The autumn anime are about to start in a fortnight’s time so now is a good chance to give my thoughts about some of the summer season titles I watched.
How was the summer season this year?
Nothing spectacular. The spring season featured a lot more better titles that I liked a lot more. Danganronpa was quickly dropped when I purchased the PSP game it is based upon (I want to own more visual novels!).
Dog and Dominatrix, or Dog and Scissors as everyone else calls it, had a scatter-shot and surreal approach to comedy similar to Excel Saga and it was entertaining enough. The relationship between Harumi and Natsuno (who I fell in love with) was endearing without being pervy, the voice acting was good and the way all of the gags were linked to literature and blown way out of proportion really made the show. SHINING! 3.5/5
The Sunday without God was hard to get a handle on. It was beautiful but the overall quality of the writing varied. When it all ended what was important was the emotions evoked. Just watching the music video for the ED makes me remember some of those tender moments.
Comparisons I made in the first-impression to Kino’s Journey were apt since this did turn into a road trip anime which meant we got a variety of stories exploring all aspects, both moral and physical, of life and death in a world which God has fled and people cannot die and children cannot be born.
Unlike Kino’s Journey, the stories lasted longer than an episode and stretched to about three or four which resulted in four different story-arcs that allowed Ai would to solve moral quandaries and discover more about the she lives in. Different story-arcs worked better than others but overall, the anime overcame the dodgy first episode and improved despite a mid-series slump (Gora Academy arc, I’m looking at you!). Indeed, the fact that the stories ended, sometimes quite abruptly, meant you could count on a change of story to help reset expectations. Some arcs defied expectations by killing characters off but then there would be arcs with an overdose of fan-service and moe (Gora Academy, I’m looking at you again!). The feeling I go was that the show was drifting.
Drifting is a good word because this was more like a mood-piece than a thrill ride with a driving narrative. There was a build-up of atmosphere but it was in snatches. There was no real sense of what was going on in the world at large, only in the area a specific story was taking place in. This being an adaptation of an eight volume light novel, there was a lot that could be used for the anime but Madhouse stitched together a series that didn’t have any overarching narrative coherence but created the sense that we are watching the last days of humanity where magic and wishes are possible.
The story sounds dystopian and the anime is definitely elegiac. With settings shrouded in fog and overgrowing vegetation, under purple star-studded skies or bathed in beautiful sunsets, the anime conjures up the feeling that we are in the twilight of humanity’s existence. It is very beautiful to watch. Ai is travelling but with no real goal in mind. She doesn’t really grow as a character like Kino did and she experiences the stories of those around her. It was the various side-characters that helped the world grow because it was through them we got to veins of deep emotion.
The best examples were the final episodes and the predicament of Class 3-4 in its loop world. Ai, Alis and Dee thrashed through the matter of how to shatter the loop and through Ai’s investigation it built up a magical mythology that slowly zeroed in on how Dee’s love for Alis refuses to let the loop end and how Class 3-4 want to retain their innocence. It is a love so powerful and a desire to stay innocent that it is earnest and beautiful while being naïve because it sucks in thousands of other people.
The layers of emotions that built up resulted in final moments where the stakes are so high and the sense of nothingness so awful that Alis’s willingness to sacrifice himself and save everybody created a set of tough choices and the raw emotions are quite moving. It was strong and a reminder that what the show is good at is creating a world on the edge of finality where characters are left clutching to the emotions and people most important to them.
I didn’t love this show but it was beautiful and maybe even a little haunting and I can see it getting a new series. 3.5
Gatchaman Crowds… I guessed this would not be a straight super sentai show and it turned out to be the correct guess because instead of superheroes engaging in bad-ass battles every episode, there was a strange and hopeful message about the power of social media, and more importantly, people learning to communicate and come together as a community. In short, everyone could be a superhero if the good guys crowd-sourced a solution.
The anime went from conventional team super heroics as a bunch of guys in glowing suits occasionally battled aliens that looked like Rubiks cubes to one where a bunch of guys in glowing suits occasionally did battle with aliens that reminded me of the TV guy from Silent Hill 2 for some odd reason (shudders) and martialled the populace of Tachikawa city to unite and save each other from the alien threat through Galax which was a cross between Twitter and Niconico (Japanese Youtube).
Rui’s dream of a world where everyone could be heroes came true only he had to do it by giving everyone power and framing everything as a game with points and reputations on the line. This aspect of the show was well done and even if the final fight with Berg-Katze didn’t live up to its billing – OD transforming was meant to end the world, right? – and a lot of the Gatchaman gang were pretty much forgotten in the final episode, the sly commentary on social media was amusing. Berg-Katze went from being the chief internet Troll to yesterday’s meme as people got distracted by scoring points by being good.
The writing seemed to throw a lot of people off because it was a slow-build with a lot of different ideas but it was actually a pretty clever and meticulously portrayed debate about the power of faith in others and dialogue over cynicism and violence. The power of a well-informed and organised public and the benefits of using peaceful methods were slowly but surely extolled over 12 episodes and the traditional idea of superheroes was deconstructed by a strange girl named Hajime Ichinose.
See how the sun shines on her?
Hajime Ichinose, a character who some people despised because she seemed so loopy, was the perfect person to deliver this because her confidence and ability to take life as it comes and analyse each situation that occurred without prejudice, gave a fresh and more modern slant to the superhero genre.
Instead of beating enemies to a pulp and being an over-powered vigilante, she utilised social/news media to unite people both normal and super, saw the need to move beyond the traditional secret identity of a superhero and integrated the Gatchaman into society and she was able to floor enemies with logic, empathy and positivity.
We all love an action hero but when the tough guys were getting whipped by Berg-Katze and Hajime stepped in to start a conversation with him it was a surprise and a moment of genius. The final three episodes devolved into a brawl but never lost sight of the themes and ideals it was running with as people who felt weak were empowered by social media and joined together to fight for a good cause. I’m just surprised there wasn’t an environmental message thrown in as well. The music was also fantastic. Taku Iwasaki’s soundtrack truly made the show that extra bit special and his use of dubstep was stellar. Overall, I enjoyed the show and I’ll be sorry to see the Gatcha-gang say farewell. 4/5
The next posts sees the real stand-outs, Watamote and the final thoughts on Attack on Titan!