Impressions: Winter 2016, Week Three

Slowly getting this blog back on schedule by slowly getting my life back on schedule. So, what did we watch last week?

Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu

Love the interplay between the plot’s scenario and the character’s setting. He seems so suited to write a bishoujo game because he embodies the bishoujo lead. For once that isn’t something with a grating edge.

Shoujo-tachi has a classic feel, harking back to the adaptations of Key’s work. Makes me feel like I’ve had a ten-year BokuMachi-esque revivial. Certainly this won’t become a ‘classic’, but for lighthearted-entertainment, it trumps a lot of things this season.

Andou’s character doesn’t sit  too well with me, though; the kind of obsessive that’s overblown to grotesque proportions but would only resonate with fangirls she’s in many ways a mockery of.

Still, this is everything I want from an anime slice-of-life club-based romance, and also a sense of little pressure on wanting more. Will make for comfortable viewing.

Jiggly Jiggly Heaven

Convenient bullshit tops 10 years of training. This is the undoing of One Punch Man, and Mai’s favourite movie – what all good Shoenen shows – stand for.

Our protagonist still has all the know-how, but he only becomes useful by borrowing other people’s stuff – summoning, or getting someone’s memories. It may be the inversion of classic over-competent harem protagonist, as seen in Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu, but it’s not exciting to watch. It undermine’s the show’s episodic focus, where the monster-of-the-week is trumped by the intellectual trump-card of the week. With character design and structure like this, it feels like we’re going nowhere.

Speaking of going nowhere, if this episode was supposed to bring Mai some depth and development, it failed completely. A tsundere discovers she had the upbringing that would make her a Tsundere. Big twist. We swapped an interesting juxtaposed back-story for a dull, predictable one. Has it changed her outlook, goals, etc. at all? Nope – we end on the note that Guppy (to borrow iblessall’s more accurate name for her) yearns to ‘belong’ to this group. Maybe this works with her not liking the forced ‘date’, but it gives the new girl a too-predictable new-girl struggle. At least, it’s too basic at this point to get excited about, with everything else so basic as well.

For such a colourful show, why is the writing so drab?

Ojisan to Marshmallow

Good to see the sluttiness going down and the marshmallows being allowed to flourish as a sweet sexual metaphor. I think this episode found the perfect balance the show needs between comedy, playfulness and erotic undertones. And marshmallows.

Interesting to see some of Wakabayashi’s family too. Sets up some intrigue for how her relatives might get involved in future episodes.

Ooyasan wa Shishunki!

Again, so much comedy packed into a couple of minutes! Chie’s innocence is at once adorable and hilarious, encompassing all the pitfalls of boy-girl relationships by chucking herself in them. And like in Ojisan, we’re treated to a new character who may return to give us even more dynamics between the cast.

Why do I write about these shorts each week? If a show can satisfy me in a few minutes, it gives me hope for anime writers to do the same in twenty-five.

Divine Gate

An aside: I pity the critics who have dropped this because they didn’t like its sense of poetry: translations that would retain none of the metre and prosody (phonic elements) of the original Japanese, and may well be, in the original language, very elegant poetry. Literal translations of poetry, which anime subtitlers have to default to, often lose a lot of their poetic oomph; note that poet Ezra Pound, in translating a number of Chinese and Old English poems for his collection Cathay, often embellished parts of his versions so that they would be more beautiful in English. We can’t expect that same from Crunchyroll, or whatever subbing group you use.

That being said, anyone who ‘dropped’ this show for the sake of making a stab at what they thought was ‘bad’ poetry is an idiot. Divine Gate is fantastic.

Last week we had the themes of family and friendship explored at every turn, with both Akane and Midori offering subtle, developing back-story hooks. A father’s struggle to save his child was felt from the angle of each character’s individual perspective, and another revelation about Aoto’s past made him seem like someone who’d shock us every week, challenging the rest of the cast’s thoughts on psychology, society and humanity.

This week, Midori’s back-story rightly left us with more questions than answers, as the significance of her relationship with her friend was understated to fit her minimal understanding of it in her memory. The theme of being ‘number one’ also posed a few questions – if Arthur has the ‘key’, but everyone wants to be first to the Gate, how is the quest going to pan out?

The introduction of multiple ‘higher’ figures into the plot was also both welcome and well-paced. Plus, with a shower scene giving us nothing below the chin, Divine Gate is thankfully going for little-to-no fan-service. Unlike Jiggly Jiggly Heaven, these girls are all interesting characters without having to grope for our attention with their tits and smutty shenanigans. Thumbs up for that.

GATE: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri

It’s looking like family relationships are the ‘gates’ to character development for both our gate-related shows. Flashing into Itami’s past, we uncover a domestic tragedy that foreshadows his inability to abandon Tuka. Her delusion, meanwhile, felt sincere without becoming sickly.

GATE knows how to treat its characters with respect. If there’s fanservice to be found at the moment, it’s in Rory, and she owns her sly Lolita persona, rather than feeling owned by it. And if a character is working like an antagonist, like Yao, they can still make powerful, provocative speeches. For a heavily caricatured look at military life, we have some very natural moments.w

No complaints; the enormous cast is being balanced so well. More of the same, please.

And more Rory, of course.

Boku dake ga Inai Machi

The fidelity of time-travel thickens; Satoru is remembering all the things he did when he was this young, noticing mistakes he repeats and using them to right future wrongs. His bond with Kayo is already so endearing that we have to root for him with every fibre of our bodies, and it’s because he has his mind on the future, not on the present. Best relationship advice I’ve seen from anime in years.

Seeing Kayo bruised in the shed, and the abuse of her parents, was heart-rending. Satoru is trying to save her from so many things, and his ability to make her smile really is a ‘stupid’ kind of love, one that’s only focused on making the future right for her, in massive ways and with little touches. I wanted to clap with the teacher after Satoru made that bitchy girl cry.

Boku Machi continues to develop its cast while throwing in new characters and situations and immediately giving them a sense of depth and accomplishment.

Let the ‘Revival’ of the anime thriller continue!

On the Catch-up List:

  • Durarara!!x2 Ketsu. Still. Haven’t. Finished. Ten.
  • Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu. Apparently this is better than Boku Machi. If it is I might write about it instead of Shoujo-tachi wa Kouya wo Mezasu.

What did you think about this week’s offerings? Disagree with any of the above? Have your say in the comments below!

Current theme music: Manila Killa – All That’s Left (feat. Joni Fatora)

 

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2 thoughts on “Impressions: Winter 2016, Week Three”

  1. Thank you for reviewing Divine Gate! Since a lot of reviews said the first episode was bad and dropped it, I was worried to start this show, even though I thought it looked interesting. Thanks to your review, I watched it, and I’m really enjoying it so far!

    Liked by 1 person

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