What’s that? Several good anime are airing this season? We don’t have to scramble around OVA’s and spin-off specials to find something positive to say? What an unusual state of affairs for 2013. Well, Shinmaru went and wrote about a short OVA anyway, but we’ll let him off this time.
Four episodes in and I have this as a 10 on MAL, but this isn’t because I relate to Tomoko. I was not That Person in school. Sure I had the odd moment of social anxiety when placed in an awkward situation, but my appreciation of Watamote does not come from relating to the main character’s situation. It comes from the single minded devotion to this comedic cause that cuts so fine and so deep that it practically doesn’t count as comedy anymore. What’s key to its success is it never becomes maudlin. There was that moment in episode 2 where Tomoko yelled out to her friend about how she was going to improve herself. In a lesser show this would have been a tone-breaking scene of saccharine bullshit that induces eye-rolling. In Watamote, it’s the buildup to a heart-wrenching, gut-clenching punchline that hits the main character and the viewer so hard it left me curling up in my seat, fighting back cringe-induced laughter.
Masaaki Yuasa’s Kickstarter-funded project went live for backers a couple of weeks ago. It was definitely worth the wait for me. It’s such a fun piece of animation because everything is so physical. Pro wrestlers are like silent film stars in that when they’re in the ring, they tell stories with their bodies and little else. Isn’t that perfect for animation? I can’t stop thinking about Kick-Heart’s first scene, which uses the tag team wrestling format so well to establish Maskman M’s love and riff on it. There’s the beautiful moment when M shouts for his partner, Devil Chicken (GREAT name, btw), to tag him in, which is usually used to rile up the crowd for the good guys, but here shows M’s desperation to get the piss beaten out of him. (The disappointment of the tag afterwards got a huge laugh from me.) There’s the way Vacuum Fat holds Devil Chicken in place while Lady S chops the bejeezus out of him — a normal heel tactic that drives M wild with lust (while the audience no doubt thinks he’s pissed off). It’s little touches like that that use wrestling’s idiosyncrasies to generate good humor. If we get more oddball projects like this from other talented creators via Kickstarter, I’ll be pleased.
Inushinde: Silver Spoon
I was originally going to make Watamote my choice, but to not mention how surprisingly good Silver Spoon is would be doing it a disservice. Silver Spoon is noteworthy, in that it takes a directionless youth, and works backward from that like an agricultural-themed guidance counsellor to find a future for him to pursue. Each episode is a different experience for Hachiken that hammers home the gravity of any potential situation that he might find himself in, while instilling in him the knowledge that there’s no easy choice; even those who know what they want out of their education have a difficult road ahead of them. Where it does particularly well is in balancing somber lessons with the heartwarming, while not feeling preachy or condescending. It’s more than mindless entertainment, but doesn’t forget that it should entertain, even if it has a valid point to make.
What’s not so hot
Ever since I realised Danganronpa is just Big Brother with killing, I haven’t been able to enjoy the show at all. I dug how hyper-stereotyped the characters were in the first episode, but the show isn’t stylised enough outside of the character designs to make use of that premise. Instead they try to make the characters have more of a personality, which simply doesn’t work when they’re so stereotyped. It ultimately feels voyeuristic and shallow, getting kicks out of watching characters die. Which I could probably stomach that if the characters were truly as over the top as their designs imply they are, but trying to go the opposite direction only succeeds in revealing how shallow the whole premise is.
Shinmaru: Futari wa Milky Holmes
Sorry, I’m not done complaining about this. After watching the second and third episodes Futari wa Milky Holmes, what makes me most mad about the exercise is that it strips Milky Holmes of all its unique qualities and turns it into a pale imitation of A Certain Magical Index/Railgun (which are already crap to begin with). Look, I’m a fucking idiot when it comes to predicting plot, and even I called every single beat of the third episode. It’s incredibly boring and uninspired. There’s absolutely no reason to care about the new girls other than … I don’t know; I can’t think of a reason that doesn’t involve selling more Milky Holmes video games. Literally the only moment of joy I’ve had with the series is the bit with the Milky Holmes girls pretending to be cool so that they don’t look like asses in front of the new girls. And that’s really worth just a chuckle.
At least I’ll always have the first two seasons of Milky Holmes. ;-;
Inushinde: Sunday Without God
I’m sure there’s a well-thought out idea underneath the way that the story is presented. I’m sure that in novel form, important details were easy to parse and investment was actually possible, leading to an emotionally-charged journey through a post-apocalyptic world with an absence of death. But the presentation of this adaptation is so vague and cluttered that it’s hard to glean just what it’s going for, beyond superficially tugging at heartstrings. While the characters aren’t wholly reactionary, they still feel ushered around by the plot’s whims, rather than their own actions. The world is an interesting concept, but ideas are parsed without truly taking form. The end result is something akin to Kino’s Journey that I desperately want to find engaging, but just can’t find a way to do so, beyond giggling at the goofy names. It’s a journey through several unconnected ideas that tries to connect them all without success, and I can’t for the life of me see its strengths. But hey, a little girl gets the shit kicked out of her by her father (spoiler alert) multiple times, so I guess it’s aiming for the sentimental crowd.