Category Archives: Sasami-san@ganbaranai


Tsukiyomi Sasami

To ride the Roger Ebert remembrance bandwagon some more, he said: “Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions never lie to you.” Sasami-san@Ganbaranai is the sort of anime that left me confused emotionally but somehow excited intellectually. It’s like, I know this is actually really good, they managed to accomplish something special, but where are the feels?

I think we can agree that Akira’s light novel makes perhaps the most eccentric Shaft x Shinbo TV anime in a long while. Sasami-san is at a point where I think it’s so out there, that Shinbo had to play it straight at times in order to not lose everyone. Maybe it’s just because we don’t have that Shinto foundation, that one overlord vantage point, to make sense of it all. Maybe you can write about how animation direction is inherently western and Shinto is not even a little bit western, so it is a tough hash.

It’s unfortunate, really, because I wish I can recommend this show to people who like delicate and intricate plot concepts and themes that weave non-linearly and form a bigger picture about generational disillusions, about Japan’s youths and how they relate to the previous generation. It’s weird because I know it is really a tour de force of late-night TV anime and what it can do, except it doesn’t feel especially skillful or evocative.

That is, until you start to think about it and putting the pieces together. How do you do a body-swap story? How do you portray different people and personalities inhibiting the same physical body while expressing it, AND trying to disguise it at the same time? And sometimes only externally or internally? It’s a huge challenge but somehow they were able to do it.

And I guess I really need Ebert’s line to give me an out here. The bottom line is that as much as Sasami-san@Ganbarai is dazzling my mind, in the end it is no better than the source material for the typical viewer. Unless you are an anime otaku who would think about how iterative improvement of the late-night media-mix marketing machine can transform any trash light novel into something actually novel, or want a crash course on post-modern Shinto narratives, Sasami-san really needs to work harder to earn an audience. It’s a very special anime, because it engages the mind like few others, but that alone is not enough.

I guess that just means I am not big enough of a “funyaaa” fan (99% sure Hanazawa just phoned it in here) or an Asumiss fan or have a thing for Chiwa Saito voicing a loli-baba. Or maybe I think Aipon’s Tama is too precious to find her exploitative. Give me a hand here, Asa-nee!

Yeah, this show peaked at episode 9. Edogawa Jou didn’t really add anything.

PS… besides the massive fanservice vehicle that she is.

The Rehabilitation of Juju Tsukuyomi, Episode 9

Very mild spoilers. In fact the title of this post is probably more of a spoiler.

The Yagami Sisters

It’s hard to put my finger on the pulse of Sasami-san@ganbaranai week after week. It’s like there’s some imaginary point out there in space, where if I stood there and took a panoramic photograph of what’s surrounding me, the end result will be a coherent narrative about what it means to be human and what it means to be god, all at the same time making sense what it means to be Japanese. It’s like one of those 3D perspective artwork that canvasses a sidewalk, where when you look at it from a certain angle, it makes up a different image. Right now I’m just waving my head all over like an idiot, trying to find that perspective.

My Shinto-fu is just not strong enough bro.

Still, I found the whole story behind Juju’s death and rebirth, either via time traveling powers or via a deal with the devil, strangely remarkable. She is a spiritual woman with spiritual powers, even without the super-god-powers and the responsibilities it comes with. Maybe it was also because it is one of the biggest Asakawa Yuu roles that I enjoyed in a while. I don’t know.

In the anime we see the story told from Sasami’s point of view. It’s relatively linear as she jumps from timeline to timeline, event to event. Tsurugi met her at one of these points in time. Juju tagged along because somehow she is resurrected in the present and thus also available to be summoned? I’m not sure how it works–probably similar to how Tamamo-no-Mae did its tricks. But I wondered how it seemed from Juju’s point of view.

I guess in the end Sasami handed her powers to Juju, so she can continue to “ganbaranai” lol. Sasami’s explanation on the take regarding her attitude is a good response to the “ganbare” notion. It’s awfully Japanese I guess, both ways. But it is at least a thought that could, arguably, be construed as modern criticism. And how can you have an anime about religion without criticism? I thought not.

At the same time, Juju’s spiritual characteristics has to be constructed in some way that transcend merely her religious position and duties. It’s not just that she has, as what the kids call it these days, super powers. It’s not that she can lead a super-shinto cult-like group, although she’s got what it takes. It’s more about how she embodies both what humanists cherish and what religious people cherish, and it expresses itself in a Binding of Isaac kind of piety but also a “Mom will take care of her worthless child so she can blossom” kind of way. Otherwise she would seem like a pale villain rather than someone who Sasami can honestly seek approval from.

It’s both super gross, super offensive, yet somehow everything works. It’s magic. And in truth that’s the real value of spirituality when expressed as a religious belief. It is supernatural, and I don’t just mean the time traveling; I mean how it can deal with things like regret. But that’s just me speaking.

Lastly, I guess this was more Episode 8 material, but it’s good to see Amaterasu owning up being a hikki in rehab. Now that is true divine humanism.

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai Episode 7, New Gods

I don’t know what passes for new gods. From my Judeo-Christian upbringing I can only say that, “Man, Japan, there’s way too many.” That said, Tama and Kagami are both fine specimens. I’m sure companies like GSC or SEGA will come out with something worthy for a household shrine. Oh, spoilers ahoy.


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Winter 2013 on Short Attention Spans

Maybe it’s because there’s almost a dozen short form anime this season that is getting unrivaled amount of attention, but there are not too many things keeping my attention, speaking purely from an anime perspective. Here are a few things that I’ve been gnawing on mentally. Bullet-bolded style?

I really enjoy Maoyu, but somehow it falls short of compelling. I guess it wouldn’t be right to say it is not compelling, as after each episode I wish I had the next one queued up ready to go. To me this is the #1 healing anime this season, partly because it models this really romantic take on a couple whose lives are driven by what they do, not by the romance between them. It is illustrated best by Maou’s hug pillow, both in a literal way but in a way where you actually see what’s going on. In my own experience interacting with people like this, it’s not always obvious. It’s kind of how two working couples can stand their time apart but really treasure when they are together, and the hug pillow is a short hand for that togetherness. It is also some other things, but Maoyu can speak to that itself. I also love how it’s just straightforward, unabashed plot and setting crap 80% of the time.

However it’s not compelling in a way where the Zettai Karen Children spinoff is–that’s just some solid anime. If there’s a quotient for “anime-ness” in anime, this show is full of it. The direction is competent and the plot, while somewhat veering into the path of way-too-familiar, stands enough between the ZKC references and that the setting does have some meat to it. It’s a great primer for people who want to engage the franchise and story without their skeevy-radar go off too much. Not that is a real problem for me anyway. It’s one of those rarely-sung title that somehow pops up on my to-do list every time a new episode comes out, and I make the time to watch it as soon as I reasonably can. For the record, I watched all of 2 episodes of the original Zettai Karen Children.

The Infernal Cop skit where they’re shooting underwater is still the best.

Is it me or Osaka Mama is actually a really serious moe anime? I mean it is serious about moe, not that it is serious.

Magi on CR seems uncensored. Magi on TV, maybe not?

There is no fog layer

That’s some choice words, Alibaba, for your animator-gods. That got me wondering–if we were to treat Crunchyroll (and by extension TN and FUNi) as channels of their own rights, shouldn’t fansubbers actually care more about raw sources? A Girls und Panzer with and without Katyusha is a world of differences. The broadcast’s calls impact these things, things that can drastically impact the viewing experience  (besides givens like the translation).

Cancer watch: I mean, is there some kind of cancer that is killing anime this season? Vividred Operation? Oh hey. I think if people actually cared about “moe cancer” they would’ve long figured out that it’s just the same handful of people making all this stuff they’re supposedly peeved about.

I thought Sasami-san episode 4 was wonderful, as usual. But I have no words for it this time because there wasn’t any room to talk about it outside the meta. Unless you got a creation tale or some legendary myths about Amaterasu’s body splitting into two or something. You would think given enough time, Shinbo’s work might actually approach that FLCL-esqe sensibility where it only makes sense because you’ve seen the anime in this exact way. This might be the closest he has gotten to that, yet. I mean, it made sense, right? I think another reason why I had little to say about Sasami-san episode 4 was because it is full of fanservice.

Anko mochi is the sweetest. And by sweetest I don’t necessarily mean taste. Tamako Market made sure of that, although in the end it may still sell short of its universal status as the default combination between mochi and filling.

Confession: I was never a Yukarin fan. Outside of Galaxy Angel I just never had anything to latch on. Her solo performer act is a spectacle but for me it was more relatable as an incubator of wotagei moves and an area of study of 2.5D culture than the content. I was still impressed at her moves in Oreshura though. As for Oreshura, unfortunately besides the Jojo references and how the girls may be cute, I’m not sure what else it has going for it. Oh, right, I love the color designs in the OP and ED.

It’s just the me who wants to play Ni no Kuni talking. He knows there’s no way I can watch all this anime and finish the game before 2014. The other me says that Kurousagi deserves my time every week. I’m inclined to agree. It’s not just that she’s a, well, bunny girl in the purest sense. She also is a very alpha-female kind of character that fanfictions would ship for protagonists and self-inserts. I mean, perhaps, if SAO had her instead of Asuna, I might have actually finished watching it. Maybe that’s it–I like girls who are treated like guys by the story (as opposed to the narrative)? I would ice her any day (speaking of games).

It’s kind of like, when people compare Maoyu with Spice & Wolf, I would say, “Horo would’ve eaten the two serfs.” I am kind of glad I skipped on Dog Days completely to go to that camp with Mondaiji. Maybe it is for the best.

Vividred Operation: Vivid Green is Miku, Vivid Blue is Kos-Mos, and Vivid Yellow is Mami (with a hint of Saber). I think that is really cool and I am almost shocked, after the fact, that it took this long for an anime to pull it together.

And that’s the end of my blogging attentions span. Maybe playing long, grinding JRPGs help to grow that. Somehow I doubt it.

PS. I’ve got to stop reading Peter King on Mondays. With the American foosball season over, maybe I will.

Sasami-san@ganbaranai Episode 3 Reactions

Tama in Wonderland (Episode 2)

I’m not sure how to feel about this week’s Sasami-san. On one hand, it looks like I was more correct than I thought I was last week about week one. On the other hand now that the ruse is up, what is next? For a largely “what is this I don’t even” sort of anime, I suppose that is the best way to go about anticipating, but the lack of choice in the matter might ruffle some feathers. Well, it’s an adaptation anyway, so I guess that is no big deal. It seems like we’re “done” for the pilot portion of the series.

But still, I can anticipate something: incest. This anime already has a lot of it, versus the average garden variety. Even with the classic Shinto creationist tale from the first weeks we can see it as a theme between not just Sasami and Onii-chan, but also the strange things that brought the two of them together, into existence, and the stuff around them.

The whole reveal with god-robo Kagami and baby god Tama doesn’t seem to fit in the overall narrative. All we know from Tsurugi is that Sasami is safeguarding the power that once belonged to her, and now Tsurugi is safeguarding Sasami for safeguarding Tsurugi’s power. Seems not only convoluted, but redundant. Okay, it’s a little cute in the emotional sense, that Sasami no longer needs to deny herself to safeguard the stuff, because Amaterasu will safeguard Sasami’s sense of self so Sasami can safeguard the stuff.

The more I try to write about it the more stupid I feel. I guess it could be worse: it could be a ring where someone wants to throw into a lava pit.

Okay, so back to the fanservice angle. The story is hopefully going to resolve around that romantic relationship and Sasami’s personality. I half-suspect we have the Yagami sisters just to spice up the thing; an anime can only “ganbaranai” for so much and for so long, and Onii-chan is no tsukkomi. The ending songs (and the proper ending sequence) are one way to make this up, I guess.

There’s another creation tale evoked in this week’s episode, that makes Sasami into a bunny. The myth goes as more or less as told by the anime, except in this case the shark got beaten up, which is a funky twist. More importantly, it kinda alludes to the Ninigi thing that Tsurugi and Sasami talked about. The god that saved the Inaba bunny ultimately is replaced by Ninigi-no-Mikoto, the grandson of Amaterasu, who’s given the Imperial Regalia. I guess Sasami recognizes him in some special way.

The fight scenes is pure fanservice, I think. I guess it’s something to break things up and set up the pacing for this episode (which is incredibly similar to the previous two). Tama and Kagami also appeal the best when they’re cutting things up or doing what (robo)gods do.

With the way the episode wrapped up, maybe the pilot part is over? You would think so. There still are two major wrinkles left, besides the main story: what’s up with Sasami’s 3rd arm? She sealed it with a talisman that she continues to wear; is it metaphoric about her alter ego? Does that ego ultimately controls the power of Amaterasu? Also, what’s up with the “evil god” that kept her indoors? I guess that one could be explained easier if it is a consequence of her innate wishes.

Even on rewatch I found the scene when Onii-chan checks for her arm a lot of fun. Maybe something’s wrong with me.

PS. I just want to take this time to both thank and reprimand TAN: thanks for streaming Sasami-san@ganbaranai legit! But if you do it a week and a day late, it really takes all the air out of it. Imagine all those people who saw episode 2 when they saw episode 1 and spoiled themselves silly. smh.

PPS. Really dig the end card.