Kandagawa Jet Girls – 02

Why not devote 12+ minutes of airtime to Rin and Misa’s first jet ski race? Why not break the fourth wall nearly as often as the commentator’s and exposition break the momentum of said race? Why not swap awkwardly between hand drawn and 3D rendered versions of the girls while they race? Why not follow the race with balloon-bewbs!, more exposition, and some fat shaming?

Because boring, boring, boring, awkward, boring, boring, awkward? (in that order)

Well… that didn’t take long did it? Where last week featured many puzzling design choices, which worked to elevate the material from slop to creepy psychodrama, this week couldn’t reach ‘slop.’ If you are earnestly excited by the made up rules to a water-gun shooting + jet ski racing sports anime, I guess you got something from it. Otherwise, not so much.

Kandagawa Jet Girls – 01 (First Impressions)

Rin is surrounded by a warmth as adults chat aimlessly and give us a glimpse of their family-like fishing community. Their world buzzes with detail but stands motionless. Not even a ripple ebbs near the boats docked at port. Not until Rin’s mother is announced as Jet Girl World Champion! As she speaks into without a sound, we zoom in close to her exposed chest and watch her gently wrest a hand above her heart. Rin mirrors this while dry-humping an oversized dolphin plushie beneath her.

Now grown up, teen-Rin saddles a jet ski, buffeted by sports graphics and announcer narration. A delicate smile dances on her lips and a yellow wetsuit like her mother’s hugs her ample curves. There is joy in her and her partner’s face as they ride from wave into the air, rising to the upbeat throb of the opening theme music.

Teen-Rin now sits in darkness before a picture of her trophy-holding mother at the family shrine. Rain and stillness hang like death in the air.

Elsewhere in the dark, a phone alarm wakes another girl. The emptily-chirping phone lays loose in her sleepless hand. Her eyes do not hide her depression. Her student’s room describes an empty life to us in clean but heartless stills. Pens not quite neatly arranged beside a pad on her desk. A simple mug holds her plain tooth brush by the window.

The girl strips for us and her young breasts bounce with natural weight, as if rejecting their sexual impact. The scene is almost silent, broken only by her sliding door sticking in it’s track. It fights to keep her inside before letting her pass. Misa Aoi is written on the name plaque as the hooded girl marches passed.

Rin now sits by her father at the docks, sharing empty chatter about moving to Tokyo for school and part time jobs. He stands there and does not look at her, nor do either turn to face us. We do not see his face. While the setting and color and coldness match, it becomes clear the girls live far apart.

A steam boats horn blares and music returns. In the distance, Rin now faces us waving. Briefly we come close to her smiling face, and as briefly see the smile slacken, her inner shadow cast long by the rising sun.

Misa dons VR Goggles and we see a machine’s hydraulics flex with her weight. We see a simulation through her eyes, and we see her eyes too, each we see tightly framed. Virtual water splashes but Misa never leaves the dirty wooden room. Nor do we see Misa’s projection into  the simulation. She can not see herself there. She curses, feeling the representation is lacking, and hurts her leg in anger.

Rin returns, eyes wide and balled fists held together in surprise. Pair after hyper-sexualized pair, Rin encounters stylish Tokyo girls in love with each other. A foreign couple offers sepuku. Another, selfies. Later, she is mugged by a plain man, who is ultimately tripped by Misa a short chase later.

As Misa stands, Rin’s eyes trace shapely legs, lingering on the dress shirt,  and distant eyes. Rin’s hand returns to her heart, where it hasn’t been since her mother won the championship. Judging from the shrine photo, perhaps moments before she died. Rin exhales and blushes with glistening eyes and lust. Delicate piano keys finger a short rise. Unable to contain her excitement, Rin unzips her duffle bag and her dolphin plushie erupts forth like a skyward facing erection.

Later still, the girls become roommates. Rin attempts to make Misa touch her breasts before leaning in to smell Misa’s neck. She can smell Misa on their bunk bed. Misa violently pushes her away, disturbed but their name plaques now hang together. Rin’s childish mug and personal items sit next to Misa’s on the walls and desk.

The creeper factor runs thick with deceptive charming, as if Misa’s alarm over a sexual predator and stalker could be gently batted away by Rin’s playful grin, poking and chest rubbing. Misa eventually cowers behind a wall to hide, while Rin chats-up another student. The conversation is yet again inane, but introduces Rin’s Jet Ski experience within range for Misa to hear.

The episode culminates in a race against a river side mean girls, during which most of the sexual themes and azure colors are repeated with gusto. Misa is anally penetrated by rifle fire. Tears flow from her eyes. Her clothes detach and fall away.

Point of view impacts storytelling. Not only who’s point of view, but how they see (what angle, the framing, what they focus on) feed us details about their character and the world overall. In KJG’s case, we mostly share Rin’s point of view but the contrast of what that view shows us, and how people see Rin (a smiling happy girl played straight), creates a deeply unsettling juxtaposition.

What makes any of this interesting is that Rin is not simply a ‘flip’ on a male anime creeper. Where most anime and manga would use creeper icons and conventional expressions like drool and ‘that elbows bent arms up wiggle gesture’ to convey Rin’s desires to the audience, KJG does not. Rin’s expression is played straight. In part, this hides her inner feelings from the other cast members as well, which in turn makes her feel dangerous because we, the viewers, are the only ones who can see more is going on with Rin underneath the surface.

KJG sprinkles other weirdness like suicide, the cheapening of Japanese cultural icons, and untreated (and socially ignored) depression. None of these are pushed to the forefront as much as the sexuality but the sexuality is obviously more the point: if you don’t think about how KJG presents itself, you could be forgiven assuming it was just cheap smut.

what the **** did I just watch? (twice)

Mori no Yousei: Kinoko no Musume – 01 (First Impressions)

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for a short period of time, this character was on fire for some reason…

The Gist: A nationalist tourism piece for Japan that asserts that Anime (or Anime-chans) are real there. It’s set in a magical realm past the mushroom circles and gates found all over Japan.

It looks vaguely like an MMO running on a Sega Dreamcast and features looping character animations and empty conversations with random Anime-chans that can be found there, narrated and guided by a male fairy. There is forgettable JPop in the background.

The Verdict: thankfully, Mori no Yousei: Kinoko no Musume is only ten minutes long. That’s ten minutes longer than it could be and I have no understanding who this program is for, as it the low-poly models, hyper saturation, wash out, and light bloom make it look worse than most modern tablet games?

I don’t get this at all…

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Tiger Mask W – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Gist: imagine a world where WWF from the 1980’s was really real and the absurd backstories of its actor/wrestlers were harsh and traumatic. Now imagine that world is crudely drawn, quickly (but incoherently) paced, and you have Tiger Mask W.

The plot is about two boys who enter wresting to take revenge upon the man who destroyed their father/ father figure. Each boy ends up wearing a tiger mask, but for different organizations and will, probably, have a show down with each other at some point in the season.

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bad figures, color pallete, composition and scale… at least it has a picture of a motor cycle in the middle of it…

The verdict: Tiger Mask’s plot is almost terrible enough to be funny but it’s too convoluted to engage. The whole Global Wrestling Monopoly Conspiracy is weird and distracts from the initial thrust of the story, and I’m not even getting into the whole gym of under dogs that somehow get rolled into ‘Monopoly’s plan to take over Japanese wrestling.’

Maybe I’m too old for this? But, even if I liked wrestling, animation this ugly and narratively slapped together would probably be a turn-off.

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Sengoku Musou – 01 (First Impressions)

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Sengoku Musou opens with what can best be described is a flaming pile of horse shit.  It is, perhaps, the best example of how not to open an anime (or start a visual story of any kind) that I have ever seen.

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No, I’m not being hyperbolic. Go ahead and watch the opening and tell me that you understood who anyone was or why a viewer would care about any of it with so little context. Jerkily animating gaudy samurai drifting in and out of clouds and popping into focus only to show us moments of dialogue we have no context for is *&$%ing idiotic.

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You may like S&M if you like dozens of long historical Japanese names vomited at you by gaudy, overly ornate and, frankly stupid-looking characters. I presume it’s marginally based in Japanese history, though I’m not familiar with anyone in this show and it’s so profoundly ugly that I don’t care and I would rather eat dog $#!†t sushi for lunch than watch any more of it.

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When we talk about info dumping and expositional over load, we’re usually criticizing a show for attaining 50% of the motor-mouthing presented by Sengoku. It’s truly numbing.

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You probably wont find anything interesting about S&M because any value it may have (eventually interesting combat, sexy lady samurai in sexy lady samurai armor) is buried under an uninteresting, cliche period drama.

If I knew more about the source material, I would claim this was actually parody.

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My immediately, unwavering verdict is: Skip it.

If you must watching it, drink heavily and turn off your brain. The character design is bad. The story is incoherent and slow. The characters are archetypical cliches. It’s a mess and if the visual presentation was any worse, I’d give it a 3 or lower.

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Samurai Flamenco – 14

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Perhaps it would be better to get down to brass tacks: we can tolerate the wacky direction Samurai Flamenco has gone in (to a point), but we don’t have to like it. By giving over most of its running time to completely implausible and often tacky situations while the smaller, more intimate, more human realism takes a back seat; that just feels backwards to us. We miss the old Samumenco, dicing with petty crooks and litterers. Yes, the show has been taken to dizzying heights and depths of lunacy and adventure, but, well…let’s hear it from Dr. Ian Malcolm, shall we?

I’ll tell you the problem with the power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it…

We think that applies especially at this point in the series, because Samurai Flamenco no longer strikes us as a smart, savvy satire of superhero shows; it is just another superhero show, full stop. There has been less and less ironic subtext, and more and more going through the bland, unsatisfying motions, ostensibly recycled from the superhero trope repository. Back to you, Doc:

…Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.

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Replace “scientists” with producers. Here we have an enormous, potentially Japan-shattering “all-out attack” by the 65,000-odd members of From Beyond, and the execution was sorely lacking in every way. The bad guys were pathetically lame; the superheroes who showed up with Kaname (surprise! Ugh.) weren’t much better; and there just wasn’t any artistry or creativity in any of the action. The show clearly didn’t have the budget for these things. Someone should have stopped and thought about whether they should have done them at all.

Throughout the big battle, we were far more interested in watching Maya’s forced reunion with the other two-thirds of Mineral Miracle Muse. But the show isn’t interested in the same things we are; not in this episode, at least. The final twist is that From Beyond’s last man standing is Masayoshi’s doppelganger, which is so random and out of left field we’re not sure what, if any, reaction we got aside from a figurative shrug of apathy. This episode was way too much WTF and not enough TLC.

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Rating: 4
 (Fair)