3-gatsu no Lion – 40

I realized something this week. Whenever 3GL strays too far from the core cast of Rei, the Kawamotos, and Niakidou, my interest flags. We’re now in episode 40 of 44, and the show (granted, based on the manga) has seen fit to spend not just one but two episodes on the grizzled 9-time Kishou champion Yanagihara, looking to beat a revitalized Shimada for his tenth to make him an “eternal champion.”

Which is fine; that’s all fine…if I really cared about Yanagihara as a character…and I don’t. Aside from bickering with the comic relief chariman, I hadn’t really thought much of the guy, and while we certainly get a portrait of the kind of man he is and the burdens he carries (all his old retired friends see him as a proxy in this match), the “old man raging against the dying of the light” is, to be generous, a well-tread path.


From a technical standpoint the execution is all there, as is Shinbou’s usual eclectic visualizations of the players’ emotional states. The trips into Yanagihara’s psyche in which he’s bound and pulled by the hundreds to thousands of strips of cloth, or burning like a human torch, or standing in a one-burnt but now verdant field, are all visually arresting.

And yet…I was still left mostly cold, in part because he ends up winning (and delivering Shimada yet another loss), and in part because, as I said, Yanagihara just isn’t on my list of characters I’m emotionally invested in, and two episodes simultaneously felt like not quite enough to get invested in, and too much time to spend on a tertiary (at best) member of the cast.

Mostly, I think I’ve just got Kawamoto withdrawal. So congrats, Saku-chan, for winning the tenth and becoming eternal with one hell of a game of shogi—a game no one who knows shogi (or thought they knew it) expected a man of his years to play. But with just four episodes left, I’m ready to get back to our core characters’ lives.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 39

Returning from an Olympic break, 3GL turns its attention away from both Rei and the Kawamoto and focuses on two other shogi players. Shimada is going up against Yanagihara Sakutarou in the Kishou Championship; Rei and Nikaidou will only be giving commentary.

Yanagihara has won the championship fourteen times, and at 66 is the oldest active Class A player. As one of the elder statesmen of his sport, he seems to effortlessly surround himself with supporters and pals, all of whom call him “Saku-chan.” This irks Shimada, who really really wants to win his first title, even if he has to end Yanagihara’s warm reunions.

What Shimada might be too focused on winning to understand is that Yanagihara isn’t interested in passing the mantle of Kishou champion to anyone. Why would he? What comes next after he’s been knocked off the top of the pyramid?

He now stands alone, while everyone else has put their faith and their hopes in his continued success, and he wears those wishes like a mess of heavy white sashes, constantly threatening to smother him.

We see the weight both of those sashes and the realities of old age, as he takes every morning extra slow to ensure he takes all the medicine he needs to take. Once the match begins, Shimada is determined and uncharacteristically fiery, but Yanagihara is no slouch.

On the contrary, when an old friend told him early retirement “scared him” and was like “standing in a burnt field”, Yanagihara summons the flames that burned the field to begin with, and uses them to propel himself along in the match, which so far looks like the liveliest and most aggressive Kishou final match in years. Poor Shimada…he has the worst luck with opponents!

Re:Creators – 13

One thing on which Oigakkosan and I can agree is that one of the best scenes of Re:Creators to date comes at the end of the very first episode: a smash cut from the serious end credits to the newly-arrived Meteora and Celestia going on a convenience store snack spree on Souta’s dime.

It’s a successful scene for so many reasons, among them that it establishes the clever fish-out-of-water dynamic that was later largely abandoned once the battle with Altair began in earnest.

It was also a strong indication that the creators of Re:Creators had a sense of humor, and unlike some Troyca shows, wouldn’t mind cutting loose and having a little fun from time to time.

Aside from some in-show commentary from Chikujouin Magane, Re:C hasn’t done as much as either Oigakkosan or I wanted with the potential established in that first episode’s final scene. Heck, they even killed off my favorite Creation at the time (Mamika), the one with the most ridiculous attacks and sound effects.

Fortunately, and quite to my surprise, that cheeky, mildly self-deprecating tack returns with a vengeance in this, the ostensible recap. It turns out to be more of an Osterreich recap, as Meteora delivers a fun and amusing fourth-wall breaking commentary, even embellishing her own importance and appearance in the story.

Where her potential had been somewhat dulled by being trapped in the show, with Meteora free to discuss things like the synopses of the various characters’ anime (often lifting it verbatim from the official websites), she morphs into a neat audience surrogate, and share her opinions on how things have gone thus far the normal format of the show wouldn’t allow.

The show’s willingness to pull Meteora, the talkiest of the talky creations, out of the world of the show and into ours matches the premise of the show, and reestablishes that first episode potential by making sure my smile rarely leaves my face throughout her recap.

Initially portraying herself as far “sexier” than she really is; taking great pains to explain why Celestia lost her first battle against Mamika so badly; criticizing Yuuya and Alice (AKA Grasshopper Glasses and Muscle Brains) for so easily falling for Magane’s deceptions; it’s all great stuff.

At the same time, we’re getting little glimpses and tidbits of their stories before they became a part of Re:Creators.

After appearing again as a statuesque, scantily-clad pool hustler (with the other characters represented as balls), Meteora saves her most biting verbal venom for the show’s villain, Altair, tearing her character design apart as needlessly, annoyingly complicated, and suggesting that the producers change her outfit to a tracksuit and sandals (which we unfortunately never see, but which I’m sure a fan will draw at some point). Badly karaoke-ing “World Etude” was also a nice touch.

In the final scene, we’re back in the conference room from the previous episode with all the characters assembled, everyone but (regular-looking) Meteora frozen in time while she walks around with a spotlight above her.

Here, before returning us to the “normal format” and those final moments of the last episode in preparation for the show’s second half, Meteora aims to assure those who are concerned about the future of Re:Creators that, far from a sign of diminishing quality and an “industry in crisis”, this recap was always meant to be.

As a recap, it succeeds in going over the various players, where the sides stand, and what’s at stake. But what makes it a far better recap than I could have imagined—and a more effective episode than some of the normal format ones that preceded it—is its willingness to let its hair down and have some fun with its admittedly cool premise.

In doing so it demonstrated bolder, more creative thinking, and gave me fresh hope the show will find its second wind. One thing’s for sure: I’ll never watch Meteora—or listen to her many measured words—the same way again.

Life Imitating GATE: Diet Votes to Expand JSDF’s Role

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Rambling observational commentary follows.

The fictional Japanese military of countless anime throughout the years have been typically portrayed as serving in a strictly defensive capacity: only allowing the use of arms if directly attacked. And attacked they have been, be it from terrorists, giant monsters, aliens, or other nations.

In the first episode of GATE: Thus the JSDF Fought There!, it’s the same story: a massive enemy force invades Ginza and the JSDF get their SD on. But what happens next is not only a rare(r) occurrence in anime, but also presaged the movements of the government of real-world Japan: Prime Minister Abe wants the ability for the JSDF to go on the offensive under certain circumstances. He wants a JSOF.

Today, it would seem he got his wish, in a contentious vote that caused opposition lawmakers to walk out and spurred large protests in Tokyo. Polls indicate a small plurality of Japanese are opposed to the expansion. The approved measure means Japan has lost its unique—at least for a country of its size—pacifist stance laid out in its constitution, though many anti-militarist opponents believe this vote violates the constitution.

In any case, the timing of GATE’s airing, and the fact it portrays a modern 2015-era JSDF invading enemy territory and mowing down feudal armies of tens of thousands with ease, adds credence to rumblings that it is veiled pro-offensive-military propaganda, even if the creators and producers of GATE didn’t quite intend it that way. Of course, the timing could also just be a coincidence (if anyone has any insights one way or another, feel free to voice them in the ‘ments).

We’ll continue to closely watch both GATE and the developments in real-world Japan, a country whose constitution “forever renounces war as an instrument for settling international disputes”, but currently led by those who believe the country’s best chance of maintaining security and stability in the region is to amend, if not outright abrogate, that long-standing renouncement.

Whatever your personal position on these developments (and we welcome all viewpoints; it’s a free internet!), they certainly comprise a fascinating juxtaposition of anime and real-world politics.

—RABUJOI STAFF