A little update on where I’ve been…

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If you’re wondering where I’ve been the last few weeks…well, the picture above just about sums up how I’m feeling at the moment. I usually take a one or two week break from posting after finishing up my 12 Days of Anime posts…but the start to this year has been crazy. The immediate reason, of course, was the Rakugo Shinjuu interview that I translated—and in some ways, it’s kind of fitting that I’m talking about it again this week, given what happened in episode 5.

I had been looking forward to having a rest after that, to recoup and catch up on a long backlog of anime and translations. But then Lauren Orsini published a piece arguing that screenwriter Okada Mari’s work on the latest Gundam is entirely in keeping with what we’ve seen in the franchise so far. And that’s how my 15th post on Anime ‘Writing’ came to be. I had to do a fair amount of research for the piece—Iron-Blooded Orphans is NOT “Mari Okada’s Gundam”—but it worked out, since I was long overdue for another editorial on screenwriting in this medium!

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But putting aside the Okada interruption, I’d actually planned to have the Ishida x Hayashibara interview translated before starting on my 12 Days posts. So why did I find myself still wrestling with it on the night before the second season started? Well, if you follow me on twitter, you’d know the answer to that. For those of you that don’t, however, here’s what else I’ve been doing over the last few months: Read more of this post

Celebrating the Sexiest Female Voice in Anime Today

When a certain seiyuu special aired two weeks ago as part of the ongoing celebration of 100 years of Japanese animation,1 I suspect that the initial reaction in the West would have been “Who…??” Whilst older fans—and anyone watching this season’s best show, Rakugo Shinjuu—would undoubtedly recognise the names of Yamadera Kouichi (Sukeroku), Seki Tomokazu (Yotarō) and Hayashibara Megumi (Miyokichi; also Rei in Evangelion), I suspect that many of the younger crowd would have drawn a blank even on these talents.

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Once you know how this ranking was created, however, the results shouldn’t be a surprise. Read more of this post

Rakugo Shinju: Ishida Akira x Hayashibara Megumi on the challenges they faced

And here’s the second half of the interview from Febri vol.34. Once again, please do not copy and paste more than a sentence or two elsewhere, though feel free to link to it if you wish. And if you happen to spot any careless mistakes i have made, please let me know! Otherwise, please enjoy!

Interview and text: Maeda Hisashi

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—Thinking back over the entire show now, are there any scenes that have left a deep impression on you?

Ishida: In the end, the most daunting and difficult scenes were the rakugo ones. Having to perform famous stories like “Shinigami” and “Kajika-zawa1 right from the start, and do them well, no less…I was like “These aren’t stories that an amateur can pull off just like that!” Read more of this post

Rakugo Shinju: Ishida Akira x Hayashibara Megumi on our tragic trio

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This two-person interview appeared in Febri vol.34, which was released in April of last year, after the first season of the show. I had originally planned to have the entire interview translated and checked before the second season started, but unfortunately, a certain anime about figure skating derailed just about all of my translation plans in the fall season. Hence, this is just the first half of the interview; it is also the more controversial half. Since these two seiyuu are people that I’ve never translated or even read interviews with before, and haven’t had the chance to ask anyone else to check it, there may be a few mistakes here and there, which I hope you will forgive me for (if you happen to have read the interview in Japanese and spot any, please let me know!). As usual, please do not copy and paste more than a sentence or two elsewhere, though feel free to link to it if you wish. And even if it suggests something that goes against your interpretation of the show, I hope you’ll find it as interesting as I did.

Ishida Akira (Yakumo/Kikuhiko) x Hayashibara Megumi (Miyokichi)

A fateful bond1 is a strange thing… Ungoverned by logic and reason, such are the relations between men and women. The relationship between Kikuhiko and Miyokichi, too, is filled with incomprehensible matters. How did the actors behind these characters portray such an afflicted relationship? In this discussion, we ask the two of them to share the depth of their feelings towards the show and their characters.

Interview and text: Maeda Hisashi Read more of this post

A Love Letter to 2016, postscript: the list…and a brief look at what’s in store for 2017!

And so, that was my 2016 in Anime. I definitely have not enjoyed a year in anime this much since at least 2010—and to be honest, I’m not even sure I enjoyed that year as much as I did this one. I should probably admit that most of it comes down to one anime, and one anime alone. When I started following figure skating a couple of years back, and dove even deeper into it over the 2015-2016 season, I honestly did not expect that I’d be able to marry these two hobbies of mine so soon. So Yuri!!! on ICE was a huge revelation for me, even though I soon found myself in the tiny group within the fandom that loved it primarily as a show about the sport. Despite the production issues that ultimately prevented the show from surpassing Rakugo Shinju as my top TV pick, I will never stop praising Yamamoto-san and Kubo-sensei for the story they set out to tell. But I’ll spare you any more gushing at this point—in exchange for the warning that there’ll be several more thousands of words over the next few months!

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Looking back now, I think I definitely spent quite a few more hours on this hobby this past year compared to the previous one. Although I cut down a lot on my forum participation—the frustrations I started feeling in 2015 only got worse in 2016, though that’s a rant for another day—it wasn’t difficult for me to fill that space. Besides my two trips to Japan, I also found myself translating a whole lot more, what with the On ‘Anime Writing’ project that I launched in April and, more recently, all the Yuri!!! on ICE stuff has been posted both here and elsewhere. I hope you’ve found them useful and, in some cases, fun and amusing!

Many thanks to those of you who’ve read my stuff and left comments and feedback! This kind of effort would not be worth it if you were not around, and I hope you’ve found my posts useful or interesting in some way or other. Thank you especially to the other bloggers and translators I’ve been working with (you know who you are). Translating behind-the-scenes material to share is something that I’ve loved doing ever since I started back in 2010/2011, and I’m incredibly grateful that you’ve helped me get even better translations out there this year. And thank you also to everyone else who’s interacted with me on Twitter and Tumblr, where I’ve had many an interesting discussion. I’m still something of a small fry in this little corner of the fandom, so I’m a bit stunned at how many people followed me…especially since I have some rather unpopular interpretations of a number of popular or critically acclaimed shows! But if you don’t mind that, then I hope to see you around in the coming year as well!

Looking ahead, I do have some rather ambitious plans on the translation and blogging front, including several more editorials about how screenwriting ‘fits’ into the anime production process. Some of it will have to wait until I’ve sorted the non-anime side of my life out over the next few months. But in the meantime, you can expect more YOI stuff…as well as an interview with a pair of veteran voice actors about a show that’s returning to our screens tonight!

And of course, as usual, the list is under the cut! Read more of this post

A Love Letter to 2016, part 12: can you hear A Silent Voice?

Finally, it comes to this. My Anime of the Year is one that I can’t really talk about because so few people in the English-speaking fandom have seen it! It’s been three months already, but each passing day only increases my desire to see A Silent Voice once again.

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Of course, I don’t know if it will have the same impact the second (third, fourth etc etc) time around. I’m also a little wary of building up expectations too high, as you know that there are always going to be people, especially fans of the original manga, who’ll want to see justice done to the parts they liked. To me, however, this film was just about perfect.

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And that’s why my final love letter of 2016 goes to A Silent Voice.

A Love Letter to 2016, part 11: staging love and tragedy in Rakugo Shinju

And here’s the very first show that cemented it’s place on this list, right at the start of this year. As I noted back in April, Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū is the first and, thus far, the only anime TV series to which I’ve ever given a full 10 out of 10 rating on MAL. Not because it has the best animation or sound, not because it has the most enjoyable story, and not because it was an entertaining show to partake in as part of the fandom. Rather, Rakugo is one of those shows where all of its component elements—its story, visual style, sound design and entertainment value—all came together in a manner that elevated it far, far above the sum of its parts.

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I would, however, particularly like to celebrate one aspect of anime that I’ve yet to celebrate for any other title on this list. Though relatively minor in terms of the amount of time they would have spent compared to the production staff, the voice actors who inhabited our three main characters are key to Rakugo’s storytelling. It helps that all three of them are amongst the best that the industry has to offer: Ishida Akira, Yamadera Kōichi and Hayashibara Megumi are, in a word, giants. And yet, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Ishida, in particular, deliver a better performance. Granted, I haven’t heard every single piece of voice work that he has done, but as Kikuhiko and the seventh generation Yakumo, a role spanning decades, he’s encapsulated and expressed vulnerability, joy, longing, despair…and so many other emotions. Each time I rewatch any part of the first season, I learn something new simply by listening to what he—along with Yamadera and Hayashibara—has invested into this show.

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And so, my eleventh love letter to anime in 2016 goes to the love triangle of Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū, and I pray that Kiku/Yakumo will find something of solace before the final curtain falls on us later this Winter season.

A Love Letter to 2016, part 10: I want to know your name.

Just three left! I’m embarrassed to admit, however, that your name. nearly didn’t make it onto this year-ender. As I noted a couple of months back, I’ve never been a big Shinkai Makoto fan, largely because his films have always felt somewhat ‘cold’ to me. His latest offering has definitely changed that—after I caught it for the second time when Madman brought it Down Under, it squeezed a couple of the other candidates that I’d been considering off this list. I just loved seeing Mitsuha and Taki find each other once again.

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(source)

** WARNING ** SPOILERS AHEAD **

Read more of this post

A Love Letter to 2016, part 9: 91 Days of pathos

Looking back now, this next pick of mine has not aged as well as all the other shows on this list. 91 Days, which ended just one season ago, left me with a huge lump in my throat as the final credits rolled. However, the sheer level of animation that I’ve treated myself to over the last three months has made even skimming through to find screenshots rather painful.

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What made 91 Days work was probably its writing. Again, this wasn’t always perfect—I remember seeing someone comment, quite early on, that his historian brother was quite disgruntled at the unrealistic American countryside and mafia lingo that the writers had decided to go with. Admittedly, some of the latter could be fixed with a good dub script. If anyone’s seen the Funimation dub, please let me know if that’s worth a watch.

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Where the show excelled, on the other hand, was in the story arcs of its characters. As the Josei Next Door has discussed in great detail over at the Anime Evo, there are a lot of subtle details that illustrate where both Angelo and Nero start from and the lessons that they learn through the course of the Shakespearean-like tragedy that we see them living out over those 91 days. A strong knowledge of Shakespeare will help you pick up on all that subtlety, but even if you’re somewhat lacking in that department—like yours truly—the show packs a powerful punch in its last few episodes.

And so, my ninth love letter I write this year goes to Nero and Angelo, wherever they may be.

A Love Letter to 2016, part 8: and the Euphonium sings again

Moving on to the series that took my AOTY crown last year. This year, I was spoilt for choice with Sound! Euphonium. I really enjoyed the second season, especially the scene in episode 10 where Kumiko confronted Asuka, only to have her own major flaw laid out in front of her. What’s really great about that scene, however, was that Kumiko pulled herself together and said what she really thought, a shift that then continued through the rest of the series in the context of her other important relationships. So whilst certain parts of the fandom railed at various developments in this second season, I absolutely loved what we were presented with, especially from that episode 10 scene onwards.

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However, it was in a little cinema way out in Chiba prefecture that I found the Eupho experience that I remember most fondly from 2016. Two and a half hours out there, two and a half hours back, and about an hour and a half hanging out in a tiny, half-deserted mall…admittedly, the cinema staff were dressed up that day promoting Alice Through the Looking Glass, which was fun to watch. But the real reward was undoubtedly the 103 minutes in that darkened cinema, culminating in a wonderful rendition of “Crescent Moon Dance.” There are no words that can adequately convey what it felt like, but if I had to choose just one, then I’d say that it was, quite simply, overwhelming.

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And so I dedicate my eighth love letter to anime in 2016 to that glorious, ephemeral experience, one that I will cherish for a long, long time.