23 CommentsAnime Analysis / By Scamp /

Winter 2016 Anime Season Wrapup Part 1 – Shouwa Era Rakugo Shinjuu, Durarara and Iron Blooded Orphans

Durarara x2 Ketsu - 01 - Large 27I’ve been at a bit of a loss on how to write about all these anime. I’ll have to figure out something better for next season. Heck since I’m not doing it for MAL, I might try write episodic posts again. Covering Big Order after the fun of blogging Future Diary, or maybe laughing at the weirdly inevitably mess Mayoiga turns into. That would be fun. But I don’t want to leave last season without having my say on the anime I’m finishing. I ended up with something of a scattershot approach to watching anime this season, considering I never watched any of Konosuba or Grimgar which people seemed to like, and in particular only watched the first episode of Erased. I liked it too, I just sorta forgot to watch more. But here’s what I did watch and me telling you where I think you should watch it too.

Shouwa Era Rakugo Shinjuu

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu - 10 - Large 24Easily my anime of the season and by an embarrassing distance, and has a high chance of eventually scooping my anime of the year. This is despite it being a bit melodramatic, something that is usually my kryptonite. Indeed the worst moments of the anime came when it leaned into some of the dumber melodramatic fights, including one “no it’s not what it looks like” walking in on two people hugging scene. If anything that scene was even dumber than your standard high school romcom bullshit since at least in those anime it’s reasonable to assume the characters were likely to be in the same building, while in this one the offending character had come back from being on literally the other side of the country. But wait, I’m supposed to be praising this anime, so let’s get to that.

It has an incredible understanding of how to get its character’s fears across. The heart-to-heart conversations were far beyond what most stories achieve. They’re human and adult with people clearly talking to each other rather than at each other. You coax so much about their dreams and fears, their upbringing and general psyche. This ties into a use of body language that’s fantastic at telling us so much about everyone. Studio Deen are apparently good now! It’s not what you’d call a tour de force of animation, but it understands where to animate a foot shuffle or a downward glance. It’s a success in directing as much as anything. Which I totally predicted in my season preview too. These guys made something watchable out of Sankarea. Imagine what they could be capable of with actual good source material!

But where this all comes together at its finest, and where the anime is elevated from being merely very good to truly great, is in the rakugo performances themselves. That moment in the first episode where they actually animated the entire rakugo performance was a real eye-opening moment of “oh shit, they’re really going for this”. It’s where that animation of body language really comes to the fore. As does the voice acting, which is something I rarely take time to praise. Arguably their most impressive rakugo performance is the one where you have to watch Kikuhiko do an awkward, stilted comedy that doesn’t come naturally to him. It’s very subtlety done through voice actor delivery and little pieces of animation that come together in this scene that’s supremely cringe-inducing and uncomfortable. Plus there’s how they tie together how the stories they’re telling during the rakugo performances as metaphors for what’s going on in each character’s personal life. It’s a truly fantastic anime and if you remember nothing else from this post, at the very least I hope you check out this anime. Plus it was actually available on Crunchyroll in my region, which was nice.

Durarara

Durarara x2 Ketsu - 05 - Large 36So I guess that’s Durarara over. As seems to be something of a trend with Durarara, it ended with a little bit of a wet flop, despite a typically barnstorming start. I really liked how this final season started with all the characters chilling in Celty and Shinra’s house. There were even some material I liked during this final arc, such as Celty getting so angry she literally lost control of her human form and turned into a ball of pure rage, which in turn led to Shizuo riding her horse except the horse was now a bicycle since Shizuo didn’t know how to ride either a motorbike nor a horse. And yet I come away from it feeling a bit down again. It’s probably because they finished the story on another gang warfare arc, which have always been the weakest parts of the show. Nearly all the stuff I liked from this arc came from outside that core storyline.

I did genuinely like this return of Durarara. It even improved on the original in many ways. It achieved the unthinkable and made Mikado an interesting character and sold me on his darker side. The moment at the end of the second season where Kida pulls back to mask to reveal Mikado was the one moment the gang warfare stuff actually worked for me, even if (or perhaps because) it was a Kida X Mikado NTR storyline. I liked a lot of the new characters too. The fedora wearing ladies man was pretty fantastic. Varona and her little crush on Shizuo entertained the whole way through her involvement in the story, and her lack of involvement past the first season was disappointing. Izaya’s twin sisters were exactly what you imagined Orihara’s family would be like. I even liked some of the characters who only appeared briefly, such as the one karate girl wearing the sports bra. I wish she appeared more often, if only so that I could gaze upon her phenomenal abdomen some more.

So yes, I did really like more Durarara. On the other hand, I’m not sure we really needed more Durarara specifically. It taught me that Narita can still write fantastic characters, and indeed is capable of rewriting characters who sucked originally (he did also try with Anri although with limited success). But I probably would have gotten more out of it had it been a whole new story with a whole new cast of characters not set in the Durarara world. As much as I love spending time with these wackos, it mostly just left me wanting something new by this guy. That includes not wanting new Baccano either. He’s written some Fate/Verse material and his twitter account is fully of him tweeting about Fate/Go . I’d watch the hell out of a Narita Fate anime so long as he was allowed to write all his own characters. I will allow Gilgamesh to return though, as he’s practically a Narita-style character anyway.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron Blooded Orphans

Gundam Tekketsu no Orphans - 20 - Large 14This is borderline as far as recommending goes. I have 3-odd episodes left to go so it could all fall apart yet (although they’ve announced a second season already so perhaps not). But I’m willing to give IBO a tentative thumbs up overall, even if it fumbles a lot of its great ideas and characters. It helped me come to a realisation on Mari Okada’s writing. My problem with her style of melodrama is really down to it being used by highschool kids and their dumb problems. When it comes to emotionally stunted child soldiers living on the brink of death, somehow her style of dialogue where people can’t hold conversations and yell really loudly as they talk past each other fits a hell of a lot better. In particular the relationship between Mikazuki and Orga has the perfect balance of unhealthy mental connection that makes it continuously intriguing. Orga getting a huge part of his mental strength from an emotionally stunted killer is something I can’t wait to finally see come to a head.

That is if they don’t fuck it up royally, which is hardly a given. For whenever Iron Blooded Orphans does something great, it will then proceed to put its foot in its mouth and do something braindead. For every scene where the folks at Gjallerhorn debate the changing tides of history and what it means to be human, there’s another where they have child brides and call them pretty. For every scene where the kids express excitement at learning to read for the first time, there’s another where all the girls on the ship go bananas because they saw babies and discovered their true calling in life. For every meeting they get with interesting people that expands their view of the world, they then instead meet a floating space harem and treat the whole endeavour as a good thing.

In fact, basically everything bad about Iron Blooded Orphans that’s bad comes down to how fucking awful it is about women. There’s one scene where one of the harem girls talks about how lucky she was to be picked up by this group rather than be picked up by some space slavers. But she’s still basically forced to put her life on the line every day as a mecha pilot either way, except now she’s also impregnated by a creepy man and his Imortan Joe-esque harem. Yet Orga looks at this as this idealistic figure for what a family head should act like. I kept waiting for them to pull back and make it a commentary about toxic masculinity, but I have long since given up hope on that front. It feels more likely at this stage that Kudelia will turn around and decide her ideal place in the world is to be impregnated by all these guys.

Boy this post got long. Let’s make this part 1! Part 2 coming up soon! In the meantime you could read me being really mean about CG animation.

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23 Comments

  1. barak
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t seen an Okada Mari story yet that wasn’t, in one way or another, awful about women. In IBO I’m not sure what the harem thing was SUPPOSED to be about, but it was demeaning. I mean if at least the women were shown to have romantic/sexual relationships with other men or *gasp* each other! But no, it’s a shipful of “strong women” who nevertheless all fawn over a guy and have his babies, and put their lives on the line for him, and it’s supposed to be funny and inspirational? Yeah, not to me.

    • Traintop
      Posted March 31, 2016 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

      “I haven’t seen an Okada Mari story yet that wasn’t, in one way or another, awful about women.”

      Well, there was Fujiko Mine, but I’m 100% convinced that was ghostwritten by Sayo Yamamoto.

    • fgfdfh
      Posted April 1, 2016 at 1:51 am | Permalink

      Given Gundam franchises’ track record with second season, you might as well expect to hate it now. What is the last Sunrise mecha with a good second season anyway?

      And it is strange how bad its animation is. Normally Gundam shows always have a higher than average budget, and yet this one sometimes looked like a Studio Deen animation work.

    • Day
      Posted April 1, 2016 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      Well, there’s Red Garden, Simoun, Wandering Son, Aria The Natural, and someone else mentioned Fujiko Mine (although with a groundless charge that she didn’t actually write it)… Honestly, I don’t think Okada’s the ground zero for the sexism here (it’s also worth noting that of the major production staff, writers typically have the least final say in things). Look at Sunrise’s output lately in terms of it’s female characters – this is a problem with Sunrise writ large. We’re a looong way from Turn A Gundam these days. I’m a Gundam fan, and I’ve loved a huge amount of Sunrise’s overall output, but it’s hard to think of something of theirs lately that didn’t have weird, toxic ideas about women and girls.

      (Actually, I want to cite Cinnamoroll the Movie re: Okada, but I feel like I’d be laughed out of the comments.)

    • Scamp
      Posted April 1, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Yeah to say that about Okada is odd. She’s worked on sexist crap before, but equally non-sexist stuff so it’s hard to make the case that it’s her fault. Although idk about Fujiko since that always struck me like an anime written by someone who thought they were writing something feminist but didn’t really understand the concept.

      Also not sure I agree on the bad animation part either? The animation has generally been fine, often quite good. That may be because I’m comparing to stuff like this season of Durarara though…

  2. Traintop
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    “I’d watch the hell out of a Narita Fate anime so long as he was allowed to write all his own characters. I will allow Gilgamesh to return though, as he’s practically a Narita-style character anyway.”

    That’s exactly what he’s doing, actually, right down to Gilgamesh being the one returning character (well, and Waver as a minor character). What I’ve heard about it is about as insane as what you’d expect from a work written by Narita (read: very).

    • Outcast
      Posted April 1, 2016 at 3:53 am | Permalink

      SOURCE PLZZZZZZ!!!!

      EDIT: Oh, you mean Fate/Strange Fake?

      • Scamp
        Posted April 1, 2016 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        I read what little of Fate/Strange Fake there was and generally liked it, although I didn’t detect that much Narita-weirdness. Still, an anime of that would be nice. And quite possible too considering they animate just about anything with the Fate name on it these days

      • Traintop
        Posted April 1, 2016 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

        Book 2 apparently has a cyborg priest with a Holy Hand Grenade Launcher, King Richard I gets arrested on national television, and someone gets punched into a mountain, so there’s that.

  3. Type H
    Posted March 31, 2016 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    I am pretty sure you won’t care for Dimension W at this point, but I think people have been overly harsh on that show. Same thing goes for at least couple others, though I won’t get into them right now.

    • Scamp
      Posted April 1, 2016 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      I’ve seen about half of Dimension W. Episode 2 was really good! The rest is…not

  4. Nagisa33
    Posted April 1, 2016 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    Enjoying Rakugo right now. It’s solid stuff.

    As for Gundamoo, I appreciate how they came at it from a different angle with a child-centered focus. It’s about kids setting up their own organization, trying to survive by the skin of their teeth, and carve out a place for themselves. These kids all experience suffering and while the show addresses it it doesn’t mire in it. Additionally, the kids take an active part in killing others if that means surviving or making it easier for their comrades. What will the consequences be for that in the next season? Plus, I didn’t hear “Your soul is weighed down by gravity!” or any other tired phrase. Thank goodness! As for the harem stuff, not the most interesting aspect, pretty tired, and I hope it’ll be toned down later on. Didn’t really bother me to the extent it seems that it did with you though. Maybe because I’ve mentally categorized in the place with all the other typical anime annoyances at this point. As for Orga looking up to the pimp with the long hair, it may be due to Orga not having a semblance of a role model in his life and this guy’s close enough. Also, he gives him responsibilities, which Orga’s glad to take on.

    • Scamp
      Posted April 1, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      Hey I like “your soul is weighed down by gravity” as a line! For next season I’m not sure, beyond the fact I know the black-haired Gjallahorn member will become a freak human like the kids are in order to fight back.

  5. anon
    Posted April 1, 2016 at 3:26 am | Permalink

    Any chance of ye doing a FAL post? Are you going to join this season?

    • Scamp
      Posted April 1, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      I will join (at the very least to make sure I don’t break my streak of competing every season since 09), but I have no plans to make a post.

      • anon
        Posted April 1, 2016 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

        aw yiss

  6. Anon
    Posted April 1, 2016 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    “Heck since I’m not doing it for MAL, I might try write episodic posts again. Covering Big Order after the fun of blogging Future Diary, or maybe laughing at the weirdly inevitably mess Mayoiga turns into.”

    I’ve only been following this blog for a year or so, but I had a lot of fun digging through your archive of episodic posts and would love to see them return. You have at least one vote in favor of this.

    In any case, I should probably go and finish Rakugo now…

    • Scamp
      Posted April 1, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      Oh hey, a new reader! I swear this place is usually more active, just you wait and see

  7. Shikamaru
    Posted April 1, 2016 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    The problem I had with Rakugo and the reason I dropped it was the fact that I don’t find rakugo funny. Everytime they started doing rakugo I started yawning, a lot. Also I didn’t really care about this backstory. I thought that it was going to be about 2-4 episodes long and then we would get back to the characters that we saw in the first episode.

    I really enjoyed Durarara!! but is this the end? Izaya is still alive. He can start new shit anytime he gets bored. Your main villain is alive! Still, so far it’s my anime of the year. That’s how much I enjoy Durarara!!.

    Dropped Gundam after 13 episodes, I think. I don’t remember anymore. I just got bored with it. I don’t like mecha anime in general, but I have always wanted to give gundam a chance and this was the perfect opportunity. Especially because of Mari Okada. I usually like her work. Orga, Biscuit and Mikazuki were the only good things in this show. Liked all three characters. The story, drama, fight scenes just weren’t doing anything for me.

    • Morg
      Posted April 2, 2016 at 1:52 am | Permalink

      Regarding Durarara!! This covered the end of the main light novels, but there is a sequel series Durarara!! SH that picks up a year and a half later with new and old characters and is about four volumes in already. I would not be surprised if it eventually gets adapted too.

  8. Day
    Posted April 1, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Dropped IBO after eight or nine episodes. Guess Orga just wasn’t hot enough. Or my soul is just too weighed down by gravity. Tough to say. But you already knew I dropped it.

  9. Morg
    Posted April 2, 2016 at 1:43 am | Permalink

    The best thing is Rakugo is confirmed for a second season. Makes me feel better about IBO also getting another season.

  10. BwackNinja
    Posted April 4, 2016 at 4:31 am | Permalink

    While it’s probably too late to get a response from you….

    I think the biggest problem with the space harem is that they weren’t written as a set of characters, but rather as a purposely broken metaphor for adulthood. They lose all expectations of being respected as individuals when written as a group, but as such, they properly emphasize that Orga’s group is a bunch of kids – which is easy to forget as they’re the group you’re rooting for and winning against the establishment.

    Our bro in Teiwaz is comically the older bro, the one we are trying to live up to, and the one who shows us that there’s so much further we can grow. Merribit does a great job of grating on Orga, not from being randomly annoying (which she certainly isn’t), but for pointing out his genuine inadequacies. All of that is especially frustrating, considering that you’ve already lived a hellish existence, had to grow up too fast, gotten used to watching your friends die, and there are still people trying to tell you that you don’t understand how the world works and your responsibilities to your comrades. Worst and most frustrating of all, they’re right.

    But after all of that mess of painting things as better than they probably are, I can still feel safe about this series being “Sunrise does TTGL” with Eugene pulling through and blatantly being Kittan.

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