Macross Delta – 15

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I enjoyed watching Chaos, Walkure, and Delta Platoon up against the wall last week, struggling more with staying alive and keeping their ships operable than anything else. This week’s focus on Windermere was, to be charitable, less successful and less engaging.

I’m all for putting “human” faces on the “bad guys” of the show, but…isn’t it a little late? I guess the point is to show that while Lord Roid, his puppet Heinz, and his loya, now one-eyed half-brother Keith, have become nothing more than dangerous fanatics who are going to lead their people off a cliff.

And not everyone is in lockstep with this direction. They have families they want to get back to. I wish I actually cared about these guys, but I don’t.

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Heinz plays his part in Roid’s power grab, promising to carry on the good work of his father…but somehow I feel like King Gramia would have been fine if Windermere had simply conquered the globular cluster, which they’ve done.

Now Roid wants to take things further, using the ruins to resonate Heinz’s voice across the entire galaxy. And something tells me his golden goose’s crystal voice box is not long for this world, despite Heinz’s apparent heartiness this week. His dubious illness reminds me of the imouto from Hundred.

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For an episode with a coronation broadcast galaxy-wide and a giant space battle, this episode felt oddly listless…a drag, even. Naturally, Keith’s brush with death, combined with…whatever Roid did to him, has made him able to read the space wind so well, he takes out an entire NUNS fleet by himself without taking a single hit from the enemy.

That’s pretty badass, but like everything with the short-lived, bulkily-dressed Windermereans, I wonder how in the galaxy they’re going to be able to sustain this. All I know is, Roid turned down peace. It’s galactic domination or bust. I wonder what Mikumo has in mind to get their worlds back.

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P.S. I like the new OP, but not sure yet if I like it better than the first one. I think I just need to hear it more; preferably preceding better episodes than this one.

Taboo Tattoo – 02

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From a professional artistic standpoint, Taboo Tattoo is garbage. A simple example of this is it’s incomprehensible choices in framing. As seen above, Seigi is talking to two characters sitting next to each other. This isn’t a pan-shot. They literally did not frame one of the characters.

In this same frame, Seigi is also information repeating as a question… information he’d been given last episode and had time to absorb. Call and counter call scenes like:

“we’re in the Army” “you, the army?” and “it may result in your death” “my death?” are a convention for abhorrently bad anime/rpg writing, they also waste of our time as viewers, since we’ve been told the information multiple times and gain nothing from hearing the character’s non-reaction.

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An example chest level shot… after a floor level shot, transitioning into an over the shoulder (but back in the room) shot, all within a second’s time. (then 2 different shots of Seigi gasping for air on the floor of his room — jesus stop moving the camera!)

In more general examples, the framing bounces from multiple characters’ points of view during an exchange. Maybe it’s low with a character on the floor looking up at who’s talking, followed by looking back down at the listening character, or across the room in an establishing shot.

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It’s constant but unnecessary movement, generally in scenes where slower, more traditional pans would anchor us to a single point of view and let us absorb the scene from that point of view, thus gaining a degree of emotional connection with the character holding that view.

tl;dr throwing the camera around the room during a conversation doesn’t make the conversation more interesting. The opposite in fact.

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An example of the glimmer of greatness: casually reading a manga about a teen freaking out while talking calmly about a grim situation to a teen who’s freaking out…

What’s actually maddening about Taboo Tattoo is that, despite its artlessness, the dark character that shows up this week was actually interesting. Even if only for the chained-up loli aesthetic.

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Similarly, TT pokes fun at a few conventions of anime in general. Army-chan lolz off Seigi’s attempt to intimidate her by smacking the wall and his classmates are all like ‘you are a protagonist so we’re going to throw you out the window because screw you for auto-getting the girl’

It’s almost clever enough — almost fun enough — but god damn it’s so incompetently put together 90% of the time I can’t get into it. /Rant

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Mob Psycho 100 – 01 (First Impression)

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The Gist: Reigen Arataka is a fraud-psychic who relies on Kageyama Shigeo (aka Mob) to do the real exorcisms. In our first outing, he has Mob get rid of a minor spirit followed by a tunnel full of angry dead biker spirits and a ancient mountain evil. Mob succeeds both times and, while he notices Reigen isn’t really doing anything, he hasn’t caught on to the fraud yet.

However, according to the scene-bridge counter, he’s 27% towards his explosion…which is probably gonna be huge, judging from the incomprehensible action sequence at the cold open of the show.

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Everyone’s going to tell you that you should like this show because it’s from the creator of One Punch Man, features an understated best-of-the-best hero who, like OPM, doesn’t yet appreciate how the world works around him. Some of the timing jokes are similar, as are the goofy, intentionally dumb character designs.

However, the only thing that is actually good about the show is Mob’s family and the short scene we get of them sharing his meal. His brother is a top student but underplays that, his dad appreciates his sons’ greatnesses, and the mother pokes at them all for ‘spoiling’ Mob, especially for bending spoons while trying to eat curry. It’s charming, quirky and fun in a way that makes me believe lightning can strike twice…

…Except the rest of the episode was unpleasant to look at, listen to, and the Fraud-Sensei/Mob Defeats Spirits formula is just not interesting.

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They say this place is haunted by the spirit of a man who saw a cockroach and jumped so high his head went through the ceiling and he died! (apparently true!)

The Verdict: I’m holding out hope because of the counter and some of the humor but this is a hell of an ugly show. Visuals aside, Reigen’s archetype isn’t entertaining since, you know, we get that he’s a fraud from the get go and Mob doesn’t even have a personality.

Sure, there are moments of cute/weirdness, like Mob’s love interest being surrounded by girls with vegetable heads and the opening rock-counting to 100 is fun but…that’s not enough.

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ReLIFE – 13 (Fin)

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Something’s definitely up with Hishiro as the final episode opens. You’d have to be Oga not to see it. All the LIME texts flying around about feelings and confessions, taking closeness for granted and fearing long separations.

Hishiro wonders, very logically, why one would put oneself through the “pointless” hassle of falling in love or confessing that love to someone you know you’ll be separated from.

Well, as the saying goes, better to have loved and lost, etc. And then there’s always a chance one’s assumption of being separated…turns out to be wrong, even if she doesn’t know that yet.

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Hishiro arrives to her first festival late and flustered; bold and resplendent in her deep red yukata (a color she asked Kaizaki if he liked in the preview for this ep). Due to the crush of people and unfortunate positioning, it’s Yoake, not Kaizaki, who is by her side when she needs an arm for support, whil An clings annoyingly to Kaizaki.

Sure, knowing what we know in this moment, An’s the better bet, as she won’t lose her memory of him when his year is up. But things are about to get more complicated in that arena.

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But first things first: Kariu intends to tell Oga how she feels about him, and Oga intends to tell Kariu how he feels about her. Their friends do a masterful job quickly ditching them, putting them both on the spot, having no idea of the each others’ intentions.

Oga takes the initiative, simply blurting out “Hey Kariu. I, uh…love you,” surprising both me and Kariu. Way to go, sport! The words hit Kariu like a ton of bricks, and as her mind races about all the ideas she had to confess to him, she gets shoved by a passerby.

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Oga grabs her hand and draws her near, and that’s when Kariu confesses she’s loved him for years now, bowling him over with equal elation. He adds that he’s probably loved her for a similar period of time, but needed Kaizaki to help him spell it out. They then hold hands and watch the fireworks together, on cloud nine…just eight minutes in, and we get a big win, making me wonder what else is in store for us in the finale.

Tama notices Kaizaki and Hishiro aren’t around, but Yoake and An shrug it off, having set Kaizaki up to be along with Hishiro. She asks him pointedly about Yoake, but not as someone interested in Yoake. Rather, she voices her admiration for Kaizaki’s ability to so quickly amass good friends, inspiring her to try harder.

Kaizaki counters that she’s surrounded by friends too, and she’s “tried plenty hard”, but she still gives most of the credit to him, adding she’s really glad she met him…which really confuses Kaizaki!

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He goes over in his head what she meant, but settles as he’s settled all along; happy she feels that way, and grateful for his ReLIFE, brief as it is. Hishiro then points out how lovely the fireworks are, and Kaizaki adds that they’re a little sad too, since they’re so fleeting and then fade in the darkness.

As the fireworks flash and bang about, a flurry of thoughts and memories fly by, going in backwards chronological order. It’s a concentrated retrospective of everything Hishiro’s been through these past thirteen episodes, ending with her telling Kaizaki he’s in her seat…and then a cut to black.

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Yoake introduces himself to an older Hishiro Chizuru. That’s right, she was Subject #001, the one Yoake failed. Not that big of a surprise, I know—all the clues have been there all along—but still good to see it confirmed here and now, during those fireworks.

Hishiro’s whole problem all this time has been the same as Kaizaki’s: she’s afraid of having too much fun or being too happy or falling too much in love, lest it hurt that much more when they part ways. “You’re like the fireworks,” she says to Kaizaki, while the fireworks are too loud for him to hear. She doesn’t repeat herself.

The two return to the others, and after celebration of Kariu and Oga confessing to one another, find themselves alone together again. It’s here when Hishiro states that her position from the beginning of the episode has softened in light of Kariu and Oga coming together. Now she knows worrying about the future at the cost of happiness in the present is a waste.

There’s no dual confession here, no matter how close either Hishiro or Kaizaki come, they always stay on that precipice, because they both believe the other will definitely forget them. But since they’re both ReLIFE subjects, I doubt that will happen. It’s just a tremendous shame they don’t know that right here and now, you know? They’re both content with less than they should have, all due to a gross misconception.

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This is a tough pill to swallow (heehee), particularly becaue unlike Kariu and Oga, it’s a plot device, and not merely emotional obstacles, keeping these two apart. But I understand. Practically speaking, the manga isn’t over, and this show covered most of what’s already been published.

Basically, ReLIFE gave us something we wanted—Oga and Kariu together—but left everything else up in the air, as if to say “Don’t get greedy!” I wasn’t a fan of Kazaki saying again and again that he’d be forgotten when this show has proven optimistic enough for me to think there’s a realistic hope of him and Hishiro becoming an item.

I hope they do, in a future second season down the road, which I would watch the shit out of, no matter how much they dragged it out (after all, it took three seasons of Working!!! for the main couple to finally confess, and I watched every episode).

Until then, this was a very nicely done high school dramedy, and I especially appreciated being able to watch it at my own pace, instead of still being stuck on episode two!

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Amaama to Inazuma – 02

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This week set up and resolved the first social conflict between Kotori and the Inuzaka family — that Kouhei was not entirely comfortable spending time at a student’s restaurant, making meals for himself and his daughter, without first talking to that student’s parents.

At first, he tries to completely dodge the situation but an older teacher encourages him with tales of a gone-by era where teachers used to engage students outside of school. Also, Tsumugi is so completely enamored with Kotori that he can’t realistically unwind their encounter quickly.

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After a rocky start, with Kotori’s mother having run off before team Inuzaka arrives, Tsumugi gets them moving forward. Kotori admits she is afraid the restaurant will close (her mother is a food expert on tv and rarely around) and she herself has none of the tools necessary to keep it going. She’s even afraid of knives!

By the end of the meal, Kouhei agrees to continue coming over but they must set some ground rules first. Stick to them or not, he’s in for a while if only because it makes his daughter smile.

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heart melting: little girls with gigantic lion’s mane hair making food with cookie cutters!

The stakes were lower, and a little less happened this time out, but AtI remains a lovely show. This week had great little details, like Mugi seeing Kotori’s doodles under the counter and wanting to hang up her own menu.

Like the food itself, everything is warm, perhaps a little too cautious, but so warm. Like Mugi herself, I can taste the individual ingredients at work here and even at their simplest, that is fantastically more enjoyable than complex pre-packaged by the numbers show.

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ReLIFE – 12

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It’s the end of the term and time for Summer Break – or in Kaizaki’s case, more lessons and make-up exams. There’s talk of the future. Oga mentions taking a look at universities other than the one Aoba High is affiliated with. Kariu gets restless.

Spring is classically when a young man’s fancy turns to love, but in Oga’s case, it’s Summer, and not without a considerable push from his de facto best mate Kaizaki, who has denied and is apparently content to continue to deny himself romance, since none of his high school friends will remember him at the end of the year.

At an impromptu adult celebration (i.e., with beer), Yoake and An mock his academic troubles, but also want the skinny on the Oga + Kariu impasse. Yoake also lauds his ReLIFE time as a “one year, limited edition of youth” he’s not taking full advantage of.

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Kaizaki simply groans at that, but the next day when he has Oga alone, he really presses him on who he likes. When he says “everyone”, he forces him to narrow it down based on certain criteria. Once those criteria enter Oga’s head, he visualizes who else but Kariu.

One hot Summer evening while Kaizaki and Oga are walking home proves to be the clincher as far as Oga realizing how he feels about Kariu. He spots her talking to a man in a suit who seems to be trying to get her into his car. Then she gets woozy and the man has to catch her.

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This is very confusing and not at all okay for Oga, who springs out to get to the bottom of it. Turns out, the man is Kaizaki’s kohai from last week (small world!) who saw that Kariu had heat stroke and didn’t want to leave her alone.

Oga offers to take her home, and because of Kariu’s state of mind, she lets her sincere, grateful side show, which Oga remarks at flippantly and gets punched for. “We’re always like this,” Oga says with a laugh. “It’s fun!”

He has no idea how much Kariu’s heart skipped upon hearing that, but on their silent walk home and late into the night, all Oga can think about is wanting to hold her hand.

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Officially in love with Kariu, like he always was without knowing it, Oga reports the revelation to Kaizaki, who is appropriately obnoxious, but also privately proud of both Oga and himself for giving him that little nudge (though Kaizaki’s kohai deserves a smidgen of credit too).

Yoake, An, and Hishiro join in the discussion of what the next steps should be, and when Oga mentions how much experience with girls Kaizaki’s had, Hishiro flashes her first forced smile in a while, clearly miffed by the implication (just as she was miffed her pleasant walk to school with Kaizaki was interrupted by An).

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Oga rises above all the chatter and bickering and makes the decision to invite Kariu to the Summer Fireworks Festival, in a text that bowls her over and has her wondering if he sent it in error (though he invites her by name, so that’s impossible).

She reaches out to the other girls, who also got invites, and realizes Oga invited everyone. She laments getting worked up for nothing, but agrees to go anyway. Inviting everyone is “just like Oga”, after all.

By the way, I really loved the energetic song that was played before, during, and after the credits: “Summer Festival” by Whiteberry, a super catchy, boisterous ode to life and youth featuring vocals that are just the right amount of off-key. Interestingly, it was released as a single in 2000, when Kaizaki (28 in 2016) was only 12. I figure it’s a song from his MD collection…

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3 Reasons You Should Be Excited For Gantz:0

If you are unfamiliar with the franchise, Gantz is an unbelievably bleak sci-fi/horror tale about life, death, and morality. It’s existed as a sprawling manga, a truncated ‘first-ish arc’ anime, and alt-direction live action movies. Each of these treatments is absolutely worth your investment, and I’ll outline why below, but each also has weaknesses… Gantz:0 is poised to fix.

  1. Gantz’ story is fantastic. That said, if you read the manga, it’s absolutely clear Hiroya Oku had no idea where the story was going at first, or even at several points along the way. While enjoyable on their own, entire chunks of narrative like the Vampires and the Secret Government Conspiracy or even the human psychics feel unresolved and unrelated to what turns out to be an alien invasion story.

Gantz:0 has the distinct advantage of being scripted after the manga’s completion and, by the looks of it, hops over some of the introductory arcs (that are full of characters who die almost immediately). It looks tighter, more show-story than talk-about story.

2. Gantz’ heroes play a blend of selfishness and sacrifice off of the conventions of Japanese culture…but the individual stories can be lost amongst a massive and regularly shifting cast. The very fact that it has two heroes (Kuruno and Kato) that occasionally sit out arcs due to being dead (again) dilutes either of their stories.

Gantz:0 appears to have dropped Kuruno in order to focus on Kato, which is unexpected because Kuruno’s rise of a kill them all warrior is a more obvious choice than Kato’s rise as a compassionate keep them all alive leader to focus a movie. But if they blend those two stories together, Kato has more interesting stakes:

Where Kuruno has a love triangle/square that includes a duplicate of himself created by his frustrated Idol love interest, Kato has a younger brother with no parents to protect him — and relatives that beat him –and Kato’s love interest is single mom with her own son to protect as a love interest.

Both boys die more than once, and both grapple with the idea of not being the ‘original him’ but Kato has more at stake than ‘which girl should I tap?’ Further, without Kuruno to serve as his idealized childhood hero, Kato will have to build his own sense of heroism from scratch.

3. Gantz’ visual style is a big part of its appeal. Uko’s choice to render weapons and complex vehicles in full CG but keep the cast hand drawn brings contrast. It emphasizes how out of place humans are in the struggle.

Gantz:0 will lose some of that juxtaposition but it also clearly shines in another important way the anime and manga struggled: visual effects necessitated by the scifi weapons and gear. The teleportation effect alone is fantastic.

Now that you’ve seen the preview, what do you think?