Category Archives: Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai.

Horizontal Adaptation of Ideas in Original Anime Concepts

If I smack Anohana with a Nagiasu-shaped noodle press repeatedly, what shakes out of it follows:

  • OKADAAAAA
  • People in love with people in love
  • How more things change, more things stay the same, except things still change.
  • …and as a corollary, themes about passage of time in the physical versus passage of time in the emotional

It’s all really signature. I mean I don’t think the two shows have any overlap other than Okada, so it’s a good exercise in picking out what makes her writing tick. Nagiasu in many ways is a superior version of Anohana, except they have different goals narratively. [Edit: NISA licensed both shows for US distro, which might be the only other overlap!]

I was thinking about this while walking down a sidewalk in midtown NYC during rush hour. Invariably what happens is that you walk with a pack of people and someone is smoking. Then you think about Zvezda.

anzukate

Zvezda episode 3 almost justifies the existence of this anime. It is the sort of thing that makes me go “Original anime are the best.” [read it like “SHOW YOU GUTS COOL SAY WHAT” is the best.] I don’t think about it so much when watching Anohana or Nagiasu, but the thought simply confirms by those things. Similarly I can look at all my favorites this season, and majority of them are original. I’m not even sure that I included Kill la Kill or Space Dandy in that list.

I think what makes original anime good is actually not that they are anime-original. It’s because of the telephone game factor. If Shinsekai Yori was an anime original it would have been gangbusters awesome. You wouldn’t have people who looked it up and get all icky because of the highly sexualized manga, and I wouldn’t had to suffer through the slog of the thing that is the current anime, simply because they could have applied the narrative structure better. Of course, the trade off is that fewer people vet any given concept, none the least are the audience for the original work. Although arguably that is kind of not the point in a lot of cases in the late-night category. Also it isn’t to say original works don’t get that committee’s touch, to put it nicely; that can happen to anything.

Makes me think what Kawamori had to deal with when he was creating the core items in the AKB0048 anime.

I remember reading some interview with the creator of Rahxephon and Mamoru Oshii. This was a part of the US release of the movie, I think? Anyway, the point I want to repeat here is that a part of Evangelion’s greatness comes from the contribution of many of the animators there. There were a lot of talented creators pitching in little things that made it great. This is kind of what I’m referring to by my earlier comment on Witch Craft Works. And I think it is this sort of originality that makes original anime neat.

And to give things some orthogonality, you can track original creators like Okada across works in this way. It’s like she’s basically refining her thoughts on the topics and coming up with new ideas. It’s not just her, either. I think Madoka’s success is largely due to this factor, tracing Shinbo, Kajiura, Urobuchi and even Aoki (albeit a lot less than the others). I also like how Madoka’s PR purposefully hype and hide, so to speak. Nagiasu took a different route by hiding it entirely, and its sales reflects this (other than the obvious genre gap here). Both shows are better for it, I think, sales aside.

And Zvezda too. If the November 11 joke wasn’t enough for you…


Best noitaminA Show Is the Most Mainstream One

A lot of anime fans I know likes noitaminA. It’s probably because I know too many internet people; the sort of people who like non-mainstream stuff (not that they don’t like mainstream stuff, as we will see). That Fuji TV programming segment tends to favor the kind of anime that you don’t see often outside of it. It also helps that some of the shows on noitaminA are based on franchises that were fan favorites even before those respective things turned into anime, in some cases, new versions of older anime.

Here’s just a poll from some Japanese site on who likes what. You can read more about it over there if you wish. This is the results of “3,125 votes from 1,097 people.” All disclaimers about internet polls, etc, apply. I didn’t read the original post to get if there’s any specific or special about this polling group or poll or whatever. Anyway:

1: Anohana (306 votes)
2: Kids on the Slope (213 votes)
3: Mononoke (211 votes)
4: Moyashimon Anime (191 votes)
5: Library Wars (173 votes)
6: Tsuritama (163 votes)
7: Guilty Crown (158 votes)
8: NO.6 (135 votes)
9: Eden of the East (135 votes)
10: Nodame series (128 votes)
11: Rabbit Drop (118 votes)
12: Natsuyuki Rendezvous (104 votes)
13: UN-GO (95 votes)
14: Honey & Clover series (85 votes)
15: Shiki (83 votes)
16: Ayakashi (82 votes)
17: Trapeze (78 votes)
18: Kuragehime (73 votes)
19: Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 (72 votes)
20: Tatami Galaxy (65 votes)
21: Thermae Romae (60 votes)
22: Black Rock Shooter (57 votes)
23: Hakaba Kitarou (56 votes)
24: C (51 votes)
25: Antique Bakery (43 votes)
26: House of Five Leaves (35 votes)
26: Jyuousei (35 votes)
28: Live Action Moyashimon (30 votes)
29: Hourou Musuko (24 votes)
30: Genji Monogatari Sennenki (21 votes)
31: Fractale (16 votes)
32: Paradise Kiss (14 votes)
33: Hataraki Man (10 votes)

Yep, Fractale is not the worse, but it’s likely a minor aberration. Hataraki Man and Parakiss are probably too old for this demographic.

The highest-ranked show I didn’t watch is Mononoke, but not for lack of trying. Next is #16, Ayakashi. Then it is #23, Hakaba Kitarou. Do you see a trend here? Maybe not, because I also skipped #25 (fujoshi crap), #26 (fujoshi crap), #28 (not anime), and #30 (see previous trend). Please note that by calling any given noitaminA anime “fujoshi crap” is like saying anime is from Japan; that is kind of the given.

I get the feeling there are way too many people voting up Mononoke, more so than a reasonable group of random internet anime-viewers should. I mean yes I get it, but really? Actually the fact that Kids on the Slope came in #2 (look at the ratings) probably speaks volume about the people who voted, given how it averaged out to be the same as BRS/Guilty Crown. It definitely seems to confirm this previous theory/observation, in a way that is self-contradictory. I mean Kids on the Slope sold poorly, overall, while Guilty Crown still charts (in a way that respects its #7 rank). Actually those two titles typifies a lot of Noitamina shows; they either get a lot of love from the mouth and no love on home video, or a lot of hate and some love from people buying them. Of course, what is for sure is that Anohana both sold well (also see Guilty Crown on that list) and did well on TV. The elusive, the anecdote quoter’s favorite: a hit. And then there’s Fractale.

If you dig back a few years, you can tell a lot of the lower ranked shows did no worse than the higher ranked ones on TV. It just seems kind of arbitrary. Which is why I’m wondering why Mononoke did so well; it wasn’t particularly better rated than, say, Hataraki Man. Why the big gap between the two? (If you are curious, the MAL link has the answer, or see here.)

PS. There’s a follow-up to this observation. Maybe it will become a post!


Year in Review: N-Listing

So, the tradition continues. 12 lists of 12 things. Some are ranked, others are not. One this year is not ranked but merely numerated.

Continue reading


Year in Review: Working Hard Writing

Urobuchi Gen has a breakout year in 2011 between Fate/Zero and Madoka, but we already know Butch is the kind of writer that now more people have come to know. Beats trying to watch Blassreiter or Phantom of the Inferno lol (not a knock, just the truth…I still need to play the game version of the latter). However I want to talk about Okada Mari’s work some more.

Okada is responsible for at least four notable shows this year: Fractale, Hanasaku Iroha, Anohana, and Hourou Musuko. I think it is in Hourou Musuko that her writing really came off well. Given how much that deviated from the original manga, there may be enough space to infer that her style carried a relatively brisk adaptation (Note that it is directed by the director of Fate/Zero, which is probably no coincidence) into the animation medium with a lot of punch. In fact, there’s just something magical about the whole experience. It’s like, laced nostalgia or something potent. And I don’t even care about the whole genderbending aspect at all; the supporting cast of characters are all wonderful and the chemistry is well balanced, dramatic and entertaining enough to keep things moving without getting dragged down by the weight of its seriousness.

I find it so wonderful that if I had to list my top 2011 anime, it would be between that, Madoka, and Steins;Gate. It had me, actually, at the OP.

Hanasaku Iroha is, more relevantly, a Okada original. I think the story is really basically about the nature of work and career in the life of, in some mainline, culturally accepted sense, a woman. However I think it’s important to see how there’s this double talk of sorts in light of what is happening to Ohana versus her mom. I think it is right that so many people hated on Satsuki but I think she is the one thing that makes the story at all credible–it isn’t about societal expectation or doing what society think is right. It’s about actually having that heart of a mom. I mean that is ultimately the issue; people cannot be held to uniform standards when it comes to parenting, or so it would be the framework that I interpret the story.

The career side of HanaIro is probably less thorny but just as tricky. On one hand you have Sui doing her thing at the end of the series, and on the other hand you have someone like Satsuki who pursuits it without regards to the other women in her life. I think it might just want to paint an image where there is conflict and there is no harmony, but people are still able to prioritize what is important in their lives and resolves things in respect to that. It is here that I can see some people raise a stink about its anti-feminist message. It really doesn’t bother me: if I was a feminist I would not be a fan of Japanese animation at all.

The truth is, it becomes more a cultural contextualization problem. If we can either power through or sidestep that, Hanasaku Iroha is a fairly sharp series, perhaps mired in the typical, 26-episode style of presentation that had to feature the backstory of everybody. But make no mistake; it is about a woman’s work. And that is an empowering message in a society where women have always been treated poorly than men.

It made me wonder a couple things: how much of HanaIro was taken out of a page from her life? And what was it like working on that and working on Fractale at around the same time? LOL. As we know, Fractale is the brainchild of Yamakan, cultural critic Hiroki Azuma (who authored that Database Animal nonsense that I refer to all the time) and Okada. I think it’s unfortunate that it didn’t end up doing well, but it makes you wonder what went on between the three of them. You would think that there’s probably potential for something great. I guess it doesn’t always work out that way.

There was also Anohana. It is a very charming and bittersweet story featuring likable characters despite the somewhat predictable path of character development they were on. It is also a little way too sappy, and unfortunately (and ironically) something I find difficult to remember 6 months later. The smiling-crying Menma-face and the sexually-charged nicknames (MANMA wwwww) of our cast of characters aside, Anohana leaves me little to go on besides to wonder how many other references to Forget-me-Not it can squeeze in that 12-episode package. Like Okada’s other stories, it is a very tightly-woven package. I mean if we can boil HanaIro down into the same size it will probably have the same overall format. Both shows have a fairly “slow” segment just after the half-way point in which the story builds up to the dramatic conclusion, and Anohana remedies that drastically thanks to its limited length.

Looking back, I think again the TV anime packing issue is still the one most consistently problematic thing for me when I poke at these works at the big picture level. Urobuchi’s style, in contrast, makes tighter packages–think of it like a HBO mini series–for the same format. Still, it makes me wonder how much you could fit in that 22-minute package every week, with enough of a build-up and release, and keep enough suspense for next week. It cannot be that easy.

Yet if you think about it, given how prolific Okada is in 2011, for whatever the reason, she is probably batting above average overall. I am someone who typically puts down the contribution of writers to quality of TV anime narratives, because I think in general fans elevate that aspect beyond its due worth, but certainly writers (especially people who come up with this stuff from scratch) are important parts to the creative core that brings every anime to their inevitable conclusion. Between them and the directors, the fate of many anime is in their hands even before the horse is out of the gate, and if anything 2011 is definitely the year that demonstrated this.

Something to leave you with: Okada wrote 9 episodes of Simoun and worked on True Tears (both Nishimura projects). She is credited for series composition for Bantorra.  This is somehow NOT a coincidence either, I believe. To go back to the same baseball analogy, I’d safely say she’s batting the proverbial 300. And not entirely a coincidence, in 2012, Okada is thus far tapped for the new Kenshin Shin Kyoto-hen remake,  Black Rock Shooter TVAquarion EVOL and the AKB48 animeOh boy! I’d say that’s about 300, how about you?

PS. Meeting Nagai Tatsuyuki and Tanaka Masayoshi at AX this year remains one of the highlights of con life for me in 2011. It was wonderful to see some of the people responsible for all that Taiga mania.

PPS. I’m not sure why I’m going with Japanese name order in this post, but oh well.


Something Positive about Some Anime

I’m watching way too many anime. And I don’t know what to cut. I don’t even want to cut, but it’s robbing me sleep, and while that’s fine now and then I don’t know if I’ll live for 3 months like this. Well, it’s not so serious; I just want my 7hr of sleep and all the other social perks that comes with living it up, you know?

Thinking about it, there are a lot of pretty interesting shows doing something right this season. I’m going to try to say a little bit about all the shows that I really want to follow, and can be cut. If a show is not listed here it means I am not watching it, or I can’t cut it, or if it’s Hoshizora Kakeru Hashi. Because that show…I have nothing to say about it, even if I am kind of watching it. Also, Moshidora is over already, so…

After writing up the list, I noticed the more I write about something, the higher chances that I am more attached I am to it than a show with a shorter point. It’s not always the case but that’s just how it ended up.

30-sai – Practical advice in a humorous form. If Moshidora is Drucker High School, 30-sai is your gossipy older sister or married friend who is trying to help you out.

A Channel – It’s just quirky enough to stand out.

AnoHana – Anal hair styles, and Jintan’s t-shirts (tho they could be more sarcastic). More seriously, it does a good job showing how circumstances amplifiy positive and negative emotions, and it’s almost like being mesmerized by a cell screensaver. Less seriously, I want to see “Team Menma” cosplays where a bunch of Yukiatsu cosplayers line up with pride.

[C] – Tomatsu makes a fiery pokemon, she’s fun to watch.

Blue Exorcist – It looks really good.

Deadman Wonderland – The only thing pushing this show forward is the mystery element, but it is a pretty good one because it is covered up by the weirdly large setting they have in place.

Hen Zemi – In a Qwaser sort of way, but more close to home in terms of how over the top some of these characters can be.

Hidan no Aria – I keep talking about the Segue + Uzi combo, but that’s so clever I can’t stop myself.

Kaminomi – As others have said, the best thing was how Saori Hayami’s Haqua worked out as well as it did, contrary to expectation (or lack of in my case).

Lotte no Omocha – Besides the fact that Horie’s character got her boobs milked, the iyashikei focus is a nice touch. It kind of makes me wonder why this hasn’t happened earlier, the iyashikei x harem angle.

Moshidora – The daily presentation is helping a lot. I don’t think my attention span would have survived 10 weeks. Nor is it fair to ask for that much for a (even if it is inspiring) display of Drucker management basics. I think two weeks is about right from a syllabus planning perspective.

Nichijou – It’s funny, and there is at least enough number of gags per episode to not miss any one single week.

OreTsuba – The narrative style presents a very weird premise with a lot of intrigue via its nonlinear presentation of life as is from independent third-person perspectives that are connected plot-wise. Of course it is still an act of deception via omission, but at least it ordered things right so that when it does tell you the trick, it makes sense and carries dramatic impact.

Seishun Otoko – The Seishun point system. It adds a “game” layer that is fun to wrap your mind around, kind of like seeing Mahoro’s expiration date but without the cheap emotional play.

Sket-dan – If anything, pacing is  fast and on the dot for this Jump manga adaptation.

Steins;Gate – Okarin is very likable, kind of like Wah but actually crazy and use Real Facts to back up his statements. It works well with the overall mood of the show.

SoftTeni – Cute girls doing amusing things.

Tiger & Bunny – It’s the better superhero anime this season, mainly because it’s the traditional, character-driven drama that anime is best known for outside the violence and porn perception of the west.