Nisemonogatari is a very understanding series. It understands the difference between pornography and eroticism is a fine line and gyrates provocatively on the latter side. It understands that by emasculating the protagonist and slavishly worshipping the otherwise entirely female cast it champions misandry over feminism. It understands family members transcend the commonly held notions of love and hate and that often reason and logic don’t apply. It also understands, and this is crucial, that as a phenomenon, the Monogatari franchise (including Bakemonogatari before and the upcoming Kizumonogatari film) are fleeting. And damned if it isn’t going to burn magnesium bright while it can.
“inspires slavish devotion and cultish adoration because it has passion circulating in its veins”
All the pieces from Bakemonogatari are in place here: art and animation that sucker-punch the retinas, banter that strafes wit and tedium and a supernatural affliction story framework for support. Like Akiyuki Shinbo’s previous role as director with studio SHAFT the production is, sometimes pompous, but always slick and confident and plays strongly to the intended audience. Specifically, eroticism for otaku. Not the flesh markets that series like Queen’s Blade, Yosuga no Sora or Ladies versus Butlers are, but understanding how to titillate rather than satiate and the confidence to put the story on hold for an episode to indulge in this. Read the rest of this entry
On the surface Working`!! has very little going for it. Sliding off the back of the first series the second introduces no major new jokes or any characters of substance, the animation is scrappy and there’s no drama that isn’t wholly manufactured. Telling then that the most exciting part is when Matsumoto – the eternal cameo – is gifted a voice and takes part, albeit in a small way, in the ongoing story. Against all of this, somehow everything clicks together and works.
“often situations are resolved with a rare outbreak of sensibility but just as many are run unceremoniously into the ground”
This is mostly thanks to a core set of characters which play off each other very well, making sure that no personality (foibles and all) is allowed to dominate. So the sparky Taneshima remains the most enjoyable character thanks to her indomitable good nature, but her clashes with Satou are kept spaced apart, providing brilliant but occasional visual humour. Likewise Takanashi, who exists on the knife-edge of creepy and eccentric, interacts more with Satou and Souma now and his baffling relationship with Inami is kept restrained. Read the rest of this entry
Darling of the erudites and intellectuals, Mawaru Penguindrum is a series quite unlike any other. A visual and cerebral feast, it explores the ideas of fate, of families and, as the title would suggest, penguins. Its allegories and layers however are unfortunately but an enticing mask for a flaky and unsatisfying story beneath. Morsels of exposition are stingily doled out when not being secreted away behind monologues or incongruous character histories.
“there is thought and care applied to every scene and word, and it poses complex and interpretive questions”
By and large those back stories all boil down to child abuse, meted out by deranged parents. Parental sins visited upon their children is a theme that underscores each of the main characters and, perhaps because of that, every one of them is utterly reprehensible. Doing away with any chance of empathy, the spectrum runs from simpering do-gooder to austere ice-queen but results with a cast that is hard to like, but unique enough making them hard to hate. Read the rest of this entry
Usagi Drop proves that good characters and a solid story never go out of fashion. It divorces itself from so many anime tropes – big eyes, sparkles, eyecatches – that it seems hard to understand why it was animated in the first place. With both the time-spanning manga and feature film recently released, like Kimi ni Todoke, you can now pick your particular brand of drama. But as the curtain closes on the final episode, it’s obvious that without the watercolour palette, Rin’s sparrow smile and the abstract perfection of animation, the series could only be half as charming and half as endearing.
“it’s just endlessly satisfying to have a story that doesn’t stupefy, that deals in characters rather than archetypes”
The story cheats somewhat by placing Rin as a cogent six year-old rather than a bratty teenager or howling babe, either end of that spectrum and moments such as losing one’s first teeth, or going to school for the first time are lost and replaced by times far less adorable. Similarly Rin’s demeanour as a mature proto-maid and Daikichi’s chronic sensibility smooths over a lot of the abrasiveness that adopting a growing child would entail. Like all good stories though, it is brevity that keeps the story tight. Eleven episodes means omissions and dangling threads are many, but crucially these do nothing to alter the warmth at the heart of the series. Read the rest of this entry