Posts from January 2014

Sine deus

A review of the Kyousougiga TV anime

When you adore something, it’s hard not to slip into superlatives when describing it. So strong is that swell of emotion that it almost feels like words aren’t enough to encompass just how much something personally means to you. I adore Kyousougiga. It’s beautiful and flawed and moving and stunning in ways that little else is. It’s telling that those who talk about the series gush like crumbling dams, desperately trying to hold back a torrent of enthusiasm.

absent parents, self-loathing gods and finding meaning in a life twice abandoned

The obvious question though is what Kyousogiga (Capital Craze) is about? It would be disingenuous to the series to just enumerate its many themes and storylines, and the simplest answer is reiterated at the beginning of each episode: it’s a story about love and rebirth in a family across time and dimensions. It’s a grand claim not entirely borne out by the first episode - confusingly numbered 00 - which is a maelstrom of technicolour bedlam set to the sounds of children laughing and adult scorn.

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We all live in a blue submarine

A review of the Arpeggio of Blue Steel anime

Oh lord he we go, girls as the personification of wartime machinery. Memories of Strike Witches’ different fighter planes come rushing back as the quiet, long-haired Iona - the “mental model” of a submarine - is first introduced. Despite its name, Arpeggio of Blue Steel isn’t a follow up to Kathryn Bigelow’s film about a rookie New York cop or John Waynes 1934 western but a fully CG animated series about an alien fighting-force, the Fog, subjugating humanity in the guise of naval vessels.

Like glorified figureheads they gesticulate and chatter as battles rage

That “fully CG” aspect of the series is front and centre as unlike recent attempts at blending traditional and computer-aided 3D animation such as the Berserk movies or some recent mecha musume productions (Busou Shinki, Infinite Stratos et. al.), there is not a scrap of hand-drawn animation in the thirteen episode run. This isn’t the CG of Vexille or Appleseed though but a genuine and concerted attempt to emulate hand-drawn animation with 3D models. And for the most part, it kind of works. The first few episodes venture into the uncanny valley - odd when the subject of emulation is far from human - however whether due to prolonged exposure or a proliferation of characters beyond the loli submarine with a thousand-yard stare, the later episodes lack the creeping unease of the earlier ones.

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An elf, a dwarf and a werewolf walk into Akihabara

A review of the Outbreak Company anime

On paper Outbreak Company is, frankly, bobbins. An otaku is transported to a fantasy realm of elven maids, busty werewolves and a pint-sized queen in order to spread the otaku way to them. But of course paper is exactly where it started with a series of ongoing light novels and manga preceding the twelve episode anime which is not only funny in a dorky, self-aware kind of way but also surprisingly sensitive to the panoply of topics it touched upon.

The first it tackles is cultural imperialism: the male protagonist Shinichi, and by extension Japan through his, what else, busty BL-loving JSDF aide, are shown to be sensitive to steamrollering their ideals and morals on the populace of the fantasy realm of Eldant. This creates some oddly atypical situations such as when the diminutive queen verbally and almost physically attacks the lead half-elf maid, a situation defused not by posturing and proselytising but by a measure of understanding. From a western point of view this very pointed approach to diplomacy could be taken as a dig towards the jingoism of real-world recent conflicts and occupations but is more likely aimed inward and towards Japan’s recent past.

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Beautifully vacant

A Kyoukai no Kanata review

On the one hand, Kyoukai no Kanata (Beyond the Boundary) is true to its heritage as a Kyoto Animation work: rich with detail and character nuance. On the other hand the series is outside the studio’s normal comfort zone with a fantasy setting and combat at its core. And on yet another hand - and this is the one that slaps you - there’s episode six; an episode so unbelievably stupid it’s almost impossible to align it with the five episodes that came before, or the six that follow.

the story of two outcasts, pariahs of their own kind cursed either by circumstance or lineage, who find solace in one another

The episode in question takes the story so far - a girl Mirai, from a reviled sect of spirit hunters, has ingratiated herself with a town’s local populace, not least of all the immortal half-human half-spirit Akihito - and tosses in three bath scenes and a dance number with a set up so ridiculous that abandoning the series there and then would be more than justified. The first episode was vexing enough with Mirai doing almost everything in her power to prevent the audience from empathising with her.

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