Entry #22: Sora yori mo Tooi Basho (SoM/A 2018)

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Let’s see what I watched during the Winter season of 2018:

Violet EvergardenKoi Ameagari, and the Basilisk sequel, which I never finished. Two decent shows, but nothing super substantial. I had seen that the show being spotlighted in this post was fairly popular, yet I never remember seeing any substantial hype for it around the anicommunity. Seasonal Prattle wrote one post on it some time back, but otherwise I’m either completely blind or I unintentionally ignored anything about it while it was airing.

I open with this because my question now, after seeing it, is “Where the FUCK have I been?” (more…)

Violet Evergarden: Everlasting Emotion(al Overload)

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While there is no confirmation for this, I have the impression that people come to this blog, read my criticisms, and assume that I am a very cynical and apathetic person. In my past, I can’t argue against this, as the foundations of this blog’s creation was deep within the realm of taking the craft of anime criticism very seriously—which led to a very conscious effort to establish the good from the bad, to be the authority of quality within the anime medium. The early stages of The Visualist’s Veranda, then called Criticism and Thoughts, has the presence of overwhelming cynicism and a tendency to alternate to a mocking, elitist tone. (more…)

Early Impressions: Mahoujin Guruguru (2017)

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Six episodes in, it rekindled my appreciation for occasionally lowbrow parody anime.

Sometime in the lost years of my innate weebness, I would watch an anime by the name of Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo every week on Cartoon Network’s “Toonami” block. Initially, I found the show immensely entertaining, though as it went on I became more interested in “serious” anime, such as Naruto. Hehe. Mahoujin Guruguru reminds me quite a bit of Bobobo, though while the latter’s absurdity overtakes everything else, Guruguru has the awareness to remain both serious and non-serious, with priority being given to whatever feels necessary. The first episode was nearly perfect; introducing things light-heartedly while also establishing the inborn bond between the two lead characters, the only thing that made it better was the satire of classic JRPG scenarios. Needless to explain further, satire is something I can get behind in series.

Normally I would complain that a series mixes serious and non-serious vibes too earnestly for one to be able to take the serious moments seriously. One only need to reread that previous sentence to realize how serious I am about it. Within satire, however, it’s easier to justify, as the viewer is under the impression that a lot of it shouldn’t be taken seriously anyway. Nichijou isn’t technically a satire, so when it tried to develop its characters (in the little time it chose to), it only worked minimally due to the outright bizarre scenarios hogging all of the attention. This also applies somewhat to Guruguru, as it is prone to making serious plot developments within non-serious situations, which makes it lose a little of its magic. Yet, it’s the fact that it tries to deepen the relationship between the two leads and their desire for adventure and fun on a semi-consistent basis that makes it so fun to watch.

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Is the series funny? Not usually. Guruguru has actually managed to make me chuckle twice, which for those who have read my blog long-term know is an accomplishment in and of itself. Occasionally lowbrow humor, much like one would find in a kids’ show (potty humor, especially), is accompanied by anime standards, like the Straight Man set-up and random zaniness pushed to extremes. I actually find my favorite parts to be when the male lead is taken by his lust and constantly halts everything serious so that he can gaze upon the female body with the most grim of expressions. I’ve always been fond of the “seriousness” behind the male’s desire for sexual intimacy in anime. The most I could say is that the series is consistently humorous.

Another consistency is within its design, which is so vibrantly varied (though less so later on, sadly…) that one can’t help but appreciate what it’s parodying. Simple, chibi-ish designs that every so often spur into random changes in aesthetics to emphasize humor. Pixel-animation is also used quite often, which speaks to me on a personal level. Pixel animation is best animation. In-anime text boxes will also spring up randomly, further emphasizing the parody aspect, which altogether makes for a dazzling display of heart within its goofiness. It doesn’t hurt when the general aesthetic for the show is clean and bold, making every character and creature poignantly placed in the world around them. And within the satire genre, it allows animators to get creative with the presentation… while also justifying their need for shortcuts on occasion.

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Should there be one core issue to the series, it’s that despite its consistency everywhere else, the only thing it’s not consistent at is delivery. It’s first episode was magical, and I was ready to crown it MVP of the season right then and there. Since then, it’s floundered a tad, flip-flopping between good and decent so long as the type of humor changes and its serious aspects begin to overpower the satirical nature. At one point, near the halfway mark of episode five (I believe), I was actually somewhat bored, as it was ankle-deep in a muck of seriousness that I didn’t think fit the show. It’s at its best when it uses that seriousness as a back-up option, rather than employ it at the first sign of trouble.

I have high expectations for this series knowing that it’s a two-cour adventure. Quite a lot can happen in that span, and for the time being, it’s used its time wisely enough for me to aptly recommend it. Unfortunately, the manner of decreasing charm is starting to rear itself, so perhaps the heaps of praise is but a precursor to serious criticism. Time will tell. Until then, I will marathon this adventure between light hero and dark mage until it kills me. Pleasurably.

Day Thirty-One: Kara no Kyoukai 8 + 9 (MotM 2017)

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The March of the Movies will end with a purr, as my motivation to continue forth with essentially the same thing day after day has worn me out completely. My thoughts on these two films will be short (one much shorter than the other).

KnK 8: Shuushou

Everything I despised about the long, overcomplicated explanations in a few of the films prior is essentially all that’s here. Some warm moments interlaced doesn’t save it from being literally Shiki’s face with mouth movements for minutes straight talking some psychological nonsense about what is and what isn’t the make-up of a human being. I grew bored within minutes and still they went on for some twenty-five hours, or so it seemed. It didn’t serve much point to anything overall, so I more just felt I wasted a half hour sitting through it. Production values, once again, are what save it from being completely skippable. Also helped with serving some sort of closure, that is until the next movie beat it even in that category.

Final Score: 3/10

KnK 9: Mirai Fukuin

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Emotionally-charged with good balance of character interaction/charm and psychoanalytical jargon? Say it ain’t so! The films prior either did one (way more often) or the other (basically never). It serves almost like a reboot of the series, but with the foundations and development of the characters already established, one can simply enjoy the characters for who they are and how they interact with new characters. Said new characters are pretty standard, but do enough to make the movie a tad more easy-going.

One huge contrast with this film is the general lack of tragic, hostile topics and developments. They still exist to some extent, but not nearly the level of darkness that would, say, open with a rape scene, or end with cannibalism. I, as someone who tolerated the darkness to the point where I almost found it overly edgy, welcome this with open arms. Finally, some variety to the film that helps it stand out, though admittedly makes it a sort of black sheep. It doesn’t have that same “feeling” to it as the others, prioritizing more with the characters than the story, along with harboring the closure that many fans are likely clamoring to see. It’s split up into two parts: one part that shows the events roughly two years after Movie 7, which takes up most of the runtime, and a second part that transports the characters far into the future and is essentially there for closure. People who have clicked the “Spoiler” tab on MAL’s synopsis for the film know what I mean by this.

Initially, I had forgotten that the film was split into two parts, which was why the end of the first part surprised me when it ended earlier than the total runtime. I was wondering what they could possibly show for another half hour, but then I remembered the half hour I wasted to get to that point. Turns out, it’s rather sweet, and almost nothing like anything the series would’ve published under its name. These two parts vary in importance and feature a large difference in cast members, but both serve to compliment one another to some capacity, whether through recurring characters or, as I’ve said again and again, closure.

In a way, this film is basically filler, something to wrap up the series in a way that a majority of people would appreciate. I feel they go overboard ever so slightly, but I’m also picky and overly cynical. The piece is an enjoyable one based on its key differences from what the film series established for its identity beforehand. It’s rather standard in terms of plot, its execution, and character quirks, but it does more with it, instead of letting things fester in nothingness for half the film before getting things done. However, this film has probably the easiest main antagonist Shiki has ever faced. Not a lot of tension, only good vibes and pseudo-drama.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s good because it finally changed itself and did everything else adequately enough to hold itself up. And the end was cute.

Final Score: 6.5/10

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

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

Thank you all for sticking with me this month. I’m going to take a well deserved rest for a little bit, then I’ll be back as if I never left. Until then!

Day Thirty: Kara no Kyoukai 7: Satsujin Kousatsu (Kou) (MotM 2017)

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(Disclaimer: All images were found via Google.)

It’s only appropriate that the latest film in the franchise that I genuinely enjoy comes as a direct follow-up to another film I genuinely enjoyed. Not insinuating these films aren’t direct sequels to one another (though some aren’t), but Part 7 is a sort of continuation of Part 2, hence the “(Zen)” and “(Kou)” within the names. Part 7 is also technically the last film in the series, with the two upcoming films serving as side stories, though still within the realm of importance. One can tell with the sense of finality to the film’s ending scenes that it’s all come full circle. If only it included everyone.

As if it’s expected by this point, production value is a major positive for Part 7. Animation is spectacularly glossed over each scene and the character’s expressions. Choice of instrumentation in the background does very well for the most emotionally charged situations, all accumulating with Shiki’s fight within herself, something that’s been hinted at for many films. It did to some extent with the last movie, but seeing as I was more immersed with the story this time around, the final fight, while not amusingly gory or loaded with an epic appeal, amassed a flurry of emotions within me. Among the first times within the film series where I acknowledged the beauty of a specific scene or situation.

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Something of a debate between fans of the series is the difference in quality between this film and Part 5. The latter has the advantage of sheer spectacle and psychological creativity and intrigue. Characters are more plot pieces than individuals and the bizarre framing of perspectives makes for a very intriguing two hours. Part 7, on the contrary, appeals more to the humanity of its characters and the morality of the situation. It treats the characters as though they manipulate the plot, making their issues and conflict feel more personal and within their control. It also makes the characters feel more alive within their environment, something that Part 5 hardly did. It revealed necessary and interesting info about them, but it never allowed them to simply exude their charisma.

It is this switch in priorities that make the divide between these two parts intriguing, with one focusing on a more apathetic, psychological front, while the other appeals to the emotions and the well-being of the characters. The reasoning involved makes the difference in quality quite appropriate: viewers are likely to find Part 5 more entertaining and technically sound, and Part 7 more affectionately humane. One is likely to find Part 5 the better film, but Part 7 the more likable film. For me, it’s no different. I acknowledge that Part 5 is probably a better film, but I enjoyed Part 7 far more, especially during the second half. What becomes the central issue is how much of Part 7’s more forced arbitrariness one can tolerate.

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Realism isn’t exactly one of the series’s major focuses, but here one could make the case that it’s trying really hard to be both subtle and direct. Bloodshed is also one of the series’s more prevalent identifiers—the amount one survives this time around is a little worrying. Stenches of plot armor fill the scenes to a high degree. Some characters don’t seem to be of any importance, despite their roles in prior films. And for the last time, the male lead’s uppity attitude is still fairly annoying. There’s not a gray fiber within him, it is only good and bad, moral and amoral. God forbid one kills out of self defense. Even so, with that stipulation in place, the final scenes offer an intriguing take on what the characters truly stand for, and how they cope with it moving forward.

Emotionally gratifying as it may be, this is not of its entire body. The second half is splendid in its build-up and highlighting of the characters’ dimensions, along with some signature uncomfortable moods. Prior to it, the film is just build-up of the same degree as films past. People talk, listen, gather information, do some things here and there in a slow, but gradual pace to a tormenting end. A plague to most of the films in some capacity, slow starts are something that make the films a little tiring to marathon day after day.

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Is it the best? Or the second-best? It could be one or the other, depending on one’s preferences and priorities of technical splendor vs. emotional value. I enjoyed Part 7 a lot more than Part 5 when all was said and done, but again, Part 5 had a lot more going for it to make it a longer-lasting experience. I really appreciate that by series’s end (kind of), the characters are the ones receiving the brunt of the importance, rather than trying to fulfill more of the depressing story it adores to overexaggerate. Still, it would’ve been helpful to have the narrative serve far more closure to those outside of the two leads and within the universe that seems still so very unstable. Also, if I may be frank, the ending is just a wee too “Happily ever after” for something like this.

Final Score: 7.5/10

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

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