DanMachi Gaiden: Sword Oratoria – 04

Things aren’t off to a great start when a red-haired woman pretending to be a sex worker strangles her john, then immediately cut to the far more lighthearted OP, then a flashback of Baby Ais being read a story by her mom. It’s an awkward and bizarre juxtaposition that’s a tonal mess. Unfortunately, “tonal mess” fairly accurately describes the episode of DGSO as a whole, as it delves deep into the murder mystery—a boring one!

The Loki familia is on a relaxing trip to the dungeon and stop to rest at an inn in Rivira, run by Finn’s acquaintance Bors. There they find the body of the man the woman killed in the cold open, then ruined his face so he couldn’t be identified…unless someone has the apparently easily obtainable Status Thief potion, which Bors has, so I don’t see the point of ruining the victim’s face, beyond inconveniencing the investigators momentarily.

Meanwhile, Loki takes the one child not in Rivira—Bete—into the sewers to investigate something, and ends up finding a whole mess of those giant plant monsters the familia fought last week on street level.

Bete’s a tough cookie and he has a magical weapon, but I still don’t see how he alone was able to defeat all of those monsters without Loki being bothered or tentacled by any of them. This makes them seem like far less of a threat later on.

From Loki and Bete we cut back to the murder investigation… where nothing else has happened. Seriously, it’s as if the scene in the bedroom was put on pause for the Loki scene. And what ewe come back to…isn’t great.

When Bors learns the victim was a Level 4 adventurer, he immediately suspects the female adventurers in the room murdering the victim, with the evidence that—sigh…they’re so sexyexcept of course for the flat-chested Tiona! LOL, get it, she has small boobs so she’s not sexually desirable!

Seriously DanMachi, WTF. It’s one thing for the innkeeper to turn around an suspect the large-chested women in the room of murder, but quite another to gather the entire town and announce that all women are getting full body inspections, then ordering them to strip.

I’ll set aside the fact there’s apparently no official police force in Rivira to investigate the murder. Is Bors for real here? Is he actually using the murder as an excuse to grope large numbers of women without their consent, or is he just joking around to lighten the mood? Either way, it just doesn’t work.

The inspection apparently goes forward, with the women volunteering to inspect the women, apparently buying into the ludicrous notion that all men are only attracted to a single body type and that body type will determine who was somehow able to seduce and kill a Level 4 adventurer. That’s pretty idiotic writing right there, and the tone of the situation is so all over the place it basically left me numb and disinterested.

There’s a connection between the murder, the goings-on in the sewer, and the Monsterphilia raid, and that connection only becomes more apparent when just after Ais looks at the strange creature-in-a-ball Lulune was contracted to take from the guy who ended up murdered, and totally freaks out.

The murdered guy and the guy Lulune met with seem to be different people, because the latter guy is not only alive, but uses a kind of dog whistle to call a horde of the plant monsters to the town. Monsters that we know Bete can deal with in a matter of seconds on his own.

I’m not sure I care anymore.

DanMachi Gaiden: Sword Oratoria – 03

This week hews close to the Loki core of Ais, Lefiya, the Amazon twins, and Loki herself. While their goddess attends a banquet of the gods, Ais and Lefiya spend the evening adventuring alone together. The minute anything jumps out to attack Lefiya, she is rescued by Ais. It’s a common refrain thus far, and I feel confident in saying everyone is getting a little sick of it.

Things take a turn for the worse when they get home too late and the Monsterphilia date plans Lefiya thought were in the bag are crushed when Loki decides to punish them both by taking Ais herself. Lefiya then cries herself to sleep before realizing she’s acting like a petulant child and really needs to get her shit together, vis-a-vis being useful on the battlefield, and not a liability and perpetual grateful rescuee. Standing beside Ais means bringing more to the table than nice clothes, gifts, and a sweat towel.

As it did in the previous series, Monsterphilia goes a bit awry when Freya releases some dangerous animals, turning the streets of Orario into a battlefield. Loki sends Ais out to take care of the beasts, which she does in quick order with her Tempest ability, but Lefiya still can’t quite get a spell chant out before getting pummeled by a mandragora-style predatory plant. Even the twins can’t penetrate its thick skin, but Ais arrives on the scene and halves the plant, saving, and frustrating, Lefiya once more.

No one would think any less of her if she just gave up and went with the medics (there’s not much less to think of her, at least in battle, after all), but thankfully Lefiya finds her courage, performs a full summon burst chant—her hidden specialty—then a massive Wynn Fimbulveter blizzard spell that destroys the remaining three mandragoras.

Turns out Freya didn’t release these vicious monsters; that would be Dionysius. Is he testing Lefiya? If so, I think she passed. And to her credit, while she finally did a thing and was useful, nothing’s really changed yet: she’s still far behind the one she wants to stand beside. She’ll have to prove to others and herself that she can keep it up—just as this DanMachi Gaiden has to continue to prove it’s worth my time.

Sore ga Seiyuu! – 13 (Fin)

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Still basking in the awe and enormity of the biggest event of her young career (which is even more enormous in her dreams), Futaba is feeling a bit listless and aimless, which isn’t a good place to be what with her assessment at Aozora looming. Despite her secondary circle of friends (who are either still trying to become seiyus or moving on to other things) believing she’s “super-elite”, Futaba can’t hide her relatively quiet and undistinguished past two years. Sure she’s worked with plenty of legends, but if she doesn’t want to get fired (and go through with her promise to give up on a seiyu’s life if she is), she needs to think more about her future; find a focus; anything to tell the assessment panel.

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She sees a glimmer of that future when she imitates a passing boy, which is doubly significant because A.) she’s so good at voicing boys she gave Ichigo and Rin a start, and B.) the boy was talking about how not to get lost: Remember something big that doesn’t move. As a city-dweller who’s bad with directions, I myself lived by this advice…at least until I got a smartphone with Google Maps (and devised a mnemonic device for memorizing street names).

But I digress: When Futaba first shows up to the slaughterhouse office for her assessment, the atmosphere is suffused with dread and despair, as everyone who exits that room comes out looking miserable. When she takes her seat before a rather intimidating row of assessors, barking questions one after the other, she very nearly loses her nerve, but still manages to get out where she sees herself in the future.

She wants to be a seiyu for a long time. It’s possibly an even more ambitious goal than being a main character or famous heroine, due to the dropoff of seiyu work for most people after 30. But she tells the panel it’s a goal she aspires to all the same, and one she counts on making a reality.

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This week also features Ichigo (her foot now healed a month after the concert) auditioning for and winning the voice role of a local strawberry mascot, and Rin taking and passing her entrance exams. But the spotlight this week, as it was in SgS’s first episode, is Futaba, who despite having never been able to land a main character role, is the main character here. And it’s very apropos for us to see every excruciating minute of her struggles this week, while the others have a relatively easy time off-camera. This is how it’s always been.

But it’s also a welcome development that Ichigo and Rin are right there when Futaba gets The Call—one that starts out ominously but turns out to be a great relief: she’s being given another year to prove herself—and the three are able to celebrate their hard-one individual victories as a unit. Along with Ichigo and Rin, Futaba looks poised to continue working hard in that unit, which will hopefully get her more attention and more roles; especially if she pitches herself as a boy-voice specialist. And the time ahead of her will be more distinguished than the time behind her. Because the Seiyu’s Life is the only life for her!

Like Futaba in the seiyu world, Sore ga Seiyuu! may not be the flashiest or the most watched or lauded, but also like Futaba, it was more often than not extremely fun and rewarding watch full of a unique energy and modesty as it brought insight to the world of a quirky profession while making observations relatable in any profession.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 07

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More jobs have come for Futaba, Ichigo and Rin, to the point that they’re busy enough to end up in the same studio on the same day, not for their Earphones work but for three separate gigs: Futaba is dubbing a zombie movie with veteran Koyama Rikiya (and the rude guy who said she stunk way back when), Ichigo is reading for an audiobook, and Rin is doing voice work for a video game.

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Futaba is scared of the film’s horror theme, especially the fact one of her roles is a zombie, but eventually finds her footing, inspired by the always professional (and veggie juice-drinking) Koyama. Ichigo must adjust her voice to something less urgent than anime yet emphatic enough to get the point across. Rin has the strangest and most abstract job, simply firing off all her lines with no one else around, and even making noises for when her character receives small, medium, and large punches.

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While all three were nervous going into their respective jobs, by the end they’re all happy and confident in their performances. And while it’s raining when it’s time to leave the studio, Futaba and Ichigo remembered to bring umbrellas, proving they’ve grown since the day they had to share Rin’s due to poor preparation. That preparation and growth is also apparent, as both the rude guy and Koyama say Futaba did well, raising her spirits even more as they head to the wrap party.

So ends another funny, informative, and charming episode about the day in the life of new but increasingly successful seiyus.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 06

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Earphones are about to go through a very busy gauntlet of dancing lessons, recording, music video filming, events, and promotion for their first single, “Into Your Ears.” But before that, Futaba recalls the her of last year, who recorded a Drama CD with Kugimiya Rie (the show is on a mini Toradora! tear).

When she passes a video store and sees a display for an anime adaptation of the CD, she gets excited about having to budget her time even more, which feels pretty premature; it’s practically assured at this point she’s going to end up disappointed.

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Sure enough, she doesn’t hear from the producers of the CD when she should, and it’s Rin who inadvertently breaks the news to her in the middle of one of their radio shows: she, not Futaba, will be voicing Kugimiya’s little sister in the anime version.

Futaba is able to keep it together long enough to finish the show, but after that, she just needs to get away from Rin, and Ichigo, and everything. The show really lets us feel the sting of rejection, garnished with the extra shock of her friend and unit partner being the one usurping her.

It falls to her senpai Shiodome to talk her out of her funk, and I’m pleased to report Shiodome, while kind, isn’t overly or conspicuously kind, and it seems from her body language she’d prefer not to be so hands-on with her juniors, lest they not learn the lessons they need to learn. But in this case, Futaba had her idea of being a seiyu being a dream burst.

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Shiodome clarifies that it’s the audience that sees and hears the dream, not the seiyu. The seiyu make the dream possible through their commitment and professionalism, performing with everything they’ve got no matter what’s going on with their personal lives. And all seiyu, even TsundeRie and Hocchan, have felt the sting she’s feeling.

Futaba listens to her drama CD again and learns that the her of a year ago actually sucked, but realizes the fact she can tell is proof she’s grown, and demands more of herself. Expressing to Rin her jealousy and frustration with not getting the part, but also her excitment by what Rin will bring to the part, help clear the air.

For now, Futaba must focus on Earphones, singing and dancing her heart out. If she does well, she’ll get noticed, and other jobs will come.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 05

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After a few eps centered on Futaba, this week focuses on Ichigo, perhaps the most abrasive of the three members of Headphones due to her need to live her Strawberry Princess persona at all times. Even alone, she refers to her room as her kingdom, even though she was fired from her part-time job and both the electricity and gas have been switched off.

It’s certainly not all strawberries and cream for Ichigo, but she gets a call from her agency notifying her she won a role in the sequel to a popular video game. Sure, it’s the role of an artificial bug who sits on the main character’s shoulder and mostly just says “Poro”, but it’s a part, damnit! People whose utilities have been switched off can’t be picky!

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After collecting her three boxes of script for the game, she shows up at the Shibuya Public Hall for a pre-launch event hosted by the game company and featuring the cast, including the lead, who is none other than Horie Yui.

Full disclosure: I’ve only experienced a tiny fraction of the 350+ productions Hocchan has performed in since 1997, but I’ve been in love ever since her wonderful role as Minori Kushieda in Toradora!.She was also pretty fantastic in Golden TimeI could go on, but suffice it to say she’s a giant in the industry.

So it’s great to see Hocchan in anime form show up not just as a cameo, but a persistent figure throughout Ichigo’s very first event of this kind. What’s also great is how casual, down to earth, and approachable Ichigo discovers her hero to be, what with her mussed hair, comfortable wardrobe, and smushed melon-pan.

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Ichigo had a nightmare about performing before a totally silent crowd before the event where over 2,000 people will turn out, so she needs all the support she can get from more experienced talent. You don’t get much more experienced and professional than Hocchan. Ichigo’s reaction to Hocchan’s transformation from frumpy-ish housecat to stunning idol is pretty priceless. It’s one thing to see a celebrity in magazines or on TV, but in person it’s as if they become more real.

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The event unfolds as a sequence of stills, which is a bit lazy, but the episode is strapped for time at this point. In fact, the montage pretty effectively illustrates just how fast it all flies by for Ichigo, and how it’s all over before she even gets a good grasp of what she’s doing. But she shouldn’t have expected any more from herself; this was her first time, and she’ll get better at them with time.

Furthermore, watching Horie Yui fire up the crowd with a mini-concert (she is good at the theme song singing), and watching Hocchan’s professionalism and magnetic personality on display in general, inspires Ichigo to keep doing her best.

When her dad shot her a text asking how she was, Ichigo was about to tell him she’s scared and doesn’t know what to do, but decided not to send it. It was a brave gesture, showing that she trusts in her ability to get those lights and hot water back on very soon.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 04

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SgS keeps pace with Dandelion this week, as we come to love the characters in both shows the more time we spend with them. It has occured to me that Sore is very much a love letter to the seiyu industry and the people in it, almost playing like a documentary of these girls’ lives, yet avoids being over-indulgent or extra-congratulatory.

With the highs come the lows, and the lows suck when you’re in them, regardless of vocation. That’s what this episode captures best: Futaba at first believing she’s all alone in her doubt and despair, when in fact, everyone goes those emotions. That knowledge brings comfort and motivation to strive harder.

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With Bodhisattvon wraping and all three girls failing to pass auditions for the next show (doubly upsetting since we saw Futaba part with most of her petty cash to buy the manga), they’re feeling uneasy about the future. Futaba in particular is sure she’ll get more work before the Bodhi recording and radio show both wrap, but she’s incorrect on both counts.

All it takes to clear Futaba’s clouds of despair and worry is to bump into a legend like Ginga Banjou, who has died many more times than she on screen. Because of that, he can lend her valuable words of supportive advice that apply not only to dealing with the deaths of one’s characters, but in dealing with the serial rejection all seiyus (and indeed, artists) must endure. Futaba is not alone.

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When their radio show ends, it looks like Futaba is about to stare down the long, dusty road of non-employment in her chosen field (though she still has the part-time job), but their boss springs another surprise on them: not only has their radio show been extended, but he’s putting them in a unit, to record the theme song to the show and perhaps eventually become a full-on idol group.

This is a lot for Futaba and even Rin to take in, though it’s exactly what Ichigo has been dreaming of. I like how they all react by paying more attention to themselves, whether it’s Futaba being broken out of her daydream by her jiggly arm, Rin training herself to wear miniskirts, or Ichigo’s overdone yet somehow appropriate ringlets.

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Really, I should have seen this development coming: Futaba, Rin and Ichigo already had the built-in look of characters who wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi magical girl or music anime. Now, they could be on the road to just those kinds of roles, if it all pans out. Everyone’s nervous, like they were when the radio show first started. But with time, they got better at that, and they’ll eventually get better at all this unit stuff, too.

ED request: The theme to Sailor Moon Crystal.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 03

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Before they begin their own web radio show, they go on Futaba’s senpai Shidome’s bigger radio show to promote it. Flanked by the venerable Tamura Yukari, the trio are literally petrified in front of the mics, as any newbies would be under the circumstances. Despite this, Tamura-san thinks they’re funny, and wishes them good luck.

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When the day of their first recording arrives, the three gather at a much smaller studio with a much smaller staff of one, and a script of only a few pages, with the particularly scary “free talk” mixed in. There’s no rehearsals or practices; they’re thrust right into the studio and onto a live show where every moment of hesitation is a moment of dead air.

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The pressure under the girls is palpable, and things start out pretty rough, but while they show is “all over the place”, they do get into a nice rhythm towards the end, and their boss says they have potential. All they need to do is gather the confidence to converse the way they normally do in front of the mics, and they’ll be golden.

By the same measure, when the three girls watch (and listen) to the anime they had roles in, they’re all a little disappointed in themselves, but that just inspires them to keep working harder to become great. It doesn’t happen overnight.

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