Demi-chan wa Kataritai – 03

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The Gist: Satou Sakie takes front stage this week, and we learn more about the troubles facing succubuses. Sakie can not touch men, or even doze off near them, least they have erotic thoughts. This means she must live in the middle of nowhere, ride the first and last commuter train, and resign herself to a life without relationships.

Except Takanashi touches her by mistake and does not appear to be effected. Coupled with his generally nice personality, quickly formed and casual relationships with students, and Sakie quickly falls for him.

Little does she know, once around the corner, his legs go to jelly from the experience! A gentleman yes, but a superman poor Takanashi is not!

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The Verdict: Another light hearted romp through another character’s personal misery, which is Demi-chan’s running strong suit. This week was a little less interesting, mostly because Sakie’s dilemma IS BOY CRAZY, which doesn’t work as a foil for social issues like the other two Demi girls. However, Hikari and Takanashi continue to have great chemistry in dialog, and the mixture of light and dark hits the right balance.

Next week will clearly delve into snow-woman territory. I’m not really familiar with this demi-type, which is exciting because I don’t know what to expect. Well, outside of unintentional harem building, pleasant interactions, and charm.

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Granblue Fantasy the Animation – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Gist: Granblue Fantasy is the story of Lyria, a abused special magic weapon on the run from The Empire, and Gran, a friendly knight, who comes to her rescue in the woods. Gran is killed along the way and Lyria must resurrect him and unleash the power of Bowmut to defeat the evil-face villain and escape.

I literally spent 40 minutes laughing with hatred at this show, which contains exactly zero drops of joy, artistic expression, nor professional craft.

It may be tempting to watch Granblue to witness its profoundly generic and overwhelmingly slow structure, which are impossible to capture in stills. It may be tempting to watch if you enjoy the game, which has lovely character designs, with vivid color and shading, absolutely not captured here.

Please, in the name of the 40 minutes of life I can never get back, do not. This is a profoundly terrible show.

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There is an unfortunate dialog convention in Fantasy RPGs, which I refer to as “Question, answer, answer repeated as question, answer.” (QAARAQA for short) It is usually reserved for the protagonist, to reinforce information that absolutely does not need to be reinforced for the viewer/player, which results in a mentally limited protagonist and disrupted narrative flow.

“Who’s chasing us?” “The Empire.” “The Empire!? They’re dangerous!” “Yes. We must escape them!” “Escape them!?” – Oh just shut up!

GranBlue Fantasy the Animation QAARAQAs frequently, often while characters are standing around before and after its brief action scenes. Not only does this result in a repetitive cycle that adds nothing to our understanding of the world or the characters, as they are only restating obvious plot points we’ve seen or can infer without emotional nuance, it totally derails the flow of action.

Of course that would matter more if GranBlue contained action in the first place. While characters do run around, occasionally launch shimmery attacks, and there are 2 CGI dragons, the animation is lethargic or lacking narrative tension or hilariously adherent to RPG battle conventions, or all three at once.

In one scene, after a few seconds running away from a long conversation, Katalina stops and walks up angrily to four imperial knights harassing villagers in the forest …and swats them to the ground with her rapier. She doesn’t run, she just walks up to them and splat, they fall over, with exactly the same sword-swing and fall-down impact you would expect from a broad sword. The only thing missing was red damage point numbers appearing above the knights’ bodies.

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While the character design is quite detailed, that level of detail limits shading. The result looks flat, lacking volume, and the line quality, which is best described as ‘sketchy pencil’ looks sloppy, unfinished. Other visual notes like Vyrn not flapping her wings, rather bobbing up and down in the frame, and that 20 minutes of the episode are spent running aimlessly through the same muddy-colored forest, gives an overall feeling that no effort was put into the production of this show.

Certainly, nothing compared to the lovely rich colors and bold shading in the game. (Don’t even get me started on the audio, the generic high-pitched girl voice dragon, or the laughingly evil faced villain who also has a generic high pitched voice/laugh.)

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The Verdict: Fantasy tropes aside, GranBlue‘s structure is terrible. Scenes are interminably long, often featuring characters standing around expositioning content we know or are smart enough to infer.

11 minutes in, Gran and Katalina spend 4 minutes next to a fallen tree re-explaining the current story. This is immediately after running away from a group of soldiers, without a sense that they’ve ‘gotten away’ or are hiding. They’re just here, nonchalantly talking about the plot. No tension, nothing.

“Gran! Please use my power.” “Your… power?” “Yes” – ARGH!

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3-gatsu no Lion – 14

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3GL gets back on track by bringing Rei and Shimada’s match to an end, and I realize the match was supposed to start out boring at the beginning last week, to reflect how little of it Rei thought. Shimada was only a hurdle to leap over on the way to teaching Gotou a lesson.

How wrong Rei was: Shimada wasn’t an opponent to toss aside with half-assed preparation. Rei totally misjudged his level and got totally destroyed. Finding out how early in the match he was toast (far earlier than he realized when playing) only pours gas on the fire.

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He runs off like someone rejected by their crush, thinking he’s lost everything. He loads up on sleep, gets depressed and dehydrated, and even starts to think of other ways to make his way in the world besides shogi (which is tough when one is only seventeen). Rei had taken on the trappings of adulthood without having the experiences necessary to become one.

But as Shimada and Smith say, this happens to everyone, in one way or another. You’re young, you feel invincible, then you’re struck down and never saw it coming, and think It’s All Over. Heck, it sounds a lot like one’s first rejection or breakup.

But such defeats are necessary and vital to growth, which is probably why Nikaidou asked Shimada to “crack [Rei’s] head in two.” Rei needed a jolt like this, because more defeats will come in life and he needs to learn how to deal with them.

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Rei tries to find some solace at school, but it’s just as unapproachable and incompatible to him as ever. Again, the only one he talks with is Hayashida-sensei, making him one of the least social high school anime characters (who isn’t just a shut-in) in recent memory.

Hayashida also wants to impress upon Rei the fact that if he’s “over-capacity”, and it certainly looks like he is, there’s no shame in stepping back from those adult trappings, moving back home, and having at least some of the things currently overloading his life be taken care of.

Additionally, Hayashida suggests Rei join Shimada’s workshop (of which Nikaido is also a member), as learning from someone who beat you (especially so badly) is a great opportunity.

Rei has to get past his anger with Shimada for getting beaten, his uneasiness with being back home, and of course, his own obsessive insistence on not running. Doing these things isn’t running, it’s learning and growing.

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Seiren – 03

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“Seiren” means “honest” in Japanese, and I said in my first review that it’s a pretty honest show. Sure weird things may happen like a soaked Hikari climbing into Shou’s window, but there’s a logical explanation for it, however far-fetched.

More importantly, the show is honest about how Shou, from whose POV we’re watching most of the time, has no idea what to make of Hikari. Does he like her, or is he just reacting as programmed due to her popular princess status at school? Does she like him, or is she just messing with him in lieu of any other suitable boy at the hotel?

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Shou’s only at the study camp at all because Hikari inspired him to improve himself. He finds it hard to balance the need to actually study with the nervous but exhilarating fun he has whenever Hikari is around, being so “provocative” at least for a conservative chap like him.

This week Hikari gets Shou to cut loose, wearing the wrap that came with her bikini as they sneak into the boy’s bath after hours for a dip. Here the honesty is carried through: they don’t get intimate or anything; Shou is nowhere near that stage. But he does find out exactly what it’s like to have an illicit bath with a pretty girl, and the resulting tent he pitches comes in handy when scaring off the teacher, saving Hikari from being discovered.

Be it studying in his room with Hikari on his bed, sneaking into the bath, or sharing a nice night outside (finally, they went outside!) by a drained pool, Shou stocks up on lots of nice memories with this girl he can’t quite figure out, but is trying to do so.

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He feels it’s the proper time to ask her why she lied about the mixer being a “family affair”, but she claims she wasn’t lying, as it could potentially lead to her making a family. He also learns the older man at the restaruant was never her boyfriend.

And while she had a fair amount of fun with Shou in the mountains, Hikari still seems sore about missing the mixer, particularly when her friend says “it wasn’t anything special” but is then seen back at school hanging off the arm of Araki.

Meanwhile, Hikari and Shou haven’t talked since that memorable night at the inn. He feels a rift of sorts was formed when he delved into her personal life, like he’s on the outside, looking in; unsure how to re-engage with her.

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Youjo Senki – 03

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The Gist: After ten years of silence, God intervenes. Following her recovery and receipt of ace-status, Tanya finds herself blessed with even more power but at the price of obeying God’s command. Each time she uses the Elenium Type 95, she must pray, and in doing so spread his word. (also, not be blown to pieces by the Type 95, which would explode without divine providence.)

Flashing back to the present, Tanya receives a promotion following her victory in the Rhine. More important to Salaryman, she is given the chance to attend the military academy, where he feels a safe life track will finally emerge.

Little does he know, many around him are also under God’s will. And God apparently has a plan…

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-11-08-19-pmIntroducing Imperial Military Technology Development Chief Engineer Adelheid von Schugel or ‘Doc’ as I will call him.

Doc and Tanya’s banter brought levity to this episode, which would otherwise be overly heavy OR too reliant on Tanya’s antagonistic relationship with God (and befuddled facial expressions) to remain fresh or engaging. Importantly, it was tongue-in-cheek humor, but not ‘idiot’ humor. So the lightening of the tone did not undermine the tone, world, or grim reality of Tanya’s situation.

However the emerging God Conspiracy really stole the show. It is hard to predict what Youjo Senki can do with that thread, but spreading God’s message—Deus Lo Vult—among the various side stories really salvaged them from feeling like disposable ‘people talk in a room somewhere else’ scenes.

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-11-11-37-pmIt must be satisfying to break a talking nutcracker while God is chastising your lack of metaphysical growth…

The Verdict: Youjo Senki stood on three pillars for narrative strength this week and, I would expect, for the duration of the season. Tanya and God’s conversations, which includes a great visual effect as well as evocative imagery, provides academic interest. Tanya’s interaction with other humans, which reveal her internal motives via monologue, provide the audience an emotional satisfaction from knowing more than the rest of the cast. Tanya’s response to being trapped by God and/or circumstances gives the audience an action or humor release.

Sprinkling in magic explosions and military stuff is just spice on top. Good stuff and well worth a watch!

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