Highlighting the Best Anime Studios (Based on My Average Scores)

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Some time ago, I took a look at the quality of light novel adaptations based on my average scores for those qualified. Today, I’m doing something similar, only instead of light novel adaptations, I’m broadening the scope of my research to individual anime studios. I’ve seen a countless number of anime posts detailing an individual’s favorite anime studio for boasting the best collection of anime and what have you, but I’ve never been able to join the conversation as I (perhaps naively) don’t often focus on the studios behind anime works. That changes now—or at the very least, I’ll know what studio is generally accommodating of my interests. Continue reading “Highlighting the Best Anime Studios (Based on My Average Scores)”

Thoughts on Tsurutsuru to Zarazara no Aida

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I’ll admit, the cover image for this manga’s fourth volume made me interested. Just look at it. It’s insane. I almost wondered if it was a psychological viewpoint of the male’s anxiety to the female’s objective beauty and the expectations of living up to her qualifications. What lies inside is nothing of the sort, but good on the mangaka for pulling me in through non-bland imagery. Continue reading “Thoughts on Tsurutsuru to Zarazara no Aida”

Thoughts on the Kizumonogatari Trilogy

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I thought of doing this post with each part individually, but I kind of liked the idea of wrapping it all into one story, seeing as that’s what it is in the end. Doing each part would’ve been too much like episodic thoughts, something I don’t care to add to the overinflated amount of anibloggers already doing so. Of course, splitting them into parts could’ve had me post these thoughts a long time ago, but patience is a virtue and I’ll uphold the standards I would expect from anyone else and more.

Kizumonogatari is the “origin” story surrounding the now vampiric loli, Shinobu, from the parent Monogatari series. It details Araragi’s first encounter with her and Hanekawa, the one who only knows what she knows, in a sort of dual-threat of busty female counterparts. Shinobu has had her limbs stolen from her by vampire hunters, and with the help of Araragi, she wishes to retrieve them to obtain her full power as a vampire. At the same time, Araragi tries to cope with Hanekawa being absurdly considerate of him, seeing as he’s branded himself a friendless loser.

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For fans of the parent Monogatari series: Kizumonogatari is commonplace to the world that author Nisio Isin has already created in past works. The only real strange distinction is that Hanekawa acts far more free-spirited and aloof than she does in other stories. She doesn’t even seem like her own character, really. Aside from so, the story and presentation are the mainstay that make the series fresh and inviting. Beautifully intricate in its detail and creepy imagery, Kizumonogatari is a definitive must-watch for the fans, despite how inconsequential this entire side project sounds in hindsight. In reality, it delves into the character of Shinobu and treats her more like a human being, especially in the third part, as ironic as that sounds. That alone should be enough for a glance.

For non-fans of the parent Monogatari series: there is a little hesitation to recommend this piece if one either hasn’t watched the parent series or didn’t care for it. Lots of dialogue still remains, if one didn’t care for that. Sexually-suggestive situations still arise (and part three has a very aggressive sexual situation present). And while I don’t always agree with the notion, a lot of the fun of these side movies is getting better detail behind the characters than presented in the more broadened counterparts. Within this film, Shinobu gets a lot more attention towards her character than shown in a lot of the Monogatari series, which makes me not want to recommend this first. However, Hanekawa doesn’t even act like her actual character here, which is… also confusing enough to have me not want to recommend it. What I can recommend it for is its kooky nature and semi-serious take on the world of the supernatural, in all of its gory glory.

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What’s more impressive (and noticeably different from the parent series) is the emphasis on the technical aspects of the anime. Animation and sound are very poignant in this three-part piece, more so than I ever remember it being otherwise. Araragi has never belted out screams with his entire god damn body as he does here, which helps to create a tragic(ally whimsical) tone that really suits the series and establishes Araragi’s character. And with animation, well, let’s just say dismemberment during battle sequences have never been more amusing.

But it is also the style of presentation that is somewhat different. Gone are the constant blips of random novel excerpts and scene numbers and transitions. Kizumonogatari is more streamlined in its presentation, not really interrupting the flow of conversation or the visual meat of a scene. The dialogue present is still absurd in its monotonous viewpoint of the supernatural and others’ reactions to it (and other uncomfortable topics), though the presentation of such things are more dedicated to simply that: dialogue. In many cases, the parent story will try to shoehorn in random visuals in an effort to distinguish a scene with… something. Here, it’s rather straightforward, with the more cryptic sequences happening in their own spare time, not in the middle of other scenes. Some may miss that traditional habit, but I really didn’t mind either way.

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Without a doubt the most enjoyable part of this series is that there are very rarely dull moments. What I found to be the least encouraging aspects were the fights Araragi had with the members of the Shinobu-limb-stealing squad—two out of the three being blatantly uninteresting, one-dimensional characters. The fights themselves were somewhat blissful due to their weird comedic aura and animated whimsy, but the context behind the fights made them rather dull. By the end, there really isn’t much to be said about the three antagonists other than that they were in the way. Outside of this, the dialogue between characters, expressive art direction, and symbolic curmudgeon made the experience far more invigorating.

It took me nearly a month to even watch the third part, but the time spent away didn’t dull my excitement even a little. Nisio Isin has a way of making anything sound strangely captivating, even if the events onscreen don’t really match the “epic” atmosphere shuffling in the background. Kizumonogatari is an OVA-style project done in the best way it possibly can: distinguish itself as more than fan fodder and do as much as possible to add appreciation and insight into the characters/story shown in a more major work. I can’t say I know many others that can effectively reciprocate these “guidelines,” but this is a prime example of making the inconsequential seem not so important to a work’s quality.

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

Thoughts on Tsurezure Children

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To those with good eyes, there is a distinction with how this series’s name is pronounced. It can either be Tsurezure Children or Tsuredure Children. I’m gonna stick with “z” because that’s what it’s more commonly known by.

This technical anime short has been garnering a lot of praise around the ani-community for its straightforward portrayal of young romance. By golly, two kids almost have sex with one another! Isn’t that just gross? A far cry from the typical behavior surrounding love where characters blush at the thought of even looking each other in the eyes. Tsurezure Children is an experimental production dedicated to true, unfiltered romantic shenanigans between kids who have no idea what to do with it, while at the same time organizing it in a sort of slice-of-life/comedy structure. With context like that, this series seems right up my alley!

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Initially, the series showed a lot of promise, with keen focus on the trials of understanding how to make a relationship work and how absolutely awkward teenagers are despite their bravado. Despite how many characters it showed, I found each couple (or potential couple) to be charming and relatable to some degree, if not for the random bits of comedy that carried into each scenario. The pacing was fairly good and it displayed each couple fairly evenly as the episodes progressed, with some variety to the situations they faced in their everyday lives. Somewhat unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of crossover between these characters until much further on, which would’ve tied the whole school together instead of isolating all of these incidents and characters as though they controlled the universe they inhabited. The charm of the progression these characters have into becoming committed to one another mostly made up for it.

And once the series pairs (almost) everyone up, it decides to slow the pace down to near unbearable levels. For the love of God, one couple was close to having sex in episode four, and then the rest of the series they don’t even kiss (seriously) no matter how hard they try? What kind of logic is that?! It seems that once the couples have been established, it’s smooth sailing to the finish line. Like skinning a potato like lightning, only to flop it right on the pan to heat over a low flame. At least these couples are established, sure. At least these couples progress further than hand-holding (usually), sure. But if that’s the cutoff where writers think that’s all people want, that’s naive.

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You know what would’ve been a really interesting plot to follow? Imagine the couple in episode four really did have sex. What would happen with them afterward? Would they carry on like normal? Would they try to create an image of superiority to hide how awkward it probably was? Or working with another angle, what if one of them (likely the male) really liked it, and they continue to have sex quite a bit, and then the one not enjoying it so much feels as though that’s all the relationship is to their partner. Doesn’t that sound relatable? Like your partner is just in it for the physical benefits? I praise Tsurezure Children for taking a step forward with its progressive take on young romance, but I’m also criticizing it for not continuing their path to trendsetter status. It doesn’t work if you have cold feet halfway through, which is notable with the second half of the series.

I enjoyed most couples, such as Ayaka and Takeru, though a few travel the line of “Waiting for the inevitable” a tad too uniform for my taste. A girl who doesn’t know much about love. A boy who loves her. She’s completely oblivious to his advances. As the series progresses, she begins to understand love, and now the boy who’s too scared to take the initiative (because of course he is) is inhabiting her mind more and more, and she can’t figure out why! I wonder how that’s gonna end… Situations such as this appear sporadically throughout episodes, though are more prevalent in the second half. Even without the clichés of romantic development, many of the couples have their own niché when it comes to their development. One misunderstands the other until they actually make their intentions clear. And… Well… Actually… Yeah, that’s about it. One person misunderstands the other until they make themselves clear, and then they love them more. Okay.

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While I admire the look and presentation of the anime, its animation is actually rather mediocre. Almost every episode has a noticeable frame jump that defies reality, and movement isn’t nearly as smooth as one would see in, say, Shingeki no Kyojin. Some of the more “intimate” details of characters’ bodies are only ever emphasized if they’re focused on, while from far away don’t always match how they look up close. What is praiseworthy is that most characters look actually different, with different styles of eyes, hair, and facial structure to differentiate person to person. It adds more to that whole “universe” of characters that inhabit the school (that I really wish they’d take more advantage of!); revealing differences in physical appearance, yet similarities in morals and values.

Something I would absolutely recommend if only for the eleven-to-twelve-minute runtime per episode, resulting in a much more convenient marathoning experience. The quality of the series, despite the general amount of praise, is mixed for me, as the later portions of the show tend to overinflate the filler instead of actual development of characters or their relationships. I enjoyed it enough, but it starts and finishes in a way that leaves the viewer feeling unfulfilled. Should the series continue with a sequel season, this may not be so much of an issue. Regardless, it’s cute and cuddly, as well as an encouraging foray into the relatable world of romance that most anime series never dwell on.

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

Early Impressions: New Game!!

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Four episodes in, I almost miss the first season.

Now, it’s been more than half a year since I watched New Game!!’s debut season, so my collective insight on the ins-and-outs of the series may not be as I remember. All I seem to hold on to is that this second season feels a little more… serviced than its predecessor. Good things may be lying in wait, but was there ever so much fan service in the first season? Not just in conveniently-angled shots that showcase characters’ assets, but the sort of behavior that is considered very, very moe. Thinking about it, all of these characters are moe to some degree, and a third of the way through this season, the series seems determined to flaunt that. Though encouragingly, there is some degree of inner conflict with characters who didn’t receive a ton of development in the first season. Only issue is that some are resolved quickly.

More than anything, the essence of a sequel is something I’ve discussed to varying lengths before, whether in anime, movies, or video games. A sequel should seek to improve upon what came before, or allow a different direction to take place that still holds its own within the context its predecessor designed. New Game!!, so far, feels as though its meandering around its potential for the sake of character cuteness.

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Why is Aoba’s friend suddenly into game design? Why is the Eagle Jump company that the girls work for only taking in young, beautiful women? Why is it that so many young, beautiful women are suddenly within a realm where young, beautiful women design video games and sleep within their office space without pants on and flirt with one another. Why are all of these women conveniently different in personality so to blend with one another in a dysfunctional family-esque environment where they must learn to deal with each other’s quirks? Why am I bringing all of this up? Evidence; there is a disconnect from reality that this series has that makes it feel somewhat artificial. How everything comes together so perfectly, so succinctly exploitable for fan service, makes its attempts at serious development feel too self-indulgent. The best of both worlds is so hard to capitalize, such as with my wavering thoughts on Mahoujin Guruguru.

Even with my stabs at its moe nature, New Game!! offers more than the average Urara Meirochou. At least it’s doing something with its characters past the benign standards of archetype development. At least it’s allowing for the motive of self-improvement to take the forefront when the serviced charm wears thin. While inner conflicts resolve somewhat quickly, they’re there, and to some extent that’s all one can ask for. Thus far, it’s worse than its predecessor for reasons relating to its balance of serious development of characters/plot (whatever it may be) and close-up booty shots—at least I think so. What it all amounts to in the end is an above-average show.

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Though I’ve noticed, perhaps because I’m more actively looking for it, some fluctuations in animation. The overall design, which is still absolutely spectacular for its moe undertones, holds its own yet again. Although, animation can be shaky from time to time. Nothing incredibly noticeable, but aside from highly-detailed booty shots, basic mannerisms come across as too sketchy. Moving in just the perfect amount of delay to make things feel a tinge robotic. Easily ignorable, for those who wish to do so.

If Made in Abyss is current MVP of the season, this show would be LVP—though not by much. Only that the magic contained in the first season that made it so enamoring to watch is fading fast. For the first time, despite looking forward to watching this sequel season, I felt bored going through some episodes. Perhaps it is the artificial nature of the anime’s absurd setting that finally feels too noticeable to ignore; unfortunately, I value realism more than most in realistic settings. Should New Game!! employ a “Why are there so many girls running a video game company? That’s weird!” without making it sound like an obnoxious preaching from the cronies of social justice, I would find the setting more natural to take in. However, even stating that desire opens up a can of worms I’m not about to put my stake into.