Monthly Archives: September 2012

Diffusing Hyouka

I have to hand it to Kyoto Animation for creating another great TV anime with very solid themes and consistently wondrous visuals. It is as classic as it is ornate and detailed, the only thing holding it back perhaps being the format of a TV show and an adaptation of Hyouka.

In some ways, my biggest problem regarding Kyoto Animation since back in their FMP days was the way they adopted light novels. It’s entirely too stiff. In Hyouka, things are not much better, but at least it is relatively resistant–perhaps even compatible–to a rigid adaptation. The direction is purposefully bipolar at times, to demonstrate the gap between reality and fancy. After all this is a story about a bunch of kids who continue to support the “classics club” and imagination is a core power in any story about that kind of achievements. That’s where Kyoani flexed its muscles–the power of anime.

I think that little translation about “classics club” back in episode 1 was a harbinger of things to come, in retrospect. Between that and how Hyouka is just really quaint, the show was doomed from the start to achieve any kind of deeper qualities, even if it’s not its fault completely.

But being quaint is okay. The show piled on thick for shippers and people who somehow think Hyouka has this great character development going on. I’m not really saying it isn’t–it’s just that it is possibly the least Japanese part of the story. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Japanese movie (live action or anime) where they actually have the character or actor speak out loud (even if it is in their mind) about their feelings. I mean verbalizing your feelings is so not Japanese as merguez and falafel are so not Japanese. They could be delicious nonetheless.

Of course, you can get both of them in Japan. It’s partly why we can sum up the musical influences in Hyouka with just a youtube link. It just feels, again, quaint, if fitting.

To end, the last episode was a great little thing that reminded me of K-ON’s finale, except for some reason it took a turn for the dramatic, once that mystery yields itself to the background interaction between Chitanda and Oreki. The detective act was all a shell game for youthful exurbrances; kids play because that’s what they do, not because there’s some deeper meaning in the games they play. Even Oreki’s lowest-energy-state of non-play is just a game. Even Chitanda’s phone calls to get permission to reroute the procession, all the acting she and Irisu go through, are more like a game than anything with actual significance. Ultimately that paints Hyouka as a story about dull detective stories, and not so much a dull detective story of its own.

Looking back, it bothers me slightly that I suffered through this mainly due to superficial reasons–the Kyoani animation muscles–but I guess I don’t regret it. At the very least, it’s coffee table-top material, and you can’t have too many of that in the realm of TV animation entertaining enough for adults.

Except, of course, when it isn’t. In that case Hyouka can double also as a sleep aid.

PS. Ibara is by far the best. She also ranks second on my Kayanon ranking. Second has to be Kouchi Ayako with a tight lead over Irisu. Speaking of manga club members, the vocaloid cosplay group is full of interesting voice actors. Only if I was M enough to enjoy fake bullying.

Totally Random Seiyuu Agency Half-Questions

I have questions, do you have answers?

Question 1: Yuruyuri season 2 came to an end today. That marks also the end of the latest show where both Saki Fujita and Aki Toyosaki play in the same show. You don’t have to look far to see the last time these two were in the same production: Jewelpet. It’s the one long-running mainstream kids show featuring Aki as the lead, and definitely her biggest show yet. Fujita manages to make it in the show just this latest season. But where else has the two of them worked in the same production? Is Manabi Straight it?

Question 2: Despite the plethora of Sengoku-era anime adaptations, there is no end in sight to this trend. We have two shows this current season featuring exactly that. What’s notable is how some of these are flat-out genderbending variety, not so much Sengoku Basara, but Sengoku Collection. Here’s who: Mamiko Noto. I think she might be the one seiyuu who has been in more of these shows than any other, and I’m counting even dreck like Sengoku Otome. If we stick to the tight limits of 1) a late-night anime with 2) a Japanese woman doing the acting, would it be true or false? And if we don’t stick to either of these limits, who would have the most Warring States role?

Natsuyuki Rondezvous Is Suffering

Some people find this perfection. I find this closer to suffering. And it’s not the Urobuchi sort.

Natsuyuki Rendezvous is a classic love story with a healthy dose of meta-references to idealistic story elements in the form of Hatsuki’s dreams. Or is it purgatory? I know it felt dreadful and tedious during the half dozen episodes when it was happening and I just wanted the story to progress.

Unfortunately given the strange and mysterious bodyswapping, the focus of the narrative is on what the bodyswapper will do in the host body–in this case, a list of dumb and selfish things. Well, that isn’t the point, but unfortunately that is what will play a huge role in the way I perceive the romance triangle.

The problem was that during that stretch of episodes, the focus is suppose to be on Atsushi Shimao, his feeling, how he related to Rokka, how her feelings are for him before and after death, and setting up that moment of catharsis. It’s very important that they lay it out. I’m not sure they did. Because the question is: where’s the climax? When Hatsuki was hanging in the balance and watching what will happen to him and Rokka? Isn’t this just painting Shimao-kun as, well, a bad guy? Well, I thought to myself about 5 weeks ago, he should’ve died in a fire (he did), because he’s such a terrible person! This works out perfectly.

So maybe this show is perfect in that sense. As much as we look to peculiar anime to highlight, this is the sort of peculiarity that I think most would be glad to stay clear off of. Sort of like Fractale… Well, at least that one was ambitious.

Another take: I hope Shimao-kun would die in a fire. Oh wait, he already did. So maybe if he could just disappear? To be honest I credit shows that get me riled up; Shimao-kun doesn’t quite do that–he’s more like just a minor annoyance. There’s nothing about him to really hate, besides his selfish streaks. Actually I rather liked it when he showed off those NTR vibes, even towards the end when the situation is in reverse. The most amusing thing was to make Rokka eat his bones, but even then it came off rather as insensitive, instead of playful or eccentric. I just think when you put all this stuff together, there’s too many elements that contrast each other that instead of having those contrary things enhance the experience, they just cancel each other out. It starts out as much as when the dead seeks to live–this show can’t even get that right.

The problem, I think, is that Hatsuki is so non-distinctive, there’s nothing to really counterbalance that established relationship between Rokka and Atsushi once the spotlight is taken off of Hatsuki. The best part of the show by far is the courting between Rokka and Hatsuki; the second half of the series is pretty much just trash. I’d rather just see Rokka cry to Ken Muramatsu’s music for 6 episodes.

Orthogonal Thinking, Humanity Declines

The approach Jintai (Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita or Humanity as Declined for long) takes for cynicism and criticism about its thematic subject matter is straightforward and methodological. It doesn’t sprout out in minigun format like, say, Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, but it makes one solid push each week, with one subject matter and all its ancillaries. Quite frankly it’s delightful to think about and this approach is appropriate for foreigners, since it’s not cloaked in this extra referential meta stuff for a different culture, so we get to the meat of the matter right away.

The flip side is that I have no motivation to write about it, or really dwell on it. After all, the anime says all that needs to be said. What’s left is my usual inane rambling.

It might be apt to compare Joshiraku–a show that is dense with references and fast-pace verbiage. Because, really, how do we non-speakers quite get all the humor from the wordplay? Even the best localization will have a hard time cutting into that. I mean, can we even expect 70% of it from the translation? But in Jintai, we can probably get 90% or more. It’s also common to make Joshiraku viewers admit that they’re just watching the show for its cute-girl-backroom-chatter angle, since a lot of western anime viewers who watch new shows are rotten no-goods who get off to such a thing. Fair enough, I think.

The real question I want to pose is, then, how many of us watch Jintai for the fairies?

There is an angle to the fairies that is persistent and thematic. And then there’s another angle to the fairies that I really don’t want to know about. Because, really, I don’t want to know what floats your boat. I really don’t.

As for the persistent and thematic, I’m liking fairies not so much as the next evolution of man, but more like the Mark of the Beast. Here’s an example.


It’s not going to be the first or the last time someone makes this comparison.

I think the crosscultural appeal of Jintai is best seen over in America via the lens of space exploration. I mean, sometimes I wonder if an american-centric version of Jintai will include this sort of … eulogy-ish display of dead romanticism. The capitalistic ideal embodied in mobile computing (namely, what Apple peddles these days) and our attention turning away from grand schemes towards satisfying personal comfort might directly parallel the subject matter in Jintai, but I suppose that is one aspect of modern, 21st century living all people, across the world, have to deal with to a degree: More #firstworldproblems for all.

A Sister Inside: Ranking at 9

It is a ranking of characters from Nakaimo / Kono Naka ni Hitori, Imouto ga Iru / WHO IS IMOUTO. MAL has a picture index to help.

  1. Mr. X: Every line out of her mouth is gold, and it’s not just over-the-top ludicrous gold, but sagely advices that I will not take with a straight face.
  2. Kurumi Kashiki: Even if she’s a 3-liner, there’s this earnest campy/healthy vibe to her that I really enjoy. The straightfaced service lines round out a wholly appropriate character in an inappropriate anime (to say the least).
  3. Choux Creme: Beside her profiterole, Tsuruma is the funniest to make fun of. If there’s a real knock against her, it would be how dark the area under her skirt is.
  4. Miyabi: Perfect combination with Choux Creme.
  5. Kotori-sensei: Kind of like Kashiki, but cheekier and even more wholesome. Loli factor is played for shock, and isn’t, at the same time.
  6. Mei: I like her enterprising spirit and the degree of her cunning, but she is a non-factor in the end.
  7. Seri-san: Ayako Doctrine. And she’s hiding something.
  8. Yuzurina: I’m immune to the Ogura. Sort of.
  9. VP Rinka: She’s attractive when she wants to be, but otherwise a little boring.
  10. Araya: Laugh some more, Norse Code Laughter
  11. President Mana: Crazy and a little ditzy but not enough development!
  12. Kanako Mikadono: Hisakawa Aya character eeeeeh
  13. Shiga: Hey it’s MAKO.

I expect this list to change compared to at end of series. Because Kurumi Kashinoki Can’t Be My #2 Imouto Character.

This show is so outrageously scripted, it gives all other comedies this season a good run for their money. And we’re talking about a strong season with Joshiraku and Jintai in it.