Category Archives: Canvas 2

Why I Enjoyed Canvas 2 Anime

Sometimes you read something from Kotaku and it might make sense. I think what is said in that piece is pretty standard stuff, but I wouldn’t have framed it in the context of School Days. I’m probably too deep in this VN crap to have that objective view. By “objective” I mean people who would play Mass Effect or Bioshock or KOTOR 2. Which by that I mean normal people. Which is not objective at all but simply goes to show how far in the deep end I am in.

Catherine is perhaps the better example. Briefly, the game is about a man and his long-time GF, and the dude’s bad luck running into a hot girl who really, uh, challenges his beliefs and dedication to his GF. Of course, his GF doesn’t quite help with that, nor does the nightmare-ish Q*bert gameplay with some King-Kong-sized infant phantasm chasing after you with a fork. Catherine is a better example about making amoral choices because the impulses to cheat or just “follow your instincts” is presented front and center and the choices you make in that game are very much framed in that context. In School Days, well, you could drone towards the normal or good endings without realizing what you are missing. But the interesting thing about that game is that when you do make that amoral choice, things spirals out like a pretty flower and that’s why it is so fun, even if it ends catastrophically on board That Nice Boat.

I think that’s the basic concept we have to understand before I go to the next point. Got it?

Continue reading

Seasonal Impression Mashup (Take 2)


Instead of posting my first impressions (who cares about first impressions anyways? LOL an exercise at judging books by covers), I’d just like to reflect how this time of the year was this year and last year, and hopefully those things will chime with you and give you some idea what the hell I’m talking about. For one, I’m tired of being judgmental about anime. It’s not healthy to do it all the time, y’know?

But like last year and every year before that, some anime are more interesting than others. I remember last year I was reading a few blogs about Canvas 2, and heard about some long ass dumb debate on Animesuki forums regarding Canvas 2’s controversial ending. “Well, isn’t that interesting?” So I embarked to marathon it, finding it fairly compelling to watch. Or maybe those things happened out of sequence? I recall waiting for the last fansubs to come out in order to hold back from the full impact of the first impression of the ending would have on me.

I imagine some time this past year a lot of anime viewers took the same trip with many other shows. Simoun, Suzumiya Haruhi, and many others? But in the larger scheme of things anime companies are looking to expand their territories in the minds of its viewers: to grow more fans, to grow more people who’d give their shows a try, to grow more marketing opportunities and foreign interests, and of course, clamoring and accolades and $$$.

It’s no surprise that the big guns get out this time of the year. Shows like Saiunkoku Monogatari is wrapping up its year-run (3 cheers for Shuurei~) but what will take its place? It’s probably licensed, so a job well done. Gainax’s Gurren Lagann looks to capture a similar sort of thing, in a totally different way, on a different TV channel. Will it run a similar path? Or even a more lucrative one because of Gainax’s leverage and the genre itself? I don’t know. But that’s hardly the only player in the field. If there’s grass, you can play ball–even if that grass is made of dead people. Gonzo earns its name by resurrecting William Shakespeare himself in their adaptation of Romeo And Juliet, so … all is fair in an anime about love and war?

But no, it’s not fair. I have less time than ever to watch all these new shows (yet I do it anyways?) and that’s not counting a couple other shows that I’m dying to catch up from last season (Nodame most notably). Time is a cruel mistress indeed. On top of my obligations as a somewhat responsible human being, do I have to stress through plowing through countless raws, one show trying to outdo the other, appealing from one genre to the next and across and all over? It really pays to be an elitist asshole right about now.

We even have a space conquest anime about various alien races … at the same time with a doomsday anime with Shoji Kawamori mecha designs. Grah. Plus a new Bones anime. It’s like being a bee buzzing over a lovely meadow during springtime [insert Bee Train joke here]. The serial nature of anime means you’re really making an investment now to follow a show, which sort of locks you in for some time. Maybe that’s why first impressions are so important?

But blah, having a compelling pilot episode, as important as it may be, is not of what good shows are made of. Darker than Black, for example, calls on you to wait for episode 2, and I get the feeling of what makes that stuff good is all there.

It’s a frantic time of the year, but also a good time of the year. It’s just that I’m way too busy to celebrate?

Canonical Kanon

Wake up girl, time to face the music

To contrast, for some, the dream is finally over.

I think before we even go into things like optimism, open endings, or every other thing that has been said about Kanon over the past 7-8 years, I am glad to see it reanimated. Studio Kyoto Animation has done an admirable job, and it’s opening doors that most thought would have never opened. Bravo to whoever that made it possible.

In fact, I want to talk about more good stuff about Kanon just so you don’t get the wrong idea. Kanon 2006 is very heartful in that it delivered the things that made the game great. It pretty much covered all the basis, I think. If you liked the sentimental aspects of the show, well, awesome, because I did too. It’s sappy, but that’s just a tough-man excuse for “I lack the ability apperciate this.” I enjoy all the “service” bits, basically every moment when Nayuki or Akiko is on the screen, or you hear her cloying alarm, and so much more.

Looking back, a year ago I was writing about Canvas 2, which is another multi-path visual novel / bishoujo game that was adopted into anime form. I wanted to think about it partly because it was one of the first moving anime I’ve blogged here, but also because the similarity it shared with Kanon. I suppose it serves as backdrop for this post.

I wanted to talk about focus.

When I say focus there are two things I mean by that. One is literally what you and I focus on when we watch the show. In that sense, Kanon has a very different focus; one that probably ultimately undermined its anime adaptation. In short, it’s the moe-pandering. Unavoidably there is 7 years worth of fanboy gunk accumulated onto the Kanon franchise. As a late-night otaku slot candidate on the air, it had to home in to popular homages, screen us those precious in-game CG that now has the breath of life, and vibrantly so.

But that’s not what really did Kanon in. It’s in pandering to the more intangible, emotional story aspect of Kanon. Invariably so, the 2002 Kanon rendition recognized this so they did their best to keep the drama tense and break it open at the end. In 2006 Kanon broke open 3 times before episode 18… but what does that leave the viewer and fans of Nayuki and Ayu? A wonderful epilogue?

Alas, that’s no grounds for complaints, in my opinion. What’s sacrificed is the show’s pacing consistency. Pacing sucked for the last third of the series, and while the message and meaning of the last 6 episodes are especially touching, I wonder how many people even gotten it (well, some at least), as we’re all too focused on the strange dramatic crap that went on in the guise of building tension.

The other thing I mean by focus is related to the story. It is what the story wants you to look at. When it comes to fanboy pandering, a lot of it is in the eyes of the beholder. But in Kyoani’s Kanon we are focused, and sometimes I wish less so, on the character drama. In a show like Canvas 2, that was fine because character drama was 80% of what the show was about. In Kanon, however, maybe 80% of Shiori’s story was about character drama, but that’s really it for the most part. Kanon is a story that focuses much, much more so on character motivation (as with a lot of Japanese stories?). Understanding what Shiori, Mai, Makoto, Nayuki, and ultimately Ayu feels and think and the places they came from should be the climax of each of their stories. In Shiori’s case, being mostly an enigma we understood her feelings through her drama and interaction with Shiori and Yuuichi. That is fine. But how are we suppose to understand Mai without that wonderful flashback? Or Nayuki (at all?) and Ayu?

To that end, I think the biggest culprit is the pacing and length. Kanon would have been better if it spent more time after Shiori’s story getting itself back together, and less before Makoto’s arc (although those were some of the more delightful episodes). Yuuichi holds the key to unfold all the stories, and we should be focused more on him than the girls. Perhaps that was all impossible, because ultimately it was enslaved too mechanically to the multi-pathing plot of the game.

The irony, for you to take home, is that Kanon was a revolutionary bishoujo game because it broke rank and file not only with respect to the nature of its pornographic content, but also one that delivered its touching story in a parallel, nonlinear visual novel format in which you don’t have to befriend and solve (and bone) every girl’s problem by the time you get to the end. On the other hand, Kanon anime 2006 was enslaved to that very concept of “freedom” and as a result suffered for being the thing its original version tried hard to avoid.

And somehow, I think this is one strength and flaw Kyoani consistently displayed…

Of a Dying 2006 Pancake Jamboree

This is the season to bake a cake
With our Queen of all pancakes
Her batter is first-rate
But one thing we all hate:
Skip her jam; your life, it’ll take.

Of the flame of wintry passions
Few hotter is an odd fusion
Of sickeningly cute “moe”
Mixed with a rarer, “moe”
An odd 萌え 燃え confusion?

Makoto, right before the snow
covers her, as if winter knows
that next year,
like every year,
again, memories anew will grow.

But what of tears under half a moon?
Of wishes undying, lovers swoon
to an eternal pledge
and they jump off the edge.
No, I’m not laughing at Black Lagoon.

But of kisses, war and boobs;
Fewer confuses more n00bs
than the trap gallery
on board the flying gallery
of Arctus Prima, the shoujo test tube.

Still there is no understatement
To fandom’s greatest testament
When the morning comes
And your alarm hums
Nayuki’s trademarked statement.

Still, it’s better to sing a song
Even if you get it all wrong
Like a undine
With a karaoke machine
to where the tone-deaf have gone.

If all of that is a pain
Then watch some Soukou no Strain
It’s serious as pie
And full of oppai
It belongs in its own domain.

But of wrecks this year
Perhaps none can possibly compare
To a sequel
With no equal
Because, she sang, life is a canvas.

And with a strong kiss, she landed.
Smitten, like heavy irony, candid
Of Paprika
As Hayashibara
Daughters of moe have commanded!

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
When Renton did his flying round
For love
Kind of?
Death rained down all around.

If “pancake” was a code word
In this theater of the absurd
It’ll spoil the story
Of Jesus’ destiny
Savior of many, head of his herd.

Because we go to war over it
And idol singer acts for it
Awesome cameras
For positive otaku karma
Will FLAG as a banner, fit?

This deadly note must stop
But only because to slumber I drop
You can lament
In my comments
It’s a grand criticism swap.

Life Is a Canvas, Too!

Elis Housen

Life is a canvas
And the paint is hope and promise
The world is ours
No one could ever take it from us
The sky is blue
The day is new
The sun is shinin’ down
You know life is good
We got each other
And that’s all we need

Maaya Sakamoto’s lyrics got pretty close to the heart of the matter. If a carefree, positive attitude is the approach to life you take, then the climax and resolution of Canvas 2 is the dark, evil twin. Admittedly the last two episodes did a number on me.

… It’s an understatement that the last couple of episodes did a number on me. It really changed my mood after watching it the first time. I felt about as bad as my first couple times going through End of Evangelion. Admittedly I’m a strange creature when it comes to my emotional response to EoE, and Canvas 2 has nothing similar with End of Evangelion aside from my emotional reaction. I had to put off a few days just to try to even write down what was going on in my head.

Part of the experience is a weaving and the coming-together of a lot of parallel theme concepts. The fact that it was a silly renai/bishoujo game adaptation didn’t matter, even if you can see the marks of such. I think I would have missed some of the threads if not the ending bothered me so in a screwed up way and got me stuck thinking about it. It was definitely thought provoking.

The quality of writing regarding Elis was beyond expectation. Her character concept is deep and yet understandable, appreciative yet realistic to her teenage self. The struggle, the progression from fawning to materializing her feelings for “Onii-chan” was (the bulk of the narrative’s burden aside) subtle and then it surfaces like Tessa’s Tuatha De Danaan–a genuine surprise; showy for your emotions and deadly for your moral calculus. Much, MUCH better than the typical drama you’d expect from its peers like Da Capo.

I think it makes more sense to tell the Canvas 2 story from Elis’s perspective rather than the typical Hiroki angle. Even by the end of it all he sucks at letting people know what is going on in his head. I think what bothered me about him was that unlike Elis, who changed drastically from the first episode, he was still pretty BLAH about it until he decided to answer Elis’s affection with his own.

The foil that is Kiri, then, is a bit of a satire against a realist’s perspective of romance. Indeed, it’s probably fair to say that the writers went out of their way to paint that relationship almost ideally. A lot of the fault falls on Kiri, naturally, in exactly how she pursued her relationship. For a comparison…maybe Belldandy’s relationship but sans the divine blessing?

Which is to say, that’s why it hurt all the more (for me! and some of you, I bet) when Hiroki parted ways and Kiri just took it like a man… Well, I’m all for women like Kiri and who can take the emotional punishment. She is a saint by normal people’s standards.

Upon more thought, the train of logic goes, is how Kiri and Hiroki would have fallen into a cherished state in their past if not for the fact that Hiroki was still looking for “whatever it is” and the whole Yanagi angle. Yanagi was an interesting element that, IMO, added a lot of realism along with his misappropriation and all.

Some credit is still due to the supporting cast. Kana Hagino probably gets the best prop here for the subtle introspections the writers managed to cast and clue me in; a cliff-note of the ongoing drama in short truisms. Mami Takeuchi & the Art Club helped earlier on much more so, and it’s nice they get a nod and saved Takeuchi’s coolest moments for last. Sumire Misaki sadly looked as if she’s a tack-on now that Tomoko stole the show… But far better was the Tomoko Fujinami angle; you’d almost expect they play that angle more. It’s my favorite because not just how it related to Elis but because they went out and bought all the cheap tricks they could with her. She does dress how she feels. Loneliness was a theme, at least as far as I can tell, that Elis seems to struggle with. I think overcoming that was the key in her maturity. Once she managed to reach out and “touch” Hiroki, the rest snowballed into the ending we have here. I guess that’s why I thought Tomoko’s role was huge.

I wonder how the writing changed due to the fact that the PS2 version had 2 more characters that had such large roles in the anime writing…

Some other musings:

  • Elis, like Yanagi, was the “bad” guy in the love triangle. Is that why she didn’t like Yanagi at all?
  • It is still pretty messed up. I confess no matter how I dress it up and while the THEME is fine, what transgressed is a nod to the realist’s ideal in heart-breaking and being a retard at handling your relationships. Sure, you can’t please everyone, but you can try a little harder at communicating clearly.
  • Kiri is clearly at fault too, but the harder question is what did she do wrong?
  • I like the ending theme and ending.
  • The LAST Tomoko trick is LOW DOWN DIRTY. ARRG I fell for it. But…how can you not?

Overall I have to say it was a great ride. It’s definitely a little slow; the first set of 13 painted a fairly interesting story but they could have gotten it over faster. The intercharacter drama between Kiri and Hiroki lifted the show from being dropped, I bet, for many. Yet Elis…wow.

Makes me want to rewatch Koikaze.