As I finally put out the winter candle and transfer the flame to the candle of
Whew, so I missed March and most of February for this blog. Been busy elsewhere, but I’m now back again to read & write on the blogosphere. Anyway, the last thing I posted here was about the anime shows that I was watching, which is convenient since I can just pick up from where I left off:
Round-up on Winter 2017 Shows (er, I only watched three)
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu (second season)
A small part of me feels cheated. After all, there’s a lot of cut material that we didn’t get to see from the broadcast version; pieces that will probably contribute to an even more complete, splendid, version of an already terrific production.
Ah, but it’s so unbecoming to complain! Seasoned anime fans with affinity to cultural prestige piece are blessed to have two dozen exquisite episodes of Shouwa Rakugo, a work that already feels timeless the moment its curtain is drawn. The last string of episodes provided ellipsis, timeskip, and answers to lingering questions the way an accomplished magician would close her show; with complete confidence of its craft and course, all while never losing sight of the values represented in the show.
If Shouwa Rakugo can feel meandering at times and doesn’t follow the conventional dramatic narrative, that’s because it’s meant to be like that. It’s life, with all the ebbs and flows that come throughout, where the various mundane conversations are just as vital as the show-stopping Shinigami scenes. I ended up re-watching the first season along the way, and while the cumulative time I spent with this show may be relatively brief (compared to say, 110 episodes of The Legend of Galactic Heroes), its sheer breadth in terms of time period and generations of characters resulted in an awestruck feeling you’d only get by watching an epic. It’s truly been a pleasure to see Bon, Shin, Miyo, Matsuda, Konatsu, Yotaro, and their descendants aged, changed between names and roles, and eventually departed.
Now, if only I can get my hands on the Blu-Ray Director’s Cut…
March Comes in Like a Lion
We will have a new season slated for next fall, but by this point Lion has clearly defined what kind of show it is. Anyone who stuck through the entire first season will continue to watch, while I don’t see a way back for anyone bailing early (many of them due to adaptation-related choices) or those without any interest in the first place. Well, how did my own expectation line up? I had pegged Lion as a more melancholic Hikaru no Go, and while that’s not an entirely false supposition… it’s also apparent that it is also a pretty unique creature on its own.
Love it or hate it, the show’s signature episodic structure helped to provide a multitude of perspective and tidbits of backstory that enrich the members of supporting cast. It’s not a simple sport series or social drama with clearly defined end goals, preferring to immerse the audience into the circumstances and psyche of its characters in lieu of just dropping scripted Big Events along a predictable course. I love how Rei’s development isn’t set in linear curve, nor it remains completely static; there are spots where he sputtered and fell into a familiar circle of depression, but the kid is clearly learning and realizing new things as he opened up more to the people who care about him. The final segment, the ‘Empty Chair’, aptly illustrated this point and made for a great bookmark as we await the new episodes; a self-reflection of Rei and internalization that shougi isn’t merely a matter of winning or losing, it’s a platform to meet all sorts of people who will ‘sit with him’.
The comedy… remained loud and corny, but I’ve learned to live with it. By the end, it’s not as annoying as it used to be or actively devalues the more serious/natural part of the show.
ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Dept.
I have a lot of patience for slow burn show (especially when it’s so agreeably stylish like this one), but I can see how people may get antsy over the early episodes of ACCA. For all the flair it exudes, the show seemed too hell-bent on having random snatches of conversations where people talk about exciting and suspenseful things, rather than to actually have any exciting or suspenseful things happening. This, amidst all the pastry-of-the-week frivolity and a main character who prefers to under-react to everything, no less. By seven episodes, even I was getting worried about the substance of this show.
Then, the eighth episode delivered an amazing backstory; a pitch perfect emotional note and vital building block that proved the whole thing isn’t mere cotton candy and fluff.
ACCA remained strong from that point on, all while staying true to its elegant nature. It’s a political drama completely uninterested in bloody confrontation or action-packed shenanigan, instead focusing on genuine political maneuvering, underhanded dealings, and complex geopolitic rooted in poignant human drama. Oh, and all those icings on the cake, too! It’s not a show that will be talked by many or show up in a lot of ‘best of’ list, but ACCA is worth recommending simply for how unique, personable, and complete it is. And now, I’ve gotten even more interested with Natsume Ono’s other works….
…..is it just me, or any show I watched belatedly will eventually get a sequel announced? Get those requests in, guys!
Over the course of thirteen episodes (and three OVA episodes), I was more than sufficiently entertained by this deranged, versatile, and clever show, whose core group of characters has won my affection through their endless repertoire of debauchery. Even if you’re not watching Hoozuki for its humor and characters, it still has the excellent setting—probably the most important component of the show, really. In a landscape mostly dominated by high school hijinks, it’s really refreshing to get my anime comedy fix from something with a more daring (and visually pleasing) setting.
This series is apparently a smash hit in its native land (Natsumi Eguchi’s source manga is still going strong with 23 volumes and counting), and it certainly it has its appeal to weird foreigners who don’t mind occasional culture gap along the way. In any case, I’ll eagerly wait to re-acquaint myself with the denizens of Japanese Hell in next fall….
The Eccentric Family
Very timely, eh?
To reiterate what I said in the previous column: this is a show that perfectly embodies the kind of story that anime seems to get the best out of. In other words, it’s one of the finest slice-of-fantastical-life around, a show populated by magical creatures that nonetheless carries such universal and humane themes like family, self-acceptance, and complicated multicultural dynamics to great effect. It took me a couple of episodes before it really hooked me, but once I’m in, it’s obvious how damn good the writing and characterization in this show are. A big hand too for the director, Masayuki Yoshihara, who constantly framed the narrative in interesting and subtly poignant ways.
The first season is a fine enough stand-alone story of its own, but it left a room for a lot of narrative possibilities and new character development that a sequel is primed to fill in. ‘More’ doesn’t always necessarily mean ‘better’, but I can’t deny I’m really intrigued by many possible interaction. Would we get to see more of Benten’s headspace? Would Yasaburo and Kaisei finally see face to face? Would Yajirou spend his time in the well again? I have a feeling this sequel will be something even more special….
Spring Watching Schedule
I haven’t seen any of the new season’s premiere yet, but I already have a very good idea on what I’m going to watch. Barring not-so-extreme circumstances, these are the stuff that interest me the most:
Attack on Titan, Season 2
Yes, I’m still on the
Kabaneri train and remain magically unspoiled. Titan has proven itself as a solid popcorn show that would probably satisfy anyone as long as they don’t go in expecting a high art or something.
The Eccentric Family, Season 2
See above, I literally just gushed about it.
Natsume Yujincho, Season 6
As reliable as any anime ever. I’ve spoken about my love for this show already, and would continue to do so in coming months. Heck, I’m in the process of re-watching some of my favorite episodes from the previous five seasons.
The Laughing Salesman
I remembered looking for info on the manga (published in early 1990s) back then; there’s something in this darkly comic tale that seems primed to tickle a certain bone in me.
Tsuki ga Kirei
Seemingly a mundane middle-school romance, but this looks to be the kind of mundane and subtly mature romance that’s right up my alley. We’ll see.
Atom: The Beginning
Yeah, I like a lot of what I’ve seen from Astro Boy. The last adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s property spin-off that I watched (Young Black Jack) was fairly underwhelming, but I heard good things about this prequel manga, and I’m more than willing to take a gander on it.
‘Japanese high-schoolers form a club specializing in a niche interest’ is my pet animango genre, and I’m certainly interested to learn more about the art and culture of kabuki.
That’s all for now, see you again this month, when I hopefully can find some more time to post!