Roving Thoughts

2017-03-12

Checking in on the Winter 2017 anime season 'midway' through

It's time for a slow-moving midway update on my early impressions. This update has been delayed in part because I didn't want to admit something, and that was partly because of the tacit pressure of conformity.

Excellent:

  • ACCA - 13-Territory Inspection Department: This has continually been the most interesting show I've been watching this season. It wasn't always clear where it was going (and it's still not), but it had such a sense of style, atmosphere, and character that that didn't matter. And while I wasn't really looking, in its quiet, atmospheric way the show has covered a huge amount of plot territory, especially in the past few episodes. I can't wait to see where it goes next.

  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: This is still a comedy but it's a lot more than that too; at its heart it's about family. I don't like all of it, but enough of every episode lands that it's great. It has a real mastery of quiet moments, background things, and little gestures.

In ongoing shows, March comes in like a Lion has continued to be quietly great. There are less fireworks now than there used to be, but more development and progression. Shimada has been a great addition to the cast.

Not for me:

  • Little Witch Academia: In the end, this is basically a kids show (that's made by Trigger, and is airing at midnight because apparently the TV anime model is fundamentally broken). There's nothing wrong with LWA being a kid's show, but kids shows generally don't really appeal to me and LWA has not been the exception.

    This is kind of what I was worried about before LWA started airing, although not exactly it. In the end it was less the cliched stuff and more the general style that didn't work for me. I have a bunch of issues with what happened in the episodes I watched, but in the end all of them come from looking at a kids show with the eyes of an adult.

Dropped:

  • Blue Exorcist - Kyoto Saga: In the end, the slow pacing killed it for me. This has the leisurely execution of a show that knows it's adapting a manga arc and is thus ultimately not particularly going anywhere. I like the characters, but no.

  • Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2: Episode 4 was all about Darkness and I hate what the show does with Darkness, so I bounced off it and then realized I wasn't particularly interested in the show as a whole. The show had one core joke and mostly wore it out in the first season; the things it did in the first three episodes of the second season weren't enough to keep me (and some of them I disliked).

I have continued to not watch Saga of Tanya the Evil, and what I've heard about recent developments have convinced me that this is the right decision (partly because I'm on Tanya's side in one small aspect of the show, although everything else I've heard about her makes me think I'd dislike her).

In the past I've felt antsy when I was down to this few shows I was watching. This season I have no such issues so far, and I think that that's partly because the three remaining shows are all really good ones. They each leave me happily contented when I watch an episode and I eagerly anticipate the next one when it gets close.

Winter2017Midway written at 18:53:04; Add Comment

2017-02-18

Where I think each Pure Illusion world comes from in Flip Flappers (part 2)

(This won't make much sense if you haven't seen Flip Flappers, plus it sort of has spoilers.)

To follow on my original entry on the sources of the Pure Illusion worlds, here are some additional notes that are really too big to be added on as an update to the original entry.

  • episode 3: As of episode 11, the episode 3 desert world is pretty strongly attributed to Sayuri, per @PeterFobian and @B0bduh. Nick Creamer's tour of the Pure Illusions worlds contains a longer explanation of the evidence (and some additional details).

  • episode 5: I'm basically persuaded by Emily Rand's argument in Yayaka's world (and a few stray thoughts on Flip Flappers' Pure Illusion that episode 5's setting comes from Yayaka. And frankly it's just neat for it to be that way, because (as Emily Rand notes) there are a whole lot of thematic resonances and reflections between Yayaka and the setting. It's the kind of thing that makes me slap my forehead and go 'wow, it so totally makes sense'.

    (I'll also note that despite the horror movie overtones, the setting of episode 5 is not intrinsically dangerous. There are no monsters, no deprivation, no threats. If anything, the school is a refuge from the dangerous outside.)

  • episode 9: I'm not persuaded by Emily Rand's argument (from the above-mentioned entry) that the world here is (mostly) the twins. I stand by my views that it primarily draws on Yayaka, although I'm willing to believe that it's intended to reflect and draw on the twins as well. Another person also feels that the episode 9 world is likely the twins. But I still feel that the visual resemblance to Yayaka's locker room scene at the start of the episode is too on-point for Yayaka to not be deeply involved.

In a show as deliberately constructed as Flip Flappers is, I can't help but read something into the last-minute revelation about the source of the episode 3 world. What I personally see it as is a message from the creators to us that we're not overlooking clues to where all the worlds come from; for some of them, we don't necessarily have enough information because the show has simply not shown it to us, just as the show hadn't shown us the necessary information about episode 3's world until the last moment in episode 11.

As a result, I don't think any of the remaining uncertainties can be settled with evidence from within the show. If we find out for (relatively) sure, it will be through future interviews with the creators, BD booklet notes, and other external sources of information.

(Apparently the director wanted to add at least some additional things to the BD releases of Flip Flappers, so it's possible that BD versions of episodes will also reveal more things. But I haven't heard anything about that so far.)

FlipFlappersPIWorldSourcesII written at 00:09:17; Add Comment

2017-02-12

Some trivia on the bikes and gear of Long Riders!

Apparently the manga version of Long Riders! is much more explicit about what real-world bikes all of the protagonists rode than the anime was (as usual, the anime altered most brand names). This report on the manga volume 5 release names everyone's bikes, and this Reddit comment has more specific model numbers (and see also this Reddit comment on Ami's road bike).

The first surprise here is that Makino, the brand name of Saki's bike, is a real Japanese bike maker and is used un-altered in the anime. In fact, Makino has put together a web page on Saki's bike, with full specifications if you can read Japanese, and seems to be quite happy to be associated with the manga and the anime.

Ami, Aoi, and Hinako all ride unsurprising bikes. Ami and Aoi have basically normal aluminum frame road bikes, with Aoi's being more expensive (and having some carbon fiber parts); Hinako rides a more expensive, higher end carbon fiber bike that's nominally more of a race bike. The twin surprises to me are Yayoi and Saki. Yayoi is riding a custom-built steel frame bike, which is well out of the ordinary for road bikes. Saki is riding a carbon fiber road bike, which is perfectly normal as a bike but is unusual for her because stereotypically the type of randonneuer who wants to go to Paris-Brest-Paris will ride a steel framed touring bike (although apparently an increasing number of people are doing PBP and similar long brevets on carbon fiber bikes).

(You can get into a lot of arguments about whether steel frame road bikes are any heavier than aluminum road bikes, as actually kitted out in the field. Let's just say that if Yayoi wants a relatively light steel frame bike, she can get it. It won't be as light as Hinako's carbon fiber bike, though.)

As I discovered, the bike headlights Ami, Hinako, and Yayoi are using (especially in episode 11) appear to be the Cateye Volt 1200. This is a relatively high end bike light, but we already knew that Hinako and Yayoi liked to buy good but expensive gear. And it will put out 150 lumens for 15 hours and has swappable batteries, making the seven hour or so night ride in episode 11 reasonably sensible.

(It does raise the question of why Ami freaked out when her helmet light went out, since she could switch her headlight up to a much brighter mode. But, well, it's Ami.)

Ami, Aoi, Hinako, and Yayoi all use older style magnet based speed sensors for their bike computers. Ami has hers on her front wheel, which is the easy place to mount it; everyone else has theirs on their rear wheel, which is where more advanced people put it for various reasons. Saki has no sensor visible, which probably means that she has a modern accelerometer-based wireless speed sensor. Hinako is definitely using a GPS-based Garmin unit; I suspect that Yayoi and Saki are using a GPS based bike computer as well, and perhaps Aoi too.

(Theoretically GPS-based units don't need a speed sensor. But having one makes their speed readings more accurate, and we already know that Hinako and Yayoi buy good gear.)

One of the interesting questions is whether Ami is using clipless pedals or not. The anime never had any sequence of Ami trying to use these (and it's certainly a learning experience that's good for a certain amount of comedy), but her road bike's pedals are definitely dual-sided, where you can use regular shoes or clip in with special shoes, and in later episodes she's clearly using the clipless side and seems to be wearing special biking shoes that you use with clipless pedals. I suspect that the anime skipped this part of Ami's learning experiences in the interests of time, as it omitted other things from the manga.

(Everyone else is definitely using clipless pedals and shoes.)

This Reddit story links to several YouTube videos that match up various Long Riders! locations with their real world counterparts. Unsurprisingly, a lot of places in the anime are real places.

(I'm writing this entry down before everything Long Riders! related falls out of my head over time.)

LongRidersBikesAndGear written at 19:30:26; Add Comment

2017-01-30

Brief impressions of the Winter 2017 anime season so far

We're three episodes into everything I'm watching, which is long enough for shows to get at least a bit established and for my opinions to firm up (and for me to drop some things). So here's how my views of this season have shaken out, following up on my first episode reactions.

Good trending to excellent:

  • ACCA - 13-Territory Inspection Department: The show has managed to nail being stylishly cool and intriguing. Things have been developing slowly, but it's clear that this is deliberate; the show is building a particular mood, one where it's increasingly obvious that a lot is going on underneath the surface.

  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: This is the rare comedy that works for me, and on top of that it's charming and heart-warming. The addition of Kanna and the third episode as a whole made it more or less explicit that the show is partly about family and being family, in its own quiet way. Part of what makes the show work so well for me is that every so often the dragons are terrifying (and once upon a while, so is Miss Kobayashi).

As for my one ongoing show, March comes in like a Lion continues to be somewhere between good and excellent depending on the individual episodes (and even the segments within episodes).

Good:

  • Little Witch Academia: This is basically just as charming as the OVAs. It's not particularly deep or complicated, but it's telling its story pretty well and it has very good (genre) characters.

Okay:

  • Blue Exorcist - Kyoto Saga: This has the leisurely progress of an adaptation that is going to faithfully follow a manga arc and then stop. It's okay, but either the original was not as good as I remembered or something has fallen off in this version. There are flashes of the old magic every so often in the character interactions, but I couldn't describe this as a quite good shonen fighting series. It's okay and I have enough affection for the whole thing to keep watching.

Holding on for now:

  • Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! 2: KonoSuba is KonoSuba, for better and for worse. People who've been watching know what to expect and the second season is more or less delivering so far. Kazuma grates on me more than he used to; I'm not sure whether he's just getting more dialog this season or I'm more aware of his annoying side.

    Darkness has been pleasantly absent for the last two episodes, but I don't expect that to last or for her to be any better than before.

Dropped:

  • Chain Chronicle (TV version): There's nothing wrong with this but it's uninspired and has a little bit too much emphasis on what are clearly game mechanics. It just failed to make me care enough to watch more.

    (I've decided that I refuse to use the show's ridiculously long full official name here, just because. You can see that on Crunchyroll.)

  • Akiba's Trip The Animation: I realized that I didn't care about either the characters or what was going on in the show.

  • Interviews with Monster Girls: Too much emphasis on student romantic feelings about the male teacher, too little Hikari being Hikari. There are the bones of an interesting show underneath the harem setup that this apparently has decided to be. I'm not interested in harem shows in general, and student/teacher romantic yearnings make me grind my teeth almost every time.

  • Schoolgirl Strikers: This isn't so much bland as flavourless. As I put it on Twitter:

    It's striking how inoffensive it manages to be. It feels like the safest, most cautious take on this genre ever.

    'Fighting Girls' shows usually manage to have some sort of spark, even if it's a bad idea carried through badly. SS has thoroughly drowned any such things that came near the show, just in case. See also Nick Creamer's one sentence summary.

I have been enjoying watching people watching Gabriel DropOut on Twitter more than I suspect I would enjoy watching the actual show. The same is sort of true of Saga of Tanya the Evil, but an increasing chorus of people like Nick Creamer may get me to give it a two episode audition at some point.

(Watching people watching shows on Twitter gets me a suitable diet of jokes and reactions and funny faces and moments from the shows and so on. It's not the same as the actual shows for good and bad, but it's a lot more lightweight.)

I'm not going to say anything about how I feel about this season because there's still a lot of ways that things could go wrong. ACCA is writing a lot of narrative cheques that it may not be able to actually cash, and Dragon Maid needs to stay fresh over its entire run. But I've certainly got my fingers crossed (as I do most seasons, to be honest).

Winter2017Brief written at 23:25:45; Add Comment

2017-01-21

Looking back at the Fall 2016 anime season

Once again it's time for my traditional look back at what I watched this past season, to follow up on my early impressions and my midway views. My overall summary is that this season was good but thin, with great highs but not much depth on the bench.

Great:

  • Flip Flappers: Beyond everything else about it, this is very much my kind of show and so I was never really going to be able to judge it completely objectively. But even so, I loved Flip Flappers, not just the way it told its story but the story itself. It was a great ride and a lot of fun and I fully endorse it, although how it told its story and how it ended will irritate a certain number of people.

    (I think it ended great, but then I have odd tastes.)

  • March comes in like a Lion: This started off slow and quiet and then just built and built, creeping into my heart at every step. I can't say why specifically, but the whole of it very much works for me (and in a way that shows like this generally don't). Now that the show has started actively developing Rei's character and moving forward with him, it's become genuinely thrilling and suspenseful.

Very good:

  • Sound! Euphonium second season: I want to love this more than I do, but in the end it doesn't feel either necessary or vitally important to see these additional stories about the cast. They're very nice stories, make no mistake, and generally quite affecting, and they add depth to several characters. The last episode is beautiful and touching. But the second season never felt on fire to me in the way that the first season's overarching story about competition did.

    (My views are undoubtedly influenced here because the show spent an entire episode on Reina's stupid crush on Taki-sense, which could have been great if it had been about her renouncing said crush but it turned out that it wasn't. I do not like that crush, and do not want the show to spend time paying attention to it, and I am a bit disgruntled here.)

Good:

  • BBK/BRNK: The show didn't do anything deeply surprising in its overall plot and climax; it is the genre story it appears to be. But it gave us a fun ride on the way there, with plenty of nice moments and good action sequences (and a certain amount of more or less expected cheese and hand waving explanations). The final episode was an interesting coda, especially in light of some things Guy said in the second-last episode, but I suspect that some of the things I could read into it weren't intended by the creators.

Popcorn entertainment:

  • Brave Witches: This delivered the popcorn entertainment that I wanted and very little more.

  • Long Riders: I watched parts of this for the biking. The show loved biking and I like biking too, so I enjoyed those bits. The other parts of the show were nothing special and I mostly skipped them.

    (Long Riders is technically not over yet; production issues mean that the final two episodes have been delayed until February.)

Towards the end of the season I got around to checking out some other shows, none of which really clicked with me.

  • Vivid Strike: This is a perfectly decent 'fighting girls' show that sometimes annoys me by teasing its connection to the much more interesting Nanoha franchise that is just offscreen. It's a perfectly acceptable and inoffensive thing to watch, but I don't feel the need to see any more of it at the moment.

  • Nobunaga no Shinobi: I checked out two episodes of this short for reasons beyond the scope of this entry and they were okay children's fare but not particularly compelling.

  • Fune wo Amu aka The Great Passage: This is a perfectly good and perhaps great adult drama that I don't really feel any attraction to (cf). This is what I always expected but I felt like confirming that. So it goes.

Although the season felt a little bit lacking in how many shows I was interest in watching (as shown by how I wound up looking at Long Riders and others), the highs were excellent. Flip Flappers and March comes in like a Lion are both amazing shows, and Sound! Euphonium's second season is perfectly good in that KyoAni high quality way (and many people really loved it much more than I did).

Fall2016Retrospective written at 18:58:40; Add Comment

2017-01-15

My (Twitter) reactions to the first episodes of the Winter 2017 season

As before I'm collecting here all of my tweeted reactions to the first episodes I've seen (in the order that I saw them).

  • Akiba's Trip episode 1: That was decent, even sometimes good, which is well above what I expected. It has spark for an action genre show.

  • Schoolgirl Strikers episode 1: That was a perfectly okay but uninspiring. It could fill the Brave Witches popcorn watch niche this season.

  • Blue Exorcist Kyoto Saga ep 1: I don't think this was particularly good or compelling by itself, & it feels like characters got reset on me.

  • Chain Chronicle episode 1: Perfectly competent with decent action, but I found it flat and uncompelling. Nothing made me want to keep going.

  • Little Witch Academia ep 1: It's not the OVAs but it's solid, well done, and more relaxed; there's more time for development & fun here.

  • ACCA episode 1 was a good stylish start & had a number of interesting characters, but it didn't tell us much about where the show is going.

  • KonoSuba S2 episode 1: The best part of the episode was the little mini-adventure in the ED. Otherwise it was all Kazuma-focused setup.

  • Dragon Maid ep 1: That was quality work; nicely understated and nicely done, and fun all the way through even when it wasn't being funny.

  • Interviews with Monster Girls episode 1 was cute and nice, but I'm not sure it has staying power for me (it wasn't particularly funny).

This covers the first episode of everything that seems reasonably promising for me. It's possible I'll look at Gabriel DropOut at some point, but it doesn't seem like my kind of thing despite its supernatural-tinged premise.

(From all reports, Minami Kamakura High School Girls Cycling Club simply doesn't have enough biking in it to attract me the way Long Riders did. Apparently the most interesting biking thing is how they're using real brands this time, instead of the usual changed-just-enough brand names and so on.)

Winter2017FirstEpisodes written at 02:44:18; Add Comment

2016-12-31

In praise of Yomigaeru Sora - Rescue Wings, an underappreciated gem

The protagonist of Yomigaeru Sora is Uchida Kazuhiro, who joined the JSDF to fly fighter jets but halfway through flight school got transferred to the much less prestigious and far more blue collar job of search & rescue helicopter pilot. Since Uchida is both an adult and a JSDF officer, he doesn't do any sort of anime sulking about this shift, but the show leaves you in no doubt about his feelings about his new status in life; he is not happy with either his job or the path his life has taken, and he very much yearns for fighters. Yomigaeru Sora opens with Uchida arriving at his post-graduation posting as a green S&R helicopter pilot, and the core of the show is about Uchida coming to accept and even love his new work and life, with all of the many facets it has.

Above all, Yomigaeru Sora is an adult drama, by which I mean it's about grown up people with generally understated, grown up problems; I've described it as an anime about adults that's aimed at adults. This makes it a rarity among anime shows. The fate of the world does not turn on Uchida's personal growth, merely his own happiness, and in the end he finds it. This doesn't mean that the show is boring or without action. Seeing as it's a show about a search and rescue squadron, there are quite a few thrilling and tense S&R missions that Uchida and the entire cast have to tackle, and there's also the training and practice they do to be ready for them.

(Because this is an adult show about real life, not all of these missions are successful ones. This is sort of a spoiler but it's the sort of spoiler I think that you should know going into the show if it matters to you. Your heart will probably break at least once during the show; mine certainly did.)

In addition to Uchida himself, the show is full of well done characters; basically everyone is a real person, even some of the people who just walk on stage briefly. Over the course of the show I came to love the entire squadron, both the flight crews and the hard working ground support team that gets them ready to fly and then must wait tensely back at base hoping that the rescue mission succeeds. All of this helps the show a great deal, because you can't have a good drama without good characters. And Yomigaeru Sora definitely is a good drama, with good characters, good writing, and engaging, understandable situations.

(It looks pretty decent, too. It is a 2006 era show, but it's a well produced one.)

Yomigaeru Sora is one of the shows I think are underappreciated gems, so I very much recommend that you check it out if you think you'd like a quite well done drama about grown ups for once. Also, after you watch it, you'll never be able to hear the well-known Japanese theme song 'Hyokkori Hyoutan-Jima' in the same way. I'll give you this link, but you won't quite understand what I mean until you've seen the show.

(As an example of the sort of show that Yomigaeru Sora is, Uchida has a girlfriend. She visits him from Tokyo every so often and stays at his apartment. No one makes any sort of deal about it, because this is a show about adults.)

YomigaeruSoraPraise written at 19:03:35; Add Comment

2016-12-29

I watched Long Riders! for the bicycling (and I enjoyed it)

Long Riders! is a show that didn't even make my initial impressions this season, partly because early reviews didn't make it sound very good (especially Nick Creamer's). But then some people on anitwitter followed it and posted screen shots and persuaded me that while the show has many flaws, it also really loves bicycling. And, well, I'm a cyclist even if previous shows about cycling have failed for me. So I got sucked into not so much watching Long Riders! as skimming through it to watch the bicycling parts, ruthlessly skipping over character bits, attempts at non-cycling humour, and so on.

Well, you know what, the show's pretty decent at the biking bits, at least if you're a cyclist like me. It gave me an enjoyable mixture of general appreciation for the biking and nostalgia for when I started getting into cycling and went through experiences similar to the protagonist's. The character beats are cheesy, the CG is only decent, the 2D animation not infrequently disastrously off (which wound up being amusing since I wasn't taking this at all seriously), but the biking, the biking felt authentic and I could appreciate the love for detail that the CG animators and the production put into everything (and that the 2D animators desperately tried to keep up with when they had to draw the bikes, often failing). The show really loves bicycling and wants you to do so too, and it definitely shows. I can't help responding to that love.

I don't know why Long Riders! succeeded for me in this aspect where Yowamushi Pedal failed. I suspect that there are two sides to it. First, LR isn't about competitive racing and I'm not a racer, so I automatically have more connection to it (eg). Second, for the first time I aggressively skimmed a show rather than watch all of it, which is what I tried to do with Yowamushi Pedal. I did wind up watching a certain amount of the Long Riders! character bits when I couldn't be bothered to skip forward over them, but definitely not too much and that helped a lot.

(Long Riders! also gave me the chance to do hot bicyclist takes on Twitter and spot little details, amusing cycling related bits, and expensive tastes.)

As far as the details of the biking go in Long Riders!, I don't have any important nits to pick. A few things made me raise my eyebrows a bit but they're not all that important and a bit of exaggeration for effect is a fine anime tradition. I certainly can't say that Ami grew too fast as a cyclist; although I didn't do any 160 km rides in my first season of cycling, I did do multiple 100+ km rides (on flat terrain, though; we don't have mountain passes around Toronto), and I was riding a much less suitable bike for it than Ami wound up using.

(This elaborates my tweets after episode 10. Also, I wrote a bit about Long Riders! when I talked about bike lights in recent anime. Long Riders! loves its bike lights, among other little details; everyone has good rear lights as well as front lights, often multiple rear lights.)

LongRidersLovesBiking written at 21:01:56; Add Comment

2016-12-28

A bit on the story structure of Sound! Euphonium 2 episode 12

(There are spoilers here.)

In commentary about Sound! Euphonium 2's episode 12, a number of people have noted that KyoAni took the unusual step (for the show) of not showing Kitauji High School's performance at the Nationals. Instead of seeing any of their performance, we cut straight from going on stage just before the commercial break to the after performance wind-down after the commercial break. Nick Creamer's episode writeup at ANN is typical, and he says:

And then it was over. Sound! Euphonium's final performance, the nationals performance that this whole season had been leading up to, took place entirely during the episode's commercial break. I had to laugh at that - after all of this work, after performance sequences as stunning as last season's conclusion and this season's halfway point, it felt like an intentional flaunting of expectations to actually cut this one out.

In my opinion there's a very good reason that KyoAni did not include the performance and it has nothing to do with flaunting our expectations and everything to do with story structure (and a bit to do with how stunning those past performances have been). You see, this time around Kitauji lost. And not because anyone screwed anything up, as far as we're told; everyone played their best, it's just that at the level of the Nationals, their best was only bronze level.

In the two previous performances that Sound! Euphonium showed, Kitauji won; they took gold and moved onward towards the Nationals. Portraying this in a show is theoretically simple, as all you need to do is show everyone playing well. We the audience will read into the combination of a dynamic, well-done performance that sounds good and Kitauji taking the gold the implication that Kitauji had the best performance, without the show actually having to show this explicitly by, saying showing another, not as good performance by another high school.

All of this goes out of the window when Kitauji's performance is only good enough for a bronze. How do you portray a performance that is good but only so good, especially when you've shown Kitauji playing very well before? If you just show Kitauji's performance (and at their previous level), the audience is unlikely to be convinced that they only deserved bronze. So to really sell this you would probably have to show at least parts from both Kitauji's performance and a clearly better performance (ideally one that only got silver). That is a tall order both simply for time in the episode and also for showing relative performance level, especially when Kitauji is supposed to be good to start with.

(The one time Sound! Euphonium did a compare and contrast performance it had the significant advantage that one of the people involved was clearly not all that great at her solo. Portraying 'good, without errors' and then 'clearly better' for orchestral music is likely to be hard, especially if you want it to be unmistakable to the audience.)

Given all this I'm unsurprised that KyoAni skipped completely over the actual performance. There just wasn't any good way to portray it, at least not without a lot of work and risk of audience (dis)belief in the outcome. Skipping it was almost forced by the structure of the story. As much as we might have liked to see it, it would have been hard for the show to not let us down if we actually got the performance.

(And this way the show could preserve tension that held through to the revelation of the results. If the show had convincingly told us that Kitauji's performance was below the level of other bands at the Nationals, we'd have known they weren't getting gold well before the results were announced.)

(This elaborates on some tweets of mine, because I felt compelled to make my logic explicit.)

PS: To be clear, I don't fault KyoAni for this decision or think that it weakens the episode. On the contrary, I think it's a clever solution for a real problem, one that has significant advantages and helps the overall story of the episode.

SoundEuphonium2Ep12Story written at 23:05:27; Add Comment

2016-12-25

Where I think Flip Flappers' episode 9 Pure Illusion world comes from

This goes with my views on the Pure Illusion worlds of the first eight episodes. Pulled over from Twitter:

@cks_anime: Pure Illusion in Flip Flappers episode 9 isn't obviously based on anything (to me), but my theory is that we're seeing inside Yayaka's head.
It's certainly striking to me how the Pure Illusion world has a bunch of visual similarities to the locker room [that Yayaka is in] at the start of the episode.

[...]

@cks_anime: Also: Yayaka's desires clearly altered the world towards the end, which I don't think she's done any other time.
(It's not clear if she consciously willed things to happen or if the world just knew what she wanted & did it.)

While not all Pure Illusions worlds are tied into the cast, I think that the world from episode 9 is too on-point with what's going on with Yayaka and too visually similar to the real world scene we see her in at the start of the episode to not be related to her (and the world is the way it is even before she arrives in it).

I can also read the world responding to Yayaka's desires as similar to the Pure Illusion world in episode 1 responding to Cocona's feelings at the end of the episode. And it's now pretty clear that the episode 1 world really is Cocona herself.

(This all feels relatively obvious but I wanted to get it down anyways, and not just on Twitter.)

FlipFlappersPIWorldSourcesEp9 written at 20:35:13; Add Comment

Flying Witch shows me the limits of analysis

As an anime watcher, I typically seek out drama, by which I mean shows where something is happening and going on; often this means action of some sort, although not always. The further a show goes from drama the less likely I am to like it. I also tend to look favorably on shows that try to tell big stories with their drama, even if they don't entirely succeed (Concrete Revolutio is one example this year).

Flying Witch doesn't fall into this pattern. It has almost no drama as such (things happen but they're little self-contained things), and about the only thing that would normally attract me to it is the fantasy elements (which are a reliably way to get me to look at shows with otherwise ordinary settings). But I loved it in the spring season and it remains one of my favorite shows of the year. While not flawless, it was almost always fun to watch, it made me smile repeatedly, and it had a number of great moments of wonder and magic.

When I wrote my spring retrospective I attributed the show's success with me to 'execution', and when I was initially outlining this entry I was going to use Flying Witch as a springboard to praise shows that have modest goals but execute on them extremely well. But what does 'execution' really mean here? Can I actually put my finger on technical and story aspects that Flying Witch does so much better than average? The more I thought about it, the more I wound up feeling that when I said 'execution', what I really was doing was trying to find some reason that I liked the show so much when I didn't expect to. I couldn't find anything in specific, so I was attributing my liking to the intangible concept of 'execution' without being able to put my finger on anything concrete.

(This isn't to say that Flying Witch doesn't execute well; it very much does. It stages scenes very well, it looks beautiful, it has a great sense of place and of imagination, its comedic timing is spot on (as is its timing in general), and so on. But it does not have the kind of startlingly high quality execution that, say, Sound! Euphonium does. Regardless of what you feel about the story, Sound! Euphonium regularly knocks your socks off purely on a visual basis, and Flying Witch never did this in the same way.)

I'm someone who likes analysis on the whole, sometimes to excess. It helps me understand why a show works or doesn't work, and good analysis from other people can show me neat or important things that I hadn't realized (or hadn't consciously realized) when I was watching the show. But in thinking about Flying Witch here, I have come to really appreciate that analysis has its limits in trying to explain why I like a show.

Sometimes I just plain and simply like a show, and not only is that is all there is to it, that is all there needs to be to it. In the beginning and in the end, I'm here to enjoy the shows that I watch and a show that I enjoy is sufficient in itself; even to myself, I don't need to find reasons or justifications for my enjoyment. And I very much enjoyed watching Flying Witch, even if I can't tell you why in any coherent way.

Makoto watches not-fireflies

Merry Christmas, everyone.

(This is a 12-days post.)

FlyingWitchAnalysisLimits written at 17:19:10; Add Comment

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