chaostangent

There she goes

A review of the Kawaisou anime series

I didn’t even really consider that “dormitory comedy” was an actual sub-genre until I drew a line connecting Love Hina, Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo and now, Bokura wa Minna Kawaisou (We are all from Dormitory Kawai / The Kawai Complex guide to Manors and Hostel Behaviour). In theory I suppose you could include less noteworthy series such as Sekirei but that firmly placed itself on the “harem” side of things which I guess Love Hina occupies as well.. But that would mess up a perfectly good grouping of decent comedies set in dormitories.

bibliophile and perennial winner of “Most Sparkling Eyes”

Despite its reverence towards introversion, Kawaisou is definitely a comedy as if the swathes of stylised on-screen text and exaggerated expressions didn’t already give it away. The benefit of being set in a dormitory, and not just one for school children, is that it smooshes together a lot of different characters who wouldn’t otherwise associate. It’s the inverse of the “box of scorpions” setup that horror movies use to manufacture drama and mystery; with comedies though, as long as you get the mix of personalities right, comedy will just fall out of it.

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Downsized

A review of the Hataraku Maou-sama anime series

First released: April 2013
Version reviewed: Blu-Ray

The only time I seem to hear about this “Maou-sama” chap, the “Demon King”, is when anime subverts that most grand of titles. First it was as a fiercely intelligent but largely benign lady in Maoyuu Maou Yuusha and then here in Hataraku Maou-sama (The Devil is a Part-Timer).

It starts straightforwardly enough amidst war in the high-fantasy kingdom of Ente Isla, all darkness, death and monsters as the beef-cake Demon King lays waste to the once peaceful island nation. Then a hero shows up, starts scrapping with him, only for the mighty Demon King to retreat, warping out and landing in modern day Tokyo with his general Alciel. As introductions go it gets the point across and sets up a series which is surprising not only for how enjoyable it is but also how much it has going on under the surface.

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Transcendent

A review of Kaiba

First released: April 2008
Version reviewed: TV

I started my Yozakura Quartet review by saying that screenshots won’t sell you on the series. I was politely reminded by both omo and tamerlane that, in not so many words, screenshots aren’t indicative of the animation of a show which for many is the real draw, over and above snapshot fidelity. (Although sometimes quite caustic, you should definitely make time for tamerlane’s phenomenal ongoing series of posts about anime and animation during years past).

when you see the scant few memories of a young girl float away into the ether, knowing that they can never be recovered and her beauty is irrevocably lost

At the risk of history repeating itself then, screenshots are definitely not going to sell you on Kaiba. The same kind of sketchy, free-form line-work that I misguidedly criticised in Yozakura is here in spades, but being a Masaaki Yuasa production, that’s kind of the entire point. The animation has an endlessly pleasing sense of tactility and physicality to it and though the characters may be simplistic, almost childlike, in detail it is offset by a sense of creativity and expression that is unique and hugely alluring.

If that were all that Kaiba had going for it then it would still be something noteworthy; that subjects as diverse as family, death and identity are tackled in a scant twelve episodes elevates it to almost stratospheric brilliance.

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The spaces in between

The non-verbal storytelling of Zankyou no Terror

I mentioned on Twitter while watching the third episode of Zankyou no Terror (Terror in Resonance, ZnT) about the “non-verbal storytelling” in it and felt that it needed some elaboration because it’s something that is rare to find in anime.

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Wizard in a blizzard and a mystical machine gun

A review of the Zetsuen no Tempest anime series

First released: October 2012
Version reviewed: TV

Invoking Shakespeare in your story is risky business because like one comedian making reference to another, it invites comparison. And being compared to the stories of whom many would consider is one of the greatest writers ever is not a battle many writers are up for. This is true from a predominantly Western context, but from an Eastern point of view? A Japanese point of view? Shakespeare perhaps doesn’t hold the same reverence having not cast a shadow over several hundred years of literature.

have a good ol’ magical scuffle and lay waste to a not insignificant chunk of Japan

This is all academic really because regardless of its overtures towards Shakespeare, Zetsuen no Tempest: The Civilization Blaster (Blast of Tempest) is below par. It starts out intriguingly enough with the awakening of something grand and unknowable leading to the quiet annihilation of an entire town. Only Mahiro survives thanks to his estranged friend Yoshino and a voice from afar, Hakaze. From there the trio must evade the attention of the Kusaribe clan and try and stop the awakening of an even greater power which threatens the world.

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