Archive for September, 2015

The Goodness of Shirobako

Monday, September 14th, 2015

A number of my Japanese colleagues either watch anime regularly, or know that I do, so whenever we meet the conversation turns to what was good recently. Of course, last time it happened, I had to trot out Shirobako and then compress its essense into a conversation bite. I went for ep.12 as an example, and on reflection, there’s no better.

You see, I never had a high regard for Anno. While everyone falls over backward in reverence, I thought that Eva was perhaps half-baked and a bit on the psycho side. It became milked like Star Wars, too. Given that, Shirobako 12 succeeded in portraying Anno in a positive light admirably. At least I think I know now what about him is worthy of respect. It was a revelation, frankly.

To know the details of the revelation, one perhaps should watch the whole thing. But one example part that stuck with me in particular is how the meeting of Aoi and (K)Anno opened. In the course of the series, we visited a few homes, such as those of Aoi’s girl friends. All of them live in small, cheap apartments (except Rii), yet each place has a special personal touch. Some cook more than others and thus their kitchenette areas are more elaborate. Aoi, obviously, has her 2 toys placed prominently, and so on. This way to support a character study is nothing new, although it’s clear that someone among Shirobako’s creators spent an effort on it. One way or the other, the rooms look lived-in.

So, when Aoi enters (K)Anno’s meeting room, it comes as a shock that it’s completely empty. It has basic furniture, certainly, but otherwise it’s devoid of any small private artefacts… Except that positioned prominently is a giant model of a submarine in 1:48 scale, under a glass box upon a pedestal. The direction of that scene is astonishing. And of course, there’s more where that came from.

P.S. Another fantastic moment is that (K)Anno does not miss an opportunity to preach, such as mentioning that contemporary animators ought to pay attention the basics more. It sounds so amazingly him. But while his interviews serve to magnify this annoying trait, Shirobako manages to admit it, yet demonstrate convincingly that it’s not only natural and excusable, it’s small compared to his big vision for the anime, big thinking scope, big wisdom.

UPDATE: Chris e-mailed with additional details how the interior design of the room pays homage to EVA. While a great example of how good references are made, it’s not the thing upon which I want to focus. Otherwise, I’d ramble at length about possible link between the Surcouf and EVA and anime in general.

Hataraku Maou-sama

Sunday, September 6th, 2015

Instead of being productive, I spent Saturday watching Devil is a Part-timer on Netflix. There’s not going to be “Anime begins” nor “Anime ends” — I marathoned the whole thing before I had a chance to blog it.

Until now, I rested under a mistaken impression that Maou was an anime of funny hijinks that occur in the Devil’s workplace at McDonald’s. Although hijinks occured, the series had a dynamic plot at its core. Now, I’m sure the plot was full of holes, but who cares. It was fun and very well executed.

What’s amazing though, they managed to wrap up an ending of a continuing story that did not suck. Even more amazing: remember the primal rage that Kawamori prompted in viewers with unresolved Ranka and Sheryl? It’s basically the same thing here, but… it’s completely fine! How about that?

Overall, it feels like Dog Days Season 1, before the pathetic extensions.

Since we broke out the comparisons, remember Shingu? One of concepts in it was a bridge person. Everyone else is “in”, an alien or a magic user, but the group includes a normal human. This is rather common, look no further than Haruhi for another example. In Maou, however, this line is clearly under-developed. If one goes by the the spoileriffic OP with Chi-chan running to the center, it seems like she had to have a bigger role. ED has some of her moments, too, which made no sense.

There’s a bunch of other hints that the original source, perhaps, offered the bigger field. Especially in the ep.13. Nonetheless, it detracted very little.

Liked: Yes
Rewatch: Sure.

P.S. If things progress naturally, without the author twising the characters into pretzels, Emilia is going to win. But there is no way to know, of course.

P.P.S. Suzuko (Bel) is the best girl. Okay, I know about her past, but whatever, she still is. {Update: Evirus agrees.}

P.P.P.S. Steven has no taste:

I watched the first two episodes of Hataraku Maou-sama, and, well, it wasn’t shit. But it wasn’t good.

I said “this must be the best anime ever” a few times when I watched it, but I toned it down to “anime of the year” for Twitter.

UPDATE: Now you’ve said it:

[…] but my memory is that the only thing in that show that was of even slight interest was the human female coworker with the ridiculous jugs. // It wasn’t terrible; it’s just that I didn’t find any of it interesting, except the coworker and her jugs. That wasn’t enough to keep me watching, […]

Sasuga Steven. Still, he liked Divergence Eve for the story. One would think the plot and characters of Maou counted for something.

Wakako-zake

Friday, September 4th, 2015

The Wakako-Zake is another great 2-minuter, focused entirely on the subject. There’s no amazing plot tension of PuPiPo or heart-shaking feels of Danna o Wakaranai. Instead, we get a back-to-basics food anime. And no crazy lesbian tension nor over-the-top fights.

Personally, I find the lack of human interaction somewhat disappointing in Wakako. They mix some in once in a while, and when they do, it adds a certain edge that I appreciate. Done right, it does not have to detract from the food of the episode. The best, I think, was the 05 where Wakako notices a guy who knows his yakitori.

For that reason, the series does not deliver the impact of e.g. Danna, but nonetheless, very nice.

UPDATE: Manga expains.

UPDATE 20160713: See also Linda’s short reflection (she’s a coblogger of Gendomike, it appears).