Fune wo Amu – 02

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When I was in Tokyo, I availed myself of the impeccable (compared to my city) mass transit, not just to get from Point A to Point B, but because I have an affinity for trains, and subways in particular. It was like I had died and gone to heaven: the unique aesthetics of the individual stations, the elaborate yet useful signage, the machines that sold everything from drinks to books.

Oh, and the people. Never did a single person block the opening doors of a train. People got in tidy lines, often using the lines on the platform, and ingress and egress were smooth and efficient, and ultimately quicker than if it was every person for themselves. Especially in the early mornings, it was a rush and a crush, but it all worked, and it was all polite and precise.

When Majime speaks almost wistfully about the way people on the subway got into neat lines (as if controlled by some unseen power…called courtesy!) and rode the escalators up and down, I could relate. I was on vacation after all; I had no particular place to be, nor any particular time to be there. Majime also takes his time, and Araki and Matsumoto are impressed by how he’s able to express how he enjoys his “hobby” of escalator-watching.

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The point is, everything is “fun” for someone, even if it’s boring for others, or even most people. Majime finds observing humans on the go fun. Matsumoto and Araki find dictionary-making fun—why else be in the business so long? And Majime’s new job, for which he seems preternaturally well-suited, also looks like a lot of fun.

His new office is an old, dim, dusty building (once the main building for the company), and there are stacked books with colored tags and shelves full of tiny cards, containing hundreds of thousands of words and their definitions. It is, to use the symbolism of the show, a shipyard—the place where the ship The Great Passage will be built, patiently, steadily, over a period of ten years.

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Majime seems pleased with his new position, and eager to contribute…but it’s working together with other people (rather than simply observing them) that troubles him. He’s unsure he’ll fit in, and even more worried he’ll let the others down.

His landlady Take asserts that he really shouldn’t be sweating such things at his age. Socializing with people is give-and-take, plain and simple. Take the two of them: she essentially exchanges hot, tasty meals for company, but through multiple encounters over however many months or years he’s lived in the boarding house, and it’s as if a different symbolic ship has been constructed—a friendship, to quote Mr. Burns—and Take’s able to say with confidence dictionary editor is the perfect job for young Majime.

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This episode is called “Encounter”, and it’s not just his new job, his new colleagues, and the great new undertaking he encounters. It’s a beautiful young woman, posed perfectly in front of a huge yellow moon, whom he encounters by chance while looking for his big fat orange cat Tiger.

Majime is literally taken aback by the sight of this striking person, and likely even more intrigued that she’d playfully take the words meant for Tiger (“There you are…I’ve come to get you”) as words he meant for her. No doubt she’ll play a big role in Majime’s growth in the coming episodes.

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Fune wo Amu – 01 (First Impressions)

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What is it: The beginnings of a story about building a great ship called The Great Passage to navigate the “sea of words”—in other words, a dictionary. Retiring editor-in-chief Araki Kouhei of Genbu Publishing’s Dictionary Department is looking for a successor. His subbordinate Nishioka Masashi inadvertently discovers one in Majime Mitsuya, an socially awkward salesman with a knack for defining words.

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Why You Should Watch: First of all, this is a grown-up show, and by that I don’t mean it’s full of boobs and curse words. It’s got adult characters with subtle adult problems. The stakes are low, unless you care about one of the many dictionaries on the market one day fizzling out due to a lack of strong leadership or inspiration.

It’s also a show that revels in its ordinariness, making cuts to the proverbial “sea of words” or scenes of words jumping off the page all the more striking. Majime isn’t in the middle of some kind of life crisis, wondering where he went wrong: he’s merely in the wrong job at first. Araki sees him for the talented student of words that he is and puts him in the right one.

By presenting relatively ordinary people with only slightly offbeat jobs (editing dictionaries is specialized work, but not overly strange—someone’s gotta put them together) in an ordinary Tokyo, the world of Fune wo Amu is very easy to settle into and its people easy to empathize with.

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Why You Shouldn’t Watch: If you’re looking for over-the-top drama or comedy, you’re in the wrong place. This is pretty straightforward, almost overly earnest grown-up storytelling. As I said, the only thing at stake is the continued success of a publication.

Parts of the city are nicely rendered but the animation of characters is nothing fancy. And while this episode brough Majime and Araki together pretty quickly, it did it at its own leaisurely pace, giving moments time to breathe.

The Verdict: In order to consider one more Fall show to add to my list this late in the game, Fune wo Amu had to demonstrate it was not only something worth watching, but something perhaps worth knocking another show off to watch.

It didn’t knock my socks off, but I’d say both it, Gi(a)rlish Number, and WWW.Working!! had equally enjoyable starts, but it had the most creative premise, so I’ll keep all three workplace shows for now.

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Tales of Zestiria the X – 06

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The two-part Berseria mini-arc comes to a very exciting and promising close, though its greatnss is blunted by the fact this is likely the last we’ll see, as we’ll be returning to Zestiria next week, meaning this is goodbye to Velvet Crowe for now.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved the Zestiria story so far, but Berseria might just be the better scenario, as evidenced by her showdown with Praetor Exorcist Oscar Dragonia…then with an actual dragon. Velvet is a particularly rootable badass avenging her little brother, and she doesn’t back down from the white cloaks for a second.

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Ufotable puts on its expected clinic when it comes to smoothness and inventiveness of combat, putting the exorcist’s by-the-book style up against Velvet’s more improv style.

We’re also somewhat clunkily introduced to Magilou (real name much longer), the comic relief mage who becomes the third member of Velvet’s party as the two of them plus Rokuro all want the same thing: to get off this island.

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To do so, Velvet must devour a mortally wounded Seres in order to absorb her power and her “Arte” overpowered attack. Seres gives up her life willingly, so that Velvet can continue the good work of opposing Artorius’ ideals.

Seres is putting her faith in Velvet and her new friends to finish the job she started by freeing her from the prison. Velvet also receives the comb that once belongs to the brother she cherished, no doubt an important talisman.

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When Rokuro and Magilou run into some trouble with the dragon, Velvet re-emerges from the dungeon she was thrown into, and proceeds to devour the dragon, gaining even more power. Oscar is pretty powerless to stop her, and she, Rokuro and Magilou take the one surviving ship off the island.

Velvet sets their destination: Loegres, the capital of Midgand, where her quest to defeat Artorius will continue. And that, it seems is where we will leave Velvet and her little band of badasses. I’ll be sad to see them go, but I have no doubt the continuation of Zestiria won’t disappoint either.

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Norn9: Norn + Nonet – 03

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Norn9 continues to hook me with its gorgeous aesthetic, but man, it’s men are jerks! Well, around half of them are; the others are twerps. I think the only guys still unmarked by assholishness are Heishi and Masamune. Mikoto and Sakuya have some kind of past with each other, but I don’t see how she’s been able to stand most of the rest. Poor Koharu is entirely at the mercy Kakeru’s whims; he can joke and mess around with her all he likes, but when she so much as tries to rub dirt off his ear, he slaps her away as if rebuking his chattel. Jerk!

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Even lunch has to devolve into a childish confrontation, when Nanami gets lambasted for her apparently subpar shiruken onigiri. Akito puts her hands on her and tells her she’s so quick to toss her food, she shouldn’t make it to begin with. He at least shows a little heart by no throwing the food out after taking it from her, but still…Jerk!

Oh, and there’s Future Boy, who’s apparently a big smartypants, who is poring through the ship’s library trying to learn as much as possible about in order to get back to Tokyo. However, when he sees a glowing ethereal girl, he gets a strange nostalgic feeling, complete with a flash of her embracing him somewhere.

Okay, Future Boy isn’t really a jerk, but as curious as his predicament is, the show was overstuffed with characters before he showed up.

Kakeru finally apologizes to Koharu for slapping her hand away from his ear, and offers an explanation: it’s all he has left of his father, who was murdered. Work on not being a jerk, Kakeru.

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This somewhat disjointed episode ends with another confrontation with Akito, being a total jerk to Nanami, whom he believe suspects him of being the “inside perpetrator.” The entire reasons he thinks she partnered with him was so that she could one day turn him in to The World and be rewarded. But he, in his jerkishness, is mistaken about that.

Nanami, in fact, is aware Akito has no special ability, but is willing to protect him. To his protests and veiled threats she responds by demanding he kill her here and now rather than draw it out any longer; but he doesn’t want to kill her.

Even when a gust of wind and the whimsical lack of railings on the Norn almost sends Nanami plummeting to her death, Akito can’t help but grab her hand, even when she gives up. It’s clear then; Nanami intends for them to live together or die together. Maybe he’ll be less of a jerk to her?

Sorry for the flippantness…but I decided to watch one more episode, which demonstrated that this show has the ability to both pull me in with its pretty world and intriguing personal mysteries, and push me away with some of its more erratic and/or abrasive characters.

I’m think I’m going to let the latter motion win out and stay pushed away from Norn9. It’s probably for the best.

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Norn9: Norn + Nonet – 02

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Last week’s episode-ending bang came from an attacking ship from the outside. One of its two crew members boards the Norn, testing Mikoto’s defensive powers and warning her that she and the other ten are the true “disaster.”

So begins an episode full of mysteries big and small, most of which remain too obscure to really care about. Rather than feeling all that enticed, I felt a bit left out as the episode kinda did its own thing, darting from one activity to another.

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It actually reminded me of playing a game with lots of long cutscenes, which while very technically impressive and pretty, are still cutscenes, meaning I’m waiting to get back control of the game.

Seeing Koharu’s powers in action was pretty righteous, but was undercut by the just-along-for-the-ride, autopilot feeling emanating from the rest of the episode.

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With the attackers repelled, the second half of the episode focuses on who their foe was and what they want. It is believed someone was “working on the inside”, so everyone suspects everyone else, and gets paired up so they can keep an eye on/out for one another.

In two of the three cases of guy-girl pair-ups, it is implied the guy and girl have some kind of unpleasant past that drew them apart, but everyone’s very tight-lipped on what those pasts entailed, only that they were painful in some way.

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Naturally, Koharu gets paired up with Kakeru, and they set to work replanting the orchard she accidentally incinerated, her love for him growing with each planted sapling and descending sakura petal. He even has a little fun with her isolated upbringing by joking that they must sleep and bathe together…ribbing that was more awkward than witty.

Then, one morning, while Koharu is watering her garden, some snot-nosed kid from 2016 shows up, having no idea how he got there. We saw him earlier in the embrace of a mysterious woman in a big pretty blue chamber, perhaps the core of Norn; now he’s out and very confused.

I know how he feels! This episode was a random jumble of strange events, mysteries, and clashing tones, resulting in a kind of indifferent shrug…and I’m only now mentioning the bevy of miniature duck slaves who serve the Norners their meals! My resulting impression was…a lot more ambiguous than last week. Ethereal scenery alone will not save this show!

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Norn9: Norn + Nonet – 01 (First Impressions)

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I’ll say one thing about No9No+No: it’s a very pretty show; far better-looking than I expected going in. Its first episode is adept at utilizing light and color to portray temperature and mood, which is with a few notable exceptions, very pleasant and upbeat, even…fluffy.

And that’s no moon, nor is it a space station: it’s the titular Norn, a giant spherical ship (kind of a “Life Star”) with a crew of ten humans, A sakura-haired maiden becomes the eleventh, delivering her from snow and solitude to a new life of adventure, mystery, and beautiful people.

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The show definitely has the “retro-futuristic fantasy” aesthetic going on, blending Last Exile-style steampunk elements with Castle in the Sky-like architecture. There’s a decent sense of awe, and also a distinct “I want to be there” welcoming quality.

This is really an episode of introductions, with Pinky, who later remembers her name is probably Koharu, standing in as the audience surrogate, all wide-eyed and ready to soak it all in. We also get some cursory introductions to the other eight crew members besides her and her guide, first friend, and perhaps down the road, more, Yuiga Kakeru, who get the lion’s share of screen time.

Koharu becomes the third female member of the crew (there’s also the stoic Shiranui Nanami and more fervent, less patient Kuga Mikoto. There’s also Ichinose Senri, who initially refuses to come outside to meet Koharu, not wanting to get close to anyone since he fears they could all “become enemies” someday soon.

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All eleven crew members have special abilities and were chosen specifically to crew the Norn, on a mission of peace sanctioned by a powerful, advanced organization called The World. We can glean that Koharu’s abilities may have been responsible for some kind of disaster in her past that separated her from her family (or killed them) and left her alone to the point she forgot her name.

But now she’s no longer alone; the other crew members ask her to rely on them, just as they’ll come to rely on her once she has her bearings (there’s a rather staged-for-romantic-benefit sequence where she falls out of a tree and nearly to her death before being saved by Kakeru).

Finally, the episode ends with a literal bang, an explosion that instantly made me recall the flames in Koharu’s memories. Perhaps her ability relates to fire in some way, and she’ll be of some use in whatever incident is afoot. I won’t mind tuning in next week to see what transpires.

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