Entries from the Dead: Seto no Hanayome

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[Dropped after three episodes.]

There is some tricky context to the arrival of this post. On one hand, I like the idea of doing posts on things that I’ve dropped in the past and explaining why I couldn’t bare to go on with them. However, I still have thirty-six episodes of Aria to finish before writing my thoughts on that, so this is also a shameless filler post. I’ll admit before going on that this post won’t analyze Seto no Hanayome in its entirety—thus making it somewhat short—seeing as I dropped it after only three episodes and it’s been nearly five years since I’ve done so. But the prospect of bringing this series back up after so long could provide some more clarity not just to me, but others who are to look at my list and say “Hey! How could he drop that?!

Humorously enough, there isn’t much of a comment for this series in my list, either, so I’ll have to try and recall what I thought of this series based on an hour’s worth of footage from five years ago. Clearly, my words on the matter hold full weight.

If I could describe Seto no Hanayome in a single analogy, it would be the comparison to American TV sitcoms. Random, yes, but I feel there’s a lot of truth to it. One of the standards of sitcoms, based on mainstream comedy, is the basis of a lack of communication or context resulting in misery and/or embarrassing situations for a single or group of characters. I (and I’m sure many others) have seen this in a gargantuan number of different scenarios, and sometimes even outside of the sitcom format. Seto no Hanayome, at least its first three episodes, lives off of this. The lack of communication resulting in characters jumping to conclusions, flaring of emotions due to ignorance, and the exaggerated reactions that result from it.

I cannot stand this type of comedy in large quantities.

Anime in general takes quite a bit to make me laugh, as I don’t find a lot of its humor to be all that clever. This makes it all the more special when a comedy does get me to chuckle a few times. This onslaught of one-dimensional humor was tolerable at first, but as the episodes rolled by, I couldn’t help but feel what began as a tinge of pain result in unbearable monotony. The one thing I remember very vividly being slightly funny was the male lead’s strange, homosexual fascination with the female lead’s butler(?). It was different, I suppose.

Aside from that, while I have little basis for this (Call it a gut feeling), I felt the series was treading the line of the typical shounen romance story. Lots of small, tender interactions between the main couple crowded by interference from the female lead’s overprotective father and various extraneous circumstances that take up a good chunk of the anime’s run. This medley of misadventures eventually becomes more dark as the final episodes roll by as the male lead has to show himself to be capable/willing to take the female lead’s love in the face of adversity.

For anyone who has seen this, am I right? Or am I mostly right? Kind of right?

I think those two points are the major reasons as to why I didn’t care for the show, but who’s to say I won’t pick it back up eventually? It was by no means horrible, just not something I felt was worth my time, even back when I found things such as Nyan Koi! as worth my time. To those familiar with the franchise, with this post in mind, should I pick it back up? Or am I right in assuming it eventually leads to where I expect it to? Thanks, as always, for reading!

Thoughts on ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka

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Why, yes, bartender. I would like my drink only slightly shaken, with far more stirring than necessary. Also, I request a fair amount of bread. Not any bread, but bread that would look so nice that it distracts from the rest of the scenery. No, this is not for a bake sale I just need really nice-looking bread. Don’t look at me as if my priorities are obscene! I’m simply following orders. Do not waste my time any further.

Here we have an example of “slow, but steady.” An anime that takes its time saying what it wants to say and, in the end, not saying much. Never once does it inspire with the length of passion as one Martin Luther King, or, on a more negative perspective, Adolf Hitler. Though intriguing as it may be intrinsically to the mature or level-headed mind, it lacks the emotional triumph that many within the same field incorporate to make the experience more worthwhile. In the most simplest of phrases, ACCA is political drama (a term used loosely) for the sake of political drama. Because anime really needs more political dramas, yes?

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First real issue throughout its run is the incorporation of its episodic approach, featuring one or two normally recurring characters traveling around various parts of their country. A number of different perspectives and characters are shown, though the one of most dire importance is Jean Otus, a cool, quiet man in his thirties (a rarity in anime). His travels initiated by the peace-bringing corporation he works for are a very valid excuse reasoning for the world-building present within the anime. His job requires him to audit the neighboring countries and peek into their worldviews and daily lives. Should people care to take this at face value, the show should appeal to a much broader audience, but only in that circumstance. I, for one, could hardly bother to remember the drivel by the next episode.

Characters themselves vary in importance, but manage to make the most out of an important prospect of the genre by remaining consistently tolerable. Jean, and perhaps his friend Nino, are cause for most of the entertainment. Despite his aloof nature, he makes for a relatable “knows more than he shows” persona, one that has him stand out without showing off. Though different as it may be, he’s not one that will enthrall all, as he’s fairly one-dimensional, saying hardly a thing without being directly spoken to. His gazes and quick actions are what bring his character to life, always suspecting and investigating the things most wouldn’t think to notice. Nino brings out a tad more of his human side, complete with fuzzy emotions and friendly banter. His presence within the show is distilled in mystery, which may prove more fascinating than his character, but there’s more to him than meets the eye.

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That’s all that can be said, however, as most other characters serve their point within the narrative and nothing more. Should they happen to fall within the audience’s preferred model of personality, they’re watchable, and only such. Most are simply used as plot devices, or foreshadowing, or to further cement an established theme. Notable examples are Jean’s younger sister, high-ranking members of ACCA, and the “fool” prince. The prince wishes to disband ACCA, because reasons. High-ranking members of ACCA obviously don’t want this because it puts them out of a job and may cause an uproar within the country. Jean’s little sister has no importance to anything. Even someone who eventually reveals themselves as an antagonist is handled with such a relaxed pace that it can’t help but feel like a mere nuisance.

Remember Kill la Kill? Remember Kyousou Giga? Shows that tell stories, but also prioritize the “oomph” of the characters to carry the viewer along and never give an opportunity for boredom? ACCA is the complete opposite of this. It tells a story, one that is paced and developed well enough, without having the characters provide any sort of spectacle to keep the viewer thoroughly entertained. This is why, despite my own positive impressions, I find ACCA to be rather dull in its entirety. This isn’t to say non-dull things transpire, only the way they’re followed up or built-up to carries the same moderate temperament as damn near everything else.

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To some extent, the art and animation of ACCA is a mixed bag. It features a gracefully simplistic style of drawing that makes the show feel correct for its tone and genre. It also allows for food to look splendid. The opening paragraph was not some random gibberish; ACCA adores showing food in a more heavenly light than its characters. As an overweight individual trying to attain a certain skinniness, this didn’t help me much. Unfortunately, ACCA seems to take simplicity to the bank, as I found a number of shortcuts that relished a sort of lazy atmosphere that could only be found in such gems as Lamune. Characters no longer having faces from far away, backgrounds having no distinct detail, and characters’ extremities appearing out of nowhere into a frame. These are but some of the animated issues that plague the anime, particularly within its second-half. A strange correlation with the decreased amount of orgasmic-looking food.

Points received for trying something relatively new and going through with the plan of slow and steady winning the race. ACCA has potential as a riveting political drama with an emphasis on world building and a dry sense of perspective. It feels real in the sense that not a lot of blatant outrage or unrest results from those only harboring small ounces of resistance from the monarchy. Thing is, with characters being about as charming as paper and not a lot of distinguishing characteristics compared to, dare I say, live-action political dramas, the anime finds itself within a deep hole of its own device. Plenty of ore and valuable treasures lie within, just without the means of escaping with anything in-hand.

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

Day Seventeen: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (MotM 2017)

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Is it a meme to claim that Monty Python in general is overrated? Nevertheless, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is one of the most beloved films of the franchise. It’s created a number of memes and quotes that, even out of context, are fairly humorous. Even those who have never seen the movie once are sure to know that the film is never serious, and never takes itself seriously either. A type of comedy that’s far different than the American standard, it relishes in the whimsical absurdity it concocts with every scene. However, this is all one can expect, and with that in mind, there’s not much to say.

The Holy Grail makes fun of medieval things. It makes fun of chivalry and heroic conquests of epic bombast. It makes fun of the common tropes that come with epic action/adventures. And it delivers them with such enthusiasm that half the jokes run on for far too long. Commitment, they’ll call it. Committed to running down on time, I suppose. It truly is a specific taste for comedy, and while some will claim that it’s the wittiest and sharpest writing this side of early aged Europe, that sort of expectation is sure to make something as subjective as comedy falter. There is some credit to what kind of humor the film harbors, as it’s fairly varied in some regard, but ultimately, it doesn’t make for a hearty “LOL.”

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There’s a good runner-up term that indicates when a film isn’t exactly funny, but charming enough to be memorable. “Quotable.” No, quoting the term “quotable” isn’t a double-negative that nulls its effect. The Holy Grail is a very quotable movie, which almost works better for the truly zany moments during its span. Certain scenes are funnier than others, while some serve as filler for better things to come. Unevenness is the name of the game when all sorts of jokes are thrown with every other line. There’s use of fourth wall breaking, playing characters for fools, even animation is incorporated to good use. It all accumulates into a rather entertaining experience, but nothing truly worthwhile. Though this fault is my own, as I have a certain set of priorities with films, many of which The Holy Grail scoffs at.

For me, this film was a mindless watch, something as a means of baseless entertainment. I had no expectations because in a ridiculous parody film, one shouldn’t. I simply watched and allowed myself to be entertained. Was I? To some extent. It had its moments of genuine ingenuity and some characters shined within their roles. For the most part, the performances were spirited and perfect for the nature of the genre. If not for the varying degrees of long-running spiels, the film would’ve made for an eternally amusing piece. Forgive me if I type as though I’m disappointed in the film by means of lost potential. The Holy Grail makes use of any and all potential within the genre it resides in. It just didn’t tickle me in the same way as others did, particularly films by Mel Brooks or Kung Pow.

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Just because I didn’t care for the comedy doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. The thing is with parody is that it’s fairly straightforward most of the time. If the art of parody doesn’t amuse you, there isn’t much else to hold onto, as just about every aspect holds true to that art. Whether it be story, characters, humor, performances, sound, tone, etc. Everything directly ties in some way to parodying a certain prospect. I appreciated the quotability of the film, though not the type of comedy—well, most of it. It’s recommendable on the merit that it employs a number of different styles that could possibly have a very strong hit for certain people. Plus, it’s nice to find out the origins of such classics as “It’s just a flesh wound.”

Final Score: 5.5/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Thoughts on Subete ni Iya Girl

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Obviously, when someone sees a synopsis for a story about a middle school girl with an arrow through her head, they’re required by law to give it a shot. Though, I’m American, so I’m not sure this law spans across any other country. Despite the silly premise, there’s an air of realism that surrounds the opening chapters. A clear introduction is presented and the major characters, the girl with the arrow and the boy interested enough to pursue the girl further, exchange a relatable tension between normalcy and absurdity. Clear intentions are made to establish the introduction of an intriguing backstory of a girl just within the boundary of lunacy. Unorthodox, sure, but it works for what’s presented. And once the chapters begin to find a rhythm, the writing shows how spoiled it really is.

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There are times when manga can be silly. Notable examples come from the parody genre, with titles like Onidere or Fujimura-kun Mates. I think they’re parodies, anyway. These two titles and others have a tendency to completely subvert the expectations of the viewer by making random or wacky situations seem normal. Things like melons coming to life to sprinkle salt upon the noses of newborn children (I made that up, but I wouldn’t say it’d never happen in manga), only to have the major characters stop them. Subete ni Iya Girl, or The Hating Girl, is another one of these stories, though one wouldn’t be able to see it at first. Indeed, the opening chapters of Hating Girl are rather normal, outside of the obvious arrow-themed jokes, with a pragmatic approach to humor and character interaction. It isn’t until twenty to thirty chapters in do the situations become more than “daily school things.” It is also at this point where the manga becomes nearly intolerable.

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Humor is very subjective, understandably, but Hating Girl tends to appeal to the lowest common denominator, complete with a buffet of sex jokes and random obscenity. A majority of the aforementioned “spoiled” writing takes place within the humor. Things that would never, ever happen in real life are taken advantage of within the lax universe of Hating Girl, providing an unfunny plethora of filler chapters that don’t mean anything. Really, does a chapter dedicated to two random characters enticed with the idea of feeling the female lead’s breasts mean anything? There’s too much of an emphasis on the unrealistic possibilities presented for humor to have the reader care about the occasional bouts of character development. Yes, there’s an effort to make these characters relatable and multi-dimensional, in-between chapters dedicated to the female lead accidentally giving the male lead a handjob. That statement is only slightly exaggerated.

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If the humor were better and served more of a purpose to each chapter, Hating Girl would definitely be more enjoyable. With the imbalance of humor type and the characters being nearly literal walking misunderstandings, it makes it hard to see it as an impactful story. It feels more like a draft, a sort of sandbox style of writing that it may serve better without an overarching narrative. If not for the dramatic moments dealing with the female lead’s past, that may as well be what it is. The manga is unsure of its strengths and weaknesses, with its rapid-fire changing of moods and scenarios, doing whatever it can to mix things up… without actually mixing up the sexually-tinged humor. There’s even a chapter dedicated to making the female lead into a live-action girl!

The art isn’t anything to write home about, either. A lot of the characters have weird looking heads, ranging from bowling pin-like to completely round (something that’s joked about). The style of facial features reminds me a tad of a poor man’s Akira Toriyama, with slanted eyes and similar pupil styles. And noses exist. It, like many other manga, improves its style over time, but never to the point where anything outside of exaggerated faces are anything to the point of attractive. One will likely have no trouble getting used to it, but at no point was I really amazed by what I was seeing. It’s rather ordinary, if not a little off.

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This ended up being short than I anticipated. There isn’t really much to say about Hating Girl, it has its negatives and negatives. Very little positives. There’s some effort into making the story feel alive and relatable, especially when delving into the history of the female lead’s arrow, but it’s too swamped by unnecessary cockteasing and incredibly awkward sexual humor. With one last note worth mentioning, the characters are more oblivious than the standard harem male lead—to the point where they’ll immediately assume one thing and do nothing to try and collect more information despite it happening on multiple occasions. If that isn’t enough to scare one away, The Hating Girl won’t likely be The Hated Girl.

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

Thoughts on Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!

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I had heard a lot of positive press for this anime while it was airing, but never really took the time to learn more about it. All I knew was what the premise had shown: a shut-in otaku gamer randomly dies and is transported into a fantasy world with the aid of a goddess named Aqua. I wasn’t aware of the satirical nature of the show until just recently, when I came across the title on a fellow blogger’s list of good comedy anime (which I would absolutely recommend you check out). I had a residual interest in watching the show for myself, but seeing it placed so far up on his list was the push I needed to try the series out for myself.

Now, initially this anime reminded me of another parody anime: Ore, Twintail ni Narimasu. The key difference between these two titles is the starkness of their parody styles. Twintail took a subtle approach to its parody, in which it presented a number of incredibly ridiculous things and went along with it as if they were the most logical things in existence. I will admit that the parody was completely lost on me and I rated it accordingly so. What Konosuba does is make its parody incredibly obvious, turning the otherworldly tropes completely upside-down. None of the characters are particularly talented, the “adventures” are never completed with any sense of finality or finesse, the characters care for one another, but care in a way closer to that of the family from Married… With Children, and the humor is primarily trying to break the expectations of the viewer based upon the situation. This type of humor is the difference between others of its genre. It is, in fact, the only difference.

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One will know from reading my entries on anime that I absolutely loathe any sort of tired cliché. Konosuba takes these clichés and openly mocks them, executing at a level on the opposite side of the spectrum to continue the plot forward—or in this case, keep the plot planted at square one. While this is fun and dandy for some, to say that this style of parody makes the anime better than others of its genre is debatable. Sure, they partake in clichés and predictable formulas, but the only thing Konosuba chooses to do is parade those clichés around and flip the destination. It is, essentially, the same one thing, only on the other side. It’s like changing from far-left to far-right on the political spectrum. I prefer to have my flavors balanced, so that it can give me a variety of different looks and feelings as the anime plays out, rather than have me expect the outcome to be the opposite of what I would normally expect for the sake of comedy. While I’m not discrediting Konosuba‘s creativity, I feel they could’ve done more had they focused on fleshing out the story and the characters while also continuing to incorporate said satirical humor. Instead, they focus solely on the satirical humor, which leaves me feeling either unsatisfied or uncaring altogether.

Even with the opposing nature of the show, the story has that sort of creative charm to spark the viewer’s interest. While it’s not entirely gripping, I found myself entertained with the environment and set-up of the fantasy world the characters are trapped in. However, this only lasts for the first few episodes or so. Once it reaches the fourth episode or so, it takes upon a more slice-of-life type of linearity that devolves into a “monster of the week” formula with occasional doses of filler and fan service fodder. Again, fairly entertaining, but not exactly brain food. By the end, it feels almost like the anime indulges itself a little within the clichés it tries so hard to slander, but immediately goes back to the same “Short end of the stick” humor the male lead has to go through thanks to his hasty decisions. The story is almost like a broken record with a hiccup near the end.

Story is not the drawing point of an anime such as Konosuba. That honor goes to the characters, who are blessed with appealing designs and wonderful voice acting. Indeed, I turned up my volume for this anime and found myself enamored with the range of the voices accompanying each of the characters. Hats off to Aqua’s seiyuu, Sora Amamiya, for the MVP award. Gloss aside, the way the characters behave can be a trickier slope to climb. If you enjoy characters who behave one way, and typically never stray from that one personality type, you will enjoy the cast of Konosuba. The characters have their one joke and the jokes made by their behavior will continue to leapfrog itself until the very end whether you like it or not. Explosions suit your fancy? We’ve got it. How about a hardcore masochist disguised as a holy crusader? We got that, too. And a goddess who is useless at everything aside from thinking of herself? The main course.

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All of these characters are (thankfully) balanced out by the male lead, who does a wonderful job of not being a typical male hero. The most abundant change in dynamics of popular clichés within the genre is that the male hero is willing to fight with his female cast. He is willing to chastise them for being stupid, think of himself before them, and showcase how an actual, logical human being would react to being grouped together with a bunch of weirdos. The male hero might actually be my favorite character, simply on the basis that he’s a snarky asshole. But he’s got a good heart to him and comes through when it counts. He seems to me like the only developed character of the bunch, and for that the series becomes all the more relatable. For those (like me) who grew tired of Aqua’s whining, Megumin’s explosive dialogue, or Darkness’s penchant for random sexual dialogue, the main character’s reaction to all of it is enough to keep the group’s appeal light enough to find the exit of the darkened path.

The series did enough to get a giggle out of me every once in a good while (I couldn’t help myself when the male hero unleashed his sexual prowess), but overall I found the humor too one-dimensional to be consistently funny. It relies heavily on parody and breaking expectations to tickle the funny bone to the point where the actions become predictable. Things are going well, they won’t stay that way. The characters brag about their abilities, but then become useless in battle. The main group is awarded with a cash reward, only to pay it back tenfold in damages. Things like this are what to expect from a series like this (along with realistic reactions to absurd things). Chances are, if one enjoys the humor of One Punch ManKonosuba will be an appropriate fantasy choice. Otherwise, it won’t allow you to use any popular acronyms to express its hilarity.

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I’ll admit that I’m easily charmed by otherwordly designs. The apparel of wizards and knights and merchants are far more interesting to me than high school uniforms. Something like Konosuba is sure to draw me in through aestheticism alone, regardless of other factors. The characters look fresh and clean and offer a wide variety of different facial expressions, outfit changes, and colors that pop to signify who the important characters are. Design-wise, the anime is very nice, but animation fluctuates in quality quite a bit. There are times when expressions don’t look too noticeable and faces become distorted when shown in ordinary conversations. I never noticed anything too distinct in terms of movement, but a lot of movement was for the purpose of comedy, so they get away with it to a degree. The animation really shines when the use of magic is occurring, looking like something straight out of Sword Art Online. It dazzles and gives off an atmosphere that the show isn’t just trying to make fun of its own genre. But it still is. Despite Megumin’s long and seemingly meaningless chanting, her explosions do look and feel rather impressive.

My expectations were fairly mixed going into this anime, and it didn’t disappoint on a part of the level of parody. Quality, however, fluctuated considerably and I found myself more loathing the one-sided direction than anything else. Characters, story, and the way they interacted with one another had an adverse effect on the way I felt about Konosuba, almost similarly to the way I (still) feel about Twintail; an anime too held up by its own satirical whimsy to give a thoroughly engaging anime worth watching. Parody is a fine genre in moderation, but going overboard with it, like most things in life, drags the entire body of work down to a level that’s hard to recover from. There’s always the chance that the second season will do more than use the male hero as the butt of all of its jokes, but I wouldn’t expect anything to come of it until it happens.

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

Thoughts on Kiznaiver

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If you’re someone who likes THE POWER OF EMOTIONS, you will definitely like Kiznaiver.

The mighty Trigger, the studio responsible for instant classics such as Kill la Kill and Inferno Cop, have come forth with another original work in the form of Kiznaiver, a series about seven kids who are joined together by a scar that allows each of them to feel the others’ pain. The best part? It’s all involuntary. The audience gets to watch as these members are kidnapped and tormented with tests pertaining to their new “ability” in order to grow closer to one another, despite the intentional choosing of seven completely different personalities.

The premise is deliciously noteworthy and the studio behind it has a tendency to go crazy upon execution. It has enough of a push to make anyone curious. Unfortunately, Trigger seemed to have tied their own hands behind their back, as after the first two episodes, the series becomes slow, tedious, and lacking in the energy that Trigger has shown to have in the past. In fact, it almost becomes the opposite of what Trigger series normally has. Broody, dark, serious, and oh, so angsty. I would almost go as far as to say Kiznaiver is “emo entertainment.” Lots of screaming, crying, questioning the impact of emotions and friendship on other people, and lots of confessions and dark desires. It’s a perfect blend of everything that makes pre-teen scene kids want to go on Tumblr and write cryptic poems about their horrible lives.

Moodiness isn’t always necessarily a problem, though. If the pacing is good, the characters are deep, and the situation is right, it could make a very powerful viewing. Kiznaiver has none of these. I’ll say right now: Kiznaiver should’ve been a two-cour series. With only twelve episodes to work with, and a premise as monumental and world-changing as the series tries to build it up to be, and the giant cast of characters, the pacing becomes sonic speed. It is rushed, rushed, rushed. The first few episodes introduce the concept of the Kizna system, which allows a group of people to feel each other’s pain, then tumbles into a slice-of-life/dramatic character study for… a few of the characters among the main cast. I can see it, the assembling of a much bigger and much more impactful story based around the strength of the characters and their inner passion. But it’s too soon! The focus is too scattered! The development of certain characters take too long! And by series’ end, everything feels random, abrupt, and it ends for the sake of wrapping up a failed project. It’s already suffering, let’s just put it out of its misery.

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Basically, lost potential. So much potential, only to have it poured into a series that isn’t sure what it wants to be or how to convey it. The debut episodes were interesting, but everything afterwards felt like crawling up a bumpy hill without the use of your hands, only to reach the top and immediately spiral downward into a ditch.

Even the art is tame. A specific character named Nico is the embodiment of Trigger’s suppressed creativity and whimsy, and she shows to be the Kiznaiver-equivalent of Mako from Kill la Kill… for a time. Even she falls prey to the overwhelming broodiness of the show’s latter-half tone. It’s sketchy for the most part, and can even come off as pretentious. Lots of images shown that don’t really mean anything or have any emotional impact for the viewer. The characters all look unqiue, but that’s all they really have going for them. It looks like Trigger without the energy. That wraps it up nicely.

There’s not much I can say that’s already been said. Lost potential, through and through. The ending episode was hilariously cheesy and the insistence on exuding emotions to solve the world’s problems is almost childish. The characters don’t feel like they’re ever really together and some of the characters aren’t even really there. The anime plays favorites with its cast. Most of all, the energy and fun shown in other Trigger shows decided to take a vacation. If this is all they can do without it, I won’t be so keen on checking out anything else they decide to release.

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

Entry #6: Hourou Musuko (SoA 2016)

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I learned something watching this series. It’s probably not what you think, either. Those who are “in-the-know” are aware that Hourou Musuko is a serious and realistic representation of transgender kids growing up in an environment that isn’t too accepting of that sort of thing. Though, keeping that in mind, one would think there’d be a little more to it, wouldn’t they?

I didn’t hate this series—just the opposite. I think it’s the best series I’ve watched thus far in the Summer. But there’s got to be something to say when the entire anime felt like one monotonous ride from beginning to end. Now, when I say “monotonous,” I’m insinuating that the mood or tone of the show is barely-ever changing. There are noticeably happy, sad, and uncomfortable moments, but they either last as long as a single scene or dissipate into the gradual horde of emotions that the series settles in for 80% of its run. That “horde” is one of peacefulness, with the inevitable twinge of shame, regret, and guilt most of these characters have building up inside of them. It stays like this for far longer than it should. I, for one, don’t care for a lot of drama when it comes to shows with a “controversial” subject as this one, but one must also pay attention to the other end of the spectrum. Too little drama can dull the impact a series could make either with its message or its atmosphere. That is my biggest complaint with this series: with as much as it could have induced drama to further prove a point, it decides to leave it to inner-character dialogue and an occasional argument between two characters to give it a more introspective and somber tone. Hourou Musuko is almost the very definition of “character-driven drama.”

That being said, the story should be seen as a secondary device to the will of the characters. It follows a core group of middle-schoolers, ones who haven’t quite hit puberty yet, and shows the progress of their development as well as their motivations in life and their desires from one another. There is a boy who enjoys dressing up as a girl. A girl who enjoys dressing up as a boy. With a coincidence as large as this, one would readily assume they’re interested in one another; and they are, to some extent. There is a lot of emphasis on the past and future specifically within this anime. The past is shown to give the impression of bad blood between certain characters and the tools for why the characters feel a certain away about others. The future is highlighted because these characters are only 12 to 13-years-old. They’re going through changes they don’t know how to deal with, and with a few of these characters wanting to jump the gender border, it becomes all the more confusing. There is a lot of meaning going on under the surface with almost every character that it’s wonderful to keep tabs on. I only wonder about the realistic qualities of these characters, as some are as (or more) insightful as young adults in other anime. 12 to 13-years-old? It’s pushing the boundaries a little to me.

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One word to use would be “subtle.” Hourou Musuko is very subtle with its storytelling and its characters. This may explain why the mood is always so viably stubborn, but it also works to create thought-provoking character behavior and a steady dose of curiosity and child-like whimsy. That’s another thing about this anime that can be thrown into the horde: curiosity. Hourou Musuko conditions you to become “comfortable,” in a way, with the prospect of boys dressing up as girls and vice versa. It instills that sense of questioning the social norms and the reasoning behind the way some people are so against that type of lifestyle. In a way, the anime is almost fantasy-like with its storytelling, with the way characters behave and become so supportive of one another, it’s almost like an ideal world where people can be whoever they want to be, despite the consequences (because they’re disturbingly minimal in Hourou Musuko, I feel).

I can’t say that each character within the story is lovable, or in some cases even developed, but they all come across as “interesting,” and you may interpret that word however you wish to. I think there are certain characters that get more attention than others, while some characters only act as the catalyst for evoking certain thoughts or moods of the scene or situation. For those who do receive a nice share of screentime, I found myself enamored with almost all of them. These are characters that strive within a realistic environment that has people tend to hide part of themselves out of fear of being shunned or otherwise. It’s a loving attempt at creating characters that can work within the environment and pull through being better than who they were at the start. It’s amazing how an anime about pre-teens can showcase characters growing older or gaining wisdom better than most anime with characters in their late teens. The intricacies of each person and their commitment to others is astounding. There is so much beneath the surface that one could do an in-depth study and talk for hours without pause.

There’s a certain type of animation that better suits the “fantasy” environment that I mentioned earlier, and Hourou Musuko conveniently has it! It’s almost dream-like in its presentation, with characters appearing bright and the colors of their person blending into a cream-like mixture of soothing serendipity. The environments are awe-inspiring and invoke calmness and even sleepiness after long gazes. I didn’t see any real hesitation with the characters’ movements or actions, while the facial appearances were also wonderfully-suited to the emotions present. It’s a beautiful anime, in a sense, but it only adds to that mood that never seems to want to change. I have no complaints about it animation-wise, but I always seem to come back to that overall tone.

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It’s frustrating to say, but I really want to like this anime more, but the lack of any stable conflict or pivotal climax almost provides a feeling of “That’s it?” by the end. There were bits and pieces, but again, nothing stable or pivotal enough to give the impression that the characters couldn’t go through with wanting to become the opposite gender. It’s already one thing to have people who found the thought disgusting, which there definitely were, but there were so many more people who supported the idea that I don’t see why it couldn’t have been done. It makes me wonder if the author had any idea of how to balance that sort of tension and fear within people wanting to jump genders, and those who decry it, into the story without making it completely melodramatic. Part of me wonders if they had originally planned to do so, but didn’t want to destroy the overall atmosphere Hourou Musuko conveys, which I tend to think makes it lacking in impact and resolve.

I was also somewhat impressed by story’s end, too. Hourou Musuko isn’t just about being transgender. It’s about growing up and realizing the things that are important to you and the courage it takes to keep or strive for those goals. It’s wonderfully-crafted and ultimately satisfying, but could’ve been so much more in hindsight. It’s an anime I would definitely recommend to everyone, but those who don’t care to see something slow-paced and without a lot of (surface) dramatic tension won’t find much to see with Hourou Musuko.

Personal Score: B-

Critical Score: B

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