Quick Thoughts on Demi-chan wa Kataritai: Demi-chan no Natsuyasumi

demi-chan 6

While most people adored titles such as Kobayashi-sanKonoSuba 2, and Little Witch Academia, the surprise hit of Winter 2017 for me was Demi-chan wa Kataritai. I liked it so much that upon finishing it, its source manga material hit my “Plan to Read” list. For the first time in a long while, an anime had left me absolutely starving for more content, exhibiting the kind of curious spirit that makes anime so inherently different from Western media. Soon after the series wrapped up, a sequel OVA was announced, though with my track record of OVA’s, I wasn’t horribly optimistic—after all, OVA’s tend to be extra fodder that don’t mean anything to the grand scope of a series. Of course, when it came time to watch said sequel OVA, as my adoration for the series is that strong, I sighed to myself at how typically it acknowledged my suspicions.

There truly is no reason for any fan of the series to watch this extra episode. Should one be fasting and need a quick bite to recover, then by all means dig in. More than anything, this Demi-chan OVA is nothing but a distraction, or one last farewell before the looming unknown as its anime continuation hangs in purgatory. What it provides is the same spirit of emotional energy through character interaction and exuberance as the parent series, but little of the intricate details that made it such a fascinating series. This particular piece plays out more like a standard harem romcom than it really needs to.

Still, it gave me such a release to be able to see characters I genuinely enjoyed back onscreen after so long. While Hikari and Satou took most of the spotlight this time around, they made enough of their spotlight to provide a base level of entertainment on a consistent level. Plenty of recurring characters also return as a reminder of their existence to the audience, the audience’s will to remember be damned! If this was a safe, uneventful OVA designed to garner more sales, then it’s within the upper echelon of safe, uneventful OVA designed to garner more sales. That is, it’s not recommendable to anyone other than those who truly enjoyed the series.

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

Entry #30: 07-Ghost (SoA 2017)

07-ghost

(Recommended by 100PostsPerDay, completing the recommendation trifecta.)

Instead of ending the Summer on a long, explosive note, I’ll end it the way I feel it deserves to end: lazily, mirroring my own drive at its last junction. Unfortunately, my motivation to stick with the self-imposed rule system of this year’s festivities left me in a weakened state of misery by the end. It felt like a job—this really shouldn’t feel like a job.

With all due respect to Karandi, who may have recommended this to me with the utmost earnest, my hands are too drained to give this series, which ended up being another dull drag, a proper analysis. Instead, the next few paragraphs will only linger upon what the series has left me to ponder upon.

07-Ghost is a lot like Bungou Stray Dogs. It is also a lot like Pandora Hearts, and a number of other series with the same aura to them. Series that are, at their hearts, very serious pieces that typically revolve around fantasy plots, which occasionally employ over-the-top character quirkiness to combat the ever dark tone and feature a large cast of good-looking male characters—some of which are fairly intimate with one another. Not quite bishies, but semi-bishies—male characters with bishie-like qualities. All the aforementioned titles flirt with these characteristics, creating a vibe that feels somewhat foreign to me. It goes without saying, but these titles simply don’t interest me. That much should be obvious with my overall disinterest with both Bungou Stray Dogs and Pandora Hearts.

What isn’t necessarily set is the type of impact these series can have, as while Stray Dogs has a generally negative view in my mind, Pandora Hearts has a more positive image. 07-Ghost is of a similar vein to the latter, though admittedly in a more dull sense. Things that occur, characters that receive screentime, events that occur… all ring very familiar to others of its kind. Not to say these aren’t good on their own, it simply ends up being a little worn by this point. My interest varied between gradual interest and minimal boredom. It at least held my attention.

As such, I’m going with a safe rating. Its quality is understandable for those who wish to follow through, it’s just nothing extraordinary. Nothing I would willingly recommend, but can see why others would. If there was any true enjoyment I received from watching, it was a single scene that reminded me of a skit from The Whitest Kids U’ Know. Absolutely unintentional on their part, but it gave me a hearty laugh. That doesn’t technically count as “an anime making me laugh.”

Personal Score: C-

Critical Score: C

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

Entry #27: Mai-HiME (SoA 2017)

mai-hime

(Recommended by not-so-plain pasta, completing her recommendation trifecta.)

Thoughts will be quick, mostly because there’s little to say.

Mai-HiME is one of those old-fashioned anime that go by a set of clichés to formulate their story and characters. If comparisons can be made, it reminds me slightly of Nadia: Secret of the Blue Water, slightly of older JRPG titles, and slightly of Hanbun Tsuki ga Noboru Sora. It’s light-hearted when it wants to be and tremendously overdramatic when it has to be. Anyone not a fan of a lot of forced sex jokes/misunderstandings (like me) need not apply, though if one is willing to push past this, there’s a whole lot of darker themes lying in wait.

However, these dark themes are not presented in an interesting way—rather, much of this series isn’t presented in an interesting way. When not seriously cringing at whatever mood Mai-HiME wanted to convey, I had my head in my hand, fighting off the desire to close my eyes. It’s so, so, so formulaic that any veteran of the industry would rather be watching anything else that has done the shtick better. It ends up becoming the fatal flaw: there is nothing really unique here, only things that have been done before a thousand times in other settings.

Though this remains so, it’s not without spirit. I was slightly surprised by how certain things arose within the plot, as well as how well-handled the last few episodes were (until the retcon halfway through the final episode). My emotional state through most of the series was flatlined, yet the last few episodes had me intrigued in a way that the rest of the series couldn’t achieve, and left me with a generally good impression. Not good enough to recommend the series, but enough to think, “Hrmm. I could watch this again without wanting to scratch my eyes out.”

Painfully overdramatic, woefully unoriginal, forgettable to a fault; all of these describe the experience of Mai-HiME. Its saving graces lie within the very occasional points where the plot becomes appealing enough to override the level of ridiculousness and angst. Characters and art mean little to how gargantuan a presence the plot has on the entire series, such that everything bows to its influence like a religious idol. When that idol is uninteresting, everything else crumbles under the weight of its expectations.

Personal Score: C-

Critical Score: C-

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

Entry #25: Fate/stay night (Unlimited Blade Works) (SoA 2017)

fate stay night

(Recommended, once again, by an unnamed lurker.)

First things first, allow me to apologize for the lack of posts/anime viewing recently. I took an unexpected three-day hiatus from the Summer to recover from a hefty plate of “irl overload.” Secondly, allow me to apologize again as this post will be short and sweet. My internet is being unkind to me at the moment and I want to keep the anime train rolling without a hitch.

Fate/stay night (UBW) is an overall okay series. Not great, probably not even good, but “okay.” It employs a lot of what one would expect from a fantasy battle shounen with a little extra in the art/animation and narrative departments. As such, the popularity and/or fanfare behind this anime is likely due to everything syncing up in exactly the right way to touch upon the general mass’s love of all things shiny, fantasy, and serious. Somewhat cynical, yes, but when many of the top-rated anime on such databases all employ these scenarios, they tend to blend together, especially to a veteran of the medium such as myself.

Fate/stay night (UBW) seems like something of a follow-up to Fate/Zero’s massive success, taking what they felt worked from the former series to recreate the sequel series originally made many years ago. In this sense, they do a mediocre job, as while the dialogue is still eloquently put and morally gray, they end up saying far too much to say one simple thing. “I am altruistic! Monologue with me as I tell you all about how altruistic I am!” “You are naive! Altruism is dumb! Monologue with me as I tell you why I feel altruism is dumb!” It doesn’t have the same impact that Urobutcher’s writing style allowed in the aforementioned Fate/Zero, but on its own, it still has more charm than many others of its kind.

What surprised me more than anything was how much I actually cared about the characters. Aside from Emiya, because “lead male protagonist” is all that’s needed to describe him, characters have a little depth to them that I wasn’t expecting. Rin particularly stole the show with her constantly changing attitude, cunning, and sprinkle of tsundere archetype. This certainly helped me to follow along with the more intimate details, and I was even more surprised that I started to remember aspects from Fate/Zero as the story continued along. A nice touch to sprinkle in some nods to the previous work. Though Gilgamesh isn’t as… “likable” as ten years prior.

A perfectly decent series worth recommending to people who like the battle shounen genre. It has enough insight to the characters and a typically constant tone that makes it engrossing almost throughout. There’s a little too much emphasis on THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!! and overindulging in dialogue to make it a truly worthwhile experience, but still manages to keep itself afloat on an even basis. I’d recommend Fate/Zero over this, however.

Personal Score: C+

Critical Score: C+

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

Entry #24: Donten ni Warau (SoA 2017)

donten wi narau

(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.

Entry #21: Eureka Seven (SoA 2017)

eureka

(Recommended, once again, by a complex rodent.)

Should I ever do a [REDUX] version of my Top 10 Anime That Crashed and Burned article, this series would definitely make the list.

I’m not sure I’ve ever come across a series that outstays its welcome quite like Eureka Seven. Not that others don’t, but this is a case where its welcome stretches on far longer than most. The last fifteen episodes of its fifty-episode runtime felt like an everlasting gobstopper of suffering. I cannot stress enough how horribly this anime ends, and even its lackluster, happy-go-lucky ending feels like a spit in the face with all the good it had done prior. By itself, there isn’t too much to complain about. The real issue is that it devolves from its former state to satisfy the ultimate clichés of a world-bearing adventure flick full of action, complexity, and THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!!

Simplifying it to its core essentials, the last fifteen episodes does what three or four episodes could’ve done if it had ever just gotten to the point. Eureka Seven is filled to the brim (not just in the last fifteen episodes) with filler, episodes that pass off as something substantial in terms of character development or plot progression, but mean next to nothing to the big picture. The way it’s done is also fairly contrived, courtesy of characters never being honest with each other or themselves and lots of random side-character shenanigans. It feels like, and I type this with as much dismaying irony as possible, shounen. Because it is, very much so, a shounen. Just not the worst kind.

What makes the disaster of the finale so unbearable is that the series has good qualities to it—many good qualities to it. I would recommend this series in a heartbeat if it were, say, cut in half. Trim the series of its unnecessary fat and it could satisfy even the pickiest of consumers. The series plays favorites, unfortunately, but those who are favored certainly get the full front of development, including Renton, Eureka, Holland, and Talho (best girl). Still, many characters aren’t ever truly ignored, sharing screentime every so often if only to showcase their one-note personalities. And the animation! Oh, the animation is splendid, especially for something made in the mid-2000’s. I find the designs fascinating and fairly fresh, especially with Eureka, who looks more than meets the eye. There’s also a diversity of different characters that give something for everyone, even if all of them don’t flourish.

Again, Eureka Seven almost gained a quick recommendation from me, if not for a wavering and cliché-filled ending bunch of episodes. They take an episode to play soccer for no discernible reason, right before a hugely important showdown with the main antagonist… who appears only episodes before. Basically, this series is pretty good until it eventually becomes trash. The end. Too abrupt? I wish this series could be.

Personal Score: C

Critical Score: C+

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

Entry #20: Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm (SoA 2017)

four rhythm

(Recommended, once again, by D.)

I would write a thought-out post on this anime, but I forgot I even watched it about ten minutes after I finished.

Just kidding. Sort of.

A long time ago—back in late 2012—I watched a series called Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi. Even back in my early days of anime-perusing, it was especially notable for being horribly dull and uneventful. Tack on five years to present time, and I watched Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm. It’s especially notable for being horribly dull and uneventful.

One could almost copy/paste a lot of the strengths and weaknesses of Hoshizora and put them here under a different name. The two series share a number of similarities, such as both being adapted from visual novels and involve competitive sports (though Four Rhythm has a larger emphasis on it). Their biggest differences being Hoshizora involves lots of romance and Four Rhythm has sci-fi stuff. On a technical aspect, neither series has any particular flaw… other than being incredibly simplistic in its presentation.

It’s no secret I prefer subtlety over bluntness, however in the case of realistic(ish) settings, I’d prefer a boost of energy or enthusiasm, some way or another. Four Rhythm has a nice introduction, filling in the minor details and introducing the characters and hinting at their inner insecurities. At some point, they begin to develop a formula to go by, mostly involving the primarily female cast practicing and competing in the sport the anime makes up: Flying Circus. The details go like this: it involves people using anti-gravity boots to fly around and touch airborne buoys or slap each other’s backs to score points within a time limit. Sounds cool. It isn’t.

What makes Four Rhythm so dull is that its focal point, Flying Circus, isn’t entertaining. The rules are too simplistic and the strategies put into it are almost never complex. One could literally just zoom around and touch buoys or slam on their opponent’s back for the whole time and that’d be it. Admittedly, the “dogfights” are more entertaining than touching buoys. Rather, I think without the buoys, it could pass off as an intriguing form of aerial wrestling. Unfortunately, this is what we get and it’s pretty bland. Not only with the game, but how the game is shown. Cliché is a nice word to describe the drama attached to Four Rhythm. One could also use phrases such as “Lazy shounen ripoff” or “Typical sports stuff.”

I acknowledge that a lot of what I’m criticizing isn’t really bad on its own. It’s just that there’s really nothing new here, nothing that hasn’t been done before better by other series. And while applause is granted for Four Rhythm’s creativity with its shtick, it just has no… “oomph.” No spark. No pizzazz. Nothing out of the ordinary. Floating around in meaningless existence.

Oh, I guess the animation’s pretty okay. Yeah, I got nothing.

Personal Score: D

Critical Score: C-

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