it was before.

(You could try to argue that Mirai is doing this deliberately to throw Akihito and everyone else off, but the problem is that you're reaching here and the show is giving you no support. Occam's Razor says that early Mirai was made that way to give her moe appeal and for no deeper reason. And that is one of the show's failures.)

anime/KyoukaiNoKanata10 written at 00:07:40; Add Comment

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