Looking back on 2014, part 11: and the anime of the year is…

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Silver Spoon [Gin no Saji]

If someone were to accuse me of giving Silver Spoon my ‘Anime of the Year’ award simply because I didn’t know what to highlight about it for this celebration of 2014…that would certainly have a degree of truth in it. I had wanted to return to Hachiken’s assertion that he would keep thinking about what it means to be raising animals for food, but that’s a scene from yesteryear.

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I… I…ca…

And then I also remembered the other things I loved about the series:

  • Its eccentric cast of characters
  • The hijinks of boarding school: whilst some things are unique, teenagers will be teenagers
  • The appreciation of fresh food and how absolutely delicious it is
  • The challenges that farmers in Japan face in trying to make a living (for all the criticism that people have of Japan’s protectionist practices, I honestly wish that more people would decide to buy local produce where possible. I know that some things really aren’t practical — for example, trying to grow fruit in an arid country – but I do think that some home grown food is worth protecting!)
  • All the events and incidents that show how people grow from facing challenges head on, and trying to work out what they can do with what they’ve gotten.
  • The fact that this series managed to get me to try cracking a raw egg over steaming rice…and absolutely love it!
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I’m with you there, Hachiken! うまい!!

It’s really difficult for me to pin down why Silver Spoon has sat on the back of my mind all year, because there is so much to like about it (and more). If there’s anything that could make it better, it’s a sequel. So here’s to hoping we get one!

Looking back on 2014, part 5: the question of ‘equality’

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A marker for discrimination…

Amongst the series I followed this year, there were two that touched on the question of equality and inequality, but as one left a much poorer impression on my mind, I will only talk about the other here, it being The Irregular at a Magic High School (aka Mahouka). Not surprisingly, the way Mahouka tackled this issue generated a lot of controversy, as people argued over whether this incredibly average (to be generous) anime and light novel had treated this rather sensitive topic in an appropriate way. The vast majority of people ended up giving it a huge thumbs down. I contend, however, that the author of the original work, Satou Tsutomu, has raised some interesting questions about ‘equality’. Read more of this post

Hyouka: it’s all in the details

It’s ostensibly a ‘mystery’ series, after all!

Sitting down to write this comment was one of the most difficult tasks I’ve had to do in a few months. Normally, something about a show – whether I liked it all that much or otherwise – will pop into my mind fairly quickly, and I’ll be on my way. That’s certainly what happened with at least two of Hyouka’s stories, the latter of which produced this particular post on episode 21. However, the all-encompassing theme that I simply have to write about is eluding me: as much as I try to think about it now, I’m not sure what exactly it was that compelled me to watch this series week after week. What I intoned after the end of the first major arc remains true for me: there is something quite profound about the stories that Hyouka tries to tell, but it’s almost impossible for me to put it into words. That said, pictures aren’t going to do it either, so I’m just going to have to try!

Anyone else still doing this…?

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UN-GO and the nature of truth

Episode 6:
From Sakaguchi Ango’s “UN-GO”
A Code Too Simple

What is ‘Truth’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth)? Is it necessarily something that is in “agreement with fact and reality”? That is the same no matter how one looks at it? No matter who looks at it?

Or is ‘Truth’ something that is subjective? Something that tends to be interpreted in different ways depending on what one knows about the situation or item in question?

This debate is something that I’ve been turning over in my head for at least the past year and a half, especially after an incident in real life showed me just how easy it is for people to misconstrue something when they are not aware of all relevant information about it. Thus, when I first saw the sixth episode of UN-GO, where the apparent answer changes as each new clue is revealed. Most significantly, bereft of the certain key pieces of information, Yuuki Shinjurou automatically assumes the worst of Kaishou and just about accuses him of letting some children die…

By not doing anything, you effectively let them die.

Warning: major spoilers for UN-GO 6.

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(Summary/Translation) Macross Frontier Episode 10 Staff/Cast Commentary

with Nakajima Megumi, Endou Aya (Sheryl) and Kawamori Shouji. IMHO, this is one of the more interesting commentaries, because Kawamori explains some of the thinking that went into the creation of the character of Alto. There is another interview, released shortly after the end of the series, that goes into it a bit further, and which I hope to get to eventually. In any case however, I’ll let other fans make of it what they will, as they always have done.

The turning point…

Note 1: This summary-translation is completely my own work. Please DO NOT reproduce it anywhere else, though you are quite welcome to link to it if you wish.

Note 2: Don’t take these as translations, but as paraphrases of what the commentators say. I simply don’t have the time to note down everything that they say. Furthermore, I’ve probably misheard or mistyped something somewhere, but well, sue me. (^_^)

[Eto…firstly, the way that Megumi-chan and Aya-chan say “Hajimaru you~”…can someone tell me what that’s a reference to? I swear I’ve heard that singsong tone somewhere before…]

Nakajima: The episode commentary
Endou: for the 10th episode
Nakajima & Endou: begins here!

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Contemplating Nisemonogatari: …and the controversial…

Some of the scenes in episode two set off the critics, but it was the fourth installment of Nise that really lit the fireworks. This being the episode where Shinobu, in her 8-year-old form, is shown bathing for a good half of the episode, in Araragi’s presence.

Why is there a Degas picture here, you might ask? Well, read on…

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Contemplating Nisemonogatari: …the bad…

Warning: slight spoilers for Kizumonogatari included…

This scene says it all really...

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words…but I’m not in any way inclined to post screenshots of what I despised about Nisemonogatari. And no, unlike with a number of other fans, it wasn’t actually Shinobu in the 4th episode that offended me – explanation for this coming soon. Rather, it was certain shots of Karen spread over various episodes. If I had to put it into words, ‘the pervertization of the viewer’ might work.

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Contemplating Nisemonogatari: the good…

Back in 2008, Bakemonogatari captured the attention of many fans, probably for a number of reasons. However, the reason you hear bandied about most seems to be the crisp and refreshing dialogue, which has the characters flirting, trading jokes, sprouting their idiosyncratic verbal trademarks, and the occasional thought-provoking way of thinking. Most people who did not spoil themselves with the novels were expecting the same out of Nisemonogatari, its chronological sequel.

This is flirting? Well...yes.

Whilst that expectation wasn’t, IMHO, the smartest thing to take into this series (as I will attempt to discuss over a few more posts), I contend that Nisemonogatari actually one-upped its predecessor in one particular area. By this, of course, I’m referring to the battle of words between Kagenui and Araragi about the value of a fake.

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Super Dimensional Fortress Macross and Do You Remember Love?: it’s sacriligeous, I know…

…but can I be different from most other Macross fans?

And so I finally come, to the original...

In the current Macross fandom, saying that one prefers Frontier to all of the older series is quite possibly a death wish. At least, I get the impression that older fans would roll their eyes and mutter about ‘n00bs’ who cannot appreciate a true classic.

The classic that introduced some of the best transforming units the world has seen…

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In memory of 2011 その10: 「UN-GO」と安吾、真理は何だろう?

UN-GO is, in my humble opinion, the most interesting anime series broadcast on TV this year. Despite there being many reputedly excellent shows that slipped me by, ending up on my backlog, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that none of them will be as philosophically challenging and interesting as UN-GO.

I’m not sure how many people realised, but the title of ‘UN-GO’, which you pronounce as if they are English words rather than Japanese (i.e. ‘un’ as in ‘unlike’ rather than the うん used as a casual ‘yes’ in Japan), is a direct reference to the author who wrote the stories upon which most of the cases were based. Apparently, the essays of Sakaguchi Ango are required reading for high schools in Japan, though I certainly don’t recall hearing about them when I was there. Possibly a result of my school being quite low on the academic scale – here‘s one such essay, and its damned difficult to comprehend!

But thank goodness for translators like Quarkboy, who found and gave us the relevant section of the above essay.

Pardon me. I am completely hopeless. Why? Because I am no teacher. I am a student. And yet I dare to lecture.

I am but a single ball of unease. I am just searching. Be it women, the truth, whatever. I leave it to your imagination. I am just, definitely, searching.

However, that thing known as truth does not exist. Namely, truth has always been that thing which is searched for. People search endlessly for the truth, but the truth will never exist. It is a thing whose existence comes from that it is being searched for, and whose existence therefore implies its none existence. If there comes a time when truth comes into existence in our mortal realm, when truth’s existence is here before us, then humans will have ceased being human. Humans will be nothing but pigs in the form of humans. The truth will be fed to humans, and the humans will eat it, no different than pigs.

I did away with traditional Japanese thinking, and denied the concept of the impermanence of things (mono no aware) and the thinking of the occult. However, what I say is not the truth, or anything close. It simply has some meaning of the era. I, defeated, for the sake of the defeated words, the lies are seen through, the arguments are won. Putting my denial aside, I once again hold true the impermanence of things. There is no need for something like a dialectic. What I am talking about is obvious. People die. Things break. Just like the Hojoki states, there is nothing which does not break.

I have been broken from the beginning. All I am doing is searching. “You. Why do you search?” Because I am not so grand as to not be searching. I am not so grand as to say “This is a pain” and sleep for eternity without eating.

I search. And, along the way, I create. I create things with all my might. But, these things will all surely break. But, for just me, with my effort, they just barely stay intact. But beyond that I can do nothing.

If that is to be judged by the corner that runs counter to the public order and morals of the world, then I have no intention of being judged by the public order and morals.

I must be judged only by myself. Probably, I am also no longer a judge of “humans”.

I will discuss this in greater detail when I actually ‘review’ the series after I’ve seen episode 0, but the whole idea that the ‘truth’ is something that people forever search for but never completely arrive at is very compelling. Or, to put it in a different way, different people will see different truths depending on how much or how little you know, and it may never to possible to know the entire truth. It’s something that has really been brought home to me this year by real-life events too, and I sincerely wish that showing this series to the relevant person would help them realise that. Unfortunately, that’s quite unlikely to happen.

But the bottom line is, more than politics, or Japanese national identity, or anything else I saw people comment about before the final episode, UN-GO really was about the nature of ‘truth’. And that is one of the main factors that has made it my favourite anime TV series of 2011.