Reflections on Spring and Pick that Voice!!

Michiko_2

Well…this sure is late, though there are reasons for it. The biggest one—and this may come as a surprise to some—is that I pretty much stopped watching anime towards the end of the season, and it took me a while to finish even the two spring shows I’d been watching. I’ll discuss the main reason why when I do another of my “where I’ve been” updates, hopefully sooner rather than later. But for the moment, let me just look at the shows I watched before I took off on my li’l US trip.

What is fun is good!

The one series that I kept up with in spring was something I’d been looking forward to. After a gap of four years, The Eccentric Family finally graced our screens again, bringing a glorious mirage of colour and fun back into the lives of its fans. And whilst it wasn’t quite as magical as the first season—missing the animator that created so many of its highlights was a key factor in that—I still enjoyed this wonderful sojourn back into the magical Kyoto where human, tengu and tanuki alike are all still searching for the places where they belong. For some, the answer has always be obvious, and this middle volume of the story was about them simply arriving at it. But for several others, the troubled waters have yet to be calmed.

EccentricFam-1

I honestly wish I could write more about just why I love The Eccentric Family as much as I do. Perhaps there will be something once we know exactly what’s going on with the two aiming (or not) to become Akadama’s heir. I hope that Morimi finds it in himself to write the final book sooner rather than later! But ’til then, as the Tanuki grandma reminds us, let’s just remember to cause trouble and have fun!

This lesson will be short

The other spring series that I finished was The Royal Tutor. This show—an adaptation of an ongoing manga—actually carries some very good educational messages, so I hope that more privileged children in particular are reading or watching it. Given my age and personal preoccupations though, it isn’t really the kind of series I get a lot out of anymore. I pretty much just had fun every week giggling at Heine’s complex about his height ^^

Royal-Tutor_1

The Woman Called Fujiko Mine

Moving on to the older shows I watched: this was actually the last series I completed in during the spring season, but I’d like to talk about it first. From what I’ve heard, what a lot of people praise about Lupin III: The Woman Called Fujiko Mine are the feminist themes that run through the show. This is particularly evident in what we learn in the final episode: that Fujiko always been the person she is. As in, there is no childhood abuse, repression etc in her past that has turned her into someone looking for a way to hide her scars. What we see is what we get: she steals because she wants to, and has sex because she wants to. She embraces the assets that nature has given her as a woman and uses them to get what she wants.

I guess what bugs me a little about it is that she’s not presented as being all that competent at all. She’s a renown thief…but based on how the heists in the first few episodes go (especially in episode 1), I just wasn’t convinced, especially given how cool and calm Lupin generally remained. The show does reduce that negative impression slightly by the time we get to the final episodes, for example, when Zenigata picks her up from the cafe and she easily gets him to cooperate with her. Furthermore, you could argue that those slip-ups were partially caused by what had been happening to her in the course of the show. But for me, it may have been too little, too late.

Lupin-Fujiko

I’m aware that I may be allowing gender expectations dictate what “competence” should look like. But there’s something about the way that Lupin or one of the other men in the story always seemed to best her or help her out that eats at the feminist in me. I’m up for changing my mind if, for example, other Lupin series depict a woman who lives up to the reputation that Fujiko has. Perhaps then, I’d be willing to revisit this show again.

A relationship without a name

And here is my second highlight ‘from’ spring. Michiko & Hatchin is a show that, to my shame, I hadn’t heard of until late last year. Back when it first aired in 2008, I was in Japan, in a location where it was not showing on free-to-air TV. Thankfully, Animelab has it now, and so I was able to sit down to marvel at a wonderful debut from first time director Yamamoto Sayo…

Being a figure skating fan, Yuri!!! on ICE is definitely my favourite Yamamoto show. However, I can honestly say that Michiko & Hatchin grabbed my attention right from the very first episode. Yamamoto has directed a lot of openings, and her stark style is unmistakable here as well. But what captured my attention was definitely the pacing—shows that she has directed move at a very fast clip, but it’s done in way that’s really enjoyable. Yuri!!! is very similar, and it’s clear that this is one of the most arresting features of her directorial style.

Another thing that Michiko & Hatchin cemented for me is my appreciation of Yamamoto’s sense for storytelling. We’re never bludgeoned over the head with anything, rather, the information is all conveyed through characterisation that felt very, very real. Not that I know what would be realistic for women from Brazil, admittedly…but overall, all of the women we really get to know in this show feel like real people—they live and connect with others on an incredibly raw, emotional level.

This brings me to the main reason Michiko & Hatchin really speaks to me. This series marks the first time that Yamamoto delved into the concept that will, I argue, define her career as a storyteller. I haven’t managed to collect every single one of her interviews on it yet—but the most important one is arguably that which appears in Animestyle vol.2, in Oguro Yuuichirou’s special on female directors. There, she spoke of “a relationship without a name” for the first time, going into great detail about the relationship from her own youth that inspired her to explore this concept through the characters she has painted on this canvas. I wish I could go into it in more detail, but for various reasons, now is not the right time.

Michiko_1

In any case, whilst it was Yuri!!! that led me to this incredible director, it’s Michiko & Hatchin that has made me a hardcore fan. I sometimes envy those who came to know Yamamoto years ago…though perhaps I wouldn’t have appreciated her quite as much as I do today. But all that really matters is that I appreciate her now, and will continue to follow her exploration of “relationships without a name” for as long as she writes them.

And Pick that Voice!!

Since I only watched two series from the spring season, one of which was a sequel, pickings are particularly dry. In fact, there was just one: Ono Daisuke in the final episode of The Royal Tutor — I still need practice in picking Morikawa Toshiyuki! I also picked Kaji Yuuki as Oscar in Fujiko Mine, though admittedly, he’s pretty hard to miss.

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

One Response to Reflections on Spring and Pick that Voice!!

  1. Pingback: Summer 2017! Well, sort of… | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

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