As two forest-dwelling sisters named Aqua and Eris bring ruin upon any intruding adventurers, Makoto celebrates the anniversary of the establishment of the Demiplane by meeting one-one-one with its denizens, from Akina the Alke (who has learned to perfectly mimic humans) to Liddy the Lizardman (who still looks like a lizardman). He also learns that when he pats the head of Tomoe’s fragment, she feels it too.
After a night of meeting, greeting his many admirers from Demiplane society, Makoto goes off on his own to practice his archery. Only both Tomoe and Mio suddenly feel his presence vanish, and find that by focusing on archery, he’s dying and being reborn over and over again. By being continually reborn, his mana continues to expand, as does the demiplane. Tomoe worries it will lead to the Goddess ordering his elimination.
Thus Makoto must learn to mask his enormous mana even more, both with his own magic and the gear the dwarves make for him. In the meantime, he still has a business to get up and running, which means returning to Tsige, where he helps a demihuman in need who also happens to look a bit like him.
A prostitute witnesses his kindness and decides to reward him with a night of fun, but a jealous Tomoe and Mio come out of nowhere to drag him off. He doesn’t want to tell them he loves them like family—as the ED indicates, they’re basically surrogate sisters. But by not saying so he creates a misunderstanding, and both women feel they need to make him a man immediately. Thankfully, he cools them off with an ice spell before they can assault him.
The next day Tomoe, and Mio in particular, regret how aggressive they were, and Makoto lays down some boundaries. That said, he’s happy to have Mio accompany him to Tinarak Forest to check out the ambrosia flowers that grow there. Makoto slips into the habit of his previous life in his world by offering to “hold handsies” with Mio, like he once did with his sister. Mio, obviously elated, takes his hand without hesitation.
Alas, she only gets to bask in the loveliness of that moment for 31 scant seconds before she and Makoto are rudely interrupted by two different parties: a trio of human adventurers led by the prostitute, and the pair of forest-dwelling sisters. Obviously Makoto and Mio are more more than a match for either, so it will really come down to how Makoto will de-escalate the situation and come to an understanding.
This week the kids catch two key breaks. First, they weren’t captured or killed by the farm trackers or the wild forest demon. Second, Mujika and Sonju, the two demons who rescued them, don’t eat humans and have no intention to harm them. In fact, it’s been so long since they’ve encountered humans they’re happy to show them ample hospitality.
Sonju later tells Emma and Ray that after endless war and killing, humans and demons agreed stop hunting each other and split to the world into segregated halves. All the humans on the demon side were “gifted” to the demons and vice versa. With hunting forbidden, farms like Grace Field were established. And, oh yeah, the great split happened over a thousand years ago.
At first Emma and Ray are gobsmacked by the amount of real time that has passed, but then literally jump for joy. The fact that demons only rule half the world and humans are free on their half is a huge boost to their outlook. Even if Sonju says no one has ever crossed the boundary between worlds, well, Emma and Ray will simply be the first, that’s all!
The pair relay the news to the others and rallies them to their suddenly more concrete cause. The good demons, who practice their religious faith by not eating human flesh, show the group the proper way out of the tunnel network under the forest to eventually reach the spot indicated in Minerva’s pen.
On the way, they teach them all of the things they need to learn to survive on their own, from building fires and cooking to medicinal plants and archery. Gilda and the little ones harshly scold both Emma and Ray for being so reckless earlier. They can’t afford to lose either of them, so they have to start being more careful and speaking up if they’re hurt.
When Sonju heads to the surface to scope out the area for threats, Emma accompanies him, but not for a change of scenery. She wants him to teach her something he hadn’t to that point: how to kill a living thing. Sonju acquieses, and while Emma initially hesitates to loose her bow on an unassuming bird, she eventually does so, and hits the bird right in the head.
While a clean strike, the bird is not yet dead, so Sonju shows Emma the Gupna, a ritual that takes place to give thanks and show respect for the kill.. By plunging a vampiric Vida branch into the heart of the still-living bird, when the plant blooms it means the meat is safe to eat. It also means the gods have approved the meat for consumption
When Emma remembers the same plant being used on her family members, she retches, but completes the ritual, adding her own prayer: “We don’t want to be eaten. We want to live. But we’ve been eating others too. And if we can’t keep eating, we can’t survive.” When she returns to the caverns with Sonju, the kids notice something different about Emma. Indeed, while out in the forest, making her first kill, she was changed irrevocably. You can see it on her face, and in the haunting way she whispers “I’m okay.”
I for one am glad the kids not only caught a couple breaks this week, but were blessed with a path forward. Not only that, for a few days they were able to stop being runaways or survivalists and simply live like the kids they are, being fed and taught and not having to worry about running for their lives. Emma took an important step into the new normal by officially becoming an active rather than passive participant in the food chain.
Something new has shown up in Sakura’s dream: someone with long, silvery hair and black wings. When Sakura wakes up, Kero-chan takes note of the Sakura doll by her bed. Tomoyo made it before she became a Cardcaptor, and yet the doll is wearing an outfit very similar to the one Sakura is wearing in her dream—which has already been established as foretelling. We’re getting into some trippy territory here, and I like it!
Sakura is up early on a weekend in order to travel to Tokyo, watch Yukito’s traditional archery competition, and provide him with three or four bento boxes for lunch. Tomoyo and Syaoran tag along, with the former always up for hanging with Sakura, while Syaoran says “being around her is useful for capturing Clow Cards”, to which she innocently replies “that’s true”.
Kero-chan tags along as well, not just for the chance to eat some of the lunches Sakura made, but because the description of her dream points to Yue being near, and Kero doesn’t want to be unnecessarily separated from the Cardcaptor. While on the train to the competition, the Tokyo Tower comes into view and Sakura spaces out…but both she and Syaoran space out upon seeing Yukito in traditional Japanese archer’s dress!
Everyone is also surprised to find Mizuki-sensei not only participating in the competition, but making it to the final round along with Yukito. The two exhibit grace, elegance, and strength as all their arrows impact on or near bullseye…that is until something distracts Mizuki and she misses her shot. Even so, she’s gracious in defeat and congratulates Yukito.
While he has lunch with Sakura, Syaoran and Tomoyo, Kero sneaks out of Sakura’s bag to meet and chat with Mizuki. Throughout the day he’d been “feeling the moon”, or rather the power of the moon, which Mizuki admits she draws upon for her magic. She also seems to know about Yue, who we learn is Kero’s guardian counterpart. Finally, Touya reveals himself as working as a balloon-peddling mascot at the shrine.
Both Touya and Mizuki both forebodingly declare that there’s no such thing as “coincidence”, only “inevitability.” Sure enough, a Clow Card makes its appearance on the shrine grounds, and judging from the fissures and mountains it creates, it looks to be an earth-element card—and a tough one to boot!In a break from most CCS outings, the credits roll before the card is captured…lending it special significance.
This was a particularly shitty episode of Drifters – and I say that not due to a lack of quality (it remains consistently average most of the time), but due to the sheer amount of excrement used as a weapon against the Orte soldiers in the Elven Rebellion. The three samurai help the Elves train for the battle, then Toyohisa leads the fight, which is waged with arrows and blades covered in crap, and a well full of crap so wounds can’t be washed.
In this regard, Nobunaga shows just how ruthless he can be, employing the very natural processes of life and death to his advantage, and rightfully expecting the Orte troops to crumble once they see the tactics being used against them.
However, Nobunaga also knows that Yoichi isn’t the biggest fan of such “dirty tricks”, nor that Toyohisa knows how to do anything other than compel others to fight and then fight himself. He proposes the storming of the lord’s castle, but it’s up to Nobunaga to formulate a plan to do so.
The castle-storming (involving the elves disguised as troops returning…the Orte don’t seem that bright) leads us to a discovery that makes the enemy even more baldly despicable: not only did Orte abduct all of the female elves, but soldiers have been free to have their way with them in a filthy, hellish nightmare setting that make Toyohisa change his mind about accepting anyone’s surrender. If they’re going to act like beasts, he’s going to slaughter them like beasts.
The three amigos made some progress, but we may be starting to see cracks appearing between them even as their quest to conquer everything in sight is just beginning. And while this episode wasn’t marred by any other Drifters or Ends, showing us the dirty, smelly side of war was ultimately more gross than engrossing.
Off everyone goes to war…or hopefully (but not realistically), the prevention of war. We meet Ian, a bubby personality who somehow managed not to get killed this week, while Rose takes Alisha up on her offer to witness her actions. Then there is Sorey, who likes Alisha but won’t take a side if there’s war. Instead, he’ll do his job as a Shepherd: purity the malevolence, and try to stop war, not make it.
Unfortunately the war is already in progress when they arrive, so Sorey has to split off from Alisha and use his three Seraphim to try to do damage control. It’s Alisha’s first taste of large-scale combat, but she’s protected by her honorable underlings.
No-so-honorable are the Rolance troops who went behind their general’s back to launch a rear suprise attack, while Hyland’s general won’t listen to Alisha’s orders and instead orders his men to capture her, wounding her if necessary.
Bartlow is in full control here, even if he’s nowhere near the actual battle, and Alisha’s reluctance to use violence plays right into his hands. But when the soldiers start coming at her and Rose, they hold their own pretty well, without killing.
Meanwhile, Sorey exerts a good deal of energy to purify an entire battlefield of hellions and malevolence…only to discover there are other battlefields. His task has been made so much harder by the fact everything is already in motion.
And such is the implacable cowardice and unreasonableness of the Hyland forces under Bartlow’s command, one soldier uses Alisha’s moment of compassion for her own troops, keeping Rose from killing him, to stab her in the back. Things look very bad up until all the troops in the room are swept away by some kind of telekinesis wielded by a mysterious figure floating above them.
So it’s a rough start for Team War Prevention, and with the “Lord of Calamity” superboss on the literal horizon, it’s not getting smoother anytime soon. Though I imagine, with a second season officially coming sometime in 2017, this season’s final episode will feature some kind of resolution.
Suffice it to say, I found last week’s Vanadis unremarkable. It wasn’t truly terrible, but I don’t feel empty superhero worship and fan-wank warrant much attention. Little did I know Vanadis aimed to trump itself in episode 4 with what felt like an endless stream of Dudes Frowning and Boob Jiggle.
Short review:Vanadis’ fourth episode is very long on misogynistic boobsploitation and very short on character development and world-building.
Long Review: This was a stinky turd. So hold your nose! We’re diving in!
Titta the twin-tail maid is super in love with her boss and, well, owner, Count Tigre but she has a problem: her character type has been done to death in anime and, when you scrape away the dead skin of her loli-type harem appeal, Titta serves one purpose: she shows us that Tigre is desirable to women, without Tigre having to do that on his own as a character.
Gekkan-Shoujo Nozaki-kun exposed this phenomenon last season and the summary is that visual storytellers don’t always have time (or any idea how to) convey that their characters are stylish/sexy/powerful so they fill their side characters’ monologues and dialogues with “isn’t that character cool” and “wow he’s so powerful” filler.
It’s a remarkably effective tool, even when used poorly, but when you start to see it in use, the shine wears off and it feels cheap.
Speaking of cheap, Vanadis wastes no effort on humor. Instead, it spoon feeds us shovels full of yuk-yuks like Titta walking in on Lady Eleonora straddling Tigre with her sword in his mouth. I guess gender reversal oral rape humor is funny.
Apparently, not so much to Titta or Tigre though…
Then Ellen returns to her kingdom’s capital to report to her king and meets a bigger pair of breasts (Sofya Obertas) that support her and an angry little pair of breasts (Ludmila Lourie) that hate her. She doesn’t help the relationship by insulting the angry Ludmila for being small nor does she capitalize on Sofya’s assistance.
At least, not while on camera. It’s later stated that Ellen spent more time having important conversations about politics while there, and that the king gave very interestingly worded orders to her that are intended to put Alsace in the ‘screwed’ category.
But, for all we know, she could have spent hours watching Sofya’s boobs slowly enter the frame like a squishy star destroyer chasing down rebels, and crushing their star systems…
We don’t actually see anything other than Ellen make the king angry for potentially dragging his kingdom into an unprovoked war and Ellen instigating a fight with Ludmila Sure, Sofya fills us in on some background and points out Ellen’s poor choices, but it’s all very talky — and not very talky about anything of note!
Then Ludmila shows up at Tigre’s house and is all like “Ellen is rude as shit but I just wanted to say you’ve got some enemies you probably can’t win against and we should go somewhere else to talk about it because reasons.”
Then Tigre, Ellen, Ludmila and Lim go on a horsey ride where there tits can bounce really well — so well and from so many angles that I’m insulted how poorly the battle graphics have been rendered in previous episodes — because they need to go to another location because reasons.
Then Ninjas attack!
Lady Limalisha’s right breast gets bitten by a snake during the attack and Tigre has to suck out the venom and pretty much everything I’ve said about how terrible this episode was seems trivial by comparison.
This scene makes absolutely no sense as it was animated. One second, Lim is able to cut Ninjas out of the sky, the next she’s surprised by a snake falling from the sky and unable to swing her raised sword at it. Must’ve been a ninja snake.
Then, as Tigre is sucking, even more Ninjas attack and Ellen is totally not ready to kill them with her magic wind sword that she’s holding at the ready so Ludmila saves everybody by casting an ice spell that either we see in super super-slow-mo or the ninja’s ‘fall’ from the sky at a leisurely pace.
I mean, Ludmila has like ten seconds to cast a spell that kills the ninjas that are currently falling at them from the trees. It’s a fucking joke, and I do not use profanity lightly!
Vanadisis fanservice. Fanservice with no spin and no purpose other than keeping our eyes on a show that doesn’t even bother showing us it’s exposition scenes but tells us they happened off-camera!
In simple terms, it’s insulting and cynical. Women hate women — and hate on women over their physical attributes and squabble over men. Even powerful women are half-useless half the time and, when it comes down to it, a man’s gotta suck their fat tits to save their lives anyway so why not paint them like cows and be done with it?
Its story is an empty shell of uncooked politics and military drama, drawn in with acceptable but unremarkable quality. Without its tits, Vanadis is nothing and in this day and age, where well-drawn boobs are free and plentiful, Vanadis has no right to exist. Vanadis is horrific, hateful garbage.
I’ll admit, Franklin’s review of this episode spooked me into waiting this long to watch it for the purposes of keeping up for next week, which is my turn to review. But having finally watched it, I’m struggling to see exactly what all the outrage was about. This wasn’t a particularly good episode of anime, or even Vanadis; (the first episode of which remains its best by far.) But it was far from appalling.
His arguments for why the episode wasn’t good definitely hold water, to be sure. There were more boobs in this episode than previous ones, but we knew from the OP we’d be seeing more war maidens and thus more boobs. I’d kinda gotten used to Ellen and Lima’s boobs, but so many more are stuffed into the frame this week, it got a bit silly.
There were a couple of women who weren’t shown in the best light; Titta’s character really is just “she loves Tigre but it will never be”, while Lima…wow…that breast bite was random! But I just wasn’t nearly as offended by this episode as Franklin. Horrific and hateful never really entered my mind so much as dumb and unremarkable.
Whether next week improves significantly will determine whether we continue reviewing this show at all.
I’ll admit, Lord Zion Thernardier is an irredeemably evil scoundrel, coward, and lowlife, rendering him rather generic and boring. The battle waged by Tigre and Elen’s forces on the Molsheim Plains to defend Alsace? That’s another story. Even if Zion’s existence was a chore, the episode that ended with his timely and welcome demise was well-orchestrated piece of fantasy warfare.
This was a great battle, full of careful preparation and build-up but plenty of withheld information to make the specific unfolding of the battle a surprise. Elen’s army is only 900 against Zion’s 2,700, but if they maintain their kill ratio of 3-to-1 as they did in repelling the raid on Alsace, they shouldn’t have a problem. That ratio is made possible thanks to some clever tactics devised by Torn. Oh, and having his steward nearby to toss him fresh quivers – good to see the episode took logistics into account.
The movements of both armies are covered by an occasional cut to a strategic game board-like construct with CGI figures representing the units, and a well-informed narrator delivering the play-by-play. I actually really liked this method, as it not only satisfactorily explained what was going on in the action sequences, but split them up to avoid monotony.
As soon as I saw those two dragons last week, I knew Elen would be facing off against one or both of them. She for one, wasn’t expecting a dragon, but as a War Maiden/Vanadis, she’s more than capable of dispatching one on her own, albeit by breaking out a heretofore rarely-used Rey Admos, which she doesn’t use on people.
Lima’s unit of knights retreats, luring Zion’s flying column of knights, whose horses trip over a great rope made from smaller ropes gathered from the townsfolk of Alsace. After the earth dragon falls and a force of 2,000 enemy cavalry appears on the horizon (with only 100 riders, but it’s dark and the ruse works), Zion orders his knights to retreat and challenges Tigre to a duel. Tigre, who has been taking out enemies three per loosing of his bow.
Zion initiates the duel believing his prowess at jousting will win the day over the lowly huntsman, but he doesn’t consider the fact that if enough arrows go to the same place in his thick shield, eventually a hole is going to be made – one that goes right through his arm. But as Tigres and Elen’s forces fight each other, Zion escapes on the flying dragon, abandoning his forces altogether.
Tigre – and I – curse the fact Zion still isn’t dead (even if there’s a good chance he’ll succumb to infection), but then his bow starts to glow blue and talk to him in a gentle female voice, urging him to shoot the dragon. When he nocks, the bow borrows and merges with the power of Elen’s blade Arifar, and the arrow cleaves Zion’s dragon in two. Daddy’s gonna be pissed.
So this was a fun battle with lots of cool tactics and ruses that a military tourist like myself can really get into. It also showed us just how much ass Elen can kick when she chooses to. I’m not opposed to seeing more battles like this, but it suffered a bit from a weak, boring enemy (Zion) whose defeat was a foregone conclusion. Also, he fell in a lake and still may not be dead, which would frankly suck. But still, well done this week, Vanadis!
Before picking up where it left off last week, Vanadis back-pedals a bit to give us a peek into House Thenardier. They’re pretty much empty villains, with eyes on the throne and no real interest in Alsace.
They simply want to burn Alsace to the ground and pillage it before another powerful house has the chance. It’s also a good chance for their heir to grind some easy experience and break in his new dragons…
Okay, so there are a few (unconventional) signs I use to predict whether an anime is going to be crap over time, and this episode just trotted out one of them. Again, this may seem strange, but when a character makes the above face, I know a show is trying too hard to make someone evil in the most starkly black-and-white way possible.
Characters like that exist to shock us but usually don’t, because they are also usually quite incompetent (yet hard to kill for stupid plot reasons) Such characters also give us no drama and no nuance because they are what they are: pure, irredeemably evil, which is very boring to watch.
Flashing forward, that ‘look’ is part of a pointless scene where Zion Thenardier decides to go to Tigre’s house alone and then decides to torture/rape Titta, Tigre’s maid because…evil reasons.
Why he’s there alone or cares at all about Tigre is not meaningful. He’s the villain this week, and probably in the future because he’s non-fatally shot with an arrow before he can do anything rapey-er than rip up Titta’s clothes. It’s dull and predictable.
As far as plot developments, we learn Eleonora’s sword’s name, and that she can control the wind by slashing it. We also learn that she and Limalisha had a bet over how Tigre would respond to being kept from his fiefdom, and that he chose an option neither expected.
Ultimately, the result is Tigre giving Alsace to Eleonora in exchange for troops and then a brief overnight ride to save his (or now her?) lands. They somehow avoid (or haven’t noticed) the two dragons overlooking the town for now but…next episode.
Tigre also ends up with his family’s magic bow. It’s black. Probably powerful. Nothing exciting here.
You’re going to hear this a few times over the next two weeks, if it wasn’t obvious already: this fall season is stacked with excellent shows and there are simply too many to watch. Unfortunately, given it’s decent-but-not-astounding opening, and now a stumbling, uneventful, second episode, I can’t imagine Vanadis will make the cut.
Should it? That’s up to you and Preston, who will get to review it next week. For now, tell me why I should stick with it and I’ll lurk in the comments below.
While I’m already busy with Akame ga Kill and planning on watching Chaika’s second season (among other shows), Madan no Ou to Vanadis makes a relatively strong case for itself joining those two on my list to form a Fantasy Triad. It won me over not necessarily with its setting, plot, or fantasy elements, but primarily with its characters. The show looks to become more jumbled as more and more cast are introduced, but I was frankly fine with the first two we meet: Count Tigrevurmund Vorn (Ishikawa Kaito) and Ellenora Viltaria (Tomatsu Haruka), or Tigre and Ellen.
It doesn’t really matter why Zhcted and Brune are at war, they just are, and after an Ellen-led Zhcted routs the five-times-larger Brunish army, she’s disappointed, having hoped for a more entertaining time. Enter Tigre, who isn’t done fighting and even takes out the horse of Ellen’s lieutenant Limalisha, and aims his last two arrows at Ellen herself. Ellen being one of the Vanadis (war maidens), she cuts them easily away, but Tigre has her full attention, and her disappointment turns to exhilaration.
Tigre may be a wealthy count, but he dresses down and uses a bow, which irks his peacock-like peers who condemn him as a coward. Were they around to see him survive the rout, they’d probably use that as evidence of him using his skills simply to survive like a craven, rather than fight and die like a warrior. But as a count, he must worry about his life, for many other lives depend on him staying alive and strong: his subjects in Alsace.
But Ellen likes Tigre. She likes his bow and the spirit he showed on a battlefield, even though his cause to single-handedly take her and her retinue down was a hopeless cause. One reason I like her is that she reminds me of Maou in Maoyuu Maou Yuusha: powerful yet bored; willing to make common cause with her sworn enemy to their mutual benefit, and said enemy intrigues her. She’s also tough, and doesn’t even flinch when Tigre sees her in the bath. Again, she’s a war maiden; embarassment is weakness. Her baby dragon’s cute too.
Still, as pretty as Ellen is and as pleasant a place as Zhcted seems to be, Tigre is still a prisoner on the wrong side. He can’t very well protect Alsace in enemy custody. So when Ellen asks him to join her, he must refuse, and when his arrested attendant warns of a raid on Alsace, and he has to go. But Ellen wants him to stay, and will insist as much with her sword and war maiden skills. The lovebirds are already at an impasse.
Vanadis is unremarkable from a color and design stand point but it’s also not as over the top as other show’s we’ve seen. I’m especially impressed that they got the cavalry rendered as well as they did, even if we only see them charging and not actually fighting.
That said, Eleonora and Limalisha were hard for me to identify at the beginning and everyone has a terrible to remember/type name.
Over all, Vandis is most appreciable for it’s “Yes, buts”:
Yes, it’s bloated with fanservice, but that’s done with a little more finesse than most. (boobs but a surprising amount of thighs, skirts sliding ever so close to crotch lines during conversations)
Yes, it’s a simplistic romantic set up but Elen is thankfully not a cliche tsundere nor a man hungry monster nor a bubble head nor a shy girl and Tigre’s annoying blush is the full extent of his perviness. Thank goodness too — nothing turns me off like a male protagonist who’s portrayed as an honourable hentei in this kind of show!
If I have any concerns, it’s the cute dragon. That is almost always a death flag for mid/late season adolescent stupidity that could break an otherwise sensible, even keel show. It’s a doozy, but I’m willing to give Vanadis a chance in the near term.
We wrote a review of the first HG film, so there was precedent to write one for the second.
“Moves and countermoves”, remarks the hilariously-named head gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee in the second installment of the Hunger Games film series, Catching Fire, suggesting and elegant and ultimately more effective fate for Katniss Everdeen as punishment for her act of defiance against the Capitol and President Snow in particular.
We’re reminded of the last episode of Valvrave, in which the Magius-infused Council of a Hundred and One fought a PR battle against a younger and less experienced foe. New JIOR lost and lost spectacularly. Considering the power Snow and the Capitol possess, you’d think arranging a similar frame-job for Katniss would be child’s play.
In fact, both the wildly successful Catching Fire ($670 million-plus as of writing this) and its wildly successful predecessor hinge on the audience’s ability to believe that Katniss has a Snow-ball’s chance in hell against the oppressive regime, especially after Poison-Berrygate. On the whole, they have, as did we. The districts are a tinderbox; Snow daren’t make any overt moves against Katniss lest the explode.
Unlike the Magius’ near total-victory on Valvrave last week in turning New JIOR into a globally-loathed nation of immortal monsters, Snow and Heavensbee’s efforts to cast Katniss as “one of them”—uncaring of the poorer districts and thus undeserving of their love—results in far more mixed results, for reasons we won’t go into because of spoilers.
Like the first HG film, we went into this one having not read the book, and thus without any possibility of being disappointed by the adaptation. But after reading the first book, we’re reasonably certain we wouldn’t have been disappointed anyway. There’s much talk about the film being better than the book it’s based on, if for no other reason than the book’s first-person perspective makes it impossible for us to see what’s going on with Snow and Heavensbee where Katniss isn’t present.
But this was also a more focused, mature, darker film than the last one. The shaky-cam is gone, there’s much more lovely world-building, the fellow tributes are less cartoonish and one-dimensional. And while both films follow similar patterns early on, we were shocked and delighted by the different turns this film takes. Unlike Star Trek Into Darkness, it broke new ground. It was one of those rare good sequels. Also, you can never go wrong with Jena Malone.
This episode introduces five high school students with disperate talents all working hard at something: Wakana is still getting acclimated to the school, while Wien has just returned after twleve years in Austria. Taichi is the sole member of the badminton club, Sawa rides horses and practices archery, and Konatsu, who is passionate about singing, quits the choir when she’s not allowed to sing and starts her own choir club, hoping to recruit Sawa, Wakana, and others. The quintet all meet by chance in a park where Konatsu is singing.
There’s something familiar about the look and setting of Tari Tari, and we don’t mean that in a negative way. Namely, they remind us of Hanasaku Iroha; unsurprising, as both are from P.A. Works and are high schooler slice-of-life-centered. Indeed, this could very well be the nearest town, or even the same school Ohana & Co. attend, only focusing on a fresh batch of characters. We liked the way we were gradually eased into this world, with everyone in the middle of something, and we also liked the wide variety of activities they’re involved in.
Like Hanasaku Iroha, there’s definitely nothing to complain about, production values-wise; the town is gorgeous and the character designs are smooth and inoffensive without being too generic (though we had a little trouble sorting out Wakana and Sawa, as they look very similar at first glance). We definitely connected with Konatsu’s frustration with being unable to sing in the choir (her instructor has a major stick up her ass), and were amused by newcomer Wien’s culture shock and over-formal behavior. It looks like a good group so far, and this series definitely has potential.
While RABUJOI is first and formost an anime-review blog, we still endeavour to keep up with certain entertainment trends that may fall into line with our aesthetic. We’ve added our two cents to non-anime films before, so there is precedent. With that, a few things to know before we dive right into our impressions of The Hunger Games (THG):
First, we never read the book(s). We own the first one, but always prefer to go into a book-based film or TV series ‘blind’, as we do with anime series. That way, we avoid being spoiled by the source material and experience the piece not as an adaptation, but as an original work we have no prior knowledge of.
Second, We have seen Battle Royale. The internet is rife with comparisons to the the 2000 film by Kinji Fukasaku, with good reason: both films are about a deadly game in which teenagers are forced to fight to the death Some participants are more…eager than others. We could go on all day with other similarities, but we’ll give THG author Suzanne Collins the benefit of the doubt vis-a-vis whether she “borrowed” the story. Besides the fact artists borrow all the time, the two films are very different in execution, tone, and most importantly, audience (more on that later) and for diplomatic reasons we’ll forgo further comparisons. For the record, we liked BR more than THG, but not certainly not just because it was first.
Third: We’re suckers for strong female characters. Whether it be Leeloo, Major Kira, President Roslin, Hermione, Arya, Haruhi, or any of the many Miyazaki heroines, we can’t get enough of them. THG’s narrative, emotional, and spiritual core is a strong female character, Katniss Everdeen. We’re not sure why, but if the main protagonist were a dude, we wouldn’t even have gone to see the film.
Now, with all that out of the way; we liked THG. There are many reasons for this:
– Katniss. It can be argued whether Jennifer Lawrence is a brilliant actress (she does tend to stick with the default troubled pout) and a lot of her dialogue falls victim to subpar writing, but her performance works for us here because it’s so intimate. We’re right up in her face a lot of the time, listening to her ragged breath or seeing her shake in apprehension. Yet she keeps her composure and does what needs to be done. She volunteered for the games so her excitable little sister didn’t have to. She’s also a huntress, so she’s very good with the bow. This is Katniss’ film, everyone else is just living in it.
– The setting. There’s something very real and unsettling about it. The stark contrast between the postapocalyptic abject squalor and desperation of District 12 and the epicurian hedonism of the “Victorian Disco” capital district is unsettling for her and for us. After seeing Katniss freak out over a half-loaf of stale bread, suddenly finding herself on the FFVIII train before an elaborate buffet of delicacies is also a sight and a half to see.
But THG falls has its share of problems:
– Call us desensitized, but whenever a film’s camera is far more squemish than its audience in a film about teenagers fighting each other to the death, there’s a problem. THG is a young adult book, and the film had to stay PG-13, but such a rating seems a bit hypocritical to the issues being addressed. The cameras seemed all too afraid to show any violence, leaving most of it to our imaginations. High School of the Dead, Blood-C, Another, and even less gory tales like Guilty Crown, all dealt with violence more deftly and honestly. THG film would rather avoid the bloody details wherever possible, and the drama and peril somewhat suffers as a result.
– The games themselves are very silly. You have 24 players, but they all rise out of the ground in a circle in front of a structure containing survival gear and weaponry. When it begins, they literally all run at each other, thinning the heard. It’s akin to everyone in a deathmatch spawning in the same place – in other words, a bit pointless. Perhaps this is how the games evolved over time to get things moving (many of the tributes are too young and weak to survive this initial herd-thinning) but jeez, why not give the kiddies a sporting chance? Also, the gamerunners all to often manipulate the game to bring tributes closer together so they’ll fight, in the form of forest fires, predatory beasts, and other obstacles. If you’re going to have kids fighting each other to the death, have kids fighting each other to the death. Spicing it up with cheat codes cheapens the proceedings.
-The too-oft-repeated pleasantry “Happy Hunger Games!” Sounds too much like “Happy Honda Days!” for us to take it seriously.
So yeah, we believe we’ve written quite enough about this non-anime film, and we should now get back to watching anime. But we’ll say the same thing about this film as we have about many other non-anime films: we’d love to see it as an anime. Though we kinda sorta already have…in Mirai Nikki.