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Anime Today: Story, Story, Story!

If you read Kaze’s and my reviews of the spring anime season this year, it wouldn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that neither of us was impressed. In fact, the general mediocrity of it all left me in such a cynical mood that I commented on how low my hopes were for this (summer) season… only for me to be (several weeks in now) greatly and pleasantly surprised! Although I shouldn’t speak too soon, shows like Aldnoah Zero, Blue Spring Ride, and even Sword Art Online II have all far surpassed my original expectations, Free!, Glasslip, and Hanamayata have at least met them, and even the new Persona 4 anime has had me much more interested than its original counterpart (I’ve purposefully neglected to mention the several anime that have disappointed me).

Persona 4 Golden

Nice start!

And all of these pleasant surprises have assured me that there still exists a thing called “good storytelling” in the anime medium (hyperbole; obviously there has been and will continue to be good storytelling, I just like to be cynical). Something that can grip the reader and either ensnare him/her into the trap of “just one more episodes,” or otherwise threaten to put them into a state of withdrawal by withholding the next episode for next week. That is the feeling I had been hoping for last season, and felt that it had not been delivered.

Simply put, I want to feel invested in what I’m consuming.

This same concept carries through all mediums of “entertainment”, from books to film, from opera to anime. And, pardon this shamelessly “Christian-ese” segue, but it reminded me of the true intention of the authorship of the Bible.

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Anime Today: Not a Sequel

After being on hiatus for a week, your favorite column, Anime Today, has made a triumphant return! (Kudos to those of you who even noticed that I was gone…). And with this come back, I bring a slew of new anime, courtesy of the Summer 2014 season!

It seems like this season, and perhaps even this year, has been the season of (notable) sequels. Between Free!, Sword Art Online, Sailor Moon, and, broadening our range, the nine-year, long-awaited return of Mushishi, it seems that most of the heavy hitters are returning all at once. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Sailor Moon Crystal

Art by とらお (Pixiv ID 44225402)

With time being such a valuable commodity in my life now, when I pick up a slew of anime each season for both my personal interest and reviewing purposes, having such a large amount of titles with such high production values and established premises makes my viewing experience so much more enjoyable (if you read Kaze and my recent season review, you’ll know that we are both rather harsh graders and also watch shows to completion in spite of poor quality, making this even more important for me).

As an unabashed, though somewhat late-coming fan of the first season of Free!, the first episode of season two was a pleasure, albeit a bit underwhelming. Although I wasn’t a particularly large fan of the first season of Sword Art Online, the first episode of season two seems to promise much better pacing and cohesion for this second season, which particularly excites me. Although I never got around to watching Sailor Moon so many “moons” ago (har har), the reboot has been an… interesting experience. And finally, I don’t think I need to say much about Mushishi, considering if you have followed any of my recent writing at Beneath the Tangles, you likely know how highly I regard it.

Needless to say, I am by no means a critic of sequels. Sometimes they can disappoint, and sometimes they do exactly as they promise: provide more of a type of content that people already loved.

As I pondered this new season, and reflected on how connected to my life and beliefs, I remembered several conversations I had had with a friend of mine about storytelling, both ancient and modern (thanks, Sean!). The reuse of archetypes throughout history and the origin of those archetypes. Symbolic and poetic literature versus literal and historical storytelling. Character development and world building.

And one thing seemed to draw all these topics back together, regardless of personal beliefs: the Bible.

Though I have not intellectually equipped myself to tackle these topics myself (you would have to direct yourselves to my friend for that), this onslaught of sequels reminded me of a common sentiment regarding the division of the Bible into the Old Testament and the New Testament. Is the New Testament merely a “sequel” to the Old Testament? Disappointing as it may be, by the end of this article I will likely not be able to provide you a solid answer to that, at least without resorting to arbitrary semantics (meaning transcends mere words). However, I hope that you will still feel compelled to think on it.

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MekakuCity Actors Episodes 11 and 12: Moon-Viewing Recital and Summertime Record

Endings are important, so it’s no surprise that I watched the last two episodes of MekakuCity Actors with a little more trepidation than usual. I was hopeful, though: I had thoroughly enjoyed the non-linear storytelling of previous episodes, and there were many helpful explanations. Although it wasn’t perfect, MekakuCity Actors has done nothing but strengthen my love for the Kagerou Project, which seems to have formerly been rather weak in retrospect.

[Spoilers ahead, obviously. But If you want a non-spoilerific opinion on the anime as a whole, scroll down to the final paragraph]

Episode 11: Moon-Viewing Recital

I knew from the moment I saw his black Route XX hoodie that something was up.

I knew from the moment I saw his black Route XX hoodie that something was up.

Yeah, in those other routes, nothing ever went well for anyone.

Yeah, in those other routes, nothing ever went well for anyone.

YOU HAD ONE JOB SHINTARO

YOU HAD ONE JOB SHINTARO

It’s night, and a red moon in the shape of an eye shines. Shintaro wakes up in his room, finding that he suddenly remembers everything. Through Shintarou’s conversation with one of Azami’s snakes, we learn that seeing Ayano’s photo triggered his own eye-power, Retaining Eyes, which causes him to remember everything, including tragic memories from alternate timelines. If you remember, in Kagerou Days (Ep. 4), every time Hiyori dies, the scenario is reset. This has actually been happening for a long time, except with the entire plotline. (The exact start time is unknown, but it’s hinted that it’s before the characters were born). The snake asks him what he intends to do, and in response, Shintaro repeats the scene from an alternate timeline called Route XX in which he stabbed himself with a pair of scissors.

Because Kido never made anything worse. Ever.

Because Kido never made anything worse. Ever.

We now interrupt the regular plotline for a Zombie Apocalypse

We now interrupt the regular plotline for a Zombie Apocalypse

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MekakuCity Actors episodes 9 and 10: Ayano’s Happiness Theory and Fantasy Forest

There are only two more episodes left of MekakuCity Actors, and, while it hasn’t been a perfect ride, I love the way all the little bits and pieces of information are finally coming together to form a story that is not only coherent (sort of), but intriguing. The two most recent episodes were based off of two of my favourite songs in the Kagerou Project, and my expectations were high. They were not disappointing in the least.

Episode 9: Ayano’s Happiness Theory

Oh hey! I think I've heard this before somewhere!

Oh hey! I think I’ve heard this before somewhere!

The episode opens with Ayano’s mother, Ayaka, reading her a story: The story of the little monster, in fact. So if you were wondering when the story-book clips at the end of each episode would tie in to the main plot, the answer is “Episode 9.”

They BETTER be saving that budget for the finale!

They BETTER be saving that budget for the finale!

Following that, there is a cover of Ayano’s Happiness Theory in place of the opening. While the cover itself is lovely, the opening art showcases some of the worst opening animation choices I have ever seen. Now, I will begrudgingly admit that after watching it several times over, it’s kind of sweet on its own, but the fact remains that when put in the anime alongside the regular animation, it’s nothing short of jarring and cringe-worthy. But I digress.

Kano, you've got to start being nicer, or pretty soon everyone new to the Kagerou Project is going to hate you!

Kano, you’ve got to start being nicer, or pretty soon everyone new to the Kagerou Project is going to hate you!

Two people in a deadly situation on August 15th, and only one makes it out...I wonder what could have possibly happened?

Two people in a deadly situation on August 15th, and only one makes it out…I wonder what could have possibly happened?

Ayano Kido Seto

Maybe he's hiding something?

Maybe he’s hiding something?

Tsubomi Kido, Shuya Kano, and Kousuke were adopted by the Tateyama family, and Ayano was like a big sister to them. Sadly, their happiness was cut short when Ayaka and Kenjrou were caught in a landslide on August 15th, and Ayaka died. Not long after, Ayano finds her mother’s research notes in her father’s room…along with a copy of the little monster’s story. Read the rest of this entry

MekakuCity Actors episodes 7 and 8: Konoha’s State of the World and Lost Time Memory

Episode 7: Konoha’s State of the World

I don't get why they didn't just talk about their health problems a bit last episode. Of course she knew--Why else did she think he missed so much school?

Why didn’t they just talk about their health problems last episode? Of course she knew–Why else did she think he missed so much school?

...I had trouble thinking of anything funny to say at all the constant sadness in this episode.

…I had trouble thinking of amusing captions with all the constant sadness in this episode.

The episode opens with us learning that Haruka has collapsed and is now hospitalized. Takane feels awful for leaving him alone, and decides to leave him with Kenjirou and get his things from the school instead of staying with him.

If only that were true.

If only that were true.

Pfft.  Yes, I'm sure that would work out great.

Pfft. Yes, I’m sure that would work out great. Jin, stop trying to ruin my OTP…Please?

She says it like she's talking about herself, don't you think?

It’s almost like she’s talking about herself

As she is wallowing in shame, she runs into Ayano, who has also been attending supplementary summer classes. They talk about school and Shintaro, and eventually Ayano confronts her about her fear of being rejected by Haruka, and encourages her to tell him how she feels.

If only she hadn't been such a Tsundere, maybe she could have had her wish.

You shouldn’t have been a Tsundere, huh?

Oh hey, if is itsn't [spoiler omitted]

Oh hey, if is itsn’t [spoiler omitted]

Takane thought about what she said, and realised that Ayano was absolutely right. Unfortunately, she collapsed soon after, likely due to her condition, and then weird things started happening. When they were over, she was no longer human. Read the rest of this entry

I wanna be like you, Tohru!

Throughout anime, there are themes that reflect Christian values. You can see themes of loyalty, service, peacemaking, patience, love and acceptance just to name a few. Out of all the characters in all of the anime I have seen, the one I felt has come closest to what a Christian is supposed to be, or maybe the one I want to be like most, is Tohru Honda from Fruits Basket.

Tohru-honda

From her gratefulness, to her constant service mindset, to her unconditional love and acceptance of those around her, whenever I watch Fruits Basket I find myself wishing I would handle situations the way she handles them. It takes a certain amount of bravery and strength to approach life the way Tohru does.

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Mekaku City Actors episodes 5 and 6: Kaien Panzermast and Headphone Actor

MekakuCity Actors reached it’s halfway point last week, and I have begun to realize that if nothing else, this anime is going to suffer from being too short. It really should have been over 20 episodes. Still, nothing has gone terribly wrong yet, so we shall just have to wait and see.

Episode 5: Kaien Panzermast

I was quite sceptical of this episode, as is the only one thus far not to be named after a song in the Kagerou Project, so I didn’t know what to expect. Considering how there is still a huge amount of the story to tell, I was expecting them to jump straight into another song–Maybe Otsukimi Recital.

If it's normal for terrorists to have brightly-colored décor, I guess that's a possibility...

If it’s normal for terrorists to have brightly-colored décor, I guess that’s a possibility…

After surviving the terrorist attack, Shintaro wakes up in a girl’s room. No mention is given as to how he survived getting shot, but in the manga it shows that he didn’t actually get shot: he fainted. Although this is an appropriately Shintaro-like thing to do, it’s rather frustrating that this wasn’t mentioned at all. Did no one edit this script?

Shintaro channels the audience's feelings

Shintaro channels the audience’s feelings

He is extremely confused (Much like ourselves) and begs Ene to tell him what’s going on. Ene, naturally, teases him by telling him that she won’t explain things until he strips down to his underwear. This doesn’t go well.

Basically the most awkward introduction possible

Basically the most awkward introduction possible

Whose idea was it to put Shintaro in Marry's room anyways? What kind of a person thinks that could possibly not go wrong?

Whose idea was it to put Shintaro in Marry’s room anyways? What kind of a person thinks that could possibly not be awkward?

After some funny shenanigans, the Mekakushi-Dan informs Shintaro that they rescued him, and now he and Ene are members of the Mekakushi-Dan(Ene volunteered him while he was asleep). Shintaro is not ok with this, but Kido says he has no choice but to join, since he knows too much. On that cheerful note, they go off to the amusement park. Read the rest of this entry

Anime Today: Sharing Anime with Family

If there is one anime that I have been most looking forward to this season, it is absolutely the newest season of Mushi-shi. And I can say confidently that my unrealistically high expectations for the season have been… met, actually. Possibly even exceeded, even!

Ginko

Art by 猫屋敷 (Pixiv ID 43383288)

It is rare to find an anime that is beautifully animated, intelligently written, and also has little to no inappropriate content (the only other anime that I can immediately think of that fit these criteria are the likes of Now and Then, Here and There, Haibane Renmei, and Nichijou, though I’m sure there are many others). All of this together is what has made it possible to share Mushi-shi with my father, one decidedly uninterested in anime and the like as well as a former pastor. However, it didn’t take long to get him hooked.

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The Power of Words in xxxHolic

“Living beings can be bound by so many different things… …But did you know there is only one chain humans can wield themselves?” – Yuko

Talking is such a natural part of everyday life that it’s easy to forget how much our words can affect everything around us, for better or for worse. In xxxHolic, Yuko refers to words as literally living things. As the only naturally occurring “chain” in life that humans can control. In that episode, a girl was chained down by her own words as she constantly spoke and lived out negative, self-fulfilling prophecies. She would talk about failing and it would happen, no matter how likely  she was to succeed before she spoke.

Untitled

I know, in my own life, I can often get trapped in this same situation. I talk….a lot…. and I tend to be a pessimistic person. If I’m not careful, I can create my own complaining mantras that will leave me completely immobilized.  Read the rest of this entry

Mekaku City Actors, Episodes 3 and 4: Mekakushi Code and Kagerou Days

It’s not uncommon to hear people say that you must watch up until the third or fourth episode of an anime to be able to tell if it’s any good or not. With that in mind, I watched these next two episodes knowing that if they were terrible, most people would stop watching.

Episode 3: Mekakushi Code

Happily, Mekakushi Code didn’t disappoint me in the least, which surprised me, since the song by the same name doesn’t have any sort of complex plot (though it is very catchy) and I didn’t especially care for this part of the manga.
Momo Kisuragi

The episode begins with Momo being confronted by Kido. Momo thinks she’s one of her fans, and so is understandably a bit nervous.
Kido introduces herself, and then sets out to recruit Momo to the Mekakushi Dan.

Kido Tsubomi, actually. Kido, Kano, and Seto all go by their family names.

Kido Tsubomi, actually. Kido, Kano, and Seto all go by their family names.

 

GOOD QUESTION. Why must all secret societies be so secretive that they only confuse those they want to recruit?

GOOD QUESTION. Why must all secret societies be so secretive that they only confuse those they want to recruit?

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