I spent a large part of my childhood in the north eastern part of Scotland which, to those who aren't familiar with the area would describe as “the middle of nowhere”. Those who are would likely nod and then call it something much worse. Summers were short and hot, the hills abundant and green and the winters biting and long. Water pipes froze, roads closed, and snow drifts towered over children sledging carelessly into them.
they wander from the warm light of the station into the vast, frozen night
It has a romantic appeal, being snowed in snug and warm beneath a blanket next to a crackling fire, until you actually want to do something productive like eat or travel anywhere. That child-like nostalgia persists however, so whenever a video game or anime does winter, I’m always searching for that ephemeral feeling that only a quiet, snowy vista can elicit.
Just having a good scene set during winter though doesn’t automatically make it a good winter scene - Guts versus Griffith (part two) takes place on a crisp, white morning and it’s understandably evocative, but doesn’t tickle memories of the past. Similarly neither does just setting a scene, or even your entire series, during winter - so Non Non Biyori, WWW.Working!! (the northern one), Noragami and Primsa Illya 3rei all feel frosty but don’t make the grade. And just faking winter snow is cheating, yes I’m looking at you Nagi no Asukara, salt flakes doesn’t count.
So to lead be example, here are six perfect winter scenes in anime.
It would be false to say that there are mainstream and niche anime series when anime as a medium is niche, its audience perhaps even more so. Beyond the One Piece’s, with their absurd viewership, there is a definite split between the popular, attention grabbing series - the Code Geass’, the Sword Art Online’s - and the smaller, less broadly approachable ones. Zankyou no Terror (Terror in Resonance, Terror in Tokyo) is firmly the latter, but starts out as the former.
teenage savants, using technology to outwit and outmaneuver the police
With the bombing of the iconic Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building the first episode builds sublime tension while simultaneously introducing the principal cast members; and for the next few episodes at least, the series pitches itself as a cat-and-mouse style detective thriller, with adolescent terrorists Nine and Twelve goading the police while destroying key locations within Tokyo. Kenjirou Shibazaki, a hard-boiled but relegated detective, meanwhile might just be smart enough to catch them. What doesn’t become apparent until much later is that this structure, “catch us if you can”, is not even close to what Zankyou no Terror is about.
Please note: the remainder of this review contains spoilers for the entirety of the Zankyou no Terror series.
Thoughts on the upcoming Ghost in the Shell: Arise OVAs
Information about the new Ghost in the Shell anime (subtitled Arise) is being drip fed from its Production I.G. stewards and the vocalreaction has been... disparaging. The voice cast has changed, the character designs are too moe, the soundtrack isn't Yoko Kanno. Etcetera.
To them I say: excellent.
And I don't say that lightly as I am an ardent fan of GITS in all of its forms, including the divisive second Mamoru Oshii movie, Innocence. I am a person who painstakingly tried to translate and decipher Standalone Complex and 2nd GIG when there were no fansubs or English releases for them. I am a person who bought the special edition DVDs as they came out in America (and then again in the UK) for the superior DTS audio version, only to realise I was now knee deep in tachikoma figurines. I am a person who could tell you that there is a "Directed by K. K." message on the ring of a cybernetic iris on a bit character in the second episode of SAC. I know and loveGhost in the Shell.
The trailer for the latest Silent Hill instalment to come from Konami filled me with a rare kind of glee. However, I haven't played a Silent Hill game since Homecoming and haven't completed one since the The Room and it made me wonder why I still get excited about the franchise. The series has seen Akira Yamaoka mutate from music director to music god to game producer, but has now left the nest to join Grasshopper games, so it is certain that his iconic and atmospheric music will not be gracing the eighth entry. The music from the trailer sounds sterling though and while an unabashed fan of his music for Silent Hill, I didn't greet the news of him leaving Konami and the franchise with anything more than a "huh".
far harder is it to see a series slip into confused mediocrity than to precipitously burn out
I fell in love with Silent Hill, both the town and the game series, during the second and third iterations. The third bizarrely came out in the UK before the rest of the world and was one of the first games I got for the PS2, likewise the second game came belatedly to the Xbox and was another firm favourite. After them however the series faltered and hasn't really recovered what made it special - certainly all the individual components are present in games such Homecoming but the spark has never been seen since. And yet I still wanted to tear apart the latest trailer and put the pieces under a microscope, examining them for clues and hints as to what was to come.
A lot of anime deal with identity, but in different ways: whether it is the all-encompassing, driving force behind the movie and series extravaganzas that are Ghost in the Shell and Evangelion or as an undercurrent to more prevalent themes like with Guts in Berserk or Faye in Cowboy Bebop, it is fair to say that many different anime use identity as at least part of their narrative thrust. Even looking at disparate, popular shows like Bleach and Naruto reveals a simplistic version of the theme with the push to become strong and protect - a topic that is an essay in itself. It's only when investigating beyond the obvious that it becomes apparent identity is prevalent in so many different genres of anime that it begins to reflect how they were conceived and upon the creators themselves.
how flippantly cyborgs view gender when the possibility of reproduction is removed
Identity is a wide and multitudinous topic that has been researched by psychologists and philosophers alike for centuries so it's no surprise it is present in a culturally reflective medium as anime. Perhaps the most subversive and comedic is gender identity and the question of what defines gender. The earliest anime I can recall that toyed with this is Ranma ½ which had the titular protagonist switch from one gender to the other with the application of cold and hot water - it is played for laughs more than as a thoughtful treatment on the subject but the enforced gender switching is in so many other series from Kashimashi to Kämpfer that it can hardly be ignored. This is without mentioning the less extreme sex swapping with cross-dressing which has of course birthed one of the most cherished anime cultural staples: the trap.