Looking back on 2014, part 6: never, ever settle for anything less!

It wasn’t even on my radar when the season started, but now, I’m just about convinced that Shirobako would have taken out my ‘anime of the year’ memory by a mile if it had actually finished this year. Yes, it’s a bold statement to make when there’s still half the series to go, and everything could certainly go as badly as the previous work of Musashino Animation. However, Shirobako sings to me because I really enjoy finding out how the shows I love have been brought to life. Though I have to admit that the seiyuu aspect has tended to dominate the expressions of my appreciation of these works, I honestly do love looking into the work that went on behind the scenes. That’s why I will always try to watch the extras, and also why the first piece of merchandise I’ll get is typically the series guidebook. Do note that this doesn’t apply just to anime, however: you don’t want to know what my collection for Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy looks like!

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It’s the director’s job to judge, make decisions, and relay them to everyone!

Returning to this 6th memory of 2014, however, given the different challenges of production that Shirobako addresses, I thought that it would be quite difficult to pick a moment or incident that stood out. Indeed, I also felt the weight of the point that director Kanno drove home to Miyamori in episode 12, about how important it is to know what people can do before you seek help from them. To be ignorant is insanely rude, and this is something that applies in any field of work — do your research, no matter how pressed for time you are!

In the end, however, I still return to the Wow! moment I experienced at the end of the third episode, Arupin is here! When the second half of the previous episode delved into one of the problems that teams can experience, namely, when their director keeps the fundamentals of his characters or story in his head, thus making it difficult for them to really bring his vision to life, I kept nodding my head along with Kinoshita’s frustrated staff. But Miyamori’s positivity and drive to make sure that Musani made the best show that they could was inspirational, and I’m glad it paid off in the end. The same could be said about the finale of the first cour, but I found this far more impressive.

Behold how the love and passion of a team can turn this:

…into this:

p.s. Yes, I do know the meta references that Shirobako keeps making! I sure hope you all do too!

Looking back on 2014, part 1: the sexiest voice in anime today

Merry Christmas! And as usual, here begins my 12 days of looking back on the year just past…

Nobunaga the Fool, the anime element of Kawamori Shouji’s experimental multimedia project, was a bit of a mess, at least to this viewer. However, there was one thing that kept me watching week after week, no matter how much I found myself rolling my eyes. That, of course, was Nakamura Yuuichi, who I probably should admit has well and truly taken over the top spot on my favourite seiyuu list.

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The only reason I don’t actually regret watching this show…is him…

Now, the two seiyuu that I follow almost religiously both satisfy certain criteria. Acting skills, range, and personality are all incredibly important to me. However, the one criteria that I’d like to highlight today is the timbre of their voice. Voices that are thin and reedy almost automatically get a thumbs-down from me – they’d have to have a pretty darned amusing personality to compensate if I am to even consider following them. Rather, I like voices that are relatively deep, yet capable of being light and playful. Or, to put it another way, they have to have what I’d consider a sexy voice… You-kyan is actually one of the seiyuu reknown in Japan for having such a voice (an 色気のある声), but even though I’ve swooned over some of his lines over the years, I’ve never actually come across a character that I would say reflects this description at all times.

Until Caesar, that is. Behold:

1. Caesar teasing Mitsuhide about his father complex…



and

2. Caesar relating the reason for his mask…


Even if you don’t understand exactly what he’s saying, perhaps you can hear what I’m getting at…?

Aldnoah Zero’s Kaiduka Inaho: most boring protagonist ever?

Key Visual II: Kaiduka Inaho at the start of Aldnoah Zero
Key Visual II: Kaiduka Inaho at the start of Aldnoah Zero

After choosing to not to post my musings on Inaho at the end of last month, I played with with idea of adding it to my upcoming ’12 days of Christmas’ posts, which I always start on Christmas Day in accordance with real Christian traditions. But it didn’t fit there either, because whilst I did enjoy working out what was going on in his head, there are far too many other things I enjoyed about 2014 in anime. Hence, before I start that series of posts, here is my treatise on one of the things that kept me watching Aldnoah Zero week after week: the character of Kaiduka Inaho.

Needless to say, spoilers ahead… Read more of this post

Ao Haru Ride: Catching the Breeze of One’s Youth

AoHaruRide_01

Blue Spring Ride [Ao Haru Ride] revolves around Futaba, a girl who was in love with a boy named Tanaka Kou in middle school. However, before anything can begin, he suddenly transfers schools over summer vacation. In high school, her world is turned around once again when she meets Kou again, this time under the name of Mabuchi Kou.

One thing I find interesting about Blue Spring Ride is that, although quite a few people who read Sakisaka Io’s works like Strobe Edge better, it was her current series that got green lit for an anime and a movie (the Strobe Edge film seems to be a bonus, almost as if producers were gunning for flow on success). But if I think about the themes that are covered in both series, then I think that decision was the right one. Strobe Edge really was all about ‘falling in love’ — that’s what the entire story is centred around. On the other hand, Blue Spring Ride has as its foundation a story about relationships between friends and family. And the strength of this foundation is demonstrated by the anime, which is built almost entirely on it. Read more of this post

More A/Z crack to brighten up your day

Hm…and I just realised that, if anyone’s been avoiding any news about Aldnoah Zero since the end of the first season, these key visuals are HUGE SPOILERS…so, if you are up-to-date on what’s going on, I’ll see you under the cut! Read more of this post

Aldnoah Zero: ToroKen vs. Hanaho, Round 1!!

This has already been translated elsewhere, but since it cracked me up sooooo much, I needed my own record of it.

As everyone knows, the second major promotional image relating to the second cour of Aldnoah Zero was revealed on Nov 6th in Shinjuku for just two days. The image was of Asseylum, whose fate had been left somewhat in doubt by the finale of the first cour (Yuki’s narration, and Magbaredge’s command in the 15-second preview kind of gave it away that she was alive…). The reactions have been mixed. Some viewers in the West are really annoyed, because this is the third time an attempt on her life has failed, so they can’t take the threat seriously anymore.

Personally, I really don’t care about that. For, to me, the best reaction came from the seiyuu behind our two protagonists, who had the following exchange on Twitter:

Princess Asseylum... I didn't make it...
Ono: Princess Asseylum…
I didn’t make it…

Read more of this post

Tonari no Seki-kun: a time-killer…literally…

Tonari no Seki-kun: The Master of Killing Time
Tonari no Seki-kun: The Master of Killing Time

Rumi Yokoi, a diligent student, finds her class life turned upside-down when her next-door desk mate “Seki” begins to play by himself at his desk in class. Although Yokoi is irked by Seki’s distracting antics, she finds herself being drawn into the intricate games he plays… (Adapted from ANN)

I really enjoyed the first few episodes of this series. Some of the ways that Seki went about killing time in class were really quite innovative and amazingly detailed, and it was amusing seeing Yokoi shoot herself in the foot by investing herself in his crazy pastimes. It was also quite informative about the work that seiyuu do, because Shimono Hiro voiced Seki, despite not having a single word of dialogue over the course of the entire series. His work for this series was comprised just of all the other sounds that seiyuu have to make to make a character sound real: breathing, gasping, smirking etc etc. Sometimes, I really wonder what he and Hanazawa Kana (Yokoi) thought about that work balance!

After a while though, Seki’s antics and Yokoi’s reactions started feeling a little bit repetitive to me. Gag-manga and the anime that they are based on really need to find either new gags, or else find innovative ways to recycle their favourite gags in order to make them seem fresh. As is the case with comedy, they typically succeed at this for some people, but not for others. Unfortunately for me, even though my favourite episode of the entire series was the penultimate one, I fell in the latter group. In short, it was kinda fun the first time through…but I’m probably never watching this one again.

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To be frank, my favourite part of this series was probably the ending and ending sequence!

HAL: ‘these are a few of my favourite things…’

"The two of them were always together..."
“The two of them were always together…”

In a future where technology has advance far beyond todays, robots can be designed and programmed to look and behave exactly like humans. When Kurumi falls into depression after an accident claims the life of her lover, Hal, a robot is asked to become him in order to help her move on. As “Hal” struggles to understand the real Hal’s past and Kurumi’s feelings, he gradually learns what it means to live…

Read more of this post

Nobunaga the Fool: Destruction and Rebirth

See those two worlds there? Yup, they collide ^^
See those two worlds there? Yup, they collide ^^

For something to be born anew, for a world to be completely changed, destruction is needed. This is a theme that seems to echo through some memorable series I’ve seen—Code Geass, No. 6, Guilty Crown, Evangelion, to name just a few. Whilst this is something that I wouldn’t want to happen to the world I live in, history does show us that it holds some degree of truth. The reconstruction of Europe after the Second World War shows that such ‘destruction and rebirth’ can lead to new realities that then persist for many years; after all, does anyone expect Germany and France to go to war against each other again? Some people would argue that Japan is another example, as it rose from the ashes of WWII to become the world’s second biggest economy in the space of just thirty years. Arguably the biggest change was that the people went from a land of people worshipping the Emperor and showing absolute obedience to the state into a society that has long resisted pressure from its own leaders and the US to take up arms again. Whilst that is changing today, I think it is important to recognise that Japan is still very strange compared to the rest of the world. I mean, what other country has to write laws to allow its military to protect its allies and their citizens when they come under fire?

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Genshiken Nidaime: the winds of change

NB: Please note that this post is about the anime, not the manga…I will not be mentioning any plot developments that go beyond what the anime covered...
NB: Please note that this post is about the anime, not the manga…I will not be mentioning any plot developments that go beyond what the anime covered…

Back when it first came out, the original Genshiken hooked me almost straight off the bat. That was probably because the first season was of this show about otaku culture was focused almost solely on parts of it that I had little knowledge of, like Comiket and the cosplay culture. Let’s just say it was a learning opportunity, and one that continued with the OVA and the second season too, where I was introduced to some of the intricacies of fujoshi culture and a glimpse of what aspiring manga artists do. Whilst over the top at times, those characters all had traits I recognised in people I knew at the time, people I met at the few conventions I attended, and people I have come to know since then. After that, I didn’t think there would be other parts of the ACG subculture that I hadn’t really heard of, and besides, the Genshiken manga had ended, so surely we’d covered all important bases, right? Read more of this post