Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii – 02 – Settling into a Nice if Familiar Rhythm

If the newness of WotaKoi masked it in the first episode, Hiraike Yoshimura’s style has become apparent in the second, as this week’s episode is more of a loosely-connected sequence of joke-dense vignettes with plenty of self-deprecating commentary (and some that references Eva, including Hirotaka-as-Ikari Gendo…Oigakkosan Cameo!)

Where WotaKoi distinguishes itself from Working!! and its various sequels is the speed with which the main couple comes together. Even when Hirotaka and Narumi are a little awkward at work, their friends Koyanagi and Kabakura point out the positive aspects of the other party, and that they’ve made the right choice.

But when Narumi somewhat carelessly admits Kabakura might be more “her type” in earshot of her boyfriend, she draws his ire, and the episode takes on the structure of a multiple-choice RPG, in which her avenue of escape is blocked until Kabakura and Koyanagi—former captains of their schools’ volleyball teams—start going at it, and she exploits the opening to flee.

Hirotaka chases after her, however, which results in the two adults working things out right then and there. She was scared of his reaction, while he was worried she didn’t like him anymore and wonders if it was a bad idea to confess to her.

In response to that, Narumi hugs him tightly, telling him not to say such things. She makes sure he knows she’s happy he confessed, and likes where they’re at. Some initial awkwardness is to be expected in a romance where the two parties work together.

Those initial hiccups in the relationship are all but forgotten in the next segment, in which the quartet decides to go out for drinks after Narumi finishes up some OT work. But because all four of them are otaku, they decide to head to a bookstore first.

Once there, the women split from the men. Narumi and Hirotaka may be dating, but their forms of otakuism differ, which means on occasion they’ll give each other a berth in which to pursue their individual interests.

That’s especially the case on a night when Narumi gets to browse and shot with Koyanagi. Narumi has always hidden her otakuism from her friends, and feels liberated for finally not having to. Koyanagi, for her part, wants Narumi as a cosplay partner.

The result of the group’s extended shopping trip to the bookstore is that everyone other than Hiyotaka bought so much stuff and they’re so eager to read it, they skip going out for drinks altogether, part ways for the night, and stay up way too late. The next day they’re all groggy at work, which might actually work in Hiyotaka’s favor with regards to his attempts to learn how to wink!

While I’m sure it will expand to more people before too long, this is a fun quartet of people so far, consisting of a definitely-together-yet-casual couple and a long-standing love-hate/will-they-won’t-they. Those two kinds of dynamics on display lend balance to the proceedings, and the volume of jokes is high enough that even if some might not land huge laughs, there’s always more to come.

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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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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 02

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I was going to try to choose between Seiyu’s Life! and Dandelion in order to pare down my workload as we all must do around this time in the season, but after two episodes, I’m no closer to making that choice; both have their charms.

The second outing of SGS shows us more of Futaba’s not-so-glamorous life as a struggling seiyu: part-time work at Lawson (Ichigo works at an even more clinical box lunch processing plant), walking into the office to find a tiny slip of a script next to a tower of scripts for Kamiya Hiroshi (that’s right, The Kamiya Hiroshi, in the flesh!) with a backdrop of rookie seiyus with no work at all simply standing there hoping they’ll be remembered, a sign that things could be worse.

But things get a little better for Futaba when she gets an audition for a new adaptation of a manga with “Titan” in the name. Even better, the two friends she made at her recording session, Rin and Ichigo, are also in the audition, and they’re not competing for the same role.

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Things look bright for Futaba, but once she enters that oddly-empty and silent studio, I think she tenses up a bit. She’s able to visualize the character she’s voicing (as herself!) and all her personality traits and moods, but it comes off as a bit mechanical and even forced. At the same time, I think she puts too much stock in the producers’ seemingly apathetic reaction to her performance; it could just be they’re yawning because it’s a long day…right?

Ichigo’s sexy voice gets laughs, and she’s asked to voice a different character, after which the producers react by staring at their phones, so not promising. As for Rin, she does just fine. After the stressful audition, the three go to a cafe for coffee and cake and just shoot the breeze; Futaba even comes up with the nickname “Evil Ichigo.”

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The next day it’s back to work on the Evangelion clone, where Futaba learns Pipo blows up and doesn’t come back. This setback, just when she’s told the others that if she’s still not showing promise in a year, she’ll share poor Pipo’s fate and be culled by her company (it’s a cutthroat industry, eh?).

But outside the studio, a suspicious looking mustachioed man confronts the trio of girls. He’s been watching them interact, you see, and apparently sees something in them, because he wants them to do a web radio show…which explains what the ED is all about!

Like last week, as the credits roll, the girls switch between singing the ending theme, doing commentary on the episode that just aired, and singing a request (this week, appropriately due to the Kamiya Hiroshi cameo, it’s a song from Zetsubou-sensei.) It’s a great ED format, but it also previews what should be an interesting and promising new opportunity for Futaba & Co.

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Sore ga Seiyuu! – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Rundown: GONZO, a studio I haven’t seen or heard a lot from in a while, tells the tale of Ichinose Futaba, a newcomer seiyu braving the harrowing rapids of anime voice recording, as her plushie “advisor” Korori explains the procedures, intricacies, and foibles of such a life. In the process of recording for an Eva-style mecha series, Futaba meets the talented Kohana Rin and the energetic and equally new Moesaki Ichigo.

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Pros: There are many, as this was a lot better than I expected. Futaba is a great protagonist to follow, as she’s determined to work hard at her craft but is clearly new to the industry and thus prone to errors, freeze-ups, and over-thinking. This is a show that gives you the gist of what’s going on, then lets you get lost at times along with Futaba, along with sweating all the little enlightening details about the business, from greeting everyone personally (which you’d think would overtax one’s voice), to where you sit and which mic you’ll walk to.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t bestow praise on, well, the seiyus, in particular Takanashi Rie, who actually had more roles to play than just Futaba and Korori. She and the other two seiyus are unfamiliar to me because like their characters, they’re all pretty new, but they handled themselves well in a fast-paced, dense, procedural first episode. The OP and ED (the latter of which featured a brief bit of the EVA theme) were also nicely done.

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Cons: They are few. I think this show could have benefited from characters that look less like, well, anime characters, or who at least had ordinary hair color; all the skittles hair kinda detracts from the reality. I was particularly distracted by how much Futaba resembles Nagato Yuki, in build, hair color and style, and glasses. The constant cuts to Korori (Futaba’s plushie) explaining things were certainly informative, but disrupted the already fine rhythm of Futaba’s busy day.

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Verdict: Like Dandelion, and Working!!!, SgS is a fun, lightweight slice-of-life that requires minimal psychological investment. In other words, it’s easy to watch. And I’ll confess, I once enrolled in a voice-acting class at my local learning tree, so it’s definitely a world I’ve considered entering (even if it’s likely quite different in America).

But seiyu-ing aside, the show does a great job putting us in the shoes of someone who has just entered a very specialized, exacting industry, and while she hasn’t quite found her footing, she’s not alone, and she eventually will.

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20 of Our Favorite OPs

(In Alphabetical Order)

UPDATE: We added five more for a total of 20.

Angel Beats!

A very lovely, moving theme accompanies an opening that still manages to efficiently unveil the sizable cast and the show’s purgatorial school setting.

Angel Beats!

(Yui’s J-Rock Arrangement)

A rippin’-good remix with electric guitars and a bolder, edgier palette.

Bleach OP#1

We once watched a lot of Bleach…too much, in hindsight. But we won’t deny it had a good start, and we still consider its first (of many) OPs to be the best.

Bokurano


We don’t know why, but Ishikawa Chiaki’s powerful, mournful yet hopeful vocals that open this GONZO series always get us a bit choked up. Pass the tissues, damnit! (This talented lady also sang the themes to Majestic Prince and Kamisama Dolls.) 

Chrome Shelled Regios

This is what happens when an OP washes down some adderall with a half-dozen Red Bulls. The booming energy is infectious.

Cowboy Bebop

One of the best anime ever made also has one of the best – and most iconic – openings.

Darker Than Black

This was a pretty good series partly due to Yoko Kanno’s participation in the soundtrack, but the OP is handled by a band rather amusingly called “Abingdon Boys School.” Our favorite part is how it so abruptly ends, which unfortunately this YouTube video cuts off.

Escaflowne

Yoko Kanno’s stirring, epic instrumentation, paired with a young Sakamoto Maaya’s strong, buoyant vocals make this entire OP shimmer and soar.

Eden of the East

We’re not what you’d call super Oasis fans (we’d never put a name to the song before watching this), but it really works here, and the complex, easter-egg-filled visuals still enthrall us today. A feast for eyes and ears.

Gantz


Considering how dark this show gets, it has a mighty upbeat theme! Another great GONZO OP.

Gundam 00

We’ve seen a lot of Gundam OPs, but this is our favorite, with a very serious and mature tone to it.

Kare Kano


Despite an abysmal ending due to running out of material and/or money, this remains hands-down our favorite romantic comedy series. Nothing else has been able to get into the heads of two crazy kids in love quite like this show did.  Its (literally) uplifting OP is one of our favorites as well.

Last Exile

Yet another GONZO series. Pretty much OP perfection, starting off with bagpipes and digeridus, then giving us Napoleonic sky battles and creepy starfish mechas. Claus’s touching down on the flight deck brings things to a tidy close.

Macross Froniter

Another very well-balanced and captivating OP, with an incredibly catchy theme tons of sci-fi action, love trangle themes and a few military salutes for good measure.

Mawaru Penguindrum

Crisp, sparse, dramatic, fantastic.

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Evangelizin’ it old school.

RahXephon

Six Years after Escaflowne, Kanno and Sakamoto strike again and prove they’re a match made in heaven. The theme starts quietly, then progresses to a utopian/futuristic sound, and finishes with a nice acoustic guitar.

Samurai Champloo

Some days, some nights, some live, some die, in the way of the samurai.

Serial Experiments Lain

In our opinion, another successful use of an english-language song, along wih lots of weird multiple-personality imagery and general malaise.

Shiki

Weird-ass vampiry goodness, with a grinding, snarling, and rousing Buck-Tick song laced with appropriately dark lyrics.

Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo

Ikari Shinji

14 years after third impact, Ikari Shinji awakens to a world he does not remember. He hasn’t aged. Much of Earth is laid in ruins, Nerv has been dismantled, and people who he once protected have turned against him. Befriending the enigmatic Nagisa Kaworu, Shinji continues the fight against the angels and realizes the fighting is far from over, even when it could be against his former allies. The characters’ struggles continue amidst the battles against the angels and each other, spiraling down to what could inevitably be the end of the world. (Source: ANN)

We find ourselves in a conundrum: having primarily written reviews on individual episodes lasting an average of twenty or so minutes each for nearly three years, whenever a film comes around, it’s a struggle to write a review about it. Fully aware that having just finished watching the film without even starting to absorb everything we saw and heard, we won’t be able to do our ultimate thoughts justice in this hastily written review. So instead we’re going to try to keep things as brief and simple as possible, starting with our verdict on the third Evangelion film: It was good. Very good. Everything we were hoping for, and far more than we could have expected.

Ayanami Rei

It occurs to us that back in June 2010 (about three months before we started up RABUJOI), after returning from a trip to Tokyo and having been bombarded with promotional material for the second film, we did just that: keep it simple. That review was just 465 words, back before we had written many reviews. We didn’t re-watch the first two films, but we did re-read our review of the second in preparation for the third. In hindsight, we needn’t have bothered. The third film is all-new, continuing the trend of showing us an Eva we have never seen before, drawing from a dense mythos that has endured and thrived for 16 years now.

Like the Children, the Eva franchise is a teenager, and a moody, fiery one at that. It lashes out and grabs you from the thrilling opening minutes, and as usual, even when we found ourselves as lost and confused in all the sci-fi, crypto-theological techno-babble, elaborate mechanical feats, and apotheothetic explosions as Shinji, we still loved every minute of it. But strip away all the fancy eye candy, and intentionally or not, Anno Hideaki tells a very simple story in this film. It’s about Shinji waking up after an amount of time equal to his entire life, finding that everything is different and nothing makes sense, and being totally unable to deal with that.

Asuka Langley Soryu

With his new friend Nagisa Kaworu (AKA Seele’s Child), Shinji calms down and is able to find a purpose in this new world, only that purpose not only makes him an enemy of his friends, but also threatens to destroy the world rather than save it. Still, even when Kaworu warns him not to, Shinji follows through, makes a bigger mess, and has to be bailed out by Kaworu, who becomes the thirteenth angel. He saves Shinji, and by stopping the fourth impact, saves the world as it stands and everyone in it.

Dejected by the loss of Kaworu, with whom he had bonded so deeply, and aware that his actions have somehow been the cause of everything thus far, Shinji cowers in the darkness of his ejected and soft-landed cockpit plug. He’s afraid to move, to do anything else that will hurt others. But then Asuka finds him, pulls him out, grabs him by the hand and makes him move forward with her. Rei has also landed nearby, and what do you know, the three kids are reunited for the grand finale. After dealing with a world where everything had changed and everyone rejected him, and the only person who didn’t died, Shinji now has a little bit of stability back.

His dad is a distant ass and he never knew his mom, so these two girls, whatever else they might be, are his family.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Misato and Ritsuko looked so different and were so cold to Shinji, at first we thought he’d ended up in an alternative universe.
  • Their organization Wille seems to be a counterbalance to NERV.
  • Wille’s flagship, the Wunder, is suitably awesome. It’s the Avenger’s flying aircraft carrier on steroids, and its bridge is just nuts.
  • Mari Makinami Illustrious remains a very mysterious and somewhat one-note character. She’s just kinda around to back Asuka up and fire off quips. We get it; nothin’ fazes you!
  • Rei’s little hut is just as depressing as her old apartment, with many of the same trappings. 
  • It’s a little detail, but we like how Anno stuck with the same design for title cards as the original series, including the series of flashes at the end of the “A-part”.
  • The film was prety light on fanservice, but at this point Asuka’s entire character design is pure fanservice.
  • Turns out Rei is a cloned copy of Shinji’s mother Yui. Like we said…family!
  • Asuka has ceased calling Shinji “idiot”. She’s moved on to “brat.”
  • Gendou is willing to sacrifice everything in order to complete the Human Instrumentality Project and “kill God”. Shit’s heavy, man.
  • Man, there’s nothing quite like hearing that classic preview music at the end. That is how you do a fucking preview.
  • After our initial post-watching excitement, we’ve reduced the rating to 9. The original tv series would probably score a 10 were we to rate it, and at the end of the day none of the new films quite stand on the same level as the original.