Category Archives: FREE

Some Summer 2013 Season Thoughts

Shoot first ask questions later style post.

Honoka Mutsu

I generally like Servant x Service. I think in a lot of ways it is an improvement over Working, but it lacks magnetic characters. I think taking on adult sensibilities gives it a new flavor but at the same time brings too much into play that shaves away the charm of a simpler punchline and makes it harder to embrace. “It” here being both the jokes and characters.

I think Silver Spoon anime comes across just a little heavy handed, but at the same time that’s probably necessary to drive the deeper points of the story. I’m not sure how the manga handles it, but this Silver Spoon feels like it is a pretty deep work. I also think that this could have been a very cultural-specific sort of a thing, but the saving grace is that processing basic raw ingredients in agriculture isn’t so different this day and age, across different countries, thanks to scientific advancements. In other words, the core message is somewhat universal, and moreover a lot of them don’t have anything to do with agriculture. The pizza episode was a great example of a modern day stone soup story and it definitely was the best one out of them all.

Out of all the shows I couldn’t make it out of episode 3, I’m most intrigued by Kaminai and Monogatari series. I’m pretty sure I will catch up on the latter series.

I really enjoyed Tamayura ~More Aggressive~ episode 6 and 7. In the end of 7 Potte took a photo of the fireworks and the backs of her friends. What ISO was that film? Did she change it from her camera at some point after the competition? That said I’m kind of behind so hopefully I’ll get to catch up in the coming week.

MJPR ending was a sea of flags. I mean, it totally pulled an Evangelion in terms of the joke flags. Too bad the story came across as too simple, for me. It’s like a Hollywood cliche. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t executed well enough to be enjoyable. It was enjoyable, for sure, but a little too shallow for my tastes.

The two Oonuma Shin series were a riot to watch. Good for him. They executed well, and despite the obvious and usual resource-saving techniques used everywhere, Illya delivered all that action and Watamote was a very clever show. They exceeded expectation in a good way, but that forces me to examine my expectations for Watamote and Prisma Illya to begin with–admitted they were somewhat low. Still there were some obvious bright spots in both shows. Izumi Kitta simply was perfect as Tomoko. Besides the convincing action scenes of Illya, Mai Kadowaki by now has a ton of Illya speaking time, so she wears that role like a comfy sweater.

Compared to her performance in Genei Taiyou, at least, Ilya was simply delightful. It’s not to say Day Break Illusion would’ve been helped by that, but in the end it was a weird way to highlight how different the two magical girls show were. The weird thing is, as bad as Genei was, it still had a lot of good points to it. Otaku media, I guess.

Titan and Railgun remain as the two top least serious business anime on my watch list. Especially Railgun. I see people taking it seriously all the time, though… I don’t get how people can do this without making a fool out of themselves.

Free is a fun watch on its own merits. The manservice for the most part can be side-stepped easily. I don’t think the rest of the show is really that noteworthy–about on par with Tamako Market I guess. My complaints still stand, but the animation and story is enough to keep my attention.

Kaminomi is also a lot of fun, as a non-manga reader. It’s not often you hear Asumin and Ayachi in roles like these. This third season of Kaminomi changes the gambit of the show for me–my favorite episodes in the last 2 seasons were the filler ones. By pumping the plot forward like season 3 they removed some of my complaints about the forced pacing, but it also took those charming down-time moments away. I guess I can’t say I like it, but it certainly can be a lot worse.

Eccentric Family is my top show this season and easily a top 5 candidate for 2013. No need to waste my breath at this stage, lots of other people are doing it. I’ll take my time to think about it…

The surprise hit this season is actually Love Lab. I really dig the way it gives a normal girls-be-girls kind of a setup, a backbone. It also has boys. It’s overall just delightful. If anything it could be funnier.

Genshiken Niidaime is as good as I expected to be, which is a high bar to clear. It’s still one of the best meta anime out there in recent memory. But because I expected this, it’s not particularly delightful since it can’t quite surprise me. Even if I have the manga and have been saving it until I’m done with this anime. I really enjoy some of the cross-cultural jokes especially.

Well, I probably should watch K3 before making those claims about Genshiken. I saw some cool caps from that show. But it doesn’t distinguish itself beyond the really nonsense stuff. Is this show any better than Kinmoza?

C3-bu, on the other hand, is a big surprise  in a different way. I also really enjoyed it but I had a hard time talking to people about it because following that show on CR is basically following it a week behind. It comes out on Mondays and the new episode airs Thursday–given how busy I was this summer I basically end up watching the episode usually on the weekend, Thursdays being the earliest. Sorry Crunchyroll, please never do this.

As for the show itself, in a way I like how it approaches the pathos from the “negative” side of things. You can state the problem in a negative way or a positive way, and the solution would feel very different depending on how you approached it. I think it’s a great litmus test. I also love how it gives Yura all these “reality marble” sort of way to show whatever it is C3-bu was trying to get across. Anime no Chikara yo. In a lot of ways this is a great show, in the way that, for example, MJPR fails to achieve.

I thought I would be all over Kinmoza, but this show didn’t have a higher gear to kick in to so it lost against the other shows of this season for my viewing time. It’s like I need to save certain times of the day when I am awake enough to take in these low-tension shows like Tamayura and Uchouten Kazoku (at least earlier on) to enjoy them fully, bumping out shows like Kinmoza and K3.

Gatchaman Crowds is the odd ball of the season. I guess that is only expected given that it is a Kenji Nakamura anime. However it is also a pretty fun show carrying the same kind of weirdo-yet-progressive ideas Nakamura has been sprouting. Whoever lets him have the freedom to make weird shows like this, God bless you and I hope you keep doing it for another 50 years.

Anyways, Gatchaman Crowds is also kind of the show that could “go wrong” really easily. It’s like Fractale, basically, that if the execution dropped something important, it’ll lose all credibility. I guess we have one more week to find out.

If there is one guilty pleasure this season for me, that would be Ro-kyu-bu SS. SHOW YOU GUTS COOL SAY WHAT saikou daze. No, more like because it is a koushien story after all. Kanae Itou is being her usual self in that show too, which is something getting rarer by the season. I also have to say it has a weird effect watching this right before/after MJPR. Iguchi!

I’m going to marathon Rozen Maiden…from episode 6. It’s fun. But probably less fun than marathoning Senyuu and Teekyuu back to back. Or interweaved. Which is something I’ll have to do too.

Bonus round:

  • Favorite OP: Servant x Service. However C3-bu’s final sequence is woaaah moeeeee. Also, kz song is so kz.
  • Favorite ED: Drowning in saudade in fhana’s Che Sera Sera, although I will reserve 10% for LOLI LOLI GROWING, whatever that means.
  • Most surprisingly good: C3-bu
  • Most surprisingly bad: MJPR
  • Funniest: Love Lab…or Teekyu.
  • Most surprising: Gatchaman Crowds
  • Most Mamiko: Uchouten Kazoku
  • MVP: Rento Kirishima

Free: Checking the Database Schema

Just thinking through about a few things in Free. Well, one main thing: I don’t feel the characters are believable teenage boys.

Iwatobi Swimming Club

The way characters assembles in the Database Animal era is the combination of “database” elements. Stories, too, are constructed from archetypal narrative elements. What is new is each and every daring combination of things we know, the cultural remixes that results.

Can we look at Free as just the same constructed elements but with some parts swapped in for the female otaku audience? I think that’s the reasonable take.

While it may be reasonable, I still don’t know if it is really true. I think there are definitely a lot of similarities between Free and past Kyoto Animation works. Maybe a better question would be if we subtract from Free what makes up the similarities between Free and K-ON, what do we have left?

  • Cute girls versus ikemen (let’s ignore Kou for the moment)
  • Athletic rather than culture club; swimming versus “keiongaku”
  • Inclusion of the opposite sex
  • Fanservice

I think none of this is particularly problematic. By problematic I mean if I watch an episode of Haruhi I might coincidentally see all those elements at play there as well, and nobody thinks twice about Haruhi. So it’s not just “genderswapped K-ON.” Rather, it is more like just Haruhi.

What I find difficult about Free, aside from any concerns of the gender-specific fanservice sort of thing, is that the characters don’t behave the way I imagine them to be. For a point of contrast, check out this series that is kind of popular with some fujoshi: Ookiku Furikabutte. Big Windup, as it’s localized, is actually a seinen manga adaptation with a very sports-centric appeal in which happens to feature many database elements that fujoshi and female otaku look for. The anime, coincidentally, is also pretty good. But in that show, despite how touchy feely or at times feminine some of the guys act, these characters come across to me as believable high schoolers, in the “go to koshien” sense (man I haven’t used that term unironically in a while). Yes, even the hand-holding part. [They certainly do some weird stuff.]

That is a lot more than what I can say about Free. Haru, clearly, has a swimming thing going on for him. We can put him in the “eccentric” bin. But how about Makoto, Rin, Rei and Nagisa? Rei and Rin seem like the most masculine of them all in some ways (certainly physically), perhaps because they are a blockhead and a tsundere–both generally gender-neutral traits. I can give Nagisa a pass–these kind of people do exist as high school boys, but I think if such a person exists they are going to be really annoying to deal with, speaking as an average guy. Maybe that’s just how Nagisa is with his close friends, I don’t know. It just seems too much of a copy-paste sort of deal, where you take 50% Mugi and 50% Yui and add a dash of Ritsu. I probably have the most problem with Makoto, who seems just motherly. I know guys who can be motherly, but generally they are portrayed like this. And Makoto does not remind me of that guy whatsoever; Makoto reminds me of a more believable version of 30% her and 70% her. At any rate, the point is none of the main guys exhibit anything particularly masculine as character traits.

Well, I am also making a call with 4 episodes in, so things will likely change. The least I could do to reserve the right to change my mind and say this is more a first impression than some kind of judgment, maybe a bit of a prediction. Perhaps it’s more of an indictment of the problems common to Kyoani works. What I really want to get across is that when I watch Free, I don’t really see a story about some guys swimming, I see some muscle-blobs swimming. Where’s their humanity? I don’t feel this way with K-ON, but that’s probably because K-ON doesn’t get deep enough about character traits to really paint that kind of a picture. We might see flashes of the characters’ worries and inner thoughts in K-ON, but it’s pretty much a story at a very low depth to begin with, and the deepness largely relies on framing a passive sense of melancholy through the passage of time. It’s a lot more lifelike than Free, let’s just say.

So I guess what I have problems with isn’t exactly how girl-pandering opens new ways to reassemble the database; it’s more because Free seems to take the theme and story somewhere different than the characters that it swims with. Well, let’s hope Kyoani proves me wrong.

PS. About Kou… Maybe it’s the reason why some people can handle watching all those cool-girl Houko Kuwashima reverse harem anime, when it really isn’t meant for them. I think if there’s a character worth watching for, people will watch the show, to the degree that they can put off the detracting elements of the show. I know that’s the reason why I can tolerate a lot of anime originally written for girls. And it goes back to simply having quality story, theme, characters, direction, music, acting, whatever. That said, I’m not saying Kou is such a thing.

Summer 2013, < Three Episodes After

The anime blogging ritual continues.


Overall I thought this season yet again features a lot of solid shows. Even questionable entries like Fantasista Dolls or Inuhasa (for different reasons) give me reasons to want to watch it week after week, even when I wish just the opposite. The problem, if there is one, is that the shows with the most potential, the ones I like best, can only be engaged at an arm’s length.

By that I mean it’s hard to cheer for them. Let’s take Genshiken Niidame or Watamoe or the Monogatari series as a counterexample. These are pure otaku fodder. I can sleep with them in bed, carry it with me and read it on the train, what have you. That’s the typical case for late-night style anime. But entries like Gatchaman Crowds and Uchoten Kazoku, both fascinating pieces of work, require a level of rigor in order to engage them fully. It feels wrong, for example, to indulge in making dirty doujinshi of, say, Benten (but maybe not Utsutsu). Not that it won’t be done, of course, but there’s just something off kilter about theses two works. Maybe it’s the visuals? Maybe it’s just me? Probably it’s just me. It makes me want to watch them in theaters, or talk about it at cons with like-minded people. Or blog about them in a way to distinguish them.

I can’t say how it feels to engage all these works from a distance further than that, though. It must feel kind of ordinary and boring when, at a large enough distance, invariably everything seems to be the same thing, day in and out.

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Girls und Pander: Complicating Simplicity

not a naked baby

If opinions are figures, then narratives are molds and 4chan is like, I don’t know, Native or something. ANN would be like Kotobukiya where they are steady and yet erratic. There would be no Good Smile Company.

The recent FREE “Swimming Anime” thing (see these posts for an idea) makes me realize a few things about looking at the story about women and JP home video sales. I think it’s safe to say that if you take 1000 units sold of any given anime, you will find at least one unit purchased by a woman, and one purchased by a man.

The best data to refute people who say women don’t buy anime is to just restate that assertion (and it’s not backed up by any facts, mind you) in the form of “So all 310 thousand people who bought Eva Q have neckbeards that would have made Toren Smith proud?” What I’m trying to say is to appeal to people’s native sense to statistics. One in 310,000 is pretty damn small odds. A hundred in 310,000 is still pretty damn small. But how about a hundred thousand in 310,000? Just how many people who bought Eva Q are of the XX chromosome? I don’t know.

And the truth is, anyone making these kind of assertions don’t know. So we can only guess. And if you guess, you’re really just having fun on the internet playing a guessing game. What I find is that if someone has some ulterior agenda besides playing the armchair anime producer game, their inquiries will vary by a lot. For most, even the bros furthering the “girls don’t buy anime” narrative, they don’t deviate from this mold. Maybe that’s okay. It just means they will be off their game because they want to stick a round peg into their preferred holes shaped like “girls don’t buy anime.” Maybe they can get away with enough strength of persuasion, but there will also be a better rebuttal. And invariably their arguments are not completely wrong, just wrong enough that they should know better.

I think there is more to the numbers than that though. For one, it is very difficult to categorize anime in a way that illustrates what is “made for girls” and what isn’t. Let alone what is made for whoever. Truth is far majority of anime out there have crossover demand. I mean duh, anime that panders to both males and females, on paper, will sell more than anime that panders to only male or females, given equal everything else. This is why I don’t watch Gintama, but lots of girls do. That is also why I don’t watch Gintama, but lots of guys do, too. I mean, what is this? Who buys Fate/Zero? And what is Fate/Zero marketed to? Why are there four seasons of Marimite? Even FREE–it might appease the sakuga otaku if it comes across as top-notch animation. And most sakuga otaku are proably guys. Probably. Does this mean this anime sells to girls? Who knows? Who can know? All we know is that the promo material feels very much like fanservice for girls.

And more importantly, what is anime made for girls? How is that different than anime that is made for girls, but guys can also enjoy? And how is that different than, simply, One Piece, Naruto, or most Jump titles? Does the DVD/BD divide matter? Do clock-shows work on a different framework? How about movies and ONA and OAVs? Can we extrapolate from manga or light novel sales figures and breakdowns?

I think that’s the kind of questions I would like answers for. It is the logical next step.

My own narrative on this is more about how the late-night otaku-targeting anime system is still relatively new (circa 1997) and while there has always been anime made primarily for women as the audience (to the exclusion of men of any age), shows like FREE belong to a newer breed that uses the late-night otaku anime format. It might not be a notable difference to the audience but it’s a notable thing when it comes to the business end, and this is partly where it shows in terms of Kyoto Animation doing it as a new type of committee based on an original concept. Thing is, anime of this kind is a growing scene, and we should expect more titles season after season in the near term. Maybe they’re just trying to head off a new trend.

It still doesn’t explain why I like Tsuritama. Or why I don’t think KyoAni’s original titles have really found any real lift.

On the flip side, if I was a producer for FREE I would probably care less if girls or guys buy the show–as long as people buy the show. The information only helps to focus marketing and pitch any subsequent production. Which is why it would be great if 4chan/a/ decide to post pictures of broken Blu-rays as if their Waifu Animation Studio got impure. And also why, in the end, demographic doesn’t really matter. It’s just one more thing to obfuscate the truth (if such thing exist) as to what will sell. Given Kyoto Animation’s track record, everything they makes will sell pretty okay. Even Nichijou.

Only if  Yamakan can set anime FREE.

FREE Willy, the Swimming Anime

I think I can make 99 jokes based on FREE, the newly announced Kyoto Animation project. This TV anime will hit the airwaves in July 2013. It’s roughly the same anime people have been clamoring for since the Animation Do KyoAni commercial of the same subject matter aired a couple months ago. Today, the characters have names, voice acting, and are part of some story.

I don’t know, really. After Tamako Market I’m definitely skeptical about another original Kyoto Animation work. I still like/am biased towards original works, so I’ll definitely be watching it when it comes out, even if the visual signals are clearly saying it’s not for me. And it isn’t as if Tamako Market was not fun to watch; just nothing special short of that one episode.

As for the ongoing discourse, to put it broadly, it’s all about Kyoani putting their foot down on female-targeting fanservice. There’s a lot of different reactions out there actually, but what is kind of amusing and bothersome at the same time is the meta-ness of it. There are probably more blog posts and reactions about people who might be against this manflesh anime pandering than actual complaints about the anime, let alone complaints about the anime being manflesh pandering. I’m sure there’s a healthy contingent of whiners, those so-called moe otaku or whatever, but isn’t that true for just any other anime out there? Shouldn’t all this complaints be characterized in a way where it’s normalized against some average? At this point it feels like people are just having fun against a strawman, and yeah, arguing against a strawman is pretty fun.

The way I see, it’s a simple formula of KyoAni fanbase clashing with the truth that there are probably a helluva lot of girls actually working at Kyoto Animation, slaving away at your Hyouka or Chuu2Koi, and now they are doing a project that flies their flags, so to speak. That goes against the typical work Kyoani has produced, so naturally some people are kind of irked. Like all those people hoping for a Full Metal Panic work. (Funny thing is you can’t even really make fun of these guys (at least not full bore) because FMP is at least a cut above, say, an eroge adaptation). I like this–this flag flying–because people tend to draw their best when they draw stuff they like. But, really, just how many girls are working at Kyoani today? Why do I get the impression there are a lot of them?

To take even a bigger step back, I feel this is just an anime hipster kind of thing to do. It’s like there’s this overarching dialog over there in the video game scene about women and sexism, and anime peeps are just making their own version up, in a monkey-see-monkey-does kind of way. I mean, it’s too disingenuous to even call it prosecution. It’s just silly. It doesn’t even address any of the core issues, or real issues involved.

For one, this is about fanservice. It’s clearly not about moe (or anti-moe or whatever). Yet moe gets flagged, why?

Second, more people need to watch Tsuritama. Or KimiBoku. It’s not otaku entertainment if it doesn’t have discourse, and without familiarity of the discourse I don’t know if you can really make sense of it. Like a good doujinshi, it needs context, it’s from fans, to fans. You really get a nice dose of it in the promo material for FREE. In fact I think that’s part of the problem–so far the various promos offer little in terms of what the show will be like besides the fanservice part. There are high schoolers swimming, and…?

To circle back about fanservice and moe, I think maybe it’s more about misidentifying Kyoani fandom? There was all this hoopla about Little Buster and Air and Kanon, after all. I think it’s just yet another chapter in KyoAni’s varied history–from Munto to the Kanon remake to Haruhi-isms to Yamakan. Now this.

And like every misleading narrative, it distracts attention from real issues, like the regularly-issued bomb threats for Kuroko’s Basketball events, or, well, Kyoto Animation hasn’t been able to do an original anime to make a living off of. Will whining about whiners whining about the homoerotic undertones or manflesh or whatever of Free, change any of it? Or improve the lives of women interacting with anime? Doubtful, unless you count the good feels those tumblr campaigns or laughing at internet strawmen bring home. It’s normal for guys (especially nerds) to get squeamish about the naked body; it’s not normal for BL doujin events to get canceled because of bomb threats. I think it’s just sad when people can’t get that straight.

TL;DR – just another day on the internet.