Wholesome Versus Profound – One of Many Personal Predicaments

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I may just turn this into a series of posts to come out periodically; a collection of things that I find within indulging in visual media that have become popular think pieces for me over the years. This post’s topic is something that plagues me—and likely many others—on a regular basis. (more…)

(Very) Early Impressions: Basilisk – Ouka Ninpouchou

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Three episodes in, I don’t even know how to really describe how unnecessary this feels.

Basically, the folks behind Basilisk, written over ten years ago, decided they wanted a Boruto-styled sequel series involving the children of the main duo. This makes absolutely no sense considering the ending of the original series, but I won’t get into that. Thus far, there isn’t anything particularly good about the series, but I think its average rating on MyAnimeList being close to the lowers depths of score hell is a little exaggerated, and biased. (more…)

Tekkon Kinkreet Review

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Something to admit outright concerning Tekkon Kinkreet is that its approach to storytelling is incredibly straightforward and uninspired. Its manner of trying to encourage the viewer to pay close attention to detail flashes signs of other films that came before it, especially within the last fifteen years or so. To some extent, it almost feels American, which becomes more apparent when one knows that the director behind this film is, in fact, American. While some are more than willing to excuse this, others won’t have the ability to fully empathize with the outcome because of it.

What makes it a little more than meets the eye is its (usually) stunning animation. Many times throughout the first few scenes within the setting of Treasure Town I was enthralled by how fluid, how realistic everything dazzled on-screen. It felt like a true and blue film, with the perks of having full control over the project’s structure. Stylistic choices are fairly divisive as they are, with characters appearing more human and fairly rigid in their anatomy, a far-cry from the typical anime style of large eyes and pretty women. It’s a gritty, yet magical attempt at creating a world both like and unlike our own, with a touch of fantasy to a cruelly realistic environment that shines brightly in its darkness.

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There’s something wonderfully human about this film that fascinates one’s curiosity, with a lot of attention going into human ordeals. Despite the tepid display of sci-fi and extraordinary elements, the real spectacle is one that underlies it all to contain the basic necessities of the human condition. Images of fire, aliens, flying children, and vivid daydreams persist, only to be struck down in importance by the idea that all life should find happiness in their own way, whether through positive or negative activities. If only Tekkon Kinkreet had the focus to make the film more than just another one-dimensional story.

Indeed, there is a lot to like in terms of storytelling through animation and character introspection. What makes this frustrating is that that’s all there really is to the film. Characters’ situations can be empathetic, but not so much that one is crying from their pain, cheering for their accomplishments, and riveted with their onscreen presence. They all, in some degree of affirmation, suit a single role they’re meant to play; the old nostalgic, the changing man, the light, the dark, the sin of everything before. All of these things add up into a single message of good intentions in addition to a number of one-hit symbolic jabs. Its value doesn’t quite hit the spot of emotional tranquility it tries to pursue with each passing line, lines which hold the key to understanding the images that accompany them.

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Fortunately, it has everything one could possibly need to follow comfortably: a decent major cast, intriguing visuals, and a lovely story. Containing heart may be all that’s necessary for this film, as the structure and flow come off as somewhat artificial. Not to mention, the imagery and its presentation within the darkest scenes make up somewhat for the semi-dull ordinary sequence of events. Fascinating how the symbolic make-up presents itself with the chaotic whimsy of the film’s dark-ish tone. Even with this, it only eats up a good fifteen minutes of runtime, so while the ending is intriguing, it takes quite a bit of time to build up to it.

One other condition of Tekkon Kinkreet is its inconsistency, both in terms of story and animation. Some scenes have wonderful, immensely fluid animation, while others are shaky at best. At points it almost seemed as though I was watching another ordinary scene from a 2006 romcom, without the destruction of skipped frames. Not to mention, some of the symbolic presentation is either not fully explained or explained to thoroughly. The contrast between Kuro and Shiro (Black and White) together is fairly straightforward, but apart, things that are hinted at with a single line or so become full-blown conflicts of major importance. And when not that, the images of what people are supposed to represent are flashed onto the screen as if to taunt the viewer—”Think! Think, so that you may better appreciate our efforts!” A shakiness illuminates the light of factored quality in one of two ways: fitting two into one, or cutting the two into three and placing the remains among the already loaded one. In layman’s terms, biting off more than one can chew.

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It’s more than a decent film, though I’d hesitate to call it a good one. I was swooned by its messages of good-heartedness and the complacency of its chaotic circus show. My only regret is that I could not try to interpret what may have been left behind by a less-than-proper level of enthusiasm. When I was done, it was done, and the fabric of all that was shown whisked into the chamber of forgotten ideas placed within my moistened brain. Perhaps that may be the most insulting adjective to be held by something so dearly crafted. Tekkon Kinkreet has enthusiasm, but nothing truly worth remembering outside a few key details.

Final Score: 6.5/10

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

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.