Early Impressions: Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata ♭

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Three episodes in, it’s still pretty self-aware.

The defining traits that made me fond of SaeKano back in its debut season was the interactions between characters and the writing’s penchant for poking fun at harem cliches. Thus far, neither of these things are as charming as they were back then, with the writing feeling a little too smug and the characters not as important as they once were. To describe the experience would be akin to the time I went and saw Pitch Perfect 2 without seeing Pitch Perfect. All of the characters suited their roles with not a lick of effort in providing additional depth, perhaps justified by their effort in the first film, while the writing gave everything it expected the audience to want to come from a “successful” sequel. SaeKano 2 isn’t as monotonously uninteresting as its film comparison, but it provides a similar line of thinking.

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Ironically enough, the first season was such an up-and-down experience for me that it was just as frustrating to watch as it was meaningful. Its second season is somewhat the same, as the expectation of improving upon the original is beginning to wither, though it provides enough of a spark to think worthwhile events have yet to occur. It’s almost as though this isn’t a second season at all, rather a direct continuation of the first season, as a lot hasn’t changed for the better or worse. In a way, it’s disappointing to see how little things change. Of course, I’m only three episodes in.

Artistic expression is still prevalent and shiny, with a lot of frames becoming multi-layered in a specific color for no reason. Sexual fan service is still sprinkled throughout the episodes via angle shots of the rear and close-ups of the chest. It’s not so much that it’s exaggerated, just very targeted. I actually don’t recall sexual fan service being so recurring in the first season, though I remember a number of risque scenes. In any case, SaeKano 2 chooses to show its large female cast in a very close-up way. With solid animation and sleek designs, it’s more a benefit than anything. Its appreciation overall depends on the viewer, though.

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As noted above, characters are a tad less important so far, with Utaha hogging a lot of the spotlight in terms of importance to the plot. Others are shared within the scenes for reactions and various other shenanigans, which feel ultimately inconsequential. A fine line is set between making fun of harem tropes and embracing them, while justifying its placement by reminding the viewer that it’s a parody with an out-of-place line. Does that really justify it, though? Three episodes at my disposal, the drama the series exudes reeks of overdramatic, pseudo-intellectual harem filth. It’s possible in time Eririri and Kato will end up shining within the spotlight, but until that time, Utaha needs to calm herself and share.

Potential is still present, as up-and-down the series has been, which is surprising considering I went into it pretty hyped. To say I’m disappointed wouldn’t be entirely accurate, but my expectations have quieted as the series continued to play. Much like its first season, issues with pacing and control over what it really wants to be prevent it from being a solid recommendation. For those who enjoyed the first season, they’ll fit right at home in its second.

Second Blog Announcement

Short post announcing that I’ve created a second blog dedicated purely to football posts (NFL, AFL, CFL, etc.) I’m taking the liberty of moving a few posts already located on this blog to there, but won’t delete the original posts. They’ll remain in place for “historical purposes.” (Some of them still garner traffic and I don’t care to disrupt that.)

While I know 99% of my followers don’t follow me for football, I simply wanted to affirm that with the creation of this new blog, I will not be writing any more football-related posts on this blog. Not that I wrote many anyway, but still. Criticism and Thoughts will strictly cover anything outside of football from this point on.

For anyone interested, my new site can be found at Criticism and Football (Continuity for the win).

Ruining Denpa teki na Kanojo

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(Note, as always, that “ruining” is akin to “spoiling in a mocking way.”)

(Disclaimer: All images were obtained via Google.)

Do you enjoy Kara no Kyoukai but hate the fact that the main characters aren’t in high school? Did you find the gratuitous nature of Another’s dramatic atmosphere almost too fitting for a bunch of middle schoolers? Don’t you adore the method of placing two polar opposites together that eventually become an inseparable pair (Sexual tension included!)? Denpa teki na Kanojo is a series built around your tastes, young one! Be thrilled that this was created specifically for you and only you!

Take heart, for trouble is afoot! A crazed psycho-maniac is killing people of the small town of Whogivesadamn! But before that, it flashes a number of images and words that are meaningless… for now. OoOoOoOoOoOoOo! A young man with blonde hair and an affinity for yankees is approached by a kawaii little sucker whose eyes are covered to make her stand out. She claims he was a king in his past life, and that she was his royal servant. Blondie, because he has a brain, promptly tells her to GTFO and tries to stay far away from her. But then, the next night, someone who was being pissy with Blondie is murdered! Could the psycho-maniac be… the strange girl he met before?

Nope. It’s some random fuck.

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What does matter is that the random fuck is related to a cutie in Blondie’s class who he’d like to give a good thumping. Turns out, the cutie’s actually a bigger psycho-maniac than her psycho-maniac brother. One can tell because she goes on a giant spiel about her tragic past and her angsty motivations, a la Kara no Kyoukai, while trying to murder Blondie. Fortunately, Strange Girl has magic sensing powers and comes in at just the right time to sav—ACTUALLY Blondie gets stabbed and then the psycho-cutie starts going crazy all over again because she didn’t actually want to kill him because Blondie held her for six seconds before he collapsed from the stab wound. The moral of the story is that people who have traumatic pasts just want to be held by delinquent anime boys and be told that their existence matters and they’re okey-dokey. Blondie survives and everything goes back to normal. WAIT, WAIT! DON’T LEAVE! WE HAVE ANOTHER EPISODE!

Our journey continues with the two becoming closer than ever, with sprinkles of lust ever present between the two. Sound interesting? I hope not, because it’s only hinted at and made into humor about twice. Fuck off, romanticists. Blondie is accused of digging for booty on an express train when Strange Girl’s sister comes and saves him by pretending they’re dating, leading for a very forced kiss between the two. The incident becomes a thing at Blondie’s school and he almost gets in trouble with the student council, but the president tells the vice president to STFU because it was never proven. Strange little incidents start happening all around, like people getting tripped, pies in the face, and bombs going off in libraries. Do any of these actually happen in the show? Maybe! How much do you trust me?

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The events start becoming more and more dangerous, prompting Strange Girl to investigate into the matter personally. She discovers a club dedicated to acquiring “Happiness points” or some shit and deduces that the events are happening due to the head of the club, who runs under a pen name. This doesn’t mean anything because she’s found almost immediately. Blondie, Strange Girl, and the president go to a run-down building where the vice president ends up being the bitch behind the pranks. An incredibly long and convoluted explanation reveals that the vice president is retarded and believes in karma to an absurd degree. She’s causing people misery because she thinks that’ll make her happy, such that if no one is happy, she may become happier in relation. Remember that line in The Incredibles where Syndrome says something like, “When everyone’s super, no one is”? Kind of like that. That’s a damn good movie.

Anyway, they go back to the vice president’s house before all that is explained and find out she lived a horrible life just like the psycho-cutie in the last episode. It also turns out her brother was dating the president at one point, but she broke up with him, so he killed himself in front of her. Those crazy kids and their fragile hearts! Ever since then, the vice president’s life began to progressively get worse, so she wants the president to make up for it by being mutilated or something. This weirdo also keeps the corpse of her mother in her house. As it turns out, Strange Girl was watching a lot of Naruto that day and exhibited—

THE POWER OF TALKING!!!

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—and told the vice president that she’s dumb and her brother took the happiness away from the family and not the president. She promptly goes (more) insane and starts crying like a bitch baby. Everything then goes back to normal. Zippity-doo-dah. Wait. Wait, hold on. Something else happened. Oh! That’s right! Blondie is standing next to a street and the president walks up behind him and looks super dirty and starts talking crazy. She laments how horrible of a person she is that she broke up with the brother for her own gain (Because breaking up with someone is always for the other person), so she decides to follow the vice president’s same mindset and pushes Blondie out into the street while a truck zooms by. He dies! JK! She dies! Indeed, at the last moment (Which is not shown), the truck swerves away from Blondie and straight into the president! Because the driver CLEARLY HAD AN AGENDA AGAINST PRESIDENTS OF STUDENT COUNCILS. Strange Girl shows up because she can still sense Blondie for some reason and cries because he almost died and promptly starts undressing him in the middle of the road. JK! She just cries, but man, wouldn’t that be hilarious? Blondie already got her sister to strip down to her panties in this episode… Oh, did I not mention that part? Well, y’see—

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

Early Impressions: Sakura Quest

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Three episodes in, I’m worried this is a bit too similar to past P.A. Works… works.

Everyone I know adores, or at least enjoyed, Shirobako. Everyone I know adores, or at least enjoyed, Hanasaku Iroha. Not so much Glasslip or Tari Tari, but not every studio can have hit after hit consistently. Within the last five years, P.A. Works has become something of a niche entertainment outlet, specializing in slice-of-life shows with an overarching message of commitment, hard work, and improving the lives of the people within a certain community. With both Hanasaku Iroha and Shirobako (and Glasslip) under my belt, Sakura Quest feels a little bit of a throwback to old times. Much like the sense of having a sequel release too soon that hardly differentiates itself from its predecessor, I can only feel a reserved hostility that makes me yawn in contempt.

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Of course, it would be somewhat unfair to simply base Sakura Quest‘s quality on its predecessor’s ability to cement the same themes. Almost like the Mega Man series, the work of Pixar, or Tyler Perry sitcoms, Sakura Quest is another product of a factory that specializes in a certain type of anime, with very little distinction from others. And with that context, my hesitance to go all-in with the themes it tries to present are (hopefully) justified. My tolerance for the same old, same old can only go so far.

For those who are fairly unfamiliar with P.A. Works, Sakura Quest is a decently enjoyable little break from the chains of zany charisma and fantasy muskiness. In the same vein as Tsuki ga Kirei, it takes a grounded, casually progressive approach to characterization and plot developments. Unlike Tsuki ga Kirei, the structure is a tad more episodic, with each episode taking on a different challenge for the female lead to face while already combating her displeasure with staying in unfamiliar territory. The emphasis on an overarching plot is always looming and hammered in, but it’s vague enough to allow a number of shenanigans and activities to take place. All extraneous details aside, the anime does a good job with what it has, and sets up nicely for some inevitable moral proceedings and social commentary on pleasantries in life.

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Something else that’s become standard with P.A. Works is its effort with animation. Characters are cute, believably spastic, and varied in their make-up, though somewhat similar when it comes to young, female faces. Animation, despite the casual setting, does enough to make characters express themselves through fluid movement. I also really like how the female lead looks so radically different than the citizens of the rural town. I just like how the female lead looks, regardless. P.A. Works knows how to turn ordinary into extraordinary, and it’s no surprise here.

As critical as I am about its “copycat” status, Sakura Quest definitely has potential to be a fulfilling experience. Characters are entertaining through their status and importance to the goal at hand, along with base personalities. The best part is that nothing seems so exaggerated, a show that can manage to entertain through the simpler things in life… almost like Hanasaku Iroha. Or Shirobako. In any case… with only three episodes in, it’s hard to recommend it despite its formulaic (for its studio) approach, though fans of past P.A. Works… works that don’t care about this kind of thing will feel right at home. Time will ultimately tell.

Early Impressions: Tsuki ga Kirei

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Three episodes in, I’m glad I went with my gut.

Tsuki ga Kirei doesn’t have the hook of things like Shingeki no Kyojin or Boku no Hero Academia. There’s no sort of group following that hyped it to no end before it premiered. It doesn’t razzle, dazzle, or splurge in any other fancy term that rhymes. What the anime embodies is the slow, gradual realization of puberty and the things that go along with it, most notably of a sexual aspect. Tsuki ga Kirei, so far, is what I expected Kyou no 5 no 2 to be. Like what I expected to enjoy with that sort of premise, I’m enjoying it tremendously here.

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Again, there is no sparkly sheen attached to this series. It’s slow, somewhat uneventful, and has no special feature that secludes it from other anime among the genre. What it does have is a realistic and adorable viewpoint of young love and trying to abide by societal norms. It’s almost like a study of human behavior between the point of childhood and adulthood, a crucial transition for any and all people of a normal capacity. As a closet romanticist, I can’t help but feel engrossed by the nervous interactions between the male and female leads. Their mannerisms dependent on the situation and place, and their consciences inwardly debating what is or isn’t the right way to speak to one another. There’s a nice subtlety with characterization that really speaks to me, telling me more than the characters need to outwardly state.

The methodical process that Tsuki ga Kirei takes prevents it from being something worth watching for people who want an easygoing slice-of-life flick. There’s no rampant humor or colorful insanity. It’s fairly grounded in its approach, so those who aren’t strictly intrigued with young love and development won’t find much enjoyment in this. Almost like letting water boil, it slowly builds itself at a reasonable pace until the heat is at the point where it requires the ingredients to cook. “Episodic” is not a term to describe Tsuki ga Kirei, as it develops naturally over the course of each episode, like going from Point A to Point B. Think of it like the transition screens in each episode of Mawaru Penguindrum.

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If there is one issue, it’s an easy choice: art and animation. It’s rather static, very rarely improving the quality of the slow crawl of the plot with any sort of exuberance. While I do like the experimentation of 3D models within a 2D space, and the sort of bright shading tones of the characters’ features, the overall animation leaves a lot to interpretation. By that, I mean there are really sudden frame skips. Its level of consistent movement rivals that of Onihei, which I’ve lamented as pretty mediocre. While it doesn’t destroy the serious(ish) nature of the anime, it does make it a little hard to appreciate at its max potential.

While still within the introductory stages, Tsuki ga Kirei has the tools to become a rather enjoyable piece. While its roof at the moment isn’t anything more than a seven or so out of ten, I’ve had hidden gems surprise me in the past (Latest example: Demi-chan). I’d definitely recommend people at least give it a shot, such that I can see it being talked about more on Twitter so I can interact with them. No bias here!

Early Impressions: Renai Boukun

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Three episodes in, I’m having flashbacks to 2013.

What I mean by the above statement is that, for a time, my choice in anime was along the lines of satiating my base interests. This is a vague way of saying I watched a lot of stupid romcoms that one would categorize as “The cancer of anime.” Series such as MM!Mayoi Neko Overrun!Asobi ni Iku yo!, and other series ending in exclamation points. While I know they’re bottom of the barrel, there are a number of series like these that hold a dear place in my heart, nostalgia playing a part of heightening the rampant stupidity. What does this have to do with Renai Boukun? It has that same vibe to it.

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This “vibe” wasn’t immediately present, as the first two episodes were something of a chore to sit through. Its debut ran through the introductory stages like a madman, leaving nothing out of the imagination in terms of unashamed fetishizing and appealing to base romantic affections. Like a rollercoaster without a safety bar running at hyperspeed, Renai Boukun seems to thrive on being spontaneous and rebellious. Coupled with some incredibly one-dimensional characters and a ridiculous plot that loopholes itself into cheesy, embarrassing situations, it has the potential of setting the brain ablaze.

Episode three seems to have latched onto my spirit and given me a feeling I haven’t felt in a very long time. Flashbacks of those stupid romcoms of years past began to show themselves around one of their kin. Renai Boukun has that sort of quality that almost makes fun of itself along with shows with such horrendous sexual bait as plot devices. Evidence of this exists in the first two episodes, though it wasn’t until episode three that the characters showed a tad more of their softer sides… or so I tell myself. Frankly, there’s so serious reason as to why it happened in episode three that I became accustomed to its tomfoolery. It happened suddenly, almost like the execution of the anime itself.

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Enjoying a series like this hinges upon a viewer’s expectations. It’s dumb. The premise tells you that. The cover art tells you that. Going into this expecting anything more than it being dumb and flaunting its ridiculous brand of humor would be dumb. As unusual as it sounds, there’s potential here—not so much that it’ll become a masterpiece among anime, but as a top-tier dumb show. The type of anime people with guilty pleasures (like me) will be able to look forward to to appeal to their inner interests, shrouded behind a glossy persona of staunch cynicism. Renai Boukun will never be anything more than a dumb show, and for what it’s worth, it’s perfectly aware of that. From this point on, maximizing the potential of its place among dumb shows should be the aim for its twisted aloofness.

Early Impressions: Shingeki no Kyojin (Season Two)

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Three episodes in, I’m beginning to wonder what I liked about this series in the first place.

While the comparison may be repetitive at this point, I never found myself fond of viewing Shingeki no Kyojin as an anime version of The Walking Dead, until just this most recent episode. I found myself pondering to myself, “If I were to devise a drinking game for this series, noting every common cliché it shares with The Walking Dead, would I be dead?” The answer ended up becoming “Yes.”

For context, I don’t like The Walking Dead.

Not to turn this post into “Thoughts on The Walking Dead,” but my disdain for the series is a combination of two things: its mood and its writing. I’ve stated on many occasions that I don’t care for shows that are overly moody in its apathetic murkiness—shows that are constantly manipulating subjects of fear, angst, frustration, or an overt seriousness that overwhelms all over aspects. More than this, however, is the writing, which dedicates itself to being shallow, predictable, slow, and too reliant on the threat of zombies to ramp up excitement. Now, if I had replaced “zombies” with “titans,” and cut out the first sentence in this paragraph, would you really have noticed I was talking about The Walking Dead instead of Shingeki no Kyojin?

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Thinking back on it, I liked how the first season started out with showcasing exactly what titans are capable of, then immediately afterwards slowing things down and developing the characters/civilization that made up the remains of a once populated world. I liked that the titans weren’t always the focus of every episode, though they were always a looming subject on everyone’s minds due to their numbers and tenacity. Too often stories will try and go for horror and thrills without making the effort of making the viewer care about whom it’s happening to. Despite the jokes and recurring oddities of its first season, I came out of the experience rather amused.

Its second season is beginning to fester into a trap of making everything about titans. Characters no longer matter, as they’re either marked for death or survival. Titans suddenly are more than meets the eye, with a new threat showing to have a high capacity of intelligence. And those who once served a role through their embellished personalities and charms have resorted to acting out the words of the script like they’re paid to. Years it’s been since I finished the first season of Shingeki no Kyojin, and suddenly they want to open up with developing Potato Girl and Connie? Two characters that hardly mattered? Not only do I not give a shit anymore, but it basically puts giant targets on their head to be eaten. Not that I expect them to be dead within mere episodes (Akame ga Kill), just that it puts it in the back of my mind. On a final note, boy, do I feel so much empathy for two random characters I don’t even know the names to who deepen their bond in the middle of a perilous expedition that could kill them. Really doesn’t kill the mood or heighten transparency.

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Though I wasn’t exactly excited for the second season of Shingeki no Kyojin, it’s still somewhat disappointing to see it follow the line of many other stories like it that try to do too much to have the viewer care. Or maybe I’m full of it because the series is currently within the Top 50 on MAL’s database after three episodes. Regardless, for me, the series is off to a very poor start. Not in the sense that the show is atrocious in a technical sense, but that it screams “Monotonous!” in its execution and constant shoehorning of the various tropes that rent out the genre. Look at these sad people whose lives are devastated by this fatal threat. Let’s split up into groups and devise a plan to face this thing. What about my family?! I need to become stronger to protect the people I love! A dark secret looms within a high-ranking organization of society. What?! How is this possible?! How, indeed, is it possible to become so drawl?