Summer 2017 – Week 4

Wasn’t feeling well during my weekends after catching a slight cold, but that’s not stopping me from watching muh animu.

Made in Abyss – Episode 4

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While Made in Abyss boasts one of the most impressive soundtracks this season, knowing how to use and edit its diegetic and non-diegetic sound is another story.

Episode 4 is a prime example of that wherein the sound editing and design occupied a sizeable portion of how much I enjoyed this episode. They blended it so seamlessly that it would be difficult to notice unless you’re really paying attention. To start with, its diegetic sound is now ever so present, specially right when we’re entering the fringes of the fauna and flora of the unknown. We hear this constant chirping of the birds in the background, the howling of the air against the towering cliffs. They’re just there — unnoticeable, and never calling too much attention to itself. As what I have said before, its faithful attention to its diegetic sound is surely impressive, considering how much other similar shows pale in comparison. However, the real fun starts when Made in Abyss transitions to and fro its diegetic and non-diegetic music, oftentimes bridging the two in a fluid manner.

Consider this. This episode could’ve still worked even with just the diegetic sound,  but it’s only going to end up dry and flat. It’s obvious that we only have to punctuate certain scenes to break the monotony using non-diegetic music (its soundtrack in particular), and also to either mark a change in tone or simply to enhance the expression of what is already playing on screen. However, the question is, how are we going to do that? It isn’t a simple answer of cutting into a soundtrack arbitrarily where ever or when ever you see fit. There’s much more thought and care given into this, which is something that I realized after watching this episode.

Let’s take the scene before Riko and Reg enjoyed their meal of fish soup (or whatever that was) as an example. By default, and because they were near a river/waterfall, we can hear the water flowing in the background. Riko’s stomach grumbled from hunger, a pause, and with cute chagrin she submitted to quenching her palate with fish and stock. The scene cuts away into an establishing shot with the waterfall and the sound of its gushing water in the forefront. We see Reg swimming, diving, and then a cool, refreshing, and playful notes of the piano cues in. To top it off, the diegetic sound of being underwater complimented the smooth flowing sound of the piano. It’s almost as if this specific soundtrack is made entirely for that single scene (but in reality it isn’t) by how analogous the music of both the diegetic and non-diegetic expresses, and this is something almost ubiquitous every time Made in Abyss switches up things. It’s also interesting to note that I very rarely hear Made in Abyss without a sound (excluding character dialogue), probably as its way of completely engrossing us with the sights and sounds of its world.

Ballroom e Youkoso also offers a similar approach with its outstanding sound direction, and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that both Made in Abyss and the latter are leading the pack this season for the ‘best sounding’ anime. An example from Ballroom e Youkoso is its slick transition and use of non-diegetic sound as meta diegetic (or can even be vice versa). Remember Tatara’s twisted face when he realized that he’s at fault for rekindling Hyodo’s passion? The first notes of a tango track cued in as if to signify Tatara’s realization, as well as to signal the start of the contestants’ presentation. Remember when Hyodo grabbed Tatara’s shoulder out of the blue, and told him to take care of Shizuku? The frantic beep of the train hinted at Tatara’s confusion, and continued on to indicate that the train is leaving. They’re barely noticeable, but that’s exactly what they are.

Ballroom e Youkoso – Episodes 4 & 5

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What better way to end the week with two episodes of Ballroom e Youkoso? And what better way to talk about the show with a guest post from one of the guy who knows the series better than me? By all means, the floor is all yours.

Hi, I’m Tsubame(?). I’ll be the sidekick to your MC Kindle. I was supposed to join him right from the get-go, but procrastination happened.

Disclaimer: I have absolutely no idea how to do this, so this may take awhile to get used to this.

To tell a bit about myself, I’m not as good with words, and definitely less knowledgeable about the specifics in anime as our main guy on this blog. Be that as it may, I’m not completely useless, I’m more of a “jack of all trades” kind of guy. You name it; I most likely know a thing or two about it. I’m also more about manga, but I do appreciate and started with anime, only shifting to manga due to the time it takes to watch compared to reading a chapter.

Now then! This partnership all started up with the news that 2 of my new favourite ongoing manga series had their anime adaptations greenlit, Tsugumomo and Ballroom e Youkoso. I had zero time to watch Tsugumomo, nor had the drive to, having seen the PV for it not coming close to Hamada Yoshikadu’s amazing art work. Granted, it’s definitely hard to do that, with how these things are budgeted, but hey, it’s not impossible.

That’s where Ballroom e Youkos’s adaptation made me interested. Not only did it come at a good time to satiate my need for more dancing drama and action, the PVs for it made me excited! They did a great job of adapting the art style, and it made me giddy to see more. So, what were my thoughts? Well that’s what we’ll find out as the episodes come in!

Let’s start with Episode 1. From what I’ve watched, it’s good. Really good. For those that have no knowledge about the manga, that’s for sure. I say that cause I’ve noticed a few changes here and there that I’m not sure of why they did it and how they thought it’d help. It definitely has a more serious tone to it than the manga, and I get the art style is partly a reason for that, but you can better see the seriousness of things if you have a dab of light-heartedness, yes? Can’t go wrong with a little of that. So, most of the jokes and quirkier scenes from the manga weren’t there, and I really don’t know why. The ones that do, well, they don’t adapt the same change in art style to emphasize it like in the manga.

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Pardon my paint-fu, just a quite collage to show what I mean.

Another thing that I noticed was the exaggerated limbs. It doesn’t always happen, but you’ll see. I’m sure it’s being used to emphasize the beauty of the dance/hold/pair (Check out Bayonetta, you’ll get what I mean), but it is quite jarring for the first few instances.

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Well, aside from those two things, as I said, it was really good, they got the snappiness of the dancing, they were able to make the panels in the manga move well, and it’s overall a good first episode. Who knew Ballroom can be so bloody awesome and have high tension, right? Just like them fighting manga. Let’s see how they handle things in episode 2.

P.S. I’m a believer of anime being a good SUPPLEMENT for manga and LNs if they’re adaptations, and not a replacement. It’s a great way to provide voice, colour, and movement to an otherwise blank/black and white scene on paper. I recommend you check out kaptainkristian’s piece on Youtube, “Watchmen – Adapting The Unadaptable“. Pretty good stuff.

P.P.S. Watch all his other pieces too, it’ll be worth it, promise.

Kindle here. Let’s give a round of applause for this cool guy, shall we?

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Anyways, I pretty much agree with most of what he said. If you’ve seen the manga, you’ll understand why it’s not going to be an easy adaptation, partly because of how the images move as well as with the nature of the sport. Regardless — and after 5 episodes of viewing — Production I.G has done a fantastic job at capturing both the excitement and hype inherent in the source and with ballroom.

While some has expressed disapproval of what they’ve seen in episode 4 with the usage of still frames and whatnot (there’s even an ANN reviewer going so far as suggesting that the animators were cutting corners/being lazy), I think it still ended up a lot better than what I was expecting. At the back of my mind I was thinking that it was inevitable, then again it’s surprising how they made the most out of the resources they got. Hyodo’s still images weren’t just still images — they’re highly expressionistic drawn with meticulous detail and lineart, and here we see the effect of those elongated, stretched anatomy come into full play. It’s certainly is a bit weird to look at — still images or not — in the first few minutes, but they aren’t exactly meant to taken at face value/literally. More like it’s drawn that way to suggest something — an emotion, expression or whatever. One could extrapolate that Ballroom is running out of juices after episode 4 but the recent installment is proving naysayers wrong.

Oh well. I think I should talk about the characters more in the following weeks. Hot take: Chinatsu may be best girl, but Mako is undeniably the best partner for Tatara.

Nana Maru San Batsu – Episodes 3 & 4

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Nana Maru San Batsu is definitely this season’s sleeper hit for good reason. Offering a unique conceit in the form of competitive quiz bee, it also showcases an equally entertaining cast of characters. We’re only 4 episodes in, but we might have already seen every character there is to this show. The funny thing is that despite meeting a handful of relevant personalities, they’ve already made an impression to me that makes them difficult to forget, albeit I only know them by face and by their quirks. There’s the all-girls team who, even when they’re not officially doing club activities, still carries that distinct trait of a quizzer in their everyday lives like it’s some sort of an occupational habit (I’m referring to them hitting the bell in the restaurant as if it’s some buzzer — that was cute). Not to mention the two members who apparently are into BL and were already shipping the guys. There’s also Marin’s older bro, the new girl who appears to be a nerdy shut-in… you name it — they’re just a bunch of fun to watch, entertaining characters. I think that aspect is quite important in complimenting its unique premise so as not for it to end up repetitive or boring. This may also explain why both the OP and ED are mostly composed with a shot of a character, presumably to aid in making them easier to remember.

Sakura Quest – Episode 16

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This is actually pretty smart.

The advent of technology and convenience comes with a cost. As fellow residents of the internet, we’re pretty much aware of the effect of technology with how we interact with each other specially in the virtual space. Of course, I can’t say exactly if the older generation would respond the same we did, but after seeing this episode and doing some retrospection I’d say there isn’t much difference. My mum and dad’s over 60 now, though despite owning a smartphone only recently they’ve come to adapt a manageable level of technology literacy. A quick look at my Facebook feed tells the same story: grannies and granpas participating in online activities like they still have it.

However, the interesting thing is that the issue Sakura Quest tackles this episode feels more deeply rooted. It strikes me that even if we do learn how to communicate efficiently, connect with each other in a matter of seconds online this catalyst is also symptomatic of being asocial (specifically in the real world), which is mirrored by Japan’s lost generation (and maybe even NEETs). That, and socioeconomic factors are also a contributor in this glaring precarity, and it’s also something that nagged my mind whilst watching the older people in Sakura Quest like they were about to be forgotten/cut off from the community. There’s surely a connection that I can make here, but I’ll have to stop for now as I’ll need to explore this topic further (yeah, more books to read yay).

Re:Creators – Episode 16

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Having come this far despite Re:Creator‘s uneven execution of its metanarrative, I have to say this show is still likely going to be a good case study of Japanese media’s pop culture.

Weekly Weekly-chan

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Not only I’m getting my hands dirty with some academic textbooks, I’m dabbling into reading manga now as well. I’d love to talk about them at length if I have the chance to, but for now I’d like to recommend some good reads for you folks to check out like Dead Dead Demons DeDeDe Destruction aka a cross between K-On! and the movie Area 51 (if you squint enough you’ll see a commentary on contemporary Japan’s precariousness), and Kabu no Isaki (iyashikei — do I need to explain more?).

Oh, I’m currently catching up with Hunter x Hunter too by the way.

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