I was meaning to begin my Summer 2017 coverage next week but whatever.
Made in Abyss – Episode 1
I love fantasy. And I adore fantasy that does world-building right. Exploration plays a huge part in a fantasy story’s narrative, and being able to grab your audience’s intrigue right away is indispensable if you want get their buy-in that “hey, this is interesting!”. As such you’ll more likely see me frown when a story starts off with a verbal exposition.
Let’s take Made in Abyss‘ lovely first episode as an example. We see two kids spelunking like it’s daily routine. We’re introduced to a couple of ideas by just seeing them walk around and talk with each other such as the layout of its settings, a general idea of who they are, the time and place where the story takes place in so on and so forth. These are, of course, details that a story can get away with by having a narrator/character do all the work, but in doing so it only lessens the audience’s engagement with the story in front of them. It’s like you’re given this big treasure box. Upon opening the lid you’re greeted with bric-a-brac, coins, toy soldiers, a donut, 20-carat diamond, a bottle of coke and whatever your imagination can conjure. You’ll take time to sort through these items, figuring out what they actually are and why a donut is clumped together with your granny’s denture. There’s an element of surprise if you can simply let the audience wander off and figure things out by themselves, compared to having someone explain what is inside this treasure box before you open it.
This is also another reason why, I guess, I personally prefer stories to start somewhere around its… second/third chapter instead of ground zero. Like, think of Sword Art Online. Its first episode is by no means not terrible (in fact I could argue that it was great), but then going by my conjecture it could’ve also started after the origin story. Kirito does Kirito stuff, saves waifus in distress etc etc., and then along the way bits and bits of information are introduced, in which if we piled these pieces together we’ll come to the conclusion that they’re actually trapped inside a game. Shin Sekai Yori also had a somewhat similar approach, but in its case it didn’t exactly explain the origin of the story, rather it was merely used for setting the tone and mood of its ensuing narrative. Then again, when you think of it this way, we can say that environmental storytelling is no different than an info-dump. Only difference being is that we aren’t spoon fed with the former.
Anyways, yeah. That’s about it with world-building. Made in Abyss‘s first episode is also nailing that sound direction and score. It isn’t much, but… remember that part with Riko and the gang toying with Reg? You can actually hear the crickets in the background! Sheesh. Groundbreaking…
But it is. Tales of Zestiria the X, if I recall correctly, didn’t do so such a thing even if its characters were in a similar situation/setting. I believe Grimgar did touch upon this mundane detail, and that’s another anime that has commendable world-building. Seriously. It just goes to show how much to an extent you can construct a world so organic that such a detail is barely noticeable, and when you notice it you’d be surprised to realize that it’s something that’s easily foregone in other anime.
Visuals? Wonderful. Love that lush, lively look to it. Character design is, oddly enough, a great fit with its world’s aesthetic. I mean, you can basically replace the character designs with something else like Naruto and it would still work. No kidding. Also, fun fact: the art director of Made in Abyss had a hand in a bunch of triple A movies, including Ghibli’s and your name.
Ballroom e Youkoso – Episode 1
I was at first concerned how this adaptation is going to turn out. It’s one of those cases wherein adapting the source material isn’t going to be an easy task considering how taxing its theme is. As what the title implies, we’re going to be in for some cha cha cha, and as we all know animating a sport that requires a lot of expressive movement is certainly not easy. The manga pulled it off with a highly kinetic display of sweeping lines and strokes — a technique something that you can’t simply translate from a still medium to a moving one. Nevertheless, the first episode did a fairly good job at accommodating us with the sport and the characters, but not without Production I.G needing to resort to reusing frames and 3D-CGI models. I may sound pedantic here, but that’s exactly what my initial argument was with visuals and narrative.
It’s… one of my beef with a TV series, to be honest. It puts too much restraint with its production, that the quality of the product inevitably suffers. We’re not here to marvel at how an anime managed to save resources by reusing frames and backgrounds (unless called for by the narrative), are we? There is the manga with its gloriously drawn art that’s enough to give Vagabond a run for its money, so what’s the point of an adaptation? Isn’t this why Hayao Miyazaki opted to shy away from making a TV series (and, heck, maybe even KyoAni)? And look where the guy is now.
Anyways, yeah. I’m going off tangent here. Ballroom e Youkoso is a fine series, folks. I’m not exactly saying that I already lost faith with the adaptation — it’s just that I’m prolly still hung up with the contentious topic of visuals and narrative. And, well, given how Production I.G handled Haikyuu it’s fine to say that Ball e Youkso is in safe hands.
Chinatsu, best grill, is nowhere to be found in the OP nor the ED, so I guess we won’t be seeing her until next season.
Princess Principal – Episode 1
19th century Victorian steampunk London (does this even make sense), cloak and dagger, cute girls, cute spies moonlighting as schoolgirls (or cute schoolgirls moonlighting as spies?), badass costumes the gang from Persona 5 would be proud of, superpowers, crazy looking weapons… this anime sure feels full of itself. The premise looks good on paper, but does it fare well on screen? Certainly. It looks polished, yet the striking aesthetic overshadowed the tale it was trying to tell (which was also understandably predictable, to be honest). I wasn’t sure whether I’m simply not paying attention, or Eric’s story just wasn’t that interesting. If anything, it’s more of an amuse-gueule for the main course which, hopefully, will prove to be fitting for this anime’s potential.
Did I mention that PriPri reminds me of Bloodborne?
Aho Girl – Episode 1
Guilty pleasure of this season. Love the character design.
Sakura Quest – Episode 14
“Achieving normal happiness is the hardest thing to do.”
I guess it is. Satiating our desires is like being stuck in a perpetual cycle — we’re in that flux where it’s difficult to break away from obligations, hedonism, and morals. I consider myself as a selfish (and often childish) person, only because I wasn’t able to do what cool kids do back when I left uni. I want to read manga, buy books, play computer games, be hip, be nerdy, grow tummy muscles instead of engaging in more productive activities. In order to do that, I have to work — I have to strictly comply to obligations such as waking up four in the afternoon, rush back home four in the morning so that I can watch anime. Utilitarianism tells me this is the right thing to do, because contributing to the society makes me and everyone else happy.
This may sound contradictory to what my status quo is but I sorta feel like I was happiest when I was a recluse/hikikomori. All I needed is a laptop, internet, and I’m god of my own universe. Of course this is an fallacious argument considering that being a parasite is in itself a form of desire/sin (well, accord to ‘morality’) — sloth. There’s… a power struggle with what we desire and how society is structured around us, and this has also been subtly shown in Sakura Quest. And that’s what makes being an adult difficult. It’s the age where we’re introduced to all sorts of obligations and morality — as a kid you just have to go school, do (or not do) your homework, attend a club and whatever younger generations do nowadays. It’s why Yoshino’s sister have it easier — she’s content with the statis of her hometown. She has a warm house to go home to, a boyfriend, a panoramic view of the sea, a job lined up when she graduates… yeah, who wouldn’t be happy with that? Of course, not everyone has the same privilege/disposition. You have to figure out your own problems.
As such, I don’t think that completely eliminating desire answers everything. I have to accept that I have my own ego, my obligations, as well as morals that I have to follow, despite having the idea that these ideas are all screwed up. Maybe desiring just what is necessary for you to get by is enough.
There’s obviously a lot to digest from this episode. There’s also that part with the girls meeting their classmates and man that kinda hit closer to home. It’s why I don’t open my Facebook a lot because… reasons. Anyways, great episode. It’s the usual Sakura Quest being weird, funny, anecdotal.
Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – Episodes 13 & 14
I just caught up with Virgin Soul and hooo boy. What a way to end the season and start a new one. See, that’s what I was exactly asking for from yesterweeks. Virgin Soul is a big world, and it’s a huge waste to not to try and explore that world a little. Of course, the show may just be too busy with lining up the general outline of the plot before venturing off into the wilderness, but finally being able to leave that goddamn city/setting was a breath of fresh air. We did have a couple of moments wherein we were on a different place, but those were only flashbacks for supplementing a character’s back story.
Why do I insist for Virgin Soul to explore its world? I think I may have gotten tired of its preamble with racial prejudicing from the start. While at some point it feels like they’re going somewhere, it only fizzled in the end and things got a bit messy from then on. Where’s Azazel? I don’t know. Where’s Favaro? I don’t know, and neither do I understand what contribution his introduction has done so far other than fan service. It’s also one reason why I was wailing previously that Virgin Soul could’ve had trimmed its episodes or at least run the series for a single cour, but that’s only if they weren’t going to expand on the narrative/world any further.
Re:Creators – Episode 14
Welp. That’s the Re:Creators we know. Starting off its second cour with yet another dialogue ladden episode isn’t really the best way to hype things up, but that’s fine with me. I guess my enjoyment comes mostly from food for thoughts, discussions about its meta, gushing over Meteora and what not. If anything, this episode feels like Shirobako with less focus on the actual production, and more about the product-consumer intimacy… plus fictional characters coming into life.
Nothing much going on this week. Started playing Ragnarok Online, so that’s one thing that’s keeping me busy. Also started reading Mechademia. You folks should take a look at it.