Category Archives: Shin Sekai Yori

Year in Review 2013: N-List

So, the usual.

kirino new years

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Shinsekai Yori Is What It Means to Be Human

[First half of this post will have no real spoilers, but I want to make a point to explain the first half of this post using spoilers, so please watch the bold text indicating so if you are sensitive to it.]

For me, making sense of Shinsekai Yori is a lot of fun. It is the second most enjoyable thing to do with the show, second to enjoying the show’s kuuki-kei take on a twisted, science fictional setting. I think without a doubt the setting to Shinsekai Yori is far and beyond the most awe-inspiring thing in there, simply via its far-eastern marriage of cultural sensibilities, aesthetics and the things that made it warm and humane. Underneath all of that is still this ruthless, cold and calculating pessimism which drives the story forward, similar to most big concept, high science fiction story.

The problems to Shin Sekai Yori, like its strengths, appeared almost immediately as well. The first 4 episodes to the show were some of the most tedious that I had to slog through back in Autumn 2012. The production values were good, but nothing special. What perhaps kept things rolling was the unique art design (best summed by the first ED) and the story promises to be “my bag” so I stuck with it to at least the first major reveal, piercing through the facades that covered the eyes of the then-young protagonists and the viewers alike. From that point on, my imagination took over, less so the characters in the show.

But as we slowly unravel the pieces to the eventual climatic moments across two major time jumps, punctuated by moments of suspense as the kids kept getting into trouble with bakenezumi, it all feels like a chore. The story and plot largely focused on the intercharacter relationship between Saki and everyone around her, as to make a point. And it wasn’t until the very end of the last episode that this point has been pointed out, making a good two-thirds of the show a real bore.

I mean, it was just a pattern of: school, kids, school, people go somewhere, darkness and bakenezumi for a couple episodes, people go home, time skip, repeat. Maybe it makes sense from the POV of the adaptation manuscript, because it was from a book and what have you (well, maybe light novel also fits, in the classic sense of the term) and it can all build up to some pretty cool end-game. But when it’s a TV serialized animation, one episode a week, it’s really hard to do it with 25 episodes while still keeping people’s attention intact.

Some of the high praises of the show are rightfully due, and to its credit the TV animation did a pretty good job getting the messages and themes of the book across to a foreign audience. If I was going to ignore the fact that it was kind of a chore to watch this show until the final arc, I would rate it pretty highly. I suppose unlike Simoun, I guess Shin Sekai Yori’s world all makes sense, and that holds everything together. After all I don’t know how people would react to the character drama. It’s no K-ON for sure, but then again, it’s not K-ON.

While I think the sensible way to look at this show is from a kuuki-kei perspective, people who like this show are most definitely who like heavy and plot-driven crap, who can put up with Mamoru being Mamoru or Maria being a tease or all the gay sexorz. Or maybe not? I’m not sure. Take my opinion with a grain of salt, as you probably already do.

Spoilers.

Tomiko "the cat lady"

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Winter 2013 Week 7-8

The Civilization Blaster kids

Just want to do the TL;DR equivalent to reaction faces. I’ll try to keep it spoiler-free. Think of this post like “this week’s anime ‘turning points’ or ‘highlight’ or ‘peak episode’ or whatever.”

Shinsekai Yori Episode 21:

You know it is coming, it’s heavy and painful but yet full of drama potential, dripping with faint hopes, antagonism, despair, and a sense of loss. The watermill bit was brilliant. The writing in the sky is cool and I wonder why they don’t do it more often. The babies, well, are thankfully not as grotesque as it could have been.

The revealing of the key character in this episode was done well. It fooled me briefly but I guess it was kind of what I expected as the “worst case scenario.” The numbers all made sense chronologically. It’s the sort of conclusion you know it has to be. And it was. Yet you are powerless against it even if you knew what was coming.

Zetsuen no Tempest Episode 20:

Speaking of chronology, the biggest clue that wasn’t in this week’s episode was when… How do I talk about the 2nd half of Tempest without spoiling the first half? Let’s just say there is this character who got this power, and when he was introduced he briefly mentioned something about when the power began to manifest. That was a pretty big clue. It’s a clue that I kept in the back of my mind during the “This Week in the Being-Samon-Is-Suffering Logic Quiz Class” discussion as to what is the plot logic problem of the week. However I didn’t put two and two together. I knew whats-her-face is going to do whats-her-other-face in, but I didn’t know it was going to be like this. And let me just say that if you want to enjoy this show, you should do your best to not find out whats-her-face is going to be like this. Because it’s such a delightful surprise.

I ought to highlight Zetsuen no Tempest actually. It’s shaping up to be a very enjoyable watch. I think a big issue is that in order to praise it I have to spoil it, and without spoiling it all I can say is in a couple paragraphs. So here goes.

At heart Zetsuen no Tempest is a plot-logic-driven narrative. The story revolves around a defined boundary condition (or two or three) where the characters have to figure out what is the best thing to do, like a Clue game in terms of determining who is what is like how and when. The characters don’t really “develop” except for, strangely, the character who starts out dead.

The character that does develop is the second reason why Tempest is great. It’s like the one glimpse of romanticism, the Shakespeare quoting girlfriend that drives a revenge plot forward in which two best friends will end up at each other’s throats, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. This beautiful character is at odd with the story’s logic in the same way that too is the part of the puzzle that paints a rational image of irrationality. It’s enough to obfuscate even simple logical conditions; she is the ultimate lampshade, to borrow TVTropes (who just borrows from, aptly, Shakespeare). In a nutshell:

And what’s more, it has some kind of significance in the story. It’s a theme.

Unfortunately, also, it is not an adventure anime, even if it poses as such. It’s a dumb show where the characters tries to figure out some weird mystery that is basically “magic” and unless you’re invested, it all seems kind of trite and you really empathize with Samon. Poor Samon.

gdgd season 2 Episode 8

Best episode of anime of the season. Prereq thing to watch. If didn’t see it before, try reading this. Or the TL;DR version. It also helps if you played Monster Hunter or played Mario Kart or something, but meh.

Da Capo III Episode 8

Oh. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah? Maybe. Only if Senren Kagura was like this? Thankfully Senren Kagura isn’t like this. It’s been a very long time since I last saw an episode of Baywatch but this is kind of like it no?

Vividred Operation Episodes 7-8

The power of friendship is a very sweet set of jets. Akane gives you wings. Vividred Operation, naturally, gives you a lot more than that–all the fireworks, all the drama, the tearing bedside in the hospital. It was, truly, a … self-titled sign.

Vividred Operation... lol

Runner ups:

The Unlimited: Hyoubu Kyousuke Episode 8 wraps up the inevitable flashback arc. It’s kind of a let-down honestly but it got the job done.

Seitokai no Ichizon Lv.2 Episode 7: If you were following Seizon S2 (it’s on air, after all), this week is Ringo’s proper intro. You remember Ringo right?

 


From a New Oppression: Winter 2013

seiyuu_connection

I feel the story of Psycho-Pass is a key to unlock a certain understanding from From the New World. I guess in order to talk about it, there will have to be some spoilers.

There are some key elements in Shinsekai Yori that keeps it beautiful–like this ever-present human darkness. It’s like every given life that is born to society, society plays Russian roulette with statistical odds in the production of a monster. The monsters in Shinsekai Yori are world-destroyers in the most literal sense. A character refers to it as a nuclear bomb, and I think most of us would agree. It becomes the nightmare scenario where even if 99.999999% of mankind is perfectly upstanding and good, all it takes is one bad apple to ruin everything.

In the same way that is the exact same perspective from Psycho-Pass (if in that society, humans are much worse on average). In order to play this numbers game with statistics (which already assumes a lot of different qualities about the human condition that you and I might not agree with) we can skew the odds heavily in society’s favor if everyone just give up on something. In Psycho-Pass, it’s the obvious flaws with the Sybil system. It does a clumsy job of illustrating it for us, but they’re spelled out plainly.

In Shinsekai Yori, the scheme is much more sinister. It’s so sinister, that we don’t even get a good look at it. It’s so well-disguised, we can call it simply, human evolution. It’s when we de-evolve ourselves to limit the conscious capacity to commit murder, to hypnotize our children so to limit the power of their minds, and ultimately kill the potentially dangerous elements of our society in the form of children-killing-by-committee. We never really got a up-close look at all this, except maybe the scene where Saki goes over the details of her terms with the Ethics Committee chief. We never really get a close look of the hypnosis  or the way these visual triggers were genetically added into the strains cultivated at the village they were living in. We don’t know how the memory manipulation were done besides what we could guess by inference. It’s not really the focus of the narrative, but these things are pretty important.

Of course, it may only seem like “de-evolve” from the perspective of a world where not everyone is a live bomb ready to go off. In some ways, the scenario in Shinsekai Yori is what engineers called an edge case. You can look at it in the context of, say, gun control, or in the context of an effective way to prevent crime. You could also look at it in the case where how can power and responsibility coexist. There are a bunch of different ways to tackle the same framework underneath. It’s in this overarching context that I examine the stories about Saki and Satoru and Maria and all those kids, in that the values we perceive to be important to cherish and reinforce in life may run against these survival, political, societal, and even evolutionary forces.

Unfortunately, this also means in a season where I’m watching Psycho-Pass and Shinsekai Yori at the same time, Psycho-Pass is more like Psycho-Passe, and if it isn’t for Urobuchi’s sensual murders I probably would have already dropped it out of the weakness for themes. Of course, I don’t think most people are approaching Shinsekai  Yori as an ethics experimental pressure chamber, and Psycho-Pass has other redeeming values too, but for me I can’t take all this Mole Rats business any other way.

Actually, an experiment is a good way to phrase it. The fantastic setting is oozing with realism in Shinsekai Yori. There are pluses and minuses to this approach, that said, but it feels like after 17 episodes the experiment has finally began.


Autumn 2012 Mid-season Checkpoint

I voted for more shows dropped and more time shooting aliens this November, but I got wet from Konya wa Hurricane. The net total is this post about random observations. If I didn’t mention a show here I probably dropped it, or on hold until whenever like E7Ao.

Chuunibyou demo Koi ga Shitai! – It’s less mentally offensive than Hyouka because it doesn’t try to engage me on higher level of analysis and thought, so it is much easier to watch. But in a lot of ways it’s definitely inferior. I suppose this is why Dekomori and Kumin exist. I said most of what I wanted last post.

Teekyuu – What I watched: Teekyuu. What I expected: Sofuteni. What I got: Zero Punctuation. Also, this is Mappa? Good on them. About 3000 yen for all of it on Amazon! [Side note: man, pagerank for CR on this keyword is horrible.]

Seitokai no Ichizon & Ebiten – I lump the two together because clearly both are being screened on Nico first (how about that US merger huh) and then picked up by a TV station the season after. HOPEFULLY this means CR will stream it starting in Jan 2013. As far as Seitokai no Ichizon goes I’m pretty okay with the new season, once I got used to the new Akaba voice. It was easier to deal with Mafuyu’s voice because it’s a very neutral tone, although I miss the very subtle tonal acting that was present before, that gave it an extra edge of melancholy. Oh, I probably should mention Seizon Lv.2 Episode 0 was AWESOME, because man, I miss Houko.

Oniai – On the merits, it’s probably worse than NakaImo, and it is more or less the same schtick–crazy girls tries to get into main guy’s pants, entertain mostly with OTT antics and not with so much fanservice, hides its plot/character chops. Takeaways are the two underage seiyuus in Ibuki Kido (as the main sister girl) and Sumire Morohoshi (the 12-yo manager genius). Kido is actually a year younger than Akiko, and Morohoshi a year older than Arisa. My favorite gag has to be the T-shirts. It’s like “Primary schoolgirls are great” but even better. Because I can wear something like Che Akiko and not get arrested.

Zetsuen no Tempest – I’m fascinated by this show, but it’s not the most engaging thing. All the characters are mysterious and hard to read, and you don’t really know what’s going on. How can they build a compelling plot on that? Just turn a bunch of people into metal and have giant eyes float out from the ground, I guess. Oh, add a romantic triangle involving some really messed-up interpersonal relationships. What’s the best about all of this is that it’s done with the precision of a Shakespearean play, instead of something more, well, relatable and visceral. What’s the worst is that it’s all posturing and TL;DRs, with the reasons and rhymes in thoughtful dialogues and monologues. Yeah, it can be kind of dull. It’s no surprise that I like Tempest; I’ve always liked shows like this. Having Bones behind it just make it a lot easier and makes it possible that I can talk to some people who may be drawn in for those superficial reasons. Book of Bantorra, anyone?

Hidamari Sketch S4 – Really digging it so far. Although, as others pointed out, unless they do something with the new first years in a major way, this is going to be pretty much more of the same for another 13 episodes. What they did in episode 6 is exactly what has to happen for Nazuna and … the girl with the PC.

Jormungand S2 – Eh, it’ll do. A lot of the suspense is gone with the second season. Maybe I should write a blog post about sequels like this. And Hidasketch.

Space Bros – It’s gotten to the point where the anime just has to make one more mistake before I drop it (for the manga). Invariably it makes a mistake and I’m like, man, I don’t want to read manga, because I just don’t have that mode of consumption handy in the way my routine is. But invariably, also, Space Bros redeem itself in some minor way for me to keep putting up with it.

Psycho-Pass – I can put up with this. At least it rewards with some pretty cool ideas. And a strangled Ayanyan.

Robotics;Notes – This anime is my Yoshino Nanjou coming-out-of event. Granted at this point it’s all kept in the dark, plot-wise, so I can’t really say anything about this anime besides that it’s already seeding important details, as all non-linear narratives invariably do. I’m not sure it has given me enough to go on but I’m just blindly rolling along with Tall Robot Nerd Poplar. And is Kai a jerk? Who cares?

Magi – I think this is my top show this season. But it’s one of those “watch but don’t buy” kind of thing since the show itself is just excellent, but not something I’d obsess over. Maybe it will change and upgrade into something worth owning.

Busou Shinki – This is pretty lame. Limp, even. Especially when it’s less like Strike Witches and more like… Infinite Stratos? At least that’s how I’m watching it–for the mecha battles. The animation is what I like best, along with the tech/setting. But I’m not sure how else it appeals to the cute-girls-do-cute-things demographic. Maybe I’ll punt it after all?

K – The music is so pimp that I feel like playing Persona 4 Golden. Might punt it. And yes, this show works great as a comedy…and that’s it.

JoJo – OMG. On the other hand it’s just as I expected from David Pro.

Girls und Panzer – This show is brilliant. Not only it capitalizes on what is obvious as the concept became a thing, it did enough of a twist to make the whole venture seeming worth the while. Its ensemble-cast style organization yet focusing on a handful is a gamble ultimately, not because they’re doing that, but they better be focused on the best five girls out of that lot of dozens.

Medaka Box S2 – I guess this anime took the Negima turn? Not that I mind; Medaka makes a good protagonist, although it’s really just a 2-person show between her and Zenkichi vs. the world at this point. Not that I mind that, either.

Shin Sekai Yori – It’s the “different” anime this season, although how it’s different is unclear. I think it’s at least something interesting for a more “mainstream” audience (because it isn’t really mainstream) but this is definitely overrated. If I had to criticize it, two things–the pace is horrid and the direction and scripting is clumsy. Usually these two things cause me to drop shows, but the setting sort of redeems it. Or the underage sex, I’m not sure. I predict at least one commentator at the end of this cour will complain how it does not fully utilize its setting.

Muv-luv Alternative: Total Eclipse – Lots of BETA action in the first half. Second half is more about Total Eclipse of the Heart amirite.

Little Busters – It’s the sort of moment when you recall every Key/VA anime event you’ve personally experienced since the beginning and you go, “we’ve came a long way.” It isn’t to say the visual novel to anime mechanism has improved to the degree that those products are something worth while–maybe it has. But Little Busters was originally the concept, and now it has arrived; perhaps its only flaw was this anime existed starting after Angel Beats. None of that, however, heals its deadly pangs of boredom.

Initial D Fifth Stage – I guess no one sleeps in Tokyo in the night of fire about love and money. And I still would like to test out a FR-S/BRZ sometime.

Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo – The Pet Girl of Sakura House? Inn? Guilty Crown? I enjoy the roomful-of-lunatic approach to the series and it is very much got everyone looking at the characters as characters, and that is already a win for the anime. As usual I have a harder time buying in, but the array of otaku references makes the low production-value pill easy to swallow. [LOL I forgot about this show srsly…now it is included!]

I really want to keep watching Kamisama Kiss, but I have to drop something in exchange. I might.

At a glance you can tell Funimation is pushing a lot of new titles this season. It’s a promising thing because in the past 18 months they are major slacking on new acquisitions in my opinion, given the share of home video releases they put out. On the other hand, while I have been test driving their premium account across my phone and PC (mostly on the PC), their quality of service is still rather lacking. It’s better than just embedded Hulu streams that TAN is doing, but that’s like comparing your current self with yourself in 2002. At least I can get things to work after enough experience “jiggling” the various nobs and switches. Like how in Chrome when you change resolution to 720 it autoplays, and half the time it tries to play 2 streams in the same player if you hit the wrong buttons in the wrong in sequences.

At times like this I wish I was the kind of otaku who only watched anime off the tube, so I can cut it loose and just stick to this sort of services, paid or not.

There are three fronting shoujo series this season. Two go to CR, one to Funi and AN gets one of the two from CR. Not sure which one wins but that sounds at least fair.

Overall a pretty mild season without a smash hit, unless that boring Urobuchi show turns out to be a gem or Sakurasou becomes the second coming of Toradora. The various continuing series are all pretty strong and they will entertain, where as new series will have to flounder a bit before they find their footing. We’re at the half way point now, but I think shows like Garupan and Oniai have no real grasp on the audience at this point. Maybe that’s okay for those kinds of shows.

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