“In This Corner”….

April 15th, 2021 in Anime, General Reviews, Movies by

I feel that I will never understand the magnitude on the Japanese psyche regarding WWII and the dropping of the bombs. It permeates every fiber of their being and colors almost everything they do, consciously and unconsciously, even so many years after the events. We have another film that looks at the war experience, but it is done in a different manner. The inevitable comparisons between “Grave of the Fireflies” and this one, “In This Corner of the World” (“Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni”) will happen, as both are depressing, but the latter approaches it in a more hopeful, but less natural-looking, manner.

The film covers around 15 or so years of time; I’m thinking 1932 to 1946 or thereabouts. We come into the life of Suzu (the lady in pink). She is a fabulous artist, but a bit of a scatterbrain. She lives in Hiroshima and spends a lot of time sketching, sketching, sketching. The movie reflects this, in having her be in the sketches she has done, a soft line or pastel approach, or having the artwork come ‘alive’. When she is 18, she is given a proposal of marriage by Shūsaku (him to the far left), as he remembers her from 10 years earlier. They move to Kure.

Now, to help with the geography, Kure is a big naval base and about an hour train ride from Hiroshima. And since Shūsaku works for the navy and his family is there, thus the move. The movie details all the privations and struggles with being a nation at war and a city that is a prime military target, as well as Suzu trying to fit in with a new, somewhat abrasive, family.

There is a strong element of nostalgia, reflected by the art decisions. If Suzu was still alive, she could be in her 90s, and so it comes across as remembrances of a time past and the paths that could have been taken. Certainly when the war comes into her life, with the endless bombings and air raid sirens and food shortages and the shift in mood, the film takes on its darker tones. War affects everyone in varying degrees and when personal tragedy strikes Suzu, it takes all of her emotional courage and fortitude to soldier on and try to remain true to herself.

Despite it being a war film, I found it rather gentle, even when she is interrogated by the military police for sketching the harbor and its battleships. Even then, the whole thing is laughed off. The way they handle the bombing of Hiroshima is done in an interesting manner and how they are a caliber of collateral damage from it.

Again, it was a moving film, perhaps aided by the art style that softens the corners and makes things not as horrible as it really was. The movie ends too soon, as you would like to see how they moved on with their lives after all of this. The only sour note for me is that the US soldiers were portrayed as pigs. Perhaps they really were that way and a dash of kindness from them to the civilian population could have gone for miles and miles, but still, I see it as the only dour note in an otherwise poignant film.

Back to the art style, as you can see it is more cartoonish, avoiding a lot of the tropes that come with a ‘regular’ anime approach. They inhabit a kind of tweeny world, where it is not full cartoon, but certainly not as realistic as it could be. Again, this might be holding in nature with the remembrance part of the overall directorial approach to it. You might want to compare/contrast with “The Wind Rises”, which covers a similar slice of time, in how they made their artistic decisions. It is still a film worth watching, if only to understand things better.

On a scale of 1 to 10:

Artwork           7 (Not certain if it is fully effective)
Plot                  8 (An interesting story told interestingly)
Pacing              8 (Moves along with a strong deliberateness)
Effectiveness   8 (Good use of sensibilities of the era)
Conclusion       7 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service      1 (A similar show would be “Ouran High School”)

Overall            8 (Well worth seeing)

Three stars

Here Comes the “Bride”

April 8th, 2021 in Anime, General Reviews by

I could have seen this at AX 17, but they mooked with the scheduling so it passed me by. I had to wait for it to come online to grab it. This is a caliber of lead-in to the series, as it is a three-part OVA. The series itself was released in 2018. This short-run talks about things after the dust has settled and everyone is more or less comfortable with one another. If the series is going to be like this offering, it is going to be both intriguing and restrained. This is “The Ancient Magus’ Bride: Those Awaiting a Star”.

Now, this came first and, although it does give a good introduction into the series, it might be misplaced, as you have to play a ton of catch-up and guess-me, but it is billed as a prequel. And since the series hadn’t even started when this was released, this is what you get.

Hatori Chise (ginger in the center) is a lonely teenager when we begin. She has always had this gift of seeing those things that cannot be seen by mere mortals. She is referred to as a ‘Sleigh Beggy’, and is of some considerable worth. She is a type of mage who unconsciously attracts the love of magical creatures who will help her when she is in need. Needing an apprentice, the ancient mage Elias Ainsworth (him at the left) takes her in, with the understanding that, one day, she will be his bride.

Don’t let his looks scare you; there is a deep and caring heart behind that grim visage. They are both overseen by Silver, the landlady of the house (and a banshee, but that is revealed later). You don’t want to mess with her, OK?

The OVA contends itself with an incident in Chise’s past and a book that she was fond of that later went astray. You also learn the details of her tragic past and why she is the emotional wreck that is presented to us.

This is one good-looking show. A great deal of effort was invested in the backgrounds and the character designs, so it all looks and feels natural…despite having winged creatures fluttering about (as seen above between Silver and Chise). Elias does not open his mouth to speak, so this takes a bit of getting used to. It is all done by telepathy and I think it would have looked odd to see Elias open his jaws to speak than this simpler approach.

My concern is whether to see this at the beginning of the series, the end of the series or in the middle. As I said, it was a bit of a jolt to be plunked into this with nary an understanding of the characters. In watching the series, things become much clearer, so overall motivations are explained and a fuller sense of Chise’s tragedies are given the showcase they deserve.

The reason for the lowered review is that I felt we were really blind-sided, flung into the midst of things and the back story still didn’t answer a ton of questions. But I recommend you see it. My anger is directed at how the viewer was treated in all this by the parent company and not with the show as a whole, but that’s how I call ‘em.

It’s an OVA; of course you chain it and it explains things nicely.

On a scale of 1 to 10:

Artwork           9 (Lush and rich)
Plot                  8 (Typical but with some good twists)
Pacing              8 (Solid, but can seem languid)
Effectiveness   7 (More the nature of how we were introduced to it)
Conclusion      5 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service     0 (A similar show would be “Honey and Clover”)
Bingeability  10 (Take the whole thing in at once)

Overall            7 (Good story, hurt by drop-in approach)

And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. You will be my bride.

The “Bane” of My Existence

April 1st, 2021 in Anime, General Reviews by

I wuz robbed! Someone call the anime police! What a crock of crap! Please excuse my histrionics, but never have I felt so cheated by a show as I was from “Kishin Houkou Demonbane”. It promised one thing but devolved into…mecha! I can’t stand mecha, but the fact they had to lie and cheat me into it is even worse. So why did I hang around for the full run? I’ll explain that in a bit, but first, the plot. Giant fighting robots! I mean…ahem! That is to say…. (more…)

“Lies” We Tell Ourselves

March 25th, 2021 in Anime, General Reviews by

I will never understand the Japanese mind, especially in the anime way. It’s that a lot of shows I see tend to reinforce the idea that the government is going to take care of you, but it comes off as quite authoritarian. So, you have no say in how the government takes care of you. It’s good for society, but not necessarily for you. Despite this rather dour opening, we look at the dramedy of “Koi to Uso” (“Love and Lies”).

For Me and My “Gal”

March 18th, 2021 in Anime, General Reviews by

When you were in high school, there was a ton of stuff to worry about: getting into college, being popular, seeing your name in the school newspaper. But the most important one was having a girlfriend. And if you didn’t have a girlfriend, what’s wrong with you, man? Well, I have a girlfriend, but she doesn’t know she’s my girlfriend. *sigh*. Yeah, we’ve all been there. But what if you got one of the popular ones? Such is the thought behind “Hajimete no Gal”, (“My First Girlfriend Is a Gal” orHajimete no Gyaru”).

We doggedly follow the misgivings of Junichi Hashiba (I’m sure you can find him up there). He moans and laments about not having a girlfriend, as his classmates have seemed to be pairing up everywhere. Peer pressure comes into play as his single unattached friends force him into boldly confessing his love to Yukana Yame, a beautiful gal at school. (OK, I never understood the ‘Gal [Gyaru] Movement’ in Japanese culture or what it tried to do).

Although Yukana easily determines that Junichi really just wants to lose his virginity, she agrees to be his girlfriend. Junichi soon attracts the affections of other girls who have known Junichi or Yukana for a while, including his childhood friend and neighbor Nene, Yukana’s gal pal Ranko, and the school’s madonna, Yui. Our tale is how all these divergent people interact with one another.

For a guy who had nothing, he now has too much, as everyone vies for his affection while holding the others off, although the main battle is between Yukana and Ranko, as they have been friends forever. Oh, yeah, there is tons of fan service and lots of suggestiveness, but it’s never crass or crude; more like the ladies understand what’s going on and are just pushing their ‘assets’ to the forefront to make Junichi squirm and reel from all of it.

You also come to learn that perhaps Yukana may have some genuine affection for our golden cherry boy and will defend him from the seductive charms of her rivals. Oh, yeah, it’s a rom-com, so nothing is too dangerous or out of control and we all remain friends at the end of the episode. The bigger problem is that Junichi doesn’t really know what to do or how to handle things to get what he wants, and it’s not to get boinked, but to have a real girlfriend. And since things are up in the air, assume a second season of this nonsense is lurking out there.

Oh, yeah, even though this is a very heavy fan service show, you need to see things play out better in ‘real time’, so plunk your butt into the seat and go at it, as the mayhem and overall bizarre nature of the show plays out far better than the episodic approach

On a scale of 1 to 10:

Artwork           8 (Boobs, boobs, boobs)
Plot                  8 (Rather typical, but done with charm)
Pacing              8 (Almost too hard to keep up)
Effectiveness   7 (As if this stuff really happens…..)
Conclusion      5 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service     5 (A similar show would be “Maburaho”)
Bingeability    9 (Have at you!)

Overall            8 (A marvelous waste of time)

And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. Will you…..go out with me?

COMMENTARY – Land of the Lost

March 11th, 2021 in Rants by

There is a scene from the movie “A Fish Called Wanda”, where Kevin Kline cracks open a safe, hoping to find a ton of pelf within, but is greeted instead with silent emptiness. Screwing his face up with disgust, he loudly proclaims, “OK… OK… DISAPPOINTED! Son of a bitch.” I know how he feels, when I got the letter from Anime Expo, letting me know that there will be NO AX for 2021. *sigh* OK… OK… DISAPPOINTED! Son of a bitch. (more…)

Short Pull Series XXVII: “Girl” Power

March 4th, 2021 in Anime, Short Run Series by

Slapstick is a harder genre to master than one thinks, as you have to balance the mayhem with the results. It doesn’t succeed as well as it should, and so “Aho-Girl “(“Aho gāru”, or “Stupid-girl”) kind of dissolves into sit-com madness. I say ‘kind of’, as it doesn’t grasp the elements correctly and comes off as more vicious than it needs to be. Let me explain….. (more…)

Attack of the OVA #20 – “Rescue” Mission

February 25th, 2021 in Anime, Short Run Series by

Untethered OVAs, for me, are a bother, in that I end up getting plunked into the middle of something and since there is not going to be anything to come home to or go on from, it is merely a way to spend a half-hour, looking at the problems of others. Such is the case with “Rescue Me”. (more…)

“Collection” Agency

February 18th, 2021 in Anime, Movies by

As with any movie that comes from a successful series, I am leery that it might be just might be a recap of the series, put in movie form, for those folks who are too lazy to plunk themselves down and watch the whole thing, from a company that wants to make some quick money for fans who are too gullible to take a second look at things. And I will be saying this plaint again and again until I am proven demonstrably wrong. I have gotten close, but not with any consistency. Yet, “Kantai Collection: The Movie” (and couldn’t you come up with a slightly better title than that?) does try to move events along, basing it off of that which we have already seen in the series and that which we already know, to tell a different tale. Of sorts. (more…)

Not Drawn to “Scale”

February 11th, 2021 in Anime, General Reviews, Movies by

“Sword Art Online” has been one of the more interesting series (and now franchises) of the past half-dozen years. As with any movie that comes from a successful series, I am leery that it might be just might be a recap of the series, put in movie form, for those folks who are too lazy to plunk themselves down and watch the whole thing, from a company that wants to make some quick money. Yes, they did do that in 2013, calling it the “Extra Edition”, so I was a little more assured that this one would be a real movie and not just a Season Two Recap. This brings us to “Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale”. Now, it would help to understand what an ‘ordinal scale’ is. (more…)