Fighting the Urge to Overconsume

How do you eat a snack? Do you take minimal, multiple bites to savor the flavor and pace yourself? Or do you eat it all in one bite, size allowing? I tend to fall under the latter situation, and have throughout my entire life. Might be why I’ve always been overweight. Though for the purposes of this piece, I wish to elaborate that this also falls into another unhealthy habit of mine that has recently found itself diminishing the volume of my creativity in recent weeks.

The snack analogy is an easy, quick way to establish what exactly I mean by “overconsumption” in the title. A majority of the time, I take substantial bites out of my food, quickly nourishing myself with the beloved happy chemicals that come with tasting something scrumptious. The same can be said of my daily habits and activities—hobbies, if you will. It is not simply food, but the things that I look forward to in a given day. I consume to high degrees in just about everything. Lately, it has become somewhat alarming.

Continue reading “Fighting the Urge to Overconsume”

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai Series Review – Episode 5

Hello, everyone. Please accept my apologies for being so late with this week’s episodic review of Aharen-san. My laptop troubles have been a consistent theme for the last week-ish, and keeping it alive for even a modicum of time was impossible. However, things seem to have settled for the better, at least for now. Unfortunately, the anime I returned to did not get the memo from the prior episode.

Indeed, we have reverted back into the quality of entertainment more reminiscent of the mediocrity seen in episodes 1-3. Not even an admittedly very cute ending scene could do much for episode five’s overall worth to me.

Continue reading “Aharen-san wa Hakarenai Series Review – Episode 5”

Day Twelve: I Want You Back (March of the Movies 2022)

I don’t anticipate this post being spectacularly long. In general, there isn’t much to say and this didn’t harbor a lot in my eyes as worth noting. We’ll see what happens.

As a bit of personal context, romantic comedies were a preference of mine way back when. I like to laugh and I like to experience the floaty, fluffy niceties that come with love. Unfortunately, both of those things do not come naturally to me. It comes with being deeply cynical. For the twelfth day of March, I decided completely on a whim to go back to those days where I would watch endless amounts of safe romantic comedies. Well, “safe” is more of a buffer; they were generally very raunchy.

Continue reading “Day Twelve: I Want You Back (March of the Movies 2022)”

Day Five: Anomalisa (MotM 2020)

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To this film’s detriment, there was a heavy load of expectations from me going into it. Three film critics whose opinions I trust—for those aware, the three members of the Sardonicast podcast on Youtube—all gave this a perfect 10/10. The only other time I’m aware of this happening was with The Lighthouse, which I also adored. Fully prepared to fall in love once again, my decision to watch this came with the caveat that—even though the reputation was high—deep down, I wondered if it might be too much to ask for. Continue reading “Day Five: Anomalisa (MotM 2020)”

Sometimes the Jump from Manga to Anime Isn’t Worth It

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The winter season of 2018 has provided me with not one, but two anime adapted from manga I had started reading long beforehand. I can’t even remember if that’s ever happened to me once. Hell, I didn’t realize Takagi-san was going to have an anime adaptation until a week before its premiere! I could look forward to two anime I was guaranteed to enjoy because I like the source material. Nothing could go wrong! Continue reading “Sometimes the Jump from Manga to Anime Isn’t Worth It”

Quick Thoughts on New Game!!

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I apologize in advance for how short this post (and likely future posts) will be. I simply want to get it out there before more work in my real life piles up and I won’t be able to update my blog efficiently anymore. Please bear with me.

New Game!!, the second season of New Game!, is much of the same as its predecessor, only slightly worse. Semblances of self-critique and intrinsic motivations presented in the first season felt fresh and lively in the face of anime’s typically mechanical approach to the topic. While it harvested moe tendencies and sexual fan service, it all felt as though it were believable within that context, aside from a few lingering fallacies.

If only its second season could keep the boat afloat with a lot of the same thing, except more motivated on divvying up the character development between a large number of characters and adding more sexual fan service to fill in the bland spots. When focusing more on the cast around the once central character of Aoba, especially when there are so many, it tends to lose the focus on presenting Aoba’s challenge to the gaming world, the intended purpose of the original work. Eventually becoming a character drama (though not that dramatic) for those who bounced off of Aoba, which leads into Aoba taking the role again, only to bounce back to someone else, and then even more new characters enter the scene and they take the spotlight. Deary me, this is all getting so complicated and messy. I don’t even know who to root for.

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Y’know who I won’t root for? “Nenecchi.” She’s got the most irritating voice in the existence of everything, and her character is so naively simplistic in its waxed moe aesthetic that it makes me sick. How convenient that she just so happens to like video games enough to join her equally gorgeous female friend at Eagle Jump, where every employee is a gorgeous young woman. At this point, I’m just ranting about the things that I wasn’t fond of this time around. More of the same, I suppose.

There is some essence of dramatic narrative points, such as Aoba’s ascension as lead character designer in the face of the previous (and incredibly famous/established) lead in Yagami Kou. These were perhaps the more enjoyable/impactful moments of the show, seeing these two duke it out to the best of their abilities, which somewhat highlighted the better portions of the first season. Unfortunately, these moments are far between situations where other characters fuck around and do nothing aside from treating half-an-episode-long anxieties that resolve themselves in no time flat. Even the new characters fall victim to this. They all just need to be honest and express themselves, so that they can become comfortable enough to grope one another and suck on the skin of their collarbones. This doesn’t actually happen, but I wouldn’t put it past them with the insinuations constantly presented.

It is worse, though not so much worse that I didn’t find myself ravished by the dazzle in front of me. Less focused and less polished, it still harbored a lot of what made the first season good. Though, above all, there’s a sense of aloofness that this season provides, where most of it doesn’t really matter in the long-term. Without avoiding spoilers, I can only think of two situations that actually made any difference between the end of season one and the end of season two, new characters excluded. I take that back, three, but it was so aloofly handled that I forgot it happened. Did I even like this show?! I seem so harsh with it… At least this post didn’t turn out as short as I thought it would.

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

Entry #24: Donten ni Warau (SoA 2017)

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(Recommended by Cake-o’s Bakery, completing the recommendation trifecta.)

I really can’t justify making a long, thought-out post on this anime, as something has occurred that prevents me from doing so: next to nothing was retained. Much like the time I watched Girlfriend (Kari) (Yes, I watched that), mere hours after doing so, I forgot next to everything about it. Donten ni Warau may not even be that bad of a show, but for whatever reason, it didn’t click with me. Everything that occurred onscreen either left me bored or indifferent, as every other thing around me served as an easy distraction. This would’ve been a relieving drop, but I really shouldn’t be so picky with those so late in the Summer.

Some things I did end up retaining, fortunately, serve as somewhat of an indicator of what this series is about. A younger sibling wishing to be as reliable as his older brother, ninjas and loyalty, double-crossing, self-sacrifice, Orochi from Okami, and pandering to women. Basically, the standard fantasy anime flick except with lots of bishies. No wonder I couldn’t pay attention. In all seriousness, aside from some noticeable jumps in animation, the design is nice and the effects of the series are serviceable, if not decent. Characters are developed (although in a cliché fashion) and the story is easy to grasp/empathize with. It’s simply done in a way that gets me cross. I can’t really place it. Almost in a Bungou Stray Dogs kind of way.

I’m almost tempted to put an asterisk next to my final score for this, as it probably doesn’t reflect its actual quality. My initial impression upon finishing is almost entirely subjective, that being “I was so boooooooooooored!” and such. Experience, timing, repetition of ideas; whatever the case, this was a much more forgettable experience than I ever would have anticipated.

Personal Score: F

Critical Score: D+(?)

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

Thoughts on Flip Flappers

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(Disclaimer: All following images were acquired via Google.)

When thinking of anime that build themselves to be a visual spectacle of symbolism and intricacy, a number of titles immediately come to mind to the more experienced anime-goer. Kuuchuu BurankoThe Tatami Galaxy, and Mawaru Penguindrum are but a few examples of this rare form of storytelling within the medium. For those parched of these kinds of stylistically animated titles comes an unexpected: a silly little title called Flip Flappers, with two silly little leads named after common kitchen spices.

What is immediately apparent when diving headfirst into the Pure Illusion offered by Flip Flappers‘ narrative is that the series is going for the kill with its animation. Early on, a lot of different environments, color palettes, and character expressions are manipulated into a variety of different tones. Flexibility in animation isn’t so common when compared to the big-name, high-budget products of every season. It’s what the anime chooses to do with these moving pictures that creates an immersive stimulation for the viewer to imagine for themselves. I always find it appreciative of animation studios to go above and beyond the concept of reality in fiction—to create a world where anything and nothing should be expected, creating a constant, unnerving suspicion of what is or isn’t to come with every frame. Of course, animation without any sort of accompanying benefits is just that: animation. It is the depth to the story, characters, and soundtrack that make those shining lights ever-so blinding.

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For a time, Flip Flappers does this beautifully. Creating a world of unlimited possibilities that two unknowing figures explore together with a hesitant whimsy. The amount of situations, areas, and creatures encountered along their journey gives life to the innate desire of exploring to all intelligent beings. While it may not necessarily be the deepest or most insightful of series, Flip Flappers encourages a number of psychological theories to be concocted out of its character roster and focus on visual cues. Not only the beginning of the series, which provides nothing story-wise and opens a vast universe simultaneously, but the series does well in pacing its clues to the viewer through means of foreshadowing and emphasizing character dialogue. It goes a long way to have the viewer follow along with the story at the same pace as the characters while adding a little incentive to pay attention to every scene carefully. Dissecting the story is just as enjoyable as following along without a care in the world.

Oftentimes, however, a story of this magnitude—especially when pushed off for the sake of increased tension—has a tendency to derail itself under pressure. The biggest culprit of this accumulating pressure is time—mismanaged time, to be precise. Flip Flappers does a number of things to keep itself interesting, unique, and energetic in its presentation. What it lacks is resoluteness, the ability to parlay its potential into a grand finale. Yes, like many under the pressure of wrapping everything up without fail, Flip Flappers suffers from a thoroughly bland ending. What makes this case all the more disappointing is that it almost goes against what the series had built up to that point. The subtle glances of character progression, the build-up of a number of different traumatic origins; the final stretch of Flip Flappers steps on all of it to provide a thoughtlessly frank, unenjoyable mess of clichés, good vs. evil situations, and sketchy animation. Perhaps if the writers had no fear of continuation, the ending would’ve been a tad more controlled. As it stands, the series falls short on its immense potential, with a title of “trainwreck” becoming more suitable as the closing credits come to pass.

What I find most notable about the series, whether episode one or episode thirteen, is that the characters are charming in their simplicity, but not endearingly well-rounded. Despite the fondness I had for the energy of the anime or the symbolic treasure hunting, I always had this sneaking suspicion that the characters weren’t altogether interesting. Interesting in how they fit within the plot, sure, but not in the sense that I would want to see these characters have their own stories individually. Only Cocona gets the honor of remaining within an atmosphere of relatability and intrigue all throughout. Her hesitance to go out and challenge herself is incredibly relatable to a number of people. She shows this almost throughout the entire series, and while the ending doesn’t do much in terms of originality, it does get the credit of having Cocona changing from her experiences. Of course, some may consider this a cheap tactic of using something as entrenched in anime as “love and friendship” to its same, predictable use.

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This isn’t to say that the roster of Flip Flappers isn’t the slightest bit enjoyable, as that is far from the truth. Papika and her interactions with Cocona have a sweetness to them, an essence of innocence that detracts from Papika’s questionable origins. Her spirit and lack of a filter is a perfect “opposites attract” pair for Cocona’s quiet, timid nature. Her insistence and pure dialogue make for a lot of endearing moments, as well as a trustworthy voice of reason (sometimes ironically) for Cocona to, in a way, “spread her wings.” My only concern with her is that the viewer isn’t given a clear indication of who she is or why she is, as there is speculation that she may not be what’s considered a “normal” human being. Without this context, it’s hard to take her words as those of a genuine person with feelings, or a robot designed to stick to a buddy to enhance their potential.

Outside of the main two, the interesting characters tend to thin dramatically. Aside from Yayaka, whose origins feel a tad too dramatically moist for my liking, the cast either serves a single purpose, or doesn’t seem to have one at all. If the story isn’t covering Cocona, Papika, or Yayaka (which, thankfully, it doesn’t do often), I find it harder to really care about the events that are taking place. Only the story’s juicy conclusion and the aspect of guessing every image is what keeps the viewer afloat in such cases. There’s a disconnect between the characters and story that varies in its interaction with one another. For the most part, the story is what takes priority, leaving the characters to observe and react accordingly, with very few instances to show their individuality. However, earlier on, the story gives the characters freedom to do just that, only in short bursts. And those involved in most cases are Cocona, Papika, and Yayaka.

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The consistency of animation fluctuates wildly depending on the episode. Early on, there’s a number of different wild scenarios that are blended well to create a mirage of imagination. It suits the worlds and the ever-changing atmosphere of the anime. Design itself, too, is a heavy factor in differentiating Flip Flappers from other series, with a nice highlighting of characters’ eyes and color schemes. I personally really like the character designs and the number of homages to other series that play out in the series’ run, though I wouldn’t consider it the eye candy that others proclaim it to be. There’s an expressive quality that both brings out the creativity of the animation overall and makes it look different (and better) than series of its time period. Almost like a running gag in a Mel Brooks’s comedy, the animation tends to be worse during the final few episodes, almost like a cruel reminder of what the series had become.

There’s a lot of heart to this series that’s admirable to any kind of anime fan. It has the visual depth and diversity that makes it appealing to veterans, and a cutesy, bonding lead pair that draws the more casual fan. Studio 3Hz’s third title shows that the company has a knack of creating vivid and creative worlds, as evidenced by another of their works, Dimension W, but struggles somewhat in finishing with everything intact. For what it’s worth, Flip Flappers is a decent title with 70% of its bulk being more than meets the eye. The one and ultimate fallback to the series is that it can’t save itself from its own atrocious conclusions. Perhaps one could create Pure Illusion to erase the ending entirely.

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

Updated Thoughts on Angel Beats! (Spoilers?)

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I first watched Angel Beats! back in 2013, three years after the absurdly popular anime hit the TV/computer monitors for the first time. I was aware of the massive hype around the anime going into it, letting it fuel my expectations for a modern masterpiece of entertainment and “feelzy” storytelling. Long story short, it wasn’t—and while I was taken enough by what I saw to give it a seven out of ten, I never had a real grip on how I truly felt about the series. Because of this (and the continued development of my hypercynical mindset), as time went along, I found myself more and more confused by the popularity of the show and ended up hating it due to oversaturation and spite. For a couple years now I’ve found every opportunity I could to shit on this show, regarding it as overrated, extensively overdramatic, and hardly worth the attention it gets. However, completely close-minded I am not, I knew that I had to re-watch the series to be totally sure of my feelings for it. Still, I couldn’t help grimace knowing the impossibly faulty mess I would be getting into once again.

It’s almost funny. There are times when I look back on my ratings for shows seen in the past and think to myself, “Why would I ever rate it that high?” More often than not, shows being viewed for their first re-watch are subject to score adjustments. More often than more often, that score goes down or remains the same upon finishing. Angel Beats! is no different here, as it went down a single number. Despite my confidence that the show was sub-par. Despite my annoyance with its popularity. Despite the fact that the story couldn’t fill a plothole to save its life. Despite everything else, I gave this series a six out of ten, which equates to an above-average, if not decent watch. Here’s why:

The importance of the story and its holes is something I knew was bad, and I knew would make the end of the series more painful to watch. What I didn’t expect was almost laughing at the anime’s comedy. Angel Beats! is actually humorous. The comedy has a great blend of slapstick, punny humor, and characters acting bizarre enough to fit comfortably in a bizarre world. Even better than this is the way the characters play off of one another. Y’know what’s amazing in anime? Mean-spirited camaraderie. I love when friends are complete assholes to one another. Calling each other idiots, criticizing their ideas and choice of words, beating the hell out of one another for the sake of dignity and masculinity. But in the end, their bonds are formed by their actions on the (hypothetical or not) battlefield, building trust through sharing a common goal. This anime has a wonderfully varied assortment of characters that bounce off each other like a veteran group of wise guys. It is immensely enjoyable to watch and makes the characters feel wholesome and charming without any need to develop them. Flat as they still may be, at least the viewer can look forward to seeing them onscreen.

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As much as I highlight the holes in the plot, I was also surprised to see that the story is actually pretty decently paced (for a while) and well-structured. Nothing really feels out of place, every scene has a meaning or a purpose. Whether the goal is fleshing out a character, giving more insight to the world around the characters, or simply baseless filler, there’s a noticeable urgency to every little thing. I feel this can be attributed to Yurippe’s leadership, as every day’s a mission for her, which works well in the vein of the anime’s existence and timeframe. It’s amazing how every scene can be done well no matter what the general mood. Suspense and comedy especially are atmospheres that Angel Beats! thrives on. The first few episodes are more than worth watching, and had I not known what was to happen afterwards, I could see myself justifying the original seven out of ten, and maybe even more.

Even so, I knew it would all come to a halt as soon as the last five or so episodes began to play out in front of me. To be fair, with all the positives in play, it’s not that this span of episodes was necessarily “hard” to watch, but it didn’t have that same exuberant energy that it had before. One could also attribute this to a more delicate approach to episode structure, as the “dangerous” and thrilling missions of yesterday are all but fond memories now. The final stretch of this series focuses more on developing the characters to suit the goal of the changed plot, singling out various characters and providing very detailed backstories in the forms of flashbacks spanning anywhere from a few scenes to half an episode. I find this change in pacing a little abrupt, and while I like the characters enough as humorous pawns, to have them suddenly serious and sentimental is more than a little awkward. I was also somewhat surprised to see only a few characters really being developed. Some major characters will obviously see some growth, but others more shown for giggles are left out for the sake of providing more time for others. I am very disappointed that I never got to know more about the legend of TK.

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Halt it did, as the second to last episode is nothing short of a mindfuck. Not nearly the likes of Evangelion‘s final two episodes, but to the point where the script resorted to saying “I don’t know” to half of the questions being presented. It’s easy to get out of explaining everything if you feign ignorance. What is the purpose of their world? I don’t know. Why are things the way they are? I don’t know. Who are you? I don’t know. Who am I? I don’t know. It’s enough to know that the world is strange, plays by the rules of a single “God,” and has a set of rules that can be exploited for the sake of feelings and subconscious desires. Only thing is, when things like this come into play and people wish to have logical answers, it’s impossible, as one cannot logically articulate emotions. How is the world able to detect the highest peak of emotional acceptance within these characters? How are they able to freely choose to move on? How can anyone understand what I’m asking if they’ve never seen the series? That is the power of vagueness. Something this anime uses at its every convenience. The entirety of the twelfth episode was probably one of the harder ones to process. Mostly because it made little sense and offered nothing to the overall story.

There is both a good and a bad attribute about the final episode of the series, one of which surprised me further than I had been all series. The final farewells that inevitably manifest themselves throughout the anime (Need those feels somewhere) are surprisingly poignant upon the final episode. Despite these characters’ varying development, I found myself almost saddened by their final moments together. I suppose its the structure of the story that allowed me to be empathetic of the situation at all times, which coaxed me into believing the bond that these characters had with one another. Specifically, everyone except Kanade. Even by the end of the series, I had an emotional attachment to these characters. That really says something about how the quality of an anime can shine through a preconceived bias. That being said, the quality quickly plummeted through the ocean floor within the last six minutes of the final episode. One of the most abrupt reveal scenes I’ve had the “pleasure” of witnessing.

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One thing I always knew was good, and is still good to this day, is the art direction. Angel Beats! looks like a big-budget movie over the course of thirteen episodes. The eyes have a glimmer of sheen to them that exudes an air of importance. The exaggeration of movement during comedic scenes and overall fluidity is usually top-notch. The number of environments and settings are well-polished and a lovely thing to take in. If there’s one thing I can recommend with this anime more than anything, it’s funny reaction gifs. I’ve seen a few myself, and they’re pretty good for what’s available otherwise. I really like the subtle changes in appearance during different scenarios, whether it be exploring characters’ pasts, change over time, or different attire for the sake of a cause. The anime on its own has a shininess to its palette, but the effort put into every integral scene makes the anime more than easy to sit through.

I underestimated you, Angel Beats!. Your sense of melodrama and numerous plotholes are among the only things that I can find wrong with your entirety. The rest is an enjoyable, fast-paced ride of creative whimsy and structured idiocy. If you haven’t watched it already, I would definitely recommend it. Despite all the flak I give it for being stupid and ending badly, the rest of the series has enough of a distinctive flavor to go above and beyond most other alternatives. I could actually feel the level of strength between watching this and, say, Koi to Senkyo to Chocolate. Almost like sensing the aura of a couple of seasoned warriors. In this case, Angel Beats! would be the young heir to the strongest of dojos; full of untapped potential and vivacity that’s hard to find in other warriors.

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