Soushin Shoujo Matoi – 04

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The Gist: ‘Toi, Yuma and Clarus bounce from brightly colored dimension to dimension until getting dragged back to Earth to fight Creed Killer. Clarus info dumps about the Nights, but it’s thin info and we’ve heard all of it before.

Clarus also expositions her backstory, which is about the tragic loss of her first partner, Flors, who was a naieve idiot that get royally screwed for trying to talk to Creed Killer.

Then Creed Killer casts a mega black hole but is immediately thwarted by ‘Toi, who summons all of the local gods at once, apparently a special quirk of Japanese culture. Then Clarus kills Creed Killer.

Roll credits…

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introducing Flor… who were told is destroyed in the first flash back… and then is destroyed a few flashbacks later…

Introducing a character as a vehicle to introduce another character is a terrible idea. We barely know Clarus as viewers and what we do know is unlikeable and stupidly arrogant. That doesn’t change just because Flors got herself killed in a pointless way. It certainly doesn’t make Creed Killer interesting, since he’s basically a pure-evil DC’s Joker knock off.

Killing him off immediately doesn’t help anything either. Toi’s sudden super power feels completely unearned — and the mythology isn’t even set up for it.

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‘Toi apparently has rainbow power now. Nope, there was no setup for this during the episode…

Verdict: this episode was so dreadfully cliché, awkwardly put together, and dull above all other things that I walked away from it three times before I could finish. While not strictly ‘terrible’ in an academic sense, I have no patience for a show that is willing to spend 30 minutes with characters staring grimly into space uttering grim-dude sentences that are so generic grim-dude that the subs struggled to make them sound like they were coherently connected to the events of the episode.

Toi and Yuma had little to do, we learned nothing, a villain went from impossibly powerful to totally defeated abruptly, and the support characters sat around uttering nonsense lines. Clarus backup even drives off to his hotel room for a completely pointless conversation… on his cell phone?

I have 3 reliably awesome shows and 1 hit or miss (but occasionally brilliant) show. Three 7s in a row followed by a lower score is basically an automatic DROP in my book.

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Yuri!!! on Ice – 03

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The Gist: Yuri and Yurio’s competition begins in earnest, with Victor revealing their choreography and setting the stakes high for both skaters. Yurio quickly locks down his technical performance but his greed is too obvious for ‘agape.’ Meanwhile, Yuri can not lock down the quad salchow and struggles with his presentation of ‘eros,’ which feels too much like a cheap copy of Victor.

Eventually, Yurio locks in on the memories of his grandfather, who came to many of his early matches and his performance wows the crowd, and even earns high marks from Victor.

Yuri actually fumbles one of his own jumps but, having locked in on a feminine treatment to contrast Victor’s masculine ‘playboy’ structure, he gets more to the point of the competition.

Ultimately, the technical difficulty of Yurio’s routine is his undoing. The performance takes his all to execute, which leaves no room to think of the deeper artistic expression. He leaves before hearing the verdict.

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“You’re gushing all sorts of fluids again…”

Yuri!!! has used intermixed multiple rendering styles in its frames since the beginning, but the technique really clicked with me this week. There’s a kind of forced depth of field and attention focusing that it accomplishes that is different from a typical anime, which would make non-focal characters ‘simpler’ but the same style as the focal character in the frame.

Using Yurio as an example, when he’s the focus, he’s leaned forward in a confrontational way, and his shadowing is higher contrast and sharply edged, and when he’s in the background, his eyes are always large and creased over to remind us that everyone disgusts him. This maintains a continuity for Yurio’s impatient teen personality without feeling redundant  and without making that stronger personality dominant in each frame.

Compare this with Victor, who is rarely cartooned in the background, but often leans back with one foot tilted up when he’s the focus. It maintains his playful nature but also emphasizes he’s the most adult (being rendered like an adult vs the ‘boys’ being rendered like cartoon children).

Roll your eyes or not, this show is the stuff of art school term papers and graduate analysis.

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The Verdict: Last week I was initially put off by the show and I couldn’t figure out why until I let the opening credits roll. (I usually skip anime openers to avoid spoilers) While the opening is technically competent on its own, with good music and one of the better Engrish Songs I’ve heard in anime, it isn’t remarkable.

But it does a remarkably good job anchoring the themes of the show in a way I didn’t anticipate. Skating is intrinsically feminine-looking (from my cultural perspective at least) but that does not necessarily mean homosexual. Even if the show gets there eventually, the opening’s ink style, which has each character repeating gestures and wearing similar (if not identical) costumes, sells me on the dance—the skating—presenting that sexuality over the performers themselves.

I can’t think of another anime that mind-spaced me so specifically, or adjusted my interpretation of the contents of an episode. Artistic thought, Yuri has in spades!

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Kuromukuro – 22

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With Kurobe Lab captured, its remaining staff brainwashed, and the Pivot Stone in Efidolg hands, the enemy halts its advance, allowing the good guys a measure of uneasy peace this week. Zell pays a visit to the Shirahane household to tell the story of how he met and befriended their husband and father Takehito.

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From the moment Zell jumps out of the shadows when Takehito tries to cut himself (to lure the “ogre” to his trap after many other baits failed), their entire interaction is pure gold. I love how unafraid Takehito is of Zell, and how Zell, while a little weirded out by this guy just runs with it, inviting him to his cave for some tasty boil-in-a-bag, showing him where he came from, and warning him of the Efidolg threat.

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Yukina’s father parted ways with Zell but got caught in a sudden snowstorm that claimed his life. Koharu would’ve just been a baby when this happened, but Yukina regrets calling her dad a liar, when he was right about everything. The “ogres” (or “oni”) that are a part of Japanese legend were actually ancient aliens.

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That night, as Yukishi says a prayer for Takehito, Muetta…wanders off, but not back to the Efidolg. She actually has no idea where she belongs anymore, only that it isn’t here. She can’t get the childhood memory of her homeworld out of her head, and the fact that memory may be fake doesn’t make it feel any less real or powerful.

Ken and Yukina go out to look for her, but the activated Pivot Stone lowers the temperature of the vicinity significantly, causing premature snow. Yukina trips and falls into a snowdrift, but Koharu’s ferret finds her, runs back to Muetta, then leads her Lassie-style to Yukina.

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Once again proving she’s not evil, Muetta strips down and warms the freezing Yukina up with her own body heat, causing Yukina to wake up very confused, but then very grateful for saving her life (and I’ll just say Ken really dropped the ball leaving Yukina behind without making sure she got back home safely.) When Muetta breaks down into tears at her frustration of not knowing where to go or what to do, Yukina gives her the only thing she can: a comforting hug and her belief that everything will be fine.

Like everyone else in this episode (who hasn’t been brainwashed), all Muetta and Yukina can really do is keep on surviving. Muetta notes that the premature Winter is the effect of the Pivot Stone, which will soon open a “star path” for the main Efidolg invasion force—if it isn’t open already. I simply don’t see how anyone survives if that force reaches Earth, so if anyone has an idea how to stop it and send the Efidolgs packing, now’s the time.

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