Category Archives: Franchises

The Weather Girl, Weathering With You

Now that the United States is screening the latest Makoto Shinkai flick, we can dispense with the spoiler warnings and realize that thanks to the failed Oscar bid, Americans got nothing in return for waiting to watch Weathering With You, after the rest of the developed world have seen it. As I write this in late January, 2020, the movie has already been out since July 19, 2019, or half-year or so ago. Did you know how many times I’ve been to Japan since? Joke aside, we are long due this next installment of Shinkai’s usual bag of tricks.

As much as I find Shinkai’s love stories cloying at this point, I also see that his stories and ideas blossom most comfortably in that cloaking. Weathering With You did a serviceable job to get the audience to root for the two. The cast is colorful enough and they came together nicely. Shinjuku is wild on a rainy day, let along with rain magic (in context of the story) and even more rain magic (in context of Shinkai’s brand of animation). Add in some artistic urban decay, a funny car chase (uuuukeeeruuu), and Shinkai finally getting his anime directoral balls on (off? down?) in order to blow up Tokyo.

But that is not what makes Shikai’s movies resonate with me. Tenki no Ko wandered around the comfort zone a bit and gave us ambiguous characters with ambiguous internal struggles, and we were outside the comfort zone for much of the viewing. Perhaps it’s not by much, but we never knew exactly everything about Hina and Hodaka. Were they good people? They were just innocent young people. We watched over them with great interests, but will things turn out okay?

Which brings us to the ending. I loved this ending. I love it because, I think, it is saying something that I personally believe millennials need to hear. It is also admittedly a tad paternalistic. Maybe Shinkai is also being more Dad than ever (although he is still ways behind from Kamiyama in this regard). But, anyways, the message: in the end, it doesn’t really matter. Sure, the dramatic climax for Hina and Hodaka was how the couple decide to cope with Hina’s miko magic, in balance with their very wet problems. But it turns out just because Tokyo is underwater, life had no reason to stop going, so it does just keep going. And in truth those two things don’t really have anything to do with each other. Or rather, it is not the point at all if Hina survives or dies; it is the point that Hina and Hodaka live/lived as humans do. And to put a large exclamation point by sinking Tokyo is one great way to tap into that global warming energy for thematic empowerment.

I also think that’s exactly why a great message for people today. Pressure and anxiety about the future will do nothing to make things better in the future. Worrying will not add a day to your life. The challenges that face us as a society or race or as nations are always going to be daunting when we see them from an individual’s point of view. As individuals, only by making the right decisions and acting on them does anything moves forward at all–and we can’t do that unless our hearts are in the right place.

Weathering With You shows us the subtle difference between doing things out of love and doing things out of pressure, anxiety, fear, and stress. The characters themselves do these things at different points in the story, may it be Suga kicking Hodaka out to protect his legal status or pulling out a gun. Weathering With You makes a bunch of value statements, but it also shows that on the grand scale, humanity’s problems are fairly insignificant; that our day-to-day troubles are little in light of massive global shifts (like flooding tokyo), yet all the more, we can enjoy the little things. Well, instant meals and conbini food in Japan are no joke, so maybe it’s not as little as it seems?

In essence, it doesn’t matter if Hina can affect weather, or that Hodaka ran from his troubles, or that Natsumi aided a juvenile delinquent from police pursuit. The reaffirming message that focuses on doing well on each other is the funny way that we see the world upend itself, where we can finally divorce poetic justice from doing the right thing, because who knows what the future is really going to hold anyway? Isn’t doing the right thing its own reward? In a world going to hell in a handbasket, isn’t it nice to shrug off this chain of causality if we want to continue to encourage the next generation to do good; a generation of windmill-tilting idealists, working for ideals, not tit-for-tat, which is utmost good in a world with fewer tats left to work for. Your boomer relatives may have crap the bed, but it doesn’t really entitle the rest of us to behave a certain way, or any way. And that realization frees you (or in Hina’s case, Japanese ritual human sacrifices).

After the time-honored tradition of destroying Tokyo in anime, it is good to see Shinkai does it in a grand style. Between the lost generation and the cultural trauma of the post-war, does trauma really even matter anymore? I think that is the message, and to me this is the uplifting push and it exceeds the power of healing alone.

I’m rather endeared to the Japanese title of Weathering With You, which is simply Tenki no Ko (天気の子), similar to how Hina is referred to by randos online, looking at her web 2.0 vibe job listing. It also echos with me because the film was told from the perspective of Hodaka, the male lead, who in some ways does treat her simply like just another teenage love interest in another Shinkai love story. Yes, she’s that girl. Yes, he’s watching the world burn with her. There is no better way.

PS. Speaking of flying to Japan, some of you might have watched the Science Saru flick that is posed to open in the States in February, because it’s screening on ANA’s in-flight entertainment systems at least. In a lot of ways the same narrative language is used in that film too, so I think it would be fun to compare and contrast the two stories, both cloaked in a simple romantic shell.

PPS. Tenki no Ko seiyuu_joke is strong.

PPPS. I need to watch High School Fleet the Movie…

Blogger’s Plays on Words Delayed by 3 Months, to Burn Chidori RSC at Its End

Rifle Is Beautiful misses the mark.

I actually think he is more right than wrong, but Evirus wiffed: Rifle Is Beautiful hit a bull’s eye when it comes to portraying the high school attitude about beam rifling, both as an intramural and varsity exercise, and as human beings, trying to point a heavy light stick, at a tiny target, for a forty-five minute stretch.

In fact his attitude of it is a good example, classic even, of how “sports anime” ruins anime about sports. There is nothing to get excited about when it comes to the nationals with beam rifling; it’s goddamn beam rifling, folks! It’s not astoundingly clear, but it seemed fairly obvious that the purpose of the work is not to create a fiction that is actually about the excitement of moving on from regional to national. It’s pretty funny that he compares it to Girls und Panzer, I guess, but this is how western regurgitation out-of-context feels like.

This is probably just a problem about our postmodern society, where some dudes writing about Ueda Reina’s character don’t even get how beam rifling 4koma adaptations can really be actually about the subject matter, but coated in genres that have now wholly taken on new meanings in this century you do have to dig around to find what the story is actually about. On one hand, Chidori RSC is a Tonari no Young Jump property, which makes it into a weird kind of… webcomic, I guess. It feels more at home in Manga Time Kirara. Rifle Is Beautiful is also too true-to-real-life to be truly fiction–think about K-ON and how that resonate with people; despite it being a fuwa-fuwa, utopic fantasy that is too grounded in reality to get excited. That it is a 4koma comic about high school girls doing rather mundane (as mundane as beam rifling is I suppose) also make you think about what exactly is Rifle Is Beautiful is about. It is a depiction of reality through the “Kirara” lens, more so than any true fantasy; if there is a fantasy in Chidori RSC, it is that it is a bit too utopic.

And I think it is pretty clear–it would be uncouth, to say the least, to complain how it is”[f]ailing as a sports anime” as Rifle Is Beautiful’s biggest flaw, when the tension, the excitement and what makes quoting Sensa-do even sensible in his post is missing completely. It’s not in the source material either. I would conclude, then, it isn’t the point of the exercise; much like the vibe of official beam rifling meets. The vibe I get, at least based on watching the show, is more like walking into an exam room; you have 45 minutes to fill out 60 questions. That, is excruciatingly authentic. If anything, I watched this show to the (almost very) end is a great achievement and a pretty awesome demo on the power of anime and manga. Sure, at times it can be excruciatingly boring as well, but blame reality I guess. Actually I would imagine reality is still the more so tedious than this fictive depiction. I wasn’t really bored by it, but I can easily see some reasonable people being bored by it.

On the basis of its qualitative attributes, I have always thought Chidori RSC being a show in which a lot of people won’t like. Much like how in the upcoming 2020 Olympics, the only people excited about the Beam Rifle competitions are people who were always interested in Beam Rifling, and fans of Rifle Is Beautiful. It is a bad take to call something not fantastic enough for being too real about a thing basically nobody has ever been real about. I suppose we can criticise Chidori RSC for possibly failing to make a set of elements come together–story, characters, pacing, excitement, humor, whatever, but I think if the goal was to produce something life-like, cute, unusual & varied, and about the ins-and-outs of beam rifling and its ennui, I think we got it in spades.

Million Live 6th SSA

The final stop of the 6th Live Tour for THE IDOLM@STER MILLION LIVE was in good ol’ Saitama Super Arena, in September. Unlike Million 3rd, this whole tour dragged on from April into late September. It crossed from Spring to Summer and ended on the second day of Autumn. That is a really long stretch.

I was only able to go to the Fukuoka stop in June prior to SSA. But that made a big difference. I guess it’s fair to assume even if people did not go to all the stops, many have live viewed at least some of them, if not all. It’s a big commitment to go to SSA for the live, in terms both of obtaining the tickets through one of the lotteries or by other means, and the effort of doing so. Producers across the country attended the biggest stop of them all, even if many traveled less as I did. It is still quite the effort to travel from the edges of Japan. I remember seeing tweets of the guy from Okinawa, trying to bribe tickets with local delicacies.

My crusty, jaded mentality aside, I thought 6th SSA was a lot of fun. Like what I tweeted for day 2, it left me with this sweet aftertaste as Tokugawa Matsuri in the form of Suwa Ayaka came up from the elevated stage and ended this illumination festival.

Day one and day two both followed the format where each subunit came out and do a part of their Angel/Princess/Fairy stop sets, with the collab/guest songs thrown in there and mixed with covers. During the 3 non-Kanto stops, each unit had more time to themselves, and the last 1/3 of the live each day was dedicated to covers and solos. So for SSA, they cut basically almost all the solos. For new content, we got the TB songs and some new covers.

Overall I thought this was fine, purely in terms of going to a live and looking for the songs we like. But this format does not flow very well, since we know what is coming, and the units have to do their key songs. Like, you knew EScape had to do LOST because of the way the song fits their group concept. Or that baller mix of Art Needs Heart Beats has to go with Jelly Pop Beans. It was more a toss up for, say, Charlotte Charlotte and D/Zeal and their covers (which both were new for SSA). But it also felt like day one’s groups were kind of a bore as a result.

In some sense, the overall limp malaise-y feel I get from SSA has to do with the way the approached the tour. It felt less like a live tour, and more like just 4 different shows, for some reason, that had to take place inorganically and in far reaches of Japan, so they had to get the tokyoites to move out by holding back the 4th one until the end. During 3rd it was almost the opposite–you didn’t get to go to the remote one because it was hard to get in those smaller venues; the small venues also made the lives a bit more intimate and different than the big shows Millions do. Tokyo types who want to camp out for the Makuhari stop are free to do so, that one felt fine because you knew it was its own thing, and not a summary like 6th SSA. Maybe that’s why it took me months to finish this recap, lol.

In terms of practical things on the ground, I was able to squeeze in a Kayafesh event on Saturday. That’s basically a really bad costpa sake festival with seiyuu content. I liked it because I can be a lush at times and it’s my first sake fest in Japan. Plus, you can’t go wrong drinking with seiyuu. I also stayed one extra day to enjoy Takagi Miyu’s birthday event, as things turned out to be. It was nice to stay that extra day and hang out with some local friends. Rest of the time, it was business as usual.

As of the latest update, the splash screen for Theater Days changed over to a new quintet, so maybe this post is apropos. For this flower project, we utilized the same shop we did for 5th’s flower stand, and it was a bit more on the cuff with Miri helping out big time. Funding-wise, we basically broke even like last time, but we needed a bit more of a push since the suggested donation is lower this time around, and everything cost more. No pin badges… Again, I cannot thank y’all enough.

It’s a weird feeling, thinking about the live again. In a way the hype was way less than 5th, but the live itself was way better than 5th. I liked how the tap dancers, at least, came back for a nice encore performance from Sendai. It does make me want to look forward to both that and the SSA version, which is a slightly bigger presentation. There are other touches that was nice for 6th. The streams of small videos promoting the live, the goods, and now the blurays, is appreciated but not too sure if it added much. Well, they did a good job promoting that costume book at least?

I mean, they could just say it smells good and I’m sure it will sell oodles.

Set list here: day 1 and day 2.

Continue reading

Tanpopo-free Life

In Oresuki, the anime about meta-4th-walling romantic polygonal turned actual plot, the characters all have nicknames from different flowers. The flowery names take on literary significance both as summaries of the character concepts respectively, but also for fun and jokes. There is also a flower language layer in which is both in-universe and in interpreting the theme.

What I really want to talk about is Japan and its view of the Dandelion, or Tanpopo. This flower gets romanticized a lot in Japanese films and TV, as well as anime, games and manga. But as an American I just cannot bring myself to like it.

It is a bit like how a hardcore terran marine cannot quite bring him or herself to like zerglings. You dehumanize them. You fight them all of your life. You know they are worthless weeds, literally. You don’t even really think about it other than annual chores that took up countless hours since your childhood, eliminating it from the places that you call home. Or if you own one, also the time (and money) spent dealing with the plant pest. Sure, it’s neat that the plant propagates by airlifting its seeds. Sure, it is a hardy species in which can survive in all kinds of temperature zones. You can even eat its flowers, or make it into tea or whatever (I don’t recommend this in North America, just because of residential and commercial herbicide in use).

Which is to say I was delighted to see a character named Tanpopo in this anime, being literally the stupidest thing alive, being sidelined by the main characters. Unlike most depiction of tanpopo in JP media, this one is a lampoon of such. It isn’t her fault and her intentions may be acceptable, but Tanpopo is a nuisance.

Rokka Versus Space Farers

Some years ago there was a “locked box murder” anime based on a fantasy low-tech RPG kind of a setting called Rokka, or a sweeping war against the darkness that takes place in a magically locked “room.” Sure, it was adopted from some books but it was a giant mislead for an anime-only person like myself.

It was a case of bait and switch because the show promised a grand setting with fantastic characters, while spending most of the first season in foggy, dank confines. It isn’t even a dungeon–it was literally just this place and the area surrounding it, while the heroes trying to find the traitors and escape the trap they were in.

Instead of some sweeping setting, Rokka spent its time developing the psychology and back story of the hero and heroines. It’s a bit like how Astra Lost in Space is not Star Trek, but it is about kids exploring space featuring a grand conspiracy written into the backstory of the characters. Viewers and the various characters explore both that backstory in the context of staying alive, meanwhile solving the puzzle together.

I guess the two share in the core some kind of overt puzzle in which we have to solve, that drives the story forward. It is the thing that causes overall tension in the story. In Rokka there were various battles, while in Kanata no Astra there were worlds to explore.

I don’t know, at least the latter has what makes Star Trek, well, Star Trek. The former is still a giant tease even if you broken out the concept on paper. Or a blog post in this case.

Why was Rokka such a mislead? What were they thinking when they created the show? It still bothers me to this day.