Bokutachi no Remake – 03 – Getting Fired Up

BnR isn’t wasting any time, jumping from the realization Team Kitagawa only has a still camera to work with, to screening day. It was also somewhat disappointing that we didn’t get to see a moment of Eiko’s teams short, only the overwhelming positive reaction to it.

You could say this show isn’t about Eiko’s team or their short, and having them go first added tension to Kyouya’s screening. But jumping straight to judgment day only to rewind back to explain how Kyouya pulled it off feels a little awkward.

That said, I’m happy I was correct in my prediction they’d go with a photomontage style, which was the most logical thing to do, but also that nobody on Kyoya’s team knew what he was going to do. And it worked—even Eiko is impressed!

That said, Kyoya’s team only gets third place, while Eiko wins. Yet Eiko is just as angry as they are, because she thought Kyoya’s short was the best! Alas, it’s not just about artistic attributes; this is a class, and the short was an assignment.

The professor—who is Eiko’s big sis—could tell that Kyouya’s team didn’t think their project through due to some kind of logistical difficulty with production. But she was nevertheless impressed with Kyouya’s problem-solving skills, such that she assigns Eiko to work with Kyouya’s team in the future.

Kyouya may have been simply trying to prove to himself that he could take a different path than the one he took before, but in the process, he inadvertently put his teammates/roommates on notice. Seeing what Kyouya could pull off without a video camera makes them that much more eager to step up their respective games.

In Nanako’s case, she wants to show off her acting chops in an actual moving picture … but she also wants Kyouya by her side while she tries to improve her singing. Even before Kyouya knows what’s really going on, he can tell Nanako has volume and charisma…it’s just she’s quite tone deaf! There are romantic undertones throughout the karaoke session and their walk home.

Not to be outdone by Kyouya or Nanako, Shinoaki reveals to Kyouya that she knows he knows about her night drawing in secret. She tells him that while she knows she’s good enough at it to win some awards, that’s not enough to make a living, and she has zero confidence about it, to the point she’s considering quitting art school altogether!

This is when Kyouya, who knows the Shinoaki of the future will be a famous artist who will bring joy and comfort to millions, including himself, takes Shinoaki by her slender shoulders and tells her she can’t give up…because he loves her…art. Adding the “art” at the end kinda dulls what would have otherwise been a confession, but hearing those words brightens Shinoaki’s entire world, and puts a twinkle in her eyes.

She wants to know what kind of guy thinks such nice things about her, and what his goals might be. Kyouya’s not ready to tell her yet, but like Nanako and Tsurayuki, he’s lit a fire in her belly that she’s determined to feed by continuing to improve her craft.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Bokutachi no Remake – 02 – On the Right Track

Given the chance to go back ten years, Kyouya has resolved to do a better job this time around, starting with taking a different path in choosing art school. But beyond that he had no idea where that new path would take him. If the answers are in his head, you could say they’re locked, and getting to know his three roommates is a good start in finding the means to unlock them.

By coincidence, Kyouya gets a part-time job at the same konbini as Nanako, and a part of that job is restocking the walk-up fridges. Between the darkness of the stocking space behind the shelves and the coolness of the fridge, the scene is akin to a cozy winter night in the park, only Kyouya and Nanako are on the clock.

While Kyouya may have entered art school completely devoid of confidence, he’s already learned from his roomies that just because they’re talented doesn’t mean they don’t have their own insecurities. It didn’t sit well with Nanako that she thougth Lake Biwa was the ocean, so she left her hometown to get a better idea of the size of the world, hoping to learn who she is as the explores it.

Kyouya admits to us that he’s in no hurry to get past either quiet little scenes with Nanako in the fridge or even the little conflicts that arise when two guys and two girls live in the same space (read: food stealing, which Shinoaki will not tolerate).

Things become a bit more urgent in the now when their class is assigned a short film assignment. They’ve only got three minutes to tell their story. Having spoken to Aki and Nanako and having found similarities to his own (and even having visions of the three on the same train platform), Kyouya comes up with the idea of telling the story of a woman’s life by using a day at train station.

Tsurayuki, the one roommate Kyouya hasn’t reached out to about why he enrolled, goes into his room for a half-hour and comes out with a treatment for the station idea. But then he takes Kyouya aside and says he had the same exact idea locked away. He knows Kyouya didn’t steal it, but asks if “anything else is going on.” Kyouya is unsure of how to answer, so he says nothing, and the tension passes.

Still, it’s telling that Tsurayuki is the first one to get a hint that there’s more to Kyouya than meets the eye, even if he has no idea what that is. He’s a screenwriter, after all, and scenarios like that are always going through his head. He accepts that two people get the same idea all the time, and the group starts production of the short in earnest.

This inevitably leads to creative differences, with producer Kyouya’s insistence they stick to the three-minute limit butting up against Tsurayuki’s desire to tell his story his way. He thinks if it’s good, no one will care about the runtime, and even asks Shinoaki and Nanako to adjust what they’re doing to accommodate his contribution.

When Kyouya puts his foot down, Tsurayuki is angered, but in this case at least, Kyouya is right; this is an assignment and if the rules are broken all their collective efforts are for naught. That said, he also knows Tsurayuki has a point about taking risks and not over-compromising on one’s art.

A lot happens this week with the group beyond the group’s short film. There’s the aforementioned getting-to-know-you and slice-of-life scenes; Kyouya, Shinoaki and Nanako are snared into a fine arts club desperate for members, and Eiko reveals her group is also filming in a train station and won’t be outdone. I do hope at some point Eiko becomes a less antagonistic presence, knowing how well she and Kyouya work together in the future.

When Kyouya’s teacher can tell he’s down in the dumps, she shows him a script from a film that everyone loved, but no one liked the finished product, because the director and cast got to do whatever they wanted without any boundaries. She reminds him a producer doesn’t just issue cuts or subtraction, but about properly wrangling and harnessing the collective talent of his team to make a final product people will like.

It’s just as much a creative process as writing a script, drawing storyboards, or acting, and it’s something Kyouya reveals he’s actually good at when he applies himself. He manages to strike the balance of motivating Tsurayuki and the others to do what they do best without letting them run wild, and they in turn appreciate his calming, organizing presence.

That’s why it’s so heartbreaking that on the first day of filming, when all their planning and preparation is about to start paying off with real images on film, learn Tsurayuki accidentally checked out a digital still camera instead of a video camera. Here, the others echo a statement Kyouya had repeated to himself and used as a crutch for much of his ten years to come: It is what it is…nothing to be done about it.

It is here where we learn the true power of Kyouya’s potential as a producer: he alone, having lived and learned from those ensuing years, is the only one of the four to say No, something CAN be done about it. And he’s right. Chris Marker’s La Jetée is just one famous example of a film composed of a series of still photographs.

I’m guessing that’s what they’ll do, but even if it isn’t, the fact Kyouya isn’t going to let things end here means he’s continuing to learn and benefit from the time jump. What’s so satisfying about this dynamic is that he now finds himself in a position to help everyone out because living and working and bonding with them helped get him in that position. It’s a symbiotic balance creative teams always strive for.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Null Peta – 02 (Second Impressions)

Null is not a morning person. Her alarm clock is a brick of C4, followed by being mechanically dumped out of bed into a shoot, and dropped onto the floor by the breakfast table.

Peta is not a breakfast person. She is in fact a robot. After projecting a fake-out holographic breakfast, complete with color control sliders, Peta offers Null deep-dark-fried-rice. Also a bamboo shoot.

For the next 3 minutes, Peta tries to feed this clearly evil slop to Null and Null tries to DESTROY HER ROBOT SISTER. There are explosions, mecha, more bamboo shoots, and another missed day of school.

Null Peta may only be 5 minutes long, and more than a minute of that is taken up by opening credits! However, the script is packed with verbal timing humor, silly ideas, and good enough visuals to make those 5 minutes enjoyable.

Null Peta – 01 (First Impressions)

A little girl builds a robot to replace her missing older sister. For some reason, she also installs weapons and a bamboo shoot. While ‘Peta’ does not boot up right away, she does eventually, before engaging rockets and blasting off to take Null to school.

Cute, charming, a little weird and well timed humor carries this short-format show across the finish line. If it were a full length episode, it could even be worth following. Who are Null and Peta? Did something tragic happen to the older sister? Will something tragic happen next because weapons?? (I probably won’t be watching)

Makeruna!! Aku no Gundan! – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: A young alien has decided to do something with his life so why not invading worlds? After being sent off by his mom at the space train station, and practicing yelling as the manual tells him to, he starts with the easiest-to-invade planet: Earth. It goes well, with near immediate take over… but he has no idea what to do with the 7,000,000,000 people he’s rounded up in the process.

The Verdict: MAnG is silly good fun at 4 minutes long. I would not describe it as good, or especially funny, but it has a charming sense of almost humor and nothing stood out as annoying.

Henkei Shoujo – 01 (First Impressions)

The wind blows away a girls hat but, before she can get sad, another girl rushes to catch it. Jumping high in the air, she almost reaches it… before transforming into an F15 fighter jet and flying away.

That hat is not returned to its owner.

The Verdict: It’s crudely drawn and features a single joke but, for a 68 second long micro-format anime, it actually worked very well! Unfortunately, this is largely due to my watch it blind policy and that I had no idea what was about to happen. Since I’ve spoiled the gag, and there’s no way to talk about Henkei Shoujo without doing so, there’s not really any reason for you to watch it.

Souryo to Majiwaru Shikiyoku no Yoru ni… – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: A girl gets drunk at her high school reunion when she realizes the nice boy she fell in love with, but never made a move on, has become a monk. Later, as she wallows in self pity (and a hang over) that same boy carries her home. Then takes her to bed.

Despite a three minute run time, this is hard to watch. The protagonist is a generic ‘klutzy’ girl and the love interest is what we would consider a date-rapist in the USA. There’s nothing visually compelling about it either, unless you get a kick out of panties and guys helping girls drink water by spitting it into their mouths?

Gross…

Sekai no Yami Zukan – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: The World YAMIZUKAN is a four-minute format narrated children’s picture book, featuring an H. P. Lovecraft-like tale of a woman who leaves her husband each night and the night he follows her…to a spaceship! (tragedy ensues)

You may be interested in this for its unusual art style, which has a 70’s French feel but isn’t really animated. The tone is right-on for Lovecraft, even though the narrative itself is more like an incomplete Twilight Zone episode. (There’s no pay off nor a twist, really)

However, you probably won/t find this interesting because its slow pace and lack of payoff are hard pills to swallow. The storybook format didn’t really grip me either, neither with it’s unintentionally funny narrator nor for its oddly erotic imagery. There’s just not enough substance to it.

Verdict: I watch a ton of short formats at the beginning of each season but I rarely stick with them, either because they feel like a single episode chopped into scene-length morsels that would make a better meal at full length OR because the production quality just isn’t there. It isn’t clear if SnYZ will fall into either of these traps yet, but I’m not compelled to watch another episode to find out either…

Onara Gorou – 01 (First Impression)

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Onara Gorou is an efficient, budget production, single concept anime that runs for 3 minute. It’s about farts and, more specifically, Fart-san, who lives in an unnamed balding man who does not speak.

This week, a trio or delinquents are on the roof facing off against a trio of teachers. The joke is that each time the delinquents do something more delinquent, the teachers become less motivated to chastise them, to the point of not caring at all about smoking.

Then a Fart-man shows up, talks about Digestion, and the Delinquents vow to change their ways, sobbing.

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Not counting deforms, there were roughly 8 frames of animation in this episode. (This includes 2 dedicated to diagramming the act of digestion and farting) It’s super cheap, and the art style is unpleasant, but it works for the tempo of the humor.

You may find Onara Gorou funny, at least as a one-off novelty, but I can’t imagine watching 12 during a season. There’s not enough to it.

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Ozmafia!! – 01 (First Impression)

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Bashful, good-at-nothing boy shows up at private academy, wanders into forest while not looking where he is going, gets confronted by an aggressive swordsman wearing an Imperial Japanese uniform, the swordsman chases the boy and then we meet the teachers and get formal introductions.

Ozmafia manages to make four minutes feel like an excruciatingly long period of time. There’s a slight ‘super-deformed’ vibe to the characters, each of which sports a 3-diamond glare pattern in his hair, and that’s the full extent of the creativity it has to offer.

This show is watchable in so far as nothing offensive or particularly eye-sandpapering happens…but that’s because nothing really happens at all. Skip!

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Saiki Kusuo no Psi Nan (TV) – 01 (First Impressions)

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The gist: Saiki is a psychic who’s loving parents accepted him (and were generally quirky) as he grew to his current age, which is high school. He is very powerful, but slightly down since he can not experience surprise birthdays or a sense of accomplishment.

Also, his parents hate each other now in the most delicious ways…

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The art may be unremarkable but, at 4 minutes, this short format is worth your time because it is packed with humor. Background, foreground, internal and spoken dialog — its layers of fun.

And it accomplishes this without the mad cap million words a second pace of a show like Luluco. Pretty impressive actually.

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 04

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Tanaka-kun has done a wonderful job establishing its cast so far, starting out with just Tanaka and Ohta and a bento box of small skits that gradually, hilariously paint the picture of what makes ’em tick.

Then it’s branched out with more in-depth, emotionally satisfying stories, introducing one new character at a time, until eventually the full group we see in the OP and ED will be fully assembled. It’s something Marvel does well with its movies.

This week Miyano and Echizen take the week off so that the show can focus methodically on someone new, namely the class rep Shiraishi. She truly takes center stage, as the episode shifts to her perspective the more we learn about her.

It’s icing on the cake that the official start of the development of her friendship with the boys starts out with two classic anime images: running to class (or in Tanaka’s case being carried by Ohta) with toast in the mouth, and (almost) bumping into the pretty girl. And because it’s been well-established Tanaka and Ohta are nice guys, they help her out with replacing the printouts they accidentally ruined.

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Everyone knows Shiraishi; she’s damn near perfect, and every guy wants a wife like her someday. Smart, kind, beautiful, she inspires jocks depicted as bears to protect her every move. She literally sparkles, and yet has such an easy, down-to-earth manner with everyone, no one envies or resents that perfection, they simply bask in it.

But as the episode title indicates, Shiraishi has a secret: that secret is that the idol-like school princess she portrays at school is naught but a carefully-wrought fiction; a mirage; a skin she puts on and maintains with great difficulty. When the day is done and she sends Tanaka and Ohta off, it’s not just because she’s being nice: her contacts hurt, her skirt’s too short, and her hair isn’t comfortable.

She’s cultivated her Matrix-like reverse-“residual self-image” so long, when her “resting-dweeb-mode” is finally found out—by Ohta and Tanaka, who forgot his bag—she panics, because she believes her idol skin is the only thing allowing her to have a beautiful high school life.

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Of course she’s wrong. Not just wrong about needing to doll herself up so obsessively, but wrong to stress out and stalk the boys to make sure they don’t spread the word of her secret. In fact, Ohta and Tanaka have nothing but nice things to say about her, even behind her back, and Ohta mistook her dweeb mode for another girl altogether, so her secret is safe.

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A wave of relief washes over her, and that relief makes her bold and ‘reckless’ enough to try to walk around school looking like herself. Most everyone doesn’t take notice of her non-sparkly self, until she passes Tanaka, who recognizes her—of all things—due to her bust size (something Ohta hilariously warns him never to tell her).

She’s initially devastated and ready to be mocked and laughed at, but of course Tanaka and Ohta don’t think that way at all. In fact, knowing Shiraishi has flaws is a relief to Tanaka, who wasn’t sure how such a perfect person could exist, and admires the effort to change herself; an effort he’d never bother with.

Tanaka doesn’t get away with calling himself worthless scum, however. Neither Ohta or Shiraishi (or even Echizen) genuinely believe that, because through all his unapologetic listlessness, he’s a kind, perceptive, supportive friend to them all.

The next day, Shiraishi wears her glasses to school, eschewing painful contacts, and to her surprise her friends don’t abandon her. She’s learned a valuable lesson about what it is to be loved and admired and be a friend to others, and it’s about far more than just surface. The real sparkling comes from within.

Shiraishi is a wonderful addition to the circle of friends, and I look forward both to her interactions with the others, and the addition of yet more members of that circle.

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 03

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Tanaka may be always listless, but I’ll tellya what else he’s becoming: popular. After a very filling meal makes him more listless than usual, the person who left a letter of challenge in his shoe cubby confronts him.

This week marks the introduction of Echizen, a blonde Yankee sporting a super-long skirt, slipped-on school shoes, and multiple piercings. She wants to fight Tanaka, to find out what kind of person he is.

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Fortunately, Echizan is far more than a delinquent, and the show quickly molds her into a three-dimensional character I truly wish to root for, even if she’s hassling Tanaka…nay, because she is. She’s also Ohta’s childhood friend, so he knows her from before she became…this way. She also doesn’t overdo it, and her manner of speaking is actually quite refreshing.

When Tanaka discourages her from starting a physical fight she’d easily win, she challenges him to Othello (AKA Reversi) instead.  She wins handily, but hold on: Tanaka was playing by different rules, and because he spelled out the character for “white” on the board with his white pieces, it stands to reason he won a game in which the winner had to do just that.

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An attempt to beat him at cards also fails, as he’s so intent on showing off his mad shuffling skillz, the wind on the rooftop blows all the cards away and they’re left one card short of a deck. It’s as if nature itself is allied with Tanaka against engaging in a serious challenge with Echizen.

But then the person on whose behalf Echizen is fighting appears: Miyano, or “Myaano” as “Ecchan” calls her. We learn both from her reluctantance to eat Osha’s bunny-shaped bread to her friendship with the tiny, cute Miyano that Echizen loves cute things.

The Skirt swap bumper was hilarious.

Exhizen’s love of cute things, and inability to eat them, gets her in trouble in the next segment, which results in a row with Miyano. She can’t eat the cute bunny cookie Miyano baked for her, so it gets old and grows white fluffy mold.

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Miyano is PISSED (in an adorably similar way to Popura in Working!!)—as is Ohta, who shares Miyano’s love of sweets and belief that wasting them is sacrilege.

Interestingly, Echizen enlists Tanaka of all people to help her, first acting as a shield (which fails when Miyano goes cold when peaking out from behind him) then writing a letter to express her feelings (which Miyano misinterprets as a challenge).

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Throughout Echizen’s crisis (which is really just an honest misunderstanding), she forms a nice rapport Tanaka, depending on his open ear and honest responses as she bounces ideas off him. He comes up with things she’s too wound up to consider, and comforts her when she suspects Miyano never wanted to be friends.

Tanaka, rightly, believes it’s a waste of time to let things fester with a friend (he considers himself and Ohta to be as steady as an old married couple…which they are!), while Miyano is listening in while they talk (it’s a school, there’s only so much privacy).

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Miyano is still angry about her cookie going to waste, but she doesn’t want to make it any bigger than it is; it’s certainly not as important a matter as the fact that she is deeply in love with Echizen (She has good taste!). Yes, Echizen is the one Miyano wanted to train with Tanaka to become more listless and mature.

The thing is, Echizen likes her the way she is, as Tanaka said, and upon hearing such wonderful news, the two make up nicely. The next time Miyano makes sweets for Echizen (as well as for Tanaka and Ohta), the makes them “not cute at all”, resulting in chocolate bodybuilders. Ecchan has no problem wolfing them down, but now the boys are the ones with a thing about eating things that look like certain things.

As they converse, now a genial quartet, Shiraishi, the cutest girl in class, walks by. I presume she’ll be the next likable, rootable, well-rounded character to make it a cool quintet. I look forward to whatever distinct quirkiness she’ll bring to the show.

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